Sunday, October 28, 2007

Chickpea Salsa

While looking through my recipe files, I ran across a dip I used to make all the time, Chickpea Salsa. My favorite part about this dip, other than how tasty it is of course; is that most of the ingredients are not the quickly perishable type, so at any given moment I am likely to have them in my pantry. Yesterday afternoon presented the perfect opportunity when one of my friends dropped over for a glass of wine. I made the dip, which took very little time, then we ate it all (yes all of it!) with some warm pita bread while we drank a nice bottle of petit shiraz. I guess you can call it a very nice late afternoon snack! This is a great dip to make ahead, the flavors tend to come together once it sits for a while. Best served at room temperature, both with pita or a nice sliced baguette.

Chickpea Salsa

2 1/2 cup canned chickpeas (also known as Garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 clove garlic
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/2 of a fresh jalapeno, finely chopped
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and roughly chopped (I used Kalamata olives)
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

1. GARLIC PASTE: Chop together 1/2 teaspoon salt, garlic clove, and 1/2 teaspoon olive oil to form a paste. Add chili pepper flakes or jalapeno and chop to combine. Transfer to a small bowl and add remaining olive oil. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine chickpeas, olives, and parsley. Add the garlic paste and mix well. Add cumin and lemon juice, stir to combine, then taste for salt and pepper. Best served at room temperature, this is a great dish to make ahead. Will keep, covered in the refrigerator for 2 days. (If you are preparing it ahead of time, add the parsley just before serving).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Buttermilk Pancakes

About eight years ago my best friend moved away, we were both heart-broken. She lived here in Louisiana a few years while her husband was in graduate school and we probably spent more time together than apart! We still talk every day--at least twice a day, she's one of a kind. Having a great deal in common, we of course share our excitement for food. This is her pancake recipe and truly, they are the best pancakes I have ever had. Her favorite breakfast place in Houston gave her the recipe and if for no other reason...I'm glad she lived there long enough to get it!

Notes: These pancakes freeze well, lay waxed or parchment paper between them, let them cool, put in a plastic bag and freeze. They come in really handy during the weekdays when time runs short for breakfast and I still have to feed a very hungry Jack! (my five year old). Jack likes them with Orange blossom honey and I like them with a really good Maple syrup. You can also make them into Blueberry pancakes by adding 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries to the batter.

Sharman's Buttermilk Pancakes

1 qt. buttermilk (4 cups)
4 oz. butter, melted (1 stick)
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose-flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten

1. In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients, mixing just enough to incorporate together. Batter should be a little lumpy.

2. Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Either spray with non-stick spray or melt a little butter in the pan or griddle. Ladle about 6-8 oz. batter per pancake and cook until lightly browned on both sides.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Orecchiette with Shrimp, fresh-water Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Olives, and Basil

During the week for a variety of reasons, which you don't really want to know, (I would not want to bore you) I am sometimes short on time and 6 o'clock is here before I can blink twice and click my ruby red shoes home. This is a great dish to put together in a flash- the best part wont taste like you put it together in a flash! One very important note though, it will only be as good as what you put in it; the wine, the cheese, the olives, the pasta, and most of all-- the tomatoes. I live in the south, so for me good fresh home-grown tomatoes are available almost year round...after all, I should get some perk for living in 100% humidity! In the event good tomatoes are scarce, a 14 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes (whole, then roughly chopped) will work well.

Notes: I have never found Cerignola Olives which are already pitted, but because they are so large I just slice the meat off the pit with a paring knife. (Cerignolas are my favorite olive, but any good quality black or green olive will work). I try to always use fresh pasta for this dish, fresh Orecchiette it is available at Whole Foods. If Orecchiette is not available at your market, I would substitute with another shape of fresh pasta. Boil the pasta until al dente or a little before, this should take about three minutes over a rolling boil. Finish cooking the pasta in the the pan with the sauce, this will allow it to soak up all the flavors in the dish. There will not be much sauce left when the dish is finished, it should have almost all been soaked up by the Orecchiette. Adding the cheese in stages allows for some of the cheese to melt and some of it to remain whole.

Orecchiette with Shrimp, Fresh-water Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Olives and Basil

1 lb. fresh shrimp
1 1lb. package fresh Orecchiette pasta (the type I get is actually 500 grams, 17 oz.)
1 pint fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup fresh basil, plus additional basil for garnish
1/4 cup black Cerignola olives, pitted
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup salted capers
1/4 cup white wine
1 pt. fresh-water mozzarella, roughly chopped
salt to taste

1. In a large stock pot bring water for pasta to a rolling boil. Add fresh pasta and cook for about 3 minutes or until barely al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large pan heat olive oil over medium heat, add shrimp, season with salt and pepper. Cook shrimp until opaque in color. With a slotted spoon, remove shrimp from pot and set aside.

3. In the same pot with the olive oil, add garlic, black pepper, red pepper flakes, capers, olives and tomatoes. Saute over medium heat until garlic is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add 1/3 cup white wine and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

4. Add pasta, and basil and cook for 3 minutes longer. Turn off the heat, add half the mozzarella and shrimp. Cover the pot and allow the dish to sit for about 10-15 minutes, this will allow the pasta to soak up most of the sauce and the mozzarella will melt. Add reserved mozzarella, garnish with reserved basil, taste for salt and pepper and serve.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Here is a little confession...I love bread! That whole no carb diet thing is something I could never ever do. I don't even pretend to understand how or why people do it, it's just not in my nature. Surely there is something else that could be given up for the sake of staying trim. Liver would be a perfect example, no one would miss it.

For me my carb intake is usually very well fulfilled by a great loaf of French bread and a nice slab of cold butter laced with Sal de Mer. Then there is the whole bread and cheese combination-- which I could go on and on about as well, but for today I'll spare you. So, this is my bite size answer to a little bread and cheese...carbs in moderation!

Notes: You can use any combination of cheese you like, the traditional is Gruyere (Swiss), I also like to make them with goat cheese Gouda. Check your oven for temperature, if the oven is too hot they will not puff properly and all the butter will leak out,(this I unfortunately know from experience). Also, this is not a good recipe to double, I can't tell you why, but the time I tried it in an effort to save time when baking them for a catering, it did not work. They are easy to make, the only special equipment is a pastry bag and large piping tip. In the event you don't have a pastry bag, use a plastic baggie, snip off one corner and voila. They freeze well, although mine have only made it that far once. OK, one last thing, I use Silpat silicone baking liners or parchment paper, makes clean up easy and best of all- nothing ever sticks! I hope you enjoy the Gougeres as much as I.


1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 lb. unsalted butter (8 tablespoons) cut in small pieces
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
4 eggs
3/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F

1. In a medium pot over medium heat bring water, milk, butter salt and Cayenne pepper to a simmer.

2. Add flour all at once and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Continue to cook until dough has pulled away from the sides of the pot. Cook for 2 minutes then cool for 5 minutes.

3. In a large mixer with the paddle attachment on low speed or by hand add the eggs in one at a time; waiting until each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next. Add cheese and stir well.

4. Place dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe 1 1/2" wide rosettes onto greased cookie sheet (or lined with parchment paper or Silpat silicone sheet). Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Gouegeres are best served warm. Makes about 2 dz.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bliss in a jar

Back in my gourmet food shop and gift basket company days I used to sell Prairie Thyme's Roasted Tomato Chutney. When I phased the fancy foods out- I needed more space for the things that actually made real money- like tables, I never stopped ordering it. My shop was the only one in town that carried it and surely I could not live without it. I use it in many different ways, over a log of goat cheese, mixed into home-made mayonnaise, it makes a great spread for sandwiches. I glaze chicken with it,top fish with it, dip french fries into it, and also I have to it straight out of the jar with a spoon! Needless to say, I love the chutney, it is blissfully good. So, I felt compelled to share, I hope you can find it where you live, you will not be disappointed! The company's website is

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lime Caper Vinaigrette

While trying to decide what to post next, my friend Laura actually requested a vinaigrette recipe to complement the crab cakes. So I decided to give her a simple recipe that doesn't call for too many special ingredients she may not readily have. Which makes me wonder what she actually does have in her a law student who is learning to cook I doubt it's too diverse, but this should fit the bill.

A few notes-- use fresh lime juice, bottled lime juice is always a no no(there is only one exception for me and that's a whole other subject). I use French Sal de mer which can be purchased at Williams Sonoma, It's moister and tastes much much better than either regular table salt or Kosher salt. The chili powder blend I use comes from Dean and Deluca, I purchase it two tins at a time since I have to go through the trouble of ordering it by post. Capers- I could write a whole post just on those, but I will refrain and tell you 2 important things, the smaller the better and those preserved in salt are better than capers in brine. OK...that's it I think, now here's the recipe:

Lime and Caper Vinaigrette

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
2 teaspoons capers
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon chili powder blend
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar

Makes 1 cup

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, parsley, 1 Tablespoon water and Tabasco. Stir in capers, red pepper flakes salt, pepper, chili powder blend and sugar. The vinaigrette will keep covered in the refrigerator for 2 days.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

On a fairly regular basis people call the restaurant to get this recipe...I have never given it out. (after all, it is my livelihood) But today, I am feeling rather generous, so here it is. These are pretty tasty little gems, the perfect amount of dessert, a good ratio of icing to cake, and most of all, not too coingly sweet. While I am a big fan of sweets, (that being quite an understatement) it is my opinion they should be well balanced, not too sweet, not dry, not too moist, and not too rich. (I like to be able to finish my dessert)

A small side note: As I proof the previous paragraph, I am becoming keenly aware of how many 'food rules' I actually have. (hmm...self-discovery) This is something I have long denied and as a result have had many discussions about. So...all right, I admit it- I have a plethora of food rules. The difference now is- I am proud of it!

OK, so back to the cupcakes. When making the icing make sure the cream cheese and butter are soft and at room temperature, if you don't have time to wait, place them in the microwave for 10 seconds intervals until they soften. Whip the icing until you can whip no more,(about 8 minutes or longer) the fluffier, the better. You can substitute Cointreau or Triple Sec for the Grand Marnier. It Should not make a big difference, Grand Marnier just happens to be what I usually have.

Carrot Cupcakes

2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 lb grated carrots
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cream cheese Icing:

1 lb. cream cheese, softened
1/2 lb. butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat sugar, oil, and eggs until light yellow. Add the vanilla and Grand Marnier.
3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.

4. Combine all ingredients in mixer bowl. Add carrots, raisins, and pecans and mix well.

5. Scoop the batter into the muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for about 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack.
NOTE: Makes about 2dz. I usually make the full recipe and freeze half, if you decide to freeze as I do, make sure the cupcakes are completely cool then place in a plastic bag to freeze. The icing makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes, if you would like frost all 24 at once just double the icing recipe.
Icing: In mixer bowl with the paddle attachment beat cream cheese and butter until very fluffy. Add vanilla and Grand Marnier and beat until incorporated then add sugar. Pipe or spread icing generously on cooled cupcakes.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Crab Cakes

Since crab meat is my favorite food I thought it deserved the first post. I must also clarify...not just any crab meat will do, only fresh blue crab and then only jumbo lump- absolutely heavenly in the crab cake recipe which follows. This recipe serves as a great starter for dinner although for me, a crab cake on its own over some spring greens tossed in a vinaigrette is dinner.

A few notes, when picking the crab meat for shells, just barely squeeze it, if there's a shell gently take it out. Try not to separate the lumps too much, otherwise you will end up with what looks like claw meat...and we wouldn't want that! These are great served warm or at room temperature, topping them with simple Hollandaise sauce finishes them off delightfully. In the event you have leftovers save them for the next morning, warm in the oven, top with a poached egg and Hollandaise for a spin on Eggs Benedict which is almost too sinful to eat!

Crab Cake Recipe

1 lb. fresh jumbo lump crab meat, picked for shells
3/4 cup Hellmans or Duke's mayonnaise
1/4 cup diced red and yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley
1 cup Panko bread Crumbs (Japanese style bread crumbs)
1 teaspoon worcesterchire sauce
1 teaspoon Tony's Creole seasoning

1. In a medium bowl, combine crabmeat, bell pepper, parsley, mayonnaise, worcestershire sauce and Creole seasoning tossing gently.

2. Add bread crumbs and gently toss until just combined. Mold Crab cakes in large ramekin and set aside.

3. Spray cooking spray (Pam) on griddle or nonstick skillet. unmold crab cake directly into skillet and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes on each side. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

In the meantime...

I know it's hard to tell, but I have been working on the blog. I have a couple of posts ready to go, but my sweet friend-- the photographer has been feeling sort of we wait. On the bright side though, she solved my header problem and now I have a nice new photo. I can't wait 'til later this week and we take some photos of some new recipes...I have a lot of cooking to do! Until then, this is her blog:

October 14, 2007
All right, I am finally on my way. Yesterday Jayme (the photographer) and Ruby (her angelic baby girl) came over to the restaurant and shot some great photos. The first is the crab cake recipe, which I posted last night. Once it was up though...I really didn't like how everything looked, something was off. So, the header photo came down and the crab cake remained, all of it together was a little busy for my taste. Back to work on the header, which to be honest I sort of suspected, but because I liked it so much I had to give it a try. step forward--two steps back! But, at least I'm having lots of fun, which after all is the reason for all this!

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