On the Bayou


Written By: Kim A. Fuqua

Michael, a cooking teacher at the New Orleans School of Cooking, claims that Cajun food is “the only real American cuisine.” Michael is admittedly subjective – he passionately loves his city and its cuisine. One thing is true; N’ Awlins offers some of the freshest produce and seafood around due to its climate and location. That fact, coupled with a culinary history that originates from French-speaking Canadians immigrating to Louisiana, makes this cuisine a true North American foodie favorite.

The term Creole is used to designate several somewhat distinct New Orleans food cultures inspired by the French, Spanish, African, and Italian influences of New Orleans. The development of the Creole cuisine was heavily influenced by local restaurants such as Commander’s Palace and K Paul’s, where distinct “Cajun-Creole fusion” cuisine was created by combining Cajun flavors with Creole ingredients and preparation.

You’ll find alligator bisque, turtle soup, rabbit stew, boiled crawfish, fried frog legs, and an abundance of preparations for oysters, trout, crab, and shrimp all sharing space on menus around the Crescent City. Depending on where you live, some of those items might be difficult to procure. For this menu, it is a Cajun/Creole dish with easy ingredients. Not difficult considering the staple items of the region are corn, rice, bell peppers, celery, onions, garlic, pecans, smoked sausage, shrimp, crab, and oysters.

One of the nice things about this menu is that you can make several of the dished will in advance, making it a perfect dinner party menu. In fact, the Crab and Corn Bisque and the Red Beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage both taste even better when the flavors are allowed a day to commingle in the refrigerator.

Cajun/Creole food is extremely spicy, as is commonly thought. An authentic Cajun dish will not make your eyes water, but will carry a bit of a kick. The most characteristic seasonings used for heat is dried cayenne pepper, with Tabasco sauce served on the side. Some cooks like to use a Creole or Cajun seasoning mix as well, which is easy to find in stores. Experiment and have fun!

“Laissez les Bons  Temps Rouler” (“Let the Good Times Roll”)

Cajun Bloody Mary

You’ll find a special Bloody Mary concoction in just about every establishment in New Orleans, always garnished with a salad of pickled vegetables. Pickled okra, pickled green beans, and green olives. This Cajun version packs some heat, so cut the Tabasco and Creole seasoning in half for a less spicy, but still zingy, cocktail.

Prep time: 5 minutes, Chill time: 3 hours, Servings: 16 cocktails

1            64-ounce container tomato juice
2            tablespoon Creole seasoning
1            tablespoon garlic, minced
1            tablespoon horseradish
1            teaspoon steak sauce
2           tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1            tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1/2       lemon, juiced
24        ounces pepper vodka
            pickled green beans
            pickled okra
            green olives

Mix all ingredients except vodka together in a lidded container and shake until the Creole seasoning is completely dissolved. Chill for a few hours before serving.

For each cocktail, mix 4 ounces chilled mix with 1 1/2 ounces vodka and serve over ice. Garnish with pickled vegetables.

Gracious Hot Tip: Make sure to have extra tomato juice on hand to dilute cocktails to suit your guests’ tastes.

Chef’s Tip: Many cooks tend to discard the white end of the green onion. Why? Old-school training. The white ends used to be rotten due to the high water content in the soil, so they were customarily thrown away. Not true today, so go ahead and use those white ends – they impart great flavor.

Oysters Rockefeller

One of the most sought-after recipes in the world, this version of Oysters Rockefeller is close to the one that came directly from Jules Alciatore, who invented the dish in 1889 at Antoine’s in New Orleans. The sauce of Oysters Rockefeller was so rich and buttery, they felt it should be named after the nation’s richest baron of the day, John D. Rockfeller. Bernard Guste of Antoine’s says the original recipe does not have spinach in it. It’s rumored that the secret of the original is green onions. The other secrets of this dish are tarragon and chervil. Use the freshest herbs you can find, and by no means ever use dried herbs for this dish.

Prep time: 20 minutes, Cook time: 5 minutes, Servings: 4-6

4            sprigs flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely minced
4            green onions, finely minced
              handful of fresh celery leaves, finely minced
6            fresh tarragon leaves, finely minced
6           fresh chervil leaves, finely minced
1/2       cup dried fresh French bread crumbs (preferably homemade)
1 1/2    stick butter, softened
             salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
             Tabasco, to taste
2           tablespoons Herbsaint* or Pernod (optional)
            rock salt or kosher salt
2          dozen fresh oysters on the half shell, oyster liquor reserved

* Herbsaint is an anise-flavored liquor, originally made in New Orleans. It’s used in many local recipes, and makes a refreshing cocktail called an Herbsaint Frappe. Mix 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar in a chilled cocktail shaker and pour into a chilled champagne glass. Add a little sparkling water to taste.

By hand, mix minced herbs together with the bread crumbs and the softened butter until it becomes a smooth paste.

Season to taste with salt, pepper, Tabasco, and Herbsaint.

Preheat your boiler. Lower the top rack to the middle of the oven. Spread the rock salt over a large baking sheet; this will keep the oysters level under the broiler so that they won’t top over. Moisten the salt very slightly. Plant the shells in the salt, making sure they’re level. Place one oyster  in each shell, plus a little bit of oyster liquor. Spoon an equal amount of the prepared paste over each oyster.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack and broil until the edges of the oysters have curled and the herb butter is bubbling, about five minutes. Watch carefully to make sure you don’t overcook. Serve immediately.

Crab and Corn Bisque

This recipe is adapted from the New Orleans School of Cooking. Clay meat is preferable, but the milder jumbo lump crabmeat will work just fine. Bottled Crab Boil can be found in your grocer’s fresh seafood section. It adds an interesting depth of spice. Cajuns make a roux for everything; it’s crucial to the flavor and texture of the soup.

Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 30 minutes, Servings: 8

2            quarts half-and-half
1             cup chicken stock
1/4        cup flour
1/4        cup butter
1             24-ounce can whole corn with liquid
1            pound crabmeat (claw or jumbo lump)
2           cups green onion, chopped
1/2       teaspoon salt
1/2       teaspoon cayenne pepper
1           teaspoon garlic salt
1           teaspoon paprika
1-2       teaspoons crab boil (optional)
1           tablespoon parsley, chopped (garnish)

Combine half-and-half and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 to 12 minutes.

Make a roux with the flour and butter (use your nose to perfect your roux. Right after mixing the flour and butter together, take a good sniff and establish the scent of raw flour. Stir slowly over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Do not let any color appear. Once you get it to the scent of cooked pie crust, it’s ready. And remember that good roux-making takes practice).

When roux is ready, add to your simmering pot. Stir in corn with liquid and crabmeat, and simmer another 5 minutes. Gradually add 1 cup chopped green onions and all the seasonings and simmer another 5 minutes.

Garnish individual bowls of soup with chopped green onions and chopped parsley.

Shrimp Creole

The combination of chopped onions, celery, and green pepper appear in numerous Cajun recipes and are together referred to as the “Holy Trinity” of Louisiana cooking. Garlic is considered the Pope.

Prep time: 20 minutes, Cook time: 40 minutes, Servings: 8

3            pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1            stick butter
8           tablespoons flour
2           cups onion, chopped
1            cup celery, chopped
1            cup green pepper, chopped
1            tablespoon garlic, chopped
3           cups chicken stock
1           8-ounce can tomato sauce
1           16-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1          tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/2      teaspoon fresh basil, chopped
3          bay leaves
1          tablespoon brown sugar
4         thin lemon slices
1          teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1          teaspoon salt
1          teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
            Tabasco sauce, to taste
1          cup green onion, chopped
1          cup parsley, chopped
            cooked rice

Saute the shrimp in butter in a large skillet for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove from pan. Add the flour to pan and stir over medium heat until lightly browned. Add onions, celery, green pepper, and garlic and saute until they begin to turn transparent. Add the stock, tomato sauce, tomatoes, thyme, basil, bay leaves, brown sugar, lemon slices, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and Tabasco. Simmer for at least 15 minutes.

Add green onions, parsley, and shrimp during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Serve over rice.

Red Beans with Rice and Andouille Sausage

The best cooks are those with good palates. Test yours with this smoky, spicy Cajun staple. It tastes even better the next day.

Soak time: 6 hours, Prep time: 15 minutes, Cook time: 2 hours, 15 minutes, Servings: 6-8

1            pound dried red kidney beans
1            ham bone or ham hock
1            large onion, finely chopped
1/2       cup celery with tops, finely chopped
1           large garlic clove, minced
2           tablespoons parsley, minced
1           large bay leaf
6          drops Tabasco
             salt to taste
8-10    cups water
1           pound Andouille sausage, slice about 1/4-inch think (or any smoked sausage)
3          cups cooked rice

Soak beans for 6 hours in enough water to cover. Drain and discard water. Place all ingredients except sausage and rice in 12-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat about 20 minutes or until boiling. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours until beans are soft. Remove about 1/4 cup beans and mash them; return them to the pot and allow to cook another 15 minutes, uncovered. Add sausage and cook until done, about 10 minutes. Remove ham bone and bay leaf. Mix with hot rice right before serving.

Bread Pudding

Because New Orleans is below sea level, the bread there is different from anywhere else in the world. They serve it everywhere, with everything. They even make one of their most popular desserts out of it. Chef Michael says, “Comfort food is in the making of the food, the sensory experience.” Bread pudding is a true comfort food, both in the making and in the eating.

Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 1 hour, 15 minutes, Servings: 16

 1           10-ounceloaf stale French bread, crumbled
4           cups milk
2           cups sugar
1            stick butter, melted
3           eggs
2           tablespoons vanilla
1           cup raisins
1           cup coconut
1           cup pecans, chopped
1           teaspoon cinnamon
1           teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all ingredients. Mixture should be very moist but not soupy. Pour into buttered 9″x12″ or larger baking dish. Place into non-preheated oven. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, until top is golden brown. Serve warm with Hard Sauce.

Hard Sauce

1           stick butter
1 1/2    cups powdered sugar
2          egg yolks
1/2      cup bourbon

Cream butter and sugar over medium heat until all butter is absorbed. Remove from heat and blend in egg yolk. Pour in bourbon gradually, stirring occasionally. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve warm over warm bread pudding.



Written By: Kim A. Fuqua

The preparation and enjoyment of fresh and flavorful meals consumes a generous part of the day. How do they find the time? Italians eat only two meals a day, typically skipping breakfast in favor of a nice cup of cappuccino. If you’ve ever spent time dining in Italy you know the Italians do not rush through those two meals. Rather, they slowly savor each course over a bottle or two of wine and good conversation. The pacing of a meal is purposefully leisurely so that one can fully enjoy and digest the wonderful food.

The typical Italian five-course meal allows for a good balance of flavors, textures, and colors: fresh tomatoes and basil, homemade pasta with a deeply flavored sauce, oven-roasted vegetables, a savory meat dish, and a beautiful dessert. Don’t forget the crusty bread with olive oil, a staple of every Italian meal. You may choose to make your own bread from scratch using the recipe provided or, if short on time, pick up a freshly made loaf at the market. The dishes chosen for a meal are typically dependent upon what’s fresh in the garden and at the market on a given day.

Wine is also a must; the Italians drink wine much like we do water, and in fact many sip it from small water glasses. Keep in mind that the family table wines consumed in Italy tend to be lower in alcohol than a lot of what we drink in North America. Wine pairings have been suggested for each course to enhance your Italian dining experience. Start with a bubbly white, move on to some more robust reds, and finish with a sweet dessert wine.

For this five-course Italian meal, the dishes chosen showcase a variety of flavors, textures, and colors following the simple rules of an Italian meal. You’ll find the recipes surprisingly simple, as the freshness of the ingredients is the key to all the wonderful flavors of this meal. Two ingredients you’ll be utilizing quite a bit in preparing this menu are extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Best not to compromise on quality for either of these items!

Buon appetito!

Crusty Italian Bread

Serve with small dipping bowls of extra virgin olive oil. Feel free to add your favorite herbs and spices to the oil, such as crushed red pepper and oregano.

Prep Time: 5 1/2 hours; Cook Time: 40 minutes; Servings: 2 loaves

2 1/2        cups warm water
2               tablespoons active dry yeast
8               cups all-purpose flour
1               tablespoon salt
                 yellow cornmeal
1               tablespoon water
1               egg white

Pour warm water into a warm mixing bowl; sprinkle with the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in about 2 cups of the flour. Beat well; add salt and gradually beat in all but about 2 cups of the flour. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and cover with a clean dish towel; let rest 10 minutes. Knead by hand for 20 minutes or until dough is very elastic, kneading in as much of the remaining flour as necessary for smooth dough. Place dough in a lightly buttered bowl, turning to grease the entire dough surface.

Cover bowl with foil then cover with a dish cloth and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down and let rise to double again, about 1 hour longer. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half and from each portion into a ball. Cover with a dish cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half of dough into a 15-by-8-inch rectangle about 1/2-inch think. Roll up tightly, starting with the short side, sealing as you roll. Taper ends by rolling out with hands until loaf is 10 to 11 inches long.

Place loaves seam side down on buttered baking dishes that have been sprinkled with yellow cornmeal. Add 1 tablespoon water to egg white in a bowl and beat lightly; brush over and along sides of loaves. Cover the loaves with a damp cloth without touching dough by placing glasses or cups around loaves and placing the cloth on the glasses. Place pans in a warm place to rise until doubles in bulk, about 1 hour.

Place a shallow pan on bottom rack of oven; fill with boiling water. Bake loaves in center of preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Brush with egg white mixture again and continue baking for 20 minutes longer, or until well-browned and done.

Insalata Caprese

This light salad of tomato, basil, and mozzarella is the perfect start to a multicourse Italian meal. Known in Italy as Insalata Caprese, the name literally means “sald of Capri,” which is where it originated. Use the best sea salt you can find to bring out the flavor of the tomatoes.

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Serves: 4

4           large, ripe tomatoes
1           pound fresh cow’s milk mozzarella cheese
1          cup fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
            sea salt, to taste
            freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2         tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Wash and slice tomatoes into 1/4-inch-think slices. Slice fresh mozzarella into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place on tomato slice on a serving plate. Top with a few basil leaves and slice of fresh mozzarella. Repeat layers and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Repeat on three additional plates with remaining tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, and olive oil. Serve immediately.

Mozzarella Twist: Feel free to use buffalo mozzarella instead of cow’s milk mozzarella if you prefer.

Wine Pairing: Prosecco di Conegliano. Kick off your meal with this crisp, clean Italian sparkler, similar to Champagne; it pairs wonderfully with salads and other light meal startes.

Linguini Puttanesca

The chopped anchovies in the sauce practically dissolve into the oil when sauteing them, so you don’t have to worry about tasting anchovies of you have an aversion to them. But please do not leave them out or you will miss the depth of flavor they bring to this sauce from the Campania region.

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes; Serves: 4

2            tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1            clove garlic, chopped
6           anchovy fillets, chopped
1            35-ounce can imported Italian plum tomatoes, crushed, with their juices
1            tablespoon capers
12         Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/2       teaspoon dried oregano
1/2       teaspoon crushed red pepper
             freshly ground black peppers, to taste
1/2      cup water
1           pound linguini

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and anchovies and cook until garlic is lightly browned. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce to a simmer. Add capers, olives, oregano, red pepper, black pepper, and 1/2 cup water. Simmer for 20 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the linguini and cook uncovered over high heat until al dente. Drain pasta, toss with sauce, and serve garnished with a sprinkle of oregano.

Wine Pairing: Barbaresco. The robust intensity of this wine holds up well to the strong flavors of the puttanesca sauce.

Veal Piccata with Artichokes

Who doesn’t love artichoke hearts? The flavors of the hearts, capers, and lemon meld beautifully with the veal.

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes; Serves: 4

1 1/2        pounds veal cutlets, pounded to about 1/8-inch think
1/2          cup flour
                sea salt to taste
                freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2             tablespoons olive oil
1/2         cup dry white wine
1             cup chicken stock or broth
               juice of 1 lemon
2            tablespoons capers
1/2        cup artichoke hearts
1             lemon, cut into thin slices

Chef’s Hint: Pound the cutlets by placing them between two sheets of plastic wrap and pounding them with a mallet or the back of a large spoon. Pound them until they are about 1/8-inch think.

In a wide bowl or pan, mix the flour with some salt and pepper. Dip the cutlets into the flour and coat them thoroughly. Pat off the excess flour.

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Place the cutlets into the pan (in batches if necessary; do not overcrowd the pan) and brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Pour off the excess fat, leaving just a thin film and the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon until the browned bits come of the bottom and begin to dissolve. Add chicken stock and continue cooking and stirring until reduced by half (you only want a couple of tablespoons of sauce per serving).

Add lemon juice, capers, artichoke hearts, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until all the ingredients are heated through. dd the cutlets to coat with the sauce.

Garnish each portion with a couple of lemon slices and serve.

Wine Pairing: Brunello di Montalcino. The persistent bouquet of this ruby-red wine nicely complements the flavors of the tangy Piccata sauce.

Oven-Roasted Asparagus

The asparagus gets a slightly nutty flavor from roasting, which makes this easy and elegant dish even more appealing.

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 15 minutes; Serves: 4

1           pound asparagus
1 1/2    tablespoons olive oil
1/2       teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut off the woody bottom part of the asparagus spears and discard. To prevent the asparagus from being stringy, use a vegetable peeler to peel off the skin on the bottom 2 to 3 inches of the spears.

Place asparagus on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roll asparagus around until they are evenly coated with oil and salt. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your stalks and how tender you like them. They should be tender when pierced with the tip of a knife and the tips should be browned.


Literally translated, Tiramisu means “pick me up,” which probably refers to the jolt you get after eating espresso- and alcohol-laced ladyfingers! This is a great make-in-advance dessert recipe, as it can be frozen for up to 2 weeks; just let it thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

Prep Time: 45 minutes; Chill Time: overnight; Serves: 4

6           egg yolks
1/2       cup granulated sugar
1/3       cup brandy
1/3       cup Marsala
1           pound mascarpone
1 1/2    cups whipping cream
3/4      cup strong coffee
24        giant Italian ladyfingers
4          ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar until light, about 5 minutes. Whisk in 1/4 cup each brandy and Marsala. Transfer to double boiler over gently simmering water; whisk for about 7 minutes or until thickened. Let cool.

Beat mascarpone until smooth; fold in egg mixture. Whip cream; stir 1/4 of it into cheese mixture. Fold in remaining cream. Combine coffee and remaining brandy and Marsala.

Arrange half the ladyfingers in an 11-by-7-inch glass baking dish; brush with half the coffee mixture. Spread with half the cream mixture. Repeat layers. Top with chocolate.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Wine Pairing: Malvasia. This sweet white dessert wine pairs wonderfully with the Tiramisu.

Thai-ing One On


Written By: Kim A. Fuqua

Thai Iced Tea

Thai red tea leaves are blended with star anise, cinnamon, and vanilla. The steeped tea then is flavored with sugar and after being cooled is mixed with cream and often condensed milk for a refreshing creamy drink.

Prep Time: 5 minutes; Inactive Prep Time: 2 hours; Cook Time: 5 minutes; Serves: 6

6             cups water
1              cup Thai tea
3/4         cup sugar
6             tablespoons cream
6             tablespoons condensed milk

In a kettle, bring the water to a boil. Place the tea in a teapot or glass container. Pour the water over the tea and let steep until bright orange in color, 3 to 5 minutes. Strain into a clean container, such as a pitcher (or, if tea is in bags, remove the bags). Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Fill 6 tall glasses with crushed ice and add tea to 3/4 full. Add 1 tablespoon cream and 1 tablespoon condensed milk to each glass.

Serve with an iced-tea spoon so guests can swirl the mixture themselves.

Chicken Satay with Thai Peanut Sauce

This appetizer dish also makes a great entree. Most of this recipe can be prepared will in advance and heated just before serving.

Prep Time: 20 minutes; Cook Time: 20 minutes; Serves: 4

1/2          cup canned coconut milk
1              tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
2             teaspoons curry powder
2             limes, juiced (1/4 cup)
1/8         cup rice wne
               cayenne or red curry
               paste to taste
4            boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
12          bamboo skewers
1            green onion, minced
Thai Peanut Sauce:
2            teaspoons canola oil
2            tablespoons red curry paste
2            tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2     cups canned coconut milk
6           tablespoons chunky-style peanut butter

Earlier in the day, combine coconut milk, ginger, curry, lime juice, and wine. Adjust seasoning and stir in cayenne to taste. Cut each chicken breast lengthwise into 3 strips. Toss meat in sauce and let marinate in a bowl in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours.

Soak skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. Thread chicken strips into skewers. Grill on an oiled grate over direct medium heat, turning once, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Sprinkle with green onion and serve warm with peanut sauce.

Thai Peanut Sauce:

Heat saucepan over high flame and add oil. Add curry paste and sizzle. Stir in sugar then coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Stir in peanut butter and simmer for 5 minutes; taste and adjust with sugar or curry paste. Remove from heat and refrigerate if not using right away.

Tom Yum Goong

Tom Yum is the most famous of Thai soups. It is a clear, hot and sour soup featuring large shrimp and flavored with fresh lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf. It’s a good idea to tell your guests that the lemongrass and lime leaves are for flavor only and should not be eaten with the soup.

Prep Time: 20 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes; Serves: 4

2           quarts chicken broth
2           stalks lemongrass, cut into 2-inch pieces and crushed with the side of a cleaver
4           kaffir lime leaves (or peel of 1 lime)
1            1-inch piece of fresh galangal or ginger, sliced
2           jalapeno peppers, seeded and slivered
1           pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1           8-ounce can straw mushrooms, rinsed and halved
2          limes, juiced (1/4 cup)
2          tablespoons nam pla (fish sauce)
2          whole green onion, thinly sliced
1/4      cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

Bring the stock to a boil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and jalapeno peppers. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Uncover and add the shrimp and mushrooms and cook until the shrimp turn pink, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice and fish sauce. To serve, ladle into individual soup bowls. Garnish with green onion and cilantro.

Chef’s Hint: Taste for salt and spice levels before serving; you should have an equal balance of spicy, salty, and sour. Add more jalapenos for spicy, more fish sauce for salty, and/or more lime juice for sour.

Don’t Lie It Hot? Use only one jalapeno pepper for milder heat, or do not cut the peppers up at all, but leave them whole for decoration only.

Thai Beef Salad

Grill good-quality beef, slive thin, toss with the Thai-style dressing, and serve on a bed of romaine with fresh, colorful vegetables arranged on individual serving plates. This dish also makes a lovely light meal in itself on a hot summer day.

Prep Time: 30 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes; Serves: 4

1             pound beef tenderloin, cut 3/4-inch think
1             teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2        cup beef stock
1             lime, juiced (1/8 cup)
2            tablespoons nam pla (fish sauce)
1            teaspoon sugar
7            garlic cloves, minced
3           serrano chili peppers, minced
1            large bag chopped romaine lettuce
1            English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1            red onion, thinly sliced into rings
1 1/2    cups cherry tomatoes, quartered

Preheat grill. Rub black pepper into all sides of the beef. Sear on the grill for about 2 minutes per side; beef should be cooked rare. Transfer to cutting board and cover loosely with foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, and then slice very thin against the grain. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the stock, lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Add the meat to the sauce and stir quickly to coat it with the sauce. Immediately pour contents into a medium bowl. Add the garlic and chili peppers and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately; reheat before serving.

Mound the romaine lettuce on four individual serving plates. Arrange the sliced beef over the lettuce, leaving the leftover sauce in the bowl. Decoratively arrange the cucumber over the beef, followed by the onion rings, and then the cherry tomatoes, creating elevation. Spoon the remaining sauce over each plate serve.

Pad Thai

As with so much Thai food, this dish uses the combination of sweet, sour, and salty to great effect. The addition of the protein ingredients depends upon your preference: Pork, chicken, firm tofu, and/or shrimp are all popular options. I use the common chicken and shrimp combination in my recipe.

Prep Time: 25 minutes; Cook Time: 45 minutes; Serves: 4


1/8          cup nam pla (fish sauce)
3/4          cup water
2              tablespoons brown sugar
1               teaspoon cayenne pepper
2-4          serrano chili peppers, minced (depending on desired spice level
8              ounces rice noodles (or vermicelli)
1/2           pound cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
3              tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2              eggs, lightly beaten
3/4         pound chicken breast, cut into 1-inch strips
6             garlic cloves, minced
6             green onions, cut into one-inch slices
1             teaspoon paprika
1/2         cup unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
3            tablespoons chunky-style peanut butter
3            cups cooked white rice
1/2        cup bean sprouts
4            lime wedges
4           tablespoons unsalted peanuts, finely chopped

Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Place 6 cups water in a wok or large stir-frying pan and bring to a boil. Add noodles and cook for 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain well. Place noodles in a large bowl. Add shrimp and 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss well. Set aside.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and heat over medium-high. Add eggs and stir-fry for one minute. Add eggs to the noodles and toss gently. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add chicken and garlic and stir-fry over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add noodle mixture.

Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan. Add onion and paprika, and then gradually stir in the peanuts. Stir-fry for one minute. Add the sauce mixture, peanut butter, and noodle mixture to the pan. Continue cooking and stirring for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately; reheat prior to serving.

To serve, pile rice on 4 plates, top with Pad Thai noodle mixture, then bean sprouts, and garnish with a lime wedge and a tablespoon of peanuts.

Thai Fried Bananas

Enjoy these fried bananas hot from the pan, or add some nontraditional toppers – your guests won’t mind a drizzle of chocolate sauce and a dab of whipped cream!

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 15 minutes; Serves: 4

4            bananas
1/4        cup flour
1             teaspoon cinnamon
2            tablespoons butter
              sugar for sprinkling

Be sure bananas are not overripe. Prepare bananas by peeling, cutting in half lengthwise and then cutting in half crosswise to form quartered sections.

In a small bowl, mix the flour and cinnamon. Stir until well blended and then coat banana sections with this mixture.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in the bottom of a skillet over medium heat until sizzling. Place the floured banana sections in the hot butter and cook until browned on each side. Carefully turn only once.

Remove from the skillet when browned on each side and sprinkle with a little sugar. Serve warm.

Vegetarian Menu


Fresh vegetables signal springtime from the produce aisles and the farmers’ markets, showcasing this season of renewal. Utilizing raw, grilled, roasted, and baked vegetables. along with a variety of fresh herbs, Laura Swayne shares with us just a sampling of her favorite vegetarian recipes.

Fresh and healthy gazpacho soup does double duty as either a cold soup on a warm spring day or as a hot soup on a chilly spring evening. For an early-spring supper, portabella mushrooms update the classic chicken Parmesan with a vegetarian twist, sided by roasted cauliflower with even more delicious Parmesan cheese. And don’t forget dessert with Swayne’s  “best ever” carrot cake recipe!


While gazpacho is typically served cold as a hot summer soup, this dish is also delicious as a hot tomato soup on a chilly evening.

Servings: 6; Prep Time: 15 minutes; Chill Time: 2 hours

3           small fennel bulbs, roughly chopped
4           celery stalks, roughly chopped
1           bunch scallions, roughly chopped
1           medium sweet onion, roughly chopped
2           small garlic cloves, chopped
3           red bell peppers, roughly chopped
2           large tomatoes, diced or 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2       cup olive oil
1           tablespoon kosher salt
1/2       teaspoon black pepper
1          32-ounce container tomato or vegetable juice
1/2      cup fresh lemon juice
            celery leaves (optional)
            fresh dill (optional)

Place fennel, celery stalks, scallions, onions, garlic, and bell peppers in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped and combined but not pureed. Pour the mixture into a large glass or plastic bowl. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, oil, salt, black pepper, tomato or vegetable juice, and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. To serve, sprinkle with celery leave, dill, or both.


Portabellas have a meaty texture, fabulous flavor, and are so easy to prepare. Even the most die-hard carnivore will love this hearty mushroom dish.

Servings: 4; Prep Time: 20 minutes; Cook Time: 20 minutes

4          portabella mushrooms, stemmed and wiped clean
3          tablespoons olive oil
1          cup spicy tomato sauce
1/2      cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4     cup shredded fontina cheese
1/4     cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat grill or grill pan to high heat. Preheat oven to 400. Brush mushrooms with oil on both sides. Sear mushrooms for 5 minutes per side. Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce in bottom of a 9×13 pan. Place mushrooms in pan, bottoms up. Pour remaining sauce over them.Combine mozzarella and fontina cheeses and spread evenly over top of mushrooms. Sprinkle Parmesan over entire dish. Bake 15 minutes or until cheeses are bubbly and golden brown.


Chop your bunches of parsley, thyme, and tarragon for this recipe, and then freeze the remaining fresh herbs in small Ziploc bags for future use.

Servings: 4; Prep Time: 15 minutes; Bake Time: 25 minutes

6          cups cauliflower florets (about 1 head)
1           tablespoon olive oil
2          teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
1           teaspoon thyme, finely chopped
1           teaspoon tarragon or rosemary, finely chopped
3          cloves garlic, minced
1/2      cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1           tablespoon lemon juice
            salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450. In a large baking dish, mix florets with olive oil. Bake 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and garlic and bake five minutes more. Add cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Mix gently until well-combined and serve.


Roasting brings out great flavors in the various vegetables in this recipe

Servings: 4; Prep Time: 20 minutes; Cook Time: 35 minutes

1           cup peeled, chopped sweet potato
3/4      cup peeled, chopped turnip
3/4      cup peeled, chopped parsnips
3/4      cup peeled, chopped carrot
1           shallot, finely diced
2          tablespoons olive oil
1/4      cup honey
            kosher salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 450. In a large baking dish, mix vegetables together. Toss with olive oil, honey, and salt. Bake 35 minutes until tender and brown, stirring halfway through.

Wine Tip: Riesling is a natural complement to vegetable dishes due to its mineral flavors.


This version of a classic is moist, simple to prepare, and beautiful too!

Servings: 10-12; Prep Time: 30 minutes; Bake Time: 45-50 minutes

4            cups carrots, peeled and grated
1 1/2      cups walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1            cup dark raisins
2            cups flour
1            tablespoon cinnamon
1            teaspoon cloves
2           teaspoons baking powder
1            teaspoon salt
4           large eggs
1            cup canola oil
1            cup sugar
1            cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1            tablespoon vanilla
1            cup walnuts, or pecans, finely chopped to cover sides of cake (optional)
1            cup butter softened
2           8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
5           cups powdered sugar
2           tablespoons grated orange zest
1           teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. A 9×13 pan could also be used for a sheet cake. Mix the carrots, nuts, and raisins together in a bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, soda, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, oil, sugars, and vanilla until well-blended.

Slowly fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture, mixing just until all ingredients are moistened. Fold in the carrot mixture until well-combined. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until cake springs back to the touch and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool in pans 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from pans to a cooling rack to continue cooling completely. With a long serrated knife, trim off rounded portion of each cake layer to create flat surfaces. Place one cake layer, cut side down, on a serving platter. Spread with 1/3 of the icing. Top with second layer, cut side down, and spread top with about 1/2 of remaining icing. Use remaining icing to cover sides of cake. If using nuts for the side, press these carefully into the sides, as well.

For the icing: Cream butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition, until smooth. Add grated orange zest and vanilla. Continue beating 1 minute to make the icing very fluffy.

Cooking Together


Recipes By: Laura Swayne; Written By: Kim A Fuqua

What could be better than discovering a way to spend more precious time with your family, and with your friends? That’s what “group cooking” is all about – getting together with friends and cooking a number of meals together to freeze for family dinners.

Some home cooks, like Swayne, may find themselves skeptical of the idea at first. Swayne initially found ti hard to believe that she and her friends could prepare enough interesting, tasty, quality meals that the time and energy put into the process would be worth it. Needless to day, Swayne has since been converted. Over a six-month period, she and her four friends have met three times to try out the group cooking concept. Here’s how the process works in Swayne’s group: For each group cooking night, two participants are responsible for creating a menu of 12 dishes, typically consisting of ten entrees and two dessert. Those two participants must print out all of the recipes and buy all of the groceries for the whole group. With five participants, you simply multiply each recipe by five, so that each person takes home one of each dish for her freezer.

Swayne’s group gathers at one house around 5 p.m., after the husbands and/or sitters have arrived. The group makes the plans to be together for 6 to 7 hours, during which each participant chooses a recipe to begin preparing and makes it for all five families. Each person then packages their designated meals for freezing, and then moves on to another recipe, until the group has all 12 recipes prepared and ready to go home in their individual coolers.

Swayne’s group typically orders something easy for dinner, such as pizza, for their group cooking events. The best part, though, is having all of those delicious dinners that can be thawed and prepared in no time for weeks to come.

The following dishes are just a sample of what Swayne’s cooking group has prepared and enjoyed so far.


  • If freezing vegetables, blanch them quickly before doing so
  • There are numerous packaging options available in most grocery stores; the sturdier, the better. The kind you can put directly in the oven or microwave is particularly nice
  • Make sure to release any extra air in your Ziploc bags before zipping. If you are covering a dish with saran wrap, add an extra cover of aluminum foil on top of it
  • When thawing, place frozen items in the fridge the night before you plan to use them. You can also thaw items in cold water in the sink. If not packaged in metal containers, they may also be defrosted in the microwave


Grilling over indirect heat allows the fist to stay moist and take on a subtle smokiness

Servings: 9; Prep Time: 40 minutes; Cook Time: 10 minutes

1/2       cup rise vinegar
1/2       cup soy sauce
2           tablespoons honey
1           teaspoon ground ginger
1/2       teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3          garlic cloves, minced
1           lemon, thinly sliced
1/4      cup chopped green onions
1          tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Combine vinegar and next 6 ingredients in a large Ziploc bag, seal. Shake to combine. Add fish; seal. Freeze, or if using same day, marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once.

If fish is frozen, remove from freezer to thaw. Preheat grill to high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Remove salmon from marinade and place on grill. Lower grill temperature to medium. Cook 5 minutes on one side, carefully lift, spray grill again with cooking spray, and turn filet over. Fish should flake easily when done. Garnish with chopped onions and toasted sesame seeds.


These tangy chops are great served with the pineapple-cashew rice

Serving: 4; Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 25 minutes

            juice of 2 limes
           juice of 2 oranges
2        tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2        tablespoons honey
1        tablespoon Dijon mustard
1        tablespoon paprika
1        teaspoon garlic, minced
1        teaspoon black pepper
1/2    teaspoon salt
4       pork loin chops. trimmed of fat

Mix together all ingredients except pork. Pout into a Ziploc bag. Add pork chops and turn to coat. Freeze if not using that day.

Thaw overnight in fridge. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add pork chops and reserve marinade. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn over and cook another 5 minutes, or until brown. Add marinade. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook 7 minutes more, or until middle of chops is no longer pink.

Transfer meat to a plate and cover to keep warm. Increase heat to high and cook marinade, stirring frequently for 3 to 5 minutes until thickened. Spoon over pork chops and serve.


Make this side dish a meal by adding baby shrimp, chicken breast, ham, or a combination of all three. Serve in a pineapple shell for extra flavor!

Servings: 4; Prep Time: 15 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes

1            tablespoon butter
1            tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4       cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1           cup white rice
2           cups chicken broth
1           12-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained
1/4       cup cashews, toasted and chopped
1/4       cup carrot, diced
1           teaspoon salt
1/4      teaspoon red pepper flakes

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In an oven-proof skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add rice, and stir to coat. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and bake about 30 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Let stand covered for 5 minutes before fluffing. To freeze, let cool, then place in Ziploc bag or freezer container. To us, thaw in fridge, add 2 tablespoons water, and microwave 2 minutes, or until heated through.


Save the time by substituting a 16-ounce jar of your favorite picante sauce for the homemade version here.

Servings: 4; Prep Time: 15 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes

Picante Sauce
1            10 1/2-ounce can tomato puree
1            4 1/2-ounce can chopped green chilies
2           tablespoons onion, minced
2           tablespoons green bell pepper, chopped
1           clove garlic
1           teaspoon white vinegar
1/2       teaspoon salt
1/4       teaspoon celery seed
1/4       teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8       teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Peanut Sauce
1/4      cup peanut butter
2          tablespoon honey
2          tablespoon orange juice
1          teaspoon soy sauce
1          teaspoon fresh ginger
8          ounces fettuccine, cooked al dente
1           teaspoon vegetable oil
3          boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch pieces
1/4      cup cilantro, chopped
2          tablespoons chopped peanuts
1          cup red, yellow, and orange bell pepper, sliced

If preparing your own picante sauce, combine ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Combine 1 cup picante sauce and peanut sauce ingredients. Cook over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat. Toss cooked fettuccine with 1/4 cup picante/peanut sauce mixture. Place in serving bowl and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet and saute chicken until brown and cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Add remaining picante/peanut sauce to chicken and stir well. Arrange chicken on fettuccine. Sprinkle chicken with cilantro, peanuts, and colored peppers. Serve hot or at room temperature with any extra picante on the side.

To freeze this recipe for easy preparation later, simply store the picante/peanut sauce in a large Ziploc bag. In smaller Ziploc bags, store chicken pieces, peppers, and peanuts. Thaw in the fridge on the day you plan to serve. Cook your fettuccine and chicken as described above, chop up some cilantro, and serve!

Rice Twist: Substitute cooked rice for the fettuccine if you like.


Oats add crunch, and apricot spreadable fruit gives this cookie bar a rich fruit flavor

Servings: 12; Prep Time: 15 minutes; Bake Time: 30 minutes

3 3/4       cups flour
1 1/2        cups sugar
1 1/2        cups baking soda
3/4          teaspoon salt
3 3/4       cups oats
2 1/4       cups melted butter
1               30-ounce jar apricot or raspberry preserves
1               cup flaked coconut

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, oats, and butter to make crumb mixture. Reserve one cup.

Press remaining mixture into greased 9×13 pan and spread with apricot preserves. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture and coconut on top. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Before baking, remove from freezer to thaw. Bake 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Nutty Twist: For extra crunch, add 2 cups ground almonds to the mix.


This recipe couldn’t be easier, but it tastes like a special treat!

Servings: 12; Prep Time: 5 minutes

11         ice cream sandwiches
1/2      cup Kahlua
1          Skor bar or other favorite candy bar, crushed
1          large carton Cool Whip

Cover the bottom of a 9×13 pan with ice cream sandwiches; cut to cover entire bottom. Sprinkle Kahlua over ice cream sandwiches. Mix crushed Skor over ice cream sandwiches. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze. Cut into squares and serve whenever you like.