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Monday, January 31, 2011

A Touchdown of a Snack

Well, we are into the second day of the Tomato Bowl.  I am predicting victory not only for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday but for the Pittsburgh bloggers as well.  After all, we are the city that brought you the Primanti sandwich.  We are the city where the french fry is practically its own food group.  We are Pittsburgh for heavens sake.

Everyone around here is talking about the Steelers upcoming victory against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.  People are planning and there has been a run on black and gold tortilla chips at the Giant Eagle.  It's going to be a big day and an event of this magnitude requires some serious "snackage".  This is where my Cheesy Soft Breadsticks and Marinara Dipping Sauce come in.  This is a snack that will leave all other snacks in the dust.  It's a game worthy snack.

And the best part is that this recipe is so easy to make and can be prepared, for the most part, well in advance of the game.  And, if you have some marinara left over, you can do it up with a little penne on Monday night for dinner.  After all, we'll all still be celebrating.

You Little Tarte's Cheesy Soft Breadsticks and Marinara Dipping Sauce


For the Marinara:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, small diced
1 stalk celery, small diced
1 small onion, small diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can Red Pack crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine (Chianti)
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven.  Add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.  Add the wine and cook over high heat, scraping up the brown bits in the pan, until almost all of the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and bay leaf.  Cover and simmer over a low heat for about 15 minutes.
Serve hot with the breadsticks or over pasta.

For the breadsticks:

Note:  I used the Pillsbury soft breadstick dough found in the refrigerator section of the grocery.  I also used Sargento Italian cheese mix.

1 package soft breadstick dough (makes 12)
1/2 cup Italian cheese mix
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375.  Before separating the breadsticks, brush each side with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.  Sprinkle each side with half of the cheese and press it onto the dough with your hand so that it sticks.  Sprinkle each side with salt and pepper.

Separate the breadsticks at the perforations.  Lay each breadstick out on a parchment lined baking sheet and twist, preessing down the ends.  Bake for 13 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve warm with the dipping sauce.

The Tomato Bowl

Well, this is an exciting week.  The big game is on Sunday and almost everyone in Pittsburgh has Steelers fever.  There is black and gold where ever you look.  Sunday will practically be a national holiday around here.

It's also an exciting week because today is the kick off (pardon the pun) of the Red Gold / Red Pack Tomato Bowl.  What, you ask, is the Tomato Bowl?  Well, I'll tell you.   The Tomato Bowl is a contest put together by the Red Gold / Red Pack tomato people between five Pittsburgh food bloggers and five Green Bay food bloggers.  We all have one week to come up with as many recipes incorporating Red Gold / Red Pack tomato products as we can.  The team, either Pittsburgh or Green Bay, that comes up with the most wins.  As I said, it's all very exciting.

Now, here's the thing.  Me being me, of course I see this an opportunity to strut my culinary stuff.  So, I've come up with a bunch of truly delectable snack-worthy recipes for you to try on Sunday.  They're all very easy and will feed a crowd, if you so desire.  Best of all, they all contain Red Gold / Red Pack tomatoes.  It's a win win.  I get to compete in the Tomato Bowl and you get lots of new recipes fit for a party.

The really great thing about this for You Little Tarte is that we'll get some publicity and more people will drop by the blog.  This is just what we need!  It's a great opportunity for people who love food and don't know about us to become followers.  And if we win the Tomato Bowl, we get bragging rights (and lots of Red Gold / Red Pack tomato products).  Now, I usually try not to brag, but I think winning this would be brag worthy.  Don't you?

Oh, and winning on Sunday would be brag worthy too.  As I said.  A win win.

You Little Tarte's Mexican Mac and Cheese

This recipe is a spin on traditional mac and cheese.  It's colorful and very flavorful because of the addition of the peppers and tomatoes.  It's sure to be a crowd pleaser.


Kosher salt
1 pound cavatappi
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all purpose flour
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 red bell pepper. small diced
1 yellow bell pepper, small diced
1 small red onion, small diced
1 (14.5 ounce) can Red Gold / Red Pack petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed, small diced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon  coriander
1 1/2 cup fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

Preheat the oven to 375.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the cavatappi according to package directions.  Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Over medium heat, melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large pot and add the peppers and onions.  Saute until soft but bot browned, about 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and add the flour.  Stir the flour to cover the vegetables and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and then the hot milk and cook for a minute or two, until thick and smooth.  Off the heat, add the cheeses, 1 tablespoon of salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander.  Add the cooked pasta and stir well.  Pour into a 3-quart greased baking dish.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle evenly over the top of the pasta.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on top.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stay Tuned

Monday is going to be a big day on You Little Tarte.  I can't reveal plans for this week until tomorrow morning, so stay tuned and check back in the morning.  I can give you one hint through.  Not surprisingly, this week's main focus will be the Super Bowl.

See you then.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nutty for Nutella

Last Friday, when I was doodling around in my kitchen, I realized that I had one jar of Nutella in use and two in reserve.  How did that happen?  Kate loves Nutella so we always have it on hand, but usually I have only one jar on deck.  Well, as I am aging I guess I am forgetting what I have and do not have in the house, and this turned out to be a very lucky break for Kate.

For years, Nutella was practically a food group for Kate.  When she was in middle school, the doctor told us that she had to gain weight.  So, I started bulking up everything she ate with things like peanut butter and Nutella.  We would make milk shakes and chocolate pudding with whole milk and a healthy dollop of Nutella.  And she would just eat the stuff straight, that's how much she loved it.

Thus began Kate's love affair with Nutella.  I really think it's her favorite food.  She sometimes carries a jar (and a spoon)  in her tennis bag for a quick pick-me-up after practice.  I like Nutella although I don't think I'd go for it right out of the jar.  To each her own.

The point of all this is that I had been, for a long time, thinking that I could make Nutella cookies.  I had never gotten around to actually trying to and had never even looked for a recipe.  But today was going to be Kate's lucky day.  I was feeling ambitious and I had the time.

I figured that Nutella was an ingredient like peanut butter so why not take a peanut butter cookie recipe and play around with it.  I pulled out my favorite chocolate peanut butter cookie recipe and initially thought I would go half and half peanut butter and Nutella but then I decided to be bold and go for straight Nutella.   I thought the whole mixture could use a little more interest so I added  some chocolate chips.

The end result was amazing.  The cookies were crunchy around the edges and chewy in the middle.  They were pretty too, all crackly on the top.  Not bad for a first attempt.  The next time I make these cookies I think I'll add hazelnuts instead of the walnuts.  (I didn't have hazelnuts in the house.)  And I still kind of like the idea of the peanut butter / Nutella combination.  I'll share my recipes as I test them.  I love a project.

Recipe:  Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Nutella
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cream the butter in the an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the brown sugar and the granulated sugar and mix well, scraping down the sides.  Add the Nutella and combine well.  Add the eggs, one at a time and then add the vanilla.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until fully incorporated.  Fold in the chocolate chips and the nuts.  Refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes.

Using a scooper, drop the dough onto parchment lined baking sheets, making sure to leave at least 1 1/2 inches between the cookies.  Bake for 11 - 13 minutes, until the edges look crispy.  Allow to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Change is Good

For the last eight years, I have religiously read The Minimalist column in the New York Times Wednesday food section.  I "found" Mark Bittman and his wonderful column when we moved to Pittsburgh and started getting the NYT everyday.  I wish I had come to know him sooner because Mark definitely has had a huge influence on my cooking.  Now, with the end of The Minimalist column, I feel like it's the end of an era.

All of this is not to say that Mark is disappearing.  Quite the contrary.  There'll be his blog.  And the recipes  in the Sunday Magazine.  There'll be the articles in the opinion section of the Times.  And, of course, all the cookbooks, many of which I already own.  But the real bummer is he won't be there waiting for me on Wednesday mornings.  Mark also won't be with us at dinner on the occasional Wednesday night either.  So often I've read the column in the morning and the recipe, or some version of it,  ended up on our table for dinner that same night.

The thing I love about Mark Bittman and his recipes is that they feel very sophisticated without feeling pretentious.  They're accessible.  The recipes always get me thinking about using ingredients differently.  Mark's recipes have made ingredients like anchovies, sardines, and miso staples in my pantry.  I don't always follow his recipes verbatim.  Sometimes I don't really follow the recipe at all.  Instead I take the "feeling" of the dish and run with it.

My favorite Mark Bittman recipes are those that are comprised of very simple ingredients and very simple techniques but that when you eat them they feel like so much more.  They're the kind of recipes that produce that perfect little dish of pasta that you imagine Thomas Keller (French Laundry, Per Se...) would whip up in two seconds at 11:00 at night.  They're not fussy but are  hugely satisfying and a giant step up from Trader Joe's frozen fried rice.

Well, Mark.  You may be gone from my Wednesday mornings but I'll be seeing you on Sundays and on your blog.  I think it's just a little change and change is good.

Recipe:  Pasta with Sardines, Bread Crumbs and Capers
(NYT March 31, 2010)

Note:  The first time I made this pasta it was only fair because I didn't add enough of the cooking water to the finished pasta.  Make sure to reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water (even though you won 't need that much).

I have now made this pasta several times and I have noted in the recipe some of the changes I have made.


1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs, made from stale bread (*Last time I used olive bread.)
1 onion, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1 pound long pasta, like perciatelli   (*I just use spaghetti if I don't have perciatelli.)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 cans sardines packed in olive oil (*Or try a handful of pitted kalamata olives cut in half lengthwise in place of one of the cans of sardines.)
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.  Put half the oil (2 tablespoons) in a medium skilled over medium heat.  When it's hot, add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden fragrant, less than 5 minutes, and then remove.  Add the remaining oil and the onions to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until it's just tender; drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid.  Turn the heat under the onions to medium-high and add the lemon zest, capers, and sardines (and olives, if using); cook, stirring occasionally, until just heated through, about 2 minutes.

Add the pasta to the sardine mixture and toss well to combine.  Add the parsley, most of the bread crumbs and some reserved water, if necessary, to moisten.  Taste and adjust seasoning, garnishing with more parsley and bread crumbs.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Going Bananas

We all buy bananas and I suspect that we have all thrown away our fair share of bananas.  Let's face it.  Bananas don't last forever but it always seems a little wasteful to me when I have to toss them.  That's why I have quite a little library of banana cakes and quick breads.  Somehow, if I can recycle the bananas into something delicious, I feel as though all is not lost.  In fact, what's better than banana bread anyway?

I just bought a new Williams Sonoma breakfast cookbook and maybe it was the picture of the banana chocolate chip bread that got me going.  It just looked so good.  I know there are food stylists involved and that the banana bread in the photo probably isn't even edible, what with all the artful touchup that the stylists do, but it looked really good all the same.  So I decided to put those blackened bananas to good use and try out the recipe.

I want you to know that my finished product looked every bit as good as the one pictured in the cookbook. Puffed up, browned, and with a little peek of the chocolate chips and toasted walnuts, it was ready for its close-up.   (I would have taken its close-up but the batteries in my camera needed to be recharged so you'll just have to believe me.)  I used the Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips for this recipe.  I like the softer, creamier flavor of the milk chocolate instead of semisweet chips.  I also really like the shape of the Ghirardelli chips better.  Buy a bag and compare with the other chips, and you'll see what I mean.

This recipe took about two seconds to mix up.  I think it took longer to toast the walnuts (10 minutes) than it did to combine all the ingredients.  And the end result was quite nice.  It certainly gave new life to my old bananas.

Recipe:  Walnut Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
(Williams Sonoma, Breakfast Comforts)


3 very ripe bananas, peeled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.  Line the bottom and long sides with parchment paper.  Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.

Using a fork, mash the bananas in a bowl; you should have about 1 cup.  In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a third bowl, using a handheld mixer on high speed, beat together the butter and the sugar until light in color and texture, about 3 minutes.  Gradually beat in the eggs and then the mashed bananas.  Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternately with the sour cream in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed, beating until smooth.  Fold in the chocolate chips and half of the nuts.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Sprinkle the remaining walnuts on top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Turn out onto the rack and remove the paper.  Invert again, and let cool completely.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Perfect Day

By all accounts, last Friday shouldn't have been a perfect day.  To start with, the temperature never got out of the teens and it snowed off and on all day.  Kate didn't get a snow day, despite the absence of plows anywhere in the city of Pittsburgh.  She did get a two hour delay, but since she was gunning for a snow day, as far as she was concerned, going to school later than usual was a sorry substitute.  And it was laundry day.  As I said, it shouldn't have been a perfect day.  But, oddly enough, it was.

Why, you're probably thinking, was it a perfect day?  Well, I'll tell you.  It was a perfect day because I spent the entire day in my kitchen aimlessly cooking.  This is my absolute favorite thing to do, and I don't get to do it often enough.  This is not to say that I don't spend a lot of time in my kitchen, because I do.  It's just that  usually I'm more directed in what I'm doing.  I'm putting dinner together or cleaning up from a meal.  I'm not just puttering around, trolling the pantry and refrigerator for ingredients that might go together to create something that I didn't know I was dying to have.

I started out in the pantry.  I few weeks ago I was at Penn Mac, a great Italian market in the Strip District of Pittsburgh,  and they had San Marzano tomatoes on sale.  As far as I am concerned, the San Marzano tomato is the gold standard by which all other canned tomatoes should be measured.  Anyway, since I love a good buy, I bought six cans and stuck them in my too small pantry.  After the tomatoes, I remembered a ciabatta I had purchased a few days ago but had never gotten around to using.  This was starting to feel a lot like Poppa al Pomadoro, Italian bread soup.  A trip to the refrigerator revealed that I had everything there that I needed to concoct the soup.  I was off and running.

I love Poppa al Pomadoro.  Come on, bread soup.   What's not to love?  And this is the bread soup of the gods.  It's rustic and hearty and perfect for a cold winter night.  I cannot tell you when I've felt as relaxed as I did as I chopped, sauteed, and stirred.  Isn't that what cooking is all about?   Well, isn't that what cooking should be all about?

The soup was delicious.  As I said, a perfect day.

Recipe:  Pappa al Pomodoro
(Adapted from Ina Garten, Back to Basics, 2008)

Note:  One ciabatta bread is enough for both the soup and the topping.


1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
1 cup medium diced carrots (3 carrots)
1 fennel bulb, cored and medium diced (1 1/2 cups)
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 large cloves)
3 cups (1 inch) diced ciabatta bread, crusts removed
2 (28 ounce) cans San Marzano whole tomatoes
1 cannellini beans, rinsed
4 cups homemade chicken stock
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

3 cups (1 inch) ciabatta bread
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender.  Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 minutes more.  Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped.  Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, beans, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper.  Bring the soap to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375.

For the topping, toss the remaining ciabatta cubes with the olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes, until the cubes are crisp.

Reheat the soup, if necessary, and beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up.  Stir in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning.  Serve hot sprinkled with the croutons and drizzled with additional olive oil.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Bushel and a Peck

Winter is not a great time for fruit.  You have your bananas and your apples and your pears.  And you have your citrus.  But let's face it, unless you want something grown far from home in South America, you're not going to get a lot of other stuff.  That's just fine with me because I think winter fruits are not only great for eating plain, I think they are are great to cook with as well.

Yesterday Ted and I went to Soergels Orchards while Kate was at tennis.  Although tennis is a real schlep from home, one of the advantages of the schlep, besides Frank, is that it's around the corner from Soergels.  Soergels is a farm stand on steroids.  In the fall you can hardly get into the parking lot.  The place is an absolute zoo.  In the winter, after the holidays, it's much quieter but they still have lots of varieties of apples, amazing fresh pressed apple cider,  and really delicious homemade pies.  But I digress.  Ted and I stopped off and ended up walking out with a big bag of empire, golden delicious, and gala apples.

I'll bet you can see where this is going.  A week of apples.  Wrong!  The great thing about apples is that they cook down to nothing so I think that with just a little organization, I'll be though them in just a couple of recipes.  So, I think it will be more like a day or two of apples.  So there.

I often like to make a coffee cake to eat over weekend.  We can have it on Saturday or Sunday morning and then it's around for part of the week.  So, faced with a big bag of apples, I decided to go with an apple coffee cake this morning.  I scanned my cookbooks and settled on a recipe from  Williams Sonoma as a starting point.  That's the thing.  The more I cook, the more I use recipes as a starting point but not as a final destination.  The recipe looked good but lacked  zip.  No problem.  I changed it up, added a few different ingredients, and a few twists and turns later, out of the oven came an absolutely delicious apple coffee cake.

I think you're going to like my version of the apple coffee cake.  It's not too sweet and it has a thick layer of my favorite streusel on the top.   And you'll get your apple a day.  Sounds good to me.

Recipe:  Apple Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping


For the Cake:

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs
3 Golden Delicious or Empire apples, peeled, cored, and cut into small cubes

For the Streusel:

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly butter and flour a 9x13 inch baking dish.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baling soda, cinnamon, and salt.  In another bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, applesauce, zest, vanilla, and eggs.  Make a well in the flour mixture and add the applesauce mixture.  Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.  Add the apples and stir until combined.  Spread the batter in the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

To make the streusel, combine the granulated sugar,  brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl.  Stir in the melted butter and the flour.  Mix well.  Sprinkle the streusel mixture evenly over the top of the cake.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.  Cut into squares and serve at room temperature.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Provence in a Slow Cooker

It is just too cold and there's been too much snow.  That's it.  I just need a little sunshine and it's not looking good for that for at least a couple of months.  I'm from California and all this winter is just too much for me.  There, I've said it.

Kate has a very different attitude about all this bad weather.  While I don't think she loves all this cold, she is on permanent alert from December through March, waiting to hear if she has either a two hour delay at school or, even better, a school cancellation.  As I am sure you can imagine, having the day off from school makes the cold much more bearable.

I've been thinking about getting one of those happy lights.  You know, the really bright lights that simulate daylight.  The only problem with the happy light is that I would have to sit in front of it all day, everyday.  I'd never get anything done.  It's probably not my best bet in terms of productivity but at least I'd be in a more chipper mood.

But there is another solution to my problem.  Provencal food.  Wait, you say.  You live in Pittsburgh and that's a long way, both literally and figuratively, from Provence.  True.  But there are ways to bring a little Provence to the 'Burgh.    The characteristic flavors of Provence are tomatoes, basil, olives, garlic, and olive oil, and all of those things can easily be found in Pittsburgh, and, more specifically, in my pantry.  But, since it's so cold, I think I have to make it stick to the ribs (but hopefully not my backside).

Time to pull out the slow cooker.  Some nice provencal ingredients, and I'm starting to feel a lot better.  I may not have sun but at least I have sunshiney food.  Works for me.

Recipe:  Provencal Chicken Stew
(Adapted from The Gourmet Slow Cooker)


3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 chicken cut into serving pieces, skinned
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted

In a shallow dish, mix 3/4 cup flour and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt together.  Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture.

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat and add the olive oil.  Add the chicken and cook, turning once, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the chicken is browned well on both sides.  Using tongs, transfer the chicken to the slow cooker.

Set the saute pan over medium high heat and add the onion and saute until soft.  Add the 2 tablespoons of flour and saute until the flour is slightly browned.  Add the garlic and stir for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the wine and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of thr pan.  Increase the heat to high and add the tomatoes and add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook, stirring frequestly for 5 to 10 minutes until some of the tomato liquid evaporates.

Pour the onion mixture over the chicken in the slow cooker.  Cover and cool on low for 6 hours.  The chicken will be starting to fall off the bone.

Divide the chicken and the sauce among dinner plates and garnish with the parsley, basil, and olives.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Little Something Sweet

Yesterday I got a new refrigerator.  I also got a new dishwasher.  Both in stainless.  It's all very exciting.  But in cleaning out the old refrigerator I discovered that I had not one but two big boxes of blueberries.  I guess I forgot I already had some and got more.  I love blueberries so it's not a problem.  Nonetheless, we had a lot of blueberries.

Well, it's muffin time.  I love blueberry muffins, and they're so easy to make.  Honestly, I think it took me about two minutes to whip these up.  And they're really pretty.  They rise very high in the pan and have a nice domed top.   They look so delicious.  Kate is eyeing them but I'm making her wait to have one until they cool off a little bit.  After that, who knows.  I think this batch will disappear really quickly.  Almost as quickly as I mixed them up.

Recipe:  Blueberry Muffins


2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
2 cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a muffin tin or use paper liners.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and sugar.  In another bowl, combine the butter, egg, and milk.  Mix well and then pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined but do not over mix.  It's fine if the batter is a little lumpy.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tin, filling about 3/4 full.  Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, until the muffins are firm to the touch.  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a rack.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

French Sole

I am a big fan of all things French.  I love French culture.  I love French fashion.  I love France.  And I especially love French food.

Now the thing with French food is that often it's very complicated.  Sometimes technique makes it difficult to make at home.  But just as often it's the simplicity that makes it absolutely delicious.

Take sole meuniere.  Sole meuniere is classic in the most classic sense.  It's the Chanel ballet flat of French food.  It's not particularly sexy but always looks (tastes) perfect.  You don't need a lot of ingredients for sole meuniere but you do need a good dose of organization.  Once you start the preparation of this dish it comes together very quickly.  It also requires patience because although it cooks very quickly, you really do have to leave the fish alone as it's cooking so as not to disturb the formation of the crisp brown coating.  Besides that, it's pretty easy.  It's also, as I said, quick.  You can whip it up for dinner in just a few minutes and you'll look like a real gourmet.

Recipe:  Classic Sole Meuniere
Serves 2

Note:  When you can get Dover sole, go for it.  If that's not available, use any sole fillet.  I like lemon sole when I can't find the Dover.


For the Fish:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 sole fillets (3-4 ounces each)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Sauce:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
lemon wedges for serving

Preheat the oven to 200.  Have two heat proof dinner plates ready to go.

Place the flour in a shallow dish.  Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.  Dredge the fish on both sides with the flour and shake off the excess.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet over medium heat.   As soon as the oil is warmed, add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter and swirl it to melt.  Lower the heat to medium-low and place two of the fish fillets in the pan and allow them to cook undisturbed for 2 minutes.  Carefully turn the fish over and cook for another 2 minutes.  While the second side is cooking, add 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice, half of the zest, and 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter.  When the fish is cooked, carefully place the fish on one of the oven proof dish and pour the sauce over it.  Place in the oven to keep warm.  Repeat process with the rest of the fish.

When all of the fish is cooked, sprinkle the parsley over each dish sprinkle lightly with a little salt and pepper.  Garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pound Your Breasts

I grew up on chicken with bones and skin.  I think back in the 1960's and 1970's the idea of a boneless skinless chicken breast had not yet come into vogue.  In fact, I'm not sure how many chicken breasts I even was served.  I think we ate a lot more drumsticks and wings, and maybe an occasional thigh, in my house.

Now it seems that chicken parts have gone out of style in favor of the breast.  Gone are the bones and skin and in their place is the boneless, skinless breast.  I have to tell you that, yes, boneless and skinless breast meat is in fact figure friendly, but it always looks just a little naked to me.  I think if you're going to go "naked" then you have to do some serious browning to get any kind of flavor into the meat.

Brown food tastes better but it's hard to cook a breast evenly on the stovetop because there isn't a uniform thickness to the piece of meat.   This is where pounding your breast comes into play.  It's easy.  Just take your boneless, skinless breast (or actually any boneless, skinless chicken part,) and place it between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Lightly pound (more of a tap actually) the meat from the center out to a uniform thickness.  You'll see, it will cook much more evenly and you will become a fan of pounding like I am.  If you are really lucky, you might have a butcher like mine, Mark, who will do this for you.  But if you don't, never fear.  It's easy to do and reaps great results.

So, now you have these beautiful thin chicken breasts.  Here is a delicious recipe that's light and probably pretty low in calories, even though it has a little cream in it.  Make sure that when you're browning the breasts you get them to a dark, appetizing brown color.  Not only will they taste better, the whole dish will look far more appealing.  Remember, brown food tastes better.

Recipe:  Chicken Breasts with Rosemary Cream Sauce
(Adapted from Cooking Light)


2 teaspoons olive oil
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, pounded thin
Kosher Salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped scallions
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low sodium (or homemade) chicken stock
2 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons chopped scallions, for garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Liberally sprinkle chicken with kosher salt and pepper.  Add chicken to pan, and cook 3 - 4 minutes on each side, or until well browned.  Remove chicken to a plate and keep warm.  Add 1/2 cup scallions, white wine, and rosemary to skillet and cook for 30 seconds.  Stir in the chicken stick and scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.  Cook for 2 - 3 minutes.  Add cream and return chicken to the pan.  Allow to cook over low heat until cooked through, 5 - 10 minutes more.  Garnish with 2 tablespoons of chopped scallions and serve with sauce.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

To the Extreme

Last night I couldn't sleep so I got up and was flipping channels.  There are some really interesting things on television in the middle of the night.  There are lots of infomercials for things like sculpted abs and home organizing systems.  But there are also some really bizarre shows on TV in the middle of the night.

Have you ever heard of Extreme Couponing?  This show is all about people who clip coupons and can get $800 worth of groceries for $6.97.  There was one guy who purchased 1,000 boxes of Total cereal using a combination of manufacturer coupons, store coupons, and double coupons.  His net cost was $0.  He actually had the grocery store special order 1,000 boxes for him.  On the same shopping trip, he also got several hundred toothbrushes along with more deodorant than he will ever use in a lifetime.  All for free.

There was another woman profiled who walked around her neighborhood every morning collecting newspaper circulars with store coupons.  She collected hundreds of dollars worth of coupons everyday and parlayed that into thousands of dollars of free merchandise at the grocery store.

These people are really something.  One has turned his garage into a giant storeroom.  He hasn't needed to buy toilet paper in years because he has some much in his stockpile.  I want you to just take a moment to think about how much toilet paper that would be.  Scary.

I know this is a food blog and mostly we talk about food.  But I think couponing qualifies under the genre of food so I just had to mention this show.  Now, I'm all for saving money, but who has the time to walk around their neighborhood everyday collecting abandoned store circulars?

I just had to mention Extreme Couponing on TLC.  If you have the opportunity, you have to watch.  It's so bizarre that you almost have to see it to believe it.  But, whatever you do, don't stay tuned for the show right after Extreme Couponing.  It's called My Strange Addiction.  It gave me nightmares.  There was a woman profiled who slept with her blow drier and another woman who ate two ply toilet paper.  Maybe she should get together with the guy on Extreme Couponing who stockpiled toilet paper.  She could at least save some money.  Another way to be thrifty.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chicken with Some Zip

When I want lemon chicken I am not craving that gunky lemon chicken from a Chinese restaurant.  What I really want is a lightly breaded chicken breast topped with a sweet and tangy lemon sauce.  I want chicken piccata.

I had never made chicken piccata until a couple of years ago when I came across a recipe for it in an Ina Garten cookbook.  It was good but somehow it didn't quite hit the spot, which is unusual with an Ina recipe.  I liked her breading but the sauce didn't thrill me.

So, I got to work.  I tried other sauces with Ina's breading and came up with the recipe below.  It has a really nice tanginess and offsets the crunchiness of the breading well.  I think you'll like it.  Serve the chicken piccata with a some buttermilk mashed potatoes, and I promise you'll have a really delicious dinner that you'll make again and again.

On another note, I heard from our reader (and my friend) Wende, and she asked what else could be done with preserved lemons.  This is so funny because today in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette food section, there was a recipe for preserved lemons. (Great minds think alike...)   In the little blurb that accompanied the recipe, the author mentioned that preserved lemons were good in salads and rice dishes as well as stews.  I think I'll give those ideas a try, and you should too if you're feeling inspired to make the preserved lemons.

So, I think we've done well with the Meyer lemons.  Enjoy!

Recipe:  Chicken Piccata


4 chicken breast halves, skinless, boneless, and pounded thin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 extra large egg
1/2 tablespoon water
3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
Olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup capers
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
lemon slices for serving

Preheat the oven to 400.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sprinkle both sides of each pounded chicken breast with salt and pepper.

Mix 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper together in a shallow plate.  In a second plate, beat the egg and 1/2 tablespoon of water together.  Place the bread crumbs on a third plate.  Dip each chicken breast first into the flour, shaking off the excess, and then dip it in the egg and then the bread crumbs.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium low heat.  Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned.  Place the browned breasts on the baking sheet and put it in the oven while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, into the skillet add the lemon juice, broth, and white wine and bring to a boil, scraping up the brown bits from the pan for extra flavor.  Whisk in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour and boil until the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the capers, parsley, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour sauce over the chicken, garnish with the lemon slices and serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pucker Up

This week is certainly turning out to be a salute to the lemon.  I am happy to report that I am working my way through my Costco purchase in grand style.

One of the really nice things about writing this blog is that I have come back into touch with so many people from my past.  In fact, it's an added bonus I never even thought about when I first got started on this project last October. I've had dozens of emails from people I know or knew and even more from people who I have never met.  It's thrilling.  Really.

So, the point of all this is that I've gotten lots of responses on the lemons.  Suzan, a good friend of mine from California and the mother of Charlie and Kate's very best friends in elementary school in Los Angeles, thought that chicken piccata sounded good.  So Suzan, stay tuned tomorrow for my favorite chicken piccata recipe.

Steve, the father of a girl Kate used to play tennis with (Morgan is now off at college), suggested preserved lemons, which I thought was inspired.  I've actually made preserved lemons, and they are so easy that it would be a crime to either buy them or omit them from a recipe.  Often preserved lemons are used in tagine cooking and they add a unique and delicious taste to the finished product.  When you see how easy they are to make you'll feel inspired to whip up a tagine.  (Well, maybe tagine isn't quite something you just whip up just like that, but you'll feel inspired just the same.)

The Moroccan Chicken Tagine recipe below is one of my favorites.  It's very easy to make and has a really complex flavor to it.  It's simple enough to make during the week for dinner with your family but interesting enough to make for guests.  Serve it with a little couscous and you're ready to go.

And of course, who can forget lemon cake.  I have one of those for you as well but I think I'll save that for next week.  In the meantime, my lemons still look really nice in their bowl on the counter.

Recipe:  Preserved Lemons
(Gail Arnold)


2 to 3 lemons
2 tablespoons kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 250.  Cut the lemons into sixths lengthwise, sprinkle with the salt and place in a glass dish.  Cover the lemons with water and cook in the oven for 3 hours.  Allow them to cool and then refrigerate.

Note:  Preserved lemons can be refrigerated for up to 6 months as long as they are in a glass canning jar.

Recipe:  Moroccan Chicken Tagine
(Gail Arnold)


6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 large onion, grated (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
1 to 2 preserved lemons (see recipe above)
8 chicken thighs, with skin and bones
Stems from parsley and cilantro, tied with twine
1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron or 1/4 teaspoon powdered turmeric or 4 strands saffron
1 cup pitted Moroccan or Greek pitted olives
1/2 bunch Italian parsley, about 1/4 cup chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, about 1/4 cup chopped

In a large bowl, mix the garlic, cumin, ginger, paprika, salt and pepper, 1/2 cup grated onion, and the oil.

Rinse the preserved lemons, and remove the pulp.  Reserve the lemon peel for later use.

Add the lemon pulp to the mixing bowl.  Add the chicken.  Mix everything together and place in a large plastic bag to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.  (24 hours gives the chicken the best flavor.)

In a large Dutch oven, place the chicken and the marinade, add the stems of the parsley and cilantro, the rest of the grated onion, the saffron (or turmeric,) and 1 1/2 cups water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, turn down to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Remove the cover, stir the chicken and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Remove the chicken to a serving dish and cover with foil to keep warm.  Keep the sauce on the stove and begin to reduce.

Slice the preserved lemon peel into thin slices and add it to the sauce along with the olives, parsley, and cilantro.  Reduce until the sauce is just a little thick.  This shouldn't take more than about 5 minutes.

Uncover the chicken and remove the skin from the chicken.  Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More Lemons

As you may recall, I am in possession of a lot of Meyer lemons.  I bought them at Costco, where nothing comes in manageable amounts.  And while the lemons do add a bit of sunshine to the kitchen counter, I have to come up with more than lemon scones to use them up before they shrivel into nothing.

A month or two ago I made a lemon curd tart, which was so, so good.  After I poured the lemon curd into the tart shell there was a little left on the bottom of the pot.  Kate made fast work of "cleaning" the pot for me and has been asking ever since if I would make her some lemon curd to spread on toast.  Well, today is her lucky day.

Lemon curd is like the citrus spread of the gods.  It's creamy, rich, and tangy.  In short, it's perfection.  And homemade lemon curd is so much better than even the most gourmet store bought versions.  There's just nothing that isn't better with a little homemade lemon curd spread on it.  Toast and pound cake are my favorite delivery vehicles for lemon curd, but it works so well as a filling for tarts and cake layers.  As Rachel Ray would say, "Yum-O".

So today, which is only in the low 20's with snow expected, is going to be a sunshiny day for Kate.  She's going to get her lemon curd.  I hope she shares.

Recipe:  Lemon Curd
(Adapted from Ina Garten)

Note:  I have also made this recipe substituting in an equal amount of orange, lime, or grapefruit zest and juice.  Each is delicious.


2 lemons, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
pinch of salt

Remove the zest from the lemons with a vegetable peeler or zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the lemons to make 1/4 cup of juice and set the juice aside.  Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and the lemon zest.  Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and the salt.  Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes.  The lemon curd will thicken at about 175 degrees, or just below a simmer.  Remove from the heat.

Store in the refrigerator.

Monday, January 10, 2011

An Unexpected Treat

Years ago, when Kate was still little and I was accompanying her on play dates, I got to know Deborah.  Deborah and I met through a mutual friend named Heidi and we all had kids the same age.  In those days, play dates were more for the mommies and less for the babies.  Most of us mommies had recently given up careers to be at home full time with the babies so we were looking for some routine in a life marked by lack of routine.  Hence the play date.

Deborah and I hit it off immediately.  We found that we had far more in common than just our kids and we built a friendship that endures today, despite being 3,000 miles apart.  Jacob and Kate may have been the original catalyst for our friendship but like minds have kept Deborah and me in close touch all these years (and miles) later.

Deborah is a really good cook, and we spent hours poring over recipes and talking about food.   More often than not, our visits together included crackers and grapes (cut in half, of course) for the babies, and caramel tea and pound cake for us.

Before Deborah, I had never even heard of caramel tea.  She used to buy it from Fauchon in Paris and bring it home to Beverly Hills. It was really was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted.  Once Deborah turned me on to it, every time I went to Paris I brought it back for both of us.  It was so good that it was worth schlepping across an ocean.  We drank it sparingly, with a touch of milk.  It was so difficult to get that it was more valuable than gold, at least to us.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, Ted and I were in Paris and found ourselves in the Mariage Freres tea shop.  And lo and behold, what did they have but caramel tea.  It had been years since I had had it (I don't get to Paris often enough) so I bought some and brought it back to Pittsburgh with me. It was just as delicious as I had remembered.  Again, I drank it a little at a time so as not to run out too quickly.

Well, this morning I had a very pleasant surprise.  I was cleaning out the cabinet where I keep all of my teas and I spied the special caramel tea tin in the back.  When I opened it up I fully expected it to be empty but it wasn't!  The tin was about half full.  My day went from being just fine to being truly spectacular.  I got down my tea pot and set some water on to boil.  I put the tea in the little strainer and poured the water through.  I could barely wait to drink it.  Finally, the tea had steeped long enough and I poured myself a cup.  I added just a drop of milk.  It was divine and just as delicious as I remembered.

The reemergence of the caramel tea set me on a mission.  Could I find it online?  Of course I could because with a little patience you can find anything online.  And sure enough I found not only the Fauchon and the Mariage Freres caramel teas, but also a variety of other kinds of caramel tea.   Now that I've had it again, after such a long time, I find myself thinking about another pot full.  I think this calls for an online order.  If only Deborah were here in Pittsburgh to drink it with me.

You can order Fauchon caramel tea from:
Fauchon (www.fauchon.com/en/en#/buy-online

Mariage Freres caramel tea, called Wedding Imperial, is available online from:
Dean & DeLuca (www.deandeluca.com)

Recipe:  How to Brew a Perfect Cup of Tea


Loose tea of your choice
Boiling water

Starting with cold water, fill your tea kettle and put it on to boil.

While the water is heating up, prepare your teapot.  Fill it with hot tap water, let it warm, then drain it completely.

Measure into the teapot 1 teaspoon of loose tea for every cup you plan to pour.  If you take milk with your tea, add an extra teaspoon for the pot.  If you are using a mesh tea ball, don't fill it more than halfway, to allow for complete expansion of the tea leaves.

Bring the water in the kettle to a full boil.  Before steeping, pour a small amount of the boiling water over the tea leaves to allow them to open up.  Drain immediately.

Fill the teapot with boiling water.  Keep the spout of the kettle close to the teapot so the water does not cool as you pour it in. Cover the teapot and leave the tea to brew (black teas 4-5 minutes, green teas 3 minutes).

When the tea is ready pour and serve the tea.  To keep the tea warm through several cups, cover the teapot with a tea cozy.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Bowl of Lemons

Yesterday Ted and I went to Costco.  I love Costco.  Where else can you buy tires, raspberries, and reading glasses all in one convenient stop?  Every time I go there I tell myself that I'm going to use some self control and buy only what's on my list.  Unfortunately, it never quite works out that way because they always have so much good stuff that I simply can't live without.

The box of Meyer lemons I came home with yesterday is a good example.  Now, it's true that  I do go through a lot of lemons.  They add a nice little sparkle to lots of different dishes.  But did I really need 15 Meyer lemons?  Probably not.  They just looked so cheerful in their little plastic box and Meyer lemons are so delicious that I couldn't pass them up.  So, now I have 15 Meyer lemons and it's not even lemonade season.  What to do, what to do.

Well, when life gives you Meyer lemons, make lemon poppy seed scones.  Meyer lemons are sweeter than your run of the mill lemons and they have delicious, juicy zest, a key component in lemon scones.  Lucky for me that I also bought butter at Costco, because the recipe I use for scones uses 3/4 of a pound, which is a lot of butter, especially if you're only buying it one pound at a time.  But, Costco being Costco, the butter comes in a  four pound package so I was in good shape to make scones and not dip into the butter I needed for the week.

I don't actually know where I got this recipe.  I've been using it for a long time as a basic scone recipe and I just substitute in whatever flavorings I feel like.  The last time I made them I used dried cherries and almonds, and they were really good too.

So anyway, I made these scones this morning.  They were light and airy, the way a scone should be, not like those little rocks they call scones at Starbucks.  These are very easy to make and only take a few minutes, so if you're feeling inspired on a Sunday morning you can whip them up and look like you really have it all together (even if you don't).

Recipe:  Meyer Lemon and Poppy Seed Scones


4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated zest of meyer lemon
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
4 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup heavy cream
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water for egg wash
sugar for sprinkling
1 cup confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed juice of meyer lemon

Preheat the oven to 400.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, kosher salt, lemon zest, and poppy seeds.  Pulse a few times to combine well.  Add the cold butter and pulse until the butter us cut into pea sized pieces.  Combine the eggs and heavy cream in a small bowl.  While pulsing, add the egg and cream mixture to the dry ingredients through the feed tube.  Pulse until just combined.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured counter or board.  Knead lightly and then form into a circle, about 3/4 inch thick.  At this point, you can either cut the circle into wedges or use a round cutter to create round scones.

Place the cut scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush the top of each scone with the egg wash and then sprinkle lightly with a little granulated sugar.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time.  The scones will be golden brown and firm to the touch when they are done.

Transfer the baked scones to a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes.  In the meantime, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice,  Drizzle the glaze over the scones and all to continue cooling.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Recipe for Happiness

Since it's a new year, I have been looking back and moving forward.  In doing that, I have been thinking a lot about what really makes me happy.

This is a huge question.  What makes me, or any of us, happy?  It occurred to me that I didn't really know the answer to that question, and so I started to think about it concretely, not conceptually.  I could identify what would make me happy if it ever happened, but not specifically what makes me happy today.  So I started to pay attention to those little things that really bring me happiness.

The list was incredibly reassuring and was filled with occurrences  that happen every day, or at least could happen every day.  Little things that all kind of come together to make me a happier me.

I'm not going to share the whole list because, well, because.  But I am going to give you a couple of the highlights, at least as far as I'm concerned.

1.  When Kate says "love ya."  Kate cannot leave a room, get out of the car, or end a phone call with either Ted or me without saying "love ya."  When she was little she used to wait for us to say it back (every single time) but now it's more her thing.  I find it incredibly sweet that my 15 year old daughter still feels comfortable telling me she loves me, no matter who's around.

2.  When Charlie calls from college to get the family gossip.  When he was still living at home I couldn't get his attention for more than 30 seconds.  I would ask him to check in when he was out and he always "forgot."  It makes me happy that now he wants to know what's going on at home.

3.  When my sister Jill and I talk about what we're making for dinner.  She lives 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles and it makes me feel like she's around the corner, knowing what's cooking at her house.

4.  When Ted proofreads my blog for me.  It's become a nightly ritual.  I may be able to get it all down, but Ted is a master punctuator.  Believe me when I tell you, You Little Tarte would not be nearly so much fun to read without Ted and his commas and syntax.

5.  And now for something kitchen/food related.  Fresh lemons in a bowl on the counter in the kitchen never fail to make me happy.  They're fresh, bright, and smell really good.  Fresh lemons can bring a little sunshine to even the gloomiest winter day.

I hope you have a nice day.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Polar Expedition

My basement freezer is like a black hole.  There are all kinds of things in there, and I have no idea what any of them are.  It always seems like such a good idea to save a little soup or a little spaghetti sauce when I have leftovers, but all too often those containers fall into the deep, dark hole that is the basement freezer.

The other day I felt ambitious and decided to clean out the freezer.  I have just one thing to say and that is, what was I thinking?  It was like going on an expedition to the North Pole.  It was cold, dark and full of things I couldn't identify.  I don't think I'll ever do that again.

But I did uncover some good things.  There were two quart containers of marinara sauce I made about six weeks ago.  (I may not know exactly what's in the freezer from sight, but everything is meticulously labeled with the contents and the date.)  Anyway, I actually remembered that marinara sauce -- it was really tasty -- so I decided to do the big thaw and see if I could recycle it into something interesting for dinner.

Now, I have to start out by saying that my kids do not like lasagna, but I do and so does Ted.  So, since Charlie isn't even here and that just leaves me with Kate, I decided that she could make do for one night.  I got to work making a lasagna.

I foraged in the kitchen refrigerator and pantry and found that I had all the ingredients I needed to make the mother of all lasagnas.  (You know you have a lot of food in the house when you have 4 cups of shredded mozzarella just laying around.)  The good news is that not only did I get to use up a lot of stuff, we got a really delicious dinner out of it.

Recipe:  Nadine's Lasagna


1 box lasagna noodles
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound sweet italian sausage, casings removed
2 quarts marinara sauce (homemade or in a jar)
4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 ounces goat cheese
1 15 ounce container ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup italian parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375.

Prepare lasagna noodles according to package instructions.  (I use the Barilla No-Boil Lasagna Noodles.)

In a medium bowl, combine, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, the ricotta, goat cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan, italian parsley, and eggs.  Set aside.

In a medium skillet, over medium high heat, brown the ground beef and the sausage.  Drain.

To assemble lasagna:

1.  Spread one cup of sauce on the bottom of a 13x9 casserole dish.
2.  Layer 4 lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the cheese mixture, half of the browned meat, 1 cup mozzarella, and
     1 cup of sauce.
3.  Layer 4 lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the cheese mixture, and 1 1/2 cups of the sauce.
4.  Layer 4 lasagna noodles, the remaining cheese mixture, the remaining browned meat, and 1 cup of
     the sauce.
5.  Layer 4 lasagna noodles, the remaining sauce, the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella, and the remaining
     1/4 cup of Parmesan.

Bake, covered with foil, for 1 hour, and then remove foil and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Cookie Thing

A perfect cookie is a beautiful thing.  It seems like it would be easy to accomplish, making the perfect cookie, but I don't think it is.  In fact, I think that the simpler the food, the tougher it is to achieve perfection.  And besides, what's perfect anyway?

As you may have figured out by now, I love to bake and I especially love to bake cookies.  And I'm not picky.  I love all kinds of cookies -- crunchy, chewy, and cakey.  In fact, I don't think I've ever met a cookie I didn't like.

One of my all time favorite cookies are peanut butter.  I mean, how can you go wrong?  They're both salty and sweet and go well with chocolate chips.  I've tried lots of different peanut butter cookie recipes over the years and have sort of mashed them all together to come up with the recipe below.  Let's just call it a little of this recipe and a little of that recipe all coming together to make a really nice peanut butter cookie.

When I made these earlier today, one of my best taste testers was here, Joe, my painter.  Joe has an opinion on almost every subject, and he proclaimed these to be delicious.  And, believe me, he would have told me if they weren't up to par because, as I said, he has a lot of opinions.  His crew liked them as well.

So, having gotten Joe's stamp of approval, I'm passing this recipe on to you.  Feel free to use bigger chocolate chips than I have but I like the little flecks of chocolate the mini chips create.

Recipe:  Nadine's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 stick plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325.

Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together in a freestanding mixer.  Mix until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl.  Add the vanilla and the peanut and continue to mix to incorporate.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix well until a smooth dough is formed.  Add the chocolate chips and mix until evenly dispersed.

Drop 12 equal amounts of cookie dough on each parchment lined cookie sheet.  Make sure the cookies are spaced to allow for spreading during baking.  Bake in the preheated oven for 13 minutes, rotating once during baking.  Cool the cookies slightly on baking sheets and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Back to the Routine

I don't know about all of you, but frankly I'm glad it's January 3rd.  It was great having everyone around over the holidays, but I'm ready to get back to something resembling a routine.  I feel like I've spent the last couple of weeks just trying to stay one step ahead, and I haven't been very successful at it.

So now that Charlie has gone back to college, Kate has gone back to high school, and Ted has gone back to the office, I can go back to being the organized person I always wish I could be.  And, for me, being organized means getting the laundry done, the house cleaned up, and dinner prepared before I leave to take Kate to tennis in the afternoon.

It's sunny but very cold here today.  It's a good night for Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic.  I have to tell you, it's so easy and so completely satisfying that it's the kind of meal I look forward to all day.  It doesn't take long to put together and it tastes far more complicated than it actually is.  Some mashed potatoes to sop up the sauce, green beans, and a salad, now that's what I think of when I think of cold weather food.

So, that's what we're having for dinner tonight.  How about you?

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
(Adapted from Barefoot in Paris, 2004)

Note:  I am lazy.  Because this recipe calls for so much garlic, I actually buy it at Costco already peeled.  Also, My family mostly likes white meat, so I usually have the butcher give a four half breasts and four thighs instead of the 2 whole chickens.


40 cloves of garlic (approximately)
2 whole chickens, cut into eighths or see note
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons Cognac, divided
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Dry the chicken with paper towels.  Season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat the butter and the oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  In batches, saute the chicken in the fat, until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side.  Turn with tongs; you don't want to pierce the skin with a fork.  If the fat is burning, turn the heat down to medium.  When a batch is done, transfer it to a plate and continue to saute all the chicken in batches.  Remove the last chicken to the plate and add all the garlic to the pot.  Lower the heat and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned.  Add 2 tablespoons of the Cognac and the wine, return to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return the chicken to the pot with the juices and sprinkle with the thyme leaves.  Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for about 30-45 minutes, until all the chicken is done.

Remove the chicken to a plater and cover with foil to keep warm. In a small bowl, whick together 1/2 cup of the sauce and the flour and then whisk it back into the sauce in the pot.  Raise the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of the Cognac and the cream, and boil for 3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce and the garlic over the chicken and serve.

One more note:  I make this whole thing earlier in the day.  Once it is cooked, I refrigerate it, covered, and then when it's time for dinner, I reheat it slowly over a medium low heat and serve it directly from the pot.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Fresh Start

While I have chosen not to make resolutions this year, I cannot say the same of my daughter.  Kate informed me the other day that her new year's resolution was to eat healthier.  Now there's a resolution I can get my arms around.  You go girl!

Kate eats constantly.  She eats her meals and pretty much immediately needs a snack.  She's a good eater and has never been picky.  She likes fruits and vegetables but Kate also loves candy.  And her snack of choice would always be candy if I allowed it.  The resolution plan, she told me, was to cut back on the candy and sweets and "add more of the good stuff".

So, I started thinking about what I could keep around the house so that she could make better snack choices.  (Even if I'm an unsuccessful resolution keeper, there's no reason she should be one too.)  For starters, we need to ditch all the leftover candy hanging around the house from the holidays.  Done.

Next I need to get the right stuff into the house so there are good choices easily available.  I always have fruits and vegetables, but, let's face it, a carrot isn't all that thrilling.  So, what can we do to a carrot  (besides dipping it in a gooey sour cream concoction) that will make it more "exciting"?

Salsa.  Not just the crappy stuff from the grocery store, but really good homemade salsa.  Now we're talking.  Tomatoes, cilantro, peppers.   And the nice thing about making your own salsa is that you can control the heat.  Kate doesn't really go for the super hot so I can put some in a container for her and then add more peppers and have some for Ted and me.

Homemade salsa with fresh veggies or homemade tortilla chips sounds like a good start to 2011 to me.

Quick Homemade Salsa


4 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped (more or less to taste)
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let the salsa sit, covered, in the refrigerator, for an hour or so before serving so the flavors can blend.

Homemade Tortilla Chips


12 6-inch white corn tortillas
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Brush both sides of the tortillas with the vegetable oil.  Stack the tortillas and cut the pile into sixths.  Spread the chips out in a single layer on one or two baking sheets and sprinkle with the salt.  Bake until golden brown, turning once, about 15 minutes.