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I laugh, I live, I appreciate art and I cook. I worked in catering for many years and now I have a food blog. I enjoy cooking for friends and family and I love to share a good recipe or two!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pepper Biscuits and White Sausage Gravy

This post is inspired by one of my favorite concepts: breakfast for dinner. Growing up we would often get breakfast for dinner as a special treat. It usually meant eggs and some kind of vehicle for New York’s spectacular maple syrup (my mom’s banana walnut and blueberry pancakes stand out as favorites). I usually enjoy savory fare for breakfast, especially given the price of real maple syrup here on the West coast. So, instead of trying out pancakes or french toast I’ve decided to add one of my favorite breakfasts to our menu: biscuits and gravy with a perfectly fried egg. While visiting my badass ship captain/carpenter/former lobsterman sister in Maine we stopped in at a little diner in Portland. As we approached the diner I could smell the wonderful aroma of sausage gravy and I had a feeling I was about to encounter a popular American classic: biscuits and gravy. It was indeed on the menu and it was absolutely delicious! Soft, fluffy New England style biscuits made a perfect vehicle for luscious, flavorful sausage gravy. Rich, runny egg yolk from a perfectly over-medium fried egg brought the combination together in a decadent, mouthwatering way.

I’ve been thinking about putting breakfast for dinner on my weekly menu ever since I planned a weekly menu for a good friend of mine who daily cooks dinner for her husband and two young daughters. We’ll call her R. I feel pretty harried cruising the aisles of the grocery store with just one cute little wriggler, much less two, so I try to plan the menu for the entire week and buy most of my groceries in one trip. This is an entirely new experience for me, as I previously mainly cooked to develop recipes for the blog. When I became a mom I was suddenly filled with the yearning to make us a home cooked meal every night. Aside from playing with my son and watching him learn and grow, prepping and cooking dinner for my family has been the most fun and rewarding part of my day.

My friend R, who made spectacular stuffed mushrooms for a recent dinner we had together, is rather modest about her cooking abilities. She mentioned that coming up with a new idea every night for dinner was probably the hardest part about cooking for a family. I mentioned my weekly menus and infrequent grocery store trips. I offered to write one for her family and she accepted. This weekly menu presented some unique challenges: she is vegetarian; her husband is not. They both eat eggs so as a way to bridge the gap and make cooking easier on her I suggested breakfast for dinner for one night of the week.

The gravy is lovely as a stand alone. White sausage gravy is creamy and tastes quite a bit more rich than it actually is. Sauteed onions make it sweet and it is kept from being too boring by the addition of bitter, lightly herbaceous celery and sweet thyme. If you’re wondering how they come together I sift the dry biscuit ingredients, then make the gravy, preheat the oven and stick the gravy pan on the back of the stove (next to the oven vent) to keep it warm as I finish getting the biscuits together.

Black Pepper Biscuits

Makes one dozen

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 tsp salt
3 tsps baking powder
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
Generous pinch of freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350. Sift together dry ingredients (including pepper).
2. With your fingers, add butter: delicately pinch it with the flower between your fingers, until dough begins to resemble large, soft sand.
3. Add milk and buttermilk and mix gently until they have been incorporated. Stop mixing the instant the dough no longer feels wet.
4. Using your hands, break off 1/4 of the dough mixture. Roll gently, then flatten into a roughly circular shape roughly 1” thick. From the dough use a circular cutter or the mouth of a glass to cut out three biscuits.
5. Repeat with remaining portions of dough until all the biscuits have been cut out.
6. Spread biscuits out onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20 - 22 minutes, or until cooked through. Be careful not to overcook.

Serve warm smothered in white sausage gravy.

White Sausage Gravy

Makes 10 - 12 servings

4 pork sausages (preferably bratwursts)
3 cups milk
3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup beer (or whatever you prefer to use to deglaze)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Salt, to taste
Pepper, generously, to taste

1. Heat a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Remove sausage casings, add the meat to the pan and crumble it up. Add pepper.
2. Sear sausage meat and when it is fully cooked through, (about 10 minutes) remove it from the pan and set aside, leaving the fat that has been rendered in the pan.
3. Add celery, onion and thyme and saute over medium heat until the vegetables are cooked through (roughly 5 - 7 minutes). Set vegetables aside with sausage.
4. Turn heat down slightly and melt butter, then add flour and cayenne. Cook, stirring near-constantly, until the flour turns golden. Deglaze pan with beer.
5. Turn heat to low and whisk in milk. Cook for five minutes, then reintroduce sausage and veggies and when everything is warmed through turn off heat. Gravy will thicken upon standing and will loosen the warmer it gets..
Serve gravy over biscuits and accompanied by eggs fried over medium.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Hound: Vodka Grapefruit with homemade Elderflower Liqueur

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about a cocktail, and I'm posting today with a drink that will chase away your Monday blues. This summer foodies plus’ how about a drink event has really inspired me. I’ve concocted a mock-tail or two; now I’m inspired to recreate an exceptional drink I enjoyed in San Francisco one New Year’s Eve. It was several years ago now, but the drink was so delicious I’ve always intended to get my hands on the ingredients and enjoy it at home.
The bar I imbibed at called the drink The Hound, (which I assume is a play on a Grayhound: vodka with grapefruit juice) but I later learned it could be called a Bichon Frise. Since it was called The Hound when I tried it and as a nod to Game of Thrones, I’ll keep the name. In order to make this cocktail I decided to make my own Elderflower Liqueur. I had fun designing a label for it in publisher, but not half as much fun as I had enjoying the drink! The drink is a bit strong, so if you want to mellow it out a bit my suggestion is to add a few ounces of club soda.

Why go to the trouble of making my own liqueur and hand squeezing grapefruits? Vodka and grapefruit juice, particularly fresh squeezed, are a really nice match, taste wise. The sweet and tart fruit has so much personality and it is a lovely pairing with the exceptionally subtle fire of vodka. Grapefruit juice tastes juicier and more vibrantly citrusy when paired with the sweetly medicinal, herbaceous flavors of Elderflower liqueur. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Give it a try. I think it may just become one of your favorites.

It is not difficult to make liquor infusions and easy enough to turn them into liqueurs (just add the right amount of sugar), and they make great gifts for your fellow booze loving foodie. However, elderflower liqueur is also readily available in stores.

The Hound

(Makes 2 cocktails)

2 ounces elderflower liqueur (see recipe below)
4 ounces vodka
Juice of 2 large ruby red grapefruits

1. Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and drain into martini glasses. If this is too strong, strain into a highball glass and add up to 3 ounces of club soda.

Elderflower Liqueur

1/4 cup dried or 2 to 3 Tablespoons fresh elderflower flowers, leaves and stems
1/4 cup sugar
750 mils 100 proof vodka (or another similarly neutral spirit of about the same proof)

1. In a clean mason jar combine all ingredients. Screw the lid on tight and shake the ingredients well.
2. Set in a cool, dark place to allow to steep for three days. Shake one to two times per day.
3. Strain through a coffee filter to remove all sediment and use in cocktails.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Grilled Salmon with Spicy Teriyaki Glaze

For those of us with lovely early summertime weather it is easy to want to spend all day outdoors. If not all day, then at least enough time to cook dinner over a charcoal grill and perhaps enjoy a beer or two. Whether you call it grilling or barbecuing I’m sure you would agree that not only is it a relaxing way to cook, it is also a fabulous method for imparting maximum flavor to your food. Over the summer I grill my onions alongside my burgers to make a deliciously caramelized topping. I’ve been known to grill corn, zucchini, asparagus and even peaches, as well as many different types of meat skewers. Although I’ve made this salmon dish many times before I’ve always pan seared it and never really thought of grilling it. Until I smelled all the grills going in our little neighborhood and realized that charcoal and a well-seasoned grill impart a smoky, savory flavor that would perfectly compliment the sweet, salty and zesty glaze I had created. At the end of reducing the teriyaki I like to throw in the juice of one or two limes (depending on size); because the glaze is rather sweet they cut the flavor just enough without being sour, and add a fresh, citrusy note that completes the flavors of the dish.

I like to serve this with brown rice and haricot verts sauteed with garlic, mirin and soy sauce.

Grilled Salmon with Spicy Teriyaki Glaze

Serves 2

1 1/4 lbs salmon, portioned into two fillets.
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
Pepper, to taste


1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
Juice of 1-2 limes (about 3 Tablespoons’ worth)
1/2 teaspoon sriracha or hot sauce of choice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper

1. Premake the sauce: combine all ingredients, except for the lime juice in a small saucepan over low heat. As sugar melts, stir frequently. Bring the pan down to the lowest heat and reduce for about 15 minutes, or until it has reduced by half.
2. Rinse the salmon thoroughly under cold water and pat dry. Cover both with olive oil and season with pepper. Grill the salmon, skin side down on a covered grill, over medium indirect heat for 3 minutes. Flip, recover and cook for an additional 3 minutes. This will yield salmon which is medium rare. If you want it more medium or well done, add 1 minute per side.
3. If sauce has cooled, reheat it before finishing it with lime juice. Divide between the two fillets and serve.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Garlic Fried Rice with Char Siu

Sometimes there’s an easy recipe you keep on hand for when days get hectic. Having a sixth month old to care for and now to cook for, I am finally starting to really understand the meaning of the word! At any rate, this flavorful dish is a great way to use up leftover rice. If you don’t have Char Siu, visit my recipe to homemake some here
Perhaps you’d like to make a vegetarian version. In that case, leave out the pork fat and use butter in place of it on a 1:1 ratio.

What really makes this dish wonderful--aside from the bittersweet, spicy earthiness of garlic--is how adaptable it is. You can add any vegetable you like to it, for example. Or no vegetables, if that’s how you roll. Listed below are my recommended ingredients and for variety’s sake. If you want to get fancy and you have a can of water chestnuts or sliced bamboo shoots, they would also be tasty tossed in.

Garlic Fried Rice with Char Siu

Serves 4

2 cups cooked rice
5 scallions, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 carrot, julienned
2 stalks celery, julienned
1 ounce bean sprouts (optional)
1 slab char siu, (approx 1/4 inch thick), diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tablespoon neutral oil (such as safflower, vegetable, canola or peanut oil)
1 1/2 Tablespoons pork fat (rendered from the char siu)
Soy sauce, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. In a wok or heavy bottomed saucepan over medium, heat 1 the oil. Beat the eggs for a minute or so to incorporate more air and then add them to the pan. Tilt pan as you would when forming a crepe to make a thin pancake of egg. Cook 2 -3 minutes, then flip. Cook until eggs are cooked through. Set aside to cool.
2. When eggs have cooled, sliced them into 1/4 inch strips.
3. In the pan over medium heat, add pork fat, then carrots, scallions, char siu and celery. Season with pepper. Cook 3 minutes, until vegetables are beginning to get tender.
4. Add garlic and bean sprouts and a dash of soy sauce and cook for an additional minute.
5. Add rice and more soy sauce, up to 1/2 teaspoon and more black pepper. Cook until rice is heated through.
6. Add egg and cook until egg had been heated, up to 1 minute.
Serve, garnished with additional scallions.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Roasted Zucchini & Parmesan Arancini (fried rice balls)

Traditional arancini is one of the dishes in my “next 100 ideas” post. Why? Because fried rice balls with savory ground beef and pea filling in tomato gravy is just amazing. And I’m definitely going to share a traditional arancini recipe one of these days. However, zucchini are just coming into season, which gives this recipe precedence. Also, it was really fabulously tasty and I highly recommend trying it right away. You might compare these small bites to crispy yet also creamy risotto fritters. As for the taste: sharp, nutty and delectably meltable parmesan was a glorious counterpoint to sweet, caramelized zucchini and starchy rice. And the crunchy outside! Wow.

These rice balls were easier to keep together when they were cold, so if you notice them start to fall apart as you handle them, put them in the fridge or freezer for a bit before dipping them in egg wash and breadcrumb.

Zucchini & Parmesan Arancini

Yield: 12 - 16 (depending on size)

1 1/2 cups cooked short grain white rice
2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise to matchstick length (1/8 inch)
3 ounces finely grated parmesan
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Oil, for frying (any neutral oil, such as vegetable or peanut)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Toss sliced zucchini with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay zucchini in a single layer on a cookie sheet and then roast until soft, about 12 minutes.
2. Allow zucchini to cool, then dice and mix with rice and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Form arancini into small balls and press firmly to compact. If they are too warm after handling cool them down.
3. Fill a small pot with about 1” of oil and heat over medium flame. Dip arancini in egg, then roll in breadcrumbs. Lay arancini in a single layer in oil and cook until the underside has become golden brown, 3 - 5 minutes, depending on size of fritter.
4. Flip and cook an additional 3 - 4 minutes.
Serve warm

Monday, May 9, 2016

Lentil & Bacon Stew with Italian Parsley

Split pea soup, an American institution, is nearly always made with ham. It is actually a really lovely pairing, with the salty, fatty meat enhancing the sweet earthy nuttiness of the peas. That is, if you like ham. I’m not a huge fan of ham, although I love pork loin, belly, shoulder and of course, bacon. As well I’ve always preferred green or brown lentils to split peas. There’s just something about that subtle combination of sweet and bitter; it’s almost clean like a good sweet mountain well water. I’m happy to eat lentils on their own or with a few chopped carrots tossed in, but one day I pondered adding something more. Something more conventionally sexy like...bacon! Bacon works as well with lentils as ham does with split peas. A really great pairing. As lentils are a bit on the sweet side and I like a bit of bitter with bacon’s salty, fatty smoky goodness I hit upon delicately bitter parsley. The three ingredients make a great combination.

I like to serve this soup with my smoked trout salad from the previous post. It freezes really well (I use a muffin tin and plastic wrap to freeze individual portions of
it) so it makes a really fabulous quick dinner when paired with a sandwich or salad.

Lentil & Bacon Stew with Italian Parsley

Makes approximately 10 bowls

3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
16 ounces green lentils, rinsed & picked through
~2 Tablespoons olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of cooking vessel)
500 grams (about 1.5 cups) mirepoix (from about 3 small carrots, 2 stalks celery & 1 medium yellow onion
1 shallot, chopped
75 grams (about 1/4 bunch) Italian Parsley leaves & stems, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
Pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

1. Heat a heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat, then add oil to cover the bottom. Add bacon and cook until bacon begins to crisp and fat has rendered.
2. Add mirepoix, shallots and a pinch of pepper and saute for 4 minutes, or until onions are starting to caramelize.
3. Add parsley, bay leaf and thyme and cook for another 2 - 3 minutes, or until you start to smell thyme.
4. Add lentils and 10 cups water. Bring stew to a boil, then reduce heat to low and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 50 - 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. As the lentils begin to soften, use the back of your stirring utensil to gently mash the lentils in the pot. This will release some more of their flavor into the broth as well as thickening it.
5. When the broth has reduced slightly and the lentils are fully cooked, take stew off heat and serve. Salad or sandwich optional.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Smoked Trout Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

This simple salad is favorite in our house. Why? Well, for one tinned smoked trout keeps practically indefinitely and is absolutely packed with flavor. In fact, it has become a pantry staple. The sweet, tart, bright and earthy citrus and tangy spicy mustard dressing compliments the smoky, salty fish in a wonderful way. These flavors are given the occasional wonderfully surprising pop from the odd fresh herb snippet in the salad mix. If you don’t have a supermarket nearby that offers an herb salad mix I’ve included a note below with suggestions on how to construct it. It really makes a difference in this recipe and is fairly simple, especially for those of us with herb gardens. I usually serve this salad with a homemade lentil soup, such as my lentil, bacon and Italian parsley soup (the recipe for which will be the subject of my next post)

Smoked Trout Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

For the salad:
1 ounce sliced almonds
(1) 8 ounce bag herb salad mix*
5 ounces smoked tinned trout in oil, drained & oil set aside (see dressing ingredients)

For the dressing:
Zest & Juice of 1 orange
1 Tablespoon oil from smoked trout
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 Tablespoon mirin or sherry
1 shallot, roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons dijon or stone ground mustard
Salt, to taste
Pepper, generously, to taste

1. Blend all dressing ingredients until smooth.
2. In the bottom of your large salad bowl flake trout finely.
3. Lay salad over fish, drizzle on dressing and toss to combine.
4. Sprinkle almond slices over the salad and serve.

*Alternatively (if you can’t find herb salad mix) 8 ounces of baby greens or spring mix and 3 - 4 very small sprigs each of Italian Parsley, Cilantro & Dill will do nicely