A Perfect Side Dish for Labor Day Cooking

Corn, Tomato, and Chard PudddingFreshly picked sweet corn, juicy tomatoes of varying lineages, bunches of leafy greens, slender pods of okra, fragrant herbs. Those are just some of the end-of-summer temptations  at my local farmers’ market this time of the year. Often they serve as inspiration for the side dishes I prepare at home.

One recent creation, prepared with such purchases, was a delicious corn, tomato, and chard gratin. I sautéed corn kernels with leeks and julienned chard, then combined them with a savory custard of Half-and-Half, eggs, and grated white cheddar. This mixture was poured into a casserole pan, then topped with sliced tomatoes and another sprinkle of cheese. When baked the gratin was a lovely contrast of flavors with the sweetness of the corn and tomatoes countering the hint of slightly bitter chard. Continue reading

Rosé and Mini-Chèvre Flans Perfect for Summer Entertaining

IMG_5698At a recent cooking class that featured bouillabaisse as the main course, I was surprised not only by my students’ excitement over the famous Provencal fish soup, but also by their raves for the simple appetizers. In keeping with the Provencal theme, mini-chèvre flans topped with a colorful mélange of chopped tomatoes, fresh herbs, and walnuts were an instant success.

Perhaps it was the simplicity of these starters or the seamless blending of flavors that made them so popular. All I can report is that this hands-on class of 15 downed almost four dozen in less than 15 minutes! Continue reading

Cooking from the Farmers’ Market Back Home

Tomato and Chickpea Soup with Yogurt and Mint 1 3648x2736As soon as we arrived home last week, after a long stay in France, I started stocking our empty fridge and cupboards. Several trips to local supermarkets took care of the basics, but it was at our weekly farmers’ market that I found gorgeous summer vegetables, freshly baked loaves of bread, and locally crafted yogurt.

Honest-to-goodness tomatoes, deep red, juicy, and packed with flavor, were the first thing that caught my eye. They would be perfect to use for a summer tomato and chickpea soup—a dish I had created for my new book, Soup Nights.

The tomatoes need only to be chopped and seeded, then simmered slowly with chickpeas in a cumin-scented broth. Lemon, yogurt, and mint all contribute cooling accents to this soup. I used chicken broth for my version, but vegetarians can sub the quick-and-easy vegetable stock recipe that is also included. 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.

Big Book of Backyard Cooking EBook –Big Sale

Backyard cooing Eye Candy shotI have some exciting news to share! My Big Book of Backyard Cooking will be featured across a variety of e-book retailers for $3.99 (and at many of these for much less)! during the month of July. Chronicle Books, runs a special monthly online event called Chronicle Eye Candy. For a very limited space they choose only a few e-books to be sold at greatly reduced prices, and The Big Book of Backyard Cooking is a selection for July.

It’s a perfect time to feature Backyard Cooking as this is the 10th anniversary of its publication. My students tell me that they use this collection that is filled with over 250 recipes devoted to easy, mouthwatering dishes over and over again during the summer.

Favorites include Lamb Chops with Roquefort, Figs and Rosemary, Chili-rubbed Sirloins with Guacamole Salsa, and Goat-cheese Stuffed Turkey Burgers. Among the seasonal sides, you’ll find Corn on the Cob with Lime Butter, Vidalia Onion Rings with Rosemary, and Sesame and Ginger Cole Slaw. Sweet endings showcase Daiquiri Cheesecake, Lemon Pecan Cake with Lemon Sauce, Caramel Almond Squares, and Chocolate Mint Brownies.

Backyard Cooking as its name implies is a big book so what could be better than an e-book copy that is available with a quick click. To whet your appetite, I’m including the recipe for the Chicken with Mango, Tomato, and Kiwi Salsa featured on the cover.

You can order the book from the following e-retailers: Kindle, Nook, Apple iBookstore, Google Play, Kobo, or Bookshout 

Grilled Chicken with Mango, Tomato, Lime Salsa 1 1824x1368 Continue reading

Sunday Casseroles Galleys Have Arrived!

Sunday Casseroles Galleys 3When you send a cookbook manuscript to your publisher, the work doesn’t stop there. Editors pore over the pages for several months, and return them marked with queries and changes. The author (moi!) then reviews these “first copy edits” in agonizingly minute detail. This summer I spent the better part of two weeks in Paris at my computer dealing with the edits for Sunday Casseroles. I was so relieved when they were finished that I rewarded myself with an afternoon of guiltless shopping in France’s capital!

Next, designers and photographers get involved and produce a rough layout of the book with photos and text. This version, known as the “galleys,” usually arrives in hard copy annotated with more queries. Last Friday Fed Ex delivered a huge package filled with 175 pages of Sunday Casseroles galleys. For the past week I have been reading the manuscript in sleuth-like fashion, searching line by line for typos, misspellings, and omissions. My eyes are red and my pencils worn to nubs, but the job is finally done! Now, I have to pack up those pages and send them to Amy, my talented editor at Chronicle Books.

Out of the Ordinary Rigatoni 1Since I thought readers might like a sneak peak of a favorite recipe from this collection, I’ve included the directions for Rigatoni with Spicy Tomato Sauce, Kalamatas and Two Cheeses. Some will recognize this special dish because it appeared in various versions in my syndicated column and on the cover of Bon Appetit in the 1990s. I hope you’ll enjoy it, and please do let me know if you discover any typos! Continue reading

A Savory Tart Direct from Paris

Tomato and Chevre Tart 2During our stay in Paris this summer, I made many trips to Quatrehomme, a celebrated cheese shop right around the corner from our rented apartment. After choosing my cheeses, I’d pause at the small counter of take out foods where savory tarts and a good selection of hams and sausages are displayed. One day I bought a slice of a beautiful tomato and goat cheese tart and took it home for lunch. One bite and I was smitten.

The tart with its golden puff pastry crust and its beautiful baked filling of alternating slices of tomatoes, zucchini, and goat cheese was delectable—practically addictive. I bought many more slices over the next few weeks, each time prodding the sales staff to tell me how this tart was made. Finally, one of the young vendeuses shared the recipe explaining that there was a layer of ‘pistou” (Provencal pesto) beneath the cheese and vegetables. 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

Winning my Husband Over with Delicious Roasted Fish

Baked Fish Fillets with Fennel, Tomatoes, and Basil 1Typically my husband will ask late in the afternoon, “So what’s for dinner?” If red meat happens to be the anchor of our meal, his face lights up, but if I mention that fish is on the menu his disappointment is apparent. A devoted carnivore, he adores grilled steaks and chops, savors any form of lamb, and thinks pulled pork should be at the top of the food pyramid.

This week, though, when I served roasted cod fillets topped with a hearty mélange of sautéed fennel and little red and yellow tomatoes, he changed his mind, eating this simply prepared (and I might add quite healthy!) seafood dish with gusto. The colorful fennel and tomato topping, which takes only about 20 minutes to assemble, can be prepared ahead. At serving time all that is necessary is to arrange thick-cut fish fillets in a baking dish, then spoon the garnish over them. In less than a quarter hour the fish is tender, flaky, and ready for the table.

Continue reading

Midnight–No Make That Midday and Lunch–in Paris!

I rarely entertain at lunch, but last week in Paris, I planned a midday get together for three friends. The guests—all thoughtful women who lead busy lives in France’s capital—rearranged their schedules to come for a tasting meal to help fine-tune a recipe for my new book, Sunday Casseroles, due out next year.

Baked chicken with fennel and tomatoes was the centerpiece of our menu. Prepared with humble chicken thighs, magically transformed into a delicious, fork-tender entrée as they slowly bake in a casserole with assertive vegetables, this main course was an instant hit with mes amies.

I sautéed herb-seasoned thighs, combined them with carrots, fennel, onions, and tomatoes, then simmered everything in stock, wine, and orange juice. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients (all of which are easy to find in your local supermarket), because once this dish is assembled, it is placed in the oven for more than an hour of unattended baking. Another bonus is that this casserole can be prepared two days ahead, and it improves in flavor with time! Continue reading