Category Archives: Cooking & Recipes

Pea, mint and spring onion soup

We had the wonderful opportunity to spend a week cruising along a canal in France. The chef on our boat prepared this wonderful fresh peas soup, she was kind enough to share it with me. Now that I would like  to share it with all of you.

Serves 8 for first course

 2 tablespoons of  butter

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 bunch, about 8, spring onions or green onions plus a few extra for serving

2 white potatoes, cut into small dice

2 one pound packages frozen petite peas, 32 ounces, if you use fresh peas from the market they may need a longer cooking time since the starch is often much higher in fresh peas. I say use the frozen peas then you k ow the end result will be perfect. 

1 cup fresh mint chopped 

8 1/2 cups of vegetable stock

Heat olive oil and butter when melted add potatoes and chopped onions. Saute without browning, about 5 minutes. Stir in stock and simmer about 10 minutes until potato is tender. 

Stir in peas, bring back to a boil and cook 3 minutes until just done. Remove pan from heat add mint leaves. Allow to cool slightly then purée in blender or food processor. Serve warm with a Parmesan crisp along side and a few finely minced mint leaves on top along with a few chopped chives or fine minced greens from onions.

PARMESAN  CRISPS are quick and easy to make or you can buy them at a specialty grocer. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment or use a Silpat 

Grate 1 cup of Parmesan cheese,  divide the cheese into 8 long strips on prepared baking sheet. Place under broiler or in oven at 400 degrees for 1 minute or until cheese is melted and lightly golden. Lift from baking sheet while still warm and flexible, allow to cool and serve with soup. 

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Fresh tomato soup

When August arrives and our garden is full of tomatoes I always try and create something new. This tomato soup has a fresh clean taste whether you serve it with the perfect grilled cheese sandwich for lunch or a starter for summer BBQ, I think you will love it.

This serves 8 for a starter or 6 for lunch

4 cups of tomatoes  peeled and crushed

 if you are using Cherry tomatoes you will need  put them through a food mill to remove the skins after they are warmed in the chicken stock.

3 cups of chicken stock and 1/2 cup of water—-add crushed tomatoes and heat for 15 minutes 

2 carrots peeled and chopped

2 stalks of celery chopped 

1 medium onion peeled and chopped

1/2 cup of fennel chopped fine

5 cloves of garlic peel and chop

1/4 cup of olive oil to sauté vegetables until soft but not browned, about 15 minutes 

Add:

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons of fresh oregano chopped fine

1 tablespoon fresh thyme chopped fine

3 tablespoons of chives chopped 

stir herbs into sautéed vegetables, when herbs are wilted add to chicken stock with the tomatoes 
Simmer 20 to 30 minutes allow to cool, add salt and pepper to taste and using a good blender blend soup to a smooth consistency 

Add 3/4 cup of 1/2 & 1/2. When you are ready to serve, warm soup, do not boil.

Top each bowl  of soup with a spoon full of creme fraiche, chopped chives and a pinch of salt.

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Chili Con Queso

When I was getting ready for the Super Bowl I started to dig though all my old recipes for this Chili Con Queso.  I called a chef friend,Corinne, to ask if she remembered the ingredients, since her version was always the best. Her answer was no she just said it changes every time. So with my scratched notes I set out to recreate my old go to version of Chili Con Queso.

Ingredients list

3/4 cup diced onions

1 package of Jimmy Dean Sausage

2 jalapeños roasted and peeled then diced

2 jalapeño fresh seeded and diced

3 cloves of garlic pressed

2 tlb. Butter

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 cups grated Colby or Monterey Jack cheese or combination of both

( 1/2 log of Velveeta dice,  if you do not want to use Velveeta you can add 1/2 cup of cream cheese and additional jack cheese)

2 tsp cumin

2 cups whole milk

1 4oz can of diced green chilies, drained

2 tlb Tabasco  or to taste 

1 10oz can of diced tomatoes with Mexican spices is good

Sauté the onions in the butter until soft then add garlic, jalapeños and sausage. Sauté until sausage I cooked and if there is extra fat drain off before adding cheese, milk, cumin. Stir over very low heat careful  not to let cheese burn. When cheese is melted add canned chilies, Tabasco and tomatoes. Simmer for a few minutes to blend flavors. 

I made the dip early in the day and it reheated well. It also works in a fondue pot or electric pan that you can control the heat to very low tempeture. Serve with chips, salas and veggies for dipping.

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Swordfish with puttanesca sauce

I forget about swordfish and last night when I went to buy fish for dinner my fish guy said it was a perfect choice.  This recipe can also be used with Halibut, but the firmness of the swordfish is perfect.

Serves 6

6 tbsp of olive oil

6 swordfish steaks (about 5 to 6 oz. each and 1/2 inch thick) skin removed and salt and black pepper to taste

3 large cloves of garlic, fine mince

1/2 cup of thin sliced onion

4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, chop 

1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped 

1/4 cup capers drained

3/4 cup oil cured black olives, pitted and chopped. You can use green olives if you would rather

3 cups of tomatoes, if you use fresh be sure to seed and chop. Using canned tomatoes, use whole tomatoes and crush them in your hand or chop. Drain and reserve liquid.

1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes or more to taste. 

1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish 

4 tsp fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Season fish with salt and pepper and add to skillet, flit once until brown and medium rare, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. 

Return skillet to medium low heat. Add garlic, anchovies and onion cook until soft, about  3 minutes. Raise heat to medium add tomatoes, olives, Rosemary, capers, and reserved liquid. Cook until most of the liquid is evaporated, 8 minutes or so. 

Return swordfish to the pan and heat through add lemon juice and sprinkle with parsley. Divide fish between plates and cover with sauce. 

Love this with a small twist of pasta that you have dressed with olive oil. 

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New Favorite salad of the family

I think we are all always looking for a new salad and this one seems to be the winner this winter.

Ingredients:

Romain lettuce—I do not buy the lettuce hearts in a bag or already chopped romain. Buy whole fresh lettuce and wash, wrap in towels and crisp until ready to use.

Fennel bulb, cherry tomatoes (cut in half if they are large), 6 oz of chèvre cheese, 1/3 cup of pine nuts, 1/3 cup of capers, 20 parmaigiano-reggiano shaved curls to top salad

Dressing:

2 tlb. Lemon juice

2 tlb champagne vinegar or good white wine vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

6 tlb of good extra virgin olive oil

1 tlb. Water

1 tsp crumble dried  tarragon leaves or a couple Tsp. of fresh tarragon chopped, 1 shallot chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all the ingredients together and let them sit for a little while to have flavor come together.

Salad assembly:

Tear lettuce leaves into bite size pieces,  shave the fennel bulb and chop in smaller pieces, if the cherry tomatoes are bigger cut them in half. I then place them in a strainer to have the juice drip out so the salad is not wet. Toast the pine nuts in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil—watch them so they do not burn it only takes a minute to toast. Then place them on a paper towel to drain.

You will need at least 6 oz. of a good goat cheese broken into small bite size pieces. You can choose one that has herbs added if you want or plain.

You will want to fry the capers, they will top the salad just before serving. Drain the capers between two paper towels to dry off the brine so they will not splatter. Then fry in 1/2 inch of olive oil until they are very crisp, now drain again to get off the extra oil. You can do this about 30 minutes before you make the salad.

Assembly, mix together everything except the capers and Parma curls. Dress the salad lightly at first, you can always add extra dressing if needed. Plate the salads and top with crisp capers and Parma curls, usually about 4 curls per salad. Add a dash of good salt and grind of pepper.

This is usually enough for 4 to 6 servings

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Chicken legs confit

I saw a version of this in a magazine and since I love duck confit so much I thought I would try a similar idea with chicken legs. Allow several hours for the cooking time since these need to slow roast in the oven.

Serves 6

4 chicken legs with the thigh attached

4 large shallots unpeeled and quartered

About 10 cloves of garlic cut in half, do not peel

6 sprigs of thyme, 3 crushed juniper berries, one crushed bay leaf, 1/4 tsp. Allspice

1 1/2 cups olive oil

Preheat oven to 275 

Rub chicken with salt and pepper and place n a baking dish. Scatter thyme, shallots, garlic and rest of the herbs around chicken and pour olive oil over chicken. Bake 1 hour and turn over meat, continue baking for about another 1 1/2 hours. Bake until the chicken is cooked through. 

Remove chicken from oven, using  a large skillet take about 1/2 cup of infused oil from baking dish and heat in skillet. Place chicken in hot skillet, skin side down. Fry for about 6 minutes until skin is crisp, watch for splattering of hot oil. Place finished chicken leg on a platter skin side up. You may want to separate the leg from the thigh of serving. 

The infused oil is wonderful to fry other vegetables like potatoes, onions, kale, carrots etc. you can serve the chicken and vegetables on a large platter with a dipping sauce made of yogurt with herbs. 

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Cooking adventure in Morocco with Joanne Weir

When someone asks me to join them in Morocco to cook and explore I find that I can never say no. Last spring the amazing chef, cookbook author and tv personality, JOANNE WEIR,  www.joanneweir.com, suggested I join her group in Morocco for a week. That is how it all began. 

On Monday 10/21/15 I arrived at the beautiful compound in Marrakech called Jnane Tamsna, owned by Meryanne Louin-Martin and her husband Gary. Jnane Tamsna, http://www.jnanetamsna.com, is located about 15 minutes outside of the main city of Marrakech, our home of the next week. This amazing walled garden is the perfect place to return to each day after the hectic noises and sights of the medina. Monday night we gathered in the main building to meet the rest of the guests. This building is like a small hotel plus there are 2 houses on the grounds a total of 25 unique bedrooms, plus 5 large swimming pools.  

 Joanne energizes her group of 18 guests that would spend their mornings cooking in the beautiful outdoor classroom and then sit down to lunch in the garden to enjoy the dishes we created . Joanne  gave each of us a packet of recipes and beautiful new aprons and began to tell us all the exciting adventures we would experience in the next week.

Tuesday morning we cooked our first tagines, these were small personal tagines that we would enjoy for lunch.  

 Half of us did a lamb tagine with preserved lemons and the others made chicken with dried fruit. Each tagine was set on a brazier for an hour while we wandered into the garden where tables had been set up for our lunch. We each got our personal tagine placed in front of us along with lovely salad and of course a glass of local rose. After our lunch a few of us went to Maison de Zoe to order beautiful linens and  cotton bathrobes, 366 zone industrelle de Sidi Ghanem. Zoe also has a small boutique in  La Mamounia Hotel. 

Each morning chef Bahija and Chef Joanne Weir were ready with our list of recipes and all the ingredients we needed to prepare our dishes for our lunch. Everyone gathered with knives in hand cooking together with only a break for our morning tea to be served.  

 After another beautiful lunch we would venture out into the markets to explore and of course shop for our individual treasures.  We were met by our amazing guide ( ABOUL, mohmoudtours@yahoo.fr ) his card says expert on shopping, shipping and history of the country. If you want the best guide in Merrakech ABOUL is the one to contact, cell 00212 (0) 661 173 971, in advance. He helped us bargain for great prices, he took the group that wanted carpets to a warehouse with an amazing selection showing the patience few men have. 

For lunch in the medina look at “La Table du Palais” with a bountiful garden behind it walls. Love the Caftan store next door, “Maison Du Caftan, 65 Rue Sisi El Yamani.” Something for everyone and great prices and quick alterations if something did not quite fit. After crazy shopping, buying spices, saffron and argane oil we headed back to change for dinner. 

Joanne arranged for dinner atan all woman run restaurant called “Al Fassia” famous for its roasted lamb shoulder. You start with 12 small plates of different salads and dips  

 then when the roasted meat arrives you are sure you will never finish the whole plate, but it seems to disappear. Make reservations, 002120 524383839, M. Fatiha will take great care of you. 

The next day ABOUL took everyone to an amazing upscale shop “AYA’s  11 Bis, Derb Jdid Bab, next door to restaurant Tanjia.  

 This is the place to buy top quality Moroccan style clothing, jackets, dresses and accessories. After all the shopping we headed to “El Fenn” at sunset for drinks on the roof, http://www.el-Fenn.com, worth the stop.  We then walked to dinner at “La Patisserier”, I would like it better for lunch since the view over the Medina from the roof would be wonderful. 

Friday we did not cook instead we went to the wonderful spice gardens called “Nectarome”. Nectarome is about and hour out side of Merrakech toward the Atlas Mountains. Interesting place that has developed over the past 6 years and now is selling their products at retail is several locations, Jnane Tamsna had the shampoo in the showers. After our lunch in their garden several of us enjoyed a 20 minute foot soak in their unique sunken footbaths with special salts. I fell asleep on the way home I was so relaxed.  

 The other gardens that we visited when back in town was “Jardin Majorelle, the gardens of Yves Saint Laurent where his personal home is.

The next day we made a quick trip to “Galerie des Tanneuns” I bought a beautiful blue suede shirt and several wallets for gifts. Their prices are great and if they don’t have your size they are happy to make it for you. 

Before dinner we went to La Mamounia for a drink in the garden, be prepared the martini was 19 Euro, but it is beautiful and worth the experience. Dinner that night was at a small restaurant called Nomad, back in the Medina. I would suggest it for lunch, trying to wander through the maze of alley ways at night is difficult. I had a simple piece of fresh fish, a nice change from all the tagines we had been eating. 

We spent our last day saying good bye to Marrakech, some people doing one last trip to the Souke for those little gifts to take back home. Some of the group just sat by the pool for the last bit of sun. 

The last evening we were invited for a magical dinner in the gardens surrounded by the many olive and citrus trees. 

   Everyone dressed in white and Meryanne and Gary opened their lovely home for cocktails before Joanne lead us through the garden to a long table surrounded by hundreds of candles. Music was  being played from under the trees by local musicians,  

 it is hard to say good bye to Marrakech especially as we sat under the stars and listened to the sounds of the night. 

Thank you Joanne of creating memories in one week we will all have with us for a lifetime.

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