Salmon Mousse – Part II

I originally posted this recipe fro Cold Salmon Mousse with Cucumber Sauce in July of 2011.  Wait, my blog is over 4 years old?  How did that happen – as in where exactly did 4 years go???  But I digress.

The dog days of summer are upon us – tho it stays about 75 degrees in the house – and that means it’s time for hot weather food.  There is nothing better than a cold dinner after a 1 hour commute home – at least that is what George tells me.  When the weather is this warm I aim for at least one cold dinner a week.   This week it is Salmon Mousse.  So why repost this recipe? Because I discovered the perfect complement to the dish.  And it was all in the interest of using up a green I had in the crisper. Actually, I was trying to decide if I needed a vegetable or salad to go with the mousse.   And yes, the sauce has cucumbers, but I always feel like I need to add another vegetable as a side.  As I stared into the vegetable crisper I spied the Arugula, aka Rocket.  Hmm, a bed of spicy, peppery Arugula might be a great counterpoint to the salmon and cucumber.  And it is!  The Arugula has just enough of a bite to complement the creamy mousse.  A winning combination!  So here is the new version of:



  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 lb cooked salmon, skin and bones removed.  Can use canned salmon that has been drained
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 8 oz Arugula, rinsed and dried

Soften the gelatin in lemon juice.  Place the gelatin mixture, boiling water and onion in the workbowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Add the mayonnaise, paprika, chopped dill and salmon and process until just blended.  Add the sour cream and pulse until combined.  Pour into an oiled 4 cup bowl, dish or mold.  Chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

Fresh Cucumber Sauce

  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated on a box grater
  • salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1 tsp chopped chives
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • Mix the grated cucumbers with a little salt in a bowl and let rest for 1 hour.  Drain the cucumbers and combine with the remaining ingredients.  Chill for at least 2 hours.  Makes 1 cup

To Assemble

To serve, place a handful of the rinsed and dried Arugula on a plate.  Top with a serving of mousse.  Spoon some sauce over the piece of salmon mousse and top with fresh dill.  Pass additional sauce.

Posted in American Food, Cooking, fish, Food, Meatless Meals, Menus, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bolognese – It’s Got Nothing to do with Bologna

I was thumbing through a copy of Bon Appetit last week and caught sight of a editor note about a Bolognese recipe that used chicken livers.  Chicken Livers?  In a red sauce?  The actual recipe was in an issue that had come out two months prior.  Fortunately, I save all my issues for  a year so I had no trouble tracking the recipe down.  And there it was – Bolognese made with chicken livers.  Before you click off this page in disgust, let me assure you there was beef, pork and spices involved as well.  I am one of those people that like liver and my husband is a chicken liver pate fan so I figured I would give it a shot.  The original recipe comes from Mike Easton of Il Corvo, this is my version.  There are three components to this dish; the spice mix, the sauce itself and the assembly.    And here’s a quick heads up – start this in the morning or you won’t be eating till midnight!

Bolognese Sauce

Spice Mix

Spice mix for Bolognese Sauce

Spice mix for Bolognese Sauce

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns






Most of the ingredients for the sauce .  Missing are the milk, red wine vinegar and the peppers.

Most of the ingredients for the sauce . Missing are the milk, red wine vinegar and the peppers.

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3 oz. chicken livers, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, more for seasoning
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1/4 cup roasted red or green pepper, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 14 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 1/4 lbs ground beef chuck (20 % fat)
  • 1 lb ground pork shoulder
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar

Pasta Assembly

  • 12 oz fresh pappardelle
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup finely grated fresh parmesan cheese


Recipe Steps

Bolognese spice mix toasted and ground up.

Bolognese spice mix toasted and ground up.

Begin by assembling the spice mix.  Toast the spices until fragrant, about 2 minutes,  in a dry small skillet over medium heat.  Toss often to prevent burning.  Let cool, then finely grind in a spice mill or a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices.  The spice mix will look like this when completed. Set aside



Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat  Add the chopped livers and stir to coat with oil.  Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are deeply browned 5 to 8 minutes.  They should look almost burnt.

Add onion, thyme and peppers.  (The original recipe calls for Peppadew peppers.  I didn’t have any so I substituted the roasted peppers I had leftover from a dish I had made the previous night.) Stir to coat.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and browned, about 5 to 8 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in spice mixture and 1/12 tsp salt.

Add the tomatoes and wine.  Stir and scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Add meat and stir well.  Add the milk and stir well to ensure everything is evenly coated. The mixture, as you can see, doesn’t look very appealing.

Bolognese ready for the oven.

Bolognese ready for the oven.

Cover the pot with a lid, place it in the oven and bake for 6 hours.  Yes, SIX hours.

Remove the pot from the oven and stir.   The sauce will need to be pureed.  You can do this in batches in a blender: the sauce will be very hot so take care not to overfill the blender.  Or you can use an immersion blender – also referred by some chefs as a boat motor – to achieve the correct texture.  I use an immersion blender – much easier to clean up.

To assemble the dish drain the pappardelle, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta water.  Place the cooked and drained pappardelle in a pan over medium heat with the butter and toss to coat.  Add about 2 cups of the sauce and mix well.  Add the cooking liquid as needed to create a sauce that coats the noodles.

Once again I was so anxious to eat that I forgot to take a picture of the completed dish.  We did have leftover sauce so I may take one when we have the leftovers and just add it to this post.  This sauce is so worth the time and effort.  But don’t take my word for it – give it a try yourself.  And an added bonus – the house smells great!


This dish can also be served with rigatoni.  I asked George if he wanted rigatoni, which I already had in the pantry or pappardelle, which I had to make fresh.  You can guess which he picked.  Oh well, I was already into this dish for over 7 hours, what’s another hour to make fresh pasta!

Posted in Chicken Livers, Cooking, Entree, Food, Ground beef, Italian, Kitchen tools, meat, Pasta, Pork, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moussaka on My Mind

The first time I had Greek food I was probably well into my twenties.  And I fell in love.  Spanakopita, Pastichio, Moussaka, Lamb with egg and lemon sauce, and of course, Saganaki.  The only thing I am not fond of is Baklava – not a big fan of the nuts.

Living in Chicago it was easy to get great Greek food. In the late 70’s there were actually two areas of the city that featured great Greek restaurants; now they seem to be concentrated in Greek Town. One of my favorites, the Greek Islands, opened a second restaurant in the Western suburbs.  That is where we introduced our kids to cold octopus salad when they were 5 and 6 (they’re only 16 months apart.)  And this past April I had the pleasure of introducing my 16 month old grand-daughter to octopus salad and she loved it!

Recently I received a free sample of Greek Seasoning from Penzy’s Spices and it started me thinking about making Greek food.  So tonight we are having Moussaka.

Moussaka is not a dish you can decide to make at 5pm hoping it will be done for dinner at 7pm.  I started the prep work on this at about 3:30 and anticipate eating about 7 pm.  Do not despair, you aren’t cooking that whole time – there’s alot of wait times involved.  I know it will be well worth the effort!

Moussaka Serves 4

  • 1 medium eggplant peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 1tbl butter
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Penzy’s Greek Seasoning
  • 1 tbl dried parsley
  • 4 oz tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 egg beaten

Bechamel Sauce

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tbl all purpose flour
  • salt and ground white pepper to taste


  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg

Prepare the Filling:

Lay the peeled and sliced eggplant on a cookie rack.  Lightly salt both sides of the eggplant slices and allow them to sit for 30 minutes to draw some of the moisture out of the eggplant.  (Note: you may want to put a folded piece of paper towel under the eggplant to trap the moisture as it is released from the slices.   After 30 minutes has elapsed, pat the eggplant dry and dice into 1/2 inch cubes.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet over high heat.  Add the eggplant and quickly fry until browned. Set aside on paper towels to drain.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the ground beef, onions and garlic.  After the ground beef has browned, season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, greek seasoning and parsley.  Stir well.  Add the tomato sauce and wine and mix well.  Simmer for 20 minutes, then remove from heat. Allow to cool and then stir in the beaten egg.

Prepare the Bechamel Sauce:

Scald the milk in a saucepan.  While the milk is scalding. melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Watch the butter carefully as it melts; you do not want it to brown.  Add the flour when the butter is melted and has stopped foaming.  Whisk the flour in the butter until it is smooth.  Lower the heat and gradually add the scalded milk to the roux, whisking constantly until it thickens.  Season with salt and white pepper.

To Assemble the Moussaka

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8×8 inch baking dish.  Place 1/2 of the diced eggplant in the bottom of the dish. Top with one half of the meat and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Repeat with the remaining eggplant and meat and another 1/3 cup of the cheese.   Top the dish with the bechamel sauce, being sure to get sauce all the way into the corners. Top with the freshly grated nutmeg and the last 1/3 cup of the cheese.

Place the baking dish on a jelly roll pan covered in foil – this makes cleanup alot easier if the dish overflows.  Bake in the 350 degree F oven for one hour.

I ‘ll serve this with a green salad and a glass of white wine – I didn’t think ahead and buy Roditis!  I expect the leftovers will be just as good on Thursday.


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Welcome Lucy!

I digress from my usual posts about food and cooking to introduce the newest member of the family.  As many of our previous guests know, about 6.5 years ago we rescued a ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgeback named Boz.  Lately we have been talking about getting a companion for our best buddy and yesterday was the day.  So we are pleased to introduce Lucy.

Lucy making herself at home.

Lucy making herself at home.

Lucy is another rescued ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgeback.  She is a senior dog, probably about 8.5 years, which makes her older than Boz.  She’s a bit more delicate, weighing only 67 lbs but is just as tall.  We were lucky enough to find her on the first day she became available for adoption.  Her poor nose is healing from a very bad sunburn.  And while her owners ( who surrendered Lucy) claim she was inside all the time, the state of her nose says something else.

Over the next two months we will be integrating her into the family so she will not be available for a meet and greet.  But when she’s ready we know you’ll fall in love at first sight – just like we did.

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Skating Along

Last week George and I made a trip to our favorite fresh fish place to buy some squid.  I usually buy a pound or more, divide it into 1/4 pound portions and freeze it until I need it for paella or seafood pasta dishes.  I always look to see what other fish they have; something beyond the usual suspects of trout, tilapia or tuna.  I was amazed to spot Skate!  I’ve never really seen skate in a store and have seldom seen it on menus unless I was close to the ocean.  I’ve always wanted to try my hand on skate so, since it was sitting there looking sooo lovely on a bed of ice, I decided there was no time like the present.

For those of you who have never seen or had skate, it is a ray.  In fact, my Fulton Fish Market  cookbook, states skate is closely related to sharks and looks like a ray.  The “wings” of the fish is what is sold.  At my store the skate came with the skin removed but still on the bone.

As soon as I got home I scanned my cookbooks for a skate recipe.  Not finding anything that screamed MAKE ME!, I turned to the internet.  There are surprisingly few unique recipes for skate.  Most of them seem to be a variation on a theme.  I found one by Emeril Lagasse that I thought would work.  Upon further searching  in my cookbook collection, I found one in my Escoffier Cookbook that, while lacking the amounts of the various ingredients, listed the same ingredients as  in Emeril’s recipe.  If Escoffier writes about it, I am all in.

I actually had the wing from a small ray; larger rays must be boiled but the wing from small rays can be fried.

The first thing I had to do was to figure out how to cut the wing into four equal pieces.  This would not be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that my piece of skate had a bone at the top akin to those you find at the top of a strip steak.  I wasn’t cutting through that.  So my next option was to see if I could detach the bones in the wing from the large bone.  Not being a trained fish monger I wasn’t sure how to go about doing that without destroying the meat.   I opted for the tried and true method of removing the meat from the bones.  The bones in the wing are semi transparent, like the quill in a squid, but look like the bones of a finger with lots of joints.  Creepy but cool at the same time.  I also discovered there is an equal amount of flesh on both sides of the bones.  So I carefully filleted the wing and then divided the two sides so I ended up with four pieces.  From then on preparing the dish was a piece of cake!

Skate with Brown Butter Caper Sauce

  • 1 lb of skate – skin removed (if you can get skate that is off the bone you need only purchase about 12 oz.)
  • Flour for dredging
  • 2 tbl grapeseed oil (any vegetable oil will do – I prefer grapeseed)
  • 6 tbl butter
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbl capers, drained
  • 1 tbl parsley, chopped  – chop additional for garnish if desired

Remove the skate meat from both sides of the bones.  Cut into four equal pieces and set aside.  Place bones with any meat still attached in a pot with equal parts water and white wine and poach until meat is cooked through.  Remove from pot and when cool, scrape any meat from the bones.  Set meat aside and discard bones.

Season the uncooked skate with salt and pepper and dredge in flour to lightly coat.  Shake off any excess flour.  In a skillet large enough to hold the skate pieces, heat the oil until hot but not smoking.  Add 2 tbl of the butter and add the skate after the butter stops foaming. Saute the skate on each side for 3 minutes or until each side is golden brown.  Transfer to a warm plate and hold while you are making the butter sauce.

Wipe the out the skillet with a paper towel and return to the heat.  Add remaining 4 tbl of butter and cook until butter has begun to brown and has a nutty fragrance. Add the lemon juice, capers and 1 tbl of chopped parsley. Stir to combine well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the fried skate between two plates.  Top with the poached skate removed from the bones and then the sauce.  Finish with a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley.

I served this with fresh green beans and home made bread – potatoes didn’t seem right and I wasn’t in the mood for long grain rice.

In the final analysis I will make this again, tho next time I may actually bake the wing whole and then remove it from the bone – just to see if it works.

And I suspect skate that has to be skinned is a challenge for someone who doesn’t do it on a regular (like every day) basis so I would strongly advise against going the skin on route!  But if you do, let me know how it works out!

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Back to Mijas

George and I went to Spain several years ago – actually much longer ago than I care to admit.  While we were there we spent several days exploring the beautiful hillside town of Mijas.  And that’s where we were first introduced to Tapas.  Nothing is better than spending an afternoon sitting on the plaza sipping wine and sampling the ‘little plates’ offered at each establishment.

Last week we were in Chicago celebrating my Mom’s 85th birthday and a group of us went to Mercat a la Planxa for dinner.  This Jose Garces restaurant offers a chef’s tasting menu of different tapas that highlights his imagination and talent.  While all of the dishes were good; the Gambas Al Ajillo ( Garlic Shrimp) was absolutely fabulous.  Garlicky with just a hint of heat, and the sauce so good had I been able I would have licked the bowl clean.  It immediately transported me back to Spain and the Andalusian coast.  I knew this was a dish I wanted to recreate at home, and a week to the day later I did.

I began by researching recipes for the dish.  I was amazed to discover there were a number of different variations.  Chef Garces makes his with garlic and guindilla chiles and serves them with toast.  I didn’t have any guindilla chiles on hand so I looked for a recipe that provided the gentle heat from a different source.  I settled on one with red pepper flakes.  In actuality, the red pepper flakes made the dish a little too spicy.  We prefer the garlic to the heat.  I’ll know better next time.  Also, use the best quality olive oil you can: it and the garlic make the dish.



  • 1 lb (25 count)  raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp Spanish bittersweet paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (I will use less next time)
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a heavy frying pan, gently warm the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and gently cook for one minute or until the garlic begins to lightly brown.  DO NOT let the garlic burn. If it does you will need to start again as the burnt garlic will lend a bitter taste to the dish.

Raise the heat to high and add the shrimp and sherry and Spanish Paprika.  Stir well to blend all of the ingredients. Cook until the shrimp are cooked through.

Divide the shrimp and sauce between two bowls and garnish with chopped parsley.

I served this with freshly made bread to sop up all the juices and a green salad.  And while we ate in the dining nook and not alongside the Mediterranean it still carried me back to the sun filled Andalusian coast.


Posted in Cooking, Entree, Family, Food, Menus, Recipes, Restaurants, Spanish Cooking, Tapas | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tea for Two

We offer our tea loving guests 12 different kinds of tea.  We always have English Breakfast, tea, Earl Grey tea and some manner of green tea.  Some of the other varieties include raspberry, chamomile, orange and pomegranate flavored teas.    The thought of using them for anything other than drinking really didn’t cross my mind.  Until last week.  That’s when I discovered a recipe for a tea crusted pork loin.  At first I was skeptical but then I recalled how I often coat pork chops with a coffee and chili rub.  Could this be any different? What did I have to lose?  I already had a 1.5 lb pork loin in the freezer and I certainly had Earl Grey tea, so I decided to give it a whirl.

And I can report  “We have a Keeper!”  This is what my husband says when I try something new and he wants me to make it again.  It’s the Bergamot oil in the Earl Grey tea that imparts a slight citrus flavor to the meat.  I looked for a brand of Earl Grey that listed the Bergamot oil on the front, figuring that brand would have a lot more of the oil.

Earl Grey tea with bergamot oil

Earl Grey tea with bergamot oil

I can’t say for sure if the brand I used was any more flavorful than any other brand but I can say with certainty that there was a nuance of citrus in the flavor of the meat.

The recipe called for a fine ground tea.  I opened the tea bags and found it to be a fine ground so I didn’t bother putting the tea through a grinder.  I began by tying the roast.  Normally I would omit this step as the roast is in one piece so tying seems unnecessary. But I learned something new.  By tying the roast I actually created a piece of meat that was more uniform, giving me an evenly cooked product.

Pork Loin tied, crusted with tea and ready for the oven.

Pork Loin tied, crusted with tea and ready for the oven.

That’s a trick I’m keeping in my bag! After tying the roast I coated it with the tea, salt and pepper mixture and set it out to rest for 45 minutes.  After roasting the meat for about an hour, I pulled it from the oven and let it rest for 15  minutes.  As I sliced the meat I got a faint whiff of orange.  I knew this would be good.  The original recipe called for this to be served with apples and fennel.  I didn’t have any fennel in the house so I opted for the classic apples and onions.  Worked for us.  Here’s the recipe:



Earl Grey Crusted Pork Loin

  • 1 tbs finely ground Earl Grey Tea ( this is about 3 teabags)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 1/5 lb boneless pork loin roast, tied
  • 2  cooking apples such as gala, cored and cut into quarters then halved crosswise
  • 1 large onion, end removed and cut into eighths.
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 450 degree F.

Whisk the tea, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Tie the roast and rub it allover with the tea mixture.  Set the meat fat side up in a baking pan.  Let rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Roast the pork for 20 minutes in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.  While the pork is roasting, toss the onion and apple in the olive oil and thyme. Season with additional salt and pepper.

Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.  Scatter the apple and onion pieces  around the pork and roast for about 35 minutes longer, or until a meat thermometer  registers 135 degrees in the thickest part of the meat.  Transfer the pork to a plate or carving board and let rest for 15 minutes.  Slice the meat thinly and serve with the apples and onions.

I wish I had taken a shot of the meat when it was finished but I was too hungry and needed to get dinner on the table. The meat was equally good as leftovers two days latter.  The apple and onion mixture was gone but I cooked some fresh sliced carrots with a bit of thyme and they were an equally good accompaniment.

We will definitely be having this again.

Posted in American Food, Cooking, Family, Food, meat, Menus, Pork, Recipes, Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments