Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce for Shrimp Cocktail

By Paul Briand

I've been assigned an appetizer for our Christmas Day dinner and am bringing the shrimp cocktail.

But instead of the usual cocktail sauce, which I'll also bring, I wanted to offer an alternative dipping sauce.

Here's one I found at

The yield for this recipe is about a half cup of dipping sauce, which is probably enough for a dozen shrimp. So make adjustments as necessary depending on how many shrimp you intend to serve.

2 teaspoons chopped scallions
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the ingredients and heat through, stirring with a fork until warm;
2. Transfer to a small serving bowl.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sloppy Joes

By Paul Briand

Every family should have a Sloppy Joe recipe on hand, and we as a society can do oh so much better than the canned stuff we find on the store shelf.

I like this recipe because it takes all of 15 minutes and can feed a small horde.

It comes courtesy of the Food Network.

A couple of points: This recipe seeks to be more healthful by calling for low-salt or no-salt ingredients, and there are comments attached to the online recipe that the lack of salt failed to bring out some of the flavor. So, the saltiness aspect is a jump ball -- trade a healthier recipe for something that might not be as dynamic for the taste buds.

And be advised on the jalapenos -- their heat is not to everyone's taste. Lastly, I had some leftover corn and threw it into the mix. It's not in the original recipe but I liked the little sparkle of color.

1 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 red pepper, diced
1 can small red beans or pinto beans, preferably low sodium drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups no-salt-added tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon mustard powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 whole-wheat burger buns

1. Brown the meat and the onion in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, breaking up the meat into crumbles as it cooks;
2. Pour the drippings out of the pan and discard;
3. Add the garlic, jalapeno, and red pepper and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally;
4. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes more;
5. Place a half-cup scoop of the mixture onto each bun and serve.
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bourbon-Glazed Salmon

By Paul Briand

I like bourbon. My wife Jane likes salmon. Marry the two and you've got a great-tasting, easy-to-make meal.

The recipe is basically for a marinade that ultimately becomes the glaze for the salmon.

I came upon the recipe in a round-about way. It originated from Cooking Light magazine and was posted on I saw a reference to it on one of the Twitter postings for someone I follow as part of my Baby Boomer writing for Yes, it's a tangled web we weave, so to speak.

For the record, I used Jack Daniels, which is technically a whiskey, not a bourbon. But the effect is the same. Once the bourbon cooks down in the marinade/glaze you're left with a sweetness that's enhanced by the brown sugar.

3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
Cooking spray
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag;
2. Add fish to bag, seal, and marinate in refrigerator 1 1/2 hours, turning occasionally;
3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and coat pan with cooking spray;
4. Add fish and marinade to pan; cook fish 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness;
5. Place 1 fillet on each of 4 plates and drizzle each serving with about 2 teaspoons sauce;
6. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon green onions and 3/4 teaspoon sesame seeds.
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Turkey Tetrazzini

By Paul Briand

If you have turkey still leftover in the freezer from Thanksgiving. And if you want another take on a turkey tetrazini recipe for those leftovers, here's the one that's been in our family forever.

Come to think of it, I think the Pilgrims themselves used this recipe after their feast with Massasoit.

My take on this recipe includes more cheese than originally called for, I use half and half instead of cream, plus I use large shells instead of spaghetti.

This recipe, by the way, works equally as well with chicken and you don't need leftovers from Thanksgiving to pull it off. Most markets that offer roasted chickens these days also offer roasted turkey breasts, which provides plenty of meat for the recipe.

2 cups of turkey
1/2 pound of mushrooms
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup cream (substitute half and half)
Sherry (to taste)
Black pepper
16 ounces of cooked think spaghetti (substitute shells or your favorite paste)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (substitute 2 cups, add some different cheese to the mix)

1. In a large skillet over medium high heat melt a half stick of butter and sautee mushrooms;
2. As they start to shrink add flour to make a rue;
3. Add the broth, cream and sherry, stirring until the sauce thickens;
4. (At this point, I diverge from my family recipe and also add a cup of cheese);
5. Add some black pepper;
6. Stir in the turkey and heat through;
7. In a bowl, combine the turkey mixture with the the cooked pasta;
8. Pour the mixture into a baking dish;
9. Top with rest of cheese (You could also add a sprinkling of bread crumbs here, too, as an option);
10. Bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees covered for 15 minutes until the cheese melts and the top starts to brown;
11. Serve with cranberry sauce.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Taco Lasagna

By Paul Briand

Here's a simple fusion recipe for you: The taste of tacos fused with the heartiness of lasagna.

Getting this lasagna onto the table first requires the assembling of a variety of ingredients from the market and deciding what garnishes you want to add to the dish.

1 pound of ground beef
1 package of taco seasoning mix
1 bottle of beer (or a cup of water)
4 soft tortillas that fit into a 9-inch pie plate
Fresh mozzarella cheese, about 8 ounces
1 package of shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees;
2. In a skillet heated to medium high cook the ground beef, add taco seasoning mix and beer (or water) and continue to stir until the mixture starts to bind up. Remove from heat and set aside;
3. Place a tortilla into ungreased glass or metal pie plate;
4. Layer in one third of the meat mixture, strips of mozzarella cheese, and a third of the cheddar;
5. Add another tortilla and another layer of meat, mozzarella and cheddar;
6. Add third tortilla and another layer of meat and cheese;
7. Top with last tortilla;
8. Bake for about 15 minutes;
9. Remove and top with your favorite garnishes.

The lasagna yields six pie-like slices. My choice of garnishes included guacamole, salsa, and jalapeno peppers. Other choices could include black olives, more cheddar cheese, sour cream, and nacho cheese sauce.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009


By Paul Briand

Growing up, my Mom frequently exposed our family to some of the food from the Eastern Europe branches of her family tree, especially around Easter, when she would make paska, a traditional Polish egg bread.

But we never explored the culinary side of my Dad's French-Canadian upbringing. So I was pleased to find in a recent issue of the American Automobile Association magazine a recipe for Tourtiere, a traditional French-Canadian meat pie dish normally served around the holidays.

There are any number of varieties of a Toutiere. Though considered a meat pie, you can play with combinations of ground beef, pork, turkey, chicken or veal. You can add some chopped up vegetables. I used ground beef and veal, and chopped onions and mushrooms.

It's not a complicated dish, by any means, but what sets it aside is a blend of spices -- particularly cloves -- that you might otherwise associate with mulling cider or wine. I'll play with this recipe in the future. I'd like it to stand up better once I cut into it, which means I need something to hold the ingredients together as they bake in the pie crust.

1 pound of ground beef
1 pound of ground veal
1 onion, diced
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Pastry for double-crust 9-inch pie
A little milk

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees;
2. Add the beef and veal to a large skillet over medium high heat;
3. Add the onion, mushrooms, garlic, chicken stock and spices and bring to boil;
4. Simmer on low, uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally;
5. Drain off excess fat;
6. Line a pie pan with half of the pastry and spoon the meat filling into the shell;
7. Top with the remaining pastry, crimping the edges together;
8. Cut slits in the top crust and brush with a little milk;
9. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is brown;
10. If crust browns too quickly, reduce heat to 350 degrees or cover crust edges with foil;
11. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Roasted Pork Loin with Apples and Cinnamon

By Paul Briand

This recipe came from a visit my wife Jane made to New York state for a girls' weekend with her three daughters. One of the daughters, Reilly, is a student at Ithaca College, so Jane, daughter Kelsey and daughter Eileen made arrangements to travel to Ithaca for a weekend of touring wineries and sightseeing and visiting.

Jane picked up a little brochure with information about apples, in particular apples native to New York state, such as the Empire and Cortland.

The brochure contained information about various apples and various recipes that use apples, including one for Roasted Pork Loin with Apples and Cinnamon.

I made the recipe recently for a big family Sunday dinner and it was a big hit with only a moderate amount of preparation involved.

The idea here is to create a rub for the pork using olive oil, pepper, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Also, the recipe called for two apples, I used three. And, since we couldn't find a 2-pound pork loin, we bought two loins of about a pound each.

2 pounds boneless pork loin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger, divided
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 Cortland apples, cored, peeled and sliced into wedges

1. Rub pork loins with a mixture of the olive oil, pepper and a 1/2 teaspoon each of the ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon;
2. Roast pork in a shallow pan in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the interior of the meat reads at least 155 degrees;
3. While the pork is roasting, mix together in a small bowl the rest of the ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon along with the wine, honey and lemon juice;
4. Place mixture in a medium sauce pan and add apples, then simmer until the apples break down into the sauce;
5. When the pork is done, let sit for 10 minutes before slicing and add pork roast juices to the mixture in the sauce pan;
6. Serve sliced pork topped with the apple sauce.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mediterranean Fish Stew

By Paul Briand

This recipe has been kicking around in my sister Margaret's recipe book for many years, and it's a family favorite.

And I'm being literal when I use the term "kicking around" because an important part of this recipe is a topping that adds some real kick to the stew. The topping is sour cream based and includes cayenne pepper -- the more cayenne the heartier the kick.

(For stew)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion chopped
1 large green pepper chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
2 16-ounce cans of kitchen ready tomatoes
1/2 to 3/4 cup of white wine
8-ounce bottle clam juice
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 teaspoon each of basil, oregano and thyme
2 pounds total of white fish, shrimp and/or scallops
(For topping)
1 cup sour cream
3 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Make the topping ahead of time starting with the sour cream in a mixing bowl and add the garlic, cayenne, lemon and salt and mix. More cayenne equals more kick. Cover and refrigerate to give the ingredients an opportunity to marry;
2. In large pot with oil heated over medium high heat, sautee the onion and pepper until limp;
3. Stir in garlic;
4. Add the tomatoes, white wine and clam juice;
5. Stir in bouillon cubes along with basil, oregano and thyme;
6. Simmer covered for 15 minutes;
7. Bring to boil and add fish, shrimp and/or scallops;
8. Simmer for 8 minutes;
9. Serve with crusty bread.

I used a pound of fish (cod) along with a half pound of pre-cooked shrimp and a half pound of scallops. I gave both the shrimp and scallops a quick frying pan searing in hot oil before they went into the stew.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Caramel Appletizer

Editor's note: This recipe comes from my son, David, who has both skill and imagination in the kitchen.

By David Briand

I was recruited to prepare appetizers for a surprise birthday party with a Roaring 20s theme. Based on the theme, I decided to prepare one meat and one meatless appetizer, both of which would use alcohol in the recipe in celebration of the decade of Prohibition and bootlegging. I found two recipes on the internet that called for bourbon, so I went out and bought a bottle of Jim Beam.

The first was a recipe for bourbon BBQ sauce. The second was for a bourbon-infused caramel, which I knew I could use for an autumn-themed arrangement. Caramel apples are always a fall favorite, so a bag of Macintosh apples was added to the shopping list. Pairing fruit with cheese is always a hit, so I decided on a block of good old New York cheddar. The Roaring 20s, after all, was an American phenomenon. Last, I needed a base upon which to assemble the ingredients, and a crusty baguette seemed a perfect fit.

Caramel Ingredients
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp butter
1 tbsp bourbon
3/4 cup heavy cream

Heat sugar on high until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Once all the sugar has been liquefied, add butter and whisk vigorously until all the butter has melted. Add cream and bourbon, whisking continuously and remove from heat. Let stand for a minute, then transfer the caramel to another container. If you refrigerate it, you'll have to reheat before use.

Cut baguette into thin slices, about 1/8 inch. Place on cookie sheet and bake on 425 degrees until toasted lightly. Cut Macintosh apples into flat, half-moon shapes. Using a vegetable peeler, slice off thin strips of cheddar.

Use the baguette chips as a base, then add a slice of cheddar, then the apple, and drizzle with the bourbon caramel. Stick a toothpick through the whole stack, and there you have it -- Caramel Appletizers.
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Salmon Burgers with Caesar Slaw

By Paul Briand

If you watch Rachael Ray on the Food Channel or on her own syndicated show, you know that she can whip up a meal in 30 minutes or less. She's built a cooking career on her 30-minute meals, in fact.

So I decided this week to put Ray to the test with her recipe for Salmon Burgers with Caesar Slaw.

From start to finish, I had this meal on the table in 45 minutes. To be fair, however, I probably could have done it in the prescribed 30 minutes, but while I was doing the salmon burgers and slaw, my son David who was visiting for a couple of days was doing a side dish of homemade mac and cheese. So there was conversation. And there was beer.

But the end result was a tasty meal created with only a moderate amount of effort.

A couple of notes on the recipe. Ray calls for a 14-ounce can of salmon. I don't like canned salmon, so instead I used two 12-ounce pouches of salmon.

2 (12-ounce) pouches of salmon
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 lemons, zested and juiced, divided
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs, 3 generous handfuls
Salt and pepper
4 anchovies, finely chopped, optional
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, eyeball it
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Couple handfuls grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano
2 hearts romaine lettuce, shredded
1 head radicchio, shredded

1. In a bowl with the salmon, add egg whites, parsley, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 2/3 of the total amount of chopped garlic, the bread crumbs and lots of black pepper and a little salt. Mix together and form 4 large patties or 8 mini patties;
2. To a salad bowl add the remaining zest and lemon juice, remaining garlic, chopped anchovies, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire;
3. Whisk in about 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and cheese. Add lots of black pepper, no salt;
4. Add shredded lettuces to the bowl and toss to coat evenly. Now, season the slaw with salt to taste, if necessary;
5. Preheat 2 tablespoons, of extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, in a nonstick skillet over medium to medium high heat. Cook salmon patties 2 to 3 minutes on each side for mini patties, 4 minutes on each side for large patties;
6. Serve salmon patties atop Caesar Slaw.
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Skillet Baked Spaghetti

By Paul Briand

First off, when the directions say to use large skillet, use a very large skillet.

My 12-inch skillet was barely large enough to fit all the ingredients for this all-encompassing dish that is perfect for these crisp fall evenings.

The stirring part that described below meant a fair amount of spillage, but in the end this recipe from my local Shaw's supermarket was very satisfying.

My changes/additions to the recipe included onions and pepper, and I didn't use as much water as was suggested, mostly because I had simply run out of room in the skillet.

12 ounces of ground beef
4 ounces of sweet or hot Italian sausage (two links will suffice, remove the casings if buying links)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
28-ounce can of kitchen ready tomatoes
8 ounces of uncooked spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
2 cups water
1/4 cup heavy cream (I substituted half and half)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
6 tablespoons basil
1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend

1. Pre-heat oven to broil, with rack down one slot from usual broiling position;
2. In a large skillet (very large skillet) coated with olive oil over medium high heat, cook the onion and pepper until onion starts getting translucent;
3. Add minced garlic, oregano and basil and stir, then add ground beef and sausage, breaking them up with wooden spoon and cooking until no longer pink;
4. Stir in tomatoes, spaghetti and water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the pasta begins to soften (you'll know right here whether your skillet is big enough);
5. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to simmer and stir, cooking the pasta until it's al dente;
6. Stir in the cream (or half and half) and a half cup of cheese;
7. Remove skillet from burner, top mixture with rest of cheese and place under broiler;
8. Let cook about three minutes or until the spaghetti mixture surface is spotty brown.

Serves from four to six.

Please note: Handle with care and oven mitts. It's heavy and very hot coming out of the oven.
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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pesto Penne and Chicken

By Paul Briand

Faced with entertaining my wife, my daughter, my son, my stepdaughter, and my step son-in-law for dinner this week, this one came about solely by inspiration fueled by desperation.

I needed something that could easily feed a lot of people (pasta is usually a good bet there) but that had some bulk, some taste and some flair.

I basically pieced this one together as I shopped, choosing the chicken thighs because of how well they fry up in olive oil and how it all might be enhanced when combined with sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms.

Eight pack of chicken thighs
Box of penne pasta
11-ounce ready made pesto with basil
Package of sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips
1 cup sliced portabello mushrooms
Minced garlic to taste
Olive oil
Pepper to taste

1. Coat a large skillet with olive oil and over medium high heat cook the chicken thighs. Once no longer pink, remove and set aside. Let rest about three minutes then cut into strips;
2. Add a little more olive oil to same skillet and sautee sun-dried tomato strips and mushrooms, adding minced garlic as vegetables start to go limp;
3. In the meantime, cook the pasta in large pot of water with a splash of olive oil. Cook to al dente and drain;
4. Add a splash or two of sherry to the skillet to deglaze the bottom and pick up all that flavor from the chicken rendering;
5. In large bowl, add drained pasta and pour in all the contents of the skillet and give a big stir;
6. Add pesto to the pasta bowl and mix in thoroughly;
7. Serve by first adding penne pesto mixture to the plate, then top with several strips of chicken.

This serves six easily with enough for seconds and/or leftovers.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Calling all recipes for tomatoes

By Paul Briand

My plants are starting to pop with the brilliant red of what I hope is a plentiful crop of beefsteak ??? and cherry tomatoes.

I didn't have such a great year with my tomatoes last season, so I'm looking forward to a bumper crop this year.

Which begs the question: With a bumper crop of tomatoes, what should I do with them?

That's where I'd like your help. I'd like you to send me recipes for any recipe that uses fresh tomatoes.

Send me your concoctions for sauces and salads and whatever.

I'm especially interested in recipes for salsa using fresh tomatoes. Salsa is one of my all-time favorite food groups.

Please don't be shy.

Post your recipes in the comment section below; that way everyone can see. Or email me with your recipes:

Not only would I love to try some of the recipes for my own use, I'd love to share some of them here.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Zesty Salmon and Potato Salad

By Paul Briand

This week I managed to come up with a recipe that combined two of my wife Jane's favorite foods -- potatoes (she's Irish) and salmon (she must also be part Grizzly Bear).

The original recipe I found did something cruel to prepare the salmon: It recommended microwaving it. Ewww.

I gave it the full grill treatment, because I liked having that teeny bit of crunch to the fish.

The other thing I changed is the onion. The recipe called for red onion, which I think can be too overpowering at times, especially raw in a salad. I substituted Vidalia onion.

1 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1 1/2 pounds of salmon fillet
1/4 cup of chopped Vidalia onion
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 head Bibb or romaine lettuce, cleaned and torn into bite-size pieces

1. Cover the potatoes with cold water, add some salt and bring to boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain, rinse in cold water and set aside;
2. In the meantime, grill the salmon until flakey. (I removed the skin just before it was done and then grilled the skin side to give myself some nice browning on both sides.);
3. Use a fork to flake the fish meat apart into bite size chunks;
4. Transfer potatoes and flaked salmon into large mixing bowl;
5. Mix together the onion, sour cream, mayonnaise, chives, lemon juice and horseradish in a small bowl;
6. Use 2 tablespoons of the dressing to toss with the lettuce;
7. Use remaining dressing to toss the potatoes and salmon;
8. Arrange lettuce on four plates, top with potatoes and salmon, and serve.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chinese Slaw

By Paul Briand

The trick to this recipe isn't the slaw as much as the dressing.

The slaw can be adapted in a number of ways in terms of ingredients. You can add some diced chicken or diced beef or pork.

As for the dressing, you can make it tart or sweet, spicy hot or neutral. I tried to create a dressing that had a hint of each.

For the slaw:
10 ounce package of ready-made confetti slaw
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup of sugar snap peas
1/2 cup of julienne carrots
Handful of chow mein noodles
1 1/2 cups of diced chicken (or beef or pork)
For the dressing:
1/3 cup of rice wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1/3 cup of canola oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
Squirt of Dijon mustard
Dash of Tabasco (optional)

1. In a large bowl, place the slaw, green onion, sugar snap peas, carrots and chicken;
2. Dress the salad with the dressing and give it a good toss, mixing ingredients;
3. Top with the handful of chow mein noodles and serve.
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Italian Sausage Dinner Hash

By Paul Briand

If I have potatoes just laying around for no specific dinner menu, I'll make them into a breakfast/brunch hash or hashed browns.

And I had some potatoes laying around this week and thought: Why not bulk up a hash to dinner proportions?

Because this recipe creates a lot of hash, I cook it in the oven, using a spatula to turn the mixture over in the baking dish in order to get everything nice and brown. Also, I had some leftover ears of fresh corn that I stripped and added to the mixture. You can easily substitute a package of frozen corn.

6 medium sized red potatoes
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
Package of frozen corn
1 Vidalia onion, diced
1 Italian pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Sweet basil
Black pepper

1. Wash but don't peel the potatoes;
2. Cut them into large pieces and boil them until they are just about fork tender. Drain and set aside;
3. As the potatoes are boiling, in a medium hot pan cook the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces until the pink is gone and set aside;
4. Using the sausage grease (add olive oil if there isn't enough) saute the onion, pepper and garlic until they are getting limp. Remove and set aside;
5. Pour the drained potatoes into a large mixing bowl, and use a wooden spoon or potato masher to break up the chunks into smaller pieces;
6. Add the onion, pepper and garlic to the mixing bowl;
7. Break up and add the package of frozen corn;
8. Add parsley, sweet basil and pepper to taste and mix up the ingredients;
9. Place mixture into a large baking dish, spread evenly and cook uncovered in oven pre-heated at 425 degrees;
10. After 10 minutes pull out the pan and use a spatula to turn the hash;
11. Remove after another 10 minutes or after the hash is browned through and through.

And, by the way, I used the leftovers for breakfast with two eggs over easy.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sesame Lamb Meatballs

By Paul Briand

My wife Jane and I went to a Greek festival recently at a nearby Greek Orthodox Church.

My primary motivation was the food, and I got my gyro while Jane got moussaka. What I didn't expect was that the little market of Greek food in the church hall included several recipes and I picked up this one for Sesame Lamb Meatballs.

It's one thing to go out for a taste of Greek food, it was quite another experience to return with a recipe for Greek food that we could prepare and eat at home.

1/3 cup minced onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of cinnamon
1 pound ground lamb
1 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten lightly
2 tablespoons raisins
1/2 cup of sesame seeds, toasted lightly

1. In a small skillet cook onion and garlic in olive oil over moderate heat until softened;
2. Transfer mixture to large mixing bowl and add oregano, salt and cinnamon;
3. Add lamb, bread crumbs, egg and raisins, combined well;
4. Roll mixture into individual 1 1/4 inch meatballs, arranging on a tray;
5. Roll each meatball in a small bowl of the sesame seeds until coated;
6. Transfer meatballs into a baking pan;
7. Cook in 450 degree preheated oven until done, about 10 minutes.

Given the dryness of the mixture, I was worried that the meatballs would come out of my oven and into my mouth and be a little dry, but there were two surprises: the raisins that added a nice level of moisture and sweetness and the sesame seeds that gave the meatballs an initial crunch.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Catfish Lettuce Wraps

By Paul Briand

I had the pleasure of preparing this meal with the help of my son David, who was just back from a two-month, 13,000 mile cross country road trip.

He can hold his own in the kitchen. Often during his college years and even during the road trip, he was the de facto cook, and he takes a lot of pleasure in it.

We tackled a Catfish Lettuce Wrap recipe that I found in the grocery store.

My wife and stepdaughter were a bit wary of the catfish. Knowing what a catfish looks like doesn't exactly instill a lot of confidence in the taste if you've never had it before. So David and I followed a suggestion in the recipe and soaked the fillets for about an hour in 2 cups of water with 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt to remove some of the so-called "natural, earthy" flavor from the fish.

Also, rather than keep the vegetable and bean ingredients separate, as given in the recipe, David made a slaw/salsa out of all of it, which was great both as a topping for the fish and as a separate side dish.

4 catfish fillets, about 6 ounces each
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 head iceberg lettuce or two heads Bibb lettuce (I had to substitute with Romaine lettuce)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, diced
1 can black beans, rinsed and dried
1 cup purple cabbage mix
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
2 limes, juiced
Salsa and sour cream, option
Red pepper flakes to taste
Cilantro to taste

1. Season the dried fillets with pepper, salt (always optional) and red pepper flakes (again optional);
2. Cook to flakiness on a grill or large frying pan coated with olive oil, spritz with lime;
3. In the meantime, combine the tomatoes, black beans, cabbage mix and avocado into mixing bowl and give a big stir, adding lime juice and cilantro, creating a hefty slaw;
4. Prepare lettuce by cleaning and drying six leaves;
5. Once the fish is done, transfer to a platter and break apart into chunks;
6. Put lettuce leaves on large platter, and fill each leaf with chunks of catfish, then add a heaping serving of the slaw mixture. Option, top with sour cream and/or salsa and serve.

There was enough going on in the mouth with all these flavors that even with some of the earthiness left in the catfish it was neither powerful enough to dominate nor was it overwhelmed by the toppings.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Korean Sesame Rib Marinade

By Paul Briand

My wife Jane and I had family over for dinner the other night and we served chicken kabobs with chicken and vegetables that had marinated in some store-bought marinade. Shame, shame, shame ... I know.

But during my shopping this week I found some lovely looking country-style pork ribs and promised myself a marinade that I'd make, and I found this one, although to be honest I'm not sure what is so Korean about it.

Asian, yes. Korean? I don't see anything in the ingredients that necessarily classify it as being particularly Korean. But that's how the recipe described itself so I'll have to respect that.

The key to a successful marinade is giving it time to work its magic. The marinade needs time to break down the meat (or chicken or fish or whatever) to start infusing it with the marinade's flavors, which in this case are the tang of some garlic and scallions, the sweetness of the brown sugar and some smokiness from the sherry.

The recipe I found called for regular sugar, but I substituted it for brown sugar. I just like it better in marinades and sauces.

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 scallions chopped
3 tablespoons sherry
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds

1. Mix the ingredients in an amply sized mixing bowl, reserving the sesame seeds for later;
2. Place your meat (in my case 2 pounds of the ribs, but whatever it is you want to marinade) into a gallon Ziploc bag;
3. Poor the marinade into the bag and carefully expel as much of the air as you can then seal the zip;
4. Work the marinade around the meat, and lay the bag into a large baking dish or whatever you have to contain a possible (but not likely leak). This is a piece of advice I picked up from Guy Fieri and his "Guy's Big Bite" show on the Food Channel;
5. Let the marinade work for two hours minimum, longer if you can;
6. Extract the meat and cook as desired;
7. Sprinkle cooked meat with sesame seeds.

A lot of people will toss the marinade. I don't. I put it in a sauce pan, heat it through to a boil and use it as a side sauce.
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Watermelon Salad

By Paul Briand

Several members of my very large family try to get together each year for Independence Day festivities in Maine.

My Mom lives in Wells, near Moody Beach, and each year we have a big throwdown of the usual barbecue suspects -- burgers, dogs, chips and a variety of side dishes, which this year included an orzo salad and a Thai cabbage salad.

I had fed everyone earlier in the weekend with two big pots of chili and used some of the leftovers for chili dogs.

But one pleasant side dish surprise was a watermelon salad from my sister, Ella, that is amazingly simple but amazingly good in its blend of seedless watermelon, feta cheese and fresh mint.

That's it. That's all there is to it.

Fresh mint is key. Fortunately for us, my mother has mint growing in a section of her flower garden.

Everything in this salad is proportional to how much watermelon you use and how much of the mint or the feta you want as a complement.

When we were loading ourselves down with hamburgers and chili dogs and everything else the watermelon salad was a cool, sweet/tangy aperitif.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Product review: Palm Leaf Plates

By Paul Briand

If you're looking for a sturdy alternative to paper or plastic plates -- an alternative that has a high eco-cool factor to it too -- look into plates made from palm leaf.

I had the opportunity recently through the good folks at to test drive a set of plates and bowls made from the leaves of palm trees in a way that is about as carbon neutral as possible.

Information about the plates can be found here.

First, a little bit about how the plates are made as provided by Justin Marx at MarxFoods.

The leaves themselves come from fallen or discarded leaves of the Adaka palm, then prepped in a cleaning process that includes hand washing with a mixture of water and turmeric. Once thoroughly cleaned and rinsed, the leaves are dried, then hand stretched and flattened.

The various shapes -- bowls, rectangle and hexagon-shaped dinner plates -- are molded using a heated press. Up to three plates can be created from each leaf. Each plate is then sun dried and packaged in groups of 25.

"Every piece has a unique natural pattern and the line includes bowls, plates, serving dishes and utensils," said Marx. "We sell them in 25 piece orders and picnic and dinner party themed setting combinations are also available."

My test drive included the heaviest food I could think of -- a barbecue-type meal of ribs, potato salad and corn on the cob. I really loaded up the rectangle plate and found there was no sagging, and no leaking ... not from the buttered corn or from the ooey-gooey barbecue sauce on the ribs. The food remained hot and the plate absorbed and conducted it well with no discomfort whatsoever as I walked around, palm plate in one hand, a rib in the other.

The next morning, just out of curiosity, I ate my cereal out of a palm leaf bowl. Again, the material held fast -- no sagging, no leaking.

What's interesting is that the plates are reusable to a certain extent. Sandwiches and chips, for example, produce a few crumbs that can be wiped with a damp paper towel from the plates. I didn't try reusing the plates after the barbeque meal given how dirty they were.

According to MarxFoods, the plates can be thrown away or even composted after use.

To give you an idea of price, a 25-piece dinner party set that includes round bowls (two sizes), round plates (two sizes) and forks, knives and spoons costs $80.25.

And they must be selling pretty well. Various combinations of the palm-leaf ware is temporarily out of stock, according to the web site.

There's a certain cool factor to the plates, as in telling someone, "You know, these plates are made out of palm leaves."

And the usual response is: "Wow, that's pretty cool."
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuna Salad Mix-Ins

By Paul Briand

I love how this works. I make a honkin' tuna salad for lunch. Return to my study to do some more work. Tune into "Tyler's Ultimate" on the Food Channel at 3:30 and what is Tyler Florence making? The Tuna Everything Bagel.

I approach tuna salad for sandwiches the same way some people approach handcrafted ice cream -- the more taste you mix in the better.

I've always wanted to dress up my tuna. If I'm out and ordering a tuna sub, I always ask for pickles and tomatoes on it.

If I'm making it at home, I see no reason to alter my approach. What I do, however, is rather than layer the pickle or tomato or whatever on top of the tuna, I mix it right in.

Here's a recent example of my tuna mix-ins (see photo):

I started with a can of white tuna in water, water drained, tuna broken up in a mixing bowl. I added:
Ground black pepper;
Bread and butter pickle spear, chopped;
Sweet grape tomatoes, halved (sometimes quartered depending on their size);
Chopped green onion.

Into that I stirred in enough mayonnaise to get everything wet.

I put it on toasted oatmeal bread and topped it with some hot banana pepper rings.

Just for fun, here's Florence's tuna salad recipe from above:

3 cups good quality canned tuna (packed in water), drained
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 cornichons, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
2 everything bagels, sliced and toasted
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced crescents
1 vine-ripened tomato, sliced
1 seedless cucumber, sliced
4 Bibb lettuce leaves

1. Begin with the tuna salad. Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper;
2. Take cut bagels and toast under a hot broiler until golden brown. While still hot smear the bottom with the cream cheese immediately;
3. Top with a scoop of the tuna salad and then layer with red onion, tomato, cucumber and lettuce. Add the top half of the bagel and serve.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Grilled Stuffed Portobellos

By Paul Briand

A favorite present from this Christmas past was a new set of grilling tools and Bobby Flay's "Grill It!" recipe book from my children.

Now that it's more like grilling weather here in northern New England I've broken out both the tools and the cookbook, and it's a sure thing you'll be seeing some of the "Grill It!" recipes here.

Flay is a fan favorite on the Food Channel. I especially like his throw-downs -- when puts his recipe up against the recipe of a local crowd favorite somewhere in the country. I wrote about a meatloaf throw-down back in August 2008.

I treated this adapted recipe of Portobello mushrooms, sweet Italian sausage, spinach, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes as a meal. And with a side dish of zucchini and squash that I also grilled, it was quite the pleasing medley.

6 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces sweet Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes (Note: Flay likes heat in most all his dishes. This is optional for those who don't like heat.)
1/2 cup dry red wine
8 ounces fresh spinach, stems removed, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
4 large Portobello mushrooms, stems removed
2 tomatoes, sliced

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium pan over high heat and cook the sausage, breaking it up into small pieces;
2. As the sausage starts to lose its pink add the chopped onion, pepper flakes (if you choose to use them) and garlic;
3. As the onion starts to become translucent, add the wine and simmer until completely evaporated;
4. Add the spinach and a half a cup of water, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the spinach is wilted and the water evaporates;
5. Stir in four cubes of mozzarella (which will help act as a binder), plus the basil and parsley;
6. Once the cheese melts throughout, remove from heat and set aside;
7. Brush mushroom caps on both sides with olive oil and place on heated grill, cooking both sides until brown;
8. Remove mushroom caps from grill and, cap side down, fill each mushroom with sausage mixture, top with mozzarella cubes and tomato;
9. Return mushrooms to the grill, close the cover and cook until cheese has melted and tomatoes are soft, about five minutes.
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Wednesday, June 3, 2009


By Paul Briand

When I make guacamole, it's a pretty simple concoction: Avocado, garlic, dash of Tabasco, smidgen of mayonnaise and a spritz of lemon juice.

By way of Relish magazine, courtesy of my wife Jane, I found a twist on guacamole that combines the richness of avocado with the sharpness of Roquefort cheese (blue cheese) and the tang of sour cream.

Relish magazine says this recipe for Roquamole is adapted from "Nigella Express," by British food writer Nigella Lawson.

1 cup crumbled Roquefort or blue cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
2 ripe avocados
1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeno peppers (eliminate if your not into the heat)
2 green onions, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1. In medium size bowl, prepare avocado as you would for guacamole;
2. Crumble in the cheese;
3. Add the sour cream and stir mixture together;
4. Roughly chop the jalapeno, add to mixture with green onions and lime juice, and stir;
5. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Crab and Chutney Rangoons

By Paul Briand

I subscribe to a number of email feeds about food. No surprise there, really. One is particular, Taste of the Seacoast, gives me valuable insights into the food-related happenings in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire where I live.

One happy surprise in the May online newsletter was a recipe for Crab Rangoons, always a favorite for me and wife Jane when we're out for Asian food. The fact that she's a Maryland girl who loves her crab also plays into the love of Crab Rangoons.

The recipe, drawn from chief Ming Tsai (featured on the "Simply Ming" cooking show on PBS) looked simple enough for me to try at home. Originally the recipe called for Sour Cranberry Chutney, which I substituted with Major Grey's Chutney.

1 pound crab meat
1?4 pound cream cheese, softened
1 cup Major Grey's Chutney, plus some for garnish
3 tablespoons chopped chives, save 1 tablespoon for garnish
1 package thin square wonton skins
1 egg mixed with 2 tablespoons water
Canola oil for cooking
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to tast

1. In a large bowl, mix the crab, cream cheese, chutney, and chives. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and check for flavor;
2. Lay out 4 to 6 skins, lightly brush the edges with egg wash and place a small mound of the mix in the middle. Top with second skin and press firmly to seal. This is very important so the rangoons do not burst and leak. Repeat until the filling is gone;
3. Preheat a large sauté pan coated with 1?4-inch of oil over medium-high heat. Add as many rangoons as the pan can hold in one layer. Shallow fry until golden brown, flip and fry other side until golden brown;
4. Transfer rangoons to a plate lined with paper towels;
5. Place a small mound of chutney on a plate, surround with 3 rangoons, garnish with chives and serve hot.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Enchilada Bake

By Paul Briand

My favorite food group is salsa and chips.

I'm finding, however, that I should learn to live with fewer chips in my diet. But I'm loath to give up on salsa. What to do? Find recipes that incorporate salsa into the meal.

I've already offered in this space a recipe for Easy Chili that incorporates salsa.

But I don't want to be a one-hit wonder. So I found a good source of salsa recipes here from the makers of the Spike's salsas I often buy at my local supermarket.

This is the Enchilada Bake, picture courtesy of the web site. (It goes without saying that if you have a favorite salsa in can easily substitute for the Spike's.)

Half cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
8 ounce package of shredded cheddar cheese
Half cup milk
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
Half cup black olives, sliced
8 flour tortillas (6 inch)
1 jar Spike’s Santa Fe Medium Salsa
Green onion, sliced for garnish

1. Melt butter in large saucepan and add onion, heat until onion is tender, or begins to turn translucent;
2. Reduce heat to low. Add cheese and milk to onion mixture, stir;
3. Add cooked chicken and olives; mix well;
4. Remove from heat and set aside;
5. Add enough oil to a large skillet to 1/4" depth and heat to medium high;
6. Add tortillas one at a time and cook until softened, turning once;
7. Remove and drain on paper towels;
8. Place 1/4 cup of the chicken cheese mixture down the center of each tortilla and roll up;
9. Place seam-side down in a 12-by-8 inch baking dish. Top with salsa;
10. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, top with remaining cheese and more olives if desired;
11. Sprinkle with green onion and serve.
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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Skillet Lasagna

By Paul Briand

In keeping with last week's theme, I was looking again at leftover ingredients that I should try to use up. Last week it was horseradish; this week's it was lasagna noodles.

The noodles were leftover from the Unbelievable Lasagna recipe posted March 18.

And I just happened upon a recipe for this Skillet Lasagna in my Shaw's supermarket. It is much more simple than the oven-baked lasagna -- it takes less than an hour from start to finish -- and it's equally as tasty.

28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
Tablespoon of olive oil
Medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound of ground beef
10 lasagna noodles, broken into two-inch strips
8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Black pepper, salt
1 cup Ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped basil

1. Pour tomatoes with their juices into 1-quart measuring cup, add water so that mixture equals 1 quart (I used equal parts water and red wine for this);
2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat and cook onion until it begins to brown;
3. Add salt, pepper flakes and garlic;
4. Add ground beef, break apart and cook through until no longer pink, distribute evenly over bottom of skillet;
5. Add the lasagna noodle strips over the meat, but do not stir;
6. Pour diced tomatoes, juices and water, plus the tomato sauce over pasta. Do not stir. Cover and bring to simmer;
7. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stir occasionally until pasta is tender, about 20 minutes;
8. Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of Parmesan;
9. Season with salt and pepper;
10. Dot with dollops of Ricotta, cover and let stand for five minutes;
11. Sprinkle with basil and remaining two tablespoons of Parmesan.

Serves four to six.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cajun Shrimp and Crab Scampi

By Paul Briand

Last week I bought horseradish as part of a Bloody Mary Burgers recipe. Which begged the question: Now what do I do with the horseradish?

I could drink Bloody Mary cocktails on a regular basis. I could make more Bloody Mary Burgers.

But in an effort to expand my culinary use of horseradish I went to the horseradish experts at

I'm impressed by how much is on the web site for appetizers, side dishes, main dishes and evens kids' dishes that use horseradish. I settled on this recipe for Cajun Shrimp and Crab Scampi.

1¼ pounds shrimp
½ pound crabmeat, flakes (imitation works fine)
4 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
½ cup white wine
1½ teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon minced garlic and thyme
½ teaspoon black, white and red pepper
4 cups cooked rice
1 cup diced green onions

1. In large saucepan over medium heat, combine and simmer margarine, horseradish, wine and remaining spices
2. Add shrimp and crabmeat and cook until shrimp is bright pink;
3. Remove from heat, add green onions and mix well. Serve over rice.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bloody Mary Burgers

By Paul Briand

This week's recipe comes courtesy of my son David. I went to bed not knowing what this week's featured recipe would be, then woke up to an email from David that guided me to the Bloody Mary Burgers.

He actually wrote to suggest I start posting some of my recipes on It's a great suggestion and I will post some future recipes there. But my problem this week was that all my creative energies had been devoted in other areas outside the kitchen, so I had no recipes to create, so I went to Tastespotting instead in search of a fun recipe and happened upon this burger recipe that is accompanied by a Cucumber and Avocado Salsa.

I was amused by the Bloody Mary Burger name, derived from some of the ingredients found in a Bloody Mary cocktail -- Tabasco, Worcestershire, horseradish, celery. No tomato juice, but there is ketchup. No vodka, but I suppose a creative chef out there could find a way to make it work.

1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons horseradish
1/2 small yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 cup bread crumbs

1. Mix all ingredients together in large bowl;
2. Make four patties and grill until desired doneness.

Serve and top with Cucumber and Avocado Salsa as follows:

1 cucumber, sliced in half, seeds scooped out and large dice
1 diced ripe avocado
2 scallions sliced
Zest and juice of a lime
Splash of red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
Handful of chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Whisk dressing ingredients together and stir in to the cucumber, avocado and scallion mixture;
2. Allow to chill in refrigerator to let everything marry and serve on the burgers.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ham and Potato Casserole

By Paul Briand

Apparently I wasn't alone on Monday, wondering what I was going to do with the leftover Easter ham in the refrigerator.

"Leftover ham recipes" was one of the biggest search inquiries on the web on Monday.

In a bow to a recent visit to Alabama, where everything we ate seemed to have some kind of pork associated with it, I concentrated my own search to the Southern Food section of and came with this recipe for Ham and Potato Casserole.

1 1/2 to 2 pounds potatoes, thinly sliced, about 4 to 5 cups
2 cups diced ham
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1/4 cup finely chopped red or green bell pepper
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups half-and-half or 1 cup milk and 1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
salt, to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, optional

1. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish. Heat oven to 325 degrees;
2. In a large saucepan, melt butter; add onion and celery and sauté until tender;
3. Add bell pepper and sauté for one minute longer;
4. Stir in flour until smooth;
5. Gradually add half-and-half, stirring constantly;
6. Add seasonings and salt to taste;
7. Continue cooking, stirring, until thickened;
8. Add sliced potatoes and diced ham and stir to combine;
9. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish;
10. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes;
11. Remove foil and bake for about 10 minutes longer, or until potatoes are tender;
12. If desired, sprinkle shredded cheese over the top of the casserole and bake for a few minutes longer, or until cheese is melted.

Serves 4 to 6.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Stuffed Red Peppers

By Paul Briand

My wife and I spent part of last week in Alabama. She was on business; I was tagging along for the ride ... and for golf.

We spent some time in Birmingham and made a point of doing two things: 1) Seeing the civil rights sites in what was once known as the most segregated city in the country and 2) sampling the local cuisine.

Both were eye-opening. On the cuisine side, we had barbecue at Mrs. B's on Fourth, just down the street from the Civil Rights Institute, and it was certainly one of the highlights of our gastronomic tour of the south.

But it's always nice to come back to home cooking. The challenge was to tone it down a bit, but not so much as to be a total bore. So I made these Stuffed Red Peppers our first night back.

4 red peppers
1 pound of ground hamburger
Brown rice
4 cloves garlic
4 shallots
1 green pepper
Olive oil
8 ounces tomato sauce
Parsley, oregano, basil
Shredded cheddar cheese

1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees;
2. Prepare enough brown rice for two people, following directions on the package;
3. Halve and clean the red pepper and blanch them, set aside;
4. Mince the garlic, slice the shallots and dice the green pepper;
5. Add the vegetables to a medium hot skillet with olive oil and saute until just tender;
6. Add the hamburger and cook until no longer pink;
7. Turn the heat down on the mixture and add the cooked rice and tomato sauce;
8. Stir in the parsley, oregano and basil to taste;
9. Heat through until bubbly and remove from burner;
10. Spoon generous portions of the mixture into and onto the red pepper halves;
11. Top with generous amount of shredded cheese (Parmesan is an option here too);
12. Heat in oven until the cheese is melted and starting to bubble.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Shrimp and Bacon on Polenta

By Paul Briand

This recipe grew from a desire to use up some leftover polenta and the serendipity of finding a shrimp, bacon and polenta recipe while trolling through an Associated Press feed on my BlackBerry.

We had about a half pound of leftover polenta in the refrigerator, and I hated just seeing it sit there and I hated the idea of tossing it. The AP recipe calls for you to make a batch of instant polenta, jazzing it up a bit with milk instead of water and shallots and Parmesan cheese.

What I had in the fridge was about a half a pound of the rolled, prepared polenta that you can slice to fry or grill. I crumbled it up and cooked it in a wok in the bacon fat, which flavored up the otherwise bland polenta.

Also, because it's easy, I use frozen cooked shrimp, the biggest I can find at the store, a 16 count in a 1 pound bag. Thaw the shrimp by placing them in a large bowl of water.

1/2 pound of prepared polenta
1 pound of shrimp
1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves minced
1 shallot, chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 ounces Parmesan cheese

1. In a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until it's crispy;
2. Add the pepper, shallot and garlic;
3. After about three minutes add the shrimp and cook until pieces are heated through and pepper is tender;
4. Using slotted spoon remove mixture from wok and set aside; drain about half of bacon fat and return wok to heat;
5. Crumble polenta into wok and work it around to heat through and absorb bacon drippings;
6. Return shrimp and bacon mixture to wok;
7. Top with Parmesan cheese;
8. Heat through and serve.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Unbelievable Lasagna

By Paul Briand

I love that recipes pass from generation to generation, family to family. My mother has given her recipes to me and her other children. I'm passing them along to my children.

With this recipe, I have the good fortune of having a recipe passed on to me from my wife Jane, who got this recipe for Unbelievable Lasagna from her Aunt Mazie.

This is a meal for a crowd, a theme I hit on last week with the Chicken Marsala recipe. The lasagna is a staple when Jane's family comes to visit. It'll feed a lot of people the first night, then stand up well to reheating for another meal.

Jane's recipe differs from her Aunt Mazie's both in the filling and the fact that Jane adds two kinds of meat to her version. The original recipe calls for a pound of Ricotta cheese; Jane's filling includes Ricotta, Parmesan, eggs and some spice. Also, Mazie didn't cook the lasagna beforehand; Jane does.

1 pound of hamburger meat
1 pound of ground sweet Italian sausage
4 to 5 cups of your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce (Mazie liked Prego, so does Jane);
1/2 package (8 ounces) of lasagna
Large bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
2 pounds Ricotta cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
Pepper, salt, oregano and parsley to taste

1. In separate frying pans, cook the hamburger and sausage, drain fat and set aside;
2. In a large bowl, mix together the filling ingredients -- Ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, pepper, salt, oregano and parsley;
3. In a large baking pan, spread a thin layer of sauce then arrange a layer of uncooked lasagna;
4. Add a layer of the hamburger and sausage;
5. Layer on some red sauce;
6. Add some of the cheese filling;
7. Sprinkle on a generous helping of mozzarella;
8. Repeat with two more layers;
9. Complete with a final layer of lasagna, sauce, a couple of dollops of cheese filling and a heaping topping coat of mozzarella;
10. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes until lightly browned and bubbling;
11. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chicken Marsala (for a crowd)

By Paul Briand

I had the task over the weekend to cook dinner for my stepdaughter's birthday. Not a big deal, normally, except that I was cooking for upwards of 12 people or more, depending on who exactly was coming.

What I needed was something that tasted great and could feed a crowd, and that could be cooked ahead of time, refrigerated over night and transported to the dinner party for re-heating and serving the next evening.

I'd done small batches of Chicken Marsala for four that I normally serve with a side of rice. But I needed this particular dish to be all inclusive, almost like a casserole, so I decided to marry sliced potatoes with the chicken and Marsala wine mushroom sauce together in two batches for two large baking dishes.

8 pound bag of potatoes
6 pounds of chicken (boneless thighs and breasts)
4 cups sliced mushrooms
Bottle of Marsala wine
Flour for dredging
Olive oil
Garlic powder, oregano, basil

1. Clean potatoes and, leaving skin on, cut in 1/4-inch piece, enough to line two 3-4 quart baking dishes;
2. Season potatoes with pepper and drizzle with olive oil;
3. Place potatoes into oven pre-heated at 400 degrees and cook until about 3/4 of the way done;
4. As potatoes are cooking, cut the chicken thighs and breasts into bite size pieces;
(Note: With so much chicken you'll probably have to do the next steps two times for each batch of chicken and mushrooms).)
5. Create a flour dredge (I use a produce bag from the market or a large freezer-sized Ziploc bag) added with garlic powder and oregano;
6. Make sure each piece is covered with flour and add into large frying pan at medium high with about a quarter inch of olive oil;
7. Brown the chicken on all sides, but don't cook all the way through. Leave a little pink and remove from pan and set aside;
8. Add mushrooms then enough Marsala (about half the bottle for each batch) to deglaze the pan and create a thickening mushroom sauce;
9. Add chicken to the top of the potato layer, spreading pieces evenly in the baking dish
10. Spring enough basil over mixture to evenly cover;
11. Add the mushroom sauce over the chicken spreading as evenly in the baking dish as possible;
12. Return to oven and cook until potatoes are soft and chicken is cooked through and serve.

All in all, it worked very well. I underestimated, however, how much time it would take to re-heat the two large pans of Chicken Marsala once we got to the party. I figured about 50 minutes at 400 degrees. It easily could have taken 1 hour and 15 minutes to get to the right serving temperature.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chicken Cacciatore

By Paul Briand

I like the fact that my local supermarket -- a Shaw's -- has a display of easy recipes right as I walk into the store.

Sometimes, I just don't have my head in the right place beforehand to have figured out the week's menu. These recipes offer instant inspiration, and all-in-all they're very good and each recipe comes with a nutrition summary.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1. Rinse and pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper;
2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat and cook chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to plate;
3. Add onion, pepper and mushrooms to skillet and cook until lightly brown;
4. Stir in garlic and cook about 30 seconds;
5. Add tomatoes, wine and browned chicken (along with any accumulated juices from the plate) and bring to boil;
6. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes;
7. Transfer chicken to serving platter and tent with foil;
8. Simmer sauce, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes;
9. Remove skillet from heat, stir in basil and season with salt and pepper;
10. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

The recipe takes pains to note that browning the chicken is key, on two counts: It puts a crust on the chicken and it creates the fond in the pan that provides the flavor base for the wine and tomato sauce. The recipe recommends this can be served with rice, pasta or polenta.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuna Salad

By Paul Briand

My original intent for today was to post a recipe for Beer Batter Chicken. I prepped, I cooked, I took a picture, I ate. And I didn't like it very much. So it's back to the cutting board on that one.

So here's one for Tuna Salad, devised for lunch the other day as I was thinking about a way to jazz up the typical tuna/mayo combination. I also wanted to stay away from serving the tuna on bread since I was making cheeseburgers (on buns) for dinner later. Shouldn't have too much bread in one day, or so my expanding waist tells me.

One 5 ounce can of solid white tuna
Heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise
Teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Tablespoon of sweet pepper relish
Bread and Butter pickle spear
Black pepper
Garlic powder
Two ripe medium size tomatoes

1. Drain water from canned tuna and break tuna up in large mixing bowl;
2. Add mayonnaise, mustard, and relish;
3. Dice pickle spear and add to bowl;
4. Add pepper and garlic powder to taste and mix all ingredients together;
5. Cut the top off the tomatoes, going in at a steep angle, then slice each tomato to create wedges but don't cut through to the bottom;
6. Top each tomato with the tuna mixture. The tomato will open up but should hold together.

I'm a big fan of tomato and pickles in my tuna. It's a required addition to any tuna salad I make or order at a sub shop.

The best tuna salad I ever had was in the U.S. Capitol dining room with the late U.S. Rep. Nicholas Mavroules of Massachusetts in the early 1980s. It was served in a whole tomato like I'm suggesting here. I don't recall what it was that made it so great, but I have a distinct memory that it remains the best tuna salad I've ever eaten.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Teriyaki Marinade

By Paul Briand

My sister Margaret invited us to dinner recently and served a flank steak marinated in a Teriyaki Marinade.

She says the marinade is for chicken and steak but she uses it for pork tenderloin too.

"Usually I cut this recipe in half but since I had two steaks on Saturday night I made the whole thing and split it between the two steaks," she said in an email after I asked for the recipe.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 mashed cloves garlic
1 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot
2 tablespoons sherry

Since Margaret had two steaks, she divided the marinade between two baking pans, one steak for each pan.

She seasoned each of the steaks with pepper before putting in the pans and dousing with the marinade. She pierced the steak extensively with a fork and let the marinade do its work for about three hours.

The steak, giving the piercing and the length of time in the marinade came off the grill moist, tender and incredibly tasty.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009


By Paul Briand

Everyone should have a red sauce recipe at their disposal. If you want a variation on that theme, try a Bolognese sauce.

According to its history -- yes it has an official history -- the sauce originated in Bologna, Italy. The original recipe was issued in 1982 by the Bolognese delegation of Accademia Italiana della Cucina, which dictated ingredients of beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, meat broth, red wine, and (optionally) milk or cream.

But, as with red sauces, there are any number of varities of Bolognese that hold the rustic tradition of the meat and root vegetables. Here's one that combines beef and pork, with carrots, spinach, garlic and shallots. And, yes, I use cream ... well, in deference to my waist, light cream.

1 pound of ground beef
1 pound of ground pork
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup red wine
2 shallots
2 carrots
2 cloves of garlic
24 ounce can kitchen ready tomatoes
Handful of baby spinach
Olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
1 tablespoon each of oregano, basil, parsley and cinammon
3 tablespoons of light cream

1. Coat a large skillet with olive oil and brown the ground beef and ground pork until no longer pink;
2. Season meat mixture with kosher salt and pepper;
3. In a food processor, pureee peeled shallots, carrots, garlic, spinach, oregano, parsley and basil;
4. Fold pureed mixture into skillet with meat;
5. Stir in flour;
6. Add wine and cook until reduced by half;
7. Stir in tomatoes, add light cream and cinnamon.
8. Serve over pasta, garnish with fresh Parmesan cheese.
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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wrapped Brats

By Paul Briand

For my Super Bowl spread, I wanted pigs in a blanket. I figured if I was going to go whole why not a bit of pig in dough.

But I couldn't find any pigs in a blanket when I went shopping for my Super Bowl food. What to do?

I came up with Wrapped Brats -- basically cooked Bratwurst wrapped in tortillas.

Burrito size flour tortillas

1. Cook the Brats -- fry or grill -- and set aside;
2. Take a tortilla and trim from the edges in to the width of a brat, then cut that tortilla in half;
3. Take trimmed tortilla half and roll over the Brat, secure with a toothpick at each end;
4. Continue process until all Brats are rolled;
5. Arrange on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray;
6. Bake in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for about five minutes or until the tortillas start brown at the edges;
7. Remove from oven and cut each Wrapped Brat in half;
8. Serve with your favorite dipping mustard.

A package of eight Brats will require four tortilla shells and will yield, according to directions above, 16 Wrapped Brats.

And don't throw away those trimmed tortilla edges. Cut those into halves or thirds to make them into chip size. Arrange chips on a cookie sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray. Cook in the oven on a separate rack while the Wrapped Brats are baking. Remove the chips after a few minutes to check for brownness; use a spatula to flip to make sure both sides get crisp. Serve the chips with your favorite dip ... such as guacamole.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blue Cheese Dip

By Paul Briand

So, concerns about the sagging economy wouldn't allow you to splurge on a nice, new and big HDTV for Sunday's Super Bowl game?

Well, here's something you can splurge on instead -- homemade Blue Cheese Dip for your Buffalo wings.

I found this recipe while trolling through a bunch of Associated Press stories one day. Once you've tried this recipe, you'll be hard-pressed to ever go back to the bottled stuff for your wings.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 shallots, minced
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 3/4 cups crumbled blue cheese (such as Gorgonzola or Roquefort)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Pinch paprika

1. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, combine the oil, garlic, shallots and mustard powder. Saute until the shallots are lightly browned and very tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the sour cream, yogurt and mayonnaise. Stir in the blue cheese. Transfer to a serving bowl, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
3. When ready to serve, sprinkle with parsley and paprika.

If you really want to splurge (as you should) the recipe recommends crumbling some cooked crisp bacon onto the top. C'mon, you didn't splurge on the TV.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Garlic and Citrus Roasted Chicken

By Paul Briand

Normally, I get an idea about something, build on the idea, then get the things needed to complete the idea.

Getting to this recipe came in the most bass-ackward form. I bought a roasting chicken, before having a clue just how or with what I wanted to roast it. Then went looking for some ideas. Then I assembled the things I needed to complete the assignment.

Normally, in thinking ahead about a menu of dinners for the week, I would have decided to roast a chicken, then get everything, chicken included after researching my needs.

It was a curious sequence of events on Jan. 14. I came home from grocery shopping, a roast chicken included among the bags. My intent was to spend part of the day looking around for a good recipe because I'd never roasted a chicken before.

At the time I was getting home, a crew from my cable television provider was finishing up the repair of some damage to the cable wire that occurred during the December ice storm. Once they finished, I turned on the TV to check the reception, tuned into the Food Network, and there was Giada De Laurentiis and her show "Everyday Italian" going over her recipe for a roasted chicken.

How's that for karma?

Here is her Garlic and Citrus Roasted Chicken (picture courtesy of Food Network), which was great. The aroma during cooking was tremendous, a true promise of what was to come on the plate:

1 (5 to 6-pound) whole roasting chicken, neck and giblets discarded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 orange, quartered
1 lemon, quartered
1 head garlic, halved crosswise, plus 3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (14-ounce) cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
Kitchen string or butcher twine

1. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees,
2. Pat the chicken dry and sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the orange, lemon, and garlic halves. Tie the chicken legs together with kitchen string to help hold its shape. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper,
3. Place a rack in a large roasting pan. Place the chicken, breast side up, on the rack in the pan. Roast the chicken for 1 hour, basting occasionally and adding some chicken broth to the pan, if necessary, to prevent the pan drippings from burning,
4. Whisk the orange juice, lemon juice, oil, oregano, and chopped garlic in a medium bowl to blend. Brush some of the juice mixture over the chicken, after it has baked 1 hour,
5. Continue roasting the chicken until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the innermost part of the thigh registers 170 degrees, basting occasionally with the juice mixture and adding broth to the pan, about 45 minutes longer,
6. Transfer the chicken to a platter. Tent with foil while making the sauce (do not clean the pan),
7. Place the same roasting pan over medium-low heat. Whisk in any remaining broth and simmer until the sauce is reduced to 1 cup, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Strain into a 2-cup glass measuring cup and discard the solids. Spoon the fat from the top of the sauce. Serve the chicken with the pan sauce.
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eggplant Parm Pie

By Paul Briand

In some gastronomical ways, I'm a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Or, at least a meat kind of guy.

When I'm looking to make a dinner, I'm looking for substance, which is why I'm looking for fish, fowl or meat to cook. Given the choice, I'll opt out of veggie only meals.

But this recipe, courtesy of cruising through one day, has the bulk I like in a dinner -- pizza crust, hearty tomato sauce, eggplant and cheese.

2 pounds eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
Olive oil (for brushing)
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 can (1 pound) crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Flour (for rolling)
1 pound store-bought pizza dough
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
Extra chopped basil (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Have on hand a deep 9-inch pie pan,
2. Brush both sides of the sliced eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper. Set them on a rimmed baking sheet without overlapping. Roast the eggplant for 15 minutes or until tender but not falling apart. Remove and set aside to cool. If necessary, roast the remaining eggplant in the same way,
3. Turn the oven temperature up to 425 degrees,
4. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the garlic and red pepper. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add the basil and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper, and the sugar, if you like,
5. On a lightly floured counter, roll the dough to an 11-inch round. Brush the pie pan with olive oil. Lift the dough onto the rolling pin and ease it into the pan, so it hangs over the edges. Trim off any excess. With a fork, prick the dough well all over,
6. Spread 1/3 of the sauce in the dough. Top with a layer of eggplant. Pour in 1/3 of the sauce, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, and 1/4 cup of the mozzarella. Add another layer of eggplant, 1/3 of the sauce, and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/4 cup mozzarella. 7. Bake the pie for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden, the cheeses melt, and the sauce is bubbly. Let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Spices in the pantry

By Paul Briand

I was going through the pantry the other day making a list of the spices that need to be replenished, and I got to thinking: Is there a standard list of essential herbs and spices that each kitchen should have?

Besides salt and pepper, all home cooks have a bag of tricks they dip into when creating their favorite dishes. But I was curious about a list of what I would consider the standards.

I poked around the Food channel website, and a few others. I found one list that was pretty good at something called Associated Content, but it wasn't nearly as complete as I would have thought ... parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme weren't part of the list, for example.

That paragon of cooking -- Betty Crocker -- has a spice and herb chart in a cookbook we have as part of our cookbook library. It's pretty comprehensive:
Chili powder

But it too is incomplete. Sorry Betty.

So I've set out here to do my culinary duty and pull together as best I could the other essential spices for eats at home:
Bay leaves
Celery salt
Curry powder
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning
Red pepper flake
Seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
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