Cauliflower and Parmesan Soup

The milk version

With winter rapidly approaching, thoughts turn to comforting hot soups and I immediately thought of this one that Rick and I (photo below) enjoyed in Scotland this summer (does that tell you anything about Scottish weather!) My cousin-in-law Mary Shepherd (photo below) served this delicious soup for lunch one day.  It's not only delicious but nutritious, easy to prepare with very simple ingredients, and it's low in calories!  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Cauliflower and Parmesan Soup
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 large head of cauliflower, chopped
2 1/2 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or milk
a piece of Parmesan rind
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Cook the onion and garlic in the butter until softened.  Add the cauliflower and cook for a minute or two then pour in the liquid, add the Parmesan rind and simmer until the cauliflower is tender.  Remove the Parmesan rind and puree with an immersion blender or transfer to a processor (in batches!).  Stir in the Parmesan, season well and sprinkle with chives.  Serve with crusty bread.

Note:  Save the rinds from Parmesan cheese in the freezer.  It's amazing how much flavor they add.

L-R:  Me, Cousin John Shepherd and wife Mary in the Scottish Borders
Rick and I at Castle Eilean Donan

Everybody's Favorite: Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is definitely one of my favorite foods so I'd like to share my method of cooking it with you.  You can do this with any size bird, of course, but I like to use a big oven-stuffer so that I have leftovers.
First, I spatchcock it.  All this means is you cut out the backbone and flatten the bird.  A pair of good poultry shears makes this job much easier.
Spread the bird out, skin side up and place in a roasting pan over a bed of sliced carrot, onion and celery.  Give the chicken a nice massage with some softened butter (about 2 tablespoons) then sprinkle generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 
I roast in a convection oven at 350 degrees but if you don't have convection, just crank the temperature up to 375.  It only takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to cook.  Baste once or twice.
Check with a thermometer it should read 165 degrees - if your chicken has one of those popup things, don't go by that.  If you wait to see it, your chicken will be overcooked.

Remove the chicken and place your roasting pan on the stove over a medium flame.
Deglaze the pan with about a quarter cup of white wine.  Stir up all the browned bits and let cook for a few minutes.  Add about a cup of chicken stock.  Homemade without salt is best but if you don't have that, use a low sodium canned stock.

Let this cook, stirring occasionally while you carve your chicken then strain.  Allow to sit for a minute or two then skim the fat off before serving.
A couple of tips:  If you don't have white wine on hand, white vermouth will do just fine and if you don't care to use wine that's OK too.
You may have more sauce that you need.  What I do is freeze the leftovers.  Next time I roast a chicken I use the frozen sauce (defrosted of course), set the roasting pan aside and make the sauce after dinner or even the next morning.  If you prefer a thicker gravy, just mash a tablespoon of butter together with a tablespoon of flour and stir that in a bit at a time.

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Cottage Pie Question

Q. "I love your site and check it every day to see if you've posted something new.   Today I made the cottage pie and I loved your hint to save portions for another day.  When I take my pie from the freezer do I thaw, then add potatoes and bake as directed?   I'm thinking I can't add potatoes to a frozen dish and bake because the potatoes would burn.  How do you do it?"  C.H. 
 A. If you freeze extra portions of the Cottage Pie recipe,  defrost it before adding freshly mashed potatoes (with really sharp cheddar, of course!) and baking.  
Also, if you freeze the potato pancakes, preheat your oven to 425 degrees and reheat the pancakes in a single layer on a cookie sheet for about 5 minutes. (See "Delectable potato pancakes")

A great hint from Cooks Magazine - to reuse oil used for frying:  strain it, place in a container and freeze it!  Apparently, the lower the temperature the better.

Another hint: if you subscribe (See upper right) you'll receive an e-mail alert each time I publish a new article. Thank you.

Delectable potato pancakes

Eliza Boyer
I first learned how to make these delectable pancakes from my mother-in-law over 50 years ago.  Her parents came from Lithuania and so did her recipe.  I have changed them very little over the years.  Of course, the advent of the food processor has made them much easier to make - and also given lie to the fact that it was a little blood (from grated knuckles) that made them so good!  The recipe comes to mind just now because my granddaughter Eliza wanted them for her birthday dinner last Monday.
Here is my recipe:
1 pound potatoes
1 medium onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup vegetable oil
Peel potatoes and onion and cut into chunks.  Put them through the coarse grater  of a food processor.  (Mixing the onion with the potato helps keep the potatoes from turning dark.)  Remove and reserve.  Replace the grater with the blade, return the potatoes to the processor and pulse a few times to the desired consistency.
Place a large strainer over a medium bowl.  A handful at a time, squeeze the potatoes over the grater and place in a second bowl.  When all have been squeezed, add the lightly beaten egg, the flour and the salt to the potatoes and mix.

Returning to the bowl with the potato liquid, carefully pour off the liquid and you will see a white, starchy substance on the bottom of the bowl.  This is potato startch.  Scrape it up and add to your potatoes.  Mix well.
Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet until the oil shimmers then add dollops of the potato mixture to the pan.  Flatten slightly, and cook until browned, turn and brown the other side.  Drain on paper towels and place on a cookie sheet.  You may keep them warm in a 250 degree oven or cook them ahead of time and reheat in a 425 degree oven for about 5 minutes.
Serve with sour cream and applesauce.
Note:  you may make these quite small and serve as an appetizer!  They also freeze well.

Coarse grate
Add egg, flour and salt
Pan brown (1)
Pan brown (2)

Ready for the oven
Serve with Ham 'Butt', applesauce, sour cream

What is the difference between Shepherd's pie and Cottage pie?

 There are a number of things that drive me crazy (well actually there are lots of things that drive me crazy) but in the world of food, particularly British food, I have at least two pet peeves.  One is High Tea, more on that later, and the other is Shepherd's Pie.  If one just thinks about it a little, the clue is in the name - "shepherd"  = lamb!  Pretty much the same recipe made with beef is called Cottage Pie which I much prefer over it's lamb counterpart.  I often make this in advance, freeze in portions to serve two, and only have to make some mashed potatoes for a comforting dinner that takes only minutes to make.

Cottage Pie

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 pounds chopped beef

2 onions, finely chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons plain flour

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup red wine

2 cups beef stock

4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

few thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1½ cups frozen peas

4 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter

7 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan and cook beef until browned - you may need to do this in batches. Break up any large pieces of beef with a wooden spoon. Set beef aside. Put the rest of the oil into the pan, add the vegetables and cook on a gentle heat until soft, about 20 minutes.

 Add the garlic, flour and tomato paste, increase the heat and cook for a few minutes, then return the beef to the pan. Pour over the wine, bring to a boil and reduce slightly before adding the stock, Worcestershire sauce and herbs.

Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered for about 30 minutes. If a lot of liquid remains, add a tablespoon or two of flour (Wondra works best) until mixture thickens. Season well, then discard the bay leaves and thyme stalks. Add peas.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain well, then allow to steam-dry for a few minutes. Mash well with the milk, butter, and ¾ of the cheese, then season with salt and pepper.

Spoon meat into an ovenproof dish. Pipe or spoon the potatoes to cover. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until the topping is golden.

Makes 10 one cup servings.

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Parmesan Toasts...a quick appetizer

Need a quick appetizer made with ingredients always on hand?  Well, except for a French baguette that is!  Parmesan Toasts fit the bill nicely.

Simply thinly slice a baguette and lightly toast the slices - leftovers will keep in a zip-lock plastic bag practically forever.  Mix together 1/2 cup of mayonnaise (low-fat is fine), 1/2 - 3/4 cup of finely grated parmesan (store-grated is OK), 2 tablespoons grated onion and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper.  If you don't have red pepper, use 1 teaspoon hot sauce. 

Spread thickly on desired number of toast slices and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned.  Leftover mix will keep for several days and the toasts are always on hand should you need some breadcrumbs!

1 French Baguette

1/2 Cup of Mayonnaise

1/2-3/4 Finely grated parmesan cheese

 2 Tablespoons grated onion

1/4 Teaspoon red pepper (or 1 teaspoon hot sauce

A favorite NJ cookware shop has a sale!

 In-Store Only Sales & Tasting Saturday 10/15/11

Prepare for the upcoming holidays with our extended hours Saturday, October 15 only from 8am-3pm in our retail store at 17 Waverly Place in Madison, NJ.  Sorry none of these offers are available online, in-store only!

Order any Mauviel Copper cookware at 25% off MSRP (50% non-refundable deposit due at time of ordering)
Wusthof knives (in-stock AND special order) are 30% off MSRP 
Catskill Craftsman carts and chopping boards (in-stock AND special order) 20% off MSRP this weekend only (made in the USA) 
Bella Cucina Gourmet Foods 20% off MSRP plus a special tasting this weekend only
Plus more discounts 
There is free, 2-hour parking in the lot behind the building and 1-hour street parking.  Or, come visit us via mass transit on the Midtown Direct train from Penn Station or take the bus to Waverly Place & Main Street.

Best regards,
Kathy & Steven Bridge

Bridge Kitchenware..17 Waverly Place..(In The Alleyway)
Madison, NJ 07940.

One of my British favorites....Sticky Toffee Pudding

One of my family's very favorite desserts is Sticky toffee pudding.  It is a British steamed dessert consisting of a very moist sponge cake, made with finely chopped dates or prunes, covered in a toffee sauce and often served with a vanilla custard or vanilla ice-cream It is considered a modern British ‘classic’, alongside Jam Roly-Poly and Spotted Dick (You read right).

The dessert's origins are considered a "mystery" according to the gastronomic journal, Saveur; however, the magazine's story is that is was developed and served in a Lake District Hotel by chef Francis Coulson in 1960. But, we had it at home in Aberdeen in the 1940's! Another story claims that the original concept for the dessert was from a pub in the South of England (circa 1907).

Now to the good part;   Aberdeenshire also has claims regarding the origins of the dessert. The Udny Arms Hotel in Newburgh, Aberdeenshire has claimed that it invented the pudding years earlier than anyone else has been serving it, and those living in the surrounding area cite the hotel as the birthplace of the dessert. The Saplinbrae House Hotel in Peterhead, also in Aberdeenshire, has claims of it being originated there, long before it was being sold to the public, and of it being given to people living in the house at the time. In any case, chef and hotelier Francis Coulson is credited with having introduced and refined the dessert to the general public, making his recipe available to all who asked.(Sourced from Wiki)


For Sauce:
1 cup heavy cream

2 cups (packed) dark brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine all ingredients except pecans and cook until butter is melted and sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in nuts.

For Cake:

3/4 cup boiling water

3/4 cup chopped pitted dates

1 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Thoroughly coat 8 6oz. molds or ramekins with Baker’s Joy. (You can also use 12 - 14 4 oz. molds or an 8 or 9” square baking dish.)

Combine dates, baking soda and boiling water and mix.

Combine flour and baking powder.

Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in vanilla and half of flour mixture, then date mixture. Blend in remaining flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared molds. Do not fill molds more than half full.

Place filled molds on cookie sheet and bake until cake rises, about 25 minutes for 6 oz. molds and 20 minutes for smaller ones. About 35 minutes for large dish. Cool slightly and then turn out onto jelly roll pan, top with a spoonful of sauce and return to oven for five minutes.

Cakes may be frozen without sauce. To serve, simply thaw, add sauce and bake for 5 minutes or so until warm. You may also run then under the broiler for a minute or two to give a really sticky top!

Betty, We love your cheesecake!

Betty Busciglio’s Infamous Cheesecake


24 ounces cream cheese

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 cups sour cream

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Beat cream cheese until smooth in mixer or processor

2. Add sugar gradually and beat till light and fluffy

3. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition

4. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

5. Pour into 9" springform pan (or 2 6” or 7” pans) which has been prepared with the crust of your choice.

6. Bake at 350° for one hour, turn off oven and leave cake for one hour.

7. Remove, cool and refrigerate. Freezes very well.

Graham Cracker Crust:

3/4 package graham crackers, crushed into fine crumbs (processor is great!)

4 tablespoons very soft butter

3 to 4 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped, if desired

How about a winning recipe for crab cakes?

Yes, here is our well tested CHESAPEAKE BAY CRAB CAKES recipe from our years in Virginia Beach....Enjoy!

1    lb.  backfin crabmeat
4    T fine, dry breadcrumbs
2    T finely chopped parsley
I cup mayonnaise
I t Worcestershire Sauce
4    T red pepper, finely chopped and sautéed in 1 T butter until softened
1    T lemon juice
6    drops Tabasco, or to taste
1 ½ t Old Bay seasoning

Fold together gently crabmeat, breadcrumbs and parsley
Mix remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.  
Fold gently into crabmeat mixture.
Form into 6 cakes and broil for 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until nicely browned.

(Leftovers reheat beautifully and they can be frozen)

 If you prefer a fried cake, dredge them in Panko breadcrumbs and fry in a little vegetable oil and butter, finish heating in the oven!  The Old Bay seasoning has some heat and you can certainly adjust that to taste.

Betty, can you recommend any almond recipes?

Here are a couple of recipes:
Financiers au Chocolat

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing pans
1 cup sliced almonds
3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tablespoon flour
⅛ teaspoon salt
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
⅓ cup egg whites, at room temperature
¼ almond extract

Preheat oven to 415° Lightly butter 2 or 3 mini-muffin tins .
In a food processor or blender, finely grind the almonds with the cocoa, flour, salt, and sugar. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.
Stir the egg whites and almond extract into the ground almond mixture, then gradually stir in the melted butter until smooth and fully incorporated.
Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them three-quarters full.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until slightly puffed and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool completely before removing them from the molds.
Once cooled, financiers can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week. The batter can also be made, then chilled, and baked up to five days later.  These are delicious!

Almond and Currant Teacakes

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups (8 ounces) almond flour
3/4 cup granutated sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablelspoons light corn syrup 1 stuck plus 7 tablespoons butter
1 cup plump dried currants (make sure they are soft)
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum or 1 teaspoon vanilla plus 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Butter 2 minimuffin pans or line them with paper muffin cups.
With a whisk, beat the egg whites in a bowl just to break them up.  Add the almonds, sugar, flour, salt, and cor syrup and stir until batter is smooth.

Cook the butter - either in a small saucepan over low heat or in a microwave oven until it is melted and just comes to a boil.  Add the hot butter to the batter and whisk it in gently but thoroughly.   Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the currants and rum ro extracts.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of batter into each minimuffin cup.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point, until the cakes are puffed and golden; a knife inserted in the center should come out clean.  Let the cakes rest in the tines for about 2 minutes, then turn them out onto racks to cook to room temperature.
Will keep in a covered container for 4 to 5 days or they may be frozen.

Amaretti....a world-class treat

Here is the recipe for one of many types of traditional amaretto biscuits.

The invention of amaretto has received an amorous Renaissance treatment. In the early 18th century, a Milanese bishop or cardinal surprised the town of Saronno with a visit. A young couple, residents of the town, welcomed him and paid tribute with an original confection: on the spur of the moment, they had baked biscuits made of sugar, egg whites, and crushed apricot kernels or almonds. These so pleased the visiting bishop that he blessed the two with a happy and lifelong marriage, resulting in the preservation of the secret recipe over many generations.

Amaretti Ingredients:

2 cups whole unblanched almonds, toasted
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 egg whites
2 teaspoons almond extract (optional)

1.  Preheat the oven to 300°.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and butter and flour it.
2.  Combine the almonds, sugar, flour, and salt, if using, in a  food processor.  Process to a fine, crumbly powder.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in the egg whites and almond extract, if using.
3.  Drop the cookie batter by the teaspoonful onto the cookie sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until dry.  Let cool slightly on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.