Sunday, May 20, 2018

Eric Ripert's Crab Gratin

This has to be one of easiest recipes Eric Ripert has in his entire collection. A quick mix of ingredients spooned into a baking dish, topped with breadcrumbs, and broiled for 5 minutes. This takes less than 10 minutes from start to fnish.

I will warn you that this recipe is vague. He doesn't indicate what kind of crab, mustard, or how much lemon you should use. I think the reason it's so vague is because he uses the best quality crab, and when you use the best quality crab, the rest doesn't matter. So to be clear, use good crab!

Also worth mentioning, when I've had crab gratin in the past, it has always been full of cream and cheese. This is not that type of gratin! There is no cream. There is no cheese. If there is a healthy crab gratin, then this is it! In fact, there is only one tablespoon of mayonnaise and one tablespoon of creme fraiche in the whole gratin.

This is a very light and mild crab gratin.The emphasis is really on the crab. The first time around I enjoyed mine on a piece of toast because, as I've said a million times, I am obsessed with food on toast. However, I will say that I enjoyed this best with veggies. It was a great dipper for celery, carrots, and really good spooned onto some cherry tomatoes.

I know people shy away from adding lots of seasoning to crab as to not take away from the taste of the crab. I understand this, and tend to agree, but with this dish I definitely feel like it could use a little sauteed garlic and onion and/or a sprinkling of Old Bay seasoning. I really feel like this would be just the right thing to help bring out the crab flavor.

Eric Ripert's Crab Gratin
Recipe adapted from Avec Eric
by Eric Ripert
Serves 4

8 ounces crab meat
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons chives, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven on the broil setting. In a bowl, combine the crab, creme fraiche, mayo, mustard, lemon juice, chives, salt and pepper. Mix together and put into the dish. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs. Bake in the oven on broil for about 5-6 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the crab is hot all the way through. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

For Garlic Lovers Only!

If you're a garlic lover, like me, then these five recipes will
have you swooning in absolute delight! 
(click on the recipe title to be directed to the original post/recipe)

Let's sum this up real quick. I made these for my husband and I. While he was outside I ate them all! He didn't get any. I didn't mean to do it, but well.....they were so good I couldn't stop.

This is one of those staple weeknight dishes. Chunks of chicken marinated in garlic, a good dose of black pepper, soy sauce, and chili powder. Cooked in a wok where the outside goes slightly crispy. So flavorful and so good!

If you love hummus then this is THE recipe to try! Oh my goodness, this is perfection. A smooth creamy hummus made from scratch with 6 cloves of garlic, topped with crispy chunks of lamb, buttered and toasted pine nuts, and a garlicky lemon sauce. It is one of the best dishes on my site!

 This is a dreamy weeknight chicken dish that screams with flavor. How can it not with 25 cloves of garlic? That is a full two heads of garlic! Saying that it is garlicky, but not overpowering. The good news is that it comes together quick enough to make on a weeknight.

If you want a good laugh, click on the recipe above, and read my original post.  This corn is absolutely delicious, but please do yourself a favor and remove those pesky husks before you start prepping or cooking this dish. This one is so delicious. Summer on a plate! 

The Gift Of A Mother's Smile

You never know when a moment will strike you. The most powerful moment I ever had happened on a cold December day, just like any other. I was sitting across from my youngest in a room filled with machines that were beeping and blinking. People of all ages filled the room with every type of injury, some very severe. The room was a little unsettling. Somewhat numb, I shrugged my shoulders and went with it. I had just been through the hardest thing I had ever faced. I could do anything now. Except, I looked across at my youngest, my tough 11-year-old boy, and I noticed an expression on his face I'd never seen before.

It took me back. The poor kid had just been through hell. We all had. Cancer. It had just come knocking on our door. It came like a thief in the night announcing its arrival in mid-June, crippling her by July, and stealing her away in September. My mom, my best friend, my everything. The youngest grandparent. The one full of life. The one who was always there. The one who never missed their games, concerts, awards, or big life moments. She was the Hippie Grandma with the free-spirit and the rebel heart, and we loved her for it. She was our biggest cheerleader. She was our rock, and now she was gone. Just like that. It was difficult for me to process. It was impossible for the kids.

We were all still reeling from that when Jackson fell on the playground at school and broke his elbow. It was Halloween. Jackson had always been tougher than nails. This was his third break and he handled it better than anyone. No tears. Super brave. We were told it would be an easy recovery. It wasn't.

Days later they said he would need surgery to reattach the tip of the elbow. Being back in the hospital with him so soon after my mom died was tough on me. Jackson had a field day. He treated it like a learning experience, asking questions and taking it all in. Surgery went well. There was some pain but he was happy to be on the mend. After surgery, he had to be recast. He was prepared for a normal cast, but his new cast was gigantic. It ran the length of his arm and it was so big and thick it weighed down the whole side of his body. It wore him down.

One night he told me that something felt wrong under his cast. I made a doctor's appointment for the very next day. Everyone, including the doctor, thought I was being over the top when I asked for the cast to be removed so we could check. Believe me, this was one time I didn't want to be right, but unfortunately, I was.

When they removed the cast they noticed something strange. The wrapping under the cast was adhered to his arm. Sealed onto his skin. We weren't prepared for that, or for what happened next. Little by little, they peeled the wrapping off his skin. Through tear-filled eyes, Jackson yelled, "stop,'re peeling my skin off." When they finally removed the last of the wrapping it took our breath away. His whole arm was raw. Jackson had been right. Something was wrong under his cast.  It was a staph infection.

For about one full week, his arm was so raw it literally stuck to everything. It was either hold your arm up in the air or let it rest and get stuck. He was miserable. The arm couldn't be cast, but still needed protection, so he was unable to attend school and had to be on homebound. Eventually, the antibiotics cleared the staph infection and the arm healed enough to wear a sling. After a few weeks, the break was considered healed. he couldn't bend his arm.

So here we are. Sitting in the physical therapy room and for the first time in his life, Jackson is looking at me wild-eyed and full of panic.

I was deeply tired of being strong and my mind started to race. I had simply had it. I wanted my mom. I needed my mom. I wished she were here with us. I wished she was sitting across from us right now. What would she say? What would she do? How would she make it better? Then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks.

Tears came to my eyes and a shiver shot down my spine. After months I could finally put it into words. What I had been missing all these months and what I was wishing I could see at that moment was my mom's smile. The smile that reassured every fear. The smile that says I am here, and because I am here, everything is going to be okay. The smile she reserved only for me, and then later for my kids. The best gift you could ever receive, a mother's smile.

I closed my eyes for a second to envision it. Why was my mind still racing? Why did it all come down to her smile? Because her smile was more powerful than words. It said everything. It was everything and now I was robbed of that. It was at that moment I knew that her smile would be the one thing I would miss the most for the rest of my life. It resulted in a terrible feeling of despair that burned in the pit of my stomach. I wish no one had to know that pain.

This in itself was a powerful moment, but what happened next was even more so. I started to feel angry thinking about how my mom was taken so soon, at 64. One month away from retirement and so many things she wanted to do. Then I thought about my dad's mom, my Grandma, who died from cancer at 56. Then suddenly, again like a ton of bricks, I'm 42. What if I am like them? What if I only have 10 or 20 years? Oh no, I thought. What about my kids? Oh, my day they will be sitting somewhere, just like I am, missing me and wishing I was there with them. One day they will feel this same pain, this horrible aching feeling. An emptiness like no other.

The light came on. It was as if my mom was cheering me on again (and boy oh boy....if you knew her at all then you know she really and truly was cheering me on, even from heaven) saying "come on, Kim, you've got this" and it dawned on me. One of the most profound moments I've ever had. She was telling me that it was my turn to give the gift of a mother's smile. It was as if I could hear her say "I didn't want to leave. I fought as hard as I could because I wanted to be there for you and the kids more than anything. Please do this for me. Give the gift of a mother's smile to my grandchildren. Give this gift as often as you can because there will come a day when you will be gone too. Use the time you have left wisely. It is a blessing."

The shivers came again. It was a moment I'll never forget. It gave me clarity and with that came peace. My mom could no longer smile at me, or hold my hand, or walk into the room for a chat. She could no longer do these things, but I could. For now, I had the blessing of time and I could do all the things she no longer could. I could do this for her. I could do this for my kids.

Ironically enough, my mom used to always say when things get tough you "gotta get a plan." When I was stressed or worried she would say "well, let's get together a plan." Funny enough it works. Getting a plan is always the hard part. Putting the plan into action is the easy part. This newfound clarity was the only plan I needed. I had been worried I was going to have to figure it all out on my own, but she still played a part in helping me put a plan together. I imagine she always will.

It may sound like all of this took a long time, but these thoughts raced through my mind in a matter of minutes. I had been in such deep thought I forgot where I was. I looked up at Jackson and he was still looking at me all wild-eyed. His face was twisted up in worry and I'm sure he was wondering what they were going to do to him, and if it was going to hurt.

I suddenly knew what to do. I looked at him and I smiled real big. A smile that said it all. I was filled with emotion. I watched as his face relaxed and I could tell he was comforted. He smiled back real big and said "why do you have tears in your eyes?" I answered him with "I'm just so happy to be here with you. Everything is going to be fine." It was the first time I actually believed everything would be fine. This moment had given me the peace I was looking for. I could feel the numbness that surrounded me start to melt away. I had a plan now.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss my mom. I wish I could pick up the phone and call her. I'd love to hear her voice, her advice, and her loud laugh. I'd give anything to see her walk in the door again. I miss all of that.

But, that smile. Oh, my goodness. It took all this time for me to realize that my mom's smile was the most beautiful gift I ever received. It held the power of the greatest love, a mother's love. It is the one thing I hold closest to my heart now and it still does it's job. I still see it when I close my eyes and it still gives comfort. It still says it all.

This powerful moment saved me. I am at peace now. I don't know if I have 10 years, or 20. Maybe I'll be blessed with even more. What I do know is that I'm going to live them well, and with purpose. I am going to make the most of my life and be the best mother while I can. I hope you are inspired to do the same.

I wrote this as one last Mother's Day gift to my mom. I know somewhere she is smiling down on me saying "this was the best gift of all." I hope that it is. I hope that one day my kids read it and are inspired to put it to use for themselves. I hope they pass it down in honor of my mom. I hope they tell their kids that her beautiful smile was the inspiration for this.

While I wrote this for my mom, I'm going way out of my comfort zone to share this for all mothers. Please do yourself, and your children, a favor and give the gift of a mother's smile as often as you can. It doesn't matter if your child is 6 or 66. Watch the look on your child's face. Know that your smile holds an amazing power and although it is sad, know that one day you will be gone, and the memory of your smile will carry your child through. It is more powerful than words. It is the most beautiful gift you can give. I know because my mom taught me that.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Jacques Pepin's Egg and Tomato Gratin

Have you ever made a hard-cooked egg gratin before? I hadn't, until I tried Jacques Pepin's Egg and Onion Gratin, and you know became one of my all-time favorite dishes! It's truly delicious, and different enough to pique interest. Jacques' Egg and Onion Gratin consistsof hard-cooked eggs cut into slices or wedges, covered in a creamy bechamel sauce, with sauteed onions and Gruyere cheese, then broiled until it becomes all brown and bubbly on top. Scoop some of that deliciousness on top of some toast and it is downright delicious!

After my success with the Egg and Onion Gratin, I wanted to try my hand at Jacques' healthier egg gratin, Egg and Tomato Gratin. This recipe is much healthier. The hard-cooked eggs are covered with a quick homemade tomato sauce and then topped with Gruyere. I went a little light-handed on the cheese to keep things light and fresh and enjoyed this over my favorite toasted country bread.

The Egg and Onion Gratin is definitely my favorite between the two, however, the Egg and Tomato Gratin is definitely better for this time of year when you're craving lighter, fresher, healthier dishes! You can't go wrong with either one!

Egg and Tomato Gratin
Adapted from Food My Way
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 4

6 large eggs 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced, about 2 cups
4 teaspoons chopped garlic
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
1 (14-ounce) can peeled tomatoes
2/3 cup grated Swiss (Gruyere, Emmenthaler, Mozzarella, Manchego) cheese

To make the hard-boiled eggs: Poke the rounded end of each egg with a pushpin to help prevent it from cracking, and lower the eggs into a saucepan of boiling water to cover. Bring the water back to a boil, then boil the eggs very gently for 10 minutes. Drain and cool in ice water for at least 15 minutes, or until the centers of the eggs are completely cool. Peel the eggs and cut each of them into 6 wedges. Arrange the egg wedges into a 6-cup capacity gratin dish or baking dish.

To make the gratin: Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onions and saute for about 2 minutes, then add the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Crush the tomatoes into pieces and add them along with their juice to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and boil gently, covered, for 4 minutes.

Pour the onion and tomato mixture over the eggs in the gratin dish and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake the gratin for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the broiler. When the gratin is cooked, broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat source for 2 to 3 minutes to brown the top. Serve.

Note about hard-cooked eggs: It's important to cook eggs properly. Pricking them before cooking helps relieve the pressure created in the air chamber surrounding the whites of the eggs as they are placed in the boiling water. Air bubbles will emerge, and the eggs will be much less likely to break.

Lower the eggs into boiling water and cook them at a very gentle boil; rapid boiling toughens them. After 10 minutes, drain off the water and shake the pan to crack the eggshells. Cover the eggs with cold water and ice and leave them in the ice water long enough to cool completely inside. This technique prevents the exterior of the yolks from turning green, eliminates the strong smell of sulfur and ensures that they will be perfectly cooked.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

From Spain: Tomato Bread with Iberico

Lately, I've been hooked on toast with all kinds of goodies piled on. I blame Ina. The addiction started when I made Ina's Butternut Squash & Ricotta Bruschetta. I love that dish and crave it regularly. When butternut squash went out of season I grew quite fond of avocado toast. After that addiction passed,  I topped my toast with refried beans, a fried egg, salsa and/or hot sauce. Then I made Giada's Burrata and Kale Salsa Verde Bruschetta and I looked for any and every excuse to eat burrata. I think I had toast with some kind of pesto and burrata for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

To be fair, I'm still into toast with pesto and burrata. It's crunchy, flavorful, and the burrata is so creamy and cloudlike. It satisfies about every craving I have. However, I'm willing to venture out, so this week it was either Eric Ripert's Tomato Bread with Iberico or his Green Olive Tapenade, on toast, of course.

I decided on the Tomato Bread with Iberico only because I had some Marcona almonds and Manchego cheese on hand and I thought it would be a perfect pairing! I was so glad I had the Manchego on hand because I found that I liked the Tomato Bread with Iberico ok, but I liked it much better with some of the cheese on top. This dish lacked that layer of creaminess, and while I would eat it if it were served to me, I'd rather have one of the other toasts mentioned above.

Tomato Bread with Iberico
Adapted from Avec Eric
by Eric Ripert
Serves 1-6, depending

1/4 loaf crusty bread such as a country loaf, baguette, ciabatta
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 ripe tomatoes, cut inhalf
1/2 pound thinly sliced Iberico ham or Serrano ham
extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cut the loaf of bread crosswise into 1/2" thick slices. Toaste the bread slices until they are golden brown (I placed my sliced bread into the oven for about 10 minutes at 350). Lightly rub the toasted bread with the garlic cloves, then rub the tomato, cut side down, thoroughly into the toasts. Top the toasts witha couple slices of Iberico ham, drizzle with a touch of olive oil, and season with a few flakes of coarse sea salt and pepper.

Theme: From The Mediterranean

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Giada's Spicy Calabrian Shrimp

On one of my visits to Target I spotted Giada's latest cookbook, Giada's Italy. I didn't even hesitate. I just put it directly into my shopping cart. I am in love with everything about this cookbook, starting with the cover, the recipes, the gorgeous photos of Italy, and the stories Giada shares about her time in Italy. It is probably one of my favorite Giada cookbooks!

For now, I chose the recipe with the ingredient I've been wanting to cook with for ages: Calabrian chili peppers! Those darn peppers, and the Calabrian chili paste, are hard to find! I finally spotted some of the Calabrian chili peppers at my market and I knew right away I would make this recipe for Spicy Calabrian Shrimp.

Calabrian chili peppers are from the Calabrian region of Italy, which is known for it's hot peppers. These peppers are of a medium heat and can also be referred to as red cherry peppers or devil's kiss peppers. For comparison, Giada refers to Calabrian Chili Paste as the Italian version of sriracha and I think that is a fairly accurate comparison.

I couldn't source the paste, so I looked up the description of Calabrian Chili Paste and saw that it was a combination of Calabrian peppers and oil. My Calabrian chili peppers were packed in a jar with oil so I decided to make my own paste by dicing up the peppers, along with some of their oil, and using the back of my knife to create a paste.

In this recipe, the Calabrian Chili Paste is mixed with Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil, lemon zest, salt, and oregano to create a marinade for the shrimp.  You simply bake the shrimp for about 8 minutes. This was the perfect amount of time because my shrimp were perfectly cooked! All that's left is to sprinkle some lemon juice and basil over the top and you have one amazing appetizer or main course!

Skeptics will question the heavy hand of Parmigiano-Reggiano, but trust me it totally works! I baked my shrimp in a cast iron skillet and the cheese just oozed and melted over the shrimp creating somewhat of a crust (if you look close in the pics you can see). I loved the spiciness of the Calabrian peppers - they can in fact be quite spicy! I absolutely loved this dish and will be making it again this week.  I will admit that I did miss the garlic in this recipe and will definitely be adding a clove, or two, the next time around! Give this a try. Shrimp lovers will love this recipe!!

Spicy Calabrian Shrimp
Adapted from Giada's Italy
Serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Calabrian chile paste
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teasoon dried oregano
salt, to taste
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
High suggest/but optional: one or two cloves of garlic*

Note:  This is a wonderful recipe and while some people will bulk at the idea of adding cheese to shrimp, I will say that I really enjoyed it and would highly suggest it! I definitely suggest adding one or two cloves of minced garlic to the marinade. There is no garlic and this recipe and I did miss it!

Preheat the oven to 425F. 

In a medium bowl,whisk together the Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil, chile paste, lemon zest, oregano, and salt. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Allow the shrimp to marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature.

Spread the shrimp evenly on a rimmed baking sheet (or cast iron skillet) and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and opaque all the way through. Sprinkle the lemon juice and basil over the shrimp. Serve immediately.

Theme: Healthy and Delicious!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

My Top Ten Ina Garten Favorites {Plus an Honorable Mention}

It's hard to make a list of Ina Garten Favorites. In fact, it's fair to say that EVERY  Ina dish is a favorite. She is known for her time-tested foolproof recipes, and truly they are. I have loved every Ina recipe I've ever made, except for one, which was the result of a mistake I made.

We spent a delicious six months cooking Ina's recipes over at I Heart Cooking Clubs, but I was cooking with Ina long before that. Some of these favorites I shared recently, while others I shared years ago. If you'd like the recipe, please click on the recipe title to be directed back to the original post.

 This is my number one favorite Ina recipe! Not only is this a fun and unique take on mashed potatoes, but it was something that my Mom loved. She always grew her own basil and one year we had more basil than we knew what to do with, so I tried this recipe. At first, she thought I was silly making green mashed potatoes, but once she had a bite she fell in love. My mom talked about these potatoes a lot saying things like "these are so special" and "this is the freshest potatoes have ever had it."  We truly loved them and I think you will too!

I love to eat cookies, but I don't love the process of scooping them onto the cookie sheet and baking sheet after sheet, allowing them to cool, and trying to store them. I much prefer a bar cookie because you can just put all the dough in a baking pan, remove it, allow to cool, slice, and store right in the pan. How's that for lazy? I also prefer my cookies to be chewy and a cookie bar is a sure bet for chewiness because of the thickness. Ina's recipe for Chocolate Chunk Blondies a pound of chocolate, so this is definitely one for the chocolate lovers! Make these next time you don't have all afternoon to stand by your stove!

I made this recipe because I was curious about the combination of butternut squash with cheese on bruschetta. I think this recipe takes the award for completely blowing my mind! I wasn't sure what to expect with this dish, but I was absolutely blown away by the combination of flavors and textures. This is a mind-blowing, delicious, must-make dish! You won't be sorry!

I'll keep this brief because these cookies pretty much speak for themselves. A fluffy peanut butter cookie base with loads of chocolate chips running throughout? Sign me up!

This is another dish with special meaning. I made this Panko-Crusted Salmon seven years ago for my Mom on Mother's Day. Mom and I used to have frequent conversations about how much we loved fish and seafood and how completely tired we were of anything meat-related. So, for Mother's Day in 2011, I cooked up this Panko-Crusted Salmon. It was the first time Mom had panko on anything and she instantly fell in love with the crispy and crunchy texture. I could rarely get Mom onboard with any specialty or newfangled ingredients, but she did have a have a lasting love affair with panko. We both loved this dish and got on a jag with it, making it often when my meat-loving husband was out of town for work.

This recipe caught my attention because it was different. I really enjoyed this baked pasta dish with three different kinds of cheese, cauliflower, capers, and crunchy panko topping. It was definitely up there on my list of Ina Garten faves!

I love egg dishes and this one is not only easy but perfect for entertaining. I love that you can customize the eggs to include different veggies and cheeses. I see this as a classic go-to recipe!

 I lightened up Ina's original recipe considerably and this was still an outstanding dish! You really can't go wrong with shrimp, butter, garlic, lemon, and breadcrumbs. This is a delicious and satisfying meal for anyone, especially if you are eating healthy and looking for something indulgent!

The very best roast chicken. There are no other words!

These Tri-Berry Oven Pancakes are so pretty and colorful! Kids love the way they puff up in the oven and they love the idea of topping their individual pancake with whatever goodies they chose! Who doesn't?

This Lemon Drop Cocktail earns an Honorable Mention because it is one of those easy things you can keep on hand for when you need, or want, a quick cocktail in a hurry. A quick squeeze of lemon, a touch of sugar, and some vodka and you're set.  This is a cocktail worth having up your sleeve! 

Theme: IHCC March Potluck and Goodbye Ina!