I’ve served tiramisu at a couple of my Fourth Friday Night Dinner Parties at the winery. Since then, I’ve been asked for the recipe. My good friend Susan makes the dessert and it has taken me a while to get that recipe. Well finally, here it is:

1/4 c. marsala
2 tsp. gelatin, divided
6 large egg yolks
1 c. sugar
1-1/4 c. mascarpone cheese
1 c. heavy cream
2 7-oz. pkgs. Savolardi cookies or ladyfinger
1 c. strong coffee
1/2 c. coffee liqueur
1 tsp. instant expresso
1/2 c. Dark Dutch processed cocoa

Start by separately dissolving each teaspoon of gelatin in 2 Tablespoon of water by microwaving for 15-30 seconds. Add one set of the dissolved gelatin to the marsala and reserve the other for heavy cream.
Put one to one-and-a-half inches of water in the bottom of a double boiler and bring to a simmer. Put eggs in the top of the double boiler. Add sugar and beat until sugar and yolk mixture thickens. Place the top on the bottom and stir with a flexible spatula, scrapping down the side and the bottom frequently. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. Take off heat and stir in marsala-gelatin mixture. Beat with a hand mixture until very thick and light in color (almost ivory). Fold in mascarpone until smooth. Set aside.

Beat heavy cream until foamy and then add the second set of dissolved gelatin in a stand mixture. Beat until stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the egg yolk mixture until smooth.
Mix coffee, liqueur and expresso powder in a small bowl.

Prepare a 9×9-inch cake pan by lining it with foil. Allow enough foil to hang over all edges of the pan so you can lift the cake when set. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with cocoa – just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.

Dip cookies* in coffee mixture quickly. Cookies should be wet, but not soaked. Lay half of the cookies closely together (side by side) in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with cocoa. Spread half of the custard mix over the cocoa-covered cookies. Sprinkle with more cocoa. Repeat with the last of the cookies and custard. Finish with cocoa.

Cover lightly and refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours, overnight is best.

*If using bakery ladyfingers, they must be very dry. Lay them on a paper towel-line sheet pan sprinkled with powdered sugar. Sprinkle more powdered sugar on top of the ladyfingers and place another paper towel on top. Let cookies sit out overnight or for 24 hours to ensure they are completely dry. Then when dipping into the coffee mixture, only dip one side of the cookie.
Yields 9 servings.

Scaloppini di Pollo

When I went to cooking school, Chef would always insist on using real ingredients. Lemons were always freshly squeezed. Cheese was always of the finest quality and never pre-shredded or -grated. He also insisted that “Life is short, eat the butter.” I shudder when I think of how much butter is in my favorite Macaroni Grill entrée. Below is my version of that recipe, and it contains all the butter. Just eat less. It makes great leftovers.

Scaloppini di Pollo
3 oz. lemon juice
4 oz. white wine
1 c. heavy cream
1 lb. (4 sticks) butter, cubed
4 chicken breasts, halved horizontally and pounded flat
2-3/4 c. flour seasoned with salt and pepper for dredging
12 oz. mushrooms, sliced
12 oz. artichoke hearts, sliced
1 Tbsp. capers
1 lb. angel hair pasta
chopped parsley, for garnish

Heat lemon and wine over medium heat until reduced by one third. Reduce heat to a simmer and add heavy cream, simmering for about 4 minutes. Slowly add butter cube by cube until completely incorporated. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
Cook pasta and drain.

Heat a small amount of butter and olive oil in a skillet and sauté dredged chicken until brown and cooked through. Remove from pan.

Add remaining ingredients to the pan and cook until the mushrooms have softened. Add half the cream sauce and stir.

To serve, spoon mushroom mixture over noodles. Place chicken cutlet on top along with a ladle of remaining cream sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Cooler weather – soups and stews

The cooler weather makes me yearn for fall. For me that usually means working outside all day and coming inside at dusk to a dinner that was stewing in the crock pot. In my old life, I’d load the crock pot with ingredients in the morning and 10 hours later, I was usually back home from work with dinner ready.

Tomato and Rice Soup
with Pesto
1 c. onion, chopped
1 c. carrot, shredded
3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
2 tsp. minced garlic
14-1/2-oz. can Italian-style stewed tomatoes
6-oz. can Italian-style tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. black pepper
4 c. chicken broth
1 c. quick-cooking rice
1/4 c. pesto
Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a 4-quart crock pot, combine onion, carrot, celery, garlic, stewed tomatoes, tomato paste oregano, thyme and pepper. Stir in chicken broth.

Cover and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours.

Stir in rice. Cover and let stand for 6-7 minutes or until rice is tender. Serve with a dollup of pesto and grated Parmesan cheese.

Pork and Hominy Stew
1 lb. boneless pork shoulder
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 16-oz. cans hominy, drained
4-oz. can diced green chili peppers, drained
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. chili powder
4 c. chicken broth

Cut pork into one-inch cubes. In a large skillet brown the pork in heated olive oil. Transfer to a crock pot. Add peppers, tomato, onion, garlic, hominy, chili peppers, chili powder and oregano. Pour broth over all. Cover and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours. Serve in bowls over tortilla chips.

Split Pea and Ham Soup
2 c. fully cooked ham, cubed
1 c. dry split peas
1 c. onion, chopped
1 c. celery with leaves, chopped
1 c. carrots, shredded
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. black pepper
6 c. chicken broth
1 c. quick-cooking rice

In a crock pot, combine ham, peas, onion, celery, carrot, parsley, thyme and pepper. Pour chicken broth over all.

Cover and cook on low heat for 10-12 hours or until peas are tender. Stir in rice, cover and let stand 5 minutes until rice is tender.

Reunion pot-luck sides

It’s that time of year when families are getting together for reunions. I headed to mine in Abbott last weekend. It was good to see my aunts, uncles, and 15 first cousins and their families. Our group filled the little community center on Willie Nelson Rd. Everyone brought a side dish. I made these:

Mediterranean Couscous
16-oz. pkg. couscous
2 c. grape tomatoes, halved
2 c. marinated artichokes, halved
3 zucchini squash, chopped
2 c. bell pepper, chopped
1 purple onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 c. kalamata olives, pits removed and chopped
1/3 c. or a small jar of capers
1/2 c. fresh basil, chopped
1-1/2 c. feta cheese

Cook the couscous per the package’s instruction. Toss the tomatoes, artichokes, squash, bell peppers and onion with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a sheet pan and roast in a 375-degree oven for 15 minutes.

Combined cooled, cooked couscous, cooled roasted vegetables, olive capers and basil in a large bowl.

1/2 c. olive oil
1/3 c. lemon juice
1/3 c. white balsamic vinegar
4 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all the ingredients for the dressing. Pour over the salad in the bowl and toss. Let stand at least an hour. Before serving, stir in feta cheese.

I also brought a salad from the latest FEC monthly magazine.

Frito Corn Salad
1 can corn drained
1/2 purple onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese,
1 c. mayonnaise
1 bag chili cheese Fritos, smashed

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

That recipe was good, but I recommend adding chopped fresh jalapeno peppers too!

My sister brought her favorite casserole and it is always good.

Creamy Corn Casserole
1 tsp. oil
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1/4 c. butter, softened
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 can corn, drained
1 can creamed corn
4 oz. chopped green chilies
1 pkg. French-fried onions, divided

Sauté onions in oil until translucent. In a large bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, corn creamed corn, chilis and onions. Pour into a prepared baking dish. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Stir in half of the fried onions and sprinkle the remaining fried onions of top. Bake 15 minutes longer.

Seafood Lasagna

My son is getting married in the vineyard this October. There is much to do to be ready for that event. The bride-to-be will walk down a vineyard row during the procession. The way things look right now, I’d have to equip her with a machete or she wouldn’t make it through the vegetation.

I have a massively long list of “things to do.” One of those things is to share my seafood lasagna recipe that I’ve made for two dinner parties. It’s definitely one of my favorites.

Seafood Lasagna
1 16-oz box of lasagna noodles
4-5 zucchini squash, sliced thinly
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 stick butter
1 lb. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 c. Alfredo Sauce*– recipe below
1 lb. shrimp, cleaned
1 lb. scallops
1/2 lb. crabmeat
20 oz. ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 pinch black pepper
6 c. mozzarella cheese

Slice the zucchini thinly with a mandoline. Salt and press between paper towels to absorb as much liquid as possible. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the zucchini slices until they begin to soften and grill marks show. Reserve.

In a large skillet, melt butter and add olive oil. When hot, add mushrooms. Stir to coat and spread evenly on the bottom of the skillet. Don’t stir, until the sides caramelize. Work in batches so the skillet is not crowded.

Add all mushrooms back to the skillet and add garlic. Cook for a minute and add Alfredo sauce. Stir until bubbly and add shrimp, scallops and crabmeat. I usually cut the shrimp in half. I also usually purchase sea scallops, and I quarter them. Cook until the shrimp begins to turn pink. Removed from heat.

Combine ricotta cheese, eggs and pepper in a separate bowl.
Prepare a 9×13″ baking dish with cooking spray. Layer a few spoonfuls of Alfredo liquid in the bottom of the pan. Layer uncooked noodles, ricotta mixture, Alfredo mixture and shredded cheese. Then overlap zucchini slices to create a layer. Follow with ricotta mixture, Alfredo mixture and shredded cheese. Repeat. There will be two layers of noodles and two layers of grilled zucchini.

Bake uncovered in a preheated oven for 45 minutes. Cover and bake 15 more minutes.
I like to top with chopped basil just before serving.

Alfredo Sauce
1 stick butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 c. Half-and-Half
1 pinch each salt and pepper
2 blocks cream cheese
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
Heavy cream, if needed
Melt butter and cook garlic with salt and pepper for about 1 minute. Add Half-and-Half, cream cheese and Parmesan cheese. Stir until warm and all is melted together. Add parsley. If sauce is too thick, add cream as needed.

*You may also substitute store-bought Alfredo sauce.

Stuffed Peppers

Peppers are really growing well in my garden. They were piling up in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator until I made a huge crock of fermented peppers. They should be ready this week and I can’t wait to try them. I’ll share that recipe if it turns out well.

As peppers start piling up again, I’ll be stuffing a few.

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers
1 lb. ground meat (chicken, turkey or beef)
1/2 c. quinoa, uncooked
1-1/4 c. chicken stock, divided
1/2 c. tomato sauce
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2-3 large peppers for stuffing (or 4-6 small)
1 c. shredded cheese

Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat. Add ground meat and spices. Break up the meat and cook until brown.

Add quinoa, tomato sauce, 1 cup stock and cilantro. Stir well and let simmer on for for 15 minutes.
Clean the peppers and slice in half, removing the seeds. Fill the halves with the stuffing and place in an oven-safe dish with sides. Pour remaining stock into the dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and sprinkle the peppers with cheese. Bake uncovered for 10 more minutes.

Greek Stuffed Peppers
2 large bell peppers
1/2 lb. ground chicken
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 c. marinated artichokes, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1/2 c. cooked quinoa
1 lemon, juiced
2 tsp. garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh dill, chopped
1/2 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Clean peppers, remove seeds and slice in half vertically. Cook pepper in baking dish in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. Set aside.

While those peppers cook, heat olive oil and cook chicken until done. Stir in all other ingredients except the cheese. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add a shallow layer of water to the baking dish with the peppers. Spoon stuffing into each pepper, then top with mozzarella cheese. Return peppers to the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Serve with pita bread, tzatziki sauce, hummus and garlic-stuffed Greek olives.

Roasted Tomatillos

I planted several tomatillo plants this year. With the rain and the heat, they are really producing. I’ve eaten them raw in salads, but prefer to roast them and use in salsa.

Tomatillo Salsa
8-10 tomatillos, halved or quartered
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
4 jalapeño peppers, halved
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1 lime, juiced
1 bunch cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste

Spread the vegetables on a sheet pan. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and cumin. Roast in a 375-degree oven for about 40 minutes or until the vegetables brown on the edges.

Remove from the oven and let cool. Once cooled, process with lime juice and cilantro until chunky.

Taste and add salt or pepper if needed. The salsa keeps in the fridge for up to a week.

Now that you have the salsa, it’s great with chips and over scrambled eggs. It’s also good in the following dish.

Mushroom Chicken Enchiladas
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. flour
3 c. chicken broth
8 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. sour cream
1/4 c. tomatillo salsa
12 8-inch flour tortillas
1 c. mild onion, chopped
4 c. cooked chicken, shredded
16 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed, drained and chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced

To create the sauce, melt butter in a saucepan and whisk in flour, cooking for 1 minute. Gradually add broth and cook for 5 more minutes, until thick. Add cream cheese until melted and stir in sour cream and salsa. Let cool.

Spread 2 tablespoons of Monterey Jack cheese down the center of a tortilla. Add about 1/4 c. chicken, a little onion, 1 tablespoon of spinach, a few mushroom slices and 2 tablespoons of the cooled sauce. Roll the tortilla and place the seam down in a prepared baking dish.

Repeat until all of the tortillas are filled. Spoon remaining sauce over the rolled enchiladas. Sprinkle with remaining Monterey Jack cheese. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 25-30 minutes.

Cool Summer Salads

I enjoyed the sound of rain yesterday morning at 2:30 a.m. Yes, the thunderstorm woke me, but I didn’t immediately worry about excess moisture damaging the grapes. That’s because the last of the grapes were harvested two days before.

In fact, I feel that I can now enjoy what is left of summer. When you only grow one crop that takes most of your time and attention from February to October, and significant attention from March to August, it is a huge relief when the harvest is complete. There’s still work to be done, mostly taking care of the vines to support next year’s growth, but that effort is greatly reduced. What will I do with my spare time? I’ll think of something.

Avocado Slaw with Shrimp or Chicken
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. water
3 green onions, chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 lime, juiced
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined or
1 lb. chicken, skinless and cubed
1 tsp. each chili powder, cumin and oregano
2 tsp. olive oil
3 c. cabbage, shredded
2 avocados, sliced
Pulse olive oil, water, onions, cilantro, garlic, lime juice and yogurt until smooth. Taste and add salt and pepper. Set aside.
Toss chicken or shrimp in spices. Cook in olive oil until chicken is cooked through or the shrimp is pink. Let cool.

Toss cabbage and avocados with half of the sauce.

Serve the slaw with the chicken or shrimp on top. Drizzle extra sauce over all and garnish with cilantro and lime wedges. The slaw and meat are also great in tortillas with crumbled cheese.

Watermelon, Jicama and Cucumber Salad
1 lime, juiced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. honey
1 pinch each Kosher salt and black pepper
2 c. watermelon, removed from rind and cubed
2 c. jicama, peeled and cubed
1 small cucumbers, seeded and cubed
1/4 c. red onion, thinly sliced
2 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

Whisk together lime juice, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper.
Add watermelon, jicama, cucumber and red onions. Toss to coat. Serve with crumbled feta and cilantro on top.

Chicken Tampico

In my other life, I worked in North Arlington in an office building across the street from a Mexican restaurant named Mercado Juarez. The restaurant was in a large warehouse. It allowed for a huge dining room as well as a large area that was set up to look like an outdoor market in Mexico. The line for those waiting to be seated usually snaked through the market area allowing for shopping and entertainment while waiting.

However, it was the smell of grilling meat that brought customers into the place. A smell so intense that it permeated your clothing and soaked into your hair. After having lunch in that restaurant, the smell was with you all day. And when you couldn’t leave for lunch, you knew exactly where others went just by the smell of grilled meat.

It’s strange, the things you remember, but my favorite dish from Mercado Juarez was the Chicken Tampico. I was thinking about it as I wondered what to do with peppers, zucchini and tomatoes from the garden. I had boneless, skinless chicken breasts and lemons…so I made my version of the tasty dish.

Chicken Tampico
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 lemons, juiced, divided
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, julienne sliced
2 mild chile peppers, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 zucchini squash, halved and sliced
1 pint porter tomatoes, halved
1 tsp. Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Create a marinade for the chicken by combining mayonnaise and the juice from 1 lemon with a pinch of salt and pepper. Coat the chicken breasts with the mayonnaise mixture and marinate for at least an hour.

Grill breasts on a hot grill, about three minutes on each side. Throw away remaining marinade. Remove breasts from the grill and reserve.

Heat oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onions and peppers until tender. Add garlic, zucchini and tomatoes. Season with oregano, salt and pepper. Add grilled chicken, turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Now’s a good time to start a pot of rice. When the chicken is cooked through, squeeze the juice of one lemon over the ingredients in the skillet. Adjust seasonings and serve over the cooked rice.

The smoked flavors from the grilled chicken permeated the dish, enhancing the vegetables. The splash of lemon juice at the end added brightness to the meal.

Mexican-themed Dinner

The vineyard is stressed this year with too much over-wintering pests, too much rain and too many birds. We still have fruit, but with two weeks until harvest, I’m scrambling to keep the birds from eating more grapes.

I bought four plastic owls that David rigged on posts. Then I strategically zip-tied them throughout the vineyard to the trellis posts. This morning I saw several birds on a wire watching the owls. I wonder if they are fooled.

I’ve been pouring through cookbooks looking for ideas for a Mexican-themed dinner. I ran across some quick and easy recipes that are worth a try.

Egg Enchiladas
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
3 8-oz cans tomato sauce
2 tsp. chili powder
8 eggs
1/4 c. half-and-half
1 small can chopped green chiles
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. butter
6 corn tortillas
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oil in frying pan over medium heat and sauté onion and green pepper. Add tomato sauce and chili powder. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Beat eggs lightly with half-and-half. Add chiles, salt and pepper. In a separate frying pan, heat butter over medium-low heat. Add egg mixture and cook until the egg are set.

Dip each tortilla in hot tomato sauce until soft. Then spoon a sixth of the eggs down the center. Roll up and place seam side down in a shallow baking dish. Continue the process with the remaining tortillas and eggs.

Reheat remaining sauce and pour over top of rolled tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese. Place under broiler and heat until the cheee melts.

Zucchini with Corn and Peppers
3 Tbsp. butter
2-1/2 lbs. zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 10-oz package frozen corn, or the equivalent of fresh kernels
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large frying pan over high heat, melt butter and add zucchini, corn, bell pepper, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often until most of the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are tender-crisp. Add salt and pepper as needed.