Saturday, August 28, 2010

Thai Red Curry with Chicken and Vegetables - by Jess

A couple years ago James and I travelled around Thailand for a month. We literally ate ourselves silly! Every morning we’d announce that we were only eating fruit for the day. By noon we’d already be stuffing our faces with spicy shrimp salad or curried noodles. So much for fruit! But at night we just couldn’t stay away from the curries. This is my take on a basic red curry. This dish is completely versatile. Make the sauce and then you can add whatever you want to it: Chicken, Beef, Shrimp, Duck, Vegetables, you name it. And make it as spicy as you like – there is no law about the degree of heat, only yourself to please.

Treat the recipe as just a guideline and then tweak it to make it your own.

1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
2 Heaping Tablespoons Thai Red Curry Paste
1 ½ Cans Coconut Milk
½ Cup Water
6 Lime Leaves (available at Asian Markets – you can buy them fresh and freeze them so stock up– if you can’t find them don’t worry too much but if you can find them they add a really nice, authentic lime flavor to the curry)
1 Tablespoon Palm Sugar (Again – available at Asian markets – if you can’t find replace with regular or brown sugar)
1-2 Tablespoons Thai Fish Sauce - Asian Markets again. This really is essential. Fish Sauce is to Thai cooking as Soy Sauce is to Chinese. It’s used in the same way as well – as a salting agent – but you cannot use soy sauce in this recipe! They are completely different. If you have never used fish sauce – BEWARE – it smells horrible!!! But don’t let the smell put you off! You use it in such small quantities that it never tastes like it smells. My husband HATES the smell of fish sauce and yet it is an essential ingredient in many of his favorite dishes.)

This part of the recipe is where you can really make it your own: Add the meat you want and the vegetables you like. But here are just a few things that work.  I always do finish off the recipe with the baby spinach and the basil, no matter what else I put in. The spinach adds beautiful color and the basil is an essential last flavoring for the curry.

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts – 4, sliced or cubed into bite-size pieces
Red Pepper – ½ -1, diced
Butternut Squash – 1 cup diced
Zucchini – I, diced
Plum Tomatoes – 1-2, cut in quarters, lengthwise and seeded
Baby Spinach – 2 large handfuls
Basil – 1 large handful, torn into pieces
Basmati Rice for Serving

To make the curry sauce:

Heat the oil in a large saucepot over medium heat.  Add the curry paste and stir with a wooden spoon. You want the curry paste to become nice and fragrant (you should feel it in your nose!). Open the coconut milk and once you have heated the curry paste for at least one minute scoop out the heavy, creamy part of the coconut milk that sits at the top of the can and add it to the pot.  Let it cook along with the curry paste for another minute before adding the rest of the milk to the pan. Add the lime leaves and water and bring to a simmer. Allow the sauce to gently simmer for at least 5-10 minutes so that the flavors of the lime leaves infuse the curry. Finish the sauce with the sugar and fish sauce and taste for seasoning.

Close your eyes when you taste the sauce and see if you can taste the 3 essential flavors of a good Thai Curry: Spicy, Salty & Sweet. If you feel like you need more of anything do not be afraid to play around. Add more curry paste (Spicy), Fish Sauce  (Salty) or Sugar (Sweet – be careful here though – you don’t want it to taste like dessert!). Or – if it is too spicy (no such thing!!) for you then thin it out with a bit more coconut milk and water but you may then need more salty and sweet as well to make up for the extra liquid. Also, keep in mind that once you add the chicken and vegetables to the recipe it won’t taste quite so spicy so you can always adjust the seasoning right at the end.

For the Chicken and Vegetables:

Sauté the chicken in a frying pan until almost cooked through. If you make this recipe with beef or shrimp you can allow them to just cook in the curry sauce. However, for some reason unknown to me, the chicken causes the coconut milk to separate so cook it separately first then add it to the sauce.
While the chicken is cooking begin adding your vegetables to the sauce in the order in which they need to cook. For example, the butternut squash needs at least 10 minutes more cooking time than the other vegetables so add them first. One of the main characteristics of Thai food is FRESH, FRESH – so don’t overcook your vegetables! You want the red pepper and zucchini to still be crunchy and not soggy mush when you serve the curry. Lastly, add the tomatoes – they don’t need much time at all and then add the chicken and just finish it off in the sauce. Immediately before serving add the spinach and basil and stir just to make them wilt.  Check again for seasoning: Spicy, Salty and Sweet. Serve the curry with plenty of basmati rice for sopping up the delicious sauce.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Crazy Strawberry Dessert by Jess

Strawberry Pazzo (Crazy Strawberries) is a great Italian dessert and literally takes 5 minutes. The hardest part is cutting the strawberries  - whew! Your friends won’t know what they’re eating and will be amazed when you tell them. (Strawberries in vinegar????). Serve it after Linguine Frutti di Mare and fall into a blissful food (and wine) coma. Heaven.

2 Pints Strawberries, hulled and halved, quartered if really large
3 Tablespoons Good Quality Balsamic Vinegar
1 ½ Tablespoons Sugar
Vanilla Ice Cream

Put your strawberries in a bowl and pour over the vinegar and sugar. Mix well and allow to sit and macerate in the fridge for at least 10-15 minutes and no more than 30 minutes.  Spoon over Vanilla Ice Cream and serve.

Linguine Frutti di Mare (Seafood Pasta) by Jess

Before we moved to Italy I liked pasta. But being based in Tuscany for 2 years, I came to LOVE pasta. For the Italians pasta is an essential part of their day like water (or wine).  Without any exaggeration, an Italian will not go one day without having had pasta for lunch or dinner. And who can blame them?  It is filling, inexpensive, healthy and completely satisfying – if made correctly.

I have mentioned this in my earlier blog but it can not be said enough. If an Italian saw how the majority of Americans eat pasta (Boil pasta, put on plate and pour sauce - usually out of a jar - on top) they would DIE. That’s like putting ketchup on a doughnut – it’s just WRONG.

The pasta and the sauce (always homemade) have to be “married” together in the pan before you can serve it – it’s like the golden rule of making pasta that, for some reason, never made it’s way to American kitchens – but I am here to save the day!

And as for sauces, there are so many easy ones to make that if you keep reading this blog (whoever you are) I promise you will never have to buy another bottle of Ragu again.

My first pasta recipe (Pasta Pomodoro) was very simple and modest. Linguine al Fruitti di Mare is anything but modest.  It is luxurious – but very easy. It’s the perfect dish if you are having people over for dinner and want to impress them – without breaking the bank and without spending 4 hours in the kitchen. It’s a one-dish dinner that only needs to be accompanied by a mixed greens salad and some nice bread. Followed by Strawberry Pezzo (Crazy Strawberries) – a 5 minute dessert – and your guests will be clawing their way back to your table very soon! (So only invite people you really like – leave your co-workers to suffer Ragu in their own kitchens)

So good luck ! Mamma Mia!

2 ½ -3 lbs mixed seafood, (mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari) – depending on your budget. 2 ½ lbs is enough but you can add more.
Buying fresh calamari in Europe is very easy but you may have to ask your fishmonger to order some or buy it frozen. I am NOT talking about breaded calamari for frying!!!! I am talking about squid (that’s what calamari means in Italian) – they are long white (or purple, if they have not yet been cleaned) tubes that you slice into rings or stuff whole. The tentacles are equally delicious and should be eaten - not thrown away. You have probably eaten them fried so take that disgusted look off your face! If worse comes to worse and you can’t find the calamari (my favorite bit) then just replace it with extra mussels and shrimp.

1/4 Cup Olive Oil
½ Cup (4 oz.) White Wine
1 ½ lb ripe cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
1 lb. linguine
6 garlic cloves, sliced
A pinch of dried chili flakes
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt & Pepper
Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional)

Scrub and de-beard the mussels. (This means pulling off any hairy little bit that is along the flat side of the mussel.) Scrub the clams. If you want to be “European” then leave the shells on the shrimp (heads too, if you want to be “really European).)  This adds flavor to the sauce and keeps the shrimp moist. Plus, it makes less work for you in the kitchen (but a little more work for your guests while eating). Thoroughly clean and thinly slice your calamari into rings.

Put your clams and mussels in a saucepan with the wine. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes until they all open. Discard any shells that have not opened.  Put the mussels and clams aside and pour the liquid in the pan through a fine sieve and reserve.

Cut your tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds. Discard the seeds. If they are really big cherry tomatoes then cut the halves into quarters.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. (Add the salt once the water has boiled as water boils faster without salt in it.)

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large sauté pan and add the garlic and chili flakes. Allow garlic to cook until fragrant and sizzling but not golden, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and simmer 5 minutes. Add the cooking liquid from the mussels and clams. Bring to a boil and then allow to cook until sauce has thickened a bit into a sauce-like consistency.  Don’t let it cook off too much though or you won’t have enough lovely sauce to coat the pasta in.

Add your linguine to the boiling water and cook one minute less than it recommends on the box. Use your timer!!!! Otherwise you will forget and have overcooked pasta!

Add the shrimp and calamari to the sauce and cook 2-3 minutes until they are cooked through. Don’t overcook them – calamari, especially, will become tough and rubbery if you overcook it. Add the mussels, clams and parsley and heat through.

Lastly: the important step – I explained this with my last pasta recipe but will do it again – you need to add the pasta to the sauce – not the other way around! Add the pasta to the saucepan and toss over medium heat, incorporating the pasta and the sauce and allowing the starch of the pasta to soak up the lovely sauce and the TWO  (pasta and sauce) to become ONE (Linguine al Fruitti di Mare!).
While doing this taste the pasta for seasoning. The water from the mussels and clams will have added a natural saltiness but if you think it needs salt and pepper then add some while tossing – pasta is like every other food out there – it can be seasoned! If you want, drizzle lightly with a nice extra-virgin olive oil.
Tip your pasta on to a large serving platter. 

My last tip is this:  Pasta that has fish or seafood in it is NEVER served with parmesan cheese in Italy – it’s a cardinal sin.  Think about it – cheese and fish? Kinda gross. But, I will not be in your dining room, telling you how to live your lives and how to eat your food so do what you want – God will be your judge (HA! Just kidding!). 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Reasons Why I Have not Made the Bistro Burger Yet- by Morgan

1.  I am lazy.
2.  My PMH and toddler will not eat it so being that I am lazy already and that it entails making 2 dinners on a week night when all I want to do is put on yoga pants, put a nipple on the Magnum bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and curl up on the couch, I have put it off.

3.  I like to give you, Jessica, a hard time about not blogging enough and then eat my own words...instead of the burger that I should have made.
4.  Watching the Barefoot Contessa last night was all the culinary-ness I could handle.
5.  Instead of making burgers...I made long distance phone calls.
6.  Because you are in France and if you give me a hard time about not making your recipes in a timely manner via email- I can delete it and pretend that it never happened.

So Once again- I will promise to make the burgers tonight.  I promise- like more so than the time I promised that I would go to dads and Skype you.  More than the time I promised that I was going to take your advice and not drink wine on the weeknights.  Like a real promise.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Blue Cheese Stuffed Bistro Burgers with Balsamic Onions – by Jess

Personally I agree with the French and think that a fried egg makes both a burger and a pizza better (A pizza?????? Did she just say pizza???...........I did.) But my sister was obviously not impressed. However, I do encourage her to try it again – she’s probably a bit more adventurous now than she was when she was 16.

But I won’t pressure her into it just yet and instead I have come up with an idea of how to “bistro her burger” by stuffing it with blue cheese and serving it with sweet caramelized balsamic red onion rings. It’s delicious on its own with a salad on the side but if you need the bun and condiments I recommend a lightly toasted bun, buttered and served with mayonnaise in lieu of ketchup, which overpowers the already delicious flavors here.  I live in Roquefort les Pins, France so naturally my blue cheese of choice is Roquefort (it’s also my favorite) but you can use an American, English or Danish variety if you want.

1 ½ lbs lean ground beef
3 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
½ teaspoon Salt
¼ Cup Minced Parsley
¼ Cup Minced Red Onion
8 shakes of Worcestershire Sauce
10 drops of Tabasco
Several Grinds of the Pepper Mill
4-8 Tablespoons of Roquefort or other Blue Cheese
2 Red Onions – each one cut horizontally into 4 sections of rings
Good Quality Balsamic Vinegar
4 Burger Buns (optional) lightly toasted and buttered
Mayonnaise (optional)

Put the beef, Dijon, salt, parsley, minced onion, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and Pepper in a bowl. With your hands smoosh all the ingredients together until just evenly combined – do not overwork the meat - when it’s mixed, Stop! (I know it’s fun but make mud pies with your kids instead – don’t overwork the meat!).

Divide the mixture in half and then divide each half into 4 equal parts. Make thin patties with the first 4 parts and with your thumb make a little indent on the inside of the patty. Add 1-2 tablespoons of blue cheese to each patty in the area you have just patted down with your thumb. Divide the remaining half of meat into 4 parts and make another 4 patties. Top the blue cheese with the remaining patties. Mold the two patties together in your hand like you are making crab cakes, sealing the edges so the cheese doesn’t completely leak out. (It will leak a little, oozing out of the burger and looking absolutely delicious but you don’t want to loose too much of it.)

Grill your burgers (or use a grill pan inside) for about 4-5 minutes on each side for medium well to well-done burgers or less if you want them more rare.

Meanwhile, lightly oil a sauté pan and, keeping your onion rings whole, caramelize the onions over a medium heat. Don’t cook them too fast – you need the onion to slowly release its natural sugars and become golden and caramelized. When the onions are done on both sides add several swigs of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan. The acid of the vinegar will boil off, leaving a sweet glaze on the onions. Top each burger with 2 whole rings and serve with a mixed greens salad on the side.

Enjoy! Mamma Mia!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Can You Bistro My Burger? by Morgan

When Jessie was in college she took a semester in Paris.  Like always her good grades and determination paid off.  In the mean time I was a pink haired sophomore in Vermont whose bad grades were not paying off.  In an effort to get my head in the books our father promised that if I could make the honor roll he would send me to Paris to see her.  I am easily bribed.  Three months later along with our crazy grandma V and cousin Jamers I was on a plane to France.  The trip was amazing, and the food....unlike anything I had ever had before.  Close to the end of our stay I was actually craving some American cuisine- looking back I am ashamed.  At a cafe on cobblestone streets I ordered a burger and my mouth watered for a familiar taste.  When my burger came out it had a fried egg on top of it.  My home sick stomach churned.
So my wonderful over achieving sister, my challenge for you in the last month of summer is to bistro my burger.  Can you give me a recipe for a burger that is a bit more exciting than ground beef and American cheese?  Can you french it up-without topping it with an egg?
Mamma Mia!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Al Dente- By Morgan

What better excuse for dropping my toddler with the rents for a few hours than to go to the farmers market to get fresh ingredients for Jessie's Pasta Pomodora! 
While strolling through  the out door market I pretended that I too was in France.  France has hippies right? Because the Rutland, VT  Farmers Market sure does!  My nose was filled with the fresh smells of dirt, veggies, patchouli.  I sipped wine at the eager Vermont winery booths- yes that's right we make our own wine.  I purchased 2 bottles of rose, a giant bulb of garlic, fresh tomatoes, goat cheese,and a  a tear producing giant yellow onion.  I ran into a few of my more cultured friends and left feeling good about contributing to the local economy and having a few hours to myself!  I was eager to go home and start my sauce. 
Pretty Much Hubby was working on our roof with his friend- so I enticed them with smells of onion, and garlic wafting through the kitchen window.  I opened a bottle of rose- and skipped Frank Sinatra for a marathon of Top Chef.  I diced and chopped and stirred.  I cried when the onion did what it's pungent smell promised to do.  Monster Pants slept through my whole cooking experience. 
At 5:00pm I called in the troops to try out my new pasta recipe. 
Pretty Much Hubby- squinted, searching for the meat...disappointingly he asked me if he was going to like it.  I promised him that he would and swore that the green bits (basil) were not in fact a vegetable.  Sorry Jessie but I had forgotten to get real Parmesan so Kraft it was...I said I was sorry! 
The pasta was delicious- even Little Man thought so.  PMH did a good job giving it a try although he did say that it needed meat- I promised him that I would add shrimp next time.  PMH's friend- convinced he is allergic to garlic ate half a loaf of Italian bread.  I was the only one who touched the fresh mozzarella with basil and a balsamic reduction.  I told my men that I felt sorry for their taste buds for not giving them the opportunity to try some real...delicious (if I do say so myself) food. 
My first attempt at Frenching (this time Italianing) Forestdale had mixed reviews.  I am not giving up though.  Vermont has too many wonderful home grown goodies to waste them on simple dishes for people with simple palates.  And so I continue to cook for my matter how much they think I am torturing them!  Mamma Mia!

I did have a few questions for chef Jessie though:
1.  Is there any way to make cutting onions less painful?
2.  Where can I get a cute apron?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Damn Good Banana Bread – A Pregnant Lady’s Answer to Her “5 a Day” - by Jess

According to my midwife and the collection of pregnancy books I have been given I should be consuming 2 peaches, ½ lb of cherries, a handful of blue, straw and raspberries, 2 bananas, half a cantaloupe, 3 kiwis, 1 very expensive mango and an entire watermelon …..PER DAY in order to fill my unborn child with all her necessary vitamins. And that’s just the fruit. Don’t even get me started on the vegetables.

I have tried my best. The man at the vegetable market smiles big when he sees me waddle in, knowing that with each child I have he is one step closer to retirement. But as good as my intentions are, inevitably every day or so I have to throw away some fuzzy raspberries or expensive mangoes leaking brown juice, grapes that smell of alcohol or something that resembles a wrinkly tennis ball that I am pretty sure was once a peach.  You see, when I am lying on the couch in the late evening with my feet elevated to the Gods (so that my toes no longer resemble little pork sausages) I am hit with cravings – for chocolate……or olives……or chocolate covered olives. But never for apples and pears.

But there is one rotting fruit that I can put to good use. Bananas. When baked with copious amounts of sugar and oil a rotten banana tastes sublime. So tonight, when I am lying like a Greek goddess on my couch, propped and pouffed with pillows and fans I can yell to my husband to bring me fruit… the form of carbohydrates. And while lying there with crumbs nestled between my now enormous bosom I can drift off into sleep knowing I have just provided soon to be Little Lady with some essential vitamins.

Damn Good Banana Bread:

There are a ton of recipes out there that “jazz up” banana bread with luxurious ingredients like dried fruit and nuts, coconut and even chocolate. But in my opinion Banana Bread should taste like one thing – bananas. As my Dad would say “Keep it simple, Stupid.”

When you serve things like Banana Bread or Carrot Cake (a vegetable cake?!!) to Europeans they raise one eyebrow as if to say “Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?” But after one bite they have to admit that us Americans can be quite ingenious. My Russian boss loved this banana bread so much she could eat half a loaf in one sitting. (Of course we led her to believe that because it’s primary ingredient was the banana it was therefore low in fat – HA! )

This recipe is so easy it can be in the oven in ten minutes.

½ Cup (120 ml) Vegetable Oil
1 Cup (215 grams) Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1 Teaspoon (5 ml) Vanilla Extract
3 Large Overripe Bananas – the blacker the better
1 ¼ Cups (175 grams) Flour (always spoon the flour into your measuring cup instead of scooping it)
1 Teaspoon (6 grams) Baking Soda

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit or 180 Celsius. In a large bowl combine the vegetable oil and sugar with a whisk. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl mash the bananas with a potato masher or the back of a fork. In another separate bowl whisk the flour with the baking soda. Gradually add the bananas and the flour mixture to the sugar/oil mixture until well combined. Spray a loaf pan with baking spray and pour in batter. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out moist but not gooey. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan.

Enjoy! Mamma Mia!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rebuttal- by Morgan

Well, Dear sister who thinks she knows all.  I was aware that I may need a pasta maker as my arms- though bigger than yours (my boobs are too) are not Nonnies.  I do have plenty that I can spend $70 on- although asking my cleaning lady to clean out the fridge is too embarrassing and will also rob me of nagging material for those cranky week nights when picking a fight is inevitable.  What my dear sister has lost sight of is my popularity.  I happen to have a few friends that have more to share with me than cute shoes.  Not long after I posted that I wanted to make fresh pasta a friend of mine told me that she had everything I would need and that she too could use a day of red wine, Frank Sinatra and fresh THERE!

Moving right along...I am going to make the pasta pomodora tonight for Monster Pants and Pretty Much Hubby.  The farm stand that I pass on my way home has beautiful tomatoes and I am so excited to fill my kitchen with yummy smells.  My biggest obstacle will be convincing PMH that he will not die in his sleep for having been forced to eat a meal that is free of any form of dead animal.  My bet- he makes himself a tuna sandwich...after all the dishes are done.  My kitchen will go from smelling like an authentic Italian restaurant to smelling like the fridge.  Mamma Mia! 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pasta Pomodoro & Fresh Pasta Recipe - by Jess

What my lovely, ambitious sister has not considered is that in order to make pasta, (unless you have Madonna’s biceps and Gandhi’s patience) one needs to own a pasta maker. Morgan does not own a pasta maker.
Finding a pasta maker in southern Vermont may be as easy as buying skis in Florida but the first place I would look is Linens ‘n Things.  Otherwise, she can order one for $70 at

I can think of a million things my sister could do with an extra $70 (Fixing her oven, maybe? Or hiring her cleaning lady for an extra couple hours to clean out her fridge?). But, my sister has never been known to spend money wisely. So, here you go Morgan – a recipe for handmade pasta. And, just in case this new venture never takes off, a recipe for Pasta Pomodoro – a fresh tomato sauce that is TO DIE FOR. It makes jarred sauce taste like baby food, it is a great way to make use of ripe summer tomatoes and it tastes just as fabulous with a box of Barilla linguine as it does with fresh pasta (which, let’s face it, is probably never going to happen!).

Pasta Pomodoro:

A few summers ago we had an Italian pharmaceutical tycoon charter the yacht for 2 months. He ate this dish every other day. That may be a bit drastic but once you’ve tried it you will understand – it’s simply satisfying. And, unlike chartering a 150-foot yacht for 2 months, it is very inexpensive to make.

Unless you live in South America this dish should NEVER be made in the winter! There is a reason why tomatoes in the supermarket in December are not red – tomatoes don’t grow in the winter!!!! However, some of them find themselves on 10 hour flights destined for American supermarkets because apparently we can’t live without tomatoes in February. But please, leave them for your salads and don’t put them in this dish.

1/3 Cup Olive Oil (does not need to be Extra Virgin, save that for later)
1 Large Yellow Onion, finely diced
1-2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 ½ - 3 lbs Ripe Plum Tomatoes (they have less seeds) or  Grape Tomatoes, diced
A large handful of basil leaves
Some Extra Virgin Olive Oil, optional
1 lb. Barilla (the best, but it’s up to you) Linguine
Parmesan cheese for serving (please don’t use Kraft, use real cheese!)

In a large sauté pan heat your olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onion and gently sauté the onions for a few minutes until soft but don’t let them brown. Add the garlic.

When the garlic is fragrant wait a few more seconds (don’t let it burn) and add the tomatoes. At this point add a generous amount of salt. The amount depends on your tomatoes but the salt is crucial. (If you have tomatoes left over, cut two slices and try one without salt and one with a nice sprinkling of salt – the difference is huge! Tomatoes taste better with salt on them!) Don’t go overboard though, you can always add more salt later but you can never get rid of it.

Allow the tomatoes to come to a nice gentle simmer and simmer the sauce uncovered for about 15 minutes until they have released their juices, the flavors have blended and the sauce starts to thicken a bit. Stir it from time to time and make sure the heat is not so high that the sauce sticks to the bottom of the pan or becomes too thick. Try the sauce and test for salt – it should taste like tomato deliciousness and in no way resemble jarred sauce – remember this is FRESH tomato sauce!

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Always make sure you have plenty of water otherwise the starch of the pasta will be too much for the water and cause the pasta to stick and clump.

The key to perfectly cooked pasta is this:
1)      1) Have a kitchen timer – sooooooo important – otherwise you are likely to completely forget when you put the pasta in and will over or under cook it.
2)      2) Use it! Barilla pasta cooks PERFECTLY al dente if you cook it for exactly one minute less than it says on the box.
Generously salt your water and then add your pasta and cook it as I have said above. Drain immediately when your timer goes off.

Chop or tear your basil into pieces and add it to the sauce, stirring to incorporate.

The next VERY IMPORTANT STEP is this:

You must incorporate your pasta into your sauce. I lived in Italy for 2 years. If Italians saw how many Americans make pasta (put pasta on a plate and pour sauce on top) they would just about die! Instead, you add the pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan and with the heat on low-medium introduce the two to eachother. Toss the pasta with the sauce, for at least 1-2 minutes, tossing constantly, allowing the pasta and all it’s starch to soak up the sauce and allowing the sauce to nicely dress the pasta. If you want drizzle a little good quality extra virgin olive oil on it while tossing.
Finally, you can tip it onto a nice pasta plate and serve parmesan on the side. Voila! Mamma Mia!

Homemade Pasta
When we were growing up our Nonnie used to make her own pasta - without a pasta machine! Her upper arms were about the size of my thigh (Sorry Nonnie, but let’s face it, you weren’t a size 2!). She would roll the pasta by hand until it was as thin as paper and then cut it into perfectly thin linguine. Then she would dry it on hangers in her basement, wrap it in tissue paper and send it to us in Vermont in Lord and Taylor’s shirt boxes. The woman loved to cook and, apparently, had a bit of time on her hands. Let’s see if Morgan does too. If so, it is well worth it.

1 lb all purpose flour (this works out to be about 3 ½ cups – but spoon the flour in to your measuring cup instead of scooping it otherwise you can pack the cup too full and end up with too much flour)
5 large eggs

Place the flour on a cutting board or clean counter and make a well shape in the middle. Add the eggs to the well. Gently scramble the eggs with a fork, gradually incorporating the flour as you go until you have a ball of dough that can be kneaded. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes then wrap in plastic and let it sit for a half hour to relax a bit.
Cut dough into 5 pieces. Pat one piece into a disc that is thin enough to feed through the largest setting on the pasta maker. Cover the remaining pieces with a clean damp cloth while you work on your first piece.
Roll the dough through the largest setting on the pasta maker. Fold it into thirds and then roll it through that setting another 4 times. Change the setting on the pasta maker to the next size. Roll the pasta through, fold into thirds and roll through again another 4 times. Change setting to the next size down and roll the pasta through once. Continue to do so until you get to the second smallest setting on the machine. When the dough is being run through the rollers catch it but do not pull on it. Once you have your pasta to desired thickness you can cut it into ravioli sheets, lasagna, pappardelle or tagliatelle or you can add the linguine cutting attachment to the machine and run the dough through the cutters.
Repeat with the remaining dough. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Success- by Morgan

What you don't want to hear from dinner guests- Why don't you make anything normal?  You see, here in Forestdale normal food does not have crumbled blue cheese- or flavor. 
Actually, despite the wise crack Mr and Mrs. Mustache really enjoyed my chicken- freaking great salad and wild rice.  Mr. had never had wild rice before- yes folks there are people out there who have only had white rice..shocking I know.  The even more shocking thing was that a) he tried it and b) he liked it so much that he requested that Mrs. buy it for him...mission accomplished- I am single handed-ly inserting culture into the residents of Southern Vermont- one dish at a time.

As for the Bloody Mary pie- I have not had a chance to make it oven died.  I am planning however to invade the home of a friend with a functioning oven with the promise of bringing with me the ingredients for the dish.  Have any of you tried it?  Let me know.

Jessie- I was also thinking that I would love to try and make my own pasta- as in from scratch.  I'm thinking that an afternoon of pasta making, red wine and Frank Sinatra will fill the creativity void that I have been feeling.  Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Impromptu Guests- By Morgan

Being that it is Wednesday, and I just remembered that I have company coming to dinner tomorrow I am forced to plan an impromptu dinner party.  The good news is that my dinner guests are very close family friends- so no rack of lamb required.  The bad news is that Mr. Mustache is as picky an eater as my Pretty Much Husband...hmmm.

I've got it.  I will do Grilled lemon chicken- simple and always delicious.  I also created a new salad that I am officially addicted to and will call "Freaking Great Salad".  I'm thinking that some wild rice will not only accompany the chicken and FG Salad but it will be easy, quick and picky-proof. 

Grilled Lemon Chicken

Marinate skin on chicken pieces in the following concoction:

olive oil- 1/4 cup
dash or ten of salt and pepper
juice of a large lemon
1 squirt of Dijon mustard
2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
1/4 of a red pepper- finely chopped

I am most likely going to marinate the chicken for twenty minutes- which is the minimum amount of time needed...that's how I roll.  Also I should go to the grocery store today to get the ingredients...but I will feel tired by the time I leave my office and I will put it off until last minute.  Therefor- although I would ideally like to marinate the chicken for an hour- unless I want to serve Mr and Mrs. Mustache dinner at 9pm, 20 minutes will have to do. 
Once your chicken has hopefully marinated longer than mine- grill it about 7-8 minutes a side on a high temp grill. 

While your marinating your chicken go ahead and start the Freaking Great Salad.  You will need:

Organic Spring Mix- the one I get is full of clovers and sprouts and non lettuce looking greens. Its super!
1 ripe Avocado
As much thinly sliced red onion as your heart burn can handle
thinly sliced apple- your favorite kind
a handful of raisins
half of a skinned and sliced cucumber
a handful of crumbled blue cheese

For the dressing I do equal parts Maple Syrup (VT made of course) and equal parts balsamic vinegar.
Delicioso!  I'm going to be gulping sipping ice cold Sauvignon Blanc- I love the inexpensive Barefoot.  It is crisp, and grape fruity without being sweet.  Its a perfect Thursday wine.
 For my center piece ( I have no trim on my dining room walls, but I will have a center piece) I will fill a white porcelain bowl with lemons to go with my lemon theme.... which will make me crave Lemoncello..Better get some of that too! 
I will be sure to let you know how my Impromptu Dinner Party goes- also I will be trying out Jessie's Bloody Mary beef Pie on Sunday...can't wait!

Bloody Mary Beef Pie - by Jess

Bloody Mary Beef Pie:

You can double the recipe, make it on Sunday for dinner and then have it again later in the week. It’s just as good reheated as leftovers. If you have little ones adjust the spiciness accordingly. You need some red wine for the recipe so might as well make it your drink of choice for the evening (you only have to share half a cup with the recipe.) No one should EVER use what they call “cooking wine” in the vinegar section of the supermarket! If you can’t splurge on a cheap bottle of Australian wine you shouldn’t be making the dish!


A couple swigs of olive oil

1 red onion, finely diced

2 celery sticks, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 - 1 ¼ lb ground beef

2 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce

2 tsp Tabasco (maybe less if you have little kids)

½ cup RED WINE

1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes

Pinch of Celery Salt (if you have this hanging around the house from the last time you had Bloody Marys – if not then just omit it or buy some for the next day you have Bloody Marys.)

2 lbs potatoes

6 TBSP butter

1 lb Cheddar Cheese or Monterey Jack, grated

½ cup or more of milk

Heat the oil in a a large stock pot and add the onion and celery. Gently sauté them for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and let it sauté for about 30 seconds, until you can smell it. Add the beef and cook for about 4-5 minutes until it has browned all over. Add the Worcestershire, Tabasco, wine, tomatoes and celery salt, salt & pepper. Simmer for about 45 minutes over low heat until the sauce has thickened and flavors have blended into a rich sauce.


Skin, chop and boil the potatoes in salted water until they are soft enough to crush. Mash potaotoes, adding butter, milk and cheese. If you want them really light and fluffy mix them with beaters. Season with salt and pepper.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

When the ground beef is nice and thick and full of flavor, pour it into a pyrex dish. Spread the potatoes over the top and pat with just a little bit more butter here and there so that they turn nice and golden in the oven. Put on a baking tray just to catch any drips and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.

Meet the Mamma Mia's

Once upon a time, there were two sisters. Although they have always looked very much alike their lives have always differed drastically. The elder sister, Jessie, grew up to be a chef. She traveled the world on luxury yachts with her British yacht captain husband, catering to celebrities and international business tycoons before settling in France and retiring at the ripe old age of 33. She is pregnant with her first child - the soon to be Little Lady. Morgan, the younger sister, grew up to be a dreamer. She lives in Forestdale, VT. (Never heard of it? She hadn't either). She works as an assistant but dreams of being a writer - one that sells a best seller and then joins her sister in early retirement. Until that lucky day comes, her evenings are spent cleaning for and catering to her Pretty Much Husband and their two and a half year old son, Monster Pants. One thing that the sisters have always had in common is the love of food and the way it always brings their family together. Join them as they serve up dishes that can be enjoyed from the South of France to the Sticks of Forestdale. Hear their tales of motherhood, the joys and the stresses. Pour yourself a glass of wine, get out your mixing bowls and do as their Nonnie used to say - Mangia!