What to Grill for the Big Holiday Weekend

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Tomato Avocado SalsaFor much of this coming holiday weekend, my husband and I will be caught up in reunion events at Amherst College where he teaches. There will be tent parties with catered food as classes of alums gather to reconnect, many receptions, plus scores of interesting seminars and talks. But by Sunday the festivities will have wound down, and that’s when I plan to pull out the grill and start cooking!

I’ve been tweaking a recipe for Grilled Chicken Thighs with Tomato and Avocado Salsa for several days now, and finally have the seasonings and timings fine-tuned. Exceptionally easy and inexpensive (if you’re serving a crowd), this chicken entree takes less than an hour to assemble plus some marinating time, and then about 25 minutes atop the coals. Why thighs instead of breasts? Because the dark meat stands up to grilling beautifully, and doesn’t dry out as quickly as does the white flesh.

Marinated simply in lime juice and olive oil along with coarse salt and red pepper flakes, Continue reading

Surprising Rhubarb for a Mother’s Day Dessert

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble with Mascarpone Whipped CreamLast Saturday when I arrived at my local farmers’ market in our small New England town, the crop that captured my attention was rhubarb. Resting regally on a folding table at one of my favorite stands were bundles of deep red and pale green stalks. I quickly picked up three bunches, knowing that the following week I needed rhubarb for a dessert in one of my cooking classes.

Although typically treated as a fruit, rhubarb is actually a plant with a tartness that requires a complement of sugar. The dessert I had planned was a warm rhubarb and strawberry crumble (which calls for both white and brown sugars); it takes only 20 minutes to assemble and then about half an hour in the oven. For the filling sliced rhubarb and strawberries are dusted with sugar and aromatic spices including cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. A traditional topping of flour, oats, brown sugar, and nuts (I used sliced almonds) Continue reading

A Simply Delicious Spring Salad from Across The Ocean

Edamame, Pea, and Avocados in Spicy Sesame DressingLast month while in London on spring break, my husband and I opted for a quick lunch one day at one of the many Prêt à Manger fast food restaurants located throughout the city. After a few bites of a simple but unusual salad, I pulled out my phone and starting taking photos. My spouse looked on, surprised that I was snapping shots in this popular eatery, not exactly a foodie destination.

The dish that caught my eye was a salad prepared with edamame, peas, and diced avocado tossed with cilantro sprigs and dressed in a spicy sesame dressing. The taste was light yet satisfying, and the varied verdant hues of the ingredients gave the dish visual heft.

Back home, I devoted a morning to trying to reproduce the recipe and came up with a close facsimile. The sesame dressing assembled with both rice vinegar and lemon juice for tart notes, gets some heat from red pepper flakes and a hit of saltiness from soy sauce.

Three cups of loosely packed cilantro sprigs replace lettuce greens in this dish, and can be cleaned several hours ahead and refrigerated.

Pair this spring green salad with grilled chicken or lamb, roasted salmon fillets, or pan-seared scallops for dinner or serve it with soup for a light lunch or supper.

 

 

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