Monday, November 17, 2008

My Big Purchase

A trip to Dehillerin is always a treat. How do they ever remember where everything is in this place? After you have compiled your list and  located what you wanted to buy, you discover one more item that you just have to have in your  kitchen.......well, this is what I found, that one more item that I still can't believe I dragged all the way back home to Florida. My blind-baked crusts will never shrink or puff up again, not with these. These pie weights are special~they will work because I purchased them in Paris.....and from the legendary store so many of us enjoy. No more beans or rice when baking my crusts!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pommes Farcies Aux Poireaux Et Creme-Apples with leeks and cream

 Not very often do I venture into the world of leeks. I don't quite exactly know why, but I think it has something to do with grit and sand~just when I think I have scrubbed  and rinsed until my fingers have shriveled, I will bite down on something that should not be there. There first time I was preparing leeks, I was completely unaware  about washing and the importance of cleaning between the leaves and root areas. Complete disaster  as you can imagine. My latest experience proved to be a success in every respect! This recipe is adapted  from  Susan Loomis, author of On Rue Tatin. 

   1 C. water
   1 Dried bay leaf
   Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
   4 Large apples
   2 T.unsalted butter
   The white part of four large leeks, WELL rinsed and diced
   2 T.  to 1/4 C. bottled water
   1/4 C. creme fraiche or heavy cream
   Sweet cicely or flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cored apples in a baking dish and pour the water around the apples. Remember to remove one strip of skin from the apple so it does not burst  during the baking process.  Add the bay leaf to water. Lightly salt the inside of the apples. 

Place 1 T. of the butter and the chopped leeks in heavy saucepan, cook and stirring until leeks are transparent. Add the water, stir and cover pan. Continue cooking until leeks are tender, about 10 minutes, adding additional water if needed to keep the leeks from sticking.

Transfer cooked leeks to a bowl where you add the cream. Stir and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Gently fill each apple with equal amounts of mixture, pressing it into the cavity and mounding it on top, if possible. Top  each apple with 1/4 of the remaining butter.

Bake in center of oven until apples are tender and leeks are golden brown for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, serve on warmed plates and garnish. Serve immediately.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Sunday in the Park-Jardin du Luxenbourg

Here are a few pictures I just had to share-what a way to spend a Sunday afternoon! Joggers were pounding the dirt, babies pushed in exquisite strollers, bookworms parked on park chairs, all images of the unhurried Parisian

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

On Rue Tatin in Paris


Bienvenue! Last week I made a very quick trip to Paris and had  the opportunity to meet Susan  Herrmann Loomis. She is the author of On Rue TatinFarmhouse CookbookFrench Farmhouse Cookbook, The Great American Seafood Cookbook and the Italian Farmhouse Cookbook.  I can't keep up with all of these books! What talent! Anyway, the class was held in  the cooking  apartment belonging to Patricia Wells. Should you ever have an extra day or week while visiting the city, try to include a lesson or two from Susan. She is a delight to work with and very entertaining!
 The menu for the day consisted of two favorite dishes of Susans', "Pintate Aux Agrumes Aux Legumes De La Ferme" (braised Guinea hen with citrus and farm vegetables) and "Pommes Farcies Aux Poireaux Et Creme" (apples stuffed with leeks and cream). After the completion of the dishes, we were able to sit down for the tasting.....then  critique our creations. None of us had any negative comments! For dessert we made a pear clafoutis, which melted in my mouth. The entire experience was charming and how wonderful it was  to be back in my favorite spot on the globe!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Fall

            I find it hard to believe fall  is  here again.             
Where has the time gone? Getting the new store up and running has been a chore, to say the least. Anyway, I have been  cooking, but not much, and thought I would share this recipe.
 I just returned  from visiting my sister in Erie, PA... She has an abundance of tomatoes still growing. We popped some into the oven and devoured them as fast as they came out. Not only were the tomatoes delicious, but the colors that surrounded her garden and neighborhood were spectacular. I have to share some other pictures!

Serves six.
6 tomatoes, sliced in half.
1 T. of balsamic vinegar on each half.
1 t. of honey on each half.
1 T. of olive oil on each half.
2 garlic cloves, sliced very thin.
salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the tomato halves cut- side up on baking dish or tray. Place a slice of garlic on each tomato and then drizzle with the honey, oil and vinegar.   Salt and pepper to taste . Roast until lightly browned. This may take an hour. Drizzle with a bit more oil and vinegar before serving.  Serve  the tomatoes chilled or at room temperature.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lunch in Mumbai

Traveling as far as thirty miles away, the dabbawalas begin each day by picking up homemade lunches and delivering them to workers either in an office or factories in Mumbai. As you can imagine, being the second most populated city in the world, the traffic in this city is crowded and often jammed beyond reason, preventing people from leaving their workplace to eat lunch. Under British rule, this was the way many British workers dined......also, workers spend a great deal of time commuting to and from work making lunchtime totally unfeasible to travel away from the office for lunch.
For a small fee, the dabbawalas arrive around 9:30 to pick up the specially designed containers and off they go, either on bike or foot, to the final destination. Mass lunch brigades on coffin like platforms arrive by train and then are picked up by a very organized team and delivered to the designated destination. You will notice on the lunch containers codes to determine what train the lunches will be carried on and the code for final delivery. Churchgate Station is a great location to witness the incredible display of teamwork. The action commences around 11:30am when containers are loaded off the trains and grouped for delivery. To top it all off, the lunch containers(tiffins)are then picked up after lunch and delivered back home, ready to prepare for the next day. Needless to say, scheduling and timeliness are essential for this profession.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Delights From The Chianti Region!

It is impossible for a "certain" group of us  to pass by a market or grocery store anywhere! Endless displays of food catch my eye and entertain me for longer than is necessary.....many times I get that tug on the shirt indicating, "let's go"....guess it is just a "foodie thing".
 I do so appreciate all the talented  people in the food world for their outstanding dedication and creations for all of us to enjoy and sometime taste!
 Hope your summer is going well..........

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Caramelised Mushrooms

Here is a very special "Aussie" recipe and easy appetizer, especially if you are fond of mushrooms~and goat cheese! The flavor lingers long after the last bite!
8 oz. button mushrooms
1 T. olive oil
2 T. brown sugar
1-2 T. balsamic vinegar
8 oz. goat cheese
1 French Baguette, sliced and toasted
A few sprigs of fresh arugula
Place the mushrooms, sugar, oil and vinegar in a small bowl and toss until well coated. Place and cook in a non-stick frying pan for about 10 minutes. Keep stirring until the sauce begins to caramelize. Spread the goat chesse on the thinly sliced baguette and top with mushrooms and arugula. Now invite some friends over for a bite and glass of chilled white wine! Enjoy!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Quick Summertime Dessert

On this last tour through Tuscany, I was able to introduce many new foods to this incredible group of travelers. For a few, this was their first time to this part of the world and their excitement level was off the peg! How refreshing to be around such a positive and upbeat group! 
Having one more stop to make before calling it a day, we stopped for a special treat - a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on a scoop of rich and creamy vanilla ice cream. What a treat this was! The combination sounded a bit strange to some, but after their first spoonful, opinions changed! The key here is to pour the most expensive vinegar you can afford on the ice cream. This vinegar is not the one used for salads and such. I have to admit, I do not own a bottle of  I could use for a dessert. I wish!

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Maybe it's just me, but I swear the displays of gelato seem to grow larger and larger each time I visit Italy. The creations and new flavors are endless! I would never think to throw in a few coconut shells or melon slices to show off these mountains of creamy masterpieces . So many times I would see the attendant scoop into the gelato and I would hesitate to look for fear they would destroy this piece of edible art before I was able to get my shots.(pictures) Never fear. A few pats, quick movements with the hand and the mountain appeared again, just as lovely.  Down the road, on the other side of the street were two more gelato stands. Then more and more!

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Tuscan Man, Dario Castagno

    Meet another Dario, the writer. Maybe you have read some of his books or have even had the pleasure of meeting  or spending time with him when he was conducting tours in Tuscany. Dario recently toured the U.S. last spring promoting his book, Too Much Tuscan Sun.  I was able to catch up with him a few weeks ago in Tuscany where we shared an incredible lunch at the Relais  Borgo Scopeto and attended a brief, but very captivating history session learning about the famous Palio, held twice a year in Siena.
 Dario is a proud member of Siena's Caterpillar contrada, which actually won the Palio in 2003. Although Dario does not actually ride bareback around the Campo, his spirit and sense of community is overwhelming. He is truly "The Tuscan Man." 

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Butcher of Panzano

  Drive twenty five miles south of Florence, IT,  you will arrive in the small historic town of Panzano, where an intriguing "macelleria"(butcher shop) is located. Dario Cecchini is the owner, also the chef and quite the entertainer! As you step through the doorway you are immediately treated like one of his best friends and offered a sample of his local wines and meats. An aroma of fresh herbs overtakes your sense of smell while your mouth waters as you spy the incredible display of rosemary-stuffed pork displayed on the massive chopping block towards the back of the store. While we were standing next to a side table, draped with various cheese, breads and sausages and unusual meats, additional visitors were entering making it feel more like a reunion of wonderful friends rather than strangers from across the globe. I can't tell you when I had more fun in a butcher shop.....

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms

You think you are biting into a juicy piece of meat until you realize, this is just a mushroom. My meat-mushroom! We are on our second week of no meat(no fish, no chicken, no nothing!) It really is working out well, however, keeping fresh veggies on hand presents a few problems. I am trying my best to limit trips to the grocery during the week...keeping my green responsibilites to a minimum....anyway, I have several recipe books in the store now and Maxine Clark's came to mind when thinking about what to serve for dinner tonight. In her Easy Italian-simple recipes for every occassion, she has given us a number of delicious recipes using the best and freshest ingredients producing several outstanding dishes for busy people. Anyone busy these days?
6 lg. mushroom caps.
2 T.olive oil, extra for brushing.
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped.
3 T. chopped fresh parsely.
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and chopped.
3 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced.
A pinch of ground hot pepper.
8 oz. ricotta cheese.
salt and pepper.
3 T. freshly grated Parmeasan cheese.
Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and chop finely. Heat oil and add mushrooms, garlic, olives and parsley. Saute gently to soften garlic. Remove from heat and add tomatoes, red pepper, salt, pepper and gently stir in ricotta.
Brush the mushrooms with the olive oil and top with the ricotta filling in loose mounds. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake on tray in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves six.
I added a special treat for myself-threw in a few heads of garlic!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ricotta Souffle with Amaretto Strawberries

     One of  my dear friends, now living in Clearwater, invited  hubby and I over for dinner a number of years ago. She prepared a dessert that I have been able to reproduce many times and it always comes out as delicious as the first time I tasted it. The recipes is actually from the California Strawberry Commission and was featured in a local magazine. I don't know the name of the magazine, as she just made a copy for me. Anyway, tonight was the night I decided we needed a great dessert-we have been cutting way back lately- I had frozen strawberries in the freezer from this season and thought I would use these instead of the fresh. Our season is now over and the berries really are not as tasty as they were last March. 

Amaretto Strawberries
2 cups (12 ounces) sliced, stemmed berries.
3 T. Amaretto
2 T. confectioners' sugar

Ricotta Souffle
Softened butter, for the souffle dish
granulated sugar, for the souffle dish
2 C. part skim ricotta cheese
1/3 C. sugar
4 eggs, divided
3 T. unseasoned dry bread crumbs
2 T. flour
1/2 t. almond extract
1/4 c. chopped, toasted almonds for garnish

To make the Amaretto Strawberries, in bowl, gently stir all ingredients together to dissolve sugar; refrigerate  covered, up to 3 hours.
To make Ricotta Souffle, heat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter a 4 cup souffle dish; coat with sugar, shaking out excess. Using electric mixer, beat cheese, sugar, 3 eggs and 1 egg yolk, bread crumbs, flour and extract until throughly blended. In a small bowl, beat remaining egg white until stiff, but not dry; gently fold into cheese mixture. Pour into greased dish. Bake in center of over for 40-45 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned. Cool on rack at least 5 minutes or up to 1 hour. Loosen the edges with knife and invert onto serving plate, (which I did not) with wide rim so you can arrange the berries around the souffle. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.  Serve with Amaretto Strawberries.
Makes 4 servings.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Remembering Tibet in Better Times

Less than a year since visiting Lhasa, the city has been turned upside down. I am posting these photos to give you some perspective of a normal day..... people going about their business, shopping, praying, buying french fries, selling their wares, talking to strangers, doing all the necessary things that people do everyday just to survive and live. It only took a short visit to comprehend that Tibetan life is difficult...... and now, more so thanever. 

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pear and Almond Tart

Where has the time gone? I have missed reading so many of my favorite blogs! There is only one excuse and that is, my new store.....I had no idea it would require so much of my time. When I arrive home, I am pooped! Remember, I retired a long time ago and now have returned to the working world..... I am enjoying every single minute! (wish some of you lived closer to me here in Florida so you could visit the store....I'd give a great discount to you!)
Anyway, let me share a delicious recipe from Whole Foods in celebration of being back on line again. When I travel to Seattle, this is one of my first stops. Living in central Florida, few stores exist like the Whole Foods in Redmond,WA. If you have shopped there, you know what I mean. My curiosity gets the best of me to see what is new, plus getting my "fresh food visual fix." Love just strolling through the isles taking it all in. However, during a recent trip to Sarasota, this little fella (tart) was in the frozen food section imported from France! I bought the one you are viewing. This recipe was adapted from the stores file! I took the tart home and placed it on special piece my mom gave me- she loves this dish...still tries to take it back! Hope mine turns out as beautiful!
Preheat oven to 350
Pastry for the tart
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 t. salt
3 T. sugar
1/2 t. baking powder
3 T. butter, cut into tiny pieces.
1 3/4 C. of flour
Place the salt, sugar, baking powder and flour in bowl and combine well. Add the butter and mix with electric mixer until pieces resemble fine powder. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well. The dough will gradually clump together. Shape the dough into a disc and chill for at least thirty minutes.
For the almond filling
2 eggs
1/3 C. sugar
6 ounces of almond paste
1/2 c. butter
1 t. of vanilla
2 T. of flour
1/4 t. baking powder
3 medium ripe pears, cut in half
Combine the almond paste, one egg, and sugar in bowl. Mix until smooth. Add butter, vanilla and continue to mix. Add the flour and baking powder. Add the remaining egg and mix until smooth. Cover and chill thirty minutes.
Roll out pastry on a floured surface and press into a 12 in. tart pan with removable bottom. Press the pastry into the edges and up the sides. It helps to extend the pastry above the rim of the pan to keep it in place while baking. Roll over the top of the pan with a rolling pin to shear off extra pastry. Don't forget to prick the sides and the bottom of the pastry before baking.
Spread the almond mixture over the pastry. Use the back of a spoon to spread it evenly. Place the pears evenly around, pressing them slightly into the dough so that the almond filling will puff up around the pears.
Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and then carefully remove the bottom of the pan and place on serving dish. Serve at room temperature. Serves six.
And, a peak of what has been going on here in Florida at the shoppe!