Swimming soon- week 3 and 4


The last few weeks have been a bit slower, so I am combining two posts together. Some of you though may find that plumbing is really interesting, which it actually kinda is, and naturally it wouldn’t be a pool without it. It doesn’t make for the best photo opportunities. All the pipes are in and connected to the water line, and hopefully soon they will begin the tiling and decking. The weather has been beautiful this winter, I think it’s the warmest, sunniest winter since we moved here five years ago, which makes the anticipation of a pool in our backyard all the more exciting, before the hot, summer weather arrives.

Week 4 – Tiling Begins

pool-tile

The tile is in, and we love it. The blue tile against the white coping is perfect. The most common design seemed to be having the coping (the brick that go directly around the pool) match the deck, but we thought the white would offset the tiles. You can be the judge from the pictures, what do you think? The pavers will be with red tones, and that should be happening soon, it will really all come together. I think it’s time to begin shopping for a new bathing suit!

The other pics are of the Red Cross Designer Show House 2012 West Palm Beach. I thought of trying to pass it off as my house, but I have a way to go to have a house like that. Especially, with a husband who lives on a corner of the couch and 3 dogs. With iPads, iPhones and laptops, who needs a desk? You can just live in front of the tennis channel while you are working. I am blogging on my screened in back porch, using my wireless network, so I’m not really one to talk.

showhouse

The house is gorgeous though, it’s in the Old Northwood neighborhood in West Palm Beach which is only a about a mile from my house. I love the gauzy beaded curtains and the pillows made out of Indian sari’s. Those aren’t colors I would have chosen, but they are so bright and cheerful, who wouldn’t love that room?

Living the Dream


It’s been five years since we moved to South Florida from the cold north. During that time I’ve worked five seasons as a chef in Palm Beach, and Rich has built up a thriving private psychotherapy practice when he’s not “playing the best tennis of his life.”

We bought a cute little house in downtown West Palm Beach and live a mile from the ocean just down the street from the intracoastal. Who though, can live year round in Florida without a way to escape the summer heat? Where would we entertain our future grandchildren? So began our quest for a pool.
The lesson is though, that in a home improvement project, one thing always leads to 10 more things. Starting out, our first lesson was that the power lines in our yard would be directly over the pool, a bit of a safety problem, so after consulting, estimates and anxiety, we decided to bury them underground… We live on an alley though and our driveway is in the back yard. The pole for the power lines also, is located on the pole was on the other side of the alley, so we needed a permit to dig it up. Many months later, that part of the job is finally done! We have more electric amps, power outside (yes, we had no power outside) and it looks like we are ready to go.

After talking with quite a few pool builders, we put our faith in Cushing Pools of Wellington.

Day 1

The pool is laid out in the yard with spray paint, how cool is that!
Pool-spraypaint

Day 2

It’s the coldest day in about a year, probably in the 50’s all day with a really cold wind, making it feel much colder, but today the demolition began. Stuart who is always hunting for lizards is really checking out the piles.
Pool-stuart

Day 4

Can you believe it, looks like a pool! The forms are in and this project is really moving along.
Pool-progress

Winter in Palm Beach


xmas-pb
It has been awhile since my last post, the season in Palm Beach is a little nuts in this business. I have been working on some posts though, and although this one is somewhat dated, I think the recipes and sentiment are still relevant. Before the holidays, my daughter Abbie and her husband Punky came down to celebrate with us in West Palm Beach. The holiday lights were beautiful this year and it’s our first year in our new home. After living in Florida for almost 4 years, we’ve adjusted to decorated palm trees and boat parades instead of snow and cold. Although we live just across the bridge from Palm Beach Island, and I work in Palm Beach, we don’t really go there for everyday errands, but the newly renovated Worth Avenue is beautiful and a great place to take a walk and admire all the via’s and courtyards that have been updated over the summer. Abbie and I also checked out the West Palm Beach Greenmarket at the new downtown waterfront for some fresh vegetables. We are lucky enough that is within walking distance to our home.

cityplace

We had some great friends over for a holiday dinner of Abbie’s famous deviled eggs, mussels, a cheese plate, Beef Bolognese, and a caprese salad with Mauricio’s burratto from Amici Market and basil from my garden.

For dessert we had poached pears and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.

It was a delightful evening and we can hardly wait to see the kids again when they come down to Ft. Lauderdale by-the Sea to visit the Buhr’s in January. Given the weather in Chicago this winter, I know they are looking forward to the visit as well.

Abbie’s Deviled Eggs
eggs-mussles
1 dozen eggs
Mayonnaise
dijon mustard
chopped chives
Salt and Pepper

1. Place eggs in saucepan and cover with water. Bring water to boil and cook for 8 minutes. Turn off heat and let eggs sit in the water an additional 5 minutes. Place pot in sink and slowly cool by running the water over the eggs until they are cool. Peel carefully.
2. Cut the eggs in half and scoop out the yolks. Add mayo and dijon to yolk until reaching a nice, smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle paprika on top.

Mussels with White Wine, Shallots and Garlic
Mussels may seem intimidating but they are actually really easy to cook, and not very expensive. Be sure and buy them from a good market. Rinse them off in cool water and inspect each one. Pull off the beard (the little piece that sticks out of the shell), and discard any mussels that are opened.

1-2 lb. of mussels (1 lb. should feed about 4-5 people)
1 shallot julienned
1 clove garlic minced
red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper
Chopped herbs

In a large saute pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat. Add the shallot, garlic and saute about 1 minute. Add the mussels, seasoning, a dash of red pepper flakes and about 1 cup of white wine. Cover the pan and cook the mussels until they have opened, giving it an occasional shake to coat them thoroughly with the wine.
Pour the cooked mussels into a bowl, top with the herbs and serve. Discard any mussels that don’t open.

Caprese Salad
caprese

Heirloom Tomatoes
Fresh Mozzarella (burratta if you want to splurge, even for half)
Basil chiffonade
Balsamic Glaze
Salt and Pepper

Burratta is a very creamy cows milk mozzarella. It is not always easy to find, but it is really terrific and worth the splurge once in a while. In West Palm Beach, it is often sold at Amici Market, on Palm Beach Island, where I work part-time a few nights a week.

Slice the tomatoes into large slices. Roll the basil leaves up into tubes and slice them across. Layer the mozzarella and the tomatoes, top with the basil and sprinkle with balsamic, good quality olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Beef Bolognese with Fettuccine
bolognese
This dish is a favorite of most people and everyone has a recipe. Abbie requested this dish for a holiday meal. It’s easy to make ahead and even the pasta can be par cooked ahead to save time. It also makes terrific leftovers.

1 lb. each ground beef, veal and pork
1 can whole tomatoes in sauce
1 large onion, very small dice
1 cup carrots, very small dice
1 cup celery, very small dice
4-5 cloves garlic minced
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup white wine
Nutmeg
Seasoning
canola oil and butter

Heat canola oil and 2-3 tbs. butter large pot, add onion and cook until translucent. Add the carrot and celery and saute 2-3 minutes more add garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add meats, season well with salt and pepper and saute until it is just no longer red. Add heavy cream and cook slowly until it is reduced away, stir frequently and completely break the meat up so it is not clumped together. Season with a pinch of nutmeg. Add the wine and simmer until it is evaporated. Add the tomatoes and break them up completely with your hands or a fork. Cook very slowly stirring occasionally for at least 2 hours. Add water occasionally if the sauce becomes dry. The key to a great sauce is the long slow cooking time. It is fine to turn this sauce off and go run errands etc. and finish it when you get home.
When sauce is done, toss with cooked pasta of your choice and serve with grated parmesan.

Poached Pears
pears

6 small ripe pears
Port Wine
Red wine, such as burgundy
Star anise, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf
Sugar

Poached pears seems like an intimidating dish, but it is really easy to prepare, looks great and is healthy as well. I used small ripe pears from the market, any type of pear will work though. I also use port wine from the grocery store, about $7.00 a bottle. If I still need more wine to cover the pears, I add some red wine as well.

Peel the pears carefully leaving the stem end for a nice presentation.
Combine port wine and 1 cup of sugar, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf and star anise in a sauce pot , large enough to hold the number of pears you want to cook, cook until sugar is dissolved. Add the pears and cover with a piece of parchment paper to keep them submerged in the poaching liquid. Slowly simmer until pears are soft when a cake tester is inserted. If you don’t have a cake tester use a paper clip that is extended, or a sharp paring knife. Remove them from the heat and let them cool in the poaching liquid. They can remain in the poaching liquid until ready to serve, and even several days in the refrigerator.

We served these with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

I hope you enjoyed the post, I will be posting again very soon.

-Jeanne

Chili


Everyone loves chili. It’s such a great all around dish and perfect for a cool Fall day. Everyone has a favorite recipe for chili, maybe one that was passed down through the family. I remember my mom always used Brooks Beans and Gravy in hers. This is a spin-off of that recipe, with some changes and additions I’ve made. What’s best–it’s a dish for a couple of days, or just great for a crowd.

chili

This can also be easily adapted to become a vegetarian dish by omitting the beef. Peppers are a good addition, too, if you want more vegetables. It’s like a stew, a good dish to help clean out the vegetable drawer in your refrigerator. Cooking should be relaxed and fun, and not so rigidly adhering to everything that it never gets done.

I keep the ingredients for this recipe in my pantry and I usually have ground beef in the freezer, so it can be made anytime.

Chili with Beef and Beans

1 lg. red onions, diced
8 cloves minced garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can black beans, drained
2 lbs. lean ground beef
12 oz. beef broth
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 tbs. Hungarian paprika
1 tbs. cumin
3 tbs. chili powder
dash of red pepper flakes
hot sauce to taste

1. Saute the onions until soft in olive oil and add the garlic and jalapeno and saute them for 1-2 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook till brown and broken up.

2. Add the spices and continue to cook a few minutes to incorporate the flavors.

3. Add the tomatoes, broth and beans and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed. Season with the hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with scallions, cheddar cheese and sour cream, for some added flavor and color.

*A note about seasoning with salt and pepper. I season as I go, not all at the end. I season the beef when it’s cooking, add a little more seasoning with salt when I add the beans, etc. and then the seasoning at the end is the final touch, to obtain just the right balance of flavor. The idea is to enhance all of the flavors, the salt brings out the flavors, not to make the dish taste salty. I also always use kosher salt or good sea salt on a fancier dish, such as a good piece of fish.

Please leave your favorite chili ingredients in the comments!

Knive Sharpening and the Best Caesar Dressing


I’ve had a few requests to post some tips on knife sharpening. This is something that people who cook for a living take for granted, but it’s one of the most valuable things you can do to make cooking more efficient and more enjoyable.

knives

I only use three knives in my home kitchen, a santoku knife, a pairing knife, and a bread knife. My favorite is a santoku, a medium sized knife that’s great for cutting up almost everything, vegetables, meat and fish. I also think a good steel can’t be overrated. The one I use, I purchased from cutleryandmore.com. They have really good prices and fast shipping. I only paid about $25.00 for it and it’s worth every penny.

When using the steel to sharpen your knife, hold the steel in one hand and the knife in another. At a 20 degree angle, run the knife down the steel. Then turn the knife and do the other side. To test sharpness, try cutting something like a tomato that requires a sharp knife. It should cut easily and cleanly. I use my steel every time I cook, and I give the knife about 10 runs on each side. This keeps it nice and sharp.

kitchen

We live in a 50 year old Spanish style Florida ranch in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida. I don’t have a bit fancy kitchen, or even a modern kitchen, but I do have a lovely view of palm trees right outside my brand new windows. Someday, we will update the kitchen, but in the meantime, I have a small oven, old cabinets and turquoise counters (yes, I said turquoise, I didn’t even know they made laminate in that color!) But, what I love about my kitchen is the size; I wouldn’t want it any bigger. Since I cook in about 4 square feet of it anyway, I don’t have to move far to get to anything, which makes it really convenient.

Caesar Salad with homemade Dressing

caesar_salad

Caesar dressing is never that good when you buy it in the store. This recipe is quick and really great. Tossed with romaine lettuce, croutons and some parmesan cheese, it’s a great salad for almost any meal, chicken, steak, or all by itself, with grilled shrimp or chicken on top. This recipe is adapted from the the caesar dressing at the Brooklyn restaurant Prime Meats.

1/4 c mayonnaise
3 tbs. freshly grated parmesan
1 tsp anchovy paste or 1 fresh anchovy filet
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, smashed
dash of worcestershire sauce
dash of hot sauce
Salt and Pepper
1-2 tbs water

Place the garlic in a food processor or blender and pulse a few times to puree it up. Add all of the remaining ingredients and blend till combined. Add the water slowly to obtain the correct consistency.

To make the croutons, cut up old bread, hot dog buns or anything leftover into small squares. Toss these with olive oil, salt, pepper and onion and garlic powder. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees until nice and crispy. This should take at least 15 minutes, but check them often so they don’t burn.

For the salad, cut up romaine lettuce, toss with the dressing, add grated parmesan cheese, croutons, salt and pepper and enjoy.

-Jeanne

Five, Six or Seven Onion Soup


onionsoup

I am currently cooking dinners at the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach, but for over three years, I was cooking lunch. For some of that time I made a soup du jour, which meant I was on a constant search for new and really good soup recipes. I discovered a recipe by Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network website which is a great place to look for ideas. I wanted a French Onion Soup recipe, but I thought this would be more fun.

Emeril’s title is Seven Onion Soup. Most of the time, when making it, I didn’t have all of the types of onions in the original recipe, or even all of the ingredients, but it always turned out terrific anyway. If you wish, you can omit the cream to lower the fat, and leave out the bacon for a vegetarian version. This soup can be pureed and served creamy or half pureed and not pureed at all.

There is a great vegetarian soup book I purchased at my favorite bookstore in the world, Barnes and Noble in Union Square in New York City, called Love Soups by Anna Thomas. It’s loaded with healthy soups, if you’re looking for some other ideas. – Jeanne

Six Onion Soup
1 lg. Red Onion, Sliced on Bias (not rings)
1 lg. yellow onion sliced
1 Sweet Onion sliced
2 leeks, washed well, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
6 scallions (green onions) sliced
1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup white wine (I use Carlo Rossi Chablis to cook with)
2 quarts of chicken/veggie stock (I use Swanson chicken stock, 2 26 oz. boxes)
Chopped chives for garnish
Shaved parmesan for garnish

ingredients

1. In a large large skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat and add the bacon. Cook the bacon until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy but not burned and remove it with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

2. Add the red, yellow, sweet onions and the shallots and season with salt and pepper. Saute onions until they are almost caramelized, about 10 minutes, stirring them occasionally.

3. Add in the leeks and scallions and continue cooking another 5 minutes or so, until these are well cooked. Slowly stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two. Add the white wine and stir to incorporate, then cook until the wine is reduced to less than 1/4 cup. Pour in the chicken stock and mix well. Add in the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the soup for at least 30 minutes.

4. Add the cream, if desired and cook another 10 minutes. Puree half the soup and return to the pot, heat and serve, garnished with parmesan cheese, reserved bacon and chopped chives.
dogs

The bottom pics are my audience. My two Cavaliers, Stuart and Cooper, who watch and nap at the same time. Riley is a little guy we adopted from Animal Haven. My daughter Abbie volunteered there for years taking great photo’s and walking dogs. Riley was living in a hoarder situation in the Bronx and have never gone outside in his 10 years. He is doing great since they brought him to us, he loves the backyard and sits right by my feet when I cook.

-Jeanne

Goat Cheese Ravioli with Abbie


ravioli

For my first blog, I want to thank my daughter Abbie, for all of her technical assistance in setting everything up for me during her recent visit to Florida. I also have to thank my husband Rich for his ongoing love and patience through all the changes of our lives.

This recipe has several components. Some could be made separately, such as the pesto, which is just a good, basic pesto recipe. The Beurre Blanc Sauce also has numerous uses.

Basil Pesto

pesto

1 bunch basil, stems removed
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 clove peeled garlic, smashed
Olive oil
Salt
Shredded Parmesan Cheese

1. Toast pine nuts in the oven on a baking sheet for about 6-7 minutes at 300 degrees. If they aren’t quite brown enough continue for a few minutes longer. I don’t recommend toasting them on the stove, they always get burned that way.

2. Place basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic clove and a small amount of oil in food processor and blend to chop everything up. Slowly add more oil until desired consistency. For this recipe the pesto should be fairly smooth. Season with Parmesan cheese and salt to taste.

This part of the recipe can be made the day before and kept covered in the fridge. The extra pesto can also be used for other dishes, such as pasta with chicken and it is a great dip.

Beurre Blanc Sauce

1 Shallot, small diced
3/4 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter, cut in cubes

1. Saute the shallot in oil or butter until translucent, only a minute or two, it will burn quickly.

2. Add the white wine and reduce the mixture until there are only a few tablespoons of wine remaining.

3. Add the heavy cream and stir to incorporate. Bring it to a slow boil and then slowly whisk in the butter pieces, 1-2 at a time. Season with salt to taste and add then add the prepared pesto into the buerre blanc sauce. It doesn’t all need to be added in, just enough for the color and flavor you want.

This sauce can be used for many dishes, especially, pasta and fish. It’s very popular to add a little lemon juice and make lemon beurre blanc, or a little red wine and you have rouge beurre blanc.

Ravioli with Goat Cheese, Spinach and Sundried Tomato

ravioli5

1 pkg. Wonton Wrappers
1 egg and 1 tsp water
1 pkg. of Goat Cheese, softened
1/2 bag Baby Spinach
Sundried Tomatoes

1. Cook the spinach in a saute pan. To cook spinach, heat a saute pan on the stove and add a tbs. or so of canola oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the spinach, season with salt and it will begin to wilt, toss occasionally to move it around the pan. When done, remove it from the skillet and place in a colander to drain.

2. Dice about 10 sun dried tomatoes into small pieces

3. Place softened goat cheese, sun dried tomato, and spinach in a food processor and blend together to a smooth consistency.

3. Spread the desired number of wonton wrappers out on the counter. A good portion would be 8-10 per person.
Paint the sides of the wrappers with the egg wash, using a pastry brush. Place a small amount of goat cheese mixture on the center of the wrapper, about a tablespoon. Place a second wrapper on top of each and press firmly to secure the wrappers.

These can be made a day ahead, covered and placed in the fridge on a baking sheet.

4. Cook the ravioli’s in salted water for a few minutes. Drain and serve with the beurre blanc pesto sauce. Garnish with some fresh basil and pine nuts.