Monday, March 31, 2008

Marinating In Life’s Kitchen

Yesterday I co- facilitated a workshop with my dear friends Martin, Deborah, Ricardo, Cathy and Aileen. It was an awesome experience and as promised here are the recipes from the food we prepared. Thank you all who attended and big love to my co facilitators. You have been inspiring teachers and wonderful friends!

Holy Wholy Guacamole

6 very ripe avocados

1 red onion, minced

1-2 jalapeno peppers, stems and seeds removed, minced

1/2 ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons of fresh lime

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2-teaspoon kosher salt

A dash of freshly grated black pepper

Cut avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out avocado from the peel, put in a mixing bowl Using a fork, mash the avocado. Add the chopped onion, cilantro, lime, lemon, tomatoes, salt and pepper and mash some more. Jalapeno peppers vary individually in their hotness. So, start with a half of one chili pepper and add to the guacamole to your desired degree of hotness. Don’t forget to add a couple of pits to prevent from turning brown

Vegetable Chili
This is a basic roadmap. You can add or delete any veggies. So warm and cozy, like a hearty chili should be.

! /2 cup olive oil
4 small red onions, roughly chopped
8 cloves of garlic
2 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped
6 carrots cut lengthwise then sliced
3 bunches broccoli, roughly chopped
3 zucchini cut lengthwise then sliced
3 yellow squash, cut lengthwise then sliced
3 carrots cut lengthwise then sliced
2 cans (35 ounces) Italian style stewed tomatoes
3 pounds fresh ripe Plum tomatoes cut in 1- inch cubes
4-6 tablespoons chili powder (to taste)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons Italian Spices
(Or any combo of basil, oregano, sage, etc.)
2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
1-teaspoon salt
2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained
2 cups tomato sauce

Heat olive oil in really large pot. Add onion, garlic, peppers, carrots and broccoli. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add all tomatoes and beans. Sauté for 5 more minutes. Add all spices and sauté for a few more minutes. Add the marinara sauce and 1 cup of water. Cook covered, stirring frequently for 1 hour. Serve with lots of shredded cheddar cheese chopped scallions and homemade corn bread.

Aileen Sanders Awesome Quinoa Salad

2 cups quinoa
4 cups vegetable broth
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 large bunch chives, chopped
1/2 cup young mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup raw pine nuts

1/3 cup olive oil or walnut oil
1 yellow lime or meyer lemon juiced
2 cloves garlic pressed or minced
pinch sea salt

Bring quinoa and vegetable broth to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. While quinoa is cooking, chop tomatoes and chives. Mix dressing.
Remove quinoa from heat. Allow to cool. Fluff quinoa and add vegetables and pine nuts. Gently mix dressing into quinoa mixture. Serve cold or warm. Serves 6.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Edible Art

Just what is edible art? Well, the possibilities are as limitless as your imagination. It can be as simple as a necklace made with florist wire and marshmallows. (Or pipe cleaners for the little ones.) It can be a beach scene on a cupcake using blue frosting for the ocean, smashed graham crackers for the sand, a piece of fruit strip gum for the beach chair and a cocktail umbrella to put it all together. My personal journey into this creative space came on my daughter Emma’s second birthday. Part birthday cake and part activity I set a group of two and three year olds over a plastic covered picnic table in my back yard with cup cakes and frosting and sprinkles! Some diligently labored over their masterpieces, while others ate a bit, sprinkled a bit and then raced back into the comfort of our sand box! I have since done many edible art birthday parties. I have even done some workshops. Many times I have found that some adults love to find their inner child by creating something colorful and tasteful. We graduated this year to a cake sculpture that was more amazing than anything I could have come up with. I even got a bit of ten year old attitude while trying to explain the proper way to hold a pastry bag! After all they have been doing variations for 8 years! Here are a few tips to making a successful edible art party. For the small children, one cupcake each and individual bowls of frosting and sprinkles for each child. The plastic plates that have sections are perfect. As they get older you can start experimenting with sculptures. I get about 20 bowls and fill them with candy. Shapes, colors and variety are most important. (The 99-cent store is great for this.)
Then I pre- fill pastry bags with chocolate icing and at least 4 different colors. I bake a half sheet cake as the base and then many different cakes, mini cakes and cupcakes. I have formatted the recipes below into a cake and cupcakes, but you can use whatever pan shape you like. Or double the recipes if you are making many cakes. You can always use a box mix. I have given some amazing frosting recipes, but a simple way to go is 1-cup vegetable shortening to 2 cups confectioners’ sugar adding milk to get the consistency. It is very sweet and the kids are happy with this. And you can add food coloring in small batches to have lots of color. To hold the sculpture in place you can use colorful toothpicks, lollypops, cocktail umbrellas or mini pinwheels. I have found that no matter what I plan or how I try to direct the kids if I just step back and let them do it they come up with something so much better than I could have even dreamed of. This makes my job so easy!

Golden Layer Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4-teaspoon salt
1-teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2-teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks butter
1-cup sugar
8 large egg yolks lightly beaten
1/2-cup milk
1-teaspoon vanilla

Spray 2 8- inch cake pans with bakers joy. Pre-heat oven to 350. Whisk together flour, salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda. Cream butter and sugar until well blended. Add beaten egg yolks slowly beating constantly as they are added. Alternately add the flour mixture and milk beating after each addition, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the vanilla. The batter will be thick. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth out the tops. Bake until the tops are golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean about 25 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

Chocolate Cupcakes
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-cup hot brewed coffee
1/2-cup sour cream
1/2-cup canola oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 16 muffin cups with liners.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over boiling water. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the hot coffee, sour cream, and canola oil. Gradually whisk in the eggs, and then stir in the chocolate. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all the ingredients are smoothly blended.

Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Frosting
12 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4-teaspoon kosher salt

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over boiling water. Place the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add the chocolate in a slow stream and mix until thoroughly blended.

Butter Cream
2 sticks butter, softened
4 large egg yolks
1/4-teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Cream the butter until smooth then add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the salt and vanilla and a little of the sugar and beat until smooth. Gradually beat in additional sugar until butter cream is a desired consistency. Add milk to thin and chill to thicken.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Growing up my family ate artichokes year round. Most of my family fought for the heart, but I always loved the ritual of pulling the leaves between my teeth. My daughter and I often share a piece of fish and an artichoke for a perfect supper. Fresh are always better (see the soup recipe for instructions on steaming) but they are avaible in cans (non marinated) and jars are usually marinated. As you can see I prefer to marinate my own.

Marinated Artichoke hearts
24 small to medium artichokes, trimmed and steamed
1 cup each red wine vinegar and olive oil
4 -cloves fresh garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Steam the artichokes and remove leaves. You can eat these with melted butter, mayonnaise or aolie. 
Remove the choke and trim as desired. You can leave the chokes whole or cut them in half vertically through the stem. Mix together wine vinegar, oil, garlic powder and parsley. Add artichokes. Stir, cover and refrigerate. Better on the second day. Will keep several weeks in the refrigerator; stir occasionally.

Cream Of Artichoke Soup
1 Large artichoke
1 lemon
3 Cloves garlic, minced
1/2-teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4-cup butter
4 cups heavy cream
Pinch of salt, fresh ground pepper to taste
Cut stem at bottom of artichoke. Cut the top third of the artichoke and snip off remaining sharp tips of leaves with kitchen shears. Gently pull the leaves of the artichoke to spread them out a bit. In a large saucepan place artichokes in with 3 cups water and juice of one lemon. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium and cook for about 45 minutes until very tender. Drain the artichokes and cool down with water. When cool enough to handle cut artichokes in half lengthwise. Remove and discard the fuzzy choke part. Place artichokes in a blender or food processor until very smooth. In a large soup pan sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes in the butter over medium heat. When the garlic is golden add artichoke puree. Whisk in the heavy cream and salt and pepper. When at the desired temperature serve.

Zely’s Famous Artichoke Dip
8-ounce package cream cheese
1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cup sour cream
1/2-cup mayo
1 cans non-marinated artichokes (coarsely chopped)
3 Cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon chopped dill
Few dashes Worchester sauce

Throw it all in a bowl mix it up. Put in baking dish and cook uncovered at 350 until it is bubbly and brown (about 35 minutes.) Serve with crackers, crusty bread or crudity. I must admit my favorite way to serve it is using a small round loaf of bread and turn it in to a bread bowl by cutting off the top of the loaf and scooping out the bread (save it for dipping.) Just pour the dip into the bread bowl and again bake until bubbly and golden brown. For larger gatherings (This is such a hit that I would do this for anything over 4!!!!!) double the recipe and use a large round loaf. I also buy a little extra bread and slice it as it goes fast.

Artichoke Frittata

1 cup canned artichoke hearts in water

6 eggs

1/2cup half-and-half 

1/4-teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper 

1/8-teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Spread artichokes in 4 well-greased individual au gratin dishes or 1 8-inch soufflé dish. Sprinkle grated cheddar cheese on top. In bowl beat eggs with half-and-half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour mixture over artichokes & cheddar. Top with Parmesan. 

Bake at 350°F until frittata is puffy and lightly browned and center feels firm (about 20 minutes). Serve at once.

Chilean Sea bass with Lemon Caper Artichoke Sauce
8 tablespoons of butter
½ cup white wine
3 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup of vegetable stock
Juice of 4 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cups non-marinated artichoke hearts
Salt and Pepper
4 tablespoons canola oil

4 fillets of Chilean sea bass (approx. 2 lb.) with skin, if possible

Preheat your oven to 450°. In a stockpot melt the butter. Whisk together the wine, vegetable stock, capers lemon juice and zest. Add the artichoke hearts and bring to a boil. Let simmer to thicken for a few minutes. In an oven proof sauté (fry) pan and heat the canola oil until its so hot it's about to smoke. Season the fillets with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan cook them on one side for about 3 minutes and flip them over for another 2 minutes before (9) transferring to the oven for 3-4 minutes. Place on 4 plates and cover with Sauce. Great with roasted vegetables and potatoes.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Whenever I am trying to create a simple yet amazingly flavorful meal somehow I always think of basil. Basil adds so much flavor to just about anything, and it is so aromatic and beautiful looking as well. Basil is often considered a symbol of love; in Italy, a pot of basil placed on a balcony signaled that a woman was ready to receive suitors.
Basil can simply be tossed with garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and angel hair pasta, sprinkled in a tossed salad or with rice. My favorite pasta in the world is a simple pesto with basil, pine nuts and garlic. Most heavenly of all, snuggle the leaves between slices of fresh bread along with red, ripe tomatoes, sweet onion slices and fresh mozzarella. Basil is a member of the mint family and is one of the most widely used culinary herbs. There are so many different varieties. Experiment with mint basil, lemon basil, opal basil and sweet basil just to name a few. The red-hot flaming pasta I've included below is really simple and a showstopper. The lemon pecan pesto is delicious with pasta, chicken or fish. The Thai Green Curry has a wonderful basil influence and proves that it is not just for Italian food. So go ahead and try out some of these recipes and share some of the love herb and good food with your friends and family.

Lemon Pecan Pesto

1 Cup Lemon Basil Leaves
2 Cups Sweet Basil Leaves
1 Cup Pecans
1/2 Cup Fresh, Grated Parmesan Cheese
4 Cloves Garlic
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Combine all ingredients except olive oil and lemon in food processor and process for about 30 seconds. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and process. Add the lemon juice, zest and the remainder of the oil. Serve with pasta, chicken, fish or stuff into fresh cherry tomatoes for a tasty appetizer.

Marinated Roasted Pepper, Olive and Fresh Mozzarella Salad

6 large red bell peppers
1 cup whole Greek or pitted ripe olives
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves o
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

Pre heat the oven set on broil. Broil bell peppers with tops about 5 inches from heat, turning occasionally, until skin is blistered and evenly browned. Place peppers in a plastic bag and close tightly. Let stand 20 minutes.
Remove skin, stems, seeds and membranes from peppers. Cut peppers into 1/4-inch strips. Place peppers, olives and cheese in glass bowl. Shake remaining ingredients in tightly covered container; pour over pepper mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours to blend flavors, stirring occasionally.

Red Hot Flaming Pasta

1/2 cup vodka
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups marinara sauce
1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup half and half
1 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
Fresh ground pepper
12 oz pasta of your choice
(Also great with Ravioli)
Parmesan cheese

Soak the crushed pepper in the vodka for 1 hour. In a large pot bring salted water to a boil add pasta and cook until andante about 10 minutes. Meanwhile preheat a large skillet and when it is hot pour in the vodka mixture. Swirl it around then light it with a match. Be very careful it will really flame. Add the butter, half and half and marinara sauce. Bring to a light boil. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce and coat well. Sprinkle with basil, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Serve at once.

Green Chicken Curry

This green curry is rich and creamy with just the perfect kick. It is so simple to make so don’t be intimidated if some of the ingredients seem unfamiliar. Most are available at a good supermarket and all are available at an Asian market. Be sure to remove the lemongrass stalks and lime leaves before serving, as they are really stringy and tough to eat. Keep in mind that you can make it with shrimp, or vegetarian. I like it with the snow peas, but you can use any vegetable you like.

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons green curry paste
1 1/2 pound boneless chicken breast, cut bite size
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 lemon grass stalks, bruised and cut
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 pound snow peas
15 basil leaves

In a wok or frying pan heat the oil. Add the green curry paste and stir-fry until bubbly and fragrant. Add the chicken, kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass. Cook until the chicken is cooked through. Add the snow peas and cook for another minute. Stir in the coconut milk and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer and stir occasionally for 5 minutes. Stir in the basil and serve over rice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


We have a few culinary sayings around our house 1- when in doubt add more cheese. 2- you can never use too much garlic. While many lovers are afraid to use a lot of garlic, it is known for its aphrodisiacal powers! Folklore holds that garlic repels vampires, protects against the Evil Eye, and wards off jealous nymphs said to terrorize pregnant women and engaged maidens. Clay molds and real cloves of garlic were placed in the tomb of king Tut! It also believed to heal many aliments! I don’t know about any of this, I just know that when I want a quick pasta I sauté’ garlic in olive oil add what ever fresh vegetables I have, sprinkle with fresh basil and parmesan cheese. Green beans sautéed in garlic and ginger are one of my most popular dishes. Roasted garlic is a great appetizer. Serve with warm French bread. Make a cocktail party with cheese, bruschetta and olive tampanade, also heavy on garlic. Shrimp Scampi is a no brainier lush with garlic, butter and lemon. I have done many versions of garlic-mashed potatoes, but these are tasty and are great for our non-dairy friends. So whether it heals your heart or nourishes your soul share some garlic with the ones you love!

Roasted Garlic
6 whole heads of garlic
12 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Using a knife cut off 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of the top of cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic. Place the garlic heads in a baking pan. Drizzle a couple teaspoons of olive oil over each head; using your fingers to make sure the garlic head is well coated. Wrap with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cloves feel soft when pressed. Allow the garlic to cool enough so you can touch it without burning yourself. Use a small knife cut the skin slightly around each clove. Use a cocktail fork or your fingers to pull or squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins.

Noni’s Olive Tapenade
6 Large Garlic Cloves
2 Cups pitted Kalamata olives or other brine-cured olives
4 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons drained capers
1teaspoon each fresh chopped rosemary, thyme
3 tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons olive oil
Rinse the olives in cold water. (This makes the tapenade less salty) Finely chop garlic cloves in food processor. Add 1/2 the olives, anchovies, capers, thyme and rosemary. Process until almost smooth. Add the lemon juice. With machine running gradually add olive oil. Blend mixture until smooth. Then coarsely chop the remaining cup of olives and mix in. Season tapenade to taste with pepper. Transfer to small bowl.
Serve with toasted French bread.

6 seeded ripe plum tomatoes, diced
(When in season I love to use the Heirloom)
1 red onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2-cup olive oil
Gently combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Let stand at room temp for 1 hour before serving
Grilled Garlic Tuna Steaks
6 cloves garlic,chopped
6 scallions with tops, minced
1/3-cup parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons dry vermouth
(Or white wine)
1-teaspoon soy sauce
3 splashes Green Tabasco (or to taste)
4 tuna Steaks, 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick.
Prepare the grill to medium heat. Mix the garlic, scallions, parsley, vermouth, soy sauce and Tabasco. Add the tuna steaks and marinade in the refrigerator for one hour. Grill the tuna steaks 5 inches over the heat for about 8 minutes per side until they are firm to the touch. Remove from grill and serve immediately.

Shrimp Scampi

2 pounds large prawns
8 tablespoons butter
1/2-cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup oregano, finely chopped
Juice from 3 lemons
Zest from 1 lemon
Splash Triple Sec
Salt and Pepper to taste

Shell and devein prawns; rinse and drain. In a medium skillet melt butter. Add olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano and lemon juice and zest. Sautee for one minute. Add prawns and cook until pink. Add salt and pepper and triple second cook on high untilluquid is reduced to 3/4.Serve over pasta.

Yukon Garlic Mashed Potatoes
1/4-cup olive oil
6-garlic clove, minced
5 Yukon Gold Potatoes
Pour the oil in a medium skillet and heat. Add the garlic and sauté until soft about 3 minutes, set a side. Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4-inch chunks. Place chunks into a medium saucepan filled with cold water. Add 2 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until tender. Drain over a bowl reserving liquid. Transfer potatoes to a medium bowl. Using a whisk mash potatoes adding reserved cooking liquid until smooth. Add the sautéed garlic and season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Easter Sunday is very early this year. I am ready for Spring, but not really ready for the same old Ham! Here are a few twists on the traditional recipes. Egg prices have sky-rocketed over the past few months so make sure to utilize them in you buffet after the hunt is over. You can follow the basic deviled egg recipe or add dill, caviar, sour cream, bacon, and/or cheddar, the choices are as limitless as your imagination. The mint pesto in the lamb is a fresh twist on the sickly sweet mint jelly, and asparagus risotto uses the popular spring vegetable to add variety to your menu. The carrot cake is so tasty and a joy for all ages. Regardless of how you celebrate the season, these are fun spring recipes that make any meal fresh and special.

Deviled eggs

12 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon
3 tablespoons dill pickles, minced
Splash vinegar
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch salt
Peel eggs and very carefully slice eggs in half the long way, keeping the whites intact as much as possible. Place whites on tray, holes up. Drop yolks into a small mixing bowl and smoosh with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and mix with fork until smooth. You can fill the egg whites by using a small spoon or a pastry bag. Sprinkle with paprika or chopped chives for a little color, and serve or refrigerate.

Leg of Lamb with Mint Pesto

1 cup pine nuts
6 large garlic cloves
2 cups fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Juice of one lemon
1 5- to 6-pound leg of lamb
2 pounds baby new potatoes
12 ounces baby carrots, trimmed and peeled
Fresh mint sprigs

Finely chop pine nuts and garlic in processor. Add 2 cups mint leaves and basil and chop finely. Add oil, lemon and Dijon and blend until pesto is smooth. Cut excess fat from lamb, leaving thin layer. Set lamb in large roasting pan. Make several slits in lamb with tip of small sharp knife. Reserve 1/2 cup pesto for vegetables. Spoon some pesto into each slit; rub remainder into lamb. Sprinkle lamb generously with salt and pepper. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature or cover and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Roast lamb 45 minutes. Add potatoes to pan and turn to coat in pan juices. Roast 30 minutes. Add carrots and reserved 1/2 cup pesto and turn to coat carrots and potatoes in pesto and pan juices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue roasting until thermometer inserted into thickest part of lamb registers 140°F. for medium-rare, about 45 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes.
Carve lamb into thin slices. Arrange on plates with potatoes and carrots. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Asparagus Risotto

1 pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into 2-inch lengths
5 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Blanch asparagus pieces in large pot of boiling, salted water 2 minutes. Drain. Rinse asparagus under cold water. Drain asparagus well. Bring chicken stock to simmer in small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep broth hot. Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add rice and stir 3 minutes. Add white wine and cook until liquid evaporates. Continue cooking until rice is tender but still slightly firm in center and mixture is creamy, adding chicken stock 1 cup at a time and stirring almost constantly, about 20 minutes. Add blanched asparagus pieces and stir until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter and stir until incorporated. Stir in grated Parmesan cheese. Season risotto to taste with salt and pepper.

24-Karat Cake

2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups cooking oil
2 cups grated carrot
8 1/2-oz. Crushed pineapple, drained
1 1/2 cup chopped nuts

To flour, add salt, baking soda, sugar and cinnamon. Mix. Add eggs and cooking oil and mix well. Add carrot, pineapple and nuts, and stir to combine. Put in a 9x13 greased and floured pan. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.


Beat the following ingredients until smooth.

1/2 cup butter
8oz cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 pound powdered sugar

Frost and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Alfresco Italian

This time of year eating all of Spring’s bounty is a must. Also on the top of my list is eating Alfresco. Growing up on an Irish- Italian family we ate many meals outside with bread and cheese for a springtime simple pleasure!

Roasted Garlic

6 whole heads garlic
1/2-cup olive oil
Salt/ freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 350.Trim the points of the heads of garlic exposing the tops of the cloves. Place the heads together in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the garlic for 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 250 and roast 1 hour more. Serve the garlic with crusty bread and assorted cheeses. One of life’s most simple pleasures!

Roasted Red Peppers

12 large red bell peppers
1/4 cup olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Turn all gas burners on high. Place peppers directly on flame watching very carefully, Turn until the entire pepper is a burnt a bluish, black color. Place in plastic bag for 15 minutes. Meanwhile whisk together oil, garlic, basil and balsamic vinegar. Under cold water rub the skin off and slice into strips. Loosely layer in a bowl drizzling with oil mixture. Serve with crusty bread, in salads or you can make a soup.

Grilled Vegetable Platter

3 red bell peppers, seeded and halved
3 yellow squash sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
3 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
3 Japanese, sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
1 bunch (1-pound) asparagus, trimmed
12 green onions
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil leaves
1-cup goats cheese, crumbled

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or prepare the barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush the vegetables oil to coat lightly. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper. Working in batches, grill the vegetables until tender and lightly charred all over, about 8 to 10 minutes for the bell peppers; 7 minutes for the yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, 4 minutes for the asparagus and green onions. Arrange the vegetables on a platter. Meanwhile whisk 2 tablespoons of oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, parsley, basil, in a small bowl to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the herb mixture over the vegetables. Sprinkle with goat’s cheese and serve.

Tuscan Bread Salad

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
4 slices (1/2-inch-thick) Italian bread, about 4 inches in diameter
1 head romaine lettuce
1 cup Black Ripe Pitted Olives, drained
1 large ripe tomato, seeded and diced
1 cup white beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2-teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sliced fresh basil leaves
Fresh grated Parmesan

Combine 1-tablespoon olive oil and 1 clove garlic; brush over both sides of bread slices. Grill bread 2 to 3 minutes per side in ridged grill pan or broil 1 to 2 minutes per side until lightly toasted. Reserve outer leaves of lettuce. Tear or chop enough inner leaves to measure 6 cups. In large bowl, combine torn lettuce, olives, tomato and beans. Cut grilled bread into cubes; add to lettuce mixture. Combine remaining 3 tablespoons oil, remaining garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper; mix well. Add to lettuce mixture; toss well. Arrange outer leaves of lettuce on 4 serving plates; top with salad. Sprinkle basil and Parmesan over salads.

Shrimp Scampi

1-pound Shrimp. Peeled and devained
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
4 Garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon basil, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
1 lb Cooked Fettuccine

Heat butter and oil in a skillet. When hot, add the shrimp and cook over high heat, turning shrimp constantly. As soon as the shrimp turn pink, add the parsley, garlic and basil. Keep tossing for no more than another minute; remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest, add salt and pepper and add the other 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice. Serve over hot fettuccine.

Noni’s Ricotta Pie

3 pounds Ricotta 

1-pint heavy cream 

1/2-cup flour

2 cups sugar
1-tablespoon vanilla
9 eggs 

1 cup chocolate chips

Beat the eggs until thick. Add the sugar and beat well. Add the vanilla, cream and flour. Mix well. Fold in chocolate chips Grease a baking dish well and pour the cheese mixture in. Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Roasting A Chicken

In the past few weeks I have received several e-mails asking for the best way to roast a chicken. A golden brown chicken with crisp skin, moist white meat and tender dark meat is chic and simple for a family dinner or even an elegant dinner party. It offers something for everyone and easily serves 4-6; any leftovers can be made into a salad or stir-fry the next day. The recipes here are based on a 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pound chicken. Chicken is done when the temperature on meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh, next to the body, reaches 180 and the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a knife. The chicken should stand for 15 minutes for easier carving. The best part is you can add any roasting vegetables or potatoes to make a one-dish meal. The next time you want comfort food that is suitable for guests just roast a chicken.

Lemon Herb Chicken
1 roasting chicken
1 lemon, halved
1 onion, halved
4 rosemary sprigs
4 thyme sprigs
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup chicken stock
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Pre heat oven to 350. Remove giblets and discard or freeze for another use. Rinse chicken in cold water and dry with a paper towel. Arrange lemons, onion, rosemary thyme and garlic in the body cavity. Place chicken, breast side up in a Pyrex or roasting dish. Pour stock and lemon juice over chicken and roast for about 1 1/2 hours, basting occasionally. Transfer chicken to cutting board. While chicken is resting, pour pan drippings into a small saucepan, reserving about 3 tablespoons liquid to dissolve the cornstarch. In a small bowl whisk cornstarch with the reserved liquid. To the saucepan add 1/2-cup water and chives and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and whisk in cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened, about 3 minutes. Carve the chicken and serve with sauce.

Five Spice Chicken

1 Roasting Chicken
2 teaspoons Chinese five Spice
3 tablespoons Molasses
1 tablespoon Honey
4 tablespoons butter (melted)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Pre- heat oven to 450. Remove giblets and neck from chicken and wash and pat dry. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon 5 spice into the cavity of the chicken. Place the chicken in a roasting pan. In a small bowl mix the molasses, honey, butter, and soy sauce and remaining 5 spices in bowl. Brush half over the chicken. Roast for 30 minutes. Brush remaining glaze over the chicken and roast 45 minutes to one hour longer.

Roast chicken with Pears

1 roasting chicken
1 very ripe pear
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic
2 onions
Melted butter for basting

Peel the onions and slice them in thin circles. Separate them slightly and line them in a roasting pan. Rinse the chicken with cold water and pat dry removing all the neck and liver. Sprinkle the skin with salt and pepper. Place the whole pear the garlic, rosemary and thyme into the cavity of the chicken. Place the chicken on top of the onions and baste with the melted butter. Roast at 425 for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Forty Cloves and a Chicken

1 Chicken
6 thyme sprigs
3 Rosemary sprigs
2 heads Garlic (remove loose papery skin but do not peel)
1 stick butter, melted
Preheat oven to 450. Remove giblets and neck and rinse chicken and pat dry. Place chicken in a roasting pan and place rosemary and thyme and 5 cloves garlic in the cavity. Brush with butter. Roast for 30 minutes. Brush with remaining butter and add the rest of the garlic cloves to the pan. Roast about 45 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and place chicken on a platter and let stand. With a slotted spoon transfer garlic to a small bowl and discard the skin. Serve with lots of warm crusty bread.

Roast Chicken and Stuffing

1 chicken
Melted butter for brushing
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon dried leaf thyme, crumbled
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 cups soft breadcrumbs
1 beaten egg
1/3 cup milk
Salt and pepper

In a skillet, melt 1/4 cup butter over low heat; sauté onion for 3 minutes. Add thyme, parsley, and breadcrumbs. Stir in egg and enough milk to make dressing moist. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon stuffing into cavity of chicken. Brush chicken with butter. Place chicken breast side up on rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast stuffed chicken at 375° for about 60 to 70 minutes, basting several times. Let chicken stand for about 15 minutes. With a spoon remove the stuffing and serve.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Saint Patrick’s Day

Hi! I have gotten a few calls today about my corned beef recipe! WOW, we are in full spring!

Being from a large Irish- Italian family we always had a family bash on St. Patrick’s Day. It was one of the few meals my dad loved to cook. We would come home from school and watch him prepare this amazing meal. The way my dad cooked was by using every bowl, spoon and gadget in the kitchen, playfully annoying my mother since he cooked and did not clean! O.K., so it is not necessarily the kind of holiday that the masses celebrate, but you can come up with fun things to do with your family. One year we had a potato hunt and the person that found the most got a gold coin. My friend Zelma started the traditional game of hiding the cabbage. Not being a fan of that vegetable she will hide it in the hopes that I will forget about it! (I did once, nobody seemed to mind!) My daughter’s kindergarten and first grade teacher had a naughty little leprechaun named Liam that appeared in her classroom starting the first of March. He left little messes and problems to solve, and told the kids that if they could catch him on St Patrick’s Day they would get the pot of gold. The kids spent so much time creating elaborate traps. But alas, Liam always managed to escape, but not without totally wreaking havoc in the classroom and leaving cupcakes. (Kind of like my daddy in the kitchen!) Some older Irish folks I know believe in reading the eyes of potatoes for fortunes. Soda bread is super easy to make and a great activity for older kids. For me the best part is hanging with friends and family and spreading a little luck of the Irish to all those I love.

Corned Beef

In college and in my first few years living in L.A., while many of my peers were chugging green beer, I was cooking a traditional Irish-American dinner. One year I did 35 pounds of Corned Beef and there was not a scrap left for sandwiches.
The best part of this meal is that it is done in one pot! Even though I am giving you a couple of recipes for bread, you can always buy some if you are pressed for time. The flavor of the beef in the boiling water gives the veggies an amazing flavor. This menu is based on 8 people. I recommend that as you add people you add pots. Do half of the beef in each so you can still cook all the veggies in the meat water. I simply serve it with assorted mustards and assorted breads.

6 pound corned beef brisket
6 garlic cloves
12 peppercorns
6 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoon each: thyme,sage, and oregano (Must have been added from one of my Italian relatives.)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 red onions, sliced
10 medium carrots cut into one-inch pieces
16 red new potatoes, scrubbed
2 small heads of green cabbage, cut into 8 wedges each

In a large soup pot cover corned beef with cold water. Add onions, garlic peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves,red pepper and seasoning. Over medium-high heat bring to a boil. Carefully remove foam without removing any spices. Reduce heat and cook covered until almost fork tender about 3 hours. Add carrots and potatoes; cook 15 minutes. Add cabbage, cook 15 minutes longer until vegetables and brisket are tender. Remove Brisket, slice and arrange on a large platter. Drain vegetables in a colander and return to pot, toss with butter and place on platter.

Irish Soda Bread

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon each baking soda-baking powder
1/2-teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1-cup buttermilk
1/2-cup seedless, dark raisins

Spray a cookie sheet with baker’s joy. Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients. With a pastry blade cut in butter until mixture resembles a coarse crumbs. Add raisins. Add buttermilk and stir until dry ingredients are just moistened. Turn out on lightly floured board. Gently knead for about 1 minute until smooth. Shape into a ball and then press down until you get a 6-inch circle. With a sharp knife cut a quarter inch cross in the top of the bread. Bake for 40 minutes until top is golden and you hear a hollow sound when lightly tapped. Let cool on rack.

Irish soda bread with fresh dill

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon each baking powder- baking soda-salt
1/2 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 350. In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients. Cut butter in with a pastry blade until it resembles coarse crumbs. With a fork add the dill. Add buttermilk and mix until lightly moistened. Turn out to lightly floured board and knead until smooth about 5 minutes. Divide the dough in half and make two smooth balls. Place the balls on a large increased cookie sheet. Bake for 40 minutes until top is golden and you hear a hollow sound when lightly tapped. Let cool on rack.

Onion-corn Rye Bread

2 packages yeast
2 cups warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2-cup warm milk
1-teaspoon salt
2-tablespoon caraway seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons corn oil
4 cups flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 cups rye flour
1 egg white, beaten
Kosher Salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer; soften yeast in 1/2-cup water with 1 teaspoon of sugar for about 5 minutes. Add remaining water, milk, sugar, salt, caraway seeds, oil and onion. Add three cups flour. Mix to blend, then beat at medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rest in a warm place for about 30 minutes. Set aside 3 tablespoons of cornmeal for topping. Mix the remaining cornmeal, the rye flour and 1/2-cup flour in to make soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead until dough is elastic and smooth and small bubbles form under the surface, adding a little flour so the dough is not sticky, for about 2 minutes. Turn dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic and a towel and let rise in a warm place for one hour. Punch dough down and let rest for 15 minutes. Divide dough into two equal parts and roll into balls. Place on two greased cookie sheets sprinkled with a little cornmeal. Brush generously with egg white and sprinkle with remaining cornmeal and some kosher salt. Bake for 40 minutes in a pre-heated 350 oven until top is golden and you hear a hollow sound when lightly tapped. Let cool on rack.

Irish Cream Cheesecake

Can you imagine the decadence of mixing cheesecake with Irish Cream? I’m usually way to stuffed from the meal so I have it the next day with my morning coffee!

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
3 -8 ounce packages cream cheese
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup Baileys Irish Cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350. Combine melted butter and crumbs. Press into a sprayed 9-inch spring form pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the cream cheese. Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth. Pour mixture into pan. Bake one hour and 15 minutes, until firm in the middle. Cool completely before removing from the pan. Chill for a few hours (overnight) before serving.

Homesick For The City

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was a real treat to go into the city for meals. From North Beach to Fisherman’s Wharf to Ghirardelli Square I could happily eat my way across town! When I am not able to get there I have my own versions of some of the most famous culinary delights. With my meal, I sip a good Sonoma Pinot and dream of the Marina as the fog rolls in.

Lovely Lisa’s Minestrone

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 yellow onions, diced
6 stalks of celery including leaves, thinly sliced
3 carrots, chopped
1 Tablespoon Italian herbs
Sweat above ingredients in covered large soup pot 5 minutes
Uncover and add
4 cloves garlic, minced
Sauté 5 minutes
12 cups of chicken or veggie stock
3 cups canned chop tomatoes
2 Yukon gold potatoes diced
2 cans 15 oz cannelli beans, drained
1 small head Savoy cabbage, quartered and sliced
Bring to boil and simmer 30 minutes
8 oz pasta of your choice
6 more cups of stock
2 cups green beans cut into 1-inch pieces
Simmer 15 minutes
Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese

San Francisco Style Clam Chowder

6 slices bacon, chopped
4 scallions, thinly sliced
3 Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped in ½ inch pieces
1 green pepper, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
Splash Tabasco and Worchester Sauce, to taste
2 cups raw clams with juice
2 cups heavy cream
Sauté bacon until crisp in a large stockpot. Add onions, potatoes, green pepper, celery and garlic. Add 2 cups of water and season with salt and pepper, Worcestershire and Tabasco. Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes. In a separate pan heat the clams and their juice for 3 minutes. Add the clams and juice to the pot, pour in the half and half. Heat, stirring until piping hot. Makes 6 servings.

Sourdough Bread

1 cup Starter (see below)
1 package dry yeast
2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1-teaspoon salt
6-7 cups flour

Let starter come to room temp. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle yeast over 1/4 cup of warm water. Add sugar and let stand for about 5 minutes. Stir in the rest of the water and the starter. Add four cups of flour. Mix to blend then beat at medium speed until smooth and elastic about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in 2 more cups flour, then add up to 1 cup more to make a stiff dough. Turn dough out on to a board coated with remaining flour. Knead until dough is springy and small bubbles form just under the surface. (15-20 minutes) Or place in bowl of electric mixer fitted withy a dough hook and process for about 10 minutes.) Turn dough into a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about one hour.
Punch dough down and let rest for a few minutes. Divide into 2 equal parts and shape each one into a ball and place on greased cookie sheets that have been lightly dusted with cornmeal. Cover lightly with a towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour. With a very sharp knife cut a criss-cross in each loaf about 1/4 inch deep. Preheat oven to 400. Bake until golden brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped about, 1/2 hour.

Sourdough Starter

1 Package dry yeast
1-cup warm water
1 cup warn nonfat milk
2 cups flour

In a medium bowl mix yeast over water. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes. Mix in warm milk. Add flour; mix to blend then beat until smooth. Transfer to a large container. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and then with a towel and let stand at room temperature 24-48 hours. Stir down upon occasion. It will be quite active for several hours after it is prepared. Use starter or refrigerate in a tightly covered container until ready to use.

Basic Chocolate Truffles

12 ounces Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate chips
1 stick butter
1/2-cup ground chocolate

In a double broiler, melt the chocolate over simmering water, stirring constantly. (Or a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water, just remember to be careful.) Remove from heat. Add butter stirring until melted. Chill until firm enough to form into small round pieces. Roll in ground chocolate. Chill overnight in refrigerator. Makes about 40.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spring Brunch

Spring Brunch

As the winter chill is dissolving into the sweetness of spring I find that a garden brunch is a fantastic way to celebrate the re-birth of the season with friends and family. The splendor of the newly budding flowers makes a perfect backdrop for the abundant fruits and vegetables. Orange juice mimosas (3/4 glass champagne to ¼ glass juice) are still popular and there are some delicious variations. Try substituting pomegranate juice, cranberry juice or blueberry-mango juice. The pre- preparation allowed by all of these menu options allows the host and guests to relax and enjoy each other.
Carrot Ginger Soup
1-tablespoon olive oil
2 medium red onions, sliced
1 (4 inch) piece fresh ginger
8 cups vegetable stock
2 pounds carrots cut into 2-inch pieces
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2-teaspoon white pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over low heat and sauté onions until they are translucent. Roughly chop the peeled ginger and add to the onions and sauté’ together for about 3 minutes. Increase heat and add the stock and carrots. Simmer over medium heat until the carrots are tender let cool a bit and then puree. Return to the pot to re-heat just before serving. Season with salt and pepper.

Cured Salmon
Get a side of salmon, pack it in chopped dill, wrap it in rock salt, sprinkle a bit of aquavit - just to make it moist – wrap in plastic or big zip lock - all air has to be out - weigh it down with bottles or bricks - 24 hours later (no more or it gets hard) thoroughly wash the salt off - display with skin side at bottom - with your best knife shave the salmon into paper thin slices and serve with the following dressing.
Whisk together:
1-cup olive oil
1/4-cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3-tablespoon fresh dill

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Frittata
1-pound asparagus
1 dozen eggs
1-cup milk
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1-teaspoon thyme
1-teaspoon salt
1-teaspoon pepper
2 cups goat cheese

Butter a 9-12 inch Pyrex rectangular pan. Set aside. In a large Sauté pan, melt butter and sauté asparagus, onion, and bell pepper. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, milk and seasonings. Add the asparagus mixture and mix well. Crumble and add the goat cheese. Pour into baking dish. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 oven about 35 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Blueberry and Mango Salad
Juice of 4 limes
Zest of one lime
2 large mangos, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cups blueberries
10 mint leaves, sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Gently toss together let stand for an hour or overnight and serve.

Shrimp and Berry Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
1 basket black berries
1-basket raspberries
1/4-cup pine nuts
2 firm-ripe avocados
1-teaspoon fresh limejuice
1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined
4 cups baby mixed greens

Quarter avocados lengthwise, then pit and peel. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Drizzle with limejuice and season with salt and pepper. Prepare barbeque or stovetop grill (medium-high heat). Pour 1/4 cup dressing (recipe below) into small bowl. Reserve remainder for salad. Brush shrimp with dressing from small bowl and grill until opaque in center, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. In a large serving toss together mix greens, berries and pine nuts and dress lightly. Arrange avocados and shrimp on top of salad and serve.

Citrus Vinaigrette

1/4-cup fresh orange juice
Juice of one lime
1/4 teaspoon ginger, finely chopped
6 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
3/4-cup canola oil

Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients with salt and pepper to taste.

Lemon Rosemary Pound cake
1-cup butter
2 teaspoons rosemary, finely chopped
3 teaspoons lemon zest
4 eggs
1-cup sugar
1-teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup lemon juice
1-teaspoon baking powder
1/4-teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a loaf pan with bakers joy. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat butter, zest, and rosemary and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time then add vanilla. On low speed add flour baking powder and salt until just blended. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes then remove from pan and cool completely.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


I love to grow herbs. Nothing is better than walking out into your garden (or to your window box), kitchen shears in hand and cutting just the right amount of fresh herbs for your dish. One of my personal favorites is mint. My first herb garden I planted basil and rosemary. The mint grew uninvited and I did not have a clue what to do with it. All I had ever done was toss it with melons. There are many different kinds of mint. Look for peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, and lemon mint all great for tea. Fresh and well…. minty they are all so unique and delicious. As mint tends to take over a garden I developed many different recipes for this herb. Good for sweet and savory a natural companion for lamb I also find it great in sauces for chicken or fish. You can cut extra and place them in vases with flowers for a true spring aroma in your home. This time of year it is so abundant you can certainly play with it and make up more recipes of your own!

Mint-Mango Sauce
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, seeded, cut into slices
2 cups fresh mint leaves
4 green onions cut into 1-inch pieces
4tablespoons fresh limejuice
2 Serrano chilies, halved, seeded
Puree together in a food processor. Let stand for at least one hour or over night. Serve with grilled fish or chicken.
Mint and Edemamme Crostini
1 leek
1/4 cup chopped shallots
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 1/4 cups shelled edemame, frozen or fresh
6 T. olive oil
Salt and ground pepper
3 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 slim baguette
2 T. olive oil
1 hothouse cucumber
About 32 fresh mind leaves, rinsed
Chili powder
Lime wedges

Trim and discard dark green tops and root ends from leek. Split white stalk lengthwise and rinse well to remove dirt between layers. Finely chop leek. In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, stir leek, shallots, garlic and soybeans in 2 T. olive oil until leek is limp, 6 to 8 minutes.
Place soybean mixture in a food processor and whirl until coarsely pureed. Add remaining 3 T. olive oil, 1 T. at a time, whirling until mixture has a spreadable consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped mint. Slice baguette on a slight diagonal into pieces about 1/4 inch thick. Arrange slices on racks on two baking sheets. Brush tops lightly with olive oil. Bake in a 425-degree oven until lightly browned, 6 to 9 minutes.
Spread about 1 T. warm or cool soybean mixture on each slice of toast. Rinse cucumber and thinly slice crosswise. Garnish each toast with a cucumber slice, a fresh mint leaf, and a sprinkling of chili powder. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over each toast before eating.

Leg of Lamb with Mint Pesto

1-cup pine nuts
6 large garlic cloves
2 cups fresh mint leaves
1-cup fresh basil leaves
1/2-cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Juice of one lemon
1 5- to 6-pound leg of lamb
2 pounds baby new potatoes
12 ounces baby carrots, trimmed, peeled
Fresh mint sprigs

Finely chop pine nuts and garlic in processor. Add 2 cups mint leaves and basil and chop finely. Add oil lemon and Dijon and blend until pesto is smooth. Cut excess fat from lamb, leaving thin layer. Set lamb in large roasting pan. Make several slits in lamb with tip of small sharp knife. Reserve 1/2 cup pesto for vegetables. Spoon some pesto into each slit; rub remainder into lamb. Sprinkle lamb generously with salt and pepper. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature or cover and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Roast lamb 45 minutes. Add potatoes to pan and turn to coat in pan juices. Roast 30 minutes. Add carrots and reserved 1/2-cup pesto and turn to coat carrots and potatoes in pesto and pan juices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue roasting until thermometer inserted into thickest part of lamb registers 140°F. for medium-rare, about 45 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes.
Carve lamb into thin slices. Arrange on plates with potatoes and carrots. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Beets with Mint Vinaigrette

1 lb beets
3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh orange zest (from 2 oranges)
1/2-teaspoon salt
1/2-teaspoon black pepper
1/4-cup olive oil
Garnish: fresh mint sprigs

Wash and trim beets and place on roasting pan. Roast until fork tender about 45 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle, then slip off and discard skins. Cut beets into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
While beets are roasting stir together scallions, 2 tablespoons vinegar, lemon juice to taste, mint, zest, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined. Add warm beets and toss with vinaigrette and vinegar and salt to taste. Serve warm or slightly chilled.

Mint Soba noodles
12 oz dried soba noodles
1/3-cup rice vinegar
1-tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
1-teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions (1 1/2 bunches)
Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water until just tender, about 5 minutes, then drain in a colander. Rinse under cold water to stop cooking, and then drain well.
While noodles are cooking, stir together vinegar, oil, soy sauce, sugar red pepper, and salt until sugar is dissolved.
Toss noodles with dressing, mint, and scallions

Minty Roasted Potatoes

16 New Potatoes
1/2 cup Olive Oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
8 garlic cloves finely chopped
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves

Pre-heat oven to 350
Prick the potatoes with the tines of a fork and arrange them on a baking sheet. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Cut the potatoes into quarters and place them in a serving bowl. While they are still hot, toss them with the oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Gently toss in the mint. This twist on a potato salad can be served warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Do I love lemons. The fresh citrusy scent and the vibrant yellow color always spark my imagination. It is amazing to me the versatility of these small, but powerful fruit and I have never met a person who does not like them. They remind me of spring and as the weather warms up it makes me crave anything lemon. Just cut and squeeze over fresh steamed vegetables, a whole chicken with garlic and rosemary or even in a cup of green tea. Lemons make the simplest of food taste special. I created the Lemon Pistachio Sun Scones for the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Sun Community Newspapers new offices. What a better expression of the sun than lemon? The poached chicken is my take on a classic piccata. By poaching the chicken it is a bit lighter than the traditional breaded and fried version and the artichoke hearts really compliment the lemon. The pasta is wonderful alone or as a side dish with grilled salmon or a whitefish. So as the start of spring teases us we can find some bold freshness in these recipes.

Lemon Pistachio Sun Scones
2 1/4 cups flour
1/3-cup sugar
1-tablespoon baking powder
6 teaspoons finely chopped lemon zest (about 3 lemons)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into fine pieces and frozen
1 cup pistachios, finely chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 to 1-cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing the tops of the scones

In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder and mix on low. Add the lemon zest and butter, and pulse until the mixture is pale yellow and the consistency of fine meal.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the pistachios. Make a well in the center and pour in the cream and lemon juice. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead a few times to gather it into a ball. Pat the dough into a circle about 3/4 inches thick. Using a three-inch cookie cutter (or smaller if doing minis) cut out rounds. Gather the scraps, pat and press the pieces back together, and cut out the remaining dough. Place the scones 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining cream. Bake in a pre heated 400-degree oven for 12 to 16 minutes, until they are pale browned. Let cool on a rack

Lemon Cream Fettuccine
1-pound asparagus
2 large shallots
3 lemons
1 pound dried fettuccine
4 tablespoons butter
1/12 cups heavy cream
Trim asparagus and diagonally cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Finely chop shallots. Finely grate enough lemon zest to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons and squeeze enough juice to measure 3 tablespoons.
Fill 6-quart pasta pot three fourths full with salted water and bring to a boil for asparagus and pasta. Have ready a bowl of ice and cold water. Cook asparagus in boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes, and with a slotted spoon transfer to ice water to stop cooking. Reserve water in pot over low heat, covered. Drain asparagus. In a deep 12-inch heavy skillet cook shallots in butter with salt and pepper to taste over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in cream and zest and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons lemon juice and remove skillet from heat. Return water in pot to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander and add to sauce with asparagus, remaining tablespoon lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat mixture over low heat, gently tossing until just heated through.

Poached Lemon Piccata Chicken
1 1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lemon, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1 16-ounce can non-marinated artichoke hearts
3 teaspoons butter

In a large, deep skillet, heat water to a boil over high heat. Add bay leaf, lemon juice, garlic, salt, chicken and three lemon slices and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until chicken looses its pink color about 12 minutes. With slotted spoon transfer chicken to platter and keep warm. In a cup blend one tablespoon poaching liquid with flour until smooth. With a whisk beat poaching liquid and flour mixture until blended and heat to boiling over high heat. Add capers and artichoke; cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Stir in butter. Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with remaining lemon slices.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Music and Arts Festival

Last week we catered a lunch for a large music symposium and arts festival. I have rented equipment and built kitchens anywhere you can possibly think of from the beach to the mountains including a mausoleum at a cemetery! I thought for this lunch we could create a menu of all salads. It occurred to me that many of you might have large back to school or fund raising events that this menu would be helpful. Some of the challenges of preparing for a large crowd are that there are so many different tastes and eating styles. This menu is simple can be prepared ahead of time, has lots of different powerful flavors and has something for vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters. We served two bowls of orzo, one with out feta and created the vegan soybean salad for this event. We served a salad of baby greens with heirloom tomatoes in a balsamic Dressing and some crusty bread. These recipes can easily be expanded and you can add or delete items as it suites you. We got many compliments and rave reviews. So play with these recipes at your next big event.

Asian Chicken Salad
For the dressing:
In a small bowl whisk together:
3 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1-cup peanut butter
1/4-cup soy sauce
1-cup rice wine vinegar
1-tablespoon wasabi paste
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Crushed Red pepper to taste
In a slow steady stream add:
1/4-cup sesame oil
1/2-cup canola oil
For the salad
2 pounds chicken breasts, poached (see below)
3 cups white cabbage, shredded
3 cups red cabbage, shredded
2 large carrots, peeled, grated
4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
Toss together and then lightly dress.
A note on poaching chicken breasts
This is the simplest way to cook chicken breasts. (It even works for the frozen breasts in a bag.) Everyone says that my chicken is so tender. Place the breasts in a pot. Fill to cover with cold water. Add what ever you have and like. Garlic, salt, pepper onions, carrots, celery, fresh herbs, white wine. Bring to a boil and remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes. It will be the most amazing chicken ever.

Zeli’s Orzo and Feta Salad
2 boxes (16 ozs) orzo pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups feta cheese, diced
2 cucumbers, diced
2 red peppers, diced
2 pounds asparagus, grilled and chopped
2 cans large olives, sliced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1-cup basil, chopped
1-cup virgin olive oil
1 cup lemon juice
Splash green Tabasco (to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sauté 1 box of the orzo until golden brown. In a large soup pot bring water to a boil and cook all orzo until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Once orzo has cooled, in serving bowl mix orzo, olives, feta, red peppers, cucumbers, asparagus, parsley and basil. In small bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice and green Tabasco. Mix into salad. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate and chill before serving.
Soybean and Corn Salad
6 cups edemame, shelled and cooked
5 cups corn, off the cob cooked and cut or frozen, cooked
2 red bell peppers, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro. Chopped
3/4-cup limejuice
1 tablespoon Cumin
Salt to taste
Mix all together. Taste. Adjust the lime. Unfortunately limes vary greatly in there flavor and juiciness. I always buy a few more than I need.


1 and 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4-teaspoon salt
1/2-teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2-cup flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces
3/4-cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a nine-inch baking pan with bakers joy.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and nuts and chocolate chips. Bake for 45 minutes let cool completely before cutting into squares. You can then cut the squares on an angle for little triangles.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Maytag Blue Cheese

Many years ago I had a little taste of heaven in the form of cheese. I had to find out about Maytag Blue Cheese. It started in 1941 by Fred Maytag at Maytag dairy farms in the heartland of America using milk from a prize winning herd of Holster cattle belonging to his father E.H.Maytag, son of the founder of the famous appliance firm. (It is still in the family being run by Fred’s children.) Fred had herd of a new process of making blue cheese at Iowa State University. This is the process that they still use today. It is very time consuming, as they have to make the cheese in small batches. The cheese is carefully monitored during the long process of being aged in specially designed caves until it reaches peak flavors. Tangy, rich, creamy, are some ways to describe this white cheese with dark blue veins and a somewhat crumbly texture. It is readily available in gourmet markets and specialty cheese shops. You can use it like any other blue cheese. Figs are a perfect match for this piquant delight. Chicken breasts stuffed along with apricots is effortless elegance. The pear Tart needs to be planned ahead as it needs to be done in stages, but is fairly uncomplicated and worth the time. Be creative and have fun exploring the wonders of cheese.

Roasted Figs And Maytag Blue Cheese

20 fresh black figs
1 cup Maytag bleu cheese
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 head of garlic
2 vanilla beans split
8 ounces white balsamic vinegar
1/4-cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375. Wrap garlic with skin on and drizzled with olive oil in Foil. Roast for one hour. Combine the balsamic, vanilla bean and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk constantly until reduced to a thick glaze. Cool. Slice figs in half and set aside. Blend the bleu cheese, pecans and garlic and place in a pastry bag. Pipe the bleu cheese blend onto the fig halves. (Or spoon on) Heat the figs in hot 375 oven for about 5 minutes and drizzle the balsamic glaze over and serve immediately.

Apricot and Maytag Blue Stuffed Chicken

1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Maytag bleu cheese, crumbled
4 chicken breasts

Preheat oven to 375. Mix apricots, parsley, garlic and cheese in a small bowl. Loosen the skin of chicken breasts and stuff cheese mixture underneath. Press the skin down. Place breasts in a greased baking dish. Bake about 40 minutes or until done

Pear Tart with Maytag Blue Crust
2 cups red wine
1-cup sugar
1-cup water
1 orange, halved
1lemon, halved
1-inch ginger, peeled
3 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
4 pears, peeled and cored
In a large soup pot place all ingredients except pears and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add pears. Poach until tender about 20 minutes. Remove from stove and coo completely. Refrigerate over night.
Pastry Cream-
1/3-cup sugar
1-cup cups milk
2 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup Butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
In a medium saucepan mix half the sugar to the milk and bring to a boil stirring constantly. In a medium bowl whisk together the rest of the sugar and cornstarch and yolks. Once the milk is boiling pour 1/4 of the milk mixture into the egg mixture whisking constantly. Pour the egg mixture into the rest of the milk mixture and return to the heat whisking until the cream thickens and comes to a complete boil. Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla whisking until the butter completely melts. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic until it comes to room temperature.
3/4 cup all flour
1/4-teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup crumbled Maytag Blue Cheese
Up to 4 Tablespoons ice water
1/4 cup raspberry jelly, melted
Place butter cut into tiny pieces (I use a grater) and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender cut the butter into the flour until the pieces are the size of rice. Add cheese. Sprinkle 1-tablespoon water over part of the flour mixture and stir very gently with a fork, Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat using 1 tablespoons of water at a time until all the dough is moistened. Roll dough into a ball wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Roll out to be 10 inches round. Place in a 9-inch tart pan sprayed with bakers joy. Bake in a preheated 350 oven until golden about 15 minutes. When cool spread the vanilla cream over the crust. Slice the pears and place them decoratively over the cream. Brush with raspberry jelly and refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.

The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom

Recently I appeared as a guest on a new show, The Secret Life of Soccer Moms, on Discovery's TLC Channel. I had the pleasure of joining four other food writers to critique and support an aspiring chef, Katie. Our episode is airing beginning March 10, 2008 on Discovery’s TLC. Check out their website for local listings: Soccer Moms

Here's TLC's description:

Mar 10, 2008
(60 minutes)
The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom
Episode 3
Full-time mom and award-winning chef Katie Baalbergen goes back to work at an affluent Los Angeles restaurant while husband Brian-who thinks she's at a spa-tends to two out-of-control boys.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mango Madness

So summer is just around the corner. While I am looking forward to some sunny dry days the thought of swimsuits dance in my head. I love to cook and I love to eat. While thanks to Yoga Booty Ballet and running around after my daughter I remain somewhat thin, the though of prancing around the beach makes me never want to have a carb again. I can go crazy while food shopping and looking at the 50 most perfect people on magazine stands. Then I remember that I am a women and I need to embrace my curves! I was at a party the other night and an old friend who has put on a bit of weight asked me to come up with some healthy recipes for her because she hated her body! I said the first step is to love your body! While I am not a diet expert I do know that cutting down on fat, sugar and carbs are effective, but you also need to create a lifestyle of activity and lighter eating. So go ahead…move around with your kids and eat a little lighter and enjoy all the fruits and vegetables of the season!
As I go through the produce section of the market I am amazed at how many different kinds of mangos there are. Not only are they fairly inexpensive, but so abundantly available. My daughter lights up like a Christmas tree when she sees mangos. “Please mommy.” She will devour a whole one before we even leave the store. In a fruit salad seems like the most likely place. Dipped in chocolate, over ice cream. The sweet possibilities. I also have been playing and exploring the tastes with hot chilies, corn, black beans and sauces. So play around and check out the delight as you bring some mango madness to your home…. that is after we take a long walk!

Blueberry and Mango Salad
4 limes
1-cup water
1/3-cup sugar
2 large mangos, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cups blueberries
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Remove zest from 1 lime in strips with a vegetable peeler and cut any white pith from strips with a sharp knife. Squeeze juice from limes. Bring zest, water, and sugar to a boil in a saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil, uncovered, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in limejuice. Let syrup stand 20 minutes, then remove zest with a slotted spoon and discard.

Toss together mangoes, blueberries, and syrup in a large bowl and sprinkle with ginger.

Corn, Mango and Jicama Salad

6 ears fresh corn
6 small mangoes, peeled, pitted, coarsely chopped
2 pounds jicama, peeled, chopped
1 cup chopped red onion
1/2-cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/2-cup fresh limejuice

Cook corn in pot of boiling salted water 2 minutes. Drain and cool corn. Cut off kernels. (You can also grill the corn) Place corn in medium bowl. Add mangoes, jicama, red onion, cilantro and limejuice. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until cold.

Black Bean & Mango Salad

3 tablespoons fresh limejuice
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1-teaspoon honey
4 tablespoons olive oil
1-teaspoon salt
1/4-teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 mangos, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 small red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves, coarsely chopped

Combine limejuice, ginger, and honey in a small bowl. Whisk
in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set vinaigrette aside.
Combine black beans, mango, red pepper and red onion in a large bowl
and toss together. Pour vinaigrette over and toss again. Cover with
plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Add mint, toss again,
and serve.

Shrimp and Mango Salad

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons mayonnaise

10 Persian cucumbers, peeled, diced (or 3 regular)
1 large mango, peeled, pitted, diced
1 pound cooked medium shrimp
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Hot pepper sauce

Mix vinegar and sugar in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Whisk in mustard and mayonnaise. Cover and chill. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)

Combine cucumbers, mango, shrimp, and dill in large bowl. Pour dressing over; toss to coat. Season with salt and hot pepper sauce.

Grilled Salmon and Mango with a Cilantro Lime sauce

6 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch chopped fresh cilantro
5 tablespoons fresh limejuice
2 grated lime peels
4 6-ounce salmon steaks
1 large mango, peeled, cut into thick wedges
3/4-teaspoon cumin seeds

Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Whisk oil, cilantro, limejuice, and lime peel in small bowl. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper. Brush all sides of fish and mango with some of vinaigrette. Reserve remaining vinaigrette. Sprinkle fish and mango with salt, pepper, and cumin seeds. Grill until fish is just opaque in the center and flip. Remain Grilling until fish is done to your likeness and the mango is soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

Grilled Tuna with Mango Salsa
! /4 cup of olive oil
Juice of one lime
Juice of one lemon
4 tuna Steaks, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.
Prepare the grill. Mix the oil and lemons and lime in a small bowl and brush over the tuna generously. Grill the tuna steaks 5 inches over the heat for about 6 minutes per side until they are firm to the touch. (Many people like there tuna rare…that would be about 3 minutes per side. I personally, like all of my fish cook through. Not over cooked, but cooked through. Believe me I have taken much flack about this from chefs over the years, just another lesson for being true to your own tastes no matter what the “experts” say.) Remove from grill and serve immediately with a generous amount of salsa.

Mango Salsa
2 mangos
Juice of 2-3 limes
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup very finely slivered fresh ginger
1 red onion, cut into thin slivers
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 to 2 small jalapeno, minced
1/2 cup coarsely cut cilantro
Pinch salt, to pop the flavors

Mix lime and lemon juices, salt
Ginger and onion. Add jalapeno. (Caution: The heat
will intensify as the salsa stands.) Toss together mangos, onions and red pepper. Mix with lime mixture. Just before serving, stir in
cilantro. Best served within an hour or two of mixing.

Grilled Lamb Chops with a Spicy Mango Sauce
2 mangos
2 shallots
1/2-cup limejuice
1/8-teaspoon cayenne (to taste)
4 1/2-inch-thick center-cut shoulder lamb chops (about 3/4 pound each)
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Lime wedges

Prepare grill.
Peel, pit, and coarsely chop mango. Finely chop shallot. In a blender purée mango and shallot with limejuice, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste until smooth. Transfer sauce to a bowl and if too thick whisk in some water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Pat lamb dry and season with salt and pepper. Grill lamb on a lightly oiled rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals about 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

Mango Cheesecake
I know we are eating a little lighter, but we have to treat ourselves sometimes!

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2-cup sugar
3/4-stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly butter 9-inch-diameter spring form pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Stir cracker crumbs and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and stir until evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pan. Bake until crust is set, about 12 minutes. Cool completely. Maintain oven temperature.
3 large very ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, coarsely chopped
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs

Sliced peeled pitted mangoes

Puree mangoes in processor until smooth. Set aside 2 cups mango puree (reserve any remaining puree for another use). Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 2 cups mango puree and beat until well blended. Pour filling over crust in pan.
Bake cake until set and puffed and golden around edges (center may move very slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 1 hour 25 minutes. Cool cake 1 hour. Refrigerate uncovered overnight. Run small knife between cake and sides of pan to loosen. Remove pan sides. Transfer cake to platter. Cut into wedges and serve with sliced mangoes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Spring Tea

With all the rain that we have been enjoying this winter I for one am really looking forward to welcoming spring. I can’t think of a nicer way to celebrate the season than with an afternoon tea. High tea as it is some times referred to can be an amazing way to share time with friends in the mid afternoon. It is a great way to try new things and not be locked into a meal. An outdoor tea is lovely if you have a blooming garden. You can be formal and bring out all of your fun china or do a more casual buffet style where everyone gets cozy in the living room. Traditionally, well at least for me, there are three courses. The scones, the sandwich and the dessert or sweet bread. You can scale it down a bit and only do one. I like an assortment of tea both herbal and hearty. I like my tea with cream, but some prefer lemon and sugar. So I invite you to look at all of the beauty that surrounds us and celebrate and create a wonderful and cozy afternoon for those that you love.

Ginger Scones
By far my most requested scone. At the end of the recipe I’ll give you variations, but be creative! I also like to do a basket of assorted minis so that the guests can experience many flavors.

2 1/4 cups flour
1/3-cup sugar
1-tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into fine pieces and frozen*
1 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
1-cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing the tops of the scones

In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder and mix on low. Add the lemon zest and butter, and pulse until the mixture is pale yellow and the consistency of fine meal.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the ginger. Make a well in the center and pour in the cream. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead a few times to gather it into a ball. Pat the dough into a circle about 3/4 inches thick. Using a three-inch cookie cutter (or smaller if doing minis) cut out rounds. Gather the scraps, pat and press the pieces back together, and cut out the remaining dough. Place the scones 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining cream. Bake in a pre heated 400-degree oven for 12 to 16 minutes, until they are pale browned. Let cool on a rack

Note* If you take your butter and grate it with the large wholes of a cheese grater before freezing, you will get the butter more evenly distributed. This works really well with pies as well

Replace the ginger and the lemon zest with:
Cranberry orange scones- juice of one small orange, 2 teaspoons orange zest and one cup dried cranberries.
Rosemary garlic scones- 5 cloves garlic chopped fine and sauté until golden. Add with the flour with 3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary.
Chocolate chip scones-add with the flour one and a half cups mini chocolate chips.

Welsh Teacakes
Cut together-
3 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoon Baking powder
1/4-teaspoon salt
1-cup butter
3/4-cup sugar
Then add-
3 beaten eggs
Mix well. Place on parchment paper and lightly need and flatten to one inch thick. Cut with cookie cutter or glass top. Add a little milk if dry. Pan Fry at 375 on an electric skillet. (Or medium heat on a traditional griddle. When raised and golden brown on the bottom turn over. Serve with butter and jam.

Clotted Cream
Once when we were doing a tea I spoke to a chef friend and asked if he knew how to make the real thing. He said you add a splash of vinegar and let the cream sit out for three days. Even though I love to do everything from scratch and I was dying to impress my girlfriends, this process scared me. This is a very nice “mock version.” You can also serve with real whipped cream. Serve with tea breads or scones.

2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
2/3-cup sour cream
1-tablespoon powder sugar
Bring whipping cream and sour cream to room tempture. Whip cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add the sour cream and sugar to bowl and beat until mixture is very thick.

Fruit Butter
2 sticks Butter
(At room temperature )
1/2 cup preserves
(Strawberry, raspberry or orange marmalade)
Beat until light and fluffy.

Tea Sandwiches
These are some of the favorites, but again I say be creative.
And you can be simple. Ham with Coleman’s mustard on raisin bread. Tuna on rye. Even Peanut butter and jelly especially if you are including the kids.

Curried Chicken Sandwiches
Makes 24 tea sandwiches
I use raisin bread with the crusts cut. When quartered on the diagonal it makes wonderful tea sandwiches.

3 pounds chicken breasts
Poached, cooled to room temperature, cut into 1/4-inch chunks*
2 granny smith apples, finely chopped
3 celery ribs, finely chopped
24 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
Juice of one lime
16 slices raisin bread

In a small bowl whisk together curry, ginger, limejuice and mayonnaise. In a large bowl mix the chicken, celery and apples. Add the mayonnaise mixture to the chicken mixture and coat evenly. Divide 8 ways and place on raisin bread and quarter each on the diagonal.

Weather it is for chicken salads or pasta or green salads, this is the simplest way to cook chicken breasts. (It even works for the frozen breasts in a bag.) Everyone says that my chicken is so tender. Place the breasts in a pot. Fill to cover with cold water. Add what ever you have and like. Garlic, salt, pepper onions, carrots, celery, fresh herbs, white wine. Bring to a boil and remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes. It will be the most tender, amazing chicken ever.

Cucumber tea sandwich
1 seedless cucumber, peeled and very thinly sliced (about 32 slices)
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
1/2 cup chopped watercress
16 slices white bread
Salt to taste

In a small bowl combine cream cheese and watercress. Spread on one side of each side of bread. Lay cucumbers onto the cream cheese on 8 slices of bread. Sprinkle with salt. Top the remaining slice of bread cream cheese side down. Carefully cut the crusts from each sandwich with a sharp knife. Cut the sandwiches in half diagonally and then in half again.

Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches
8 hard-boiled eggs
1/2-cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
20 slices white bread
Peel eggs and place into a medium bowl. Mash with a fork. Add salt, pepper, mayonnaise and dill. Mix until well blended. On 10 slices of bread spread on 2 tablespoons of egg mixture and top with remaining sides of bread. Carefully cut off crusts and cut diagonally then cut in half again.

Lemon Rosemary Pound cake
I have the biggest rosemary bush at my house. I am constantly creating dishes to take advantage of this. I love lemon pound cake with poppy seeds and once when I was out I added rosemary. People are always requesting it.
1-cup butter
2 teaspoons rosemary, finely chopped
3 teaspoons lemon zest
4 eggs
1-cup sugar
1-teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup lemon juice
1-teaspoon baking powder
1/4-teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a loaf pan with bakers joy. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat butter, zest, and rosemary and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time then add vanilla. On low speed add flour baking powder and salt until just blended. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes then remove from pan and cool completely.

Strawberry Bread
4 cups flour
2-teaspoon baking powder
1-teaspoon baking soda
1/2-teaspoon salt
2-teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
3 eggs
3 cups fresh strawberries, thinly sliced
3/4-cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 350. Spray 2 loaf pans with Baker’s Joy. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Gently stir in the strawberries using a wooden spoon. Stir in one third of flour. Add 1/4-cup sour cream. Repeat twice mixing well after each addition. Divide the batter into the two loaf pans. Smooth the top. Bake for one hour until a toothpick inserted in to the center of each loaf comes out clean. Cool for 1/2 hour in pan and then remove and complete cooling on racks.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Avocado Season is Here!

I grew up in Northern California with a zucchini bush and an avocado tree. We had avocado everything. It has taken me a long time to re-acquaint myself with the rich, nutty amazing flavor of avocados.

Avocados are in season winter and spring in Southern California and widely available in markets. Avocados are used not only in salads and the ever-popular guacamole, but also in breads, desserts, main dishes and non-culinary creams for facials and body massages. Some eat avocados with milk and sugar. Even the avocado tree leaves are used in some parts of Mexico. Both green and dried leaves can be used for wrapping tamales, or seasoning for barbecues and stews. I have even seen, but not yet tried, avocado ice cream!

The avocado is widely considered a vegetable, since it is commonly used in salads. However, it is actually a fruit that tastes like a vegetable. It should be soft to the touch, but not too mushy. Place an avocado pit in your guacamole so it does not brown. Try playing with this treat from nature and create some dishes of you own.

Basic Guacamole

6 ripe Avocados
3 vine ripe tomato, diced
1 red onion, minced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of one lemon
Juice of one lime
3 cloves garlic, minced and mashed.
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
Sal t to taste

Cut avocados in halve and scoop out flesh into a bowl. Fold remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. Serve with chops, veggies or spread on sandwiches.

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Avocado

1/4-cup olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red, green and yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Carrot, diced
1 red onion, chopped
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon each cumin and chili powder
1 can diced tomatoes with juice (I like to use yellow if you can find them.)
5 cups chicken stock
1-pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can (15 ozs) black beans, rinsed
2 cups corn kernels
1/2-cup fresh cilantro
1 cup tortilla chips, crunched
Diced avocado

In a large soup pot heat oil over medium heat. Add peppers, garlic, carrots, onion, thyme, cumin and chili powder. Sauté, stirring continually for about 10 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, chicken and stock. Bring the soup to a boil and simmer for 1/2 hour. Remove the chicken breasts and let cool then dice into bite size peaces. Return to pot and add the black beans and corn and bring to another boil. To serve add a handful of chips to the bottom of each bowl add soup and garnish with fresh cilantro and avocado.

Avocado and Mozzarella Penne

8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-cup olive oil
1cup basil, coarsely chopped
Juice of one Lemon
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (16-ounce) package uncooked penne pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, toss mozzarella cheese with tomatoes, avocados, garlic, olive oil, half the basil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pan to keep warm. Add tomato mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Transfer onto individual serving plates and garnish with Parmesan cheese and remaining basil.

Avocado Bread

You can add grated carrots or chocolate chips to this recipe!

2 cups flour
3/4-cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2-teaspoon baking soda
1/2-teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 large avocado
1/2-cup buttermilk
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to blend thoroughly. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg and avocado. Stir in the buttermilk. Add to the dry ingredients and blend well. Stir in the pecans. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Ginger and Avocado Sauce

This sauce is amazing over chicken or fish. I have even tossed it with pasta!

2 Ripe Avocados, peeled and seeded
1 Cup Dijon mustard
2 inches ginger, peeled and minced
1 shallot
1 tablespoon white wine vine
2 Tablespoons grape seed oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in food processor until smooth. Adjust seasoning as needed. Allow to rest 4 hours or overnight in refrigerator.