Fresh Herb Vinaigrette

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

After the delightful dinner we had from Alinea last weekend, I’ve been eager to try a fresh herb vinaigrette made from herbs from my herbs garden, aka “walk up salad bar”. So I did it!

This is the framework for the recipe, I think it can be tweaked and adjusted to fit most anything. I liked the little bit of heat from the cayenne pepper and lemon have it a freshness.

  • 1/4 yellow onion
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Large handful of fresh herbs (I used parsley, basil, oregano, chives, thyme and mint)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place everything in a blender and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. Toss over tomatoes and cucumbers, or your favorite greens for a taste of summer!

Poached Salmon with Lemon and Dill

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

This easy salmon dinner is light and quick. All you need is:

  • Salmon fillets
  • 1 or 2 lemons sliced thin
  • Fresh dill
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • ~1/2 C Wine, stock, or water
  • 1 T Butter

Place sliced lemon in the bottom of your baking dish and sprinkle a generous amount of fresh dill a over the lemons. Season both sides of the salmon with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then place on the lemons and dill bed. Add about a 1/2 cup of whichever liquid you choose, I used water here since my supplies were low.

Cover the dish with tin foil and bake at 375 degrees until the fish is cooked, check around 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. Remove from oven and let rest about 5 minutes before serving. Chop a little extra fresh dill and sprinkle over the fillet on the plate as a garnish. Enjoy with a fresh salad along side for an easy meal.

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

Proud to be a Queen of Take Out! 👑

Well with all of the quarantining that has been going on over the last several months, we have had the opportunity to try some pretty fabulous take out! I’m not usually big on it, since I still end up doing dishes and usually I’m the one that flys, while my other half buys. Personally, I like going to a restaurant and having a change of scenery, being waited on, and not having the house smell like dinner afterward. However, we have been fortunate to have some pretty fabulous restaurants within reach that have embraced the format, and it has truly been a superior experience.

All set for our Father’s Day steakhouse meal kit from Alinea!
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

We are blessed to have Alinea, the only restaurant in Chicago to have earned the coveted Michelin 3-Star rating, now offering take out options to enjoy at home. We were gifted the Alinea 15th Anniversary dinner for Mother’s Day by our daughter, which was such a treat, so of course for Father’s Day we went for it again, this time getting Alinea’s riff on a classic Chicago Steakhouse dinner. The beauty of these meals is that they come complete with fabulous directions for flawless preparation and assembly, as well as everything you need, food-wise, down to the the little herb garnishes. Incredibly, thoughtfully put together.

This was two of the four servings for the meal as we began the unpacking.
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

With the directions in hand, and having watched the video on instagram for the meal preparation, we set out on our culinary journey for the night.

The first course, Maine Lobster Bisque.
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

The first course was Maine Lobster Bisque, with a timbale of lobster and corn succotash, fresh croutons, and a little parsley garnish. After the soup had come to a simmer on the stove, we added the sherry that was premeasured and included in the kit, this was a no fail soup. I took the tip from Chef Grant Achatz, and pressed the lobster and corn into the little cup, then turning it onto the soup bowl and lightly tapping it to release. All four held their shape! The soup was free poured around the bowl and was simply delicious.

Fresh Tomato and English Cucumber salad.
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

Next, we had a lovely salad of fresh tomatoes and English Cucumber, with a delightful red wine & herb vinaigrette, topped with capers and a fresh basil garnish. It was a perfect foil to the the lobster bisque, cutting through the richness and setting you up for the richness to come!

Potatoes au gratin.
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

While we were having our first two courses, the potatoes au gratin have been cooking in the oven getting ready to melt in your mouth, these were divine. Layers of potatoes with gruyere cheese, and topped with gruyere and Vermont cheddar, all in a pool of heavy cream. A perfect steakhouse side, but done in Alinea ⭐️⭐️⭐️ style.

Filet au poivre.
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

The main course was filet au poivre, and it was beautiful! The meat came precooked to 140 degrees so all we had to do was put a nice caramelization on the top bottom and sides, and baste it with butter and herbs to finish. I wish I had taken a pic of the inside, but alas, I was to into enjoying this fabulous meal at home, but trust me, it was a perfect medium rare. This sat in a rich sauce of peppercorns, that seemed to have a hint of rosemary too, it was lovely.

Strawberry shortcake!
Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

The final course was a strawberry shortcake with fresh lemon whipped cream, garnished with a sprig of fresh mint. The strawberries were cut into a small dice and were bursting with flavor, the sauce was perfect for the shortcakes to soak up. We really lucked out, since this is one of my husband’s favorite desserts!

So there you have it, not our usual take out of pizza, salads, or salmon, but an evening of fine dining at home. I didn’t even mind washing all the dishes and pots and pans. One of the things that I have really enjoyed about the Alinea take out meal kits, is the interactive approach. I have learned some things about food preparation and I have enjoyed being involved with putting these fine meals on the table. I think the involvement is part of experience, kind of like the interaction that Alinea puts into your experience at the restaurant. If you ever get a chance to go, do it, it’s like no meal you have ever had!

Father’s Day choices by the guest of honor.

It wouldn’t be a complete meal at our house without some wine! We started with the Pulgny-Montrachet before dinner, Kistler, one of my favorites with the soup and salad, and the beautiful 1999 Chateau Pavie with the filet and potatoes. A banner night celebrating a most worthy Father!

Bon appetit from the TAKE OUT QUEEN👑 !

Candy Melt Water Lilies

Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

I offered to make a cake for my brother’s birthday, who doesn’t want a homemade cake?! So, I asked him what flavors were his favorite and the winner was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, a fine choice.

I haven’t made a homemade chocolate cake in years, and I forgot how rich it was, but since there was some leftover batter, I do have some chocolate cupcakes to keep me going too. The chocolate frosting was light and easy to work with, I think I should have let it sit a bit then whipped it again, just to get it truly smooth.

I had the idea to make flowers out of candy melts brewing in my head for awhile. Somewhere I saw a video about using the back of a spoon to create the petal shape and I would say that was a great idea. Since the cake was for my brother, and I know he loves fishing, I thought water lilies would be a good choice.

Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

I used several spoons of slightly different shapes to create the petals, and I’ve even thought of some other ways to stream line the process for a larger batch. For the centers I used a Russian Tip with vanilla buttercream to shape the inside petals and little stamen, then sprinkled a little yellow petal dust for definition. The chocolate petals were stuck into the buttercream mound in staggered layers to create the open bloom.

All in all, this was a fun project. I think I could even make some other flowers using this technique. The 3-D effect of the blooms is quite dramatic and really makes a statement! so give it a try, the good part is if you don’t like the petals, or a bunch break while in molding, you can just remelt them and try again. Win-win!

“Better Together Fruit Tart” from @thebakefeed

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

I saw this beautiful fruit tart as I scrolled through my Instagram feed the other day. The beautiful picture grabbed my attention, but the story from @thebakefeed was even better, so I thought I would give it a try. I think that with the current climate, it is good to remember that what makes things shine is diversity, and both food and people are more interesting with variety! I have to admit, I thought I had peaches & strawberries at home, so I walked on by, but I guess the “home office worker” had gotten to them for breakfast, and they were out of kiwis. So my diversity got sideswiped, argh. But alas, it gives me a chance and reason to make this again, and dive into the bounty of the season. I need to take my time and open my eyes, even at the grocery store, to see those items and people around me, making my world delicious.

I ended up making 3 small 4.5 inch tarts instead of the single 9 inch. There was plenty of dough for the crusts and more than enough filling. I brushed them with some melted apple jelly to preserve them in the fridge, these will take us a day or two to work through, one is enough for us to share. Below is the link to the recipe I used, enjoy and remember the world is better together, just like a fruit tart!

I’m more than just food!

Photo credit: Debra M Kirsch ©️2020

Tip to Tail Gourmet came to me because I like all the aspects of a great meal. Setting a beautiful table, finding the right wine (it helps that my husband is a total wine geek!), and creating meals from start to finish that flow well, and use fresh ingredients. It’s the whole experience that I’m chasing, all the way from the tip of the ears down to the tail, and all parts in between!

These beauties grace our front garden every year. Originally, they were my Great Aunt Gin’s, and when she passed away I dug up a bunch and replanted them at our house. They were part of a large garden I put together in our backyard, it was my pride and joy. I learned so much about gardens with that one. A few years later, when we sold that house, I dug them up and brought them here, they have always seemed to offer a connection to the past. An old fashioned flower, that’s been in the family a long time, an heirloom.

We decided to redo the garage after about 15 years and peonies were going to need to be relocated so they weren’t crushed, out to the front they went and they have thrived in the sun and welcomed visitors with their bobbing blooms.

Photo credit: Debra M Kirsch ©️2020

It sets such a welcoming table to have fresh flowers, and those loose and informal bunches make a weeknight dinner special or welcome guests with beguiling aroma. Putting together floral arraignments is always one of the most fun parts of hosting friends for dinner, in my opinion.

Colorful peonies always make beautiful full bouquets, so when the time presents itself I grab the snippers and go to town. There are still buds and blooms out front, so hopefully I’ll get a second wave after the weather breaks. Until then, I have to think of what I’ll make for dinner so we can enjoy these beauties on the dining room table.

Pappardelle with Rosemary Portobello Mushroom Ragu

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

This dinner was actual winner and it wane together in about 30 minutes start to plate. I used some fresh pappardelle, which cooked up wonderfully tender, you can usually find it in the refrigerator section of the grocery store. The fresh rosemary gives a wonderful pine-like flavor, and the chili flakes give just a bit of heat and dimension to the dish.

I had some asparagus to use up, and a little green on the plate always dresses things up. It was a tasty pairing.

Photo credit: ©Debra M. Kirsch 2020

My husband generously brought up a half bottle of burgundy to compliment the meal. The 2015 Nuits Saint Georges, Premier Cru, was a treat! The Pinot Noir wine paired perfectly with the mushrooms, the rosemary, and the sauce. Lovely!

Here is the link to this wonderful recipe from @familystylefood, I think it’s definitely one for the recipe file!

Focaccia Art

This was my first time trying focaccia art, well, it was only my second time making focaccia, tbh. I would chalk it up to a learning experience since it wasn’t really as cute as I would have liked. However, the bread tastes great, so it was a win there!

Photo credit: ©️Debra M. Kirsch

I was going for some delicate flowers, and not too much going on. Several of the focaccia that I’ve seen, I feel as though they have been over decorated, and might be a bit much on the taste front. I used cherry tomatoes, red onion, and chives for the flowers & stems, and some rosemary leaves and thyme for the leaves and green touches.

Photo credit: ©️Debra M. Kirsch

More olive oil and pressing the herbs into the dough more might have helped them adhere better. After baking, the herbs were pretty delicate, though the tomatoes held up very well.

I think it’s fun to get a little color going, so the yellow and red tomatoes helped with that, perhaps a bit more red onion would have been cuter, too, and definitely more green!

Photo credit: ©️Debra M. Kirsch

The final product, after a light brush with some garlic butter, was delicious. This will pair well with dinner and make up some lovely sandwiches, I’m already thinking of fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes, they are all in the fridge so a caprese sandwich is definitely in store.

Bon Appetit!!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

From The Silver Palate Cookbook

In the early 1980s, my mom discovered The Silver Palate Cookbook, with a strong background of culinary adventures, she was always looking for new and inspiring resources. She introduced me to The Silver Palate, and together, we made lots of great dishes and baked goods.

It must have been 1986, when I was sent to NYC for my job at Dean Witter Reynolds, that I set out to find The Silver Palate, a darling gem of a shop, located at Columbus Avenue and 73rd Street. It was an adventure, not exactly on the way to LaGuardia from the World Trade Center, but that was my window, and it all felt like a celebrity sighting!

Inside, I picked out a big tin, that looked like the famous shop, and filled it with all kinds of gourmet and specialty items unique to The Silver Palate. Back then, there was no issue with carry on items, so I proudly carried my prize home to Mom.

With that background, you can understand why The Silver Palate Cookbook is a favorite go to, it’s never let me down. So give these cookies a try, they are fab!!

Photo credit: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020
  • 12 T sweet butter
  • 1/2 C granulated Sugar
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T water
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2/3 C unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 3 C quick cooking oats
  • 1 C raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease two cookie sheets (I used silpats and they worked great)

2. Cream butter and both sugars until fluffy. Add the egg and beat thoroughly. Mix in water and vanilla.

3. Sift together flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda; add to the egg & butter mixture and mix well. Add the oats and raisins, and mix well.

4. Form the cookies into large balls, or use an ice cream scoop, and place on cookie sheet, about 6 should fit on each sheet. With a wet hand, or the bottom of a glass, smash the ball into a large round.

5. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes (mine cooked up in 12-13 min.), until edges are done but centers are still soft. Remove to a rack and cool

Yields about 2 dozen large cookies 😋

Pantry Salmon

Photo: ©Debra M Kirsch 2020

This is an easy one! No real specifics, kind of what you have on hand, it makes up to an easy one dish meal.

  • 2 6oz. Salmon fillets
  • Dippity Dill or any mixed herb blend seasoning
  • 1/2 medium onion sliced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (with basil, oregano, garlic or plain is fine, just throw in some dried herbs)
  • 1 can white cannellini or great northern beans
  • 1/4 C chicken broth, white wine, or water
  • Lemon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove skin from salmon and place in a baking dish sprayed with Pam, top with a sprinkling of herb blend.

In a medium sauce pan, sauté sliced onion in olive oil about 2-3 minutes. Add can of tomatoes and then beans. Stir in broth, or other liquid, and bring to a simmer.

Pour tomato mixture in baking dish around salmon, it should just about cover the fillets. Bake in center of oven for about 20 minutes. Enjoy!