Wednesday, July 25, 2012

somewhat secret sauce

It’s been a brilliant summer day in DC today! I was in Alexandria making plans for a beach party we’re throwing in September. I love the linens we picked out. The lighting made it tough to get the colors just right, but it’s a very charming combo of navy and pink… you’ll see when I post pics of the event itself!

Then I went to Georgetown to buy the hubby a decent pair of shorts. I used to work and play there (a lot of both), and I was so swamped with memories and happy vibes being in Georgetown with everyone on the streets, cheerful in the sunny day. Then I went home in a way and at an hour that should have spared me sitting in a bunch of traffic, but alas, I got stuck in some muck.

Aaand I was famished. So I decided to stop at Ft. Washington Marina in my old neighborhood in southern Maryland for a Scooby snack.

That’s when I came accross a delish crab cake and snazzy sauce. ‘Delish? Snazzy?’ you think to yourself.. ‘ok, I can’t trust her editorial choices after all.’ But I’m telling you those terms are appropriate. The terms, and the sauce may not ‘gourmet’ business plucked from the tomes of Escoffier, but it was really good. I didn’t plan to eat the sauce, but before I knew it, half the plate was clean.

I told the bartender it tasted kind of like Old Bay, mayo, and a little ketchup.. he said ‘yup, and paprika and hot stuff.’ I don’t know if there was more to it, but it was a great change-up to the usual tartar or remmy, and we Chesapeake-region folks like a little heat next to our sweet crab. Gonna try making a version of it soon for sure.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fresh Ricotta and Tomato Salad with Maldon Salt

You need Maldon salt in your house. Especially if you like fresh tomatoes. Right now I have so many gorgeous local tomatoes, and the pop that you can get on very simple, raw ingredients like a slice of tomato from flaky Maldon salt is just amazing. Today’s lunch was a distillation of summer itself!

Aside from simply being a tasty natural salt, lacking in the metallic flavor of processed versions, one thing that sets Maldon apart is that it’s flaky. For some reason, the ocean washes up on certain shores of England and then evaporates in a way that leaves the salt crystals flakilicious. The flakiness is what makes Maldon a great finishing salt – perfect for thin slices of vegetables, raw fish, or crostini amongst many other things. Here I made an attempt at artsy, dare I say back-lit photography so that you might see the flakes on top of the tomato.

So there I stood in the kitchen after database work, laundry and a 2 hour workout with a warm, sun-soaked, beloved summer tomato in one hand, and another trying to reach into some kind of magical, wood stoked pizza jar. I knew I’d love the tomato, but needed a way to get some protein and substance, not to mention an antidote to my white knuckled fist. I then remembered the fresh ricotta I had picked up for dessert on Saturday. There was some left over!

It may not look like much, but it was a super satisfying. The subtle (or not so depending on your leanings) differences – real tomatoes, fresh whole milk ricotta, and Maldon salt – made this very simple plate into a fabulous summer lunch. I wish you the same!!


Summer Tomatoes with Ricotta and Maldon

Yield: 1 salad

Prep Time: 3 minutes

Total Time: 3 minutes

Couldn't be easier, and Maldon flakes are so effective, you can use them very sparingly. Go ahead and enjoy fresh, whole milk ricotta - it's a battle worth picking : )


1 falling off the vine backyard tomato, or as close as you can get (not refrigerated!)
1/3 cup fresh ricotta cheese
2 pinches fresh julienned basil that dried out in a dish since your dinner party 4 days ago
1 mini pinch Maldon salt flakes
cracked black pepper


- slice tomato and shingle on plate so that it's appealing, but loose enough that most of each slice will get salt, pepper and herbage
- scoop cheese onto plate
- crack pepper and sprinkle salt sparingly (hold your hand high over the plate - that helps ensure more even seasoning) onto tomatoes
- sprinkle basil over everything and enjoy with a piece of toast or wheat baguette; glass of pinto noir rose highly recommended


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Smoked Turkey and Apricot Sauce and other good times and good eats

So while my husband Brian smoked a whole turkey for Saturday’s fireworks viewing dinner, I finished up lots of veggies, pasta, tarts, dips and sauces. And while I went from scratch for everything else, I decided to make a sauce that I learned about from a friend for the turkey. It’s not technically permissible in the restaurant – culinary schoolinaria because it uses bouillon, and corn starch as a thickener, but it’s such a versatile sauce and I thought it would be nice next to the smoked poultry. So I’m breaking the rules and posting it ; ) so there.

It did turn out to be a great match. The recipe my friend gave me is for ‘apricot and almond stuffed steak’ and the sauce is great over beef, but it was just as good with the turkey. It was convenient because without roasting the turkey I didn’t have drippings for making gravy, and it could be done ahead and reheats easily.

Here is some smokey smokey turkey with apricot sauce, and veggies a few different ways.

We had a great visit… A friend tries to leave the buffet with a salad that doesn’t seem to have enough ricotta salata,

and another good friend showed up with not only this amazing basket of bounty from her own garden but with these fabulous flowers! They are so beautiful and make me smile every time I walk by, even if I don’t remember what kind of flowers she told me they are. And I’m nostalgic from the basket she used to bring her garden goodies. It’s how we often get our pretty mushrooms in restaurants. Simple things can be so gorgeous.


Apricot Sauce

Yield: 1 1/4 cups

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

The makings of this sauce are things that you often have on head; it's quick, easy and holds well and works with rice, beef, turkey.


1 cup orange juice, or peach or apricot nectar
12 dried apricots, finely chopped
3 scallions, sliced
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp chicken bouillon (I used 1 cube of Edward & Sons Not-Chick'n from Healthway)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp toasted sliced almonds (optional - I didn't use this time around)


- combine everything in a saucepan over medium heat
- cook and stir until bubbly
- cook and stir one minute more

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bagel Bombs are the Bomb!

We had a beachy get together on Saturday for which the menu largely revolved around a smoked turkey and the CSA and farm stand veggies I’ve had on hand. However, I have been wanting to take a moment to try a Momofuku Milk Bar recipe that I found published and nicely illustrated here on Amateur Gourmet. So while it didn’t fit with the menu particularly, I had a couple of guests coming who I knew would appreciate them if they turned out alright, and they did! I highly recommend trying these.

One of the most appealing things about this recipe is that it can be done ahead completely and frozen. I think I might make them for the folks hitting the road on Sunday morning after the September shindig we’re planning because I could have them in the freezer and just bake off that morning. I also found that the recipe scaled easily… My first time out I tripled it and tried making the bombs in various sizes and it all worked out. Plus the dough only proofs once, so it’s a really unfussy recipe that delivers great results!

Some notes: I found the cream cheese came out a bit salty, so I won’t measure the salt and will mix to taste next time. Since the cheese was slightly over seasoned this time, I kept the additional salt out of the ‘everything’ mix and it balanced out in the end.

The recipe is written to have 1 ounce of cream cheese per bomb, which is a lot in my opinion, so I tried some smaller versions and that ratio of cheese to dough suits me personally, but folks loved all of them. My friend Kendrea gave me a bomb hug after eating one fresh out of the oven!

At some point I am going to use them on a plated dish – probably salmon – and for that I would use the 1 ounce version. And obviously the cheese flavor and bagel finishing options are tremendous, so I’m looking forward to future experiments. Thank you Christina Tosi and David Chang!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Peppy Barbecue Sauce

Last summer my sister brought an improvised little sandwich bite down to me on the beach. She had deftly balanced a piece of my father-in-law’s leftover smoked pork loin with some of my mother-in-law, Peggy’s homemade pickles and bbq sauce. It was heavenly! I am determined to sometime soon replicate that moment and the sauce was fabulous.

So when I decided I wanted something to give guests as a gift at a pig roast we’re planning for September, I knew the bbq sauce, a recipe from Brian’s Aunt Skipper, would be perfect. Thus began my first foray into canning, where Peggy and I set out to make several large batches of this family recipe and get it into 50 nicely sealed Ball jars. It all started with a well loved recipe card and a sharp pencil to sort out how much to make.

And then some nice clean jars…






two pots of sauce going with jar lid inserts steaming in hot water in the smaller pot in the back…

sticky stuff…

and then jars full of deeelicious homemade barbecue sauce. It’s so easy and so good. I had some on my tofu pup for lunch today.


Aunt Skipper's Peppy Barbecue Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes


1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp celery seed
3 tsp chili powder
cayenne pepper to taste


- combine everything in a sauce pan over medium high heat stirring frequently to keep from sticking to the bottom
- bring to a boil and remove from heat

If you want to jar it, you'll want a jar with the lid insert and screw top lid, as well as a funnel. Heat a little water to boil with the lid insert and then turn down to a simmer. Once your sauce boils use the funnel to pour it into the jar, place the lid insert on top and then screw on the rest of the lid. In about 30 - 40 minutes you should hear the lid seal itself as the sauce cools in the jar. It's a very satisfying, tinny little pop.



Saturday, July 7, 2012

FAQ – Travel Utensil Set

Last Christmas I gave a lunch set for work to both Mom and my sister. I had done so much research working out one for myself I figured they would like the same. I started with the Built NY totes that I posted about here, and then I found water bottles with built in filters and after much, much searching finally found a set of utensils in a storage/carrying bin.

Both my sister and I have had plenty of questions about where we got them, so I thought I’d post. Here they are at Pottery Barn Kids. And right now there’s free shipping on them : )

Spencer Utensils and Case | Pottery Barn Kids


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Salmon Mozzarella Roulade and Greens with Blueberry Vinaigrette

I found this Bel Gioioso ‘unwrap and roll’ mozzarella already cut for a roulade at Wegmans. It’s so easy to roll out, layer with something and then roll back up, so I bought some cured salmon and made a quick roulade that I cut into slices. It’s great as an appetizer on crackers or the ways I had it last week with salad for lunch.

The first day I used a champagne vinaigrette that I had on hand and sprinkled the salad with blueberries and sunflower seeds. I had extra blueberries so the next day I had essentially the same salad, but that time I made a blueberry vinaigrette that was delicious on its own, and really nice with both the salmon and the cheese.

Even though the oil to vinegar ratio is 2:1 the bulk from the blueberries keeps it lighter but it doesn’t taste like a ‘light’ version of anything. A friend introduced me to this beautiful, local raw honey which brightens up the blueberry-ness. And you gotta have the salty sunflower seeds.

I also ReduceReuseRecycle on the 2 – 3 oz soufflé cups that restaurants use to pack up condiments to go. It’s a convenient way to eyeball how much dressing you’re putting on your salad.


Blueberry Vinaigrette

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Good on its own or topped with fish, chicken or steak.


1/2 cup blueberries
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup olive oil
good pinch of sea salt


- add blueberries, vinegar, salt and honey to a blender
- run on medium high for 30-40 seconds until mostly pureed
- turn up speed slightly and slowly stream in olive oil so the dressing emulsifies

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cabbage The Final Installment – Shrimp and Cabbage Stir Fry

The last batches of cabbage I got in my CSA basket all wound up being cooked this way. First I cooked it with half a head, and then ended up cooking another half, and then a final half in this style.

I had some linguine already cooked, so all I had to do was clean up the shrimp, prep a few vegetables and fire up my electric wok. Do you have one? I love mine. I left my home gas range and commercial ranges for a smooth cooktop type stove in the hubby’s house, so I miss the responsiveness of gas. My Farberware wok often comes to save the day and heats up and cools down as quickly as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. She lost the ring already… ok, I don’t care at. all, but it’s so hard to avoid the media coverage of it, so it can come to mind as I behold my garlic cooling right on cue after I turn down the heat on my wok. I’m looking forward to the Olympics dominating the news scene for a while.

Anyway, back to the shrimp and cabbage stir fry lo mein type dish. Here it is.


Shrimp and Cabbage Stir Fry with Ginger and Linguini

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

This comes together quickly, and makes a good leftover for work the next day.


1 lb shrimp, deveined, peeled
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup ginger julienne, 1/4 to 1/2"
1 jalapeño, seeded, chopped
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/3 cup water
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1/3 of 14 oz-pkg of wheat noodles, cooked in salted water, according to directions
3 Tbsp basil, chopped
3 Tbsp toasted chopped nuts (optional) to taste; peanuts, pistachios, pepitas or sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste


- heat wok to medium high heat and add 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- add garlic, ginger, jalapeño and sauté for 1-2 minutes, turning down or removing from heat momentarily if needed to get it cooked without browning garlic
- add cabbage and toss with other ingredients 1-2 minutes
- add water and cover wok tightly with lid and allow the cabbage to steam until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes (if not add a little more water, cover and cook a few minutes more)
- toss everything around when cabbage is tender, turn heat higher, leave the lid off, allow water to cook off and the cabbage to begin to wilt and fry
- if needed, add remaining sesame oil and allow cabbage to cook down another 2-3 minutes
- toss ingredients, distribute shrimp evenly in the wok, add soy sauce and put lid on to steam 1-2 minutes
- when shrimp are almost cooked, add linguine and cover again to allow shrimp to finish cooking and pasta to heat
- garnish with basil and nuts

Monday, July 2, 2012

Braised Radishes

Last week’s farm delivery included a bunch of radishes which I needed to prepare somehow for the raw-phobic here, so I decided to braise them and the hubster really liked them. Who knew?!

It was a breeze too. I sorta used this recipe from Food Network… I used veg stock instead of chicken, subbed the onion I had on hand for the shallot, eliminated the sugar, and waited until the end to finish with butter. I also found I had to cook for longer than the recipe suggests, but that didn’t require any more effort on my part and I like how few steps there are. Just trim and clean up the radishes, slice some onion and throw everything into a sauce pan. 

I grilled tuna steaks and used some of the fresh herbs we received to make a pureed chimichurri sauce. yummm.


Braised Radishes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Radishes are quite different and a pleasant surprise when cooked.


8-12 radishes, trimmed, cleaned
1/4 cup yellow onion, sliced
1 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock or water
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1-2 Tbsp whole butter, to taste to finish
1-2 tsp honey or agave syrup to taste to finish
salt and pepper to taste


- add radishes, onion, stock, vinegar and salt and pepper to a sauce pan small enough to allow the liquid to cover the radishes
- bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until radishes are cooked through
- remove from heat and stir in butter and honey to finish and adjust seasoning

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pate Brisee

Is there a plug in that will allow me to add recipes without posting? Not that I could find… so perhaps this isn’t the most sophisticated way to build up my recipe collection, but it’s how it’s happening for now.

Anyway, this recipe is so easy – much easier than figuring out how to set up a new website -and such a treat : ) I hope you’ll enjoy some summer veggies this way.




Pate Brisee

Yield: dough for 2 10" tarts

Prep Time: 10 minutes plus 30 minutes resting

Cook Time: 15 - 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

I'll never lose the love for their culinary school classic.


8 oz all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz butter, cooler than room temperature, cut into 3/4" chunks
7 - 8 Tbsp cold water


- measure flour and salt into the bowl of a standing mixer
- add the butter chunks, distributing evenly
- run the paddle attachment on low until the mixture resembles a coarse meal and starts to look like sand
- slowly add water, only as much as is needed to get the mix to form a dough
- gather the dough and divide in half
- wrap each half in plastic wrap and allow to relax 30 minutes in the refrigerator