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.



Bacon Egg Salad


To date, I’ve never written a sandwich post on my blog. I don’t dislike sandwiches – on the contrary, if it weren’t for my lack of self-portion control, I’d probably have a sandwich every day. Simple sandwiches like braunschweiger with mustard, a hot panini, or a multi-layered Italian sub dripping with vinegar… I love them all.

So today is the day I write about a sandwich. The recipe screams to me every time I’m near this book, Gale Gand’s Brunch!


It’s an egg salad sandwich filling with bacon. So simple and yet so perfect! Who doesn’t grow up loving egg salad, and now you get to enjoy it on bread, with bacon!!!


Honestly, while you might be shaking your head at the simplicity of this sandwich concept, you’re wanting one at the same time, aren’t you?!!

Here is the recipe:

Bacon and Egg Salad Sandwiches

8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
4 strips of bacon, diced
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 slices white bread, crusts cut off

Roughly chop the hard-boiled eggs and put them in a medium bowl.


Cook the bacon, and let drain on paper towels.


Add the mayonnaise and mustard to the eggs, and mix with a fork. Then add the bacon. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.
Spread the egg salad on each of 4 slices of bread, top each sandwich with another slice of bread, and cut corner to corner to make triangles. (Obviously that’s optional.)


Serve immediately, or cover and chill for up to 3 hours before serving.

Obviously, one can change up the ratio of the eggs, bacon and mayonnaise in this mixture. Although less “healthy,” I really love mayonnaise, and would not enjoy an egg salad that is dry.


I also imagine that some people would prefer more bacon, and that is A-OK. Change up the bread, too. Make this sandwich yours!

Normally I would add lettuce and a ripe tomato slice, but I think I’ll leave this sandwich alone as is. I added a few olives for fun, but a pickled asparagus spear or pepperoncini would be nice also.


This little unobtrusive cookbook was a gift, and I’m still making recipes from it, like the shakshuka-style Cucurumao I made on Christmas morning that was a huge hit. If you love brunch inspiration, I highly recommend this gem!

The Other Polenta


The most well known version of Italian polenta, in my experience, is the soft and creamy porridge style – what we call grits in the United States. Savory and hearty for breakfast or as a dish served similar to risotto – topped with braised mushrooms, grilled shrimp, or simply with cheese. If you want a grits recipe, check out grits with eggs and red sauce.

But there’s another way to prepare and serve polenta, which I’m calling “the other polenta.” It also deserves a little attention and respect.

This kind of polenta is more like a soft yet dense cornbread. As with American cornbread, this bread-like polenta is wonderful served with stews, pasta, soups, or even salads. It also makes a fabulous appetizer, topped with cheese and served with white wine.

Lorenza de-Medici refers to this polenta appetizer as crostini di polenta. In her cookbook The Villa Table, she states, “I always make more polenta than a recipe requires in order to have some for making crostini for the next day!” It’s a great idea!

I’ve seen polenta used in so many ways in Italian cookbooks, like molded into a timbale served with a meaty ragu, or as dumplings, or layered into a casserole or pie. But however polenta is used, it comes down to preparing the softer creamy version, or the drier, sliceable variety that I’m making today.

So here’s how make the other polenta:

Have 2 cups of cornmeal on hand in a bowl.
Heat 6 cups of slightly salted water in a heavy pot on the stove over high heat. When it comes to a boil, slowly pour in the cornmeal.
Whisk well, then turn the heat down to the lowest position, cover the pot and let the polenta cook for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and give the polenta a stir. Depending on the grind of the cornmeal, it might be cooked already. Give it a taste and test if it’s gritty, which would indicate more cooking time required.

My polenta looks a bit grainy because it’s a coarser grind, but it’s fully cooked.
Add a little more water if you feel it could stick to the pot, but keep the additional water to a minimum. Then cover and cook for 10-15 minutes more, still over the lowest possible heat.

Butter a 9″ x 13″ cake pan. You can also use a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.

While still hot, pour the polenta into the pan. (If you want to make this kind of polenta the traditional way, you can also pour the polenta onto a large, clean work surface or board.)
Let the polenta cool completely, even overnight, covered tightly with foil.

When you are ready to finish the polenta, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle the cooled polenta with grated cheese; I used Gruyère.
Then bake the polenta until the cheese barely browns a bit, about 30 minutes. The baking of the polenta dries it out, or solidifies it more, if you will, plus it melts the cheese. This step could probably be done under the broiler if you feel your polenta is stiff enough to already slice.

Remove the pan from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
To slice, flip the pan of polenta over onto a large platter, then flip it onto a cutting board, cheesy side up. Alternatively, slice inside your pan if it’s not non-stick like mine.

Cut squares or strips of polenta and serve warm. With wine, of course.

Today I served the baked polenta with a fresh asparagus soup!

Alternatively, you can cut squares or shapes of the polenta, place them on an oiled baking sheet and then bake them. I’ve seen so many different variations that I don’t think it matters as long as you eventually get to the lovely cheesy polenta. In fact, I’ve seen polenta squares fried on both sides before serving, and also grilled. But I like the easier way of keeping everything in the cake pan, then slicing.

If you love polenta or grits, you will surely loved baked polenta!
note: You can use chicken broth in this recipe if you feel the polenta might be too bland for your taste.

Mushroom Bread Pudding


Most people are familiar with bread puddings that are sweet and typically served for dessert. They probably came about for the purpose of using leftover bread. In fact, many recipes actually call for day-old bread. Sometimes the crusts are removed, sometimes not. Either way, bread is layered in a baking dish, smothered in an egg and cream mixture until it is absorbed, and baked. The resulting “pudding” is soufflé-like light and fluffy.

I’ve only made one bread pudding on the blog, and the recipe came from a bed and breakfast my husband and I stayed at in Dingle, Ireland. Their bread and butter pudding was offered on the breakfast buffet every morning. I tried it once, because the owner himself did the breakfast cooking every morning, and it was fabulous. But it was too sweet for me, especially at breakfast. But they were nice enough to share the recipe.

However, if you’re talking savory bread puddings, you’re talking my culinary language! Bacon, sautéed mushrooms, and cheese, in between puffy layers of baked bread. Fabulous!
If you don’t love mushrooms, you can change this recipe in so many ways, like use sausage and apples, or use corn bread instead of yeasted bread and include dried cranberries and pecans. So many options!

The bread pudding could also be made in ramekins, for prettier individual servings.

The recipe I created is for an 8 x 8″ baking dish. The bread pudding can be reheated,if there are leftovers, but should be done so gently, so as not to overcook.

Savory Mushroom Bread Pudding

3 ounces unsalted butter
1 pound fresh, sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Black pepper
4-5 slices good bacon, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
5 eggs
2 cups heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Fresh bread slices, about 12 sandwich-style, I used whole-wheat bread
8 ounces grated white cheese, like monterey jack
Grated Parmesan

Melt the butter in a large skillet or wok over high heat. When the butter has melted, add the sliced mushrooms. I used a combination of button and portobella mushrooms. If you want an earthier tasting bread pudding, check out my savory baked brie for instructions on adding dried mushrooms to the fresh, which creates a deeper flavor.
After about 4-5 minutes, turn down the heat and let the mushrooms cook further. Add the thyme and black pepper.
When they have softened completely, place the mushrooms in a large colander over a bowl to collect the mushroom liquor. Always save this! It can be used in reductions, sauces, soups – just about everything!

Clean out your skillet and place it over high heat. Add the bacon and let it cook just until lightly browned. Add the chopped onion and turn down the heat to medium. Sauté until the onions have softened.
Add the mushroom mixture, stir well, and set aside.
Meanwhile, place the eggs and cream in a medium bowl. Add salt and white pepper.
Whisk until smooth; set aside.

At this point, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and generously grease an 8 x 8″ baking dish.

You are going to be making layers with the bread, cheese, and mushroom mixture. In between creating the layers, add 1/2 cup or so of the egg and cream mixture over the bread layers, instead of pouring the whole amount on the top when you’re done with the layering.

Begin by removing the crusts from the bread.

Place the bread slices on the bottom of the buttered baking dish. I use a little cheese on top of the bread, then add the mushrooms, than a little more cheese.

It helps make the layers “stick” together.

Continue making your layers, filling up any spaces between the bread slices if necessary, and when you’ve created the final bread layer, pour all of the remaining egg and cream mixture over the top. The final layer should be the mushrooms.

Wrap the baking dish loosely with foil and bake for one hour. Remove the foil and shake the baking dish to see if there’s any movement. If there is, most likely the middle hasn’t finished cooking. Turn down the heat to 300 degrees, and bake for about 15 minutes more. You can also use a cake tester to make sure the pudding is fully cooked. Just be careful not to overcook.

When the bread pudding is cooked, remove the baking dish from the oven, and set the oven on broil. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the mushrooms and broil until browned.

Let the pudding sit for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.

It can also be made the day before, but re-heat gently. You don’t want it become rubbery.
I served the bread pudding to my husband with pork tenderloin, but I think it would go with just about any meat.

I would have sprinkled the bread pudding with chives or chopped parsley, but it was raining.



Tapeschetta is a combination of tapenade and bruschetta. One evening when I had short notice that a few girlfriends were coming over, I quickly made this appetizer.

It evolved from wanting to make a bruschetta, but running out of tomatoes. So to stretch what I had, I added some previously prepared tapenape. And it worked well!

So here’s approximately what I did. If you ever can’t decide between bruschetta and tapenape, try both!


1 – 8 ounce jar marinated mixed olives, pitted
1 – 4 ounce can black olives, pitted
1 small jar sliced pimientos, optional
2 shallots, diced
4-5 Roma tomatoes
Lots of basil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar
Crostini or crackers

Place the olives and pimientos in the jar of a food processor and pulse until the olives are in small pieces.

Place the mixture in a medium bowl.

De-seed the tomatoes, and let them drain a bit on paper towels.
Dice the tomatoes and add them to the olives in the bowl.

Dice the shallots and add them to the bowl as well.

For the basil, make a chifonnade of basil leaves by rolling same-size leaves up like a cigar, then slicing across the cigar horizontally. Avoid the stems.

Mix everything together gently. Add the olive oil and vinegar.


Stir again gently, and let the tapeschetta sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.
You can add more chifonnade of basil on top, if you wish.
I think the key to this delicious mixture is to keep the ratio of the olives to the tomatoes about fifty-fifty. That way you get to enjoy every aspect of it. But you can adjust the ratio as you wish.


When I make this again, I will serve it with crostini instead of fresh bread, like I did originally. It’s just better on toasted bread, I think.

Roasted Okra


Quite a few years ago, I was at a girlfriend’s beautiful loft for dinner, and for someone who doesn’t really love cooking, she had really put out an impressive spread of hors d’oeuvres.

Among those hors d’oeuvres were roasted okra. I was a bit hesitant at first. I’d only had okra in Creole dishes, and there is this dog slobber-type slime that I had previously associated with okra. But I’m glad I tried them!

Not only did I immediately become addicted to these roasted okra, I found out that they were made from frozen okra! Wow.

So I had to make them myself. They’re so easy, and only take a little bit of time for the thawing process. Other than that, all you’ll need is an oven.
Roasted Okra

1 or 2 1-pound packages frozen whole okra
Olive oil
Salt or seasoning salt

Starting the day before, thaw the bag of frozen okra in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, place the okra in a large colander. Give them a little rinse, then let them drain for at least 4 hours.
Place the okra on paper towels and let them “dry” up. There should be no very little “wetness” left to them.
Preheat the oven to a roast position, or to at least 400 degrees Farenheit. Place the okra in a large roasting pan or jelly roll pan, making sure there’s not too much overlap. Drizzle on olive oil, and season with salt or your favorite seasoning salt. I used a favorite spice blend that my girlfriend Gabriella brings me from Trader Joe’s.

Roast the okra for about 20-25 minutes, tossing them once during the process. They should be roasted on all sides.

Cook longer if there’s not sufficient browning. The roasting time depends on how full of water they are. Turn out the okra onto a serving platter.
You might want to add a fun coarse salt to them as well, but taste them first to test the saltiness.

I made a little Sriracha mayo for dipping, but they’re wonderful just by themselves.
Be careful. They seriously are addicting!

And not slimy.

Tomato Basil Pinwheels


My first experiences in the kitchen were of the baking kind. I’d get up early and make some kind of sweet coffee cake or cinnamon buns on Sunday morning to make my family happy. All I remember was that I was about ten when I started the ritual.

Baking became addictive for me, although I’ve since changed from sweet baked goods to preferring everything savory.

I’ve posted on three savory yeast breads on this blog – Chili Pecan Buns, Pesto Pinwheels, and Bread for Cheese. They’re just so much fun to create, and no recipe is required.

I happened to have a chunk of Comté, and decided to use it in a yeasted bread, along with sun-dried tomatoes, and make them in the style of cinnamon buns, much like the pesto pinwheels. Simple, yet delicious. By themselves, with a soup, stew, or just as a basic savory bread to serve with dinner.

So, I’m not writing down an exact recipe, because I like the idea of encouraging my readers who are novice cooks to come up with their own versions of recipes customized to their specific tastes. Don’t like sun-dried tomatoes? Use feta and olives instead! Or nuts!

But I’ll tell you what I did. And if you don’t make your own bread dough, you can make these rolls with purchased pizza dough.

Tomato Basil Pinwheels
makes 10

Comté or Gruyère or Fontina, approximately 8 ounces
1 – 8.5 ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1 lb. bread dough or pizza dough, risen at least once
Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
Dried Basil, about 1 tablespoon
Cayenne pepper flakes, optional.
Approximately 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan

First grate the cheese you’re using.

Then place the sun-dried tomatoes in a colander to drain the oil. The product I used was julienned tomatoes packed in oil with Italian herbs.

My dough weighed exactly 16 ounces when it was ready to roll.
Roll out the dough to a rectangle, approximately 16″ in length by 10″ in width. First add a drizzle of olive oil, and top with the cheese.
Add the drained sun-dried tomatoes, and then the basil and cayenne pepper flakes, to taste.
Roll up the dough lengthwise, keeping it tight. Snip off the ends if necessary.
Slice down through the log, making even pieces, and place then spiral side up and down on a cookie sheet. Mine were about 2″ thick. The pinwheels don’t have to touch. Also, you could use a baking dish instead to contain them, or even muffin tins.
Let the pinwheels rise for at least 45 minutes while the oven is preheating to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle them with the finely-grated Parmesan, and put the cookie sheet in the oven.
Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes; they should be golden brown on the tops.
Let cool slightly and serve.

My husband ate some for lunch. With nothing else! Oh, and he doesn’t like sun-dried tomatoes.

I’m very happy that I made these pinwheels.