An Ingredient for Every Pot – Brie Tarts

I am beginning to practice what I preach and finding my sermons to be quite practical. We freely give advice and sometimes even get paid for it but why do we not use it ourselves? You know the scenario, doctor tells patient not to smoke and lose some weight while their at it, then goes out for a cheese steak, fries, and a few smokes themselves. Are we above our own advice? Well not any more! I am listening to both my personalities and carrying out their wisdom bearing voices to the nines.
I have a few signature dishes, old stand-bys, and frequently requested recipes. The ingredients are readily available, straight forward and often times regular inhabitants of my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator. But why do I let them run out, I mean really run out, for months even? Well I have decided to keep a running supply of a few select items that can be whipped together to complete a dish, last-minute-company-just-pulled-in-the-driveway-appetizer, or “hey can you bring a dessert to the potluck tonight?” I am changing my “No Ingredients Left Act” to “An Ingredient For Every Pot Act” starting with these little gems; Brie Tarts. Nifty, sophisticated little affairs that go long on visual appeal and taste.

Brie Tarts
Brie Tarts
1 (15 count) mini frozen Phyllo cups (tenants of my freezer)
Brie cheese– cut into 15 cubes the size of a regular dice (refrigerator regular attendee)
2 1/2 T. apricot preserves-or any other jam or preserves (hangs out on my refrigerator door)
15 pecan halves (freezer drawer monger)
Preheat oven to 400°. Remove Phyllo cups from their package and place on a cookie sheet. Place one cube of Brie in each cup and top with 1/2 t. preserves then a pecan half. Bake for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and preserves bubble. Remove to a pretty serving device and enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Fish Tacos

A favorite, summer foodie event for me is sitting out on the deck, consuming mass quantities of Fresh-Mex and cooling off with a Margarita or another choice cold beverage. Fish tacos, with fresh, grilled mahi-mahi, pico de gallo, and crème fraîche, are a perfect, zesty way to highlight that event.

Mahi-mahi is my favorite choice for this quick, easy, and very tasty dish. Between preparing the marinade for the fish and the pico de gallo, prep time is less than ten minutes. Prep the fish first, and while it’s marinating, make the pico del gallo and warm up the grill. Flour torillas can be wrapped in foil and warmed in a 200 degree oven, or tossed on a hot iron griddle if you’re doing just a few.
When I was making the video, I reached into my spice drawer for chili powder and came up empty. Whoops. I used smoked paprika instead and everything was still delicious…
The fish: 1 lb. Mahi mahi fillet, skin removed.

The 20-minute marinade:
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
1 diced jalapeño pepper
1 TBL Chili Powder (or smoked paprika!)
2 TBL vegetable oil

Combine ingredients in a zip-top back, drop in the fish fillets, toss to coat, and marinate in the refrigerator for twenty minutes. Grill on medium-high heat, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Pico de gallo:
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, you guessed it: diced.
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp salt
Optional: 1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped

Combine ingredients. The End. Now watch:

Friday Night Mussels

Mussels are a weekly tradition at our house. Simple, fast to cook, delicious, and social to eat. Grab some crusty bread and a bottle of white wine and chat at it. Although I think I used a little too much salt this time. Go with a 1/4 tsp of kosher salt instead of a 1/2. Oh, and a few glugs is equal to around 3 TBL…

Hot Chocolypto

When I saw the teaser trailer to Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, I was captivated by the imagery and sound. I knew two– no, three things– I wanted to see the movie, I wanted to make a cooking show in the style of that trailer, and I knew right away the perfect recipe to go with it– Hot Chocolate.
I know, I know– Cocoa? Really?
Yes, really– with a little Central American twist– cayenne pepper. It makes the Cocoa’s warming effects seem to last longer, adds a nice dimension to the flavor, and gives it a nice kick.
So watch the vid, which only took about 10 minutes to video tape, but about 8 hours of working with the sounds to get the mimicry right.
Oh yeah, the recipe:
1 heaping teaspoon of cocoa
2 heaping teaspoons of sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup Milk
Get a container for shaking– you’re going to be making a chocolate slurry. What’s a slurry? You’ll see…
Add the cocoa, sugar, cinnamon, pepper, and 1/3 cup of milk to the container. Put a lid on the container and give it a good shaking for about 20 seconds. Congratulations, you now have a chocolate slurry.
Grab you favorite, microwavable mug and pour the slurry into it. Pour in the rest of the milk and give it a little stir.
Microwave until hot– timing depends on your microwave. In mine, about 1 minute and 20 seconds gets it there. Any longer and it could foam over– just keep an eye on it.

Save That Cake!

How to Save That Cake!
Saving cakes from overcooking or even burning isn’t too difficult. As in the video, sometimes it’s a simple matter of adding a little bit of liquid to the cake. In the show I use Raspberry Liquor, however there’s a whole slew of liquors or even other liquids you can use to juice the cake:
Banana Liquor
Cherry Liquor
Kahlua/Coffee Liquor
Bailey’s Irish Cream
Grand Marnier
Vanilla Liquor
Sugar Water/Syrup
Flavored Syrups
If you’ve burnt the cake– cut off the burnt parts and see what other directions you can take with what’s left:
– Cut the remains into fun shapes and top with ice cream and hot fudge
– Layer it with pie filling or pudding
– Mix with pie filling and serve hot over ice cream
Just let your imagination take over– I mean you’ve burnt the cake, what else is there to lose?!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

It was at Pedals Cafe (Shutters on the Beach, Santa Monica) where I first tasted the heaven that is Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. I knew right away that was a breakfast item that needed to find its way to my breakfast table back on the East Coast. They are creamy, rich, and a fresh spin on an old classic.
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
Dry Side Ingredients:
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
Wet Side Ingredients:
1 1/4 Cup Ricotta Cheese
4 tsp Sugar
2 Eggs
3/4 Cup Milk
Juice of 1 Lemon
Zest of 1 Lemon
Combine dry-side ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine wet-side ingredients, then mix with the dry ingredients, being careful to not over-mix. Over-mixing means tough pancakes!
Heat non-stick electric skillet to about 350 degress. Or, a lightly-oiled, Old-school iron skillet can be warmed over medium heat. 😉
Ladle batter onto hot skillet. Cook pancakes until bubbles form on top, then flip and continue cooking until golden brown.
Keep warm on a plate or baking sheet in a 200° F oven until all pancakes are cooked. Serve with fresh berries and/or a dusting of powdered sugar if desired. Don’t forget the Maple Syrup!

Voice from the Crave — Linguine and Clams

For some reason I’ve been craving spaghetti and clams for the past couple of days. So today Tonya and I made a quick stop to the Safeway on the way home where I picked up a couple of cans of clams– yeah, yeah, I know they weren’t fresh out of the rake– but they got the job done admirably. I also picked a cheap bottle of white wine while I was there to use for cooking.
This is another really easy one and again even the kids liked it. The only “work” part was crushing the garlic. I kind of played around with this one and added about a tablespoon basil and a pinch of oregano so it ended up being a merging of pesto and white wine clam sauce. Adding a pinch of ground red pepper added a hint of zing, too. And let’s face it, the smell of garlic being sautéed in olive oil is olfactory perfection.
Try it some time:
2 6 oz. Cans of Chopped Clams in Clam Juice
2-3 Garlic Cloves, Crushed/Minced (go for the 3, go for the 3!)
1/3 Cup Finely Chopped White Onion
2 Tbl Butter
1 Tbl Basil
1/4 tsp Ground Red Pepper
1/2 cup White Wine
1 lb Thin Linguini/Spaghetti
Salt and Pepper to taste
Start the water for the pasta– don’t forget to salt the water!
Open the cans of clams and drain the juice from each one into a container– save the juice, you’ll be needing it! Coat the bottom of a pan with Olive Oil and heat on medium-high. Saute the garlic– the kitchen will now smell perfect. Lower the heat and carefully add the wine and the reserved clam juice from the cans. Then add the Basil, Red Pepper, and a few grinds of black pepper. Let it simmer.
Cook the pasta. When the pasta is almost ready, add the chopped clams to the simmering sauce and let them heat thoroughly– don’t cook them too long or they’ll get too tough and rubbery.
Drain the pasta, put it in a large bowl, add the butter and give it few tosses. Pour the clam sauce over top. Serve it up.
Add a Caesar salad as a side, and some white wine, and you’re go to go.

Kabob Kubideh

Something different to do with ground beef. The dancing is optional, but it does make it taste better.

The Recipe:
1 lb Ground Beef, 80-85% lean
1 Large White Onion, grated & water drained
1 Garlic Clove, crushed
1 Large Egg, beaten or stirred
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Turmeric
1/8 tsp Black Pepper

Mix meat, onions, garlic, egg, salt, pepper and turmeric well and leave in the refrigerator for a few hours, or overnight.
Press the meat around long, thick metal or wood/bamboo skewers and shape evenly. Grill each side for about 5-6 minutes. If skewers are not available or grilling is not possible, kabobs can be broiled in an oven.

Serve with hot Basmati rice or on middle-eastern flatbread (naan, pita, etc.). Grilled tomato kabobs are also a nice complement.

Poppy Seed Dressing

Now that spinach is back on the shelves, may I suggest a good dressing to go with?
Poppy Seed Dressing:
2 Tbl Minced Onion
1/3 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Dry Mustard
1 tsp Salt
1/3 Cup of Apple Cider Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Tbl Poppy Seeds
In a mixing bowl add vinegar, onion, sugar, mustard, salt, poppy seeds, and vegetable oil. Whisk together or blend with a stick blender. Or just do it all in a blender– up to you.


Bacon– is there anything it doesn’t make taster better? Ok, ice cream, maybe– I’ll give you that.
Rumaki is an easy-to-make appetizer that is a definite crowd-pleaser. There are many ways to make it– here’s one that has worked well for me. The recipe:
1 lb Bacon
1 can Whole Water Chestnuts
1 Sweet Pineapple, chopped into chunks
10 Dates, chopped in half
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tsp soy sauce
Cut the bacon into thirds. Wrap bacon around the water chestnuts, securing with a tooth pick. Then wrap the pineapple and the dates. Place each wrap on a baking tray. Broil the rumaki for 10-12 minutes, flipping mid-way through (so that’s 5-6 minutes per side, ok?) While broiling, mix together the ketchup, soy sauce, and sugar. Remove tray from oven, then set the oven to bake at 350 degrees. Drizzle, baste, or dip the rumaki with or in the sauce. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm.