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Month: March 2019

ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD-LA SCALA STYLE

ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD-LA SCALA STYLE

This delicious salad is my take on the iconic Leon salad served at LaScala’s restaurant in Beverly Hills.  While on a business trip to Newport Beach, I had to make a pilgrimage to the LaScala Boutique restaurant and have one for myself.  All I can…

INCREDIBLE MOLTEN LAVA CAKE

INCREDIBLE MOLTEN LAVA CAKE

This may be my favorite dessert.  What’s not to like about an individual dessert with a rich, cakey exterior hiding a warm, gooey, pudding-like chocolate center?  This cake is perfect for a romantic dinner, to serve for a holiday dessert, or to impress guests during…

ROASTED GARLIC HORSERADISH MASHED POTATOES

ROASTED GARLIC HORSERADISH MASHED POTATOES

Once you taste these creamy, rich, mashed potatoes with the tangy bite of horseradish together with the buttery, nuttiness of roasted garlic, you won’t want plain old mashed potatoes again.

Is there anything more comforting than mashed potatoes?  Have a bad day? Crave some mashed potatoes. Not feeling well?  A little bit of mashed potatoes will soothe what ails you. You know what I’m talking about.

You can buy frozen mashed potatoes or tubs of ‘fresh’ mashed potatoes that are sold in the meat section of the grocery store and you just pop in the microwave.  Those would work in a desperate pinch. And honestly, I have indulged in more than a few of those black tubs of prepared, pasty potatoes.  But a hot, steaming bowl of perfect, fluffy, homemade mashed potatoes that are perfectly seasoned, creamy, and buttery is a guilty pleasure that rivals those 80’s throwback tunes you jam to in your car.  Again, you know what I’m talking about.

Mashed potatoes with garlic and horseradish in a white pot

What is horseradish anyway?  Horseradish is a tuber vegetable that, when grated, releases a potent, spicy, peppery heat that is felt in the nose and sinuses for just a brief moment.  There isn’t a lasting ‘burn’ on the tongue like other hot, spicy foods. This quick blast of spiciness makes horseradish a delicious addition to rich, fatty, meaty dishes.  Not a fan of a lot of spice?  Mixing the grated root with vinegar will help to tame those spicy notes-but only if you do it immediately after grating the root. The longer you wait to add the vinegar, the spicier the horseradish tastes. Also, horseradish finishes with an almost sweet note that is very nice to a salty main dish.

Horseradish was used medicinally by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians for gout, arthritis, digestive issues and as an aphrodisiac.  But it was the Europeans who we should thank for actually eating horseradish. They used the root as an accompaniment for oysters, roasted meats, and pickled meats.  One theory is that the ancient Europeans used horseradish to cover up the taste of meat that wasn’t quite fresh. The horseradish, with its piquant flavors and tangy spice, cuts through the fatty richness of the beef and masks any type of gamey flavors.

It is also believed that horseradish stimulates peristalsis or the reflex that moves food through the digestive system.  So that heavy prime rib or steak dinner will digest a whole lot easier with a bit of horseradish on the side.

Mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and horseradish in a white pot

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Mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and horseradish in a white pot

ROASTED GARLIC HORSERADISH MASHED POTATOES


Description

One taste of these creamy and tangy Roasted Garlic Horseradish Mashed Potatoes and you won’t want a bite of any other mashed potato dish. Perfect with chicken, pork roast, or beef, this recipe can be made in advance and warmed in the microwave before serving.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • Cold water – enough to cover the potatoes in a pot by one inch
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup half and half
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 cloves roasted garlic
  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Fresh chopped chives for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, cover potatoes with enough cold water to cover by an inch. Add a healthy handful of salt to the water. The water should taste mildly salty. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are soft – about 20 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Stir the drained potatoes in the pot over medium heat to help dry out the potatoes. Once dried, use a potato masher to mash the potatoes until all large chunks are broken down.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter, half and half, sour cream, cream cheese, garlic, and horseradish together until the butter and cream cheese are melted and fully combined with the garlic and horseradish. Do not let this mixture come to a boil. While stirring, mash the soft, roasted garlic cloves against the sides of the pot to break the cloves down into the cream mixture.
  3. Stir the cream mixture into the hot potatoes, Use the potato masher to ‘whip’ the cream mixture into the hot potatoes, further smoothing them. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Add salt and pepper as needed.
  4. Spoon potatoes into a serving bowl. If desired, add a pat or two of soft butter to melt on top and garnish with chopped fresh chives.

Notes

The potatoes can be made a day in advance, covered, and chilled. The next day, bring to room temperature, then reheat in a microwave or double boiler, stirring often until hot.

You can increase or decrease the amount of horseradish to suit your taste. The amount used in this recipe provides just enough heat at the end of the bite, but not enough to burn in the sinuses.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1

TIPS FOR THE PERFECT ROASTED GARLIC HORSERADISH MASHED POTATOES

  • Be sure to season the potato cooking water very well, as if you were boiling pasta.
  • Boil the potatoes just until fork tender.  Cook too much and the potatoes will be mushy and watery.
  • Don’t overbeat the potatoes or they will be gluey in texture.  You will know this texture the minute you beat them too far. It is just awful.

You can make roasted garlic easily at home.  Here is a video to help you do it:

What to serve with Roasted Garlic Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

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THE ULTIMATE TOMAHAWK STEAK – 2 ways

THE ULTIMATE TOMAHAWK STEAK – 2 ways

A tomahawk steak or cowboy steak, is a “Flintstonian”, thick cut of ribeye with a 6-8-inch bone handle.  Can’t you see Fred Flintstone gnawing on something like this? Cartoon reference aside, the tomahawk is an impressive cut to serve to guests and has become very…

CLASSIC WEDGE SALAD

CLASSIC WEDGE SALAD

I think that this classic recipe may be an almost perfect dish.  I know. It’s so simple. But that’s the beauty of it! I love the cold, crispy lettuce.  I love the tangy, creamy dressing with the pungent, sharp crumbles of blue cheese. I love…

LEMON VANILLA BEAN SCONES

LEMON VANILLA BEAN SCONES

Can you go into a coffee shop and just get a coffee?  I can’t. I want something small and sweet to go along with the coffee.  It is a treat that I look forward to. The problem is that I am usually disappointed.  Either the flavor is lacking, the item is just becoming stale, or it simply tastes old. None of it worth the price I just paid.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the cheaper, better solution is to make something myself. I want something that isn’t too sweet, is just the right size, and portable.  I mean, preferably something I can nosh on without utensils. These little gems are just that type of a perfect sweet something to enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee and will not ever disappoint.

I love scones.  The dough is similar to a biscuit but sweeter and not as flaky.  The perfect scone should be crumbly in texture, but not dry. It should be lightly flavored and delicately sweet.  The addition of sugar to the dough helps to make that perfect, tender, moist crumb on the inside and the crisp, crunchy pebble textured outside.  Oh, just writing those few lines makes this food writer/blogger feel like Thoreau, Dickinson, or maybe even Hemingway!

Lemon and vanilla bean scone with a drizzled glaze on top sitting on a square white plate beside a cup of coffee.

These Lemon Vanilla Bean scones are easy to make, especially if you use a food processor to combine the butter and dry ingredients.  I’ve found that using the food processor instead of a pastry blender or even ‘snapping’ the butter in by hand makes for a more tender final product.  I’ve learned the hard way that you don’t want to work the dough too much. Nobody wants a tough scone.  Trust me.  It ruins the experience.

I’ve added lemon zest to the dough because, well, everything’s better with lemon. Also, using the seeds from a vanilla bean and seeing the little black flecks in the scone preps your brain to expect the full, robust vanilla flavor that is soon going to envelop your mouth.

Lemon and vanilla bean scone with a drizzled glaze sitting on a square white plate beside a cup of coffee.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF VANILLA

  • Vanilla beans are the dried pod.  Once the pod is split, you are able to scrape the black beans and pulp to add to your recipe.  This is known as the vanilla caviar. Vanilla beans can be pricey but offer the most flavor.
  • Vanilla bean paste is a mixture of the ground vanilla bean and vanilla extract.  It is thicker than extract, more like a syrup consistency. Often, it is sweetened as well.  The vanilla paste can be used in the same amounts as an extract. You can also substitute 1 tablespoon of vanilla paste for 1 whole vanilla bean.
  • Vanilla extract is made by soaking the vanilla bean in alcohol and water.  It has a concentrated flavor and is usually cheaper than the paste or whole bean.
  • Vanilla flavoring does not have alcohol in the process.  It is the most economical, but also the least intense in flavor.
  • Imitation vanilla is a chemical interpretation of vanilla and will lessen the flavor of your product.  In other words, don’t bother with imitation.
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Lemon Vanilla bean scone with a drizzled glaze sitting upon a square white plate next to a cup of coffee

LEMON VANILLA BEAN SCONES


Description

A delicate, sweet scone flavored with lemon zest and vanilla bean. This is perfect with your cup of coffee or tea in the morning.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped of seeds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (if you don’t have cake flour, use an additional 1 cup AP flour)
  • 1 cup all purpose (AP) flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ cup very cold butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Glaze:

  • 1 ½ tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract
  • Tiny pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, pour in the heavy cream.
  2. Using a very sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds and pulp from the pod. Drop the seeds and pulp into the heavy whipping cream. Add vanilla extract and stir until the seeds and pulp are evenly dispersed throughout the cream. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the seeds and pulp to flavor the cream.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Set aside.
  4. in the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse just until it’s mixed together. Add the cold, cubed butter and pulse until the flour mixture resembles a coarse corn meal. Set aside.
  5. In the bowl with the vanilla seeds and cream, whisk in the egg until very well blended.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients from the food processor. Make a well in the center.
  7. Add in the egg and cream mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  8. Flour a work surface. Turn the dough onto the prepared surface. Divide the dough in half. Using your floured hands, form each half into a circle about 6-inches wide and about an inch thick. Repeat with the second half of dough.
  9. Using a sharp knife, cut each circle of dough into eighths, like a pie. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheets.
  10. Brush the tops with the egg and cream wash.
  11. Bake in the prepared oven for 17-20 minutes until lightly golden brown. Don’t let the scones get too brown.
  12. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
  13. For glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together all glaze ingredients until smooth.
  14. When scones are completely cool, drizzle the tops with the glaze and allow to dry for at least an hour.
  15. Enjoy.

Notes

Note: the dough can be made the night before, shaped, cut and placed on the baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate. The next morning, brush the tops with the egg and cream mixture and bake as directed above.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1

OTHER RECIPES YOU MAY ENJOY

NEED HELP LEARNING TO SPLIT A VANILLA BEAN?

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CRISPY, CREAMY EGG BOATS

CRISPY, CREAMY EGG BOATS

This recipe is what would happen if a frittata or an omelet and a bread bowl had a love child.  A crispy, crunchy crust cradling a creamy, savory, soft egg and sausage center. How amazing does that sound? There is something that feels so decadent…

STRAWBERRIES ROMANOFF

STRAWBERRIES ROMANOFF

Cool and creamy.  Lightly sweet and wonderfully fruity.  This easy dish is a refreshing dessert or an elegant addition to brunch.  The best part is that it only looks fancy. I first had this amazing dish at La Madeline’s French Bakery and Cafe in Houston,…

FRESH PEACH BELLINI

FRESH PEACH BELLINI

A quick, easy, and elegant cocktail that marries the flavors of fresh, fruity peaches and the sweet fizz of prosecco.

I have not met anyone who doesn’t enjoy a delicious Bellini.  I experienced my very first Bellini at a gorgeous Sardinian restaurant in Houston, Texas.  It was a long time ago, yet I can remember that first sip vividly. It was that delicious. I set out to make it for myself.

Perfect for summer barbecues, holiday mornings, or at brunch with the girls, a delicious Bellini just feels more elegant and special.  Even the word, “Bellini”, feels elegant and sexy – plus you sip it from a lovely stemmed flute glass!

Since prosecco is only about 11% alcohol, it is the perfect brunch indulgence.  

Do yourself a favor and take the time to make the fresh peach puree.  Don’t use peach schnapps. This step takes this cocktail from good to amazing.

The Bellini was first introduced to the world in the 1940s by Giuseppe Cipriani, the owner of the infamous Venice bar, Harry’s.  It is believed that the drink’s pinkish color reminded Cipriani of the color in a Renaissance painting by Giovanni Bellini – hence the name, Bellini.

Harry’s bar was frequented by authors, poets, actors, and socialites from around the world.  The Bellini was a much-loved cocktail of Ernest Hemingway, Alfred Hitchcock, and Truman Capote.

Window of the famous Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy
The window of the infamous Harry’s Bar – Venice, Italy

HOW TO PICK THE PERFECT PROSECCO

  • Know how to pick the perfect amount of sweetness.
  • Extra Brut is the driest with little to no sweetness
    • Brut is dry to the taste with just a hint of sweetness (7-13 grams sugar/liter)
    • Extra dry has a bit more sweetness to it that Brut (14-16 grams sugar/liter)
    • Dry is actually the sweetest prosecco (26 grams sugar/liter)
  • Don’t spend the extra money on those marked with “DOCG”.   This just means that the prosecco comes from the area of Conegliano Valdobbiadene and will be pricier.
  • Pick one that uses the “Charmat method” of production.  This means that the prosecco is fermented in steel tanks instead of each individual bottle, like champagne.  This method will provide a fruitier and lighter prosecco that is also very cost-effective – perfect for Bellinis.
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Bellini cocktail made with fresh peach puree and prosecco in a stemmed champagne flute

FRESH PEACH BELLINI


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds of very ripe peaches (preferably white, put any good fresh peach will do)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 11 ½ tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 12 teaspoons raspberry jam (optional. I prefer the fresh peach flavor)
  • 1 750-ml bottle chilled Prosecco or Asti Spumanti (don’t use champagne)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a full rolling boil. Using the tip of a paring knife, slice an “X” into the bottom of each peach. Add peaches to boiling water and cook just until the fuzzy skin begins to peel back at the “X”. This typically takes about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove peaches and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Peel the peaches and slice flesh from the pits.
  2. Chop peach flesh and place in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and sugar. Stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Transfer the peach mixture to a blender. Process until very smooth. You can strain the puree through a fine mesh sieve, if desired.
  4. Add peach puree to a large glass pitcher. If using raspberry jam, add to the peach puree and stir together.
  5. Add the Prosecco slowly, stirring to prevent the Prosecco from making too much of a foam head.
  6. Divide the mixture among champagne flutes. Garnish with peach slice and sprig of mint.
  7. Enjoy.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1

OTHER RECIPES THAT YOU MAY ENJOY

CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO ON HOW TO POP THAT PROSECCO CORK

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THE ULTIMATE MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE COOKIES

THE ULTIMATE MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE COOKIES

This cookie is rich and chocolatey, with a warm spiciness that will leave you craving more.  These cookies are soft on the inside and crispy around the edges. The surprise of the cayenne starts subtle and then hits with a warm spiciness in the back…

SPICY MEXICAN RICE PILAF

SPICY MEXICAN RICE PILAF

This is a simple recipe that explodes with the comforting, spicy, warm flavors of Mexico.  So versatile, this can be a side or a one-dish meal with the addition of some meat. I could eat this rice as a meal in itself.  Yes, carb overload.…

CREAMY CILANTRO JALAPENO SAUCE

CREAMY CILANTRO JALAPENO SAUCE

When I moved to Houston, I was taken to Chuy’s Mexican restaurant and experienced the most delicious, creamy, cool, and yet spicy sauce that was amazing on literally everything.

When I asked for and was denied the recipe, I went on an internet search for the recipe and found out that many people are on the same quest.  There are many variations of this recipe out there on the web.

This recipe is my interpretation of the infamous sauce.  With a food processor and five minutes, you will have the most addictive, flavorful condiment that you’ll want to dip or put on everything.

Bowl with creamy cilantro jalapeno sauce

I embarked on this flavor journey by spending many dinners at Chuy’s (rough life, huh?) eating bowls of this delicious concoction.  I took notes on the flavor notes that were especially enticing to me.

For creaminess and tang, I thought that sour cream and buttermilk would best fit this taste. The cilantro would provide that distinct herbiness that’s familiar to Tex-Mex dishes.  The fresh jalapeno, I think, have a more pronounced flavor. It is more difficult to control the heat using fresh.

I added the canned chiles to hit upon a tiny note of smokiness and tang, but not heat.  The lime juice just seems to bring all of the flavors together. I hope you love this sauce as much as I do.

SUBSTITUTIONS FOR CREAMY CILANTRO JALAPENO SAUCE

  • For less heat, use jarred, pickled jalapenos or take out all the seeds AND veins on fresh jalapenos.
  • For a thicker sauce, swap in 1 cup mayonnaise for 1 cup of the sour cream or place the sour cream in a paper towel-lined mesh strainer over a bowl in your refrigerator.  Allow to sit for 2 to 3 hours to ‘drain’. Discard the liquid in the bowl. You could also reduce the amount of buttermilk, but you will also lose some of the tanginess of the sauce.
  • Don’t like cilantro?  Leave it out all together or substitute parsley or dill.

EQUIPMENT AND TOOLS TO MAKE CREAMY CILANTRO JALAPENO SAUCE

  • Chef’s knife and cutting board
  • Food processor
  • Stirring spoon
  • Non-reactive bowl (ceramic or glass)
  • Measuring cup
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Bowl of creamy cilantro and jalapeno sauce

CREAMY CILANTRO JALAPENO SAUCE


Description

Cool and creamy. Spicy and tangy. Quick and easy to make. This sauce is the perfect condiment for chips, tacos, or raw vegetables.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 16 ounce container full fat sour cream
  • 2 packages dry ranch dip mix
  • 2 whole large fresh jalapenos, seeded and deveined
  • 1 4 ounce can mild green chiles, drained well
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 whole lime, juiced
  • ½ cup full fat buttermilk

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, add jalapenos and cilantro and process until finely chopped.
  2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add sour cream, ranch mix, canned green chiles, garlic salt, lime juice and buttermilk and process until fully combined.
  3. Empty into a bowl, cover and chill at least 1 hour to allow flavors to blend.
  4. Serve and enjoy with tortilla chips, on top of tacos, enchiladas, or burritos – even salads.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1

OTHER WEEKNIGHT DINNER IDEAS

I literally put this amazing sauce on everything from scrambled eggs to salads.  I have also been known to dip vegetables, tortilla chips, rolled deli meats and cheese chunks.  It is very versatile, to say the least.

Do you know how to clean a jalapeno?  Want less heat?  Remove the seeds and vein.  Check out this video on how to do it.

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