Salmon Brandade

47 Comments

This recipe comes from the 2018-published cookbook entitled Everyday Dorie, by Dorie Greenspan. I bought it recently after seeing quite a few bloggers share some of this book’s recipes on Instagram.

Personally, I’ve never gotten to “know” Ms. Greenspan. It’s probably because I first learned about her when the book, Baking with Julia, was published. Ms. Greenspan and Julia Childs were co-authors.

Well, I won’t bake with Julia, or anyone else, so I kind of ignored Dorie Greenspan and her award-wining books over the years, until now.

The book? Fairly straight forward, simple food. Her goal with the cookbook is to “turn out food that’s comforting, satisfying, inviting and so often surprising. I love when there’s something unexpected in a dish, especially when it’s in a dish we think we know well.

So, she added Dijon mustard to gougeres, to carrot and mustard rillettes, to honey-mustard salmon rillettes, and to a tomato tart with mustard and ricotta. And that’s just the appetizer chapter. I wasn’t really impressed with her “surprises,” but the photos of the food are really pretty.

I chose to make Ms. Greenspan’s salmon brandade, because I love traditional brandade, made with salt cod. If you’re interested HERE is a Jacques Pepin recipe for it.

According to Dorie Greenspan, “This brandade celebrates everything that’s warm and comforting about the original while adding a touch of luxe – it’s brandade for dinner parties. Serve with a salad and white wine. Maybe even Champagne.

The dish isn’t gorgeous, but it’s perfect comfort food, especially served during cold months. And for pescatarians.

It’s basically a salmon shepherd’s pie!

Salmon Brandade
Makes 6-8 servings

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 pound smoked salmon, or lox
2 – 2 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into medium chunks
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus 1/2 tablespoon butter
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped, rinsed, and patted dry
2 garlic cloves, germ removed, minced
6 – 8 ounces skinless salmon fillet, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth
2 – 3 tablespoons minced mixed fresh herbs, such as dill, chives, parsley, and/or tarragon
Plain dry bread crumbs, for finishing

Bring the milk just to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in half of the smoked salmon, turn off the heat and let steep while you make the potatoes.

Put the potatoes in a tall pot, cover generously with cold water, salt the water and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until they’re so tender that you can easily crush them against the side of the pot with a fork, 15 – 20 minutes. Drain well.

The potatoes must be mashed, a job best done with a food mill or ricer, which produces fluffier potatoes. Mash them in a large bowl, and then, using a spatula, stir in the salmon-milk mixture, followed by the 6 pieces of butter.. The potatoes will be softer and looser than you might be used to. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9″ pie plate and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I used a small baking pan and two ramekins.

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Toss in the onion and garlic and cook, stirring until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper – go light on the salt – and stir in the cubed fresh salmon.


Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine or vermouth and cook, stirring, until the wine almost evaporates, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the herbs and remaining smoked salmon.

Taste for salt and pepper and scrape the mixture into the buttered pan.

Top with the mashed potatoes, spreading them all the way to the edges of the pan. Dot with bits of the cold butter and sprinkle over the bread crumbs.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are hot all the way through, the juices from the onion and salmon are bubbling, and the top is golden brown. If you want the brandade to have more color, put it under the broiler.

Serve immmediately – the brandade is meant to be so hot that you’ve got to blow on every forkful. See the steam in this photo? Nah, I can’t either, but it was steaming hot.

The two layers are exceptionally good, especially the soft potatoes with the bits of salmon.


But the bread crumbs (I used panko) really add a fun crunch to each bite.

I would consider this recipe excellent, but salt the potatoes!

And, the individual brandade in the ramekins turned out perfectly as well.

Curried Pumpkin White Bean Soup

45 Comments

My first introduction to pumpkin was probably like every other American’s – pumpkin pie. I had no idea that this lovely pie was made with a vegetable! The horror! I was married and just learning how to cook when I figured this out.

Pumpkin, the squash, does not taste like pumpkin pie. It’s kind of plain, really, but with some sweetness. But boy does it lend itself to all things sweet and savory.

When my kids were little, I snuck canned pumpkin into just about everything, from oatmeal and pancakes to soups, stews, and pastas. To me, the pumpkin just increased the nutrition of whatever I was making, and the girls never minded the color. Puréed spinach is a different story!

The only way to get canned pumpkin in the “old” days, was in cans. Nowadays, I purchase puréed organic pumpkin in cans or aseptic cartons. I learned a long time ago not to buy inferior brands of pumpkin. They are tasteless and watery.

If you want to be a purist, grab a cooking pumpkin, chop it in half, remove the seeds. If desired, drizzle the flesh with a little olive oil and season (if you’re using the pumpkin for something savory.) Cover the halves securely with foil, then bake in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.

After the pumpkin has cooled, remove the flesh and place it on paper towels or a clean dish towel to remove the water. This step takes a couple of hours. If you want to expedite this, place a heavy baking dish over the paper towel-wrapped pumpkin flesh. This isn’t as critical of a step if you’re using the pumpkin purée for a soup.

Baking a pumpkin from scratch is an important thing to do once. It’s fun. Afterwards, you figure out it’s much easier to buy good puréed pumpkin! Plus, you know the weight of the pumpkin in the can, if you’re using a recipe.

You might have noticed this post published the day after America’s Thanksgiving event. That is because pumpkin to me is something that can be used year around. It isn’t just for autumnal dishes.

Curried Pumpkin White Bean Soup
serves 4
printable recipe below

2 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1” piece of fresh ginger, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled, halved
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 – 15 ounce can pumpkin purée
1 – 15.8 ounce can Great Northern beans, well drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 – 1/3 cup heavy cream, or other options, below

Heat butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes; a little browning is okay.

Add the ginger and garlic and sauté gently for about 2 minutes.

Pour in the chicken broth, let boil, then reduce the liquid by about half.

Add the pumpkin and beans and stir well. Add the seasoning and taste. Let cool before adding to the blender.

Now you’ve got curried pumpkin and white beans and you have options.

1. For a less creamy soup, use broth to blend the pumpkin and beans to your desired consistency. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche.

2. Use heavy cream to blend the pumpkin and beans for a super creamy and rich soup, and serve with cilantro and cayenne pepper flakes.

3. Use either of the above liquids, and top your soup with bacon bits or slices of grilled sausage. And the curry powder ingredients are optional, of course.

Because I’m a sucker for rich soups, I opted for number 2, using heavy cream. You can use 1/2 and 1/2, evaporated milk, or even goat milk. They will all work.

Stop blending when the soup is as thin as you want it; I prefer thicker soups, especially during cold months.

If you haven’t used white beans in a soup before, they’re a miracle worker. They thicken, just like potatoes, but they also add a creaminess and healthy fiber, without adding any significant flavor. It would be like adding tofu for creaminess, fiber, and thickness, which also works well.

Once you use white beans for a soup, you’ll be hooked. I promise.

 

 

Boeuf Bourguignon

48 Comments

Back when I was single, I’d often cook myself beef liver for meals. It was cheap and I loved it, especially with eggs, which were also affordable. I had no other meat experience. Nor with vegetables, other than salad.

So I marry at 25 and know I need to learn how to cook and put daily meals together for my husband and myself. Plus, my husband didn’t eat liver.

Fortunately I was fearless in the kitchen. I jumped into this set of cookbooks from Time-Life – called Foods of the World – that my mother gifted me when we married, and proceeded to cook. My naïveté helped me.

Peking duck? Sure! Tempura? Of course! Rogan Josh? Certainly. Nothing intimidated me, except crazy desserts and pastries, which still do…

When it came to the Provincial French cookbook, I dove in with the same enthusiasm I had for every other cookbook, with glorious results.

Take this boeuf bourguignon. Every aspect of this dish is prepped separately prior to being added together at the end.

I learned how to use salt pork, a new ingredient for me, poaching it first to get rid of all of the salt. I learned how to respect mushrooms, those water-gorged fungi. I peeled pearl onions, not my favorite chore. And I quickly learned how to use good wine in cooking, not one that turns everything purple.

So if you’re willing to spend a little more time to create an outstanding French Burgundian specialty, you will be so happy you did. Nothing is hard, well, except for those darn pearl onions. This recipe just takes a bit of time.

Boeuf Bourguignon
Beef Stew with Red Wine
To serve 6 – 8

To ensure that no one element in your boeuf bourguignon is overdone, cook the onions, mushrooms and beef separately before finally combining them. Although the different steps may be taken simultaneously, it is easier to deal with them one at a time.

The onions
1/2 pound lean salt pork, cut into strips about 1 1/2” long
and 1/4” in diameter
1 quart water
1 tablespoon butter
18 – 24 peeled white onions, about 1” in diameter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. To remove excess saltiness, the salt pork should be blanched by simmering it in 1 quart of water for 5 minutes; drain on paper towels and pat dry.


In a heavy skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over moderate heat, and in it brown the pork, stirring the pieces frequently, until they are crisp and golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels.

In the rendered fat left in the skillet, brown the onions lightly over moderately high heat, shaking the pan occasionally to roll them around and color them as evenly as possible.

Transfer the onions to a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer, and sprinkle them with 3 tablespoons of pork fat. (Set the skillet aside, leaving the rest of the fat in it.) Bake the onions uncovered, turning them once or twice, for 30 minutes or until they are barely tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and set aside.

The mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, whole if small, sliced in large

While the onions are baking or after they are done, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over moderate heat in a skillet. When the foam subsides, cook the mushrooms, tossing and turning them frequently, for 2 or 3 minutes, or until they are slightly soft.


Add the mushrooms to the onions and set aside.

The beef
3 pound lean boneless beef chuck or rump, cut into 2” chunks
Bouquet garni made of 4 parsley sprigs and 1 bay leaf, tied together
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup very finely chopped carrots
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup hot beef stock
2 cups red Burgundy
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Make sure the oven is preheated to 350 degrees F. Pour almost all of the rendered pork fat from the skillet in which the onions browned into a small bowl, leaving just enough to make a thin film about 1/16” deep on the bottom of the pan.

Over moderately high heat, bring the fat almost to the smoking point. Dry the beef with paper towels, then brown it in the fat, 4 or 5 chunks at a time to avoid crowding the skillet.

Add more pork fat as needed. When the chunks are brown on all sides, remove them with kitchen tongs to a heavy, flameproof 5-6 quart casserole. Bury the bouquet garni in the meat.

After all the beef if browned, add the chopped shallots and carrots to the fat remaining in the pan and cook them over low heat, stirring frequently, until they are lightly colored. Stir in the flour. (If the mixture looks dry, add a little more pork fat.)


Return the skillet to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour begins to brown lightly, but be careful it doesn’t burn. Remove from the heat, let cool a moment, then pour in the hot beef stock, blending vigorously with a wire whisk.


Blend in the wine and the tomato paste and bring to a boil, whisking constantly as the sauce thickens.

Mix in the garlic, thyme, sautéed pork strips, salt and a few grinding of black pepper, and pour the sauce over the beef, stirring gently to moisten it thoroughly. the sauce should almost, but not quite, cover the meat; add more wine or stock if needed.



Bring to a boil on top of the stove, cover tightly, and place the casserole in the lower third of the oven. Let the beef cook, regulating the oven heat so the meat simmers slowly, 2 – 3 hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.

Then gently stir the browned onions and mushrooms, together with any juices that may have accumulated under them, into the casserole.

With a large spoon, gently mix the beef and vegetables with the sauce in the casserole. Continue baking for another 15 minutes.

To serve, remove the bouquet garni, and skim off any fat from the surface.

Taste the sauce and season it with salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle the beef with parsley and serve it directly from the casserole.


In the past I’ve served this luscious stew over fresh pasta, but this time I was lazy and cooked some fettuccine.

It’s also wonderful, as you can imagine, over any kind of potato – mashed, roasted, a gratin…

The full flavors of this beef stew are so intense. It’s rich in a way, but rich with flavors of wine and thyme. The onions and mushrooms add delightful texture as well.

Use a good wine – something you’d serve with this dish.

You can serve the stew as you would chili, in a warm bowl without toppings, of course, but I prefer a base of pasta or potatoes.

Wild Rice and Pecan Pancakes

64 Comments

Savory pancakes are something I really enjoy creating, not just because they are so delicious, but more because you can incorporate just about anything and everything into the batter.

Just on this blog I’ve offered potato and halloumi pancakes, butternut squash and bacon pancakes, zucchini pancakes, and squash and corn pancakes. All different, all wonderfully satisfying.

My secret if to use very little flour; it’s all about the main ingredients. Sometimes it’s vegetables with herbs, sometimes vegetables and nuts, sometimes I mix in grains, cooked or not, for texture.

These pancakes are an autumnal offering, using wild rice and toasted pecans. If you are serving a Mexican or Southwestern-inspired meal, include cilantro in the pancakes, plus some ground cumin and dried oregano. If you want a more generic pancake, stick with some parsley for a fresh flavor, like I did here.

Wild rice is actually a seed, not a grain, and it can taste and feel like little sticks, so I prefer a mixture of rice, brown or white, and wild rice.

These can be served with any kind of protein, from a pork chop to salmon. They’re quite versatile.

Wild rice and Pecan Pancakes
Makes 15 pancakes

2 ounces pecans
4 ounces wild rice
1 cup cooked white or brown rice, cooled
2 eggs
4 ounces 1/2 & 1/2, evaporated milk, or other
1 teaspoon garlic pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Approximately 1/4 finely chopped onions or shallots
Approximately 1/4 chopped parsley
1/2 cup flour plus a little more
Butter or olive oil

Toast the pecans in a cast-iron skillet and let cool.

Meanwhile, cook the wild rice in 2 cups of water just as you would rice, for about 50 minutes. You actually have the option to cook less or more, depending on how you like your wild rice. It softens more with more cooking, obviously, which is how I prefer it. If there’s leftover water in the pot you can drain it.

Place the leftover cooked white rice in a small bowl, then add the cooked wild rice and let cool.

In a larger bowl, combine the eggs and 1/2 & 1/2 and stir well. Add the garlic pepper and salt.

When the rice has cooled, add to the egg and milk mixture. Stir well, then add the onions and parsley.

When you are ready to cook the pancakes, add the pecans and stir in the flour.

When you stir the batter, you shouldn’t see any liquid (the egg and milk mixture). If you do, sprinkle a little more flour over the batter, only about one tablespoon at a time. If you add too much flour, the pancakes will be stiff and dry.

I used a large non-stick skillet to cook the pancakes. Start over medium-high heat. Add some butter to the skillet, and when it melts, add a spoonful of batter carefully, pressing it down to form a pancake.

After a minute, turn down the heat and let the pancakes cook for a few minutes. Turn them over carefully, and continue to cook a few more minutes. If you want more browning on the second side, raise the heat a bit.

Repeat with the remaining batter. Take your time, these are a bit more delicate than potato pancakes. The rices are cooked, but you still have to cook the batter slowly but thoroughly.

I served the pancakes as a side to a filet mignon.

I think a vegetarian would enjoy them as a meal, because they’re pretty hearty.

Speaking of non-vegetarians, these would also be good made with bacon.

If you feel extra decadent, serve sour cream with the pancakes.

 

 

Fancy Deviled Eggs

46 Comments

My daughters always loved deviled eggs, so I used to make them often at Easter and other holidays. Now that they’re grown and gone, I realized I haven’t made them in years!

I typically made them with mayonnaise and sour cream, and sometimes a smidgen of Dijon mustard. But deviled egg filling is something with which you can get really creative. You can add herbs like basil or parsley, or chives, chopped pickles or sun-dried tomato bits, and so forth.

Today I’m making deviled eggs with smoked salmon. And, I’m adding some capers. For this recipe, make sure to buy small, unsalted capers.

To make these eggs, I’m also testing out a gadget I bought after seeing it on Instagram.

These are silicone egg cookers. Because I purchase the freshest eggs available, the shells are sometimes nearly impossible to remove, and that makes me crazy.

Here are the directions for the egg cookers: Crack, Boil, Pop. You can make eggs hard- or soft-boiled, or even create egg-shaped omelets. Why I’m not sure, but maybe kiddos would like them.

No directions came in the box. I started water on the stove. I wiped a few drops of olive oil in the cookers, then cracked an egg in each of them. The cookers don’t remove the shells for you, there just aren’t any shells.

When the water was at a full boil I added all 6 of the egg cookers.

I have no idea if they’re supposed to stay upright or fill up with water.

After 15 minutes I removed one and it seemed firm, but it wasn’t. I ate it like the soft-boiled egg that it was.

And then I gave up, threw everything away, and made eggs the old-fashioned way. I can’t tell you how I cook my eggs, and I hadn’t been prepared to write it down because I had these “fabulously innovative” egg cookers.

But I bring eggs to a boil, let them boil a bit, turn off the heat, wait a while, then submerge them in ice water. My head tells me when they’re ready.

So make hard-boil eggs your way. And do not buy this product. Fortunately it was only $8.99.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Capers
printable recipe below

8 large high-quality eggs, hard-boiled, chilled
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
1 heaping tablespoon sour cream
2 ounces smoked salmon, or to taste
1 ounce drained capers
Finely chopped shallots, optional
Sweet paprika, optional

Peel the hard-boiled eggs. There seems to always be one bastard in the bunch that won’t peel, which is why if I want them to look pretty, I typically boil a couple of extra eggs.

Slice eggs in half lengthwise, using a Sharp knife. Keep the knife clean between eggs by wiping it with a paper towel.

The next step is to gently squeeze the egg half to loosen the yolk. Place the yolks in a medium bowl.

Once you’re done, use a fork to mash the yolks. Add the mayonnaise and sour cream and mash until smooth.

Finely chop the salmon and fold in gently.

Place the egg white halves on a serving platter. Using a small spoon, carefully place a teaspoon or so at a time into the center. Try not to make a mess, which I usually do because I’m hurrying.

Right before serving, sprinkle some capers on each egg. If you really like caper flavor, you can include some in the egg yolk mixture.

Finely diced shallots are another possible topping for these fancy deviled eggs. It usually depends on my company whether or not I use raw shallots.

Serve at room temperature. These are really good with champagne or rosé, and with a charcuterie platter.

Tasting the egg filling is important, because both smoked salmon and capers are salty.

This is a photo I happened upon online of Bobby Flay’s deviled eggs with smoked trout. I don’t think it’s as pretty as using smoked salmon, but it’s certainly an option, and I love options.

I promise I will never buy another product I see advertised on Instagram.

 

 

Salmon with Apples, Cherries, & Hazelnuts

65 Comments

I have saved this recipe for years since I first came across it on Epicurious. It’s a Bobby Flay recipe from his cookbook, Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction, which I do not own. The actual name of the recipe is Hot-Smoked Salmon with Apples, Dried Cherries, Hazelnuts, and Greens.

What I like about Epicurious is that the online publication has reviews and up to four “fork” ratings for their recipes. I like to read the reviews to get an idea of what the general cooking public liked or disliked about a recipe.

Sometimes reviewers don’t like the number of ingredients, or a more complicated recipe, which lowers the overall percentage of a recipe’s rating. In this case, it received 3 out of 4 forks, and only 71% would make it again.

I chose to ignore the ratings in the case of this recipe, because it seemed like few understood hot smoking. There’s nothing wrong with baking or sautéing the salmon, but the important part of this recipe is the hot-smoked salmon paired with the vinegary salad. Hot-smoked salmon is so smoky and rich that it almost requires a vinaigrette.


My Cameron hot-smoker is a handy part of my culinary appliance repertoire. It’s especially handy during months when you don’t want to be outside messing with a smoker. It actually uses real woods that are pulverized so that smoking is done quickly, which is important for thin salmon filets.



This salmon is special to me because it was caught by my husband on a recent fishing expedition in a remote part of Alaska. It wasn’t catch-and-release, so the fish was brought home on planes.

If you want the original recipe, please click on the link in the top paragraph. I’m not going to use Bobby Flay’s method for hot smoking the salmon, although I will use his rub and curing step. Make sure to remove the pin bones before proceeding with the recipe.

Hot-Smoked Salmon with Apples, Dried Cherries, Hazelnuts, and Greens

For the Salmon:
1/2 cup kosher salt (I used 1/4 cup because of the reviews)
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons crushed black peppercorns
1 – 3 to 3.5 pound piece center-cut salmon fillet, skin on, pin bones removed

Mix together the salt, sugar, brown sugar, and peppercorns in a medium bowl. Line a piece of extra-wide aluminum foil that’s a little longer than the length of the fish with an equally long layer of plastic wrap.

Sprinkle half of the rub on the wrap. Lay the salmon on the rub. Sprinkle the remaining rub on top of the salmon. Put the wrapped fish on a rimmed baking sheet and top with another baking sheet. Weigh down with a brick or two and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Unwrap the salmon and rinse off the cure mixture with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Bring the salmon to room temperature about two hours before you plan on serving it.

To use the stove-top smoker, set it over medium-high heat to get the smoke going, and then turn the heat down to low for 15 minutes. I prefer salmon cooked medium-rare.

The smoke can really get going when you use this gadget, so cover it up with wet dish towels. And, sometimes they catch on fire, so be prepared.

For the Salad:
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 teaspoons honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
4 ounces organic baby greens
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 small white onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted

Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, and honey in a large bowl and seasonwith salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified.

Add the greens, apple, onion, cherries and hazelnuts to combine. Season with salt and pepper.


Place the salmon on a platter and arrange the salad on top.


Are you ready for this? This recipe is going on my Last Meal list! It’s that good!

The salmon is fabulous with the vinaigrette and the apples and cherries. The onions and hazelnuts are like icing on cake.


I didn’t taste much mustard from the vinaigrette, which is fine, but I added a few mustard seeds on top for fun.


I’ve never pressed raw salmon with weights, but it certainly didn’t ruin anything. The flesh was condensed, as you’d expect, but still moist and tender.

I’d barely finished photographing this dish before I began devouring it. I added more vinaigrette because the fish can take it, and by the end it was more like a salad with salmon on my plate. Nice and messy. And delicious.

Avocado Pie

57 Comments

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!

Christmas in your Mouth!

70 Comments

Okay, weird title, but there’s no other way to describe this after-dinner drink. It just tastes like Christmas, which I happen to love.

I’ve mentioned quite a few times over the years that I’m no mixologist. I’ve made some good margaritas, but it seems like when I try to make something creative, it’s terrible.

Actually, it’s not that my skills are completely lacking because I’m typically following recipes, but I don’t enjoy a lot of cocktails, especially if they’re terribly strong. Like martinis. So whatever I might make and dislike, which seems to happen often, I pass on to my willing husband.

Typically when the weather turns cold, I stock up on seasonal liqueurs. I love Amarula, Eggnog, Bailey’s, various chocolate liqueurs, and so forth. Some I will put in coffee or hot chocolate, or some over ice in lieu of dessert.

One night I got super creative (sarcasm) and combined all of two different liqueurs together for my husband and myself. We both thought that this drink was so good that we haven’t been able to stop drinking it!!!

It’s good, it’s pretty, and it’s Christmas in your mouth. You’re welcome.

Christmas in your Mouth
Makes 2 drinks

2 – 8 ounce cocktail glasses
Small ice cubes
4 ounces Buttershots
4 ounces Rumchata

Fill the glasses with ice.


Divide the buttershots and Rumchata evenly in both glasses.


Stir and serve.

You can add some freshly grated nutmeg if you’d like.


And, it’s Christmas!

Mulled Wine

49 Comments

When I think of mulled wine, I think of my daughter and I visiting my other daughter in December of 2010 in London. Everything was Christmassy, and it was cold, as expected. The first thing she did when we met up at her flat was to prepare mulled wine. It was so charming and thoughtful.

But I had no idea that mulled wine is so popular in London, at least during the cold months I presume. In fact, every single pub we visited, which was daily, served mulled wine.

Here is a special photo of us three gals at The Marylebone, after warming our spirits with mulled wine.

Those memories, of the beautiful quaint pubs, the Christmas markets, the mulled wine, fabulous meals, but mostly of being with my two daughters at a special time of year, were so important to me, that once home, I haven’t wanted to make mulled wine. I needed to preserve those memories some how. Until now.

Out of curiosity, I sought out recipes for mulled wine online, and they’re basically all straight forward. In fact, you can simply mull wine with purchased mulling spices! If you don’t know, the act of mulling is simmering or steeping the wine or cider.

I found a recipe on Epicurious along with a blurb written by Katherine Sachs that offered a bit more information when proceeding with mulled wine, with more options.

Katherine writes that “In Germany it’s called Glühwein and it’s occasionally made with with fruit wine; it’s Glögg in Scandinavia, and usually served with a spiced cookie or cake; in Quebec they mix in maple syrup and hard liquor and call it Caribou.”

I need to look into a Caribou. But on to mulled wine…

For a stronger pot, add some liquor, such as brandy or spiced rum. Mulled wine can also be made with white wine, such as a Riesling or Grüner Veltliner, if you prefer that style.

Mulled Wine
Serves 2, 3, 4…

1 bottle of good red wine, like a pinot noir
2 cups apple cider
1 cup ruby port
A couple slices of orange rind
4 cinnamon sticks
20 whole cloves
2 crushed allspice
Star anise and cinnamon sticks and orange slices for serving

Pour the wine, cider, and port into an enamel pot. Add the orange rinds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and allspice.

Start heating slowly on a low-to-medium setting. You want to steep the wine, not boil or reduce it.

After about 30-40 minutes it will be done. Sieve the mixture if you don’t want the little spice bits.

Serve in cups with a cinnamon stick, star anise, and slices of orange.

I purposely didn’t shake the bottle of apple cider. I didn’t want the mulled wine to look murky.

This is especially important if you chose to serve the mulled wine in a glass cup. You want it pretty and burgundy, not brown and murky.

The mulled wine would work well in a carafe, so you don’t have to keep it on the stove. Just serve!

Hope you enjoy this recipe.


I have prepared mulled port before and that is slightly sweeter than mulled wine, but definitely still warming and flavorful. It was mulled with clementines.

Foie Gras

62 Comments

If I were ever asked what my last meal would be, it wouldn’t be a difficult answer. Foie gras, seared gently and cooked medium-rare, served with a compote of sorts and some toasts. It’s heaven on a plate to me.

Sadly, I can count the number of people I know who love liver as much as I do on one finger. So as a result, I’ve rarely prepared it.


Fortunately, I am able to buy beef liver where I live, and do enjoy it on occasion, typically with eggs and lots of browned onions.

And, I am able to purchase chicken liver in order to make chicken liver paté.

But there is just no comparing a slice of beef liver, or puréed chicken livers to the wonderfulness that is foie gras, and it was high time I purchased it.

My source for foie gras is the wonderful store and website D’Artagnan. The founder of D’Artagnan is Ariane Daguin, and her story is inspirational.

I purchased two lobes from D’Artagnan – one to cook sliced, and the other to make a paté for the holidays.

I chose to serve the foie gras with beet pancakes, which I made simply with grated beets, chopped shallots, egg, and flour.

Because fruit pairs so well with foie gras, I poached apple slices in a combination of apple nectar and maple syrup until soft, then reduced the liquid until syrupy.

Sometimes there is confusion, as one can make paté from liver, or one can make paté from foie gras, as my friend Stéphane did when I visited him at his home five long years ago. I got to help a little!

To prepare the foie gras, slice the lobe gently but firmly. Place the slices on a plate, and season with salt and pepper.

I like to cook foie gras in browned butter. I prefer a lighter sear, so I immediately turned down the fire after turning over the foie gras slices.

It only takes a few minutes per side, depending on the thickness. As I mentioned, I love foie gras medium rare. To the plate with 2 slices of foie gras I added a beet pancake, some of the nectar-poached apples, and then poured on a little syrup.


The combination was perfection, if I may say so myself!

I included the beet pancake for color, but one could place the foie gras slices on bread slices optionally.

If all you’ve heard about foie gras is the inhumane treatment of ducks and geese, please read this article by my favorite Serious Eats writer J. KENJI LÓPEZ-ALT. The article is well-researched, educational, and also based on personal experience.