Lobster and Corn Chowder

The Barefoot Contessa has a fantastic recipe for lobster and corn chowder. It’s particularly excellent this time of year when the lobster and the corn are especially sweet. We made it this evening and served it with a green salad and a roll.

Here is a link to the recipe:


And here is a picture:

Soup and sandwich

We actually haven’t had dinner yet.  Keith is still at tennis.  But it will be ready for eating as soon as he gets home.  I made the cauliflower soup that everyone loves and I have a leftover chicken breast for sandwiches.  That will give me time to make a batch of The Barefoot Contessa’s Tri-berry muffins with fresh berries from the produce stand.

Cauliflower soup

  • 4 TB butter
  • 4 leeks, well cleaned and white and light green parts chopped
  • 2 heads cauliflower, trimmed to florets (If you can find orange cauliflower it makes the soup a pretty color.)
  • 8 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I use more because Keith and Samantha both like things spicy.)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 2 – 3 oz Prosciutto thinly sliced

Melt butter in a heavy pot and saute leeks stirring until soft (about 5 minutes).  Add cauliflower, chicken stock and pepper.   Bring to a boil, stirring and then lower heat and cover pot and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Vegetables should be tender.

Puree in batches in a blender or food processor and then return to pan.   Stir in 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and creme fraiche.  Serve as is or with crispy Prosciutto strips.


Birthday dinner

Our dear friend celebrated a 50th birthday so I wanted to cook her a special dinner.  I was out of town for work all week last week and got home late Friday evening.  We had a hectic weekend so I had to make it manageable.  Here is what I did:

First course – tuna carpaccio and tuna tartar from The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook. I have admired the picture of this in the cookbook many times and decided to go for it – also because it is almost all do-ahead.  I bought a hunk of fresh tuna (if you ask nicely they will usually cut a fresh piece from a loin for you.)  You cut thin slices of tuna and then pound it between pieces of wax paper until it is almost translucent.  (I got better with practice and the bright side is that any mess ups can go into the tartar.)

In this case the tartar is finely diced tuna that is tossed at the last minute with a marinade of 2 TB soy sauce, 1/4 cup rice vinegar and 2 tsp sesame oil. You put a piece of carpaccio on the plate, drizzle with wasabi mayonnaise and then top with a mound of the tartar.  It was outstanding – not a bit leftover.

For the main course, we grilled strip steaks with one of our favorite marinades:

Chipotle marinade 

  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 TB tomato juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (low sodium soy sauce)
  • 2 TB sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oreganoe bout
  • salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender.

Since the dressing has some kick to it, you don’t need to smother your meat with it.  (This is also excellent with chicken and pork.)  I put some in the bottom of a glass baking dish, put the steaks on top and then put about 1 TB of marinade on each steak.  Since it was a celebration we decided to splurge on the steaks.  We bought the steaks from John Brown’s Butcher shop.  They were out of this world!  Keith said they were easier to grill since they were almost exactly the same size.  The steaks weren’t huge but there was no waste – every bite was amazing.  Definitely a do-over for a special occasion.

The salad was mache topped with a sherry/shallot vinaigrette that I shook up in a jar and warm goat cheese.  I sliced the goat cheese into rounds, dipped each round in olive oil and then a mixture of panko and chopped pistachios and heated them in a 400 degree oven for 3 minutes.  (You want the cheese to be soft but not oozing.)

My cheat was to use the Little Potato company roasted potatoes.  I decided that I couldn’t do any better myself and it saved me some time.  I used the garlic/herb.

Dessert was Ina’s Mocha Icebox cake.  It is so amazing although I use Otterbein’s chocolate chip cookies instead of Tate’s.  (We did a blind taste test a few years ago and we preferred Otterbein’s.

Sorry that I was having so much fun I didn’t take any pictures!


Cooking for Jeffrey – book review

If you follow blog you know that I’m a huge fan of Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa.  I have all of her books and cook from them often.  I had to get her newest book Cooking for Jeffrey as soon as it hit the bookstore.  I wanted to share my thoughts, what I have already cooked from the new book and what I plan to cook next.

Ina fans know that Ina loves to cook for everyone but her number one is her husband Jeffrey.  The book has the most adorable pictures of them when they were first married and as always, Ina shares her philosophy on cooking and her journey from her early days of trying to impress friends with complicated French dishes to her discovery of simple, well-prepared fresh and delicious meals that allow you to spend time with friends and family rather than spending all of your time in the kitchen.

I have heard many people say that when you buy a new cookbook, you’re doing well if you get a couple of good recipes out of it.  With The Barefoot Contessa, I always get way more than that and this book is proving to follow the rule.  As soon as I started flipping through, looking at the pictures and reading the recipes I wanted to get cooking!

I started with a simple but delicious appetizer – popcorn with chipotle pepper and Parmesan cheese.  As Ina would say “How easy is that?”.  Spicy and delicious too.  I used her parmesan roasted zucchini as a side dish – we love zucchini so I was happy to have a new preparation. On Sunday I tweaked Ina’s salmon pizza by using flatbread crusts instead of pizza dough (cut both the prep time and the calories).  I also made the leek and zucchini frittata.  (I’ve made frittatas using her recipes before and I love them – sort of a cross between an omelet and a quiche.

Samantha had a playoff soccer game on Monday and Keith needed to be at a paddle tennis game shortly thereafter so he needed something he could eat while watching the game.  I made a variation of the tarragon shrimp salad she features and gave it to him as a sandwich.  (Interesting because Ina had pretty much converted me to roasting shrimp but this book suggests cooking the shrimp in water.  She flavors hers with Pernod but I used lemon juice and white wine as I’m not a big fan of that anise flavoring.)  Another winner!

As for what I plan to make next – these are on my list soon:

  •  chipotle sweet potatoes (I’m actually going to combine elements of her recipe with elements of my spiced sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving.)
  • maple-roasted carrot salad (this one has goat cheese and Marcona almonds – two of my favorite salad additions)
  • Anna’s tomato tart (that will have to wait until next summer when tomatoes are back in season)
  • moroccan grilled lamb chops
  • roasted salmon tacos
  • and of course, desserts!  They all look amazing but the frozen hot chocolate is high on my wish list.  (The devil’s food cake with coffee meringue buttercream that graces the cover doesn’t look half bad either!)

If you want another cookbook with accessible recipes that use readily available ingredients that will make you and your friends feel good, make room on your shelf for Ina’s 10th book.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!  My only disappointment is that Ina is coming to Baltimore to speak at the Hippodrome and I have already been scheduled for a mandatory business trip to Texas while she is here.  😦



Cookbook challenge

A friend included me in a needlepoint challenge on Facebook – you post a picture of a needlepoint piece each day for seven days.  It’s been fun looking back at some old finishes and great to see what some other friends have posted.  I started thinking about another challenge, involving cookbooks.  Probably because needlepoint stores (like my friend’s shop Needles and Threads of Ruxton) call to me to buy canvases and threads just like bookstores call me to buy cookbooks.  And just like my needlepoint stash could possibly be just a little bit more than I need, I have an excess of cookbooks too.

When I find a recipe that I like, I put a marker in the book (I also make notes if I tweak the recipe.)  As you look at 4 of my 8 Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, you can see that she is a constant source of inspiration to me:


I have other cookbooks that don’t have anything marked.  So my plan is to choose one book a week that has no tagged recipes.  I’m going to look through the book and try to choose at least one recipe to make.  If I can’t find one recipe that I think is worth making, I’m going to donate that book to a book sale.  Since many of the books were acquired from used book sales, it seems fitting.  If I give away some that I’m not using, that will make room on my bookshelf for more!  🙂

I’ll let you know the results of my Cookbook challenge.  If your bookshelves are overflowing, consider joining me.  But I’m not ready to get rid of any of my needlepoint stash!



Fantasy Thanksgiving dinner

If I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, my menu would look like this:

  • Barefoot Contessa’s Roasted turkey roulade
  • Chipotle roasted baby carrots
  • Roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta and sage
  • Rosemary scalloped sweet potatoes
  • Barefoot Contessa’s apple cranberry cake (in How Easy is That?)

You can find the turkey roulade recipe by googling Barefoot Contessa turkey roulade or in her book, Back to Basics.  It’s a boneless turkey breast stuffed with a mixture of fruit, bread, sausage and other goodies.  She points out that it cooks in two hours and is easy to carve.  I think it sounds amazing and would be really fun to try.

We love chipotle chili and I think this recipe sounds like a great and interesting spicy side:

Chipotle roasted baby carrots

  • 25 – 30 thin baby carrots, tops removed and carrots scrubbed
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 TB unsulfured molasses
  • 2 TB olive oil

Preheat oven to 350.  Toss carrots with chipotle, molasses and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast f0r 30 – 35 minutes until tender and browned.  Let cool and serve at room temperature.  (Part of the appeal of this recipe, which I have never actually made, is that you can make it ahead.)


Roasted brussels sprouts

  • 1 large leek, white and light green part only, thinly sliced, well rinsed to remove any grit and patted dry
  • 2 lbs brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 oz pancetta, chopped
  • 2 TB finely hopped fresh sage
  • 2 TB olive oil

Preheat oven to 450.  Toss sprouts with pancetta, olive oil and pepper in a ceramic baking dish.  Roast for 20 minutes, tossing once.   Serve.

Rosemary scalloped sweet potatoes

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 large onion, sliced in 1/2 inch wedges
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
  • 2 TB butter
  • 3 TB flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup potato liquid
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine sweet potatoes, onion, water and rosemary in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until potatoes are tender.  Drain liquid and save.

Put potatoes and onions in a 7 x 11 inch baking pan.  Melt butter and blend in flour.  Add milk and potato liquid and stir until thickened.  Pour sauce over potatoes and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake 20 minutes at 400.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving!



You say potato, I say …

I had to write the last post to bring you up to date on our international eating plan so I could give the background needed for last night’s dinner.  Since the drawing for the first international dinner (Persian) was made during a dinner at our house, it was decreed (by Kevin) that we had to have another dinner to do the next drawing.  So last night Christie made an amazing dinner and we chose the next destination.  (More on that in a moment.)

Christie and I are both big fans of the Barefoot Contessa and everything she made last night came from one of Ina Garten’s cookbooks.  We like her because her recipes are manageable, typically use readily available ingredients and consistently produce excellent results.  The first course was a potato and leek soup that calls for roasting the potatoes and leeks and adding in arugula.  We all decided that the roasting gave the soup a fabulous flavor and the crispy shallots that Christie had fixed as a topping were fabulous.

This also resulted in a conversation about potato leek soup and vichyssoise.  (I can remember my father getting in a debate with a waiter in a restaurant who said that the special soup was a warm vichyssoise.  My father immediately said there is no such thing.)  I’ve done a little research today among my collection of cookbooks and every cookbook I have found (including the Barefoot Contessa, Julia Child and Larousse Gastronomique are all in agreement.  If the potato and leek soup is served hot, it is potato and leek soup.  If it’s cold, it is vichyssoise.  In fact, Larousse says that vichyssoise refers to any cold soup made with potato and another vegetable, including zucchini.

After the soup we had beautiful beef filets that Christie started on her grill pan and finished in the oven.  The steaks were cooked perfectly and we think the result may be better than grilling on the gas grill.  The grill pan makes beautiful marks but I think the oven made the cooking very even.  She made a roquefort sauce and oven roasted asparagus, fennel and green beans (both also from the Barefoot Contessa.)  I avoided fennel for years because I don’t care for licorice but we’ve used it a few times lately and I’m becoming a fan.

We were too full to eat anything else but never too full to start planning our next meal.  Kevin had the honor of drawing the next selection and we will be heading out for Mexican in two weeks.  I will keep you posted.  Meanwhile, the soup was so good that I decided I need to make more chicken stock so I’m roasting a chicken this afternoon.  Next post will have the menu plan for the week.

Christmas gifts for the foodie in your life

I thought that at this time of year, it might be helpful to share a few ideas for those who are trying to find the perfect gift for the foodie in their life.  As those who follow blog know, I’m in a great position to give advice on this front as I love to eat food, cook food, think about food and read about food.  So here are a few ideas, big and small for that special someone.

Small Gadgets for Stocking Stuffers

  • Microplane zester – my husband bought me one of these last summer and I’m crazy about it.  It is the best for getting lime and lemon zest.  They come in a variety of sizes.  Having more than one would not be a bad thing.
  • silicone food brush – we used to have a brush with a wooden handle and bristles for brushing food with a marinade.  It couldn’t go in the dishwasher and I never felt like it was clean.  The small silicone ones work really well and are dishwasher safe.  Great choice!
  • wooden spoons and new spatulas – there is always one that should be thrown away and you can never have too many of either.  Tie a couple together with a ribbon and add to the stocking.

Big gadgets for under the tree

  • Breville smart oven – when our toaster oven died, my husband decided we needed one of these.  I thought it was unnecessary and too expensive.  I was wrong.  We use it multiple times a day.  It has settings for toast, for bagels, for baking, roasting, broiling, etc.  It knows that you toast a frozen bagel differently than an unfrozen bagel.  It cooks pizza, chicken nuggets and can hold a medium size casserole.  It has a convection oven and is perfect if you need an extra oven for holiday sides or if you need to cook two things at different temperatures.  Anything you use all the time is worth the money.
  • Cuisinart food processor – again, I didn’t think we needed it and I love it.  Great for grating cheese, slicing potatoes, making pesto and so many things.  I love it so much that I had to have the…
  • Cuisinart mini food processor – this one I picked out.  This is perfect for the small jobs – chopping garlic, making marinades, etc.
  • Kitchenaid mixer – I bought my first one 25 years ago and the only reason I gave it up was to upgrade to the bigger one.  This time of year it gets a real workout making cookies.  The only hard part is deciding which color to get.  Spring for the extra bowl – you won’t use it often, but it’s great at Christmas and when making cakes.

Food stocking stuffers

  • Chocolate anything – for kids it is quantity over quality, for grownups, it’s the reverse.  My husband doesn’t know it yet, but I found a beautiful chocolate “sushi” that I bought for him to put in my stocking.  It’s only a couple of pieces of chocolate but that’s even better because I don’t want a lot of chocolate around when New Year’s resolutions kick in.  A few wonderful things to enjoy now would be great.
  • The unusual – someone once brought me truffle honey.  I think you were supposed to use it for basting game but I ate it on toast for breakfast and it was incredible.  I was so sad when I finished it and I’ve never seen it anywhere.  This is the perfect time for the interesting sauce, the eccentric marinade, the finishing salts – all are great in a stocking.
  • The trip down memory lane – remember the beautiful candies and lollipops from when you were a kid.  Christmas is the time when we all want to be a kid again.


Reading cookbooks is fun even for people who don’t actually cook from them.  I feel like if you get 2 or 3 great recipes from a cookbook, it’s well worth it.  I put tabs in my cookbooks to make it easier to find the recipes I love and it makes it easy to tell which ones are favorites – they have lots of markers.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Cook’s Illustrated – this is on my Christmas list this year.  It’s received great reviews.  I hope Santa is listening!  🙂
  • Barefoot Contessa – I have all of her cookbooks and am a big fan.  Her recipes are accessible and versatile.  I don’t think I have ever made a recipe from one of her books that I haven’t liked.
  • Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking- these are collections of Colwin’s food essays from Gourmet magazine.  I have read these books so many times there are passages I could recite from memory.  I wish I could have met the author when she was alive.
  • Restaurant cookbooks – these are always fun.  I have made many recipes from the Mustard’s Grill and Gotham Grill cookbooks.  You have to approach them with the view that some of their ingredients aren’t accessible and some of the recipes are impractical.   These are not the things you’ll make on a Tuesday but they are fun to reference for dinner parties and special occasions.
  • Ethnic cookbooks – I love to explore new cuisines and most foodies do too.  Thai, Indian, Chinese, French, Italian – these are the ones that a foodie might not already have.
  • Specialty cookbooks – Again, I have most of the standards but I love cookbooks that delve into one area – soups, salads, pasta, etc.  These are less likely to be repeats.


  • Restaurant gift card – while most people who love food love to cook, it’s always fun to take a night off!
  • Wine – an interesting bottle of wine is almost always a hit.
  • Serving plates, cutting boards, etc. – you just can’t have too many.
  • Gift card to kitchen supply store – Williams-Sonoma, etc.  – I can always find something I don’t have (whether I “need” it or not)
  • Napkins, dish towels, etc. – always helpful

I hope that gives you a few ideas for the foodie on your list.  Happy shopping!