; Supermarket Serenade: July 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rosemary-Cheddar Potato Frittata

Not everyone has a green thumb.

Some people, and I must count myself among those people, can't grow anything. My mother (Rosemary) had a serious green thumb-we're talking Johnny Appleseed on crack green thumb; she could literally toss some seeds onto the ground and a few weeks later would have a spectacular garden. Not me. Frankly I'm just grateful we have a lawn.

Thankfully this time of year supermarkets are overflowing with the fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that other green thumb blessed individuals have grown so that people such as myself don't have to feel so bad for our green thumb deficiencies. Today I picked up some fresh, fragrant rosemary-my favorite herb for many reasons: its pungent flavor, it's herby Christmas-tree like smell but mostly because it reminds me of my mother and her incredible green thumb.
Here are some tips for selecting fresh rosemary in the supermarket:
  • Make sure the leaves are a bright green with no black leaves.
  • Look for stalks that are tender and not brittle.
  • Fresh rosemary should have a strong evergreen like smell.
  • Fresh rosemary stalks make great skewers for grilling, just look for firm stems.
  • If your supermarket doesn't have fresh rosemary and you need to substitute dried, use 1 teaspoon of dried for every tablespoon of fresh.

Rosemary-Cheddar Potato Frittata

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups 1/2-inch diced potatoes
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup diced extra sharp cheddar cheese

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a shallow 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes, shallot, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of the rosemary. Spread the potatoes in an even layer in the pan. Cook the potatoes, stirring frequently, until tender-about 20-25 minutes.
Preheat a broiler.

Stir in the eggs, cheddar cheese and the remaining tablespoon of rosemary; reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and place under the broiler for 5 minutes or until very lightly browned on top.

Run a rubber spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen, then slide the frittata onto a serving plate; cut into wedges to serve. Garnish if desired with additional rosemary.

Yield: 8 servings

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tomato, Avocado & Mozzarella Stack with Mango-Cilantro Dressing

My next door neighbor told me once (in her delightful British accent) that she hates when she makes a recipe that calls for some particular ingredient, say cilantro, and you only use a bit of it. But when you are at the supermarket you can't just buy a bit of it you need to buy the whole bunch. What are you to do with all the leftover cilantro?

My most recent recipe was for a grilled scallop salad that was drizzled with a cilantro dressing. Well, I had quite a bit of leftover cilantro and when I bought the mangoes they were 3 for $4.00 So I have one of those left as well. In the interest of not wasting food I thought I would put something together that would make good use of the leftovers.

This salad calls for fresh mozzarella. I am fortunate enough to have a (super) supermarket that makes mozzarella cheese fresh right in front of you in the store (it's quite fun to watch). When I bought it the other day it was still warm and wrapped up right in front of me...it melts in your mouth. Basically what I'm trying to say is try if you can to get fresh mozzarella cheese, the texture is just so much better than the prepackaged variety and worth the bit extra you may have to spend.

I thought of this after I ate the salad, but it would have been really good with thin slices of the mango added. The mango in the dressing really made this salad pop-I hope you think so too.

Tomato, Avocado & Mozzarella Stack with Mango-Cilantro Dressing

1 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
2 Large tomatoes, thinly sliced
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
Coarse salt, such as French Grey salt or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup diced mango
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Fan 4 slices of avocado on each of four salad plates. Layer the tomato and mozzarella cheese (you can add a bit of dressing between each layer if you would like) on top of the avocado, evenly dividing and ending with tomato. Fan 2 small slices of avocado on top of the tomato. Sprinkle each salad with the cilantro and drizzle with a generous amount of the dressing. Season each with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

For the dressing: combine the mango, lime juice, olive oil, shallot, cilantro, salt and pepper in a blender container or small food processor; blend until smooth.

Yield: 4 stacks

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Smoked Salmon Dip with a Tasty Glitch

It's barefoot Thursday!

Today is the day when Barefoot Bloggers around the blogosphere prepare a recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten. Today's recipe was selected by Ashley of The Spicy Skillet . Ashley chose Smoked Salmon Dip.

Well, I shopped late last night at Whole Foods Market right after my son's night time baseball game under the lights. It was 9:45 and the store was closing so I rushed around like a mad woman to gather my ingredients. No surprise here, but when I went to make the dip I realized that I forgot the cream cheese...only the base of whole dip!

After a quick scan of the fridge I spied a package of Boursin Pepper Gournay Cheese-close enough! So with a couple of adjustments we were in business for the dip! My little glitch I thought turned our rather tasty.

Smoked Salmon Dip (desperately) adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

1 (5.2 ounce) package Boursin Pepper Gournay Cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon fresh horseradish
3 ounces smoked salmon, minced

Place the cheese, sour cream, lemon juice, dill and horse radish in the bowl of a food processor; process until smooth. Add the salmon and pulse until combined. Serve with crudites or crackers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sugar Rush

I have a sweet tooth. I'm not ashamed to admit it. And quite honestly I'm not too particular about what kind of sweet. I love candy. I enjoy cakes, cupcakes, cookies. I like natural sugar sources like fruits and fruit juices (not nearly as much as candy and cakes, but hey I'm trying).

When I was emptying my cabinets for my recent kitchen makeover I found an enormous amount (ok maybe not enormous, but a lot) of sugar buried in the back of my once very inefficient kitchen cabinets. I promptly removed sugar from my supermarket shopping list and started baking.

I still have a 2 bags of confectioner's sugar and one bag of brown sugar. Any ideas of what else I can make to use them up??

Black and White Blondies
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, cream cheese and the sugar for 3 minutes; scrape down the bowl as needed.
Add the vanilla and the eggs and beat for an additional minute.

Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-30 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the blondies to cool before cutting into 16 squares. Prepare the icing.

White Icing
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2-3 teaspoons milk

Black Icing
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
3 teaspoons cocoa powder
3-4 teaspoons milk

In two separate bowls combine the icing ingredients. Spread a thin layer of each icing on one half of each blondie. Let harden before serving.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bagels , Pizza Dip and Whine

No one makes pizza and bagels like they do in New York.

I have heard it has to do with the water, but who knows? Can water really make that much of a difference? All I know is that, as a former New Yorker, the two things I always find myself longing for are New York bagels: slightly chewy with a slight (very slight) crisp outside and New York pizza: tender crisp crust with the perfect ratio of cheese to sauce.

When it comes to pizza, most people I ask around here in Connecticut seem to prefer thick crust pizza with lots of sauce and cheese-it's fork and knife pizza and frankly I don't want any part of that. If you can't fold it and eat it on the run, what's the point? So for decent pizza, a trip to New York is pretty much required. (Although a recently opened Pepe's Pizza in Manchester, CT -originating on Wooster St. in New Haven- has shown great promise.)

On the bagel front, It's possible to get a fairly decent substitute for New York style bagels in our local supermarket or Whole Foods Market. Not the same mind you, but a fairly good stand in. Just be sure to give the bagels a little squeeze (please use the tissue paper or tongs for goodness sake though) just to make sure they are fresh. I often dream that one day some "city tired" bagel maker or pizza man will wander up Interstate 91 and make a new home for himself in Connecticut. (While they're coming if they could bring along an authentic Greek Queens diner owner that would be great too).
Our book group recently had a movie night to which I brought a pizza dip (technically a New England style pizza without the crust-lots of sauce and cheese). I love this recipe because it covers my two most frequent cravings with one appetizer. The dip is pretty common and there are countless variations-I can't say for sure where it originated I have just always made it.

When I first started making the dip I would use French bread as the dipper; but I have since found that bagels, because they are a bit sturdier, hold up best with the thick cheese and pepperoni in the dip. Try to find Italian seasoned, Asiago cheese or Parmesan cheese bagels for best results. Better yet, if you can journey to New York-since their bagels are perfect-then any flavor bagel will do.

Pizza Dip with Bagels

12 ounces (1 1/2 packages) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 cup pizza sauce or favorite tomato sauce
1 cup small diced pepperoni
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2-3 large bagels, cut into 1/4 inch thick circles or slices

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl combine the cream cheese, sour cream and Italian seasoning. Spread into the bottom of a small pie plate or shallow baking dish.

Spread the sauce in an even layer over the cheese. Top the sauce with the pepperoni, basil and the mozzarella cheese. Bake in the center of the oven for 15-20 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Allow dip to cool slightly before serving; serve with the bagel slices.

Note: there are countless pizza toppings you can substitute or add to the pepperoni-that's just our favorite-experiment and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Churrasco Burgers

When summer comes one of the first things we like to dust off and haul out of the garage is our charcoal grill. Grilling is year round for us, but the snowy deck makes it difficult to use anything other than our big gas grill. I'll be honest, I really do think charcoal grilling reigns supreme-there is just something about that charcoal taste and the gas grill just doesn't compare.

Today's recipe is a grand prize winning recipe I created for a World Harbors contest (ironically the prize was a gas grill for tailgating!) The World Harbor sauces have since become staples in our house-in particular the Argentine style Chimichurri flavor. Chimichurri is fairly simple to make from scratch and I'll probably add a recipe for that down the road, but when you are in a rush (and who isn't these days at dinner time?) or if you are tailgating, this sauce is a great fill in. The sauces can be found in the condiment section of the supermarket usually near the salad dressings.
In South America, churrasco refers to meat that is cooked over mesquite charcoal usually in a pit dug right in the ground. Traditionally the meat was cooked on spits and the cowboys or gauchos would use their churrasco knives to cut a portion of the meat off. These burgers combine mesquite charcoal grilled meat with onions grilled in World Harbors Argentine Style Chimichurri …no churrasco knife needed.
Churrasco Burgers with Argentine Style Chimichurri Onions

Mesquite Charcoal (optional)
Chimichurri onions:
1 bottle World Harbors Argentine Style Chimichurri
2 large red onions, peeled

2 1/2 pounds freshly ground certified Angus Chuck
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 clove garlic, minced
Oil to brush the grill
6 Mexican Bolillo buns (Telera ,Portuguese or kaiser rolls may be substituted if Bolillo buns are unavailable)

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover using mesquite charcoal, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

To make the Chimichurri onions, pour the bottle of World Harbors Argentine Style Chimichurri into a large bowl. Slice the red onion and separate into rings. Add the onions to the chimichurri in the bowl and toss to coat the onions completely. Pour the mixture into a 10 inch non-stick, fireproof skillet. Cover with a lid, and place on the grill rack. Cook the onion mixture for 15-20 minutes or until onions are very tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from the grill and set aside and cover to keep warm.

To make the patties, season the beef with the salt and garlic in a large bowl. Handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it, mix well. Form the mixture into six equal sized patties, shaped to fit the buns.

Brush the grill rack lightly with oil. Place the patties on the grill rack, cover and cook, turning once until done to preference, 5-6minutes on each side for medium. During the last few minutes of cooking, arrange buns, cut side down on the outer edges of the grill rack and lightly toast.

To assemble the burgers, place a patty on the bottom half of each toasted roll and top with a generous portion of the chimichurri onions, evenly dividing. Top with the remaining bun halves and serve. Makes 6 burgers.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"Summer Blowout" Blueberry Orange Bars

Supermarkets and farmer's markets are usually overflowing with fresh berries this time of year. More often than not supermarkets are offering "buy one pint get one free" deals when berries are plentiful so it's a great time to stock up.

I will usually use one pint and freeze the other-as is-not washed. I wash them once I thaw them since when frozen wet ice crystals often form on the berries and once thawed they do not seem to work as well for baking recipes. If you do prefer to wash them first (which I'll admit I sometimes do just so I can eat them frozen right from the freezer) just be sure to let them dry completely before trying to freeze them.

Tonight is my book group meeting and I wanted to bring something sweet along.

We're reading: Summer Blowout by Claire Cook (Of "Must Love Dogs" fame). It's a cute beach novel-great vacation read. We are reading it because one of the members of my book group: "The Women Not in Need of Botox Book group" was fortunate enough to win an essay contest and won signed copies of the book for all the club members and a phone interview with Claire at our book club meeting. I'm not sure what she wrote to win, but I'm told there was some mention of an unfortunate incident last summer when I had a bat land in my often "bat's nest looking head of hair" and then it bit my wrist when I swatted it away. Not to worry, I have since had a complete series of rabies shots - so if I should find myself face to face with a rabid raccoon I'm ready. But I digress. Blueberry-Orange bars are what I came up with as a refreshing "Summer Blowout" treat.

Blueberry-Orange Bars

1 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar plus additional for dusting
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into tablespoons
2 tablespoon sour cream
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup fresh (not frozen) blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9x9 inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Fill a large bowl halfway up with ice cubes and water.

Combine 1 1/4 cups of the flour, the confectioner's sugar and 1 teaspoon of the orange zest in a food processor. Add the butter, sour cream and orange extract; pulse until the mixture comes together in a ball.

With lightly floured hands, press the dough into the baking dish. Use a small rolling pin if you have one or use an orange to roll the dough into an even layer. Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges.

Meanwhile, in a medium sized sauce pan whisk together the sugar, salt, egg yolks, milk, remaining orange zest and the orange juice; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened about 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and place the pot into the bowl with ice water stirring until cooled. Stir in the blueberries.

Pour the the blueberry mixture into the partially cooked crust and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until custard is firm and edges are golden brown. Cool in the refrigerator. When completely cooled, cut into squares and dust lightly with confectioner's sugar.

Yield: 16 squares

Friday, July 11, 2008

Chicken Corn Chowder for a Crowd!

Farm fresh corn without question is one of the best things about summer. By the end of July, supermarkets and farm stands will be bursting with super sweet golden ears of corn. Here in the east corn is just becoming available and I couldn't wait to make something with it.

Once a month I cook for a local shelter which houses and assists women trying to get their lives back on track. I try hard each month to come up with something to serve that I know I would love to be served. I have always felt that a good meal- I mean a tasty, lick your lips, When Harry met Sally diner scene type of meal can change your whole outlook on life. It is for this reason when I prepare my meals, I try to prepare the best meal I can for the 12-15 or so women housed there.

Today I'll be serving Chicken Corn Chowder made with some local fresh corn, on the side will be Barefoot Contessa Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread (made yesterday for the Barefoot Bloggers) and Mixed Greens with Grapes, Dried cranberries and Blue cheese.

The cheddar cornbread works really well with the chowder...is it a "When Harry met Sally diner scene" type of meal? I don't know but I was pleased with how it turned out and I was happy to serve it.

Chicken Corn Chowder for a Crowd

8 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 cups small diced celery
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper, seeds and membranes removed
1 teaspoon salt plus additional to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus additional to taste
1/4 cup flour12 cups chicken broth or stock
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, diced
6 ears fresh corn, husks and silk removed
2 store supermarket purchased rotisserie chickens
2 (1lb.) packages frozen corn, thawed
1 quart heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

Cook the bacon in a very large skillet until crispy; remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add the shallots, celery and jalapeño to the pan with the bacon drippings and sauté over medium heat until tender.

Sprinkle vegetables with the flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and stir to coat. Transfer the vegetables to a very large stock pot and add the chicken stock and the potatoes; bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 13 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, carefully remove the corn from the cobs, slicing downward from the tip to the base. Add the corn along with 2 of the empty cobs to the pot.

Remove as much chicken as possible from the 2 chickens; use both dark and white meat, but do not use the skin. Dice the chicken and add to the pot.

Puree the thawed corn in a food processor and stir into the pot. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Remove the cobs from the soup and discard.

Stir in the heavy cream the bacon pieces and the thyme along with additional salt and pepper to taste; simmer an additional 10 minutes until heated through and slightly thickened.

Serves 12-16

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Barefoot Thursday

I am so excited to announce I have joined a fun group of bloggers: The Barefoot Bloggers!

Twice a month this group of recipe challenge loving bloggers prepares a recipe from one of Ina Garten's (The Barefoot Contessa) cookbooks. The recipe is selected by a different member of the group each month then members blog about it.

This month's selection is Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread as selected by Cooking with the Kids. I was pretty excited to try this recipe-as I love jalapenos and I love cornbread. I of course had to make a few changes-mostly because I made it at 9:00 at night and I did not have any white sugar or any scallions in the house and I only had white cornmeal; it was too late to run out to the supermarket. I decided to substitute brown sugar which I think made up a little for the lack of color with using white cornmeal. As for the scallions, I just left them out. Over all I though it was quite tasty! I cut it into squares and froze it immediately as I am bringing it to the shelter I cook for on Friday with some chicken corn chowder (more on that tomorrow).

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread from The Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups milk
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pan
8 ounces aged extra-sharp Cheddar, grated, divided
1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts, plus extra for garnish, 3 scallions
3 tablespoons seeded and minced fresh jalapeno peppers

Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet inredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don't overmix. Mix in 2 cups of the cheddar, the scallions and jalapenos, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 by 2 - inch pan.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheddar and extra chopped scallions. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut into large squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fine Limes

When it comes to grilling it's really all about the condiments. The grill adds terrific flavor to meats and vegetables and I really love those char marks, but let's face it, it's what you slab on before, during or after that can make all the difference in your grilled meal.

In my humble opinion, limes rank right up there with ketchup and mustard in the condiment hierarchy. They can be essential in marinade making, they make fabulous post grilling sauces, glazes and perhaps their best feature of all-they make darn good cocktails...margarita anyone?

I'm sharing a post grilling sauce today, a vinaigrette really. The vinaigrette is drizzled onto the meat just after grilling and can be drizzled on your grilled vegetables or salad as well. I have made salmon, but the vinaigrette would work equally well on chicken, some other grilled seafood or even grilled steak.
Just a word or two about selecting limes at the supermarket:
  • Make sure you choose smooth skinned, nicely colored limes if you are planning on using the zest.
  • Compare limes for weight in your hands, make sure you get one that feels a little "heavy" so you know it has a good amount of juice in it.
  • If you are buying limes for a marinade or to make a sauce or dressing with be sure to pick up a few extra for those complementing cocktails.

Grilled Salmon with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon champagne or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lime zest
Juice of 1 lime (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Wild Alaskan Salmon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Oil to brush the grill

To prepare the vinaigrette, combine the cilantro, olive oil, vinegar, lime zest, lime juice, shallot salt and pepper in a blender container or small food processor; blend until smooth.

Preheat a grill to medium high heat.

Sprinkle both sides of the salmon with salt and pepper. Brush the grill rack lightly with oil. Place the salmon on the grill skin side up and grill for 3 minutes. Using a large spatula, carefully turn the salmon over and grill for an additional 3 minutes or until desired doneness. Transfer the cooked fish to s cutting board. Carve into 4 portions. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salmon to serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Hybrid fruits intrigue me. I remember touring the hydroponic gardens at Epcot a few years ago and the guide spoke of hybrid fruits and thinking that was so "futuristic". Well here we are 2008 and right in my local supermarket are pluots.

Having never heard of a pluot, I immediately assumed that the signmaker in the supermarket made some sort of spelling error-these were just ugly colored or unripened plums. But on closer examination (and just before I was about to open my know it all mouth to the produce manager) I realized it was my error-I had stumbled upon a fruit of the future: pluots. (From what I have been able to read about pluots, they've been around since about 1990, but this is the first time I've seen them, so quite possibly they are just the fruit of my future.)

A pluot is a cross hybrid of a plum and an apricot created by biologist Floyd Zaiger. They are grown in California and can be found in your supermarket during the summer and early fall months.

While they don't look particularly appealing from the outside, when sliced open they reveal a delicately pretty reddish center. They are deliciously sweet and definitely deserve a place in your grocery cart-if for no other reason than to be able to say "I've tasted a pluot".

This recipe using pluots was inspired by the basil gelato I tasted the other day at Whole Foods (it was surprisingly refreshing). I have used purchased cookie shells but you may substitute homemade shells if you want to go the extra mile. If you are unable to find pluots, plums and/or apricots would make an acceptable substitute.

Elegant Pluot Basil Cookie Cups

8 ounces whipped cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil leaves, plus additional for garnish
24 mini cookie shells
2-3 pluots

In a medium bowl stir together the cream cheese and the sugar. Stir in the basil.
Divide the cream cheese mixture evenly between the cookie shells spooning into the center of each.

Very thinly slice the pluots into wedges for a total of 48 slices. Fan the slices over the cream cheese in each cookie shell. Garnish each with a tiny bit of basil. Serve or cover loosely and chill until serving.

Yield: 24 cookie cups

Monday, July 7, 2008

Tag you're it!

Lisa from Jersey Girl Cooks and Shannon from Writing as I Eat tagged me! I think it's fun to find out what other bloggers are like and how much you may have in common. Here's my meme:

1) LAST MOVIE U SAW IN A THEATRE? Made of Honor...cute.
2) WHAT BOOK ARE U READING? Chinese Cinderella
5) FAVORITE SMELLS? vanilla and cinnamon
6) FAVORITE SOUNDS? My children's voices and "You've got mail"
7) TELL ME ABOUT FOOD. Food has a way of transporting you to special times in your life-like when I smell grilled cheese, it makes me think of my mother and my 4th grade science fair (she made me grilled cheese that day).
8) WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF WHEN U WAKE? a cup of tea and where are my Puffins(my favorite cereal)
9) FAVORITE FAST FOOD PLACE? Ranch 1 Chicken-original chicken sandwich no sauce and if I happen to be out west (you lucky dogs that are) In and Out Burger (holy cow those are great fries!) I think I may write to them and ask if they would ever consider Connecticut for an east coast expansion-I alone would probably make it worth their while.
10) FUTURE CHILD'S NAME? I have been blessed with 3 and that's enough
11) FINISH THIS STATEMENT—’IF I HAD A LOT OF MONEY I’D...save it, grow it, share it.
12) DO U DRIVE FAST? No...oh well...maybe sometimes
14) STORMS–COOL OR SCARY? Cool...except for that time a lightning bolt hit the ground right next to my car-that was scary
15) WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAR? Green Dodge Omni (that makes me sound old doesn't it?)
16) FAVORITE DRINK? Starbuck's Venti Unsweetened Green Iced Tea
17) FINISH THIS STATEMENT-IF I HAD THE TIME I WOULD…read more-I've always wished I could find more time to read more-there are so many classics I should read
18) DO YOU EAT THE STEMS ON BROCCOLI? Yetch...I find it hard enough to eat the tops, but I force myself because I know they are good for you.
19) IF YOU COULD DYE YOUR HAIR ANY OTHER COLOUR, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR CHOICE? I like my current color...but if I had to choose another maybe red-not an Anne of Green Gables red, but more like a Marcia Cross red.
20) NAME ALL THE DIFFERENT CITIES/TOWNS U HAVE LIVED IN? Bronx, NY, Northport, NY, Wappingers Falls, NY, New York, NY, Columbus, MS, Niantic, CT, Garden City, NY, Glastonbury, CT
21) FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Baseball and tennis
22) ONE NICE THING ABOUT THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? She has a nice smile and great blog!
23) WHATS UNDER YOUR BED? a plastic bin with cooking magazines and probably a dust bunny or two.
25) MORNING PERSON OR NIGHT OWL? morning person
28) FAVORITE PIE? apple-only homemade
29) FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Ben and Jerry's The Gobfather...if you haven't tried it run, don't walk to the supermarket for a pint!

So in turn I am tagging a few bloggers whose blogs I enjoy reading:

Julie from Peanut Butter and Julie
Catherine from The Dish
Birdie from The Saucy Bird

Don't worry if you can't play along. Or if you only have a little time , answer just a few of the questions. Have fun!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Lazy Raspberry Picking

I wish that I was not so lazy.

It's a beautiful day here in New England-a tad hot-but beautiful. If I wasn't so lazy I would take my kids (one is away at Intelligence and National Security Camp-how scary is that? So I have only 2 this week) berry picking. But quite honestly the thought of being on my knees-or worse squatting and sifting through buggy plants to find "perfect" berries seems daunting. Do you see what I mean? I realize that I am just plain lazy...but, when I know that I can run to the supermarket where someone has done all the work for me It's just too easy to be lazy. I am "picking" in a way...I have to pick the best looking container-no moldy ones, just plump juicy ones. And I'm in air-conditioned comfort while I'm doing it. Lazy.

Honestly I would rather spend my lazy summer day baking something.

So I grabbed some (supermarket purchased) raspberries (they were organic, just for the record) and decided to make some Bittersweet Chocolate Raspberry Brownies. These brownies are a tad more cake-like than fudgy, so if you like your brownies "fudgier" try cutting the flour a bit-we like our brownies a little more cakey. Now just a warning here-these are not your run of the mill uber-sweet Duncan Hines variety. These brownies are definitely bittersweet. If you like them a little sweeter, you can up the sugar a bit-but I think served warm and dusted lightly with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and some fresh raspberries alongside they are just right.

Bittersweet Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

Butter and unsweetened cocoa powder
6 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger 70% cacao)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar, plus additional for dusting
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter a 9x9 inch baking pan and then dust lightly with unsweetened cocoa powder.

Melt the chocolate with the butter in a medium sized bowl over a pot of simmering water. (If your microwave has a chocolate melting setting-which my new one does-you may use that). Allow the chocolate to cool for 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl combine the eggs, 1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar and the vanilla. Using an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour, baking powder and the salt. Add the melted chocolate and mix just until well combined. Using a spatula, gently fold in the raspberries. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 40 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the pan before cutting into squares to serve. Lightly dust squares with confectioner's sugar before serving.

Express Checkout

I saw a quick little supermarket tidbit I wanted to share. If you live near a Shop Rite supermarket, right now until Saturday July 5th you can earn a $25 BP or Shell gas gift card by making $75 in qualifying purchases using your Shop Rite Price Plus card. Hey, with gas prices what they are, every little bit helps!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


The last few days have been crazy, but I am happy to report that I now have a full kitchen. I cannot believe how long it has been since I've had an operational sink and cooktop. The oven and microwave were in a few weeks ago, but no cooktop or sinks because I needed to wait for the granite. But finally it's all here. Truthfully though, I have gone so long without them-I'm almost afraid to use them; they look so clean, so new...I'm not sure if I want to mess them up.

Ask yourself this question: if you had to do without a kitchen for any length of time what is the one thing you would most miss preparing? For me it has been pasta. Sadly (I suppose) I have never gone this long without a bowl of pasta. So today, the first operational day of my sink and cooktop, I could not get the pasta water into a pot and boiling fast enough.

One of my favorite local supermarkets, Stew Leonards, carries "homemade" fresh ricotta cavatelli pasta that is just delicious. I have used the fresh cavatelli in this recipe, but if fresh pasta is not available in your supermarket take a look in the frozen pasta section as there are several brands of frozen cavatelli that are just as good as fresh. You should be able to find cavatelli near the frozen ravioli in the freezer aisle of most large supermarkets.

Creamy Cavatelli with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Arugula

16 ounces fresh ricotta cavatelli pasta
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup pasta water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups coarsely chopped arugula
1 cup coarsely chopped sun dried tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Add the cavatelli and cook according to package directions, or about 6 minutes; drain, but reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Transfer cavatelli to a large skillet. Stir in the creme fraiche, pasta water and salt. Stir over medium heat until the cavatelli is coated with the sauce.

Stir in the arugula, sun dried tomatoes, black pepper and parmesan cheese. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and black pepper, if desired.

Yield 6 servings