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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Time to Tap the Maples!

In New England where I live the maple- tapping season begins around mid- February and lasts four to six weeks. People come from miles away to visit farms with maple groves where buckets hang from tree trunks to catch the sap. When this liquid is boiled down, it turns into a rich, golden syrup.       

The tapping season always inspires me take advantage of this beautiful “liquid gold.”  I love to drizzle pure maple syrup over a stack of pancakes, a plate of waffles, or a platter of French toast.  But, I also use this delicious syrup in less traditional ways. Instead of sugar it makes a fine sweetener for whipped cream to serve with a slice of apple pie, or it can be combined with fresh lime juice to enhance mashed sweet potatoes or butternut squash.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A New Flour Delivers Delicious Healthy Flavor to Waffles

A few weeks ago, I was working on a recipe for waffles made with whole wheat and white flours when one of my talented assistants asked, “Why don’t you use King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat Flour?”  She took me totally off guard. I was not aware of this product and looked it up on line. It turns out that this flour has all the nutritional benefits of whole-wheat flour, but is surprisingly light in both color and taste. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Irish Coffee, Of Course

If you’re planning to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, what could be better than to toast your friends with a cup of steaming coffee scented with Irish whiskey and topped with a floating cloud of whipped cream?

Irish coffee has an interesting history that starts in Ireland and finishes on the west coast of the U.S.  As the story goes, this special java drink was created in the Shannon airport in the mid-twentieth century where it was a restorative offering served to weary passengers. The recipe was brought to the States by a San Franciscan who shared it with his hometown’s Buena Vista Bar. The hot, strong coffee infused with Irish whiskey became the signature drink of that California bar, and eventually its popularity spread throughout the U.S. and around the globe. The following version is my favorite.

1/4 cup good quality Irish whiskey (Jameson’s works well.)
8 teaspoons sugar
1 1/3 cups or more brewed hot coffee, preferably strong, dark French roast
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream, whipped softly

Place 1 tablespoon of whiskey and 2 teaspoons of sugar in each of four 8-ounce glasses or cups. Stir with a spoon until sugar dissolves. Pour enough hot coffee into each glass or cup to fill it about 3/4 full.

Hold a tablespoon (with the back of the spoon facing you) over the coffee in one cup, and ladle 2 to 3 tablespoons of the whipped cream over the spoon so that it gently falls into the coffee. Adding the cream this way will help it float on top of coffee instead of sinking immediately to the bottom. Repeat with the 3 other servings. Serve immediately.

Serves  4

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fast, Delicious, Healthy – A Great Weeknight Meal

A few weeks ago, my son, who does all the cooking in his family, emailed me a recipe that he claimed had become his salvation on hectic weeknights. He explained that it was an all-in-one main course that featured cod fillets on a bed of spinach, tomatoes, garlic, and olives, all conveniently layered on a large baking sheet. The dish took only about 15 minutes to assemble, then 25 minutes in the oven. When roasted, the fish, scented with an accent of lemon, was moist, and the mélange of vegetables melded into a tempting softness.

But here’s the best part: a quick trip to the supermarket is all that is needed to put this entrée together. Waltz through the produce aisle; put bags of pre-washed spinach and some tomatoes in your cart; walk by the salad bar and pick up pitted Kalamatas and roasted garlic; and finally make a quick stop at the fish department.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Let The Good Times Roll

I am all set for Mardi Gras, which falls this year on Tuesday, March 8th.  For the past few weeks I’ve been testing dishes for a new cookbook, Sunday Brunch. One of my favorite recipes from the collection has turned out to be shrimp and grits. From the first bite, I knew that these extra creamy grits, seasoned with two cheeses and topped with a spicy tomato, shrimp, and andouille sausage mélange, were redolent of New Orleans. 

An all-in one casserole, these grits would be perfect to serve for a weekend brunch celebration. Add a mixed greens salad tossed in a red wine vinaigrette, either warm crusty baguettes or cornbread, and, of course, a little bubbly for toasting. For a light finish combine orange segments, fresh pineapple slices, and blueberries garnished with mint. If you want to be truly authentic with your caffeine offering, check at the super market for French Market Coffee and Chicory ( This terrific dark brew has a hint of chicory just like the cups of java in the French Quarter.

Mardi Gras colors are purple, yellow, and green, if you’re searching for inspiration for the table. And, for music, consider playing some Wynton Marsalis, the Neville Brothers, or classic Louis Armstrong. “Laissez les bon temps rouler.”

Spicy Shrimp and Grits

1 cup old fashioned (not instant or quick) grits
3/ 4 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
3/4 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Spicy Shrimp
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/3 cup chopped green onion (including 2 inches of green stems)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more if needed
One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained well
1 pound medium shrimp (30 count), peeled and deveined with tails left on
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Butter a shallow, 2-quart oven-to-table baking dish.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan (with a lid) set over medium high heat. Pour the grits in slowly. Then add the salt and whisk well.  

When mixture comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and cover pan.  Cook the grits at a gentle simmer, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes, so that they do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the grits have thickened, about 15 minutes or according to package directions.

Remove the grits from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the cheddar and all of the Parmesan cheese. Season with black pepper, cayenne pepper, and more salt if needed. Spread the grits in an even layer in the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheddar over the top. (Grits can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before baking.)

To bake the grits, arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake grits until they are  hot and the cheese has melted on top, about 25 minutes. If you would like to brown the cheese on top, arrange an oven rack 4 to 5 inches from the broiler and turn on broiler. Broil until the cheese starts to brown lightly, 2 to 3 minutes.

While the grits are in the oven, prepare the shrimp. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet set over medium heat. When hot, add sausage and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the green onions and garlic and stir 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and cayenne pepper and stir 2 minutes more. Finally, add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until they turn pink and curl, about 4 minutes. Season the mixture with salt and black pepper. (For a spicier taste, add additional cayenne.) 

To serve, spoon the shrimp mixture down the center on top of the grits. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the shrimp.

Serves 6