Thursday, May 23, 2013

Switching to Wordpress

I'm heading over to Wordpress to host this site, I'll try and mirror things but head over to for the latest posts!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Strawberry-Watermelon Sorbet

On my drive back to New Orleans from Lafayette, I stopped at a roadside stand and picked up a flat of strawberries. Louisiana's strawberries are wonderful and I'm always sad to see the end of fresh, local berries.

I decided to start using them up by making Strawberry-Watermelon Sorbet. I watched John Besh's New Orleans the other day and saw him making this for dessert. It is a super easy recipe and is like eating summer!


1 pint strawberries, hulled
1 cup diced, seeded watermelon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
About 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1. In a blender, purée strawberries, watermelon, lemon juice and sugar until smooth. Taste to make sure the purée has the correct amount of sugar. Add more sugar or fruit if necessary.

2. Transfer to the canister of an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. Keep the sorbet in the freezer until ready to use.
Such beautiful color!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I bought the smallest bag of carrots I could find in the grocery store for a stew I was making and still had plenty left over. I had enough to make a carrot cake. As what I like best about carrot cake is the cream cheese frosting, I decided to make cupcakes so I could get lots of frosting per bite.

If you want to kick it up a notch, replace 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract with 2 teaspoons of Praline Liquor.

Carrot Cake
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 2 lbs powdered sugar 
  • 4 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add eggs and vegetable oil. Using a mixer, blend until combined. Add carrots and pecans.
Pour into pans. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pans, place on racks and allow to cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting:
Add all ingredients, except nuts, into a medium bowl and beat until fluffy. Stir in the nuts. Spread frosting on top of each cupcake. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Chocolate Pistachio Bark

Ever have one of those days where you're just craving chocolate and are tempted to just open a bag of semi-sweet morsels and dig in? Well, I've got a bark recipe that will go a long way to satisfying even the most massive craving plus do a number on your salt craving as well.

This recipe can be made with bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate. I prefer bittersweet. I've also made it with pecans and my mom likes it with slivered almonds. Just make sure that whatever nut you use, you roast them to bring out their nutty goodness.

Bittersweet Chocolate Pistachio Bark

1 lb of bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup unsalted roasted pistachios
2 to 3 pinches of grey salt

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a double boiler set over simmering water, heat the bittersweet chocolate until two-thirds melted. Remove from the heat. Stir the chocolate until it is completely melted.

Spread the warm chocolate on the parchment paper to a rough 13 inch rectangle. Scatter the pistachios evenly over the melted chocolate, gently tap the cookie sheet on the work surface to flatten the chocolate and allow the topping to sink in slightly. Sprinkle on the salt.

Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, just until firm. Cut or break the bark into 2 inch pieces and serve.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Old School Root Beer Glazed Baked Ham

I'm a big fan of Tom Fitzmorris' Root Beer Glazed Baked Ham. The glaze is fantastic and the cooking method makes the perfect crust on the outside.

However, I was in Rouse's grocery store the other day and saw they now have an Abita Root Beer Glaze in a bottle. So, I bought it, a New Orleans Chisesi ham and invited a couple of guinea pigs...I mean friends over to see if the glaze was a decent alternative to the two day process of glaze making and baking.

I scored the meat and squirted on the glaze and then patted on a mix of brown sugar and dry mustard. I cooked the ham at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes a pound until it registered 160 on a meat thermometer.

What came out was tender and delicious with a lovely crust and beautiful color.

Dinner was great but I'm now really looking forward to the ham sandwiches!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mini Soft Pretzels

I had an urge for homemade pretzels yesterday but knew it was a long process with two long rises on the dough. I started it around noon today and finally ate my first pretzel at 4:30. If you want to make larger pretzels, don't divide the dough and roll them out to at least 20".

These are nice and chewy. Best served hot from the oven, they are also delicious warmed up in the microwave for a few seconds the next day.

Mini Soft Pretzels

1-1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons honey

1-1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

1-1/2 teaspoon salt

4-1/2 to 5 cups bread flour

3 tablespoons baking soda

3 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons coarse salt

Stir the water and honey together in a heat proof measuring cup, microwave for 1 minute or until the water is about 105-degrees. Add yeast, whisk together and allow to proof for 5 minutes.

Place the salt and flour and in bowl of standing mixer equipped with dough hook. With the mixer on low, slowly add the honey/water/yeast mixture. Increase the speed slightly and mix the dough for 10 minutes, adding an additional ½ cup of flour if dough is too sticky.

Put dough on a lightly floured counter and form into a smooth ball. Coat a large mixing bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat in the oil. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and allow rise at room temperature for 1 to 1-1/2 hours (depending upon room temperature) until it has doubled in size.

Gently deflate the dough. Re-cover and allow to continue to rise for another hour until it has doubled in size.

Divide the dough in half and place one half in a bag in the refrigerator for later use (can also be frozen at this stage). Cut the remaining dough into 18 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 6” rope, let them rest while you roll the remaining, then roll them out to about 12 to 18”. This extra relaxation time will make them easier to finish rolling. Shape each rope into a pretzel by holding each end, cross them, twist and press down with a drop of water. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Add 6 cups water into a 12-inch skillet. Stir in the baking soda, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Using a spider gently place around 4 pretzels into the boiling water, top-side down for 30 seconds. Using tongs, carefully flip over and boil the second side for another 30 seconds. Remove the pretzels, drain briefly on wire rack, then place back onto the prepared baking sheet. 

Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with coarse salt and bake for 7 minutes. Rotate the sheet before baking for another 7 minutes, until the pretzels are well-browned.

Let the pretzels from cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes and enjoy!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Venezia Restaurant

Walking into Venezia's one expects red checked tablecloths and wicker basket Chianti bottles with candle wax dripping down the sides. This is old school Italian food (they've been around since 1957) in MidCity. If you're looking for unpretentious and casual Italian for reasonable prices, look no further.

I went there last night after a board meeting with some friends from the Forum For Equality. I had had an eventful day of testifying up in Baton Rouge on a public employment bill that, ultimately, was defeated. You can read all about it on the Forum's blog: Committee Hearing on House Bill 85

On the recommendation from Susan, I ordered the Cannelloni.

It was delicious, with the tight rolls of pasta filled with tender ground veal. The red and white sauces were scrumptious. I used some of the cheese bread to sop up the remainder.

John also ordered the Cannelloni and he seemed to enjoy his as much as I enjoyed mine.

Mickie had the lasagna which was also good - many layers of cheesy goodness to be had there but the amount of sauce was a little overwhelming.

Susan had the Chicken Marsala, which had a good flavor but came with canned mushrooms, so it was a bit of a disappointment. I think I can do better at home.

All in all, a pretty decent place to go back in time for the sort of food that sticks to your ribs without sticking it to your wallet.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Modified Shrimp Mosca

I've had a recipe in my files for a while from Mosca's Restaurant in Avondale, Louisiana. The original used too much salt and dried herbs instead of fresh, neither of which seemed palatable to my taste. I also wanted a hair more heat, so I halved the black pepper and added 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

Modified Shrimp Mosca

Serves 2

2 pounds large (21–30 count) Louisiana shrimp, peeled and deveined
 1/4 cup olive oil
 1/2 teaspoon salt
 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
 3 Tablespoons oregano
 3 Tablespoons rosemary, chopped
 3 bay leaves
 6-10 cloves garlic, mashed
 1/2 cup dry white wine French bread

Add the shrimp, oil, salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary, bay leaves, and garlic to a large skillet set over medium-high heat.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes until shrimp are pink and the liquid in the pan is nearly gone.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add the wine.

Cook at a low simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Serve the shrimp hot with the pan juices. Use French bread to mop up the sauce.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

It's that time of the month for chocolate cravings. I had nothing ready made that would satisfy my sweet tooth so I decided to make cookies. But what kind of cookies? Chocolate chip weren't going to be chocolatey enough for my hunger. Going through my baking supplies I found a bag of Reese's Peanut Butter chips.
The recipe on the back of the package was a start but the 3/4 cups cocoa wasn't going to be sufficient. I made a couple of tweeks to it and they were nearly perfect.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Peanut Butter chips
2 cups flour
 3/4 cups cocoa
 1 tsp baking soda
 1/2 tsp salt
 1 1/4 cup butter (2.5 sticks)
 2 cups sugar
 2 eggs
 2 tsp vanilla
 2 cups peanut butter chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Add in eggs and vanilla and mix well. Gradually all flour mixture and beat until combined. Stir in chips.
Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cookies will puff while baking and flatten while cooling. Cool slightly before removing from sheet and letting cool on wire racks.

The mason jar is filled with strawberry wine that went remarkably well with the cookies.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Arnaud's Restaurant

Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award winning screenwriter for Milk, came in to town for a staged production of "8" to benefit the Forum For Equality. I was able to attend brunch with him and some of the Forum Board members and supporters before the event at Arnaud's Restaurant in the French Quarter.

I arrived early to visit the Mardi Gras Museum. In a portion of the upstairs, there is a collection of some of the costumes and jewelry worn by the restaurant's founder and his daughter and grand daughter to many of the Krewe balls from the 1940's to the 1970's. One of my favorites was this dress is called "Vintage Champagne." It was worn when she was Queen of the Sparta Krewe in 1954. The entire court dressed as delicious wines and dishes.

The brunch was truly wonderful. We were put in one of the private rooms upstairs and our waiter was quick and responsive, especially considering how everything had to be carried up from the bar and the kitchen on the first floor.

The Sunday Jazz brunch is a prix fixe menu but the choices are pretty remarkable. There were four main choices for appetizer, plus soups, gumbos and oysters on the half shell. I started with the Shrimp Remoulade. A very spicy sauce that was missing the mayonaise of traditional remoulade's.

We all got the same salad and I was yawning too much to take a picture.

For the entree, I had their grillades and grits made with veal scallopini. The sauce was rich with vegetables and the cheese grits were perfect accompaniment.

I was sitting next to Dustin Lance Black and he was kind enough to trade bites. He had gotten the crabmeat cheesecake. OMG! Talk about luscious.

My friend, Mickie, got the Shrimp Clemenceau. I usually don't order that because I'm not a fan of peas but the mushrooms, crispy outside and tender inside Brabant potatoes and butter poached shrimp were delicious.

Dessert was just as good as the rest of the meal. I ordered the Chocolate Devastation, which is a dense, flourless cake. All it needed was a glass of milk and I would have been in heaven.

Several people had the Louisiana Strawberries marinated in port, red wine and spices.

What was fun is that we also had people order the Bananas Foster and Crepe Suzette. Eric did a really nice job for the occasion. As my buddies Beavis and Butthead say, "Fire is cool!" Bananas Foster Flaming Crepe Suzette Flambe

All and all it was a wonderful meal but the price puts it in the special event category for me.

At the end, I was able to get a picture taken with Dustin:

I think he enjoyed the meal as much as I did!