My mother gifted to me her beloved asparagus dishes. I absolutely love these dishes. They have a beautiful vintage feel and are specifically designed to be used only for asparagus. It’s a pleasure to pull these dishes out of the cabinet to serve asparagus. I don’t use them often but when I do it reminds me of how detailed my mother was when she entertained. It’s very special to acquire some kitchen pieces that you can pass down to future generations. There is a closeness that is felt when you know that you are eating off the same plates that your ancestors ate from.
Should I buy thick or thin asparagus?
There are different size asparagus available. Some are pencil thin and others are thicker. If you are roasting the asparagus in the oven the thin asparagus will work great. You do not need to peel thin asparagus. You simply trim off the bottom, rinse them off, toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. The asparagus will be done in under 5 minutes in a 400 degree oven. You can serve them with a little salt and pepper or shave some Parmigiana Reggiano on top. This makes a beautiful appetizer or side dish.
The thicker asparagus need to be trimmed and peeled from below the tip to the bottom. In this recipe I boil the asparagus for around 6 minutes until they are tender but still bright green. You do not want to serve a brown, over-cooked asparagus. After six minutes you should spill out the water and rinse asparagus with cold water and place in an ice bath to stop the cooking. After 5 minutes you can remove the asparagus from the ice bath and place on plates. The asparagus can stay at room temperature for an hour so this is a great appetizer to make when you are entertaining.
How to make a perfect hard boiled egg:
The perfect hard boiled egg should not have dark area between the yolk and white. That does not look nice. You need to pierce the bottom of the egg with an egg piercer before you gently submerge the egg into water. I like the Endurance egg piercer available on Amazon. Take the eggs out of the refrigerator 5 minutes before you place them into the boiling water so they are not shocked by the water. After the eggs have boiled for 10 minutes, turn off the heat and allow them to remain in water for a few minutes. Then set them aside or refrigerate until you are ready to use them. You will have beautiful yellow and white hard boiled eggs.
Some other serving ideas for asparagus:
A simple dressing made with Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, a touch of Dijon and salt and pepper
Chilled chopped crabmeat or shrimp mixed with mayonnaise and dill
Shredded Gruyere or Parmigiana Reggiano. Place under the broiler for a minute to melt if desired.
Sirloin Steak quickly marinated in Balsamic Vinegar, Rosemary and Olive Oil
Typical I love to grill a steak on an outdoor barbecue but there are days during the cold winter months that I crave that char on the outside steak. You know what I am taking about; that steak that has a delicious sear on the outside but when you cut into the steak it is that beautiful pink color and so juicy. This recipe can work well whether you are preparing the steak indoors or out. To prepare the steak in your kitchen you will need to have a cast iron grill pan. I really like the one I have from Lodge which happens to be on sale right now on Amazon. The greatest thing about this grill pan is that you can also use it as a griddle and at 20 inches long it fits over 2 burners which allows for even heat and room for lots of food. This pan comes pre-seasoned so it’s ready to use. To care for a cast iron pan you should wash after use and dry well then use a paper towel to rub a small amount of vegetable oil over pan before putting it away. The light layer of vegetable oil will prevent rusting and insure years of use. A well seasoned cast iron pan is a treasure and should last many years.
The steak needs to be taken out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before you are ready to grill it. This time is used to quickly marinate the steak and bring up the temperature before grilling. A good steak should not go straight from the refrigerator to the grill. In order to have a warm, pink inside you must bring the temperature of the steak up a bit. I think that 20 minutes is the right amount of time. This is also when I quickly marinate the steak in Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil and Rosemary. This seasons the steak and allows for a beautiful caramelization to occur on the outside of the steak when it is grilled. While grilling the steak I continue to baste it with a Rosemary brush dipped in Olive Oil and add a little butter on top of each steak.
Using an Herb Brush
Using an herb brush is a great way to baste steak, fish or chicken. I like to use Rosemary with steak but you can also make an herb brush with thyme, sage. It is very easy to make an herb brush, simply tie a bunch of herbs together with twine. If you are using an herb brush when you are grilling on a barbecue you may want to attach the brush to a wooden chopstick to create a handle so your hand doesn’t get too close to the fire. An herb brush will season the oil as you baste and adds a lot of flavor to your food
Plating the Steak
I like to roast whole bulbs of garlic to serve with these steaks. I serve bulbs of roasted garlic on the side. When you roast garlic it creates a nutty flavor that compliments steak perfectly. To roast garlic you need to cut off the top of the garlic to expose a bit of the garlic inside. Drizzle a little olive oil over the garlic and wrap in foil. Place it into a 400 oven for 45 minutes until garlic is light brown and tender.
After the steak is done you need to tent it with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing it. This step is essential so that the juices absorb back into the steak. If you cut the steak too soon the juices will run out and you will have a dry steak. So this means NO CUTTING to see if the steak is done. The steak should have an internal temperature of 135 for medium rare. The steak will continue to cook as it rests so do not over cook it. Use a meat thermometer to check steak or start to learn how to determine the temperature of a steak by touching it. If you push the top of the steak before you grill it you will find that it is very soft, as the steak cooks it becomes harder to push in. So the softer the steak, the rarer the steak. For medium rare you are feeling for a firm but still soft texture. It will take a little time to learn this technique so I suggest using a meat thermometer and also touching the steak so you learn how it should feel according to the temperature you like your steak. Whatever you do just please do not cut it to see if the steak is done. You must let it rest before cutting. After the steak rests, slice it and serve it on a platter with the bulbs of garlic and some sprigs of rosemary.
My mother used to make this dish for our family quite often when I was younger. I love the combination of the spicy sausage, the tender chicken and the mixture of peas, olives and capers. There are so many wonderful flavors that come together beautifully in this Arroz Con Pollo. It is a very simple arroz con pollo and is ready in under an hour after you have marinated the chicken. Many arroz con pollo recipes call for using bone-in chicken but I prefer to use boneless. My family has a preference towards chicken breast but you can absolutely use boneless thighs if you prefer. In this recipe I used chicken tenders that were cut in half. You do not want the chicken pieces to be too small because you do not want them to be dry. I marinate the chicken in the morning so it has plenty of time to season. It’s best to place the marinade in a ziplock bag with the chicken and gently message it into the chicken. Remove most of the air from the bag before placing it in the refrigerator to marinate. A quick saute with the onions is all that is required before adding the rest of the ingredients. You want the chicken to finish cooking in the broth so it stays nice and tender.
Arroz Con Pollo originated in Spain but there are now several interpretations throughout Latin America and Spain. Most Arroz Con Pollo recipes call for using ham in the recipe. My mother liked things spicy so she substituted the ham for andouille sausage. The sausage is lightly browned and the rendered fat is used to sauté the chicken and onions. The andouille sausage adds a lot of flavor to the dish. The pinch of saffron is also important to the depth of flavors in arroz con pollo. You can play with the ingredients a bit; if you like olives add a few more, if you don’t like capers then add less. Use my recipe for arroz con pollo and make it your own.
Use brown rice instead of long grain white rice
Add red and green bell peppers when sautéing the onions
Use bone-in chicken instead of boneless
Add a cup of rinsed and drained black beans
Substitute chopped kale or spinach for the peas
Use a few dashes of hot sauce if you want to turn up the heat
The key to success is delicious food that you are able to sit and enjoy with your guests.
My Dad turned 84 this week and I decided to host a small dinner for him at my apartment. We usually travel or go out to a restaurant for his birthday but given the times we decided it would be best to dine at home. My Dad loves his birthday so it was important to me to pick a special menu to serve for the occasion. Preparation and timing are the two most important factors in hosting a great dinner party. You want to be able to enjoy the dinner not only prepare it. It is also very uncomfortable for your guests if you keep getting up and look like you are working too hard. It is essential to choose a menu that can be prepped ahead of time. I chose to serve Fresh Perigord Black Truffles Shaved Over Pasta as the appetizer followed by Chorizo and Panko Crusted Black Cod with Beurre Blanc served with Individual Potato Gratin, Spinach Rounds and Blistered Tomatoes. The potato gratin was made 2 hours ahead of time and covered with foil so I could reheat them in the same oven as the fish. The spinach rounds were prepped in the morning and kept in the refrigerator. The Beurre Blanc was made an hour before guests arrived. The sauce was served room temperature.
So let’s sum this up: During the day, The fish was topped with the Panko and Chorizo and put on a baking sheet in the refrigerator, the Spinach Rounds were prepped and put on a baking sheet in the refrigerator and the Potato Gratin was fully cooked and left at room temperature covered with foil. The tomatoes were tossed in Olive Oil and sautéed for 5 minutes while I was making the pasta. The Black Cod, Spinach and Potatoes all required 12 minutes in a 400 oven. When the appetizer was served I put the Black Cod on the top shelf in the oven, the spinach on the middle shelf and the potatoes on the bottom shelf. I then went to sit down and eat my appetizer with my guests. After 10 minutes I returned to the kitchen to take everything out of the oven. The plates were all stacked and ready for me to place the food on. As my kids cleared the appetizer dishes, I plated the food and it was served to the guests. After that I was able to sit, have a glass of wine and enjoy my Dad’s birthday. Dessert was brought by my Step Mom so the rest was easy. I had the dessert plates and forks ready to go. The other nice thing about preparing in advance is that it makes clean up very easy. All that was needed to get done was place the plates and silverware into the dishwasher. No one wants to walk into a messy kitchen at the end of the night…
We started with Cacio e Pepe Ravioli in a Truffle Butter and Cream Sauce topped with Shaved Fresh Black Perigord Truffles. Black Perigord Truffles are found in the Winter months, November through March. In the next few days I will be posting more on Black Truffles. The appetizer pasta was very quick to make. The Cacio e Pepe Ravioli was fresh so it only took a few minutes to cook in boiling water. I had a big pot of salted water simmering on the stove when my guests arrived so all I had to do was turn up the heat and make a quick Truffle Cream Sauce when it was time for dinner. The sauce took 5 minutes to make, roughly the same amount of time it took the pasta. I quickly tossed the ravioli in the sauce, dished it into bowls and my daughter Olivia brought them to the table as people were sitting down. I then went around the table and shaved the fresh Black Perigord Truffle over the pasta. It makes a beautiful presentation to shave the Black Truffle at the table.
Try to pick a menu that is easy for you. The sides should definitely be made earlier in the day. Many vegetables are able to serve room temperature after being prepared. Try roasting zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes or sautéing string beans in shallots and serving them room temperature or give them a bit of heat in the oven before serving. Individual Potato Gratin can be made earlier in the day and quickly reheated. Fish is ready in no time which is why I love this Black Cod recipe. It is ready in 15 minutes and looks absolutely beautiful on a plate.
An elegant appetizer that is easy to make and tastes great
I love appetizers that are interesting but easy to prepare. I love serving soup or salad to start but sometimes I want something a little different so this parmesan flan makes a great alternative. When I invite friends over there are usually some dietary requirements that need to be taken into consideration when choosing a menu to serve. This parmesan flan recipe is easy to prepare and can be adapted to fit many diets. If you would like to keep it vegetarian then serve it with blistered tomatoes, roasted artichoke hearts and arugula. If your guests aren’t vegetarian then I recommend serving the flan with Prosciutto di Parma, Arugula and Blistered Tomatoes. The flans come together very quickly and then need to be baked in ramekins that are placed in a water bath for 20 minutes. To do this you will place the ramekins in a baking dish and then pour boiling water in the baking dish until ramekins are submerged half way in the water. This is a necessary way to make any flan, whether sweet or savory. It insures the the edges do not get burned and that the flan cooks evenly.
I also love the silky texture of flan. It’s almost like a spread and I have seen some of my guests use a knife to put it on a little bread before eating it. Why not? It is like a cheesy spread. The parmesan flavor is dominate in the dish but is softened by the milk and cream. It is essential to grate your own parmesan cheese and not use packaged grated cheese. I prefer Parmigiana Reggiano. Freshly grated cheese is much lighter and airier than packaged grated cheese. I like to grind some additional black pepper over the flan before serving it. I love the way the black pepper looks on top of the creamy white flan.
Should I serve the Parmesan Flan hot or cold?
I like to serve the flan a bit warm. It doesn’t have to be hot but I do not like it cold. You can time it so the flans come out of the oven 30 minutes before your guests arrive. The flan will need to cool for 15 minutes before you invert them onto the plate and add the arugula, blistered tomatoes, basil and prosciutto. You can set the plates aside so the appetizer is ready to serve when your guests arrive.
What else can I serve the Parmesan Flan with?
You can really serve the parmesan flan with a lot of things. Think of it as creamy, silky parmesan. It works well as a side dish too. You can serve it with grilled fish or chicken with some sautéed spinach. It is also delicious next to a sliced sirloin steak or filet mignon. Next time you make an antipasto plate think about making the flan to serve on the board next to the prosciutto and salami.
add whole pealed garlic clove, salt, pepper and nutmeg
warm milk on low flame until hot but not boiling
slowly add milk mixture to eggs being careful not to cook the eggs
strain through fine sieve
blend in freshly grated parmesan cheese and gently mix until cheese is melted
grease 4 ramekins with spray or butter
fill ramekins 3/4 of the way up
put ramekins in a baking dish and then pour boiling water into baking dish until water is half way up ramekins. Be careful not to get water in flan.
place on baking sheet in oven for 20 minutes until flan is set
remove from oven and remove ramekins from water bath. Allow to rest for 15 minutes then turn ramekin over plate to release flan from ramekin. If it is a little stuck use a knife to gently run around edge of flan to release it from ramekin.
Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat
add tomatoes, salt and pepper – Be careful, they wil splatter as they cook
shake tomatoes in pan until starting to brown and soften
Serve Parmesan Flan with Tomatoes, Arugula dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and slices of Prosciutto di Parma (optional)
A blend of meat and beans with just the right amount of heat topped with melted cheese
A warm bowl of chili on a cold day is amazing. This chili recipe comes together very quickly and then simmers on the stove for an hour. I use two different kinds of beans in this recipe because I like the layers of flavor and texture that they add to the chili. Chili can be made ahead of time and reheated as needed. It’s great to serve when you know that people in your family will be eating at all different times. I also like serving chili on a buffet when there is a sporting event on so people can help themselves when they’re ready to eat and help themselves to seconds if they’re still hungry. If you are serving chili on a buffet put out toppings that will compliment the chili like shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, jalapeño, avocado and chopped tomatoes
It is important to sauté the onions until translucent and then add the ground sirloin. Once the ground sirloin is brown you should drain most of the oil from the pan before adding the spices. My chili recipe is a medium heat chili, you can increase or decrease the chili powder to suit your taste. I like to keep the ratio of chili powder to cumin as 3 to 2. The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of chili powder and 2 tablespoons of cumin so if you increase the chili powder make sure you increase the cumin. I suggest making the recipe as it is written and adjusting the spice after the chili has had time to simmer. The flavor will increase as the chili cooks.
Serve the chili with a little melted shredded sharp cheddar cheese on top and sour cream on the side. I like to serve the chili with a salad and homemade cornbread.
Vegetarian: omit the meat and use a third type of bean like white beans or you can simply increase the amount of pinto and kidney beans that are already in the recipe.
You can substitute ground turkey or chicken for the meat.
Add jalapeño to the chili to increase the heat
Add crumbled hot and sweet sausage to the meat
Corn will add color and flavor to the chili
Add chopped kale for a healthy kick
Chili will last for 5 days in the refrigerator and two months in the freezer. It reheats perfectly in the oven or microwave. It is a good idea to freeze the chili in portions so you can defrost it as it is needed.
mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, pepper, sugar together
in a seperate bowl whisk together milk, egg and melted butter
mix wet ingredients ito dry ingredients
grease an 8×8 pan and pour in batter
bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown on top
You can use this recipe to make muffins as well. If you want the muffins to be a little sweeter increase sugar by 1/4 cup and do not add the pepper.Some variations:Add chopped jalapeno to create a little spice or dried cranberries to make the cornbread a little sweeter.