Grilled cheddar cheese with caramelized onions & Honey Crisp apples

Ain't it grand - a grilled cheese with sweet honey crisps

Hooray for the big cheese! 

This recipe takes minutes to make & is so nourishing and satisfying. Pair it with a cup of your favorite creamy tomato soup for a quick lunch.  

I even eat this one for a hot breakfast on the go.

Grilled Cheddar Cheese with Caramelized Onions & Honey Crisp Apple Slices

Preparation time: 20 minutes

2 slices 3/4 to 1-inch slices of Country French bread (from a boule)

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 ounces Cheddar Cheese with Carmelized Onion

1/4 Honey Crisp apple, peeled, cored & thinly sliced

2 tablespoons of butter

Spread both sides of the bread with the Dijon mustard. Place medium slices of the cheddar & caramelized onion cheese on one side of the bread, then layer with the apple slices and top with remaining slice of bread.

Melt 1 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Adjust temperature so butter does not burn. 

Place sandwich in the pan and grill approximately 5 minutes or until golden brown on one side.

Before turning, place the remaining pat of butter on top of the sandwich, then flip to grill. 

Remove when toasty brown and cheese is well-melted. 

Brunch after the Easter Bunny

Stuffed French Toast
After the Bunny's hit the trail, try this twist on a classic brunch French Toast recipe (McCormick's)

Stuffed French Toast
serves 8


1 tub (8 ounces) whipped cream cheese

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 teaspoons McCormick® Cinnamon, Ground, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract, divided

16 slices Italian bread (1/2-inch thick)

1/2 cup apricot preserves or jam

5 eggs

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter, divided


1. Mix cream cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla in small bowl until well blended. Spread 2 tablespoons of cream cheese mixture on each of 8 slices of bread. Spread 1 tablespoon of preserves on each of the remaining 8 slices of bread. Press one each of the bread slices together to form 8 sandwiches.

2. Beat eggs in shallow bowl. Stir in milk, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until well blended. Dip sandwiches in egg mixture, soaking for 2 minutes on each side.

3. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in large nonstick skillet on medium-low heat. Place 4 of the sandwiches in skillet. Cook 4 to 5 minutes per side or until golden brown. Repeat with remaining sandwiches, adding remaining 1 tablespoon butter to skillet. Serve French toast with maple syrup, if desired.

Old school cheddar gets 'crunky' with curry pickle

Today's flavor is old school cheddar with a little curry flavored bread & butter pickle crunks tossed in to get things going.

We like a little sharp & salty to go with our big, spicy & sweet!

Old School Cheddar with Curry Pickle

Start with a nice chunk of rosemary foccacia, split.  Slather dijon mustard on one side; squirt a little Kewpie Japanese mayo on the other.

Add nice chunks of cheddar (at least 2 ounces, for you portion control freaks) on the left, and a pile of bread & butter pickles on the right. I use  homemade, but you can use your favorite store-bought.

Slap the two sides together and place on your grill pan -  at the ready with a tablespoon of olive oil heated to medium.  

You'll need to weight this bad boy.  I use the top of my Tuscan mattone, but you can use a cast-iron skillet or a bacon press, really anything heavy enough to hold your sandwich down.  Of course, if you have a panini maker with inserts, you're set.

Grill until cheese is melted & gooey, about 6-8 minutes.

All that and a bag o' chips makes lunch.

Holiday menu: Rack of Lamb with Artichokes


If you aren't ready for your holiday meal, here's a lovely last minute and super simple yet elegant suggestion from Academia Barilla

The wesbite is a veritable encyclopedia of Italian gastronomic tidbits as well as a market place and cooking school. 

Is there any thing the Italians don't do with understated elegance?

No Recipes presents April's Dinner & a Movie

We say these two would make a tasty addition to any meal

We love clever contests here at E.D.M. and this one is just about the cutest and cleverest we've seen lately.

Dinner & a Movie pairs the creative kitchen antics of a foodie community with a monthly movie selected by FoodBuzz members Susan from Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy and Marc from No Recipes.

To participate, movie buffs who cook view the flick then make a dish that is inspired by the film. The meal and recipe are posted to the film-foodie fan's site along with this ticket, admitting one.Your admission to the show
Posts are made by the 20th of the month and then a recipe round-up is posted by the event's host (either Marc or Susan).  

Previous Dinner & a Movie posts: Chocolat and Moonstruck.  

We're smitten.

Saturday Night Eat-in: Pasta con Mollica


Around our house the running joke for leftover or bare-pantry meals is that it's International Night because you never know what in the world you'll find on your plate.

This week's Saturday Night Eat-In honors the bare pantry with Pasta con Mollica or Pasta with Bread Crumbs. This is Tuscan peasant food which is so simply divine you don't realize you are eating frugally. Serve with spinach stuffed mushroom caps and baby carrots with peas.

Since I am typically a hoarder and keep staples on hand, I always have a box of pasta in the house.  I never knew a carbohydrate I didn't love either, so there is always bread.  Cheese is my best-est friend. 

Voila!  The centerpiece of my meal is all right here.

Next, I dig out the baby carrots my son refused to eat in his school lunch, plus the emergency frozen petits pois - love how elegant French makes garden variety peas.

Lastly, I grab some portobello mushrooms, originally destined for a homemade pizza, and a bag of spinach.  

It's International Night!

Spinach & Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 mushroom caps, cleaned & trimmed
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 cups fresh spinach
1 & 1/2 oz goat cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmigiano reggiano
salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil to medium heat, then sautee the mushrooms caps until just tender. In the last five minutes, add the balsamic vinegar.  Remove the mushrooms from the pan and place on a baking sheet.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit (180 degrees Celsius).

Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to skillet and heat to medium before adding spinach.  Stir until wilted. Then add to food processor, along with goat cheese and pulse to just smooth.  Spoon spinach-cheese mixture into mushroom caps & top with grated parmigiano.

Place in the oven until grated cheese is melted.  Cut into quarters for serving.

Pasta con Mollica

1 lb mostaccicoli or other short pasta
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1/4 day-old baguette, cubed & toasted
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

Bring water for pasta to a boil in a large pot, adding the pasta to cook for about 8-9 minutes or until just tender.  

In a small sauce pan,  heat olive oil and garlic, adding the Italian herbs (I bought mine in Rome's Campo dei Fiori, but they are readily available in grocers or substitute herbs of Provence).

Drain the pasta, then add the olive oil, garlic and herbs, and the toasted bread crumbs, mixing well.
Place a generous serving of pasta in the center of a plate, then place vegetables and mushroom quarters on either side.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with Bio-Weingut H.U.M. Hofer Grüner Veltliner Trocken 2008. $12.99 for 1L. 

"Bottled in a full one liter bottle with a beer bottle style crown cap, (this Gruner) is a refreshingly versatile, food friendly un-oaked white that packs a mouthful of flavor in every sip. The flavors are reminiscent of citrus, minerals, and the tell-tale white pepper that Grüner is known for. Bone dry with plenty of cleansing acidity on the finish, it's a worthy companion to Southeast Asian and Pacific Rim cuisine, as well as with vegetable dishes, fish and white meat." (67 Wine)

What's for dinner: roasted lamb breast & winter root vegetables


I was in the farmer's market early Saturday morning, buying parsnips and lusting over organic rabbit.

My son discovered that Mr. McGregor did not have Peter Rabbit's best interests at heart as we pondered a bag of freshly dressed bunny. 

While I envisioned braised rabbit with wild mushrooms and perhaps some couscous, my son was busy grilling the market woman on the farmer's means of skinning the rabbit. I grew up around outdoorsman, so I know the drill. It was fun seeing him bridge the gap between what we eat and where it comes from.

The rabbit in 2-3 lbs portions at at $6.99 per pound was out of this week's budget, but will definitely make the menu in coming weeks. If you want your rabbit fresh, buy soon because bunnies apparently get lazy in the summer months, so there are fewer to eat!  You can, however, freeze whole rabbit up to a year and pieces up to nine months.

Since I already had lamb breast, an economical and delightfully delicious cut if a bit fatty, my quest was to pair it with some root vegetables for a meal that all went into the oven while I relaxed on the couch and listened to music.  Along with a few stalks of celery, the parsnips, carrots, and baby potatoes (red, purple, and white) made the cut. 

Parsnips are a new addition to my repertoire and a happy one at that.  I love the flavor - a little sweet, a little nutty.  They played nicely with my other root vegetables and all made fast friends with the lamb. 

Roast Lamb Breast

3-4 pounds lamb breast

1 Tbs kosher salt

4 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves cleaned from the stem & finely minced

1/4 cup of white balsamic vinegar

drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

At least 24 hours before roasting, clean the lamb breast with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.  Then rub the breast with kosher salt, front and back, following with the garlic and rosemary.

Roasted Parsnips, Carrots  & Potatoes

3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut in slices

4 medium carrots, peeled and cut in finger-sized chunks

3 baby purple potatoes, quartered

3 baby white potatoes, quartered

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon herbs of Provence

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup water

In a mixing bowl, coat vegetables with the olive oil, then add salt and herbs. Transfer to a glass, clay baking dish or a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. Add water. Roast uncovered, tuening gently once or twice during roasting, for 45 minutes to one hour in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Farenheit (200 degrees Celsius).  Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavors.

Pretty and functional; Soirée in-bottle wine decanter

Can a decent, full-bodied young red wine be a better bottle with oxygenation?

Absolutely, since aeration is essential to bringing out the best in nose and flavor. Contact with air allows wine to ripen or open and the makers of Soirée's innovative bottle-top decanter get it.

Using a cool climate Pinot Noir, William Cole Alto Vuelo 2007 (Chile), I put the little decanter that could to the test.

First, I tasted my Pinot Noir the old-fashioned way.  After pouring a generous glass, I gave it a good swirl and a long whiff - bright berry aromas, hints of vanilla and cinnamon.  The mouthfeel was softly tannic. A nice value at $9.99.

Would Soirée make a drinkable wine tastier?  Yes, without a doubt.

I poured my next glass using the delicate-looking but sturdy ornament-shaped decanter.  The nose was a jammier strawberry and the finish longer with the more subtle spice flavors prolonged.

During another tasting, I sampled a 2007 Altos de Cuco from Yecla in the region of Murcia, little known for its quality, better known for its quantity.  Intense and full-bodied, the ruby red wine blossomed with deep blackberry aromas.  The experience was a bit like nostalgia for an old lover, decidedly better for having the space to consider it.

Soirée comes equipped with two rubber gaskets, to accommodate any bottle, and a nifty stand. Retailing for $24.99, it makes a fun gift paired with a bottle of wine, and a must-have for your home accessories collection.  

Tomato Caprese gets a French twist

Chef Jean Stephane PoinardFew

 Few food pairings are as familiar as Tomato Caprese -- ripe juicy tomato, milky fresh mozarella and sweet basil leaf.

Enter Chef Jean Stephane Poinard. Poinard, a member of the elite Les Toques Blances Lyonnaises, gives this classic Italian insalata a distinct French twist.

Retaining the salad's simple and  fresh flavors, the Paul Bocuse-trained chef, uses the whole tomato to present this elegantly easy and nuanced recipe re-invention.  A fresh mozzarella mousse is stuffed into the tomato shell and flash fried basil leaves and a basil oil finish the plate.

Chiffonading the basil

Poinard and his wife, Valerie, a winemaker from the Domaine de la Fond Moiroux, re-create the experience of eating and dining in authentic French tradition at their Bistro de Leon in St. Augustine.  His Tomato Stuffed with Escargots in a Garlic Cream Reduction is a bistro favorite (recipe below) and demonstrates his dedication to good, uncomplicated food prepared with premium, fresh ingredients. Poinard is generous and genial, happy to invite guests into his immaculate kitchen for a quick cooking lesson.

Contemporary take on Tomato Caprese

Tomato Stuffed with Escargots

To prepare the tomato:

4 large, vine-ripened tomatoes

Bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Cut a cross into the bud end of each tomato. Plunge the tomatoes into the water for 15 seconds. Remove and plunge directly into ice water. Peel the tomatoes, pulling the skin back from the cut cross. Cut the stem end of the tomato off, carefully scoop out the seeds with a spoon or melon baller. Set aside the tomatoes and the tops.

For the garlic cream:

6 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the garlic, cream, salt and pepper in a saucepan.

Reduce slowly over low heat, stirring until thickened.

For the escargot:

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup carrot, peeled and julienne cut

1/2 cup turnip, peeled and julienne cut

3 cloves garlic, finely diced

4 dozen snails

3 tbsp. Grande Absente

Slowly saute the carrot, turnip, garlic and snails in butter over low heat until the vegetables have caramelized. Quickly deglaze the pan with the Grande Absente. Flame the Grande Absente by touching a lit match to the edge of the pan.

To serve:

Sprinkle salt and pepper into the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in a 250 F oven for several minutes. The tomatoes should be just warm, not cooked. Place each tomato on an individual plate. Fill each tomato with one quarter of the snail mixture. Place the tops on the tomatoes.

Garnish with 2 or 3 tablespoons garlic cream sauce around each tomato.

For more info:
Bistro de Leon
12 Cathedral Place
St Augustine, FL 32084
(904) 810-2100

Personal Trainer: Cooking

Personal-trainer-cookingI know my way around a kitchen, so forgive me my skepticism when I heard Nintendo was releasing a "video game" for cooking enthusiasts that wasn't all fun and comic mischief. 

However, after watching the NIntendo team demonstrate Personal Trainer: Cooking for the DS, I am sold.  Not that I'm tossing my collection of fabulous and well-loved cook books, but Personal Trainer -- with 245 international recipes ranging from simple to complex -- is a pretty nifty item to have. 

The training title makes everyone a chef by providing a data base detailing not only recipes, but equipment, ingredients, calorie counts, cooking times and level of difficulty.  Even if you don't know the difference between a whisk and a potato ricer, DS Chef, your private cooking instructor, will walk you through the process from beginning to end. Too bad he doesn't do dishes.

Initially, I was convinced this was a tool for the beginning cook until I saw the video how-to for cleaning squid.  Calamari anyone? 

Neat and handy are the voice command controls that keep your hands free while working.  Need to repeat a step, speak and it's done.  The shopping list feature is super handy for making sure you come home from the store with everything you need (and not a ton of budget-busting impulse buys).

I only see one problem with Personal Trainer: Cooking.  Who gets to use the DS? Me or the boy?

Order, up!