July 11, 2016

Triple Cherry Pie

Updated: This is damn near the best pie I've ever made. Seriously perfect.

Last week, I thawed out the remaining sour cherries from last summer's harvest. I had a couple bags of fresh cherries in the fridge, and I wanted to make a quick pie with all three varieties.

Yes, it's near 100-degree temps in St. Louis right now...I know it's crazy to turn on the oven in my 115-year-old house that only has central AC upstairs.

But...but...pie-baking always makes me feel better (and with the world as it is now, we could all use something to feel better about...if even it's something small for just a few moments). #peacebypiece

Besides, I can fit a full-sized pie plate in my toaster oven. ;-)

So, I said this was the best pie I've ever made. It's true. The filling was the perfect consistency, thick and "gooey" (for lack of a better word). The cherry pies I've made in the past were always too liquidy inside. This time, however, I used quick tapioca instead of flour or cornstarch. It thickens the juice better and doesn't taste so pasty. If you haven't tried this ingredient before, I highly recommend it. I will do this from now on in all my berry pies.

Triple Cherry Pie
adapted from Art of the Pie

July 7, 2016

Spaghetti with Lobster

When we ate at Joe Beef in Montreal earlier this year, one of the best dishes we tried was the Spaghetti Homard-Lobster (pictured above). In their cookbook, the Joe Beef guys explain, "We take this name from an old Iron Chef episode when the host declared 'Battle Homard Lobster!' Yes, homard and lobster mean the same thing (like 'minestrone soup'). Among other things that don't make any sense: this is probably the most popular Joe Beef dish."

I'd been ogling the recipe before our trip and was excited to try it. However, by the time the TWO pasta dishes arrived--after FIVE other courses--we were so full that we could only take a few bites. Almost immediately, we talked about recreating the dish at home.

That finally happened last week.

I used 3 medium-sized lobster tails instead of a live lobster. I cooked the tails, pulled the meat out, then used the shells to make the sauce in the same water that I boiled them in. I think I used too much cream, though, as my dish was a bit too saucy. No worries, though, because it was still pretty delicious. And I kept the extra sauce to eat with more pasta later.

Spaghetti with Lobster
recipe from The Art of Living According to Joe Beef

June 27, 2016

Shrimp Enchiladas with Jalapeño Cream Sauce

Confession: I taught the most difficult cooking class I've ever had last night. It was a demo class featuring all shrimp recipes: smoked shrimp salad, shrimp and corn fritters, coconut shrimp bisque, shrimp enchiladas...with watermelon-blueberry margaritas, strawberry shortcake, and mascarpone sorbet.

Thanks to Ruth Sparrow for letting me this photo from Kitchen Conservatory's Instagram feed.

It was...ambitious. To say the least.

I used 10 pounds of shrimp total and cooked for 19 people. For the first time, I wasn't as prepared as I should have been, even thought I got there 2 hours before class started. I didn't make the recipes in the order I should have, and by the end of the night I still hadn't made the sorbet or the shortcakes. Luckily, I had a great class that didn't care if I improvised the dessert. I ended up serving Grand Marnier macerated strawberries with mascarpone whipped cream. Everyone was too full at that point for shortcakes anyway.

In fact, I had to improvise a couple other recipes in order to finish at a decent time (and still went 30 minutes over). I ended up leaving out some of the chopped vegetables (onions, carrots, etc.) in the rice and enchiladas. I kept the spirit of the recipes, but took a few shortcuts (like combining steps and eyeballing measurements) to save time. Plus, I used the opportunity to talk about adapting recipes and "winging it." It was a teachable moment, at least.

Everyone left happy and full, so that's all that matters. They said everything was delicious. I told them it was because it was all made with love, sweat, and panic. ;-)

The best dish of the night were the enchiladas...corn tortillas layered with spicy sautéed shrimp and spinach, sprinkled with cheese, and topped with a creamy sauce. 

Click through for my adapted recipe.

June 18, 2016

Brown Sugar Pie

I made this brown sugar pie, a traditional French-Canadian recipe, last fall when I wanted to bake something for school but didn't have much in the way of ingredients at home. The brown sugar melts into a caramel-like filling. Think pecan pie without the pecans. It's rich and sweet, almost too sweet.

But, I'm thinking this would be a lovely dessert topped with summer berries...something fresh and tart to balance the sweetness. I can also see lining the bottom crust with big juicy blackberries and pouring the filling over them. 

Yes. That.

Brown Sugar Pie (aka Tarte au Sucre Brun)
recipe from Pizzazzerie

1 pound light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract
1 pie crust 
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Prepare pie pan with a bottom crust of dough, crimp edges.
  • Whisk together eggs and add in sugar, butter, and vanilla.
  • Whisk together until combined well and smooth.
  • Pour into pie pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. (It might need longer. Check to see that pie is baked through; it will be gooey but it should be set all the way through.)

June 8, 2016

Roasted Eggplant with Grilled Flatbread

Whenever I'm feeling down or need to feel inspired, I watch cooking shows like Parts Unknown (or anything with Anthony Bourdain), Chef's Table, Michael Pollan's Cooked (a new Netflix series), and my favorite The Mind of a Chef

While the newest season of Mind of a Chef (season 4) isn't yet available on Netflix, you can watch two episodes on the show's webpage.

In the first episode, New York chef Gabrielle Hamilton roasts eggplants over a gas burner just like you would roast a red bell pepper. When the eggplants are charred and meltingly tender, she mixes the smokey flesh with lemon, garlic, and olive oil. This simple spread is served with grilled flatbread. 

I've watched that episode three times now.

Disclaimer: I know this does not make the most appetizing-looking dish. I couldn't even get my boyfriend to taste it. But trust me when I say that it is quite delicious. Think unpureed, unadulterated baba ganoush. Please. Just trust me.

Incidentally, this is perfect at room temperature, so it's a great addition to summer picnics. Leftovers are good when mixed with cooked pasta and cheese or layered in a lasagna.

Trust me.

Smokey Eggplant
from Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton

June 6, 2016

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Ahhhh, summertime. All school year, I look forward to summer break...the lazy mornings, breakfast on the porch, endless hours to read and knit...

Except this summer.

This summer...I decided to teach summer school. It sounded like such a good idea in February. In the 20 years I've been teaching, I've never taught summer school. I thought I'd give it a try. After all, I could use the extra money.

There have only been four days of summer classes so far, but I'm already regretting my decision. 

I had convinced myself it wouldn't be that bad. I'm teaching two sections of English from 8:00-1:00. I am focusing on Gothic literature, particularly Poe and Jeykll & Hyde. The session ends on July 1st. Piece of cake, right?


I absolutely did not want to get out of bed this morning to go to work when all of my teacher friends are enjoying their summer break. If I talk about teaching summer school again next year, punch me in the face...okay? 

I can make it until July 1st. Right? RIGHT? 19 days left...

I am, however, still trying to make the most of my summer. I'm taking a road trip to Chicago this weekend with my BFF to see The Cure. I'll be in Chicago again in mid-July for my first visit to Wrigley Field. I'm flying to Florida in early July to spend 4 days on the beach. And I'm planning to visit a few museums in St. Louis that I've never been to. 

Tonight, I'm seeing A Midsummer Night's Dream in Forest Park, my all-time favorite event in St. Louis. I haven't yet decided what to make for our picnic, but I'm considering this smoked salmon mousse, which I made for the Mother's Day brunch class I taught. It's easy, light, and delicious...and would go well with a bottle of wine and some Shakespeare.

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Makes about 25 appetizers

3 ounces smoked salmon

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon fresh minced dill

Black pepper
2 English cucumbers, sliced

  • Place the smoked salmon, cream cheese, lemon, dill, and pepper in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth. 
  • To serve, spoon the mousse into a pastry bag with a star tip and pipe onto cucumbers slices or crackers (or serve as a dip).

June 2, 2016

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

First of all, I'm using the word muffins liberally here.

In mid-April, I started a fitness program in an effort to get healthier and drop a few pounds...as my size 12 clothes were starting to feel a bit snug. I chose to follow the Fit Girls Guide 28 Day Jumpstart exercise and meal plan after seeing amazing progress pics online.

I've found that the daily exercises are easy, and the suggested meals are simple and tasty...refrigerator oatmeal, pita bread pizza, sweet potato & avocado tacos, pumpkin lasagna, cauliflower mac & cheese, Cobb salad, shrimp and grits. It's not about sacrifice; they focus on clean eating and moderation. The meals are 400 calories with a daily piece of dark chocolate and a 200 calorie snack. I'm eating lots of fruits and vegetables and, thankfully, carbs are allowed. Pasta! Pizza! Yeah!

Plus, the Fit Girls focus on community support...with daily inspiration, photo challenges, and check-ins on Instagram. Their motto is "progress not perfection." 

After the first 4 weeks, I was fitting into size 10 jeans. I've lost about 8 pounds, and there is a noticeable difference in my before & after pics. Go me!

I started another 4-week round on Tuesday. So, tonight I made one of the suggested recipes for a flourless banana oatmeal muffin-like breakfast that's supposed to resemble a cinnabun. I adapted a few of the ingredients & quantities and omitted the cottage cheese-based topping they include. My version makes a dozen "muffins" that taste very much like banana bread. Mmmm. Banana bread.

It just needs a little crunch, so next time I'll add a bit of chopped nuts or maybe--even better--some flax seed. Otherwise, the flavor is very good...sweet and satisfying. Doesn't taste at all like "diet" food!

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

April 26, 2016

Farro & Spring Vegetable Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

This dish is so good that I made it twice last weekend...in my Girls' Night Out cooking class and as a side dish for a BBQ.

Consider the recipe a guideline, not something to follow exactly. On Saturday, I used arugula, asparagus, peas, green onions, fresh radishes, dill, mint, and Parmesan cheese. On Sunday, I added spinach, peas, radishes, zucchini, tomatoes black olives, parsley, and feta to the farro. The possibilities are endless. Really.

As a side dish or main course, this salad is delicious...light but filling...and keeps well in the fridge. I took leftovers for lunch yesterday and today.

Farro & Spring Vegetable Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

April 3, 2016

Maple-Dijon Salmon

I brought back some maple syrup from Montreal. Of course. While I plan to make waffles (mmmm....waffles) soon, I wanted to make something else to showcase the syrup.

I've baked a maple pie in the past. I considered a maple-glazed roasted pork tenderloin, sesame-maple tofu, maple donuts (mmmm....donuts), peanut butter-maple fudge, some cocktails, or another batch of maple granola. Since I have several cups of syrup, I'm sure a few of these will happen as well.

But, I decided on Nicoise salad with maple-dijon salmon for a simple Sunday supper.

Maple-Dijon Salmon
recipe slightly adapted from Joyful Healthy Eats

March 29, 2016

Eating (and Drinking) In Montreal

We spent Easter weekend in Montreal, thanks to Nick who gave me the trip as a Christmas gift. Our reason for going was two-fold: To get my first passport stamp and to eat. Specifically, to eat at Joe Beef. Nick booked the flights, our hotel room, and made dinner reservations for Friday night. The rest of the planning was up to me.

I did a lot of research before our trip. I annotated a travel book, read the Joe Beef cookbook, watched all of the food shows that featured Montreal, spent hours browsing online, and had dinner with some friends from Montreal to get the scoop. There is so much to do in Montreal, and I knew we couldn’t fit it all into just three days, so we tried to hit all the highlights. We didn’t go to any museums or whatnot; our itinerary was full of eating and drinking.

Day One: On Friday, we walked 2+ miles, uphill, in the snow (literally) to have breakfast poutine at L'Oeufrier. Nick ordered the “ménage à trois” (with chorizo, Italian sausage, and pork sausage) because he could pronounce it in French. Funny guy. I chose the “La du Canard SVP!” (that means s’il vous plaît or “if you please”...thanks to Nick for teaching me that one) with duck confit, caramelized onions, and mushrooms.  

A ménage à trois is so sexy.

Then, we walked a couple blocks over to Dieu Du Ciel for some local beers. I liked everything we tried (mostly stouts and dark beers) and would highly recommend this microbrewery to everyone who visits Montreal and wants to try good local beer in a cool, happening atmosphere. We showed up when they opened, and it was absolutely packed when we left a few hours later.

Dinner at Joe Beef that night was incredible and worth every bit of the hype it gets. We were seated at a cozy table in the bay window near the bar. Our server Alexe offered to choose our menu, tastes and smaller portions of different dishes and wines. We gladly accepted her offer.

We started with cocktails. Nick ordered the Bloody Caesar that comes “excessively garnished,” and I had a Gin Gimlet. Dinner began with a half dozen oysters, followed by smoked sturgeon croquettes breaded in cornflakes and topped with caviar. Next was a pastrami-style veal tongue topped with escargo and aioli. This was followed by a roasted quail with sweetbreads and mushrooms (my favorite of the night). 

Then, the éclair arrived: puff pastry stuffed with ham and seared foie gras all topped with a melty cheese sauce. It was absolutely over the top. We also tried two pasta dishes, the spaghetti with lobster (one of their most popular entrees) and Polish braised beef with rye pappardelle and mushrooms. They were both excellent, though the creamy lobster sauce was so rich. I wish we hadn’t eaten so much before the beef arrived, because it was damn delicious but at that point I was so full I could only eat a few bites. We ended with vanilla ice cream swirled with lingonberry sorbet and topped with meringue pieces.

Day Two: We opted to skip an early breakfast and head to Schwartz’s when they opened at 10:30 for an infamous smoked meat sandwich (bread, smoked brisket, yellow mustard). Surprisingly, there was absolutely no line and few people there, so we sat at the counter and were served almost immediately. When we left about a half hour later, the place was filling up. Afterward, we walked directly across the street to The Main Deli to try their smoked meat sandwich, because we were told it was just as good (so, if Schwartz’s has a line, go there). We split a sandwich and ordered the potato verenekes (fried pierogies).

Next, we hit a couple other local microbreweries: Le Saint-Bock and L’amere a boire, which were just a few doors apart. So. Much. Beer.

Dinner that evening was huîtres (oysters), charcuterie, and fromage at La Champagnerie. My favorite was the pickle juice mignonette served with the oysters. Surprisingly tasty! However, the highlight of the night was getting to saber a bottle of champagne. It’s much easier than I expected! The saber isn’t at all sharp. In fact, we were told that you can “saber” a bottle with a butter knife, an iPhone, or even a metal wristwatch! You simple find the seam that runs up and down the bottle, face that part up, loosen the cage, and run the saber across the length of the bottle confidently with one smooth motion. The whole top comes off, glass and all. I was amazed. “Look at that!”

Watch me whack that bottle!

March 6, 2016

Spring 2016 Cooking Classes

Kitchen Conservatory's spring schedule is now available online! 

My classes include two new Girls' Night Out menus: French-inspired cuisine on April 23 and a shrimp feast on June 25. 

I'm also teaching a new brunch class for Mother's Day featuring savory French toast, hash brown-crust quiche, and mimosa sorbet.

Below is my schedule through June. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEERS - Sunday, April 10 @ 5:00-7:30 pm (hands-on)
  • This hands-on class will enjoy beer cheese fondue with soft pretzels, local lager with spicy sriracha chicken wings, fruity Belgian wheat beer with grilled scallops and corn salad, plus creamy stout with chocolate hazelnut cake and vanilla ice cream.
SATURDAY NIGHT SUSHI - Saturday, April 16 @ 6:30-9:00 pm (hands-on)
  • Menu includes tempura vegetables, miso soup, edamame salad with ginger-soy dressing, crab and mango rolls with teriyaki glaze, spicy tuna hand rolls, crunchy shrimp rolls with avocado-chile cream, and sweet plum ice cream.
GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: OUI, OUI, PARIS - Saturday, April 23 @ 6:30-9:00 pm (demonstration)
  • Enjoy a rosemary-lemon vodka fizz, blue cheese-walnut-port wine pâté served with crostini, farro and spring vegetable salad with lemon vinaigrette, feta and herb-crusted salmon, French lentils with spinach and red wine, plus orange-ginger beer cake with chocolate sorbet.
MOM'S THE WORD  - Sunday, May 8 @ 1:00-3:30 pm (hands-on)
  • Surprise Mom with a tasty brunch menu featuring savory ricotta and spinach-stuffed French toast, smoked salmon mousse on cucumber canapés, gruyère-pancetta quiche with hash brown potato crust, asparagus tart with bacon jam, mimosa sorbet with strawberry Pavlovas, plus spiked grapefruit-mint sodas.

February 8, 2016

Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake Bars

Yesterday, I made a quick and easy dessert to take to a friend's house for Superbowl watching. I didn't take any pictures. I am a bad blogger. However, I want to post the recipe with some suggestions on how to substitute ingredients.

In my weekend cooking classes, students will often ask about substituting ingredients. Recipes are just guidelines, I tell them. Use what you like or what you have. Yet, people are often hesitant to change recipes, fearing they will mess them up.

So, below is the recipe I used to create a decadent, sophisticated dessert...with several ideas to change it up. I had some espresso-flavored shortbread cookies I wanted to get rid of, along with some sour cream in the fridge, and several bars of bittersweet chocolate that I got for Christmas. This recipe was developed using the things I had on hand.

I created the chocolate espresso version from a recipe I found on Pinterest from Sally's Baking Addiction.

My cheesecake bars are not at all "skinny," but her recipe was a good one to follow so that I got my ratios correct. Baking is, after all, very much like chemistry. I modify recipes like this all the time. It makes cooking easier, less stressful, and much more fun.

January 1, 2016

Ginger Beer Pound Cake

Happy New Year!

2016 started with lots of laughs. I had a few people over last night. We ate a side of smoked salmon, cheeses and crackers, tomato bruschetta, prosciutto & parmesan gougères, and stuffed shells (thanks Christy & Allen!). For dessert, I made this delicious cake.

Lovely Ladies

There are currently several hard ginger ales on the market. I've tried Not Your Father's Ginger Ale, Lewis Osterweis & Sons Hard Ginger Beer (made by local Schlafly), Coney Island Brewing Co. Hard Ginger Ale, and Crabbie's Spiced Orange Ginger Beer. Not Your Father's is my favorite of the four (I also really dig their hard root beer).

My least favorite to drink was the Spiced Orange Ginger Beer. It was way too sweet for me. So, I looked for some way to cook with it. This cake is sooooo good. The gingery orange flavor really comes through. Of course, you could use any ginger beer or ale you wanted to. I bet it would even be good with some of that root beer.

I have lots of bottles of ginger beer at the moment, and I plan to make some pulled pork with it soon.

Ginger Beer Pound Cake
slightly adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup ginger beer or ginger ale, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 300F. Spray a 10” Bundt pan with baking spray.
  • Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment cream together butter and sugar on medium high speed until mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. 
  • Add extract and salt and beat for another minute.
  • Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
  • Alternating add flour, then beer, then flour, then beer, and end with flour.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a knife or wooden skewer when inserted comes out clean.
  • Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
  • Remove from pan, let cool completely, then glaze. For the glaze, mix 1 cup powdered sugar mixed with ginger beer, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency.