Easy Tarte Tatin

                                                             Tarte Tatin

With Jacques Pepin as the Executive Chef of Oceania Cruise Lines, Chef Instructor Noelle Barille loves to showcase his favorite dishes in her onboard cooking classes.  Since many of the students are only novice bakers, she simplifies classic recipes so that they are easy to make.  This Tarte Tatin – or apple tart – is quick and easy – and oh, so delicious.

Tarte Tatin (Makes 1 5-6 inch mini tart)

1 Granny Smith or other tart apple
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons brown or white sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
Pinch of nutmeg (optional
1 round puff pastry
Creme fraiche, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350F.  Peel and core the apple and cut into 6 equal segments.
In a medium bowl, mix the butter, sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add the apples and toss to coat.
Place the apples in a tart pan (4-5″ fluted corning ware works great) with the rounded sides of the apples facing down.  Spoon the remaining butter and sugar mixture over the apples.  Cover the pan with a puff pastry that is cut 1 inch larger than the circumference of the pan.  Tuck in the sides of the pastry and poke the pastry with a fork.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the pastry puffs and turns light brown and crispy.
Let cool slightly and then invert the tart onto a plate.  Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of creme fraiche.

Bon Appetit!!!!


Lobster Eggs Benedict

Sometimes you just need to get away for a weekend of chillin’.  One of the best places to do that is in Key West, Florida.  Our favorite restaurant there is Antonia’s; they’ve been around over 30 years and still pack the house.  On a recent Saturday, the menu board out front advertised Bellini’s and Bloody Mary’s, second one free and Lobster Eggs Benedict.  While the chef was too bashful to have his picture included on our blog, here is his fabulous recipe for Lobster Eggs Benedict:

                                                 Lobster Eggs Benedict

Ingredients:  (Serves 1-2)
2 slices ciabatta bread, toasted with a little olive oil
1 heirloom tomato, sliced
2 thin slices prosciutto, gently heated
1/2 cup steamed lobster meat
2 eggs, poached
Hollandaise sauce: Recipe follows
Spinach pesto:  Recipe follows

Directions: Start with a slice of the toasted ciabatta, add a slice of heirloom tomato, then a slice of the proscuitto. Add 1/4 cup of the lobster meat on top, then add a poached egg on top of the lobster.  Drizzle with Hollandaise sauce and top with a dollop of spinach pesto.  Yum, yum, yum. yum, yum!

Easy Hollandaise Sauce:
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, Melted

Put all ingredients except butter in a blender and process for 10-15 seconds.  Slowly add hot melted butter into the top opening of the blender and process for 30 seconds until thickened.  Makes about 1/2 cup.

Spinach Pesto:
6 oz. baby spinach
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup Olive Oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until blended and smooth.  Makes 1 1/2 cups pesto.

Bon Appetit!!!


Lobster Pad Thai

This fabulous entree was shared with us by Chef Noelle Barille of Oceania Cruise Lines at our Red Ginger cooking class.

                                                      Lobster Pad Thai

(Serves 2)

If pasta is your comfort food, this noodle dish is easy to make and fun to serve as an alternative to Italian pasta. It’s comfort food extraordinaire! We make it in a wok in class, but if you have a large saucepan, that will work just fine.


8 ounces rice noodles
1 tablespoon dried shrimp
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons nam prik pao (Thai chili paste)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 ounce palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
2 scallions plus 1 scallion, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 Thai bird chili, minced
1 small leek, thinly sliced
1 cup lobster pieces
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 lime wedges
1 tablespoon chopped roasted peanuts


Soak the rice noodles in warm water for 20 minutes and drain well. Soak the dried shrimp in cool water for 30 minutes. Drain and finely chop.

Whisk together the fish sauce, chili paste, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and palm sugar. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and 2 of the scallions and heat for 30 seconds to release their aromas. Push the garlic, ginger, and scallions to one side of the wok, off the direct heat of the bottom. Quickly add the shrimp, Thai bird chili, leek, and lobster pieces and cook until the lobster turns opaque, about 1 to 2 minutes. Mix in the garlic, ginger, and scallions.

Working quickly, add the noodles and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Push the mixture to the edge of the wok. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of peanut oil to the wok and add the eggs. Cook the eggs for 15 seconds and then stir them in with the other ingredients.

Add the fish sauce mixture. Stir-fry to incorporate, adding water if needed to moisten the noodles.

Fold in the bean sprouts and cilantro. Adjust seasoning with more chili paste and fish sauce as needed. Finish with the toasted sesame oil.

Garnish with the lime wedges, peanuts, and the remaining scallion. Serve immediately.

Bon Appetit!!

Carrot Cake

                                                           Carrot Cake

Although our kids are grown, we still have the traditional egg hunt (although the plastic eggs are filled with $1′s and $5′s these days).  We also bake a fabulous carrot cake in the  shape of a bunny’s head – I tried to eliminate the cake several years ago but met with outrage from my family.  This cake also freezes very well.  When we moved a few years ago, I was cleaning out the freezer and found a bunny cake ‘ear’ that was a little over a year old (wrapped in foil and then in a Ziploc).  I was going to pitch it but my son got to it first.  Unbelievably, the cake was still moist and it tasted great – thanks to the canola oil and grated carrot in the recipe.  We hope you have some fun with this one – and be sure    to freeze all the leftovers.

Carrot Cake
4 large eggs
1/2  teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups Canola oil                        2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sugar                                     3 cups grated carrot
2 cups flour                                       1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons cinnamon                     1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat eggs, add sugar and oil.  Sift dry ingredients and add.  Fold in nuts, carrots and vanilla.  Pour into two greased 8″ cake pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or test with toothpick.  When cake is cooled, cut one layer according to the chart and assemble bunny.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick unsalted butter
1 8 oz. pkg. lower fat cream cheese
1 lb. box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

At room temperature, with an electric mixer, cream butter and cream cheese.  Add powdered sugar in small amounts and vanilla until thoroughly blended.  Frost cake and use raisins or small gumdrops for eyes, nose & mouth.

Happy Easter!!!!!


Watermelon & Duck Confit Salad


                                            Watermelon & Duck Confit Salad

This salad has become one of the true favorites of Oceania’s Red Ginger restaurant and Chef Instructor Noelle Barille’s directions made this so easy. Duck confit can be purchased at Whole Foods and even Costco at times. The watermelon is the perfect texture and sweetness to balance the chewy duck confit.

Ingredients (serves 6)

Sweet Fish Sauce:

3/4 cup palm sugar, coarsely chopped (or brown sugar)
1/4 cup water
1/2 large shallot, coarsely chopped
1 lemongrass stalk, bulb portion only, coarsely chopped
1 kaffir lime leaf
1/2 inch piece galangal, peeled and coarsely chopped (or substitute ginger)
1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate

Duck & Watermelon Salad
Canola oil, for frying
1/2 cup raw cashew nuts
Kosher salt
6 confit duck legs
2 to 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
6 cups 1 inch cube seedless watermelon
1/2 cup Thai basil or sweet basil leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/3 cup thinly sliced shallot

For the Sauce
: In a medium saucepan, combine the palm sugar and water, place over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is melted, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat, stir in the shallot, lemongrass, lime leaf, and galangal and let sit at room temperature to cool and to infuse the flavors for at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight.

Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl. Discard the solids. Add 1 tablespoon each of the fish sauce and tamarind, mixing well. Taste and adjust with more fish sauce and tamarind, if needed. Set the sauce aside at room temperature.

For the Salad: Pour 4 inches of canola oil into a large, deep saucepan and heat to 325°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Line a small plate with paper towels for draining the cashews and line a larger plate for draining the duck.

Add the cashews to the hot oil and fry until crisp, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with salt while hot.

Increase the temperature of the oil to 350°F. Add 2 duck legs to the hot oil and fry, turning to brown on all sides, until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer to the towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat with the remaining duck legs in two batches.

When the duck legs are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin from each leg in as large a piece as possible.  Bone the legs and shred the meat into a bowl. Season to taste with the hoisin sauce.

In a separate bowl, combine the watermelon, basil, mint, and cilantro. Add the duck meat,  cashews, and shallot. Toss with enough of the sweet fish sauce to coat lightly. You may not need all of the sauce.

To Serve: Divide the salad among individual serving plates or martini glasses.

Bon Appetit!!!!

Pomelo Banh Trang Rolls

                                                                                                                                                  Another cooking class today with Chef Instructor Noelle Barille at the Culinary Center onboard Oceania’s Riviera.


                                                Pomelo  Banh Trang Rolls

These rolls are a lot of fun to make – plus they’re healthy and taste delicious.  You can use  grapefruit or blood oranges instead of pomelo which may not be readily available. The method is similar to rolling sushi, you should roll them on a damp cloth napkin.

Pomelo  Banh Trang Rolls

Ingredients (Serves 6)

Miang Sauce

1 3/4 cups coarsely chopped palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon thinly sliced Thai bird chiles
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped toasted coconut flakes
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped salted roasted peanuts
1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground dried galangal (or you can substitute ginger root )
1/3 to 1/2 cup tamarind concentrate

Pomelo Rolls
1 cup thin cellophane noodles
1 cup pomelo or grapefruit segments
1/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted coconut flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped salted roasted peanuts
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh Thai basil or sweet basil
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
6 rice paper wrappers, 8½ inches in diameter
6 Boston lettuce leaves, thick ribs remove
12 chive stems for garnish

For the Miang Sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine the palm sugar and water, place over medium heat, and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has melted, about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat, stir in the chiles, coconut, peanuts, and ½ teaspoon of the galangal, and let cool to room temperature. Stir in 1/3 cup of the tamarind. Taste and adjust with additional tamarind and galangal, if needed.

For the Rolls: Soak the cellophane noodles in room temperature water or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Drain well.  Pour half of the Miang sauce into a medium bowl and add the noodles.  Toss gently to season the noodles. Combine the pomelo (grapefruit), coconut, peanuts, basil, mint, sliced chives, and shallot. Stir  gently to mix.

Dampen a kitchen towel with lukewarm water, and lay it flat on a work surface. Lay 1 rice paper wrapper on the towel. Dampen a second towel with lukewarm water, and lay it over the wrappers.

Working with one wrapper at a time, keeping the others covered, place a lettuce leaf horizontally across the wrapper, positioning it about 2 inches from the bottom of the wrapper. Spoon about 1/3 cup of the pomelo (grapefruit) mixture along the length of the leaf, add an equal amount of the noodle mixture, and shape to form a compact log. Fold the bottom of the wrapper up over the log, then roll away from you, gently but tightly, stopping about halfway. Fold in the sides of the wrapper and continue to roll to the top edge of the wrapper. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling, keeping the finished rolls under a lightly dampened kitchen towel until all of the rolls are assembled.

TO SERVE: Cut the rolls in half on a slight diagonal. Arrange a roll on each individual serving plate, standing one half up and laying the other half on its side. Slip 2 chive stems into the top of the standing half of each roll. Divide the sauce evenly among small dishes and place a dish alongside each serving.

Bon Appetit!!

Belize Chicken with Rice and Beans

The National cuisine of Belize is a combination of Caribbean, Creole and Spanish influences.  Here are two of Belize’s most traditional recipes.

                                          Belize Chicken with Rice and Beans

Belize Chicken

Serves 4-6

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bites
2 tablespoons allspice
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
Dash of cayenne pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon)1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large cast iron skillet. Using tongs mix chicken, allspice, Creole seasoning, and cayenne in a large bowl.  Carefully add the chicken to the oil.  Cook chicken 6 to 8 minutes.  Then serve chicken with coconut rice and black beans.

Rice and Beans

2 cups of rice
1 cup of red kidney beans
1 cup of coconut milk
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp of dried thyme
Salt and pepper

Soak the beans overnight in water for about 6 hours.  Chop the onion and garlic, and  cook.  Add the beans and cover with water, and bring to boil until tender.  Add thyme, a pinch of salt and pepper, and coconut milk.   Add the rice and cook until tender, stirring occasionally with a fork.




Lunch in Honduras

Well, we missed the green market and the fish market but found some interesting staples…vanilla, beans, rice and lots of hot sauce.                                                  






Baleadas is a staple in the country of Honduras served to Honduran families for breakfast   or as supper.  By folding a flour tortilla you can fill it with a myriad of delicious fillings.  Here is a recipe for Baleadas.

                                                     Honduras Baleadas

Serves 4 – 6
8 Flour Tortillas
2 cups Refried beans
1/2 cup Crumbled queso duro, cotija or feta cheese
1/4 cup Mexican style sour cream

Heat over medium flame and do not grease griddle or skillet.  Meanwhile, heat up the refried beans in a saucepan, stirring in a little water.
Place a tortilla into the skillet and heat it on both sides to soften it up. Place the tortilla on a serving plate. Smear some refried beans on one half of the tortilla, sprinkle it with some crumbled cheese and drizzle it with a little sour cream. Fold the tortilla in half over the filling.
Repeat with the remaining tortillas and serve hot.

Buen provecho!



A Cooking Class in Cozumel

When a recipe is easy and tastes divine, we have a winner!  How about some Caramelized Plantains with a Chocolate Tequila Sauce….

Ingredients:  (serves 4)
Plantains – 2 large pieces
1 oz. cinnamon
1.8 oz. butter
3.5 oz. granulated sugar
5.3 oz.dark chocolate pieces
1/4 cup milk
4 Tablespoons Tequila (Optional)

Halve the plantains across  and then lengthwise; sprinkle flat side with sugar and cinnamon to taste.
Heat butter and sugar in a pan; add plantains flat side down and cook for 30 seconds, flip and cook for 1 minute.
Remove plantains from the pan and place them on a plate.
In the same pan, add 1/4 cup milk and dark chocolate.
Cook, stirring constantly until the chocolate melts and the sauce is smooth.
Add Tequila if desired.
Pour sauce over the plantains and serve.

Buen provecho!

A Coco Loco Drink

A Coco Loco is a famous drink, but the recipe depends on where you are drinking it.  Each country has its own version.  Here’s the Mexican version from Cozumel.

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2 cups ice
2 1/2 ounces coconut rum
2 1/2 ounces white Creme de Cacao
2 ounces unsweetened coconut milk

Add all the ingredients to the container of an electric blender.
Cover and process on high for about 20 seconds or until the drink is smooth (May have to pulse on and off at first to get things going).
Pour into hollowed out coconut or 2 chilled glasses and enjoy.