Ratatouille Méridionnale

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Méridionnale is the southern region of France famous for its ratatouille, classic in that it contains tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, and eggplant, but unusual in that it is cooked gently in the oven, not on the stovetop. This, according to Daniel Boulud, in his cookbook, “Café Boulud Cookbook,” published in 1999.


I bought the cookbook after going to Café Boulud in New York City, not once, but twice during the same visit back in 2010. My daughter and I stayed at the Surrey Hotel, located adjacent to the restaurant. I had accompanied my daughter to New York City for a major interview, which all turned out well.

To make our first night easy I’d made a reservation at Café Boulud, and it was so perfect that went went the next day for lunch. The food, the service, the ambiance – all was truly perfection. One thing that I remember is that when you were brought the check, it came with just-out-of-the-oven Madeleines.

The cookbook is uniquely divided into four parts.
1. La Tradition – the traditional dishes of French cooking
2. La Saison – the seasonal specialties of the market
3. Le Voyage – dishes from lands far and near, and
4. Le Potager – vegetarian dishes that celebrate the bounty of the garden.

So many recipes jumped out at me when I first read the book. A roasted chicken stuffed with a Tuscan bread filling that included chicken livers and prosciutto, for example, and veal chops stuffed with fontina and porcini. But I chose this ratatouille recipe, from the “La Tradition” section.

Right now my garden is abundant with most all of the ingredients in this hearty vegetable dish, so there’s no better time than the present to make ratatouille.

Ratatouille Méridionnale

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled, split, and germ removed
1 onion, peeled, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, deveined, cut into 1” chunks
2 yellow bell peppers, as above
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 small eggplant, about 4 ounces, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
1 zucchini, scrubbed, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
1 yellow squash, scrubbed, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into 1” chunks
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon thinly sliced basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In order for the vegetables to retain their distinctive flavors, you will need either to cook them in batches or to cook them in two separate sauté pans.

Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add 1 clove of garlic, the onion, and the chunks of red and yellow pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften a bit but don’t take on color, about 5 minutes.

Either remove the vegetables and wipe out the pan or, while the peppers are cooking, take another sauté pan and warm the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the second clove of garlic, the eggplant, zucchini, and squash and cook and stir for 8 to 10 minutes, this time allowing the vegetables to color a bit.

Combine the sautéed vegetables in one large ovenproof sauté pan or baking dish and stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, thyme, and bay leaves. Cover the pan with a circle of parchment paper, pressing the paper against the vegetables.


Put the pan in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring the ratatouille every 15 minutes or so.

The ratatouille is done when the vegetables are meltingly tender but still retain their shape. Remove the bay leaves and garlic.

Serve while it’s hot, or when it reaches room temperature. Just before serving, stir in the basil leaves and the squirt of lemon juice.

The ratatouille can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.

Before serving, bring it to room temperature or warm it gently in a slow oven.

I served the ratatouille with roasted chicken. Simple and delicious.

I was really surprised after all the cooking time as well as stirring that the pieces of vegetables remained intact. I have seen many a ratatouille look like mush.

So it’s for that reason alone that I will make this recipe for ratatouille again. It’s pretty, delicious, and perfect for a glut of ripe vegetables.

Avocado Pie

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Yes, you read it right. Avocado pie. And for once, I’m not talking savory. I came across my old friend’s hand-written recipe recently and had to make it this summer. Avocado pie is unique and simply delightful.

Way back in the 70’s I lived in Santa Barbara, California, where I attended college. I had friends who co-habitated in a large house, and I visited them quite often, probably because I was living in a mother-in-law cottage and enjoyed the space, and the music.

These folks were all wonderfully talented bohemian artists, writers, and musicians – a nice change from the nerdy geology majors with whom I attended classes. (Nothing against nerds, as I was one of them.)

One friend stood out for three reasons. First, he looked just like Jesus Christ. Second, he was a classical pianist who was as talented as Van Cliburn. Third, he made this pie, and it’s from him that I got this recipe.


Above from the left: my sister, myself, and Jesus Christ, circa 1975?

So fast forward a million years and I have a cooking blog, and I’ll bet a small minority of you have ever had such a thing as an avocado pie. I only say that because, I’ve never come across one, and I follow hundreds of blogs. It’s a dessert – it has nothing to do with guacamole. And it’s so simple to make.

First you must make a graham cracker crust.

Graham Cracker Crust

5 ounces graham crackers
1/2 cup white sugar
1 stick or 4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Choose an 8 or 9″ shallow pie plate.

Place the graham crackers in the jar of a food processor along with the sugar. Process until smooth.

Place the crumbs in a medium bowl and place the stick of butter on the crumbs. Microwave gently until the butter melts.

Stir everything until evenly combined. Scrape the mixture into the pie plate.

Using a large spoon, begin spreading and flattening the crumbs into a firm crust, working it up the sides of the pie plate. Bake the crust for approximately 12 minutes – it will be firm and golden in color.

If it has puffed a little, smooth it down with the large spoon.

Cool the pie crust and meanwhile prepare the filling.

As the recipe states, blend together the avocado, sweetened condensed milk and lime juice until smooth, then pour the result green glop into the pie crust.

The pie must chill at least four hours or overnight before serving.

I served mine with a little squiggle of diluted crème fraiche.

The pie is so sweet that it really needs the crème fraiche.

It’s also quite soft. If I was a confident baker I would figure out how to incorporate a little gelatin into the avocado pie filling.

As I mentioned, this pie is sweet. Normally sweetened condensed milk is not a favorite ingredient to use, but I wanted to make the recipe as I remember it. Some lime zest and a little less lime juice to maybe help the filling be thicker, but it’s not a lime pie. Just don’t try and cut large pieces!

Tomato Salad with a Twist

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I’m not going to pretend that I’ve never seen a tomato and watermelon salad on blogs. Cause I have. I just hadn’t eaten one until I was in New York City recently visiting my daughter.

She took us to Governor’s Island for a beautiful walk, followed by lunch at Island Oyster. The view of the Manhattan skyline was spectacular.

It was there I had my first lobster roll, for which the restaurant is popular. We shared the tomato watermelon salad.


Well, the lobster roll was exquisite, but so was the salad. Once home, I decided to make my own tomato and watermelon salad, but with a twist.

When I received some fresh peaches a few weeks ago, I stuck a few slices in a jar of apple cider vinegar, along with a couple chile peppers. This is the photo I posted on Instagram.

For the vinaigrette, I used this fruity-zingy vinegar whisked together with good olive oil and a bit of salt. It’s always interesting that fruit pales when stored in vinegar or vodka over time.

I first chopped my garden-ripe cherry and grape tomatoes in half and added them to a paper towel-lined bowl to rest for about 30 minutes and release unnecessary liquid .

Discard the paper towel, then chop the watermelon and add them to the tomatoes, along with a small, finely-chopped shallot. Season with salt and pepper.

Add peach vinaigrette to taste to the tomato and watermelon salad and stir gently.

Season with more salt and pepper if desired.

As delicious as this salad is, I decided on a little more zing so I diced a jalapeno and added it.

I preferred the salad this way, but of course the jalapeño is optional. And if you don’t like biting into bits of chile pepper, you can always include a few squirts of Tabasco in your vinaigrette.

I’d originally thought I’d use the peachy vinegar on some butter lettuce, maybe with avocado, but with this salad, it adds a different sweetness from the watermelon, plus a zing from the chile peppers.

All this salad needs is some good olive oil and perhaps a white balsamic, however. The peach vinegar is not a requirement!

Campechana

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I had a favorite menu item at our local country club’s restaurant that sadly disappeared when the chef moved on. It was campechana – a combination of shrimp and avocados in a zesty tomato sauce, served chilled with tortilla chips.

Never did I realize it was an actual “thing” until I googled it. Turns out, recipes for campechana are commonplace! By definition, it’s a seafood cocktail from Campeche, a coastal state in Mexico.

I immediately grabbed one of my Rick Bayless cookbooks, Mexico: One Plate at a Time, published in 2000, and if you look closely at the cover photo, there is the shrimp cocktail!!!

I have a soft spot for Rick Bayless for many reasons. He’s a passionate chef and student of Mexican cookery, who been married to his wife forever, with whom he’s collaborated on books. (As well as with their daughter!) So I respect that. He also does a lot of charitable work in Chicago and in Mexico and is a total nerd.

But mostly for this.

Fifteen years ago I took my daughter to Chicago for her 18th birthday. It was all about shopping, visiting the sites, and enjoying great meals. I had made reservations at Frontera, and Charlie Trotter’s for our two big nights out.

At Frontera, which was outstanding in every way, I saw that Rick Bayless himself was in the kitchen, and asked if we could say hello. And he was kind and took this memorable photo with Emma.

I decided to make the shrimp cocktail recipe that’s pictured on the book cover. It’s not called campechana but a ceviche, which seems odd because it doesn’t fit my definition of ceviche. But Mr. B. Knows his stuff, so I will not quibble.

Ceviche de Camaron
4 hefty servings

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 generous pound smallish shrimp, peeled, de-veined
1/2 medium white onion, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup ketchup
1 to 2 tablespoons vinegary Mexican bottled hot sauce
About 2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin (optional, but recommended to smooth out sharpness)
1 cup diced peeled cucumber or jicama (or 1/2 cup of each)
1 small ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

Bring 1 quart salted water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of the lime juice. Scoop in the shrimp, cover and let the water return to the boil. Immediately remove from the heat, set the lid askew and pour off all the liquid. Replace the cover and let the shrimp steam off the heat for 10 minutes.

Spread out the shrimp in a large glass or stainless steel bowl to cool completely. Toss the shrimp with the remaining 1/2 lime juice, cover and refrigerate for about an hour.


In a small strainer, rinse the onion under cold water, then shake off the excess liquid.

Add to the shrimp bowl along with the cilantro, ketchup, hot sauce, optional olive oil, cucumber and/or jícama and avocado.

Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately. Spoon the ceviche into sundae glasses, martini glasses, or small bowls: garnish with sprigs of cilantro and slices of lime.

Serve with tostadas, tortilla chips or saltines to enjoy alongside.

The ceviche is best made the day it is served.

If you want a more Southwestern-inspired Campechana, I found one on Epicurious that I’m trying next. It has roasted green chiles and includes crab meat!

So what I’ve gathered, whether it’s called Campechana, or a seafood cocktail, or a ceviche-style shrimp cocktail, the basic ingredients are similar, being shrimp and avocado in (typically) a red sauce. And from there you can get as spicy and zingy and creative as you wish!

The campechana I remember had no cucumber or jicama, but they added a great texture.

The only other difference I can detect from my campechana that I loved and this and other similar shrimp cocktail recipe is the amount of red sauce and the viscosity of the red sauce. I have to say I prefer a bit more sauciness than what’s in this recipe.

Royal Banana Chocolate Bread

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The royal part of this quick bread is the fact that it is the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle’s, recipe.

The story goes that when she and her husband, Prince Harry, visited Australia in October of 2018, Her Royal Highness baked the now-famous banana bread in the kitchen of Admiralty House in Sydney. It was after a long day of engagements, well into her pregnancy.

To quote google, “As if juggling pregnancy, jetlag and 16 days of speeches, meetings and handshaking with Prince Harry wasn’t enough, the Duchess took it upon herself to make homemade banana bread for morning tea.”

Okay, well I think most of us who’ve been pregnant could have managed all of this and more, but whatever….

The bread isn’t just your ordinary loaf. It has crystallized ginger, chocolate chips, and, as the Duchess put it, “too many bananas.”

The recipe might not be the exact recipe of HRH, because I saw many versions online, some containing walnuts, maple syrup, and cinnamon, but the bread has indeed become famous.

This is the recipe that my sister has always used, and she highly recommends it. Me? I hadn’t even heard of HRH’s banana bread. But it is good!

Royal Banana Chocolate Bread

3 very ripe bananas, mashed
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated ginger*
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 x 5″ loaf pan with butter; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the mashed bananas, melted butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth and evenly combined.

Add the grated ginger, flour, baking soda and salt. Stir just until combined with no dry spots. Stir in the chocolate chips and crystallized ginger.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes, or until bread has risen, is golden brown, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.


Remove the bread from the loaf pan and let cool completely at room temperature before slicing and serving.

* Instead of fresh ginger I opted for 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger. I was worried that I couldn’t smoosh and properly disperse the fresh ginger.

The banana bread is very good, and somewhat unique. I’m glad I used the ground ginger.

I had to try it warmed with butter, although the bread itself is moist.

It’s certainly pleasing enough to be not only a snack but a dessert.


HRH the Duchess obviously has a loving heart and great sense of community, because she helped compile a cookbook, entitled Together: Our Community Cookbook, published in September of 2018 and not yet available in the states. Proceeds benefit the Hubb Community Kitchen, located in London.

Quoting google, “The Hubb Community Kitchen is a group of women who have come together to prepare fresh food for their local community. After being displaced following the Grenfell tower fire, some of the local women needed a place to cook fresh food for their families.”

Paloma Margarita

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Yes, one more margarita recipe! This is a recipe I had hand written on a recipe card many years ago, but then recently discovered it online when I was researching the source of the name “Paloma.” The same margarita is on the Food Network Website. It’s a different kind of margarita recipe in that it contains grapefruit juice.

But first I have to brag about my recent purchase, a Breville 800CPXL Die-Cast Stainless-Steel Motorized Citrus Press from Amazon. It’s not inexpensive, but so worth the expense if you love margaritas and your hands can’t handle squeezing 30 limes at a time.

This appliance works with any size citrus fruit, from limes to grapefruits.


What is also really nice is that with little effort, more juice is removed than any kind of manual squeezing in my experience.

In fact, it’s so “fun” to use, I’ve been keeping a bottle of lime juice in my fridge, and it’s more handy than I even expected! Need lime juice for a quick lime dressing? Done! How about some lime juice for guacamole, or even for a quick limeade! Done! It’s very handy and stays fresh in a lidded bottle.

But the Paloma margarita story doesn’t end here. (I never did figure out why the name Paloma…) My daughter and her family were visiting for a pool party kind of day, and I thought I’d serve the Paloma margaritas to the big people; it was a perfect opportunity to test the recipe.

Well, my daughter and I made them, and we hated them. So my more bartender-talented daughter stepped in and created the following recipe. (She’s always saved my sangrias in the past as well!)

There’s still grapefruit juice in this cocktail, but it’s also definitely a margarita.

Paloma Margarita
Makes 2 drinks

4 ounces tequila
4 ounces grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
Juice of 1/2 small lime
5 drops of Stevia
Fresca, chilled

Prepare two glasses with a salt rim, and fill the glasses with ice.

Combine the tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and stevia in a cocktail shaker. Add a little ice and shake to cool the margarita.


Strain the ice and divide the margarita between the two glasses. Top each drink with about 2 ounces of Fresca.

Ta da! You’ve got one of the most enjoyable margaritas ever. If you enjoy grapefruit juice.

Make sure to use good, ruby-red grapefruit for maximum sweetness.

If you don’t like salty rims, add a pinch of salt into each cocktail. It really adds something special.

You can adjust the amount of stevia used as well, or substitute a teaspoon of simple syrup.

I thought this margarita was spectacular. There’s something about tequila, grapefruit juice, lime, and salt….

Mimi’s Tomato Pie

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I started making this savory pie when I was perhaps a young teenager. I’m pretty sure my mother had clipped the original recipe from McCall’s magazine. I loved the pie so much that I dubbed it “Mimi’s” tomato pie, which is a bit pompous. I think I was excited to finally learn to love tomatoes, which I hadn’t previously.

This savory pie is made with ripe tomatoes, so I only make it in the summer.

If you love the combination of tomatoes, Swiss cheese and bacon, and basil, you’ll love this pie. It’s simple and wonderful.

Mimi’s Tomato Pie
printable recipe below

Pie crust for 9” pie pan
Fresh Tomatoes
12 ounces sliced or grated Swiss cheese
Salt
Pepper
8 ounces bacon, preferably uncured bacon
Fresh basil

Bake the pie crust, lined with weights, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until just lightly golden. Remove the weights and let the crust cool.


Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes and place them on paper towels. They need to be as dry as possible so as not to mush up the crust. I use two sizes of tomatoes and two different varieties.


When you’re ready to assemble the pie, begin by placing 1/3 of the Swiss cheese on the crust.


Add 1/2 of the tomato slices, filling in as many holes as possible using the smaller slices.


Season the tomatoes generously with salt and pepper, then add the other half of the cheese and tomatoes, seasoning the tomatoes. You will end up with 2 layers of cheese and 2 layers of tomatoes.

Lay the bacon slices in a lattice or radial pattern on top of the tomatoes.

Bake the pie at for 30 minutes, then raise the heat up to 375 degrees and continue baking for 20 minutes. The bacon should be cooked and the cheese bubbly.


Before serving, top the pie with a basil chiffonade, or simply strew basil leaves on top if you prefer.


The pie is good with a nice Viognier, an Albariño or a rosé.


Oh, and the pie is really good heated up for breakfast…

As I mentioned above, if you love tomatoes, cheese and bacon…

Tomato Pie

Pie crust for 9” pie pan
Fresh Tomatoes
12 ounces grated Swiss cheese
Salt
Pepper
8 ounces uncured bacon
Fresh basil

Bake the pie crust, lined with weights, at 350 degrees Farenheit until just lightly golden. Remove the weights and let the crust cool.
Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes and place them on paper towels. They need to be as dry as possible so as not to mush up the crust.
When you’re ready to assemble the pie, begin by placing half of the Swiss cheese on the crust.
Add half of the sliced tomatoes, filling in as many holes as possible.
Season the tomatoes generously with salt and pepper, then top with the remaining cheese and tomatoes, again seasoning them with salt and pepper.
Bake the tomato pie at for 30 minutes, then raise the heat up to 375 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
The bacon should be cooked and the cheese bubbly.
Before serving, top the pie with a basil chiffonade, or simply strew basil leaves on top if you prefer.

Marinades

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Marinades are a wonderful way to flavor meat. They can be simple or involved, depending on your desires, but they’re also a great way to use up ingredients. Have some leftover parsley? Make a marinade. Tomatoes? Make a marinade. An orange? You get the idea.

Generally, a marinade is composed of three parts: the oil, the acid, and the flavoring. The oil is simply the carrier. It can be a neutral oil like grape seed, an extra-virgin olive oil, or an infused oil.

The acidic option depends on what food you’re preparing. If I’m marinating beef for fajitas, I’d choose lime juice as my acid. If I’m marinating chicken for a stir fry, I’d choose sake or mirin. But there are other options as well. Orange juice? Pineapple juice? A ripe tomato? Sure! They all work.

The third part of creating a marinade is the most fun, because you can get really creative. Garlic is always important to me. There’s not one cuisine I can think of that doesn’t utilize this wonderfully pungent allium, be it Indian, Asian, Mexican, and so forth. Ginger is also perfect in Asian- and Indian -inspired marinades.

The next option for me would be fresh herbs, like cilantro, basil, or parsley. They provide beautiful color and freshness to a marinade.

Chile peppers puréed in a marinade provide wonderful heat as well as flavor. Just remove the stem of fresh jalapeños, for example, and pop them into the blender with the other ingredients. Alternatively, use roasted peppers or chile pepper purée, of which there are many varieties.

Here are some spice options for marinades: Cumin, chili powder, smoky or sweet paprika, coriander, Chinese 5-spice powder, curry powder, cayenne, chipotle, ancho chile pepper.

Other ingredients to flavor marinades include pesto, miso, ketchup, soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, berbere, harissa, romesco, mustard, honey, maple syrup, roasted red bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce… the list is literally endless.

The following marinade is basically a red wine-based vinaigrette, seasoned with garlic, dried herbs, and cayenne pepper flakes.

Here is a marinade made with olive oil, lime juice, garlic and parsley puréed together for chicken breasts. The combination makes a wonderful green marinade, which colors the chicken beautifully after grilling.

For a beef tri-tip, I created an Asian-inspired marinade. I used soy sauce, sake, sesame seed oil, chile paste (Sambal oelek), ginger and garlic. After 24 hours I seared the thin slices of beef in peanut oil for a quick dinner. It’s that simple.

Yogurt can also be used as the “carrier oil,” which you learn about quickly when you indulge yourself in Indian cuisines. So for my final example of a marinated meat, I’m using a mixture of yogurt and harissa.

For a more involved Indian-inspired marinade, I would include garlic, ginger, and curry powder, but I wanted to show how easy it is to create a flavorful and unique marinade. It took10 seconds to prepare and you don’t even need to use a blender.

I’m simply smothering a pork tenderloin with the marinade, waiting a few hours, and then roasting it in the oven.

Marinating requires very little work. It’s just about planning. Try different variations and see what magic you can come up with!

Couscous Risotto with Scallops

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The name of this post sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? I mean, couscous is crushed wheat, a staple in North African countries. Risotto is an Italian dish made with specific rice varieties, like Arborio.

I discovered a beautiful, tri-color couscous, and decided to turn it into a creamy risotto-of-sorts topped with seared and spicy scallops, just for fun. I assume from the size of the couscous “pearls,” that this is an Israeli couscous.

For the spiciness on the scallops, I’m using a favorite product by Penzey’s called Red and Black. It’s a mixture of black pepper and cayenne pepper.

Couscous Risotto

1 pound scallops
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black and Red Pepper
Bacon grease, or grape seed oil, about 3 tablespoons total
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups couscous
2 1/4 cups broth, approximately
Heavy cream, about 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh chopped parsley, optional

First rinse and dry the scallops. Season with salt and the red and black pepper; if you don’t want them spicy, use sweet paprika.

Heat bacon grease in a large, cast-iron skillet over the highest heat. You’ll have to sear the scallops in two batches.

When your grease is hot, add half of the scallops. Cook them about 2 minutes on the first side, till they’re well browned.

Turn the scallops over and reduce the heat at the same time. This will help cook the scallops through.

After another 3 minutes or so, test them with your tongs. As soon as there’s some firmness, remove them to a paper towel. Continue with the remaining scallops, first heating grease (adding more if necessary) over the highest heat.

When cooked properly, scallops should be soft and glistening.

To make the risotto, heat the grape seed oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven. Add the shallots and cook them over medium heat until they’re soft.

Pour in the couscous and stir it around until all of the pearls are glistening.


Then, just as with risotto, add some broth and stir it in well, continuing with the broth until it’s all done. This should only take about 15 minutes.

Pour in the cream and salt. Give it a stir, and cook for about 5 minutes. Then cover the pot and remove it from the heat.

Remove the lid after 10 minutes and let the couscous cool slightly.

Place the risotto in a shallow serving bowl, then add the scallops, tucking them into the risotto.

Sprinkle with parsley, if using.

I also added some cayenne pepper flakes, cause I like spicy.

The couscous risotto really came out superb. Creamy and soft, but the pearls hold their shape.


I really love my concocted dish!

And then imagine this dish with borage flowers sprinkled on top, because they were meant to be there 😬.

Frozen Peach Bellini

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I really haven’t embraced peaches this summer on the blog yet. As much as I love fall and can’t wait to start cooking fall-inspired dishes, it’s still summer here whether I like it or not. And I do love peaches.

Even though I’m not a baker anyway, I’d still prefer a juicy ripe peach over peaches baked in a cobbler. I might be that way with most all summer fruit, actually.

I have used peaches to make mustard, vinaigrettes, peach syrup, chutney, and recently, a peach and chile pepper vinegar. That’s just more fun to me.

Peaches also lend themselves well to cocktails! We’ve all had bellinis at Sunday brunch, or maybe a wedding shower, and they’re good. They’re usually made from peach purée or peach nectar.

For something different, and mostly because our summer weather has been in the upper 90’s, I decided to freeze peaches and make a slushy peach Bellini. Although I used nectarines.

The way I remove the flesh from the peach pit is to cut into the peach till the knife touches the pit, and make two vertical cuts. Then pull away as gently as you can to remove the pieces. Does this always work? No way.

Frozen Bellini

2 large, fresh ripe peaches, peeled, quartered, frozen
12 ounces champagne
4-5 ounces peach schnapps, according to your taste
1 squirt stevia*, or your favorite variety of liquid sugar

Place the frozen peaches in your blender jar. Pour the champagne, schnapps, and the stevia over the top.

Process the mixture until smooth.

Pour and serve. I used glasses that were in the freezer.

This batch made four tall drinks. You can make the bellinis more slushy or frozen by adding ice cubes.

Think about all of the fun drinks you can make by adding different fruit!

Plus, you could always use a sparkling wine or rosé instead of champagne.

The important part of making this Bellini is using the sweetest ripe fruit. Ideally, no sweetener should be necessary. These bellinis should have natural sweetness, plus some from the schnapps.

* I’m not a health freak, but I do use stevia. To me, why not use stevia? It’s non-caloric, it’s not a chemical, and it sweetens. I put a little squirt in my Nespresso espresso every morning, or to make a quick lemonade with fresh lemon juice. But honey or agave will both work well in this recipe if some sweetening is necessary.