Thursday, August 14, 2008

summertime, and the living is easy....

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. I don’t know what’s wrong with me…what HAS BEEN wrong with me this entire year…all of the sudden it’s august and I look back to see that my last blog was in January. Shameful, but sadly, I won’t promise I’ll be blogging more regularly from now on…I will hope to be, but I won’t promise. For excuses, I offer lack of enthusiasm due to nonexistent photography skills, bad lighting, lack of motivation, lack of a DISHWASHER…just to name a few. Excuses excuses….just COOK something already!


So the hit of the summer has been a strawberry pie recipe I found in gourmet magazine. I am a new subscriber and I have to admit, the first few issues I received found me almost cancelling and then…then it was late spring….something about late spring and all of the promise of summer fruits and vegetables and outdoor cooking fires me up like nothing else. The day I go to the store and see the very first peaches is one of the happiest days of the year for me. I know, get a life….


So back to this strawberry pie….I had no idea it would get such overwhelmingly favorable reviews…I mean honestly, my husband was near tears over this thing, and he’s an “eat to live”-er!! so as per his request (read: begging) it has been somewhat of a constant on our table this summer, even though it is kind of labor intensive, and he has me scheduled to make it once again in the next couple of weeks when we have his family over for labor day….it’s worth its weight in ‘pain in the ass’….

With any luck (motivation…) I will get the oil poached halibut with tomatoes and fennel up in the next few weeks. Also from Gourmet and also a showstopper…glad I didn’t cancel that subscription after all!

So here it is….fresh strawberry pie with whipped cream….
You’re welcome!


• 1 (5-oz) package shortbread cookies
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
• 2 lb (1 1/2-inch) strawberries, hulled (see cooks’ note, below)
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
• 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (2 1/4 tsp)
lightly sweetened whipped cream
• Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
• Pulse cookies in a food processor to fine crumbs, then pulse in sugar and butter until combined. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
• Select 20 large strawberries as close to same size as possible and set aside. Cut remaining berries into 1/4-inch dice and toss with sugar and lemon juice. Let stand, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Drain berries in a sieve set into a large glass measuring cup. Add enough water to measure 2 cups. Transfer liquid to a medium saucepan and reserve berries.
• Sprinkle gelatin over strawberry liquid and let soften 1 minute. Bring to a bare simmer, stirring until gelatin has dissolved. Add diced berries, then transfer to a metal bowl set into an ice bath and stir frequently until mixture begins to mound, 20 to 30 minutes.
• Spoon 1/2 cup filling into piecrust and arrange reserved whole berries, stem ends down, on filling. Spoon remaining filling over and between berries. Chill pie until filling is set, at least 4 hours.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A fresh start...

January is for a blank slate, starting anew, one more chance to try again. I have always felt like the day after your birthday would be a more sensible day to make resolutions for change, but nevertheless, I can never resist the big January 1st, gentlemen start your engines, shotgun starting line stampede….every year I resolve to eat healthier, drink less, exercise more, be more patient, read more books….but the big one is always about fitting back into my skinny jeans….

Sunday mornings are an exception to the rule, however. Sundays are special. They are for relaxing until noon and using REAL half & half in your coffee. Sundays are for comforting dishes like this delicious baked egg recipe that I found in an everyday food magazine. I still felt somewhat virtuous, since it’s only one egg per serving, and the croutons really gave me that feeling of decadence and naughtiness even though I only ate about 8 of them. It was worth every moderately indulgent bite….

Baked Eggs with Croutons and Onions
Makes 2 servings
2 eggs
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
A few slices of thick white bread cut into chunks (I used a day old ciabatta)
3 T butter
Salt and pepper
2T cream

Preheat oven to 375. spray 2 oven proof dishes with cooking spray or rub them with butter and set them in an 8x8 pyrex baking dish. Put water on to boil.

Melt 2T butter in a skillet and toast the bread until golden and crispy. Remove from pan and reserve skillet

Add the remaining 1T of butter to the skillet and sauté onions about 10 minutes until soft, fragrant and beginning to caramelize. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide onions among the two prepared dishes, top with croutons. Crack one egg into each dish being careful not to break the yolks. Top each egg with 1T of cream, season with salt and pepper and fill baking dish with boiling water, surrounding the dishes of eggs.

Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

j'aime le potage

I’ve always loved French Onion Soup….there’s not much I can say about this because it is so perfect in its simplicity….fitting, since I found and modified this from the French onion soup I found on simply recipes…one of my favorite food blogs…these pictures are also some of my favorite food pictures, so I will let them do all the talking. There’s no language sweeter than that of cheese…..

French Onion Soup

6-8 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced.
Olive oil
pinch of sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups of beef stock (approximately)
1/2 cup of whatever dry white wine you happen to be drinking while you are cooking…what? You don’t drink when you cook? We can no longer be friends.
1/4 teaspoon of dry thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
a bunch of slices of toasted French bread
sliced swiss or gruyere cheese

If you’re naughty like me, “toasting” the French bread = slicing an entire baguette, brushing it with olive oil and sprinkling it with a little garlic powder and some salt and pepper and then toasting the slices on a cookie sheet in the oven on about 350 for 15 minutes or so… do that and while that is happening, start your soup. Then the oven will be nice and warm for your soup when you’re ready….

1. now take ALL of your onions….you will be crying and it will seem like “oh my god, this is way too many onions!” but it’s not…..put them in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium high heat with about 2-3T of olive oil in the bottom and just let them cook and cook, stirring occasionally. After about 15 minutes, sprinkle about ½ teaspoon of sugar on them…..this should take about a good 30 minutes or more. You should know when they are ready…they’ll be all dark brown and soft and gorgeous!
2. add the garlic, sauté for about 3 minutes (there is no better smell in the world!)
3. add the wine and scrape up the little bits from the bottom of the pan with a whsk.
4. add the bay leaves, beef stock and thyme and bring it to a heavy simmer. Let that just go happily simmering for awhile….as long as you want, really, but no less than 30 minutes.

5. discard bay leaf and season with salt and pepper
6. ladle the soup into oven safe crocks and top with enough French bread to cover the top of the soup. Most recipes say to just use a slice, but my baguette was small, so I used three.

7. top the toasts with slices of swiss or gruyere. You can use shredded too, and a little parmesan if you want, but I prefer slices. Let a little hang over the side because everyone knows that the cheese that gets crusty and sticks to the side of the bowl is the best part.
8. stick the crocks on a baking sheet and put them in a 350 oven for 10 minutes or so until the cheese is browned and bubbly on top. You can use the broiler for a minute to help it out of you want.

9. I served mine with the best salad ever……this soup is amazing!! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

getting the hang of this pie thing...

I’ve always loved chicken pot pie. When I was little, we used to have the swanson frozen ones and it used to frustrate the hell out of me that it took 57 minutes for them to cook in the oven. The idea of making one from scratch never occurred to me until just recently and at that point, it became more of an obsession than an idea, but that’s just how I roll.

When I saw this gorgeous thing on Confections of a Foodie Bride I knew I had to make it immediately…as usual, I changed it up a bit and omitted a few things and added a few others, but the crust is the star of this show…..i am SO disappointed that I had my camera set to the wrong resolution because the flaky layers are not done justice in these grainy photographs. This, my friends, is comfort food at its finest….with my newly acquired expertise in all things pastry dough (ha!) and at just over an hour from start to finish if you prep your chicken beforehand, swanson can eat their heart out….it’s like the difference between a gorton’s fish stick and dayboat, cedar planked, maple glazed wild Alaskan salmon.

mmmmm… I want salmon…..

Chicken Pot Pie

For the filling:
About 3 T butter, or EVOO or a combo. I used butter.
1/2 – 1 whole medium yellow onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 russet potato, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
About ¾ cup sliced baby portobella or white mushrooms
Approx 1 tsp. dried sage
Approx ½ tsp crushed red pepper flake
Some frozen peas (1 cup? Half a cup? Whatever)
Some frozen corn
1 whole cooked rotisserie chicken or 4-6 cooked breasts, meat shredded or chopped.
Salt and pepper

For the cream sauce:
1 stick of butter (yikes)
1 cup flour
2 ½ cups of chicken broth
½ cup light cream (or whole milk)
A few shakes of franks red hot (I was out of Tabasco)
Salt and pepper

For the crust
( I made half a batch, but this is the full recipe)
2 sticks of cold butter cut into pieces
3 cups of flour
10 oz. chilled cream cheese, cut into pieces
Ice water (6-8 TBS)
1 egg, beaten

1. get the chicken cooked and shredded way ahead of time. I bought a rotisserie chicken at the market, shredded it and left it in the fridge until yesterday. It made my life infinitely easier.
2. in a really big sauté pan, melt the butter for the filling and sauté the onions, celery, shallot and carrot over medium heat until they’re softened. About 4 minutes.
3. add chopped potato, garlic and mushrooms and continue to sauté for at least 15 minutes. You don’t have to babysit it, just remember to stir it around every minute or so.
4. once the 15 minutes have passed, add your thyme, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, corn, peas and chicken and turn the heat down to low. Stir it all around for a minute or two to combine everything and heat the chicken through. Now taste it to make sure it’s yummy and set it on the back burner until you’re done with the sauce.
5. Meanwhile, get out your sauce pot and get the stuff ready for your cream sauce. The sauce needs constant attention so if you’re not adept at doing two things at once, you might want to finish the filling part first and then focus all of your attention on the sauce.
6. melt the stick (or sticks if you are doing the whole recipe) of butter in the saucepan and, with your whisk in one hand ready to go, add the flour to the butter. It is going to gob up and clump together so make sure your heat is not up too high. Medium low for right now should be fine. You don’t want the flour to burn. Keep stirring it with the whish and getting the globs out and mashing them around for about a minute or two. Then add the chicken broth and milk or cream and whisk whisk whisk. Turn the heat up to medium. This will start to thicken pretty quickly, just keep whisking. Add the hot sauce, salt and pepper and taste it to make sure it’s right. You want the consistency to be thicker than chowder, but not as thick as a cheese sauce. Maybe 4 minutes?
7. Add the cream sauce to the chicken veggie filling. I told you you would need a big pan. Stir it all together.
8. Preheat oven to 375.
9. Now for the crust. Put the flour and butter in a food processor and pulse until it is crumbly. Maybe 20-25 1 second long pulses. Then add the cream cheese and pulse some more till that is crumbly. Add a little salt and pepper when you add the cream cheese. Now, through the feed tube at the top, add ice water about 2 TBS at a time and pulse. After about the 4th or 5th addition, it will start to glob together and make a ball. You don’t want it too wet, so when it just starts to stick together, take the lid off and form it into a ball. I would recommend actually preparing the crust a few hours ahead and letting it chill like this because it was a little sticky to roll out…
10. Take your ball and plop it on a floured surface. Flour your rolling pin and roll the crust out into a big circle. If you are using individual bowls, invert one of them in the dough and cut around it, making the circle about a ½ - 1’’ bigger than the bowl. Do this for however many you are making. If you are using a casserole dish, do the same thing.
11. Fill your dishes or casserole with the creamy chicken filling and then carefully lay the dough circles on top, letting the edges flop over the dish and pushing them against the outside to keep the filling all snuggly inside. Brush the tops with the beaten egg and put the dishes on a cookie sheet.
12. Put the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the crust is the most gorgeous golden brown color you have ever seen.
13. Die happy.

by the way...this really creates a hell of a lot of dishes...

Friday, November 23, 2007

easy as pie

I don’t know where this ubiquitous little quip came from because let me tell you something…this weekend I learned in no uncertain terms that pie is NOT easy. It’s not hard like I might imagine, say, an osso buco would be. I’ve never made an osso buco, so I can’t say for sure which is more difficult, but just the thought of osso buco has always intimidated me. Much like pie crust from scratch used to intimidate me. Pastry chefs with cookbooks and food bloggers the world over put the fear of God in you regarding the temperature of your butter, the precise size of your flour covered butter peas, the steadfastness with which you MUST blend or risk being proven the complete pie making failure you are terrified you might actually be, butter and shortening? Just butter? Just shortening? Chill! Chill! CHILL!! HOW MANY TABLESPOONS OF ICE WATER?!?!

I made my virgin voyage to the land of pate brisee on Tuesday night. Apple pie is in my blood which is probably another reason I was so afraid to mess it up. If my pies weren’t perfect from the word “go”, Grandma Martha up in Heaven would surely find out about it and be ashamed to call me her own. So with a fiery determination (though not too fiery….i had to make sure the butter stayed cold!) I bravely forged ahead.

My major fear was in the butter/shortening. I had to make sure it was cold enough. I knew that if my pie was a failure, it would be because my fat was not cold enough…so I froze it. In retrospect, that might not have been the smartest thing to do when cutting the butter by hand rather than with a food processor, but we live and learn. I was sure I added 1 tablespoon too much water…with the last addition, there was a smooshy slurp sound in the bowl and I almost started to cry. “I can’t add more flour now! The crust will be tough (whatever that means!)! there’s no turning back. I $*&%ed it up. I’m an apple pie dunce!! I’m throwing in my apron!!” (I’ve been called a “passionate sort” by one of the people who know me best…). I wrapped it in Saran, mooshed it into discs and put it in the fridge, fighting tears. Tuesday night, I dreamt of the perils of a sticky, overly wet dough.

Wednesday, I peeled and cored 7 apples with a paring knife (Dear Santa, an apple peeler corer would be an awesome gift. I’ve been good, albeit a little dramatic. Have a cookie. Love, Rachel), rolled out my CHILLED dough between 2 pieces of wax paper and nearly cried, again, when it was sticking as I was trying to get it in the pie plate. It was totally stressful mainly because when it comes to food and pie in particular, I’m a perfectionist.

Like a mother with her first newborn, when that pie came out of the oven, golden and flaky looking, dripping hot cinnamon apple gooeyness onto the floor of my oven, perfect in all of its lopsided imperfection, I was overwhelmed with pride. It was perfect and I had done it. Grandma is proud.

Apple Pie

For the crust:
2 ¾ cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 stick + 2 TBS of super chilled, unsalted, good quality butter, cut into ½’’ pieces
10 TBS. of super chilled or frozen Crisco, cut into ½’’ pieces
1 tsp salt
2-3 TBS sugar
6ish TBS ice water

Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl, add the butter and cut into the flour mixture using a pastry blender until crumbs are pea sized. Add the Crisco and continue to blend. Add the ice water 1 TBS at a time, folding it in with a fork until it barely holds together. (don’t mix like cookie dough. Be gentle) Separate in half and wrap each half in Saran, form them into discs and chill overnight.

For the filling:
3-4 granny smith apples, peeled and cored, 1’’dice
3-4 mcintosh apples, peeled and cored, 1’’ dice
(This combo of apples is great because the mcintosh break down and turn to an applesauce consistency while the granny smith keep their shape somewhat)
Lemon juice (on the cut apples to keep them from turning brown)
Brown sugar (about ½ cup)
White sugar (about ½ cup)
Cinnamon (maybe 2 tsp)
Nutmeg (a pinch)
Cornstarch (about 3TBS)

Mix the dry ingredients well and set aside.
Roll out one disc of dough on a well floured surface or between 2 pieces of saran or wax paper, starting from the center and pressing outward, keeping the round shape. Get this dough into your pie dish whichever way is the easiest and most comfortable for you. Some people prefer to roll it onto their rolling pin and transfer it that way. I am not that adept yet. I am a bit of a spaz so I peeled off the top layer of wax paper and then did a flip and peeled off the bottom layer of wax paper which was now right side up. It stuck a little. I freaked out, but it all worked out in the end. Push the dough gently into the sides of the dish and let the extra dough hang over.

Now dot the bottom of the dough with a few pats of butter, 1/3 of the apples, a sprinkling of the sugar mixture, another 1/3 of apples, more sugar, the rest of the apples, the rest of the sugar and some more pats of butter. Roll out your top crust the same way you rolled out the first and carefully transfer it to the top of the pie. Centering it proved difficult or me, but it wasn’t a disaster. Now fold the bottom flap of dough over the top flap and roll it up to make the edge. Make it pretty by using your index and middle finger of one hand and knuckle of your thumb on the other hand to make a wavy pattern around the edge.

Vent the top so it doesn’t explode, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 50 minutes on 400.
About 20 minutes in, cover the pretty, wavy edge of your crust with foil or a pie ring.

Do yourself a favor and throw a piece of foil on the bottom rack of your oven when you cover the crust edge. The filling will inevitable bubble over and cleaning it off the bottom of your oven is no picnic.

Kiss yourself. Your grandma is proud.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Staring Winter in the face

I’ve really been into the soup lately and I am loving every minute of it! I’m not gonna lie….I’m not a fan of the cold weather, even if with it comes the promise of an exquisite palette of sunset colored, softly falling leaves, fluffy, dancing snowflakes and Christmas scented Yankee candles. I’m a California girl. To me, Christmas means the temp drops to 50 and I am bundled up in cashmere scarves and wool coats. Here in New York, on my 4th real winter, they are still laughing at me and I am suffering for it….6 months out of the year, I am suffering….my only respite is finding things to cook that would be downright insane to cook in the sweltering, oppressive humidity of August. Lately, I have been distracting myself from the bitter cold (which the NY weathermen are still calling “mild”….thick blooded freaks…) by medicating myself with a plethora of rich, hearty soups and chocolate chip cookies from scratch….all in the name of winter insulation!

This chicken corn chowder, the recipe for which I found by doing a simple google search, turned out to be an immediate winner….a recipe I will make for years and years that I hope to be remembered by when I’m gone. It was THAT good. As with every recipe, I changed it a little by deglazing the pan with white wine. I also think that taking the extra effort to roast your own chicken makes all the difference in the world. I had never roasted a chicken before and I found it to be one of the easiest things I have ever done. The meat was so tender it practically melted in your mouth! It takes some thinking ahead, but the end result will warm your bones right through to April. Enjoy!

Old-Fashioned Pawtucket Chicken Chowder
Adapted from The LL Bean Book of "New" New England Cookery

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2 to 3 ribs celery, peeled and diced
2 to 3 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup light cream
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked chicken, diced (I used the meat from a whole roasted chicken, shredded.)
fresh ground pepper
1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

Heat vegetable oil in a large pot and stir in the onion and celery, continuing to stir for about 5 minutes, before adding the potatoes. Cover and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, and stir in the herbs. Push the vegetable off to the side and deglaze the pan with the white wine. Mix the flour with milk to make a thin paste, then add the milk and broth to the soup pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until the vegetables are tender but not mushy. Stir in the chicken and optional corn, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Cook gently 5 minutes; serve hot.
I served mine with a decadent loaf of French bread that I had spread with softened butter, sprinkled with garlic powder and toasted in the oven, wrapped in foil for about 30 minutes. It was the PERFECT, indulgent accompaniment. I cannot wait to make this soup again!

Monday, November 5, 2007


I’ve been making a lot of my mom’s recipes lately and am amazed each time one comes out tasting exactly how I remembered it tasting when she made it. She used to make this Chinese chicken salad for all of her potluck work parties and I would get so exhausted watching her meticulously shredding the green onions. She was always so proud that there was never any left and people used to just hover around the bowl taking 2nd and 3rd helpings. She was meticulous about everything, and it really was such a precious quality…of course as a bratty 16 year old, I just wanted her to hurry up…every ounce of effort this salad takes to make is worth it. I know that shredding the green onions doesn’t make them taste differently, but there is something about the different texture that is just the right fit. The dressing is out of this world and the little notes my mom wrote on her recipe say “make extra! you’ll be glad you did!” and I did and you will. This recipe makes enough salad to feed a small country so it’s great for a party, but if you’re not feeding an army, you can half it. I would still make the extra dressing though if I were you…mom said to!

Harriet’s Chinese Chicken Salad

1 head of cabbage, shredded
2 bunches of green onions, shredded into matchsticks (this takes forever to do, but it must be done…..the salad is just not the same with round little slices of onion)
1 box of frozen petite peas, thawed
6-8 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into 1’’ or so pieces
3 packages of ramen noodles, uncooked and broken up. Flavoring packages discarded.

6 T soy sauce
6 T rice vinegar
3 T sesame oil
2 tsp. Sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Perfect Soup Weather

I’ve been on a real soup kick lately and my beloved dutch oven and I have been having a ball! I found this recipe for Zuppa Toscana months and months ago, printed it out while drooling on it and then stuffed it in a folder and quickly forgot about it. Now as far as I’m concerned, this soup is the only way I could ever justify going to Olive garden…

Fall is in the air here in beautiful Long Island (*snark*) and there’s nothing more comforting that a hot bowl of homemade soup. I stumbled back upon this recipe last week and got so inspired that I planned a whole week’s menu around soup, soup and more soup! Specifically, soup, chili and chowder. It has been one DELICIOUS week!

This came out amazing and there are only a few changes I will make next time. It’s supposed to be a copycat recipe, but for some reason, they have the sausage in links and then sliced when the original has crumbled bits of sausage. I couldn’t find small spicy links that weren’t breakfast sausage, so I used 6 big Italian spicy sausages instead. I flirted with the idea of taking them out of their casing and browning them in the pot but wanted to follow the recipe exactly the first time. While it was still delightful, next time I will try it with the crumbled sausage. Not only will it speed up the cooking time (roasting the sausage in the oven seemed like a ridiculous waste of time), it will also add another layer of browned bits to the bottom of the pan, and I think we all agree, you can never have too many browned bits!

On with the show!

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana

Recipe from

12 small spicy sausage links
2 medium potatoes, cut in half lengthwise, and then cut into 1/4" slices
3/4 cup onions, diced
6 slices bacon
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups kale leaves, cut in half, then sliced
2 tablespoons chicken base
1 qt. water
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place sausage links onto a sheet pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until done; cut in half length-wise, then cut at an angle into 1/2 inch slices.

Place onions and bacon in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until onions are almost clear. Remove bacon and crumble. Add garlic to the onions and cook an additional 1-minute. Add chicken base, water, and potatoes, simmer 15 minutes. Add crumbled bacon, sausage, kale and cream. Simmer 4 minutes and serve.