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Let's make some tasty, easy food

Red Velvet Swirl Brownies

Monday, April 9, 2012

I saw this recipe sometime ago on Food Network and decided I must try it one day. The perfect occasion came with Easter, so here we are:

For the Red Velvet brownie layer:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Cream cheese layer:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking pan, and set aside.

Brownie layer: In a saucepan on medium heat melt the butter. Remove the butter to a large bowl and add the sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar, in that order, mixing between additions. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and stir it into the cocoa mix. Fold in the flour until lightly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, saving 1/4 cup of the batter for the top.

Cream cheese layer: Blend together the cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl.
Gently spread the cream cheese layer on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Dollop the remaining brownie batter over the cream cheese layer. Using a skewer or the tip of a knife, drag the tip through the cream cheese mixture to create a swirl pattern. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before cutting.


Cream of Leek and Asparagus Soup

Monday, March 26, 2012

This soup is a great way to celebrate asparagus, and the addition of leeks in the recipe gives a boost of extra iron as well as delicious flavor. This sumptuous soup tastes even better if made a day ahead, and it can serve as a creamy and satisfying main meal alongside a tender salad and some crusty wholegrain bread. 


1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 large celery stalks, diced
1 ½ pounds asparagus
6 large leeks, white and palest green parts only, chopped and well rinsed
vegetable stock (about 3 cups or as needed)
½ teaspoon each: dried tarragon and dried basil
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 to 1 ½ cups low-fat milk or soymilk, as needed
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste 

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and celery and saute over moderate heat until the onion is golden. 

Crustless Smoked Salmon, Leek and Red Peppers Quiche

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This crustless quiche is easy to make and great for any meal. The smoked salmon lends a touch of elegance, and the leeks can be substituted with onions or shallots. 


- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cup milk or cream
- 6 oz smoked salmon
- 1 large leek, white and light green parts sliced (about 1 cup of slices)
- 1 small red pepper, chopped 
- 3/4 cup shredded cheese - almost any kind or combination is fine, but not too much strong-flavoured cheese such as Parmesan
- 1 tsp dry mustard (I replaced with Dijon)
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- pinch of cayenne pepper or a bit of hot sauce
- paprika, salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Saute leeks in a little olive oil. When they begin to soften, add the peppers. Add a little salt and cook for 3-4 minutes. Just before taking off the heat, add the thyme.

Risotto Primavera

Sunday, March 18, 2012

This is a twist on the technique to cooking a classic risotto, and it only takes 6 minutes of continuous stirring, as opposed to 18, because this risotto cooks undisturbed for the first 12 minutes. It is a quick and easy meal for two, using the following ingredients:

- 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 tsp olive oil
- 3 oz cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
- 1 small onion, chopped fine (I used 3 scallions)
- 1/2 cup Arborio rice
- 3 oz asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste

Stuffed Pork Chops

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ingredients (I halved the quantities listed below, as I had two monster pork chops :)))
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 quarts water
  • 4 (2-inch thick) pork chops, bone-in rib loin chops, split to bone
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, minced
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped sage leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
  • 2 1/2 cups crumbled cornbread
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk salt and sugars in 2-quarts of cold water. Add pork chops and cover. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove the pork chops from the brine and dry well.

In a large heavy bottomed saute pan, begin to fry bacon. Add celery, onion and garlic to pan and allow to saute with the crispy bacon. Add rosemary, sage and parsley after bacon has cooked for 8 to 10 minutes. Saute until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl add cornbread, dried cranberries and chicken stock. Stir in the cooked vegetable mixture. Mix well.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Stuff the chop with about 1/2 cup of stuffing.

Use toothpicks to help seal the chops. Grill the chops for 5 to 7 minutes per side. Internal temperature should be 145 degrees F. Allow chop to rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Roasted Branzino Stuffed with Leeks and Meyer Lemons

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I prepared the branzino in the Mediterranean style, with citrus and herbs and served with a risotto Primavera. You can replace the branzino with any white, flaky fish.


1 whole branzino or other white-fleshed whole fish, butterflied
1 leeks cut into thin strips
1 Meyer lemon cut into thin rounds with one wedge reserved
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Place fish on a roasting pan open and flesh side up. Sprinkle salt and pepper over both fish. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over each fish. Line one side of the fish with lemon slices, top with a generous amount of leeks and 2 sprigs of thyme. Fold the empty side onto the filled side. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Cook for 12 to 18 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.


Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A staple in the Roman cuisine, tomatoes stuffed with rice appear on nearly every antipasto table in Rome. You'll need:

- 8 firm, medium ripe tomatoes (I had 3 very large ones)
- 1/2 cup raw Arborio or other risotto rice
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper

Position oven rack in top third of oven, then preheat the oven to 400F. Trim about 1/4-inch from the top of each tomato and set them aside. Working over a medium bowl, use a small spoon to carefully scoop out inner pulp without puncturing the walls of the tomatoes; reserve the pulp. Arrange the scooped-out tomatoes open end up in a medium baking dish and set aside.

Pass the tomato pulp through a food mill or pulse in the bowl of a food processor to a chunky puree, then transfer back into the bowl. 

Add the rice, basil, parsley, garlic and oil, then season generously with salt and pepper. Mix well. 

Spoon the filling into prepared tomatoes 

and place a reserved tomato end loosely on top of each stuffed tomato. 

Drizzle a little bit of oil over tomatoes and bake until rice is tender and the tomatoes are soft and well browned, about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature. 


Crustless Broccoli and Cauliflower Quiche

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

This recipe again makes use of the entire broccoli, nothing is left out. Peel off the skin of the broccoli stems with a vegetable peeler or a very sharp knife, then cut them into slices or chunks.

- 1 tsp olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp dried rosemary, chopped
- 1 medium bunch broccoli and cauliflower, cut into florets, broccoli stems peeled and cut 1/3 inch thick

Heat the oven to 375F. Brush a 10-inch pie plate with olive oil.

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and let it cool.

Add the eggs to the onion and slightly beat. Whisk in milk, 1/2 cup of the cheese, water, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper and rosemary to blend.

Cover the bottom of the pie plate with the broccoli and cauliflower.

Pour the cream mixture into the pie plate. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean and quiche is golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes. Enjoy!

Baked Basa Roulades

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


2-3 Basa fillets
2 red bell peppers
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon
4 cloves of garlic
dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Place the red peppers on highest rack in oven and broil. Rotate until burned on all sides. Place in a plastic bag until cool. 

Mix vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

Peel away the charred outer layer of red pepper. Seed, cut into strips, and soak in vinaigrette for 15 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

Layer the strips on the fillet, 

roll up and tie with thread (I left them untied).

Place rolled fillets in a shallow baking dish, in 1/2 inch of white wine. Bake on middle rack, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the fillets are opaque.


Roasted Fennel Salad

- 1 fennel bulb, fronds reserved
- 1 organic orange
- olive oil, for frying 
- Fleur de sel (sea salt) and freshly ground black pepper
- small red onion, about 1/2
- a handful toasted pine nuts
- zest and juice of 1 lemon

Trim the fennel, reserving a handful of green fronds. Cut into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Heat a little olive oil in a saute pan, and, working in batches and seasoning with salt and pepper as you go, fry the fennel on both sides until golden and tender. As the fennel is done, arrange it on a serving platter.

Zest the orange and set the zest aside. Remove the skin with a sharp knife, taking care to remove all the white pith from the fruit. Discard the peel. Cut out the orange sections, arranging over the fennel, and squeeze the orange juice over the whole salad.

Slice the onion into paper thin rings and arrange over the salad. Scatter over the pine nuts. Squeeze over lemon juice, to taste. Drizzle over a little more olive oil. Finally, scatter over the reserved fennel fronds. Serve and enjoy!

Broccoli Soup with Lemon-Pistachio Butter

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

No parts of the broccoli are wasted in making this soup; both florets and stalks are boiled and pureed. Pistachio butter is as good as it sounds!

You'll need:

- 3 tbsp chopped salted pistachios
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- grated zest of one lemon
- 1 very large head of broccoli, about 1.5 lbs
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 1/3 cup cup chopped fresh basil

Lightly toast the pistachios in a small skillet until fragrant, 3-4 minutes. Put 4 tbsp of the butter in a bowl and mix in the pistachios and the lemon zest. Roll the mixture in a piece of parchment (I used cling film) to make a 1-inch diameter log. Freeze.

Remove the broccoli florets from the stalks. Peel the stalks; discard the bottom inch and cut into small pieces. Place in a 4-quart pot with the garlic, 6 cups water and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes and add the florets. Cook for 8 minutes, add the basil and cook for 2 more minutes.

Transfer the broccoli, garlic and 3 cups of the cooking liquid to a food processor. Process until smooth. Add the remaining 2 tbsp butter and process again until very smooth. Reheat and serve topped with thin slices of the frozen butter.


Chicken Braciole with Alfredo Sauce

Saturday, February 25, 2012

  • 4 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup dried Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (about 1 small bunch)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 to 2 cups freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 10 ounces angel hair or fettuccini pasta, cooked

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Pound the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap to about 1/4-inch thickness. In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, parsley, grated Parmesan, and garlic. Slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil until the mixture becomes the consistency of thick paste. Evenly spread the mixture down the center of each piece of chicken, leaving room around the edges. 

Brazilian Shrimp Soup

Thursday, February 23, 2012

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup long-grain rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from one 15-ounce can)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and cut in half horizontally
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes.

Add the rice, red-pepper flakes, salt, tomatoes, and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and cook until the rice is almost tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir the coconut milk into the soup. Bring back to a simmer and then stir in the shrimp. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are just done, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the black pepper, lemon juice, and parsley.

Now, I know that a real Brazilian shrimp soup should also have okra in it, but my soup was thick enough without it. You can, of course, instead of the shrimp, to use one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about three), cut crosswise into quarter-inch strips. Cook for the same amount of time.


French Onion Soup (Anne Burrell's recipe)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 large onions, thinly sliced from stem to root end
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 ounces dry sherry
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 bundle thyme
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 12 thin slices baguette
  • 1/2 pound Gruyere, grated
  • 1/2 bunch chopped chives
Coat a large deep pot with olive oil. Add the onions and sprinkle generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium heat. Stir the onions to coat with oil. Cover the pot and sweat for 15 to 20 minutes.
Once the onions have gotten very soft and let off a lot of water, remove the lid and let the onions cook low and slow. That's right low and slow to really develop their rich brown color and sweet flavor. There is no shortcut or rush for this, do not try! Caramelized onions take a long time, about an hour, accept it and move on. 

Tian of Eggplant, Tomato and Herbs

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This gorgeous layered vegetable gratin requires 3 hours in the oven for its alchemy to work. A tian is an earthenware baking dish but you can use a small paella pan or any dish with a 10-cup capacity. The delicious liquid that accumulates in the dish can be used to make a vinaigrette. Serve the tian hot or at room temperature.


- 1 large eggplant (about 1.5 lb), peeled
- 4 medium onions, about 1.5 lb
- 5 large ripe tomatoes, about 2 lbs
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2.5 tbsp dried oregano
- 10 tbsp freshly grated Pecorino Romano
- 1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Slice the eggplant into thin rounds. Toss with one tbsp salt. Thinly slice the tomatoes. Thinly slice the onions, keeping the slices intact.

Arrange half of the eggplant in the bottom of a tian or paella pan. Top with an overlapping layer of half the tomatoes, and then half the onions.

Sausages, Beans and Olives Casserole

Monday, February 20, 2012

I read that this is a traditional dish in northern Italy, usually made with lard and pork belly, which I replaced here with olive oil, sausages and pancetta, thus getting the strong flavours of pork with less cooking time. The sausages can also be replaced with small ribs.

- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 4 oz pancetta, diced
- 1 lb sausages, cut into 1-inch thick chunks (mine had cheese and parsley in them)
- 1 cup pitted black olives
- 3 oz tomato puree
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 glass red wine
- 14oz can cannellini beans, drained
- 3 bay leaves
- salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. Heat the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole dish and fry the onions and carrots over high heat for about 2 minutes, until golden.

French Vegetable Tian

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A wonderful vegetarian dish I used to accompany some chicken breast stuffed with pine nuts, leek and bell pepper. Very simple to make and very versatile, can easily be paired with any meat or eaten on its own.


- 60 ml olive oil
- 500 gr zucchini, thickly sliced on the diagonal
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 650 gr tomatoes
- 2 medium red onions, chopped
- 60 ml white wine
- a pinch of nutmeg
- 25 gr chopped parsley
- 130 gr grated Gruyere cheese
- a few small sprigs of thyme

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 6x10-inch ovenproof dish with melted butter or oil. Heat half of the oil in a large frying pan, then add the zucchini and half the garlic.

Cook, stirring, over low heat for about 8 minutes or until just beginning to soften. Season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg, Spread evenly into the dish.

Simple Chicken Parmigiana

Friday, February 10, 2012

This recipe renders a juicy chicken, after being "breaded" with finely grated Parmesan cheese, covered with mozzarella cheese and topped with roasted grape tomatoes. Everything happens in the oven, on one sheet pan.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove, grated
12 oz grape tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
large pinch hot pepper flakes
4 skinless, boneless chicken (8 oz each)
1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
5 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
handful of torn fresh flat-leaf parsley or small basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 500F. Combine the oil, garlic and 1/2 tsp salt in a small bowl. Transfer 2 tbsp to another bowl and add the tomatoes, oregano and pepper flakes. 

Veal Cutlets with Red Bell Pepper

Monday, February 6, 2012

For this recipe I used veal for scallopini, so no need to bother beating the meat. I also made some modifications, which I will mention as I go along. The listed quantities yield 6 servings, but I halved them for our needs:

  • 1 1/2 pounds veal slices (about 1/4 inch thick)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard (I replaced with 1 tsp grainy Dijon mustard)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I didn't use it)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 medium sweet red peppers, julienned
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced (didn't use )
  • 1/2 quart chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch (I omitted it)
  • 2 teaspoons water

Place veal in a 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. dish; set aside. 

In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice, oil, lemon peel, garlic, sugar, salt, paprika, mustard and nutmeg; reserve 2 tablespoons. 

Creamy Potato Gratin

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This is a classic recipe where the pungent Gruyere acts as a protective layer, preventing the potatoes from drying out. To serve 4, you'll need:
- 1 lb Yukon gold all all-purpose potatoes
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 oz Gruyere
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (I used 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
- 1 tsp salt
- pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F. Peel the potatoes and slice paper-thin. Put the potatoes in a 3-quart pot with the heavy cream, salt and pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, shred the cheese on the large holes of a box grater.


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