Daube de Gigot (French Lamb Stew)

Simple and simply wonderful French lamb stew, adapted from an old family recipe, serves four generously (with seconds and/or leftovers) and is a complete meal all in itself. Make it on an afternoon that you are around the house, writing letters, putting together a photo album or watching a game, because you'll need to hover lovingly over the pot -- to stir and add ingredients over two+ hours. Then serve it to your friends and family with a hearty Burgundy wine. Unforgettable. Leftovers are almost better than the first serving!

2 lbs. lamb round bone shoulder chops, trimmed and cut into 2" pieces (Do not discard any bones.)
4-5 tbsp. butter
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 lb. carrots, cut or sliced into 2" lengths
2 med. yellow onions, cut into 1/4" slices
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 tsp. fresh thyme)
3-4 potatoes, cut into 2" pieces, and boiled until tender
1 lb. frozen peas
3 tbsp. flour
1/2 c. hot water
1/2 to 1 c. good quality red wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Sauté mushrooms in 2 tbsp. of the butter. Put aside.
In a large Dutch oven, sauté lamb in 2 tbsp. of the butter until browned. Put aside.
In fond (juice of sautéed lamb with brown bits), sauté onions and garlic until golden. Make a slurry out of 3 tbsp. flour and 1/2 cup hot water and add to onions. Stir thoroughly. Add more water if necessary. Add 1/2 c. red wine. Let simmer for 10 mins. stirring frequently. Mixture will be thick and fragrant.

To the onions, add the sautéed lamb its juices that have accumulated while resting. Stir thoroughly. Add carrots, sautéed mushrooms, thyme, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and stir thoroughly.  Set burner to low simmer and add more wine -- 1/4 to 1/2 cup. 
Stir thoroughly every 10-15 minutes, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Add more water or wine as needed. Add potatoes and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add frozen peas, simmer for 15 minutes more. Voila! It's ready! Serve with a hearty Burgundy and French bread and don't forget to offer seconds!

Italian Plum Cake

We've been enjoying this lovely European recipe for decades, which is best only at the end of the summer, when Italian plums are in season. Recently, we were delighted to learn that plum cake is a dessert widely eaten on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Seems all ethnicities do come together at the table. (Props to Barrie Rubinstein for this sweet culinary info.)

It's simple, light and airy. The plums are tart, the sugar is sweet. And dusted cloves and cinnamon on top of the cake will fill your house with an irresistible autumn aroma. Enjoy with ice cream, more dusted confectioner's sugar, or plain with a cup of tea.


3 lbs. ripe Italian plums, pitted and quartered
1/4 lb. butter
3 eggs, separated
1-1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
1-1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Ground cinnamon for dusting
Gound clovves for dusting
Granulated or sanding sugar for dusting


1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
2. Butter and flour a half cookie sheet.
3. Pit and quarter the plums and set aside.
4. Cream butter, 3 egg yolks and sugar with hand mixer.

5. Mix in baking powder and flour.
6. Beat 3 egg whites and gently fold into batter.
7. Spread on prepared cookie sheet.
8. Place plums on top of sheet, sprinkle with cinnamon, ground cloves and sanding/granulated sugar.

9. Bake for 30 minutes in 350F oven.

Finished, baked and ready to serve!

Summertime Zucchini Bake a la Provence

August. Time to take advantage of all that fresh, local produce available at your grocer, or maybe in your own back yard. Here's a recipe that takes its lead from the savory summertime dishes of Provence or Tuscany.

Very easy to prepare, it's a side dish that takes literally minutes from garden to table. You can make it spicy, cheesy, crunchy or herb-filled. Or all of the above! Put your imagination cap on, and get our your sharpest knives and best French salt. You'll find yourself making this wonderful dish over and over again, trying variations on flavor as your mood and heart desire. An excellent accompaniment to steaks, chops, and sandwiches, or serve it over fresh linguine for a marvelous meatless entrée.

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
1-2 medium to large green or yellow zucchini, cut in 1" cubes
1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 tsp. Fleur de Sel (French salt, available at specialty food stores)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs, or Panko breadcrumbs
2-3 sprigs each of fresh parsley, thyme and basil, chopped finely
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. hot sauce
2 ripe tomatoes, cubed
1 cup eggplant, skin removed and cubed

Preheat oven to 400 F.
1. Sauté garlic and onion gently in oil and 1 tbsp. of the butter until translucent.

2. Add zucchini, tomato and eggplant (if using), seasonings and fresh herbs and desired options.
Sauté, stirring occasionally, until just tender and slightly browned and crispy, about five minutes.

3. Pour into an oven-proof casserole.

4. Top with seasoned breadcrumbs or Panko. If using seasoned breadcrumbs, mix with the grated cheese and sprinkle over all. Dot with other tbsp. of butter, cut into small bits.
5. If making ahead, cover with aluminum foil and set aside. Can be made up to five hours in advance of serving.
6. Bake at 400F for 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let set five minutes before serving.

Mussels Marinara


Muscle your way into his (or her) heart with this spicy Italian favorite. It takes no time at all to pull it together and is a satisfying meal for two with very little effort.

1-1/4 lb. mussels, scrubbed and washed
1  28-oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1/2 bottle/jar store-bought tomato sauce
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. crushed hot red pepper flakes
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup Chianti wine

Eric's Touch
Serve with buccatini, perciatelli, fetuccini, linguine, or other hearty sauce-grabbing pasta

Italian bread, served warm and crusty
Salad of arugula with lemon basil dressing

Chop garlic and sauté lightly in olive oil in large dutch oven or casserole until translucent and oil is fully fragrant with the garlic.  Add tomatoes and tomato sauce, oregano, salt and pepper, Chianti, hot red pepper flakes, and basil. Allow to simmer, covered, stirring often, adjusting seasonings as needed, for 1/2 hour or more.

Add mussels to broth. Simmer, covered, for 5-7 minutes, or until mussels are opened. Discard any unopened mussels.  Serve with Italian bread and an arugula salad.  Thanks to my neighbor, Eric, the super cook, for adding just the right touch -- he coupled the mussels with a hearty pasta, giving this dish wonderful depth and heft. Bravo!

The Perfect Summer Dessert

If you've eaten at Joe's Stone Crab in Miami, you'll know about their famous Key Lime Pie, just the best there is. They've generously shared their recipe online, and we are big fans ... making it frequently. It's a hit with young and old. Here's the link to their recipe, and thank you Joe's!!

Celebrate Pie Day with a Peachiful Pie!

A delightful long weekend at the Cape and overripe peaches brought us to yearning for a delicious sweet fresh peach pie. As with most of the Empty Nester Gourmet's recipes, this one is easy and quick ... and on your dessert table, warm and ready to top with ice cream, in less than 90 minutes.


3 cups overripe peaches, peeled, pitted and cut in quarters or sixths
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten slightly with fork
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup whipped butter, melted
1 pie crust/pate brisée (bottom and top for lattice)
Egg wash -- 1 egg + 1 tbsp. cold water, slightly beaten with fork
Sanding sugar -- approx. 1 tbsp.
Optional -- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees.
2. Press bottom crust into pie plate, crimping edges decoratively.
3. Mix egg, sugar, flour, lemon juice and butter in a bowl until well blended. Set aside.
4. Peel, pit and slice peaches, and arrange in single layer on bottom of crust, then second layer.
5. Top with egg/sugar mixture.
6. Prepare lattice topping and layer on top of pie mixture, cutting edges and fitting snugly into crimped pie shell. (Use egg wash to seal edges.)
7. Brush top and crimped edges with egg wash, dust with sanding sugar, and cinnamon, if desired.
8. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 400F for 15 minutes, or until crust is browned. Reduce oven to 350F and bake for another 30-40 minutes, or until filling is well set. If crust browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Allow to cool for approx. 1 hour before eating. Top with your favorite ice cream, or whipped cream.

Blueberry Coffee Cake Goes from Breakfast to Night-time Treat!

Here's a blueberry coffee cake that's much more than just a coffee cake. It doubles as a dessert after dinner, as it is rich and crumbly, and would be a fantastic mid-day or late-night treat. Our thanks to Smitten Kitchen for the inspiration and guidance.