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Posts from — August 2009

sunday roast and birthday wishes


This recipe was last night’s dinner, served with sides of roasted garlic mashed potatoes and blanched asparagus and green beans (leftover crudites from the NCL Saturday class) that were heated and dressed with the same Garlic Parmesan Crema used to season the roast.  Most Sundays my dad comes over and we play cards (Spades, Hearts, Gin Rummy, and/or Pinochle before dinner, and the meals are usually standard meat/potatoes.  But honestly, you can’t beat an inexpensive beef roast on the weekend. Today is my dear friend’s, Larry Fitzgerald, birthday – he is a mere 26 years old today.  We’ve been in the kitchen together since he was 22 and he is an excellent cook and an amazing person.  Happy Birthday, Fitz!

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August 31, 2009   2 Comments

Sheila Lukins and must have cookbooks


I am saddened by news of the passing of Sheila Lukins on Sunday, August 30, 2009.  That last time I saw Shelia was when she came to teach at Les Gourmettes Cooking School and promote her newest cookbook, Ten, in December, 2008.  She was a dynamo and she will be sadly missed.  Shelia’s most famous cookbook and still one of the best cookbooks 25 years later is The Silver Palate Cookbook she co-wrote with Julee Rosso.  It came out in 1979, the same year I graduated from high school, and it was one of the first cookbooks I owned.  A couple of my favorite recipes from it were, and still are, Strawberry Chocolate Tart and Tarragon Chicken Salad (recipe below).  I love that book to this day and it reminds me that I wanted to put up my list of cookbooks you should own… please post comments about cookbooks that are on your “must have” list!
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August 30, 2009   2 Comments

crème brûlée

Jam and Raspberry covered cups ready for custard

Jam and Raspberry covered cups ready for custard

This afternoon I taught a cooking class for 25 fifteen-year-old young ladies who belong to NCL, National Charity League. NCL is a wonderful organization that my daughter, Marissa, and I belonged to when she was in high school. It brings mothers and daughters together in philanthropic and cultural activities. For dessert I made a super-quick and amazingly easy version of crème brûlée.  Since I made more than 30 servings, the photos are not exactly consistent – different ramekin shapes and different baking pans are pictured, so please overlook that.
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August 29, 2009   2 Comments

Julia Child


Julia Child and Linda - April, 2000

Instead of a recipe – today I’m posting a very special picture, special to me anyhow. It was taken at the 2000 International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Conference.
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August 28, 2009   4 Comments

pomegranate molasses


This is one of my favorite recipes of all time. I have served it as an appetizer (using leg of lamb cubes for little kebabs) and as a main course, as here with lamb chops, to literally hundreds of people and there has never been even one person who didn’t love it.

People who had given up on lamb saying that they found it too “gamey” ask for the recipe! The pomegranate juice truly transforms the lamb into the most delicious meat imaginable.

Pomegranate molasses can be found bottled in many Middle East markets, but it could not be easier to make yourself. You can see the 3 ingredients in the photo above.

A couple items in the photo may look strange – allow me to explain. You ask, “What are those black sticks in your sugar jar?”

Answer: They are dried vanilla beans. You see, every time a recipe calls for a fresh vanilla bean, let’s say crème brûlée… once I’ve finished with the bean, I dry it off, and stick it in my sugar jar. The sugar takes on a hint of vanilla flavor, a bonus for just about any recipe calling for sugar.

Next question – “What is that stuff floating in the measuring cup holding the Pom juice?”

Answer: Frozen lemon juice. Living in Scottsdale, we have an abundance of citrus trees and in December – February, that citrus is coming out of our ears. My one and only lemon tree produced a plethora a lemons this year. I was zesting and juicing lemons daily for months plus giving away boxes upon boxes of citrus. It was a huge pain then, but of course I am grateful and happy now with all the zip-locks bulging from my freezer.

To freeze the juice, I fill standard size muffin tins to nearly the top (each muffin cup holds 1/4 cup of juice) and freeze the tins uncovered overnight. Next day, label a gallon size zip-lock freezer bag with the date and “1/4 cup lemon juice each.” Then pop out the frozen “juice muffins” and immediately get them into the labeled zip-locks and back into the freezer. They will keep for about 1 year, just in time to start the process over again.

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August 27, 2009   3 Comments

france & nutella

Ingredients to make Banana-Nutella-Granola Cookies!

Ingredients to make Banana-Nutella-Granola Cookies!

If you have been to Paris, then you have probably had a Nutella crepe and possibly of Banana-Nutella crepe.  And when you arrived home after your amazing vacation you most likely went to the store, got yourself a little jar of Nutella and came home and made yourself some crepes!  I know that after every trip I make to Paris, one of the first things I want to make are crepes, it keeps the illusion that you haven’t left the City of Light alive in your heart.  It’s been a year and 3 months since I was last there – when Dave, Connor, and I went over to join Marissa for a wonderful 2-week vacation.  Needless to say, we had to bring her home, kicking and screaming, after her magical “semester abroad!”   Plus my mentor and dear friend, Barbara Pool Fenzl, owner of Les Gourmettes Cooking School, just left this very day for France, so in her honor, I made not crepes – since there is no one here to eat them with me :(   But instead cookies.  As we all know,  you can freeze cookies and share with loved ones when the come home to visit from college!

NOTE: In the “ingredients” photo at the top, you’ll notice that the bananas are quite brown.  This is because once bananas become ripe on my counter, and I don’t have the time to bake, I place them in either the refrigerator or the freezer. Either option turns the skins brown as brown can be.  If refrigerated, use within a few days and if frozen, best within a few weeks.

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August 26, 2009   8 Comments

fajita sandwiches


I promised myself that I would post before 10PM today, and it’s a promise I am keeping! I need the sleep! I have been obsessed, which is what happens when I get into something new. If I love a book, I don’t put it down until it’s finished. Example- a few summers ago, when the 5th Harry Potter book was released on a Friday morning, I bought two copies (well, we always bought 2 copies, one for each of my kids’ libraries). One copy went with Dave and the kids on a plane that afternoon back to Illinois to see his family. The other was with me, in bed, which I read straight through, no eating, no sleeping, no anything (except toilet-breaks!) until the book was finished. Mind you this is an 800+ page book. Then on Saturday morning, when I’d finished it, I got dressed and shopped for that next weeks’ classes, came home and went to bed until the next morning. But that’s how it is and that’s how it’s been with these posts too. I’m going to have to get on a more day-light schedule! Most of today’s daylight has been spent putting up links to sites I wanted to share with you. Most are cooking sites or blogs, and some of the others are friends’ sites. Then there are sites that are just filled with lovely and artistic photos, many Paris inspired!


photo from The Paris Apartment

Like this gorgeous photo (I have died and gone to heaven!) from The Paris Apartment! So check them out and enjoy! The following recipe was partially inspired by a sandwich I had this summer in California.  It was with grilled chicken and had a tasty and unique corn-onion mayonnaise. I haven’t been able to get that mayo out of my mind since.  I picked up skirt steak with the intention of making fajitas, but then found in the newly arrived Sept issue of of Bon Appetit a sandwich recipe using…Grilled Corn Mayonnaise! Funny how things like this show up in different places around the same time… so now here is my version…

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August 25, 2009   2 Comments

today – only leftovers


I’m wondering how long this new feeling I’m experiencing will last? “What feeling?” you ask – Guilt, that’s what! It’s 11:15 PM and although I’ve worked diligently on the blog off and on all day (setting up links and learning new things- thanks, as always, to Cyndi) I have yet to post anything for the day. I don’t bother much with the emotion of guilt, I don’t find it to be very productive, so this is new feeling for me! Honestly, I really am having a great time and am so excited about my 9-day old blog and in fact my horoscope – I’m a Scorpio – has been crazy dead on. Today’s for example:

“You’re feeling wonderful. Exhilarated, excited and anxious for all new things to happen. Well here’s a newsflash: just thinking about change – the way you are – means it’s already started. Everything begins as a thought – as an idea – right? So now your only job is to get the show on the road with some action. Map out a battle plan on paper and get it started.”

WOW! Anyhow besides slaving away on the “inner workings” of this site, I was also messing with my cable/TiVo connection for a larger part of the morning… sometimes all this techno stuff just really ticks me off. After doing back-bends, restarts, consulting TiVo.com, and finally having to call them twice, it all came down to unplugging it all (TV, TiVo box, cable box, and VCR) waiting 10 seconds and plugging it all back in so it could all reboot and be happy again. That’s all it took! And honestly, that is what I usually think of first, WTH?!

The day wasn’t a total loss though, because I enjoyed a wonderful “end of the summer ladies-who-lunch” date at Lon’s with Barbara Fenzl and Kim Howard, my “Cooking Partners in Crime.”  So hurray to that! Anyhow, since we only had leftover salmon, peppers, and pesto available for dinner, I will just have to put up a cocktail recipe for today!

My BFFs, Peggy and Anne, and I discovered this great drink at Ocean Prime Restaurant back in the late summer of ’08, on a girl’s night out. I served it at a Christmas party in mid-December and then in January I shared it with my other BFFs, Jen and Jeff – who live in Illinois. We hadn’t had it again until this month, twice now! First with Peggy and Anne a couple weeks ago and then again last night with the Froggatt’s at our Basil & Bay dinner. I know it sounds like a strange combo, but after serving it to more than about 3 dozen different people, I haven’t found one person who does not absolutely love it- so don’t knock it till you try it!

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August 24, 2009   3 Comments

basil & bay


Dinner has been decided upon for this lovely Sunday evening. It’s only supposed to get up to 99 degrees today!  It was not decided by me, but instead by my garden.  I went out this morning, while it was only 84 degrees, and noticed that if I didn’t do something about the luscious basil going wild and the very tall bay laurel tree in my garden that they would take it over.

I’m thinking about an appetizer of flatbread with basil in the dough, with a basil oil and roasted tomatoes with – wait for it… basil pesto!  And maybe salmon grilled on top of the bay leaves and lemon slices and also some Yukon gold potatoes braised in stock and more bay leaves.

I’ve had crème brûlée scented with fresh bay leaves before and although it was delicious, I really don’t want to stand over the hot stove in the summer “stirring constantly” (two of my least favorite words!) a steaming custard.  After painting that little picture for myself, the crème brûlée is definitely OUT!  So something else maybe with the bay leaves for dessert – any thoughts out there?  I am off to the movies….

……I am thankful no one came up with any dessert ideas because I was actually too busy to even think about dessert today! Dave and I saw Inglorious Basterds early this afternoon and LOVED it!  This from a girl who has to put her hands over her eyes during the icky parts!  And there were plenty of icky parts, but I still want to go back and see it again!   I’m not a huge Quentin Tarantino fan, I liked Kill Bill(s) and Pulp Fiction but this movie was just so cool, and Brad Pitt… love him even more than before, if that is possible.  What about Christoph Waltz?  If he isn’t nominated for an Oscar, there is something wrong in the movie biz!   Enough about that, this is a “cooking/food blog” so on to the rest of the that part of the day…

After the movie and a Costco run, I arrived home at about 3:00 and began making the Grand Basil-Bay Dinner.  Good friends, Chris and Kathy Froggatt, were to arrive at 6:00, with nice wines in hand!  It was a great evening with good friends.  They recounted their wonderful vacation-cruise to Monaco, Italy, and Greece (ready to go tomorrow after hearing about it all!)

Amidst all the catching up and garden touring, I totally burned (we’ll call it charred!) the flatbread while grilling it.  But we enjoyed it anyway because the Bay Leaf Roasted Tomatoes that topped it were still tasty and the Baileyana Chardonnay  that Chris brought somehow washed away all thoughts of those nasty carcinogens we were ingesting.

Dinner itself went off much better.  We had a fabulous Chasseur Pinot Noir from Sonoma and the bay laurel flavors present in the fish and potatoes were truly sublime. Kathy is not a salmon fan, so I did a “personal-size” piece of halibut for her.  I think the individual size is a really nice presentation for a more formal dinner.  A bit more work to individually wrap each piece of fish, but it’ll cook faster and it does look fancy!

One last note about the salmon.  It is drizzled with olive oil, and any fruity olive oil will do, but I adore our own local Queen Creek Olive Mill Meyer Lemon Olive Oil. It is available locally at A.J.’s or can be ordered online HERE.

And if you are a neighbor or live close enough to drop by, just give me a call if you want to make any of the dishes with the fresh bay leaves.  You can have all you’ll need, free for the taking.  The salmon recipe uses way too many leaves to purchase at the store in those tiny herb packages, when you can actually find it.  So don’t be shy, the bay tree grows better when it is pruned, so you’ll be doing me a favor… really!

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August 23, 2009   7 Comments

loving my new site… and pork chops


I woke up this morning and just can’t believe all the work “The Amazing” Cyndi has done on my site!  It is already looking more wonderful than I could have imagined!  Thank you, dear friend!

Marissa went back to Tucson yesterday, so on Thursday night we had a quick and easy dinner consisting of Stuffed Pork Chops, Parmesan Asparagus, and Caprese Salad.  The thing I really love about this pork chop recipe is that it is so quick and versatile.  I keep boneless chops and some sort of sausage in my freezer at all times.  If it’s not hot Italian sausage, then it’s the sweet variety or chorizo.  Onions and garlic are always on hand.  And if I don’t have fennel, then celery or carrots are great substitutes.  No fresh rosemary?  No problem, use dried, just use half as much, as the dried herbs about twice as potent as fresh …as long as it hasn’t been in your cupboard for the last dozen years!

Dried spices and herbs do not spoil, but they do lose their strength.  A lot of cookbook writers and chefs tell you to purge your pantry once an herb or spice is about 6 months old. But the spice companies, including McCormick and Penzeys say differently. They tell you to keep and use the spices as long as they appear to have flavor.  And hey, they are the ones that would be raking in even more big bucks if we followed those writers and chefs, so I go along with them!  It certainly helps if you store them correctly though.  Store in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place.  And most of us are guilty of storing them too close to the oven or stovetop… that is not a “cool” place!  Spices retain their potency longer than you’d think — as long as 4 years for whole spices, 2 to 3 years for ground spices, and 1 to 3 years for herbs.  Whole spices such as peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cumin, and cardamon hold their flavor for many years. Whenever possible, whole spices are they way to go, and toasting those spices in a dry skillet will bring out the oils and therefore bring out even more and better flavor.  Invest $20 or so in an extra electric coffee grinder, dedicated just for spices, cause “cumin flavored coffee” – eeww!.  Don’t want the flavor of peppercorns in with your cinnamon?  In between spices, “clean” the grinder by grinding either dry white rice or a slice of fresh bread, then just toss out the rice/bread. Either one will take away the flavor of the previous spice.

Herbs lose their flavor faster than spices. Dried herbs that have no color and no or very little smell when crumbled in the palm of your hand are not going to do your dish any favors, but if they still have fragrance when crumbled in your hand, use them, taste the dish and add more, if needed. For a list of herbs and spices you should have on hand, go to Pantry Stocking on the “Tips” page or to the July 9, 2009 post.

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August 22, 2009   4 Comments