Monday, February 25, 2008

Foccacia Mania!

Another weekend of wild weather and I'm back in the kitchen, cleaning and cooking. Ron and I went to Los Angeles the previous weekend, followed by a crazy week of not much cooking and absolutely no cleaning! So I'm making up for lost time.

And what better way than to make homemade bread. Foccacia, actually! I ran out of bread flour, so it turned into a part-whole wheat Foccacia. Here's to health, and practicality. No way I was going to buzz to the market in the middle of bread-making, not to mention the horizontal rain!

Like a good girl, I pre-heated the oven and
baking stone well in advance. I was ready to place my beautiful Foccacia dough into that pre-heated oven. See it there? All glistening with olive oil in its little dimples!

So, other than the substituted 1 cup of whole wheat flour and an accidental extra 2 teaspoons of sugar, I followed the recipe from Food & Wine EXACTLY.

You KNOW this is a rarity for me.

But THIS is how the trouble began....

The directions said to put the pan into the oven on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Which I did. THEN, the directions said to THROW 1/4 CUP OF ICE WATER ONTO THE OVEN FLOOR, and close the door. Which I did.

Then, like a busy girl, I set the timer for the recommended 30 minutes and went to do some graphics work on my computer. After about 10 minutes, Ron came in and said, "Wow! I can smell that Foccacia bread. Smells fabulous!" Indeed.

So, like a frantic girl, I ran to the kitchen, turned the lights on high, and threw open the oven. My heart sank as I looked at the already-golden brown crust. I peered down at the oven thermometer: it was spiking over 550 degrees! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I turned the oven down to 350, closed the door, and shakily reset the timer.

I took the Foccacia out a full 8 minutes before the minimum time for fear it would burn all around, and placed it on two wire racks. SAVED! 

The crust is a bit thick due to the HEAT SPIKE (thanks a lot for the ice water tip, Food & Wine "professional gourmet baking lady") but the inside is sweet and hearty with garlic, herbs and onions!

For real, thanks, Honey, for smelling that bread and saving our Foccacia!

We've already eaten 1/3 and shared some with fave eaters, Bob and the boys!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Coming in March.....CheeseCake Extravaganza!

We're filming an extra special "Gourmet Again!" cooking show episode in early March. I'll be making a cheesecake. But I don't know yet which cheesecake, because I gave the choice to our first Guest on the show!

She's been craving cheesecake, and she specifically requested that Ron and I make one for her before she has to leave town. Of course we couldn't turn down a CRAVING like that!

Her deadline is Monday, February 25th to provide her cheesecake choice. Suffice it to say that both cheesecakes involve CHOCOLATE!

Stay tuned for the recipe and other rantings, right here. Meanwhile, have I mentioned yet that I have a bunch of my recipe faves on my web site? Check 'em out.....delicious! Look in the Fun Facts & Funky Faves section for the link!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blue on my mind

I was shoved from sleep into the waking world two times in the middle of the night.

Both times, my immediate thought was the word "blue."

I've had thousands of strange dreams, but few wake-ups as bizarre as these two.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pizza Mania!

I'm getting cocky. And here's the proof:

Yesterday, Ron and I were running errands. He asked me if I'd remembered to buy pre-made pizza dough at Trader Joe's to use in our pizza making episode of "Gourmet Again!" being taped later that evening.

I replied without a pause, "I make my own dough now."

Cocky, perhaps, but the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, in the PIZZA! We made two 'zas, and I'm arrogantly certain that you'll love them both if you follow this recipe EXACTLY .....




2 large fresh Chicken Breasts
1 cup BBQ Sauce
¼ cup Red Wine

½ cup BBQ Sauce (or my fave: use BBQ chicken juices, cooked down to a glaze)
½ cup Red Onion, sliced super-thin
2 large Tomatoes, sliced super-thin
6 oz. fresh Mozzarella, shredded


1 Tsp Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic, minced
¼ cup Red Wine
½ Tsp Basil

6 medium Crimini Mushrooms, sliced thinly
2 cups fresh Spinach, coarsely chopped
4 oz. fresh Goat Cheese, crumbled
4 oz. fresh Mozzarella, shredded


1 Tbsp Active Dry Yeast
1 cup Warm Water (105˚ to 115˚)
2-1/2 cups unbleached White Flour
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tsp Sugar
1 Tsp Salt



Mix BBQ Sauce and Red Wine in a small bowl. Add to a large cooking pot or slow cooker with Chicken. Cook on super-low heat for 1-3 hours. Do not open the cover for at least 1 hour, then test each hour for doneness. The Chicken should shred easily.


Heat Olive Oil in small sauce pan, sauté Garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add Red Wine, Basil. Simmer at least 15 minutes, an hour or longer if you have the time. Remove from heat.


Combine Flour, Salt and Sugar in a small bowl. In another large bowl, dissolve Yeast in Water, then add Oil and dry ingredients. Stir dough until tough.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes. Place in oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours.
(Note: my dough doesn’t rise all that much, but it rolls easy and tastes incredible anyway!)

Place Pizza Stone in oven and preheat to 450˚ F. Divide dough into two equal portions. Use a rolling pin to roll each into a 12-inch circle. Place each crust onto its own square of parchment paper on separate cutting boards. Pinch edges of crusts.


Spread ¼ cup of the remaining BBQ Sauce (or prepared BBQ glaze) onto first crust. Top with BBQ Chicken, Tomatoes, Red Onions, and Mozzarella. Use a pizza peel to slide parchment paper with crust onto pizza stone and bake each pizza in preheated oven for 15 minutes.

While the first pizza is in the oven, spread the Red Sauce evenly on the second crust. Lay out the Mushrooms, sprinkle on Spinach, Goat Cheese and Mozzarella.

Remove the first pizza and place on cutting board. Use the pizza peel to slide parchment paper with second crust onto pizza stone in oven. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Remove with pizza peel and place on another cutting board.

Slice each pizza into squares or triangles and enjoy!

Chef’s Notes:
Shred a whole piece of Mozzarella just before topping the pizza. This produces a very fresh taste, as pre-shredded cheeses tend to lose some of their moisture and essence. 

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance

The tonality of my cooking discourse is so jovial and easy-going, so full of mirth and delightfulness!

And yet, my profile photo makes me look surly, hard to handle, fussy, and clearly high maintenance.

Who cares?

Not the lamb chops.

Not the rain.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Italian Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf

Yesterday, I was inspired to make a dish from my new "Cooking Pleasures" magazine when I saw this recipe. I was also inspired to use ingredients already on hand, so I didn't have to make a wasteful trip to the market for one or two items! I used turkey instead of ground beef, added ground fennel seeds to replace sausage, and used one of our favorite cheeses, Handmade English Cheese with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, in place of Fontina. The result: a tangy, succulent meat loaf that was fine-textured and fit for serving to guests in the future! The truth is, it's almost impossible for me to make a recipe as written! Ron calls me his "custom" girl. So go ahead, experiment with your own version of this masterpiece.



½ teaspoon
plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup finely chopped onions

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup milk

1-1/2 lb. ground turkey

2 cups chopped fresh spinach

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 teaspoon pepper

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 oz. Handmade English cheese with sun-dried tomatoes, crumbled


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chopped carrot

1/4 cup minced shallots

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 (14.5-oz.) can tomato sauce

1/3 cup red wine

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper


1. Heat oven to 350°F. Heat ½ teaspoon olive oil in tiny pan over medium heat. Add fennel seeds and sauté 2-3 minutes until seeds turn brown but not burned. Remove from heat. Place a paper towel over a small plate and add seeds from pan, patting with towel to blot excess oil. Transfer seeds to mortar/pestle and grind thoroughly. Set aside.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons garlic; cook 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add onions, cook 4 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat.

3. Combine bread crumbs and milk in large bowl; let stand 15 minutes. When onion-garlic sauté is cool, gently combine all remaining meat loaf ingredients with bread crumbs.

4. Form half of the mixture into 9x9-inch baking pan. Arrange cheese in center of meat, leaving 1-inch border on edges. Cover with remaining meat mixture, seal edges.

5. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160°F. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

6. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until hot. Cook carrot, shallots and 2 teaspoons garlic, uncovered, 6 to 10 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally. Add red wine, basil, salt and pepper. Stir in tomato sauce; reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Serve warm over meat loaf.

Chef’s Notes: I like to make all my red sauces in advance so they simmer for at least an hour, infusing all the tangy flavors together. Also, if you can’t get Handmade English cheese with sun-dried tomatoes, try substituting your favorite, Provolone, Fontina, or another cheese, and add in chopped sun-dried tomatoes!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Weekend in the Kitchen

Rain came on and off throughout the weekend, more perfect weather for cooking and baking all our House Faves, and trying some new recipes, too! See my cooking show "Gourmet Again!" at BlipsWerx YouTube! and view recipes at

Saturday, we grilled a Pork Tenderloin and I made an Apricot BBQ Glaze, yum. The meat marinated for several hours in Olive 
Oil and our favorite general spice blend, Mrs. Tallman's Mild.

As for the glaze, I made it up as I went along, starting with a saute of Garlic, Olive Oil and Butter. I added Red Wine, Soy Sauce, a bit of coarse grain Mustard, Apricot Preserves, and BBQ Sauce. After 15 minutes of medium-low heat under the pan, I set it aside for glazing/garnishing the Pork.

Today, we made brunch, which doesn't happen often because I'm not a big Breakfast eater. French Toast with a light multi-grain bread, and Scrambled Eggs with leftover grilled Cauliflower, Broccoli and added Mushrooms. Fresh squeezed Orange Juice sealed the deal on a nice meal, and Ron did most of the work, including all the dishes. Ahhhhhh!

In the early afternoon, I smashed a few Bananas! And used them to make a Carob-Banana Bread with a touch of Rum Extract and a pinch of Nutmeg to give it a rich Eggnog essence. This is the highest one of my quick breads has ever risen, and the texture is super light and fluffy!

I used to make this recipe with Apple Juice, but I did use organic White Sugar this time around, dropping the amount from 2/3 cup to 1/2 cup. The top is crunchy, carob chips provide inner texture, and yet overall it's not too sweet!

While others around the world gathering for the SuperBowl, I made Guacamole which, along with homemade Salsa, are two of our House Faves.

I must admit, I make the best Guacamole on the planet.

I start with 1/3 cup of my own Salsa in a glass container, and add 3 - 4 ripe Avocados as I halve them and mash into the Salsa. That's it.

I let the Guac take a siesta in the fridge for a couple of hours. I tested it with organic corn chips, Salsa, and of course, a bottle of Negra Modelo, Mexican beer so deep, dark and delicious that I can never finish a bottle.

Superb Dinner: Grilled Lamb Chops, marinated in Olive Oil, Ground Thyme and Roasted Garlic, with Carmelized Onions for a topping.

Ron said the Carmelized Onions were too sweet and sticky, he is hoping next time for the grilled
version. But I enjoyed them in small doses, as the chops were a bit gamey. The sweetness seemed to mellow out the pungent meat.

We added a side of Grilled Vegetables (do we love our veggies or what?).

I also made a Sprouted Grain Pappardelle, tossed in a fresh Alfredo Sauce. Creamy, tangy and healthy, of course, even with the butter and cream ; )

Here's the money shot on dinner this evening! Ron is The Grill Master, so as always, everything was done to perfection.