Date Night and Duck Breast with Pomegranate-Chile Sauce

It is spring break for schools in the area. The girls abandoned us to brighter places with their respective other parents.  I can’t remember the last time I cooked for Jim. Just Jim. So…on an unusual weeknight dinner date at home, I decided to make

Caesar Salad, Duck Breast with Pomegranate sauce, Mushroom Risotto and Chocolate Creme Brulee.


Most of this I had never made before. It was a risk. But, if it turned out badly we could always just order pizza. There was no urgency or expectation. Perfect for cooking experiments for a forgiving and kind loved one.

What I learned:

The anchovy paste I used tasted bitter for the caesar salad dressing. Next time I’m sticking with the canned anchovies. I like those better.

The Duck Breast was perfectly cooked thanks to the Epicurious Roast Duck Breast with Pomegranate-chile Sauce  recipe. Dear Ms. Selma Brown you are an artist.

  1. Score the duck breast.
  2. Cook skin side down on a dry pan (it won’t stay dry for long).. 7 minutes.
  3. Flip cook other side for 1 minute.
  4. Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.
  5. Let meat rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

I adapted the sauce [now my new favorite!]

1/2 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water. Simmer until caramalized.

Add 2 cups pomegranate juice and 2 cups chicken broth.

I didn’t have dried California Chilies. I did have dried Carolina Reapers…I simmered one-half in the sauce for five minutes. It was HOT….even for me. I was afraid that I would injure Jim with this lovingly prepared lethal sauce.

Reduce until thick. About 25 minutes.

Add one and half teaspoon of Chipotle in adobo sauce and Balsamic vinegar each. This gives the sauce a surprisingly beautiful smoky warmth along with the fruity sweetness.

I strained it. I was left with this deep red, translucent sauce with a honey consistency and spicy hot strength. Amazing. I want to bottle it and share.

It held when I drizzled the sauce on the plate but once I added honey in an effort to tame the angry heat…the sauce sort of dissolved. Maybe next time I’ll drizzle the honey on the duck breast itself and leave the red drizzle alone. Regardless, this was easily one of the best duck preparations I had. Complex flavors, crispy skin, tender meat. Each bite felt full. Next time maybe add some greenbeans to the plate.

The Mushroom Risotto was perfect company for the duck. Next time I need to remember to add more liquid before I serve. The rice had tightened up a bit and lost its creaminess. Basically, every cup of rice needs about 3-4 cups of water.

The Chocolate Creme Brulee was a grown-up cross between chocolate mousse and pudding. I adapted it from Michael Symon’s recipe. Didn’t use a tart shell. The salt in the salt and coffee in the recipe add a……hmmmmm…this is different but familiar taste.


Jim helped with the salad, slicing the duck and torching the creme brulee sugar.

We were both very happy with dinner.

Wishing you delicious dinners with your beloved,





Baklava – Testing Michael Symon’s Rose Water Recipe

Making baklava was MUCH easier than I thought it would be! Its magic really… sheets of thin pastry, nuts and syrup add up to simple deliciousness of honey sweet and buttery tastes delivered by nutty and flaky textures. Everyone in my chopped and blended nutty family liked it! Except for chocolate chip cookies, that doesn’t happen very often. Its a miracle people!

I generally followed the recipe except I used a mix of walnuts and pecans and added a bit more lemon juice. I also didn’t cut the pieces as small. It would’ve been better smaller. As you can imagine the dessert is very rich and sweet. Cutting the raw baklava was making me nervous as it started to tear. I think the only rule of baklava making is: build FAST. The dump and simmer syrup needed the longest preparation time but necessary to get the sticky consistency.

I know people like baklava: nutty, sweet and just flaky enough to be fun. Like Baklava they are perfect for large parties. Invite a few and serve them some.


Food Network Baklava Recipe Courtesy of Michael Symon

For the syrup:
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon rose water (optional)
For the baklava:
1 pound chopped walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts and/or almonds (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
18 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

Make the syrup: Bring 2 cups water, the sugar and honey to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium low; simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and rose water. Pour into a large liquid measuring cup or heatproof bowl and refrigerate until ready to use (or up to 1 day).

Make the baklava: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 375 degrees F. Pulse the nuts, confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon in a food processor until coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the vanilla and salt.

Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with melted butter. Trim the phyllo to 9 by 13 inches with kitchen shears (fig. A); cover with a damp towel. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo in the prepared baking dish and brush with butter. Repeat with 5 more sheets of phyllo, buttering each sheet. Scatter about 3/4 cup of the nut mixture evenly over the phyllo stack. Top with 2 more sheets of phyllo, buttering each sheet, then top with another 3/4 cup of the nut mixture. Repeat to make 2 more layers (use 2 sheets of buttered phyllo and 3/4 cup nut mixture for each layer), then top with the remaining 6 sheets of phyllo, buttering each sheet (fig. B). Scatter the remaining nut mixture on top.

Cut the baklava into 32 triangles (fig. C). Transfer to the oven and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 40 minutes (tent with foil if the nuts are browning too quickly).

Remove from the oven and pour the prepared syrup evenly over the top. Let the syrup soak in, at least 2 hours.

Read more at:

In a different mode, I also tested gluten free flour (krusteaz brand) in baking banana bread. It worked out well. Familiar texture, nice crunchy crust on top and moist. There was a slight bitter aftertaste possibly from the sorghum flour. What are your experiences with gluten free flour?


Wishing all of you happy weekend eating ahead,