Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Eggplant Mushroom Stacks

The key to a good recipe is an imagination. Eggplant in my humble opinion is something that requires a great deal of imagination and seasoning to boot. It is often misunderstood and not cooked very well either too greasy in eggplant parmesan or too bitter for consumption in a salad. My typical approach is a quick pan fry sans flour and egg and a simple sauce. Compound eggplant with mushrooms, spinach, grape tomatoes and fresh mozzarella you create nothing earth shattering just a really good, satisfying, healthy and easy meal and at the end of the day, throw imagination out the window and give me something good. p.s. note there is always feta and a piece of bread on the side.

2 hearty servings
1 large eggplant washed and sliced in 1/2 in. portions
1/2 white button mushrooms
handful of cherry or grape tomatoes
2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
Indoor grill or grated cast iron pan

Brush eggplant slices with 1 tablespoon olive oil and half of the salt and pepper and set aside. Meanwhile heat saute pan and add cleaned and sliced mushrooms and sliced tomatoes, season with remaining salt. Cook spinach in 1/4 cup water and drain well. Cook until slightly brown. Heat grill and place seasoned eggplant slices, cook for 7-10 minutes turning once. Stack mushroom tomato mixture then spinach, top with mozzarella and heat until cheese melts

Monday, January 26, 2009

Beef Short Ribs Youvetsi

Greeks tend to be food purists there are something you don't mess with, youvetsi (aromatic braised lamb with orzo) is one of those dishes. While there is certainly nothing wrong with the tried and tested original, I thought beef short ribs sans the aromatics would be an interesting twist. Now my mother thinks I am insane as in her opinion, I mean gospel, youvetsi must have aromatics such as cinnamon and allspice and certainly can not have carrots and celery and she almost lost it when I mentioned wine, port and balsamic vinegar. She insisted I call this something else but the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and I am just as stubborn as she she, as the basic definition of youvetsi refers more to the pot and cooking in an oven more than the actually ingredients.

Rarely can one really claim a recipe as there own. I scoured many sources to put together ingredients I thought would hold true to the spirit of youvetsi. My mom would call bull shit but luckily she is not computer savvy. My previous attempts at short ribs used just red wine and the flavor fell a little flat. There is a lot of fat in short ribs and something needs to cut through that strong flavor, enter port wine and balsamic vinegar.

I was especially excited to use Port wine as Chris and I visited Portugal in 2005 and acquired a few bottles in the town of Sintra. Each time I use this in a recipe it bring me back to an amazing place. The final product with thyme and wine and long cooking time was so flavorful and satisfying. This dish was certainly worth the argument over authentic youvetsi and I promise I will make the original real soon and you can be the judge.

2 servings
2 lbs. beef short ribs cross cut
1/4 olive oil
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 small onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
2 ribs of celery chopped
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
4 springs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 port wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cups low sodium beef broth
1/2 cold water
1/4 cup tomato puree or paste (optional)
2 cups orzo

-Rinse ribs and remove from the fridge at least and hour before cooking. Season with pepper and chopped thyme, add salt prior to searing.
-Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
-Heat olive in heavy bottomed vessel that holds at least 6 qt. In small batches sear the ribs on each side and remove from pot.
-Add carrots, onions, celery, thyme springs, bay leaf cook over medium heat for 10 minutes until softened.
-Deglaze veggeis with red wine, port wine and balsamic vinegar, scrap up bits and reduce this by half.
-Add beef broth, tomato puree and water, bring to a rolling boil, add short ribs cover with tight fitting lid and place in oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
-Ribs at this point should fall off the bone, remove beef and bones, strain liquid mixture and make sure to press down on veggies.
-Add orzo to strained liquid and cook in oven for an additional half hour.

Barefoot Blogger: Sticky Buns

I am really pleased that I could join this great group Barefoot Bloogers. I joined late this month and am excited about trying new recipes, since I honestly wouldn't have tried this recipe otherwise, it's a good chance to try new things. Recipe was easy to follow, found it a bit heavy on the butter but the end producet was excellent. Enjoy!

Sticky Buns
Ina Garten
12 servings

12 tablespoons (1 & 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
1 package (17.3 ounces/ 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture. Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with half of the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, 1½ teaspoons of the cinnamon, and ½ cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down. Trim the ends of the roll about ½ inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1½ inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon) and cool completely.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hummus is Yummus

The Detroit area boasts the largest Arab population outside the Middle East, I am lucky to have restaurants in close proximity that have great hummus, even local grocery stores have really good hummus, I can't however swallow the price. Such simple ingredients and still my preferred brand is $2.99 for an 8 oz. tub and mind you a tub in my house d/n go very far, so I sought out a home recipe and spent a long time chatting with Lebanese friends who lets face it make hummus really yummus to compose a very simple recipe. I ran in to an interesting road block when chatting about hummus most commented well my mom d/n have a recipe she kind of throws this.

Now I have gathered that hummus is made of either tahini (sesame paste) or olive oil not both. The first few recipes from well known cookbooks had either too much garlic or where very dry, too much tahini and all called for both tahini and olive oil. The traditional approach generally calls for just tahini considering the olive oil will emulsify the mixture. In no way am I an expert but I found the below combination is an approach to hummus rather than a recipe the whole point of cooking is to combine things to suit your taste, you like garlic add more, you like tart flavors add more lemon, like a nutty flavor add less chick peas and more tahini. This is truly a recipe that one could make their own, add roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato, artichoke, olives anything really.

Makes 2 cups
1/2 cup of stirred tahini
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 16 oz can Chick Peas or (1.5lb dried, soaked overnight)
1-2 large cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tsp. honey (optional, nice if garlic is a bit to powerful)
Paprika and olive oil drizzle (optional)

1.) Place strained canned chick peas in small pot and 2-3 cups of water, bring to a boil for 5-6 minutes, drain and retain 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Remove skins and place in food processor and pulse.
2.) Mince garlic with microplane (can just throw in to food processor)
3.) Add garlic, tahini and salt to food processor and pulse until smooth. Add cooking liquid if mixture is too thick. Check seasoning and add honey and additional salt if needed.
4.) Place in bowl and spring with paprika and olive oil. Store in fridge for up to 2 weeks but trust me it won't last that long.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Macaronia Me Kima (Greek Bolognese)

Hands down one of my favorite things to eat. I am so picky about meat sauce I rarely even order at a restaurant. I can not stand large chunks of ground meat, it's just not a great texture. This is a classic Greek dish and the Kima (aromatic meat mixture) is used in pastitsio and mousaka. Aromatic spices such as ground cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice along with bay leaf give the sauce a distinct flavor and a nice alternative to herb based meat sauces. Greeks generally use grated onion in most sauce dishes, this approach I think is very unique and flavors the sauce so that the liquids pick up the onion flavor and one doesn't bite into chunks of onion of garlic rather, it creates the background of the sauce.
The pasta is the Greek Misko brand found at most ethnic markets. While I normally cook pasta al dente, this one needs to be fully cooked. The first time I made this for my now husband, he was so happy with the dish he said it rivaled his mom's and for a Greek boy that is significant, he to this day sites it as a favorite. I was, gasp, out of any real good Greek cheese like mizithra, kasseri or feta, so I skipped the cheese all together. Cut me some slack, it's like Antarctica out there.

1 lb. quality ground sirloin or 1/2 lb. ground sirloin, 1/2 lb. ground lamb
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup of tomato paste
1 cup of tomato puree
1/2 cup of water
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon of table salt
1/2 tablespoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of freshly ground nutmeg
dash of freshly ground all spice
2 bay leafs
1 500g bag of Misko #5


1.) Bring to a boil a large pot filled with cold water and cook pasta per package directions.
2.) Grate one small onion and one clove of garlic
3.) Heat 2 tbl. olive oil in large pan, add onion and cook for 1-3 minutes over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.

4.) Brown the ground sirloin for a few minutes add spices and wine, cook for an additional minute until alcohol evaporates.

5.) Add tomato paste and mix in, add tomato puree and water. Mix thoroughly and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes on low. Check seasoning.

6.) After draining pasta, add 2 tbl. olive oil to pasta pot. Heat oil for a minute and add pasta, turn off the heat. Pasta will sizzle, place on plate and serve with sauce mixture.

The Key to Amazing Soup

The Midwestern US has experienced an insane amount of snow this winter and it is only mid-January, lets not even talk about the below freezing, frigid temperature. I know I willingly live in a part of the US that experiences rough winters but this is truly ridiculous. No one is prepared for below zero surface temperature. With such ridiculous weather, most people tend to hibernate and I have done just that and there is nothing better than a bowl of homemade soup on a wretched snow filled day. Believe me in a pinch I use store-bought Chicken Stock and in no way will judge but if one has the time then there really is nothing better than a rich stock that has simmered all day. It truly is the key to amazing soup. Now there is no reason to cut or even peel half of these ingredients but I do recommend to wash thoroughly, considering grit accumulates in veggies and herbs. Another good side product of this stock is utilizing veggies or herbs that have seen better days. I have become more conscious of using everything I buy, so if I see my herbs are ready to wilt or the carrots are drying up , I may just throw on a pot and by all means feel free to add whatever veggies and herbs you have, note you may to skip on the spuds considering their starch content.

Large stock pot
1 4-5 lb whole chicken, preferably free-range or organic (it just so happened this was on sale otherwise I usually use less expensive cuts such as legs or split breasts, the key are good bones)
2 large onions cut in half with peel on
3-4 unpeeled carrots cut in half
3-4 stalks of celery cut in half
1 bunch of garlic cut length-wise
3-5 springs of parsley
3-5 springs of dill
3-5 springs of thyme
3-5 springs of rosemary
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1.) Thoroughly rinse chicken and place in large stock pot that will hold at least 10 quarts of water
2.) Place all remaining ingredients and cover with very cold water until all ingredients are covered by water by at least an inch.
3.) Place on medium heat and bring to a slow boil, skimming as needed. Then reduce heat to and simmer for 2 and a half hours.
4.) Strain mixture and bring to room temperature. Use in soup or refrigerate for up to 3 days or package and place in the freezer.

Lentil Smoked Sausage Soup

My mother makes a Greek style lentil soup called "fakyes" which I truly love on a cold winters day. I am an avid viewer of Food Network and was truly inspired to try something different with lentils. This recipe is from Ina Garten of the Barefoot Contessa show. The true key to a successful soup is home make chicken stock. Adjustments noted. I must some my mom's tried and tested old -world fakyes still are the greatest thing ever.

Lentil Sausage Soup Recipe
Ina Garten,

1 pound French green lentils (recommended: du Puy) Used non-French
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for serving
4 cups diced yellow onions (3 large)
4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (2 leeks) Omitted
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin Omitted added Bay Leaf instead
3 cups medium diced celery (8 stalks)
3 cups medium diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)
3 quarts Homemade Chicken Stock
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 pound kielbasa, cut in 1/2 lengthwise and sliced 1/3-inch thick Used Dearborn Smoke Sausage
2 tablespoons dry red wine or red wine vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.
In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and tender. Check the seasonings. Add the kielbasa and red wine and simmer until the kielbasa is hot. Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am so not a baker. There is something intimidating about having to measure and ensure you don't substitute baking powder for baking soda or vice versa. Chocolate Chip Cookies are about American as the 4th of July and I literally salivate each time I pass Mrs. Fields. Such a simple concept a cookie which some how I still haven't mastered. This recipe was modified from my Gourmet cookbook. Don't get me wrong we consumed all of these cookies but I don't think it was an experience to write home about but then again not everything in life is a success.

1 stick unsalted room temperature butter
1/3 cup li1ght brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon good vanial extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chocolate chip or wafers

1.) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2.) Beat butter and sugars until well combined and fluffy in electric mixer bowl fitted with paddle
3.) Beat in egg and vanila
4.) Add Flour at a very low speed
5.) Gently mix in Chocolate chips and nuts (optional)
5.) Place on baking sheet and bake for 6 to 7 minutes

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pan Seared Ribeye and Oven Fries

Oven Fries
A quick weeknight meal with strong flavors. I used Gruyere but truly any cheese will do. Same goes for herbs.

3 large potatoes, peeled and hand cut in 1/8 inch portions
2 tbls. olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 tbl. Gruyere cheese
Salt and fresh ground pepper

1.) Cut potatoes in 1/8 sliced and place on baking sheet and mix with olive oil, salt and pepper.
2.) Cook for 30 minutes at 450 degree oven until potatoes are golden.
3.) Remove from heat and sprinkle, parsley, lemon zest and cheese.

Pan Seared Ribeye

2 8-10 oz. rib eye steaks

1 tbls. olive oil
1 tbls. Montreal steak seasoning

1.) Bring steaks to room temp
2.) Meanwhile heat olive oil in heavy bottom pan
3.) When pan begins to smoke carefully place seasoned steak and sear for 3-4 minutes on each side (medium rare)
4.) Remove from heat and let steaks rest for 3 minutes until serving.

Chicken Cutlet, Warm Lemon Potato Salad and Araka (Greek Peas)

A quick weeknight meal, had a ton of dill and parsley and this was a good way to use up extra herbs.

Chicken Cutlet
2 6 oz. boneless skinless chicken breasts washed and filleted in half.
2 tbls. olive oil
1 small bun of white bread pulsed in food processor
1 tbls. chopped parsley
1 teaspoon lemon zest
salt and pepper

1.) Pulse bread in food processor, add parsley and lemon zest
2.) Heat olive oil in pan
3.) Lightly coat chicken with bread mixture and add to hot pan
4.) Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes on each side
5.) Transfer to platter and let rest prior to serving.

Warm Lemon Potato Salad
5-6 medium sized russet or yukon gold potatoes
3 tbls. parsley
3 tbls. dill
1/4 cup of minced shallots (sauteed in oil is best)
Freshly ground pepper and salt
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 tbls. olive oil

Boil peeled potatoes until tender in salted water.
Cut cooked potatoes in 4th's.
Add herbs, lemon juice, olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
While warm, add herbs, lemon juice.

Araka (Greek Style-Peas)
Easy, healthy and fast
1 8oz. bag of frozen peas
1/2 grated onion
2 tbls. tomato paste
1 tbls. olive oil
1/4 cup of water
1/2 tbls. fresh dill
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in saucepan add onion and cook for 1 minute until onion softens
Mix in tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes until paste starts to soften.
Add water and mix well
Add peas, dill salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes until peas are cooked to taste.

Zucchini Vegetable Medley

When veggies are fresh and cooked to the perfect texture and not too mushy you don't have to do much to add flavor. The herbs and butter balance the veggies and complement the citrus flavors in the turkey. For Thanksgiving, I cooked the veggies the night before then add butter and herbs to reheat the day of. This approach really saves time and keep the kitchen somewhat clean. Simplicity and clean flavors is key.

1lb. zucchini
1 lb. yellow squash
2 lbs. broccoli crowns
1 lb carrots
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped dill (optional)
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 stick butter

1.) Wash all veggies and pat dry.
2.) Chop veggies to uniform size and discard thick part of broccoli stalk
3.) Boil large pot of salted water and blanch each veggie separate for 3-4 minutes.
4.) Retrieve veggies with slotted spoon or Chinese strainer and place immediately in to ice water bath. Place in fridge to set color.
5.) Combine all veggies with butter, lemon zest and herbs.

Best Ever Green Bean Casserole

I made this dish specifically for Chris since he is not a fan of stuffing. I must admit I have never had the traditional Green Bean Casserole with Cream of Mushroom soup come to think of it, I have never had Green Bean Casserole period. Alton Brown of the Food Network profiled a way to omit the processed soup and used fresh green beans which sounded appealing Granted I had zero time for making my one fried onions, French's works just fine.

Recipe Courtesy of Alton Brown

Cranberry Orange Chutney

My mother never made and or served Cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. The thought of consuming something that still had can ridges didn't sound appetizing. The first time I had real cranberry sauce is when Mrs. Papakonstantinou graciously brought some courtesy of her daughter. I loved the tart flavor of the cranberry and while mine doesn't hold a candle to Mrs. Papakonstantinou's, I have over the last several years made this recipes with decent success. Granted only few of the guests actually tried this, considering it's is certainly a strong flavor, those that did however enjoy and commented favorably. Made this 2 days prior.

1 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries
1 cup of orange juice
1 cup of sugar
zest of one orange

1.) Thoroughly wash cranberries and place in saucepan.
2.) Add orange juice, sugar and orange zest.
3.) Simmer for 10 minutes until cranberries burst and soften.
4.) Place in non-reactive bowl and allow to cool completely, refrigerated and serve when needed.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

For years mashed potatoes were my nemesis, how could I seriously screw up such a simple dish? One year potatoes weren't cooked enough, next the dish was bland not enough salt, 2007 was the worse where I over processed and the mashed potatoes turned gummy... seriously gross. I always boiled the potatoes whole and with the skin on, thinkin this is the best way to preserve flavor. Boy was I wrong, this recipe uses peeled cut-up potatoes and are much flakier and absorb the milk and butter. This year I finally got it right, light, flaky, butter. Perfect.

5 lbs. Idaho Potatoes
3-5 lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 cup half and half room temperature or slight warm
2 cups whole milk room temperature or slight warm
1 and half sticks of unsalted butter cut in to small pieces
Kosher salt and black pepper
Potato ricer (optional)

1.) Peel potatoes and cut in to 4's and place in large stockpot. Cover with water until potatoes are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Add 2 tablespoons of salt.
2.) Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer and cook for about a half hour until tender.
3.) Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
4.) Pass potatoes through ricer.
5.) Add half and half, milk and butter and gently combine with potatoes.
6.) Season as needed with salt and pepper and add cooking liquid if mixture is too thick.

Sausage, Apple, Herb Stuffing

I could eat stuffing everyday for the rest of my life an die a happy soul. I like both moist and dry stuffing, so this year I decided, lets add a little more turkey stock to the stuff to cook with the bird and less with the stuffing cooked outside the bird. I know I like to complicate things...

1 loaf of day old crusty white bread
1 small portion corn bread
1 lb. sweet Italian Sausage
1/2 lb. chestnuts
3 large green apples or fuji
1 bunch celery diced
1 large sweet onion diced
2 shallots diced
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped sage
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2-3 cups turkey or chicken stock
Salt and pepper

I prepare all items the night before then add the turkey stock prior to stuffing the bird. To save some time, I cook the sausage and chestnuts on Tuesday and keep refrigerated.

1.) Cut white bread in 1/4 inch or less pieces. If bread feels soft then toast in oven for a few minutes.
2.) Meanwhile, heat butter in large pan and add chopped celery, onion and shallot. Season with salt and pepper and cook on low until translucent. Remove from heat and add herbs.
3.)Remove sausage from casing and brown until golden. Add to the cooked celery onion herb mixture from step 2.
4.) Score chestnuts by lightly cutting an x in each chestnut then either roast for 5 minutes in oven or boil for 5-10 minutes. Chopped semi-cooked chestnuts and add to the mixture.
5.) Peel and dice apples and add to the mixture.
6.)Combine Celery, onion, herb, chestnut, sausage, apple mixture with white and corn bread.
7.) Season well with salt and pepper, taste everything is basically cooked so no worries. Adjust seasoning as needed.
8.)Prior to cooking add turkey or chicken stock to your taste. Place stuffing in bird or bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 375 degrees until golden.

Citrus Turkey with Cognac Gravy

22 lb. Fresh Turkey
1 stick of unsalted butter1 tbsp.
fresh chopped thyme
1 tbsp. fresh chopped sage
1 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. orange zest
Salt and pepper

About a week before Thanksgiving I venture out for my initial grocery shopping, included in this list are fresh herbs that will truly make the holiday special. With the herbs I make a citrus herb butter and freeze until the night before the big day. Place butter under the breast skin and this concoction helps keep the meat moist and ensures really good flavor. This recipe was inspired by some of my favorite chef's/TV cooking personalities including Ina, Giada, Martha, Emeril, Bobby Flay and Mario.

Herb Citrus Butter:
Combine with a fork herbs, lemon and orange zest a dash of salt and pepper and room temp. unsalted butter. Place mixture on saran wrap and create a log shape. Freeze and thaw in fridge at least 12 hours prior to use.

Prep the Turkey:
Acquire fresh turkey at least 48 hours prior to event.24- hours before event: Wash cavity thoroughly and ensure giblets and company are removed from the back end of the bird. Place bird in kosher salt and very cold water solution for about 15 minutes. I think the kosher salt draws out any yucky stuff.

Morning of :
1.) Take the bird out of the fridge and bring to room temp. This is a very important step and will ensure cooking time stays on target.
2.) Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees
3.) Place bird in large roasting pan. Generously season the bird including the inner cavity with salt and pepper.
4.) Gently run hand between the breast and skin and add herb butter. Slather the bird with remaining butter mixture.
5.) Stuff both cavities with dressing of your choice (see below stuffing recipe). Be sure to stuff right before cooking as stuffing sitting in a bird could create a cease pool of bacteria. To be safe, omit the stuffing and place cut lemons, oranges, herbs, onion to the cavities.
6.) Place seasoned, stuffed turkey uncovered in 425 degree oven for 45 minutes.
7.) Turn over temp. down to 350 degree. Cover and cook for about 4 1/2 hour or until internal temp of the thicket part of the turkey and stuffing reach 165 degrees.
8.) Let the bird rest uncovered for at least a half-hour until carving.

Cognac Gravy

Gravy is awesome. End of story. I do however take a little different approach in making gravy.

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter
4 cups of turkey stock or good chicken stock
1 cup of turkey drippings
Shot of Cognac
1.) Melt butter over low heat and which flour creating a roux cook for 1-2 minutes.
2.) Slowly add stock and bring to slow boil.
3.) Add cognac season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
4.) Prior to serving add turkey drippings.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I love Thanksgiving more than any other holiday. One does not have to attend church, buy gifts or get dressed up. The holiday is dedicated to food, football and family. This year we celebrated at Casa Valiotis. I can honestly say and not solely b/c of the food it was the best holiday ever.

Servings for 12 with minimal leftovers
Citrus Turkey
Sausage, Apple, Herb Stuffing
Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Cranberry Chutney
Zucchini Medley with herb butter

Homemade Green Bean Casserole
Cognac Gravy

Garden salad and tons of appetizers made by someone other than me

Sauteed Eggplant with Garden Tomato Relish

My husband planted a garden this past summer and I had a ton of garden tomatoes sweet enough to eat like an apple. This recipe calls for a small variety of eggplant but certainly the larger variety will do. These ingredients can be found anytime of year but certainly the flavor would be best when using in season ingredients.

- 2 lbs. small eggplant
- 4 tbls. good olive oil
- 2 cups freshly chopped garden tomatoes
- 1 tbls. fresh lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 small shallot
- 1/4 cup of Marsala wine
- Salt and Pepper

For the tomato relish:
-Saute shallot and garlic in 2 tbls. of olive oil
-Add Marsala wine and lemon juice and cook for 1-2 minutes or until alcohol evaporate
-Add chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook for 7-1o minutes until sauce thickens.

- Cut cleaned eggplant in 1/2 inch dice
- Heat olive oil and saute until golden brown

-Serve warm with tomato relish

Eggplant & Zucchini Tart - Adapted from Williams Sonoma

Eggplant can be bitter but I found this recipe easy and brought out the flavors of the eggplant and I used up some Zucchini I had. The Williams Sonoma recipe calls for home made dough and goat cheese. I changed it up a bit.


- 1 refrigerated pie dough
-4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
-1 large shallot minced
-1 eggplant, about 1 1/4 lb., cut into 1/2-inch cubes
-3-4 zucchini cut into 1/2-inch cubes
-1 cup seeded and diced plum tomatoes (3 or 4 tomatoes)
-6 oz. feta
-Salt and Pepper

-Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400°F.
-Lay dough out on quiche or pie pan and bake blind for 5 minutes.
-Heat olive oil in skillet, add shallot and cook on low until shallot is translucent.
-Add seasoned Eggplant and Zucchini, cook until light brown.
-Place Eggplant Zucchini mixture in cooked dough.
-Add tomatoes and feta and bake at 400 for about a half hour.
-Cool and serve.
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