Easy Sunday Brunch Casserole et al


Last week my husband and I, he who took a break from being un-retired in Haiti, motored down to Boston, a city I’ve never seen, to meet with a really cool medical specialist about my “pernicious anemia.”  Great trip all around!  Boston is a wonderful city and I want to go back to spend some quality time there.  The doctor is involved in both treatment and research on this rare type of anemia and plans to get me back to France soon, swilling champagne and snarfing down tons of cheese and “les abats” with my crew in Sens. Big shout out to Jeanette Silvert Lovett who pointed me in the right direction.


Every year around Labor Day, our neighborhood organizes a Sunday potluck brunch to celebrate the holiday and to catch up with each others end of summer news.  I chose an easy, old breakfast stand by with sausage, bread, cheese, scallions and red pepper.  I have used this recipe numerous times for overnight guests because you can assemble the casserole the night before, refrigerate covered, remove covering and just shove it in the oven the next morning.  No fuss.  This recipe is so quick and easy that you actually could do it in the morning; crunchy bread cubes. savory sausage and moist eggs, that is if you aren’t too busy drinking coffee and staring out at the trees, which is my usual morning activity 😉


Sometimes I am just not hungry, can’t think of anything I want to eat, there are no leftovers and I don’t feel like cooking.  So I end up skipping a couple of meals.  The problem with this is that I eventually get “I could eat a bear” hungry and end up messily throwing anything I can find onto a plate, as long as it’s large 🙂  Here is my big bread, sausage patties, egg, cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwich, with mayo.  Not elegant, it wasn’t about that, but ENORMOUSLY satisfying.


Because the refrigerator is so bare, I decided to defrost a rolled pork roast from the freezer, which is far from bare, and make some char sui pork to have on hand for salads, sandwiches and Asian noodle bowls.  For pork haters, I have also done this successfully with boneless chicken thighs.  You just hang them for less time in the oven.


Also, I just love “S” hooking meat in the oven 🙂  Although it was my husband’s idea, I always feel so clever!  But like his money, his ideas are my ideas 😀


I removed the strings and cut the roast into four, more or less, equal chunks.  I could have cut them smaller but I wanted to make sure that while getting a charred, somewhat crispy outside, that the inside would be cooked yet still juicy.


Be sure to aluminum foil wrap a cookie sheet or something for the the pork to drip on to, otherwise you could risk an oven fire, your home smoke alarms will annoy you and the oven clean up could ruin your day.  Looks like MY oven racks are crying out for Easy Off 🙂


Whether you make char sui with pork or chicken, it is delicious and fun to do.  Is it me or does the front piece of char sui look like a pig’s head with a smiley face?


Sliced char sui makes wonderful sandwiches and with ingredients you can go the American lettuce, garlic mayonnaise and tomato route, the Vietnamese Banh Mi route or whatever you like on your sandwich.  You can’t go wrong.  I smeared a little hoisin sauce on top.


If you are avoiding the “white stuff” or are not a big fan of bread, just eat it plain with some salad.  I did, at first, and then I ate the sandwich.  I’m going to be big 😀


Easy Sunday Brunch Casserole


6 cups of cubed bread

1 lb bulk sausage, cooked

1 bunch scallions, sliced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

10 eggs

3 cups milk

1 tsp salt

Butter a large baking pan, sides and bottom.  Place the bread inside, then sprinkle with half the sausage, half the scallions and bell pepper and 1 cup of the cheese.  Repeat the layer, reserving the 1/2 cup of cheese.

Beat the eggs, milk and salt together until well blended, then pour over everything in the baking pan.  Sprinkle with the reserved cheese.

At this point, you can either bake the casserole for about 55 minutes – 1 hour in a 325 F oven or refrigerate, covered until ready to bake.  Overnight is fine.













Posted in American, Asian, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes, Sandwich | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Poached Egg New Orleans

IMG_3877bShrimp Clemenceau is a New Orleans specialty, usually made with shrimp, asparagus, mushrooms and fried potatoes.  The last time I made this, at Chef Dave’s suggestion, I substituted mirliton for the fried potatoes.  This time I substituted aubergine for the fried potatoes because I’m craving aubergine.  So that’s why.

This should really be called Gambas Clemenceau because the shrimp in the freezer were humongous!  I wonder where I bought these?  They would be great on the grill.  I’ll have to look around.  You can also use “normal” shrimp which I had intended to do, but who knows what manner of creature lurks in the heart of my freezer?  Not even The Shadow 🙂  I recently ordered a 14 DVD set of “Rumpole of the Bailey” and the series is as hilarious and entertaining as I remembered.


Too lazy to make up a batch of Emeril’s essence and determined never to use any seasoning labeled “McCormick”, I remembered that my mother used Old Bay seasoning on practically everything, especially seafood.  Good enough for me and it was okay but I think I would have preferred a little “essence” or another good quality Creole seasoning.


The thing about this rendition of shrimp Clemenceau is that I adore each ingredient; aubergine, shrimp, mushrooms, asparagus, garlic.


This was a very pretty aubergine; firm, white fleshed and dark purple skin.


Be sure to brown the diced aubergine on high flame and avoid overcooking so that the pieces remain firm.  Mine were a little softer than I wanted.  Good, but still.



This dish is easy to assemble and would make a nice main course for a “Laid back” Sunday brunch because you can quickly cook everything in the morning and just reheat before topping with a poached egg to serve.


Gambas Clemenceau

2 lbs of gambas or shrimp headed, shelled and deveined

2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning or a good quality Creorle seasoning

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1 large, firm aubergine/eggplant, diced

3-4 garlic cloves minced

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp butter

1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced

1 bunch young asparagus, tough ends trimmed and cut into thirds

1 tbsp butter

Poached eggs (optional)

Toss the gambas with seasoning and set aside.  Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp butter in a skillet, add the aubergine and brown on high flame until cooked but still firm.  Add the garlic and saute for about 1 minute and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Remove the mixture to a plate/bowl and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, then add the 2 tbsp of butter and the mushrooms. Saute until the mushrooms begin to release their water, then add the asparagus and continue to saute for about 2 minutes until the asparagus are crisp tender.  Transfer to the plate with the aubergine.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, add the remaining tablespoon of butter and the gambas.  Saute until just done, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the vegetables to the skillet and gently toss and heat.

Divide in to serving plates and top each serving with a poached egg, if desired.













Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes, Seafood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

I’m Still Here


I remembered one of my favorite films, Papillon with Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen.  Continually surviving the inhumane conditions of the French prison system in French Guiana, he famously declares “Hey you b*st*rds, I’m still here.”  Me too.  I’m still here.  I’m going to look at that movie tonight!  Here’s Jessie that I heroically hand-stripped for the first time.  It took about 10 days.  In this picture I still have the legs to complete but I did a fabulous job on the ears!


It’s way too hot to cook anything meaningful (94F yesterday with a 1000% humidity or almost) and I’ve been eating some of the most horrendous meals that, if someone told my friends what I was eating, they would staunchly deny it, backing it up with their 2nd amendment right 😀


So today, in order to avoid a possible O.K. Corral and health deterioration, I racked my brains for something quick but good to cook and came up with Asian aubergine with leftover steak.  I usually make this with ground lamb or veal but I couldn’t be bothered to thaw anything.  After browning the garlic, ginger and aubergine, you could just salt it and eat it like that if you can’t be bothered.  Confession:  I use way more garlic and ginger than I write down in my recipes, out of concern for the “babies” (Caroline) who follow my blog 😀  Hail Mary…..


This is my Dorflinger crystal red wine glass that I bought at an antique fair.  I had never heard of Dorflinger crystal/cut glass until, having nothing to do, I visited the local glass factory  and museum that used to produce this crystal.  Apparently in it’s heyday, this crystal could be found in the inventories of U.S. Presidents and filthy rich scions of the East Coast.  Huh!  Dorflinger made some beautiful pieces for formal dining and ostentatious display.  Resisting the temptation, this time, for gratuitous ostentation, I only bought 2 glasses 😉


This pretty plate was given to me for my photography by my gracious, thoughtful neighbor Christine who is of the British ex-pat persuasion.  Thank you Christine.

Spicy Aubergine with Steak

3 tbsp sambal oelek

3 tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp rice vinegar

3 tbsp sake

2 tbsp mirin

2 cups of sliced leftover steak

7 tbsp peanut oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch fresh ginger, minced

2 large aubergine, cut into chaos chunks

Scallions, sliced

In a little bowl, mix together the sambal oelek, soy sauce, vinegar, sake and mirin.  Set aside.

Add 1 tbsp of peanut oil to a skillet and fry the garlic and ginger until brown, then remove from the skillet and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet, add 3 tbsps of peanut oil, then brown half of the aubergine chunks, remove when done, add the last 3 tbsp of oil and brown the other half of the aubergine. Put all of the aubergine into the skillet along with the sauce, steak, garlic and ginger. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with scallions and serve with noodles or rice.





Posted in Asian, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Beef, Mushrooms and Spinach Noodles


Today is my birthday and I’m starting to get really old 😀  In any case, I decided not to go out to lunch, but to continue to hand strip my Irish Terrier, Jessie.


This is the first time I’ve attempted stripping and the only reason I did this is because there are no hand strippers in Honesdale or anywhere near and Jessie’s coat is about 3-4 inches long.  In civilized France the dog salon around the corner from me handled this tedious, unpleasant task.  An Irish Terrier’s coat should never be clipped or cut because it will lose both the red color and the weather proof texture of the undercoat; small sections or hanks of hair must be plucked out by hand or with the aid of a grooming knife or comb.


Oddly enough, this doesn’t hurt the dog and the hair comes out easily all the way to the undercoat because it is dead hair.  It just makes the groomer and dog wish for a quicker, kinder death than that suggested by hour after hour of stripping boredom.


Jessie and I began on the new, deluxe, super duper grooming table that I purchased at an outrageous price; Jessie with a noose around her neck to keep her on the table and me to the side, brandishing my stripping comb.  She almost hung herself twice, trying to get off the table and chase the cats who kept slowly sashaying by, staring at the dog, hoping to witness their first dog hanging.  After an hour of this, with very little progress, I took the dog off the table, locked her in the kitchen and bolted a glass of red wine.


Never give up is my motto!  Calmed by the wine, I discarded the stripping comb, grabbed the dog, took her to the front porch, tied her to the metal chair I was sitting in and began with thumb and forefinger to hand pluck the hair from her body.  This was much better. Jessie was calmer and I began to make progress.  Thirsty from the wine chugging, I got up from the chair to go inside for water.  Jessie bolted down the front porch stairs, rolling and dragging the heavy metal chair behind/on top of her, injuring the pad of her left foot with a deep cut from some sharp area of the chair.  I treated her pad with hydrogen peroxide, gave her a Tylenol and she gratefully got into her bed for some much needed rest.  I called it a day also and drank more Bordeaux.  In the picture above you can see that the hair has been stripped down her back to the dead white root, from her shoulders to her tail.


A nice haul of birthday presents from neighbors Caroline and Linda, my husband, son Brian and daughter Jade who really turned the day festive with loads of presents and a cherry pie.


And there were noodles!


Beef, Mushrooms and Spinach Noodles

1 pint vegetarian pho broth

1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 bundle dried udon noodles

1-2 cups fresh baby spinach

8 ounces rib steak, cooked rare to medium rare and sliced

Add the mushrooms to the broth and bring to a boil.  Add the noodles and boil for 4-6 minutes.  Remove from the flame and stir in the spinach.  Add the steak slices, then divide the noodles between two large bowls.
















Posted in Asian, Cooking, Main dishes, Recipes, Soup | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Vegetarian Pho Broth


I was just pining for real Asian noodles with broth and wishing that someone would cook them for me.  Our Asian takeout restaurants, like in many towns and cities here in the U.S. cater to Americans who don’t really want to eat “foreign” foods but like to say that they did 🙂    This is also true in small towns in France.  Outside of the restaurant, I have become friendly with the owner of the popular Chinese takeout in Hawley, PA and he admitted that they have adjusted their menu to feature what he calls “American Chinese Food.”  Not real but profitable.


So anyway, I lay in bed last night dreaming of some noodles I had made with a fabulous mushroom broth and as usual, my tangential mind hopped from broths to Asian dishes that involve broth, to the king of broths, Pho and whether I could make a Pho broth using mushrooms as the base instead of the oxtails or beef shins I usually include.  It sounded like a plan and although failure can be disappointing, I laugh in the face of disappointment, Ha, Ha, Ha.  Trying is part of the fun.  Also “believe me”, I’m always concerned about vegetarians getting a decent meal every once in a while 😀


Beef pho broth is usually simmered for at least 4 hours to concentrate all the flavors and tenderize the meat.  In this recipe I simmered the mushroom pho broth for 2 hours, hoping that I’d get a concentrated flavor after that length of time (It’s hot in the kitchen) and I did.  It’s good!


So that’s it for today.  Tomorrow is my birthday and I’ll go out to eat.  Saturday will be noodles with beef, vegetables and pho broth!

Vegetarian Pho broth

2 cups dried shiitake mushrooms

2 large onions, quartered

1/2 bulb garlic, fresh if you have it, quartered

1 inch ginger, quartered

1 tbsp olive oil

5 star anise

4 or 5 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick, halved

3 bay leafs

1 tsp white peppercorns

1/4 tsp fennel seeds

3 quarts of water

1/4 cup fish sauce

Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water for about 30 minutes.

Add the olive oil to a skillet, then brown and toast the onions, garlic and ginger then place in a large stock pot along with the mushrooms and their water, the star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, peppercorns, fennel seeds,  plus the 3 quarts of plain water.

Bring the pot to a boil,  then lower the flame and simmer for 2 hours.  When done, add the fish sauce.  Drain the solids from the liquid and discard. If not using immediately, cool and refrigerate.


Posted in Asian, Cooking, Recipes, Soup, Vietnamese | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Hakurei Turnips with Greens


Vegetables from Wayne County, Pennsylvania local farms seem to be outrageously expensive!  It might be because the market prices are driven by the demand from high end, city restaurants and boutique grocers.


Still, it’s nice when good quality, local vegetables are available even if they are a lot more expensive than vegetables found in European farmer’s markets.  Anyway, it sets my teeth on edge when I find that most of the supermarket fruit and vegetable supplies come from South and Central America.  Above:  hakurei turnips, kohlrabi, chioggia beets and fresh garlic.


This simple and easy recipe of turnips with their greens doesn’t require bacon, you vegetarians, although bacon is always good. However, a dish of the greens, turnips, garlic, onion and balsamic vinegar doesn’t really require any further gilding.  I won’t lie, I wished for lardons 🙂

Hakurei Turnips with Greens

4 medium size hakurei turnips with their greens

2 tbsp butter

1/4 cup of coarsely chopped onion or 2 shallots, thinly sliced

1 large clove of fresh garlic (see picture above), slivered

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp water

1/4 cup diced, cooked bacon (optional)

Cut the greens from the turnips, remove large tough stems, steam for 2 minutes, then drain, chop and set aside.

Peel the turnips, cut into chunks and set aside.

Melt the butter in a skillet, add the onion and garlic, then saute for about a minute.  Add the turnip chunks and continue to saute until the turnips are a nice, tan brown.  Add the chopped greens, vinegar and water, cover and steam for about 3-4 minutes.

Sprinkle with bacon if desired.






Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Recipes, side dish, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ethiopian Sega Alicha with Gomen


Our family lived in Ethiopia for almost 6 years and although Ethiopia is a monetarily poor country, it’s culture is both ancient and rich; dance, music, cuisine, art and couture, they’ve got it all.  Of course it’s the food and our friends we miss the most!


Ethiopian cuisine is as complex and varied as French or other European cuisines. While Ethiopians are the most carnivorous people in the world, their strictly vegetarian fasting foods are an epicurean’s dream.  We looked forward to fasting season/Lent for the huge, round tray of over a dozen different vegetable wots accompanied by a large, whole, fried river fish.  It’s practically the only time you see vegetables.  Normally it’s meat, meat, meat. When I first arrived in Ethiopia, noticing the lack of vegetables on one restaurant’s enormous menu, I asked the waiter if they ever served any vegetables.  He looked at me oddly and came back with a very small plate of salad greens.  Okay.  Of course Ethiopians do eat vegetables but usually as a penance or maybe when all that meat is blocked up in their systems 😀


I mean guys, for all special occasions; weddings, baptisms, birthdays, anniversaries, they order up and hang a whole side of beef or two from the top of a tent.  Standing next to the mercifully headless carcass is a master butcher in a pristine white coat, holding a large, sharp knife.  The guest queue up with their plates and the butcher slices beautifully marbled portions of the raw meat onto each plate.  I queued up once, thinking that the fired up grills/hibachis would be found just beyond the raw meat tent.  Wrong.  Everyone just went back to their tables, picked up the knife provided at each place and just ate the meat, fat and all, “au naturel.”  I wished for a ziplock bag to take my portion home for a little fire treatment but no luck.  My husband ate his and mine.  He was hungry and in general will eat anything.  Actually that’s a good thing in case of a nuclear catastrophe. He’ll be a survivor and I’ll be dead 😀


Anyway.  Seeing that “pining for France” look in my eye, neighbor Caroline invited me to accompany her to another neighbor’s home for Ethiopian food.  No they’re not Ethiopian. In fact I think a group of Ethiopians scouted NorthEast Pennsylvania ages ago and decided against any future communities in the area.  Obviously they put the word out, so there are no Ethiopians around here and therefore no restaurants.  Although it gets cold enough in Ethiopia for fireplaces, I think the Pennsylvania winters may have discouraged immigration and, liking the high life of dancing, singing and partying found in urban areas, they might also have been discouraged by the “city” of Scranton which is just a gap or cleared space in the woods, farmlands and between the hills.  No disrespect intended to Vice President Biden 🙂


So.  I chose an Alicha dish to make and share because I don’t have any berbere nor mitmita that the spicier Ethiopian wots require and of course I don’t have any of the Ethiopia bread, injera but did have a Mexican tortilla which is not the same but whatever.

For the meat I used about 1 1/4 lbs of beef strips and 4 flanken ribs, cut into individual ribs,  because that’s what was in the freezer.  2 1/2 lbs of beef cubes would be fine.  I also used ghee because I didn’t want to make a batch of Ethiopian spiced butter, which is ghee with added spices; I just doubled down on the aromatics.  The flavor of the finished dish was very close to Ethiopian and delicious but if you have a good, family owned Ethiopian restaurant in your area and have never tried Ethiopian food before, give it a try.  You’re welcome 🙂

Ethiopian Sega Alicha with Gomen

4 tbsp ghee

3 large onions, sliced

1 tbsp turmeric

6 really large garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 inches fresh ginger, finely chopped

2 1/2 lbs of beef cubes

1 1/2 tsp salt

10 oz baby spinach, vaguely chopped

1 red bell pepper, diced large

Melt 3 tbsps of the ghee in a large skillet, add the onions and saute until they wilt.  Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown.  Stir in the turmeric and saute for about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger, saute for about 2 minutes, cover the pan and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Add the beef cubes to the skillet and saute for about 3 minutes, add the salt, then cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until beef is tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the spinach, cover and cook until wilted.  Stir in the last tbsp of ghee, the pepper, cover and cook for 5 more minutes.

Serve with injera or whatever you have.




Posted in African, African, Cooking, Ethiopian, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments