Easy as Pie…Err Tart?

Mushrooms, Gruyere, Baked

Mushroom & Gruyere Tart

Sometimes people get so hung up on names, titles, making sure things fit the mold and are “correct” that they forget to realize what’s actually important.

My Sunday started off well, I strolled the green market, chugging my large coffee, and stumbled across incredible Crimini mushrooms.  My mind immediately decided that a perfect mushroom and cheese tart would be in order.  Little did I know that in a few hours, back at home, this decision would send me in a frantic  Google search on the difference between a tart and a pie and, oh quiche! Ok, I am sure the copious amount of caffeine didn’t help my compulsion, either.

1 hour, 8 browser windows and two crossed eyes later I realized that there probably was no way I would received a definitive answer.

“It’s the dough you use!”

“No, it’s about the type of pan you bake it in”

“A pie a sweet and is only baked on Wednesdays.”

So this had me thinking, doesn’t really matter what we call things?  If I want to call it a tart, I’ll call it a tart – who is going to stop me!

Whether it’s food or in life, it’s all about what you make of it right?

But let me just say, you better make it something delicious.

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Pork Belly & Sour Cream Flatbread

Pork belly lardons – ’nuff said.

Pork Belly & Sour Cream Flatbread

(makes 2 flatbreads)

2 cups pork belly cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons sour cream
3 teaspoons chives, chopped
1 package pizza dough
Oil, to grease pan
Flour, to roll out dough

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook pork belly in batches so that cubes are distributed evenly in order to brown.  Season each batch with a half teaspoon of salt and pepper.  Add 1/4 teaspoon rosemary to each batch.  Drain well browned pork belly on a paper towel and let cool.

2. Roll out pizza dough into two ovals.  Spread each with 2 tablespoons of sour cream.  Sprinkle each flatbread with 1 teaspoon with chives and half of the pork belly mixture.

3. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes or until dough is cooked.

4. Let cool for a minute before slicing into 6 pieces and garnishing with remaining chives.

Kielbasa Stuffed Pretzels

A mouth-watering recipe for homemade pretzels that steps up the standard ‘pigs in a blanket’ appetizer standard.


1 batch pretzel dough (see below)

2 packages quality kielbasa or bratwurst

Baking Soda

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Pretzel salt (or coarse kosher salt)

1 tablespoon oil

Pretzel Dough

1 1/2 cups warm water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 package dry yeast

4 cups flour

In a large bowl dissolve sugar into the warm water.  Add package of dry yeast and set aside for 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.  Stir in four cups of flour, one at a time.  Either using the dough hook attachment or kneading by hand*, knead the dough until smooth (about 5 minutes).

Remove the dough and grease the bowl with oil.  Add the dough back to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rest in an hour in a warm area.

While the pretzel dough rises, slice kielbasa into half moon shapes and pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  On the stove, bring one pot of water combined with half cup of baking soda to a boil.

Prepare the pretzels by breaking off quarter sized pieces of dough and wrap around a piece of kielbasa.  Once 10 are assembled, place into boiling water for 2 minutes or until they rise to the top.  Remove the pretzels and place on a greased baking sheet.  Drizzle butter on top of each pretzel and sprinkle with salt.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Continue making pretzels in batches until all of the pretzel dough has been used.

Serve hot or cold with spicy mustard.

Party Food in a Flash

Parties are meant to be fun.   A time meant to laugh with friends, recounting memories of the past while creating new ones you will look back on someday.

Parties are not meant to be spent hovering over the stove stirring, whisking or making sure nothing is burning.  Even if you are not the host, no one wants to attend a party where everyone is so tired from preparing the food they can’t manage to have some fun.

Both of the appetizers below can be made in advance and put in the oven once you arrive at your final party destination or your guests start appearing.  Either way, they’ll be on the table in a flash & compliments will soon be coming your way.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

These stuffed mushrooms are made for crowd roaming & socializing.  Practically bite size, there are no knives & forks needed here.  Using a crusty bread & not over cooking the green pepper gives these mushrooms a good balance of texture combined with the creamy blue cheese.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

(makes 25 mushrooms)

Printable version

25 cremini, de-stemmed & cleaned*
1 cup white button mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup diced green onion
1 cup small bread pieces (I used a french baguette torn into about quarter inch pieces)
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup low sodium chicken stock (or broth)
Olive Oil

* If serving these as appetizers and not first course or part of a meal, cremini mushrooms work better since they  are smaller and more flavorful than the larger stuffing mushrooms. If you prefer, feel free to use the larger stuffing mushrooms.


In a large skillet, melt 2 tbs. of the butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onions and cook about 3 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the onions and cook for another 3 minutes before adding another tbs. of butter and the green pepper. Cook the mixture for 1 minute.

In a large bowl, combine the bread pieces with the mushroom, onion and pepper mixture. Fold in blue cheese crumbles. Once combined, add chicken stock and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drizzle cremini mushrooms lightly with olive oil. Stuff mushrooms with mixture, about a teaspoon each (varies depending on size of mushroom. Place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the stuffing is hot.

Turkey, Pear & Brie Sandwiches with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

When done correctly, sandwiches can be wonderful (and even gourmet) food for a get together.  Most ingredients found in this sandwich can be made ahead of time, assembled and then placed in the oven to warm up at the last minute.  Although they are fine on their own, try serving these sandwiches with a side of honey mustard.

Turkey, Pear & Brie Sandwiches with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

(makes approximately 15 small sandwiches)

1 French baguette, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 lb. thin sliced turkey breast
4 oz. brie cut in thin slices, about 3 inches in length
5 slices bacon
1 cup Vidalia onion, sliced thinly into rings
8 pear slices, half inch thick
3 tbs. butter

Melt 1 tbs. butter in skillet over medium heat.  Once butter is melted, add onions & season with salt.  Cook until the onions are brown and soft, about 20  minutes.  While the onions caramelize, cook the bacon in skillet over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool on a plate lined with paper towels.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread both sides of the baguette with 1/2 tbs butter.  Place the turkey in a single layer on the bottom half of the baguette.  Continue by adding the pear in another single layer (you may need to turn slightly on a diagonal depending on width of the baguette).  Place bacon on top and then the brie.  On the top half of the baguette spread out the onions.

Bake, open faced, in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese begins to melt.  Slice into two inch pieces and serve.

P.S.  Sorry there is no photo of the finished sandwich (it had just come out of the oven).  I was too excited to party!

Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese Mac & Cheese


So my apologies but we were so hungry when I made this Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Mac & Cheese that I forgot to take a photo!  Bad food blogger, bad! Anyways,  instead I give you this photo which always makes me laugh.  This time last year I spent over two weeks in Ireland with my family where we were visiting my sister abroad.  During the last few days while the parents went to Paris, my sister and I jumped over the Irish Sea to spend some time in London.  We had been up late the night before our early morning flight (Ryan Air is awesome!) and as we exited the terminal there was a huge champagne display staring us in the face.  I couldn’t resist.  We purchased a bottle to enjoy back in the hotel room that waited for us.  Lets just say, the room that welcomed us was not what we envisioned, nor was it what was advertised.  But we made the best of it and that meant chilling Veuve in the teeny tiny sink because heaven forbid a hotel have an ice bucket, right?

Anyways, less about the booze and back to the food.  The recipe below was one of those accidental recipes as in “I was in a rush and tried to make butternut squash ravioli but only ended up making a mess”.  It was late on  a Sunday night so mac & cheese was the perfect replacement.  Measurements below are approximations as I didn’t have much patience for pen & paper at the time.


Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Mac & Cheese
3 slices bacon, diced
1/2 lb pasta (I used penne)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups cubed, roasted butternut squash*
2 1/2  tbs butter
2 tbs flour
2  cups milk
3 tbs Parmesan cheese
3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs**

In a skillet over medium high heat render bacon until crispy.  Place bacon in bowl lined with paper towels and drain 3/4 of bacon drippings from pan (only need about 1/2 tsp).  Lower heat to medium low and add garlic.  Cook 1 minute and then begin to melt the butter.  Once melted, whisk in flour until combined.  Cook for 5 minutes then add milk.  Whisk until smooth and bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, lower heat and stir in cheeses, nutmeg, cinnamon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir in butternut squash & bacon crumbles.

Cook pasta al dente and drain.  Combine drained pasta and cheese sauce.  Spread in casserole dish and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and some extra Parmesan cheese.  Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 25 minutes, placing under broiler for last 5 minutes.

*  Cube butternut squash into 1 inch pieces.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread out on baking sheet and roast in 400°F oven for 25-35 minutes or until fork tender.

** Quick fresh breadcrumbs:  Toast bread in toaster or oven until slightly browned and dry.  Place in food processor and pulse until desired consistency (I like medium fine breadcrumbs for this).

Globe Trotting with Asian Style Ribs on a Rainy Day

For the better part of June, mother nature had been the decision maker when it came to our weekend plans.  Every Monday we’d come up with fabulous sunny weather plans but by Thursday we would come to the disappointing realization that a rainy weekend was inevitable.

Two weekends ago was no exception to the rule.  We had planned to spend the weekend out at my parent’s house on LI, hit up a NY Mets game, do some BBQing & go to the beach.  I was very excited!  But sadly our elaborate plans were nixed by the time Friday rolled around.

Ultimately we still spent the weekend out on the island and it actually wound up being a very relaxing break from the city.  I was still bummed, however, that I was not able to put together a BBQ.  I was having dreams of ribs all week!

After some consideration & a grocery trip to Fairway Market we decided that we’d satisfy our cravings for ribs by making them in the oven with an Asian style glaze.

As we were ending our shopping trip both of us started getting hungry and made a quick stop at the cheese counter to pick up a light appetizer.  Near the counter I spotted membrillo (made from quinces) and knew its sweet and slightly tart flavors would taste fabulous with a tangy, salty Spanish cheese.  Not wanting to go the traditional Manchengo route, we sampled two Spanish semi soft goat cheeses.  The first (I forget its name) just didn’t have enough zest to balance the candy like membrillo and we moved on.  The winning cheese was amusingly called “The Naked Goat” and while its name certainly made us notice it in the counter, its flavors and tangy kick made us pay attention to it.

Upon arriving home I put out a quick tray of cheese & moembrillo on Carr’s crackers (sorry for the bad phto, had to snap it on my Blackberry before they were all gone!)

IMG00264Stopping off in Spain before heading to Asia 😉

As I suspected, the cheese held up perfectly with the quince and I was reminded how much I love salty and sweet combos.

As I nibbled on some of the appetizer, I began to get the glaze ready for the ribs.  Unfortunately, I was in somewhat of a rush (hungry family!) so I was not able to get the exact recipe down but the general idea is below (in descending amounts):

Low Sodium Soy Sauce

Rice Vinegar

Hot Chili Oil


Garlic, chopped (does not need to be precise since it is going into the food processor)

Fresh ginger, chopped (again, does not need to be precise since it is going into the food processor)

Lime zest/juice

Thai red chili paste

Red chili flakes

Place all of the ingredients in your food processor (or blender) and blend until combined and ginger and garlic are very fine.  (note: if you do not like heat, feel free to reduce or omit the chili ingredients).

Season the ribs (which should be at room temperature) lightly with pepper.  Brush some off the sauce on the meaty side of the ribs and place meat side down in a baking dish lined with foil.  Pour remaining sauce over the ribs, making sure to cover the bottom of the dish.  Place foil over the top of the baking dish.

Bake in a 425°F oven (preheated) for approximately 1 hour.  Remove from oven, remove the top foil and turn the meaty side up.  Brush on remaining sauce and place in the broiler for 5-7 minutes or until the outsides are slightly crisp.

Garnish with some sliced green onion.


On the side I served udon noodles with sliced snap peas & sauteed shiitake mushrooms and all tossed with soy sauce, chili oil, rice vinegar and some of the remaining ginger.

I also put together a quick pickled “slaw” of daikon & carrot.