When life gives you fresh Dover sole…

October 17, 2012 Comments off

 … have it as often as possible. For us it was 4 nights out of 7.  A local market had an amazing special on Dover sole.  Shawn has perfected his own recipe for Sole à La Meunière based on this recipe from the Balthazar Cookbook on the Leite’s Culinaria web-site. http://leitesculinaria.com/46206/recipes-sole-a-la-meuniere.html

The big difference between the Balthazar recipe and Shawn’s, and it is a BIG difference, is the amount of butter that goes into the brown butter sauce. The recipe calls for 1 ½ sticks of butter, just for the sauce. I know, Julia, more butter, more butter. I am sure that the stick and a half of butter would be absolutely marvelous. However, by cutting the butter down to just a few tablespoons, we were able to eat this dish 4 nights out of 7.

Wine pairing is an important part of our meals. Shawn does a wonderful job matching flavors. We found that Navarro’s 2011 Chenin Blanc was a beautiful match for the sole. The wine is crisp and lively. The acidity balances nicely with the fish and the sauce. The vineyard where these grapes are grown was sold to someone who wants to use the grapes themselves, so, sadly, after 15 years of making a beautiful, very affordable wine with them, the 2011 will be the last vintage for Navarro’s Chenin.

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Jimmy Durante

October 9, 2012 Comments off

Jimmy Durante Before

Jimmy Durante After

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Tomatoes. Love ’em. Can’t get enough.

September 28, 2012 Comments off

I often say that I could eat my weight in tomatoes. This time of year I do. In recent years, heirloom tomatoes have found their way to our table. I wait with great anticipation every year to see them pop up at the farmers market, and I always hope that Indian summer will ensure us being able to enjoy them well into the fall. The small cherry and teardrop varieties I keep in a bowl on the counter, and pop them into my mouth as though they were candy. To me they are.  I am a purist when it comes to certain things. Tomatoes are one of those things. The most I will do to a good tomato is put it in a Caprese salad. To me, that means just the tomatoes, some fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, some Kosher salt, and a drizzle of a very good extra virgin olive oil. No garlic. No lemon. No balsamic. I want to taste the tomatoes. For every piece of tomato that makes it into the bowl for the Caprese salad, one makes it into my mouth. It just happens. We judge how many tomatoes to buy each Saturday, by how far into the week the tomatoes made it the week before.

Last year we discovered that many farmers sell their #2 tomatoes, or what they call grade “B” tomatoes at very reasonable prices. They may have a soft spot, a split, or something that might keep them from being picture perfect. I started using these orphaned tomatoes to make a wonderful tomato soup. I looked through many recipes, and decided to make my own variation. I sautéed chopped carrots and onions in olive oil, added a bit of chopped garlic, and then the tomatoes that I had chopped up, skin, seeds, and all. I also added a handful of chopped basil. I had chicken stock ready to add to the pot, as well as a Foley Food Mill waiting nearby to get rid of the skins and seeds. After the tomatoes had simmered for a while, I decided to give our immersion blender a try. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the seeds and skin all but disappeared. The soup was wonderful. It actually tasted like tomatoes. How novel… tomato soup that tastes like tomatoes.  I did not add any broth. Why would I want to “water down” the tomatoes? I did add a bit of tomato paste to thicken up the soup, and add a bit of richness. Instead of stirring cream into the soup, I drizzled some on the top of each bowl, and used a knife to make a pretty pattern. Elegant to look at, and wonderful to eat.

Homemade Ice Cream. Really?

September 27, 2012 Comments off


Black Coffee Ice Cream

Ice cream is one of those things that I never thought I would make myself.  I figured that there are so many good ice creams out there, I would use the time I had for cooking  to make other things.  Last year, I started to pay attention to the homemade ice creams that our dear friend Ralph always makes to go with desserts that grace the table for Thanksgiving dinner. Last year, I helped Ralph make the ice creams. And then I borrowed his ice cream machine. And then I started making ice cream. And then I was hooked. And then… yeah, we bought an ice cream maker. The first ice cream that we made was Swiss Orange Chip, a custard-based ice cream.  You can read about that ice cream here. https://thereisalwaysroomformore.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/discovering-swiss-orange-chip-ice-cream/

Then, thanks to Leite’s Culinaria, we were introduced to Jeni Britton Bauer. Her ice cream recipes use a cornstarch slurry as well as cream cheese in place of the egg custard. We tried the Black Coffee Ice Cream, and were sold on Jeni’s method. I don’t need a chicken in every pot, but lately I need a container of this ice cream in our freezer. Every day. You can find the recipe for this wonderful ice cream at Leite’s site here. http://leitesculinaria.com/79285/recipes-black-coffee-ice-cream.html   Right now, I gotta go make some more.

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Bottarga and a Lesson Learned (Again)

August 31, 2012 Comments off

Our friends, We3, back from 7 weeks in Italy, came over for dinner Saturday night. As it usually happens when we get together, we cooked, nibbled, sipped wine, chatted, cooked another course, nibbled, sipped wine, chatted, and repeated these steps again. Counting the cooking time, it was about a 5 hour meal. Very civilized and absolutely delightful. We3 had brought back a package of bottarga from Italy, and wanted to make one of our courses using it. A lesson that gets thrown at me now and then is the “Don’t assume, or form an opinion, until I give something a chance.” lesson. It was going to repeat itself that night.

 Chris’ description of bottarga was not enticing at all. He described it as salted and dried fish roe sacks. In this case, mullet from Sardinia. If I had read the Wikipedia definition before Chris made the salad, I would have wanted to try it even less than I did at the time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botargo

 Chris whipped together a lovely looking salad with thinly shaved fennel and French radishes, very lightly dressed in some olive oil and lemon juice. He grated the bottarga and mixed it into the salad. As a finishing touch, Chris grated some more over the top of the beautifully arranged mound on the plates. The bottarga, in appearance, reminded me of an orange-yellow tobiko. I looked at the pile of salad on my plate, wondering how, after I politely tried a few bites, would I ever be able to eat the whole thing. Well, I ended up wishing that there was even more of that salad for me to eat. It was absolutely delicious. And, because of the path the bottarga had taken to get to our house, it was so very special. With supreme generosity, the remainder of the bottarga was left for us to enjoy. And we will enjoy, not only another salad, but also the feeling of being in Italy, enjoying with our friends, where that bottarga came from.

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Discovering Swiss Orange Chip Ice Cream

August 20, 2012 2 comments

Early on in our relationship, S. had been telling me about this wonderful ice cream from Swensen’s, a local ice cream shop. Swiss Orange Chip. Didn’t really sound terribly enticing, but what’s in a name? We went to said ice cream shop, and S. ordered two Swiss Orange Chip cones. It did not look like a really dark chocolate, which disappointed me, but I tried to keep an open mind. An open mind, and then an open mouth, and then “Oh, yes.”  It was really wonderful.  Swensen’s is not close to here, so we did not have the ice cream often. It became a destination special treat. While surfing around the net one day, I happened to Google “Swiss Orange Chip Ice Cream”. I stumbled across a site where in 2009, someone named Cindy Ruth had been talking about having fond memories of, and really missing, the Swiss Orange Chip Ice Cream she used to get at a Swensen’s in Missouri. You can read about her duplicating the recipe on her blog, Baked Alaska. (see link below) I saved the recipe, thinking that perhaps I would have the chance to make it someday. That someday came when I borrowed a friend’s ice cream maker, and we made Cindy Ruth’s version of Swiss Orange Chip Ice Cream. She had really nailed that recipe. All  we could say, was “WOW”.  We found ourselves saying “WOW” every time either of us put a spoonful of that ice cream into our mouth. We were eating Swensen’s Swiss Orange Chip, and we did not have to drive across town to get it. Do your mouth a favor, and make this ice cream. See if you find that it has the “WOW” factor. We sure do.


Categories: Ice Cream, Memories Tags: ,

There’s always room for more.

August 13, 2012 2 comments

The first time I made dinner for the wonderful person who is now my husband, I made a big pot of what we affectionately call “Back East” spaghetti sauce. We had talked about the spaghetti sauces that we knew from our youth, which seemed to be area specific. It was your basic Italian tomato sauce with meatballs and sausages. No need to decide between sweet and hot Italian sausage. Of course I used both. Liking the flavor that pork imparts to the sauce, I seared some country-style ribs in a pan, and threw them in also. Well, you really can’t, (or it might just be that I can’t), make just a few meatballs, or brown up just a couple of sausages, or pork ribs. Soon, the meats were filling up the pot of tomato sauce that I had made. I needed to put half of them into a second pot. Of course that meant that I had to start chopping more onions and garlic to make more tomato sauce to cover all of the meat in both pots. By the time that S. came over, I had three huge pots on the stove, two containing all of the meats in tomato sauce, as well as a huge pot of water, waiting for the pasta to be added. S. came in, looked at the stove, went directly into the living room, and looked out of the window. I asked him what he was doing. He answered, “Looking for the fleet.”

And that is how I tend to cook quite often. One thing it does, is assure us of great leftovers, some of which we vacuum seal and freeze. It’s wonderful to have a great meal on a night when there is no time to cook it. Or, if you are ever hungry and in the neighborhood, just stop by, ’cause there’s always room for more.

Categories: Memories Tags:
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