Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Please don't freak out...I like my lamb really rare. Most people would cook it a little longer but my French Grandmother always cooked lamb rare and I was raised that way. So, if you make this delicious recipe cook it any way you like, but with a rack of lamb try to cook it no more than medium rare.

You start out by browning the lamb on the grill. Then you remove it from the grill.
And spread creamy, spicy, dijon mustard all over the rack.
Then you press a mixture of fresh bread crumbs, fresh herbs, and olive oil all over the lamb and grill until it's rare...or medium rare.

This is really good!

                                         MUSTARD AND HERB-CRUSTED RACK OF LAMB

1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 frenched 7-10 rib racks of lamb, trimmed of all but a thin layer of fat, about 1 1/2-2 pounds each
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1. Mix the bread crumbs, parsley, mint, rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together in a small bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to combine. Set aside.
2. Let the lamb come to room temperature while preparing the grill. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Season the racks liberally with salt and pepper. Place the lamb fat side down close to, but not directly over the coals. Cover and grill until well browned, about 8 minutes, rotating 180 degrees half way through. Remove racks from the grill and place fat side up on a platter or cutting board.
3. Spread the mustard over the fat side of the lamb. Carefully press the breadcrumb mixture into the mustard into each rack.
4. Place the racks back on the grill, fat side up, close to, but not directly over the coals. Continue to cook until an instant read thermometer registers 130 degrees when inserted into the side of the rack, another 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the grill and let rest uncovered for 10 minutes. Cut between each rib into chops and serve.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


This week Sharon chose this recipe to make from The Essential New York Times Cook Book.  Sharon said it was great. She spiced it up when she served it with some red pepper flakes.
The sausage and leeks are sauteed in olive oil

Then you add the shallots, butter, peas, and broth. Mix it all together and pour over the cooked farfalle.

Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Sounds so good. I can't wait to give it a try.


                                                FARFALLE WITH LEEK AND SAUSAGE SAUCE

2 large leeks
2 TBSP. olive oil
2 sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
1 tsp. minced shallot
1 TBSP. unsalted butter
1 cup young peas, blanched in boiling water until just tender, 2-3 minutes (use frozen if you want)
1 cup chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound farfalle (bow tie pasta)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanshile, trim the leeks, discarding the top one-third of the rough green portion, and slice into 1/2 inch rounds. Rinse in several changes of cold water to remove all soil and grit; drain well.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the leeks and sausages and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the butter, peas, and broth and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and keep warm over low heat.

Add the farfalle to boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally until al dente. Drain well and return to the pot.

Add the sauce to the pasta and toss well to coat. Add the cheese and toss well. Serve with additional cheese on the side.

Recipe from The Essential New York Times Cook Book

Sunday, September 25, 2011


This delicious butternut squash soup will certainly spice up your life.  Roast the butternut squash first to give the soup a nice layer of roasted flavor. Add some coconut milk for a silky creamy texture and spice it up with some red hot curry paste!

                                                 THAI CURRY BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

1 butternut squash (about 2-3 lbs.)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

2 cups coconut milk
2 cups vegetable stock
2 TBSP. Thai Red Curry Paste
1 TBSP. canola or vegetable oil

Cilantro for garnish

Pre-heat the oven to 375~

Cut the butternut squash in half through the stem and remove the seeds and membrane. Drizzle cut edges and cavity with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast on a sheet pan until very soft, about 1 hour.

Let stand until cool enough to handle. Scoop the flesh from the shell into a large pot or Dutch oven.

In a small pan heat 1 TBSP. canola oil and add the curry paste. Stir until fragrant. Add the warm paste to the squash. Add the coconut milk and the vegetable stock and heat over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring constantly.

Let soup cool a bit and then blend until smooth and creamy. If using a blender, work in batches. If using an immersion blender, blend directly in the pot.

Taste and season with salt in necessary.

Serve garnished with some chopped cilantro.

Friday, September 23, 2011


This is a super quick and very tasty appetizer. You roast the grapes until they pucker and then warm a baguette or make crostini. I like to buy Trader Joe's Par-Baked baguettes. You warm it in the oven for 10 minutes and the crust gets crunchy but the inside stays soft. Serve it warm with some goat cheese or brie and top with the roasted grapes.

                                                             ROASTED GRAPES

Grapes on the vine (stem attached)
olive oil

Pre heat oven to 375~

Put grapes on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and roast until skins pucker, about 20 minutes.

Serve on warm baguette slices or crostini spread with goat cheese or soft brie. Top each slice with some roasted grapes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I wait all year long for those sweet, juicy, plump strawberries to hit the Farmers Market. Now that fall is just around the corner and the strawberries are losing their summer sweetness, I decided to coax a little more flavor from them by roasting them. It's so easy and it gives them a sweet, almost jam like flavor.

All you do is hull them and cut them in half. Toss with agave nectar or honey and a sprinkle of turbinado sugar. Roast for about 30 minutes until soft and juicy, let them cool and serve them any way you like. I put them on Greek yogurt but if you like dessert on the sweeter side you could add honey to the yogurt or serve them on ice cream, or pound cake and some whipped cream.

                                          ROASTED STRAWBERRIES

2 cups strawberries
4 tsp. agave nectar or honey
1 tsp. turbinado sugar

Greek Yogurt or ice cream

Preheat the oven to 400~ Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

In a bowl, toss strawberries, agave nectar, and turbinado sugar together. Make sure the strawberries are coated evenly.

Place strawberries on prepared baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the strawberries are soft and juicy.

Let the strawberries cool to room temperature. Spoon strawberries over yogurt or ice cream.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Sharon and I are cooking from The Essential New York Times Cook Book. We pick a chapter each week and then we cook a different recipe from that chapter. Well so far they have been great. We are four for four. Sharon made the lamb shanks (which is very close to the recipe here under lamb) and she said it was great. I made those beautiful short ribs in the picture above.

When you start out with short ribs this thick and well marbled you know you are in for a treat.

The ribs are rubbed with cracked fennel seeds, salt, and pepper. They are browned on all sides and then put into a pot filled with orange scented broth, wine, and other aromatics. A slow braise in the oven produces a fall off the bone, melt in your mouth rib.

The recipe suggests cooking it a day before so the flavors will meld. I had planned on doing just that but after cooking this for a few hours and smelling it all afternoon I couldn't wait. Patience is not one of my virtues. When it was done I thought about putting it in the fridge for the next day but then what would I make for dinner tonight? Reservations never crossed my mind!?!

If you make this I do suggest making a day ahead. The flavors were even better the day after.


4 pounds beef short ribs (about 4" long)
1/2 cup cracked fennel seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 TBSP. vegetable oil
2 medium red onions, sliced into very thin rounds
1/4 cup minced garlic
1-2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 TBSP. whole-grained mustard
1/2 cup coarsely chopped oregano

Heat the oven to 350~. Rub the ribs on all sides with the fennel seeds and salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high until hot but not smoking. Add the ribs and brown well on all sides, 6-8 minutes per side. Remove the ribs and set aside.

Pour off all but about 2 TBSP. oil from the pot, and scoop out any remaining fennel seeds and discard. Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until wilted and shiny, 7-9 minutes. add the garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add the wine, broth, orange juice, and balsamic vinegar and bring just to a boil, stirring once or twice and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the ribs, along with the ketchup, mustard, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste, and return to a boil. Skim any scum from the surface.

Cover the pot, place in the oven, and cook for 1- 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender ( when you try to pick up the ribs with a fork, they should slip off the fork). Remove the ribs from the pot, skim any fat off the sauce, and cook the sauce over high heat until slightly thickened. Skim again.

Return the ribs to the sauce and serve.

Serves 4

Cooking note- Consider cooking the short ribs a day before serving: the flavor will improve and you'll have a chance to lift off all the fat that will rise and harden on the surface of the sauce when chilled.

Recipe from The Essential New York Times Cook Book

Sunday, September 18, 2011


What a nice surprise I had this morning when Ron told me that he was making Huevos Rancheros for breakfast. I'm not much of  a traditional breakfast eater but give me something with salsa and avocado on it and I'm a happy camper.

With all the characters in place, Ron lightly fried the tortillas and set them aside. Next step was to put some black beans on top of the tortilla and top it with grated cheese. The tortillas went into a 350~ oven for about 10 minutes, until the beans were warm and the cheese had melted.

He fried some eggs and topped the tortillas with them. He also quickly sauteed a purple bell pepper that was growing in the garden. The eggs were topped with salsa, avocado, green onions, cilantro, salt and pepper, and some bell peppers on the side.

What a great way to start my weekend.

Thanks Ron!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


 I had some left over pulled pork (see recipe under pork) so I heated some canola oil in a cast skillet and lightly fried the pork to get that carnitas crust on it.

The tortillas are from Trader Joe's and I think they taste closer to home made than any other tortillas I have had. Just warm them on the gas flame (or in the microwave) add the pork and make a little slaw with chopped cabbage, onion, jalapeno or serrano, and cilantro. Add salsa and a squeeze of lime and you are good to go.

Pretty close to the real deal.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Every week Sharon and I are choosing a chapter from The Essential New York Times Cook Book and trying a new recipe. Last week we chose Fish and Shellfish and Sharon made Crab Cakes Baltimore-style with Remoulade Sauce. It was wonderful. I chose Swordfish in Green Curry-Basil Sauce. I already had an open can of Red Curry Sauce so I used that instead. If you have never used canned curry paste give it a try. You can turn any meal into a Thai flavored meal with a couple of tablespoons of curry paste, a can of unsweetened coconut milk and a tablespoon of fish sauce. It looks like this and you can find it in the Asian section of most grocery stores.

I served the swordfish with sticky rice and braised baby bok choy.

                                                 SWORDFISH IN RED CURRY-BASIL SAUCE

One 15 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2 TBSP. red curry paste (or green curry paste)
1 TBSP. fish sauce (nuoc mam)
4 swordfish steaks (about 6 ounces each)
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. kosher slat
1/2 cup torn Thai basil leaves
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

White rice for serving

Whisk together the coconut milk, curry paste, and fish sauce in a large skillet and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat so the liquid simmers, add the swordfish, and simmer until just cooked, about 6 minutes.

Remove the swordfish from the sauce and keep warm. Stir in the lemon zest and the salt and simmer slowly for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and lemon juice.

Divide the swordfish among 4 plates, spoon the sauce over, and serve with rice.

Serves 4

Recipe adapted from The New York Times cook book.


No, I haven't started baking bread. I may give it a try someday... but probably not. This is sort of a cheater Focaccia, and more like a doughy pizza but it was really good.
I started with a ball of Trader Joe's Garlic Herb fresh pizza dough. You let it rest on the counter for 20 minutes and then stretch it out with your fingers. It gets spread into a glass baking dish and then topped with tapenade and tomatoes and baked until puffy and golden.

This is one of those recipes that you can top with anything you want and it will be delish.  Artichoke hearts and sliced olives would be good as would any kind of cheese. Think of this as a garlic and herb blank canvas. You can also use the plain pizza dough from TJ's and spice it up any way you like.

                                                              OLIVE AND TOMATO FOCACCIA

Pizza dough, at room temperature

1 TBSP. olive oil (more if needed, I used more)
3-4 TBSP. Olive Tapenade
2 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Open the pizza dough and place it on a floured surface for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400~. Coat a 8 x 12" glass baking dish with a bit of olive oil and spread around the dish. Season the dish with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste.

Gently knead the dough a few times then stretch the dough out with your fingers and place it into the baking dish, pressing the dough down into the bottom of the dish. Use your fingers to punch tiny indentations into the top of the dough. Drizzle more olive oil on top of the dough then spread the tapenade evenly over the top, next layer the tomato slices on top. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste.

Bake until the focaccia is puffy and golden, 25-30 minutes.

Cut into pieces and serve.

Monday, September 12, 2011


These were the best sliders. I used the pulled pork recipe (under pork in the recipe category) and warmed it with some BBQ sauce. Piled it on to some toasted  slider buns and topped with sliced dill pickles.
 Next time I'll add some cole slaw to the slider for some extra flavor and crunch.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


To brine or not to brine? That was a question I have had stored in my "something to try" file for many years. I thought that one day I would take two identical pieces of pork and brine one and not the other. Cook them both the same way and answer that question. Every November I start thinking about brining. Will this be the year I brine a turkey? And every year I decide that next year will be the year that I will brine it.

Last week Sharon told me that she was brining a  pork shoulder and cooking it the next day in the crock pot. I waited patiently for two days...( which seemed like eternity and is exactly why I have never done this) and then I asked her how it was. She said it was really good, so of course, I had to try it. Woo Hoo! Was it ever good. My question has now been answered. Brine?  *ALWAYS*  it makes a huge difference.

The pork is brined overnight in a mixture of robust herbs, salt, brown sugar and water.

Dried thoroughly and wrapped in foil. You can roast it in the oven or in the crock pot for about 10 hours.

The result is tender, juicy, flavorful pork that can be pulled apart and used in a myriad of recipes.  Sharon made BBQ pulled pork one night  and carnitas style tacos another night. So did I, I'm such a copy cat. :) 

                                   SLOW ROASTED PORK SHOULDER WITH HERB RUB

6 Tablespoons  mixed finely chopped robust herbs (like thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup, plus 1 tablespoon sea salt
1 Tablespoons  crushed black peppercorns
7 LB pork shoulder
5 bay leaves
Mix together herbs, garlic, ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon sea salt and crushed peppercorns
Untie the pork if rolled.  In a large bowl, thoroughly dissolve ½ cup salt and ½ cup brown sugar in 2 quarts of cold water.  Add bay leaves and 2 tablespoons of herb mixture.  Place pork in a container or strong sealable bag and add this brine to completely cover.  Cover or seal well and chill for from 8 hours to overnight.
Remove the pork from the brine (discard the brine) and dry thoroughly.   Cover with the remaining herb mixture, patting it in all over , then use kitchen twine to roll up pork and secure it tightly.
Heat the oven to 225 degrees.  Prepare a triple layer of aluminum foil large enough to comfortably enclose the pork.  Put the rolled pork on the foil, skin/fatty side up .  Gather the foil, scrunching it over to form a loose but well-sealed parcel.  Place in a roasting pan  in the oven.  Take the first check for the internal temperature after 8 hours.  For very tender meat that can be sliced it should be 160 degrees and will probably take 10 hours.  Check more often if needed.  For a “pulled pork” consistency, the internal temperature should be 200 degrees and it will take about 12 hours.
Rest the meat 20 minutes before unwrapping completely. 

Note:  I used a 3 lb. shoulder roast using the same amount of ingredients with same results.
Additionally I used a crock pot and cooked on low for 10 hours and it resulted in 200 degrees for pulled pork.

Recipe from New York Times

Thanks Sharon!

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Last night was meatless Tuesday, aka cooking with my vegetarian niece Brittany. She is quite creative so I asked her to write the text for this post. Take it away Britty!!!

Want to travel back in time to when you didn't care about calories and could gobble up a full plate of mac and cheese with a hot dog on the side, and not gain any weight? Well we can't do that, but we can give you a recipe for mac and cheese that won't make you gain a pound.

This delicious recipe does not use any cream, but still has the most delicious texture and color of the creamy homemade mac and cheese you know and love...what's our secret?
                                               Butternut squash!!!!!

Squash is simmered until tender in broth, milk and garlic. When it is tender it is pureed in the blender and mixed with Gruyere, pecorino and Parmesan cheese. Add cooked cavatappi pasta and top with browned bread crumbs.

Pop in the oven and bake until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley and enjoy guilt free!

For even more fun serve this with a Skinny Girl Margarita (available at most grocery stores) and watch the pounds melt away.

                                          CREAMY, LIGHT MACARONI AND CHEESE

3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 pound squash)
1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 TBSP. fat-free Greek yogurt
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) grated pecorino romano cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 pound uncooked cavatappi pasta

Cooking spray
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2n TBSP. chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 375~.

Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of the blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Gruyere , pecorino romano and 2 TBSP. Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 TBSP Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.

Bake at 375~ for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I've roasted it and whirled it but sometimes I'm just in the mood for fresh, raw, unadulterated tomato salsa. Every ingredient came from our garden with the exception of the cilantro. I peeled the skin off the tomatoes by hand and added some spicy Thai chilies for heat. Nothing beats home grown salsa.


2 cups peeled chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup diced onion
2 sliced green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 serrano or jalapeno chili, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp. fresh lime juice

Mix all ingredients together and let sit 1 hour before serving.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Ron made this delicious butternut squash gratin to go along side some oak grilled tri-tip.

Butternut squash is mixed with fresh sage leaves, cream, and Parmesan cheese, taking roasted squash to a whole new level.

                                             PARMESAN-ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1" pieces
1 cup heavy cream
9 fresh sage leaves, 3 chopped and 6 left whole for topping
1 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano
4 TBSP. unsalted butter
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400~ with rack in middle.

Toss squash with cream, chopped sage, 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Put squash mixture in a 2 qt. shallow baking dish. Bake covered for 30 minutes.

Stir in 1/2 of the cheese and sprinkle remaining on top. Roast, uncovered, until squash is tender and beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Let stand about 5 minutes (cream will thicken).

Cook 4 TBSP. butter in skillet until brown and bubbling. Add sage leaves and remove from skillet. Pour over top of roasted butternut squash. 

Friday, September 2, 2011


We harvested the first of our butternut squash. There might be 100 pounds of squash growing on our hillside. We bought a six pack of tiny little plants and stuck them on the hill and left them alone. They just went crazy.

 Our tomatoes have just about run their course, the zucchini is fading out...ENTER the squash brigade.

I just cut one in half, scooped out the seeds, peeled it and cut into wedges. Then I pre-heated the oven to 375~, tossed the wedges in olive oil and salt and pepper. Roasted for about 45 minutes, until the edges were brown and the center was soft.

It was great. It's going to be a tasty fall.