Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spicy Salmon Sushi Rolls - serves 4 unless your kids eat all of them before you get one bite

One thing I'm not is a sushi chef.  As you can see from this picture, it's quite a sloppy job, but I give myself an "A" for effort.  I do not want to be a sushi chef.  In fact, after many discussions with a past neighbor who was one, it takes years to accomplish.  One of the things they have to learn is making the rice, the essential part of sushi.  Not only in taste, but, get this, all grains are to head in the same direction.  Hello?  I can't even put on my underwear in the right direction most mornings let alone rice grains.  No wonder it takes years.  And, it's no wonder the sushi chefs wear those bandanna's all the time either.  They are sweating from the pain-staking process in getting those suckers to go in the same direction.  That's a lot of time and too much sweat for me.  Plain 'ole sushi rice in any direction is just fine.  It certainly doesn't affect the taste nor does anyone ever notice.  Unless you happen to serve a master sushi chef.  Good thing they don't check underwear.


1 package of Nori (toasted seaweed paper)
2 cups sushi rice, cooked according to package directions
2 8oz smoked salmon fillets, skinned, and cut into a 1/2 inch dice (see note)
6 tbs of low fat mayo OR (what I use) the same of Vegannaise (in refrigerated section of grocery)
2 tbs Sriachi sauce (less or more if needed)
1 pkg of Daikon radish leaves
Sushi mat/Seran wrap

Cool sushi rice and spread on baking sheet.  Keep small bowl of water to the side to dip your fingers in to prevent sticking and to seal the Nori.

In a medium bowl, mix the salmon with the Vegannaise and Sriachi.  Set aside.

Lay out sushi mat and top with Seran.  Lay one piece of Nori on top.  Dip fingers in water and spread enough rice on Norito make about a 1 1/2' stip vertically along the Nori.  Place radish leaves along rice.  Top with salmon, again going along vertically down the Nori.  Starting with the end closest to you, begin to wrap the Nori around the mixture, using the mat to help and tighten the roll.  Pull away the Seran and continue rolling, wiping water on the vertical, other end to seal.  Place roll on cutting service and with a SHARP, wet knife, cut 6-7 pieces from each roll.  Repeat process until all ingredients are used.

* For you Dallasites:  Go to KAZY's located on Marksville and 635 for all these items.  They're great!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Natilla : Creamy Custard - serves 6

I have recently been hired to do a cooking class this week using Cuban flavors.  I don't cook much Cuban food but when I do, I go all out.  I decided to invite some friends who referred me the business to use them as guinea pigs to try the entire menu I'm preparing.  Apparently, after a little research, this dessert is quite common at the end of such a meal.  It reminded me of my grandmothers "boiled custard", a concoction she would only fix during Christmas that you could drink.  It was one of my favorite things to eat as a kid.  This, however, is a little different in that it uses lemon zest and cinnamon and is more of a custard. Natilla in Spain is also a common holiday dessert.  So, I took on this recipe knowing that it's not Christmas, but once the cold front hit on Saturday evening, it was the perfect ending to a great dinner, I must say.  In fact, it was so good, that my husband fell asleep after eating his portion of the dessert and I couldn't resist the calmness and serenity of the picture as he snored into a sweet Cuban dream-state.

    1. 4 cups whole milk
    2. One 2-inch strip of lemon zest
    3. 1 cinnamon stick
    4. 1/4 teaspoon salt
    5. 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
    6. 8 large egg yolks
    7. 1/4 cup cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
    8. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    9. Ground cinnamon, for garnish
  1. In a large saucepan, combine the milk with the lemon zest, cinnamon stick and salt and bring to a simmer. In a large heatproof bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the granulated sugar with the egg yolks at medium speed until they are pale, about 4 minutes. Beat in the cornstarch slurry. At low speed, gradually beat in half of the hot milk.
  2. Pour the egg-and-milk mixture into the saucepan and cook the custard over moderate heat, whisking constantly for 18 minutes, until very thick. Whisk in the vanilla. Transfer the custard to a large bowl and discard the cinnamon stick and lemon zest. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard and refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. Spoon the custard into 6 bowls, sprinkle with ground cinnamon and serve.

Make Ahead
The egg custard can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Potato and Spinach Gratin - serves 6

I've spent the last week in the Ouachita Mountains in Beavers Bend, Oklahoma.  For those of you who haven't been, I highly recommend it.  We and another family rented a fantastic cabin where we did nothing but enjoy the fresh mountain air and just chill.  The men of the group really "chilled" while the mom's watched the kids and "tried" to chill.  We used to take "vacations".  Now that we have kids, it's clearly a "trip".  This was carefully analyzed by myself and my now, even closer girlfriend, over the course of the week.  The first few days were off to a rocky start when my daughter just could not have a good day to save her life.  After the threat of sending her home by way of the next passing broken down pick-up, things did get better.  The men are still fishing.... meanwhile, nothing a spiked lemonade won't fix or some wine.  Or, s'mores at the end of the day over an outdoor fire.  So, with intent on sending this recipe while I was there, well, my "chill" time overrode.  When your on a "trip" it's the s'mores (and it's accompaniments) that are more important.  That and pulling out ticks, while the men are still fishing.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups low-fat milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
1 box frozen spinach, thawed and drained thoroughly
1/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 1 1/2-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish with cooking spray.
Heat oil in a heavy saucepan, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour begins to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually pour in milk and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture just begins to boil, about 5 minutes. (The sauce may seem thin.) Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Place a piece of wax paper directly over the surface to prevent a skin from forming and set aside.
Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices (a food processor does the job nicely); toss with garlic and spread evenly in the prepared dish. Pour the sauce over the potatoes and bake, uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over the top and bake until the top is golden, 10 to 12 minutes longer.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Chilled Cauliflower Soup - serves 6

I spent this past weekend in Houston, sharing "girl time"with my mom, cousin, cousin's hubby and sister.  Typically, it's a weekend of R & R, which in this case it was.  We enjoyed pedicures, The Azalea Tour, lunch at Ruggles Green (great, by the way) and cooking all but one meal at home.  As always, we all leave with recipes of what we've cooked.  My sweet cousin made this delicious soup, along with a quinoa salad, that had all of us oooing and ahhhhing.  When asked if she came up with it herself, we were told that she typed in the name on her computer and it popped right up.  With few changes, she made it her own.  It was too good not to share so I hope you get the opportunity to serve up a bowl yourself.


1 Fennel bulb, cleaned and sliced
1 Yellow onion, sliced
2 heads of cauliflower, cut into florets
2-4 cups vegetable stock (or No-Chicken Chicken Broth by Imagine)
1 tsp white pepper
Salt to taste
Optional: White Truffle Oil and chives, as a garnish, when served.

In a medium pan, add olive oil and heat until shimmering.  Add fennel and onion.  Saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned and softened. Meanwhile, in a large stock pot, add 8 cups salted water (1/4 cup salt) and bring to a boil. Add cauliflower and boil until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Drain. Add fennel, onion and cauliflower into a blender. While blending, carefully add broth until mixture becomes creamy. (Be sure and cover the lid of your blender with a towel to keep lid from popping due to heat).  After the vegetables are puréed, add the mixture back to the pot of your cauliflower and bring up to a light simmer. Cook for an additional 5 - 10 minutes.  Add the remainder ingredients and cook additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, chill, then serve with drizzled oil and chives.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Allyn's Crazy Good Carbonara - serves 4 to 6

My daughter, Allyn, has a nickname around our house.  "Noodle".  Ever since she could eat people food she's always had a thing for anything pasta.  If she could live in Italy, she would, knowing that anywhere and everywhere she would go she could always get noodles.  We have to have them at least once a week or she'll go through such withdrawals it makes her moody.  Very moody.  Now we have a new tradition in the kitchen where Wednesdays, the only days of the week that we have no sports, are her days to help in the kitchen.  And, as you can guess, she not only helps, she chooses what we will be having.  Noodles.  I was inspired by this recipe from one of my favorite magazines, La Cucina Italiana, and by a recent post from a chef in Italy I had the opportunity to meet.  Allyn, on the other hand, wanted it just for the picture.  There was no need in telling her  what was in it, she just wanted it.  Therefore, we collectively cooked this dish, having fun the whole time.  As we prepared to plate, she was adamant about not letting anyone see her concoction, all but one.  Once sitting at the table as a family and blessing the meal, we dug in, immediately singing her praises.  I could have eaten the WHOLE pot worth, it was so heavenly.  With high-fives to my little sous chef, I could only imagine what my "noodle" would think of next.

Ingredients - see note following recipe

Fine sea salt
6 large organic eggs
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tbs cold water
1 pound linguine
2 1/2 cups whole organic milk
2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese, about 4 1/2 oz
1 (4 oz) 1/4 inch thick piece bresaola, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (1 cup)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, lightly beat eggs.  In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1 1/2 tbs cold water.
Cook pasta in the boiling water until al dente.  Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring milk to a boil, then whisk in cornstarch mixture. (Watch out for milk because once it boils and you're not watching, it will spilleth over!)  Whisking constantly, cook milk mixture until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes; remove from heat.
Whisking, pour about 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture into the bowl with eggs (this is called tempering and you need to do it in a slow pour so that eggs won't scramble).  Continue whisking and add egg mixture to remaining milk mixture.  Whisk in cheese and 1 tsp of salt.
Drain pasta, then return to pot.  Add egg mixture and half the bresaola to hot pasta; toss to combine.  Let stand 2 to 3 minutes (pasta will absorb some of the sauce), then toss again.  Adjust seasoning, if needbe, then divide among serving bowls.  Spoon extra sauce and sprinkle remaining bresaola over the top.  Serve immediately.

Note:  Bresaola is available at Jimmy's Food Market in Dallas (for my outside of Dallas/Texas readers, check with your high end grocery for availability or Italian market) is air-dried salted beef that has been aged two or three months until it becomes hard and turns a dark red, almost purple colour. It is made from top (inside) round, and is lean and tender with a sweet, musty smell. It originated in Valtellina, a valley in the Alps of northern Italy's Lombardy region.
The word comes from the diminutive of Lombard bresada, "braised".

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

French Cassoulet - serves 6

What a magnificent day!  Not only is the weather amazing, but today marks one year that I retired from the corporate world to pursue a career in cooking.  So far, so good and today makes me love my job.  As I sit outside in my beautiful backyard, Spring is sprouting.  Green buds are appearing on the trees, flurries of grass are poking their heads from the ground and the brown that once consumed our flower beds are showing signs of color. I've prepped my garden which is coming out of hibernation and to my joy, a new harvest of arugula, herbs and fennel are starting to take shape.  This year I will have so much arugula I could possibly sell to our local grocery store for profit. I have a new bounty to try this year that I hope will only add to my repertoire; beets, eggplant, okra and more lettuces.  I prepared this meal last night with hopes that we have reached our last night in the '30's, a hopeful farewell to a bitter, cold winter. (Cassoulet is a French dish made with sausage and Navy beans.) With a new sprig of oregano to top off the going away party, here's to a bountiful Texas spring and food, wine and good friends to go with it.


1 tbs olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 tomato, chopped, or one 8oz canned diced tomatoes, drained
3 15 oz cans great Northern cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
5 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup fresh parsley
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Cook the sausage until well browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  Remove and drain on paper towels; set aside.
Pour the excess oil from the Dutch oven.  Add the chicken broth, vegetables, beans, thyme, salt, pepper, a third of the garlic, and the sausage and return to heat.  Mix well, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour or until thickened and the vegetables are tender.
Heat the oven to 400.  In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, butter and remaining garlic.  Sprinkle evenly over the cassoulet and place in the oven.  Bake, uncovered, until the crust is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.  Can be refrigerated up to 2 days and frozen up to 4 months.