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Dinner in a Blink of Your Eye

Love this Asian-inspired take on beef negimaki, the classic Japanese appetizer of strips of teriyaki-flavored beef rolled around scallions. Trust me, you’ll want to make Broiled Flank Steak and Scallions again and again. It delivers flavor in spades, and is about the easiest-to-make main course ever (especially if you make the rice a day or two ahead of time, which I did.)


Scallions believe it or not, have a whole lot more to offer than some added color. In fact, they are low in calories, rich in nutrients and boast some serious health benefits, from enhancing immunity to shrinking fat cells. Hip-hip hooray! Just so you know, as a member of the Allium family of plants, scallions are a close relative of garlic, onions, leeks, shallots and chives and share many of the same health-promoting compounds.

Plan on one bunch of scallions per person as they shrink down quite a bit. I cooked 2 1/2 bunches and this was the result. Russ and I polished off the entire serving in one meal.

One more notable fact about the vegetable, scallions are practically bursting with vitamin K. In fact, just a half cup can meet and exceed your vitamin K requirement for the entire day. Vitamin K is a necessary nutrient for many aspects of health, but its critical role in blood clotting stands out in particular.

Feel free to grill the meat and scallions instead of broiling them if the weather permits (which in January in the Northeast is near impossible.) And you know how I often complain about a broiler in a gas stove, well I went ahead and used ours this time and got great results, I just had to rotate the pan a few times and cook the meat 2 minutes longer than instructed (but I removed the scallions for the last couple minutes.)

To round out the meal, serve with white rice and a crisp romaine salad… a glass of wine would be a nice accompaniment too…


  • Cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbs. honey
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 lb. beef flank steak
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 bunches scallions, trimmed
  • 2 tsp. canola or vegetable oil


  1. Position a rack about 8 inches from the broiler. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with the cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a small bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup of the mixture for finishing the dish.
  3. Transfer the steak to the prepared baking sheet, lightly season with salt and pepper, and brush liberally with some of the soy mixture.
  4. Toss the scallions with the oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper, and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet next to the steak. Broil until the steak browns on one side, about 5 minutes.
  5. Flip the steak and toss the scallions. Brush the steak with more of the soy mixture. Broil until the scallions are soft and brown in spots and the steak is medium rare (135°F), about 3 minutes; you may need to remove the scallions before the steak is done.
    Save any pan juices from the baking sheet to flavor your rice.
  6. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice it thinly against the grain, drizzle with the reserved soy mixture, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with the scallions.


From Fine Cooking by Bruce Weinstein, Mark Scarbrough


A Colorful Cornucopia of Shrimp and Veggies

Shrimp and braising rarely make good bedfellows in the culinary world because of the lengthy cooking time—which we all know would render the crustacean inedible. But cookbook author Molly Stevens says of her dish Orange-Scented Mediterranean Shrimp Braise“The shrimp get tossed in just a few minutes before serving, making the finished dish a real cornucopia of seafood and vegetables.”

The braising liquid for this dish consists of a colorful mix of tomatoes, garlic, onion, carrots, and celery that is brightened with the zests and juice of orange and lime. Also included are small potatoes turning it into a satisfying one-dish meal. Since this braise comes out rather soupy, serve it in shallow pasta bowls. But if your appetites are crying for more, ladle the braise over linguine or rice.


Russ is not a huge potato fan so he wanted rice with the meal. I found it odd having both potatoes and rice, and would have preferred one or the other, but it certainly did not take away from the complexity of flavors that made a heartwarming contrast to the frigid outdoor temps.

About the canned tomatoes, first and foremost the grocery stores never seem to carry the small 14-ounce size, so I was forced to buy the larger 28-ounce can, and I used the entire amount. We like things saucy and Russ was thrilled that I included the whole can, it not only added more of the gorgeous red color, we got an extra boost of lycopene! Plus, according to some researchers “…it is 60% more expensive to get dietary fiber from fresh tomatoes than from a can.” So bring on the fiber!

Then there’s the age old controversy about leaving the olives pitted, which can be annoying when trying to eat civilly in the presence of company. But when you cook olives whole, it’s almost like an anchovy. The salt comes out of the olives, and the olive becomes more like a vegetable, and the salt from the olive flavors the dish really wonderfully. Pits, or no pits, I leave that dilemma up to you…

I also used one entire celery stalk instead of a half, and one large carrot, because, why not? Again, it’s more color, and additional health benefits. And while butter is an option at the end of cooking, and I wasn’t originally going to include it, I took Molly’s advice to cut back on the acidity of the dish, but incorporated only one tablespoon as opposed to two, and it provided the perfect finish.



  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 /2 cup finely chopped yellow onion (about ½ small onion)
  • 1 /2 cup finely chopped carrot (1 small carrot)
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery (1/2 stalk)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • 2 strips orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler (each about 3 inches by ¾ inch)
  • 1 strip lime zest, removed with a vegetable peeler (about 2 inches by ½ inch)
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • One 14½-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped (or use the large 28-ounce can like we did)
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¾ pound small potatoes, preferably fingerlings or white creamers
  • ¼ cup small green olives, such as Picholine, not pitted
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • ¾ pound large shrimp (30 to 35 count per pound), peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces (optional)


  1. The aromatics and braising liquid: Heat the oil in a large deep lidded skillet (13-inch works well) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion, carrot, and celery. Season with salt and pepper, stir, and sauté until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté another minute more. Add the white wine, orange and lime zests, and orange and lime juices, and let the liquid simmer vigorously until reduced by half, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Return to a simmer.
  2. The braise: Turn the heat to very low, cover, and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Then add the potatoes, olives, and capers. Stir so the potatoes are evenly distributed, replace the cover, and continue to simmer until the potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a knife, another 30 to 40 minutes.
  3. The finish: Add the shrimp, leave the pan uncovered, and adjust the heat so the liquid simmers gently. Simmer just until the shrimp are cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, and taste. If the sauce tastes too acidic or too sharp, stir in the butter. The small bit of butter will soften the acidity nicely. Taste again for salt and pepper. Remove the zests if you like, and serve in shallow bowls.


Ham and Navy Bean Soup alla Russ

Baby it’s cold outside… Winter weekends Russ often makes a pot of homemade stock and/or soup. Since he had cooked up a batch of ham stock a few weeks prior, he decided it was time—and certainly cold enough—to make his Ham and Navy Bean Soup. Back in the day, Russ learned to make it from his mother Mary, but he’s made a few tweaks of his own along the way.


Mary did not make the stock in advance, but rather she’d cook the ham hocks with the beans until tender. After which she’d remove the meat from the bone, and then add the sautéed vegetables. As owner of two pressure cookers, Russ can make his various stocks quickly and freeze them in 4 cup portions (and large cubes) for future use.

With our ham stock ready, the soup prep was relatively easy, and the aroma while it simmered on the stove was a welcome reprieve to the frigid outdoor temps. As with many soups and stews, they are often better tasting the following day after the flavors have had a chance to meld.

Slice the bacon into 1/2″ strips, and dice the celery and carrots.IMG_2052

No need for a garnish, but if you wish to add a pop of color, sprinkle on some chopped parsley.


  • 16 ounce dried navy beans, soaked overnight, drained
  • 4 ounces bacon, sliced into 1/2″ strips
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped into 1/4″ dice
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped into 1/4″ dice
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves minced
  • 5 cups ham stock
  • 3 cups water
  • About 2 cups meat picked off of ham hock bones after making the stock


  1. Brown bacon pieces in large soup pot over medium heat until crisp, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add chopped celery, carrots and onion to pot. Stir in chopped garlic after 2 minutes and sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes until onion softens, stirring occasionally.
  3. To pot, add 5 cups of ham stock and 3 cups water. After adding liquids, stir in navy beans and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to low and simmer the covered pot for 60-75 minutes until beans are tender.
  5. Using an immersion blender, purée some of the ingredients with a few pulses to thicken the soup. Alternatively, put 2 cups of the soup in a blender and pulse until creamy, then pour back into soup pot.
  6. Add shredded meat and heat for another few minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls and enjoy!


Time saving tip: In a pressure cooker, cook the ham hocks and navy beans per unit instructions. When done, remove the meat from the bones and add everything to a pot of the sautéed veggies.

Downright Shady and Low-Carb

Several online sites were touting this low-carb Stuffed Eggplant Parm recipe as an antidote to all the rich meals that have been consumed over the holidays. No frying needed, and it will even entice you to eat your vegetables. Count me in!


An interesting aspect of eggplant is its “shady” connections, since it’s a member of the nightshade family of plants with tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers, as well as chili peppers, habeñeros, jalapeños, and paprika—all ingredients that I adore.

Let’s ruminate over the “purple peasant” for a moment. Eggplants are fruits native to the Indian subcontinent but are now found throughout the world in different cultural cuisines. In England, they are known as “aubergine”, and are also called brinjal, melongene, and guinea squash. These purple or black glossy fruits can grow more than a foot in length in wild varieties, though they are considerably smaller in normal agriculture.

Although they are fruits, eggplants are commonly called the “king of vegetables,” as they are one of the most versatile and functional foods in the Indian cultural gamut. They have the consistency of a tomato, in terms of texture and density and are a perfect addition to soups, stews, and sauces. They also contain almost no cholesterol, or saturated fat.

When choosing an eggplant, it should be firm and not too large. The length of a cucumber and the general circumference of a very large pear should be about right. Smaller eggplants are less likely to be bitter (a bit of salt can help with this) and have fewer seeds, although these are edible.

Studies indicate that eggplant has a number of health benefits. While eggplants don’t have an overwhelming supply of any one nutrient, they do contain an impressive array across the board of many vitamins and minerals, such as excellent amounts of fiber, folate, potassium and manganese, as well as vitamins C, K, and B6, phosphorus, copper, thiamin, niacin, magnesium, and pantothenic acid.

According to lore, ancient Mediterranean people reportedly nicknamed it “mad apple,” believing that eating eggplant every day for a month would cause insanity. I don’t think I like anything enough to want to eat it every day for a month, but this was way-good-enough to eat several times in one week…



  • 1 1/2 cup marinara, divided
  • 2 medium eggplants, halved
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, divided
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (we used gluten-free)
  • 1/4 cup basil, chiffonade


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spread about 1 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a medium baking dish.
  2. Using a spoon, hollow out the eggplants leaving about a 1/2” thick border around skin to create a boat. Roughly chop scooped out eggplant.
  3. Place eggplant boats on prepared baking dish. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in chopped eggplant and season with oregano, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the eggplant is golden and tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Transfer mixture to a bowl. To the bowl with the eggplant mixture, add chopped tomatoes, egg, 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella, and 1/2 cup marinara. Mix until just combined.
  6. Scoop mixture into eggplant boats. Top with more mozzarella, Parmesan and bread crumbs.
  7. Bake until the eggplants are tender and the cheese has melted and is lightly browned, about 50-60 minutes.
  8. Garnish with basil and serve warm.

This is a complete meal by itself, but we served ours with a side salad.


Braising with Two Famous Ladies

A super fabulous and seductively tender side dish from chef/author Molly Stevens—and you know how much we love her braised dishes! This Fennel Braised with Thyme and Black Olives recipe was a perfect accompaniment to our Chicken in Beer entrée, a heart-warming recipe from Lidia Bastianich’s cookbook Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine, a Christmas present to Russ from his son David.


But back to the side dish. Cooking fennel is akin to cooking onions. Considering raw fennel is crisp and almost biting, braised fennel transforms to tame and splendidly supple. The sharp anise flavor of the raw vegetable mellows into a sweetness that even non–licorice lovers will appreciate. (Sister-in-law Dee, I’m telling you, you need to give this a try.)

Molly says don’t be at all put off by the anchovies in the recipe. They are discernible only as a bass note of flavor to match the higher tones of the sweet fennel. If you’re serving these to professed anchovy haters, don’t say a word. They’ll never guess what makes the dish taste so good.



  • 3 large or 4 medium fennel bulbs (about 3 pounds total)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup pitted oil-cured black olives, such as Nyons or Moroccan
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 to 6 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • ¾ cup chicken stock, homemade or store-bought


  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Trimming the fennel: If the fennel came with the feathery green stalks attached, use a large knife to chop these off right down at their base, where the bulb begins. Reserve a few of the brightest and freshest-looking fronds for garnish, and save the rest for stock or discard. If the very base of the fennel bulbs looks brown or at all dried out, slice off a thin sliver. Check the sides of the bulbs as well, and trim off any brown parts with a vegetable peeler. Cut each bulb in half through the core and then halve again, into quarters.
  3. Browning the fennel: Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy-based skillet (12-inch) over medium-high heat until it ripples. Add as many quarters of fennel as will fit without crowding, one cut side down. Leave the fennel undisturbed for 3 minutes—moving the pieces around will only slow down the browning process. With tongs, lift a few quarters to check to see if they’ve browned in spots. Because of its uneven surface, the fennel won’t brown evenly: you’re looking for patches of caramelization. Turn the quarters onto the other cut side and leave again until browned, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the quarters from the pan and arrange them browned side up in a large gratin dish or shallow baking dish (9- to 10-by-13- to 14-inches). Add the remaining oil to the skillet and brown the remaining fennel. Add this batch of fennel to the gratin dish, arranging it as best you can so the wedges line up in a single layer. It’s okay if the wedges are a bit cramped; they will collapse and shrink some as they braise. Season with salt and pepper. Scatter over the olives.
  4. The aromatics and braising liquid: Combine the garlic, anchovies, thyme, fennel seeds, and coriander in a small saucepan, and smash the mixture against the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to make a rough paste. Add the wine, bring to a boil over high heat, and boil until reduced by about half, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.
  5. The braise: Pour the seasoned liquid over the fennel, cover tightly with foil, and slide onto the middle rack of the oven. Braise until the fennel has collapsed and a small knife penetrates the core of the wedges with no resistance, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  6. Serving: If you reserved the feathery tops, chop them to give you about 2 tablespoons, and sprinkle them over the top of the braise. Serve warm or at room temperature.


A Four Year Milestone

Today we celebrate the four-year anniversary of launching our food blog, an endeavor that Lynn thought would last maybe one year (since she’d be the one doing the lion’s share of blogging.) Thanks for taking this culinary journey with us, and we hope you stay on the trek as we continue to savor the flavors of foods far and wide—as well as close, and with friends and family.

A few insights that have surprised us is the readership from far flung countries, which in the past year alone included Canada, Croatia, Singapore, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, Germany, India and China to name a few. Oddly enough, the most popular day/hour to view our posts is Sunday at 1:00 pm—go figure! Another stat indicates that in 2017, the blog tallied a total of 130,424 words with an average of 758 words per post; and readership increased over 25% in the last quarter. (Lynn is a numbers gal.)


Viewers access through a host of different avenues including search engines, Facebook, Lynn’s Casa “H” Pinterest Board, and email notices. A few of the top hit-on recipes have been Lemony Carrot and Cauliflower Soup, Winging It, Meatless Meat Sauce, and Best Ground Beef Chili. But I believe the most-ever-read post in one day was Lynn’s blog on the “Guest Appearances” page interviewing her cousin Maureen Evans Kelly. Just goes to show you that it really is about the people—and their connection with food…

We truly enjoy feedback and comments from you so please keep them coming. This year we hope to expand the media arena by incorporating some videos and perhaps a few polls. And if there is anything you want us to blog on, or a favorite restaurant to check out, please let us know… we could always meet you there…

From our table to yours,
Lynn and Russ


Pollo alla Birra

We’ve been enjoying roaming through our latest cookbook “Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine” by well-known chef Lidia Bastianich. One frigidly-cold Winter’s Sunday we decided to prepare her Chicken in Beer recipe along with Molly Stevens’ Fennel Braised with Thyme and Black Olives (which I’ll post next.)


OMG, OMG!! We fell head over heals with both of these braises. The complexity of flavors is amazing and soooo nuanced with a myriad of undertones you practically swoon over every single mouthful. I was originally concerned over the amount of liquid in the braise, but it turned out to be perfect. Just make sure to reduce down the liquid after removing the bird and veggies, you’ll want to save every last drop of the liquid gold. Instead of skimming the fat from the juice, I find it’s easier to put it into a fat separator, and pour from there.

The beer in the chicken entrée adds an interesting depth of distinction, along with the homemade stock and apple cider, and leaves the bird moist with a great glossy skin. Those root vegetables literally melt in your mouth and the sage lends a delightful bass note. Barely discernible but certainly adding to the intricacy of flavors was the cinnamon and whole cloves.

NOTE: Our parsnips were very large, and once they get that big, you need to cut out the woody core. You may think that you dislike parsnips, but they take on an earthy sweet taste in this recipe.

All said and done, between prep and cooking, this meal took me three hours, so it’ll likely be a weekend endeavor for you. But oh so very worth every minute of your time!



  • A 3½- to- 4- pound roasting chicken
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, quartered
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, halved crosswise, and quartered lengthwise (about 4 ounces)
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled, halved crosswise, and quartered lengthwise (about 6 ounces total)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, left whole
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1½ cups stock (chicken, turkey, or vegetable broth) or water
  • 1½ cups (one 12- ounce bottle) flavorful beer or ale
  • 1 cup nonalcoholic apple cider, preferably unfiltered



  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven, and heat to 400 degrees F.
  2. Trim the excess fat from the chicken, and season it inside and out with half of the salt.
  3. Scatter the onions, carrot, parsnips, sage, cloves, and cinnamon in a large Dutch oven big enough to hold the chicken with a little room around the edges. Sprinkle over this the rest of the salt, and set the chicken on top of the vegetables.
  4. Put the pot on the stove, pour in the stock, beer, and apple cider, and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  5. Cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes on top of the stove.
  6. Put the pot in the oven, and roast the chicken for about 30 minutes, basting with the pan juices two or three times.
  7. Cover the chicken with a sheet of aluminum foil to prevent over-browning, and roast another 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the foil, and roast another 20 to 30 minutes, basting frequently, until the chicken and vegetables are cooked through and tender.
  9. Remove the chicken to a warm platter, and surround with the vegetables. Bring the pan juices to a boil on top of the stove, skim the fat, and cook until reduced by half. Carve the chicken, and spoon some of the pan juices on top.

Lidia Bastianich is an Emmy award-winning public television host, a best‐selling cookbook author, restaurateur, and owner of a flourishing food and entertainment business.

A Nutritious Meal in Mere Minutes

Calling all salmon lovers! Here’s a good, nutritious, healthy, and best of all, quick dinner that’ll make you feel a bit self-righteous after all of the could-kick-yourself-moments-for-eating-too-much during the holidays. Five-Spice-Glazed Salmon with Sesame Green Beans came from the Make It Tonight series from Fine Cooking, and not only is it spot-on tasty, it’s such a cinch to prep and cook.


The ingredients, Chinese five-spice powder, honey, garlic and soy sauce create a tasty glaze for this simple salmon dish. Although some of you may think it a bit too powerful, the saltiness of the soy sauce and the spiciness of the Chinese five-spice and garlic balance the sweetness of the honey nicely. Preferring savory over sweet, I may slightly decrease the amount of honey next time; while you might want to lessen the Chinese five-spice—it’s all a matter of preference.

Broiling the green beans and salmon on the same baking sheet hands you a meal in minutes, and very few dishes to clean! But alas, our broiler in a word, stinks, so I decided to bake everything in a 425F degree oven instead. If your broiler works like it should, by all means follow the directions below, perhaps adding a minute or three. If however you are in the same boat with a sub-par broiler, do as I did, it’ll just take longer. In fact, plan on the total cooking time to be about 15 minutes; stirring the green beans after 7 minutes or so…

…Unless you are serving slender haricot verts (the store wasn’t carrying them at the time I shopped) and smaller salmon fillets. In that case, the cooking time may vary, so you’ll have to keep an eyeball on things. I cut our 1-pound piece of salmon into two pieces, which were larger than 6-ounce fillets listed below, so naturally they took longer.



  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 tsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 tsp. five-spice powder
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Four 6-oz. skin-on salmon fillets (preferably wild), pin bones and scales removed
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 lb. slender green beans, trimmed
  • 2 tsp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. Asian sesame oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice


  1. In a small bowl, whisk the honey, soy sauce, five-spice powder, and garlic.
  2. Put the salmon skin side down on a large plate and pour the honey mixture over it. Flip the fillets so they are skin side up. Let the fish marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the green beans with the canola and sesame oils. Arrange the beans on one half of the prepared baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the salmon skin side down on the other half of the baking sheet. Brush the salmon with any remaining marinade from the plate.
  5. Broil the salmon and green beans for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, toss the green beans with tongs, and reposition the salmon pieces as needed so that they cook evenly. Continue to broil until the salmon is just cooked through and the beans are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Toss the green beans with the sesame seeds and lemon juice and serve.

By Ivy Manning from Fine Cooking

Gypsy Blu

What to do for New Year’s Eve? Plans changed a few times, but the final count dwindled down to 5 of us, starting at Paula and Mike Graham’s house in Upper Dublin for cocktails and appetizers. Mike’s very spry 93-year-old mother Jo was back in from Seattle for the holidays and she joined us in the festivities. Paula was able to snag reservations at Gypsy Blu, a place located in a former historic inn that we were now anxious to try.

IMG_1963Mike Graham and his lovely mother Jo in from Seattle for the holidays.

Although new to Ambler in the Spring of 2015 after a series of other restaurants came and went, the force behind Gypsy Blu is not new to the business, not by any stretch. Partners, Kim Strengari and Marianne Gere, are established restauranteurs, with three successful eateries under their belts. Stella Blu (2001), The Gypsy Saloon (2004), and Southern Cross Kitchen (2012) are located just 20 minutes away in Conshohocken, and all three thrive within less than one mile of each other.




Apparently their restaurants are known for culinary twists and engaging atmospheres with eclectic furnishings, a fun bar scene, live music, alfresco dining, a rockin’ happy hour and exciting nightly specials. Brunch is served at two of the three locations—including bottomless bloodys and mimosas! Will have to make it a mission to check out their other haunts.

For New Year’s Eve you could order off of their special menu which touted five appetizers and five entrees, or from their regular “All Day Menu.” So for starters, Russ and I were the only ones who partook of a first course, and we split the very good Blackened Scallops appetizer that was plated with two large, juicy scallops and a generous mound of avocado, tomato and corn salad embellished with a swash of sweet and spicy sauce.


And Paula and I both ordered from the NYE special menu with Paula zeroing in on the Pan Seared Black Chilean Sea Bass with grilled polenta, haricots verts, topped with a mixed tomato and white wine garlic sauce. I chose the Crab Pesto Spaghetti with jumbo lump crab meat, pesto and pine nuts. And while it was good, I expected a lot more lump crab meat and the flavor factor was a little too subtle for me so I asked for some crushed red pepper flakes—three times, before I finally got them.



Mother Jo went simple with a Chopped Cobb Salad, and both guys made a selection also from the “All Day Menu” with Mike opting for the Chicken & Sausage comprised of chicken breast, hot Italian sausage, red sauce, ricotta cheese, mashed potatoes and green beans. While Russ went in a different direction from his usual(s) and got the Salmon in Parchment cooked with tomato, lemon, cilantro, parsley, mint, ginger herb citrus sauce, with sides of jasmine rice and steamed asparagus.




We all enjoyed our leisurely meal and conversation, and since nobody had room for dessert, and the sound level was on the rise as the band was getting under way, it was our queue to vacate for quieter digs…

An Easy Bite

Our mission for New Year’s Eve was to bring a lo-carb appetizer to our friends Paula and Mike’s to nosh on before we all headed out to dinner. The day before, Russ did a little online detective work and came across this French Onion Stuffed Mushrooms recipe, about the easiest appetizer I’ve ever made, seriously.

Now you could make this a more involved process if you make your own dip, which I’ve been known to do in the past. But sometimes you just need to take the easy road, and you guessed it, this was one of those times. Company can easily pop one in their mouths without any other fan fare—or flatware for that matter.

The shrooms will shrink after the initial baking so keep that in mind when selecting them. And as they cool, they will wick more moisture, you want to eliminate as much as you can before you fill them with dip and cheese.



  • 1 lb baby portabella (cremini) mushroom caps
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion dip
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (Dubliner)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Remove the stems from the mushrooms, discard.
  3. Drizzle the mushrooms all over with olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Place the mushrooms stem side up directly a rimmed baking sheet and place into the preheated oven for about 10 minutes.
  5. Take out of the oven and turn the mushrooms over to drain the liquid that is in the caps. Let cool and mop up any further liquid.
  6. Fill each mushroom with onion dip and top with grated cheese. Place the mushrooms back in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt.

Brush the caps all over with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

The caps will be full of moisture, so turn them over (and tilt the tray) so the liquid drains out. Once they cool, mop up any further moisture.

Once cooled, start filling them with French onion dip.

Mound the grated cheese over the dip and put back into the oven until the cheese melts.

Red Wine Risotto with Beans (Paniscia)

Intrigue and ambivalence in equal measure, that was my mind set when I first saw this recipe. Hailing from the Piedmont region in Northern Italy, Paniscia is usually enjoyed during the winter and around the holidays and consists of beans, sausage and vegetables. Beans in risotto? Never heard of such a thing, so you know I just had to try it. It is hypothesized that the name derives from panìgo, a poor variety of millet, with which this dish was cooked, before the spread of rice.

Making this deeply flavored, hearty, cold-weather specialty, is typically a lengthy process of combining a minestrone-like soup with risotto. However, the need to make two separate dishes is eliminated and simplified to make one hearty Red Wine Risotto with Beans (Paniscia). Sautéed pancetta and mirepoix make a strong flavor base to which tomato paste and garlic is added for more savory depth.


In place of the hard-to-find traditional Italian salam d’la duja, use mild Italian-style salami, sautéing it with the Arborio rice before adding red wine and broth. It’s preferable to use a smaller, individually packaged, dry Italian-style salami such as Genoa or soppressata, but unsliced deli salami can be substituted. Near the end of cooking, add chopped cabbage and creamy canned pinto beans. The dish is finished with butter for even more richness, and red wine vinegar to brighten the meaty flavors.

The classic technique for making risotto calls for near-constant stirring for roughly 25 minutes. This accomplishes two things: It maximizes the release of starch from the rice to create a creamy sauce, and it ensures that every grain cooks evenly. Frequent small additions of hot broth are ladled in from a separate saucepan on the stove, which purportedly helps keep the cooking from slowing down.

But this recipe ditches the traditional rules by not bothering to heat the broth before adding it. When room-temperature broth hits the already-hot pot, it quickly comes up to temperature. And stir only occasionally because the rice is cooked in a covered heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-low heat, which distributes the heat as evenly as does stirring, making every grain as tender as the next. A brief stir at the end of cooking followed by a 5-minute rest provides additional insurance that the rice will be perfectly al dente, from the top of the pot to the bottom.

And, although not traditional, incorporating a bit of grated Parmesan adds salty depth. Almost stew- or chili-like in consistency, this dish offers lots of taste with very little meat. After eating a bowl, I was no longer ambivalent, in fact, we are now both converts of Paniscia!



  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces pancetta, chopped fine
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 1 celery rib, chopped fine
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
  • 6 ounces salami, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 small head green cabbage, halved, cored, and cut into ½-inch pieces (4 cups)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup hot tap water, plus extra as needed
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (½ cup), plus extra for serving
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


  1. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add onion, carrot, celery, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add rice and salami and cook, stirring frequently, until rice grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in broth, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through simmering.
  6. Stir in cabbage and continue to cook, covered, until almost all liquid has been absorbed and rice is just al dente, 6 to 9 minutes longer. (I had to cook an additional 4 minutes here.)
  7. Add beans and hot water and stir gently and constantly until risotto is creamy, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and butter.
  8. If desired, add up to 1 cup extra hot water to create fluid, pourable consistency. Stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately, passing extra Parmesan separately.

Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated test kitchen 

This Ain’t Your Typical American Pizzeria

Acqua e Farina brings truly “autentico” Neapolitan-style pizza to Newtown. Their pies are served from the bona fide, Naples-built brick oven, the kind you would find in Italy—transforming 12-inch pies with a crispy crust surrounding a hot, molten center with milky buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato sauce and mouth-watering toppings.

The name of the eatery literally means water and flour, the two ingredients used in the making of the authentic pies. And just about everything inside the sit down and take out eatery on the Richboro Road is from Italy, from the decorative oven that cooks the pies in three minutes at temperatures hovering around 700 degrees, to the ingredients used to make the delectable pies.

They also have bar seating (it’s a BYO) at the counter with a view of the Italian brick oven.

Acqua e Farina is owned by Pasquale and Anna Palino, who have already built a reputation in Newtown for authentic Italian cooking at their popular Vecchia Osteria, one of our local faves, a restaurant located just down the street. You can bet, it is an experience. There’s nothing pre-made here, it’s all made to order.

So when the three kids were in town for the holiday season, we decided it would be easiest to go out for pizza because we had cooked all day and would be cooking the following day on Christmas Eve. Russ happened to remember Veccia’s newish pizzeria and suggested we go there to check it out.

Since it was a Saturday night, I thought reservations would be in order. But when I called the hostess informed me they only take reservations for parties of 10 or more. Since our group was only half that size, I was a little disappointed. She must have heard the concern in my voice because she mentioned if I called just as we left the house, she’d put our name on the list. When we got there, sure enough they had a large corner table ready.

David, Lynn, Russ, Julia and Daniel enjoy some wine while waiting for the food.

According to famed chef-author Lidia Bastianich, pizza in Naples should have a puffy, almost blistered rim or cornice, and a very thin center. The puffy cornice should be well roasted and have the taste of the wood oven. The mozzarella should be made from water-buffalo milk and should be in distinctive pieces (not one big oozing, stringy mess.) The tomato should be the uncooked pulp of San Marzano tomatoes, passed through a mill, and not too much of it on the pizza. A few pieces of fresh basil scattered on top and that’s it.

Well, this wasn’t just “a-couple-of-pies” kinda night. The large chalkboard behind us was touting some tempting appetizers so we had to order their Stuffed Meatballs and Gnocchi, which the gang mostly polished off before I remembered to take a couple of pics, but just goes to show you how good they were!

While devouring those, we ordered a pie-per-person (no, we did not finish them all!) All arrived but Dan’s, and when he inquired about his, the waitress told him they forgot to include it in the order, but it was just tossed in the oven. Had he known, we would have just told them to forget it because we had more than enough food. Then, as a consolation, they gave Dan a large order of their marinara-topped bread squares to go—like we needed that!

One of the pies, the Quattro Formaggio, was no longer on the menu but since Russ had been given an older menu, they decided to honor it. I never understand why restaurants give you bread as an appetizer when you’re ordering a bunch of carb-loaded food?! Anyway, Dan got about a dozen more of these focaccia squares, above, on the house…

In no particular order, here are the pizzas:

Fresh Tomato Sauce, Buffalo Mozzarella With Olive Oil & Basil

Contadina: Fresh Tomato Sauce, Buffalo Mozzarella, Roasted Peppers, Kalamata Olives, Eggplant, Zucchini & Mushrooms With Oil & Basil

Grape Tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella, Arugula, Prosciutto Topped Shaved Parmigiano

Mushrooms, Buffola Mozzarella & Sausage With Oil & Basil

Quattro Formaggio: (Four Cheeses), Mozzarella, Ricotta, Gorgonzola, Parmesan & Basil

Holiday Riff on an Ice Cream Sundae

As promised, our dessert from Christmas Eve dinner with the adult “kids” was Profiteroles with Peppermint Ice Cream, a sure crowd pleaser, and one that Russ made many times over the course of their childhood years. Never heard of one? They are a filled French choux pastry ball with a typically sweet and moist filling.

This time though it started out a bit disastrous when he realized we were out of bittersweet chocolate. I did the HUGE food shopping the day before but it wasn’t on the “list,” and that morning Russ had just been to the super-crowded grocery store to pick up some overlooked items for our holiday dinner and he refused to go out again. Lynn to the rescue! I quickly Googled a substitute for bittersweet chocolate (knowing we had every other iteration of chocolate known to mankind on hand) and saved our marriage 😉


BTW, two possible replacements are: for 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate substitute 2/3 ounce of unsweetened chocolate + 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar; OR 1 ounce semisweet chocolate + 1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder. We opted for the second combination and the sauce turned out velvety fabulous!


Profiteroles are a classy way of creating an ice cream sundae. Hide the festive peppermint ice cream inside a crisp puff of pastry (the same dough that cream puffs are made from), then drizzle it with full-bodied chocolate sauce and a sprinkle of crushed candies. Voila, holiday on a plate!


Now about that ice cream. Can you believe the supermarket was not carrying peppermint ice cream at Christmas time? Well, that’s where a little food ingenuity comes in handy. Russ knew it might be a possibility we wouldn’t find any (I was confident it wouldn’t be an issue—ha), so he coached me ahead of time to get vanilla and we’d make our own with a bit of peppermint extract and some crushed candy canes. Sounds simple enough, right?

However, there’s a BIG “but” coming—Russ added way too much peppermint extract to the point it was almost bitter tasting. His son Dan did a taste test for us and he concurred, not edible. Then a few hours later both Julia and David arrived and also sampled it and declared the dessert resembled a very strong breath mint—not the flavor profile we were aiming for…

So now Russ had to go back to the store anyway, and this time on Christmas Eve! I happened to notice a posting on Facebook that our local Shady Brook nursery farm stand (with a decent food store and holiday light show) was promoting peppermint ice cream. Why the H they couldn’t have posted that a day or so prior?!?


Did he score? You betcha! Uncle Dave’s Handmade Peppermint Stick ice cream personally scooped for Russ by Uncle Dave himself. In fact, they got into a conversation about profiteroles with Uncle Dave’s favorite being pistachio, but once he heard about Russ’ peppermint concoction, he vowed that would be his next creation. Russ opened the container as soon as he got home and three of us sampled it immediately and declared it a winner! The Christmas Eve tradition was saved…

The directions tell you to make ice cream balls ahead of time, but we omitted that step and just scooped the frozen stuff right out of the container. (However, the instructions still contain making the balls if you so insist.)


  • 1 quart peppermint ice cream (or make your own if you need to)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs

For chocolate sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 7 ounce fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac or brandy (optional)


Make profiteroles:

  1. Chill a small metal baking pan in freezer. Form 18 ice cream balls with scoop and freeze in chilled pan at least 1 hour (this will make serving faster).
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Butter a large baking sheet.
  3. Bring butter, water, and salt to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until butter is melted. Reduce heat to medium, then add flour all at once and cook, beating with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from side of pan and forms a ball, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool slightly, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well with an electric mixer after each addition.
  5. Transfer warm mixture to pastry bag and pipe 15-18 mounds (about 1 1/4 inches wide and 1 inch high) 1 inch apart on baking sheet.
  6. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes total. Prick each profiterole once with a skewer or toothpick, then return to oven to dry, propping oven door slightly ajar, 3 minutes. Cool on sheet on a rack.

Make chocolate sauce:

  1. Heat sugar in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling pan occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber.
  2. Remove from heat, then add cream and a pinch of salt (mixture will bubble and steam). Return to heat and cook, stirring, until caramel has dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat and add chocolate, whisking until melted, then whisk in vanilla and Cognac (if using, and we did). Keep warm, covered.

Serve profiteroles:

  1. Halve profiteroles horizontally, then fill each with a ball (or scoop) of ice cream. Put three profiteroles on each plate and drizzle generously with warm chocolate sauce.



A couple of notes:

·Ice cream balls (if making) can be frozen up to 1 day (cover with plastic wrap after 1 hour).

·Profiteroles can be baked 1 day ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Recrisp on a baking sheet in a 375°F oven 5 minutes. Cool before filling.


A Sinfully Decadent Holiday Meal Extravaganza

Sometimes you have to throw caution (or more precisely, diets) to the wind and just go for the gusto. And Christmas Eve dinner this year was one of those times. What was on the menu? Well the star of the show was definitely the standing prime rib roast. Mind you, this was a near 9-pounder of well-marbled prime beef rib—and a pretty penny to boot. But all three kids (they’ll always be “the kids” no matter what their age!) were going to be joining us for the feast, and we wanted it to be special.


The reasons why this roast works so perfectly is the low and slow start which delivers perfectly, evenly cooked, medium-rare doneness all the way from edge to center. Then blasting the prime rib with heat just before serving gives you a crackling-crisp, browned crust. By cooking it at a low temperature, you make sure to minimize the volume of beef that comes above the ideal final temperature and almost completely eliminate the gray band of overcooked meat.

A few hours before dinner we all enjoyed some Gambas al Ajillo, sizzling garlic shrimp.

Whether you buy prime or select, fresh or dry-aged, corn-stuffed or grass-fed, if you don’t cook it right, it ain’t going to be good. Period. Here is chef/author Kenji’s definition of perfection, in three commandments:

Commandment I: The Perfect Prime Rib must have a deep brown, crisp, crackly, salty crust on its exterior.
Commandment II: In the Perfect Prime Rib, the gradient at the interface between the brown crust and the perfectly medium-rare interior must be absolutely minimized (as in, I don’t want a layer of overcooked meat around the edges).
Commandment III: The Perfect Prime Rib must retain as many juices as possible.

The best part? By cooking with this two stage method, there is a much larger window of time to serve the beef allowing you time to relax with your family/guests. Once you get past the initial low-temperature phase of cooking, so long as the roast is covered in foil, it stays warm for up to almost two hours. All you have to do is pop it back into its 550°F oven 8 minutes before guests are ready to eat, and the roast emerges hot, sizzling, and ready to carve—no need to rest it after that, since the only part that is being affected is the very exterior.

Slow-roasted prime rib with a rich red wine jus and a side of braised oxtail makes the perfect holiday centerpiece. Serves 3 to 12, depending on size of roast. We actually did make a “reverse sear” Prime Rib for Christmas a few years ago, and you can check out that blog here. The directions are somewhat different from this recipe, but the concept is the same.

From 2 to 6 ribs (3-12 pounds), this recipe works for roasts of almost any size. Plan on one pound of bone-in roast per guest (or more if you want leftovers 🙂 ) For best results use a dry-aged prime-grade or grass-fed roast. Cooking time is identical regardless of the size of the roast. To improve the crust, allow it to air-dry, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight before roasting. Seasoning with salt up to a day in advance will help the seasoning penetrate the meat more deeply, which is an extra step that we made sure to follow.


Totally sinful, but well worth it—every now and again. What are you waiting for? Here’s your preplanned menu for a New Year’s celebration…


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds beef shins or oxtail
  • 1 pound beef or veal soup bones
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 ribs celery, roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 (750ml) bottle dry red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 parsley stems
  • 1 quart chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 standing rib roast (prime rib)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter


  1. Adjust oven rack to lower position and preheat oven to 250°F. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat until lightly smoking. Add beef shins or oxtail and soup bones. Cook, flipping and stirring pieces occasionally, until well browned on all surfaces, about 15 minutes. Using tongs, transfer beef to a large plate and set aside.
  2. Add carrot, celery, and onion to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to lightly brown, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add wine, bay leaves, thyme, and parsley and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add chicken stock, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, another 10 minutes.
  5. Arrange beef shins/oxtail and bones in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Pour entire contents of Dutch oven on top of bones and spread vegetables around into an even layer. Place a V-rack on top, arranging meat and vegetables so that rack rests on bottom of pan.
  6. Season rib roast generously with salt and pepper on all sides and place on rack with fat cap facing up. Place in oven and cook until center of roast registers 125°F on an
  7. Remove roast from oven, transfer to a large plate, and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Place in a warm spot in the kitchen and allow to rest while you finish the jus. Meanwhile, increase oven temperature to highest possible setting, 500 to 550°F.
  8. Using tongs, remove shins/oxtail from roasting pan and transfer to a medium saucepan. Pour remaining contents of pan through a fine-mesh strainer into saucepan. Discard strained vegetables and bones. (Reserve marrow, if you like, for spreading on bread or mixing back into jus.)
  9. Using a ladle, skim excess fat off top of liquid and discard. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until shins/oxtail are completely tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer shins/oxtail to a serving plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Season jus to taste with salt and pepper (you may not need any salt). Stir in butter off heat. Keep warm.
    IMG_1879A platter of the cooked oxtails, above.
  10. Wipe out roasting pan and replace V-rack. Remove foil from prime rib and place on top of rack with fat cap facing up. Ten minutes before guests are ready to be served, place roast back in hot oven and cook until well browned and crisp on the exterior, 6 to 10 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven, carve, and serve immediately, serving shin/oxtail meat on the side and passing hot jus around the table.

Prime Rib recipe from J. KENJI LÓPEZ-ALT

Our next dilemma was what to serve with the Prime Rib, a Potato Gratin or my famous Twice-Baked Potatoes? Then Russ threw in a curve ball with the Whipped Potatoes with Horseradish recipe by a favorite chef/author Molly Stevens (he didn’t even realize it was one of her recipes until I pointed out the fact.) Instant winner!


Yes, they are a bit more involved, but after all ’tis the season—plus you can make a day ahead, see note below. While most reviewers were fine with the quantity of horseradish, both Russ and I thought it was too subtle, and next time we’re going to double the amount. And we will also add less milk, the consistency was just a bit too soupy for us.

IMG_1744 2


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided, plus 1/2 cup (1 stick), cut into 1″ cubes, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 2″ pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1″ cubes, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 2/3 cup whole milk, warmed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and pale-green parts only, minced (about 2/3 cup loosely packed)
  • Hungarian sweet paprika


  1. Brush an 8x8x2″ or other 6-cup baking dish with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Place potatoes in a large pot and add cold water to cover by 1″. Add a large pinch of salt; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover with lid slightly ajar and gently simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Drain potatoes; return to same pot. Shake and stir with a wooden spoon over very low heat until dry.IMG_1781
  3. Then, using a potato masher, mash coarsely. Using a hand mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter into potatoes, a few pieces at a time, until blended. Beat in cream cheese, adding a few pieces at a time, then horseradish.
  4. With motor running, gradually add milk, beating until potatoes are light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir in scallions. Scrape potatoes into prepared dish.
  6. Use a spatula to create peaks across the surface. Drizzle potatoes with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter and sprinkle with paprika. DO AHEAD: Potatoes can be made 1 day ahead. Let stand at room temperature to cool. Cover and chill.
  7. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake potatoes, uncovered, until they are heated through and top is golden, about 40 minutes (if chilled, add 10 minutes).

Of course, what’s a special meal without dessert? For this dinner the answer was Profiteroles with Peppermint Ice Cream. But you’ll have to wait until the next blog…

Christmas Quiche

With Russ making Crème Brûlée French Toast and sausage links for the kids for Christmas Eve brunch (neither of which I eat), I wanted to indulge myself with a holiday treat that appealed to my culinary senses. I’ve always loved quiche, especially if it’s full of healthy veggies, so after a little online research, I concocted this festive looking Christmas Quiche using asparagus, mushrooms and shallots.


Of course, what’s a fabulous quiche without a great cheese? Here’s where you can zero in on what strikes your fancy, in my case it was Oscar Wilde Aged Irish Cheddar.


It may be a bit tricky figuring out what lengths to cut the tree “branches” but just make sure to cut two of each size for both sides of the tree. I used both the asparagus tips and some of the cut stalks to assemble mine, but you could also use only tips. Any leftovers save for a salad or stir-fry.

For ornamentation, I used the smaller end of my large circular pastry bag tip to cut out little circles from a roasted red pepper. Originally I planned on using a piquillo pepper but we were fresh out and the store wasn’t carrying any. (This is an item Russ often orders online from a Spanish supply company.)


The name piquillo means “little beak.” Traditionally piquillo peppers are grown in Northern Spain and are hand picked then roasted over open fires. The peppers are then peeled, all by hand then packed in jars or tins. The roasting of the pepper gives it a rich, spicy-sweet flavor. Jarred roasted red peppers make a fine substitute.

Merry Christmas from our table to yours!!


  • 1 9″ deep dish Pie Crust, precooked
  • 1/2 bunch thin Asparagus
  • 1/2 cup sliced Mushrooms
  • 1 large Shallot, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 Piquillo or Roasted Red pepper for ornamentation, cut into small circles
  • 1 tablespoon Butter
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar
  • 5 Large Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 cup Whole Milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt, divided
  • 1/4 of white Pepper, divided


  1. Precook your pie crust according to package directions and let cool.
  2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Precook the shallot, mushrooms and thyme in a medium-low sauté pan with the butter for about 5 minutes to soften—this helps bring out their flavors. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon white pepper.
  4. While doing this, blanche the asparagus pieces in boiling water for 1 minute, then quickly cool under cold water, drain thoroughly. This will help preserve the bright green color.
  5. Layer the shredded cheese first, then add the mushroom mixture in the pie crust.
  6. Mix the eggs, cream, milk, and remaining salt, and pepper. Either beat them by hand for 2 minutes, or use a mixer for 1 minute. You want the eggs to be light and fluffy.
  7. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cheese and into the pie crust. Fill the crust as much as possible, without letting the egg spill out; but saving a little room for the asparagus.
  8. Arrange the asparagus pieces into a tree formation and gently place the red pepper circles, slightly overlapping the branches, to resemble ornaments.
  9. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until the center of the quiche has firmed up. Check halfway through the cooking time and if the crust is starting to get too brown, cover very loosely with a sheet of tinfoil. My quiche took the entire 55 minutes.
  10. Cool for 20 minutes before serving; or cool completely then cover with plastic wrap to refrigerate.
  11. When you are ready to reheat the quiche, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap and place the quiche in the oven in its original pan for about 15-20 minutes or until the center is warmed through.