Sweet Confections for Super Bowl Bashes

Lime Ginger Cream Cheese Bars 1 3383x2728Here in New England, everyone is gearing up for Super Bowl XLIX, cheering for the Pats (and hoping that Deflategate will soon be resolved!) Like many, I’m planning on making a big pot of chili this Sunday to stave off the frigid temperatures of the last few days, but I’m far more excited about the scrumptious Lime and Ginger Cream Cheese Bars that will end the menu.

Simple, quick, and addictive, they are prepared with a crust of ground ginger snaps, sugar, and melted butter, all combined and packed onto the bottom of a baking pan. The creamy filling is made with a cheesecake-style batter enhanced with bits of crystallized ginger and a robust accent of lime. The batter is baked until set, then cooled and chilled before it is cut into bars, so you can definitely prepare this dessert in advance. I created this recipe quite a few years ago, but recently updated it for my blog.

These slim bars are only about an inch high, but are packed with flavor. You can garnish Continue reading

A Restaurant Dish Becomes a Favorite at Home

Sesame Lamb Chops, Shiitakes, Snow Peas 1 3648x2736Every so often a restaurant dish is so good, so inventive, yet so simple that I can’t wait to try it in my own kitchen. The grilled shiiktake mushrooms with sesame oil on the menu at Semilla (one of my favorite Paris restaurants) are such a creation. We’ve dined in this Left Bank place at least a half dozen times in the past year, and on every occasion either my husband or I have ordered them. They arrive, stemmed but left whole, usually a half dozen or so on a small plate. A sprinkling of chives and a few pools of sesame oil are the only garnishes. One bite of the tender fungi scented with fragrant toasted sesame oil and you’d be smitten too.

Shiitakes with Sesame Oil at Semilla

Shiitakes with Sesame Oil at Semilla

During a visit a few weeks ago, I asked our waitress for the recipe, and, smiling, she responded, “Mais c’est très facile!” Then she explained that the shiitakes were seasoned with soy and sesame oil and quickly pan grilled. A few days later I tried them in my petite French kitchen, and discovered that were indeed effortless, and took only a few minutes to prepare.

I decided to expand the recipe by pairing the shiitakes with lamb Continue reading

A Comforting Soup for a Cold Night

Fennel and White Bean Soup with Prosciutto 1 2448x2448At the end of last week we had planned to meet a good friend at a new bistro in Paris. But the tragic events that unfolded between Wednesday and Friday were so unsettling that we all agreed a casual dinner at home was a better idea. When I suggested that we gather for a simple soup and salad supper at our small apartment, our pal was on board immediately and offered to bring dessert.

For the main course, I had in mind a rustic soup prepared by sautéing chopped fennel, onion, and carrots and then simmering those vegetables along with white beans in stock. Short on time, I opted for canned beans, rinsing and draining them well before stirring them into the pot, and was delighted with the results. For extra flavor some chopped fresh rosemary and dry white wine balanced the flavors nicely, while crispy julienned prosciutto and golden homemade croutons made fine garnishes. Continue reading

A Sad Day in Paris

Winter DuskWe were just finishing lunch with friends when one of our pals checked her email and announced that there had been a terrorist attack in Paris. Stunned, we paid the bill and asked the garçons at the bistro what they knew—not much except that a weekly satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo, had been attacked. My husband and I decided to continue our errands in the city, stopping in a café to watch on a TV screen more details as the tragedy unfolded. On the bus back to our quartier, I noticed how many riders were checking their cell phones—like us, probably searching for more specifics of this terrible act that had claimed a dozen lives.

When we arrived back at our small rented apartment, we turned on the television to once again get an update of the day’s events. What struck us as extraordinary was that thousands of Parisians had already started to gather at La Place de la République in memory of those who had been killed and wounded and also to stand firm for freedom of expression against ideological terrorism. (In fact, such demonstrations were held throughout France.) Continue reading

Paris Gets Ready for 2015!

We’re back in Paris in the familiar Left Bank neighborhood where we’ve welcomed the beginning of many a new year. The quartier where we stay is festooned with lights and bright window displays, and the food shops remind us how important entertaining friends is at this time of year. The French call December 31 le révillon, or St. Sylvestre, and food and Champagne are at the center of every get-together. Here’s a glimpse of a few of our neighborhood stores where we’ve spent the better part of today selecting delectables for ringing in 2015 with friends.

Ringing in 2015 in Paris!

Scallop and Fennel Tartlets 1 3648x2736This year we’ll be in Paris to ring in 2015, but, rather than dine out in one of the city’s restaurants, we’ll be cooking a meal with our friends, Harriet and Philippe, who live there. Our hosts have decided that after marathon Christmas entertaining, we should follow a simpler philosophy of “buy some, make some” for this special night. And, happily, that’s especially easy to do in France.

Harriet’s local boucher displays gorgeous fowl, completely stuffed and oven ready, which she buys and roasts along with chestnuts and vegetables. Our pals love to purchase oysters, a French tradition at this time of year, and a cache of delectable cheeses. I’ll order a dessert from one of my favorite patisseries, and will volunteer to bring champagne and appetizers. Continue reading

A Great Roast for Christmas Dinner!

photo by Susie Cushner

photo by Susie Cushner

Last week my son, Mike, who hosts our family’s Christmas dinner, asked what we should make for this special meal. It took me only a second to answer, “Let’s do those racks of pork from my Sunday Roasts.” He wasn’t convinced so I continued to push my choice, enthusiastically listing the recipe’s merits. Racks of pork are inexpensive, but they look stately and impressive. They cook in far less time that a turkey, and pair well with countless vegetables and sides, I explained. Finally, I got his attention.

This recipe for racks of pork is one of my favorites and is simplicity itself to prepare. The Cranberry Apple Chutney 1 a 3084x2583 2969x2446racks are brushed with curry oil (made by whisking curry powder into olive oil) and baked with red onion wedges. I suggest using two racks of five ribs each to serve ten generously, but you won’t find these racks displayed in your grocery’s meat department. You’ll need to call the butcher, and order them ahead. In the original version I served the pork with a fall apple chutney, but for this holiday variation I reworked that condiment adding cranberries for color and replacing cider vinegar with balsamic. Continue reading

7 Holiday Gifts for Food Lovers!

 

If you’re  still trying to finish your holiday shopping, here are some suggestions (all favorites of mine!) for the cooks on your list. From $4.99 for a unique little metal pot scrubber that would make a great stocking stuffer to $99.99 for a six pound gift pack of pulled pork barbecue from Corky’s Barbecue in Memphis (where I grew up!), each is special. All are available online–an easy way to shop when the weather in so much of our country is unpredictable!

Stonewall Kitchen Towels

I discovered these towels, which are so soft you could wrap a baby in them, while teaching at Stonewall Kitchen in Maine. They launder beautifully even though they curl along the ends slightly after the first wash. That’s never bothered me (and doesn’t affect their great absorbency). They are white and with a colored border that comes in varying hues.

Stonewall Kitchen Tea Towels. $5.95. Available online and in stores.

Metal Scrubbing Brush

Brushtech’s petit metal scrubbing brush is a tool I use every day to clean my pots and pans. Its scrubbing power is amazing, and It takes up only a small amount of storage (unlike other bulkier brushes or balls). Just don’t use them on your fine china, they’ll take the decorations right off! Great as a stocking stuffer!

Brushtech Same as Steel Wool Brush. $4.99 (most retailers). Available online and in specialty cookware stores such as Sur la Table. Continue reading

Pistachio Brownies—A Hit at the Party!

Dark Chocolate Pistachio and Orange Brownies 3 3194x2676One of my favorite parties of the year is the late fall dinner my husband and I host for his freshman seminar class at Amherst College. The students, bright, lively, and engaging, come from around the country as well as from several continents. This year the group hailed from New York to California and from cities in Ethiopia, Uruguay, and Viet Nam. So, I decided to plan a menu with global accents, and offered as openers baked Medjool dates filled with Gorgonzola Dolce and almonds, followed by vegetarian Greek moussaka and French daube de boeuf à la provençale. All-American brownies, prepared with an unexpected flavor combination, made a fine finale.Freshman Party students 1 3648x2736

Freshman Party  Students (boys) 2 3648x2736The dark chocolate, fudgy brownies, studded with chopped pistachios and scented with fragrant orange peel, quickly disappeared and were given a thumbs up by the crowd. I was delighted since I had spent several days tweaking the recipe, replacing traditional nuts with pistachios and omitting vanilla in place of grated orange zest. Extra festive touches included decorating the brownies with a zigzag pattern of ganache and adding a sprinkle of finely chopped verdant pistachios.

These brownies are petite and slim perfect for a holiday indulgence. A single recipe yields 16 squares and can be stored for several days in the fridge. I was so pleased with their popularity that I’m making another batch for a neighborhood potluck this weekend!

Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving!

From my table in New England to yours, Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers! Just click on any of the photos for a quick slide show!