Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mascarpone and Roasted Garlic Potato Bake

This month, BRIC Arts Media, an independent television station in Brooklyn, happily launched their fifth channel! As they are growing exponentially, I was glad to participate in their cooking segment called "Hot Potato." I was also pleased to work with a talented producer, Abbey Adkinson.

The recipe we filmed was my mascarpone and roasted garlic potato bake. I have been making my potato bake since I was a teenager. My mother described my grandma Carmela’s original potato pie to me, and I took it from there. The garlic is the major key to making this an exciting and flavorful way to serve a potato dish.

15 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into even-sized cubes
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup milk
1/2 stick butter, plus more melted butter for topping
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 cups shredded mozzarella, plus more for topping
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Seasoned bread crumbs

In a small bowl, toss the garlic cloves with the extra virgin olive oil to coat well. Place the garlic in a piece of aluminum foil. Tent the sides of the aluminum foil up into a pouch to close securely. Place the pouch on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for thirty minutes.
Place potatoes in a pot, and add just enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, and lower to simmer for another ten minutes or until potatoes are tender enough for a fork to pass through. Drain the potatoes well in a colander. Return them to the pot and mash them with a potato masher. Add the baked garlic cloves, Parmigiano-Reggiano, mascarpone, milk, butter and parsley. Mix very well. Butter a baking dish or pan, and sprinkle bread crumbs to coat the inside. Spread half the potato mixture evenly in the baking dish. Add a layer of mozzarella. Spread a second layer of the remaining potato mixture. Top with more mozzarella, bread crumbs, parsley and dots of butter. Bake in preheated oven at 350°F for thirty-five minutes.

Camille’s Tip: Never boil your potatoes and refrigerate them ahead of time. This will create a waxy texture.


Lobster Rolls

The glory of creamy lobster salad nestled in a warm buttery New England roll is priceless. There are a variety of recipes out there for lobster rolls, and there is also a bit of controversy over the best way to prepare them. In my opinion, whether you are eating one that hails from Maine or from a trendy metropolitan restaurant, you are destined to meet each taste with rich praise. The following recipe is how I prepare my lobster rolls.

2 pounds lobster meat, cooked and rough chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Dash of Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh chives, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 split-top New England rolls ( you may use split-top hot dog rolls)

In a bowl, mix lobster and cucumber. In a separate bowl, whisk mayonnaise, lemon juice and Tabasco. Add mayonnaise mixture to lobster and cucumber. Sprinkle in parsley, chives, salt and pepper . Gently mix to coat the lobster well. Open the rolls and brush with butter. Toast in oven until golden. Spoon lobster into each roll.

High Apple Pie

It is that great time of year when we just want to indulge in scrumptious desserts that bring forth those harvest flavors. This week, for my column in The Brooklyn Spectator and The Home Reporter, I write about my pumpkin walnut bread. To read about it, visit

However, my pumpkin bread only takes care of a few evenings with a steaming cup of coffee during October and November. When our corner of the world is just so smashingly beautiful with the autumn leaves falling from the trees, we also need, (yes, NEED) a warm mouthwatering slice of home-made Apple Pie. My dad was the baker extraordinaire in our home, and he always had a rule that pies should be very high!I like that rule. Take a look at that pic and that high, golden brown, flaky crust! Happy Harvest! Enjoy!

High Apple Pie

8 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

In a bowl, toss the apples with lemon juice, cornstarch, white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Place apples in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for ten minutes. Roll out piecrust dough on a floured work surface and fit it into the pie plate. Layer half the apples into the crust, and dot with half of the butter. Layer the remaining apples into the pie. Dot the remaining butter on top. Roll out the remaining piecrust dough and place carefully over the apples. Pinch the edges to seal the crusts together. Cut slits in the top crust. Mix the egg yolk and milk and brush the top crust. Sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake for one hour in preheated oven at 350°F. Cool at least two hours on a wire rack before serving.

Camille’s Tip: Halfway through baking time, cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning.

2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons flour, plus extra for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup very cold butter, cut into pieces
4 to 6 tablespoons ice water

In a bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Cut in vegetable shortening and butter with a pastry cutter until small lumps form. Sprinkle in water, one tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry dough almost cleans side of bowl. Add an additional teaspoon or two of ice water if necessary. The ingredients should not bind together completely. On a floured work surface, form pastry dough into two separate balls and flatten out the shape. With a floured rolling pin, roll pastry two inches larger than the pie plate.

Camille’s Tip: When making a piecrust from scratch, always use cold ingredients. I also take my tools, the bowl, and my pastry cutter and chill them as well. The ideal is for everything to be ice-cold.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tilapia Tacos

I prepared beef tacos for my sons for years. I also enjoy serving them for large festive gatherings. When hosting a casual party, I like to put all the toppings out on a display, and my guests can create their own taco with the toppings of their choice. I started to make tilapia tacos when I wanted to teach my culinary students that tacos can be made in many different ways. They have been a hit among family and friends ever since.

Spicy Tomato and Chipotle Dressing
1 plum tomato, diced
1 chipotle in adobe sauce
2 tablespoon Spanish onion, grated
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Dash of Tabasco sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Add all dressing ingredients to a food processor, give a few pulses, and set aside.

12 hard corn taco shells
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 pounds tilapia, cut into finger-size pieces
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground dried chipotle chili pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cilantro
Half a head iceberg lettuce, shredded
Avocado slices
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Sour cream

Warm taco shells in oven for ten minutes. While shells are warming, spread canola oil in baking dish or pan and layer tilapia slices. Mix chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, chipotle chili pepper, salt, and cilantro. Sprinkle over tilapia. Bake at 375°F for twelve minutes.
Cool the tilapia slightly, and divide it evenly among the warm taco shells. Garnish with the lettuce, avocado, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and spicy tomato chipotle dressing.

Camille's Crab Cakes

The recipes for crab cakes are many, and over the years, I have tried my fair share. By now, I have put together my own recipe that really works for me. When I had my crab cakes mastered, I started to make them on Christmas Eve for the Feast of Seven Fishes.
My mother made us all laugh as she showed her clear shock that I would serve a nontraditional seafood appetizer that was not of Italian origins. However, that very first Christmas Eve when serving those crab cakes, there was not a single one left on the platter!

1 ¼ cup very fine bread crumbs
1 pound jumbo lump crab
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon fresh chives, chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
Canola oil

In a bowl, mix the bread crumbs, lump crab, mayonnaise, egg whites, Tabasco, chives, Dijon mustard, and Old Bay Seasoning. Gently mix with hands. Be careful to keep the jumbo crab in lump pieces. Form into crab cakes, and press tightly to hold ingredients together . You should get about nine or ten. Refrigerate for at least six hours, but overnight is even better.

In a sauté pan, warm canola oil over medium heat. Fry crab cakes in batches until golden, turning over once. Serve with lemon wedges or a favorite sauce.

Camille’s Tips: People often have difficulty with their crab cakes falling apart. A few tips will aid in preventing that. Shape the crab cakes flat on your hand so that they are level. As suggested above, always chill them before frying. This will firm them up. Once they are shaped and chilled, handle them as little as possible. When frying, only turn them once.

Garlic Shrimp with Vodka Cocktail Sauce

When I host a cocktail party, this is one of my favorite hors d’oeuvres to serve. I like to add a small spoonful of the vodka cocktail sauce onto an Asian hors d’oeuvre spoon, topped with a shrimp and garnished with curly parsley. The spoons sit attractively on a tray to be passed around to guests.

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails left on
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cocktail sauce
2 tablespoons vodka
Zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon horseradish
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

In a bowl, mix shrimp, garlic, butter, white wine, extra-virgin olive oil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Layer in a baking dish and bake, uncovered, in a preheated oven at 350°F for ten minutes. Allow to cool.
In a small bowl, mix cocktail sauce, vodka, lemon zest, horseradish, and red pepper flakes. Serve shrimps with cocktail sauce.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Broccoli Rabe Quiche

I never read Bruce Feirstein’s book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, but I love his title. I also know that most any man who likes broccoli rabe will enjoy this particular quiche. Broccoli rabe and I go back a long way. In the past, I have also used it to make hero sandwiches, homemade calzones, or just tossed over pasta. It is bitter and considered a wild broccoli, also called rapini.

My aunt Pauline would often tell me a story about my grandfather’s experience with broccoli rabe when he was a young husband and father. Before my grandfather owned his own fruit and vegetable market, he worked in the giant fruit and vegetable markets of New York City. Broccoli rabe, which was not yet popular here in the United States in the early nineteen hundreds, was shipped into the markets for the first time. The boss in charge had no idea what this new vegetable was. He was ready to discard it, but my grandfather, a great cook, and very appreciative of finer ingredients, advised his boss of the values of broccoli rabe. Suffice it to say, it remained.

1 cup broccoli rabe, blanched and chopped

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 nine-inch pastry pie shell

4 extra large eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup light cream

1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese

Kosher salt and white pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Layer broccoli rabe and mozzarella cheese in the pie shell. In medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients and mix until well blended. Carefully pour over broccoli rabe and mozzarella. Bake in center of oven for one hour until golden. Allow to settle for ten minutes before serving.