Minted Zucchini Tagliatelle with Cucumbers and Lemon

I love ribbon.  Satin, paper, wired, grosgrain.  It doesn't matter the kind.    In my pastry kitchen I have spools and spools on a dowel to tie around cake boxes.  Each ribbon is "frenched" to add the little notch at the end.  Love it.   Add tissue paper and a nice sticker and I'm all yours.  When I read the title to the recipe, I honestly thought that we were going to make a pasta dish.  Oh contraire!  The tagliatelle are ribbons of zucchini.   It was going to be just plain fun to make.  Fun and really pretty.  Plus, it's fresh, healthy  and so lovely! Poor zucchini.  It gets mispelled, and is one of the vegetables we're happy to see... for awhile.   Then they end up in the office breakroom in a pile looking for good homes.  Sometimes they even end up on your doorstep!   With the help of a mandolin, the zucchini in this recipe is sliced into gorgeous ribbons.  With the addition of  simple lemon viniagrette, cucumbers, mint and lemon the ribbons become a beautiful salad.  This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe makes the zucchini the star.  No mock apple pie, bread, pizza, just simple pretty zucchini.

I feel badly that I can't post the Around My French Table recipes on Fridays.  If you've been following my blogs each Friday, you might want to take the plunge and buy the book - or check it out from the library, if you don't already have it.  It's going to be a classic and I promise you won't be disappointed. Good news.  I'll be making it up to you next Tuesday.  It's a surprise!

When we were in San Francisco, in Chinatown, a shop keeper gave Gary a demo of some super sharp and cool garnishing tools.  He bought three and has been eager to give them a try.  Once I finished with my recipe he asked if he could use the left over pieces.  A few minutes later he brought me the pretty carvings to garnish my plates.   So pretty!


The best tool for making the ribbons is a mandolin.   It's a razor sharp blade to pass the vegetables over.  I have great respect for mandolins.   Injuries from them are deep, fast and almost always require a visit to the ER.   They may perfect for the ribbon making, but only with the guard and slow careful movements.  I'll tangle with the box grater, but never the mandolin.   I got it out, was extra careful, and look at how great the zucchini turned out!


Embrace the gifts of zucchini, and enjoy the bounty of the summer harvest!

Stay tuned for a great dessert next week!

Peach Melba

Welsh Rarebit, Steak Diane, Pavlova and Peach Melba.  All recipes we've heard of and maybe some of us can describe.  Last week, the Around My French Table/French Friday's with Dorie group made Peach Melba.  I was thinking of something crunchy.  Perhaps in the Melba toast family.   What is it you ask? melba-in-cups-1

Think about the best peach you're ever tasted, with fresh raspberry sauce, over ice cream... with just a touch of liqueur. Yes, that's it.

Fresh peaches are poached in simple syrup with vanilla bean, then cooled and chilled.  While the peaches are chilling, the berries are pureed and combined with just a bit of the syrup.  It's that easy.


Once the sauce and peaches are ready, spoon over vanilla cream and add some sliced almonds.  The scent of the vanilla is amazing.  I used St. Germain, and elderflower liqueur rather than the Chambord that was suggested in the recipe.   I don't think you can go wrong with either.   As summer transitions into fall, this is the perfect summer comfort food.   I hope you'll try it, and enjoy the sweetness of this classic.


Lemon Barley Pilaf

pilaf plated by . Whew!  It's been a busy week, and I'm late in getting this post off.   This is an Around My French Table recipe and part of the French Fridays with Dorie blogging group.  You know the drill for these recipe.  We're asked not to post the recipe, but you can find it in the book.   Just in case you don't have to book, I have good news for you.   August will mark Julia Child's 100th birthday month.   To celebrate, I'll be blogging some of her most famous recipes with some stories, fun facts and quotes from our dear Julia.    Any requests?



Well back to the pilaf... I love barley and was very interested to try the recipe.   My friend Jane makes a great salad with barley and tuna.  It's so good on a hot summer day.    I simmered the barley on the stove, and carefully added the chopped vegetables just as Dorie suggested so they didn't overcook.

pilaf ingredients by .


The pilaf was tasty, and make a nice side dish with the grilled corn salad and salmon with dill and lemon.

pilaf final by .




French Fridays with Dorie - Sardine Rillettes- Not scary, really!

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Sardine Rillette.  A wonderful quick, easy little appetizer spread. I personally like sardines. Growing up, my  mom doesn't like steak. If our family was going to have steak she opened a can of sardines, spread some butter on bread, and carefully laid the sardines side by side on top of the butter.   We could join her, or eat steak.   I always choose the sardines.  There was something about the whole ceremony that appealed to me.   When you open a can with a key, and carefully roll back the metal top, it has to be good!    I know not everyone shares my love.   This recipe is really worth trying to acquaint yourself with sardines.

The recipe calls for 2 cans of sardines, and other ingredients that you probably have on hand.  A little cream cheese, shallot, some herbs, and juice of a lemon.   Guests are coming?  You can have this ready in less than ten minutes.   I used chives.  They're growing outside our kitchen door, and I try to use them whenever I can.

I was a Trader Joe's and found two kinds of sardines.  Some in oil, and some in water.  I bought a can of each to see what they were like.  Sardines are much bigger now than I remember.  I remember little guys about the size of your pinkie or slightly bigger.   They guys are big (well, little but big) and packed in like sardines.  Sorry, had to work that in somewhere!   In one can, the sardines still had spines, so I pulled those out.   I know they would have crushed, but just couldn't leave it in.  Here are the two cans side by side.

Some chopping and snipping and the ingredients were ready to combine.

The sardines easily combined with a fork.  The final preparation is a lot like a simple tuna salad.  It would be really nice piped into the little puff, or a cherry tomato.    Hope you'll give it a try!

Next Tuesday is a lovely lemon cake by Julia.  Love lemons.  Talk to you soon!


Mussels with Chorizo - Be Still My Heart!


Hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day.    It seems like Valentine's Day ends the winter holidays, and we can officially start looking toward spring.   It's been a mild winter here, but I'm ready to some simple, spicy springy dishes.   This recipe for Mussels with Chorizo  fits the bill perfectly.    Some of my favorite times with friends have included mussels.   It's so fun to gather in the kitchen around a big steaming pan and a basket of bread.    I remember Tuesdays night  in Madison at an all-u-can-eat Moules and Frittes night at a sweet French restaurant.   So many flavors, and happy memories.

Since Around My French Table arrived, I've had my eye on this recipe.    I love mussels, love chorizo, love garlic, what more is there to say?    My all time favorite mussel preparation is white wine, garlic, butter and little thyme.  The sauce for dipping is SO good.  I've served this a many small parties and people who don't even think they like mussels love them.   The FFWD recipe had stiff competition, but I felt positive given the great ingredients.

I still follow the rule that you should eat mussels during months with "r"  in them.   So May, June, July and August, sorry.   I'm sure the mussels we get are culitivated, and it really doesn't matter.  But it kind of adds to the romance of mussels.   Living in the midwest, it's not exactly the seafood capital, but our fish monger does a great job and we've never had any funky mussels.    Once the mussels are home, I pick through them and toss out any that aren't completely closed.  Before I toss them, I give them a little tap and see it they'll close.  If not, it's adios.   Can't risk eating a bad mussel.

The recipe serves 4, and there are only two of us so I used about 2# of mussels.

The recipe starts with the usual cast of characters. red pepper, onion and lots-o-garlic.

My chorizo was in a plastic tube, and soft.  I cut the tube in half, squeezed it into the pan, then sauteed the chorizo with the vegetables.   Oh the smell!   It's so easy to wrap up the rest and use it another time.


After everything melded together, in went the tomatoes and wine.   I only used one can of tomatoes since there were fewer mussels, and I decided to eat them in bowl with baguette rather than pasta.  I'm guessing there may have been a little more wine.

Here's are the little mussels just after putting them in the pan.

The lid went on tightly for 3-5 minutes, and ta-da!  Here's they are just a few minutes later.

That's it gang!  Into a soup bowl with a nice toasted baguette slices drizzled with some olive oil.    We have a mussel eating tradition which is to use one mussel like a castenet and pinch the mussel from the others shells.   It's fun, easy, drippy and delicious and no silverware is required.    The bread soaks up the incredible sauce.   Just have a big napkins standing by.     At the end of the pot, we had no unopened mussels - success!

I have a plan to make both sauces and have a little mussel fest in March.   We loved this recipe!







End of Summer Corn Soup - French Fridays with Dorie

Hello everyone!  I guess I accidentally took the summer off from FFWD.  The summer included fun vacations, our first season of pastries and breads at the local Farmers' Market, watching our mini wheat field grow, and best news of all... learning that we're going to be grandparents!   It's the beginning of the school year, and time to start cooking again.  This month's recipes look great and will be great fun to share.

Our friends had TWO children get married this summer.  One in Rhode Island, and one is NYC.   Luckily, Irene threaded the needle between trips and we were able to enjoy the best  both cities had to offer.   Meals included lobster bisque, rolls, and mac-n-cheese... yum (not all in one meal...)!  There are so  many great restaurants in New York.  After touring the Chelsea Market, we made reservations at Morimoto and enjoyed a feast of sushi and stunning entrees.  We had doughnuts at DOUGH in Brooklyn, and Oxtail Ragu in the Meatpacking District.  The travels were inspiring as well as tasty!

We've also been enjoying a great growing season with FoxCityFarm, CSA.   The box this week
included several ears of perfect sweet corn.  Just what I needed for this week's recipe, Corn Soup. It was a very warm day and not exactly a day for eating soup, but what the heck.   There was a lot of corn so I made triple batch of soup to freeze for later.

Here's the unpacked CSA box and the gorgeous corn.

The recipe calls for simmering the cobs in milk then combining the infused milk the the sauteed vegetables.  Here's the corn and cobs ready for the pots.

This  recipe, like many of Dorie's recipes, is simple, yet expert at bringing out the perfect flavors of each ingredient.

The cobs simmer in the milk to add a depth of flavor and texture for this simple soup.  Here are the cobs simmering away in the milk.  I used 2% milk rather than whole milk.   Remember, this is a triple batch.  The recipe only calls for three ears of corn...

Once the kernels of corn, and mirepoix have sauteed, the two pots were combined, then pureed to a beautiful velvet consistency.  Last year I had the luck of becoming the proud owner of a Vitamix blender.  At the time I found it hard to believe that  it would really make a big difference.  Wrong!  The blender sounds like an airplane taking off, and produces flawless results.  The corn soup was truly liquid velvet.  I garnished with thinly sliced scallions, and a dash of chipotle chili powder for a splash of heat.  We had the soup for dinner with tomatoes and crusty bread.  Then, the next day I served the soup as an amuse bouche in tiny glasses without garnish.  I didn't tell our guests what the soup was, and had them guess.  The guesses included celery, leek, and hmmm " I know this flavor so well, but can't place it".  The texture was so smooth and silky that the strong presence of corn was hard to place.  I would highly recommend this soup as a fall appetizer.  I preferred the soup without garnish, and just the dash of chili powder.  The best part was Gary's critique of the recipe... "Incredible"

Things go better with... Cola and Jam Spareribs!

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Cola and Jam Spareribs.  A curious combination and not one that I was immediately drawn to.    Ingredients include Chinese Five Spice powder, ginger, apricot jam, orange/lemon juices, and Coke.  Hmm, well... here we go!

The recipe was straight forward and easy.  We like ribs, in traditional BBQ style, so we were eager to try these as the aroma spread through the house.

Here's the rack on ribs rubbed with the spice mix and spread with the jam/juice mixture.

The next steps were easy!  Bake and baste.   The caramelization process was fun, and produced really nice color.  I needed to add a little more water and ended up using the entire can of Coke. 
After 2 hours, here are the finished ribs!

The meat was tender but not falling off the bone, and the flavor was interesting.  We decided you have to approach the meal as a variation on roasted pork, rather than ribs.  The Asian twist with the spices, and the sweetness of the jam create a nice flavor.  Gary liked the spareribs a lot, I thought they were fine, but not crazy about them.  I admit, I had fun cooking with fizzy Coke.   A nice accompaniment for the ribs could be Spicy Asian Slaw.   I made asparagus - overcooked - and a little past its peak.  It wasn't a perfect combo, but tasted ok.
While this wasn't my favorite dish, it was fun to try, and fun to share.  Next week's recipe is Rhubarb, a spring favorite.   Enjoy!

French Fridays with Dorie- A celebration of Spring

Happy Spring! 

I'm back after a few vacations ready to cook, bake, entertain, enjoying the warmth and sunny days of spring.  This week's FFWD recipe was a true celebration of spring.  It was also a celebration of friends and local foods.

The recipe is Bacon, Eggs and Asparagus Salad.  It was so much fun to make.  The ingredients are simple and when each is cooked to perfection, the combination is delicious.   I'm also including our dessert, Rhubard Custard Tart.  More on that later in the post.

The ingredients for our salad had origins with friends...
On our early spring trip to Asheville, NC we spent time with our freinds, Jerry and Nancy.  At one of our brunches, we had delicious bacon at The Early Girl Cafe.  Jerry mentioned that they have a source for terrific bacon and would send some.  About a week ago, we opened the mailbox, and found a box filled with pounds of fantastic bacon.  For any bacon officianados out there, it's Benton's Hickory Smoked, from Madisonville, TN.  Recently, I started baking the bacon in the oven rather than cooking it on the stove top.   Just place a rack over a  pan and roast in the oven at 350-400 for about 15-20 minutes.   The bacon will stay flat, be crisp, not greasy, and best of all... not make a mess on the stove.

Here's the finished bacon, waiting to top the salad.  I wish I could include smells in this blog!

Last night I finished a farmers market and had some croissant and pain au chocolat left over.  Our friends who are huge fans of French pastries were home and happily agreed to adopt the soon to be "day old" treats.  They offered me asparagus and rhubarb in exchange.  We all felt like we got the best of the deal!  We walked through their beautiful gardens.   My friend sliced off the asparagus, and made fast work of trimming the huge rhubard leaves.  I knew just where both would be used!

For the salad, the asparagus is boiled in salt water for just under 5 minutes.  I like it a little more tender, so a didn't rush to drain it. 

The eggs came from a local vendor.  So pretty!   In Around My French Table, Dorie walks you through making a perfect soft boiled egg.  If you haven't bought the book yet, here's the plug!  The techniques are so well described, it takes the fear out of first time tries.  Back to the eggs... The white is tender and the yolk oozes gently when the egg is cut through.  It was fun peeling the shell off without squishing the egg and breaking the yolk.  

OK, these aren't the eggs I used, but the very similar.  I used this picture because some of the eggs were green and blue, and I love them! These eggs above were a hostess gift from a gathering we had this winter.  How cool to be given a dozen eggs.  Aren't they pretty?

For the salad viniagrette, I didn't have any walnut or hazelnut oil, but did find some truffle oil.  Oh my!  I used mostly olive oil with a dash of truffle oil.  To assemble, the eggs, dressing, nuts, and chopped bacon were placed on a bed of greens.  It was so springy and delicious!  Plus, we knew where all the ingredients came from.  Here's the finished salad:

I would highly recommend this recipe as a spring supper or luncheon salad.  To finish the meal, I made a rhubarb custard tart.  I've never been a huge fan of rhubarb, mostly due to the stringy texture.   This recipe calls for diced rhubarb.  I cut it into a small dice, and made a French style tart, omitting the top crust.  The baking time was the same.  I used strawberries as a garnish to add just a little extra sweetness.  This was a big hit.  Gary and I both really liked it.  No strange texture, and a nice sweet and tart taste.  Here's the recipe if you'd like to give it a try.

Rhubarb Custard Tart

2 egg yolks
3 T flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/4-1/2 inch dice
1 T melted butter

Whisk yolks until thick.  Add sugar, whisk until combined and thickened.  Add flour, butter, and rhubarb.  Pour into unbaked tart or pie crust.  Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then at 350 for 30 minutes.   If desired, you could place another crust on top.  Be sure to crimp and vent.  Garnish with strawberries and/or whipped cream.    Enjoy!

Orange Caramel Scallops - French Fridays with Dorie

This week's recipe from Around My French Table (AMFT) is Orange Caramel Scallops.   I like scallops  a lot, and it orange caramel made them perfect. 

Over the past few years, I've been trying to learn more about meats and seafood.  After watching Gordon Ramsey scream "these scallops are RAW" on Hell's Kitchen, I wanted the finished scallops to have nice tender creamy center or perfect crispy outside.   I wanted the real thing already thawed (I have to pretend they're fresh), so Gary set off on a mission to find the scallops.  He returned from Madison with the butcher-wrapped present from the Seafood Center.

The pretty scallops

The recipe is very well written with the perfect amount of detail.  I followed the steps exactly.   I carefully dried each fresh scallop, and heated the pan as I had been taught in a cooking class long ago.   The pan had to be hot enough for me to hold my palm about an inch away from and pan and not be able to count one-one thousand, two-one thousand before the I had to pull my hand away.  

While the pan heated I made the orange caramel.  I've made tons of caramel, and this recipe pretty tough.  The recipe makes dry caramel, aka no water with the sugar in the pan.   The sugar becomes amber colored very quickly.   The recipe has you add white wine and the juice of an orange to the caramel.  If I were teaching a class, I'd have the class gently warm the juice and the wine.  This will keep the caramel from turning into a hard crack, glass-like lump when the cold liquids hit.  I followed the directions and added the liquids.  The caramel did turn into a hard mass, but quickly liquified and reduced to a perfect orange caramel topping.   The small quantity of sugar in the recipe didn't cover the bottom is the pan, so there was little risk of the sugar bubbling up and burning my hands/face with splattered caramel.  Remember that hot sugar is like hot tar.  Always be very, very careful.  Enough lecturing!

The reduced Orange Caramel

Ok, now on to the scallops.  I added the olive oil and then the scallops.  With as much will power as I could muster, I waited the two minutes per side with flipping them.   They were perfect!  Again, I could hear Gordon summoning me to the Hells' Kitchen pass and then saying, "these scallops are perfect".  

One side down, One to go!

I plated the scallops, added the sauce, and completed the meal with Risotto with asparagus.   It was SO good.

The finished meal!

I don't know what's on the April schedule, as always, I'm sure it will be great.   Last week, I also made the Cauliflower Gratin from AMFT.   Even non-vegetables will enjoy it.

Happy Spring!  (though it's snowing out the window right now!)