Wedding Anniversary, Part 3 ~ Duck Breasts with Celeriac Root Potato Purée and Caramelized Carrots

The main course for our wedding anniversary dinner was something new to our kitchen…Duck! We have had duck out in restaurants, but I’ve never tried making it at home before. I changed the original recipe from Domaine Chandon quite a bit to replace the turnip puree with a celeriac and potato puree. We love that flavor combination. Plus, I omitted the heavy cream and butter by using these vegetables with a naturally creamy texture. I also omitted the canola oil, since the duck breasts have enough fat in the skin to sauté them in a dry pan. Lastly, I used Earth Balance instead of butter when called for.

Duck Breasts with Celeriac Root Potato Purée and Caramelized Carrots

2 medium Yukon gold potatoes

3 medium celeriac roots (about the same total size as the potatoes)

Earth Balance to taste (I used about 2 tablespoons in the potato mixture and about 1 tablespoon for the carrots)

Skim Milk to taste

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds

2 boneless duck breasts

Peel and chop the potatoes and celeriac roots into approximately 2 inch pieces to speed up the cooking time. In a large pot, boil enough water to cover the potatoes and celeriac. Boil until everything is very tender. Drain the water, and place the potatoes and celeriac into a food processor. Pulse the mixture while adding a little skim milk until it is smooth. (Be careful not to over mix, however, since potatoes can get goopy if over mixed.) Add a little Earth Balance, salt and pepper to taste, and pulse the mixture until everything is well incorporated.

In a small frying pan, melt about 1 tablespoon of Earth Balance over medium low heat. Add the carrots and sauté until tender and golden brown. Season with salt to taste.

Trim away any excess fat on the duck breasts. Score the skin in a crosshatch pattern using a chef’s knife to allow the fat to render. Salt and pepper on both sides.

Preheat a large frying pan over medium heat. Place the breasts skin-side down and cook until the skin is crispy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Pour off and discard the rendered fat from the pan as you go. Turn the breasts, and cook until medium-rare. (Adjust the heat to a lower temperature if they begin to get a little too brown before they are cooked.) Transfer the breasts to a carving board and let rest for 5 minutes before carving. Cut into thin slices crosswise. We also carved away most of the skin for a leaner cut.

To serve, place a bed of the potato mixture in the middle of each plate. Fan several thin slices of the duck meat over the bed, and sprinkle the carrots on the other side. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 with leftovers.

We paired our dinner with a California wine called Steele 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. The traditional anniversary gift for the 11th wedding anniversary is made of steel, so I thought it was a fitting choice! 🙂 We thought it was very delicious…Fruit forward but full bodied, which is our favorite style.

Rob also picked up a French Marsannay Rosé by Domaine Charles Audoin as a part of his gift to me. It was recommended to him by our local wine store when he asked for something to pair well with duck. Duck is fairly rich tasting meat, and the rose was light and crisp. Perfect combination :).

Celebrating an August Anniversary ~ Tomato, Basil and Pasta Salad and Peach and Basil Crumbles

Every summer on this day, we have a special Dungeness crab dinner. It’s one of the little anniversaries that we celebrate, and the choice of crab for dinner has turned into a tradition. To us, it’s the perfect Northwest meal on a warm summer evening. (For instructions on how to cook the crab, visit my Fourth of July post.)

To go with our crab, I tried my take on the recipe that graces the cover of Martha Stewart Living magazine this month. I did make a few changes to make it a little healthier and to make it a little more economical. I reduced the amount of olive oil and pasta and I increased the amount of tomatoes and basil. I also used fresh red summer tomatoes instead of the heirloom variety as she did. I couldn’t find the fancy pasta she used at my local Italian market, so I used campanelle. They look like cute little flowers. Any short pasta will work for this dish, however.

Marinated Tomato, Basil and Pasta Salad

(Serves about 4)

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 1/4 lbs ripe summer tomatoes cut into ½ inch wedges

½ cup torn fresh basil

1 ½ tablespoons rinsed capers

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus more for the top

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

4 oz dried short pasta (I used campanelle. Martha used croxetti.)

Heat the garlic and olive oil in a saucepan over low heat until the garlic is lightly golden brown. (About 10 minutes). Strain the garlic, and reserve both the garlic chips and the oil. Let cool.

Combine the tomatoes, ¼ cup basil, capers, lemon zest, red pepper flakes and salt to taste in a large bowl. Pour the cooled oil and garlic chips over the top and mix. Marinate for about 30 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, and add the warm pasta to the tomato bowl. Toss gently with pepper to taste. Top with the remaining ¼ cup of basil and a sprinkling of lemon zest. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

For dessert, I made one of our summer favorites….Peach and basil crumbles. The original recipe was also from I used frozen peaches for convenience, which also allows this recipe to be enjoyed year round. To make it a wee bit healthier, I used less sugar and substituted the butter for all natural Earth Balance “buttery” sticks. My new favorite culinary discovery. 🙂

Peach and Basil Crumbles

(Makes 2)

Filling ~

Frozen sliced peaches, thawed (The equivalent of 2 whole peaches)

1/2 tablespoon fresh basil, sliced into thin strips

1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Pinch of salt

Topping ~

1 oz chopped unsalted almonds

1/8 cup packed light-brown sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 tablespoons cold Earth Balance, cut into 6 pieces

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. To make the filling, simply mix all of the filling ingredients in a small bowl.

For the topping, combine all of the topping ingredients, rubbing the Earth Balance with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly.

Divide the filling between two small baking dishes, and sprinkle the topping evenly over them. Transfer to a baking sheet, and bake until they are bubbling and golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

We served this summer meal with a bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle Midsummer’s White. It was perfect for a midsummer’s celebration! Light and refreshing. It’s a blend of Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Muscat Canelli and Riesling.

Happy Bastille Day ~ Ratatouille

Happy Bastille Day! La Fête Nationale!

I used this holiday as an opportunity to celebrate the cuisine of France. I tried a classic that I have never tried before…Ratatouille. It’s a perfect summertime dish because it is made up of many vegetables that are in season at the moment. It is simple and healthy and delicious. A perfect combination in my book :).

I was inspired by the website since they laid out several French menus for the holiday. I followed their recipe for ratatouille from Gourmet magazine very closely since, as one reviewer said, it’s “the gold standard of ratatouille.” How can I possibly improve upon that? 😉 I am just passing it along to you if you’d like to have a sunny French meal this summer!


1 onion, sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, minced

5 tablespoons olive oil

A 3/4-pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)

1 small zucchini, scrubbed, quartered lengthwise, and cut into thin slices

1 red bell pepper, chopped

3/4 pound small ripe tomatoes, chopped coarse (about 1 1/4 cups)

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves

In a large skillet cook the onion and the garlic in 2 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and heat it over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add the eggplant and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until the eggplant is softened. Stir in the zucchini and the bell pepper and cook the mixture over the moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the oregano, the thyme, the coriander, the fennel seeds, the salt, and pepper to taste and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the basil and combine the mixture well. The ratatouille may be made 1 day in advance, kept covered and chilled, and reheated before serving.

Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme if you have it on hand. Serve as a main course with a baguette or as a side dish.

Bon appétit!


Happy Thanksgiving ~ Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing with Chorizo

Happy Thanksgiving!

For one of my favorite holidays, we hosted a little family get together at our house this year, and we made all of our traditional favorites – Slow roasted turkey breast with gravy (I tried a new recipe from America’s Test Kitchen this year for the main course, which I would highly recommend. The breast is my favorite part of the turkey, and this is a way to make sure it stays moist and flavorful), cauliflower and cheese, green beans with mushroom sauce, marshmallow sweet potatoes, wild rice and goat cheese stuffing with chorizo, and of course, pumpkin pie! I started making this stuffing for Thanksgiving a few years ago when we celebrated the holiday in Palm Springs and I was looking for a Southwest twist on the traditional recipe. It has since become a favorite that I make every year. The original recipe came from the Food Network, and I follow it fairly closely. I make it a pinch healthier by omitting the butter and using low sodium free-range chicken broth. I use real chorizo since it only requires a little bit, and it is a holiday after all :).

Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing with Chorizo

1 1/2 cups wild rice

5 cups water

Salt to taste

1/2 cup finely ground chorizo

1 finely diced large onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 finely chopped carrots

3 finely chopped celery stalks

3/4 pound cubed stale hearty white bread

6 ounces goat cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 1/2 cups low sodium free-range chicken stock

Boil the rice, water, and a little salt to taste in a medium saucepan until the grains open and the rice is tender. Drain. (This can be done a day ahead if you desire.)  Cook the chorizo in a large saucepan over medium heat. Pour the chorizo over a bowl lined with a paper towel to drain the excess fat. In the same pan, add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and cook until the onion is tender but not browned. Add the rice, chorizo, bread, cheese, parsley, thyme, and stock and combine it all together. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking dish and bake at 350, uncovered, until golden brown on top, about 25 to 30 minutes.

We paired dinner with our two house wines – Sofia Blanc de Blancs from California and Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington. American wines for an American holiday! 🙂

10th Wedding Anniversary ~ Mussels, Clams and Shrimp with Saffron Risotto and Green Olive Relish and Caramelized Pear Cake

Rob and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary today with a romantic dinner at home. Cooking is always a fun way to spend time together, and there’s nothing we like more than to create a nice meal and enjoy it outside on a warm summer night. To us, that’s a perfect evening together…The perfect way to celebrate this milestone. The recipes I chose were adapted from the September 2000 issue of Bon Appetit magazine, which I thought was a fun and special way to choose a menu :). Both of the original recipes can be found at We had mussels, clams and shrimp with saffron risotto and green olive relish as well as caramelized pear cake for dessert. I followed the risotto recipe pretty closely, except I halved the garlic. It was a romantic anniversary after all! 😉 We also added more seafood than the recipe called for since it was a special occasion. I changed the cake recipe quite a bit, however. To lighten it up a little, I cut the sugar and the butter and I replaced some of the oil with applesauce. I have to say, we didn’t miss it one bit! The presentation looked very fancy, as well, which was perfect for a special finale.

Mussels, Clams and Shrimp with Saffron Risotto and Green Olive Relish

1/2 cup chopped green olives

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest

2 cups low sodium chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chopped shallots

1 cup Arborio rice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup bottled clam juice

20 mussels

15 manila clams

24 uncooked large peeled shrimp

3/4 cup chopped fresh tomatoes

1/4 cup sliced green onions

Lemon wedges

To make the relish, combine the first four ingredients in a small bowl – Olives, oil, parsley and lemon peel. (This can be made the day before and refrigerated).

Bring the stock and saffron to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and cover. Heat the olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté about 2 minutes until they are tender. Add the rice and the garlic and stir 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir until absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup saffron stock and simmer until absorbed, stirring constantly. Add the remaining stock 1/2 cup at a time, allowing the stock to be absorbed before adding more, stirring frequently until the rice is cooked halfway, about 10 minutes. Add the clam juice, seafood and chopped tomatoes. Cover and simmer until the rice is tender, the mussels and clams open, the shrimp are cooked through and the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Discard any mussels and clams that did not open. Divide the seafood and saffron risotto equally among 4 bowls. Sprinkle with sliced green onions and serve with lemon wedges and the green olive relish on the side.

Caramelized Pear Cake

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

About 2 pounds Bosc pears, peeled, quartered and cored

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs

1/4 cup canola oil

¼ cup applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 cup grated peeled Bosc pears

Preheat your oven to 350. Melt the butter in the microwave, and mix it with the brown sugar in the bottom of a 10 inch cake pan. Spread the mixture in an even layer. Arrange the quartered pears in a flower design on top of the sugar. (One tip is to cover the pears in a little lemon juice while you are peeling and quartering the bunch. That way the first ones won’t turn brown while you work on the remaining ones. Then just give them a light rinse and dry before arranging them in the pan).

Whisk the flour, 2/3 cup sugar, crystallized ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, ground ginger and salt in medium bowl. Whisk the eggs, oil, applesauce, vanilla and orange peel in a large bowl. Then mix in the grated pears to the wet mixture. Finally, mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until just combined.

Carefully pour the batter over the pears in the cake pan. (It will be a pretty thick batter, but just coax it gently with a spatula to cover all of the pears). Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for about 20 minutes. Then run a knife around the pan sides to loosen, place a serving plate over cake and invert it onto the plate. Serve warm. (It also refrigerates well if you would like to make it a day ahead. Just microwave the slices for about 20 or 30 seconds to warm through before serving).

We paired the meal with a bottle of Tin Barn Vineyards red wine that our parents gave us for our “tin” anniversary :). The winery was also founded 10 years ago. Perfect! (The Cabernet Sauvignon blend was very yummy…I’d recommend it if you like artfully crafted red Meritage blends).

A little anniversary celebration ~ Fresh Sweet Corn Flan and Affogato

Every August 1st, Rob and I celebrate two little anniversaries. It marks the day I moved to Seattle, as well as the day Rob and I moved into our current house together. We celebrate all kinds of little anniversaries like this one. They give us an excuse to have a nice dinner or to do something special. I figure who can’t use more excuses for little celebrations? 🙂

This year we had dinner in our backyard under our grape trellis with a bunch of candles glowing all around. I chose a summery menu that was a reflection of the best of the Northwest, since we were celebrating our home. Along with that theme, we had local Dungeness crab for the main course. It’s a special meal that we don’t have everyday, and it’s one of our very favorite things.

To go with the crab, I made fresh sweet corn flan with tomatoes and basil. This recipe uses very basic summer ingredients and transforms them into something unexpected. I followed the original recipe pretty closely (from Cooking Light magazine, which can be found at, so I am passing it along since we enjoyed it so much! I hope you do, too.

Fresh Sweet Corn Flan


Cooking spray

2 1/2  cups fresh corn kernels (about 5 ears)

1 cup skim milk

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 eggs

A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved, to taste

A few leaves of sliced basil, to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the corn kernels in a skillet coated with cooking spray for about 5 minutes or until they are tender. Set aside 1 cup of the kernels for garnish.

Place the remaining corn in a food processor, and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the milk, cheese, flour, salt, pepper and eggs to the food processor, and pulse until well combined. (It will never be completely smooth, but the kernels will give the mix a little texture).

Pour about 1/2 cup of the corn mixture into 6 ramekins coated with cooking spray. Place the ramekins in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Add hot water to the pan to a depth of about an inch up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35 minutes or until set. Remove the ramekins from the pan, and cool for about 5 minutes. Invert each flan onto individual plates. Garnish each with corn kernels, tomato halves and basil.

We ended the meal with another very easy, but very delicious dish called affogato. It is just a scoop of ice cream in a cup of coffee. It doesn’t get much simpler than that! 🙂 (As a side note, it means “drowned” in Italian as the ice cream ends up swimming in the coffee.) Since the Northwest is known for coffee, I thought this was a perfect ending to a dinner celebrating the Northwest. I originally saw this dish on the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. It is so simple, but we think it is a really extraordinary dessert. I hope you do, too!



Vanilla ice cream or frozen custard

Strong decaf coffee or espresso

Scoop as much ice cream or custard as you would like for each individual serving into a coffee cup, and pour the warm coffee over the top immediately before serving or at the table.