Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Yield: 2 salads

1 large or several small cucumbers
2 plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped basil
Feta or crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese
hydroponic lettuce This is a soft lettuce, usually a bibb or European buttercrunch type. It is also called “Hydro-Bibb lettuce.

1.      Peel and slice the cucumber lengthwise. If large, remove the seeds with the point of a small spoon. Small cucumbers (called “pickles by Hank Scott of Long & Scott) are more tender and do not contain the large seeds. They do not need to be peeled or seeded.
2.      Slice and seed the tomato.  Cut both into small squares and combine with the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and parsley.
3.      Refrigerate until very cold.  Serve over lettuce with squares or wedges of feta or crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at www.lakefronttv.com. Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.


JULY 4, 2012

July 4th might be the only major holiday that crosses all religious, ethnic and political boundaries. There are no traditional foods, unless one considers hot dogs and apple pie in the same category as candy canes and Easter eggs. And, with the exception of the red, white and blue of the American flag, it has no set format. Although many people have a faint recollection of their 8th grade history class, only those with inherited memberships in the DAR and SAR (Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution) take the holiday seriously. Nor do most care because they have never read nor will read the Declaration of Independence. The British are most likely better informed because they lost precious tax revenue. After all, it has been 236 years since our forefathers were persecuted by the British and revolted for freedom, and most of America’s population today cannot trace their heritage back to England or France or even Western Europe, much less to the thirteen original colonies. And, so, Independence Day is just a day off from work with the high point an intensive study of where the best fireworks can be seen and then getting there ahead of the crowds for a good vantage point. We still sing patriotic songs such as "The Star-Spangled Banner", but Francis Scott Key, who wrote the poem, set it to an old melody that was an English drinking song praising wine. The tune spans almost two octaves and is virtually unsingable unless one is a lyrical coloratura who does not need to take a breath, or a rock singer who cannot carry a tune anyway. And, to make matters worse, America is not mentioned anywhere in the words. But then, England is not mentioned in “God Save the Queen” either. “America the Beautiful” and “This Land is Your Land” says it much better without bombs bursting in the air and ramparts of earth and stone protecting forts that no longer exist, but this is only a personal opinion.
And, with that said, let’s go back to fun food, beginning with a 4th of July breakfast coffee cake and a fun flag for the youngsters to mak


Raspberry, strawberry, blueberry or mixed

Yield: 12-16 Squares

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

16 ounces light fat-free yogurt with berries of choice

1 cup vegetable oil

4 jumbo graded eggs

1cup sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 pint blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries

Optional: Extra berries to serve on the side


1.                  Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.                  Sift the first 4 ingredients together

3.                  Add yogurt, oil and eggs. Beat one minute with a hand electric mixer on medium speed.

4.                  Pour into a 9 X 9 inch greased or non-stick baking pan.

5.                  Toss berries in a strainer with cinnamon-sugar to coat lightly. Gently fold into the batter.

6.                  Sprinkle more cinnamon-sugar over the top.

7.                  Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out dry. 

8.                  Cut into squares and serve with the reserved blueberries on the side.




And, what is more American than Fried Chicken? Beer! Combine the two for perfect patriotism.
This simplistic recipe for a light, delicious batter insures chicken, fish, seafood and vegetables a flaky crust outside and a moist texture within.
Yield: 3 ½ pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
Optional: ¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning
2 jumbo eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter
Approximately 1 cup beer of choice
2 inches Canola oil or a mixture of Canola and Peanut oil

1.      Combine the flour, salt and white pepper (and Cajun seasoning). Stir in the eggs and butter.
2.      Add the beer slowly, stirring, until the batter is thick and smooth.
3.      Let the batter rest in a warm place before dipping in the chicken pieces to fry.
4.      Heat the oil to 375°F. Place the pieces, one at a time into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry in batches, if necessary. Cook, uncovered, until golden on one side. Turn. Cover. Cook 10 minutes. Remove cover. Cook until crisp and light brown on the bottom. Turn. Cook a few minutes longer until crisp. Remove to paper toweling.

Layered by color

1 loaf soft white bread, crusts removed
Cherry tomatoes, sliced thin
Salt to sprinkle
Basil leaves, minced

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons minced scallion greens or chives
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

¼ cup tiny capers or chopped pitted Greek olives
1 sweet onion, minced fine

1.      Remove the crusts from the bread. With a rolling pin, gently roll the slices, not too thin.
2.      Slice the tomatoes. Sprinkle lightly with salt and toss with the minced basil.
3.      Mix the cream cheese with the scallions and white pepper.
4.      Mix the capers (olives) with the minced onion.
5.      Spread a thin layer of the cherry tomato mixture on a slice of bread. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese mixture on another slice of bread and place it on top of the tomatoes. Spread a thin layer of capers/onion on another slice of bread and cover the cream cheese. Place a 4th piece of bread on top.
6.      Press down. Repeat until all the bread and ingredients are used. Set the sandwiches on a platter covered with plastic wrap. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
7.      Before serving: Slice the sandwiches lengthwise into 3-4 pieces.
8.      Serve on a platter decorated with parsley and tiny red grape tomatoes.

You can make this flag as small or large as you choose.
The one in the photograph is 12X17

29 large strawberries
30 large blackberries
Approximately 3 large bananas
Lemon juice
Rectangular tray
Paper and scissors
1.      Cut a square from a piece of paper and set it in the upper left corner of a rectangular tray. Hull and halve 29 large strawberries and set them aside.
2.      Arrange 30 large blackberries, as shown, in the upper left corner of a serving tray or cutting board (it should be at least 8 by 13 inches).
3.      Cut approximately 8 bananas into slices 3/4-inch-thick and set into a bowl. Sprinkle on lemon juice and toss the slices gently with a rubber spatula to keep them from browning.
4.      Assemble the banana slices in rows and top each slice with a strawberry half with a flag toothpick to hold together.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at www.lakefronttv.com. Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.


No one is quite sure where or when Mardi Gras began, and folks in New Orleans don’t care. This yearly wild celebration in “Nawlins” (Only the tourists pronounce it “Noo Orleens”) is their most important tradition that not even the most pious will put asunder before it all disappears at the stroke of midnight when Ash Wednesday and forty days of repentance sober everyone.
              Those who have been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras will attest to its madness. Thousands line the streets to catch colorful beads thrown from hundreds of floats built by private individuals and businesses who have spent untold dollars to provide this day of outlandish opulence and ostentation fort their own enjoyment. Bourbon Street is alive with jazz and booze. Outlandish costumes know no limits. As the frenzy of decadence reaches an unbearable pitch, the clock strikes midnight and police and street cleaners suddenly appear to sweep away the mockery. But, even the most pious of New Orleans do not restrain from their cuisine because they know that anything that beautiful – that good – surely must come from Heaven. There is no other cuisine in this world that matches good Creole and Cajun cooking.
            It is said that, in order to fully savor Creole cooking, one must have a “Bouche Creole”, translated simply as a Creole mouth, and a “Boudin Creole”, or Creole Stomach. The real Creole cook doesn’t follow a recipe, but relies on his and her imagination, remembering that Creole cooking began with the French love of and skill in manipulating anything edible into a tasty dish. Combine this with the Spanish passion for piquancy, the native African ability for developing the perfect method of slow cooking, coupled with the gift of herbs and spices from the Indians, and, Voila! Creole! Combine it all in a well-seasoned cast iron pot with a nut brown roux, add onions, celery and peppers and, from there, you can go anywhere with ingredients of choice.
And, now, some translations of New Orleans’ jargon:
JAMBALAYA: Highly-spiced rice, chicken and ham, often mixed with sausage, peppers, tomatoes, shrimp and oysters, as inspired by Spanish Paella.
GUMBO:  The African word for okra. An original creation indigenous to the city of New Orleans, developed from local ingredients of seafood and vegetables and thickened with okra or filé powder. Okra is added at the beginning to simmer with the other ingredients. Filé powder must be added at the end, or it will become gummy. Gumbo is a combination of soup and stew to be eaten as a first or main course. Like other New Orleans dishes, it is served with white, fluffy rice.
ÉTOUFFÉE: Probably derived from the French, étuvée, “to braise”, or slowly simmer.
CRÊPES: The Queen of pancakes and traditional fare of Shrove Tuesday celebrating renewal, family life and hope for good fortune and happiness.
KING CAKE: It is said the cake was brought to New Orleans from France in the 1870s. The decorative colored sugars - purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power – represent the three Kings who visited the Christ child on Epiphany.  Also known as Twelfth Night Cake, it is prepared in New Orleans bakeries during the period between January 6th and Ash Wednesday. The cakes were round to represent the circular route taken by the Kings to confuse King Herod, who was following them to kill the Christ child. A bean or pea or tiny doll is hidden inside the cake to symbolize the baby Jesus.

Yield: 4 servings
For the Roux:
2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Stir together in a heavy pot over very low heat until the flour is browned. Be careful not to burn. This will take approximately 10 minutes.
For the Étouffée:
1 large onion, chopped, 1 bell pepper, color of choice, chopped, 2 ribs celery, chopped, 2 cloves garlic, chopped, 3 ounce can tomato paste, 1 ¼ cups beef broth (10 ounce cans Campbell’s®), 1 cup water, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon dried basil, ½ teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon chili powder, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon Kosher or coarse sea salt
1- 2 pounds peeled medium shrimp
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
½ cup chopped scallion greens, a handful chopped parsley.

1.      Add the onions, peppers, celery and garlic to the roux. Stir.
2.      Add the tomato paste. Stir in the broth and water, a little at a time over medium heat. Add the bay leaves, basil, thyme, pepper and salt.
3.      Simmer slowly over medium – low heat 45 minutes or longer. Cover and let this wonderful dish rest 1 hour or longer for the seasonings to blend.

4.      Peel the shrimp. Sauté in the oil/garlic until just colored and coated. Add salt, if you wish. Add to the sauce directly before serving. Reheat and serve over rice sprinkled with chopped scallions and parsley

Louisiana Crab Dip
8 ounces crab meat (fresh, if possible)
8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
½ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons white horseradish
½ teaspoon lemon juice
⅛ teaspoon Louisiana style hot sauce or Tabasco®
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves

1.      Pick over the crab meat for any shells and cartilage.
2.      Beat cream cheese smooth. Beat in sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice, hot sauce and mustard. Stir in chopped cilantro. If mixture is too thick, add extra sour cream.
3.      Carefully fold in the crab. Sprinkle the top with paprika or chopped parsley for color.
4.      Refrigerate. Serve with crackers and celery, Belgian endive, or toast points.
Note: This is fabulous served warm from the oven or microwave.

King Cake
2 packages active dry yeast (Fleischman’s®)
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup warm water (100° - 115°F)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup cold milk
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 extra large egg yolks
¼ pound plus 4 tablespoons butter, softened
 3-4 cups all-purpose or bread flour

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
¼ cup granulated sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup finely chopped pecans

8-9 inch spring form or tube pan

1.      In a large bowl, combine the yeast with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and sprinkle over the water. Let it sit 5 minutes. Stir. Let it sit 10 minutes to become doubled and puffy. (to proof)
2.      Stir in remaining sugar, salt, milk, sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
3.      Add the egg yolks and stir again to blend.
4.      With your fingers, quickly work the butter into 2 ½ cups of the flour to a dry, mealy consistency. Add it to the yeast mixture and punch down and turn over the dough many times (knead) to make a smooth elastic dough. Add more flour as needed.
5.      Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and continue to knead approximately 6 minutes.
6.      Shape into a ball. Cover. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or until mixture doubles in size.
7.      Place o a lightly floured surface and punch the dough down.
8.      Roll the dough into a rectangle about 10 X 14 inches. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg mixture. Sprinkle the nuts over.
9.      Roll it up from the wide end, jelly-roll fashion.
10.  Grease the bottom and sides of the pan. Set the dough in, pushing the ends together to meet.
11.  Cover and let rise again until doubled in size.
12.  Preheat oven to 375°F.
13.  Bake 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool to the warm point in the pans. Invert on a rack and glaze.
Confectioners’ sugar mixed with a little lime or lemon juice to a smooth cream.
Purple, green and gold colored sugar can be purchased from specialty stores or through King Arthur Flour – Google King Arthur colored sugar to order or call 800.827.6836.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at www.lakefronttv.com. Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.

Monday, July 30, 2012



            The holidays are almost upon us, and that means it’s time to think about entertaining. At a certain age, most people opt to take friends to a restaurant, rather than fuss in the kitchen. It goes without saying, however, that the most gracious occasions are those where people are invited into a private home.
In Grandmother’s time, people entertained friends at home with afternoon tea. Whether it was a formal event, such as a bridal or baby shower, where 100 guests were invited to dress in afternoon finery with gloves and hats to drink tea from china cups and nibble on sandwiches arrayed on silver platters, or a simple get-together with a few friends, the hours between two and six o’clock were set aside for social interaction between Ladies Only.
            We think of tea as an English tradition, although the French also claim it to be theirs. References to tea in Chinese literature go back approximately 5,000 years. Ancient folklore places the creation of the brew at 2737 BC, when a camellia blossom drifted into a cup of boiled drinking water belonging to Emperor Shen Nung. Originally, tea was valued for its medicinal qualities. It has long been known that tea aids in digestion, which is why many Chinese prefer to consume it after their meal. The elevation of tea drinking to an art form actually began in the 8th century. Tea drinking became popular in England when Queen Anne (1665-1714) chose tea over ale as her regular breakfast drink.
            Prior to the introduction of tea into Britain, the English had two main meals, breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was ale, bread, and beef.  During the middle of the eighteenth century, dinner for the upper and middle classes had shifted from noontime to an evening meal that was served at a fashionably late hour. This was due to the shift in English life itself. This period during the second half of the Victorian Period was known as the Industrial Revolution. Working families would return home tired, exhausted, and hungry. The high dining table would be set with meats, bread, butter, pickles, cheese, and of course tea. None of the dainty finger sandwiches, scones and pastries of afternoon tea would have been on the menu. Because it was eaten at a high, dining table rather than the low coffee table of the sitting room, it was termed "high" tea. When the word “high tea” became a regal and lofty rather than practical event is not known, but tea rooms and American hotels continue to misunderstand, offering tidbits of fancy pastries and cakes on delicate china for “high tea”.
            There are several types of Low Tea. There is the Cream Tea, with scones, jam and clotted cream. There is Light Tea that adds sweets. And, there is Full Tea with savories (tiny sandwiches or appetizers), scones, sweets and dessert. These are traditionally served around four o’clock, ending promptly before seven.
Now that we are infused with some history, it’s time to concentrate on etiquette. Tea cups with a handle are held by placing one’s fingers to the front and back of the handle with one’s pinkie straight up in the air, and slightly tilted. It is not an affectation, but a graceful way to avoid spills. Never loop your fingers through the handle, nor grasp the cup with the palm of your hand.
     Never stir your tea with your spoon in sweeping circular motions. Place your tea spoon at the six o'clock position and softly fold the liquid towards the twelve o'clock position two or three times. Never leave your tea spoon in your tea cup.  Place the spoon on the right side of the tea saucer. Milk is served with tea, not cream. Cream is too heavy and masks the taste of the tea.        
Serve lemon slices, never wedges. Provide a small fork for your guests, or have the tea server place a slice in the tea cup after the tea has been poured. Never add lemon with milk. The lemon's citric acid will cause the proteins in the milk to curdle.
The Informal Tea is still attended by no more than ten guests. It is held between two to five in the afternoon and can take place in the living room or dining room. During warmer weather, you might consider having your tea on the lawn or patio.
To brew the Perfect Cup of Tea: Run cold water from the tap for at least one minute to clear stale water from the pipes and aerate the water. Do no re-heat water sitting in your kettle. If you live in an area where the water is heavily treated you can use bottled water. Shake the bottle to aerate or oxygenate the water, or your tea could have a flat taste. It's the oxygen in the water that opens up the tea leaf for full flavor extraction. Bring your teacup or teapot to the kettle while the water is boiling. If using a teapot, pre-warm it by rinsing with hot water. A cold pot could take away from the brewing process. When the water comes to a rolling boil, pour it over the tea bag or tea leaves. Use one tea bag or one-rounded teaspoon of loose tea per cup. If you like stronger tea, add an extra bag for the pot. Make sure you do not over-brew the tea or it will become bitter. Green tea is more delicate than black. Bring the water to the boiling point (185 degrees) and not to a rolling boil. For iced-tea: prepare as hot tea, but several hours in advance. Do not add ice cubes. Refrigerate.  Put the ice into glasses, not into the pitcher.
For High Tea, set the table with a cloth tablecloth (linen, if you have) and napkins. You can serve buffet style or guests can be seated around the table. With a centerpiece that can be a small vase of flowers, a basket of seasonal fruit, or food that is placed on a three-tiered cake stand and used as the centerpiece.
When giving a formal tea for an occasion, the tea service should be at one end of the table and the food arranged at the other end of the table. The guests are served tea by a seated hostess or a designated lady of honor.

Yield: Approximately 10-12 scones

3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 full teaspoon baking powder
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (¼ pound) cold unsalted butter
3 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
⅔ cup fat free half and half
1 cup golden raisins or half raisins with dried cranberries;

1.                  Preheat oven to 425ºF.
2.                  Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
3.                  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. (Or, use a food processor for this)
4.                  Beat the eggs and stir in all but 2 tablespoons.
5.                  Stir in the half and half.
6.                  Stir in the raisins and cranberries.
7.                  Form into a large, round disk approximately ¾ inch thick.
8.                  Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. With a glass or cookie cutter, cut out the dough in rounds.
9.                  Brush the tops with the reserved egg.
10.              Set the baking sheet ⅓ from the bottom of the oven and bake approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

 Easy Clotted Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
Using a whisk attachment on the mixer, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Remove from mixer, and hand whisk in the sour cream and confectioners' sugar until just combined. Store in the refrigerator.

Lemon Clotted Cream
3 oz. mascarpone (similar to cream cheese)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ teaspoon lemon extract
3 tablespoons sifted powdered sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Beat the heavy cream on the highest speed of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add the remaining ingredients and beat on low speed until evenly combined.

Tea Sandwiches
            For Ham: Purchase a good quality ham of choice, sliced thin. Crust thin white bread (Pepperidge Farm® very thin). Slice the bread in half on a rectangle or triangle. Spread softened, unsalted butter over. Place a slice of ham over. Slice a small gherkin pickle lengthwise and set on top. Smoked salmon slices can be substituted. Squeeze a tiny bit of lemon over the salmon and top each with a caper.
            For Shrimp: Cook medium shrimp. Cool, peel and devein. Crust old fashioned white or whole wheat bread and, with a cookie/biscuit cutter, cut rounds. Make Curry Butter (below) and spread it over. Set a shrimp on top. Place a tiny cutting of parsley over for color.
Curry Butter
4 ounces unsalted butter
1 heaping teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1.      Cream the butter. Stir in the curry, lemon juice and salt.

Cream Cheese Dill Roll-Ups
Yield: Approximately 20 Pieces
1 loaf sliced soft white bread
¼ pound unsalted butter, softened
4 cucumbers
1 bunch chopped dill
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 bunch dill with stems, washed and dried
1.                  Remove the crusts from white bread.  Spread a thin layer                                                                                         of butter on one side.
2.                  Peel, seed and chop the cucumbers fine by hand. Set into a strainer and                                                                                toss with a little salt to allow the water to drain off for                                                                                           30 minutes.
3.                  Chop the dill fine.  This is best done by hand rather                                                                                               than in a food processor. Mash the dill into the cream cheese.                                                                                  Stir in the cucumbers.
4.                  Spoon mixture across the center of the bread.  Fold one side
over the filling and then fold the other side over,
 pressing slightly, so the butter will adhere to the bread.
Insert a stem of dill into one end and set, flap side down, on a
 platter, with the dill pointing outward to the edge.  Refrigerate, tightly covered with plastic wrap. Serve very cold.
Note: For small ‘pick-ups’, cut the rolls in half. Decorate the center of the platter with dill.

Directions for all Pinwheel Sandwiches
1.         Purchase large loaves of soft white bread. 
2.         Cut away outer crusts of bread, saving them for crumbs or cheese sticks or bread    pudding.
3.         Combine ingredients and spread thin across each slice.  Roll up tightly lengthwise from narrow end to narrow end.  Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until cold or overnight.
4.         Slice rolls-ups one-half inch thick and set on platters open side up.  Top each pinwheel with a thin slice of sweet gherkins or pimento olives or sprig of parsley or cilantro.  Garnish with cherry tomatoes, watercress or parsley.  Each roll should yield four pinwheel sandwiches.

Chicken Salad
Yield: Approximately 40 Pinwheels

2 pounds chicken breasts, boned and skinned
1 teaspoon sea salt
8 celery ribs
2 cups or more mayonnaise to bind
Salt and pepper to taste
2 - 1 pound loaves unsliced white bread
1.                  Cover breasts with water in a deep skillet.  Add salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-high and poach, covered, 20 minutes, or longer, depending on their size.  Chicken is done when there is no sign of opaque coloring when cut into. Cool and chop into tiny pieces.
2.                  Chop celery fine and drain in a strainer at least 15 minutes. Add to chicken with enough mayonnaise to bind.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Prepare Pinwheel sandwiches as above.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at www.lakefronttv.com. Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.



Summer meals can be a challenge. Meat is too heavy for the scorching days we are suffering through. So are hot pasta dishes, and most men are not thrilled with cold pasta as an entrée. A diet based solely on vegetables can become boring unless one is a dedicated vegetarian. And, the thought of hanging over a hot stove at the end of the day is downright unappealing, to say nothing of being confronted with cleaning the dishes afterwards. Even the barbecue is just one more physical exertion when one is heat-beat.
Salad to the Rescue! Prepare it all in advance so you can relax with the rest of the family. Make ice tea or fruit punch and have beer or wine well-chilled in the refrigerator. Get the greens crispy-cold by washing, drying completely, and then, chopping and setting into the refrigerator, uncovered or lightly covered with a dish towel, so they will not gather moisture associated with plastic wrap, foil, and even plastic containers.  Put together the accompaniments in separate covered containers to stay fresh and cold. Salad dressings should also be stored in the refrigerator to toss into the salad when the family is ready to eat. A dressing left at room temperature will warm the other ingredients.
Cold shrimp, either alone with a dipping sauce as an appetizer or with other ingredients to comprise a complete meal, are a favorite choice of this foodie. For the best flavor and texture, purchase raw shrimp with or without their shells, either 21-25 or 26-30 per pound. Most shrimp come to the stores frozen and have a tendency to remain soft and only semi-cooked with a bit of a “fishy” flavor, particularly those in sealed plastic packages found in the case containing frozen fish. I discovered a solution one day when I was too lazy to boil them in a pot. Defrost the shrimp to the very cold stage. Set them on a foil covered baking sheet. Brush them with extra virgin or regular olive oil. You can sprinkle pepper, garlic or spices over, but no salt. (Shrimp are naturally high in sodium - Three ounces yield 119 mg or higher after being processed) Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake uncovered, until the shrimp become very pink and are firm to the touch, approximately 10 minutes. (Cut one in half or sample it to test). Do not overcook. For a rosy, grilled appearance, toss them with paprika before placing them into the oven.
Enjoy your salad with whole grain or French bread. Make an easy dipping sauce with extra virgin olive oil and a heavy grinding of Alessi® Dipping Spices with the built-in grater. Remember to serve the bread hot, wrapping the whole loaf in foil and heating at 200°F for 10 minutes or setting it on a plate, uncovered, to heat quickly in the microwave for no longer than 15 seconds. You might have to cut the loaf in half to fit.
Blue Cheese Dressing
Marie’s® Blue Cheese Dressing (displayed with cold dressings)
Crumbled blue cheese or gorgonzola cheese - Lots of it
Several drops Worcestershire sauce
A tablespoon or more minced red onion
1.      Combine ingredients with a fork, leaving the cheese chunky. Refrigerate. Chop cold iceberg lettuce or leave it in old fashioned wedges. Slice or dice a ripe beefsteak tomato and baby cucumbers purchased in one of our artisanal markets. Spoon dressing over to serve.

Sesame-Ginger Dressing
Yield: Approximately 1 cup dressing
Yield: Approximately 6 side salads or first course salads
Note the absence of salt and pepper. The combination of sesame, soy, garlic, and ginger offers ample flavor without the addition of salt and pepper.

2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons julienned crystallized ginger (Economical at Renninger’s Twin Markets)

Lettuce: Romaine or a combination of lettuce of choice
1 carrot, peeled and stripped with a peeler
½ cup canned Mandarin oranges or fresh tangerine segments
Chopped scallion greens to top
Optional: Sliced water chestnuts, toasted pine nuts, toasted sesame seeds, black olives, cherry tomatoes.

1.      Mix together the oils, soy, vinegar and lime juice with the sugar and garlic.
2.      Slice the ginger and stir into the dressing. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
3.      Chop the lettuce into bite-size pieces. Toss with the carrot strips and oranges.
4.      Divide the lettuce mixture on the plates. Spoon some sauce over. Arrange the water chestnuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, olives, and tomatoes on top to serve.

Veggie & Fruit Salad
Lettuce of choice or raw spinach 
Yellow crook neck squash or small green zucchini or both
Yellow grape tomatoes
Julienned bell pepper of choice
Dried cranberries (Craisins®)
Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette- fat-free dressing of choice
Feta cheese chunks
Fresh raspberries
Pine nuts*

1.      Toss the lettuce, squash, tomatoes, peppers and dried cranberries with the raspberry dressing. Top with feta cheese and raspberries. Sprinkle pine nuts over.
Note: Pine nuts are costly. They can be exchanged for chopped or slivered almonds.

Shrimp with Mango and Avocado
Yield: Approximately 2 servings - A complete dinner
This is a delicate and colorful combination of ingredients. It is  important to slice the avocado directly before serving so it does not have time to discolor.

16 raw shrimp, peeled. U26-30 to the pound
1 tablespoon olive oil or melted butter or a combination

1 fresh ripe mango, peeled and diced (or peaches in season)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 small purple onion, peeled and sliced very thin on the round
Chopped Romaine lettuce
Sesame-Ginger Dressing above (omit Mandarin oranges) or French Dressing recipe below.
Optional: Reduced balsamic vinegar to drizzle around edges of the plate*
2 ripe firm Hass avocados, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons lime juice

1.      Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss the shrimp with paprika and oil and set them on a foil covered baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until firm. Do not overcook. Refrigerate.
2.      Chop the Romaine, reserving the green leafy tops.  Combine the peppers, onion and chopped Romaine in a bowl and toss with dressing. Refrigerate until very cold.
3.      Peel and slice the avocado and brush with lime juice so it will not discolor.
4.      Peel and dice the mango.
5.      Divide the salad for two or more servings, placing the green leafy tops around. Top with the avocado, mango and shrimp to serve.
*To reduce balsamic vinegar: 4 cups red balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon molasses. Bring to a full boil. Stir. Reduce heat just a notch so vinegar will not boil over. Boil continuously until reduced to 3 cups. Cool and fill a glass bottle. This will remain good indefinitely unrefrigerated.

French Dressing for Seafood Salads
Yield: Approximately 2 cups

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (Regina®)
1 tablespoon chopped purple onion
Optional: 1 clove garlic, sliced
¼ teaspoon dried tarragon or ½ teaspoon chopped leaves
¼ teaspoon dried thyme or ½ teaspoon chopped leaves
1 teaspoon (or more to taste) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves
Salt to taste

1.      Several hours in advance, combine ingredients in a blender and purée. Refrigerate.

 Insalata Caprese
Yield: Approximately 2 servings
(Salad from the island of Capri from the Italian region of Campania)

6 thick slices from fresh beefsteak tomatoes (Remember, if it smells like a tomato, it will taste like a tomato. The secret of this recipe is a quality tomato found in our farmers’ markets)
6 slices fresh mozzarella cheese (¼ inch thickness)
1 small purple onion, sliced thin on the round
Freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkling of salt over all
8 fresh basil leaves (no substitutes)
Red balsamic vinegar (the best quality you can afford) to drizzle
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

1.      This Italian favorite never goes out of style. It is imperative that the ingredients be of the best quality.
2.      Slice the tomatoes, mozzarella and onion. Alternate 3 of each on individual plates, overlapping each other with a basil leaf in-between each. (If you are an onion aficionado, add a few extra slices) Grind fresh pepper over. Sprinkle with salt.
3.      Drizzle the balsamic over. Drizzle the olive oil over. The secret is frugality. If the tomatoes/cheese are swimming, the salad will be ruined.
4.      Place a basil leaf on top of each salad. Serve a pepper grinder and salt shaker on the side.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at www.lakefronttv.com. Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.



As we continue to contend with overwhelming heat, it becomes increasingly difficult to be creative - to find alternatives to meat and potatoes and fried foods that sit heavily in our digestive tracks without satisfying our hunger. Cold Soup to the rescue! However, few men are enamored with cold soups. It’s just not a guy-thing. Many years ago we attended a dinner given by the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs gourmet society of which I was a member. The first hour was dedicated to tasting miniscule samples of expensive wine accompanied by tiny one-bite what’s in this? canapés. Conversation among these connoisseurs was limited to dissecting the ingredients with continuous referral to other memorable meals “when I was in Paris” or “London” or “with the Duke and Duchess of”.  My husband, Buddy, could never tolerate pomposity or pretension and remained overtly quiet while inwardly craving a Scotch and some popcorn. Once seated at our respective tables, an imperious waiter who mimed the personalities of the guests placed soup at each person’s place. Buddy raised his spoon, swallowed one taste and began to wave his arm wildly in the air, calling out, “Waiter, Waiter”! The waiter came to full attention, crossing the floor in three steps. “Yes Sir, is something wrong?” All eyes were now focused in our direction. “My soup”, came the pronouncement, “It’s cold”! Too perplexed to answer, the waiter scooped up the Vichyssoise and returned it to the chef to perform the unpardonable sin of heating the cold soup he had mastered to perfection. Buddy never cracked a smile and the elite gourmet group did not catch the humor. I spent the remainder of the dinner counting the flowers on the wallpaper. Actually, Vichyssoise and Artichoke soups can be served cold or hot. Berry soups, on the other hand, are really a cool luncheon thing for ladies, although the possibility of turning them into a fruity dessert is quite attractive.

Vichyssoise History

The original recipe called for 3 leeks, white part only, split lengthwise, and roasted on a flat sheet at 400°F in the oven until browned before chopping to add to the soup pot. An onion may also be added. Leeks have a unique flavor, pleasant to some and not so appealing to others. They are also costlier than onions. It is interesting to note that this sophisticated rendition of peasant cooking with a French title did not originate in France at all, but, rather, the fashionable Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Madison Avenue at 46th Street in New York. The year was 1917, and the head chef was a Frenchman named Louis Diat (1885-1957), who later became a regular contributor to the early issues of Gourmet Magazine. One of his favorite recipes was a potato and leek soup given to him by his mother. According to legend, he had planned to serve the soup for the opening of the roof garden.  He made it the day before with the intent of reheating. However, someone, in the confusion, forgot to remove it from the refrigerator. With instant culinary creativity, he left it cold, added cream and sprinkled it with chopped chives. He quickly renamed it “Crème Vichyssoise Glacée”, or Chilled Cream Vichyssoise, in honor of Vichy, the town in which he was born.  The proper pronunciation is “vee shee swahzz” and not “vee shee swah”, because, in the French language, an “e” after the final “s” signals the sound “zzz”. Slice yourself a piece of rustic bread and pour an icy cold light beer or a German Reisling wine to take the heat off all the summer blahs.
Yield: Approximately 8 cups

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large onions, sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 quart rich chicken broth
½ cup vodka
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste, approximately 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon white pepper
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons chopped chives or scallions

1.                  Melt the butter in a soup pot.  Slice the leeks and onions thin and sauté in the butter until soft.   
2.                  Add the celery, sliced potatoes, chicken broth and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Boil gently 45 minutes.  Add salt and peppers. Cool to room temperature.
3.                  Purée in a blender. You will have to do this in batches.
4.                  Strain the soup into a bowl or plastic container, pushing the thickness through.  Stir in the heavy cream.  Taste for seasoning.  Chill overnight.
5.                  Serve in cream soup bowls that have been chilled in the refrigerator.  Garnish the tops with fresh chives

Cold Tomato Soup
2 teaspoons of instant tapioca may be exchanged for the tomato paste to thicken the soup.
Dill may be exchanged for the basil for a different taste sensation. Some cooks incorporate both into recipes but I personally feel the two spices confuse each other when mixed. This is personal preference. This soup, when made with basil, can change to Tomato-Curry with the addition of one teaspoon curry powder. Delicious!
Yield: Approximately 4 cups after it has been strained

3 pounds ripe beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups organic vegetable broth (Pacific® preferred by this foodie)
1 large garlic clove, peeled and split
Large handful of fresh basil leaves, stems removed
½ teaspoon ground thyme or 1 large sprig fresh
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
8 ounces onion (1 small) or 1 large shallot, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons lime juice
Pinch of Hungarian hot paprika or cayenne pepper or hot sauce, if desired.
2 tablespoons tomato paste

Fresh basil leaves, chopped or left whole to decorate. Chopped hard-boiled eggs to decorate.
Optional: Heavy cream or fat-free half & half served on the side to temper the acid

1.                  Combine all the ingredients except the tomato paste in a pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat    to low or simmer if soup boils too hard. Cover and cook, gently, 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Remove bay leaf.
2.                  Remove to a blender or, if you own one of those fabulous professional hand blenders, known as the “Smart Stick” (priced from $20.00 - $150.00 - The cheap ones work just as well as the expensive). Blend the ingredients until smooth. Strain into a bowl.
3.                  Stir in the tomato paste. Add paprika or cayenne, if desired. Taste for more white pepper and salt. Refrigerate until very cold. Leaving it overnight will allow the flavors to settle.
4.                  Serve topped with basil leaves and, if you wish, chopped egg or chives to decorate.
5.                  Offer fat-free half and half or heavy cream in a cream pitcher to minimize the acid.

Senegalese Soup
 (Senegal is a republic in N. Africa on the Atlantic. Once a French colony, it achieved independence in 1960.) This creamy curry soup that incorporates fresh African ingredients and spices is traditionally served cold, although it is equally delicious hot. This recipe looks long, but is quite uncomplicated.

Adapted from the recipe served at the ‘21’ Club in New York City.
Yield: Approximately 6 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tart (Granny Smith) apples, peeled and chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped coarse
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
¼ cup black raisins
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
(Gluten intolerant? Exchange the flour with a medium potato, peeled and sliced thin)
1 tablespoon curry powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger or 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
4 cups chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
Major Grey® Chutney to garnish

1.      In a heavy soup pot, bring the butter to the bubbling point over medium heat. Add the apples, onion, garlic, celery, carrot and raisins. Reduce the heat to low and cook very slowly until the onion, garlic celery and apples have softened. Add the flour (potato), curry and ginger.
2.      Slowly stir in 2 cups of the chicken broth, bringing the soup to a full boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently 10 minutes, covered. Remove from the heat to cool 15 minutes.
3.      Transfer the soup to an electric blender and blend smooth. Return to the pot.
4.      Slowly stir in remaining 2 cups chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 45 minutes or longer, covered.
5.      Taste for salt and pepper.
6.      Pour the soup through a strainer into a large bowl or container.
7.      Cool and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
8.      Stir in the heavy cream directly before ladling into bowls topped with a spoonful of chutney.

Avocado Soup
Yield: Approximately 4-6 servings

1 ripe large Florida or 2 Hass avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 cups vegetable broth or unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1 tablespoon dried
2 cups Romaine lettuce, chopped
2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves
3 scallions, green part only, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Optional: 1 ounce melon liqueur

1.      Combine ingredients in a blender and blend smooth. Refrigerate until very cold.
2.      Top with a spoonful of plain yogurt or sour cream, chopped tomatoes and bell peppers of choice.

Berry Chilled Fruit Soup
Yield:  Approximately 8 cups with fruit

1 bottle (750 ml.) sweet wine, such as Riesling or Beringer® Zinfandel
3 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
Handful fresh mint leaves or 2 tablespoons Crème de Menthe liqueur
10 ounce package frozen strawberries or raspberries in syrup
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
Fresh mint leaves
1.                  Bring wine, tapioca, vanilla bean, mint leaves, sugar and salt to a boil. Boil gently until mixture reduces to 3 cups. Pour through a fine strainer, discarding mint and vanilla bean.
2.                  Purée frozen strawberries in a blender.  Strain into wine mixture through a fine strainer to remove seeds. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
3.                  Toss fresh berries in the lemon juice and sugar and stir into the soup, leaving some to decorate. Ladle into individual glass bowls and decorate with reserved berries and mint leaves.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at www.lakefronttv.com. Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.