Archive for simple recipes

Perfectly Grilled Filet


I know grilling meat is often considered the “men’s department”, but I”m an equal opportunity cook. I recently pulled off some beautifully grilled filet mignons that would have impressed the most macho carnivore.  Here’s my method, which worked for 1 inch thick steaks; for thicker steaks increase cooking time:

Remove meat from fridge 2 hours before cooking to allow it to come to room temp.

Thirty minutes before cooking, splash it with red wine, and give it a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Heat the grill to 500.

Place the steaks on the grill, close cover, and leave for two minutes.

Open the grill and rotate (don’t flip) steaks by 90 degrees — this makes those impressive hashed grill marks.  Cover grill and leave for another two minutes.

Open the grill, flip the steaks, and repeat previous step.  (Total cooking time was 8 minutes for rare steaks.)

Remove steaks from grill, cover with foil, and let sit for five minutes.



Mexican Caesar Salad


I know, the title sounds redundant, seeing as Caesar Salad was supposedly invented in Mexico.  But it has evolved culinarily toward a more Italian palate.  I decided to play around with the traditional Caesar last week when I was serving up a Mexican dinner.  Given that it was a weeknight and time was of the essence, I took a short cut on the dressing which worked well.  Here’s what I did:

1.  Rinse, spin, and tear a head of Romaine.

2. Make dressing: mix 1 part adobo sauce from canned chipotles with 3 parts Cardini’s Caesar.



3.  Instead of croutons, crumble up a handful of tortilla chips.  Add some shaved Parmasan, cotija, jack or cheddar cheese.  Squeeze a lime over the whole thing, add dressing, toss, and serve.


Apple Pecan Crunch Cupcakes

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 11.11.30 AM

This is an experiment.  I took a very basic Rachel Roy recipe called My Sister Maria’s Easy Apple Cake and Ice Cream (courtesy of the Food Network), and switched out the yellow cake mix for a gluten-free cake mix from Betty Crocker.

(As the queen of cakes, Betty Crocker surely MUST be able to get gluten-free right?).
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My partner in crime Keri, kindly gave me a bag of apples picked fresh from a local orchard so I started googling every apple recipe under the sun.  The caramel apple tartines looked amazing…but seemed to take hours to make.  This Rachel Roy cake took 15 minutes.  But will it taste any good.

I upped the ante on the recipe slightly by adding in my favorite spicy pecans crushed up into little pieces and just tossed these in with the apple cinnamon sugar topping to give it some more oomph.

Well what do you think?

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 11.12.34 AMHmmm.

Jury is out on this one: Cake texture is a little too rubbery.

Gotta give it a go.

Coconut Ginger Blondies


Our book group met last night and I was asked to bring dessert.   Being foodie bookworms, we usually try to match the menu with the book in some way.  This time it was easy; we had read Heat and Dust, which takes place in India, so the food and venue were an obvious choice.  Member Farah, reknown Indian cook and hostess was drafted, willingly, as is her custom, to handle the appetizers and main, and I was tasked with dessert.


I know a billion people can’t be wrong, but I can’t agree with the Subcontinent on dessert.  I find the textures and flavors don’t meet my western palate when it comes to sweets.     But I was determined to come up with something that complemented Farah’s traditional Indian menu while tickling the tastebuds of the group.    I started to think about Indian flavors, and arrived at ginger.  I considered the ginger blondies that we had featured some years back, but I wanted even more of an Indian flavor in the dessert.  These coconut ginger blondies fit the bill; they integrated Indian ingredients and flavors  (coconut, ginger, cashews) while sticking firmly to a western preparation, sweetness level, and texture.  Here’s what I did:

Coconut Ginger Blondies

Grease a square 8×8 inch pan and heat oven to 350.

1 stick butter, melted

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 Tbsp dark rum (optional)

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp powdered ginger

3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1/4 cup chopped candied ginger

1/2 cup chopped cashews (optional)

1.  Mix first 6 ingredients in medium bowl.  Add flour, baking powder, salt and powdered ginger in a heap on top of this mixture.  Give them a few brief strokes to integrate the dry ingredients before blending with the wet mixture.   (alternatively, mix the dries in  a smaller bowl, then add to main mixture—but I hate to dirty another thing!)

2.  Add coconut, candied ginger and cashews.  Blend thoroughly.

3.  Bake 25 minutes until edges are beginning to brown and center is completely set.  Cool and cut into squares.

Note:  my husband gave these raves with one comment:  he thought the cashews were overkill and made the bars a tad too rich.  Everyone else thought they were splendid.


Steak Fries


As we planned dinner at the beach for a crowd last weekend we surveyed the larder. Chicken was marinading in a yogurt and soy blend in preparation for the grill, there were greens aplenty for a salad, but what to do for a starch?

The five pounds of potatoes in the drawer presented a plethora of options, and my sister suggested steak fries. I cringed, envisioning endless chopping and careful monitoring of deep friers. “No, no,” she said, “we’ll do them in the oven. I do them all the time for my kids. They’re super easy and everyone loves them.” Her claims were proven true.

Here’s what we did:

1. Heat oven to 450.
2. Slice potatoes into wedges; each whole potato made either 4 or 6 fries. (figure a max of 2 potatoes per person)
3. Spread wedges in single layer on rimmed cookie sheet and toss them with olive oil, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.
4. Roast in oven for 1 hr, checking periodically to ensure even cooking.  When mostly browned and crispy, remove from oven and serve immediately.

NOTE: paprika or other red pepper can be substituted for the cayenne, or omitted entirely.

Spring Potato Salad

Potato salad







Often times, necessity is the mother of invention in the kitchen.  I had purchased several bunches of beautiful spring herbs at last week’s Farmers’ Market, and they were burning a hole in my crisper.  They were starting to be less beautiful with each passing day, so I had to put them to use, STAT.  Dinner was slated to be grilled salmon and a salad, but that lacked a certain something.   Namely, a carb, for my carbaholic self.   Alongside the herbs in the crisper lay 5 or 6 white potatoes just begging to be used.  Who am I to ignore the wordless pleas of some aging spuds?
Here’s the result, which was quite delectable.

Herb Potato Salad

Serves 4








5 or 6 white potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces (leave skin on, or peel if you wish)

3/4 cup assorted fresh herbs, chopped roughly (I used 1/2 cup parsley, 1/4 cup each basil and mint)

2  scallions, white and green part, sliced

juice of one lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1.  Boil potatoes in salted water for about 20 minutes until just softened.  Drain and run under cold water to stop cooking.  Plunge into ice water or sprinkle with ice cubes to cool if you are in a rush, or chill in fridge if you have time.

2.  Mix herbs, scallions, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

3.  When potatoes are chilled, mix with herb dressing.  Chill again, and serve.

NOTE:  it’s best not to blend the boiling hot potatoes with the herbs–chill the cooked potatoes first.  If not, the potatoes will “cook” the herbs and wilt them.  One of the lovely things about this dish was the crunchy freshness of the chopped herbs.


This was lovely with our grilled fish and green salad, but it would complement just about anything.


S’mores Without the Campfire


My daughter was craving sweets the other day while studying for her final exams.  Somehow, s’mores crept into her head between algebra formulas and French verbs, and she and her brother decided to cook up a simple version of s’mores.  Pretty resourceful, I have to admit, and the result was quite tasty.  Here’s what they did:

1.  Heat oven to 350.

2.  On a parchment-lined, rimmed cookie sheet, lay a few graham crackers.

3.  Generously sprinkle them with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips.



4.  Bake 10 minutes until chocolate begins to melt and marshmallow begin to brown.

5.  Remove from oven, cool slightly, and enjoy.

These are a fabulous treat for summer.  Not only do s’mores evoke real or imagined recollections of summer camp, but this version only requires a brief stint in the oven, so won’t overheat your kitchen during the dog days.

Not sure about the results of the French exam yet, but these s’mores were tres bien!




Giada’s Pesto

Giada DiLaurentis, we salute you!


 Her Avocado Arugula Pesto recipe got my super finicky son–”Mr. I’ll have a Plain Hamburger, please” to eat a puree of green things.  For that reason alone it deserves an award in my book.

The recipe had been sent to me by my dear friend  Farah Kapoor, fantastic cook and epic hostess.  She had served it to 3 generations of her family, all with various dietary preferences and quirks, and they all loved it.  So I thought I’d give it a try.  Not one to tempt fate, I didn’t even bother offering it to Mr. Burger, for whom vegetarian, green, and flavorful are nearly curse words (can we say teen rebellion?  Remember, his mom is an avid foodie).  When he saw his sister’s plate heaped with fettuccine slathered in green goodness, he asked for some.  After recovering from severe shock, I scooped a generous mound into a bowl for him and away he went.  (Full disclosure, I did not reveal that it contained a variety ingredients that he would normally avoid, just said it was fettuccine with pesto.)


Giada’s Pesto, pre-puree.

I followed the recipe  pretty much verbatim–but I skipped toasting the almonds, just tossed them in as is.  So, thank  you, Farah, and thank you Giada, for this wonderful new addition to our family’s meal rotation.

Have you discovered any fabulous recipes of late?

We all really liked it, although my husband, a traditional pesto devotee, said he’d like more basil and less arugula.   Good news!  In this recipe, there is a lot of potential for variation.  Next time I’ll honor his request.  Farah tells me she is going to try adding fresh spring peas.  And now that the Headhouse Farmers’ Market is open, with a bountiful selection of locally grown green things, I’ll experiment with all kinds of things.  Stay tuned!





Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

shrimpcocktailroastedShrimp cocktail is a sure fire hit–and we gave it some additional pizzazz by marinating and roasting the shrimp.  We got to thinking that simply boiling and chilling the shrimp wasn’t that exciting.  Not to mention the fact that sometimes you just don’t have time to boil and chill it before the party starts.  Never fear, this newly discovered method works wonderfully well, and if your guests run late, it’s no big deal.  These shrimp are grand at any temperature.

Here’s what we did:

1.  Peel and clean 2 lbs large shrimp, and toss with 4 cloves sliced fresh garlic, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, juice from 2 lemons and 1/4 cup olive oil.    Marinate 30 minutes- 2 hours.


2.  Spread shrimp onto rimmed baking sheet and roast in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Check and stir occasionally.

3.  Remove from oven and serve with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.

How to Make Chocolate Truffles, So Simple!



Chocolate Truffles are rather perfect.  They are a stunning dessert, a fabulous gift, and a wonderful pick-me-up if you are having a trying day.  Last week, they were all 3 for me.

My kitchen flooded thanks to a faulty dishwasher and the ensuing cleanup and demolition have been rather traumatic.  As bad luck would have it, this disruption occurred during the birthday week of 2 dear friends, and I was tasked with bringing dessert to the celebration.    Imagine my dismay when my kitchen disaster prevented me from making the coconut layer birthday cake I had planned!  I considered purchasing a cake, which is a perfectly respectable thing to do, but then I happened on this recipe.

We didn’t put a candle in these divine nuggets, but they were festive and special in their own way.

Here’s how to make them:

Simple Chocolate Truffles

Makes about 3 dozen

1 lb best quality bittersweet chocolate (Either use bittersweet Ghirardelli chips or finely chop equivalent)

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1.  Place chocolate in heatproof bowl.

2.  In small saucepan, bring cream to boil and then pour over chocolate.

3.  Allow to sit 10 minutes, and stir til chocolate is melted.  If it is not completely melted, you can either put in microwave on 30% power at 30 second intervals, or place bowl over pan of simmering water and stir til smooth.

4.  Line square (8×8″) pan with parchment or wax paper and pour truffle mixture in.



5.  Refrigerate 30-60 minutes until chocolate is firm.  Remove from fridge, unmold, peel off parchment and cut truffles into small squares.


6.  Place cocoa powder on shallow dish and dip truffles in cocoa on all sides to coat.  Enjoy immediately, or store in refrigerator.  These are best served at or near room temperature to experience fully the velvety texture of these delicacies.


NOTE:  If you prefer the traditional round truffles, then by all means, roll and shape them accordingly.  I started on that path, but found it to be an unnecessary and time consuming effort.  Hence, I stuck with the squares.