gratersI know, it’s two days before the incredible Turkey Day, and my mind is on pedicures, (really).  Not just pedicures, but that little egg grater call Ped EggTM has been looming on my mind.  The Ped Egg was initially developed to file away heavy skin of heels and toes.  In the genetic pool, I’ve seem to inherit nasty, thick, rapid growing calluses on my feet.  Now that is more information than you need to know.

The good thing out of this is that I’ve tried every product to remove the calluses and finally found a little file/grater called Ped-Egg which does a wonder job getting rid of my nasty little problem.  Watching my daughter trying to grate a small portion of parmesan cheese and making a mess, I realized that Ped Egg would be perfect.  It is also perfect for garlic, nutmeg, citrus, almost any substance that you need to grate small amounts and easily capture.  The only thing to beware is that Ped Egg is mostly from plastic which will keep that wonderful garlic smell forever.  So buy yourself several Ped Eggs and go experiment.  Luckily they come in 3 colors; pink, light blue and white.

Talk about grating, when I need large amounts of finely grated items, my first choice is my mother’s french cheese grater.  Truly a bizarre contraption, it quickly grates chucks of cheese, nuts and other foods.  The only problem is that it takes up to much room in my small kitchen, which is why it is still at my mother’s house.  I love the Microplane TM rasp for quick, medium size jobs but have been disappointed with their small rasp (it’s in the photo along with the large rasp) – I can’t seem to make it work as well as their large rasps.  But for a fine tiny job, the Ped Egg is wonderful .

Enough about graters and rasps.  Let’s talk about food, and a great cranberry recipe.  Here is one of my favorites.  Every year I buy a large bag of cranberries and make a huge pot of the this recipe.   Cranberry sauce freezes well, so put most of it in plastic containers and freeze for another day.  However if you are DESPERATE, Trader Joe’s makes a good cranberry sauce that isn’t too sugary sweet.

Madeira Cranberry Orange Relish

You can experiment and try using Chardonnay or a Merlot wine instead of the Madeira.

INGREDIENTS

1 pound washed cranberries

2 cups of sugar

½ cup of good Madeira

2 teaspoons grated orange rind

½ cup of orange juice

1/4 cup of finely chopped almonds or hazelnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large heavy pot combine all the ingredients except the nuts.  Cook until the cranberries pop open (approximately 10 minutes).  Skim the foam.  Cool down

2.  Serve the relish in a lovely dish and garnish with the nuts.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy the holiday.  Don’t forget to use your SaladSuccess Salad Dressing Shaker and eat lots of wonderful salads.

breadbowl1By Saturday, I had it.  Too many times we went to Urgent Care; Mom swore she had heart pains which turned out to be pains from a fall  and Suzanne washed her contacts out with the wrong cleaner, thus burning her epithelial cellular layer of her eyes.  Too many times I drove kids around, too many interruptions and too little time for me to get the things done that I had on my list.  I really wanted to work on my family tree and hem my new suit  jackets and pants.  Nothing I wanted to get done got accomplished.  So when it came to dinner time, I panicked.  I hadn’t defrosted any meats or fish, and no little grey cells in my brain were coming alive and printing out a menu.

Then I remembered Clam Chowder Bowls.  Christie loves going to San Francisco and getting a bowl for lunch.  Not only is the soup delicious and warming, there is the afterlife of the meal which she gets to pull apart the sourdough bread and chew the bread with the remnants of the soup.  Plus, I know how to cheat on clam chowder, and by using a favorite can brand,  I add some ingredients, and voila, gourmet clam chowder in 10 minutes.  So here is the skinny.

Clam Chowder Bowls for 4

INGREDIENTS

4 sourdough bread rounds

3 cans of Snow’s New England Clam Chowder (condensed**)

3 cans of low fat/regular milk

1 bunch of finely chopped parsley, no stems

¼ cup of white whine

½ lb of sliced mushrooms

1 onion finely sliced

DIRECTIONS

Turn the sourdough bread rounds into soup bowls by slicing the domed top and hollowing out the inside of the bowl (don’t hollow out too much of the sides) just you would do a pumpkin.

Follow the directions on the back of the Captain Snow’s chowder can.  This will become a rich soup using 2% milk, so it will become incredibly rich with regular milk or half & half. Add the wine.

Sauté the onion and mushrooms in a small pan.  I use olive oil but butter is fine.

Once the onions and mushrooms are sauté (onions should be limp and translucent, mushroom should be soft), place them into the bottom of each bowl.  Add the soup and garnish with parsley and a tab of butter.  Serve immediately.  Excellent with a glass of white wine (I really needed it on Saturday) and a mixed green salad.  Don’t forget the vinaigrette using your SaladSuccess salad dressing shaker.

*** If you can’t find the clam chowder in the condensed form, use the regular can (but you will need double the amount and should adjust the recipe accordingly).

Many users of  the SaladSuccess shaker have been asking for salad recipes to go along with the dressing,  I guess we all get tired of lettuce and a few wedges of tomatoes, cucumber slices and carrots.  Once of my favorite salads is Belgium endive salad, which is simple, and elegant.  Around this time of year, I get cravings for endives (my husband hates them, which is great since they are expensive and he won’t touch them) and have endive salad marathons at lunch time.  Make sure that you use Reggiano Parmesan cheese – it intensifies the flavors of the endives with the vinaigrette.

INGREDIENTS

Belgium endives – one or two (endive lovers) per person.  Don’t count the kids, it is an acquired taste due to the bitterness of the endives.

Reggiano Parmesan – about 10 beautiful long slices

Sherry & Shallots vinaigrette

DIRECTIONS

First chop off the thick, hardcore end of the endive.

I like to rough chop the endives so that they make little curls.  That way it is easier for the dressing and parmesan to get mixed with the vinaigrette.  However for a more elegant look, you could peel the leaves of endives.

Decorate with the cheese.

When ready to serve, shake the sherry & shallot dressing in the SaladSuccess shaker and pour over the salad.

Colmar is famous for its waterways and architecture.

Colmar is famous for its waterways and architecture.

Twenty-two years ago my husband Warren asked me “What is your mother making us for dinner, tonight”?  As I mumbled the words “choucroute”, I felt my heart sink.  “What’s choucroute?” replied Warren innocently.  “Sauerkraut“, I whispered.  Warren’s face fell, and a look of a trapped animal appeared across his face.  It was too late to cancel and escape from the doom of a sauerkraut dinner.

Now to understand Warren’s reaction, you need to know that his mother, Georgia, was a typical mid-western cook of German extraction.  Her idea to cook sauerkraut was to get it out of a can and fry it in a skillet.  An epicurean nightmare.  However, I, of the French mother, loved choucroute, an Alsatian delight in which the choucroute is cooked for hours in spices, wine, and meats.

So Warren, the captured prisoner of doom, sat almost in tears at my mother’s dinner table, hesitantly put a small amount of choucroute on his fork and swallowed.  Suddenly, his eyes lit up and a smile came over his face.  “No way, this is sauerkraut” he said, “this is food for the Gods”, and had two more helpings.  Now when we are touring around Alsace, Warren is always chatting up the locals to find out which restaurant makes the best choucroute and makes a beeline to that restaurant.

If you ever go to the Alsatian countryside of France in the fall, you’ll notice that cabbage is king.  Cabbage, potatoes and pork are the main staple of Northern Europe especially in the winter. And no one makes choucroute better than the Alsatian brasseries.  It is a delight and excellent for the digestive systems, so I’m told.

Now, every year we host a New Year’s Day party, and celebrate by serving choucroute and Riesling wines from Alsace.  In Northern Europe, it is good luck to start the new year with choucroute, and what could be better, than to make sure that friends start out the year on a good and healthy path.

So I part with you my recipe.  Bear in mind that choucroute is very flexible, so throw in as much pork, sausages, and potatoes as you want.  Warren loves the tiny sausages, I like Aidell’s Roasted Garlic and Gruyere, and Christie loves kielbasa.  I make mine in a crock pot and triple the recipe since my pot is holds 6 quarts. And yesterday, my daughter Suzanne begged me to make choucroute, Alsatian sauerkraut.  “Mom, I love it, it’s easy to heat up for school and it fills me up.  And make sure you make it with extra sauerkraut”.

The Real Choucroute of Alsace – approx. 4 hours of cooking

Ingredients

1 bag of sauerkraut – you can find it at the grocery stores in a refrigerated area near the

pickles and hot dogs.  MAKE SURE YOU RINSE the sauerkraut 3 TIMES

1 onion thinly slices

3 tablespoon of lard

1 pound (or a bag) of sauerkraut

Cup of white wine

1 apple coarsely chopped

10 juniper berries tied in a cheese cloth

Chicken stock

1 pound slab of smoke lean bacon

Several peeled potatoes

1 tablespoon kirch (optional)

4 smoked pork chops

4 high quality Frankfurt sausages or any favorite sausage

Heaping tsp. of caraway seeds

DIRECTIONS

In a Dutch oven or crock pot, cook onion and lard until soft.

Add sauerkraut and a dash of water.

Simmer mixture for 5 minutes, stirring often

Add wine, apple, juniper berries and enough stock to cover and cook on low heat for 3 hours

Add bacon and potatoes.  Cook for 30 minutes

Add kirsch, pork chops and sausages, and cook for a remaining 30 minutes.

Remove juniper berries before serving and sprinkle caraway seeds.

Salt and pepper to taste

Often I’ll throw in ham slices, a ham bone or hocks for flavoring.

This is a wonderful, quick and easy recipe that uses the Shallot & Sherry vinaigrette.  If you are able, fresh shrimp off a boat is the best way to make the salad, but those of us that are not as lucky to live near a dock with shrimp boat, can easily make this recipe using pre-frozen shrimp.  From the 3 least expensive frozen shrimp bags – Trader Joe’s, Costco & Safeway, I found that the Safeway “WaterFront Bistro” large shrimp 2 lb. bag with shell is excellent and convenient.  Usually these bags are on sale for $12 to $14 and there are approximate 60 shrimp in each bag.  I use approximately 10 shrimp per salad plate.  If you like spinach leaves, substitute with the mesclun greens.

INGREDIENTS

10 peeled and deveined shrimp per plate

Mesclun Greens

¼ to ½ cup of finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or similar

Olive oil – enough to cover the bottom of the pan

¼ cup white wine

¼ cup chicken stock

1 large shallot, finely sliced

Shallot-Sherry or Classic Vinaigrette

DIRECTIONS

With oil covering the bottom of your pan and using a medium high flame, sautée the shallots, add the wine and stock and let come to a boil.  Toss in the shrimp and cook until pink.  Turn off the heat, add the cheese and mix well.

On a plate with mesclun greens, add the shrimp mixture and pour a tablespoon of the wine – stock liquid over shrimp.  Shake vigorously the vinaigrette in the SaladSuccess shaker, and pour a little less that usual on top of your salad.  If you’d like, add an extra sprinkling of the parmesan cheese, soft boiled egg or garden tomatoes when in season.

Although this is based on the classic vinaigrette recipe, by using a shallot and sherry vinegar, it bumps the vinaigrette up a notch and deserves a recipe page on its own.   Truly an elegant taste, you’ll feel that you are at the finest Paris bistro on the Left Bank.  Les Deux Magots, perhaps.  This vinaigrette gets better and better as the shallots infuse their flavor over time.

INGREDIENTS

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sherry Vinegar

1 large shallot – rough chop

1 spoonful. of Dijon Mustard

Salt & Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Olive oil up to the blue oil line of the SaladSuccess Shaker

Add vinegar to the blue vinegar line

Add chopped shallot and Dijon mustard

2 dashes of salt

1 dash of pepper

Shake vigorously

Clement Faugier Chestnut Spread Creme de Marrons de l'Ardeche -I can still remember it to this day.  It was a beautiful can, brown, blue, green and and gold curlicues with elegant French script.  In fact, it was too beautiful to be called a can; Boîte de Conserve would be a more honorable description.  “Créme de Marron” was written on the label.  I knew it held some wonderful secrets that were begging to be freed.  I knew that something wonderful would come out of that can.  Mom had taken the bus all the way to Georgetown just so she could buy the special can.

On New Year’s Eve she finally opened the beautiful Boîte.  Magic was happening in our little kitchen in Washington DC.  As I watched the snow falling on the black asphalt from our apartment window, I knew that my mother was concocting the most wonderful dessert in the world.  Even its name held the magic: Mont Blanc. It would be a special night with one of her amazing meals.

I can’t remember the main course or the little canapés, and I don’t remember the guests.  I just remember being called back from watching a TV Christmas special, sitting down at my little table (children did not eat with the adults), and looking at the concoction.

The lights were set low, and the candles were burning everywhere.  Still, in this romantic light, I could see the dessert set on my table.  It was whipped cream and this light grey stuff on a meringue.  “It’s a very wonderful French dessert, Cherie, everyone in France loves it.  Taste it, Nadine”, she whispered in my ear.

Nervously, I picked up my spoon.  After all, that cream stuff was grey.  I hesitate, quickly dunked the spoon in the cream, popped it in my mouth and swallowed.  I gagged.  It was the nastiest thing, next to oatmeal, that I had every eaten.  In fact, oatmeal and this blob had 2 features that were identical, they were both grey and they both had a nasty texture when swallowing.  This stuff was like swallowing cream with tiny hairs or sand particles. And the taste – bad, bad, bad.

“I hate it”, I cried out to my mom.  The look she sent back was scary. I was a traitor to fine cuisine, an oaf, not deserving her attention.  All the adult were swooning over the Mont Blanc. “Eat it”, she hissed back.  Slowly I made my way through the white whipped cream and meringue, leaving the grey amorphous matter on my plate.  “Eat it all”, she said with madness in her eyes.

Now when your mother is French with red hair, thus displaying an evil temper, and has worked all day on dinner and dessert, you learn not to tempt the fates by refusing a direct command.  So slowly I made my way thru the grey blob, gulping and choking while tears ran down my cheeks.  As she saw the blob disappear, my mother began to smile.  “There, wasn’t that better”, she said.  “No”, I replied, “It was awful.  I want TV”.  And thus I sealed my fate and was banished to my bedroom for the remainder of the evening.

Still to this day, I shudder about that meal, and will not try a spoonful of chestnut purée.  However in any other form, I love the nut.  Whether it be roasted, in marrons glacées or in meals.  This is now the season of fallen leaves, smoke leaving the chimneys, and chestnuts.  So before I part with you, I would like to leave a traditional French recipe of chestnuts and red cabbage. This is one of my favorite fall meals, and except for the peeling of the chestnuts, relatively simple and rich in taste.  Remember to keep your chestnuts in the fridge, otherwise they get wormy.

Chestnuts and Red Cabbage

INGREDIENTS

Medium size head of red cabbage, thinly sliced and rough chop

One onion, thinly sliced

1 lb of chestnuts

¼ cup water

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

Slice the skin of the chestnut with a sharp knife.  This keeps the chestnut from exploding.

Place the chestnuts in a pot of boiling water for approximately 10 minutes.

Drain the water, cool down the chestnuts and peel the nut from the skin using your knife.

In a good pot with a lid or Dutch oven, pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.

Sautee the onions, then add red cabbage, chestnuts and water. Stir and place lid on the pot.  In 10 minutes, reduce heat and let steam for 40 minutes. Salt and pepper to tast

Serve with a prime rib or roast.  A good red wine would top off this meal.