Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Shell" We?

My in-laws will be in town tomorrow and they are scheduled to arrive around dinner time after a very long drive. I will be at work a full day so I won't have the luxury of cooking all day to prepare a welcome dinner for them. With that being said, I really didn't want them to have to get ready to go out to dinner after sitting in a car for several hours. I had to figure out a way to cook dinner without having any time to actually cook dinner.

Recently I saw a Giada (Everyday Italian) episode where she made a bunch of recipes that freeze well. It is an episode that comes on often and she cooks with her sister who is pregnant and named Louie. My sister is pregnant, one of my best friends is named Lou and I needed a recipe that could go straight from the freezer to the oven. It was the cooking show sent from up above - I felt as if it was written to solve my problems. Yeah, yeah, I know - that is a little egocentric, but I can think whatever I want to think, right?

So I made this dish one night this week. I froze the contents and will leave strict instructions for my husband to place it in the oven when he gets home from work (way earlier than I do by the way). We will have a nice hot home-cooked meal on the table for his well traveled parents and I won't have to leave work at noon to make it all happen.

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce
Adapted from from
Giada DeLaurentiis

  • 1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (recommended: Barilla)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 (8 ounce) can artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish

5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe follows

  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook,

stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine.

Remove from heat and place in a large glass mixing bowl and let cool.

While allowing the turkey mixture to cool, begin Arrabbiata Sauce.

Arrabbiata Sauce:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

2 garlic cloves, minced

5 cups jarred or fresh marinara sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use.

After you are finished making the Arrabbiata sauce:

In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper.

Stir to combine.

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons.

Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. ( I also had enough mixture and shells to fill a glass loaf pan with 6 stuffed shells - the perfect dinner for 2!)

Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle the remaining Arrabbiata Sauce over the shells,

top with the grated mozzarella and a sprinkle of fresh parsley. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen.)

The best part about this recipe is there was instant gratification built in to the serving size. The entire time I was making it I couldn't imagine covering it all up and freezing it without getting to taste the fruit of my labor. But as luck would have it, the recipes yields more than a 9x13 inch pan of this goodness. I was able to bake six shells in a glass loaf pan for dinner the night I made the recipe. I am so happy there were extra shells - it was delicious. I really recommend this recipe for anyone looking for a "freezable" meal.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Endive" always wanted to try it

There are some foods that I didn't even know existed until I started to indulge in cooking as a hobby. I grew up in a household with very delicious food, but void of any variety. Every Monday night was Red Beans and Rice and Pork Chops, then the rest of the week consisted of Rice and Gravy and Chewy Meat (yes my mom actually called it that and we loved it), Spaghetti with Red Gravy, Paneed Meat, and Roast with Mashed Potatoes. On the weekends we would have Turkey Poulet, Fried Chicken Breast Sandwiches, Hamburgers and classic New Orleans cuisine. We were a very "stick to routine" type of family when it came to meals. As children, my siblings and I were very picky eaters and my mom would have been wasting money to experiment with new ingredients that we wouldn't have dreamed of eating.

This upbringing contributed to my ignorance of certain types of foods. Endive falls into that category. The first time I even heard the word was during a viewing of the Food Network. I knew I wanted to give this unique pretty little vegetable a try. I am pretty adventurous in the kitchen and I introduce a wide variety of menu options in my home. I have this luxury because my husband isn't a picky eater and he is my only victim. This was my first time using endive in a recipe. I figured it would be a tasty since it follows my basic successful salad equation of "fruit - nut -cheese". I was right, this was a great recipe to introduce me to the world of endive!

Endive Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Walnuts
Adapted from Cooking Light September 2001

  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoons honey
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 16 Belgian endive leaves (about 2 heads)
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
  • 16 small orange sections cut in half(about 2 navel oranges)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Combine 1 tablespoon honey, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of orange juice in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, and cook until reduced to 3 tablespoons (about 5 minutes).

Fill each endive leaf with 1 orange section (2 halves). Top each section with 1 teaspoon cheese and 1 teaspoon walnuts; arrange on a plate.

Drizzle the vinegar mixture evenly over leaves, and sprinkle evenly with chives and pepper.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Miniature Menu

My friend Sarah had a Birthday Party over the weekend and I was lucky enough to cook all of the appetizers for the affair. It was the perfect opportunity to try out some party finger food recipes I have had my eye on for a while. This recipe in particular was one that I found to be very visually appealing. I love miniature things and I always have. They are just so cute and these mini sandwiches were no exception.

Mini Salami Puff Sandwiches
Adapted from Real Simple

  • 2 8-ounce sheets of frozen puff pastry (thawed)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 6-ounce jar of roasted red peppers cut into small pieces
  • Dijon mustard
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced salami
  • 1 cup butter/Boston Bibb lettuce cut into small pieces

Heat oven to 375° F.

Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter (I used the top of a cocktail shaker because I didn't have a 2 inch round cookie cutter), cut circles from puff pastry

and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake until golden brown, about 16-18 minutes.

Using a butter knife, split each puff in half. Spread the top halves with Dijon mustard

and top the bottom halves with salami (the salami i found wasn't 2 inches in diameter so I had to fold it in half and then fold it again to fit the "bun" - this worked well because the salami appeared layered),



and the top halves of the puffs. Secure with a toothpick in the middle and serve.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Oyster Oops

In most places around the country parents are forcing their children to eat their peas and carrots. Inevitably, while growing up most children have suffered through the "forced tastings". You know them well, the "eat just one pea and you will be done"; "give it a try and I am sure you will like it"; "you can't get up from the table until you finish your greens" - everyone has experienced these palate pressures from their parents.

In New Orleans, these situations are the same. However, the peas and carrots are replaced with raw oysters. I will never forget the day that we were dining as a family in a small local restaurant and my Daddy encouraged me as a very picky 5 year old to eat a raw slimy oyster. I vividly remember that it didn't end so well and I am sure my father quickly regretted coxing me into indulging in this delicacy. It was a long time before I was able to partake in the oyster experience again, but all my wounds are healed now and I have never looked back. I LOVE LOVE LOVE oysters and can't get enough of them. I bet my parents could have never predicted this outcome as they watched in horror 20 something years ago!

Oysters Gabie
Adapted from Greg Sonnier/Gabrielle


1 can of artichoke hearts
1 pint of large oysters (fresh) drained
2 Tbsp breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 oz pancetta, finely diced
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup green onions
1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
Juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese


1. In a medium-hot skillet, place 1 Tbsp of olive oil; brown pancetta until crispy;

add butter; saute onions, garlic, and parsley until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

2. Add chopped artichokes then lemon juice and saute about 2 more mins.

Remove from fire; add breadcrumbs and cheese, and toss lightly.

3. Place 4 or 5 oysters into each of 4 individual casseroles.

Top with artichoke dressing (divided evenly)

and with extra 2 Tbsp of cheese and breadcrumbs, mixed together.

4. Bake in hot oven (450 degrees) until browned, about 10-15 minutes (I baked for 12 minutes).

These individual casseroles were amazing! It was a very easy dish to make and oh so delicious. I couldn't stop thinking about this dish for days after I made it. I love all the ingredients and they came together perfectly. Forrest found it to be a little tart. I love lemon and sour flavors so I didn't agree and if I were to make it again I wouldn't change a thing. But if you are not a big fan of lemon then only use half of a lemon when squeezing over the artichoke hearts.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's not easy being Green

Most of the time my planned meals are extremely organized, well thought out and perfectly orchestrated. Other times I plan to make Fried Green Tomatoes in the dead of winter in Washington DC. I will be the first to admit that this was not such a bright idea. I chose our Valentine's menu with no qualms and made the grocery list from the recipes without the slightest bit of hesitance. It wasn't until I was strolling my cart through the produce section that it dawned on me - I had never seen green tomatoes at any supermarket since I had moved to DC two years ago. Furthermore, if I did have a chance of finding them in my city it wouldn't be in the middle of February. Since I didn't experience this eye-opener until I was already mid-shopping trip, I needed to come up with a Plan B on the fly. I had to decide my "new" first course without the Internet, Magazines or Cookbooks. I was so excited about the original dish (Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade) that I wanted to keep the same elements. I settled on frying the shrimp in the same batter that was designed for the tomatoes and then I could serve them over greens to make it an integrated meal. And that my friends, is how this dish was born...

Cornmeal Crusted Shrimp Remoulade Salad
Modified from Ken Smith Upperline

4 servings (with tons of leftover sauce for later!)


5 0z bag of salad greens

Remoulade Sauce:

1/2 cup Creole Mustard
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp perpared horseradish
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped heart of celery
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped parsley
1 Tbsp grated white or yellow onion
1 Tbsp finely chopped green onion
Hot Sauce

Buttermilk Fried Shrimp:

1 cup of all purpose flour
1 cup of buttermilk (mixed with 1 tsp of Emeril's essence)
1 cup of cornmeal
12 large gulf shrimp

Directions: Remoulade Sauce:

1. Combine the first eleven ingredients and mix well. Add salt to taste.

2. Add olive oil in slow stream while whisking mixture.

3. Add the next four ingredients and mix well.

4. Add a few drops of hot sauce if a spicier flavor is desired. Sauce should be spicy and tangy.

5. Cover and chill before use. Covered and refrigerated it should keep about 3 weeks.

Buttermilk Fried Shrimp:

1. Salt and Pepper shrimp and coat them in flour shaking off excess before the next step.

2. Dip each shrimp in the buttermilk mixture.

3. Let excess buttermilk drip off and then coat the shrimp in the cornmeal.

4. Fry the shrimp in a skillet using 2 Tbsp of olive oil for about 3 minutes on each side or until browned.
Assemble by placing 1/4 of the bag of greens on a salad plate topped with 3 fried shrimp and then spoon about 1/4 cup of remoulade sauce over the shrimp and lettuce.

Below is a picture of my Valentine's Dinner table setting:

Close up of my handmade menus:

Monday, February 16, 2009


Forrest and I had a very special Valentine's Night dinner on Saturday. We stayed in and prepared three courses from famous New Orleans' Chefs. We got the recipes from a box of recipe cards that feature 86 dishes from renowned restaurants in the Big Easy. The cards were a gift from my sister and they are really cool. I will be featuring the three courses we made this past weekend over the next few posts. This was the main course and it was very tasty. We cooked together and had a great time listening to music, preparing the meal, eating and drinking. With my next post I will post a picture of my Valentine's Day table setting.

Cane-Braised Beef Short Ribs w/ Dijon-Horseradish Sour Cream
Recipe Courtesy Chef Donald Link/Herbsaint

Short Ribs Ingredients:

5 lb beef short ribs
Salt and pepper
1 cup flour
2 Tbsp. Canola oil
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1/4 cup flour
1 cup red wine
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups canned chopped tomatoes (I used 1 can of diced tomatoes)
4 cups chicken stock
3 Tbsp cane vinegar (could substitute rice wine vinegar)
2 Tbsp cane syrup (could substitute dark corn syrup)
3 cloves garlic
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary

Horseradish Sour Cream:
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
1 tsp lemon joice
Hot sauce to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

Potato Cake:

2 large Yukon Gold potato
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbsp flour
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper


Short Ribs:

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Trim short ribs of excess fat and silver skin.

heavily season meat, and dredge in 1 cup flour.

2. In a large skillet or rondeau, heat oil over medium high heat. Add short ribs, being careful not to crowd the pan.
Sear each side until crispy and golden brown. Remove, and place in one layer in a casserole dish or hotel pan.

3. Add celery, onions, and carrots to the skillet, and saute over medium heat until lightly caramelized. Dust with 1/4 cup flour and stir to incorporate.

4. Deglaze the pan with red wine,

then add tomato paste and chopped tomatoes.

Mixture should come up and begin to thicken. Add chicken stock, cane vinegar, cane syrup,

garlic, thyme and rosemary.

5. Bring up to a simmer, and season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture over short ribs in casserole dish. Mixture should come 3/4 of the way up the short ribs, but not cover.

6. Cover dish with aluminum foil, and place in 300 degree oven for 4 hours, or until fork tender,. Remove short ribs from oven, discard any bones, and cool in refrigerator.


1. Skim any accumulated fat from the top of the short rib braise.

2. Place in a heavy-bottomed saucepot, bring to a low simmer, and reduce until braise is of sauce consistency (so it coats the back of a spoon). Mount with butter and season.

Horseradish Sour Cream:

1. Combine sour cream, Dijon mustard, horseradish, lemon juice, and Louisiana hot sauce in a metal bowl.
2. Whisk to incorporate, then season with salt and pepper

Potato Cakes:

1. Grate 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes using a large box grater,

and squeeze out any excess water using a kitchen towel.

Add chopped thyme, flour, egg, salt and pepper.

2. Shape into 3-inch discs, and cook in oil or clarified butter over medium heat until golden brown and crispy.

1. Dredge the cold short ribs in flour and saute in clarified butter or canola oil until crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. Season, then place three pieces on top Potato Cake.

2. Ladle sauce around, and dollop one spoonful of Horseradish Sour Cream on top.