Hot Fudge Sauce


I have a new favorite hot fudge sauce. After years of using the same chocolate sauce (which is still fabulous and I haven’t given it up), I’ve found the thick, rich, chewy hot fudge sauce for which I have searched – for years.

It is smooth, in spite of the fact that it uses cocoa. It is rich, despite the fact that it doesn’t include an excessive amount of butter and has no cream. It has a thick, velvety quality that might normally come from the addition of corn syrup – but that isn’t in the recipe, either (yea!).

When it hits your ice cream, it sets up, but doesn’t completely harden (like a ganache would). This sauce works well inside of and on the side with our secret family ice cream cake – no thin sauce will do for that!

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Polenta with Fresh Corn


I love summer!!

On Thursday night, when Grandma and WG joined us for dinner, I combined grilled steak with fresh, home made pesto. I’d never done that before. Why?! It was delicious. Forget sweet barbeque and steak sauces, which I rarely use. This is a combination that I will definitely make again. S also put some hickory wood chips on the fire and that also enhanced the flavor without making it smokey tasting. Mmmm.

And, what goes with steak and a mediterranean sauce? Polenta.

I made way too much – the reference recipe from Marcella Hazan’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” said that it would make 4 cups. I actually used slightly less polenta and came out with much more. Definitely enough to serve 8, which meant that Grandma and WG got to take home some leftovers to eat grilled or fried on another day.

We all liked the addition of corn to the polenta. It added a texture and burst of flavor that were delicious and unexpected. I made the polenta a little creamier by combining milk and water for the cooking liquid, plus some parmesan and a little butter at the end. Another keeper. The girls are not big soft polenta eaters, but they do like it grilled. I will make this for them when they get home!!
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Ratatouille Deconstructed


Last night I made an assortment of grilled vegetables. All of the ones that are in a typical Ratatouille, except the tomatoes. Actually, I bought tomatoes, but decided not to include them because they seemed too special to grill.

My idea was to layer the grilled vegetables, and have a deconstructed ratatouille. I took lots of pictures, but none of them turned out as well as the dish.

It wasn’t bad at all! Here is what I did:

Ratatouille Deconstructed

Zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant sliced lengthwise into 1/4-1/2 inch slices
Red onions, sliced widthwise into 1/2 inch slices
Red pepper, charred, steamed and peeled (or jarred roasted red peppers)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Feta cheese (a nice soft flavorful one)
Herbes de Provence (or some fresh thyme)

Brush one side of the slices of vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Put them on a grill (medium heat) and, while they are cooking, brush the other side with olive oil. Turn the vegetables when they are browning on the first side. Cook until brown on the flip side.

Layer on a platter or in a casserole, as follows (or however you want!): Eggplant, Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Red Pepper, Onions. Crumble feta on top of the vegetables. Rub/sprinkle the herbes on top, then drizzle with a fruity, flavorful olive oil.

Serve at room temperature.

Alfajores – Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies


The first time I had an alfajor cookie was at our local tacqueria. Two thin shortbread cookies with that mellow caramel, dulce de leche, in between, rolled in powdered sugar (as if it weren’t already sweet enough). It was soooo decadent and delicious. As is my usual, I thought, “I can make these”. But, finding a recipe was difficult. And, seemingly, there are several different varieties of alfajores depending on the country of origin.

There are cookies that are more crumbly, others that are more crisp. There are those that are flat, others that are domed. Alfajores can also be rolled in shredded coconut on the edges, instead of powdered sugar. I’ve seen recipes for the cookies to be dipped in dark chocolate. One can use dulce de leche made from cow’s milk, or the kind made from goat’s milk (cajeta). Many recipes use a lot of cornstarch, and little flour – perhaps because corn is such a staple of South America. Then there is also a Spanish variety that is not a cookie at all, but a candy made of almonds, sugar and spices. I received some Spanish alfajores as a gift last year when I was in recuperation mode.


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Menu for the Week


For some reason, it has been hard to get back on track with writing. I’ve taken a lot of pictures, but I really haven’t been inspired to write about much of what I’ve been cooking. On the other hand, some meals have been very memorable – like the shellfish stew last week. I also made a pasta dish with sardines (inspired by Mark Bittman’s) that was fantastic, but I took no pictures, made no measurements and won’t be able to make it again unless J is out of town again. Additionally, I’ve been keeping the sugar companies in business by making lots of jam (more than 3 dozen jars). And, birthday cakes. For Grandma’s birthday, I made a new hot fudge sauce for the secret family ice cream cake. It was so richly chocolate flavored, thick, and luscious that I made it again yesterday for J’s end of school party. This sauce is the one for which I’ve been searching.
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Spicy Seafood Stew


J is away for the week, which is a good opportunity to eat the foods that she won’t eat. Last night, we went out for Indian food. The night before, we had chicken breasts stuffed with spinach and ricotta, a dish that L has been asking me to make for a while.

Tonight, we had additional foods that J dislikes: shell fish. I got the idea to make something with mussels from a new cookbook that a friend gave me. But, I didn’t feel like following a recipe. When I went to the market the mussels looked good, and they also had cleaned squid. I had some frozen, jumbo shrimp at home, along with some small dutch fingerling potatoes. Olive oil, leeks, garlic, tomatoes, saffron, vermouth and white wine, salt, pepper, thyme and red pepper flakes.

Big, big success that L declared to be one of my best dishes ever. I served it with a simple salad and a baguette.

I didn’t use any measuring cups, so the amounts are approximate. Here is how I made it:

Spicy Seafood Stew

serves 4

Next time, I would probably add about 1/2 bulb of fennel, chopped. I tried to this time, but there was no fennel at the market. Too bad. On the other hand, this really was a keeper as is.

1 1/2 lbs. mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
1/2 lb. cleaned squid, cut into rings, squiggly parts left in tact
12 jumbo shrimps, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large leek, white and light green parts, cleaned and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
3/4 cup dry vermouth
3/4 cup white wine
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large (12 in.) deep frying pan over medium heat and saute leeks until soft and beginning to barely brown. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another couple of minutes. Add the vermouth, wine, and saffron. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the liquid has reduced a bit. Add potatoes and about 3/4 cup water, enough so that there is enough liquid to cook the potatoes. Cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Remove the cover and add the chopped tomatoes, thyme, dried red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes longer, if the mixture gets dry, add additional wine. Add the seafood, and cook until the shrimp is opaque throughout and the mussels have opened, approximately 3-5 more minutes.