Monthly Archives: June 2009

Lamb Chops and Pesto Orecchiette

My friend Joe at work is always raving about the orecchiette at Lupa. I decided that I was craving it too and decided to serve it with the delicious lamb chops I got on sale at Fresh Direct.

Lamb chops:
2 lbs 1 ½-inch thick lamb loin chops
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup white wine

Preheat an over to 325 degrees. Heat a skillet with a metal handle on medium high heat and add the olive oil. Season the lamb chops with the salt and pepper, garlic powder and thyme. Brown the lamb chops on one side, flip them over, insert a thermometer into one of the chops and place the pan in the oven until the meat is medium rare. Remove the lamb chops from the pan and set aside to rest. Place the pan back on the heat, add the white wine and deglaze the pan until the white is reduced by half.

Pesto Orecchiette:
1 large bunch of basil leaves
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 lb box of orecchiette

Place the basil leaves, garlic powder, cheese, and pine nuts in a blender. Turn the blender on and stream in olive oil until it all forms a paste but is not too liquidly from too much oil. Taste it and add salt and pepper if needed.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the orecchiette according to package directions. Once cooked, drain the excess water and toss in the pesto sauce.


Caramel Chocolate Shortbread

I’m pretty much obsessed with caramel. I wanted to create a new way to eat it. When I made this I over cooked the caramel and it turned out to be super thick. If this happens to you, add some more cream to the mixture before it is cooled to keep it from becoming a tooth breaking toffee.

1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, using a fork, mix all ingredients until the butter is fully incorporated. Press into the bottom of a 8-inch square pan. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until it turns light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

1 cup sugar
1 cup cream
½ teaspoon salt

Heat the sugar, in a heavy bottom saucepan on medium heat. As the sugar starts to liquefy, swirl the pan to mix in the un-melted sugar. Once the sugar is a golden brown, add the cream. The mixture may boil and pop so be careful. Add the salt and stir with a wooden spoon until the caramel gets a tad bit thicker. Pour caramel over the shortbread and cool.

½ lb dark chocolate

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and put into a metal bowl. Heat a saucepan filled half way with water on medium heat. Place the metal bowl over the pan and mix the chocolate with a rubber spatula until it is just melted. Pour over the cooled caramel layer and refrigerate the cookies until they are cooled. Cut into squares and serve.

Raspberry Mousse Chocolate Cake

In preparation for my move, I need to eat everything out of my freezer. I always keep an emergency bag of frozen raspberries as they can be turned into an amazing fast dessert. They made a great filling for a rich chocolate cake. I brought this to work and make everyone’s day.

Chocolate Cake:
3/8 cup cocoa
21cups flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
3/8teaspoon salt
1 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter flavored shortening
1 extra large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

Grease 4 4-inch spring form pans. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the shortening, egg, milk and vanilla and turn the mixer on low. Once the flour is combined turn the mixer on high and beat for at least 5 minutes so that the batter gets fluffy.

Pour the batter into the cake pans and bake for at least 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Cut the cooled cake into two rounds.

Raspberry Mousse Filling:
10 oz bag frozen raspberries
1 cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 ½ cup heavy cream

Heat the raspberries and sugar in a small saucepan. Stir until all of the raspberries break down and are heated through. Run the raspberries through a strainer and into a new saucepan. Add the gelatin to the raspberries and heat until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it form soft peaks. Fold the cooled raspberries into the whipped cream.

Divide the filling evenly between the four cakes to make a double layer cake.

1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup heavy cream
1 pint fresh raspberries

Place the chocolate and cream in a metal bowl over a pot of water on medium high heat. Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is completed melted. Take the chocolate off of the pot of water and set aside till the chocolate thickens enough to work with it.

Place the cakes on top of the rack and cover with the cooled ganache. Decorate the tops with the raspberries and cool over night before serving.

Scallop Gratin:

Scallop Gratin is a really rich seafood dish. You could substitute any seafood for the scallops, but I think they are the best option for both price and decadence.

Scallop Gratin:
4 tablespoons butter
2 lb scallops
salt and pepper
garlic powder
Cajon seasoning
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (4 large)
1 cup stock
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup white wine
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
salt and pepper
1 cup panko (Japanese dried bread crumbs)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in the bottom of a large non-stick stock pot. Season the scallops with the salt, pepper, garlic powder and seasoning. Sauté the scallops until they are just about done. Set the scallops aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the pot and sauté the chopped leaks until translucent. Toss with the scallops and place in the baking dish.

Combine the stock, cream, 1/2 cup of the wine, the tomato puree, and saffron in a saucepan that was used to cook the seafood and leaks. Bring to a boil, and continue to cook the sauce until it is reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Pour over the seafood mixture.

Combine the panko, Parmesan, parsley and tarragon. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and mix it into the crumbs until they’re moistened. Spoon the crumbs evenly on top of the seafood. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbly. Serve hot.

Bacon, Golden Raisin and Pine Nut Quinoa

Quinoa is such a sexy grain right now. I like to add some middle eastern flavors but plus bacon to make a sweet and savory meal.

Bacon, Golden Raisin and Pine Nut Quinoa

6 slices bacon, chopped
½ large sweet onion, chopped
1 ½ cups quinoa, rinsed
3 cups chicken broth
¼ cup pine nuts
½ cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper

In a large pot, cook the bacon until it is golden brown. Add the onions and continue cooking until the onions turn translucent. Add the quinoa, chicken broth, pine nuts, raisins and salt and pepper. Bring everything to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the husk separates from the grain. Add the parsley and check to see if more salt and pepper is needed.

Goat Cheese Tart

Goat cheese was on sale at the grocery store. But it sat in my fridge for a while before I had time to make something. When I learned that it was going to be Joncy’s last week working the bar at Blue Ribbon, I made this quick easy tart and ended up with two wedding proposals out of the Blue Ribbon staff.

3/4 cups flour
1/2 stick of butter, slightly cooler than room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons sugar
1/8 cup water

In a large metal bowl, mix all ingredients, except the water, with a fork or pastry cutter. The goal is to incorporate the butter until it is the texture of course meal. Slowly sprinkle in the water and quickly mix. Making sure not to put in too much water, briefly kneed the pastry so that it forms a cohesive ball. Roll out the dough on a well flouered surface. And place inside a large tart pan.

2 onions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
7-8 oz log of goat cheese
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
4 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onions and cook until they brown and caramelize. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the onion into the bottom of the pastry. Crumble the goat cheese over the onions. Arrange the tomatoes over top of the goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper and the Italian seasoning. Sprinkle the tart with parmesan and place in the oven. Bake until the tomatoes start to wilt and the parmesan and crust is golden brown.

Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo

Gumbo seemed like another great food to send over to Frances after the birth of her cute new baby girl. It travels really well and the brown rice is a great source of fiber.

Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo
¼ cup oil
¼ cup flour
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 red peppers, seeded and chopped
4 ribs of celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
32 oz chicken broth
1 lb chicken andouille sausage, sliced
1 lb shrimp, shells removed
16 oz package frozen sliced okra
1 tablespoons gumbo file
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
cooked long grain brown rice

In a large heavy pot, on medium low heat, stir together the oil and flour. Keep stirring over the low heat until the mixture turns a dark brown but does not burn. Add the onions, peppers, celery and garlic to the pot. Turn the heat up to medium high and cook, stirring, until the vegetables get soft and translucent. Add the seasoning and tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Ass the chicken broth, and sausage, shrimp and okra. Cook the soup, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp is fully cooked. Add gumbo file and salt and pepper to taste and to thicken the soup. Before servicing, stir in the fresh parsley. Serve the gumbo with a nice mound of brown rice.

Wild Mushroom Farro Risotto

When my good friend Frances had her baby, I wanted to bring her tasty meals that she could heat and eat but still feel like she wasn’t missing anything. Farro risotto holds up much better to reheating than does regular rice risotto.

Wild Mushroom Farro Risotto:
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
17.6oz package farro
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup dried morrell mushrooms
1 cup water
6 oz mixed wild mushrooms
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
32 oz carton chicken broth
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and stir until the onions turns translucent. Add the farro grain and stir to coat in the oil and cook. Add the white wine and stir till its absorbed.

In a separate pot, heat the dried mushrooms and water until the mushrooms are soft. Add the mushrooms and water to the pot with the farro and stir till the liquid is absorbed. Add the rest of the olive oil to the separate pot and cook the rest of the mushroom and the thryme until browned. Stirring on occasion to make sure they are browned on all sides. Take the mushrooms off of the heat and set aside.

Add a small portion of the chicken broth, about 1/2 cup, to the farro. Keep stirring until liquid is absorbed. Add more broth and stir to absorb until all of the broth is gone. If the farro is still not done enough, repeat this process with addition water until the farro is cooked through but not too mushy. Add the mushrooms, parsley, parmesan and salt and pepper to the main pot. Stir to combine all of the ingredients and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately.


A hearty French Cassolette is the best food to get you through the winter. It requires a bit of work, but you can leave it in the over to finish on its own. This version has a bit extra vegetables with the addition of the baby squash. If you don’t want to use sausage you can use duck legs, chicken legs or thighs or any other meat that will hold up to a braze in the over.

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 ½ lb pork sausage, cut into chunks
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 10oz packages of mushrooms
2-3 cups chicken broth
½ cup white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 lb baby squash, cut into bite size pieces
10 sprigs of thyme
2 – 15 oz cans of white beans
Salt and pepper

In a large cast iron Dutch oven, over medium high heat, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside. Add the sausage and let it brown on one side. Stir and let it brown on the other side. Remove the sausage and set aside with the bacon. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add the onions and garlic to the oil in the pot. Sautee in the oil until clear and translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until browned. Add the chicken broth, wine and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Add the squash, thyme and beans and stir. Add back in the sausage and bacon. Mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper and taste the broth to make sure it is salty enough. Put the lid on the pot and cook in the over for 1 hour.

Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Ricotta Gnocchi

Gnocchi is truly a comfort food. The best thing is that it feels really special but is really fast and easy to make. You can flavor it a million different ways, but when I crave it, the classic mozzarella, tomato and basil takes the cake.

Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Ricotta Gnocchi
2 large eggs
15 oz ricotta, just under 2 cups
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup flour
8 oz can of tomato sauce
½ lb mini mozzarella balls, quartered
1 bunch basil leaves, chiffonade
4 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
salt and pepper

Heat a large pot of lightly salted water, to boil on high heat.

In a metal bowl, beat the eggs. Add in the ricotta, cheese and spices. Mix thoroughly with a fork, make sure to break up all of the cheese clumps. Add in the flour and stir to combine. Generously flour your work surface then finish mixing the dough with your hands, it will be pretty wet. Cut the dough in half and roll it in the flour, to coat the outside. Then roll it out into a long snake, till it is about 1 inch in diameter. Using a small paring knife, cut into 1 inch pieces.

Once the water comes to a boil, drop the first batch of gnocchi into the boiling water, making sure not to over crowd the pan. Let it boil for about 5 minutes till done. It will all rise to the top and the water will start to boil higher. While the first batch is cooking, roll out the other batch and cut it. Remove one piece of gnocchi and run it under cold water and taste it to make sure it is cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, drain the first batch to a colander, rinse quickly in cold water to keep it from sticking. Add more water to the pot and return it to a boil. Once boiling, add in the second batch of gnocchi and cook it till done. Drain the cooked gnocchi.

Heat the can of sauce on medium high heat. Taste it and add salt and pepper if needed. Add the mozzarella, basil, grated cheese and gnocchi into the sauce. Toss everything together and serve immediately.