“Matzah Crack” scores a home run as a sweet treat during the Passover holiday as far as I’m concerned. It is sweet, rich and very decadent. What more can you want in a dessert. Although the seven-day Passover holiday is over for this year, I am guessing that some of us have leftover matzah in our kitchen. Plus, it probably is still available in grocery stores. It can be challenging to think of cakes and pastries to prepare during Passover since wheat flour, leavenings and many other ingredients are forbidden. This dessert — made with matzah — has become a family favorite and now is served every year at the elaborate Seder meal and service.Continue reading
Category Archives: Holiday Recipes
This week I’m cooking “Green Gumbo” or “gumbo z’herbes.” What is “Green Gumbo?” It is a thick, flavorful soup traditionally served in Louisiana Catholic homes during Lent. On Fridays during Lent, a meatless version of gumbo is made by omitting meat and chicken and substituting vegetable broth or water for chicken stock. On Holy Thursday before Easter, a generous amount of meat (usually sausage, smoked ham) is added to the gumbo. As many types of greens that a person can find are added to the soup (but always an odd number of greens). The greens are symbolic and for every green added to the soup, you will find a new friend in the coming year. The greens add a zesty, peppery flavor to this gumbo. With smoked ham, sausage and chicken broth for flavor and with Tabasco sauce for zip, this very tasty version of gumbo is worthy of being served any time of the year.Continue reading
Pecan-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Fig Glaze
Here we go again — Mardi Gras season in Louisiana just finished this week. This brings up many memories of visits to New Orleans during the weeks of Mardi Gras season to take in all the parades and other festivities. It also brings recollections of traditional French and Creole restaurants in this city as we often ate a fancy dinner at an up-scale restaurant during these trips. “Pecan-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Fig Glaze” is an elegant entree fitting for a Mardi Gras buffet or party. The recipe originates with the venerable New Orleans restauranteer, Ralph Brennan. His creation of stuffed roast pork tenderloin with fig glaze is an absolutely delicious way to prepare a pork roast and also feature southern figs. It is a quintessential New Orleans recipe. The pork roast medallions fit perfectly into a Mardi Gras themed event. Really, it can be served any time of the year. Here’s my rendition of the recipe.Continue reading
Holiday Breakfast Strada with Kale
This year, I’m starting our Christmas celebration with a hearty dish of “Holiday Breakfast Strada with Kale.” A strada (meaning layers) is an American brunch casserole made with a mixture of eggs, cheese and stale bread. It is sort of a savory “bread pudding” or “French Toast” — perfect for us here in Louisiana. I still have Red Russian kale growing in my winter garden and am adding the kale, along with sweet white onions and seasonings, to my breakfast strada. It is a colorful, super-charged breakfast casserole. I think it is best to begin Christmas day — or really any day — on a full stomach. This casserole is so easy to make. Plus it can be pre-prepped the prior day. Then it is a simple matter of heating the oven and baking it on Christmas morning
Anything Goes, “Kitchen Sink Dump” Recipe
Of course, if your family is not a fan of kale, then no need to introduce this vegetable on Christmas morning. This is a “kitchen sink dump” recipe.” It is easy to substitute ingredients in or out of the breakfast casserole. For example, use baby spinach rather than kale — or omit both. Other ingredients can be added to this savory casserole such as diced ham or bacon, green onions, colorful bell peppers, mushrooms. Change the type of cheese — use smoked Gouda cheese or cheddar rather than Monterey Jack — or omit the cheese entirely to make a savory baked French toast. In other words, fix something your family will eat.
Fond Memories of Parade Magazine
A “strada” was first popularized in Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook published in 1984 by Julee Rosso and Shelia Lukins. These two ladies were based in New York City. They were some of the big culinary influencers of their age. This was long before the internet and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok– yes, there was life prior to the internet. Our “internet” was the newspaper and perhaps a cooking show on PBS. Rosso and Lukins wrote innovative cookbooks and edited a gourmet food column in the Sunday morning newspaper Parade Magazine insert after Julia Childs left the magazine. Those times — including Parade Magazine — are gone. But I’ll always have the memories of these ladies’ articles — we used so many of their recipes at holiday meals. Here is one of their later cookbooks which I enjoyed to browse through for the latest ideas back in those days.
I love French toast and often make a baked version using either my oven or Instant Pot . A strada is similar to French toast except that French toast tends to be sweeter while a strada is savory and it includes cheese.
I added a sweet, white onion flavor in the casserole — because I love onions and it complements the kale. The diced red pimento adds a red Christmas color. The seasonings in my casserole are salt, pepper and dry ground mustard. My choice for cheese is a mild Monterey Jack cheese. You could substitute Gouda, Parmesan or cheddar cheese or omit the cheese entirely.
We have lots of crumbly, airy French bread in Louisiana. I have also used stale white bread in this casserole or denser French bread. You need about 6 cups of packed bread cubes or 12 oz. I would not recommend a sweet bread such as challah in this casserole as these the sweetness may clash with savory flavors in this mixture.
Making the Casserole
To make the casserole, pre-prep the all the ingredients. Red Russian is a mild kale and can be eaten either raw or cooked. When cooking kale, it still involves removing the center stem which is too tough to eat. To prep the kale, wash the kale leaves, rinse and drain them. Remove the center stem by folding each leaf in half lengthwise and cutting out the stem. Roll up the leaves like a cigarette and slice the rolls Then cut across the segments to make strands of kale.
Saute the onions and then add the kale. Kale will cook down and it seems to evaporate. Even if this seems like alot of kale, it will reduce in volume.
Making the rest of the casserole is simple. Blend the eggs very well with a wire whip. Add the milk and seasonings. Mix in the cheese, chopped pimento, sautéed onions and kale. Gently fold in the bread cubes. Place the mixture into a well-oiled casserole dish. Either bake immediately or refrigerate overnight and bake in the morning.
I baked this casserole in a 9″ diameter deep dish pie casserole in a 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. The casserole will puff up, then fall down as it cools.
Enjoy family, friends and memories this holiday season. I prepare this type of strada or French toast casserole frequently during the year for a substantial brunch. It is extra special at Christmas time. Enjoy.
- 6 oz Red Russian kale (2 cups firmly packed kale which is stemmed, chopped)
- 12 oz (6 cups packed) French bread or stale white bread
- 1 Tbsp oil plus oil for casserole dish
- 1/2 sweet, white onion, chopped (about 1 cup, chopped)
- 6 large eggs
- 1-1/2 cup milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp chopped pimento
- fresh parsley, optional garnish
- orange slices, optional garnish
Method and Steps:
- Oil 9″ round deep dish pie casserole. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
- Pre-prep kale. Thoroughly wash kale under running water. Rinse, drain and pat dry. Fold each kale leaf in half. Use a large kitchen knife to slice and remove center stem. Then place leaf halves on top of each other and roll up like a cigarette roll. Slice rolls. Then cut through rolls crosswise to make slivers. Set kale aside.
- Cut French bread or stale white bread into 1″ cubes. You need about 6 cups packed bread cubes. Set aside.
- Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute for about 10 minutes until onion is translucent. Reduce heat if onion begins to burn.
- Add kale slivers to skillet. Cook, tossing frequently, for about 5 minutes until kale wilts.
- Meanwhile, place eggs in large bowl and beat with wire whip into eggs are blended and creamy yellow.
- Add milk and stir to combine.
- Add in seasonings — salt, pepper and ground mustard.
- Mix in sautéed onion and kale.
- Add chopped pimento.
- Carefully fold in bread cubes, tossing to coat all the cubes with egg/milk mixture.
- Transfer to oiled deep dish pie casserole and toss to combine all ingredients, mixing in any egg/milk on the bottom of the casserole dish.
- Bake in 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. Casserole should not “jiggle” in center. It will puff up and be browned on top.
- Alternatively, rather than baking immediately, cover and place in refrigerator. When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature while oven pre-heats. Then bake for 40 minutes in 325 degree oven..
- If desired, garnish with fresh parsley and orange slices.
Duchess Sweet Potatoes with Brown Butter Sage
I walked into Whole Foods Grocery Store to return gift items at the Amazon Customer Service Center and walked out with Louisiana sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes were right inside the entrance to the store. Too tempting to walk by them without purchasing several. This root vegetable has lots of nutritional value. Plus, they are in season and inexpensive. So, there you go — three good reasons for why to purchase sweet potatoes. Today, I am making “Duchess Sweet Potatoes” which is a jazzed up concoction of mashed potatoes. I added browned butter with sage to give a upscale flavor. I even located my pastry piping bag and star tip to bake the potatoes little swirl shapes which is what makes “Duchess Sweet Potatoes” special. These creamy potatoes are just as good for when baked in a casserole dish as piped onto a platter for a fancy holiday dinner.Continue reading
Cranberry & Satsuma Tart with Rich Cookie Crust and Gluten-Free Teff Variation
Here we are again with one of my favorite winter holiday culinary ingredients — cranberries. Homemade cranberry relish is just right to tame the edges of a rich, holiday meal. But, we can do so many more things with cranberries than make a relish. So, I’m baking a bright, festive “Cranberry & Satsuma Tart with Rich Cookie Crust” this Christmas. If you are looking for an easy, yet elegant dessert to finish a holiday meal or want a change from pumpkin pie, this is it. The tart is simple to make; using only a few household ingredients. It is hard to mess up this tart. The rich, shortbread-style cookie crust balances tart cranberries which have a taste of satsuma zest (satsuma is a type of orange) added in. Plus, I made a variaton of the crust using Teff flour — an ancient Ethopina grain, so that tart is gluten-free. I will enjoy several versions of this tart from now until Christmas!Continue reading
Brown Sugar Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallow & Pecan Topping
Here is a simple, yet slightly decadent sweet potato recipe, which is perfect for the holidays. The scent of aromatic spices and toasty pecans warm up the kitchen as fresh sweet potatoes bake in a brown sugar glaze. Even if you aren’t a fan of sweet potatoes, this recipe is hard to resist. And best of all, it is easy to make. The most difficult part of this recipe is peeling and dicing the sweet potatoes. I like to share sweet potato recipes in the autumn; since Louisiana-harvested sweet potatoes are so readily available. Plus, they are quite nutritious. This year I am sharing a holiday recipe which deviates a bit from the nutritional angle — but this recipe is so very good — serve it for a special occasion.Continue reading
Zydeco Green Beans
Louisiana Zydeco musician, Clifton Chenier, sang, ‘”Eh, maman, Eh, maman, Les haricots sont pas salés,” Translated, the Creole French phrase means, “Hey mom, Hey mom, The snap beans don’t have salt.” Today I’m cooking green beans — les haricots verts — but, yes, I am adding a little salt. I love green beans — especially fresh green beans which are picked from a garden in early summer. I have tried various ways to dress up the green beans for the holidays. My favorite recipe idea combines sesame and garlic mixed into the green beans. Plus, I added a few red pepper flakes! Can’t help it. This is Louisiana. It is a very tasty and simple recipe.
“Irish Bread Pudding with Whiskey Custard Sauce”
In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m making “Irish Bread Pudding.” You may ask, what is so Irish about bread pudding? I am making my favorite New Orleans-style bread pudding recipe and I am adding Irish Cream to the custard. Irish Cream is a liqueur containing whiskey, cream and various flavors such as coffee and vanilla extracts, sometimes chocolate. To be labeled legally as “Irish Cream Liqueur,” the whiskey must be produced in Ireland. Bailey’s Irish Cream is the quintessential Irish brand of this liqueur. When the Irish Cream Liqueur is added to this extra-rich bread pudding, the dessert really has some kick. And as some interesting trivia, New Orleans actually has a significant Irish population. The first Irish immigrated to this city in the late 1700’s, attracted because of Catholic traditions. More Irish settled in the city during the potato famines. The first Patrick’s Day celebration was held in 1809 So, let’s celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a festive manner with this “Irish-inspired” dessert.Continue reading
Marie’s Party Shrimp Dip
With Mardi Gras quickly approaching, here’s a delicious “Shrimp Dip” to include in Mardi Gras parties. What could be more southern that shrimp? The dip, served along with crackers and vegetables, is perfect for this festive celebration. Actually, the shrimp dip is good any time of the year and it is a favorite appetizer for winter holiday buffets. Our little group of musician friends, which meets weekly, ends each jam session with a table of wine and snacks. How much fun is that? So this week I’m bringing Marie’s appetizer recipe for “Shrimp Dip.” It is easy to mix up, colorful and tastes great. The dip is better if it sets for eight hours to overnight for the flavors to blend so I better get moving.Continue reading