Summer is coming to an end.  You can just feel it, and well the geese are starting to come in from Canada…I love fall, don’t get me wrong…but oh the summer produce, nothing compares.  So today’s recipe – is peperonata…celebrating sweet peppers.

For this recipe I used mini sweet peppers…make sure that when you buy the peppers that they do say sweet!  If you don’t have access to mini sweet peppers,  a total 1 lb of yellow, red, and orange peppers will do the trick.

Our favorite way to eat peperonata is on crostinis or a generous amount scooped over polenta with roasted lamb. But it’s very versatile as you will see when you’ve completed the recipe!

Peperonata – about 2 cups

1 lb sweet mini peppers, variety of yellow, red, and orange
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup small cherry tomatoes, halved
1 sprig rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

If you are using mini peppers, they typically don’t have a developed membrane or seeds, so just slice in half and remove the stem. Don’t worry about the size, because they will shrink more as they cook.

If you are using large peppers, slice in half, remove the membrane, seeds, and stem. Break apart the pepper with your hand, into bite size pieces.

In a deep saute pan, heat olive oil over medium low heat. Add onions, peppers, cherry tomatoes and rosemary. Toss, and turn heat to low. Nothing in your pan should brown, so if this starts to occur, move your pan partially off the heat and continue to cook over low heat. Your sweating the veggies to get all their yummy juices. Cook for about an hour or until tender. The longer you cook the peppers the sweeter they are.

Add balsamic vinegar, mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.

To make the crostinis, slice a baguette into 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly brush baguette slices with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake until golden brown, about 8 minutes.

Top with spoonful of peperonata, and serve.

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The onions in the picture were not browned, they changed color when the balsamic vinegar was added.


Mexican Chocolate Espresso Cookies

There’s nothing better than tender but crispy homemade cookies, especially when they incorporate semi-sweet chocolate chips and mexican espresso.

Mexican Chocolate Espresso Cookies – about 24 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tablespoons gradulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant Mexican espresso coffee powder
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and both sugars until fluffy.

Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined.

In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Beat into the butter mixture at low speed. Just until combined, don’t overmix. Stir in espresso powder and chocolate chips.

Prepare a cookie sheet with silpat. Using a 1 ounce scoop (about 2 tablespoons), drop cookies onto silpat, about 2 inches apart. Gently press with the back of a spoon. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned.

Remove from baking sheet and place on baking rack to cool. Enjoy with cold glass of milk.

Rosemary Pomme Frites and Kalamata Aioli

I love aioli and french fries.  I’m from Quebec, Canada.  We eat mayonnaise on everything, and if it doesn’t come with mayonnaise – we ask for it.  And I also love kalamata olives.

Rosemary Pomme Frites and Kalamata Aioli – 2 servings
4 large russet potatoes, washed
Peanut oil
Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon rosemary, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
1/3 cup purple kalamata olives, minced

Using a mandoline cut each potato into sticks, 1/4-inch thick and 4 1/2-inches long. Place in a bowl of water, and when all the potatoes have been cut, change the water. If you’d like you can do this hours ahead of time, and change the water every hour or so.

To prepare the aioli, combine minced garlic and pinch of salt together, and crush into a paste. Place in a large bowl, add egg yolk and whisk until well combined. Add lemon juice, and while constantly whisking slowly drizzle in olive oil. The mixture will become emulsified, and should be very thick. Stir in herbs and and minced kalamata, combine well and set aside.

Fill a large heavy pot with 4-inches of peanut oil and heat to 320 degrees F. Meanwhile remove the potatoes from the water and drain on a cooling rack or colander. No need to waste paper towels to dry potatoes, but if you feel like it you can use that method instead.

Place a handful of potatoes in the hot oil, and using a spider stir the potatoes. Don’t crowd them. Fry them for about 5 minutes or until they are cooked through. Remove the fries and drain on newspaper or paper towels. Repeat this process with remaining potatoes. Reserve the oil in the pot, and heat the oil to 375 degrees F. Add handful of potatoes at a time ad fry for 3 minutes or until deep golden brown. Place fries in a large metal bowl.

Toss fries with kosher salt and minced rosemary.  Serve immediately with kalamata aioli on the side.

Note: For twist add freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to bowl of fries along with other ingredients, toss and serve with aioli.


BLT with Herb Aioli

When I moved to Cincinnati, I learned what bacon was.  Well actually I learned a lot about pork products.  Porkopolis has also allowed me to sample some of the most different and interesting bacon products.  I have even been contemplating joining the bacon of the month club from The Grateful Palate.

I’ll just come out and admit I have a love for pigs, not just their products.  I just think they are such an incredible animal.  Think about it, pigs have heart valves that are used to replace defective heart valves in humans.  Even embryonic cells can be used as a source to grow new organs for humans.  John and I have been looking into adopting a Miniature Julianas, not for medical reasons, lol just because we’ve been wanting a pet we could love.

Ok, so sorry – but I had to let everyone else know my love for them! Because I’m using one of their lovely products for this recipe…

BLT, but to be more specific:
Bacon Rocket Heirloom Tomato and Herb Aioli on Toasted Sourdough – 2 servings

8 pieces of thick-cut Bacon
Heirloom Tomatoes, thick slices
Arugula, also known as Rocket
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon chives, minced
1 teaspoon tarragon, minced
Unsalted Butter, room temperature
Loaf of Sourdough bread, 4 thick slices

Heat a saute pan over medium heat, and cook bacon until desired crispiness.  Set aside and drain on papertowels.  

To prepare the aioli, combine minced garlic and pinch of salt together, and crush into a paste.  Place in a large bowl, add egg yolk and whisk until well combined.  Add lemon juice, and while constantly whisking slowly drizzle in olive oil.  The mixture will become emulsified, and should be very thick.  Stir in herbs and set aside.

Heat a grill or saute pan, prepare sourdough bread by spreading butter on one side of each slice, and place butter side down in pan, cook until browned and toasted, flip over and toast unbuttered side. Remove from heat.

For each sandwich, arrange rocket on 1 piece of bread.  Top with tomato slices, season with salt and pepper, layer with bacon and drizzle aioli over bacon.  Top with the other piece of toasted bread, cut in half and serve immediately.

Note: If there’s any remaining aioli, cover and refrigerate it for up to a week. Use on many other sandwiches, or fry up some french fries and serve aioli as dip.

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Gourmet Jewelry

So no recipe today, but I will post one this weekend.  I’m actually thinking Shrimp and Grits or keeping it simple and making a delicious BLT….like a super duper yummy BLT, that makes all other BLT’s look like…well lame.

Today’s post is about the jewelry your loved one could be wearing.  Now typically I’m all about T&Co..but I came across a website called Demitasse – interestingly I was not looking for jewelry, I was actually looking for demi-tasses that had a little oumph but were still oven safe. 

Rachel White, the owner of Demitasse preserves the beauty of antique tableware, and creates the most intricate jewelry.  There are quite a few different collections.  I’m planning on ordering a necklace or two,  I’m obsessed with The Orchid Sugar Sifter and the absinthe spoon – The Vermont Spoon or The Fairy Absinthe Spoon.  See! I can’t decide.

Have a look at the site, and get yourself some jewelry.

25th Anniversary worthy?

So my parents recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, and unfortunately I wasn’t in town.  But luckily, my sisters took them out to celebrate and when I arrive I will be making a feast for my parents and sisters!  EXCITEMENT!

So I thought rack of lamb would be perfect – especially since everyone in my family enjoys it.

Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with Pinot Noir Sauce – 8 servings
Make the sauce recipe below first, or better yet a day ahead.

2 racks of lamb (about 2 lbs each), frenched
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil
1/4 cup dijon mustard
3 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp.
4 cloves garlic confit, mashed
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon thyme, minced

Score the fat on lamb in 1/2 inch crosshatch pattern (try not to cut the meat). Season racks with salt and pepper. Prepare a roasting pan with rack.

Heat canola oil in a frying pan over medium-heat. Put 1 rack at a time, fat side down, and sear until golden brown. Transfer lamb to a roasting rack meat side up. Clean out pan, add fresh oil, and repeat with other rack.

Combine mustard and honey in a small bowl and set aside. Combine butter and garlic confit puree until smooth, add parsley and thyme. Mix until well combined.

Brush honey-mustard mixture over fat and meat, but don’t put any on the underside. Spread herb butter mixture evenly over racks, pressing gently. If possible refrigerate overnight or a few hours, the herbs will give the lamb more flavor, otherwise continue with the recipe. Bring to room temperature before roasting.

Position roasting rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Place both racks in the oven, the meat towards the back, roast for 25-35 minutes, the meat temperature should be about 128-130 degrees F.  Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

Pinot Noir Sauce – 1 1/2 cups
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 lbs lamb bones
1 lb onion, chopped coarsely
1 large carrot, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
4 1/3 cups pinot noir
3 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons flour

Heat oil over medium heat, add lamb bones and cook until brown, turning occasionally, about 18 minutes. Transfer lamb to bowl. Add onions, carrot, garlic, and herbe de provence. Saute until veggies are dark brown, about 8 minutes. Add wine, broth and return the lamb and any juices accumulated to pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours.  Strain into bowl.  Spoon off fat, and return to pot.  Simmer until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes.

Mix butter and flour to paste, whisk into stock.  Simmer sauce until thickeded, whisking constantly.  Season with salt and pepper, serve immediately.

For their anniversary, I have been working on a menu, which I partially test runned tonight.

Assorted Hors D’oeuvres

Mesclun Greens with Balsamic Dressing

Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with Honey-Mustard Glaze and Pinot Noir Sauce

Potato Mushroom Gratin

Haricots Verts with Shallots

Croquembouche with Champagne

I’ll also be making Herbes de Provence bread and garlic confit.  I’m still not sure about the hors d’oeuvres so I’ll be working on that this weekend.

I also wanted to say you do not have to serve lamb with the gratin, you could make a lovely butter polenta and it would go wonderfully.

Our test run went fabulously, and the bottle of pinot gris we enjoyed just topped the evening off.  Enjoy the pictures.

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Sunday Night Dinner

Since I’m taking summer classes right now, John and I haven’t been having dinner together, so Sundays we prepare dinner together.

For tonights meal, we made pork chops with saffron rice and tomato sauce.

Pork Chops with Saffron Rice and Rustic Tomato Sauce – 2 servings

2 bone-in pork chops
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 10-oz container grape tomatoes
3/4 cup rice or orzo
Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Pat pork chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large saute pan, over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add pork chops and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer chops to a plate, reserve saute pan.

To prepare rice follow package instructions to cook rice al dente. Add rice and saffron, cooking until al dente. Drain well if there’s water remaining and return to saucepan. Stir in butter and cheese.

Meanwhile, in the saute pan, add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1/4 cup wine (stand back!), tomatoes, and pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to scrape up any left bits on the pan. Simmer gently, carefully pressing on tomatoes until they collapse, about 10-15 minutes. (The fresher the tomatoes, the longer it may take to cook.)  Add the pork chops and any juice accumulated in the plate to the pan, cook until heated throughout. 

To serve, divide rice among 2 plates, top with pork chops and tomatoes.  Add remaining 1/4 cup of white wine to pan, over medium heat, and simmer to deglaze pan, pour juices over chops, and enjoy.

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This recipe is also easy to double, triple, quadruple…whatever! And it’s delicious made with chicken legs and thighs, if you prefer.  As you’ll note in the photos, I used a variety of small tomatoes because it was what John brought in from our garden – feel free to use whatever small variety tomato you know of.