December 18, 2010


I must admit I have never had the real Banana's Foster, even after several visits to New Orleans.  I came up with this recipe many years ago when I was in Kenya and cooking dessert for a group of people using what was at hand.  I had a huge sweet and juicy Pineapple. (If you have never had a fresh Pineapple picked right from the plant grown along the Equator, you are missing one of Nature's most incredible treats!)  And plenty of Bananas.  I thought I was inventing a new dessert having never heard of Banana's Foster at the time.  I didn't have Rum or Vanilla Ice Cream in Africa but I remember the sauce being thick, luscious and amazing and all of us licking our plates clean.  Real Banana's Foster does not have Pineapple in it so this recipe is with a tropical twist.  The aroma, as it cooks, becomes intoxicating as the Brown Sugar and Butter melt laced with Cinnamon.  Try serving this over French Toast or Waffles for breakfast on a special weekend morning.  You don't have to be in Africa to be Cooking The Amazing, just the desire to eat an amazing dessert.

Here is the recipe.

        1     Stick Butter
1 3/4 c  Dark Brown Sugar
        1 t   Vanilla Extract
        1 t   Cinnamon
        1 pinch  Sea Salt, fine grain
    1/4 c  Orange Juice
 1 1/2 c  Pineapple Chunks
        3     Bananas, sliced thick
        3 T Rum (optional)
 Vanilla or Coconut Ice Cream

1.  You can use canned Pineapple for this recipe but a fresh Golden Pineapple tastes 100% better.  If using fresh, remove the outer skin and eyes and cut Pineapple into large 1 inch chunks.  Drain from the juice if canned and measure out 1 1/2 cups.  Set aside.  Here's how to peel a Pineapple safely.

Place the Pineapple on it's side and slice off bottom to make a flat surface to stand it on.  Then cut off the top prickly leaves.

Stand the Pineapple up and carve the outer skin down all around.  Remove any "eyes" that are left.
Cut the Pineapple in half down the middle (longways) so that the core is exposed.

Split each half into half again and then cut out the hard inner core and discard it.

Cut each piece into inch chunks and place in a bowl to collect any juices.

2.  Over medium heat in a large pan, melt the Butter and Dark Brown Sugar, Vanilla, Cinnamon, Sea Salt, and Orange juice.  Stir well until the Brown Sugar is melted, about 4 minutes.  If using Rum, add it now and simmer 1 minute.  Watch for flames in your pan!

3.  Add the Pineapple chunks and any juice that collected in the bowl and simmer for 4 minutes.  The Sauce may begin to boil.  Stir well.

4.  Slice the Bananas thick and fold them into the sauce.  Carefully stir them in so they do not break up and simmer for just 2 minutes then remove from the heat and serve over Ice Cream or Pound Cake immediately.  Cooking the Bananas too long will make them mushy.
Try Banana Pineapple Foster over my Brioche French Toast for an amazing breakfast instead of Berries or for an Amazing dessert serve hot over my fresh baked Banana Bread Muffins!

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December 12, 2010


Anything with fresh Mozzarella Cheese and Pesto in the same recipe has to be amazing.  There is just no way around it.  The key to making this Salad the best possible is to use fresh creamy Mozzarella, bright succulent Tomatoes and the best homemade Pesto.  Serve this Salad along side Lemon Grilled Chicken or on top of crisp garden Greens drizzled with Olive Oil and a dash of sharp White Wine Vinegar.  The best Mozzarella is the fresh stuff found at a good Italian Deli or a market that has a cheese monger.  For this recipe use the "Ciliegine" (cherry sized) Mozzarella stored in a brine for freshness.  Whole Foods is a national market that carries fresh Mozzarella.   This simple recipe is packed full of complimentary flavors and textures the make Cooking The Amazing worth every bite!

Here is the recipe.

1 c  Pesto, fresh prepared
1 lb.  Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, ciliegine size
2 c  Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1/4 c  Red Onion, diced medium
1/2 t  Sea Salt, fine grain
1 t  Black Pepper, fresh ground
3 oz.  Pine Nuts, toasted (OPTIONAL)
2 c  Cooked Pasta (OPTIONAL SEE BELOW)

1.  For my Pesto recipe click here.   Use 1 c of freshly prepared Pesto for this recipe.

2.  Drain the balls of Mozzarella from the brine and place in a large bowl.  Do not wash or dry them off but drain as much of the brine off as possible.

3.  Cut the Cherry Tomatoes in half and fold them gently into the bowl of Mozzarella.

4.  Dice the Red Onion medium dice and add to the bowl with the Sea Salt and Black Pepper. 

5.  Add the prepared Pesto and fold all ingredients well.  Taste and adjust the Salt and Pepper as needed.  Serve immediately at room temperature or chill in the refrigerator and serve cold.

6.  Sprinkle the top, just before serving, with toasted Pine Nuts as an option.   Click here to see how to toast Pine Nuts in the Pesto recipe.  Or fold in 2 cups of cooked Pasta such as Rotini for an amazing Pasta Salad.  If you are adding Pasta be sure to add 3/4 c more of fresh Pesto.

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December 11, 2010


These easy to make Ham and Cream Cheese Hor d'oeuvres are a blast from the past.  (Yes, I had to Google how to spell Hor d'oeuvres.)  My mom would make these for parties and family get togethers and they would always be the first to be eaten.  The recipe has only three ingredients and is so easy that you will not believe how good they taste.  Place them on a platter of snacks with Cheeses and Crackers or Vegetables with Dip or toss into a Salad of mixed Lettuces and Tomatoes and serve it with dinner.  Asparagus spears can be substituted for the Green Onions for a more mild and sofisticated taste.  The salty Ham is complimented by the Cream Cheese and sharp Green Onion in the middle in a visually appealing spiral.  The party is about to start and you will be ready because you are Cooking The Amazing.

Here is the recipe.

1  8 oz. Package Cream Cheese
8  Green Onions or Asparagus Spears
8  Slices of Smoked Ham

Makes approx. 32

1.  Set the Cream Cheese out to soften at room temperature.

2.  Use Smoked Ham from the deli counter that is sliced thick.  Thin shaved Ham will not work and will tear as you spread the Cream Cheese.

3.  Cut your Green Onions into the length of your Ham slices, removing the root tips and also cutting the green tops the same size as the Onion part.

4.  If you are using Asparagus, cut the tough ends off the Asparagus then blanch them for 4 minutes in Salty boiling water.

5.  Immediatly put the blanched Asparagus in an Ice Water bath for 30 secs to stop the cooking and lock in the bright green color.  Blot with papertowel and allow to drain on the papertowels until dry.

6.  Spread the softened Cream Cheese almost to the edges of the Ham about 1/8th of an inch thick.
7.  Roll the Green Onions and the green tops or Asparagus tightly in a log.  The Green Onions or Asparagus will stick out the ends.

8.  Place the rolled Ham logs into a zip lock bag and refrigerate for 1 hour.  After the Cream Cheese has hardened cut the ends off the Ham logs.  These are the cook's quality control samples to make sure they taste good!  Using a very sharp knife cut the Ham logs into 1 inch slices using minimal pressure so you do not smash them as you cut.  Wipe the knife frequently between cuts so the Cream cheese does not smear on the sides for a nicer appearance.  Cover tightly and refrigerate or serve immediately

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Stuffed Mushrooms have always been a favorite appetizer when going out for dinner but they are easy to make at home.  I like them when they are stuffed to the max with flavor and very Cheesy.  They secret to really good homemade Stuffed Mushrooms is avoiding sogginess by cooking the Mushroom caps before stuffing them and releasing all the natural Water they hold.   The Italian Sausage adds a spicy lift to the creamy Cheeses and just a hint of Garlic brings it all together to make the perfect starter before dinner or appetizer for your next holiday party.   You could also serve it as a side dish to Butter Roasted Chicken.  Make a lot of them because when you are Cooking The Amazing these delicious Stuffed Mushrooms won't last.

Here is the recipe.

20  Large White Button Mushrooms
1 lb.  Mild Italian Sausage
2 T Olive Oil (if needed see below)
1  Small Yellow Onion, diced small
2  Cloves Garlic, minced fine
2 T  Olive Oil
4 oz.  Cream Cheese, softened
3 T  Sour Cream
2 t  Worcestershire Sauce
2 t  Dried Oregano
2 t  Dried Thyme
1 c  Fresh Sour Dough Bread Crumbs
1/2 c  Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 c  Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese, divided
1 t  Sea Salt, fine grain
1 t  Black Pepper, fresh ground

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Clean the Mushrooms.  The Mushrooms should be wiped off using a dry kitchen towel and never placed under running water or they will absorb the water and be soggy later.

3.  Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the stem preserving the cap to make a well for stuffing later.  Set aside.
 4.  In a large pan over medium heat cook Italian Sausage until browned and cooked through.  Leave in chunks.  Place the cooked Sausage in a large mixing bowl.
 5.  Leave any fat left from Sausage in the pan to equal approx. 2 T.  If there is not enough Sausage fat add Olive Oil as needed to equal 2 T fat.  Over medium heat saute the Mushroom caps, scooped out side down, for 4 mins then flip and saute on the other side for 4 mins.  keeping the Mushroom caps well spaced to prevent steaming.  This will cook out a lot of the moisture prevent a soggy stuffed Mushroom cap.

6.  As the caps saute you will notice the scooped out section will fill will water.  Once they have sauteed for 4 minutes on the other side place them scooped side down on paper towels to drain off the liquid while you saute the Onions and Garlic.
 7.  Chop the Onion into small dice and finely chop the Garlic.  Saute the Onion until translucent then add the Garlic and saute for 1 minute being careful not to burn the Garlic.  Once cooked place in the mixing bowl with the cooked Sausage.

8.  In a small bowl add the Cream Cheese, Sour Cream, Worcestershire Sauce, Oregano and Thyme and mix well with a spoon.  Scoop into the bowl with the other ingredients.

9.  Grate fresh Sour Dough Bread (or another type of white Bread) to equal 1 c and place into the bowl with the 1 c grated Parmesan Cheese, and add only 3/4 of the grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese (the rest will be used as a topping) and Salt and Pepper and mix all well together using a large spoon. 
 8.  Using a large spoon scoop the mixture into the wells of the Mushroom caps packing in well and mounding on top.  Place spaced apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  Sprinkle the last 1/4 of the Sharp Cheddar Cheese on top, pressing in with your fingers to make it stick if needed.

 9.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes until the tops begin to brown.  Then switch the oven to broil and broil for 1-2 minutes until the tops become a deeper brown and bubbly.  Watch closely, it can burn quick while broiling.  Remove and allow to rest for 3 minutes before serving.  Caution!  They are very hot but very delicious!

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December 5, 2010


Braising is one of those words that scares home cooks away from many recipes.  You probably have braised a hundred times and did not even know you were braising.  Think Beef Stew or Chili.  Yes, you were braising.  Braising is simply using a dry cooking method followed by a moist cooking method, usually high heat searing of Meat or Veg then adding a liquid and cooking at a long low heat in the oven or covered on the stove top.  This is rustic French bistro style cooking.  Braised Beef Short Ribs are a hearty and very satisfying cold weather dish that takes little skill to achieve an amazingly tender and flavorful dinner.  Serve the Braised Short Ribs over fluffy Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes or Polenta and with a rustic Bread to sop up the incredible rich Sauce.   The next day the flavors are even more intense and delicious when everyone is fighting over the leftovers because you were Cooking The Amazing.

Here is the recipe.

4  Strips of Bacon
3 T  Olive Oil
5 lbs.  Beef Short Ribs (bone in)
1 t  Sea Salt, fine grain
1 t  Fresh Ground Pepper
3 T  Olive Oil
1 lb  White Button Mushrooms, sliced
2  Medium Yellow Onions, diced
1  Medium Carrot, diced
4  Large Cloves of Garlic, minced
2 c  Cabernet Sauvignon Wine
2 c  Beef Stock
3 T  Tomato Paste
3 T  Beef Base
1 T  Dried Thyme or 6 fresh Sprigs
2 Bay leaves
1 t  Sea Salt, fine grain
1 t  Fresh Ground Black Pepper

(Serves 4)

1.  Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  Place a large heavy bottomed pot on the stove top (like a Le Creuset pot).

2.  Over medium heat cook 4 strips of Bacon in the large heavy bottomed pot until crisp.  Remove from the heat and allow to drain on paper towels.  Later you will crumble the Bacon into the finished Sauce.  Reserve the Bacon Fat in the pot.
3.  Dry off any moisture on your Beef Short Ribs using paper towel.  The meat will brown better and caramelize instead of steam if it is dry.  This browning will produce a lot of flavor in the finished dish.
4.  Cut the Short Ribs into 3-4 inch sections.  Trim some of the excess outer fat, leaving some for flavor.  Season the Short Ribs with Sea Salt and Black Pepper.
5.  Over medium high add 3 T of Olive Oil to the Bacon Fat and brown all sides of the Short Ribs until they get a good dark brown sear.  Give the Short Ribs room between each other so they do not steam and brown properly.  You will have to do this in 2 to 3 batches to brown all the Short Ribs well.   You will not be cooking through all the way, just browning at this stage.  The Short Ribs will be raw in the middle.

Place the first batch after browning in a bowl to catch any drippings.

6.  After all the Short Ribs are browned well, remove them from the pot and set aside in the large bowl to collect any drippings as they sit.  Next remove the used Bacon Fat and Olive Oil from the pot leaving any of the cooked on bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Reduce the heat to medium and add 3 T of fresh Olive Oil and saute the sliced Mushrooms until browned and crisp. 7-10 minutes.

7.  Then over medium heat add the diced Onions and Carrot and saute until soft, 5-7 minutes.  Add the minced Garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
8.  Deglaze the pot by adding 2 cups of Cabernet Sauvignon.  As soon as you add the Wine increase the heat to high and stir rapidly, scraping the bottom of the pot releasing the cooked on brown bits stuck to the bottom.  Bring to the boil then add 2 cups of Beef Stock and the Tomato Paste, Beef Base, Thyme, Bay Leaves, Sea Salt and Black Pepper.  Allow to boil, stirring continuously for 3 minutes.
9.  Add the Beef Short Ribs and any juices that collected in the bowl to the boiling pot.  Put them in snugly against each other and boil for 2 minutes with lid off.  The liquid should cover all the Ribs by about an inch or so.  If a little bit of the Ribs are exposed do not worry, all will be fine. (See picture below.) If there is not enough liquid add more Beef Stock to cover and bring to the boil.  Before you place it in the oven, taste the liquid.  If it is dull or under seasoned add more Salt and Pepper as needed.  Do not over Salt.  This tasting part is most important.  You want to have a well seasoned cooking liquid in the beginning to end up with well seasoned Braised Short Ribs on your plate.
Then place the lid on the pot and place in the center of the oven and cook for 3 hours at 300 degrees undisturbed.  Don't peek and release the moist heat that will make these Short Ribs fall of the bone.
10.  After 3 hours remove from the oven and take off the lid.  Prepare for a steam facial!  Remove the Cooked Beef Short Ribs to a large bowl.  Be gentle, it will be falling off the bone.  Allow the Sauce to sit for 3 minutes so the fat rises to the top.  Skim off the fat using a large spoon and discard it.  Remove as much as you can.  Remove the Bay Leaves and stems from the Thyme if you used fresh Thyme.
11.  Remember, the pot is HOT, it just came from the oven!!!  Use pot holders and place the pot of defatted Sauce over medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and reduce by a third.  This will concentrate the Sauce into a rich incredible Sauce. Taste the Sauce and add Sea Salt and or Black Pepper is needed at this point.  Crumble the Bacon and add to the Sauce stirring in well.
12.  Add the Beef Short Ribs back to the pot of reduced Sauce and remove from the heat.  Coat the Short Ribs in the Sauce well.  Serve Immediately over Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes or Polenta. 
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