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Brussel Sprouts with Shallots, Bacon and Maple Syrup

This past weekend I took my beautiful friend, Jen from upstate NY, to one of my new favorite restaurants in Dallas: Neighborhood Services. I’ve dined at Neighborhood Services several times and am always impressed with the creativity of the chef & owner: Nick Badovinus.

I’m a lover of brussel sprouts IF they are roasted in the oven. I do not care for the boiled to death green balls of bitterness. These were so fabulous and the entire table raved about how delicious they were. So I set off to recreate them as best as possible and they are almost as tasty as Nicks.


  • 1 shallot, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup: Grade A Vermont preferred
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 2 strips thick cut bacon
  • brussel sprouts (as many as you want)


Cut bacon into small dice – about 1/4 inch. Place in saute pan and cook over low heat. When crispy, drain bacon on paper towels set aside to cool. Keep bacon fat in saute pan for later.

Boil pot of water. Drop in whole brussel sprouts for 2 minutes. Remove from pot and place into bowl of ice water. Cut brussel sprouts in half, and spread onto flat baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil and lightly salt. Place on high shelf in oven and broil for about 7- 10 minutes or until lightly blackened.

In the saute pan with the remaining bacon fat, add 1 tbsp. of butter and melt over over medium heat. When melted, saute shallot until tender. Add maple syrup, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar and stir until slightly thickened. Toss in brussel sprouts and toss until coated.

Serve topped with bacon.

Louisiana Shrimp Salad

Not exactly a “winter” dish but a refreshing break from the warm and filling soups and sides on the menu. Gulf shrimp has been a steal for the past month. I’ve been buying a pound a week and keeping them cooked in the fridge for snacking and salads.

This recipe is another from a friends grandmother, Pat Lacy. Simple and beautiful. This would make a beautiful appetizer served in endive leaves.

Tip: When cooking your shrimp, add some Old Bay and lemon juice to the cooking liquid for added flavor.


  • 1 pound cooked and cleaned shrimp
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, small dice
  • 1 cup celery, small dice
  • 1/2 cup red onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill pickle
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash of Tobasco or hot sauce
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper



Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve on lettuce. 4 servings.

Beef Bourguignon

It is the coldest it’s ever been in Dallas (in my tenure anyway). So I settled into my -2 degree wind chill day with no intentions of exiting the house and it was like my little snow day. Good movies, a blazing fire and a steaming bowl of Beef Bourguignon.

My mom made a beautiful beef stew when I was a kid… and then I would destroy it by mashing the potatoes and shredding the beef until it looked like a bad brown bowl of mush… but it tasted glorious. As I got older I always added a few dashes of Tabasco to my bowl but I was out! The half bottle of Sriracha in the fridge was actually a better substitute and will be the new trend in my bowl of stew.

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa and serves 10 easily. Chuck the leftovers in the freezer or make some neighbors happy.


Beef Bourguignon


  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 8 ounces bacon, diced
  • 3 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 pound small white potatoes, quartered
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup Cognac or Brandy
  • 3/4 bottle red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (1 teaspoon dried)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound frozen whole onions
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced



Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the potatoes. Add the wine plus enough beef broth to cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.

Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

Serve with crusty bread.


Dark Chocolate Bark with Fruit & Nuts

Shoes for chocolate… WHY NOT? My original plan was to make a fabulous chocolate tart with dried fruits and nuts and a bottom layer of raspberry preserves. I came to my senses.

What the hell was I going to do with an entire tart worth a nice pair of shoes in 72% dark French chocolate?

Make something cheaper AND buy Italian leather shoes in celebration of 2009 being my favorite year thus far.

I had a bag of nuts & fruit with the ingredients below… but use whatever nuts & fruit you have on hand for an antioxidant packed treat.


  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios, walnuts and almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, cherries and blueberries


Melt the chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, about 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Pour the melted chocolate over the paper and spread to form a square. Sprinkle the nuts and fruit over the chocolate. Set aside for 2 hours until firm. Cut the bark in pieces and serve at room temperature.

Beef Kofta with Harissa Yogurt Sauce

In a recent issue of Bon Appétit, meatballs made the list of favorite foods in 2009. I seemed to miss that trend on menus and magazines but nonetheless was inspired by the ethnic versions in the issue.

Kofta, in simplest terms, is a Middle Eastern meatball. The Bon Appétit recipe called for lamb but the beef roast in my freezer was begging to be used. So after a few whirls in the food processor my lean beef was meatball worthy. I saved myself some time and threw the onions in for a few spins. If you have lean beef the onions are key to keep the beef moist.

This yogurt sauce was also begging for something – my new favorite fiery ingredient – harissa. The paste of chili peppers, garlic, coriander and caraway took this sauce from blah to bold.

Servings: 6


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup coarsely grated onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon coriander
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 Whole Wheat pitas (warmed in oven or microwave)
  • 2 large onions, halved through core, cut crosswise into 1/4- to 1/3-inch slices

Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek Yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon prepared Harissa
  • 1/2 Lemon, juiced
  • Kosher salt


For the Harissa Yogurt Sauce:

Stir all ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Cover and chill.

For the Beef Kofta:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer onions to a bowl and set aside.

Gently mix beef and next 9 ingredients in large bowl. Using 2 tablespoonfuls for each, roll meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs (24 total).

Add 1 tablespoon oil to same skillet used to cook onions; heat over medium-high heat. Sauté half of meatballs until just cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

Top warm pita with yogurt sauce, onions and meatballs.

Goat Cheese, Pesto & Sun-Dried Tomato Terrine

This is a staple at most of my shindigs. You can make it a day ahead and it is such a beautiful presentation. If you aren’t a fan of goat cheese then just use cream cheese. When processing the sun-dried tomatoes it is much easier to cut them up before adding to the food processor.

Serve with crostini and crackers.

Photo source:


  • 16 oz. cream cheese
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk or half & half
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
  • ½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained & chopped in food processor (or store-bought)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling


Bring cream cheese and goat cheese to room temperature. With a mixer beat the cheeses and milk until smooth and spreadable. Add more milk if needed to loosen the mixture. Add lemon zest, 1 glove minced garlic and season with 1/4 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Mix well and set aside.

Line the inside of a 3-cup sharply sloping bowl with plastic; let the ends extend over the sides a few inches.

Spoon about one-third of the cheese into the lined bowl and pack it into an even layer. Spread the pesto almost completely to the sides of the first layer of cheese. Top with another third of the cheese, the sun-dried tomatoes, and all but 1/2 Tbs. of the pine nuts. Top with the remaining cheese. Pack down, fold the plastic over, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Half an hour before serving, take the bowl out of the refrigerator. Pull on the edges of the plastic to loosen the terrine from the bowl. Invert the terrine onto a plate, drizzle with a little olive oil, and let sit for 1/2 hour to warm up. Sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts, season liberally with pepper, and serve.


Lemon Chess Pie

On a recent trip home to Arkansas I had the pleasure of leafing through a recipe collection from Pat Lacy. Pat is the late grandmother of my beautiful friend Lacy. I had a bite of her Green Bean Casserole and knew I had to look through that little book of handwritten recipes for more old Southern jewels. Folks, I don’t even like Green Bean Casserole… I had seconds.

Home made pies can evoke nostalgic memories, especially when they were a special treat baked by a parent. The combination of a delicious pie and the thoughtfulness of buying kids clothes online for a birthday creates a memorable experience. These traditions and gestures from parents can help create a sense of love and affection in childhood that can last a lifetime.

I came across several great recipes including this one for Lemon Chess Pie. Chess Pies are a Southern specialty of eggs, butter & sugar. When cooked the inside resembles a creamy lemon curd and the top becomes a beautiful golden brown.

Surprisingly, I didn’t have a lot of Chess Pie growing up in the South. My mom always made Chess Squares which are actually NOTHING like Chess Pie (but yummy). This is a very rich pie… so plan on sharing.

Since I shouldn’t eat an entire Chess Pie (no one should or COULD really) I made 3 small ones. The recipe makes 1 regular pie and the cranberries were just a holiday addition.


  • 1 pie crust
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries (optional)


Preheat oven to 350.

Prepare a pie plate with a homemade or store bought crust. Set aside.

Combine sugar, flour, cornmeal & salt in a bowl. Add melted butter, lemon juice & milk. Mix well. Add eggs one at a time until just mixed. Pour in pie shell. If adding cranberries – drop a few fresh cranberries on the top.

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes.


Mustard and Herb Crusted Salmon

I do love a cold Sunday morning sipping hot coffee and planning a delicious Sunday dinner… that will take a good part of my day to prepare.

Yes, I love those meals that take entirely too long to chop all the veg, dirty up all the pots in the kitchen and ultimately fill my house with an aroma I won’t get from a 30 minute meal.

Those days are more plentiful recently, but some meals are meant to be simple. Like fish. This Mustard and Herb Crusted Salmon is so simple but tastes like a million bucks in less than 10 minutes.

The cooking method requires only broiling but make sure to use the middle oven rack. I had rosemary & thyme still growing but use any herb you have on hand and if you don’t have fresh, by all means use dried (just use 1/2 the amount as dried is more potent than fresh).


  • 1 pound salmon fillets
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the broiler.

In a small bowl combine garlic, rosemary, thyme, oil, Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, honey and lemon juice.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with nonstick spray or drizzle a little olive oil. Arrange the salmon fillets on the baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Broil for 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and spoon the mustard sauce over the fillets. Continue broiling until the fillets are just cooked through and golden brown, about 5 minutes longer.

Remove from oven and let rest for 2-3 minutes before serving.


Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Ravioli in Pineapple Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Making ravioli is easy when you don’t have to make the pasta. These beautiful little pillows are savory, delightfully sweet and very easy to make thanks to premade wonton wrappers.

I used Pineapple Sage as I had a ton of it in my garden and I had no idea what to do with it… but regular fresh sage will be just as wonderful.

Your efforts will not go without reward (these freeze VERY well and make about 4 dozen)… well worth the time to make them… and enjoy for a few months.

I served the ravioli as a side with an apple cider brined pork chop finished with a shallot cider pan sauce (recipe to come soon and may be the best thing I’ve come up with on the spot). These beauties would also be very impressive as an appetizer for the holidays.

Note: Wonton wrappers are found in the freezer section of most grocery stores.


  • 1 small to medium acorn squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 sweet potato or yam
  • 1 tablespoons dark molasses
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup crème fraiche (substitute: cream cheese)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 package round Wonton Wrappers (usually found in the freezer section)
  • Flour, for dusting board
  • 4 tablespoons sweet butter
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, for grating


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a roasting pan. Scrub outside of sweet potato, pierce with fork in several places and place on roasting pan with acorn squash. Cook in the oven until very soft, about 1 hour.

Let cool to room temperature and scoop out flesh into a large mixing bowl. Mash with sweet potato until well combined.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to brown. Immediately remove from heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon molasses and all the vinegar. Add to squash and sweet potato with crème fraiche, Parmesan, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper and mix well. The recipe can be made ahead to this point. Cover well and refrigerate 4 hours or up to 2 days.

To fill the raviolis: Put 1 tablespoon squash filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. Leave a 1/2-inch border all around the filling. Moisten borders with water and fold in half. Press all the air out and seal firmly by pressing all around with fingertips. Lay raviolis out to dry on a lightly floured board or baking sheet and lightly flour the tops. Repeat until you run out of wrappers and/or filling.

To cook, boil in lightly salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Reserve 2 ounces of the cooking water.

Uncooked, filled raviolis may be used immediately or frozen for 2 months. Lay them out on sheet pans and place in freezer until frozen. Transfer to plastic bag.

For the Sage Brown Butter: While raviolis are cooking, in a large saute pan, melt the butter with the sage and a pinch of salt until it foams and becomes light brown. Reserve.

On medium heat toss the cooked raviolis in the sage butter then transfer to a serving platter or dishes. Finish with a generous grating of Parmesan cheese.


Shrimp Bisque with Brandy and Sherry

David Ansel, aka “The Soup Peddler”, is a well known Austinite on a bike. A bike that delivers soup. Brilliant really… why didn’t I think of this concept? His recipe in Food & Wine magazine appealed to me as it has BOTH brandy and sherry.

The more liquor the better, right?

My modifications included adding pancetta (doesn’t it make EVERYTHING better??) and replacing the final heavy cream with crème fraiche. I did use fat free half and half… GASP… but it was still fabulous and I didn’t miss a calorie of flavor.


  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ pound pancetta, ¼ inch dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil, plus 8 leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 5 cups seafood stock (Kitchen Basics is my favorite)
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 4 ounces crème fraiche (or 1 cup heavy cream)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a small saucepan, cover the shrimp shells with the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, then strain the shrimp stock into a bowl.

In a large skillet cook pancetta until crispy. Drain pancetta to paper towels – leaving the rendered fat in the skillet. Add the shrimp, garlic, onion and cayenne and cook over high heat until the shrimp begin to turn pink, about 3 minutes. Add the brandy and boil until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the chopped basil and the sherry and simmer until the shrimp are just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a food processor, add a little of the shrimp stock and puree until smooth.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the half-and-half and cook, whisking, until the roux is very thick, about 5 minutes.

In a soup pot, combine the fish stock and remaining shrimp stock with the tomato paste and the shrimp puree and bring to a simmer over high heat. Slowly whisk in the roux and the crème fraiche. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until thick and creamy, about 20 minutes. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the bisque into bowls, garnish with the sliced basil and pancetta.