Subscribe: The Essential Rhubarb Pie
http://baconandrhubarb.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
Tags:
chocolate  coconut  corn  cream  cup  day  don  food  fresh  love  made  make  new  recipe  sauce  tbl  time  tsp 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: The Essential Rhubarb Pie

The Essential Rhubarb Pie



Recipes and ramblings from a very geeky gourmet



Updated: 2017-12-07T13:34:24.113-05:00

 



Is Food Love?

2017-11-21T14:31:52.882-05:00

I know I haven't been sharing many recipes lately.  I have been on somewhat of a creative dry spell.  However, I didn't create The Essential Rhubarb Pie just to share recipes, but to share all of my thoughts about food and cooking.  Today I am going to discuss something that's been on my mind for a while.Three years ago, when I started out the Lean Eating program (refer to my other blog for details) my teammates and I were musing on the message boards about how much, and in what ways, we would be restricting our eating.  Many of us agreed that we loved to eat.  We really loved it.  We enjoyed delicious food.  How much would we have to curtail such a pleasure in order to lose weight?The discussions brought down a virtual handslap from the coaches and mentors.  The message was clear.  If we loved to eat, it was indicative of deep-seated emotional issues.  We were medicating our psychological issues with food.  It was impossible, according to the coaching team, to like food just for food itself.  Enjoying the act of eating had to be indicative of greater issues."Food is not love," the health experts love to say.  "Food is fuel.  Food is what you use to power up your daily activities."  You are not allowed to be emotionally attached to eating. Do you know what I find strange? Every day we allow ourselves all sorts of sensory pleasures.  We stare at works of art, climb to the tops of mountains and tall buildings to enjoy the view, and watch dancers and performers.  We get massages, pet our furry animals, and have sex with our loved ones (or at least our lusted ones).  We go to concerts, plug into our iPods, or simply savor the sounds of rain on the roof or ocean waves.  We wear perfume, stop to smell the roses, and love the scent of a crackling fire.  No one considers these acts of sensory pleasure to be indicative of some larger emotional issues.  Why is the simple sensory pleasure of taste so different?I love going to the store and planning my meals.  What looks good?  Is there a product I haven't tried yet that I want to try?  What if I can't find everything I need for the meals I want to make?  What should I substitute it with?  Can I come up with recipes on the fly?I love going to farmers' markets and seeing the beautiful visual displays of fresh produce.  I love the fresh smells of all of those fruits and vegetables.  I especially love them in the summer when they are bursting with so many different varieties of everything edible.I love trying new restaurants.  I love trying new ethnic foods.  I love to see how professional chefs will transform ingredients.  It doesn't matter if the restaurant is a five-star gastronomic paradise or a greasy spoon diner.  I want to experience all the ways someone else can cook for me.I am not a very artsy or crafty person. I don't knit, crochet, or sew.  I don't draw or paint.  I don't build decorative objects out of wood or mold them from clay.  Cooking is one of the few ways I can successfully create.  I love taking raw ingredients and putting them together into a meal.  I find inspiration anywhere.  Sometimes a random ingredient will pop into my head and I'll decide I want to cook it.  Sometimes I'll read a passage in a book about a particular food and decide I want to cook it. I see recipes online and on TV that I want to cook or adapt.  I never stop wanting to create meals and recipes.  The best part of this type of craft is that I can enjoy it by eating it.  After it nourishes my soul, it nourishes my body.What means the most to me is cooking is easy to share with other people.  The best part of cooking is that is can easily be shared. I truly believe the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  There is a reason why Ina Garten's roast chicken recipe is nicknamed "engagement chicken".  I have won over more than one potential romance with brownies.  I [...]



Goodbye Blackberries. Welcome Corn

2017-08-11T20:08:02.927-04:00

One of my summer fruit dessert goals was a blackberry dessert.  Unfortunately, blackberries were arriving sooner than I expected and peaked while I was on vacation and unable to bake.  The week I returned from vacation was too full of appointments to squeeze in any baking time.  I worried I would not be able to find any blackberries at my next trip to the farmers' market.  I had been looking forward to making that blackberry cobbler and I might not realize that dream this summer (unless I wanted to do a supermarket cheat - and that would defeat the purpose of baking with local seasonal fruits).Fortunately there were still blackberries at the farmers' market this week.  There were still raspberries too.  I was shocked to see one vendor still had strawberries. I'm not sure if these fruits are not truly local or if there is some kind of fruit voodoo going on in these farms.  Either way, I decided to buy some and do my best to convince myself I was getting fresh, local, berries.So this week there was cobbler.This was another effortless recipe.  I used my basic drop biscuit recipe that comes together easily in the food processor.  The berries were tossed with sugar and cornstarch and flavored with a touch of lime.  Then into the oven it went,.While berries are beginning to disappear, other summer specialties are still in abundance.  Good tomatoes are arriving.  Peaches are making an appearance.  Best of all corn is here.  I love summer corn.  I can't get enough of it.  I want to cook it a hundred times before the season ends.  I want corn, corn, and more corn all summer long.I wanted my first corn recipe of the summer to be a main course.  Corn wasn't just a side dish.  I wanted it to be the starring player.  I came up with the idea of corn gazpacho.  It would be an easy weekend recipe that would only require cooking up the corn and then blending a bunch of ingredients together.  Seemingly effortless.I looked at a few corn gazpacho recipes for inspiration.  I took my main inspiration from Spoon Fork Bacon that suggests using white beans rather than bread as a thickener.  That sounded much more virtuous - lots of fiber and more nutrients.  My outside inspiration stopped there.  Most chilled corn soup recipes have a Mexican flare to them with chili peppers and lime.  I wanted to use up the bumper crop of mint I have on my balcony this summer.  I made mine with garlic, mint, and lemon.I used too much garlic and not enough liquid.  I know the recipe would have been better with more corn (I used 3 ears), more veggie stock (I used a half a cup), and less garlic (I used three cloves).  My recipe below is what the recipe should have been and not what it was.  As with every recipe I provide, if you feel it should be adjusted more, feel free to experiment.Corn GazpachoIngredientsKernels cut off of 4 cooked ears of corn1 15 oz. can white beans1 cup vegetable stock1 clove garlic1 good handful fresh mint leavesJuice and zest of 1 lemon2 tsp salt (or to taste)Blend all ingredients together in a food processor.  Serve chilled and garnished with corn and fresh mint leaves if desired.My cobbler recipe has a high crust:berry ratio.  It's almost more of an upside-down shortcake.  This is on purpose.  I wanted lots of crust to absorb the juice.  Also, most people really love crust - even if they won't admit it.Blackberry CobblerIngredients2 cups all-purpose flour2 tsp salt2 Tbl sugar1 Tbl baking powder1 stick of cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces1 cup of milk2 cups blackberries1 tsp lime juice1 tsp lime zest3/4 cup sugar1 Tbl cornstarchHeat oven to 350 degrees.Mix together berries, sugar, juice zest and cornstarch in baking dish.  Set aside.In the bowl of a food processor, mix the dry ingredients together.  Add the butter and pulse until the butter and flour are integrated and the mixture looks like crumbs.  Put the d[...]



Now It's Time for the Blueberries

2017-07-22T06:46:36.497-04:00

I am continuing with my project of making a dessert with every major summer fruit (or as many of them as possible).  So far I have done strawberries, cherries, and raspberries.  This week it's blueberries.Blueberry pie is one of my favorite fruit pies (second only to cherry pie), but I already did pie this summer, so I turned my attention to cake for this week's dessert.I used my basic pound cake recipe that I have used as the base for the my Orange Bourbon Pound Cake, Chocolate Chip Bailey's Cake, and Hazelnut Brown butter cake (a recipe in bad need of tweaking because it was too dry).I made a few tweaks for this cake.  I decided to work with brown butter again, because most desserts taste better with the butter browned (if you haven't tried Emily's chocolate chip cookies with brown butter, you are missing out).   I wondered if it needed more butter because browning the butter makes some of the liquids evaporate.  Rather than add more butter,  I decided to try using sour cream instead of milk.  This would supply extra fat and give the cake a softer texture.  I had to research what tweaks I needed to make a cake with sour cream.  I just needed less fat, less baking powder, and some baking soda.  I crossed my fingers that this would work.It worked.  I brought the cake to the office and it received rave reviews. I personally thought it could be a bit sweeter.  If I make this again I might add a bit more sugar (I considered adding brown sugar this time around and I may try that).  The sour cream gave it a perfect texture.  I was the only person who didn't think the cake was sweet enough, so I would say the experiment a success regardless.Brown Butter Blueberry Sour Cream CakeIngredients3 cups all-purpose flour1 tsp baking powder1 tsp baking soda1/2 tsp salt2 sticks of butter3 eggs, lightly beaten2 cups of sugar 1 tsp vanilla1 cup of sour cream1 pint of fresh blueberries.Heat the butter over low heat until melted and foamy.  When the foam subsides, carefully continue heating it until it turns amber and smells nutty.  Immediately remove from heat.Pour into a bowl set over a larger bowl full of ice water.  Cool until it is solid again, but soft. (Alternately, you can refrigerate it and remove when it is solid and slowly let it come up to room temperature again.  You will need to do this way ahead of time.)Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a Bundt pan with baking spray (or just butter and flour it, but baking spray will make it easier for you to get into all the crevices of the pan).In a medium bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.Beat the butter in an electric mixer.  Stream in the sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add the eggs a small amount at at time, making sure each spoonful is absorbed before adding the next.  Continue beating until it is pale and gaining volume.  Beat in the vanilla.Turn the mixer to low and begin alternately adding the sour cream and the flour.  Do it in about 3 or 4 batches, ending with the flour.  When it is well blended, gently fold in the blueberries.Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick poked in the center comes out clean.[...]



It's The Raspberry's Turn

2017-07-11T18:40:29.541-04:00

This summer I made a vow to make at least one dessert with each of the major summer fruits: strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, and peaches. Each dessert would be a different dessert type as well.  I started off with my Strawberry Shortcake White Chocolate Coconut Trifle back in May.  Last week I made a cherry pie (it was a basic cherry pie, so I didn't post the recipe here).  Today's recipe features raspberries.Some of my past raspberry recipes include  raspberry buttermilk cake and raspberry truffle brownies, so I wanted to take this dessert away from cakes and bars.  I saw some intriguing raspberry bread pudding recipes online and that sounded delicious.  I decided to make my own version.  I love making bread pudding because it's simple to make, but lends itself to a million sweet and savory variations.I started with challah bread for my base as I love the texture and sweetness of it.  If you prefer a different bread, feel free to substitute. I added chocolate chips, because I can't go a whole summer without including chocolate in some of my desserts.  It just isn't done. Finally I wanted to add a deeper flavor dimension to my custard. Cinnamon and vanilla both work well with most bread pudding dishes, but I wanted something that would really play against the rapsberries.   A shot of liqueur or spirits is also common in my bread pudding recipes.  In this case I wasn't sure what would highlight both the raspberries and the chocolate.   I decided to use a bit of orange liqueur.It came together easily and was popular both at home and at work. Raspberry Chocolate Chip Bread PuddingIngredients 1 loaf (about 1lb of challah bread)1 cup sugar4 eggs*1/4 cup orange liqueur such as Triple Sec2 cups half and half1 cup mini chocolate chips2 cups fresh raspberriesA day before you make the pudding, cut the bread into chunks and allow to dry out for a day.Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8" square baking dish (you can also use 9" x 13", but you will need to adjust your baking time by 10-15 minutes).Mix together eggs, sugar, half and half, and liqueur.  Toss bread cubes in the batter and make sure they are evenly coated.  Stir in chocolate chips.Lay some of the bread cubes in the baking dish and sprinkle gently with raspberries.  You want to avoid crushing them too much, so the idea to to layer the bread and sprinkle the raspberries over it.  Pour any remaining custard over the top.Bake for about 50 minutes or until the top is springy.  *I used four because I bought my eggs at the farmers' market where I don't have much choice over size.  My eggs were on the small side.  If you are buying uniformly large eggs at the supermarket, you may want to consider using fewer.[...]



Just For Fun: The World's Most Overrated Foods

2017-06-12T20:44:12.560-04:00

Hello TERP Muffins.  I know I continue to be rather absent from my beloved blog.  I continue to have a bit of writer's block when it comes to fresh recipes.  I realize that's not really an excuse.  I started this blog not just to share recipes, but to share all kind of food related topics.  I am supposed to be reviewing restaurants, books, and new food products as well as share my inane, food-related thoughts. In that spirit, I thought I'd share a fun post today.  I say I am a failure as a foodie because I'm too picky.  There are too many foods in the world I consider inedible:  Peas, grapefruit, olives, blue cheeses, and anything born in the water and bearing a fishy flavor (including, but not limited to crustaceans, mollusks, and fish with fins).  There are foods I can choke down, but don't like (beets, Brussels sprouts, and the all-too-ubiquitous pumpkin).  I know I'm not alone in many of my dislikes. I just feel guilty about them as a food blogger.Today's post is not about what I dislike outright.  It's about those foods so many people seem to love and I just don't get.  I don't hate them, but I can't say any of the foods on this list taste particularly good.  How can you get excited about some of this stuff?So what are these overrated foods?Quinoa I get it.  The plant kingdom is a bit short on complete, bioavailable proteins.  I'm sure vegans  have it rough.   Not everyone likes tofu and soy is one of the most common food allergies.  I'm sure it's easy to tire of rice and beans.  Quinoa must seem like a perfect protein solution for vegans.I just don't get why everyone else thinks this stuff is so great.  I'm told it tastes "nutty", but I never tasted a nut that tastes like quinoa.  To me quinoa tastes like a combination of soap, birdseed, and nothing at all.  Seriously omnivores, what do you like about this stuff?KaleDark leafy greens are good for you.  I believe that one can say most edible dark leafy greens are good for you.  What makes kale so special?  It doesn't taste all that good.  Some people find it too bitter.  I don't think it's bitter as much as it just tastes blandly vegetal with an undertone of dirt.  It's not bad when you roast it into kale chips, but most vegetables will taste better in crunchy chip form, especially with plenty of salt.  Put it into my soup and it just tastes like slimy green stuff.  If I want some greens with my dinner, I'll stick with chard or spinach.  I think whoever decided kale should be called a "superfood" is playing a nasty joke on the rest of us.  How much kale will the masses eat if we tell them it's the most nutritious vegetable in existence?YogurtI call this a "disappointment food".  There is something tempting about yogurt.  It looks so creamy and sweet.  I can remember my first tastes of it as a child.  I saw this stuff that looked like pudding or ice cream.  I wanted it to taste good so badly.  Too bad no matter how many times I tried it, I was eating this nasty sour stuff.  I used to put this one on the list with peas and olives, but the introduction of strained yogurt to mass market shelves has helped me to tolerate it a bit.  Strained or "Greek" yogurt (or Icelandic Skyr) has a pleasant texture and less torturous tartness.  I am still not too keen on eating it by itself.  It makes a nice dressing and it adds protein to a smoothie without resorting to chemical-laden powders.  I just don't understand how anyone can consider it dessert.  I once watched a travel show where the host made a mango shortcake and used yogurt instead of whipped cream.  If anyone ever does that to me, I will see to it she regrets it for the rest of her life.OatmealDo you love oatmeal?  When was the last time you had oatmeal?  How was it prepared? &n[...]



The Name of This Dessert Is Too Long for a Post Title

2017-05-31T18:48:01.407-04:00

What do you do when you have a half a bag of coconut left in the fridge from your Almond Joy Pie and you want to use it up?On top of having too much coconut in the house, it's also the start of strawberry season and you are craving strawberry shortcake?Additionally, you are invited to a party and you have to take a portable dessert for a crowd?This was my dilemma this week.  I was finally starting to see local strawberries in the farmers' markets and I was thinking about how good they would taste over homemade sweet biscuits and topped with fresh whipped cream.  Unfortunately, strawberry shortcake is not a practical potluck party dessert.  The party seemed like a better excuse to use up the coconut.I needed to come up with a recipe that would use up  the leftovers in the kitchen that would still satisfy my cravings for strawberry shortcake.  When I ask my brain to come up with a new recipe, it always gurgles and scrunches, but it eventually spits out an answer.  Some answers are more edible than others, but I always receive an answer.The answer was trifle.  I could make the trifle similar to strawberry shortcake and incorporate the coconut.   Instead of pound cake or sponge cake, I would use biscuits.  I would layer my biscuits and strawberries with coconut custard and top the whole thing with fresh whipped cream.I decided to take it one step further.  One of my favorite pies is coconut and white chocolate cream pie. One of my favorite layer cakes is a white chocolate and coconut layer cake.  Even though I'm not enthusiastic about white chocolate, it does combine beautifully with coconut.  With this in mind, I added another layer of flavor and made my coconut pastry cream into white chocolate and coconut pastry cream.I called this dessert Coconut White Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Trifle.  I couldn't seem to come up with a better, shorter, or more clever name.  I am simply telling you exactly what the dessert is.I made my base with drop biscuits.  There is no need to make rolled biscuits for a dessert where they will be buried under goo.I don't have a go-to pastry cream recipe. I need to find one at some point.   Every time I want to make a dessert with pastry cream, I end up on the internet searching recipes until I find one that's not too complex.  I also need to find one that works.  I have often tried pastry cream recipes that flopped.The recipe I tried this time turned out pretty well, so maybe this will be the one.  It worked well with coconut milk replacing most of the dairy milk. I layered the biscuits, then the cream, and then the berries.  When they were all used up, I topped it with a light cap of fresh whipped cream.  (Cream not shown in photo.)The custard was tight and I wonder if it were less tight if it might have soaked the biscuits a bit better. I thought they stayed a tad too dry.  The cream was also a bit too sweet.  More strawberries might have also improved things.  I didn't get any complaints at the party though.  The dish was a hit, so maybe I'm too picky.White Chocolate Coconut Strawberry Shortcake TrifleIngredientsBiscuits2 cups flour3 Tbl sugar1 tsp salt1 Tbl baking powder1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces1 cup milkPastry Cream1 15oz can coconut milk*1/4 cup half and half*6 egg yolks2/3 cup sugar4 oz good white chocolate cut into pieces 2 Tbl Malibu rum (or a tsp of coconut extract if you prefer)1 cup sweetened coconut flakesTopping and Assembly1 cup heavy cream2 Tbl confectioners sugar1 tsp vanilla2 pints strawberries stemmed and sliced. First make the biscuits.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Pulse together flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a food processor.  Sprinkle the butter over the top and pulse until the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture looks like crumbs.Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl a[...]



Almond Joy Pie for Mother's Day

2017-05-25T13:04:28.792-04:00

My family rarely ever celebrates Mother's Day like normal people.  For one thing, we often don't celebrate Mother's Day on Mother's Day.  The Saturday night before Mother's Day is always so much more convenient for celebrations.  We also don't do wimpy brunches. I never understood why Mother's Day is always about brunch.  After all our mothers do for us, don't they deserve more than brunch?  Kevin and I like to serve our mothers something more substantial.  Last year I made a pot of Sunday Sauce and piles of good ziti.  Pasta is my mother's favorite food and why should I serve her anything other than what she loves for her day?This year I decided to maintain the tradition.  Big pasta dinners make everyone happy (except for my nephew, and I'm sure he'll outgrow his aversion to tomato sauce eventually).  This year's Sunday Sauce is the same as last years.  I made a hearty sauce and filled it with meatballs, sausage, and beef shanks.  I  prefaced it with a bit of antipasto consisting of olives, roasted peppers, cheese, and some local salumi.  I accompanied all of it with fresh bread and good wine.  This is what family dinners are supposed to be about.The one part of the meal I changed this year was dessert.  I haven't made any new desserts lately and I was itching to make a new pie. I decided to create a a new pie recipe that incorporated two of favorite flavors: chocolate and coconut.  I took that over the top by adding almonds to the mix too. My new creation was appropriately called Almond Joy Pie, in honor of the similarly flavored, beloved, candy bar.  It consisted of an almond flavored crust, chocolate coconut filling, and a topping of almond whipped cream garnished with crunchy almonds and toasted coconut.My plan to make an almond flavored meant I wanted to make a crumb crust out of almond flavored cookies.  This was one of the biggest challenges.  It's not easy finding an almond flavored cookie that makes a suitable crumb crust.  The most common type of almond cookies are biscotti, and biscotti are rock-hard.  I was afraid they would make a hard crust.Eventually I found these almond wafers.  These were perfect since thin wafer cookies make the best crust.  Unfortunately, they were a little too strong in the ginger department with little pronounced almond flavor.I crushed them up, mixed them with butter, and baked them. The flavor might not have been perfect, but I had a useable crust that was neither too soft nor too hard.The other tricky part was adapting a chocolate pastry cream recipe that would incorporate the coconut flavor. I didn't just want to add a bag of coconut to chocolate pudding.  I wanted the flavors to blend together seamlessly.  The best way to do that was to make coconut milk part of the custard base.  Would that work?  I have made coconut cream pie with coconut milk in the custard before (thank you Elaine Corn), but I haven't ever tried it with chocolate.  It would be an interesting experiment.  I crossed my fingers and adapted my favorite chocolate cream pie recipe using coconut milk as a replacement for some of the cream in the pudding.Finally I topped the whole thing with fresh whipped cream blended with amaretto.  I topped it with more toasted coconut and sliced almonds.It was a hit!  I will definitely do this one again.Almond Joy PieIngredientsCrust 1.5 cups crushed almond wafer cookies2 Tbl sugarPinch of salt5 Tbl butter, melted Filling3/4 cup sugar1/4 cup corn starch1 can coconut  milk4 egg yolks1 1/2 cups half and half6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped2 Tbl butter1 tsp vanilla Topping1 cup whipping cream1/4 cup confectioner's sugar2 Tbl amaretto1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds Heat over to 350 degrees.  Mix together[...]



My Amsterdam Food Travelogue

2017-05-25T13:40:02.188-04:00

I know I haven't been keeping this blog up lately.  I do have some new projects in the works for the coming months, so I hope to be a little better about adding more posts in the near future.One type of post I love to make is about the food I eat when I travel.  Since I took a trip to Amsterdam last week and did a lot of eating, I had to make sure it was well documented here.If you want to read the non-food story of my trip, it's on my other blog. You can see a full set of photos here. During a bus tour during my trip to Amsterdam, a guide said The Netherlands doesn't have many specialties in the way of cuisine.  When I booked my vacation, my focus was not on food because I wasn't sure what to expect.  However,  like most cosmopolitan cities, Amsterdam has its share of fine dining.   Even if I didn't have much of a clue about  Dutch cuisine (other than herring and Gouda cheese), I knew there would be some special restaurants regardless.  I was looking forward to seeing what I might find in the city.  I was not disappointed by what I found both in Amsterdam and the surrounding area.  Day 1 - There was a lot of food served on the flight, so when I landed in Amsterdam mid-morning, I wasn't terribly hungry.  When Kevin and I arrived at the hotel, the restaurant, Lotti's was still serving brunch.  At first I didn't want anything, but I found myself tempted by the sight of all of those mimosas and decided to have one.Since we couldn't check in right away, we did some exploring.  By mid-afternoon we were finally starting to feel hungry.  At first we thought we only wanted a snack like a coffee and some pastry.  Then we spotted a restaurant called Quattro Gatti near our hotel that had a tantalizing assortment of cakes in the window, so we thought we would give it a try. (Also, how can I not want to eat at a place called "Four Cats"?)The restaurant was small - more like a little coffee shop.  The decor was simple.   An assortment of copper pans hung on the back wall, but there was little other ornamentation.  The open kitchen at the back was tiny.  It looked like the kitchen of a humble Roman apartment.  The smell of fresh herbs permeated the place (unlike so many Italian restaurants that only smell of garlic). The simplicity of the place charmed me right away.When I looked at the menu, I knew I wasn't having dessert.  I saw an impressive list of homemade pasta dishes and I had to have one.I chose spaghetti carbonara.  I ordered the small portion.  This photo makes it look as if it was indeed small, but this plate was deceptively deep.  I was trying to eat light, but there was plenty of pasta here.I think this was the best cabonara I ever ate.  How many times have you been to an Italian restaurant and ordered the carbonara and found the chef cheated and used cream to avoid clumpy eggs?  That happens to me all the time.  This was not the case at Quattro Gatti.  This chef knew how to stir his eggs into the sauce properly.  Even though I thought it was a bit too salty, it was so rich and satisfying and expertly prepared, I will stand by my statement that it was superior to any other carbonara I have eaten. Kevin ended up sticking to his plan of having dessert.  He loved this chocolate almond cake.  He did have his regrets about not having pasta despite the cake. We hoped to come back here, but they are only open to the public for lunch and we were never in the neighborhood at lunch time after this.I will always regret not coming back here.We stayed in the neighborhood for dinner.  In fact, we didn't even leave our hotel.  We had dinner at Lotti's.I had my pasta later in the day and it was filling, so I wasn't terribly hungry at dinner.  I avoi[...]



A Decade of TERP! (Also, A New Corn Soup Recipe)

2017-03-22T19:52:44.942-04:00

On March 22, 2007 I made my first post on The Essential Rhubarb Pie (which I now lovingly refer to as "TERP").I still feel like this is my "new" blog.  I had been writing Shipwrecked & Comatose (on MySpace no less) for a few years before that.  I felt my brain is so preoccupied with food, I needed a separate space just to talk about it.The blog has come a long way.  In those early days I would write about any food-related subject that came to mind.  I reviewed just about any snack that ventured near my mouth.  I would log every recipe I made.  I rarely wrote out the recipes properly in those days and I also never included photos.  I can't believe I managed to have any sort of audience.  I certainly appreciated the audience I had.  Over the years I really do appreciate those of you who have kept reading.I know my blogging has been slow in recent years.  Part of it is life gets in the way.  I don't have the time to be rattling off every food-related thought in my head online.  Another part of it is I have a harder time maintaining an audience when there are so many better blogs out there.  The final part of  it is I realized my recipes were beginning to repeat themselves a bit.  I found too many of my recipes were similar to each other and I didn't want to be boring.  I still want to keep this blog going.  I still love inane food-related ramblings and I will keep sharing them.  I still do create new recipes.  Maybe this blog won't be as regular as it was 10 years ago, but I believe it deserves to continue.Speaking of new recipes, I am sharing a new one in celebration of my first decade online.  I made a delicious corn soup for my lunch this week.  The recipe had two distinct sources of inspiration.The first inspiration for my soup was a Thai-style sweet potato soup I used to make for dinner parties.  It had coconut milk, hot pepper, lemongrass, and cilantro in it.  I haven't made it in ages since Kevin doesn't like sweet potatoes.  I don't remember where I got the recipe from.  I have searched online, but I'm not sure any of the recipes I found are the same recipe.The second inspiration came from my Hawaii vacation last year.  On our final night in Oahu, we had dinner at Roy's.  I had a delicious dish of red curry chicken topped with coconut creamed corn.  I never considered corn and coconut together prior to this dinner.  It was an awakening.In honor of that Thai-influenced soup and the coconut corn under my Thai-influenced chicken, I created this soup.  It's a mixture of sweet, sour, and spicy and it makes a tasty lunch.It seems odd every recipe I have posted in 2017 has been vegan.  It's not on purpose.  I guess if my goal is to make sure any new recipes I post here are creative and original, then a vegan recipe is going to require a lot of creativity since I don't normally cook vegan food.If veganism isn't your thing, tune in for Easter.  I'll be showcasing meat and dairy all over the place.Thai-Style Coconut Corn SoupIngredients1 Tbl olive oil3 cloves garlic, minced2 tsp grated ginger2 small red chili peppers1 quart vegetable stock 4 2" pieces of lemongrass1 10 oz package frozen corn kernels (divided use) 6 leaves Thai basil.Juice of one lime1 15oz can coconut milkSalt to taste 2 Tbl chopped fresh cilantroHeat the olive oil in a pot of low heat and add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add the peppers and cook until they begin to soften.  Add the stock and the lemongrass to the pan.Simmer for 30 minutes.Remove the lemongrass stalks from the pot. Using a stick blender (or transfer to a food processor), blend  until smooth.  Then blend in the coconut milk and the lime juice.  Taste and [...]



Looking for a Healthier 2017

2017-03-22T19:53:02.379-04:00

2016 has been quite a year.  Whether or not you look back on it with fondness or sadness, you can't deny it was eventful. So what's on tap for 2017?  I don't know about the rest of the world, but I am working on making sure I stick to a nutritious meal plan.  As I stated on my other blog, I am challenging myself to go as long as possible without sweets and limit alcohol only to when I'm out.So what's on the agenda for those nutritious meals?My main goal is to keep everything heavy on the vegetables.  My experiment for the first of the year was Cauliflower Tacos.My inspiration for these tacos came last summer when I tried Pico Taqueria in Chincoteague for the first time.  They had a cauliflower taco that was so tasty I didn't miss the meat at all.  I even thought the cauliflower taco was tastier than the chicken taco I ate with it.Pico's had crispy onions, aioli, capers, and cheese.  I decided to continue the idea of sweet, sour, and salty flavors, but do it my own way.I roasted the cauliflower with chili powder and cumin until it was nice and soft. I made caramelized onions and added some vinegar for tang.  I made them in my new pressure cooker (awesome Christmas present from Dad).  You can do it the traditional way if you don't have a pressure cooker or just prefer doing it that way.I got the creaminess from avocado and then additional spice and creaminess from a "crema" made from cashews and chipotle powder.So my first new recipe of the year (and my first dinner of 2017) was vegan.  You know this carnivorous lady rarely does vegan.I recommend making the cashew sauce ahead of time so the flavors can really blend.  I made mine the night before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. These were unique and delicious.  I will definitely put this recipe in regular rotation. Cauliflower TacosIngredientsCorn Tortillas2 Avocados, diced1 Tbl lime juice For Cauliflower1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets2 Tbl olive oil1 tsp ancho chili powder1/2 tsp cumin2 tsp saltFor Onions2 Tbl olive oil2 large onions, thinly sliced2 tsp salt2 Tbl red wine vinegarFor Crema1 cup raw cashews1/2 cup warm water2 tsp salt1 Tbl white wine vinegar1 tsp chipotle powder Place the cashews and water in a bowl and allow to soak for about 15 minutes.  Blend the water and cashews in a food processor with salt, vinegar, and chipotle powder until smooth. Set aside.Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss cauliflower with olive oil, chili powder, cumin, and salt.  Spread out on cookie sheet.  Roast for 40 minutes or until soft.  Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pressure cooker on saute mode.  Add onions and cook until onions are beginning to soften and give off their liquid.  Put lid on the cooker and cook on manual for 20 minutes.  Quick release the steam and remove lid.  Stir in the vinegar and allow to sit in the pressure cooker on warm for 5-7 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.Alternately, you can slowly cook the onions for 4-60 minutes in a frying pan over low heat.Toss the avocados with the lime juice.  Heat the tortillas for about 15 seconds in the microwave.  Layer the avocados, onions, and cauliflower and drizzle the crema over the top.  In case you are wondering why I don't have a Christmas post, it's because I didn't host this year neglected to take a camera to Christmas dinner in order to get good photos of the food.  I made my short rib ragu and layered it with noodles, bechemel, and parmesan, and mozzarella for a new twist on lasagne bolognese.  (All I had was this poor quality phone photo).Prior to Christmas I had some other family gatherings.  The week before Christmas I went to Chicago to spent time with Kevin's brother and attend a l[...]



A Sweet New Chili For Chilly Days

2016-11-14T12:23:20.753-05:00

When people say they love fall, do they include the month of November?  When I think about November, I can't relate it to the basic blather about fall leaves and crunchy air.  November is just a cold, dark, prelude to winter.  Daylight Saving Time is over and every day grows painfully shorter.  The pretty leaves have fallen from the trees.  The weather is cold and sometimes even wintry.  Other than Thanksgiving, November has few redeeming qualities (unless you are one of my friends who was born in November of course). Food bloggers are eternal optimists though.  Whatever unpleasantness exists outside, a food blogger will always spin it as inspiration to cook.  Is the weather cold and the sky dark?  Well that's all the more reason to cook up comfort food.  If the only fresh vegetable available is a root vegetable, let's find a creative way to cook it.As a master cynic who tends to shun the cliches of the season, I'm not immune to the need for comfort food on a cold dark day.  I spend my weekends outdoors no matter what the season and I appreciate a warm, heavy, meal at the end of the day.  Since I am out all day on weekends, my slow cooker has been helpful in allowing me to eat more home-cooked meals.  It used to be when I would come home from a long day with the horses, I wouldn't feel like cooking. That meant putting on decent clothes and going back out into the cold to a restaurant.   My slow cooker makes it possible for me to sit down to a hot meal with no waiting and I can wear what I want and stay warm.  It can be challenging coming up with new recipes for it.  How many times can I make my standard turkey chili?  (Not enough if you're my husband.  My standard turkey chili is one of his favorites.)Chili is such an easy dish to make and it offers so many variations (unless you're a Texas chili purist and I am cool with that).  I am so picky about how I like my chili that I don't go too far from my standard formula.  When trying to come up with a new chili recipe, I do try to remember what my standards are for chili and how will the recipe follow them.1.  It must be meaty (unless I'm making a vegetarian chili of course).2.  It must have a thick, substantial sauce.  I want a stew and not Sloppy Joes.3.  It must be spicy4  It can't contain vegetables other than tomatoes, onions, garlic, and hot peppers. Most vegetables turn limp, slimy, and unappetizing after long cooking.There are many regional variations for chili and I doubt I'll ever really know them all.  I know Texas chili is made from stew meat cooked in hot peppers with no beans.  I know Cincinnati chili is made with ground meat and sweet spices and served over spaghetti.  Until recently I never knew Vermont had its own version of chili.  It was no surprise it featured Vermont's most famous ingredient - maple syrup.What chili recipe would scream "Fall Comfort Food" more than one made with maple syrup?  (Don't say a chili recipe with pumpkin or butternut squash please.) Even though I say I don't like my chili to be sweet, I became curious about a sweet-spicy chili. In order to be more health conscious in recent years, I usually double the amount of beans and cut the meat in half (reversing my classic recipe).  For this recipe I put a little meat back in.   I only used one package of turkey, but I added some sweet sausages. There is a vendor at my local farmers' market who makes the most creative homemade sausages.   I used smoky spices to complement the sweetness and did not add my traditional lethal mix of hot peppers.  Some dried chili powder and a single jalapeno were sufficient.I added a bit of Jack cheese (leftove[...]



The Return of Casual Friday - Tortilla Frittata

2017-03-22T19:53:18.497-04:00

I noticed I haven't done a Casual Friday post for a long time.  For those of you unfamiliar with this type of post, Casual Friday is the kind of meal I make on a Friday evening when I have to cook, but don't want to make a huge effort.Frittata is one of my go-to meals for when I don't feel much like cooking.  There are few things simpler than throwing some eggs and tasty bits of this and that in a pan.  This week I decided to have some fun and use something other than the standard vegetables and cheese.  I went with a Mexican theme and added whole tortillas.I left the tortillas whole creating a sort of layered dish.  I would almost call this an egg-adilla, but that just sounds too corny.  Besides, unlike breakfast burritos or quesadillas, I had tortillas in the eggs and not eggs in the tortillas.For my version I used (store-bought) fresh salsa made with tomatoes, onion, jalapenos, and cilantro along with plenty of Monterrey Jack cheese.  For my husband's  serving, I just used the salsa.  I think you could also do some sauteed peppers, onions, and tomatoes, or beans (whole or refried), or chorizo.  Really just add whatever you want to add.I suppose if I cut the tortillas into strips this would more closely resemble migas, but I liked the aesthetic of a whole tortilla.  In order to keep the tortillas centered within the egg, I cooked one serving at a time in a small pan.I'm not going to give an actual recipe because this is a truly free-from dish.   However, I will show how I did it and hope I can provide some inspiration for your future Casual Fridays.I heated some oil in a small pan over medium heat and added my first tortilla layer in the pan.  Salsa and cheese went on top of the tortilla.  Yes, I know I should have shredded my cheese.  It's Friday and I don't want to be bothered. I put a second tortilla on top of the salsa layer and repeated the process with more salsa and cheese.  Then I capped it off with one more tortilla and a bit more cheese.I added 3 eggs to the pan over the top of all the tortillas.  It would look  more charming if the eggs didn't flow around the tortilla stack, but how a food looks is irrelevant on Casual Friday.I let the eggs sit for a while.  When the edges were set, I would lift the edge up and tilt the pan to allow the uncooked eggs on top to flow to the bottom of the pan and cook. Once most of the excess liquid egg was gone from the top I put the frittata under the broiler for 3 minutes until set, puffed, and golden.Invert on a plate for a pyramid effect and put a bit more salsa on top.Eggs, gooey, cheese, spicy salsa, and the corn flavor of tortillas.  It's a great and easy combination.[...]



October is Celebration Time!

2016-10-11T08:23:07.708-04:00

Ah Fall!  The cooler weather!   The changing leaves .  The apple orchards.   The cute boots and sweaters! The pumpkin pie.Dear Lord, I hate it! The reality? The cooler weather!  (Hey, it's cold outside and I can't go swimming.)The changing leaves! (Those gosh-darned leaf peepers create traffic jams every weekend.)The apple orchards! (I would laugh at the apple pickers fighting for parking spaces at the orchards and then paying for the privilege of doing manual labor while the owners of the orchards laugh, but they are also responsible for those traffic jams.)The cute boots and sweaters!  (Why would I want to confine my body in heavy clothing.  Can I have a sundress and some cute sandals please?)The pumpkin pie!  (Do I need to explain this one?)I'm also tired of the hype of Halloween.  The older I get, the less into Halloween I am.  I couldn't figure out what made me such a Halloween Grinch.  Then I read this article.  Item number one was the reason in a nutshell.  Halloween is too much investment of time and money with too little return.   I don't really hate the season.  I have stated this on both of my blogs many times before.  I have three issues with the season called autumn.  The first is that it's not summer. I love warm weather (SWIMMING), long days, and farmers' markets filled to brimming.  I hate seeing summer end.  The second is I hate the hype.  I'm just sick of hearing people (and maybe I should just bluntly say women) doing the basic blather about how wonderful fall is and how it's their favorite season and all the accompanying drivel about cozy sweaters and changing leaves (no one seems to notice how short the days are).  Then of course there is my distaste for that giant nasty-tasting orange squash known as pumpkin.For any other fellow pumpkin haters out there, I want to reassure you this blog always has been, and always will be a pumpkin-free zone.  On this blog you will not see any pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin jam, pumpkin pickles, pumpkin salad, pumpkin candles, pumpkin deodorant, or pumpkin mouthwash.  Consider this blog a "safe space" for pumpkin haters.I remain convinced most pumpkin lovers don't really love pumpkin.  It's the stuff used to flavor pumpkin that most people love.  They love cinnamon and nutmeg and allspice and brown sugar.  Does anyone gut a jack-o-lantern and think, "Yum.  This looks delicious?"  My guess is they feel as nauseated as I do when I'm gutting a pumpkin.  It's pretty nasty stuff.So fall foods may not be my favorites, but at least the next few weeks will still have choice products at the farmers' markets.  While I am losing some of my favorites (corn), I'm gaining a few others like carrots, peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower.   I can still have big family occasion dinners filled with farm fresh produce.October may be tragically dark (although not as tragic as November and December) and not very warm, but it does have a bounty of celebrations.  October is my wedding anniversary, my father's birthday, my nephew's birthday, and Kevin's birthday.  There are so many occasions to celebrate in October and that's why I am writing this post today.  I'm not just here to complain about the changing seasons.  I'm here to introduce some new seasonal recipes I used in Dad's birthday dinner.What is more comforting than a hearty pork roast?  It's one of my favorite dishes.  I cooked my pork shoulder in the oven with a sweet-spicy rub and then slathered it with a new twist on barbecue [...]



Simple Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

2016-09-12T19:21:03.484-04:00

Although there are still a few weeks of summer left on the calendar, the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are gone.  I won't be taking any more vacations in 2016.  I won't have the time to be browsing markets for hours.  I won't have many evenings free to prepare a fresh meal every night of the week.  September brings new commitments and more activity.  I'll be back to dance classes and play rehearsals (or at least play production duties).  The short days and increased darkness will give me less energy to put into elaborate meals.I continue to be grateful I made the decision to buy a slow cooker this year.  In the past my evenings away from home meant more takeout and more restaurant meals.  Now I can prepare home cooked meals even when I'm out of the house.  As theater production season is already here and dance classes start next week, I'm already dusting that baby off and working on new recipes to make in it.The onslaught of pumpkin may be on its way and the roads leading north are already clogged with apple pickers, but I'm still dreaming of summer barbecues. I want juicy cheeseburgers and ribs slathered in sauce.  I want my chicken to be shredded into bits and slathered in sauce so it goes down that much easier.My craving for summer grilling and barbecue is one that stays unsatisfied all summer long.   My readers out there know my pain.  I live in an apartment.  I have no yard to place a grill or a smoker. I can only lust after my friends posting online photos of their grilled meals on Instagram or the endless articles about summer grilling in the food magazines I read.I have a few options if I want to pretend to grill.  I have a grill pan.  I have an electric grill.  I also have that slow cooker.  My slow cooker will cook meats in that low-and-slow mode so I can pull them apart and slather them in barbecue sauce.I experimented with using balsamic vinegar for my acid element and molasses for the sweet.  I wanted to see how the sweetness balsamic vinegar changed the flavor profile.The major flaw in the sandwiches was overcooking.  These should not have been cooked more than 4-6 hours, but I am away from home much longer than that.  Even with all the sauce on them, the meat was dry.  I shouldn't cook chicken in the slow cooker when I'm going to be at work all day.  Chicken, even with the skin and bones on, can't be cooked 9 hours at a time.The other flaw was the molasses.  It overpowered the balsamic and had a slight bitter edge.  If I make these again, I would either cut back on the molasses, or use brown sugar.I use bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts because they have more flavor than the boneless and skinless variety.  Some cooks might worry removing the bone is too much work, but the meat pulls away from the bones easily after several hours in the slow cooker.My side dish was sweet and sour coleslaw with apples.  I mixed pre-made coleslaw mix with lime juice, thinly sliced granny smith apple, and honey.   This recipe makes 4 moderate sized sandwiches.  You can add more chicken to the recipe, but you probably won't need to make too much additional sauce unless you are cooking more than 4 pieces of chicken at a time.Slow Cooker Balsamic Pulled Chicken SandwichesIngredients 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breastsSalt and pepper1/4 cup balsamic vinegar2 Tbl molasses1 Tbl soy sauce2 Tbl tomato paste1/2 tsp smoked paprika1 tsp garlic powder4 sturdy rollsSprinkle the meat with salt and pepper.  In a large frying pan, brown them well on both sides.Mix together vinegar, molasses, soy sauce, tomato paste, paprika, and garlic.  Slather [...]



Czech Out This Delicious Food City

2016-09-12T19:30:49.436-04:00

Ha ha ha.  I'm just so funny. As if that weren't the most obvious pun in the universe.Now that I got the pun bit out of the way, let me go about my usual business of boring readers to tears with an endless food travelogue.Prague is the most unique city I have ever visited.  I don't think I have ever seen a more visually stunning city.  Even Paris doesn't compare.  Prague doesn't just contain UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  Prague is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  When I first arrived in Prague I felt the endless grand facades, the winding streets, and massive crowds were too intimidating to ever be able to feel relaxed and comfortable, but the place worked its magic on me and by the end of Day 2, I felt able to walk the streets with confidence.If you would like to see my non-food photos, I have archived them here.  (If you want to know what you are looking at, click the comment link and you will see my explanations of the photos.)What is the food like in Prague?  I can describe it in five words:  meat, carbs, gravy, carbs, and meat.  I can also use five words to describe the beverages:  beer, beer, beer, beer, and beer.  The Czech Republic is the second fattest country in Europe (UK is first).  They don't care much for vegetables (although they work wonders with cabbage) and beer is the cheapest beverage you can drink (and they drink a lot of it).  Prague has an excellent public transportation system, but I got around mostly by walking because my body was just begging to get rid of some of those calories.    I suppose I stayed too much within the Tourist Comfort Zone because in all the restaurants I went into, I had the luxury of English menus and English speaking staff.  What I found most interesting was even tourists from other countries who spoke a variety of other languages, would speak English when talking to the Czechs. So let's talk a bit about what I ate.  What were my daily meals like?Day 1:  I arrived in Prague at lunch time, exhausted from the red-eye flight, but eager to start exploring.  The whole family stayed in the beautiful Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) in the historic Old Town Square Hotel.   Kevin and I  wanted to stay close to "home" for our first day so we looked at the local sites.  We explored St. Nicholas church and wandered a few side streets. When hunger took over our curiosity, we ended up at an open air restaurant on the square called Kotleta.  It was a scorching hot day and the restaurant had plenty of canopies and also sat next to  a shady park.Despite the Czech food reputation, there were salads on the menu.  I chose one with arugula, baked goat cheese on toast, prosciutto, asparagus, strawberries and walnuts.  The dressing seemed to be made out of pureed strawberries.  The worst part was the abundance of walnuts.  There were almost enough to trigger my allergies.  Other than the heavy strawberry flavor, it wasn't too different from similar salads back home.  I was happy to have found something light after the long flight.Kevin took a different extreme and ordered the schnitzel.  It came with a side of butter with some mashed potatoes underneath.In the evening Kevin and I met up with the rest of the family for dinner. We had no reservations anywhere that night, so we wandered around a bit until we found a restaurant that would easily accommodate my stepmother's scooter.  We found a place called U Dominikana, a restaurant in a former Dominican monastery.The staff was pleasant (contrary to the typical Czech reputation) and the restau[...]



Giving Another Classic A New Twist - Spicy, Smoky, Corn Risotto

2016-08-23T20:17:52.237-04:00

In my last post I decided to shake up common expectations of pesto and made a green sauce that visually resembles your basic Pesto Genovese, but takes the taste buds in a completely different direction.  Sure there was some traditional basil, but the sauce was all about the shiso.This week I took my love of summer produce and rebuilt (or some people might say destroyed) a classic risotto recipe.  This time of year many cooks will incorporate fresh summer corn into risotto.  I wanted to take it one step further.  Most risotto recipes rely on the same Italian formula: onions, garlic, wine, parmesan, and occasionally seasonal vegetables.  I wanted to ditch the formula and give that bowl of creamy rice a different flavor altogether. Is this wrong?  Should it not be done?  Am I spitting on the sacred?Anne Burrell is not my favorite cook on TV, but she did say something that made sense to me.  She said risotto is a method, not a recipe.  So I don't care.  I want to have fun with my favorite recipe bases, and keep creating, and keep finding new ways to use my favorite ingredients.  This food blog would be boring if I made the same recipes the way everyone else makes them.I have talked about my love of smoked turkey tails.  They are the best unhealthful, fatty, treat in the world next to bacon.  If you are cooking for someone who doesn't eat pork, you can get that richness and smokiness with a tail or three (and it's way better than turkey bacon which is just weird and processed tasting).  While Sir Pickypants has become far less picky and now does eat pork occasionally without gastrointestinal incident, I don't want to always be serving him pork when I don't need to.  This is why I used the tails instead of the classic pancetta.I also substituted the traditional white wine with whiskey.  I felt strong liquor would hold up to the strong flavor of the turkey tails and still complement the sweetness of the corn.I used caramelized onions, cayenne, and smoked paprika for the flavoring.  This was way off the beaten path for Italian risotto.  Mine had a definite southwestern flair.  I used too much cayenne when I made this.  I thought a half teaspoon would be enough.  The recipe below cuts that amount in half.  The risotto was delicious, but a half teaspoon cayenne straddled the line of being overpowering.I bought cilantro with the intention of adding it at the end and forgot.  I encourage anyone trying this recipe to add it and see if it improves the recipe or not. Sorry for the hastily-snapped phone photo.  Risotto is something you have to eat right away, so I didn't want to fuss with the light box and camera settings.When I see you again I will have a travel post to share with you.  I am leaving for a short trip to Prague on Friday.  I am looking forward to the meat-and-carb-fest that is Czech food.  I will be taking a food tour while I'm there, so I should have plenty of interesting meals to share.  Spicy Corn RisottoIngredients2 ears fresh corn, cooked and kernels cut off the cob 1 cup arborio rice3 cups chicken stock1/2 cup whiskey (bourbon is optimal, but Irish will do just fine)3 smoked turkey tails, cut into small pieces*1 Tbl olive oil1 onion, thinly sliced2-4 cloves minced garlic 1 diced red pepper1 tsp smoked paprika1/4 tsp cayenne pepper2 Tbl chopped fresh cilantro (optional) Heat the chicken stock and whiskey in a small saucepan.  Keep warm on the back burner.In a medium saucepan cook the turkey tail pieces over medium heat until the fat is rendered.  Remove from pan and [...]



The Farm Market Experience Continues with a New Twist On Pesto

2017-03-22T19:53:39.947-04:00

During my trip to Hawaii this past winter I discovered shiso.  It is a large-leafed, herb that has minty and citrus flavors.   It complements tomatoes well.  I couldn't wait for summer when I could get my hands on some at home.  I was pretty sure Lani's Farm would be selling it at both of the farmers' markets I attend (Larchmont and Dag Hammarskjold plaza).   There doesn't seem to be an exotic green they don't carry.When I had it in Hawaii, I ate it whole as part of a salad.  I felt the unique minty flavor would be perfect in a pesto sauce.  Would my pesto have cheese?  Would the traditional parmesan go well with the shiso?  Maybe pecorino would work well (pecorino and mint make a delicious pesto when mixed with pistachios).  I knew I was in short supply of those cheeses at home and that would mean a trip to the supermarket for cheese.  Were there any cheeses I could buy at the farmers' market that would be suitable?The salad I ate in Hawaii contained goat cheese.  Coach Farm just happens to have a booth at the market.  Why not try mixing goat cheese into the sauce?  I went to the booth and inquired about their firmest cheeses.  The vendor suggested a well-aged, raw milk cheese.  I took a taste and was surprised it didn't have any of the funky flavors raw milk cheeses tend to have. I thought the shiso, the goat cheese, some shallots (I had onion mignonette in the salad in Hawaii), basil from my garden (to make sure there was some expected flavor in the sauce), and  toasted pine nuts would be perfect over gnocchi for dinner.  I also included some roasted, heirloom cherry tomatoes.I would love to have served this to someone without saying what the ingredients were and then watching that person taste it. I was kind to Kevin and gave him a warning.Gnocchi with Shiso-Goat Cheese Pesto and Roasted TomatoesIngredients 1 shallot, finely diced2 Tbl rice wine vinegar20 heirloom cherry tomatoes 1/4 +1 Tbl olive oilSalt1 bunch shiso (about two cups of leaves)1/2 cup basil leaves2 Tbl toasted pine nuts 4 oz. firm, aged goat cheese 1 package of your favorite gnocchiHeat oven to 400 degrees.Place the shallots and vinegar in a small bowl and allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the sauce.Toss tomatoes with 1 Tbl of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Roast for about 10 minutes.  You want them soft, but try to avoid having them burst.Combine basil, shiso, remaining olive oil, pine nuts, shallots, and vinegar in a food processor.  Process until fairly smooth.  Add the cheese and pulse until combined.Cook gnocchi in salted boiling water until they float to the top of the pot.  Combine with the pesto and top with the tomatoes. [...]



Vacation Recovery Meals

2016-08-06T06:57:10.593-04:00

It's summer.  It's the time when farm markets are full to bursting and everyone is eating healthfully, partaking of this enormous bounty of produce.Unless you're on vacation of course.  Leave the house for the week and all bets are off.I returned from my annual pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island and the annual Pony Swim and my body is in serious need of real nutrients.  If you follow my Instagram account, you will see my week was filled with doughnuts, burgers, tacos, ice cream, and barbecue (and possibly a salad here and there).When you consider I'm desperately trying to get back into shape after having so many physical setbacks, I need to recover.I worked on the perfect menu plan filled with farm market produce and local meats.  I thought I would share some of the recipes and inspiration.My first dinner after my return was a corn and fennel salad topped with a bit of steak and dressed with a lemon-herb dressing.Corn and Fennel Salad with Balsamic Grilled SteakIngredients 1 skirt steak2 Tbl balsamic vinegar1 Tbl honey1/4 cup + 2 Tbl olive oil, divided2 generous pinches of sea salt 1 large fennel bulb, sliced thin (a mandoline works well for this)Kernels cut off the cob of 4 ears of cooked corn1 head romaine lettuce, chopped1/2 head radicchio, chopped Juice of 1 lemon1/2 tsp lemon zest1 tsp chopped fresh oregano2 Tbl chopped fresh basil2 Tbl chopped fresh mintMix together the balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbl olive oil, honey, and 1 pinch of salt in a bowl.  Coat the steak with this mixture and marinate in the refrigerator for several hours.Mix the lemon juice and zest, oregano, basil, lemon, and the other pinch of salt.  Whisk in the remaining olive oil.Grill or pan fry the steak (I use an electric grill) until cooked to your liking.  Allow to rest for a few minutes and cut into strips.Toss the lettuce, fennel, and corn together and then add the lemon dressing.  Add additional salt if necessary.Serve topped with strips of steak.***And now for something completely different***I lied.  It's not completely different.  It is another dinner though.For this one I marinated pork tenderloin using the same mojito marinade I made for my Loco Tacos:  Rum, mint, orange juice, onion, and lime juice.  I let the meat sit in that all day.  Then I browned it on the outside and finished in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. On the side was "salsa rice".  I cooked onion, jalapeno, and chopped fresh tomato together.  I cooked up a whole grain rice blend and then mixed it into the tomato mixture with cilantro and more lime juice.Quite tasty.  This is a perfect marinade for pork.   ***A real recipe is coming***While planning my meals for this week I thought a tasty option would be a quick and light chicken cacciatore.  I would use the traditional vegetables of onion, pepper, mushrooms, and tomatoes and quickly cook them with chicken breasts chunks.  I would serve the whole thing over zoodles to keep it extra light.Then I was at the farmers' market this weekend and I had a new inspiration.  I can't get mushrooms at my local markets.  I can get eggplant.  If you're a regular reader, you know I have a strange relationship with cooking and eating eggplant, but I'm starting to find ways to make the smaller, creamy-textured, Italian or Japanese eggplants palatable (the big dark ones I have given up on).  When I saw the pile of multi-colored eggplants at one stall, I decided to reconsider the mushrooms and save myself a trip to the supermarket.Chicken cacciatore is whole chicken pieces[...]



A Birthday Dinner at Latour in Crystal Springs and Some Thoughts on Fine Dining

2016-11-07T13:04:15.054-05:00

Today's restaurant review comes with a couple of philosophical (maybe that word is a bit hyperbolic?) questions.What are you willing to do to get into an in-demand restaurant?  Will you take a reservation at a crazy time?  Will you wait for an hour or two to be seated?  Would you even bother to try to get a table?How do you feel about letting a chef choose your entire meal?  Are you adventurous enough to eat a tasting menu entirely selected by the chef with little to no input from you about your preferences (unless you have allergies)?These are some thoughts that went through my head when considering a restaurant for my recent birthday.  My birthday fell on a Saturday night, which gave me the leisure to play with ideas of what to do and where to go.  I gathered ideas for the best Saturday night possible.Have any of my readers watched the Netflix documentary series Chef's Table?  It had a huge influence on both my birthday plans and this post.  As I watched these endless biographies of chefs and their menu creations, I noticed a trend.  Most of these chefs weren't offering a menu.  If you wanted to eat at these Michelin-starred gastronomical powerhouses, you had better have a sense of adventure and be willing to give up your ability to choose. Diners eat what the chef is making that night.  Picky eaters need not apply.I know plenty of restaurants who have tasting menus available.  One of my favorite restaurants The Iron Forge Inn offers one.  I tended to ignore them as they always featured at least two courses made up of food I don't like.  It didn't seem worth it to me.  Then I learned about Per Se from many of my foodie friends.  Here was a restaurant that was pure tasting.  There would be no choice - no non-fish, non-pea, non-beet options.  I had to eat what was in front of me and empty my wallet for it.  That never seemed like a good deal to me.  A tasting menu is too high a risk with potentially little reward.Chef's Table had me briefly reconsidering this.  The first episode was about Dan Barber.  He is the proprietor and chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns (also featured on an episode of Top Chef).  The restaurant is the ultimate farm-to-table experience.  It sits on the massive agricultural center Barber put together himself using his knowledge of farming and agriculture. (Chef's Table has him explaining exactly how each area of the property is best suited for raising and feeding certain types of animals and the best spots to grow each vegetable.)  Everything you eat at Blue Hill was likely picked or raised right outside the door.  Unlike most of the restaurants featured on Chef's Table, it is located quite close to me (contrary to what they said on Top Chef, it is not "upstate" New York.  It's barely an hour north of NYC).   Maybe I should try to get a reservation for my birthday.  I had been curious about it since it opened in 2004.The menu is a tasting menu the chef determines daily.  It can even change during the course of an evening if the kitchen runs out of a certain ingredient.  Would I be able to take that risk?  Would the food be as spectacular as everyone says it is?  What would I do if they presented something I knew I hated?  What if both Kevin and I hated it?  The price is over $200 per person.  That would be an expensive gamble.I thought I should take the risk.  I should experience it at least once, right?If you want to make an online[...]



A Little Late To Be Posting About Father's Day But...

2016-07-06T14:45:45.661-04:00

Well, better late than never.This year for Father's Day I made my first leg of lamb.  I have always wanted to try making one, but could never justify it.  While my husband has become far more adventurous with his food choices in the last few years (so much so I no longer feel justified in calling him Sir Pickypants), he still doesn't eat lamb.  I needed to have a big crowd over for dinner so I could have an excuse to cook a large amount of expensive meat.Father's Day provided the perfect opportunity.  I had my father and brother over for dinner.  They will eat almost anything.  All I needed to do was make some chicken cutlets for the Hubs and my nephew (a true Pickypants if ever there was one). The rest of the family devoured the 5lbs of lamb with just enough leftovers for me to have for lunch for the next two days.Roasting the lamb could not have been simpler.  I wish I hadn't waited so long to try it.I rubbed it with a paste of garlic, rosemary, olive oil, lemon, and pepper and let it sit while it came to room temperature.  I roasted it at a high temperature for 15 minutes to get a nice brown crust on it.  Then I cooked it low and slow for two hours.I did cook it longer than I should have.  I like my lamb medium-rare to medium.  This came out somewhere between medium and medium-well.  If it were beef I would have considered it ruined, but I like lamb cooked a bit more than I like my beef.  Lamb doesn't lose flavor the way beef does when you overcook it.I served it with a chimichurri inspired mint sauce.It was delicious.  My father and my brother both prefer their meat on the rare side and had no complaints about the overcooking.  My husband and nephew still stuck to the chicken cutlets, but at least Kevin tried spooning some of the sauce over his.For dessert we had a strawberry pie topped with a pistachio crumble.  I got the recipe from Bon Appetit.I did simple canapes before dinner.  I thinly sliced a baguette.  I topped some of the slices with butter, French breakfast radishes and Hawaiian red salt.  I topped some of the slices  with fresh goat cheese and shishito peppers.  The rest were topped with an egg salad seasoned with epazote.Roast Boneless Leg of Lamb with Mint ChimuchurriIngredientsLamb1 5lb leg of lamb, boned and tied4 cloves of garlic1 sprig of fresh rosemary2 tsp grated lemon zest2 Tbl olive oil1 Tbl lemon juiceFew grinds of black pepperSalt Chimichurri1 cup fresh mint leaves2 Tbl fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley 1 large shallot, roughly chopped1/4 cup red wine vinegar1/2 cup olive oil 2 tsp saltFinely mince the garlic and rosemary together with the lemon zest to form a paste.  Mix with the olive oil and lemon juice.  Rub this all over the lamb.  Grind the black pepper over the lamb.  Allow to sit for 30-60 minutes until the lamb is at room temperature.Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Place lamb in a roasting pan and roast 15 minutes.  Turn heat down to 350 degrees and roast about 30 minutes per pound.  You want it to reach between 125 and 145 degrees (medium rare to medium well).  Remove from oven and sprinkle all over with salt.  Allow to sit for 15 minutes before slicing.Meanwhile make the sauce.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process into a smooth paste.Serve the lamb with the sauce.[...]



Restaurant Review: The Inn At Pound Ridge

2016-11-22T19:52:40.664-05:00

My mother is doubly lucky in May.  Not only is it Mother's Day, but it's also her birthday month.  So twice in one month the entire family gets together for a special meal.This year she was hitting something of a landmark year, so the family wanted to take her someplace extra special.  We asked here where she most wanted to go.  We made sure to let her know that the choice was fully up to her and not to limit her imagination.  She chose the Inn At Pound Ridge.I first heard of the Inn At Pound Ridge when I began planning my wedding 16 years ago.  I love country inn type restaurants and this was such a pretty place.  The price was high and from what I heard, the food wasn't in line with the price whether you were going there as a restaurant or an event venue.  I never thought about the place again.  I did occasionally see reviews on Yelp and similar sites when browsing area restaurants, but it wasn't highly regarded.  It was all atmosphere with little to recommend for food.  Eventually it closed.Recently celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongeritchen bought the place and made his name among the chefs who have suburban outposts.  It became a destination restaurant for people from all over the area.  I'm glad Mom chose it because I wanted to finally try the place.It's a pretty building that was built in 1833 as a residence.  Jean-Georges made some upgrades to the place, but kept much of its original charm intact such as the wide plank floorboard and beautiful beamed ceilings.  The upper floor has a cleaner, modern look to it.  We were seated on the lower floor, which has more of a rustic "wine cellar" feel.  It opens up to a beautiful outdoor patio where you can sit back and enjoy a drink.  Unfortunately, there was a private event happening in the evening, so we couldn't go out there.There are so many little corners and areas with special decorative touches throughout the restaurant and most spaces are heavily illuminated by candlelight.We were seated on the lower floor because there were 9 of us and they had more space for larger parties on the bottom floor.  I wished I had said something when I made the reservation because my 90-year-old mother-in-law did not have an easy time with those stairs.  We were also rather squashed at our table.  They put 9 of us at a table made for 6.Food and drink are what counts, so let's talk about that.I started my evening with a cocktail.  This was a raspberry-lychee bellini.  I love proseco cocktails!We got some appetizers for the table.  We had a platter of salami and homemade pickles and "ramp toast".  These were slices of toasted bread spread with ramps and goat cheese.  They were delicious.  The salumi plate was good, but what was really outstanding were the spicy pickles. They consisted of peppers, jicama, and cauliflower.  I want to learn how to make this myself.For entree I had a pork chop wrapped in prosciutto with sauteed mushrooms on the side in a creamy white wine sauce.  You know how people complain about expensive restaurants serving small portions?  This was not the case here (although the fish portions were kind of small).The food here had some kid-friendly options as well.  There was a burger on the main entree menu as well as a menu of pizzas.  My nephew, who has a list of about 6 foods he will eat, ordered a beef tenderloin and finished the whole thing - something I have never seen hi[...]



I'm Bananas for Muffins

2016-05-30T12:25:20.244-04:00

I considered making this post title simple and sedate and merely state what the recipe was for, but my never ending desire to create bad puns just won out.Look, it's The Essential Rhubarb Pie.  Bad puns are just a part of what this blog is about.I think the pun suits this post perfectly because today's recipe had a literary inspiration.  I always say that I sometimes take my inspiration from the strangest places.  I decided to create this recipe from just a simple passage in book.  Recently I read David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks.  If this book had been a story about women gathering in their kitchens and bonding over making muffins, the inspiration might make more sense.  The Bone Clocks isn't a book even tangentially about food.  It is a work of science fiction.In one brief scene, an eager servant offers the main characters some banana cherry muffins.  When they don't accept the offer right away, he mentions the muffins contain white chocolate chips.Suddenly instead of focusing on the plot of the novel, I focused on the food.  When you mention food, that's where I will always focus."Banana cherry muffins with white chocolate chips?" I asked myself.  "I think that sounds like something I should make."  For my entire life I have made banana bread and banana muffins with chocolate chips or nuts. Cherries and white chocolate would be like no other banana bread I have made before.  Even though I'm not that fond of white chocolate, I imagined they would go with the cherries nicely.With the long weekend ahead of me and not many plans except for my mother's birthday dinner, it seemed like the perfect time to experiment with such a recipe.I had some buttermilk left over from earlier in the week, so I looked at ways to adjust a banana bread recipe to contain buttermilk.  I played with a few other ingredients as well.  I soaked the cherries in rum for example and added a little bit more flour to compensate for the extra liquid.  I decided to add some brown sugar into the sugar mix to adjust the flavor even more.  I went back and forth with the idea of using fresh or dried cherries.  Fresh (or in this case frozen) won out.  I liked the idea of biting into a nice big juicy cherry instead of dealing with chewy dried ones.  If you're a maraschino cherry lover, they would probably work nicely in this recipe too.They were dense, but still moist and tasty.  I think this recipe is a keeper. Banana Cherry White Chocolate MuffinsIngredients2 1/4 cups + 1 Tbl Flour1 tsp baking powder1/8 tsp baking sodaPinch salt1 Tbl rum12 oz frozen cherries, thawed3 ripe bananas, mashed1 stick of butter, melted1/4 cup buttermilk 2 large eggs1 cup sugar1/2 cup light brown sugar1 cup white chocolate chipsHeat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray muffin tins (I used one 12-cup and one 6-cup standard size) with cooking spray (or grease the old-fashioned way). In a small bowl, toss cherries with the rum and set aside.  Toss the chocolate chips with 1 Tbl flour in another bowl and set aside. In a large bowl sift together remaining flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.In another bowl beat together the bananas and sugars.  Beat in the buttermilk, eggs, and butter.Carefully add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients.  Mix gently until the dry ingredients are just moistened.  Fold in the cherries and the chocolate chips.Pour the batter into 18 muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full[...]



Mother's Day and Sunday Sauce

2016-05-31T15:44:19.454-04:00

Do you ever wonder why restaurants only ever seem to provide brunch for Mother's Day?  Do people think mothers only ever want to eat breakfast food?  I quit going to those over-crowded, overhyped, Mother's Day restaurant brunches years ago.  Kevin and I take my mother and mother-in-law out for a proper dinner the night before (fewer crowds), or else I'll cook a Mother's Day dinner myself.This year I decided to take the cook-at-home option.  It has been a while since I have had family over (Christmas to be exact, and if you read this blog, you know all the craziness that happened that day) and I felt it was time to open up our home again and serve a home-cooked meal.  I often have a menu planned before I even set a date for a dinner party.  This time I was stumped.  What would I make that Mom would love?Although I come from an Italian family, Sunday macaroni dinners were not a given for me growing up (although they were for my mother).  My most vivid memories of "Sunday Sauce" were ones I had as an adult.  As my grandmother grew older and the Alzheimer's took more of a grip on her brain, we began gathering at her place on Sundays for macaroni every week so we could all be together.  As a child my (Irish) grandfather made the meatballs and the sauce on pasta nights.  My uncle took over the job when he died.  Pasta dinners were never elaborate in my family.  There were meatballs and sausage but rarely anything else in the sauce.  It was enough.I remember my grandmother would say all the time, "We don't have to have macaroni all the time.  We can have something else if you prefer."  We would say we were fine with it.  Then we would ask her if she was okay with macaroni.  Her reply was always, "I could eat it every day."  And so our Sunday evening menu never changed.I also remember after dinner we would often gather around the TV and watch The Simpsons.  Since Grandma didn't see or hear too well, she didn't really understand the show.  She would angrily demand to know why we were watching cartoons and snippily say, "We don't have to watch cartoons, you know."  It was hard to explain to a 90-year old woman with dementia that we really did want to watch The Simpsons. Those memories are what finally inspired my Mother's Day menu.  My mother inherited that love of Sunday Dinner and that intense love of pasta.  We had been discussing for months how much she missed gathering for the traditional macaroni on Sunday.  It made no sense to plan some elaborate menu.   We needed good old fashioned macaroni with all the trimmings.  Note that I say macaroni.  You will find that's a pretty traditional term in Italian families in my neck of the woods.  I grew up dividing pasta into two categories.  The long strands were spaghetti, but everything else - whether ziti, rigatoni, or shells, or spirals - was simply macaroni.  I grew up with other kids who called all of it macaroni regardless. You will also note that I call it sauce.  Italian families around here were just as likely to call it "gravy".  I don't know where that term comes from.  Even in my family there was no agreement.  My mother's side of the family always called it sauce.  My father's side of the family called it gravy.  I remember telling my maternal grandmother and other members of that side about Gran[...]



A Taste of Mamaroneck

2016-05-10T15:17:41.423-04:00

I hate being stuck at home when I'm not at work.  If it's a miserable cold winter day I don't mind being inside, but if the temperatures are above freezing and the roads are drive-able, you can bet I want to be doing something - anything - other than sit at home. I don't spend large amounts of time on the weekend at home, as everyone knows, because I'm out riding all weekend.  Riding gets me out of the house and keeps me active.  The only time I'm not riding is because because I have another event to attend or the weather stops me (and if the weather is bad enough to stop me from riding, it's a day I don't mind sitting at home).Events conspired to keep me away from the horses this weekend.  It wasn't the weather and it wasn't any sort of family commitment.  I had to stay home because the Tappan Zee Bridge, currently undergoing a massive reconstruction project, was closed for two days.  If you are not from around here and don't know what the Tappan Zee Bridge is, you only need to know one fact.  It is a major part of my commute to the barn.  So I was going to be stuck at home on a spring weekend with no plans to do anything else.  I had to spring in to action.Fortunately, my town provided me with a convenient activity for a rainy Sunday in May.  Sunday was my town's 10th Annual Taste of Mamaroneck Wine Trail.  I had always been curious about this event, but never went to it because I was always out riding.  It was a happy coincidence that it would take place on a rare weekend that I couldn't be out riding.My town has plenty of restaurants.  I have reviewed many of them here on this blog.  There are others I have never tried.  There are a few that I like but don't visit often.  I liked the idea of being able to spend the afternoon trying a little bit of everything.It was a cold, wet, day.  It wasn't the kind of day I had hoped for. This is the kind of thing you prefer to do on a glorious spring day.  However, eating and drinking can be done in any kind of weather. We were provided with maps and a list of participating restaurants. Finally the trolley arrived and we boarded and headed for our first stop.The first restaurant was Andrea's 25 North (reviewed here).  The owner was not prepared to be the first stop on the tour.  He had wine ready to be poured, but the chef had not even arrived to cook us anything.We were offered chianti or rose to drink.The kitchen staff did arrive eventually.  They appeared to be cooking some fettuccine alfredo and it smelled divine.  Just before they were ready to serve it, the trolley arrived.  The chef begged us to stay, but we decided to board the trolley and move on.  It would be too long of a wait for the trolley to come again and it was a bit too far of a walk in that weather to just walk to the next restaurant.The next stop was the Sedona Tap House.  They occupy a space that was once an Applebees and long before that, a Ground Round, so the location seems to lend itself to chains.  This chain restaurant just opened its doors this week, so their timing was perfect to introduce themselves to the neighborhood.   I'm not fond of chain restaurants, but this place had a nice (if somewhat noisy vibe).  They had a clear focus on draft beer.  It was like an southwestern version of The Yard House.They offered us a bee[...]



Pork and Pie Post-Easter

2016-04-16T21:15:27.806-04:00

In case you were wondering why I had no Easter post this year, it's because Easter didn't quite happen the normal way in my family. (Does anything normal ever happen in my family?)I spent the past month in rehearsals for my latest play.  I had very little time to cook or bake anything elaborate.  When I did have time to bake, it was for the concession stand at the show.Even more importantly, my brother spent Easter in Florida with his in-laws.  There weren't too many people here up north to have a big family dinner.The only solution (other than canceling Easter altogether) was to have Easter dinner two weeks late.  Then it would be after my last performance and long past the day my brother's family returned from Florida.Dinner was a collaborative effort.  Mom hosted and provided the bulk of the food and beverages.  I had a special request to bring the pork.  I had several ideas for how I would prepare a pork shoulder (my favorite cut), but my brother requested I make one of my family long-time favorites:  Pork with Wine and Grapes, from my old Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine cookbook.I have made this recipe a few times before and have shown it on the blog.  I have even made some more simplified, slimmed down versions.  I thought I'd reshare it.When I have made this in the past, I usually used a loin.  The recipe actually calls for a butt.  A butt is certainly a better cut for this dish since it would do a better job of standing up to a slow braise.  The meat is supposed to a 4lb boneless roast.  One reason I always used the loin is that it's not easy to find a boneless, 4lb butt.I was quite daring for this meal and purchased a bone-in butt from Heritage Foods USA.  Even though my knife skills are not the greatest, I managed to cut out the bone and tie it up. I had more meat attached to the bone than I wanted, so I cut those chunks off and stuffed them in the middle.   It was ready for the marinade of brandy, thyme, onions, and garlic.After an overnight marinade, it's browned and then braised in white wine and the marinade.  At the end of cooking, you add the grapes and a cup of heavy cream.Make sure when you serve it you have plenty of bread handy to soak up that delicious juice.Dessert was also my responsibility.  Easter is a time for chocolate.  When I think of Easter I think of chocolate bunnies, and caramel, and Cream Eggs.  I wanted lots of chocolate and lots of goo.  I wanted decadence that would still be accessible to the children in the family. I went for rich chocolate and gooey caramel.This was a variation on my old turtle pie, meant to be a pie version of turtle candies (chocolate ganache on top of caramel and pecans).  This pie had no nuts in it though, and was primarily milk chocolate.  Why didn't I just make the turtle pie?  It was mostly for the sake of the kids.  They don't like nuts and most kids prefer milk chocolate.  My husband prefers milk chocolate too.The pie started with a cookie crumb crust.  Once it was baked, I added a layer of thick homemade caramel sauce.  Next I added a layer of milk chocolate ganache gently flavored with a nip of Baileys.  Finally I put a thin layer of dark chocolate ganache just for contrast.  I drizzled a bit more caramel sauce.Do you think it was rich enough?We also had spinach las[...]