Archive for category American

Fragrant Hokkaido Pumpkin Soup

Hokkaido PumpkinsThis is clearly the right time of year for pumpkin anything. This is a delicious soup that makes use of the Hokkaido pumpkin, which does not require peeling. This pumpkin is very sweet, and is generally harvested in early fall.

Oddly enough, this pumpkin originated in New England. It was introduced to Japan and was then named after the island of Hokkaido.

This recipe calls for creme fraiche as both a thickener and as a garnish. Some recipes call for the addition of potatoes to thicken the soup. I’m not fond of this method because we really don’t want a “potato” taste here.

To that end, I have included a recipe for creme fraiche at the bottom.


1 Hokkaido pumpkin

1/2-1 cup creme fraiche

1 medium sized Vidalia onion, chopped

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp curry powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

5 black peppercorns

4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (estimate; see Directions)


First, clean the Hokkaido pumpkin well, then cut it in half and clean out the seeds. Cut the pumpkin into small pieces. If you want to peel it you can, but it isn’t necessary. If you do decide to peel it, do not cut too far in. Just remove the top layer.

Heat the butter and olive oil together in a large sauce pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is soft and the garlic is fragrant.

Add the pumpkin pieces and all of the spices, including the black peppercorns. Mix everything well and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add enough stock to just cover the pumpkin pieces. (Here’s where the use of the stock becomes uncertain. It will depend upon how big your pumpkin is and how thick you want your soup.) Stir everything together, and allow this to cook for about another 15 minutes. Check the pumpkin after 15 minutes. If the skin is soft, it is ready to puree.

Remove from the heat and allow it to cool just a bit before pureéing it in your food processor. Here’s where you add your creme fraiche and, again, it will depend upon how thick you want your soup. Stir in about a half cup to start and move from there.

Prior to serving, add a dollop of the creme fraiche to the top of each bowl.

Cook’s Note: Even though it’s not included in this recipe, there are several other items you can serve on top of the soup, like toasted pepitas (raw, shelled pumpkin seeds), pancetta or bacon,

How to Make Creme Fraiche


1 cup heavy cream

2 tbsp buttermilk


Combine the heavy cream and buttermilk in a bowl. Cover with a kitchen cloth and allow it to sit in a warm, draft-free place until it thickens. This can take anywhere from 12-16 hours).

Stir and refrigerate until use. This can be refrigerated for up to 10 days.




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White Chocolate Chili Cheesecake

White Chocolate Chili CheesecakeI’m not much of a sweet eater, but I do have my weaknesses. Cheesecake, in all of its various iterations, is one of those big weaknesses. So, it’s probably a good thing I don’t make it often.

This particular version of cheesecake is extremely outrageous, combining sweetness with just a hint of heat. If you think dark chocolate is great with chili, just wait until you get a taste of white chocolate with chili. The combination of cream cheese, Mascarpone and heavy cream makes for a very dense, rich cheesecake.

This recipe calls for cookie crumbs as the base. The last time I made this, I used graham cracker crumbs because I had a limited amount of time to get this done for company. Feel free to get creative. Crushed Nilla wafers maybe?  It also calls for 14 oz of white chocolate. Make it a high quality brand. I used Ghirardelli the last time around.

You will also need an 8-inch springform pan.


1.5 cups cookie crumbs

1 stick melted butter

8 oz of cream cheese, softened

1 cup heavy cream

9 oz Mascarpone cheese, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp Trappist hot pepper jelly

14 oz white chocolate, melted


Line the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper. This will make it easier to transfer the cheesecake to a serving dish when done.

Combine the cookie crumbs and melted butter thoroughly in a medium-sized bowl. Press onto the base of the springform pan. Refrigerate for at least 15-20 minutes.

To melt the white chocolate, place in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering (not boiling) water and stir constantly until melted.

Beat softened cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer until it is smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients, and beat until smooth.

Pour the mixture into the chilled springform pan and smooth the top. Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours.

Prior to serving, garnish the top with Ghirardelli white chocolate morsels.




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Pumpkin Spice Trifle

Pumpkin Spice Trifle 2It’s fall. And it’s time for all things pumpkin. I am not much of a dessert maker, although when I decide to do it I’m pretty adept at it. But if we have a dinner and somebody asks me what to bring, I usually say dessert.

The other night we had a dinner and I stepped outside the norm and made a great pumpkin trifle. Of course, you can get carried away with this kind of thing. I confess that I didn’t make my own cake. It’s not that I can’t. It’s just that I don’t feel the need unless I’m working at a leisurely pace and feel the urge to do so. There are just some days when there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. I simply bought a Duncan Hines spice cake. That being said, I do have a spice cake recipe that was given to me by a friend whose aunt swears it’s the best spice cake ever. Therefore, I’m including it here!

For this recipe, you’ll need a 2-quart trifle bowl. They’re worth the investment because they are versatile and can be used for many things, like fruit salads at your summer cookout. You’ll also need a 13″ x 9″ pan for the cake.

Ingredients for Spice Cake

spray oil and flour (for preparing baking pan)

2 cups cake flour*

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 tsp baking soda

1.5 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

2 tbsp ground ginger

3/4 tsp salt

8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup buttermilk (not powdered)

2 eggs

*This will work out fine if you use all-purpose flour, but cake flour makes it a bit more crumbly. 

Ingredients for Pumpkin Mousse

2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup cold water

30 oz of pure pumpkin (canned is perfect)

1 cup packed light brown sugar

3 tbsp pumpkin pie spice*

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups chilled heavy cream

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

*This should be readily available at the supermarket. If not, you can make it from cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.

Ingredients for Whipped Cream

2 cups chilled heavy cream

4 tbsp granulated sugar

1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract

Ingredients for Garnish

Pumpkin Pie Spice



The first order of business is to make your cake, whether you’re using the boxed variety or making your own.

Make the Cake

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then, spray your 13″ x 9″ cake pan with baking spray and lightly flour it.

Place the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, salt and brown sugar into a large mixing bowl. Whisk together uniformly. Add the buttermilk and butter to the flour mixture and beat for 2 minutes until completely incorporated and the batter begins to look fluffy. The batter should be thick at this stage.

Add the two eggs, and beat for about another two minutes. The batter should now be the texture of homemade whipped cream.

Pour it into your prepared 13″ x 9″ baking pan, evening out the batter with a spatula. This recipe calls for baking for about 50-55 minutes because it is in a traditional cake pan. However, I’m suggesting that this might be ready in about 22-26 minutes in the longer, thinner pan. Keep an eye on the bake.

Make the Pumpkin Mousse

Sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over cold water in a small saucepan. Allow it to sit for about a minute to soften. Bring to a simmer, stirring it well until all the gelatin has dissolved. Allow it to cool for a few minutes.

Whisk together the pumpkin, gelatin, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a large bowl until it is well incorporated.

Beat the heavy cream and vanilla using a hand mixer until soft peaks form. Then, incorporate the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture. Mix this gently but thoroughly.

Make the Whipped Cream

Beat heavy cream and vanilla in a bowl with a hand mixer until it holds peaks. The peaks for the whipped cream should be slightly stiffer than those on the whipped cream used for the pumpkin mousse.

Assemble the Trifle

Once the cake has cooled, slice it into 1-inch pieces. Put half of the spice cake in the bottom of the trifle bowl. Top with half of the pumpkin mousse, then half of the whipped cream. Repeat this process one more time with the rest of the cake, pumpkin mousse and whipped cream. Sprinkle pumpkin pie spice on the top layer of whipped cream and sprinkle with pepitas (raw, shelled pumpkin seeds).





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Cajun Blackened Catfish

Cajun Blackened CatfishMany moons ago, before Emeril was the “big thing” in New Orleans, there was this chef named Paul Prudhomme. The first time I ever had blackened anything was at his restaurant, KPaul’s. I used to go to New Orleans every year for the same trade show, and every year the lines waiting to get into his restaurant would run the entire length of Chartres Street. It was worth the wait every single time. The first time I ate there, I had Blackened Yellowfin Tuna. He just happened to be in the restaurant that night and he not only signed the cookbook I bought, but he signed my menu.

Since then, I’ve had many things “blackened,” including beef. But catfish has to be my all-time favorite.

This is best cooked in a cast-iron skillet, but I’ve also been successful using a non-stick skillet. The idea isn’t to burn the daylights out of it, but just to blacken it a bit. This recipe is for two catfish fillets, but it’s easy to double it if you’re cooking for more than two people. This is one of those no-brainers.



2 catfish fillets (usually about a pound or slightly over)

2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp thyme

2 tsp paprika

1.5 tsp Kosher salt

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp garlic powder

Butter or oil (do not use margarine; it will not work)


First, mix together all of the spices in a shallow dish that can accommodate the catfish. Rinse the fillets and pat them dry. Then place them in the spices, using your fingers to thoroughly coat both sides of the fish.

Put the butter or oil in the pan and heat the pan on medium-high heat. While you’re waiting for the pan to heat, be sure that you have your stove vent on and that you open some windows. If you are successful cooking this, you’re going to generate some smoke. That’s a good sign. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve set off the smoke detector in my house.

Put the catfish in the pan and cook for about 4 minutes on each side.  Don’t be tempted to turn the heat down! Searing under this high heat will release the flavors and the oils from the spices directly into the fish. Serve immediately with your favorite southern-style sides!






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Nana’s Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins

IMG_8489.JPGI remember when I was a kid we’d go to Jordan’s Basement with my mother. Frankly, it was horrible. The only way I’d agree to go without carrying on was to make her promise to buy me something. There was also the trip to the food area and those great blueberry muffins.

Bill contributed this recipe. I didn’t ask him how she managed to get the Jordan Marsh recipe, but I’ve made the smallest of changes to his recipe. For the sugar on top, I’m recommending Demerara sugar.

You can, of course, grease the muffin tins and cook directly in the tin. I, however, prefer to use the muffin cups inside the tin.


1/2 cup of butter, softened

1 cup of sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp of pure vanilla

2 cups of all-purpose flour

2 tsp of baking powder

1/2 tsp of salt

1/2 cup of milk

2.5 cups of fresh blueberries

Demerara sugar (for sprinkling on top)


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Either grease your muffin tins or place your muffin cups inside the tin.

Cream together the butter and sugar using a hand mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture, alternating with the milk. Mix well with a hand mixer.

Gently fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the mixture into each of the muffin cups until they are about three-quarters full. Sprinkle Demerara sugar on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped butter and a nice, strong cup of coffee or espresso.


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