December 6, 2006


2 pounds of nuts and dried fruit (4 oz each):
  • pitted dates
  • dried figs
  • candied orange peel (use high quality), rinsed
  • candied/dried sweet pineapple, rinsed
  • golden raisins
  • regular raisins or currants
  • walnut halves
  • whole almonds
Dark rum (use high quality oak-aged rum, I use Ron El Barrilito Puerto Rican Rum)
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I use Penzeys Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (don't use the already ground crap)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (I use Land O'Lakes)
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs

Fruit prep:
  • Chop figs and dates to 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Chop peel and pineapple to 1/4-1/2 inch pieces.
  • Combine all dried fruit and nuts in a plastic bowl w/ cover and add 1/4-1/2 cup of rum (or more).
  • Let fruit macerate in rum overnight.
  • Have ALL of your ingredients measured and ready (your mise en place).
  • Butter a 9x13x2 inch pan and line with buttered parchment paper.
  • Preheat oven to 300 F.
  • Measure flour into a bowl and add spices, salt, baking power and baking soda. Stir to combine and set aside. This is the dry ingredients.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer (I use a Kitchen Aid) combine butter and dark brown sugar and beat at medium speed (#4-5) with paddle attachment until light (3 minutes).
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating smooth and stopping to scrape the sides after each egg.
  • Lower the speed and beat in the dry ingredients.
  • Drain fruit from room into a large bowl.
  • Using a rubber spatula, scrape out all of the batter into the drained fruit and fold until the fruit is covered by the batter. At first it will look like there isn't enough batter. Don't worry, eventually all of the fruit will be mixed in.
  • Scrape into prepared pan, spread evenly with spatula.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.
  • After baked, cool on wire rack.
  • Once the cake is cooled, carefully remove from pan, moist w/ rum (~1/4-1/2 cup), and wrap in plastic and then foil. Store in cool place for a few weeks to several months.
  • To serve, I use a trick for easy cutting. Freeze cake overnight and then cut w/ a very sharp serrated knife. By freezing this prevents the cake from crumbling while cutting. Let thaw after cutting and then serve on platter.

Recipe Credit: Nick Malgieri

September 27, 2006

Braised Short Ribs

2-3 tablespoons of canola oil
6-8 lb short ribs (beef), fat trimmed off
generous amount of kosher salt & fresh ground pepper (for meat)

1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped

Aromatics and Liquid

3-6 garlic cloves, minced (don't use a garlic crusher, chop them w/ a knife)
1 tablespoon tomato paste (e.g. Contadina, whatever)

1 bottle (750ml) red wine (something thick and fruity, like Zin or Syrah; I used a homemade Petite Syrah)

4 cups of chicken stock (I use Kitchen Basics or any low sodium stock will do)

1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns (you can use black too)
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
1 dried bay leaf (medium size)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Reheat oven to 300F.
  • Trim off fat from the ribs and season generously with salt and pepper.Heat oil in a large braising pan (that can go in oven) in medium heat and sear ribs on all sides (about 8 minutes total). Do them in batches (do not overcrowd) and put them aside when done in a bowl or large dish that can hold the drippings.
  • Remove all of the leftover fat but 2-3 tablespoons and fry the mirepoix (onion, carrot and celery) for 8-10 minutes on medium heat until nicely browned.
  • Add garlic and tomato paste and brown for 1 minute or so.
  • Add wine, increase heat and reduce in half (about 8-10 minutes).
  • Add next five ingredients (stock, whole peppercorns, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf) and bring to a boil.
  • Add the seared ribs and drippings back to the pan, make sure it is boiling and placed, covered, in the oven.
  • Braise for 2- 2 1/2 hours until meat is very tender and pulls off the bone.
  • When done, remove the ribs and place in a bowl, covered, to prevent drying. Remove herb sticks from sauce let sauce rest. Skim fat off the top.
  • You can choose to strain the sauce or keep the mirepoix in it.
  • Reheat to reduce until thickened. Whisk in butter and remove off the heat. Season w/ salt and pepper if needed (might not need any at all).
  • Place each rib(s) on serving plate and pour sauce on top
Since I served the dish a day later, I put the sauce and ribs in the fridge. The fat floats to the top and hardens. I then removed it and reheated the meat w/ the sauce. When meat was hot, removed meat again and then finished the sauce. This worked well for me and I was able to do only what I needed.

February 19, 2006

Mushroom Soup

From Bourdain's Les Halles book. You must try this recipe. It is incredibly simple to make yet it is extremely flavorful.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
12-14 ounces button mushrooms (I used 10 oz baby portabella and 4 oz shiitake 'cause that's what I happen to have at hand), whole (stems removed if using shiitake)
4 cups light chicken stock (I used Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock; light sodium chicken broth will probably work but don't tell Bourdain or he'll chase you down!)
1 sprig parsley
salt and pepper
2 ounces of Sherry (the real deal not the crappy salted junk from the market) (I used tawny port because that's what I had, seemed to work well enough for me)

In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until translucent (a few minutes).

Add the 4 tablespoons of butter and mushrooms and cook for 8 minutes or so, until the mushrooms are sweating. Make sure that the onions do not brown.

Stir in chicken stock and parsley. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Simmer for 1 hour or so. The recipe didn't state whether to cover or not, I left it slightly covered. Just make sure it is simmering slowly.

After an hour, remove parsley and blend on high speed IN BATCHES. Make sure that you hold down the cover of the blender VERY FIRMLY or you will be splashed and burned by the mushroom soup. Believe me, it almost happened to me.

Return blended soup to the pot, season w/ salt and peper and bring to a simmer again. Add the sherry and mix well.

Serve immediately or reheat for the next day.


February 15, 2006

Lemon Mousse - The Real Deal

This is another recipe from Alice Medrich from her Cocolat book:

1 3/4-2 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (use higher amount when using a mold)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup of sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup heavy cream

Sprinkle gelatin over 3 teasponns of cold water in small container. Set aside for 5 minutes without stirring.

Bring lemon juice, zest and 1/2 cup sugar to a simmer over a nonreactive pan.

PLace egg yolks in small bowl and pour hot lemon mixture over them, whisking constantly to prevent scoarching. Return mixture to pan and cook over low heat stirring constantly to prevent sticking and scoarching. Cook until it begins to simmer and remove from heat. Pour through a strainer into a clean bowl. Whisk in softened gelatin and vanilla. Let cool to room temperature.

In a clean dry mixing bowl whisk egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar while mixing. Beat at high speed until stiff but not dry.

Fold 1/4 beaten egg white into lemon mixture to lighten.

Immediately beat cream in same bowl as egg whites until soft peaks form. DO NOT OVERBEAT or mousse will be grainy. Fold beaten cream and the rest of egg whites into lightened lemon mixture.

Turn mousse immediately into a mold or serving glasses. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Copyright (c) 1990 Alice Medrich

Lemon Mousse - "Low Fat"

The Lemon Mousse portion of the Lemon Mousse Cake recipe from Chocolate and the Art of Low-fat Desserts by Alice Medrich, 1994

  • 1 1/2 tsp gelatin
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, strained
  • 3/4 cup sugar(divided)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Sprinkle the gelatin over 3 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl or cup. Set aside to soften, without stirring, for at least 5 minutes. Set a strainer over a large bowl.

Combine the lemon zest, juice, and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Beat the whole egg and egg yolk in a small bowl until light. Beat some of the hot lemon mixture into the eggs. Scrape back into the saucepan. Cook and stir constantly, reaching all over the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent burning, until barely starting to simmer around the edges. Pour the mixture through the strainer set over a bowl. Stir in the softened gelatin and vanilla. Set the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water. Stir and scrape the sides from time to time until the mixture is cool and beginning to thicken. If it begins to set before needed, remove from the ice bath, whisk, and set aside. If it actually sets, place in a bowl of hot water and stir until softened again.

Make a safe meringue: (If you have safe egg whites, you can avoid all the to-do of heating them to 160 degrees.) Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a large skillet. Combine the cream of tartar and 4 teaspoons of water in a 6- to 8-cup stainless steel bowl. Whisk in the egg whites and the remaining sugar(1/2 cup). Place a thermometer near the stove in a mug of very hot water. Set the stainless bowl in the skillet. Stir briskly and constantly with a rubber spatula, scraping the sides and bottom often to avoid scrambling the whites. After 1 1/2 minutes, remove bowl from the skillet. Quickly insert thermometer, tilting bowl to cover the stem by at least 2 inches. If less than 160 degrees, rinse thermometer in skillet water and return it to the mug. Replace bowl in skillet. Stir as before until temperature reaches 160 degrees when bowl is removed. Beat on high speed until cool and stiff. Set aside.

Beat cream until it holds its shape but is not too stiff. Set aside.

Fold 1/2 of lemon mixture it the beaten egg whites. Scrape back on top of the remaining lemon mixture. Scrape whipped cream on top. Fold all together. (Can be refrigerated for up to one day).

January 28, 2006

Grilled Chicken Breasts stuffed with Chevre and Figs

I came up with this simple recipe for grilled chicken breasts stuffed with chevre and figs. There are, however, countless variations on the web. Here it is anyway:

To make the fig stuffing

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 medium shallots, finely chopped
10-12 dried Calimyrna figs, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, roasted (optional) and coarsely chopped
1 T chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (fresh, coarsely ground)
1/2 cup ruby port
  1. Heat a 7" stainless steel sautee or frying pan.
  2. Add olive oil and heat briefly. Add shallots and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
  3. Add figs and pecans. Cook for 5 minutes or so until the figs and shallots start caramelizing a little bit.
  4. Add the rosemary, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute or so.
  5. Add the port. Heat until the port has reduced by half.
  6. Place the fig mixture in a bowl and set aside to cool.
You should have between 1 1/2-2 cups of fig stuffing.

To make the stuffed chicken breasts

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, fat and tenderloins removed
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
4 ounces Chevre (fresh goat) cheese, cut into 4-1 ounce slices
8 large toothpicks
  1. Heat gas or charcoal grill to medium heat (around 400F). Or preheat oven at 350-400F.
  2. Trim the fat and tenderloin part of each chicken breast. Using a meat pounder and plastic bag, pound the meat down to 1/4" thick and even size. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Spread 1 ounce of chevre cheese over one of the chicken breasts. Add about 1/3 cup of the fig mixture. The exact amount depends on the size of the chicken breast. You want it to actually close. Close and secure with 1 -2 wooden toothpicks.
  4. Repeat with the rest of the chicken breasts.
  5. Bake or grill for 15-20 minutes or until done.
You can serve these puppies with roasted veggies, roasted shallots, baked or grilled yams, roasted potatoes, whatever...

Note: I used Trevor Jones Jonsey Tawny Port NV which really is more ruby than tawny in fruit flavor, it's cheap but tastes good and comes in a screwcap bottle.