Thursday, September 7, 2017

Cooking Again - Pork Katsu with Beet Puree and Grilled Peppers

     Good grief, it has been forever since I have been on my own site.  I spent the summer travelling: Puerto Rico, Peru, Canada,  France, Germany and Spain.  It was an incredible experience and I still have not quite recovered.  I dream of the next trip.
     So there hasn't been a lot of time for cooking; although Cate and I made an incredible dinner of mussels while we were in France.  Actually, we loved it so much, we made it for two dinners.  Back at home, the CSA has been providing us with lots of vegetables and for the first time in my life, I actually harvested so many tomatoes from my own garden, that I am sick of tomatoes.  How did that happen.
     So last week, we received a paper bag filled with beets.  I have to admit:  beets are not my favorite.  I normally just pickle them and use them in an arugula salad with goat cheese. So, I started my Internet search and found a pork dish served with a beet puree.  It sounded interesting so I decided to give it a try.  Even on a school night, it did not take long to put this on the table.  The puree can be made several days in advance which would cut down the prep time even more.  Pork Katsu is the Japanese version of breaded pork.  I fell in love with it last year when we were in Japan.  The shishito peppers were also a CSA gift and after a few seconds on the grill, they were a perfect compliment to the meal.

Pork Katsu with Beet Puree
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Galettes from Brittany - Easier Than You Think

     When we travel, it isn't just about seeing the 1000th church, walking around the city, seeing yet another museum or staying in the best hotel.  Honestly, and perhaps a bit shallow of us, I think we love experiencing the food and then trying to recreate it once we return home.  Stuffed baby squid from Montenegro, Okonomiyaki from Japan, BBQ from Korea, Salt Cod Croquettes from Portugal, Tapas from Spain, Boulettes (meatballs) from Belgium, and German breakfast...the list goes on and on and most of the time, we have been fairly successful by walking down memory lane during an afternoon of recreating meals from our travels.

     But the one that has eluded me, much to my chagrin, is the Breton galette.  The terrain being as it is, makes it difficult for wheat to grow.  Somehow, buckwheat made its way to this incredible area of France and the galette was born.  Similar to a crepe, it is simply made with buckwheat flour (farine de sarrasin), water and salt and filled with either sweet or savory fillings.  Every outdoor market in France will have a galette truck and we used to keep Cate occupied by getting her a Galette au Chocolate - a warm galette filled with nutella on every visit.

     My favorites are the savory galettes - filled with anything you can imagine.  The complete (missing the necessary accent mark on the first "e") is simply a galette stuffed with ham, cheese and a fried egg.  The sides are brought over to form a square and the yolk of the egg peeks through the center.  This a favorite of Jamie's.  On the grounds of Monet's home in Giverny, Cate and I feasted on galettes filled with potatoes, lardons and formage.  At a local restaurant perched high above the Breton countryside in an old water tower, I was served a galette filled with beautiful Breton scallops in a delicate cream sauce. The galette is the canvas. Paint it any way you choose.

     On visits to Brittany, I would bring home packets of premade Galettes that I purchased at the grocery store, but alas, I am in Brittany no more.  Once, while in Tennessee, my mother took me to a Creperie and I was so happy to find Breton Galettes that I purchased six to make the drive back with me.  Locally, I have found a small French restaurant but when I inquired about purchasing from them, I was aghast at the price.  So, no Galettes for me.

     On more than on occasion, I have attempted to make them but even with its simple ingredients, they were a disaster.  So, I gave up.   There are other French specialties that I happy to make...that worked.  Then last week in my CSA parcel, I received a pound of local buckwheat flour.  The challenge was on...again.  I searched the Internet for days and finally came across a recipe from David Leibovitz.  It had more ingredients that others I had come across but it intrigued me.  So on Saturday afternoon, I whipped up the batter.  The directions indicated that it had to sit overnight in the refrigerator.  Sunday morning with great trepidation, I took off the lid of the container.  The mixture was to resemble a heavy cream consistency.  Did mine?  Yes - and that was a good sign.

     I brought out my new Tefal skillet as I did not have a crepe pan, swirled some butter around the pan and poured in 1/3 cup of the mixture.  I wasn't fast enough on the first round to get a thin pancake but I made the crepe anyway.  No use making all of them if it tasted horrible.  Of course, I made Jamie taste the first one.  "Not bad."  Ok - not the greatest endorsement but what the heck...continue on.

     I made 10 galettes and by the last one - I had the galette mojo.  I could pour in the batter, quickly swirl it around to cover the bottom of the skillet - cook for one minute, pick up the edges with my fingers (!) and quickly flip to cook on the other side for an additional minute.  That morning, Jamie and I dined on his favorite, the complete (remember the accent mark on the first "e" say the word with a short "e" sound...not a long "e".  Got it?).  I took a cooked galette, heated it briefly in the pan, placed two slices of ham in the center, covered it with grated Gruyere cheese, topped it a fried egg and brought the sides in to create a square.  Once the cheese was melted, the galette was ready.

     So how was it?  Not completely authentic - as my recipe called for a combination of buckwheat and all purpose flour but it was authentic enough to take me back in time.  Over breakfast, we reminisced about the different places and different kinds of galettes we had eaten in France.  Once Cate made an appearance, I was certain that she would not have one.  Years ago, she decided that she didn't like them.  She picked one up, folded it and between bites, asked if we had enough to have for Monday's dinner.

     So last night, I made her favorite:  Bacon, Gruyere cheese and sautéed potatoes.  She had two.  And this morning, with the last remaining one...Galette au Chocolate.  Bring on the buckwheat flour...I have some galettes to make!

Buckwheat Crepe Recipe
by David Leibovitz

2 cups whole milk
1T sugar
1/2 t salt
3T butter, melted
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3 eggs

In a blender, mix all of the ingredients together.  Cover and let rest in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove the batter one hour before cooking.

Heat a 8-9 inch nonstick skillet.  Drop a piece of butter and swirl it around the pan with a paper towel.  You only need to do this just before cooking the first one.

Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup batter in the pan and swirl quickly to cover the bottom of the skillet.  After a minute or so, lift the side with a spatula and flip. I was able to lift with a spatula, lightly grasp with my fingers and flip.  It may take a few tries to get the hang of it.  Keep going.

Cook an additional 30 seconds to a minute and slide onto a plate.  Cook the remaining galettes.

When ready to serve, you can fill with all kinds of toppings.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Pasta with Truffle Butter Cream Sauce - Happy Valentine's Day

     Don't like to cook.  Don't know how to cook?  This is the dish for you.  If you can boil water, then seven minutes later, you will have a lovely first or main course that will definitely impress that sig other.  Save this for next Valentine's Day or have it this weekend.  We have this once or twice a year and it is always a big hit.  And did I mention that it only takes 7 minutes to make?  How easy is that.

     It is Valentine's Day and obviously, since I am writing this blogspot, I am not really celebrating it. Jamie is in Africa and in 45 minutes, I will be driving Cate off to swim practice so it is basically just a regular night in our household.  But I did think that it warranted a nice dinner and while Cate and I twirled our pasta with our forks and spoons, we opened the Valentine's Day cards that Jamie had left for us.  We smiled and laughed at our cards and felt him here with us.

     A note about the truffle butter...this recipe comes from Ina Garten. Her recipe calls for using white truffle butter.  Truffle butter can be a bit challenging to find so when I do, I but it...whether it is white truffle butter or black truffle butter.  We like the recipe with either.  D'Artagnan sells it online in 3-oz containers which is exactly the amount needed for the recipe.  Locally, I have seen it at Penn Mac, Giant Eagle Marketplace and McGinnis Sisters.

Pasta with Truffle Butter Cream Sauce
Adapted from Ina Garten


8 oz of egg fettuccine or pappardelle
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 oz truffle butter, black or white
Salt and Pepper
3 oz grated Parmesan
3 T chopped chives (I have used parsley as well)

1.  Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to the directions.
2.  Heat cream in a heavy skillet until simmering.
3.  Add butter, turn to low and swirl to let the butter melt. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4.  Heat two pasta bowls.
5.  When the pasta is ready, drain but reserve a cup of the cooking water.
6.  Add the pasta to the cream mixture and combine.  If the sauce gets too thick (which has never happened to me), add just a touch of water.
7.  Combine until it is nice and creamy.  Transfer to two bowls.  Garnish with chives and grated Parmesan.

A nice Riesling from France accompanies this dish very well.  Make sure it is a dry Riesling...not too sweet.  Chardonnay also works well...let it sit out a bit to warm up.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Pizza: Friday Night Comfort Food

     It is Friday night and I am all least for the next 75 minutes.   Happy hour was spent prepping Cate for a Physics exam, which she has on Monday.  No one should have to study on a Friday evening but with two major exams on Monday and a weekend full of events, she felt (ok...I felt...or maybe we felt?) that some studying had to be done this afternoon after school.  Her reward...spending the evening at a friend's house.  My

     I won't complain about being somewhat exhausted.  Jamie is currently on a 9 hour flight sitting next to a three year old.  His flight was delayed almost 90 minutes because there were pieces of luggage on the plane but no one could find the owners...He will arrive in the Ivory Coast around 4:00 am our time and as usual, I will have my phone close by waiting for the arrival text.  

     But back to the pizza...My family will tell you that I lost my pizza mojo when we moved to Europe.  I think I have written about it in earlier posts.  Sometimes, it seems to come back but it really doesn't.  Mainly, it is because I cannot find a good crust.  I have tried to make my own, have paid outrageous amounts to buy crust from pizza joints, have purchased store-bought crust...nothing really works.  Then a few weeks ago, I found a dough kit at the local grocery store from a local Italian company.  It claimed that the flour was "OO" which I had read was the flour to use.  The kit came with a bag of flour and the apportioned amount of yeast.  All I had to do was add water, knead for a few minutes and set aside for the dough to rise.

     It was super simple and actually came out pretty well.  I have enough dough for several more pizzas so I think I will give it another try next Friday night.  Perhaps Cate and I can have a Pizza Night.

     But what gave me back my pizza mojo was not the crust...but the topping.  Actually, it wasn't the topping; it was the cheese mixture.  Who knew that Mozzarella could have so much flavor?  I made a cheese pizza and then topped with my favorite:  Prosciutto and Arugula.  I sat at the kitchen bar with a glass of wine and, in total silence, read a recent New Yorker magazine article on Anthony Bourdain and almost devoured the entire pie.

You have to give this a may never go back to red tomato sauce...or maybe you could incorporate the that is an idea.  Got to run...I have 45 minutes left of silence!

Cheese Topping for Pizza

8 oz Mozzarella cheese
2T buttermilk
2T heavy cream
2T grated Parmesan cheese
Black Pepper

1.  Take 4 oz of cheese and cube it.  Place in a small bowl.
2.  Take the other 4 oz and thinly dice.  Place in a small food processor along with the remaining ingredients.  Process until it is a thick paste.  Add it to the bowl with the cubed cheese.
3.  Spread the mixture over a pizza crust.  Take care not to add too much or the cheese will melt over the crust of the pizza like mine did...but in the end...I liked it that way.
4.  Cook according to directions.
5.  Cool slightly, slice and then add Prosciutto and Arugula.  If you have some Balsamic Glaze...that is even better.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Slider competition: His vs. Mine

Cate is on a school trip to Canada with the World Language Club with her school.  We are hoping that she actually speaks French during the trip; she has told us that her teacher is only speaking French to her.  What does she speak back? She seems to be having a fabulous time.  Yesterday, she asked to adopt this Huski.   There used to be a Canadian comedy show that we watched and in a skit a customer asked the travel agent if he/she could be routed a certain way.  The agent punched in various keys into her computer...waited...and then said, "The computer says no."  I wondered if Cate remembered the show as she saw it as a 4th grader.  So my response was, "The computer says "No."  ' Her response, "The computer has a virus."

While we will not watch the Super Bowl tonight...who wants to see the Patriots...we did plan a very fun meal.  After hearing that Arby's has this great 7-slider menu, we decided to create our own Slider Night.  Jamie took on three sliders and I took on the other 3.  While we deemed it a competition, they were all so delicious...from the upscale to the was a great amount of fun for yet, another dreary day.

So, Jamies:  (1) Bologna, (2) Buffalo Chicken, (3) Fried Chicken

(1) So simple:  Get the best quality bologna and Duke's mayo.  Nuke the bread for 10 seconds to soften; slather may and then several slices of bologna.  Heaven.
(2) Buffalo:  Bake a few Tyson's chicken strips according to directions.  Slather the inside of each bun with butter.  Mix together the Chicken and Frank's Red Hot in a bowl.   Place on bread and sprinkle a bit of blue cheese dressing.
(3) Fried Chicken:  Slather the bun with butter and mayo; top with chicken strips and American Cheese.  

Mine:  (1) Italian, (2) French, (3) New England

(1)  Italian:  Maple Ham, American Cheese, Tomato, Hard Salami, Swiss Cheese, mayo...cover in foil and heat for several minutes.
(2) French:  Spread Dijon mustard on one side of bread.  Top with turkey, thin slices of brie cheese and green apple.  Cover in foil and heat for several minutes.
(3) New England:  For one slider, boil one 3-oz lobster tail.  Drain and cool.  Combine 1T mayo, 1T chopped celery, 1/2 tsp chives and 1/2 t lemon juice.  Season with salt, pepper and cayenne.  Brush to top of a warmed slider roll with melter butter; place the lobster mixture on the bottom bun and cover with top.

There were no winners...they were both so good.  Great idea for when the family is together again...but also thinking of a food truck...what would we name it???


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Halushki: Who knew?

     On swim meet nights, the swimmers stay at school, do their homework (supposedly) and have a team meal together before boarding the bus to whichever local high school is hosting the meet.  The meals are catered in by a wonderful local chef who makes some great tasting, healthy meals at an incredible price.  At last week's meet, the "Dad" in charge of the booster club was telling us about that evening's menu.  "He brought these great Chicken Caesar Wraps.  Most of the boys ate an entire one while the girls ate half.  Oh, and I had him bring a Caesar Salad for Cate as I know she doesn't like sandwiches."  Good grief!  After only a few months, a man I barely know...knows that my daughter does not eat sandwiches.

     It is true.  She also won't touch hotdogs, will only eat a hamburger without the bun, despises the thought of ham and cheese or a club sandwich but will dip a grilled cheese (the only sandwich that is worthy enough for her) in her tomato soup.  But then again, she loves duck confit, can make the best mushroom risotto and knows the difference between Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto San Danielle.  So, who really cares if she likes sandwiches.  She is hardly starving.

     For several weeks now, I have had a head of green cabbage in my refrigerator.  This is not something that I would go out and buy.  Rather, it came in my Winter CSA shipment.  I could not throw it away (like I did recently with the turnips...just couldn't bring myself to cook them...much less eat them).  I scoured the Internet for recipes.  What do you do with an entire head of green cabbage?  Then, somehow I stumbled upon Halushki.  It sounded vaguely familiar so I asked Jamie about it.  Of course, he had it numerous times while growing up in Western Pennsylvania.  A Eastern European dish, it is famous at festival and church potlucks. Finding a recipe, it looked super easy to make:  cabbage, onions, egg noodles, butter and bacon...hey, it can't be bad if it has bacon.  Some recipes called for kielbasa and some did not.

     So, I made it the other night for dinner.  It was super easy.  When Cate came downstairs to inquire what was for dinner (it is the one of the only times we see her), I was amazed at how excited she was that we were having Halushki for dinner.   I had been bracing for that downtrodden look when she hears that we are having something that is not quite her favorite.   "When have you ever had Halushki?" I asked.  Evidently, she had and she loved it.

     That night for dinner, she had three platefuls.  She asked that I put it in her lunch for school the next day.  She came home the next night from a swim meet and ate all of the leftovers.  She asked me to make more.  Today, after volunteering for her service hours, she helped me out in the kitchen just to make sure that I was actually making more.  While I asked her not to eat too much of it as it was already nearing 5pm, she assured me that she would be hungry for dinner.  In fact, she asked me why we were just not having Halushki for dinner.  Good point.

     So who knew...and now I have two massive containers of Halushki cooling on the counter.



1 head of green cabbage sliced thinly
1 yellow onion, diced
6 slices of bacon, sliced and cooked
1 stick of butter
1 package of egg noodles, cooked to directions.
salt and pepper
kielbasa, optional

1.  In a large skillet or dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until the fat has rendered.
2.  Add the onions and cook for two to three minutes.
3.  Add 1/2 stick of butter.
4.  Add cabbage, stir to mix and cover.  Continue to cook for fifteen minutes, uncovering every few minutes to stir.
5.  Add the cooked noodles and a bit more butter.  Season with salt and pepper.  If using, add the kielbasa and cook until warmed.
6.  Serve.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hasselback Chicken and Back to Life

          We have started a new family vacation tradition.  We tend to rent a small house/condo or apartment for the week as we have a bit more space and can dine in as opposed to eating out for every meal.  It helps stretch the travel fund and as we (ok, maybe just Jamie and I) love to walk through local grocery stores, we feel a bit more like locals as opposed to visitors or tourists.  Now that Cate is 15, on our week long trips, we assign each person a dinner to cook.  This last vacation, we drew the protein from a hat.  I picked pork, Jamie picked seafood and Cate picked chicken.  Cate's dish was the winner...simple, easy, healthy and you can modify it any way you choose.

          Have you heard of Hasselback Potatoes?  I have actually never made them, but from research, it is a russet potato that has been scored across the length of the potato, filled with goodness and baked.  Cate took the same idea and applied it to chicken with the help of a little Internet research.  What is great about this new tradition is that we have several new dishes to add to our repertoire!  It is a great family experience as we are all in the kitchen, watching or participating.

          But that was vacation...and we are now back into the swing of everyday life.  Cate has mid-term finals this week...for the first time in her life.  Do you remember the "Terrible 2's", where your child exerted his/her independence?  It seemed cute at the time and actually it forward 13 years to the "Terrible 15's" and it is far less cute but the exertion of independence is far more demanding.  Evidently, when you are 15, you know everything and your parents know ABSOLUTELY nothing.  Not to mention that Mom is too controlling (ok...that one may be spot on) but in my defense, "Have you ever taken a mid-term?  Do you have a plan?  Do you realize that you have 2 swim meets next week just before exams? Do you know that these grades count for getting into college?"

          Breathe, Breathe...remember that wonderful vacation tradition.  Close your eyes and go back to it.   Breathe...Breathe...and remember this view.

Hasselback Chicken

4 chicken breasts
3 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup goat cheese
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, optional
1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp paprika
Salt and Pepper

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees,
2.  Cut slits into each chicken breast being careful not to cut all the way through the breast.   Make the cuts 1/2" apart.
3.  In a skillet, heat 1T olive oil.  Add the spinach and cook until just wilted.  Add the cheese and the red pepper and cook until the cheese has melted.
4.  Spoon the spinach mixture into each slit of the chicken.  Season with salt and pepper.
5.  Cover with shredded mozzarella cheese and sprinkle paprika over the top.
6.  Bake for 25 minutes.  If desired, broil for the last 3-5 minutes so the cheese is extra bubbly.