Vanilla Poached Pears

This is an elegant and light dessert for a special occasion. Years ago, we were served this dish at a neighbor’s dinner party and my husband and I made it quite often for a few years. We loved it. I made this updated version to serve my family on Thanksgiving Eve this year. I thought that it was a perfect dessert for the evening before a day of indulgence. An added bonus was that the pears could be poached ahead of time and stored in the poaching liquid.

This recipe was adapted from Alton Brown via Food Network.com. I poached the pears cut in half rather than whole, and, as my neighbors did when they served this dish, added freshly whipped cream and crushed amaretti cookies as toppings. Lovely.

Yield: 8 servings
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle white wine, Riesling or Viognier (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 ounces vanilla sugar, approximately 3/4 cup
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 4 firm Bartlett, Anjou or Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and cored (preferably using a melon baller)
  • freshly whipped heavy cream, for serving
  • crushed amaretti cookies, for serving
  1. Place the white wine, water, sugar and vanilla bean and pulp into a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Peel, halve, and core the pears.
  3. Decrease the heat to medium low and place the pears into the liquid, cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the pears are tender but not falling apart. Maintain a gentle simmer. Remove the pears to a serving dish and place in the refrigerator.
  4. Remove the vanilla bean from the saucepan, increase the heat to high and reduce the syrup to approximately 1 cup of liquid, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Do not allow the syrup to turn brown.
  5. Place the syrup in a heatproof container and place in the refrigerator until cool, approximately 1 hour.
  6. Remove the pears from the refrigerator, spoon the sauce over the pears. At this point, the pears can be stored overnight.
  7. Place a pear half in a bowl and drizzle with sauce, top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, and sprinkle with crushed amaretti cookies. Serve.

Tomato-Braised Rotisserie Chicken with Kale

I love using a rotisserie chicken short cut to make a delicious weeknight meal. This sauce in this wonderful dish reminds me of another one of my favorite weeknight dishes using gnocchi.

It was recommended to eat this meal with crusty bread to sop up the sauce (yum!) so I made Portuguese rolls– a great choice. 🙂 I also served it with roasted potatoes which was completely unnecessary, but pleased my husband.

This recipe was from From COOK90: The 30-Day Plan For Faster, Healthier, Happier Meals By David Tamarkin, via Bon Appétit. Fabulous!

  • 4 oz bacon (about 4 slices), sliced crosswise ¼” thick
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock, plus more, as desired to adjust sauce consistency
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, cut into 8 pieces (breast meat halved)
  • 1 bunch curly kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into bite-size pieces (I used a 10 oz bag of kale)
  • crusty bread, for serving, optional
  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or skillet with a lid over medium. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.) Cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened and bacon is brown and crisp, 8–10 minutes.
  2. Add wine, garlic, and rosemary to pot. Cook, stirring, until wine is reduced by half, about 1 minute.
  3. Add tomatoes along with their juices, broth, salt, and red pepper flakes and bring liquid to a boil.
  4. Nestle in chicken, skin side up. Top with kale, cover pot, and cook until kale is wilted, 5–7 minutes. (I added the kale in 2 batches, adding the second layer after 5 minutes.)
  5. Stir kale into sauce and continue to cook, uncovered, until chicken is warmed through, about 5 minutes more.

Roast Chicken with Roasted-Garlic Pan Sauce

This dinner was like a mini-Thanksgiving feast. 🙂 I served the chicken with roasted gold and sweet potatoes, broccoli, and acorn squash. The incredibly flavorful, rich sauce made the meal complete.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by José Andrés. It was inspired by the rotisserie chicken and sauce made by the Morales family at El Asador de Nati in Córdoba, Spain. The sauce incorporates the pan drippings with an entire head of roasted garlic. Wonderful.

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper and place in a large ovenproof skillet (I used a 12″ sauté pan) along with the head of garlic, cut sides down. Roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until 
an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part 
of the chicken breast registers 160°. (I used the oven probe.)
  3. Transfer the chicken 
and garlic to a cutting board; let rest for 15 minutes. Pour the pan drippings into a heatproof bowl.
  4. Meanwhile, in the skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, minced garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the wine, bay leaf, thyme and the reserved pan drippings.
  6. Squeeze the roasted garlic into the sauce and bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer over moderately low heat until slightly reduced, 5 minutes.
  7. Discard the bay leaf. Transfer to a blender, add 2 tablespoons of water and puree until very smooth. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. (I used a Vitamix.)
  8. Carve the chicken and transfer to a platter. Drizzle with sauce and serve additional roasted-garlic pan sauce on the side.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Hazelnuts & Bacon

Yes- more soup! It may be sunny outside but it is still freezing. The positive spin I’ve taken on this gloomy situation is that I can still make delicious soup for dinner. 🙂

This recipe is from one of my favorite magazine columns, the RSVP section of Bon Appétit. It was adapted from chef Mark Filatow of Waterfront Wines in Kelowna, British Columbia. It was fabulous!

  • ½ cup raw hazelnuts
  • 2 T baking soda
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into small florets
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling, optional
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 small fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1 small onion or ½ of a large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine or water
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 bay leaves
  1. Blanch and Peel the Hazelnuts: Boil 1 ½ cups water in a small saucepan. Add 2 T baking soda and the nuts. Boil for 3 minutes, or until the skin is easily removed. Drain, rinse with cold water, and peel the skin off of the nuts.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°, preferably on convection roast.
  3. Toast the blanched hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
  4. While the nuts are cooling, increase oven to 400°, preferably on convection roast.
  5. Toss cauliflower and 2 T oil on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until florets are browned all over and tender, 30–35 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, cut bacon crosswise into ½” pieces.
  7. Heat a heavy pot over medium and cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, 10–12 minutes. Transfer to paper towels.
  8. Cook fennel, onion, and garlic (I chopped them using a food processor) in drippings in pot, stirring occasionally, until onion and fennel are very soft, 5–10 minutes.
  9. Add wine and cook until mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  10. Add roasted cauliflower, broth, cream, and bay leaves; season with salt and pepper.
  11. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until cauliflower is very tender, 20–25 minutes.
  12. Pluck out bay leaves; discard. Let mixture cool slightly.
  13. Working in batches, purée cauliflower mixture until very smooth. (I puréed the soup using an immersion blender in the pot.)
  14. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  15. Just before serving, ladle soup into bowls; top with bacon and nuts and drizzle with oil, if desired. (I omitted the additional oil.)

Do Ahead: Soup can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill soup and bacon separately.

One Year Ago: Breakfast Sausage, Egg, & Cheese Muffins

Two Years Ago: Cheesy Pasta Casserole with Wild Mushrooms

Three Years Ago: Gemelli with Mushrooms & Ricotta

Four Years Ago: Saffron Pappardelle with Moroccan Spiced Shallot-Butter Sauce

Five Years Ago: Minestrone and Macaroni Baked in Yogurt (Arshda Madznov)

Baked Shrimp Risotto with Pesto

We’ve had a touch of spring for a couple of days in Long Island. It has been SO sunny, warm and nice. 🙂 It made me think of this dish because the pesto and lemon gave it a lot of brightness. Fortunately, I freeze giant cubes of freshly made pesto made after my final summer basil harvest.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Kay Chun. I added shallots and onions and increased the stock, garlic and the amount of lemon juice. The original recipe doesn’t incorporate white wine, and the dish was lovely without it, but I may consider adding some for extra flavor next time. I also used uncooked shrimp; it cooked very quickly in the hot risotto.

Even though I love making risotto in my pressure cooker, I’m not sure why making risotto on the stove is even necessary when it’s so simple to prepare in the oven! This dish was beyond easy to make, quick, and really delicious.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 7 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of white wine, optional
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 24 shelled shrimp (I used 1 pound of 21-25 count shrimp)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • fresh lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
  • coarse salt
  • pesto sauce, for serving (I used one giant cube of basil pesto, about 2-3 T)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. In an enameled medium cast-iron casserole or pan with a lid, heat the olive oil.
  3. Add the shallots and onion, and cook until soft but not brown.
  4. Add the garlic and rice and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until very fragrant, 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the broth and bring to a boil.
  6. Cover and bake for about 20 to 22 minutes, until the rice is tender.
  7. Stir in the 1/2 cup of cheese, the shrimp, butter and lemon juice; season with salt. (The shrimp is cooked when it becomes fully pink.)
  8. Serve drizzled or mixed with pesto. Garnish with cheese.

One Year Ago: Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

Two Years Ago: Classic Shrimp & Grits

Three Years Ago: Greek Red Lentil Soup

Four Years Ago:

Five Years Ago:

Summer Squash Gratin

I had to make this lovely summer gratin as soon as I saw a photo of it. So pretty and colorful! 🙂 It is a wonderful celebration of the bounty of summer squash.

We ate it as a vegetarian main dish with a crusty sourdough baguette. It would also be a fabulous side dish. This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Laura Rege. I used sweet cipollini onions from my CSA box in addition to the leeks.

After adding an additional sautéed CSA cipollini onion, I also made a mini-gratin with my leftover filling. 🙂 Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish (plus an additional mini-gratin, above, optional)
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 small leeks, white and tender green parts thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 cipollini onions, halved and cut into slices (plus 1 additional onion if making a mini-gratin)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (plus 1 additional T if making a mini-gratin)
  • 3 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices, preferably 
on a mandoline
  • 3 medium yellow summer squash, cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices, preferably on a mandoline
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely shredded Gruyère (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 plum tomato, very thinly sliced crosswise
  • flaky sea salt, for finishing
  • crusty bread such as a sourdough baguette, for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over moderately high heat. Add the leeks, and onions, if using, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Spread in a 9-inch round baking dish.
  5. Using a mandolin, slice the squash lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices.
  6. Meanwhile, on 4 large baking sheets, spread the zucchini 
and yellow squash and brush with the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil; season with salt and pepper.
  7. Sprinkle with the cheese and let sit until slightly softened, about 5 minutes or up to 1 hour.
  8. Tightly roll 1 piece of zucchini and set it on the leeks in the center of the dish.
  9. Working 
outward from that center slice, continue rolling and coiling additional pieces of zucchini and yellow squash until you reach the edge of the baking dish.
  10. Season the tomato slices with salt and pepper, then tuck in intervals between the zucchini and squash.
  11. Scrape any cheese off of the baking sheets and sprinkle on top.
  12. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, 
until the zucchini and squash are tender and browned 
in spots. (I cooked mine for 33 minutes, and 27 minutes for the mini)
  13. Remove from oven. While hot, sprinkle with sea salt.
  14. Let cool slightly, then 
serve with crusty bread.

I’m sharing my summer gratin at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #180, co-hosted by Tracey @My Baja Kitchen and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook. Enjoy!

Note: If making the additional mini-gratin, saute the additional onion, adding 1 T wine cooking as directed above. Place in the bottom of a mini-pie dish and layer remaining squash and cheese. Cook as directed.

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Butternut Squash Bread Soup (Panade de Butternut)

This dish could have fed an army. It was GIGANTIC.  I would describe it as French onion soup meets oozy casserole. Full-flavored, cheese-covered comfort food. The thinly sliced butternut squash and fresh herbs layered into the bread, caramelized onions, and cheese added a little bit of excitement as well as color and nutrition. 😉

This recipe was adapted from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. Lebovitz stated that this is one of those dishes that improves as it sits… thank goodness! We had lots of leftovers. 🙂 I added additional homemade stock to the leftovers, before reheating, just to make it a little bit soupier.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 4 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled (4 thinly sliced & 4 whole)
  • 2 T mixed fresh thyme and sage
  • 2-pound (900 g) loaf firm-textured sourdough bread, sliced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 quarts (2 l) warm chicken or turkey stock, plus additional stock for serving, as desired
  • 2-pound butternut squash or other winter squash such as Kabocha, peeled, seeded and sliced into 1/8-inch slices
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups grated Comte, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, or Fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz /45 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)

  1. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. (I used an enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Add the onions, 4 cloves of sliced garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the herbs. Cook for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely wilted and beginning to brown on the bottom and edges.
  3. While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Put the slices of bread on baking sheets in a single layer and toast in the oven, turning the slices over midway, until both sides are dry, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  5. When cool enough to handle, rub both sides of the bread with the whole garlic cloves.
  6. Slice the peeled and seeded squash into 1/8-inch slices. (I used a mandoline.)
  7. When the onions are done, pour in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen up any of the flavorful brown bits. Cook for a minute or two, until the wine is absorbed.
  8. Add 2 cups of the stock to the onions and cook until the stock is mostly absorbed 10 to 15 minutes, and then add the rest of the stock and heat until the stock is hot. Remove from heat.
  9. To assemble the Panade, cover the bottom of a 3 to 4 quart (3-4 l), 3+inch (8 cm) deep, baking dish with a layer of bread, breaking any pieces so they fit in a single layer, but keeping them as large as possible.
  10. Ladle about half of the onions and some of the stock over the bread, and then cover with half of the squash slices. Season lightly with salt, pepper, and half of the remaining herbs.
  11. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup (40 g) of the Comte.
  12. Add a second layer of bread and ladle the rest of the onions and more stock over the bread. Cover with remaining squash slices. Season the squash with salt, pepper, and the remaining herbs.
  13. Sprinkle another 1/2 cup (40 g) of Comte over the squash layer.
  14. Cover the squash with a final layer of bread and then ladle the rest of the stock over the bread.
  15. Press down on the ingredients to encourage them to meld together.
  16. Top with remaining 1 cup (90 g) Comte, and the Parmesan.
  17. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and tighten it around the edges. Don’t press it down on the surface or some cheese may stick to the foil during baking.
  18. Set the baking dish on a parchment paper or foil-lined rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills.
  19. Bake for 45 minutes, uncover the Panade, and bake for another 30 minutes, or until it is very well browned and crisp on top.
  20. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving. Spoon portions into shallow soup bowls, making sure each serving is topped with crusty topping.

I’m bringing my dinner-party ready comfort food to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #164 this week, hosted by Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook. Enjoy!

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