Sunday, June 28, 2009


Talking about the weather has taken on a new significance this summer. What with daily drenchings, high wind warnings, hail, and thunderstorms, there is no dearth of weather talk. June has also been a busy month with weddings, retirements, BBQ's and more than the usual share of social engagements and so I left making my weekly Tyler Florence entry to the last minute only to be confounded by a horrendous thunderstorm and power outage. I was doubly unhappy because I'd just received the copy of Tyler's Stirring the Pot which I'd won from the wonderful gals at Tyler Florence Fridays. If you haven't already visited, please do so. You might want to consider joining us as we pay homage to that Food Network hottie. So, despite missing the deadline, I went ahead and made Tyler's baked pudding cakes, changing the lime to lemon. They are easy and so delicious and moist.

1 tbs. unsalted butter
superfine sugar
2 eggs, separated
2/3 cup reduced fat buttermilk
1 tbs. lemon zest
2 tbs. lemon juice
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup superfine sugar
1/4 tsp Kosher salt

lemon halves for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and lightly sugar four 6-ounce ramekins (I have 4-ounce ramekins and so I made five).

Using the paddle attachment on a kitchen stand mixer, beat yolks, buttermilk, lemon zest and juice on medium speed until well blended. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add flour, 2/3 cup sugar, and the salt, until just combined. Transfer to another bowl and thoroughly wash the mixing bowl with soap and hot water. Return to stand mixer.

Using the whisk attachment, beat egg whites in the clean bowl until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture, a little at a time.

Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared ramekins. Place ramekins in a roasting pan and fill the pan with hot water halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake about 1 hour (50 minutes for my smaller ramekins) until the top springs back when gently pressed and the cakes have a light golden color.

Remove ramekins from the water bath; allow to cool slightly.

Carefully invert each onto a plate.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I just can't get enough of Tyler, so this week for Tyler Florence Fridays, I'm serving up his Saltimbocca alla Romana alongside his Crispy and Creamy New Potato Pie. A double header of goodness, but two dishes that won't keep you in the kitchen too long. Both recipes are available online at the Food Network TV's site, though I've included them here along with my comments.
One of the reasons I love getting recipes online is the reviews of other foodistas. Understand, however, that if there are 216 reviews, 108 reviewers will gush over the recipe and 108 will pronounce it inedible. You'll quickly learn to spot who can't boil water, who has some cooking chops, who can't follow directions, and who knows a thing or two about cooking riffs.

The downside of getting recipes online is that they are sometimes written as if no one bothered to proofread them--steps out of order, cooking times vague, critical techniques and serving sizes omitted. The result of this carelessness is that the integrity of the recipe is not preserved and the chef is blamed for something out of his or her control. In my opinion, this accounts for a great many of the negative reviews that are posted on cooking sites.

Having vented, I've taken it upon myself to correct problems in these two recipes. In fact, I've added more photos than I normally do to provide something of a tutorial. I've done this because these are two fabulous dishes that are really quite simple to make as well as being very cost conscious. Yet, they look sophisticated and are full of the flavors of fresh herbs and earthy ingredients. The silkiness of the sauce on the saltimbocca contrasts beautifully with the crispy exterior of the potato cake, which encases a creamy interior. Prep time for both dishes was under 30 minutes. I substituted turkey cutlets for the veal, a huge savings. I substituted garlic and rosemary for the chives in the potato dish--my chives had expired--with no loss of flavor.

One at a time or together, you must try these dishes; you won't be disappointed.

4 (5-ounce) sliced turkey cutlets (scallopini)
4 slices thinly sliced prosciutto
8 fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish
All-purpose flour, for dredging
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
Lemon wedges, for serving

Put the cutlets side by side on a sheet of plastic wrap. Lay a piece of prosciutto on top of each piece of veal and cover with another piece of plastic. Gently flatten the cutlets with a rolling pin or meat mallet, until the pieces are about 1/4-inch thick and the prosciutto has adhered to the veal.

Remove the plastic wrap and lay a couple of sage leaves in the center of each cutlet. Weave a toothpick in and out of the veal to secure the prosciutto and sage.

Put some flour in a shallow platter and season with a fair amount of salt and pepper; mix with a fork to combine. Dredge the veal in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.

Heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter and in a large skillet over medium flame. Put the veal in the pan, prosciutto-side down first. Cook for 3 minutes to crisp it up and then flip the veal over and saute the other side for 2 minutes, until golden. Transfer the saltimbocca to a serving platter, remove the toothpicks, and keep warm.

Add the wine to the pan, stirring to bring up all the delicious flavor in the bottom; let the wine cook down for a minute to burn off some of the alcohol. Add the chicken broth and remaining tablespoon of butter, swirl the pan around. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the saltimbocca, garnish with sage leaves and lemon wedges; serve immediately.


2 pounds potatoes, washed and halved
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon freshly grated horseradish (or prepared)
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chives, chopped (2 cloves garlic, minced; handful fresh rosemary, chopped substituted)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Wash and boil potatoes in salty water with bay leaf until fork tender. Drain potatoes and mash along with horseradish, sour cream, garlic, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper.

(Based on the reviews I read, I sprayed my nonstick skillet and heated the olive oil until almost smoking, patted the mashed potato mixture into the hot skillet, then transferred the skillet to the oven.)
The bottom of the potato cake crisped up beautifully, but not the top.
(I brushed the top of the cake with a bit more olive oil, then ran it under the broiler for a few minutes.)
To serve, invert onto a plate and cut into pieces.
I think the photos speak for themselves. The only thing I can add to this is an offer to Tyler. I have excellent writing and editing skills as well as a good grasp of cooking. Most importantly, I'll work cheap. Call me!

You must check out the wonderful dishes of my fellow Tyler devotees at Tyler Florence Fridays.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


It's time once again to Cook the Books. Our Crispy Cook, Rachel, chose a classic, Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse, for our reading and dining pleasure.
In my research of this 1946 Carnegie winner, I was not surprised to find that it was a favorite of J.K. Rowlings. In her biography, Smith quotes Rowling as saying: "Perhaps, more than any other book, it [The Little White Horse] has a direct influence on the Harry Potter books." Elaborating, Smith cites Rowlings' use of highly unusual names for her characters and a tendency to be richly descriptive in her passages about food. He recalls that in the last chapter alone, Goudge describes a plethora of sweets--plum cake, saffron cake, cherry cake, iced fairy cakes, gingerbread, eclairs, meringues, syllabub, almond fingers, parkin, cream horns, rock cakes, chocolate cake, lemon curd, jam sandwiches--and draws the parallel between Goudge's focus on food and Rowlings descriptive passages of feasts at Hogwarts.

Another parallel can be drawn between Maria, the teenaged orphan traveling with her governess to the unfamiliar world of Moonacre Manor and Harry Potter, another young orphan transplanted to the mystical world of Hogwarts. It's as easy to imagine the delight of post-war children reading the description of Maria's turret room and chuckling over the antics of Zachariah, the cat, and Wrolf, the dog, as it is to witness children today poring over some 800 pages of text, revelling in the latest adventures of Harry Potter and his best chums, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.

While I was familiar with many of the dishes mentioned in the novel--a former high school teacher of British Authors, I had encountered them in my reading--I could not recall ever having heard of fairy cakes. An hour or so of Googling presented me with some divurgent opinions regarding this sweet. Most posts regarding fairy cakes simply equated them with cupcakes. Other posts suggested that fairy cakes were highly decorated cupcakes, lighter than cupcakes, or smaller than cupcakes. Still others insisted that the sweet is called fairy cakes because the top is sliced off, the cake filled, and the top cut in half and reassembled in the form of wings on top. Recipes for fairy cakes ran the gamut from sponge cake to lemon cake to chocolate cake, and everything in between.

I chose to make a variation of the recipe I found on Becks and Posh. According to blogger Sam, an English gal living abroad, Becks and Posh is modern Cockney for "nosh." She reveals that learning to make fairy cakes was "de rigeur" for British children and that these cakes are "childish wonders which attract magical fairies."

Since believing in magic is what keeps us young, I whipped up a batch of these fairy cakes and left one out on the kitchen counter overnight to see if I had any takers. I'll let you decide for yourself at the end of the post by revealing the photo I snapped with my hidden camera.

Here is my version of fairy cakes, a take-off on Sam's recipe:
Makes 12
4 oz butter (at room temperature)
4 oz superfine sugar
2 eggs (at room temperature)
zest and juice of 1 Navel orange
1 cup self-rising flour
2 cups confectioners' sugar
food coloring

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Add the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar and beat until completely incorporated (the mixture will be pale yellow). Fold in the flour. (it is important that you fold it in gently; this batter has a very different texture than a regular cake batter; that difference translates to a very sumptuous crumb).

Use a scoop to divide the batter into the 12 prepared liners. Bake for 17-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely, then frost with the fondant icing (recipe follows).

Fondant Icing
Gradually add just enough of the juice from 1 orange to the confectioners' sugar, beating hard, to make a stiff fondant. Use a drop or two of food coloring to reach desired shade. Use an offset spatula to spread the icing on each fairy cake.
As so often happens, sometimes the simplest of ingredients go together in just the right way to produce alchemy. I doubt I'll have need for any other recipe for future "fairy" cakes. While I lured my fairies with color instead of silver dragees, feel free to be as magical as you wish in your decorations. You may even lure a unicorn.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Drop dead delicious! That's the succinct way to describe this pizza. Pizza is the food I could not live without. It's my absolute favorite lunch or dinner. I'd eat it for breakfast, but the guilt would be too powerful. I love thin, crusty pizza, but a favorite pizzeria has a to-die-for thick crust pizza topped with tomato, spinach, and artichoke. The waitress at this place just assumes that's what I'm going to order unless I flag her down to tell her otherwise. I tolerate the tomato because the other flavors are so sublime.

Recently, I had a slice of brick oven pizza at another favorite spot; this one was topped with pesto instead of tomato sauce. The wheels started turning. What if I combined my favorite thin crust with a layer of pesto, then added the fresh spinach, artichokes, and another favorite of mine--roasted red peppers. For this experiment, I decided to stay with the traditional mozzerella (though goat cheese was calling, "Choose me, choose me!"; another time).

The result was hands down the best combination of flavors on a pizza that I have ever had (and I've had lots).

Serves 2 - 3
If you don't have a favorite pizza recipe or a place to buy fresh dough, this is an excellent pizza dough recipe.

extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup pesto

quartered artichoke hearts

roasted red pepper slices

10 oz fresh spinach, cooked and squeezed dry

2 cups shredded mozzarella

grated cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, preheat it as well.

Lightly oil a large baking sheet. Roll, toss, flip, or stretch by any other method the dough to fit the bottom of the baking sheet.

Spread the pesto over the dough.

Layer the spinach, artichokes, and red peppers over the dough, then cover with the mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top of the mozzarella.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese starts to turn golden on the edges.

Serve with a salad and a good bottle of Chianti. You'll think twice about tomato sauce after you've had a piece of this ambrosial combination.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Nothing says the weekend like Mexican food. There's just something about the vibrant flavors of chilis and cilantro--not to mention a salt-rimmed Margarita or icy bottle of Mexican beer--to create that TGIF atmosphere.

In my dreams, Tyler is the guy who yells, "PAR-TAY!" as he does a half-gainer off the diving board. That is, of course, after he has fired up the grill and whipped up a pitcher of those icy concoctions.

When I was putting together this week's menu and perusing my Tyler "to do" list, I decided that it was time to try his Tacos Carne Asada. I was especially happy to find that the recipe did not call for the elusive tri-tip, a cut of meat not available on the east coast. A huge fan of mojo or mojito sauce, I was anxious to try Tyler's take on this component.

Following his direction, I made the marinade in the morning so that the meat wouldn't be in it for longer than 8 hours. I also whipped up his pico de gallo at this time, leaving a bit of grilling and side dishes for the evening's work.

Be forewarned that this recipe serves 4 generously. Either invite some friends to your PAR-TAY or plan on celebrating again on Saturday.

2 lbs flank or skirt steak, trimmed of excess fat
1 recipe Mojo, recipe follows
olive oil for coating the grill
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
16 (7 inch) corn tortillas
shredded lettuce for serving
chopped white onion for serving
shredded Jack cheese for serving
1/2 cup pico de gallo, recipe follows
2 limes, cut in wedges, for serving

Place the steak in a large baking dish and pour the marinade over. Or, do what I do to avoid extra clean up and to make it easier to turn the meat over to coat: use a gallon sized zip bag to hold the meat and the marinade. Do NOT marinate for more than 8 hours or the meat becomes mushy.

Preheat an outdoor grill over medium high heat. Brush the grate with olive oil to prevent sticking. Pull the steak out of the Mojo marinade and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill for 7 - 10 minutes per side, until medium rare. Remove the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes, until juices settle. Thinly slice across the grain. (If you have no grill, broil the meat for 7 minutes on each side, let rest, then slice.)

Warm the tortillas for 30 seconds on each side in a dry skillet or on the grill, until toasty and pliable.

To make the tacos, stack up 2 of the warm tortillas, lay about 4 ounces of beef down the center, and sprinkle with some lettuce, onion, and cheese. Top each taco with a spoonful of the pico de gallo salsa and garnish with lime wedges.

4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 large handful fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 limes, juiced
1 orange, juiced
2 tbs white vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

In a mortar and pestle or bowl, mash together the garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, salt, and pepper to make a paste. Put this paste in a bowl and add the lime and orange juices, vinegar, and oil. Mix well.

Pico de Gallo
4 vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
2 green onions, diced
1 Serrano chili, minced
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Kosher salt

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients together. Toss thoroughly. Let sit for at least 15 minutes to an hour to allow the flavors to marry.


Tyler's done it again. These tacos were meant to be shared with family and friends. The Mojo marinade permeated every bite of the beef. The pico de gallo had just enough kick to make you want to exclaim "Ole" after every bite. We will definitely invite Tyler to our next party.

Make sure to check out some other great Tyler dishes here as we celebrate Tyler Florence Fridays.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Since I began this blog over a year ago--yikes! I missed my blogoversary--I've been using recipes far more than I ever have. In the past I'd follow a recipe when I was trying to take off weight or was test-driving a new cookbook or planning a dinner party. For weeknight cooking, however, I'd usually just wing it or rely on dishes that I'd watched my mother make.

I find it easier to eat a balanced, healthy diet when I create a menu for the week. Another bonus is the shopping list I create which staves off impulse buying. Since I'd decided to put off shopping for another day, I found myself with an opportunity to create something from what was in the larder.

I grabbed a pound of shrimp from the freezer, some feta cheese from the refrigerator, a can of artichoke hearts and one of San Marzano tomatoes from my cache in the basement. There was also my lovely fresh oregano, the plant growing ever larger from disuse. I decided that despite the fact that I was lacking some good Kalamata olives, I had all the makings of a lovely Mediterranean shrimp dish. Oh, inspiration! That package of mushroom ravioli that I had bought on impulse would finally be put to use. I didn't say I was totally immune to impulse purchases.

The onions were carmelizing as Larry arrived home. He immediately wanted to know what we were having for dinner even though it was just 3:30. To this intoxicating aroma there was soon a hint of garlic. By the time I'd added the tomatoes, I was wishing it were a bit later, too.

The shrimp, served over mushroom ravioli, would have been equally delicious over a penne or rigatoni. This is definitely a keeper.

Serves 4
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine, like a good Chianti
1 - 28 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 tbs tomato paste
1 tsp Kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
4 oz feta cheese
3 tbs fresh oregano
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

1 lb pasta of your choice

Heat 1 tbs oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook slowly to carmelize (15-20 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and turn the heat to high. Scrape up any brown bits and cook down for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. As you prepare the pasta to the al dente stage, heat a large saute pan over medium high heat and add 1 tbs olive oil. Add the shrimp in 1 layer. Cook for 1 minute, then turn and cook on the other side for an additional minutes. Add the artichoke hearts and toss over the heat. Remove from the heat and add the fresh oregano leaves, then crumble the feta cheese over the shrimp. Tent with foil until the pasta is cooked and drained. Add the shrimp and cheese mixture to the drained pasta and toss well.

To serve, ladle a bit of sauce in each dish, top with the pasta and shrimp, then add more sauce to taste.
Both of us loved the varied tastes and textures that made up this dish. The sauce is sweet from the addition of the carmelized onions and the tomato paste. This contrasts nicely with the saltiness of the feta cheese and the acidity of the artichoke hearts. I know that the Kalamata olives would have been the crowning touch. Next time.

Friday, June 5, 2009


I'm on a mission to convince Food Network TV that they should create a calendar of their "hottie" stars. Of course, Tyler would be featured on the cover of said calendar. If you agree, what do you say we flood their mailbox with requests. In the meantime, I'll have to content myself with the few cookbook covers I have along with his appearances on my TV screen. That said, let's move on to the second thing we love about Tyler--his food.

I'm finding that my favorite Tyler recipes are those for pasta dishes. This particular recipe, though it has "cold" in its title, was absolutely incredible served warm the first night and cold as leftovers. This is the first incarnation of Tyler's cold pasta salad, but it will not be the last. I am going to make it again in the coming week with my own twists.

I like to give a recipe an even break the first time and make it as written, so that is what I did. Again, the flavor was incredible, but I'll discuss later how I intend to tweak the recipe.

Serves 4
Kosher salt
extra virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
freshly ground black pepper
1 lb plums, halved and pitted
1 lb penne

1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 bunch fresh chives, minced
handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

1/4 lb crumbled blue cheese
handful fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Heat a 2-count of oil in a cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet over medium high heat until almost smoking. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Flip the breasts again, then place in the oven and cook until the juices run clear (another 12-20 minutes). In the last 8 minutes of cooking, add the plums in with the chicken. Remove plums and chicken from the pan and cool slightly.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta to the al dente stage. Drain after chilling with cold water.

Make the vinaigrette last by whisking together the mustard, vinegar, and sugar in a large serving bowl, then whisking in the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the chopped herbs. Slice the chicken and toss into the bowl along with the pasta, the blue cheese, and the whole basil leaves. Toss, taste for seasoning, then serve with the plums alongside.
Now, about those "tweaks." This is the second Tyler recipe that called for beginning the chicken by sauteeing, then finishing it in the oven. I have to say I do not like this method for 2 reasons. First, it uses more oil than necessary. Second, the chicken isn't as moist as it can be. Next time I make this pasta salad, I will prepare the chicken the way I normally do. I will marinate it with some Italian dressing, my own or bottled, then grill the chicken. This produces a more flavorful and moist chicken. I may also substitute skinless, boneless thighs as that is what SO and I prefer.

Next, while the plums looked pretty, they were pretty mushy and didn't add much to the salad. I will eliminate these entirely or wait until plums hit their peak. It was a pain to split and pit them and they just weren't very sweet. Plus, there was that mushiness and I only had them in the oven about 5 minutes, not the called for 8. I am toying with the idea of adding some very ripe, seeded and cored, chopped tomato.

Finally, I am going to replace the "saved" olive oil calories with some chopped bacon. After all, what is blue cheese without bacon?

I hope Tyler will forgive me for these changes. I'm pretty sure he will since he's an understanding type of guy and, after all, it will still be HIS recipe. I'll be sure to post the pasta salad redux when I try it.
Please be sure to visit Tyler Florence Fridays to see what other terrific Tyler dishes are being celebrated this week.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Authoring a cookbook is a secret ambition of mine, though one that is not likely to happen any time in the near future. What with quilting and blogging, volunteering and enjoying retirement, the days pass much too quickly. I do, however, applaud those who have realized this ambition like my friend, Gloria Chadwick, of Foods and Flavors of San Antonio. I was fortunate enough to win a copy of Gloria's latest cookbook from another friend's blog give-away. Mi chula, Teresa, of Mexican American Border Cooking, featured many of Gloria's recipes in the weeks preceding the publication of Gloria's latest cookbook.

Since I've been focusing on healthy eating, I knew I'd have to start with a recipe that could be lightened somewhat. I adore Mexican food, but there is that cheese (God, how I love cheese!). Since enchiladas are, in my twisted mind, Mexican manicotti, I chose one of Gloria's enchilada recipes--cheesy chicken enchiladas. Even with a halving of the cheese and the use of reduced fat sour cream, they were deliciosa. If your idea of toiling in the kitchen is to produce a great dinner in under 45 minutes, this one's for you.

I've written the recipe as it appears in Gloria's cookbook with my efforts at lightening in parentheses):

Makes 10 enchiladas
1 1/4 lb deli chicken breast, sliced 3 1/2 inches thick and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I bought a rotisserie chicken and shredded it)
1 lb Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno, shredded and divided (I used an 8 oz pkg WW shredded Mexican cheeses)
1 8 oz container sour cream (I used reduced fat sour cream)
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
10 - 6" flour tortillas, warmed
1 - 19 oz can enchilada sauce
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the chicken, 1 1/2 cups cheese, sour cream, chili powder, and cayenne powder and mix well.

Divide the chicken mixture among the 10 tortillas. Roll up to enclose the filling.

Place 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 13 X 9" baking dish. Arrange the tortillas seam side down.

Top with the remaining enchilada sauce and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through (my oven required 30 minutes).

To serve, top with the olives and green onions.
This was a great weeknight dinner; Larry had a terrific lunch the next day; and, I have a single serving in the freezer for one of those nights when one or the other other of us is out. Thank you, Gloria, for a wonderful cookbook and thank you, Teresa, for a fun give-away.