Archive for July, 2009

Grilled Salmon with Harissa Yogurt Sauce

July 7, 2009

harissaHarissa is a paste from North Africa with all the flavors of the Mediterranean; cumin, coriander, caraway, mint and chilies.  It is great as a marinade for grilled lamb, beef, chicken or fish.  You can make this with fresh serano, cayenne or habanero chilies.   If you’re growing chilies in your garden, put up a batch of harissa while they’re fresh.   If you prefer a milder harissa, use red ancho chilies (ripe poblano chilies).  There certainly is no reason why you couldn’t make this Morrocan paste with chipotle peppers (smoked red jalapeno peppers) also.  The smoky tones would add another flavor dimension. 

The yogurt in the sauce recipe given below will tame the heat of the chilies and the honey and cinnamon will add a touch of sweetness which will also help caramelize the surface of the salmon when cooking.  There’s just enough orange juice to give it a sour note and balance the rest of the flavors.

Harissa and yogurt makes a tasty dip for sesame coated lamb meatballs.  Check out Cat Cora’s recipe video at McCormick Gourmet.  Chicken tenderloins can be marinaded with the harissa  and grilled on skewers.  Harissa marinaded flank steak grilled with fresh eggplant and bell peppers is especially tasty served with your favorite couscous, Mediterranean black bean salad and fresh figs with yogurt and honey.  

Harissa paste is super easy to make, there’s no cooking, and is best made a couple days before using.  It will keep in the refrigerator up to 6 weeks.  This recipe makes about 1-1/2 cups.  It may be doubled or tripled and spooned into hot sterilized jars up to 1/2 inch from rims.  Cover with 1 Tbsp olive oil before sealing and refrigerate.  This makes an unusual hostess gift or gift for your favorite foodie.

Ingredients for Harissa Paste:

  • 1 cup fresh red chilies, seeded, veins removed
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1-1/2 tsp caraway seeds (or fennel seeds)
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (or 2 tsp dried mint flakes)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil


  1. Process chilies, garlic, salt, seeds and mint leaves in food processor until smooth.
  2. Reserve 1 Tbsp olive oil and add remaining oil to chili mixture in a steady stream while processor is running.
  3. Spoon harissa into a glass jar and drizzle with reserved oil to cover.  Seal and refrigerate.

Grilled Salmon with Harissa Yogurt Sauce


  • 1 lb of salmon steaks or fillets, 1 inch thick, cut into 4 portions
  • 1 Tbsp Harissa paste (recipe above)
  • 1 cup yogurt (Greek style)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp orange juice
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger (use microplane grater)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (Saigon cinnamon from McCormick’s Gourmet Collection)


  1. Salt and Pepper salmon fillets.  Fold thinnest end of each fillet to the top of the fillet so that each fillet is relatively the same thickness from end to end.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to incorporate.  Remove 4 Tbsp of sauce for marinade.  Chill remaining sauce until serving time.
  3. Spoon marinade over top and skin side of each salmon fillet.  Let sit for 20 minutes.  
  4. Place fillets, skin side down, on grill 6 inches from heat source and cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, until both sides are golden brown, turning once.   Do not over cook.  The center of each fillet should be pink to red depending upon your preference.  Cooking it well will dry it out.
  5. Serve with a dollop of chilled sauce and garnish with chopped mint if desired.


  1. You may grill on a flat iron or a non-stick skillet.  Drizzle olive oil on hot grill or non-stick skillet.  When oil is hot but not smoking place fillets on grill, skin side down.  Cook as instructed above.
  2. Dried chilies may also be used to make the Harissa paste; just soak dried chilies in hot water to cover.  Let stand 20 minutes  and drain. Process as directed.

For more great recipes by This Dame Cooks click here

French Onion Soup

July 4, 2009

Make this classic dish with homemade beef stock.  In a roasting pan, place  2 lbs of beef marrow bones and trimmings with 2 onions, 4 carrots, 1 leek, and 4 ribs of celery with leaves.  Its not necessary to peel the vegetables and they only need to be cut into quarters.  Drizzle a little olive oil over everything in the roasting pan and pop into 350° F. oven for 45 minutes until bones and onions have caramelized.  Transfer roasted ingredients to a stock pot, add 1 cup of red wine to the hot roasting pan to deglaze, scrape up the drippings, and pour into stock pot.  Cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and add 2 sprigs of thyme and 8-9 sprigs of parsley.  Let simmer on low heat for 6 hours or longer, skimming off any scum that floats on the top.  Do not stir the stock while its cooking.  Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth.  Refrigerate over night.  Remove solid fat layer. Reserve 1 quart for French onion soup and freeze remaining stock in freezer safe containers.

Braciole in a Crock Pot

July 4, 2009

bracioleThis is one of those quintessential Italian comfort foods from our immigrant ancestors. Flank steak stuffed with whatever is at hand, stewed in a marinara sauce until it is fork tender, and served with pasta or gnocchi. This specialty dish goes well with a simple salad of fresh figs and fennel bulb, lots of crusty bread and red wine.

This one is stuffed with parsley, bread crumbs, Parmesan, garlic, onion, chopped fresh cherries, calamata olives and capers. Instead of tying it with butcher twine, I’ve secured the roll with bamboo skewers.

Braciole (pronounced bra-zhul in Sicilian) is an American Italian dish similar to the voltino of classic Italian cuisine. The braciole can be made with thin slices of flank steak, pork, chicken, veal or even fish such as swordfish or mullet. It is typically a side dish for dinner, or sandwich filling for lunch. The braciole is usually stewed with meat balls and sausages and the sauce is tossed with the pasta or served as a gravy over potatoes. The traditional voltino is made with anchovies and hard boiled eggs, cheese, prosciutto, fresh herbs, garlic and onion. The addition of prunes, currants, figs, lemon juice or other fruit to the braciole adds another layer of sweet and tart flavor to balance the savory ingredients.

Impress guests at your next dinner party with this succulent Italian dish. Use a combination of ingredients that you savor and cook it in a crock pot with a simple tomato sauce.


  • 2 lb flank steak
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 2 scallions, sliced finely
  • 1 Tbsp capers (chop if large)
  • 5 or 6 calamata olives, pitted and chopped finely
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 5 or 6 fresh cherries, pitted and chopped
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil for browning steak rolls
  • 1/4 red wine
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Trim steak of fat. If the steak is very thick, butterfly it using a sharp knife. Cut into two pieces that are relatively rectangular in shape. Place each piece of steak between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound to 1/4 inch thick. Patch thin areas with irregular pieces cut from the edges. Salt and pepper each piece.
  2. In a bowl, mix bread crumbs, 2 minced garlic cloves, scallions, capers, olives, Parmesan, cherries, thyme, parsley and egg.
  3. Spread 1/2 the filling over 2/3 of each steak piece starting at the short side. Pat the filling down so its smooth. Starting at the end with the filling (short side), roll steak tightly, tucking in sides. Secure the flap end of each roll with a bamboo skewer threaded the length of the flap.
  4. Saute rolls in 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat until browned on all sides. Transfer rolls to the crock pot.
  5. To make the marinara: deglaze pan with wine, add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring to a lively simmer for a few minutes.
  6. Pour marinara over braciole in crock pot. Set temperature to low and cook for 6 hours, or 3 hours on high setting.
  7. Remove from crock pot and let rest for 20 minutes. Remove skewers. Slice braciole and serve with pasta or potato gnocchi. Pour 1/2 of the sauce over the steak and toss pasta with the remaining sauce. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan.

Tiramisu – Italian “pick me up” Dessert

July 1, 2009

TiramisuTiramisu is that scrumptious dessert of zabaglione custard with mascarpone cheese, savoiardi (lady fingers) dipped in espresso and marsala, and dusted with cocoa powder.  It was created in Treviso, Italy about 1970 by Alba and Ado Campeol, owners of the restaurant Le Beccherie.  The classic recipe was made with raw eggs, a no-no due to salmonella potential, so the zabaglione is now cooked over steaming water.

I first made this dessert in 1989 from a recipe in Ciao Italia Cookbook, the companion cookbook to Mary Ann Esposito’s TV series.  She is in her 20th year as a cooking show presenter and was one of my mentors when I got the foodie bug.  I carried her cookbooks to the South Pacific along with Joy of Cooking, Better Homes and Garden, and Sunset.  This recipe parallels the classic tiramisu from Le Beccherie and you will love the creamy texture and luscious wine laced espresso flavors.   If you don’t have marsala wine, rum and Kahlua may be used.  Philadelphia cream cheese may be substituted for the mascarpone cheese.  And day-old toasted sponge cake may be used in place of the savoiardi biscuits.


  • 3 lg. eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp espresso coffee
  • 2 Tbsp marsala wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 1 cup (10 oz.) mascarpone cheese, beaten smooth
  • 1 cup espresso coffee
  • 5 Tbsp marsala wine
  • 20 savoiardi biscuits
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder


  1. Cream egg yolks with sugar until light and fluffy.  Transfer to a double boiler.
  2. Stirring constantly, add 1 Tbsp espress coffee and 2 Tbsp marsala wine.  Continue to stir and heat until zabaglione thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  Remove to an ice bath to cool.  Stir occassionally while cooling.
  3. Cream softened mascarpone cheese until light and fluffy.  Fold into cooled zabaglione.
  4. Whip heavy cream until peaks form.  Fold into zabaglione. The mixture will be the consistency of mousse.
  5. Add 5 Tbsp marsala wine to 1 cup espresso coffee.  Dip each savoiardi biscuit into the espresso and quickly remove.  Place 10 dipped savoiardi into the bottom of a 9 inch spring-form pan. 
  6. Cover biscuits with half the zabaglione.  Repeat layers.
  7. Cover the top of the tiramisu with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or several hours.
  8. Remove foil and dust with 2 Tbsp cocoa powder.
  9. To serve remove spring form, slice into wedges, garnish with chocolate shavings or curls.  Serve with your favorite coffee.

Pass the Butter and

July 1, 2009

What has to say about:

The Butter Truth

      Claim:   Ingestion of some types of margarine increases the risk of
      coronary disease. 
Back in 2003 we compiled the following comparison chart for various brands of margarine as they were then formulated. Numbers given in grams refer to how many grams of each particular type of fat there are per tablespoon of that brand. (A tablespoon of butter or margarine contains 14 grams.)   Numbers given as percentages represent the impact of one tablespoon of that spread on the recommended daily allowance of that substance.  Margarines sampled were of the “tub” variety. (The same margarines in “stick” form had consistently higher numbers.)

Total FatSaturated (Polyunsaturated) (Monounsaturated)
            Butter11g (17%)7g (36%)00
            I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter10g (15%)2g (10%)4.5g4.5g
            I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light5g (8%)1g (5%)2.5g1.5g
            Parkay8g (13%)1.5g (8%)4g2g
            Fleischmann’s9g (14%)1.5g (10%)4g3g
            Blue Bonnet7g (14%)1.5g (10%)3g2g
            Imperial7g (10%)1.5g (7%)3g1.5g
            Country Crock (Shedd’s Spread)7g (10%)1.5g (7%)3g1.5g

Because butter is an animal product, it contains cholesterol, amounting to 
30 mg per tablespoon or 10% of the USDA recommended daily allowance. 
Margarines, because they are non-animal products, do not. The preceding 
chart says nothing about which margarines contained trans fats (or, if 
 they did, how much) because this information was not always included on 
 product labels back then.

 Since the issuance of warnings and regulations about trans fats in the 
last few years, many margarine producers have reformulated their products. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, for example, now (in 2006) bears a notice on its label proclaiming “NO TRANS FAT,” and the amount of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat per serving has dropped from 4.5g each to 4g (polyunsaturated) and 2g (monounsaturated) per serving.

Although a great deal of the information given in the e-mail is valid, one 
bit of intelligence is nothing more than hyperbole tossed in by the author 
in an effort to make his point more strongly. The claim that some 
comestible is but a “single molecule away” from being a decidedly inedible 
(or even toxic) substance has been applied to a variety of processed 
foods.  Some of the “Butter vs. margarine” mailings circulated in 2005 had this preface tacked onto them:  Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys. 

 Contrary to the claim, margarine was not invented as a turkey fattener.  It 
was formulated in 1869 by Hippolyte Mège Mouriès of France in response to 
Napoleon III’s offering of a prize to whoever could succeed at producing a 
viable low-cost substitute for butter. Mège Mouriès’ concoction, which he 
dubbed oleomargarine, was achieved by adding salty water, milk, and 
margaric acid to softened beef fat. By the turn of the century, the beef 
fat in the original recipe had been replaced by vegetable oils.

In 1886, New York and New Jersey prohibited the manufacture and sale of 
yellow-colored margarine, and by 1902, 32 U.S. states had enacted such 
prohibitions against the coloration of the spread. (Folks got around this 
by mixing yellow food coloring into the white margarine.) In 1950 
President Truman repealed the requirement that margarine be offered for 
sale only in uncolored state, which led to the widespread production of 
the yellow margarine that has come to be the norm.

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