Comfort Food and Easy Entertaining

As a private chef, caterer and cooking instructor I am often asked "What do you enjoy cooking when you're at home on a weeknight or entertaining guests at your table?" I started this blog to answer that question. Here I will share with all of you the recipes that I find delicious and comforting. Many of the recipes are my own versions of classic dishes, some are contemporary twists on old ideas, and some are discoveries I made while perusing my grandmother’s vast collection of cookbooks dating back to the early 1900’s. Please enjoy these videos. I have also included links to some of the published articles I have written recently. Please feel free to comment here or email me directly with any questions, comments or general thoughts. My email address and information on my catering, private chef and private cooking classes can be found on my website:

Parmesan Biscuits

Parmesan biscuits
Yield: 8 2-inch biscuits

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into eight pieces, chilled
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¾ cup milk

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl to blend. Using fingertips, rub the chilled butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the cheese.

Add the milk and stir until the mixture is evenly moistened and forms dough.

Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour. Scrape the dough out onto the floured surface. Gently pat the dough out until it is about 1 inch thick. Cut rounds out of the dough using a 2-inch biscuit cutter. Evenly distribute the biscuits over the pot pie filling and bake as directed above.

Or... bake in a 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until risen and well-browned.

Lasagna Bolognese

Lasagna Bolognese:
1 package lasagna noodles (or homemade noodles - see additional video)
Italian Sausage Bolognese (see video)
Bechamel Sauce (see video)
Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
Mozzarella Cheese, grated

To assemble the Lasagna:
Cook 15-20 lasagna noodles in salted, boiling water, until tender. Remove from heat and shock in an ice bath. Remove noodles and layer between sheets of paper towels to dry.

In a 13x9 inch baking pan, start by adding the bolognese to the bottom of the pan, then noodles, followed by bechamel, ragu, parmigiano-reggiano and mozzarella. Repeat process until all noodles have been used. Top noodles with bechamel and additional parmigiano-reggiano. Bake in oven for 30-45 minutes until sauces are bubbling and the lasagna is browned on the top and the edges. Let lasagna rest for about 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Classic Bechamel Sauce

Bechamel Sauce:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, heat butter until melted. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Over medium heat, cook mixture until light golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat milk in separate pan until just about to boil. Whisk milk into butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring mixture to a boil. Cook 10 minutes and remove from heat. Sauce should coat the back of a spoon and hold its edge when you run a finger through the middle. Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Fresh Ricotta

1. 2 quarts whole milk
2. 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3. Salt

Line a colander with moistened cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl. In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a gentle boil. Add 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice and cook over low heat, stirring gently, until curds form and rise to the surface, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes; the curds will firm up slightly.

Strain through a fine mesh seive.

Homemade Pasta

Basic Pasta Dough
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks, beaten lightly
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 3 Tbsp water

In a food processor blend the flour, the eggs, the oil, and 1 1/2 tablespoons water until the mixture just begins to form a ball, adding more water drop by drop if the dough is too dry. (The dough should be firm and not sticky.) Blend the dough for 15 seconds more to knead it. The dough may be prepared up to this point and kept covered and chilled for up to 4 hours. Let the dough stand, covered with a damp towel, at room temperature for 1 hour.

To roll pasta dough: Set the smooth rollers of a pasta machine at the highest number. (The rollers will be wide apart.) Divide each pound of dough into 6 pieces, flatten 1 piece into a rough rectangle, and cover the remaining pieces with a damp towel. Dust the rectangle with flour and feed it through the rollers. Fold the rectangle in half and feed it through the rollers 8 or 9 more times, folding it in half each time and dusting it with flour if necessary to prevent it from sticking. Turn the dial down one notch and feed the dough through the rollers without folding. Continue to feed the dough through the rollers without folding, turning the dial one notch lower each time, until the lowest or second-lowest notch is reached. The pasta dough should be a smooth, long sheet about 4 or 5 inches wide and about 1/16-inch thick. Roll the remaining pasta dough in the same manner.

Italian Sausage Bolognese Sauce

Italian Sausage Bolognese Sauce:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 lbs hot italian sausage, ground
1/2 cup whole milk or cream
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, with the juices
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups stock (I used turkey stock I made after Thanksgiving)
Salt and pepper

In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and garlic and sweat over medium heat until vegetables are translucent. Add sausage and stir into vegetables. Brown over high heat, stirring to keep meat from sticking together, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add milk and simmer until reduced to nothing, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes. Add the wine and stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer over low heat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.

Crab and Artichoke Dip

Crab and Artichoke Dip Recipe:

1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup finely minced onion
2 8.0 oz packages cream cheese
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Horseradish (or Horseradish sauce)
1 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
5 dashes Tobasco sauce
2 14 oz. can artichoke hearts (quartered in water, not packed in oil)
1/2 lb crab meat, cartilate removed (add more if you've got it)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1. In a sauce pot saute the onions in the butter until they are soft but not brown.
2. Add the cream cheese and stir it over low heat until it is soft. Add the Worcestershire, horseradish, Old Bay, and Tabasco. Stir until well blended.
3. Fold in the artichokes and crab meat.
4. Put the mixture in a shallow baking dish, one that is only about 1-1/2 inches deep. This is similar to the size of a 10-inch pie plate.
5. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the top.
6. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. This cheese should be brown on top and the sides should be bubbling.

Serve warm with toasted baguette or toast points

Homemade Cherry Ice Cream

Cherry Ice Cream

1 ½ cups half n half
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cherries (or any kind of fruit)

Warm half n half and cream with sugar on the stove. Temper in egg yolks. Split vanilla bean and scrape into mixture. Add chopped fruit. Warm gently until sugar has melted. Pour into 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup or any other container (the Pyrex just makes it easier to pour into the ice cream maker later). Stick in the fridge and chill thoroughly.

When you're ready to make ice cream, put the freezer bowl into the ice cream maker, pour in the cold mixture, press the button and 30 - 40 minutes later you have outstanding, fresh ice cream!

Potato Salad with Homemade Mayo

Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe

• 2 egg yolks
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
• 1/8 teaspoon sugar
• Pinch cayenne pepper
• 4 to 5 teaspoons lemon juice or white vinegar
• 1-1/2 cups olive or other salad oil
• 4 teaspoons hot water
Blender or Processor Mayonnaise Place yolks, salt, mustard, sugar, pepper, and 3 teaspoons lemon juice in blender cup or work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade, and buzz 15 seconds (use low blender speed). Now, with motor running, slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup oil (use moderately high blender speed). As mixture begins to thicken, continue adding oil in a fine steady stream, alternating with hot water and remaining lemon juice. Stop motor and scrape mixture down from sides of blender cup or work bowl as needed.

Makes 1 ½ cups

The BEST Potato Salad

2 lb potatoes, quartered - boiled until "fork-tender"
1 large can artichoke hearts, quartered
1/2 large red onion, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together with warm potatoes and cover and place in refrigerator. It is ready to serve the next day... or when cooled.


Ancho Barbeque Sauce

If you're in a hurry - here's one that's delicious!! It goes very well with grilled pork tenderloin just rubbed with salt and pepper and basted with a little butter, vinegar and sugar.

Ancho BBQ Sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons chili peppers packed in adobo sauce (about 3 large peppers, finely chopped into a paste (make sure you wash your hands afterwards)

To make the Ancho Barbecue Sauce, combine the sugar, vinegar, tomato paste, sesame oil, molasses, soy sauce, and chili peppers in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until it starts to become syrupy and dime-sized bubbles form, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and it's ready to serve.

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

Thai Chicken Wings

If you love good Thai food this one is for you. Serve it with my recipe for Glass Noodle Salad (found in the column of recipes to your left) and with cool cucumber sticks and cilantro leaves to tame the heat.

• sea salt and fresh ground pepper
• 1 cup fish sauce
• 1 cup maple syrup
• 1/2 cup orange juice
• 8 garlic cloves, minced (divided)
• 3 pounds chicken wings
• 3 tablespoons butter
• zest and juice of 1 orange
• 1/4 cup sambal oelek chili paste (more or less to taste)
• oil for frying
• 1-2 Thai chilis, finely minced (optional, for additional heat)
• 1 cup chopped cilantro, garnish

1. Season the wings with a pinch of sea salt and a crank of fresh ground pepper. In a large bowl whisk together the fish sauce, maple syrup, orange juice, and half of the garlic cloves. Add the wings and toss to coat. Transfer the wings and marinade to a plastic bag and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight (I’d go overnight or as long as you can).
2. Drain the wings over a medium bowl to reserve the marinade. Heat the butter over medium heat until melted and add the remaining garlic; cook until the garlic is golden brown, being careful not to allow it to burn. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the reserved marinade, orange zest and juice, chili paste, and minced Thai chili if using. Continue to cook the dressing until it reduces to a syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes, and then remove it from the heat. Place the warm sauce in a large bowl.
3. Heat the oil to 350F. Working in batches, fry the wings until crispy, about 5 minutes per batch. Drain on a cooling rack set over paper towels, allowing the oil to drip off. When all of the wings have been fried, toss them in the dressing (you may need to work in batches). Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.

*After the frying step you may also hold the wings in a warm oven–this helps if you are doing large batches. Just be aware of drying out the wings or losing crispness if held for a long period of time.

**For additional sweetness in the sauce, palm sugar may be added to taste.

Fresh Peach Margaritas

Sweet and Sour Mix
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup Sweet and Sour Mix
4-5 oz Tequila
1.5 ox Triple Sec
4 peaches, seed removed, quartered

To make Sweet and Sour Mix:
1. Combine water and sugar in large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil. Cool syrup.
2. Mix syrup, lemon juice and lime juice in pitcher. Chill until cold. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

For Margaritas:

Add Sweet and Sour Mix, Tequila, Triple Sec and Peaches to a blender. Puree until smooth. Add ice until mixture becomes slushy, but still pourable.

Makes 4 cocktails.