Korean Barbecue Beef

A night out at a Korean restaurant with friends usually means that someone is going to order bulgogi. It is Korean Barbecue Beef, cooked on a small charcoal hibachi grill right at the table and shared with the entire group. This dish can easily be prepared at home if you don’t happen to have a Korean restaurant in your neighborhood.

Thinly sliced rib eye steak is marinated for a short period of time in a sweet and spicy sauce then quickly cooked on an outdoor grill over high heat. The end result is tender pieces of beef that are a little charred and caramelized on their edges, with the same amazing flavors you would get at a Korean restaurant.

Korean Barbecue Beef

The one ingredient you must have for this dish is gochujang. Gochujang is a dark red, spicy and slightly sweet Korean condiment based on hot chili peppers and fermented soybeans that is used in soups, sauces and marinades. I found it at my local grocery store alongside other hot sauces but you may also find it on the international aisle, in most Asian markets and on Amazon. The brand I used (Annie Chun’s) is a sauce but I’ve also seen it sold as a paste. If you have several brands to choose from, read the ingredients as some have cane sugar as one of the first ingredients and they can be very sweet. Always taste and adjust amounts called for in any recipe according to how hot and sweet the particular brand of gochujang you might be using.

Korean Barbecue Beef

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly

  • 1/2 – 3/4 lb. thinly sliced, well marbled rib eye steak or other tender beef (ask your butcher to slice it about 1/4 inch thick)
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. gochujang, depending on taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. white wine
  • 1 Tbsp. peanut oil
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame oil

Place beef in a baking dish and sprinkle both sides with the brown sugar and let sit for 10 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the Korean BBQ sauce by placing all the remaining ingredients in a processor or blender and pulse a few times until smooth (makes 2/3 cup). Pour half of the sauce over the beef, turning to coat both sides well, refrigerate and let marinate 30 minutes to an hour. (Since the beef is very thin, it doesn’t take long for the flavor to penetrate but it can be marinated overnight for additional flavor).

Prepare your grill for direct cooking over high heat (450° to 550°F). When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Drain the marinade from the beef and discard the marinade. Place the beef on the hot grate with the lid open and cook until they are nicely brown, about 1 to 2 minutes a side. I have an infra-red sizzle side burner and it only took 30 seconds on each side to have perfectly cooked meat. Since the meat is so thin, I suggest cutting one piece of the beef in half and cooking to see how your particular grill cooks the beef before cooking the rest. You want to make sure you don’t over cook the meat.

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I served the Korean barbecue beef with rice, sautéed baby bok choy, and a pickled carrot salad. The remainder of the BBQ sauce with served at the table  along with kimchi. I have also prepared another version of the barbecue beef, this time topped with sliced scallions, cilantro rice and sautéed sesame snow peas. Both dinners were delicious.

Korean BBQ Beef

If you like and use sriracha sauce, I think you should search out the Korean condiment gochujang and try the Korean BBQ sauce. I’ve prepared it several times for grilling both beef and chicken…the sugar gives a slight sweetness that caramelizes during the time over the fire and it has just the right amount of saltiness and heat that we all enjoy when eating barbecue.

Happy grilling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tiny Tropical Paradise

Tropical blue, lime green, sunny yellow, sizzling orange, hot pink, bright red, and vivid purple are all colors found in my tiny corner of a tropical paradise. Florida can give you a feeling that you are living in a bright, Technicolor movie. It is all about bold colors along with various shades and textures of green everywhere you look.

My little corner of paradise has evolved over the last year and a half so let me start at the beginning of this story.  My husband and I decided to sell our thirteen acre farm with three hundred apple trees and a large antique colonial home and retire to Florida where there would be no more snow to shovel, no trees to prune, apples to pick, or mowing for days on end…I think you can get the picture.

We flew down to Florida and after much looking found the last lot available in a gated community in Vero Beach on which to build our new home and we were delighted. Looking at it from the street, it looked perfect. The builder gave us the option of several models that could be built on the lot, just not the one we loved as it was too wide and too long. We were downsizing, after all, so we picked a new model, signed a contract and things were put in motion.

Click on any photo to enlarge.

Once the surveyors sited where our house would sit on the property, the lot didn’t look nearly as big. After the house was under construction we found that we would have almost no backyard at all. The Areca palms that lined the back of the property were now almost touching the house so they had to be removed. This made the area behind the house look a little bigger but there still wouldn’t be much of a yard. After the removal of the back row of palms, a drainage swale became visible so as the saying goes, “you win some, you lose some.” The builder would be doing some landscaping and that should help or so we thought. Actually he only planted grass in the tiny backyard.

We bought furniture, moved in and started our new life in sunny, warm Florida. Perfect or so you would think. No more snow and cold and someone else was taking care of our yard but when you walked into our open concept home, the first thing you noticed was the large sliding glass doors in our great room and the ugly view of our backyard.

Click on  any photo to enlarge.

It has been a challenge trying to make the most of the little outdoor space but with the help of landscaper Jennifer Bevins of Construction Landscape we have created a tiny backyard oasis. Over the course of eight months since we started our landscaping project, the plantings have had to handle hurricane Matthew and a very dry and warmer than normal winter. Some of the plants struggled from wind damage and some didn’t do well because of too much or not enough sun, so plantings were moved and new ones have been recently added.

Click on any photo to enlarge.

While Vero Beach is considered the beginning of the tropics in Florida, we still get winters where temperatures go down into the low thirties with an occasional threat of frost so the tropical plants that we decided on had to be hardy. The gardens are now filled with beautiful tropical plantings in a wide range of colors and texture.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

Varying shades of lush greens and unique foliage are punctuated with bold pops of color from bougainvillea and hibiscus blossoms. With the coming summer rains and another mild winter, by next year we should soon have a beautiful but tiny tropical oasis.

A Large Triangle Palm Is Now The Focal Point From The Great Room And Lanai

Have you ever taken on a landscape project that transformed your yard? If you are thinking of creating a backyard oasis, I hope this will give you some ideas.

View Of The Gardens From The Lanai

Just remember to plant lush layers of interesting green foliage and bright colors that you enjoy. I know our gardens will continue to evolve over the years and I’ll be sure to share any updates. We are very  happy that we did this major landscaping project and we now love the view from both the great room and from out on the lanai.

Happy Gardening

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Moroccan Tagine of Lamb With Prunes

Moroccan Tagine of Lamb With Prunes is a dish of tender chunks of lamb that are braised with a blend of spices, along with dried prunes and orange peel, that create an aromatic stew that’s packed with both sweet and savory flavors. Traditionally, it is slowly braised in a heavy cone-shaped, earthenware vessel called a tagine in a bed of coals but my dish is gently simmered in an ordinary pot on the stove top until the meat is so tender that it falls apart with a touch of a fork.

Lamb Stew With Prunes, A Traditional Moroccan Tagine

Lamb Stew With Prunes, A Traditional Moroccan Tagine

Lamb Stew With Prunes, A Traditional Moroccan Tagine

Serves 4, adjust the recipe accordingly

  • 2 – 3 lb. of well trimmed boneless shoulder or leg of lamb cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • peel from 1 orange, cut into bite size pieces
  • about 5 sprigs of fresh cilantro (coriander), tied into a bundle with kitchen string
  • 3 tsp. ras el hanout*
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 c. beef broth
  • a pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt to taste
  • 12 soft dried pitted prunes, cut into halves

If you can’t find the spice ras el hanout and would like to make your own, my friend Victoria, at Flavors of the Sun has a recipe for her version which is a good one.

Place the lamb in a bowl along with the olive oil, garlic, orange peel, cilantro and the ras el hanout and mix well. Marinate the lamb in the refrigerator for several hours then bring to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.

Place the lamb into a heavy bottomed pot (retain the garlic, orange peel and cilantro for later) and brown on all sides, do not overcrowd and cook in several batches, if necessary, then set aside. Add the onion to the pot and cook until translucent, stirring up all the brown bits. Add the lamb back to the pot along with the retained garlic, orange peel and cilantro and cook for a minute. Add broth to just cover the meat and stir well. Bring to a boil then immediately reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook until the lamb is tender, about 2 to 3 hours. Check from time to time, adding a little more broth or water, if needed. Once the lamb is tender, remove the meat to a bowl, cover and keep warm. Discard the cilantro, taste the sauce and see if you need to adjust the seasoning. Add the prunes to the sauce, return the pot to the stove and cook until they are very soft and the sauce has thicken slightly. Return the lamb to the pot and heat until warm.

If you are lucky enough to own a tagine, you could cook your meal in it or transfer the stew into it for a lovely presentation. Serve toasted sliced almonds, chopped apricots, dates or raisins as condiments. If you prefer a spicy stew, you could also serve this dish with a small bowl of harissa (a spicy Moroccan hot sauce)  for added heat and flavor.

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Tagines are traditionally served with couscous or pieces of warm flatbread used to scoop up the meat and juices. I served mine with a Vegetable Couscous.

Couscous, A Savory Side Dish

This slow simmered stew is loaded with flavors typical of North African cooking. Braised at a low temperature, the lamb cooks in a rich, flavorful sauce until it becomes tender and succulent. The wonderful spices are also soaked up by the prunes and they in turn add a delicious sweetness to the stew.

If you lived in Morocco, you could buy your spices in the morning at one of the colorful markets, then go home and prepare your favorite version of this stew in your tagine. While my recipe may not be considered traditional, as it is not prepared in that famous piece of cookware, it is nonetheless delicious and my kitchen was filled with wonderful aromas while it cooked. This is a great dish that is perfect for entertaining. When it was served to our dinner guests recently, there wasn’t a mouthful left over.

 

 

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Couscous, A Savory Side Dish

Couscous, a savory dish made with tiny pasta like grains originating in North Africa, has now become a popular side dish throughout much of the world. Here in America, you can usually find boxes of instant couscous on the shelves at most local grocery stores. It can be simply prepared in a pot of water with a little oil and be on the table in five minutes.

A Savory Side Dish Of Vegetable Couscous With Chick Peas, Raisins And Almonds

The easy recipe that I am sharing with you is more flavorful than the recipe that appears on the box and takes a little longer to prepare but it is worth it. The couscous is steamed in a savory spiced chicken stock, then fluffed with cooked vegetables, chick peas, raisins and almonds…delicious alone or topped with a stew of vegetables, chicken or meat. I served this couscous topped with a Moroccan lamb stew (recipe to be shared soon).

If you serve the couscous as a side dish with a simple rotisserie chicken, you might want to enhance the flavors by adding additional spices such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, paprika or a little harissa if you want something spicy. You could also add figs, apricots, olives, or preserved lemons to the couscous.

The recipe can easily be made into a vegetarian meal by simply replacing the chicken stock with a vegetable broth, the butter with olive oil and adding additional vegetables such as sweet potato, carrot, turnip or eggplant. As you can see, it is a very versatile dish that can be adapted to the meal you are serving.

Moroccan Style Couscous, A Savory Side Dish

Vegetable Couscous With Chick Peas, Raisins And Almonds

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 c. chicken stock (vegetable broth may be substituted)
  • a pinch of saffron, crumbled (if saffron is not available, a 1/4 tsp. of turmeric can be used to give the couscous a nice color)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil, more as needed
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 c. butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 c. yellow or green zucchini, cubed
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1 8 oz. can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 10 oz. box plain couscous (I used Near East)
  • 1/4 c. golden raisins (plumped in 1 Tbsp. water)
  • 1/4 c. toasted sliced almonds
  • a sprig or two of fresh mint, chopped for garnish (optional)

In a medium pot, bring the chicken stock, saffron, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, oil and butter to a boil. Reduce heat, add the butternut squash and simmer until almost tender. Add the onion, zucchini, and chickpeas and simmer until all the vegetables are tender.  Remove the vegetables with a strainer and place in a bowl. Measure out two cups of stock, reserve the remaining stock for later. Place the two cups of stock back into the pot, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary then bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous, cover and remove from the heat. Let sit covered for 10 minutes until all the stock has been absorbed.

Take a fork and scrape the couscous onto a large baking pan, breaking up any clumps. When the couscous is cool enough to handle, fluff (I like to use my hands as you can separate the grains better). Add the reserved vegetables, raisins, and almonds then mix and fluff the couscous once more. Moisten the couscous with up to a cup of the reserved stock. To serve, heap the couscous onto a platter or into large bowl and garnish with the chopped mint.

Bring to the table and serve with any remaining stock alongside the couscous. If serving with a stew, you can create a hole in the center of the couscous and place some of the meat and vegetables in the middle and serve the remainder of the stew on the side with additional accompaniments such as harissa, dried fruits or nuts.

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While this recipe for couscous takes more than five minutes compared to the recipe on a box of instant couscous, the flavor is definitely worth the extra time. If you would like another easy couscous recipe to serve as a side dish, you might want to try my recipe for couscous with dried fruits, raisins and pistachios.

Couscous With Dried Fruit And Pistachios

Tell me dear readers, do you have a box of couscous in your pantry and what is your favorite way of preparing it? If not, you should buy a box of instant couscous and try it soon. You will then find out why it is such a versatile and popular side dish.

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Spinach And Cheese Stuffed Shells With Two Sauces

Spinach And Three Cheese Stuffed Shells are baked with two sauces, both a marinara as well as a light Alfredo sauce, until hot and bubbly. It’s the perfect dish to serve at a large gathering as the shells can to assembled ahead of time and baked right before serving. However, the stuffed pasta shells are so tasty that you might not want to wait for a party and instead, serve them to your family over the weekend.

Spinach And Ricotta Stuffed Shells With Two Sauces

Spinach And Cheese Stuffed Shells With Two Sauces

What makes this stuffed pasta recipe so good? Fresh baby spinach sautéed in olive oil and garlic gives a real flavor boost to the creamy three cheese filling. It is then baked with both a homemade marinara sauce as well as a light Alfredo sauce, then garnished with diced fresh tomatoes and fresh basil just before going to the table.

Spinach And Cheese Stuffed Shells With Two Sauces

Serves 4, allowing 3 shells per person so adjust the recipe accordingly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Marinara Sauce

  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat oil in a sauté pan and cook the garlic until it becomes fragrant and just starts to turn golden. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes. Keep warm.

Light Alfredo Sauce

  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 4 Tbsp. Wondra flour (quick dissolving finely milled flour) or all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 c. milk, warmed (more if needed)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c. Locatelli Romano cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan then whisk in the flour, stirring constantly for about two minutes. Slowly add the warmed milk and continue to stir until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Add the cheese, salt and pepper and cook for about three minutes more. If sauce is too thick, thin with a little extra milk. Keep warm, with a piece of plastic wrap over the sauce so a skin doesn’t form.

Spinach And Ricotta Stuffed Shells

  • Jumbo pasta shells (allow about 3 per person plus a couple extra for breakage)
  • 1 bag (10 – 16 oz.) fresh baby spinach, chopped OR 1 c. frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and with all the moisture squeezed out
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 lb. ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 c. shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Locatelli Romano cheese or Parmesan
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and cut into dice (optional)
  • fresh basil leaves, torn and a couple of whole leaves for presentation (optional)

Cook the shells according to package directions, drain and toss with a drizzle of olive oil to keep from sticking. Sauté the garlic until soft then add the spinach and cook until wilted. Let cool, then place in a bowl and mix in the three cheeses, nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary then add the beaten egg and mix well. Pour about a 1/2 to 3/4 cup (depending on size of dish) of marinara sauce into the bottom of a 8 x 8 or 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Stuff each shell carefully with a heaping tablespoon or so of the cheese mixture (try not to overfill the shells as the pasta might tear) then line up in the baking dish. Pour over half of the Alfredo sauce, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and bake for about 10 minutes more until bubbly and just starting to brown. Remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes before serving.

Serve this meal family style right out of the baking dish or plate it as I did with a little extra tomato sauce on the bottom of each plate, top with the shells, add an extra spoon of  the Alfredo sauce and then garnish with chopped tomatoes and fresh basil. Serve any remaining sauces at the table.

*Can be prepared in stages ahead of time and then baked right before serving. Prepare up to the point of it going into the oven then top with parchment paper and wrap in foil and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to put it into the oven, just add a little extra cooking time. The shells can also be stuffed, placed loosely on a baking sheet and placed in the freezer until frozen. Then pack the frozen shells into freezer bags and freeze until you are ready to prepare a meal. If you are only making this for a few people, you can use individual gratin dishes for a pretty presentation. *Note: If you are freezing this dish, do not freeze the assembled recipe in aluminum foil containers as the acid in the tomatoes will react with the aluminum and can eat holes in the foil.

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Whether making the spinach and ricotta stuffed shells for just two or a large gathering of friends, I believe you will all agree that the two sauces and the topping of fresh tomatoes and basil make this one of the best stuffed pasta recipes you’ve eaten…at least I hope so. All that is needed to complete the meal is a crisp green salad, crusty bread and your favorite bottle of wine and you will have a happy group of people at your dinner table. Buon Appetito!

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Mini Baklava Cups

We all know bite size desserts are irresistibly good and I believe you are going to love these crispy little two bite Mini Baklava Cups. With their crisp, tissue thin layers of pastry topped with chopped mixed nuts coated in a lemony honey syrup, it will be hard for you to eat just one of these delicious mini nut cups.

Mini Baklava Cups

Mini Baklava Cups

If you are like me and invite friends over for a spur of the moment dinner, you more than likely will want to serve something sweet at the end of the meal. Fruit, ice cream or a store bought cake or pie are an easy option but they don’t offer much in the way of imagination. These tasty mini baklava cups are simple to prepare and serve, making them perfect for the your last minute meal yet they are pretty enough to serve at your fanciest of dinner parties. Your family and guests are going to love these little bite size morsels of crunchy sweetness…so much so, that you might want to double or even triple the recipe.

Mini Ballava Cups Are So Delicious That You Will Want To Double Or Triple The Recipe

Mini Baklava Cups Are So Delicious That You Will Want To Double Or Triple The Recipe

Mini Baklava Cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Makes 15 cups, adjust the recipe according

  • 1 pkg. mini fillo shells (I used Athens)
  • 1 c. chopped nuts (I used pistachio, pecan and almond)
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Syrup

  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice

In a small sauce pan, heat honey, butter, zest and cinnamon over low heat just until butter melts. Add the nuts and mix well. Spoon the nut mixture into each shell. Place on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until nuts are lightly toasted.

Combine syrup ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the mixture becomes syrupy. Cool slightly and pour a spoonful of warm syrup over each shell, let soak in a minute and then repeat. Refrigerate the filled shells for about an hour for the syrup to thicken. Remove the shells at least 15 minutes before serving.

Stored in an airtight container, they stay crunchy for a few days if they last that long.

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While true baklava only has a few ingredients, it is time consuming and it can be tedious working with the delicate phyllo (also spelled fillo) dough . Instead of making a large tray of baklava, why don’t you try these yummy bite size treats that even a novice cook can put together quickly. Delicate cups of flaky pastry filled with chopped nuts and warm honey, they are simply irresistable. I believe that you will enjoy the lemon component in this dessert as it nicely offsets the sweetness of the honey, giving them a tantalizing flavor that is found in many Mediterranean desserts.

 

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Salmon With Sorrel Sauce

Salmon With Sorrel Sauce is a legendary French dish that pairs a citrusy, creamy sauce with salmon. Sorrel, a tender acidic green herb, has a bright and slightly tart flavor, similar to a lemon or a sour green apple. It cuts both the richness of the sauce and the salmon just the way a white wine like a Sancerre goes so nicely served with the meal.

Salmon With Sorrel Sauce, A True Classic

Salmon With Sorrel Sauce, A True Classic

Salmon With Sorrel Sauce

Serves two, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 c. dry white wine
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 bunch sorrel leaves, washed, dried and stemmed
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 2 salmon filets 4 – 6 oz. each, skinned
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. oil, just enough to coat the pan
  • salt and white pepper to taste

Combine the shallots and wine in a saucepan and cook over medium high heat until the wine has become syrupy. Add the cream and simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain the sauce and return to the pan. Tear the sorrel into small pieces and add to the cream. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, then simmer briefly just a minute or two (sorrel starts to turn dark if cooked too long). Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Season the salmon with salt and pepper just on the presentation side (skinned side). Heat a nonstick sauté pan over medium hight heat, when hot add the oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, place the salmon presentation side (skinned side) down in the hot oil and sauté for about 4 minutes until the fish is well browned. Turn the salmon over and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until just cooked through. Plate the salmon and top with some of the sorrel sauce.

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When I came across some young, tender sorrel at our local farmer’s market, I knew exactly what I wanted to cook with it…the legendary Saumon à l’oseille that was made popular by the three star Michelin French chef Pierre Troigros. Chef Troigros served his salmon sliced very thin and presented on top of the sorrel sauce. My recipe is much less elegant and more typical of what you would find at a French bistro.

A few tips to share if you are going to prepare this recipe. It took longer to cook the sides of boiled baby Yukon gold potatoes and a stuffed tomato than it did to prepare the salmon and sauce so keep that in mind if preparing this recipe.  If you like creamed spinach, think of sorrel sauce as its very refined cousin. However, if sorrel is not available, you could substitute a bunch of fresh spinach leaves and add a little extra lemon juice for something with a similar flavor, just not quite as complex. This lemony flavored sauce pairs well with most fish but salmon is the most popular. The sauce is so good that you could easily enjoy spoonfuls by itself but save enough for this salmon dish or perhaps to top some sliced roast chicken and you will be rewarded for your restraint.

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Vietnamese Style Shrimp Salad

This Vietnamese Style Shrimp Salad takes its inspiration from a Bahn Mi sandwich. While it has all the flavor of this famous street food, what is lacking is the bread or “bahn”.  This colorful, crisp salad topped with spicy shrimp and crunchy peanuts is the perfect remedy for those of us who feel like we have over indulged lately.

Asian Shrimp Salad Inspired By A Vietnamese Bahn Mi Sandwich

Vietnamese Shrimp Salad Inspired By The Famous Bahn Mi Sandwich

I believe you will enjoy this Vietnamese style salad. The flavors are toned down from what you would get if you visited this interesting country but if you would like a more pronounced flavor, this is certainly a recipe that you can make your own. If you don’t want the shrimp to be dressed in the sriracha mayo, make extra salad dressing, adding a little sriracha for spice, and toss whole the salad in it. Want extra veggies…cucumbers, radishes, etc. can be added. If you don’t care for cilantro, substitute basil or mint. Serve this dish along with toasted sesame rice crackers or fried shrimp crisps and you have a tasty lunch or light dinner.

Vietnamese Style Shrimp Salad 

Recipe serves 2, adjust accordingly

Shrimp

  • 3/4 lb. small shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 – 2 tsp. sriracha or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice or to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 scallion, sliced thin
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

Salad

  • 4 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 4 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 1/2 c. carrot, julienned
  • 1 small red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 1. c. shredded red cabbage
  • 4 c. lettuce of your choice
  • 1/4 c. chopped roasted peanuts, garnish

In a large salad bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, tamari, ginger and garlic. Set aside half of the dressing. To the remaining dressing, add the carrot, bell pepper and cabbage, toss and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the shrimp and cook until pink and done, about 1 or 2 minutes, depending on size. Drain and place in a bowl of cold water to cool. When cool, drain and pat dry. In a bowl, add the mayonnaise, sriracha, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Add the shrimp, scallions and cilantro and mix well.

When ready to serve, add the lettuce to the bowl with the marinated vegetables and toss well. Taste and add some the reserved dressing, as necessary. Place salad on each plate, top with shrimp and sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.

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If you’ve never tried Vietnamese food but enjoy other Asian dishes, my salad or bahn mi sandwich are a good introduction to similar dishes you might encounter during travels to that area of the world.

Bahn Mi Sandwich

Bahn Mi Sandwich

The delicious tastes of sweet, sour, spicy and salty found in Vietnam’s food are flavors that are also found in nearby Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and China. Many foods were also influenced by the French during their stay in Vietnam. Whether enjoyed at a street side vendor or in a restaurant in Vietnam, many of their famous dishes are easily replicated in your home kitchen. Traditional ingredients from your own market such as lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, basil, mint, fish sauce, soy sauce and chilies all add to flavors that I believe make each of these Vietnamese recipes ones that you will enjoy.

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Spaghetti Squash With Sausage Ragù

If you love spaghetti but are trying to limit the amount of pasta you eat, Spaghetti Squash With Sausage Ragù is a dish you should try. Italian sausage, tomatoes, onions, herbs and red wine are slow simmered until they become a rich meat sauce. It is served on top of spaghetti squash and finished with grated Locatelli Romano cheese. Delizioso!

Spaghetti Squash With Sausage Ragú

Spaghetti Squash With Sausage Ragú

My husband and I are trying to cut bread, pasta, rice and potatoes from our meals for one month and so far we are doing great. With a delicious meal like this one, we won’t mind putting pasta on the back burner for a while. If you want to eat a little healthier, eat gluten free, cut down on carbs occasionally, or just want to have something different, do give this recipe a try.

Spaghetti Squash With Sausage Ragù

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly

Ragù

  • 1 lb.  ground Italian sweet sausage
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced fine
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups of basic marinara sauce (homemade if possible)
  • 1  14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 c. red wine
  • pinch fennel seeds
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • water as needed
  • Locatelli Romano cheese, grated (optional)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan then add sausage. Break up as finely as possible with a spoon and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the onions and cook until soft, add more oil if mixture seems dry, then add the garlic. Cook until the meat has become brown. Pour in the marinara sauce, add the diced tomatoes, the wine and all of the seasonings and stir well. Reduce heat to very low and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour  until the mixture is thick and develops a rich deep flavor. You may have to add a little water occasionally if the sauce gets too thick during the simmering process. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Squash

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Carefully cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Brush the flesh with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 45 to 60 minutes until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork.* Remove from oven and cool  enough to handle. Scrape the flesh into strands and place in a bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil, toss and taste for seasoning.

*I have cooked the squash both cut side up and cut side down. When roasted facing down, the squash tends to steam and will produce wetter and softer strands. I personally like the results of roasting it cut side up better as the strands are a little drier and have a texture more like pasta.

To serve, place some spaghetti squash into each bowl, top with ragù and sprinkle with a little cheese if desired.

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Spaghetti squash is very versatile and can be topped with many different sauces. I’ve made spaghetti squash with chicken meatballs and tomato basil sauce for a lighter Italian meal.

Spaghetti Squash And Chicken Meatballs Marinara

Spaghetti Squash And Chicken Meatballs Marinara

I’ve also made Thai style spaghetti squash with chicken meatballs which was another wonderful way to use the squash that you might not have though of.

Thai Style Spaghetti Squash With Chicken Meatballs

Thai Style Spaghetti Squash With Chicken Meatballs

As you can see, you can make delicious meals that might have been originally made with some sort of pasta but by using spaghetti squash you cut back on carbs and calories. While my husband and I won’t give up pasta, rice, potatoes and bread permanently, a month of doing without them is going to be easy. Tell me my dear readers, have you tried substituting different vegetables for pasta or rice in your meals lately?

 

 

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Mini Cheesecakes, A Decadent Bite Of Deliciousness

Mini Cheesecakes, A Decadent Bite Of Deliciousness are the perfect way to end a meal or the year, in fact. With New Year’s Eve in a matter of days, I thought it might be nice to share a recipe for something sweet for your holiday celebrations.

These single serving versions of a classic creamy and rich cheesecake with a sour cream topping are delicious little bites which can be served plain or garnished with toppings of your choice. They are a quick and easy dessert that can be made ahead of time and they freeze well. That makes them ideal for serving at your New Year’s Eve gathering or just grabbing one for yourself as an indulgent little treat.

Mini Cheesecakes, A Decedent Bite Of Deliciousness

Mini Cheesecakes, A Decadent Bite Of Deliciousness

My mother used to make these mini cheesecakes with their sour cream topping for the holidays and they were always the dessert she was requested to bring to social gatherings. She made hers with a vanilla wafer as the base for the cheesecakes and served them plain. I think she would like how I’ve tweaked her recipe and the way I’ve garnished them…one with a sweet cherry sauce, another with dark chocolate sauce topped with a milk chocolate and pecan praline and the last drizzled with a salted caramel sauce topped with a caramel pecan.

Mini Cheesecakes With Sour Cream Topping

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees

Makes 12

  • 1 c. graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 c. gingersnap crumbs
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted

Place the crumbs and melted butter in a bowl and stir until well combined. Line a 12 cup muffin and cupcake pan with foil liners. Place a heaping tablespoon of crumbs into each liner and press firmly into place with a small glass or the back of a spoon.

  • 2  8 oz. pkg. of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 2 eggs (large)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Place the softened cream cheese, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice into a bowl and beat with a hand mixer at medium speed. Scrape down the sides often and beat until smooth and creamy. Spoon mixture into the foil cups, about 3/4 full. (Do not over fill or you won’t have room for the topping. Bake for 18 – 20 minutes until the cheesecakes puff up but still have a little jiggle then remove from the oven but do not turn it off. (The tops may be cracked and will deflate as they cool but that is OK).

  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Mix the sour cream, sugar and vanilla until it is well combined. Spoon about a tablespoon of the sour cream mixture on top of each partially baked cheesecake and smooth to the edges. Return to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes more until the topping is set. Cool, then remove from the pan and refrigerate for about 4 hours or until well chilled. Remove the foil liners, garnish, if desired and serve.

A Tray Of Mini Cheesecakes

A Tray Of Mini Cheesecakes

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I do hope you get a chance to try these mini cheesecakes and if you decide to serve them to your friends, I believe you will receive rave reviews as my mother did and I now do. They are the perfect size for when you want just a little something sweet.  Enjoy!

As the year comes to an end, I’m reminded that when people gather together at midnight on New Year’s Eve and sing Auld Lang Syne, the song of friendship, they pledge that whatever may change in their lives, that old friends will not be forgotten. With that thought in mind, I want to take this time to thank each of you who have enriched my life through your friendship and I hope you will continue to visit Back Road Journal in 2017. I wish you a new year that is filled with peace, happiness and very good health.

 

 

 

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