Seafood Big Mamou Spicy Tomato Butter Sauce

Seafood Big Mamou shrimp and scallops

May is one of my favorite months and this Seafood Big Mamou Spicy Tomato Butter Sauce is in honor of one of the reasons why May is so special. I do a lot of entertaining in my social circle, but I’m also the fortunate guest to many wonderful parties as there are many talented cooks and entertainers in my life. Two of my favorite events that I get to just be a guest at happen in May. The Kentucky Derby, and the Crawfish Boil. A crawfish boil is a lot of work that requires special skills and equipment so I’m not going to walk you through how to do it at home, but you can join in on the fun of a raging Cajun party with a recipe as simple as my Seafood Big Mamou. My love for Cajun food began in college, when I waited tables at Davis Street Fish Market in Evanston, Il. The cooks at the restaurant were willing to share their knowledge with a curious waiter (that’s me). I was constantly trying new dishes and asking about sauces and I learned a lot of the basics of Cajun cooking, such as: what is the holy trinity, … Continue reading

Cucumber Mint Lime Agua Fresca

Cucumber Mint Lime Agua Fresca with mint leaves

We’ve got leaves, we’ve got flowers, we’ve even got some legitimately hot days head our way and since it seems I’m determined to skip right into Summer this year, we’ve got refreshing Cucumber Mint Lime Agua Fresca just in time for Cinco de Mayo. In Spanish, “agua fresca” means cool waters, and I first really learned about the wonder that is agua fresca living in the San Francisco Bay Area, where every good burrito stand has some form of house agua fresca that they serve to counter the heat of the hot weather and the spicy food. I’ve had a lot of different flavors over the years, but recently a friend of mine made a Cucumber Mint Lime Agua Fresca (like this one) that she had at the restaurant Lemonade in L.A. While I don’t promise that this is their exact recipe, I can promise that I like it a lot, it is delicious and refreshing, and it’s easy to make. And once you make it the first time, you’ll be persuaded to make it often. It’s a great beverage to keep on hand for guests who aren’t imbibing, too. Just serve it in a big pitcher with lots of … Continue reading

Olive Honeydew Winter Summer Salad

Olive Honeydew Winter Summer Salad

This Olive Honeydew Winter Summer Salad is one of those amazing recipes that is fitting in both of the odd extremes of winter and summer. While a summer melon makes it burst with the gorgeous flavor only possible in summer fruit, the fennel, olives, and orange which are all readily available winter ingredients make this a salad I still think to prepare deep in the Winter. And as it finally warms up around here enough to make me more than dream of crisp mineral-y white wine and balmy summer night air heavy with the smell of barbeque and citronella (doesn’t that sounds wonderful as you sweep off your patios and plant your annuals?) I find myself making this salad early this year. After all, it truly was a long winter and I’m ready even if the weather isn’t quite. So, I will have to eat it inside with a glass of pinot instead… what a tragedy. The salt and sweet and bitter flavors are so perfectly balanced in the way of many Mediterranean dishes. Prosciutto Melone comes to mind. And even the Caprese. There’s something about simple but complex salads that Mediterraneans just “get” better than anyone else and this … Continue reading

White Cranberry Sprinter Cocktail

White Cranberry Sprinter Cocktail with lime

It’s five o’clock somewhere, and it’s almost five o’clock here, so it’s time to get ready for the weekend with this White Cranberry Sprinter Cocktail. Sprinter, that’s spring, plus winter, see what I did there? Corny, I know. But here in Philly, it’s definitely Sprinter. Yesterday it was 70. Today it’s 40. What gives? And what’s a party thrower to do? Hot Chocolate or Piña Coladas? Don’t worry, of course I have the drink for you. I highly recommend mixing up a batch of this delicious White Cranberry Sprinter Cocktail which perfectly navigates the challenges of the in between season with its light nod to winter in the form of cranberry and rosemary, and its playful spring inclinations with a little spicy ginger and Caribbean inspired rum. If you’ve been persuaded by me in the past to keep some herbal simple syrup on hand, all you need to do is add a couple of tablespoons of rough chopped ginger into some rosemary simple syrup and rewarm it. It will infuse while it cools leaving you with a woodsy, spicy syrup that goes great with the tartness of the lime and cranberry. If you’re starting from scratch, it’s a cup of … Continue reading

Monkfish Stew with Potatoes and Dill

Monkfish Stew with Potatoes and Dill with golden tomatoes

This Monkfish Stew with Potatoes and Dill has been one of my favorite weeknight dinners this Winter. But all Winter long, I’ve been waiting to post it because I think it’s perfect as we (finally) transition from Winter into Spring. It’s light, bright and healthy, as well as easy, which is the winning combination, no? I love having dishes that I can prep really quickly but still are guest worthy. With guests in mind, Monkfish Stew with Potatoes and Dill is a great excuse to stop by the really good bakery on the way home and pick up a loaf of fresh bread, because it’s perfect with some tangy, crunchy sourdough. If you want to make enough for the whole week, just reserve the fish and add it raw to the soup as you reheat. It only needs to cook for a few minutes but it tastes better freshly cooked as opposed to reheated. Of course lots of different fishes would be great in this stew, but I love the flavor and texture of monkfish. The firm texture holds up to the broth without breaking apart and the almost lobster-like tasted is delicious. This Monkfish Stew with Potatoes and Dill … Continue reading

Happy Birthday Dempsey Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

Happy Birthday Dempsey Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cake served

I’m really excited to share with you this Happy Birthday Dempsey Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake. Today, my nephew Dempsey was born very early in the morning, just about 23 minutes too late to share his birthday with his father, my brother Ivan. Because we don’t know what Dempsey likes yet, and since he can’t eat cake, I made this Happy Birthday Dempsey Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake with his father’s birthday in mind. My brother loves the Peanut Butter and Chocolate combo, so I decided to make one of my favorite old standby recipes from Ina Garten in honor of both Dempsey and Ivan. Truth told, Dempsey came before I had a chance to go grocery shopping so I wanted a recipe I could make with things I had on hand. You will notice that I’ve varied the original recipe to accommodate some leftover Snowstorm Hot Chocolate. I thought it would be fun to share how I substitute and alternate to use up leftovers, but if you don’t have Snowstorm Hot Chocolate on hand or don’t want to make it, it’s really easy to make the cake without it. I do recommend using melted chocolate, rather than cocoa powder because it’s … Continue reading

Crunchy Blueberry Avocado Salad

Crunchy Blueberry Avocado Salad

This Crunchy Blueberry Avocado Salad is one of those super simple, but “best thing ever” recipes, especially if you have some pistachio brittle on hand, which you should, since I’m sure I convinced you to make it for my Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle. It’s really easy to throw together with a very simple lime vinaigrette. But of course, it’s wonderful with any citrus dressing really. We’ve had it with grapefruit, blood orange and Meyer lemon depending on what I have on hand. This salad was served recently for Valentine’s Day Brunch, but of course, it isn’t really season specific unless you live in California. Otherwise, you may as well eat it in the winter, since the avocados have to be shipped in year ’round. I love the combination of blueberries, avocados and pistachios, and the hint of spice from the pistachio brittle is perfect for this rather sweet salad. I serve this Crunchy Blueberry Avocado Salad over spinach leaves most often, but of course it’s great with any green. Another favorite is wilted or roasted kale. This Crunchy Blueberry Avocado Salad is also a great weeknight dinner salad; between the avocados and the nuts, it’s plenty filling- just … Continue reading

Baked Lime Ricotta with Blackberries

Baked Lime Ricotta with Blackberries

Specialty cheese shops commonly sell an amazing sweet Lemon Ricotta I’ve riffed on with this Baked Lime Ricotta with Blackberries. The original Lemon Ricotta is fun to put on a cheese board, especially a dessert cheese board, because it’s such a great bridge between traditional dessert and cheese for dessert. If it’s easy to buy in cheese shops, and it’s oh-so-wonderful, then why did I need to make it you ask? Fair point. But I never said it was easy to find, and even in a big city with good cheese shops, every now and then I can’t find it, which makes me really sad, especially if I traipsed all the way down to the Italian Market. I didn’t set out to write this recipe at all because I figured it would be easy to find an official recipe on the subject. When things are mass-produced, usually there’s a sort of consensus on how to make them, but as I searched it became apparent that there weren’t really recipes for the lemon ricotta. The recipes I saw were basically just variations on cheesecake, and that’s really not what this is (you’ll note I’m definitely not calling it a cake). The … Continue reading

Chestnut Sticky Buns

Chestnut Sticky Buns

Chestnut Sticky Buns, Barrett? Why are you messing with perfection? It’s a reasonable question, I agree. I have a reasonable answer though. I really love a good sticky bun, I mean, really, who doesn’t? Despite that, I seldom order them out, because, so often they’re disappointing. And once you know how much butter and sugar goes into the darn things, well, one can’t afford to be disappointed. The sticky bun needs to be really fresh, as in made that day, because they dry out so quickly and the dough loses its tenderness and then you have to microwave it to eat it and then you have to wolf it down really quickly or it hardens back up because microwaving is terrible for heating things. True tragedy, I know. So of course, like so many things in life, I decided that if I wanted it done right, I had to do it myself. So I decided I’d learn to make the perfect sticky bun for Christmas Brunch. And then of course, since I was making it myself, I began tweaking the recipes, because if I have to make it myself, then it may as well be exactly how I want it. … Continue reading

Shallot Gruyère Quiche

Shallot Gruyere Quiche with root vegetable salad

This extra-special Shallot Gruyère Quiche is perfect for a special occasion, like my Valentine’s Day Brunch. It’s made with lots of butter, cream and eggs, so it’s not an everyday sort of thing. In general, I tend to make frittatas and crustless quiche as they’re easy and healthy menu items to make ahead for guests and even quick weekday breakfast, but this quiche is neither of those things. There’s a lot of slow cooking, to the point where I often make the crust and prep the shallots a day ahead. And healthy, not so much; but it’s well spent decadence. It is memorable; perhaps the best quiche you’ve every had? The crust is feather light, the filling is flavorful and melts in your mouth- pillowy eggs and melted gruyère. Did I mention it’s worth the trouble and the calories? I did? Well good, because it really is. A version of this Shallot Gruyère Quiche came from my friend Melanie (of Mel’s granola fame). It’s from an old cookbook her mother had that was a collection of home recipes. Unfortunately that’s all she knew about it and I can’t really give credit where credit is due. I have modified it extensively … Continue reading

Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle

Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle cara cara oranges

I’m sure you have no need for this Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle recipe. Afterall, I’m fairly certain I’m the only person on the planet who wants some sort of dessert every single night whether they went to the gym or not. Right? Cue eye roll. Because I don’t always do as I’m supposed to and go to the gym, or eat perfectly, I need to have recipes on hand that satisfy my dessert cravings without breaking the caloric bank so to speak. This is one of those desserts. The beautiful rainbow of citrus feeds your eyes and your taste buds, and the little hint of spice, salt and more from the pistachios helps you know you’ve had dessert. This dessert is also easy to whip up at a moment’s notice. Simply keep the extra brittle in a jar in the pantry and this time of year, in the height of citrus season, your fruit basket is probably full of oranges anyway, right? Win, win, win. A dollop of ricotta or crème fraîche on top makes my Citrus Flowers with Spicy Pistachio Brittle guest worthy. And it’s not like you need to save this one for virtuous only menus. It’s … Continue reading

Butter Bean Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

Butter Bean Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette marinating

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to making this Butter Bean Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette. I had something similar to it last Spring at the Fremont Diner and I absolutely loved it. I’ve bought the various ingredients many times in the past year or so, but it seems like I can never keep them all in the house at the same time. First I buy the fennel and then use it up roasting it with tomatoes and garlic for a quick pasta dish. Then I buy beets but use them up for salad or bruschetta. Then I buy beans but end up making them into basil bean spread. What can I say? Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of why something is in your fridge. But I finally made this Butter Bean Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette and I’m so glad that I did. Since I finally held the initial salad together, we’ve had it multiple times. And each time I make it, I’m as grateful for the leftovers and I am for the salad itself, which is saying something, because too many salads make terrible leftovers. I grilled some sweet Italian chicken … Continue reading