Saturday, April 30, 2011

It's in the Bag!

WOW!  Isn't this some great looking produce?  We had so much fun at the Farmers' Market Bag class last night, and this was our produce.  Look at those tangelos!  Like softballs!  Baby beets, and tender beet greens, and gem lettuce which I think is now my all time favorite!  Thanks to the gang at Specialty Produce for putting together another amazing bag and to the staff at Great News for doing what they do so well---awesome!

 So, if you weren't there, and did get a bag, here are a few recipes to use with this week's FMB.... 
Bon Appetit. 

Warm Lemon Sauce
Makes 3 cups
This zesty sauce is delicious over vanilla ice cream, or as a sauce for bread pudding, over cake, or panna cotta. 
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, or more to your taste
Grated zest of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1. In a 2-quart saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, water, and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil and continue boiling until the mixture becomes clear. 
2. Remove from the heat, whisk in the zest and butter, and continue whisking until the butter melts. Taste and add more lemon juice if desired.
Do-Ahead: At this point, you can let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Rewarm over low heat before using.

Old Fashioned Summer Squash Casserole
Serves 8
This yummy casserole is terrific to serve with grilled entrees.  
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 drops Tabasco
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups sharp white cheddar cheese (see note)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat the inside of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter and saute the shallot, garlic and squash, until the squash  
  3. begins to soften, about 4 minutes.  
  4. Stir in the flour, and cook the flour for 3 minutes.  
  5. Stir in the broth and bring back to a boil.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream, salt and Tabasco.  Turn the mixture into the baking dish. 
  6. In a small bowl, combine the crumbs and cheese, and sprinkle evenly over the casserole.  Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until the casserole is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown.
  7. If you would like to use a different cheese, Parmigiano, Gruyere, or Provolone all work well here.    

 Tarragon Mustard Dressing
Makes about 3 cups
this dressing is delicious on potato or pasta salad, or green salads.  It is also a great marinade for chicken or seafood.
1 cup olive oil
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a medium-size bowl, whisk together all the ingredients until thickened.  
Do-Ahead: At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. 


If you haven't seen me here, it's because I've been working on a book deadline for Monday...I finished the book yesterday and will now obsess over it this weekend before turning it in on Monday.  I'll be back next week...Dr. C. and I are getting ready for a month in Italy, so I'll have lots to fill you in on next week.  Enjoy your weekend. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Loser of the Week Award---Seat 6B-UAL #7016

If you recognize this person, tell him that he wins the prize; after being told to turn off his Blackberry by the flight attendant several times, and to turn off his IPAD, he continued to use the Blackberry and the IPAD receiving and sending e-mails during the 2 hour flight from White Plains to Chicago. 
I know some people feel that rules are made to be broken, but this was ridiculous---what could be that important that you couldn't turn off your smart phone for 2 hours?  NOTHING. 
Tomorrow I'll be back with more food adventures, but tonight, if you post this to your Facebook page, we can all celebrate the loser of the week. 
And, yes, I took this photo after we had landed in Chicago, and it was legal to turn on my Blackberry.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Bunny Cake

With Easter just 36 hours away, it's time to get those cake pans buttered and floured, and fire up your mixer to make the Bunny Cake.  When I suggested that we make one for Easter this year at our daughters' house, I got a few moans and then Eric said HE wanted the bunny cake!  This technique isn't rocket science, you can make your favorite cake and then cut the layers to make the bunny.  This year, I thought I'd share the recipe for the best carrot cake on the planet.  It's filled with nuts, and coconut, and carrots, and pineapple chunks, and gets better if it is made a day or two ahead.  The secret to not smearing the frosting is to chill the layers before frosting them, that way, the frosting will adhere to the cake layers, and not smear crumbs everywhere.

The Best Carrot Cake On the Planet
Makes One 13-by-9-inch or two 9-inch layers

1 1/2 cups canola oil
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups grated carrots
One 8-ounce can crushed pineapple (do not drain)
1/2 cup chopped nuts of your choice
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

1.      Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking pan OR two 9-inch baking pans with nonstick cooking spray.
2.      In a large bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. 
3.      Add the carrots, pineapple, juice, nuts, and coconut stirring until blended. 
4.      Add the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon and stir to combine.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes for the 13-by-9-inch, and 30 to 40 minutes for the layers. 
5.      Place the pan on a rack and let cool completely. Spread the top of the cake with the cream cheese frosting.
6.      Do-Ahead: At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 2 months.
Cook’s Note:  The food processor will make short work of grating the carrots, but some grocers carry already grated carrots.  These are a little drier than freshly grated carrots, so if you’re using them, add an extra 1/2 cup to the batter to make up for the lack of moisture. 

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 6 cups, enough to frost two 9-inch layers, one 13 x 9-inch cake, or 48 cupcakes

One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine
5 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract or 1/2 teaspoon orange oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Milk, as needed to thin the frosting

1.      Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter in a medium-size bowl.
2.      Add the confectioners’ sugar and extracts and beat until the mixture is of spreadable consistency.  If the frosting is too thick, beat in some milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
3.      Do-Ahead: At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months. I recommend you soften it at room temperature after it’s been refrigerated, so it’s easy to spread.

To Assemble the Bunny Cake      

  1. Bake the carrot cake in two 9-inch round pans.  When the rounds are cooled completely cut the sides of one cake into two tapered ovals to resemble rabbit ears, leaving the center to look like a bow tie.  
  2.  Arrange the other circle in the center of an 18-by-15-inch cardboard rectangle.  Place the two ovals on either side of the whole cake circle, and arrange the bow tie underneath the circle. 
  3. Frost the tops and sides of the cake.   
  4. Arrange licorice whips for whiskers, and jelly beans for eyes and nose in the center circle. 
  5. Tint 1 cup of coconut with 2 drops of green food coloringand sprinkle the coconut over the bow tie and sprinkle with a few jelly beans to look like polka dots.  
  6.  Tint 1 cup of coconut with 1 drop of red food coloring and sprinkle the coconut inside the “ears” of the rabbit.   
  7. Sprinkle the rest of the untinted coconut over the rabbit’s face.  If you aren’t serving the cake immediately, cover with plastic wrap for up to 24 hours. 

I hope your weekend is filled with fun activities and that you enjoy this holiday weekend.  I'll be back on Monday with some photos from our weekend with the family, until then, celebrate each moment!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What's on the Side?

Sometimes what's on the side is more important to me than the main course, and that is true of an Easter dinner.  There should be asparagus

some kind of potato (sweet potatoes are fine, too) and there should be some corn


or other kid-friendly veg to help make eating those ubiquitous Brussels sprouts easier.  I love brussel sprouts, but I only like them sauteed with bacon, guanciale, or pancetta, some garlic and shallot, they caramelize in the pan and become sweet.

  You can also roast them in the oven like asparagus.  

Today I'm sharing three recipes since I'll be flying East tomorrow with Dr. C. and meeting our son in ORD and then flying to Connecticut to spend Easter with our daughter and her family.  If I post tomorrow it will only be due to a delay, which I'm praying doesn't happen, I want to be there, and snuggle with our granddaughter.  All of these dishes can be made ahead, and then refrigerated, and in some cases frozen before serving.  

Gulliver's Corn
Serves 8

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese        
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Two 16-ounce bags frozen white corn, defrosted
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1. Brush a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with some of the butter.  Sprinkle 1/3 cup of the Parmesan over the bottom of the dish and tilt so the cheese is evenly distributed and adheres to the butter. 
2. In a 4-quart saucepan, heat the cream until it begins to boil.  Add the corn, salt, and sugar, and heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is almost at a boil   
3. In the meantime, make a paste out of the remaining melted butter and the flour. Stir it into the mixture in the saucepan and cook until thickened and the liquid does come to a boil.  Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the mixture to the prepared dish, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup of cheese. 
Do-Ahead: At this point, you can let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature before continuing.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the corn dish until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Cook's Note:  If you would prefer to skip the cream, try whole milk; it’s not as luxurious, but it does the job.
 Another Cook's Note:  Remember that it takes 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight to defrost, so start early and get those frozen casseroles into the fridge to defrost a few days early.

Honey Thyme Carrots
Serves 8
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 1/2 pounds baby carrots
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. In a 12-inch skillet, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the shallots and carrots and cook, stirring, until the shallots begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the honey and thyme and stir until the honey has coated the vegetables.  Gradually add the broth and simmer, uncovered, until evaporated by half, about 5 minutes. 
2. Stir in the heavy cream and reduce the sauce by about half, another 10 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
Do-Ahead: At this point, you can let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Reheat over medium heat, being careful not to burn the carrots, or microwave on 50 percent power for 5 to 6 minutes, until heated through.

Carrie's Pan Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Guanciale
Serves 6 to 8
 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound guanciale, finely diced (see note)
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1 pound Brussels sprouts, tough outer leaves cut, and the Brussels sprouts cut into quarters
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper

In a large skillet, over medium high heat, heat the oil and cook the guanciale until it is crispy.  Add the shallot, and cook 2 to 3 mintues until softened.  Add the Brussels sprouts to the skillet, pour in the broth, cover and cook for 5 minutes, uncover and saute over high heat for 10 minutes stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are tender.  Season with salt or pepper if needed. 
Note:  Guanciale is cured pork jowl and you can find it in Italian markets; if it is not available pancetta, or prosciutto, or thick cut bacon will work here.  If you are using a leaner bacon, add more oil to the sprouts when they are sauteed for the last 10 minutes. 

I hope you all have a great day, on Friday I'll post the recipe for a dynamite dessert---the Bunny Cake, which can be made with any type 9-inch round cakes, but I'll feature carrot cake (why not?) for that recipe and I have the best darned carrot cake on the planet, filled with lots of goodies, and topped with an orange cream cheese frosting.  
 P.S. give yourself permission to order some things in if you are pressed for time; rolls, and baked goods can be bought from your favorite bakery, a veggie tray can be ordered, just make your own dip, and if you must you can order a whole dinner from Whole Foods .

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

And in this corner............

With Passover and Easter coming up, one can't help but have a few jitters; there is the family anxiety and there is the food anxiety.  Will Uncle Fester show up and fall asleep in the soup, or Auntie Grace bring that detestable puce colored jello mold and expect you to eat every bit on your's all in store for many of us, as we invite family to celebrate a holiday.  Sometimes holiday dinners may look like this....

Rather than this.....
As I tell my students, I can help you with the food anxiety, but you will need medication and therapy to help with the family anxiety.  Just think of it this way, you only see these people a few times a year; take the time to enjoy the moment, we never know what the future will bring.

As I said yesterday, I wanted to share a few do-ahead recipes for you to try this Easter---they are tested, and work every time, so I'm confident that your holiday meal will be a great one.  If you are celebrating Passover, this is a dynamite brisket recipe, serve it with rice, or noodles to soak up the sauce.

Braised Brisket with Dried Fruits
 Serves 8
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup Dijon mustard
\¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
One 3 to 4-pound beef (first cut or flat cut) brisket, trimmed of as much fat as possible
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large sweet yellow onions sliced thinly
2 teaspoons dried thyme
½ cup red wine
½ cup beef broth
1 cup dried figs, cut in half
½ cup dried plums cut in half
½ cup dried apricots, cut in half
2 tablespoons cornstarch
  1. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, mustard, and brown sugar.   
  2. Pat the mixture onto the brisket. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat, and brown the brisket on each side.   
  3. Remove the brisket from the pan and add the onions and thyme sautéing for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are softened. 
  4. Deglaze the pan with the wine and broth, swirling the pan and bringing the liquid to a boil.   
  5. Pour the mixture into the slow cooker insert, top with the dried fruits and the brisket.  Cover the insert and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours, until the meat is fork tender.
  6. Remove the brisket and fruits from the insert, cover with and pour the liquid into a saucepan or saucier.   
  7. Remove any excess fat from the top of the sauce.   
  8. Bring the liquid to a boil, and add the cornstarch, stirring until it returns to a boil.  Taste the sauce for seasoning and correct with salt and pepper if necessary.  
  9. Remove any fat from the brisket, and slice the brisket thinly against the grain.  Serve the brisket surrounded with the fruit and napped with some of the sauce, serving additional sauce on the side. 

 I'll be back with some more ideas tomorrow, until then enjoy your evening. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Who's Your Bunny?

Easter is this Sunday, and even if it's not your holiday, you can't help but be surrounded by the signs of spring; daffodils, crocus,

a plethora of hams

 and leg of lamb in the grocery store.


 and strawberries, are all signs of spring, and the reawakening that comes at this time of year. 


To say the weather in the US has been crazy would be an understatement, it's been downright bizarre, so spring in some places may not even come, we may go straight to summer!  That said, all this week I'm going to try and give you some great recipes for a spring dinner, that will be perfect for Easter or any other Sunday supper. 

Today we'll begin with a potato gratin; the French version of scalloped potatoes, only cheesier.  I'm positive that there are a billion of similar casseroles on Easter tables and many of them aren't cooked all the way through, or taste lackluster.  I've got the perfect recipe, and it's all do-ahead, so you can make these a few days ahead and keep them in the fridge you are ready to bake them. Since leeks are coming in now, they are perfect in this gratin, but you can leave them out if you have some diners that don't prefer onions.  Choosing different cheeses, adding leftover ham for another meal, or a layer of caramelized onions can all be done in this recipe.  This recipe calls for heavy cream and milk; don't substitute for either one, the sauce will separate and you will have a proper mess on your hands.  
Springtime Potato Gratin
Serves 8

2 leeks, thinly sliced, using the white and tender green parts
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese (1/2 pound)
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano  

1.     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.     Coat the inside of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
5.     In a large skillet, over medium high heat, melt the butter in the olive oil and saute the leeks for 5 minutes, until tender.
6.     Add the cream and milk to the skillet, and add the  potatoes, salt and Tabasco.   Simmer the potato mixture until the potatoes are tender, about 6 minutes. 
7.     Transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the cheeses evenly over the top of the potatoes. 
8.     Bake the gratin covered with aluminum foil for 20 minutes, remove the foil and cook another 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown.  Allow the gratin to rest for 10 minutes before serving. 
Cooks' Note:  Choose a low starch potato for this dish; no russets or baking potatoes, but reds, white creamers and Yukon golds will all work beautifully here.  
Peel the potatoes if the skins aren't beautiful; or if they have a green tinge on them.  Peel off all the greenish area before using the potatoes.  

Mint Pesto Crusted Racks of Lamb with Cucumber Mint Salsa
Serves 8
1 cup packed mint leaves
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or white vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
6 to 7 leaves fresh oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
Four 1-pound racks of lamb, trimmed 
  1.  In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the mint, garlic, vinegar, oil, oregano, cayenne and salt, processing until smooth.  
  2. Do-Ahead:  the pesto can be frozen for up to 2 months.  Defrost before proceeding.
  3. Make ½-inch slits all over the racks, and transfer to a zipper top plastic bag.                   
  4.  Pour the pesto sauce over the racks, and turn to coat.  Seal the bag and refrigerate for 12 hours, and up to 24 hours. 
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
    Remove the racks from the bag (no need to pat dry) and place in a roasting pan, fat side up.   
    Roast the lamb for about 25 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 140.  
  6. Remove from the oven and allow the roast to rest for 10 minutes before carving.  Serve with cucumber mint salsa.  
  7. Do-Ahead:  If you would like to roast the racks ahead of time, roast them to 125 degrees and remove them from the oven.  Allow to cool to room temperature and then wrap in foil or zipper top plastic bags.  Refrigerate for up to 2 days.  One hour before serving, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and place the racks in a baking dish for 30 minutes to come to room temperature.  Bake the racks for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are heated through. 
    Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before carving. 

 Cucumber Mint Salsa
Makes about 2 cups

1 European cucumber, cut into ½-inch dice
2 green onions, chopped, using some of the green part
½ cup packed mint, finely chopped
1 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch cayenne
  1. In a small glass bowl, stir together the cucumber, onion, mint, vinegar, oil, parsley, salt, sugar, and  cayenne.  
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.  Toss again, and serve cold.

I'll be back tomorrow with a few ideas for veggies and dessert; I hope this day brings you joy.

Just FYI, these are Julia Child roses, for more information on these gems, click here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Signs of Spring

I arrived back in San Diego on Monday and since then I've been too busy to think; we started demo on our third bathroom today, and Friday I'm teaching at Great News.....I finally waded through all the mail--1,234 catalogs and a few bills....does anyone write handwritten notes anymore??

While I was on the East Coast I realized that spring is coming to the DC and Pennsylvania area, and the transformation by Easter will be amazing.  These photos were taken near Rock Creek Park in DC.

The misty green is just starting to come through on the's been a long and hard winter.

I left DC for Carlisle, PA after seeing my Aunt Ele, who is 94 years old and going strong...I'm so fortunate to have the opportunity to visit with her when I'm on the road.

During the few days that I was in Pennsylvania, I was fascinated by this heron that was wading in the creek behind The Kitchen Shoppe.

Scared him off, but he was back the next day.

My yard is a riot of color compared to these photos, but it needs a bit of TLC before I start snapping photos!  Speaking of riots of color, here's the cover for my next book, due out this fall...I can't wait to get back on the road and teach students the joys of pressure cooking!