Friday, March 28, 2014

FFWD ~ Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India

FFWD ~ Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India

I come from a long line of soup makers.  My maternal grandmother Immie would make a large pot of chicken soup every Sunday, to the delight of her family. Sunday afternoons were when the family would congregate at her house to eat and socialize with each other!  My paternal grandmother Susan was known for her delectable vegetable beef soup. Wanting to please her new husband, my mother had my aunt write down the recipe on a scrap of paper, which I still have. Back then there was no formal recipe…it was a little of this and a little of that.  However, her soup always came out perfect! My mother-in-law’s specialty was Pea soup, although she made a great Vegetable Beef soup as well! When I first started dating my husband he brought me to his mom’s house for lunch, where I was served her wonderful Pea soup. I still remember the thick texture and aroma of that soup. My grandmother Susan and my mother-in-law always added parsnips to their soups. My mother-in-law once told my son, that parsnips were her secret ingredient to a mouthwatering vegetable soup.  In my memory, I can still see my grandmother Immie, at her old Formica kitchen table, chopping her onions, carrots and celery on an aged worn, wooden cutting board. The board distressed with knife marks. She would then add the chopped veggies to her soup for a prolonged simmer. The aroma would permeate her house.  Wonderful memories of these sensational cooks!

Thick and delicious

 Exotic and flavorful

One thing I learned, from all these creative soup makers, was that soup should simmer for hours. That way the flavors meld together, making a most incredible concoction! Someday, I will tell you about my first soup…but that’s a story for another day! Today is French Friday and it’s time to talk about our pick of the week!  Can you guess what it is? If you guessed soup…you’re right! We’re making “Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India”.  From start to finish, it takes a little more than an hour! Well, there goes everything I learned from those great ladies! The recipe is for a basic chicken soup, using canned chicken broth and no chicken…forgive me Immie!

I did go a bit rogue on this one though, hoping my husband would enjoy it. First, sautéing a few very meaty chicken thighs, along with the chopped carrots, parsnip and aromatics to make the soup more substantial.  After about five minutes, I added the Indian spices. The recipe calls for starting with ½ teaspoon of turmeric, and ¾ teaspoon of Garam Masala, red pepper flakes to taste and of course salt and pepper.  The amount of spice is pretty substantial.  I was afraid if I made it too spicy, Bill wouldn’t eat it.  Here’s were I went rogue for the second time, and added just a very small pinch of each spice!  After the veggies were softened, I added the broth and stirred in the barley. Before serving, I took out the chicken thighs, pulled off the meat, and added it back to the soup! The soup was lovely and exotic tasting.  The spices reminded me of the rijsttafel we enjoyed when we visited Holland. However, I am glad I cut the spice.  It was just right for me, with only a pinch added. 

I really enjoyed this exotic tasting soup, which was a good thing, because I’ve been eating it alone all week! Bill did not like the sweet spicy taste, even though I thought it was subtle. To his credit, he ate it the first night I served it although, he was very clear about not eating it again! Win some…lose some! Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook “Around My French Table” or at the Chicago Tribune where it has been published. To see what the other Doristas thought of this soup check it out here.

The chicken was a great addition

Friday, March 21, 2014

FFWD ~ Scallop and Onion Tartes Fines

FFWD ~ Scallop and Onion Tartes Fines

This week, our recipe for French Fridays is Scallop and Onion Tartes Fines.  They are lovely tarts, made with puff pastry, which you weight down to keep them from puffing! The topping is caramelized onions, made with bacon and layered with sliced scallops!   The first thing I thought of, when I saw the schedule for the month was…"there is no way Bill is going to eat this". You see my hubby does not do onions, at least onions he can see. If I can puree them, he will eat them…otherwise forget about it!!  I had to find a way to make these tartes, "Bill friendly".  I love onions, and these tartes sounded divine to me, but I needed an alternative for my hubby. Then I had a light bulb moment! Dorie’s “Slow Roasted Tomatoes”.  I thought they would be a perfect substitute to the caramelized onions.

Our fancy French lunch
I made two versions of these tartes, and both were easy and delicious! I started with the Slow Roasted Tomatoes, since they take several hours to cook. While they cooked, I started the onions using one large onion.  I sliced it very thin, and then caramelized it in butter and olive oil, leaving out the bacon.  While the onions and tomatoes cooked, I worked on the pastry, rolling out one frozen puff pastry sheet, and cutting it into 6-inch rounds. I placed these rounds onto a baking sheet, lined with parchment and then placed another sheet of parchment on top. I then weighted them down with another baking sheet. This recipe was actually quite easy to put together. Other then the cooking time, everything went together quickly and easily! I sliced the scallops while the pastry baked, and refrigerated them until I was ready to use them. When the onions and tomatoes were done, I spread them onto the puff pastries. I then layered on the scallops in an overlapping circle, and drizzled them with olive oil, a sprinkle of some salt and pepper, and a bit of dried thyme.  Time for the oven…I put them in a 400 degree oven for a quick few minutes to warm the scallops through (I left mine in for five minutes, I wanted more than warm) and Voilà! 

We ate these lovely Tartes for lunch! Since I’ve been cooking with French Friday’s our lunches have definitely come up a notch! There are times I feel like I’m eating in some fancy French restaurant, except I have to clean up!! We both really enjoyed our versions! Très délicieux!  Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie’s cookbook “Around My French Table” or hereTo see how the other Doristas fared with these tartes, check it out here. 

Slow Roasted Tomatoes….Ready for the oven
Caramelizing the onions
Topping spread over the puff pastry and layering the scallops

Mmmmm…very delicious!

Bon Appétit

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hello Spring ~Orzo, Arugula and Tomato Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts

Welcome Spring with this delicious Orzo, Arugula, and Tomato Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts

Happy Spring everyone! Even though the temperatures are in the 30’s and 40’s here in N.J., and in some parts of the country they are still struggling with snow, it is finally Spring! Goodbye long cold winter! Good riddance to that pesky Polar Vortex! We are winter weary! Hopefully we can put this horrific winter behind us, and move on. We still have a lot of snow on the ground, keeping my crocuses and daffodils from peeking through. The thought of long fragrant spring days makes my heart sing with happiness. I long for working in my garden, with the heat of the sun shining down upon me. Feeling the warmth of the soil between my fingers, as I dig and plant!

In celebration of spring, I chose this wonderfully vibrant and colorful salad to share with you.  Bursting with the bright citrus flavorful tang of lemon, and the peppery taste of arugula, a very tasty offering. Arugula, tomatoes, orzo, cheese and pine nuts, all add up to a marvelous texture. And did I mention the gorgeous color?  This salad is quite versatile. You can serve it as a side dish, or by adding a piece of chicken or fish and a slice of rustic bread you have a complete meal.    

Soon I will have my own arugula and tomatoes growing in my garden. Maybe that’s a bit premature…I haven’t even planted my garden yet! Despite that, before you know it, we will be eating those wonderful fresh veggies that I planted and nurtured, and the days will be full of sunshine and warmth!  That is, if the snow ever melts!

 "In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." -- Margaret Atwood

This salad always brings rave reviews
Gathered ingredients 
Cooked orzo 
Sliced grape tomatoes…toasted pine nuts
Happy Spring Everyone!!

Orzo, Arugula and Tomato Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts


1 lb. orzo cooked al dente
2 cups grape tomatoes
3 cups baby arugula washed and dried (you can substitute baby spinach)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice or to taste
¾ cup of Ricotta Salata (crumbled) or you could use feta or other cheese
¼  cup toasted pine nuts
1 ½ t. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Cook, drain and rinse Orzo in cold water
2. In a serving bowl toss pasta with olive oil and lemon juice
3. Mix well and let cool for about 10 minutes
4. After pasta cools, season with sea salt and black pepper, let sit another 10 minutes. Taste seasoning again and adjust if needed.
5. Add tomatoes, arugula and cheese, blend well.
6. Chill and serve

Monday, March 17, 2014

Grasshopper Tiramisu ♣ Happy St. Patrick’s Day ♣

Delicious Grasshopper Tiramisu

I couldn’t let St. Patrick’s Day pass, without something delicious to share! The other night, we were invited to a St. Paddy’s day dinner party. The hostess made some wonderful dishes i.e. a delectable Carrot Soup, and a wonderful Sheppard’s Pie. One of our friends brought her traditional, mouthwatering Soda Bread. I brought dessert, sensing a pattern here? I made this wonderful Grasshopper Tiramisu, I had found in Good Housekeeping. Needless to say a wonderful and delicious night!

Did I mention I just got a new I-pad? We bought it just before we left Atlanta. So, while we drove from my son’s home to ours, I got to play and read on my new toy! My son had downloaded a few magazines for the ride home, Good Housekeeping being one of them. That’s where I found this supposedly very easy recipe!

Imagine all the possibilities…pound cake brushed with Chambord, cream mixed with raspberry flavor and red food coloring, garnished with raspberries…I’m thinking Easter!
If you can find pre-made chocolate pound cake, then this recipe is quite easy. However, none of the stores I went to had chocolate pound cake already made. When I searched for recipes (on my new toy) I found just what I was looking for on All-Recipes.  It was a pretty straightforward pound cake recipe, and it had great reviews.  I baked the cake the day before I put the Tiramisu together. It was a very dense and chocolaty pound cake…heavenly!

Good Housekeeping calls this recipe a ONE-SENTENCE recipe.  The Grasshopper Tiramisu: Layer in 8 inch square pan lined with plastic wrap 2 loaves of Chocolate Pound cake, cut into ½ inch thick slices and brushed with ¼ cup of Irish Creme liqueur, and a mixture 1½ cups whipped cream, 8 oz. softened cream cheese and ¼ cup confections’ sugar; chill 3 hours, then top with shaved creme de menthe thin mints.

I thought this recipe needed some clarification and tweaks! Line your 8 inch square pan with plastic wrap. Slice the pound cake into ½ inch thick slices and brush with the ¼ cup of Irish Creme liqueur.  In the bowl of your stand mixer; whip the cream cheese, whipping cream, ½ cup of confectionary sugar, a few drops of mint extract and a few drops of green food coloring. Layer starting with the brushed cake, then the cream and so on. Top with shaved Creme de Menthe thin mints…I used Andes! This was a really delicious and pretty dessert! The cream was much better, with the extra sugar and mint extract! Hope you give it a try! Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!! 

Pound cake layered 
Ready for fridge...
Happy St. Paddy’s Day!! Enjoy!

adapted from All

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
3 cups white sugar
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. I used 2~9x5 loaf pans.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl of stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the dissolved coffee and buttermilk. Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Friday, March 14, 2014

FFWD ~ Sausage-Stuffed Cornish Hens

FFWD ~ Sausage-Stuffed Cornish Hens
This week, for French Friday, our recipe is Sausage Stuffed Cornish Hens.  I have always loved serving these cute little birds.  They make such a nice presentation at dinner parties.  My first and favorite recipe for Cornish Hens, involves a glaze and stuffing made with Amaretto!  Sounds good…right?  So, I was looking forward to making these mini chickens this week for French Fridays!

According to the U.S. a Cornish game hen, also called Cornish hen, Poussin, and Rock Cornish hen is a hybrid chicken sold whole.  Despite the name, it is not a game bird, but actually a type of domestic chicken. Although the bird is called a “hen”, it can be either male or female. Things I never knew!!

The stuffing was quite good!
One of the things I love about making Cornish hens, besides presentation, is their fast cooking time. Dorie’s recipe called for two game hens, stuffed with a sausage mixture. The sausage is sautéed (casings removed) in a frypan, with some aromatics, an egg, cubed bread, fresh parsley, and if you have the liver, don’t forget to add it to the mix.
After rinsing the birds, salt and pepper the insides, then lightly stuff with the sausage mixture. Place them in either the fry pan or another baking pan, brush with melted butter or oil, and bake for about 40 minutes.  Dorie calls for making a sauce with some white wine.  Before I placed the birds in the oven, I poured the wine into the pan that I was baking them in.
Another French Friday, another winner! We’re on a roll!  Bill and I both enjoyed this wonderful, company worthy dish! Easy…yes! Delicious…you bet! Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans’ cookbook “Around My French Table”.  You can find a very similar recipe here in the NYTimes! To see how our Doristas did with this recipe, check it out here.

These were done in 40 minutes….how quick is that?
Very delicious…a company worthy meal!  Doristas, we’re on a roll!! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Almond Olive Oil Cake with Browned Butter Glaze

Pretty Almond Olive Oil Cake with Browned Butter Glaze
A few days before we left for Florida, my friend called and wanted to get together for an impromptu dinner. “You bring the dessert…I’ve got dinner covered”, she told me.  How could I refuse? I was in the middle of packing, so I looked for something easy to bake. I found it in this delicious Almond Olive Oil Cake.
A Winner for sure!
Every so often, we get together with our friends to have dinner, watch a movie or play Hearts! It’s usually spur of the moment, and always a fun night. That night my friend MaryAnn, made a wonderful beef stew. Perfect for the winter weather we were having at the time. Hearty and comforting! Then we got down to the business of playing Hearts. I am far from being focused enough to be a good card player! However, not to brag (he he) I am the reigning queen of Hearts! That night I was the winner, and I still don’t know how I did it! That really bothered everyone else. They play to win, and pay attention to every card played! To celebrate, we had dessert…my Almond Olive Oil Cake! 

Light and delicious…a perfect cake for an impromptu get-together!
This Almond Olive Oil Cake is really easy to throw together. I didn’t even need to take out my mixer. It comes together with a whisk and two bowls! It’s light and moist, with the slight scent of almonds, citrus and extra virgin-olive oil. I used blanched almond flour, but you could use natural as well. I also used a lemon-flavored olive oil, for an extra hit of citrus! This cake would be wonderful on it’s own, with just a sprinkling of powdered sugar. This time I chose to make the Browned Butter Glaze! Not only did it taste delicious, it looked so pretty too!!  All I can say is YUM!  This cake was a winner…just like me!!

You should give this one a try….you’ll love it!

Almond Olive Oil Cake
from Serious Eats

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup blanched or natural almond flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Grated zest of 1 medium lemon or 1/4 a medium orange
1/2 cup orange juice

For Glaze:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
A few drops of fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup sliced, blanched almonds, toasted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan or springform pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to thoroughly combine them and set aside.
Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in thoroughly in both directions for about 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45 seconds. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.
Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined; continue whisking until you have a smooth, emulsified batter, about 30 more seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning. The cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back lightly when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack.
While the cake cools, make the glaze.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a small, heavy saucepan. When the bubbles subside, lower the heat and watch the butter carefully, swirling it in the pan occasionally to distribute the heat. When the butter begins to turn a light tan color and smells slightly nutty, turn off the heat and let the butter sit. It will continue to darken as it sits.
While the butter cools, sift the confectioner's sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk until completely smooth but thick, then slowly whisk in the butter. Taste the glaze and add a few drops of lemon juice to balance the sweetness. Stir in the toasted almonds. Spread the almonds and glaze onto the top and sides of the cake and let it sit until set and dry.

Friday, March 7, 2014

FFWD ~ Two Tartines from La Croix Rouge….Tartine Norvégienne and Tartine Saint-Germain

FFWD ~ Two Tartines from La Croix Rouge
Today is French Friday, and it’s my first day back home after being away for the past month. I woke to mounds of snow instead of sand dunes. However, it’s sooo good to be back home! The recipe for today’s FF is Two Tartines from La Croix Rouge. They sound so elegant, don’t they? They happen to translate into open faced sandwiches…a “no recipe", recipe really!

On our way home, we stopped in town to get a few groceries, to hold us over until I do a big shopping next week.  I already had the FF ingredients on my list. Actually, all I needed to make these lovely tartines were the salmon, roast beef and bread. I had the gherkins and capers at home. Bill was running errands, post office, hair cut, bank etc.!  I was really hungry! Rather than wait till he returned, I made the two Tartines, so that I could do my photos while the sun was still shining!

Bill and I both enjoyed these 
I bought some very nice country bread.  One, a swirl of pumpernickel and rye, and the other a rustic Italian.  For the Tartine Norvégienne, I spread a bit of butter on the bread, and layered thinly sliced salmon, a few capers and a sprinkle of black pepper. The Tartine Saint-Germain is layered with mayo, gherkins, rare roast beef, salt and pepper.  After I took my photos, I ate the roast beef tartine…it was quite tasty!  The gherkins really added a another layer of flavor to this sandwich! I saved the Salmon Tartine for Bill. I knew he would love it! In fact, he got one of each! As you can imagine, these were quite simple and really good!
Since I’ve been on the road for the past few days, my timing is a bit off. Even though I’m writing this post on Friday for French Fridays…I forgot it was Friday and Lent! I should have eaten the Salmon Tartine! Hopefully, I will soon fall back into my normal routine at home! Until then Happy Friday everyone!
If you’d like to see what the other Doristas are up to, check it out here.
Tartine Saint-Germain and Tartine Norvégienne
The French take on a sandwich….quite good
This week I went from this…..
to this….
and this! But it’s so good to be home!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Celebrating Mardi Gras with King Cake

A pretty King Cake to celebrate Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras season, or Carnival in English, refers to events and celebrations beginning on the Epiphany or Kings day.  It culminates on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, also known as Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, and refers to the last night of celebrations before the fasting begins for the Lenten season.

In New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast region, from the Florida Panhandle (where we have been staying throughout the month of February) to East Texas, it is often celebrated with a party and a King Cake. This tradition was brought to the area by colonists from France and Spain, and seems to have spread from French Alabama. King Cake parties in Mobile are documented all the way back to the eighteenth century.
A wonderful way to celebrate the season
In modern times, the King Cake of Louisiana comes in many varieties. The simplest of which, is also said to be the most traditional. It is a twisted yeast bread ring, filled with cinnamon sugar, and topped with icing.  It is then sprinkled with colored sugars in purple, green and gold. The colors of Mardi Gras! It is also tradition to hide a small plastic baby in the cake. When it is served at a party, it is customary for whoever finds the baby, to provide the next king cake or host the next Mardi Gras party.  
I have baked King Cakes several times in the past, and have even posted a version from Southern Living here.  Staying on the Gulf Coast the last few weeks, has inspired me to find another version to bake!  These cakes are more of a coffee cake and are sold in just about every grocery store in the area. In fact, the baker at Publix’s Supermarket was nice enough to give me the colored sugar topping (no charge) for my cake.  This recipe makes two cakes.  One my hubby and I enjoyed with morning coffee, and evening snack.  The second is in the freezer, where it will sit, until tomorrow when we head up to my son and daughter-in-law’s house in Atlanta! I will frost it and sprinkle on the sugars when we get there. I’m sure my grandsons will enjoy it! 

The pecans in the filling were scrumptious 
Happy Mardi Gras! 

Mardi Gras King Cake
slightly adapted from All Recipes

This is a sweet yeast dough that is filled with cinnamon, sugar and pecans. Then rolled up jelly roll style and baked. It is then glazed and topped with purple, green and gold sugars, the colors of the Mardi Gras! 

1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45
degrees C)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup melted butter

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 or 2 tablespoons of milk

1. Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
2. When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
5. To Make Filling: Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
6. Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
7. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners' sugar blended with lemon juice and milk, until you get a rather thin consistancy.