Friday, October 29, 2010


I had hoped to make a roasted turkey breast this week and to use the leftovers to try out this recipe from the October/November FINE DINING magazine. There wasn't a turkey to be found in Shoprite (building up anticipation for Thanksgiving?), not unless one counts the frozen turkey loaf-thingy. While I will eat Jennie-O turkey burgers or sausage or London broils, I knew enough to take a peak at the nutritional information on the side of this frozen product. Each serving (just a few ounces, mind you) contained over 1000 mg of sodium. I could as well serve salt lick for dinner! So, it was another "perfect roast chicken" a la the Barefoot Contessa. This one I stuffed with lemon, garlic, and a big bunch of scallions as well as a cheesecloth bag of herbes de Provence. The leftovers were gobbled up happily the next evening in their new incarnation. I know exactly how I'm going to use up my leftover Thanksgiving turkey this year

Makes 8 - 10
2 medium ripe avocados
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 medium lime, one half juiced and the other half cut into wedges
1 serrano chili, seeded and minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups shredded roast chicken (or turkey)
2 cups fresh corn kernels, blanched (2 ears)
1/2 cup packed, coarsely chopped cilantro
2 cups grated Pepper Jack cheese
8 - 10 flour tortillas (6 or 7 inch)
canola oil

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Halve and pit the avocados. Scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash. Stir in the onion, 1 tbs lime juice, the chili, and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the guacamole to prevent it from browning.

In a large bowl, toss the shredded chicken, corn, and cilantro with 1 tsp salt. Top half of each tortilla with equal part of the filling and about 1/4 cup of the cheese. Fold the uncovered half of each tortilla over the filling.

Heat 1 tsp oil in a large nonstick skillet . Add 2 quesadillas at a time and cook until golden brown and a bit crisp on each side (1-2 minutes per side). Transfer to a baking sheet in the preheated oven. Wipe out the pan, add another teaspoon of oil, and repeat until all quesadillas are done. Cut the quesadillas into wedges and serve with the guacamole and lime wedges on the side. Salsa and sour cream are optional.
DSO kept saying, "These are better than any restaurant quesadillas" (that, of course, garnered the leftovers for his lunch). I would have to say that the addition of the fresh corn and the cilantro made these very simple ingredients sing. The homemade guacamole put to shame any of the pre-made variety available in grocery stores these days. A big tossed salad made this a perfect meal after a tough day. This is definitely a keeper!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I'm going to share a secret:  a sformato is an Italian version of a souffle. BACK AWAY FROM THE DELETE KEY. Trust me, you CAN make this dish and you can make it on a weeknight. I try not to fall into the mindset that I have to have a starch with every meal and have been successful at substituting 2 veggies for the more typical veggie and a starch. Let's just say that this cauliflower sformato is a "carbie" veggie. It paired beautifully with a roasted chicken, but would work as well with pork or beef or lamb. If I weren't already serving brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving, I'd serve this in place of mashed potatoes.

Serves 6 - 8
1 small cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
2 tbs olive oil; more for the gratin dish
Kosher salt
1 3/4 oz freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 3/4 cups whole milk (I used fat free)
4 oz unsalted butter
2 1/4 oz all purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Core the cauliflower and separate it into florets. Cut the florets into 1/4 inch thick slices. Put the cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Spread in an even layer, season with 1/2 tsp salt, and roast until tender, 30-35 minutes. Cool briefly.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Brush an 8 X 10 gratin dish with olive oil and evenly coat with about half of the grated cheese.

Heat the milk in a heavy saucepan until just about to boil.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture turns light golden, 2 to 4 minutes. Slowly add the hot milk, whisking constantly, until very smooth. Bring just to a boil and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Add 1 tsp salt and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, to develop the flavor. Transfer to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, and olive oil. Roughly chop 1/2 cup of the cauliflower and puree the rest. Stir the chopped cauliflower, puree, egg mixture, and remaining cheese into the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into the prepared gratin dish and bake until the sformato is just set and browned around the edges, about 30 minutes. It should jiggle slightly when you remove it from the oven. Let the sformato rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

NOTE:  the accompanying photo pictures half the recipe baked in a smaller glass dish; you could also bake in individual ramekins

I could have been satisfied with eating this dish as my main course. The flavor, combined with a wonderful creamy texture, made it an instant hit. In fact, having sampled the roasted cauliflower as it came out of the oven, I intend to serve that as a veggie side very soon. Since a simple white sauce is key to so many wonderful dishes (think macaroni and cheese, pastitsio, to name two), it is worth learning to whip one up as a regular skill in your cooking repertoire. As a postscript, don't be disappointed if this doesn't look like your normal souffle--it doesn't puff up. It's the light, airy texture that likens it to a souffle.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Don't worry if your family doesn't enjoy leftovers. They'll never even ask if these chicken Marsala crepes are in any way "related" to that perfect roast chicken you made night before last. Because I had bought such a large chicken (8 pounds), I had more than enough meat left over for lunch the next day and this lovely dinner.

I used Alton Brown's recipe for crepes. I didn't make them savoury because I felt the Marsala sauce should stand on its own. I adapted one of Giada's recipes to make the Marsala sauce. I then combined 8 ounces of medium chopped leftover chicken with the Marsala sauce, rolled each crepe around a hearty 1/4 cup of filling and placed them in a buttered 9 X 13 casserole dish, sprinkled with freshly grated Asiago cheese, and baked, covered in foil, in a 325 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Don't be afraid to make crepes. Thirty years ago I bought this silly "crepe maker" that took up precious storage space and was no easier than making crepes the conventional way. I used a 6 inch nonstick skillet which I brushed with melted butter after each crepe. The first two looked a bit wonky, but that part was hidden on the bottom. Other than some overcooked fingertips, they were very easy to make. I measured out 1/4 cup of batter for each crepe and the recipe yielded 11 delicious, buttery crepes. Giada's Marsala sauce was very flavorful; shallots always add a bit of sophistication that onions lack. The Asiago cheese...well, I confess that I can eat this on nearly every form of protein as well as out-of-hand. This dish was assembled and ready to bake in under an hour. I then refrigerated it to cook later in the day. A glass of Corvo reserve made it go down even easier.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Note to Yankee Candle:  your housewarming candle collection would be greatly enhanced by a Perfect Roast Chicken aroma. This new candle could be used by homeowners desperate to sell their homes. Trust me when I say it's better than the smell of cookies baking. When DSO came home from work, the smell was so enticing he was ready to have dinner at 3:30 PM!

I've roasted many chickens over the years and up until this point my favorite has been the one based on the dish served in Boston's Hammersley's Bistro (click here). As delicious as that preparation is, the Barefoot Contessa's recipe is everything she promises and more. One would guess that my Italian ancestry might mean that fennel is a staple of The Food of Love kitchen. That has not been the case, though I love the flavor anise imparts. However, I can tell you that it will soon become a regular on the veggie rotation; it was that good.

The recipe for this quintessential chicken is available on the Food TV website (click here). I usually read the comments to see what others think of the dish and what caught my eye immediately was the suggestion to roast the chicken in a Dutch oven. Since I love my Le Creuset monster Dutch oven, that's just what I did.

Perdue roasters had been on sale, so I bought an 8 pound chicken. Needless to say, there was plenty of leftover chicken. Stay tuned for chicken marsala crepes which I'll post toward week's end.
Where to begin? The onions break down and sweeten the carrots and anise even more. The lemon, garlic, and thyme in the cavity of the chicken truly does flavor every bit of the meat with punches of flavor. The breast meat was moist--no gravy is needed for this chicken. The skin (yes, I sneaked a bite) is better than any potato chip. Anyone who can read and tell time can make this chicken. If you've never tried Ina's version of a Sunday classic, this is the perfect weather for it.

Friday, October 15, 2010


This week has been filled with events for the volunteer group that I coordinate. Being short on time and having to produce two desserts in as many days, I was looking for quick and easy as well as delicious. Being a big fan of Mennonite Girls Can Cook, I perused their website for something to fit the bill. This version of a favorite dessert, Black Forest Cake, immediately caught my eye. Normally I'd make a chocolate ganache filling, bake my favorite chocolate cake, whip some cream, and, if the season were right, make a cherry pie filling. The beauty of this recipe is that you can use a good boxed cake mix, instant chocolate pudding, canned cherry pie filling (though a wonderful recipe for homemade cherry filling is given), and just whip your cream and assemble.

Since there were mainly crumbs left when I went to collect my cake carrier, you can be sure no one cared that this was the quick and easy version. If you've never visited the "Mennonite Girls" blog, be sure to do so. They have just shared the exciting news that they're publishing a cookbook whose proceeds they will use to feed hungry children.

The recipe for the cake is here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms and Cream

It's good to be home, though our week in Longboat Key was punctuated by gorgeous weather and fabulous seafood. Before we left for home, I'd scheduled this post, but I wanted to add a "pre-script" to say how much I missed the ability to keep up with my blogging friends. Sadly, we're not "connected" since we don't spend large blocks of time in Florida. I'll be catching up soon, though--promise!

I don't know about you, but I've already started planning this Thanksgiving's feast by auditioning some new sides. We've been happily eating some form of roasted brussels sprouts for the past few years, but when I saw this recipe in the October/November 2010 issue of FINE COOKING, I thought it was time for a change. Since we would be eating this on a regular weeknight, I did cut back on the fats, reducing the olive oil and butter and cream by more than half. I also used sliced white mushrooms instead of wild mushrooms since that's what I had on hand. My changes are in red.)

Serves 6 (yeah, right!)
1 1/2 lbs brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
5 tbs olive oil (2 tbs)
Kosher salt
3 tbs unsalted butter (1 tbs)
3/4 lb wild mushrooms, halved or cut into 1 inch wedges
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine (sherry)
1 cup heavy cream (1/2 cup)
freshly ground black pepper

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

Put the brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle with the olive oil; toss to coat. Spread them into a single layer and season generously with salt. Roast until tender and browned, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a 12 inch skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, add 1 tbs of the olive oil and 2 tbs of the butter. When the butter is melted, add the mushrooms in an even layer and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown and tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with the salt and pepper and remove from the skillet.

Set the skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tbs of olive oil and 1 tbs butter. When the butter is melted, add the shallot and cook until tender and golden, about 4 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Return the mushrooms to the pan, add the brussels sprouts and cream. Stir in a few grinds of pepper and cook, stirring, until the cream thickens and coats the vegetables, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste and serve immediately.
Note to self:  buy lots and lots of brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving so others can taste the dish, too. These were, in a word, magnificent! Because I make lots of side dishes, I like to be able to prepare as many of them as possible the day before. This dish can be made up to the point where you saute the shallot, then set the dish aside to be finished at the last minute. I did this for dinner just to make certain it wouldn't suffer from sitting around. Believe me, it didn't. The carmelization on the roasted sprouts is what has made this the only method THE FOOD OF LOVE kitchen uses for this vegetable. The cream just coats the vegetables and adds another layer of sweetness to that imparted by the shallot. I don't know if it's necessary to add back any of the oil and butter (DSO is lobbying for that), but I will add the full complement of cream, but only for holidays. :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

For many years Martha Stewart was my domestic goddess of choice. That changed a number of years ago when I discovered that despite her fondness for butter and cream, Ina Garten created food that I could eat on a regular basis. Move over, Martha, there's a new queen in town and she doesn't necessarily raise her own chickens and grow her own vegetables before putting a meal on the table.

I've been cooking my way through several of her cookbooks and decided it was time to try Ina's take on chicken noodle soup (Barefoot Contessa Family Style). Ina has convinced me that baking chicken breasts for chicken soup or for chicken salad is far superior to poaching them. I was converted the first time I made her spectacular chicken salad (recipe here).

Serves 6
1 whole (2 split) chicken breast, bone in, skin on
olive oil
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts homemade chicken stock
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
1 cup medium-diced carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups wide egg noodles (about 3 oz dry) - I use the no yolk variety
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chicken breast on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin, then remove the meat from the bones and dice the chicken meat.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a large pot and add the celery, carrots, and the noodles. Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, until the noodles and vegetables are cooked. Add the cooked chicken meat and parsley. Season to taste and serve.
This is not rocket science. This is a straightforward recipe for those nights when you don't have time to start with a whole chicken and work your way through making stock, then turning it into soup. Either use chicken stock you've made and frozen ahead of time, or cheat and use one of the many stocks available in the market.  This is soul-satisfying soup that we enjoyed as dinner with some cheesy garlic bread. Leftovers make a wonderful lunch, or eat half and freeze half for another, "I got home late and don't have time to cook." This is a filling, yet relatively low-calorie food.