Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Recipes for your holiday spread

The folks from French's and Frank's Red Hot have passed along some simple but elegant ideas for holiday spread. Enjoy, and these keep in mind the busy times in which we live.

Prep Time: 10 min. Cook Time: 3 min.

1 1/2 cups frozen shelled edamame or frozen peas
1 medium Haas avocado, peeled and pitted
1/3 cup light sour cream
3 tbsp. FRENCH'S® Spicy Brown Mustard
2 medium green onions, chopped
3 tbsp. lime juice
2 tbsp. prepared salsa
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. salt

1. COOK edamame according to package directions; drain and cool. Transfer to food processor.
2. CHOP edamame in processor. Add avocado, sour cream, mustard, green onion, lime juice, salsa, garlic and salt. Process until smooth.
3. SERVE with baked tortilla chips or veggies.

Makes 8 servings (2 cups)
Nutritional Analysis Per 1/4 cup Serving: 98 Calories, 6 g Fat, 1 g Saturated Fat, 0 Trans Fat, 3 mg Cholesterol, 5 g Protein, 7 g Carbohydrates, 3 g Fiber, 200 mg Sodium.

Prep Time: 8 min. Cook Time:

1 (15 oz.) can reduced sodium chick peas, rinsed and drained
½ cup light sour cream
¼ cup chutney or apricot jam, chopped
¼ cup FRENCH'S® Classic Yellow® Mustard
2 tsp. curry powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup chopped cilantro (optional)

1. BLEND beans, sour cream, jam, mustard, curry powder and salt in food processor until smooth.
2. STIR in cilantro. Spoon into serving bowl.
3. SERVE with crackers or cut-up vegetables.

Makes 8 servings (2 cups)
Nutritional Analysis Per 1/4 cup Serving: 109 Calories, 3 g Fat, 1 g Saturated Fat, 0 Trans Fat, 5 mg Cholesterol, 4 g Protein, 18 g Carbohydrates, 2 g Fiber, 168 mg Sodium.
High-resolution image available courtesy of Frank’s RedHot

This robust creamy dip tastes like Buffalo Chicken Wings but without the mess! Serve hot with celery sticks or veggies.
Prep Time: 5 min. Cook Time: 20 min.

1 (8 oz.) package Cream cheese, softened
½ cup Blue cheese or ranch salad dressing
½ cup any flavor FRANK’S® REDHOT® Sauce
½ cup Crumbled blue cheese or shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cans (9.75 oz. each) SWANSON® White Premium Chunk Chicken Breast in Water, drained

1. HEAT oven to 350ºF. Place cream cheese into deep baking dish. Stir until smooth.
2. MIX in salad dressing, Frank’s RedHot sauce and cheese. Stir in chicken.
3. BAKE 20 minutes or until mixture is heated through; stir. Garnish as desired. Serve with crackers or cut up vegetables.
Makes 3 1/2 cups dip

Microwave Directions: Prepare as above. Place in microwave-safe dish. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 5 min. until hot, stirring halfway through cooking.
Tips: You may substitute 2 cups shredded cooked chicken.
Slow Cooker Method: Combine ingredients as directed avoce. Place mixture into small slow cooker. Cover pot. Heat on HIGH setting for 1 ½ hours until hot and bubbly or on LOW setting for 2 ½ to 3 hours. Stir.
Tailgating Tip: Prepare dip ahead and place in heavy disposable foil pan. Place pan on grill and heat dip until hot and bubbly.

This light-style tuna salad makes a good first course served over toast rounds.
Prep Time: 10 min. Cook Time:

½ cup reduced-sodium tomato-vegetable juice
4 Tbsp. FRENCH'S® Horseradish Mustard or FRENCH'S® Spicy Brown Mustard
2 (6 oz.) cans tuna, packed in water, well drained
2/3 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper
½ cup chopped celery
4 Tbsp. chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped pitted Kalamata olives (about 5)
1. MIX juice and mustard in medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss to coat well. Cover and chill.
2. SERVE tuna salad over lettuce, on whole wheat rolls or on toast rounds.
Makes 4 to 6 servings

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving: 136 Calories, 4 g Fat, 1 g Saturated Fat, 0 g Trans Fat, 30 mg Cholesterol, 18 g Protein, 5 g Carbohydrates, 1 g Dietary Fiber, 392 mg Sodium.

High Resolution Image Courtesy of French’s French Fried Onions


Prep Time: 10 min. Cook Time: 10 min.

1 1/3 cups FRENCH'S® French Fried Onions or FRENCH'S® Cheddar French Fried Onions
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 to 2 medium zucchini cut diagonally into 1/4-inch slices
1 egg, beaten

1. CRUSH French Fried Onions in plastic bag using hands or rolling pin.
2. PLACE flour into separate bag. Toss zucchini in flour; shake off excess.
3. DIP zucchini pieces into beaten egg; then toss in crushed onions, a few pieces at a
4. ARRANGE zucchini on greased rack set over rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 400°F
for 10 min. or until tender.
Makes 6 servings
Crispy Onion Mushrooms: Substitute one 10 oz. pkg. whole button mushrooms. Proceed as
Crunchy Double Onion Rings: Crush 2 cups French Fried Onions in plastic bag and toss with
2 Tbsp. flour; set aside. Slice 2 large onions into 1/2 inch thick rings. Coat onion rings in 1/4 cup flour. Dip into 2 beaten egg whites, then into crushed French Fried Onion mixture. Bake according to recipe

Prep Time: 10 min. Cook Time: 20 min. Marinate Time:1 hour

1 large navel orange
1/3 cup FRENCH'S® Spicy Brown Mustard
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. salt free grill seasoning blend
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/4lbs. pork tenderloin, fat trimmed
1/3cup light sour cream
1/8 tsp. salt

1. GRATE rind and juice orange; reserve juice. Combine mustard, vinegar, seasoning blend, oil and orange rind in small bowl. Reserve 2 tbsp. mixture. Pour remainder into food storage bag.
2. ADD pork; seal bag. Marinate in refrigerator 1 to 2 hours. Discard marinade.
3. GRILL pork over medium-high heat about 20 min. or until no longer pink in center (155°F internal temperature). Let rest 10 min. before slicing.
4. MIX reserved 2 tbsp. mustard mixture, sour cream, salt and reserved juice. Serve with pork.
Makes 4 servings
Nutritional Analysis Per Serving: 207 Calories, 7 g Fat, 3 g Saturated Fat, 83 mg Cholesterol, 30 g Protein, 3 g Carbohydrates, 0 g Dietary Fiber, 324 mg Sodium.

Prep Time: 5 min. Cook Time: 14 min.

4 (5 oz.) boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup apricot jam
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp. FRENCH'S® Spicy Brown Mustard
2 Ttbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. dark sesame oil
1. HEAT large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken 12 min. until lightly browned and no longer pink in center, turning once.
2. STIR in jam, water, mustard, soy sauce and ginger. Simmer 2 min., stirring occasionally.
3. STIR in sesame oil. Heat through. Serve with cooked brown rice, if desired.

Makes, 4 servings
Nutritional Analysis Per Serving: 246 Calories, 5 g Fat, 1 g Saturated Fat, 0 g Trans Fat, 78 mg Cholesterol, 30 g Protein, 19 g Carbohydrates, 0 g Dietary Fiber, 549 mg Sodium.

Emeril's New Year's lineup

Gratuitous program plug coming:
I'm a huge fan of Emeril's show, Emeril Green, on the Planet Green network. If you haven't seen it, the show features Emeril helping a viewer out, one-on-one, with some pretty specific food requests and cooking needs. The show features Emeril at his best -- interacting with people. He's not one of those hosts who is better by himself and just a camera. The chemistry between him and people is key to watching him. End gratuitous plug.
That said, I find the food Emeril prepares on Emeril Green a lot more user-friendly than some of the elaborate things he'll fix on Emeril Live. The recipes are for normal folks to make on an everyday basis.
Here are some suggestions from Emeril Green for a New Year's party. All the ingredients are available locally, and the preparation seems simple. All the recipes and pics are courtesy of Emeril's production company, Food of Love.
Emeril's Framboise Bellini with Prosecco

Yield: 1 drink
One-half ounce framboise
3 ounces prosecco or other sparkling wine
Raspberries, Blackberries or sliced Peaches, for garnish

Put the framboise in champagne flute; fill the glass with the Prosecco. Garnish with fresh fruit.

Emeril's Antipasto Platter
Small Whole Salami
Sliced Prosciutto
Marinated Artichokes
Roasted Red Peppers
Marinated Bocconcini (recipe follows)
Variety of Olives
Cheese Straws
Tuscan Loaf
Marinated Bocconcini
12 bocconcini (small mozzarella balls, about 2 inches in diameter)
3 tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil
2 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
1 sprig fresh thyme finely chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 whole clove garlic, finely minced
Crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Let stand for 30 minutes and up to two weeks.
For Antipasto Platter: You can buy prepared items at the store and then embellish to make it your own.Cover platter with Endive leaves, kale or other decorative greenery.Lightly roll up the Prosciutto into little bundles. Place in mound on platter.Make small groupings of individual tastes. Vary by color, texture and taste.Have small bowls available for olive pits.
Yield: 6 Servings

Emeril's Cheese Crisps

3/4 cup shredded hard cheese (paremesan will work fine, but make sure you freshly grate/shred it; don't use the canned stuff)
Preheat the oven to 350 F.Line a baking sheet with a Silpat, wax paper or parchment paper.
Measure 1 tablespoon of cheese per crisp and place the cheese on the Silpat.
Space the crisps about 1 to 2 inches apart.Place in the oven and cook until the cheese melts and turns golden-brown, about 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Use as a garnish for soups and salads.
Yield: about 12 cheese crisps

Emeril's White Bean Dip for Veggies
Yield: 6 Servings
2 small shallots
1/4 cup parsley
1 can white beans
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Veggies for Dipping

Pulse all ingredients in food processor and blend until a smooth paste forms and transfer to a bowl. Serve with cut veggies such a carrots, red pepper strips, celery and mushrooms.

Smoked Salmon Salad in Endive Boats
1 pound cured salmon, small dice
1/2 cup red onions small dice
1/4 cup fresh dill leaves (
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and Black Pepper
3 Heads Belgian Endive
In a mixing bowl, toss the salmon with the red onions and chervil, a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice and salt and black pepper. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into endive leaf.

Emeril's Herbed Spice Nuts
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup pecan halves
In a bowl whisk together oil, thyme, salt, sugar and cayenne. Add nuts and toss to coat well.Transfer nuts to a cold skillet. Heat to medium high heat, tossing nuts until lightly brown and aromatic, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Nuts may be made 3 days ahead and kept in an airtight container. Serve nuts warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 4 servings

Emeril's Figs With Blue Cheese, Honey And Lavender
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, courtesy Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.

Yield: 4 servings
2 ounces creamy blue cheese such as Valdeon or Gorgonzola
1 cup mascarpone
1 tablespoon honey
8 ounces fresh firm-ripe mission figs, halved
1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers (McCormick makes them now)
In a small bowl combine the blue cheese with the mascarpone and honey. Stir until almost smooth. It is ok if it is slightly chunky.
To serve, arrange fig halves on a plate and top with the blue cheese mixture. Garnish with lavender flowers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Virtual cookie exchange

The Food Channel is hosting a Virtual Cookie Exchange in celebration of the holiday season.
“Our Virtual Cookie Exchange works much like an actual exchange, allowing users to swap and share their favorite cookies online rather than on plates or baking sheets,” said Kay Logsdon, editor of The Food Channel . “It’s our way of acknowledging the busy lifestyle of our site users, and it gives them the chance to connect without leaving home.”
The guidelines include preparing a cookie recipe, photographing the finished product and sending the recipe and image via e-mail to recipes@foodchannel.com. Stories may also be included—select stories will be placed on The Food Channel Web site.
“It’s been particularly popular with our Twitter followers who enjoy the interaction and the chance to have a recipe featured on The Food Channel,” Logsdon said.
Recipes will be accepted through December 19 and will be featured at www.foodchannel.com.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Best party recipes needed. Win loot.

MarxFoods.com is hosting a party food recipe contest and awarding the best party food idea, presentation tip or recipe with a $400 credit to the online retailer—so the winner can throw a delicious holiday party! Two runners-up will each receive $50 gift certificates.

To enter, simply leave a comment on the MarxFoods blog with an original recipe, story, or idea by Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 4 p.m. Pacific Time. Finalists will be selected and put to vote on Wednesday, Dec. 17.

Ho, Ho, Ho from Three-0

We're gearing up for the party season, which runs through New Year's. In tomorrow's Your Table, we've got easy, classy party foods. Next week, we'll have the beverages to kick up your end-of-the-year festivities.

Here's a taste to whet the appetite:

Berry Merry Cosmo
3 oz. Three-O Berry Vodka
½ oz. triple sec
1 oz. cranberry juice
Splash fresh lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with raspberries.

Pomegranate Ho-Ho-Hojito
2 oz. Three-O Pomegranate Vodka
10 Fresh Mint Leaves
1/2 of a Lime
2 tablespoons simple syrup
Club Soda

Muddle mint leaves and lime in a tall cocktail glass. Pour in simple syrup and fill glass with ice, add vodka and soda. Garnish with a mint sprig and lime.

White Christmas
1 oz. Three-O Triple Shot Espresso Vodka
1 oz. white chocolate liqueur
1 oz. half and half

Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with three espresso beans.

Three-O Jingle Bomb

2 oz Three-O Vodka (any flavor, depending on preference)4 oz energy drink
Mix in a glass with ice and garnish with a cherry

Three-O Chocolate Snowflake

3 oz. Three-O Chocolate Vodka
1 oz. Coconut Rum

Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass. Sprinkle coconut on top.

Something for the nog-gin

My dad is an eggnog conoisseur. This will be coming to our house, compliments of Arnaud's, the fabulous restaurant in NOLA's French Quarter:

A Spanish Twist on Traditional Holiday Eggnog
From Chris Hannah, French 75 Bar at Arnaud's in New Orleans

The origin of the classic holiday eggnog dates back to old England, when well-to-do hostesses served a concoction of milk mixed with sherry called a "sack posset," a posset being a drink made from milk, egg, sugar and wine, with a number of variations to this combination. Sack was the Shakespearean term for sherry at the time.

Eggnog became a popular drink in the American colonies for social functions. Rum, which was plentiful in the New World at that time, became the dominant base spirit. President George Washington reportedly created his own eggnog recipe that included rye whiskey, rum and sherry.

Some say the origins of the word eggnog came from the word "noggin" which was a drinking vessel in English taverns. An "egg in a noggin" or "egg and grog" was a rich drink to toast one's health. Today, eggnog endures as a quintessential holiday beverage enjoyed around the world.

There are many recipes for a traditional "sack posset." The easiest is: one fresh beaten egg, one tablespoon Dry Sack sherry and eight ounces of fresh whole milk. Combine ingredients in a shaker or blender. Pour over ice. Top with sprinkles of ground nutmeg.

Mixologist Chris Hannah from the legendary French 75 Bar at Arnaud's restaurant in New Orleans shares two contemporary versions of traditional eggnog recipes using both sherry and, with a twist, Spanish brandy. Here, he uses Gran Duque de Alba Solera Gran Reserva, one of the world's leading Brandy de Jerez, which presents a delicate flavor of toasted nuts, caramel and figs. The sherry is Dry Sack, a popular medium dry amontillado with a smooth, nutty aroma and taste. Both are available nationwide through wine retailers.

"The recipes are foolproof; they never cease to be crowd pleasers," says Hannah.

Spanish Nog
(single serving)

¾ ounce Gran Duque de Alba
¾ ounce Dry Sack
1 whole fresh egg, beatn
¼ ounce simple syrup
1 ounce Half and Half
1 ounce heavy whipping cream
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Shake ingredients in cocktail shaker filled with ice
Strain over ice in an old fashioned glass
Top with ground nutmeg

Velvet Egg Nog
(single serving)

¾ ounce Gran Duque de Alba
1 ounce Peppermint Schnapps
1 ounce Frangelico
1 whole fresh egg, beaten
¼ ounce simple syrup
1 ounce Half and Half
1 ounce heavy whipping cream
Dash of nutmeg

Combine ingredients over ice in a rocks glass
Top with ground nutmeg

Quick and easy: If you don't want to make your own egg nog, substitute four ounces of good quality store bought egg nog. Add one ounce Peppermint Schnapps, one ounce of Frangelico and three-fourths ounce Gran Duque de Alba. Combine, pour over ice and top with sprinkles of nutmeg.
About the spirits:

Gran Duque de Alba Solera Gran Reserva is the world's top grand reserva Spanish Brandy de Jerez. A super rich premium brandy, Gran Duque de Alba is made from a blend of Palomino and Airén grape varietals. It is aged for 12 years in oaks casks that previous held oloroso sherry and blended under Spain's time-honored solera system of fractional blending. Suggested retail price (750ml) is $49.99. Gran Duque de Alba is a 2008 winner of the Gold Medal from the San Francisco International Spirits Competition.

Dry Sack is a medium dry sherry made from a blend of Palomino and Pedro Ximénez grapes. It is aged for six years in oak casks under Spain's traditional solera system. The result is a smooth, nutty sherry with a delicate flavor, a balance of dry and lightly sweet. Suggested retail price (750 ml) is $15.99. Dry Sack is a popular aperitif, enjoyed chilled or on the rocks.

Both Gran Duque de Alba and Dry Sack are produced in Jerez, Spain, by the venerable Williams & Humbert, Europe's largest winery.

Need cookies, no baking time?

Great American Cookie Co. has its holiday lineup in order. If you need something sweet, but don't have the time, energy, skill or oven space, here are some suggestions for that office party centerpiece:

Great American Cookies seasonal Original Chocolate Chip cookie cakes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and icing-decor, including: wreath, snowmen, Santa Claus, and many other festive designs. Cookie cakes also can be personalized with any message desired. Shoppers seeking individual-sized cookies can pick up a seasonal cookie tin filled with up to 16 of their favorite cookie flavors

Cookie Cakes - Suggested Retail Price: Small (8 x 6 inch): $10.99 - $11.99;
Medium (16 inch): $20.99 - $27.00; Large (30-40 inch): $29.99 - $40.00

Cookie Tins - Suggested Retail Price: $16.99/12 cookies; $18.99/16 cookies
Original Chocolate Chip
Original Chocolate Chip with M&M'S® Chocolate Candies
Peanut Butter with M&M'S Chocolate Candies
Peanut Butter Supreme
White Chunk Macadamia
Chewy Chocolate Supreme
Chewy Pecan Supreme
Double Fudge
Oatmeal Walnut Raisin
Pecan Supreme

Bright copper kettles....

New a few favorite things for the culinary guru on your list? From the Lisa Ekus group, these suggestions:

Along with bright copper kettles, crisp apple streudels, and schnitzel with noodles, these are a two of our favorite holiday gift ideas for food lovers:

For starters, spice up the holidays with the perfect gift for the food enthusiast in your life with Crowning Cuisine, the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR) 2009 Calendar and Recipe Collection! More than just a calendar, it features 23 women chefs, restaurateurs and sommeliers, along with an exclusive collection of more than two dozen of their favorite recipes and preparation tips.

The collection of signature recipes features favorites including: scallop margaritas with tequila ice, watermelon gazpacho with lime and mint, parsnip vanilla crème brûlée, strawberry lemon napoleons, caramelized onion and goat cheese tart, and more.

With recipes from, and whimsical food-crowned photographs of chefs such as Bonnie Moore of L’Academie de Cuisine, Nora Pouillon or Restaurant Nora, and Odessa Piper, the calendar is an ideal holiday gift for any chef or home cook. It can be purchased online for $12 (plus $4 shipping & handling). Proceeds from the calendar support WCR’s scholarship and internship programs for women in every stage of their culinary arts career.

And then, tour the world though salt, from the Celtic saline estuaries of France to the deep pure seas off Japan, from the ancient mines of Pakistan to the warm mineral springs of Peru.

The Meadow’s Around the World Collector Salt Set includes 50 salts from around the world, each chosen as the finest example of salt making from its region and culinary tradition.

The set comes with our starter set guide to accompany you in your exploration of the powerful and intriguing ways finishing salts behaves on food to evoke new depths of flavor. Fifty salts will be hand-chosen from our collection of gourmet salts, ranging from daily-use salts from every continent to super-rare and exotic salts. Every effort is made to assure that the Around the World Collector Set of 50 Salts includes some of the most distinctive, interesting, and delicious salt in the world.

The Meadow’s World Salt Tour : $298. Also, look for owners Mark and Jennifer Bitterman’s book, Salt to Taste, to be published fall 2010 by Running Press.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Taking the restaurant home

The Scotto family is one of those names that jumps to the fore of the American food scene. Italian Comfort Food, one of their earlier titles, is jammed with authentic, often rustic, food that would be found on an Italian kitchen table.

They've teamed up with Pepperidge farm and Prego to produce a new selection of restaurant-quality recipe ideas that can be bought at the grocery:

Featured are Marion, Elaina, Anthony Jr. and John Scotto, owners of Fresco by Scotto, NYC and frequent guests on NBC’s Today show, brings together the brands' core values of family, authenticity and tradition, in this exciting relationship.

The Scottos have created some delicious, yet simple, meal ideas using Prego Italian sauce and Pepperidge Farm frozen garlic bread.

“These are delicious, easy-to-prepare recipes; it’s like eating the meals we serve at the restaurant, only in the comfort of your home,” said Marion Scotto, owner of Fresco by Scotto Restaurant. “The recipe creation was simple, especially when we began with the flavorful varieties of hearty Prego Italian sauce and authentic, hot and crusty Pepperidge Farm garlic bread.

The Scottos have turned supper into a celebration by including garden vegetables, fresh herbs, savory sauces, plus the most essential ingredient: family. Armed with a collection of 15 recipes, the Scottos have created a plethora of new classics including, Prego Penne alla Fresco with Pepperidge Farm Texas Toast, Scottos Sunday Sauce with Meatballs; and Prego Chicken Italiano with Pepperidge Farm Garlic Bread, just to name a few.

“The Scottos have been great partners. Their passion for food is truly inspiring and we are so pleased with the incredible recipes they have developed," said Jeff Davis, Brand Manager, Prego. Theresa Choh-Lee, Business Director, Pepperidge Farm added, "With growing economic concerns, families are ‘dining in’ more often to save money. The Scotto family's exclusive recipes deliver authentic, high-quality convenience to consumers without breaking the bank. We're thrilled to offer families a unique and affordable way to enjoy restaurant-quality meals at home."

In addition to the recipes created, the Scotto family shares restaurant secrets to enhance the home dining experience on myitaliantable.com. Tips include warming plates in the microwave before serving and when cooking with fresh herbs, add them at the last possible moment for optimal flavor. Also, one should tear, rather than cut, delicate herbs like basil.

Myitaliantable.com also offers a printable recipe booklet so consumers can reference them in their kitchens every day. The site features an interactive dining utility, a products section, and allows consumers a peek into the life of the Scotto family. Site visitors can also download and print a coupon for their next shopping trip.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sophisticated flavors call for butter

The magic of real butter with Blue cheese and rosemary.Now here’s something different. A buttery shortbread-like cookie infused with Blue cheese and fresh rosemary leaves. Serve with a full-bodied red wine and these savory cookies will have people talking through the new year.

Rosemary Blue Cheese Ice Box Cookies
Makes 4 dozen cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
12 oz. Blue cheese,* softened
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups nuts (pecans or walnuts), chopped
1 to 2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, leaves only
White or natural sanding (coarse) sugar

*Domestic Blue cheese gives cookies a clean flavor, color and texture. Use less flour with a Stilton-style cheese and more flour with a French-style Roquefort.

Whisk together flour, cornstarch and salt in a bowl; set aside. Cream together Blue cheese and butter with an electric mixer. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly add flour mixture to butter and cheese mixture; beat to combine. Add cranberries and mix on low just until evenly dispersed.
Divide the dough into two pieces and use parchment paper or plastic wrap to form the dough into two 1 1/2-inch diameter round or square logs. Set out two fresh pieces of plastic wrap and sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly over both. Roll the logs of dough in nuts until covered. Tightly wrap and seal the logs; refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours). Preheat oven to 325°F. Working with one log at a time, unwrap and slice logs into 1/4-inch discs. Place 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Gently press about 3 small rosemary leaves on each cookie. Sprinkle each cookie with sanding sugar.
Bake on a middle rack until bottoms begin to brown and tops just begin to turn from pale to golden; 12 to 18 minutes. Cool on sheets 1 to 2 minutes before removing cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Why have coffee with dessert when you can have coffee in your dessert? A buttery chocolate layer forms the foundation of this rich cheesecake-like bar. It’s a decadent pick-me-up, perfect for any time of day.

Espresso Chocolate Squares
Makes 2 dozen bars

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. instant espresso coffee powder
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
2 eggs
6 Tbsp. miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. heavy cream
1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. instant espresso coffee powder

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with foil; butter bottom of foil.
Whisk together 1 1/4 cups flour, confectioners’ sugar and cocoa together in medium bowl; add 1/2 cup butter. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until butter is the size of small peas. Stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips; press into bottom of pan. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean; cool slightly.
Meanwhile, stir 1/4 cup cream and 1 tablespoon instant espresso together until coffee is dissolved. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup butter together. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon flour and allspice; beat until blended. Slowly beat in cream and coffee mixture. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Pour batter over crust.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are slightly puffed and center is set; set pan on a cooling rack.

Melt 6 tablespoons chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon cream, 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/4 teaspoon instant espresso in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Drizzle over bars and refrigerate until set. Cover and store bars in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Butter makes this simple drop cookie soft and rich while pistachios give it an unexpected crunch. Lemon rind and fennel seeds round out the cookie with a citrusy-anise flavor.

Fennel Pistachio Cookies
Makes 3 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp. amaretto or almond extract
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup pistachio nuts, chopped, plus extra for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar; mix well. Add egg; beat well. Add amaretto, lemon zest and fennel seeds; mix to combine.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to butter mixture; beat well. Stir in pistachio nuts (dough will be stiff).
Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. If desired, flatten balls slightly and sprinkle with additional chopped pistachios. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly on baking sheets; remove to cooling racks and cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Recipes courtesy of America's Dairy Farmers (of which my parents used to be)

The simple beauty of biscuits

Frequently the early-morning conversation here is pretty minimal. Two of us are in at 7:30 (or so), and there's a few minutes to chat about the really important things in life: food.

Today, the talk turned to biscuits, the finest bread product ever created. Differing opinions are welcome, of course, but you're wrong.

Debbie and I were discussing the simplicity of the homemade biscuit. Mine is a recipe that hasn't changed much over the years, but I have discovered that (here come the letters) I get more consistent results when I use skim milk than when I use .... buttermilk.

(GASP is heard in the background from any Southern baker.)

Don't get me wrong. I love, love, love a fine buttermilk biscuit. There's nothing lighter, nothing that has that bite of flavor.

But, buttermilk can be picky. It has character -- which makes it a great cooking ingredient but that can, indeed, play havoc with your baking. It changes as it sits in the 'fridge. Skim milk, albeit flavored white water, basically, yields a soft, light biscuit, and I find it's not as prone to pouting as buttermilk, that frothy diva.

I also think people go wrong when they overcook their biscuits. They look for a nice, deep golden brown on top; the only way that comes (without getting a hockey puck) is to brush your biscuits with butter or a little oil before you bake them. Baked without any lubrication, they'll be a pale, creamy shade somewhere between ecru and tan, or, as my husband would say, light beige and dark beige.

I don't brush mine. I cook them about 11 minutes -- maybe 12 -- then pop them on a towel that's in a wicker basket. I fold the towel over and let them steam a bit to finish off.

Good stuff, and so easy to make.

Basic Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspooons baking POWDER
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup skim milk

Preheat the oven to 475. Sift your flower, baking powder and salt in a bowl. I use a pastry cutter to cut in my shortening pretty darned thoroughly. I pour in the milk, stir it just a time or two to combine. It's a pretty wet dough, mind you.

I lay a sheet of aluminum foil or waxed paper (for easy cleanup) on my counter and dust with a pretty good coating of flour. I dump out the dough, dust the top with a little more flour so it won't stick to my hands, then I gently pat it out. No rolling pin, no kneading. Just a pat flat to about 3/4- an inch thick. I cut with a biscuit cutter, then put them on one of those air-bake cookie sheets with the sides barely touching.

11 minutes at 475.

For the bagel lovers among us

For the bagel lovers among us, here are some twists on the brunchtime classic bagel, and pickles, compliments of Lender's Bagels.
Although, I'm really, really skeptical of the dill pickle soup. That one may have to be tasted to be believed....

Lender’s Lox and Cheese
Makes 2 Servings
2 Lender’s plain bagels, split, toasted
4 tablespoons Whipped Cream Cheese Spread
4 slices tomatoes
6 slices cucumber
4 ounces smoked salmon
4 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese
4 teaspoons capers

Spread bagel halves evenly with cream cheese. Top each half evenly with cucumbers, tomatoes and smoked salmon. Sprinkle Gorgonzola cheese, and top with capers.

Put a contemporary spin on classic bruschetta with this original recipe from “Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off” Grand Prize Winner Joy Devor:

Lender’s Bagel Bruschetta
Makes 6 Servings
1 bag (6) Lender’s bagels
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp salt
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 red onion, diced
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup basil leaves, chopped
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
*Optional: ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400˚. Scoop out insides of bagels and cube the scooped out middle. Spread cubed pieces onto baking sheet and drizzle olive oil, garlic and salt evenly. Bake for 10 minutes or until toasted and light brown. In medium bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, salt, pepper and vinegar. Toast outside of bagels lightly. Right before serving, combine the croutons (cubed bagel pieces) with the tomato mixture and pour into bagel shells.
*Optional: sprinkle cheese over bagels on baking sheet and place in oven for 5 minutes until cheese melts.

Louisiana-Style Potato Salad
Makes 8 servings

2 lbs of Potatoes (sliced ¼ inch thick)
5 slices of bacon - cut up
¾ cup of sour cream and dill salad dressing
1-2 tablespoons Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 medium green pepper - diced
½ cup sliced green onions
½ cup Vlasic Sweet relish
Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender –cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Combine salad dressing, hot sauce, black pepper and bacon drippings. Combine the potatoes, green pepper, onion and relish. Add the dressing mixture. Toss and coat – refrigerate (4 hours)

For all fried food fanatics, use this crunchy creation to get the party started:
Fried Pickles
Vegetable oil for deep fat frying
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup beer
1 jar (24 ounces) Vlasic Zesty or Kosher Dill Wholes – cut into chunks – drained
Heat oil (Dutch oven) to 375°F. Batter, stir in ¾ cup flour and peppers – stir in beer. Place remaining ½ cup of flour in small bowl. Coat the pickle chunks in flour – then dip into beer batter. Fry snack chunks for a few minutes in the hot oil (a few at a time) until golden brown. Place on paper towel to drain.

Dill-icious Pickle Soup
Makes 6 Servings
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
5 cups water
1 large Vlasic Whole Dill Pickle, cut julienne
1 1/2 cups Vlasic Whole Dill Pickle juice
2 teaspoons dried dill weed, crushed
1/2 cup heavy cream or milk
Salt/pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft. Add white wine and continue cooking until liquid has almost evaporated. Reduce heat to low and stir in flour. Add water and pickle juice, whisking or stirring into shallot mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until soup slightly thickens. Add dill weed. Stir in heavy cream or milk; season with salt and white pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Serve in individual soup bowls and garnish with julienne pickle.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How much is that per shot?

I love Scotch and, in the few times I've been exposed to it, have a short-lived love affair with Laphroaig, that elixir of Islay. However, I'm not sure I could scrape up enough scratch to take advantage of this offer.

However, I'd love to taste it, if anyone wants to, um, send a shot my way. I only hope my novice palate would appreciate it...

The Macallan Introduces Fine & Rare Vintage 1947 for the Holidays

Rested in Spanish Oak casks for 15 years, The Macallan Fine & Rare 1947 Single Malt Scotch Whisky is now available for the first time in highly-limited quantities. This 15 year old whisky was purchased by The Macallan from a noted single malt collector, which allows the expression to take its rightful place in the Fine & Rare collection.

With only five available bottles in the United States, this newest addition to The Macallan Fine & Rare collection is a coveted item for any Scotch aficionado’s personal collection.

The Macallan Fine & Rare 1947 is unique not only for its rarity but also for its attributes:

Color: Natural rich beech color drawing from sherry casks, including second fill.

Nose: Peat balanced by citrus fruit, chocolate orange with vanilla, and oak notes in the background.

Palate: Light fruits, bitter chocolate and wood spice, with a touch of peat.

Finish: Lingering fruits and peat smoke.


Price: Available upon request. Bottles in The Macallan Fine & Rare collection range between $1,000 and $60,000.

This exceptional single malt scotch is an investment in holiday celebrations to come.

... my true love gave to me: One Texas Tamale

A few years ago, there was a lady living in Oxford in one of the Hispanic neighborhoods. She was from northern Mexico, and she made the best tamales in the world. I do believe this to be true. I've never had the patience to make tamales, but, man, they are fabulous.

From the Texas tourism folks comes this about the lore of holiday tamales:

During the holiday season, Texas families of Hispanic heritage often celebrate by gathering to make tamales. The custom of making tamales originated with the Native American people who lived in Texas and Mexico and interacted with Spanish explorers, sharing their cuisines. Making tamales for the Christmas holidays is a tradition that has been passed down for decades by Texans and continues today. In fact, many Texans believe this old Christmas tradition is as much a sign of the holidays as turkey and cranberries.

Tamales are made in all sizes and styles: sweet or savory, spicy or not, with pork, beef, chicken, bean or any number of other fillings.

Even a century ago, tamale-making was such a time-intensive process that tamales were considered a special occasion dish, made only for celebrations.

Back in the day, Mexican-American families ritually gathered for tamaladas. This meant enlisting the whole clan for an assembly line and making dozens upon dozens of tamales for all to take home.

They also tell us that you can order authentic Texas tamales on line or by phone:

· Delia’s Tamales (Rio Grande Valley); 1-888-DELIAST
· La Hacienda de Los Barrios (San Antonio) ; 210-497-8000 and Los Barrios Mexican Restaurant (San Antonio); 210-732-6017
· Texas Tamale Warehouse (Fort Worth) ; 817-825-4113
· Texas Tamale (Houston) ; 713-795-5500
· La Popular Tamale House (Dallas) 214-824-7617

Coming Wednesday to Your Table

Our holiday food section extravaganza (OK, we don't get to use that word often, so bear with us) continues this week with our salute to the humble cookie. Or, as my 1963 Betty Crocker Cook Book calls it, a "cooky." We've got a great list of recipes for a cookie swap, as well as an ode to my all-time favorite cooking ingredient .... butter.

Ben Cunningham's Pitcher This column talks about cooking with beer, and Pat Kettles introduces us to some rare California vino. Naturally, Prudence Hilburn is lending the Gourmet Touch to a series of simple soups that a newbie to the kitchen can put together.

Enjoy. Life's too short to eat bad food.

Just remember, you read it here first

D’Acqua Ristorante Offers Look at 2009 Food Trend Predictions

Each year, an array of food trends tend to emerge. This New Year will be no different; food experts are already making their predictions about what will take center stage as the food trends of 2009. There’s no doubt that the current economic conditions in this country will help to shape those trends, as will the growing concern over environmental problems.

“What is taking place in the country is always an influencing factor when it comes to the way people tend to eat throughout the year,” explains Enzo Febbraro, the co-owner and executive chef of D’Acqua Ristorante. “Right now, times are tight, people are watching their money, and food choices will be based partly upon these conditions.”

Chef Enzo predicts the following food trends for the 2009 year:
· Environmental Eating: As more people learn about the environmental waste associated with plastic water bottles, they will begin to opt more and more for re-usable bottles and for filtering their own water. In addition to saving money, they’ll help the planet, as well.
· Locally Grown: Eating locally grown ingredients is a trend that is on the rise and will continue in 2009. Locally grown ingredients tend to be fresher, support people close to the consumer, and are better for the environment because there is no transporting of the products over long distances.
· Market Deals: Farmer’s markets have steadily been gaining in popularity and will continue to do so. Not only do people get many locally grown items, but they also find fresher and cheaper items.
· Seasonal Sensations: Keeping in line with choosing food that is locally grown and from farmer’s markets, consumers will opt for more seasonal items.
· Gluten-Free: Products that are made gluten- or wheat-free are continuing as a trend, as more people become aware of allergies.
· Natural Nosh: Another trend for the New Year is food that comes from natural ingredients. Many people are skipping things like high fructose corn syrup and opting for natural products.
· Tea Time: Tea has been proven as a drink many people are turning to for its antioxidant benefits. Trends in tea consumption will likely continue.
· Selective Dining: Consumers love to eat out, and 2009 will be no different. However, because of budget concerns, they are likely to be more selective about where they spend those dining dollars, opting for good-tasting food that also offers an atmosphere, so it’s more like a night out than just a quick meal.

“It will be interesting to see what happens in 2009, in terms of food,” adds Chef Enzo. “However, it seems likely that people will continue to turn to the more environmentally friendly, locally produced, and natural food options. When it comes to dining out, consumer will likely reduce the frequency, but make quality choices when they do go out.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

A grain of salt, for a finish

MarxFoods.com is giving away a Collection of Ritrovo Premium Finishing Salts. All you have to do is visit the blog this week, through Dec. 5, and simply leave a comment telling them which one of their flight of seven salts will go the quickest in your household. A winner will be chosen by random and announced Dec. 8.

“These salt collections are a cutting edge condiment,” said Justin Marx, CEO of MarxFoods.com. “It’s incredible how literally a pinch of fine salt, sprinkled over dishes ranging from wild salmon to chocolate mousse, can add complexity and balance to the flavor profile of a dish.”

A set of seven Ritrovo Fine Finishing Salts was just added to MarxFoods.com. Marx went on to say, “We’re really excited about these exquisite Italian products, the combinations are literally the most exciting “salts” we’ve ever tasted and the range of applications and flavor profiles would get any chef excited.”

What does one do with seven types of salt and how do you know which one would be devoured the quickest at your house?

Truffle & Salt: A blend of dried Italian black truffle and sea salt, this flavor combination will enhance any dish with the aroma and flavor of Italian truffles including popcorn, mashed potatoes, pasta dishes, scrambled eggs and roasted meats.

Fiori & Salt: An aromatic and beautiful blend of Italian sea salt and flowers including chamomile, poppy, mallow, marigold, lime, hawthorn, yarrow, wild orange peel, flower pollen, heather and lavender. This combination is a wonderful way to infuse olive oils, sprinkle over fresh mozzarella, finish cream soups and risotto or bake into breads.

Fennel & Salt: A combination of sea salt, fennel seed and orange peel this blend pairs well with sweet and savory dishes including wild salmon, goat cheese, chocolate truffles or caramel.

Sweet & Salt: A sweet and savory blend of Italian sea salt, dried & ground fruit, sweet spices, vanilla, chocolate and grape must, this combination pairs well with both aromatic and dessert dishes. Sweet & salt can be used as a rub for duck or pork, sprinkled on roasted squash, pumpkin soup, or buttery shortbread cookies.

Saffron & Salt: Red strands of saffron are blended with sea salt resulting in a flavor profile that is perfect for finishing paella, cioppino, pasta or fresh ricotta.

Sea & Salt: A combination of high-quality Sicilian bottarga, citrus, sun-dried tomato, and cardamom, this blend is ideal with pasta, steamed vegetables or used to cure seafood and enhance salad dressings.

Limited Edition Salt: From Cervia salt pans, this Italian moist fleur de sel is the crème de la crème of sea salts. With a light texture and rich flavor this salt can be used to finish meat, poultry and fruit dishes as well as sweets including white chocolate chip cookies and caramel chocolate combinations.

After mulling over the descriptions and serving suggestions, visit the MarxFoods.com blog and enter to win the collection.

The applications are endless. Here’s a recipe for incorporating Truffle & Salt in spinach salad.

Fresh Cheese Truffled Spinach Salad with Truffle Butter Crostini

One cup fresh mozzarella di bufala
6 cups fresh spinach
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ tsp. Truffle & Salt
1 tsp. of your favorite vinegar

Chop cheese into a small dice and place in a bowl with oil, vinegar, and truffle salt. Allow the cheese to sit for about half an hour, permitting the flavors to blend. Wash and dry spinach. Place the cheese-vinaigrette mixture in a bowl and toss with greens.

Serve immediately with:

Truffle Salt Butter Crostini

Mix softened sweet butter with truffle salt.

Toast or grill one-inch slices of rustic bread and spread with the truffled butter.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Changing gears for Turkey Day

After much lobbying by the 9-year-old, and with even more nagging from the 6-year-old sous chef, there will be a stuffed turkey at Chez Tutor tomorrow. I've never stuffed the turkey, being raised in the tradition that dressing baked in its own goodness was the proper way to do things.

However, a recent episode of The Barefoot Contessa featured a stuffed, trussed and roasted bird, and the two main turkey eaters in the house decided that's what we needed.

I'll still be putting the bird in to brine this afternoon. I'm going to use the savory stuffing recipe we ran in last Wendesday's Your Table for the filling. With any luck, the moisture from the brine and some oven love will turn out a fabulous holiday centerpiece.

Other things that the younguns decided we'll have: homemade cranberry sauce, peas, green beans, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, gravy and cornbread.

I won't have to cook for a week.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Smucker's for more than jelly

While holiday temperatures can reach into the seventies or eighties as they do in Texas, you can still whip up a cool holiday treat without having to turn on the oven! Try one of The J.M. Smucker Company’s two limited edition ice cream toppings flavors – Smucker’s Pumpkin Spice and Smucker’s Magic Shell Cherry toppings. Whether poured over ice cream or as a topping for your favorite no-bake cheesecake, these limited flavors are sure to be crowd pleasers this holiday season.

Try the Pumpkin Spice or Magic Shell Cherry toppings over this easy no-bake cheesecake made with Sweetened Condensed Milk.

No-bake cheesecake
1 (8-ounce) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can Eagle BrandSweetened Condensed Milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8- or 9-inch) prepared graham cracker or baked pie crust
1 container Smucker’s Pumpkin Spice or Smucker’s Magic Shell® Cherry toppings

In large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla.
Pour into crust; chill 4 hours or until set. Top with desired amount of Smucker’s Pumpkin Spice and Smucker’s Magic Shell Cherry toppings.
Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

If you happen upon some serrano ham....

I haven't seen serrano ham locally, but it's truly one of the culinary jewels of the porcine world. From the Consorcio de Jamon Serrano Espanol, here are some quick recipes for the holiday season.

Because of their richer and fuller flavor, these all natural air-dried cured ham prepared with centuries old artisan traditions and techniques require less to deliver more delicious flavor. Making a holiday party a sensation couldn't be easier with tasty tapas made with Serrano ham. It's no wonder the Serrano trend is rising, with more and more restaurants and home cooks serving them.

Here are three simple tapas recipes made with Serrano hams from Spain that can be made in less than 5 to 20 minutes each.
Serrano Stuffed Mushrooms

Preparation time: 20 minutes (Serves 4)

8 large mushrooms
2 Spanish onions
2 thick slices of Serrano ham (Jamón Serrano del Consorcio)
Virgin olive oil, salt and pepper

Remove the stem from the mushrooms, clean them and set aside.
In a frying pan with a bit of olive oil, lightly saute the Welsh onions and mushroom stems previously sliced. Once browned,
add small chunks of Jamón Serrano del Consorcio and stir in the pan.
Use this mixture to stuff the mushroom heads and place them in a baking dish. Add salt and pepper and pour olive oil over them. Place them in the oven for 10 minutes at 170º C.

Chef's Suggestions:
Other vegetables can be substituted, such as green or red peppers, zucchini, asparagus, etc.

Serrano and Cream Cheese Wraps
Preparation time: 15 minutes (Serves 4)

8 slices of Serrano ham (Jamón Consorcio-Serrano)
5 1/2 oz. of cream cheese
2 oz. of pine nuts

Smash the pine nuts and brown them in a frying pan.
Clean and cut the chives. Mix it all with the fresh cheese.
Spread the mixture on the ham slices and roll up.
Chef's Suggestions:
For a more intense flavour, it can be browned in the oven for 2 minutes.

The Consorcio's Serrano, Zucchini & Pepper "Tapa"

Preparation time: 5 minutes (Serves 4)

4 slices of rustic style bread
4 piquillo peppers
1 zucchini
4 slices of Consorcio Serrano ham (Jamón Serrano del Consorcio)
Olive oil and salt

Mash the piquillo peppers with a bit of oil and salt.
Clean and cut the zucchini in slices. Grill them.
Arrange the dish: Spread the piquillo pepper cream on the bread, then add the zucchini and a slice of Jamón Consorcio-Serrano.

Chef's Suggestions:
The tapas can be seasoned with a dressing of olive oil and diced black olives. For creams, Eggplant caviar, artichoke cream, tapenade (olive relish), tomato, etc.

Picky Preschoolers? Here's help.

I confess this isn't an area of expertise for me. My children are food freaks and will pretty much give anything a go.

However.... I realize that, well, they're freaks and some children aren't as easy to please. The USDA has come out with some tips for getting children to open up to more than chicken fingers and fish sticks:

Audrey and her sister Valerie, both preschoolers, have drawn a line in the sand -- Audrey doesn’t eat vegetables and Valerie only eats foods that are white. However, with Thanksgiving and the holiday season just around the corner, Audrey and Valerie will be introduced to many new foods that will challenge their taste buds (and their parents’ patience) -- turkey gravy, cranberry sauce, cornbread stuffing, candied yams, spiced crabapples, acorn squash, and pumpkin pie. So the question is, will they eat it? And, what can parents do to introduce their picky eaters to new foods and tastes to avoid a meltdown at the Thanksgiving table?

The Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) has come to the rescue with its new website MyPyramid for Preschoolers designed specifically for parents and caregivers. This new, interactive website, found at MyPyramid.gov, provides unique, individualized nutrition guidance to meet the needs of preschoolers 2 to 5 years of age.

CNPP Executive Director Brian Wansink said, “Since we launched MyPyramid for Preschoolers less than a month ago, we have had a tremendously positive response to it from both the public and nutrition professionals. This a great tool for all parents of preschoolers but particularly those of finicky eaters. It’s loaded with great ideas and suggestions for families so they can help their kids eat a more varied and nutritious diet. What I find most useful is how to talk with kids about what to eat and tips on how to have fun with food around the dinner table.”

Common Sense Tips to Help the Finicky Eater:
· Set reasonable limits for the start and end of a meal. When you see that your child is no longer interested in the meal, excuse him or her from the table.
· Encourage your child to try new foods. But, don’t lecture or force your child to eat.
· Talk about fun and happy things. Try to make meal-time a stress-free time.
· Cook together. Encourage your preschooler to help you prepare meals and snacks

Other key topic areas of MyPyramid for Preschoolers include:

· MyPyramid Plan where users can create a customized eating plan.
· Growth During the Preschool Years answers the question -- Is my child growing the way he or she should be?
· Developing Healthy Eating Habits provides parents and caregivers with what they can do to help children develop healthy eating habits.
· Physical Activity provides answers to questions about physical activity for preschoolers and provides tips to help them be more active.
· Food Safety provides information on keeping foods safe to eat.
· Sample Meal and Snack Patterns help translate the “MyPyramid Plan” into individual meals and snacks.

Research shows that parents and caregivers want to know more about nutrition for their preschool children. In addition to the broad spectrum of topic areas covered on this site, are the interactive components including a customized “MyPyramid Plan” that can be printed and posted on the refrigerator door. Wansink concluded, “We are offering a variety of unique, cutting edge, online tools to help the American public make more healthful food choices.”

Developed by CNPP in collaboration with Team Nutrition of the Food and Nutrition Service, this new website provides nutrition guidance consistent with current scientific research and the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The subject areas and content were identified and developed with assistance from a wide array of experts from the USDA, Health and Human Services, academia and related research fields.

The interactive components can be found in the MyPyramid Plan and Growth sections of the website. They include a customized MyPyramid Plan, Body Mass Index (BMI), and Height-for-Age charts. The personalized MyPyramid Plan provides a general guide for what and how much to offer daily from each of the food groups. The BMI and Height-for-Age results are calculated and displayed on a printable, user-friendly graph.

A strata you oughta try

The Old Farmer's Almanac Everyday Cookbook is a trove of practical everyday recipes. They're good this time of year for their hearty simplicity.

This dish can be made with crumbled bacon or shrimp, sautéed mushrooms or leeks, and just about any kind of bread, including raisin or a mixture of white and whole wheat or rye. Prepare it a night ahead. To feed a crowd, double this recipe and prepare it in a large baking dish.

14 slices bread, crusts removed
1 cup of diced cooked ham
2 cups shredded Swiss or cheddar cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley
6 large eggs
3-1/2 cups milk
salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the bread into cubes. Generously grease a 13x9-inch baking dish. Make a layer with half of the bread cubes, arranging them so that they cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with ham, cheese, shallots and basil over the bread. Cover with the remaining bread cubes. Beat the eggs and milk together in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Slowly pour the mixture over the top bread layer, saturating it evenly. Cover and refrigerate overnight; the bread will soak up the liquid as the mixture stands.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Uncover the strata and bake for 1 hour, or until puffed and lightly browned. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Soups from Symon

Michael Symon is probably my favorite Iron Chef to watch, which is why it irritates me that he gets to compete so infrequently. I think his personality is a hoot, and he just looks as though he's having such fun out there.

Here are some hearty winter soups that hopped across my radar this a.m. from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board . Chef Symon's creations are always sophisticated twists on old favorites, and this collection is no different.

According to Mintel Menu Insights, sales of soup in the U.S. will reach an estimated $5.4 billion in 2008, a 26 percent increase since 2002.


Number of Servings: 4

2 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
12 ounces (about 5) carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste*
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tub (8 ounces) Wisconsin Mascarpone cheese, at room temperature*

Place shallots and garlic in olive oil in deep sauce pan, and lightly salt. Cover and cook gently for 3 to 4 minutes, covered, until limp but now brown. Add carrots and continue to cook, covered, for 10 minutes over medium low heat. Add curry paste and chicken stock and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
Remove soup from heat and pour into blender beaker or food processor bowl; blend until smooth. Return to heat and bring to simmer. Whisk in Mascarpone cheese. Serve immediately in soup bowls.


Number of Servings: 4
1/2 pound leeks
4 Vidalia onions, peeled, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, lightly salted
1 1/2 cups Amber Beer (Ale)
5 cups chicken stock
8 slices sourdough bread, dried, crispy thin, cut into crouton shape
3/4 cup (3 ounces) Wisconsin Pepato cheese, shaved
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Trim the leeks and cut off the leaves and save. Slice the leek bulbs and add to the sliced onions.In a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the butter and wait until the butter foams and begins to turn nutty brown. Add the sliced onions and leeks. Cook over a high heat to brown the onions nicely. Add the beer and reduce by half. Add the stock and simmer 6 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Ladle half the soup, a little at a time, into blender and puree. Combine the pureed soup with the simmered soup.Cut the wild leek leaves into thin chiffonade and stir into the soup. Ladle into bowls, top with sour dough croutons and generously lay the shaved Pepato over the soup.


Number of Servings: 4

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, washed, diced
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk, warm
1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin Gouda cheese, shredded
White pepper, ground, to taste
5 drops hot sauce
1/2 cup ham, diced
1 tablespoon chives, minced
Over medium heat, in a heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat butter until melted. Stir in onion and celery, cover. Cook 3 minutes or until translucent. Stir often to prevent browning. Stir in flour to thicken. Cook until it bubbles. Slowly stir in warm milk, mixing until thickened and smooth. Bring to a simmer (do not boil) and continue stirring. Reduce to very low heat and add Wisconsin Cheddar and Wisconsin Gouda cheeses, white pepper and hot sauce. Stir until well blended. Add ham and chives. Substitutions: Beer or non-alcoholic beer could be used instead of milk.

Monday, November 24, 2008

An exploration of chili

It's gray out there today, people. Forget the runup to Thanksgiving. I need chili.

Many of you are familiar with our food fixation here at The Star. Over the years, I've kept a list of our chili recipes that have been deemed a hit. I've also squirreled away an ode or to to chili, that great chameleon of the culinary world. Although I've never had it with chameleon.....

This was originally published in 2007 as one of my food columns:

The door slides shut on the van, trapping the scent of seasonings wafting from the hot pot tucked away to the rear. By the time we reach the end of the drive, the smell is stronger. Its unmistakable warmth slips to the front and wraps around and under the seats. "Oh," he says, sniffing. "That's Nana's chili."

A deep breath. "We having that for dinner?"

This particular pot of chili is bound for the office, but its recognition to my boy carried the imprint of my childhood home. It reminds us of the classic flavors of our childhood that stay with us, always.

Take my son, for instance. He's spent almost all of his eight years eating the tomatoey, spicy, peppery chili of the South. Its smell is generic to him, and it resembles chili made in most parts of the United States. Good stuff, and I know when he's older, the "chili" trigger of his olfactory senses will likely default to tomatoes and cayenne.

Give him 10 seconds in a car, though, and his mind flips to winters past and cold nights bundled under a blanket on his grandmother's couch. The "chili" label is refined to "Nana's Chili," an elixir of cinnamon and cloves, nutmeg and ginger usually found only in the lee of the Ohio River Valley.
For me, it triggers memories of PTA chili suppers, tobacco festivals and a cramped concessions stand at the football game on Friday nights. He reacts to it the same way his sister can detect bread pudding or slow-baked sweet potatoes.

It's home, and home should smell good.

Scientists have known for years that the memory of smell is a powerful thing. We build up a storehouse of memories from an early age and pull from them the rest of our days. Some scents are utilitarian - bacon, coffee, coconut. Others, like Nana's chili, are specific to one place, one person, one point in time.

The past few years have brought an emphasis on foods cooked at home. This section each Wednesday is devoted to the art and craft of home cooking.

I'm not pushing the Rockwellian example of the family table as savior to all of society's ills. Indeed, most family dinner times reveal themselves as more Keystone Cops goofiness than Leave it to Beaver Americana. However, I know it costs less to eat at home. I know that when I make something, I have a pretty good idea of what's in it. When my husband makes something (usually a mean bowl of oatmeal), our children learn that cooks come in all shapes and sizes and sounds.

Most important, they make connections that, some day, will be precious. I've trolled some families' recipe files to find those scents that stay with us. Clip'em. Save 'em. And add them to the list of things to pass on to others.

Cincinnati Chili
This is a great recipe to clear out the spice rack. It cooks a long time, so the flavor changes, and that's also why it takes dried spices and herbs. Adjust any seasonings and spices about an hour before serving.
2 slices of bacon
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large onion (at least 1 1/2 cups when finely chopped)
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 can kidney beans, undrained
2 (about 24 ounces each) large cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons chili powder (not smoked, not flavored; plain chili powder)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed (not dill seed)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon summer savory
1 tablespoon Italian herb seasoning
about 2 teaspoons salt
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 pound dried spaghetti
In a large skillet, cook the bacon and the chopped onion and bell pepper until the onion is clear, about 5 minutes. Put the onion and pepper into a 7-quart Crock-pot; save the bacon and drippings in the skillet. Break up the ground beef and put it in the skillet with the bacon. Brown it; drain it. Toss the bacon in the trash (or snack on it), then add the ground beef and remaining ingredients (except the spaghetti) to the Crock-pot, along with one tomato can full of water.
Put the lid on, turn it on low for about 8-10 hours. An hour before serving, turn the Crock-pot to high and taste the chili to see what it needs. Break the spaghetti in half and stir, without breaking, the noodles into the chili. Leave it on high, and they'll cook in time to serve. Stir gently to make sure the noodles don't stick together.
(Note: People who make this a lot mix all the herbs and spices together to make their own bulk chili blend and keep it in a pint jar. Then they just add at will when it's time to cook a batch. Make sure you shake well, however, because some of the spices might settle to the bottom of the jar.)

Reading that column brought to mind all the other chili variations we’ve had here at The Star over the years. Among our hit list of oft-repeated offerings:

Plain Ol’ Beef Chili
3-4 quarts beef broth
1 medium onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 minced, fresh green chili peppers
2 minced fresh red chili peppers
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground mustard
2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained
5 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 can black beans, pureed
1 12-ounce can of regular beer
1 14-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup masa flour
Put everything except the masa flour and tomato paste into a slow-cooker and turn to high; cook for 3 hours, then reduce to low and cook overnight. (This can cook on low anywhere from 12-14 hours.)
Just before you get ready to go to work, or about four hours before serving, turn your cooker to high. Allow heat to build for at least 30-40 minutes, then take the masa flour and mix with COLD water to make a paste that has the thickness of molasses. Whisk the paste quickly, directly into the hot chili; stir well. Add the tomato paste and mix well.
When you get to work, turn the pot on low for a bit, give it a stir, and wait for lunch.

Andy's Lazyman's Adobe Chili
Two pounds of ground beef
1 vegetable bullion cube
1 bag of rice
1 can (14 ounce) Bush's Chili Beans
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes
1 can (14 ounce) black beans
1 can (14 ounce) great northern beans
1 can (14 ounce) tomato sauce
Onion powder
Chili powder
Hot sauce
Brown ground beef and drain grease.
Pour beef, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili beans and bullion cube into slow cooker.
Drain black beans and great northern beans. Pour all of black beans and half of northern beans into cooker. Pour about 6-10 drops of hot sauce into mixture. Stir.
Season with spice powders to taste.
Allow to cook on low for about six to eight hours, stirring periodically. About one hour prior to serving, boil rice and mix two-thirds of the rice into the cooker.
Serve with cheese and crackers.

Chocolate Chili Con Carne
3 pounds beef chuck
Freshly ground black pepper
Gray salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus 2 teaspoons
2 tablespoons chili powder, plus 2 tablespoons
Masa harina (Mexican corn flour)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lard
4 red onions, peeled and minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 jalapeno peppers, sliced thin with seeds, stems removed
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 to 3 bottles (12 ounce) beer
1 can (12 ounce) diced tomato in juices
1 quart chicken stock
3 cans (12 ounce) black beans
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into large chunks
Cut the chuck into 3/4-inch pieces, or, to save time, have your butcher do this for you. Place the chuck in a large bowl. Season liberally with pepper (about 20 turns of the pepper grinder) and grey salt to taste- remember half of this will come off in the pan. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of the cumin and 2 tablespoons of the chili powder. Mix this well and coat the meat with the masa harina (this is a ground hominy flour common to Mexican cuisine and easily found in the Mexican food sections of many grocery stores). The flour will thicken the sauce and give it a specific, Mexican taste.
Preheat a cast iron Dutch oven on the stove over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and then the coated meat, spreading it evenly so it covers the bottom of the Dutch oven in 1 layer. Leave it alone, without turning it, so the meat will brown and caramelize. Meanwhile, add the lard. The meat has a lot of moisture in it, so a good amount of steam will come from the pan before it is caramelized. As it browns, slowly turn each piece with tongs. Once all sides are caramelized, remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a cookie sheet to cool, leaving juices in the Dutch oven to saute vegetables. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes over medium heat until they start to caramelize and get soft. Add the jalapenos and allow to cook for 2 more minutes until soft. Add the tomato paste. Some of the same spices as were used on the meat will be used in the sauce. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of the cumin, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, the oregano, and 2 heaping tablespoons of the chili powder. Add beer. Stir to incorporate everything. Add diced tomatoes, and stir. Then add the reserved meat. Add chicken stock. Simmer for 11/2 hours until meat is wonderfully tender. Strain juice from the black beans, add the beans to the chili pot and bring up to simmer. Then add chunks of bittersweet chocolate. Stir until it melts. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

Ben's Chili con Carne

1 pound sirloin tips or stew meat
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounce) diced tomatoes
4 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons red chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper (to taste)
Dash of Tabasco sauce (to taste)
Heat the oil over medium heat in large saucepan. Brown the meat in the oil, then drain excess oil. Return meat to saucepan over medium heat and add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Simmer for 5-7 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Place meat and vegetables in large slow cooker pot and add remaining ingredients, stirring well. Cook over low heat for 8-10 hours, or high heat for 4-5 hours. Serves about four people. Recommend double batch for large gatherings.

White Chicken Chili
2/3 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 teaspoon ground cumin (or to taste)
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cans (15 ounces each) northern beans
1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth with roasted garlic
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
1 1/2 cups grated pepperjack cheese
In large soup pot, saute the onion in the olive oil until tender but not browned. Add chilies, cumin, and oregano. Continue cooking over low heat for about a minute, stirring constantly. Add beans, chicken broth, chicken and cheese. Cook over medium-low heat until cheese melts.

Three-Step Chili
2 pounds ground beef
1 can (8-ounce) tomato sauce
2 cups water
3 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
salt, to taste
2 tablespoons dry minced onions
8 to 10 bay leaves
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Brown the ground beef and drain well. Add remaining ingredients except cornstarch. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Skim off excess grease; remove bay leaves. Add enough water to cornstarch to make paste that will pour. Add to chili; allow to thicken.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Work on raising your glass

Here's some advice for having a good Thanksgiving toast, if you're from a family of toasters:

According to Chris Witt, an executive speech coach with more than 25 years of experience, the first thing to remember is the intent of a toast onThanksgiving, which is something like the intent of the meal itself - to bring everyone together in a spirit of gratitude.

"A toast is meant to be warm, welcoming and gracious," said Witt, author of the newly released book, Real Leaders Don't Do Powerpoint. He recommendsthe following tips so your readers don't come off sounding like a turkey:

1) Get everyone's attention
2) Make sure people's glasses are full
3) Make a general statement that sums up the group's experience of the past year
4) Make a toast, which is something like a wish or a (secular) prayer
5) Raise your glass

"The basic things to avoid when making a holiday toast are these: Don't go too long, don't try to be humorous and don't make anyone feel excluded."

A frugal cookbook from The Almanac

Tough economic times and cold winter weather sparks a desire for traditional, easy-to-prepare comfort food for many American families. Created by the food editors of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the Everyday Cookbook is packed with delicious recipes that are all family favorites for generations. This collection contains 425 recipes that call for a short list of inexpensive ingredients.

The Everyday Cookbook is a hardbound edition, with more than 350 pages of recipes in 15 big sections, and 180 time- and money-saving tips! Here are a few samples for your readers:

Comforting Gingerbread
Serve this warm with applesauce or whipped cream, or dusted with confectioners' sugar.

1/2 cup corn oil
1/4 cup light-brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup dark molasses
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Grease an 8-or 9-inch square baking pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil and brown sugar. In another bowl, sift the flours together, then add to the brown sugar mixture and stir until well blended. Add the milk, eggs, and molasses and stir to blend. Fold in the ginger. Pour into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a tooth-pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes 9 servings.

A Hungry Man's Quiche

Recipe for leftover holiday ham:

1 unbaked (9 1/2-inch) deep-dish pie shell
3 small potatoes, mashed
1/4 cup cubed cooked ham
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
5 large eggs
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Prick the bottom of the pie shell with a fork in several places and prebake for 15 minutes; remove from the oven, then increase the oven temperature to 375°F. Layer the potatoes, ham and then cheese into the shell. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and milk together, and pour the mixture into the shell. Bake for 30 minutes at 375°F. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Cookbook is available for $24.95 in retail outlets and the food section of bookstores, and at Shop.Almanac.com.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In case you didn't get enough in The Star....

More Thanksgiving sides, this time with a touch of smoke:

Rick Browne, internationally known BBQ chef; author of The Best Barbecue on Earth and half a dozen other cookbooks; restaurant critic; and host of public television's Barbecue America has the recipe for some great Thanksgiving sides- each with a unique international twist.

Cheesy Grilled Vegetables--from Argentina
Serves 4 to 6
(Recipe adapted from The Best Barbecue on Earth, pg 14)
6 firm plum tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and quartered
1 large onion, quartered lengthwise
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup shredded sardo or Gruyere cheese
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling (it is not necessary to use a drip pan with this recipe). Preheat to 350 degrees F. Make sure the grill rack is clean and oil it thoroughly with a nonstick cooking spray. Spray a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with cooking spray and set aside.
Lightly brush the tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, and zucchini with olive oil. Place the vegetable on the grill rack and cook over direct heat, turning several times, until vegetables start to brown on the edges but are still firm. Keep vegetables separate on the grill as the zucchini will be finished first, then the tomatoes, then the bell peppers, then the onions. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the skins from the tomatoes and peppers, and cut all the vegetables into 1/2-inch pieces. Drain the tomatoes on paper towels.

Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl. Add the basil, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper, stirring to combine.

In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk, stir in the sardo cheese, and add the mixture to the vegetables, stirring to combine. Pour into the prepared skillet. Sprinkle the top evenly with bread crumbs and the Parmesan.
Transfer the skillet to the barbecue and cook over indirect heat until the edges of the mixture are browned and the center is set, about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, cut into wedges, and serve.

Sweet Potato-Tofu Rice--from Korea
Serves 4 to 6
(Recipe adapted from The Best Barbecue on Earth, pg 122)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sweetened rice vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
2 yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch think rounds
3 cups water
4 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
3 cups hot cooked rice
freshly ground black pepper

Soak 12 - 16 bamboo skewers in water to cover for 30 minutes.

In a large shallow dish, combine the soy sauce, ginger, rice, vinegar, and oil, and set aside.
Transfer the sweet potato slices to a small saucepan and add the water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the slices are just starting to become tender. Remove and pat dry.

Add the onion, potato, and tofu slices to the soy sauce mixture, carefully tossing to coat. Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the vegetables and reserve the marinade.
Run 2 soaked skewers, 1 inch apart, through each slice of onion to hold the onion together on the grill. Set aside.

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to 375 degrees F. Make sure the grill rack is clean and oil if thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray.

Transfer the onion, potato, and tofu to the prepared grill rack and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, generously basting with the reserved marinade, until they are grill-marked and beginning to brown.

Transfer the tofu and vegetables to a serving plate, removing the skewers from the onions. Serve over the steamed rice and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.