Thursday, December 30, 2010

Creamy Shrimp Pasta

It's rare that I don't "tweak" or change a recipe. But this unadulterated shrimp recipe by Dave Lieberman is superb as is. And it's pretty simple, too. Unlike an "Alfredo sauce," it doesn't use cheese, just cream. The only thing I do differently is to sprinkle each plateful with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese. For 2-3 people, I usually half the recipe but use 3 cloves of the garlic.

Beef is now so expensive, it's actually cheaper for me to purchase one-half pound fresh shrimp in-the-shell from the seafood counter at my grocery store than to buy a New York strip steak. Look for shrimp that is already "deveined" and "cut" so all you have to do is peel off the shell. It's important not to overcook shrimp. As soon as it turns a bright coral color, it's done. 

  • 1 pound dried fettuccine (I've also used spaghetti)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 20 grinds fresh black pepper
  • 1 pound peeled, de-veined shrimp*
  • 2 tablespoons finely-chopped parsley
  • Fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until "al dente," about 7 minutes. Drain. Toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent it from sticking while preparing the sauce.

In a large skillet, combine the cream, wine, garlic, and black pepper and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Now add the shrimp and cook, about 3-5 minutes, depending on size of shrimp, just until they turn color. Toss the sauce with the pasta and the chopped parsley. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and, for garnish, a lemon wedge. (Purists would never add cheese to fish.)

Now, how easy was that!?

Notes: I usually begin on the sauce before I begin the pasta. Sometimes it takes longer than 10 minutes to thicken up. And sometimes I just make it real real slow adding a bit of extra cream and wine now and then to get it nice and thick. If it gets too thick, you can just add a bit of the hot pasta water after you make the pasta. Sometimes I add just a bit more garlic right before I add the shrimp. This is quite versatile. When you add the shrimp, go ahead and add some halved grape tomatoes and cut up fresh basil instead of the parsley.

If you like this recipe and for more tips about making the sauce, check out the following recipe:  Kitchen Bounty: salmon with shrimp sauce over pasta

*If the shrimp are unusually large, slice down the center. It keeps the shape intact but makes it easier to eat.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Authentic Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon meringue pie is refreshingly tart yet sweet. It is the perfect summer dessert, especially when paired with fish, such as salmon, or light salads. And a chilled white wine. And it is the perfect way to finish off a heavy Easter dinner of roast lamb after all the fixings.

This recipe is from the vintage and classic Antoinette Pope School Cookbook, from Chicago, Illinois. I've made it many times and I especially enjoy its small size. I am not a believer in oversized pies. They are often underdone, especially in the center. And a large pie has a miscaculated mathematical and geometrical mismatch ratio of filling to crust. I like the crust. We all love the crust! That is why we like pie!

I once made this for a fellow artist and friend in Michigan. He absolutely loved it. One week, his mother visited and she made her version of lemon pie... LOL ... It was not the same. She used JELL-O pudding as the base. It did not even begin to compare (but her turkey and dumplings were to die for!).

Prepare a pastry crust recipe of your choice or buy the pre-rolled ones from the dairy section of your market (read carefuly and you will see they use LARD!), or prepare recipe that follows. Line a seven-inch pie plate and pre-bake according to instructions. Never mind all that nonsense about ceramic beans and tin foil, etc. Allow to cool. Then, move on ....

Makes one seven-inch pie. (A double recipe will make a ten-inch pie--if you must.)
  • 1 cup sifted granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks (save the whites [no politics intended])
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sifted cornstarch combined with 1/4 cup cool water
  • 1 and 1/3 cup very hot tap water
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice ( see notes below)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 good heaping tablespoon real dark yellow butter from grass-fed cows)
In a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan, combine all ingredients except lemon juice, lemon zest, and your authentic butter. Stir until smooth after each addition. Cook until thick and smooth over medium heat, stirring continuously

NOW, add add lemon juice and rind, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add butter; stir until melted, cover tightly* and let stand while preparing Meringue Topping*

Meringue Topping for one 7-Inch Pie (for a 10-inch pie, double ingredients and bake 20-22 minutes)
  • 1/3 cup fresh egg whites (about 2 eggs)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon your favorite and incredible vanilla
  • 1/3 cup fine-sifted granulated sugar --- YES ... sift it!
Be sure egg whites are at room temperature. Place in a 7-inch bowl and, just before beginning to beat them, add cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla. Beat until they form a very soft meringue that still slides out of the bowl. If using a powerful mixer, use medium speed otherwise use high speed. This may take about one minute. Now start adding sugar, about 1 teaspoon at a time beat after each addition for a few seconds. After all sugar has been added, beat about 2 more minutes with a hand-operated beater or, one minute with an electrical beater, until peaks are fairly stiff and tips are only rounded. Do do overbeat. At this point, they should NOT SLIDE OUT OF THE BOWL.

Pour the hot lemon filling into the cooled, baked pie-shell and, at once without cooling filling, cover about 1/4 inch of outer crust with meringue to form a kind of glue, using a spoon or small spatula and pulling it inward towrds center of the pie.  This will prevent the meringue from sliding off the center of the pie when cutting.

Note the soft peaks on meringue.
Heap rest of meringue onto pie filling, a spoonful at a time and, with the back of a spoon, make very slight indentations pulling up points slightly, keeping meringue a little higher in the center.

Place pie on bottom rack of a preheated 400-degree oven and bake about 15-18 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown (not tan). Remove from oven; place pie on a cake rack away from drafts until the bottom of plate feels cool. This may take several hours.

Then, store pie in refrigerator for at least two hours. Do Not Skip this STEP! This will prevent filling from spreading when cut.

When cutting, dip a knife into hot water to prevent meringue (whipped cream) from sticking to it.

Notes: I've had much success freezing individual slices in zip-lock bags and then bringing to room temperature to serve. Also much success ... adding a bit of fresh-squeezed orange juice to the lemon juice.

* Fresh whipped cream is a dream with this pie. NO baking. Cool the filling for several hours when added to crust.  Prepare whipped cream. Top and swirl. NO NO to Cool Whip**

Pie Crust
  • (Makes one open-faced 10-in crust or one two-crust for a 7 or 8-inch pie)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch or two of salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled fat (butter, lard, shortening or a combo)
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Place flour, baking powder and salt in a small food processor. Pulse to combine. Add cold fat and pulse just until combined and large lumps begin to form. With machine running, dribble water through top, pulsing as you go, until the dough masses into one lump and leaves the sides of the machine.

Remove. Knead just slightly with a bit of flour, in necessary. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

To bake the crust for lemon meringue pie: line plate with crust and flute. Prick crust with tines of a fork along the bottom and on the sides. Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes or,  just until golden. Check after five minutes and, if any bubbles appear, puncture with a fork to allow steam to escape. When cool, sprinkle with a bit of plain bread crumbs to fill in any "holes" from the fork tines.

Notes: I use a combination of butter/lard.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Long Island Iced Tea

This recipe lessens the "sour" aspect of this drink and emphasizes the Cola mixture with the alcohol.

One summer while nursing a poorly-made Long Island Iced Tea, my father and I bemoaned the fact it was getting more and more difficult to order a good one. Somewhere along a bartender's guideline, they morphed more into a tart, even sour, lemonade as less and less cola was added. Our solutions was to order a cola and then to add to it. 

My version below uses lots of ice and cola. I've always prepared it with cola sweetened from Splenda, but only because I normally don't drink sugared soft drinks. It will make a good 3-4 glasses and is perfect on a hot, summer's day. Or a festive winter's one . . . CHEERS!

Note: 1 1/2  ounce is equal to one "jigger." A "shot" equals one ounce.
  • 4 cups ice, preferably store-bought, crystal ice and more for serving
  • 1 jigger rum
  • 1 jigger vodka
  • 1 jigger gin
  • 2 jiggers Triple Sec
  • 1/2 jigger Tequila
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon, save the lemon itself
  • 1 cup Coke or Diet Coke, preferably Diet Coke made from Splenda

Mix all of the above ingredients in a large pitcher. To a large, tall glass, add one ounce of Coke or Diet Coke and ice. Add one lemon wedge and fill with above mixture.

As ice melts in the pitcher, add more ice.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Oysters a la Rockefeller

First, a bit of history . . .

Way before there was a Julia Child, there was Francois and Antoinette Pope. She was French; he was Italian. And they both hailed from Chicago, home to my grandparents and mother. The Popes were the "foodie" celebrities of their day and opened their first cooking school in the Windy City in 1930 where, quite literally, they taught generations of Chicagoans how to cook. Their first cookbook appeared in 1948. Their first cooking show, "Creative Cookery," appeared on the tube in 1951 and enjoyed an incredible 13-year run. "The French Chef" didn't appear until 1963!

The Pope cookbooks had one underlying theme: class. But without being pretentious. Entire sections were devoted to "chafing dish" recipes; "party-style" molds, including a host of "chaud-froid" variations; tons of appetizers; cake decorating and vegetable "carving"; and entire menus for cocktail parties. Still, they included many recipes for simple dishes, such as hot dogs. Long before the Frugal Gourmet, their cookbooks included chapters on both Italian and Cantonese cooking. 

Even today, their recipes hold up remarkably well. 

Francois and Antoinette Pope. Their recipes were as well-dressed
and groomed as they were.
When my grandmother retired from Sears Roebuck in downtown Chicago, she attended cooking classes from the Pope school, including candy making. When her cooking skills waned, she gave me her autographed copy of "The New Antoinette Pope School Cookbook." I've since learned that signed copies fetch a couple-hundred dollars. Alas, or happily, mine is in poor condition from constant use. But my grandmother's inscription to me is priceless.

Now, for those oysters . . .

My mother also has the Pope cookbook.

"To my Grandson Gary. From Grandma
Dason. Love You & Love your bread."

My father hailed from Long Island, New York, so oysters were nothing new to him. But, for Midwesterners, their appearance at Christmas was intrigue. My father aptly demonstrated how to "shuck" them, complete with East-Coast stories of his younger years and my by-gone, distant relatives. Oysters Rockefeller have now been a Christmas tradition at our house for several decades. This year, my mother has told me she ordered 60. I love them served with cold champagne.

I won't be home for Christmas. Instead, I will be at my sister's home and we have decided to introduce the tradition to her children. We are fond of saying that people who don't like oysters will change their minds when they try these . . . thanks... to... Francois and Antoinette Pope... and a woman from Chicago... and a man from Long Island!


  • 1/2 cup finely-chopped curly parsley
  • 1/2 cup finely-chopped, fresh, uncooked spinach
  • 1/2 cup finely-chopped green onion tops
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 6 drops Tabasco sauce (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup toasted bread crumbs

Put parsley, green onion tops, and spinach through a fine food chopper or chop fine with a heavy knife or cleaver. Put Tabasco sauce into melted butter. Taste. If you want it hotter, add more (we usually do). Mix bread crumbs, garlic  salt, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Mix/sprinkle over vegetables and incorporate using two forks. Pour butter over top and mix well.

This dressing may be prepared several days in advance and kept in refrigerator until ready to be used; then let it stand in room temperature until soft enough to spread, or beat until of spreading consistency.

(NOTES: One 10-oz. box of frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry is about 1/2 cup. The most tedious part of this recipe is chopping the parsley. One large bunch is about 1/2 cup. Do not use the stems. I place in a mini-prep to do most of the work and then transfer to a cutting board to finish mincing. I cut the onions by hand; putting them in a mini-prep only makes them gelatinous. I use garlic powder instead of garlic salt. I just about double the amount of cheese. After adding the Tabasco to the melted butter, taste and add more to suit your preference. I make my own bread crumbs in the mini prep and then toast them in the oven.)

Scrub oysters well with a brush under cool-running water and keep cold until ready to shuck.

Shuck oysters and place on half shells in a baking sheet that is filled to top with rock salt (ice-cream salt). This stabilizes oysters to keep them from tipping. Bake in a 450 degree oven for about five minutes or until edges of oysters begin to curl. Remove from oven and quickly spread 1 tablespoon Green Butter Dressing over entire surface of each oyster. Return to oven and bake about 5 minutes longer.

For genuine Oysters Rockefeller, the oysters should not be allowed to brown; they should be served rare. However, they are more palatable to many persons if placed under the broiler for a few minutes to become crisp.

Notes: If oysters are particularly difficult to open, place them for several minutes in tepid water. They may be opened a few hours before cooking. Keep covered with tin foil in refrigerator (we keep them in the cold garage).

Friday, December 17, 2010

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Pigs in a Blanket)

Stuffed cabbage rolls are both healthy and economical.

When I grew up outside of Chicago, stuffed cabbage was called "pigs in a blanket." The "pig" was a reference to using all pork for the filling. The cabbage was its "blanket." It was a not uncommon food served at weddings and anniversaries in church basements. I have tried many recipes through the years. Most have some kind of tomato sauce. Jewish stuffed cabbage is sweet-sour. Germans use sauerkraut. The following uses a nice balance between tomatoes and sauerkraut and the beef/pork filling in not heavy or compacted like most. I've prepared them without the sauerkraut but found them lacking in taste.

To save time and to improve the flavor, prepare the meat mixture the night before and store, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature before using.

Removing the cabbage leaves is not complicated. I do not subscribe to the practice of placing the head of cabbage in the freezer and then peeling them loose after it has thawed. It creates a "rubbery" leaf that cooks up tough. Simmering the head in boiling water does not take long.

It is important to allow the stuffed cabbage to sit for about 30-60 minutes before serving so they absorb the liquid. It is particularly good as leftovers. And always serve with a dollop of sour cream.

  • 1, 3.5 - 4 lb. head of green cabbage
  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 3/4 cup raw, long-grained rice
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 bunch curly parsley, chopped, leaves only
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons regular table salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2-3 dashes Cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1, 14.5-oz. can sauerkraut, rinsed and squeezed dry (generic brand is fine)*
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups beef stock, canned is fine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1, 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes 
  • You will need a very large pot or Dutch oven. I use an oval, enamel-lined cast iron Dutch
  • oven that measures around 12" x 10" and is 5" deep.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, ground pork, egg, melted butter, garlic, salt, pepper, chopped parsley, Cayenne, smoked paprika and allspice. Mix well. Put a small spoonful on a plate and microwave for 15-30 seconds. Taste for seasonings and readjust if necessary. Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight if possible. Bring to room temperature before stuffing cabbage.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, a pot large enough to hold the entire head of cabbage. Reduce to a simmer. Using a sharp, pointed knife, remove the stem-part of the cabbage by making cuts around and into it. Clean up the inside of the core a bit more so leaves will loosen easier when placed in hot water.

Put the entire head into the simmering water. After a few minutes, the first leaf will loosen easily from the head of cabbage. Using tongs, remove to a large bowl or pan. About every minute or so, another leaf will loosen. Continue removing leaves until they are too small to use as a cabbage roll and just the center of the cabbage remains. Remove and save. When cool, chop it up.

Choose 12-14 of the best cabbage leaves to use for the rolls. Save several leaves that will be placed on top of the finished cabbage rolls. Divide the meat into equal portions.

Using a sharp knife, "filet" the white rib of the cabbage by shaving down the thickness of the rib so it is the same thickness of the cabbage leaf itself.

Form a sausage-like roll and place just above the stem edge of the cabbage. Roll up once to cover. Now fold in each side toward the center and then roll, like a burrito.

Continue rolling cabbage, adjusting meat a bit to accommodate size of leaf. Set aside.

Peel onion and slice into thin rings. Chop the remaining center of the cabbage. Place half of chopped cabbage on bottom of pot. Spread with half the onion. Scatter some of the sauerkraut over that. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper if desired. Now spoon half the crushed tomatoes over cabbage-onion-sauerkraut layer. Place half of your stuffed cabbage rolls on top. Remember, they will expand as the cook because of the rice, so do not pack too tightly. If you have any leftover cabbage leaves, tuck some in-between.

Now add the remaining chopped cabbage, onion, sauerkraut and tomatoes. Add the last layer of cabbage rolls tucking in any leftover cabbage you may have. Add beef and chicken stock. Add about 1 cup water to empty tomato can and swirl to pick up the rest of the tomato pulp and then add to pot. Cover with several cabbage leaves. Cover tightly with lid and bake in a 350-degree oven for one hour.

After one hour, remove and check. Be sure rolls are covered with liquid. If necessary, add a bit more water. Return to oven and cook an additional one hour.

After two hours total cooking time, remove from oven. Lift lid just a crack and allow to rest for 40-60 minutes so cabbage rolls have time to absorb any more liquid. Remove to a serving bowl with remaining juices and cabbage/sauerkraut mixture. Serve with mashed potatoes and, if desired, corn or green beans.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kugelis (Potato Pudding)

Kugelis, or potato pudding, is a traditional Eastern-European dish. It is considered the national dish of Lithuania, a place of origin on my mother's side of the family who settled in Chicago. It is classic, inexpensive peasant food that sustained generations with the simplest ingredients one would easily find in agrarian, rural and poor communities: potatoes, onions, milk. One must imagine that, at one time, the addition of meat must have been a luxury saved for special occasions and holidays. And a sign of moving up in the world.

Recipes are varied. Some call for milk, flour, even Farina and sugar. Most call for bacon--and lots of it including the grease! Most require anywhere from 5-10 pounds of potatoes. After going through many recipes, the one I've come up with below is streamlined for today's smaller portions/families. The "clean" version uses cooked ham and it's the one I actually prefer.

To make it easier to grate potatoes, cut in half or in quarters so they fit comfortably into your hand. Use Russets. Also try to use "older" rather than "fresher" potatoes; older potatoes have more starch and aren't as "wet." You want somewhere between a “grate” and a “shred.” Sorry, your Cuisinart really just won't work. Kugelis should always be served with generous portions of sour cream and/or applesauce.

Leftover Kugelis is wonderful for breakfast. Simply slice and quickly fry in a bit of butter. Great served with fried eggs! It's also a snap to nuke in the microwave to warm it up.

As a child, the appearance of a Kugelis was always a matter of celebration. I hope the same will be true for your own children.

You want about five 'grates' per inch. Note the elongated grate.
The fine grate on a box grater is too small.

  • 2 lbs. older potatoes (about 2 very large) peeled
  • 1 small onion* see below
  • 1-2 small eggs, lightly whisked
  • 1/4 cup (about) evaporated milk*
  • 2-4 tablespoons flour or Farina**
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8-9 oz. bacon (about 8 strips) or 1/3 cup smoked pork jowl. OR for "cleaner" version: 1/2 - 3/4 cup sliced and cut-up cooked ham . If using bacon, add 1/2 cup chopped onion (see directions below)
  • If using ham add the following:
  • 1 teaspoon freshly minced rosemary OR 1/2 teaspoon each of dried, crushed rosemary and dried crushed thyme flakes. For the onion, grate most of it using the large holes of a box grater
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • (Note: fresh herbs are not a part of traditional Kugelis)

Preheat oven to 450 F degrees. Generously butter or spray a one-quart baking dish. It's important for Kugelis to be about 1.5-2 inches in depth, so use an appropriate dish or pan.

If using bacon, cut up into dice. Saute lightly and add 1/2 cup chopped onion until bacon begins to brown and onion is soft. Set aside. If using ham, add the raw, grated onion to the grated potato mix.

Peel potatoes. Grate. Put grated pulp (and onion if using ham) in a sieve over a bowl and jiggle out most of the juice but do not discard it. You should have about 2 cups of grated potato.

After about 5-10 minutes, drain/discard potato juice being careful to keep the white potato starch that has settled to the bottom. Return starch to the grated potato. Mix in. Add the eggs. Stir. Now add the the condensed milk. Add flour or Farina and baking powder. If using bacon, add the bacon-onion mix, including the fat. Mix well. If using ham, add along with herbs, if using, and salt/pepper. Be careful with salt since bacon and ham can be quite salty already, but potatoes do take a lot of salt.

Note that the shredded potatoes, drained, are not swimming in liquid.
Notice the shredded nature of the batter. Do you like the bowl?
It's Mason and Cash.

Pour into greased casserole dish. Pat with the back of a wooden spoon to create a rough-textured surface (this creates a crispier top). Don't be worried if mixture appears too "wet." Bake in a 450 hot oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 30-45 minutes until firm and top is golden. Cut into squares to serve.

*Add a little at a time. You may not need it all, especially is you're adding bacon/onion mixture. You want the batter thick, not soupy.
**Farina is preferred over flour. If using flour, try to use less, not more, or the kugelis will become pasty-like (but it's still good!). 

Note: For either the bacon or ham recipe, you may add 1-3 tablespoons of sour cream to the batter. Some people like their kugelis on the moist side; others on the dry side. I often use a ham steak or a thick slice of deli ham. I don't like it chopped or diced. Instead, I slice it thinly and randomly like one would a slice of ham and then rough-chop it.

Kugelis is a very forgiving recipe. With the addition of ham or bacon and a side salad, it's a meal on its own. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Stove-Top Brownies

Rich, moist and chewy. Did I say loaded with chocolate? And clean-up is a snap because you use only one saucepan. Sometimes I'm bad. Really bad. I cut up gourmet chocolate bars, such as Dove, to use as the chocolate. Bad? Oh, yea! It's called 'Spank My Taste Buds!' Please, don't stop! Just .... one .... more ... with an ice-cold glass of milk!

When I owned an art studio/gallery, I made pans and pans of these brownies for my Christmas Open House. They were always a hit! So was my Refrigerator Fudge. Store both in a tight-fitted tin in the fridge.

  • 2 tablespoons strong coffee, Kahlua, whiskey, brandy or other liqueur of your choice. Or just use water.
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter (not margarine)
  • 1 (11.5 oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate chunks (not morsels) divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • Powdered sugar for decorating

On a piece of waxed paper (why dirty a bowl?), combine the flour and salt. Mix. Set aside until ready to use.

In a saucepan large enough to accomodate all the ingredients, bring the water, granulated sugar and butter just to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Remove from heat and add one cup of the chocolate chunks and stir until melted and smooth. Let cool for at least 15 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, stirring just until blended. Stir in vanilla.

Stir in remaining chocolate chunks and nuts into cooled mixture. Stir flour mixture into chocolate mixture in saucepn. Spread into a lightly greased brownie pan or 8 x 8 in pan.

Bake at 325 degrees from 23-28 minutes. Do not overbake. The surface will puff a bit and be cracked. Cool pan on a wire rack. Do not attempt to cut these until they have cooled completely.

Cut into small squares and dust with powdered sugar.

Note: If not using nuts, add one extra tablespoon flour. Brownies are actually better a bit underbaked than overbaked. I now use a convection oven and set it at around 310-315 F degrees and bake them for 23 minutes. Once cool, I like to refrigerate them.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

No-Bake Cheesecake

A creamy no-bake cheesecake without heavy cream? You betcha!!!

When I grew up, a frozen Sara Lee cheesecake was cause for celebration. And then this recipe surfaced from wherever it is recipes come from . . . and then disappear to . . . (maybe with disappearing socks from the dryer, I just don't know.) Don't limit yourself to a "pie." You can also pour it in a 9 x 13-inch pan for cheesecake squares or, if you have molds, individual cheese cakes. You can also use a spring-form pan. In the summer, I place fresh berries in concentric circles on the top.

  • 1 9-inch graham cracker crust
  • 3 large packages cream cheese at room temperature (don't use a cheap brand)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 packages Dream Whip*

Prepare your crust according to directions. If purchasing a prepared crust, be sure to get one that is "deep dish."

Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and milk. Mixture will be thick. Spread by spoonfuls all over the crust then smooth out. Do not attempt to "dump" it all into crust as it will pull up the crust as you try to spread it.

Prepare Dream Whip according to package directions. Spread over the cheese filling. Sprinkle with additional graham-cracker crumbs. 

Refrigerate until firm. If using fresh berries, be sure they are dry. Can also be served with cherry or blueberry pie filling. For Christmas, place holly around the serving plate with some fresh cranberries.

*Dream Whip can be difficult to find. It is light and low in calories. Feel free to whip up regular whipped cream with a bit of confectioner's sugar (about one tablespoon or so) or you could use Cool Whip.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cranberry-Orange Muffins

These moist muffins are stored in a tin in the refrigerator.

This recipe hails from my oldest sister where it is a staple in their household and a "must do" for their older daughter's birthday. Store them in a wax-paper lined tin to ensure their moistness and to allow the flavors to meld. They are fine on their own, but a shmear of cream cheese ain't bad either! Yes, it takes some time to cut each berry in half, but you really don't want little "bits." You want bites!

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-grated orange zest
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 1/2 bag) cranberries (cut in half)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt and zest.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg, oil, orange juice. Add to dry ingredients. Mix well by hand. Add cranberries and mix until combined.

Spray 12 muffin tins with Pam or equivalent. Fill about 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes. Remove and cool on wire rack. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: around 12

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Clams with Garlic-Herb Butter

Broiled clams on the half-shell with a savory, sprightly herb-butter topping! A great appetizer.

What I like about this recipe is that it does not use two ingredients usually associated with baked clams: bread crumbs and bacon. The first time I made it, I spied one of my guests licking the shell! Yes, it's that good. Use the more tender Little Neck clams and be sure to mince the herbs very, very fine. (I have an old French Mouli vegetable grinder that does a great job.) The entire recipe can all be done a day ahead and refrigerated.

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons, unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Pinch of Cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely-minced, fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon finely-minced, fresh rosemary
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh curly parsley
  • 20 Little Neck clams, scrubbed
  • Ice Cream Salt

  • Optional Garnish:
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Lemon wedges

Chop the garlic. Sprinkle the salt over the garlic and continue to chop it. Now, smash and smear the garlic with the flat side of your knife, pulling towards you, until a paste forms. This is best done with a broad-bladed knife. (Or smash in a mortar and pestle.)

In a small bowl, place the garlic paste, finely-minced thyme and rosemary, 2 1/2 tablespoons minced parsley, butter, pepper and lemon juice. Mash together with a fork.

Line a cookie sheet with the ice cream salt. This will stabilize the clams to prevent them from tipping and losing their valuable juice.

Shuck the clams. Place each clam on the deeper half shell making sure you cut the muscle that cleaves it to the shell. Press about one teaspoon of the flavored butter onto the clam. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Heat the broiler. Broil just until the butter is melted and sizzling and clam is cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. If desired, sprinkle with parsley.

To serve: Put yet more ice cream salt on a large platter and carefully place clams on top. Guests may remove what they want. I generally put about 4-5 on a plate with lemon wedge and a crusty piece of bread.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Roast of Venison

Do you have a hunter in the family? Venison is lean and healthy with a fine grain. But because of its leanness, it requires special cooking. I've made this recipe several times. If you don't tell people it's venison, they'd think is was a beef roast. 

  • 3-4 lb. boneless venison roast, trimmed of fat
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed

Slow Cooker Ingredients:
  • 6 medium carrots, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (do not omit)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water

Put the venison, wine, water and garlic into a large zip lock plastic bag. Squeeze out air and close securely. Place on a shallow plate and refrigerate for 4 days, turning every once-in-a-while.

Drain marinade into a slow cooker. Preheat the broiler and brown the roast on all sides for about 20-30 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker and add carrots, celery, onion, rosemary, cumin and bay leaves. Cook on low for 10 hours or until roast is fork tender.

Remove roast and keep in warm preheated oven--150 F. degrees. 

Transfer liquid from slow cooker to a saucepan and add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Remove bay leaves.

In a small bowl or jar, mix water and cornstarch. Add to saucepan and cook until mixture thickens.

Slice meat and serve with generous amounts of sauce.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

4-Hour Roast Chicken

I'm not the biggest fan of turkey, unless maybe it's deep fried. And if I make a chicken, this is now the only way I do it. It has never failed me. The birds come out juicy and tender with a crisp crust and it makes its own gravy, so be sure to have a bowl of mashed potatoes ready. The spices are great. Sure, you could just purchase a rotisserie chicken from the store, but it won't be half as good. And take it from someone who worked in a deli--do you really know how long those birds were sitting in the cooler before they roasted them.......?

  • 1 chicken, about 4 lbs.
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 medium onion cut into fourths or large chunks
  • Equipment: Heavy Dutch Oven

In a small bowl, mix spices except for rosemary. Set aside the cut-up onion. Rinse chicken inside and out. Pat dry. Rub chicken inside and out with spice mixture. Place onion pieces in cavity and sprinkle the outside of the bird with dried rosemary. Place chicken in re-sealable plastic. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 250 F degrees. Place chicken in heavy dutch oven. I use a cast-iron enamel-lined oval Dutch oven. Pin cavity closed. Tie legs together (optional).

Bake, uncovered, for four hours or until bird reaches minimum temperature of 175 degrees, basting once-in-a-while during last 40 minutes or so. Let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Strain juices to serve as gravy.

Notes:  So, if you have a 3 lb. bird, figure roasting for about 3 hours. Because you're cooking at a lower temperature, I think it very important to take the temp. of the bird before removing from oven. BUT, because you are roasting at a lower temp., your bird won't dry out (did I just really say that?).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cranberry-Ginger Applesauce

The simple addition of fresh cranberries and minced ginger spice up applesauce for a great holiday presentation. Try to use a variety of apples and always include one Yellow Delicious.
  • 4 apples (about 2 lbs.) peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, picked over
  • 1/2  - 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple juice or water, but not more
  • 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 3-inch strip of lemon zest removed with vegetable peeler
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, crystallized ginger
  • 1/16 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a heavy saucepan, cook the apples, cranberries, sugar, apple juice or water, cinnamon stick, lemon and ginger over moderate heat, stirring until apples are soft, 15-25 minutes. Cranberries will have "popped" turning mixture pink.

Remove from heat and discard lemon zest and cinnamon stick. Place in food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste. Add butter and vanilla. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. Place in bowl and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve warm or cold. Refrigerate leftovers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes should have a bit of "structure" to them.
They should be "mashed" and not whipped or soupy.

Mashed potatoes don't have be boring and are easily flavored with a bit of dried onion and fresh garlic. I do not like “whipped” potatoes and will save that glop for my death-bed meal along with jarred applesauce that I sip through a straw.

  • 2 large Idaho potatoes, about 2 lbs.
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup milk or Half-and-Half or cream or any combo at room temperature or slightly nuked
  • 6 T. Butter
  • Salt and pepper

(Easily serves 4)
Peel potatoes. I no longer cut into "chunks" or fourths because they cook unevenly. Slice into 3/4-inch rounds, that way they are all uniform and cook evenly and faster.

Place in a medium pan of water and drain and then rinse. Fill pan with enough water to cover the potatoes by about an inch of water. Add the dried onion flakes and a few slices of the garlic clove depending on taste. A little goes a long way. Cover, bring to a boil and then lower heat a bit. Cook for about 10-15 minutes or until a fork easily pierces them. Remove from heat, reduce burner to low.

Using the pan lid to hold the potatoes in, drain in a sink. Don’t worry if some of the dried onion and garlic escape; the potatoes have already absorbed their flavor. 

Place the pan back on the range to allow any water/moisture to dry up. Using a fork stir potatoes around a bit to begin breaking up.

You have several options to "mash" your potatoes. A ricer is the best. If you don't have that, use a simple potato masher. If you don't have that, use a pastry blender or wire whisk. I now usually use a wire pastry blender. Electric beaters can cause potatoes be become "gluey."

A pastry blender is a great way to mash potatoes!
Remove pan from heat. Add butter—several tablespoons, and begin mashing. Add warm milk or cream—a little at a time, whisking/mashing as you go, until you get a desired “mash" and thickness. 

Potatoes take a lot of salt, so use a good one, such as Kosher salt or a nice sea salt. Add freshly-ground pepper and even more butter. If desired, add some chopped, fresh parsley or chopped green onions.

Green onions take mashed potatoes to a higher level.

If you are not going to serve them at once, place in a buttered casserole dish. Dot with butter. Cover. To re-heat, place in a 350 degree oven until heated through and butter is melted.

Dive in!!!