Parisian Hot Chocolate for Valentine’s Day!

Quite few years ago in the 1980s, I visited Angelina’s, the celebrated tearoom in Paris located on the Right Bank. Although all their pastries and confections are delicious, I, like many, was there for their famous hot chocolate. Served in a small pitcher along with a bowl of whipped cream, this dark chocolate is silken smooth and has an intense flavor. After my Continue reading

Pan Seared Flank Steak with a Delicious Winter Relish

Slowly simmered chicken and wild mushroom ragout served with polenta. Merguez lamb sausages paired with couscous and a bowl of vegetables simmered in homemade broth. Cassoulet (an abbreviated 2-hour version). Those are just some of the robust and time-consuming dishes I’ve been cooking during the cold snowy weather we’ve been experiencing here in New England. Although I love these hearty entrees, I was searching for a lighter and quicker main course when I spotted a recipe for pan seared flank steak with a caper and walnut relish. I loved the idea of juicy strips of rosy-pink steak topped Continue reading

Kirsten Bell’s One Potato Two Potato Winter Hash

When my good friend and talented assistant, Emily Bell, sent me a photo of a beautiful Yukon Gold and sweet potato hash with red bell peppers, onions, and baby spinach, I knew I wanted to make it, so quickly asked for the recipe. Emily’s daughter, Kirsten Bell, created the dish as a side to scrambled eggs and bacon for a Christmas brunch, but I wanted to serve it as a light main course for a post-holiday supper or lunch.

As its name implies this hash includes two types of potatoes–Yukon Golds as well as sweet potatoes The latter along with bits of red bell pepper and baby spinach leaves form a striking mosaic of colors in the finished dish. For seasonings, cumin and smoked paprika provide warming spicy accents.

Served on a platter or in individual gratin dishes, this vegetable mélange can be presented unadorned, but it’s even better when garnished. I opted for a sprinkle of crumbled goat cheese, but a fried or poached egg, grilled or sautéed cod or other fish fillets, or pan-seared chicken breasts would also pair well with this hash.

Except for the spinach you can cook all the vegetables a day ahead. At serving time you’ll only need to reheat them and stir in the baby spinach leaves. Serve the hash on a large platter or in individual gratins, offer it as a main course as a side. Either way it’s a winner!

An Elegant Last-Minute Dessert for New Year’s Eve

Although I have long been a fan of the famous French dessert known as the Mont Blanc (designed to honor the famous mountain in the Alps), I have never made the sweet confection myself. The most famous interpretation from Angelina’s, a celebrated tearoom and pastry shop in Paris, is composed of an individual cake round that is topped with a meringue dome and some whipped cream. The meringue is covered with chestnut spread piped in thin strands around the dessert and then dusted with powdered sugar.  If prepared from scratch, you would need to bake the cake rounds plus the meringues, put together the chestnut spread, and whip the cream. Whipping the cream is the only easy part! Last spring while in Paris, I tasted what I now refer to as a “shortcut” Mont Blanc.

At a Left Bank café, my husband and I ordered their Mont Blanc. Several minutes later a waiter arrived at our table with a small shallow bowl filled with scoops of vanilla ice cream surrounded by dollops of purchased chestnut spread, both drizzled with a little rum, and covered with a mountain of whipped cream plus a single petite meringue cookie at the top. Although it was a far cry from the stylish Parisian versions displayed by patisseries like Angelina’s, the essential delicious flavors and contrasting textures were present and very appealing.

For New Year’s Eve, I’ve added a few of my own touches to that simple café variation. I placed scoops of good quality vanilla ice cream in the center of martini glasses, then arranged dollops of chestnut spread around them, and drizzled both with dark rum.  Next, I covered the ice cream with a mountain of whipped cream and finished with a sprinkle of meringue crumbles and a dusting of cocoa powder. Voilà!The 15-minute Mont Blanc!

Happy New 2024 to all!

 

 

 

 

 

Two Quick and Delicious Holiday Appetizers

A few days ago, I did my monthly TV cooking demo for Mass Appeal, a popular noontime show that airs on our local NBC affiliate. With the holidays almost here, I chose two simple appetizers –both tried and true favorites I’ve had in my repertoire for years. Pistachio and Goat Cheese Grapes as well as Smoked Salmon with Herbed Crème Fraîche and Red Onions require no cooking at all, just a quick assembly. And each calls for a  mere handful of ingredients and can be prepared in advance.

After the live show finished airing, I noticed how quickly the anchors and crew rushed to get a sample of these colorful starters, enthusiastically taking seconds and even thirds of each. So, a day later I prepared this duo again, and brought them to a dinner party some neighbors were hosting. The savory treats were just as popular there as at the TV studio. 

Pistachio and Goat Cheese Grapes, wrapped in creamy goat cheese scented with mint and then coated with chopped pistachios, offer an enticing combination of flavors and textures. The grapes are juicy and sweet, the cheese salty and smooth, and the nuts crunchy with a slight roasted accent.

For the Smoked Salmon with Herbed Crème Fraîche and Red Onions, you arrange sliced smoked salmon on a platter and scatter some sliced red onions over the fish. Simple accompaniments include a bowl of crème fraîche scented with lemon, chives, and tarragon and a basket of dark bread.

During the holidays if you need some impressive, yet quick appetizers, try these starters. They take minutes to assemble, hold up beautifully in the fridge when prepared ahead, and best of all are hands-down crowd pleasers. I’ve included the links to the TV videos at the beginning of each recipe if you’d like to see how they are prepared!

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Delicious Cookies for the Holiday Season

Although I don’t bake cookies often during the year, once December arrives I take out my baking sheets, search for favorite recipes, and set up a mini-bakery in my kitchen. I love to give holiday gifts of homemade food, and cookies are perennial favorites among my friends.

This year I culled my files and found the directions for Walnut and Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies. The recipe for these delicious nibbles was inspired by a visit to the Dordogne in the southwestern area of France quite a few years ago. In the medieval town of Sarlat I bought some walnut meringues in an outdoor market and was dazzled by the assertive taste of ground walnuts that had been baked into the crispy, golden cookies. Back home on this side of the Atlantic, I spent several days trying to duplicate them.

For my version, I beat egg whites with granulated sugar, then folded in ground walnuts, powdered sugar, and flour. Then I tossed in some coarsely chopped chocolate chips adding yet another dimension of flavor to the mix. Although most meringues are baked in a very low oven for a long time, these need only 20 to 25 minutes in a 300 F-degree oven.

These meringues would make a thoughtful holiday present packed in metal tins wrapped in ribbons or in clear cellophane bags tied with bows and a bit of greenery. They store well for up to a week (if they last that long).  I also plan to keep these light crunchy cookies on hand to dip into cups of steaming hot coffee or tea when friends stop by for impromptu visits during the holidays.

 

 

 

A Classic Pumpkin Pie with a Twist for Thanksgiving

If I had to guess, I’d bet that in the week before Thanksgiving, more home cooks will pull out rolling pins and pie plates for baking than at any other time of the year. Pumpkin, pecan, apple, pear, cranberry… the choices are endless. Our family might indulge in a pecan tart or a cherry galette every now and then, but our quintessential favorite, always on the menu, is the classic pumpkin pie. This year I pulled out a recipe I created quite a few years ago and updated it with a few changes. Continue reading

An Old Recipe Becomes New Again

Almost 20 years ago, during one of my and my husband’s working trips to Paris, a neighbor  arrived at our apartment door around noon one day with a warm Camembert and potato tart for us to sample. An excellent cook, she loved sharing her creations with others. The tart was delicious so I quickly asked for the recipe. Soon after I featured the luscious creation in one of my syndicated columns and included it in several of my cooking classes. But as Continue reading

When Leftovers Inspire a New Soup Recipe

Recently, after testing a recipe for roasted butternut squash with mascarpone and honey, I had a generous baking dish of leftovers. The recipe yielded 6 to 8 servings, but we are a household of empty nesters. Looking at the mound of cooked butternut squash in my fridge, I reasoned that I could easily turn this dish into a soup. And, that’s exactly what I did by adding some chicken stock and extra spices to the mixture. Voilà, a Continue reading

Enhancing a Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Fall Apple Chutney

Recently, searching for a quintessential autumn dish to demo for my monthly cooking segment on “Mass Appeal,” a weekday show airing on our local NBC affiliate, I found a recipe for apple chutney in my cookbook, Sunday Roasts. In a heartbeat, I knew that this simple condiment would be perfect for my October cooking spot. Although it makes a delicious counterpoint to roast pork or chicken, and complements grilled kielbasa or turkey burgers well, I decided to use it to embellish my favorite grilled cheese sandwiches. Continue reading