Dark Chocolate and Orange Pots de Crème for Valentine’s Day

For New Year’s Eve this past year, I prepared a hearty soup supper and ended it with luscious little dark chocolate and orange pots de crème. After posting photos of the evening’s menu on Facebook, many of my FB friends commented enthusiastically about this simple dessert.  So, as Valentine neared this month, I thought why not make them again for Cupid’s Day!

 Pots de crème, French for little pots of cream, are one of the easiest confections for home cooks to prepare. They take only minutes to assemble, and then typically need less than half an hour of unattended time in the oven. After chilling, they can easily rest in the fridge overnight for serving the next day. Oh, and most of the  ingredients called for are easy to find in a Continue reading

Warming Slow Cooked Lamb Ragout for Cold Winter Nights

The French have a long tradition of preparing slow-cooked stews, dishes that require a little extra time, but reward with their fork-tender meat and vegetables. Ragouts, as they are often called, are meals in themselves, and can be served alone or ladled over pasta, potatoes, polenta, or other grains of choice. Oh, and did I mention that these all-in-one dishes can be prepared ahead, and actually improve in flavor after resting in the fridge for a couple of days? Slow Cooked Lamb Ragout with Fennell, Tomatoes, and Garlic has all  these qualities, and is perfect to stave off the cold of winter, especially here in New England where I live.

I’ve made this ragout several times this month for cooking classes and for friends. On each occasion people have commented on the tenderness of the braised lamb and vegetables and appreciated the lightness yet hearty accent of the sauce. To prepare it, lamb stew meat is Continue reading

A Delicious Salad for Eating Well in the New Year

Like most of our friends, my husband and I have resolved to eat well but healthier in the new year—plenty of vegetables, smaller portions of meats, more fish, and definitely more salads. The latter is a challenge in our house since my spouse is not enthusiastic about mounds of greens tossed in dressing. However, one salad has recently scored high points with him–baby spinach and sliced Belgian endives dressed in a sherry vinaigrette, topped with a sauté of mixed mushrooms and a trio of pan-seared scallops.

This salad is a study in contrasts. Warm mushrooms and scallops are arranged over room-temperature salad greens. The natural sweetness of Continue reading

Warming Potato and Leek Soup with an Array of Garnishes for Winter Nights

Winter came early to New England this year. It was barely December when we had our first snow fall! The new season has given us plenty of days with temperatures in the teens as well as enough snow to keep the ground covered in white.  For me, this weather signals that it’s time for soup cooking so my soup pot has been out more than it’s been  in the cupboard this past month. One of my favorites is a creamy potato and leek soup made even more tempting by being served with a selection of simple, tempting garnishes. The idea came from Kirsten Bell, a fellow New Englander, who prepared a potato soup with a smorgasbord of trimmings for her own family. 

Once I heard about her soup “buffet,” I couldn’t wait to try my own version!  The potato and leek soup which follows is a traditional French classic to which I’ve added a little crème fraiche plus half and half for a richer Continue reading

Easy Cranberry Orange Cake Makes a Perfect Dessert for the Holidays

While culling my files for a dessert to use up the cranberries remaining in my fridge, something fortuitous happened. I was tagged on Instagram by a person whose handle is #bakerynerd. The writer posted that they had recently baked a cranberry orange upside down cake created by me! It took a few minutes to locate the recipe that had originally appeared in 1999 in my former syndicated column, “That’s Entertaining.” I was thrilled that this mystery baker had enjoyed the cake, and pulled out the recipe to try it 20 years later.

Nothing could have be simpler. Cranberries, quickly simmered with sugar and orange juice along with a pat of butter, were spooned into a cake pan Continue reading

Delicious Appetizers for the Holidays–Sliders with Shaved Beef Tenderloin and Artichoke Red Pepper Relish

At a holiday cooking class this week, the most popular dish I prepared was sliders filled with extra thin slices of beef tenderloin, then mounded with homemade artichoke, red pepper, and olive relish.

For the rolls, top-cut hot dog buns (often used for lobster rolls) worked perfectly. They were quickly sautéed in butter and oil until golden, then spread with goat cheese before the meat and relish were added. Cut in half, they made irresistible holiday appetizers–the 24 students in the class managed to down four dozen of these showstopper savories that evening!

This recipe involves three steps: preparing the relish, pan-searing the beef, Continue reading

Three Favorite Thanksgiving Trimmings!

 

Roast turkey with herb butter and shallot pan gravy served with Southern cornbread dressing–those are the two mainstays of our family’s Thanksgiving menu. If I changed either of them, no one would come to the table! (Several years ago I offered up a fine cider- basted turkey along with cornbread dressing studded with root vegetables, and faced a near rebellion from my clan.) On the other hand, our group of hearty eaters is open to trying new trimmings be they appetizers, side dishes, or desserts.

So, this year, I thought I’d share with readers some of my favorite dishes that have accompanied our steadfast bird and dressing over the years. Happy Thanksgiving from my table to yours!

 

Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Turnips with Apple Date Relish

For a colorful vegetable side, consider these root vegetables which are blanched, smashed, then, seasoned with butter. A sauté of diced apples and dates in brown sugar makes a beautiful garnish. I first made this dish for a magazine Thanksgiving story twenty years ago, but for the new version, I added extra butter to the vegetables and increased the scrumptious sautéed apple date relish. The recipe follows here on this page.

 

Roasted Grape, Goat Cheese, and Walnut Toasts

For appetizers, this seasonal starter is simple to assemble and can be prepared several hours in advance. It’s also easy to transport if you’re a guest contributing to a Thanksgiving dinner. Just click on the recipe title for the recipe.

 

 

 

 

Wendy’s Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Bars

For dessert try these bars, a delectable departure from traditional pumpkin pie. They are prepared with a buttery crust that is pressed into a baking pan, then baked until golden. A creamy, spiced pumpkin mixture is added next, followed by a sprinkle of pecan toffee streusel. Cut into squares and served with dollops of whipped cream, these bars could definitely rival a classic pumpkin pie.  Just click on the recipe title for the recipe

 

Roquefort Stars in a Delicious Sauce for Roasted Pork Tenderloins

If a dish I’m cooking has Roquefort in it (or even near it as a garnish), my spouse, displaying a near-Palovian response, can’t wait to try it. Imagine then his excitement when I recently served roasted pork tenderloins topped with an unusual Roquefort sauce. I discovered the recipe in a small French community cookbook given to me by a Parisian friend.

Roquefort, definitely the star in this entrée, is combined with crème fraîche and Dijon mustard, then spread atop and along the sides of sautéed pork tenderloins. The tenderloins and some chopped shallots are enclosed in foil and roasted until tender. The delicious juices remaining in the foil packages after roasting are transferred to a pan, then turned into a “sauce au Roquefort.” I tweaked this recipe slightly, studding the pork with garlic slivers and adding roasted Bosc pear wedges as an autumn garnish.

Although my husband savors all blue cheeses, his favorite remains Roquefort, often referred to as the king of cheeses. Rich, tangy, and slightly moist, this sheep’s milk cheese has a unique taste. During the many years I wrote a nationally syndicated food column, whenever Roquefort was called for in a recipe, I always added “or other good quality blue cheese.” Without fail a few weeks later, a representative of Roquefort cheese in the States would send me a letter stating that “There is no substitute for Roquefort!” I still smile at that memory!

 

A Favorite Chicken Soup is Perfect for Cool Fall Nights

We’ve had plenty of cool, crisp nights recently in New England, signaling that fall is finally underway. Produce aisles at grocery stores as well as bins at local farmers’ markets certainly reflect the new season. Cold weather squashes, including butternut and pumpkin, hearty vegetables like Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, and countless varieties of apples and pears are temptingly displayed, enticing me to pull out my favorite recipes for this time of the year. Creamy Chicken Soup with Autumn Vegetable is one such dish. I consider it comfort food at its best.

The recipe, which appeared on this blog several years ago and then was included in my 2016 book Soup Nights, has been popular with followers who have written enthusiastically about it. Simple to assemble, it is hearty yet not heavy, and definitely satisfying enough to Continue reading

Make-Ahead Chicken Tagine is the Star of a Moroccan Dinner

I’ve only set foot in Morocco once, and that was several decades ago when
I was a young student studying abroad in France. I spent a quick 24 hours in Tangiers, hardly long enough to become familiar with the country’s vibrant cuisine. However, in Paris where I was studying at the Sorbonne, I sampled specialties at many of the small, inexpensive couscous restaurants that still dot the city’s student quarter. Over the years in I’ve remained a fan of the fabulous tagines, like the one featured here today.

“Tagine” refers to the Moroccan vessel (a two-part clay pot with a pointed top resembling a tall hat) used, but also to the dish itself. If you don’t own a tagine (and I don’t), you can use a large, deep-sided pot to cook this stew of chicken thighs, scented with Moroccan spices, olives, and preserved lemons. The chicken, which can be prepared ahead and freezes well, is cooked until it is fork tender and melds with the other ingredients.

In a recent cooking class, I included this dish, along with traditional couscous that I sprinkled with toasted almonds and golden raisins. In the space of a few minutes, there were no leftovers. This recipe is perfect for those of us who can’t get to Morocco, but who savor the country’s cuisine here at home or elsewhere.