If you’re looking for something bubbly and festive to serve on New Year’s Eve give this a try. Nina and I shared a pitcher over lunch at the Columbia Restaurant while vacationing in St. Augustine and decided this was pretty tasty and worth recreating on our own. We watched carefully as they prepared it at our table, picked up the ingredients on the way back to our inn, and enjoyed several more rounds while playing cards. (The Columbia didn’t use Freixinet, I suspect it was a cava of some sort, though, and I think Freixinet is the best tasting, best priced cava available. The black bottle is brut, or dry; if you prefer something less dry, try the clear bottle). Even people who think they don’t like champagne enjoy this.
1 bottle Freixinet (in the distinctive black bottle)
1 can Sprite
1/3 C Cointreau
1/3 C brandy
1 sliced orange
1 sliced lime
- Mix all of the ingredients together in a pitcher and pour into ice-filled glasses. Garnish with additional citrus slices if desired.
This is a home-grown recipe that I’ll definitely do again; the tortellini has a wonderfully rich flavor reminiscent of dim sum.
4 filet mignons
Montreal steak seasoning
extra virgin olive oil
2 T butter
1 pkg. Bertelloni sweet sausage tortellini
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot., minced
2 T butter
2 T white balsamic vinegar
1/2 fresh tomato, minced
freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain, put in a bowl, cool, and drizzle with a little olive oil to keep them separate. Store in fridge until ready to use.
- Pat filet mignons dry and season liberally on both sides with the Montreal steak seasoning. Let rest and come to room temperature for at least 15 minutes, preferably 30.
- Heat cast iron skillet for several minutes on high, add several swirls of extra virgin olive oil and quickly sear and brown the steaks, cooking several minutes per side until desired doneness. Remove to a plate; cover with foil to keep warm while they rest.
- Reheat cast iron skillet several minutes, add 2 swirls of olive oil, heat briefly, then add 2 T butter, lower heat slightly, and add the shallot and garlic. Stir continuously for about a minute, then add balsamic vinegar, stir for about a minute, then stir in the minced tomato, stir and heat for about a minute.
- Carefully stir in the tortellini, turning carefullly so as not to break them up, but enough so they get coated on all sides. Let rest long enough to slightly brown, about a minute or so per side. Drizzle any accumulated juices from the plate the steaks are resting on over the tortellini.
- Plate the steaks, and serve tortellini as a side, sprinkling liberally with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Today is day 21 without a stove or oven and the novelty is definitely wearing off. I have spent far more time with my Weber gas grill and microwave than I had ever hoped for since my range up and died on December 6. You would think that replacing a gas range wouldn’t be all that difficult, but you’d be wrong. We’ve been getting one “my dog ate it” caliber excuse after another from vendors and today was no different.
Okay – - – thanks for bearing with me while I got that off my chest. On the bright side (and my glass is always at least 9/10ths full) I did learn an amazing new microwave trick yesterday that is so simple I can’t believe I haven’t heard of it before: how to make microwave potato chips. These are so good, lightning fast, full of potato flavor and all without any oil at all (not that I have any problem at all with fried foods!). Even Rod said he prefers them to bagged commercial chips and I can whip up a fresh batch in less time than it takes to make a sandwich.
1 medium size potato, peeled or not, your call; (I’ve been using red skin potatoes)
salt and seasoning of your choice, if desired.
a sheet of parchment paper
- Slice the potato as thin as you possibly can. I finally found a reason to justify the $10 plastic mandoline I brought home from Target months ago and haven’t used since – it’s perfect for these.
- Arrange the slices in a single layer on the sheet of parchment paper. Sprinkle lightly with seasonings if desired.
- Place in the microwave and cook on high heat for about 5 or 6 minutes depending on the power of your oven. You’ll want to watch the first few batches until you get a feel for how long is just perfect. They’re ready when they’re golden brown and crisp.
Someone once defined eternity as two people and a Christmas ham. When Rod and I received not one, not two, but three Christmas hams in one week, I came up with this recipe, which has since become one of our post-holiday favorites.
8 ounces uncooked egg noodles
1 lb. diced leftover cooked ham
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons oil
1 can cream of chicken and mushroom soup OR cream of mushroom soup OR cream of chicken soup
1 can mushroom pieces
1/2 cup chicken bouillon or broth
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
5 dashes Tabasco sauce (optional)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and pour into large mixing bowl.
- Saute celery and onions in skillet with oil over low heat until vegetables are transluscent, not browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir into cooked noodles.
- Stir in ham, soup, mushrooms, boullion or broth, cheese, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, marjoram and Tabasco, if using. Pour mixture into an ovenproof casserole dish.
- In a small dish, stir together melted butter or margarine and bread crumbs until well blended. Sprinkle between your fingers over the surface of the casserole.
- Bake casserole in oven preheated to 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
I doubt there’s a pantry in the South without a can of Old Bay Seasoning in it. I use it in a lot of dishes other than steamed shrimp: as a salt substitute in my tuna salad, and in place of salt and paprika on grilled or broiled chicken. In this dip, it adds just the right amount of its signature flavor.
1 1/2 C shredded cheddar (6 oz. by weight)
3/4 C good mayonnaise, such as Hellmanns
1 1 /2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1 lb. fresh lump crabmeat, picked over carefully to remove cartilage
assorted crackers for serving
In a medium bowl, combine 3/4 of the cheese, the mayonnaise, Old Bay Seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard. Fold in the crabmeat. Spoon the mixture into a 1-quart casserole. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and a little additional Old Bay.
Bake in a 350 oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until mixture begins to bubble around the edges. Serve with crackers or pita chips or bagel chips.
Rod and I aren’t big on desserts, but when we have friends over for dinner I like to have something sweet on hand to end the meal with. Fresh fruits make a nice light ending, and these poached pears are just that, with the added bonus of being easy to make and make an elegant presentation. Add this to your easy gourmet repertoire.
1 pear per person (Bartlett or Bosc work nicely)
1 qt. water
5 or 6 T lemon juice
1/2 C sugar
1 C water
1 cinnamon stick
1 bottle red wine of your liking
- Peel the pears leaving the stems intact.
- Add the lemon juice to the quart of water in a bowl large enough to accomodate the pears. As you peel the pears, place them in the lemon water to prevent discoloring.
- Place the sugar and cup of water in a non-reactive saucepan. Over medium heat, stir the mixture constantly until all of the sugar dissolves, then bring the syrup briefly to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the pears, cover the pot leaving the lid slightly ajar, and poach the pears for about 20 minutes. Remove one pear with a slotted spoon and insert the tip of a sharp knife into the base of it. When it meets only slight resistance the pear is almost done. When they are all done, remove them to a plate. Reserve the simple syrup.
- Pour the bottle of wine into the simple syrup and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil the wine for 3 or 4 minutes to reduce it slightly, then return the pears to the pan and cook them gently for about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the pears to a heat-proof bowl. Discard the cinnamon stick. Pour half of the poaching liquid over the pears and let them cool. Cook the remaining poaching liquid over high heat until it is reduced to a thick syrup.
- Drain the pears and stand them upright in individual serving dishes. (Margarita glasses or large bowl wine glasses make a nice presentation). Ladle some of the wine syrup over each pear to glaze them and pour the rest into a sauceboat to be presented seperately.
I had my friend Julia over for dinner this week when the weather was cold and she was in need of some good old fashioned comfort food. What could be more comforting than a perfectly braised beef pot roast with gravy and veggies? Don’t turn your nose up at the dry onion soup mix – there’s a reason it’s been the secret to pot roast rave reviews for so many years. Take Mikey’s advice: “Try it – you’ll like it”.
3 to 3 1/2 lb. boneless chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat & blotted dry
salt & freshly ground pepper
2 ribs of celery cut in 1″ chunks
1 onion cut into wedges
2 or 3 carrots cut in 1″ chunks
2 or 3 parsnips, peeled & cut in 1″ chunks
4 large red potatoes, cut into 8 pieces (peeled or unpeeled)
1 15-oz. can beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
Sprinkle the roast liberally with equal parts salt, freshly ground pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and paprika.
Put the vegetables into the slow cooker with the potatoes on top. Put the meat on top of the potatoes. Add the bay leaves and sprinkle the onion soup mix over all. Pour the can of beef broth over the meat.
Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. Serve straight from the cooker and ladle the juices over each plate.
My 8-year old god-daughter, Lauren, has an over-the-top shopping gene so it didn’t really surprise me when her mother told me one night this week that they were baking Christmas cookies together and when I asked her what kind she said Lauren wanted to make Nieman Marcus cookies.
If you’re not familiar with the legend of this recipe, it’s a fun read at Snopes.com .
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds).
Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.
In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.
Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.
Yield: 2 dozen cookies
If you’re trying to figure out what to serve for Christmas dinner, this would be spectacular. Glo says this is easy to do and unbelievably delicious and impressive.
Olive Oil cooking spray
8 celery ribs rinsed
1 ( 3-4 ) rib roast ( 41/2 Lbs. approx. )
TIP: Buy the small end, as it will be more tender and will have less fat!
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp coarsely ground pepper
1/4 C onion, diced
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 14-oz. can beef broth
16 oz. fresh whole mushrooms (rinsed)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat 9 x1 3 baking dish with cooking spray.
Cut celery into 7 inch ribs. Lay across center of dish; place roast on top. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, onions and garlic.
Add broth and mushrooms around roast. Bake 2 1/2 hours or until internal thermometer reaches 145 for medium-rare up to 170 for well-done. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serve.
Note: The Au Jus is terrific!
This classic recipe is from a cookbook I owned back in the early 70′s and I’ve used it regularly ever since. When I serve it to guests who have told me in they don’t like casseroles, I simply tell them it’s Greek lasagna and they wolf it down.
If you can’t find ground lamb in your meat department, and your butcher won’t grind it for you, use some partially frozen lamb shoulder or leg steaks and grind them using either the meat grinder attachment for your Kitchen Aid mixer or pulse in a food processor until it’s the consistency of ground beef.
2 T butter or margarine
1 C finely chopped onion
1 1/2 lb. ground lamb
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
dash of pepper
2 8-oz. cans tomato sauce
2 eggplants (1-lb., 4 oz. size), washed & dried
1/2 C butter or margarine
2 T butter or margarine
2 T flour
1/2 tsp salt, dash of pepper
2 C milk
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 C grated Cheddar cheese
2 T dry bread crumbs
Make the meat sauce. In hot butter in 3 1/2 qt. Dutch oven, saute onion, meat and garlic, stirring until browned, about 10 minutes. Add herbs, spices and tomato sauce; bring to boiling, stirring. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 1/2 hour.
Halve unpared eggplants lengthwise, and slice crosswise, 1/2″ thick. Place in bottom of broiler pan; sprinkle lightly with salt; brush lightly with melted butter. Broil, 4″ from heat, 4 minutes per side or until golden.
Make cream sauce: In medium saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat, stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk gradually. Bring to boiling, stirring until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat. In small bowl, beat eggs with wire whisk. Beat in some hot cream-sauce mixture; return mixture to saucepan; mix well, set aside. Preheat oven to 350.
To assemble casserole: In bottom of a shallow 2-quart baking dish (12″ x 7 1/2″ x 2″), layer half of eggplant; sprinkle with 2 T each grated parmesan and cheddar cheeses. Stir bread crumbs into meat sauce. Spoon evenly over eggplant in casserole, then sprinkle with 2 T each of Parmesan and cheddar cheeses. Layer the rest of the eggplant, overlapping, as before.
Pour cream sauce over all. Sprinkle top with remaining cheeses. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden-brown and top is set. If desired, brown top a little more under broiler, about 1 minute. Cool slightly to serve. Cut in squares.
Makes 12 servings