Sunday, December 20, 2015

Duchess Potatoes, Winner Winner Christmas Dinner

Duchess Potatoes are mash potatoes all dressed up. Like fancy bundles of baked mashed potato goodness.

Now if you have been following this blog you know how big I am on Mashed potatoes but Duchess potatoes are kinda like the royalty of mashed potatoes. Butter, Eggs and Cream nothing poor or low calorie about this dish. It's definitely a special occasion dish.

SO for Christmas this year the house feast will include these very luxurious potatoes and they will be paired with some big meat. But given the body and richness of  these beauties I think whatever the protein will be it will have to work hard to keep up. I mean lets face it all these giant holiday meals are all about the side dishes.

So if you want to make a little something that looks fancy and is stupid good make these and everyone around your table will think you worked way harder than you did and love them. Winner Winner Christmas Dinner!

Duchess Potatoes


5 lbs of Yukon Gold or other yellow potato
8 egg yolks
1 stick butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons water


Cut potatoes into pieces and boil until soft
Drain really well and put on to a baking sheet then bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 mins
Place in a bowl and mash well or put through a ricer
Add the eggs and butter and cream and mix well
Add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning and adjust if you want
Let cool down then place into a pastry bag with a large flower tip ( you can get this at a kitchen store)
Pipe into small florets onto a baking sheet or two
Place into the fridge to cool
When ready preheat oven to 350 then to serve remove from fridge and brush with egg wash
Place in oven and bake for 30 mins. or until it browns.
Serve while hot. Be a winner!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

South Carolina Style Cream Cheese Biscuits instead of Rolls for the Holiday Dinner Table

So for the dinner of all dinners Thanksgiving day bread of some form is usually on the table. Crescent rolls from a can, bake and serve rolls or ,for the ambitious, homemade breads are some baked options that will bless many a Thanksgiving table.

However as a southerner I would like to say that while I love all those options biscuits will always be top on my list of bready things I love to eat. So for this holiday I will share this recipe for South Carolina Style cream cheese biscuits.

There are many many versions of these biscuits and recipes for them all over the web. Even the senator's office from the state has a version on their website. Why you ask? Well because at state functions his wife serves these little nuggets piled with thinly sliced onions and mayonnaise and chives or slathered with pimento cheese or warmed with salty ham and swiss cheese and a poppyseed mustard butter spread and they are so popular people ask for the recipe.

And while they are a perfect party food they are also just plain perfect served alongside a meal like the Thanksgiving feast. Served right out of the oven with good salted butter they can't be beat as a tasty side for the celebration.

So here's mt take on these tasty morsels. Hope you enjoy and have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!!

South Carolina Style Cream Cheese Biscuits


  • 4 cups self-rising flour (preferably White Lily), plus more for dusting
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter cut in small cubes and at room temperature
  • ½ cup cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with rack in the middle position.
  2. Place 4 cups flour in a large, wide bowl.
  3. Sprinkle the butter cubes and the cream cheese on top of the flour and use your fingers to "cut" it in until the mixture resembles cottage cheese (chunky with some loose flour).
  4. Make a well in the center and pour the buttermilk in the well.
  5. Use your hands or a rubber spatula to mix the buttermilk into the flour. Don't overmix. The secret to tender biscuits is messing with the dough as little as possible. A wet and messy dough will form.
  6. Spread a good bit of flour out on a work surface. (I like to use a piece of parchment paper for my work surface.)
  7. Dump the dough onto the floured work surface. Flour a rolling pin and sprinkle flour on top of the dough.
  8. Roll the dough to ½-inch thickness. Do not knead the dough.
  9. Flour a 2-inch round biscuit cutter. Press the cutter straight down into the dough and straight back up. (No turning.) Repeat, cutting as many biscuits as you can.
  10. Roll out dough scraps one time to cut more biscuits. As long as the dough stays wet inside, you can use as much flour on the outside as you need. As I transfer the biscuits to a baking pan, I try to dust off any excess flour.
  11. Place biscuits on a baking pan with sides or a cast iron skillet. The sides of the biscuits should be touching. The recipe recommends lining the sides of the pan with parchment paper, but I did not.
  12. Brush the tops with melted butter. Place in oven and immediately reduce oven temp to 450 degrees. Bake 16 to 18 minutes, rotating the pan once.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Vermont Cheese Soup

On a recent visit to Vermont I was able to go to a cheese shop which specialized in Vermont cheeses. I also visited the Cabot Cheese outlet one of the largest cheese producers in the state. And I also had a cheese tasting course both at a very upscale restaurant as well as at my host's home during a dinner party.

Regardless of where I tried these cheeses it was evident that Vermont produces some incredible varieties. These were both being made in mass production facilities as well as in artisanal producers workshops. From the samples I had it was evident that this is excellent cheese.

So I recommend that you go to your local cheese monger and check out which of the really unique cheese offerings from Vermont they might have.

I also offer up a recipe for Vermont cheese soup I got in Vermont this weekend. It's a real cheese soup and is perfect for fall. Enjoy Ya'll.

Vermont Cheese Soup

3 cups of chicken stock
1 leek white part chopped
1 celery stalk chopped
1/2 of a medium onion chopped
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
1 cup packed shredded Vermont White sharp or better yet extra aged and sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup dry white wine


Bring stock to boil and add vegetables
Simmer for 45 minutes
Then stain into a clean pot
mix the cornstarch with the water and stir into soup simmer till it's slightly thickened
Add the cheese slowly and keep stirring until the cheese is melted
Combine the egg yolk with the cream
Add about 3/4 cups of the warm liquid to the egg cream mixture and combine
Then add this mixture to the soup and stir rapidly with a whisk. Cook for two minutes.
Do not boil.
Just before serving add the wine. It does wonders for the taste of the cheese. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Southern Party recipes: Crab Dip

In the south we have a lot of hot dip recipes. Many of them not surprisingly are based on mayonnaise. This one is no exception.

I remember going to many a open house around Christmas time or New Years and enjoying this kind of dip. In Charleston there is an old famous recipe for what is called "Meeting Street Crab Dip" and it's very rich and delicious.

This recipe is is a little bit easier and less involved but definitely yummy and keep people coming back. If you are having a get together make this and a bottle of wine and you are set. It's all you'll want to put out or you will spoil people's appetite for dinner. Or make it as part of your game day graze. Either way your guests will love it.

Crab Dip

Makes: 10-12 servings


1 1/2 pounds cream cheese
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Old Bay
1 cup Sherry wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup fresh jumbo lump crabmeat
1 loaf baguette


Preheat oven to 350. Blend cream cheese in a food processor with all ingredients except the cheese, crabmeat and bread.  Fold in crabmeat by hand in a bowl. Pour into 6x10 aluminum pan and top with cheese and sprinkle with a little paprika. Bake for 20 minutes until it's golden brown and bubbling and then serve hot with sliced baguette. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Low Country Shrimp Rolls

The lobster roll gets a lot of attention when it comes to seafood sandwiches. I mean who doesn't love a lobster roll. But to be honest lobster meat isn't cheap. And I feel sometimes like I am just not willing to splurge on lobster. So I think shrimp makes an awesome substitute and are really tasty as well.

Any good roll sandwich lobster or otherwise is really only as good as the bun. To take that bun to another level butter is really the key.

So get some soft buns New England style rolls with open sides and melt some butter, chop some shrimp and have some deliciousness.   

Low Country Shrimp Rolls


1 pound cooked cocktail shrimp
1/4 cup and an extra Tablespoon of Mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped chives (2 held in reserve for garnish) 
1/4 cup very finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup very finely chopped celery
2 teaspoons jarred horseradish
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 Tablespoon Safflower oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste
1/2 stick melted butter
12 new england style hot dog buns


Mix all the ingredients for the sauce together
Chop shrimp into small pieces
Mix with the sauce
Let sit in the fridge for at least and hour
Place some butter in a hot pan or grill top and toast each side of the buns nice and buttery

To assemble fill the rolls with the chilled shrimp salad mixture. Garnish with the remaining chives 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hungarian Goulash

So as Fall approaches I am starting to put together recipes which are going to be good for this season as well as all the way through the coming Winter which according to the news should be another brutal one.

I have a soft spot in my heart for this recipe as it reminds me of my dear friend Attila, who remains my favorite Hungarian! He was always telling me stories about the food of his homeland. He also had the funniest sense of humor. One of my favorite things he does is to inform you of the fact that in any given situation the Hungarians have a old saying for almost all situations.

For example when he undertook a job change that did not exactly go his way.  I asked why he decided to follow that particular path. He said well you know we Hungarians have a saying... "If I knew I was going to fall down... I would have sat down". Such is the wisdom of the Hungarians.

This recipe is delicious and easy and not traditional at all. But it's what I grew up thinking was Goulash. So enjoy.

Hungarian Goulash

2 to 3 pounds stew meat cubed
2 large onions chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1 heaping tablespoon Hungarian Sweet paprika
1 large can chopped tomatoes
pinch of salt and pepper
Sour cream

Preheat oil in a large casserole
Brown beef on all sides
Don't over crowd the pan or the beef will steam and not brown
Transfer meat to a plate and set aside
Add the onion and garlic and cook till soft
Return beef to pan and stir in the flour and paprika
Add tomatoes and salt and pepper and bring to a steady simmer
Place in preheated oven and cook for about two hours at 375 degrees
Remove from oven a just before serving sitr in the sour cream
Serve with mashed potatoes or short butttered and parsley eggs noodles

Monday, September 14, 2015

A One Hour Recipe: Zuppa Toscana! or Kale and Sausage and White Beans Oh My!

This is a really great soup. That being said many people have encountered it if they have ever eaten at an Olive Garden restaurant.

But this soup is really an Italian Peasant soup born of simple ingredients and yet culminating in a delicious end product that defines the term "greater than the sum of it's parts".

Now I have another dish which is actually where I first encountered this combination of flavors and that was a pasta dish made by my friend George. We would often go up to my friend Tony's house in the Pocono Mountains to have a little weekend get away. It was a treat as Tony was often off working somewhere and e would let me go up to use his house as a little get away.

George had been making this pasta dish for his partner Tom for years. It was one of Tom's favorite dishes. Sweet Italian sausage, kale, garlic, onions, red pepper flakes, a touch of cream plus a good dose of cheese all tossed with Orecchiette pasta, or "little ears".

Well this soup is virtually the same thing except it's a soup and not a sauce. Beans stand in for potatoes in my version and I use both chicken broth and chicken bullion to kick up the stock flavor. I also only use half and half to lighten up the soup a touch. Well just a touch.

This really is so easy and so good. And it's a perfect meal for the upcoming fall season with it's cooler days and even cooler nights. This Soup, a hunk of good Italian bread and a green salad and you have a meal on the table in one hour. So fix this for your family, your friends, or yourself but fix this you'll be so glad you did.

Zuppa Toscana


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1 Medium onion finely diced
2 carrots finely diced
3 celery stalks diced
2 cloves finely minced garlic
1 pound sweet Italian Sausage
10 oz bag of fresh chopped kale ( including stems)
2 8 oz cans of white beans drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
3 chicken base envelopes ( trader joe's)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups half and half
1 cup grated parmesan


Heat oil and bacon grease in a heavy stock pot
Cook the onions, carrots and celery in the pot and add salt and pepper
When almost soft then add the garlic and allow to bloom about 2 minutes
Cook till soft then add the sausage taken out of the casings
Cook till browned then add the Kale in two batches allowing it to cook down fully till softened
Add the beans
Add the chicken stock, water and chicken base and red pepper flakes
Bring to boil and reduce to simmer, cook covered for 30 minutes
When ready to serve add the cheese and stir to melt
Then add the half and half and stir in
Let cook for about 5 minutes and serve
Place in a bowl and sprinkle with a little more grated parmesan cheese

Enjoy Ya'll!!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Pork Chops Scallopini with Mushrooms and Thyme

Pork Chops are a hard thing to cook well. Especially the run of the mill grocery store variety. Yet for so many homemakers it's a very economical option for putting meat on the table. So I have decided over the course of the rest of this year to take on the challenge of making amazing pork chop recipes and sharing them with you all. Hopefully they will inspire you to find your inner pork lover and give them a try.

This recipe started with boneless center cut pork chops in a family pack of 6 chops. I thought that two chops would be a portion but when paired with a simple arugula salad and a pan of my cornbread one chop became a meal.

I started with a regular recipe for pork scallopini with capers and a wine butter sauce. And then decided to bump up the bulk of the dish by adding mushrooms and onions. It came out really really well. In fact when we ate this we both looked at each other and said, oh yes, that's good.

So try this out this Summer and I'm sure that this recipe will be one you are making well into the fall. Enjoy Y'all!

Pork Chops Scallopini with Mushrooms and Thyme ( serves 4-6)

6 good sized center cut boneless pork chops about an inch or more thick
flour for dusting plus 1 heaping tablespoon to add to the sauce
6 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cup white wine
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 medium spanish or white onion thinly sliced into rings
1 pound white mushrooms ( 1/4 sliced and the rest quartered)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 tablespoon capers
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste


Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoons butter in the pan to medium high
Sprinkle the chops with salt and pepper
Dredge the chops in flour and quickly cook over medium high heat till just seared brown on both sides
Hold to the side on a plate
Add the rest of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter to the pan
Add onions with a good pinch of salt and pepper and cook over medium heat till softened and slightly browned just till they have some color
Add the mushrooms  and thyme and cook till just slightly softened then add 1/4 cup of wine and deglazed the pan
Sprinkle the flour over the pan and stir to combine
Add the wine stir into the sauce

Add the capers
Taste sauce and season if needed
Nestle the chops into the mushrooms and onions and capers sauce spooning some of the mixture over the chops to cover the chops
Cover and turn heat to low and simmer for about 20 mins
When ready to serve add the remaining butter lemon juice the parsley stir in slowly till mixed and melted
Serve with a good portion of an arugula salad dressed tossed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. Also serve cornbread on the side.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Black Forbidden Rice with Ginger and Toasted Sesame

In ancient China this rice was reserved for the imperial court and the Emperor. It was thought to have special properties and as such was thought to be only for him. I don't think it has any special properties other than being delicious. Trader Joe's now carries this rice and you should make it. just be aware while it is cooking it has very dark blue black color that leaches out from the rice and will stain wooden cooking spoons and such. But that aside the texture and flavor are tremendous.

Nutty and chewy with a slight crunch. Flavored with ginger and sesame oil and other flavors this rice delivers and it's visually stunning. Make this with Pepper Steak or Soy Glazed Red Short Ribs or serve with a Orange Chicken and Shrimp with cashews. It's also great at room temperature so make this this summer and serve it on the patio with your BBQ or on the buffet for your Summer party.

Black Forbidden Rice with Ginger and Toasted Sesame
( this recipe can easily be doubled or tripled)


1 cup black rice
2 cups water
1 Tablespoon Ground Ginger
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 cups chopped scallions on the bias
2 tablespoons sesame seeds


Bring water to a boil and then add the rice.
Cook for 30 minutes or more until the water is gone
Remove from heat
Right after removing from heat stir in all ingredients except the sesame oil, scallions and sesame seeds.
Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.
When cool add the sesame oil, scallions and sesame seeds reserving a few scallions and seeds for garnish.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sticky Asian Glazed Pork Belly Kale and Peanut Salad

I love bacon so it's no surprise that I might be interested in Pork Belly. It's basically bacon in it's pure form.

Now pork belly is a fatty meat but if cooked down to it's pure form it's really just delicious and not that bad. I love the juicy meaty goodness that is a joy to eat. And this recipe draws out the purest form of the  meat from the pork belly. It's got far east flavors and some delicious greens which makes it easy to enjoy as a meal in itself.

I love the salad as a meal concept. I grew up with this from childhood. My parents had encountered this idea when they were stationed in California in the 1960's. It was a new thing back then. At that time it was mostly in the west that were people eating that way. But as this concept continued to expand it became very popular. Wolfgang Puck started a national craze in the 1970's when he created what would be commonly known everywhere as the "Chinese Chicken Salad". It was a green salad with chopped veggies, chicken, almonds, crispy noodles, mandarine orange slices and a delicious dressing with asian flavors. It became the basis for all the main course salads we enjoy today at every restaurant you go to these days.

My salad is a riff on this concept. But to update it I used kale and cabbage and changed up the meat to a stir fried asian pork belly that uses Korean chili paste gochujang to provide a little bit of heat and flavor. I love peanuts and roasted peanut oil and use them as crunch, texture and to flavor the dressing. But I kept the mandarine orange slices for the fun and color and added radishes for color and crunch.

Now pork belly is a labor of love if you make it at home. Basically you roast it in the oven low and slow braising it till you have a delicious piece of meat. Then you cool it down and slice it up and stir fry it in a wok or pan on high heat caramelizing the chili paste and other ingredients into slices of deliciousness.  And nowadays you don't have to roast it if you don't want to because you can find it cooked at many grocery stores. Which makes making this recipe pretty easy.

Give this salad a try and become a summer salad superstar! Enjoy

Sticky Asian Glazed Pork Belly Kale and Peanut Salad

Pork Belly ingredients:

1 pound of cooked pork belly
3 heaping tablespoons of Korean Chili paste
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons prepared BBQ sauce or catsup
2 teaspoons of sesame oil


Take the pork belly and slice it about 1/4 inch thin
Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a wok or skillet
Add the chili paste, soy sauce, and catsup or BBQ sauce
Stir to combine then add the pork belly slices
Stir fry till the pork is coated in the sauce and continue to cook till the pork becomes crispy and dark in spots. Glazed with the sauce and cooked red and colorful. At the very end add the sesame oil and sesame seeds. Turn heat off and hold till salad is tossed.

For the salad

3 cups curly kale chopped into fine shreds.
3 cups Green cabbage also chopped into fine shreds.
1 carrot shredded
5 radishes finely sliced some reserved for garnish
1 cup of crushed peanuts, 3 tablespoons reserved for garnish
4 or 5 scallions cut on the bias 2 tablespoons reserved for garnish
1 6oz can of mandarin orange segments drained ( handful reserved for garnishing top)

For the dressing

3/4 cup Roasted Peanut oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping tablespoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 anchovies filets (optional)

Place in a food processor and mix well till combined.

To prepare the salad place all ingredients in a bowl and toss with the dressing
Place in a serving bowl and top with the pork
Garnish with the remaining scallions, peanuts, oranges segments and radishes. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Jimmy Crack Corn....Mexican Street Corn

Now I have been making this for the past several years with various results but after several different versions I have settled on this one. This corn is good. So good people call it crack corn. I made this for On the Plate when we were doing summer BBQ dinners and people just loved it. Back then in NYC not very many people were familiar with this. However, in California where my business partner was from they had known about this for years. This is not really traditional street corn because I use parmesan cheese and not Cojita cheese which is the real deal. You can use whatever you like this is just easy for me cause I always have a big chunk of parmesan in my fridge. So give this a try for your Summer corn fest. Cheers.

Mexican Street Corn


6 to 8 ears of corn
3/4 cup mayonaise
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese ( Grand Padano)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons chili power plus more for garnish
Several shakes of hot sauce
juice of one lime
lime zest and chopped chives or cilantro for garnishing


Peel back the corn husks and reveal the ears
Make sure the hair is gone and thin the leaves out a little
Place a large piece of foil on a baking sheet
Oil the corn and place on the foil with the husks hanging off the sheet
Heat oven to 375
Cover Corn with another foil sheet and seal edges leaving the husks outside the foil
Bake corn for 45 mins to one hour

Mix the mayo with half the cheese, garlic powder, the salt, chili powder, hot sauce and lime juice

When corn is done remove from oven
Slather the corn with the mayo mixture
Then sprinkle with the parmesan cheese
Garnish with more chili powder and lime zest and the cilantro or chives

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Fried Chicken Thighs and Chive Cheddar Parmesan Waffles with Franks Red Hot Cream Gravy

Sometimes you just go with an idea and it turns out amazingly well. So it is with this recipe. I was in the mood for Fried Chicken and decided to try to make a recipe for chicken and waffles I would like. Generally I don't like chicken and waffles but I decided to see if I could prove myself wrong and find a version I like.

This one hit it straight on the head. It's so good I actually thought I had found a new favorite. Give these a try if you want to do some down home old school fried chicken goodness.

Chive Cheddar Parmesan Belgian Waffles ( makes 4-5 waffles)


2 Cups Flour
2 Tablespoons Baking Powder
2 large eggs well beaten
2 cups whole Milk
1 cup grated Extra Sharp White Cheddar
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons chopped chives ( two reserved for garnish)
Maple Syrup

Mix dry and wet ( including cheese and chives ) ingredients separately
Slowly combine till well mixed
Heat Belgian waffle iron and pour a ladle of mix in and cook till brown and toasty
Hold Warm until ready to use or freeze till another use

Crispy Fried Chicken Thighs  Makes 4 servings

1 chicken thigh per guest
1 cup flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 to 4 cups peanut oil or other fryer oil
1 small brown paper bags
salt and pepper for seasoning

On a plate season the chicken and place in the fridge for 15 mins
In a bowl mix the egg and the milk
Add the flour and spices to the bag
Take each piece of chicken one at a time and place in the buttermilk mix till coated then place in bag
Shake the four pieces really well till coated
Place on a rack and let sit for 20 mins
Heat oil in a cast iron skillet or pan heat till really really hot
When ready carefully place the chicken into the pan
Turn heat to med low, cover the pan and cook for 30 mins
Then remove lid
Turn heat to high and cook till chicken is crisp
Hold in oven with Waffles till ready to serve

Creamed Hot Sauce Gravy

3 tablespoons chicken fry oil
6 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter cut up
1 teaspoons garlic powder
3 cups  of warmed whole Milk
salt and coarse ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
4 tablespoons Franks Hot Sauce ( or to taste )
Water to thin

Heat butter and oil
Add the flour cook about 3 mins
Slowly add the milk whisking constantly
add the spices and cook till thickened
Add the vinegar and hot sauce stir in well 

To serve place the waffle in a bowl and drizzle with syrup
Place chicken on Waffle
Ladle gravy over and sprinkle chives

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer Tomato and Ricotta and Basil Focaccia Bruschetta

Summer is the best time to eat tomatoes. I love them. I think that during the warm Summer months when things are a little freer and time slides by a little slower it's only fair to say the the produce makes the season. And I think that tomatoes in particular are an amazingly special gift with their sun kissed skins nearly bursting with juicy deliciousness.

So these little beauties are the star of my summer evening table. I love making bruschetta in general. But when faced with the choice of ingredients I go for the gold with these.

The other obvious part of bruschetta is of course the bread. So the choice for a base is important. I am choosing focaccia because I love it's flaky soft juicy texture and when crisped it is tremendously delicious.

So here's a quick recipe for your backyard this summer. Enjoy!


Fresh Grape or Cherry Tomatoes halved
Ricatta Cheese full fat about 8 oz
between 1 and 2 tablespoons of basil pesto ( you can make or buy this at your grocer)
How much you put in depends on how strong you want the basil flavor
Fresh basil about a bunch
Good quality olive oil ( a great olive oil really makes the difference, spend the money)
1 small loaf of focaccia bread


Cut bread into rectangular segments about 4 inches by 12 inches then slice bread into square slices about 1/2 in thick.
Heat oven to 375
Place bread on a baking sheet and then drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle with some sea salt flakes
Bake until the bread is a little brown and toasty
Remove from the oven and let cool
Mix the ricotta cheese and pesto together till smooth and creamy
Cut the basil leaves into chiffonade
Mix the tomatoes and basil with just enough olive oil to coat nicely
Top the bread with a good smear of the riccotta
Top the bread slices with the tomatoes and basil mixture
Sprinkle with a little sea salt and serve

Friday, June 12, 2015

Gruyere, Swiss cheese and Dill Pickle Quesadillas with Tomato Soup Crema

One of the best things on the planet to me is any kind of grilled bread and cheese. I mean who doesn't love a really great grilled cheese. Buttery crispy browned goodness mixed with melty smooth delicious creamy cheese. It's delicious.

Well the Mexican version of that great grilled cheese sandwich is or course the quesadilla. Usually stuffed with chili flavored ingredients and other fixings melded together with melted soft delicious cheese.

So having to make lunch the other day I discovered this blend of grilled cheese ingredients with a tortilla shell. I had a few things in the fridge and decided to experiment. Well it came out deliciously. It's a bit of a strange flavor combo I admit. But all together it really is quite amazing. Especially if you like dill pickles.

Gruyere Swiss Cheese and Dill Pickle Quesadillas with Tomato Soup Crema

10 tortillas ( large burrito sized flour)
12 oz grated swiss and gruyere half and half mixed together
6 oz softened cream cheese
6 oz boursin cheese
1 jar dill pickle chips
1 tablesoon dijon mustard


In a small mixing bowl beat cream cheese, boursin and mustard together
Divide evenly on five of the tortillas and spread evenly
Place dill pickle chips around the tortillas about 8 to 10 per tortilla
Sprinkle each with the cheese mixture dividing among the tortillas
Press another tortilla on top of each

In a non stick skillet place a little oil or spray pan with oil spray
Cook each quesadilla till slightly browned and the cheese is well melted
Place on baking tray and keep warm in low oven
Repeat with all the quesadillas
When ready to serve slice each into 8 wedges and plate
Serve with tomato soup crema

Tomato Soup Crema

1/2 can tomato soup concentrate
8 oz of sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese


Mix all ingredients together and let sit for at least 2 hours before using so flavors mary together

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Frenchman and a Mexican walked into a bar.....Creamed Spinach and White Queso Nachos

So it was just Cinco De Mayo and every flipping food blogger is writing up and publishing a recipe about a Mexican dish that will be the new addition to your party table. So that is exactly what this post would have been if I had gotten to it on time. However, I did not so here it is a little late.

So these nachos are really from a restaurant in South Carolina called California Dreaming. At least the idea is. They are the least truly Mexican nacho recipe possible. But they are really dang tasty. So California Dreaming made these nachos pretty well but I will say they were a little on the bland side. So I have taken the idea and souped it up for a new and better Nacho experience.

My idea of the perfect nacho is that there is flavor from the cheese and flavor from the toppings. And somehow if done right they become more than the some of their parts. I also think there should be both cheese sauce and shredded cheese. And as for toppings they should be colorful and fun.

So this recipe uses a queso sauce as well as a creamed spinach sauce shredded jack and romano cheeses and jalapenos, white onion, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, california black olives. Sour cream and Salsa are served on the side. It's kind of amazing. You should try these. Enjoy Ya'll!

Creamed Spinach and White Queso Nachos

1 Bag good quality nacho corn chips ( Chains like Chipotle sell fresh chips by the bag)
Creamed spinach Sauce ( see recipe)
White queso sauce ( see recipe )
1/2 cup grated white cheddar or jack
1/4 cup grated Romano
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons red onion diced
handful chopped cilantro
4 chopped chopped scallions
1/4 cup canned black olives
Sour Cream
Salsa Fresco

For the spinach ( this makes extra creamed spinach for leftovers)

Creamed Spinach Sauce


1 quart heavy cream
4 ounces of crushed garlic
1 pound frozen spinach thawed and drained really well
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
A pinch or two of nutmeg
A splash of sherry vinegar
2 ounces of butter


Bring the cream to a simmer in a sauce pan over low to medium heat then add the garlic
Reduce cream by half.
Add the spinach, salt and pepper
Heat for approximately 5 mins or so add the butter and the vinegar
Transfer to a blender and blend till smooth
Hold warm

Homemade White Queso Dip


1/2 pound white american cheese
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 4oz can of green chilies
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper


Place the cheese the milk and the butter in a sauce pan over low heat and cook slowly till melted together stirring frequently to combine
Add in the green chilies, cumin, garlic powder and pepper
Add salt to taste
If it's too thick add a little more milk
Hold warm till serving

To Prepare Nachos

Heat spinach and Queso Sauce separately

On a large platter spread some chips on the bottom then pour some queso over them and spinkle some cheese and olives and scallions over them
repeat layers two more times
Place in oven for till cheese starts to melt
Remove from oven pour some spinach sauce over them
Top with remaining cheese
Broil till the cheese is browned
Remove form the oven and top with remaining toppings
Serve with sour cream and salsa on the side

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Carbonara the Pasta Guilt Left Behind

I can't think of a pasta dish that embodies the essence of round luscious meaty savory goodness more than this pasta dish.  It's a rich dish to be sure and made the traditional way it's probably the epitome of Italian edible decadence. The dish is Roman and was originally what the cooks from the restaurants would make for themselves late night after work and a couple of rounds of wine. An absolute play on the breakfast for dinner theme.

I first had carbonara when I went to Switzerland. It was prepared by one of the local ladies I met there. She was from the Italian part of Switzerland, Tessin. A small but beautiful area comprised mostly of mountain bound lakes and towns bordering Italy proper. The regional dialect there is Italian and the food stems also from the boot of Italy lying just below.

The version she made was a traditional one in which egg yolks are mixed with hot water to keep them from scrambling then tossed with hot pasta, bacon, loads of pecorino romano cheese and finished with a heavy dose of ground black pepper. It's delicious.

The second opportunity I had to try carbonara was at the Magic Pan a restaurant that I worked for during college. They made it in a very American manner using cream instead of egg and adding sauteed onions and mushrooms and some green peas along with the bacon. It actually was more delicious. That's right forgive me my Italian friends but it was.

I have over the years adapted the original Pan recipe to include egg yolks. It's rich it's decadent and it's so good you'll find that no amount of guilt will stop you from wanting to consume the whole plate. So just enjoy and stop feeling badly about eating rich things. If you eat them on occasion there's nothing wrong with it. After all if one is to feel guilty about something they might as well have enjoyed it!

Fettucini Carbonara ala Forrest


4 1/2 ounce Bacon Drippings 
8 tablespoons Mushrooms, quartered/halves
8 tablespoons Sautéed Onions
 8 tablespoons Precooked bacon, 1⁄2" pcs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley Chopped
8 Tablespoons Parmesan/Romano Cheese mix
10oz  Whipping Cream, un-whipped
3 egg yolks 
16 oz Fettuccini, cooked 
Salt to taste
loads of Black Pepper freshly ground


In a sauté pan add the onions, mushrooms, bacon pieces, and cheese mix in a hot pan with the bacon drippings. Heat for several minutes. 
In another pot heat cream
In a bowl slowly add 1/4 cup of cream to the egg yolks and gently mix.
Add the cream and fettuccini and blend well with the other ingredients. 
Heat for several minutes.
Add egg mixture
Add chives
Do not allow the cream to cook too hard or hot or to evaporate—only heat the ingredients thoroughly. Pour the fettuccini onto a heated large oval platter. 
Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the top and serve. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Ok it's time for this soup. When I worked at the Magic Pan this soup was somewhat of a revelation. It's so good that it was one of those things on the Pan's menu that people came into have specifically. It was in essence a "hook" dish. You know one of those dishes that restaurants dream of having that people come in time and again as fans to savour.

Now if you have been reading my blog you will know that I have referenced the Magic Pan Restaurant before. But for those of you who have not been a brief story.

The Magic Pan was a restaurant chain started by a Hungarian Couple , the Fono's in San Francisco in the 1970's. The original concept had been an Austrian style crepe restaurant mostly with recipes from Mrs Fono's family background. There were Ham crepes and Spinach crepes and chocolate and Strawberry crepes for dessert.

The business expanded and was purchased by Quaker Oats in the 1980's. They took the concept expanded it to a french country kitchen concept and rolled it out across the nation. The center piece of each Magic Pan was the giant tile enclosed Crepe Wheel which spun around and cooked the crepes and other dishes while the customers looked on. I remember as a 12 year old being taken to the Pan and being just mesmorized by the giant cooking wheel of crepe goodness! It was one of the first "chain" restaurants in the country in a time when the US was just beginning to discover different foods. The Pan delivered that and at a decent price point. It was also a perfect time for a crepe restaurant as like fondue, crepes were all the rage in the 1970's. The thing that was interesting about the Pan looking back was that all of the food was cooked on site with real recipes. This required a staff of cooks to be behind the scenes at all the locations and was not a cheap way to do business. Amongst the many reasons for the demise of the chain was the rise of sit down restaurants like TGI Friday's and Applebee's that offered a full service bar and menu with a central commissary supplying the chain. This meant cost savings on site and guaranteed that that food was the same everywhere. Interestingly enough this concept was pioneered by Howard Johnson's, who with Jacque Pepin at the helm produced frozen entrees which could be uniformly served all over the US.

Eventually through falling revenues and customer base the Pan collapsed. Interestingly enough the last Pan to close was the Mclean Store where I worked. A testament to Sue the manager and eventual owner I understand, who ran a tight ship and kept it afloat!

Even as people turned away from the Magic Pan because of trends so today people are looking back and recognizing the value that the concept had  not only as a novelty but as a place and a culinary experience. Whether the scene of many a boozy lunch by the ladies of Mclean or candle lit dinners for couples in love in the evenings, the quiet elegance and french country charm enveloped the diner in a world beyond the Mall and beyond their own. Upon entering the Tyson's Pan one was struck by the charm and sophistication of the surroundings. The excellent service and of course the tasty and interesting food. Food which for the time was new, foreign, and different. Before food TV, Media, food blogs and the internet., Americans were new to many of the foods the Magic Pan was serving.
And many look back with fondness to the time and place they discovered those foods for the first time. The Magic Pan.

For me the Pan was a great place to work, filled with a fun and interesting cast of characters. I learned a lot form those folks. Many of them were full time employees, I was the summer help but we all got along and they welcomed me and Kai into the fold with open arms. Salty and Rough they were the workers who make this country great. They worked hard and they played hard. But as a group they were awesome to spend that summer with. And this was where I learned that food service comes with a healthy serving of humor, cause people are very funny when it comes to their eating habits and the things they say about food. For example a young couple came in and was obviously on a date. Trying to be proper and order for his date the young man announced to me that... "she will have the St. Jacques "Creepie" and I will have the Beef  and Mushroom "Creepie"", mispronouncing the word "crepe". Well as you can imagine it was hard to keep a straight face, and the crew referred to the crepes as "creepies" the rest of the summer. Lots of milelage from that one. Ah, but it's the little things that make life fun!

Now to the food. There were serveral dishes which made the Magic Pan famous and there are people who would disagree which were their favorites. There was of course the famous Potage St. Germain, or french country pea soup served with a dallop of sour cream and a mini decanter of Sherry wine. There was the Orange Almond salad. Amongst the crepes were the chicken and beef and seafood options and then there was the famous Monte Cristo Sandwich which to this day I have never had duplicated.                      ( Although I hear Bennigan's ripped off the recipe). Then there were the saute pans, with veal picatta and fettucini Carbonara         ( Still my favorite version ever). And lastly the desserts. All excellent washed down with the Pan's excellent Bloody Mary!

But today I can't think of another Pan recipe I would rather recreate than the famous Potage St. Germain. Now finding the exact recipe for this was very difficult indeed but I did find it. I got a copy of the original cooking manual and here it the recipe. If you try it you will enjoy it! Yum! So Enjoy ya'll.


1 (1 lb) ham bone 4 1⁄2 cup water 
1 (13 oz) can chicken broth
 2 cups split peas 
2⁄3 cup finely chopped leeks or green onions
 1⁄3 cup finely chopped carrots 
1⁄3 cup finely chopped celery
 1 tsp granulated sugar
 1⁄2 tsp garlic powder
 1 tsp salt 
1⁄4 tsp thyme 
1 bay leaf
 1⁄2 tsp pepper
 21⁄2 cup milk
1 cup whipping cream 
1 cup chopped ham, cooked
1⁄2 cup chopped chicken, cooked (optional)

Place ham bone in large pot.
Add water, chicken stock and peas and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
Sauté the onions, carrots and celery just until limp.
Add them to the soup pot along with all the seasonings and continue to simmer until peas are very soft and mixture is thick—about 45 minutes. 
Remove ham bone. Gradually stir in the milk and cream. 
Add ham and chicken. Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Potage St. Germain soup should be served with a dollop of sour cream and a splash of sherry. The sherry was served on the side in a tiny glass pitcher, while the sour cream was placed in the bowl and dusted with chopped parsley.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Broccolli Cheese and Dill Pickle Soup.

This soup came about because I had a lot of dill pickle juice in the fridge. I have seen dill pickle soup recipes on blogs like Noble Pig before but I wanted a slightly different soup. So I was making broccoli cheese soup one day and added some dill pickle juice. The combination of the broccoli with the dill pickles is something totally unexpected and kind of amazing.  I have made this now as a full blown recipe and I find it's really tasty.

If you want something delicious and unique give this soup a try I promise you'll love it!! Enjoy!

Broccoli Cheese and Dill Pickle Soup

makes 6 servings

1 large white onion diced finely
1 cup diced carrots
2 lb broccoli florets chopped (can be frozen but thaw before using)
1 cup dill pickle relish
1 1/2 cups beer ( Wisconsin lager ) at room temperature
4 cups chicken stock ( have some extra on hand in case it needs thinning out)
2 cups dill pickle juice
1 cup dehydrated potato flakes 
1/3 cup flour
1 stick butter
1 cup milk
   salt to taste
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon mustard powder
2 dashes of nutmeg
2 tablespoon Franks hot sauce
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated swiss cheese
1 cup sour cream


Melt  1/4 stick butter over medium heat in a heavy bottomed stock pot and add the onion and carrots.
Cook onion and carrot till soft but not brown. 
Add rest of the butter to melt.
Place milk in the microwave and heat till warm but not boiling.
Add flour to the onions and carrots and cook making a roux until it is slightly blond.
Slowly whisk the milk into the onion butter mixture and let thicken
Add dill pickle relish
Heat chicken stock in a pot and slowly add in.
Pour in the beer and stir to combine
Add in potato flakes
Add in cheese a little at a time whisking till incorporated and smooth and thick
Add in dill pickle juice stir to combine
Add in broccoli and cover.
Let simmer for about 20 mins until the broccoli is tender.
Add in spices and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Turn off heat. Let soup sit for 10 mins.
Then pour half the soup into a blender
With top on and holding with a towel blend the soup till pureed and smooth
Add back into the pot with the other half of the soup and stir to combine
Reheat to serve. 
Serve with crusty bread and top with a dollop of sour cream and a little more grated cheddar. Enjoy!!!