Posts Tagged ‘food’

Ever been to one of those olive oil/vinegar bars? I know they are popping up all over the place – even the local mall. When I was in Door County, WI a few months ago, I finally visited one.

If you live in, say, the Chicago area, you should be quite familiar with Door County. It’s one of the 20-some destinations in Wisconsin that frazzled Chicagoans escape to on the weekends during the summer. And as such, yes, there is a bit of Chicago-Wisconsin animosity. I know – I used to live there. I readily used the term FIB* and yet…now I am one.

Anyhow, Door County is filled with little shops and restaurants. I am a bit nostalgic about the place – having gone there almost yearly since birth (in my pre-FIB days). As I said previously, on my most recent trip, I came across a little olive oil/vinegar bar called Fish Creek Oilerie. They had all kinds of oils and vinegars to sample. I came across their aged balsamic – did a shot and…swoon! This is some of the best balsamic vinegar I’ve ever had. Especially for the price. So I scarfed up a bottle.

Now what to do with it? Tons of things. I’ve been meaning to glaze some chicken with it. But for today, we’re going to throw it on some berries.

I wish I could give a recipe for this, but I really don’t have one. I eyeballed everything.

More or less, this is what I did:

Balsamic Vinegar
Vanilla Extract

Sliced some berries.

Poured a few tablespoons of balsamic into a bowl. Added a smidge of sugar. Tossed in the berries and stirred to coat.

Then I grabbed another bowl – threw in maybe half a cup of mascarpone cheese. Then maybe 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla. And maybe some sugar. Stirred it up.

Then I put the berries in a serving dish and served them with a dollop of mascarpone.

Good stuff! Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

*For your education: FIB.


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Teriyaki chicken wings... er...thighs.

A few years back, my cooking club made these fab chicken wings with teriyaki sauce, sesame seeds and cilantro. I loved the flavor of the sauce but I do admit, I’m not all that keen on chicken wings. Gnawing on bones is so not my thing. So I’ve decided to make the recipe using chicken thighs instead (more meat, less gnawing) and served the whole shebang over rice.

But since I’m SOOO not in the mood to translate the recipe into EXACTLY what I made (and I alright, I don’t totally remember but I did follow it pretty closely), I’m putting the exact recipe down here. I halved it and used pineapple juice instead of grapefruit juice (alright, it was orange pineapple blend if you must ask!) and googled the chicken thigh cooking time.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings (Thighs)

From Tyler Florence
Serves 12 cocktail servings
Note: I halved this recipe when I made it
2 dozen chicken wings, about 3 1/4 pounds, rinsed and patted dry (I used thighs)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted in a skillet over medium heat until lightly browned
Leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Teriyaki Sauce:
1 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup grapefruit juice (I used pineapple juice)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 fresh, hot red chile, halved
5 garlic cloves, halved
2-inch piece fresh ginger, smashed with the side of a large knife


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Season the chicken wings with salt and pepper and drizzle a little olive oil on them to prevent sticking. Lay the wings in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the skin gets crispy and the wings are cooked through. NOTE: Chicken thighs will take longer – maybe 35-40 minutes. Use your thermometer and your best judgement!!
  4. Meanwhile, combine the teriyaki sauce ingredients in a large saucepan.
  5. Simmer over low heat and reduce until slightly thickened.
  6. Pour the sauce into a large bowl. Dump the wings into the bowl and toss to coat them with the sauce.
  7. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and cilantro. Serve hot.

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Wolfgang Puck's Pappardelle with Beef Bolognese. Restaurant taste, including all the fat.

So I put one of the techniques I learned in class to the test today by peeling and seeding five pounds of tomatoes for Wolfgang Puck’s Bolognese sauce.


1. So you know how I injured myself in class coring tomatoes? Yeah…I didn’t learn. Sliced the same finger. Doing the same damn thing. Christ…

2. You do not honestly want to know how bad food in restaurants is for you. Case in point – Puck’s bolgnese sauce. It is a heart attack on a platter. I couldn’t even bring myself to put in as much olive oil as it called for. I’m thinking the calorie count in this has to be over a thousand per serving. But it sure was tasty…

He sort of has a two-pronged approach for making this sauce, which was fine for me cause I made it over two days (well, three really – I tried making homemade pasta as well…without a pasta machine…but that’s a story for another time).

First you make the bolognese sauce on it’s own. And then you add it to a crap ton of oil, butter, herbs and chicken stock. I think you can probably do without part two, but I put the whole thing together as directed just to see what it was like. Cause somehow, my thighs don’t jiggle enough these days…

Another surprising things about this bolognese? It doesn’t use any milk. I’m sure that to purists, that means this doesn’t qualify as a bolognese. But hey, the recipe came from an Austrian celebrity chef, not an Italian. So being “purist” is probably not much of a concern for him.

Wolfgang Puck’s Beef Bolognese

From Pizza, Pasta and More!

Beef Bolognese part

NOTE: You can just make this part as a good sauce for pasta, or you can go all out and put the whole thing together (see Putting it all together section after Bolognese recipe)

5 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds coarsely ground chicken, preferably dark meat, or, 2 pounds of coarsely ground beef
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium white onion, (about 2 cups), trimmed and cut into small dice
2 medium carrots, (about 1 cup), trimmed, peeled, and cut into small dice
1 medium celery stalk, trimmed and cut into small dice
4 or 5 garlic cloves, cut into small dice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped fine
3 cups chicken stock, heated
Pinch or minced fresh oregano leaves
Pinch minced fresh thyme leaves
6 or 7 chopped fresh basil leaves
Pinch red pepper flakes, or to taste


  1. In a 10 or 12-inch saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Saute the ground chicken or beef until lightly browned, breaking up the pieces as they cook. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  2. Remove the chicken or beef with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Set aside until needed.
  3. In the same saute pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Over medium heat, saute the onion, carrots and celery until they just start to color, 6 to 8 minutes. Do not brown.
  4. Add the garlic, stir in the tomato paste, and cook a few minutes longer.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
  6. Add the tomatoes, cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then pour in the stock and reserved chicken and season with the oregano, thyme, and a little salt and pepper.
  7. Cook until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 30 minutes. If the sauce has thickened too much or you prefer a thinner sauce, add a little more stock.
  8. Stir in the chopped basil and the red pepper flakes and adjust the seasoning, to taste.

NOTE: You could stop at this point and serve the sauce over pasta, or you could clog your arteries big time by doing the following –

Putting it all together:

4 T unsalted butter
6 T olive oil
2 cups Beef Bolognese sauce (from above)
1/2 cup Chicken stock
1/2 t minced fresh oregano leaves
12 oz pappardelle
2 T minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shaved fresh Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)


  1. Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil.
  2. In a large saute pan over medium flame, heat all of the butter and 4 T of the olive oil. Stir in the Beef Bolognese sauce, stock and oregano. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle until al dente and drain. Add to the sauce and stir to coat well.
  4. Stir in the parsley, grated Parmesan and remaining 2 T olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. To serve – divide the pasta among 4 heated plates or bowls. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Sorry about the pix - it gets dark so early now and I broke my indoor lighting contraption. Just know this tastes better than it looks!

Sorry about the pix - it gets dark so early now and I broke my indoor lighting contraption. Just know this tastes better than it looks!

Thanks to our conversation in culinary school the other day, I FINALLY cracked open myMastering The Art of French Cooking book. I am embarrassed to admit that I’ve never made a Julia Child recipe before. I am happy to report that it certainly won’t be the last.

Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon has seen a resurgence in popularity recently due to the book/movie Julie and Julia. It’s a cute book and a cute, albeit totally different, movie (due partly to the fact that it was based on both the Julie/Julia book and Julia’s My Life in France. I highly recommend both (well, all three).

This is good stuff. It’s pot roast on crack.

Or I guess, pot roast you wouldn’t be embarrassed to serve to company.

But first, a few things about Julia’s writing.

Her recipes are…a little vague. Meaning – she gives you leeway as the cook to use your own judgement. Thing is…most recipes that I am used to are written assuming I am a cooking novice. Directions are spelled out in such a way that I can’t mess it up. Julia kind of assumes I’m not a dummy…even though sometimes…

Case in point:

She tells you to crank up the oven to 450 degrees when you put the beef in. I thought, huh, that seems really really high. Then she says to make sure the beef is at just a simmer – adjusting the heat accordingly. I kind of don’t like that because I don’t like opening the oven door and releasing the heat.

I mean, just TELL US what temp you want it to cook at, ‘mkay?  And ok, I just sorta forgot to turn it down… So the heat remained at 450 degrees.

At the two hour mark, I thought MAYBE I should check on it.

THANK GOD I DID because it had already formed a black crust on top. Another twenty minutes and it would have been burned to a crisp. I had saved it just in time.

And oh my goodness. Wow. Rich. The sauce had thickened perfectly and coats your tongue. The meat was meltingly tender. I cannot tell you how good this was.

What else did I learn?

Two-buck Chuck is maybe a wine that doesn’t age well? Ha! Just an FYI. We don’t drink wine at our house so whenever we get a bottle, it sits around. I’m not sure, but I think we had this wine maybe 3 years? There was some heavy duty sediment in the bottom of the bottle. I honestly don’t think this is because it was “well aged”. Anyhoo, it did no harm. Maybe it added some good flavor?

Oh – and I screwed up the pearl onions part. I searched for frozen pearl onions because I did NOT want to go through the trouble of peeling the little buggers, but I could not find them. Alas, I got frustrated, the onions weren’t cooked correctly, yadda yadda.

And my final screw up? Due to the fact that I essentially overcooked the dish, there was no straining of the sauce at the end. Which maybe turned out to be a benefit since, like I said, I was frustrated by the end of my cooking expedition (note: maybe making Beef Bourguignon, Bolognese sauce and Sourdough bread all at the same time is A LITTLE overboard… so take what I say about being frustrated with a grain of salt).

Anyhoo, because the recipe is lengthy and I want to give you the full experience of Julia’s recipe writing (read: I am l.a.z.y), here’s a link to the recipe in Julia’s own words.

Julia Child’s Beef (Boeuf) Bourguignon

Beef (Boeuf) Bourguignon recipe

Brown-braised Onions (Oignons Glaces a la Brun)

Mushrooms sauteed in butter (Champignons Sautees au Beurre)

And finally, just an FYI – what kind of cuts of meat are appropriate for this dish? This is what Julia says:

(From Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
The better the meat, the better the stew. While cheaper and coarser cuts may be used, the following are most recommended. Count on 1 pound of boneless meat, trimmed of fat, for 2 people; 3 if the rest of the menu is large.
First choice: Rump Pot Roast—Pointe de Culotte, or Aiguillette de Rumstek
Other choices: Chuck Pot Roast—Paleron, or Macreuse à Pot-au-feu
Sirloin Tip—Tranche Grasse
Top Round—Tende de Tranche
Bottom Round—Gîte à la Noix


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Fig and Olive Tapenade - great for parties!

Fig and Olive Tapenade - great for parties!

Need a chichi appetizer to bring to your next soiree? Fig and Olive Tapenade is it. For very sophisticated, adult palates only please.

I first came across this recipe years ago in a wickedly funny entertaining book by Erika Lenkert,The Last-Minute Party Girl : Fashionable, Fearless, and Foolishly Simple Entertaining. She, in turn, got the recipe from Carrie Brown of Jimtown store in Sonoma County. So now I’m passing it on to you.

And you must check it out. Briny olives, sweet figs, a dash of mustard and a squeeze of lemon to liven it up. It’s just about the most perfect spread you’ve ever eaten. Smear it on french bread, add it to your grilled cheese or sandwich, pair it with Proscuitto or salami and some good cheese or serve it with chicken or fish. Oh, sooo fabulous!

Note: this recipe is extremely paired down from the version in Lenkert’s book. Her recipe makes enough for a big party (4 cups). I think 1 cup is a little more reasonable.

Fig and Black Olive Tapenade

About 1 cup
1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) stemmed & quartered, dried Black Mission figs
3/4 cups water
1 cup black olives; Nicoise, Lyon, or Greek, rinsed and pitted
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1/2 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
black pepper and salt, if necessary

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, simmer the figs in the water for about 30 minutes, until very tender. Drain, reserving a few tablespoons of the liquid.

2. If using a food processor, pulse the pitted olives, drained figs, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, capers, and fresh rosemary to create a thick paste. Pulse in the olive oil until you’ve achieved a chunky-smooth paste. Season with black pepper and salt, if necessary. (The spread can be thinned with a bit of the reserved fig poaching liquid.)

3. Allowing it to sit for at least a few hours (if not overnight) helps the flavors meld.

4. Serve. Serving suggestions: smear on French bread toasted with a little olive oil, or with meats like Prosciutto or salami and mild creamy cheese, or on a sandwich/grilled cheese, or with your favorite grilled meats.

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Blazing hot Jerk Shrimp served with Mashed Plantains and washed down with a cold beer.

Blazing hot Jerk Shrimp served with Mashed Plantains and washed down with a cold beer.

Music to eat by: Funky Kingston by Toots and the Maytalls

Years ago…

One of the first real cookbooks I ever received was Sheila Lukins All Around the World Cookbook and one of the first recipes I ever made out of it was for Jerk Chicken – something I subjected my unsuspecting little brother to when our parents were out of town. Sadly for us, I did not know that the book was a little hit or miss (Note: Her Silver Palate Cookbook is fantastic!) and the recipe in that book for Jerk Chicken was, alas, a miss (although, maybe it had something to do with the really bizarre substitutions I made at the time and the fact that I was a teenager and didn’t know what I was doing…). Anyway, I put it aside and thought that someday, I’d find another recipe.

Someday turned out to be about 15 years later. Someday is today and it was worth the wait.

So what is Jerk anyway? Cause you know, it sounds rude…

Jerk is a Jamaican method of cooking that involves marinating or dry rubbing meat in jerk seasoning and then cooking it at high heat over open flame. Traditionally, the most important parts of the jerk seasoning are that it contains allspice and Scotch Bonnet or Habenero peppers.

It is thought that the method of cooking was introduced to Jamaica by the Maroons (descendents of escaped slaves).  The word “jerk” may either have come from the Spanish word charqui, used to describe dried meat, or from the practice of jerking (poking) holes in the meat to fill with spices prior to cooking.

On to the food…

In my previous post, I wrote about the beautiful hot peppers I picked up from the farmers market. One of the first recipes I decided to make with them was Jerk Shrimp. It just sounds so inviting – tender grilled shrimp slathered in a blazing hot sauce washed down with a cold beer. Like being on vacation in my own backyard. Since we are in the last days of summer, I thought it was either now or never.

The recipe I used came out of Some Like It Hot: Spicy Favorites from the World’s Hot Zones (I think I’ve mentioned this book a few times?). There are two recipes for Jerk in this book – one for shrimp and one for chicken. The shrimp one doesn’t have any citrus in it. Alas, I could not resist the call of the citrus and figured a shorter marinade time (so it didn’t cook itself in the citrus juices) would suffice.

After whirring together the ingredients for the marinade, I thought it tasted OVERWHELMINGLY like soy sauce. I was a little sad because I felt all the other ingredients got lost in the mix. But my skepticism was unfounded because after grilling, the other flavors came through.

And let me tell you, this stuff is hot. Not OMG Get Me A Jug Of Milk hot, but pretty dang hot. But I like hot.

The next day…

Since I cannot leave well enough alone, and since we had quite a bit of leftover marinade, I thought I could tweak it a little more and see if I liked it better. I boiled the leftover marinade (to get rid of any critters) and added a little vinegar and brown sugar. I then cooked up some chicken bathed marinaded in the new concoction. Consensus? Yes. This is the way to go (and to be honest, it’s closer the recipe he uses for Jerk Chicken).

To round out our Jerk Shrimp meal, I made some Grilled Mashed Plantains with Lime. Sure, I’m probably confusing Cuban food and Jamaican, but whatever. I like plantains.

Jerk Marinade

Adapted from Clifford Wright.

Makes enough for 2 lb of meat. If using chicken, marinade time can be up to 24 hours. But only marinade maybe 30 minutes for shrimp.


1/2 bunch scalllions, chopped
1.5 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
4 habaneros, chopped (ok, I seeded them cause I was scared)
1/4 bunch cilantro (leaves only) chopped
1 T ground black pepper
1.5 t nutmeg
1.5 t allspice
1.5 T dried thyme
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup peanut oil (I used vegetable)
1/2 cup soy sauce (I still think this is a little too much. Feel free to use a bit less)
Juice of one orange
Juice of one lime
1 T brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar (rice, palm, apple cider, something like that)
2 lb shrimp (or other meat)


1. Place all marinade ingredients (yo – that is everything EXCEPT the shrimp) in a blender/food processor and puree until smooth.

2. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the marinade. Let marinate for 30 minutes. NOTE: If using chicken, you can marinate up to 24 hours.

3. Light your grill. Remove shrimp from marinade and place on skewers

4. Grill to your liking – I was using maybe 26 count shrimp and grilled maybe 1-1.5 minutes on each side.

5. Enjoy with your favorite beer!

Mashed Grilled Plantains with Lime

2 ripe plantains
4 T unsalted butter
2 T brown sugar
Juice and zest of one lime
1/2 t kosher salt

1. Ok,  I was lazier than lazy here and threw the butter, lime, zest, sugar and salt together and popped it in the microwave till the butter melted. But you COULD put it in a saucepan if you are more civilized.

2. Slice plantains in half lengthwise.

3. Your grill should be nice and hot already (and if it isn’t, get to it!)

4. Grill plantains maybe 4 minutes on one side. Flip over and grill another 4 minutes on the other side. (This really depends on how ripe your plantains are and how hot your grill is. My plantains were not all that ripe, so if yours are truly black, you might want to not grill them for so long. Really, you just want to cook them to the point where they are easily mashable).

5. Add grilled plantains and butter mixture to a bowl. Mash with a fork till desired consistency.

6. Serve right away!


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Easy Moroccan dish - too bad brown food doesn't photograph well. Using: preserved lemons, Harissa, turmeric, cinnamon and other spices.

Easy Moroccan dish. Using: preserved lemons, Harissa, turmeric, cinnamon and other spices.

So I made these preserved lemons MONTHS ago and just got off my lazy butt to make something with them. Admitted, I was a little afraid of giving my husband and myself botulism or something crazy, but we seem to be alright a few hours later (knock on wood).  Anyway, today I used them in my first-ever tagine and it turned out FAMOUSLY!

What’s a tagine? Well, it takes it’s name from the vessel in which it is cooked (uh, the tagine). Alas, I do not have one. So what. Instead, I used my handy Le Creuset (best gift ever – thanks mom!).  Anyway, the dish is North African in origin and it’s got a lot of spices, dried fruit and meat braised to perfection.

I’ve gotta say, WHY do I not make more Moroccan food? Jeez…so unbelievably tasty and pretty dang healthy too. I cannot even tell you how good our house smelled while it was cooking. Divine!

For the most part, this recipe came out of David Lebovitz’ Sweet Life in Paris book (a lot of fun if you haven’t read it yet).  I added a few ideas gleaned from Closet Cooking’s blog (seriously, this guy makes some fabulous food – I don’t know how he does it day after day!), a touch of my own (really, what I had on-hand) and voila! My first tagine! AND it was easy.

What I did differently than Lebovitz recipe: I added the aforementioned preserved lemons (half a lemon – just the rind, rinsed and chopped into strips cause I was too NERVOUS to add any more), I used Pimente d’Espelette instead of Paprika (cause I only have hot and smoked Paprika) and added a teaspoon of Harissa at the end.

What I would do differently in the future: I would probably do skinless chicken. All the wonderful spices were adhered to the flabby, braised chicken skin. Boo.

Preserved lemons verdict: I took them out of the jar and gave them a rinse under cold water. Most of the pulp fell off when I did this. Some people say to use just the rind anyway, so I let the pulp go down the drain. I sliced up the rind and gave it a taste. Very, very salty. They were ok in the finished tagine, but I’m not totally converted. Meh… But if you really want to know how to make preserved lemons, go here.

Chicken, Apricot and Almond Tagine


  • 1 (3-lb) chicken, cut into 6 pieces, wings and backbone discarded (alright, I just used split breasts here)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 teaspoons paprika (I used Piment d’Espelette cause shoot, I have it!)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (left this out cause 1. I don’t like saffron and 2. I don’t have any anyway)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (my cilantro plant is mostly dead so…didn’t get anywhere near 1/3 cup – which I think is maybe too much anyway? Anyway, use your own discretion).
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 oz dried  apricots, separated into halves (you could use prunes, figs, dates, whatever you’ve got)
  • 1/2 preserved lemon (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Harissa (optional)
  • 3/4 cup whole blanched almonds

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, toss the chicken pieces with the ginger, turmeric, paprika, saffron, cinnamon, salt and pepper

3. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven (or other ovenproof vessel). Saute the onions over medium heat – about 5 minutes or till translucent.

4. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes, turning the pieces once.

5. Add in the chicken stock and cilantro. Cover and stick in the oven for 45 minutes.

6. Remove from oven. Place chicken pieces on a platter and cover with foil. Set aside.

7. Add honey, lemon juice, dried apricots, preserved lemons and Harissa (if using) to the pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce by half.

8. Add almonds to pot and return chicken to pot to coat in sauce.

9. Serve chicken and spoon sauce over top.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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