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140 posts categorized " 01) Hors D'Oeuvres, Appetizers & Starters"

02/04/2017

~Cold & Creamy Crab Rangoon Dip w/Wonton Cups~

Crab meat. I love it. Fresh, frozen or pasteurized, it's an ingredient that has rocked my food world. With it, I make an array of hot and cold appetizers and hors d'oeuvres. I use it to make steamy crab bisque and add it to several seafood soups and stews too. I adore an ice-cold crab salad or crab salad sandwich, and, I can't resist a well-made crab cake or crab cake sandwich. There's more. I can't count the of number classic main-course meals I make with crab. If you've eaten in a Chinese-American restaurant you know what crab Rangoon is...... View full recipe for "~Cold & Creamy Crab Rangoon Dip w/Wonton Cups~"

02/02/2017

~ How to Make: Baked Mini- Wonton Cups & Tacos ~

In my food world, I associate fun food with small, two-three bite appetizers and snacks -- I don't think I'm alone. Ever notice how folks always gravitate around a table, cocktail table or picnic table containing an array of small-bites, noshes and nibbles? We are indeed all in this food world together, but, it's small food that makes the world go round. It makes people smile. Real world fact: It is more fun to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if it is cut into four triangles. Like French puff pastry, the Chinese wonton can be used as a...... View full recipe for "~ How to Make: Baked Mini- Wonton Cups & Tacos ~"

01/31/2017

~ Open Sesame Asian Chicken Slaw Wonton Tacos~

What in the wild-world-of-culinary-sports made me ponder turning wonton skins into mini-taco shells? Over the weekend I made two popular deep-fried Chinese-American appetizers to celebrate Chinese New Year: crab Rangoon and firecracker shrimp. Yesterday, I roasted a chicken, for the purpose of making some Asian chicken salad today -- to use up a few of the miscellaneous Asian ingredients that were leftover, which, included some wonton skins. Wonton tacos? Why not? They're a ton of tasty fun. A bit about making mini- wonton cups & wonton taco shells: For those who don't know, these small squares of flattened dough are...... View full recipe for "~ Open Sesame Asian Chicken Slaw Wonton Tacos~"

01/28/2017

~ Have a Blast: Hot and Crispy Firecracker Shrimp ~

Start with really big shrimp (no alternative facts here). Simmer down. What's the point of having a blog and being on social media if you're going to lie -- about anything? Here on KE, where I test, write and photograph my own recipes, it's easy to speak truth. Experience has taught: the bigger the shrimp the better the firecracker shrimp, and, since their count, which determines their size, is clearly-labeled, you will have no where to run or hide if you don't use 21-25 count (jumbo), or ideally, 16-20 count (extra-jumbo) shrimp, to make this appetizer. No matter what you...... View full recipe for "~ Have a Blast: Hot and Crispy Firecracker Shrimp ~"

01/25/2017

~ Crab Rangoon w/More Crab than Cream Cheese ~

Crab meat, scallions and seasoned cream cheese all wrapped up in a wonton, deep-fried and served with a sweet dipping sauce (like duck sauce or sweet and sour sauce). It's a staple appetizer on most Chinese-American restaurant menus, and, an appetizer I almost never order. Why? Because 99% of the time, both the sweet flavor and delicate texture of the crab (or worse -- imitation crab) is 100% lost to the cream cheese -- akin to seasoned cream cheese spread. With Rangoon (the capital city of Burma) in its name, most people think this is an authentic Asian specialty. It's...... View full recipe for "~ Crab Rangoon w/More Crab than Cream Cheese ~"

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 ~"

01/02/2017

~ Sweet or Spicy Easy Sausage and Cheese Balls ~

On a scale of one-to-ten, with one being super-easy and ten being extremely-hard, these are a one. No slicing, dicing or chopping, just hand-mix four ingredients together, form into "meat" balls and pop 'em in the oven to bake. So easy a caveman can do it -- but that's not the point. They can be made in an RV -- a recreational vehicle -- the kind you drive from Atlanta, Georgia, to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, while partying with five other couples from your tailgate group en route to a Penn State game (which we won). The year was 1986 and we...... View full recipe for "~ Sweet or Spicy Easy Sausage and Cheese Balls ~"

12/31/2016

~ Finger Food: Eggnog Brioche French Toast Sticks ~

Finger foods for breakfast? Heck yea. Well-seasoned tailgaters and football fans do it all the time. New Years -- 'Tis the season to gather together for bowl parties -- no knives, forks or spoons required. Appetizers and snacks commonly found at our early-morning finger-food pub-grub buffets are mini-quiche tartlets, bacon wrapped shrimp, hot crab dip, sausage balls, deviled ham and/or salmon spread with bagel chips, and, a big plate of French toast sticks with a bowl of warm maple syrup sitting in the center for dipping. It's always the duty of the host to prepare "the sticks" and deliver them,...... View full recipe for "~ Finger Food: Eggnog Brioche French Toast Sticks ~"

12/25/2016

~ Holiday Fun 101: Deck the table w/a Pizza Wreath~

Fact: I want pizza once a week. Fiction: Pizza isn't festive enough to serve on Christmas Day. The fact is, when you crave pizza once a week, you'll figure out a way to serve it for any holiday. The truth: This post is simply my foodie way of wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year -- or any holiday you celebrate. I chose pizza because it's universal. A slice of ooey-gooey cheesy pizza piled high with some great toppings of choice brings a smile to everyones face, and, for as long as I have been...... View full recipe for "~ Holiday Fun 101: Deck the table w/a Pizza Wreath~"

12/15/2016

~ Holiday Appetizers 101: Make Lots of Crab Balls ~

As I always tell people, "You can never be too rich or too thin, and, when it comes to holiday entertaining, you can never make too many crab balls." Crab balls are to the cocktail table what rum balls are to the dessert buffet. You do not want to risk running out of either one. I've never hosted a party or attended one where the crab balls weren't the first appetizer to be inhaled by the guests -- and nobody can eat just one. I plan on a minimum of three-four per person. "So", you ask, "what makes a crab...... View full recipe for "~ Holiday Appetizers 101: Make Lots of Crab Balls ~"

11/30/2016

~ Dried Cherry-Berry & Walnut Holiday Cheese Ball ~

'Tis the season for holiday cheese balls or cheese logs. They're in all ordinary grocery stores and specialty cheese shops, or, they can be ordered from catalogs or on-line. For the most part, they are a popular addition to the holiday nosh table -- given to the right person, they make a thoughtful gift too. They pair great with any type of wine or champagne and almost any cocktail. Did you know these tasty (and often pricey) cheese balls are really easy to make at home? Back in the 1970's and 1980's, port wine cheese, and, the relatively inexpensive store-bought...... View full recipe for "~ Dried Cherry-Berry & Walnut Holiday Cheese Ball ~"

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 ~"

10/24/2016

~ Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders ~

In case you haven't heard, Buffalo wings were created at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, late one night in 1964, when Frank and Teresa Bellisimo needed some pub grub for the last of that evening's customers. Teresa sauced the now iconic deep-fried chicken wings with a concoction of Frank's RedHot sauce and melted butter which became just as famous as the wings. By the 1980's, Buffalo wing sauce was being applied to a whole host of other food creations too: "Buffalo" chicken dip, "Buffalo" chicken quesadillas, "Buffalo" chicken salad (one of my personal favorites), "Buffalo" chicken pizza, "Buffalo" popcorn...... View full recipe for "~ Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders ~"

10/20/2016

~ Frank's-Style Buffalo-Style Chicken Wing Sauce ~

Wander into a bar -- any bar, anywhere in America. Buffalo wings are on the pub grub menu. No description is necessary. You know you're getting unbreaded, deep-fried wingettes and drumettes coated in a vivid-red vinegar-based cayenne pepper and melted butter sauce. They'll arrive with celery and carrot sticks, and either blue cheese or ranch dressing for dipping or drizzling. You will most likely be asked to specify if you want your wings coated in a mild, medium or hot version of the sauce. Buffalo wing sauce is a classic concoction. Read on: Frank's RedHot is synonymous with Buffalo chicken...... View full recipe for "~ Frank's-Style Buffalo-Style Chicken Wing Sauce ~"

10/18/2016

~ My Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip ~

The first recipe for Buffalo-style chicken dip I came across was published by Frank's RedHot. This makes sense as Frank's was the secret ingredient used in the original Buffalo chicken wing sauce recipe created in Buffalo, NY in 1964 by Frank and Teresa Bellisimo. Their easy-to-make dip contained just five ingredients (shredded cooked chicken, softened cream cheese, Frank's Redhot, Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dressing, and crumbled blue cheese). Speaking frankly about Frank's recipe, it was and is very good. During the 1980's, the recipe was passed around to everyone in our tailgate group and it showed up regularly at early...... View full recipe for "~ My Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip ~"

10/16/2016

~ Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas ~

My public opinion of Buffalo chicken wings is the popular and safe one: everyone loves Buffalo wings. My private opinion is: serving them needs to be better regulated. Just so there are no misunderstandings, I like wings, but, a finger food drenched in a vivid orangish-red sauce guaranteed to stain my pretty French manicure or ruin my silk blouse ticks me off. There's more: To those who serve wings in a sauce so hot it forces tears to my eyes that causes my mascara run: Extremism is a dish best saved for yourself, not served to your unsuspecting guests. "Primum...... View full recipe for "~ Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas ~ "

10/13/2016

~ Cheesy Roast-Beef Pepper 'n Onion Quesadillas ~

Real-deal oven-roasted beef, a chunk of habanero cheddar cheese, my homemade Baja-spice mix, colorful bell peppers, a sweet onion and a package of flour tortillas. The ingredients are all at my fingertips and the clock is ticking. The only question is, how fast can I slice the beef, grate the cheese, sauté the veggies and assemble them all together between some flour tortillas, grill-pan them all up, get 'em sliced, plated and placed on the TGIF cocktails-are-served table. Topped w/Sriracha-infused crema & fresh salsa too? Making the beef, vegetable & spicy-cheddar quesadilla filling: ~ Step 1. I roast an eye-of-round...... View full recipe for "~ Cheesy Roast-Beef Pepper 'n Onion Quesadillas ~"

10/05/2016

~ Crispy & Light Deep-Fried Mashed Potato Puffs ~

These aren't croquettes (they're not coated in breadcrumbs) and they're not fritters either (there's no batter involved). You gotta admit, they do look a lot like a Southern hushpuppy (no cornmeal in them though), and, although similar, they sure as hell aren't my rendition of Tater Tots (a manufactured shredded hash-brown-type product mixed with flour). These are, in fact, deep-fried mashed potatoes. My grandmother, an Eastern European heritaged woman, who knew a thing or two about potato cooking, used to make them. While I'm on the subject of 'Tater Tots: I've never understood the fascination with these store-bought, frozen thingies....... View full recipe for "~ Crispy & Light Deep-Fried Mashed Potato Puffs ~"

09/25/2016

~ Asian Hot-Pot-Style Steak Sliders w/Broccoli Slaw~

There's more than one way to cook a very-thinly-sliced steak to perfection and "a la" ("in the style of") Chinese "hot pot" or Japanese "shabu shabu" ("Asian fondue") is a method that doesn't occur to most American cooks. It wouldn't have occurred to me either if I hadn't eaten hot pot in China and shabu shabu in Japan. Joe and I enjoyed both of these encounters so much, he arranged to have a copper hot pot shipped from China to my American Happy Valley kitchen. Hot pot & shabu shabu inspired my American-Asian beef sliders. From my American foodie's vantage...... View full recipe for "~ Asian Hot-Pot-Style Steak Sliders w/Broccoli Slaw~"

08/29/2016

~ Batter-Dipped & Deep-Fried Campari Tomatoes ~

Tossing and turning -- I couldn't sleep at all last night. A lot of "stuff" rattles around in my brain on a daily basis. Problem is, if I don't let go of "it" before I turn in for the night, I'd be better off not turning in, because: all that "stuff" seems worse -- magnified -- lying in bed in the dark. Last night was one such night, and, in the midst of a host of keep-me-up-all-night issues, wondering if I could deep-fry our homegrown* (read about this below) Campari tomatoes entered into the mix. The answer is heck yea:...... View full recipe for "~ Batter-Dipped & Deep-Fried Campari Tomatoes ~"

08/17/2016

~ My Deep-Fried Mexican Sweet Street Corn Fritters~

In my kitchen, when one recipe can be turned into a second dish the next day, foodie life is good. When the second recipe can be turned into a third on yet another day, foodie life is great. When dish number three tastes as good or better than the previous two and none of them make me feel like I am eating leftovers, that's when I take a bow. This scenario is especially appreciated by me, the family cook, when our fruit trees and vegetable garden is producing at peak levels. For example: I've got lots of prime-quality local sweet...... View full recipe for "~ My Deep-Fried Mexican Sweet Street Corn Fritters~"

08/15/2016

~Warm Mexican Sweet Street Corn Cups (Esquites)~

When you travel, if you enjoy exploring the ethereal world of street food, Mexico City just might be the mecca for this foodie sport. The native locals call it street-food-hopping -- it's bar hopping for foodies. While it's oh-so-much fun to participate in a street-to-street eat-fest like this with well-seasoned friends who have their own list of top-secret hot-spots, the street scene is so vibrant, if you're alone, you can sign on to take a professionally-arranged "street eats" or "taco tour" too. When it comes to Mexican street foods, high on my short list are: Barbacoa (agave-wrapped slow-roasted lamb barbecue),...... View full recipe for "~Warm Mexican Sweet Street Corn Cups (Esquites)~"

08/12/2016

~Classic Grilled Mexican Sweet Street Corn (Elotes)~

It's that time of year: sweet corn season. Where I live here in Central Pennylvania, it's hard to drive a mile in any direction and not encounter vendors selling it at a farmer's market or a home-grown stand in front of their farm. While in season, I buy it twice a week. We enjoy it, on and off the cob, cooked in lot of ways -- I even freeze the cooked kernels. For six years now, I make it a point to post a recipe or two each year that gives my sweet-corn-loving readers another way to serve this beloved...... View full recipe for "~Classic Grilled Mexican Sweet Street Corn (Elotes)~"

08/05/2016

~ It's all Greek to Me: Except for this Tzatziki Recipe~

When it comes to posting ethnic recipes, even if the ethnicity is the one you inherited by birth and have the papers to prove it, it's best to start with a disclaimer. Too many an ethnic cook self-appoints him- or herself the sole authority on an entire cuisine, and, quite frankly, they get snarky about what goes on in the kitchens of others. If it's not the way their family prepares it, it's wrong. That's wrong. Disclaimer: I am not Greek. What I don't know about authentic Greek cuisine is a lot. What I do know about Greek cuisine is,...... View full recipe for "~ It's all Greek to Me: Except for this Tzatziki Recipe~"

07/28/2016

~Grilled Chicken Wings w/Peachy Keen BBQ Sauce~

Purists will tell you there is no substitution for deep-fried chicken wings. I used to think that too, and, if you want to stay wed to that train of thought, for the time being, it's still a free country. While wings that are oven-fried or grilled can't technically be referred to as Buffalo wings (no self-respecting Buffalo-wing-maker cooks them in the oven or on the grill), wings that are oven-fried or grilled really can be as good as deep-fried wings. I make wings all three ways, I know. Whenever I have a lot of wings to make for a indoor...... View full recipe for "~Grilled Chicken Wings w/Peachy Keen BBQ Sauce~"

07/04/2016

~ Jumbo Shells Stuffed w/Shrimp Chop-Chop Salad ~

These yummy little appetizer-snacks, like my deviled egg creations, go to a lot of Summer picnics and a few early Fall tailgates too. The best way to describe them is individual and portable portions of chop-chop salad, and, most people can't keep their hands off them. They can contain anything your heart desires, as long as the ingredients play well together and are chopped into small morsels prior to judiciously drizzling (not drenching), with a cuisine-appropriate dressing or vinaigrette just prior to spooning the salad into the shells and serving. Since I cook all sorts of cuisines, sometimes my chop-chop...... View full recipe for "~ Jumbo Shells Stuffed w/Shrimp Chop-Chop Salad ~ "

06/20/2016

~ City Chicken: Literally, "The Other White Meat." ~

City chicken. It could be said, "it's a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key" -- A wartime Winston Churchill quote. In The Joy of Cooking, if you go the index intentionally looking for "city chicken", and look under "chicken", you'll not find it. That said, if you're looking for a pork or veal recipe in the same cookbook, and look under "pork or veal", you will stumble upon "mock chicken drumsticks or city chicken" on page 469. That's because: Even though it looks like a chicken leg & tastes like chicken... ......... View full recipe for "~ City Chicken: Literally, "The Other White Meat." ~"

06/10/2016

~ Creole Crawfish Beignets w/French Remoulade ~

Crawfish, crayfish, crawdads or mudbugs: The last time I saw these small, freshwater, lobster-esque crustaceans here in Central Pennsylvania, fresh or flash frozen, was -- never. The only time I've ever encountered crawfish was in Louisiana, Commander's Palace to be exact, and, "crawfish beignets" was an appetizer choice. I ordered it because I was surprised to find the word "beignet" used in a new-to-me savory seafood application rather than a sweet dessert way. Had I been up on my Big Easy history at the time, I wouldn't have been surprised by it at all. Now owned by the Brennan Family,...... View full recipe for "~ Creole Crawfish Beignets w/French Remoulade ~"

05/20/2016

~ Thai-Style Chicken or Pork Satay w/Peanut Sauce~

Get out the turmeric and attire yourself in something you don't mind discarding because we're making satay today. If your manicure is French, put on a pair of latex gloves too. Why? Because, in case you don't know, turmeric (TER-muh-rihk), that earthy-colored, pleasantly-fragrant powdered-spice (that rarely gets used in American cooking) will permanently paint your world a vivid yellow-orange. Made from grinding the rhizome root of the curcumin plant and a close relative of ginger, it's a prime ingredient in curry and mustard powders, and, it's used to give many of the rice dishes, soups and sauces of Indonesia, Malaysia,...... View full recipe for "~ Thai-Style Chicken or Pork Satay w/Peanut Sauce~"

05/09/2016

~ Tamagoyaki: A Fried & Rolled Japanese Omelette~

Leave it to the Japanese to turn a plain omelette into a work of neatly-rolled edible art that's as good tasting as it is pretty to look at. "Tomago" means "egg" in Japanese and "yaki" means "to grill or grilled". Tomagoyaki is essentially: the scrambled egg of Japan. They eat them for breakfast, pack them into bento boxes for lunch, and, serve them alongside other foods, like sushi. Back in 1986, on my first morning in Tokyo, my first tamagoyaki was served with a small salad of pickled fish and pickled ginger. It was in our hotel's dining room (The...... View full recipe for "~ Tamagoyaki: A Fried & Rolled Japanese 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~"

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~"

01/04/2016

~ Steak, Habanero Cheddar & Chimichurri Sliders ~

Slider sandwiches and deviled eggs sort of have a lot in common: They're all-occasion, crowd-pleasing feel-good, portable food. Depending on what combination of ingredients you use to make them, and your presentation, you can serve them on a paper plate with a beer at tailgate or on a linen napkin with a cocktail at a back-tie event. Put a slider on a plate next to a stuffed egg and you've turned two unrelated snacks into a small, well-balanced meal. Stuffed eggs have been around since the days of the Roman Empire. The American word slider, which has no known originator,...... View full recipe for "~ Steak, Habanero Cheddar & Chimichurri Sliders ~"

12/29/2015

~ Mushrooms Stuffed w/Garlic & Fine Herbs Boursin~

Boursin cheese -- it's in my refrigerator at all times. If guests drop by unexpectedly or on short notice, it, a box of crackers and zero effort is all you need to relax and enjoy your time with them. Boursin is technically classified as a "specialty" cheese, however, I classify it as a "party" cheese, because, if you serve it at a party with crackers or toasts, people flock to it. This soft, spreadable, cow's milk cheese has a creamy, buttery texture and a full, slightly-tangy flavor, similar to that of cream cheese. It's perfect to serve as a snack...... View full recipe for "~ Mushrooms Stuffed w/Garlic & Fine Herbs Boursin~"

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 ~"

12/09/2015

~ 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 ~"

11/15/2015

~ Anchor-Deep Deep-Fried Shrimp w/Tartar Sauce ~

Circa 1960's and 1970's Anchor Deep Seafood was the name of a take-out seafood joint in my town, Tamaqua, PA. It was a block from my Great Aunt Mary's house, which was three-four blocks from the high school, where I had band or majorette practice after school three-four days a week, and, way back then, there was no "activities or sports bus" to shuttle us kids who lived in the burbs home -- our parents had to "deal with it". For years, I walked to Aunt Mary's after practice, then, around 5:15PM, my mom would pick me up after she...... View full recipe for "~ Anchor-Deep Deep-Fried Shrimp w/Tartar Sauce ~"

10/28/2015

~ For the Times When You Gotta Have Garlic Knots ~

Garlic knots always remind me of the movie Saturday Night Fever (even though not a single knot got eaten in the movie). That said, in the opening scene, when Tony Manero grabbed "a couple of slices" and did his famous disco-stroll down 86th street, every lover-of-disco who had occasion to travel to Brooklyn wanted to make a pilgrimage to Lenny's Pizza -- including me. I almost made it too. An October ice storm caused us to cancel our plans, and, soon afterward, the couple we were traveling with moved to Connecticut. Eileen and I had worked together in a Happy...... View full recipe for "~ For the Times When You Gotta Have Garlic Knots ~"

09/29/2015

~Cheesy Baja-Spiced Grill-Pan Chicken Quesadillas~

My mother made me grilled cheese -- I would eat one anytime she made me one. I made my kids quesadillas -- they would eat them anytime I made them. There was a span of time, 6-7 years, when my refrigerator was never without flour tortillas, Monterey Jack and salsa. Comparatively speaking, there's little difference between a classic grilled cheese sandwich and a cheese quesadilla -- except you use butter to grill the bread and oil to grill the tortilla. In terms of a quick-to-make & satisfying lunch or snack... ... my quesadillas are kid tested & mother approved! Quesadilla...... View full recipe for "~Cheesy Baja-Spiced Grill-Pan Chicken Quesadillas~"

09/15/2015

~ Mel's Rotolo di Pizza (Stuffed Pizza Rolls/Bread) ~

This rolled sandwich, containing a savory combination of antipasto staples, is in the top five of my family's any-time-of-day snacks -- it's a perfect lunch too. My kids always called it pizza bread, because before it's sliced it looks like a loaf of bread. Once sliced, it reveals a cross between everything they love about a pizza and everything they love about a baked sub (hoagie) -- sans the shredded lettuce and sliced tomato. I'd been making it for years before I heard Mary Ann Esposito refer to it as "Rotolo di Pizza" on her Ciao Italia TV show. From...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Rotolo di Pizza (Stuffed Pizza Rolls/Bread) ~"

09/02/2015

~ Mel's Philly-Style Slider-Sized Soft-Pretzel Knots ~

I love biting into a steaming-hot, crispy and salty on the the outside, chewy and tender on the inside, soft pretzel. More than eating it as is, I adore pulling bite-sized pieces from it and dipping each one into some Gulden's brown mustard. I save the knot for last -- it's the brass ring of the soft-pretzel world. Yes indeed-y, for me, the soft pretzel is on my short list, with a hot dog or a slice of pizza, in terms of "walk around the county fair or carnival" and eat yourself happy foods. You can find soft pretzels nationwide...... View full recipe for "~ Mel's Philly-Style Slider-Sized Soft-Pretzel Knots ~"

07/27/2015

~This Spuds for You: Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes~

Everything tastes better with bacon, and, cheddar makes everything better too -- even broccoli. Everyone loves a steamy, creamy, buttered baked potato, and, twice baked potatoes are, well -- they're the Rolls Royce of the baked-potato world. Men love them, kids adore them, and, from a mom's perspective, they'll get you as many accolades as a hot fudge sundae. Every once in a while, I get so hungry for a twice-baked spud that I just gotta make 'em. Today is such a day. Making twice-baked potatoes is a method, not an exact recipe. A twice baked potato is exactly what...... View full recipe for "~This Spuds for You: Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes~"

06/26/2015

~ GrandMa's Incredible Edible Classic Deviled Egg ~

We grandmothers of today are much different than the grandmothers of past generations. I know. I've been GrandMel for eight years, and, when I look around my kitchen, I see a sea of countertop appliances that make my work a whole lot easier: grind my coffee beans, blend my smoothies, chop my vegetables, mix my cake batters, steam my rice, make my pasta, bake my bread, press my sandwiches, fry my fritters and freeze my ice cream. The list goes on. By the time I was born in 1955, my grandmother had acquired a toaster, and, a fancy-schmancy Sunbeam stand...... View full recipe for "~ GrandMa's Incredible Edible Classic Deviled Egg ~ "

06/24/2015

~ Jamaican Curried Deviled Eggs w/Mango Chutney~

The incredible edible egg. That four-word sentence is Don Draper-esque advertising genius. Joe and I have been starting our days with eggs several times a week for almost thirty-five years -- even during 'the dark period' when the food police were patrolling the streets proclaiming the cholesterol in eggs was going to lead to the early demise of us American egg eaters. When it comes to food I love, I believe in living dangerously, and, eggs are the perfect eggs-ample. If you scout around Kitchen Encounters, you'll find all sorts of really good egg recipes from all over the world,...... View full recipe for "~ Jamaican Curried Deviled Eggs w/Mango Chutney~"

06/22/2015

~ My Devilishly Hot-Russian-Mustard Deviled Eggs ~

When you get invited to a backyard barbecue or a neighborhood picnic, what do you get asked to bring -- a dessert, a side-dish, an appetizer? Nine times out of ten, I get asked to make these deviled eggs. Amongst friends they're simply called "Mel's Eggs", and, they have a reputation for being egg-strordinary, which makes me chuckle because when I was growing up, they were quite ordinary. It's how my grandmother made them and taught me to make them. Horseradish is one of our most beloved Eastern European 'secret weapons'. Like any other deviled egg recipe, you can make...... View full recipe for "~ My Devilishly Hot-Russian-Mustard Deviled Eggs ~"