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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Large Antipasti

I volunteered to make an appetizer for a family birthday party and it was suggested I do an antipasti dish. I had served one at our Thanksgiving Brunch and again at our Christmas Brunch so I wanted to change it up bit.

In thinking about what to transport it in and to serve it on I remembered an old tray I had tucked away in a cupboard that I used many years ago to serve ham or turkey or what ever holiday meat was tradition.

The tray is about 18" long and 13" wide at the widest point. It has four small legs (about an inch tall) screwed into the bottom. It came from the home of my former in-laws and had been used by them during many holidays. I am not sure where they got it - there is no name of a manufacturer on it. But I would venture to guess that it is at least 70 to 75 years old.

I thought the tree-like indentation would make for a nice receptacle of olives, with other items alternated within the branches. The bottom was a larger indentation which I thought would hold the cherry tomatoes, small mozzarella balls and fresh basil.

The platter included a variety of red and green olives, the miniature caprese mentioned above, marinated olives, prosciutto rolled into tubes, sliced aged salami, aged provolone chunks, and asparagus spears.

The mushrooms were sautéed in evoo until just soft and then marinated in lemon juice, white wine vinegar, evoo, fresh thyme and ground black pepper. I drained them prior to putting on platter.

The asparagus were tossed in evoo and roasted in the oven for about 10 minutes.

After unwrapping at the destination, I sliced parmesan and scattered on top and then poured a previously prepared mix of evoo, crushed garlic and shredded fresh basil.

Toasted baguette slices were served with the antipasti.

The appetizer was well received and the dish added a conversation piece - speculation as to how it was made, who made it and just how old it might be! My one follower may know - if so A, let us know.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Just Pasta with Marinara

A laid-back friday night... Earlier in the day I was in the area of a little italian grocery that makes good pasta sauce. Knowing that we had some newly arrived Italian wines in our "wine closet" made for an easy and quick dinner decision.

The salad: Tossed with parm croutons.

Romaine lettuce was combined with cherry tomatoes, olives, celery, chopped onion and parmasan cracker bits. I had made these crackers (NYT recipe, blogged Feb. 28, 2011) for our Christmas Brunch and many of them broke. I think I took them out of the oven too soon or used more parmesan then the recipe called for. Anyway I did not want to toss them, so I froze them knowing that I would find "some use" for them. They were a great addition to this salad. The dressing was evoo, white wine vinegar, dried oregano, and basil, and fresh ground pepper. I added a sliver of blue cheeses to my husbands plate.

The Pasta: Whole Wheat Pasta with DioGuardi's Marinara.

I am trying to serve more whole wheat items and this was a new brand (la Molisana) to me, and it was fine. I also steamed zucchini strips, julienned on a mandolin, and added it to the pasta strands before topping with the sauce and lots of fresh grated parmesan.

The wine: Stroppiana Barolo
Very Nice with the pasta.
And a little candle light - nice dinner!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Spinach Puffs, and Peppered Tuna on Lemon Risotto

Note: According to my mom, my brother did not like the dark blue background on this blog. I could say "it is his age" - since he just had a rather large birthday - but I do know from my years in creating publications white text on dark is not very readable. So for now I will go with a new white background with black text for awhile - this one for my big brother.

The bon appétit November issue offered yet another inspiring recipe. One of my favorite appetizers is phyllo triangles with spinach and feta, and here it was using puff pastry sheets. So instead of taking hours to "wrestle" with phyllo I looked forward to the simplicity of making them with the puff pastry, and to planning a meal around them.

Spinach Puffs The exact recipe can be found at BONAPPETIT.COM/RECIPES.

I pretty much followed the recipe but I did use the entire puff pastry sheet, making nine puffs instead of the six in the recipe. I truly do not know why the recipe called for "reserving a strip of the cut pastry sheet for another use. " I did add a little bit more feta cheese and an extra splash of evoo to the mixture to accommodate the extra three puffs. In addition to the feta, spinach and olive oil the mixture included, minced onion and garlic and an egg. I did not add the dill.

Not only were these puffs very tasty and attractive I felt I could skip a salad course and a veggie or side course by offering these along side the entree.

The Entree: Peppered Tuna on Lemon Risotto.

The plan was to just serve the sliced peppered tuna along side the puffs, but at the last minute we invited a guest so I needed to make two small tuna steaks serve three. I had never served tuna with risotto nor had a I ever made risotto without lots of parmesan cheese - until now. So this recipe is truly a throw together "what you have and what flavors go well with tuna" dish.

I sauteed the rice in evoo for a few minutes according to the package and then tossed in the garlic and onion before adding the chicken broth. I did not have enough chicken broth so I tossed in chicken demi glace and water to stretch the liquid. When the liquid was absorbed I added chopped sun-dried tomatoes (for color, but they did add a nice taste)and lemon zest.

The tuna steaks were rubbed with evoo and crushed black pepper on both sides, seared on high heat for about 2 minutes each side and then placed in a 350 degree until medium rare (6-8 minutes). The tuna was sliced and placed on top of the risotto which had been plated in heated dishes.

I would certainly make this meal again. And the puffs will probably become a standard for my appetizer buffets.

Wine: Kuleto Pinot Noir. This Christmas gift went very nicely with the meal.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Panko Crusted Talapia

When we were in France years ago, the salad was served at the end of the meal - not sure if it was regional or throughout the entire country. Here in the US it is traditionally served as the first course. Did you ever wonder why salads have become so much a part of our dining habits? Of course the Romans and Greeks enjoyed "salata or sal" in the 1600s, but according to food historians and it was not until the last half of the 20th century that salads became popular in the US. The first salads were merely greens and dressings but today's versions combine a variety of tastes and textures.

The Salad: Boston Lettuce with Goat Cheese and Fruit

The salad included Boston Lettuce, goat cheese, blueberries,raspberries, onion and cherry tomatoes. My often used dressing of evoo, balsamic vinegar, and fresh ground pepper was drizzled on the salad.

The Entree: Panko Crusted Talapia

The crust was a mixture of grainy mustard, honey dijon mustard and panko crumbs. After coating the talapia loins they were baked at 375 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.

Side: Brussel Sprouts. The brussel sprouts were rinsed (outer leaves removed) and halved. In a skillet I sauteed diced shallots and prosciutto, added a small about of evoo and the sprouts to brown. Chicken broth was added and the sprouts were cooked until tender.

The Wine: Sonoma Cutrer Pinot Noir. This is one of our favorites which we had not been able to obtain for a few years but found it at


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Salmon with Sherry Sauce

A note: I am trying to make these blog pages a tad more attractive. I am using this photo as my "signature photo," so you will see it from time to time.

And now for the daily dinner idea:

The salad. Once again a chopped salad, but a different presentation.

The Salmon with Sherry Sauce. For the sauce chicken broth, chicken demi glace and sherry were combined in a small pan, heated and reduced. The zucchini strips cut on a mandolin were sauteed in evoo. The salmon was brushed with oil and black pepper and cooked on a grill pan. The sherry sauce was poured over the plated salmon and zucchini.

A somewhat simple and easy dinner but healthy and tasty.


Coming next: Panko Crusted Talapia

Friday, January 4, 2013

Not Just Soup and Salad

Another salad, another soup - aaahh not so, or at least not the soup.

Chopped Salad. Iceberg lettuce, with chopped onions, celery, red bell pepper, olives, cherry tomatoes, a small wedge of blue cheese and shredded cheddar cheese. The dressing was evoo, balsamic vinegar and fresh ground black pepper. Colorful and tasty but just a prelude to the best "french" onion soup I have had - seriously.

And why is it called "French Onion Soup?" Seems this soup can be traced to the Romans, but the modern day version from the 18th century is a beef broth with carmelized onions and topped with a crouton and melted guryere cheese. The crouton is "reminiscent of ancient times." The word soup is from the French word soup which means broth. Enough!

Onion Soup. I caramelized the onions, shallots and leeks in butter and evoo, but I did it on a lower heat and for longer than I have in the past. I added a splash of cognac and used creamed sherry instead of just sherry. I added a small amount of beef broth and reduced the liquid and then added chicken broth and simmered for about 30 minutes. The soup was ladled into bowls, topped with crusty bread, a slice of provolone and a slice of mozzarella and put under the broiler until the cheese was melted and bubbly. Wow! I only wish I had made enough for the next day.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

NYD Pork and Sauerkraut, What Else?

Not sure why pork and sauerkraut are traditional for New Year's Day. And not sure why I give in and make it in some form every year. I don't eat pork...except on NYD. And typically there is always potatoes, usually scalloped. But this year I wanted to be creative. Thank you Bon Appetit.
The November 2012 issue had several potato recipes and I selected Mini Herbed Pommes Anna.

Mini Herbed Pommes Anna (with parmesan)

I followed the recipe which included Yukon Gold potatoes, thyme, garlic, salt and ground pepper. I added grated parmesan. These were fun to make. Using a muffin tin the cups were brushed with butter and lined on the bottom with parchment paper. The chopped thyme (my herb garden is still alive, coated with snow, but alive) and garlic were aded to the melted butter. The potatoes are thinly sliced, and mixed with the butter, garlic and thyme. This is where I added grated parmesan. The potatoes were then layered in a circular pattern in the muffin cups. Covered with aluminum foil the potatoes were baked at 350 for about 35 minutes. They were then inverted onto a cookie sheet and baked at 425 for 25 minutes. Yummy!

Pork and Sauerkraut

I browned a pork tenderloin in a large pan and added rinsed sauerkraut, a cup of chicken broth and a tablespoon of brown sugar. This simmered for about four hours. What else can you say about pork and sauerkraut.

Pretty bland looking meal (hope this is not a forecast for 2013). Because we had enjoyed a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut a few hours earlier, we did not have wine with dinner. A red would have been great with the potatoes, but I don't believe would have worked with the sauerkraut.


Happy New Year 2013

It is hard to believe it is 2013. But it is and I am sure some of you celebrated in grand fashion while others just slept through the ball dropping. I do like to set goals for new years, but before I do I always like to think back. 2012 is almost a blur in that it went by so fast. There were a few blips, but nothing major or at least major compared to what others among my close circle and the wider world endured. So as I shared some champagne on New Year's Day with "my man," we toasted our happiness and our blessed life.

I try very hard not to take happiness or blessings for granted and it is not just because I am Irish Catholic! Very recently I was reminded of a not so happy time. Among my cookbooks I found a 3x5 note paper, dated late 2002, upon which I had jotted some "want to dos... " I made all kinds of lists back then. My career was going well but my personal life, not so good and making lists was suppose to be a way to control what was "going out of control". Looking at the items on the list, I was also reminded that many times the curves in life are meant to be... Some of the "wants" surprised me - most have come to fruition, some with deliberation and determination, and much help and support of family and friends, but others just happened without realizing that I had "hoped" for them. My mother was visiting, so reviewing the items and declaring them "done," made it extra special.

Let me share them with you:

2002 Travel: Ireland, Italy and California Wine Country. UPDATE Been to Italy (2011), been to wine country (2006 and 2007) and scheduled for Ireland in the Fall of 2013.

2002 Fine a new home, sell the house in Indiana. UPDATE Done and Done (in 2003)

2002 Pay all my outstanding debt. UPDATE Debt free for several years!

2002 Read books again UPDATE Many, many.

2002 Dance with a man again UPDATE Have I ever!

2002 Help daughter financially, if needed. UPDATE Able yes, but she never asked for much.

2002 Write a cookbook to heal. UPDATE I did not write a cookbook, but I do have this blog (started 2010). I am not real clear on why I thought a cookbook would make me heal, but I have more than healed! I still would like to do a cookbook, well maybe a dinner idea book.

2002 Stop hating, even if it hurts. UPDATE I do not hate, I do not hurt. But will not forget!

2002 Marriage or at least a commitment with love. UPDATE Married. And in case my earlier blogs have not revealed it, I am deeply in love, and extremely happy with the very caring and good man that I married in 2006. And he loves my cooking!!!

End of my list. Imagine (excuse me John Lennon) if we could only make a list for the world...

In closing, here's hoping your past curves were for reasons that are now understood; you are surrounded by good friends and family; you are at peace with the present; and optimistic about the future.