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Monday, January 21, 2013

Carrot, Dill and White Bean Salad

Carrots are one of my favorite vegetables.  They're so incredibly versatile.  Crispy and crunchy raw, meltingly tender when slow cooked.  Makes my mouth water to think about them. 

Ths month's Secret Recipe Club blog is Veronica's Cornucopia.  I'd gone thru and made a list of the recent posts I'd like to try.  Then, when we were finishing up leftovers from our big party, I looked for a side dish.  You see, I had a container of Bloody Mary Grape Tomatoes that I was going to turn into Penne a la Vodka and I wanted something to go with it.  I knew from reading her blog that Veronica has a lot of great side dishes.  So, her blog was the first place I looked.  I saw carrots and white beans in a lemony vinaigrette.  Sold. 

You probably know the Secret Recipe Club drill by now.  Each blogger is assigned a blog.  We choose a recipe to make then blog about it.  We're allowed to make changes along the way.  Since I fall firmly in the category of I'm going to tweak the first time, I typically do make some small changes.  Then, on our group's reveal day we get to see what everyone else chose and who had our blogs.  And, we can always head to the Secret Recipe Club site and see not only the other group's recipes but all the ones that've been posted in the past.  It's a lot of fun, particularly if you get a blog like Veronica's that has such a great selection of fun dishes.  And, that's fun to read.  So, thank you Veronica for a very delightful time with your blog.  I'll be back to visit and see what you're up to now!

What did we think?  I made one big change.  The original recipe called for topping this with toasted sliced almonds.  We used feta cheese instead.  This was a fabulous side dish.  The beans help make it healthy.  Well, so do the carrots!  I'm going to try it with different herbs and cheeses and nuts and vinaigrette flavors.  What really makes the difference is browning the carrots.  It brings out all the lovely sweetness.  Now, Veronica originally got this from 101 Cookbooks.  That's a blog that I frequent too.  Here's a link directly to the recipe on Veronica's site:  Carrot, Dill and White Bean Salad.

Carrot, Dill and White Bean Salad


for the dressing:

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
1/4 t salt
1/2 c finely diced red onion

for the salad
1 t vegetable oil
2 c sliced carrots, cut 1/4" thick on the bias
3 c cooked beans (white beans, chick peas... whatever you like)
1 T dried or 1/4 c chopped fresh dill
2 T packed brown sugar
1/3 c crumbled feta cheese (or you can used toasted nuts)


In a small skillet, saute then carrots in the vegetable oil until they're lightly browned.  While those are cooking, mix the dressing ingredients and set aside.  In a medium bowl, toss the cooked carrots wtih the beans and dill. Top the mixture with the brown sugar.  Slowly pour the dressing over the brown sugar and toss to coat.  Serve topped with crumbled feta or toasted nuts. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New Years Eve 2013 cont...

Back to New Year's Eve and our favorite dish of the evening:  Truffled Scallops and Crabmeat with Caviar Vinaigrette.  Doesn't that just have you salivating?  It certainly had that effect on me when I read the recipe.  Commander's Wild Side has a chapter of "Showstopping Dishes to Impress Your Friends."  Yes, they are showstopping.  And, yes, this was over the top fabulous.

I've always loved seafood.  When I was little we'd eat Sunday brunch on occasion at the Marott.  It was quite the spread.  I clearly remember the all you can eat shrimp as I ate more than any five year old had a right to!  Then, I found crabmeat and lobster and scallops.  Oh, my.  My first experience with caviar wasn't quite as positive.  I was on a six week trip to Europe as part of a high school student ambassador program.  And, I was served caviar.  My reaction?  UGH!  Finally a few years ago I decided that relying on an ugh from so many years ago was just being a baby.  So, I started trying caviar in non-threatening ways.  Like sprinkled on sushi.  Or a bit on an appetizer.  If it was served to me, I ate it.  Still, I didn't have a spoonful.  So, this recipe was a bit of a stretch.  One I'm glad I made!  Then, there's truffle oil.  I'm not quite sure how I managed to avoid truffle oil for so many years.  Maybe it just wasn't available.  Suffice to say that it was love at first sip. 

What did we think?  The natural sweetness of the crabmeat is enhanced by the white wine. The beets are an amazing additon.  I served this on a bed of butter lettuce even though the recipe didn't call for any lettuce.  Then, I added both some of the leftover lobster and some sliced hearts of palm when this was served for dinner a couple of evenings later.  The second time around all we could find was golden beets.  They were equally good. 

This certainly is a special occasion dish.  Now, go find a special occasion to try it :-)

Truffled Scallops and Crabmeat with Caviar Vinaigrette

serves 4

1 head butter lettuce
8 large dry-pack sea scallops, patted dry
1 1/2 t kosher salt or 1 t kosher salt + 1/2 t black truffle salt
1 t ground white pepper
4 T olive oil
1/2 c dry white wine
2 T minced shallots
2 T unsalted butter
8 oz jumbo lump crabmeat
1 T minced fresh chives
1 T cane vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 T truffle oil
2 t domestic caviar
2 large or 4 small roasted beets, peeled and sliced


Rinse and spin dry the butter lettuce.  Divide it amongst four salad plates.  Salt and pepper the scallops.  Brown them on both sides in the olive oil, using a small skillet.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan or skillet.  Add the shallots and saute until they're softened.  Add the white wine and crab meat.  Saute until the liquid has almost totally evaporated.  Mix the chives, vinegar and truffle oil.  VERY gently stir in the caviar.

Top the lettuce with the sliced beets.  Top that with the scallops, then the crabmeat.  Drizzle the dressing over all.  Serve. 

Our entree was a repeat.  Not too long ago when we were visiting our kids on Cape Cod we made a stop at Salty Lou's and bought some lobsters.  And made Tarragon Lobster on the grill.  Yes, we've had it twice since then.  It's amazing. 

Now, our side dish sounded good.  In fact, it was the reason I'd bought the cookbook.  The title Commander's Wild Side sounded like it'd be all wild game and fish.  Nope.  But, I'd browsed the sides and fell in love with this dish.  Rightfully so.  It's a five.  We had leftovers for almost a week.  And, this was fabulous every time we had it.  Now, I will say that "cakes" was a major stretch for us.  Stuffing was more like it.  The "cakes" totally fell apart.  That's ok with me since the flavor was so delightful.  I did take a couple of liberties with the recipe.  Like the fact that I used canned artichoke hearts and added an additional 8 oz of mushrooms.

Wild Mushroom and Artichoke Stuffing

serves 8


6 T unsalted butter
1 small leek, sliced thinly and rinsed well
1 T minced garlic
8 oz assorted wild mushrooms
8 oz cremini mushrooms
1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
salt to taste
pepper to ta1/4 c brandy
1/2 c chicken stock
3 c cubed day-old French bread (1/2 - 3/4" cubes)
1 1/2 t minced fresh rosemary or half as much dried
1 1/2 t minced fresh thyme or half as much dried


In a large skillet, saute the leeks and garlic in a couple of tablespoons of the butter for a couple of minutes.  Add the mushrooms and artichokes.  Saute them until they've given off their liquid and have softened.  You'll want them just a little browned.  Pour in the brandy.  Stir until it's evaporated.  Then, add the chicken stock.  Cook that until the stock has reduced by half.  Add the bread cubes and herbs.  Stir well.  Allow the mixture to sit for minutes.  At this point you can either make it into cakes and pan brown them or serve it as stuffing.  We tried the cakes and they totally fell apart so we went for the stuffing...

Well, friends, that's finally the end of our New Year's Eve.  Since then I've spent most of the time with a lovely cold.  And, we had about 175 people at our home for our annual party.  I'll work on the party and Secret Recipe Club next then hopefully get in some good basic recipes!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Eve 2013

Another new year.  Time is simply flying by. If you've been reading my blog for very long, you know our tradition is a seafood feast on New Year's Eve. We choose our recipes a month or two in advance and spend way too much time chatting about how much fun it's going to be and how wonderful the dishes will be.  Typically, I come up with 20-30 options and we narrow it down to a reasonable (ok, time to chuckle) menu of appetizer, soup, salad, entree, side dish and dessert. This year Connie requested the tarragon grilled lobster for our entree.  And, a chocolate cup filled with mousse for our dessert.  I'd been salivating over some of the recipes from Commander's Wild Side. Once I'd listed those I wanted to try our menu was set.

Typically, we head home early in the afternoon on New Year's Eve so we can start cooking.  But, the 31st had a couple of kinks in it.  Last minute client emergencies.  Once those were taken care of we headed home.  Connie'd done all the shopping that morning.  On the way home he commented that traffic was pretty light.  Because EVERYONE was at the stores!  I won't go through the entire shopping expediton because we'd be here until tomorrow but suffice to say he didn't have an easy time finding lobsters.  Everyone was out of duck fat.  Although that wasn't necessary for our New Year's Eve feast. 

Here's what our menu looked like:

Tasso stuffed shrimp with garlic cream sauce
Creole lobster bisque
Scallop and crab salad with caviar vinaigrette
Tarragon grilled lobster
Artichoke heart and wild mushroom cakes
Chocolate cups filled with mousse

We set up our mis en place

Tasso Stuffed Shrimp with Garlic Cream

Artichoke Mushroom Cakes

Scallop and Shrimp Salad with Caviar Vinaigrette

Creole Lobster Bisque

The first thing to do was to make the chocolate cups.  It was super simple when I did it at Ghyslain's.  Not so much here.  The first balloon exploded throwing chocoate all over me, the wall, some of the food we had set out.  What a total mell of a hess.  So, Connie says, you can't touch the side of the double boiler.  I didn't think I had but I tried again anyway.  BOOM!  He says dip the balloon in and let that dip cool then dip again.  Ok, we'll try that.  BOOM!  So, he decides he can do a better job.  He dips a side and starts blowing on the chocolate to cool it down.  You know what happened next :-)  BOOM!  By this time we were both laughing hysterically.  What else can you do when you're covered with dark chocolate?  So much for dessert!

On to dinner...

We pretty much had everything cooking at once.  Can you say it was a zoo?

What did we think?  We typically don't give out five's.  Maybe once a month a dish qualifies.  New Year's Eve we had THREE fives and a couple of fours.  None of the dishes needed any tweaking.

Tasso Stuffed Shrimp with Garlic Cream

serves four as a first course

The tasso stuffed shrimp with garlic cream were a bit tough to stuff.  I wound up pan sauteeing them instead of baking them.  Then, I put the stuffing that fell out on top of the shrimp.  When I roasted garlic for the cream, I roasted extra so I could use roasted garlic in everything else instead of chopped garlic.  This recipe was one of our fives.  We used six shrimp and a quarter of the cream recipe.  I also used all green bell pepper instead of a mix of peppers.  The ingredient list below is as written. 


for the garlic cream:

1 head garlic
1 t Creole seasoning
2 c heavy cream

for the shrimp:

1 T vegetable oil
1 T minced garlic
4 oz tasso, finely chopped
1 leek, white part only, halved lengthwise, sliced and rinsed well
1/4 c each minced green bell pepper, red bell pepper and yellow bell pepper
1 1/4 t Creole seasoning
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined


Roast the garlic.  Either use a garlic baker or wrap the head of garlic in foil and roast it at 350 for about half an hour.  Because I had whole cloves of garlic left from the Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, I tossed them with some olive oil and roasted them at 450 for 20 minutes until they were nicely browned and very soft.  Mash the garlic cloves or squeeze the garlic out of the head.

Mix the cream, roasted garlic and Creole seasoning.  Allow it to simmer in a small saucepan while you prepare the shrimp.  You want it to reduce by about half. 

In a small skillet, saute the garlic (I used mashed roasted cloves,) tasso, leek, bell peppers and Creole seasoning.  

Once they're nicely browned, remove the skillet from the heat and allow the stuffing mix to cool a bit.

Butterfly the shrimp on the underside.  It's not the normal way of butterflying!  Then, stuff them with the stuffing and roll them up.  That's all easier said than done.  The recipe calls for baking them for 12 minutes at 350.  I pan sauteed them in a tablespoon of butter. 

Plate the dish starting with a puddle of the garlic cream.  See the yummy pieces of roasted garlic?  All caramelized and fabulous! 

Top that with three shrimp then the stuffing that fell out.

Creole Lobster Bisque

Serves 6 as a soup course or 4 for lunch

Our next course was the creole lobster bisque.  This was a four.  Now, let me say that we love the lobster bisque at Aesop's.  Kathy makes the best lobster bisque either of us has ever had. And, she doesn't even like the stuff!!!  This was my first attempt at lobster bisque.  I'd saved the lobster shells last time we splurged.  Those would be the base for the stock.  I was a bit leary of the lack of cream.  And, I added a bit of chopped lobster as a garnish.  Most of it sank by the time I turned around and picked up the camera!  Since I wasn't starting with whole lobsters, my stock probably wasn't quite as rich and flavorful as the original.  And, in order to keep the directions at a "reasonable" length, I'm going to tell you how I made the soup...  If you want the full version, you'll need to buy the book!  This was actually better the second day.  Pretty typical of a lot of soups that are better the second day.  We thought this was wonderful but only gave it a four.


for the stock:
Shells from two 1 1/2 lb lobsters
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1/2 c dry white wine
3 bay leaves
8 whole pepper corns

to make the soup:
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c flour
4 T unsalted butter
2 c coarsely chopped tomatoes
4 shallots, chopped
1 leek, white part onlychopped and rinsed well
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 T Creole seasoning
1/3 c plus a splash of Armagnac or brandy
1/4 c heavy cream
1 t chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper
1-2 T of chopped lobster meat per serving

Break the lobster shells into approximately 1" pieces.  We froze the shells then left them in the freezer bag and used a meat mallet.  Place the shells, onion, carrot and celery in a roasting pan.  Roast at 350 for 20 minutes.

In a stockpot put 6 cups of water, the wine, bay leaves and pepper corns.  Add the lobster shells and vegetables.  Simmer for about 45 minutes.  Stir it when you walk by...  Drain the stock through a mesh strainer (I used my colander and it worked just fine.)  Press on the shells and veggies to get all of the liquid out.  Set the stock aside.  Actually, the recipe notes this can be made ahead and frozen. 

Now, it's time to make the roux.  In a heavy saucepan heat the oil to shimmering.  The recipe actually calls for it to be smoking but I just can't bring myself to have smoking oil in my house...  Add the flour gradually, whisking as you go.  The roux will turn light brown, then the color of peanut butter, then mahogany.  As the recipe says, mahogany is one shade darker than peanut butter.  Ok, that's when you pour the roux into a metal bowl to stop the cooking.  Also because you really don't want to shock a glass bowl or melt a plastic one!  Here's how the colors looked:

In yet another saucepan, a large one this time, melt two tablespoons of the butter.  Add the tomatoes, shallots, leek, celery, green bell pepper and Creole seasoning.  Since I used canned diced tomatoes with their juice, I had to cook the veggies down for well over the ten minutes called for in the recipe.  That worked out just fine since all the veggies get pureed anyway.  Here's how this looked as it cooked down:

Deglaze the pan with the brandy.  Stir for a couple of minutes.  Add the lobster stock and whisk it in well. 

Once the soup is simmering, stir in the roux.  Simmer the soup for an hour.  There wil be foam on top that needs to be skimmed. 

After the soup has simmered for an hour, stir in the last two tablespoons of butter, the cream , thyme and a splash of brandy.

Puree the soup.  You know the rules about pureeing hot stuff in batches.  Now would be a good time to really follow the rules.  We used our food processor and it worked like a champ.  A few little pieces of veggies made it through unscathed and added some interest to the soup.

Serve the soup garnished with the lobster meat.  The recipe actually called for using the meat from the two lobsters.  I thought that was overkill.

Are you stuffed yet?  We just about were but soldiered on - lol. 

Well, I think that's probably enough for this post.  I'll continue with our New Year's Eve feast on my next post.

recipes adapted from Commander's Wild Side


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

On the road again

Grammy and Grampy were on the road again.  Back to Columbus, OH to see our grandkids.  And, Connie's three sons and our daughter-in-law and Greg's girlfriend and the kid's cousin.  After a dreadful day at work on Friday I was looking forward to curling up in my chair and enjoying a fire in the fireplace. We were to get up at o'dark thirty on Saturday and start driving.  Then, I looked at the weather forecast.  Snow was closing in on Indianapolis.  Three to six inches of snow.  UGH!  It was time to check with our pet sitter and make sure she could take care of the furry kids early.  And, throw clothes in the suitcase and start driving.  I let Annie out and she came back in covered with the most gorgeous huge snowflakes.  Gorgeous that is unless you've got to drive in them.  Fortunately, we got on the road quickly and out ran the storm. 

Saturday morning while Grampy and the grandkids made a tunnel between the couch and the table, I sat down and worked up a menu.  Then, Connie and eldest son David (the one who lives in Columbus) and I went grocery shopping while Bradley and Rosie and their mom and her mom (aka YaYa) went sledding.  The kids were due in about 2:00 and they'd be hungry.  They'd driven all the way from Cape Cod - a lot of it in the same storm we'd managed to avoid.


This is totally off the subject but it's such an incredible idea I have to share it.  My daughter-in-law Kara is talented.  She's just plain amazing.  During her college years she was a Division I athelete as well as a top-notch student.  Now, she's a fantastic mom.  And, she's very creative.  See the photos above the kids' heads?  There are three out in the hall.  And there are dots on the wall below them.  Those dots are clocks set to the time of day that David and Kara were married, Bradley was born and Rosie was born.  Then, the photos are of their wedding and each of the kids.  Above it it says, "The best of times."  How cool is that???

Our menu was:

Marcie's dip
La Brea Tar Pit chicken wings
N'awlins Barbecue Shrimp

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic
Corn and red bell pepper risotto
Caesar salad
Mounds bars
Chocolate chip bread pudding with cinnamon rum sauce

We got home from the store, unloaded the car and started cooking.  Connie's job was to cut up the chicken wings.  Bradley was a big help.  He was SO good about understanding he needed to wash his hands after handling raw chicken.  I put together the Marci's Dip.  This is a recipe from about 1977.  Marcie, who was the bank president's secretary, brought this to the holiday pitch-in that year.  I asked for the recipe and have made it about every Christmas since.  Now, I'm afraid it'll never be the same because it appears that Henri's Tastee Dressing is no longer made.  The best way I can describe Henri's was as a poppy seed/slaw dressing.  I've got the ingredient list off the old bottle so I may be able to play around and come up with something similar.  Or I may just keep doing what I did on Saturday and add slaw dressing.

Marcie's Dip

8 oz package cream cheese
4 oz package Buddig beef or pastrami or corned beef, diced
1 T sweet pickle relish
1 T Henri's Tastee Dressing
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t onion powder


Whip the cream cheese.  Add the other ingredients and serve on crackers.

Once the Marcie's Dip was ready and the La Brea Tar Pit Chicken Wings were in the oven, I got my mis en place done for the rest of the meal:

BBQ Shrimp

 Mounds Bars
 Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
 Caesar Salad
 Corn and Bell Pepper Risotto
 Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Raisin Sauce

The La Brea Tar Pit Chicken Wings are one of middle son Greg's favorite things.  We made six pounds of wings and they were inhaled. Here's the last one disappearing thanks to Greg:

Last but not least, we made N'awlins Barbecue Shrimp.  The first place I had these was about 30 years ago at Pasquale Manale's in New Orleans.  It was love at first bite.  But, I've not made them at home.  Something about a pound of butter to three pounds of shrimp...  But, in hunting through daughter-in-law Kara's cookbooks for recipes to try I saw the Channel 13 On the Road cookbook had BBQ shrimp from Zydeco's.  Now, if you want to know about Zydeco's, go back and read my post about it.  Fabulous food!  I had to try my hand at the shrimp.  Kara absolutely loved the shrimp.  She said they'd be breakfast and lunch on Sunday.  That's the kind of thing a cook loves to hear.  These were just a bit too spicy for me but the flavor sure brought back New Orleans!

David found a recipe for risotto that he wanted in the Gourmet In Short Order cookbook.  It was good but not up to my normal risotto for two reasons.  One, I use homemade chicken stock when I'm home and two, I have the cookware I need.  David and Kara are pretty basic cooks so have pretty basic cookware.  I frequently take a couple of boxes of cookware over there.  Things like a food processor...  In this case, I was using a skillet that was too small then a stockpot that was too tall.  Oh, well.  While I was prepping the ingredients for the risotto I had two of the best helpers around!

Then, almost everyone disappeared to the playroom while the chicken baked...

The chicken turned out moist and flavorful.  But, nobody else munched on the garlic cloves.  They're now in a storage container to be made into Spanish garlic soup.  The chicken is pretty basic to make.  You slice the ends off a lemon then cut four rounds.  Put those in the baking dish (I use a 9x13 glass pan) as a base for the chicken.  Pour in garlic cloves.  In this case, I cheated and bought the bag of pre-peeled cloves.  Somehow I didn't want to peel 80 cloves of garlic...  Put the chicken on top of the lemon slices and slather it with olive oil.  Bake for about an hour at 350.  About halfway through, pour in about half a cup of white wine.  The chicken should reach about 170 before you pull it out of the oven.

Caesar salad is one of our go-to recipes.  I used three big heads of romaine for 8 adults and 2 kiddo's and the bowl was empty. 

Then, we were on to dessert.  Connie and I aren't big dessert eaters.  These are two of our favorites.  The Mounds Bar recipe is from my friend Liz.  These are amazing and incredible cookies.  I did not bring any leftover Mounds Bars home.  Sad, eh?

Our second dessert was a Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Rum sauce.  This is comfort food all grown up.  My friend Doris made this for a dinner party a few years ago.  Then, I made it for our New Orleans party a year and a half ago.  It makes a 9x13 pan so it's one of those desserts you need a crowd for.  Well, WE need a crowd for because we just don't tend to finish up leftover desserts...  I know.  We're weird.  But, you already knew that!