Saturday, November 7, 2015

SWIMMING UPSTREAM - Poached Salmon Provencal

Poached Salmon Provencal

If Richard had his way, we would be eating salmon two/three times a week.  If he keeps making salmon dishes like this one, I won't complain (I'll have a cheeseburger for lunch).

The latest recipe in his salmon repertoire...

Poached Salmon Provencal
(the "Seriously Simple" cookbook by Diane Rossen Worthington) 


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 pound red and/or yellow tomatoes, chopped

2 pounds salmon fillet, or four 1/2 pound fillet pieces, skin and pin bones removed
2 cups dry white vermouth
1/2 cut pitted kalamata olives, chopped
salt to taste

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high head.  Add fennel and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, or until softened and lightly golden.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes, or until softened.  Add the tomatoes and increase the heat to high.  Cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until tomatoes begin to fall apart and thicken.  

Remove from heat and set aside.

Put salmon in a skillet just big enough to hold it.  Add the dry vermouth, then enough water to cover the salmon.  Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Poach for 10 minutes per inch of thickness, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Just before serving, add the olives, seasoning salt, and 1/4 cup poaching liquid to the sauce.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook to reduce for 1 minute or until slightly thickened.

Transfer the fish pieces to a platter or individual serving plates.  Blot any excess liquid and spoon the sauce over.  

Serve immediately.

Advance preparation:
Sauce may be prepared up to 4 hours ahead.  Set aside, covered, at room temperature.

The clever cook could:
Serve this chilled.  Add 2 to 3 tablespoons vinaigrette to the sauce before serving, or...

Cut the salmon into bite-sized pieces.  Mix the salmon and sauce with hot pasta, or...

Add some vinaigrette to the above pasta dish and chill to serve as a pasta salad.

Friday, September 25, 2015



There once was a beautiful maiden named Linda who lived in a sleepy little hamlet called Danielson in the land called Connecticut.  After graduating high school Linda moved into my house in the not very sleepy town of Bayside, Queens, NY to study design and work in retail on the magical isle of Manhattan.  I was eleven or twelve and while she was courted by many handsome knights, some in suits and ties, others in sports cars, I would go thru her closet trying on her prom queen gowns and high heels and looking thru her sketch book at the clothes she designed for classes at Traphagen School of Design.  She eventually moved into her own place, but on a trip back home, the Lovely Linda found John, her prince charming, married and had three beautiful maidens of her own.

OK - why am I spinning this tale?  The Lovely Linda is my cousin (though more like a sister) and I watched her daughters (I consider them my "nieces") grow into terrific women and mothers whom I don't see often enough.  Two of these sisters, Michele and Monique (and Monique's daughter, Tarah), decided to take a pilgrimage from the Kingdoms of Sonoma and Walnut Creek, California to the far off land of San Diego with a sleepover in the fairy tale town of Solvang in mystical Santa Ynez wine country.  So, when the eldest sister (Michele) invited Richard and me to join them, we hopped into our carriage and headed northwest.

The sisters (Michele & Monique) & me

Solvang, though built to mimic a quaint Danish town, complete with a museum honoring Hans Christian Anderson, looks more like a town out of my childhood Cinderella or Hansel & Gretel Golden Books.  But there's nothing fairy tale about the wineries.

Our first stop, the Toccata tasting room part of the Lucas & Lewellen vineyards specializing in some delicious, Italian-style wines.  Mark Liddi was our barista.

Of the wines he poured, these were my favorites.

2013 Viognier ($22) with grapes grown at the winery's Los Alamos Vineyard, this wine had aromas of honey and apricot with citrus and nectar tastes.

2011 Sangiovese ($26) - Aged in French oak, this lovely wine had scents of strawberries, tea and leather and flavors of berries and anise.  Great with Mediterranean dishes.

2011 Toccata Barbera ($21) - rich, full-bodied, lovely ruby color.  Bring on some red meat.

2011 Toccata Riserva ($32) -  cabernet sauvignon, cab franc blended with Los Alamos Merlot Freisa and Sangiovese and aged in oak, this spicy, dark fruit and tobacco with hints of vanilla was my favorite of this family owned winery.

Down the street from the musical Toccata was its "sister" tasting room, Lucas & Lewellen which specializes in more traditional French style wines.  

Mary Evans was our barista...

...who offered a fugue of flavors to try, thought again, I had my favorites...

2012 Syrah ($26) with a little Viognier mixed in for flavor and body, I could taste the rich fruits, herbs and spices.

2012 Malbec ($28) - dense flavors, creamy texture, you can easily taste the blackberries and cassis.

2012 "Clone 6:" Cabernet Sauvignon ($48) - deep rich flavors with silky tannins.  Hints of chocolate and caramel apples.  Just delicious!

We had time for one more tasting before we needed to go back to our rooms and get ready for dinner.  We chose Lions Peak and were happy we did. The standouts for me were:

2014 Viognier ($28) - ripe apricots, peaches and melons filled my nose as I sipped this luscious white wine.

2014 The Sisters  - ($35) - a blend of Marsanne, Rouanne and Viognier that makes a delicate, yet complex white Rhone wine.

2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) - with flavors layered with black cherry, currant and plums.  A rich bowl of fruit in every sip.

BFF (Best Friends Forever) ($38) - indeed a very friendly wine.  Rich with multiple fruit flavors and smooth as silk, I would drink this wine with anything.

Of the three ports we tasted, the 2002 Augustus XIX Cabernet Port stood out ($20) - aged in French Oak, this wine has wonderful silky tannins that age gracefully.  The perfect way to end a meal.

But then again, there was the Octavian Zinfandel Port fortified with brandy!!  Oh, my!!!  ($38 or $28 for a smaller bottle.)

Tasting done, we were all off for some fine dining at Root 246 (and it was fine) family talk and a lot of laughs.

The Lovely Linda and her Prince John, (along with their beautiful daughters and grandchildren) all live in California but, having to travel over long-trod roads (none with yellow bricks), a woods or two, and one Magic Mountain, we don't get the chance to get together that often, so meeting the "nieces" in the enchanted village of Solvang made this sleepover fairy tale all the more memorable...

1665 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, Calif. 93463

Lucas & LewellenVineyards
1645 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, Calif.  93463

Lions Peak Vineyards
1659 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, Calif. 93463

Monday, August 31, 2015

LOMBARDY - It's a Tree. It's a Hotel. It's a Region in Italy... It's a Chicken Dish

It's a Tree.  It's a NY Hotel.  It's a Region in Italy...
It's a Chicken Dish
And it's a great chicken dish.
Y'all know I love chicken.  The number of blogs I've written on chicken rival my blog output on cheeseburgers, but when Richard made this dish for me the other night, the first thing I said after my first bite was: "I have to blog about this."  The second thing I said after my second bite: "You can make this for company."

So can you.



1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced 
2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
8 skinned and boned chicken breast halves
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted and divided
1/2 cup Marsala cooking wine
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup green onions


Cook mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter slowly.  Set aside.

Place chicken between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; flatten to 1/8 inch thickness, using a meat mallet. 

Dredge each chicken in flour and brown each side over medium heat until golden, about 3-4 minutes in butter.

Place chicken in lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish, overlapping edges. Sprinkle mushrooms over chicken.  Put aside.

Reserve pan drippings in skillet.  Add cooking wine and broth to pan drippings. 

Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, 8 minutes.  

Stir in salt and pepper.  Pour sauce evening over chicken.

Combine cheeses and green onions;

Sprinkle over chicken.

Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

Serves 6 - 8


Bon appetit!


Sunday, August 9, 2015

RABALAIS BISTRO - A Bit of New Orleans In Rural California

A Bit of New Orleans in Rural California

Since moving to the picturesque Ojai Valley littered with citrus groves and lavender fields, I'm continually amazed at the quality of food I find in a town that boasts a population under 8,000 (well, if you count all the people who actually live in neighboring Valley towns, the population swells to 8,007).  It's a farm-to-table mecca of fresh produce and restaurants that support the Alice Waters/Chez Panisse theory that fine dining means farm fresh, seasonal ingredients whether the menu be Italian, French, Mexican or California cuisine.

Recently, after a twenty minute drive up the mountain, through Upper Ojai, past farms and cattle ranches to the quaint town of Santa Paula, I discovered Rabalais, a New Orleans-style coffee, bakery, bistro...Yes, in Santa Paula! A tiny town often neglected by foodies or anyone not living in Santa Paula.

I first discovered Santa Paula because of its playhouse.  A terrific theater that produces first class productions of plays by such playwrights as Sam Shepherd's "Fool For Love" and Ingmar Bergman's "Nora," based on Henry Ibsen's "A Doll House."  Who would have thunk it?! 

Shortly after that, I heard about this terrific bistro in town that made "the best New Orleans style beignets."  OK, that alone made me want to drop by, and once there and I found a menu with all sorts of wonderful southern, French Cajun delights, including those warm, homemade beignets. Of course, I indulged!

Owned and managed by Tracy Lippert, a transplant from Louisiana, her bistro's fare is inspired by her grandmother Anesia Lois Rabalais' timeless, homemade recipes. Anesia, one of many children, came from a little French settlement called Bayou Juane in southern Louisiana and Rabalais Bistro is a tribute to her cooking legacy, a woman Tracy remembers as someone "with strength of character and a servant's heart."

The restaurant has seating on its front patio.  

The inside is a large open space with dark woods, bistro chairs and tables...

... a bakery glass display and coffee station...

... black & white photographs...

... and a lounge area in the back of the restaurant to sip coffee or check your phone or thumb through a magazine while you wait for a table.

On the menu you'll find grits, po' boys, gumbos and jambalyas... fried green tomatoes and fried catfish... Croque Monsieurs and Madames.  The dinner menu boasts, among other entrees, pan-seared catfish with a lemon, capers beurre sauce over linguini; bone-in pork chop with a bourbon glaze; chicken fried NY steak with sausage gravy, mashed red potatoes and seasonal vegetables; and Louisiana Cochon, a slow braised Cajun seasoned pork, pattied and seared, topped with a horseradish cream sauce.

Brunch (and lunch) was being served the last time Richard and I were there.  And, after changing our minds thousand times, he settled for shrimp and grits (well, he is from a southern family) that made him think of his mom's cooking.  

I had the BLT salad with farm-to-table greens, fried green tomatoes (my new favorite thing) and shaved parm.  Delicious!   

And for those who just want to have fresh drip, rich coffee and something from the bakery, take a seat on the "bakery" side of the bistro and order from the selection of  fresh homemade pastries, pies, cakes, cookies, breads and beignets (to order)...Laissez les bontemps rouler!

861 E. Main Street
Santa Paula, Calif. 93060

Thursday, July 30, 2015



I have no memory of the first time I met Gisela, she’s just never not been in my life.  The fact is, we met in the 1st grade.  Did we bond over our matching braids that fell to our shoulders?  Or because we were the tallest girls in the class? (I stopped being tall in the 8th grade, Gisela kept growing).  I don’t know.  Whatever it was, we bonded.  She became my always friend.  

I could regale you with stories from Mrs. Potter’s third grade class ...

3rd Grade.  Gisela is in the last seat of the 2nd row, I'm in the lst seat
... or our Brownie and Girl Scout Troops… or when we both were part-time teen waitresses and short order cooks at the Woolworth’s lunch counter (seeing us in hair nets was a scary sight)… or doing the Lindy together (the only time I ever “led” Gisela) whenever rock’n’roll music was playing… or as cheerleaders, cheering for our high school basketball team from the floor of Madison Square Garden as they played for the NYC championship (we lost in the second round). 

We sang in our church choir together, did plies side-by-side at Miss Mildred’s, were on the same swimming, volleyball and softball teams.   

We spent many days and weeks during the summer months body surfing and sunbathing at Parking Lot 5 at Jones Beach thanks to her brother Robert, a lifeguard who graciously took his teen sister and her friend (me) to the beach on the days he worked.  We double dated to our high school sorority dances.   


Once with my cousin, Bruce, as her date. 

Poodle hair cut...
She even came up a few times to my aunt and uncle’s (Bruce’s parents) summer cottage on Alexander’s Lake in Dayville, Connecticut, where we swam, canoed and skated at the lake’s roller rink to organ music as the large disco ball hanging from the ceiling speckled the wooden floor with white lights like falling stars.

The era of the "flip"
When I was thirteen and my dad died suddenly, she was there.  And not too many years later, I was there when her mom died.

I was her maid of honor when she married the love of her life, Ron.  

The girls from left to right... Ingrid, Penney, me, Susan - I don't remember the flower girl's name

And she was there during my first marriage and divorce, and when I found Richard. 

But I’d rather tell you about the time she save my life.  Literally.

It was the summer I turned 16 (she would turn 16 in the fall).  Our mothers, who were friends, decided it would be nice to send us to Word of Life teen camp on an island in Schroon Lake in upstate New York.  We were athletic and loved sports, so we couldn’t wait to go swimming, boating, hiking, and horseback riding.  When we got there, Gis and I checked into to our assigned cabin...

Gisela & cabin mates

... then after our first dinner, we followed our cabin counselor’s instructions to go to the camp auditorium to participate in a radio show.  We found seats near the top row of this presidium theater and after everyone had filed in, Evangelist Jack Wyrtzen, the founder of the worldwide Word of Life organization, started preaching fire and brimstone.  Gis and I were shocked to find ourselves in a full-out revival meeting!  In our rather staid Lutheran church (well, in comparison), congregation members might get the vapors if someone sang too robustly.  Yet, here we were in the midst of loud singing and chanting, kids coming forward crying and wailing and falling to the ground begging to be saved.  

Well, we still had the beautiful lake for swimming and boating.

On my 16th birthday, Gisela thought it would be great fun to take me horseback riding.  Now, I’d ridden a few times, but Gis had taken lessons and was pretty good.  My horse seemed friendly and accepted my control, so Gisela, our cute male Guide and I hit the trail.  
cute male guide & Gisela

We trotted, cantered and galloped through the woods and were having a grand time when something spooked my horse and she took off like a bat out of hell.  No longer in control, I held onto the saddle horn for dear life and this time truly prayed to be saved.  The Guide raced after me, and Gisela’s horse followed.  In full gallop, as I tried to avoid the tree branches whacking my face, my horse brought us to a narrow ravine.  She flew over it as my heart jumped into my throat.  The Guide and Gisela were right behind me.  We were now on a flat meadow and they chased after me like the heroes of a B-movie western.  They finally caught up with me and as the Guide grabbed my reins.  I began to slide out of the saddle.  Not to worry, Gisela was there on the other side and quickly grabbed me and pushed me upright as my horse finally came to a halt.  

I was saved!  Maybe not the "saved" Jack Wyrtzen had in mind, but saved I was by God, Gisela and a Guide.

She was a force and I loved her.  I will miss her terribly.

Rest in peace dear Gisela.