Pear Napoleons with Bourbon Caramel

It’s embarrassing how much time I spend thinking about recipes I want to try. I’ll start with the germ of an idea (say, a pear dessert for Mom’s birthday dinner). Then I’ll spend weeks – maybe months – considering the options: pear tart, pear cobbler, pear cake, pear sorbet… And when I finally decide on the perfect recipe, I abandon the idea entirely because I’m terrified of making a mistake. (Yeah, I never said my process was a healthy one.)

In this case, the paralyzing fear was invoked by the menace of homemade caramel sauce—it’s the easiest thing in the world to ruin. I think if I ever get around to recording another CD, it’ll be called Ways to Ruin Caramel, with forlorn country ballads like “Too Runny,” “Too Hard,” “Bitter and Scorched,” and “Grains of Sand.”

It took no less than three glasses of cheap wine for me to face my caramelized fear, and I’m so drunk—I mean, I’m so happy that I did! This caramel sauce is the perfect texture (creamy but not too thick), with the subtlest bite of sea salt and just enough booze. *hiccup*

The other components of the recipe – poached pears, sweetened mascarpone, flaky puff pastry, and toasted pistachios—are a cinch to prepare, yet every bit as delicious as the bourbon caramel.

Continue reading for the Poached Pear Napoleons with Bourbon Caramel Sauce recipe

Continue reading

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Green pepper is my sworn enemy.

The conniving nightshade sneaks into salsa, it prowls in pasta, and it lurks in jambalaya, waiting to make its deadly move. Just one bite of a bell pepper and I’m a pathetic wheezing heap, my lips swollen like a Hollywood collagen job gone terribly wrong.

For years I avoided green salsa in every Mexican restaurant, for fear that the lovely olive color might be enhanced by the scoundrel bell pepper. And as a sad consequence, I never tasted the delightful tang of tomatillos.

Until now. I made this recipe for Mom and Handsome Greg, and instantly fell madly in love with the tart tomatillo sauce warmed through with a healthy teaspoon of smoky cumin. I filled corn tortillas with a luxurious and creamy chicken mixture, then doused them with the silky tomatillo sauce and topped them with a generous handful of gooey cheese.

Next time I make this dish I’ll use white cheddar – the orange cheese with the green salsa was a little off-putting. Otherwise it was perfect.

Continue reading for the Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas recipe

Continue reading

Balsamic Strawberry Crostini with Goat Cheese and Basil

When I left my apartment this morning, a chilly wind mussed the yellow-green-red-orange leaves in the trees while it whipped my almost-dry hair into snarled submission. As I squinted into the crisp, blue sky, I thought—

Crap. I can’t do this. I’m still not ready to write about autumn. Sorry, folks.

Today’s recipe features the juicy, tart strawberries I loved all summer. There’s really nothing fall-like about it. The chewy toasts topped with goat cheese, basil, and summer berries macerated in sweet balsamic vinegar are a perfect appetizer for your next dinner party. In July.

Continue reading for the Balsamic Strawberry Crostini with Goat Cheese and Basil recipe

Continue reading

Lamb Burgers with Capicola and Cucumber-Goat Cheese Spread

I think I may be in danger.

For the past four days, I’ve been shooting my mouth off about how much I despise the Minnesota State Fair, and I fear the devoted fair-goers may turn up at my door with pronto pup-topped pitchforks and propane torches.

But I just can’t seem to help myself. Sweet cracker sandwiches, how I hate the fair. I hate the hokey state fair news coverage, and the ubiquitous on-a-stick jokes, and the questionable odors perfuming the air near the farm building, and the huge lines for rickety rides, and most of all, the mobs of people who invade my neighborhood for 10 days each August, taking every last parking space, along with the very last deep fried morsel of my patience and good will.

I’ve become the summertime Grinch.

While my fellow Minnesotans are enjoying the Great Minnesota Sweat Together, I grumpily hibernate in my apartment, leaving only to fight my way to work and back through streets filled with meandering jaywalkers, pushing strollers and dragging over-sized stuffed animals.

And forget about having company! I wouldn’t dream of asking my guests to brave the crowds and fight for parking during the fair. So it’s a good thing I hosted my summer picnic, starring Greek-inspired lamb burgers well before the vendor trucks and fair-goers descended upon my street.

The burgers were encrusted in garlic, oregano, kosher salt and red pepper flakes before I seared them to a juicy medium rare. Then I topped the burgers with spicy capicola and nestled them in chewy, soft ciabatta rolls dressed in a tzatziki-inspired goat cheese and cucumber spread.

I’m fairly certain my heart grew three sizes that day.

Continue reading for the Lamb Burgers with Capicola and Cucumber-Goat Cheese Spread recipe

Continue reading

Caramelized Onion Dip

INT. BAKE UP, LITTLE SUZY’S APARTMENT – NIGHT

BAKE UP, LITTLE SUZY and HANDSOME GREG sit cross-legged on a red checkered table cloth on the living room floor, sharing potato chips and onion dip. The phone rings. SUZY answers the phone.

BAKE UP, LITTLE SUZY

Hello? Oh, hi.

HANDSOME GREG

Who’s on the phone?

BAKE UP, LITTLE SUZY

It’s the sixties. They want their onion dip made from Lipton soup mix and sour cream back.

Fin.

Continue reading for the Caramelized Onion Dip recipe

Continue reading

Chicken Salad with Goat Cheese, Candied Almonds, and Roasted Strawberry Vinaigrette

I had the best idea.

One night I was craving a hearty salad with sweet-tart, fresh fruit vinaigrette. I’d already made salad dressings with lemon, orange, and tangerine, but I wanted to move out of the citrus family and try something different.

And that’s when inspiration struck – I could transform the classic combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar into a savory salad dressing, with layer upon layer of flavors.

Juicy, caramelized strawberries, fresh garlic, creamy-sharp Dijon mustard, a tender kiss of wild blackberry honey, and aged balsamic vinegar.

Sadly, this brilliant idea occurred to me five months ago, in the dead of Minnesota winter, when strawberries—if they could be found at all—were dry and wooden.

That left me with 147 long, cold days to dream of ripe, juicy berries. In those 147 days, I wondered just what would happen when you roasted strawberries. I finally had a chance to roast strawberries last week, and as it turns out, this is what it smells like when doves cry.

The strawberry halves gently caramelized in the oven, their juices slowly seeping out and thickening, before they became the foundation of my new favorite salad dressing. I tossed the dressing with romaine hearts and scallions, then topped the greens with roasted chicken, goat cheese, and sweet-n-spicy candied almonds.

It was a very long winter.

Continue reading for Chicken Salad with Roasted Strawberry Vinaigrette Recipe

Continue reading

Loaded Baked Potato Grilled Cheese Sandwich

In honor of National Grilled Cheese Month, I’m posting a different grilled cheese sandwich every single day through the month of April. You’re welcome.

There couldn’t possibly be a better sandwich creation to end National Grilled Cheese Month than this rich, satisfying delight.

I wanted to make a grilled cheese that tasted like a loaded baked potato, but the crispy, buttery potato bread, smoky bacon, tangy sour cream, and messy strands of gooey cheddar invoked the textures and flavors of late-night potato skins instead. I was happily surprised, and maybe a little tipsy.

I’m going to miss National Grilled Cheese Month. No, I’m not crying. I just have cheese in my eye.

Continue reading