Category Archives: Salads

New Work: Food Styling & Photography

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I recently did food styling & photography for Newman’s Own Salad Dressing and Arnold Bread for their annual recipe contest websites, advertisements and marketing materials.

I also have been doing photography for Baked By Melissa (the mini cupcakes in NYC!), for their website, social media and advertising and events. Here are some new shots I’ve done for them recently too!

Newman’s Own Salad Shoot

Arnold Bread Sandwich Shoot

Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-324 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-379 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-399 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-414 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-436 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-476 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-514 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-537 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-550 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-583 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-592 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-614 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-642 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-702 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-737 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-758 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-766 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-776 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-785 Arnold Shoot Sept 2015-807


Baked by Melissa

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Cooking with Color 4 Kids TV Summer Edition + Recipes from Spring Show

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My #CookingwithColor4Kids TV Show Summer Edition is LIVE and what a fun show we have for you…Thanks to all the amazing kids and parents who were on the show and for cooking and sharing all your awesome Summer recipes with us!


Lily McGee & Jennifer Hess McGee made us some fresh and healthy Summer Jar Salads

Maxwell Leduc from Canada talks about his favorite Summer dishes to make and how he cooks gluten-free

Ava Llorca makes us fresh Strawberry Shortcake from scratch – her favorite Summer dish

Deborah Berg from Israel makes us a delicious Beet Salad fresh from her garden

Jacob and Cooper Nixon from Charlotte NC make Strawberry Shortcakes and Caprese Salads with fresh fruits and veggies from their Dad Jeff Nixon‘s garden

Jonathan and Nichelle Pace talk about how they make homemade Pancakes and BBQ Chicken

LIVE on our YouTube Channel at –


Also airs on Brooklyn Public Network television tomorrow Sat July 18 at 11:30 am EST in Brooklyn on:
Cablevision channel 67
Time Warner channel 34
RCN channel 82
AND in all 5 boroughs of #NYC on Verizon channel 42

VIEW ONLINE LIVE at BCAT TV Network Channel 1 Sat July 18 at 11:30 am –


AND…if you missed our Spring Show from May – you can also watch it online at

I made some fresh and healthy Caprese Salad Skewers, Straw and Hay Pasta with Peas & Pancetta in a light creamy Parmesan Sauce and a delicious Strawberry Rhubarb Eton Mess for dessert! I also had a Guest Chef from our video crew make a big batch of Mediterranean Tabbouleh for us on the good!

HealthCorps Kids

Also check out the video also on our Spring show of the HealthCorps kids from a high school in the Lower East Side, NYC cooking Fish Tacos for Cinco de Mayo – so many healthy and fresh things going on over there!

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Cooking with Color 4 Kids was also just featured in Lodging Magazine this month – read the article online here!

Below are my #recipes from the Spring show..hope you enjoy and Happy Summer!

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad Skewers

1 container of cherry tomatoes
1 bunch of fresh basil
1 container fresh mozzarella balls
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar or 1 cup for glace
Sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Assemble tomatoes, rolled basil leaves and mozzarella balls on medium-sized toothpicks or small wooden skewers.

Drizzle with olive oil, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper.

To make balsamic glace (a thicker cooked down version of balsamic vinegar), add one cup of balsamic vinegar to a sauce pan over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes until it reduces to a syrupy consistency. Dip a spoon into the vinegar to check for thickness. As it cools the syrup will also thicken.

Drizzle balsamic glace evenly over the caprese skewers and serve immediately.

Makes 12 skewers.

Straw and Hay Pasta

Straw and Hay Pasta 


Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 scallions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup frozen baby peas, defrosted
4 ounces (1/2 cup) diced pancetta
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
1/2 pound dry egg fettucine or linguine
1/2 pound dry spinach fettucine or linguine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Trim the scallions and slice into thin strips and then crosswise about 3 inches long. Add the scallions to the pan and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes until wilted.

Add the diced pancetta, and cook for about 5 minutes or so until it gets crispy and browned.

Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the sauce to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the heavy cream and continue to simmer another 2-3 minutes.

Stir the pasta into the salted boiling water and let return to a boil, then cook for 9 minutes until al dente (slightly firm and chewy).

Remove the cooked pasta from the water with a slotted spoon and add to the sauce in the skillet, stirring to coat. Cook over high heat until liquid reduces to a creamy sauce.

Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Garnish with black pepper and freshly chopped parsley, if desired.

Serves 6.

Strawberry Rhubarb Eton Mess

Strawberry Rhubarb Eton Mess


2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vinegar
1/4 teaspoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
1 cup chopped rhubarb
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar or honey
1 teaspoon orange or lemon zest

Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Make the Meringues:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.

Whisk the eggs with a mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase speed to medium high and slowly add the sugar, one spoonful at a time. Continue beating until sugar is completely incorporated and the stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the vinegar, cornstarch and vanilla with a spatula.

Spoon the meringue into twelve large dollops on the baking sheet.

Bake for 90 minutes or until the surface of the meringues are dull and they feel dry to the touch. Let the meringues cool for at least an hour or overnight.

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote:
Preheat a sauce pan over medium high heat, and add the rhubarb, strawberries, OJ, sugar and orange or lemon zest.

Bring to a boil and stir occasionally, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes until the fruit is soft and starts to fall apart.

Set aside and let cool to room temperature (or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator if making ahead for up to 1 week).

Whipped Cream: (can also use store-bought if you prefer to not make your own)
In a large mixing bowl, whip together the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla with a whisk until soft peaks form.

Assemble the Eton Mess:
Crumble meringues into a large mixing bowl.

Top with spoonfuls of whipped cream and strawberry rhubarb compote in layers and fold until just barely combined.

Divide evenly between six dessert bowls or glasses and serve immediately.

Serves 6.


Mediterranean Tabbouleh


1/2 cup fine bulgur
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup boiling hot water
2 cups finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Stir together bulgur and 1 tablespoon oil in a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over the bulgur, then cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand 15 minutes. Drain in a fine mesh colander, pressing on bulgur to remove any excess liquid.
Transfer bulgur to a bowl and toss with all the ingredients, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, until combined well.
This dish can be served as a side salad or main dish, along with an assortment of grilled meats, pita bread and falafel with hummus.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Download the recipes below as a PDF:





#cookingwithcolor #cookingwithkids #kristenhess #theartfulgourmet #artfulgourmet #ediningnews #bric #foodtv #springrecipes #summerrecipes


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Shrimp & Veggie Pasta Salad with Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette

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Seashell Shrimp Salad

One of my favorite recipes to make for a summer BBQ or outdoor party is  Shrimp and Veggie Pasta Salad with Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette. It has a light, lemony herb dressing with fresh basil, parsley, dill and tarragon, along with a touch Dijon mustard, Champagne vinegar, olive oil and fresh lemon.

I love using big seashell pasta and adding plenty of fresh veggies including cucumbers, celery, roasted red peppers, grilled corn and scallions for crunch, and adding fresh sautéed shrimp, which you can also grill if you prefer. It goes perfectly with grilled chicken, burgers, skewers and fresh fruit like watermelon, pineapple and mango.


First cook your seashell pasta, drain and set aside. Then you can either grill the shrimp or sauté it for a few minutes in a large sauce pan with some fresh lemon, herbs, seasonings and olive oil and let cool while you prep the other ingredients.


Season and grill the corn, shave off the kernels and add to the salad with the rest of the veggies (celery, cucumbers, roasted red peppers, green onions). Feel free to sub whatever fresh veggies you like to the salad to make it colorful and healthy!


Make the Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette by whisking together some extra virgin olive oil, Champagne vinegar, Dijon mustard, fresh lemon, salt and pepper and chopped fresh herbs.

Salad Ingredients

Pour over the pasta, veggies and shrimp in a large mixing bowl and fold together. I like to put the salad in the fridge and let the flavors meld together  – you can really taste the fresh herbs and zingy lemon when you let it sit together for a bit.

shrimp veggie pasta salad

So easy, so light and refreshing and perfect for a backyard BBQ or beach party.

Shrimp & Veggie Pasta Salad with Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Serving Size: 1 cup


  • 1 pound of pasta (medium-large shells or rotini)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound small shrimp, peeled, cleaned and deveined, tails removed
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • Sea salt, to taste (for shrimp and salad dressing)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill or 1 tablespoon fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs, roughly chopped (tarragon, basil, parsley)
  • 2 fresh sweet corn cobs or 1 cup frozen
  • 1 cup English cucumber, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, diced
  • 2 lemon wedges, squeezed for garnish


  1. Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions (usually about 9-11 minutes for al dente). Drain, rinse under cool water and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Slice scallions and cook until soft about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; add one more tablespoon of oil then add shrimp, red pepper flakes, Old Bay seasoning and sea salt; sauté together stirring constantly until shrimp are opaque, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and set pan aside to let shrimp mixture cool.
  3. In a large mixing bowl add salt and pepper, vinegar, mustard, garlic, lemon juice and zest. Use the KitchenAid® 3-Speed Hand Blender with the whisk attachment to blend ingredients together and slowly pour in the olive oil in small amounts until the dressing is emulsified and mixed well. Chop the fresh herbs, mix into the Lemon-Herb dressing and set aside.
  4. Prepare the fresh corn by grilling it – add a little olive oil, salt and pepper, then char it over a medium-high grill for about 15 minutes. Shuck the cooked kernels off the cob and set aside in a separate mixing bowl. If using frozen sweet corn, simply boil in 1-2 tablespoons of water in a small pot over medium-high for 3-4 minutes, then drain and place into a bowl, set aside.
  5. Add the cucumbers and celery to the accompanying mixing bowl of the KitchenAid® 3-Speed Hand Blender, and pulse a few times until chopped into a small to medium dice. Chop each vegetable separately to avoid overfilling the blender bowl. Chop the roasted red pepper into medium diced pieces. Throw all the chopped veggies into a bowl and set aside.
  6. Pour the cooked pasta, shrimp and scallion mixture, corn and all the prepped veggies into a large mixing bowl and add the Lemon-Herb dressing. Gently mix all the ingredients together with a large spoon. Garnish pasta salad with additional chopped herbs, fresh lemon juice and additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator or cooler until ready to serve.
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Indian Burgers with Curry Cilantro Slaw & Peanut Satay Yogurt Sauce

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I recently did a food styling project for Morningstar Farms to promote some of their new products to local food editors in NYC, and one of them I got to sample and loved was their Spicy Indian Veggie Burger. I’m not normally a fan of frozen food products and I’m definitely not a Vegan, but I was really impressed with the flavor and texture of these, and decided to make a delicious Curry Cilantro Slaw to go with it along with a Peanut Satay Yogurt Sauce for topping served with some Grilled Pita.


The Indian Veggie burgers have organic red lentils, chickpeas, carrots, potatoes, peas, bell peppers, coconut cream and curry seasonings in them, and are 100% vegan. They are super easy to cook too – I just cooked them for about 10 minutes in a sauté pan, but they could also be grilled or microwaved. The best part is they are only 130 calories and have lots of protein in them so they’re healthy and a great vegan/vegetarian option when you’re seeking lighter fare.


My Curry Cilantro Slaw is super delicious as a topping and side salad with grilled pita bread (or you could stuff it all into the pita, or Naan bread if you wish). The slaw has purple and white cabbage, carrots, celery, honey, olive oil, cilantro, golden balsamic vinegar, and some indian spices such as black sesame seed, cumin seed, curry powder, and indian red pepper to give it a little kick, then topped with toasted crushed peanuts for some extra crunch.


The best part? My Peanut Satay Yogurt Sauce – made with Greek yogurt, satay seasoning, and some peanut butter with a little dash of Indian red pepper. The creamy sauce goes perfect on the burgers and cools the heat and has a delicious peanut-y savory taste. You can find satay seasoning online at Penzey’s (the brand I use) or on Amazon – it has a gorgeous blend of spices such as salt, brown sugar, garlic, onion, coriander, shallots, ginger, turmeric, paprika, galangal, cayenne and good! And of course you could substitute any nut butter you wish for the sauce – cashew, sunflower, or almond butter would be great too.


And of course if you are feeling adventurous and have the time to make your own Indian burgers from scratch, I found a great recipe from Whole Foods which would be great with the Curry Slaw and Satay Yogurt Sauce as well. You could also serve this with some curry chicken, spiced beef or lamb burgers, or even spicy grilled fish and it would be equally delicious!

Also, just a heads up – this recipe feeds a crowd (about 6-8 people). If you’re only serving a few, just cut the recipe in half (or quarter it if you’re dining solo!) Enjoy.

Indian Burgers with Curry Cilantro Slaw & Peanut Satay Yogurt Sauce

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 6-8

Serving Size: 1-2 burgers with 1 piece of pita, 1/2 cup of slaw,

Spicy Indian veggie burgers, served with a Curry Cilantro Slaw and Peanut Satay Yogurt sauce served on grilled pita bread.


  • Curry Cilantro Slaw:
  • 2 tablespoons golden balsamic vinegar
  • Juice from 1/2 fresh lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 4 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon Indian black sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon indian red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 8 cups shredded coleslaw (cabbage and carrots)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, toasted and crushed
  • Peanut Satay Yogurt Sauce:
  • 1-17.6 ounce container Greek yogurt
  • 4-5 tablespoons Peanut Butter (or Almond, Cashew or Sunflower butter)
  • 2 tablespoons Satay seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon Indian red pepper
  • Spicy Indian Burgers:
  • 8 frozen Spicy Indian Burgers (2 packages) (Morningstar farms)
  • 8 slices pita bread or naan bread


  1. Curry Cilantro Slaw:
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the vinegar, lime juice, honey, olive oil and seasonings.
  3. Add coleslaw mix, celery and cilantro and mix together well.
  4. Heat a small saute pan over medium heat and toast the peanuts until lightly browned.
  5. Remove from heat and let cool, crush into small pieces and add to the coleslaw, reserving a small amount for topping the burgers.
  6. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to let flavors meld.
  7. Peanut Satay Yogurt Sauce:
  8. Place all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir together.
  9. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator while preparing Indian burgers and grilled pita.
  10. Spicy Indian Burgers:
  11. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat.
  12. Spray cooking oil on each side of the burgers and cook for about 10 minutes, turning half way through until golden brown.
  13. Cook burgers in batches and set aside.
  14. Spray a little more oil on the pita or naan bread and cook until lightly browned, for about 2-3 minutes, turning to cook both sides.
  15. Serve the burgers hot with grilled pita bread topped with Peanut Satay sauce, and Curry Cilantro slaw on top or on the side as a salad (or stuff it all inside the pita or naan bread).
  16. Serves 6-8.


- You can also substitute any nut butter (cashew, almond, sunflower seed) for the Satay Yogurt sauce. - The slaw and yogurt sauce would also be equally delicious on grilled spicy chicken, beef or lamb burgers or spicy grilled fish. - If you're serving only 2-4 people, cut the recipe in half.

Note: I was not compensated for this post, I simply loved this product and thought it was worth a shout out! All opinions are my own.

All recipes, photographs, copy and content on this post and website are copyrighted © 2010-2015 by Kristen Hess/The Artful Gourmet. Please do not use, share or distribute this content in any way without expressed permission from me first.


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The Perfect Beach Bash + An Amazing Shrimp & Veggie Salad w/ Lemon-Herb Dressing

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Summer is here and it’s absolutely my favorite time of the year! The sun is shining, the trees are in bloom, and everyone is outside enjoying the weather making it prime time for entertaining family and friends with barbecue and cocktails by the beach, lake or even in the backyard by the pool. I’ve put together some party planning and decorating tips for the perfect summer outdoor beach party, along with some menu ideas featuring lots of fresh seafood, finger foods, and refreshing fruits and veggies.


One of my favorite recipes to make for a summer outdoor beach party is a Shrimp and Veggie Pasta Salad with Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette. It has a light, lemony herb dressing with fresh basil and tarragon, lots of veggies including cucumbers, celery, roasted red peppers, grilled corn and scallions for some extra crunch, and fresh sautéed savory shrimp. It goes perfectly with grilled chicken, burgers, skewers and fresh fruit like watermelon, pineapple and mango.


I made this amazing summer salad using my KitchenAid® 3-Speed Hand Blender – check out the full post on for the full recipe and all my fun tips on creating the Perfect Beach Bash this Summer!


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Going Low-Carb & Healthy for Spring! Grilled Parmesan Zucchini Beef Burgers & Sauteed Lemon Garlic Squash

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Spring Flowers in Bloom
Spring Flowers in Bloom

Well, Spring is FINALLY here and the weather in NYC has been absolutely gorgeous this past week. I get so motivated when the weather warms up to go walking in the park, get moving around town, and most of all start eating healthy and maybe drop a few pounds or two to get ready for Summer. Plus, with all the gorgeous fresh fruits and veggies at the farmers markets – it’s hard to resist dreaming up some healthy, light recipes to get excited about making.

I know what you’re probably thinking – sometimes “low-carb diet” is a taboo word. And I’ve tried a few of them that have worked in the past (Atkins and South Beach Diet), but once I started eating normal again, the pounds just came back. So I’m making over my diet for the long term with foods that are good carbs – fresh green non-starchy veggies, low-glycemic fruits like berries and melon and citrus, light dairy including cheese and Greek yogurt, and healthy lean proteins across the board with omega3-enriched eggs, turkey, chicken, fish, beef, pork and seafood. My main goal is to cut out sugar and refined carbs like flour, pasta, bread, crackers, processed foods. Oh, the sugar cravings start kicking in the first few days, but once I get through the first week – it’s amazing how those cravings just go away. And my palate changes to crave all the good, healthy foods that actually keep me full and keep those cravings at bay. Yes, I will miss chocolate dearly. And crackers, and bread and pasta. But at the end of the day, once I start eating healthy low-carb, I actually FEEL better. And SLEEP better. And my allergies and body aches GO AWAY.

I’m not talking about living on cheeseburgers, bacon and eggs my whole life. Just cutting down on the bad carbs that make me cranky. And tired. And have mood swings and blood sugar swings. It’s crazy how good I feel and hey, it doesn’t hurt to lose a few pounds along the way. So here goes – Day 1 of my Get Into Shape Low-Carb, Feel Good Diet for Spring. Let’s see if I can keep this going for a few weeks – who knows. I might not miss that chocolate as much as I think I will. And if I feel like cheating? Well a square of dark chocolate here and there (or a glass of wine!) might just have to happen. And I won’t feel guilty one bit. Especially when I’m feeling amazing in my bikini on the beach this summer :)

Parmesan Zucchini Burgers & Sauteed Lemon Garlic Zucchini
Parmesan Zucchini Burgers & Sauteed Lemon Garlic Zucchini

I whipped up this tasty recipe today for some grilled Parmesan Zucchini Beef Burgers & Sauteed Lemon Garlic Squash. The burgers are made with lean beef (but you can substitute ground chicken or turkey if you like), finely minced zucchini, egg, grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, garlic powder and red pepper flakes, then grilled to perfection, served over an arugula salad with a light vinaigrette dressing. I sauteed the zucchini and yellow squash in a lemon-infused olive oil, with some crushed garlic cloves, a pinch of dill and red pepper flakes, and that’s it! Light, healthy, filling and totally delicious. I think I could do this all the time. Enjoy! (and wish me luck!)

Going Low-Carb & Healthy for Spring! Grilled Parmesan Zucchini Beef Burgers & Sauteed Lemon Garlic Squash

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Serving Size: 4-6


  • Burgers:
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/3 cup zucchini, diced fine
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste (about 6 grinds for me)
  • Arugula, dressed with a light vinaigrette, for serving
  • -----
  • Zucchini Squash:
  • 2 tablespoons lemon-infused olive oil
  • 2 small-medium zucchini, sliced and halved
  • 1 small-medium yellow squash, sliced and halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dill (dried or fresh)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (a few grinds is good, but adjust to taste)


  1. Heat a grill over medium-high heat.
  2. Place all the burger ingredients into a large bowl and mix together well with hands, make 4-6 burger patties.
  3. Grill burgers for 4-6 minutes (depending on how well done you like them).
  4. Add a slice of melted provolone cheese on top and some hot sauce, if desired.
  5. Serve burgers over arugula salad dressed in a light vinaigrette dressing.
  6. -----
  7. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.
  8. Slice zucchini into small moon-shaped slices, peel and smash garlic.
  9. Saute zucchini and squash and garlic cloves for about 5-7 minutes until soft and cooked through (but not mushy).
  10. Add red pepper flakes, dill, sea salt and pepper, stir together.
  11. Serve immediately with burgers and arugula salad.

Parmesan Zucchini Burgers & Sauteed Lemon Garlic Zucchini Squash
Parmesan Zucchini Burgers & Sauteed Lemon Garlic Zucchini Squash


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Holiday Brunch! Caramelized Onion, Ham & Gouda Tart :: Pear, Bleu Cheese, Cranberry & Toasted Pecan Salad with Honey Vinaigrette :: Chicken Empanadillas :: Gluten-Free Spinach, Mushroom and Cheese Egg Casserole :: Brown Sugar Butter Monkey Bread

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Holiday Brunch
Holiday Brunch

It wouldn’t be the holidays without catching up with friends and family and coming together for a fun holiday brunch with friends that I only get to see a couple times a year. There’s nothing better than gathering in the kitchen and around the table to eat, drink, and laugh together over some great food and drinks.

Holiday Brunch with the Girls
Holiday Brunch with the Girls

We decided to all bring a dish for our brunch (I love potlucks!) – I made a Caramelized Onion, Ham and Gouda Tart, my Sister brought a Pear, Bleu Cheese, Cranberry and Toasted Pecan Salad with Honey Vinaigrette. We also had homemade Chicken Empanadillas from my friend Julie, a Gluten-Free Spinach and Mushroom Egg Casserole by Donna (our gracious host!) and Rachel’s Brown Sugar Butter Monkey Bread was to die for! Teresa brought some gorgeous Christmas cookies and Peppermint Bark for dessert. Here’s a roundup of our recipes for the perfect holiday brunch..enjoy!

Caramelized Onion, Ham & Gouda Tart

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6

Caramelized Onion, Ham & Gouda Tart

This savory tart recipe is perfect for the holidays and easy to make. You can either make it in a 9-inch tart pan or in a pie dish. It has tons of chunky ham, lots of gooey melty cheese, and caramelized onions, covered in a creamy egg custard with herbs baked in a crunchy, flaky pie dough. You could also substitute crispy bacon or prosciutto for the ham, and use any melty cheese you like. The caramelized onions and garlic give it a tangy sweet flavor that goes perfect with the cheesy creamy custard.


  • 1 refrigerated pie shell dough (fresh or store-bought)
  • 1 cup cooked and cubed ham
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cup Gouda cheese, sliced or shredded (can also substitute Gouda, Cheddar or another soft cheese that melts well)


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Roll out pie dough into a 9" pie dish, overlapping dough 1 inch over edge of pie dish. Flute edges.
  3. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat, add olive oil and butter and onions.
  4. Saute onions for about 5 minutes until soft, add maple syrup and stir.
  5. Saute onions for another 5-10 minutes until they become caramelized and golden brown, add garlic and cook another minute or so. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl whisk together sour cream, egg, egg yolk, light cream, fresh thyme, parsley and salt and pepper to make the custard filling.
  7. Scatter the caramelized onions into the pie shell, and top with diced ham and cheese.
  8. Pour custard over the top evenly into the shell. Bake tart for 10 minutes.
  9. Take tart out of the oven and cover the crust edges with strips of foil and bake an additional 15 minutes until bubbly and golden brown..
  10. Let tart cool on a wire baking rack, cut into wedges and serve.
  11. Note: if using homemade dough, pre-bake tart shell covered in foil with dried beans or pie weights at 400 degrees F for 15-17 minutes, then and add meat and veggies and custard filling and bake for additional 20 minutes or so until the tart is set.


Recipe inspired by Andrew Zimmern's Bacon-Onion Tart, Food & Wine Magazine

Pear, Bleu Cheese, Cranberry & Toasted Pecan Salad with Honey Viniagrette

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6-8

Pear, Bleu Cheese, Cranberry & Toasted Pecan Salad with Honey Viniagrette

This is one of my favorite Winter salads made with a gorgeous combination of flavors and textures. It has fresh sliced pears, toasted pecans, crumbly bleu cheese and red onions, bathed in a slightly sweet honey vinaigrette.


  • 3/4 cup pecans, toasted
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 1/2 head romaine lettuce or 1/2 bag mixed greens, chopped
  • 1/2 large red onion, sliced thin
  • 3/4 cup crumbly bleu cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1-2 pears, cored and sliced
  • Dressing:
  • 3 tbsp veg oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey, heated
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (optional)


  1. Salad:
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Place pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 7-10 minutes until lightly browned.
  4. Chop lettuces and slice onion, add to large salad bowl with cranberries.
  5. Core and cut pears into thin slices. Toss some into salad, save some for topping.
  6. Heat honey and make dressing; toss with salad ingredients, top with crumbly bleu cheese and sliced pears.
  7. Dressing:
  8. Combine vinegar, warmed honey, salt and pepper in a blender or whisk together well in a mixing bowl.
  9. Slowly stream in olive oil whisking vigorously until all oil is blended into a gorgeous vinaigrette dressing.
  10. Toss with salad ingredients.

Chicken Empanadillas (Empanadas)

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 10-12 empanadillas

Chicken Empanadillas (Empanadas)

This is a classic recipe for Chicken Empanadillas (or empanadas). It has a flaky buttery dough surrounding a savory mixture of shredded cooked chicken, onions and spices, then lightly fried to crispy golden brown perfection. Serve with fresh tomato salsa for some extra heat and Latin flavor.


  • 1 tbsp. Evoo
  • ½ lb. cooked chicken breast & thigh
  • ½ medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
  • ¼ cup Tomato Sauce
  • 6 Spanish Olives Stuffed with Minced Pimientos, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. Sofrito
  • 1 packet Sazón with Coriander and Annatto
  • 1 tsp. Minced Garlic or 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp. Dried Oregano Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1 package (14 oz.) Discos (Yellow), thawed Corn Oil, for frying


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shredded chicken and cook until browned, breaking up meat with a spoon, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes more.
  3. Stir in tomato sauce, olives, Sofrito, Sazón, garlic, oregano and black pepper. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until mixture thickens, about 15 minutes.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface, using a rolling pin, roll out discos until ½” larger in diameter. Spoon about 1 tbsp. meat mixture into middle, fold in half to form a half moon; moisten edges with water and pinch to seal closed, or seal with a fork.
  5. Fill a deep saucepan with oil to a depth of 2½”. Heat oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking (350°F on deep-fry thermometer).
  6. Cook Empanadas in batches until crisp and golden brown, flipping once, 4 – 6 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature with a side of salsa.
  8. Makes 10 to 12 empanadillas.

Gluten-Free Spinach, Mushroom and Cheese Egg Casserole

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 8

Gluten-Free Spinach, Mushroom and Cheese Egg Casserole

This is a healthy and delicious gluten-free egg casserole made with spinach, sautéed mushrooms, onions and cheese baked into a fluffy savory dish that will feed a crowd and leave room for the heavier fare at the brunch table.


  • 1 large bag (10 oz. each) spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (6 oz)
  • 1 1/2 packages (8 oz. each) sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup Gluten-Free Bisquick® mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs


  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray.
  2. Sprinkle spinach, 1 cup of the cheese, the mushrooms and onion in pie plate.(I personally recommend sautéing the onions and mushrooms for a few minutes first to soften them before adding to the casserole.)
  3. In medium bowl, stir remaining ingredients with wire whisk or fork until blended. Pour into pie plate.
  4. Bake 35 to 38 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
  5. Bake 1 to 2 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker

Brown Sugar Butter Monkey Bread

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Yield: 12

Brown Sugar Butter Monkey Bread

This recipe for Monkey Bread is sure to be a huge hit at your next brunch gathering with friends. It's super easy to make, using Pillsbury biscuits and is topped with brown sugar, butter, walnuts and cinnamon baked into a caramelized construction of sweet buttery goodness. It won't last longer than 5 minutes - promise!


  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cans (16.3 oz each) Pillsbury® Grands!® Homestyle refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, if desired
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 12-cup fluted tube pan with shortening or cooking spray. In large -storage plastic food bag, mix granulated sugar and cinnamon.
  2. Separate dough into 16 biscuits; cut each into quarters. Shake in bag to coat. Arrange in pan, adding walnuts among the biscuit pieces.
  3. In small bowl, mix brown sugar and butter; pour over biscuit pieces.
  4. Bake 28 to 32 minutes or until golden brown and no longer doughy in center. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn upside down onto serving plate; pull apart to serve. Serve warm.


Recipe from


As I reflect on 2013, this has been a year filled with challenges and opportunities, adventures and growth both personally and professionally. Good times and bad times, which I’m thankful for and have made me stronger. Wishing all of you a Happy New Year 2014 and health, happiness and good eating! Cheers! xx

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Food Styling for Mario Lopez and Avocados from Mexico on NBC Live and Bethenny Shows!

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Mario Lopez NBC Live

I recently did a fun food styling TV segment for Mario Lopez and Avocados from Mexico on the Bethenny show and NBC New York Live. The segment featured Mario discussing his new cookbook Extra Lean,  demonstrating how to use fresh avocados in your everyday cooking for delicious healthy meals. I made his Chicken Enchiladas with Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salsa for the show – it turned out absolutely delicious and was a hit backstage! I also made some gorgeous Avocado, Mozzarella and Tomato Salad Bites for the Bethenny Show that were super cute and delicious. Here’s the recipes and some fun behind the scenes photos from the show!


Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas with Black Bean, Avocado and Corn Salsa

Serves 3


6 corn tortillas
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
6 oz cooked chicken breast, shredded
2 tbsp canned green chiles
1/2 cup mild tomato salsa, divided
1/2 cup low fat shredded cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack recommended)
Chopped scallions
Hot sauce (optional)
Nonstick cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Wrap tortillas in aluminum foil and place in the oven to warm.
  3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat; add onions and peppers. Season with salt and oregano and sauté for 5 minutes.
  4. Add chicken, green chiles, 1/2 cup salsa, and spinach and cook until spinach is wilted.
  5. Remove tortillas from the oven and spray a 9 x 9 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
  6. Place 1/4 cup of chicken mixture in a tortilla, roll up and transfer to baking dish; repeat with remaining tortillas.
  7. Top tortillas with Black Bean, Avocado and Corn Salsa and cheese and bake for 10 minutes until cheese is melted.
  8. Garnish with chopped scallions, additional Black Bean, Avocado and Corn Salsa and serve with hot sauce, if desired.


Black Bean, Avocado and Corn Salsa

Serves 4 – 8


1/4 cup vinaigrette salad dressing
1/4 cup sliced scallions
2 tbsps chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp grated lime peel
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1 fully ripened avocado from Mexico, halved, pitted, peeled and diced


In large bowl, whisk together salad dressing, scallions, cilantro and lime peel. Stir in beans, corn and red pepper. Add avocado; toss gently. Season with salt, if desired.

photo: Kristen Hess


Avocado, Mozzarella and Tomato Salad

Serves: 4 – 6


  • 2 Hass Avocados from Mexico, sliced
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 pound mozzarella
  • 1 1/2 ounce bunch of fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • With a small knife or “shark”, cut the little stem end out of the tomato using a serrated knife, cut the tomatoes into 1/3 inch slices.
  • Slice the mozzarella 1/4 inch thick.
  • Alternate slices of Avocado, tomato, mozzarella and basil leaves like playing cards on individual plates.
  • Drizzle on the olive oil and vinegar.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

photo: Avocados from Mexico

Mario Lopez




Set and Mario Lopez photos: Kristen Hess


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Seasonal Cooking with Honey :: Recipes from the Fresh Honey Cookbook

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The Fresh Honey Cookbook
The Fresh Honey Cookbook

I love cooking with honey – not only in the Fall or dead of Winter, but all year around. It’s such a nice substitute for regular sugar and gives a warm, homey flavor to almost all types of recipes. I recently picked up a copy of The Fresh Honey Cookbook, by Beekeeper, Caterer, Chef and Spokesperson for The National Honey Board and Café owner Laurey Masterson of Asheville NC.  I fell in love with her vibrant recipes using different varieties of honey throughout all 12 months of the year – she offers honey-tasting tips and recipes featuring seasonal ingredients for dishes both savory and sweet.

Each chapter is organized around a specific honey for the month including orange blossom, tupelo, avocado, eucalyptus and blueberry honey and more. In January, she has a recipe for Meyer lemon and Honey-Marinated Chicken Skewers, Pork Tenderloin with Orange Blossom Honey Mustard and Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic. In the Summer, she features delicious fresh recipes for Grilled Garlic Shrimp with a Fresh Heirloom Tomato Sauce, Vermont-Style Summer Squash Casserole, and Broiled Peaches with Sourwood Honey.

She also goes into detail about her experience as a beekeeper and teaches readers how bees make honey, how it’s harvested, what they can do to help the bee population and what is going on in the hives throughout the year.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes from the book for the chilly months of the Winter season. Enjoy!


roasted delicata squash with tuscan kale

Serves 8–10

Delicata squash is naturally sweet and pairs so nicely with the kale and the other tastes of Italy and the Mediterranean. This recipe calls for pine nuts, which are quite expensive these days, but the buttery texture and flavor is so delicious that I am reluctant to suggest an alternative. This dish is great as a lunch salad or as a warm side dish. She recommends pairing this with her Deviled Beef Bones recipe made with Eucalyptus Honey (recipe follows).


3 Delicata squash (about 3 pounds total)
Extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound bow-tie pasta
2 bunches Italian (Tuscan Lacinato) kale
½ cup pine nuts
1 cup crumbled feta cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut into 1-inch chunks (there’s no need to remove the edible skin). Arrange on a baking sheet and spray or brush with olive oil. Season with the salt and pepper. Roast 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. Allow to cool.

3. Fill a large pot with water, add salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

4. Remove the leaves of the kale from the stems and cut into large pieces. Set up a steaming basket over boiling water, and steam the kale just until bright green, about 2 minutes. Remove and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking and keep them bright green.

5. Toast the pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat until light brown, 3 to 5 minutes. (Stay nearby while you’re toasting. Left unattended, they can easily burn.)

6. Combine the pasta, kale, squash, and pine nuts in a large bowl. Toss, and then add the cheese. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Enjoy!


deviled beef bones

Serves 8

Laurie grew up with these wonderful beef bones, which were leftovers from the standing rib beef roast served at her Mother’s Blueberry Hill restaurant. The fat rib bones have a lot of meat and are enough to make a substantial meal out of them. They are served in a barbecue sauce that is a dark, wintry mixture featuring Eucalyptus Honey, which resembles molasses or Louisiana cane syrup. It is then combined with mustard and served as a delicious sauce for the beef bones.

Eucalyptus Honey varies from light amber to very dark brown, depending on where the eucalyptus is growing. It has a stronger taste then the lighter honeys, but is very pleasing to folks who have a more adventurous palate. This dark honey is perfect for the chillier days of Autumn and Winter.


1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon eucalyptus honey
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6-8 whole beef rib bones, cooked


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F if using cooked ribs, or 450°F if using uncooked ribs.
  2. Combine the dry mustard, salt, Dijon mustard, vinegar, honey, molasses, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Whisk well.
  3. If your ribs are already cooked, place them on a baking sheet, brush with the barbecue sauce, and cook in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Finish them under the broiler for 5 to 7 minutes until crispy.
  4. If your ribs are not cooked, place them in a baking pan, brush with the barbecue sauce, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 350°F. Brush the ribs again with the sauce and return to the oven for 20 to 25 minutes longer. Remove the ribs once more and brush with more sauce. Turn the heat to broil and broil for 5 to 7 minutes, until the ribs are crispy (but not burned!!). Serve warm.


Pears with Bleu Cheese

pears with blue cheese, toasted pecans, and chestnut honey vinaigrette

Serves 8

I get excited by the proliferation of pears in the market in the winter. I imagine what it would be like to live in Washington or Oregon. And so, though they are not local to me in December, pears are available and abundant and become the foundation for this delicious salad. Sweet, salty, bitter, and sour: All four tastes are in this salad, which makes it a memorable one for your guests.

This recipe uses a Chestnut Honey, which is one of the stronger honeys prized in Tuscany as a local taste. Italians appreciate many more bitter flavors than we do, and it has a big taste explosion for your palate. The color, flavor and smell of Chestnut Honey varies depending on the source of the Chestnut trees. Descriptors go from light and slightly pungent to extremely strong, breathtaking and lingering.


For the vinaigrette

2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey, preferably chestnut honey
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the salad

¼ cup pecan pieces, toasted
4 ripe but firm pears
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese (Maytag)


1.  To make the vinaigrette, combine the orange juice, vinegar, and honey in a small bowl and stir with a wire whisk until well mixed. Drizzle the oil into the bowl in a thin stream, whisking constantly until well blended. This will take 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. To make the salad, toast the pecans in a small dry saucepan for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat, watching carefully and tossing often so they don’t burn.

3. Cut the pears in half from the stem to the blossom end. Remove the core, and cut each half in half again.

4. Arrange the pear quarters on individual salad plates. Sprinkle with the cheese and toasted pecans and, just before serving, drizzle with the vinaigrette.


Easy Tarte Tatin

easy tarte tatin

I love tarte tatin, the inverted apple pastry, but I am not the best baker in the world, as I’m not really patient with careful measuring. Frankly, I am much more comfortable cooking than baking. But this recipe will produce a grand result even if you’re not a serious baker. And if you have any leftovers, they make a great breakfast.

Get the best tart local apples you can find. With that start, you’ll do very well.


1  sheet frozen puff pastry
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup honey, preferably eucalyptus or local honey
3 pounds tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into wedges
Unbleached all-purpose flour, for the pastry
Ice cream for serving (optional)


1. Following the instructions on the package, thaw the puff pastry. This will take 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the type of pastry. You should be able to unfold it without breaking. Set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the honey. Stir well to blend thoroughly. Carefully arrange the apple wedges in the bottom of the skillet in a decorative pattern, taking special care on the first layer, as it will end up being the top of the tart. Take care, also, to fill in any holes with other apple pieces. Continue to layer the apples until you have used all the apple slices. Since they will shrink as they cook, you want the uncooked apples to be higher than the edges of the skillet, so add more if needed.

3. Cook over medium heat on the stove until the juices bubble up and change from clear to a rich amber color, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the heat and the consistency of your apples. As they cook, press the apples down with a rubber spatula; once the juices are visible, baste the apples with the juices. Keep an eye on them and don’t allow them to burn. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

4. Preheat the oven to 475°F.

5. Roll out the thawed pastry on a floured surface, until it is a square that can comfortably fit over the skillet. Lay the puff pastry over the cooked fruit, making sure that the pastry completely covers the apples. Tuck the pastry into the sides of the skillet, sealing in the apples.

6. Bake the pastry-covered skillet in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the pastry puffs up and turns a golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

7. Place a serving platter on top of the cooked pastry and, holding tight, flip the skillet over so that the tart comes out of the skillet and ends up on the platter, pastry side down. Remove any of the cooked apples that might have stuck to the skillet and tuck them into the tart as needed.

8. Serve with ice cream, if you like, though it is perfect just as it is.

“Excerpted from The Fresh Honey Cookbook (c) by Laurey Masterton, photography (c) by Johnny Autry, used with permission from Storey Publishing.”

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Mix it Up! Non-Traditional Holiday Menu Ideas & Recipes from NYC Top Chefs

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International Holiday Menus

It’s that time of year again to start planning menus and recipes for the holidays. But instead of just serving traditional turkey or ham,  mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, why not mix it up a little bit and serve your holiday meal with an international flair? I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and interview several Top Chefs and restaurants in NYC to get some creative ideas for non-traditional holiday menus for the holidays. Whether it have a Spanish, French, Asian, Jewish or Italian twist; here are some great international menu ideas and recipes for a fabulous holiday meal with family and friends that break the norm.

Spanish Holiday Menu – Alex Raij, Executive Chef at Txikito NYC     

Executive Chef Alex Raij from the Spanish restaurant Txikito in NYC always makes a classic, festive dish for the holidays. This Canelones de Bakalao Recipe (Salted Cod Fish Canneloni with Crème Fraiche) feeds a crowd and references Basque, Catalan and Argentine family holiday traditions that Chef Raij grew up with in Spain. Serve with other traditional Spanish hot and cold tapas such as: Pikillos: roasted Navarran sweet peppers with ajoarriero; Kroketas: crispy creamy croquettes; Boquerón: marinated white anchovy with eggplant and piquillo; Cogollos: butter lettuce, Basque anchovy, and Bonito del Norte and Tutera: gratin of artichoke, Roncal, Jamón.

Canelones de Bakalao
Canelones de Bakalao

Photo Credit: Kristen Hess

Canelones de Bakalao Recipe (Salted Cod Fish Canneloni with Crème Fraiche)

Executive Chef Alex Raij, Txikito

Serves 6

1 9×9 inch baking dish, preferably earthenware
12 – 4 inch square pieces fresh pasta sheets boiled and shocked in ice water (The Chef recommends cooking longer sheets and then cutting them after they are cooled in ice bath so they are more uniform)

Filling and topping

2.5 pounds cod
2 tablespoons Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 cups olive oil
1.5 cup tomato pulp pref. pomi brand
2 cups Creme fraiche
2 tablespoons  finely chopped chives
50 grams hackleback or other high quality caviar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Salt the cod with the 2 T. kosher salt and let stand 10 minutes.
Rinse and pat dry.
Place the cod in a small pot and cover with olive oil.
Place on medium low heat and poach the cod in the oil until it flakes when prodded
Remove the fish to a mixing bowl to cool.
Pour 1/2 cup of the poaching oil over the cooling cod to cool with it.
Heat remaining oil add the tomato fry the tomato until cooked and a little sweet, season with salt.
Pour the tomato oil mix I the bottom of the baking dish.
Break up the cooled cod and flake it with clean hands.
Whip it up with the oil with a spatula or wooden spoon.
Place 6 pasta sheets side by side and place 1/12 of the filling at the end of each sheet.
Roll away from you and place on the tomato.
Repeat with the rest of the filling and next 6 sheets.
Season the crème fraiche with salt and pour over the caneloni.
Bake at 375 until bubbly.
Sprinkle with chives and top with caviar just before serving.

Serve 2 pieces per person.

Printed with permission of Alex Raij. All rights reserved.


French Holiday Menu – Olivier Quignon, Executive Chef at Bar Boulud

Even as Chef Olivier Quignon of Bar Boulud prepares to celebrate his seventh Christmas in NYC, he hasn’t lost touch with the French holiday traditions of his hometown, the Northern French town of Beauvais. Christmas in the Quignon household, and in the restaurant he helms on behalf of renowned French Chef Daniel Boulud, Bar Boulud, is traditional to a tee, lasting up to six hours and spanning just as many courses. What does a typical French holiday meal entail?

Oysters “Always oysters. We shuck them at lunch and the eating begins.”

Cured or Smoked Fish

Foie Gras “This can be hot, seared, or served as a terrine.”

Hot Fish or Pasta


Beef or Game

Cheese “ALWAYS cheese. French people eat cheese at practically every meal. We may sometimes skip dessert, but we never skip cheese.”

Pastry “At Christmas this is often a Bûche de Noel. But my wife is a pastry chef, so there are usually many desserts.”

Tournedos Rossini with Truffles and Foie Gras
Tournedos Rossini with Truffles and Foie Gras

Photo Credit: Kristen Hess

Traditionally, Tournedos Rossini is a French steak dish, purportedly created for the composer Gioachino Rossini by French master chef Marie-Antoine Carême. The dish comprises a tournedos (beef tenderloin) pan-fried in butter, served on a crouton, and topped with a hot slice of fresh whole foie gras briefly pan-fried at the last minute. A few slices of black truffle and Madeira demi-glace sauce garnish the dish.

At Bar Boulud New York, ‘Rossini’ is a dish that makes an appearance on the menu every holiday season, and on the tables at many French holiday meals. It is rich in ingredients and flavors, hearty, and the perfect celebration dish. There are several way to prepare Rossini, but Bar Boulud sticks to the traditional preparation—seared beef tenderloin atop a brioche toast, topped with seared foie gras and Madeira-beef jus, served with Pommes Macaire dotted with a celery root puree.

Tournedos Rossini with Truffles and Foie Gras and Pommes Macaire

Executive Chef Olivier Quignon, Bar Boulud

Serves 4

Pommes Macaire

Kosher salt, as needed
4 yellow gold potatoes
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Black truffle butter or oil
2 egg yolks
Canola oil for frying
½ cup flour

Celery Root Puree

1 small (about 3/4 pound) celery root, peeled
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup milk
Freshly ground white pepper

To Finish

1 ½ lbs angus beef tenderloin, tied with butchers twine
12 ounces fresh grade A foie gras
6 tablespoons beef jus or demi glace
2 ounces Madeira
1 Tablespoon chopped shallot
4 ¼ thin slices of brioche, cut into 3 ½-inch circles, toasted
8 small light green celery leaves
1 small black winter truffle

For the Pomme Macaire

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Make a bed of salt on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and place potatoes on top. Bake potatoes for 45 minutes, or until tender.

Remove from the oven, and when cool enough to handle, cut potatoes in half and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Mash the potato with a fork, season to taste with salt, pepper, and truffle butter (or oil). Stir in the egg yolk to combine.  Press mixture into a bread loaf pan and chill overnight.

Turn the potatoes onto a cutting board and cut into (at least 8) 3 x ½-inch batons. Lightly coat the batons in the flour and shake off excess.

Fill 1/3 of a saucepan with canola oil and heat to 350°F. When ready to serve, fry the potatoes  in batches until golden brown. Strain onto a paper towel-lined tray, sprinkle with salt.

For the Celery Root Puree

Cut the celery root into medium dice. Place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook until browned. Add the celery root, milk, and water to cover; bring to a simmer. Cook until tender, about 12 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the celery root to a blender and puree with enough of the cooking liquid to make a smooth puree. Pass through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl.

When ready to serve, transfer to a small saucepan and stir over medium heat to heat through.

To Finish

Slice the tenderloin into four portions and season on all sides with salt and pepper.

Cut the foie gras into four slices and season on all sides with salt and pepper.

Place a large sauté pan over high heat. Once very hot, sear the foie gras on both sides to brown, about 2 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a platter, cover with foil and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and return the pan with the foie gras fat to the heat.  Sear the beef on all sides, about 3-4 minutes each, basting the meat constantly with the fat. Brown the beef on all sides while basting the constantly with the fat in the pan, about 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 120°F for medium rare.  Transfer the beef to the platter with the foie gras, cover, and rest in a warm place.

Add the shallots to the same pan over medium low heat, and cook, stirring until translucent. Add the Madeira and simmer to reduce by 2/3. Stir in the beef jus and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.

For each serving, place a brioche toast on a plate and top with a portion of beef. Top the beef with a piece of roasted foie gras, and shavings of black truffle. Place two pommes macaire next to the beef and top each with a spoonful of celery puree. Garnish puree with two celery leaves.  Spoon the sauce from the pan around and serve.


Asian Holiday Menu – Hung Huynh, Executive Chef at Catch Restaurant NYC       

Whole Roasted Branzino is a favorite recipe of Chef Hung Huynh of Catch NYC for the holidays. It’s simple, delicious and easy to make and great for feeding a crowd. Chef Hung also recommends adding some miso, ginger, soy and lemongrass to the seasonings to amp up the Asian flavors in this beautiful seafood holiday dish. His Asian inspired holiday menu includes:

Roasted Whole Branzino

Sautéed Green beans with EVOO and Soy Sauce

White or Brown Steamed Rice

Miso Soup

Fresh fruit

Roasted Whole Branzino
Roasted Whole Branzino

Photo Credit: Kristen Hess

Roasted Whole Branzino

Executive Chef Hung Huynh

Serves 2-4 people


1.5 to 2 pound Branzino
1 tablespoon of Aged Balsamic

Seasoning Rub:

1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of picked chopped thyme
3 cloves of minced garlic
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one lime


Before cooking, the Branzino must be scaled, gutted and scored.
Combine all the seasoning rub ingredients.
Rub entire fish with seasoning including the cavity, distributing evenly.
Make sure that the entire fish is covered in the rub.
Take a half sheet pan and roast at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Reserve the remaining olive oil in the sheet pan.
Place the fish on a platter and drizzle with the reserved olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.


Jewish Holiday Menu – Zach Kutsher, Proprietor, Kutsher’s Tribeca

Zach Kutsher, Chef and Owner of Kutsher’s Tribeca, always serves Latkes for the Hanukkah holiday. These crispy potato latkes are a traditional Jewish dish made of grated potatoes, onion, eggs and matzo meal, shaped into round potato pancakes and fried to a crispy golden brown. The traditional way to serve them is with a spoonful of sour cream, but Zach likes to also add ½ ounce of caviar (salmon roe, paddlefish caviar and wasabi flying fish roe) to the latkes to give them a special holiday touch. Some other fun ideas that Chef Zach does to dress up the latkes are to use some non-traditional savory toppings such as:

Peking Duck with Cucumber, Scallions and Sesame Hoisin

Wild Hen of the Woods Mushrooms and Herbed Ricotta

Gravlax and Dilled Creme Fraiche

Pastrami Reuben (pastrami, sauerkraut, emmentaler and thousand island dressing)

VLT – Veal Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato

To make it a complete Jewish holiday menu, serve the latkes with: Chopped Duck and Chicken Liver, Seasonal Pickles, Golden and Red Beet Salad with Lemon Ricotta, Arugula and Pecans, Turkey or Brisket with Challah Chestnut Stuffing, Cheesy Spaetzle Kugel, Brussels Sprouts and Pumpkin Shlishkas with Amaretto Matzo and Sage Brown Butter and Babka Sticky Buns for dessert.

Crispy Potato Latkes
Crispy Potato Latkes

Photo Credit: Kutsher’s Tribeca

Potato Latkes Recipe

Zach Kutsher, Kutsher’s Tribeca


1 pound potatoes
1 egg
1 egg yolk
6 ounces onion
3/4 ounces matzo meal
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoons lemon juice


Grate onion on the fine side of a cheese grater and then line a strainer with some paper towels and let drain in sink as dry as possible.

Mix egg, yolk, matzo meal, salt, lemon juice, and drained onion together, set aside.

Julienne the potatoes (cut into thin small matchsticks) or grate on the large side of cheese grater, and periodically put the potato in the egg mix to prevent browning. Do not wash potato after it is cut.

Mix all together, fry in schmaltz (rendered/clarified chicken or goose fat – or you can substitute canola oil)

Take one handful of mix, twisted in the palm of your hand like you would spaghetti on a fork, till golden brown and crispy, then flip.

Finish in oven if necessary.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Italian Holiday Menu – Gabe Thompson, Executive Chef of Epicurean Group (dell’anima, L’Artusi, L’Apicio, and Anfora)

Grilled Pork Chop
Grilled Pork Chop

Photo Credit: Epicurean Group

Chef Thompson, Executive Chef of the Epicurean Group in NYC loves creating special menus for the holidays. It is all about the food, flavors and family. His menu below puts his crave-able Italian twist on some fall favorites to make for a classic holiday menu!

Roasted Acorn Squash Salad– radicchio, agrodolce raisins, pecans, fiore sardo (aged Sheeps milk cheese)

Orecchiette — turkey sausage, sage, sweet potato

Grilled Pork Chop — roasted vegetable and chestnut panzanella, pork sugo

Warm Cranberry-pumpkin Budino – served with apple cider sauce


Roasted Acorn Squash Salad Recipe

Executive Chef Gabe Thompson, Epicurean Group

Serves 4-6

2 acorn squash (1 ½ pounds)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
8 sage leaves
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut each squash into 8-9 wedges, each wedge about 1 inch thick. Remove and discard seeds. In a large bowl, toss the squash wedges together with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season generously with salt.

Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of butter. As soon as the butter melts, add half of the squash to the pan, arranging the pieces so that they are cut-side down. Sprinkle half of the sage over the squash. Cook undisturbed until it is golden brown on one side, about 2-3 minutes. Turn each squash piece over and cook for another 2-3 minutes until golden brown on the other side. Remove squash from the pan and place on a half sheet tray or cookie sheet. Repeat this process with remaining olive oil, butter, squash and sage leaves.

Drizzle maple syrup over the squash segments. Place in the oven and bake until each piece of squash is easily pierced with a fork, about 25-30 minutes. Remove and set aside.



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