Pineapple Soup with Mint

pineapple soup

The inspiration for this soup came from Carol, who was served this at a retreat for an organization she’s involved with. She didn’t find out much about the dish, except that had a coconut milk base and, of course, pineapple and herbs. “It’s delicious, cool and refreshing,” was her comment. “We should try it.”

My first thought was that I had to use fresh pineapple and that only a hint of mint was needed. That turned out to be right on the mark, though I think may try some basil one of these days. Soon.

This soup only requires a few ingredients and it is quick and easy. Prep is simple, if a bit of a pain. (I hate straining things.)

Despite what you’re thinking, pineapple soup really is cool, refreshing and delicious. Within a week, we made it twice.


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Poached Grouper with Lemon Gel and Basil Aioli

poached grouper

There probably isn’t a more elegant and simple way to prepare a beautiful fish filet than poaching, so when I found this very fresh grouper at a fish market, there was no doubt that poached grouper would be on the menu.

For me, poaching requires fish that’s mildly flavored and firm, and filets that are 3/4 inches to an inch thick. In addition to grouper, you can poach cod, or snapper, for example, but I’d steer clear of sole or rockfish. Sole has a tendency to disintegrate and rockfish can be very strong flavored, to the point of overpowering the delicate flavors of the poaching liquid.


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Basil Aioli

Aioli is, for all intents and purposes, a mayonnaise, but generally flavored with garlic and other flavors that make it unique. This basil aioli can be made in a blender and is extremely good with fish, shellfish (scallops in particular) and poultry. It also has a nice green color which makes it great for decorating a plate. It’s also great on sandwiches made from Italian cold cuts or seafood.


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Veal Scallopini

veal scallopini

Veal scallopini refers to the cut of veal, which comes from the leg and is thin and has a definite grain to it. It’s best prepared quickly and with a minimum of liquid, or it can get very tough. This recipe does that, and yet produces a flavorful sauce that’s rich and tangy.

Over the years, I’ve tried a number of variations on veal scallopini, but this one is the goto version when I’m not in the mood to be disappointed.

The key is to dust the veal in a little flour, season with salt and pepper and quickly saute it, in a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil, for two or three minutes per side. Then remove and set aside. Then saute the shallots, adding a little more oil if necessary, until they’re translucent. Add the juice of one lemon, a half cup of stock (veal or chicken) and the capers. cook that for a few minutes and then, when you’re about ready to serve, put the veal back into the pan with the sauce for a few minutes to bring it up to serving temperature.


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Individual Baked Eggs

baked eggs

Here in the good ‘ol USA, when you talk about eggs for breakfast, they’re almost certainly fried or scrambled, so when I saw them on a restaurant menu at a country inn, I greeted the idea of baked eggs with a hearty “why would you do that?” The answer was “this is how they make eggs in France.” Figures.

I ordered them, of course, and gee, wow, they’re terrific. They’re creamy and delicate and they’re also perfect for those mornings when you have several people to make breakfast for and don’t want to spend a morning frying eggs one or two at a time.

The base baked eggs recipe is very simple. Use an individual buttered ramekin, add an egg, a teaspoon of heavy cream, and a small pat of butter and bake at 350F until the egg whites are opaque and the yellow is done to your liking. Generally, the baking time is about 15 minutes.


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Orange Sesame Shrimp

orange sesame shrimp

Sometimes, you just need a go-to summer recipe that you know will bring a smile to the face of everyone around the table and that doesn’t require much time to prepare. Orange sesame shrimp is one of my favorites in this regard. It’s full of flavor, the ingredients are readily available, and (not counting the time to peel and devein the shrimp) can be done in the time it takes to make some rice to spoon it over.

If you have a wok and like to stir fry, you can make this dish that way, or simply use a large skillet and saute the shrimp in that.


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What is the essence of fine dining?

We’re closing in on the end of the second month at Discovery Cooking, and we’ve managed to approach 50 recipes, assuming you don’t want to quibble with the definition of recipe too much.

Having a good start in the recipe department means it’s time to start working on some other aspects of Discovery Cooking that I’d like to be as important to me (and to you) as the food itself.

Over the course of many travels and more years than I’d care to talk about, I’ve had many experiences of food that I would call fine dining. Most, though by no means all, have been in nice restaurants. Some have been in very expensive restaurants, other is moderate or downright cheap places. A few have been prepared by friends, right in front of my eyes.

I’m trying to get a handle on what it is that sets what I would call a fine dining experience apart from the ordinary. I don’t thinks this ‘essence’ is entirely subjective, although I’ll concede it must be personal to some degree.

Some of the things that are part of such an experience are the ingredients — their freshness and wholesomeness — and the imagination and skill of the cook, for certain. I think that the “character” of a meal is important, too. By that I mean a combination of flavors and textures that give well-prepared ingredients the chance to shine.

I’m still working on a definition, and I’d love to hear from you. What makes a meal “fine dining” for you?


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