Apple Cream Cheese Palmiers

One of the things I don't like to do is throw food away. If you remember the other day when I made my Apple Calvados Cheese Cake, I had some leftover apple slices that I had cooked. I also had an extra package of cream cheese. I decided to come up with a little dessert (great for breakfast) that I thought you might like. This is very simple to make and it utilizes any of the leftovers you had from the cheese cake recipe, should you have chosen to make it - or if you make it in the future. I decided to call this Apple Cream Cheese Palmiers. What an original name, LOL. OK, here are the leftovers I had:

Ashe Anar Soup - I Did It My Way

One of the things that I want to accomplish in this blog is to introduce you to new dishes and how to use ingredients that you are familiar with in a way that you might not be so accustomed to. This week it's pomegranates. Pomegranates are an interesting fruit, one of the few fruits where you eat the seeds and throw out everything else. But it has a variety of uses, I found out. Earlier in the week, I used pomegranate to make a cranberry sauce and this weekend I was thumbing around and found that it can be used in making soups. One of these is Ashe Anar, also called The Pomegranate Soup. I want to share this recipe with you; however, I want to make a couple of changes from the traditional recipe.

First, I am using ground lamb instead of ground beef. You could also use lamb shanks as well. I think lamb adds a richer flavor to this soup and combines very well with pomegranate. Second, I am using yellow lentils as opposed to split peas. Let's face it, the yellow lentils go great with lamb and yet they don't overpower the other ingredients as much as split peas might. I also have read that beets and their flowerettes are used. Since I don't like beets, I decided to use baby zuchini with their flowerettes attached. Other than that, the traditional recipe remains intact. I'm sure you're either getting tired of turkey leftovers or you've run out of ideas on what to do with those leftovers. This will give you a nice break. Here's what we need:

Save The Turkey Leftovers For The Weekend - Make Something Simple Today... Seafood Stir Fried Rice

After a day of stuffing our bellies with turkey, dressing, and all the gravy we could eat, it's nice to give it a rest on Friday and eat something on the lighter side. I love Chinese Food and adore seafood. I am always trying to come up with new variations of the two, but I always come back to my favorite, stir frying shrimp and scallops along with savory vegetables and ... oh, need I say more? This dish is so flavorful and a perfect dish when home alone and you want to cook for nobody else but yourself.

Serves 2 but you'll want to eat it all yourself

1 cup short grain rice
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 pound bay shrimp
1/4 pound bay scallops (small ones)
2 medium shallots, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 green onions, finely sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons pimientos
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon course ground black pepper
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped

1.In a pot, bring chicken stock and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to a boil, add rice, and cook covered, reducing heat to low. Cook according to directions (about 18 to 20 minutes. When cooked, gently stir using a fork. Set aside.

2.In a saute pan, saute onions, shallots, celery, and garlic in the 2 remaining tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Saute for about 3 minutes.

3.Now add the shrimp and scallops and saute, stirring for about 30 seconds, then add pimientos and green onions, stirring for another 30 seconds. Add the water.

4.Now add the sesame oil and the cooked rice, stir well so all ingredients are incorporated and rice is well coated. Add the salt and pepper, along with the sesame seeds. Stir for about 20 seconds and transfer to a serving platter. Serve hot.
Now how easy was that? If you want to feed a group of 4, just double the quantities of the ingredients. If you want, you may also add some shredded bbq pork, which can be found pre cooked in your grocery store. After a long day of tedious cooking for Thanksgiving, it's nice to give it a rest and make something simple. Save the turkey leftovers for the weekend!!

Apple Calvados Cheese Cake

You will recall that a while back, I created a recipe for a wonderful cheese cake. I  decided that I would experiement with that  recipe today and came up with something totally new. I call it Apple Calvados Cheese Cake and from the smells in the kitchen, I think it's going to be a hit on Thanksgiving. I know that I had promised that I would post this today and I tried my hardest to make it available to you by early afternoon, but I didn't get a chance to; therefore, as late as it is tonight, I decided it was too good to wait until tomorrow. I had to share it with you by the off chance that you might want to prepare it for your guests on Thursday. Don't be intimidated by the ingredient list. It's really easier than it looks. The time you spend will be greatly repaid by the compliments you will get. Here's what we need:

The Topping

5 medium crispy green apples
3 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of apple butter
1 cube of butter
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 cup of Calvados
5 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 cup of water

The Crust

1 1/2 cups of sifted flour + 2 tablespoons for your cutting board
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of Calvados (or apple brandy)
1 1/2 cubes of butter, room temperature and sliced
2 egg yolks

The Filling

4 packages of cream cheese (8 oz. packages)
1 cup of ricotta cheese
3/4 cups of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
4 tablespoons of Calvados
4 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of corn starch
4 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup + 1/8 cup of heavy whipping cream
Dash of salt

An Absolute Explosion of Flavor - Crab Orzo "Risotto"

You're going to want this. You're going to want this bad! I had no idea that what I was creating at Noon was going to have such full flavors. I mean let's face it, crab is mild, orzo itself is bland; however, when I combined it all with the other ingredients, flavors exploded. I took my time making this, making sure that I stirred and stirred and watched it every step of the way. I've had requests to create recipes for Dungeness Crab and I wanted to make sure this recipe turned out right. All the while I wanted to make sure that it was also going to be easy for everyone to make. Easy ingredients are also included. Check them out:

1cup of Orzo
8 ounces of Dungeness Crab meat, I prefer the legs and claws
4 cups of fish stock
1/4 cup of dry white wine
1/4 cup of sweet Marsala wine
1/2 cup of cream
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated Parm
1/4 cup large capers
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
4 tablespoons of olive oil

In a 10 inch pan, spray bottom with cooking spray, add the olive oil and heat over medium high heat. I should mention at this point that I assume you have done your prep work and everything is chopped, minced, and grated. OK, now saute the shallots and garlic, lowering heat to medium. Saute for a couple of minutes and then add the orzo. Stir well so that orzo is well coated with the oil. Continue cooking for another minute or two, constantly stirring. Once you sense that the orzo is just beginning to stick to the pan, add the Marsala and the white wine and stir well.

Next you want to start adding the fish stock one cup at a time. Add the first cup, stir, and bring to a slow boil. Turn heat down a bit so that liquid doesn't boil too hard. Continue to stir for about 3 minutes and then add the second cup of fish stock. Reduce heat to medium low and bring back to a slow boil. Let it slow boil for about 6 to 8 more minutes. The orzo should begin to soften and liquid turning creamy. This is what you want to happen. Cooking orzo is a slow process and you want to constantly stir and keep adding moisture because in the end, you want the orzo to be cooked al dente with a creamy liquid.

Go ahead and add 1/2 cup more of the fish stock, continually stirring, this time stir like you are folding whipped cream into a batter, you know what I mean? Keep an eye on the liquid. As it reduces, keep adding a little more until you have used all 4 cups of the stock. Once all the stock is added, the orzo should have been cooking for about 12 to 15 minutes. Taste test the orzo for doneness. It should be very close to al dente but not quite.

Once you have reached that almost al dente finish, begin to add the cheese a little at a time, all the while stirring so that cheese melts nicely into the sauce. Begin to add the cream and ...... yes, continue to stir. When the rest of the cream has been added, lower heat to low or simmer. Add the capers and green onions and blend well. Add the pepper and the crab and carefully stir so that crab doesn't break apart too badly. You want to have some nice chunks. Remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes before you plate it. You may grate some additional cheese once plated, maybe even a pinch of parsley for garnis. A nice finishing touch to this meal is a nice tossed salad of mixed greens. I had this for lunch and guess what? I"m going to have it for dinner too. This is crazy tasty! And did you notice you didn't even have to add salt?? How cool is that?

My First Cranberry Sauce... You Be The Judge.

I was recently surprised to find that cranberries can be found in my birthplace of France. I always heard my Mom tell me that there were no cranberries there and I always believed her. But then again, she's of the mindset that if she hasn't eaten something, then it must not exist. Well, as a famous American cranberry eater once said, "trust but verify", I decided to check it out for myself. Mom, you are wrong. Seeing how we argue a lot, you can't imagine how nice that makes me feel to softly spit out that little word to her, WRONG. It turns out that they're called canneberge (sometimes called airelles des marais). The berry is smaller and more tart than the traditional cranberry we find here. But none the less, they are cranberries, thank you very much.

So along comes this little Frenchman who has never made cranberry sauce in his life before and is going to try his hand at making something that, let's face it, Americans are the best at, the making of cranberry sauce. This little guy is ballzy! After all, it is Thanksgiving and I wanted to make a couple of dishes that are traditionally American for this most American of holidays. And you can thank me for talking my Mom out of making Escargots as an appetizer. Can you believe that? What Pilgrims was she thinking about?

And so, I have gone out on a limb and the limb did not break. With that said, I would like to share my recipe for Cranberry Sauce with a little Francais tossed in. You be the judge and let me know if I should have simply fallen off the tree or if I created a keeper.

For this experiment, you will need:

4 cups fresh cranberries, cleaned and washed
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup fresh cut oranges
1/2 cup Triple Sec (orange liquor)
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon raspberry preserves
2/3 cup water

Begin by tasting one of these little berries. Yes, do as I did and then wonder how the heck can something so tart and bitter become so good. Just kidding, you don't have to do that.  Start by adding the water,cranberries, and pomegranate juice into a sauce pan and bring to a light boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and add the Triple Sec, stir, and then add the sugar. Continue to slow boil for about 15 minutes, as you will notice the berries begin to break down. Continue to cook on low, stirring occasionally. If you need to, you may add 1/4 cup more water, but I don't think you'll need to. After cranberries have been slow cooking for about 30 minutes, add the orange pieces, the orange zest, the marmalade, and the raspberry preserves, and stir to blend all ingredients together. Continue to slow cook for about 15 more minutes, stirring every few minutes. Taste for sweetness. If it's still too tart for your liking, you may either add 1/4 cup more of the Triple Sec or another couple of tablespoons of sugar. I used an additional shot of Triple Sec, but it never made it to the sauce, if you get my drift. Anyway, I digress. Shut the heat off, cover, and let it sit until cooled. Transfer to a storage container and refridgerate until Thanksgiving.

There you have it, my version of Cranberry Sauce. I hope you like it. I did test it out by the way. I'm happy to report that it was pretty darned good! My second contribution to Thanksgiving Dinner this Thursday is going to be another creation of mine that I've never done before and that will be my Apple Calvados Cheese Cake, topped with caramelized sliced apples. This will be posted on Wednesday, so look for it please. Wishing you all a most wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

Plain and Simple.... POT ROAST

What's not to like about Pot Roast? This is a dish that can be found on the dinner tables of most cultures around the world or at least  a variation  of it. Whether it be pork, beef, or lamb, pot roasting is basically the use of braising, meaning searing at a high temperature and then slow cooking covered in various amounts of liquid. One thing is for certain, it's a way of taking a cheap cut of meat and making it taste so delicious and be so tender.

Everyone seems to have their own recipe for Pot Roast and in most cases, it's a recipe that is handed down from generation to generation. I would venture to say that you make it like your mom made it and your grandmother before her. My mom would make Pot Roast with carrots, potatoes, turnips, onions, and mushrooms. She would use very little beef broth and allow the natural juices from the fat of the meat steam cook the vegetables in the oven. It would be served with a hot Dijon mustard on the side and the juice lightly poured over the vegetables. Oh so good it was. I've made it that way myself; however, I also like making it the way I am about to show you, by slow cooking the vegetables with the meat and then processing the vegetable and juice until it becomes a puree. I cook the potatoes separately this time around by cutting them in halves, sauteing the cut side in olive oil and then finishing with a baking in the oven during the final hour of the Pot Roast cooking. They are freaking great that way! OK, here's what we need for a Pot Roast for 4 people: 

2 to 3 lb. Chuck roast (should be at least 3 inches thick)
2 Large carrots (12" x 1" is a large carrot), cut in 2 inch lengths
2 Large yellow onions, quartered
2 Celery stocks, cut in 2 inch lengths
8 Cloves of garlic, chopped
1 Medium parsnip, cut in 2 inch lengths
2 Cups of white button mushrooms, left whole, stems trimmed
1 Tablespoon of Dijon style mustard
1 Tablespoon of tomato paste
1/4 Cup of chopped parsley
4 Large Russet potatoes, skin on, clean ( do not cut in halves until just before sauteing)
2 1/2 Cups of Burgundy wine (or your choice of Pinot or Merlot)
2 1/2 Cups of beef stock
1 Teaspoon of Pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt
2 Tablespoons of flour and 1 Tablespoon of garlic powder
1/4 Cup of olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350. In a small bowl, mix the flour, garlic powder, and 1/2 of the pepper. Make sure your roast has been patted dry. Take a tablespoon of the olive oil and rub the entire surface of your roast so it is well coated. Next, roll or rub the flour and garlic powder mix all over the meat. There should be enough of it so that the roast will be well coated. Over medium high heat, heat up 1/3 of the remaining olive oil in a large saute pan and sear all sides of the roast until golden brown. This locks in the juices and flavors. Transfer the roast onto a large enough "dutch" oven to fit the roast and the vegetables. You can also use a large pot. Now bring the stove top heat to medium and saute the onions, garlic, and mushrooms in the same frying pan, stirring frequently. Saute for a couple of minutes. Remove the ingredients from the pan and transfer it to the dutch oven. Now deglaze the frying pan by pouring half the wine and carefully and slowly scrape the bottom as the wine comes to a boil. Turn heat down a bit and continue to cook for another couple of minutes.

Either on the stovetop or microwave, heat up the beef broth and unused wine. Add the rest of the vegetables (except the potatoes) to the dutch oven and around the roast. Pour the wine from the frying pan over the roast and the heated remainder of the wine and broth should be poured over the vegetables. The liquid should fill the pot a couple of inches deep, give or take. Anyway, finish by sprinkling the rest of the pepper and the salt over the vegetables, cover and transfer to the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 300 and slow cook for 2 hours. After one hour, turn the roast over and stir the vegetables.

After the first couple of hours, add the remaining olive oil to a saute pan and saute the potatoes cut side down over medium high heat. Saute until nice and golden brown. Transfer to a baking dish and slide in the rack below the Pot Roast pot. Increase oven temperature to 325 and continue baking for one final hour. This should give the potatoes time to cook nicely.

When 3 hours are up, remove the Pot Roast and set aside. Transfer the vegetables to a food processor and add some of the liquid and puree for about 30 seconds. Return puree to the pot with remainder of liquid, add the tomato paste and Dijon mustard and stir well so everything is incorporated. At this time, I should mention that if you can spare some of the mushrooms from being pureed, that would be nice. Anyway, arrange the potatoes around the roast on a serving platter and pour some of the sauce over the roast and potatoes. Sprinkle some of the parsley over the roast for garnish. The rest of the liquid can be transferred to a serving bowl and parsley stirred in. Slice the roast in 1 inch thick slices and serve with 2 potato halves per person, along with a nice helping of extra sauce. Dijon mustard can be served on the side, as it tastes wonderful with the meat. Have a nice loaf of peasant's bread to sop up the extra sauce, you don't want any of it to get away!


 Well, it has been a long time coming, but I finally am able to post the long awaited Paella article. There is so much to say about Paella that it's impossible to know where to begin. I will start by saying the Paella pictured above, is the one I made in Arizona for Felicia Sorensen. The one below is one I made a year ago for Labor Day.

 Today, Paella is found on the menus of the higher priced restaurants and a serving can command a price tag of $18 to $30. What is ironic is that it was traditionally a peasant dish that consisted of various ingredients that were available in the area and could even include left over items. In Spain the variations of the dish were and still are influenced by where it's made. The regions where there is pork and chicken will feature those meats prominently. If there is an abundance of lamb or rabbit, those items will be included. They all have 3 things in common however, they all include rice, saffron, and some type of seafood or meat.

The original Paella is known as the Valencian Paella. Valencians hold their recipe dear to their heart and have insisted that only the ingredients called for in their recipe can be used for the authentic Valencian rice dish. Among these are chicken, rice, duck, snails, butter beans, artichoke, various other beans, and spices including of course saffron. It is in the region of Valencia that Paella was born during the 18th Century. Over time, the entire Iberian Penninsula adopted it as an uncrowned national dish; however, this dish most traditionally identifies Valencia.

Although there are Paellas that contain only meats or just seafood, the more well known throughout the world is that which is called a mixed Paella, which includes various meats and seafood. One can go crazy with the various ingredients and sometimes too many is too much for a good conclusion. Remember, each ingredient is competing with one another in the flavor category, so it's smart to limit your choices and allow the saffron aroma to be the King. Everything else will fall into place and you will enjoy what is considered by many as one of the great rice dishes of the world.

The Paella that I will make with you today is of the "mixed" variety. We will use pork and chicken in the meat category and shrimp, scallops, fresh clams, and mussels in the seafood category. To tie it all together, we will use the Spanish saussage called Chorizo. Two things you cannot substitute are Chorizo and Saffron, no exceptions! Do not use Italian saussage or it will not be Paella. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about. The only problem that I tend to run up against when making this wonderful dish, is that I tend to call for larger quantities of the ingredients that can fit in my pan. So please keep this in mind when making yours. I will try to give you approximate quantities for a party of 6 people which is a good average. You can adjust things accordingly to your number of guests.

Before we start, I want to talk about rice for a minute. Rice and getting it right is extremely important. If you screw up the rice, you will most likely screw up your Paella. Certain things you want to know are stay away from quick cook rice (the 5 minute Uncle Bens stuff), stay away from long grain rice which will absorb the moisture too quickly and thereby become soggy, and finally, don't let your rice get soggy ! With all that in mind, you want to look for a short and hearty grain rice. Those are the best to use when making Paella. Among the best choices is Bomba rice. It can be found in most supermarkets or specialty food stores. Whole Foods has a great selection of grains and I am sure they probably have several rice varieties that work well with Paella. But please, don't try to short cut through this one, it just isn't worth it and since you really want to make this a hit in your family the first time around, get the right rice.

I am going to assume that you have purchased a Paella pan as I discussed last week. I gave each of you plently of time to shop for them. If you ordered them online, they should be arriving by week's end. Otherwise, there were some available I believe at Target or Walmart in the $30 range for a decent 14 inch one. There's something else that I want to talk about at this time. This dish may appear very difficult to make, but I assure you that it's not the difficulty, but the time consumption and the attention to detail that is necessary. There are no special measurements or wierd baking instructions and no need for foreign dictionaries. In that respect, this is a very simple dish to make. But I"m not kidding when I say if you want to serve this by 6 PM, shop for your fresh ingredients early in the morning around 9 AM, do your prep work by 1 PM, and start cooking by 3 PM. I may be stretching this a bit, but I just want to convey to you that it's not a one hour meal. So fall in love with everything about it, the ingredients, the smells and aromas, and put on some Spanish music. Here is our shopping list for this version of Paella:


5 Boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut in quarters
1 lb of pork, cut in 1 inch pieces (does not have to be an expensive cut)
3 links of Chorizo saussage, cut in 1/2 inch slices (ask your butcher)


24 fresh clams in their shells
18 fresh mussels in their shells
1/2 lb of sea scallops, cut in half
1/2 lb of unshelled medium sized shrimp
Optional - 6 crab legs or claws or 6 to 8 jumbo prawns unshelled and heads on


1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
2 medium red tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup of pitted green olives (ok they're fruit) cut in halves
1/2 cup of pitted black olives cut in halves
1 cup of thawed frozen baby peas (or green beans, cut and parboiled)
1 cup of garbanzo beans (this is unique to my recipe and have found that it works)
1/4 cup of chopped parsley


3 cups of rice (either Bomba or Calasparra)
6 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1/4 cup of olive oil
3 tablespoons of anise liquor (Pernod, Ricard, or Uozo)
1/4 teaspoon of Spanish smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of saffron threads
3 tablespoons of pimientos
6 to 8 lemon wedges (for garnish)

Before you start cooking, make sure that all your prep work is done. This includes chopping, slicing, and the following. Shell the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Put the shells in a medium size pot and add the chicken broth. Bring broth to a boil, lower heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the shells and discard. Add the saffron and paprika to the broth, cover pot, and keep on warm heat, but do not boil or simmer, just keep it warm. Preheat your oven to 325.

Pour the olive oil in your paella pan and heat oil on high. Saute your chicken and pork until golden brown. Remove from heat and set on a platter. Cover to keep warm. Now saute your chorizo on medium high for about 5  minutes. Add your onions, peppers, and garlic, and saute until onions get translucent. Now add your shrimp and saute for about 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp and put them in the platter with the chicken and pork. Stir the onions and peppers and add the anise liquor, then the white wine to deglaze. Now add the rice and stir well so rice is nicely coated. Next, add the chicken broth to the rice and stir well. Add the parsley, garbanzo beans, peas, olives, tomato, and pimientos and stir well. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for 10 minutes over medium high heat. Stir on occasion so rice doesn't stick to bottom of pan.

Now add the chicken and pork back to the pan, bury the scallops and shrimp in the rice, place the mussels and clams into the rice face up,  and place in the oven uncovered. Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, checking after about 15 minutes to make sure rice is nearly done. You want it to be al dente at that point, not crunchy.  If you feel you need a little moisture, you may add 1/4 cup of stock, but it's doubtful you will need to. After 20 minutes, remove from oven and let set on stove top loosely covered with foil for about 15 minutes.

You have just made your first Paella! This recipe should serve about 6 of you with some left over for seconds. Garnish the edges of the pan with the lemon wedges and a bit more parsley sprinkled over the top. This dish is well accompanied with a nice pitcher of chilled red Sangria. To prepare the Sangria, add 3 parts red wine, 1 part 7 UP, 1 part orange juice, 2 oranges cut in eighths, 2 lemons cut in eighths. Stir, refridgerate for about an hour. Finish dinner with some sliced pineapple and a shot of 43 served in a brandy snifter. Enjoy your fabulous dinner !!

Meet Sikhamani Felicia Sorensen, World Renown Chef

She is known as, "The Queen of Curries", and is the World's Preeminent Chef and Expert on Sri Lankan Cuisine, having received the Sri Lanka Presidential National Title of "Sikhamani" for her role as a culinary ambassador of the island nation. Sikhamani Felicia Sorensen is world renown for her curries, chutneys, and roasted spices. She has traveled  and met great fellow Chefs from Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and has won a number of awards including the prestigious Escoffier Award.

A great Chef, food writer, cookbook editor and author, columnist, and Sikhamani; were it not for a twist of fate, none of this might have happened. Felicia spent 30 years in Hong Kong and while working a part time job as receptionist at the Hilton, she found out that  the curry at the coffee shop was lousy. So she proceeded to investigate and went to the coffee shop to let the chef know. She began  to teach him how to cook authentic curries. The news media found out about it and before she knew it, she became a celebrity and her culinary career was off and running.

Felicia's passion for cooking was probably started at childhood in Sri Lanka. Her mom was a good cook and Felicia would help her set the table and eventually would pick up some of her cooking skills. Those skills were well utilized as she entered an industry pretty much dominated by men. When asked if it posed a problem entering a male dominated profession, Felicia quickly responded, "Not at all. There are some female chefs that will compete head on with their male counterpart, not ask questions, and pretty much do things on their own. I didn't take that approach and played strength through weakness. If I needed help lifting things that were too heavy, I would ask for help. I would freely ask for their advice and built a good working relationship with them. And it didn't hurt to call each of them 'darling'." Truth be told, she also had no problems inviting other chefs to tasting sessions, as she went on, "some chefs are shy and are not too keen on other chefs tasting their dishes. But I'm not one of them". Asked about her secret to success, Felicia replies, "Always believe that you can do it and that you will succeed even when some of the ingredients for success may be missing."

I had the pleasure of meeting Felicia Sorensen last Spring while visiting my sister in Arizona. She joined us for Paella, which I was making. When my sister gave me a little heads up on Felicia, I became nervous and thought, "oh my god, I'm cooking for an Iron Chef." All that quickly melted when I was introduced and she addressed me as 'darling'. The warmth of her personality and her genuine interest in what I was doing made me feel more like her peer than a novice. The Paella turned out wonderful  and  was given 5 stars. In her own words, Felicia critiqued me,
"Darling, I have traveled the world over and have had Paella in a number of the best restaurants and private residences. I can tell you this for certain, yours is the best Paella I have ever had. The rice was a perfection."
I am still riding on cloud 9 from that statement. It was such a pleasure spending an afternoon with Felicia and discussing a subject that is dear to both of us. I was honored to have had the opportunity to be her Chef, if only for one day.


Good Monday Morning! It's the start of the week again and here we are with questions from you and hopefully the answers you want to hear from me. I want to first thank all of you for an incredible week last week. It was a record again. I was so giddy to find my blog featured on the home page of Food Buzz. I guess we're never too old to feel (and act) like a kid! In all seriousness, I was honored to be featured and I owe it to all of you who visit and follow my blog. Without you, none of this would be possible. But, this is another week and we're off to the races again. Let's make it the best week yet. Now, on with your questions.

Do you have an authentic, or at least a semi-authentic recipe for a Vietnamese noodle bowl?
I am looking for something with Vermicelli noodles, lettuce, carrots, cucumber, and maybe some grilled pork. I don’t know what to season the pork with (maybe Chinese 5 spice?). I can never get the Nuoc Mam to taste right. (Mike G., Thorton, CO.)

Mike, Nuoc Mam is usually made as a dipping sauce for certain deep fried rolls filled with vegetables and/or meat, but can be used for soup as well. I have not done a lot of Vietnamese dishes before; however,  I called my Vietnamese friend to get some suggestions on putting together a noodle bowl recipe using Nuoc Mam. The secret is in the proper combination of sugar, citrus, vinegar, and liquid. The larger the quantity of suger to the liquid, the thicker the sauce you will achieve, good for dipping. You can use water or vegetable broth, which I prefer. Vegetables and meat should be quickly cooked to retain flavor when liquid is added. I have emailed  you precise directions to follow regarding this recipe. I hope this will help.

Hi Nick, can you suggest some budget friendly red wines? (Alanna F., Phoenix, AZ.)

There are a couple of them that immediately come to mind, as both are wines that my mom purchases. La Vielle Ferme is a very nice inexpensive French wine. It comes from a small vinyard in the Burgundy region. I have purchased it at Trader Joe's in the past, at about $6.00 a bottle. The other is called St. Croix, again a wine from the Burgundy family. It runs about the same price and has been found at Trader Joe's as well and I believe at Kroger's stores. Since receiving your question, I have also run into a couple of nice South American reds that are very nice hidden gems. One is a 2007 Mendoza Aqua de Piedra Malbec at under $10 a bottle. It's just a simple, smooth red easy on the palate. The other is from Chile, a 2006  Reo Grande Cabernet for about $7 or $8 a bottle. As I find more, I will relay them to you.

Hi Nick. Do you know how to make pickled beets? I usually buy jarred beats, add some vinegar, salt, pepper, and sliced onions then let marinate for a week or so. (Brad, city/state not listed)

I must be honest with you, I have never pickled beets before. With that said, I have to ask if you are looking to pickle beets for canning or if you want to prepare pickled beets to be consumed within a few days. I have done some research and found 2 sites that cover both methods. The first is the actually pickling and canning of beets. If you plan on doing this, it is of utmost importance that it's done properly as the greatest danger is contracting botulism. The bacterium is not killed unless the canning is done via a closed pressure cooker. This site is located at This site is very detailed on what to do and directions should be followed precisely.

The other site is a recipe that I found that is easy to do, isn't as involved, and is particularly good if you plan on serving to guests in a reasonably short amount of time. I would marinate them longer than the 30 to 40 minutes they suggest. Cover and let sit in the fridge overnight to allow flavors to penetrate deep in the tissue. This site is located at I hope this helps you, Brad.

Nick, when are you going to post your Lapin (rabbit) a la moutarde? I have fond memories of it. (Doug A., Portland, OR)

Rabbit is one of my favorite dishes and I remember your fondness of it both in Portland and Paris. I'm glad you brought this up to my attention; I will certainly make it a point to write an article on how to prepare it very soon.

Brussel Sprouts Pastry Pockets

I had brussel sprout leaves left over from the Wilted Brussel Salad that I made the other day and was wondering what I could do with them. I love leftovers, whether it be from last night's dinner or ingredients that I didn't completely use up from a dish that I made previously. Either way, I consider them leftovers. One thing I like doing with them however, is to try and create a totally new dish, not just reheating them in the micro. So these brussel sprout leaves were just hangin around in the fridge next to a mozzarella ball and then it hit me. Why don't I come up with a baked dish that incorporates both? It sounded easy to me. I checked the freezer and noticed I still had a puff pastry sheet and that's when it all started coming together. I was going to make Brussel Sprout Pockets, filled with brussel sprout leaves, mozzarella, and cheddar.

They turned out very good and so I decided to share the recipe with you. This recipe is very easy to put together and tastes great hot or cooled. You can have it as an appetizer at dinner time or for lunch with a tossed green salad. Here's what you'll need:

1 Puff pastry sheet (Pepperidge Farm; be sure to thaw out a couple of hours before using)
4 Cups of brussel sprout leaves (or you can take brussel sprouts and slice them thin)
1/4 Cup chopped parsley
1 Cup of Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (or 4 slices from a Mozzarella cheese ball)
1/2 Cup of Sharp Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 Teaspoon of crushed garlic
Salt and Pepper
2 Tablespoons of flour
Egg wash (1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water beaten)

Fill a medium size pot 3 inches with water and bring to a boil. Add the brussel sprouts and cover, cooking for about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat, strain very well and set aside to cool.

Unfold the puff pastry sheet onto a floured cutting board. Rub your rolling pin with flour. If you have parchment paper, use a sheet of that over the pastry sheet and you won't have to worry about the dough sticking to your roller. Proceed to roll out your sheet until you get a square approximately 14 inches by 14 inches. Make sure you don't roll it out too thin. Next, with a sharp knife, cut the sheet into 4 equal squares. If the edges are jagged, just use your knife to cut nice straight sides.

Once the brussel sprouts have cooled,  gently squeeze any remaining moisture out and put them in a bowl, adding the crushed garlic, parsley, and salt/pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients well. At this point, you may take a small handful of the mozzarella cheese (if you used shredded) and add it to the bowl and mix in well. Preheat your oven to 425.

We will now start filling our pockets. Before you do, with a brush, coat all the edges of each pastry square with the egg wash, approximately 1/2 inch wide. Now, in the center of each square, add some of the brussel sprout leaves so that doesn't go beyond the egg washed edges. Your pastry squares are about 7"x7" and the brussel sprouts will cover  a space of about 2" wide by about 6" in length. Next, add some of the shredded cheddar. Finally, add the shredded mozzarella or if you used slices from the mozzarella ball, cut each slice in half and place them onto the brussel sprouts.

Now, carefully fold one side of each square over the brussel sprouts and cheese so that each corner connects with their opposite corner and created a nice pocket. Gently push down on the sides to fuse the seams together. With a fork, push gently down to make imprints of the fork teeth all the way around the fused seams. Use your brush to lightly egg wash the surface of each pocket. Set the pockets on non stick baking sheet or a greased sheet. You may also line the sheet with parchment paper. Before transferring to the oven, use a tooth pick to punch 4 holes in each of the pockets. Bake at 425 for approximately 25 minutes or until the pastry pockets are golden brown. Remove from oven and let set for about 5 minutes before serving. This is another great way of presenting brussel sprouts to those that may not otherwise like them. Enjoy!

Roulade of Pork Loin... Easier to make than to pronounce!

OK, so here's another French word that you can now add to your vocabulary. Roulade sounds like a complicated process that only the well cured chefs can create in a fancy and well equipped commercial kitchen. Wrong! Roulade is as easy as it gets when it comes to making fancy stuff. From the French word rouler, means to roll like a rolling of kitchen paper towels. You take a thick cut of meat, whether it be beef, pork, chicken, or fish, and cut it open, thus rolling it out. Fill it with a filling of various ingredients, and then roll it back shut to its original shape, then tie it with kitchen twine. That's it, all that is need to know. Do you think I would have brought a procedure into this blog that required a science degree to accomplish, thus compromising my theme of simplicity? Not on your life.

Today, I will show you how to prepare a roulade of pork, albeit with a twist. Once filled, we will not roll it up, but put it back together just as we found it. This preparation comes in two parts. The first part is creating the filling for this pork roast. The second part will consist of preparing the roast with the filling and then baking it. This recipe has an Asian flair in addition to the French, as I have included some Asian ingredients for the filling. Here is what we need:

2 lb. Top Loin Pork Roast, boneless
3/4 cup of Marsala Wine (sweet version)
1/4 cup of water
3/4 cup of bread crumbs, finely processed
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
4 medium brown mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 teaspoons of sesame oil
2 teaspoons of ginger paste
1/2 teaspoon of garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon of pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
Butcher's cotton twine (or kitchen twine)

Let's make the filling to start with, that way we can allow it to cool a bit before we add it to our roast. Prepare all your vegetables and spices, slicing, dicing, cutting, and measuring. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Saute the shallots, garlic, and pepper flakes, reducing heat to medium. Next, add the chopped mushrooms and saute for another minute or so. Now add the bread crumbs and stir well so everything is well mixed, taking about 30 seconds to do so. Add the wine and reduce heat to low. If you need to, add the water and stir. Remove from heat and transfer mixture to a mixing bowl.

Add to your mixing bowl, the parsley, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of ginger paste, black pepper, and garlic paste, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Begin using the spoon to make a ball with the mixture as illustrated. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 400. Now let's get a sauce ready so that we can brush on the meat later. Combine 1 tablespoon of ginger paste, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, and the 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Mix well to form a paste. Add 1 tablespoon of water to dilute the paste a bit. Set it aside.

Next, we will get our roast ready. With the fat side down, begin to slice down the center of the roast lengthwise. Slice down until about 1/2 inch from the bottom. Do not slice all the way through! Now spread the roast open and on each half, make two slits evenly apart, slicing down to within 1/2 inch of the bottom. Do this for the left and right sides. You should now be able to flatten your roast open.

Take your ball of filling and slice into 5 equal parts. Proceed to to fill each cavity of the roast, careful to not fill completely to the edge, that way, when you close it up, it won't squeeze out of each end. Once you have filled the cavities, gently put your roast back together again. Realize that since you've added "stuffing", the roast will be fatter around. Take kitchen twine (cotton) and cut 5 or 6 even length pieces long enough to go around the roast. At this point, there is a professional way of twining a roast with one single string; however, I always have problems with that, so I find it easier to just cut separate pieces. Begin by tying the ends about an inch in from each end. Be careful to not tie it too tight around so as not to squeeze the filling out. But be sure it will securely keep the roast closed up. Now that you 've done each end, tie the remaining strings around the roast, evenly apart, like the illustration. Once your roast is all tied up, cut any excess string and turn your roast over, cut side down.

In a frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Sear your roast, turning it 1/4 turn about every 3 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish and place in the oven on the middle rack and reduce heat to 350. Bake for 1 hour for a 2 pound roast. About 15 minutes before completion, brush your basting mixture to cover the outside of the roast. Continue to bake for 15 more minutes. Your roast should be done to medium. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Cut strings off and with a sharp knife, slice even slices and set on a serving platter. Enjoy this roast. It should still be moist and succulent, full of flavors, with the hints of sesame and ginger. I would serve this with the Asian Sesame Noodle Salad that I posted earlier.

I Couldn't Help Myself ... And Neither Could Joey

There are days when you just crave something and you can't get it out of you head until you get it in your stomach. For a week, I craved something sweet and I just continued to postpone the inevitable until I finally broke down the other night and rushed to the store for a container of Haagen Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream. Nothing tasted so good that night. I didn't eat the whole thing but it was like being on auto pilot. Spoon in container, spoon in mouth. A third into it I realized I needed to stop this and I threw it in the freezer. I've got to admit I felt a bit guilty.

Then this evening, I had another craving for French fries this time. When you live alone, you've got lots of time to crave. I had taken a nice thick little filet mignon steak out of the freezer earlier in the day and was thinking about having steak and salad; however, I saw the bag of Russet potatoes and the craving hit me.

The little steaks come in these sealed plastic pouches and you have to cut one end and then slide the meat out. I don't know how it happened because it happened so fast, but the next 5 minutes was spent chasing my damn dog, Joey with my meat in his mouth. Somehow, when I was taking the steak out of the pouch, it slipped through my fingers and my Min Pin was right there waiting. That dog must have been waiting months for a jackpot like this. I finally cornered him and grabbed it out of his mouth. He had only bitten into it, so that was good. I rinsed it well. One of these days, I'll have to tell you my salmon story, but that's for one of those days.

Anyway, I want to share with you my recipe for Steak Frites today. I came up with a new recipe for the frites and I don't care what anybody says, I'm going to make them again like this. They were good. I used my ginger paste as a seasoning. Let me tell you what I did. Here are the ingredients you'll need:

1- 6 ounce filet of beef steak
1 small Russet potato, skin on
1 small red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
Salt (for the steak)
2 tablespoons of ginger paste (basically comes in a jar like crushed garlic does)
2 tablespoons of water
3 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Enough vegetable oil to cover a 10 inch frying pan 1/2 inch deep with oil

First of all, slice your pepper and potato into 1/4 inch thick shoe string slices. Set aside. In a  bowl, add the ginger and water and mix well. If you need to you can add another tablespoon of water to the mixture. Now add the pepper and potato shoe strings into the bowl along with the black pepper. Mix well so as to completely coat the pepper and potato. Now heat your vegetable oil on high heat so that oil reaches 350 degrees. You can usually tell when the oil is ready by dropping a little flour into the oil and it foams and bubbles. Put your pepper and potato shoe strings into the bag, add the flour, and shake well so that all pieces are covered. You should have a starchy, pasty coating. Carefully add the shoe strings to the hot oil, spreading them evenly across the pan. If the oil gets too hot, turn your burner down a tad.

While the potatoes are frying, heat the olive oil in a small frying pan on high heat. Fry your steak for about 3 minutes on each side for rare. The steak I had was 1 1/4 inch thick, so keep that in mind. Once you turn it over to the other side, salt and pepper it. In the meantime, keep an eye on the potatoes and with a spatula, turn them over. Continue to fry until they get golden brown, which should not take  long. When ready, remove them from the oil and let drain on paper towels. You may sprinkle salt while they are still very hot, but taste one first to see if you really need to.

Steak should be done about the same time. Remove from pan and set on your plate and add your shoe string frites on the side. I can tell you, these were the best fries I made. They were crispy as were the red pepper strips and the two together had a great combination of flavors. There was a nice subtle flavor of the ginger that was not at all overpowering. Just look at the photo. Does that look like Burger King to you?? NO ! Enjoy this meal.

It's Time To Start Shopping For A Paella Pan !

OK, it's time to talk about Paella Pans. I want to talk about them because I am soon going to teach you how to make Paella and the first thing needed is the pan. I also want to talk about it because I don't want you to make the same mistake I've made in the past by buying the wrong one. I have purchased 3 in my lifetime and the first two presented problems for me. You see, I cook on electric smooth top and so it's important that nothing happens to the shape of the pan when cooking. Unfortunately, the first two began to warp and that was the end of that. Ideally, one would love to have a gas range so this problem would not be a problem. But I don't have that available to me.

Another thing that I want to talk about is depending on which paella pan you get, how to take care of it. The traditional and authentic Spanish paella pans are made of steel and therefore need to be "cured" before using. This is done by washing it well and  wiping it down with a cloth, finally rubbing a coat of cooking oil (olive oil) on the cooking surface. After every use, you will want to make sure you hand wash it and that it's completely dry in order to avoid rust creation. Before storing it each time, be sure to rub a thin coat of oil over the cooking surface and sides. If you see any rust, just wipe it off with a paper towel. This maintenance work is a small price to pay for the incredible rice and seafood dishes it will produce for you.

The traditional steel paella pan will absorb the flavors over time and give you years of use. There is also the stainless steel pan which also gives years of use but with minimal care. There is also the "Pata Negra", which is a double gage steel which will give you good even heating. Other paella pans can be found made of copper and cast iron with a porcelain coating which will make for easy cleaning. I highly recommend avoiding any pans made of aluminum (those dark charcoal anodized pans). That was the first one I purchased and after two uses, began to warp to a point where eventually only a 3 inch diameter circle in the center was hitting the heating element, bad news! I eventually purchased a stainless steel pan with a double sandwich copper bottom which I use to this day.

Size matters. It's important that your paella pan is going to be large enough to serve the number of guests you usually have over for dinner, which for most of us is 6 people. Be careful that you don't get one so large that it doesn't fit over your cooking element or your oven. I recommend a 13 to 15 inch pan. Anything larger than that will probably not fit evenly over your burner and certainly not fit in the average non commercial home oven. Remember, these pans have handles on each side that add an additional 4 to 6 inches to the diameter. So a 16 inch pan will actually end up being 22 inches. I didn't listen to me...... and bought an 18 inch pan, not counting the handles. I have to remove my stove top control knobs for it to fit over the largest element. It doesn't come close to fitting in the oven and I don't have a cupboard cabinet with a large enough opening to store it. What was I thinking??!!

There is a wonderful website that you should go to when shopping for a paella pan. It's called It has a variety of pans at reasonable prices. I have purchased supplies from them time and time again and have never been disappointed. They also have the authentic rice that is ideal for making paella, which we will discuss later. So go out and get yourself a nice paella pan. Every kitchen should have one. Not only are you going to use it for making paella (which is coming soon) but other Spanish and Latin dishes.


Good morning everyone. Here we are again, it's Monday and we're all starting a new week, fighting the traffic and the rain all the way to the office. I hope you have all had a relaxing weekend and have taken the time to be with family. Our blog had its most active weekend to date and I want to thank all of you for having made that possible. We broke the daily on Friday, broke that record on Saturday, and nearly matched that record on Sunday. You must have been busy preparing some of the recipes I posted because your questions were on the lite side this week. I urge you to submit any question, concern, and suggestions to I will answer all of them by Sunday evening and post them every Monday.

We had a lot of activity regarding several recipes that I posted this week. Among them, split pea soup, lentil stew, and the sesame noodle salad. I am delighted that you found these to your liking. All are wonderful dishes, very easy to make, and are sure to please your guests and family members. I will be posting more of these types of recipes as the cold weather gradually settles in for the season. Until then, here are your questions and my answers.

Nick, can you tell me what you like most about the art of cooking and what you dislike the most? (Bette, Santa Cruz, CA.)

Bette, what I like the most about cooking is the creation of the recipes. It's a constant learning experience. Some are good and some are bad; however, I never give up if something didn't turn out as expected. I love the challenge of figuring out what went wrong and make the corrections. Then I can pass them on to you. The thing I hate most about cooking? Two simple words come to mind, CLEANING UP! I hate that part, but if I don't do it, nobody else will. So I grin and do it. Sometimes it's put off to the next day.

Nonchefnick, can you suggest what cuts of meat are best for making pot roast? I want pot roast that will retain its flavor and moisture. (Tracy in AZ.)

Tracy, I have found that what you want to remember when selecting a cut of meat for pot roast is to stay away from the high end cuts and lean cuts. What makes a pot roast meat juicy, flavorful, and tender, is a good fat content. That is why I use beef chuck roast. It's got the right amount of fat tissue. When buying it, make sure it's a good 3 or 4 inches thick. Another thing to remember is this is not fast food. Pot roast is slow cooked at lower oven temperatures. It's a form of braising, which is slow cooking meat in some liquid with the lid on. I will soon be posting a very good recipe for pot roast. It's the way I've been making it for years.

Nick, for those of us that are calorie watchers, will you please suggest some recipes and dishes that are low calorie? (Jody in OR.)

Yes, I will certainly come up with some good recipes with limited calories. I am also planning to list the calorie count per serving on certain recipes that I think would interest those who are keeping track of calorie intake. I will try to do this as time permits.

I am a beef eater and love a good steak. I am a novice when it comes to cooking. I love a nice steak that is medium rare, but nice and charred on the outside. When do I know how long to fry it to achieve this? I seem to always get it charred but then it's too done for me. Please help! (David P., Raymond, WA)

David, the secret in achieving what you are looking for in your steak is a very hot frying pan to begin with. I too, like that charred outside and rare to medium rare inside. You want to heat your pan on high heat for a couple of minutes before adding anything to it. If you add your oil before heating your pan, you'll get a lot of smoking and burning, so add your oil when the is hot enough that a drop of water will sizzle and bounce around. Then add your oil and make sure the pan is coated nicely. Drop your steak and cook on high for about 3 minutes on each side for a medium rare doneness (steak should be one inch thick). When you turn it over, salt and pepper it. If you need to, add a little more oil. I think it'll turn out nice if you do it this way.

Asian Sesame Noodle Salad.... An inspiration from a friend

I love creating recipes and trying them out on my dinner guests. I do a lot of reading so that I can continue to sharpen my knowledge of the culinary arts and by doing so, I am able to be inspired to come up with new ideas. For the most part, my guests have never been disappointed. My inspiration doesn’t stop at the book cover’s closing, however. People around me have been very inspirational in opening my mind to new ideas, flavors, ingredients, and preparations.

The recipe that we are about to prepare today is an inspiration from a long time friend of mine. She introduced me to Asian style salads more than 20 years ago. Although I have made changes, added this and subtracted that, I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t share the creation of this recipe with her. To this day, this is still one of my all time favorite salads. Thanks Ms. H.T.

I call this recipe pure and simple, Asian Sesame Noodle Salad. There are many versions of noodle salads out there; however, I think you’ll find this one to be absolutely delightful. If you like a bit of hot and a lot of Asian, you will certainly agree. Furthermore, I have found that you can heat this up and serve it as a side dish, making this salad very versatile. Finally, I can safely say in continuing with our theme of simplicity, this recipe is very easy to put together. Here’s what we need:

1 package of Chow Mien Noodles (12 oz.)
2 shallots, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup of green onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup of fresh baby spinach leaves, rolled and julienned
1/4 cup of fresh parsly, finely chopped
1/4 cup of pimientos
1/4 cup of sesame oil
1/8 cup of rice vinegar
1/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons of dry pepper flakes (for heat)
1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/3 cup of toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon of ginger paste
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

Get all your ingredients together and get all your chopping out of the way. In a large pot, boil water with a tablespoon of vegetable oil and add your noodles. Chow Mien noodles, even though they are dry, tend to cook much faster that regular noodles. With that said, you want to boil them for only about 4 to 5 minutes because you want them to be al dente, not overcooked and mushy. While noodles are cooking, get a bowl of ice water ready. At the 4 minute mark, check the noodles for doneness. If ready, immediately strain them and then transfer them to the ice water. You may need to add more ice to keep the water cold. Set the bowl aside to allow for complete cooling.

Set a small frying pan on a burner set to high. Once heated, add 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil to the pan and quick saute your shallots and garlic for only 30 seconds. Remove and pour into a large mixing bowl. In the mixing bowl, add all the remaining ingredients, EXCEPT THE SESAME SEEDS, and whisk briskly so that ingredients are well blended. Once noodles are cooled, drain liquid through a strainer and rinse noodles with cold running water. Add noodles to mixing bowl with ingredients and toss well so everything is completely blended. Finally, add the sesame seeds and toss gently. Pour salad into a nice serving platter and sprinkle of few more sesame seeds and serve. There you have it. It's that simple. And it tastes so good, your guests won't believe how quick it was to make.

Serve with a nice Saki, chilled prawns with a dipping sauce of of ginger vinegrette and finish with a green tea sorbet. For the dipping sauce, use 1 part sesame oil, 1 part rice vinegar, 1/2 part water, 1 teaspoon of ginger paste, 1 teaspoon of honey, and whisk until well blended. Enjoy.

Have A Bowl Of Lentils - It's The Perfect Season

Legumes, as dry beans are called, are a wonderful staple during this time of year. They are an incredible source of protein.  lentils, with 26% of their calories coming from protein, make them the 3rd highest level of protein by weight of any plant based food source. Lentils originated most likely from the Near East. It is a major food item in vegetarian cultures such as the Indian Sub Continent. With vegetarian in mind, I have come up with a perfect recipe for lentils that I believe is lip smacking for all you meat eaters as well. This recipe is very easy to prepare and execute. Here are the ingredients you'll need:

2 cups of French lentils (they're more round and stay firmer than flat traditional ones)
1/2 cup of long grain wild rice
4 cans of vegetable stock
1 med red onion, chopped
1 med yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced (that means chopping them into tiny tiny pieces)
2 med carrots sliced lengthwise and then chopped
6 med white or dark mushrooms, cut in halves and then sliced
2 med ripe tomato, chopped, seeds and all
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Dijon style mustard
1 tbsp tomato paste (I buy a tube and store it in the fridge and use it when I need a little)
1/4 cup of olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

As always, get all the vegetables prepped and other ingredients together. In a pot, add 1/2 of the olive oil and heat over medium. Add the onions, garlic, and carrots, and saute, stirring frequently. Continue to saute until onions are translucent and just beginning to brown at the edges, usually a few minutes. Now add your mushrooms and tomatoes and stir well. Add the lentils, stir, and saute for a minute. Next, add the rice and stir well for another minute. Now, add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, then add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and tomato paste. Stir well so that all ingredients are well incorporated into the vegetable stock. Decrease heat to low, cover, and slow cook for 1 hour. Stir occasionally during the hour.

After an hour, add salt and pepper to taste and add the parsley. Cover and continue to cook for 15 more minutes. Your lentils and the rice should be ready now. Taste for doneness and if desired, you may slow cook for an additional 15 minutes, but I don't think it'll be necessary. Before serving, take the rest of the olive oil and stir it into the lentils. Remove from heat and let stand in the pot for about 5 minutes. Serve with a nice loaf of warm potato bread or some slices of old fashion hearth. Finish off in the French fashion with a nice chilled salad of Romaine leaves in a light vinegrette. Bon Appetit !


WOW! I went out on my balcony today to check up on my two tomato vines and wouldn't you know it, I found my first ripe tomato of the year! Now this wouldn't be historic for me were it not for the fact that I bought these two vines back in June for $5 each and didn't start producing little tomatoes until September. Oh yes, they flowered all summer, but no tomatoes followed. I was convinced that I had purchased sterile plants. So, early September I decided to get the big ole scissors and teach those vines a lesson and cut them down to the stump, when what did I see but several tiny green tomatoes! I could only conclude that they must have heard me grabbing the scissors and like little constipated vines, popped out these little buds. I was delighted.

I watched them carefully each and every day, pampering them all the way. I watched them grow bigger and bigger. Finally, I noticed a green one had turned red! This was going to be a great day, for I was about to harvest my first tomato. All of 1 1/2 inch diameter, I carefully pulled it off the vine. Cupping it gently in the palm of my hand, I transported it on foot through the living room and then the dining room, finally reaching the kitchen.

There she was, unharmed, unbruised, having made the long trip without a scratch. I had a $10 tomato that must have weighed in at a whopping one ounce and I was going to let the world know! The paparacci came in as cameras were flashing like an electrical storm on a hot, sultry Spring afternoon in the Deep South. Surely this event had to be posted, I told myself. It's not everyday that one can hold a tomato at $160 a pound. This was surely the greatest purchase I had made, only eclipsed by my purchase of 100 shares of Enron some years back that to this day I still cringe when reading anything that starts with E.

The Best Split Pea Soup You'll Ever Taste

There are few things that comfort me more during the cold Autumn and Winter months than my split pea soup. I have been making it for years and it just doesn't get any better. What's wonderful is how simple it is to make such a delicious dish so healthy and warming. I'm so convinced that you'll agree that I've decided to share my recipe with you. OK, here's what we need:

4 cups of split peas (2 lbs)
3 cans of chicken stock
2 cups of water
1 cup of half n half
1 1/2 cups of dry white wine
1 large smoked ham hock (2 lbs)
4 thick strips of bacon, chopped

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 large shallot, finely minced
1 large carrot, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt
1/4 cup of olive oil

Start by preparing your ingredients before you start cooking. With a sharp knife, cut deep slits into the ham hock. Doing this will bring out the flavors of the ham hock while cooking. Chop the bacon and saute in a frying pan on medium high until semi crisp. Remove, let the bacon sit on a paper towel. Take 1/2 cup of the white wine and deglaze the pan. Set aside. Chop your vegetables as instructed above.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Saute the garlic, onion, and shallots until translucent. Next, add the wine and stir, continuing to cook for a minute or so. Next, add the carrots and celery, stir and saute another minute or so. Now add the chicken stock and water, stir and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add the ham hock, continuing to cook covered for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the ham hock and set aside to cool. Now add the split peas, stir and bring back to a boil. Cover and continue to cook on low. When ham hock has cooled enough to the touch, begin to debone, removing excess fat and cutting the meat in 1/2 inch pieces. Once that's done, return meat and bone to the pot, cover and continue to slow cook for about an hour, stiring every 10 minutes so peas don't stick to bottom of pot.

After an hour, the split peas should well be on their way to producing a nice creamy consistency. Now add the sauteed bacon and the juice from the deglazed pan. Stir and taste for flavor. At this time you may add the garlic salt, salt, and pepper. Stir and while stiring, slowly add the half n half, making sure that it is well blended. You may, if you wish, take 2 cups of the soup and puree it in a food processor and add it back to the pot. Continue to slow cook, stiring frequently, for another 20 minutes. Make sure you don't forget to stir frequently, as this is the time when the split peas can begin to stick at the bottom and if not attended to, can burn.

When finished, turn off the burner and set the pot aside for about 5 minutes to cool a bit. Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with minced parsley and a little grated parm or swiss, along with a couple of slices of old fashion crusty hearth bread. Enjoy!


Q & A

Good Monday morning everyone. This is the first Monday of our new column where you ask the questions and I answer. If I don't know, I will find the answers for you. During the week, you can email me at and submit your questions. I will review all submissions every Sunday evening and post them Monday mornings. Please include your first name, last initial, and city where you're located. I received several emails with your questions this past week and hope to receive a lot more in the coming weeks. Here are the answers to your questions for this week:

NonChef, I'm confused about making sauces from roux. I hear about adding hot liquid to the roux and adding cold liquid. Which is the correct way? (Sharon C., Salem, OR.)

Sharon, I have noticed that as well and it can be confusing to say the least. What I can tell you is what I know and have read from famous Chefs. One of the greatest is  Robuchon and he says if you have hot roux, use cold or room temperature liquid and if you use cold roux, use hot liquid. That's the way I do it and I have no problems. So that's what I recommend. Feel free to try it the other way; my experience has been that it's clumpy and is hard to get the clumps smoothed out. One thing is certain, always add the liquid to the roux and not the other way around.

I want to know when you are going to post your Paella?  (Monique, S., Tempe, AZ.)

Very soon. I know I have been saying that; however, it will post within the next 2 weeks and that is a promise.

I would like to know which Chefs have most influenced you? (C.K., Denver, CO.)

Well, I would be remiss if I didn't first and foremost say my Mom. She's the one that I physically watched and got advice from. As far as well known Chefs go, Robuchon, because he has taken the classic Grande Cuisine de France and adapted it to today's living. Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) has influenced me in that she is able to create wonderful dishes while explaining each step in a way we can easily understand. I am a fan of hers. And who doesn't love Paula Dean!

I'm confused about which wines go with what meats and foods. Can you explain? (Laura M., Vancouver, BC)

When it comes to wine and food, I'm old fashion and traditional. A rule of thumb usually reads red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat. And then there are the exceptions as there always is. While a nice Chardonnay goes well with a roasted chicken, Coq au Vin demands a nice full bodied red like Merlot or Cotes du Rhone. Another rule of thumb which I go by (I don't know if it's an official rule) is that if you use a red wine for cooking, drink a red wine with your meal. If you use white wine, then drink white wine. The same probably goes for anything cooked with beer, one would want to drink beer with that meal. The sweeter wines are for the most part drunk with dessert as are the champagnes and sparkling wines. Are you confused even more?

I want to thank those of you who sent in questions. I hope that I have helped in any small way. I look forward to your next series of questions for our next Q & A Monday. Until then, have fun in the kitchen, enjoy what you make, and keep following.

Acini Di Pepe Chicken Soup -- Mmm Mmm Home Made

I recently discovered Acini Di Pepe pasta and fell in love with these little dots of goodness. I began to experiment with them in my recipes and found they were very versitle. One of those recipes is perfect for those rainy Autumn days and I would like to share it with you. It's called Acini Di Pepe Chicken Soup (oddly enough). OK, I could have come up with a fancier name; however, I'll let these little pasta pebbles speak for themselves.

I want to let you know that this soup is made from scratch, right down to the chicken stock. Don't be scared away, however. There is nothing complicated about this soup. It is simply a hearty and warming soup, perfect if you're fighting a cold; it will surely snap it out of you. This recipe comes in two parts. First, we have to make our chicken stock and second, we proceed with the soup. Let's start with the chicken stock. I will not complicate the making of this stock, as I like to keep it simple. You will need:

One fresh whole chicken (cut up, but don't include the breast)
10 cups of water
2 Bay leaves
1 teaspoon of thyme
1 teaspoon of sage

In a large pot, add the chicken, water, and herbs, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let cook covered for about an hour or until chicken falls off the bone. Remove the chicken and set in a bowl to cool. Using a tightly woven strainer, strain the chicken stock into another pot. Continue to heat on low setting.

Once the chicken has cooled enough for you to handle it, begin to debone, discarding the skin and fat and adding the meat to your stock. Now get your ingredients together for the completion of the soup:

1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 minced garlic cloves
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups of Acini Di Pepe pasta (can be found in most supermarkets)
1 1/2 cups of peas
1 teaspoon of Dijon style mustard
1/2  teaspoon of tomato paste
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper

Add all the ingredients to the stock, except the pasta. Stir and mix well, then taste for flavor. If you like it a bit saltier, go ahead and add more salt. Cover and slow cook for about 20 minutes. Then add the pasta, stir and cook covered for an additional 15 minutes. Check pasta for doneness, check for flavor and if satisfied, shut heat off and set aside covered for 5 more minutes and serve. I think you will really like this chicken soup. Have it with a nice crusty baguette of French bread and enjoy!