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Monday, February 28, 2011

Spuma di Tonno

I'm hosting a bunch of sorority sisters at one of our networking events.  Wine and appetizers are the order of the day.  Here's the draft menu in no particular order:

Bloody Mary grape tomatoes
Caesar salad leaves
Lucca style roasted olives
Salsa de Parmigiano
Spuma di tonno
Stuffed apricots
Crispy salami rolls
Buffalo chicken egg rolls
Muffuletta dip
Loaded baked potato dip
Shrimp and artichoke heart dip
Baked tex-mex pimento cheese dip
Sausage, bean and spinach dip
Wrapped waterchestnuts

I'll have to eliminate a few because of the time it'd take to prepare everything.  Since only six of the appetizers are recipes I've made before tonight, it'll probably be some of the newbies who get kicked to the curb.

One newbie won't get kicked to the curb.  It's the spuma di tonno.  Remember when Connie and I went to the Midland Arts and Antique Mall and I found The Best American Recipes, 2002-2003?  Well, I also found Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking.  The Best American Recipes was SO good that Casual Cooking got put aside.  I finally had an opportunity to visit it and found loads of great recipes.  Included were three that I've got on the menu.  The parmesan salsa, the roasted olives and the tuna pate - aka spuma di tonno.

I'd not intended to do a trial run of the tuna pate tonight.  But, life happens.  I was in the midst of a meeting with a wholesaler this morning when I saw my necklace on the floor.  Now, I don't like jewelry.  (I know, I'm weird!)  But, I do wear a thin gold chain with a crystal my brother and sister-in-law brought me from their honeymoon cruise and my mom's original wedding ring.  The necklace was on the floor but the crystal and wedding ring were nowhere to be found.  They're not worth much money but they're two of my most precious possessions.  My wonderful assistant, Stephanie, must've crawled the entire office.  At about 3000 square feet, that's a LOT of crawling.  I shook rugs, dug into my briefcase and purse, even went in the kitchen and closed the door and took off my clothes and shook them out.  Nothing.  So, Connie and I walked the path from his car to our office.  He checked his car.  Now, why I trusted the man who lost his cell phone in his car for a week to check for my jewelry, I have no clue.  But, I did.  Nothing.  I was beyond upset but at that point there was nothing I could do but get back to work.  I was on a really long conference call so Connie was a sweetheart and brought some lunch in for me.  No interest.  No appetite. 

I did want to cook down some turkey broth tonight so we left the office early and I brought a packed briefcase home.  Immediately on arriving home, we started hunting.  Yes, I found them, upstairs on a rug.  Now, they're safely hidden away until such time as I can get to a jewelry store where a client works and buy a new gold chain with a safety closure.  WHEW!

As you might have guessed, my appetite returned as soon as I found my treasures.  I decided it would be a great idea to test drive the tuna pate.  Oh, my.  I had to leave the bowl in the kitchen and get up and walk from the computer to the kitchen when I wanted another cracker.  Or, I'd have inhaled the whole bowl-full.  My goodness that was good! 

Spuma di Tonno

1 can tuna packed in oil, drained
2 t lemon juice
2 t soy sauce
2 t balsamic vinegar
1 T unsalted butter at room temp
1 T heavy cream

Put the drained tuna in the bowl of a food processor. 

Pulse until it's broken up.  Keep the processor running and add the lemon juice, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar

then the butter. 

Process until the mixture is smooth.  Scrape the sides of the bowl, then add the cream.  Process just until the cream is incorporated.  Serve at room temperature with crackers, crostini or vegetables for dipping.  

adapted from Casual Cooking

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pavlova's with Orange Curd

Connie was at the grocery and I was in the kitchen starting preparations for our Valentine's Day feast.  I looked down and saw half of a bag of oranges.  We'd not planned on a dessert but suddenly orange curd sounded good.  After all, lemon curd is pretty darned good on anything.  So, orange curd had to be equally good.  And, there were a lot of oranges to use up. 

Backtrack here for a moment.  When I was in high school I was fortunate to be a part of People to People High School Student Ambassadors.  With 28 other kids and three chaperones, we visited nine countries in the span of six weeks.  It was an amazing trip.  Back in those days, my experience with "international" food pretty much consisted of chop suey.  So, getting to break bread with families in other countries was fascinating.  My favorite new food find was lemon curd.  Fast forward twenty years and I'd still never seen the stuff in the U.S.  But, I did find a recipe.  Did I make it?  Nope.  Never got around to it.  Probably because it wasn't written in traditional American measurements and I didn't want to deal with translating it.  So easy to do now with the internet...  Then, magically, it appeared in the grocery in the British specialty section.  It was just as good as I remembered.  Finally, a couple of years ago, I made homemade lemon curd.  It was easy and oh, SO much better than the preservative packed jar type.  At that point I decided lime curd and orange curd would be on my list of things to make.  I'd just never gotten around to making either of them.  Until our Valentine's Day feast. 

I checked my blog to see if I'd posted the lemon curd recipe I made. No such luck.  On to Word where I have loads of recipes stored.  Again, no luck.  Cookbooks or the internet?  Cookbooks are more fun.  There's something about hunting for a recipe and getting to stroll down the index and see other possibilities.  But, the internet is quicker and I knew time was short.  I found an Alton Brown recipe and figured it could be modified for oranges. 

The orange curd turned out to be wonderful in spite of two things.  First, I didn't think through the fact that lemons are considerably more tart than oranges.  I should have reduced the amount of sugar.  Second, I was using up eggs from Sam's.  I'd bought the 36 pack for Samantha's bridesmaids brunch.  The eggs weren't large so I needed a couple extra yolks to get the curd to set up. 

So, there I was.  A lovely bowl of orange curd.  And seven egg whites in a bowl.  I hate to waste egg whites but I didn't want to toss something else in the freezer.  What to do?  How about a meringue?  OHHH, how about a Pavlova.  I'd read about Pavlovas but had never made one.  Back to the internet.  I found one on FoodNetwork by Gale Gand.  Perfect.  And, even better we had kiwi and blackberries to top it off. 

The meringue went together really easily.  It was glossy and beautiful.  The recipe called for drawing a 9" circle on parchment paper and spooning the meringue into the circle, then baking it.  I really wanted something individual.  So, I filled a plastic bag with the meringue, snipped the corner and piped four individual Pavlovas.  Now, I've never piped meringue before.  This was quite the experience.  The Pavlovas weren't gorgeous, but they certainly tasted wonderful!

Orange Curd


5 large egg yolks or 7 medium
3/4-1 c sugar
2- 3 oranges, zested and juiced - enough to make 1/3 c of juice
1 stick butter, cut into pats - keep the butter cold

Put the egg yolks and sugar in a double boiler set over simmering water. 

Make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl.  Whisk them until smooth. 

Add the juice and zest and continue to whisk.  It'll take about 8 minutes of whisking for the curd to thicken.  You want it to coat the back of a spoon.  Now, it's time to add the butter. 

Remove the bowl from the heat and add the butter one pat at a time.  It's rather a race to get the butter incorporated while the curd is still warm enough to melt it but still add the butter one pat at a time, waiting to add the next pat after the prior one has melted in... 

You can refrigerate this for up to two weeks.  We love it slathered on good toast.



1/2 c egg whites at room temp (4 large eggs or 5-6 medium eggs)
1/8 t cream of tartar
1/8 t salt
1 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 t cornstarch
1 T red wine vinegar
1/2 t vanilla
kiwi and blackberries, for serving


Preheat your oven to 350.  Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until frothy. 

You want to make sure your bowl and beaters are clean and dry.  Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until stiff peaks form.  The meringue will be very glossy. 

Now you can either draw a 9" circle on parchment paper or draw four smaller circles.  

If you use the single, spoon the meringue into the circle, smoothing the top.  If you use the four smaller circles, spoon the meringue into a plastic bag.  Snip the corner off and pipe the meringue into the circles.


Bake the meringues for 10 mintues at 350 then reduce the heat to 300 and bake them for an additional 45 minutes.  The meringues will be lightly browned and will have cracked a bit on top.  DO NOT open the oven door while you're baking them!  Once the 45 minutes is over, turn off the oven and crack the door open. 

Leave it that way for 30 minutes to allow the meringues to cool gradually.  That'll help keep them from collapsing. 

To serve, put one pavlova on a plate,

top with kiwi slices and blackberries. 

Drizzle with orange curd.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blackberry - Pineapple Sidecar (More Fun with Blackberries)

Standing on the shoulders of giants. 

This is a term that goes back to at least the 12th century.  I'll let you folks look it up, but the idea that each of us owes a tremendous debt to those who have learned before us is not a foreign concept to cooks and chefs.  Where would we be without those who discovered the "magic" roots that can be eaten and those we cannot?  What about the holy trinity, or the mother sauces?

Whoa! Getting kind of deep for a cocktail recipe?

Maybe, but every once in a while I say to Connie, “That was a great drink, definitely a keeper.” He says “Standing on the shoulders of giants.” This relates to the fact that most all of us have access to the recipes, publications, of others and, most of all, the internet. This gives us access to the Whole Wide World. Gee, I wonder where they came up with www.?

Enough philosophy. Tonight we had, yet again, oh horror of horrors, too many blackberries. I am going to blame this on my niece Samantha again, because we added them to our fruit salad at her bridesmaids' brunch. Regardless, my sweetie Connie stepped up and found the following on which attributed it to Food and Wine ( and since that organization is not a natural person, there was someone else behind that! Standing on the shoulders of giants!

So here we are, a

Blackberry-Pineapple Sidecar

(for two)


14 Blackberries
4 oz Cognac (we used Courvoisier VS)
1 oz Cointreau or other triple sec (we used Grand Marnier)
3 oz pineapple juice
1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup (we use 1:1)
1 or 2 pineapple leaves for garnish (we didn't have any and at the time this was written, Indianapolis was buried under 2 inches of ice and 6 inches of snow so the heck with all of that!) (Sorry, a little bit of cabin fever breaking out there)

Shake all of the ingredients (except the non-existent pineapple leaves) in a cocktail shaker.

Strain into a chilled martini glass. (Then add those darn pineapple leaves, for those of you who aren't frozen solid.) Toast the love of your life and enjoy.

adapted from Food and Wine

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Connie's Vanilla Mint Coffee Delight

Big disclaimer here. This is not a Connie original recipe. It comes from Another disclaimer for those of a more genteel nature. has many recipes and some of those have rather vulgar names. Connie and I are worldly enough, but to each their own. Not everyone needs to be exposed to that which they would rather not deal with, just a word of warning, folks. So we have decided to self censor the name of this drink for all of our sakes.

We had a wonderful dinner tonight. It was absolute top of the shelf, and it was leftovers.  In the event you missed it, it's here.  Everything played well together and besides being easy, it was totally delicious. The bonus was that is was so easy, we finally had a night without what Connie calls an “extravaganza”, cooking all night and leaving a wasteland in the kitchen. Another way to describe a wasteland is to say I managed to dirty every dish in the kitchen.  To reward ourselves, we decided to have an after-dinner drink and I tossed out some ideas. Vanilla vodka. Cream.

“The game is afoot!”, Connie declared, and off he went to drinksmixer. The recipe he returned with was absolutely worthy of a fine night of dining. Smooth, delicious, non-toxic. I would definitely put this in the night-cap category. This, on drinksmixer, was offered as a shot, as one part apiece of the major ingredients. Connie adapted it to make a nice martini-style sipping drink.  It rather reminded me of a very good grasshopper.  One of those drinks where the whole is so much better than the pieces and parts.  Smooth, sippable.  Entirely enjoyable. 

Connie's Vanilla Mint Coffee Delight
(for two)


 2 oz vanilla vodka (we make our own)
2 oz Kahlua®
2 oz Irish cream liqueur (we used O'Dowd's)
2 oz milk (we used 2%)
splash of crème de menthe (we used deKuyper's)

Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail mixer. Shake, shake, shake. Strain into chilled martini glasses. Toast the one you love and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

15 Points From Leftovers???

Remember me blogging about finding The Best American Recipes 2002-2003 at the Midland Arts and Antique Mall?  Well, we made the Bloody Mary Grape Tomatoes and I found probably a dozen other recipes I wanted to try.  In fact, I made a whole week's worth of menus around recipes I wanted to try from that cookbook.  The first one we tried was called Blue Plate Meatloaf.  I didn't think you'd ever see the photos, read the recipe or even know we'd tried it.  We found it very dense and uninteresting.  Both of us rather grudgingly gave it a three on our scale of 1-5. 

At that point I was worried.  Were the grape tomatoes an aberration?  Were the rest of the recipes going to be average?  Did I have a whole week of average recipes coming up?  ARGH!  Now, I've cooked for long enough that I know good and well that every cookbook has some clunkers.  And, I should've been calm and reasonable.  I wasn't.  I should have been.  Because the next recipe we made was a five.  We've now had the Greek Macaroni and Cheese THREE times.  That's right, THREE times.  And, there's enough there for a fourth time.  And, my darling husband who doesn't really care for leftovers has requested it for leftovers.  Let me just say it's incredible and you will see the recipe.  I promise. 

So, back to the meatloaf.  I used the leftover meat to make the meatloaf burgers that we absolutely loved.  So the basic premise was good.  It was just that the meatloaf was pretty dense.  My intent was to do what my mom did with leftover meatloaf:  fry it then smother it with tomato sauce.  She'd take a little butter and flour and make a roux then pour in tomato juice to make a sauce.  It was VERY good.  But, once I got the meatloaf sliced and floured, my brain remembered the barbecue sauce I used on the meatloaf burgers.  What if???  What if I poured a little Jack Daniels and a little shagbark hickory syrup in and kicked the barbecue sauce up?  I poured the sauce in a little saucepan and added the Jack and syrup and called Connie in to taste it. " OHHHH, he says.  Ohhhh, that's sweet.  Not too sweet.  Just right.  Very good."  We had a winner. 

Now, before I did anything with the meatloaf, I chopped up a head of broccoli that'd been cooling its heels for far too long in my vegetable crisper.  I tossed it with white truffle oil and popped it in the oven.  Typically, I've roasted broccoli for about 15 minutes.  Tonight, it went for about 20 minutes then I turned the oven off while I finished the meatloaf.  The broccoli was just plain caramelized.  Connie referred to it as broccoli candy.  It was.  I've never had broccoli that tasted as good.  I'm sure it helped that I dusted the broccoli with a little black truffle salt.  But, you know, it'd have been a five even without that.  Here's a link to the Truffle Oil Broccoli Recipe.

Neither of us expected much from the meatloaf.  It was leftovers.  I didn't even have the camera out.  We'd used it to take photos of the yard as we did our FIRST 2011 walkaround. So it was on the bar.  Connie grabbed it and shot a couple of photos as I served the dinner.  Guess what?  It was leftovers extraordinaire.  I'll make the meatloaf just to have it leftover!  And the sauce?  Oh La La!!!

Blue Plate Meatloaf with Bourbon BBQ Sauce

for the meatloaf:
1/2 c fresh bread crumbs
1/2 c buttermilk
1/2 lb ground sausage
1/2 lb ground turkey or veal
1 lb very lean ground beef
1 small yellow onion, finely minced
1/4 c parsley, minced
1 large egg
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 t salt

For the topping:
sliced bacon
soy sauce

for the leftovers:
freshly ground pepper
bbq sauce
Jack Daniels
shagbark hickory or maple syrup


Mix the bread crumbs

and buttermilk well. 

Make sure the buttermilk is totally absorbed.  Then, mix that with the rest of the ingredients. 

Put the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet

and form into a meatloaf shape.  Top with sliced bacon then a little ketchup mixed with soy sauce. 

Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes. 

To serve this leftover, slice it into 1" thick slices.  Flour the slices and brown in olive oil until the slices are nice and browned.  Make a sauce with commercial bbq sauce, Jack Daniels and syrup.  Heat the sauce and pour it over the meatloaf. 

adapted from The Best American Recipes, 2002-2003

Monday, February 21, 2011

Duck Ravioli

Valentine Dinner.  We're not big into going out to dinner.  We typically prefer our own cooking.  It's an opportunity to try different things.  Relax. I know, non-foodies don't find cooking relaxing.  I do.  All day at the office I'm either working with numbers or people.  Cooking is creative.  Mostly quiet other than a bit of chatter with Connie as we cook.  Very different.  I enjoy it and so does he. 

So, I had this brilliant idea that we'd fix the trimmings from the beef tenderloin for Valentine dinner.  Connie had other ideas. Duck ravioli he says.  WHAT?  Now, it was up to me to figure that one out.  Ok, there are two ways you can have duck.  Well, more than that, but two ways I was considering for Valentine's.  One was a duck breast and two was duck confit.  Connie did the research and Goose the Market was the bargain when it came to duck confit.  It's basically a duck leg preserved in duck fat.  Now, if you'd never tasted duck fat, believe me you're in for a treat.  Major treat.  I hunted around on the internet and found a duck ravioli recipe on Epicurious.  Loved the sauce idea with porcini mushrooms, marsala wine and cream.  The rest of it, well, not what I was looking for.  So, I made my own recipe up.

What did we think?  The sauce was great.  The duck breast was a little chewy but the skin was perfect.  I'll make this again for a special occasion.  And, next time I make ravioli, I'll run the roller to 6 or 7 versus the 4 I used.  Four made it too thick and chewy.  We didn't measure as we cooked so the measurements are guesstimates.

Duck Ravioli


for the ravioli:
ravioli sheets
1 duck leg confit
1/2 c ricotta cheese

for the sauce:
dried porcini mushrooms
olive oil
marsala wine


Re-hydrate your porcini mushrooms in water to cover.  You'll use the liquid later in the sauce. 

Make the ravioli sheets.  Here's a link to a recipe that shows you how.  Or, if you don't want to make homemade pasta, use wonton wrappers.  The filling is super easy.  Remove the duck confit from the bones. 

Mix it with enough ricotta cheese to make a good filling consistency. 

Make the ravioli.  If you've never made ravioli, here are some photos. 

Here's the link to a post with the recipe for homemade pasta.  Set the ravioli aside to rest.

If you're serving a slice duck breast

with the sauce, now's the time to start browning it - skin side down. 

We like duck served pretty rare so I cook the skin side until it's nice and crispy

then cook the other side for far less time. 

While the pasta is resting, start the sauce.  Melt about a quarter of a cup of butter in a skillet.  Add a finely diced small onion. 

Saute until the onion is very soft.  Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and about a quarter of a cup of flour and the mushrooms. 

Stir until the mixture just starts to brown.  Slowly add in the liquid from the mushrooms, stirring constantly. 

When the sauce is very thick, add marsala wine to get it to the correct consistency for pasta sauce.  Then, add about a quarter of a cup of cream. 

About the time you've got the sauce thickening, you need to toss the ravioli into some boiling water.  They'll cook VERY quickly so keep an eye on them.  Drain them and set them aside for the couple of minutes it'll take the sauce to finish up. 

Time to serve.  Place a two-three ravioli in each pasta dish.  If you're serving duck breast with it, add a few slices of duck breast.  Pour the sauce over.   Duck Ravioli with Sliced Duck Breast and Porcini Mushroom Cream Sauce