Thursday, October 29, 2015



     What I love about quiche is that is so easy.  You can really add just about anything that you have in your refrigerator.  Sunday, I noticed that we had a bit of ham left over along with some green onions and shallots.  Realizing that it had been a while since we had made quiche, this quickly became the base of Sunday's brunch.  What is also nice about this dish is that it freezes well and makes for a great, protein packed breakfast for Dear Daughter.

     I have to admit that I am not a baker so I never make my own crust.   In Europe, I found very reliable pre-made crust that I just unrolled into my tart pan.  Here in the States, the best I have found  is crust from Trader Joe's.

Easy and Delicious  Quiche

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Chicken Ramen


     I love Asian noodle soups, whether it be Japanese ramen or Vietnamese Pho.   The broth is always rich in flavor and the noodles plentiful.  I also love all of the add-ins: green onions, cilantro, a protein, even nuts or eggs.  However, until last week, I had never attempted to make the broth myself.  This is no college, out of the packet, late night ramen.  Even better, it really did not take that much time and you can keep the leftover broth to mix with more noodles for a second or third meal.

Homemade Chicken Ramen

Monday, October 19, 2015

Thank You, Paul Prudhomme

     I never knew Paul Prudhomme.  Years ago, I saw him outside one afternoon in New Orleans, perhaps taking a break.  I never dined at his restaurant, although I did have several wonderful meals at his sister's place outside Opelousas.  Recently, I received this text from my husband, "Paul Prudhomme died," and I was immediately saddened and whisked away to our life over 20 years ago.  Yes, you may call it odd that my husband would send me such a text but then again, if you know us, then you may not be so surprised.  Our "foodie" lives may have started with Paul Prudhomme.
     As background, we had just returned to the States after living three years in Europe (the first time).   We were young, just out of college and in our first jobs.  I do not remember much cooking going on back then.  We worked hard and we played hard and somewhere in the middle, we managed to still travel a great deal.  Upon our return, we landed briefly in Georgia for school and then life came crashing down as we learned we were being sent to Louisiana.  Neither one of us had ever been to Louisiana but it sounded hot, humid and devoid of anything interesting.  Needless to say, we were not happy.
     I cannot remember what time of year we arrived in Leesville.  I do remember that it was not much of a town.  The closest McDonald's was nearly an hour away as was a real shopping mall.  There was a dive Mexican place that served pretty good margaritas.  We quickly found a two bedroom townhouse that had a drive-up beer distributor at the end of the street.  During crayfish season, you could also buy a bag of cooked or uncooked "mudbugs" as you bought your case of beer.  Parties on the weekend were the norm probably because there wasn't much else to do.  On top of that, Dear Husband spent weeks at a time on deployments.  We were not lovin' it.
     However, with the deployments came benefits.  Upon return, long weekends were passed out like Halloween candy.  This gave us the opportunity to travel again and remembering our time in Europe, we embraced it.  It did not take long to figure out; however, that all roads led to New Orleans.  Soon, it did not matter if it was a four, three or regular two day weekend.  We had it down to a science.
     On "Departure Day", we would be in the car by 5:00 am.  We would arrive at The Camilla Grill just before 9:00 am.  Upon entering, we'd take a seat at the bar and order huge three egg omelets that came with french fries (good grief, we could eat a lot then).  Sometimes, we would even have pecan pie or a milkshake for dessert.  After breakfast, we would take the short drive past Tulane and into the French Quarter.  We had already called Remy to request our favorite room in our favorite hotel.  It had big windows that looked over the street and we could listen to the hustle and bustle of life.  We might take a break or walk around town.  Sometimes, we even had lunch (which seems amazing to us now - how did we have the room?).  We stopped in bars, listened to Dixie Jazz, stopped in nearby squares for pop-up concerts, looked at menus and began to educate ourselves on the cuisine of the area.
     For dinner, it was always nearly the same place - Galatoire's.  I forgot to mention that after we checked into our hotel, our first course of business was to call Galatoire's and ask for Mr. LaFleur.  Mr. LaFleur was a long time waiter of the restaurant.  If he was off, then speaking to his nephew would occur.  This was an important step as Galatoire's, at the time, did not take reservations and there was always a long line.  "Mr. LaFleur, it is XXX XXX.  How are you?" Pleasantries would be exchanged and then the business would begin.  "We would like a table for two at 7:00 pm.  Would that be possible?"  We arrived at the appointed time, walked up to the front door and let the doorman know that Mr. LaFleur was expecting us.  We bypassed the entire line, sat down, had a cocktail and felt pretty 26 years of age.  We ordered the Godshaw Salad (which was off the menu), enjoy rack of lamb with a nice red wine and spend a wonderful evening.  A few times, we were able to venture into the kitchen as if we were long lost friends.  Again, at age 26, it was a heady experience and truly began this culinary journey.
     However, it was not all hedonistic.  Slowly, we began learning about the cuisine and were curious enough to start trying different dishes at home.  Paul Prudomme was everywhere and we frequently used his recipes in our own little kitchen cooking school. There was red beans and rice, gumbo, and etoufee to discover...shrimp po-boys, remoulade sauce, and boiled crayfish. Suddenly, our circumstance did not seem so bad.  Our culinary life had begun.  We left Louisiana less than a year later, a bit saddened by the departure but oh. so much wiser.
     We carried our passion and what we had learned to all of the other places that we lived and by now, food really does permeate our lives.  We believe that cooking brings the family together.  We believe that our nightly dinner, whether it is a simple soup or a three course "fancy" meal brings the family together.  We believe, as Paul believed, in sourcing locally and we food!
   So, thank you, Paul Prudhomme.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Baba Ganoush


     Look at these pretty little eggplants!  Now, what I am going to do with these pretty little eggplants?  My last foray into eggplants resulted in a wonderful Eggplant Parmesan.  Now, with these little beauties, I needed to do something different.

     I combed through the Internet but nothing seemed to appeal to me. Perhaps, they all seemed like vegetable dishes.  Yes, I  know that eggplant is a vegetable but I was looking for something that didn't remind me (and more importantly, Dear Daughter) that we were consuming a vegetable.

     That is when I came upon Baba Ganoush.

     That is when I made something delicious.

     How do I know?  Because, Dear Husband who is an expert at making hummus declared that it was perhaps even better than hummus.

     It is even fun to say, "Baba Ganoush, Baba Ganoush, Baba Ganoush."  Bet you are smiling now!

     Try it and let me know what you think.

Baba Ganoush

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

High-End Steakhouses: Yes or No?

     I have never seen the appeal of high-end steakhouses.  Don't get me wrong; I love a great steak and potato dinner.  I have just never understood paying an astronomical price for a meal that it fairly easy to replicate at home (sorry!).  Sure, you might not have an oven or grill that can sear to the unbelievably high temps that a restaurant can do.  But, I would wager that in today's society, many of you do have the necessary equipment (and really, at it necessary for a good meal).  Sure, you might not be able to get dry aged thick cut steaks but again, I suspect that many of you can and do (but do you have to for a wonderful meal?).  Regardless, steakhouses seem to be gaining in popularity not only within the United States but all over the world.  Dear Husband still rants about the best steak that he ever had and it wasn't at one of the standards.  It was at a restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany.

     It has been nearly four years since I dined at a high-end steakhouse and just last night, Dear Daughter and I were given the opportunity to stop in one of Pittsburgh's best steakhouse chains.  It was early and we asked if we could sit in the dark bar at one of the small tables in the corner of the room.  I wondered from time to time if someone would break out a cigar.  It just looked like that sort of room.  I had a fleeting thought to order a martini.  Isn't that what you do in the bar of a steakhouse?

     The menu was fairly short but listed some interesting possibilities.  Steak Tartare was compelling but since I would probably have steak for the main course...well....that is a bit too much beef...even for me.  Oysters, crab cocktail, prosciutto and mozzarella salad seemed all too ordinary.  Then, there were various salads and of course, the steaks plus the not included side items.  Even with the small menu, it was a bit intimidating not only from the price but from the size of the steaks!    The smallest steak was the filet at 10 oz and the largest was the porterhouse at 24 oz!  Wow!

     In the end, DH and I decided to split an appetizer, a steak and a side dish.  For the appetizer, we selected the lobster and crab cakes.  At one of the more pricier appetizers, I would have appreciated larger crabcakes.  Two cakes the size of half dollars appeared along with a tasty corn relish and tarter sauce.  Seriously, lobster and crabcakes with tarter sauce...maybe it should have been called a remoulade sauce.  I was expecting more.  However, in the end, they were quite tasty (if small).  When I asked for a glass of Chardonnay to accompany the dish, our waiter explained that he had three Chardonnays by the unoaked, a slightly oaked and a heavily oaked.  Ok, I know about unoaked and oaked Chardonnays but I had never heard of slightly and heavily.  I went with the heavily.  As the waiter turned away, he told me, "Now you can tell your husband that you bought a Ferrari."  The wine was a Ferrari and was wonderful...and pricey!  Ouch.

     For our main, we shared a 14oz dry aged NY Strip au Poivre with Courvoisier Cream and Parmesan Truffle Fries.  They did  a wonderful job of plating the steak onto two plates.  We ordered the steak medium rare and both commented on how precisely it was cooked.  The "au Poivre" was a bit overpowering even though it is supposed to be.  The fries were devine.  Having lived in Belgium, we love frites...and these were amazing.  That being said, even with sharing, we brought home 1/3 of the steak and nearly half the fries.  The Argentinian Malbec that I requested complemented the dish well and was more suitably priced.

     So what is the verdict?  In our case, our food costs were $77 and frankly, while that served two in the restaurant, we still had enough for a third meal at home.   Wine was expensive but wine always is expensive (and really, it is embarrassing to tell you how much two glasses of wine cost there).  We enjoyed the atmosphere and we could have a normal conversation.  So many places today almost require yelling across the table.

     But in the end, if I am going to have steak, I will just have it at home.  We can whip up a small creative appetizer such as salmon tartare or seared tuna over arugula and serve it with a Spanish Cava.  Dear Daughter can make her amazing potatoes au gratin and we can grill any cut of meat we desire.  Perhaps we will grab a bottle of red from our European stash or try something new.  In the end, it will be an extremely satisfying meal.

     Now, what I would do is visit the steakhouse for lunch.  At $18, you can have one of three appetizers followed by a choice of Steak Frites, or Mini Tenderloin Sandwiches with the wonderful Parmesan Truffle Fries, or a Lobster Roll with Chips.  Now that is a bargain even with the Ferrari!

     So why were we downtown on a school night anyway?  Well after being on the waiting list for Pittsburgh Penguin Hockey Tickets for nearly a decade, we finally came up on the list this year.  Last night, DH and I were in attendance for the season opener.  Great fun and great memories!  It is always fun to do something different on a school night!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Creamed Shiitake Mushrooms


Beautiful Shiitake Mushrooms from Clarion River Organics

     As I was saying, I normally do not crave mushrooms.  However, for the past two weeks, I have been dreaming about mushrooms.  I really thought that this was mushroom season but every time I went to look for fresh, local mushrooms, I could not find a single one.  That made the craving even worse.  Last Saturday, I ventured into the Pittsburgh Public Market for the first time and went over to my CSA, Clarion River Organics,  who has a farm stand there.  There they were!  Mushrooms!  Hurrah!!!  Unfortunately, I have a very limited knowledge of mushrooms and could not really tell which varieties were there.  The young man attending the farm stand confessed that he, too, was not very knowledgeable when it came to mushrooms but he was able to identify portobellos, oysters and finally, these shiitakes, which came home with me.

     This is the mushroom dish that changed my mind about mushrooms.  Before making it over the weekend, I had only made it once before and it blew me away.  But strangely, over the years I had forgotten all about this dish. It originally appeared in a 2008 edition of Saveur magazine as Whole Wheat Crostini with Creamed Chanterelles.  The notes on my torn out and worn magazine page indicated ideas such as adding crab, or using it as a sauce for schnitzel or pasta or even as a topping for pizza.  Like so many dishes, this is quite simple, uses minimal ingredients and can be adapted in so many ways.

     I changed this original version a bit, serving it over slices of leftover baguette as that is what I had and the results were still wonderful.  I definitely will not forget it this time!

Creamed Shiitake Mushrooms

Monday, October 5, 2015

Au Petit Tonneau

Location Today:  Pittsburgh, PA but mentally, Out To Lunch!
What I am cooking:  Potato Hash with Poached Eggs 
Upcoming Recipe on Thursday:  Creamed Mushrooms on Toast


    It was a crisp Fall day and I was in Paris.  I was in Paris to have lunch with two friends.  I was in Paris strolling along my favorite street, Rue Cler, near the Eiffel Tower, taking in all of the sights, sounds and smells of this enchanted market street.  Shopping would have to take place later as I didn't want to be late.
     I love going out to lunch and I particularly love going out to lunch in France.  When it comes to the mid-day meal, the French know how to do it right.  It is no harried, rushed occasion designed to quickly fuel the body.  It is a time to relax, to socialize and to re-energize for the afternoon and evening.  Most restaurants will have a formula or "Le Menu".  This is always a particular favorite of mine as you can typically have two to three courses at a set price.  Some places offer you a choice of an appetizer, main course and dessert.  Some have only one.  Choice or no choice, chances are the meal will be simple yet incredibly enjoying.
     I walked through the door at Au Petit Tonneau and immediately felt at home.  Red and white checked tablecloths brightened the cozy dining room and the music in the background added to the ambiance.  An older gentleman walked over to me with a huge smile on his face, kissed me once on each cheek and welcomed me.  I immediately felt as though I knew him.

     On a table near the front door was a plate of beautiful mushrooms.  I tend to avoid mushrooms but these looked absolutely incredible.  In a mixture of French and English, the gentleman explained that we were now in "mushroom season" and these were the very best.  It was then that I learned about seasonality and how important that was to cooking.  Throughout my short stay in Paris and then back at home in Belgium, I saw lots and lots of mushrooms.  It was, indeed, mushroom season.
     I wish I could tell you all the wonderful things that I had that day.  While my friends ordered a variety of vegetable dishes a la carte, I settled for the Menu, three courses for 24 euros.  It was an incredible bargain and the food was wonderful.  This wasn't haute cuisine but it didn't need to be.  I felt like I was in a home and someone's grandmother was cooking for me...simple dishes with complex flavors.
     The afternoon slowly drifted by and I was sad to see it end.  Kisses all around closed out the day and I left with wonderful memories of seeing my friends plus memories of making new ones.  With each subsequent visit to Paris, we always had a wonderful, leisurely lunch at Au Petit Tonneau, and we were always greeted as though we were one of the family.
     Why was I thinking about this place over the weekend?  I was wandering around the Penn Public Market in the Strip District on Saturday afternoon.  My CSA provider, Clarion River Organics, has a farm stand there and I was curious to see if they offered different items from what comes in my weekly CSA shipment.  Right out front, in small  boxes were a variety of beautiful mushrooms!  I was instantly taken back to Paris.  I bought a box and remembered the one dish that changed my mind about mushrooms.  I will share it with you on Thursday.

Au Petit Tonneau
20 Rue Surcouf
76007 Paris

This weeks' CSA Plan:
Tomatoes:  Heirlooms for one of the last of the season's Caprese salads
Fairy Tale Eggplant:  I am a little stumped with these but I am thinking about baba ganoush
Red Peppers:  Salads
Corn Meal:  I nice bag of corn meal and I am thinking of creamy polenta now that the weather is getting colder.
Multi Colored Carrots:  Roasted up nicely to accompany our lamb last night.
Fingerling Potatoes:   A favorite of ours.  Pan fried them in duck fat and served with steaks on Saturday night.  Simple and delish!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Stuffed Poblano Pepper

     My plan was to take these nice looking Poblano Peppers and make something different for us.  I did indeed make Stuffed Peppers but by the time I left the kitchen three hours later, I had also made four other things!  It all started when I decided that for DD's birthday party tomorrow night I would set up a Spaghetti Bar instead of ordering pizzas.  (I know, that is crazy.  All 14 year old girls want pizza...but they are getting Spaghetti...and garlic bread...and an Ice Cream Sundae Bar).  Thus, I started on my favorite Bolognese so it could simmer all afternoon.

     But wait, what if someone doesn't like meat sauce?  Well, then I had to make my favorite simple Marinara Sauce.  But wait, those mini sweet peppers in the vegetable bin...well I have some leftover pork stuffing from last week in the freezer.  I could defrost that and make mini stuffed peppers.  Dear Daughter did mention last night that she was a bit sick of soup.  But wait!  There are two zucchinis in there also and they look like they need to be cooked.  Well, we haven't had zucchini bread in a while. So, that is how the day progressed.

     I did manage to get around to the Stuffed Poblano Peppers.  I was a bit nervous about the possibility of them being a bit spicy so I took extra care to get out all of the seeds and ribs.  This recipe was on Martha Stewart's website.  It comes together quite easily and takes about an hour to cook.  I took a break from all of the action and had one for lunch.  Yummy!  This would make a great Meatless Monday meal.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers
Adapted from Martha Stewart

4 Poblano Peppers, seeded and cut in half
1 28oz can of tomatoes with their puree  
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic (1 minced and the other two roughly chopped)
1 can of black beans, drained
1 cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup water
1 tsp cumin

Preheat the oven to 450.

Combine the tomatoes, jalapeño pepper, two cloves of garlic and half an onion in a blender and puree.  (I placed these in a bowl and used my immersion blender and it worked beautifully.)  Place the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish and set aside.

In a bowl, combine the remaining onions, minced garlic, black beans, cornmeal, water, cumin and half of the cheese.  Toss to combine.

Stuff each pepper half with the black bean mixture.  Place on top of the sauce in the baking dish.  Once all peppers are stuffed, add a bit more cheese over the top.  Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  

Take off the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes to let the sauce thicken.  Cool for five minutes and serve.

Update:  I actually made these last weekend, placed foil around the pan and put into the refrigerator until Tuesday.  Heated slowly for about 30 minutes with the foil on, then added a bit more cheese and took off the foil.  Heated until the cheese was bubbly.  Great make ahead meal!