A Quick Trip to Barcelona

For Russ’ birthday dinner celebration (other than the porterhouse steak feast enjoyed at home a few days prior), we took a quick trip to Barcelona—no, not in Spain, but the Barcelona Wine Bar nestled among the destination restaurants on Philly’s hottest food strip. Located on a triangular corner on East Passyunk Ave, it’s a very hip dining spot with an industrial, eclectic décor vibe that includes a dressmaker’s dummy in a glass case.

It’s a raw, fun space with cinder block walls and concrete floors. I read that some of the lights were recovered out of a warehouse and some are actually chicken feeders! There’s a “jigsaw puzzle” wall made of wood slabs with spaces between them which breaks up the large room, loosely dividing the dining area from a big white marble U-shaped bar lined with high stools.



After following the crazy directions given by the car GPS system, we were thrilled when we found a parking spot just a few short steps from the front entrance. It had been raining on and off all day, and the humidity was through the roof so we opted to dine inside as opposed to their spacious outdoor patio—which BTW, was packed by the time we departed a few hours later.


Thank goodness we’d snuck a peek at their extensive wine list ahead of time, because it is pages and pages long (over 450 bottles strong) and would’ve taken forever to make a decision if we’d come in unknowingly. As one of the largest Spanish wine programs in the US, they offer an extensive selection from Spain and South America, and Russ had narrowed it down to several, finally deciding on the Azul Temperanillo.

As you know, I rarely eat bread but when the basket arrived with thick, still-warm-from-the-oven crusty slices and a pour of really good extra virgin olive oil, I knew I’d have to sample it. WOW, what a perfect start! Now to make some savory selections…


Starters were from the Charcuterie & Cheese menu with a selection of three for only $17.50. Our choices included Idiazábal, a smoked raw sheep’s milk cheese from the Basque Country served with a small dollop of quince paste which perfectly paired with the nutty and robust flavors. The Valdeón was a tangy and spicy goat and cow’s milk blue cheese from the Castilla-León region and made a perfect counterpoint to the mound of paper-thin slices of Segovia-raised Jamón Serrano, a dry-cured Spanish ham, and an all-time favorite for Russ.

Of the more than 30 different Tapas listed, we selected five with a variety of vegetables and meats, some priced as low as $4.50 per plate. (There are also vegetarian and vegan options.) We asked our waitress Randi to bring out the dishes slowly starting with our choices of two veggie tapas, the very tasty Piquillo Peppers in a garlic confit with thyme, and the Champiñones, succulent mushrooms marinated in garlic and scallions.


Next up were the Albondigas, a quintet of delicious spiced meatballs bathed in a ham-tomato sauce. The last arrivals were the Patatas Bravas wedges plated with wooden spears into a salsa brava and yummy garlic aioli; and four perfectly round and delicately fried Jamón & Manchego Croquettes lined up over a swath of that same garlic aioli. These were almost a little too rich for my taste.



When Randi came back to check on us, she saw one potato wedge left and refused to clear the plate until Russ popped it in his mouth. By this time I couldn’t eat another bite, but Russ felt compelled to finish his birthday celebration with a sweet treat and landed on the Crema Catalan Flan and a cup of Café Con Leché. BTW, in case you’re not in a tapas mood, the menu includes several Ensaladas, a few meat entrees and a handful of Paellas to share.


As we were leaving, Russ received a token for his birthday and we also got another at our departure for having filled out the short survey when we got our tab. One was for a complimentary drink and another for a free tapa. Aw shucks, I guess we’ll have to make another short trip to Barcelona soon…



Up, Up and Away…

…In my beautiful, my beautiful, hot air balloon… cookies for Maddie’s 1st birthday. Who’s Maddie? I’ve never met the adorable little bundle of joy, but Russ works with her mom Shin. It so happens whenever I make my decorated sugar cookies, Russ’ coworkers are the happy recipients of the “extra” cookies which he dutifully totes into the office. And Shin LOVES them! She admitted to having five the last time Russ brought some in.

So apparently Shin got to thinking they would make a great addition to her pastel-palette, hot air balloon-themed daughter’s 1st birthday party (for 100 people no less!) I received a text from her one week before deadline, which would necessitate Russ to deliver them via a work transfer toward the end of the week (because Shin and her family live nowhere near us.) Not a lot of time to plan, purchase, bake and decorate—but I sometimes work better “under pressure” (the melody to Queen’s song playing in my head.)


Knowing from past experience that each batch makes 2-3 dozen—depending on size of the cookie cutter—I made three batches of dough. But I had to wait a day to cut out and bake them until the cookie cutters that I ordered through Amazon were delivered (to add variety, I decided to also make some “1” cookies.) After all were cut out and baked, it made just over 6 dozen, with the leftover two cookies going to Russ for taste-testing purposes 😉

Shin’s color scheme included touches of gold so I dabbed on a bit of gold powder on the basket portion of the cookies and added two edible gold stars on the chute portion. The number “1” treats also each contained a gold star as part of the decor.

While the cookie dough itself is easy-peasy, if you’ve never worked with Royal Icing, it can be a bit tricky and takes patience and practice to get the feel of the consistency and technique for both the piping (which is stiffer) and flooding (which is thinner). And, if like me, you start getting elaborate with the designs, it can take hours, even days, to complete the task of icing. So you might want to start with a single batch, just sayin’…


I incorporate an “assembly-line” technique to create my designs, knowing when to pipe and flood, then add flourishes and final embellishments. Often, one layer of the icing will need to dry before you can begin the next step, so plan on blocking out large chunks of time to complete your designs.


PS—Shin actually took the time to individually wrap each cookie for the guests. As I understand it, the poor mom and Maddie were both under the weather for the party, but they “rose” to the occasion and were party troopers instead of party poopers…

Staying-in-Shape Sugar Cookies

  • Servings: 3-6 dozen
  • Difficulty: cookie is easy; icing takes practice
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  • 2 sticks (1 cup), room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Zest from ½ a lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups unsifted flour (plus more for rolling cookies out)
  • ½ tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add the butter sticks and the sugar and cream together in a stand mixer, about 3 minutes.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg, lemon zest, baking powder and vanilla extract, then beat again for 2 minutes until a creamy.
  4. Add 3 cups flour and ½ teaspoon salt and mix on low speed to combine about 2 minutes.
  5. When done, form the dough into a ball.
  6. On a floured surface or pastry cloth, roll out the cookie dough ball to desired thickness level, about an 1/8″ or a little thicker. Cut out shapes and place on an unrimmed baking sheet.
  7. Reform any leftover dough into another ball and repeat the process.
  8. Put baking sheet(s) in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  9. After 10 minutes take the baking sheet out of the freezer and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges just start to turn a light brown. (Mine took the full 12 minutes.)
  10. Remove cookies from oven, allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. Decorate—or not—with Royal Icing.



  • 1 lb. confectioners sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. meringue powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup warm water


  1. In a stand mixer, beat the meringue powder and water for about 30 seconds on med-high speed.
  2. Stop the mixer, add the confectioners sugar and beat on low until incorporated. turn the speed up to high and beat for 7 minutes. Stiff peaks will form.
  3. Divide the frosting into bowls based on the number of colors you are using, remember white is a color too.
  4. Add your food coloring and mix each bowl thoroughly, adding a few drops of water as necessary.
  5. Put about 1/3 of each color in separate pastry bags for piping. Thin out the remainder with more water (a 1/2 teaspoon at a time) to achieve a flooding consistency and add that to squeezable bottles as shown.
  6. Add finishing touches as desired.


Meatball Marsala

An interesting twist on a Marsala dish, this recipe will surely make a comeback in our household. The initial instructions directed you to brown the meatballs under a broiler, but our broiler is often times less-than-satisfactory; plus you don’t get the advantage of having the browned bits left in the skillet which add a wonderful depth of flavor to the mushroom sauce.


Speaking of mushrooms, we selected a mix of portobellos, creminis and shiitakes and they were fabulous! And being connoisseurs of everything mushroom, we upped the ante by incorporating a full pound as opposed to 12 ounces.

My other changes included increasing the amount of ground meat to one pound each of the beef and sweet sausage (therefore requiring a slight bump in the bread crumbs to a 1/2 cup), adding minced garlic, and reducing the chopped parsley down to 3/4 cup, (all noted below.) For those suffering from a gluten intolerance, the meatballs are easily made with GF breadcrumbs and flour.

You know I always harp on incorporating homemade broth whenever possible and I’m advocating that here too because of the tasty intensity it adds to both the mushroom sauce and the mashed potatoes. It’s quite filling, so even though your tastebuds may want a second helping, your stomach will probably have to settle for leftovers on another day—all dependent of course on the fact that there is any left!


Meatball Marsala

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. ground beef chuck
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage meat
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 12-16 ounces sliced mixed mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 3/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped


  1. Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water by 1 inch; season with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer; cook until tender, 20 minutes. Drain and return to the saucepan.
  2. Combine the beef, sausage, breadcrumbs, egg, 1/2 cup chicken broth, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper in a medium bowl; mix with your hands until combined.
  3. Form into 18 meatballs (about 2 inches) and arrange in a large dutch oven or heavy-duty skillet over medium heat. Brown on all sides for about 15 minutes, turning every 4-5 minutes. Remove to a platter.
  4. Pour the grease out of the skillet but leave the browned bits.
  5. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in the same large skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are softened, about 8 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to coat. Stir in the wine and bring to a boil. Add 1 cup chicken broth and return to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium high and add the meatballs. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, while you mash the potatoes.
  7. Add the remaining 5 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup chicken broth to the potatoes and mash. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Stir the parsley into the meatball mixture. Serve with the potatoes.

Adapted from a recipe by the Food Network Kitchen

Sake, Garlic and Ginger Chicken with Broccolini

We’ve been fans of Fine Cooking’s “Make-It-Tonite” series for a couple of years now. Their recipes generally take only 25-45 minutes to prep and cook, yet produce lots of flavor. Here, boneless chicken thighs get treated to sweet, salty, and gingery flavors. Sake, a Japanese rice wine, balances the bold flavors of garlic and soy sauce with its subtle savory-sweet notes. The smaller florets on broccolini are great for mopping up the vibrant sauce, though broccoli works well, too.


Unfortunately we were plum out of sake, so I had to make a special trip to the liquor store. Now I can say with some confidence, while I’ve imbibed in sake in the past (like my 20’s), I don’t know a heck of a lot about the different brands. So when faced with a choice, I decided to buy the small black bottle that was twice as expensive as the large cheaper stuff figuring it would be a lot smoother. I convinced myself we were worth the extra cost.

Well, I got to tell you, the meal was great! Can’t definitively say it was because of the more costly sake, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt the flavor profile. And because it tore at my heart strings to discard the ginger planks, I sliced them down and mixed it in, which added a nice bite.

Because of the sugar, the sauce got quite thick and sticky after it was reduced down. If you prefer it thinner, keep an eyeball on it while it reduces. Serve with white or brown rice.


Sake, Garlic and Ginger Chicken with Broccolini

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 6 Tbs. sake
  • 6 Tbs. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable or canola oil
  • 1-1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. broccolini or broccoli crowns, cut into 3-inch-long pieces
  • 3 medium scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 1 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 4 slabs


  1. Combine the sake, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl, and stir until the sugar dissolves; set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and cook, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Add the sake mixture, Broccolini, scallion whites, garlic, and ginger to the skillet. Bring to a simmer. Arrange the chicken on top of the Broccolini.
  4. Cover and cook over medium heat until the broccolini is tender and the chicken is fully cooked, about 5 minutes.
  5. Discard the ginger. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve sprinkled with the scallion greens.



By Abby Simchak Donovan from Fine Cooking

Butter-Basted Spiced Cod with Polenta

Mondays have never been my most favorite day of the week (especially when I was working full time), but having a meal plan in place makes it just a smidge more accommodating. And while we’re not strict advocates of “Meatless Monday,” we tend to keep it in the weekly rotation as often as possible.


This Butter-Basted Spiced Cod with Polenta recipe found in Fine Cooking’s “Make-It-Tonight” series looked like a fine contender, especially given the fact that we conveniently had some homemade harissa on hand. Harissa is a North African paste made of ground dried chile peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices; and is not the easiest condiment to find. You can make your own following this recipe from an earlier blog (scroll down toward the bottom of the post.)

Baking the cod in melted butter added a richness to the fish that nicely balanced the heat from the harissa. Nestling the fish over the polenta topped with the melted butter brought the dish together; with the green herb garnish adding a pleasant pop of color and earthy finishing touch.

We made a few minimal changes to the original recipe by Ronne Day. For starters we purchased a one-pound piece of cod loin and cut it down into 3 equal pieces. Therefore our baking dish was smaller, measuring 8 x 8 square; but I kept the amounts of the other ingredients as listed since we like saucier finishes.

To add dimension to the polenta, I used 3 cups of homemade seafood stock as opposed to water, and WOW, did it make a difference not only in taste but the gorgeous goldenrod color.

As a side, we made Fennel-Orange Salad with Red Onion and Olives, a really nice change from lettuce and spinach salads. This popular Sicilian salad is made with blood oranges when they are in season, but navel oranges work just as well. This salad is sure to cheer you up with its soft bright colors and zingy flavors.

Butter-Basted Spiced Cod with Polenta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1-1/2 tsp. crushed whole coriander seeds or ground coriander
  • 2 medium lemons, 1 finely grated to yield 1/2 tsp. zest and squeezed for 2 Tbs. juice, the other cut into wedges
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 4 6-oz. pieces cod loin
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. harissa paste
  • 2 tsp. coarsely chopped cilantro or parsley


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Heat a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the coriander and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 3 cups of water, the lemon zest, and 1 tsp. salt; turn the heat up to medium high.
  3. Whisk in the cornmeal and cook, stirring often, until thick and creamy, about 20 minutes. (If the polenta gets too thick, loosen with a little hot water.)
  4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper and arrange in a 9×13 baking dish with space between each piece. Remove the butter from the heat, stir in the harissa and lemon juice, and pour it over the fish.
  5. Bake, basting every 5 minutes or so, until cooked through (the fish will flake easily), about 15 minutes. If necessary, cover with foil to keep warm.
  6. Divide the polenta among 4 shallow bowls or plates. Top with the fish and spoon the butter over the fish. Top with the cilantro or parsley and serve with the lemon wedges.


Fennel-Orange Salad with Red Onion and Olives


Fennel-Orange Salad with Red Onions and Olives

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 blood oranges (if unavailable, substitute naval oranges)
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed (about 1 lb. total after trimming)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh mint
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Slice the onion half lengthwise as thinly as you can. Put the sliced onion in a bowl and cover with cold water to mellow its flavor and keep it crisp. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Working with one orange at a time, slice off both ends. Set the orange on a cutting board, one cut side down. With a sharp knife, cut away the peel (the zest and white pith) by slicing from top to bottom, following the contour of the orange. Working over a bowl to collect any juice, release the orange segments by carefully cutting them away from the membrane that separates them. Remove any seeds and put the orange segments in another bowl, separate from the juice. Squeeze the membranes over the juice bowl.
  3. Cut the fennel in quarters lengthwise and then trim away most of the core, leaving just enough intact to keep the layers together. Slice the quarters lengthwise as thinly as you can.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. (The recipe can be prepared up to this point several hours in advance. If working ahead, wrap and refrigerate the fennel; don’t chop the mint until just before serving.)
  5. Drain the sliced onion and toss it with the fennel. Put the fennel and onion in a shallow salad bowl or on a rimmed serving platter. Drizzle with the reserved orange juice. Arrange the orange segments on top and sprinkle with the olives and mint.
  6. Drizzle the dressing evenly over the salad. Add several grinds of black pepper and serve immediately.

Adapted from a recipe by Janet Fletcher, Rosetta Costantino from Fine Cooking

Korean-Style Spicy Steak Lettuce Wraps

We love lettuce wraps: so tasty and so fun to assemble. The zesty flavors in these Korean-Style Spicy Steak Lettuce Wraps make them an interactive standout—but you have to like a kick to your food, mostly from gochujang.

More and more recipes call for gochujang, the popular Korean chili paste with the spicy and bold miso-like flavor. But as popular as it has become, it can still be tough to track down. The good news is there are many ways to substitute for gochujang. The bad news: none will have the same complexity of flavor. Authentic versions of this Korean chili paste ferment for months to get that sweet and sharp miso bite.

You’re best bet is to check out an Asian Mart, that’s where we find it every time. But if you seriously can’t find any locally, try ordering it over the Internet before trying to replicate your own. In desperation, the grocery store alternatives are Sriracha chili sauce or a Thai chili paste, but neither are truly viable alternatives.


Korean-Style Spicy Steak Lettuce Wraps

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1-1/2 lb. skirt steak
  • 1/4 cup gochujang (Korean red chile-bean sauce)
  • 2 Tbs. Asian sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 4 medium scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 large head Boston or butter lettuce, leaves separated
  • 1-1/4 cups prepared cabbage kimchi, coarsely chopped
  • Kosher salt


  1. Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Line a large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan with foil and put the steak on it.
  2. Whisk the gochujang, sesame oil, soy sauce, and garlic in a small bowl.
  3. Rub 3 Tbs. of the mixture all over the steak and let marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  4. Whisk the vinegar into the remaining gochujang mixture and set aside in a small serving bowl.
  5. Arrange the scallions, carrots, and lettuce on a large serving platter in individual mounds. Place the kimchi in a serving bowl.
  6. Broil the steak, flipping once, until medium rare (125°F), 3 to 4 minutes per side. Let rest for 5 minutes, then slice as thinly as possible against the grain.
  7. Season to taste with salt and mound on the serving platter. Bring all the components to the table for everyone to assemble their wraps as they like.



By Ivy Manning from Fine Cooking

There’s Shrimp. Then There’s This Shrimp—With a Perfect Side of Rice.

OMG, both the main entrée, Garlicky Shrimp and Tomatoes, and the accompanying Orange-Scented Rice Pilaf with Fennel are an amazing duo that’ll win a spot in your rotation for sure! The combination of flavors in this memorable shrimp dish is reminiscent of cioppino, San Francisco’s popular seafood stew. A jolt of fresh flavor with raw garlic gets stirred into the tomato sauce at the end of cooking, unusual in that it is also an ingredient in the initial stages.

Of course you know I am a strong proponent of using homemade stock because the flavor impact is so much more pronounced than the bland contents of canned or boxed. In place of the clam juice, you could use homemade seafood stock if you’re lucky enough to have some on hand. Otherwise, use a good brand of clam juice.

Although the ingredients list instructs you to get peeled shrimp, buy unpeeled jumbos, the shells will be a perfect addition to your body bag (kept in the freezer.) Accumulate enough over time to make a batch of homemade seafood stock for future recipes. Remember, a pressure cooker shortens the process of making stock down to mere minutes.

The rice pilaf, by one of our all-time favorite chef/authors Molly Stevens, is subtly perfumed, light and fluffy, and compliments the shrimp dish perfectly—especially with fennel as an ingredient in both. In this side dish, you’ll want to incorporate homemade chicken stock (or vegetable for vegetarians.) 


Garlicky Shrimp and Tomatoes

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 1/4 lbs. jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined, and patted dry
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 Tbs. olive oil; more as needed
  • 3 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1-1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
  • 1-1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes with purée (from a 15-oz. can)
  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) bottled clam juice
  • 3/4 cup dry white vermouth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


  • Season the shrimp with 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Heat 3 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until partially cooked, 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a large bowl.
  • Add the remaining 2 Tbs. oil to the skillet. Add about two-thirds of the garlic and all of the fennel seeds and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Stir in the tomatoes, clam juice, and vermouth. Bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced to about 2/3 cup, about 12 minutes.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the remaining garlic and the parsley. Add the shrimp and accumulated juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over the Orange-Scented Rice Pilaf, recipe below…



By Selma Brown Morrow from Fine Cooking

Orange-Scented Rice Pilaf with Fennel

Once finished, the rice can sit, covered, for up to 30 minutes before serving.

Orange-Scented Rice Pilaf with Fennel

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped fennel (1/2 small bulb)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (1 small onion)
  • 1-1/2 cups long-grain rice, preferably basmati
  • 2-3/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 strips orange zest
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt


  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium (3-qt.) saucepan. Add the fennel and onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 6 minutes.
  2. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the grains are glossy and beginning to crackle, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the broth, orange zest, bay leaf, and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer until the rice is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed, about 17 minutes.
  4. Off the heat, remove the lid, lay a kitchen towel over the pot, replace the lid, and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.



Penne with Smoked Ham, Peas, and Mint

Refreshingly Spring! Fresh mint, a classic pairing with peas, brightens this creamy pasta dish. This melodious and quick meal came from Fine Cooking’s Make It Tonight series by Jessica Bard. Many of our recipes tend toward the spicy side of life, but this one exudes a mellower composite of flavors without being bland.


The little mezze penne size made for a perfect mouthful without screaming pasta. And our ham was not smoked and weighed in at closer to over a half pound. No leftover ham? The recipe would work fine with one (or two) of those prepackaged slices. Or try a thick slice of pancetta to amp up the flavor.

Disappointingly the grocery stores weren’t carrying fresh peas, even though it was the height of Spring 😦 But the frozen variety worked quite nicely, just make sure to thaw them ahead of time. And I made a birdbrain move while shopping when I grabbed the feta cheese because I unknowingly picked up fat free, so to compensate, we also included some grated parm. All-in-all, we really liked this dish.


Penne with Smoked Ham, Peas and Mint

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/4 lb. sliced smoked ham, cut crosswise into 1-inch strips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh green peas (from 1-1/2 lb. peas in the pod) or thawed frozen peas
  • 1/2 lb. dried mini penne
  • 2-1/2 oz. feta, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint


  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until browned, about 3 minutes. Add the ham and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the heavy cream and nutmeg and bring to a boil. Add the peas, turn the heat down to medium, and simmer, stirring often, until the peas are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  4. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot.
  5. Toss with the sauce, half of the cheese, and half of the mint, adding some of the reserved pasta water, if needed, to make a creamy sauce. Put all into a large pasta platter bowl or divide among 4 plates and top with the remaining cheese and mint.


Deconstructed Chicken, Sausage and Veggie Kebabs

Woohoo! It is FINALLY grilling weather here in the Northeast U.S. After what seemed like an endless winter, the month of May blossomed with above average temps, low humidity, a soothing breeze, and a break from the wetness. Everywhere you look, people are smiling and I’m feeling human again…

Time to bust out the “ole barbie.” And while you can grill just about anything, we were in the mood for our tasty Deconstructed Chicken, Sausage and Veggie Kebabs. What’s nice about these puppies is you don’t have to thread every single morsel unto a skewer. The veggies all get dumped into a heated grill basket and only the meat pieces are speared. (Since the sausage cooks quicker than the chicken, they need to be on separate spikes.) Portioning the ingredients this way allows diners to eat as little or as much meat and vegetables as they prefer.


Speaking of the meat, if you’re not a dark meat fan (white meat is usually my preference), go ahead and use chicken breasts instead. And while we opted for some Iberico Buttifara Spanish sausage, go wild and crazy with whatever brand your little heart desires—just make sure to choose fat links.


And BTW, we prefer the flat metal skewers as opposed to the round wooden ones. Reasons being, you don’t have to soak them so they won’t catch fire, and because they’re flat the morsels stays in place; plus they are reusable—waste not, want not. An added grain such as couscous, rice, orzo or quinoa rounds out the meal.

NOTE: The spelling kabob is mostly used by North Americans as they try to transliterate the sound for the dish, kebab, that is made with grilled meat in Arab countries.


Deconstructed Chicken, Sausage and Veggie Kebabs

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: simple
  • Print


  • 1¼ lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1½” pieces
  • 12 oz. (3) fat sausage links, cut into 18, 1″ pieces
  • 1 red pepper, cut into cubes
  • 1 yellow pepper, cut into cubes
  • 1 onion, cut into wedges
  • 12 mushroom caps
  • 1 zucchini, ½” slices
  • 8-10 whole, peeled garlic cloves, lightly smashed, large cloves cut in half

Balsamic Marinade: (makes 1¼ cups)

  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1½ tsp. dried, crushed rosemary
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper


  1. To a small bowl add balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, crushed rosemary, salt, and pepper. Whisk together and slowly add in the canola oil whisking the entire time.
  2. In 2 quart-size ziplocs, add chicken to one bag and sausage pieces to the other with and ¼ cup of the balsamic mixture to each bag.
  3. Add the cut veggies to a jumbo ziploc with a ½ cup of the marinade and reserve the remaining ¼ cup mixture. Seal and shake to make sure all the veggies are coated.
  4. Place all 3 bags in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours to marinate.
  5. Preheat grill to high heat (600-700 degrees F). Place the oiled veggie basket onto the grill to heat up for at 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the ziplocs from the refrigerator and start to assemble the meat onto skewers. Keep the chicken and sausage on separate skewers.
  7. Pour the veggies into the hot basket and turn them with a spatula every couple of minutes until crisp-tender, about 15 minutes total.
  8. Lower the heat to medium hot (about 400 degrees). Oil the grates and place kebabs on the grill.
  9. Turn each skewer a few times to char on all sides. The sausage will be done in about 4-5 minutes, so place those on top of the basket to keep warm while the chicken cooks another 3-4 minutes.
  10. Brush the remaining marinade on the chicken for one last flavor burst. Grill for 30 seconds more.
  11. Remove from grill. Place the veggies in a serving bowl and slide the meat off of the skewers onto a platter or individual plates.
  12. Serve over couscous, rice, or orzo.


Glazed Apple Crumb Muffins—Sure To Impress

99.9% of the time I do not eat sweets or baked goods, especially for breakfast. But I volunteered for a Master Gardner event that took place starting early on a Saturday morning, and they requested donations of homemade breakfast items to help feed the crew.

Yeah, I could’ve bought a dozen bagels from a local bakery, but that’s just not the way I roll (pun intended). So after a bit of nosing around on the Internet, I found a tempting Glazed Apple Crumb Muffin recipe (thanks to sallysbakingaddiction) that I altered a bit. I particularly liked the fact that I had all of the ingredients on hand and didn’t have to make a special trip to the supermarket.


Well, of course I had to try one before I submitted the muffins to the event, right? Wouldn’t want to put something out there that was inedible, you follow? While still warm, I sliced one in half and took a bite… then another bite… and another, until it was all gone! It literally melted in my mouth. Nobody was more shocked than me…

A dozen of these were earmarked for the event, one I ate, and one was saved for Hubby. Knowing his abhorrence of walnuts, I left that muffin sans nuts. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t 😉 BTW, Russ ate his the next morning before heading to work, and he agreed, it was truly yummy.

How did they fare with the volunteer crew? I’m not totally sure, but several of my mates grabbed one during our lunch period and planned to nosh on it later…

IMG_4489Above, Chris holds one of the muffins as does Terri (can only see her arms in the lower right); while George gives us a radiant smile.

Glazed Apple Crumb Muffins

  • Servings: 14 muffins
  • Difficulty: moderately simple
  • Print



  • 1/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk yogurt, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used 2%), at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled apple, 1/4″ dice (2 small apples)


  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Make the crumb topping: In a medium bowl, combine both sugars, the cinnamon, and melted butter. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the flour. The crumb topping will be thick and crumbly. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a 12-count (or two 6-count) muffin pan(s) with cupcake liners. You may need a 2nd pan as this recipe makes up to 14 muffins, though you can always bake in batches using 1 pan. Set aside.
  3. Make the muffins: Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and both sugars together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute, then turn up to high speed until the mixture is combined and uniform in texture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  4. With the mixer on off, add in flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Mix on medium-low for a couple minutes to combine everything, scraping down sides as needed.
  5. Add the milk and apple, and mix on low speed until everything is combined.
  6. Spoon the batter evenly into each cup or liner, filling each almost to the top. Press a handful of the crumb topping into the top of each.
  7. Bake for 5 minutes at 425°F degrees, then keeping the muffins in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 15-17 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The total time these muffins take in the oven is about 20-22 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes before adding the glaze.
  8. Make the glaze: Whisk all of the ingredients together and drizzle over slightly warm muffins. Top with chopped nuts if using.


Muffins stay fresh stored at room temperature for a few days– then transfer to the fridge for up to 1 week.

Make ahead tip: For longer storage, freeze glazed or unglazed muffins for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature or warm up in the microwave if desired.

The Heat was On—and On…

I could’ve kicked myself… Recently, we were in National Harbor just south of DC for Russ’ 5-day NATCON conference with nearly 6,000 attendees. In years past, just as we did this time, our accommodations were at the gorgeous Gaylord Convention Center directly across the river from Alexandria, VA.

During one of our previous visits we had dined at Grace’s Madarin conveniently located across Waterfront Avenue. Upon entering, the stunning impact from a three-story waterfall and 33-foot Buddha greet you as you wind your way up the stairs to the eating area with panoramic views of the Potomac River from just about every table. This time we were dining with Russ’ fellow colleague, Dr. David Greenspan.

Because of our past history with the establishment, I didn’t feel it was necessary to concern myself with taking pictures for this blog. You may or may not recall a post from four years ago, “A Purse Chair?” In it I mentioned how the food at Grace’s was not necessarily a WOW factor. Well, our collective opinions were drastically altered and soared from mediocre to a definite WOWSER this time around, especially my Chengdu Chicken dish (new executive chef maybe?) But, as I said, I didn’t take any photos, so kick me now.

Russ and David’s dishes were also phenomenal but we agreed that mine was off-the-charts incredible, therefore I was on a mission to try and replicate it. After browsing the Internet for some recipes, we felt the one by Andrew Zimmern looked like the closest to what I had at Grace’s place—and with his culinary expertise, we knew it would be good regardless.


In his chile-spiked Spicy Chengdu-Style Chicken with Peanuts, “soaking the chicken overnight in rice wine and cornstarch makes the meat soft and tender. It also helps tighten the sauce and gives the chicken a twice-cooked slippery quality that’s a sign of good Chinese wok cookery.” We had pretty much all of the ingredients on hand—yes, it’s quite a lengthy list—except we were out of fermented chile bean paste and didn’t have black vinegar.

Because you need to marinate the cubed chicken overnight, Russ made a quick trip to our local Asian mart to get them. When it’s time to begin cooking, make sure you have all of your ingredients prepped before you start, once the wok is hot, this dish comes together in mere minutes. And be sure to time your rice so that it’s ready as soon as you’re done theatrically flipping the wok spatula.

How’d it turn out? Well let’s just say I overdid the peppers to the point of bringing tears to Russ’ eyes! I did have a reason to increase the spice so it’s not like I sabotaged the dish on purpose. Because the amount of chicken was almost double what was called for, I mentally justified that it could stand for more sauce, which included an additional tablespoon of the chili sauce.

Plus, since our dried chiles hadn’t added much of a punch when last used in cooking, while at the Asian mart Russ picked up some more dried chiles, Mexican arbols to be exact. And not making the connection that these new chiles would be much more intense, I tripled, or even quadrupled the amount. Suffice it to say, our nasal passages were clear as a whistle when done eating 😉

If you negate the heat, the taste itself was quite good. So take my word for it, follow the recipe exactly—I will heed my own warning next time because I intend to master Chengdu Chicken

BTW, the purse chairs, below, were still doing their duty at Grace’s Mandarin but I didn’t need one because our table was up against a large window and had an appropriate-sized ledge that served the purpose.


Spicy Chengdu-Style Chicken with Peanuts

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 20 to 24 ounces diced skinless chicken breast and thigh meat
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons shaoxing or sake (rice wine)
  • 2 tablespoons toban djan (doban), fermented chile bean paste
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy
  • 2 tablespoons black vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons whole fermented salted Chinese black beans
  • 2 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns, crushed
  • 12 dried whole Chinese chiles (tsin-tsin chiles or Mexican arbols work well)
  • 1 tablespoons sliced ginger
  • 1 tablespoons sliced garlic
  • 1/3 cup shelled peanuts (skinless)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • Cooked white rice for serving


  1. Combine the chicken, cornstarch, 1 tablespoon of the toban djan and rice wine, and mix well in a large Ziploc bag or bowl. Cover/seal and place in fridge for 24 hours.
  2. Drain chicken and discard any remaining marinade.
  3. Preheat wok over high heat for several minutes.
  4. Combine the remaining toban djan, soy, brown sugar, vinegar and black beans in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the peppercorns, dried chiles, ginger, garlic, peanut, white pepper and sugar. Reserve both bowls.
  5. When the wok is very hot, add the peanut oil and swirl. It should smoke and ripple immediately.
  6. Add the bowl of peppercorns, dried chiles, ginger, garlic, peanut, white pepper and sugar. Swirl in wok. They should scorch immediately.
  7. Add the chicken and 2/3 of the scallions. Let the chicken scorch and wok toss until cooked through (about 2-3 minutes). Use wok tools so you don’t break the chiles and can scrape across sides and bottom of the wok safely.
  8. Add the bowl of liquid seasonings to the wok. Toss and cook for another minute or two. The sauce should reduce and tighten to a glaze.
  9. Toss in the remaining scallions and immediately spill contents out on a platter and serve with white rice.


Cooked Endive? Perfect Side for a Seared Steak!

Looking for a quick, tasty meal that’s sure to appeal to the meat lovers in the family? Look no further because this Sear-Roasted Flat Iron Steak with Endive and Blue Cheese recipe will definitely win them over. Plus the side of Belgian endive is not your usual go-to veggie. Cooked until tender, peppery endive is great alongside this beefy steak slathered with blue cheese butter.


Endive is a leaf vegetable belonging to the daisy family that can be used raw in salads or cooked, as in this recipe. There are three main varieties of cultivated endive: Curly endive, or frisée; Escarole, or broad-leaved; and Belgian endive, a form of common chicory, a different species from the other two. All are a very low caloric food that help you manage cholesterol levels, promote stronger bones, and improve your vision and brain health.

Pronunciation: on-DEEVE, en-DEEVE. There is a statement by the California Endive Farms that curly and broad-leaved endive is pronounced en-DIVE, while Belgian endive has the on-DEEV pronunciation…. dahling

Now about that cut of steak. The original recipe called for skirt steak which is usually a cinch to find at the supermarket. Not so when I went shopping for this meal. However, they were carrying flat iron steak (on sale too) which I know makes for a fabulous substitute. Wish I would have purchased more…

What’s the difference? Both are value cuts that come from various parts of the cow. The skirt steak is a thin, fibrous cut separating the chest from the abdomen, the cow’s diaphragm muscle. The flat iron is a flat muscle off the shoulder blade and is considered tender for something that lives so close to a joint. Anyway, either cut will suffice, with the flat iron taking twice as long in the oven (10 minutes as opposed to five) since it’s thicker to start with—and Russ and I both agree, a more tender cut of meat compared to skirt steak.

Our piece of meat weighed a bit less than the 1 1/4 pounds indicated, so I only cut it into three pieces. We’re both partial to caramelized onions with steak, so I sliced up two whole alliums, which as you know take nearly an hour on low heat to get a good caramelization, rendering them so sweet and tender they just melt in the mouth!

I’m sure you’ve read about Russ’ aversion to walnuts, so I was the lucky recipient of any that landed on his plate!

What’s odd about this recipe is they tell you to make a certain quantity of the blue cheese butter mixture, but only use half of it—which was plenty BTW. Oh well, we just refrigerated the remainder for an upcoming meal, like a grilled steak, if and when the weather ever warms up?!


Sear-Roasted Skirt Steak with Endive and Blue Cheese

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 oz. mild blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1-1/4 lb. skirt steak, cut into 3-4 portions
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. Belgian endive (3 large or 6 small), cut lengthwise into 4 to 8 wedges depending on size
  • 1 Tbs. honey; more for drizzling
  • 2 Tbs. walnut pieces, lightly toasted
  • 2 Tbs. thinly sliced chives


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350°F.
  2. In a small bowl, mash 2 Tbs. of the butter and the blue cheese. Set aside.
  3. Pat the steaks dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and cook, flipping once, until nicely browned, about 4 minutes.
  4. Reserving the skillet, transfer the steaks to a small baking sheet and roast until medium rare (130°F to 135°F), 3 to 5 minutes. (If using flat iron, cook for 10 minutes in the oven.) Let rest for 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, arrange the endive in one layer in the skillet. Dot with the remaining 2 Tbs. butter and drizzle with the honey.
  6. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Arrange the steaks and endive on a platter. Slather the steaks with half of the blue cheese butter, and drizzle lightly with additional honey, if you like. Sprinkle with the walnuts and chives, and serve.


By Shelley Wiseman from Fine Cooking

Tater Salad Twist

A speedy “Make-It-Tonight” staple from William Stewart of Fine Cooking harkens the advent of warmer weather with visions of outdoor BBQs and picnics dancing in my head. This riff, Curried Yogurt Potato Salad, gets a fresh Indian spin with curried yogurt dressing, bright ginger, and crisp vegetables. I was pleasantly surprised how creamy tasting and good it was without the addition of mayo or eggs!

The Persian cucumber is a variety of burpless cucumber, meaning its consumption is less likely to cause gastrointestinal upset than other types. This cucumber is also small, sweet and essentially seedless. I didn’t have luck locating Persian cucumbers but the seedless English variety was a fine substitute because they are similar to Persians, only longer in length and generally come wrapped in plastic.

In contrast to the thick, bumpy skin of the common garden cucumber, the Persian version features a smooth, thin skin that doesn’t require peeling. Its flesh is largely free of bitter-tasting seeds and is firm instead of watery, attributes that lend crunch and a mild sweetness.

The potato salad is especially yummy right after it is made, but can be served room temperature or even after refrigerated.


Curried Yogurt Potato Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1-1/4 lb. baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved (or quartered if large)
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. curry powder
  • 3/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. finely grated lime zest, more for garnish
  • 1 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely diced


  • Put the potatoes in a large pot of  well-salted water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  • Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger and curry powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute; transfer to a large bowl.
  • Whisk in the yogurt, lime zest, and juice, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt.
  • Add the carrots, cucumbers, and onion, and toss well, then add the potatoes and toss gently. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, and garnish with additional lime zest, if you like.


We served ours with sautéed sugar snap peas and a seared steak.

Kickin’ Up the Curry

Thai cuisine is one of my faves so when I can have it in quick fashion, I’m a happy camper. This Spicy Thai Beef Curry from the Fine Cooking’s Make It Tonight series was just the ticket for a weeknight dinner when I didn’t have a lot of time but craved a flavorful curry dish. Remember, our bodies are not just heavy machines that we tote around with us each day, and our culinary pleasure isn’t just a whim when it comes to the mechanics of eating—curry can be a joy to both eat and behold.


The “spicy” title is a bit of a misnomer. Even though it calls for 1 to 2 teaspoons of red curry paste, almost all of the reviewers commented that they had, or wished they’d had, added more than the directions called for. So, being a connoisseur of all things with a kick, I added a healthy tablespoon full of the flavorful paste, resulting in a robust pungency that was not at all overpowering. If you possess a “delicate palette,” you may want to stick with the smaller amount first time out of the gate.

The directions do not instruct you to, but for a thicker sauce that will cling nicely to the meat and rice, after you remove the meat in Step 5, reduce the liquid over medium-high heat for about 6-8 minutes to thicken, then proceed with the remaining steps.

My only other suggestions would be to use fresh sugar snap peas if you can find them; and incorporate some sweet red bell pepper strips for added color and nutrition, but that’s totally up to you.


Spicy Thai Beef Curry

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 lb. beef sirloin tips
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 2 medium-large)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 to 2 tsp. Thai red curry paste
  • 1/2 cup low-salt canned chicken broth
  • 1 13-1/2-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen sugar snap peas
  • 1 large lime, zest finely grated and fruit cut into wedges
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Heat the oil in a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the sirloin tips with salt and pepper and sear the meat in batches until nicely browned on two sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the shallots to the pan and cook until just tender and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minute. Add the ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1/4 cup of the broth, scraping up any bits that are stuck to the pan.
  4. Add 1/3 cup of the coconut milk, stirring until the curry paste has blended in completely. Stir in the remaining coconut milk and broth. Add the fish sauce.
  5. Increase the heat to medium high. Return the beef to the pan (along with any juices), stir, and simmer until the meat is just cooked through, 8 to 12 minute. Remove the meat and transfer to a cutting board. (Here’s where you should reduce the liquid for a thicker sauce.)
  6. Take the pan off the heat. Stir the sugar snap peas into the sauce and cover the pan. Let the meat rest for 1 minute, then slice it thinly across the grain; return it to the pan along with the lime zest. If necessary, return the pan to medium heat until the peas are thawed and  heated through.
  7. Portion the curry into four warm bowls or deep dishes, sprinkle with the cilantro, and serve with the lime wedges.



By Joann Smart from Fine Cooking

Baked Rollatini of Flounder

Part of our international week of dinners, we wanted the Italian menu to be something other than pasta so this Baked Rollatini of Flounder entrée fit the bill nicely. Unlike other highly regarded cuisines, Italian cooking is usually simple to make with many dishes having only 4 to 8 ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. And so it almost is with this simple fish recipe with 10 ingredients—just be sure to have some great olive oil on hand.

“The Sicilians have a tradition of using breadcrumbs in many of their recipes, like involtini di pesce spada, or swordfish rollatini, which are dressed with dried- oregano- seasoned breadcrumbs and olive oil.”  —  Lidia Bastianich

Despite Lidia’s undisputed reputation as a great Italian chef, there were a few things we did, or will do in the future. For instance, I didn’t feel that half of a sliced lemon was enough to cover the bottom of the baking dish so I very thinly sliced the entire zested lemon to build the foundation, and used half of another lemon for the juice. Plus we found that a full cup of white wine was too much liquid, feeling a 1/2 cup would more than suffice (I noted this in the list below.)

Oops, I’m noticing a few citrus pits I should have removed first, mea culpa!

And while this has nothing to do with Lidia’s choice of fish (her original recipe is Rollatini of Sole), it’s uncommon to find sole at our local supermarkets because here in North America we have no true sole, only flounders. They are interchangeable because both sole and flounder have delicate, flaky flesh and a mild, sweet taste; and while each are oval in shape, flounder is more rounded.

Oh, and the fact that Lidia’s cookbook says this serves six, that would be pretty meager rations in just about anyone’s household. We think two fillets per person is more realistic. Otherwise this delicious, delicate dinner was ever-so-satisfying and light. And in that vein, we served it simply with a side of sautéed asparagus.


Baked Rollatini of Flounder

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • large lemon, grated, then half of the lemon juiced, the other half thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • skinless fillets of flounder, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons drained tiny capers in brine


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Toss together the breadcrumbs, grated cheese, parsley, lemon zest, and oregano in a bowl. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, and toss until the crumbs are evenly coated with the oil.
  3. Coat the bottom of a 9-by-13- inch Pyrex baking dish with the softened butter. Arrange the lemon slices in 1 layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Pour in the lemon juice and white wine.
  4. Lay the fish on your work surface, and press the crumbs into the fish. Starting with the short side, roll each fillet up with crumbs on the inside, and secure closed with toothpicks.
  5. Arrange the fish in the baking dish atop the lemon slices, and scatter capers in the open spaces. Sprinkle any leftover crumbs over the fish, and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  6. Place the baking dish on the bottom rack of the oven, and bake until the flounder is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove the toothpicks, spoon some of the capers and sauce over the fillets and serve.