Need a quick idea of what to cook? Look around and click on something that looks good, or just close your eyes and pick!
Either way, you will find the inspiration you need to create your own flavorful creation.
Perfect for family style meals. Couscous cooks in minutes, and since it is a (very tiny) pasta, the number of things you can do with it are nearly infinite. Here I made it with sautéed beef tenderloin and asparagus. The couscous is flavored with sage, plumped raisins, and cashews.
Tip: Cook the couscous in stock. If you start with a salty bullion cube, consider cutting it in half to keep it from being too much. You can always add more (put it in little hot water first) later if you want more flavor.
Beef with a stroganoff sauce allows you to play around with the concept. The flavors remain the same, so you know they will work, but you can confound expectations by redefining the dish. With beautiful slices of tenderloin no one is going to be disappointed by the description. The noodles have been replaced with a couscous timbale and fried leeks add garnish and a great flavor.
The heck with mundane potato chips. Fry up a batch of thinly sliced parsnips (the ones that look like white carrots). The texture is great, and they actually have more flavor than many other root vegetables. Everyone has their own basic seasoning for chips, mine is onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, paprika and Parmesan cheese.
A splash of oil, garbanzo bean flour, and enough water to make it into a ball. Let sit 5 minutes, and then roll it out. Gluten free - and for diabetics like me, lower carb, high protein. While I did go the whole veggie route, choosing soy based “sausages”, vegans will be dismayed to know I used Béchamel sauce and Buffalo Mozzarella.
Lamb lollipops (a technical term - amateurs call them lamb chops) are a delight, if for no other reason they are one of the few foods you can eat with your hands. Here I reduced pineapple juice to a glaze and coated the chops. The sauce is sweet potatoes sweetened with a bit of maple syrup, and then balanced with concentrated tangerine juice. Served on a grilled slice of fresh pineapple. I served this with a vintage Rosé Champagne.
There are a lot of wonderful ways to make salad, but few are as elegant as this. Marinated asparagus bundled between a few pieces of lettuce, and then the whole thing drenched in a fresh orange juice vinaigrette. A bit of orange peel make a cute “belt” to tie the whole together.
Maltaise sauce is a variation on hollandaise that replaces the sharp lemon juice with a smoother orange. Nasi Lamak is coconut rice, and it molds wonderfully to make this playful dish. Rich, and then some, this one is best served in small portions. Feel free to substitute lobster, langoustines, shrimp, prawns, since they are about the same thing.
Amaretto Shortbread with Chinese Five Taste Sauce, Mascarpone Butter Cream and Raspberry Hearts was just too long to put in the heading. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami are what we call the five tastes today, but for the Chinese, before umami came along, the fifth was “spicy hot.” This sauce contains a bit of each of these, and is not to be confused with Chinese 5 Spice powder, which while related does not allow you to choose your proportions. I used; Ginger, Kecap Manis (sweetened, reduce soy sauce - salty and sweet), Rice Vinegar, Star Anise in a base of custard.
Bake the crust with butter and Parmesan cheese, cool. Add chocolate ganache (which is just chocolate melted in cream) and raspberry coulis (pureed and strained raspberries, reduced and sweetened as needed). Refrigerate and surprise the heck out of your guests when you present it at the table. Everyone loves pizza, everyone loves chocolate, imagine what they will think of this!
The difference between a corn chowder and corn bisque? About $5. Cook corn, puree, return to pan with plenty of cream, reduce, reduce, reduce, strain. Enter the hushpuppy. All of that strained corn mush is just perfect to add to corn meal and fry up into delectable little nibbles to adorn your soup. And if you must know, the name comes from giving scraps of the fried corn spoon bread to the dogs to “hush”.
Cut your zucchini into spears. Batter with eggs and Parmesan cheese, bake until golden. Top with red sauce, here a Vodka Parm. Serve a few as an app, or more as a main course. A fun take on Eggplant Parmesan, without the frying. A vegetarian delight.
Most schnitzles (or milaneses) are made with indifferent slices of veal or pork. This one is flattened beef tenderloin in a Parmesan cheese crust, pan fried in olive oil. Topped with a brandied mushroom cream sauce. The timbale in the back is “stuffed” cabbage - paprika rice with sun dried tomatoes and Tokaji plumped muscat raisins.
I knew I had to be creative when I said I was going to make Mexican food for an extended Mexican family. Bottom right is an enchilada - Crab Crêpe with Roasted Jalapeños and Cumin Béchamel and Corn Salsa Fresca. Left is a chimichanga - Beef Hoisin In a Fried Tortilla. And finally, at the top is a Shrimp Taco - Shrimp and Spicy Tropical Fruit on a Poof of Tortilla.
While some claim that Moussaka is the Greek version of Lasagna, I contend that this noodle dish is a closer approximation. Ground lamb (or beef) is layered between pasta which is bound by Béchamel. A big hit at a party or when you need to feed a lot of people for not a lot of money.
Shown before actually being wrapped (wrapped, it looks like a tube of meat). This is a slight variation on a classic Carpaccio Salad. By incorporating the Arugula and Parmesan cheese on the inside, your guests will be pleasantly surprised when they cut into what seems to be nothing except meat. That dark drizzle is reduced Balsamic Vinegar. Take the regular cheap Balsamic Vinegar and reduce it by 50% or more to end up a thick, rich flavor.
Shred a mixture of Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses. Heat in a small non stick egg pan until melted. JUST as it starts to brown on the edges, turn out over a rolling pin and shape (careful, it is very hot). Cut the bottom so it will stand. In this case I have filled it with an Amaretto Mascarpone. A cheese course that like the Spanish Inquisition, no one will see coming.
I am ashamed to admit how easy this is to make. Steam Broccoli, blend with a bit of cheese and vegetable (or chicken) soup base, and some of the water you steamed with. Add a shot or four of cream. Done. Which is why to dress it up I fried some Tortillas and coated them with Parmesan, Paprika and Garlic powder. A sprinkle of black pepper and a sprig of oregano always looks nice too.
What makes this Club so Exclusive? Besides lame jokes of white privilege, that middle piece of bread on this famed sandwich has long bothered me. What exactly is it trying to prove? Rather than the superfluous layer it has traditionally been, I have substituted a piece of cheese toast. Avocado also begs to be thrown in the mix, but this day they were probably all too hard at the store.
As much as this is an example of a rolled up pizza with the sauce on the outside (the very model of a modern
major-general Stromboli), I served it to you here as an example of power of presentation. All rolled up and thrown on a plate a Stromboli has little visual appeal. Sliced, sauced and garnished, it becomes a delicacy. Sometimes fancy cooking just means fancy plating.
Mix lobster, wasabi and cream cheese, stick it in some (store bought is fine) puff pastry, and voila…
I tend to forget to brush the tops with egg yolk, so I am here to remind you not to forget. The little dollop of wasabi on top is optional, but oh so good. Use the tender claw meat for this, and save all the rest for lobster bisque!
Steamed shrimp tossed in lemon and olive oil with a sprinkle of white sesame seeds. Yummy, but throw in a few nasturtiums, and it is beautiful as well. Served as a family style platter, the blooms do a lot more for the look of the platter than any old parsley or kale would!
Chiffonade Sage and Prosciutto on a Grilled Chicken Breast with Molten Mozzarella Cheese. Served with a timbal of Chicken Couscous smothered in Tzatziki sauce and topped with Candied Lemon Zests. Two distinct, but complementary flavor directions to leap in the mouth!
Boil beef in Black Beer, add Vegetables, Beef Stock (glaze) and thicken. An outrageously flavorful stew, it called for decent presentation. Hollowing out a piece of bread to make a bowl works, but here I wanted something that was still edible, but even more optional to consume. A bit of rolled out dough, shaped into bowl, and baked full of (raw, which you remove later) beans to help it keep its shape. Tell your manly men that it is beef cooked in beer, and they may even eat a few veggies in their rush to spoon it down.
I love a little hot sizzle in an otherwise cold green salad. Bacon is traditional, but here I went with the perfect substitute. Salami, cut into strips and then sautéed until crisp. I couldn’t swear which flavor I made the salad dressing that day, but they often are composed of herbs, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a spoon full of almost any flavor fruit preserves.
Tuna out of a can is plenty nutritious, but not exactly exciting. Here I made a tuna salad, salad, and put plenty of Parmesan in the mix, so when I sautéed it it kept its patty shape. Far from the most gourmet of my menu ideas, but know that tuna, hot or cold, deserves its place in your salads.
Purée mangoes, strain, add a good splash of chicken stock, reduce, reduce, reduce. Depending on the mangoes you may or may not have to sweeten. Don’t skip the salt though, it will really bring out the flavor. The soup is served chilled, but the finger bananas are hot out of the pan where they were sautéed with butter.
This classic “day after” remedy is a combination of beans, eggs, tortilla and Pico de Gallo (that is “Salsa” to Americans). Here it looks like I put the tortilla on the bottom, which is common, but I have since learned to put the beans first, then the corn tortilla, so you can cut into it better.
Asparagus and orange are a classic combination, so I made my vinaigrette from reduced fresh orange juice (so, concentrated but not frozen, but that works too). The bowl is a fried whole wheat tortilla that is light and crisp enough to fall apart into the greens. The bowls (which I just dunked in hot oil while holding them closed with tongs) can be made a few hours in advance, but not much more.
Beurre Blanc is much more famous than Beurre Rouge, more is the shame. Made the same way as the white, the red variety adds a tart, vinous, contrast to a slice of tenderloin of beef (here on a bed of couscous and stuffed with shiitake). Add shallots to red wine, boil and reduce but not too much. Start feeding it cold butter, a little at a time, until the sauce turns shiny. It will take a lot of butter, but do it slowly..
It just wouldn’t sounds as cool if you called it a chicken crepe in a creamy paprika sauce, but that is what it is. I like to mix the chicken with a Garlic, Parmesan Béchamel so that the inside is as good as the sauce. The stripe is homemade sour cream (which is just cream and vinegar, shaken and left for 24 hours).
Flay a Tenderloin until it is flat, stuff it and roll it up. One of my favorite tricks. Here the meat is laced with King Crab Legs and served with a Hollandaise (and my secret 3 day potatoes). Yes, the meat is very rare, but a decent beef tenderloin shouldn’t be cooked more, as it will go from butter to shoe leather very quickly.
Chocolate brownies are really, really simple to make. You probably have the ingredients laying around your house right now. By cutting them into circles and serving them with fresh raspberry coulis (pureed, cooked soft and sieved) I have turned the ordinary, into the extraordinary. Just to gild the lilly, I took some of the raspberry and made a butter cream as well.
I pan, rather than deep fried the crusty sour dough French toast, and the ham is an exquisite Westphallian. There is a Green Apple sauce under the Vermont White Cheddar and the Hot Maple Syrup hails from the same state. Served any time of day, this combination of salty, sweet, and sour is an eye opener.
The name may be more familiar than the dish itself. Essentially noddles covered with meat (here beef, often chicken) in a paprika sauce. Chicken sauces are lighter, but for the beef I wanted a brown sauce, so I of course started out by roasting bones to make the stock, but you are welcome to cheat. A great alternative to tomato based pasta sauces, and easy to make in a slow cooker, so you can come home to a house full of wonderful aromas and a sauce ready to eat.
The naturally peppery flavor of lentils is perfect with lamb. Here the lentils were boiled in beef stock to give them an even richer aspect. The Plum sauce is reduced Malbec wine (as is the dab on the pate), and beef glaze with a spoonful or two of plum preserves, all thickened with roux. The combination is hugely rich, so a little goes a long way. Perfect for stretching costly lamb with inexpensive lentils, although reducing a bottle of wine in half or more, adds up.
The French call the layered pastry a Mille-Fuille (thousand leaf) rather than by the name of their favorite deposed and deceased Emperor. I am taking even greater liberties with the name and the concept, applying it to my own layered concoction. Slices of Beef Tenderloin layered between Garlic/ Parmesan crusted sweet potato with a Sage/Goat Cheese Béchamel.
Salsa is Spanish for Sauce, but for many English speakers it refers to a spicy, often chunky tomato sauce (Pico de Gallo, Salsa Fresca). This is a cross between the Anglo-Indian concept of Chutney and the Tex-Mex Salsa. Mangos, papayas, star fruit, kiwi and avocados join spicy peppers for a sauce that is a contrast to itself. Serve it over any number of things (especially chicken) or just with chips (cut it finer if it is meant for chips).
Cassoulet is a classic from the South of France. White beans are cooked with duck (and especially its fat), pork and sausages (among other things). The key being to cover in good stock that you constantly replenish as it evaporates over the several hours you bake it. As with Risotto the concentrated stock becomes a major source of flavors, so make sure it is good and not too salty to begin with. This version I skipped the duck and went with a lamb stock. Serving it with with Lamb and a piece of bacon to be playful.
Start with your favorite brownie recipe. Make it in a round pan, and under bake. Now you have chocolate pie. Here I am serving it with a dark Dulce de Leche sauce. The gooey chocolate and the rich sauce will have everyone believing this is a cherished family recipe, handed down for generations.
A play on the name of a famous burger joint, but something completely unique. Not just inside out, almost nothing on this “burger” is what you expect. Garlic mashed potatoes substitute for the misaligned bread. Slices of beef tenderloin are a long way from ground beef patties, and then there are the condiments. White is not mayo, it is goat’s cheese. The yellow is not mustard, it is mayo - passion fruit mayo. And the red is not ketchup, it is mustard - red fruit mustard. Bacon is played by itself, and the cheese, well I couldn’t come up with an alternative, but oddly this version of American cheese comes from France.
Star fruit is a great garnish, but it is tasty too. Here I reserved a single slice for looks, and cut up the rest to add to the Mango and Kiwi that I was topping the chicken with. Bold fruity flavors can be tough with wine, but I paired it with a particularly fragrant Gewürztraminer.
Crêpes are simple to make, but that doesn’t mean you have to fill it with simple flavors. Here crab (actually the cheaper fake crab), Emmentaler and Cream cheeses are on the inside, and on the outside, Mousseline (hollandaise carefully folded into whipped cream). By cutting the richness of the Hollandaise I kept it all from being overwhelming. It is hard to tell from the picture, but I also kept the portion small.
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is the good stuff - $100 a bottle and up, good stuff. There is nothing quite like it, not even Aceto Balsamico di Modena, which is the cheap stuff made in the same town of Modena in Italy. Just plain Balsamic Vinegar may be the least of them all, but even this can be made much more flavorful by reducing it by half or more (as here). Even if you don’t get a chance to experience the good stuff, put your best balsamic vinegar on strawberries. With black pepper. Honest. Here I have fresh berries, so I opted for whipped cream. With sugared strawberries I would usually serve Mascarpone cheese.
The classic salad made pizza. Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella (balls, packaged in water). The freshest Tomatoes and Basil you can get your hands on (how is your garden coming?). For the sauce? Pesto of course! While I often sprinkle the basil on after cooking, don’t be afraid to cook it. It will come out as here, and be full of flavor.
Even if you aren’t sure how to pronounce them, chances are you love Gyros as much as the rest of us. The good news is that you don’t need one of the special rotisseries to enjoy the treat at home. For this version I chopped lamb and a bit of beef (to reduce the cost and richness), and added breadcrumbs, egg yolk and oregano, sage and marjoram before forming. The Tzatziki sauce is cucumbers and yogurt with garlic and a pinch of dill.
Grill some cheese between two thin pieces of bread (don’t forget to butter the outside) and then use the grilled cheese as the bread for your sandwich. Here I did it with a burger with bacon mayonnaise which is the secret to many great sandwiches. Since the ground bacon added to mayo has twice the flavor and none of the hassles of just using bacon.
I had a New Orleans thing going when I made this one up. The chicken breast is sautéed and then glazed with a splash of Bourbon. It is served on a bed of chicken rice that is flavored with Brown Butter and Filé (sassafras). To make it appetizer sized I cut small coins out of the breast with a tomato paste can with both lids cut off, which I also used to form the rice.
Definitely more inspired by, rather then traditional Thai soup. Lobster broth cooked with lemongrass and hot peppers and seasoned with rice wine vinegar. Don’t leave the peppers in too long. Spicy, sour and amazingly rich. I served it clear with just a few pieces of lobster claw and a stalk of lemongrass.
One Tenderloin, prepared three ways. Carpaccio (thin, raw slices), with chiffonade of rocket wrapped around a medallion stuffed with hand chopped browned beef with sage and pine nuts. Sauced with Béarnaise. A fun way to make a piece of meat much more than a steak.
One Thanksgiving found me in South America at the wrong time of year for pumpkins. I decided to try sweet potato pie, and have never gone back to the much less flavorful, but still similar, pumpkin pie. I take the basic recipe you can find on other sites and add ginger. Lots of ginger, juice. Shred, grind, chop, whatever you can do to get the fresh ginger as fine as possible, and then either push it through a sieve, or wring it out in cheese cloth. A juicer makes this a lot easier.
BLT is probably not a recipe I need to spell out (but in case you are not from around these parts, it stands for Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato). In this case I was in the sweltering climes of Thailand and was pressed into serving 20 people finger food. One of the dishes I chose was this venerable sandwich, but with pesto mayo and cut into cute little circles with a glass, and then in half with a knife. The bacon garnish was quickly snatched up as well.
Chaat Masala is the spice used on fruit salad I enjoyed from the street vendors in the Punjab region in the north of India. Some of the critical flavors are hard to find, especially the wonderfully sulfuric black salt and amchoor (powdered unripe mango). Even if you can’t make or find the actual Chaat Masala, you will be surprised by much fun even regular curry powder is on fruit. Here I sautéed Green Apple in butter with curry until soft. I served it with a finger banana that had also been sautéed in butter, but without the spice. I took store bought tartlet shells and brushed them in butter, and crusted them with cinnamon sugar before baking the whole thing.
I would like to think this one is mine alone, but chances are someone else has done something similar. I made a Curried Béchamel sauce and then cooled it so it was thick. I wrapped it in dough as a beggar’s purse (like this fried ice cream), but I pulled the top off after frying it. I turned it upside and stuck it in a dollop of wasabi mashed potatoes and served it as a first course. There were giggles of delight around the table as my guests dug in and the cream came oozing out; and even more personal noises of satisfaction as they tasted the concoction.
The sixth of my 7 course wine dinners is usually some sort of cheese plate. When you try to never repeat a dish, after hundreds of menus it can be difficult to come up with something cheesy. Here I decided to make a cheese cake without any sugar or crust. I followed the usual recipe but as well as excluding sugar I substituted a bit of blue and goat’s cheeses for the usual cream cheese. I topped it with a reduction of (cheap) Port and served it with a glass of Vintage Port.
Cake is great, but it can be a pain to cut and serve once it is iced. Here I precut chocolate cake with a circular cutter and then put it in a lake of Dulce de Leche and topped with Jalapeño Chocolate Ganache (chocolate melted in scalded cream). The impact was much greater than any frosted cake would have been, but with a fraction of the effort.
A chef’s salad is not only a great way to clean your refrigerator out, it is almost healthy. Bring up the nutrition and flavor by adding a bit of tuna salad. My secret ingredient in tuna salad is cream cheese, the famed French Laughing Cow when I can get it. The cheese lets you cut the amount of mayonnaise way down, while adding yet more protein. Beware the salt the cheese adds.
Shred a smoked duck breast. Reduce Fresh Orange Juice until it is syrup. Combine duck and orange with a drop of sesame oil and a spoonful or three of mayo. Be careful with the Sesame Oil, it is strong, and you can add more, but not less. Put a dollop of the duck salad on a Garlic Parmesan croute and serve with Champagne!
Fake crab is cheap and flavorful, especially if you hide it well. The first step in this crab salad is to make curried mayo. You must always heat and fat activate curry (and most powdered spices) so add it to butter to make a loose paste, and cook for a minute or so, being careful not to burn it. Add to your favorite mayo. Important: Make the mayo 2 days before you want to serve it. On the second day, mix the mayo and crab (real or otherwise) and then refrigerate for another day. On the last day serve the salad on a croute, or a small piece of flat bread. You can also make the crab spicier and then serve it on a cooling cucumber slice.
While the inspiration for this came from Thanksgiving leftovers, you can, as I did, make this anytime. In a glass baking dish layer: bread stuffing, turkey, mashed sweet potatoes, and cover with gravy. Here I cut it out and served it as a bite sized morsel for the first course. A perfect bite of complimentary flavors. I once made one for friends arriving late, so they would have something easy to nuke after their drive. I still get thanks.
Quail is a rich poultry that is perfect for a first course. Here I took hot roasted quail, and pulled it off the bone and served it on a square of cooked puff pastry. I covered it in a puréed mushroom cream sauce and drizzled it with a reduced, low salt, soy sauce.
Cheese is great way to end a meal, and in some parts of the world there are many wonderful types to choose from. Do your guests a favor, make a way to keep track of what the cheeses are. One way is to serve on a piece of slate and mark it with liquid chalk. A cheaper way is to use the plates you own, but mark them with edible markers (if you live in the part of the world you can order anything). The final, and most simple way, is to draw a map. I have been known to include one on the printed menus that I make for formal dinners. Even if I make annotations on the slate as I did here, I still needed to print a key on the menu.
For those that don’t crave a good Chicken Fried Steak the name has always been confusing. Where is the chicken?
Here then is chicken given the same treatment. Boneless breast, breaded with cracker meal and fried. Served up with a creamy (and peppery) chicken cream gravy. Don’t be shy with the gravy, and make sure there is plenty for the potatoes!
For me, the most important trick in dealing with Prosciutto is to cut off the fat. Some may disagree, but at the very least it makes it much easier to eat when you are not trying to prevent a string of fat from coming out of your mouth and slapping you on the chin. But maybe that is just me. Here I found a wedge of brie that was just begging to be sliced and wrapped. The combination is wonderful, and easy to eat with your fingers.
Somewhere there is probably a very long list of things you can mix up (compound) with butter. The (somewhat old fashioned) king of these is Bercy Butter. A compound that includes shallots cooked in white wine, beef marrow, and parsley. A bit more familiar and easier to make is simple garlic butter. Sun dried tomatoes, anchovies, cranberries, plum, apricot, basil, sage… Like I said, there is probably a long list. Whatever you have mixed with the butter the trick is to spoon or pipe it out onto a piece of wax paper, roll wrapped that in food film, and freeze. When solid you will be able to slice off individual portions that will melt on to your hot food, covering it in yummy.
Sabayon (or the wonderful sounding Italian Zabaglione) is the sweet version of Hollandaise. Marsala or Sherry are commonly used to flavor it, butI have used any number of dessert wines, each has their merit. In this case I reduced a half bottle of Port style wine down to a few tablespoons and made an intensely sweet and flavorful companion for Mandarin Oranges. While Sabayon is often a sauce, here I made it thick and wonderful enough to be enjoyed almost on its own.
First make a great shrimp stock, it is going to take a lot of shrimp shells, but you can freeze them until you have enough. Then make risotto with the stock, and a bit of saffron for color and bitterness. Make sure it is cooked down enough to mold. Top with sautéed shrimp and fried leeks. Drench in Beurre Rouge (heat shallots in red wine, feed butter until glossy).