Sunday, August 30, 2009

Asian Assurance

I am willing to admit that I have probably completely alienated my non-New Orleans related readers with my last couple of posts. Normally I try to vary the themes of my posts, but somehow I got carried away and the last three have all been New Orleans focused. I wanted to break the habit and cook something that didn't have anything to do with the Big Easy.

Forrest is a huge fan of salad and asked for a salad for lunch yesterday. I purchased some Wasabi Powder at Saratoga Salsa and Spice Company a couple of months ago in Saratoga Springs, NY and have been looking to find a recipe that required the spicy horseradish powder. This salad dressing was perfect. The heat of the wasabi powder was balanced out perfectly by the sweetness of the maple syrup. The flavor of the dressing was very smooth and this scrumptious salad was effortless to put together.

Asian Chicken Salad with Sweet and Spicy Wasabi Dressing
Adapted from Cooking Light April 2009


4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups salad and 3 wonton strips)

  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon wasabi powder (dried Japanese horseradish)
  • 1/4 teaspoon NO-SALT salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (11.4-ounce) package Asian supreme salad mix (such as Fresh Express) - if you find this brand it will contain the wonton strips and dried cherries.
  • 1 (8 1/4-ounce) can mandarin oranges in light syrup, drained
  • 2 cups shredded cooked rotisserie chicken breast (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1 diagonally cut green onion

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk.

2. Add salad mix to vinegar mixture, reserving wonton strips for topping and sesame-orange dressing from salad mix for another use. Add oranges, dried cherries and chicken; toss gently to coat.

Top evenly with green onion and reserved wonton strips.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Laissez le bon temps rouler

Today is the four year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I don't like referencing it as an anniversary because I believe anniversaries should be reserved for remembering and celebrating happy occasions. I wasn't going to talk about the significance of August 29, 2005 on this blog because I didn't want to focus on the negative memories associated with that day. But as I read through my email this morning I came across a newsletter from a T-Shirt company in New Orleans called Dirty Coast Press. They started their company after the storm and have made it their goal to "create designs that speak to the New Orleans & Gulf Coast experience, state-of-mind, memory and sense of humor." If you aren't from New Orleans or haven't lived there before then you probably won't find much humor in their designs - if you are, you will probably go broke ordering their shirts and stickers because the relatability is so extreme.

One of their most famous designs is one that reads, "Be a New Orleanian, Wherever You Are". Since my husband and I no longer live in New Orleans, this is a phrase that we love and have become very fond of. We have tons of stickers from Dirty Coast with this catch phrase and we have them proudly displayed on several of our possessions. It means something to me. Actually, it means a lot to me. No matter where I live I will always be a New Orleanian. That is the culture I was born and raised in and the culture that still flows through my blood no matter which state I lay my head at night. I love the Crescent City! I love their food, I love that my family lives there, I love the French Quarter, I love the Garden District, I love Lakeview, I love Midcity, I love that I went to school there, I love that every time I visit I run into someone I know in the the most random of places, I love that it rains everyday in the summer around 3pm, I love that it never gets colder than 50 degrees, I love that school kids get a whole week off for Mardi Gras, I love that people have adored the Saints even when it was embarrassing to support them, I love crawfish boils, I love Audubon Park, I love street cars, I love that I have never stopped wanting to live there and I love that I know one day I will return. New Orleans is where I belong.

When I read the last line of the Dirty Coast newsletter this morning I knew I couldn't let today go by without talking about New Orleans and what it means to me. I have mentioned before the hardships that my family and I endured because of the infamous hurricane and that is not what I want to focus on today. I want to heed the advice of Dirty Coast press and "And on this day of all days, remember to be a New Orleanian, wherever you are."

Andouille SpoonBread
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

10 Servings

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound andouille or other pork sausage, finely diced
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup seeded and finely chopped green bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions, green parts only
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a medium-size saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the onions, bell peppers, salt and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of the parsley and green onions. Cool the mixture for 10 minutes.

Add the butter to a large cast iron skillet. Place in the oven and melt the butter.

Whisk the egg yolks, milk and cream together in a large mixing bowl. Add the cornmeal and whisk until the batter is smooth.

Fold the sausage mixture into the batter.

In another mixing bowl, whip the egg whites with an electric mixer until very stiff and peaks form, then fold into the sausage batter.

Pour the batter into the skillet

and sprinkle the top with 1/4 cup of the cheese.

Bake until is sets, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Spoon onto a serving plate and serve. Garnish with remaining cheese and parsley.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Succulent Soft Shells

Whenever I visit New Orleans I have trouble transitioning back to the "real world". I get very home sick when it is time to return to DC and I really miss my beloved home town and the people that reside there. To me, it would seem normal to miss home most when I haven't been there for a while; but I miss it the greatest when I have just spent several days there. One way I like to combat the home sickness is through cooking. I always have an array of New Orleans staples in my freezer and I like to use them to give me a little piece of back home while in my present home. I couldn't wait for Friday night to prepare these special soft shell crabs we have been storing in the freezer for a while. They were distinctive and delectable - exactly what I needed to help with my longing for New Orleans and my family.

Sauteed Soft-shell Crabs with Garlic Butter
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

  • 4 soft-shell crabs, cleaned and patted dry
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Parsley flakes, for garnish
  • Essence, for garnish, recipe in link above

If not already done when purchased, clean the Soft Shell Crabs by snipping across the front of the crab with kitchen shears to remove the eyes.

Then lift each flap of the top shell and remove the gills.

Season the flour with 1/2 teaspoon of Essence. Season crabs with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour,

shaking off excess. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the oil and saute the crabs until soft, about 2 minutes on each side.

Remove the crabs and set aside. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Then add the white wine. Cook until wine has reduced to about 1/2. Swirl in the butter and the parsley flakes.

Season with salt and pepper butter sauce. Transfer crabs to a plate, spoon sauce over the crabs and garnish with Essence.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Southern Italian Sweets

New Orleans is home to an amazing Italian Ice Cream and Pastry shop that is over a century old. Angelo Brocato's is a landmark in New Orleans. Surviving over a 100 years in the restaurant business is extremely admirable and as soon as you step inside you can understand their longevity. When entering the quaint shop you are immediately transported back to the atmosphere as it would have been when the young immigrant first opened its doors in 1905. Brocato worked hard to save his money in order to open a fine emporium like the ones he remembered from his homeland, Palermo. The shop contains old fashioned glass jars filled with colorful candies, antiquated measuring scales, tiny tables with wrought iron chairs, wooden menu boards on the back wall and a black and white portrait of the founder. Angelo Brocato's is still run by descendants of the original Brocato and they have stayed true to his Sicilian recipes for cassata, cannoli, gelato and biscotti.

If you ever find yourself in Mid City New Orleans and notice this colorful sign or this green and white awning, be sure to pay a visit and indulge in the truly Italian sweets found inside.

Double Chocolate Biscotti

Adapted from Cooking Light December 2008


3 dozen (serving size: 2 biscotti)

  • 6.75 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Add the chocolate chips and stir.

Combine vanilla, eggs, and egg white in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Add flour mixture to egg mixture; stir until well blended. Work the wet ingredients into the dough by hand (that have been floured) if needed. Divide dough in half. Add 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts to one of the dough halves. Turn dough out onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. With floured hands, shape each dough half into a 12-inch-long roll; pat to 1/2-inch thickness.

3. Bake at 350° for 22 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.

Cut each roll diagonally into 18 (1/2-inch) slices.

Carefully stand slices upright on baking sheet.

Bake biscotti an additional 15 minutes or until almost firm (biscotti will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove biscotti from baking sheet; cool completely on wire rack.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Spaghetti Pie

It only seemed fitting after Sausage Cake to present you with what I have now dubbed Spaghetti Pie! What can I say? I am on a roll, or not........ depending how you look at it.

Not only does Spaghetti Pie relate to the Sausage Cake in some weird Savory take on Sweet approach, but spaghetti always reminds me of my nephew IV of SghettiNoodleBeans. And IV got a great surprise yesterday - a brand new baby sister! I became an Aunt once again yesterday as my brother and his wife had their second child. It is my pleasure to introduce the beautiful Ella Cate:

Baked Angel Hair with Eggplant in a Puff Pastry
Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis

  • 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 to 6 Japanese eggplants (about 2 pounds total), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 pound mild pork sausage, casings removed
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups jarred marinara sauce (a full 1lb 10 oz jar)
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces whole wheat angel hair pasta
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, diced
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 (17 1/4-ounce) package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Heat 1/3 cup of oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add half of the eggplant and toss to coat in the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute the eggplant until it is golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium. Add half of the garlic and saute until it is tender, about 2 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant mixture to a large bowl. Repeat with the remaining 1/4 cup oil and the remaining eggplant and garlic.

Add the sausage and wine to the same frying pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the wine evaporates and the sausage is brown, breaking the sausage into pieces with the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes.

Add the sausage, marinara sauce, and crushed red pepper to the eggplant mixture, and toss to combine.

Meanwhile, add the angel hair to the boiling water and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until pasta is still slightly crunchy and undercooked. Drain. Toss the angel hair with the eggplant mixture.

Cool completely. Add the mozzarella and Parmesan and toss to combine.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out 1 pastry sheet on a floured surface to a 13 1/2-inch square.

Roll dough around rolling pin and transfer to a 9-inch springform pan by unrolling the dough onto the pan. Allow the excess pastry to hang over the rim.

Press the pastry sheet gently into the sides of the pan to ensure the dough won't break when you spoon in the the pasta. Fold creased pieces of the dough flat against the side of the pan.

Spoon the pasta mixture into the pan. Do this in four steps. Spoon about a quarter of the mixture and then press down the mixture with the back of the spoon to compact the pasta and filling. Repeat three times until you have spooned and packed all of the mixture. I thought that there was no chance of all the mixture fitting into the pan, but if you press down each layer it will fit perfectly.

Place the second pastry sheet atop the pasta filling.

Pinch the edges of the pastry sheets together to seal.

Trim the overhanging pastry edges to about 1-inch ( I didn't leave a one inch overhang and had a little trouble with the next step).

Fold the pastry edges in to form a decorative border. Cut a slit in the center of the top pastry to allow the steam to escape.

Bake until the pastry is brown and puffed on top, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Let stand for 20 minutes. Remove the pan sides and serve.