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Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve Eve

Did you know there used to be a law regulating the maximum number of times a week servants could be served lobster?  It was such a cheap food that many folks overdid it so they regulated it to a maximum of two times a week.  From junk to dear.  When I found out that I was one of the 24 bloggers chosen by Foodbuzz to do a New Year's Eve dinner, I knew lobster was going to be on the menu.  You see, there's a stipend involved.  That'd allow us to order lobster from Salty Lou on Cape Cod.  And, since the lobsters themselves aren't terribly expensive there but shipping them to Indianapolis is, we decided to order enough to have Mom over for dinner on December 30th.  She's not had lobster for many years so this would be a major treat for her.  We also decided to prepare one lobster Connie's mom's favorite way.  Unfortunately, I never got to meet his mom.  She died several years before we met.  My guess is that I'd have really liked her.  She wasn't much of a cook but she did like good food.  And, she loved Lobster Thermidor. 

Before I go any further, let me tell you about Salty Lou.  For those of you unfamiliar with Cape Cod, there are three main roads across the lower part of the Cape.  The southern road is 28.  It's the shopping mall mecca.  You'll find all of the chains and kitschy shops.  Tourist traps.  And, you'll find some great restaurants like Cap'n Parkers (best clam chowder I've ever had) and the Yarmouth House (scallops and about anything else on the menu!)  The middle road is the limited access highway  - 6.  The northern road is the old "highway" 6A.  It meanders along and is one of the prettiest drives you can take.  Lots of Cape Cod style homes.  Stone walls.  Quaint shops.  A few restaurants.  Only a couple of gas stations.  Absolutely beautiful. 

On one of our trips to the Cape, Connie and I drove over to Sandwich.  In my opinion, it's the quintessential New England village.  We took 6A because we weren't in a hurry and wanted to enjoy the scenery.  I saw a sign at the end of a driveway that said, "Fresh Lobsters."  We decided to find it on the way back and buy our lobsters there instead of hiking over to the exit east of my sister-in-law's house and buying lobster from the seafood store in the strip mall there.  It was getting dark and we weren't sure we'd find the place again but we got lucky and did.  Salty Lou had made a Christmas tree from lobster pots in his front yard.  It was gorgeous.  We knocked on the door and there was no answer.  Connie said, "Let's leave, there's nobody here,"  just about the time Salty Lou answered the door.  The lobster had been caught that day.  We've been back practically every trip since.

What better way to get our lobster for New Year's Eve?  Except for the fact that we couldn't get ahold of Salty Lou.  My guess he was so swamped with local orders that he didn't have the time for an order from Indy.  Oh, well.  Plan B.  Goose the Market.  You've heard me chatter on about Chris Eley and his wonderful butcher shop.  It's actually much more than just a butcher shop.  It's been named one of the best sandwich shops in the nation.  And, he's got a wonderful selection of gourmet foods along with in-season fresh veggies and such.  Order by 4:00 on Thursday and pick up after 2:00 on Friday.  The lobsters were going to be a pound and a half or so, so we'd need three. 

Lobster dipped in butter, lobster thermidor, lobster with brie and wild mushrooms anda lobster roll.  Chris also listed manila clams on his email of what was available.  Neither Connie nor I had ever had manila clams. Time to research.

So, there we sat at 11:00 on Thursday night.  We'd gotten home from the theatre and I'd gone online to work for a bit.  Finally off to bed.  And we started talking about Friday and Saturday's dinners.  Downstairs went Connie and back upstairs with a load of cookbooks.  Cape Cod ones, Rays Boathouse, seafood ones...  Cookbooks piled all over our bed.  Hunting for a way to cook manila clams. And, to make sure we had everything we'd need on the grocery list.  I do believe I've turned Connie into a foodie :-)

This is the tale of Friday evening.  New Years Eve Eve.  Dinner with Mom. 

Here's our menu:

Manila Clams
Escargot, Ramp and Morel Broth
Lobster Thermidor
Lobster Dipped in Butter

Rays Boathouse is a fabulous restaurant in Seattle.  We had an incredible meal there several years ago.  So incredible that I bought the cookbook.  That's where I found the recipe for manila clams.  They were perfect.  The broth was wonderful - and in fact has been saved to be the base for some clam chowder.  The clams were tiny and beautiful.

Everything we'd read said they were smaller and sweeter than other clams.  Best of all, they're farmed and are sustainable.  The three of us split a pound of clams.  It was the perfect amount.  And the perfect recipe.

Rays Boathouse Manila Clams


3 lbs manila clams
1/2 c unsalted butter
1 t dried dill
1 t kosher salt
1 c Chardonnay


Pour the wine into a large saucepan.  Add the butter, dill and salt. 

Simmer gently until you're ready to cook the clams and the butter is melted.  Rinse the clams well under cold, running water.  Bring the wine and butter mixture to a boil and add the clams.  Cover the saucepan.  Cook the clams for 5-6 minutes.  Shake the pan occasionally.  Discard any clams that don't open.  Serve immediately.

My eldest stepson, David, is working on what wines go with what.  When I saw a cookbook called Wine Mondays about the wine pairing meals served on Mondays at l'Espalier in Boston, I picked it up thinking he'd enjoy it.  Except for the fact that the recipes are in no way their kind of cooking.  For the most part the ingredient lists are as long as my will and the instructions are not for the faint of heart - or the average home cook.  For the most part it's very special occasion food.  Needless to say, I found a couple of recipes for our New Years Eve Eve.

The first was a soup.  They called it a broth.  Well, it was.  Kind of.  The broth is pureed with onions and garlic then some cream is added.  It's much lighter than your normal cream soup.  But, it's not a broth.  I made a couple of changes.  First, ramps just aren't available in December.  So, I used green onions.  You could also use a leek chopped very finely.  But, my guess is you'd want to sautee it briefly before adding it to the soup.  I also used a couple of dried morels and reconstituted them.  When time came to finish and serve the soup I thought it was a bit thick so I added the mushroom broth.  I cut the recipe in half and we had three lovely servings in my great-grandmother's soup bowls.

What did we think?  Spectacular.  Perfect. 

Broth of Escargots, Ramps and Morels


2 T olive oil
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 c white wine
1/4 c sweet sherry
1 c vegetable broth
4 oz dried morels, or 2 oz dried and reconstituted
12 ramps, washed and trimmed, or 12 green onions, chopped
24 escargots, washed and drained
1 T fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 T fresh chives, chopped
1 t fresh thyme
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t fresh lemon juice
1/4 c heavy cream


Saute the onions in the olive oil.  When they're translucent, add the garlic and saute it for about a minute or two.  Add the wine, sherry and broth.  Simmer that for a few minutes then remove it from the heat and allow it to cool a bit.  Puree it in a blender and pour it back into the pan.  (nb:  the original recipe called for wiping out the pan then sauteeing the green onions, mushrooms and escargot in 2T of butter.  If you want to add those calories, go ahead.  I thought it'd be plenty rich without two more tablespoons of butter.)  Add the mushrooms, escargot and green onions and simmer until the onions are softened.  Add the parsley, chives, thyme, nutmeg and lemon juice.  If you've reconstituted the mushrooms, you can add that broth also.  Allow to barely simmer until you're ready to serve the soup.  Just before you serve it, add the cream and stir to combine.

Next up was lobster thermidor.  We've got a cookbook called Fish & Shellfish that takes you through the various types of fish and shellfish with great descriptions of the basics.  We decided we'd try their lobster thermidor recipe.  It was going to be one lobster tail split between the three of us. 

The whole process is pretty messy.  Cook the lobster.  Chop it in half.  Mix the lobster meat with a sauce.  Put the meat back in the shell and sprinkle it with cheese.  Broil it.  Now, the sad part about all of that work is that just plain old lobster dipped in butter tastes better.  Fortunately, we did that with the rest of the lobster and another tail. 

Lobster Thermidor


2 live lobsters, cooked and cooled
3/4 c butter, divided
16 green onions, chopped
2 T flour
2 t English mustard (Colman's)
1/4 c white wine
1 c milk
1/4 c heavy cream
2 T fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 oz Gruyere, finely shredded


Melt 1/4 c of the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the green onions and cook until they're softened.  Add the flour and mustard and cook for two minutes.  Slowly add the white wine, whisking continuously.  Add the milk and cook until the sauce is thickened. 

Add the cream and parsley.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the lobster meat.

Stuff the lobster shell with the mixture,

sprinkle with the Gruyere and broil for five minutes.  You're actually supposed to serve it in the shell but since I was dividing one among the three of us I opted for spooning a bit onto each plate.

Last but not least, dessert.  Bittersweet chocolate terrine with warm pumpkin sauce and shaved black truffles.  Since this post is already a mile long, I'm going to save the recipe for another day.  Suffice to say the terrine was heavenly. The pumpkin sauce amazing.  And, the truffles.  Blah.  They didn't taste like the truffles we've enjoyed at restaurants.  fortunately, they weren't terribly expensive - which is also why they were probably blah!  Here's a photo of our dessert:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bymark Hamburger

I had a date tonight.  With my favorite boyfriend.  Well, ok, he's my hubby too.  We went to see Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at Civic Theatre.  What a production.  We loved it.  It's fun when you've attended enough theatre that you recognize some of the actors.  Tonight we got to see Jim Trofatter who is the playwright for the Benjamin Harrison House and their mystery theatre.  And, Ed Mobley who we've seen in many plays and whose wife, Catherine, was in one of my all-time favorites - Menopause the Musical.  We've got season tickets to Civic which forces us to find the time to go.  It's one of the smartest moves we've ever made.  I'm not a fan of movies but love, love, love live theatre.  So, we got to take a break from all the party prep and all of the year end fun at the office. 

Early last weekend, I'd realized we were going to have a pretty hectic week.  That meant planning my meals well so I could get them made in the time allotted.  I'm infamous for not leaving enough prep time and eating late.  That wasn't happening tonight.  We walked in from the office and Connie started feeding the furry critters.  I put the grill pan on the stove and turned it on, then started getting the food out of the fridge.  We had an hour to prepare and eat dinner.  As usual, I didn't follow the recipe exactly.  I added some Andria's Steak Sauce.  And, a bit of black truffle salt.  And, some morel mushroom dust. 

What did we think?  We loved these burgers.  Connie took one bite and said, "You can make these again!"  I'd have to agree.  They were very simple to put together and the flavors played really well together.  I had to substitute portabellas for the porcinis the recipe called for.  That's why I ground up a morel and added the morel dust.  To amp up the mushroom flavor.  The brie was perfect.  It needs be put on the burgers when they're hot off the grill.  But, don't totally melt it. 

Bymark Hamburgers


1 lb 90% lean ground beef
freshly ground pepper
Andria's steak sauce (or a few dashes of Worcestershire)
1/2 t black truffle salt
1 dried morel mushroom, finely ground
two portabella mushrooms, sliced
4 slices brie cheese
onion rolls
1/4 c mayonnaise
1 t white truffle oil
1/2 t lemon juice


Heat a grill pan or heat a skillet for the mushrooms and light the grill for the burgers.  Mix the ground beef, truffle salt, ground pepper

and steak sauce.  Form two burgers.

Grind the dried morel very finely.

To cook the mushrooms either grill them on the grill pan or saute them in olive oil in the skillet.  I found they cooked better when cooked on my grill pan at the edges so they'd get some of the olive oil I'd put in the pan.  Pat the morel dust onto the burgers.  Grill the burgers until they're your desired temp.  

We typically aim for medium rare but these wound up at about 140 and were still moist and juicy thanks to the Andria's Steak Sauce.  (nb: you can order the steak sauce directly from Andria's.  It's worth it to order it because it's fabulous.  I use it in about anything that I put hamburger in.)  Be sure to put the cheese on the burgers just as you remove them from the grill.  You want it to soften but not run.  While the burgers are grilling, mix the mayonnaise, truffle oil and lemon juice to make the spread for the buns.  Broil or grill the buns until they're golden brown.  Slather them with the truffle mayonnaise, the put on the hamburgers and mushrooms.

adapted from Burgers by Paul Gayler

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Salad with Baked Goat Cheese and Rosemary Infused Honey

The week before Christmas was one of those incredibly busy weeks.  There was a lot of cooking going on at our house.  Tuesday was probably the craziest day.  I had a couple of new recipes chosen for dinner - chicken crusted with pecans and drizzled with a white wine maple reduction and a salad with baked goat cheese and rosemary infused honey.  Only problem was the fact that I also had to broil 240 bacon wrapped waterchestnuts and make a vat of vegetable soup for Christmas Eve.  The waterchestnuts took 20 minutes a pan - at an average of 40 per pan.  Ok, you can do the math.  I got home about 6:30 and didn't start the broiling right away.  It was 9:15 by the time dinner was ready to go in the oven.  I worked on the waterchestnuts and did a bit of the vegetable soup.  Connie chopped and chopped and chopped.  Turnips, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, cabbage...  I opened cans of corn and tomatoes and chopped carrots and celery.  Somehow, we got the soup in the stockpot and the waterchestnuts broiled then in the freezer. 

Our invitations to the after holiday party had gone out four days earlier and we already had 105 attending.  Normally, we have 125-150 here.  But, here we are a week later - and a week and a half before the party - and we've got close to 140 attending!  So, we may be pushing closer to 200 this year.  The good news is that we already have 200 chicken wings in the freezer along with 120 teriyaki flank steak skewers, a bunch of green olive gruyere poppers, wing eggrolls and brownies. I'm almost done with the menu and the grocery list.  A lot of the food is last minute - which makes it tough.  But, I've done this enough years that it's no longer overwhelming.

Finally, dinner was ready.  It was too late.  Neither of us really wanted the chicken.  So, I put the salads together and added a slice of chicken.  Dinner at 10 pm.  Bedtime.  But, we got a lot done and I'll not gripe about that.  Eating too late. Yup.  Getting a lot done.  Nope. 

What did we think?  This was clearly a five on our scale of one to five.  This was the first recipe I picked out of the cookbook and won't be the last. 

Baked Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Salad with Rosemary Infused Honey


for the onions:
1 T olive oil
3 medium sweet onions, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 t sugar

for the goat cheese:
1/2 lb soft goat cheese log
1/2 c panko bread crumbs
1 T minced fresh rosemary or 1 t dried
1 T minced fresh thyme or 1 t dried
1/4 t sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

for the salad:
3 c dark leafy greens
3 T olive oil
1 1/2 T red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c rosemary infused honey

for the honey:
6 oz honey (I used buckwheat)
6 sprigs fresh rosemary


for the honey:

In a jar (a canning jar works nicely,) mix the honey and the rosemary.  Put the jar in a saucepan of simmering water.  You want the water no more than halfway up the sides of the jar.  Simmer the honey for 10 minutes.  Then, remove the jar from the water and set it aside for about half an hour to allow it to infuse.

for the onions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet.  Slice the onions very thinly.  Add the onions to the skillet and saute them for about 15 minutes on very low heat.  Sprinkle them with the sugar and saute them for another 5 minutes.  They should be well caramelized. 

for the goat cheese:

Preheat your oven to 400.  Mix the bread crumbs and herbs. 

Cut the goat cheese into 1/3" rounds. 

Coat both sides of the rounds with the bread crumb mixture. 

Bake the cheese on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for 5-10 minutes per side or until it's golden brown.

for the salad:

Put about 1/2 cup of greens on each salad plate.  Top the greens with some caramelized onion then two goat cheese rounds.  Drizzle the salads with the oil, vinegar and honey.

adapted from Stonewall Kitchen Harvest

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Leprechaun Rack of Lamb

We had a rack of lamb in the freezer awaiting a special occasion.  Christmas is with Connie's family.  New Year's is a seafood fest.  Our anniversary is a couple of days after our big holiday party and we'll be eating leftovers.  Time to create a special occasion!  So, we invited Mom over for dinner.

Please allow me to introduce you to my mom.  She's 86 years young and is an absolute hoot.  Like me, she loves food and dislikes very few things. 

She's a fantastic traveler.  So, when I finished my MBA and she retired, we took a two week trip to Ireland to celebrate.  We made reservations at B and B's along the way and rented a car.  Other than that, we stopped and explored whatever we wanted.  One morning we saw a wonderful ruin of a church along the road.  Time to stop and explore.  Now, what you need to know is that I'm allergic to wool.  Ireland is known for wool.  My guess was that I'd need an acrylic blanket or I'd be sleeping in my clothes every night.  Our suitcases were laid on the back seat, the blanket covering them.  Out of the car we hopped.  I'm face-to-face with a drunk Irishman - at 9 in the morning.  He says hello and I say hello.  Mom is across the car and her face is showing she's petrified.  He glances in the back seat and says, "The boss asleep back there?"  "He certainly is," I say.  He reaches for the door handle.  I shake my finger in his face and hiss, "DON'T you DARE wake him up!!"  "Yes, m'am," he says and off he goes.  Mom doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.  On to the church to explore.  We've laughed about that so many times!

Fine.  This is about lamb so let's get back to the lamb.  Viking Lamb.  Terry Knudsen is the owner.  He sells his lamb at the Binford Farmer's Market.  We love it.  For those of you who've only had lamb that's a bit gamey, please try some locally grown.  It's different from beef or pork.  The flavor is delicate, yet bold.  It's happy with so many wonderful flavors.  This was another recipe from Entertaining with Booze.  Yes, I'm up to 12 recipes from this cookbook.  And, I've got several dozen more to go!

What did we think?  VERY good.  This got four stars out of five.  I can't think of a thing I'd change.

Leprechaun Roast Rack of Lamb


1 c chopped chives
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c Irish whiskey
1/4 c EVOO
1/4 c brown sugar, packed
2 T lemon juice
1 t salt
1 t freshly ground pepper
3 racks of lamb, frenched


Preheat your oven to 375.  In a bowl of a food processor, mix the chives, whiskey, olive oil, brown sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Process until the mixture is smooth. 

Slather the lamb with the rub. Bake for 25 minutes or until the desired temperature is reached. 125 degrees F is medium rare. Remember that meat continues to bake after removing it from the heat - about 10 degrees more. Tent the lamb with foil and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Love Potion No. 9

This is from Pat and Gina Neely’s wonderful cookbook, The Neely’s Celebration Cookbook. We have had a few recipes from the book and everything so far has been a winner. This particular recipe is a little different from the Love Potion versions we have seen in our drinks book, but it is also a fabulous drink. Not sweet, not sour, just pleasantly tart.

We bought some pomegranate arils at Sam’s on an impulse. I never had them before. Connie has, but doesn’t like dealing with the whole fruit. He said they are a pain in the neck (or something south of that).

Tonight, my human dumbwaiter (Connie's nickname for himself!  I ask him to go to the basement to bring things up from the fridge all the time because it saves my knees and gives him something to rant about - and goodness knows he loves to rant - all in jest but still, he loves it!) was feeding a cat and up he comes with a packet of the arils. He ran them through a food mill, also known as a Foley mill, and came up with 5 or so ounces of juice.

He had no plan, it was an expiration date thing. I remembered this recipe and off we went. We had the ingredients and it worked out beautifully.

The Neely’s Love Potion No. 9 (for two)

4 oz of citrus vodka (we make our own using Smirnoff and citrus peels)
1 ½ oz of Grand Marnier (the Neely’s call for Cointreau, but we substitute)
4 oz pomegranate juice
2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

(The Neely’s call for pomegranate seeds for garnish, but someone crushed everything in the food mill before any recipe was suggested - and someone else really doesn't care for the seeds as is).


Mix all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Add the garnish. Toast the love of your life and enjoy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Glazed Carrots with Ginger and Fresh Orange Juice

Once again, it's Secret Recipe Club time.  This was a total first for me.  Usually, I browse my assigned blog for an hour or more trying to find the perfect recipe.  This time I found my recipe when I first logged on.  I logged on a couple  more times hunting for something else that sounded better.  But, this one stuck in my mind.  I kept talking about making these carrots.  I was hooked.  And, rightfully so.  These carrots were fantastic.  Ok, so they probably won't get a lot of hits like the really different recipes do.  But, so what.  I found a keeper.  A recipe that we'll use over and over and over again.  And, I found a blog that I'll go to over and over and over again.  How much fun is that?

MaryAnne and Mariel are a mother/daughter combo who trade off the writing duties of Feast on the Cheap.  MaryAnne is a caterer and a nurse and Mariel is a writer.  Their blog has recipes ranging from super simple to complex.  Something to satisfy everyone.  I've got several recipes on my to-try list. I hope you'll enjoy their blog as much as I did!

Glazed Carrots


1 lb baby carrots
3 T butter
3 T packed dark brown sugar
1 T dijon mustard
1 t ground ginger
pinch cayenne
2 T orange juice
fresh parsley, chopped


Heat water to boiling in a medium saucepan.  Put the carrots in and cook them until they're tender. 

Drain them.  While they're cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the brown sugar, dijon mustard, ginger, cayenne and orange juice.  Whisk together. 

Pour the sauce over the drained carrots.  Heat through then serve topped with chopped fresh parsley.

from Feast on the Cheap

Here are links to some of the other Secret Recipe Club members.  There's a group that posts every Monday so stop by the Secret Recipe Club site at to check out the other week's posts.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Romaine Hearts with Haloumi Matchsticks

I'm filing this under salads.  And, I'm laughing while doing so.  It has lettuce.  And dressing.  Oh, and a mountain of fried cheese.  So, maybe if I take a nice, big ribeye and slice it and load a couple of lettuce leaves up with steak and dressing I could call that a salad too?  I didn't think so.  Well, call it what you will, this is a five on a scale of one to five. 

OPA!  We've had haloumi cheese at Greek restaurants.  And, we've thoroughly enjoyed it.  I've made it with grilled red grapes and we've loved it.  This, however, could easily become an obsession.  Fortunately, there are too many great recipes to be tried for anything to appear at dinner more than two or three times a year. 

We bought our first package of haloumi cheese at Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati.  I wasn't going back there any time soon so it was time to check out Indy.  Our Marsh grocery down the street?  Not on your life.  The folks in the cheese department thought we were talking another language.  Fine.  On to Trader Joe's.  Nope.  Fresh Market?  Nope.  Now, there's a story.  So, we're at the hair salon across the street from Fresh Market getting our purple stripes for Kelsey.  The dye had to sit on our hair for about 30 minutes.  And, it was covered with foil.  Now, I'm not one of those women who cares to cover their grey.  I've earned every one of those grey hairs, thank you very much.  And, Connie?  Well, he started turning white-haired in his mid-20's and has had this glorious head of white hair for 20+ years.  We both get our hair cut and that's about it.  No experience with dyes and the like.  So we find out that we're going to be cooling our heels while the dye sets.  There's a grocery store across the street.  We're going to the grocery on the way home.  Why not go now?  The fact that both of us had large pieces of foil in our hair didn't dissuade us in the least.  The first person I ran into was a sorority sister.  She and her hubby got the whole story.  Not so much the other folks in the store who tried their darndest NOT to stare.  Like the young man who checked us out.  Scan, steal a peek.  Scan, steal a peek.  He was far too polite to ask and we were having far too much fun to enlighten anyone. 

As Liz from ThatSkinnyChickCanBake and I have discussed many times, we're right smack dab in the middle of the best selection of grocery and specialty food stores you can probably ever find.  You can go five miles from either of our homes and get to at least 10 great stores.  Artisano's Oils, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Trader Joe's, Marsh, Kroger, Kincaids Meats, Costco, Sam's, Grapevine Cottage, The Cheese Shop, Good Earth, Bier Brewery, Sakura Mart...  It seemed that nobody had haloumi cheese.  All of the sudden Connie said, "Broad Ripple Avenue!"  Like I'm supposed to know what he's channeling here.  Well, it was a brilliant idea.  There's a Greek restaurant down on the avenue with a small grocery.  They indeed had haloumi cheese. 

What did we think?  You can tell from the rating.  We don't give many five's out.  They're reserved for the dishes that make us want to lick our plates.  Dishes that we want to make again the next night.  And, in this case DO make again the next night.  So, here's my advice to you.  If you can't find the stuff in your local stores, order it online.  Go ahead.  Jungle Jim's ships. You'll be glad you did.  This is fabulous.

Romaine Hearts with Haloumi Matchsticks


1/4 c olive oil
1/2 lb haloumi cheese, sliced into matchsticks

3 T walnut oil
1 T sambuco
1 T while balsamic vinegar
1 head romaine hearts
1 T grated orange zest


Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet.  You'll want it to be shimmering before you put the haloumi in.  When it's hot enough, add the cheese to the skillet. 

Be careful because it'll pop as you add the cheese.  Turn the cheese when it gets nice and brown.  When both sides are nice and brown, remove it to a paper towel and let it drain.  While the cheese is cooking, make the dressing.  Mix together the walnut oil, sambuca, white balsamic and orange zest.  Wash and pat the romaine leaves dry.  To serve, lay 2-3 romaine hearts on a salad plate.  Top each with 4-5 matchsticks of cheese and drizzle with dressing.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Entertaining with Booze

The title kinda knocks your socks off, doesn't it?  It certainly did mine.  Connie and I were doing our Christmas shopping and he was on the phone with middle son, Greg, trying to find out what to get youngest son, Matt.  No, Matt we are not getting you a year's supply of socks.  Yes, we considered that because you have yet to give us any hints.  So, guess what I did while Connie was chatting?  You got it.  I browsed through the cookbooks.  I was down to the last shelf and saw this and thought the title was not great and had no clue who the authors are.  But, it was lean against a shelf and wait for Connie to finish or look at this cookbook. I looked.  And, looked.  And, looked.  I didn't see anything I didn't like.  I bought it. 

We were heading to our friends Chris and Mark's annual party.  They're an hour south of us so I started reading recipes out loud on the way south.  Did the same thing on the way home.  And, I made a list of recipes to try.  About 75 that I liked.   Out of about 100 from what I could tell.  That's a great cookbook in my book. 

The next day was a Sunday and it was an away Colts game so that meant I needed to leave the office by noon and be home to watch the Colts lose.  Yeah, a fan with very little faith in the team.  Especially when they're playing the hated Patriots.  I know, Connie's from Boston and he roots for them when they're not playing the Colts.  But, me, I just really don't like that team.  I'd seen a frittata recipe that sounded wonderful - particularly because it called for sauteed mushrooms and I had some leftover that needed to be used up.  That'd be lunch. 

The premise of the cookbook is menus along with a drink.  And, most of the recipes have booze of one sort or another in them.  Some of them like the Scotch tasting party will get made in total.  Others, I'll pick and choose.  Like, Sunday's dinner.  We started with the apple martini from one menu and went on to the pork chops with lemon rosemary marmalade from another.  Those were served with the wine soaked potato salad from yet another. 

Since that Sunday I've made several other recipes.  A total of ten recipes made from one cookbook. 

Here's the tally:

Leprechaun Roast Rack of Lamb 4*
Mushroom Bacon Frittata 4*
BLT Tavern Salad 4*
Wine Soaked Potato Salad 3*
Apple Martini 5*
Lemon Rosemary Marmalade 4*
Hard Cider Baba Ghanouj 3*
Cumin Flatbread 4*
Romaine Hearts wtih Haloumi Matchsticks 5*
The Deer Hunter 2*

Since you've already seen the apple martini and will see the salad with haloumi tomorrow, let's do the BLT Tavern Salad tonight.  We've got a blue cheese dressing recipe that we both absolutely love.  So all new blue cheese dressings are measured against that one.  This one measured up pretty darned well.  It didn't unseat our favorite but certainly added a great alternative to the mix.  The only negative I can find is that there really isn't enough dressing for six salads.  I'm the dressing and sauce gal and Connie usually isn't.  In this case, though, we all put additional dressing on our salads.  Between Mom, Connie and me, we went through 75% of the dressing.

BLT Tavern Salad
serves 6


8-10 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 large head of iceberg lettuce cut into six wedges or another kind of lettuce if you prefer
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped or a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 c sliced almonds, browned

for the dressing:
1/2 c mayonnaise
1 T white wine vinegar
1 T lemon vodka
1/4 c buttermilk
1/3 c crumbled blue cheese
1 t freshly ground black pepper


Whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, vodka and buttermilk.  Add the blue cheese and pepper.  To plate the salad, put either a wedge of iceberg or a handful lettuce on a salad plate.  Top with the bacon, tomatoes and almonds. 

Drizzle with the dressing. 

adapted from Entertaining with Booze

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Apple Martini and Chicken Soup

My throat's sore.  I feel miserable.  And, I'm trying my best to keep going.  Not terribly successfully, mind you.  Some of my appointments will have to be rescheduled because it's impossible to prep for them or have them while asleep in the big comfy chairs in front of my desk.  You thought those were for clients???  Think again, my friends.  They're recliners.  For me.  But, they're still big, comfy chairs for my staff when they come in to chat. At any rate, you're going to get two recipes today.  Because dinner was chicken soup.  And, I didn't take any photos.  I have lots of homemade stock at home.  Connie offered to go get a pizza.  But, all I really wanted was the warmth and comfort of chicken soup.  Here's how I made it:

Chicken Soup


2  c chicken stock
small knob of ginger, finely minced
1 rib celery
1/4 c chopped, cooked chicken
1/4 c brown rice
1/4 t sesame oil
2 t soy sauce


Heat the chicken stock to simmering.  Add the rice, celery and ginger.  Cook until the rice is almost done.  Add the cooked, chopped chicken along with the sesame oil and soy sauce.  Heat through and serve. 

Now, on to a drink.  I've been thoroughly enjoying the Entertain with Booze Cookbook.  There's a blog partially written with a couple of other recipes from the cookbook.  But, it needs directions and photos.  A drink.  Well, that's pretty easy.  Mix and serve.  Love it.

Apple Martini


1 oz apple schnapps or apple pucker
1 oz vodka
1 oz apple juice


Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Shake, shake, shake until it's too cold to hold. 

Strain into chilled martini glasses garnished with a slice of apple.  Now, we love our friend Joyce's Washington Apple Martini.  But it's now met its match.  Major YUM!

See that purple Connie's sporting in his hair?  We have a delightful friend by the name of Kelsey Van Wyk who had her first treatment for lymphoma the day after her 21st birthday.  Kelsey's died her hair purple on the assumption that it'll all fall out.  A bunch of us got purple stripes so she'd know we're all there for her.  If you'd like to read about her, she's written a blog called Dealt a New Hand.  Kelsey and her mom and dad and sisters are incredible folks.  And we know she's going to win this battle!

adapted from Entertaining with Booze

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Potato Latkes with Duck Confit

Friday night at home.  With Connie.  Now, to most of you that doesn't sound like anything spectacular.  Just an evening at home.  Except for the fact that for the last six years he's played bridge almost every Friday night.  On occasion we've had a Friday evening together but there've not been too many that we could just goof off.  And, I'd not been home for several evenings.  Our original plan was to do the shopping for the party prep we're going to do this weekend.  We also needed to go to Nora Apothecary to get the thyroid meds I have to rub inside George cat's ear every evening.  Oops.  We got home at 6:08 and they close at 6:00 on Friday evenings.  Not only that but we were now home.  And, neither of us wanted to leave. 

All of the sudden, I realized my dinner had been planned around a rotisserie chicken from Sams.  And, we weren't going to Sams.  Thursday night I'd been reading Anne Burrell's new cookbook, Cook Like a Rock Star.  The last recipe I'd read before drifting off to sleep was for duck confit.  That meant I had duck confit on the brain.  I do love that stuff!  I started thinking about how to serve duck confit.  How about latkes fried in duck fat with asparagus and a poached egg?  Off to the bookshelves to find Molly O'Neill's New York cookbook.  I was pretty certain I'd seen a great potato latke recipe there.  Bingo.  I had.  And, we had two packages of homemade duck confit in the freezer.

I've always loved potato latkes but have never tried making them.  My favorites are from The Original Pancake House.  They've got a location in Indy and one in Chicago.  Strangely enough, we get to the Chicago one most often because it's right down the street from the hotel where we stay when I go to Advantage Financial Group board meetings.  We typically order the Eggs Michael and savor every bite.  Eggs Michael is an english muffin topped with a sausage patty then a poached egg then a fabulous sherry mushroom cream sauce.  Potato latkes are on the side.  Swoon!!!

What did I learn?  You need to drain the potatoes REALLY well.  Use a large enough colander so they'll really drain.  And, leave them in the colander long enough.  I kept having to squeeze the liquid out of the latkes as I was making them.  Not a good thing.  But, they did wind up tasting fabulous.  I'm sure part of that was due to the fact that they were fried in duck fat.  Actually, the whole meal was fabulous.  This is one that I'll make again!

Potato Latkes with Duck Confit


for the latkes:
makes 6 latkes

1.25 lbs russet potatoes (about 2 large potatoes)
1/2 large white or yellow onion
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 T matzo meal
2 t chopped fresh parsley
freshly ground pepper
duck fat

to assemble the dish (per serving:)

potato latke
6 thin spears asparagus, lightly steamed
duck confit
poached egg
crispy duck skin


Put a large, wide colander over a bowl.  Peel the onion and cut the half in half.  Pulse it in the food processor until it's in bits.  You don't want mush here so don't pulse much.  Remove the onions to the colander.  Wash the potatoes and cut them in hunks to fit in the feed tube on the processor.  Use the larger shredding disk and shred the potatoes.  Put the potatoes in the colander and allow them to drain. 

small colander, piled high, not good

Smoosh them a bit to encourage the liquid to drain.  Once the potatoes have adequately drained, pour the liquid from the bowl out.  DON'T wipe the bowl.  The starch left there is a good thing.  Toss the potatoes and onions into the bowl.  Add the other latke ingredients:  matzo meal, salt and pepper, parsley and egg.

Mix well but lightly.  Heat the duck fat in a cast iron skillet.  It should be pretty screaming hot when you put the latkes in.  You're going to put them in using a 1/4 c up measure.  Squash them down so they're 4-5 inches across.  Now, reduce the heat and cook the latkes on medium until they're nice and crispy and golden brown. 

Turn them and cook the 2nd side until it's nice and crispy.  Remove from the heat and drain on paper towels.

I've got to tell you the comment at the end of the recipe from Dave, The Latke King, Firestone:  Remove from the room anyone who prefers latkes with sour cream.  Serve the latkes immediately.  With applesauce. 

So, I'm one of those applesauce people and I understand.  But, I still got a good laugh out of it! 

While the latkes are cooking, you need to crisp up your duck skin.  For something with so daggone much fat, it sticks to the skillet.  But, it's worth it because it tastes fabulous!

Now, you need to assemble the meal.   Start with a potato latke.

Top it with some asparagus spears.  More if they're thin, less if they're fat.

Put some shredded duck confit on the asparagus. 

Then, you need a poached egg.  Now, I used to poach those perfect eggs in the egg cooker.  It meant cleaning the stupid little trays.  I finally got brave and poach my eggs in simmering water with a bit of vinegar. 

They look MUCH better and gosh darn it, they're fun to make. 

Finally, garnish the dish with a bit of crispy duck skin and you're ready to inhale.

Latke recipe adapted from The New York Cookbook by Molly O'Neill

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Marinated Broccoli Salad

How to tell it's been a busy week around our house.  There are three cat food bowls in the sink and two wine glasses in the dish drainer.  Otherwise, the kitchen appears to be unused.  Lunch is what we can find from the freezer because there are no leftovers.  The mail is stacked neatly in the mail cubby.  And, on the desk because the cubby is full.  There's a stack of current papers on my hassock.  And, when you open my blog there's nothing new there.  Ah, yes, Christmas season is upon us. 

Tuesday I went to a continuing education meeting followed by a cocktail hour at a new restaurant right up the street.  I was deep in conversation with my friend Matt (whose mom provided the awesome roasted cauliflower recipe that we love so much) when the wait staff announced we needed to clear the room for the next batch of folks.  There were boxes to take home the rest of the appetizers if we so desired.  Sign me up.  It'd mean Connie'd have a great dinner.  Shrimp cocktail, New York strip slices, toasted ravioli, pizza, brownies.  All from the new Harry and Izzy's - an offshoot of St. Elmo's Steak House.  Connie inhaled the goodies when I got home.  We're looking forward to eating dinner there sometime next time spring when the lines die down!

Wednesday, we met our friends Donna and Phil for dinner so we could see them one more time before they head to Florida for the winter.  More and more of our friends are becoming snow birds.  It's making me feel old!  This time, we headed to Noah Grant's in Zionsville.  They have a really fun wine list.  Normally, I can pick up a wine list and know half the bottles.  This time I knew one winery and that was it.  We wound up with a bottle of pinot noir that was just about perfect.  Shooting Star.  Donna took a photo of the bottle so I'll be able to get a copy and hopefully find the wine.

Thursday was the monthly wine dinner at Chef Joseph's.  He really outdid himself this time.  Our favorite was a black sesame cone filled with a shrimp and jalapeno concoction with a melon salsa on the side.  I'd happily devour one of those daily.  We sat with folks we've gotten to know over the years so that made it even more fun. 

Ah, ha!  That means I have an opportunity to go into the vast archives of photos I've taken and chat about a wonderful recipe that never made it to the blog.  Not too long ago I bought the Neely's Celebration Cookbook.  If those folks are as much fun as they sound, I'd love to spend a day with them!  The cookbook has fantastic recipes - many of which are on my make soon list. 

My contribution to the Thanksgiving dinner was two vegetables and an appetizer.  Brother John suggested broccoli since that's something that everyone will actually eat.  My mind immediately went to this recipe.  It's a bit different from the traditional broccoli salad.  And, will be my go-to version in the future.  It's perfect.  I wouldn't make any changes to the recipe. 

Marinated Broccoli Salad

6 c broccoli florets
2 T honey
3 T red-wine vinegar
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 c slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 c dried cranberries


LIghtly steam the broccoli.  The original recipe called for blanching it which will work also.  I just prefer steaming the broccoli.  You want it to be tender crisp and bright green so don't overcook it!  To stop the cooking, immerse it in a bowl of cold water.  Drain it well and put it in a big bowl. 

Next, you're going to make the dressing.  Whisk together the honey, vinegar, pepper and crushed red pepper.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil. 

Toss together the broccoli, cranberries, almonds, bacon and red onion. 

Drizzle the dressing over and toss.  Serve.

from The Neely's Celebration Cookbook