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113 posts categorized "21) Just Elegant, Extraordinary & Exquisite"

08/15/2017

~ Rich, Toasted Indian Basmati Rice Pudding (Kheer) ~

When it comes to worldly or exotic recipes, I always do my research and my best to keep them as close to authentic as I can. When it comes to Indian food, I always reply upon the advice of my four Indian girlfriends, and the woman who owns Krishan, Happy Valley's Indian grocery store, because you're all such good cooks. That said, when it comes to kheer, a delicately-spiced addictively-rich rice pudding dessert, if you're one of my Indian girlfriends, you might find yourself wincing in one or two spots while reading my recipe. Why? While the flavors in my...... View full recipe for "~ Rich, Toasted Indian Basmati Rice Pudding (Kheer) ~"

05/05/2017

~ Luxurious: Cod Bathed in EVOO w/Fresh Tomatoes ~

As a kid, I adored frozen fish sticks and canned stewed tomatoes -- I still do. That said, as a grownup, I much prefer the taste of a sweet, fresh, white fish fillet paired with a few acidic, fresh tomatoes. Sometimes I bake them together in parchment with thyme and some white wine, and sometimes I broil them drizzled with melted butter and a bit of lemon and pepper. Tonight I'm using a method similar to shallow poaching, except: extra-virgin olive oil is used in place of the traditional liquid. Today's recipe is simple enough to serve for a weeknight...... View full recipe for "~ Luxurious: Cod Bathed in EVOO w/Fresh Tomatoes ~"

01/12/2017

~ Classier Classic Clams (on the Halfshell) Casino ~

I've never gone to a casino for the sole purpose of gambling -- I've never even had the urge to. That said, thanks to more than a few of Joe's business trips I've been to Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic City several times for days-at-a-time -- complete with gorgeous hotel rooms, tickets to live shows and dinners in fabulous restaurants. That said, casinos are indeed a glitzy, glamorous full-of-fun place to visit. They're akin to amusement parks for adults, and, just like the latter, "the bloom comes off the rose" rather quickly -- fun facades that suck up your bucks....... View full recipe for "~ Classier Classic Clams (on the Halfshell) Casino ~"

11/25/2016

~Time Out: Tomahawk Steak (Long Bone-In Ribeye)~

The tomahawk ribeye steak, also known as a "cowboy" or a "long bone-in" ribeye is a specialty cut that you assuredly won't find at your local supermarket. Without jest (no joke), I literally found one on my kitchen doorstep, leaning up against the kitchen/laundry room door, this very morning. I have a friend, Scott. He owns a few well-known Happy Valley restaurants (you locals all know who he is, and, he is one reason I get to call myself a cooking consultant). He likes to surprise me unexpectedly with unique ingredients occasionally. Today, while driving to and from his eateries,...... View full recipe for "~Time Out: Tomahawk Steak (Long Bone-In Ribeye)~"

11/20/2016

~ Easy Rosemary-Kissed Butternut Squash Bisque ~

This sinfully-simple, creamy-rich butternut squash bisque is one of my favorite go-to Turkey Day specialties. I don't serve it every year, but on years when my husband has harvested a bumper crop, it starts off our traditional feast. It looks pretty and tastes divine. There's more: It is indeed easy to prepare, and, it can be made two-three days in advance too. All it needs is a gentle reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave and it's ready to take to the table and serve. A bit about butternut squash: Butternut squash is one of our healthy super-foods. That’s...... View full recipe for "~ Easy Rosemary-Kissed Butternut Squash Bisque ~"

11/10/2016

~ Eggs a la Goldenrod or Creamed Eggs on Toast ~

Once upon a time, this vintage egg recipe was reserved for Easter breakfast or brunch. Why? It was a tasty way to make use of a dozen or so of those hard-cooked, pastel-colored eggs that got dyed by the children to celebrate the holiday. In my kitchen, eggs a la goldenrod is simply a delicious way to enjoy hard-cooked eggs, which I always keep on hand. Besides liking eggs a lot, as a busy food blogger and host of a TV segment, I hard-cook several eggs at the beginning of each week -- it's ten minutes well spent. I consider...... View full recipe for "~ Eggs a la Goldenrod or Creamed Eggs on Toast ~"

11/02/2016

~ Simply Divine: Chocolate Tart (Tarte au Chocolat) ~

Don't look now but the season of holiday entertaining and festive gatherings is quickly approaching. If you're like me, you're always "in the market" for another elegant yet easy-to-make dessert to serve at your own get-together or take to someone else's. A chocolate tart is a perfect ending to any occasion, and, in the case of this recipe, it doesn't require the skills of a trained pastry chef -- feel free to keep that a secret and let 'em think you slaved all day over it. "Tarte au Chocolate" -- No special skills required. A chocolate tart, or as they...... View full recipe for "~ Simply Divine: Chocolate Tart (Tarte au Chocolat) ~"

10/27/2016

~ Pucker up for French Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron) ~

One thing I love about the late Fall and Winter is the vibrant-colored citrus fruit. Because it's available all year long, a lot of folks don't realize that citrus fruit (lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges) are in fact "winter fruit". This year, for some reason, the citrus fruit I've been purchasing, is extra-over-the-top, plump, tart 'n sweet and juicy. I've been eating grapefruit every morning, putting orange segments in our salads, lime slices in my gin and tonics, and, today I'm baking a lemon tart for dessert. Tarte au citron is a classic French dessert and every patisserie (bakery) in...... View full recipe for "~ Pucker up for French Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron) ~"

10/08/2016

~ Classic Pommes Anna: The Ultimate Potato Cake ~

This just might be the most impressive potato dish ever placed on a fancy-schmancy dining room table. It's a gorgeous golden cake constructed of layers of ultra-thin-sliced potatoes that have been baked in the oven (just like a cake layer) and turned out onto a serving plate. When sliced into wedges, each person gets a pretty, pie-sized wedge of potato heaven: buttery-rich, nicely-and-lightly seasoned potatoes, with a crispy golden crust and a soft tender center. Impressive to look at & surprisingly simple to make. While pommes Anna does take a bit of time to make, for a French dish, it...... View full recipe for "~ Classic Pommes Anna: The Ultimate Potato Cake ~"

10/02/2016

~ Duchess Potatoes (Pommes de Terre Duchesse) ~

Mashed potatoes are the quintessential American side-dish for the Sunday roast or pot roast and the gravy that comes with it. While there are a lot of ways to prepare potatoes, the ethereal smell of a chicken roasting in the oven or a pot roast simmering on the stovetop compels me to peel potatoes and bring a pot of water to a boil. To us Americans, mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food, and duchess potatoes, a fancy French-named mashed potato dish made of piped egg-laced mashed potatoes which are baked to a beautiful golden brown, is an impressive-to-look at,...... View full recipe for "~ Duchess Potatoes (Pommes de Terre Duchesse) ~"

09/20/2016

~ Joe's Steak Joseph: Filet of Beef-Steak Sandwich ~

The French have several ways to generically say "steak". My personal favorite is "biftek", meaning "boneless beef-steak". If there is a bone in it, they call it a "côte de boeuf", meaning "beef-chop". Past that, just like us Americans, they have a list of words each denoting the specific cut (the place on the steer the meat came from). That said, when you order any type of beef-steak or beef-chop in a French restaurant, whether it's plain, seasoned, served with a sauce or served with sliced vegetables that act as a sauce, it is customary to serve it with some...... View full recipe for "~ Joe's Steak Joseph: Filet of Beef-Steak Sandwich ~ "

09/18/2016

~ The Old-Fashioned & Classic Banana Cream Pie ~

Put down that box of graham crackers. No you can't use those vanilla wafers either. Thou shall not use a graham cracker or any cookie crust to make my banana cream pie recipe. These two easier-to-make (or worse, easier to purchase) alternatives simply screw up the taste and texture of this iconic pie. A classically made banana cream pie deserves a scratch-made pie pastry, a traditionally-prepared pastry cream, lots of bananas, and, copious amounts of freshly-whipped cream. Save the cookie crusts for recipes that use instant pudding mixes. Got it? Good. Nothing about a banana cream pie should be understated...... View full recipe for "~ The Old-Fashioned & Classic Banana Cream Pie ~"

09/15/2016

~ The Old-Fashioned Classic Coconut Custard Pie ~

When I was growing up, two trucks pulled into my family's driveway twice a week (and they weren't FedEx or UPS which didn't even exist then). They were: The milk man and the baker. The milk man delivered milk, butter, eggs, sour cream and some cheeses. The baker delivered bread, sandwich rolls, cakes, pies and cookies. In the case of both, via a paper checklist, you ordered on a Tuesday what you wanted delivered on Saturday, and you ordered on Saturday what you wanted delivered on Tuesday. When mom said it was my turn to pick a dessert, it was...... View full recipe for "~ The Old-Fashioned Classic Coconut Custard Pie ~"

07/17/2016

~ Lobster Rolls: The Official Summertime Sandwich ~

For a bib-wearing lobster-lover like me, past steaming-hot with drawn butter and lemon, when I am looking to quell a craving for my favorite crustacean, I indulge in a lobster roll -- a sandwich with big chunks of tender, sweet-white-meat and tiny bits of celery or scallions, lightly-coated with creamy mayonnaise and piled into a buttery, toasted 'hot dog' roll. It's heaven. On bread. Yes, from bisque to thermidore, you will find a lengthy list of recipes paying homage to the preparation of this beloved cold-water creature, but, none result in the comfort and complete satisfaction that comes over me...... View full recipe for "~ Lobster Rolls: The Official Summertime Sandwich ~"

07/12/2016

~ Skillet-Roasted Baby Carrots & Potato Medallions ~

Twelve minutes. Yes, in a skillet, in twelve short minutes, you can roast elegant-looking sweet-tasting fork-tender baby carrots and potato medallions. I roast all sorts of vegetables in the oven when I'm cooking for a crowd (if one is serving roasted meat, poultry and gravy, one can never roast too many vegetables), but, when I'm only cooking for Joe and myself, I turn to my skillet on my stovetop instead of my oven. It's a super-speedy method with a super-delicious outcome. While you can successfully roast all sorts of vegetables in a skillet on the stovetop, you can only combine...... View full recipe for "~ Skillet-Roasted Baby Carrots & Potato Medallions ~"

07/10/2016

~ Oh My Goddess of the Hunt: Divine Steak Diane ~

One upon a time, Joe and I used to go up to the top of Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh (the point overlooking the city and the location where the three rivers meet (the Monongahela, the Allegheny and the Ohio), to eat in an upscale French restaurant named Christopher's (currently The Monterey Bay Fish Grotto). During that period of time, Joe did enough of business in Pittsburgh that we got to eat there a few times a year. He in a suit and tie, I in a dress and heels, through the doors we walked. Their food was divine, the view...... View full recipe for "~ Oh My Goddess of the Hunt: Divine Steak Diane ~"

05/12/2016

~ Rich & Creamy Celery Soup (Isn't Ho-Hum at All) ~

Celery. It's the swizzle stick in my Bloody Mary, a must have in my egg, tuna and potato salad, and, send back those Buffalo wings if they don't come with a crudité of celery and some blue cheese dip. That said, in my food world, celery is not considered an exciting vegetable. No one ever gleefully remarks, "my Bloody Mary had the best stalk of celery in it", "the celery in her tuna salad was divine", or, "the celery that came with his chicken wings was outstanding". Celery, however, is one of the world's most used vegetables, coming from the...... View full recipe for "~ Rich & Creamy Celery Soup (Isn't Ho-Hum at All) ~"

04/17/2016

~ Chocolate-Glazed Chocolate-Raspberry Tart Bars ~

The purchase of a few rectangular- and square-shaped tart pans were some of the best baking investments I've ever made. When it comes to serving crumbly cookie-type crusted tarts with custardy-textured centers, I find portioning and slicing a tart into bars or squares, instead of wedges from a round-shaped pan, more "user friendly" -- it's a kind of unique presentation too. There's more: When I'm making tarts that require refrigeration, I find these shapes to be a more efficient use of refrigerator space -- which, in my kitchen, is valuable real estate. "Tarte au chocolat" -- no special skills required!...... View full recipe for "~ Chocolate-Glazed Chocolate-Raspberry Tart Bars ~"

04/07/2016

~ Tender Steak Scallops w/Herbed Mustard Sauce ~

"This is Steak Diane". That's what I said to our "twenty-something" waiter in a steakhouse not long ago. I was generically expressing my pleasure at seeing a blast-from-my-past, famous-and-favorite steak dish on a millennial restaurant menu. My comment didn't require a response. That said, it did prompt a polite, ever-so-slight nod-of-agreement, accompanied by a "if you say so lady, but I have no idea what you are talking about" look. This lead me to conclude: Steak Diane has skipped a generation or two of Americans. A bit about Steak Diane: Prepared using common French techniques, the dish isn't French --...... View full recipe for "~ Tender Steak Scallops w/Herbed Mustard Sauce ~"

03/27/2016

~ 'Ye Olde' Diner-Style Creamed-Spinach Omelette ~

The French omelette is iconic, but, miracle of miracles, we Americans actually improved it. By allowing our omelette to get a little golden on the outside, which gives it a bit of extra flavor and texture, and, by generously filling it with a heavenly host of filling combos, egg lovers like me have turned the omelette into the hot pocket of beloved egg dishes. While I make quite a few omelettes during the course of any year, classic recipes with a clear history, popular breakfast-joint favorites, and, recipes with eggs-traordinary stories are the only ones I share. For example. My...... View full recipe for "~ 'Ye Olde' Diner-Style Creamed-Spinach Omelette ~"

03/18/2016

~ Classic Coquilles St. Jacques (Gratin of Scallops) ~

Once upon a time in Happy Valley we had a fancy-schmancy resort restaurant called LePapillon. As the name implies, it specialized in French cuisine. If you were into a swanky, suit-and-tie, heels-and-hose, Saturday-night-date-place to enjoy a wonderful meal while listening to the best grand piano player in the area, and, take in a breathtaking sunset, this is where you went. For a period of about ten years, Joe and I frequented the place often, and, I arranged for many family celebrations and business gatherings to be held there. Times change, people change, and, back in the late 1990's, when they...... View full recipe for "~ Classic Coquilles St. Jacques (Gratin of Scallops) ~"

03/16/2016

~ Meatless Mushroom Duxelles & Gruyere Crostini ~

For lack of better words, I'm going to refer to this mouthwatering crostini recipe as an "all-purpose, all-occasion" hors d'oeuvre. They complement a host of foods, and, can be served (for brunch, lunch, or dinner), at casual or upscale gatherings. They pair well with all sorts of cocktails, as well as red or white wine. They can be passed prior to an entrée of fish, seafood, poultry, porcine or meat. They can be served with a cup of soup and/or a salad. They are meatless too. That makes them perfect for meatless meals, certain religious holidays, and, entertaining vegetarian friends....... View full recipe for "~ Meatless Mushroom Duxelles & Gruyere Crostini ~"

03/14/2016

~Duxelles: Rich, Refined Mouthwatering Mushrooms~

Mushroom duxelles. To a mushroom lover like me, this is the crème de la crème of mushroom preparations -- the earthy caviar of my fungi food world. Each time I prepare it, I pay homage to the French for their meticulous attention to culinary detail. Without duxelles, my Veal Orloff, Beef Wellington and Coquilles St. Jacques would be ordinary veal, beef and seafood dishes. With duxelles on-hand in my refrigerator, I can change an unpretentious piece of toasted bread or a scrambled egg into a fine-dining experience. It enhances many of my sauces and gravies, and, soups and stews too....... View full recipe for "~Duxelles: Rich, Refined Mouthwatering Mushrooms~"

03/11/2016

~ Get Out Your Whisk & Make this Tomato Bisque ~

You need recipes like this, I need recipes like this, all of us cooks need recipes like this. This creamy, rich tomato bisque is what I call a "go to" recipe -- one I rely upon for a variety of kitchen encounters. From unpretentious eat-in-the-kitchen meals to upscale dinner-in-the-dining-room soirees, it's a perfect starter course to plug into a host of menus, and, it pairs great with many salads and sandwiches too. Plus, there is little risk serving tomato soup because almost all folks like it a lot. I've handed out this recipe countless times, which is just how I...... View full recipe for "~ Get Out Your Whisk & Make this Tomato Bisque ~"

03/01/2016

~ Pie-O-My: The Famous Mar-a-Lago Key Lime Pie ~

Don't shoot me I'm only the messenger. Finding common political ground with anyone this election cycle is harder than it has ever been. The climate is downright trash-talkin' nasty "out there". That said, when a friend suggested I post a recipe for key lime pie yesterday, I couldn't wait to get up this morning and make this particular one -- I could hardly sleep. For the first time ever here on Kitchen Encounters, I am mixing food with politics (and my wickedly-sarcastic sense of card-carrying DNC Super-Tuesday humor). I'm making what is touted to be "the most requested dessert on...... View full recipe for "~ Pie-O-My: The Famous Mar-a-Lago Key Lime Pie ~"

02/27/2016

~ Pretty in Pink: No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecakes ~

When you find a big beautiful box of fresh strawberries in your market in February, you don't pause to ponder. Into the cart they go, you checkout, and, by the time you're out of the parking lot, your mind is recollecting "that recipe" you made "that time" for "that woman", who, two days before her Oscar party, decided to add mini-strawberry cheesecakes to her menu -- which caused you to go looking for strawberries in February -- not to mention 28 mini-cheesecake pans. "That woman" would be me, and, as I always say, "the devil is always in the details."...... View full recipe for "~ Pretty in Pink: No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecakes ~"

02/19/2016

~ Sea Scallops & Spaghetti w/Tomato-Cream Sauce~

Every once in a while, my ability to cook is overshadowed by my desire to cook something remarkably easy yet good enough to serve to guests -- no special skills, tools or knowledge required. Today is such a day. This simple, straightforward and scrumptious recipe, taken from the pages of absolutely nowhere, goes from stovetop to table in the time it takes to cook spaghetti, and, when beautifully plated, will bamboozle everyone into thinking I cooked all day. "I dream of stirring cream into marinara sauce." ~ Melanie The only thing more rewarding than having a freezer shelf full of...... View full recipe for "~ Sea Scallops & Spaghetti w/Tomato-Cream Sauce~"

02/17/2016

~Peaches & Cream, Date & Nut Bread French Toast~

When short on time, breakfast is a meal I can speed-eat through, standing up, with no regret -- "tea and toast" and "I'm good to go", satisfied and focused. That said, I have a weakness for French toast, and if I spy it on the breakfast buffet, this otherwise punctual gal is either gonna be a few minutes late or in a rather bad mood for the better part of the morning. You choose. A bit about French toast: The French name for it is "pain purdu", meaning "lost bread", referencing bread that becomes dry after a day or two....... View full recipe for "~Peaches & Cream, Date & Nut Bread French Toast~"

02/07/2016

~ Mel's Pan-Seared Crimini-Crusted Sirloin Steaks ~

Fact: I will not stand outside and grill if the temperature is below 40 degrees. Fact: It is below forty degrees. Fact: I am cooking steaks indoors today and the line forms to the left of the stove. Great steak dinners & our original hunters and gatherers: I'm guessing mushrooms have been paired with steak, since, um, fire was invented? I imagine a big hairy guy, standing in a cave, yanking a hunk of red meat off a sharp spear and throwing it on an open fire to cook. Meanwhile, an equally-hairy but less imposing woman picks a few mushrooms...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Pan-Seared Crimini-Crusted Sirloin Steaks ~"

02/04/2016

~ The Hasselback Potato: A Majestic Baked Potato ~

The next time baked potatoes are on your mind or menu, and you have a bit of extra time, make a batch of sexy, stylish Swedish Hasselback potatoes. Want to feel like a rock star? Go the extra mile and make them using using small, fingerling potatoes -- people adore fancy-schmancy, darling-to-look-at, petite food. Place two or three on a plate next to a perfectly-cooked steak or pass a tray of them around at a cocktail party -- majestic -- to say the least. The Hasselbecken Tavern was established in the 1700's as a small red hut located in a...... View full recipe for "~ The Hasselback Potato: A Majestic Baked Potato ~"

12/15/2015

~ Ooh-La-La: Beefy French Onion Soup Dumplings ~

When it comes to Soupe a l'Oignon a la Francaise (French Onion Soup), I take no shortcuts -- the time it takes to achieve perfection is irrelevant. I'm not interested in amateurish thirty-minute-or-less dumbed-down versions -- using flour to thicken the homemade beef stock and/or sugar to sweeten the caramelized onions is sacrilege. There's more: you'll be verbally abused for suggesting vegan stock, beaten with a baguette for any utterance about gluten-free bread, and, ejected from my kitchen if you say soy cheese can be substituted for nutty Gruyere. When it comes to French Onion Soup, I'm a by-the-book purist....... View full recipe for "~ Ooh-La-La: Beefy French Onion Soup Dumplings ~"

12/12/2015

~ A Rustic Wintertime Chicken & Mushroom Risotto ~

Sometimes you just know when you've got to to slow down, take a step back, and, allow your mind to unwind. Today is that day. 'Tis the busiest time of year and I need a bit of stress-relieving "kitchen therapy". What's on the agenda for my self-imposed holiday from the world? An afternoon of movies on my kitchen TV, a glass or three of wine, and, cooking a nice and slow, laid-back pot of my favorite rich, creamy and comforting chicken risotto for dinner. "There are no two ways to make risotto. Either you make it right or it is...... View full recipe for "~ A Rustic Wintertime Chicken & Mushroom Risotto ~"

12/09/2015

~ Easy, Creamy & Dreamy: Mushroom Bruschetta ~

My history with this decadent dish dates back to December, 2011. I ordered it in a recently-restored, historic hotel and fine-dining restaurant in our area. Everything my girlfriend Jeanne and I ate that afternoon was superb, but, this dish, my appetizer, blew me away. I liked it so much, I left a big tip and asked for the recipe. A few minutes later, I was handed a computer-generated copy. If you've ever been given a recipe by a chef, you know there is not much too it: a very short list of ingredients, garnishes, and, a few cryptic instructions. Chef's...... View full recipe for "~ Easy, Creamy & Dreamy: Mushroom Bruschetta ~"

12/04/2015

~ Breadcrumbs, Butter, Garlic + Shrimp 'de Jonghe' ~

Chances are, if you have never been to Chicago, you have never heard of shrimp de Jonghe -- it's virtually unknown outside of the windy city. Dating back to the late 19th Century, it is said to be one of the city's oldest "gastonomic glories" -- in Chicago it's an immortal institution. Close your eyes and conjure up an image of a plate of succulent, jumbo shrimp bathed in a rich herb-butter, sherry and garlic sauce, topped with the most divine, golden, homemade French breadcrumbs and doused with few generous squirts of fresh lemon juice. Tres magnifique! Invented by Belgian-born...... View full recipe for "~ Breadcrumbs, Butter, Garlic + Shrimp 'de Jonghe' ~"

11/22/2015

~ Pass the Buckwheat Blini: We are Serving Caviar ~

"I'd rather have a hot dog than caviar." That's how I feel about caviar, so, when I came across that quote by famed Colombian race car driver Juan Pablo Montoya, I had to share it. Don't get me wrong, caviar is not on my 'foods I hate' list, I just like a long list of other things more, and, I love the humorous comparison. From a perceived foodie standpoint, caviar vs. a hot dog is the difference between "classy" and "trashy", which makes me feel a bit naughty in a Groucho Marx sort of way. That said, a lot of...... View full recipe for "~ Pass the Buckwheat Blini: We are Serving Caviar ~"

11/20/2015

~ Please Pass the Caviar: Russian Buckwheat Blini ~

For centuries, these small yeast-risen buckwheat pancakes have been traditional fare on the opulent "zakuska table" ("appetizer table") at important Russian gatherings and festive celebrations. "Zakuska" literally means "little bite". Stacks of them are served alongside iced bowls of pickled herring, smoked sturgeon, salmon, many types of caviar, aspics and pates. There are plenty of condiments too: tangy sour cream, finely-chopped eggs, onions, briny pickles and sauteed mushroom mixtures. No one can eat just one blin (singular), so, make plenty, and, don't forget to freeze the Russian vodka as an accompaniment -- it's mandatory. "Nasdrovia": "to health" and "thanks for...... View full recipe for "~ Please Pass the Caviar: Russian Buckwheat Blini ~"

11/09/2015

~ Oh My Cup of Tea: Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares~

I love cheesecake -- on many levels, it's my ultimate-indulgence dessert. For me, a slice of cheesecake is a celebration on a plate. Ponder that last statement for one moment. Now: Would you rather celebrate your birthday with a candle in a slice of real-deal cheesecake, or, no matter how moist and decadent, a piece of cake or a cupcake? You've guessed my answer. I'm guessing I'm not standing anywhere close to alone. I hear a resounding cry for "cheesecake"! A bit about cheesecake: Cheesecake, a sweet dish of one more layers, is a beloved dessert around the world. A...... View full recipe for "~ Oh My Cup of Tea: Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares~"

08/11/2015

~ Broiled Wild Sea Scallops w/Broiled Brown Butter ~

I am here today to report scallop abuse. Over the weekend I ordered pan-seared sea scallops in a restaurant. I was less than impressed -- overcooked on the outside, undercooked on the inside. It was disheartening because they were really big and beautiful, and, I never relish sending a dish back to the kitchen in any establishment -- ever. That said, as one who knows a thing or three about cooking scallops, I do get somewhat upset when a restaurant chef doesn't know, or hasn't taken the time to teach the person in charge of cooking the scallops, how to...... View full recipe for "~ Broiled Wild Sea Scallops w/Broiled Brown Butter ~"

08/03/2015

~ Golden Goddess: Shiro Plum & Egg Custard Tart ~

Plums fall into two categories: European and Japanese. Did you know that? I never knew that. I grew up thinking all plums were blue-ish purple and they showed up in farmers markets in August. Mostly I remember my mom putting them in a bowl on the kitchen counter for us to snack on 2-3-4 at a time -- nobody can eat just one plum. My grandmother turned them into thick jam, which we adored slathered on crepe-like pancakes called palacinki. And -- you can't grow up in an Eastern European house without acquiring a taste for slivovitz (plum brandy). Mel...... View full recipe for "~ Golden Goddess: Shiro Plum & Egg Custard Tart ~"

08/01/2015

~ Love is Blue: Very Berry Blueberry Creme Brulee ~

Resisting a rich, creamy, vanilla-laced egg-custard topped with a crackly layer of caramelized sugar is not something many people can do. I certainly don't have that kind of will-power. For us custard lovers, creme brulee and its cousin, creme caramel (flan), are the definition of decadent. Could anything possibly make it more tempting? Heck yea. Throw in a handful of freshly-picked blueberries, or, blackberries, or raspberries, or a combination of all three. A bit about creme brulee: Literally translated, "burnt cream" is a silky-smooth egg custard that is gently baked/steamed in a porcelain mold or in individual ramekins at a...... View full recipe for "~ Love is Blue: Very Berry Blueberry Creme Brulee ~"

07/07/2015

~ Making Clafoutis and the Classic Cherry Clafoutis ~

If I were to write The Big Book of Effortlessly-Regal No-Brainer Desserts, clafoutis would be on the cover. Whisk up a simple batter (eggs, cream or milk, sugar, salt, flour, melted butter and brandy or extract), pour it over some fresh fruit and bake. Cherries are the classic addition, with berries or stone fruit like apricots, plums and peaches being common substitutions. I was pleased with one I once made with ripe pears. Apples work too, but, apples are firm and crisp by nature, so, they need to be peeled and very thinly-sliced to get a luxurious texture -- truth...... View full recipe for "~ Making Clafoutis and the Classic Cherry Clafoutis ~"

07/02/2015

~ Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup (Hideg Meggyleves) ~

In my opinion, sour cherries are one of the most regal, refined fruits you will ever eat. My grandmother simply referred to these ruby-red jewels as "pie cherries", but, if you are on a quest to purchase them, they are sometimes marketed as "tart cherries". Joe and I live at a high elevation here in Central Pennsylvania, which I have come to learn is ideal for them, which is why our tree thrives, and thrives, and thrives. That said, even in this ideal environment, the sour cherry season is quite brief, with the cherries being ready to pick at the...... View full recipe for "~ Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup (Hideg Meggyleves) ~"

06/30/2015

~ Cheese-Filled Blintzes with Sour-Cherry Topping ~

Whoa Nellie -- please hold -- wait a minute -- is Mel making blintzes or blini? That's a valid question with an all-too-often misunderstood answer. Most experts will tell you the name is used interchangeably all over Central and Eastern Europe, with "blinchick" being the generic word for pancake in general, and, "blintchiki" being the plural. The slang terms "blintz" and "blin" were born from those words, and, nowadays, here in the USA, what they're called depends upon where your European ancestors came from, where they settled when they immigrated to America, and, who your American grandma got her recipe...... View full recipe for "~ Cheese-Filled Blintzes with Sour-Cherry Topping ~"

05/19/2015

~Eliot's Angel Hair Pasta with Creamy Vodka Sauce~

Eliot, our middle son, developed a somewhat serious interest in cooking around the age of fourteen (1985-ish). I allow myself to believe it had something to do with me, but, if there is one thing I have learned over the years it's: you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Not the case with Eliot and cooking. For the most part, he had a natural instinct for combining the right spices with the right ingredients. When he got old enough to take on a Summer job, he became a waiter in an upscale, downtown Italian...... View full recipe for "~Eliot's Angel Hair Pasta with Creamy Vodka Sauce~"

04/21/2015

~ Madeleines: 'Hoity-Toity' Shell-Shaped Tea Cakes~

If you ever want to be accused of being hoity-toity (a pretentious show-off), serve some freshly-baked buttery-rich madeleines with tea or coffee as a finish to your next ladies luncheon. Within my small circle of close friends this kind of thing happens all the time. We take it upon ourselves to poke fun at each others talents -- especially after a few cocktails. It keeps us grounded. When lunch is at my house, I am the designated target. "La-tee-da, Melanie made madeleines." Revenge is sweet because the jib-jabs flow both ways. "Mel, these cookies are great." "Barb, they're not cookies,...... View full recipe for "~ Madeleines: 'Hoity-Toity' Shell-Shaped Tea Cakes~"

04/15/2015

~ Succulent Seafood Newburg Crepes for a Crowd ~

There was an eight-year timespan in my life when I spent every day cooking for a crowd. In mom-speak, it is referred to as "the teenage boy years" and I raised three. During those years, one casserole of anything was not enough -- two was mandatory, and, if I wanted leftovers I made four. On pizza nights, I made six -- big ones. I doubled or tripled every recipe that could be doubled or tripled to accommodate their appetites. I put a second refrigerator in my garage, bought a 24-quart stockpot for my stovetop and a 20-cup food processor for...... View full recipe for "~ Succulent Seafood Newburg Crepes for a Crowd ~"

04/12/2015

~ Sinfully-Simple Sherry & Cream Newburg Sauce ~

Newberg or Newburg sauce is a 100% French sauce with an all-American name, and, is 100% associated with the famous dishes: lobster Newberg and seafood Newburg. That said, this sauce is not just for seafood. In fact, the sauce itself doesn't contain lobster or any other seafood, and, it isn't made with lobster or seafood stock either. It's a silky-smooth, sinfully-rich, liquor-laced cream sauce, originally made from cream, cognac, sherry, egg yolks and cayenne pepper. This combination of rather ordinary ingredients renders it very versatile -- perfect for saucing all sorts of fish, seafood, meat, poultry, egg and vegetable dishes....... View full recipe for "~ Sinfully-Simple Sherry & Cream Newburg Sauce ~"

04/10/2015

~ Seafood Newburg: Shrimp, Scallops & Crabmeat ~

This sinfully-rich dish of sweet, tender seafood swimming in a silky-smooth cream sauce is one of those quintessential dishes of the latter 1950's, '60's and '70's that sadly, many cooks have forgotten about. Not me. It's one of the first fancy-schmancy restaurant dishes American housewives started making at home because it didn't take a ton of time or a lot skill to prepare from scratch. Then, as with almost anything made with a cream sauce at the time, the cream-of-soup people stuck their two cents in and began to sell cream of shrimp soup -- dumbed down versions began appearing...... View full recipe for "~ Seafood Newburg: Shrimp, Scallops & Crabmeat ~"

03/30/2015

~ Exquisite Crabmeat Stuffed Omelette a la Benedict w/shallots, truffle cheese, asparagus and bearnaise! ~

"A la Benedict" means "in the style of" eggs Benedict. For runny-egg lovers, this is the la-tee-da, ooh-la-la, creme-de-la-creme of fancy-schmancy, artery-clogging AM indulgences: two golden-toasted English muffin halves, each topped with a slice of smoky ham, a perfectly poached egg and a generous drizzle of buttery hollandaise sauce. This all-American breakfast and brunch specialty has been gracing the tables of high-end restaurants for over a century. There are three claims to the dish's origin (click on the Related Article link below ~ Mel's Over-the-Top but Very Easy Eggs Benedict ~ to read them all), with one being widely-accepted as...... View full recipe for "~ Exquisite Crabmeat Stuffed Omelette a la Benedict w/shallots, truffle cheese, asparagus and bearnaise! ~"

03/21/2015

~ All that Jazz Chicken Oscar w/Blender Bearnaise ~

The first time I ate "Oscar" was in 1983 and I was in "The Big Easy". Four of us were sitting in a fancy New Orleans French-Quarter restaurant, Arnoud's, listening to a jazz band and groovin' to the tunes. My meal arrived and it was all sorts of wonderful: a lightly-pounded, gently-sauteed, succulent, fork-tender veal paillard, piled high with tender Louisiana crayfish, drizzled with buttery bearnaise sauce and garnished with steamed asparagus. I was also drinking French 75 cocktails that night (gin, champagne, lemon juice and sugar) -- it was a most memorable dinner. After the first bite or two,...... View full recipe for "~ All that Jazz Chicken Oscar w/Blender Bearnaise ~"