Jalapeno Corn Muffins


Last weekend I had the rare privilege of spending the day alone with my 9-year-old grandson.  His parents and brother, Charlie, had other commitments as did my husband so that left just Henry and me to entertain each other.  Henry has a strong interest in the culinary arts, his specialties being brewing espresso for his parents (he asked for an espresso machine for Christmas last year) and Swedish Almond Cake which he makes often and quite well.  Thinking he might need to expand his repertoire, I suggested we try making a recipe I recently saw on face book.  It called for fresh corn and jalapeno both of which are in the height of their season and it was one I had wanted to try as well.  A new recipe for both of us, we embarked on our venture.  Things were going well until his family returned as we were just finishing up the batter.  Distracted, we had the batter in the pan before we realized we had forgotten two essential ingredients, the fresh corn and the cheddar cheese, a Wisconsin must have.  Not to worry, we decided, we could add it on top and hope it would sink as they baked, which it did.  Earlier we had decided to add our own touch of crumbled bacon because, well, we both agreed, bacon makes everything better.  We also divided the batter in half so we could make some without the jalapeno as he is not a spicy kind of guy.  I really liked the jalapeno in there but you can decide for yourself.  Before they completed baking, the boys were swimming and I think the muffin project was already forgotten until I served them poolside with some beverages and a bit if butter, just in case they were dry, which they weren’t.  Well received by all, I sent some home for a later snack or to serve with dinner.


Here is how it goes down:

Jalapeno Corn Muffins                                                 Makes 12 muffins

Recipe adapted from The Comfort of Cooking


  • 1/2 cup (one stick) butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh or thawed corn kernels (optional, but highly recommended) Note:  We used fresh corn I had grilled the night before.
  • 4 slices of crisp apple wood smoked bacon crumbled (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, or 325 degrees F  for convection.
  2. Get a medium-size bowl and combine the butter, sugar, and agave nectar (we used local honey), then whisk the eggs and buttermilk in. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, put a tablespoon of lemon juice in a measuring cup and fill it the rest of the way to the one-cup mark with milk. Let the mixture sit for five minutes, and you’ll have buttermilk.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking soda together. Then add this mixture to the medium bowl of butter and sugar and agave, being careful not to over-mix. Stop mixing once you don’t see the flour anymore, and then fold in the jalapeño, corn, and cheese.
  4. Grease a muffin tin (or use parchment cups)  and then add the batter to each of the 12 cups, filling each about 3/4 of the way. If there is leftover batter, spread it among all the cups – just make sure they are only almost filled to the top.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes or about 20 minutes for convection, testing the center of the muffin with a toothpick. If the toothpick does not come out clean, put the muffins back in the oven for about five minutes.

These muffins were very moist, the corn added a nice texture, the bacon a hint of smokiness and the pepper a tiny bit of heat.  My jalapeno’s were not especially hot so I will add more next time.  They retained their moistness the following day which is rare for most cornbread recipes.  I would recommend you try this one.


Before I close I have to share some of the conversation that ensued while we were together in the kitchen.  It seems Henry has long desired a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  Knowing how expensive they are, he has been trying to save money by selling his “soon to be famous” coffee at garage sales and doing chores for cash.  He was also hoping his Mom would assist with some extra money she made directing an art academy this summer.  It appears his dream came true this week with the arrival of a silver model that he proudly displays on the kitchen counter.  Serving as incentive I got word that he has expanded his culinary repertoire even further this week as he learned to make cinnamon chocolate chip cookies, beer bread (grandpa’s favorite) and French bread.  Move over, Swedish Almond Cake, this boy is on fire!Henry II

No doubt Henry will continue to spread the love,  as he explores the benefits of his new kitchen equipment and I hope you will do the same, one dish at a time.   Until next time I’m cooking the season and sending love from my home to yours.  JeanneIMG_7608



Summer Vegetable Frittata


IMG_7527The French are known for their delicate rolled omelet but the Italians have taken the concept and made it into a hardy meal full of the unexpected.  The Frittata (frih-TAH-tuh), differs from the French omelet as it has the ingredients mixed with the eggs rather than being folded inside.  It is a blank canvas that can take on a wide variety of ingredients and flavors.  Its versatility makes for a wonderful opportunity to clean out the fridge and use those little bits of this and that that are hanging out. IMG_6814 This weeks creation was inspired by summer’s harvest and farm fresh eggs, the essential ingredient.  I am very fortunate to have access to delicious eggs that I get from a local friend who allows her hens to run free and forage.  They are very happy chickens, I assure you.  The yolks are golden and the taste is second to none.  Since I had an abundance on hand I began my own foraging in the refrigerator for what might make a perfect marriage.  What I found was an ear of grilled sweet corn from last night’s dinner, a bit of fresh spinach. half a red bell pepper and a couple of scallions.  On my counter were some sun-gold and heirloom tomatoes from my garden and fresh herbs to be picked outside.  Add to that some seasonings, a splash of cream, some grated cheese (today I used a combination of gruyere and Parmesan).  I hit pay dirt!   I will take you through the process of this creative adventure.IMG_7510

  1. Select the proper pan.  I feel a good quality non-stick pan is the best choice,  Usually I use a 10-inch but a 12-inch skillet could be used if feeding a crowd.
  2. Crack 6 eggs (for 10-inch pan, more if using larger pan) in a bowl and whisk with a splash of milk or cream.  Set aside.
  3. Cut vegetables (the pepper and scallions) into small dice.  Remove corn from cob.  Sauté with a bit of minced garlic in butter or olive oil or a combination of both until soft.
  4. Add the spinach and tomatoes, reserving a few slices for the top. Cook until wilted.
  5. Add the gruyere cheese and chopped herbs of choice (I used basil and parsley) to the eggs and mix thoroughly.  Pour egg mixture into the pan with the veggies.
  6. Cook over medium heat edging egg away from the sides with a spatula.  Cook until edges and bottom are set.  the top will still be runny.IMG_7513
  7. Add the Parmesan and reserved tomato slices to the top and place under a preheated broiler for 3-4 minutes or until top is set, cheese melted and beginning to brown.
  8. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes and then cut and serve.

This dish can be served hot or cold.  I like to make it and serve warm for breakfast or with a mixed salad for lunch or dinner.  Leftovers can be packed for lunch the following day right out of the refrigerator.

This is not really a recipe but more a technique for a creation made from whatever you have or makes you happy.  Pasta and rice give it more body or meat such as bacon, chicken or ham can be added. Shellfish, such as crab, lobster or shrimp or smoked fish like salmon or trout also add a great depth of flavor.  Simple or fancy, it is a fast and easy meal that is sure to satisfy.  I used to tell my children it was egg pizza with your toppings of choice.

There are endless ideas for frittata online like this one from Alton Brown.  If you don’t have a broiler you can finish it in the oven or flip it in the pan, which is traditional but often messy if you aren’t practiced.


I can’t think of an easier or more satisfying way to waste not and spread the love all at the same time.  Check out your pantry, fridge and garden and get those creative juices flowing.  Imagine and it can happen.  I send my love and joy of cooking from my kitchen to yours.  Jeanne

Annabelle’s Kitchen


If you have been following the process of my kitchen remodel, you know we went through quite an ordeal with the stove.  After ordering it far in advance and waiting months, it mysteriously never materialized.  We ended up canceling the original order and buying a floor model from another vendor.  That said, it finally arrived on July 17th, my mother’s birthday.  We took it as a sign she was looking down at us and I needed to welcome you all to “Annabelle’s Kitchen.”  I have officially christened it in honor of my mother, Annabelle Clawson Raffetto.  This room was the heartbeat of our daily lives growing up and she reigned as the queen.  It was because of the generosity of my parents that I was able to take on this project so I thought it was only fitting that it bear her name.  She spread the love daily with her delicious meals and became the holiday host for our immediate and large extended family.  This involved a massive amount of cooking, eating, laughter and general good cheer.  Wine was always involved, salad was a staple, the presence of crusty bread a must and of course, pasta (sometimes it was polenta, but mostly pasta), always dressed in a delicious sauce.  Other dishes were presented as well as dessert but the nature of those depended on the season and whim of the cook.

IMG_4472I held a small dinner party in honor of the christening and served one of my mother’s best creations, lasagna.  The story behind my mother’s signature dish began with my paternal grandmother, Jenny Raffetto (Mamaw), who had amazing culinary skills and took my mother as a young bride under her wing at the stove.  A good student, the result was amazing as her abilities as an Italian cook could rival the likes of famed, Lidia Bastanianich.  The much-anticipated holiday and special occasion dish of my early years was Mamaw’s ravioli.  The filling was a recipe handed down through the generations.  The team effort of the ravioli making was taken on by my mom and grandmother with the assistance of me and my sisters.  We would make hundreds of these little pillows covering every available surface of our home while the aroma of tomato sauce wafted throughout.  My mouth still waters at the thought of these little pockets filled with meat, spinach and cheese and made with loving hands.

Loving hands of Mom & Mamaw

Loving hands of Mom & Mamaw

But as years went by and we all aged the tedious task of making them became too much for my grandmother and somewhat burdensome for Mom.  It was then that she conceived the idea of converting the recipe into a lasagna.  One big dish, feeding many, the same great flavor profile with less fuss.  That was the ticket!  It soon became her signature and the much appreciated dish of family gatherings and holidays.  It seemed only fitting that this would be the dish of our first official dinner party, cooked in the new kitchen and served to friends.


Here was the menu:

Antipasto of mixed olives and almonds

First course-Garlic Soup w/ garlic croutons (I will be sharing this recipe at a later date)

Second course-Frisee salad with sun gold tomatoes and radishIMG_7543

Third course-Annabelle’s lasagna

Fourth course-Salted caramel sundaes with chocolate lace cookies

The filling recipe goes down like this:

Ravioli Filling

Passed to us by Jenny Bonini Raffetto, our beloved Mamaw

10 oz.  spinach ( I use frozen for this)

1 lb. ground round or chuck (I added an additional 1/2 lb. Hot Italian sausage as well)

6 cloves fresh garlic, crushed (or to taste)

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1 15 oz. carton of ricotta cheese

1 c Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheese (½ c each)

2 t dried basil or 2-3 T fresh (if available)

1-2 eggs, lightly beaten

Wilt spinach in small amount of water.  Drain, cool and chop. If using frozen, thaw and squeeze out all excess liquid.

Brown meat (if necessary use a small amount of olive oil), season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

Mix hot meat with cream cheese and blend thoroughly.  Add ricotta,  1/2 of the Parmigiano and Romano cheeses, reserve remaining for topping.  Mix thoroughly with spinach and dried and/or fresh herbs (or a combination of both).

Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary.

Add egg and mix well. If too dry, add additional egg.  Mixture should be wet but not sloppy.  It should hold together enough to be spooned into ravioli dough.

Refrigerate to cool slightly for easier handling.  Can be made a day ahead.

Use as filling in your favorite ravioli dough or as a filling for lasagna when time is short.


Note:  For the lasagna, I preheated oven to 375 degrees.  Soaked the noodles in hottest tap water for 20 minutes to soften.  I used the regular noodles not precooked. Grate or slice a large ball of fresh mozzarella, set aside.  I buttered a large baking dish and began layers starting and ending with the sauce (I used about 1 1/2 quarts tomato sauce, homemade).  So, sauce, noodles, generous amount of filling, mozzarella, sprinkling of parm/romano mixture, noodles, sauce, more filling, mozzarella, more parm/romano, noodles, sauce and top with remaining cheeses.  Cover with foil, bake for 30-45 minutes, covered, uncover for remaining 15 minutes or until it is bubbly and browned on top.  Allow to sit 15- 20 minutes before serving.IMG_7564

Although the food says love, nothing says it more than the gathering of good friends, sharing family stories and a salute to our Mom’s and everyone that made us who we are today.    IMG_7555

So thank you Mom and Dad for my beautiful new space and for teaching us to spread the love, one dish at a time.  Hope you will spread the love in your house by sharing my family’s recipe.  From my home to yours,  Jeanne

Mamaw's Fiestaware takes its place in the new kitchen.

Mamaw’s Fiestaware takes its place in the new kitchen.



Double Chocolate Salted Zucchini Cakes


Zucchini and decadence may seem incongruous but this recipe elevates this common and often dull vegetable to the level of sheer delight and deliciousness.  As in all recipes, using high quality ingredients makes a huge difference in the outcome.  Remember the old saying, “garbage in, garbage out.”  This was a phrase first coined in reference to computer data entry but it applies equally to the success of all recipes.  In the case of today’s feature it is all about the freshest zucchini, high-grade chocolates, vanilla, cinnamon and salts.  It may seem that individually they shouldn’t matter that much but I learned from an excellent and well-respected chef that you need to think of the cumulative effect of all of the ingredients working together.  The higher the quality the better result.  A good rule of thumb for all cooking, but it especially applies to the chocolate in this preparation.  There is so much chocolate on the market today.  When choosing, beware of those products labeled chocolate-flavored or artificially flavored chocolate as they are not for real and can contain up to 50% sugar and an array of other ingredients.  A good quality chocolate should be 65-70% cacao or above.  It is said chocolate of this caliber is healthy for you so we don’t have to feel guilty, right?  For more information check out, The Nibble.

I bake very little as my palate leans to the savory much more than to the sweet but given the seasonal abundance  and low impact on your budget, zucchini seems to be the vegetable of the day.  I love the challenge of transforming it into dessert.  I think once you try this recipe topped with just a bit of flaked sea salt, you will never think of zucchini the same again.


Here is how it went down:


Makes 24 cupcakes

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

½ c unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature

¾ c granulated sugar

½ c grape seed or other neutral cooking oil

2 large eggs

1t pure vanilla extract (good quality)

½ c buttermilk

2 ½ c all-purpose flour

4T cocoa powder (I use Valrhona unsweetened cocoa powder)

1t baking soda

½ t cinnamon (I use Vietnamese from Penzy spices)

½ t sea salt

2c grated zucchini, drained

12 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ c toasted pecans, chopped

Flaked sea salt (such as Maldon) for sprinkling on top

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 degrees for convection oven). Grease and flour two cupcake pans or use parchment cupcake liners.
  2. Place grated zucchini is a strainer with a plate to weigh it down. Allow to drain for 15-30 minutes.
  3. Cream together sugar and butter until fluffy and light.
  4. Add the oil, eggs, vanilla and buttermilk. Mix well.
  5. In a small bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually add to the wet ingredients and mix well. Do not overwork.
  6. Fold in the zucchini.
  7. With a large ice cream scoop or a ¼ c measuring cup, fill the cupcake pans.
  8. Top each with the toasted pecans and the chocolate chips.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes (that is what it took using convection) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes clean. Baking time may vary depending on your oven.
  10. Allow to cool on racks for a 10 minutes and then sprinkle each with a little of the flaked sea salt. Continue cooling.

NOTE:  If you wish, you can bake in a 9×13 baking pan.  Baking time may have to be adjusted. 

There it is!  So moist, full of chocolaty gooey goodness with a light crunch provided by the toasted pecans and flaked sea salt.  You are going to look like a rock star when you serve this!IMG_7489

I have shared this week’s featured creation and now I must advance to the final chapter of “the kitchen remodel.”  I am delighted to report that the stove (a induction range with convection ovens) is fully installed and functioning!  Very exciting and a huge relief.  We spent the week cleaning up and moving things back to their intended homes.  As of today, we are finished!  Pots and pans in their place, spices all lined up, utensils positioned and ready, I have begun planning my dedication dinner which I hope will be the subject of my next post.  I did make a couple of dishes this week as I learned the ins and outs of the new equipment.  What was the first you ask?  As soon as the installers left I made eggs for breakfast.  Just had to try it out.  IMG_7494








The oven was christened with the baking of the Double Chocolate Salted Zucchini Cakes which I was thrilled to be making.


I hope they will make an appearance in your kitchen soon as you continue to spread the love, one dish at a time.  Thanks for tolerating all the dust and chaos of my kitchen makeover.  From my new digs to yours, I send my love.  Jeanne

Ceviche w/ Avocado, Tomato and Green Chile


Summer is the perfect season for the fresh crisp flavors of ceviche.  This wonderful lime-marinated seafood cocktail has its roots in Latin America.  It is traditionally made with fresh ocean fish or shellfish but many modern chefs have broadened the concept to include a variety of bold-flavored combinations of seafood, vegetables, herbs and even fruit.  Essentially it is a collection of raw ingredients that are marinated in citrus, most commonly lime juice, long enough to “cook” through.  It is a versatile salad that be served in a variety of ways.  I enjoy it served as a tostada on a crisp corn tortilla as a main dish or in a small glass as an appetizer served with crackers or chips.  I have also eaten it nestled in greens as a citrus punched first course salad.  Regardless of how it is served, it is  light, vibrant, and stunning to look at.  It begs for creativity in both its composition and presentation.IMG_7436

I have enjoyed making and eating ceviche for many years but I have to credit my daughter, Sarah, for my most recent creation.  We were discussing my lack of a functioning kitchen (update to come later) and she suggested making this dish as it relies strictly on the acid of the citrus to cook, requiring no heat source.  Perfect for the chef with no stove, right?

One tip for making a successful ceviche is “Freshness!”  I cannot emphasize this enough.  The freshest of ingredients, especially the fish and shellfish, is essential.  I suggest you read these tips, “How to Make the Perfect Ceviche and Common Mistakes to Avoid” , if you are inexperienced with the process.  Opinions vary greatly on how long the ingredients should sit in the marinade.  A variance of 15 minutes to 2 hrs. can be found.  I personally do not like to marinate longer than 20-30 minutes as the fish gets overcooked.  I then remove all the contents from the citrus and finish it off.  You should do it the way that makes you most comfortable.

Mine creation went down like this.IMG_7409

Jeanne’s Ceviche (Sometimes spelled Seviche)  

6-8 servings 

1 lb each bay scallops and large shrimp, (sea scallops or other light white fish can also be used), cut into bite size pieces

1 c fresh lime juice

¼ c fresh lemon juice

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped fine

1-2 scallions, green part only, chopped fine

¼ c flat leaf parsley, chopped

½ c cilantro, chopped

1 T extra-virgin olive oil

2 tomatoes, cut into small dice (optional)

1 avocado, cut into small dice (optional)

1/2 c cucumber, cut in small dice (optional)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1.  Combine scallops, shrimp, lime juice, lemon juice, jalapeno, scallions, parsley, and cilantro.
  2.  Toss thoroughly, cover and refrigerate for 15- 20 minutes but not more than 30 minutes for maximum tenderness.
  3.  Drain and reserve citrus mixture.
  4.  Toss scallops with olive oil and 1 T of reserved citrus juice.
  5.  Add chopped tomato and avocado and cucumber, if using.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7.  Taste and adjust seasoning and add more citrus,  if needed.


A favorite picnic dish in Mexico, it screams summer freshness.  I am thinking next time I might add some watermelon to mine.  With the all the garden choices this season brings, the possibilities are endless.  I am happy to report that my home-grown tomatoes and scallions ripened just in time for this week’s recipe.  Can’t wait to see what is coming next!IMG_7393

I promised more on the ongoing saga of the unfinished kitchen remodel, so here it goes.  First thing Monday morning the electricians came and completed all the lighting around the sink.  Wow!  It is really makes that area come alive.  The other development is, “the stove is in the house!”  That’s right it was delivered late Thursday but a little too late for the installers.  So here it sits in the middle of the kitchen waiting to fulfill its destiny as a functional appliance.  The promise is the installers will be here first thing tomorrow morning (Monday) and if all goes well, the kitchen will be back!  Finally!  I am now about 95% moved back in and itching to cook my first meal.  I truly hope for all our sakes I will be able to christen the new space this week and we can cease talking about it  I look forward to being asked, “what’s cooking?” instead of the question of late, “do you have your stove yet?”


Hopefully all of you have been keeping it alive on your stoves and/or grills, enjoying the fruits of the summer harvest and spreading the love, one dish at a time.  I am sending my hope to fire up my stove this week and sending my love from my almost kitchen to yours.



Coming Home


 “I’m coming home;  I’m coming home;

Tell the world I’m coming home!”   J. Cole Lyrics


An incredible adventure is so enriching but even while experiencing the excitement our thoughts often drift longingly to home.  This is your comfort zone, the place where you can totally relax and be yourself.  Thoughts of sleeping in your own bed conjure comfort and safety.   Although I have been sleeping in my own bed, I have felt very displaced since the kitchen remodel project has been underway, approaching 6 weeks now.  Can you believe it?  If you have been following you know it has not been without frustration.  Even though I must report still being stoveless, I believe we have resolved the issue by canceling our order with the original company and purchasing the same stove from another vendor.  I did have to settle for a floor model that comes with a little scratch on the front panel but was reduced in price by several hundred dollars which eased the pain a bit.  The real bonus is I actually got to touch it and I am feeling very confident after all that has happened, I will have a stove by Thursday.   That said, the need to settle into the new space has taken over and I have spent the last week lining cupboards and drawers and reclaiming my space.  I found myself singing the above song lyric as I hung the pot rack and lovingly placed my cookware.  The empty bookcase that has been calling to me is now filled with the cherished works of my precious culinary “friends.”  Welcome home, Julia et al!  I am so happy to be back in your company.  photo

It has been a bit like Christmas and I am feeling empowered as I unpack and decide on the new location for my tools and equipment.  The above song goes on to say,

“Back where I belong; I never felt so strong, Feeling like there’s nothing that I can’t try, If you feel me, put your hands up high.”

This reflects my joy as I continue the process of re-establishing my favorite space.  Perhaps I can write about the first meal cooked in my new kitchen next time.  Keep those positive thoughts for me, a chef without a kitchen is like a fish out of water.  I am, however, getting closer to home, there is no place like it, right Dorothy?


Meanwhile, I do have a new grill recipe for you.  If you garden you know how prolific even one zucchini plant can be.  With the season upon us, we are always in search of new and creative ways to prepare it.  Last night I roasted it on the grill with a spice rub that ordinarily I associate with meats.  The result was very flavorful.  Here’s how it goes.

SMOKY GRILLED ZUCCHINI                           Serves 6

Recipe by Alice Ladman

3 medium zucchini

1T Extra-virgin olive oil

½ t Sea salt

½ t freshly ground black pepper

1 t smoked paprika

1-2 t brown sugar

Fresh limes for squeezing

  1. Heat the grill to medium-high.
  2. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and rub them with the olive oil.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, paprika and sugar. Rub this mixture over the zucchini.
  4. Grill the zucchini until tender and charred, about 3-5 minutes per side.
  5. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing.

The smokiness of the paprika paired with the sweetness of the sugar really amps up the rather dull flavor of the squash.  Add a squeeze of lime for a bit of acidity and you have a perfect balance.  I just used 1t of sugar as my palate leans to savory but you can adjust to taste.  Quick and easy, it can be served hot or at room temperature.  Try not to overcook it as it will get mushy.  I keep an eye on it and cook just until crisp tender, the time will vary depending on the temp of your grill.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  I have a feeling you will view zucchini differently after eating it prepared this way.


So the saga continues but I am optimistic a new story will prevail as the week progresses.  My creative juices refuse to be squelched as I resume the task of reclamation and coming home.  Keep me in your thoughts and let me know what you are grilling up these days as you continue to spread the love, one dish at a time.  From my grill to yours, I send my love and best summer wishes.  Jeanne



Jambalaya on the Grill


It has been said, “necessity is the mother of invention.”  I know for sure there is truth in that saying as being without a functioning kitchen for a month has truly ignited my creative juices.  I am constantly thinking about ways to get around the inconvenience and still satisfy my love of good food and need to create it.  At first I kept it simple with sandwiches, salads and grilling the standard steak, chop or burger but now I am hungry for more.  Perhaps it was the delicious etouffee and Cajun inspired meal  prepared for us by friends recently that got me thinking about New Orleans and its unique and eclectic cuisines.  Or the book “Gumbo Shop” those same friends loaned me that whet my appetite.  Whatever the inspiration, the presence of gulf shrimp and Andouille sausage lurking in my freezer sealed the deal.  IMG_7352

Let’s start with a little background.  The cuisine(s) of this area have many influences; French, Italian, Spanish, African, Native American to name a few.  Some believe the idea of jambalaya originated from the Spanish and their love of paella (the national dish of Spain).  It is a rice based dish combined with a variety of meats, shellfish and vegetables originally cooked by the gauchos (cowboys) over an open fire.  That said, it did not seem such a reach to make it on the grill.  Traditionally the raw rice is toasted a bit in the fat and then the liquid is added cooking it with the selected ingredients.  I decided instead to utilize the steamed rice left over from Chinese takeout that was hanging in the fridge.  This reduced the amount of time needed for cooking and made me feel good about not wasting.

Here is how I did it using a cast iron skillet.  The result was a smoky goodness with just enough heat to wake the palate and stimulate the taste buds.  You adjust to suit yourself.





Jambalaya On The Grill                                        Serves 6

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

½ lb. shrimp Peeled, deveined, placed on skewers,  brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and Cajun spice

½ lb. Andouille sausageIMG_7316

½ c each “holy trinity”, cut into small dice (green or red bell pepper, celery, onion)

4 cloves garlic, minced

2T bacon drippings, lard or cooking oil

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes or equivalent of fresh, if in season

1 ½ c cooked rice

1 c chicken stock

Cajun spice, to taste

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Large cast iron skilletIMG_7323

  1. Preheat grill to high.
  2. Prep all ingredients and place them on a baking sheet to carry outside.
  3. Place whole sausage on the grill and cook until outside is a bit charred. Remove and set aside.
  4. Place skewers with shrimp on the grill and cook for just a few seconds on each side. Remove and set aside (they will cook further later on).
  5. Adjust the heat on the grill to achieve medium high heat.
  6. Place a large cast iron skillet on the top with 2T of whatever fat you have chosen. When heated, add the “holy trinity,” season with salt, pepper and Cajun spice, sauté until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so, stirring to avoid burning.
  7. Slice the sausage into bite sized pieces and add back into skillet. Stir and cook a minute or so.
  8. Add the diced tomato and cook for 5-10 minutes to allow the tomatoes to break down.
  9. Add the rice and stir in to fully incorporate. Add the chicken stock and cook for 5 minutes or more until the mixture is thick and not soupy.
  10. Remove the shrimp from the skewers and add to skillet.  Stir for about a minute.
  11. Taste, and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve hot.

If you do the prep ahead, the actual cooking time is quick and easy.  I substituted red bell pepper for the traditional green because I prefer the added sweetness it provides but like I say, “whatever makes you happy.”  I know you are going to love this!


Ok, now for this weeks installment of Jeanne’s kitchen makeover.  It has been both a gratifying and frustrating process this week.  The good news is I have a beautiful functioning sink and dishwasher (I no longer have to hand wash) with a fully installed glass backsplash (waiting for the electrics to be finished) that has caused me to walk by for a loving  glance at regular intervals.  IMG_7347

My refrigerator is in and making ice along with the wall oven which is fully functioning.  The housing for my cookbooks lies in wait of its residents and I am so excited to assist them with their relocation.  Ah, the bad news, still no stove!  What?  It’s the heartbeat of the kitchen, right?  It seems to be lost and no one can find it.  Long story and many emails and phone calls later the frustration continues with still no word as to when I might actually lay eyes on it.  I guess my finesse with the grill will continue until further notice or the stove fairies bring one in the night.  I will keep you posted.


Summer is the best time for grilling so why not bust out and try something out of the ordinary.  You would be amazed what you can do especially if you employ the assistance of the trusty cast iron skillet, indestructible and old school, it is one cooking tool I would not want to do without.  Until next time whether grilling or not, keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  For me, from my grill and my partially renovated kitchen, I send my love to you.  Jeanne