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.

PAN SEARED ROCKFISH IN CITRUS BUTTER SAUCE WITH COUSCOUS AND ASPARAGUS
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

HERB COUSCOUS

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

CITRUS BUTTER SAUCE

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!


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.

SALT AND VINEGAR POPCORN WITH ZA’ATAR

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!

GRAPEFRUIT, BLACKBERRIES, AND BASIL 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.

SPAGHETTI WITH OLIVES AND CAPERS

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

PANKO TOPPING
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.

BEEF POT ROAST WITH BUTTERY MASHED POTATOES

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

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

Yukon Gold Potatoes
Heavy Cream
Organic Butter
Salt

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!


Savory Mushroom, Ham & Cheese Crêpes Topped w/ Eggs

Whenever my husband Kevin and I go to France, we make sure to have both savory and sweet crêpes, as they are very delicious.  Crêpes are a much thinner than pancakes, and tend to be quite larger.  You can put whatever you like in them; however, our favorite fillings are savory ham and cheese, and sweet creamy hazelnut spread, Nutella, and bananas.  Then, the crêpes are folded and eaten as a street food or seated at a table with a fork and a knife.

Here in Dallas, we cannot walk down the street and easily get a crêpe from a street vendor.  So, I make them at home.  These savory crêpes are Kevin’s favorite, especially with a couple of sunny side-up eggs on top.

SAVORY MUSHROOM, HAM, AND CHEESE CRÊPES TOPPED WITH EGGS

TRADITIONAL CRÊPES
Makes about 10 

1 3/4 cups AP Flour
4 tablespoons organic Butter
4 large organic Eggs
2 1/2 cups organic Milk
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Organic Vegetable Oil Spray – for cooking the crêpes

REST OF INGREDIENTS

20 slices Black Forest Ham – 2 slices per crêpe
20 slices Havarti Cheese* – 2 slices per crêpe
2 lbs Crimini Mushrooms – sliced
2 large Shallot – diced
6 sprigs fresh Thyme
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
8 tablespoons organic Butter
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10 large organic Eggs
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Fresh Herbs for garnish – optional (I used Thyme & Oregano)

*If you get a block of Havarti cheese instead of slices, get about 20 oz.  Leave the Havarti in the freezer for about 5 – 10 minutes, then grate the cheese.  Use about 2 oz for each crêpe.

Begin making the crêpe batter, as it needs to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.  Melt the butter, and allow it to cool slightly.  In a large bowl, add the flour and the salt.  Add the eggs one by one to the flour, while mixing the batter.  Then slowly add the milk, still mixing as you go.  Finally, add the melted butter, and mix to get a smooth batter.  Place the crêpe batter in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour, as it thickens slightly.

In a large sauté pan on medium high heat, add 4 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the butter has melted, add the sliced mushrooms to the pan.  Sauté the mushrooms for about 5 minutes, then add the diced shallots, and sauté until the onions and the mushrooms are caramelized.  Add the thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Stir in the seasoning, cook for another few minutes, then turn the heat off.

Take the ham, cheese, and eggs out of the refrigerator, and leave them on the counter to get to room temperature, while you make the crêpes.  This step helps the ham heat up faster, the cheese melt faster and smoother, and the eggs to cook more evenly.

If you have a crêpe pan, that’s great.  If you don’t, don’t worry.  You can use a griddle or a large shallow non-stick pan for your crêpes.  When you take the batter out of the refrigerator, check to see how thick it is.  If it is too thick, as in a little like pancake batter, then thin it out with a little milk, one teaspoon at a time.

Heat the pan on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Grease the pan with the vegetable oil spray to keep the crêpes from sticking.  Pour a small ladle-full of batter onto the pan.  If you have a crêpe spreader, use it to spread the batter around the pan evenly, creating a thin layer of batter.  If you do not have a spreader, you can either gently tilt the pan in a circular motion to get the batter distributed evenly all around the pan, or you may use the ladle to spread the batter, as you would pizza sauce.

Leave the crêpe to cook, until bubbles begin to form on the surface.  With a spatula, gently loosen the crêpe from the edge of the pan, then flip it over to cook on the other side.  Place 2 slices of ham onto one half of the crêpe.  Top the ham with a large spoonful of the mushrooms.  Spread the mushrooms around to cover both ham slices.  Cover the mushrooms with 2 slices or 2 oz of grated Havarti cheese.

Now that the crêpe is cooked on the bottom, flip the side without toppings over the side with the toppings.  Fold it onto itself, again, to form a triangle.  Place the crêpe on a plate.  Repeat the process.

In a large non-stick pan on medium high heat, add the rest of the butter and olive oil to the pan.  Once the butter has melted, fry your eggs to the desired doneness.  Salt and pepper your eggs before topping the crêpes with them.

In an individual size serving plate, place one or two ham, cheese, and mushroom crêpes.  Top each crêpe with a seasoned fried egg.  Garnish with fresh herbs, and enjoy.  Bon Appétit!!


Butter Sautéed Garlic Shrimp w/ Angel Hair Pasta

As I mentioned in my previous post, it was my daughter’s 13th birthday, and she asked me to make her a mussel dish and a shrimp dish for her birthday meal.  I made her a shrimp dish that included her other favorite ingredients, corn, mushrooms, garlic, and pasta.  It was delicious!

BUTTER SAUTÉED GARLIC SHRIMP WITH ANGEL HAIR PASTA

2 lbs Shrimp (16/20) – shelled & deveined w/ tail still on
8 tablespoons organic Butter
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large head Garlic – minced
1 lb Crimini or Button Mushrooms
4 ears Sweet Corn
1 cup Vouvray Wine – or any white wine
1 pint Heavy Cream
2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1 lb Angel Hair Pasta
Big pot of heavily salted boiling water for the pasta.
2 tablespoons Chives – finely chopped

Begin by cleaning the mushrooms, removing the corn from their husks, and peeling the garlic.  Finely mince the garlic, slice the mushrooms, and slice the kernels off the ears of corn, and place them to the side.

Make sure the shrimp are completely dry.  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper on the shrimp.  Mix well.  In a large sauce pan or dutch oven over medium high heat, add the olive oil and 4 tablespoons of butter.  Sauté the shrimp in batches for about a minute or two on each side.  The shrimp is done, when it turns a beautiful orange pink color.  Do not overcrowd the pan, or the shrimp will stew and steam instead.  Remove the seared shrimp, and place them on a plate lined with two paper towels.

Turn the heat down to medium, and add the mushrooms and the corn to the pan.  Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened through.  Add the minced garlic, and allow the mixture to sauté for another few minutes.  Add the wine.  Allow the wine to reduce by three quarters.  Make sure to scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to a large pot full of boiling salted water.  Stir the pasta immediately to prevent it from sticking together.  Slightly undercook the pasta, since it will finish cooking in the sauce.  For best results, follow the package instructions minus two minutes.

Once the wine has reduced, add the heavy cream, the remainder of the salt, and pepper to taste.  Turn the heat to medium low, and allow the creamy mushroom and corn mixture to cook for another few minutes to get the flavors to meld together.  Turn the heat off, then add the remainder of the butter to the sauce, and allow it to melt completely.

Once the pasta is slightly undercooked, drain it, while reserving a little pasta water, and place it into the sauce.  Stir gently.  If the sauce is too thick, add a little pasta water to get the desired consistency.  Top the pasta with the cooked, and now cooled, shrimp.  Stir gently.

You may serve your pasta and shrimp dish in a large serving bowl, on a serving plate as an individual portion, or leave it in the pan.  Whichever method you choose, make sure to garnish the beautifully cooked dish with some fresh chives.  I hope you love it, as my Amanda loved it.  Bon appétit!

 


Mussels in White Wine Sauce

My daughter Amanda loves all kinds of seafood, cooked in every which way.  For her 13th birthday, I made her two seafood dishes she requested of me, one with mussels and another with shrimp.  Let’s just say that she was in heaven!  I had never seen her eat so much!  Everyone else was finished, yet she continued to indulge.  It was a good thing I made a lot of food.

MUSSELS IN WHITE WINE SAUCE

2 lbs Mussels – cleaned & debearded
3 large Shallots
6 large cloves Garlic
4 tablespoons organic Butter
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cups white Wine – I used Vouvray & Sauvignon Blanc*
3 sprigs fresh Thyme
Pinch Red Chili Flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
2 tablespoons Chives and/or Italian Parsley – garnish – finely chopped

 

*You may use any wine you like; however, I like to use about a cup of Vouvray and a cup of Sauvignon Blanc for the balance they lend to the dish.  Vouvray has a little fruity sweetness, while Sauvignon Blanc is dryer and very crisp.  

Begin by cleaning and debearding the mussels under cold water.  If you find any open mussels that do not close after you squeeze them gently, toss them, as they are already dead.

Finely chop the shallots, and finely mince the garlic.  In a large pot, heat the butter and the olive oil, and add the garlic, shallots, thyme sprigs, red chili flakes, salt, and pepper.  Sauté them until they are translucent.  Add the white wine, and bring to a boil.  Add the cleaned mussels, and stir well.  Now cover them and cook them over medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove the mussels from the heat, and discard all the unopened shells.  Serve them immediately in a large serving bowl.  Top the plated mussels with the finely chopped chives and Italian parsley.  Serve with some delicious homemade garlic bread to soak up all that delicious sauce at the bottom of the bowl.  Enjoy!


French Onion Soup – Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée

Steaming hot French onion soup in a bowl, topped with crusty bread and Gruyère cheese that is melted to golden perfection … Enough said!  This soup is one of my favorite soups to eat on a cold day. It is very simple to make, yet it takes some time for the onions to fully cook down. Regardless of the time it takes, it is all worth it at the end … trust me!

FRENCH ONION SOUP – SOUPE À L’OIGNON GRATINÉE

5 large Sweet or Yellow Onions – sliced
4 tablespoons organic Butter
1 tablespoon Salt
8 Garlic cloves – finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh Thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry Sherry
1 cup Vouvray white Wine
6 cups organic Beef Stock
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1 teapoon Sherry Vinegar – omit if you use a dry white wine
TOPPING

1 block of Gruyère Cheese
1 Baguette cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 tablespoon fresh Thyme leaves

Begin by slicing the onions into half moons and finely mincing the garlic.  In a large pot on medium low heat, melt the butter, then add the sliced onions and salt.  Allow the onions to cook down until they are translucent.  Add the garlic, thyme, and freshly ground pepper.  Stir and allow everything to cook until the onions are completely soft and caramelized.  The whole process should take about 45 minutes to an hour.

Add the Sherry wine and the Vouvray, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer until the wine has reduced, and the onions are almost dry.  Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) is a demi-sec or ‘half-dry’ white wine.  In other words, it has some fruity sweetness to it.  If you choose to use it, then you may add the Sherry vinegar.  If however, you use a Pinot Gris (Grigio), a Sauvignon Blanc, or any other dryer white wines, then omit the Sherry vinegar.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch slices.  Place the slices on a baking sheet and into the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, until they are toasted.  Remove from the oven, and set aside.  Grate the Gruyère cheese.

Add the beef stock and Sherry vinegar (if using Vouvray), and simmer the onion soup for about 10 minutes.  Taste and season, if needed.

Turn the oven to a high broil.  Ladle the soup into individual oven proof bowls, and top with the toasted baguette slices or croûtes and the grated Gruyère cheese.  Place in the oven for 2 to 5 minutes for the cheese to melt to a golden color.  Remove from the oven and serve immediately.  You may serve it alone or with an Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette.  I hope you love it as much as I do!  Bon appétit!


Olive Oil Roasted Baby Eggplant w/ Red Pepper Salsa & Ricotta Cheese

I love fresh vegetarian dishes.  Last weekend, I went to the international grocery store, where I get most of my not so easy to find Lebanese ingredients.  I found the most beautiful baby eggplant that are often used in Lebanese cuisine, whether stuffed, fried, or roasted, and made into some wonderful dishes.  This time, I decided to make them into a lighter dish, something that can be part of a Mediterranean lunch or brunch … or even a side dish.

OLIVE OIL ROASTED BABY EGGPLANT WITH RED PEPPER SALSA AND RICOTTA CHEESE

10 baby Eggplant
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
15 oz whole milk Ricotta Cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

SALSA
2 Red Bell Peppers – fire or oven roasted
1/2 cup Cilantro – finely chopped
2 tablespoons Garlic – finely minced
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Lemon – zested
Pinch Salt
Few fresh Black Pepper grinds

Begin by washing and drying the baby eggplant, red peppers, cilantro, and lemon.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place the red peppers on a baking sheet and into the oven for 35 to 40 minutes.  While the peppers are roasting in the oven, start working on the eggplant.

On a clean cutting board, cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, and place them in a large bowl.  (I remove part of the eggplant stem that might burn in the oven.  See pic above.)  Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Mix well.  Place the oiled eggplant cut side down on a baking sheet.

If the red peppers are done roasting, remove them, and place them in a bowl.  Cover them with plastic wrap for 10 minutes to keep the steam inside the bowl.  This will help remove the peel instantly.

Bring the oven temperature down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and place the eggplant in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

Finely chop the cilantro and finely mince the garlic.  Place them in a small bowl with the zest of one lemon, a pinch of salt and pepper, and 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil.  Remove the plastic wrap from covering the red peppers.  Peel and deseed the peppers.  Slice them into cubes, and place them into the bowl.  Stir the salsa to combine all the ingredients.

In another bowl, add the Ricotta cheese, and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

When the baby eggplant slices are out of the oven, serve them in small plates or in one large serving plate.  If you choose to serve them into individual sides, as I did, then place a few baby eggplant in one small dish.  Make a quenelle, or football shaped dollop, out of a large spoonful of Ricotta cheese, and place it in between the eggplant slices.  Drizzle one or two small spoonfuls of the red pepper salsa over the eggplant slices.  With the assertively zesty and fresh flavor of the salsa, the mild flavor and creaminess of the Ricotta works well to bring balance to this delicious side dish.