Sunday, April 29, 2012


We had a groupon for Incontro in Franklin and we used it Friday night.  We shared an appetizer of prosciutto and house made mozzarella served with crostini toasts and a balsamic drizzle.  I had the special risotto which was a chicken and basil pesto with sun dried tomatoes.  Tony's main dish was Fillet Mignon Au poirve with mashed potatoes and wild mushrooms.  We weren't going to have dessert but the bartender Aaron, (we always sit at the bar to eat) talked us into it.  We shared a creme brulee which was good with a drizzle of chocolate over top and some fresh strawberries. 

Saturday we had an open house (again) and so we had to kill to lunch we went.  We just went last weekend to Armsby Abbey in Worcester with friends for the first time and we shared a bunch of pizzas, salads and appetizers.  It was so good that we decided to go there for lunch and try some more of their creations.  We sat at the bar and we were handed to brunch menu, here it is.  We shared the beet salad and the cauliflower pizza.  Then for "dessert" we shared the griddle cake stack.  For a drink I had the Fleur de Violette and Tony had a couple of the local New England Galxay brews.  We left there feeling very satisfied!

I made this risotto (maybe inspired by the one I had at Incontro of Friday) on Saturday when Tony went to a charity poker tournament at a friends house.  I used some dried porcini reconstituted, some sun dried tomatoes, rosemary and caramelized onions.  I also used some homemade chicken stock which makes a big difference.  I drizzled some really good extra virgin olive oil around the plated risotto, this really adds something. 

I wanted to bake something on Saturday night.  I thought of this homemade apple sauce that I've been making my my new cookbook La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life
.  I had an idea to use the apple sauce in a healthy cake that I would invent.  I made it and I thought it was good but it needed something.  Well the next day after it sat in the frig and got nice and cold I thought it was very good.  I'm still working on it though...

For lunch on Sunday I made some arroncini with the leftover risotto.  I thought I'd put some earthy goat cheese in the center of the risotto because all the flavors in the risotto are very earthy.  I tend to make arroncini the day after a risotto dinner because there is usually leftovers.  Form the balls with cheese in the center then coat each ball in flour, egg then Panko.  Chill in the frig for at least 15 minutes and brown in a skillet with olive oil and butter. Place into a 350 oven for about 10 minutes to heat through all the way to the cheese.  I served the arroncini over a bed of the leftover mushroom sauce (leftover from Scott Conant's gnudi with mushroom sauce I made during the week) and an arugula salad with dried cherries.

Tony smoked some ribs for tonight's dinner and damn they were good!  Nice amount of sweetness and spice and lots of great flavor (he will have to tell you what he put in it).

I made this potato and cannelloni bean "puree, gratin".  I boiled 4 Yukon gold potatoes and drained them well.  In a food processor add 1 garlic clove, 1 can of drained beans and puree; add the drained potatoes, 1 tsp of kosher salt, 2 tbsp of butter; puree with heated chicken stock until the desired consistency (like mashed potato).  Put into a buttered gratin dish and top with Parmesan.  Broil to brown the top and serve.

I had bought a big container of baby kale, so it keeps coming up on our menus.  This time I made an aioli with an egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil then added Parmesan cheese for a "Caesar" type dressing.  I added some shaved carrot strips to it for sweetness.

Here it is all together, good stuff!

Friday, April 27, 2012

healthy weekday meals, and some treats...

I have been making a roasted chicken on Monday's lately, I like it because it's easy, you have a delicious and great comfort meal with the option to make chicken soup, stock or just left over chicken for chicken salad sandwiches the next day.  I make it different every week....different herbs, sometimes lemon in the carcass, sometimes I baste it every 15 minutes, sometimes no basting.  I think the best so far is to leave the chicken out at room temperature for an hour or even slightly longer so it gets closer to room temperature (which helps with even cooking), separate the skin from the flesh on the breasts and "schmear" 1-2 Tbsp of softened butter under the skin of each side of the chicken breast; and make sure the skin is dry because the skin will never get crisp if its not dry.  I like thyme or rosemary in the carcass and even under the skin with the butter.  Make sure to season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper ( it really comes through in the end), season the skin with kosher salt and pepper, tie the legs together and put it in a hot oven, 500 degrees for 15 minutes in the upper third rack.  After the chicken is in there for 15 minutes turn down the temperature to 350 and roast about another hour, sometimes an hour and 15 minutes.  It depends on the size, I think Whole Foods usually gives me a 3 1/2 to 4 Lb bird.  Baste by brushing the fat that drips to the bottom of the pan ( I use a cast iron skillet and rest the chicken on either carrots or celery, just to keep it off the drippings), every 15 minutes or so.  You want to take the temperature between the leg and thigh and it should be about 175-180 degrees or so (165 degrees,  because of the bones comes out sightly under-done). 

I served slices of fresh whole wheat boule and a baby kale salad with roasted tomatoes and Parmesan along with the roast chicken. 

Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi with a Porcini Mushroom Puree
I saw this on the show "the best thing I ever made, Italian".  This was Scott Conant's recipe, who is a chef with Italian restaurants and he is one of the judges on Chopped.  He made this Gnudi which is the filling of a ravioli without the pasta.  I found the recipe for you here.  It's really good and for someone who hasn't made their own pasta, this is a good start.  We loved the mushroom sauce, and the light as air gnudi... no fat in the sauce and very healthy.  Good stuff!!

Pork tenderloin and Prunes
I love this Jacques Pepin recipe that I have made a few times in the past.  I served millet and slow cooked shaved fennel which went very nicely with the pork.  To make 2 servings this is what I did.  Soak about 12 dried prunes in hot water for 1-2 hours then drain and cover with port wine until you are ready to cook them.  Cut 1 pork tenderloin into 2 inch angled pieces, season with salt and pepper.  Brown the pork in a saute pan with a little canola oil for about 5 minutes then remove to a warm oven while you make the sauce.  Add a Tbsp of shallots for 30 seconds then 1-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup chicken stock and the port and prunes, reduce for about 5 minutes until lightly thickened.  Add a scant Tbsp of black-currant jam (or similar) and a scant Tbsp of ketchup.  Heat to melt the jam and add the pork with juices back into the sauce, heat through.  Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

At Whole Foods they had a big package of raspberries on sale for 5.99 where the tiny pint size was 4.99 so I grabbed the big one.  I decided to make a fresh raspberry sauce by dropping some into a blender with a squeeze of lemon juice and a couple Tbsp of confectioners sugar.  Blend it and strain it, then add whole raspberries.  I used it for 2 desserts this week, here they are....

This one has the fruit puree and a dollop of fat-free Greek yogurt and fresh mint.

This one has the fruit puree with some homemade vanilla creme anglaise (vanilla beans make all the difference).  When you make the creme anglaise it's just egg yolks so I was left with 2 egg whites and I decided to whip them with 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff peaks then I folded in some ground almonds (almond flour) and a pinch of salt.  I dropped them on a Silpat lined cookie sheet and made some cookies.  300 degree oven for about 45 minutes and they went nicely on top of this dessert.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Weekend meals.

Appetizer on Friday was this homemade hummus, which is very simple to make.
In the bowl of a food processor add a small garlic clove, drained and rinsed chick peas the zest and juice of a lemon to taste, a splash of water, salt, pepper and olive oil blended in while the machine is running until the right consistency is reached.  Usually there is Tahini added to this and no water.  I don't think Tahini is necessary and the water is added so you use less olive oil.

The main dish was skirt steak that Tony grilled on the charcoal fire.  I made polenta with fresh rosemary and thyme.  After making it and while it's still warm pour it into a loaf pan or whatever shape you like (line the pan with plastic wrap so you can easily remove it later) and let it set in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.  Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil and butter then add a 1 inch slice of the polenta and sear on both sides.   I was trying to use up what I had on hand for the vegetable and I had some green grapes, I decided to roast them with a little butter.  I have had roasted grapes but just a handful mixed with other savory ingredients.   After roasting I added some toasted pine nuts and quark ( a European style soft cheese that tastes like a cross between cream cheese and sour cream).  I also made a red wine sauce to go over the skirt steak.  Tony thought the grapes were too much (acid/sweet with the red wine sauce, but I liked it).   

Dessert on Friday was this hazelnut roulaud with chocolate and whipped cream in the center and fresh strawberries sweetened with vanilla sugar and a splash of Triple Sec to create a bit of a sauce for the strawberries.  I do love a good dessert!

Lettuce wraps.  
This was something I saw at a restaurant recently and I thought it was a good idea to make at home.  Well the flavors were good but I found it very hard to eat, I ended up just putting all the ingredients onto my plate and ate it with a fork.  Tony ate it the way I intended with the lettuce.  I flavored the cellophane noodles by sauteing with fresh ginger, garlic, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and red pepper flakes.  I made some guacamole, some left over hummus from the other night and stir fried red pepper strips.  I added sliced tomato and some clover sprouts.

Salad of fingerling potatoes and hard boiled eggs
I layered in this serving dish some boiled, then peeled fingerling potatoes, a splash of white wine and a good sprinkling of salt (while the potatoes are still hot pour in some white wine and it absorbs into the potatoes to add a nice flavor), some hard boiled eggs and arugula.  I sprinkled on some goat cheese and some aioli (homemade mayonnaise with garlic, mustard, lemon juice, egg yolk and olive oil).

Apple sauce apple tart
I had some homemade apple sauce in the frig and some apples, so I figured I'd whip up some pastry dough and make my favorite thing which is an apple tart.  I saw Laura Calder make a different version of an apple tart by first putting down a bed of apple sauce, then some sliced apples over that, so that's what I did.  Good for a change but something about the simpler version I like better with just a sprinkling of sugar above and below a layer of sliced apples and a bit of butter on top.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Heathy weeknight meals

Turkey and mushroom burgers. 
I got some dark turkey meat at Whole Foods and mixed in some sauteed, roughly chopped mushrooms and chopped onions sauteed in olive oil and seasoned with herbs De Provence, (both cooled off before mixing in to the turkey).  Seasoned the whole mix with salt and pepper, formed them into patties and seared them off in a non-stick skillet.  I marinated some sliced tomatoes with a thyme pesto that I simply made with fresh thyme, 1/2 garlic clove, salt, pepper and olive oil in a mortar and pestle, for about 2 hours at room temperature, below.... (this added lots of flavor).  I used these thin buns from Whole Foods in their bakery department that are very tasty.  I spread a thin layer of mayonnaise, some arugula, alfalfa sprouts and the marinated tomatoes.  Very flavorful, loved it!  Note, I got a pound of ground turkey and after mixing the onions and mushrooms in I was able to make 6 portions, so four went in the freezer for another time.

Thyme pesto marinated sliced tomatoes.

Zucchini and quinoa pasta topped with meat sauce, Parmesan and parsley.
I found this quinoa pasta that I thought I'd try, turns out it was very good.  I julienned two zucchini's and put them into a bowl with a coating of olive oil, herbs De Provence, salt and pepper.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and boil the pasta.  About 2-3 minutes before the pasta is done heat a non-stick skillet and add the olive oil coated zucchini and cook just a couple minutes, then add the pasta to the zucchini and combine, coating the pasta with the juices that come out of the zucchini.  Toss together for a minute and plate.  I had some meatballs in the freezer and while reheating it, it turned into a meat sauce (still very tasty) a little Parmesan and parsley and your done.  I like the idea of this because you really bulk up the portion with the zucchini which is tricking you to eat less calories.  Next time I might do 3 or 4 zucchini for the same amount of pasta, we loved the texture of the zucchini mixed with the pasta.

Tender poached whole chicken over brown rice with braised carrots and parsnips.

I poached a whole chicken as if I was making a chicken soup or stock by putting a whole chicken in a big pot along with onions, garlic, celery, carrots, bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley stems and a pinch of salt.  Fill it to cover the chicken completely with cold water and bring to a boil then simmer covered for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let it sit covered for 45 minutes.  Remove it from the stock and once it's cool enough to handle pull of the tender pieces of chicken.

Savory french toast

I wasn't sure about this but I dreamed it up one morning while working and there is only one way to find out if it's a good idea, and that's to make it.... I found out and it was delicious!!  To make the french toast I got this sourdough bread at whole foods.  Its Nashoba Brook brand, it says on the package that it's made from natural yeast from homegrown concord grapes (who knew).  I soaked the bread slices in eggs, milk, saracha, maple syrup, salt and pepper.  I cooked them until golden in a little butter.  I topped them with sauteed mushrooms seasoned with fresh thyme and deglazed with Madeira wine.  On the mushrooms I put a dollop of Formage Blanc (which is completely fat free, and tastes like fat free Greek yogurt), I mixed a little maple syrup and fresh thyme in the Formage Blanc.  I cooked a few pieces of prosciutto in a skillet until crisp and put that over the Formage Blanc.  I sprinkled some chopped scallions over the whole thing.  I served a salad on the side of watercress, alfalfa and clover sprouts with tomatoes and in a homemade honey-mustard-balsamic dressing.

Baked potato slices in chicken stock with Emmenthaler cheese.

I had to use up some potatoes that were growing so many eyes I felt like they were watching my every move.  I made this the day I poached the whole chicken and I just used the poaching liquid in this.  I sliced the potatoes thin with a mandolin and layered potato then salt, a light sprinkling of cheese and about 1-2 tsp of butter.  Once I layered all the potatoes in I poured the stock up the side slowly until just under the top of the potatoes.  I don't know how long I cooked it, I had it covered for the first 30 minutes of so but then I let it bake uncovered for maybe 60-90 minutes longer and the oven was set at 350.  So good.

Salmon with the baked potato slices (above) and sauteed red pepper, onion and zucchini.

Homemade apple sauce layered with non-fat Greek yogurt and sliced strawberries.

Icy water with fresh mint and lemon juice.  I thought this looked so pretty I had to show you.  Refreshing too!

Mujer Verde

Tony made this for me one night, it has gin, lime juice, agave, chartreuse and a lime twist for garnish.  It was quite good!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

New cookbook inspiration...

Tony and I went to the mall last weekend to get out of the house during an open house and we had to stop at a favorite store of mine called "Anthropologie".  I saw this cookbook called La Tartine Gourmande and loved the pictures and different ideas in it.  We didn't buy it there, we did our thing where we look on Amazon for a better price and we got it about $10.00 cheaper, so I had to wait 2 days...for $10 it's worth it.  The author is from France and she cooks healthy so it's perfect.  I've already made many of the recipes, of course I forgot to take some of the pictures but here are some that I did....
I made this last night and served a parsley and bella mushroom salad along side.  The salad was not from her book but this eggplant stuffed with white sweet potato.  I used hannah yams which are very sweet and yummy.  The other ingredients in this include onions, celery, carrots, lemon thyme, tomatoes, Emmentaler cheese and flavored with ground dry coriander and fresh cilantro.  You use Italian eggplants because they are a better size and the skin is more tender.

Here it is served with the parsley and mushroom salad.  The dressing is a fresh lemon juice and olive oil dressing and the mushrooms are sliced thin and parsley leaves left whole.

This was an appetizer last night it's what she calls Verrine Nordique.  It's layered with sliced fingerling potatoes, Greek yogurt flavored with chives, parsley, lemon juice, horseradish and shallot, slices of cucumber and topped with smoked salmon and topped with chives.  Yummy. 

Here was the dessert from last night called Petits Pots De Creme (little custards).  I couldn't resist the photo in the book with a cute little pink and white spoon deep into the little glass jar filled with this rich looking custard.  It's an apple sauce at the bottom that is very delicious made with a fresh vanilla bean, sugar, lemon juice and zest and a cinnamon stick.  That first goes at the bottom then the custard is made and flavored with cardamom pods, cinnamon, vanilla and whole milk.  Fill the jars and bake in a water bath.  So good!  I'm loving canning jars lately.

I made pancakes this morning from her book but forgot to get a picture, I guess I didn't have my second cup of coffee yet.  They were Buttermilk, lemon, and poppy seed quinoa pancakes.  Served with fresh berries and syrup.  They were light and delicious!

This is not from the book but I made it earlier in the week.  I have been trying to make a caramel sauce by just using sugar, water, cream, butter and of course Fleur de Sel.  I have a recipe from Thomas Keller where is works every time but with the addition of corn syrup that I want to not use, but it seems you have to.  I kept getting crystals no matter how hard I tried, until I drizzled a teaspoon of corn syrup in and it worked out nicely.  I roasted slices of fresh pineapple and made a banana ice cream.  I learned this from a friend and love it... you take banana slices that you froze and drop into the food processor with the blade attachment.  Wiz it up a bit and drizzle in agave, almond milk and vanilla.  Process until it looks like ice cream.  Love it.

Here is the same as above but with out the pineapple and with pistachios.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Switching things up...

After taking a little time off from "Friday Night Dinners", it has become clear to me that blogging the day after, was becoming a JOB!  In the past month or so I find myself throwing together dinners and enjoying the carefree-ness, of not worrying about the exact measurements that I usually pay close attention to so I can put it in the blog! I plan to show you more food in less words, I hope you like it...

Here are some recent meals we've had...

Cauliflower soup with roasted Brussels sprouts and a drizzle of olive oil

Custard pie with braised rhubarb that was placed on after baking

Homemade ravioli with eggplant (roasted, pureed then slow roasted to concentrate the flavors) mixed with ricotta cheese.  Over a bechemel-Stilton sauce, topped with toasted pine nuts

A big slice of feta cheese coated in flour, egg wash and almond flour then seared, served with cherry yellow tomatoes cooked Agra Dulce with a Julienne of basil and green olives.  Sourdough toast

Caramel sauce that turned out too thick so I made caramels instead

Carrot and ginger soup with homemade chicken stock and finished with a little cream and butter, topped with scallions

Arugula salad with alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes and house made croutons made with day old bread.  Left over roasted eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes and onions pureed with eggs and bread crumbs and baked in a flax seed, millet, almond flour, olive oil and lemon zest crust