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

A Glorious Potato and Mushroom Gratin for Christmas Dinner

 

It’s eight days and counting until Christmas and my son, Mike, and I who are the holiday cooks for our family, still haven’t decided on the menu! Since he is traveling quite a bit before the 25th, I’ve begun to make some choices and am starting by anchoring our meal with a superb potato and mushroom gratin. It is layered with thinly sliced Yukon Golds and earthy porcini mushrooms, covered with crème fraîche, and finished with a sprinkle of white cheddar and toasted bread crumbs.

This gratin would pair harmoniously with almost any traditional holiday main course. You could make it the star accompaniment to golden roasted turkey, a glistening glazed ham, succulent leg of lamb, or a regal standing rib roast or beef tenderloin.

The dried porcini mushrooms (or a combo of both porcini and chanterelles) can be reconstituted ahead, the cheese grated, and the bread crumbs toasted up to two days in advance. Peeling and slicing the spuds and an assembly is all that is necessary on serving day. You can even bake the casserole several hours ahead and then reheat it when Continue reading

Spicy Chili Bake for Simple Holiday Entertaining

chipotle-chili-baked-under-a-cornbread-crust-1For many of us who entertain, December is the most important month of the year. Whether you’re cooking for an open house, a caroling party, an end-of-the year office fête, a neighborhood potluck, or a Yankee swap (my daughter-in-law’s favorite), the holidays offer endless opportunities to share food with others. The real challenges are finding tempting, but uncomplicated recipes and the time to prepare them.

The spicy chili baked under a cornmeal crust featured here just might fill your needs. Although the chili is prepared classically with ground beef, beans, and a generous kick of heat from both chipotle and traditional chili powder, it is served in an unusual way. Spread in a casserole dish, it is topped with a cheese-scented cornmeal batter, and then baked. When done, a thin layer of golden cornbread covers the bubbling chili beneath. A sprinkle of cilantro and a bowl of sour cream make simple garnishes.

This dish has other bonuses as well. The chili itself can be prepared up to three days ahead—a gift to holiday chefs—so that all that is necessary at serving time is a quick assembly of the cornmeal batter to spread atop the casserole. And, if you’re expecting a crowd, you can double the ingredients easily.

So, during this season of gatherings, consider serving this spicy chili bake. Add a favorite salad and some holiday cookies, and you’ve got a party menu!

 

Post Thanksgiving Lighter Cooking

fall-salad-of-roasted-cauliflower-grapes-and-red-onionThis year I didn’t get to make rich turkey stock or use the leftover bird in my After- Thanksgiving Turkey, Sweet Potato, and Bacon Chowder (from my new Soup Nights). If you follow me on Facebook, you know that our family’s wonderful shelter dog, Oxford, decided to treat himself to a midnight snack of surplus turkey that was unwisely set out on the kitchen counter!

So, instead of turkey sandwiches and soups, I’ve turned to other post-holiday fare this week. One dish in particular—a salad prepared with roasted cauliflower florets, red grapes, and red onions tossed in an unusual curry vinaigrette— turned out to be a real winner. Continue reading