Mes Escargots


So, I love snails. Shoot me. At least I think I love them. You could probably smother bits of shoe soles in a garlicky butter and parsley sauce, bake them, and serve them with good, crusty bread, and they would be good, too.

I was raised on snails, so they never scared me. Now, honestly, I don’t want to think about them really being snails because, well, snails are icky.

Recently I realized that I’ve never prepared my own L’escargots. And, it was about time to rectify this.

Funny anecdote: Right before we got married, my fiancé and I visited my mother, a couple of weeks before our elopement would occur.

My mother, being who she is, French, wanted to make my future husband happy, so for the first celebratory meal she prepared for us, it began with snails. And, he ate them. He ate other things, too. I guess he really loved me.

Photos below show two times I had l’escargots in France, in Avignon and Tourettes.

Here is a snail dish I had in Aix en Provence – snails on a salad. I’d always enjoyed l’escargots the traditional way, but this salad was superb.

To make snails the traditional way, you need snail shells, and you need snails. Fortunately one doesn’t have to forage in garden for either.

Escargots à la Bourguignonne
based on recipe in Saveur
makes 24

16 tablespoons butter
1/4 minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon white wine
1 teaspoon cognac
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
Salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste
24 extra-large snail shells
24 canned extra-large snails
Rock salt
Country bread

In a bowl, whisk together butter, parsley, wine, cognac, garlic, and shallots with a fork. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors meld.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of butter mixture into each snail shell.

Push a snail into each shell; fill shells with remaining butter mixture.

Cover bottom of a baking dish with a layer of rock salt to stabilize the snail shells.

Arrange snail shells, butter side up, on the salt and bake until butter sizzles, about 10-12 minutes.

Serve hot with bread.

Alternatively, to prepare l’escargots, you don’t need snail shells, just ceramic dishes with round indentations.

Put a snail and the butter in each indentation, then bake the same way in a hot oven.

You’ll still need a little fork and good bread.

Snails are a wonderful excuse to eat bread soaked in a garlic parsley butter.



Roasted Goat Cheese with Lavender Honey


For Christmas of 2017, a dear friend who lives in Texas sent me a fabulous gift pack. In it was a jar of lavender honey.

The gifts came from Los Poblanos Farm Foods in New Mexico. The honey is “derived from bees that pollinate a unique blend of regional plants, including our very own Grosso variety of lavender.”

As soon as you open the honey jar, you smell lavender. It is utterly fragrant and delightful.

So how better to showcase this floral honey than to top it on a roasted log of goat cheese?!!

Which is what I did to start off a special meal for my one and only.

Roasted Goat Cheese with Lavender Honey
Slightly adapted NYT Cooking recipe by Sara Dickerman

1 – 8-12 ounce log or slab of a firm goat cheese, chilled
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons lavender honey, or honey of choice
Bread, toasts, crackers

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Select a small oven-to-table earthenware dish or a small ovenproof sauté pan lined with aluminum foil to help transfer the cheese to a plate after roasting.

Place the log in the dish and cover with the olive oil.

Bake until the cheese is soft and springy to the touch but not melted, about 8 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.

Heat the honey in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water until it is fluid enough to be spread with a pastry brush.

Paint the surface of the feta with it. Broil until the top of the cheese browns and just starts to bubble. (As you can tell I opted to dropper the warm honey onto the soft cheese.)

Serve immediately with breads, toasts, or crackers.

You can also include pickled or roasted vegetables, according to the recipe author.

Alternately, add fresh fruits like strawberries and peaches, or dried fruits like dates and figs.

I might do this in the future, but this time, just the crackers with the roasted goat cheese, and the sweetness of the floral honey were just a perfect combination, topped with edible flowers for some prettiness!

note: A pretty oven-to-table gratin dish would have been a better choice than messing with a piece of foil, which did not help with sliding/moving the molten log of goat cheese to the serving platter!

Squid Tutorial


Over the years I’ve moaned and groaned about not having access to beautiful, fresh seafood, because I live in a land-locked state.

Those of you who live on the coasts, or just about anywhere in Europe, have no idea how different it is to not have a seafood market or, better yet, a personal fish monger.

As a result, I have minimal experience working with fish, outside of cleaning fresh trout when we fish in Colorado.

But I decided to put an end to my complaining, and order some seafood online from (hopefully) a reputable source. I ordered 5 pounds of frozen whole squid from a fish market in Seattle.

Fortunately it came in two 2.5 pound packages so I was able to keep one frozen and thaw the other.

Ordering squid rings would have been easier, but I couldn’t find them, and honestly, it was a good experience to learn about the creatures as I cleaned and prepared them. It made me happy, like an Italian grandma!

If you’ve never cleaned squid, you’ll enjoy this tutorial. If you have lots of experience with seafood, well then I have some expletives for you, cause I’m jealous!

There are two parts to a squid.

A body or tube, and a head with tentacles attached.

The first step is to pull the head out of the body; set the head aside. Head instructions below.

Have a large bowl of clean water on hand. I rinsed the squid 4-5 times during the cleaning process.

Remove the fins from the tail end of the squid, by just pulling them off.

Then remove the skin, by simply grabbing it and pulling on it; the skin comes off easily.

You now have a body, but there is a cartillagenous back bone. See it sticking out? It goes from neck to tail.

I used tweezers to pull out the back bone.

Next is to remove the innards of the squid bodies. Use your fingers to soften the insides, and then just squeeze them out just like you’re squeezing sausage out of its casing.

Rinse the squid well, refreshing the water a few times.

Next you must clean the head and tentacle end of the squid.

Do this by placing the head on a cutting board, and cutting right above the eye. Discard the eyeball and anything attached to it.

Using your fingers, pinch the tentacle end, and right where you sliced, and out should pop the beak of the squid. Discard those as well.

Now, you have clean squid bodies to use for stuffing, or to slice into rings, as I did.

And you also have tentacles, all ready to cook!

I especially love squid on salads.

In Nice I enjoyed fire-grilled calamari just by themselves and they were magnificent!

If you’ve never had squid, I encourage you try it. They’re not fishy. Yes, they have a texture, but they are not rubbery. If you’ve had rubbery squid, then they were overcooked, just like rubbery chicken.

Recently I made a Nigella pasta recipe using squid rings and tentacles. Try it and you’ll see how easy they are to cook!

Sour Cream Raisin Pie


Right before my 10th grade school year, our family moved from New York to Utah. At that time I don’t think I could have located Utah on a map, although geography has never been one of my strengths.

Salt Lake City was quite different to me, in so many ways. Regarding the food scene, well, there was none. Not that I was a modern foodie in 1970, but my mother certainly was.

There was no Chinatown, no German deli, not even a cheese shop. In fact, Salt Lake City remained in the culinary dead zone for a long time, until nearby ski resorts like Park City, where we lived, became popular to the world.

After graduating high school, I moved west for college, but when I went home for visits, there was one restaurant that my mother and I would lunch at when we shopped in Salt Lake City – it was our only choice – Marie Callender’s.

Because of having been raised and fed by my mother, who was a chef in her own right, I wasn’t a burger and sandwich eater. But there were a few things on the Marie Callender’s menu that I liked, especially the wilted bacon salad. Plus I always had sour cream raisin pie for dessert.

I remember it well – the creamy filling with the soft raisins and the meringue on top. And even back then I wasn’t much of a dessert eater.

So recently I was shocked to come across a sour cream raisin pie whilst browsing on It’s funny how food-related memories come rushing back.

I decided to go online and check the spelling of Marie Callender for the sake of this post, and discovered that her restaurants are still around. Sadly, neither my wilted bacon salad nor this pie is on their menu anymore.

But there is an interesting story about Marie Callender, who was a real person and a pie baker from California. I never thought about Marie possibly being a real person.

These days, if I were to pass by a Marie Callender’s restaurant, I’d turn my head and give a little chortle. Sorry Ms Callender. It’s just not my type of restaurant. But back in the days when I had no other choice, Ms. Callender satisfied my gastronomic needs.

I’m making this pie in her honor. Below, a young and older Marie Callender.

Here’s a sour cream raisin pie recipe, from

Sour Cream Raisin Pie
printable recipe below

1 cup raisins
Pastry dough
Pie weights
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

In a bowl soak raisins in water to cover by 2 inches at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. Drain raisins in a sieve. I also let them “dry” a bit on paper towels.

On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out dough into a 14-inch round (about 1/8″ thick) and fit into a 9-inch glass pie plate.

Trim dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, and crimp edge decoratively. Chill shell until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Lightly prick bottom of shell all over with a fork and line shell with foil. Fill foil with pie weights and bake shell in middle of oven for 15 minutes.

Carefully remove foil and weights and bake shell until golden, about 8 minutes more. Cool shell in pan on a rack.

Reduce temperature to 400 degrees F.

Separate eggs. Chill whites until ready to use.

In a bowl whisk together yolks and sour cream and whisk in 1/2 cup sugar, flour, vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and raisins. Pour filling into shell and bake in middle of oven for 10 minutes.d

Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F and bake pie 30-40 minutes more, or until filling is set.

Remove pie from the oven but keep temperature at 350 degrees F.

In another bowl with an electric mixer beat whites until they just hold soft peaks.

Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until meringue just holds stiff peaks.

Spread meringue over warm pie, covering filling completely and making sure meringue touches shell all the way around.

Bake pie in middle of oven until meringue is golden, about 10 minutes. Cool pie on rack and serve at room temperature.

This is absolutely wonderful.

I had a piece of warm pie, but it was a bit too wobbly,

So I let the pie come to room temperature.

It was magnificent, and so much like what I remember. The only negative might be the amount of sugar. If I make this pie again, I would only add 1/2 cup of sugar to the pie filling.

Keep in mind how lovely this pie would be during the holidays, made with dried cranberries!



The Taste of Central Otago


The Taste of Central Otago is the name of a cookbook that I purchased at the restaurant, Saffron, in Arrowtown, New Zealand.

Our meal was spectacular there. I enjoyed a beet salad, followed by lamb with sweetbreads.

Even though the food was exquisite in its quality and presentation, it was not an upscale, stuffy dining experience. One would almost call it “pub-like.,” which I prefer.

When we were leaving, I spotted the cookbook for sale at the bar, and bought it on a whim.

Had I made time to actually look through the book, I might not have purchased it. Now that I’m home and perusing it, the recipes take me back to the many times I looked at my Charlie Trotter cookbook, called Meat and Game. I’ve not yet made anything from it, and never will. Everything is way too complicated!

The chef at Saffron, Pete Caron, and the author of this, his second cookbook, takes his food seriously. He’s a forager by nature, and chooses the farm-to-table approach, which makes sense with all that New Zealand has to offer.

But I had no idea how crazy involved his recipes would be in this cookbook. Like this:

Green Tea Creme Brûlée with Spirulina and Seaweed Biscotti and Crisp-Fried Lichen

Many of the proteins I have no access to as well, like Boer goat, mutton bird, red deer, butterfish, and Bendigo rabbit.

The book just isn’t for a home cook like myself. I don’t want to make Vichyssoise Spheres, or Cabbage Pearl Caviar, or Chamomile Foam, or Passionfruit Tissue with Mint Dust. Okay, you get the idea.

But I’m keeping the book, because looking through it reminds me of our lovely experience visiting New Zealand – especially the South Island. Otago is highlighted in the map below.

Most of the pages are gorgeous photographs from Otago, taken by photographer Aaron McLean.

If you want this book, I know it’s available on Amazon’s AU site.

Stéphane’s Calamari in Red Sauce


When I first met Stéphane, it was April of 2014. My daughter and I visited him for an action-packed four days in southwestern France.

If you’re not familiar with Stéphane Gabart, he is the author of My French Heaven, the beautiful blog that emanates his love for all things food, wine, and France. You immediately grasp his passion and joie de vivre through his stunning photography.

His business, which he has secretly told me is more fun than work, is called Your French Heaven, because one can basically customize a visit. In our case, my daughter and I went mostly, not surprisingly, for the food experience.

We visited a different farmers’ market every day, so that he could cook fabulous meals for us. Can you imagine! Four farmers’ markets in close proximity to your home?!! Not to mention bakeries and patisseries!

Because my daughter is a pescatarian, we ate a lot of seafood, which was wonderful!

Of course Stéphane also had the perfect wines, champagnes, Lillet, and Sauternes.

And bread and cheese, of course.

I’d include photos of the countryside we visited, along with castles, villages, fortresses, vineyards, and even a brocante, because we did do much more than eat, but I need to keep this post about Stéphane and the calamari he prepared one evening for my daughter and I. These are photos from that visit. I’ve never had calamari quite like it.

It’s calamari rings, sautéed, flambéed, then cooked in a red sauce until the sauce is deep and rich. The sunshine beaming down on the calamari just make them glow!

Here’s the recipe, as generously emailed to me by Stéphane.

Calamari Rings in Red Sauce

Sear bacon, shallots and onions in a cast iron pot.

In another skillet, sauté the calamari in olive oil. Flambé with cognac.

You then dump your seafood in the pot and add your bouquet garni. Add 125g of tomato paste for each pound of fish.

Darken the sauce on medium heat and wet it as you go along with a big glass of white wine.

When your sauce is dark enough, you add fish stock to level. Let the whole thing boil on low heat for a good 2 hours, adding liquid as needed.

When the sauce has reduced enough, add some garlic, a pinch of paprika and some cayenne pepper.

Let it all simmer very slowly for about 15 minutes and adjust your seasoning.

Then thicken your sauce with a bit of white roux.

And voila!

I made this calamari dish for Christmas eve, served with white rice.

It was exquisite.

Merci, mon ami!



Australian Edibles


In a previous post I mentioned that my husband and I finally visited Australia and New Zealand this past fall. We took advantage of all of the in-season offerings from the land and sea that these countries offer, but there was one destination where a cooking class of sorts was offered by the executive chef, although no cooking was necessary.

It was a tasting menu of the local edibles, from leaves to berries to bark, and then some. Only one other person joined in, so she and I had the chef all to ourselves.

The chef was Jonathan Bryant, at Longitude 131, a hotel in the “spiritual heart of Australia, the Red Centre, also known as Uluru, rich in Aboriginal culture and rugged outback beauty.”

This is the sampler he placed before us.

A print-out was included, which was quite handy, especially now, as I’ve forgotten most of the names of these “exotic” edibles. Of course, these were only exotic to the two of us eager students; all of these local foods were used by the Aborigines for food as well as medicinal purposes.

For example, Quandong, a modest but nutritious fruit. Both the fruit and its large seed are utilized in many ways. Just that morning I’d had Quandong jam on my sheep’s milk yogurt. It was delicious.

Then there was a finger lime – something I’d only seen on food blogs. You open this finger-shaped lime, thus the name, and out bursts little micro-sized balls of lime – sometimes called lime “caviar.” I added some to my gin and tonic, as per the chef’s suggestion.

We also tasted Desert Limes, which are very tiny, but I didn’t get a good photo.

Wattleseed was really fascinating to me; I’m surprised it hasn’t become the “new” seed trend worldwide. The Aborigines used to grind the seeds, which are harvested from trees, to make flour.

Pictured at the left, above, are wattleseed and a golden variety, which isn’t gold, and the roasted and ground seeds, at the right. At lunch I’d enjoyed wattleseed bread. It was hearty and wonderful.

One interesting fact from the printout: The wattle flower is the well-known emblem of Australia, and is represented in the green and gold worn by Australian athletes.

Paperbark was interesting. Actual tree bark, it adds a smoky flavor to food, so the chef wraps paperbark around fish and vegetables when grilling to impart the smokiness.

Then there was lemon myrtle leaves, similar looking to bay leaves, but a truly potent lemony smell. Not only is lemon myrtle used in cooking, its essential oil is used in soaps, candles, and so forth.

The following look like peppercorns, but they are Muntries, known otherwise as emu apples or native cranberries. They were a precious commodity to the Narrindjeri people of Southern Australia. To me they tasted like Christmas!

Salt bush, pictured below, was salty to me, but its value escaped me. Nonetheless it is used in local cuisine, and sometimes dried into flakes for seasoning. I’d purchased this seasoning mixture without realizing the main ingredient is saltbush!

There was much more to nibble on, but the above were the most fascinating to me. It was a fantastic experience!

Chef’s bio:
Jonathon Bryant is Executive Chef at Longitude 131°. Originally from tropical north Queensland, Jon’s journey to the Red Centre has seen him traverse the east coast of Australia following the classic Reef-to-Rock circuit.
Beginning his career on Hayman Island, Jonathon set off to explore the country, its produce and of course, its kitchens. Time spent in Tasmania saw him gain an appreciation of what it means to ‘dine local’ at fellow Luxury Lodges of Australia property, Saffire Freycinet. From there, a return to island life beckoned on Lord Howe Island where Jon was able to combine his love of fresh seafood with a passion for diving. Each experience helped shaped his light, textured cooking style and his honest, produce driven approach to cuisine.
Following his penchant for regional roles and drawn to Australia’s heartland, Jonathon joined the team at Longitude 131° in 2016. No stranger to the challenges of working in remote locations, Jon consults with a diverse range of people and suppliers to source the best premium produce from all over Australia for his daily changing menus.
Combining new techniques, flavours and native ingredients like lemon myrtle, quandongs and saltbush, Jon aims to translate the creation stories of the indigenous Anangu from the dreaming realm to the plate, offering guests a slice of local life from the very first bite.