11 December 2007

Jalapeño-Cheese Cornbread Muffins

I made these for my Thanksgiving party this year. After 3 test batches of dry, brick-like cornbread, I got the proportions right! They are extra delicious right out of the oven!

Ingredients (for 12 muffins):

  • 1 c. yellow cornmeal
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c. buttermilk*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6-8 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
  • 1 c. grated cheese
  • 1 handful chopped jalapeños (depending how hot you want your muffins)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 12 regular muffin cups. Stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk and egg in another medium bowl; whisk in melted butter, then add grated cheese and jalapeños. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients; stir just until incorporated (do not overmix). Pour batter in muffin cups. Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Yum!

*I couldn't find buttermilk so I used this substitute, which worked great: Add one Tbsp of lemon juice to a cup of regular milk and set aside for 5 minutes.

01 December 2007

Emilio's "Check my roast out"

What's up my dearest America? Here's my little contribution to your already rich variety of food and recipes!
I'd like to thank Laurel for taking the photo, where you can see me (looking almost bald, which I'm not) slicing the roast. The white glove is not for hygienic purposes but because I just cut a finger for the 12th time this month! So please remember never to smoke, drink, talk or do anything else when thinly slicing the amazing result of this recipe! I called it "check my roast out" because I loooove Hip Hop a lot lately! Enjoy and remember that I miss you all!

Ingredients (for 5-6 people):

3.5 oz. of sundried tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
2 shallots
about 1 1/2 lb veal rump (you can also use pork loin)
2 Tbsp Lard
2/3 c. Port
1 c. beef broth
1 1/4 c. cream
1 tsp lemon juice
a small bunch of chives

Preheat oven and roasting pan to 175°F. Pat dry the sun dried tomatoes and cut them in to thin strips. Peel and finely mince the garlic and shallots. Salt and pepper the meat . In a large, non-stick pan, heat the lard until boiling. Brown the meat on all sides in the lard over high heat for about 8-10 minutes. Remove meat (do not discard juices) and place in preheated roast pan in oven. Cook at 175° for about 2 1/2 hours. In the cooking juices left in the non-stick pan, sautee the sundried tomatoes, shallots and garlic. Deglaze with the port and reduce it by one half. Add the beef broth and reduce some more. Add the cream and cook until you have a well mixed, creamy sauce. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice. Set aside. Immediately before serving, bring sauce to a boil and season with chopped chives. Cut the meat in thin slices and cover with the sauce.

28 November 2007

Excellent Apple Crisp

This was another one of my many lovingly prepared Thanksgiving dishes. After all my apple-pie adventures, I was ready for a quick apple dessert that required no pie crust, especially since I was preparing a huge meal and 2 pumpkin pies at the same time. I came up with this apple crisp which is so delicious, and so easy, I might never make an apple pie again!
Serve warm with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

1/4 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
about 7 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Add apples and toss to coat. Squeeze in lemon, mix well. Transfer apple mixture to prepared dish and pop in the oven for about 15 min.
In the meantime, combine flour, cinnamon, 1 cup sugar and butter in medium bowl. Using pastry blender or fingertips, blend ingredients until coarse meal forms (you can also pulse it all together in a food processor). Take apples out of the oven, sprinkle them with the flour mixture and put back in oven.
Bake crisp until topping is golden brown, about 25 min. Cool for 10 minutes before eating.

26 November 2007

Lamar's Pecan Dressing

This is another famous Lamar recipe. Thanksgiving and Christmas just wouldn't be holidays without his perfect pecan dressing. Here is the recipe he sent me:

Ingredients for large group (adjust portions of ingredients to taste)
• Large pan, lasagna style or larger
• Cookie sheet or shallow pan
• Large mixing bowl (large salad size)
• Herb Seasoned Stuffing Mix, 2-3 pounds (Pepperidge Farm is Best, but this can be made from scratch by using a combination of crumbled dried white and dark breads, adding small amounts dried thyme and rosemary)
• Pecans, halves are best, 1-2 pounds
• Chicken stock, 2-3 quarts (Poultry drippings are good, but you usually don’t have these available ahead of time, and you have more control of the concentration of the broth with chicken stock, which is important) Low salt versions are good because of concentration. Note from Laurel: I used vegetable stock and it worked just fine.
• Butter, 2 pounds (or more) (Low salt versions are best)
• Large onions, 2-3
• Celery head (3-4 stalks)
• Salt

1. Chicken stock (unless already concentrated) needs to be reduced to 40-50% of original volume. Start early.
(Drink a glass, or two of appropriate wine)
2. Lightly salt and lightly roast pecans on low heat (250) for about 20-30 minutes. (This is important to prevent soggy pecans. Don’t let them burn.
3. Chop onion and cook in butter until they start to become clear. Remove from heat.
4. Chop celery, but not too small… bite sized.
5. Add breading, pecans and celery in large bowl, and thoroughly mix.
6. Slowly add stock, mixing while you pour. Breading should be wet, but not soggy.
7. Add butter and onion combination, mixing thoroughly
8. Add and mix in additional melted butter as appropriate. Breading should not get soggy, able to separate with a fork.
9. Pour mixture into baking pan. Arrange evenly in pan but do not pack down. (Try to make sure that most pecans and celery are below the surface)
10. Bake for an hour or so at 375 while drinking an appropriate glass or two of wine.

25 November 2007

Turkey Day

A photo essay on Thansgiving at the Mason House, 2007 (Conclusion to follow when my computer isn't acting up..):

The bird.

The tools. Art by Mark.

The burning of the Moonshine Valley Ranch Cherrywood, pre-smoker.

The masterpiece(s).

Front Door. Decor by Nisa.

Entry Door. Decor by Nisa.

Dining Table. Cloth by Emilio, decor by Nisa, gourds by God.

Full Table.

Lamar and Dolmas.

Table #2.


Dressing, by Lamar.

Pumpkin pie, by Jill.

Pumkin ice cream with salted pumpkin brittle swirl, by Tonio.

Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmellow Meringue, by Jill and Swirled Halvah.

What a spread!

Well, our first Italian Thanksgiving party was a huge success! It looked like a real Thanksgiving (except for the name tags I added to the food for the sake of the Italians). Anyway, it was a blast, hugely tiring, but a lot of fun. It was dinner for 18, but we cooked for 40, I'm not joking. My two American partners-in-crime are both fabulous cooks and enthusiastic party-girls. It was definitely a group effort that never could have been pulled off alone. Recipes are on the way!
the girls

the turkey (before)

...and after

the pie

the leftovers

21 November 2007

Pumpkin Marscarpone Pie

The crust is the Apple Pie crust previously posted on the blog.

The Filling
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese

Using an electric mixer, beat the pumpkin and sugar in large bowl until its well blended. Add the eggs and next 7 ingredients and beat until blended. Add the mascarpone cheese and beat just until mixture is smooth. Transfer the filling to the prepared crust.

Bake the pie at 350 until custard is set, about 45-60 minutes.
After its finished, transfer the pie to a rack to cool.


Peach Daiquiri

This is a delightful treat to enjoy while doing some Thanksgiving preparation cooking. It definitely makes the chopping and peeling much more enjoyable.

Canned Peaches ( fresh is better, but canned will do the trick)
Peach Nectar

Blend all ingredients in the blender until desired texture, sweetness and stoutness. Top with a squeeze of lime for a lovely garnish.

13 November 2007

Sugar & Spice & All Things Nice!

I just browsed through the dessert category and realized that everything revolves around chocolate. While many believe that the world revolves around chocolate, I am one of those anomalies who has yet to fall under the chocolate spell. So, here's a non-chocolate dessert that is really yummy and very Fall appropriate. (I'll make some for Thanksgiving.)

Spice Cookies
  • 1.5 cups softened butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 0.5 cups molasses
  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 t baking soda
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t ginger
  • 1 t cloves
  • 1 t salt
Cream butter and sugar; add eggs one at a time; then add molasses.
Combine dry ingredients; then add to wet.
Mix and chill for 4 hours (less time is OK).
Shape into 1/2 " balls; roll in sugar.
Bake @ 375º for 7 minutes.

Pumpkin Dip (this makes a ton of dip)
  • 1 8-oz package softened cream cheese
  • 1 18-oz can of pumpkin pie filling
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ginger
Mix in food processor. Chill and serve with cookies.


Thank you for all you are, thank you for choosing me like you'd choose a good ingredient for your recipees!!!!! (I just find it difficult to be serious sometimes, but I do ADORE you!)


12 November 2007

Garlic Roasted Pecans

As long as I can remember, Lamar Sawyer (long-time partner-in-crime and friend of my parents) has contributed 3 fundamental dishes to both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners: Garlic Roasted Pecans, Pecan Dressing, and Caesar Salad. These recipes have become so characteristic of his persona, and so integral to our celebration of the holidays, that the festivities just wouldn't be the same without them, or without him for that matter!
This year, he has passed on his famous recipes to the younger generation of festivity-frequenters. I made his famous Garlic Pecans this weekend and they were absolutely delicious, a big hit with the Italians. Maybe it was my imagination, but delectable as they were, it seemed like something was missing. I couldn't help but recall Lamar's ominous words when he sent me the recipe: "I did leave out enough of the details so that the success will be dependent upon the cook’s skills. People always said there was Lamar spit included, but I’m not talking."

Lamar and Chanda’s Garlic Pecans
• Shallow oven pans or cookie sheets
• Cast iron skillet
• Shelled medium pecan halves, one pound
• Tabasco sauce
• Garlic head
• Butter, 1 stick
• Salt (fine ground)

1. Peel garlic (10-12 cloves), slice thinly alternating between long dimension and short dimension successive cloves.
2. Melt 3 tablespoon of butter in skillet, add garlic to cover bottom
3. Sauté garlic for two minutes, turn off heat.
4. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over pecans
5. Add 20-25 dashes of Tabasco.
6. Add pecans, mixing thoroughly to coat all pecans with butter, garlic, salt and Tabasco mixture.
7. Pour skillet contents onto cookie sheets, arranging one pecan deep. Keep the pecans away from the edge of the pan to prevent burning from reflected heat.
8. Bake slowly (275-300 degrees) for 25-40 minutes, depending on oven. The key indicator that they are ready is when the garlic starts to turn brown.
9. When the pecans are ready, allow them to cool to be able to touch the pecans without pain.
10. Place the warm pecans in a jar or other airtight container. (They should keep for a year unless opened.)

photo by Emi

08 November 2007

Mahi Mahi

This is a delicious quick dinner that I amazingly created on my very own. There are a few advantages living this close to the ocean!

Ingredients:( I did not really measure anything so adjust to your personal taste, these are just my suggestions)

• purple onion (half of a large one) chopped
• parsley- (half a bunch) chopped
• brown sugar (3 tablespoons)
• Lemon juice (one whole juicy lemon)
• plain yogurt( 3/4 of a cup)
• Mahi Mahi

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the parsley, purple onion, brown sugar and lemon juice in small sauce pan. Heat until sugar melts and onions are almost all the way cooked . In a well greased baking dish place the delicious Mahi Mahi. Spread the yogurt evenly over the fish. Pour the goodies from the sauce pan on to the fish and place in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes depending upon your oven and the size of the fillet. Remove and enjoy!
Herbed potatoes and sauted spinach make excellent side dishes to accompany the fish.

07 November 2007

An Eggcellent Quiche!

The Crust
(for one 9" pie)

  • In food processor: cut together 1 cup flour (I use some whole wheat flour- maybe 1/4 c); and 1/3 cup butter. When blended, add ~3 T cold buttermilk.
  • Chill dough for one hour if you have the time, then roll out...
The Filling (anything is possible, use your creativity and whatever is in the fridge)
  • Bottom layer: shredded cheese of some sort- sharp cheddar, gruyere, gouda or other smoked cheeses, feta, parmesan...
  • Veggie layer: some options include- mushroom/spinach/onion; zucchini/onion; leek/onion; etc.
  • Eggy custard layer: Basic= 4 eggs, 1.5 cups (soy)milk, 3 Tbs flour, salt & pepper, 1/4 tsp dry mustard. Fancy= 16+ oz ricotta, 3 eggs, 3 Tbs flour, dash of nutmeg, salt.
  • Top layer: more shredded cheese.
  • Special extras you can mix in: toasted pine nuts, capers, olives, pesto, sliced tomatoes to adorn the top.
Bake for ~45 min to an hour @ 375º

04 November 2007

Fall in a Bowl

I shared this soup recipe with some of you last year when I first came across it. The recipe is from Eating Well magazine and it's now one of my cool weather favorites. Like most soups, it's pretty easy to make and improves with time (great leftover).
The only tricky part, in my opinion, is preparing the butternut squash, which is a pain to peel. I have found it easiest to chop off the 'bulb' end of the squash so that each part of it has a flat "foot" end to stand on while I slice off the skin downward toward the cutting board with a chef's knife. Plus I always get this weird residue on my hands when I'm peeling this squash that I can't get off-- anyone else have that problem??
Anyway, here's the recipe. Laurel make it last night all the way over there in Italia, and said it was still good with red onions instead of leeks. (photo by Emilio)

Roasted Pear-Butternut Squash Soup with Crumbled Stilton

  • 2 ripe pears, peeled, quartered and cored
  • 2 lbs. butternut squash (don't worry to much about lbs.), peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green part only, halved lengthwise, sliced and thoroughly washed
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t. salt, divided
  • ground pepper to taste
  • 4 cups veggie or chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup crumbled Stilton or blue cheese (optional)
  • sliced chives for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Combine pears, squash, tomatoes, leek, garlic, oil, and 1/4 t. salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss to coat. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender (40-55 minutes). Let cool slightly.
3. Place half the veggies and half the broth back in the bowl and puree until smooth with a handheld blender (or blend in a traditional blender). Add to soup pot, followed by the puree of the other half of the ingredients. Add rest of salt.
4. Cook soup over medium-low heat, stirring, until hot, about 10 minutes. Divide among bowls and garnish with cheese and chives if desired.

serves 6, 1 1/3 cups each

27 October 2007

Thanksgiving in a Box

photo by Emi
Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. It's not all apparently wrapped up in frantic consumerism nor blind patriotism nor any particular religion, though of course you can find all those qualities if you look hard enough. For most, however, Thanksgiving is about food and family, and being grateful. Basta.

Thanksgiving doesn't exist in Italy and maybe because of the already daily emphasis on food and family, they don't really get the point. I miss it, and this year I've decided to celebrate it for the first time over here, inviting a mix of ex-pat Americans and enthusiastic Italians. Problem: where to find all those important Thanksgiving ingredients? I did some scouting and came across cranberry sauce and pumpkins- essentials yes, but the fare stopped there. No need to panic, however, for:

I received the best care-package of my life yesterday.

Fortunately, I planned well-enough in advance to request some of those indispensable and unavailable-in-Italy Thanksgiving supplies. My parents put together an adorable and heart warming package of goodies that was a joy to receive and contained all the essentials to recreate a Texas Thanksgiving in Milan.

The Inventory:
  • 4 bags Texas pecans (for stuffing and other treats)
  • 2 bags dried cranberries
  • 1 bag brown sugar (essential)
  • 1 bottle Chipotle Tabasco Sauce
  • 1 can Chipotle peppers
  • 1 box graham crackers (for pie crusts)
  • 1 shaker of Allspice
  • 1 can condensed milk
It was better than Christmas, everything we pulled out of the box was accompanied by squeals of delight: "Oh! Oh look! BROWN SUGAR!!... and what's this? Woooowwww!!! ALLSPICE!" It was a dream come true, the promise that Thanksgiving could and would happen for me this year. I would like to start off the season by officially giving thanks for my parents, for understanding my spirit, and sending me Thanksgiving in a box.

24 October 2007

I did it! I made an Apple Pie!

That's right folks, I overcame the intimidation and launched myself head-first in to my first pie-baking experience. It may be lumpy, torn and a bit ugly, but the final product miraculously looked and tasted suspiciously like... a real apple pie!
I have a theory that pie-bakers ferociously attempt to defend their territory by circulating horror stories of rubbery or leathery crusts that can absolutely ruin an otherwise-delicious pie. Everywhere I turned, there was a demoralizing tale of "impossible to work" dough which baked in to a horrifying excuse for a pie shell. At first, I was daunted. I put aside all pie-baking delusions for a week or so, before I came to a shocking conclusion: I have never met an apple pie I did not like. I have never used the words "rubbery" nor "leathery" to describe a pie crust, in fact, I have never even attempted to describe a pie crust, I was always too engrossed in eating and enjoying it. So I left the paranoia to the pie-connoisseurs, made an amateur apple pie, and loved it.
I followed the Cook's Illustrated recipe for "Foolproof Pie Dough." The title captured me and it used vodka as a key ingredient, so why not? The only problem was that it called for shortening, which I couldn't find here, so I substituted two full sticks of butter, certainly a recipe for disaster, I feared. It turned out delicious, however, and no one accused my crust of being leathery. Phew! I did roll it a bit too thin, which accounts for the overall torn and lumpy aspect of the pie however.
For the filling I used a mixture of several different recipes, as usual. I mostly used Kim's recipe and another Cook's Illustrated recipe. That was definitely the easiest and most fun part of the whole ordeal.

Laurel's Amateur Apple Pie:

Crust: Follow Foolproof Pie Dough recipe
4 Granny Smith Apples
4 Other apples (I used Fuji because they were all I could find)
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 egg white , beaten lightly
1 Tbsp sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 425°. Peel and core apples, cut in to 1/2-to-3/4-inch slices. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with the sugar, lemon juice and zest, salt and spices. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center. Sprinkle with the tablespoon of flour, distribute the butter chunks. Roll out second dough ball and lay it over the filling. You should have at least an inch of overhang. Trim top and bottom edges to 1/2 inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits at right angles on dough top. Brush egg white onto top of crust and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
Bake at 425° until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce to 375°; continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Pull that baby out of the oven and let it cool a bit. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream, of course.

photo by Emi

16 October 2007

Una Domenica (semi) Italiana

At first, Italian Sundays unnerved me. I was accustomed to my family's concept of The Sunday, which was quite a contrast to the whole catholic observance of the holiday. At my house, it was toss-up between the slave labor let's-teach-the-children-the-value-of-hard- work Sunday, or the quality-family-time-excursion Sunday. The latter of which might sound more appealing, but in reality required loading all of our household belongings in to a car, driving to a body of water, recreating a comfortable living room in the great outdoors, eating a few soggy sandwiches, then re-loading it all and driving back home, where we commenced to unpack. Don't get me wrong, we had great times on Sundays, or at least got a lot of chores done, but it wasn't exactly the "day of rest" I kept hearing so much about.

In Italy, however, I reluctantly discovered what Sunday meant to The Others: the loafers, the eaters, the drinkers. I now regularly partake in Marathon Sunday Lunches, where I rise from the table 6 hours later, my ass flattened, my abs fattened, and my several liters of wine sloshing around in my head. There was I time when I resisted, when drinking in the middle of the day still struck me as so negligent, so idle, so UNPRODUCTIVE. My efficient American sensibilities refused to accept such a careless and irresponsible use of a day. Surely there were back-wrenching chores to be done? Lawn chairs to pack? Soggy sandwiches to choke down? But no, not here, not now. I'll never forget the betrayed look on my Emilio's face the first time I enthusiastically tried to involve him in some highly effective, and exhausting endeavour one Sunday morning. His face fell perceptibly, all he could do was stutter, with quivering lip, "bbbbut... it's.. SUNDAY!"

Now I believe a cultural compromise has been reached. I have discovered that Sunday is the best time to host a dinner or lunch party; the true answer is in the PREPARATION, not simply the consumption of said Sunday meal. My diligent and industrious persona is satisfied while my inner sloth and glutton are finally allowed space in my day. I make a point to do all the grocery shopping on Saturday (actually because nothing here is open on Sunday, the sacred day of rest), that way I wake up at a leisurely hour, and unhurriedly begin to prepare food between multiple cups of coffee, stubbornly sporting my pajamas until an hour before dinner. It's a delicate balance.
Now, with that said, I would like to share with you this week's Sunday Dinner, which I pulled off swimmingly.

Sunday Night Dinner for 5:

  • Spicy olives
  • Peanuts in shell
  • Roasted garlic and goat cheese crostini
  • Toasted walnuts, goat cheese and dried fig crostini
  • Creamy bell pepper dip crostini
  • Tuna, Salmon and Avocado Tartare
Dessert (brought by the guests):
  • Strawberry cream cake
  • Marron Glacé

09 October 2007

Salmon, Tuna and Avocado Tartare

photo by Emilio
This is a dish I consumed at Le Caveau des Arches: a cosy, underground, cave-like restaurant (picture below) in the village of Beaune in Burgundy, France. We ate here on the first and the last night of our trip, and I ordered this dish both times so I could effectively memorize and copy it. I made immediately when we got home (my tartare is pictured above). The trick is, obviously, to use the freshest fish you can find, since you will be eating it basically raw. mmmm.. It's good as a small appetizer, since it is very filling and you can't eat much of it.

Ingredients (for 2 people):
1 fresh tuna steak
1 salmon filet or steak
1 ripe-but-firm avocado
lots of chives, diced
3-4 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
salt pepper
olive oil

Skin and de-bone the fish and cut into tiny cubes. Toss it in a tupperware and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the last 5 ingredients, to taste. It should turn out like a nice vinaigrette. Mix this in with the fish in the tupperware, close tightly and put in the fridge for an hour or two. The fish will "cook" in the citrus juice and should turn a more opaque color. Taste it at this point and add more of whatever it might need. Get out a ramekin and squish some tartare in there real well, then turn it upside-down, remove the ramekin, and you should get a perfect little tartare tower! You can also make a fusion version using wasabi, sesame and soy-sauce as flavors.

Le Caveau des Arches, foto from website

08 October 2007

Mid-Afternoon Meltdown?

Looking for the perfect, quick cure for that afternoon low, when blood-sugar and caffeine levels hit rock bottom? Search no further, for I have discovered a practical pick-me-up that will satisfy your stomach, your palate, and you caffeine addiction, all in one delicious and healthy treat! Introducing the...


photo by Emilio
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 shot of espresso
  • 1 cup of ice
  • a splash of soy milk (optional)
Toss all ingredients in the blender, and voilà! Enjoy your instant attitude adjustment!
The possible variations here are just endless: Try adding other flavors like cocoa, cinnamon, or vanilla. For a hardier breakfast version, try adding yogurt. It would also be fabulous with some chocolate-covered espresso beans thrown in.

Fillet of Sole Gruyere

This is a really delicious fish recipe that my mom and I make for dinner parties. It's great because you can make it a couple hours a head of time and throw it in the oven at the last minute. Serve with rice or quinoa.

3 T butter
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 lb. mushrooms
1 c. grated Gruyere (or a little more)
4 fillets of sole
1/2 t paprika
salt and pepper
fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400.
Melt butter, saute onion and mushrooms.
Butter baking dish.
Cover bottom with 1/2 of onion and mushroom mix.
Sprinkle with 1/2 of the cheese.
Fold each fillet in half and place on top of stuff in dish.
Top with rest of onion and mushroom, then remaining cheese.
Season with salt, pepper, paprika.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Then brown top quickly under broiler.
Garnish with parsley.

J'aime le fromage de France!

Wow. We just got back from a week in France: 3 days in Paris and 3 in the Burgundy countryside. There are more pictures and posts to come, I just wanted to give you all a sneak peek of the highlight of our trip. On our last day we spent all our remaining money at the cheese shop pictured above, and on wine from the vinyards pictured below... and what a delicious splurge it was!

photos by Emilio

29 September 2007

Do I have Something in My Teeth?

My friend JZ makes this appetizer that is amazingly delicious in its simplicity. I'll call it kale toasts because I have no idea what he calls it and that's basically what it is. Please ignore the poor photography and unphotogenic nature of this item because I promise it's tasty. Great as an appetizer or as a side to meats or bean soups. Particularly fun at parties because it's pretty much impossible not to end up with green stuff between your teeth.

Here's how to make it:
-Slice up some hearty, crusty bread and prepare it for toasting in the oven (say at 350 degrees F) or toaster
-wash the grime off of a big bunch of kale and pull the leafy parts off the thick stem
-put the kale in a pot with water and a steamer and steam it up a few minutes until it's bright green and tender (maybe 5 minutes, max?)
-meanwhile, pop a clove of garlic into the food processor and whirl it around with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
-when the kale is ready, remove from steamer and let cool enough to where you can squeeze most of the water out of it with your hands
-plop the kale into the food processor with the oil and garlic and whiz around until it's all ground up into a spreadable consistency
-toss in some salt (1 teaspoon or to taste), pepper, and some italian parsley for added pep and whirl around again
-pull your toast out of the oven and spread the kale mixture on top
-garnish with Parmesan cheese (optional)

For those of you who are particularly sensitive to raw garlic, here's a less-explosive option to try:
-saute 1 chopped clove of garlic in a little olive oil
-add the washed kale and a little water and saute and then cover to steam until kale is tender.
-pour off all excess liquid and add to food processor along with another glug of oil, salt, and parsley
-blend and spread

26 September 2007

Mr. Gorilla's Favorite Banana Bread

If your'e ever feeling bored or blue- the smell of banana bread in the oven will lift your spirits! There are so many recipes for this tried and true favorite, here's one more to add to your recipe books that will make you go bananas.

1 1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. softened butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. (4 T) sour cream or buttermilk
1 c. mashed banana
1 1/2 c. flour (mixture of wheat and white)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar.
Add beaten eggs.
Lightly beat eggs and dissolve in soda and sour cream/buttermilk. Beat well.
Add banana, flour, salt, and vanilla. Mix well.
Butter and flour pan.
Bake at moderate temperature (~350) until golden.

17 September 2007

Eichardt's chef

Hi y'all!

I'm back from new Zealand after a wonderful working trip!

I just happened to stay at this hotel in Queenstown and meet the chef, by chance, in the hallway. He cooked a great breakfast for me, but I don't have the recipe yet. I found on the internet this one instead: he promotes it, it sounds tasty!!! His name is Varick Neilson.

I post it then!

Varick’s Famous Crabcakes

2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 Medium red bell pepper-cored seeded and diced
1 Medium yellow bell pepper-cored seeded and diced
1 Medium onion-diced
2 Cups of cream
1 Jalapeno pepper
4 Tablespoons of chopped chives
4 Tablespoons of chopped dill
4 Tablespoons of Italian parsley
4 Sprigs of fresh thyme
1 Tablespoon of salt
½ Tablespoon of cayenne
2 Eggs lightly beaten
2 Cups of breadcrumbs
2 Cups of ground almonds
½ kg of fresh crab meat
½ kg of fresh fish-cheap white fish
1/4 kg of surimi-flaked

  1. Heat the oil. Sautee the peppers and onion for approx 10 minutes until the onion is translucent, then cool.
  2. Heat the cream and Jalapeno, and reduce until one cup remains. Cool and add too onion mixture. Stir in herbs, salt and cayenne. Mix in fresh fish and surimi. Stir in eggs plus one cup of the breadcrumbs and 1 cup of the almonds. Gently fold in crabmeat-The mixture will be lumpy. Correct seasoning to taste.
  3. Combine remaining breadcrumbs and ground almonds. Make cakes (1 tablespoon = approx 45grms). Dip both sides of each cake in the mixture and coat well. Place on tray and refrigerate until needed. Pan fry both sides and bake in oven for 5 minutes at 400F.

13 September 2007

Quinoa & Mango Salad

So I've been diggin' on the quinoa lately. It's grainy crunchiness just drives me wild. I whipped up this recipe with stuff I had on hand, and it turned out fabulously. Serves 2-3 people. P.S. My personal food-photographer and husband is out of town, so I actually took this picture myself!

2 cups dry quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
1 ripe-but-not-mushy mango, cut into small chunks
1/2 diced red onion or onion type vegetable (chives, green onions, scallions, etc etc)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 handful cashews (I didn't have any, but I think they'd go well)
for the dressing:
1/4 cup yogurt
1 bunch fresh mint, diced
juice from 1 or 2 limes
soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil (or less)
salt and pepper

Cook the quinoa following the instructions on the box. It is very important to rinse it first and even soak it for 15 min if you have the time, because this gets rid of the bitterness. Set cooked quinoa aside to cool. Mix the next 4 ingredients in with the cooked, cooled quinoa.
Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing with a fork and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Toss dressing over quinoa salad, mix well, throw it all in the fridge for a while and enjoy!

07 September 2007

Alabama Slammer

Not sure why all my favorite drinks have place names (Colorado Bulldog, Alabama Slammer, Manhattan, etc.) Anyway, this was one of my dad's favorite drinks. It's a real ass-kicker, so you've been warned!

Alabama Slammer

  • 2 parts Southern Comfort
  • 1 part Amaretto
  • 1 part Sloe gin
  • Splash of orange juice (sour mix is okay too)
Combine all ingredients and shake. Serve in a glass over ice.

Serves 1

Colorado Bulldog

We need to post our best recipes, and we need drinks, the CWA webmistress says. As someone of Irish/Italian descent, I feel a moral imperative to redress this situation. I present, the Colorado Bulldog! My brother Vinnie was a server/bartender for many years, and introduced me to this drink. It's basically a White Russian plus cola.

Colorado Bulldog

  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1 oz coffee liqueur
  • half and half or milk
  • splash of cola
Combine vodka, coffee liqueur, and dairy product in a glass over ice, and stir. Add splash of cola on top, and you've got a Colorado Bulldog!

Serves 1

Note: if you are ordering this in a bar, describe all the necessary ingredients! I speak from personal experience.

04 September 2007

Chilled Avocado-Cucumber Soup

I made this last night for Emilio's going-away-to-New-Zealand-dinner. I'm as green as this soup with envy but we never skip an occasion for a celebratory dinner, so we cracked open some champagne and had a private dinner party. This is a great, fresh, summery soup. There are many different versions of this recipe, most commonly flavored with cilantro. Due to difficulty of locating cilantro here, I improvised with mint and basil which gave it an unexpected and refreshing flavor.

soup ingredients:
* 4 cucumbers, peeled, diced and de-seeded
* 2 avocados, pitted and diced (save some for garnish, if desired)
* 1/4 cup coarsely chopped italian parsley
* 1 green onion, coarsely chopped
* 1 clove garlic, crushed
* lime juice from 2 limes or more, to taste
* 1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
* 1 cup cold water
* salt & pepper
* 1/2 cup diced red tomato to garnish
for the mint-basil oil:
* fresh mint leaves (about 2 tablespoons, finely diced)
* fresh basil leaves (about 2 tablespoons, finely diced)
* salt & pepper
* 1/2 cup high quality extra-virgin olive oil

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth. Add the yogurt and continue processing, then begin slowly pouring in the water while processing until you reach the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Whisk together the ingredients for the mint-basil oil.
Spoon the soup in to bowls and drizzle with the oil. Garnish with tomato, avocado and a slice of lime, if desired.

03 September 2007

Ligurian Memories

I know I haven't posted anything recently, but don't think I've abandoned you! I've simply been on vacation. I spent two weeks in Moneglia on the Ligurian coast with Emilio's family... And what a two weeks it was. What daily culinary bombardment! The garden was in full production, offering up zucchini for our sauces, their flowers to stuff with cheese or anchovies, tomatoes for salads and sauces and everything else. Basil for pesto which in turn topped pastas, crostini, and one fabulous night, pesto lasagna. Lettuces, green beans, sage, oregano, rosemary, parsley, thyme are all nestled cosily on that hillside under a canopy of olive trees.
I promise to post anecdotes and recipes as I recall and perfect them, but right now I'm too busy trying to readjust to the oh so real world of work and city life!

19 August 2007

Salmon, Potato & Asparagus Salad

We had dear friends for a dinner on a hot summer night. This meal was made mostly in advance so I could enjoy the evening stroll to the pond and a spritz. I made this recipe to serve 10. It was a great hit, served with good bread. I wish I had taken a picture! But imagine it, abundant, and colorful on a large platter.

Salmon, Red Potato and Asparagus Salad
Perfect for a light supper or a special luncheon, the salad can be prepared quickly just before serving, or the salmon, potatoes and asparagus can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated, then combined with the vinaigrette just before serving. This is one of the most heart-healthy salads you will ever eat.

1 lb. salmon fillet, skin removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 lb. small, round red-skinned potatoes,
each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter
3/4 lb. asparagus, tough ends trimmed

For the vinaigrette:
4 dry-packed sun-dried tomato halves
Boiling water as needed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh dill
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

10 oz. mixed baby greens (about 8 cups
loosely packed)
3 green onions, white and light green portions,
thinly sliced

Prepare a hot fire in a grill and oil the grill rack, or preheat an oven to 400°F. Season the salmon with salt and pepper.

Grilling method: Using tongs, place the salmon over the hottest part of the fire or directly over the heat elements and grill, turning once, until the salmon is opaque throughout when tested with a fork, about 4 minutes per side.

Roasting method: Place the salmon in a baking pan, transfer to the oven and roast until the salmon is opaque throughout when tested with a fork, 10 to 12 minutes.

Transfer the salmon to a plate and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a large saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, peel and cut into slices 1/2 inch thick. Set aside on a large plate to cool completely.

If the asparagus spears are thick, use a vegetable peeler or an asparagus peeler to pare away the tough outer skin of each spear to within about 2 inches of the tip. Cut the spears diagonally into 1-inch lengths. Place in a steamer rack over boiling water, cover the steamer and cook until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove the rack from the pan and rinse the asparagus under running cold water until cool. Pat dry and arrange next to the potatoes on the plate.

When the salmon is cool, cut it into 1-inch chunks and place the chunks alongside the potatoes and asparagus.

To make the vinaigrette, put the sun-dried tomatoes in a heatproof bowl, add boiling water to cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain and cut into 1/4-inch dice. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, dill, orange zest, garlic, 2 Tbs. water, salt and a grind of pepper until blended.

In a large bowl, toss the salad greens with 2 Tbs. of the vinaigrette. Spoon the remaining vinaigrette over the asparagus, potatoes and salmon. Using a large, flat spoon or spatula, gently coat the ingredients evenly with the dressing. Arrange the greens on a large platter. Top with the asparagus, potatoes and salmon, and sprinkle with the green onions. Serve at room temperature. Serves 4.

16 August 2007

pesto from liguria


4 bunches of basil
garlic (1 segment or less, it’s up to you)
1 spoon of pine nuts
50 grams of pecorino cheese
50 grams of parmisan cheese
5 spoons of extra-virgin olive oil
(I would suggest 3 spoons more than 5)
salt (I never put salt)

Wash and dry carefully the leaves of the basil (without the stem) and put it in the mixer with pine nuts, garlic and salt. Once blended, add the cheese to obtain a homogeneous paste. Then add olive oil till you reach a thick cream.
The pesto sauce is used in the recipe of the minestrone and with pasta (trenette if the pasta is dry; troffiette if it is fresh).
P.S. If the pesto sauce is too dark you only need to add more pine nuts or parmisan cheese.

15 August 2007

My mother's garden

My mother keeps me in touch with the country side by sending me occasional ranch updates like the following:

"A quick trip to the garden for rosemary, basil, bunch onions and arugula... my hands are filled with the scents of summer. In the kitchen, I chop zucchini and tomatoes from a farmer's market trip. Sauteed in olive oil, the kitchen fills with the aroma of good things grown with love."