vegetarian dinner

we try to have a vegetarian dinner once a week in our house, which doesn't always happen or isn't always very exciting, but last night it was! needed something quick and easy to go with broccoli & cheese soup and realized that i had a few zucchini and some spinach that needed to be used. so that turned into a delicious zucchini and gorgonzola tart! for dessert i made these cookies - great recipe but trouble because we can't stop eating them!! also anxiously waiting for a cute grey slouch hat to arrive from here discovered via mrs. french. excited to have visitors for the holiday arriving soon and can't wait to get cooking - went here this morning for smoked trout for a dip. also on the menu - cornbread, sausage & apple stuffing, susy's spinach souffle, two kinds cranberry sauce, andy's mashed potatoes, both pumpkin and pecan pie . . . and of course herb roasted turkey with applejack gravy. happy holidays & see you next week!

Zucchini Gorgonzola Tart
serves 6-8

1 cornmeal crust, recipe here
1 tbs olive oil
2 zucchini, cut lengthwise & then into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, sliced
1 cup spinach, roughly chopped
2 tbs chopped parsley
2 tbs chopped basil
1/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1 egg, beaten
6 oz mascarpone cheese
blind bake cornmeal crust according to instructions and let cool slightly while making filling. heat olive oil in a medium skillet and saute zucchini and garlic until softened, about 8-10 minutes. set aside in a large bowl. in same pan, adding more olive oil if needed, saute onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. add spinach and saute 1 minute more or until wilted. add to bowl with zucchini and combine with herbs, cheese, egg and mascarpone. pour into prepared crust and bake at 375 degrees F 25-30 minutes or until set. let cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing and eat warm or at room temperature.


preserved lemons

preserved lemons were a typical moroccan ingredient i'd heard about but wasn't familiar with the taste until now. seeing them while wandering through the isles of this amazing market sparked my interest and then i found a recipe to easily preserve them at home in an old issue of gourmet. ok, now i've got a beautiful jar of opaque sliced lemons, what do i do with them? roast a chicken and make a relish sounded like a good plan to me! this salty tangy herb salad would be great on grilled fish or roast lamb as well - an easy way to dress up any protein. they also add great flavor to soups and salads and will be good in your refrigerator, covered in their juices and a little oil, for about a year.

Preserved Lemons & Relish

6 lemons
2/3 cup kosher salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups lemon juice
olive oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped mint
1 shallot, finely chopped
5 slices of preserved lemons, rinsed & rind only, pulp discarded
bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch whole lemons for about 5 minutes, then drain. when cool enough to handle, cut each lemon into 1/4-inch thick slices, discarding the seeds. toss lemons with salt in a bowl and then pack lemons and salt into a glass jar. add enough lemon juice to cover sliced lemons completely. cover with a tight fitting lid and let stand at room temperature for 5 days, shaking gently once a day. after 5 days, cover with a little olive oil and refrigerate.
to make preserved lemon relish, combine cilantro, parsley, mint, shallot and diced rind in a small bowl. add a few tbs of olive oil to moisten the mixture and a little black pepper. stir to combine and serve at room temperature. enjoy!


fall starter

here's a quick salad that you can throw together to impress dinner guests that is much more sophisticated tasting than it is difficult to make. the combination of sweet pears and maple syrup is offset by salty gorgonzola cheese and smokey bacon - yum! try it with different combinations of cheese, nuts and firm fruit for an ever changing fall starter. is anyone else getting excited for Thanksgiving next week? we have friends coming from santa barbara and boston and can't wait to start cooking - it's definitely the best food holiday of the year.

Fall Pear Salad
serves 2

2 ripe firm pears, such as bosc or anjou
1 green onion, sliced
3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tbs maple syrup
3 tbs hazelnut oil
approx. 1/4 cup olive oil
fresh cracked black pepper
core pear with an apple corer, trying to keep pear whole. slice into 1/8-inch thick rounds and combine in a bowl with green onion, bacon, cheese and hazelnuts. in a small bowl, combine lemon juice, maple syrup and hazelnut oil. slowly whisk in olive oil, taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. toss salad with dressing, plate and garnish with pepper. enjoy!


coffee & chocolate

chocolate & coffee is one of those perfect combinations. so when i came home from a recent job with some really nice chocolate and saw this recipe while going through old magazines, i knew exactly what to do - run out and buy some haagen-dazs coffee ice cream immediately! this mocha caramel sauce is from a 2006 issue of gourmet and is definitely worth the few extra minutes it takes to make caramel and melt chocolate for an amazing homemade dessert. i'm sure it would be great poured over any flavor ice cream but coffee was just the thing for us. enjoy!

Mocha Caramel Sauce

1 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
1/2 cup sugar
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/8 tsp salt
in a small bowl, stir together cream and espresso powder. cook sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, undisturbed, until it begins to melt. continue to cook, swirling the pan gently, until a deep golden caramel color. remove from heat and let sit 1 minute. very carefully pour in espresso cream - mixture will steam and bubble. then cook over low heat, stirring, until caramel is dissolved. add chocolate and salt and cook until sauce it smooth. serve warm or at room temperature.

short ribs & polenta

as the weather gets cooler and the days get shorter, our bodies start to crave warm satisfying comfort food. for us, it doesn't get any more comforting than braised short ribs with creamy polenta. we were tempted to do another short rib ragu over pasta but decided this was just as easy and satisfying. the recipe calls for the braise to be done in a dutch oven on the stove top and then in the oven for 3 hours but you could probably make it work in your slow cooker as well - either way, this dish will fill your home with a wonderful aroma! make your polenta according to the directions on the bag but be sure to stir in some extra butter, parmesan cheese, mascarpone and salt for a real treat.

Braised Short Ribs
serves 4

3 lbs. beef short ribs
smoked sea salt & fresh ground pepper
2 tbs olive oil
1 granny smith apple, diced
1 onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
5 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tbs honey
preheat oven to 300 degrees F. season short ribs generously with smoked salt & ground pepper and heat oil in a medium sized dutch oven. add short ribs, brown on all sides and remove. add apple, onion, celery, garlic and thyme and cook 6 minutes. add tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes until it deepens in color. add wine, chicken stock, vinegar and honey and bring to a boil. add short ribs, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. cover and transfer to the oven, braising for 3 hours and turning halfway through cooking.
remove short ribs from the pot and set aside to cool slightly, meat should fall off the bone. strain the sauce into a large bowl and refrigerate to solidify the fat. when the meat is cool enough to handle, shred and discard the bones. skim fat off top of sauce and use just enough of the sauce to moisten the shredded meat - serve shredded meat warmed over creamy polenta. enjoy!