Monthly Archive for March, 2010

Wordless Wednesday Bliss – The Heart of a Foodie Unleashed

While I am not typically a wordless Wednesday kinda-gal, I have been tempted to anti-up. Today’s the day. My trip to Yountville still has me dreaming of these images on a daily basis…the heart of a foodie unleashed. My photo diary of Bouchon Bakery, Napa Style and French Laundry.

Below the Napa Style image of the store and salmon colored salt, you can see the picturesque grounds and the organic vegetable garden at French Laundry…

A Taste of Spring

While I had never had rhubarb, I had always adored the color of this vibrant colored vegetable. I began an investigation of all those people I knew that had eaten this celeriac-like ingredient to hear what they had to say about their likes/dislikes. For those that I spoke with that were rhubarb regulars, they agreed that this vegetable turned dessert can be VERY tart. I decided that this would have to be a recipe with some other elements. If you are looking for a Spring treat, and dare take on a bit of culinary adventure, let the baking commence. Continue reading ‘A Taste of Spring’

Drink to the New Year

This guest post is from the friend I’ve yet to meet in person. We speak to each other nearly daily via Facebook and Twitter – we share laughs, recipes and stories and we talk about spending time together when our lives finally collide. Until then, she honored me with her gift of words and mixology. This mystery woman – Ilina Ewen writes a wonderful blog called Dirt & Noise and can often be found on Twitter at @ilinap.

Thank you Ilina, for helping me drink this new year away with illusions of beach-side naps and fruity blissful beverages!

I haven’t yet met this fellow foodie and cocktail maven on the left coast, though I count her among my friends. I have a hunch that when we meet we could very well gab for hours on end whilst shopping and sipping, leaving little room for breaths and pregnant pauses. Gina perks me up, makes me chuckle, and whets my appetite. I’m dying to pull up a barstool in her kitchen and nosh and toast and laugh.

I imagine Gina has a lovely kitchen. I bet she has really cute aprons too.

A little bird, known as Facebook, told me that Gina will be blowing out candles on a cake this week. Nevermind just how many candles. Since she’s the one who inspired me to start baking from scratch (I’m telling you, her blueberry muffins are sinfully delicious.), I’m pretty sure she’s indulging in a damn good cake. Let’s just say that I’m a better mixologist than a baker. I’ve concocted a little birthday cocktail for my friend Gina.

I’d whisk her away to a blue hued sea with white sand beaches and red pedicures if I could. We’d eat fresh fish, succulent pineapples, and sweet coconut juice. This must sound like a romantic rendezvous to some, but for mothers who work work work, paradise is a beach replete with libations and girlfriends where no one calls us Mommy.

So to toast Gina on her big day, here’s my little taste of paradise. Cheers!

Gina Bina Bobeena

1 ounce dark rum
1 ounce coconut rum
1 ounce banana liqueur
5 ounces pineapple juice
splash of grenadine
pineapple wedge and banana slice for garnish

Pour first three ingredients over ice in a high ball glass. Add pineapple juice and an ever so slight dash of grenadine. Skewer a pineapple wedge and banana slice to plop in as garnish.

Happy Birthday, Gina!

Take-In Italian (flavor benefits with out the fuss)

This past week I reconnected with my Bertolli friends that I met at BlogHer Food. The end result was a fun meal prepared for my foodie family that got rave reviews and triple servings. An hour before I wanted to serve dinner I hit the kitchen grabbed a few bags of Bertolli’s Italian Sausage Stuffed Shells out of the freezer and quickly read the directions on the bag.

It was as simple as 1-2-3. Once the pasta was in the oven baking, I shifted my attention to an asparagus and mushroom recipe adapted from Chef Rocco DiSpirito – Asparagus with Mixed Mushrooms and Fresh Parmesan Cheese. As you can see from the photos, it all looked great and the tastes were on par with the looks of the dish. The nice thing about this veggie dish is that it can be done ahead of time- I did make the mushroom marinade earlier in the day to give the flavors the maxim chance to set-up. The verdict– five empty plates and lots of smiles.

While the pasta cooked for an hour, it took but five minutes to assemble at the start and then five minutes at the end to top with cheese that needed to melt. It was like a night off without the hassle of cooking a rich dish with all of the flavor benefits.

While I really enjoyed Rocco’s vegetable accompaniment, I’ve changed it up a bit while keeping some of the core elements — asparagus and mushrooms! That said, if you wanted to keep it super simple you could pair the Bertolli pasta with a salad and call it done!

Asparagus with Mixed Mushrooms and Fresh Parmesan Cheese

1/2 cup olive oil
2 TBS garlic, finely chopped
1 TBS chives
1 TBS Italian parsley
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1/4 lb mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1/4 lb oyster mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1/2 lb baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
16 spears asparagus (1 bunch) or 28 medium spears
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
4 oz Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium-size bowl, whisk together oil, shallots, herbs and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms and thyme sprigs and mix well. Let the mushrooms marinate at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

Bring soup pot filled with water to a boil and add 2 TBS salt. While water comes to a boil, prepare the asparagus. Trim them by gently breaking the stalks where they naturally snap a few inches from the base. (If using jumbo asparagus, peel them to about 1/2 inch below the tip.) Bundle spears with kitchen twine and cook in the boiling water until they are tender when piecred with a knife, approximately 6 minutes. Discard twine once asparagus has been removed from water.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Take the mushrooms out of the marinade and place them in the pan, forming a single layer of mushrooms. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan — as Julia Child would tell you, if you do they will not cook properly. Season with salt and pepper and cook until browned and tender. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

When all of the mushrooms have been removed from the pan, add 2 TBS vinegar. Scrape and dissolve any browned bits from the bottom of the pan to make a sauce; pour the sauce over the mushrooms.

Arrange on a serving platter. Top with the mushrooms, juices and shaved Parmesan. (To nicely shave the cheese use a vegetable peeler). Drizzle with a dash of additional olive oil and ground pepper.

E buon appetito!

If you think you would be inspired to learn more about Bertolli you can follow them on Twitter @Bertolli or learn more about Into the Heart of Italy ( There was an article that really appealed to my tech-side that hit this week in the New York Times, which referenced this Bertolli/Unilever promotion in regards to how old and new media can work together — if you’ve got a few minutes it is a good read.

For those Twitter-a-holics who just can’t get enough, you can also follow Chef Rocco DiSpirito at @roccodiSpirito.

Mille Grazie a Bertolli for their wine aerator and gift card to purchase a Bertolli Frozen Meal!

The alternative to the white sugar cookie

While I love to cook and give away my treats, I adore receiving them. When my friend Yasemin Krause @yaseminck presented me with a gift box of these cookies I immediately asked her for the recipe. Graciously, she shared her recipe for these adorable and delicious cookies which seem like the perfect Spring-time indulgence. Aside from being delicious, these cookies would make a wonderful hostess gift or party favor. If you decide to decorate them with frosting I would recommend a combination of white, dark pink and/or royal blue as these colors look great against the dark chocolate coloring of the cookie.


Cookie Ingredients

2 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking power
1 cup unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsps vanilla

Icing Ingredients

2 large egg whites
2 tsps fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
Optional: Food coloring

Cookie Directions

In a large-size bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder. Mix well.

In a separate small-size bowl, beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg is added. Add vanilla and beat all together. Then add to the flour mixture. Using a large spoon mix until smooth.

Divide dough in half and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for approximately 2 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut cookies in shapes of your choice and place on a non-stick cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the outsides of the cookies look crisp.

Cool for 10-20 minutes. Serve as is, with powdered sugar or decorate with frosting.

Icing Directions

In a medium-size bowl, beat the egg whites with the lemon juice.

Add the powered sugar and mix until smooth.

Optional: If using food coloring, add in as much as desired until you get the color of your choice.

Use the icing immediately to prevent the icing becoming too hard to use.

Whet Your Appetite…it’s about to get GOOD

This weekend started out a bit differently then the last five weeks – it was work free and friend and family-focused. The pace finally drew to a screeching halt after a seemingly endless series of projects and life came back into focus. On the menu: breathing, laughter, food and fun (plus a few great new recipes – I couldn’t tease you further, as you have so patiently awaited this next post amidst my hefty work load. TY).

This post in itself was fun-filled. Conceptualized with my dear friend Sue Zumout @justforlicks, the concept was to create a shared post with a common element and put our own touches on it….enter stage right, Petite Parmesan Baskets, the adorable appetizer with numerous possibilities. We’ve developed six ideas, three you can find in this post and the remaining three can be easily found on her blog site (details to follow). Trust me, it will be well worth the click over as her creations were wonderful too!
Please note that to help keep the various recipes organized each filing as well as the basket recipe has its own ingredients and direction list.

Petite Parmesan Baskets

Petite Parmesan Basket Ingredients

6 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded
1/2 tsp of either paprika, or cayenne (optional)

Note: to make the necessary basket form you will need mini-cup cake pans or another small item on which to form the basket.

Petite Parmesan Basket Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with either a silpat or parchment paper.

Pour 1 TBS increments of Parmesan cheese onto lined cookie sheet and flatten into a circular shape. If desired add optional seasoning.

Bake on middle rack of oven until golden brown, approximately 7 – 10 minutes. Immediately after removing from the oven, carefully transfer cheese discs with a spatula and place onto an upside down mini-cup cake pan. It is important to work quickly to form the basket shape around the outside of the mini-cup cake pan before the cheese begins to harden.

Baskets may be made two days in advance and placed on parchment paper in an airtight container at room temperature.

Pear, Manchego & Bacon Filling Ingredients

1 Red D’Anjou pear, cubed with skin on
3/4 portion 1 medium size red apple (like Lady Alice), grated with skin on
2 TBS lemon juice
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
3 slices bacon, cooked until firm and chopped
1/2 cup Manchego cheese, finely cubed (can substitute Asiago cheese)
1 TBS orange juice
1 TBS champagne vinegar
pepper, to taste

Pear, Manchego & Bacon Filling Directions

In medium-size bowl, add pear and apple and mix well with lemon juice. Add in celery, bell pepper, bacon, cheese, orange juice, vinegar and pepper. Mix well and chill until time to assemble in baskets.

Panzanella Filling Ingredients

1/2 cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and finely chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp capers
1/8 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
pepper, to taste

Panzanella Filling Directions

In small size bowl, mix together olives, tomatoes, capers and bread crumbs. Add olive oil, vinegar and pepper. Mix well and chill until time to assemble in baskets.

Prosciutto and Orange Marmalade Filling

6 slices Prosciutto, fat removed
1/2 cup orange marmalade

Prosciutto and Orange Marmalade Directions

Take a nice piece of Prosciutto that fits well into the basket and top with a dollop of orange marmalade.

For three other great basket appetizer fillings – Caprese (tomato, basil, mozzarella cheese), Crab Ceviche, Steak & Potato visit my friend Sue Zumout at Just For Licks.