Archive for February, 2015
February 26, 2015
My mom’s sister, Aunt Hilda would have a fresh warm blueberry cake waiting for our family when we arrived at her and my Uncle Bradford’s dairy farm in Buckfield, Maine. Coming down the mountain, just yards away from the farmhouse, we could see their blueberry patches across the road…and could smell that cake in our minds-eye with enthusiastic anticipation.
One summer after a month-long visit, my family was all packed in the car, ready to head back to Tampa. Aunt Hilda was crying. We were crying. None of us kids, or my mom, wanted to leave. As my dad pulled out of the gravel drive away from the barn house – Aunt Hilda yelled: “If you stay another night, I’ll bake a blueberry cake.”
As my dad drove down the hill, he suddenly turned our Bill Curry Ford Country Squire station wagon around, and headed back to the farm house to my Aunts delighted embrace. We stayed another night and enjoyed that warm cake right from the oven. That was more than 50 years ago – but we kids remember it as though it was yesterday. My brother Byron, til’ this day, says it is his favorite cake of all time.
Nothing ever tasted so good that wondrous Maine summer night. Here it is for you to enjoy
Aunt Hilda’s Fresh Blueberry Cake
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 ½ cups fresh blueberries (never canned – but you can use frozen
- ½ cup (1 stick) salted butter (room temperature)
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 2 room temperature eggs (beaten lightly)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon high quality real vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
- 1 cup milk (room temperature)
- Granulated sugar for dusting the cake before it goes into the oven and immediately after it comes out of the oven
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter a 9” X 13” cake pan.
Sift all the dry ingredients (except for ¼ cup flour) into a bowl.
Mix ¼ cups of the flour with the blueberries.
Add the vanilla to the room temperature milk.
With an electric mixer cream the room temperature butter and sugar together; add room temperature eggs one at a time and beat until light and fluffy. On low speed, starting and ending with the flour mixture, add alternately flour/dry ingredients and milk vanilla mixture until well blended. Do not over mix or the flour glutens will become activated and make the cake tough.
Fold in the blueberries that have been dusted with the ¼ cup flour. Put the batter in the cake pan and sprinkle with sugar. Place in oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean).
NOTE: The cake will take 10 to 15 minutes longer to bake if the blueberries are frozen.
Once the cake is out of the oven – liberally sprinkle with sugar and let cool on a rack.
I like it warm – after about 30 minutes of cooling.
It is good right out of the oven or the next day (if it lasts that long). You can warm each unwrapped slice in the microwave for about 10 to 15 seconds for that right out of the oven taste. You can even freeze the cooled cake in individual slices wrapped in plastic wrap.
At the restaurant, we use to warm the sliced square of cake – top it with our homemade Madagascar vanilla ice cream, and ladle our fresh made blueberry compote on top.
The compote is easy to make: 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, ½ cup sugar, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon corn starch. Put all the ingredients in a pot on medium heat and cook until thick and bubbly.
February 19, 2015
These mussels are quick and easy to prepare, and are perfect for a weeknight family meal or even a big gathering with friends and family. I like mine served with crusty grilled French baguette for dipping into the rich juices, and they are also super tossed with linguini, or even with wild mushroom ravioli purchased from my friends at the Ravioli Company on Manhattan.
They were a huge hit at our restaurant. By adding the chorizo sausage, it provides another dimension, a complexity if you will, to this wonderful sauce.
- 3 pounds PEI (Prince Edward Island) Mussels – cleaned, scrubbed, de-bearded
- 2 Chorizo sausage (diced into small pieces)
- ½ cup finely chopped shallots
- 2 cloves garlic (finely minced)
- 3 tablespoons soft butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 whole sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- ¾ cup Chardonnay
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 tomato peeled and seeded (or one 15 ounce can Hunts diced tomatoes)
FOR FINISHING THE COOKED MUSSELS
- 2 tablespoons soft butter
- Fresh Cracked Pepper
- Kosher or Sea Salt to taste
- Flat leaf parsley for decoration
- Slices of crusty French bread (grilled with butter & rubbed with garlic)
First, you want to check the mussels, and if there are any opened, throw away. Mussels can have a good bit of sand in them, so it is important to soak them in cool water for 30 minutes. Some people add flour to the water but I don’t find that step necessary.
Drain the mussels and scrub with a small scrubber. Next you want to de-beard each mussel by grabbing the little beard and pulling until removed.
In a large heavy bottom skillet on medium heat, melt butter and olive oil. Once the butter is melted, but not brown, add the shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes, and chorizo sausage and cook until the shallots are translucent. Be careful not to brown the garlic.
NOTE: If you are a vegetarian you can omit the chorizo and substitute the chicken stock with more white wine or vegetable stock.
On medium high heat, add the white wine, chicken stock, thyme, bay leaves, and diced tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the cleaned and closed-shell mussels, tightly cover and let cook for approximately 8 minutes – or until the mussels open.
Any mussels that do not open, discard.
Remove the open cooked mussels to a large bowl, or individual bowls with the juices remaining in the skillet. On medium high heat, bring to a boil, and toss in 2 tablespoons soft butter, add salt to taste – stir and spoon over mussels…finish with fresh cracked pepper and a sprinkling of finely chopped flat leave Italian parsley – and a few diced fresh tomatoes.
Serve with crusty saffron aioli baguettes, a salad, and a bottle of Chardonnay
SAFFRON LEMON AIOLI
As you will note, we use this aioli as a spread for the French baguettes topped with grated Manchego cheese then broiled. You can also use this aioli to dip the mussels in – for it is delicious.
- 3/4 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon warm water
- 1 teaspoon saffron
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- Kosher or sea salt to taste
Add the saffron to the slightly warm water and soak for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, add all the ingredients to the mayo and stir until well combined. Adjust seasoning to your desired tastes.
CRUSTY FRENCH BREAD
It is imperative that you have bread for dipping into the incredible juices from the cooked mussels. You can use any bread you desire – as long as it is crusty…French baguettes and Italian rustic breads are my favorites.
Grilled bread with olive oil and rubbed with garlic when finished is awesome by itself. Some don’t do anything with their bread but dip into the juices. If you want to “guild-the-lily” so to speak, make our crusty saffron lemon aioli and Manchego cheese croutons – they are perfect on their own, or as an accompaniment for any Mediterranean seafood dish, and even clam or seafood chowders and gumbos.
- Cut French bread on the bias (diagonally) in quarter inch slices
- Brush each slice with melted butter or extra-virgin olive oil
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees until nicely browned – lightly rub with fresh garlic once they come out of the oven
- When cooled, liberally spread aioli on each slice and top with grated Manchego cheese
- Broil until hot and bubbly
- Serve several crostini’s with each bowl of mussels and juices
OMG – this is a truly great crostini for dipping into the rich juices from these mussels.
February 12, 2015
When we were growing up, my mom would ask each of us kids, Pamela, Byron, and myself, what we would like her to fix for our birthday dinner – mine was always meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas.
My mom made the absolute best meatloaf in the world. I would love to come from football practice at Wilson Jr. High with the smell of a homemade meatloaf baking in the oven.
We served the exact same recipe at Bailey’s Restaurant for 6 years, and it was an overwhelming hit. To this day, I have people stop me when shopping at Publix on Neptune to tell me how much they miss our meatloaf. Well, now here is my mom’s very own recipe.
This recipe will easily feed 10 – perfect for a family of 4 with extras for a meatloaf sandwich the next day.
- ¼ cup – ½ stick butter
- 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed
- 2 medium onions
- 4 ¼ pounds ground beef – chuck or round (80% beef & 20% fat)
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 6 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 packages (tubes) Ritz crackers, crushed finely with your hands
- 1 cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
- 1 ½ teaspoons pepper
- 3 cups shredded Vermont white cheddar cheese
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- Bacon strips
- 4 cans Campbell’s Tomato Soup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the butter in a skillet and sauté the garlic and onion until soft and translucent but not brown. Most people put raw onion in their meatloaf – you will be surprised at the increased flavor by sautéing it, along with the garlic, in butter first.
In a large mixing bowl add ground beef and all the other ingredients, mix well with your hands. Go ahead, get your hands messy – it will make you feel like a chef. You will notice that we are using Ritz cracker in this recipe, as opposed to bread or plain bread crumbs. That is what my mom did – and I do the same. They give the meatloaf a really good flavor.
Form the meatloaf in a large enough pan that will leave two inches all the way around which will allow the air to circulate around providing a good crust on the outer edges. My favorite parts of the meatloaf are the end pieces. How about you?
Top the meatloaf with the thin slices of onion and then the sliced bacon. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Pull out of the oven and put the Campbell’s Tomato Soup over the top – spreading around to make sure the entire meatloaf is done.
Return to oven and bake until it is done – probably another 25 minutes or so. You will have to gauge this yourself. It will cook faster if the beef was originally at room temperature and not cold. Once done, let sit for at least 10 minutes covered.
You may want to add more soup around the sides of the pan. This makes a wonderfully delicious sauce for the meatloaf. The more sauce the better…perfect too for those mashed potatoes you are going to make.
February 05, 2015
My good friend Linda Ward said this was “the BEST” dish she has had in a long time. This past week, I shared my beef, snow pea, and shiitake mushroom, dinner with my dear friends Linda and David Ward. Linda asked me for the recipe, which is always the ultimate compliment one can pay to any cook. So here it is Linda. Yes, it has a lot of ingredients – but these are ingredients I keep in my cupboard pretty much all the time.
If you have the ingredients on hand, stir-fry’s are quick, easy, and packed full of flavor…an entire meal can be ready in less than a half hour. And if you go with my simple dessert idea below – you will have a super dinner for family and friends.
What is great about this recipe is that you can substitute chicken, pork, shrimp, scallops, tofu, for the beef, or make it a complete vegetarian stir-fry by substituting and marinating broccoli and cauliflower instead of the beef. The world is your oyster…for that matter you can add some oyster mushrooms. You get my drift? When it comes to this recipe, you are the Chef de Cuisine.
As always, I suggest you mise en place (French for “putting in place”) your ingredients in advance of cooking. It will save you so much time.
- 1 ½ pounds flank steak – or use beef tenderloin if you want a very tender beef
- 8 ounces snow peas
- 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
- 5 scallions (green onions)
- 2 cups long grain rice, or Jasmine rice, or ½ pound Asian noodles
- 1 – 4 ounce package julienned carrots
MARINADE INGREDIENTS FOR BEEF
(or for whatever protein you decide to use)
As you know, I want my food to have lots of flavor. I’ve tried all kinds of Asian ingredients from Oyster sauce to Duck sauce in this recipe. Below is the flavor profile I’ve settled on for this stir-fry. You are the final arbiter for what goes into your dish.
- ¾ cup Kikkoman soy sauce
- ¾ cup Kikkoman teriyaki sauce
- ¼ cup Kikkoman hoisin sauce
- 2 teaspoons chili oil
- 2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
- 2 whole jalapenos finely diced including seeds
- 1 scallion chopped
- 3 whole garlic cloves finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon wasabi powder
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ cup brown sugar (more if you want it sweet – add one tablespoon at a time until you get the sweetness you like)
- Lime zest of 1 lime
COOKING PROCESS INGREDIENTS
- 1 cup beef stock
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 scallions (only using a bit of the green)
- Chopped Scallions
- Toasted Sesame Seeds (optional)
- La Choy Crunchy Chow Mein Noodles (optional)
- Toasted Cashews (optional)
- A squeeze of fresh lime (optional) – good for chicken and seafood in particular
STEPS ONE & TWO (Slicing and Marinating)
1) Place all the marinade ingredients in a medium size bowl and whisk or stir until well blended
2) Flank steak is a wonderfully flavored beef, but can be very tough if not sliced against the grain, and it should be sliced with a sharp knife in thin slices. If you want to splurge, use beef tenderloin cut in a bit thicker slice so the slices won’t get mushy during the cooking process. You want some texture to the beef. The same goes if you are substituting pork, use pork tenderloin. If you are using chicken, boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breasts are both good for this dish.
Put the sliced beef in the bowl with the marinade and stir to coat each piece well. Cover with plastic wrap for at least 2 hours, or overnight if you are way ahead of the game. If using shrimp or scallops, marinate no more than 2 hours.
STEP THREE (Cooking)
1) Combine the beef stock with the corn starch and stir until well combined. If you are using pork, you can still use beef stock, if making chicken stir-fry, or seafood use chicken stock, and if totally vegetarian with tofu or vegetables – use vegetable stock to combine with the corn starch.
Depending on the thickness of the sauce you desire – you can increase the amount of corn starch by adding 1 tablespoon corn starch with 2 tablespoons stock and adding it to the sauce. Make sure you bring the sauce up to a quick boil to delete the taste of the corn starch.
2) Thinly slice scallions on the bias (diagonal)
3) Snip the ends off the snow peas and blanch in boiling water for approximately one minute or until they become bright green. With a spider or slotted spoon transfer to ice cold water (with ice) to stop the cooking process – drain and set aside.
4) If you have a wok – use it. I usually use a heavy bottom sauté or best yet, a cast iron pan. Cast iron always distributes the heat best.
Drain the meat, saving the marinade. Put oil in the pan (or wok) and get the pan very hot over high heat. Toss in the beef a few pieces at a time. You do not want to overcrowd the pan for you want a nice sear to the meat. Adding too much meat at any one time will steam the meat. Transfer all the cooked beef to a plate.
5) Braise the mushrooms in the same pan with a tablespoon of oil. You want a nice sear to the mushrooms so the pan should be hot. Set aside.
6) Put the extra marinade in the pan and bring to a boil – add the beef stock and corn starch mixture – stirring with a whisk or wooden spoon until it is thickened to your desired consistency. If you need to add salt at this time, do so with kosher salt or extra soy sauce. If you desire the sauce to be a bit sweeter, add a tablespoon of honey or brown sugar. If less or more spicy, add or reduce the heat elements. Try it this way first, but always remember, everything should be to your liking, not mine.
7) Once the sauce is to your desired consistency and taste – add the beef, mushrooms, and carrots and bring up to temperature. Turn off the heat and add scallions and snow peas.
Please note that at this point you can add water chestnuts, bean sprouts, or just about anything your lil-o’-heart desires.
Serve over long grain or jasmine rice, or Asian noodles. Garnish simply with thinly sliced scallions or any of the above garnishes you may desire. My suggestion is to keep it simple with just the scallions or a few toasted sesame seeds.
THE PERFECT RICE
- 2 cups rice
- 4 cups water
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
Put all the above in a sauce pan and bring to a boil on high heat – stirring for one minute after it comes to a boil. Immediately turn heat to low/simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for exactly 20 minutes. Do not, DO NOT, do not lift the cover until the 20 minute mark. Fluff with a fork…never a spoon.
A DELICIOUS DESSERT – LIGHT & PERFECT FOR THIS DISH
Why make a dessert when “store bought” is perfect for this meal. My favorite dessert after this stir-fry would be a scoop each of Haagen Dazs Mango and Raspberry Sorbet – and don’t forget to swing by your local Chinese restaurant for a few fortune cookies.
One day I’ll teach you how to make homemade fortune cookies. They are so, so good…and you can put any fortune in them you want.