Archive for October, 2007

(Cue up the Karaoke machine to “My Favorite Things”. Here we go:


“Beef steak and mushrooms, garlic, tomatoes.
Salad with blue cheese and roasted potatoes.
Fresh warm baked bread and some hot chicken wings,
These are a few of my favorite things.”


I know – dorky idea – but take the first line of my verse and you have the backbone of a dish I fixed this week that was absolutely delicious. You can be sure it will be served again and again. I happened upon it this week when looking for something on a foodie website and one thing led to another and I wound up at Epicurious.com looking at this recipe. All I needed to buy was a flank steak, although any other steak would have worked just fine.

I served it with mashed potatoes, tossed salad and peas. Try it.


1 (1 1/2 lb.) flank steak
1 1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
3 T. olive oil, divided
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 t. chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 t. dried hot red-pepper flakes
12 oz. sliced mixed fresh mushrooms (about 6 cups)
1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes in juice
Pinch of sugar

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Pat steak dry with paper towels. Mix together salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub three fourths of salt mixture on both sides of the steak.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then saute meat, turning over once, 6 to 8 minutes total for rare (depending on thickness of steak)., Transfer to a baking pan and keep warm in oven while making ragout.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Then saute garlic, rosemary, and red-pepper flakes, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and remaining salt mixture and saute, stirring frequently, and scraping up any brown bits until mushrooms are tender but still juicy, 6 to 7 minuters. Add tomatoes with their juice and sugar, then simmer, stirring occasionally until liquid is reduced by about two thirds, 5 to 8 minutes.

Transfer steak to a cutting board and pour any meat juices from the baking pan into mushroom ragout. Holding knife at a 45-degree angle, cut steak across the grain into thin slices. Serve topped with the ragout.

(My variations were slight. I added another clove of garlic and, before adding the tomatoes, I put in a splash of white wine, maybe 2 tablespoons, and reduced it to nearly nothing. I only had button mushrooms on hand. Next time I will use mixed mushrooms.)




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Vivacious Vidalias

images-1.jpgLove those Vidalia onions, full of great onion flavor, but sweet, not pungent. Their unusual sweetness is due to a relatively low amount of sulfur in the soil near Vidalia, Georgia, and in parts of 20 neighboring counties. Walla Walla onions, grown in Washington state, are similar and are the state vegetable of Washington, as the Vidalia onion is for Georgia.I never heard of them until sometime in the middle 1980’s when my mother’s neighbor gave her the recipe for a delicious onion side dish. Its simplicity belies its delicious taste – think French onion soup without the soup, or the cheese, or the crouton. OK, never mind. But trust me, it is good!I found this recipe (which is exactly the one we make) on the Vidalia onion website. The website has lots of recipes, from famous chefs and from Vidalia Onion Festival cooking contest winners. This one is from Paula Deen.Roasted Vidalia OnionsIngredients:1 large Vidalia Onion per person1 tablespoon butter per Vidalia Onion1 beef bouillon cube per Vidalia OnionPepper to tasteInstructions:1. Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. 2. Trim a slice from the top of each Vidalia Onion, and peel the Vidalia Onion without cutting off the root end. With a potato peeler, cut a small cone-shaped section from the center of the Vidalia Onion. Cut the Vidalia Onion into quarters from the top down, stopping within a half inch of the root end. 3. Place a bouillon cube in the center, slip slivers of butter in between the sections, and sprinkle with pepper.4. Wrap each Vidalia Onion in a double thickness of heavy-duty foil. Place the Vidalia Onions directly onto the hot coals and cook for 45 minutes, turning every so often. Or, bake the foil-wrapped Vidalia Onions in a 350°F oven for about 45 minutes. Serve in individual bowls because the Vidalia Onions produce a lot of broth, which tastes like French onion soup. Serves one onion per person.(Note: I always have baked them in the oven, but will try them on the grill soon. Also, I have used an equivalent amount of beef bouillon granules when I’ve not had cubes. Beware! This is not a recipe for those who are watching sodium intake. Bouillon cubes are very salty.)

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Yesterday, I began a seasonal discussion on the uses of canned pumpkin, one of which was in pumpkin pancakes. That recipe uses only 6 tablespoons of puree, leaving well over a cup left. That is enough for the pumpkin cupcakes that are such a delicious treat, very tempting to eat on the run because they need no spoon or fork. I can always convince myself to eat a cupcake, just one, of course, because it is so small. Yeah. I sometimes can convince myself to eat two, for the same reason.

Anyway, here is the recipe which I found on myrecipes.com, a treasure trove of recipes from Southern Living, Cooking Light, Coastal Living, Cottage Living, and Sunset magazines. I used to subscribe to Southern Living for the recipes in each issue and the beautiful articles on decorating, showing lovely, tasteful, traditional homes in the south.

This recipe is from Sunset magazine. I hope you like it.


1/2 c (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 T. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. milk
Orange frosting*
Candy sprinkles, optional

1. In a bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add pumpkin and vanilla and beat until well blended. (Mixture will look separated at this point).

2. In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Stir half the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Stir in milk just until blended. Add remaining flour mixture and stir just until incorporated. Spoon batter equally into 12 muffin cups lined with paper baking cups (1/3 cup capacity; cups should be about 3/4 full).

3. Bake in a 350 degree oven until tops spring back when lightly pressed in the center and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes; remove from pans and set on racks to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

4. Spoon frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch star tip and pipe onto tops of cupcakes, or spread with a knife. Decorate with candy sprinkles, if desired.

*Orange Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a bowl, with a mixer on low sped, beat 6 ounces cream cheese and 6 tablespoons butter, both at room temperature, until well blended. Beat in 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, 1 T. finely minced orange peel, and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon orange extract until smooth.

(NOTES: I had no orange extract, so I used a few drops of orange juice. It didn’t add much orange flavor. Next time I would use the extract. Also, be sure to very finely mince the orange zest. I left it too big and didn’t like the feel of the orange peel in the frosting.

If you’re counting calories, each of of these babies packs a walloping 376 calories.)

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Halloween’s coming, halloween’s coming, skeletons will be after you.
Witches’ hats and big black cats, ghosts and gobelins too.
O-O-O-O-Ooooh! Boo!

That’s the little halloween ditty I’ve been singing to my grandkids the past few weeks. They are so excited about trick or treating this year in their little costumes, one a ninja and the other a princess. To keep them in the halloween spirit, I’ ve decorated my house with ghosts, witches, bats, skeletons, and of course pumpkins, both real and artificial.

I thought this would be a good time to share some ideal fall recipes using pumpkin, the canned pureed variety, not the fresh. I have several recipes we enjoy, especially at this time of the year. Some are sweet, some savory.

Yesterday, for example, I prepared pumpkin cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting. These would be good trick or treat gifts for those children who know you well enough to be allowed to accept homemade treats. Unfortunately, the days of giving all kids apples, homemade cookies or popcorn balls are long gone. A few maniacs have spoiled that for us with their vicious tricks of pins, razor blades, and drugs hidden in goodies.

Another favorite, which we enjoyed one year at the delightful Inn at Cedar Falls in the Hocking Hills of Ohio, is pumpkin pancakes. I found a Martha Stewart recipe for it that I have made a few times when I have a partial can of pumpkin left over from making something else that calls for pumpkin puree. I will probably make them this week because I have what is left over from making the cupcakes.

Here is the recipe from Martha Stewart for “Pumpkin Pie Pancakes”.

Whisk together:
1 1/4 c. flour
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
pinch cloves

In a separate bowl, whisk together:
1 egg
6 T. pumpkin puree
2 T. melted butter
1 c. milk

Fold egg mixture into dry ingredients. Butter or oil a griddle or large skillet and heat over medium heat.

Pour 1/4 c. batter into skillet for each pancake. (Don’t crowd the skillet.) Cook 2-3 minutes for the first side and 2 for the second.

Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Nummmmmy! I like this with crisp bacon for that good sweet/salt combo that really hits the spot on a cool autumn morning.

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October 12, 2007

A few weeks ago my friends and I went to lunch for a birthday celebration for one of my knitting buddies. We had a delightful lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, a small, intimate wonderfully decorated spot with a relatively small menu of great, homemade dishes.

I was intrigued by their soup of the day, Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup, flavored with chorizo sausage, originally a Spanish creation, now common in the United States, thanks to the influence of our Mexican heritage citizens. It can be prepared as a fresh sausage or a fermented cured smoked sausage. It’s degree of spiciness, from dried smoked red peppers, varies according to the whims of the producers.

A favorite Mexican breakfast is chorizo con huevos, eggs scrambled in crumbled and cooked chorizo. It is often used to enhance stews and soups, as it was in the soup recipe I enjoyed. I enjoyed it so much that as soon as I had a chance later that same day, I did a quick search on the internet and, much to my surprise, found an identical recipe from the October 2007 Bon Appetit magazine. Obviously, the chef had been inspired by this recipe, and to my good fortune, he prepared it the day I was there to sample it.

I saved the recipe and last weekend I prepared it for lunch with grilled cheese sandwiches. It was a definite hit with me, my husband and the one daughter who was here to try it. The original recipe calls for either Portugese linguica or chorizo. I was able to find the chorizo easily so I used that. I prepared the recipe exactly as written, no substitutions or “tweaking”.

Here is the recipe, thanks to the online treasure, Epicurious, recently redesigned.

Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup
Bon Appétit | October 2007

This hearty soup gets rich flavor from linguiça, a delicious pork sausage from Portugal seasoned with garlic, paprika, and other spices. Spanish chorizo sausage is a great substitute.

Makes 8 servings

Jean Anderson

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 10- to 11-ounce fully cooked smoked Portuguese linguiça sausage or chorizo sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams; about 2 large), peeled, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 pound white-skinned potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
6 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 9-ounce bag fresh spinach

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook until brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Transfer sausage to paper towels to drain. Add onions and garlic to pot and cook until translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add all potatoes and cook until beginning to soften, stirring often, about 12 minutes. Add broth; bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Using potato masher, mash some of potatoes in pot. Add browned sausage to soup. Stir in spinach and simmer just until wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls and serve.

Epicurious.com © CondéNet, Inc. All rights reserved.

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October 2, 2007

I don’t remember exactly when it was that raspberry vinaigrette suddenly appeared on the menus of most restaurants; it must have been at least fifteen years ago. Then it started appearing on the grocer’s shelves. From nowhere to commonplace in a very short period of time, culinarily speaking.

It was such a good idea. Take something routinely tart, as a good vinaigrette is, and add the biting sweetness of raspberries. It wouldn’t work with strawberries even though a few strawberries scattered on a tossed salad with a creamy dressing does work. I can’t imagine blueberry vinaigrette, although I bet someone has tried it. But all in all, raspberry vinaigrette has been the winner in the “Come up with a New Vinaigrette” contest. It’s rather old-hat now, but still is popular.

There are many raspberry vinegars available nowadays. The strength of the raspberry flavor and also the sweetness vary from brand to brand. Some are too syrupy sweet for me and others are lacking in raspberry intensity. As I was tinkering with various combinations of ingredients for raspberry vinaigrette, I came up with a “secret” ingredient that bolstered the fruit flavor without adding too much sweetness.

I add a touch of Chambord, the black-raspberry flavored liqueur made in France. It is also flavored with herbs and honey. By itself it is very sweet, but diluted with the other ingredients in the vinaigrette, its sweetness is tempered. It does have alcohol in it, so be sure to consider your guests’ preferences or medical situations when you serve it to others.

I rarely make a vinaigrette according to strict measuring guidelines; it’s more of a hit or miss activity for me. Fortunately, it’s usually a hit. Here is my best estimate of the amounts used to produce a good raspberry vinaigrette. (If you don’t have Chambord, by all means, don’t go out and buy it just for the one-half teaspoon called for in this recipe.)


1/4 c. raspberry vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)

1/2 t. salt or to taste
1/4 t. pepper
1 t. dijon mustard
2 T. light mayonnaise
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. Chambord (raspberry liqueur)
1/3 to 1/2 c. canola oil

1. Mix the first three ingredients.
2. Add the salt and pepper, sugar and Chambord.
3. Whisk in the dijon and then the oil in a slow stream.
4. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more sugar if you like it sweeter, more Chambord, drop by drop, if you want more intense flavor.

I usually serve this on a dark green mix of salad greens, maybe a few sliced green onions, and a few fresh raspberries for a garnish.

Try it. Don’t hesitate to monkey with the amounts like I always do.


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