Gourmet Groupies

Go on a Global Gastronomic Tour

Sampling wines at one of our Gourmet Dinner Club Evenings

Llew and I are huge food aficionados and our love for cooking and entertaining means frequent parties at Holly Berry House in the form of large buffet luncheons and intimate sit-down dinners. Our repertoire is varied and we enjoy food from every country of the world with equal relish. When we travel, we seek out the local cuisine with enthusiasm. Since both of us enjoy cooking so much, we rarely eat out. When we do occasionally dine in a restaurant, we make it special, choosing to eat in restaurants run by celebrity chefs such as Lidia Bastianich (Felidia’s) and Alfred Portal (Gotham), at Union Square Cafe (Danny Meyer) or Tabla (Floyd Cardoz) in New York City.

I have an enormous collection of cookery books and am a dedicated fan of the Food TV Network. My favorite food writer is Ina Garten, better known as “The Barefoot Contessa” who happens to own a house in Southport village where we live. I also enjoy watching Nigella Lawson, the British food writer and Mario Batali because I learn so much from them that I can use in my regular daily cooking.

My mother Edith is an amazing cook and I regret that I did not learn more about home cooked dishes from her whilst I still lived in Bombay. However, with the few main meals and techniques that she taught me in India and a very slim notebook containing some of her basic recipes, I arrived in the United States and began my own messy adventures in the kitchen.  I bought myself a copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking and gave it my best shot. Needless to say, there were many initial burned offerings emanating from my kitchen.

My Mother and I still trade recipes on the phone and I still stand by and watch her work her magic in her Bombay kitchen during my summers in India. There is nothing I can ever  do, though, to replicate the tongue-tingling taste of her creations.  It must have something to do with her special touch! When my daughter Chriselle moved into her own apartment in New York City, however, I presented her with her own copy of Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking as she adores Indian food and never bothered to learn anything from me whilst she still lived with us in Southport. Who says History doesn’t repeat itself?

Though Llew and I have strong roots in Indian cuisine as a result of our origin on the Indian sub-continent, we have experimented endlessly with multi-ethnic cooking and have learned our way around such exotic ingredients as Thai kaffir leaves and nam pla (fish sauce), French Roquefort cheese and aoli (garlic mayonnaise),  Italian panceta (bacon) and  toasted pine nuts and Moroccan Ras el-Hanout (powdered spice mixtures) and bulgur (toasted wheat). We have braised, rolled, deep fried and baked our way through North African stews, and Viennese apfel streudel, Pakistani vegetable pakoras and French profiteroles. There are few recipes we find too challenging and hardly any foods we will not try at least once.

Meet the Members of Our Gourmet Dinner Club

Our mutual love of food led us, five years ago, to fellow foodies in our  neighborhood of Fairfield through whom we have developed some precious and very close friendships. We’ve had some truly memorable times through the years over groaning festive tables. While ours is essentially a Gourmet Dinner Club, we have held amazing summer brunches al fresco and casual barbcue backyard suppers to celebrate the men in our lives when, predictably, the menu featured Ribs–every guy’s favorite food! (That’s Llew and me–above left–enjoying a glass of wine before one of our Gourmet dinners).



As if all the food offerings are inadequate, we are also fortunate to have a resident sommelier within our group. Dan deLannoy, who knows a thing or two about wine, selects a sampling of bottles that accompany each of our gourmet meals. This gives us the opportunity to experiment with a number of little-known vintages as well as discover the importance of pairing the right wine with the right item on the menu.

Meet the members of our Gourmet Dinner Club:

Gourmet Groupies All: Llew and Rochelle Almeida, Bonnie and Art Thurnauer, Amy and Dan DeLannoy, Brett and Mary-Lauren Factora

Art Thurnauer and Bonnie Britz-Thurnauer:


Art is a Sales and Marketing whiz. Bonnie is a College Counselor . She is a fabulous chef with an admirably creative bent. Give her a few ingredients and in minutes she can whip up something amazing. It is always a pleasure to attend parties in their home.

Dan and Amy de Lannoy:


Dan, our resident sommelier is a marketing professional. Apart from being a gourmet, he is a passionate sailor and skier. Amy is a corporate attorney who is deeply involved with voluntary community service. They set exquisite tables and love to entertain.

Brett and Mary-Lauren Factora:


Bret is a mehanical engineer with a passion for ice-hockey. He is also a long distance runner. Mary-Lauren, a Director of Marketing, is a dynamo, a true bundle of energy and organization who adores reading and travel especially when it includes their three adorable daughters.

Ford and Mary-Jo Smith:

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Our newest members, Ford and Mary-Jo Smith are novice cooks and are looking forward to sharpening their culinary skills with our club. Ford, an investment professional, has been an avid rower since his college days. This will come in handy as he feels there is no meal with too many calories. Mary-Jo, a pediatric nursing educator, has recently discovered yoga. They have two grown daughters who love to cook—go figure!

Making our Club Work:

Our Gourmet Dinner Club meets about six times a year, usually every other month. We take turns hosting the evening in our respective homes. The Host Couple is in-charge of planning the evening from menu selection and recipe distribution to preparation of the entree. Our menus are planned thematically–by season (a Spring Menu or An Autumn Harvest Menu), by National Cuisine (An Evening in Paris, A Passage to India) or by chef (Giada de Laurentis, Ina Garten) or by cookery book (Miracles with Five Ingredients).

We take turns cooking the various parts of the menu with each couple making one or two dishes–if you make appetisers one month, you will be assigned a dessert the next time. We do not split the cost of the meal as we find that expenses generally even out. However, we do split the cost of wine at the end of each meal.

If the thought of magnificent meals–both their preparation and their consumption–gets you salivating uncontrollably, then you’ve arrived at the right spot. Park yourself in our Gourmet Garage. Here you will find table settings and recipes that will allow you to throw the kind of fabulous parties that will be remembered long after the last plates have been cleared away.

Here are the menus and recipes for some of our most recent Gourmet Dinners:

Americana For Memorial Day

Pakistani Bada Khana

Britannia Rules The Waves!

Grilling! Grilling! Grilling!

Simple Italian Food from Mario Battali

A Night in Morocco

A Book-Lover’s Dinner Menu

A Father’s Day Barbecue

Thanksgiving on Valentine’s Day Menu

A Mardi Gras Fiesta

Dinner by Giada

My Published Essays on International Cuisine:

If I enjoy cooking and eating, I also enjoy writing about food and my feature stories on international cuisine have appeared in various gourmet magazines.

Browse a bit through “Those Tiffin Lunches” that appeared in Chilli Pepper magazine which is edited by David DeWitt and published out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. In this essay, I look back fondly on the hot lunches that my mother cooked, packed and sent to school while I was a student in Bombay, India. My mother Edith D’Souza’s own recipes for her traditional Indian Manglorean dishes follow the essay.  Please click on the link below to read the article.

Those Tiffin Lunches

The following essay is the result of the extensive travel that Llew and I undertook in Spain in Spring 2006 during which time we sampled regional cuisine and local wines all over Madrid and Andalucia. This article appeared in Upper Crust, a magazine for gourmets, edited by Farzana Contractor who happens to be my high school classmate in Bombay.  Please click on the link below to read the article.

On Tapas and Tio Pepe: A Journey Through Spain


Bon Appetit!

Americana For Memorial Day

 Americana Rocks!

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Hey Y’all,

We are really looking forward to seeing you all this weekend. I am sure Bonnie is especially excited as Art’s return is imminent.Since it is Memorial Day weekend, an Americana menu was a natural.We panned the 50 states in search of the perfect fare and decided to focus in on the southern region with Paula Deen.I have only watched her show a few times, but I enjoy her approach to life and cooking and I love butter (although I use it sparingly).Plus Bret has been to her restaurant.

As you will see, we picked the “healthiest” of her recipes and also the least complicated ones as we know this is a busy (holiday) weekend for all of us.

Brett and Mary-Lauren Factora



Appetizer—Spinach Gruyere Puff Pastry—Bonnie/Art

Entrée—Gussie’s Fried Chicken with Pecan-Honey Glaze—ML/Bret

Veggie—Spicy Green Beans—Rochelle/Llew

Side—Mango Coconut Rice—ML/Bret

Salad—Spinach, Strawberry, and Hearts of Palm Salad—MJ/Ford

Dessert—Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake—Amy/Dan

Spinach Gruyere Puff Pastry

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Ingredients: · 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed · 4  tablespoon  butter, divided · 1  cup  sliced fresh mushrooms · 1  cup  Gruyere cheese, grated · 1 (17 1/2-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed · Salt and Pepper to taste
Directions: Drain spinach well, pressing between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture.Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, for 5 minutes. Stir together spinach, mushrooms and cheese; set aside. Roll 1 pastry sheet into a 13×11-inch rectangle. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Brush 1/2 melted butter over pastry. Spread 1/2 spinach mixture over butter. Roll-up, jellyroll fashion, starting with the long side. Repeat procedure with remaining pastry sheet, butter, and spinach mixture. (Wrap rolls in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to two days, if desired.) Cut rolls into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.Yield: 12-15 Preparation time: 10-12 minutes Cooking time: 15-20 minutes Ease of Preparation: Easy

Gussie’s Fried Chicken with Pecan-Honey Glaze

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Ingredients: · 3 to 3 1/2  lb  frying chicken, cut up, or your favorite chicken parts · 2 eggs · Salt and pepper · Garlic powder · Vegetable shortening or vegetable oil · 2  cup  self-rising flour · 1  cup  (2 sticks) butter · 1/2  cup  honey · 1  cup  coarsely chopped pecans · brown paper bag
Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Beat the eggs in a 9 x 13-inch dish. Lay the chicken pieces in the dish, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Turn the chicken and season the other side, then slosh the chicken parts around in the egg until well coated.Place enough shortening or oil in a cast-iron skillet or electric skillet to come just halfway up the sides of the chicken parts. Heat shortening or oil just until smoking, about 375 degrees. Place the flour in a paper bag, add the chicken pieces, a few at a time, and shake to coat well. Remove the chicken with tongs and place it in the hot fat. Cover the pan, leaving a crack for steam to escape, lower the heat to 325 degrees for electric skillet, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken with tongs, cover again (leaving the lid open just a crack), and cook for 10 minutes longer. Very large pieces may need to be cooked a little longer. Drain the chicken on paper towels and transfer to a platter. To make the glaze, melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the honey until well blended. Bring to a simmer and add the pecans. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle the glaze over the hot fried chicken and serve.Yield: 4 servings Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes Ease of preparation: moderately easy

Spicy Green Beans

Ingredients: · 4 slices bacon, cut into 1″ pieces · 1 onion, minced · 2  lb  fresh green beans, tipped and washed · 1  cup  boiling water · 3  tablespoon  white vinegar · 3  tablespoon  butter · salt and pepper · 1  teaspoon  cayenne pepper · 1/2 lemon, juice for garnish
Cook bacon in frying pan until crisp. Drain bacon and set aside, leaving drippings in skillet. Add onions to drippings and saute until tender. Add green beans to pan and saute over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add boiling water to pan and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes, just until beans are tender. Add vinegar, butter and salt and pepper and stir. Add back crisp bacon before serving. Garnish with a squeeze of lemon juice.Yield: 6 servings Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes Ease of preparation: Easy

Spinach, Strawberry, and Hearts of Palm Salad

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Ingredients: · 1/3  cup  cider vinegar · 3/4  cup  sugar · 2  tablespoon  fresh lemon juice · 1  teaspoon  salt · 1  cup  vegetable oil · 1/2 small red onion, grated · 1 1/2  tablespoon  poppy seeds · 1  teaspoon  dry mustard · 1/2  teaspoon  paprika · 1 1/2  lb  fresh spinach, washed and torn into pieces · 1 can hearts of palm, drained and chopped · 2  cup  strawberries, stemmed and sliced · 1  cup  chopped walnuts
For the dressing, combine the vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a small non-reactive saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat and let cool to room temperature. When cooled, whisk in the oil, onion, poppy seeds, dry mustard and paprika until thoroughly combined. Set dressing aside. In a salad bowl, combine the spinach, hearts of palm, strawberries, and walnuts. When ready to serve, add some of the dressing, and toss gently. Serve the remaining dressing alongside the salad so diners may add more, if desired.Yield: 12 servings Preparation time: 10 minutes Cook time: 15 minutes Ease of preparation: easy

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Mango Coconut Rice

Ingredients: · 1  tablespoon  olive oil · 1 1/2  cup  long-grain rice · 1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk · 2/3  cup  water · 1  teaspoon  salt · 1 large ripe mango, peeled and cubed
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add the coconut milk, water, and salt; bring to a boil. Stir in the mango. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer about 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the rice from the heat and fluff with a fork. Place a clean, dry dish towel over the pan, cover with the lid, and let steam for 5 minutes before serving. Prep Time – 5 minutesInactive Prep Time – 5 minutesCook Time – 20 minutesYield – 6 servingsDifficulty – Easy

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake

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Llew and Rochelle pose with the Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake baked by Amy to celebrate Llew’s Birthday

A Book Lover’s Dinner Menu

A Book Lover’s Dinner Menu

Hosted by


Placing the Saltimboca on the table in our Southport Dining Room


Since we’re all book-lovers, Llew and I thought it would be fun to plan a party and design a menu around the theme of “Food in Books”.

All our recipes are taken from
The Book Lover’s Cookbook:  Recipes Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature and the Passages that Feature Them
Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen

As it has turned out, we have an appetizer from Ireland, entrée from Italy, one side dish from Canada, a salad from the Southern part of the United States and a dessert from England. So, this menu is truly eclectic and international, just like the books on this list. They reflect the tastes and culture of several different parts of the world.

Also, since it is late summer, we’ve planned a summery menu that includes Potato Salad, Fresh Garden Vegetables like Zucchini and Tomatoes and Fresh Peaches.

On the following pages, we have provided the recipes for the dishes and the passages from Literature that inspired them. As you can see, we’ve run the gamut from high-brow literature to bestsellers to children’s books.

We hope you will have as much fun cooking these dishes as we have had planning this evening and will, undoubtedly have as we enjoy the food.

We look forward to seeing you at our place soon!



Almond-Bacon Wraps
Inspired by Maeve Binchy’s Tara Road
(Art and Bonnie)

Law-Abiding Saltimboca
Inspired by Richard North Patterson’s Dark Lady
(Llew and Rochelle)

Zuchini Lasagne
Inspired by Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye
(Brett and Mary-Lauren)
Ruby’s Potato Salad
Inspired by Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain
(Llew and Rochelle)

James’ Ginger Peaches
Inspired by Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach
Aunt Petunia’s Baked Custard Pudding
Inspired by Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
(Dan and Amy de Lannoy)

Because she was not such a near neighbor, Danny and Ria saw a lot more of Rosemary. She often called in around seven in the evening for an hour or so and they would all have a glass of wine mixed with soda in the front room.  Ria made hot cheese savories, or bacon slices wrapped around almonds and prunes.  It didn’t matter that Rosemary waved them away;  Danny would have a few, she and the children would eat the rest, and anyway it gave her a chance to bring out the Victorian china that she had bought at auctions.
From Maeve Binchy’s Tara Road



1 package fully cooked cottage or Canadian style Bacon (about 20 whole slices)
40 whole prunes (about 12 ounces)
40 small basil leaves
40 whole almonds

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a jelly roll pan, 15 ½ X10X1 inch with cooking spray.

Cut each bacon slice in half. Cut a slit in each prune; stuff it with an almond. Place a basil leaf on a bacon strip; wrap it around the stuffed prune. Place the wrapped prune seam side down on a pan.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until bacon is browned.  Serve warm with toothpicks inserted through the seam for easy handling.

Makes 8 servings of 5 pieces each.

(Recipe contributed by Maeve Binchy, as derived from Ria’s culinary genius in Tara Road).
Please Note: I realize that the quantity “1 package” of Canadian bacon is rather vague. You will have to make a judgment on this one. You need enough bacon to cover 40 prunes. Each piece of Canadian bacon is sliced in half, so you will need at least 20 slices of bacon. I have calculated 40 prunes based on each one of us eating about five of them.

Pausing, Michael took a deep swallow of wine. “So,” he continued, “he buys into lawful enterprises, including whatever cash businesses he can get his hands on—caterers, limo services, vending machine operations, parking lots, bars and restaurants.  The illegal money gets siphoned into all these different fronts, which scrupulously report every dime, then fiddle the books to make proceeds of heroin look like their came from, say, a zillion plates of saltimboca.”
His eyes, Stella realized, sparkled with quiet laughter. Stiffly, she put down her wine. “This place.”
Michael nodded. “Morro’s. The food’s good, by the way.”
(From Richard North Patterson’s Dark Lady).



2 pounds thin veal cutlets for scaloppini (yields about 16 cutlets), rinsed and patted dry
8 ounces sliced prosciutto
1 cup flour with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
16 thin slices (deli-style) provolone (about ½ pound)
8 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
2 lemons, sliced into wedges for serving.

Cover each piece of meat with a slice of prosciutto, trimmed to fit. The meat should stick together well without need for toothpicks to secure.  Melt the butter or margarine with oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Dredge the veal-prosciutto patties in the flour mixture and sauté over medium heat, with the prosciutto side down first.  Cook each side about 1 minute.  Immediately transfer the meat to a heated dish and top each veal-prosciutto pattie with a slice of provolone.  After all the meat has been cooked, pour wine and broth into the skillet.  Stir over high heat, scraping up leftover drippings from the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a simmer, then remove pan from heat and pour the sauce over the veal.  Serve at once with lemon wedges. Serves 8.

The past isn’t quaint while you’re in it. Only at a safe distance, later, when you can see it as décor, not as the shape your life’s been squeezed into.
They have Elvis Presley zucchini molds now:  you clamp them around your zucchini while it’s young, and as it grows it’s deformed into the shape of Elvis Presley’s head.  Is this why he sang?  To become a zucchini?  Vegetarianism and reincarnation are in the air, but that’s taking it too far.  I’d rather come back as a sow bug, myself;  or a stir-fried shrimp. Though I suppose the whole idea’s more lenient than Hell.
(From Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye)



2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large zucchinis, thinly sliced lengthwise
4 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
Garlic powder, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese, grated and mixed together

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Spread olive oil in the bottom of a large casserole baking dish.  Arrange a layer of zucchini over bottom of dish.  Add a layer of tomatoes.  Add a layer of onions.  Sprinkle half of the dill and thyme over onions.  Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Add half of the cheese.  Repeat layers with the remaining ingredients.
Bake for about 30 minutes until zucchini is tender and cheese is melted.
Makes 8 servings.
Note: Do buy the fresh mozzarella and parmesan cheeses from the cheese section of the supermarket. Do not go for the packaged variety or the one that comes in the Kraft green package!


That noon, Ruby said she waned to walk up and check on the apple orchard, so Ada suggested they have their lunch there.  They made a picnic of the leftover pieces of last night’s chicken, a small bowl of potato salad for which Ruby had whipped up the mayonnaise, and some vinegared cucumber slices.
(From Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain)



8 potatoes
1 cup celery diced
2 cups onions, diced
3 eggs, hard-boiled

2 eggs, well-beaten
1 cup sugar
1 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
4 slices cooked bacon, diced

Boil the potatoes in their jackets over high heat until they are tender.  Rinse the potatoes in cold water, then peel and chop them into small cubes.  Place the chopped potatoes in a large bowl and add the celery, onion, and hard-boiled eggs. Toss to combine.

In a saucepan, combine the beaten eggs, sugar, spices, vinegar, and bacon.  Cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens, stirring often.  Pour the cooked dressing over the potato salad and toss lightly.  Let the salad cool.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours before serving to blend flavors.  Best if made one day before eating.
Makes 12 to 15 servings.

It was a large hole, the sort of thing an animal about the size of a fox might have made.
James knelt down in front of it and poked his head and shoulders inside.
He crawled in.
He kept on crawling.
This isn’t just a hole, he thought excitedly. It’s a tunnel.
The tunnel was damp and murky, and all around him there was the curious bittersweet smell of fresh peach.  The floor was soggy under his knees, the walls were wet and sticky, and peach juice was dripping from the ceiling.  James opened his mouth and caught some of it on his tongue. It tasted delicious.
He was crawling uphill now, as though the tunnel was leading straight toward the very center of the gigantic fruit.  Every few seconds he paused and took a bite out of the wall.  The peach flesh was sweet and juicy, and marvelously refreshing.
(From Roald Dahls’ James and the Giant Peach)



1 cup sugar with ½ teaspoon powdered cinnamon
8 well-ripened peaces, sliced and skin removed
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, chopped

Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the peaches in a saucepan and let sit for 2 hours. Add the butter and ginger.  Heat peaches over medium heat, melting the butter.  Stir continuously to coat peaches with sugary mixture. Heat until peaches are warmed through, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Serve topped with custard or whipped cream. Makes 8 servings.
Readers of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets will remember Aunt Petunia’s levitating cream-covered, violet-topped custard—the elegant creation that crashes and covers Harry with dessert, thanks to Dolby, the house elf, who has appeared to warn Harry not to return to the Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.


 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, cut into chunks
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process for about 2 minutes on high speed or until very smooth.  Strain the mixture and pour into a two-quart glass casserole coated with cooking spray.  Place the casserole in a larger cake pan and fill pan with boiling water, to within one inch of the top of the dish.

Steam in a 325 degree oven for about 90 minutes. Pudding is done when it is firm and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Chill thoroughly.  Serve with fruit or molded desserts, over cake or pie. Makes 8 servings.

Note:  You can also make these puddings in individual custard cups (6 ounces each) coated with cooking spray. Place the individual cups in 2 cake pans.  Fill pans with boiling water to within one inch of the cup tops.  Steam them in a 325 degree over for about 70 minutes.


Gourmet Club Members enjoying the Book Lover’s Dinner


Pakistani Bada Khana

(At our dining table at the start of our Pakistani Bada Khana)

“Bada Khana” means ‘Grand Banquet’ in Urdu and Hindi. Our menu has been designed around typically grand winter dinners in the Northern part of the Indian sub-continent which would include modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and Northern India—basically the Delhi area and the general extent of the Moghul Empire—the ancient carvanserai Silk Route.

We’ve made the entrée several times—it is one of Llew’s ‘signature’ dishes (together with his Indian style Turkey and his Sindhi Biryani). While we have tried many different versions of the other dishes, we haven’t tried these particular recipes—all taken from Meera Taneja’s “Pakistani Cookery” except the one for Kulfi which I took off line and which I have tried and tested and found to be superb and very authentic tasting.

We are looking forward to a great journey along the old Central Asian Silk Route!

Llew and Rochelle



Saturday, February 9, 2008 at 7.30 pm.



Chamarre Grande Reserve Pinot Noir (French)

Michele Chiarlo Barbera D’Asti Superiore Le Orme (Italy)

Valserrano Crianza 2004 Rioja (Spain)

Rueda Castelo de Medina Verdejo (Spain)


Jean-Baptiste Adam Vin D’Alsace

Pinot Blanc 2005 Reserve


Clos du Roy 2006 Sauternes (Bordeaux, France)


Vegetable Pakoras
(Brett and Mary-Lauren)

Main Dish:
Murgh Mussalam
(Llew and Rochelle)

Mattar Paneer

Navratan Pullao
(Dan and Amy)


(Bonnie and Art)

(Indian Ice-Cream)

Kulfi is Indian ice-cream. It is eaten all over the Indian sub-continent in the hot months. Said to have originated with the Moghul Emperors who had ice carted to them from the Himalayas to the hot plains of Delhi, where it was mixed with milk, sugar and flavorings and eaten.


1 1/4 cups evaporated milk
1 ¼ cups sweetened condensed milk
1 (16 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
A few strands (about 6) of saffron
1 tablespoon milk, warmed
½ tsp. ground green cardamom seeds. (It is best to use a pestle and mortar to pound cardamom seeds—found inside the cardamom pod—fresh just before using the powder)
½  cup unsalted pistachios—toast them for 10 minutes in an 350 degree over, then when cool, grind in a food processor
A few whole unsalted pistachios, toasted and chopped or sliced, for garnish

1. Soak the saffron strands in a tablespoon of warm milk and set aside.
2. Combine all other ingredients (including the saffron-flavored milk and the whole saffron strands), except the last ingredient (whole toasted pistachios) in a food processor and buzz for a minute.
3. Freeze in an ice-cream maker.
4. Pour into a 9X13 baking dish or plastic ice-cube trays and freeze overnight.
5. To serve, place scoops of kulfi in a bowl and garnish with chopped pistachios.
Note: If you do not have an ice-cream maker, pour kulfi into a baking dish and place in the freezer. When frozen, remove kulfi from dish and place in a food processor and buzz for five minutes to break up any ice crystals. Then place back in the baking dish and freeze until firm.

(Indian Carrot Pudding)
Gajjar Ka Halwa
(Bonnie and Art)

One of the most popular puddings of the Punjab, this is made in most households in the winter months when carrots are plentiful. The grated carrots are simmered for 2 hours in the milk and then fried in a little ghee, when almonds, pistachios, raisin and crushed green cardamom seeds are added. On special occasions, the halwa is decorated with silver wark (Silver leaf).

Prep Time: 25-30 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 ½ hours
Serves 8

900 gms /2 pounds fresh carrots, peeled and coarsely grated in a food processor
1.7 liters/3 pints whole milk
100 gms/4 oz. Granulated sugar
50 gms/2 oz ghee (available in Indian stores)
50 gms/2 oz. Blanched almonds, cut into slices
25 gms/1 oz unsalted pistachios, cut into slivers
25 gms/ 1 oz golden (not dark) raisins
Seeds of six green cardamoms, crushed
Silver leaf (or vark) for decorating

1. Put the grated carrots in a large, heavy-based saucepan and add the milk.
2. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat for 2 hours.
3. Occasionally, scrape the sides of the pan to loosen any coagulated milk that may stick there and add this to the carrots to help thicken the milk in the pan.
4. Keep stirring and scraping the pan until all the milk has evaporated.
5. Sprinkle in the sugar and mix it really well.
6. Stirring frequently, cook the carrots for 30 minutes, uncovered, until almost all the water from the sugar has evaporated and the carrots begin to stick to the bottom of the pan.
7. Add the ghee, almonds, pistachios, raisins and the crushed cardamom seeds.
8. Stirring continuously, fry the mixture until the ghee is first absorbed by the carrots and then released.
9. The Halwa is ready when the ghee begins to separate and has a glossy shine.
10. Transfer to a serving dish and decorate with silver leaf.
11. Serve hot or cold with Kulfi (I prefer to serve it slightly warm so that the kulfi gently melts over it)

(Bonnie and Art)

Britannia Rules The Waves!

Britannia Rules the Waves

(Llew and Rochelle at our dining table decorated with a festive Fall theme)

Dear Gourmet Club Members:

Since I am such a confirmed Anglophile and since we have never tried to cook British Food (“Is there such a thing?” asks Amy), I thought we would take inspiration from across the pond and whip up some magic.

Seeking counsel from a number of high-profile chefs who have created a sensation on the TV Food Network (Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and the Two Fat Ladies) as well as from our own resident English lady Jan Meyrick (who also lent me her Yorkshire Pudding Pan), I have come up with a traditional British menu which contains all the favorites, but gussied up to reach gourmet heights. I hope we will find it interesting to cook and delicious to sample.

Please note that all recipes serve 8 and that crème fraiche should be available at a gourmet food store such as Balducci.

Let’s plan to have a jolly good time!

Happy Feasting!

 Llew and Rochelle


Date: Saturday, October 13, 2007

Time: 7.30 pm.

Place: Holly Berry House, 25 Pequot Avenue

Southport, Connecticut 06890-1300

La Craie, Pouilly-Fume, Domaine de L’Abbaye
Chateau de Cazenov, Grand Vin de Bordeaux
Saint-Deran, Les Trois Bouquets 2005
Cotes du Rhone, Saint-Esprit 2005, Delas

(Dan and Amy DeLannoy)

 Main Dish:


(Llew and Rochelle Almeida)

Side Dishes:


(Brett and Mary-Lauren Factora)



(Bonnie and Art Thurnauer)


(Nigella Lawson)

2 cups plus 5 tablespoons self-rising flour
1 heaping teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grated Red Leicester or Cheddar
1 cup whole milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
50 pork cocktail sausages (mini hot dogs)

For glazing:
1 egg, mixed with a splash milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Measure 2 cups of flour into a bowl, add the salt and grated cheese and mix lightly with a fork. Pour the milk into a measuring cup to come up to 1-cup mark and then crack in the egg and add the oil. Beat to combine, then pour into the dry ingredients, forking to mix as you go. You may, at the end, feel the dough’s either too dry or too damp: add either more milk or more flour and fork together again until you’ve got a soft dough that’s not too sticky to be rolled out.

Break the dough into 2 pieces and roll 1 piece on a lightly floured surface. Scone dough is a dream to work with; in fact, I find it deeply pleasurable. Just roll as clumsily and heavy handedly as you like: no harm will come to it. You want a thin, but not exaggeratedly so, rectangle. A square wouldn’t be the end of the world either, so don’t start getting out the geometry set: this is the roughest of instructions.

Cut the dough into approximately 1 3/4-inch strips, and then cut each strip at approximately 2 1/2-inch intervals so that you end up with a collection of small, raggedy oblongs (I just cut each strip as I go, but it’s probably more efficient to do the whole batch of dough at 1 time).

Take a cocktail sausage and put it at 1 end of an oblong at a slight diagonal and then roll up, pressing on the infinitely compliant dough to squeeze it shut, and then place on a nonstick baking sheet, or 1 lined with parchment. Carry on until you’ve finished all your strips and then get to work with the remaining dough. Three baking sheets should do it.

Now, dip a pastry brush into the beaten egg mixture and paint on the pastry for a golden glaze. Put in the oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, by which time they should be puffy and burnished. Remove from the oven and let cool a little before giving them to the children.



40-50 fresh oysters (ask the fishmonger to schuck them for you)
20-25 thin slices of bacon, each cut into two
salt and freshly ground pepper
40-50 small rounds of toasted white/whole wheat bread (easiest to cut rounds with a small round cookie cutter)
lemon juice to taste & paprika to taste
Wrap each oyster in a slice of bacon and fasten with a cocktail stick. Season with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Broil just long enough to crisp the bacon or bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for 5-6 minutes. Remove each stick and arrange the oyster in a round of toasted bread. Sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice. A dusting of paprika adds a little color.

*Note: You can make the same appetizer called “Devils on Horseback” using prunes instead of oysters.



(Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef)

 (2.5 kilograms) (5 1/2-pound) fore-rib, wing-rib or sirloin of beef, French trimmed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
3 red onions, halved
2 bulbs garlic, plus 4 cloves garlic, peeled
7 pounds (3 kilograms) roasting potatoes, peeled
3 rosemary sprigs
2 thumb-sized pieces ginger, peeled and diced
1/2 bottle robust red wine

Yorkshire pudding, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C), and heat a large thick-bottomed roasting tray on the stovetop.

Rub the beef generously with salt, then add a little olive oil to the tray and lightly color the meat for a couple of minutes on all sides.

Lay the onions and bulbs of garlic in the tray with the beef on top of them, then cook in the pre-heated oven for a total of 1 1/2 hours.

While the beef is roasting, parboil your potatoes in salted boiling water for around 10 minutes and drain in a colander.  Toss about to chuff them up, this will make them really crispy.

After 30 minutes, take the tray out and toss your potatoes and rosemary.

With garlic press or grater, squeeze or grate the cloves of garlic and ginger over everything in the tray.

Shake the tray and whack it back in the oven for the final hour.

Remove the potatoes to a dish to keep warm, place the beef on a plate, covered with foil, to rest, and get your greens and Yorkshire puddings on. Remove most of the fat from your roasting tray and you should be left with caramelized onions and sticky beef goodness.

Add 1 teaspoon of flour to the tray and mash everything together.

Heat the tray on the stovetop and when hot, add the red wine. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, until your gravy is really tasty and coats back of a spoon.

Add any juice from the beef and feel free to add some water or stock to thin the gravy if you like.

Pour through a coarse sieve and push it through with a spoon, pushing it through with a spoon, and serve in a warmed gravy jug. Serve with Yorkshire puddings.

1/2 pint (285 milliliters) milk
4 ounces (115 grams) all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
3 eggs
Vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Mix the batter ingredients together.

Let rest for 10 minutes

Preheat a Yorkshire pudding tray or muffin tin with 1/2-inch (1 centimeter) of oil in each section. After the 10 minutes divide the batter into the tray.

Cook for around 15 to 20 minutes until crisp and puffy, don’t open the oven door before then or they won’t rise.

(Nigella Lawson)

4 cloves garlic
4 cups frozen peas
½ cup creme fraiche
½ cup grated Parmesan or pecorino
2 teaspoons dried mint

Special equipment: Food processor

Fill a pan with cold water and throw in the cloves of garlic.

Bring to the boil and then add salt and the peas.

Cook until tender, drain, and put into a food processor, or blender, and add the creme fraiche, cheese, and dried mint.

Puree the peas until knobbly and check the seasoning, adding salt if you need to. Tip the pureed peas into a bowl (or back in the pan is probably a better idea) and cover to keep them warm.


(Bobby Flay)
Serves 8

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated
2 cups grated Parmesan
6 ounces goat cheese, cut into small pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Layer the cauliflower, heavy cream, and the 3 cheeses in a medium casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Cook’s Note: Recipe can be doubled and made in a roasting pan.

(From Victoria magazine)

½ stick softened unsalted butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting dates
1 tsp. Baking powder
¼ tsp. Ground mace (or to taste
6 oz. Medjool dates, pitted
2 cups boiling water
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Pure vanilla extract

For the Toffee Sauce:

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter

2 cups (10 oz) firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 cup heavy cream

Lightly whipped cream for garnish
–Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter well a 10”X3” round cake pan.

–In a bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy.

Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat the mixture until it is

light and fluffy.

–In a bowl, combine the egg with 2 tablespoons of the flour

and the baking powder and beat it into the creamed mixture until well


–Onto a piece of waxed or parchment paper, sift the remaining flour and mace.

–With the mixture on slow speed, add the flour mixture to the

creamed mixture, a little at a time, until combined.

–Toss the dates with a little flour, chop fine and transfer them into a bowl.

–Add the boiling water to the dates and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.

–Slowly add the date mixture to the batter, combining well.

–Transfer the batter to the cake pan, spreading it evenly.

The batter is quite runny at this stage. Do not be alarmed.

–Bake pudding in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester

inserted into the center comes out clean.
Meanwhile, make the sauce:

–In a saucepan, set over moderate heat, melt the butter, add the sugar

and cook, whisking, until combined well.

–Add the cream, bring to a boil and simmer, whisking occasionally,

for three minutes, or until sauce is thick.

–Pre-heat the broiler.

–Pour ¼ of the sauce over the top of the hot pudding, spreading

it into a even layer, to coat the top completely.

–Keep the remaining sauce warm. Place under the broiler, about three inches

from the heat, and broil until it bubbles, rotating the pan to glaze evenly.

–Be careful, the sauce burns easily.

–Cut the pudding into serving pieces while still hot, transfer to

dessert plates and spoon some of the sauce around each serving.

–Garnish with whipped cream.


(Happy Anglophiles having a jolly good time)

Grilling! Grilling! Grilling!


(Bonnie and Art getting cosy by the grill on the deck in their backyard) 

Hosted by Bonnie and Art
Saturday, June 9, 2007

7:00 pm.

From the heading at the top of this page, you can see that we will be using (maybe over-using) our grill. I thought it would be fun, since we’re at the brink of summer, to try out some new recipes that might be go-to items throughout the summer. So, get ready for mostly grilled selections; and we’ll get our second propane tank filled….



–Cote-du-Rhone, Sainte Esprit 2005, Delas.

–Mauricio Lorca. Opalo 2004, Mendoza Argentina

–Ostatu Crianza 2004, Rioja Alavesa

–The Potts Family, Bleasdale, Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2003


–Pouilly-Fuisse, Domaine Daniel, Grand Vin Pollier de Bourgogne, 2005

–Clos des Rochers, Pinot Gris 2005, Grand Premier Cru

–Galiciano Godella Dia



Grilled Shrimp with Spicy Tomato Horseradish Dip
(Rochelle and Llew)


Grilled Pork Tenderloins with Grilled Pineapple Salsa
(Bonnie and Art)


Grilled Romaine Salad with Spicy Caesar Dressing
(Amy and Dan )


Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette
(Amy and Dan)

Chili-Garlic Roasted Broccoli
(Bonnie and Art)


Grilled Peach Melba
(Mary Lauren and Bret)


Grilled Shrimp with Spicy Tomato Horseradish Dip
(Recipe by Bobby Flay)

32 large shrimp, shells removed, deveined  3 T. fresh lime juice
4 T. olive oil       3 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. finely chopped garlic     Dash of hot pepper sauce
1 ½ tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme   2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper
7 plum tomatoes, cut in half, seeds removed and grilled
3 T. prepared ketchup
¼ cup fresh horseradish

Marinate shrimp in the olive oil, garlic and thyme for 1 hour. Remove from marinade and season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Serve with the spicy tomato dip.

For dip: Place the rest of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Grilled Romaine Salad with Spicy Caesar Dressing
(Bobby Flay)

1 T. prepared mayonnaise    1 cup olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard     2 T. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper   Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. pureed canned chipotles   4 hearts of romaine lettuce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce   2 T. olive oil
1 T. fresh lime juice     4 oz. piece of parmesan cheese,
1 tsp. capers        shaved
2-3 anchovies     Grilled croutons
5 cloves of garlic

Put all ingredients, except oil, vinegar, romaine, parmesan, and croutons in a food processor and process until blended. Slowly mix in 1 cup olive oil, and then mix in the vinegar. If too thick, add a little water.

Cut each heart of romaine in half lengthwise, leaving the end intact so each half holds together. Cut the tops of the lettuce, if necessary. Brush with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat until the lettuce chars and wilts slightly, about 6 minutes, turning a few times. Place one section of romaine on each dish, drizzle with the dressing and garnish with shaved cheese and croutons.


Grilled Pork Tenderloins with Grilled Pineapple Salsa
(Emeril Lagasse)

3 (1-pound) pork tenderloins, trimmed of fat and silver skin
8 T. olive oil
1 T. ground chipotle chili powder    ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
2 tsp. salt, plus a pinch     1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper   2 T. minced red bell pepper
1 ½ tsp. dried Mexican oregano, crumbled  1 T. finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 T. minced garlic      Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnishing
4 T. fresh lime juice      Cilantro Oil, for drizzling, recipe follows
1 Pineapple, peeled and cut crosswise into ½ inch slices
Preheat grill to high. Rub the pork tenderloins all over with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, then sprinkle evenly with the chipotle chili powder, 2 tsp. salt, the pepper, and the oregano. Rub the tenderloins well with the garlic and drizzle 2 tablespoons lime juice over all. Allow the tenderloins to sit, refrigerated, for 45 minutes before cooking.

Brush the pineapple slices lightly with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then place the pineapple slices on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until softened slightly and nicely marked by the grill, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and allow to cool to room temperature. Dice the pineapple slices (discard the tough core portions) and place in a medium non-reactive bowl. Add the red onion, remaining 2 tablespoons of lime juice, remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, remaining pinch of salt, jalapeno, red pepper, and chopped cilantro and stir to combine. Set aside while you grill the pork.

Place the tenderloins on the hottest part of the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Reduce the grill temperature to low and continue to cook, turning occasionally, until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 145 degrees F. Remove the tenderloins from the grill and allow to sit, loosely covered, for 10 minutes.

Slice the tenderloins on the diagonal and serve with the grilled pineapple salsa and fresh cilantro sprigs. Drizzle with Cilantro Oil.

Cilantro Oil:
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 T. fresh mint leaves
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place herbs in a mini-chopper and blend. Slowly add oil to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette
(Gourmet Magazine)

2 pounds sweet potatoes (4-5, preferably long)
2 T. fresh lime juice
¾ tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Cover potatoes with cold water in a large pot, than bring to a boil. Simmer until slightly resistant in center when pierced with a sharp small knife, 20-25 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl of cold water to stop cooking. Drain well. When cool enough to handle, peel potatoes with a sharp small knife and quarter lengthwise.

Prepare grill for cooking. Whisk together lime juice, salt ,and pepper and add oil in a slow stream, whisking. Whisk in cilantro.

When fire is hot, grill potatoes on lightly oiled grill rack, turning, until grill marks appear and potatoes are just tender, 3-6 minutes total.

Serve potatoes warm or at room temperature, drizzled with vinaigrette.

Cooks notes: Potatoes can be boiled and peeled 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Do not over boil potatoes as they will get mushy.


Chili-Garlic Roasted Broccoli
(Rachel Ray)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T. chili powder
1 T. grill seasoning blend
2 large heads of broccoli, cut into thin, long spears

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place olive oil, garlic, chili powder and grill seasoning in the bottom of a large bowl and add the broccoli spears. Toss to coat broccoli evenly then transfer to a large nonstick baking sheet. Roast broccoli until ends are crisp and brown and stalks are tender, 17-20 minutes.

Grilled Peach Melba
(Alton Brown)

1 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup water
3 ½ T. freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
2 vanilla beans, scraped
8 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and cut in half
16 ounces, frozen raspberries, thawed
Vanilla ice cream
8 Almond biscotti

Place 1 cup sugar, water, 1 ½ tablespoons of lemon juice, and the seeds from the vanilla bean into a small saucepan and set over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the peaches, spooning the sauce over them. Set aside.

Place the raspberries, the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons sugar into he bowl of a food processor and puree. Pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl. Cover and set in refrigerator.

Once the grill is hot, place the peaches over direct heat and grill on each side for 3-4 minutes or until they are tender. Remove from the heat to a container with the syrup and cover with aluminum foil for 5 minutes.

To serve, place the ice cream into 8 bowls and top each bowl with 2 peach halves. Drizzle each bowl with the raspberry sauce and serve immediately. Serve with almond biscotti.

(Gourmet Club Members enjoying the grilled offerings in the Britz-Thurnauer Dining Room)

Simple Italian Food from TV Chef Mario Battali

Brett and Mary-Lauren Factora with their daughters Cassandra, Sage and Isabella around their dining table at the start of our meal.

Dear Beloved Gourmet Club,

After scanning the globe from Asia to The America’s, we have decided to land in Italy to enjoy the recipes and cuisine of Chef Mario Batali.

We have not been to any of his restaurants or watched his show.  However, we did catch a segment about him on the Food Network where he struck us as a colorful character with a mix of part chef, part artist and part marketeer.  He came highly recommended from some family and friends.  As we studied his recipe books and the web, we found some fun and interesting variations on some otherwise ordinary dishes.  We hope you agree.

The menu is as follows:  Please note that the yields are provided on each recipe and will need to be adjusted accordingly.

Most will need to be doubled, the dessert will need to be 1 and ½ ed.


Bonnie/Art                 Warm Terrine of Sausage, Peppers, Polenta, and Mozzarella

Rochelle/Llew          Prosciutto di Parma con Insalata di Mele Parmigiano (Prosciutto with Apple Salad)

ML/Bret                      Grilled Shrimp with White Beans, Rosemary, Mache, and Mint Oil

ML/Bret                      Asparagus Sformato with Fondata

Rochelle/Llew          Risotto with Porcini, Shiitake, and Vin Santo

Amy/Dan                  Tiramisu-the Dinosaur

We look forward to welcoming you all this Saturday, March 31st at 7:30 at our home.

Warm Regards,

ML and Bret


Warm Terrine of Sausage, Peppers, Polenta, and Mozzarella

Serves 6

8 oz sweet sausage
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into ½” wide strips
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into ½” wide strips
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into strips 3 inches by ¼” by ¼”
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups quick cooking polenta or yellow cornmeal
¼ cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

preheat oven to 350o

Arrange the sausage in a baking pan and cook in the oven for 20 minutes.  Drain off the fat, then crumble the cooked sausage to resemble rough bread crumbs.  Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Gently sauté the garlic until golden brown on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the bell peppers and sauté unil soft but not browned, 7 to 8 minutes longer.  Remove from heat, transfer the garlic and peppers to a bowl, and let cool.

Bring the mozzarella to room temperature.  Arrange the sausage, peppers, garlic, and mozzarella in separate bowls.  Set out a terrine, 13X4X4 inches.

Bring the water to a boil, adding the salt and sugar.  Slowly add the polenta to the boiling water in a thin stream, whisking continuously.  Lower the heat and cook until the polenta resembles the texture of hot cereal, 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove the pot from heat.  The polenta will begin to thicken immediately, so time here is of the essence.

Moving quickly, pour a ¾” layer of polenta into the prepared terrine.  Sprinkle all the crumbled sausage over the polenta.  Cover the sausage with about 1½ cups more polenta, using a spatula to smooth the top.  Next, make a layer with the peppers and garlic cloves and top with another 1½ cups warm polenta.  Smooth and flatten the polenta to make a nice, even layer all the way around the edges.  Arrange the mozzarella over the polenta (but do not bring the mozzarella to the edges as it will stick to the sides when it melts).  Fill the terrine with a final layer of warm polenta, there may be polenta left over.  Smooth the top all the way to the edges.  Cover the terrine with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 4750

To serve, invert the terrine onto a cutting board.  (It should come out quite easily.)  Cut the terrine in ¾” thick slices.  Place the slices on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve immediately.


Prosciutto di Parma con Insalata di Mele Parmigiano (Prosciutto with Apple Salad)

Serves 4


1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored
1 McIntosh apple, peeled and cored
1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled and cored
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 head radicchio di Treviso, leaves detached
Salt and pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for shaving

Place the prosciutto on a large platter. Julienne all apples and place in a mixing bowl. Add the poppy seeds, olive oil, vinegar and radicchio and salt and pepper, to taste and toss to coat. Arrange the salad in the center of the plate and shave curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano over the salad and ham. Serve immediately.


Grilled Shrimp with White Beans, Rosemary, Mache, and Mint Oil

Serves 4



1½ cups cooked great northern beans
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram leaves
juice and zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
2 cups fresh mache, washed and spun dry
12 jumbo shrimp (about 1 1/3 pounds), preferably with heads on and partially peeled
¼ cup mint oil

Mint Oil

½ cup packed fresh mint leaves
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Bring saucepan of water to a boil.  Prepare an ice bath.  Plunge the mint leaves into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then remove to the ice bath.  Squeeze out the excess liquid and puree in a food processor for 1 minute with the olive oil.  Makes 1 cup

Preheat the grill or broiler

In a mixing bowl, stir together the cooked beans, rosemary, olive oil, onion, marjoram, and lemon juice and zest.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the mache to the beans and toss to combine.  Arrange in the centers of 4 plates.

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, brush with a bit of additional oil, and grill just until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.  Prop 3 shrimp against the mache and beans, teepee fashion, on each plate.

Drizzle with the mint oil and serve.


Asparagus Sformato with Fondata
2 cups bechamel sauce, recipe follows
1 pound fresh medium asparagus, rough ends removed
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg, or to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs and 2 yolks
2 ounces butter
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, lightly toasted under broiler
Bechamel: Balsamella 
1 stick unsalted butter 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
4 cups hot milk 
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces fontina cheese 
6 ounces heavy cream 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
Freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a 2-quart saucepan until frothing. Remove from heat and stir in flour with a whisk. Cook over low heat for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 of the hot milk and whisk until smooth. Add remaining milk and whisk until smooth. Bring to boil, add nutmeg, lower heat and simmer 10 minutes. Can be used hot or cold.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt. Blanch the asparagus until just tender (1 minute) and remove to ice bath and refresh. Once the asparagus has cooled, remove from the ice bath and pat dry.
Cut the cooled asparagus in 1/2. Cut the top 1/2 into 1/2-inch pieces and set the pieces aside. Place the bottom halves in a food processor and blend into a fine puree.
In a mixing bowl, mix the pureed asparagus, the bechamel, salt, nutmeg, Parmesan, eggs and yolks. Stir until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in the top halves of the asparagus pieces which had been previously set aside.
Butter an 8-inch bundt pan and coat with bread crumbs. Pour the asparagus mixture into the bundt pan. Fill a 12-inch baking pan 2/3 filled with hot water. Place the bundt pan on the baking pan, so that the bundt is standing in the hot water. Carefully place the baking pan (with the bundt pan) into the oven. Bake until the top of the sformatio is golden brown and a dipped toothpick comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the fondata.
To make the fondata: Mix the grated fontina, the heavy cream, and the salt and pepper in small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring constantly, until smooth and creamy.
To serve: Turn the sformato out onto a large plate. Cut into 2-inch slices and place the slices on serving plates. Spoon the fondata over the slices and serve immediately.
Risotto with Porcini, Shiitake, and Vin Santo

Serves 4

4 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium red onion, finely chopped
8 ouncecs fresh porcini mushrooms, stems and caps sliced ¼” thick
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, hard stems removed and slice ¼” thick
1½ cups Arborio rice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup Vin Santo (an Italian wine, substitute a fino or amontillado sherry)
½ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock to a simmer and place on a back burner over low heat.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed 12-14 inch sauté pan over medium heat,  Add the onion and sauté until translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned but not fully cooked, 6 to 7 minutes.  Add the rice and stir 1 minute to coat thoroughly.  Ladle ½ cup of warm stock over the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed.  Add another ladle of broth and continue to cook, keeping the risotto at a slow boil and adding more stock.  Repeat until riceis quite al dente (12 to 14 minutes).  Add the butter, wine, and cheese and bring to a boil again, continuing to stir until the rice is done – firm and tender all the way through.

Season with salt and pepper and serve.


Tiramisu-the Dinosaur

Serves 6

4 ounces strong espresso (or substitute 2 teaspoons instant coffee in 1/2 cup water)
2 ounces Italian brandy
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
2 egg whites
2 cups mascarpone cheese (may substitute ricotta or cream cheese)
30 small savoiaridi, or 15 broken in half (a.k.a. Ladyfingers)
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 1/4 inch pieces
3 ounces milk chocolate, shaved or grated
6 large wine goblets

Mix coffee and brandy together and set aside.

Over a double boiler, beat egg yolks and sugar until mixture lightens in color and forms ribbons (i.e. halfway to zabaglione). Allow to cool 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold mascarpone into egg yolk mixture one quarter at a time. Fold mascarpone mixture into egg whites and set aside.

Lay savoiardi along edges of wine goblets all the way to the bottom, lining the entire glass (while keeping 6 savoiardi for later use). Using a pastry brush, and paint the cookies with the espresso/brandy mixture.

Fill each goblet one third full with mascarpone mixture and sprinkle with broken chocolate. Lay one savoiardi across center and and paint with coffee mixture. Fill each goblet with remaining mascarpone mixture, topping each with shaved chocolate. Lay one savoiardi in each of the remaining 5 goblets and and paint with espresso mixture.

Can be served at room temperature. Tiramisu was served chilled in the 1980s.

Dinner by Giada

Autumn 2006—Dinner by Giada

Hosted by Bonnie and Art
Autumn Harvest Dinner by Giada de Laurentis
Five of the items we are making tonight are recipes I gathered from the Food Network (to which I am a dedicated watcher; some may say addicted). Specifically, these recipes were shared and demonstrated by Giada deLaurentiis (whom Art thinks is totally HOT, but I think is a great cook who provides simply delicious suggestions.) And since Italian is Art’s favorite food-type, (and Giada is his favorite Italian) we will be enjoying her selections….


(Bonnie at her beautifully laid dining table all set for our salad course)



Appetizers:Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Bundles
Pizzette with Gorgonzola, Tomato and Basil
(Mary Lauren and Brett)


Entrée:Veal Marsala
(Bonnie and Art)


Salad:Sauteed Apple Salad with Roquefort Cheese and Walnuts
(Amy and Dan )Sides:

Red Wine Risotto with Peas
Sauteed Broccoli Rabe
(Llew and Rochelle)


Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie
(Dan and Amy)


Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Bundles

Makes 4-6 servings

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed (about 20 spears)
Pinch kosher salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
4-6 oz. thinly sliced smoked salmon

Preheat oven to 425°. Lay the asparagus on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Roast until cooked and starting to brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to another baking sheet to cool.

Once the asparagus have cooled, wrap each spear in a slice of smoked salmon. Arrange on a serving platter and serve at room temperature.

Note: I made this last weekend and was happy with the peppercorn smoked salmon I bought at Trader Joe’s. I bought 2 packages and cut each slice into halves or thirds before I wrapped the asparagus spears.



Pizette with Gorgonzola, Tomato, and Basil

6 servings

8 oz. purchases pizza dough
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 oz. Gorgonzola, crumbled
¼ cup fresh basil, torn in pieces
3 oz. Cherry tomatoes, quartered
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 475°. Roll out the pizza dough to ¼ inch thick. Using a 2-2 ½ inch diameter cookie cutter, cut out 18 circles from the dough. Arrange the circles on a heavy large baking sheet. Sprinkle the Gorgonzola cheese over the circles. Top with the tomatoes, pressing them gently into the dough. Bake until the pizzettes are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Drizzle the pizzettes with oil. Sprinkle the basil over the pizzettes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange on a platter and serve immediately.

Note: I noticed that Trader Joe’s has pizza dough in their refrigerated section, if you’re looking for pizza dough.

Veal Marsala
4 servings

8 veal cutlets (3 oz. each) 2-4 garlic clove, smashed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 oz. assorted mushrooms, sliced
2-3 T. unsalted butter ½ cup sweet Marsala
2-4 T. olive oil ¾ cup low-salt chicken broth
1 large shallot, finely chopped Leaves from 1 fresh rosemary sprig

Sprinkle the veal with salt and pepper. Melt 1 T of butter and 1 T. of oil in a heavy large skillet over medium high heat. Add 4 veal cutlets and cook until golden brown, about 1 ½ minutes per side. Transfer the veal to a plate. Add another T. of butter and oil, if necessary. Repeat with the remaining 4 cutlets. Set the cutlets aside.

Add 1 T. of oil to the skillet. Add the shallot and garlic. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add a T. of the olive oil, if necessary. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender and the juices evaporate, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Add the Marsala. Simmer until the Marsala reduces by half, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and the rosemary leaves. Simmer until reduces by half, about 4 minutes. Return the veal to the skillet. Pour in all of the pan juices. Cook until heated through, turning to coat, about 1 minute. Stir the remaining 1 T. of butter into the sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

Using tongs, transfer the veal to plates. Spoon the sauce over the veal and serve.


Sauteed Apple Salad with Roquefort Cheese and Walnuts
6 servings

¼ cup Sherry wine vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 T. sugar
1 T. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
1 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese
½ cup plus 1 T. olive oil
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
6 cups mixed baby greens
3 cups trimmed watercress
1 Belgian endive, sliced
1 ½ lbs. Golden Delicious Apples, peeled, cut into ½ inch thick slices

Combine vinegar and thyme in small bowl. Gradually whisk in ½ cup oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine greens, watercress and endive in large bowl. Heat remaining 1 T. oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and sugar and sauté until apples are almost tender, about 8 minutes. Increase heat to high and sauté until golden brown, about 5 minutes longer. Place atop greens in bowl. Sprinkle salad with Roquefort and walnuts. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Serve, passing remaining dressing separately.


Red Wine Risotto with Peas
4 servings

3 ½ cups canned low-salt chicken broth 1/3 cup frozen peas, defrosted
3 T. unsalted butter
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 cup finely shopped onion
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan,
2 garlic cloves, minced plus additional for garnish
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup dry red wine (good quality)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the broth and keep it warm over very low heat.

Melt butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook for about 2 minutes until the rice is toasted. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add ¾ cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Repeat, adding ¾ cup of hot broth 2 more times, stirring often, about 12 minutes longer. At this point, the risotto can be made 4 hours ahead. Refrigerate the risotto (the rice will still be firm) and remaining broth, uncovered, until cool. Then cover and keep them refrigerated until ready to proceed.

Bring the remaining broth to a simmer, then cover and keep it warm over very low heat. Stir ¾ cup of hot broth into the partially cooked risotto over medium heat until the broth is absorbed and the risotto is hot, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining broth and simmer until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in the peas and parsley. Add the ½ cup of Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Sprinkle additional cheese over and serve.

Note: I was glad to see that this recipe offers a make-ahead option since risotto usually needs to be made just before serving.

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe
4-6 servings

4 bunches (12-16 oz. each) broccoli rabe, stems trimmed
¼ cup olive oil
1/3 cup raisins
3 garlic cloves, chopped
½ tsp. dried crushed red pepper flakes
2 T. pine nuts, toasted

Working in batches, cook the broccoli rabe in a large pot of boiling salted water until crips tender, about 2-3 minutes per bunch. Transfer the broccoli rabe to a large bowl of ice water to cool. Reserve about ¼ cup of the cooking liquid. Strain the cooled broccoli rabe and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté until the garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the broccoli rabe and toss to coat. Add the reserved cooking water, the raisins, and cook until the broccoli rabe is heated through and the stems are tender, about 4 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Just before serving, toss the mixture with pine nuts.


Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

For one pie

Crust: 24 ginger snaps, crushed and mixed with enough butter to pat into pie pan (about 2 Tablespoons, softened). At this point, save about 2 Tablespoons of crust mix to sprinkle on top of pie. Bake crust for 8 minutes at 350 degrees. COOL COMPLETELY BEFORE FILLING.

Filling: 1 cup pumpkin
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ cup sugar
1/8 tsp. cloves
½ tsp. salt
½ cup chopped pecans, optional
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 quart softened vanilla ice cream
Mix first 7 ingredients together to blend, then fold in the vanilla ice cream. Sprinkle the saved ginger snaps on top. Put into cooled crust and freeze for at least 3 hours. Overnight is best.

Note: I recommend that you make two pies, Amy, one without nuts. I thought you would like this recipe since you can make it the day before. I have made it several times and we all love it!

Of Tapas and Tio Pepe

This essay appeared in the Travel section of the Summer 2006 issue of Bombay’s Upper Crust magazine. Click here to read more about the magazine.

 Of Tapas And Tio Pepe: On A Gastronomic Tour Of Spain
ROCHELLE ALMEIDA says Spain’s taste buds have gone through a revolution and the culinary pleasures are now varied.

If you think that Spain’s gastronomic repertoire is restricted to just tapas and paella, think again. The nation’s taste buds have undergone a revolution in recent years and visitors to the Iberian Peninsula can now partake of culinary pleasures that are excitingly varied. Of course, much depends on which part of Spain you choose to explore because each region capitalises on its own produce. But if you are adventurous enough to experiment, you will be rewarded with an abundance of delightful meals that will make your palate sing Ole! My gourmet adventures began in the capital, Madrid, where at the bustling Puerto del Sol, a huge billboard advertising Tio Pepe, Spain’s superb dry sherry, smiles down on tourists in much the same way that the fizzing bottle of Coca-Cola bubbles forth at New York’s Times Square. The preferred potent at meal-time, though, is Sangria and most restaurants do a fairy decent version of this fruity cocktail. Easy to reproduce at your home bar, Sangria is simply equal parts of a red wine (try one of their excellent Riojas) with a sparkling lemonade and throw in a combination of cubed apples (leaving the skin on for color), orange and pineapple segments. Serve in tall glasses tinkling with crushed ice. I had Sangria everywhere I traveled in Spain, but by far the best concoction was in Toledo, right outside the Sinagoga del Transito, where the many climbs amidst that hilly terrain had stirred my thirst buds awake.

Paella (pronounced Pa-ay-ya) is Spain’s contribution to global gormandising and though every Madrileno will recommend a different restaurant, you can’t go wrong at Ristorante La Sirena Verde on the Gran Villa, one of Madrid’s main thoroughfares. I was, fortunately, tipped off by a knowledgeable gourmet about this completely unpretentious place, and I’m glad I took him at his word. After you have crossed the threshold into this restaurant, head upstairs where the décor takes on a decidedly nautical air and shades of blue combine with off-white to create a space that is evocative of Spain’s sea-faring heritage. Extremely attentive wait staff brought me menus and recommendations from a wine list which, though not a mile long, covered a gamut of budgets. Settling for a rather good white Rioja, (Cune, semi-dry) I browsed the menu and chose the Paella del Mariscos (24 Euros for two persons), a Seafood Paella that is a meal in itself —other variation is a Paella de Valencia which, in addition to the seafood, includes chicken. Needless to the say, the seafood version has rice cooked in fish stock while the Valencia uses chicken broth. Both versions come studded with tender green peas.

But it is the unmistakable presence of the flavor of saffron, that most prized of condiments, that makes a memorable Paella. Grown on the vast plains of Castilla La Mancha, early spring sees the profuse emergence of this crocus cultivar so that the fields turn purple in response to the resurrection of the flowers after the long dormant winter season. It is because the stamens of the crocus have to be carefully picked and graded by hand that saffron is such an expensive condiment. Fortunately, a little goes a long way. When you add a few strands to warm milk or water, you bring out the flavour of the precious stamens. The mixture is added to the Paella pan just before the rice is fully cooked through and the heat is turned off. Overheating the condiment would cause the fragrance to dissipate completely. Paella del Marisco comes with clams, giant prawns, calamari, squid, and a plethora of shrimp, making it a seafood lover’s delight. If yours is an authentic Paella, your waiter will serve it to you straight off the flame in a special flat Paella pan, usually made of beaten copper. It is the pan’s shape — its essential shallowness — that keeps each grain of rice separate and dry, preventing it from cooking into a gloppy mass in the way that Italian risottos tend to become after the addition of all that hot stock to Arborio rice.

Spain is also famous for its Serrano ham-serre means dry in Spanish and the hams are so-called because they are left to smoke in the dry air of the mountains in the Alpajurra region in Andalucia. All over Spain’s cities from Madrid to Seville, you will find sidewalks dotted with Musees de Jambon (pronounced Haam-bau). They are not called museums for nothing — what one finds inside, hanging from the rafters, are row upon row of smoked hams of varied flavour, each originating in a different part of Spain. Spaniards love their jambon at mid-morning when they place it on long slices of baguette-like bread and eat it like an open sandwich with a cup of coffee. The same Serrano ham is a standard item on tapas menus. Don’t sneeze at this modest peasant snack. You might well find yourself making a meal of it, particularly if you combine it with the superlative Manchego, Spain’s best-selling cheese made from sheep’s milk on the plains of La Mancha, habitat of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza — hence the name. This extraordinarily flavourful cheese is also melted over Serrano ham and served over toasted bread, to create a grilled version — Spain’s response to France’s Croque Monsieur. And that brings me to tapas. No longer mystery morsels, these delectable appetizers have brought out the creativity in contemporary chefs so that a whole range awaits the adventuresome palate. I decided to make a meal of tapas at Ristrorante Naturbrier at Plaza Santa Ana in Madrid where in a pavement café, under the brilliantly illuminated Neo-Classical building of the Teatro Espagnol, I sampled a variety of pickled manzilla olives and smoked hams, tuna paste and marinated mushrooms as I sipped a truly splendid Toro red wine. Literally meaning “cover”, tapas originally referred to the slice of ham that was used as a cover to prevent insects from falling into the glasses of wine that were sipped at the counter by patrons in Spain’s innumerable bars. As time went by, these snacks that were served free of charge to regular patrons evolved into the more complicated and creative offerings that today include smoked meats and salamis, olives — both green and black and often stuffed with pimentos-marinated artichokes and mushrooms, and spicy seafood. They serve the same purpose as Italy’s antipasto platters. In fact, the more you eat your way through Europe, the more you will realise that with slight cultural variations, almost all national cuisines follow the same basic conventions. While it is customary to seek out great meals at restaurants, don’t overlook the very decent fare to be found in the cafeterias attached to major monuments. One of the more interesting and comfortably priced meals I ate was in the cafeteria of the Museo del Prado where, after gobbling up the artistic offerings in the form of Goyas, El Grecos and Velasquez in the galleries, I was left with little energy to go out in search of a sit-down meal. The cafeteria was the best bet and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Beef Ragout or Stew that my husband Llew ordered as well as the Spinach and Chickpea Soup that I chose were delicious and superbly flavored, not to mention very filling when combined with the good crusty artisinal bread that was a part of the meal.

Don’t even think of leaving Spain without partaking of the country’s favorite snack — Chocolate and churros. Ideally eaten in-between meals, for elevenses or at tea-time, simply the best place to indulge in these irresistible goodies is just past the Teatro Real (Royal Theater) in Madrid. You will arrive on Calle de Arenal, a street known firstly for its bull-fighting arena, the Plaza del Toros, and secondly for the Chocolateria San Gines, an establishment that dates from the late 1800s and still serves the best version of Spain’s fast-disappearing national snack. I plonked down at old-fashioned marble topped tables to enjoy the treat (a steal at 3 Euros) and dunked my churros (long deep-fried sticks of dough) fondue-style into the sauce-like hot chocolate as I saw the local Madrilenos do. Don’t expect to finish the entire cup, no matter how confirmed a chocoholic you might be. The heaviness of the chocolate, its thickness, its cloying sweetness, all of which seem delectable at first soon seem much too rich after a few spoonfuls. And yes, you will need to use the spoon that is very thoughtfully provided for the hot chocolate is much too thick to be sipped in the conventional style. Perhaps that’s why they also serve a tall glass of iced water with this staple.

Everywhere I ate in Madrid, I found the meals uniformly satisfying. But by far some of the most interesting dishes I ate was at La Truscha Restaurant near Plaza Santa Ana where I opted for wonderful grilled trout stuffed with Serrano ham, garlic and capers and Chicken grilled with Garlic after consuming deliciously simple tapas-smoked ham and pickled manzilla olives. I found also that the house wine, a white Valdapenas, was surprisingly good and surprisingly cheap-wine is often cheaper than soft drinks in Spanish restaurants.

When I did leave Madrid behind to drive south and take in the Moorish treasures of Andalucia, I was delighted to come upon a restaurant in the very midst of Granada where the North African Islamic influence is clearly in evidence. At Granada’s main square, the Puerta Nuevo, I ordered Doner Kebab, and was astonished to find that it was the most popular item on the menu. Thinly sliced and delicately spiced marinated lamb was served in a hearty pita pocket with a liberal helping of onions, tomatoes and shredded lettuce in a spicy yoghurt dressing. Easily one of the cheapest meals I ate in Spain (3.50 Euros per Doner Kebab), this is the budget traveler’s answer to good gastronomy.

After touring the mighty Al-Hambra Palace, my appetite was whetted for a good repast and I was pleased to come upon one of Spain’s most common menu offerings — Shrimp sauteed in olive oil and flavored liberally with garlic and parsley. I ate this marvelous meal, very reminiscent of Italy’s Shrimp Scampi in Ristorante Valle del Punta in a tiny village called Padul right outside of Granada. A fire was actually lit in the open grate bringing much needed warmth to the rustic interior. Washed down with beer, it made a fine meal especially since I used the sesame studded bread rolls to sop up the last drop of the garlic flavored oil on my plate.

Cruising down the Costa del Sol, I contented myself with modest pickings in the ritzy-chic beach resort of Marbella as sight-seeing and beach-combing took priority over long-drawn-out meals. All the beach towns along the coast, though, from the main city of Malaga to small villages such a Torremolinos and Benalmadena offer a variety of eateries to suit every pocket. Overtaken by seasonal visitors, mainly from the British Isles, their menus feature everything from Fish and Chips to Moroccan tagines (since Morocco lies right across the Straits of Gibraltar and the Rif Mountains of the Northern African coast seem close enough that you feel compelled to reach out and touch them). Hold on to your enthusiasm for more sybaritic fare, however, until you reach the bull-fighting city of Seville. Having arrived there rather late in the evening, I chose to go out immediately in search of dinner, pausing only to gasp at the huge monolithic mass of the magically illuminated Gothic Cathedral, one of Europe’s largest, and ending at La Cueva, a restaurant in the former Jewish quarter called the Barrio Santa Cruz. Like all Spanish spaces that are frozen in time, Santa Cruz is a complicated network of narrow cobbled streets and alleys full of souvenir shops, restaurants and tapas bars. Le Cueva Restaurant is located on Calle Rodrigo Caro in a very pretty patio and is decorated in typical Spanish colonial style with ceramic pots and plates, the heads of bulls stuffed and mounted on walls, and the festive costumes of renowned matadors framed as wall art. There were wooden chairs painted quaintly with faiance designs and patterns, checkered tablecloths, antique Spanish religious statuary, and lovely ceramic pottery and pitchers to hold food. One could also choose to sit outside in a charming orange grove (the Patio de Naranjos) that is softly lit by wrought-iron lanterns.

I decided to eat an assorted platter of Spanish sausages as my first course (13 euros). These arrived promptly — Serrano ham, a variety of smoked sausages, liverwurst and manchego cheese. Llew chose a Caldera or Lamb Stew for his entrée while I went for the Frito Mixto, a plate of assorted fried fish, lightly dipped in batter and fried to a crisp (12 euros each). It reminded me very much of the fried fish my mother serves in Bombay. A pitcher of icy cold Sangria with bits of apple and oranges floating in it (8 euros) accompanied our meal. A noisy group of middle-aged French tourists at an accompanying table brought much life and vitality to the atmosphere while we savored our Spanish repast.

Seville is distinctive for its endless groves of orange trees. Indeed, each street is lined by miniature orange trees that form picturesque canopies as you stroll under them. I was fascinated by the fact that I could reach out and pluck the oranges right off the branches, only to be disappointed at finding the fruit too tart to be edible. That’s when I discovered that it is not the fruit that is prized but the rind of the Seville orange which being particularly bitter is coveted in the manufacture of quality marmelade. It was in the late 1800s that a shipment of sour Seville oranges arrived in the UK. Unable to consume them, a home chef threw them into a pan and boiled them with a measure of sugar. The rind softened as it cooked and gave the jam a subtly bitter flavor. Thus was born the famous orange marmelade that is a staple at British breakfast tables. Each year, shiploads of Seville oranges make their way across the English Channel to England where the golden shreds are transformed into the world-famous orange marmelade. Next stop: Cordoba, that ancient gem of the Moors, city of the gigantic Mezquita-Cathedral, offered another unforgettable meal. This time my quest for sustenance began in La Juderia, the abandoned Jewish district, to find a suitable restaurant for a good Andalucian meal. Referring to my guidebooks, I opted for La Churassca Restaurant on Calle Romero that offered a variety of barbecued meats in Argentinian or Brazilian style. Set in a traditional white-washed building in the heart of the Jewish district, the restaurant was very picturesquely decorated with all kinds of regional motifs including ceramic tiles and serve ware that are the hallmarks of the potteries of this area. My waiter, a gracious old man who was both attentive and helpful, suggested I start off with traditional Spanish Potato Omlettes (4.50 euros). Though this was nothing to look at and lacked any kind of presentation finesse, the dish was surprisingly delicious and flavorful. Spanish Omlettes are meals in themselves but a smallish wedge makes a good appetizer if you decide to opt for a multi-course meal. On my waiter’s recommendation, I ordered the Grilled Pork Loin served with Sauce Arabes (12.50 Euros) for which the restaurant is well reputed. Though quite edible, the meal was not outstanding.

Though I have mentioned Toledo earlier, it was in this fascinating medieval city that we brought our travels in Spain to a close. To end on a sweet note, I would heartily recommend that you make a quick stop at Marzipan San Tome, a confectionery store right behind the Iglesia San Tome, the most frequently visited monument in the entire city, for a taste of their legendary marzipan whose preparation goes back centuries. Indeed, the manufacture and the consumption of marzipan can be traced back to the Middle Ages and on tasting the very delicately shaped confections in this sweet shop, I discovered that some recipes (just powdered almonds, sugar, egg whites and almond essence kneaded to a soft dough) just don’t change despite the passage of time. I guess the belief is that if it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it!

Sampling my way through Spain was as much fun as inspecting its museums, strolling through its Islamic remains and exploring its legendary gardens. Whether it is rural fare your heart might desire or the more sophisticated meals of its imperial heritage, your tongue will stand up to salute this distinctive cuisine as you sing Viva Espana!

Thanksgiving on Valentine’s Day

Hosted by Llew and Rochelle Almeida


(Gourmet Club Members seated around our dining table at the start of our Thanskgiving on Valentine’s Day Dinner)


Though it was February and time to plan a Valentine’s Day menu, our Gourmet Dinner Club members requested that Llew create a menu around his famous signature Indian-style Roasted Marinated Turkey. This was the end result–Thansksgiving on Valentine’s Day!

Bon Appetit!


Chopped Liver with Matzo
(Dan and Amy de Lannoy)

Roast Marinated Turkey, Indian Style
(Llew and Rochelle Almeida)

Gourmet Green Bean Casserole
with Fried Shallots

(Brett and Mary-Lauren Factora)

Walnut-Sage Potatoes Au Gratin
(Dan and Amy de Lannoy)

Cranberry Pecan Multi-Grain Bread
(Llew and Rochelle Almeida)

Coeur a la Crème with Raspberry Sauce
(Art and Bonnie Britz-Thurnauer)
(From Ina Garten’s Parties Cookbook)

(Makes about 5 cups).
Around the Jewish holidays, Chopped liver is a traditional first course.  The Madeira adds a bit of sweetness without you knowing exactly what it is.  Be sure not to overprocess this spread; you want it to be chunky. Serve it with pieces of matzo.

2 pounds chicken livers
1 cup rendered chicken fat (see note)
2 cups medium-diced yellow onions (2 onions)
1/3 cup Madeira wine
4 extra-large hard cooked eggs, peeled and chunked
¼ cup fresh minced parsley
2 tsps fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper

Drain the livers and saute them in 2 batches in 2 tablespoons of the chicken fat over medium-high heat, turning once, for about 5 minutes, or until just barely pink inside.  Don’t overcook the livers or they will be dry.  Transfer them to a large bowl.

In the same pan, sauté the onions in 3 tablespoons of the chicken fat over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, or until browned. Add the Madeira and deglaze the pan, scraping the sides, for about 15 seconds.  Pour into the bowl with the livers.

Add the eggs, parsley, thyme, salt, black pepper, cayenne and the remaining chicken fat to the bowl. Toss quickly to combine.  Transfer half the mixture to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Pulse 6 to 8 times, until coarsely chopped.  Repeat with the remaining mixture.  Season to taste and chill.  Serve on crackers or matzo.

To make rendered chicken fat, place the fat in a small covered pan over low heat until the fat melts. Store in the refrigerator. You might want to collect the fat from a couple of chickens that you cook and store it in the freezer. If you’d rather not do that, your local butcher might be able to give you some chicken fat.

1 quart plain yoghurt
¾ cup lemon juice
1 large onion, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
1 small head garlic, about 8 cloves, separated into cloves and peeled
1 (2”) piece ginger root, peeled and sliced
1-2 teaspoons salt
4-5 teaspoons garam masala (ground mixture of cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, nutmeg and black peppercorns—available in Indian stores)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1¼ cups olive oil
10-12 pound turkey
Melted butter
Lemon slices

To Make Marinade:
Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth paste forms (Mixture may not be thick). Pour mixture into a very large bowl (large enough to accommodate the entire turkey).

To assemble turkey:
Gash turkey all over at one inch intervals (this allows spices to permeate the meat). Place turkey in bowl, spooning spice mixture all over it. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line roasting pain with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place turkey in pan, spooning marinade all over it.

Roast for 1¾ hour to 2 hours until leg moves easily when pulled. Cover legs and wing tips with foil if they start to burn.

Brush surface with melted butter. Place turkey on platter. Garnish with lemon slices and serve with mango chutney, if desired. Serves 10 to 15.


(from Martha Stewart Living magazine, November 2000)

For this gourmet take on a potluck classic, the casserole is assembled and the shallots are cooked ahead of time. Just before serving, pop the dish under the broiler for about 10 minutes.

6 tablespoons butter, plus more for dish
1 medium onion, cut into ¼ inch dice
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into ½ inch dice
1 pound button mushrooms, stems trimmed and quartered
2 teaspoons coarse salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup canola oil
4 shallots, cut crosswise into ¼ inch rings

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté until it begins to soften, about 4 minutes.  Add bell pepper and mushrooms, and cook until softened and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.  Season with 1teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Set aside to cool.

Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Set aside. Bring a saucepan of water to a rapid boil.  Add beans and cook until bright green and just tender, 4 to 5 minutes.  Drain, and plunge into ice bath to stop cooking. When cooled, toss drained beans with mushrooms mixture. Set aside.

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add 4 tablespoons flour, whisk constantly until mixture begins to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Pour in milk and continue whisking until mixture has thickened, about 3 minutes.  Stir in cayenne, nutmeg, and the remaining teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.  Pour over beans and toss to combine.

Butter a 9X13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish.  Spread half the green bean mixture over the bottom.  Sprinkle half the grated Parmesan and spread the remaining green beans. Combine the remaining Parmesan and the bread crumbs and sprinkle over casserole.  Cover with foil and refrigerate until just before serving.
Heat canola oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Toss shallot rings with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Fry the shallots in batches, turning frequently, untilk golden brown.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.  Place in an air tight container and set aside until ready to serve.

Heat broiler, positioning rack about 8 inches from heat.  Cook casserole, covered, until mixture is bubbly and heated through, about 10 minutes.  Uncover, and cook until top is golden brown, about 30 seconds.  Sprinkle fried shallots over top and serve immediately.
(from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, November 2000)

Prep: 30 minutes.
Bake: Standard Oven, 70 minutes
Microwave Oven: 25 Minutes

6 medium potatoes (2 lbs)
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons walnut oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
2½  cups milk
3 tablespoons snipped fresh sage
4 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1/3 cup broken walnut pieces
Fresh sage leaves (optional, for garnish)

Peel potatoes, if desired, and thinly slice (should have 6 cups). Use a mandolin, if available. Place slices in a colander. Rinse with cool water. Set aside to drain.

For sauce, in a medium saucepan, cook onion and garlic in walnut oil until tender, but not brown.  Stir in flour, salt and pepper.  Add milk all at once.  Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in snipped sage.

Grease a 2-quart round casserole (with glass cover). Layer half of the potatoes in the casserole dish.  Cover with half the sauce.  Sprinkle with half the cheese.  Repeat layering with the potatoes and sauce.  Cover and chill remaining cheese until needed.

Bake casserole in over at 350 degrees F. for 40 minutes.  Uncover, bake 25 minutes more or until potatoes are just tender.  Sprinkle remaining cheese and nuts over the top. Bake, uncovered, 5 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Top with sage leaves.
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(Bonnie serves up her piece de resistance–Our dessert, the Coeur a la Creme–while Brett and Amy look on appreciatively)

(From Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris Cookbook)

(Serves 6 to 8)
This amazing dessert was inspired by Ina Garten’s friend Anna Pump in her Loaves and Fishes Cookbook.  This is really easy to make and can be prepared days before a party.

To make this dessert, you need a heart shaped dish with perforations. You need to suspend the dish over a bowl to drain overnight. If you don’t have a heart-shaped dish, you can use a 7 inch sieve which will make a round crème, but since this is a Valentine’s Day dinner, I thought it would make sense to use a heart-shaped dish. I have such a dish if anyone wants to borrow mine.

12 pounces cream cheese, at room temperature (must be room temperature—leave outside refrigerator overnight, if necessary)
1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
2½  cups cold heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (use a good quality one)
¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest
Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
Raspberry Sauce (recipe follows)
1 pint fresh raspberries

Place the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for 2 minutes.  Scrape down the beater and bowl with a rubber spatula and change the beater for the whisk attachment. With the beater on low speed, add the heavy cream, vanilla, lemon zest and vanilla seeds and beat on high speed until the mixture is very thick, like whipped cream.

Line a heart-shaped mold with cheesecloth (use 3 layers) so the ends drape over the sides and place it on a plate making sure there is space between the bottom of the mold and the plate for the liquid to drain (Place a few hard, uncooked beans at the bottom to create that draining space, if necessary). Pour the cream mixture into the cheese cloth, fold the ends over the top, and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, discard the liquid, unmold the cream onto a plate (preferably white) and drizzle raspberry sauce all around the base. Serve with raspberries and extra sauce.

Raspberry Sauce:
(Makes 2 cups)
For a sauce, nothing is easier or fresher tasting than this raspberry sauce.  Its also great for entertaining because you can make it a day or two in advance. Framboise is a clear raspberry eau-de-vie that you can find at a liquor store.

1 half-pint fresh raspberries
½ cup sugar
1 cup (12 ounces) seedless raspberry jam (it MUST be seedless)
1 tablespoon framboise liqueur

Place the raspberries, sugar and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 4 minutes.  Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam and the framboise into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth. Chill.


(Bonnie and Rochelle at the end of the evening)