Sautéed Calamari in Garlic & Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I love making delicious dishes that are very easy, yet flavorful and very little time consuming.  I know some of my recipes take a while, but this one takes very little time to make.  Make sure you get good quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh garlic that is hard to the touch, sealed in its peel, and without any green sprouts.  Of course, it goes without saying that the squid or calamari should either be very fresh or frozen.  If they are frozen, make sure to thaw them correctly, in accordance with the instructions, which should be on the frozen package.

Sautéed Calamari in Garlic and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb Squid or Calamari
1 small head fresh Garlic – minced (never from a jar)
Lemon Wedges
Flat Leaf Parsley – finely or roughly chopped
Kosher Salt or Fine Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Since hopefully your fishmonger has already cleaned the squid / calamari for you, begin by rinsing them in cold water and drying them thoroughly.  Cut them into 1 inch rings, and then dry them again.

Mince the garlic.  Chop the parsley.

In a large pan on medium high heat, add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, not smoking as extra virgin olive oil has a very low smoking point, add the calamari and minced garlic, and sauté them until the calamari are just firm.  This step does not take long at all.  Do not overcook them, as the garlic becomes bitter and the calamari becomes rubbery.

Remove the pan from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

When you serve them, add the chopped flat leaf parsley and lemon wedges on the side.

Enjoy with a crusty baguette or any type of grilled bread you like.

Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms in Tomato Sauce

Stuffed mushrooms make a delicious appetizer for any occasion.  They can be stuffed with anything you like, seafood, charcuterie, all sorts of cheeses, all kinds of vegetables … the list goes on.  They can be a part of a delicious brunch, dinner, or can be served as tapas.  I made them recently for my daughter’s birthday party as part of her special birthday dinner.   They were a hit with everyone!


3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 large Shallots – finely chopped
1.5 lbs Cremini or Button Mushrooms – stems removed and set aside
4 cups Baby Spinach – loosely packed
2 Lemons – zested
1 1/2  cups shredded aged white English Cheddar – Barber’s 1833
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper


2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 large Garlic cloves
6 ripe Tomatoes – puréed
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
Pinch Red Chili Flakes

Begin by cleaning the mushrooms with a damp paper towel or a wooden pastry brush, which is what I prefer to use.  Gently remove the stems from the caps, and place them in a separate bowl to the side.  With a small spoon, remove the gills from the mushroom caps, and discard them.  Finely chop the mushroom stems, and set aside.

In a sauté pan on medium high heat, sauté the shallots and mushroom stems in the olive oil, until they are soft and translucent.  Chop the spinach and add it to the sauté pan.  Cook the spinach and mushroom mixture, until the spinach is completely wilted.  Add the lemon zest and stir.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then turn the heat off.  Allow the spinach and mushroom mixture to cool down to room temperature.  Start making the tomato sauce in the meantime.  After the mixture has cooled, add the shredded cheese and stir to incorporate all the ingredients together.

Peel and smash the garlic with your knife.  In a braiser or sauce pan on medium heat, sauté the garlic in the olive oil.  Make sure not to burn the garlic, as it tends to get very bitter.  Add a pinch of red chili flakes to the pan.  Quarter the tomatoes and purée them in a blender.  After the garlic has softened, add the tomato purée to the pan.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Allow the sauce to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Stuff the mushroom caps with the spinach and mushroom stem mixture.  When the tomato sauce has reduced and thickened, ladle it into an oven proof casserole dish.  Place the stuffed mushroom caps over the sauce in the casserole dish, and bake them in the oven for 30 minutes.  When the mushroom caps have cooked through, and the cheese has melted (after 30 minutes in the oven), remove the casserole dish from the oven, and allow it to rest for a few minutes before serving.  Serve the stuffed mushrooms with the sauce and enjoy!

Montréal – La Belle Ville

Two of my very good friends, Ramona and Joey, live in Montréal, Canada.  I recently paid them a visit and discovered what makes Montréal such an attractive place to both visitors and locals alike.  Though I had visited this city a few times in the past, it was never long enough to explore or taste the wonderful things it had to offer.  This time, however, I took some time to navigate my way through its streets, markets, and restaurants, meeting quite a few people along the way.  Even though Montréal is a city of many ethnicities and cultures, it felt overwhelmingly like a slice of old Europe and young America in one place.  This time, I was definitely looking at this beautifully colorful city through hungry eyes.

If I am ever asked what Montréal is like, I would definitely say that it is an amazing city, where old streets and architecture meet modern buildings and highways.  It is a very lively city filled with a mélange of cultures, cuisines, and architecture.  You can find little Italy side by side with little Delhi, which used to be Greek town.  I visited little Lebanon, which to my delight, boasted of great restaurants and pâtisseries that served authentically traditional Lebanese fare.  I can honestly say that I found some of the best Lebanese food outside of Lebanon and some of the best Italian food that I have had.  So many people from all walks of life call Montréal home.  This is one of many reasons that the cuisine in Montréal is amazing!

One of my favorite pastry shops in Montréal, Pasticceria Alati-Caserta, a cozy and warm Italian bakery filled with fabulous Italian desserts made freshly every early morning.  This is Joey and Ramona’s favorite Italian pâtisserie.  Early one morning, Joey took me to Alati-Caserta to sample the wonderful freshly made Italian pastries they had to offer.  We were greeted very warmly by one of the beautiful ladies who covers the front of the house, as the intoxicating smell of baking flour and butter filled the shop.  I was very impressed with the beautifully decorated pastries.  They kindly offered me many samples that included some delicious amaretti cookies; I gladly tasted them.  All I have to say is the experience was deliciously wonderful!  I am generally not easily impressed with any cannolo, but their cannoli were AMAZING!  I loved the crunch of the perfectly fried and crispy cannolo, generously filled with the smoothest ricotta cream with a hint of vanilla or rich chocolate.  Their lobster tails were equally as delicious; layers of croissant dough, either stuffed with the same ricotta cream that filled their cannoli or stuffed with fluffy and airy chantilly cream.  The choice was up to me … ricotta cream it was.  The beautifully decorated cakes, the sweet and heavenly concoctions, I knew then why this pastry shop was always bustling with so many people.

Later that day, I was introduced to one of Montéal’s greatest treasures, and my favorite place to be in that enchanting city, Le Marché Jean Talon.  No description from me could adequately explain the perfect farmers market experience that I had that day, but I will attempt it, however impossible.  Walking through the marché with Ramona was an experience I will never forget.  The freshly picked strawberries and blueberries, the ripe vine and heirloom tomatoes, the intensely purple eggplant, the many types of chilis and haricot verts, the beautifully vibrant French breakfast radishes, the table full of many kinds of wild harvested mushrooms, the crates of exotic squash, all varieties of crunchy and firm apples … I was in heaven, MY heaven.  I could not express the level of awe I felt.  For the first time in a long time, I was completely overtaken by the beauty, the scents, and the flavors around me!  We decided to bring some of that amazing and farm fresh bounty home with us.  But first, we needed something else to go with our fresh produce.  Our quest continued.  

Another part of the marché was populated with small specialty shops and cafés.  There was a band playing right in front of the seated patrons, as they sipped their wine and coffee.  Close by was a cheese shop beckoning me to enter through its humble doors to sample its rich offerings.  Ramona led me to it, Fromagerie Hamel, an amazing cheese shop full of all kinds of cheeses: goat’s milk cheeses, cow’s milk cheeses, sheep’s milk cheeses, mixed milk cheeses, soft cheeses, semi-soft cheese, hard cheeses, blue cheeses, pasteurized cheeses, raw cheeses, and the list continues.  We sampled a few cheeses being offered by some very kind cheese experts, and elected to purchase some to go with our bountiful fresh produce basket.  We decided on three different cheeses, the Papillon Noir Roquefort from France, the Nocciolo from the Piedmont region of Italy, and the Somerdale Aged Champagne Cheddar from the UK.

Back at my friends’ place, we washed and plated the vegetables and fruit we got from the marché.  We also made a beautiful cheese plate.  The lusciously delicious farm fresh produce awakened all our senses, coupled with the exquisite flavors of the cheeses. The Roquefort was pungent, rich, and memorable; the Nocciolo was very delicate, creamy, and so well balanced; the champagne Cheddar was a softer hard cheese with notes of sweetness coupled with sharpness, yielding quite a mild and harmonious cheddar flavor.  Our simple, yet very flavorful meal was exactly what we wanted.

One place Ramona and Joey made sure to take me, before I left their beautiful city was Pâtisserie Amal Bohsali, a Lebanese pastry shop.  When I first walked in, all my childhood memories of going to pastry shops in Lebanon with my parents came back to me.  The same sweet scents and the same delicious flavors punctuated by orange blossom water with a little rose water and pistachios that made these desserts distinctly Lebanese, flooded my memory with nostalgic euphoria.  I wished my parents and husband were with me.  I knew my parents would be so happy to see the beautifully made concoctions of their homeland proudly displayed.  I knew my husband would have loved trying these flavors he had come to love, since we first met.  The kind owners saw my enthusiasm and offered me many samples, which led me to purchase many boxes of Baklava, Ghraybeh, Shaaybiyat, Maamoul, and Mshabbak.  Aside from what I purchased, they also had Atayef, Cheese Knafeh, Lebanese Nights, Sfouf, Nammoura, Halawet el Jibn, Aysh el Saraya, znoud el Sit, Awwamat, Maakaroun, and much more.  Of course, I took many pictures and forwarded them to my parents.  Needless to say, they were very impressed and excited.  Since my dad visits Montréal once or twice a year for his speaking engagements, he decided that he must bring my mom with him to enjoy these Lebanese delights.

Days later, as I sat at the airport in Montréal awaiting my Dallas bound plane, I reflected on my entire trip (most of which I did not document in this article).  I would easily miss this beautiful and seductive city; I would definitely miss my wonderful friends; and I would truly miss the amazing food and culture that Montréal has to offer its blessed locals and lucky visitors.


Pan Seared Rockfish in Citrus Butter Sauce w/ Herb Couscous & Asparagus

During my father’s recent visit to Dallas, I made him pan seared rockfish in citrus butter caper sauce with whole wheat herb couscous and asparagus.  What made this meal special was the Rockfish was freshly caught off the coast of Alaska just two weeks prior to his visit, during our family vacation.  My husband and I went on a charter, Alaska Northern Outfitters out of Seward, and we caught 14 fish between us both.  Needless to say, we don’t need to go to the Fishmonger any time soon, as our freezer is full of rockfish, halibut, and salmon.

Serves 6-8

6 fillets Rockfish – cut into thirds
1 cup AP Flour
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Onion powder
1/4 teaspoon Garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried Thyme
4 tablespoons organic Butter
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil


2 tablespoons organic Butter
1 lb Asparagus – blanched
1 large Shallot – finely chopped
1 large Lemon – juiced & zested
1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Couscous
3 cups Water
1 tablespoon Italian Parsley – finely chopped
1 tablespoon Cilantro – finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon Mint – finely chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper


6 oz organic Butter
10 – 12 cloves Garlic – finely minced
2 large Lemons juiced
2 tablespoons Capers
Italian Parsley – finely chopped for garnish
Salt and Pepper to taste

Begin by cleaning the asparagus and cutting off the woody part, which is where the stem breaks off from the top part of the asparagus, when you snap it in half.  Or, it is about 1 to 2 inches from the bottom, depending on your asparagus.  Now, cut them into two inch pieces.

Blanch the asparagus is boiling salted water for about 3 minutes, then shock them in ice water to stop the cooking process and retain their beautiful deep green color.  In 5 minutes, remove them from the ice water, and place them on a towel to dry.

To make the seasoned flour, add the salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and dried thyme to the flour.  Stir to ensure the seasoning is evenly distributed into the flour.  Lightly dredge each piece of rockfish in the seasoned flour, and place it on a platter.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a pan on medium high heat, add the butter and olive oil, until the butter is melted and lightly bubbling.  Place a few fish filets in the hot pan.  Do not move or touch the fish for about 3 to 4 minutes.  Also, do not crowd the pan, as the fish will steam instead of sear. Now that the fish is seared on one side, gently turn each filet over to the other side for about 2 minutes.  Place the seared fish on a rack over a large sheet pan and into the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and allow to rest.

Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Remove the boiling water from the heat, and add the couscous, salt, pepper, and lemon zest, then cover and set aside for 5 minutes.

In a sauté pan, sweat the shallot in butter, then add the asparagus for 1 minute to slightly reheat it.

Using a fork, transfer the couscous from the saucepan to a large bowl.  Using a fork will keep the couscous from clumping.  Add the sautéed shallots with the butter from the pan, asparagus, parsley, cilantro, mint, and lemon juice.  Stir well with a fork.

In the same sauté pan used for the shallots, melt the butter over medium low heat to make the citrus butter sauce.  Add the finely minced garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Swirl the pan around over the heat for the garlic to get evenly coated with the hot butter.  Cook over the stove for about 1 minute, then add the lemon juice and capers to the pan, and sauté for another minute or two.  DO NOT overcook the garlic, as it will become bitter.  Take the pan off the heat before the garlic changes color, then add the  parsley.

To plate, take a couple of large spoonfuls of the couscous and asparagus, and place them on a serving plate.  Place a couple of pieces of fish on the side, up against the couscous.  Gently, spoon a few spoonfuls of the citrus butter sauce over both the fish and the couscous, if so desired.  Serve and ENJOY!

Alaska Northern Outfitters – Seward, AK

This summer, my family and I went to Anchorage, Alaska, to visit my husband Kevin’s family.  My father-in-law served in the Air Force for many years and was later stationed in Anchorage, where he raised his family.  So, even though Kevin was not born in Alaska, he considered it home.  During our stay in the Last Frontier, we went on a fishing charter out of Seward, Alaska Northern Outfitters.

It was a very early July morning in Anchorage, as we gathered to take the two to three hour trip to Seward for my very first fishing charter.  My brother-in-law kindly organized this charter trip for the family a couple of weeks before our arrival.  By 6:30am, we were on the boat heading out of Resurrection Bay and into the vast ocean, which took between one and a half to two hours.   Once we were out far enough into the ocean, Captain Sean dropped the anchor.  I will spare you any details of my unfortunate seasickness; apparently, I had yet to get my sea legs.  Overcast and cold, the Captain, very meticulously, taught everyone what to do, how to cast a line, and how to reel in a fish.  We were allowed four rockfish, only one of which could be a yellow-eye, and two halibut per person.  After we reached our quota, we were allowed to fish for salmon.  Being a natural fisherman, my husband reached the fishing quota for the day rather quickly, and he was able to reel in two silver salmon.  I, on the other hand, wasn’t feeling well enough to fish for salmon.  I did, however, get the allowable four Rockfish and two halibut.  Not too shabby for a city girl … One may call it “beginner’s luck”, especially considering the way I was feeling.  I have to mention that the Captain came into the cabin, where I spent most of the trip, and checked on me a couple of times, which was rather kind.  He and his crew were also on deck with everyone assisting them with their catch.

After seven to eight hours of fishing, the Captain pulled the anchor, as we headed back to shore.  During the time it took to get back to land, Captain Sean and his very talented crew filleted every fish that was caught that day (over 80 fish), while we all looked on with bewildering amazement.  The deck was then cleaned of all the fish blood, guts, and carcasses.

Back on land, we were all given the choice of whether to have our fish frozen and packaged or taken as is and rinsed, packaged, and frozen at home.  We opted for the latter.  The family had already brought some coolers that were later filled with ice to keep the fish cold on the drive back to Anchorage.

I have to say that this charter trip was quite AMAZING! The Captain and crew were very knowledgeable and professional, the scenery was beautiful, the family was together, and the catch was worth it.  To have freshly caught fish from the ocean off the coast of Anchorage in my freezer in Dallas was well worth my seasickness.  Next time, however, I will bring a truckload of Dramamine with me.

Salt & Vinegar Popcorn w/ Za’atar

San Diego, beautiful, sunny, perfect San Diego. Wait, did I mention beautiful, sunny, and perfect?  I love San Diego; it is one of my favorite cities in the US.  Mountainous hills, lush green landscapes, colorful flowers, beautiful sandy and rocky beaches, clear skies, deep blue ocean … I can go on, but you get the gist.  I went to this beautiful city earlier this summer to celebrate my grandmother’s ninetieth birthday.  I stayed with my cousin Rody, his wife Yelena, and their beautiful baby girl, Lucy.  We had a wonderful time hiking with Zeus and Hercules, Rody and Yelena’s beautiful Weimaraners, walking around sunlit streets, taking in the scenery and the culture, sampling the freshest seafood and produce, and of course, enjoying every bit of the gorgeous weather.

On Sunday evening, Game of Thrones was on, and Yelena and I were determined to watch it. She made us some tea, and then she made the very BEST popcorn I have ever had.  Allow me to elaborate a little.  I love my popcorn popped on the stove with extra virgin olive oil.  I LOVE that flavor!  When Rody was telling me what goes in their popcorn, to be completely honest, I was not intrigued much.  Actually, the combination sounded slightly questionable.  However, as I consider myself a “foodie”, I decided to give it a chance.  First, Yelena heated some avocado oil in a big pot, and then she added the popcorn kernels and covered the pot.  As the kernels were popping, she shook the pot every 10 seconds or so.  After kernels popped, she added a generous amount of salt, organic apple cider vinegar, and za’atar mixture.  Of course, the za’atar did not have any olive oil, just the za’atar herb, sumac, and toasted sesame seeds.  She topped everything with a bit of grated white cheddar cheese.  Let me tell you … it was the MOST delicious popcorn that I have EVER had in my life!  It tasted a little like bit of salt and vinegar, yes, like the potato chips, with a little herb.  It was fabulous!!!  I couldn’t stop eating …


Back home in Dallas, I decided to make it for my daughter for our “mother/daughter movie night”, since my husband was out of town on a work trip. I, like Yelena, also used avocado oil to pop my popcorn.  I then salted it, added some apple cider vinegar to it, and sprinkled the za’atar I brought back from my grandmother’s garden all over that fluffy popcorn.  I, however, did not add any cheese, as my daughter is not much of a fan.  She LOVED the popcorn!  It has become the new way of making popcorn at our house.


1/4 cup Avocado Oil
3/4 cup Popcorn Kernels
6 – 8 teaspoons Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
4 tablespoons Za’atar (mixture of Wild Thyme, Sumac, & Sesame Seeds)
3 tablespoons grated Aged White Cheddar Cheese
Sea Salt

Heat the avocado oil in a large pot on medium high heat for a couple of minutes.  Add the popcorn kernels and cover with a lid.  Once the kernels start popping, gently shake the pot back and forth over the burner.  Repeat this step every few seconds, until you only hear a pop or two within 3 seconds.  Remove the popcorn from the heat.  Try keeping the lid very slightly ajar during the popping process.  This method will help the steam to escape, which will yield fluffier and dryer popcorn.

Once you remove the popcorn from the heat, immediately add a couple of sprinklings of salt.  Toss the popcorn to make sure it is evenly sprinkled with the salt.  Be careful not to use too much salt, as the cheese will also add saltiness to the popcorn.

Gently sprinkle the apple cider vinegar onto the popcorn, while tossing it between spoonfuls to ensure even coverage.

Gently sprinkle the za’atar and the cheddar cheese onto the popcorn as well.  Toss to cover evenly.  If you do not want to add the cheese, feel free to omit it as I did for my daughter.  The result would still be delicious!  Also, you may adjust the amount of cider vinegar, za’atar, and cheddar cheese according to your taste.

Place the popcorn in a large bowl, serve, and enjoy with or without a movie.



Grapefruit, Blackberry & Basil Salad

As I have mentioned in previous “salad” posts, I love salads.  I mostly make savory and zesty salads, full of Mediterranean flavors.  This time, I decide to branch out a little from the savory aspect.  I want to have a light lunch, something sweet, yet a little salty.  I decide to use a very common combination, fruit and cheese.  Couple that with extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs, and the outcome is a very light and refreshing salad!


4 medium Grapefruit(s) – Suprêmes or segments 
6 oz Blackberries
6 oz aged white English Cheddar – Barber’s 1833
3 tablespoons Grapefruit juice
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1/3 cup small or torn Sweet Basil leaves – loosely packed

Begin by washing and drying the fruit and basil.

With a sharp knife, cut through the skin and pith of the grapefruit, exposing the pulp segments.  Gently slice through each membrane over a bowl, removing the grapefruit segments, forming suprêmes.  When all the segments have been removed, squeeze the remaining grapefruit membranes with your hand to get all the juice out.

Drain the juice from the grapefruit, and set to the side for the dressing.  In a small bowl, add 3 tablespoons of the grapefruit juice, a pinch of salt, a few grinds of freshly ground pepper, and the olive oil.  Set aside.

Add the clean blackberries to the grapefruit suprêmes.  Add the dressing and the fresh basil leaves, and stir very delicately, as to not break the grapefruit suprêmes.

With a cheese knife or a little knife, cut or crumble the cheddar cheese into small bite size pieces.  Set them aside for the plated salad.

To plate, get a small serving plate, scoop a large spoonful or two of the grapefruit, blackberry, and basil salad onto the plate.  Sprinkle about a small handful of cheddar pieces onto the salad.  Finish with a grind of freshly ground black pepper, and serve.  ENJOY!

Spaghetti w/ Olives & Capers

I took a day off of work this week, which was quite exciting for me.  I got to spend some quality time with my daughter, since she was done with school for the summer.  I had been working on a summer schedule for her that included chores, reading, math problems, you know … a schedule she truly loves (said facetiously).  One thing she asked of me was to teach her how to cook.  Of course, as a self proclaimed foodie and a lover of all things cooking and food, I was quite excited.  To celebrate this occasion, I wanted to make her a dish that was not too kid friendly, but one she might like.  I guess I was making a point that if she became proficient in the art of cooking, she could make her future kids eat anything … including a dish with lots of black and green olives and anchovies.  I decided to make Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, my way.  Traditionally, this dish includes tomatoes and does not have the topping that I added; however, part of the lesson for the day was that cooking is art with which one can express oneself.  The recipe did not have to be strictly adhered to, as long as the outcome was delicious.  So, she sat in the kitchen with me as I cooked, and while we chatted about life and food.


1 lb Spaghetti
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Shallots – finely diced
4 large Garlic cloves – finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
6 Anchovy fillets*oil packed
1 Red Bell Pepper – finely diced
1/2 cup White Wine
1 cup pitted & roughly chopped Black and Green Olives
2 tablespoons Capers non pareil
2 large Lemons – juiced & zested (zest is for topping)
1 ladle Salty Pasta Water
2 tablespoons Italian Parsley – finely chopped

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup Japanese Panko Bread Crumbs
Zest of 2 Lemons
1 tablespoon Italian Parsley – finely chopped
Chives for garnish – OPTIONAL

*You will not taste the anchovies in this dish.  They only serve to add a much needed depth of flavor.  So, even if you do not like anchovies, you most likely will still like this dish.  If you are still hesitant, either use a fewer amount of anchovy fillets or eliminate them all together. 

In a large pan on medium high heat, sauté the shallots in the olive oil.  Add the garlic, anchovies, and red chili flakes, and sauté for another minute, before adding the diced bell pepper.  Add the salt and pepper, and sauté until all the ingredients in the pan are translucent.  Be careful with the salt, as the anchovies, olives, and capers add much salt to the dish.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta.

In a pot of boiling salted water, add your dried spaghetti, and cook for about 8 minutes, before the al dente phase.  Make sure to occasionally stir the pasta to keep it from sticking.  Always reserve a couple of ladles of pasta water, in case you need them for the sauce.

While the pasta is cooking, deglaze the pan with the white wine, until it is reduced by half.  Turn the heat down to medium low, and add the lemon juice, chopped olives, and capers and stir.  Add a ladle of salty pasta water.

When the spaghetti is almost at al dente, remove it from the water, and immediately add it to the sauce.  Stir gently, then remove from the heat.  The pasta will continue to cook from the residual heat.  Add the Italian parsley, and stir gently to incorporate everything together, without breaking the delicate strands.

In a small pan, toast the Panko bread crumbs in olive oil over medium heat.  Add the lemon zest and Italian parsley, and stir to incorporate them together.  When the Panko bread crumbs are golden brown, remove them from the heat, and set them aside.  This process is pretty quick, so keep your eyes on the bread crumbs.  No one likes burnt bread crumbs.

Now, to serve.  Place the spaghetti with the olive and caper sauce gently in a serving dish.  Top the spaghetti with the golden brown bread crumbs and lemon zest topping.  Finally, sprinkle a few finely diced chives on top.  The bread crumbs add another texture to this complex dish, and the lemon zest adds a citrusy finish to enhance the delicious flavors of the Mediterranean embodied in this plate.  I hope you enjoy my take on this Spaghetti classic.  Buon Appetito!


Beef Pot Roast w/ Buttery Mashed Potatoes

One of my husband’s favorite meals is pot roast.  He loves all things resembling stews and soups.  I used beef chuck, added some yellow onions, carrots, mushrooms, and fresh herbs, and served it over very buttery Yukon Gold mashed potatoes.  My family loved it!  Though it is very easy to make, it does take around four hours to cook; however, it is well worth the wait.  Please keep in mind that this recipe serves 8 to 10 hungry adults.  Feel free to divide the recipe in half, or whatever number you wish, to achieve the desired serving size.


5 lbs Beef Chuck Roast
1/4 cup Avocado Oil
12 sprigs fresh Thyme
4 sprigs fresh Rosemary
10 large Carrots
2 large Yellow Onions
1 1/2 lbs Mushrooms
1 Garlic head
2 cups Red Wine – Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon
4 cups Beef Stock
2 tablespoons Better Than Bouillon Beef Base
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
Italian Parsley

Measurements not included as this post focuses on the Pot Roast
to be in a future post

Yukon Gold Potatoes
Heavy Cream
Organic Butter

Begin by rinsing the meat under cold water and drying it very well with paper towels.  You may avoid this step, if your meat is freshly butchered, as no additives are added to it.  Liberally salt and pepper the chuck roast.  Peel, rinse, and chop the onions and carrots.  Peel and smash the garlic.  Brush all the dirt from the mushrooms with a non-silicon pastry brush, and then slice them.

In a large pan or dutch oven, heat the avocado oil on medium high heat.  Sear the chuck roast until a caramelized crust forms on all sides of the meat.  Remove the meat and place on a clean platter.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the same pan, add the onions, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, thyme, about 2 teaspoons of salt, and about 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, and sauté while scraping the drippings off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

When the ingredients have become translucent and a little caramelized, deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping more of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the seared roast with all the juices that accumulated at the bottom of the platter to the pan.  Add the beef stock and the beef base, stir one last time, and cover.  Place the covered pot or dutch oven in the oven for 4 hours.

Meanwhile, make some Yukon Gold mashed potatoes to serve the pot roast over.  I usually don’t peel the potatoes, but for this dish, I do.  I peel the potatoes and boil them in salted water, until they are soft.  I mash them, and then add lots of melted butter, some warm heavy cream, and salt.

Remove the pot roast from the oven.  Allow to rest for about 20 minutes.  Since I don’t like any fatty meat or connective tissue in my pot roast, I remove the roast from the sauce and shred with a fork, while removing all fatty bits and other undesirables.  After which I return it to the pot.

In a serving plate, place a large spoonful of mashed potatoes, add a ladleful or two of the pot roast over the potatoes, then sprinkle some finely chopped Italian parsley over the pot roast.  Serve with a freshly baked baguette and ENJOY!

Amanda’s Favorite Sugar Cookies

My daughter, Amanda, like most kids, loves cookies.  Since I am not much of a baker, and I don’t let her eat much sugar of the refined variety, when allowed, she wants to go all out.  We looked online to find a sugar cookie recipe that yielded moist and fluffy cookies.  We found an amazing recipe from  I did, however, tweak the recipe a little.  I also removed the cinnamon from the recipe, as I am not much of a cinnamon fan in desserts.  So, instead of a snickerdoodle like cookie, it was a delicious sugar cookie.

Amanda’s Favorite SUGAR COOKIES

2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoon Corn Starch
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
Pinch Salt
1 large organic Egg – room temperature
1 1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
3/4 cup melted organic Butter
1 tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1/3 cup of granulated Sugar – for rolling the cookie dough in

Begin by combining the flour, corn starch, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the brown sugar and melted butter together, until the mixture is smooth.  Whisk in the egg, and then the vanilla extract.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and combine with a wooden spoon or a spatula.  Now that your cookie dough is smooth and thick, cover it with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  Place the granulated sugar in a bowl or a medium size ziplock bag (sandwich bag).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place some parchment paper on two baking sheets, and set aside.

Scoop a large tablespoon or two of dough, depending on how large or small you like your cookies, and roll it into a ball.  Roll the dough ball into the granulated sugar, and place on the baking sheet.  You may use your thumb, the palm of your hand, or a utensil to gently press down on the cookie balls.  I use a fork to press them down right before baking.

Place the cookies in the oven for no more than 9 to 10 minutes.  Take the cookies out of the oven, and allow them to rest for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet.  Then transfer them to a cooling wrack to finish cooling.  Serve and ENJOY these delicious sugar cookies.