Monday, February 27, 2012

Coconut Red Curry Sauce and noodles

Coconut Red Curry Sauce and Noodles

adapted from: Bobby Flay  

1 Tbl. canola oil

1/2 c. mushrooms, chopped

1 (one-inch) piece fresh ginger, grated

1/4 medium onion, finely diced

2 Tbl. red curry paste

1 (15 oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk, stirred

1 c. napa cabbage, chiffonade

2 medium carrots, julienned

1/2 Tbl. honey

3 scallions, chopped

juice of 1/2 a fresh lime

chopped fresh cilantro

salt and black pepper

1 Lb. noodles (I used fettucini), cooked

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the mushrooms, ginger and onion until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the red curry paste and cook 1 minute. Whisk in the coconut milk and then add the cabbage, carrots and cook 5 minutes more (I went 10-15 minutes, so my carrots would be softer). Remove from the heat and stir in the honey, scallions, lime juice and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Toss over the noodles. Serves 4.

That whole fish without a backbone thing...

I was looking for answers to the inevitable questions that will follow the previous post and this seems to satisfy me the most. A simple explanation of why we eat no fish with a backbone (shellfish). I pulled this Monacho's post from Fr. David Moser. He seems to have some very good answers as a moderator on the web site.

"I don't think anyone really "knows" why this is - I've heard as many explanations as there are people. The simple fact is that this is the tradition we have received from our ancestors and forefathers in the faith.

My own personal explanation for this is that shell fish do not have discernible "blood" and since the blood is linked closely to the soul, a creature without discernible blood is not ensouled and thus can be consumed without unduly inflaming the passions. St Basil the Great also indicates that cold blooded animals (fish in particular) have "inferior souls" because while they have discernible blood, it is "inferior" to that of warm blooded animals. Good science? probably not - but good spirituality? I'd bet on St Basil. By extension then this is why fish is sometimes permitted during a fast but other meat is not. (Being that an inferior soul it inflames the passions to a lesser degree). But then this is all my own opinion and not really necessarily the "real" reason."

Fr. David Moser

Great Lent

Rather than paraphrase, I looked for some easy text to understand and talk about the observance of Great Lent.  We participant in this process for the full 40 days or so. We do not eat meat but we do have some dairy in our fast in our house, it's a very individual process in the church.

While there are major guidelines and there are certainly several "degrees" of fasting, we generally choose a fast that we can live with in our daily lives.  Some folks want to see how much they can bend the fast with meat substitutes or other items. I see that a lot of us become so food focused we kind of miss the whole point, myself included. I have to provide meals for my family but elaborate preparation of "gourmet" meals is kind of the opposite of fasting, we tend to get caught up in the whole process.  This year I am looking for simpler recipes that get the job done, leave me a little hungry and remind me of why I am doing this.

We had a sermon on Sunday kind of about fasting but mostly about not chastising those who don't participate.  I am not sure who that sermon was directed at but I did look again at my personal attitude. I am not sure I talk so much to others about the fast. I do try to make it clear that whether you participate or not, any church sponsored event should follow the rules to the letter. I am not a popular guy.

Frankly I am thinking that people want more information about fasting which we don't seem to get at church. Not so much to beat each other up with but more for some guidelines and reminders. There are so many ways to honor the season besides beans and rice after sundown. That does not work well for most of us. And let's face it, we sponsor a Fish Fry each Friday and serve fish. We eat fish a lot during Lent but we are not supposed to. I know it.  Just on feast days. Well, perhaps this article will put some perpective on things.

So about Great Lent:


The purpose of Great Lent is to prepare the faithful to not only commemorate, but to enter into the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. The totality of the Orthodox life centers around the Resurrection.[1] Great Lent is intended to be a "workshop". Through spending more time than usual in prayer and meditation on the Holy Scripture and the Holy Traditions of the Church, the believer in Christ becomes through the grace of God more godlike.



Observance of Great Lent is characterized by abstinence from certain foods, intensified private and public prayer, self-examination, confession, personal improvement, repentance and restitution for sins committed, and almsgiving. The foods traditionally abstained from are meat and dairy products, wine and oil. (According to some traditions, only olive oil is abstained from; in others, all vegetable oils.) Since strict fasting is canonically forbidden on the Sabbath and the Lord's Day, wine and oil are permitted on Saturdays and Sundays. If the Great Feast of the Annunciation falls during Great Lent, then fish, wine and oil are permitted on that day.
Besides the additional liturgical celebrations described below, Orthodox Christians are expected to pay closer attention to and increase their private prayer. According to Orthodox theology, when asceticism is increased, prayer must be increased also. The Church Fathers have referred to fasting without prayer as "the fast of the demons" since the demons do not eat according to their incorporeal nature, but neither do they pray.

Liturgical observances

Great Lent is unique in that, liturgically, the weeks do not run from Sunday to Saturday, but rather begin on Monday and end on Sunday, and most weeks are named for the lesson from the Gospel which will be read at the Divine Liturgy on its concluding Sunday. This is to illustrate that the entire season is anticipatory, leading up to the greatest Sunday of all: Pascha.
During the Great Fast, a special service book is used, known as the Lenten Triodion, which contains the Lenten texts for the Daily Office (Canonical Hours) and Liturgies. The Triodion begins during the Pre-Lenten period to supplement or replace portions of the regular services. This replacement begins gradually, initially affecting only the Epistle and Gospel readings, and gradually increases until Holy Week when it entirely replaces all other liturgical material (during the Triduum even the Psalter is eliminated, and all texts are taken exclusively from the Triodion). The Triodion is used until the lights are extinguished before midnight at the Paschal Vigil, at which time it is replaced by the Pentecostarion, which begins by replacing the normal services entirely (during Bright Week) and gradually diminishes until the normal services resume following the Afterfeast of Pentecost.

Saint Gregory Dialogus, who is credited with compiling the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
On weekdays of Great Lent, the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated, because the joy of the Eucharist (literally "Thanksgiving") is contrary to the attitude of repentance which predominates on these days. However, since it is considered especially important to receive the Holy Mysteries (Holy Communion) during this season, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts—also called the Liturgy of St. Gregory the Dialogist— may be celebrated on weekdays. Technically, this is not actually a Divine Liturgy, but rather a Vespers service at which a portion of the Body and Blood of Christ, which was reserved the previous Sunday, are distributed to the faithful. Most parishes and monasteries celebrate this Liturgy only on Wednesdays, Fridays and feast days, but it may be celebrated on any weekday of Great Lent. Because the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated on weekdays, it is replaced with the Typica, even on days when the Presanctified Liturgy is celebrated. On Saturday and Sunday the Divine Liturgy may be celebrated as usual. On Saturdays, the usual St. John Chrysostom is celebrated; on Sundays the more solemn and penitential Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is used.
The services of the Canonical Hours are much longer during Great Lent. In addition to doubling the number of Psalms read, the structure of the services is different on weekdays. In the evening, instead of the normal Compline (the final service before retiring at night), the much longer service of Great Compline is chanted. In the Greek practice, ordinary Compline is chanted on Friday night together with the Akathist to the Theotokos (Mother of God). The Akathist is divided into four sections and one section is chanted on each of the first four Friday nights of Great Lent. Then the Akathist is chanted in its entirety at Matins in the Fifth Saturday. In the Slavic usage, Great Compline is chanted on Friday night—though some parts are read rather than sung as they are on other weeknights, and some Lenten material is replaced by non-Lenten hymns—and the Akathist is not chanted until Matins of the fifth Saturday.
An interesting difference between the Eastern and Western observances is that while in the West the chanting of Alleluia ceases during Lent, in the East its use is increased. This is because for the Orthodox, fasting should be joyous (cf. Matthew 6:16), and the sense of unworthiness must always be tempered with hope in God's forgiveness.[2] In fact, days which follow the Lenten pattern of services are referred to as "days with Alleluia". This theme of "Lenten joy" is also found in many of the hymns of the Triodion, such as the stichera which begin with the words: "The Lenten Spring has dawned!..." (Vespers Aposticha, Wednesday of Cheesefare Week) and "Now is the season of repentance; let us begin it joyfully, O brethren..." (Matins, Second Canon, Ode 8, Monday of Cheesefare Week).
The making of prostrations during the services increases as well. The one prayer that typifies the Lenten services is the Prayer of Saint Ephrem, which is said at each service on weekdays, accompanied by full prostrations. One translation of it reads:
O Lord and master of my life! a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition and idle-talking, give me not.
But rather, a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience and charity, bestow upon me Thy servant.
Yea, my king and Lord, grant me to see my own failings and refrain from judging others: For blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.
The public reading of Scripture is increased during Great Lent. The Psalter (Book of Psalms) is normally read through once a week during the course of the Daily Office; however, during Great Lent, the number of Psalms is increased so that the entire Psalter is read through twice during each of the Six Weeks (during Holy Week it is read through once). Readings from the Old Testament are also increased, with the Books of Genesis, Proverbs and Isaiah being read through almost in their entirety at the Sixth Hour and Vespers (during Cheesefare Week, the readings at these services are taken from Joel and Zechariah, while during Holy Week they are from Exodus, Ezekiel and Job). Uniquely, on weekdays of Great Lent there is no public reading of the Epistles or Gospels. This is because the readings are particular to the Divine Liturgy, which is not celebrated on weekdays of Great Lent. There are, however, Epistles and Gospels appointed for each Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday, February 23, 2012



  • 6 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese (see note)
  • 1 3/4 c whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups strong espresso, cooled
  • 1/3 c dark rum or Kahlua
  • 24 packaged ladyfingers
  • 1/4 c sour cream
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish


In a double boiler bowl, using an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale. Plasce over a simmering water until it doubles in volume and becomes light and thick 8 to 10 minutes.  Add mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth.

Beat cream till stiff peaks form then fold in cheese mixture.
In a small shallow dish, add espresso and rum. Dip each ladyfinger into espresso for only 5 seconds. Letting the ladyfingers soak too long will cause them to fall apart. Place the soaked ladyfinger on the bottom of a 13 by 9 inch baking dish or trifle bowl, breaking them in half if necessary in order to fit the bottom.
Spread evenly 1/3 of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers. Repeat ending with a layer of cheese mixture. Cover tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 8 hours.
Before serving, sprinkle with chocolate shavings. or chocolate covered expresso beans.

**Mascarpone is expensive and not easily bought here. I make my own this way: Beat 8 ounces of cream cheese, 2 T heavy cream and 1/4 cup sour cream till light.  Mix with egg mixture.

I placed this in a Trifle dish and topped it with whipped cream and chocolate espresso beans. Yum!.

Chocolate leaves

People seem to be facinated with our chocolate leaves that we used to decorate the desserts every year. It could not be easier, really!

I went to the market and asked for some lemon leaves at the florist counter. They cost me a buck or two.

Wash and dry leaves thoroughly. Cut from stem.

Melt some semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate over hot water till smooth and flowing. Spread chocolate on underside of leaf. Make sure it's thick over the center vein. Allow to cool on wax paper in the fridge. When it hardens, carefully peel the leaf off the chocolate. Careful as chocolate will melt easily. Store the finished leaves in the fridge till ready for use.

Here is one of our dessert recipes from the party...Orange-scented Chocolate Cake with Blood Orange compote

Orange-Scented Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with Candied Blood Orange Compote

Bon Appétit (December 2009)

12 to 14 servings

    •    3 medium or 4 small blood oranges
    •    2 1/2 cups (or more) water
    •    1 cup sugar
    •    2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
    •    2 cups all purpose flour
    •    3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    •    1/2 teaspoon salt
    •    1 pound bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
    •    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
    •    1 1/4 cups sugar
    •    1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
    •    1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
    •    2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
    •    4 large eggs
    •    3/4 cup sour cream
    •    6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
    •    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
    •    2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
Special equipment
    •    8 10-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides
    •    Small offset spatula
: Blood oranges are available at some supermarkets and farmers' markets. If you can't find them, use another thin-skinned citrus fruit (such as tangelos) instead.



    •    Cut ends off oranges. Cut oranges with peel lengthwise in half, then cut each half lengthwise into 3 wedges. Combine 2 1/2 cups water and sugar in large saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add orange wedges and any accumulated juices to syrup and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until orange peel is soft and translucent and syrup is reduced and thickened, turning orange wedges occasionally and adding more water by 1/4 cupfuls as needed if syrup is too thick before orange wedges are soft, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in orange liqueur. Cool 15 minutes. Transfer to small container. Cover and chill. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled. Bring to room temperature before using.

    •    Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Lightly butter 10-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter parchment.
    •    Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Combine chocolate and butter in large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water; stir until chocolate-butter mixture is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water; add both sugars, orange liqueur, and orange peel and whisk until blended (mixture will look grainy). Add eggs, 2 at a time, and whisk until just blended after each addition. Whisk in sour cream. Add flour mixture and stir in with rubber spatula just until incorporated. Transfer batter to prepared pan; spread evenly.
    •    Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 30 minutes. Run small knife around sides of cake to loosen. Invert cake onto rack; peel off parchment. Cool cake completely (center may sink slightly).

    •    Combine chocolate and butter in small metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water; stir until chocolate-butter mixture is melted and smooth. Whisk in corn syrup. Cool glaze until barely warm but still pourable, about 10 minutes.
    •    Pour glaze onto center of cake. Using small offset spatula, spread glaze over top of cake, leaving 1/2-inch plain border around top edge. Let stand at room temperature until glaze sets, about 2 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and store at room temperature.
    •    Using hot dry knife and wiping knife clean between slices, cut cake into slices. Divide among plates. Serve some candied orange compote alongside.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Dessert Party!

After a hectic day of prepping and primping, the desserts fulfilled their destiny and the guests seemed pleased with their choices most people tried a bit of everything. We all had a great time and spirited conversation. We drank champagne with various treatments, my favorite was a touch of brandy. A lot of folks drank apricot nectar or pomegranate juice in theirs. I think the fan favorites were varied. A lot of people enjoyed the Lime Blackberry Pie but for some the Orange chocolate torte with Blood orange compote. Some just liked the cheesecake this year while my daughter and her friends gave the macaroons high marks. Photos of the following with recipes added as I have time.

Lime Blackberry Pie with meringue

Orange chocolate tart with blood orange compote (Sorry for the focus here)

Lemon Pave

French Macaroons with orange scented chocolate ganache

Tiramisu Trifle
Italian Cream Cake

The lovely hostesses Brenda and Lori
Bailey's Irish Cream Cheesecake

Jeff and Michale, John, Debbie and Dora

Alison, Nicholas, Brooke and Mackenzie

Friday, February 17, 2012

Making progress.....

2 lbs of butter
3 dozen eggs
3 quarts of cream
6 pounds of chocolate
3 pounds of apples
2 pounds of lemons
2 pounds of limes
3 blood oranges
2 branches of lemon leaves
assorted liqueurs
non stop oven time
a blow torch
4 bouquets of mixed flowers
a ton of dishes, washed and rewashed
every spare bit of fridge space
16 bottles of wine and champagne
20 pounds of ice
One very messy kitchen and a very patient wife (who cleaned the whole place while I rested)

Chocolate Almond Macaroons soon to be stuffed with orange scented chocolate ganache

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Busy in the kitchen

Trying to get as much prep work finished as I can for the party Saturday night.
Last night was all about pie crusts, lemon and lime curds and preparation for what lies ahead. Choosing the right pans and utensils. Re checking the grocery list. I still have a few things to pick up at the store. Baked the genoise for the Pave last night. That can sit for a few days.

Still need lady fingers (or I'm gonna have to make them) and several other small items to complete the fare for the night. I need lemon leaves for the chocolate decorations just a million little details that need to be gone over. Lucky I have tomorrow off!

Valentine's dinner?  Well we just had NY Strips (a T Bone for Ben) and a 1 pound lobster tail that I overcooked ever so slightly as the kitchen was busy and help was scarce.  I had decided to make Naan again and it turned out great but it took longer than I expected to cook and things got a little out of had, especially with steaks out on the grill. Mackenzie likes her steak just so and I am always worried that they will over cook. Hers was done perfectly and the rest were to my wife's liking but the lobster suffered for attention. Oops. Maybe a do over. It was all good though. No flowers or cards anymore. Just good food, a great wine and fantastic company.  Dessert will be this weekend anyway. Looking forward to a lot of great friends coming over and hopefully I didn't over do the guest list!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Italian Cream Cake

After dinner at Nicola's on Saturday, Lori had tested one of the recipes for this weekends Dessert Party. This was a big hit. So luscious and light with the right spot of lemon. This will be hit at the party for sure. Meyer lemons are in the stores in Nebraska. Can't say I have ever had one before but we decided to include a few citrus recipes to take advantage of them.

Lemony Cream Butter Cake
cake layer adapted from the Ricotta Blintz Casserole  recipe in “Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes,” by Jeanne Kelley
For the cake

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (heaping)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (which was about 1 lemon for me)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • zest of two lemons
For the cream cheese filling
  • 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease or spray a 9″ springform pan with vegetable spray.
Make the filling — In a large bowl or bowl of a standmixer, beat the cream cheese on medium-high to high speed for about 5 minutes, until smooth and creamy.
Add confectioners’ sugar and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg and beat until completely combined, about 1 minute. Add butter, both extracts and lemon zest. Beat until completely combined, about 1 minute. Set aside.
Make the cake — In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk in melted butter, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla extract and lemon zest until combined. Do not overmix.
Pour batter evenly into springform pan. Carefully pour filling mixture evenly over the cake batter to within about 1/2 inch of the edge of the pan. (The filling should cover all but the outer 1/2 inch, at which point the cake batter will be visible.)
Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake has puffed up and toothpick inserted near edge of cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully remove springform sides and allow to cool on rack for 1 hour. Transfer to refrigerator and chill completely before serving.
Serve chilled, with a little sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar.

Crostini Alla Romana

Nicholas called the other day asking for this recipe. I had made it so often the last few summers when the sage was growing well. I knid of forget about it in the winter but it is a fantastic appetizer especially if you use fresh mozzarella or at least whole milk mozzarella.

Crostini Alla Romana
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
Prep Time:
15 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
20 min
4 to 6 servings


  • 12 1/2-inch thick slices ciabatta bread
  • 12 slices thinly sliced prosciutto (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into thin slices
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 6 sage leaves
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the slices of ciabatta on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until crisp and golden around the edges, about 8 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven. Place the prosciutto slices and mozzarella on the crostini toast and return to the oven to melt the cheese, about 8 more minutes.
Meanwhile combine the butter and the sage leaves in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the butter is melted and starting to brown in spots and the sage leaves are crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Transfer the crostini to a serving plate. Drizzle the crostini with the sage butter and serve immediately.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Eating Omaha...Nicola's

Last night we had the honor of visiting Nicola's on 13th and Jackson. Cold night but well worth the trip. As our routine, we brought our own vintage and paid a corking fee. Seems to be a cheaper way to drink the good stuff and not pay an outrageous mark up. Even with the fee it's cheaper. Dinner was magnificent. First a cheese tray. Olives and assorted cheeses with crostini and crackers. A drizzle of olive oil and a dash of pepper. Yum.

We all ordered something different tonight. No specials (sorry Lori, I feel bad) It seems we always get burned on specials so I like to stick with signature dishes for a first time visit. Tonight's entrees were Lobster Ravioli, Mediterranean Lasagna, Ravioli and meatballs and the Bolognese. All was supper tasty and everyone appeared to happy. I know I sampled the Lasagna and wow was that great! We brought home a fair bit of food. Definitely a keeper and it looks like the rest of Omaha is aware of that.

For dessert, Lori made a test run of one of the desserts we had chosen for the party this weekend. Very good and light. Delicious. Food coma.

Looking forward to our next venture out. Lent is on the horizon so it will have to be seafood for us that night.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cooking the same ol' thing

We are in a pre lenten rut these last few weeks. Planning the dessert party, getting ready for the major cleaning push that is going to happen and me being sick with a cold really takes the fire out of my cooking.

I have been cooking,  but basically the old standbys. Creativity has left me for the moment as I focus on desserts and trying to balance an array of possibilities that will elicit the appropriate responses from our guests but also represent a diversified portfolio of sweets and a mix of texture and flavors.

Every party has to have a Pave. I generally make strawberry or lemon so one of those with definitely be on the menu. Something chocolate and something spicy. something cheesy and something fruity is always a good mix. Decadence just comes with the territory. Perhaps a trifle this year or a tiramisu? I was looking for something artisan. Small individuals but they take a while and anyone who knows me knows I am not a patient man.

I have little time left and have to meet with our co-hosts to verify the task at hand. I have a few ideas still rolling around that need to jell up. Then I need to make that grocery list and pick up about 5 pounds of chocolate and a few quarts of cream. Hmmm.......


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...