Tag Archives: cooking

Mushroom Soup

Mushroom Soup

Mushroom Soup

Mushrooms can be such a polarizing vegetable.  I find people either love ‘em or hate ‘em. I find myself in the group that loves them.  I love their earthiness, and their musky, woodsy flavor.  I actually find them beautiful in their appearance, almost as if I expect to find little elves perched on top of them. But with all this adoration, a mushroom is basically a fungus, hmmmm…not such an appetizing word, huh.

This Mushroom Soup is a favorite at our dinner table. It’s a rustic, hearty soup yet I think it also makes an elegant presentation. As we move closer to autumn, my family loves sitting down to a bowl of this flavorful soup that I serve with crusty French bread. I know not everyone will have access to certain varieties of mushrooms, but I like to add many different types of mushrooms to the soup to give it an added layer of flavor.

For Mama’s other delicious soups, view them here, and here and here.

Mushroom Soup

Mushroom Soup

Mushroom Soup

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A variety of sliced mushrooms

A variety of sliced mushrooms

Mama’s Tips:

To achieve the most flavor from your soup, I suggest using a variety of mushrooms. My local farmer’s market offered a wide variety. Be adventurous and try some of the following:

  • White Button
  • Shitake
  • Oyster Mushrooms
  • Portabella
  • Crimini

To clean my mushrooms, I do not wash them under water as I don’t want to add any more moisture to the mushrooms. I simply brush off any dirt with a clean pastry brush or a damp paper towel.

Mushroom Soup

Mushroom Soup

Mushroom Soup

Mushroom Soup

Recipe: Easy 

Homemade Potato Salad

Homemade Potato Salad

Homemade Potato Salad

 

We’re going on a picnic! It’s hard to believe that Labor Day is just around the corner, and summer is coming to an end. Although, living in Southern California it seems as though summer never really ends, and that’s just fine with me.

However, this weekend we decided to pack the family up in the car (my parents that is, my kids are busy with their own lives) and head 15 minutes west to the beach for a picnic. My all-time favorite meal to pack for a beach picnic lunch is fried chicken and Homemade Potato Salad.

My husband taught me his Homemade Potato Salad recipe 30 years ago, and it’s been a family classic ever since. An ingredient he likes to add to his recipe is prepared horseradish, which I find very few other people use. I find it just gives the dish a little “kick”, and an added layer of flavor.

We’re gonna pack our cooler with potato salad in individual take-out containers accompanied by their own spiffy little fork…and lot’s of extra napkins for the fried chicken. This is also an awesome side dish to serve at your upcoming Labor Day barbecue.

Homemade Potato Salad

Homemade Potato Salad

Homemade Potato Salad 

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Mama’s Tips:

Cooking times will vary, so start checking your potatoes at 6 minutes for doneness by pulling one cube out of the water, to see if you can easily pierce it with a fork. You definitely do not want to over cook the potatoes as it will result in a mushy potato salad.

The potato salad needs to chill for at least two hours for optimal taste. It’s actually better the next day as it’s thoroughly chilled and the flavors have melded together.

It’s very important that your potato cubes are diced the same size for uniform cooking.

Use only the freshest ingredients for effect Homemade Potato Salad

Use only the freshest ingredients for perfect Homemade Potato Salad

Homemade Potato Salad

Homemade Potato Salad

Recipe: Easy

Cucumber and Dill Soup

Cucumber and Dill Soup

Cucumber and Dill Soup

It’s funny how everybody’s been talking about kale lately, like it’s a Kardashian or something. For the last year or so it’s been the new “it” veg. I know a lot of you out there will find this blasphemous, but I’m really not a fan.

Now a vegetable that I really love and gets very little press is the cucumber.  I’m sure many of you find it blandly simple, but I love them in salads, as part of an appetizer, or to give a sandwich some much needed crunch. But, what I really love on a hot summer’s night is this light and refreshing Cucumber and Dill Soup.

Oh, don’t give me that ho-hum look. This cold soup is like taking a bite out of a garden. Farm fresh cucumbers, fresh herbs, and some yogurt and sour cream make this soup the perfect addition to a family dinner. It’s also lovely as a soup-shot appetizer, for a brunch, lunch or for a summer’s night party.

Cucumber and Dill Soup

Cucumber and Dill Soup

Cucumber and Dill Soup

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Cucumber Soup Shots

Cucumber Soup Shots

Mama’s Tips:

I like to garnish my soup with a thinly sliced piece of cucumber, some fresh herbs, fresh ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

To get uniform slices of cucumber, use a mandolin.  They’re sold reasonably priced in stores and on the internet. It just a great kitchen tool that every “chef” should have.

Cucumber and Dill Soup

Cucumber and Dill Soup

Recipe: Easy 

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes with Roasted Onion Crema

I seem to find inspiration in the strangest places.

I was asked by a friend of mine who is a caterer If I would help her cater a large 50th birthday party. We needed to come up with several deliciously good, one-bite appetizers. As I sat at my kitchen table munching a bag of sour cream and onion flavored potato chips that my son had left in the pantry , I had begun pulling out an array of cook books looking for some brilliant ideas for this party.

Half-way through this bag of terribly fattening chips it hit me what a great combination potatoes and sour cream and onion is.  I make these Rosemary Roasted Potatoes all the time, especially for our Thanksgiving dinner, but for this one-bite appetizer I decided to add a flavorful Roasted Onion Crema dipping sauce.

I have found that the Peewee Dutch Yellow Potatoes from Melissa’s Produce work best for this dish, but if you don’t have access to this product Yukon Gold’s are also a good choice.

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes with Roasted Onion Crema 

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Sliced Onions for Roasted Onion Crema

Sliced Onions for Roasted Onion Crema

Mama’s Tips

You can use “spears” of rosemary to act as a toothpick for the potatoes.  Just pull off an inch or two of the rosemary leaves and push the branch part into the potato.

When roasting vegetables, make sure that they are all the same thickness and size to insure even roasting. Smaller pieces may burn, and large ones may not cook all the way through.

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes with Roasted Onion Crema

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes with Roasted Onion Crema

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes with Roasted Onion Crema

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes with Roasted Onion Crema

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Recipe: Easy 

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad

 

I’m sure many of you are faced with the same harrowing dilemma that plagues my family week after week. You go to the market and buy one of those four-foot long French baguettes for dinner, everybody has a piece, and now you’re left with three and a half feet of bread and no clue what to do with it.

My solution to this age-old problem is the Panzanella Salad.  Traditionally a Panzanella Salad is a rustic Italian salad made from tomatoes, onion, and stale bread. I personally like  to add crisp Romaine lettuce and cucumbers to mine. But the best part of the salad is the seasoned and toasted cubes of bread that soak of the dressing, and make this dish taste more like a fresh tomato sandwich, than a tomato salad.

Summer is really the time when tomatoes are at their peak, so I urge you to give this salad a try for your 4th of July barbecue, or for a quick summer’s night supper.

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad 

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Brush bread with olive oil and toss with herbs

Brush bread with olive oil and toss with herbs

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad

Mama’s Tips: 

When toasting the bread cubes, don’t toast them too much so that they’re brown and more like croutons. You still want them to have a little bread-like softness to them.

To de-seed the cucumber: slice the cucumber in half length-wise and with the tip of a spoon run it down the length of the cucumber removing all the seeds.

Here’s a nice little tutorial for cutting a “chiffonade” of basil.

Mini Panzanella Salad

Mini Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad

Recipe: Easy

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

It’s my baby’s birthday on July 3rd. Okay, so my baby is 26 and six-feet tall, but he’s still my baby. Every year we celebrate his July 3rd birthday with a backyard barbecue, then we bring the whole gang back the very next day to celebrate July 4th with an entirely different barbecue. Yes, we’re barbecue obsessed.

My baby, or as I refer to him in this blog as “the chef”, has requested shrimp cocktail on his birthday menu. I am not a fan of boiled shrimp, personally I think it’s a bit of an insult to the shrimp. I’m sure they much prefer to be served grilled. Grilling just brings out their natural sweetness.

Then of course there is the cocktail sauce.  Since we don’t want to offend the shrimp in any way, it is mandatory that you prepare the cocktail sauce fresh. Serving bottled cocktail sauce to these glorious shrimp is a real slap in the face, to the shrimp I mean.

And just because it’s so darn fun, I’m going to serve each shrimp in it’s own shot glass with a little spritz of lemon and it’s own personal dollop of cocktail sauce. Tell me what you’re grilling this July 4th!

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail 

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Marinated Shrimp

Marinated Shrimp

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

Mama’s Tips: 

When grilling your shrimp on long wooden skewers, soak the skewers submerged in water for at least 30 minutes (or overnight) so that they will not burn on the barbecue.

I rub my grill with a paper towel dipped in oil so that my shrimp will not stick to the grill. Plus it makes it easier to clean the grill. Home Depot told me so.

Cook the shrimp just til they are no longer translucent, a minute longer and they will be dried out. That could make you very unpopular.

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

Recipe: Easy

Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

 

When it comes to cooking in our home, I am the perfect “wingman”.  When my son is at the house, I turn the reigns over to him because he is a professional chef and I cannot compete with his skill and expertise as well as his extensive food knowledge.  If my son is not doing the cooking, then it’s my husband, who is as equally skilled and knowledgeable even though he has no formal training.

My son and husband are always in charge of the main course, and I love to watch them go head to head on what to prepare for the main dish, and how it should be prepared. My husband is very “old school” where as my son is displaying techniques he’s learned in the best kitchen’s in Los Angeles. It’s all very amusing.

So where do I fit in to all of this? I am the “queen of the side dish”. I really do excel in this position,  because there is never any limitation on how many sides I can prepare and just how creative I can get. One of my all-time faves in the world of side dishes is Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta. It’s easy, can partially be prepared in advance, and I never met anyone who didn’t love this dish. The combination of fresh green beans, savory caramelized shallots and crispy, salty pancetta with just a sprinkling of red pepper flakes is always a crowd pleaser.  Whenever I’m having company for dinner, these are always on the table.

Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

Thinly sliced shallots for Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

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Caramelized Shallots

Caramelized Shallots for Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

Mama’s Tips: 

Don’t crowd your pan with shallots. Overcrowding will cause the shallots to steam and take considerably longer to caramelize.

Don’t slice your shallots “too thin” as you can see they really reduce in size, and if they are too thin they will stick to the bottom of the pan.

Here is a great how-to on the best way to blanch your beans,. Remember, haricot vert is a thinner bean than regular string beans and will take a shorter time to blanch.

Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

Recipe: Easy

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes and Basil

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes and Basil

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes and Basil

 

Last weekend my son came home from school for a quick visit and he brought a friend with him. I had planned on making pizza for our Friday night dinner, because I figured that’s what all kids like to eat.  He did give me a heads-up and told me that his buddy was gluten free, so I pulled out this recipe that I had made several times before.  It’s always been a crowd pleaser. And my crowd’s not easy to please necessarily.

I personally  don’t like tomato sauce on my pizza. I love to brush the crust with a mixture of olive oil, minced fresh garlic and red pepper flakes.  For me, omitting the sauce allows the flavor of the crust and other ingredients to shine through. Since this recipe can make four pizzas, you can make some with sauce and some without. Then the whole gang’s happy.

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes & Basil

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes & Basil

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes, Basil and Garlic

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The yeast mixture getting bubbly

The yeast mixture getting bubbly

Fresh tomatoes and basil give this pizza lots of flavor

Fresh tomatoes and basil give this pizza lots of flavor

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes & Basil

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes & Basil

Recipe: Intermediate 

 

Fresh Tomato Sauce and Meatballs

Homemade Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

Homemade Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

When I first migrated to LA back in the late 70′s, I moved into one of those sprawling apartment complexes in the San Fernando Valley. It housed transplants literally from all over the world. Young people who came seeking fame and fortune and hoping to get their big break, and people like me who were just looking to escape the cold, brutal weather of the east coast. I came with nothing but a suitcase and $400, so moving into a furnished apartment meant I could live with some of the comforts of home. It was a lovely place really, gold shag carpeting, plaid sofas and avocado colored formica counter tops. It had all the warmth and coziness of a Motel 6, but it was home.

Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

I remember those first months living in LA all by myself so well. It was lonely and exciting all at the same time. Everyone at this complex was very friendly. We all seemed to be in the same boat; without family, little money, and crappy jobs, but very intoxicated by the perpetually blue skies, balmy weather and swaying palm trees. (You didn’t see many palm trees in Philadelphia.) My neighbors across the hall were a brother and sister team from North Jersey named Theresa and Anthony. He called her “Tree” and she called him “Ant”.  I guess being east coasters we connected. Every night they saw me come home from work with a McDonald’s bag in hand, so they decided to teach me how to make Fresh Tomato Sauce and Meatballs. I’m not sure they were necessarily very good cooks, but I’ve been making their sauce (or gravy as they called it) and meatballs ever since.

Fresh Tomato Sauce 

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Golden Beets with Smoked Trout & Dill

Golden Beets with Smoked Trout & Dill

Golden Beets with Smoked Trout & Dill

As a kid, I never looked twice at a beet. Back then, they were a vegetable I was usually forced to eat, but never consumed by choice. I think a lot of it had to do with how they were prepared or maybe integrated into a dish. As a youth, no one ever showed me what an absolutely awesome vegetable the beet actually was. When they’re perfectly roasted, the beet’s natural sweetness and earthiness is developed.

I was invited to a birthday brunch last weekend, and was given the task of bringing an appetizer. I thought these Golden Beets with Smoked Trout and Dill was the perfect choice to bring. Growing up in Philadelphia, bagels and lox was a Sunday morning staple, so this was my take on that dish. The combination of the sweet beets, the smokey taste of the fish and the tart cream cheese was loved by all. I like when that happens.

beets2

Roasted Golden Beets with Smoked Trout & Dill

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