Tag Archive: celery

Mussels 4 Ways

musselsAhh, mussels. It’s hard to describe precisely why I like these crusty, salty bivalves. Once in a while I get a little piece of shell as I’m eating, and I think to myself: why do I do this? Simply speaking: mussels are delicious. Labor-intensive, yes. Delicate and high maintenance, a little. Dirty and fishy, often enough. So what’s the big deal? Again, mussels are delicious – and good for you to boot. Plus, making mussels (avec le bouillon) is an art form that I have a lot of respect for – the art of broth-making.

There’s something salivating about a big pot of mussels on the table, filled with dark shells submerged in a broth that smells something of butter and wine. Furthermore, mussels are one of those magical foods that become heavenly when cooked with/in alcohol. The catch? You have to take care when making them, or at least pay some attention. I used to buy the poor creatures alive, keep them padded with damp paper towels in my fridge for 24 hours while I got my act together to go ahead and steam them for dinner. A quarter of the little guys would die as I was trying to de-beard them between the sink and the hot stove. I’ll agree, that’s way to much work… My solution? The seafood section at the grocery store is huge, have you checked it out? There’s all sorts of stuff there, including — mussels, in the shell, beautiful and ready to go. I buy a huge, flash-frozen batch for around $9.00 and keep it in the freezer until I’m ready. The best part? No defrosting, you get to concentrate on the broth and as soon as that’s ready you crank up the heat, add frozen mussels, and five minutes later (less, really) you’re ready to dig in.


Mussels seem like a poor man’s food but when you’re eating the poached and pinkened sea creatures between pieces of a baguette and some roasted garlic, it’s close to heaven πŸ˜‰ My advice is to make mussels in any form — and experiment a little with your favorite seafood spices and sauces. Get the mussels frozen and save them in your freezer for a rainy day. I’ve been playing around with mussel recipes and these particular 4 I made up from looking over the various versions in existence (and my own taste and favorite ingredients). Belonions1ow are what I think are the best ways to serve these sweet & salty little things. As always, when making a big pot of mussels, remember to serve them in bowls with big spoons; and other than the mussels + steaming broth, all you really need is a lot of bread and, oh yeah, napkins.

My star ingredient? The onion family. In every one of these mussel recipes, one of the onion family is used; and thank god it’s a big family. Cooking the onions/garlic is how this dish begins and the finished product would not taste the same without this aromatic group of ingredients. The super hero ingredient? Vegetable bullion allows you to make broth with some hot water in seconds, and it can sit in your spice drawer until needed for months. Just be aware it packs a salty taste. But broth is what makes mussels such a sensational dish, so be sure NOT to water down the both any more than is needed, or maybe just water it down with wine instead πŸ˜€

Mussels – 4 Ways (!)

(1) American – Beer Mussels with Bacon, Red Beans, Roasted Garlic, & Fresh Thyme

2 lbs. frozen musselsbeer_mussels

Broth: 1 bottle (light) beer, 5 pieces of bacon, 5 shallots (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can kidney beans (drained & rinsed),

Season with: fresh Thyme (minced)

Serve with: whole wheat baguette (sliced), 4 heads of garlic (roasted), & aged Parmesan (shredded)

(1) To roast garlic: preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit). Cut the top off 4 heads of garlic with a serrated knife. Season lightly with oil, salt, & pepper and wrap OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtightly in foil. Bake for 60-65 minutes until cloves are golden and sweet. Let cool and remove from foil before serving. (2) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add shallots and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (3) Add bacon sliced and cook until fat had rendered and the pieces have browned slightly, 4-5 minutes more. Remove bacon from pot and chop (or chop in the pot with a pair of scissors). (4) Return bacon to the pot. Add broth, beans, and a Tablespoon of fresh Thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and beer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and fresh Thyme. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by bread, roasted garlic, & cheese.

Serves 4

(2) Asian – Spicy Mussels with Saki, Thai Chilies, Mushrooms, & Sesame Seeds

2 lbs. frozen musselsmussels_asian

Broth: 1 cup saki, 1 bunch green onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 cups mushrooms (sliced), 1 small can bamboo shoots (drained & rinsed), 1 small can water chestnuts (drained, rinsed, & sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 2 Thai chilies (sliced), 1 piece fresh ginger (peeled & sliced), 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce.

Season with: sesame seeds (toasted) & chili flakes

Serve with: garlic bread or steamed rice

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add green onions and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (2) Add mushrooms and 1/2 Tbs. sesame seeds, stirring occasionally until slightly browned.Β  (3) Add ginger, bamboo shoots, chili-flakesand Thai chilies, stirring often until fragrant, another 5-6 minutes. (4) Add the broth, soy sauce, and water chestnuts. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and saki. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, chili flakes, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by rice and/or bread.

Serves 4

(3) French – Provencal Mussels with White Wine, White Beans, Dill, & Fresh Tomatoes

2 lbs. frozen musselsMUSSELS-PROVENCAL

Broth: 1 cup white wine, 2 red onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 tomatoes (chopped), 1 can white beans (drained & rinsed), 1 celery stalk (sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can artichoke hearts (drained, rinsed & chopped), 1 Tbs. dried Dill, 2 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: sea salt, cracked pepper, & lemon juice

Serve with: buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurtwhite_beans

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add red onions, celery, and garlic. Cook about 3-4 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add tomato, dried dill, and artichoke hearts, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth, and white beans. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and white wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurt πŸ™‚

Serves 4

(4) Indian – Curry Mussels with Chickpeas, Red Wine, Leeks, & Cashews

2 lbs. frozen musselsCurry-Mussels

Broth: 1 cup red wine (sub Indian beer), 1 bunch leeks (washed & sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 celery stalks (chopped), 2 carrots (peeled & chopped), 3 Tbs. curry powder (any), 1 can chickpeas (drained & rinsed), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1/2 cup cashews (salted), 1/2 cup milk (or cream), 3 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: roasted paprika & fresh cilantro (minced)

Serve with: garlic naan & seared veggies

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add leeks, celery, carrot, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand garlic. Cook about 10-12 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add cashews, curry powder, and chickpeas, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth and bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and red wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with milk (adding more if needed), salt, roasted paprika, and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered naan or seared veggies of your choice.

Serves 4

painting_musselMy “trick,” if you will, is that I only add the wine/saki/beer to the pot of broth when I throw the mussels in, that way the little critters basically poach in alcohol, versus it just burning off in all the boiling… Steaming hot and wreaking of herbs and butter, it’s hard not to get a little messy devouring dishes like these πŸ˜›

My question: what is your all-time favorite seafood dish to eat ? – something you wouldn’t make for yourself, but might treat yourself to? Mine would still have to be lobster tail, mmm… πŸ™‚



Mustardy Goodness

Hello againΒ  – so Summer came and went, didn’t it? And wow, so did Autumn! Now it’s just cold. Brrrr.. 😦 I’m on to thicker, richer flavors – as long as the food is hot!! As Thanksgiving looms in a land far away from me I keep finding excuses to make turkey breast, stuffing-like side dishes, and harvest veggies like squash and hard greens.

Panzanella is defined as “bread salad” but that is a rather colorless description of this Italian concept. The version I made of this classic can be found in August’s Bon Appetit and is traditional and still oh so simple. Panzanella is an ingenious way of using stale bread, which I end up with often enough these days for this be very useful πŸ™‚ I thought the massive amount of savory, briny flavors added another dimension of flavor to this dish, resulting in what should be called “Italian stuffing” – and good enough to substitute for the thick stuff at the Thanksgiving table. As for the mustard, the recipes are pretty consistent: mustard seeds + vinegar = mustard, or something like that. When I made my first batch, one taste just about burned my tongue off so I ended up diluting here and seasoning there considerably. Be warned, mustard means business πŸ˜‰ I decided to combine all my favorite types of mustard into one honey-beer mustard recipe that is sweet and spicy to boot. I think the result is much more fun than the standard recipe and worth the effort. After all, mustard goes in everything (and anything) you can think of, so spice it up! Add a dollop to vinaigrettes, pasta sauce, cheese platters, or scrambled eggs..

So yes, the star ingredient here is mustard. Its uses are endless and it adds ample taste in small amounts; oh, and did I mention it lasts 7 months (at least) in the fridge?! No there’s something useful. Mustard is also a host to health benefits based on the fact that mustard is mostly made up of mustard seeds and those seeds are full of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous, among other things.. Have you seen a mustard tree? It’s huge. And a mustard seed? So small, itsy bitsy. It’s crazy that one turns into the other in a matter of years. So my motto this month is – eat more mustard! And you’d be surprised how easy that is πŸ˜€

Warm Tomato Panzanella with Capers, Olives, and Roasted Peppers


(for the mix)

1 whole-wheat baguette (can sub with any bread), slightly stale & broken into chunks

5 tomatoes

2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced

2 bell peppers, any color

10 kalamata olives, pitted & coarsely chopped

2 Tbs. capers, coarsely chopped

(for the dressing)

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. sherry vinegar

3 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. white wine

1 lemon, juiced

1 Tbs. spicy or whole-grain mustard

1 Tsp. chili flakes

1 Tbs. dried (or 3 Tbs. fresh) oregano

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil on high heat. Line a baking pan with foil and spray with oil, add the peppers and season with salt and pepper, mixing to coat. (2) When the oven is hot, put the baking pan on the highest rack. Roast until peppers are soft and the outside skin is blackened and blistered, 30-40 minutes. (3) Cut an ‘x’ into the skin on the bottom of each tomato with a paring knife. When the water is boiling, add the tomatoes and boil for 1 minute or so until the skin starts to peel back. Immediately transfer tomatoes to a bowl of cold water. When cool, peel the skin and coarsely chop. (4) When the peppers are done roasting, seal in a plastic bag and let sit 15 minutes. Peel and discard the blackened skins and coarse chop peppers; set aside. (5) In a large bowl, add the bread, tomatoes, roasted peppers, olives, celery, and capers. (6) Make the dressing by whisking together the mustard, olive oil, oregano, garlic, lemon juice, chili flakes, white wine, and vinegar. (7) When ready to serve, add dressing to the bread and vegetable mix, tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Honey Whole-Grain Beer Mustard


1/2 bag/jar of yellow mustard seeds

1/2 bag/jar of brown mustard seeds

1/2 bag/jar of mustard powder

1 Ceres classic beer (sub any amber beer)

1/2 cup malt vinegar

1/2 cup tepid water

1/4 cup yogurt

5 Tbs. honey

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Combine mustard seeds, powder, and beer in a large container. Mix, cover, and refrigerate overnight. (2) Add vinegar & water to the mustard seed mixture and blend until most (but not all) of the seeds are pureed. (3) Add remaining ingredients, mix well, and taste. Season with salt, cracked pepper, and more honey πŸ™‚ (3) Chill in the fridge 1-2 hours before using. Keeps in the fridge 7 months. Goes well with crackers, meat, and on rolls with pickled veggies or cheese.

So.. while being a bit time-consuming, it is possible to make your own condiments and once you’ve done so, you can use heaping spoonfuls of it in other dishes. As the sun begins to set earlier, the frost starts to cling to the corners of the windows – I’ll have to come up with even warmer, more comforting food to subsist upon πŸ˜› Ah, it’s wintertime again!

My question:

what is your favorite type of mustard?

There are quite a few variations. My favorite is a toss up between french mustard (always a classic) and honey mustard.

Seriously, who needs ketchup? πŸ˜‰


Homemade Barbecued Pork Ribs

The last meal I made with my family over the holidays was barbecued pork ribs πŸ˜€ Personally, I may have missed the spicy-sugary taste of barbecue sauce but I was definitely missing the whole eat-off-the-bone experience. With ribs it seems, the more time you put into them, the more taste you get out of them (I made that up myself..) and can prove to be an all-intensive process. I reduced marinade, let the ribs soak in it overnight, grilled and basted them over slow heat, and made my own barbecue sauce. I’m thinking I may have gone a bit overboard on the whole DIY concept but hey, you don’t get to make ribs from scratch every day! (At least I couldn’t;-)

The rib recipe I refer to here is from December’s Food & Wine and originally involved Root Beer. After perusing through a couple of cooking magazines with my brother, we quickly established that any meat you serve marinated in and covered with sauces made from Coca-Cola will be tasty, at the very least πŸ™‚ The spiciness in this barbecue comes from ground black peppercorns, a simple combination since there’s so many different and more colorful chilies and spices to choose from out there but black pepper pairs wonderfully with vanilla bean (and just when you thought vanilla couldn’t get any better!) My advice to spice enthusiasts, add 1/2-1 Tablespoon extra ground black pepper to your barbecue sauce if you want it really spicy.

Perhaps needless to say at this point, the star ingredient in the ribs recipe is Coca-Cola. And why not?! I initially thought that the taste might be overshadowed by some of the other flavorful ingredients but that wasn’t the case. Apparently boiling something down over time only contributes to the flavor :] This is making me think that you could probably boil any soda down to its sauce form, like Dr. Pepper steak sauce or chicken cutlets with Fanta reduction. I should start considering soda an ingredient (is it that bad? Doesn’t cooking making it any better? I hope so…)

Slightly inspired by the whole farewell ‘grilling theme’, I made another recipe, this one from last June’s Food & Wine, which is a salad with grilled oyster mushrooms and green grapes, chilled celery and butter lettuce. Salad and barbecue just sound like the perfect combination.. I have included both recipes in this post, let’s call it le grill menu. The two go awfully well together and the ribs were so delicious I was eating them with my fingers a quarter of the way through, probably covered with a little barbecue sauce too. I was not the only one though πŸ™‚

Grilled Pork Ribs with Coca-Cola Lime Barbecue Sauce


(for the marinade)

2 cans of Coca-Cola

3 shallots, sliced

1/2 cup fish sauce

1 head of garlic, peeled & crushed

1/4 cup whole black peppercorns

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup cold water

2 racks of pork ribs (about 5 lbs. or 2.3 kilos)

(for barbecue sauce)

3 cans of Coca-Cola

1/4 cup lime juice

1 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 ts. salt

2 vanilla beans, split & scraped for seeds (or 2 Tbs. vanilla extract)

cooking/grilling spray

(1) To make the marinade, boil Coca-Cola, fish sauce, garlic, black peppercorns, shallots, and vinegar for 1 minute over high heat. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep for 30 minutes; uncover and let cool. Add the olive oil and cold water, stir, and transfer to a ziploc bag or large dish before adding the pork ribs. Cover/seal and marinate meat overnight in the fridge. (2) While cleaning and preheating the grill (on medium), let ribs come to room temperature, uncovered 20-45 minutes. (3) In a medium saucepan, mix the vanilla bean, black pepper, and 3 cans of coke. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce to about 1/2 cup, stirring occasionally, 25-35 minutes. Add the lime juice and salt, simmering over low heat for 2 minutes. Strain and discard the vanilla bean and remove pan from heat. (4) When cooled, stir in the garlic and chili powder, seasoning barbecue sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (5) Once grill has preheated, drain the marinade from ribs, reserving about 1 cup for basting. Spray ribs with cooking spray and grill over medium-high heat, turning once, to sear each side, about 10 minutes total. (6) Put heat to low and continue grilling the ribs, turning often, and basting every 5-7 minutes until cooked (edges of the meat will begin to pull away from the bone), about 35-45 minutes. Remove ribs from the grill, slather in barbecue sauce, and cover with foil, letting rest for 10 minutes. (7) Before eating, cut between each rib with a sharp knife. Serve pork ribs with lime wedges and a side of barbecue sauce.

Serves 4

Grilled Grape & Mushroom Butter Leaf Salad with Mustard-Celery Seed Vinaigrette


(for the vinaigrette)

3 Tbs. walnut oil

1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tbs. celery seeds

1 lemon, juiced

2 Tbs. fresh Parsley, minced

3 green onions, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. white wine

salt & cracked pepper

(for the salad)

1 head of butter lettuce, stemmed & torn

1 cup fresh sprouts

1 cup green grapes

1/2 cup fresh celery, thinly sliced

1/4 cup celery leaves

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

2 cups fresh oyster mushrooms

1/4 cup roasted & salted whole almonds

(1) To make vinaigrette, whisk together all the ingredients, walnut oil through white wine above, in a medium bowl and season to taste with salt & pepper (adding more champagne vinegar, if needed:-) Cover and chill until ready to serve. (2) Wash and dry salad greens, combining the celery leaves, parsley leaves, butter lettuce, and sprouts in a salad bowl. Refrigerate. (3) Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and clean racks with lemon halves. When hot, grill the oyster mushrooms, turning once, until browned, about 3-4 minutes. Also grill the green grapes on a strip of foil until slightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Remove both from grill and let cool about 2 minutes. (4) Next, add sliced celery and roasted almonds to the salad greens. When ready to serve, toss salad with grilled mushrooms and grapes and 5 Tbs. of the salad vinaigrette. Serve immediately πŸ™‚

Serves 4

So, at last my desire for grilled food has been satisfied }:-) for now…I will see what new inspirations come with visiting wonderfully flavorful Espania! I already miss cooking with my family, but at least I’ll be coming up with some more meaty meals since my little brother will be here and cooking with me by the end of the week, in my uber tiny European kitchen too πŸ˜€

My question: What is your favorite style of barbecue sauce?

It seems like every city has one. There’s Memphis (sweet and salty), Kansas City (tomato-based), and St. Lious (tangy) barbecue and the list goes on and on..


Thanksgiving in a Danish Kitchen

So, I’m thinking ‘Danish’ can be closely compared to ‘European’ but I’d rather not generalize in this case, the fact of the matter is that I am most definitely in Europe, where stuffing mix is hard to come by and nobody tends to remember this food-loving American holiday. I did, however, in the interest of socializing with good people and cooking good food, make it a point to celebrate Thanksgiving and wouldn’t allow my location (or my very cramped kitchen) to affect the occurrence of that. My challenge: to make Thanksgiving dinner–the turkey, the stuffing, the gravy, the veggies–all of it without an oven (ha!) and using only the 2 burners on my very little hotplate. Impossible? I think not!

I have included here the entire menu I served to our company; we were five in all (oh yes, technically six:-) and I wanted to stay pretty traditional with the recipes. To just state the hardest thing about all this right off, ’twas the stuffing. Couldn’t find any sort of stuffing mix, breadcrumbs, or even croutons (I don’t think they have a Danish word for that) so I had to get 2 loaves of bread, toast them on the stove (yeah, ’cause who needs a toaster?), cut them up into little cubes, and hope for the best when I threw them all together with broth and veggies. Luckily for me, all the effort was worth it as the stuffing turned out splendidly. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the results of my toiling in the kitchen this last Thanksgiving, I know the meal was memorable and above all things, delicious!

Just on a side note, the veggie recipe I got from Cooking Light but the rest of it, including the stuffing, turkey “medallions” as I like to call them, and the gravy was basically improvised. I got to say that while having an oven would have made this all go a lot quicker (not to mention easier), not having one and being forced to innovation and creativity was an enjoyable experience with equally satisfying results. Don’t have an oven? No fear, anything is possible as long as you have some crockery and access to heat }:-)

Before I go on to the details, I have to say that the star ingredient in all this (because every menu has one), would be fresh Thyme which, thanks to my friend and ‘sous chef’ for the evening, we had plenty of since she spent an hour at least painstakingly pulling Thyme leaves from their stems; yes, SO happy I had help with that! It was an awesome, if not time-consuming task, although it ended up turning her fingers black :p, hopefully that washed off, eventually…

Peppered Sage Turkey Medallions with Red Wine Gravy


(for the turkey)

2 lbs. fresh turkey breast, trimmed

3 Tbs. dried sage

salt & cracked pepper

butter, for frying

(for the gravy)

1/2 cup red wine

3 Tbs. butter

3 cups chicken broth

2 Tbs. fresh Thyme leaves

1 Tbs. dried Sage

1/2 cup milk

2 Tbs. flour

1 cup low-fat cream

salt & cracked pepper

(1) For turkey medallions, take each breast and cut in half; put a piece at a time in a plastic bag and, over a thick cutting board, beat with a can (or meat mallet) until turkey is thin and tender. Repeat with all breast pieces. Season both sides of all turkey pieces generously with salt, cracked pepper, and dried sage. (2) Next, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat in a frying pan until melted, then add the first turkey piece. Fry for about 5 minutes, browning both sides and checking that the meat is cooked through before transferring to a separate plate and covering with foil. Repeat the frying process for all turkey pieces, adding more butter when necessary to prevent sticking. When done, cover and set cooked turkey aside until ready to serve. (3) For the gravy, use the same pan with turkey drippings and deglaze with a little red wine then add 2 Tablespoons of flour, stirring with a whisk until flour begins to brown slightly. Add the chicken broth, butter, and remaining red wine; let the entire mixture simmer over medium heat until thickened, 8-10 minutes. (4) Stir in the dried sage, fresh thyme, and milk, whisking often for another 5 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the cream and season gravy with salt & pepper. Ladle over the turkey pieces (and anything else in dire need of gravy goodness πŸ™‚

Serves 6

Traditional Sourdough Bread Stuffing with Garlic, Celery, and Onions


2 loaves of sourdough (or wholewheat) bread, sliced

olive oil

1 head of celery, coarsely chopped

4 medium onions, coarsely chopped

5 cloves of garlic, minced

4 Tbs. fresh Thyme leaves

4 cups chicken broth (or 2 bullion cubes with water)

3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar


salt & cracked pepper

(1) Toast all bread by brushing each side of the pieces lightly with olive oil and placing in a frying pan or skillet over medium heat until nicely browned, turning once to toast both sides, about 3-4 minutes total per slice (if you have the luxury of owning a toaster, just use that to toast all the pieces until well-browned). (2) Cut/tear all the toasted bread slices into small cubes or chunks and let sit uncovered for a couple hours until crumbs have hardened slightly. (3) In a large pot, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat and add all of the celery, garlic, and onions, stirring occasionally and cooking until tender, about 10-15 minutes. (4) When close to serving, add all of the breadcrumbs and fresh Thyme to the pot and stir, before pouring in chicken broth and apple cider vinegar. Mix the stuffing together until well-blended, adding more broth if too dry; season to taste with salt & cracked pepper. Turn the heat to its lowest setting and cover the pot, keeping warm until ready to dish up onto plates.

Serves 6

Buttered Green Beans and Mushrooms with Fresh Thyme


1 lb. green beans, trimmed

1 lb. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

3 Tbs. butter

3 Tbs. fresh Thyme leaves

salt & cracked pepper

(1) In a large wok, fill the bottom 2 inches deep with salted water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. When bubbling, throw in the green beans and steam until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Immediately rinse green beans in cold water to stop the cooking process, pat dry, and set aside. (2) Next, drain salted water from the wok and melt 2 Tablespoons of butter, lowering the heat to medium. Add sliced mushrooms and Thyme leaves, stirring well and cooking, uncovered, until all the moisture evaporates from the bottom of the wok and the mushrooms are tender, about 10-12 minutes. (3) When ready to serve, throw in the steamed green beans and remaining 1 Tbs. of butter, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook another 3 minutes, until vegetables are warmed through and steaming. Serve immediately beside turkey and stuffing πŸ™‚

Serves 6

So there you have it: Thanksgiving dinner for six, traditionally tasty, pleasantly affordable, and immensely satisfying. The hardest part was actually making it all (in a timely fashion, of course) but if you have as wonderful company/accomplices as I did, then that turns out to be funnest part too :] Must I really wait another YEAR to have Thanksgiving again?!

My question: what is your favorite twist on the traditional gravy recipe?

I used red wine, but I bet there are some amazingly interesting things you can do to spice up this delicious thickened sauce…


Country Style Comfort Food

This week I have the pleasure of staying at a house in the city of Silkeborg (it means silk castleπŸ™‚ which includes a beautifully spacious kitchen. I wanted to cook something simple, but still hearty since my motivation was to make some comfort food. I based this dish off a pasta recipe in Cucina La Italiana that incorporates fava beans, artichoke, and chicken ragu (if they only sold fava beans here, I’d be on that like white on rice;)

Instead of chicken, I used dried garlic pork sausage which added flavor as well as a little bit of fat for all the vegetables to cook in. I believe the final productΒ  could have passed for a country supper, and a tasty, filling one at that! As for using the metric system, I’ve just stop looking at measurements altogether, since my approximation skills are a whole lot better than my conversions };)

In my aims for simplicity, I used lasagna noodles which I cut into squares after they’d softened in boiling water a bit; wouldn’t recommend this since scalding hot pasta is not fun to handle, but any other pasta substitute would work just as well in this dish. People may get a little apprehensive about all the celery but I think it’s a plus, and not just because of the nutrition; it adds zestfulness (ha) to the dish and besides, if cut small enough and cooked soft enough, the celery is not as strong a flavor as it may be made out to be.

As for the key ingredient, it is most definitely the white wine (seriously, don’t be shy), which enriches the sauce considerably. My advice, open the bottle first, have a glass, cook with a cup and a half, and finish it chilled alongside dinner πŸ™‚

Cannellini Beans, Sausage, & Soft Noodles in a White Wine Celery Sauce


(for pasta)

1 lb. uncooked pasta (such as tagliatelle or bowtie)

1 can Cannellini beans, drained

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup grated soft cheese, (such as Havarti or Port-Salut)

(for sauce)

1 cube chicken bullion (or 1 1/2 cups chicken broth)

1 cup dry sausage, cut into squares

1 white onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

5 stalks of celery, finely chopped (reserve and chop the leaves for garnish)

3 oz. tomato paste

1 Tbs. herbs de Provence

1 1/2 cups dry white wine (like a Viognier or Pinot Blanc)

1 tsp. lemon juice

sea salt & cracked pepper

olive oil

(1) Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, or until softened. (2) Add the sausage and lemon juice and cook for another 5 minutes. Next, add the white wine, tomato paste, and chicken bullion, letting cook until the sauce has thickened, roughly 10 minutes. (3) Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add the pasta, cooking until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain the pasta and return to the pot; add the Cannellini beans and mix well. (4) Flavor the sauce with salt and pepper and herbs de Provence; taste to see if it needs a bit more wine, lemon juice, or pepper and season accordingly. Add all of the sauce to the pasta & beans and reheat the mixture over medium low heat, stirring well. (5) Stir in the beaten eggs and heat, mixing until the pasta has an even, juicy texture and is steaming hot, about 3-5 minutes. Divide the pasta among bowls and top with grated cheese and minced celery leaves; serve with a toasted baguette if desired.

Serves 4

Since all the cooking (and eating) went so well, I have already planned another hearty pasta dish to make (Asian cuisine this time) and a savory breakfast recipe for my week with a kitchen. It seems I’m just crazy about cooking (what I mean is food), but I’m sure I’ve mentioned that already! Considering that we have absolutely no leftovers from dinner last night, I’ll probably end up making something real soon…got to love that πŸ™‚

My question: what was one of the most interesting pasta dishes you ever tried? Was it in Asian, French, or Italian? I’m searching for variation and creativity, maybe even some nutrition too…


On a Cloudy Day All I Want is Soup…

Ahh, don’t get me wrong. Cloudy weather is nice, I mean it’s cold…and brisk and…did I mention cold? But, as my title points out, when it gets cloudy, all I want is soup. But who doesn’t? There’s a reason soup settles so satisfyingly in the stomach; after all, broth is best. Soup is also a genre of food with endless variation. And just for an example: think of your favorite food; now, imagine it as a soup. Eureka, right?! πŸ˜‰ I could make up soups all day. Any combination of ingredients (fresh or likewise) will work and with some patience, stirring, and a blender, the soup eventually cooks itself.

For this particular soup recipe, I substituted celery root for a normal base of potatoes because…why not? The flavors are similar, but celery root has perhaps a slightly richer (but not starchier) flavor that reminds me of anise. Did I mention celery root aids digestion? After everything is blended, the soup takes on a much smoother consistency, which is perhaps why I was able to pack in the fresh veggies, because you can never have too much of those πŸ™‚

I originally got this recipe from one of my beloved soup books, only to discover I’d packed the book away in one of my many boxes 😦 Now that’s sloppy planning. Luckily I kept track of the ingredients, so I ended up making this soup based on a recipe from a New Hampshire Co-Op. And New England knows blue cheese. Mmmm. In this case, the blue cheese is important as the flavor should be robust enough to enhance the vegetables but not so strong that it overpowers the final dish. I decided upon Maytag blue cheese because I figure I’ll have plenty of time to try the traditional Danish blues πŸ˜‰

The best thing about all this is that by the time I got around to making the soup, it was late at night and so I had the kitchen to myself and plenty of time to sample pieces off the crumbling block of blue cheese. Remember, you only need a cup for the soup and it’s the chef’s duty to test the ingredients for quality control, at least that’s my excuse!

Creamy Celery Apple Blue Cheese Soup


2 Tbs. Butter

1 head of celery, stem and leaves, chopped

2 lbs. celery root, peeled and chopped

2 yellow onions, chopped

1 golden delicious apple, chopped

6 cups chicken broth

1 cup blue cheese, crumbled

2 Tbs. white wine

1 cup fat-free half & half (or cream/milk)

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion and celery, cooking until soft, 8 -10 minutes. (2) Stir in the broth and bring to a boil; add the celery root, cover, and reduce the heat to low, simmering until the celery root pieces are soft, about 35 minutes. Add the golden apple pieces and let cook another 10 minutes. (3) Remove the soup from the heat, uncover, and let cool. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth, returning the entire mixture to the pot. (4) Reheat the soup over low heat; stir in the half & half and white wine, adding the blue cheese a little at a time and mixing until well blended. (5) Season the soup with salt & pepper to taste and add extra chicken broth (or wine) if lacking in consistency. Garnish with celery leaves and serve with toasted bread of choice (can be kept up to 2 weeks in the fridge…)

Serves 6

It is true that soup rarely fails to satisfy. There’s something about a steaming bowl of palatable vegetables and spices that’s the best thing when your hungry and it’s cold outside πŸ™‚ Man do I love blue cheese.

My question: What is the best soup for a cold day?