Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Red Grapefruit Cava Terrine

The most important part of this refreshing New Year's Day terrine is that you make it a day ahead so it is ready no matter what time you get up. 

Cool on the tongue and not too sweet, the terrine consists of closely placed layers of red grapfruit and orange slices held together with a nearly transparent gelatin made from the  residual juice from the fruit and a little sparkling wine.  We used Cava,  Spain's contribution to the genre, which is a great value among the sparklers.  You could also use Proseco or even ginger ale.

This is technically a jello mold but because the cirus fruit is packed so closely, you may not be aware of anything but the bright citrus flavor in an easy to eat form. Answer the call of retro with the abstract appeal of this Red Grapefruit Cava Terrine.

If you do not have a small terrine, pick up small disposable foil loaf pans at the supermarket.  They are sold in packs of 3-4 and can be reused for mini-meat loaves.   You can also make this recipe in several 1/2 cup ramekins for individual servings. 

How to Supreme Citrus
This recipe calls for 'supreming' the oranges and grapefruit which is a fancy way of saying cut away the bitter mebrane of citrus slices. This technique allows you to have slices of citrus without the bitterness that comes form the membrane and pith.  It also gathers the juice of the fruit.  If you have never supremed, check out a video to see the technique in action.  It is easier than it looks and you will get the hang of it with one or two tries.  Don't worry if your slices are not perfect.  This is a very forgiving recipe and your slices will still look great in the terrine.

To supreme fruit, use a sharp knife to cut away the pith and peel of fruit.  Over a wide bowl, hold the fruit in your non-dominant hand and carefully cut away a slice along the membrane.  The fruit will come away from the membrane quite easily.  Go all the way around the fruit until all the slices are removed.  Squeeze the remaining membrane into a bowl to collect the juice. Discard the membrane.

Red Grapefruit Cava Terrine
Yield: One 6-8 inch terrine (serves 4-6)

3 red grapfruits
2 oranges
1/3 cup citrus juice (reserved from sliced fruit)
1 1/2 teaspoons plain gelatin (powdered)
1/3 cup cava
optional: 1 tablespoon orange liquor, like Grand Marnier
3 tablespoons sugar
optinal: garnish: chopped cranberries, fresh mont leaves, thin citrus slices

  1. Supreme the citrus fruit, reserving juice.You should have 1 1/2 cups fruit and 1/3 cup or more of juice.  
  2. In a small cup, combine gelatin with 2 tablespoons of juice and set aside for five minutes while you heat the remaining liquids plus the sugar in a small pot over medium heat.  
  3. When the Cava mixture begins to boil, lower the heat to simmer and stir in the gelatin mixture which should be a loose solid by now.  Stir until the gelatin completely dissolves, them remove it from the heat.  
  4. Lay a few slices of citrus on the bottom of the terrine.  You can add decorations at this point, remembering that the bottom layer will form the top of the terrine.  We used some finely chopped cranberries on out terrine.  Other ideas include fresh mint leaves, edible flowers or thin slices of orange or tangerine.
  5. Pour some Cava gelatin on the fruit, just up to the level of the fruit.  Place another layer of citrus on top of the first and pour more Cava gelatin to the level of the fruit.  Repeat this process until you use all your fruit or come to the rim of the terrine.  We had a little extra and made grapefruit-gelatin cups in small ramekins.  
  6. Make sure the gelatin is evenly distriuted by gently pressing on the top of the terinne in a few spots.  Place the terrine on a plate or rimmed pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at leat 6 hours.
  7. When you are ready to serve the terrine. place the mold in a vessel with hot water for about 30 seconds to help loosen the sides.  Slide a butter knife along the inside to release the gelatin from the mold.  Place a platter on top of the terrine and flip it over.  The mold should cooperate and slide out neatly.  If it does not, place the mold back in hot water for another 15-20 seconds and give it another try. 
The terrine can be sliced with a serrated knife or scooped out with a wide spoon. 

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Need a Winter Drink? Try a Cider Margarita

Who knew that cider, tequila and Grand Marnier would work so nicely together?  I got the intial recipe from How Sweet It Is, added a big squeeze of lemon to the recipe  and simplified the garnishment to a cinnamon sugar rim.  The original version uses orange slices and cinnamon sticks.  Lovely if you have a moment before guests steal the cocktails away!

Here is how to make a single drink or a pitcher of this easy cocktail.  (Your guests will want you to make the pitcher.)

Cider Margarita for One
1 1/2 ounces golden tequila (1 jigger)
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
6 ounces cider
juice of 1/2 lemon
Cinnamon Sugar (1 part cinnamon to 2 parts sugar)
3-4 ice cubes

  1. Place cinnamon sugar in a small shallow bowl, just wide enough to fit your glasses.  
  2. Combine tequila and Grand Marnier in a cup slightly larger than your glass, dip rim of glass in alcohol in cup then in cinnamon sugar.  
  3. Add a few cubes of ice to the glass, followed by remainder of ingredients.  
  4. By this point the cinnamon sugar will have hardened a bit.  It will melt as the Margaritas passes over it into your mouth. 

Cider Margaritas for Four
6 ounces golden tequila
2 ounce Grand Marnier
24 ounces cider
juice of 2 lemons
Cinnamon Sugar (1 part cinnamon to 2 parts sugar)
Ice cubes

  1. Prepare rims of glasses as above.  
  2. Mix alcohol with cider and lemon juice in a pitcher.  
  3. Place ice in glasses and pour margartitas upon request. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pizza Dough Potato Knishes

For those who have not tasted a real old fashioned knish, these pastry wrapped bundles of mashed potatoes are baked not fried.  This recipe uses plain pizza dough to create a long roll stuffed with the potato filling rather than individual knishes.  It makes excellent buffet fare, cut into individual serving pieces.  And it can be made ahead, even frozen.  (See below for the trick to frozen mashed potatoes that are not watery when defrosted.) 

If you have a lot of dishes to prepare for a holiday buffet, make this mashed potato in pastry ahead and freeze it.  Defrost and reheat it in the oven (microwaving is not recommended to preserve the lovely crust).

Store-bought or homemade pizza dough is a good, pure substitute for the traditional bread dough casing used to make knishes.  Homemade mashed potatoes made with very little milk or broth and seasoned with salt, pepper and chives mimic the classic potato and onion mixture knish lovers admire.  Substituting chives for sauteed onions makes this version a little lighter and faster to prepare.  I use Yukon Gold potatoes which hold up well while the dough wrapping bakes and have a lot pure potato flavor. 

Pizza Dough Potato Knishes
Yield: 2 knish loaves, serves 10-12 people

1 recipe pizza dough (store bought is fine)
8-9 medium potatoes
1/2-2/3 cup milk or broth, warmed
potato flakes*
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried chives (use 1 tablespoon fresh)
1/4 black pepper

  1. Remove pizza dough from refrigerator  and bring to room temperature while making mashed potatoes.
  2. Peel potatoes.
  3. Place potatoes in a large pot with water.  Water should be at least 2 inches over height of potatoes. Cover, bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium.  Cook potatoes, loosely covered until tender.  This will take 25-40 minutes. 
  4. When potatoes are very tender, drain the water and place pot on a heat resistant surface.  Let the potatoes rest, uncovered, a few minutes while some steam (and moisture escapes).  
  5. Use a masher to mash potatoes.  You may also use a ricer for this step.  
  6. Once potatoes are mashed, add warmed milk or broth in small batches.  Your goal is to have a fairly thick potato mixture.  If you are freezing the knish loaf and using potato flakes, add them at this stage.
  7. Stir in butter, salt, pepper and chives. Taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.
  8. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
  9. While the potatoes cool a bit, roll out dough.  You will have enough ingredients to make two potato loaves.  
  10. Cut dough in half lengthwise and place cooled potatoes down center of each.  
  11. Fold the sides up and create a seam.  Use a bit of water to seal the seam.  
  12. Seal the edge of the loaves by pinching the dough together and turning under, towards the center seam.  
  13. Place knish loaves seam side down on an un-greased baking sheet.  
  14. Using a sharp knife, score the loaves just through the dough layer to mark servings.  This will make it easy to slice the loaves into serving sized pieces without pushing out the potatoes.
  15. Bake the knish loaves at 400˚F for 15-20 minutes, until dough is completely cooked and browning.  
  16. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.  
Three or more thinner rolls can be made with the same amount of dough and potato filling.  These make great finger food.

*The Trick to Freezing Mashed Potatoes
I've searched online to find out if this trick is generally known and was surprised to find so few references.  I credit Arthur Schwartz for teaching me how to handle freezing mashed potatoes.  (His  fabulous and authentic knish recipe in Jewish Home Cooking is the basis for this faster recipe.) The secret to freezing mashed potatoes is powdered potato flakes.  The flakes absorb excess water from the fresh potatoes and prevent a soggy knish.  Adding potato flakes will also create a mashed potato that will "stand up" a bit more.   For this recipe, add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup potato flakes.  Be sure to look for a pure potato product in the ingredients list on the box, NOT instant mashed potatoes. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Shrimp over Green Rice

Around this time every year, I post a recipe that is a nice foil to holiday meals and buffet party fare.   Even those of us who love the holiday food scene, from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day brunches, need a few light recipes during the season.  Shrimp over Green Rice is this year's entry.

There are only four main ingredients in the dish: Shrimp, rice, cilantro and jalepeños.  You can add a dollop of guacamole or simple and pure chopped avocado as a garnish. 

Most of us will have good frozen (or previously frozen) shrimp available at local markets.  Shrimp benefits from gentle handling and this recipe keeps it simple so that the shrimp can shine.

Buy the best quality medium shrimp you can afford.  Figure on 7-8 shrimp per person. Steam the shrimp in the shell directly out of the freezer.  As soon as the water boils I take it off the heat and keep the pot covered to 5-9 minutes depending on quantity in the pot.   Normally we cool the shrimp over ice after it is fully cooked but still very tender.  For this recipe we peel and devein it as soon as it is cool enough to handle then give it a flash saute in butter with lots of black pepper to finish it.   The result is perfectly cooked and flavored shrimp.

The rice could not be more simple.  Cooked rice can be reheated or make a batch of fresh rice.  You will want a little over 1.2 cup cooked rice person.

Toss in diced jalepeño to cook with the rice.  Cut the sides from a jalepeño, leaving the seeds and stem intact.  Slice 1-2 pieces into thin strips them finely dice.   This is a simple way to deal with a spicy little fresh pepper.  It will lose most of its heat when it cooks with the rice so that you will taste the pure jalepeño flavor in the finished rice. 

A big handful of fragrant, freshly chopped cilantro is stirred into the hot rice just before serving.

Shrimp over Green Rice is good cold too.  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Piemaker

Janet's apple mincemeat pie, ready for the oven.  Note the streaks of white lard, visible in the unbaked crust.  Flakiness is good.
This post was originally published on November 10, 2011.  I am re-posting it today in celebration and honor of my godmother, Janet Mahoney who we lost this weekend.  Janet leaves bereft friends and family with memories of her great kindness, acts of generosity and her own, unique view of our world.

I am already missing her wit and divergent opinions about the biggest and smallest things. She reminded me that it is both fair and fun to speak your mind and let others know what you think. And in demonstration of that fairness, she had fun listening to your opinions.

Her precise attitude toward baking has made this less precise baker a better pie and cake baker.  It is a wonderful to know that every time I bake, I will hear her voice again, invoking me with dismayed laughter to keep more flour in the bowl.  XXOO

Earlier this fall I got a hot tip.  It came from a very reliable source over at a certain cable network.  Pies will be the next big thing.  Move over cupcakes.

You may have already noticed the signs and not just because Thanksgiving pie season is upon us.  Whole slices of pie are suddenly finding their way into our smoothies.  They are getting baked into stunt cakes at the Reading Market in Philadelphia.  Popular pie flavors like apple, key lime and Boston cream pie have been flavoring our yogurt for some time now.

But the real thing has always been big around here. My family was in the pie manufacturing business when I was in high school and through osmosis I learned about Michigan’s cherry harvests and the educational needs of migrant workers’ children.   I helped my mother sort through pie filling recipes  destined to go on the package of the unbaked pie shell crust product. During the holidays we kids helped my parents deliver thank you pies to everyone who had helped us out the year before—especially the mechanics at the garage who kept my mother’s carpool station wagon alive (somehow). 

Later, I worked at Pillsbury’s advertising agency in New York City while they were developing their hugely successful Refrigerated Pie Crust product.   (We called it by its "code name," ARPC –all ready pie crust--- during the test marketing). 

One day, our small media planning team was asked to join a taste test in our company's kitchens.  Could we tell the difference between three apple pies?  One was baked using the Pillsbury test product, one was baked with an all butter crust and one used a lard crust. The test product was good, more than good, as sales have shown these past 25 years.  Still, I was able to distinguish between the three and knew in a flash that the one everyone adored (and my foodie boss thought was made with butter) was the lard crust.  The test product came in a strong second and the butter crust was third.

What’s special about a lard crust?  It creates those flakes we love and keeps a pie from feeling leaden in out tummies.  (These days many people use a half butter/half lard recipe to get both flavor and flakiness.)

Despite my pie company formative years, the real reason I could identify the perfect flaky crust was that my godmother had taught me to make pie dough a few years earlier.  This was the pie we ate when we spent Thanksgiving or Christmas at her home.  One year I asked for the recipe.  She said, “No.”

And after a breath said, “But I will show you how and then you can have the written recipe.” 

Turns out there’s a bit of technique involved.  It helps to feel the cool flour in your hands, see the cornmeal texture emerge between fat and flour, and intuit the amount of moisture in the air versus ice cold water in the measuring cup. It is tricky to describe but so easy once you've seen it done.

So I’m afraid I'll have to stick with tradition.  No written recipe today—but one day I promise I will demonstrate how to make a perfect pie crust.  Or maybe there is someone special in your family who will show you the ropes.  For many of us, cooking together is one of the finest holiday traditions we know.  And whether you roll out your own dough or one from the dairy case, it’s hard to go wrong if you are in the kitchen with a loved one.

If you’ve been taught by a master as I was, this may be the year to start making an extra pie for your teacher or to show someone else how to do it.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lazy Stuffed Cabbage made with Thanksgiving Leftovers, Brussels Sprouts & Turkey

Last year Elena Mahohnko and her mother Ewa Michalik co-authored a compendium of Russian and Polish cooking that is a treasure chest of recipes that manages to be both familiar, exotic and very much in reach of the everyday cook. My post-Thanksgiving casserole with Brussels sprouts gets inspiration from a classic that the mother-daughter team call Lazy Golubsky. You may know it as stuffed cabbage. 

The Food and Cooking of Russia & Poland describes how to make stuffed cabbage the Polish way, in a sweet-sour tomato sauce and the Russian way, sauced with beef broth that's been thickened with smetana (similar to sour cream or creme fraiche).  A note at the bottom of this recipe refers to  Lazy Golubsy (Lazy Stuffed Cabbage), a deconstructed and much faster way to make the dish. 

In our recipe, leftover Brussels sprouts create the top layer over cooked turkey mixed with creamy mascarpone cheese and chicken broth.  A layer of buttery rice forms the base.  The essence of Russian stuffed cabbage without much effort and without boiling and rolling cabbage leaves.

The simplicity of the dish, adding mascarpone cheese and rice to leftover turkey and vegetables makes for a fresh redux of typical Thanksgiving fare.  You can also add leftover creamed onions to your turkey mixture to make this very Lazy Golubsy.

Of course you can make this from scratch with ground turkey as we did if you do not want to wait until Thanksgiving for leftovers.  Brussels sprouts are in season at farmers markets now and want you to take them home.  Cream cheese can stand in for the mascarpone.

Lazy Stuffed Cabbage with Brussels Sprouts & Turkey
Serves 4

14 oz can low sodium chicken broth
8 ounces water
2 tablespoon butter, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup uncooked rice
1 pound cooked, ground turkey (or 2-3 cups finely chopped leftover cooked turkey
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese)
2-3 cups leftover, cooked Brussels sprouts
salt & pepper

  1. Cook the rice.  Measure 8 ounces of chicken broth and combine with water in a pot. Bring to a boil and add rice, one tablespoon butter and salt.  Lower heat to simmer and cook until rice is tender, about 25 minutes for regular rice, 15-20 minutes for basmati rice.  
  2. Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Butter or lightly oil a 3 quart, shallow casserole dish. 
  3. While rice cooks, prepare turkey mixture.  In a medium bowl, combine the cooked turkey with mascarpone.  If you are adding creamed onions, stir in at this point. Add chicken broth as needed to create a very moist mixture.  For ground turkey, you may need most of the remaining chicken broth. If using chopped cooked turkey, you will need a bit less.  Taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt or pepper.
  4. If they are whole, slice brussels sprouts in half.  
  5. When rice has cooked,  pour the hot rice into the buttered casserole and pat down with the back of a spoon to form the bottom layer. 
  6. Add the turkey-cheese mixture as a the middle layer. 
  7. Top with Brussels sprouts  arranged so that the cut side is facing up.  Dot with remaining tablespoon of butter.  
  8. Bake, uncovered, at 350˚F for 30-45 minutes, until casserole is heated through, to 165˚F.*
  9. Optional: run casserole under broiler to brown and crisp the the top layer.  You may be tempted to add some mild grated cheese at this stage.  Make yourself happy. 
*It is always important to heat foods like turkey and any leftovers to a safe and hot temperature, 165˚K.  Use a thermometer to check that the casserole has reached 165˚F before removing from oven.  Be sure to test the middle of the casserole, without hitting the sides of bottom with the thermometer. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Apple Soup

This soup can be made ahead as a concentrate and frozen.  Defrost the concentrate in the microwave on low power and add water or chicken broth for a pure taste of autumn.  Make it this week and you'll have a Thanksgiving first course or day-after soup to go with turkey sandwiches.

Sodium levels stay in check using low sodium broth or water and just enough salt to bring up the sweet-savory flavor of the squash.  An apple (or 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce) for every medium-sized butternut squash is added to the soup to give just the right amount of mellow sweetness to this silky soup.  

I bought a half bushel* of butternut squash at the farmers market and making frozen soup concentrate is a great way to store the squash over the winter.  This pureed concentrate is not heavily seasoned  so in addition to using it as a soup base, it can be used as a side dish or even baby food. 
Along with the squash, you will need a few apples for this recipe.  Use any apple, especially ones that break down quickly for applesauce like Macintosh or Rome apples.  Your local farmers market has an abundance of apple varieties at this time of year.  Ask them to recommend one you cannot normally get at the supermarket. 

Roasted Butternut Squash Apple Soup Concentrate
Yield: about 6 cups pureed squash-apple concentrate, enough for 3 quarts of soup

3 medium-large butternut squash
4 apples (or use 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce)
salt & pepper
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚K.
  2. Carefully cut squash in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds from the cavity at the bottom of each half.  
  3. Salt and pepper the squash halves and rub them with a bit of olive oil.  
  4. Place face down on a well oiled rimmed backing sheet (you may need two pans).  
  5. Roast for 45-60 minutes until squash is cooked through and mashed when you press on flesh with a fork or spoon.
  6. While squash roasts, prepare apples.  Peel and core apples than roughly chop.  Place in in a medium saucepan with a few tablespoons of water and cook over medium low heat until softened, about 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on the water level. Juicy apples will not need any more added during cooking while less juicy ones may need some extra to prevent burning.  You can also toss the peeled apples (whole or quartered) in with the squash to roast.  Check them after 20 minutes; they may be soft sooner than the squash. 
  7. When the squash and apples are cooked and very soft, remove from heat/oven and allow to cool.
  8. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh from the skin.  Place flesh in a large bowl or pot.  If there is any liquid in your roasting pan and it is not burnt, add it to the pot.  It will add a deep and concentrated flavor to your soup.  Add cooked apples.  
  9. Use a potato masher to mash the mixture. Taste and add salt and pepper.  If you have a immersion blender, finish the soup concentrate by pureeing it. You can also use a blender.  If you have neither, spend a little extra time mashing.  Your soup will be a little less smooth but equally delicious. 
  10. Cool concentrate completely and store in 1-2 cup containers or freezable bags. Freeze for future use.
  11. To make soup from the defrosted concentrate add broth or water on a 1:1 ratio.  If you like a thinner soup, add more liquid.  Taste again for seasoning and add more salt or pepper as desired. 

Roasted Butternut Squash Apple Soup is good plain or with garnishes like toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), creme fraiche or your favorite hot sauce. 

*How much is a bushel?
A bushel is eight gallons of a dry product.  For winter squash that equals about 50 pounds.  My half bushel filled a brown grocery bag to the brim. My squash were all different sizes but expect about 20 medium-sized butternut squash in a bushel.  They keep well in a cool, dry spot in your house if you are not making all of it into soup. We like to peel, cube and roast it with olive oil and lots of black pepper.  Butternut squash is kid-friendly and a great substitute for potatoes at any fall meal.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bacon Barded Woodcock

I learned about bird hunting when I lived in Vermont during the early 1990's. I wanted to walk in the woods during the fall and needed to understand things like safety zones, wearing orange and what game was in season so I could be visible on hunting days.

My friend Randall asked one of her friends to take me along next time he went bird hunting but our schedules never seemed to mesh.  In the end, my neighbor Margot mentioned her brother would take me.  I'd known them both since childhood and knew her brother would make a great guide.

I learned a lot that first day and later married that man.  I also went on to take a hunter safety course taught brilliantly by our local vet who encouraged parents, especially mothers, to stick around for his entertaining lectures to learn about gun safety in their homes. 

Birds in our Pennsylvania woods are few and far between.  Grouse and woodcock are the most sought after but their preferred cover has become less abundant as more houses are built, edging out fields and forest.  The electric power company in our area will be yanking out some good bird cover nearby in the coming months to lay high voltage transmission lines, the most profitable activity for them despite questionable local need. 

It's been years since I walked gun in hand so I needed a quick primer to recall the basic safety moves before joining my husband for a walk in the woods last week.  Trying to remember where I'd filed my hunter safety card, one requisite for a hunting license, took slightly less time and thought.  We planned a short hunt with low expectations.  Just a little walk.  We were both frankly surprised to come home with a fairly large-sized woodcock.

Woodcock are classic game birds.  They are lean  and they are distinguished by their dark-meat breasts, actually darker than the meat on the petite thigh-leg section.  Wrapping the plucked and drawn bird in bacon cocoons the meat so that it cooks evenly without becoming dry. You can use this same method on other game birds or a boneless skinless chicken breast.

Bacon Barded Woodcock
For each woodcock:
1 strip bacon
1/2 apple, thinly sliced
1/4 lemon, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley
salt and pepper
optional: two toothpicks

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.  
  2. Place bird on a foil lined sheet.  
  3. Salt and pepper inside cavity and skin.  Stuff with apple, lemon and celery.  Wrap in bacon.  Use two toothpicks to hold folded legs in place.  
  4. Roast 15-20 minutes. Temperature of breast should read at least 140˚F.  
  5. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest a full 15 minutes before serving. 

Hunting is controversial in our country.  I had mixed feelings about it growing up; I could see it for another era, but not for mine.  But hunting in the time of large scale food factories changed my mind.  I was surprised to find that the counter-intuitive notion that most hunters are better caretakers of our environment than most is true.  Like the best conservationists, they recognize and mourn the loss of habitat and species and will take measures to preserve the environment.  Not because it means dinner on their plate, but because they have allowed themselves to become part of the ecosystem, no longer distant observers out for an eco-tourism walk in the woods.  They see the changes, season to season and year to year as the woods and streams bear road salt runoff, power line clearing with herbicides and tree-downing development.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ghost Dip for Baked Potato Mummies

Trick or Treat Night can be rushed and dinner should be simple.  Try these baked potatoes with yogurt "Ghost Dip" to get the night off to a good start.  They can be the complete mini-dinner with lots of protein from the yogurt and the potato or make a nice side to chicken tenders.

We used lemon peel-black pepper seasoning and fresh chives (frozen in an ice cube tray and rinsed) to make our Ghost Dip.   Add salt to taste but be careful to taste your lemon peel-black pepper seasoning for salt first.  Some brands are salted already.  For every 3-4 ounces of plain Greek yogurt, add 1/4 teaspoon lemon peel-black pepper seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon fresh chopped chives.

Other variations for Ghost Dip:
White pepper & dried dill

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Red Pepper Applesauce on Pork

Here is a simple, fast way to serve pork during apple season. Make your own chunky applesauce and stir in some apricot jam, a dash of cayenne and some red pepper flakes to pop some pure flavor.  Wonderful with a simple grilled pork tenderloin, roasted pork loin or chops.

You can add the apricot jam and hot pepper to store-bought applesauce and there are some good ones with just apples (no sugar).  These beat the sugared competition in most taste tests I've done with friends and family. 

Since its apple season though, try this recipe using fresh apples.  Just peel, dice and cook apples in the microwave on high for 2 minutes.  The apples are cooked but still whole and you can mash them with a fork if you want a smoother texture. 

Note-- if you have children at the table, serve the plain (not spicy) cooked apples on their own and let diners add the spicy red pepper-apricot sauce on top as shown in the photo. 

Red Pepper Applesauce
Serves 4 as a condiment

3 apples, preferably a tart variety like Granny Smith or Honey Crisp
pinch salt
3 tablespoons apricot fruit spread (or jam)
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper*
1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes*
optional: dash cinnamon

* Add more if you love spicy

  1. Peel, core and dice the apples.  Place in a microwave-safe bowl.  Stir in a pinch of salt. 
  2. Microwave on high 2 minutes.  
  3. While the appleas are cooking, combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  Apples are ready when they are softened but still hold their shape.  
  4. Stir the apricot-red pepper mixture into the hot apples. 
  5. Let sit 15 minutes before serving with pork.  May be served warm or cold. 
Also great as a sandwich spread for leftover cooked pork or chicken.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Parmesan Pepper Pinwheels

It's almost worth making something with puff pastry sheets just to have some leftover strips that can be turned into these cheese-filled pinwheels.   They make a very cute amuse-bouche offering with a glass of red wine.  The ones shown here were made leftover puff pastry scraps from a larger puff pastry project, a turnover stuffed with roasted fall vegetables. 

Here's the recipe for Parmesan Pepper Pinwheels using a full sheet of puff pastry.  Once you see how easy they are to assemble, you can make up little batches from pastry scraps wihtout measuring.  Just grate a small amount of cheese onto leftover strips and finishing with a bit of black pepper or any other spice you like.  Roll up, bake and enjoy. 

Parmesan Pepper Pinwheels
Yield: 24-26 pinwheels

1 sheet puff pastry (store bought is fine, defrost an hour ahead if frozen)
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚K.  
  2. On a floured board or counter top, roll out puff pastry so that it measures about 14" X 14" or so.  (Exact measure is not crucial; just get the pastry a little flattened out.)  Brush away any excess flour.  
  3. Leaving about 1/2 inch of one edge uncovered, sprinkle cheese over pastry to coat evenly.  Repeat with black pepper.  
  4. With a pizza cutter or butter knife, cut pastry into strips no wider than 1/2 inch.  (You can cut thinner strips for more delicate and more pinwheels.) 
  5. Roll each strip up to form a wheel, starting from the coated edge and rolling toward the un-coated edge.  
  6. Wet the un-coated edge of pastry to seal the pastry to itself.  
  7. Place pinwheels on a baking sheet --no need to grease-- and bake for 12-15 minutes until pinwheels are crisp and pastry at center of each is cooked through. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Froached Eggs

A perfect "froached egg" with crispy potato dippers.
We like fried eggs.  We like poached eggs too.  An easy technique that actually speeds the time needed to make eggs results in our newly christened "froached eggs."

While I am interested in ingredients, my husband often contributes to flavor in the kitchen via technique.  Small changes that can have a big impact in the enjoyment of a dish.  He carefully observes nuances as food is transformed from raw to cooked, potential to kinetic energy.

How to preserve the delicate texture of the egg white holding its yolk and still get a crisp edge of delicious burnt butter?  Will an additional granule or two of salt hit the mark perfectly?  What is the best way to reheat baked chicken breasts in less than five minutes but still keep them tender?  What is the ideal temperature for chocolate cake and how long will it take if previously refrigerated then left at room temperature; will microwaving ruin it by melting the frosting too fast?...

Back to our eggs:
The pan makes a difference to well cooked eggs in obsessed households.  Ours is only used for eggs and only utensils made with rubber or silicone are permitted near the cooking surface.  Other skillets handle reheats and stir-fries.  After much experimentation and research, we agreed with America's Test Kitchen and chose the affordable TFal Professional.  We like the 8 inch one that can handle small batches.

So what's the big secret technique?  Steam boosting.  Here's how it works:

Froached Egg
You will need 1 egg, 1 teaspoon butter, salt and pepper, 1 teaspoon water

  1. Heat your pan to medium heat. 
  2. Add 1 teaspoon butter. When the butter sizzles, indicating it is giving up the water in the butter, crack open an egg onto the hot pan.  
  3. Salt and pepper your egg to taste.
  4. When you see the edge of the egg crisping, add a teaspoon of water around the egg's edge and cover.  
  5. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, another minute, until yolk is slightly opaque and the texture is as you like.  We like it  in the "very or just a little" runny range.
A simple modification to the good old “Fried Egg”.
Note to food historians: You have found it; the first written reference to a froached egg, named here in this very house. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Steak & Spinach Salad with Baked Potato Coins

We've been enjoying skirt steak, a cut that was not locally available at a "weekday price" until recently.   By planning for leftovers we used both the leftover cooked steak and extra baked potatoes we cooked for the first night's dinner for a substantial dinner salad the following night. The baked potato "coins" stand in for croutons.

With ingredients ready to go, this pure dinner salad comes together in about 10 minutes.  The only thing to cook is the baked potato coins which almost take care of themselves in a buttered skillet over very low heat while you assemble the salad.

Steak & Spinach Salad with Baked Potato Coins 
Serves 4

4 small or 2 medium baked potatoes, select narrow potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
10-12 ounces leftover steak, rare to medium-rare
4 cups torn lettuce leaves
4 cups baby spinach
8 medium-sized portobello mushrooms
2 mild-medium hot peppers*
optional: 4 ounces blue cheese
Serve with vinaigrette salad dressing
*for milder peppers, use banana peppers or bell pepper, hotter palates might enjoy sliced jalepeños, either fresh or pickled.

  1. Slice the potatoes, skins and all, abour 1/3 inch thick.  
  2. Melt butter in a wide skillet over low heat.
  3. Add sliced potato coins and cook 5-6 minutes per side until golden and slightly crisped.
  4. While potato coins are cooking, slice steak in thin strips and divid into four portions.
  5. Combine lettuce and spinach leaves and portion into four wide bowls.  
  6. Slice mushrooms and peppers and top each salad with vegetables.
  7. Top with steak and potato coins.  If using cheese, dot each salad with blue cheese.  Serve with salad dressing.
Variation: Warm Steak Spinach Salad
If you have a little more time, you can sauté the mushrooms and peppers in a little olive oil.  The warm vegetables and potatoes will wilt the spinach a bit.  We often grill seeded jalapeńos to use in salads like these.  Grilling cuts back the heat of these peppers a bit. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Enjoying the Tomato Harvest

This is the time to make the simplest side dish ever.  Slice those farm or backyard tomatoes into thick slabs of pure flavor.  I like just a sprinkle of flakey salt on mine.  A little extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground black pepper or just-made salad dressing are also viable options.  Just keep it simple for yourself.

Leftovers?  Do as my mother would.  Spread a little mayonnaise on the freshest bread you can find. Top with a slice of tomato. Eat it open-faced style.  This is a once a year sandwich when the tomato crop is at its peak.  Not to be missed.

Thank you Diane, Gerard and Katie for sharing your tomato haul and buffed platter with me!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Coconut Peanut Butter “BBQ” Sauce

I’m making up quick recipes this month, ideas that add a hit of pure flavor with minimal time.  We’re still grilling outside and as the weather turns cooler our new go-to will be this Coconut Peanut Butter “BBQ” sauce to en-robe chicken.  The coconut milk sends the meal in a far east direction and you can adjust the spiciness to suit your tastes or skip the hot chili pasta entirely.    The sauce gets complexity from everyday pantry items including a touch of honey and a scoop of peanut butter. If you don’t have fish sauce, add a salty note with some soy sauce. 

Brush Coconut Peanut “BBQ” Sauce onto cooked chicken just before it leaves the grill.  It will melt a bit as it warms.  Turn the coated chicken and let chicken absorb the sauce away from direct flame.  

Serve extra sauce at the table as there will be plenty of dipping.  You can also bake skinless, boneless chicken breasts right in the sauce if you need an easy baked chicken dish.   Serve over rice; basmati rice would be perfect.    

Coconut Peanut “BBQ” Sauce
Makes a little over one cup

1 14-oz can coconut milk (unsweetened)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons peanut butter
Juice of 1 lime
1-2 teaspoons chili paste (sriracha, sambal are great or shake in some ground cayenne)
1 teaspoon fish sauce (or 2 teaspoons soy sauce)

  1. Combine coconut milk and honey in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and cook until liquid is reduced by half.   
  2. Turn off heat and add remaining ingredients.  Stir to create a smooth sauce.   
  3. Brush on grilled and cooked chicken or pork. 
    While this qualifies as a "white BBQ" sauce, chili paste casts a pink tone. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Blueberries for Breakfast

This summer we uncovered a number of struggling blueberry bushes out back.  After clearing away the vines and other plants strangling them, we found one that was producing berries.  We are hoping the others bear fruit next year now that they have been unburdened of their shackles. 

It takes a while to hand pick enough berries for a cobbler or crisp.  Wild berries are much smaller than cultivated.  Though the bush had many berries, the degrees of ripeness varied wildly.  The same stem held a blue gem, a scarlet comer and several green newborns.   It was clear that it would take three or four rounds of picking to get the most out of our new find.  Once we came back with a little under a cup of berries, usually far less. 

With just a few berries, we settled on a quick breakfast treat to get the most out of our foraged berries.  We served up pre-made waffles, yogurt and berries quickly poached in pure maple syrup to make a purple syrup with lovely warm blueberries poking out.  Wild berries can be more tart than store-bought and the maple syrup strikes a natural balance of real fruit with tree sap sugars. 

Blueberry Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup - enough to just cover berries


  1. Rinse blueberries, pick out stems.  
  2. Place berries in a microwave safe bowl and barely cover with maple syrup.  
  3. Heat on high in the microwave for 10-12 seconds.   
  4. Serve over waffles, pancakes, french toast with a little yogurt or butter.  

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Purify Your Energy Drink

When you exercise, especially in the heat, you need to stay hydrated.  You also need to replenish electrolytes including sodium and potassium salts.  Here is an easy-to-make, pure version of an energy drink that is just right for weekend athletes.  It will taste salty to you before you start exercising and just right as you start to expend valuable resources during exercise. 

Pure N-or-G Drink
Makes 12 ounces, recipe easily doubles, triples.....

2 ounces real limeade or lemonade
10 ounces water
1/8 teaspoon salt

  1. Shake the three ingredients together so that the salt is well dissolved.  
  2. Get out there and exercise, then replenish by drinking up during breaks.  
Here's another variation for all my Vermont kin:
juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
10 ounces water

Mix it all together and go out and play.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cilantro Cooler

The third in our August series of summer drinks is an herbal concoction that features cilantro muddled with thinly sliced cucumbers.  It makes a really refreshing and lively bright green sipper. 

Quaff it after a workout for a home spa experience or add a little heat from jalepeños and some tequila and enjoy it at the grownups table.

Cilantro Cooler
Ingredients for one
1/2 cup peeled, thinly sliced cucumber
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (stems fine)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
juice of 1 lime
1/2 ounce honey or simple syrup
6 ounces cold water
optional: diced hot pepper (like 1/2 jalepeño, seeded)
to garnish: springs of cilantro, cucumber slices

  1. Muddle (or pulse in a food processor) the cucumber, cilantro and, if using, hot pepper with sugar.  Let rest at least one hour, refrigerated.
  2. Add lime juice and water.  
  3. Add honey to taste. 
  4. Strain and pour over ice in a tall glass and garnish with a sprig of cilantro and a slice of cucumber to serve. 
Ingredients for 4 Cilantro Coolers:
2 cups peeled, thinly sliced cucumber (about 1 English cucumbers or 6 Kirby cucumbers)
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (stems fine)
2 teaspoons sugar
juice of 4 limes
2 ounces honey or simple syrup
24 ounces cold water
optional: diced hot pepper (like 1 jalepeño, seeded)
to garnish: springs of cilantro, cucumber slices

Yes, you could add a little tequila.  Vodka is also a good additional ingredient. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Grapefruit Ginger Soda

I spent some time in France when I was a teenager.  One of the most memorable afternoons was on Bastille Day at the family apartments of the Auer family in Old Nice.  Madame Auer was a grand dame and hostess from another era and I was nervous.   As the summer guest of her son, my father’s dear friend Georges, a visit to the family’s matriarch would be my first real test of speaking French.  I’d spent several weeks in France so far, tutored by Georges, his wife Anne and twin daughters while their youngest son was learning to speak English at my parents' home across the Atlantic. 

The apartment was formally furnished in delicately carved armchairs and settees topped with ecru silk cushions embroidered in floral patterns.  The formal sitting room was cooled on hot days by keeping the shutters closed during the day.  (A tip I had learned learned earlier in the summer from Anne Auer that I have used ever since when air conditioning is not installed.) 

The walls were painted French green, somewhere between the color of a green olive and the stems of lavender.  The color spread from the paneled walls to the potted plants edging the shuttered floor-to-ceiling louvered glass doors that led to the balcony.   By late afternoon a little light crept into the dark room.   I sat carefully and listed attentively in case someone spoke to me.  Madame Auer offered me a soda and indicated I should pick my flavor from the bottles of sirop on the tea cart next to her.  The flavors were exciting.  I was tempted by the hazelnut but in the end picked the raspberry.  (Framboise, s'il vous plait.)

She poured a few ounces of raspberry sirop into a tall glass of ice and topped it with seltzer.   It was the perfect refresher.  Later that night we watched the Bastille Day fireworks shoot out of and around the old chateau in Nice from the plant-edged balcony of chez Auer.  It was a sensory overload sort of day.  Mme Auer, though formal in her manner, was extremely kind and made me feel at home.  A host’s simple offer of refreshment has done this for visitors for centuries.  Language was no barrier between new friends over a freshly concocted soda.

Back then, soda was served only on special occasions like birthday parties and national holidays.  Today, soda is part of the everyday and has grown a bit ordinary.  With the advent of soda making machines and an acceptance of more varieties of flavor, it is possible to craft your own special sirop and make a guest feel extra welcome. 

Try your hand at a six pack of grapefruit-ginger flavored soda.  This pomplemousse and ginger ale combo is sparkly pure and fresher than anything you can get for your soda stream. 

Grapefruit Ginger Soda Sirop

Yield 1 ½ cups, enough for 6 sodas
2 red grapefruits- sections and zest
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
¾ cup honey or sweet rice syrup

  1. Mash together the fruit, zest and ginger.  
  2. Stir in the honey or rice syrup.  
  3. Cover and chill for 48 hours.  
  4. Strain and serve with setlzer or tonice water.  Use a 2:5 ratio, that is 2 ounces of soda sirop for every 5 ounces of seltzer.
Credits to Monica Matheny of The Yummy Life for the inspiration and basic no-cook technique for this recipe. Check out more flavor ideas here.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Watermelon Daiquiri's

Watermelons are large.  Even for a family four, there will be some left over.  Cube the last slices or use a melon baller to extract the last sweet morsels and freeze them in a resealable bag.  Later you can use them as ice cubes in fruit juice or.....

Make a pitcher of pure Watermelon Daiquiri's!

Serves 4
3 cups frozen watermelon cubes (about 1 quart size bag)
32 ounces limade (make your own real limeade or buy one with only lime juide, sugar and water)
8 ounces dark rum

  1. Place the frozen watermelon in a blender.  
  2. Add about 10 ounces limade, enough to just cover the watermelon.  
  3. Blend on the ice cube setting until you have made a nice slush.  
  4. Add remainder of limeade and rum.  
Serve in tall glasses. 
Variation-- turn this into a pure Watermelon Margarita by replacing the rum with an equal amount of tequila.  (In the photo, the drink on the right is the margarita version.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

French Pizza

Not French bread pizza, French Pizza!  Oil-cured black olives, tiny strips of anchovy, ripe roasted tomatoes top a slab of puff pastry smeared with soft cheeses.  If, like me,  you cannot get to Nice in the south of France this summer, get a taste with this beachside favorite picked up the local patisserie. 

French Pizza
Makes one medium pizza that serves 4 for lunch, 8-9 as an appertizer

one sheet puff pastry (10" X 15")
egg wash*
4-6 ounces soft cheese (combo of goat cheese, blue cheese, cream cheese)
3-4 medium tomatoes (or 8-9 small tomatoes)
1/4 cup oil cured olives
optional: anchovies, extra grated cheese like Parmesan, Asiago or even Gruyere

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.  
  2. Place defrosted puff pastry sheet on a cookie sheet.
  3. Using a butter knife, cut a strip about 1/3-1/2 inch wide from the long sides of the sheet.  Brush the long edges with egg wash and place the strip on top to form an edge.  Do the same with the shorter sides of the pastry.  
  4. Spread a thin layer of the cheese on the interior of the puff pastry.
  5. Slice the tomatoes no thinner than 1/4 inch and lay out over the cheese.  If using small tomatoes, cut them in half and arrange on top of the cheese.  (Note: if using roma or plum tomatoes, you may roast them in a 400˚F oven for 10-12 minutes before topping the pizza.)
  6. Finish the pizza by arranging olives and anchoives between the tomatoes.
  7. Brush the raised edges of the pizza with more egg wash. 
  8. Bake pizza at 400˚F for 15 minutes until the crust turns golden brown.  
  9. Optional: Grate some hard cheese over the pizza to finish. 
Enjoy French Pizza right out of the oven or room temperature as a light lunch or hearty first course over salad greens.

 * an egg wash will "glue" the pastry to itself and create a nice shine to the pizza edges.  Mix a beaten egg with a few tablespoons of water to create an egg wash.  If you do not want to use an egg, a light brushing of water will help stick the strips of pastry to the base. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tandoori Chicken Pitas

Next time you are grilling, marinate a few chicken thighs in a Tandoori yogurt-spice mixture using spices you probably already have on hand.  Grill the thighs alongside or after your main meal is cooked.  The next day you'll have fragrant chicken to slice and stuff into pita pockets with some cooling salad ingredients.   We stuff cucumbers and radishes or sliced tomatoes and onions in with the chicken and add chopped cilantro and lettuce leaves.  Eat as is or add a fiery mango chutney and/or a cool spoonful of sour cream or plain yogurt.

Here how to make Tandoori Chicken Thighs for tomorrow's pita sandwiches.

Tandoori Chicken Thighs
Serves 4-6
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
6 ounces plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh, grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon each: cumin, tumeric, coriander, paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice

  1. Place the chicken thighs in a large resealable plastic bag.   
  2. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.  
  3. Marinate at least 2 hours or overnight.  
  4. Grill things over direct heat, 4-5 minutes per side.  The chicken cal be roasted in the oven at 425˚F for 15-18 minutes.  Thighs are cooked when internal temperature registers 170˚F. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Blue Cheese Salsa on Lettuce Wedges

Blue Cheese Salsa? What!
This is an easy and pure salad dressing and salad in one.  While the salad ingredients marinate in their blue cheese vinaigrette, everything stays crisp and fresh looking until it is time to serve.

It's just chopped tomatoes, avocados and blue cheese dressed in a simple vinaigrette dressing and flavored with a spoonful of sour cream, fresh, chopped basil and extra black pepper.  The sour cream pulls the flavors together and creates a pretty pastel effect. Serve Blue Cheese Salsa over large slices of dense lettuce varieties like romaine or iceburg.

Blue Cheese Salsa
Serves 4
2 medium tomatoes
1 avocado
2-3 ounces blue cheese (we used a Danish blue here)
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/4 cup vinaigrette dressing (click here to learn how to make a batch)
1/4 cup fresh, chopped basil
cracked black pepper
1 large head lettuce (iceburg or romaine)

  1. Chop tomatoes, avocado and blue cheese into cubes about the same size-- about 1/2 inch or so. 
  2. Mix the sour cream, vinaigrette, basil and pepper together in a medium bowl.  
  3. Add chopped vegetables and cheese.  Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the mixture together.  
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or up to several hours ahead.  
  5. When ready to serve, slice lettuce into individual servings and spoon salsa over each serving
I recommend this as a side for any grilled entrée and a very packable salad for a potluck dinner.  Bring the salsa in a plastic container, cut the lettuce before you leave and assemble on a platter when you arrive.  Don't forget the tongs or a large spatula to serve wedges!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Frozen Banana Bites

A big hit at the dessert buffet nestled next to red, white and blue cupcakes, banana bites covered in chocolate and rolled in peanuts (or coconut) satisfy a sweet tooth without being too filling.   A perfect pure bite. 

Make a few or make a party tray by cutting ripe bananas into four pieces, spearing with a popsicle or wooden skewers and freezing for 30 minutes.  Melt good quality chocolate chips in the microwave and scatter chopped nuts or shredded coconut on a plate.  Dip each banana bite in chocolate and quickly roll in coating before the chocolate hardens.  Freeze pops as they are covered.  Work in batches of 8 pieces and keep the rest in the freezer.  You will be finished in no time.  When the chocolate has hardened, cover the pops with plastic wrap until you are ready to serve 'em up. 

Ingredients for 40
Frozen Banana Bites
10 ripe bananas
1-1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped peanuts or other topping (shredded coconut, toffee chips, sprinkles, crushed cookies)
40 popsicle sticks (or 20 wooden skewers, cut in half)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Company Chicken Salad

Grill an extra chicken breast or two for this really nice chicken salad with mango chutney, raisins and sliced almonds.  You can use poached chicken breast or any other leftover cooked chicken for this recipe.

Major Grey's Mango Chutney mixed with mayonnaise is the sweet secret ingredient in the salad.  If you do not have a mango chutney around, you can get a similar flavor with a tablespoon of apricot jam or fruit spread and 1/8 teaspoon apple cider vinegar. If you like curry, you can add a sprinkle of your favorite blend in as well. 

Spring Chicken Salad
Serves 2

6-8 ounces leftover, cooked chicken- skinned and coarsely chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mango chutney
2 tablespoons raisins (or other dried fruit like cherries or chopped apricots)
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, roasted 
salt and pepper

  1. Combine chicken and celery in a medium bowl.  
  2. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, chutney and raisins.  (Note: This is not a lot of sauce and allows the chicken in the salad to stand out.  If you'd like, you can double the mayonnaise and chutney amounts for a more moist salad.)
  3. Add chutney mixture to chicken mixture and fold to coat chicken well. 
  4. Stir in raisins and nuts, reserving a little of each to top chicken salad as a garnish.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  
  5. Cover chicken salad and let sit for at half an hour to allow flavors to meld.  
Serve over lettuce, in sandwich rolls or pita.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Picnic Zucchini Roll Ups

This is the season for picnics, boating, fireworks shows and dining au pleine aire.  Finger foods make the easiest fare.  Zucchini Roll Ups can cover a lot of ground as a salad, side or even dip and crudité. 

If you are planning an outing these are best made all or in part a day ahead.  They keep well and prevent last minute crunch time in the kitchen. 

Zucchini Roll Ups

18-20 rolls

1 medium-large zucchini
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature so it mixes and spreads easily
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon each fresh, chopped herbs: mint, parsley, basil
Optional filler: roasted red pepper strips, steamed asparagus, julienned carrot, etc
18-20 pitted olives
18-20 cherry or grape tomatoes
18-20 toothpicks

  1. Slice zucchini on a mandolin or vegetable peeler into wafer thin slices.  You may cut the zucchini in half cross wise before slicing or cut the slices in half once cut, whichever is easier for you and your tools.  Aim to end up with 18 zucchini slice halves. 
  2. Brush slice with olive oil, salt and pepper each slice.  Place slices on a cookie sheet and broil 1-2 minutes per side.  Remove zucchini when they are just browning and still flexible.  
  3. Stack 4-5 slices and roll each slice.  Leave to cool. (You can continue at this point or refrigerate zucchini overnight and finish recipe the following day.)  
  4. While zucchini cools, prepare filling. Mix together cream cheese, ricotta and herbs.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  
  5. Finish by unrolling a stack of zucchini slices.  Place slices on a paper towel and turn over to remove a bit of olive oil.  This will make spreading the cheese mixture easier.  
  6. Using a spoon and butter knife or two spoons, dab a spoonful of cheese mixture on each slice and spread to cover slice completely with cheese.  
  7. If you are using a filler, like a piece of roasted red pepper, lay it on the cheese, perpendicular to the zucchini slice.  Roll and secure with a toothpick.  Add an olive to one end and a tomato to the other end of the toothpick to secure zucchini roll in place.  
  8. Store rolls in an airtight container and keep chilled until serving. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Mexican Cobb Chicken Salad

Buried under the bright green tomatillo salsa, crema and chopped avocadoes is a layer of sliced, cooked chicken and lettuce.  Also lined up in this Mexican-inspired Cobb salad are crumbled bacon, chopped tomatoes and two kinds of cheese, cheddar and queso fresco. 

Actually, we didn't have either queso fresco or its cousin farmer's cheese when we made this so we sprinkled in a mild feta.  A few blue corn tortilla chips did double duty as garnish and scoopers. 

Tomatillo salsa lends a bright lime flavor and crema adds a mellow note.  You can also pass some plain vinaigrette around for those who like a more dressed salad. 

Here's how to make the tomatillo salsa and crema to create your own masterpiece dinner salad.  You can use any fresh salsa instead if you are in a hurry but you will see from the various cooking methods provided that you can prepare this salsa alongside whatever you are cooking tonight whether stove top, grilled or in the oven and enjoy it the rest of the week.  Leftover Tomatillo Salsa can be used as base for a quick guacamole (add chopped avocado) or instead of your favorite hot sauce on burgers, tacos or grilled chicken.  Stir a few spoonfuls of Tomatillo Salsa into plain chicken soup to give it a serious lift.  

Tomatillo Salsa
Yields about 1 cup


1 pound tomatillos (about 6)
1-2 jalapeños  (two will make the sauce very spicy, OK to use 1/2 of one)
juice of one lime
1 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt
optional: 1-2 tablespoons olive oil or water 
  1. Peel tomatillos and rinse them and the jalapeños in water.  
  2. Cook tomatillos and jalapeños by any one of these methods: cover with water in a medium pot, bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes OR lightly oil tomatillos and jalapeños with vegetable oil and grill alongside anything else on the grill, turning as they char and remove when softened OR roast at 425˚F in a oiled roasting pan until softened.  
  3. Once cooked, cool vegetables.  
  4. Remove seeds from jalapeños.  
  5. Place tomatillos and jalapeños in a food processor or blender with remaining ingredients.  Pulse until well blended to a puree.  
  6. If mixture is very thick add a little water or olive oil.  Taste for seasoning, add more salt if needed. 
If you cannot find crema in your grocery store, combine some sour cream or plain Greek yogurt with a little cream to create a pouring consistency. 

What Are Tomatillos, Anyway?

Tomatillos are in the nightshade family (as is the tomato).  They have a citrus flavor, pretty tart with a nice crunch.  Tomatillos are showing up in grocery stores more frequently.  You will find them near avocados and tomatoes or with international produce. They look like small green tomatoes with grey-green papery husks.  We use them raw, chopped up in a salsa where the lime juice breaks them down or we use them cooked as in the recipe above.  FYI: Tomatillos are the key ingredient in most enchilada sauces. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Anniversary Meringues

Last June, I recalled our niece's wedding with a dessert that echoes the flavors of the wedding cake, raspberry and lemon, in an Isles Flotant for Two.  This year, the anniversary tribute gets even simpler with make-ahead vanilla meringue cookies that sandwich raspberry sorbet and get a little crown of lemon curd.

Meringues are easy to make and can be stored in an airtight container for days.  The sandwich cookies can be made on the spot with a scoop of sorbet and a drizzle of warmed lemon curd.  If you'd like a softer cookie, make the sandwiches, wrap in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer until you are ready to serve.  Warm lemon curd in the microwave for 10-15 seconds and drizzle over the cookies or bring to the table for dipping. 

The basic formula for meringues is 1 egg white to 1/4 cup sugar.  A pinch of cream of tartar will help the egg whites form nice peaks when you whip them.  Here is the recipe using two egg whites, which makes about 14-16 meringue cookies.

Pure note: you can purchase good quality meringues if you do not have time to make them and assemble the sandwiches from there.  Check the label to pick ones that have few ingredients and ones that you recognize. 

Two Egg Whites Meringues
Yield 14-16 cookies

2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 300˚F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking pad.  
  2. Place egg whites in a large, very clean bowl.  Use a hand mixer or whisk to beat egg whites until they are frothy.  
  3. Add sugar, about a tablespoon at a time while continuing to whip mixture.  About halfway through adding the sugar, add cream of tartar.  Continue adding the sugar a bit at a time.  Beat until egg whites form stiff peeks.  Note: on more humid days, this will be more challenging. You can add bit more cream of tartar.  If, after 10-15 minutes, you still do not have very stiff peeks, proceed with the recipe.  There is enough air beaten onto the egg whites to create lift in the oven.  You will not be able to create intricate details or pipe your cookies but you will be able to spoon dollops onto the cookie sheet to make little puffs, perfect for a ice cream sandwich.  
  4. Stir in vanilla. 
  5. Next, spoon (or pipe) batter onto cookie sheet.  Each cookie should have 1-2 tablespoons of batter and be placed about an inch apart.  
  6. Bake at 300˚F for 20 minutes, puffed but not browned.  Do not open oven to check on meringues.  
  7. Turn off oven and allow meringues to cool slowly as the oven cools.  This will create a dry and crisp meringue. 
Store cookies in an airtight container.

Chocolate mint chip ice cream with chocolate sauce.
Frozen banana "ice cream" with butterscotch sauce

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Radishes, Scallions and Endive Sautéed

I offer a pure and simple side alternative to a green salad alongside grilled foods this summer.  Garden ingredients with a bite mellow out under the influence of olive oil and a quick sauté.

On their own, radishes can be cooked until they almost brown and will remind you of small red new potatoes, with a little extra spin.  Root around in your vegetable draw to see what else you can mix in or serve the radishes alone.  

Scallions add a sweet onion flavor when sautéed.  The small hearts of endives were added to the pan last since they only needed a quick bronzing.  Pick small vegetables and cut them into halves and fourths so they retain as much of their crudité look as possible.
Extra sautéed radishes can lead in a wilted kale salad the next day.  Here, sliced apples and leftover, cooked sliced potatoes were tossed together in a sauté pan with a generous amount of olive oil over medium-high heat.  They were cooked until the apples were softened and the potatoes began to crisp.  Leftover sautéed radishes joined the pan followed by a big mound of raw chopped kale.  Toss the kale to coat it with the olive oil in the pan then add apple cider vinegar, maple syrup or honey and salt and pepper.  The sweet sour dressing is a good foil to hearty kale but does not overwhelm. 

Proportions for
Apple-Radish-Potato Kale Salad
Serves 2
2/3 cup sautéed radish halves and quarters
2 small potatoes, sliced, cooked
1 apple, sliced (peeled or unpeeled)
8-10 cups chopped raw kale, torn in bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
salt and pepper
optional: 2 tablespoons raisins or other small, dried fruit

Saturday, May 24, 2014

White Bean Artichoke Salad

No matter the weather, Memorial Day kicks off summer and many of us mark the weekend by grilling outside.   White Bean Artichoke Salad is a quick side dish that compliments grilled foods, especially chicken and fish.  

If you are ready to add a new dish to your cole slaw and potato salad spread, try this salad.  You can vary the herbs to match the main course (or what is in your fridge today).  Make it ahead and spend some quality time on the deck while others tend the fire.  Don't be shy with your fresh herbs.  They impart bright flavor and contrasting texture to the bean base.  They are a sure sign that summer is finally coming. 

White Bean Artichoke Salad
8-10 portions

2 14-oz cans white beans, drained (about 4 cups cooked)
1 14-oz can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
zest of ½ lemon
juice of ½ lemon
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup loosely packed fresh, chopped herbs: dill, parsley, basil, etc
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Pour drained beans into a medium-large bowl.  
  2. Chop the quartered artichokes so that they are closed in size to the beans so they are easy to scoop up and eat with a fork.  In the photo, they’ve been cut into one-third chunks.  
  3. Add the artichokes to the beans.  
  4. Zest half a lemon over bean mixture, then add the juice of the halved lemon and olive oil.  Stir mixture together, using a light touch so that beans do not get mashed.  
  5. Next add the fresh herbs, salt and pepper.  Mix everything together.  Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight. 
Bonus Round
Leftover White Bean Artichoke Salad is delicious stuffed into a tortilla wrap with a little lettuce for a quick lunch or snack.  You can also puree the marinated bean salad with some added olive oil or broth for a quick bean dip. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

How to Make Real Pink Lemonade for Mom

What’s in pink lemonade?  Could be anything but most recipes just add red food coloring.  What’s  in red food coloring? You can do better for Mom. 

We put an ounce or two of ruby red cranberry juice in our lemonade to make it blush.  Pomegranate or cherry juice will work too.  It’s a small amount so the flavor is not affected.

You can do this with any good store bought lemonade made with real- not artificial- sweeteners.  There are more brands available that have purer natural ingredients like actual sugar.  Or, because it’s Mother’s Day, you could make lemonade from scratch. It is very easy. 

First you make simple syrup, which is sugar dissolved in boiling water.  Make it about an hour ahead of time or replace some of the water in the lemonade recipe with ice to cool your drink down quickly.   Then you squeeze some lemons and mix in cold water with the simple syrup.  Spike with cranberry juice to make it pink.

Pure Lemonade
Makes about 32 ounces
½ cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
3-4 cups cold water
3-6 ounces simple syrup (more if your like your lemonade a little sweeter)

Squeeze lemons to make ½ cup juice.  Pour juice into a pitcher.  Add 3 cups of water and 3 ounces simple syrup.  Taste.   Add more water or syrup to suit your palate.  We like ours lemony and not too sweet.  We use 3/12 cups of water and 3 ounces of simple syrup for every 1/2 cup of lemon juice. 

Make it Pink!
Add 2-4 ounces cranberry or pomegranate juice

Simple Syrup
Makes about 6 ounces
½ cup sugar
½ cup water

Combine water and sugar in a heavy bottomed pan.  Mix to combine and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to simmer and stir to dissolve sugar.  Remove from heat as soon as liquid is no longer cloudy.  Allow to cool before using.  Caution the mixture is very hot.

Simple Syrup will keep.  Store it, covered, in the refrigerator.
You can add flavor to simple syrup while it is still hot.  Try one of these to get pure natural flavors: slices of ginger, a vanilla bean pod, sprigs of fresh mint or citrus rind (no pith).  Remove the flavoring ingredients before adding to lemonades, seltzer or mixed drinks. 

Post Script
Recently I’ve heard from a few friends and colleagues who tell me they are finally getting off artificial sweeteners  I am so proud of everyone who is making this effort and I know it is hard.  If you medically able to enjoy real sugar you will find that you are more satisfied and, over time, you will use less and less sugar. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Basil Mayo, Bacon and Tomato on Potato Chips

The title of this post is pretty much the recipe.  Basil Mayo, Bacon and Tomato on Potato Chips.  A simple twist on the classic BLT and sharable. 

The basil mayonnaise takes under a minute to make, starting with a good quality store-bought mayonnaise, some fresh basil leaves and a little lemon juice.  Per person, figure on about 2 strips of cooked bacon and ½ cup of grape tomatoes.  We used kettle chips but any thick chip you like will work.

It’s fun to let everyone assemble these mini hors d’ouevres themselves.  We liked the full set up best—a thick potato chip dipped in spring-green mayonnaise and topped with some bacon and half a grape tomato.  The mayonnaise helps the other ingredients hang onto the chip.  We did a taste test with our friend, Heidi, who created a simple variation with a grape tomato half smeared with basil mayonnaise.  Basil loves tomato and tomato loves basil back. 

Once you make these, you’ll start to think about adding flavored mayonnaise to rev up regular sandwiches.  This basil version goes well in a regular BLT and compliments any sandwich with lots of veggies or sliced chicken.  You could even mix basil mayonnaise into egg or tuna salad. 

Green Basil Mayonnaise
Makes a little over 1 cup

1 cup fresh basil leaves (tightly packed)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup plain whole yogurt
juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a small food processor (or my hand) finely chop basil leaves.
  2. Add mayonnaise and yogurt and blend well.  
  3. Add lemon juice and olive oil. Blend together and taste.  
  4. Add a pinch of salt and taste again. Add pepper if desired. 
Place a small bowl of basil Mayonnaise on a platter and surround with dippers.   Bacon and  sliced grape tomatoes. with chips or sturdy baby romaine lettuce leaves.   Refrigerate leftover dip and use within 2 days.

Many thanks to Heidi, our hand model for this post.  In real life Heidi protects us, the land and its creatures as a Law Enforcement Ranger with the National Park Service.