Maureen Fraîche

Mixing Business and Pleasure in the Kitchen

Archive for the category “Cuisine”

Baklava

Baklava

Want to know what I’m doing right now?  Well, aside from typing (duh), I’m eating the last piece of this baklava.  Good doesn’t even begin to describe it.  If you’ve never had baklava before, allow me to explain what you’re missing out on: crispy layer upon layer of buttery phyllo filled with sugar, cinnamon, and chopped nuts all topped (drenched?) in a honey-lemon syrup.  Simply amazing.

This particular recipe is an adaptation from The Complete Book of Greek Cooking.  Everything I’ve tried from this cookbook thus far has been excellent, but what would you expect?  How could you go wrong with the Recipe Club of Saint Paul’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral?  Church ladies know good food.

While baklava is not difficult to make, it is a little fussy and time consuming.  The very best advice I can give you would be to, first, make sure you have all of your ingredients, tools, and whatnot ready to go and within reach.  Make a little baklava station for yourself.  Second, don’t make this when you’ve got other stuff going on or if the wee ones are running mad all around you.  If you must, wait until nap time, bed time, or whatever other quiet time you have so that you don’t end up a stressed out, grumpy mess.  Third, keep whatever phyllo sheets you aren’t working with hiding under a lightly dampened paper towel or tea towel.  If those sheets dry out, they’ll crackle into pieces before your very eyes–and before you’ve had a chance to finish that baklava.  And last of all, if you’re going to make one batch, why not make two?  One package of phyllo dough will make two 8×8 pans of this glorious goodness and it freezes beautifully.  Trust me, once you’ve tasted this dessert, you’ll be glad you’ve got a whole ‘nuther pan stashed for a rainy day.

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Easy Greek-Style Shredded Chicken

Easy Shredded Chicken

Next time you have one of those frantic days that just won’t quit, give this recipe a whirl.  It’s a busy mom’s dream come true.  Just grab some chicken out of the freezer, crank up the ole Crock Pot, and forget about it.  Or at least for a few hours, anyway.  What I love best about this recipe, though, is that the chicken ends up both moist and packed with flavor–two attributes commonly lacking in Crock Pot fare.

My version down below has got some Greek flavors going on, though you could easily switch things up.  I’ve done this with citrus-y flavors, balsamic vinegar instead of wine, and all sorts of different herbs and spices–all good.  And I use this chicken in all sorts of ways: tacos, wraps, salads, pasta, panini sandwiches, you  name it.  I’ll often cook up a batch at the beginning of the week just to have it on hand for a quick lunch or dinner.  I’m all for easy these days, how about you?

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Hearts of Romaine with Sauteed Walla Walla Sweet Onions, Bartlett Pears, and Gorgonzola Dressing

Gorgonzola Salad

Though I’ve never really been a fan of veiny cheeses, this salad is really fantastic.  So many flavors going on–sweet pears, tart cranberries, toasty pecans, warm sauteed onions–and the dressing?  Oh man.  So good.  I just look for excuses to scoop it up and eat it.  It’s got great bite and is delicious with this salad, though I’m also reeeeeally looking forward to trying it out with my buffalo fried chicken.  And again, this is coming from someone who does not typically like veiny cheese, never mind a blue cheese dressing.  Oh!  You’ll also love that as rich as this dressing tastes, it only has 40 calories per serving!

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Pacific Northwest Chopped Salad

Pacific Northwest Chopped Salad

It snowed buckets this morning.  I suppose February has to make amends for the absurdly mild January we had, right?  Well, you probably had one of those record-breaking, freeze-your-buns-off months, but we somehow managed to avoid all of that.  In North Central Washington.  Can you believe that?  Seriously, our high’s were up in the 40’s–even the 50’s for a few days!  Craziness.

I love this little lake town when it’s blanketed in snow.  Some of the most beautiful days are when the surrounding hills and mountains are covered in white and the lake reflects a clear blue sky.  Just gorgeous.  We definitely get all four seasons around here and I love that.

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My view this morning.

But enough about the weather.  Let’s talk food.

It’s hard to beat the Pacific Northwest when it comes to good food and this salad offers a nice little array of some of these local flavors.  From the sweet and crunchy Honeycrisp apple to the handmade Beecher’s Flagship cheese, this salad pays homage to some of our best.  It’s one of my favorites and I hope you like it, too!

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Grilled Cajun Shrimp

Cajun Shrimp

One of my favorite dishes in the world is New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp.  If you’ve never had it, you should know it isn’t really barbecued at all.  Rather, the shrimp are seasoned with herbs and spices and then cooked in compound butter and beer, amongst other things.  Served in the shell and with crusty bread, you’ll soon lose any sense of shame as you wolf down each spicy shrimp as quickly as you can peel them, no mind the sauce running down your arms (or chin).

These little lovelies are a bit different.  While I didn’t want anything swimming in butter on such a hot summer day, I did want that flavor.  And how can you go wrong with grilled shrimp?  So I tossed together a marinade with many of the star ingredients found in barbecue shrimp, skewered the lot, and then threw them on the grill.  The results, I must say, were delicious.  Though they really can’t be compared to the real thing, these were loaded with flavor and perfect for a hot summer night.  Crack open your favorite beer and enjoy!

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Mongolian Beef with Broccoli

Mongolian Beef with Broccoli

This is so delicious.  I would say it’s like your favorite Chinese take-out, but it’s probably better.  Stir-fried strips of steak, lightly steamed broccoli, and crisp water chestnuts are tossed in a sweet and savory sauce with just the right amount of heat for a quick dinner any night of the week.  This time around, I happened to serve it atop udon noodles, though I’ve often done rice instead.  Either way, you are going to love it.

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Lasagne al Forno

Lasagne

Lasagne al Forno.  So delicious.  Homemade ragu bolognese, fresh pasta, creamy balsamella, nutty parmigiano throughout with a sprinkling of mozzarella to top things off–this dish is so worth the effort and the leftovers are amazing.

If you’ve been following my posts leading up to this grand finale, you’ve had a sweet peek into each of the delicious ingredients in this authentic Italian lasagne.  Yes, this dish is a labor of love, but the results are nothing short of delizioso.

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Balsamella

Sorry, no picture for this post.  Though this recipe is really a quickie and part of my ongoing series of Lasagne al Forno posts, I thought it might be easier to do a separate post for this last ingredient.

Balsamella, more widely known as bechamel, is a thickened milk sauce with a wide variety of uses.  One of the four ‘mother sauces,’ balsamella uses a roux mixture to thicken milk, creating a velvety sauce or base for such dishes as cannelloni, macaroni and cheese, creamy sauces, and more.  Depending on the ratio of flour and butter used to milk, this sauce can range from thin to rather thick and may be used plain or flavored with herbs, spices, cheese, and more.

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Fresh Pasta

Fresh Pasta

It has been awhile, hasn’t it?  Funny how time can fly by between posts.  We’ve finally gotten into some warm weather, which makes it hard to stare at a computer screen.  Plus, we are now expecting our THIRD kiddo (due in November), and there’s nothing like a little first trimester funk to suck the motivation out of a would-be blogger.

In any case, and at long last, I’ve finally gotten around to the next installment in my series of posts on homemade, authentic Italian lasagne.  While you can certainly buy dried lasagne sheets or even fresh sheets for lasagne, for whatever reason, I had a sudden urge to make my own pasta from scratch.  Gotsta justify owning a pasta press, right?

The recipe for pasta is quite simple, though I’ll say right now that making pasta with a couple of ankle biters running around is a whoooooole lot different than the first time I made pasta back in college.  As I recall, the boyfriend and I made a date night out of it and I can still clearly picture the fettuccine he had wrapped around and around his neck in a serious effort to make the longest strand mankind has ever seen.  Now that I think on it, my future husband’s help may not have been that different than my 4-year-old’s…

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Ragu´ alla Bolognese

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I have had this serious desire for some real lasagne.  So serious that I made this delicious bolognese today and will make fresh pasta tomorrow.  Layered with besciamella (or bechamel, in French) and freshly grated parmigiano, this is a truly authentic lasagne al forno.  I will, of course, do a post for the fresh pasta as well as for the construction of the final masterpiece.

The recipe I use here is an adaptation from Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian.  What a beautiful cookbook!  The photography alone makes this one worth owning, not to mention the authentic cuisine.

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