Monthly Archives: December 2011

Bison & Lamb Meatballs (serves 6-8)

My kids love meatballs! I did not grow up eating them myself so never understood the attraction? I had never actually made them until my kids were old enough to order them in a restaurant, or eat them at their grandmother’s house, and then began asking me to make them for dinner. Hmmmm? I figured out the process quickly enough and I have to say, I throughly enjoy each step; from the squelching of the meat with my hands to combine the ingredients, to rolling them into perfect balls (well, to me they’re perfect!).

Another great dish for dinner

After a lot of experimentation over the years I have come up with a basic recipe, and go from there. There are so many variations, I am sure you could write a cookbook titled “A Zillion Meatball Recipes”, and still come up with more!

It is no wonder on Christmas Day, as part of our grand feast, there was a delectable bowl of meatballs gracing the table. I used bison, which is lovely and lean, and added the fat juicy element with the lamb. I used fresh rosemary and thyme to bring out a perfume-y note, and they were spot on.

I may be forced to make them again next year.

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You will need: 3 lbs ground bison and lamb (you can also use beef in combination with one of the other two meats), 1 large sweet onion, small dice, 4 slices bread, 3/4 cup milk, 2 tsp sea-salt (I used Maldon sea-salt flakes), several grinds of black pepper, 2 tsp chopped rosemary, 1 tsp thyme leaves (or leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme), 2 eggs, 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 cup all-purpose flour.

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Tear bread into pieces, and place in small bowl and cover with milk. Set aside to soak.

cook onions until very soft

2 – Put saute pan on medium heat and add 2 tbs of oil. When it has warmed, add the diced onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn heat down to low, cover and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until very soft. Set aside.

add the onions and herbs to ground meat and eggs

3 – Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat briefly with a fork. Add the meat, salt, pepper, herbs, onions and soaked bread. Mix everything together with your hands until ingredients are well-mixed

4 – Put the flour into a shallow bowl and rub a little oil on your hands. Form meat balls, and roll in flour (a little smaller than a golf ball). Place meatball on a big floured platter. Continue until all the meat is done.

roll meatball in flour

5 – Pour about 2 or 3 tbs of oil on a large baking sheet and place in the oven. Leave for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven, and place all of the meatballs on the tray in an even layer. Place in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

6 – Take out of oven and turn each meatball. Place back into oven and check after 12 minutes. When they are nicely browned, remove from oven.

cook meatballs in the oven

You can serve these as part of a grander feast (as we did!), or, with the ubiquitous spaghetti and red sauce. You can also make meatball sandwiches, or serve them with rice and vegetables. The possibilities are endless.

You can also freeze them in plastic bags to be whipped out as the need arises.

Simply Chicken & Sausage Soup (serves 6)

If in doubt; make soup! We had been in “party” mode for the past week and last night I said, “STOP!” I needed a moment to ourselves to recovery for heavy food soaked in wine (if you know what I mean!)

Simply Chicken & Sausage Soup

My daughter asked me what was for dinner, and I told her I had chicken, sausages, and various vegetables in the fridge, (thinking that she might help me make a menu decision). All she said was “great, cook it all up!”

That meant she was hungry, and would eat anything. She got me thinking however, and so I decided, why not cook it all up together? That is how this thrown together soup came about.

Delicious, if I do say so myself. Sometimes not thinking results in very thoughtful food!

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You will need: 3 chicken breast fillets, thinly sliced, 1 lb sausage, removed from casing and torn into bite-sized pieces, (I used a herb-infused Polish Sausage, but any seasoned sausage would do; Italian, garlic & herb, apple smoked…), 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 sweet onion, diced, 1 baby bok choy, diced, 10 escarole leaves, chopped, 1 cup baby peas (I used frozen), 2 tbs lime juice, 1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 1 tsp sea-salt (I used Maldon sea-salt flakes), freshly cracked black pepper, 2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary leaves, 1 vegetarian stock cube ( I used Rapunzel brand), 8 cup water, 3 cups cooked basmati rice (optional), slices of crusty bread (optional).

*if you are on the blood type A diet; omit the sausage*

saute onions, then bok choy

1 – Put soup pot or heavy casserole (about 4 qts on medium heat and add oil. Add diced onion and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bok choy and continue to saute for another 5 minutes.

add sausage

2 – Add the sausage, breaking up sausage into pieces as it cooks for about 6 minutes.

add rosemary

3 – Add the rosemary, several grinds of pepper, cayenne pepper flakes and salt, and continue to cook for another 3 or so minutes.

add liquid, peas, stock cube

4 – Add the chicken, stock cube, peas, and water and bring everything to a boil.

add escarole

5 – Add escarole leaves, stir, and turn heat down to low. Cover, and simmer gently for about 12 minutes. Stir in lime juice and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Pot O' soup

Serve with a 1/2 cup of rice in the bottom of each bowl, with crusty bread, or on it’s own. Any of these would be perfect.

Baby Back Ribs Cooked in Sparkling Apple Cider & Herbs For Tom’s Christmas Party (serves 8 as Main Course, 12 as Part of Larger Meal)

 So much of this festive season was spent planning food, cooking, eating, and visiting friends and family. This particular evening was devised by Tom who asked if I would help by making a main course and a giant salad. I asked how many people I should keep in mind, and he said he expected around 12. I was very excited about having this get-together as some of my dearest friends would be travelling a long distance to spend christmas with us, and they were going to get to join us at Tom’s.

This is what I made for Tom’s Christmas Party

I hummed and hawed about what to make. I wanted to cook a giant portion of something, but didn’t want it to be fussy and hard to reheat when we got there. I had lots of ingredients to choose from as I had just stocked my kitchen to the gills with every sort of food imaginable in anticipation of Christmas gluttony! I settled on 5 lbs of baby-back ribs. 

Evidence of Santa’s existence

I wanted to cook them in wine and herbs, but found I had neglected to buy any white wine (prefer red). I panicked a little, but, upon seeing the 1/2 bottle of the kids sparkling apple cider changed my plan. Apples and pork are traditionally a fantastic combination, so, this would do the trick. That, along with the delectable white sweet potatoes I had bought to roast for christmas dinner (oh well) would complete my vision of braised tender pork in sweet syrup-y broth.

Everyone got a Christmas cracker

I was surprised at how this simple dish came together. It was wonderful on every level; tender meat, herb-infused flavor, mouth-watering potatoes, and delicately sweet broth. 

I was also surprised to find not 12 people, but around 18 when we arrived. Tom apparently had  gotten deep into the christmas spirit and invited a crowd, and cooked food to match!

Snowball bowl of eggnog!

It was the funnest party I had been to in ages. My friends had arrived exhausted from their drive a little earlier, and I whooshed them up to the shower, and off we went. They were revived body and soul, and I was so happy to have been able to start off their visit with something spectacular. 

I ate all sorts of wonderful food, but the oddest thing I tried was eggnog. I have lived in this country for more years than I care to admit, but have never tried this American Christmas elixir before. Being that it was served from a bowl that looked a snowball, with cups to match, I couldn’t resist.

It was creamy, with overtones of nutmeg, and a strong blast of whiskey on the backend; wow! I drank 2 cups very happily after dinner, and was warned to stop if I didn’t want to feel it in the morning.

The morning did start out a little hazy, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

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You will need: 5 lbs baby back ribs, cut into 1 or 2 rib pieces, 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 2 or 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, 5 sprigs fresh thyme, 4 white sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large slices, (orange sweet potatoes would work also),  4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, 1 large sweet onion, diced, 1 1/2 cup sparkling apple cider, 1 vegetable stock cube, (I use Rapunzel brand), 2 1/2 cups water (or, 2 1/2 cups chicken broth), 1 tsp sea-salt, freshly cracked black pepper. *you will also need a very big casserole pot*

Preheat oven 375*

1 – Put big saute pan on high heat and add some of the oil. Sear the ribs in batches until they have browned (part of the ribs will not make contact with the pan, but don’t worry, just brown what you can). Transfer to the big casserole as you go (you will also need to add oil as needed).

sear ribs

2 – Turn pan down to medium/low and add onions and garlic. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently.

saute onions and garlic

3 – Add the herbs and sliced potatoes and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the apple cider and stock (or water & bouillon cube) and turn up heat. Bring liquid to a boil and scrape as much of the brown bits stuck to the pan into the liquid as possible. . Turn off heat.

add potatoes and liquid

4 – Carefully pour the vegetable and broth mixture over the ribs and cover with lid. Place in oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. *This can also be made ahead and reheated gently on stove-top*

cook in oven and you get this!

This can be served as is, or with a green salad (as below). either way, this dish is absolutely fabulous.

I had my ribs with a fresh salad

Along with what I brought, Tom also serves the following mouth-watering dishes:

Paella

Salt-crusted Wild Norwegian Salmon

Fresh pistachios brought directly from Turkey by a visiting friend

Cake by Tina & Bridget

festive ribbons of hard sugar sweets

Sweet  flaky pastry made by Tom (I had to top it off with some sugary candy pieces)

In the thick of the party

Wild Norwegian Salmon Steaks with Festive Rice & Avocado Fan (serves 6)

 It all started when my friend Tom showed up at the back door with an early Christmas present. He apparently could not resist a 13 lb wild Norwegian salmon at a fabulous fish counter in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. And, of course Tom being one of the most generous people I have ever known, had to share this beauty with someone. I happen to be the lucky recipient of half of it!

Hunk O' Salmon!

I was then faced with a dilemma; what to do with it? I had no room in my freezer as it was stocked with Christmas goodies, and anyway hated to freeze it since it was so very fresh. I cut it into steaks and committed to having salmon two nights in a row. (stay tuned for second posting on this wild fish!)

Wild Norwegian Salmon with Festive Rice

These steaks were “girth-y” and so I thought a strong marinade of soy sauce would hold up nicely, not to mention, the saltiness of the soy combined with the sweetness of the salmon, would make for a killer combination of flavors.

I paired it with a happy, colorful rice dish, and we dined like kings.

Thank you dear Tom.

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You will need: 6 salmon steaks (or more if some are small), 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup mirin, 1 tsp fine sugar,  6 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 onion, diced, 2 celery ribs, sliced, 3 carrots, medium sliced, 1/2 cup baby peas (I used frozen), 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped, 1 tbs freshly grated ginger (use smallest side of grater), 1 sprig rosemary, 2 tbs lime juice, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 1 vegetable stock cube, 1 1/3 cup water (or, 1 1/3 cup veggie broth), sea-salt & freshly cracked black pepper, 8 cups cooked basmati rice.

1 – Mix the soy, mirin and sugar in a shallow casserole, and add salmon. Leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes, ( can marinate overnight).

Marinate salmon

2 – Put rice on to cook. Use 2 1/2 cups for stove-top and 3 cups if using rice cooker measure and rice cooker. When cooked, set aside (turn off rice cooker).

3 – Put large saute pan on medium heat and add oil. When it had warmed, add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

saute onions, celery & carrots

4 – Add the parsley, rosemary and ginger. Stir and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.

add the herbs and ginger

5 – Add the broth (or water and stock cube) and peas, and turn heat up to bring to a boil. Turn down, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste broth for addition of sea-salt and pepper.

add the peas, then the broth & pepper flakes

6 – Add rice and stir. Keep warm until ready to serve. Add more broth or water if you would like the rice to be looser.

Add rice

7 – Put another saute pan on medium/high heat and add 3 tbs of oil. Shake excess liquid from fish and add to pan in an even layer. Don’t crowd the pan (you may have to do this in batches). Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, touching the steaks as little as possible and adding more oil as you need it.

fry salmon

Serve with slices of avocado and sour cream mixed with sriracha sauce if you so desire.

garnish with avocado & sour cream and you're good to go!

Seafood Stew (serves 4 as Main Course, 8 as Starter)

This had to be the highlight for me as far as our Christmas Day Feast was concerned. I had great expectations, and it surpassed them all! I wanted to serve a seafood dish using all of my favorite fish, but did not want it to be a big hassle. I had lots of other dishes planned for the meal so thought the best thing to do would be to buy the freshest seafood I could find, and let it speak for itself!

Seafood Stew for Christmas, too good to be true!

 Planning this dish out took more time than the actual preparation. Which herbs and veggies to use, and should it be cooked in broth or butter and oil? With all the other things I had to do, I decided a tomato-based broth would be easier to control. 

It was sumptuous. The squid was so tender, with not the slightest hint of rubbery-ness. The cod and salmon flaked beautifully, and everyone slurped until the bottoms of their bowls were clearly visible. Even the hesitant “tentacle” eaters were converted. It was a brilliant start to a memorable Christmas Dinner.

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You will need:  3 lbs assorted seafood & fish (I used 1 lb squid bodies, sliced into 1/2″ rings, 1/2 lb squid tentacles, 1 lb cod, cut into large bite-sized pieces, 1/2 lb salmon fillets, cut into large bite-sized pieces), 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, 5 or 6 scallions, sliced, 1 celery rib, small dice, 2 tsp chopped rosemary leaves, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped, 14oz can plum tomatoes, including juice, roughly chopped, 1 cup chicken or veggie broth, sea-salt and freshly cracked black pepper for seasoning.

1 – Put pot (about 3 or 4 qt) on medium heat and add the oil. When it has warmed, add the scallions, celery, and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the rosemary, parsley and thyme and continue to cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

saute scallions, garlic and herbs

2 – Add the tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Add the seafood, stir, and bring back to a boil. Turn heat down to low, cover with lid, and simmer gently for 10 to 12 minutes. Take off heat. Taste for addition of salt and pepper, and add according to your taste. Let it sit covered for 5 minutes before serving.

add liquid, then seafood

Serve in warmed shallow bowls. A sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese would not be inappropriate.

Cover and simmer gently for 10 to 12 minutes

Olives Can Save The Day!

I am a firm believer in having a snack or two available for hungry diners. To me, a nice bowl (or two) of delicious olives does the trick every time. You don’t have to spend time on preparations,  just go to a good supermarket, or specialty shop, pick an assortment of olives in a variety of hues, and dump them into a presentable container.

An assortment of Olives (beautiful, and functional bowl made by potter Shawn Ireland)

Your guests will be happy enough to sip wine and eat olives while you frantically put the last-minute touches to dinner. This is what I did last night when my friends and family got a bit peckish while waiting on Christmas dinner.

Will tell you all about what was made in the posts to come!

Festive Salad (serves 6-8)

 If you ever panic about having to make salad in a hurry, I am about to rescue you! This is easy, goes with every main dish imaginable, and will look perfectly festive on your dinner table.

Festive Salad

I cheated and bought the greens already mixed, washed and dried. This saved me tons of time, making it possible to put together a salad last minute!

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You will need: 1 lb wild greens (red & green romaine, red & green Chard, baby spinach, radicchio, mustard greens, collards, kale, beet greens, mizuna, frisee…..to name but a few!), roughly chopped into manageable pieces, 1/3  to 1/2 cup dried cherries, 1 1/2 cups diced strong cheddar, (I used a horseradish cheddar which was amazing!), 1 crisp apples, diced (optional), 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tbs good quality balsamic vinegar, 2 tsp honey, 1/2 tsp sea-salt flakes (I used Maldon), several grinds of freshly cracked black pepper

1 – Put washed and dried salad greens into a bowl and top with cheese, cherries and apples.

2 – Mix oil, balsamic, honey, salt, and pepper together. Taste, and add more balsamic, salt or pepper according to your taste.

Dress salad and toss just before serving.