Lamb Shanks with Garlic and Rosemary

23 Feb

Slow cookers are like those reality design shows where a crew swoops into a house while the owner is gone and transforms the place into something completely amazing by the time they get back. With just a little bit of prep work, a slow cooker can take a tougher cut of meat and transform it into tender succulence all while you’re off doing other things.

“Crock Pot” is the brand name for Rival Company’s slow cooker but the two names are interchangeable. Whether it’s a crock pot or a slow cooker, these essential cooking appliances consist of three parts:

1) a metal casing with the heating element and cooking controls
2) a ceremic insert that fits into the metal casing
3) a lid

The heating properties of the ceramic insert is where the slow cooking magic happens. Ceramic conducts heat slowly and gradually. It can keep food warm for several hours without fear of overcooking or scorching. The shortcoming of the insert is that it can’t be used for browning or searing, which is where flavor magic happens. Browning caramelize the sugars and proteins on the surface of meat and vegetables, producing layer upon layer of taste. To ensure a flavorful dish, always sear meat before placing it in the slow cooker.

Lamb Shanks with Garlic and Rosemary

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 lamb shanks seasoned with salt & pepper
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 head of garlic (about 10 cloves), separated into cloves and peeled then coarsely chopped
1 cup dry red wine, divided
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped rosemary leaves

1) Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the lamb shanks on all sides and set aside. Add additional tablespoon of oil to skillet and saute garlic and onions until lightly brown. Remove from pan.

2) Add 1/2 cup of red wine to skillet, scraping up brown bits. Turn heat to high and reduce red wine by half, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.

3) Mix together remaining 1/2 cup of red wine, mustard, salt and pepper in the slow cooker’s ceramic insert.

4) Layer the shanks in the insert in a single layer. Scatter carrot, parsnip, garlic, onion, rosemary and lemon zest around and on the shanks. Pour red wine reduction over shanks.

5) Cover and cook over low heat for 8-10 hours. Use tongs to transfer shanks to a serviing platter. Skim fat from the cooking juices and season with salt and pepper if needed. Pour juices over shanks and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Pimento Cheese Toasts

6 Sep

My life changed after a wine party in December 2010. It was at that party that I discovered the pure simplicity and white-trashy goodness of Cheese Toasts. My friend and party hostess, calls them “Crack Toasts” because you become quickly addicted and can’t stop at just one.

I was shocked when Jaime told me the secret ingredient — mayonnaise. In fact, these appetizers are the easiest things in the world to make – stir together some grated cheese, mayo with some salt and pepper, spread on baguette slices, pop in the oven and 10 minutes later you are transported to hot cheesy goodness.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that Jaime was serving a slight variation on the Southern comfort food, Pimento Cheese. While there are many variations to pimento cheese, the basic recipe is grated cheese, mayo, salt, pepper and pimentos or roasted red peppers. It’s a commonly used as a spread for crackers, sandwiches and even as a hot dog topping.

I took Jaime’s info, added in some roasted red peppers along with a few extra ingredients, and created my own version of the “Crack Toast.” Careful — these things are wildly addictive. So much so, that when they came out of the oven, my guests dove into them right away and I couldn’t get a photo of the finished product for The Scallion Scullion blog!

Pimento Cheese Toasts
Makes about 36 toasts

2 cups (about 4 oz) coarsely grated Extra-Sharp Orange Cheddar Cheese
2 cups (about 4 oz) coarsely grated Extra-Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely diced bottled roasted red peppers (rinse and pat dry before cutting)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp finely chopped green onion
salt and pepper, to taste


1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2) In a medium bowl, stir all ingredients, except baguette, until evenly mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste (mixture can be made 3 days ahead, chilled and covered)

3) Slice baguette crosswise into 1/3 inch slices. Spread slices thickly with cheese mixture. Place on prepared baking pan.

4) Bake toasts for 10-12 minutes. Serve immediately.

Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Cherries

26 Jul

I love making homemade ice cream when we have friends over. The dessert is made ahead of time and friends are always so impressed with the fact that it’s “homemade.” Frankly, once you have an ice cream maker, homemade ice cream is pretty darn simple to make.

And this recipe is the simplest of all ice creams I’ve made because it doesn’t require a custard base like most homemade ice creams. I first had this ice cream at Jeni’s Spendid Ice Cream in Columbus, OH. Jeni’s is always a required stop when I visit my brother and sister-in-law. While we have wonderful gourmet ice cream in San Francisco (Humphrey Slocombe and Bi-Rite), Jeni’s flavors are so creative and delectable that I had to figure out a way to have them more than the once or twice a year I get to Columbus.

Jeni’s Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Cherries is my hands down favorite. I know — goat cheese in ice cream seems a little weird at first but if you’ve ever had goat cheese drizzled with honey, you know that it works just as well with sweet as it does with savory. I started with cheesecake ice cream recipes and re-jiggered them to accommodate the goat cheese. To avoid making the ice cream too “goat-y,” I used a ratio of 2-to-1 goat cheese to cream cheese.

As for the cherries, I considered making my own cherry compote with fresh or frozen cherries, depending on what I could find. However, when I saw the jarred Morello cherries in light syrup at Trader Joe’s, I realized I had my secret ingredient.

I put everything together and let my ice cream machine do its magic. Success! The tang of goat cheese tempered with cream, milk and sugar then paired with sweet cherries makes for a party in your mouth.

Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Cherries

6 ounces goat cheese, softened
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of salt

1 cup Morello cherries*, drained and coarsely chopped

1) Puree the goat cheese, cream cheese, sugar, milk, heavy cream, lemon juice and salt in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to bowl and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

2) Pour cheese mixture into the work bowl of an ice cream maker and freeze according to the machine’s instructions. (In my Cuisenart machine, it took about 20 minutes).

3) Transfer frozen mixture to container and stir in cherries. Cover container and freezer at least 6 hours before serving.

Makes about 6 cups
* Can be found in canned fruit section at Trader Joe’s

Butterscotch Pecan Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies

19 Jul

Bar cookies are the best. They are easy to make and you get a lot of cookies without having to be tied to the oven, swapping out batch after batch of cookie sheets. With bar cookies, you make the dough, spread it in a baking pan and pop it in the oven. Walk away for 30 minutes or so (enough time to write a blog entry) and come back to a dozen or more yummy cookies.

These particular bar cookies – Butterscotch Pecan Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies are my hands down favorite bar cookies to make. They are like a blondie but better. Dark brown sugar and dark corn syrup give the cookies a wonderful butterscotch, almost praline-like flavor. The addition of chocolate chips satisfies the inner chocoholic and the toasted pecans provide crunch with added richness.

I first made these cookies when I was in high school for a boyfriend who was away at college. They were part of a care package I was putting together in the hopes the old saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” would prove true. Sadly, I never had a chance to find out because he dumped me before I mailed the cookies. Perhaps if he had tasted these cookies, my future would have been dramatically altered. Oh well — at least I found an amazing cookie recipe from my heartbreak.

Butterscotch Pecan Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (light brown sugar can be used but it won’t be as rich)
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups toasted coarsely chopped pecans

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 x 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

2) Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.

3) In a large bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in corn syrup, egg and vanilla until smooth, about another minute.

4) Turn mixer down to low speed and gradually added flour mixture about a 1/2 cup at a time, until fully combined. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

5) Bake 35 to 45 minutes until cookie begins to pull away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack.

6) Cut 4 strips lengthwise and 6 strips cross-wise.

Makes about 24 (2 dozen) cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days

Berry Fool

17 Jun

Fool is an English dessert that dates back to the 16th century. No one is quite sure where the name “fool” came from but given its ease of preparation, I’d put my money that is has something to do with that it’s so easy to make, even a “fool” could do it.

The dish is generally made by mixing pureed fruit, whipped cream and sugar. Old school fool recipes call for gooseberries but since these can be hard to find in the “New Country,” berries are a common substitution.

I made fool for the first time using a recipe that I had watched on “America’s Test Kitchen.” The dish looked so light and delicious, my mouth was watering and I knew I had to make it right away. The timing couldn’t be better since the strawberries at the corner market were only 99 cents a quart! Unfortunately, the raspberries were much pricier ($3.99 for half a pint) so I opted to use mostly strawberries with a hint of frozen raspberries. Not surprisingly – it worked perfectly.

This is a great go-to recipe and I can’t wait to try it with other fruits like mango or blueberries.

Berry Fool

2 pounds of strawberries, washed, dried and stemmed
1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed and drained
1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons of sugar, divided
2 teaspoons unflavored powered gelatin
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Walker’s Shortbread Cookies, finely crushed (about 1/4 cup) (graham crackers or gingersnaps will also work)

Berry Puree
1) Process 1 pound of strawberries, 1 cup of raspberries and 1/2 cup sugar in food processor until mixture is completely smooth, about 1 minute. Strain berry puree through fine mesh strainer into separate bowl.

2) Transfer 1/2 cup of berry puree into a medium bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top, stirring until incorporated. Let stand at least 5 minutes.

3) Heat remaining puree in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to bubble, about 4-6 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into bowl with gelatin mixture. Stir until gelatin is dissolved.

4) Cover surface with plastic wrap and chill mixture for at least two hours.

Macerated Berries
1) Dice remaining berries into 1/4 inch pieces, removing stems. Place in bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Chill for one hour.

Creamy Topping
1) Place cream, sour cream, vanilla and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar in mixing bowl. Beat on low speed, until bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and continue beating for another 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and beat until mixture has doubled in volume and holds stiff peaks, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer about 1/3 cup of cream mixture to a small bowl and set aside.

2) Removed thickened puree from refrigerator and whisk until smooth. With mixer at medium speed, slowly add about two thirds of the berry puree to the whipped-cream mixture. Mix until well incorporated, about 15-30 seconds.

3) Using a spatula, fold in remaining puree into cream mixture, leaving streaks of puree.

1) Transfer uncooked berries to a fine-mesh strainer, shaking to remove excess juice.

2) Divide whipped cream-berry mixture evenly among six glasses (rocks glasses or wine glasses work great here). Top with remaining uncooked berries then top each glass with reserved plain whipped-cream.

3) Sprinkle glasses with crushed cookies. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Bacon and Rosemary Caramel Corn

7 Jun

Hands down there is nothing better than bacon. Obviously lots of people agree because what used to be everyone’s favorite breakfast buddy is now making more and more appearances in sweet dishes like doughnuts, chocolate and, even, ice cream.

It never occurred to me to include bacon in caramel corn. But when you think about it – it makes total sense since caramel and salt became a duo more harmonious than Fred and Ginger. My first taste of Bacon and Rosemary Caramel Corn was as a Happy Hour nibble at Prospect, a contemporary American restaurant in downtown San Francisco. It was love at first bite and I couldn’t wait to make it at home.

I trolled around my go-to site,, searching “caramel corn.” I found a Bacon and Cashew Caramel Corn recipe that was a good place to start. I also often make Kraft’s Caramel Popcorn recipe without the nuts. While it goes against my grain to use prepared foods, this one is a little more “homemade” than some of their others and it tastes great. I took information from both recipes, paired it together with some of my cooking know-how and came up with this addictive recipe for Bacon and Rosemary Caramel Corn.

The popcorn is coated in a buttery and rich caramel and studded with salty and smoky bacon goodness. The rosemary adds adds a bit of earthiness. It is very easy to eat the whole batch yourself so make sure you have plenty of people around to share it!

A few things to note:
* Use popcorn popped on the stove top or in a popcorn maker. Most microwave popcorns are heavily seasoned and won’t work in this recipe. 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels yields 12 cups.
* Things can get very sticky with homemade caramel so be sure to spray work bowls and utensils with lots of cooking spray
* Cook the bacon until just done. It will cook more when the popcorn goes in the oven so make sure it isn’t too crispy or well-done when making this recipe.

Bacon and Rosemary Caramel Corn

12 cups popped popcorn
3/4 pound (12 ounces) bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon butter

1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed cooking sheet with parchment paper. Coat paper with cooking spray.

2) Spray large bowl with cooking spray. Add in popcorn, popcorn, bacon, rosemary and kosher salt. Toss until combined.

3) Bring cream and rosemary sprigs to a boil in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Discard rosemary sprigs.

4) Stir together sugar, water and corn syrup in large, non-stick saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring, occasionally swirling the pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush. Boil until syrup turns deep amber, about 13 minutes.

5) Remove from heat and immediately add steeped cream and butter (mixture will bubble vigorously). Set pan over low heat and whisk caramel until smooth, about 1 minute.

7) Drizzle caramel over popcorn mixture and toss with heat-resistant spatulas until evenly coated. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Place in oven and bake 20 minutes, stirring occassionally during cooking.

9) Cool completely on rack, tossing occasionally to break up large clumps.

Popcorn can be made two days ahead and stored in an airtight container or plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Asian Broccoli Slaw

29 May

Move over coleslaw — here comes the brighter, better and more nutritious broccoli slaw. I love this combination of broccoli, carrots and red cabbage so much, I can eat it raw right out of the bag. It’s found in the bagged salad section of most supermarkets and, of course, good old reliable Trader Joe’s carries it.

This Asian Slaw recipe is delicious because it’s rich in umami flavors and is refreshing and light. It doesn’t hurt that it takes all of about 5 minutes to make. It can be eaten right away but it’s better if you refrigerate it for a few hours before serving so the flavors can meld.

Asian Broccoli Slaw

3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons miso paste
1 tablespoon peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 16-ounce bag broccoli slaw
3 large green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1) In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, miso, ginger and oils in a small bowl.

2) Combine slaw, green onions and cilantro in a large bowl. Toss with dressing.

Makes 6 servings

Dirty Martini Dip

25 May

I’ve given myself the self-proclaimed title of “Dip Whisperer.” There is always at least one, if not two or three, of these one-bowl wonders present at all of our gatherings. I love dips because they are the perfect party food — most can be made in advance, there’s endless flavor and dipper combinations and, if we get down to it, they’re just so darn good.

While Knorr Spinach Dip is one of my old stand-bys, I’m always on the look-out for new dips that are a good fit with veggies.

This dip recipe was inspired by a jarred Dirty Martini dip we got as a “freebie” at the 2011 Fancy Food Show. Now I love me a Dirty Martini (or two) and I love me some dip so I couldn’t think of a better combination. While the jarred dip was okay, it had lots of ingredients I didn’t recognize and it was a little too dense to be a true dip. Plus I’m a purist and it kills me to use pre-packaged and pre-made anything. So I read the ingredients, googled “Dirty Martini Dip” recipes, made a few tweaks and, viola, came up with a Dirty Martini Dip perfect for veggies like cucumbers, celery and baby carrots. It’s also wonderful with crackers.

Note — some of you teetotalers out there may scoff at the idea of adding liquor to the dip but it really intensifies the dip’s flavors and is a must-do. Plus how can you call it “Dirty Martini” without a little bit vodka?

Dirty Martini Dip
1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese, softened (light okay)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (light okay)
1/4 c. green olives with pimento, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. sour cream (light okay)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 1/2 tablespoon olive brine (“juice” from the olive jar)
4 pickled jalapeno slices (such as Mezzetta Deli Sliced Tamed JalapeƱo Peppers)
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vodka

1) Place all ingredients in food processor work bowl.

2) Process using short pulses, scraping bowl as necessary, until well combined.

3) Chill for at least two hours (can be made a day ahead).

4) Serve “up” in a martini glass with crackers, celery, carrots and other vegetables. Garnish with a few slices of pimento-stuffed green olives.

Makes 1 1/2 cups of dip

Golden Gate Bridge Cupcakes

22 May

Like a lot of other folks, I’ve been on a cupcake kick for a while now. I’m armed with all the key cupcake-making accoutrements — cupcake liners, 1M icing tip, gel food coloring in all the colors of the rainbow and an Oneida cupcake carrier that has logged almost as many miles as my car. I’ve made champagne ones, Almond Joys (chocolate cake with almond custard filling and coconut frosting) and even ones with Creepy Crawly bugs and Aliens. But so far my favorites are the Double Vanilla with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting that I made for our friends Lisa and Patrick’s Going-Away party.

Since our dear friends are moving to Florida after many years in San Francisco it seemed only fitting to make a cupcake that would make them homesick for our beautiful city by The Bay. Using a technique I picked up in Karen Tack’s “Hello Cupcake” book, I decided to make Golden Gate Bridge cupcakes. She uses piped chocolate for many of her creations including the Creepy Crawly cupcakes mentioned above.

The first step for these little cakes was to create the bridges. First, I googled “Golden Gate Bridge stencils” and found an image that worked for my needs ( After printing the image out on a piece of paper and making sure it was the right size, I placed it on a cookie sheet and placed a piece of wax paper over the image. I melted some white chocolate at half power in the microwave and used a combination of orange and red gel food colorings to get the bridge’s famous “International Orange” color.

Scooping the melted chocolate into a zipper plastic bag with the corner cut and a coupler with a #3 Stecco decorating tip, I piped out the chocolate, following the lines in the drawing. Once I made as many as I needed, I placed the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes so the chocolate would harden. Using a large offset spatula, I very carefully removed the bridges from the wax paper and placed them on top of the frosted cupcake, flat side up.

While the cupcakes looked and tasted amazing, they weren’t enough to make Patrick and Lisa stay. Boo hoo!

Double Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes 12

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flower
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg plus 1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup whole milk

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

2) Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a medium bowl, set aside. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and egg white and beat together on low speed until well combined. Using a knife, cut down the middle of the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds into bowl. Add vanilla extract. Beat until combined.

3) Beat batter on low speed, alternatively adding the flour mixture and milk in three additions, ending with the flour. Scrape down bowl as needed and beat on medium-high speed until no flour remains, about 30 seconds. Do not overbeat.

4) Scoop batter into gallon-size zipper plastic bag. Cut off 1/2 tip from the corner of the bag. Using the bag, divide the batter evenly into the prepared pan, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake until lightly golden and toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the rack and cool completely, at least 1 hour.

Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
8oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup clover honey
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Place cream cheese, butter and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat until combined. Gradually add in confectioners’ sugar, mixing until it is of spreading consistency.

White Chocolate Golden Gate Bridges
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
orange and red gel food coloring

1) Place bridge picture on cookie sheet and cover with a piece of wax paper.

2) Place white chocolate in a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave at 50% power for 20 seconds. Stir. Repeat process until chocolate is smooth, about 90 seconds total. Remove chocolate from microwave and place several drops of orange and red food coloring. Stir to combine.

3) Transfer melted chocolate to quart plastic bag, corner cut and fitted with a #3 Adecco tip. Trace chocolate over Golden Gate Bridge stencil. Move drawing around underneath wax paper and repeat 11 more times.

4) Place cookie sheet in refrigerator and refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.

Cupcake Assembly

1) Divide frosting into two bowls. Place a few drops of blue food coloring in one bowl and stir to combine. Place blue frosting on one side of gallon zipper bag, corner cut and fitted with 1M tip. Fill other side of the bag with white frosting.

2) Hold pastry bag approximately 1/4 inch above the cupcake at a 90 degree angle. Pipe a spiral of icing, beginning at the outer edge and working inward. Stop pressure and pull bag away.

3) Carefully remove chocolate bridges from wax paper using large offset spatula. Place Golden Gate Bridges flat-side up on center of each cupcake.