Caesar Salad ~ Donna Hay's Way... sort of

Honestly, I think the real Caesar Salad has lost it's way and morphed into a shadow of its former self... thanks in part to sloppy renditions found at fast food places and chain restaurants today.

This version is not an authentically classic either, but it is Donna Hay's take on the classic and far superior to most.  I  pretty much followed her lead, but I did change just a few things around...  Donna serves her eggs on the runny side ~ I like mine cooked just a bit longer, not oozing for this recipe. But that is just a matter of personal preference.

I liked her idea of thin slices of toasted baguettes in lieu of jaw-breaking croutons. Donna simply brushes them with olive oil and toasts in a 320* (F) oven for about 15 minutes until lightly golden and crisp.

One thing I noted, in this particular recipe from Donna ~ she adds NO garlic to this version. We like LOVE garlic in our Caesar so I deviated from her on that point ~

I rubbed the toasted slices with a peeled garlic clove while they were still warm, and sprinkled each with a few flakes of sea salt,  I also added a small clove of garlic as I was making the dressing in the blender.

Donna's other twist is the addition of bacon, tossed with pure maple syrup and baked on a parchment lined baking sheet until a deep mahogany color.  I was a little apprehensive about this element, and although it was delicious I felt it detracted from the salad and would omit it next time.  I would opt for plain smoked bacon, some ribbons of prosciutto, or would skip the meat altogether.

Bacon would be great prepared this way for breakfast ~ but it just didn't compliment the anchovy flavor in the dressing.  At all. IMO.

Instead of being chopped or torn, the smallish heads of romaine are cut in half, lengthwise and placed on the plate in one piece (providing lots of nooks to cradle the dressing.) :D

Donna makes her own mayonnaise as a base for her Caesar dressing. I've done on occasion, but this time I used a good quality commercial mayo (Best Foods/Hellman's, etc.), added two small anchovy fillets (tinned), a bit of Dijon mustard,  small garlic clove, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, and whirled  in the electric blender until smooth, adding a little water to achieve a pourable consistency.  You can add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Thin leaves of Parmesan replace the grated or shredded cheese finish.

As you can see, there is no 'recipe' needed for this one, just a description ~ it is more a matter of just presenting the salad components a little differently.

I thought it was a very good and interesting way of interpreting the flavors of a Caesar salad, probably not my all time favorite ~ but right up there near the top.  And it beats the pants off of those old, tired versions which are all too prevalent in most restaurants today.

If you try it this way,  I hope you love it.  Thank you for stopping by to visit,  I would love to hear your thoughts or comments.

Have a great week everyone! xo


Broccoli with Crispy Bread Crumbs and Lemon

Usually I serve broccoli steamed, stir-fried, oven roasted or in salads, but the other day I was searching for a different way to prepare it.

I remember having been served it with a crispy bread crumb coating at an Italian restaurant once; I've made it with toasted buttery-herb flavored bread crumbs sprinkled over...  

But I wanted the crumbs to actually adhere to the broccoli. Puzzled as to how to accomplish this,  I turned to the newest edition of my kitchen 'bible':

Seriously, if you want to know how to prepare almost any food, chances are you can find the recipe in Mark Bittman's completely revised Tenth Anniversary edition of "How to Cook Everything."  

The book is substantial both in content and heft; it weighs in at just over 4 1/2 pounds,  and includes an astonishing number of recipes (2,000), "simple recipes for great food" according the the dust jacket ~  an accurate claim.  Plus variations on many of them, many clear illustrations, all kinds of preparation tips, and essential information for any cook.

And, once again, it didn't let me down in finding the preparation method for this dish, either.  The cooking method is simple, and you can use it for cauliflower florets, green beans, and Brussels sprouts as well.

Break the broccoli into any size pieces you like (I included the slender stems because we like them), parboil in salted water until just crisp tender, then immediately plunge them into a container of ice water.  Allow to drain... and from there Mark gives two methods to finish with the crispy bread crumbs 

One version uses egg (helps the crumbs adhere), it was the method I used, and the other version does not ~ the crumbs will not coat the broccoli as thoroughly but... as Mark states in the book: 

"Whether the bread crumbs stick to the vegetable is not all that important, because you'll get the crunch no matter where the bread crumbs wind up, but for the prettiest presentation, use the egg."

The lemon to squeeze over is suggested as optional ~ but I would not serve this without it... it needs that flavor kick, imo.

As mentioned, Mark offers variations on many of the recipes for example ~  after making the basic recipe of "Breaded Sauteed Broccoli" he give directions for the following:

 Cauliflower with Onion and Olives
 With Garlic, Vinegar and Capers
With Feta and Mint
With Almonds, Raisins, and Saffron

It is not a fluffy picture-book-type cookbook, but one that is loaded with great, simple recipes and information useful to anyone who cooks.  Selling for about $21. it is a great investments and wonderful reference resource; I recommend it for both beginner well as advanced cooks. 

If you would like a printable copy of the basic recipe, you can find it on the Once Upon a Plate recipe blog, HERE.

If you try this one I hope you like it. Cheers!


Shrimp Toasts ~ Chinese Style (Fried or Baked!)

Honestly, I can't tell you if these are authentically Chinese... however,  I have found recipes for them in Chinese cookbooks written by Chinese-American authors who were born in China. And I know the translated name for them is pronounced  'Ha Toe See'...but the "sandwich bread" aspect of the recipe causes me to wonder.  Maybe one of my readers can tell us more about the origin the the recipe?

I've been making them for years, and anyone who likes shrimp usually finds them irresistible.
Not low in fat, but the good news is rather than frying them you can bake them instead.
I combined a couple of recipes to come up with my own version, and rather than mincing all of the ingredients, I use the food process ~ so much faster and neater!

Recipes vary in ingredients somewhat but all call for raw prawns, scallions, water chestnuts, an egg (or egg white), cornstarch, dry cocktail sherry and a little salt, and those are the ingredients I use.

Other recipes include ginger, garlic and fresh fresh pork fat ~ but I find these flavorful enough without the extras.

They make a great little appetizer to go along with your favorite cold beverage or hot tea ~ I've also served them as an accompaniment to a (non-authentic) Chinese Salad or Wonton soup.

The sesame seed/paprika topping is added before baking or is optional (but I always include it as it keeps the shrimp topping succulent, and prevents the shrimp from over cooking.)  Cilantro garnish is also optional, but I always serve mine with some homemade Coleman's mustard for dipping, for those who want a bit of heat.

If you would like a printable copy of the recipe, you can find it on the Once Upon a Plate recipe blog ~

Thank you for stopping by and thank you for any comments you would like to leave; I truly enjoy reading your feedback!   Have a great week ahead everyone.  xo


Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shallots, Bacon and Hazelnuts

I may lose a lot of you here, but I love Brussels Sprouts and have been fond of them ever since I was a child.  I was enamored with small things then, and they reminded me of tiny cabbage heads.  My mom would usually just steam or boil them and we would drizzle apple cider vinegar over them before digging in.  

But I like them prepared this way even better ~ I parboil (until just barely tender) in salted water, then immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking ~ drain well, then cut each in half.

No recipe needed for the remainder,  just a description:

For about 2 cups of Brussels Sprouts ~ snip a slice of two of bacon crosswise into thin strips, cook over medium heat until as crispy as you like. Remove the bacon pieces and set aside to drain.  If you don't mind cooking in bacon fat, continue from here (if not, drain and wipe the pan, then add a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter.)

Add peeled and sliced shallots (as many or as few as you would like.)  Cook slowly, over medium-low heat until they are tender. Remove the shallots and set aside.

Toss the Brussels Sprout halves in the pan over moderately high heat,  allowing them to turn just lightly browned, shaking pan frequently so they do not burn.  Add a little more butter if you like and add the caramelized shallots, and bacon back into the pan to heat everything through. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Plate up and sprinkle with chopped, toasted Hazelnuts (or any toasted nut you prefer.)

You can drizzle with additional olive oil and a little vinegar (almost any type) if you like, to pique the flavor a bit.

They make a fabulous side dish for any roasted or grilled chicken, fish, or meat.  However, I could eat a plate of them for a meal!  :D

If, by chance, you would like a printable copy of the recipe you can find it on the
Once Upon a Plate Recipe Blog.

Thank you for stopping by today, and any comments you would like to share.


Little Pies baked in Canning Jars ~ Redux for Valentine's Day 2011

Hi Friends, My Valentine's Day post is a little early this year, and it is a redux (originally posted 1 year ago.)  I'm going to be away from the blog for a couple of days as we're revamping the office/study and are upgrading computers.

I first saw the idea on Lloyd & Lauren's blog, and if you do an internet search you can find several variations. I thought they would make perfect little Valentine's Day desserts.

I made a few changes; rather than line the entire jar with pastry I made a cookie and  nut bottom crust because I wanted a ratio of more fruit than dough ~ as the jars only hold 1/2 pint.

For the bottom crust I used crushed vanilla wafers mixed with ground toasted almonds and a little melted butter. I add a generous sprinkling of cinnamon to the mix (optional.) The food processor makes quick work of this step. (Crushed graham crackers or almost any type of crushed cookies, and any type of toasted ground nuts could be substituted.)

I placed about 3 tablespoons of the mixture in the bottom of each jar then tamped it down firmly with the bottom of a small drinking glass and baked off for 5 minutes in a 375*(F) oven.

Use any favorite pie filling ~ I took a shortcut this time and used a ready-made pie filling.

Fill the fruit to 1/2 to 3/4-inch from the top of the jar and top with your favorite pastry dough. I cut the vent shape before placing the pastry on the jar, then "crimped" with the tines of a fork. Brush with an egg wash or heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar or sugar crystals if desired.

Note: If you want to use the lid and band with the jar (for storage or portability reasons) you'll want to allow head room so place the pastry below the top of the jar. The filling and crust will expand a bit while baking, but will shrink back down as the jars cool.)

I experimented with small vent holes and large ~ and fork crimped, as well as folded and crimped crust.I prefer the smaller size vent hole... but it's just a matter of personal preference.

The folded and finger-crimped crust stayed in place more securely than the fork crimped, and it didn't brown too quickly as the thinner fork crimped style did.

Place the jars on a silpat/silicone mat or parchment lined, shallow baking tray and bake until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbling.

Serve warm or at room temperature... plain, with a dollop of slightly sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.

I've received several emails inquiring about the canning jars I used in for these mini-pies. If you have trouble finding them in your area (usually you can find them in a hardware store), but if not they can be ordered from,
click the image to learn more:

♥♥♥  I hope you have a Happy Valentine's Day everyone!♥♥♥
If everything goes smoothly with the upgrades I'll be back in a couple of days. Stay well!


Clementine Ice (Granita)

First, my apologies to all who are buried in snow as this frozen treat is probably not something you're dreaming of right now...

But the last of the Clementines needed to be eaten, so I utilized them this way.  

Photo credit: kqed. Click image to link

These sweet, juicy jewels are at their peak during the winter here.  Easy to peel, usually nearly seedless and just the right size for a snack or a healthy dessert ~ it's no wonder they are so popular.

Photo credit: V&A Images. Fritware bowl (c.1530)
click image to learn more.

And they look beautiful on display. I love to place a pile of them in an antique Blue & White Bowl, not as old as this one, but similar.

The recipe came from Sunset Publishers' "Food Processor Cook Book" (1978).   I tweaked the original recipe a bit by substituting Clementines for the oranges, and reduced the sweetener to make it more appealing for the way we eat now. 

The method is simple ~ steep finely grated rind from the citrus in a simple syrup (a combination of water and the sweetener of your choice).  I used Agave syrup.

Allow the favored simple syrup mixture to cool ~ then stir in the freshly squeezed Clementine juice. I add a teaspoon or two of fresh lemon juice to kick-up the flavor a bit.

The mixture is poured into a flat, shallow container, covered and allowed to freeze by placing it in the freezer (no need for an ice cream/sorbet maker.) 

Once the mixture begins to freeze it is scraped occasionally with a fork, breaking up the ice crystals ~ as when making a granita.  As the mixture becomes evenly frozen, scrape again and serve immediately or store, covered in the freezer until ready to serve.

Easy and relatively healthy, too!

If you would like a printable copy of the recipe you'll find it on my recipe blog by clicking HERE.

Thank you for stopping by today!


Potato Frittata with Italian Herb Blend (... a rant and a product review)

Hi friends, I have two things to share with you today:
(An admission, and a product review.)

First, the admission ~

I have a love/hate relationship with grocery shopping!
How about you?

photo credit: google images

I absolutely LOVE having fridge (and pantry) filled with good food, but I HATE the actual process of dealing with the grocery store experience, not to mention having to lug everything into the house and put it all away afterwards. 

To compound the matter, the nearest full-scale grocery store is about 13 miles from home, so there is no such thing as a "quick-run" to the store for me.
When I shop for food I SHOP. (I readily admit, sometimes I put off the dreaded task as long as practical.)

And second, the product review:
(and how the two dovetail together)

Recently I was offered the opportunity to sample and review a variety of AriostoHerb Seasonings.
I happily agreed!  Imagine my surprise when, just a short while later, a substantial package arrived from Northern Italy!  From Milan/Milano to be precise. 

Upon opening the package, I thought it was a book (how clever is the packaging?!) 
I can read guess a few words of Italian . . .

"The Book of Herbs"  "contains 3 shaker-jars, and 4 packets/bags"
and "Recipes"

But when I opened the package contained six generously sized containers of a variety of herb blends each for either meats/chicken, vegetables,
fish/seafood, and garlic-chili seasoning for pasta, vegetables or fish.
The specific combinations of each blend is what sets them apart, in my opinion. 

So far we have tried the meat seasoning on roasted chicken thighs ~ and it was a big hit at my house (it was late, and too dark for pictures.)

The seasonings already contain sea salt along with the herbs so all you do is sprinkle it on the chicken (or other meat), and roast or grill, and the food comes out perfectly seasoned.  The other one I have tried is the seasoning for potatoes ~ and I used it in the following recipe as described below.

I've got to tell you, I've been making roasted and sauteed potatoes for years, but yesterday was the first time Mr. OUaP  ever commented on the wonderful aroma coming from the kitchen as I cooked the potatoes. Score! (And they tasted fabulous, too.)

Photo credit:  Ariosto website

So, getting back to the fact that I dislike grocery shopping ~ sometimes I find myself in a pinch as far as what to serve up from what is on hand... 

One of the meals I make when it appears as if there is little to eat in the house is an egg based frittata (essentially a flat, baked omelet.) It's a great way to use up bits of vegetables, some cheese and/or meat (either are optional.) 

 Add a green salad and perhaps serve with toast, garlic bread, or warm rolls and you have a satisfying meal in minutes. It's budget friendly and perfect for times when the pantry and cupboards seem bare. I like the fact that they can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature ~ and a slice is a great snack any time of day or night. 

Frittatas are perfectly portable as well,  sometimes I'll make one to take along on a picnic, when it has cooled I cut and wrap individual portions ~ add some fruit, a baguette, your beverage of choice and you're all set for a nice al fresco treat.

You're probably familiar with how to make a frittata ~ but if not, or if you would like to learn how I make mine, you can find a printable version over on my recipe blog

This time I had left over (cooked), whole potatoes and my new herb seasoning collection ~ so a Potato Frittata with Italian Herb Blend it was.

 I peeled the potatoes (optional) and sliced them about 1/4-inch thick. For extra flavor and texture I lightly browned them in a skillet with a combination of half olive oil and half butter.  As they were browning, I sprinkled them generously with

Alternately you could roast the potatoes; generously drizzle a shallow rimmed baking pan with olive oil and toss the potato slices in the pan to coat, then dot liberally with butter and place in hot oven until as crisp and brown as you like ~ turning once or twice so they brown evenly.  Sprinkle with  the herb blend when they are almost finished roasting. Then I continued on with the usual method for making the frittata. (see link above)

The verdict? We really like the combination of herbs in these products and I look forward to using them frequently, particularly during winter when the herb garden is resting.

* Ariosto seasonings contain:
Herbs, not spices, No preservatives.
Sea Salt, garlic, rosemary, sage, juniper, basil, marjoram, oregano, laurel (bay), coriander and parsley. 

Ariosto is the top herb seasoning in Italy, and has been in existence for over 47 years.

Products are currently available to the following countries:

United Kingdom

  Please go visit the colorful Ariosto website to learn more about the company and their great products, get recipes, etc.

You can also find out how order these products by e-mailing
Ariosto's Sales Manager, Saverio Lo Presti -- a very friendly and personable man.

Mr. Lo Presti's email address can be found by clicking here.

Thank you for stopping by today friends, and thank you for any comments you would like to leave.

Have a great week!

Full disclosure as required by the FCC: As mentioned in the body of this post, I was given the herb set to review. I received no other compensation.

A Sampling of my food . . .


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