Category Archives: Cooking

A Food App from Alain Ducasse

English: An image of an iPad 2.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just came across a new foodie app:  My Culinary Encyclopedia : recipes and techniques by Alain Ducasse.  

I don’t know about you, but these days I hardly ever use a cookbook for actual cooking.  I do still love to read them for inspiration, and I do still collect them (at a decreasing rate…it has to be spectacular for me to buy it now) but for the most part, if I’m not making up my own recipe, I’m googling or checking Pinterest.  So an app that I can access via my iPad would work for me.

But at almost $35, it’s hard for me to justify this app, as amazing as it might be. However for a newbie cook, this might really work well.  It has numerous videos that show good technique as well as how to plate, with 250 recipes.  You can add your own comments or  email yourself an ingredients list.  There’s nutritional information, plus insights into food origins, storage and more.

Of course if you’re looking to learn how to cook, you can just as easily peruse YouTube videos, or enroll in one of the online cooking schools that have been cropping up.  But then…this is Alain Ducasse one of only two chefs to hold 21 Michelin stars throughout his career!

Food Inspiration

pile of cookbooks

pile of cookbooks (Photo credit: penguincakes)

Food inspiration comes from many places.

It should come as no surprise that I read food blogs and food magazines.  I peruse cookbooks as if they were novels.  The husband likes to say that dinner each night is preceded by a research period as I scour the articles or books for new inspiration.  While it’s not true every night, I actually do that a few nights a week, mostly for inspiration although I do sometimes cook a recipe exactly as written (but not often.)

Lately I’ve added Pinterest to the mix, and I’m finding that the recipe pins are particularly interesting because they are most often from just plain folks…recipes that appeal to them as they peruse “the nets”.

You can find inspiration in novels, food tv (of course), even in paintings, traveling (or watching Anthony Bourdain), childhood memories, and of course…by the ingredients you have on hand.  (I’m endlessly fascinated by Chopped.)

This weeks’s inspirations for me came from:  I don’t know if I’ll be making this exact dish, but I did buy some Chinese sausage at the Asian market this week.  I’ve been having a love affair with strawberries of late.  Sure they’re great on their own or with whipped cream.  But I’m discovering the joys of adding them to salad, make a compote out of them, and discovered this strawberry spoon bread that’s sure to grace my dinner table this week.  There’s nothing that brings out the flavor of vegetables like roasting.  In cauliflower it brings out a nutty flavor that makes pureed cauliflower a taste sensation. I substituted cream cheese for the butter, and added some Parmesan cheese for extra flavor.  And pureed it using an immersion blender.  Delicious!

Shrimp Francaise

Raw shrimp, ready for cooking.

I’ve been dying to make Shrimp and Grits and finally got around to buying some grits.  I was all set to make it for dinner tonight but was told by the Golden child that “ugh, I don’t like grits”.  Time for plan B.  He suggested Shrimp Piccata, but I decided to take it a step further and make it Francaise style, which basically means dipped in flour and egg and sauteed.

This is an adaptable recipe.  Use the same method on any kind of fish, chicken cutlets, pork, veal, even vegetables.  Serve with pasta (I just tossed some rotelli with a bit of olive oil and 1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese) and a salad or green vegetable (I made  roasted broccoli.)

I’ll make the Shrimp and Grits later in the week.

1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten with 1 TBS water

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock

3 TBS lemon juice

1/4 cup cream (you could use evaporated milk or soy milk)

2 TBS butter

1 TBS flour

Oil to cover the bottom of the pan

Pat shrimp dry with a paper towel and dredge in flour.  Coast with egg, and then in flour again.

Heat oil in pan.

Add shrimp to the fry pan in batches but be careful not to crowd.  Saute until both sides are a medium golden brown.  Remove from pan, and continue until all the shrimp are done.

Pour out all but a little bit of oil, and deglaze pan with wine over medium heat.    Add chicken stock and lemon juice.  Stir for two minutes.

Mix four and butter, and add to pan juices to thicken.  Add more chicken stock as needed, and more lemon juice to taste.

Add cream and stir.  Take pan off heat.

Return shrimp to pan to coat.


One roast chicken: Five meals

Roast chicken, the most commonly eaten white meat

I recently bought a big and juicy roast chicken from Costco. (Making a roast chicken is almost as easy and if you don’t know how, I highly recommend the method detailed on the America’s Test Kitchen site from this year:**ASCA00 )

Since there are only two of us, there was 3/4 of a roast chicken left.I allowed it to cool and then cut most of the meet off the chicken, storing it in the refrigerator.  The carcass went into a soup pot along with 1 cup of baby carrots, a bunch of fresh dill, roughly chopped kale (whatever I had left over in the refrigerator) three roughly chopped garlic cloves and covered it with water.  Brought it to a boil and then turned it down on low to simmer for several hours.  If I had some leftover rice, that would have gone in during the last 15 minutes, but it’s fine without it.

The rest of the chicken was used in three additional meals!!  Chicken salad, chicken croquettes, and a copycat version of Olive Garden’s Chicken Gnocchi soup!

That’s five meals from one roast chicken.  I’ll post the soup recipe later in the week.

Eggplant “Fries”

Česky: Lilek vejcoplodý Deutsch: Aubergine Eng...

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I’ve always been a fan of fried eggplant, but as I become more health conscious I’m less inclined to actually fry foods.  So I was determined to come up with a recipe for eggplant that was not oily, crunchy but not dried out, with just the right amount of creamy center.  After a bit of experimentation, here’s what turned out to be perfectly yummy!  I serve it just as is for a side dish, but have also used it on pizza, a delicious combo eggplant/chicken parmesan dish, and as an interesting addition to a panzanella salad.

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/4″ x 2″ sticks

3 TBS vegetable oil

1 TBS kosher salt (can use coarse grain sea salt as well)

4 TBS flour

2 eggs, beaten with 1 TBS water

1-1/2 cups Italian flavored Panko breadcrumbs

3/4 cup regular bread crumbs

3 tsp garlic powder (or to taste)

Preheat over to 300 F.

Add oil to bottom of a sheet pan and distribute.

Place cut eggplant into a colander and sprinkle with salt.  Toss to distribute.  Leave for at least 20 minutes.

Set up three bowls:  1) with beaten egg, 2) with mixure of panko and regular breadcrumbs plus garlic powder and 3) with flour

Toss 1/4 of the eggplant in flour mixture at a time.  Make sure they are all coated.

Toss floured eggplant in egg mixture.  Shake off any excess and toss with breadcrumb mixture.

Put breaded eggplant sticks on oiled sheet, making sure they are in an even layer.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Turn and bake another 10-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and enjoy!

It’s Chanukah…say cheese


Image by Cayusa via Flickr

It’s often joked that Jewish holidays are comprised of three basic components: “We fought, we won, let’s eat.”  I won’t get into the inaccuracy of that, however it is true we have traditional foods for every event.  And of course, depending on the region of the world you and your ancestors come from, those traditional foods vary.

Chanukah has several traditional foods.  The best known of these is the Potato latke.  But what many people don’t realize is that the original latke commemorating Chanukah was a cheese latke.

A not often told part of the Chanukah story is the story of Judith, a heroine who saved her village from an invading Assyrian army. It is said that she seduced the General Holofernes and fed him salty cheese to make him drink copious quantities of wine. When he passed out in a drunken stupor, Judith beheaded him with his own sword.  Demoralized, the army fought badly and fled.  The Jews of the town were saved. In Judith’s honor, dairy foods, and in particular cheese dishes, are eaten during Chanukah.

Here is my favorite holiday cheese dish (or any time for brunch)!

Cheese Blintz Soufflé

Most of the recipes you will see for this begin with frozen cheese blintzes.  I prefer this one, and have been known to make trays of it for gatherings and once, for a college frat house.

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

6 eggs

1-1/2 cups sour cream

1/2 cups orange juice

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder


1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cubed

1 pint whole fat cottage cheese

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the batter:  In a food processor, combine all of the batter ingredients.  Pulse until combined.  Pour half of the batter into a buttered 9 x 13-inch baking pan.  Set the rest aside for the moment.


Prepare the filling:  In a food processor or mixer, combine the filling ingredients until they are smooth and well mixed.

Using a large spoon (I use a serving spoon) drop the filling by heaping spoonfuls over batter in baking dish.  It will slightly sink into the batter, that’s fine.  With a knife, spread filling evenly.  Pour remaining batter over filling.

You can refrigerate the blintz soufflé at this point, if you plan to bake the next day.  Make sure it’s at room temperature before baking.
Bake uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes or until puffed and golden.  Serve as is, or with sour cream.

SERVES: 6 – 8

Turkey Grape Salad

Turkey on the Road

Image by tomswift46 (No Groups with Comments) via Flickr

Even after sending everyone home with doggie bags, there’s still quite a bit of turkey leftover.  The carcass was turned into Turkey Rice soup, and the rest of the turkey was cut up and bagged.  With all the sides gone, it was time to do something different with the turkey and it occurred to me that a salad would be an easy and delicious way to use some of it up.  Served tonight with tomato bisque soup, the husband said it was “better than Panera’s.”

2 cups diced turkey
1 cup red seedless grapes
½ cup glazed walnut pieces
2/3 cup mayonnaise

Cut grapes in half.  Mix together all ingredients and pile onto fresh, soft rolls.

Like the chicken salad, you can vary this by using different nuts, or substituting dried cranberries or raisins, or even chopped up apples or pears for the seedless grapes.  You can add diced celery, curry powder or other seasonings.  This is a very versatile and forgiving salad!

Making the “corn stuff”

Traffic sign alerting drivers for Amish Buggie...

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When the kids were little (and truth be told, even before we had kids) we loved taking an overnight trip into Pennsylvania Dutch country.  (Did you know that they are really of German origin, not Dutch…the Dutch being an Americanization of Deutsch.)  We’d hit every attraction and our favorite place to stay was the Red Caboose Motel…made up entirely of—you guessed it—cabooses.  The restaurant was a restored dining car that even was set up to rock and move like an actual train.

We had two favorite dining spots.  An all you can eat “Amish” buffet and a farm restaurant whose name I can no longer recall, where dessert was always served first!

Naturally, with my obsession with cookbooks, I purchased several Amish and Mennonite cookbooks, with recipes notable for their heartiness and simplicity.  I’ve made many of the recipes over the years, and adapted them to our taste.  But one that is another family staple is corn pudding.  The Daughter would always ask for “the corn stuff”, yet another sweet side dish.

When I emailed the kids this year’s Thanksgiving menu, asking them if there was anything I omitted, she immediately emailed back “mom, make the corn stuff.”  I said you mean the corn pudding, and her reply was “It will always be corn stuff to me.”


4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 can (approx. 15 ounces) cream-style corn

1 can (approx. 15 ounces) whole kernel corn, or about 2 cups frozen thawed

3 eggs, separated

Heat oven to 350°.

Butter a 2 quart casserole and set aside.

First make a roux:  melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat; add flour, stirring until mixture is well blended but don’t let it brown.  Stir in milk slowly.

Add  sugar and salt. Cook, whisking constantly, until smooth and thickened.

Remove from heat and stir in both the cream-style and kernel corn.

Lightly beat egg yolks, and add to the corn mixture.

In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into the corn mixture.

Transfer to buttered casserole. Bake (uncovered) for about 35 minutes.  You want it to be set, but not dry.

Roasting a Turkey is easy


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I don’t understand why people freak at the idea of making a Turkey.  To my mind it’s one of the easiest things to make.

This time of year you see all kinds of exotic recipes for Thanksgiving Turkey.  Brined, Maple-rubbed, Deep-fried.  Exotically spiced.  But honestly…a good old-fashioned roast turkey is simple and delicious.

Let’s start with some basics.  One of the biggest problems I see new cooks making is forgetting to defrost their turkey.   Of course safest of all is to buy a fresh turkey.  But if you are starting from frozen, there are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave oven.   Allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator.  The USDA has complete instructions

Also, don’t forget to remove the giblets generally packaged inside the turkey, whether fresh or frozen.  Set aside for use in your stuffing or gravy, or toss.  But don’t leave them in the bird!!

Here’s my foolproof method.  (Note, I don’t stuff my bird, but instead make dressing as a side dish.)

Tools Needed: Roasting pan with rack, cheesecloth, meat thermometer, turkey baster

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

1 Turkey, rinsed inside and out, and patted dry

1 stick (8 TBS) butter

2 cups water

Garlic powder to taste

Place turkey, breast side up, on the rack in the roasting pan.  Sprinkle with garlic powder.

Melt butter in the two cups of water.  (I do this in the microwave, but stovetop is fine.)

Unwrap cheesecloth and soak in the buttery water.  Carefully cover turkey, making sure that the drumsticks are covered as well as the breast.   Pour any remaining liquid over the cheesecloth.

Place turkey in oven and immediately turn down to 325 – 350 degrees F.  Baste every 20 minutes until done.

  • For a 10-13 lb. turkey (weight with giblets): Bake in a 350° oven for 1 1/2-2 1/4 hr.
  • For a 14-23 lb. turkey (weight with giblets): Bake in a 325° oven for 2-3 hr.
  • For a 24-27 lb. turkey (weight with giblets): Bake in a 325° oven for 3-3 3/4 hr.
  • For a 28-30 lb turkey (weight with giblets): Bake in a 325° oven for 3 1/2-4 1/2 hr.

A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures.

If your turkey has a “pop-up” temperature indicator, it is recommended that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a food thermometer. The minimum internal temperature should reach 165 °F for safety.

Shockingly Sweet Tomatoes

two slices of toasted white bread

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve always had a fascination with foods made from white bread.  Growing up, we rarely had white bread in the house, the folks instead preferring a hearty rye bread or pumpernickel.  I can recall things being dismissed as being “so white bread”…meaning boring or ordinary.  And yet, as I passed the Wonder Bread factory on the subway, the smell made my mouth water.

I found this recipe in Real American Food by Jane and Michael Stern (Alfred Knopf, 1986), and the simplicity and yes…the absurdity of it tickled me.  I’m not sure when I first made it, but it’s become a family favorite and a holiday staple ever since. I consider it a warm compote, and  I generally make a double batch.

Yield: Serves 6-8

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, including juice (I use the San Marzano and crushed works as well as whole)

8 slices white bread

1 stick unsalted butter (8 TBS)

1 cup sugar

Toast the white bread on dark setting.

Place tomatoes in a large saucepan.

Tear toast into about 4 pieces per slice; add to tomatoes.

Add butter and sugar.

Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve warm.