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Friday, September 27, 2013

Another Fix

When you write a food blog, you're constantly searching for inspiration.  Actually, it's not inspiration as much as it is a new take on things you've made 100 times already.  At least that's the case for me.

My family is either blessed or cursed with the fact that they rarely eat the same thing twice.  Or at least twice in a year.  Some families have the same roast chicken recipe for dinner every Friday night.  It's the old "if it's not broke, don't fix it" approach.  In our house, it might be a roast chicken, but you can bet that it's a different roast chicken every time.

I'm like an addict.  I'm constantly looking for my next score, although my drug of choice is a new take on roast chicken, or mashed potatoes, or in this case, banana bread.

Two things happened this morning.  One is that I packed a weekend bag because we are going to New York to see Charlie.  I'm very excited about this because we haven't seen him since he moved there back in early July.  A lot has happened since then -- most importantly, he's become a member of the working world.  Any parent out there will know what I mean when I say that it's one thing to talk on the phone, and quite another to actually have a face to face conversation, so I'm very happy to get to do that.  It's also his 22nd birthday and we are thrilled to get to spend it with him.

The other thing that happened was that I noticed that I had four really ripe bananas.  This, as you might imagine, is not an unusual or particularly unique occurrence in my house.  But, in a true case of serendipity, our visit to see Charlie (who loves everything I bake), and my overripe bananas combined to create... an opportunity to try another banana bread recipe!

Since I make banana bread all the time, I am always in search of new recipes for said banana bread.  I decided to consult with my good friend Google to see if there were any recipes out there that I may have missed the other 10 trillion times I looked for banana bread recipes.

Hard as is it for me to believe, I realized that I have never made Smitten Kitchen's Jacked Up Banana Bread.  This didn't seem  possible because I love, love, love Smitten Kitchen.

Of course it was divine, and of course you should all make this.  It's a fairly straightforward recipe except that it calls for bourbon in the batter.  What could be better?  What could appeal to a young 20's guy more?  Bread with booze -- all your major food groups.

Happy birthday Charlie.

Recipe:  Elise’s Friend Heidi’s Friend Mrs. Hockmeyer’s Banana Bread, As Jacked Up by Deb
Adapted from Simply Recipes and Smitten Kitchen

No need for a mixer for this recipe — need I say more?


3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter
3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar (depending on the level of sweetness you prefer, I always use the smaller amount)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour


Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Note the all black motif...
French women know how to put together an outfit.   I'm certain that they know lots of other things too -- like how to run major corporations and how to properly slice a melon -- but the fact remains that they always look smashing doing whatever it is they're doing.  Even if it's just walking down the street..

How do they do it?  

My friend Deborah is as close to a Parisian woman as I'll ever come.  She lived in Paris for a couple of years during college, and she's remained très chic ever since.  Not being a complete idiot, I decided to check in with her about what to pack for my trip.  I figured that even though there would be no mistaking me for anything but American, I could look like a  American with a certain amount of je ne sais quio.

Apparently, according to Deborah, the key is black.  Lots of black.  Okay.  I can handle black.  I live in a city where getting dressed up means wearing black pants.  Year round.  And I have a lot of black clothes because they're slimming.  So I'm good on the black.

Scarves are the main staple in the accessorizing area.  This was good news to me as well.  For years I have been acquiring the most beautiful scarves, most of which I never wear.  In fact, Charlie's favorite place to shop back when Ted was financing the presents, was Hermes.  As a result, I have a drawer full of spectacular Hermes scarves.  You can't get more French that that.
A French woman's best friends...  Foulards

So,  I had the black and the scarves covered.  The rest was easy.  White shirts and black shirts.  Oh, and a navy shirt.  Apparently it's very chic to wear black and navy.  I always think of black and navy as being a little bruise-like, but I went with it.  Black shoes, dress, jacket, and bag and I all was set to be French-ish.

I am not going to say that anyone mistook me for anything but an American, but at least I wasn't wearing running shoes or a fanny pack.  Or mom jeans.  (I actually did see that actual combination.) 
Not a Parisian
And you know what? I got it all into a carry on bag.  No checked luggage for me, which also is apparently very chic.

And the black and navy? It worked too.

Now for today's recipe.  Salads are a big deal in France.  They're on every menu in every cafe at lunchtime.  But they're not the big, hulking salads Cheesecake Factory serves.  They're deceptively simple and so delicious.

One day for lunch I had this French take on the Caesar salad.  I didn't take a pictures -- which is shocking because I took pictures of everything -- so you're going to have to visualize until I can make this at home and take a picture then.  Just be creative but remember, less is more.

Recipe:  Caesar Salad with Chicken


2 heads of baby romaine lettuce, cut in half lengthwise but left in tact
4 slices of boneless skinless roasted chicken breast
4 anchovies
About 1/8 cup of shaved parmesan
2 hardboiled eggs, sliced 
1 medium tomato, quartered
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Caesar dressing (see below)


Lay the 4 pieces of romaine across an oval or rectangular plate, leaving space in between each piece.  Attractively and at a slight angle, lay the roasted chicken slices over the lettuce.  Lay the anchovies over the chicken, and fan the hardboiled eggs and the tomato along the edges of the plate.  Sprinkle the parmesan and the croutons (not too many) around the salad, and then drizzle the dressing lightly.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe:  Caesar Dressing
Fine Cooking


1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 oil-packed anchovies
4 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 large egg yolk
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated (1/2 cup)


Note: This recipe contains a raw egg. If that’s a concern, use a pasteurized egg.

In a liquid measuring cup, combine the canola and olive oils. Put the remaining dressing ingredients except the Parmigiano in a blender and blend until thoroughly combined. With the motor running on medium high, carefully pour in the oils in a slow, steady stream. The dressing will emulsify as soon as all of the oil is incorporated. Stop the motor, add the Parmigiano, and quickly blend to combine. (You can store the dressing, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

La Bonne vie à Paris

As you may recall, Ted and I had our 25th wedding anniversary over the summer.  For years, or at least for the last couple of years, we have been talking about how to appropriately celebrate such an important event.

Nice present.  Check.

Celebratory dinner out. Check.

France.  Vérifier deux fois.

Yup.  We went to France for our 25th anniversary and it was très magnifique.

I have to start by saying that Ted is an excellent travel agent.  He has been planning our trips, without the aid of a travel agent, for years.  He's planned trips to such far flung destinations as the Amazon and Angkor Wat.  He's planned musical tours of the deep south.  Ted has planned college visiting trips, and he has planned camp visiting weekends.  He is our own personal tour guide.

The Rosenthals are a touring family.  While other families may elect to spend a week on a beach somewhere, our family is up and out with the sun, taking in the sights and tastes of wherever we are.  Even if it's a beach.  As you might imagine, this has lead to a lot of complaining from the kids about vacations not being well, vacation-y.

But here's the good news.  The kids didn't come with us.  Charlie is living and working in New York, and Kate is at college in New England.  As a result, we were free to tour to our heart's content.  But the funny thing is, we didn't.  Ted and I have been to France many times, so this time we did some light sightseeing and sort of... hung out.

And it was divine.  We ate (too much) and drank (way too much).  We saw beautiful art (never enough) and stopped into far too many shops.  Needless to say, it was très fantastique.

One of my favorite things we did was go to a street market in Paris.  The French are all about their ingredients, and nowhere is that more evident than in their gorgeous street markets.  The produce is absolutely delectable.  The fruit is more vibrant, and you can almost taste the vegetables they're so stunning.  The cheese, well... it's France.  Need I say more?

So, I'm going to start my little overview of France with some pictures from the market and a couple of recipes inspired by those magnifique ingredients.

Bon appétit.

Recipe:  Pasta with Bacon, Rosemary, and Very Ripe Tomatoes 
Melissa Clark, Cook This Now, 2011


3 ounces bacon, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large, bushy sprig fresh rosemary
1 fat garlic clove, minced
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 very large tomatoes (or 3 medium, a mix of yellow and red is nice), cored and chopped
8 ounces pasta shape of choice
Soft herbs if you want this to look pretty


Bring a pasta pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until brown, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the grease in the pan. Add the rosemary, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the skillet and cook until garlic is lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and let the sauce simmer until the pasta is cooked. Season aggressively with more salt and black pepper.

Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain.

Serve the sauce on the pasta and toss with the bacon and herbs if you like.


Green Bean Salad with Walnuts and Walnut Oil
Melissa Clark, Cook This Now, 2011


1/3 cup walnuts
3/4 pound haricot verts, trimmed
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional taste
1 1/2 tablespoon walnut oil
3/4 teaspoon chopped tarragon


Preheat the oven to 350.  Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet.  Toast until gold, 7 to 10 minutes,  Let the nuts cools, then chop them coarsely.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Drop in the green beans and cook until bright green and just shy of being crisp tender, 1 to 2 minutes.  Plunge into an ice bath and then drain well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Whisk in the walnut oil and the tarragon.

In a bowl toss together the walnuts, reserving a few for sprinkling on top, the green beans, and dressing.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Serve at room temperature with the reserved walnuts sprinkled on top.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hot Pepper

I am still dealing with this spring's poor judgment.  That's right.  I am still getting two CSA baskets every week and as such, I am still overwhelmed by fresh produce.  I should also note, that if kale is in season at one farm, it's a sure bet that kale will be in season at all the other farms that also grow it.  Needless to say, there's a lot of duplication going on around here.

Such is the case with this week's over abundance of banana peppers.  Truthfully, I don't think I've ever even eaten a banana pepper, and now between my two CSA's, I have 12 to use before they go bad.

What to do?  What to do?

Stuffed peppers.  That's what to do.

I've stuffed other kinds of peppers, but never banana peppers.  And I've seen stuffed banana peppers on menus in restaurants, but I've never tried them.   I'm an adventurous gal and there's no time like the present.

An exhaustive review, (well, not so exhaustive -- more a perusal), of Google reveals that there are as many variations on the theme of stuffed banana peppers as there are on marinara sauce.  Each offered it's own little twist, but basically all encompassing the same general ingredients: sausage, egg, bread crumbs, and onion.  Think of a stuffed pepper as kind of a meatball stuffed into a pepper.

Having now been armed with stuffed pepper basics, I decided that this was area where I could just wing it.   Since there's really no cooking chemistry involved in making stuffed peppers, I went through my pantry and came up with my own take on this classic.  I don't know how classic my peppers were, but they were certainly tasty.

So here goes.  Let me know what you think.

Recipe:  Stuffed Banana Peppers


8 banana peppers
1 pound turkey italian sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dried italian bread crumbs
2 cups marinara sauce
1/2 cup shredded ricotta salata


Preheat oven to 350F.

Cut off the tops of the peppers, and remove the ribs and seeds.  (I use a grapefruit knife to do this.)  Chop edible portions of the tops, set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Cook the reserved pepper, onion, and garlic until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine the sausage (remove casings if the sausage came in links), egg, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, oregano, and basil.  Add the reserved cooked vegetables.  Mix well, making sure to combine all the ingredients evenly.

Using your hands (or a sausage stuffer if you have one), gently stuff the sausage mixture into the hollowed out peppers, taking care to completely fill the cavity.  Spread about 1/3 cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom of the baking dish and place the stuffed peppers in the dish.  Cover the peppers with the remaining marinara, and sprinkle the top with the ricotta salata.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the sausage is cooked, the peppers are soft, and the whole assembly is bubbling.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cookie Monsters

With both of my kids out of the house, there's probably not going to be a lot of cookie baking going on around here.  Don't get me wrong.  I would love for there to be a lot of cookie baking going on, but my waistline would not be quite so appreciative.  So I will have to reserve my cookie production to those times when one or both of the kids come home to visit.

All of this is not to say that I didn't get a last batch in before Kate left.  The key was that I didn't really want them left after she was gone, so they had to be really good.  In fact, they had to be so good that the cookie jar would be empty concurrent with Kate's departure to college.

The good news was that on our way up to Maine, we were stopping off for lunch and a visit at Ted's Aunt Ann's house in Cambridge, MA.  Me being me, I couldn't arrive empty handed so these cookies made their way northeast with us.

These cookies are a perfect example of finding recipes in the least likely places.  I found this recipe on Facebook.  Who knew that amongst all the nonsense that everyone posts on Facebook, there would be a recipe worth pursuing.

What made this recipe interesting to me was the inclusion of instant pudding mix in the batter.  Back in the day, my mother's signature cake was a "Like Miss Grace's Lemon Cake", which included lemon jello, I think.  Who knows?  I just remember there was a little box of something that was incorporated into the batter.  I also remember how delicious that cake was, and I attribute that deliciousness much more to the jello than to my mother's skill as a baker.

But back to the pudding in the cookie batter cookies.  I whipped up the cookies, pudding and all.  I fiddled with the recipe a bit by using milk chocolate chips instead of semisweet chips (either would be fine), and a little more vanilla because you really can never have too much vanilla.  And, while a little softer than my standard chocolate chip cookie recipe, they were quite good and definitely worth a try.

And while you're at it, if you still have cookie eaters at home, give my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe a try (see above).

Recipe:  Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies


1 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 small package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups milk chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars.  Mix on medium speed until they are light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla, and then the pudding mix.

In a separate bowl, combine, the flour and baking soda and then add to the wet ingredients in the mixer,.  Do not over mix.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoonful onto a prepared baking sheet, nine to a sheet.  Bake for 9-10 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.