Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gina's Gems

For a printable version click here
Gina's Gems

This is a most impressive appetizer. Dried fruit comes to life when plumped in Marsala wine. The cheese and nut filling is wrapped in tissue-thin prosciutto and served warm on a small silver platter with lemon and lime wedges.

Marsala wine, Sicilia, Italy.Image via Wikipedia

4 ounces dried figs, whole

4 ounces pitted large dates, whole

4 ounces dried apricots, whole

1 cup Marsala (I have also used Madera, Vermouth, dry Sherry, or white wine)

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup favorite nuts, toasted and chopped

8 ounces imported prosciutto, thinly sliced

Juice of one lemon

Lemon and lime slices (garnish)

Chopped fresh Italian parsley (garnish)

Cut the figs in half and combine with the dates and apricots in a small bowl. Cover with 1 cup white wine and let marinate at least one hour or overnight, tossing a few times.

Process the cream cheese, nuts and 1 tablespoon marinating liquid in a food processor until blended, refrigerate until cold for easier handling.

Drain the marinated fruit reserving the liquid. Slit each date and apricot down the center and open each fig half along the cut side to form a pocket. Fill each piece of fruit with a teaspoon of the cheese mixture.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut strips of prosciutto to wrap around each stuffed fruit. Sprinkle with some of the reserved marinade as you work to keep the prosciutto moist.

Place the wrapped fruit on a baking sheet and bake until heated through, 7 to 10 minutes.

Let cool slightly, arrange on a serving dish, sprinkle with lemon juice, garnish with lemon and lime slices. Sprinkle with parsley.

Dates Stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese & Wrappe...Image by talekinker via Flickr

Makes about 40 appetizers

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How she wore her hair in the 80s

Cover of "Working Girl"Cover of Working Girl

Big teased bangs

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Monday, August 24, 2009

The 80s –– What's Hot / What's Not

Sinead O'Connor / Twiggy

microwaves / short-wave radio

Swatches / Micky Mouse watches

sun-dried tomatoes / freeze-dried coffee

hairstylist / hairdresser

All-you-can-eat buffet / juice bars

parachute pants / hot pants

Overeater’s Anonymous / three squares

Roseanne Barr / Donna Reed

Dirty Dancing / Dirty Harry

Steven King / Alfred Hitchcock


shag / pixie

Guess jeans / Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Fatal Attraction / Love Story

Dippity-Do / Dudley Do-Right

mini quiche / maxi skirt

Texas Two-Step / Tennessee Waltz

Oprah / Liberace

New Kids On The Block / The Partridge Family

chopsticks in your hair / flowers in your hair

Prozac / Valium

E.T. / AT&T

Bruce Willis / Lee Majors

Ben and Jerry’s / Mister Frosty

Portabello mushrooms / B&B canned mushrooms

Starbucks / Chock full o’Nuts

mousse / Brylcream

curling irons / hot rollers

yuppies / hippies

spiral perms / sleek and smooth

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gravlax with Dill Mustard Sauce

For a printable version click here

Gravlax with Dill Mustard Sauce

Gravlax with Dill Mustard Sauce

2-3 pound salmon fillet, halved lengthwise and thoroughly boned (preferably wild caught)

1 large bunch of dill

1/3 cup kosher salt

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper

5 or 6 drops liquid smoke

Place half the fish, skin side down, in a deep glass dish. Spread most of the dill (saving a small amount for dill mustard sauce).

Mix remainder of ingredients and sprinkle over the dill. Top with the other half of fish, skin side up. You now have a dill sandwich on fish.

Cover the fish with clear plastic wrap and weight it with a five-pound object. I use a patio brick, which I ran through the dishwasher. I covered it with aluminum foil and placed it in a plastic bag.

Refrigerate the weighted fish for 48 to 72 hours, turning the salmon every 12 hours and basting with the accumulated juices.

To serve, remove fish from marinade (save your brick for next time), scrape away dill and spices and pat dry. Slice diagonally very thin and serve with any or all of the following: lemon/lime wedges, assorted bagels and black bread, thinly sliced purple onion, capers, cream cheese and dill mustard sauce (recipe follows).

Serves 6-10

Dill Mustard Sauce

½ cup sweet mustard

½ cup dairy sour cream

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

Mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

The 80s

Glitter, metal and mousse

IMG_0349Image by Mikey White via Flickr

Was there ever a decade when hair conspired so mightily with fashion to create such an indelible look?

We’re talking big hair as in mall hair. Nothing subtle about the look, though conservative Reaganomics in this decade reigned supreme. As the incoming president talked about making government smaller, we made our hair, well, larger.

Yes, skinny ties were in (again), but everything else was big –– as in Tom Hanks BIG (the movie). Or world events, via the new Internet. Chernobyl came at us disastrously fast and huge. The space shuttle Challenger disintegrated before our eyes.

All the while, we 9-to-5 girls kept our heads high (kind of like our hair), strutting our stuff in pantsuits shaped by spongy shoulder pads. Evenings, headed out, we pumped up the volume even more, channeling our inner material girl, hair crimped and even pinned right of center.

Unisex salons replaced wash-and-set beauty parlors as skinny young hipsters went[CC1] androgynous. Straight (hair, that is) was out. Punk was in: buzzed sides with bleached or dyed gel-spiked tops took the prize for outré.

Mothers sighed. Stylists moaned then competed to shock. But our concerns ambled elsewhere. Abroad, the Cold War was ending, the Berlin Wall coming down. On the other side of the world, students shouted for revolution in Tiananmen Square.

It seemed silly to worry about parachute pants or ripped sweatshirts worn off the shoulder a la Flash dance. So what if we couldn’t solve Rubik’s Cube –– the stock market was barely crawling out of its crash.

Some comfort came from knowing we could count on Boss Springsteen, try out the New Coke or find convenient nutrition with salad-in-a-bag. The parents of the coming Generation Xers were falling in love with E.T., Hamburger Helper,

The Helping Hand in a Hamburger Helper commercialImage via Wikipedia

hair bands, leg warmers, Healthy Choice frozen dinners and a rascally new family called the Simpsons.

Cabbage Patch dolls had started making their rounds, along with the Cabbage Soup diet. We’re betting you bought your first answering machine or CD and learned to use a fax machine back then.

If hair was bigger, food was faster. Taco Bell, The Olive Garden and Pizza Hut threw their edible hats into the circle of yum. But until we yearned to entertain in style, setting cloth napkins and crystal wine glasses next to our real silver and best china plates. Between experiment and tried-and-true, we chose the former: baked brie from Ladies’ Home Journal, penne a la vodka (McCall’s). And by now dinner conversation was beginning to turn to an esoteric company that sounded like some kind of ingenious new fiber: Microsoft.

BrieImage by ex.libris via Flickr

Let’s get stuck in the eighties for a while, shall we?

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

How she wore her hair: the Wedge

The Dorothy Hammill haircut was popular in the 70s.

Cooking can make you popular

The world will come to your door if you can cook. For some, that may hold little appeal, since they would rather meet the world at a restaurant and leave the cleanup to the hired help.

But if you’re like us and enjoy entertaining and if you’re good at it, you gain rock-star status. Friends and family brag about your fabulous culinary skills, schlep new friends to your table and invite you to come to dinner at their house. (“Bring something? Sure! How about that pear custard you make? Or, maybe your famous goat-cheese appetizer!”)

The downside is that they will want you to host holiday dinners, but that’s hardly a downside if you love cooking. Have them bring wine. Expensive wine is best.

A candle lit for "Coifed to Cook"

A member of our tasting panel, Maddalena “Maddie” DeRosa Brown, recently returned from a trip that included a Mediterranean cruise. Among other spots, she and her husband stopped in Italy, Turkey and the Grecian island Crete. While in Crete, she came upon a stone chapel where natives and visitors alike light a candle on an altar. Perhaps they are honoring a loved one, or like Maddie, wishing good luck and good fortune for a friend's new endeavor. In any case, we hope Maddie's lit candle (far right in the photo) brings us luck. To view a recipe named for Maddie – “Pasta Maddalena” -- go to Check out more of Gina's gold medal recipes on Thanks Maddie!