Pumpkin Pots de Crème Replace Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving Desert!

Like most cooks, I always include a pumpkin dessert at our family’s Thanksgiving celebration, but often it’s not a traditional pumpkin pie. In years past, I’ve prepared frozen pumpkin mousse parfaits, whipped cream-filled pumpkin roulade, pumpkin brownies, and dense pumpkin spice cake as finales for this holiday meal. This year, though, I’ve decided on pumpkin pots de crème with a pecan toffee crunch topping, a recipe I created more than a decade ago.

These pots de crème take only a few minutes to assemble, and about 40 minutes of unattended time in the oven. A simple custard mixture made with purchased pumpkin puree, aromatic spices, and a good splash of bourbon, is ladled into individual ramekins, which are placed in a water bath to bake until set.

The garnishes, however, truly distinguish this dessert. Chopped toasted pecans combined with toffee bits are sprinkled over the silky, smooth custards while warm. Then they are chilled and topped with dollops of whipped cream.

Beside their delicious pumpkin taste, these pots de crème have several other advantages for cooks. They can be prepared two days ahead and kept refrigerated until needed. (You’ll just need to top each one with whipped cream at the last minute.) Plus, a single recipe yields twelve servings, enough for a crowd. So, keep these scrumptious creations in mind when you plan your menu for November 22th.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

 

Delicious Lamb Chops for Quick and Easy Weeknight Cooking

When I was growing up, fried chicken, braised pork chops with onions, smothered cubed steaks, meatloaf with mushrooms, and the occasional steak were the staples of my mother’s weeknight repertoire. Lamb never made an appearance at our Southern table. Only later when I spent my junior year of college studying in Paris, did I discover the glories of lamb. I savored it in stews like the springtime lamb Navarin, tasted my first leg of lamb roasted to a perfect rosy hue, and admired stately racks of lamb.

Those memories stayed with me so that lamb, especially chops, are among the essentials of my own weeknight meals. Recently, when a local supermarket had a special on chops I Continue reading

Last Minute Pan Seared Salmon in a Paris Kitchen

Last Minute Grilled or Pan-Seared Salmon 1 2403x2058 2403x2058The apartment we rent in Paris has a petite kitchen. Counter space is practically non-existent, the fridge is 3/4 size (big for Paris!), and the oven not much larger than a microwave. Amazingly, though, it works beautifully if I keep the menus simple. Dishes like the pan-seared salmon fillets featured here are perfect to prepare in this small space.

Paris Apt Kitchen 1For this recipe salmon fillets are seasoned with an herb and spice rub that includes smoked paprika, thyme, and rosemary. The fillets can rest in the fridge for up to an hour before being quickly pan seared. For sides I drizzled olive oil over a pan of asparagus, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and popped them in the oven to roast for 20 minutes. Basmati rice cooked on the stovetop in a saucepan of water scented with several pinches of turmeric made another colorful garnish. Continue reading

A Twist On A Classic

BLT Soup 1  1824x1368I can’t remember a year when the tomato crops have been better. Heirlooms in myriad varieties, red, yellow and orange cherry and grape tomatoes, as well as field tomatoes (or what I call just plain old summer tomatoes) are having a heyday in western New England this summer. They started appearing in August and are still going strong—so strong that I have been using them creatively week after week in recipes like the simple BLT Soup featured here.

After making countless BLT sandwiches, I decided to try the popular trio in a soup and loved the results. Nothing could have been easier. After frying a few bacon slices until crisp, I used a small amount of the drippings to sauté chopped onion, garlic, and fresh tomatoes, and then simmered this mélange in chicken stock and fresh orange juice. Seasonings of basil and cayenne pepper rounded out the flavors. When done, the soup was pureed to a crimson smoothness.

Cauliflower Stars in a Delicious Fall Soup

Spicy Cauliflower Soup with Crisp Chrorizo 1Although my mother served countless vegetables at her table, she never cooked cauliflower. She would coat eggplant or okra in cornmeal, then fry it until golden and crisp, or cook turnips greens or lady peas slowly with bits of bacon for extra flavor. Never, though, did she turn to this member of the cruciferous family for inspiration. I, on the other hand, continue to marvel at the inventive ways a cook can use this assertive vegetable. I’ve sautéed the florets with leeks and mushrooms as a topping for buttered pasta, incorporated them into creamy gratins sprinkled with cheese, and featured them often in soups.

The latter is by far my favorite way to use this extra healthy vegetable that belongs to a food group that includes broccoli, kale, collard greens, and cabbage. Among my creations there has been a curried cauliflower potage, another topped with Gruyère and crushed hazelnuts, and my recent spicy cauliflower soup with crispy chorizo, which you’ll find in this post. Continue reading

Spicy Lamb Chops–Weeknight Quick and Easy!

Lamb Chops with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce 1It’s a recurrent theme at our house and maybe at yours too. Does this sound familiar? You’ve worked all day and arrive home feeling as if the last thing you want to do is cook. The temptation looms large to order a pizza or take out from the local Chinese or Mexican place, but what you really crave is something homemade for supper.

Because I play out that scenario often, I’m always searching for easy homemade fixes for weeknight meals. When I discover a new dish such as Spicy Lamb Chops with Yogurt Cucumber Sauce I love to share it with my readers. Continue reading

A Great All-In-One Dish for Busy Weeknights

Chicken with Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Spinach 2Everyone does it! We pick up the phone and call for take-out when our lives are so rushed there’s no way we can get homemade food on the table. I confess that I have the neighborhood pizza place and the near-by Mexican restaurant on speed dial for weeknight emergencies. The truth is, though, that I’m never thrilled with these quick fixes. I’d much rather be pulling something fresh from my fridge to heat up — something like Chicken with Tomatoes, Chick Peas, and Spinach, a new dish I created recently.

Here is a recipe that wins on more than one front. It’s simple to prepare, calls for easily found ingredients, and holds up well when made a couple of days ahead. Oh, and did I mention that it’s healthy and inexpensive too! You simply season chicken thighs (with or without the skin, your choice) with basil and oregano, then brown them along with chopped carrots, onions, and celery. Next, the thighs and vegetables are simmered in stock, tomatoes, and wine about 45 minutes until tender. Finally, you stir in chickpeas and baby spinach and cook only minutes more. Continue reading

Coconut Soup with Chicken, Lime, and Spring Vegetables

A few weeks ago, Diana, my talented assistant, arrived at work with a container of coconut soup with chicken and lime she had just made. Although it was early in the morning, the fragrant aroma of this ivory-hued potage studded with bits of green was so tempting that I took a quick sip. Light in texture yet vibrantly flavored with assertive Southeast Asian accents, it was irresistibly delicious! “Can you share the recipe?” I asked. “Nothing to it!” she replied, promising to email the directions for her new creation. Continue reading

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Mark Twain described cauliflower as cabbage with a college education. He had a point. This ivory, globe-shaped vegetable has a more subtle taste than its humble counterpart. My guess is that Twain would have liked the way cauliflower is used in the winter soup recipe that follows.

Florets, cut from a large head, are simmered along with some sautéed leeks in an aromatic broth. It’s this flavorful stock scented with assertive seasonings of pungent, sweet, and hot spices that make this potage distinctive. Pureed, the resulting mixture is creamy and smooth. In a blind taste test, you might not recognize the cauliflower immediately, but the vegetable is there playing an important background role. Continue reading