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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Yes, Jo there is an emergency butcher

Photo taken November 16, 2011.

On a recent visit to my cousins' home in Tasmania, Australia they took us for a "driving tour" of the area in which they live. We stopped in front of this store because they thought we would find this amusing and absurd. They had no idea ...until I shared with them my "meat miracle story" and how I have been unmercifully reminded of my crazy notion that an emergency butcher existed.

May you never have a need for an emergency butcher but if you do here is his number. Beware of the travel costs, he may charge mileage.


Monday, November 28, 2011

A Christmas Dinner Story

A few years ago all my planning,weekly countdown, preparation and numerous notes did not save me from what could have been the meal disaster of my life. I will preface the story with a reminder that I do not eat red meat, except once a year for the Christmas meal.

It was Christmas 2005 and I was thrilled that I was bringing together some of my family and my family to be. On Christmas eve my now husband and my then single daughter who was "home" and I traveled early in the afternoon to my mothers for the traditional Christmas Eve get together. In my small home town in Western Pa., beginning in 1947 Santa Claus visits every home which signals his welcome with a mere porch light turned on. My three siblings, their children and of late grandchildren have life time photos of sitting on Santa's knee, reciting what we want for Christmas. The request for a doll or toy train from the little ones, to a new car and a six-foot good looking guy is met with the same wink and nod. I myself had only missed Santa once. Even when it was just of four kids, beyond the "magic" stage Santa would stop to chat with us and join my dad for a treat in the kitchen, sometimes a cookie and milk and sometimes a shot and beer! On one Christmas Santa awed several of the little ones if he could see aunt Jo on the porch. With faces pressed to the glass they watched as Santa kissed me as he was revealing that he was my grade school boyfriend! Believe me it is a small town.

Coming home that cold December night in a car packed with gifts from the family exchange, my daughter half asleep in the back seat, and I sitting close to my soon to be husband, said to whoever was listening..."please remind me when I get up in the morning the first thing I need to do it go over to the store and pick up - gasp- oh my god tomorrow is Christmas, I was to have picked up the fillet of beef today...XXX###@@@!!!XXXX!!. "

The tears (I am told hysteria) followed ...trying to regain composure, I called my brother who was still at my mom's "Tom, please call Jess's (his friend's restaurant) see if they are still open and have a fillet of beef ...don't ask me why right now, just know I need the meat.. you can bring it tomorrow when you come..." There was silence but I could here him saying something to those that were still gathered at my mom's, followed by hoots and expressions of disbelief that "Did she forget to get the meat...not Jo...She must not have had a sticky note for that one..."

My brother told me that he knew his friends restaurant had closed earlier and put my mother on the phone. Not really knowing what happened but assuming the worst she calmly responded with her common comforting line (no matter the circumstance) "oh honey it will be alright." When I explained that we would have no meat she said .."so we will eat what you have..." To which I replied "starch???!"

By this time, daughter in the back had become alert and said ..I can't believe you forgot the meat, followed with a laugh. "This is not funny..." I said sternly. The more upset I became the more my two travellers tried to make light of it - I suspect they thought they were trying to calm, or they may have thought that it truly was humorous.

We were about 10 miles from home and I had a second thought of finding the meat. I gave instructions, " before going home drive over to the grocery, there is probably and emergency number on the door that I can call..." "

'Mom, grocers do not have emergency numbers for people who forget to pick up their meat," and husband to be said, I will drive by, but really I am sure there are no emergency numbers for the butcher.."( chuckles and groans). I still did not see the humor or the irony.

Being the nice guy that he is, husband to be did go to the grocery store, we got out of the car and read all the signs on the door - of course there was no emergency number for the butcher!

Driving up to the house I once again started berating myself with words that I usually only utter on the golf course. Being the patient calm man that he is, husband to be said, let me think and starts paging through the phone book and then dials.

"John, Mike her, hey how you doing, busy night I am sure, but glad you are still there....oh you are just getting ready to leave....why I called, you wouldn't happen to have a fillet of beef about 6 or 8 do, great... and I can come get it...ok 10 minutes and at the 2nd street door."

He looks at me and says "in the car." My daughter said she would stay at home to take any calls that "might come in from people who know I need meat,"(she always was a little sarcastic). Driving way over the speed limit and me still yelling at myself we entered the downtown...and I breathed for the first time in an hour. We were the only car on the streets that were lined with white lighted trees and the holiday decorations. It was beautiful, and I began to fill with the Christmas Spirit, but not long enough to forget our mission. We drove up to the 2nd street entrance, knocked and one of the owner's answered the door, ushering us in to the darkened restaurant. In his arms was a fillet of beef. For someone who does not like red meat. it was a very welcome sight.

He quickly gave us instructions on how to prep it for cooking, telling us that we could also check our "Joy of Cooking." With this in mind we headed back home. As we walked in the door my daughter looked at us and said "Ah the meat miracle on Second Street!" Seriously!

This restaurant has been and still is our favorite downtown restaurant and I certainly continue to "sing the praises" of this restaurant, and the owners for saving my Christmas meal.

It was a wonderful Christmas Day, blessed with members of the two families sharing conversation, food, drink, and getting to know each other a little more.

Now to the meal. This was before I took pictures of my dishes, so let your imagination envision the smells and tastes.

Gathering Selections:Shrimp with cocktail sauce, Baked Brie, Bloody Marys and Veuve Cliquot Champagne.

The Meal
Wild mushroom Soup - (posted previously)
Roast Fillet of Beef with Black Peppercorns (adapted from the Silver Palate)
Garlic Smashed Potatoes
Yorkshire Pudding
Sweet Yams
Asparagus and Green Beans with Almonds

Beaujolais Nouveau

Dessert: Ginger Bread (from the Silver Palate)
Lemon Tart (not sure what recipe I used, but I know use the one from the Bouchon Cookbook)

May your holiday be blessed and your holiday gatherings and meals be shared with the ones you love.


Monday, November 21, 2011

A Chef's Table par Excellence

We recently returned from a 15 day trip in Australia...Sydney...took in an opera at the famed and magnificent opera house....walked the Bondi Beach outdoor sculpture exhibit...visited Melbourne for two days, where we caught a glimpse and rode the elevator with a few of the President's Cup notables (sorry mom, not Phil)...spent four very lazy days on Hayman Island and ended the trip with a great visit with cousins who went to Australia 23 years ago for "1 year" and now have a wonderful home in Tasmania with ocean views! And they have a wine refrigerator that rivals many wine cellars.

But since this blog is about food, I am sharing some of the exquisite presentations of a seven course Chef's Table meal which were accompanied by seven different wines. Each course was a work of art prepared by the Haymnan Inn's chef Anthony Healy. The winery was Majella of the Coonawarra region.

Shown here is the first course:Compressed kingfish, green apple noodles, baby radish, nasturtium, arugula caviar yoghurt(in the tube!) The vegetable entree shown is my substitute for the Beef Cheeks, which were enjoyed by the other 16 guests.
The third dish shown is the utterly awesome Hayman sloe gin martini igloo. This item took ice art to the next level.

The chef shared the history of the chef's table which originated in Europe in the
18th century, giving chef's the opportunity to invite patrons and friends into the kitchen to experience specialty dishes which were difficult and not suitable for the restaurant. The meal was served in the kitchen which had been "prepared for guests" ... complete with chandeliers which replaced the bright working kitchen lights.

The other courses included Quail, Lamb Noisette, Wagu Sirloin,and a Valrhona manjari chocolate biscuit souffle for dessert. The chef accommodated my "no red meat preference" and provided me with substitute dishes. Following the dinner we had a tour of the kitchen, the chocolate room and the wine cellar. It was truly an experience.

There probably was not one course served that I would even attempt to duplicate. Most of the ingredients are not readily available and while I do consider myself a decent cook, I am far from a cuisine artist. So this was one meal I just enjoyed with out even taking mental notes!

And the beaches were nice.....very nice.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mushrooms, Champagne and Me

Sometimes it is all about ME! On a late summer Friday evening my spouse was at a day long golf outing and we would not be sharing our usual relaxing Friday night at home, usually accompanied by appetizers and wine while we caught up on the week, or talked about the weekend. Missing my spouse was one thing but I was not about to miss my "relax" time. I had thought about calling friends for dinner, or stopping by a nearby favorite restaurant, but knew that there were two items that I could enjoy right at home all by myself.

I have posted the sauteed mushrooms inspired by the recipe in "French Women Don't get Fat" previously but as with most dishes there is a variation.

Tonight's fare: Sauteed Mushrooms on Crusty Bread. I sauteed shallots and a diced glove of garlic in a small amount of butter and evoo and then added the diced mushrooms and some chopped fresh thyme. When the mushrooms were soft I added fresh ground pepper, tossed a in a bit of sherry and let it reduce. In the meantime I brushed the slices of baguette with evooo and toasted under the broiler.

Taking the mushroom mixture, toasts and Veuve Cliquot to the deck, I sat back enjoying the summer evening and reminding myself just how very fortunate and blessed "ME" is!

Spouse did get home in time to have a glass of the bubbly.


Chicken with Sherry Orange Glaze

This is a recipe that I adapted from the Mediterranean Diet Cookbook's entry for Spanish Roast Chicken with Sherry-Orange Glaze. I am surprised I had not tried it previously since it calls for two tastes I really like - orange marmalade and sherry.
As I have for other chicken dishes, I used a grocery store prepared roasted chicken. They are moist,freshly roasted and easily deboned - I am no Julia Child, I pull the meat off the bone!

Entree: Chicken with Sherry-Orange Glaze. The MDC's recipe called for rubbing a mixture of garlic, cumin and sherry inside and out and glazing the chicken half way during roasting. I merely just made the glaze and served it on top of the boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

The glaze: I combined a fourth of a cup sherry, a half of cup of orange marmalade, a dash of cumin, and a fourth of a cup of fresh orange juice and reduced it until thickened.

Sides: Wild Rice with Sauteed Mushrooms. The rice was cooked in half water and half chicken broth. The mushrooms were sauteed with garlic in olive oil and seasoned with fresh ground black pepper.The rice was mixed with the mushrooms prior to serving.
Green Beans. The beans were steamed in chicken broth.

Wine: 2009 Hook and Ladder Sangiovese


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Simple Lemon Sole

This is about as simple as it gets. And it was all about a bottle of wine. We previously had enjoyed a bottle of Craggy Range Pinot Noir so I thought we would try the Sauvingon Blanc. I needed a dish to go with the wine.

Entree: Lemon Sole.
The sole was brushed with a mixture of white wine, lemon juice and fresh ground pepper and sauteed in olive oil in a hot skillet.

Slices of Lemon were browned in the same skillet. When the lemon sole was flaky and plated I topped it with fresh chopped basil.

Side: Glazed Carrots. I recently found out that my husband likes cooked carrots and thought they would add color to the dish. I merely cooked the tiny baby carrots in a mixture of water, bourbon and brown sugar until they were coated.

Wine: Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc. We were not disappointed.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Late Summer Gazpacho

On August 24 2010 I offered a Gazpacho dish. This is similar, but this time I did not add fresh kernels of corn and I pureed the vegetables more and then topped with larger chucks of tomato, cucumber, red bell pepper and onion, and garnished with large basil leaves. No matter which recipe is used, the final taste of any Gazpacho is so dependent on the freshness and variety of the tomatoes which makes each year's batch a little different.

Before starting I typically check the recipes in Mediterranean Diet Cookbook and the The New Basics Silver Palette. and then stick to the the one I know best:

Tomatoes - I used plum, locally grown fresh harvest
Cucumbers - peeled and seeded
Red Pepper
Small hot pepper
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar - most recipes call for Sherry Vinegar, but I used what I had in the pantry
Tomato Juice
Fresh oregano, thyme and basil
Fresh ground back pepper

I slightly sauteed the garlic and shallot this time and then added to the rest of the ingredients (with the exception of the fresh herbs). The batch was then chilled and prior to serving I stirred in the fresh herbs and topped with the chunkier veggies.

The soup was served with crusty bread.

Wine: 2009 Paraiso Pinot Noir. An inexpensive PN recommended by the great guys at Binny's in Chicago.


Friday, September 9, 2011


This morning I will change it up a little from a daily dinner idea to answer a question from one of my followers. "I bought a bottle of capers, but am unsure when to use them...?"

According to the Silver Palate "The New Basics" capers are the unopened bud of a shrub that grow wild all over the Mediterranean, North Africa and India. The largest and fleshiest are from Sicily. The green buds are hand picked before sunrise while they are tightly closed and then pickled." The writers of the cookbook state that they use them to add "zip" to sauces, a variety of seafood, meat, vegetables etc.

I find myself using them in recipes for tuna, salmon, olive tapanade, certain tomato sauces. I also used them in the recent ratatouille dish. My favorite use of capers is in Chicken Piccata (shown here in the little white cup)...the lemon and capers combine to make a superb flavor.

Try them....


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Summer Veggie Pasta

I was not aware that I missed the entire month of August. It certainly was not for the lack of cooking, dining and enjoying! The rainy summer produced a beautiful lawn and flowers to provide the backdrop for several outdoor meals.

August dinners also included wonderful farmer's markets' vegetables. Here is one of several that we enjoyed.

Appetizer: Watermelon Squares with Feta. Watermelon and feta have become one of my favorite summer combinations. Here I just prepared a small dish for us to enjoy while I prepared the meal.

Entree: Mixed Veggies and Pasta.
Strips of zucchini, broccoli and red pepper and green beans were sauteed with diced garlic in olive oil with the onion and asparagus tips. When they were done the cherry tomatoes and fresh basil were added and stirred in. The cooked pasta was topped with the cooked veggies and shredded Parmesan.

More summer vegtable dishes will follow.


Quinoa Rotelle with Farmer Market Fresh Veggies

I had a box of organic gluten free Quinoa in my pantry. Not sure why, but it must have been a healthy shopping trip. Knowing that the veggies I purchased as the local Farmer's Market would be tasty, I thought I would try the pasta that claims "you'll never go back to plain noodles again."

It was a beautiful late summer evening for dinner on the deck - amazing how green the lawns are at this time of year (hopefully we will not pay for it during the winter months!)

Entree: Rotelle with Veggies. I sauteed the garlic, tiny purple onions, eggplant and red bell pepper in olive oil. As the pasta was finishing and prior to taking the veggies out of the skillet I stirred in tiny cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and oregano. When plated, I added a splash of olive oil and shaved parmesan.

Bread: French Bartarde. This loaf cam from a local bakery that has a table at the Farmers Market. It was very crusty and quite good.

Wine: 2005 Carparzo Brunello. One of our favorites.


Ratatouille (Veggie Ragu) on Pasta

My husband and are very fortunate to have our mothers, both widowed, still with us. His in the same town and mine a little more than an hour away. These two magnificent women have over come several illnesses in the past few years - strokes -infections - cancers, but continue to be "in charge" and the "head" of their respective families. Holidays and special occasions (which there are many)find them surrounded by their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Every so often we manage to get the ust the moms together and on an early August Sunday afternoon we had them to ourselves!! Simply delightful.

Inspired by the seasonable vegetables available and remembering that my mom liked a ratatouille dish, I threw together what I had on hand.

The Entree: Ratatouille on Pasta. After sauteing until soft, a couple cloves of garlic in olive oil, I added chopped eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, purple onion, green beans and cherry and plum tomatoes. When the veggies were soft, with the exception of the green beans which remained slightly crunchy, I added chopped fresh basil, oregano and thyme, capers, fresh ground black pepper and Italian olives. The mixture cooked for a few more minutes to blend the flavors. A generous portion of the ratatouille was plated on top of a small portion of pasta.

Wine: Prisoner. We discovered it a couple of years ago when it was the "in" wine and it remains one of our favorites. Neither mom shared the stuck with water the other her manhattan.


Salmon with Red Wine Sauce and Wild Rice

Combining two households can result in some "favorite furniture" being put aside in a spare room. Such was the case a few years ago - a dining room table and chairs that had been a part of six residents in five different cities over three decades were relocated in order to make room for a larger dining room set.

I was growing tired of the "country looking" oak table in our dinette (are they still called dinettes?)and my husband actually did not like it, so I decided to revive my old friend - the round mahogany table. It blends very well with its surroundings and adds a french feel to the area. So to mark our first meal on this table in this space I wanted to prepare a special dinner. So I shopped for a couple of bargain plates and table linens, because some times it is all in the presentation, or so someone said. As it turns out my husband thought it was the best salmon I ever made. I don't totally agree with him, but I'll take the compliment.

First course: Pureed Gazpacho
. I had about two cups of gazpacho left from a batch I made two days earlier. At a recent dinner in Philadelphia we were served a liquid gazpacho in slanted glasses, which I thought was pretty "cool." I am not sure what was in "Mica's" mix, but I put my gazpacho in the food processor with a splash of sherry and blended until it was a drinkable texture. I served it in newly purchased tulip glasses, with stuffed olives along the side.

Entree: Salmon with Red Wine Sauce. Using the pan that I sauteed the mushrooms and onion in for the rice, I deglazed the pan with red wine and then added chicken broth, and stirred in french demi-glace. After reducing the liquids I added fresh ground pepper and fresh thyme. I seasoned the salmon with black pepper and brushed half and half on the top. Thomas Keller uses canola oil when cooking salmon and I like his one-side cooking method so I heated the oil and then placed the salmon, half and half side down. This time I did flip it because as I was lifting the salmon it started to slide off the spatula quick action of flipping it was better than seeing it land elsewhere. (Physical grace is not one of my attributes but I am quick!)

The sauce was poured over the salmon after plating.

Wild Rice with Mushrooms. While the wild rice was cooking in half water and half chicken broth I sauteed shitake and crimini mushrooms and white onion in olive oil. Prior to serving I added the rice to the mushroom/onion mixture to blend the flavors.

Side: Broccoli. The broccoli was microwaved in about a fourth of a cup of chicken broth.

Wine: Hook and Ladder Cabernet Franc


Friday, July 15, 2011

Smoked Salmon with Bagels

This is a very simple meal, for brunch or a lazy evening. The bagels in Ohio just don't compare to New York City bagels, but you have to buy what is available. Panaera Bread Bagels tend to be larger than grocery store bagels. It really is the smoked salmon, and other ingredients that can make a difference. We prefer the wild caught or the New York style.

Entree: Bagels with Smoked Salmon. This particular time I included chopped hard boiled egg. Usually I serve the toasted bagel with cream cheese (Philadelphia) capers and diced onions. Occasionally I will also serve with cherry


Penne with Peas and Asparagus

I like to keep issues of cooking magazines that contain receipes that I find interesting...some I make, others I plan to make or I just like the cover.

The April 2007 issue of Food and Wine is one that meets all three! The cover receipe is a fresh looking "penne with spring peas and asparagus, perfect with a citrusy Sauvignon Blanc".

As I have mentioned I do not tend to cook with cream so I eliminated the 1/4 of heavy cream and made a few additions.

Entree: Penne Pasta with Asparagus and Peas. I cooked the olive oil, garlic, asparagus, still tender then added the chicken broth and reduced. I added cherry tomatoes and heated. Immeditely prior to removing from pan I stirred in sage and basil. I placed the pasta on a serving platter and sprinkled with fresh grated and shavings of parmasean, and fresh gourd black pepper.

Wine: Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc


Monday, July 11, 2011

Pasta with Sausage, Tomato and Basil

Don't gasp when you see is a very lean chicken sausage, but quite tasty with the jalapenos. The dish is similar to one that is in December 2010 Food and Wine. I prepared that version on the night before Christmas Eve for two of the daughters, son-in laws and the two toddler grandsons. But as you can imagine there was not time to snap any photos. So this entry is a pared down version but still very tasty and satisfying accompanied with a Great bottle of wine.

Entree: Pasta with Sausage, Tomato and Basil: I used the wider light pasta and used basil instead of arugula. While the basil boiled I browned the small pieces of sausage. When the sausage was browned a tossed in minced garlic, diced Romano tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. I tossed the pasta in to blend the flavors adding a small amount of alive oil. After placing in the serving dishes I topped it with shaved Romano cheese.

The Wine: Caparzo 2005 Brunello di Montalcino. Superb!


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Salmon with Orange Sauce

This is the 100th post of "Yo Jo What's For Dinner"

Years ago, although again it seems like just a couple, I enjoyed a salmon dish in a favorite restaurant in Philadelphia - DiLullo's (I think that it is how it was spelled) no longer exists. I had ate there on a few special occasions, but this particular evening was a business dinner. There was an orange sauce on the salmon that was absolutely delicious. I have ordered salmon with a citrus sauce many times and more times tried to duplicate the tender salmon and sauce. This is the closest I have come and it was quite good!

Entree: Salmon with Orange Sauce. The sauce was one part Marsala, two parts chicken broth and three parts orange juice. I reduced the sauce while the Salmon, brushed with olive oil and ground pepper was under the broiler. I brushed the broiling Salmon with a little of the sauce and removed it from the oven broiler just as the top side began to brown, making sure of course that it was done to a moist texture but not underdone.

Side: Brussel Sprouts with Prosciutto and Shallots. The sauteed shallots and prosciutto were tossed with boiled then browned brussel sprouts.

Wine: Passalacqua Zin


Monday, June 27, 2011

Arugula, Proscuitto and Pine Nut Pizza

This one combines three of my favorite tastes with a healthy(?) prepared pizza crust.

The Pizza: Using a store purchased whole wheat pizza dough,I spread it with crushed garlic,olive oil, grated Parmesan and heated according to directions. While it was baking, I sauteed prosciutto and pine nuts in a tad of olive oil.When the pizza crust was finished I topped it with the prosciutto, pine nuts, fresh arugula and more grated Parmesan.

A nice late spring meal!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Bucatini with Mushroom Sauce

Trying to make up for neglecting my blog and the few followers I have, so here is a second entry today.

This dish was inspired by the array of dried mushrooms at my favorite grocer, the pasta memories of Italy and the recently enjoyed morels picked by the owner of a local restaurant...yes he scours the fields, picks them and prepares them himself for his restaurant guests. A very small plate is pricey, but well worth it, particularly with a nice great Cabernet. But now to my sauce.

Entree: Pasta with Mushroom Sauce. I soaked morels, chantrelles,and porcini mushrooms in hot water. I sauteed shallots,garlic, cremini and shitake mushrooms in olive oil and a tad of butter. When the dried mushrooms were ready I mixed them in. I added chicken broth, Madeira, chicken demi glace and reduced the liquid.

As the bucatini was draining I added a tad of butter and a tablespoon of half and half to the mushroom sauce and seasoned with fresh ground black pepper and mixed in chopped basil.

Side: Broccolini. The broccolini was steamed in chicken broth.

Wine: Two, a wine recommended by the restaurateur that I mentioned above.

It was one of those meals, that reminded me of why I taught myself to cook, and why I make the food that I like. No, it is not just about me...really. Fortunately my husband shares my tastes in food and he truly enjoyed this dish (good thing)!


White Fish with Bruschetta (salsa) Topping

I am back....I did miss you. A few folks have actually asked me for some fish recipes so here is a very simple one. At least simple for me because instead of chopping ingredients for a typical bruschetta, I used West Point Market Salsa. The grocer's salsa is tangy and fresh tasting. It includes tomato, green chilies, jalapeno peppers,, onion, garlic, bell peppers, strawberries, cilantro, balsamic vinegar, lime juice and salt and pepper.

Entree: White Fish. I used a flounder, but have also done with talapia or orange roughy. I coated it with panko crusts and baked.

Side: Asparagus with Prosciutto. As the asparagus was roasting I sauteed prosciutto bits and diced shallots. I drizzled a little olive oil over them before serving.

Wine: Hop Kiln Thousand Flowers


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It is Spring..well Summer Really!

I am still here. I have not abandoned my followers, but then no one has been knocking at my blog to see where I am. Once winter finally left, not so many weeks ago, the rains came and now it is summer heat. I have to admit my busy work schedule kept me distracted. And then there is the golf course that calls out in between. So please know I will be back at you very soon with some new dishes that I have created and some old favorites revised.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sea Bass with Shallot Mustard Sauce

Had a chance to go to my favorite grocer today. Stocked up on demi glace, hot raspberry preserves (for my baked brie), mustards, cheeses, olives, sun dried tomatoes and a variety of dried mushrooms.This store also has wonderful produce so I picked up some broccoli rabe.

Appetizer: While cooking we enjoyed some of the fresh salsa and a few of the olives.

Entree: Sea Bass with Shallot Mustard Sauce. I adapted a recipe for Mustard-Seared Tuna with Shallot cream sauce found in the August 2010 issue of Food and Wine. So I used Sea Bass instead of Tuna and I used fresh basil instead of thyme. The recipe called for heavy cream and I chose half and half.

I also did not have time to bake the shallots so I sauteed them. The cooked shallots, h&h, lemon juice, dijon mustard, and basil were put into a blender and pureed - I left a a few small chunks for texture. I removed from the blender a placed in a small sauce pan over low heat to keep warm.

When I prepared the sea bass I had to go back to one of my blogs to see how it should be cooked. So following my March 26, 2010 blog I pan seared it in olive oil for 3 minutes on one side and 50 seconds on another and then baked in the oven for 12minutes.

This was very good and I noted that it is one of my best, but I am looking forward to grilling a nice piece of tuna and trying it with the sauce.

Side: Broccoli Rabe. The Broccoli Rabe was steamed in chicken broth

Wine: Melville Pinot Noir. This is one of our favorites.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Salmon with Cantaloupe

In searching for yet another way to prepare salmon I found a recipe for Fillet of Sole with Cantaloupe in the Italian Family Dining cookbook. I had the salmon so I adapted it.

Entree: Salmon with Cantaloupe. The salmon was rubbed with oil and then sprinkled with lemon juice, minced garlic, chopped fresh tarragon and fresh ground pepper. The cantaloupe chunks were placed around the salmon and placed under the broiler until the salmon was cooked to a medium rare.

I will try this with the sole in the future...I think the flavor of the cantaloupe would be more dominant with the sole than it was with the salmon. However I will try the salmon and cantaloupe on the outdoor grill if Spring ever gets to Ohio.

Side: Broccoli. The broccoli was splashed with chicken broth and cooked in the microwave.

Wine: Hook and Ladder Pinot Noir. We eagerly opened a bottle from our new shipment of wine from Hook and Ladder.


Saturday, March 26, 2011


It does not seem like winter is going to end here in Ohio. Temperatures down in the 30s and 20s again, and that means more soup. I have made more soup in three months than I have in the last five years. This recipe is adapted from the West Point Market Cookbook and the Italian Family Cookbook.

The Soup: Minestrone. I sauteed carrots, shallots, celery and prosciutto, then added chicken broth, potatoes, canned tomatoes,zucchini, and white beans. I added fresh ground pepper and cooked over a medium to low until the potatoes were tender. About 5minutes before serving I added asparagus, followed by frozen peas. Immediately prior to serving I stirred in some arugula. After putting the soup in the bowl, I topped with previously prepared pesto.

We both agreed it was a very delicious minestrone. Served with crusty bread and Chianti it made for a great meal!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Wedge with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto

Wasn't it not long ago that iceberg lettuce was so "last year." I am still partial to arugula, baby spinach, boston etc but the iceberg provides a nice crunch for this salad.

But first we had a glass of wine. Typically we do not drink wine with a salad. I agree with those who say wine and vinegar dishes just don't mix. But we had this bottle that we brought back from Italy. It was a gift from the vineyard where we took a tour. We were told it was one of the oldest wineries in the Brunello region. and this Rose is the owners favorite. We do not typically like rose but wanted to taste we had a glass before dinner.

The wine: 2007 Biondi-Santi Rosata di Toscana. There remains half of the bottle in the frig.

Now to the salad. Many restaurants serve some version of this, so it is an adaptation of several...

Salad Entree: Wedge with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto. The dressing is olive oil, pinot grigio vinegar (Lucini), some blue cheese (Maytag) blended in a small blender. I crisp the prosciutto. The wedge is cut and layered with the crumbled blue cheese, prosciutto, thinly sliced onion, dressing, halved cherry tomatoes and seasoned with fresh ground pepper.

The salad is served with a crusty bread.


Monday, February 28, 2011

A Special Meal in Honor of Love

February, the month to honor love, has come and gone, but the taste lingers.... For the past five years I have prepared a special dinner as a gift to "my valentine." This year I included many of my favorites, which have become the husband's favorites, or so I assume! For special meals I like to serve sauteed mushrooms made from the "Why French Women Don't Get Fat" book along with Veuve Cliquot. But on this night I was going to be serving a mushroom sauce on the chicken, so I had to mix it up a little.

I found one of my favorite (yes I know I have a lot of favorites) Bon Appetit issues from a few years ago (September 1993). I even remembered the meal I prepared from it, and my guests. I was in a "commuter marriage situation" living temporarily in a great apartment with a loft which had been an old creamery. I knew I was going to be moving soon, leaving a job I loved and wonderful friends and colleagues, so on this particualr night I cooked for two of them. The move and the marriage are stories for another time...because after all this meal is about love!

So back to this special meal...Other than the food and the wine, what made this meal special is the fact that I actually BAKED! Not just one thing, but two...the crackers for the first course and the lemon tart for the dessert. And if you have followed this blog for long, you know I do not like to bake because to be successful you must follow the recipes exactly...and that is stressful to me, not relaxing! I do admire those who seem to find calm and can spread joy through mom's pies are the best, and her cookies have made it to every grandchild's wedding; my sisters and nieces bake almost daily; and my daughter's sister-in-law's Scrumptious Swirls items are works of art.

Sorry to digress, but it is a blog.

Parmesan Crackers. I may have included these in a previous entry, but they are from a New York Times article. In a food processor combine 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, 1 cup flour, 1cup of grated Parmigiano-reggiano, place in plastic wrap and roll into a log, chill for two hours, cut into 1/4 inch pieces, bake for 12minutes at 325 degrees, remove from oven, turn heat up to 500, return to oven for 3 minutes.

First Course: Sherried Crabmeat Spread. Finding several recipes and not finding the one I had used before (guess I did not write it down, must have been before the blog), I settled on combining Crab meat, cream cheese, shallot, a touch of half and half and sherry. I heated this in the oven for about 10 mins.

The spread was served with the crackers. Accompanied by a glass of champagne and pre dinner conversation - an excellent way to start an evening.

Entree:Tarragon-Butter Chicken with Mushroom Sauce. The recipe from Bon Appetit used a whole chicken, but I used chicken breasts. I roasted the chicken in tarragon butter. When finished I removed the chicken, and deglazed the pan with white wine, and then added chicken broth. In another pan I sauteed shallots and added previously prepared sherried mushrooms. The two mixtures were combined and boiled till thick. The chicken was plated and topped with the mushroom mixture.

Side: Green Beans. I simmered the green beans in chicken broth.

Wine: 2003 Brunello Di Montalcino. Exquisite!!!

Dessert: The Lemon Tart. I follow the recipe in Bouchon cookbook. On this occasion I used a short cut for the pie crust, by using store pie crust and adding grated roasted pine nuts. The recipe calls for 2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks, 3/4 c sugar, 1/2 c fresh lemon juice and 6 tb butter. Since I was only making two small tarts and not a large one I cut the ingredients in half.

Champagne - we finished off the champagne with the tart.

All in all a very special meal and evening.


Saturday, February 26, 2011


A sandwich I had at a Philadelphia Brewing House in the early nineties was memorable.I ordered the "Special BLT" and it came with arugula instead of iceberg lettuce and prosciutto instead of bacon. A few years ago in an Indiana town I had my first Salmon BLT. I adapted these two sandwiches and have served my Salmon, Prosciutto and Tomato sandwich several times over the last few years.

Entree Sandwich: Salmon, Prosciutto and Tomato with Arugula. The salmon is grilled, the prosciutto heated and placed on a bun with arugula, tomatoes and a mayo spread. This time I used a ciabetta roll. This is especially good when made with tomatoes that are in season. But "ugly" tomatoes, or "tomatoes on the vine" will do during other seasons.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Campanelle with Vodka Sauce, Artichokes and Salmon

When I was dating my husband he surprised me one night when he actually served a meal not out of a bag. It was pasta with vodka sauce (from a jar) and artichokes (from a jar). It wasn't bad so a few weeks later I made it but added smoked salmon which gave it an entirely different taste. He really liked it and somehow over the past few years when he talks about cooking when he was living by himself he describes this dish as his specialty. I'll let him have that "memory."

When we were in Italy last fall we had a dish made with a pasta that we had not seen before...almost looked like a small conch shell, but more open at one end. I recently found similar looking pasta in the grocery - Barilla's Campanelle.

Entree: Campanelle with Vodka Sauce, Artichokes and Salmon. I grilled a piece of salmon, cut into bite sized pieces and tossed with the cooked pasta, vodka sauce (jar), and artichokes, and topped with grated Parmesan. Although it was good, I think I prefer the smoked salmon. So the next time I will ask him to make "his specialty."

Wine: Robert Stemler Pinot Noir. Nice!!!


Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Polenta Duo and Colorful Side

This was a fun dinner to make and to eat! I remember the first time I had polenta...I was an adult and after a several hour drive on a winter night I came home to a polenta dish. At first I was disappointed thinking this was not much of a meal. But it was topped with a tasty mushroom mixture - a quite yummy and comforting dish.

When I made polenta squares for the Christmas Day Brunch I was reminded of that first time...and vowed that soon I would try to duplicate the mushroom topping for a meal. So I got carried away ...

The Entree: Polenta Duo. I followed the recipe on the Instant Polenta box, but added Parmesan cheese to the mixture and sauteed the squares in olive oil flavored with garlic cloves.

Mushroom topping - A variety of fresh, but a few dried mushrooms and shallots were sauteed in a small amount of butter, splashed with sherry and chicken broth, reduced, splashed with sherry and chicken broth and reduced.

Tomato topping - Small tomatoes, strawberry size) were sauteed with basil,and garlic in olive oil and seasoned with fresh ground pepper.

Aftr plating and topping with the two mixtures, Parmesan cheese was grated over the two polenta squares.

The Colorful Side: Julienned zucs and carrots were sauteed in olive oil, splashed with chicken broth and seasoned with herb de provence.

Wine: Viticcio 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva. These Italian wines are wonderful.

It is definelty a dish I will try again.