Favorite recipes and stories about home cooking. We love comfort food and dishes that warm the heart. Enjoy!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Foodie Gossip: Top 10 Food Trend Predictions for 2011

Foodie Gossip: Top 10 Food Trend Predictions for 2011: "2011 is just around the corner and I’m always blown away by the culinary strides that have been made over the past year. Extreme cooking and..."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Roast Duck Breast with Currant-Balsamic Sauce

After watching a cooking show that featured duck breast (kicking myself for not remember which one), I decided to cook up my own duck breast, for the very first time, for Christmas dinner. I didn’t follow the recipe for the show, but memorized the basic steps for the duck breast preparation and got some great sauce advice from my twitter friends (@ChefBevLazo and @burdladii). Keeping their advice in mind, I came up with the following duck breast recipe – which blew the minds of my dinner guests (and that was the best Christmas present ever!).

I served the duck breast over mushroom wild rice and kale greens infused with a blood orange olive oil. This is a super-simple recipe, but tastes incredibly “gourmet”.

Ingredients for Roast Duck Breast with Currant-Balsamic Sauce:
- 6 duck breasts
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- ½ cup Dried currants
- 1 cup Balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbs. Salted butter
- 1 Tbs. sugar (or less if you’re not as crazy a sweet/savory fanatic as I am)

- A large Oven-friendly pan
- A small to medium-sized sauce pan

Roast Duck Breast Preparation:
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Take a very sharp knife and hash-cut the skin of the duck breasts – avoid cutting into the meat of the duck. Crisscross slicing the skin (down to the meat – about ½ an inch) will help render the fat.
- Salt and pepper both sides of the duck breasts.
- Set the stove top setting to medium low and pre-heat the oven-friendly pan. Drizzle the olive oil in the pan (make sure to swish around for a light coating). You can test when the pan is ready by adding a single drop of water. If it sizzles, you’re ready to add the duck breasts.
- Place the duck breasts in the pan, skin-side down, and let it cook for about 25 minutes or until most of the fat is rendered and the skins are golden-brown.
- Remove the pan w/duck breasts from the stove-top and put it in the oven. Roast the duck breasts for approx. 6 minutes for the perfect medium-rare results. *** Save the fat from the duck breasts (pour into a heat-safe dish). Duck fat is an AMAZING ingredient to use for other dishes, like stove-cooked potatoes or hash browns (I’ll include a recipe for very, very soon).
- After roasting the duck breasts for 6 minutes, take the pan out of the oven and immediately move the duck breasts to a plate, so that they can rest.

Currant-Balsamic Sauce Preparation:
- Pre-heat your sauce pan to medium
- While you’re slow-cooking/searing the duck breast skins, take your sauce pan and add the balsamic vinegar and currants.
- Bring the balsamic vinegar to a light simmer (not boiling) and let it simmer until the liquid is reduced to half (about 10-15 minutes.
- Add the butter and sugar and continue to simmer your sauce until the liquid lightly covers your stirring spoon (make sure it’s not “watery”).
- Remove the sauce from the heat.

Final preparation:
- This part is totally up to you, but I would personally recommend serving your roast duck breast over a bed of wild rice or risotto – or kale/spinach.
- You can slice your duck breast into pieces, as you see if the photo, or serve them whole. Place each duck breast on a plate and drizzle the current-balsamic sauce over the duck.

Voila! Your dish is done.


For a more carb-friendly meal, you can serve the roast duck breasts over the kale/spinach and sub the rice with a side of butternut squash (a fantastic carb-friendly-sub for potato that makes you feel like you’re inhaling carbs, without the punishment).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Moussaka for the Holidays

I absolutely love moussaka. I used to have it all the time when I lived in NewYork - it was on alomost every diner menu. And it was always done well. The Béchamel topping was always thick and firm, but not dry. But finding moussaka in San Francisco was almost impossible. Even if a restaurant did offer the dish, it was never prepared properly. So, I taught myself to make it - just the way it's served in the Big Apple.

It's inexpensive to make and the layers of seasoned lamb, eggplant and Béchamel sauce creates such a warm and comforting dish. If you have a restricted budget, but still want to enjoy a gourmet meal, make Moussaka! The name alone is empowering.

Ingredients for Eggplant Moussaka
- 2 Lbs ground lamb
- 2 eggplants (sliced into ¼ inch thick pieces)
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 12 oz. tomato sauce
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 Tbs. ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 cups milk
- 1/3 cup flour
- 3/4 cup of butter
- 1 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
- ½ cup swiss gruyere cheese (grated)
- 3 eggs (beaten)
- Salt and pepper to taste

- Large frying pan
- Medium sauce pan
- Cheese grater
- 2 pyrex dishes, approx. 9x5x5

Lamb preparation:
Set stove top to medium heat. Pre-heat a large pan, add olive oil and combine ground lamb and onions. Break apart the ground lamb as it browns. Once the lamb is browned, add the tomato sauce, red wine, cinnamon and parsley. Stir regularly (not constantly) until the liquid is cooked off (not completely dry, but no running liquid). In the pyrex dishes, start with a bottom layer of eggplant, then a layer of meat, another layer of eggplant and then finish with a layer of the meat. Make sure to firmly press the contents down into the pan. Set the pans aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Béchamel Sauce preparation:
Set stove top to medium heat. Pre-heat the sauce pan. Melt butter. Slowly add the flour and stir/mash to work out all the lumps. Slowly add the milk while stirring to work out any potential lumps. When the milk has been added, the mixture should be smooth. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and slowly add the egg, stirring aggressively to ensure the mixture stays smooth and well blended. Reduce the stove to medium low and begin adding the grated cheese, stirring regularly. Once the mixture is combined, let it thicken just a bit (so it’s not runny, but can be poured). Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the lamb and eggplant.

Place the dishes in the oven and cover lightly with tin foil. Let the moussaka bake for approx. 60 minutes. Remove tin foil, increase oven temp to 450 degrees F. and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove the moussaka from the oven and let cool for at least 45 minutes.

Slice the Moussaka like a cake and serve. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Roast Beet Salad with Orange Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

This Roast Beet Salad with Orange Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette has been one of my staple dishes for years.

I’ve had friends swear they hate beets with the fiery passion of a thousand suns (I might be embellishing – just a little). Nothing brings me more happiness than to make my friends eat their words – and they did, after trying my roast beet salad. I’m pretty sure it’s because of the dressing, but their plates are always wiped clean in the end. Whatever gets the job done…

Roast Beet Salad Ingredients:
  • 4 medium-sized Beets (Fresh beets are a must. Canned beets are flavorless and disgusting.)
  • 1 Orange
  • Spinach or endive (to cover the bottom of the dish)
  • Crumbled Gorgonzola cheese or Blue cheese
  • Candied Pecans

How to roast beets: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Rinse beets to remove any dirt or debris. Wrap each beet securely in tin foil and place on a cookie sheet. Put the cookie sheet in the oven and roast the beets for 45 minutes (1 hour if the beets are large). Remove the beets from the oven and let them cool for at least 1 hour. Unwrap the beets and peel off the skins. I would suggest wearing rubber gloves to do this so that your hands don’t get stained. If you don’t have rubber gloves, you may want to peel each beet under running water. Beet skins should come off easily.

Slice each beet into eighths. Peel skin off the orange. Slice the orange into 4 quarters. Put one orange slice aside for the dressing. Take each orange wedge and slice into ½ inch thick pieces. Rinse and dry the mixed greens or endive. Line each salad dish with greens and place beets and oranges atop. Add the candied pecans and sprinkle the gorgonzola/blue cheese crumbles evenly over each plate.

Orange Raspberry Balsamic Dressing Ingredients:
  • ¼ cup Raspberry-Balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup Blood Orange-infused olive oil (preferred, but regular olive oil works too)
  • 1 Tbs. Champagne mustard (or honey mustard)
  • 1 Tbs. Fresh Orange Juice

In a small Tupperware dish, combine ingredients. Seal the dish with a lid (air-tight) and shake vigorously.

Drizzle the dressing over each salad dish. Voilà la! Your roast beet salad is ready to serve!


Super Cheesy 5 Cheese Mac and Cheese

So rich and creamy, macaroni and cheese will always be the ultimate comfort food. And the bonus? This savory 5-cheese mac and cheese is fairly simple to make and has layers of cheesy flavor in every bite.

Here's the recipe for my Super Cheesy 5 Cheese Mac and Cheese...

- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 ½ cups milk
- 1 ¼ cup lightly packed grated fresh Cheddar cheese
- 1 ¼ cup lightly packed grated Swiss Ementhal cheese
- 1 ¼ cup lightly packed grated Cotswald cheese
- 1 ¼ cup lightly packed grated Swiss Gruyere cheese
- 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
- 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup almonds, roasted and chopped
- 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
- 1-2 strips of crispy-cooked Applewood Bacon (crunched into bits)
- 1 pound short tube-shaped pasta (penne or macaroni)

5 Cheese Mac and Cheese Preparation
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour; stir until well blended. Slowly whisk in hot milk. Bring to simmer, stirring until sauce thickens and there are no lumps. Remove from heat.

Add the first 4 cheeses and blend into the sauce. Whisk until the sauce is smooth. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco.

Cook pasta to al dente stage, drain well and add to cheese sauce, blending thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter bottom and sides of 13x9x2-inch baking dish.

Blend 1/2 cup Parmesan, almonds, bacon and breadcrumbs. Add 1/2 almond mixture to prepared dish. Spread gently to cover bottoms and sides evenly.

Transfer pasta and sauce to prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining almond mixture over the top of the macaroni.

Bake until the top is golden and crunchy and the sauce is bubbling (about 30 min.). Cool for 5-10 minutes.


- This dish may be highly addictive.
- We suggest this dish not be served to anyone with high cholesterol.
- Consumption of this dish may invoke a lethargic reaction.

Do you love bacon? Check out these tasty bacon treats!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tuxedo Your Turkey

Dear Readers,

It’s been a dream of mine to host Thanksgiving for a very long time. Although I held many parties of 40+ guests in my brownstone apartment in Brooklyn over the years, I never wanted to host Thanksgiving because I think of it as more of a sit down and gather around the table kind of a meal. That meant I could only have 6 other people for the holiday, which is only part of my family. So this year in our new home in the suburbs, around our giant dining room table, my dream finally came true and for the first time I hosted my most treasured holiday in our home.

For the momentous occasion, Tom Turkey had to come to the table in more of a tuxedo than his every other year duds. I wanted to impress, out do myself, have my family and friends rave about this Thanksgiving for years to come. Thanksgivings tend to run together and since this was my first, I wanted it to be extra special. So instead of the typical herb, butter, and chicken stock baste with onions, carrots, and celery stuffed into the turkey cavity, I stepped it up a score and really dressed my bird. This fowl friend was gourmet to the max with a butter, sage, prosciutto, and chopped hazelnut rub with lemon halves and rosemary keeping Tom moist from the inside as they baked in his cavity.

The best part? It was so easy. After making the butter rub, all I had to do was get my fingers under the skin and rub ½ of the spread into the flesh. The other half of the spread was patted all over the outside of the bird on top of the skin. Then to fully dress - or should I say mummify - the turkey, I wrapped the entire thing in slices of prosciutto. 2 whole lemons cut in half baked in the cavity with 4 sprigs of rosemary and a whole large onion quartered. The prosciutto crisped on the outside and locked in the juices making the meat very succulent, even the white parts. The gravy from the drippings was decadent with a nutty herb flavor rising to the surface from the hazelnut and sage.

Is your mouth watering? It should be; it was absolutely phenomenal. It was without a doubt the best turkey I’ve ever tasted and it did come with the rave reviews I was hoping for. Christmas is coming soon and many of you will be adorning your table with another turkey for the holiday. I encourage you to “Tuxedo your Turkey” and give your guests a luscious treat with this Prosciutto-Hazelnut Crusted Turkey on Christmas day.

Truly & tastefully,

Prosciutto-Hazelnut Crusted Turkey (a.k.a. Tuxedo Turkey Recipe)

- 3 sticks of softened butter
- 2 tbs. chopped sage
- 1 lb. prosciutto - half chopped, half in medium thickness slices
- 1/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
- 2 large shallots finely chopped
- 5 cloves minced garlic
- 1 ½ tbs. white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp. of ground pepper
- ¾ tsp. kosher salt
- 4 sprigs of rosemary
- 2 whole lemons, halved
- 32- 48 oz. chicken broth
- 1 large cooking onion, quartered

Turkey Prep:
For the butter spread mix softened butter sticks, sage, hazelnuts, garlic, shallots, vinegar, ½ lb. chopped prosciutto, salt, pepper in a bowl. Set aside ¼ cup of the butter rub for the gravy. On your washed and patted dry turkey, start at the neck and slide hand under the skin to loosen the skin from the breast, thighs and legs. Once loose, take ½ of the butter rub that was not set aside and slide it under the skin and into the flesh, this will make the skin look lumpy underneath. The other ½ should be patted onto the skin on the outside. Next wrap the whole turkey with the ½ lb of prosciutto slices. Place halved lemons, sprigs of rosemary, and quartered onion in the turkey cavity.
Set turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and pour 4 cups of chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Turkey should be placed in preheated oven of 350 degrees and should be cooked for the first hour and a half uncovered. After an hour and a half tent foil over the turkey and secure the foil on the sides of the roasting pan. Cook turkey the remaining time needed for the size of your bird. Baste the bird about every hour until cooking is complete, always remembering to replace the foil after basting. Add more chicken broth to the bottom of the pan if necessary. Once meat thermometer registers 175 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh, the turkey is done. Remove the turkey from the oven, place on a cutting board, peel off crispy prosciutto and place aside, re-tent turkey with foil and let it rest for ½ hour. Then carve and serve!

Place roasting pan with the turkey drippings over two burners of stove, over low heat. Chop up the crispy prosciutto from the outside of the turkey and add it to the pan drippings along with the ¼ cup of butter spread you reserved. Whisk three tablespoons of flour into ½ cup of chicken broth to create a thick smooth liquid. Slowly stir the thick liquid into the roasting pan to start to thicken the juices into gravy. Whisking the flour before adding it prevents lumpy gravy. Add a tablespoon or two of Kitchen Bouquet to the gravy and season with more salt and pepper as needed. If you don’t have enough gravy, you can always add more chicken broth and throw in some more chopped sage for flavor. If 3 tablespoons of flour isn’t enough to thicken the gravy, repeat the whisking process until you have achieved the perfect constancy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter: The Easy Way

I’m going to keep this one simple. It’s amazingly delicious and only takes about 15 minutes to make – unless you decide to make the ravioli from scratch.

- Fresh Pumpkin Ravioli (Butternut Squash Ravioli also works fabulously)
- Fresh Sage Leaves (1 per ravioli)
- Salted Butter (1 Tbs. for every 8-10 ravioli)
- Parmesan Cheese, grated
- Pepper (to taste)

Sage Brown Butter
While the pumpkin raviolis are cooking, in a sauté pan, melt the butter on medium-low heat until it begins to foam and then add the sage leaves. Continue cooking until the butter becomes light brown. This process takes about 5 minutes.

Hopefully you already know how to prep ravioli, but in case you don’t… Fill a pot with 2/3 of water. Place on the stove. Turn the burner on high. Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and add the ravioli. Boil for approximately 3-5 minutes (or until the ravioli in tender). Remove the pot from the stove and pour the water/ravioli through a strainer. Make sure to strain all of the water from the ravioli.

Plate the pumpkin ravioli. Spoon the butter and sage over the ravioli, sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top and grind a touch of pepper. Voila! A great meal in 15 minutes.