Sexy little dish…

I recently started following a page on Facebook called Cheese Sex Death. It’s basically cheese porn. All manner of cheeses: soft, hard, smelly, earthy are introduced and pairings suggested. It’s pretty brilliant actually, and makes me want to become a certified fromagier and play with cheese all day. (Adding that to the bucket list.) In any event, on CSD, I came across an interesting recipe for a goat cheese dill pasta with acorn squash. These are all things that I enjoy, particularly in the fall, so I picked up a few items & planned to give the recipe a spin when I got home. 

“The best laid plans of mice & men often go awry.” – Robert Burns 

These were not particularly well-laid plans, as I was missing a few of the things I needed for the dish. I did, however, have some butter, wine, and black garlic & was able to whip up a different but equally sexy dish. 

Sexy Little Dish 

(Orecchiette with a Black Garlic Brown Butter White Wine sauce and Roasted Acorn Squash)

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz orecchetiette pasta 
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4-6 cloves Black Garlic
  • Dry white wine (I used the end of a Sauv Blanc from my fridge.)
  • 4 oz goat cheese (cut into small pieces & softened)
  • 1 acorn squash, peeled & diced 
  • EVOO
  • dill
  • Kosher salt

Instructions: 

Roast the squash: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. 
  2. Peel the acorn squash. Cut it in half & remove the seeds. Cut into evenly- sized cubes. 
  3. Drizzle with EVOO and toss to coat. Sprinkle with a little dill and Kosher salt. 
  4. Roast for about 30 mins until softened & browned. 

While you are making the sauce, cook the pasta according to package directions. I like  orecchetiette for this recipe; the tiny ear-shaped shells are a great vehicle for the creamy sauce. 

Make the sauce:

  1. In a sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. 
  2. When butter has melted, add the black garlic. Mash the garlic as it cooks & cook the butter and garlic slowly until it is browned & fragrant, 5-10 mins ​
  3. Pour in the wine (enough to cover the bottom of the pan) and cook on medium high until reduced, 5-10 mins. ​
  4. Whisk in the goat cheese over medium-low heat. Keep whisking until all the goat cheese is worked in and smooth. ​
  5. Combine pasta & sauce & toss with the squash. 
  6. Enjoy a hearty, earthy sexy little dish! 🙂

Be a wine pro (or how to fake it)

Let me start this off with a little good news/bad news. The bad news is, no how-to article will teach you how to be a wine pro. The good news is, the only way to talk about wine & sound like you have a clue is to: 

1. DRINK MORE WINE. 

It is 100% true that whenever I taste a new wine I learn something. It can be anything from a new combination of flavors that I love, to ‘Oh wow, this wine compliments what I’m eating so well.’, to ‘OMG, I definitely never want to drink this again.’ 

You can read books about wine, and flavor profiles of different wines. A simple Pinterest search will bring you an info graphic that tells you that the flavor profile of a particular Cabernet has red currant notes with some tobacco on the back, along with a leathery mouthfeel. I’m here to tell you that the light will not go on until one day you experience that leathery mouthfeel. The bottom line: it doesn’t take a lot of work. Just drink. 

2. Listen to the guy at the store.

This tip will usually work if you’re buying your wine at a reputable place. In general, most serious wine drinkers will love to tell you about their favorites, recent finds, and what they would drink with certain meals. If you have a general idea of what you’re looking for (i.e. a wine to go with some steaks I’m grilling, a good wine to take on a picnic) they will generally steer you in the right direction. Example: one summer I walked into my local spot looking for a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (if you’re looking for a refreshing summer wine, this is a great choice). My spot had 6 of them; so I asked the guy which one he would recommend. Without hesitation, he recommended Kim Crawford. I told him if it was terrible, I would be back to give him a piece of my mind. He laughed & told me I wouldn’t be. He was right. It was excellent & Kim still holds a spot in my summer wine rotation. 

3. Experiment 

Try different wines with different foods. It’s fun, and every once in awhile you will have a ‘there’s a party in my mouth’ moment. And it will be glorious. Many wineries and higher-end shops will offer hands-on events where they pair their wines with different foods. I once hosted one with aphrodisiacs that was outside the box, but a fun way to spend an evening.

4. Don’t follow the rules.

Are there “rules” for wine? Sure. But much like ‘don’t wear white pants after Labor Day’ you don’t have to follow them. Drink what you like. If you only like sweet white wine, then drink it with your steak if that’s what makes you happy. If you want to put a couple of ice cubes in your Chardonnay, ignore the side-eye and do it. Don’t like room temperature red wine? Chill that puppy in the fridge for a bit. 

For more wine, food, and snark follow my Pinterest feed! 

Bomb-Ass Kale

The last year has been a roller-coaster for me; I spent a year managing a chain restaurant. Long shifts and late nights aren’t really condusive to blogging & playing in the kitchen, so things I love doing fell by the wayside for awhile. 

Recently, I found myself in a new gig. It’s an unconventional gig, but many things I do tend to be a bit unconventional. I’m running kitchens for a convent & nursing home for nuns. No, seriously. It comes with a whole new set of challenges, but has some cool perks as well, one of which is a fantastic veggie & herb garden tended by the nuns. Recently, I’ve found myself with a lot of cabbage, kohlrabi, and KALE on my hands. 

A lot of kale. Like a laundry-basket sized amount to begin with. The heck do you do with that much kale? I have, in the past, expressed my disdain for the popularity of kale. I still don’t think it’s the be-all, end all of the vegetable world, and kale chips are still gross, but I found a way to make kale edible & delicious even to those who are non-green-eaters. 

I set to work cleaning & washing all that kale. The best way to prep kale for this application is to cut out & discard the vein/stem portion in the middle; leaving you with 2 long leaves. I tried this recipe with pre-cut, shredded kale, and ended up discarding far too many stems. 

Cut the kale into a chiffonade; stack several leaves on top of eachother, roll them up, then slice along the length of the roll. You’ll end up with long strands of kale you can roll on a fork spaghetti-style. Maybe I’ll do a little video on that down the road if anyone is into it. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds kale, stems removed, shredded into chiffonade
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 C water
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the shallots and cook until soft, but not colored.
  3. Raise heat to high, add the water and kale and toss to combine.
  4. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add a few shakes of vinegar for seasoning.

I had no plans to blog this recipe. Honestly, I thought my blog might be dead. But being in the kitchen & playing & talking about it online woke it all up again. I was tickled when my friend Jen (photo creds on the featured pic) made this recipe all the way in FL & Facebooked about it I knew it had to be a blog post. So I guess I’m back?

Have you tried shawarma?

I’m a cooking-show junkie, and one of my favorites is Beat Bobby Flay. Recently, I watched an episode where Bobby competed against Gail Arnold, one of his early mentors who is also Steven Spielberg’s personal chef! This particular episode was particularly epic, since the celebrity judges were none other than Neil Patrick Harris (NPH!) and Ina Garten!

But back to the shawarma, I had never heard of shawarma before but my impression of it based upon things I am familiar with is that it’s a Middle Eastern/Israeli dish that’s similar to a gyro or doner kebab. Chef Arnold was doing a marinade/spice mixture using yogurt which really got my attention. I took a few notes, which I will often do while I watch shows like this, and set off to scour Pinterest for recipe ideas. I ended up finding several & putting my own spin based on what I had seen Chef Arnold do and what my flavor preferences are. 

I guess you could say we were “eating like the Spielbergs” the night we had this. Or like Iron Man, since my son informed me that he had heard of shawarma because it was mentioned by Tony Stark in the new Captain America movie. Either way, I marinated a ton of chicken & we were eating shawarma for days. I may have even eaten shawarma with a fried egg in it for breakfast one day… #putaneggonit

Stark’s Shawarma

Ingredients:

  • 12 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 C plain Greek yogurt 
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground clove
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Kosher salt & black pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • dried chili flakes (optional)

For wraps:

  • diced cucumbers
  • diced tomatoes
  • sliced red onion
  • hummus
  • pita bread 

Instructions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine yogurt, spices, and lemon juice. Mix well.
  2. Put the chicken thighs into 2 1-gallon plastic bags, 6 in each. 
  3. Put 1C of marinade into each bag. Seal bag & shake it around, making sure to massage the marinade into all the chicken. 
  4. Marinate 1-4 hours in the refrigerator, or ideally, overnight. 
  5. Preheat oven to 425F. 
  6. Spread chicken thighs in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Season with Kosher salt & pepper, and chili flakes, if desired. 
  7. Bake for 45 mins. For extra crispness, put on the broiler for the last 5 mins of cook time. 
  8. When cooled slightly, slice the chicken into strips. 
  9. Strips of roasted chicken can be rolled into a wrap with desired toppings, or added to a salad. I set up a shawarma bar, so that each person could add the toppings of their choice according to their own tastes. 

Lunch salad with some leftover shawarma chicken on top!

Vintage Vittles #2: Rat Pack Meatballs & Sauce

Sometimes finding & figuring out a vintage recipe is like a treasure hunt. I found this one for “Mrs Frank Sinatra’s.. Spaghetti & Meatballs” via Pinterest. A few clicks later & I found out it was from the WFBL Cookbook of the Stars, made in 1945 by a radio station in Syracuse, NY that aired the Frank Sinatra Show (Wednesdays at 9PM according to the clipping). As a vintage cookbook collector, I will admit I’m geeking out slightly & would love to get my hands on a copy of this cookbook. I’ve located a 1941 edition which apparently contains a recipe by Ronald Reagan (in his acting days) on Etsy. Which is cool too, but alas no recipes by “Old Blue Eyes”.


This recipe, like many vintage recipes can be a little hard to follow for the cooks of today. Modern recipes are written assuming that their reader knows nothing about cooking. Every step is laid out in detail. While vintage recipes assume their reader knows their way around the kitchen a bit & leaves out a lot of minutia. 

It’s probably ridiculous, but I like to imagine Frank, with an apron over his well-tailored suit, whipping up meatballs, sauce, & spaghetti for Sammy, Dino, and the gang. They of course enjoy the meal with some fine red wine. And later cocktails, naturally. Hence the rename on this recipe…



Rat Pack Spaghetti & Meatballs

Ingredients: 

For the meatballs:

  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 C grated Italian cheese, (Parmesan is fine)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 C bread crumbs (I used Italian-style)
  • 1 tsp parsley, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt & black pepper, to taste

For the sauce:

  • 1 large can (28 oz) Italian-style tomatoes (I like to use crushed)
  • 1 small can tomato paste 
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 
  • 1 tsp ground parsley
  • 1/2 C EVOO
  • a few shakes of thyme
  • Kosher salt & black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Make the meatballs. Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer. I used my medium Pampered Chef scoop (2 tbsp) to create 36 even-sized meatballs.
  3. Lay out the meatballs on a greased baking sheet. Cook for about 30 mins, rotating the pans at the 15 min mark for even cooking. 

    This is the only picture i managed to get of the meatballs before they were devoured by my teens.

     
  4. Meanwhile, start the sauce. In a large pot (it will need to be large enough for the sauce and the meatballs to fit into comfortably) heat the EVOO over med-high heat. Add the onion & garlic & cook until golden. 
  5. Add the tomatoes & tomato paste. Stir to combine. Fill the tomato paste can with water & add to the mixture, stirring frequently. If desired, add a tomato paste can full of dry red wine. This is my contribution, not Frank’s. 
  6. At this point, I used my hand blender to even out the sauce so that it had fewer chunks. Also, my contribution. Season with salt & pepper, thyme, and parsley. 
  7. There are 2 schools of thought with regard to meatballs & sauce. Simmer the meatballs with the sauce, or add the meatballs after the sauce simmers. Frank was a meatballs-in-the-sauce guy. Simmering your meatballs with the sauce will give it a greater depth & meatier flavor. Though opponents of this method argue that it can make the meatballs soggy. Per Frank, add your meatballs to the sauce & summer on medium-low heat for 1 hour.
  8. When you’re ready to serve, cook your spaghetti according to package instructions, drain well, and top with desired amount of sauce & meatballs. Top with grated Parmesan, if desired. 

For more vintage recipes check out my Pinterest board Vintage Vittles! 

Vintage Vittles #1: Pickled Cherries White House Cookbook (1902)

I acquired the White House Cookbook from a friend who got it from her grandparents-in-law. She knew that I collect vintage cookbooks & text me some photos of the book to see if I wanted it. She warned me that it was not in the greatest condition, but the title & age of the book had me intrigued. 

This book is a beaut! It’s quite literally falling apart & leaves bits of binding & glue behind each time I crack it open, but hell, it’s over 100 years old!! There are some amazing butcher’s charts in the beginning (seriously, why are the pigs always so adorable in these?) that I may frame & hang in my kitchen if the pages continue to fall out. 

This happy little dude reminds me of a piggy I’ve met before….


Honestly, I’m not quite sure why it’s called the White House Cookbook. There are pictures throughout of various First Ladies, and there’s a section in the back about State Dinners & their table set-up & etiquette; but I cannot figure out any direct relationship between the author, Mrs Gilette & the White House. I researched her, although not extensively, and as far as I can see this was her only book. It seems Mrs Gilette & her knowledge of the White House is a mystery.

Look how pretty Mrs Taft is!

I wonder if the men enjoying cigars & liquor after dinner while the ladies “retire to the parlor” is still a thing.


I made a very interesting recipe from this book. Pickled Cherries. I was vaguely aware that you can pickle fruit; I’ve definitely enjoyed a pickled watermelon rind or two. You may have garnered that I have a deep love for anything pickled/brined. Cherries are one of my favorite fruits and really, what’s a more American fruit than a cherry? Sure, there’s apples, but I offer you the cherry blossoms in DC & the favorite George Washington chops down a cherry tree story as proof that cherries are as All-American as it gets when it comes to fruit. 

Here’s the original recipe as it appears in the book.


Vintage recipes can be a little challenging in a number of ways. First, many are written in paragraph form & take you through the entire process of making the recipe rather than giving you a list of ingredients followed by a procedure. Second, there’s a matter of sizes/measurements. Example: a recipe will call for a small onion. I am certain that a small onion by today’s standards is not the same as a small onion by 1930’s standards. Third, many vintage recipes assume that the reader has basic cooking skills mastered already, whereas today’s recipes generally assume the ignorance of the reader. Keep this in mind as we navigate the world of Vintage Vittles. 

Pickled Cherries

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of cherries (I used Bing)
  • 2 C white vinegar
  • 1/4 C granulated sugar 
  • 24 whole cloves
  • freshly-grated nutmeg (Mace is actually the outer part of a whole nutmeg. Unable to find mace, I grated the nutmeg with 12-15 strokes.)

Instructions:

  1. In a medium saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, cloves, and nutmeg/mace. 
  2. Bring to a boil & cook for 5 mins at a rapid boil, you will want the sugar to melt completely. 
  3. Remove from heat and cool pickling liquid for about 1 hour. Basically, you don’t want it to be scalding my hot when you pour it over the cherries. 
  4. Meanwhile, wash your cherries, remove the stems & pack them into a pint-size mason jar. (I left the pits in mine.)
  5. When the liquid is cooled pour over the cherries (I left the cloves/nutmeg/mace in the jar with the cherries & liquid. After all, they are pickles!)
  6. Cover jar tightly & allow fruit to marinate for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

These are great for snacking, tangy & sweet with just a hint of warm flavor from the clove/nutmeg. Best of all they keep their bite, because nobody wants a mushy pickle. They would be a great addition to a cheese board or a picnic. If I can stop eating them before they’re gone I may fashion a relish from them to go with some Brie.   

Bubbling, Cheesy, Potatoey Mess

I made this delicious mess to go with this year’s Easter dinner which also included spareribs, asparagus, & beets. I was aiming for something creamy & cheesy, & I added in a little black garlic for good measure.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 pounds red potatoes
  • 2 cloves black garlic, smashed
  • 1 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt & ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 C smoked Gouda cheese, grated
  • 1 C Colby cheese, grated
  • 1/2 C sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven  to 375F.

  2. Peel potatoes, and place in a bowl of water to prevent discoloring.

  3. Spray inside of a 2 qt casserole dish with cooking spray.

  4. Heat cream, milk, nutmeg, black garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat until bubbles form around edge. Season with pepper, if desired. Remove from heat.

  5. Using a mandolin, slice potatoes 1/8 inch thick. Watch your fingers with the mandolin! They are a great invention, but dangerous!

  6. Layer potato slices into your casserole dish artfully. I got excellent results by layering some potatoes, then some grated cheese, then potatoes again. Save some cheese to sprinkle over the top.

  7. Pour warm cream mixture over top. Gently push potatoes down, to make sure they are all covered with the cream mixture.

  8. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake (with a baking sheet placed on the rack below to catch drips) until potatoes are fork tender and top is bubbling and brown, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cover with foil if cheese begins to brown too much.

  9. Serve while hot & bubbly!