"What's for Dinner?!" I'm always thinking about it, thought I'd share.

"What's for Dinner?!" I'm always thinking about it, thought I'd share.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pan Bagnat- Provençal Tuna and Vegetable Sandwich

I found this incredible recipe twenty years ago in Gourmet Magazine and have been in love with it ever since.  This is such an incredible sandwich to take on a romantic picnic or just a simple lunch down by the lake or on the patio.  The garlicky dressing, goat cheese, and arugula plays so well with the moist grilled tuna.  Enjoy!

Serves 4

16-inch sourdough or whole wheat baguette
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small garlic clove
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 ounces mild goat cheese, such as Montrachet
6 Kalamata olives (not available at farmers markets, but a great addition), pitted and sliced
1 cup arugula leaves, rinsed and spun dry
3 large radishes, sliced
1 1/2 cups sliced cooked fresh tuna steak (about 6 ounces)
3 small tomatoes, sliced thin
8 large fresh basil leaves, shredded

Halve the bread horizontally, hollow out the top and the bottom, leaving 1/2-inch-thick shells, and brush the bottom shell with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

In a blender combine the remaining 3 tablespoons oil with the garlic, the vinegar, and salt to taste and blend the dressing until it is emulsified.

Spread the goat cheese in the bottom shell and top it with the olives, the arugula, the radishes, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the radishes with one third of the dressing, top them with the tuna and salt and pepper to taste, and drizzle half the remaining dressing over the tuna. Top the tuna with the tomatoes, the basil, and salt and pepper to taste, drizzle the mixture with the remaining dressing, and fit the top shell over it.

Wrap the pan bagna tightly in plastic wrap and put it in a shallow baking pan. Top the pan bagna with a baking sheet and a large gratin dish filled with several 1-pound weights and chill it for 1 hour. The pan bagna may be made 6 hours in advance and kept covered and chilled. Serve the pan bagna cut into 2-inch slices.  Serve and Enjoy!

Roasted Halibut with Garlic Sauce

A super-quick take on aioli, this garlicky sauce keeps the fish incredibly moist.  If you can't find halibut you can Substitute fluke, flounder, cod or turbot.

Serves 4

1 3/4 pounds halibut fillet (1 1/2 inches thick)
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup mayonnaise

Garnish: lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.

Put fish in an oiled shallow baking dish and sprinkle with teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
Force garlic through a garlic press into a bowl, then whisk in oil and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Whisk in mayonnaise and spread over fish.
Bake, uncovered, until fish is just cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes.  Serve on warm plates and Enjoy!

Serve with Swiss Chard with Raisins and Almonds.

Swiss Chard with Raisins and Almonds

1/2 large onion, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick (1 cup)
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
2 pounds Swiss chard, center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds with skins

Cook onion with 1/4 teaspoon salt in 2 tablespoons oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring, until softened. Sprinkle with paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add chard in batches, stirring frequently, until wilted, then add raisins and water. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender, about 7 minutes. Season with salt.  Serve and Enjoy!
Cook almonds in remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in a small heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle almonds over chard.

Sautéed Shrimp with Israeli Couscous

Serves 4

2 cups pearl (Israeli) couscous
2 cups sugar snap peas, strings removed, then halved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
20 peeled and deveined shrimps
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 small tomatoes, finely chopped
1 pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon

Cook couscous in well-salted boiling water, uncovered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in sugar snaps 3 minutes before couscous is done. Drain and transfer to a bowl, then stir in 1 tablespoon butter and salt and pepper to taste.

While couscous and sugar snaps cook, toss shrimp with 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Heat remaining tablespoon butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Sauté shrimp, turning once, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes total. Transfer shrimp with a slotted spoon to a plate.

Add wine, tomato, and sugar to skillet and boil until tomato starts to fall apart, about 4 minutes. Return shrimp to skillet and stir in tarragon.

Season with salt and pepper. Plate shrimp and pan sauce on top of pearl couscous. Serve and Enjoy!

Weekly Menu Jan.25th - Jan. 31st

Black Bean Soup
Shredded Chicken Tacos
Salsa Fresco

Pork and White Bean Cassoulet
Baby Romaine Salad with Italian Vinaigrette

Roasted Squash and Bean Enchiladas
Chopped Salad with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

Brown Rice Pasta with Italian Sausage, Marinara sauce
Broccoli with Red Onion

Pulled Pork with Baby Ray's BBQ sauce
Jicama and Celery Root Slaw
Sautéed Green Beans and Carrots

Turkey Chili
Bacon & Green Onion Cornbread
Garden Salad, Thousand Island Dressing

"Steak and Martini Night"
Skirt Steak topped with Chimichurri  sauce
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with  Rosemary and Sea Salt
Asparagus with Roasted Red Peppers

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Spicy Turkey Meatball and Kale Soup

Serves 6

2 links (about 7½ ounces) lean spicy turkey Italian sausage
1½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 large celery rib, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons no-salt-added tomato paste
2 large cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) no-salt-added cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups packed kale leaves
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove casing from sausage and roll into bite-size meatballs; set aside.

In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 4- to 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 seconds. Add the stock, beans and kale. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining ½ tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sausage meatballs and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Add meatballs to the soup and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook 5 minutes more to meld the flavors. Stir the cider vinegar into the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chicken Noodle Soup with Lemon, Ginger, Chile and Cilantro

Makes 8 cups

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1⁄3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 serrano chiles, stemmed, halved and seeded
6 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half (about 8 ounces), cut into ¼-inch-thick slices and then cut in half
6 ounces egg white-only lo mein egg noodles cooked according to package directions
2 baby bok choy, ends removed, sliced crosswise ¼-inch thick
Sriracha sauce to taste

In a small bowl combine the lemon zest, cilantro and ginger. Set aside.

Thinly slice two of the chile halves crosswise.

In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the lemon juice, fish sauce and the 2 remaining chile halves to the boiling stock. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer the soup about 3 minutes.

Remove the chile halves. Stir in the chicken and chile slices and return to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked noodles and bok choy slices and cook about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, making sure the chicken slices are cooked through. Add the sriracha to taste. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the cilantro mixture.  Serve and Enjoy!

Portuguese White Bean Soup

Makes 8-9 cups

1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red or yellow bell pepper
1 bay leaf
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon ground fennel
1 medium peeled potato
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
8 ounces fresh or frozen chopped leaf spinach, collard greens, kale or mustard greens
2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 can (15.5 ounces) no-salt-added cannellini beans, undrained
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

In soup pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until the onions soften. While the onions sauté, chop the bell pepper.

Add the bay leaf, salt, fennel and bell pepper to the pot, and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Cube the potato and add to the pot along with the sherry, lemon juice, greens and stock. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the potatoes and greens are tender. Stir in the beans and gently re-heat. Add black pepper to taste and garnish with parsley. Serve and Enjoy!

Spicy Cauliflower Soup with Almond and Pepper Relish

Serves: 8

Kosher salt
7 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 medium head)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
¼ cup slivered almonds (toasted) or Marcona almonds, finely chopped
¼ cup diced roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh mint
1 medium clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a 4-quart pot over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon salt, then add the cauliflower and boil until very tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the cauliflower in a colander set over a large bowl to catch the cooking liquid and let the cauliflower cool slightly.

Working in 2 batches, purée each batch of cauliflower with about 2 cups of the cooking liquid and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a blender until very smooth. Start out using less of the cooking water so you reach the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt. You can make the soup up to 4 hours ahead.

In a small bowl, combine the almonds, peppers, oil, mint, garlic and pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The relish can be made up to 1 hour ahead.

When ready to serve, gently reheat the soup over medium-low heat. Ladle into warm bowls and garnish each serving with a spoonful of the almond relish.  Serve and Enjoy!

Spicy Pork and Mustard Greens Soup

Soup is good food, especially in the middle of winter.  Nothing is better than a hot bowl of goodness when the snow is falling and you need a warm up.  Chock full of great vegetables and fresh ingredients, they're easy, taste great and good for you!  Eat up!

Serves 4

½ pound ground pork tenderloin
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
1 tablespoon canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock
4 cups packed torn mustard greens
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons low- or reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
8 ounces wide rice noodles

Mix pork, garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, red pepper flakes and cumin in a medium bowl.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add pork mixture; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring and breaking up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, 8-10 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until flavors meld, 8-10 minutes. Add mustard greens, green onions, soy sauce and fish sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender, 5-8 minutes; season with salt and black pepper.

Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions; drain.

Divide noodles among bowls and ladle soup over.

Broiled Mahimahi with Basil Butter, Sauteed Tomatoes and Zucchini Ribbons

Serves: 4

Note: You can substitute salmon in this recipe.

¾ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced, optional
4 mahimahi pieces, about 5 ounces each
1 teaspoon Morton Nature’s Seasons seasoning blend
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, peeled, sliced (about 1⁄3 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons capers, well-drained
2 tablespoons white or dark balsamic vinegar
2 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into ribbons
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the broiler.

To prepare basil butter: In a small bowl, stir together all the ingredients and set aside.

Lightly coat a broiler pan with cooking spray. Place the mahimahi on the pan and sprinkle with the seasoning blend. Cook 4-5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.

To make the zucchini and tomatoes: Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic cloves and sauté 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and sauté 2 minutes. Stir in the wine, capers and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Add the zucchini ribbons; reduce the heat and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in parsley. Set aside.

When the fish is done, arrange a few zucchini ribbons on each plate. Top with a piece of fish. Scatter the remaining tomatoes and skillet ingredients on top of the fish and garnish with a teaspoon or so of the basil butter.

Sweet and Sour Roast Chicken

Serves: 4

½ cup packed light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons less-sodium soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons or to taste chili garlic sauce
¼ cup fresh lime juice, divided
1 warm fully cooked rotisserie chicken, cut into 10 serving pieces
1½ cups sliced seedless cucumbers
½ cup sliced red onion strips
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small head frisée, torn into bite-size pieces
1 fresh red or green chile, sliced, optional

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, water and chili garlic sauce until combined. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce thickens, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of the lime juice.

Brush half of the sweet-and-sour sauce over the flesh and skin sides of chicken pieces.

In a medium bowl, toss cucumbers and red onion with the remaining 1 tablespoon of lime juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. On a platter, arrange the frisée, cucumbers and onions and place chicken pieces on top. Sprinkle sliced chile, if desired. Spoon remaining sauce over chicken or serve on the side.

Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps

Serves: 4

You can substitute one minced clove of garlic and ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper for the Asian chili-garlic sauce.

¼ cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon Asian chili paste (sambal oelek) or chili-garlic sauce, or to taste
1 pork tenderloin (16 ounces), trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 head of Bibb lettuce, leaves separated
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil, optional
1 to 2 teaspoons Asian chili paste
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Cilantro-Mint Slaw (optional), see note

In a medium bowl, whisk hoisin sauce, soy sauce, water and chili-garlic sauce together in large bowl; set aside. In a food processor pulse the pork until it’s just coarsely chopped, about 5-10 pulses. Do this in two batches if your food processor is small. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Transfer pork to bowl with hoisin mixture. Stir to combine.

In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the bell pepper and water chestnuts. Cook until bell pepper softens, about 3 minutes. Add ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add pork mixture to skillet, bring to simmer, and heat through, about 1 minute. Transfer to serving dish.

In small bowl mix together the sauce ingredients, adjusting to taste. If you want it spicy, add more chili paste.

To serve, spoon pork mixture into lettuce leaves. Serve with the sauce on the side for drizzling over pork.

 Note: To make the cilantro slaw, in a medium bowl mix together purchased broccoli-slaw mix with ½ cup sliced green onion, ½ cup chopped cilantro leaves and about 1⁄3 cup mint leaves. Double the sauce mixture from above and drizzle it over the slaw, toss to coat. Top the lettuce wraps with the slaw.

Chicken, Avocado, Mango and Red Pepper Rolls

Makes12 servings

Not interested in poaching your own chicken?  I don't blame you.  I love using the rotisserie birds you can find at any market.  It makes this recipe super easy.  For a crunch factor, you can add raw carrots or cucumbers to the vegetables.

1¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 cup water
1 cup chicken broth
1 to 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium Tamari gluten-free soy sauce
1 medium avocado, halved, pitted, diced
¾ cup finely diced mango
½ cup fine julienne of red pepper
1⁄3 cup shredded basil or cilantro
1⁄3 cup finely sliced green onion
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium Tamari gluten-free soy sauce
12 rice wrapper rounds
Hot water
12 Bibb lettuce leaves
1 to 1½ cups fresh cooked thin rice noodles, optional
Peanut sauce (see note)

To poach the chicken: Cut the chicken breasts into big pieces or just cut in half. In a skillet over medium heat, mix together water, chicken broth and soy sauce. Add the chicken pieces and cover the skillet. Cook about 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Let cool in the liquid. When cool, remove from liquid and shred chicken.

To make the vegetables: Combine all the vegetable ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Have ready a pie dish of hot water. Working with one rice wrapper round at a time, slide it into the water for about 15 seconds to soften it; don’t oversoak it. Remove and place it on a clean work surface and blot it with a clean towel. On the one-third of the wrapper that’s closest to you, place one lettuce leaf and flatten.

Top with some shredded chicken, vegetables and noodles. Fold in the right and left sides of the wrapper, then fold the bottom edge up and over the filling and start rolling away from you tightly to encase the filling. It’s best not to overfill these to ensure you get a tight roll. Repeat with remaining rice wrappers and filling. You can make these about 2 hours in advance. Just before serving, slice the rolls in half on the diagonal.

To make the peanut sauce: In a blender or food processor, place 3 tablespoons canola oil, 1 large peeled garlic clove, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, hot red pepper sauce to taste, 1⁄3 cup creamy peanut butter, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1½ tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce, sugar to taste, 1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional) and warm water if needed. Process to combine all ingredients. If it’s too thick, thin with water. If it’s too thin, add more peanut butter. Adjust all other seasonings to taste.

Shrimp in Spicy Cilantro Butter

Serves: 4

You'll find sambal oelek in the the Asian section of most grocery stores.  Be sure to buy the paste that does not have garlic.

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, divided
¼ cup minced garlic
1⁄3 to ½ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup sambal oelek (ground fresh chili paste) or to taste
Salt to taste
½ bunch cilantro, chopped (a good ¾ cup chopped — more if you like)
1 1⁄3 pounds shell-on large shrimp (21 to 25 count)
½ baguette (about 8 to 10 ounces) cut in slices

Put a large pot of water on and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt one stick of the butter over low to medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté about 1 minute or until it just begins to brown. Reduce heat slightly and add the remaining 1 stick of butter. Don’t let it melt completely; it should look foamy. Stir in about 1⁄3 to ½ cup of freshly squeezed lime juice. Add about half of the sambal oelek, salt and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more of the sambal oelek. The sauce should have a spicy kick to it.

Add the shrimp to the boiling water and cook about 3 to 4 minutes, just until the shells are pink and the flesh is opaque.

Drain the shrimp and transfer to a serving bowl. Pour the butter sauce over the shrimp. Serve with crusty bread slices for dipping and Enjoy!

The sauce makes about 1½ cups.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Weekly Menu Jan. 18th - Jan. 24th

Thai-style Chicken Lettuce Wraps with a Spicy Peanut Sauce
Steamed Rice with Green Onions

Roast Beef with a Horseradish-Dijon Crust, Au Jus
Broccoli with Red Onions
Garden Salad with a Roast Garlic Vinaigrette

Pesole Soup, warm tortillas
Fresh Salsa

Turkey Chili with Vegetables
Chopped Salad, Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette

Pulled Pork, Carloina sauce
Cole Slaw

Fisherman's Stew
Baby Greens salad, herb vinaigrette

Smorgasbord Night- clean out the frig!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Spiced Almonds

Having a few guests over for cocktails?  Or maybe you're just kicking back to enjoy the game.  These little beauties are excellent with a cold beverage.  We usually have these out when entertaining.  A great combo of sweet with heat.  Enjoy!

1/4 C. Sugar
2 Tbs. Melted butter
1 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. Garlic salt
1/2 tsp. Chili powder
1/4 tsp. Red pepper flakes
2 C. Raw Almonds

Preheat oven to 225°F.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to mix well.  Pour coated almonds out onto a baking pan and roast in oven for 25 minutes.  Remove, let cool and serve.  Kept in the refrigerator, sealed, these will keep 2-3 weeks. (Don't worry you'll eat them so fast, you'll be lucky if they last the day)

Noodle Kugel

Noodle kugels, or baked puddings are all over Ashkenazic Jewish cookery.  This makes a great dessert or brunch dish.  I remember my grandmother always serving one at our family meals when we visited.

Makes enough for 8

1/2 lb. wide egg noodles
1 lb. creamed or whipped cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/4 lb. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup golden raisins
2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced thin
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
butter for greasing baking pan
sour cream and fresh berries as an accompaniment, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Boil the noodles until al dente, and drain. In a large mixing bowl, combine drained noodles and remaining ingredients (through and including vanilla extract) and toss well. Transfer the mixture to a buttered 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish, and bake 40 minutes, uncovered.

Cover with foil and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature with sour cream and/or fresh berries on the side, if desired.  Enjoy!

Braised Pork Chops with Mushrooms

Braising—both tenderizes the pork shoulder chops and concentrates the flavor of the sauce.

Makes enough for 4

2 # bone-in pork shoulder chops
1/3 cup all-purpose flour ( I use rice flour to stay away from the wheat)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 large onion, halved and sliced
1/2 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 cup chicken stock

Pat chops dry and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet (preferably deep) over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown chops in 2 batches, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes total per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining 2 tablespoon oil to skillet and cook onion and mushrooms with rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 7 minutes. Return chops and any meat juices from plate to skillet. Add stock and simmer, covered, until chops are tender, about 30 minutes.  Serve on warm plates with lots of mushrooms on top and Enjoy!

Kale and Potato Soup

This Portuguese soup called "caldo verde" is ideal for the cold weather we've been having.  It's  "stick to your ribs" comfort food, Iberian style!   The kale is full of antioxidants, while the potatoes and sausage keeps things satisfying.

Makes enough for 4

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 pound kielbasa or any smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cups water
1 pound kale, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves very thinly sliced

Accompaniment: favorite hot sauce

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then brown sausage, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Add 2 tablespoon oil to fat in pot and cook onion and garlic with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper over medium heat, stirring often, until browned, 7 to 8 minutes.

Add potatoes, water, and 1 teaspoon salt and simmer, covered, until potatoes are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Mash some potatoes into soup to thicken, then add kale and simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in sausage and cook until just heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper.

Pork Tenderloin with Sour Cherry Sauce

This wonderful combination is a balance of savory and sweet and really shows off the terrific cherries we have here in Michigan.  I usually pair this with a good Pinot Noir, especially those from Oregon that tend to have big cherry notes.

NOTE: Pork should be cooked 20 minutes per pound or to an internal temperature of 155.

2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins
1/2 pound shallots (about 7), peeled and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups dry red wine
1 cup dried sour cherries (5 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar
2 (5-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary

Special equipment: an electric coffee/spice grinder or pestle and mortar
Garnish: sprigs fresh rosemary

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.

Very finely grind fennel seeds, salt, and peppercorns in grinder, then rub all over pork.
Toss shallots with oil in a 13- by 9-inch flameproof roasting pan, then nestle tenderloins among shallots (without crowding) and roast about 35-40 minutes.  Remove from oven, place on cutting board and let rest.

Put roasting pan with shallots over a burner, then add wine and deglaze pan by boiling, stirring and scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon, 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a 2- to 2 1/2-quart heavy saucepan. Add cherries, sugar, and rosemary and boil until liquid is reduced to about 2 cups, 15 to 20 minutes. Discard rosemary sprigs (do not discard any leaves that have fallen off stems). Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Slice tenderloin into 1" slices, arrange on platter and put back into oven for a couple minutes just to warm.  Carefully remove, drizzle with a little of the cherry sauce, garnish with rosemary sprigs and serve with the rest of the sauce in a side sauce boat.  Enjoy!

Spinach and Endive Salad with Pecans and Bleu Cheese

This salad is so easy to put together.  It's elegant and flavorful and pairs fabulously with a glass of dry Riesling.

Makes enough for 6

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (1 small)
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 Belgian endives
10 oz baby spinach
1 cup pecans (3 1/2 oz), chopped and toasted
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup crumbled Danish blue cheese

Whisk together oil, shallot, vinegar, syrup, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
Thinly slice endives on a long diagonal, then toss with spinach and dressing in bowl.

Sprinkle salad with pecans, cranberries, and blue cheese.  Serve either family style or portion onto a chilled plate.  Serve and Enjoy!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Buffalo Chicken Thighs

1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 bone-in chicken thighs
4 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/4 C. Frank's hot sauce
2 tablespoons butter
Garnish- Celery sticks

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Combine first three ingredients in a small bowl and mix.  Using this seasoning mix, season thighs well.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Heat to just smoking and add a couple of pieces of chicken skin side down to pan, don't over crowd.  Sauté for about 4 minutes on each side or until browned.  Transfer browned chicken to a plate and reserve.  Repeat step until all chicken is browned. (Add additional oil to pan before adding the next batch of chicken)

Place chicken on a rimmed baking pan and place into hot oven.  Bake chicken for about 20 minutes or until done.

Combine hot sauce and butter in microwave-safe dish; microwave at high for 30 seconds or until butter melts, stirring to blend.

Place hot chicken in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with the hot sauce; toss to coat.  Serve with ranch or bleu cheese dressing, celery sticks and Enjoy!

Cuban Black Bean Soup

The beans in this recipe are soaked overnight in water to pre-soften.  Another method to pre-soften is on the stove and a lot faster.  Put beans in a pot, cover with water.  Bring to the boil and turn off heat.  Cover and let sit for an hour. You are now ready to use in the recipe.

1 # black beans
3/4 # thick cut bacon, diced
1 1/2 large green peppers, seeded and ribs removed, diced
5 C. Chicken stock
5 C. water
2/3 cup of good quality olive oil PLUS 2 teaspoons you’ll reserve for just before serving.
1 large yellow or white onion (diced or finely chopped)
1/4 teaspoon good quality dry oregano
4-6 garlic cloves (crushed)
1 large bay leaf
Juice of one lime
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro, washed and finely chopped, reserved
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Pick beans for any possible small rocks or pieces of dirt that might have gotten into the package, wash them throughly and soak in the 5 cups of water with 1/2 of one of the green peppers overnight at room temperature.  Leave them covered on the counter.  If doing the faster method of softening, add pepper to pot before bring the beans to the boil.

The following morning, DO NOT DISCARD the water where the beans soaked overnight. By now beans will be swollen and the water will appear black.  Remove green pepper piece and dice, add back to beans.

Add stock to the pot and simmer beans on stovetop at medium heat until they become soft (about 1 hour).  Meanwhile, in a pan heat the olive oil and bacon.  Cook bacon until golden brown, remove and reserve in a bowl.  To the same pan, add onion and the rest of the green peppers and cook until translucent, soft and very fragrant, approximately 15 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the oregano, black fresh pepper and bay leave to this mixture.  This mixture is called a "sofrito" in Latin cooking.

Add approximately 1 cup of the tender cooked beans to the sofrito pan and mash well with the back of a large cooking spoon, until you achieve the consistency of a dark puree (this acts as a thickener for the soup and also brings out the wonderful earthy flavor of the black beans.)
Return the entire mixture and the cooked bacon to the simmering pot with the rest of the beans.   Add bay leaf, vinegar, lime juice, wine, a few pinches of salt and sugar.  Cover the pot and return to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.  If you like your soup thicker, cook longer.

Finish soup by mixing in the last 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the correct seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.

Portion soup into warm bowls and top with the fresh chopped cilantro.

In a traditional Cuban meal, this soup is eaten very thick over white rice and accompanied by other dishes of meat, poultry, fish, boiled or fried Cuban vegetables (plantains, yuca, squash, taro root, ñame, Cuban sweet potato, okra, and a salad)

Weekly Menu Jan. 11th - Jan. 17th

Soups for the Week-
Cuban Black Bean
Vegetable Chili

Mahi-Mahi Tacos
Salsa Fresco
Jicama & Carrot Slaw

Strip Steaks with Braised Wild Mushrooms
Oven Roasted Potatoes, Sea Salt and Thyme
Asparagus and Carrots

Buffalo Chicken Thighs
Great Beans with Red Onions

Oven Roasted Salmon with Lemon and Dill
Ratatouille Vegetables

Vegetable Chili

Pork and White Bean Cassoulet

"Punt Night", a whatever is in the freezer dinner

Monday, January 6, 2014

Meatloaf Extraordinaire

I found this Ian Knauer recipe back in 2008 and have made it ever since.  I just love it, love it, love it!  This is the perfect antidote to a frozen winter's night (as I'm writing this it is -20°F with wind chills close to -40° here in Michigan).  It is absolutely fantastic with a mix of beef, pork, and bacon to ensure meatiness, with Worcestershire sauce, chopped prunes, and cider vinegar added for good balance and occasional suggestions of sweetness. Because the loaf is baked without a loaf pan, there's plenty of well-browned crust to go around.  Enjoy!

Serves 6 with leftovers

1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices firm white sandwich bread)
1/3 cup whole milk
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium celery rib, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 pound bacon (about 4 slices), chopped
1/2 cup pitted prunes, chopped
1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
1/2 pound ground pork (not lean)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Garnish: cooked bacon

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Soak bread crumbs in milk in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, cook onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low, then cook until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Add to bread-crumb mixture.

Finely chop bacon and prunes in a food processor, then add to onion mixture along with beef, pork, eggs, and parsley and mix together with your hands.

Pack mixture into a 9- by 5-inch oval loaf in a 13- by 9-inch shallow baking dish or pan.

Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meatloaf registers 155°F, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.  Serve and Enjoy!

Burgers with Mushrooms, Arugula and a Dijon Aioli

Makes 4 servings

1 pound of ground beef (I prefer an 80/20 blend)
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
12 ounces of sliced baby bella mushrooms
4 ounces fontina cheese, sliced
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
2 cups of fresh arugula
1/2 lemon, juiced
4 whole wheat buns, toasted

mustard aioli
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon horseradish
a pinch of salt  and fresh ground pepper

Add ground beef to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mix it into the beef, then let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

While the beef is resting, add mushrooms to a large skillet over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and butter, then add in mushrooms and stir to coat. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until softened and juicy. Once soft, add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, turn off heat and keep covered.

While mushrooms are cooking, whisk together dijon mustard, egg yolk and lemon juice in a large bowl until combined. Slowly stream in olive oil while continuously whisking until the mixture emulsifies and comes together completely. Whisk in whole grain mustard and horseradish, then taste and season with a little salt and pepper as desired. Set aside.

Toss the fresh arugula with the lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Form the beef into 4 equal patties, then add to the skillet and cook until they reach their desired doneness. For medium, my preference with burgers,  I cook them about 3 minutes per side, but it will depend on how thick you like your burgers. In the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, top each burger with a few slices of both cheeses.

To assemble burgers, spread a bit of mustard aioli on the bottom of each bun. Top with the burger, then some mushrooms, some aioli and a handful of arugula.  Serve and Enjoy!

Cheddar Burger with Cabernet Onions

Who doesn't love a burger?  This recipe works great not only with beef, but chicken or turkey also.

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cups sliced onions (about 2)
3/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other dry red wine
1 pound ground beef (I find 80/20 meat to fat ratio gives the best flavor)
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
4  hamburger buns (I usually use large iceberg or romaine leaves and make a wrap instead)
6 ounces sliced Wisconsin white cheddar cheese
Dijon mustard
1 small head of escarole, leaves separated

The follow first step can be made 3 days ahead. Cool, cover, and chill.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium skillet over medium- high heat. Add onions, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until tender and golden brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue to sauté until very tender and well browned, about 15 minutes longer. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

Preheat broiler. Gently mix meat and next 3 ingredients in large bowl. Shape into four 1/2-inch-thick patties. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Sprinkle burgers with salt and pepper; add to skillet. Cook until well browned, about 2 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Open buns and arrange, cut side up, on rimmed baking sheet. Place cheese slices on bun tops. Broil until cheese melts and bottom halves are lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Spread bottom halves with mustard. Top each with a few escarole leaves, then burger. Spoon onions atop burgers, dividing equally. Cover with bun tops; press lightly. Serve and Enjoy!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Weekly Menu Jan. 4th - Jan. 10th

"Burger & Beer Night"

Turkey Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy
Potatoes with Caramelized Onions
Asparagus with Sea Salt 

Curried Red Lentils with Vegetables
Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic

Chicken and White Bean Chili
Chopped Salad with a Creamy Sweet Onion Dressing

Seared Salmon with a Citrus-Ginger Glaze
Steamed Green Beans

Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomato Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash
Caesar Salad

"Smorgasbord Night" (don't forget the Martinis)