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Appetizer, Bread, Cheese, Gluten Free, Vegetables

Gouda, Sofrito and Habanero Fondue

bread dipped in fondue 20151224-_MG_3574.CR2

Gouda, Sofrito and Habanero Fondue

Do you need a great appetizer, party dip, or something fun for dinner on these cold winter nights? I have just the ticket: Gouda, Sofrito and Habanero Fondue.

Our family tradition on Christmas eve is to sit in front of a roaring wood fire and fix a variety of fondues for dinner. One item on the menu never changes: we take a 8” piece of aged filet that we rub all over with lots of salt and throw on the hot embers below the fire. This year we threw a lobster tail with butter and lemon in the coals too. Both were fantastic. I’ll tell you how to do this in another blog.

Over the years we’ve tried a variety of ingredients for the fondues. One of our favorites is Gouda with Sofrito and Habanero Fondue.

chili prociutto onions 20151224-_MG_3543.CR2

A sofrito is typically a mixture of onions, peppers, ham and garlic. With slight variations, it is the basis of many traditional Spanish, Caribbean and Latin American cooking. The sofrito gives these cuisines a depth of flavor. The bold flavors of the sofrito and hot peppers contrast beautifully with the smooth Gouda.

We make the fondues on the stove in heavy-bottom pots and bring it directly to the table. We don’t use special fondue pots for the cheese fondue. Early in the morning I go to the Village Baking Company, a wonderful boulangerie in Dallas, and pick out rye, multigrain and sourdough loaves. With the filet, lobster, and breads cut into bite-sized pieces, speared on a skewer and dipped in the fondues, the result is a rich, soul satisfying combination of creamy melted cheese, rich beef, briny lobster and the hit of just the right amount of heat. If you want this to be gluten free and/or want to add vegetables, try dipping bell peppers, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes in this creamy, spicy fondue!

Gouda, Sofrito and Habanero Fondue

Serves 4 to 6 for dinner, more as an appetizer


2T          olive oil

½ lb        Gouda cheese, grated

½ lb        Monterey Jack cheese with habanero, grated

1T          cornstarch

4 oz        prosciutto or smoked ham, finely chopped

2             scallions, finely chopped. Use both white and green parts.

1             red bell pepper, finely chopped

1             jalapeno, minced. Use less for less spicy heat

1             garlic clove, minced

1t            fresh oregano, minced or ½ t dried

1t            fresh thyme, minced or ½ t dried

¾ c         lager beer, you can use gluten free beer or ale

1T          cider vinegar



 Medium bowl, grater, heavy bottom medium saucepan or an enameled pot, wooden spoon, measuring cup and spoons.


grated Gouda 20151224-_MG_3537.CR2

Toss cheese and cornstarch together in the medium bowl.

Sauté the prosciutto, scallions, red bell pepper, habanero, garlic, oregano and thyme in the saucepan until the onion is golden. Keep an eye on the garlic so it does not burn.

fondue in the pot 20151224-_MG_3571.CR2

Add the beer and vinegar. Bring the liquid to a simmer then add the cheese a handful at a time, letting each handful melt before adding another.

I use a medium-sized enamel pot and I just leave the fondue in it to serve. If you have a ceramic fondue pot with a candle, use it!

Note: You can use all Gouda cheese and substitute 2t of finely chopped habanero for the jalapeno.

 I serve it with different breads like rye, sourdough, and multigrain. When cutting the bread into bite-sized pieces, try to have every piece have a bit of crust so it is not too soft to dip.

 Be careful when you chop any hot chili. The oil in the chili will stay on your hands even after washing so don’t rub your eyes.





Cheese, Gluten Free, Meatless Mondays, Vegetables

Eggplant Parmigiana quick/fewer calories

Eggplant Parmigiana in less than 45 minutes

Eggplant Parmigiana in less than 45 minutes

It has been raining for five days straight. It’s cold and wet. One reason to live where it can get to 104F in the summer is that it is rarely overcast for more than a day or two at a time. After five days of this I realize I’d never manage in Seattle or Ireland.

Time for comfort food. The problem with most of my favorite comfort foods is the long cooking time and the loads of calories. Enter Eggplant Parmigiana with a Craig Claiborne trick – it is warm, with a rich tomato sauce and just the right amount of parmigiano-reggiano cheese to make it lush and satisfying. It is much lighter, calorie-wise, than the old fashioned recipe and you’ll have Eggplant Parmigiana ready to eat in less than 45 minutes.

Eggplant Parmigiana – quick with fewer calories

Serves 4


2       medium globe eggplants – look for a shiny skin

1T     kosher salt

1       14oz can of tomato sauce – I use Glen Muir

1T     olive oil

2       garlic cloves, smashed, to rub on the eggplant

2       garlic cloves, chopped

½      onion, chopped

1/4c basil, fresh, chopped (1½ T dried)

1T     oregano, fresh, chopped (1½ t dried) or substitute parsley

½ to 1c freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

¼ to ½ lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced (optional)

salt and pepper


Colander, a medium saucepan, a broiling pan or cookie sheet, a medium baking pan


Turn your oven to broil.

eggplant in colander

Eggplant weeping in a colander

Slice the eggplant crosswise into ½ inch-thick round pieces. Salt liberally and place in a colander to drain for 20 minutes. The salt acts to pull the moisture and bitter flavor out of the eggplant.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent, then add the chopped garlic and stir for a minute. Don’t let the garlic burn. Add the tomato sauce, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Give it a few extra grinds of pepper and don’t skimp on the salt. Tomatoes love salt. Allow to gently simmer while you prepare the eggplant. Don’t let it boil. Be sure to taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings. If the tomato sauce is bitter, add 1t sugar to help balance the flavors. This is an old Southern remedy for bitter tomatoes.

Rinse the eggplant and pat the pieces dry. Rub the smashed garlic clove over both sides of each eggplant slice. Lightly salt and pepper the slices. Place on a broiling pan and place in the upper third of your oven under the broiler. Watch closely. Allow to lightly brown on both sides.

Lightly broiled eggplant

Lightly broiled eggplant

In your baking pan spread several tablespoons of the tomato sauce over the bottom of the pan. Next add a layer of eggplant slices then add tomato sauce to cover.

layering eggplant

Add a final layer of eggplant, then tomato sauce to cover. On top, sprinkle parmigiano-reggiano and dot with mozzarella till it looks right to you.

Bake at 350F for 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is melted, hot and bubbly. Serve and enjoy.

Appetizer, Soup, Vegetables

Turnip Soup to Warm the Soul

Turnip Soup 20150921-_MG_2988.CR2

Turnip Soup to Warm the Soul

Turnips used not be the first vegetable I would think of for a creamy, silken soup but this soup is just that: creamy and soul-satisfying. All that and there is no cream to inflate the calorie count. It has become a favorite of mine.

This soup would be a wonderful first course at Thanksgiving. It makes sense in a small kitchen because you can make it ahead of time and warm it up in the microwave. Serve it in small espresso or coffee cups. It will set the stage as a warm small enticement leading to the main course.

I first made this at my mother’s house in the Tennessee mountains one winter. It is adapted from a recipe by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.

I like to garnish this Turnip Soup with small pieces of herbed goat cheese and a small drizzle of white balsamic vinegar or a special extra virgin olive oil to add the final touch.

Turnip Soup with Goat Cheese

4 servings


2 turnips, peeled and thinly sliced

1 sweet onion, chopped

1T butter

1T extra-virgin olive oil

1 Yukon gold potato, peeled and sliced like the turnip

1t fresh sage chopped finely

3c chicken stock

1½t salt

¼ t freshly ground nutmeg

2oz herbed goat cheese (optional)

white balsamic vinegar (optional)


1 medium to large sauce pan, blender


Melt the butter and olive oil in your pot. Sauté the onions till just

transparent. Don’t let them brown. Add the sage, turnips, potato

and salt. Cook gently for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are

fork tender. Add the stock and nutmeg. Cook at a simmer for

another 10 minutes. Use a immersion blender to puree. Taste.

To Serve:

Cut the goat cheese into pieces. Arrange on top of the soup and

add a few drops of white balsamic vinegar or extra virgin olive oil.

To eat, swirl the cheese into the soup. Enjoy!

Tips, Vegetables

Roast Jalapenos in Minutes

Roast a pepper quickly! Go to to see how and for a delicious Cool Avocado and Cucumber Soup with roasted jalapeños. #pepper #jalapeño #roastedpepper #roastedjalapeños #quickroastedpepper

Roast Jalapenos in Minutes

Here’s a tip on how to roast jalapenos in minutes. You can use this method for roasting all kinds of peppers, including bell peppers.

If you have a gas burner – turn it to medium high to high. Spear the pepper with a fork.  Make an insulating handle for the fork because it will get extremely hot.  I use a silicone handle cover made for my black iron skillets.

Place the jalapeno in the flame until the skin chars.  Turn it so that every side is charred.  When done put the roasted jalapeno in a bag or a bowl with a top and let it steam while it cools off.   When cool, in about 10 minutes, rub the blackened skin off with a paper towel and discard.

If you don’t have gas burners, turn you oven on broil and place the peppers in a pan in the upper part of your oven.  Watch carefully.  Turn the peppers so every side gets charred. When done put the roasted jalapeno in a bag or a bowl with a top and let it steam while it cools off.   When cool, in about 10 minutes, rub the blackened skin off with a paper towel and discard.

If you have time you can slow roast the peppers in a 400F oven for 30 to 40 minutes.  When they are charred all over follow the directions for cooling them that are above.

That’s how simple it is to roast jalapenos in minutes!

Note:  When chopping or seeding hot peppers you may want to wear gloves or be very careful that the oil in the pepper does not get on your hands.  It will not wash off immediately and if you forget and rub your eye, it really hurts.