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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Spicy Olive Oil

Forgive me for neglecting this recipe back when I made the Spanish Tapenade. This should always be in you pantry. You'll get addicted to it fast! This recipe comes from Peter Reinhart's cookbook, "American Pie." It's a fantastic book about making all kinds of pizza and some recipes for flavorings and toppings of those pizzas. Peter traveled around the world eating pizza for this research, but most of the time he teaches baking at Johnson & Wales University. I make it sound like I know the guy, but I've never met him. I hope to some day. Click here to visit his site

Spicy Olive Oil

1 cup Olive Oil
4 t red chili pepper flakes
4 t sweet or smoked paprika (See inset photo for brand I use)
1 large clove garlic, peeled
1/4 t salt (optional)

Place oil, chili flakes, paprika and garlic in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. It won't bubble like boiled water, but the pepper and garlic will appear to be deep frying. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes. Strain oil through a paper towel lined funnel into a jar and let oil cool completely. Cover and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks. Bingo, you're good to go. And look at that beautiful color.

The oil is almost as red as the can of smoked paprika!

Notes: I store this in my pantry for weeks if not months without any flavor issues.

Spicy Steamed Clams with a Touch of Pesto

First, buy a bag of 50 clams and keep them on ice until ready to cook. I use whatever is available. Today it was Maine Ocean Clams. They are about the size of little necks. That's the size you want to shoot for.

Rinse each clam under cold water and place back on ice. Discard any clams with broken shells or open shells that won't close after tapping them against side of sink.

For this recipe, you will need:
50 clams
2 T pesto
4 T garlic
1/3 cup spicy olive oil (or more) (See spicy olive oil recipe)

Make a batch of pesto and set aside or defrost a couple of "ice" cubes of frozen pesto. View Caprese Napoleon post (August 8, 2007) for details.

In a large pot, preferably 12 qt, but 8 qt will do, pour in 1/3 c spicy olive oil and place over medium heat.

While oil is heating, finely chop 4 cloves of garlic.

Put 1/2 of the chopped garlic in pot with oil and saute until glassy, about 2 minutes.

Increase heat to high.

Add all 50 clams along with 1/4 cup of water or white wine and 1 T of pesto, give a little shake of the pot and then place lid on top of pot.

While clams are steaming, line a large funnel with paper towels and place over bowl or wide-mouth jar. A china hat works, too, but probably still needs to be lined with paper towels. The simplest way to do this would be to fold the paper towel corner to corner to create a triangle. Then fold the two corners on the longest side together to form a triangle with three equal sides. Separate one fold of paper from others to form a paper funnel and place inside funnel or china hat.

After about 5 minutes start looking at the clams. Once a large majority of clams are open, remove pot from heat.

Remove clams with a slotted spoon and place on previously heated platter.

Pour all broth in pan through lined funnel.

Pour strained broth back into pan and place pan back on burner at high heat and return to a boil.

Add 2T chopped garlic and 1 T of pesto to strained broth along with the 50 clams.

Give the pot a few good shakes and remove from heat.

Ladle clams and broth into individual bowls and serve with crusty Italian or French bread for mopping! Alternatively, you can put hot pasta in the bowls and ladle broth and clams on top of that.


The funnel business is all about removing the sand. And to remove that, you also remove all the garlic and evidence of pesto. That's why the same amounts are added back to the strained broth. If it's too garlicky for you, start with 1 T in the steaming and 1 T of garlic in the strained broth. Don't skimp on the pesto because it gives the broth a nice color.

This works well over pasta, but the broth is naturally real watery and best suited for mopping with good crusty bread. I also like to keep the bottle of spicy O.O. by my side. I usually add more to my broth after the fact and, of course, adding the oil to the pasta works, too. I'm not a big fan of serving bread with my pasta, but of course, do what you want. Try it both ways and see how you like it. I would love to hear about your results. Until next time.....Blaise

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Five Spice Chicken Recipe

Here I go again with another text entry. I'm just trying to keep my blog more current. I would post a video daily if I could, but that isn't physically, logistically or artistically possible! Anyway, I wanted to share the following recipe with you that I put to the test this evening.

First buy Five Spice or, better yet, grind your own. There are several different versions of five spice, Chinese, French, Tunisian, but you can experiment with either. Two recipes follow:

1T black peppercorns
1T cloves
1.5 t cardamom
1.5 t ground nutmeg (be careful, this is one of the reasons you want to use five spice sparingly. This can be cut back to .5 t without losing too much nutmeg flavor.)
1 t ground cinnamon

Place all in a spice (or coffee) grinder and process until powdery. The best coffee grinder I've found for both grinding coffee and spices is the basic Krups model.
Click here to view grinder -

2 t szechuan peppercorns, roasted in dry skillet over low heat until aroma released
8 star anise
6 cloves
1.5 T fennel seeds
1 T ground cinnamon

Place all in a spice (or coffee) grinder and process until powdery. Be careful when removing lid. The szechuan peppercorns could burn like hell if inhaled.

Slice 1# boneless chicken breast in half horizontally. Lay breast flat on cutting board and slice in half with blade of knife parallel to counter. Alternatively, place breast between two sheets of wax paper or disposable cutting sheets and pound gently with rolling pin.

Once you get the chicken to an even thickness of about 1/2 inch, coat on each side with five spice rub. Sautee over med-high heat in 1 T grapeseed oil. Place in pan right as oil begins smoking. Turn after 3 minutes on one side. Sautee another 2- 3 minutes, remove from heat, place on a warm plate and cover with foil for 5 minutes.

Serve with rice or cous-cous and a salad.

Cuisine et Dependance , Montreal CA - Restaurant Review

This is about 3 weeks late, but I hemmed and hawed about the value of a traditional blog entry. I know how much people dislike reading text on a computer screen, so I'll keep this short. Cuisine et Dependance in Montreal is an upscale restaurant that makes all of their patrons feel relaxed and downright homey, like in a diner. I read about this restaurant in Bon Appetit and thought I'd visit it with my wife on our family vacation. B.A. praised the food and the chef, but it was a summary, grouping C et D with other great spots in the "hot new neighborhood" - The Plateau - in Montreal. Yes the food was good and at times great (the least I'd expect considering dinner for two with wine runs around $160 including tip), but what most impressed us was the friendliness of the service, the generosity of the owner and sommelier and the general sense that they wanted us to have the best experience possible. The restaurant is modern and somewhat minimalist, but doesn't sacrifice atmosphere for this decor. The wine was tremendous, a Chateau de Chaminey Mercurey 2002 (White), that was priced at $70 on the menu. At Total Wine in Delaware, the price was $27.00 and considering the weak dollar and Canadian "sales" taxes (15%) I'd say $70 is a reasonable price for a restaurant in Canada to charge. Now, to the food. Both my wife and I found the food in Montreal a little lacking. It didn't matter if it was a Mexican joint or an upscale restaurant. The sheer quantity of restaurants in downtown Montreal is very impressive and the selection of different types of ethnic foods matches that of New York. I can't quite put my finger on what exactly is missing in the food up north, but, to borrow from the preferred language of the Quebecqois, it's a certain je ne sais quoi! With that said, I'd recommend Cuisine et Dependance without reservation. But don't forget to make reservations in advance! Visit them at

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Pasta Primavera a la Blaise

Another flexible recipe for my loyal viewers. I grilled carrots, fennel and green beans and then tossed them with penne pasta, cubed sharp provolone, 3/4 cup olive oil, salt, pepper and whole basil leaves. As you will see in the video, I was a little disappointed. I make suggestions for improvements in video, but I will add some more here.

First, use plenty of vegetables, almost rendering the pasta to a supporting role in the dish. Make sure you get the veggies nice and grilled. I grilled mine just fine, I just wanted to reinforce that. Make sure you use plenty of salt in pasta water and also sprinkled over veggies prior to grilling. Adding garlic raw or sauteed, as I say in the video, will help it. Just avoid overdoing it. The last time I made this dish I think I used 2# of green beans and 3 # of carrots. This time I used less and for that I am going to send myself to my room with no supper! That's a nod to a great UK movie review whose podcast is available at the following address:

Anyway, I digress. As you all know, I love making meals with whatever I can find in my fridge and this pasta primavera is perfect for that approach. You just need quantity and selection. I think I had enough variation in ingredients, just not enough of them. Just be careful, though. Don't use mushy veggies like eggplant or tomatoes. Though they add lots of flavor, once grilled they will fall apart when tossed with the pasta. This will create a sort of sauce that will change the whole idea of this dish from light and refreshing to heavy and de-freshing???

Monday, September 3, 2007

Poached Pears

A classic dessert that can be served in a variety of ways. Easy, but impressive.

1 bottle of red (or white) wine
12 peppercorns
1 t vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup sugar (optional, not in video, but recommended)
Juice of 1 lemon (not in video, use remaining juice from lemon used to rub pears)
9 - 12 small pears, forelle for instance
whipped cream, ice cream, melted chocolate or any accompaniment of your choice

Add first 4 ingredients to pot large enough to hold 9 - 12 pears
Bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer.
While poaching liquid is being brought to a boil, peel, cut bottom of pear so it sits flat and core each pear. Rub each pear with cut half of lemon. Take care not to break stem of pear. This helps with moving pears in and out of poaching liquid and has aesthetic appeal. Place pears in simmering liquid and poach covered until fork tender.