Monday, March 15, 2010

Blood Oranges with Rosemary-Infused Warm Honey

I noticed blood oranges in the market just the other day, and then with the utmost impecable timing, a colleague of mine who owns the Chefs Private Table posted a recipe for this healthy dessert. Thanks Chef Stu! (More about rosemary after the recipe.)

Blood Oranges with Rosemary-Infused Warm Honey

Based on a recipe shared by Chef Stu of Chefs Private Table

Serves: 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: About 10 minutes including resting time
Difficulty: Super Easy
3 blood oranges (I used 2 and one navel orange)
1/4 cup sourwood honey (my favorite; you use yours!)
1/4 cup warm water
2 (4-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary

Trim the blossom and stem ends off the oranges. Standing each orange on end and using a sharp knife, follow the contour of the orange and cut away the peel and the white pith, then slice the orange into disks, about 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the orange slices on a platter or individual plates.

In a small saucepan, combine the honey, water, and rosemary and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Watch carefully and when the liquid becomes like syrup (water evaporates out) remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes. The rosemary will infuse the honey with all its lucious flavor.

Remove the rosemary from the honey and drizzle the warm syrup over the orange slices. Garnish with the rosemary sprigs and serve at room temperature.

Note: If there is one herb you should grow in your yard or a pot on the deck in a sunny spot, it is rosemary. You can find small plants for very reasonable prices at home and garden stores and once planted, they grow into shrub-like plants and live for years.

I love having rosemary to use year-round, and during the holidays the sprigs are a fragrant addition to wreaths and floral arrangements. Rosemary also blooms with tiny lavender flowers that are a perfect and unexpected garnish.

Rosemary is the perfect pairing for spring lamb, and in the winter is a wonderful addition to beef stew. Mince finely and sprinkle on foccacia bread. Or just rub your fingers across it when you are out in the yard and enjoy the fragrance!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Easy & Fancy Salmon & Buckwheat Blini Hors d'Oeuvres

This is so delicious and so easy that I hope you try it. Little rosettes of Norwegian salmon top a dollop of sour cream egg salad on a tiny buckwheat pancake and a garnish of chives is all that comprise this hors d'oeuvre. You can make the pancakes (blinis) ahead of time and freeze for up to about one month.

Other toppings work well, too. No time for making the egg salad? Stir a bit of finely chopped fresh dill fronds and grated lemon rind into creme fraiche and use that instead, then garnish with pieces of the feathery dill fronds. Rinsed and drained tiny capers also make a great addition.

If you don't have the blinis, use crackers, but we love the creamy mouth feel of the salmon, egg salad, and soft blinis. Oh, and this is an affordable hors d'oeuvre because you stretch the salmon by slicing each piece in half AND you'll have lots of blinis left over to freeze for future parties, or heat them in the oven at 350 the next morning and serve them as "silver dollar" pancakes for breakfast.

Salmon & Buckwheat Blinis

Serves: 4 (2 pieces each) with more blinis left over
Difficulty: Super easy
Prep Time: About 30 minutes
Composition Time: About 10 minutes

For blinis:
2 tablespoons of buckwheat flour
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg white
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, divided in half

Combine dry ingredients and whisk together in a medium size bowl. In a measuring cup, stir together egg yolk and milk. In separate bowl, whisk egg white till stiff.
Stir together the dry and wet ingredients until moist, then stir in 3 tablespoons of the butter. Fold in the beaten egg white.

Heat a nonstick frying pan or griddle over medium high flame, brush with remaining butter and drop blini batter by tablespoons onto hot pan. Flip when golden on bottom side, as you would with pancakes, then remove to a cooling rack and repeat till you have used all the batter.

For Sour Cream Egg Salad:
1 large hard cooked egg, finely minced
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Salt to taste (TT)

Combine egg, sour cream, and one tablespoon chopped chives. Season with salt TT.

For salmon:
4 ounce package Norwegian salmon (nova lox)

Top each blini with a spoonful of egg salad. Take each thinly sliced piece of salmon and cut in half horizontally so each piece will give you two long strips. Starting at a short end, roll the salmon into a rose-shaped design and nestle upright into the egg salad. Garnish with chopped chives.

To hold:
Blinis, egg salad, and salmon slices can be prepared individually ahead of time. Composed blinis can be held, covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge for up to 4 hours.

Wine Pairing:
I love Acacia Pinot Noir from the Los Carneros AVA in California, and it is on sale right now at Lowes Foods for less than $14.00, which makes it very affordable for entertaining. For the Chardonnay lovers, Chateau Ste. Michelle is delicious with this hors d'oeuvre and can be found anywhere for around $13.00. Both of these wines are available at most fine grocery stores. Don't forget to ask your grocer or wine shop about discounts for quantities. Most offer 5% for half cases and 10% for full cases.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Baked Chicken Meatballs, a Tasty & Healthy Alternative to Chicken Nuggets

Lots of kids love chicken nuggets, and lots of parents love the convenience, but why not make a healthier version? This recipe for chicken meatballs uses convenient ground chicken (find it next to the boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the poultry section of your supermarket) and is baked instead of fried, eliminating lots of fat. The meatballs freeze great, too, making it convenient for quick suppers on busy days. The Spicy Italian Tomato Sauce from my last blog post makes a great sauce for these meatballs, and you can put more garlic and oregano in the mixture to turn them into delicious Italian style meatballs. Just be sure to simmer them a bit in the sauce after they are baked. Yum! These freeze great, too, making this a convenient and healthy choice for quick suppers on busy days.

Baked Chicken Meatballs
(Based on an old recipe from Gourmet Magazine)
Serves 4
Difficulty: Super Easy
Prep Time: About 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 - 20 minutes


3 slices whole wheat bread, torn into pieces
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons low sodium chicken broth
3 ounces lean ham (from the deli)
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons finely minced red bell pepper (opt.)
1 large egg or equivalent amount of egg substitute
1 pound ground chicken
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet cake pan with foil and spray it with vegetable spray.
  • Soak bread in broth until softened, just a couple of minutes, and squeeze out broth, reserving bread. (Discard the broth.)
  • In a medium saute pan sprayed with vegetable oil spray, cook ham, onion, bell pepper, and garlic with the 1-2 tablespoons chicken broth till onion softens a bit. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon EACH of salt and pepper. Set aside to cool a bit.
  • Lightly beat egg in large bowl, then add chicken, ham and onion mixture, bread, parsley and tomato paste.
  • Form 12 meatballs and arrange on foil-covered sheet pan.
  • Bake in uppper third of oven until meatballs are just cooked through, 15-20 minutes.
  • Cool and freeze, or serve hot


For children or hors d'oeuvre: serve meatballs with honey mustard, barbecue sauce, honey, or other favorite "dipping" sauce.

For everyone:
Stuff meatballs into split whole wheat pita bread along with diced onion and tomato and shredded lettuce. Create Tsatsiki sauce by combining non-fat yogurt (Greek is grea!), minced onion, garlic, cucumber, and lemon juice. Serve Tsatsiki sauce with chicken meatball pitas.

To freeze:
Cool and portion into zip lock or Foodsaver bags and freeze for easy meals. Reheat in microwave or in 400 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quick & Spicy Italian Tomato Sauce

It's been a long time since I've posted to this blog, I know. Life just took over and got very busy, but I'm excited about all the cooking I've been doing and can't wait to share new recipes with you.

March is National Sauce Month, and when I read that post from one of my chef friends on Facebook, I thought about my Spicy Italian Tomato Sauce and how easy it is to make this one time and use it for so many different meals. Forget about the long simmer time that we think of when we think about homemade sauces. I think a shorter simmer time for this sauce keeps the fresh tomato flavors bright. Of course, using a good tomato product is important, so steer clear of big box store brands in favor of San Marzano, Muir Glen, Furmanos, Centro, Hunts, or store brands labeled "Fancy," which often indicate they are San Marzano-style tomatoes. Taste test and see which ones you like the most (and let me know because I'm curious).

This sauce is easily adjusted to your tastes, too. If you don't want it so spicy, then decrease or omit the red pepper flakes. If you're not that wild about oregano, leave it out. If you want to use all fresh herbs, then add them right at the end instead of at the beginning.

In fact, that is a good lesson for today about herbs: If you are using dried herbs, add them toward the beginning of any recipe to give the oils in the herbs a chance to be released and flavor your dish. If you are using fresh herbs, add them at the end to keep their flavor and color bright.

Spicy Italian Tomato Sauce

Easy to throw together when you get home from work, then simmer while you change clothes, check homework, throw a load of laundry in the washer, etc. Or make this on a less-busy day and double or even triple the recipe and package in 2-cup portions to freeze or share with friends. Suggestions for dishes made with this sauce appear after the recipe below.

Serves 8

Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Diets: Vegan; Gluten and Dairy Free


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced, or to taste (TT)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, crumbled
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or TT
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes in puree
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup dry red wine (buy a bottle of Chianti to cook with and then to drink with your meal)
1 bay leaf


Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, oregano, basil, marjoram, and crushed red pepper. Cover and cook until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Pour whole tomatoes into a large bowl and break them up with your fingers. Add these with their juice, the crushed tomatoes, the red wine, and the bay leaf to the onion mixture; simmer gently, uncovered, until the sauce thickens a bit, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf before serving or storing. Adjust seasoning (salt) TT. Add a teaspoon or so of sugar if necessary.


Toss with your favorite cooked pasta; roast with peeled, quartered potatoes until they are tender; add to your favorite basic meatloaf recipe and then spread over top before baking; add to pork or beef roast in crockpot cooking; brown chicken pieces and simmer in sauce till cooked through for chicken cacciatiore (or use pieces of cooked rotisserie chicken); brown Italian sausages with sliced onions and bell peppers, then toss with sauce; simmer mussels or clams in sauce in covered pan till shells open. Use your imagination to create other quick and delicious meals with your sauce!