November 2008

Somewhat traditional, but with a twist! Yes, there’s turkey and sweet potatoes; however the pie goes out the window on this one. I know, many of you are cringing right now. I am not a pie confectioner (I know you have read that before, and actually I have a great post about pies coming soon, so stay tuned) and really pie is not my thing, but ice cream is. For some reason (read: my family), I have never gotten to make this menu just as listed below. I figured I would post it and perhaps live vicariously by anyone who decides to give it a whirl. So here it goes:

  • Creamy Pumpkin Soup
  • Scalloped Sweet Potatoes – I just wish I could find true yams in Indiana, ugh!
  • Cranberry Wild Rice Dressing
  • Roasted Turkey – we brine our turkey in a dark beer and apple cider concoction that produces the moistest and most flavorful meat. Can’t take credit for this, its an Emeril’s original.
  • White Cheddar and Pancetta Drop Biscuits
  • Pumpkin Pie Gelato

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients ~ serves 10
4 TB butter, divided
1 cup chopped onions
1 TB dry thyme
2 TB rice flour
1/2 cup milk
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups pumpkin puree
3 cups milk

1. In a large stock pot, melt two tablespoons of butter and add the onions. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they soften up. Add thyme and cook for two more minutes.
2. Add the remaining butter and flour to form a paste. Add milk and continue to stir until the mixture starts to thicken.
3. Add the chicken broth and continue to stir till combined.
4. Stir in pumpkin till combined, and continue to cook covered and over low heat for 20 minutes.
6. Let the soup cool off and puree in small batches using the food processor or blender.
5. Return to a stock pot, stir in milk till heated through and serve.

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes
Ingredients ~serves 8

4 TB butter
6 cups of yellow onion, sliced thin
2 TB sugar
2 cups heavy cream
3 cinnamon sticks
1 TB orange zest
4 lbs sweet potatoes, sliced thin
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
½ cup Japanese style bread crumbs
1 cup white cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a skillet, melt the butter and cook the onion till softened. Add the sugar and cook until they start to caramelize.
3. In the meantime, in a sauce pan, bring the cream to a simmer, add the cinnamon stick and orange zest. Cover, turn the burner off and set aside for 20 – 30 minutes.
4, Butter an 11×14 baking dish and add a layer of the sweet potato slices. Add a layer of the onion mixture and then half of the cream mixture. Repeat the layering process.
5. Mix together the toasted pecans, bread crumbs and shredded white cheddar. Cover the top layer of sweet potatoes with the cheese mixture.
6. Bake covered, at 350 for 45 minutes, or until fork tender. Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Cranberry Wild Rice Dressing ~ I have never been a fan of cooking the dressing inside the turkey, something about not being able to control the moisture. To keep the turkey from drying, I simply brine it and place some cut up apples in the cavity. But back to dressing. This recipe has taken different forms over the years. I first created it for a client who needed a vegetarian dressing for Thanksgiving and from there it just went a couple of different directions; including a wild rice version that I just served at a dinner party this past weekend.

Ingredients ~ serves 10 – 12
2 cups wild rice, cooked according to package directions, using broth instead of water
3 TB butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped fennel
1 TB fresh thyme
1 TB fresh sage
2 granny smith apples, peeled and cut in small cubes
2 red pears, cut in small cubes
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
2 TB chopped Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 cups dry bread cubes, preferably from a day old Italian loaf
2 cup vegetable broth

1. In a large skillet, melt the butter and add the onions. Cook for a 2 minutes, add the celery and fennel and continue cooking till they begin to soften.
2. Add the herbs, pears and apples and cook for an additional 10 minutes in low to medium heat.
3. In a large mixing bowl combine the rice with the apple/onion mixture. Once these ingredients are well combined, add walnuts, cranberries and parsley.
4. Add the bread cubes and combine. Now add the broth in batches combining well with every addition. The purpose is for the bread to soak up the moisture without making the dressing too runny.
5. Bake on a 5 quart, deep baking dish, covered, for 45 minutes at 350.

Roasted Turkey – I am a traditionalist in that I prefer to roast the turkey, I yet have to make an attempt at deep frying a turkey. That does not mean that I am not looking forward to trying it one day. Maybe one of these years I will work up the courage to stand out in the freezing cold and set up shop for the fried turkey experiment. In the meantime, a few simple steps will continue to yield the perfect bird.

  • Start off the roasting process and bake in a really hot oven, 400 degrees, for the first 15 minutes.
  • Bring the temperature down to 325 and cook covered for 90% of the remaining roasting time.
  • Start breast side down, and turn only once, when is time to cover to allow for the breast side to brown.
  • Brush several times during the roasting process with a mixture of butter and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt.
  • Stuff the cavity of the bird with a few cut up apples, I prefer to cook the dressing separately.
  • Lay the bird on a layer of celery and scatter cut up onions on the bottom of the pan.
  • Add chicken broth several time during the roasting process to continue to create steam around the foil tented turkey.

Seasoning – none! At least not in the way that most people think. I have been brining turkeys for clients, and our own holidays for several years. I started with a simple mixture of salt and water, until I came across this brine from chef Emeril Lagasse. I use it on turkeys, turkey breasts, and even chicken.

Emeril’s Brine:
2 quarts apple cider
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 cups kosher salt
1/4 cup black peppercorns
1 tablespoon juniper berries
4 bay leaves
Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole cloves
4 quarts dark beer

Mix all of the above ingredients and submerge the turkey in this mixture for 24 hours, in the refrigerator. I do ours in a bucket that we purchased a few years ago and is reserved for this use. You could also use a large cooler, and cover the turkey with ice that is still in a bag and won’t leak out, or inside a large oven bag.

Now, just a little more insight on the brining process and how it works. Brining allows for two key processes to develop; both of them resulting in added moisture. First, salt helps break down the protein structure that supports the contracting filaments, partially dissolving them. Second, and more importantly, the interaction between the salt and the protein results in larger water holding capacity in the muscle cells; which then absorb the water from the brine, increasing the water weight by 10% or more. When cooked the meat still loses about 20% of its weight in moisture, but this loss is counterbalanced by the brine. Hence, the moisture lost is only half of what it would have been without the brining process.

I will now get out of my brining soap box, and move on to biscuits!

White Cheddar and Pancetta Drop Biscuits ~ This has got to be the easiest recipe in this menu. All you have to do is prepare biscuit mix and add three more ingredients before baking. These are drop biscuits, no need to cut them in specific sizes or go through an elaborate process with the dough.

1/2 lbs pancetta, diced small
3 TB finely diced shallots
2 cups of bisquick mix
Buttermilk – add whatever amount the box indicates for 2 cups of mix and use buttermilk instead of water
1/2 cup white cheddar

1. In a skillet cook pancetta and shallots till the pancetta has rendered its fat and starts to brown. Set aside.
2. Prepare the biscuit mix according to package directions.
3. Fold in pancetta mix and white cheddar until incorporated.
4. Drop by tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat.
5. Bake in the oven according to package directions in the biscuit mix.

Pumpkin Pie Gelato ~ I have finally determined the perfect ratio of milk/eggs/cream for this recipe. Took a few tries, and my husband very much enjoyed the recipe development process. Why is it gelato and not ice cream? It is all about the fat content in the milk (3 to 5 % for gelato). Now on to the next step, which is working with mix-ins. So look for that recipe later on this holiday season.

One thing that will make this recipe much much better is refrigerating the custard mixture overnight and finishing in the ice cream maker the next day. Also, an extra sprinkle of pumpkin spice is a nice finish when serving.

Pumpkin Pie Gelato

Pumpkin Pie Gelato

Ingredients ~ makes 6 servings
3 cups low fat milk, 2 % works well
2 cups whipping cream
1 vanilla bean
1 cup of sugar
4 egg yolks
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/2 TB pumpkin spice

1. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape its pulp.
2. In a deep sauce pan, bring the milk, cream, vanilla pulp and vanilla bean to a simmer; just until you see the edges of the liquid starting to bubble up or the mixture reaches 170F in a candy thermometer. Set aside to cool.
2. Mix the eggs and sugar using a hand mixer for 3 – 5 minutes.
3. Discard the vanilla bean. Begin adding the milk and cream mixture to the sugar and egg mixture 1/2 cup at a time.
4. Fold in the pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice.
5. Return to the saucepan and cook in low heat for a few minutes, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
6. Cool completely, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
7. Process mixture in the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
8. Transfer to a container with a tight lid and freeze.

Hello and thank you for your comments!  Please note that I will be responding to the comments/question for a particular recipe in the comments area for that recipe.  I find this method to be beneficial to others who could have the same question about a particular recipe.

There has to be as many variations of this soup in Italy, as there are of chicken noodle soup in America. However, this one mirrors the best one I ever tasted. It was in 2005, in a small trattoria in Florence. I don’t always find kale for this, so spinach is a good substitute here.



2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup diced pancetta
1 cup chopped yellow onions
3 TB chopped shallots
1 TB minced garlic
2 TB tomato paste
1 14 oz canned diced roasted tomatoes
2 quarts chicken stock
1 TB french thyme
1 TB rosemary
1 teas fresh ground pepper
1 14 oz can of cannellini beans, drained
1 pkg frozen spinach, thawed
1/2 cup freshly shredded parmessan cheese

1. In a dutch oven heat up olive oil and cook pancetta till it starts to brown. Add onions and shallots. Cook for 5 – 7 minutes till the onions are translucent.
2. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook for an additional minute.
3. Add chicken stock, thyme, rosemary and black pepper. Bring to a slow boil.
4. Add cannellini beans, tomatoes and spinach. Bring to a slow boil and cover.
5. Cook for 45 minutes, covered, in low to medium heat.
6. Serve and top with parmesan cheese.

On any given day, I have a number of food related news feeds come across my email. Think Associated Press for foodies. For the most part these are targeted to restaurant owners as they talk about food trends, the economy, and the latest research results on the most efficient method of turning inventory.

That said, a couple of blog-worthy tid bits made it in over the past couple of days and I am passing them along.  Click on the subject line to link to the article.

2009 Flavor Trends ~ interesting and intriguing describe some of the items that made this list. Can not wait to try them!

Lavazza Coffee Bars take a leap across the pond and land in Chicago ~ now, if they can only make it to Indianapolis!

Organic Fish? Really? ~ not sure what to think of this one… yet.

Pumpkin is in my mind these days. Maybe it is because Thanksgiving is just around the corner, or maybe its just the chill that I encountered during my walk this morning…. daily reminder that fall is definitely here. I wanted to do something with the little pumpkins often labeled as “pie pumpkins”. Since I am not much of a pie confectioner, the thought of working with these pumpkins always left my mind rather quickly. The thought came back as I wanted a fresh alternative to the canned pumpkin that I had been using till now.

The small amount of labor that goes into turning these pumpkins into puree is definitely worth it. Actually, once you do this and taste the difference, you may turn your nose at the Libby’s orange can.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

1 small pie pumpkin
2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of sugar
1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted
4 eggs
1 TB vanilla extract
3 cups mashed fresh pumpkin
2 TB pumpkin pie spice
1 TB cinnamon
1 TB ground cloves

1/4 cup baking cinnamon chips
2 TB light brown sugar
1/4 cup toffee bits

1. For the pumpkin puree, simply cut the pumpkins down the middle and scoop out the seeds. Place in a glass baking dish, cut side down, and add enough water to rise approximately 1/4″ on the sides of the pan. Bake uncovered at 350 for approximately 40 minutes, till they are fork tender. Once cooled, scoop out the pumpkin with a large spoon into a bowl and mash with a potato masher or a fork. Set aside to cool.

2. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, mix together the sugar and butter until the color turns a pale yellow (3 -5 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time till combined. Then add the vanilla extract, pumpkin, and dry spices.

4. Begin adding the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Add in three steps, making sure that the mix is well blended before adding additional flour.

5. Pour half of the mixture in a bundt cake pan that has been prepped with butter and flour**. Add half of the streusel mix, pour the other half of the batter and top with the other half of the streusel mix.

6. Bake at 350 for 35 – 40 minutes, cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake.

** Personally, I prefer the no hassle method of using a non-stick spray that contains flour, such as Baker’s Joy.

Sun Dried Tomato Crusted Pork Chop

Sun Dried Tomato Crusted Pork Chop

This recipe takes minimal amount of prep and is worth every one of the 15 minutes that will take you to put it together and in the oven. The first time I made this, I served it alongside Smoked Gouda Polenta, but a nice summer salad is also a great side dish. I have yet to try it on chicken, but I am guessing it will work pretty well with the original “white meat”. I chose bone-in pork chops for the additional moisture that it gives to the meat, boneless should work just as well.


4 bone in pork chops, trimmed of any fat

1/2 cup fat free half and half

2 cups (Japanse bread crumbs)

1 cup oil packed sun dried tomatoes, drained

Salt and pepper to taste

Penzey’s pork chop seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Season pork chops with salt, pepper and pork chop seasoning.
3. In a medium bowl combine the panko and sun dried tomatoes. Mixture should be dry as the panko will absorb any remaining oil from the tomatoes. If you find the mixture to be sticky, add a little bit more panko.
4. Place panko & tomato mixture into the food processor and give it 6 – 2 second pulses. Empty the mix into a dinner plate.
5. Pour the half and half in a separate dinner plate.
6. Dip the pork chops in the half and half, then in the sun dried tomato mixture and place in the baking dish.
7. Cover dish and bake at 375 for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

So I was in Boston a couple of weeks ago and ended up at the North End for dinner… twice. On the first night, I wasn’t really sure where I was going, and wound up at a local “italian” eatery not worth blogging around.

On the second night, I followed the recomendation of a local and found myself in a small eatery in Tuscany, I mean, the North End of Boston – Ristorante Euno. The cobblestoned, slightly sloped, winding streets of Little Italy in Boston transported me back to the back streets of Florence. You know, the ones without the flashy “English menu available” sign on the sidewalk, but rather filled with small eateries frequented by locals.

We started with two appetizers for the table; a traditional antipasto platter of meats, cold vegetables and italian cheeses. While this was authentic and tasty, it didn’t even come close to what I thought to be the star of the evening: Carciofi Friti.. or Fried Artichokes. These were fresh artichoke hearts that had been somewhat marinated, filled with goat cheese, wrapped in prosciutto and fried. I am bound and determined to replicate this or get the recipe. To accomplish the latter maybe I will write to Gourmet and have them get it for me… you know, that section they have in the first few pages of the magazine where desperate foodies beg for the recipes of foods they have tried while on the road; or I could just pick up the phone and call the restaurant.

No, I didn’t just eat artichokes that night. I ordered the Osso Bucco, because as far as I can remember I never ordered it out before, was just as happy with my own. As the menu promised, the Osso Bucco had been cooking all day in a red wine sauce and served alongside a wild mushroom risotto.  A few bottles of Trere Sangiovese di Romagna Sperone were the perfect accoinpainment to our meal.

Lamb, Lentil & Sweet Potato Stew

Lamb, Lentil & Sweet Potato Stew

Lamb, Lentil & Sweet Potato Stew
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs cubed lamb
2 TB all purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 TB chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
48 oz beef broth
1 1/2 cups sweet potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes
1 lb lentils, dry
1 – 28 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
2 TB tomato paste
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Season lamb with salt and pepper, toss with all purpose flour, shaking off the excess. Set aside.

2. In a dutch oven, heat olive oil. Brown lamb on all sides, cooking in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot. Take lamb out and set aside, loosely covered with aluminum foil.

3. To the dutch oven, add onions and garlic. Cook for approximately 5 minutes till soft and fragrant, add green peppers and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

4. Add beef broth and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, add lentils, bay leaf, tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook on slow heat for 25 minutes.

5. Add sweet potatoes and cook for an additional 30 minutes.

6. Add lamb back into the stew and cook for 25 more minutes.