Pinto bean chili with pan-roasted spices and chipotleA few weeks ago, I wrote a feature for the celebrated (and fast-growing) online wine magazine Palate Press. The title: Big Chili, Bold Wines. The occasion: The Super Bowl.

As the name suggests, the feature was not just about chili, but about what wines to serve with this all-American dish.

So to churn up a little inspiration, I decided to invite my sister-in-law, her husband (a true wine lover) and my two nieces for a big-chili night with wine tasting.

One of the things I love about my ten-year-old and seven-year-old nieces is how adventurous they are with food (they taste everything I put in front of them — well, at least once!). I’d prepared wine-tasting sheets for the adults listing four categories (color, nose, texture and flavor) and I thought, Why not get the girls engaged as well — at least in the first two steps.

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Mac and Cheese with braised leeks and asiagoThe first time I tasted macaroni and cheese, I was well into my twenties. The experience was entirely new — and entirely pleasing. How could it not be? After all, pasta and cheese is one of those superb pairings that delight just about everyone, regardless of their age, gender or background.

But if you were raised in a French household like I was, your only experience of pasta (“les nouilles”), would have been of limp, overcooked noodles tossed with a little butter and served alongside a steak — a far cry from the luscious mixture of creamy cheeses and macaroni that Kraft turned into an icon in 1937 with the “Kraft Dinner.”

Needless to say, I was eager to adopt my new homeland’s favorite comfort food as my own. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I adore all cheeses, regardless of how stinky, how aged or how moldy they might be!

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Food and Style - Cheese fondue with chipotle and tequila

When my good friend Doug Stone asked me to create a few recipes with tequila for his new website ForTequilaLovers, I was thrilled. Not only do I adore tequila on its own or in cocktails, I also love cooking with it — its unusual flavor pairs beautifully with so many foods!

Here I’ve created a new-world version of the classic Swiss fondue. The tequila adds a wonderful dimension to this truly scrumptious fondue and the chipotle lends a hint of smokiness to it. It’s so addictive that when I first tested the recipe, Marc (my best taster and hubby!) ate the whole thing so fast I thought he’d inhaled it!

I recommend either a Reposado Tequila or Mezcal for this recipe, because their deep, powerful flavor stands up nicely to the cheese and actually cuts through the richness of the fondue.

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Maple-poached pear sundae

October 24, 2009

Maple-poached pear sundae

After moving to Vermont in the late eighties, it didn’t take long for me to become familiar with what is probably the state’s signature product: maple syrup. “Sugaring” is the process of tapping the sap of sugar maples and then boiling down the clear liquid until the water has evaporated and the syrup acquires its distinctive amber color.

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Who doesn’t love Caesar salad? I haven’t met anyone yet… And it’s been a favorite of mine ever since my college days in California. Back then (do I dare mention it was in the early eighties!) any trendy restaurant would assemble it right at your table. The waiter would arrive with his arsenal and furiously whip an egg to make the dressing. Going out for dinner and not ordering one was inconceivable!

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