Monthly Archives: May 2012

Black Olive, Anchovy and Caper Tapenade

I’ve always loved tapenade, but I never LOVED it until I made this recipe, which combines my love of puttanesca flavors into a thick, dark purple dip/spread that is delicious with toasted bread or pita or chips.

With Memorial Day this weekend, I figured this would be a great dish to make for entertaining guests or enjoying a warm evening in the garden.

Ina Garten’s recipe packs a punch with these robust flavors: anchovy, capers, black olives and lemon.

And the best part is that it’s easy to just combine the ingredients and mix!

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Black Olive Tapenade


  • 1/2 pound good black olives, such as kalamata, pitted and diced
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 baguette, sliced and toasted
Combine the olives, capers, anchovies and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and pulse 3 times. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, thyme and parsley and process until chunky.

Spoon into a serving bowl and serve with toasted bread, chips, pita triangles or pita chips. And some crisp veggies: carrots, celery, etc.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Cumin-Paprika Vinaigrette

I’ve been trying to accept the fact that quinoa is the “in” grain of the moment. The most recent Bon Appetit even has a whole section devoted to quinoa salads, and quinoa is constantly on  my Pinterest feed, so I know the populace has caught on.

I suppose I initially resisted quinoa for the same reason I resisted tabbouleh – weird hippie food they sell at the natural foods store. But recipes like this, and my baked quinoa recipe, show how versatile this extremely healthy little food is.

Boiled until the grain pearls turn translucent and a delicate thread appears, you toss the quinoa with ripe chunks of avocado, plump golden raisins and currants, crisp scallions and a vinaigrette made of lemon, cumin, coriander, paprika and olive oil. For extra crunch, toasted chopped almonds are sprinkled on top.

I mean, wow, this was surprisingly good! And vegan … right? I made it on a week night and topped it with some leftover rotisserie chicken we happened to have in the fridge. Delicious! The creamy avocado, sweet fruit, hot bite of green onions and nutty crunch from the almonds … it’s really a winning combination. I encourage all of you to try it immediately.

Adapted from the amazing Cook Fresh magazine (best of Fine Cooking).

Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Cumin-Paprika Vinaigrette


  • 3 T golden raisins
  • 2 T dried currants
  • 1 c. quinoa, rinsed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 T EVOO
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp sweet paprika (not smoked)
  • 2 medium firm-ripe avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into medium chunks (do this at the last moment so they don’t turn brown)
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 T coarsely chopped toasted almonds
  • Black pepper

In a medium bowl, soak raisins and currants in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, bring 2 c. water, quinoa and 1/2 tsp salt to boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is translucent and tender, 10-15 min (the germ rings will remain chewy and white, like little squiggles). Immediately fluff quinoa with a fork and turn out on baking sheet to cool to room temperature.

Zest and juice the lemon into a small bowl and whisk in olive oil, spices and 1/4 tsp salt. In a large bowl, gently mix with avocado, then toss with quinoa, fruit, scallions and almonds.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and top with extra almonds and scallions, if you have them.

See? Easy! And so surprisingly flavorful. I shall be making this one again.

Enjoy friends! xoxo

Homemade Cream Puffs (Profiteroles)

Sometimes you just feel like making something extravagant. Something that requires a custard and special baking equipment. Something like profiteroles, those eggy, light pastry puffs that bake up into a handheld mound with a hollow center perfect for filling with ice cream or vanilla custard, as I did here. Then you drizzle it with chocolate just because you are feeling ridiculous.

I made these for Mother’s Day – a sweet gift for the sweet mamas in my life. Nevermind that Grant and I ate most of them.

Be sure to watch the recipe well – my oven apparently doesn’t heat evenly, so I had some issues with some profiteroles getting too dark and some under-cooked, which means they deflated like a sad souffle. Still, I will be making these again because the baked profiteroles freeze well for later use. And I have some new pastry bags from my wedding registry to use.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Vanilla Pastry Cream


  • 5 extra-large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups scalded whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Cognac (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch.

With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Don’t be alarmed when the custard comes to a boil and appears to curdle; switch to a whisk and beat vigorously. Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes; the custard will come together and become very thick, like pudding. Stir in the vanilla, Cognac (if using), butter, and heavy cream. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.


Profiteroles with Vanilla Cream and Chocolate Sauce


  • 1 cup  whole milk
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons prepared coffee

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the milk, butter, and salt over medium heat until scalded. When the butter is melted, add the flour all at once and beat it with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes. The flour will begin to coat the bottom of the pan. Dump the hot mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the eggs and pulse until the eggs are incorporated into the dough and the mixture is thick.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe in mounds 1 1/2 inches wide and 1-inch high onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You should have about 18 puffs.

With a wet finger, lightly press down the swirl at the top of each puff. (You can also use 2 spoons to scoop out the mixture and shape the puffs with damp fingers.) Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned, then turn off the oven and allow them to sit for another 10 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Make a small slit in the side of each puff to allow the steam to escape. Set aside to cool.

For the chocolate sauce, place the cream and chocolate chips in a bowl set over simmering water and stir just until the chocolate melts. Add the honey and coffee and stir until smooth. Set aside.

For serving, fill a clean pastry bag with the pastry cream and pipe the cream inside the hollow cavity.

Drizzle with slightly warm chocolate sauce.

You can serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until serving. They hold up pretty well when chilled, but the profiterole loses its light texture after a day or so. You can freeze these for later use by just freezing the baked profiteroles and then reheating them at 350 for a few minutes to heat through.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Bruschetta with Prosciutto, Apple and Aged Goat Cheese

I recently got married at the Goat Lady Dairy – a cute little dairy farm about an hour Southeast of here, in North Carolina. Yes, photos to come, but first! … Goat cheese.

We had a goat-cheese course before dinner, which included their soft aged goat cheese, smoked goat cheese, herbed goat cheese spread, red pepper goat cheese spread and one with honey that people were raving about. Guests enjoyed the cheese tastings with big ripe strawberries and pita chips, and with a glass of our signature cocktail – the Eldermule (citrus-infused vodka, lemon, apple, elderflower liquer and a rosemary sprig from our garden).

When Grant and I came home from our honeymoon, we found the fridge full of leftover wedding cake … and goat cheese!

This recipe is so easy and tastes great with the soft, brie-like aged goat cheese with a thread of ash running through the middle. A new twist on my favorite brie bruschetta.

Bruschetta with Prosciutto, Apple and Aged Goat Cheese


  • 9-10 pieces of sliced sourdough or French bread
  • 1 garlic clove
  • EVOO
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 9 thin slices of prosciutto di parma (5 oz)
  • 1 small gala (or other) apple, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz soft cheese, such as the Goat Lady Dairy’s (found at Whole Foods), or brie

Preheat broiler. On baking sheet, drizzle bread with EVOO and sprinkle with coarse salt and black pepper. Broil until toasted lightly. Remove from oven and rub the peeled garlic clove over the toasted side, then flip the bread over on the baking sheet so untoasted side is up.

Top toasts evenly with prosciutto, apple and then cheese. Drizzle toasts with a bit more olive oil and another sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Broil until the cheese begins to melt, 3-5 min.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Durn good, as we say in The South.

Grant has been getting me more into cycling, and on our honeymoon, I bought a fancy pair of biking shorts for the Virginia Creeper Trail. Now I’m bona fide, and invested in doing it more. I whipped these bruschetta up one recent Sunday afternoon when we returned from a long bike ride to Salem Lake. I was tired, sore and covered in dirt, but these tasted oh-so-good with a really cold beer, and a comfy patio chair.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Ravioli with Spicy Browned Butter and Sage Sauce

Costco’s sampling program is brilliant. Meet the 10 pounds of tilapia in my freezer, the giant box of frozen “pizza bites” and a 3-pound bag of spinach and ricotta ravioli that everybody in our house considers the D-list dinner.

This post is about how to make the best out of frozen ravioli. I’ve boiled it and then topped it with cheese, dredged it in bread crumbs and fried it, and now I’ve topped it with a spicy sage brown-butter sauce. This sauce is nutty and warm and a great twist for ravioli, tortilini and gnocci.

Sage is usually too strong for my taste, but the plant growing in our garden somehow isn’t as potent as that you buy in the store – even though the leaves are twice as big. Grant has also declared that he “loves” sage, so I always know a recipe will be a winner if I mention that sage was involved.

I adjusted this for two people and majorly reduced the salt – Giada’s original recipe must have fed a crowd because I found 1 1/2 tsp salt to be almost dish-ruining.

Ravioli with Spicy Browned Butter and Sage Sauce

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 16-18 large ravioli
  • 1/4 c. unsalted butter
  • 2 T chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Parm-Reg cheese, or Romano

In large pot, boil ravioli in salted water until they float to the top – 5-7 min.

Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan and add sage, paprika and pepper flakes. Simmer until butter starts to turn brown – 2-3 min. Remove from heat and stir in salt.

To serve, drain ravioli and divide onto plates. Drizzle with browned butter sauce and top with extra fresh sage, if you have it, and shredded cheese.

There’s something really cool going on with the heat of the paprika and red pepper mixed with the sweetness of the butter and piney sage flavor moving through.

Tastes good with a cool glass of wine or a frosty beer, I must say.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo