Last Minute Easter Lunch!

Lamb Chops with Black Pepper:Pecorino ButterThis year–for the first time in more than a decade–we’ll be empty nesters on Easter Sunday! As it turns out this holiday coincides with our grandkids’ spring break so most of our clan will be away. Instead of cooking for six, I’m planning a menu for two.

Although ham was the star of Easter meals when I was growing up in the South, I’m a huge fan of lamb, and came up with the idea for grilled lamb chops topped with dollops of Pecorino/black pepper butter.

The topping is an “easy-to-put together” blending of softened sweet butter, grated Pecorino and Parmesan cheeses, plus a generous accent of coarse black pepper. The butter takes only minutes to assemble and can be prepared a couple of days ahead. At serving time the chops need less than 10 minutes on an outdoor or stovetop grill. Peas Continue reading

Always Choose Chocolate!

Dark Chocolate Caramel Cake“If in doubt, choose chocolate,” has always been my mantra. So when my husband and I host a supper at our house next week for his class at Amherst College, guess what the the dessert will be!  Definitely a chocolate creation, and in this case a rich dark chocolate caramel cake.

What makes this luscious single-layered confection unique is that the batter is studded with caramel candies that soften and blend into the dark chocolate mixture while baking.The recipe is based on one I spotted several years ago in a French magazine, but in the original version the candies were laid atop the batter. After baking the cake several times, I discovered that submerging the caramels so that they are completely covered produced a richer, more interesting texture. Continue reading

A Thirty-Minute Supper for the Chilly Beginning of Spring

Grilled Sausages, Savoy Cabbage and Bacon, Apples with Caraway SeedsLooking at my calendar I notice that this is the first day of spring, but peering out my window I view mounds of snow in our yard while the thermometer hovers in the 40s. So, as much as I am ready for a seasonal change, it’s still cold here in New England, and I’m craving foods to stave off the chill.

Grilled sausages served with pan-sautéed cabbage and bacon plus apple wedges sautéed in butter with caraway seeds is just the sort of no-fuss menu I love in this blustery weather. For the sausages choose a favorite cooked one (I always opt for kielbasa) and slice it into 3- to 4- inch lengths before grilling in a stove top grill pan or skillet until lightly charred. The two side dishes featured here, though, are the real stars of this meal. Each calls for only three primary ingredients and takes only minutes to prep and cook. Continue reading

A Perfect Soup for This Ever-Changing Weather!

Warm or Cool Carrot Soup with Coconut and Lime Saturday before last I left my winter coat on the coat rack, pushed my boots to the back of the closet, and opened the door to 70 degree temperatures. But, what a difference a week can make this time of the year. The following weekend the low was in the teens, and gusty winds made things even chillier. As a cook, I’ve been questioning what to serve during such mercurial weather. Then I remembered a delectable carrot soup scented with coconut and lime (from, Soup Nights)  that could be served warm or cool.

Thick and creamy with a vibrant orange hue, this dish is both quick and simple to prepare. Onions and carrots sautéed in butter are simmered in chicken stock and coconut milk, then turned into a smooth puree. Lime juice balances the carrots’ sweetness, while cilantro provides a nice herbal note. Continue reading

Cooking Deliciously for Two!

Bow Ties with Brussels Sprouts, Gorgonzola, and HazelnutsMy good friend and fellow author, Carla Snyder, has the answer for empty nesters who are bored with their everyday fare and in search of new ideas for weeknight meals. Worry no more! In her new book, One Pan, Two Plates:Vegetarian Suppers, Carla has assembled a collection of irresistible main courses crafted to serve just two! As I thumbed through the book, I found myself turning down page after page. Should I make the Mushrooms with Polenta and Taleggio? Or, what about that Moroccan Chickpea Stew, or those Latkes with Rutabaga, Rapini, and Parmesan? So many tempting possibilities!

In the end I chose Bow Ties with Brussels Sprouts, Gorgonzola, and Hazelnuts, and One Pan, Two Plates Vegetarian Suppers coverwasn’t disappointed, and nor was my husband. He raved about his bowl of pasta with verdant pops of color from Brussels sprouts and plenty of crunch provided by toasted hazelnuts. But, it was the simple Gorgonzola sauce that won him over—a prefect foil for the bow ties and the Brussels sprouts. This dish took only half an hour from start to finish, but looked and tasted as if much more time was required.

If you’re cooking for more than two, you can easily double this recipe so that it feeds four. I like it so much I’m thinking of increasing the recipe and serving it to company! Continue reading

Quick, Easy, and Delicious Dark Chocolate Tartlets with Dark Chocolate “Perles”

Dark Chocolate Tartles with Chocolate PerlesCHOCOHOLIC! Yes, I’m one of the millions who belong to this club. Give me a dessert menu, and I’ll choose the chocolate creation every time. Look in my kitchen cupboards and you’ll find a shelf dedicated to cooking chocolates– bittersweet, semi-sweet, 60 % to 85 %, cocoa powder. Take a peek in our guest bedroom and you’ll see a bowl of chocolate kisses set out for overnight company. Oh, and when traveling I always tuck a few dark chocolate bars into my hand luggage—so calming during turbulence on bumpy flights!

So as Valentine Day’s approaches, you can imagine my delight in dreaming up new chocolate treats. This year I plan to make dark chocolate tartlets with dark chocolate “perles.” So what are “chocolate “perles” (pearls in French) you may ask? dark chocolate perles from Whole Foods 2

They are petite chocolate balls slightly smaller than pomegranate seeds that add crunch to recipes. I first discovered these morsels in chocolate desserts in Paris. Recently, though, I found Valrhona “perles” in my local Whole Foods, and happily added them to the tartlets.

To keep things simple, I used mini-fillo cups for the tart shells and sprinkled some “perles” in them. A filling Continue reading

The Lighter Side of Super Bowl

Whipped Feta, Vegetables, Pitsa, 2Super Bowl cooking is a hot topic in Massachusetts this week since the New England Patriots will be playing for the title against the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday. My son, a huge Pats fan, called several days ago to discuss what he should bring to a neighborhood game party, and I’ve also been considering what to offer on the big day.

After all that indulgent holiday eating, I’ve been trying to keep our menus lighter, even when entertaining. An appetizer I’ve served twice recently is whipped feta with a colorful array of vegetables and toasted pita triangles. On both occasions this dip was a hit with guests, and it scored points with me for its quick and easy preparation.

Using a block of feta, I simply broke the cheese into pieces and combined it in a food Continue reading

A Delicious Casserole for Cozy Winter Nights

Sothern Cassoulet

In Paris last month, young American friends, who live and work in the country’s capital, remarked to my spouse and me that they had had a very “hygge” weekend. Confused, we asked what that meant. Oh, “hygge” is the Danish word for cozy, they replied, but it means more than that. They explained that the term denotes being snug and comfortable, and often includes friends, family, and food. Apparently this simple, life-style concept has spread throughout Europe, and the French are swooning over it.

An article in the New York Times shed more light on this Nordic phenomenon. Penelope Green writes that “Hygge (pronounced HOO-gah, like a football cheer in a Scandinavian accent) is the Danish word for cozy. It is also a national manifesto, nay, an obsession expressed in the constant pursuit of homespun pleasures involving candlelight, fires, fuzzy knitted socks, porridge, coffee, cake and other people.”

Southern Cassoulet in the skilletIt didn’t take long for me to realize that the recipe I planned to post this week could definitely star in a hygge setting. “Southern” Cassoulet—a dish of braised chicken thighs, white beans, and andouille sausage, finished with a verdant garnish of julienned collards– is the epitome of hominess, a warming, rustic entrée to share with others on cold winter nights. It is redolent of traditional Continue reading

A Great Salad for Winter Entertaining

Frisée Salad with Scallops, Haricots Verts, and BaconI’ve hosted two meals since arriving in Paris a few weeks ago. The first was a festive New Year’s Eve dinner that included several courses, while the second was a casual soup and salad supper for three millenials in Paris for studies or work. On both occasions, our meal began with a delicious winter salad prepared with frisée, scallops, haricots verts, and bacon lardons–so versatile it fit easily into each of these distinctly different menus.

Ron and our young guests in ParThe recipe is based on Salade Lyonnaise, a celebrated French dish in which bitter greens are combined with bacon lardons, tossed in warm vinaigrette, and then topped with a poached egg. For my version I added blanched haricots verts and sautéed sea scallops to frisée (curly endive), and replaced the egg with a little cream in the vinaigrette. Continue reading

Eating Lighter After the Holidays

Foie gras, smoked salmon, daube de boeuf (a rich Provencal beef stew), and dark chocolate bûche de Noel for New Year’s Eve, plus lobster velouté with sautéed mushrooms, escargots in garlic butter at one restaurant, and roast pork tenderloin in mustard cream sauce at another!! Those are just some of the indulgences my husband and I have enjoyed since arriving in Paris last week! Now, though, after all the celebrating, we are trying, like everyone else, to eat lighter.

The dish that came immediately to mind for one of our first “healthy” meals of 2017 here in France’s capital was cod baked on a bed of spinach, chickpeas, and tomatoes. Some of you will recognize this dish which first appeared in my syndicated column several years ago and then in Sunday Casseroles. It is my “go to” recipe for quick, delicious, low- calorie cooking. Continue reading