Roasted Strawberry Mango Ice Cream

Looking for a new and interesting dessert for Memorial Day weekend? Try this roasted strawberry mango ice cream. Strawberries and mangoes are a wonderful combination and, to give this ice cream a greater depth of flavor, I roast the strawberries and add a bit of freshly ground cardamom. I use canned Alphonso mango pulp, but you can purée ripe mangoes, adjusting the sweetness to your liking.

Roasted Strawberry Mango Ice Cream
2 c. sliced strawberries
2-3 Tbsp. sugar
1 large egg
pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp. freshly ground cardamom or more to taste
1/2 c. mango purée 
2/3 c. sugar
2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. whole milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place strawberries on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with 2-3 Tbsp. sugar. Stir. Roast for 15 minutes or until berries are soft and syrupy. Cool 5 minutes. In a blender combine egg, salt, and vanilla. Blend for 1-2 minutes until frothy. Add lemon juice, cardamom, and mango purée. Blend until smooth. Add 1 c. roasted strawberries and blend until smooth. Add cream and milk. Blend again. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Makes 1 quart.


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Green Beans with Carrots and Thyme

I began experimenting in  the kitchen when I was ten years old. As I matured I enjoyed reading cookbooks, but the people I turned to most often for cooking advice and recipes were my mom and my Aunt Fran. I have mentioned my aunt in several previous posts. She loved feeding people and gathering the family together, entertaining almost effortlessly because she was so well organized. She had a talent for cooking vegetables. They were simply prepared but always very fresh and delicious. Sadly, she passed away last month. I now find myself ready to pick up the phone to tell her about a dish I have cooked, or how the garden is progressing, but then stop and remind myself that those days are now past. We gathered for a family dinner on Mother’s Day and one of my food assignments was a vegetable side dish. It seemed appropriate to make this dish of green beans with carrots, one of Aunt Fran’s recipes.  

Green Beans with Carrots and Thyme
7 medium organic carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1-1/4 lbs. green beans, trimmed
6 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into chunks
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 tsp. dried thyme

Fill a 4-quart pot full of water. Add a bit of salt and bring to the boil. Add the carrots and boil 3-4 minutes until fork tender but not soft. Remove carrots from the pot, and save the water to cook the beans. Run carrots under cold water to stop the cooking. Return the water to the boil and add green beans. Cook on medium heat for 5-6 minutes until tender. Drain and run under cool water to stop cooking. Let the vegetables sit on paper towels to absorb excess water. In a saucepan combine oil and garlic. Turn heat to medium low and let cook to soften the garlic. Let the garlic become fragrant and slightly golden but do not burn. It should take 3-4 minutes. Place beans and carrots in a serving bowl. Pour oil and garlic over the vegetables and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with thyme and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Serves 6-8.


Posted in Christmas, Easter, Salads, Thanksgiving, Vegetables, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

Roasted Asparagus and Crawfish Salad

I love roasted asparagus and could eat it everyday. I like to roast it until there are brown crispy bits on the tips. This simple asparagus salad can pair nicely with other spring vegetables, eggs, and fish or seafood. I prefer to use crawfish (about 20 shelled crawfish make 2/3 cup of meat), but you can substitute shrimp or salmon if you don’t have access to crawfish. 

Roasted Aparagus and Crawfish Salad
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed
2/3 c. cooked and shelled crawfish, shrimp, or salmon
1 green onion, chopped
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
zest of half a medium lemon
1-2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes until browned on the bottom and fork tender. Remove from pan and chop into 1-inch pieces. Place asparagus in a serving bowl, then rough chop the crawfish or shrimp. Add to the asparagus, along with green onion and egg. Mix together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle lemon zest over it and toss. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil to taste. Stir gently. Chill 30 minutes. Serves 2-3 as a side salad.


Posted in Appetizers, Fish and Seafood, Salads, Vegetables | Leave a comment

Baked Custard with Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

Baked custard is a family favorite. At this time of year, when the weather can still sometimes be unpredictably cool, this creamy smooth, soft, and flavorful custard hits the spot. I think it tastes best and has the nicest texture after it is chilled, but you can eat it warm if you prefer. It can be served plain or topped with whipped cream or, better yet, a colorful spring strawberry rhubarb sauce. I love fruit pies drizzled with drinking custard rather than cream or ice cream. This dessert is just the opposite – custard with a fruit sauce on top. It is a lovely dessert. The strawberry rhubarb sauce is very versatile. In addition to using it for this custard, you can also spoon it on fresh ricotta cheese, thick Greek yogurt, or ice cream. It is a terrific topping for shortcake, white cake, cheesecake, or even French toast or pancakes.

Baked Custard with Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce
3 c. whole milk
3 large whole eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
4 tsp. vanilla extract
freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bring 5 cups water to a boil for a water bath. Pour milk into a saucepan and scald. In a large bowl whisk together eggs and sugar until thick and well mixed. Add salt and vanilla. Mix well. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the scalded milk and beat until smooth. Strain custard into a 7×11 or 8×8 glass baking pan. Sprinkle the top generously with freshly grated nutmeg. Place baking pan filled with custard into a roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven, then carefully pour the boiled water into the roasting pan to create the water bath. Bake for 45 minutes until set at the edges but still trembling slightly in the center. Cool on rack for 30 minutes, then chill in the refrigerator uncovered for 4-6 hours until set. Prepare the strawberry rhubarb sauce and allow to cool before spooning over individual bowls of custard. Serves 4.

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce
2 c. chopped fresh rhubarb
1-1/2 c. sliced strawberries
3/4 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh orange juice, strained
pinch of kosher salt
pinch of cinnamon
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. water

In a 3-quart saucepan combine fruit with sugar, orange juice, salt, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower heat slightly and continue cooking, stirring often until rhubarb is soft (5-7 minutes). In a small cup combine cornstarch and water.  Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the fruit mixture, stirring constantly until it has thickened. It should take about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 15-20 minutes before spooning fruit over custard.

Baked Custard





Posted in Custards, Desserts, Fruit, Sauces | Leave a comment

Pasta with Tomatoes, Olives, and Capers

It is that time of year again when I begin to use up whatever is in the freezer to make room for this new year’s garden produce. Last summer, instead of canning the garden tomatoes like I usually do, I diced and froze them in plastic bags with a few basil leaves. I was not sure if I would like the texture of a frozen tomato, and, while they are not as firm as fresh tomatoes, the frozen tomatoes have a brighter, more garden-fresh flavor than home-canned tomatoes. They have been great for soups and stews and this easy, flavorful pasta sauce. You can use any variety of olives you like, but I prefer kalamata for this recipe.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Olives, and Capers
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 c. diced tomatoes
1/3-1/2 c. water
1/2 tsp. dried Greek oregano (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp. dried basil (or more to taste)
1/2-1 tsp. sugar (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
12 pitted kalamata olives
2-1/2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed
1/2 lb. thin spaghetti

Begin by filling a 5-quart pot full of water and bring to a boil for the pasta. Add salt to the pasta water. In a sauté pan combine oil, onions, and garlic. Turn heat to medium and slowly cook the onions until they begin to soften. Puree tomatoes in a blender with water until smooth. Add tomato purée to the onions and garlic. Bring to a boil. Add spices, sugar, salt and pepper. Taste and add more spices according to your liking. Lower heat to a simmer. Cook 7-10 minutes until sauce thickens slightly. Add olives and capers. Cook 5-7 minutes longer. Cook pasta while sauce is simmering. Add cooked pasta to the sauce. Stir to coat pasta with sauce. Let cook 2-3 minutes. Serves 4.


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Mrs. Field’s Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is the chocolate chip cookie recipe I like best. It came from my mother-in-law who regularly baked them for family and friends. They are soft with a subtle caramel flavor and loaded with chocolate chips. I could never get the cookies to come out as good as my mother in law’s; I knew I was missing something. Recently, we were visiting with one of my husband’s aunts who regularly bakes those chocolate chip cookies. I quizzed her hoping she could help me get them right and, sure enough, I was missing two important instructions – use salted butter and chill the dough overnight before baking. It makes a big batch of cookies, which is great because you can’t eat just one!

Mrs. Field’s Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 lb. salted butter, softened
2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1-1/2 c. white granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
6 c. flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. fine salt
2 (12 oz.) pkgs. semisweet or milk chocolate chips
1 c. chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

In a mixing bowl combine butter, sugars and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for 10 minutes until very light, creamy and fluffy. Be sure to stop the machine from time to time to scrape down the dough. Add eggs one at a time then beat for 3 minutes. While the dough is beating, in a separate bowl stir together flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until well mixed. Add chocolate chips and nuts, if desired. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill overnight. The dough will become stiff as it chills. The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line four baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a cookie scoop to spoon out walnut-size balls of dough onto the cookie sheet. Place 25 dough balls per cookie sheet. Bake cookies for 10 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. The cookies will look underdone, but remove them from the oven anyway because they will continue to cook on the baking sheet. Place sheet on rack and let sit 5 minutes, then remove cookies from the baking sheet and cool on rack completely. Store in an airtight plastic container. Makes 150 cookies.


Posted in Chocolate, Cookies, Desserts | 2 Comments

Shredded Carrots with Lemon

This is a refreshingly simple way to prepare carrots. It is a recipe my sister acquired while living in Italy, a nice make-ahead side dish for week nights or holidays. Purple carrots, if you can find them, add great color contrast.

Shredded Carrots with Lemon
10 organic orange carrots, peeled and shredded
2 purple carrots, peeled and shredded
Juice of 2-1/2 medium lemons
1/2-3/4 c. sugar

Shred the carrots in a food processor, then transfer to a large bowl. Add lemon juice and sugar to taste. Stir to dissolve sugar. Taste and adjust sugar to your liking. You want it lemony but not bitter. It should be a bit sweet. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 3-4 hours to develop flavor. Serves 4-6.


Posted in Easter, Salads, Thanksgiving, Vegetables, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

Italian Lemon Cookies

I have been making this recipe for at least 25 years, a simple, cake-like cookie. You can roll the warm cookies in confectioners sugar or you can dip cooled cookies in a lemon glaze. I sometimes bake them for Christmas but they are also good for Easter celebrations with a colorful yellow glaze as in the photo below. You can also dip them in sprinkles. The cookies can be made dairy free by using almond milk in place of regular milk in both the cookie and the lemon glaze.  

Italian Lemon Cookies
3-1/2 c. flour, sifted
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. milk
2 large eggs
zest of half a large lemon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract or emulsion

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add sugar and mix. Cut shortening into the dry mixture until you get pea-size crumbs. In a separate bowl combine milk, eggs, zest, and flavorings. Whisk until well mixed. Gently mix the wet ingredients into the dry until you have a soft dough. Rub some flour on your hands, because the dough is quite sticky, and roll the dough into balls the size of a large marble. Place on baking sheets. Bake for 9 minutes until cookies are puffed and set. They should be pale on top and golden on the bottom. Do not overbake. Remove cookies to a rack. They should still be warm if you dip them in confectioners sugar, or let cookies cool, then dip them in lemon glaze.

Lemon Glaze
1 c. confectioners sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. lemon extract or emulsion
2 drops vanilla extract
1-2 drops yellow food coloring (optional)

In a bowl combine the glaze ingredients and whisk until smooth. Dip cookies in glaze, allowing the excess to drip off. Allow glaze to dry completely before storing in an airtight container. Makes 55 cookies.

Posted in Christmas, Cookies, Dairy-free, Desserts, Easter | 1 Comment

My Grandfather’s Easter Leg of Lamb

This is the leg of lamb recipe that my Sicilian grandfather made, and taught his family to make, for Easter dinner. My Aunt Fran has been preparing her Easter lamb this way ever since I can remember. It is relatively simple, always delicious, and does not involve any marinating, just a bit of chopping. You make slits in the meat and insert small pieces of parmesan cheese, garlic and parsley. The cheese melts into the meat while it is cooking, resulting in a delicious forkful of tender garlicky lamb with a bit of oozing cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

My Grandfather’s Easter Leg of Lamb
1 (3-4 lb.) boneless leg of lamb
6 cloves garlic, cut into slivers
salt and pepper
1/4-1/3 c. small pieces of parmesan cheese or more to taste
4 sprigs fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
sprinkling of garlic powder (optional)
sprinkling of onion powder (optional)
olive oil 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay the lamb cut side up on a flat surface. Drizzle a little olive oil on the meat, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place 3 cloves of garlic cut into slivers on the lamb. Roll the lamb up using kitchen twine. Make slits all over the outside of the roast with a sharp knife, then insert pieces of Parmesan cheese in some of the slits, along with garlic slivers and pieces of parsley into the others. The amount needed will depend on how large a roast you are making. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the the meat and rub it all over the leg of lamb. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. It is optional to sprinkle with garlic powder and onion powder. Place lamb in a roasting pan and roast for roughly 15 minutes per pound for rare meat or until it reaches 120-125 degrees at the deepest part of the roast. Cook 20 minutes per pound for medium or 130-140 degrees. Cook longer if you prefer lamb more well done. Let rest for 10 minutes or so after removing from the oven. Then slice. Serves 8.

Posted in Christmas, Easter, Lamb, Meat Dishes, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake

This is my favorite ricotta cheesecake recipe. It is moist and creamy and I love the subtle citrus overtones. I will occasionally add orange flower water and candied orange peel. It is optional. Variations of this recipe could include chopped maraschino cherries with some chocolate or lemon zest and almond extract or anise with citron. It is a lovely Easter dessert. Bake it the day before you intend to serve it so it sets up well.

Ricotta Cheesecake
3-1/2 c. whole milk ricotta cheese, drain 30 minutes
3/4 c. sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
zest of half an orange
zest of half a lemon
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4-1/2 tsp. orange flower water (optional)
1/4 c. chopped candied orange peel (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil 5 cups water for a water bath. In a large bowl mix together by hand ricotta and sugar until light. Add eggs and the remaining ingredients and mix by hand until incorporated. Do not over mix. Pour into a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Place cheesecake into a roasting pan. Place in the oven then pour the boiled water into the pan to reach half way up the sides of the pie plate. Be careful not to splash it into the cheesecake batter. Bake for 45-50 minutes until set. Remove from water bath. Cool on rack. Chill overnight then serve. It is optional to sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar just before serving. Serves 8.


Posted in Cakes, Christmas, Custards, Desserts, Easter, Fruit, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments