Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Comfort Food for a Rainy Weekend

It was a rainy weekend and I was in need of some comfort food.  Chicken has always been a favorite and I came across a new recipe that sounded like just the right thing.  Today on Marilyn's Table we have:

Herbed Chicken and Squash
James Beard's Amazing Persimmon Bread

The recipe called only for boneless skinless breasts.  Well I enjoy thighs, so I used both and it proved to be a good choice. I had a butternut squash that was supposed to go into a soup, but I never got around to making that.  So the squash is peeled, seeded and cut in cubes.  A drizzle of EVOO is tossed and they are set aside.  Cipollini onions are also a favorite, though a bit tedious to work with.  I dropped them in boiling water to loosen the skin and then quickly peeled them and tossed them with a cinnamon pear balsamic vinegar and a bit of EVOO.  The chicken pieces  are seasoned with chopped fresh rosemary, S&P. Lay them skin side down (the thighs only had skin).  Arrange the squash and onions around the meat and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  Turn the pieces over and brush with a glaze of apricot preserves, Dijon mustard, chopped fresh ginger  and chopped garlic. Turn the vegetables as well and sprinkle with more chopped rosemary and S&P.  We are looking for an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  Serve the chicken (slice the breast) with the vegetables. A pretty plate and very tasty.

This is persimmon time of year.  Their season is pretty short so I bought enough to make this bread and some to freeze the pulp.  This bread will without a doubt become a regular in my holiday file.  At first glance it sounded like a lot of work and strangely like the dreaded 'fruit cake', but it was not. and the bread has wonderful flavor as well as being colorful. Sifted flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg and sugar are mixed in a large bowl with a well in the center.  Into the well goes melted butter, eggs, bourbon, persimmon puree, toasted chopped pecans and dried fruit. The recipe called for raisins, but as I have said before, I don't care for them.  Instead I used dried cranberries and chopped dried apricots. Thoroughly mix and pour into 2 loaf pans which have been sprayed and floured.  I used small loaf pans of which I had 5.  Next time I will use 6 because they all ran over in the oven! Fortunately I had placed the pans on a cookie sheet so the run over did not go all over the oven.  I scooped up the run over dough and had it with a pot of tea.  This was an amazing success (except for the run over part) Nothing at all like a fruit cake, but very much like a bread.  Loved it.

Next weekend I expect to be putting together my offerings for Christmas Dinner in Wisconsin.  We are doing and Italian theme.  I am looking forward to that table and will resume this blog with my New Years' Eve/New Years Day meal.  Have a blessed holiday and a Healthy New Year.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sunday Dinner

This past Friday, I had the privilege of meeting Ina Garten. She appeared at the Barnes and Nobel store in Old Orchard for the signing of her newest cookbook "Foolproof".  She has always been one of my favorites on the Food Network so meeting her was very special.  I  had planned to prepare something from her book, but could not find lamb shanks.  So I had to improvise.  Here is what made it to Marilyn's Table.

Grilled Lamb Chop with Ina's Orzo
Cucumber-Red Onion-Avocado Salad
Pink Drink

The preparation of the orzo changed with substituting the lamb chop for the lamb shank which needs to be cooked a long time. Carrot-celery and yellow onion are sauteed in oil.  When they begin to soften chopped garlic, chicken stock, a large can of tomatoes, dry white wine, bay leaves, orzo and seasonings are added. The pot is set to simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the orzo is cooked.

I grilled the lamb chop to medium rare and served it with the orzo.  This was a nice filling meal which would probably should be enjoyed on a cold winter day.  But the temperature was in the upper 60's.  In December?   Seriously?

The salad was awful (not from Ina's book) and I don't say that often. Thinly sliced English cucumber, red onion and avocado with a dressing of blended cucumber, parsley and seasonings.  The onion overpowered it and the dressing was pretty flat.  I love English cucumber and avocado and will continue to use them in salads, but no to the red onion.

I have not used simple syrup before so this was a new experience.  Most simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water; heated until the sugar is dissolved, cooled and refrigerated.  This syrup added cranberries and the zest from an orange.  After it is cooked until the berries pop, it is cooled and pressed through a strainer to retain just the juice and stored in the refrigerator.  To prepare the drink, a tablespoon of Orange Liquor is spooned into a tall glass with 2 tablespoons of the syrup and topped with either sparkling wine or Ginger Ale.  Frozen cranberries are used as a garnish.  This was a lovely drink and I will make it again over the holidays.

Except for the salad I enjoyed this meal and will try something else from Ina's book in a couple of weeks.  I will be taking a break until then.  I have lots of baking to do and I don't see a meal next week, except for perhaps a soup to hold me over.  Have a wonderful holiday and a New Year filled with good health and happiness.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Souper Sundae

It's that time of year. The weather is beginning to be chilly and my weekly pot of soup has begun.  This soup is one of my favorites because it is so flexible.  It can be served hot or cold; chunky or smooth. And it is one of the easiest soups to make.  Here is what is on Marilyn's Table.

Potato Leek Soup with Gruyere Croutons
Apple Pie Sundaes with Cheddar Shards

The soup goes together in minutes with a reasonably short prep time.  A large Idaho potato (Yukon Golds would also work well) is scrubbed and cut in cubes.  I leave the skin on because that is where a lot of the vitamins are. Leeks are sliced into half rounds and rinsed thoroughly to remove any sand.  They are then sauteed in butter with a pinch of salt.  The potato is added and vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you prefer) are added and simmered until potatoes are soft. Remove from the heat. I left mine chunky but if you want the soup to be smooth, this is where you use an immersion blender to smooth it out.  Heavy cream and buttermilk are added along with white pepper.  Taste to correct the seasonings.  Warm through to serve or put in refrigerator to chill.

I have seen several recipes for using grilled cheese sandwiches cut up for croutons, so I thought I would try it.  I had a loaf of dark bread with lots of seeds. I cut half inch slices and buttered one side of each.  Slices of Gruyere were put inside and I grilled the sandwich on a panini press. The edges are cut off and the rest is cut into bite sized cubes.  The cubes are dropped on the top of the soup along with a few fresh herbs such as thyme.  I love this soup and will make it again and often.

Apples are plentiful and I thought they would be a nice addition to some frozen yogurt.  Since cheddar cheese often accompanies apple pie, I used it in the preparation of cracker like shards. Flour, salt, cold butter, sharp cheddar cheese, cold water and cider vinegar are put in a food processor and blended until the dough comes together.  The dough is kneaded,  wrapped in plastic and chilled in the refrigerator. Roll out the dough thinly and bake until browned. The dough is cooled and broken into shards to garnish the rest of the sundae.   A Granny Smith and a Gala apple are cored and cut in slices (again I leave the skin on). Butter is melted in a skillet and the apples are added along with both granulated and brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and a bit of salt. The apples are cooked until tender and bit of water is added.  Cool the mixture slightly and blend half until smooth. In a large bowl soften frozen vanilla yogurt and mix in the pureed apples.  Return to the freezer to set.  To serve, scoop the apple yogurt mixture into dishes; spoon some of the remaining apples over the top and garnish with the cheddar shards.  Pretty to look at and very yummy.

This week was a celebration of simple food that I will repeat often over the winter.  Next week is Thanksgiving and I will be heading north to celebrate with family.  As always it will be an interesting meal to which everyone contributes.  Also will be fun to hear about granddaughter Kendall's first semester in college.  I will  remember to take pictures of our table and share with you.  We have so much to be thankful for so enjoy your holiday and will see you in two weeks.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thanksgiving Preview

Once Halloween is over, my thoughts turn to the holiday's and holiday food.  I could cook turkey once a week during the season and never get tired of it.  I found this recipe in one of the magazines I receive and it sounded like a winner.  Lots of herbs and seasonings, my favorites.  My quest to find a turkey breast on the bone was not successful.  The only one I found was frozen and was shot full of all manner of chemicals touted as basting.  I finally ended up at Whole Foods.  They had a boneless fresh turkey breast.  I usually prefer to cook poultry on the bone, but this looked just about the right size for me and a week or so of leftovers.  Here is what was on my Table this week:

Lemon-Herb Seasoned Turkey Breast
Rosemary-Garlic Roasted Broccoli and Sweet Potatoes
Applesauce Granita with Maple Yogurt

I like to brine poultry so the night before the turkey went into a large bowl with cold water, salt, sugar, peppercorns and various herbs.  While the brine was doing it's thing, I made the stuffing that went under the skin.  Into the blender went Panko bread crumbs, chopped Italian parsley, rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon peel, sauteed onion, salt, pepper and enough EVOO to hold it all together.  The mixture should resemble a paste.  When the turkey is removed from the brine, it is patted dry and the paste is carefully stuffed under the skin.  It is then put in a roasting pan on a bed of chopped onion, celery, sprigs of rosemary and thyme, chopped garlic, lemon juice, EVOO and a bit of salt and pepper.  Chicken stock is poured over the vegetables and around the bird. When the turkey is thoroughly cooked and nicely browned it is removed and set aside to rest.  The vegetables and broth are strained and simmered until thickened for a sauce.  The brine, herbs and seasonings gave the turkey lots of flavor.  This recipe will go in my 'love it' folder and I will use it again.

Sweet potato and broccoli are vegetables I prepare often so I was looking for a new way to try.  This recipe is very simple and quite excellent for the turkey.  There is some crossover of herbs which brings both dishes together nicely. In a baking dish a chopped sweet potato is tossed in EVOO, chopped rosemary, garlic and salt and pepper.  After roasting them at the for about 20 minutes, chopped broccoli is added and tossed with a bit more EVOO.  When the potato and broccoli are soft and lightly browned a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese is added for serving.  This too was added to my 'love it' folder.  Very colorful!

The turkey and vegetables needed something cool and refreshing at the end of the meal.  A granita seemed like a good choice.  Unsweetened applesauce and a bit of lemon juice are mixed and spread in a square glass pan.  Place it in the freezer until firm.  While it is freezing, mix plain Greek yogurt with some maple syrup and a bit of ground cinnamon.  To serve, take a fork of the edge of a spoon and scrape the surface to fluff it up.  Serve in a glass bowl and spoon some of the yogurt sauce over the top.  So simple, yet so cool after the meal.

This was a good menu and many of the techniques will be used again.  Next week I will be away for a few days.  It's my birthday and I am treating myself to a weekend in Galena, one of my favorite places.  That means dinner out. I am looking forward to trying a couple of new restaurants and some nice wine.  Breakfast will be amazing as always at the Aldrich Guest House.  I will be back the following week and we will see what appears on Marilyn's Table.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Treat or Treat

It's hard to believe it's Halloween already.  Time flies when you spend your weekend cooking.  I thought I would approach the Halloween  theme in the food for the Table.  The menu is a real treat with no tricks involved.  Here is what is on the table:

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Fruit
Stuffed Pumpkin with Cranberry-Pecan Bread Pudding

Michael Symon is one of my favorite Food Network chefs.  His food is simply prepared and flavorful.  This recipe for pork tenderloin is no exception.  It just took more planning as the fruit and the pork marinate for specific periods of time.  First the fruit: in a sauce pan simmer one Bosc pear cut in small pieces with red wine, sugar, red wine vinegar, salt, whole-grain  mustard, and mustard seeds.  Pour the hot liquid into a jar over dried apricots cut in half and dried cranberries.  After it cools, put a lid on it and place in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  The pork is marinated in a plastic bag overnight.  The marinade is chopped cilantro or parsley, which ever you prefer, Dijon mustard, toasted ground coriander and cumin seeds, kosher salt, smoked paprika and the zest and juice of one lime.  The marinade is poured over the meat, turned to evenly coat and sealed.  The meat is grilled on all sides and finished in the oven.  After it has rested, slice and serve over a bed of arugula.  The mustard fruit is spooned over the top.  A drizzle of EVOO brings it all together. This is an excellent dish.  The meat is tender and the crust has a bright flavor.  The fruit is both sweet and tart.  It would be lovely at a dinner party, however, I am happy to have leftovers  for the rest of the week.

The stuffed pumpkin was something I have not done as a sweet.  I have used a baked pumpkin shell for both soup and stew.  This was very different and quite tasty.  The pumpkin top is removed and saved.  The seeds are cleaned out of the inside and then the inside is brushed with a bit of melted butter and sprinkled with brown sugar.  Eggs, sugar, melted butter, and half & half are whipped together.  The recipe called for cubed raisin bread, but I don't care for raisins so I chose a loaf of Parmesan olive bread.  The egg mixture is poured over the bread cubes and toasted pecans are added.  The pudding is baked in a square pan along side the pan with the pumpkin.  After about 25 minutes remove both from the oven and spoon the pudding into the pumpkin and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. With the pumpkin top on, the dish makes an impressive presentation.  The pudding is spooned on to a plate being sure that you get some of the cooked pumpkin too.  A vanilla lemon sauce is drizzled over it all.  In a saucepan, put a split vanilla bean, water, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Cook until smooth and thickened.  Stir in butter, grated lemon zest and juice and heat through.  Remove the vanilla bean before using.

Capital Brewery in Middleton has another terrific beer to serve, Island Wheat Ale.  The perfect beverage for the meal.

There were lots of new and interesting techniques and flavors on this table.  I will prepare the tenderloin again as a regular fall entree.  The pumpkin bread pudding has lots of possibilities and I will pursue other fruits and breads. I expect that next week turkey will be featured on the Table. This time of year I could have it weekly in many ways. I love the way the house smells while it is cooking.

Have a great week; stay warm.  I will be attending a cookbook signing for another one of my Food Network favorites, Ina Garten. Her new book  "Foolproof", is wonderful and I am anxious to try some of the recipes in the next weeks.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pumpkin Two Ways

A beautiful day in my neighborhood and as promised, today I will tell you about pumpkin on Marilyn's Table.   It's my favorite time of year and the produce is amazing.  Today's Table will feature pumpkin in two very different ways.  Here is what's on the Table:

Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce
Spiced Pumpkin Dunking Sticks
Alton Brown's Hot and Spicy Cocoa

The ravioli recipe came from Saveur magazine.  However, it appeared to be a bit tedious.  So I took some shortcuts.  First of all, I did not make pasta dough from scratch.  I have found that using wonton skins work very well and the finished dish looks a bit free from. Also I used canned pumpkin (not pie filling) instead of roasting a whole pumpkin.

First comes the filling; onions are sauteed in a bit of EVOO about 10 minutes.  Then red pepper flakes are added along with amaretti cookie crumbs, cinnamon, Parmesan cheese, honey, white wine and salt.  Cook to combine and then add the canned pumpkin and heat through.  Cover and set aside to keep warm.

In a small skillet melt unsalted butter and add the sage leaves and cook until they are crisp.  Set this aside as well.  Heat a pot of salted water to boiling; dip the wonton skins in the water to soften, just a few seconds will do.  Arrange 3 - 5 on a plate and spoon  some of the pumpkin filling in the center of each, leaving a bit of the edge.  Lay another wonton skin over the filling and press the edges together.  Serve the warm sage butter over the top.  I really liked this process as well as the dish itself.  I expect to prepare more ravioli's using this method.

The cocoa is a dry mix that is mixed and stored in an airtight container.  It can then be made one cup at a time.  It is rich and creamy with just a bit of a kick.  Mix together: powdered sugar, Dutch process cocoa, powdered milk, salt, cornstarch and a pinch or two of cayenne pepper.  Fill a mug about half full of the mix and pour boiling water over.  Stir and top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Yum!

The cookies were a bit of a disappointment, but I discovered I had left out an ingredient so it was no wonder they were not what they should have been.  Soft unsalted butter is beaten with sugar until thoroughly mixed.  Then cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger salt and cloves are added and mixed together.  In a separate bowl, canned pumpkin, egg and vanilla are combined and added to the butter mixture.  Stir in flour with a wooden spoon.  Now the dough is to be placed in a pastry bag and piped in a corkscrew motion onto a cookie sheet.  Well I found the dough to be to stiff to use the pastry bag so I rolled the dough into 'little cigars' about 4 inches long and put them on the baking sheet. They are to bake 5 - 7 minutes, but since they were not in the shape the recipe called for, I left them a bit longer.  While they cool a glaze is made to drizzle over the cookie.  Cream cheese, butter, are mixed together. lemon and orange peel are grated and added with some lemon juice.  Powdered sugar and milk are added until the glaze is of a consistency that will drizzle over the cooled cookies.  I grated more orange peel over the glaze.  I will work with this again, being sure to put in ALL the ingredients.  Perhaps they will come out lighter and more of a dunking consistency.

All in all the meal was good and perfect for the weather and time of year.  I will be taking next week off from cooking.  I will be in Kohler, Wisconsin for the Food/Wine Experience and will see demonstrations by two of my favorite PBS chefs.  It's one of my favorite events and Kohler is a lovely town. Have a good week and I will tell  you about it in the following week.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


The Autumn season brings us many things.  Some of my favorite foods arrive on the scene both in the farmers markets and in the supermarkets. Halloween, homecoming parades and football games, corn mazes, hayrides and apple picking come to mind. One of the big foodie events is Oktoberfest.  Typically the food involves brats and sauerkraut, candy apples and cider.  However, I decided to do different foods for Marilyn's Table.  Here is what we had:

German Rouladen
Cabbage and Potato Saute
Black Forest Tart

I have never made a Rouladen and was surprised as to how simple it was.  A flank steak is pounded flat and cut in rectangles. One side is painted with stone ground mustard.  Sliced deli ham, onion slices and dill pickle spear are arranged on top.  The meat is rolled and secured with string.  Saute in a bit of oil/butter mix and when rolls are browned pour over an inch or so of good beef stock. Cover and simmer for and hour and a half until meat is tender.

While the meat is cooking, saute diced onion in a bit of butter until soft.  Stir in shredded savoy cabbage and cook until wilted.  Add sliced cooked canned potatoes.  When heated through, stir in diced deli ham, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.  Add a bit of water and cook about 10 minutes.

To serve, spoon some of the cabbage mixture on a plate and place a meat roll on top.  Spoon some of the broth over the top. Garnish with chopped parsley for some color.

Dessert was a classic Black Forest Tart.  I changed the recipe up a bit, and downsized it as well.  In the bottom of a mini spring form pan, press crushed chocolate thin cookies with a bit of butter added.  Melt some dark chocolate over a low heat until it is completely melted.  Cream powdered sugar with half a package of cream cheese and stir in the chocolate.  Add some cherry pie filling and pour mixture into the crust.  Chill in refrigerator. When ready to serve spoon some cherry pie filling over the tart and top with some whipped cream. Sprinkle with additional cookie crumbs.  More pie filling can be spooned around each slice.

I found some Oktoberfest beer from Capital Brewery in Middleton Wisconsin and served it with the meal.  A heavier meal than my usual, but very tasty.  The beer was perfect with the food, I wish I had purchased more than one bottle.  Still time.....

I have a lot of Autumn harvest recipes.  I'm thinking that I might just feature some of them in the weeks to come. Perhaps not as a meal, but as special foods of the season.  So in the next weeks look for recipes featuring apples, pumpkin, and squash.  Get out and enjoy the crisp weather and the rapidly changing leaves.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Comfort Food

Looking out the window, it is clear that fall is upon us.  The leaves are beginning to change quickly. I fear that the color season will be short because the summer was so hot and dry. And next week is the last of my farmers market.  I will have to make a trip to stock up on the fresh produce to use for next weeks table and perhaps to freeze.  This week I pulled out my crock pot for the first time and used my first can of pumpkin.  Here is what was on Marilyn's Table.

Coffee Braised Short Ribs with Cheesy Polenta
Tuscan Kale Caesar Slaw
Gingersnap Crumble Pumpkin Parfaits

I have never had much luck with short ribs, but this recipe sounded like it might be a winner.  My first suggestion is that you not purchase boneless short ribs.(I did because it was all they had)  There is not enough fat on them and cooking on the bone always makes for better flavor.  The ribs are sauteed in a skillet until brown, turning them on all sides.  Drain them on a paper towel lined plate. Add white wine and strong coffee to the skillet and simmer, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Put chopped onion and minced garlic in the bottom of a slow cooker.  Mix in salt, chili powder and oregano. Transfer the ribs to the  slow cooker and pour the wine/coffee mixture over.  Cook on high for about 3 1/2 hours.  Uncover and cook until ribs are falling off the bone.

I used instant polenta and followed the recipe on the container.  At the end of the cooking time I added grated Parmesan and stirred in until melted.  Serve the ribs and a bit of the onion sauce over the polenta. This is a rich dish so I decided to soften the richness with a simple salad.

The market had some excellent looking kale.  I cut it into thin strips to serve.  The dressing is lemon juice, anchovy paste, garlic, Dijon mustard and EVOO.  Shake it in a covered jar and add Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle over the strips of kale and top with sliced hard boiled egg.  I particularly like the dressing and the leftover kale went into a pot of vegetable soup.

This dessert was the first of  a lot of pumpkin recipes in my 'in the wings' box in the kitchen.  The canned pumpkin (not pie filling) is mixed with brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and a dash of salt.  A quart of softened vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt is mixed in and chilled in the refrigerator.  Gingersnaps are crushed and stirred in a bowl with melted butter.  They harden nicely on the counter.  Parfait glasses are filled with the pumpkin mixture, topped with broken up gingersnap crumble and set in the freezer to set.  To serve, the gingersnap crumble is spooned over the top and whipped cream goes over the crumble.  I garnished with more of the crumble, but a sprinkle of pumpkin spice would be nice as well.

All in all it was an OK dinner.  The short ribs were a bit chewy, but the polenta and the sauce worked well with them.  The salad cut through the richness of the the entree.  The star was the parfait.  I have used pumpkin mixed with ice cream before as a pie filling, but this was a good choice.

I am thinking that next week will be Oktoberfest at the Table. Stop by and see what is served.  Have a good week and stay warm.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Welcoming Autumn

My favorite time year has arrived....Autumn or Fall, whichever  you prefer.  I am inspired to really cook something comforting and hearty.  Unlike Summer when cooking anything that isn't served cold is a trial. Over the last weeks many of my friends and family have talked about pots of chili.  I love chili and decided that would be on the table this week.  I found a new recipe and was anxious to try it.  Here is what was on Marilyn's Table this week:

Al Roker's Spectacular Chili
Bruschetta with Olives, Artichokes, Ricotta and Prosciutto

First comes the chili.  This particular one is considered 'healthy' for several reasons.  Minimal oil, very lean meat, lots of beans and some exceptional tomatoes.  There are two kinds of meat, the first is chuck steak.  Chuck has a lot of flavor, but needs to be cooked longer.  My supermarket had it in packages that were bite sized pieces with all the fat and gristle cut off.  Perfect so I didn't have to spend a lot of time trimming and dicing.  The second meat was mild Italian sausage, with the casings removed.  If you are so inclined, the sausage also comes in a hot spicy variety.  The meat is browned in a couple of teaspoons of oil until browned. It is removed from the pan with a slotted spoon and all but a teaspoon of fat is removed.  Onions and garlic are added to the pan and cooked until softened. The spices are added to the pan and they are cumin, smoked paprika and chili powder stirring until the onions are coated.  Then comes a very large can of tomatoes.  If you watch any of the television chefs, they rave about San Marzano tomatoes.  I found them in the store and wondered if they really  made a difference. Since I really liked this chili, I can't help but think the tomatoes made the difference. The meat goes back in the pan and simmered for about 1 1/2 hours.  There are three kinds of beans, which I rinsed and drained before adding to the pot.  I used pinto beans, dark red kidney beans and great northern beans.  This simmers for another half hour.  What I found interesting is that no salt or pepper are added during the cooking.  A pinch over a bowl before serving was all I used.  The toppings I used were Greek yogurt and some reduced fat shredded cheese.  I have not had a chili I have enjoyed more in a long time.  It's almost gone and I look forward to it again come those cold winter days ahead.

With chili I like to have some crusty bread for soaking up any juices.  I have a new kitchen toy that is a stove top toaster. It lays flat on the burner and smaller slices of bread toast very nicely.  I used an Italian baguette and cut it in half inch diagonal pieces. A mixture of chopped Calamata olives, diced tomato, diced marinated artichokes, diced onion, garlic, parsley, basil, oregano, bread crumbs and Ricotta cheese is mixed in a bowl.  Just a pinch of salt and pepper.  The mixture is spooned on the toasted bread slices and ribbons of prosciutto are the garnish.  This was a nice side for the chili. However, the topping fell off in the chili.....not necessarily a bad thing, but I only used one to dip into the chili. The rest were consumed alone.

This was a great start to cold weather cooking and I look forward to more in the months to come.  This week I will get out my crock pot.  A recipe for short ribs has appeared from my file and if I don't have to take out a loan to purchase them, they will be on the table next week.

Have a great rest of the week and stop by next week to see if the short ribs are on the table.  Enjoy the cooler weather and the changing of the leaves.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Ducky Weekend

It's getting to be that time of year.....my favorite.  Fall!!  There is a bit of color in the leaves, a nip in the air and lots of Canada Geese on our lake.  I enjoy duck when the cooler weather comes.  This is what is on Marilyn's Table this week:

Farmers Market Chopped Salad
Duck breasts a l'Orange
Almond Meringue Cookies with Peaches

I love the salad and expect to prepare it more often, perhaps swapping out some of the ingredients. Everything is raw. This one had snow peas, yellow bell pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, golden beets, chopped watercress and scallions.  Everything was cut in thin strips and tossed together with a creamy lemon dressing.  The dressing is fresh lemon juice, light mayonnaise, canola oil and salt and pepper.   Lot of crunch and the dressing will be repeated often on other salads.

Since I could not find individual duck breasts.  I purchased a whole duck and with my trusty boning knife took it apart.  I froze the leg/thigh portions and used the breasts for the table.  I roasted the carcass  and then used it to make duck broth.  That joined the leg/thigh portions in the freezer. The breasts are scored on the fat side and slow cooked in a skillet to render off the fat.  The fat is drained off (and now is in my refrigerator) Lots of things, potatoes in particular, are excellent when cooked in duck fat. The breasts are returned to the skillet and cooked until the doneness (not sure if that's a word) you prefer.  I like medium rare. While the breasts cook the orange sauce is made with a sugar syrup, red wine vinegar, duck stock, orange juice, a bit of butter and salt and pepper.  After the sauce is thickened, orange segments are added and blanched orange peel.  It is just sweet enough to cut what little duck fat remains on the breasts.  Next time I will use cherries in place of the orange.

Now for dessert......probably not something I will make again.  Almonds are ground and added with sugar and vanilla to beaten egg whites.  The cook in a slow oven for about 2 hours until crisp.  They are spread with a butter cream made with sugar, egg yolks, butter and  vanilla. The butter cream is covered with sliced peaches, another meringue, more butter cream, whipped cream and toasted almonds.  Makes my teeth itch just thinking about it.  It was way too sweet for my palate.

The weather for next weekend is supposed to be very fallish (not a word either).  A lot of my friends and family prepared chili last weekend, so I will follow their lead and chili will be on Marilyn's Table next week along with some type of bread.  Enjoy the cooler weather and do stop by next week

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Happy Birthday Julia!

Last week would have been the 100th birthday of Julia Child.  Her book on French cooking  is a cooking class between covers.  Julia played a major part in the interest of French cuisine in the U.S..  Along with Julia came Jacques Pepin.  They did a number of television programs showing their very different points of view on French cooking; much like a comedy routine. Several other chefs have entered into the world of French cooking.  Dorie Greenspan, Laura Calder and even Ina Garten has a French cookbook..  Marilyn's Table this week is my voyage into French cuisine:

Swordfish en Papillote
Salade Chevre Figue
Lemon Berry Crepes

I have only done fish in parchment paper in cooking classes so this was my first attempt at home.  It came out very well if I do say so.  The fish is placed in the center of a heart shaped piece of parchment paper.  I chose seasonal vegetables to go in with it.  I used heirloom baby tomatoes, shallots, sliced zucchini, fresh corn kernels and fava beans.  I lightly salted the mixture and added a spoonful of home made pesto before sealing the packet. It roasts in the oven for about half an hour.  Serve the packet on a plate; cuta cross in the paper so the packet can be folded back to show the fish and vegetables. The aroma was lovely.

Along with the fish, I made a salad of fresh figs, cut in quarters.  A spoon of herbed goat cheese is put in the center of the fig and it is served on chopped kale with walnuts pieces.  A dressing of EVOO, vinegar (I used a fig vinegar from Olive Tap in Long Grove) and seasonings to drizzle over all.  It complimented the fish very well.

Crepes are a French tradition and served in many ways.  My last attempt, years ago, was not a good one; this one went better.  As always the first couple went in the garbage and then they started coming out correctly.  Eggs, milk, melted butter, flour, sugar and salt are whipped into a thin batter.  In a small non-stick pan, spray a bit of canola oil and add about 3 tablespoons of the batter.  Swirl the batter around until the crepe is very thin.  Turn over once until both sides are lightly browned.  Stack them under paper towels until all are done.  They were folded into thirds and arranged on a plate.  A squeeze of lemon juice over the top with lemon slices, raspberries and a dusting of powder sugar.  At least it was supposed to be a dusting.  The bag slipped and most of the bag went on the floor.  But they were a lightly sweet ending to a successful meal.

I plan to venture into the French cuisine more often, but next week is Labor Day and BBQ will be on the table.  Stop by.....when you smell the ribs cooking, dinner won't be far behind. Have a good week and if you are on the road, drive safely.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Celebration of Plums

One of the many things I love about summer is the availability of stone fruits and berries.  This week I celebrate plums.  This is what is on Marilyn's Table:

Almond Crusted Chicken with Plum Chutney
Avocado Vegetables Lettuce Wraps
Plum Shortcakes on Basil Parmesan Biscuits

All of these are very simple. Onion, jalapeno, chopped plums, brown sugar, cider vinegar, curry powder and ground ginger are sauteed until the plums are soft.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  The chicken pieces (skin on or off, your choice) are seasoned with salt and pepper and brought to room temperature.  The outside is then brushed with Dijon mustard and rolled in finely chopped almonds.  The pieces are baked on a rack in a foil lined pan until juices run clear.  The pieces are served with a spoonful or two of the chutney.  I really liked the tartness of the chutney, the crunch of the almond crust and the juiciness of the chicken.

The vegetable wraps were sort of semi-successful.  Avocado is mashed and seeded chopped tomatoes, diced jalapeno, diced onion, garlic and fresh corn cut from the cob are stirred in.  Juice from a lime is added along with salt and pepper. A couple of tablespoons are spooned onto a lettuce leaf and wrapped into a packet.  I would not use romaine again as it falls apart, probably iceberg would work better.  I would also use some different vegetables for more texture.

The biscuits were a simple baking powder mix: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and chilled butter are mixed together.  Chopped basil and grated Parmesan are stirred in.  Egg and milk are mixed and then added to the flour mixture.  I patted the dough into a round about an inch thick.  Two inch circles are cut out and baked on a parchment covered baking sheet until the tops are browned. These have a very nice flavor and can be used in many ways other than shortcakes.  I had leftovers with jam for breakfast and again with my tea in the evening.

The sauce for the shortcake is simple; thinly sliced plums with a pint of blackberries are put in a bowl.  Add a pinch of salt and sugar to taste.  Squeeze an inch piece of fresh ginger over the fruit and let sit at room temperature for an hour or so.  The biscuit is split, the fruit spooned over and a sauce of Greek vanilla yogurt is spooned over the fruit.  I added a spoon full of brandy to the yogurt and with a sprig of mint the dessert looked great (tasted great as well)

This was a very nice summer meal.  The plums were perfect, but I can see using any number of other stone fruits and berries.  I am not sure about this weeks meal. We shall see what the farmers market has to offer.  Have a good rest of the week.  It's supposed to warm up again.  I am ready for fall.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hen and Tarts

The table this week features two tarts with fresh produce from the farmers market. I expect until the market closed is October, most menus will feature my purchases from the market.  Here is what is on Marilyn's Table this week.

Cornish Hen with Tapenade
Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart
Peach Tarte Tatin

It has been a long while since I had a Cornish hen.  When I saw them in the supermarket, I decided it was time.  I had a recipe that split the hen and roasted it flat in a pan.  I cut out the back bone and then pressed on the breast so it would break and lay flat in the pan.  The hen is sprayed with a bit of EVOO and tapenade is pressed under the skin before roasting.  A bit of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon and the hen was ready to roast.

While it was in the oven I prepared the tomato tart.  A sheet of puff pastry is defrosted and rolled out on a lightly flowered surface.  A salad plate is laid on top and with a sharp knife a circle is cut out, the bottom pricked and refrigerated on a parchment covered cookie sheet.  Onions and garlic are sauteed in a pan with salt and pepper and a bit of white wine and fresh thyme leaves. When they are lightly browned they are removed from the heat.  The cookie sheet is removed from the oven, grated Parmesan is sprinkled over the bottom of the tart leaving about half an inch boarder. The onion mixture is put on top of the cheese.  Crumbled goat cheese is put on top of the onions.  Next comes a half inch slice of an heirloom tomato.  Shaved Parmesan is placed on top of the tomato.  the edges of the pastry are brought up over the sides of the mixture and the pastry is baked until the pastry is golden brown.  This was excellent and quite simple to put together.

There is enough of the puff pastry left to make the top for the peach tatin.  Peaches are sliced, tossed with sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Sugar and butter are placed in a cast iron skillet and cooked until the syrup bubbles.  Drain the peaches and arrange in a circle covering the bottom of the syrup is covered.  The pastry is rolled out and laid over the top of the peaches.  Make a few cut in the top to release the steam.  Bake until the pastry is browned and puffed.  At this point the tarte is inverted on a serving plate.  It looks very pretty, but the pastry gets a bit soggy so I would leave it in the pan and serve wedges of the pastry and spoon the peaches over the top.  Perhaps some ice cream?  I made a honey, lemon and chopped mint sauce to drizzle over the peaches. This too was an easy dessert and would work with most any seasonal fruit.

This was a mouth watering table and there was enough leftover for another evening meal.  Next week is a mystery.  I need to check out my cookbooks for something seasonal.  Stop back and see what appears.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Feasting on Fresh

Since this is the height of the fresh fruit and vegetable season, I decided to prepare some of my favorites for Marilyn's Table.  This week the table is vegetarian from beginning to end.  Here is what's on the table:

Chopped Mexican Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Pesto Filled Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Fresh Peach and Brie Quesadillas with Lime- Honey Drizzle

Building the salad was a bit tedious because of all the chopping, but well worth it.  Not only is it pretty to look at, it's very tasty.  First one red and one orange pepper are cut in half lengthwise.  The stem, seeds and membranes are removed.  Two ears of corn are husked and the silk removed.  The peppers (cut side down) and corn are placed on a foil covered baking sheet, rubbed with EVOO and the corn salt and peppered.  They are roasted for about 20 minutes or until the peppers begin to blister. (rotate the corn once during roasting).  Cool until the skins of the peppers can be removed easily. Dice the peppers into bite sized pieces (keep separate piles) Do the same dice with tomatoes which have been seeded and cored, jicama, and avocado, and drained and rinsed canned black beans.  Cut the corn from the cob.  Arrange the vegetables in rows on a plate and drizzle with the dressing. Outstanding!

The dressing is made with mashed garlic and salt, lime and orange juice, minced shallot, honey and cumin.  Whisk together adding EVOO until correct consistency. I added minced mint leaves, a bit of black pepper and a bit more salt.

Early in the season I bought several large bunches of basil and made a large batch of pesto.  I poured it into ice cube trays and froze it.  I now have a large plastic bag of pesto cubes in the freezer to use as needed.  These tomatoes were straight from the farmers market.  The top cut off and the center core scooped out.  I filled the center with thawed pesto cubes and topped with Panko crumbs.  They were roasted on the same cookie sheet as the peppers and corn for the salad though they did take a bit longer.  One is served with a serving of the salad.  No question this is one of the most colorful plates ever.  I was very pleased with the flavor of the pesto in the tomato and the crunch of the Panko.

Dessert  featured the fresh peaches so readily available.  They are thinly sliced and tossed with a bit of sugar to wake up the juices.  Fresh chives are snipped and added to the peaches.  One tortilla is covered with thinly sliced Brie and covered with the peaches.  A second tortilla is laid on top and put in a heated skillet.  Flip after a few minutes when the cheese begins to melt.  When both sides of the tortilla have been browned transfer to a serving plate and cut into wedges.  Drizzle with a mixture of honey, lime juice and more snipped chives.  I served extra slices of peach on the top.  Yum!

This table was one of my favorites.  Next week more fresh produce will be featured. Stop by and check it out.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yet Another Hot Summer Weekend

First let me say, that I am not a fan of sandwiches, at least not those served on a bun the size of a football.  Generally I do like what is inside. So during this very hot weather, I decided to prepare a sandwich, salad  and grilled fruit for Marilyn's Table.  In place of a large bun I have used a spinach tomato tortilla wrap.  Here is what is on the table:

Portobello Wrap with White Bean Chile Spread
Shaved Asparagus and Edamame  Salad
Grilled Peaches with Bourbon Sabayon

The filling for the wrap  included some of my favorites.  I purchased a large Portobello cap at the farmers market.  It is wiped clean and the stem and gills removed.  Italian salad dressing is brushed over all and then it is grilled.  While it is grilling on both sides, a can of cannellini beans is drained and placed in a blender with garlic, EVOO, salt, chile powder and blended until smooth. Fresh baby spinach is tossed with a bit of the dressing and set aside with the bean spread for assembly. A wrap is spread  down the center with a thin layer of the bean spread about 3 inches wide. The mushroom is sliced, laid down the center of the wrap and topped with the dressed spinach and crumbled goat cheese, wrapped and cut in half diagonally.  I was a little heavy  handed with the garlic in the paste and would adjust that in the future. Pretty to look at and very tasty.

I served a salad with the wrap.  It was an unusual combination of vegetables, but it too was very pretty and lots of nice flavors.  A bunch of cleaned raw asparagus is shaved into strings and placed in a large bowl with a bit of EVOO.  Thin sliced red onion is added along with thawed edamane  beans.  Orange and lemon juice are added with champagne vinegar and tossed with the vegetables.  Season to taste with salt & pepper. Toasted walnuts and grated parmesan cheese are added and the salad is garnished with torn basil leaves. Serve chilled. Excellent.

Grilling a stone fruit is one of my favorite ways of serving them.  This time I used fresh peaches, but plums would work well also. A sabayon is a custard made with eggs and sugar cooked over a hot water bath.  This recipe called for 2 teaspoons of bourbon for the flavoring.  Well I grabbed the wrong measuring spoon and added 2 tablespoons. Oops!  Quite a zing but yummy over the warm peaches.  A sprig of mint for garnish.

All in all this was a great meal for yet another very hot weekend.  I have no idea what will be on the table next week, but it will depend on the weather.  Perhaps another cold meal.  Have a great week and stop by again.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hot, Hot, Hot...

This week has been over the top HOT.  My table needed to be food that could be done early and eaten later in the day.  I chose a quiche for just those reasons. I found a great recipe in Tupelo Honey Cafe's cookbook which I purchased in Asheville a couple of months ago.  At a later date I will recreate the Shrimp and Goat Cheese Grits with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce I had when I visited.  It needs to be a lot cooler.  This is what was on this weeks table:

Broccoli and New Potato Quiche
Watermelon Wedge Salad

Making pie crust has never been successful for me, so I purchased frozen pie shells.  The bottom of the shell is pricked with a fork, prebaked for 10 minutes and set aside to cool. Red potatoes are boiled just until soft and also cooled.  Broccoli florets are blanched in the hot water for a couple of minutes and put in an ice bath to stop cooking. I sauteed thin slices of shallot until crispy and set aside.  Grated sharp cheddar cheese is sprinkled on the bottom of the crust.  The potatoes and cubed and added to the pie along with the blanched broccoli. Eggs, heavy cream and seasonings are beaten and poured over the potato, broccoli, cheese mixture. The crispy shallots are sprinkled over the top and the pie is placed on a cookie sheet (in case it cooks over) and baked until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is golden brown.  Let cool to room temperature before slicing.

Wedge salads were a big deal while I was growing up.  Lately they have come back in to fashion and appear on many menus. This salad is a variation. Instead of wedge lettuce, watermelon is cut into wedges and feta yogurt dressing is pour over and garnished with a sprig of basil.  The dressing is made up of yogurt, buttermilk, lemon juice and chopped chives. Crumbled feta is folded in at the end.  The dressing is drizzled over the wedges of melon.  I enjoyed this combination very much.  It set off the richness of the quiche.  I had pomegranate iced tea with the meal.

It's a bit cooler right now, but I understand it will be back into the 90's by the weekend.  The farmers market had bison sirloin which I will marinate for kabobs over the weekend.  Stay tuned to see what else will be on Marilyn's Table.  Stay cool....

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy 4th of July

The weather is very hot, so my 4th of July picnic has been moved indoors.  Though I am not a fan of burgers (mostly the bun is too much for me) I picked up a pound of ground bison meat at the farmers market.  The burger turned out to be fabulous. Here is what was on Marilyn's Table for the holiday:

Bison Burgers with Caramelized Onions and White Cheddar on a toasted Pretzel Roll
Broccoli Cauliflower Salad
Mango-Peach Sangria

Thinly sliced onions are sauteed over a low flame in a small bit of EVOO until they are browned and sweet.  Then removed from the heat and kept warm.Grass fed bison meat is very red and only slightly resembles ground sirloin of beef.  The texture is tighter since it is much leaner than beef.  The burger is mixed gently with minced shallots and dry thyme.  I cooked the patties on a griddle over low heat, lightly seasoning it with salt and pepper until medium rare.  Sharp white cheddar cheese slices are melted over the burger before it is  placed on a split toasted pretzel roll which has been spread with Dijon Mustard.  The onions top the burger and consumed with much pleasure.  A great burger and pretzel rolls are a favorite of mine. Perhaps more burgers are in my future?

The salad is made earlier in the day.  A large bowl is filled with broccoli florets, cauliflowerets, julienned red pepper, thinly sliced carrots, thinly sliced red onion, chopped Kalamata olives and cubes of sharp cheddar cheese.  The dressing is mixed in a separate bowl:  low fat mayo, Greek yogurt, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and dill weed. The dressing is poured over the vegetables, mixed to coat and covered with plastic and refrigerated at least 1 hour.  I really like this salad; lot of flavor and texture. It made an excellent side for the burger.

The Sangria was a nice surprise.  Most Sangria I have had is made with red wine; this was made with white. Sugar and water are heated in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves into a simple syrup. When cool it is poured into a pitcher and refrigerated until cold.  A bottle of chilled white wine is added to the pitcher along with Grand Marnier (or other orange flavored liquor).  Chopped mint, mango and peaches are added.  This makes a very pretty drink when poured over ice.  Garnish with a sprig of mint.

This was an excellent meal, I just wish the weather would not have been so warm.  Eating it outdoors on the balcony among my plants and flags would have made it a bit more festive. I was very pleased with the bison so I may purchase another cut for this weekend.  Stay tuned to see what will grace Marilyn's Table.

Stay cool!

Monday, June 25, 2012


Another beautiful day at the Farmer's Market.  I have read much about grass feed beef as being healthier and more flavorful than grain fed.  This week I decided to try it.  After spending a lot of time looking at the offerings and speaking with the vendor, I chose a flat iron steak.  It proved to be everything I had been told and more.  Here is what was on the Table:

Grilled Flat Iron Steak
Asparagus Risotto Cake
Cucumber, Radish and Jalapeno Salad with a Parmesan Tuile
Summer Fruits with Sorbet

The steak was a nice size and I marinated it for about 4 hours in EVOO, garlic, white balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, honey and salt and pepper.  I used my stove top grill and cooked it about 7 minutes on each side.  The meat was very tender in spite of having very little fat. The marinade brought out the flavor of the meat.  I will try another cut next week, perhaps one of the bison offerings.

Along with it I prepared a risotto cake.  The risotto was left over from dinner the day before and had blanched asparagus and sauteed leeks with the rice, wine and broth.  Parmesan and fresh mozzarella were stirred in at the end.  The leftover risotto was formed into a patty, dipped in egg and coated with Panko.  The cake was browned in a bit of canola oil.

The salad was a simple one: curled strips of cucumber, thin slices of radish and a bit of minced jalapeno were tossed with a bit of oil, sugar, vinegar and salt and pepper. Years ago during a cooking class I had learned to prepare tuiles and thought it might make a nice base for the salad.  A tuile is made from a Parmesan cheese, butter and flour mix.  It is spooned into a non stick skillet and cooked until lightly browned.  After it is cool, it firms up and is much like a cracker. The saltiness of the cheese went well with the salad.

Summer fruits are coming into their own.  I chose a number of berries, a peach and some watermelon for my dessert. A simple syrup is simmered until the sugar dissolves.  I had added some lemon zest to tang it up a bit.  When cooled the syrup is poured over the fruit, spoon fulls of the fruit  are ladled into a tall glass and topped with a couple of small scoops of raspberry sorbet and a mint sprig.  Very refreshing after my meal.

This proved to be a lot of food.  I think next week I will prepare fewer dishes as part of the Table.  Have a good week and if you have not visited you local Farmer's Market, do attend.

Monday, June 18, 2012


I've been waiting for several weeks for the Buffalo Grove Farmers' Market to open.  It turned out that it was well worth the wait. I expect my table each week will feature items I purchased.  This week included Michigan strawberries & asparagus; and local rainbow Swiss chard and radishes.   They were exactly what I  needed to complete my table which featured gingered pork tenderloin.

Gingered Pork Tenderloin
Sauteed Rainbow Swiss Chard
Grilled Lemon Asparagus
Mixed Greens with Radishes, Cucumber and Strawberries: Feta Buttermilk Dressing

The tenderloin is marinated overnight in soy sauce, chicken broth, canola oil, minced ginger, sugar, minced garlic, rosemary and thyme. The tenderloin is removed from the marinade which is discarded.  Then the meat is browned on a grill pan and finished in the oven. The chard is sauteed in a bit of oil, garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes and lightly salted and peppered. The chard served as a bed for the slices of pork.

Asparagus has so many applications, but a favorite of mine is grilled.  When it is plated, a dusting of lemon zest, a squeeze of the juice and a pinch of salt and pepper were added.

The salad is simple; mixed baby greens, chopped cucumber, sliced radishes and the smaller strawberries are tossed with a feta buttermilk dressing.  The dressing is buttermilk, Greek yogurt, minced shallots, a pinch of red pepper flakes and crumbled feta cheese.

I was very happy with this meal and I look forward to next week. One of the vendors has grass fed beef, bison, chicken and several other proteins.  My entree will be one of these so I will need to do some recipe research.  Have a great week and keep cool!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

By the Sea in the South of France

The south of France and the area around Provence are the next stop on my culinary trip around the Mediterranean.  The Table this week centers around a seafood dish; bouillabaisse.  Seafood, all kinds of seafood are welcome in my kitchen.  However, in searching for an authentic recipe, I discovered that almost all of them 'required' eel heads.  I don't know about you, but I don't want my food watching me from the bowl!  Then I remembered I had a recipe from Old Fort Pub on Hilton Head Island.  Some of my family and I ate there when we stayed on the island last summer.  Chef Josefiak was kind enough to share the recipe with me so I prepared that one instead. Here is my Table:

Old Fort Pub's Sea Island Bouillabaisse
Pain de Provence

The bouillabaisse begins the night before by preparing a saffron aioli.  Egg yolks, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, garlic, salt and Tabasco sauce are blended  until smooth.  A couple of pinches of saffron are added. The mixture is refrigerated overnight.  The bouillabaisse itself begins with heating EVOO in a large pot.  Whole shrimp (in the shell) and large scallops are added and seared lightly adding a bit of salt and pepper.  Mussels, crab meat, Tasso ham, white wine and clam juice are added and simmered covered until the mussels are completely open (those that don't open, throw away!). Add thinly sliced, blanched collard greens, the aioli and roasted Roma tomato slices.  Cook just until heated through, but not boiling.  Season to taste with S&P and Tabasco sauce.  Serve in warm bowls.

I remembered the broth being fabulous and decided a hardy bread for sopping it up was in order.  I have not made a yeast bread in many years.  I came across a recipe for a herb bread that sounded interesting. The night before a poolish (sponge) is made with bread flour, warm water and a bit of yeast.  It is covered and left on the counter overnight.  To make the dough , combine flour, the rest of the packet of yeast, and 1/2 cup of Herbes de Provence.  Add the poolish and a small single serving bottle of Grand Marnier (yes you read that right, orange flavored liquor is in the mix) and more water to make a workable dough.  Knead for about 10 minutes and place in a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover and let raise to double.  Punch down, cover and raise again.  After the second raising, I divided the dough into two round loaves, covered with a damp towel and let it raise again.  While they are raising, preheat the oven and two pizza stones.  Before placing the loaves on the hot stones, score the tops with a sharp knife.  Place a pan of boiling water under the stones and bake the loaves until browned and 'hollow sounding'. The water in the oven helps form a crust.  Let cool.  This is a VERY fragrant bread and was perfect for dipping in the broth.

I took the suggestion of the gentleman at the liquor store bought a nice inexpensive French white wine that was excellent with the seafood.  All around this was a spectacular meal.  Because there are so many excellent French dishes I will revisit after I have made my way the rest of the way around the Mediterranean.

Next week I will take a break for this tour.  It's National Grilled Cheese month and I am working on a recipe to possibly enter in the Wisconsin Cheese Board contest.  We shall see how it turns out.  Stay tuned.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spanish Tapas

After the interesting spices of North Africa, we go north to the flavors of Spain.  The foods that come to mind are paella, gazpacho and sangria.  None of these will appear on this weeks Table.  I wanted to try something different.  I chose tapas or 'small plates'. There are so many to choose from, it was difficult, but I was quite happy with all but one of those on my Table.  Here is what I had:

White Garlic Soup
Sauteed Peppers and Garlic
Marinated Mussels
Three Spanish Cheeses with Figs and Toasted Pine Nuts

On paper the soup sounded excellent; garlic, almonds and grapes.  However the garlic took over and the rest of the flavors were lost.  After a couple of spoons, it went into the garbage.  I have not done that in a long time.

So we move on to the 'good stuff'. A red bell pepper is cut in strips along with an Anaheim chili and sauteed in EVOO with a bit of garlic and lightly seasoned.  A colorful dish with excellent flavors.  It could not have been easier.

The next plate were the mussels.  I steamed them in a small amount of water, just until they opened. They are removed from the heat and cooled in a colander.  In a fry pan, onion and garlic are sauteed until softened. They are removed from the heat and salt, paprika, white wine and a bit of red wine vinegar are added.  The mussels are removed from the shells and heated in the broth for a few minutes.  They are served with toasted thin slices of French bread.  This is my new favorite preparation for mussels.

The last plate was a simple one.  The recipe called for Manchego cheese, but I found a package with three different Spanish cheeses and selected that instead of just the one.  They were Manchego (a sheep milk cheese), Tipsy Goat ( goat cheese), and Iberico (a mixture of sheep, goat and cows milk cheese).  They are thin slices and topped with slivers of dried figs and toasted pine nuts.  This was a very nice ending to my tapas meal.

All in all I was happy with the Table and I think I will do more tapas again soon.  So many possibilities!!

Next week is Easter and I will travel north to my family in Wisconsin.  We shall see what dinner brings. I am sure it will be amazing as always.

Have a good week!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Taste of North Africa

This weeks table was a bit of an adventure. Originally I had not planned to investigate the cuisine of North Africa, but after  some research I found the food to be interesting and decided to give it a try.  The spice combinations are some I have not worked with thus far.  A tagine is a cooking vessel  I have seen, but not used.  I substituted a cast iron pot and I think all came out as expected.  A combination of 7 spices are used in many dishes of the region; sweet paprika, hot paprika (I used cayenne pepper), black pepper, ground ginger, cumin, turmeric and cinnamon. Also lentils, chickpeas and couscous are common.  Here is what is on the Table:

Moroccan Seven Spice Vegetable Couscous
Chicken Tagine with Artichoke Hearts and Peas

The chicken pieces (skin on and on the bone) are seasoned with salt and pepper and browned in a heavy pot.  Chopped onion and chicken stock are added and brought to a boil. A mixture of saffron threads, ginger, coriander, cumin, paprika and turmeric are added to the broth.  The pot is covered and simmered over low heat until the chicken is cooked through and then removed from the pot, the skin is removed and discarded.  Minced onion, tomatoes, preserved lemon and artichoke hearts are stirred into the broth. The chicken is returned to the sauce and at the end a bag of frozen baby peas is added.   This was a wonderful dish. I expect to repeat it again.

I am a big fan of Israeli couscous.  I prepared it per instructions on the box, but substituted chicken broth for part of the water. Set this aside for serving. Onion slices are sauteed in EVOO and a bit of butter.  Saffron, crushed red pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper are added along with a bundle of parsley, chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock. Carrot coins, butternut squash cubes, sliced zucchini, chickpeas and a bit of sugar are simmered until vegetables are done.  The recipe called for raisins, but I used dry cranberries.  Season to taste and spoon over the couscous.  Toasted slivered almonds are a garnish.  The flavors of this dish are lovely as well as very fragrant.

My visit to North Africa was a big success.  Next week Spain is on the menu.  Stop by!

Monday, March 19, 2012

St. Paddy's Day

I have been doing this blog since 2008.  This Table is in the top 5 of the ones I have presented. So let's get started.

Corned Beef with Apricot Glaze
Colcannon Potatoes
Buttered Carrots
Irish Soda Bread Scones with Apricot Butter
Coffee Ice Cream with Irish Whiskey Caramel and Coffee Nut Crisp

For years I have prepared corned beef in the same way; boiled in water with the seasoning packet, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. Then it was spooned out, "carved" (as possible when the meat is stringy and fatty) and served.  This year, I decided to try something different. I put the corned beef in a pot as usual with water and the seasoning packet.  This meat weighed a bit more than 2 pounds so I simmered it for 2 hours.  The meat is then removed and placed in a roasting pan.  The broth is strained and a couple of inches of the broth is put in the roaster with the meat.  Both are cooled, covered and refrigerated overnight.The oven is heated, the fat trimmed off the beef.   A mixture of apricot preserves, brown sugar and soy sauce is spread on the meat and put in oven.  The glaze is painted on the meat every 10 minutes or so on both sides. Set aside to cool a bit.

Colcannon  is an Irish tradition.  I have never had it before, but tried it this year.  Loved It!!  Cabbage is shredded and cooked in salted water until just tender.  Remove from water and keep warm.  Add peeled quartered potatoes to water and simmer until just tender.  Drain and mash potatoes.  Heat milk, a bit of butter and chopped green onions.  Mash with potatoes and add cabbage, salt an pepper. Serve with chopped parsley.

Carrots are simply cooked until tender and tossed with butter and dill.

Irish Soda Bread Scones are made from a simple soda bread recipe, but there is a cup of cake flour in the mix,  I am not a fan of raisins as I have said before, but since  I was making apricot butter, I substituted chopped apricots.  Perfect.  The butter is equal parts soft no salt butter (In use Irish KerryGold butter) and apricot preserves.

Dessert was a Coffee Sundae with Irish Caramel and Coffee Nut crisp.  The caramel is made with  sugar, water, cream, and Irish Whiskey.  It is poured over coffee ice cream and topped with toasted coffee sweetened walnuts

A fabulous Table.  The leftovers will be enjoyed all week.  Next week I return to my tour of the Mediterranean.

Have a great week and try these recipes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stop Two on our Mediterranean Tour

Last week I began the food tour of the countries around the Mediterranean.  Most all of the countries share a love for fresh seafood.  This week the table features flank steak.  The recipe I chose originally was prepared with boneless butterflied leg of lamb.  However, a leg of lamb is a large piece of meat and I preferred to prepare a smaller version.  I chose a flank steak because is has little fat and is simpler to work with.  Here is what is on Marilyn's Table this week:

Mediterranean Stuffed and Rolled Flank Steak
Grilled Vegetable Salad

The stuffing for the steak is prepared in a blender or food processor.  Blended until paste like are chopped sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, rosemary, thyme, oregano, Dijon mustard, garlic, EVOO, red wine vinegar and cracked black pepper.

The steak is put between two sheets of plastic, pounded until about 1/3 inch thick and scored on one side. Reserve a tablespoon of the stuffing mixture for the sauce and spread the rest over the surface of the steak.  Roll the steak tightly and tie with twine in about 3 or 4 places to hold together.  Place steak on a plate and refrigerate UNCOVERED at least two hours, overnight is better.  Preheat oven to 375 and bring steak to room temperature. Season steak with salt and pepper and sear in a very hot oiled pan until well browned.  The meat is then placed in a roasting pan on a rack. Under the rack mix together the reserved stuffing, water, Dijon mustard, chopped garlic, rosemary and a bit more EVOO.  Brush some of the sauce over the meat and roast about 20 minutes.  Let the meat rest about 15 minutes and slice.  Drizzle with the pan sauce to serve.  A very nice presentation and it was delicious.

The vegetable salad was easily assembled.  The vegetables are sliced into manageable pieces. They are: Sliced sweet onion, zucchini, red pepper, eggplant and a large parboiled potato. The vinaigrette is: EVOO, garlic, balsamic vinegar, mint, oregano, marjoram and salt and pepper.  Shake well in a covered jar and toss carefully with the vegetables.  Preheat a grill pan and oil surface lightly.  Grill vegetables until they are softened and have nice grill marks.  Serve at room temperature with a bit of crumbled Feta cheese.  I will use this recipe again perhaps with some different vegetables (but always red pepper for color)

This Table was colorful and full of flavor.  A success in every way.

Next week I will take a short break from the Mediterranean tour and prepare my St. Patrick's Day table.  The usual corned beef and cabbage, but in slightly different presentations.  Stop by and take a look.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Mediterranean Tour

Last week I mentioned my interest in the foods of the Mediterranean.  Upon further investigation I  am rethinking the project.  I pulled out a map to see the countries and cuisines which surround the Mediterranean.  I'm not sure I am going to research North Africa, Turkey or the Middle East. I think I will have my hands full putting together Tables from Greece, Italy, Spain and the South of France.

This week Marilyn's Table has seafood as the focus.  Shellfish and other finned fish are plentiful in the towns along the coastal regions. Here is what is on the table:

Seafood Cioppino
Gratin of Salmon and Spinach
Asparagus-Morel Risotto

The Cioppio is a simple, yet flavorful stew. Onions, garlic and celery are sauteed in EVOO until soft.  Canned fire roasted tomatoes, clam juice and tomato paste are added and simmered until heated through.  Red wine vinegar, Italian seasoning, bay leaf and a bit of sugar are added..  Fish fillets which have been cut in chunks are folded in (I used haddock) and cooked until they flake. Shrimp which have been cut in half, one can each lump crabmeat and chopped clams complete the seafood mixture. When the shrimp are pink the stew is ready to serve with chopped parsley and garlic cheese bread.  It was a cold snowy Saturday and this really hit the spot and I look forward to reheating bowls over the course of the week.

Risotto is an excellent rice dish that is easy to prepare and very versatile.  There is no end of what to add to make a filling side dish.  This week the recipe called for chopped asparagus and morel mushrooms.  Morel mushrooms have a very short season in spring when they are fresh.  I keep dried morels so when I want to use this very unique mushroom, I have them at the ready. I reconstituted them in white wine.  After they are softened, I drained the wine into  chicken broth  heating on the back of the stove.  Diced onion is sauteed in EVOO and a bit of butter.  The chopped asparagus and mushrooms are added to the onion.  Arborio rice is mixed in until the grains are coated.  The warm stock/wine mixture is added a ladle at a time stirring until absorbed.  After all the stock has been added, the pot is removed from the heat and grated Parmesan cheese folded in.  The dish is served with minced parsley.

Whole Foods had some very nice Atlantic wild salmon.  I found a recipe using a gratin dish.  A bag of fresh spinach is wilted in a large saucepan, removed and rough chopped.  Onion and garlic are softened in EVOO.  A bit of Dijon mustard is stirred in and the spinach added. Most of the mixture is spread over the bottom of an oiled gratin dish.  The salmon is laid on top and the rest of the spinach is tucked around the sides.  Fresh lemon juice is squeezed over the top along with salt and pepper.  A handful of dry bread crumbs is sprinkled over the top. (I used Panko, my favorite)  Bake until the fish flakes.

The gratin and the risotto made an excellent meal and I found that mixing the two leftovers together a lunch to look forward to.

Next week I plan a Table from either Spain or the South of France.  Stay tuned and have a great week.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Let the Good Times Roll

Mardi Gras ends on Fat Tuesday, so the food that is generally prepared is a bit of a last hurrah before Lent. I decided I would do seafood since I expect to prepare a lot of fish during Lent.

The recipe I chose is a combination of several Jambalaya's and Gumbo's I found. Chicken thighs are sauteed in a large skillet until browned and the skin is rendered. They are then removed and set aside.  Onion, celery, red bell pepper and garlic are sauteed in the pan with a bit of vegetable oil.  Sliced andouille sausage is added and browned.  Thyme leaves are added with a can of diced tomatoes, bay leaves, clam juice and chicken stock The chicken thighs are put back in the pan and simmered until they are cooked through.  Remove and cool enough to handle.  Shred the chicken and return it to the pan, discarding the skin and bones.  Before serving add shrimp and cook until they are pink and cooked.  I fixed polenta instead if the usual cheese grits.  The polenta is toasted in a dry pan until lightly browned.  Chicken broth and clam juice are added and simmered until all the liquid is absorbed.  Grated cheese is stirred in.  The chicken and shrimp dish is served over the polenta with chopped parsley. Very rich, but very good.

I don't usually have dessert and last year I made a King Cake which I gave away.  Not wanting to make another one of them, I chose a variation of Bananas Foster, made famous in New Orleans.  Butter, brown sugar, orange juice, cinnamon and nutmeg are simmered in a skillet until slightly thickened.  Sliced bananas and toasted pecans are folded in and served over ice cream.  An excellent ending to an excellent meal.

In the next weeks I will be delving into the world of Mediterranean food.  I found several cookbooks in my collection I have not used and will peruse them for Marilyn's Table.  Stay Tuned!!

Monday, February 20, 2012


This week marks the beginning of Lent on the Christian calendar.  First is Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday in the UK) and then Ash Wednesday.  During the 46 day period before Easter it is tradition to 'give up' something, usually the eating of meat. and/or a habit. So, Fat Tuesday is a last chance to indulge before the six week abstinence.  With that thought in mind  here is what is on Marilyn's Table this week:

Grilled Rib Lamb Chop with Fennel Relish
Herbed Yukon Gold Sweet Potato Mash

Fat Tuesday's menu is traditionally pancakes.  I'm not much of a fan of pancakes, but these were easy to prepare and there enough left from the weekend to warm on Tuesday.

Blender Pancakes with Lemon and Powder Sugar
Winter Fruit Salad

First, the lamb chop meal.  Penzeys makes a very nice no salt lamb seasoning which I used for the grilled chop. However, the two stars of this meal were the fennel relish and the potato mash.

Chop a bulb of fennel and saute with chopped shallot and garlic.  When softened, remove from heat and stir in a bit of anchovy paste, chopped parsley, chopped Calamata olives,  capers,  red pepper flakes and sherry vinegar.  Set aside while making the potato mash.

In a pot cook until just tender, cubed, peeled Yukon Gold and sweet potatoes.  Remove from heat and drain.  Mash with a small  bit of butter.  While the potatoes are cooking, in another pan put milk, whole peppercorns, a bay leaf and herbs, I used fresh thyme, rosemary and sage.  Heat until the milk bubbles around the edges.  Remove from the heat and set the mixture aside for 10 minutes while the flavors of the herbs can infuse with the milk.  Strain and whip into the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper if you desire.

Can you hear them?  I can!   Simon and Garfunkel.  Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme perked up the flavors of this meal. The relish added a crunch and the herbed potatoes were truly amazing..

On to the practice pancake meal.  These pancakes were more like crepes,  Eggs, milk, melted butter, sugar vanilla and salt are put into a blender.  When completely blended, flour is added a bit at a time.  The batter is very thin.  Cook one at a time using two tablespoons of the batter.  Cover with a paper towel and keep warm in the oven.  Fold them over and put on the plate.  Drizzle with fresh lemon juice and dust with powder sugar.   Along with these I served a winter fruit salad.  Fresh orange and grapefruit supremes (segments), sliced fresh pineapple and kiwi.  A pretty colorful plate and the citrus cut the sweetness of the pancakes.

Next week I am planning a New Orleans Mardi Gras meal.  I hope you check in!  Have a great week!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


OK so it's time to start my new style of eating and  fill you in on it.  I've successfully cut down on  the heavy holiday foods and begun a healthier menu.  Today the menu for Marilyn's Table is:

Sauteed Halibut with Romesco Sauce
Mediterranean Roasted Broccoli & Tomatoes
Broiled Grapefruit with Crystallized Ginger Glaze

With Lent coming in a couple of weeks, I thought it time to pursue more seafood into my menu.  Today it is halibut, a mild, firm fleshed fish.  I sauteed the steaks in EVOO after I prepared the sauce.  Red bell peppers were on sale this week so I bought half a dozen and broiled them.  After the skin is blackened they are put into a paper bag to steam.  After the steaming the blackened skin slides right off.  They are put in a blender with a softened, stemmed and seeded Ancho chili, salt, toasted sliced almonds, red wine vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, garlic and some whole grain bread. The sauce is served on top of the sauteed halibut.  Excellent and I will need to find ways to use the leftover sauce.  Perhaps on a chicken breast or tossed with pasta?

The salad/vegetable is made with roasted broccoli, cherry tomatoes, garlic, EVOO and a bit of salt. After the broccoli is lightly browned and the cherry tomatoes are softened, they are removed from the oven and tossed with grated lemon zest, lemon juice, sliced pitted olives, oregano and rinsed capers.  This can be served warm or room temperature. Either way is excellent and very colorful.

I'm not a dessert fan, but sometimes a bit of sweetness is wanted.  The glaze for the grapefruit is crystallized ginger with nutmeg and a bit of vanilla.  It is ground in my spice grinder and spread over the grapefruit half and put under the broiler.  I served Cutie slices and dried cranberries for some color.  I have not broiled grapefruit before and will do it again. Very nice ending to the meal.

Next week I will begin Lenten menus. First will be Shrove Tuesday's traditional pancakes and then the following week a Mardi Gras feast straight from New Orleans.

Have a great week and Happy Valentines Day to those of you who celebrate it!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fabulous Feasts

Well here we are, the beginning of a new year, 2012.  I would like to reflect on the last two months of 2011 and the amazing food on both Marilyn's Table and the holiday table in Wisconsin. I will begin with our Christmas Eve table.

Chop Suey with Rice
Egg Rolls
Pot Stickers
Steamed buns

Chop Suey was a tradition my mother made every year.  Chris has a knack of deconstructing recipes and reinventing them into a healthier dish. He did the same with this recipe; fresh vegetables instead of the canned ones.  It was very good and brought back memories of growing up.  The egg rolls, pot stickers, and steamed buns were a nice addition to the meal.

Christmas Day is always interesting since the dishes for the meal are brought by all attending.  Here is what was on the table:

Brazilian Cheese Puffs
Salmon-Artichoke-Cheese Spread
Herbed Root Vegetables
Not Yo Mama's Green Bean Casserole
Pretzel Rolls
Cherry Pie

The Brazilian Cheese Puffs is a recipe that came from Susan, with whom I work.  They are really good.  They are made similar to cream puffs in that the water and butter are heated in a sauce pan and the tapioca flour (something I had not worked with before) is stirred in along with grated cheese (Parmesan), salt and two eggs.  The batter is baked in mini muffin tins and served hot from the oven.  The outsides are crispy and the center is very creamy. They are going to be a tradition!

The spread has ten ingredients, but was very easy to put together.  The recipe called for diced chicken, but I substituted diced poached salmon instead.  Everything is put in a bowl and mixed together.  Along with the salmon, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, diced drained artichoke hearts, chopped toasted pecans, green onions, lemon juice and salt and pepper.  I served it in a hollowed out bread bowl with crackers.  Another winner!

A counter top roaster is a new addition to the Clay's kitchen and makes meal preparation so much easier and frees up the oven. They did two turkey breasts in it for Thanksgiving and for Christmas a spiral sliced ham with a glaze.  Unfortunately I don't remember what was in the glaze, but it was just right with the ham.  Root vegetables are a favorite so I cooked small Yukon gold potatoes, baby carrots, baby turnips and baby parsnips in a small about on water and butter until they are fork tender.  A stick of butter is softened and mixed with a mixture of fresh herbs, rolled into a log and frozen.  When the vegetables are cooked the log is sliced and stirred into the vegetables.  The dish is very colorful and enjoyed by all. As Chris did for Christmas Eve with the chop suey, he reinvented the traditional green bean casserole.  No canned soup was used and the beans were not canned.  The sauce had carrots, onion and diced fresh mushrooms.  The topping is a mixture of toasted bread crumbs, french fried onion rings and crumbled bacon.  Sorry Campbell Soup, but this is better!  The pretzel rolls were a new addition not only to the table, but the preparation was something Chris had not before either. We all enjoyed them so I expect we will see them on future tables.  While we watched a movie later on, we had warm cherry pie with ice cream.  Again a wonderful meal with lots of leftovers.

My New Years Eve was quiet, but my meal was memorable.

Baked Clams
Picked Herring Spinach Salad
Champagne Mojito

Pepper Crusted Beef Tenderloin
Shallot and Red Wine Reduction
Sauteed Smashed Yukon Gold Potatoes
Creamed Spinach
Fresh Fruit Slices with Cheese Cake Fondue

I have saved clam shells for years and use them whenever I make baked clams.  I use canned chopped clams with sauteed onion, breadcrumbs and minced parsley.  They are baked and served warm.  Since the meal was spread out over the entire day, I also added a warm spinach salad with pickled herrings in a cream sauce. These are two of my favorites and I had a Champagne Mojito with them. I had never used a simple syrup before so that was a new experience.  Equal parts of water and sugar are heated until the sugar is melted. The liquid is cooled and poured into a pitcher with wedges of lime and fresh  mint leaves.  The handle of a wooden spoon is used to 'muddle' the mixture.  Light rum is added and poured into a glass.   Champagne is poured over the mixture and a sprig of mint added.  A lot of work for a ho hum drink. I won't bother with that again.

I really splurged on the meat and purchased a two pound piece of tenderloin.  After rubbing the meat down with  EVOO a mixture of crushed fresh peppercorns, paprika, minced fresh herbs and salt is rubbed into the surface.  The meat is roasted for about 30 minutes or until medium rare. It is served with a reduction of sauteed shallots, red wine and beef broth.  A bit of cornstarch is used to thicken the sauce and more minced herbs are added.  I love sauteed smashed potatoes and creamed spinach, very simple but they were a perfect addition to the plate. I had leftovers on New Years Day and added the dessert.  A mixture of cream cheese, sour cream, brown sugar, and cinnamon is used as a dip for slices of apple, pear, and melon.  All in all the meals the last two months have been memorable.

I plan to take a couple of weeks off and get back to eating less and healthier.  I will be back when I am back in the groove.  Have a Happy and Healthy New Year to you all.