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 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

What’s a Cook to Serve in Unpredictable Weather

Spring is officially underway, but New England hasn’t gotten the memo. Temperatures here recently climbed to 70, accompanied by clear, blue skies, and then fell suddenly to the 20s with a daylong snowfall. Each morning this week I’ve checked the weather even before my texts and email (a first!), debating what to wear. And, of course, I wonder what to cook! For a small dinner we hosted for out-of- town friends this weekend, I spent as much time planning the menu as preparing it. In the end the night’s dishes reflected this transitional time of year, satisfying yearnings for both cold and warm weather fare.

Our opener—gnocchi alla romana with roasted asparagus–was a good example.
The gnocchi, assembled Roman style with farina rather than potatoes, are enriched with Parmesan and butter, cut into rounds, and then baked. Served piping hot atop bundles of asparagus, they seemed to welcome spring and acknowledge winter at the same time. Continue reading

A Good Book and Some Warming Food

It was a freezing 9 degrees! and snowy when I hosted my book club this week. Undaunted by the weather, our group, almost unrecognizable dressed in their winter gear, arrived on time. I had ready warm tea, steaming espresso, and a small spread of treats to help defrost them!

A basket of paper-thin oatmeal crisps, a plate of cashew brownies (from my Valentine post last week), and a bowl of fresh pineapples and blueberries were set out. However, it was the grilled cheese tartines that were everyone’s favorite. Continue reading

Old Fashioned Pot Roast for Cold Weather Cooking

Old Fashioned Pot Roast with Rich Pan Sauce 1 2757x1910Flying into Boston last week after a long stay in Paris, the first thing I noticed was how much colder it was. Winds were adding a blustery touch to the already freezing temperatures. When we arrived at our son’s house for the night, he had prepared a warming shepherd’s pie of root vegetables and beef topped with mashed potatoes. By the time we got to Amherst the next day, I was craving more robust dishes like this to stave off the cold. Coincidentally, my assistant Barb emailed a welcome home note, and mentioned that she was using a recipe of mine for old-fashioned pot roast, a hearty food to counter the season’s chill.

This pot roast is a favorite of mine. An inexpensive cut–a boneless chuck roast– is rubbed with crushed rosemary, basil, and red pepper flakes for extra flavor, then seared in hot oil. Next, the roast is slowly cooked several hours in the oven in an aromatic mixture of beef stock, red wine, tomatoes, and vegetables. In place of flour, some of those cooked Continue reading

A Great Pizza—Inspired by Leftovers!

Wild Mushroom Butternut Squash Pizza 1 3648x2736Recently I read an article about zero-waste in commercial kitchens. The gist of the story was that many chefs have adopted a philosophy of using not just some, but all the food scraps and leftovers in their kitchen. One chef confessed that a dish he made with leftover broccoli stems was better than the original he had prepared with the crowns, and was now a staple on his menu. When I looked in my fridge later that day, and found a sizeable collection of partially used ingredients, I realized that a little zero-waste attitude could be applied at my house.

I spotted a half full container of mascarpone, a chunk of white cheddar, and some smoked kielbasa, as well as a package of mixed mushrooms and some butternut squash (remainders from some recipe testing). In a “eureka” moment I realized these could be the makings of a delectable winter pizza.

The only ingredient I purchased was an extra thin pizza crust. It was spread with mascarpone, sprinkled with grated cheddar, and topped with a mélange of sautéed mushrooms, onions, and kielbasa. Garnishes included roasted cubes of butternut squash and a final dusting of cheddar. Continue reading

Chicken Soup is Good for What Ails You!

Chicken Noddle Soup 1 3648x2736After the aspirin, the Tylenol, the decongestants, the cough suppressants, and all those other over-the-counter cold remedies, in the end there is universal agreement that nothing is better than a bowl of steaming homemade chicken noodle soup when you have a rotten winter cold! So when drafting the outline for a new soup book (working title—Soup Nights), one of the first entries I made was for a hearty chicken noodle soup jazzed up by the addition of some sautéed mushrooms and a good dusting of Parmesan cheese.

What gives this soup such a robust and luxuriant flavor is the easily made chicken stock that forms its foundation. You start with good purchased stock (like Swanson’s, my favorite, or College Inn) add fresh chicken, root vegetables, and herbs to it, then simmer the mixture for an hour or more. The resulting stock rivals many that are far more time consuming to prepare. Continue reading

Winter Soup and a Good Book for Book Club

Winter Tomato and Garlic Soup 1  3648x2736Last week by some miracle (read a blizzard-free night), ten of the thirteen members of my book club braved the freezing temperatures and the snow covered streets and roads of our small New England town to meet at my house for our monthly gathering. Although the menu choices are up to each host, I thought we all needed some comfort food, and decided on a soup supper. A winter tomato and garlic soup garnished with creamy blue cheese bruschette was the centerpiece and a dense chocolate cake the finale. A mixed greens salad tossed with julienned fennel, blood orange segments, and toasted walnuts rounded out the meal. Both the food and the book selection—All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr—got good reviews!All The Light We Cannot See Cover

This delicious tomato soup, vibrantly scented with garlic and unexpectedly with a hint of bracing orange, is a snap to assemble and takes less than half an hour to simmer atop the stove. Although it is pureed, the texture of this rustic soup is still slightly chunky, adding to its charm. You can make this dish several days in advance and reheat it. For the bruschette, toast the baguette slices several hours ahead, then spread them with Gorgonzola and pop them in the oven at serving time. Continue reading

A Deep Dark Chocolate Cake for Snowy Valentine

Valentine Dark Chocolate Cake 1My husband joked last week that if you walked though our house you’d find every TV turned to the weather channel and each computer screen set on the weather forecast. We have had so much snow in western Mass that one might mistake our backyard for a scene from Siberia. To counter the chaos outdoors, I’ve made countless runs to the supermarket, loading up on food so I could cook during the storms. The dense, deep dark chocolate cake featured here has been one of my projects since Valentine’s Day is so close at hand.

This classic, flourless cake calls for four primary ingredients—bittersweet chocolate, butter, sugar, and eggs. You need only to melt the chocolate and butter together, stir in the sugar, and finally add the eggs one a time before pouring the batter into a deep sided pan and baking it.To give this traditional cake a little extra embellishment for Cupid’s Day, I cut out a paper heart and centered it on the top before dusting the cake with powdered sugar. A bowl of espresso-scented whipped cream is a tempting garnish.

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A view of our snow-covered back yard!

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A Comforting Soup for a Cold Night

Fennel and White Bean Soup with Prosciutto 1 2448x2448At the end of last week we had planned to meet a good friend at a new bistro in Paris. But the tragic events that unfolded between Wednesday and Friday were so unsettling that we all agreed a casual dinner at home was a better idea. When I suggested that we gather for a simple soup and salad supper at our small apartment, our pal was on board immediately and offered to bring dessert.

For the main course, I had in mind a rustic soup prepared by sautéing chopped fennel, onion, and carrots and then simmering those vegetables along with white beans in stock. Short on time, I opted for canned beans, rinsing and draining them well before stirring them into the pot, and was delighted with the results. For extra flavor some chopped fresh rosemary and dry white wine balanced the flavors nicely, while crispy julienned prosciutto and golden homemade croutons made fine garnishes. Continue reading