Welcome!

I am a French teacher and chef. Although I no longer cook professionally, fine food and wine remain at the forefront of my existence. I cook fresh gourmet dinners almost every night and this blog will allow me to share my love of everything culinary with you.

I have a deep connection to France. It started when I was very little and it was so strong that not only did it drive me to master the French language and learn to speak it like a native; it also drove me to marry and divorce a French Chef, give birth in France in French, and live and work throughout the country for many years. I lived in Paris, Toulouse, Perpignan and Rivesaltes for a total of approximately six years and cooked professionally in Boston and in France. I travel regularly to France and love every delicious moment of my visits. I have a Professional Chef's diploma and a Master's Degree in Teaching French.

My dinners are affordable, yet, look and taste as if they cost a fortune to prepare. I truly hope I will inspire you to create beautiful, healthy, gourmet dinners as often as you wish. The meals I feature are simple to follow, made with fresh ingredients and executed in a reasonable amount of time for anyone who has the energy and desire to create what my sister calls "restaurant food" at home.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Baked Ditalini and Cheese

Yum! Home made mac 'n' cheese sure is a treat. It is easy, inexpensive and so much better than any other boxed or frozen variety I've ever tried. You can experiment with different cheeses and different pasta shapes. I used ditalini and a sharp cheddar.

Ditalini and Cheese
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups of warm milk (I used 2% yesterday)
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz uncooked ditalini
half n half
fresh breadcrumbs
salt
pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large pot of boiling salted water cook ditalini until slightly underdone. Drain thoroughly and place in a bake dish.

While pasta is cooking begin to work on the bechamel sauce. In a saucepan melt butter over medium high heat. Once all melted add the flour and whisk to combine. Let the roux cook while whisking for a minute. Add the warm milk and whisk constantly over medium heat until sauce comes to a gentle boil. Let it cook like this for a couple minutes. If it is too thick, add a dash more milk to thin it a bit. Turn off heat and add the cheese. Whisk it in until it melts. Season with salt and pepper and splash in a bit of half n half.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and mix well to coat all the ditalini. Top with fresh breadcrumbs made from any bread you have on hand. I used a 2 pieces of white country sandwich bread and I did not need all the crumbs. Dot the breadcrumbs with butter and place in the oven, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Serve immediately.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Minestrone

In an attempt to help my daughter ward off the winter germs that suddenly invaded her body on Monday afternoon, I threw together a minestrone soup with ingredients she loves. This soup is easy, quick, hearty, delicious, soothing and healing.

Minestrone
1 medium onion - thinly chopped
2 medium carrots cut into bite sized pieces
2 garlic cloves -finely minced
1/4 of a green cabbage coarsely chopped
6 strips of bacon - sliced into bite sized pieces
1 15 oz can of cannellini beans - rinsed
approximately 2 1/2 cups beef broth
1 can crushed tomatoes
approximately 1 1/2 cups cooked small pasta "al dente" - I used ditalini
small handful of chopped Italian parsley
extra virgin olive oil
hot red pepper flakes
salt
pepper
Parmesan cheese - grated

Saute the onion, carrots and garlic in a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and saute until soft. Turn heat up to medium high and add the bacon. Stir and let cook but not crisp. Next add the broth. I used approximately 2 1/2 cups. Add tomatoes. Stir together and bring to a soft boil, then turn down heat to a simmer. Add the cannellini beans and the cabbage. If the soup seems too thick you should add more broth. Continue simmering until the cabbage is cooked. Add the cooked pasta, parsley and 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes or more depending on how spicy you like it. Season with salt and pepper. Let simmer about 15 minutes to bring flavors together. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mini Pizzas

I was going to take these little pizzas to a holiday party this afternoon, however, the weather is so nasty we will not be going out. These rustic little pizzas were made with a refrigerated Pillsbury pizza dough that I cut and roughly pressed into small greased pie tins. I sprinkled a little shredding mozzarella on the bottom, then spread some homemade olive and mushroom tomato sauce and topped some with goat cheese and the others with more mozzarella. They baked in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes. A simple, fun, delicious treat great warm and cold.

Snowballs

Last weekend I hosted a small holiday party for my neighbors. In anticipation of this gathering I dug out my Great Grandmother's handwritten recipe for one of my most favorite cookies. She called them Snowballs. I baked a batch a week before the party to make sure I could bake them properly, and indeed I can! They are melt in the mouth delicious, not too sweet and tasted of the good old days when all things good were made from butter.

These cookies are made with butter, confectioners sugar, flour, oats, pecans, walnuts and vanilla. They disappear in your mouth just as a handful of freshly fallen snow would. Perhaps that's why she named them Snowballs.

Snowballs

1 cup butter
3/4 cup confectioners sugar plus additional for dusting the cookies later
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup quick oats
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup ground walnuts
3/4 cup ground pecans
Heat oven to 300. Beat butter until creamy. Sift flour and 3/4 cups confectioners sugar. Add to butter. Add salt and spices. Mix well. Stir in the oats and add vanilla and nuts. Shape into small balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Remove cookies from sheet while still hot. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar right away and sprinkle again when cool.





Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Easy Fish Soup


I haven't posted in a while. My only excuse is: new job, new home, new responsibilities and not as many people to cook for! Although my daughter is a great eater, she does not always enjoy what I do, therefore I find myself preparing two separate dinners and forgetting to post and take photos. Now that I am finally feeling settled in I'd like to share this easy and delicious fish soup with you.

Easy Fish Soup

1 large fennel bulb
1 medium onion - peeled and cut into quarters
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes
olive oil
1 lb cod fillet (or other firm white fish)
3/4 lb salmon fillet (skinned)
2 bottles clam juice
water
salt
pepper
half n half
rustic bread
1 garlic clove - peeled

Heat a soup pot to medium high. Add a couple tablespoons olive oil and add quartered onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss around. Turn heat down to medium and prepare the fennel. Cut off the tough bottom end of the fennel bulb and discard. Chop off the top section with the fennel fringe and slice. Take the roundish bulb part and cut in half and then slice thinly. Add all the fennel to the onion. Salt again and toss around for a few minutes. Add 2 bottles of clam juice and fill each bottle with water and add that water to the pot. Turn heat way down and cover and let the onion and fennel simmer about 10 minutes. Peel and chunk potato into large bite size pieces. Add to pot once the 10 minutes are up. Put the timer on for about 12 minutes. Now, rinse and dry your fish with paper towels. Slice each fillet in half and then into 3 inch pieces. Once the timer has gone off and the potatoes are tender but not totally cooked through, add the fish. Let simmer for about 5 minutes - stir from time to time to ensure even fish cooking. Next, add about 1/4 cup half n half. Do not let boil. Please keep soup at a bare simmer. Taste for seasoning. You may need more salt and pepper. Turn heat down and cover. Let sit while you prepare the toast.

Slice and toast Ciabatta or baguette or your favorite rustic bread. After the bread has been toasted take the whole garlic clove and rub it on each toast.

The way to Serve:
Place a garlic rubbed toast in the bottom of each soup bowl. Ladle soup over the bread.

Enjoy!

PS: You could always save some of the fennel fronds for garnish (great if entertaining) or sprinkle some chopped parsley to decorate the bowl.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Vegetarian Asian

I enjoy experimentng with Asian flavors and any time I can give a boost to tasteless tofu I am happy. This meal is fast, simple, easy and flavorful.

First you need to sautee mushrooms that have been sprinkled with salt and pepper in canola oil on high heat until most of their natural water has cooked out. Then add a few tablespoons of your favorite stir fry sauce (I like Kikkoman), slivered garlic, and sliced scallions. Stir and sautee until scallions and garlic are tender. Then cut firm tofu into cubes, blot gently with a paper towel and add to the pan. Add a splash (or two) of Kikkoman teriyaki sauce and if necessary a little more stir fry sauce. Basically, add to your taste liking - just don't add too much. Sautee until tofu is heated through. Turn off the heat and add some fresh torn basil leaves. Serve with rice or your favorite Asian noodle which is what I did.


Enjoy!
PS: I do not use a wok, but if you have one, go for it!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer Eggplant

This was delicious! And, it was a first time for me with regards to how I prepared the eggplant. In an effort to not labor over hot heat in the summer I decided I'd bake the eggplant rather than fry it as I usually do. I cut a medium sized native Connecticut eggplant into 1/2 inch thick rounds. I tossed them in a bowl with a combination of olive oil and canola oil, salt and pepper. I put the slices on 2 baking sheets (mine are small) and baked them at 425 for approximately 25 minutes. Some of the smaller slices got slightly charred which I really liked - they added a nice smoky flavor to the entire dish. The larger slices were perfectly baked.

While the eggplant slices were baking, I threw a couple locally grown red tomatoes with some garlic, olive oil, fresh basil and salt and pepper into my favorite copper pot and stewed them until I had a nice thick sauce. My next move was to gently lay the eggplant slices on top of the sauce and top them with some slices of Fontina cheese. I then put the copper pot into the oven which I had turned down to I think 350 or 375 (can't quite remember) until the cheese melted.
What a success! I served it with thin spaghetti that had been tossed in olive oil and more fresh basil and a lovely summer salad. I can't wait to make this again. Actually, it's on the menu for tomorrow! My daughter loves it - bonus!