Jul 122014
 

When I saw the sale price of cherries last week, I jumped on it and bought a few pounds. Of course, even though cherries are quite possibly my favorite fruit, I couldn’t eat that many cherries just as is (without getting ill), so I decided to make cocktail cherries. My favorite winter cocktail is a Manhattan, but I’m really not a big fan of the traditional florescent maraschino cherry. I’m always in search of proper brandied cherries or high-end maraschino type cherries. Now, I will no longer have to search. There are several recipes for brandied cherries on the Internet and they were all pretty-much the same. It was easier than I’d imagined, especially with the help of my brand-spankin’ new cherry pitter. Here’s what I did:

IMG_4727

Cocktail Cherries

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds cherries (traditionally sour cherries are used, but I used sweet cherries because they were there)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup water
  • seasonings: this could include a pinch of grated nutmeg, a cinnamon stick, a vanilla bean, lemon zest, whatever you fancy
  • 1.5 cups brown booze (brandy, bourbon, dark rum, rye whiskey, or a combination – I used brandy and bourbon)

Directions:

  1. Wash the cherries and remove all stems and pits. Place in a large bowl.
  2. Place the sugar, water and seasonings in a saucepan and bring to a simmer to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Add the brown booze and stir.
  4. Pour the mixture over the cherries and stir.
  5. Transfer the cherries to clean mason jars and refrigerate.

 

So, once the cold weather returns in three or four months, and I’m in the mood for a Manhattan I’ll not have to run around looking for the proper cherry. I’ll have a huge mason jar full of them in my fridge.

Or will I?  Winter is several months away, after all…

 

Jul 032014
 

Tuna Poke 1

Fish is good food! We all know that. It’s good for us, full of omega-3 fatty acids, a great source of protein and easy to digest. You can tell fish is good for you because of how you feel after eating it – fresh, clean, healthy. But more than just being good for you, fish is delicious! I love fresh fish, but I especially love fresh raw fish. Sushi has become a regular meal for me, but recently I’ve found a new love for a similar raw fish preparation - Hawaiian Ahi Poke. Poke is Hawaiian for “to slice or cut” and Poke is an appetizer prepared by cutting sashimi grade Yellowfin Tuna into small cubes or pieces and combining it with sesame oil, soy sauce, some chili spice and various other ingredients. The biggest challenge to making Ahi Poke is getting the freshest Yellowfin Tuna. Of course, you know I have the answer, because you can actually get this sashimi grade fish from my friends at Anderson Seafoods, already prepared and cut into cubes for you. While I do love Ahi Poke, these Yellowfin Tuna Cubes are actually very versatile and you can make delicious Ahi ceviche tacos, spicy tuna bites and pot stickers, a tuna putanesca sauce for spaghetti and seared sesame tuna with these cubes. The Ahi Poke dish takes about 5 minutes to prepare from start to finish, and will make a statement at any dinner party, or just makes for a delicious snack for you. Give it a try!

Want to see more of the Ahi Tuna Cubes? Check out QVC on Friday, July 4th at 6pm ET.

 

Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke

Serves 6 as a small appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces Anderson Seafoods’ Ahi Tuna Cubes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon chili garlic sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon honey
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients and toss gently.
  2. Serve on small appetizer spoons, or with tortilla chips to scoop, or lettuce cups to wrap around the tuna.
Jun 252014
 

Spaghetti 2

Today I have the good fortune to launch yet another delicious item on QVC from my friends at Anderson Seafoods. This time, it’s not fresh fish (although you can see their full assortment of fresh (never frozen) fish on their website at any time), but a medley of delicious seafood, including shrimp, wild caught bay scallops, squid rings and wild Alaskan cod! I’ve been busy cooking this seafood up in a number of ways and there are so many things I love about this seafood medley.

First of all is its versatility. I’ve made pastas, stews, fried appetizers, a pot pie, and even a salad with the mix, but you could also make tacos or fajitas, throw it onto a pizza, and of course grill it up in a grill basket to accompany just about anything. I love the versatility of this seafood and how quickly you can put a great meal together using it as the main ingredient.

Secondly, it’s such a quick fix! In no more than two minutes of cooking time, everything is cooked up and ready to be served.  It’s great when you need to put dinner together quickly and the end result is delicious and special – not your everyday quick fix!

I also love the size of all the pieces of seafood. Squid cooks very quickly and the shrimp, bay scallops and cod pieces are the right size to accompany the squid. Together all the different seafoods are complimentary to each other and sized appropriately not only for each other, but also for eating. They are the perfect bite-size.

Last, but definitely not least, is the convenience of this medley. When making a seafood dish, you often have to go and buy all the different seafoods separately. Depending on how they are sold (shrimp in one pound bags, for instance), you may have to buy more than you need for a particular dish. Anderson, on the other hand, offers the medley in one-pound bags with the four different types of seafood making up roughly 25% of that pound. Having a pound or two of this in the freezer is a cook’s safety blanket –  they defrost quickly, cook quickly and can make an impressive last minute meal!

Interested? You should be!

Quick and Easy Seafood Pasta with Black Pepper and Lemon

Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound dried spaghetti
  • 1 pound Anderson Seafoods’ seafood medley, thawed, well drained and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring a large stockpot of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, pre-heat a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. When the pasta has only 2 minutes of cooking time left, add the olive oil to the skillet and toss in the seafood medley. Cook, tossing regularly, for 1 minute and then remove the skillet from the heat.
  3. Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of the pasta liquid. Transfer the drained pasta to the skillet and add the lemon zest, herbs, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Toss well and add lemon juice and more olive oil to taste. Add a little pasta water if necessary to loosen the pasta and seafood.

 

Click for recipes for Seafood, Chorizo and Corn Salad; Salt and Pepper Fried Seafood; Seafood Potpie with Puff Pastry Top; Seafood Stew with Fennel, Tomatoes and Potatoes.

May 222014
 

Not what you think…  This is not your favorite sandwich, but a delightfully refreshing and satiating summer appetizer. I love grilling slices of cheese because it defies logic. You can’t grill just any cheese, but Halloumi, Paneer or what is sometimes called “grilling cheese” works really well and takes just a minute. Sweet grilled watermelon goes nicely with the salty cheese and olives and the mint and parsley give it a fresh finish. Here, I’ve also made griddle bread using a built-in pizza stone on a STOK grill to go with the dish.

grilled halloumi and watermelon on  a white plate with griddle bread off to the side. Blue tablecloth background

Grilled Cheese with Watermelon and Mint

Serves 4 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 8 (½-inch) thick triangular slices watermelon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces Halloumi, Paneer or grilling cheese, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ lemon, zest and juice
  • 12 to 16 pitted Kalamata olives

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat your outdoor grill until hot – you can only hold your hand 1 to 2 inches above the grill for 2 to 3 seconds before pulling it away.
  2. Season the watermelon slices with salt and pepper and brush lightly with olive oil. Grill about 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until there are nice grill marks.
  3. Brush the cheese slices on both sides with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and place on the grill until there are nice grill marks – about 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  4. Arrange the grilled cheese and grilled watermelon on a plate and sprinkle with the fresh herbs and lemon zest. Squeeze a little lemon juice and drizzle a little olive oil over the top and garnish with the Kalamata olives. Serve with fresh griddle bread.

Shot of Griddle bread on pizza stone in foreground and cheese and watermelon grilling in background

May 142014
 

I’ve been doing a lot of work with BBQ Grill Pans lately and here’s something sweet and delicious that I made on my latest Cook’s Essentials BBQ Grill Pan. I love how easy it is to make and how fun it is to serve. Just give your guests a small spoon and the banana scoops out so easily. I saw these grilled banana s’mores in various places on the Internet, so I can’t claim to have invented them (or even give credit because they were in multiple places), but I do love the addition of peanut butter chips!

 

Close up of the Banana s'mores with blackened peel and lightly browned marshmallows

Grilled Banana S’mores

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 bananas
  • 4 tablespoons mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons mini peanut butter chips
  • 4 tablespoons mini marshmallows
  • 4 tablespoons graham cracker cereal

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the grill until hot – when you hold your hand 1 to 2 inches above the grill grates, you want to pull it away after 2 or 3 seconds. Place the Cook’s Essentials® BBQ Pan on the grill and pre-heat for 5 minutes.
  2. While the grill is pre-heating, slice into the bananas lengthwise along the inside of the curve, but do not slice through the bottom of the peel. Open the banana slightly to form a pocket.
  3. Fill each pocket with chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and marshmallows. Poke the graham cracker cereal into the filling.
  4. When the BBQ Pan is ready, place the bananas on the BBQ pan, using the ridges to hold the bananas upright and close the BBQ lid. Grill for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until the banana is soft to the touch and the chocolate and marshmallows have melted.
  5. Serve with a spoon to spoon out the filling.
May 032014
 

Despite some rainy weather, grilling season is in full swing for me here in Pennsylvania. It feels so good to be outside, enjoying the weather again, cooking meals and making great backyard aromas. I’ve been testing out all sorts of accessories for the BBQ lately, and most recently I had the good fortune to take a whole new grilling system for a test drive. Overall, the STOK grill and grill insert system is pretty darn cool!  STOK is really on to something here. They create both gas and electric grills and their grills have removable circles in the grill grate that can be replaced with one of their inserts, like a griddle, a vegetable basket, a cast iron kettle, a smoker infuser, a wok, a pizza stone and even a chicken roaster! I’ve had a lot of fun playing with this grill system, and as I write this, I can’t even decide which insert is my favorite.

That said, anyone who knows me, knows how much I love pizza! So one of the first things I did with the STOK grill Pizza1 system is throw the pizza stone into place and fired up the grill. I used the pizza stone in the grill to make a Tex-Mex Pizza, which ended up being a lot like nachos on a pizza crust. The best part was being able to grill some of my pizza toppings – corn, red pepper, and chicken – for extra smokey flavor while the pizza stone was still heating up. Then cooking the pizza on the grill’s pizza stone allowed me to have one of my favorite meals without heating up the house with the oven. I’ll be showing you more recipes from my experience with STOK in the next little while, but for now, here’s the Tex Mex Pizza recipe. Yum!

Tex Mex Pizza

Makes 2 9-inch pizzas

close up shot of the pizza with avocado, chicken and red pepper visible

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken breast
  • chili powder
  • 1 ear corn
  • olive oil
  • 1 red pepper, sliced into thin rings
  • ½ red onion, sliced into strips
  • 1 pound pizza dough, divided into two balls and at room temperature
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup shredded pepperjack cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup tomato salsa
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced or diced
  • chopped fresh cilantro

Continue reading »

Mar 112014
 

What a treat!

Close up shot of salmon candy on a green plate

If you’ve never heard of salmon candy before, I’m not really surprised. It’s not something you see every day. You won’t find it in the grocery store, or even in most specialty food stores. It started out as a way for Native North Americans in the Pacific Northwest to preserve their salmon, but now it’s just a super tasty and very addictive snack! Salmon candy is made from the belly of Pacific salmon. The salmon is broken into chunks and then placed in a salt brine with sweet ingredients like honey, molasses and brown sugar for several hours. After brining, it is hot-smoked slowly until fully cooked. Salmon jerky is smoked and dried so much that it is chewy and “tuggable”, but salmon candy is soft, sweet, smoky and just plain delicious.

I had the pleasure of working with some salmon candy this week from my friends at Anderson Seafoods and found so many different ways to use it. It works in pasta, in scrambled eggs, in a green salad, as an hors d’oeuvre, with hot potato salad, with lentils and green beans… the list is endless. I loved using it in so many different ways, but I have to admit… my favorite way to eat it was just on a toothpick! Leave it out on a platter of nibbles, and I bet it’s the first to go!

Lucky for you, you’ll be able to get your hands on some of this high-end salmon delicacy through QVC on Wednesday, March 12th at 4pm ET. Don’t miss your chance!

(click on the links above for recipes!)

 

Feb 152014
 

Steelhead trout with melted butter, honey bell zest and parsley on top. Roasted fennel and carrots and broccoli in the background.

 

A fillet of Steelhead trout looks a lot like a fillet of salmon. Why is that? Well, because Steelhead is a fish that acts like salmon: it eats krill in the ocean and migrates from the ocean into freshwater to spawn. As a result, it has an appearance and flavor much like salmon. What’s the advantage of Steelhead trout? It’s a responsible choice with respect to sustainable fishing, is ranked as a “best choice” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch List and is less expensive than salmon! 

A Honeybell looks a lot like an orange. Why is that? Because a Honeybell is a citrus fruit hybrid cross between a Dancy tangerine and a Duncan grapefruit. It looks like a bright orange bell shaped orange. What’s the advantage of a Honeybell? It’s unbelievably sweet and is filled with juice. While it is delicious to eat, it produces so much juice and its zest is such a beautiful color, that it is a joy to cook with.

In this recipe, I put these two ingredients together and it was a lovely match. A little bright, sunshine-of-a-meal in the middle of winter.

 

Steelhead Trout Poached in White Wine with Honeybell Butter

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • ½ small onion, sliced into thin rings
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 Honeybell
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 fillets Steelhead trout
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine the white wine, bay leaves, peppercorns, onion slices and fresh thyme sprigs in a sauté pan. Slice half the Honeybell into slices and add the slices to the sauté pan. Bring the liquid to a simmer and simmer very gently for 10 minutes.
  2. While the poaching liquid is simmering, season the trout with salt and set it aside.
  3. Make the Honeybell butter. Zest and juice the remaining half a Honeybell and combining the zest and juice with the softened butter in a small bowl. Beat together until well mixed and season to taste with salt and pepper. Shape the butter into two flat disks or other shape and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.
  4. Then gently place the fish into the sauté pan. Top the pan up with hot water so that the fish is covered. Poach, with the liquid simmering very gently, for 6 minutes, or until the fish is firm to the touch.
  5. Remove the fish from the pan with a spatula and plate with a piece of the Honeybell butter on top.

 

For more recipes using Steelhead Trout, visit my QVC recipe page here.

Jan 222014
 

A large round orange ceramic dish with Moussaka in it. A stack of plates in the background

It’s rare that I find a vegetarian version of a classic dish that I like as much as the original version, but this is one of those rare occasions! This version of the Greek classic, Moussaka uses portobello mushrooms instead of beef and it’s delicious. There’s a hint of cinnamon, but not so much to be overwhelming. It’s a not a recipe for those who don’t really like to cook, for the prep involved in putting the Moussaka together has several steps, but served with a Greek salad, it makes a perfect meal for a cold winter day.

Vegetarian Moussaka

Serve 4 to 6

 Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced into ½-inch rounds
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 ribs celery, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces Crimini or Portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano OR 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup white wine (optional)
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

 Directions:

  1. Prepare the eggplant slices by sprinkling salt on both sides, and placing the slices onto a paper towel. Cover the eggplant with another piece of paper towel and set aside for 30 minutes. (This is to help extract some of the bitter enzymes in the eggplant.) While the eggplant is soaking, pre-heat the oven to 400ºF. Brush any extra salt off the eggplant and brush both sides with olive oil. Bake on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, flip the slices over and bake for another 12 to 15 minutes or until the eggplant is tender and cooked through.
  2. Make the sauce while the eggplant is baking. Pre-heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and sauté the onion, carrots and celery until tender – about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms and dried spices and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the white wine (if using) and crushed tomatoes. Cook until the sauce thickens slightly – about 15 minutes.
  3. Make the cheese sauce topping. Pre-heat a saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter and add the flour, whisking for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and bring the mixture to a boil so that it thickens. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper and let it cool just a little, then whisk in the egg.
  4. Assemble the Moussaka. Place half of the eggplant slices in the bottom of a 2-quart ceramic baker. Pour half of the sauce on top. Sprinkle the Parmesan and feta cheeses over the casserole. Place the remaining eggplant slices on top. Pour the remaining sauce on top. Finally, pour the cheese sauce topping over everything.
  5. Transfer to the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let the Moussaka cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

 

Dec 022013
 

I made this gratin for American Thanksgiving this year and it really stood out to me as a great way to make a gratin without all the milk and cream. It was inspired by a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine and I really loved the briny caper flavor in it. It’s definitely a keeper!

Close up shot of the cross section of a potato gratin. Capers visible

Sicilian Potato Gratin

(Adapted from Bon Appétit Magazine, March 2008)

Serves 4

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and very thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus a little more for the top of the gratin)
  • ¼ cup finely grated Manchego cheese (or any hard Cheddar)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup best-quality chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF. While the oven is pre-heating, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and sauté the onions until they are tender, but not browned. This will take about 10 minutes.
  2. Use a mandolin or slicer to slice the potatoes into uniformly thin slices and set aside. Combine the cheeses in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Rub the garlic clove all over the interior surface of a 9-inch square cake pan or ceramic dish.
  4. Start layering the gratin in the following order: 1/3 of the potato slices, salt and pepper, half the onions, 1 tablespoon of capers, and 1/3 of the grated cheeses. Repeat. Repeat one last time without adding the onions (they should be all used up by this point). Pour the chicken stock into the dish and push down on the potatoes firmly. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and cover with aluminum foil.
  5. Bake for roughly 60 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a paring knife. Uncover, sprinkle a little more grated Parmesan cheese on top, and brown the top for another 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and let it sit for a little while to set up. (You may find that there is some excess liquid in the pan. You can drain that off later.)