Thursday, December 31, 2015

Natural is Trending

Food predictions make good filler on 24-hour news cycles at this time of year.  Darlings like kale, foam garnishment, bacon on everything, and more to come all have their moment.  Food theories and lifestyles open debate about the relative importance of Atkins protein diets, the role of calories, the mystery of gluten-free success for non-celiac sufferers, the merits of veganism and more.

It's complicated and changes all the time. 

That's why I had to smile when I heard that 'natural' will be trending in 2016.  The idea is that food companies will be helping us out by adding more natural ingredients to prepared foods because consumer interest in the topic has grown to influential numbers.  Also expect to see less than natural ingredients replaced with better counterparts.

Until this trend is a reality, plan on making your own trend and creating your own more natural diet.  It only takes one guiding principle--- Eat Real Food.

That's what every recipe posted on the Pure Foods Project blog for the past six years has been offering.  Every meal, snacks and even desserts can and should be real.  When you eat pure, real foods you will be satisfied sooner.  You will enjoy every bite more.  You will feel good.  Flip through the categories on this blog for recipes that use real ingredients so you can eat more pure food.

Deputy Ron Kelley 
You do not have to seek out organic foods only, turn to veganism or grow sprouts to feel better and stronger in 2016. Don't fuss over food trends.  Just eat what you know but insist on it being real.  If you make this your habit, you will find the best brands for you, the best shortcuts to cook your favorites from scratch and the best way for you to eat that allows time for life's other pursuits. 

Two caveats to the Real Food Rule:  If you are hooked on sugar or salt (and if you are eating a lot of processed and packaged foods you may well be), make the effort to cut back severely here.  Your taste buds will adjust quickly and you will taste all the others flavors in the universe that salt and sugar have been masking.  That is what eating real food can do for you.

Happy New Year! 

Photos: Pennsylvania Game Commission deputies know how to treat game properly and safely.  Above, the crop of a ruffed grouse shows the bird's natural diet.  Left, local deer processors make a local favorite, kielbasa, using a venison base.  Ron's tip for kielbasa- steam the delicate meat.  Deputies deserve to eat pure food!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Lobster Seafood Pasta

New Year's calls for a special meal and Lobster Seafood Pasta is both impressive and easy.  Have it before you go out reveling or on New Year's Day to start the year off right.  Pure celebration food.

A little prep to cook the shrimp and lobster is needed beforehand and this can be done up to a day ahead.  If you have a great fishmonger, you can ask to have the lobster steamed and the shell cracked.  You can also buy pre-cooked and shelled shrimp.

I cook a large lobster in my biggest pot of boiling, well salted water.  When I say well salted I mean several tablespoons of salt.  Taste the water-- does it remind you of the sea?  Now we're cookin'.

A 2-pound lobster placed in boiling water will simmer, covered, on low heat for 8 minutes.  Check to be sure the water is bubbling not boiling.  Once I fish out the lobster to cool on a rimmed tray I toss 1 pound of medium (shell on) shrimp into the hot water.  Cover but do not turn the heat back on.  The shrimp will be cooked in 6-8 minutes.

The recipe also calls for scallops.   Use fresh sea scallops if you can find them.  Otherwise defrost frozen sea or the smaller bay scallops.  You will butter sauté them when compiling the pasta dish.  No need to cook them ahead.  If you cannot find scallops, use a bit more shrimp.

The recipe serves 4 and I recommend making the full recipe since the leftovers are good gently heated in a skillet the following day.  Use a smaller lobster (1 1/2 pounds) and halve the rest of the ingredients if you only want two full servings.  

Lobster Seafood Pasta
Serves 4 as a main course, 6-8 as a first course

1 2-pound lobster, cooked and meat removed from shell (here's how)
1 pound shrimp, cooked and peeled
1/2 pound scallops
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup peas
1/4 cup dry white wine (or clam juice, chicken broth)
1/2 cup cream
1 lemon-- juiced and zest
1 pound fresh pasta (linguini recommended)
1/4 cup fresh, chopped parsley (or try dill, cilantro, tarragon or other favorite green herb)
As needed: salt and black pepper

  1. Place a large pot of salted water on high for the pasta.  Heat the water to boiling while you prepare the sauce.
  2. Dry scallops using a paper towel.  In a large skillet sauté scallops in 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  If using fresh scallops, leave them alone before turning so that they brown slightly.  Previously frozen scallops may not brown.  Do not over cook them.  Remove scallops to a plate when opaque.  
  3.  Add the remaining butter and oil to the skillet.  Over low heat, warm the lobster and shrimp.  Leave the lobster claws whole if possible.  Spit the tail down the middle or chop in large pieces.  
  4. Next add peas and wine.  Cook until most of the wine has cooked down, 2-3 minutes.
  5. Time to cook the fresh pasta.  It only takes about 3 minutes so be ready to serve.
  6. While pasta cooks, add cream, lemon juice and lemon zest to seafood mixture.  Gently heat.  
  7. Drain pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of cooking water. 
  8. Stir cooked pasta into the seafood sauce.  Add cooking liquid to help loosen the pasta strands.  
  9. Cook just another minute more to allow flavors to meld.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. 
  10. Add fresh herbs just before serving.  Reserve some herbs for garnish. 
Leftovers should be stored covered and refrigerated.  To reheat, add some liquid-- water or broth---to a skillet over medium heat.  When liquid simmers, lower heat and add leftovers.  Heat until just heated through, strring gently to break apart strands of pasta. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Apple & Pear Sauté

Slivers of unpeeled pear and apple skin add a festive note.
What side can I bring?  Add a recent potluck, our hostess added sauteed apples to a group dinner whose center piece was pulled port.  It was a hit that's inspired me to create a simple and fast Apple & Pear Sauté to accompany all kinds of pork over the holidays.  The key is to create a savory bridge from the fruit to the meat.

Use firm apples for cooking like Macoun, Winesap, Pink Lady or  Granny Smith varieties.  Pears tend to be less firm than apples so you will put them in the pan second but check your pears and if they are quite firm, add all the fruit at once.  Bosc pears are generally a firm pear and you can also use Anjou or Bartletts.  At this time of year, we are often the lucky recipients of sweet Comice pears which are  terrific paired with a tart apple variety.

Herbs like thyme and a little balsamic vinegar provide the savory bridge.  Try to use fresh herbs in this dish.  If you do not have thyme, try a small amount of fresh sage. Oregano would also work.  A drop of honey and butter bring it all together. 

Apple & Pear Sauté
Serves 4

1 apple, partly peeled, cored and sliced
1 pear,  partly peeled, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme

  1. While your roast rests, melt butter in a wide skillet over medium heat.  Add the apples and cook until they are beginning to soften. Gently stir with a wide spatula.  This will take 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the pears and continue to cook, stirring gently to turn fruit.
  3. Add balsamic vinegar, honey, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.
  4. Lower the temperature and cover the skillet.  Cook for a few minutes more, until fruit is soft but not breaking down into small pieces.  The slices should keep their shape.  
  5. Just before serving toss in fresh thyme.  
 Serve immediately as a side to pork dishes.  

Any leftovers of this quick fruit sauté pairs nicely with cheese.  Serve
at room temperature in a small bowl next to the cheese platter.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bûche de Noël Rectangulaire

Now is the time to plan for a show stopper Christmas dinner dessert.   This chocolate lovers' cake is simple and can be made in stages several days ahead.  Assemble and decorate with the help of guests and other elves on the big day.

It starts with a very moist chocolate cake baked in two 8 inch X 8 inch brownie pans.  Each cake is split in two to make four  8 inch X 4 inch layers.  A generous filling of Double Chocolate Nutella Frosting divides these layers before the whole cake is enrobed in a dark chocolate ganache.  Red and green nonpareils are not only decorative; they guide the knife for perfect loaf slices.  Beware- this is a very rich cake.  It serves 8-10 generously and even half a slice will top off the night.

Here's how to pull it together over several days:
First the cake layers.  You can bake them a day ahead or several days ahead and freeze layers individually.  Layers defrost quickly and you can even frost before they are fully defrosted. 

You can also make the Double Chocolate Nutella Frosting ahead of time and refrigerate it until ready to frost.  Let the frosting sit at room temperature about 15-20 minutes to soften. 

If your kitchen is not too busy, others can pitch in at the Chocolate Ganache and decorating stage.  Try to wait at least an hour for the ganache to fully set before slicing and serving the cake.  It will still knock your socks if you cannot wait.  Or, the cake can be finished a day ahead and refrigerated overnight. 

We updated a classic ch0colate cake recipe as our base-- Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake.  Use there's or try ours with buttermilk.  (When using buttermilk baking soda takes over for baking powder.)

Bûche Dee Noël Rectangulaire 

Serves 8-10

Updated Chocolate Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water

  1. Preheat oven to 300˚F.
  2. Use 2 8” X 8” brownie pans to make a loaf cake (or four 8 inch cake pans) lined with parchment paper in the bottom and greased lightly on  the sides.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Use a whisk to mix everything together well. 
  4. In a smaller bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil and vanilla.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Add boiling water to batter. Mix well.
  6. Pour batter into square brownie pan or four 8 inch cakes pans and bake at 300 degrees for about 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. 
  7. Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then carefully invert and cool on cooling racks.  Peel away parchment paper once on the cooling racks.  Do not frost cake until it is completely cool.
  8. Slice each cooled cake in half to create 4 layers. 

Double Chocolate Nutella Frosting
Make the Double Chocolate Nutella Frosting while the cake cools.  

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (e.g Nutella)
2 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder

1 t vanilla
1/3 cup sour cream
¼ cup  milk or cream

  1. Combine softened butter, shortening and chocolate-hazelnut spread.  You can do this by hand or use a mixer on lowest setting.  
  2. Sift powdered sugar and cocoa together.  Add to chocolate-hazelnut mixture, stirring well to combine.  
  3. Add in vanilla and sour cream.  If mixture is a it thick, you can add milk or cream to create a spreadable consistency.  
  4. To frost the cake, place the first (cooled) cake layer on a rectangular serving platter and tuck strips of wax paper around the edges to protect the plate.  (Pull away the wax paper when finished to reveal a clean line between cake and platter.)
  5.  Roughly divide the frosting into fifths.  This will ensure you have enough left to frost the sides of the cake.
  6. Place a fifth of the frosting on the first layer and spread it out with a spatula or offset frosting knife.
  7. Lay the second layer on top and frost with another fifth of the frosting.  Continue until the fourth layer is frosted.
  8. Use the remaining frosting to cover the sides.  Do not worry about getting this perfect.  You will cover the cake with  ganache. 
 Dark Chocolate Ganache
This makes a very generous amount and is poured over the frosted cake.  Leftovers can be stirred into hot milk to make an awesome hot chocolate.

6 ounces good quality dark chocolate
8-10 ounces cream 
optional: 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla or hazelnut liqueur

  1. Chop chocolate into a fine dice.  If using chips, roughly chop.   Place chocolate in a medium sized heat proof bowl
  2. Heat cream.  We use a microwave for this but if this is your first ganache, heat the cream in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat and watch it carefully so it does not scald.  
  3. Slowly pour half the hot cream over the chocolate stirring constantly.   Mixture will be thin at first.  Keep stirring and slowly adding more cream as the mixture comes together and become glossy.
  4. Let mixture cool slightly-- a few minutes-- then carefully pour the ganache over the frosted cake.  Use a spatula or the back of a soup spoon to help spread the thick ganache over the cake and down the sides.  You can let the ganache drip naturally or smooth it over to cover the entire cake. 
  5. Decorate and enjoy.
Leftovers can be stored, covered in the refrigerator.  Slices can be frozen for mid-winter indulgence.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Meatball & Butternut Squash Penne

An easy weeknight pasta dish, Meatball & Butternut Squash Penne, uses up the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers without reminding anyone of last week's feast. 

Meatball & Butternut Squash Penne
Serves 4

For the meatballs
2 tablespoons bread crumbs (try panko for extra lightness)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4-1/3 cup milk (buttermilk can be used) 
1/3 pound hamburger meat
1/3 pound mild or spicy bulk sausage
1-2 tablespoons olive oil to brown meatballs 
1/3 cup water (broth or white wine may be substituted)

Remaining ingredients
1/2 box (4 servings) penne pasta
2 cups cooked, cubed butternut squash (roasted or steamed)
1 small red bell pepper, seeded, roasted and peeled (canned roasted red peppers OK)
2 cups raw spinach, rinsed well, stems removed
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

  1.  Make meatballs: Combine breadcrumbs with next three ingredients.  Stir and let stand for 5 minutes for bread crumbs to soften.  Mix in ground beef and sausage.  Use a small spoon to form one-inch meatballs.  Heat oil in a wide skillet over medium heat.  Brown meatballs.  Add water and scrape up any drippings.  Cover skillet and lower heat to simmer for 5 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through.
  2. Boil a large pot of salted water for pasta while meatballs cook.
  3. When meatballs are cooked, add cooked butternut squash, red bell pepper and spinach to meatballs.  Cover skillet again to allow vegeatbles ot heat througha dn sinach to wilt.
  4. Cook penne pasta as directed on box. 
  5. While pasta cooks, finish meatballs by adding cream cheese and Parmesan cheese.  
  6. Drain pasta reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. Add drained pasta to skillet with half the past water.  Stir to combine all ingredients. Let cook a minute or two.  Add more pasta water if too dry.  

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tomato Pumpkin Soup

This year's anecdote to Thanksgiving transforms leftover pumpkin or winter squash into a creamy tomato soup.  It goes great with a turkey sandwich or a quick snack.

Mix leftover pumpkin puree with tomato juice as the base of this easy soup.  The pumpkin thickens the soup without adding cream, butter or flour.

Pumpkin Tomato Soup
Serves 2, recipe easily doubles

6 ounces tomato juice
1/2 can pureed pumpkin (about 1 1/4 cups)
salt & pepper 
optional: 1/2 cup cooked pasta like ditalini or cooked rice
optional garnish: garnish: sour cream, cream

  1. In a small saucepan, bring tomato juice to a boil, lower heat and simmer until reduced by about 1/3. 
  2. Stir in pumpkin puree.  Use a whisk or  fork to create a smooth consistency.
  3. Taste and add salt & pepper as needed.  Low sodium tomato juice will require a little more salt.
  4. Add cooked pasta or rice.

  • Leftover baked or roasted squash can be substitued.  Mash it before adding or use an immersion blender for a smooth texture.   
  • Other seasonings for this soup, fresh or dried: basil, thyme, dill, cumin (best to try one to get the purest taste).

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Filo-Wrapped Mozzarella Sticks

Filo-Wrapped Mozzarella Sticks are a quick and impressive hot appetizer to pass around or place on top of a simple green salad.  By wrapping each stick of cheese in prosciutto, you get extra flavor and prevent the cheese from oozing out before the filo is browned.  The saltiness of the Prociutto ham is nicely balanced by the sweetness of the quince paste.  If you cannot find quince paste, any good quality jam or an apple butter would work well.  Experiment with fig or apricot jam.

Filo-Wrapped Mozzarella Sticks
Makes 16 appetizers, recipe easily doubled

1/2 pound low-moisture mozzarella
8 slices prosciutto, cut in half
1/4 cup quince paste, apple butter or other not to sweet jam
16 sheets filo dough (wrapped well or covered)
1/4 cup melted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly oil the sheet.
  2.  Cut mozzarella cheese into 16 long sticks.  Lay each on a slice of prosciutto.  Place a small amount of quince paste, about half a teaspoon, along the cheese on the ham.  
  3. Start rolling the cheese in the ham.  As you roll, the quince paste will spread along the roll.
  4. Open the filo and follow package directions about keeping the sheets moist as you work.  
  5. Take a single sheet of filo and lay it on a flat surface. Use a pastry brush to brush melted butter over entire sheet.  Do not worry about small tears in the filo.  It is more forgiving than it appears.
  6. Place a wrapped piece of cheese at the bottom center of the buttered filo sheet.  Begin to roll the cheese stick until wrapped twice.  Stop rolling and fold in the sides.  Butter the top layer of filo and continue rolling until the cheeses is completely packaged.
  7. Place each wrapped cheese stick on prepared baking sheet. You can place sitcks quite close to each other but not touching.  Give each sitck a final brush of butter.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned.  Let sticks rest 5 minutes before serving to allow them to firm up a little. 
Filo sticks may be preapred in advance and frozen.  No need to deforst; add 3-5 minutes of baking time.

Do not use fresh mozzarella in this recipe. The type of cheese used here is readily available at supermarkets and comes in whole milk and skim milk varieties.  You can also use a smoked mozzarella for this recipe.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Lemon Basil Chick Pea Balls

We made these Chick Pea Balls flavored with basil, parsley and lemon to go alongside a minestrone soup brimming with winter vegetables.  Guests popped them into the soup too.  Basil created a culinary bridge to the Italian flavors in the soup.

The base recipe is from Laura Washburn's Vegetarian Foods for Kids (2011). Anyone interested in learning to cook simple and pure vegetarian foods will appreciate her approach. The basic recipes are all kid-friendly and many recipes provide variations that amp up the flavor to match grown up palates.  Her basic chick pea bites are a case in point.  The child's version is made with orange juice and mild spices.  The adult version uses lemon juice and a more sophisticated herb and spice blend.

Chick Pea Balls are not just for appetizers and soup sides.  They can also be packed into pita bread with some salad ingredients and dressing for a vegetarian meal or tossed with pasta and your favorite sauce. 

Lemon Basil Chick Pea Balls
Yield: about twenty-five 1-inch balls

2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped 
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cans drained chick peas (or 3 1/2 cups cooked and cooled chick peas)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons oat bran (or pulse rolled oats to create oat flour)
2 tablespoon whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup fresh, chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
Note: If substituting fresh with dried herbs, use 1 tablespoon each
Spray oil

  1.  Place chopped carrot and celery in a food processor and pulse until vegetables are finely chopped.  
  2. Heat oil in a wide skillet over medium heat.  Cook the vegetables for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently.  When cooked, place in a large bowl to cool while you prepare the bean mixture.
  3. In the same food processor, process drained beans, mayonnaise, oat bran, flour, salt. and lemon juice.  Mixture should be fairly smooth.
  4. Add bean mixture to bowl with vegetables.  Add herbs and combine all ingredients.  
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Add more salt, lemon juice or more herbs.
  6. Make balls by scooping spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined or oiled baking sheet.  Moisten your hands with water and roll scoops into small balls.  You may also use a mini-scoop, the type used for drop cookies.
  7. Bake at 375˚F for 25-35 minutes until balls are slightly brown.  Centers will still be moist.  
  8. Serve hot or at room temperature.
TIP: Do you have some new vegetarians joining holiday dinners over the next few months?  Check out books like Laura Washburn's for inspiration.  We also point new vegetarians and the families they cook with to Italian cookbooks where vegetables and grains have always gotten their due.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Beef Chili Verde

Make pure and simple Beef Chili Verde in a slow cooker.  It's a variation on Chili Verde made with pork shoulder and is served with black beans and brown rice.  And salsa.  And sour cream.  And chopped avocado.  Perfect fall dinner.

No slow cooker?  That's fine.  Scroll to the bottom for directions to make it over the stove top or in the oven.

Beef Chili Verde 
Serves 6-8

2 pounds beef stew meat, cut in 1-1/2 inch cubes
salt and pepper
3-4 tomatillos (What are tomatillos?)
3 Anaheim or poblano chilies (or a combination)
1 jalepeño pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
1  tablespoon chili powder (click here for my blend)
1 teaspoon oregano + 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (skip if using a commercial chili powder)
1 14-oz can low sodium black beans, drained 
1/2 cup fresh, chopped cilantro

  1. Salt and pepper beef and place in slow cooker.
  2. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  3. Peel husks from tomatillos. Wipe peppers with a damp paper towel.  Place vegetables on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan and toss in oil.
  4. Roast at 425˚F for 20-30 minutes, checking vegetables and turning using long tongs.  Remove tomatillos when soft and place in a large bowl.  Remove peppers when skin is blistered on all sides.  Cover bowl and let stand 5 minutes.  
  5. Uncover bowl and remove tomatillos.  Chop coarsely and add to slow cooker. 
  6. Peel cooled peppers.  Seed and devein then chop coarsely.  Add to slow cooker.  
  7. Add chili powder and herbs.  Stir to incorporate all ingredients.  
  8. Cook on high for one hour.  Reduce to low and cook another 2-4 hours, until beef is tender. If mixture is dry after first hour, add 1/4 cup water.  (You may also cook this on low 6-8 hours.)
  9. Once meat is done, turn off slow cooker and stir in drained beans and cilantro. 
Make this without a slow cooker:
Follow recipe through step 7, adding ingredients to a heavy bottomed pot with a lid rather than a slow cooker.  Bring stew to a boil over medium heat then lower to simmer.  Simmer, covered, for 2 hours and check beef for tenderness.  Alternatively, the stew can be brought to a boil, covered and placed in a preheated 325˚F oven to cook for 2 -3 hours.  If using the oven method be sure to use a dutch oven or other oven-safe cooking vessel. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Baked Scotch Quail Eggs

A platter of Scotch Quail Eggs makes a convenient do-ahead football tailgate or fall brunch offering.

A Scotch Egg is a hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat.  A portable meal, they can be found throughout Europe as a fast lunch, snack or picnic food.  In the U.S. it is common to find them at English-themed pubs, served either hot with dipping sauces or at room temperature to accompany a beer.

Daylight Savings Time ends here next Saturday night. With the clocks being pushed back an hour, next Sunday is the best day of the year for a fall-back brunch.  Take that extra hour to enjoy a leisurely Sunday featuring graze Scotch Quail Eggs.

Scotch eggs are usually deep fried to cook the sausage but they can be baked.  Baking is far less messy but creates its own challenges.  We found that chicken eggs were a little too large to wrap and bake successfully.  The sausage meat slipped off the egg by the time the meat was cooked through and the amount of sausage needed for one egg was a larger snack than required.

Using quail eggs, about a quarter the size of a chicken egg, turned out to be the solution.  Their small size makes them easy to wrap and because they require less sausage, cook quickly enough to hold onto the inner hard boiled quail egg through the process.  I also prick a hole in the top, through the sausage layer, that lets steam escape and keeps the sausage sticking to the smooth egg.

Baked Scotch Quail Eggs
Yield: 8

8 quail eggs, hard boiled and peeled*
3/4 pound raw bulk sausage meat
2 cups bread crumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F
  2. Cover a cutting board with wax or parchment paper to protect the board from raw meat. Line a small baking pan with foil and coat with a thin layer of oil or spray oil.
  3. Divide sausage into eighths.  Take a portion of sausage and spread it in a thin circle on board.  Lay egg in the middle and wrap sausage up around sides and top of egg.  Use your hands to form into a round ball.  It will look like a large meatball, about 2 inches in diameter.  
  4. Repeat with remaining eggs and sausage.  
  5. Spread breadcrumbs in a wide soup bowl or pie pan.  Roll each ball in the bread crumbs and place in the baking pan.  
  6. Give the Scotch Quail Eggs a thin coat of oil.  This is easiest to do with a spray oil.
  7. Use a skewer or toothpick to open a small hole in the top of each Scotch Egg.  This will prevent the inside from building up steam that could cause the sausage to slip off the egg. 
  8. Bake at 375˚F for 30-35 minutes, until sausage is cooked through.  
  9. Place cooked eggs on a paper towel to drain excess oil.  Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Cover and refrigerate leftovers.  Eat within 3 days.

Serving suggesitons:
Serve with a mustard-spiked mayonnaise dip.
Cut in half to add to an appetizer platter.  Their small size makes a manageable mouthful.
Slice Baked Scotch Quail Eggs to nestle inside a warm roll for breakfast.

*To hard boil quail eggs, place eggs in a medium pan and add enough water to cover by an inch.  Bring the water to a boil then remove from the heat and cover the pot for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, drain and add cold water to stop the cooking process.  Peel eggs immediately.  Their skins are very thin and will be easier to peel right away.  Be patient, they are more delicate than chicken eggs.  Do not be surprised by the greenish-blue color under their shells.  This is the inner membrane and commonly has a blueish tint. 

What else can we wrap in sausage? ¡Scotch Jalepeños!
Cream Cheese-Stuffed Jalepeños can be baked alongside Scotch Quail Eggs.  Allow these to cool completely so that the cream cheese is firm when sliced.  Or enjoy an oozing Scotch Jalepeño. 
Core seeds and membrane using a grapefruit knife. Tin foil allows you to bake the whole pepper without tearing.  Peel the blistered skin after baking at a high temperature, 400˚F, turning the pepper once or twice. 
Sausage sticks to a peeled jalepeño better than an unpeeled one.  An uncooked pepper will not cook further once wrapped in sausage.  Use a plastic sandwich bag to squirt cream cheese or any filling into the pepper.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Slow & Low Baked Salmon Fillets

Cooking slow and low is a controlled technique for protein.    Our salmon version uses a very low temperature oven (300˚F) to cook the fish to a delicate, silky texture.  The fish is lightly flavored with black pepper, scallions and lemon zest.

Season salmon or any other large fillet of fish with your favorite flavors and enjoy a perfectly cooked tender fish every time.  The key is to allow the fish to soak in the flavoring and some olive oil for 10-15 minutes before baking and to bake uncovered at a low oven temperature so the fish cooks evenly.

Slow and Low Salmon Fillets
Serves 4, recipe may be halved.

4 eight-ounce salmon fillets
zest of 1 lemon
black pepper
4 scallions, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 300˚F.  Be sure to allow at least 15 minutes to preheat the oven for even cooking.  
  2. Line a roasting pan or baking sheet with tin foil and coat with a thin film of olive oil.
  3. Lay out the fillets and top with lemon zest, a good coating of freshly cracked black pepper and scallions.  Drizzle with remaining olive oil.
  4. Let fillets sit 10-15 minutes.
  5. Bake, uncovered for 18-20 minutes.  If cooking a whole fillet, bake for 25-30 minutes.
Serve immediately.  

When is fish done?  The flesh of the fish will turn from transluscent to opaque at its thickest section.  Use a fork to probe into the center of the fish.  Cooked fish will flake easily. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Zucchini Noodles

This is not a new trick but with gardens in their final moments you may find yourself with an awful lot of zucchini just as cool weather recipes beckon.  Substitute zucchini "noodles" for egg noodles and papardelle in stews, spaghetti dinners and soups. 

All you need is a vegetable peeler to get started  If you like the results, look for some of the slicers coming out of Asia and Europe where vegetable pastas are so popular that traditional wheat pasta manufacturers are starting to offer them.  Here is is a shredder I bought in a Korean grocery several
years ago that makes thin oval zucchini noodles.

To make a great noodle using a vegetable peeler, wach the zucchini and start peeling.  As you near the seeds, turn the zucchini to start a freash side.  A small zucchini will yield about a cup of peeled noodles.   Boil a pot of salted water and place the zucchini in the hot water.  Lower the heat and simmer 45 seconds, until the zucchini is limp.  Use it to repalce all or some of your noodles.  Enjoy it cold douced with a light rice vinegar as part of a salad with other greens or grains. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Grilled Shishito Peppers

Shishito Peppers and other thin skinned peppers like Spain's Padron Pepper are easy to grill on an open fire, charcoal grill or a grill pan on your stove top.  All the rage as an appetizer, sprinkled with coarse salt to accompany a cold beer, these also make a simple, pure side dish to grilled steaks or a topping for a burger.  The key is to use high heat to blister the skin and get a light char.

If you have some thin-skinned peppers, whether hot or sweet, in your garden try them grilled like this. Even if the variety is not thin-skinned, home grown peppers tend to have a thinner skins since these varieties are not bred for travel to supermarkets. 

We skewer the peppers whole using the double-skewer method that keeps narrow items like small peppers and asparagus from rolling between the grates and into the coals.  The peppers get a light coating of vegetable oil and cook once the steak is off the grill and resting.  Keep an eye on your peppers since these tender mouthfuls cook quickly.  Turn as the skin blisters, remove and salt lightly before serving. 

It is OK to eat these with your hands. 

To get the effect on a stove top, use a very hot grill pan.  Place the oiled peppers in the pan and turn as they blister  remove, salt and serve immediately.

On open coals (or a bonfire) use a long skewer or a "frank fork" to keep you cool and unblistered while the oiled pepper cooks over the open flame. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Croissant Strawberry Shortcake

Presentation can make a simple, pure dessert shine.  For example, supermarket croissants can be split open like butterflies to make open-faced strawberry "shortcake" desserts.  This is lovely because the croissants are not sugary sweet and will let the lingering summer berry flavor star.

To cut a croissant into a convincing butterfly, use a long bread knife to cut from the inner part of the curved pastry.  Stop cutting about 3/4 of an inch from the far edge to create a small hinge.  Open the croissant and warm the butterflied croissant in a toasted oven.  We toast them just enough to brown the edges and crisp the cut edge of the pastry's layers. Serve topped with a 1/2 cup of yogurt, a tablespoon of strawberry jam and 1/2 cup fresh, sliced strawberries. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Farmers Market Nectarines

Nectarines are overflowing their baskets at farmers' markets and its hard to resist this true taste of summer as the days grow shorter.  With an abundance of ripe fruit in the house we needed something fast that would compliment stone fruits at their peak.  Try this for breakfast or a snack-- sliced nectarines with good quality ricotta cheese drizzled with honey.  Whole grain bread goes with the ensemble perfectly.

If you have fresh basil in your garden, add a sprig to your breakfast plate.  Basil loves nectarines and so will you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Peanut Butter Mousse Cupcake Filling

Pure peanut butter mousse is not only possible but very simple, making it a top choice to fill or frost cupcakes.  The secret ingredient is ricotta cheese which lends volume and helps create a spreadable consistency.  Ricotta adds a subtle complimentary taste to peanut butter and vanilla flavors.

Filling cupcakes may sound difficult but all it really takes is the patience to wait for the cupcakes to cool.  You can frost the cupcakes immediately after filling them.  Use a apple corer to pull a small plug of cake out of the top of each cupcake. Hang onto the plugs to reinsert before frosting.   You can also dig a little hole using the handle of a teaspoon.  Fill using a small spoon or better yet, place the mousse in a plastic sandwich bag, seal and snip off a corner to use as a pastry bag to fill the little cakes.
A plastic baggie makes a great piping bag.

The vanilla (yellow) cupcakes are from an all natural mix that replaces about half of the liquid with ricotta cheese.  The cupcakes taste great and have improved structure for holding fillings. Use your favorite mix or from scratch recipe for 12 cupcakes.

Make the mousse while the cupcakes bake.  Frost with a simple chocolate ganache of chocolate chips and cream.  The technique is included below.

Peanut Butter Mousse
Yield 1 cup, enough for 12 cupcakes or 4 servings

1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 teaspoon coconut oil*
1/2 cup ricotta cheese, whole milk preferred
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey or golden syrup

*skip if using regular peanut butter which already contains an oil

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Use a whisk to create a smooth texture, whipping for about 30-45 seconds.  
  2. Taste and adjust for sweetness.  You can add more honey or a pinch of salt to bring out a bit more sweetness.  
  3. Use immediately and store any leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator. Use within three days.
NOTE: The cupcakes must be refrigerated since the filling includes dairy.

You can also eat it as a mousse in a small cup with some dark chocolate shavings.

Chocolate Ganache
To make a chocolate ganache to glaze your cupcakes, place 1/3 cup good quality chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl with enough cream or whole milk to barely cover the chips.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Remove and stir to finish melting the chips into the warmed cream. Cool for 3-4 minutes and spread on cupcakes.  The chocolate ganache will set within a few minutes to a smooth and glossy finish. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Provençal Tomato Wellington

I’ve been craving the summer pizzas I used to get in the south of France that are often called tomato tarts here.  We bought them at beach side patisseries, cut into square slabs and wrapped to go in waxy paper.  We ate them room--or rather beach—temperature.  The small Nicoise olives lent a saltiness that perfectly complimented the season's ripe tomatoes.

I stumbled across a simple tomato wellington recipe using Pepperidge Farm® puff pastry on their online recipe collection and thought that with a few extra ingredients this would satisfy my travel taste memory.  It turned out pretty close and makes a great vegetarian main entree or, if cut a little smaller, a nice side dish to grilled dinners. 

Now is the right time to make this dish.  Farmers markets are selling the last of the summer tomatoes on the cheap and their sweetness can stand up to oven roasting.  Later in the winter you can make Provençal Tomato Wellingtons with hardier Roma or plum tomatoes sliced in half and roasted low and slow to develop their sweetness. 

This recipe can be prepared through step 7 several hours ahead.  If you are having guests this is a nice option.  Goat cheese is used here but you can also use any soft cheese or a Swiss style (Gruyere for example).

Provençal Tomato Wellington
Serves 4

1 sheet puff pastry (about 8 ounces), defrosted
1 large beefsteak tomato
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence*
1 ounce goat cheese
4-6 black olives (Niçoise or oil cured work nicely)
2-3 anchovies (optional, but give it a try)
½ teaspoon capers

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Slice tomato in ½ inch slices.  Place on a lightly oiled sheet or pie plate and sprinkle with half the herbs de Provence and some salt and pepper.  
  2. Roast uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes are softened and have released much of their juice.  Set aside to cool.  
  3. Prepare pastry by placing on a floured board and rolling into a 12” square, cutting away any extra for another use.  Lay pastry onto a small sheet pan.  
  4. Crumble goat cheese over center of pastry, leaving a 1 inch edge at the top and bottom and 2-3 inches along the sides.  
  5. Cover cheese with cooked tomato slices.  Distribute olives, capers and anchovies over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle remaining herbs de Provence over filling.  
  6. Using a pastry brush or your finger, run a little water along the top and bottom edges of pastry.  Fold over one side of the pastry and seal edges.  Run a little more water along the long edge and fold over remaining side of pastry.  Use a knife to cut small slices through edges to ensure they are well sealed.  Next, make decorate slashes into pastry cutting through most of the pastry layers so it will puff nicely.  Cut through the pastry in several spots so that steam can escape during baking.  
  7. Cover wellington with loose plastic wrap and place sheet in refrigerator for at least half on hour (or up to several hours).  
  8. When ready to enjoy, preheat oven to 400˚F and remove plastic wrap from cold, unbaked tomato wellington.   At this stage you may brush some milk or a light egg wash over the top of the pastry to encourage browning.  
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until pastry is cooked through, crisped and golden-brown.  Remove wellington from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.  Slice into 3-inch slabs and serve over greens.  
They are also quite tasty cooled and served at room (or beach) temperature. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cucumber Rice Milk Soup

This is a heat wave two-fer.  Make a simple cucumber-dill yogurt dip on night one then enjoy a cold soup the following day.  No need to even look at the stove. 

Cucumber Rice Milk Soup

For the dip (feeds a small crowd):
3 small cucumbers, 3-4 inches long (or one regular cucumber, peel if waxed)
2 cups plain yogurt, drained
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste

For the soup (serves 2):
1 cup cucumber dip
1 cup rice milk

  1. To make the dip, slice cucumbers very thin.
  2. Fold into drained yogurt and add dill, salt and pepper. 
  3. Serve with warmed pita, vegetable sticks and other dippers. 

  1. To make the soup
  2. Mix equal parts leftover dip with rice milk. 

How to Drain Yogurt
You can use a Greek-style yogurt for this recipe but if you have some wonderful real whole milk yogurt, it is easy to drain it quickly for the recipe.  Use a coffee strainer/filter placed over a bowl.  For 1 1/2 cups drained yogurt, add 1 3/4 to 2 cups yogurt. Cover and refrigerate for 1/2 hour. If you do not have a coffee filter, use a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth or a paper towel.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer Beet and Pepita Salad

Beet salads have been featured here before.  Every summer the heirloom varieties come to farmers markets and August is a great time to celebrate these special vegetables again.  These beets are generally milder than their dark red cousins, the ones seen most of the year.  If you want to try beets out on your family, now is the perfect time.

Wrap them in aluminum foil, roast them in a very hot oven (450˚F) and test with a fork after 30-45 minutes.  Larger ones will take longer.  Wait a few minutes then peel easily to reveal their inner beauty.

Keep it simple.  Serve sliced beets with some goat cheese and toasted pepitas over bibb lettuce. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Good Morning California! Croissant Avocado French Toast

California cousins inspired this Good Morning California! Croissant Avocado French Toast filled with savory ingredients including bacon, cheddar cheese and fresh summer tomatoes.  Slices of avocado as garnish signal the west coast nod.  Thanks to croissants being available in most supermarkets, you can make this simple baked french toast on either coast.

It's summertime and no one wants the kitchen to get too hot so we baked this pie-plate recipe in a toaster oven.  The dish serves two to four people so if you are making this for a brunch crowd, bake three of four using a regular oven. 

As with most baked bread puddings and quiches, this very likely keeps well and can be reheated or served room temperature with a side salad.  Sadly, we have no leftovers remaining to help us test the theory.

Good Morning California! Croissant French Toast
Serves 2-4

2 large croissants, split horizontally
1 teaspoon vegetable oil to oil pie plate
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
salt & pepper
3 slices cooked bacon
1 ounce shredded cheddar cheese (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 sliced tomato
1/2 avocado

  1. Toast split croissants on lightest setting to help dry out the centers.
  2. Meanwhile, oil 9" pie plate. 
  3. Preheat oven to 325˚F.
  4. Lay toasted croissants, face up, in pie plate.  
  5. Mix together eggs, milk, sat & pepper.  Pour over croissants.  Use a fork to ensure egg custard mixture moistens all crevices of bread.  Let dish sit at least 15 minutes (covered and refrigerated overnight is OK too).
  6. Break apart bacon and tuck in between croissants.  Lay tomato sliced in a nice pattern as top layer.  
  7. Bake dish for 20-30 minutes at 325˚F until egg custard is slightly puffed and beginning to brown on top.  Check the center with a knife to ensure that the egg custard has cooked through.  
  8. Let rest five minutes.  While dish is resting top with avocado slices. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tropical Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is perfect hot weather food.  No cooking and lots of flavor.  You already know how to make the usual tabbouleh, cracked wheat soaked in water and tomato juice and garnished with tomatoes, cucumbers, lots of mint and parsley and a good dash of lemon juice and high quality olive oil.  Now try a tropical version with fruit juice, pineapple, mango, scallions, cilantro and mint. 

Tropical tabbouleh goes really well with any grilled food and I've been bringing it to the office for a light lunch on steaming hot days.  I soak the wheat in its liquid overnight in the refrigerator then add fruits and herbs.  Most recipes call for soaking for an hour and that is fine if using bulgar wheat in your recipe.  If using cracked wheat, plan on at least three hours or more to get the grains to swell to a nice, chewy consistency.

Tropical Tabbouleh
Yield: about 2 cups, recipe can be doubled

1/3 cup cracked wheat (bulgar wheat may be substituted)
2/3 cup liquid (combination of water and fruit juice such as apple or pineapple juice)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch salt
1 cup chopped fruit--any combination of fresh pineapple, mango, jicama, Asian pear*
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh, chopped mint


  1. Mix wheat, water, juice and salt in a bowl or resealable container that can hold about one quart.
  2. Cover and store in refrigerator until wheat has absorbed the liquid and had softened.  Plan on 1-3 hours.  
  3. Stir in fruit, scallions, red pepper and herbs. Taste and add additional salt if needed.  
*Tip: try using a fresh fruit salsa as the fruit in this recipe.  Many markets sell healthy ones like mango salsa that already have some onion and bell pepper too.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cold Corn Soup

Three leftover ears of corn, a lime and a can of light coconut milk are all you need for a cold soup on a day when it's too hot to cook. We spiced ours up two ways.  American style with chopped heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market and Asian fusion style with sliced hot red peppers, cilantro and mint. 

Buy that extra half dozen ears of corn at the market this week and you'll have what you need.  This recipe serves three or four as a first course.  We served them as shooters and had enough to serve eight generously. 

Cold Corn Soup
Yield: 3 cups, four 2/3 cup servings

3 ears of corn, cooked and cooled
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
juice of one lime
1/2-2/3 cup water
Garnishes: chopped tomato, sliced hot pepper (red or green), extra lime, mint leaves, chopped cilantro

  1. In a deep bowl or pot, use a serrated knife to cut kernels away for corn cob.
  2. Add coconut milk and half of the lime juice.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree soup.  Or puree in a blender.
  4. Add water, 1/4 cup at a time to create a pourable consistency.   
  5. Taste and season with salt.
  6. Chill at least three hours for most refreshing flavor. 
You will need a blender or an immersion blender for this recipe.  If you do not own either, I would recommend an immersion blender with a small bowl attachment as the most versatile investment.  You can puree hot or cold soups, mix pesto, create smoothie concoctions and even smooth out a lumpy gravy.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Pantry Pickle Relish for Hot Dog Season

File this under the semi-homemade if you'd like.  The internet is clogged with recipes for truly homemade pickle relish that first requires you to make your own pickles.  We wanted one that could be put together in minutes using already canned and preserved pure ingredients.

Instead of starting with cucumbers, we start with your favorite jar of pickles.  We like dill pickle chips; you might like bread & butter pickles instead.  Roasted red bell peppers are the other main ingredient, either jarred or your own.  Heat seekers reading this are already making the leap.... your favorite hot pepper can be used in place of or in addition to red bell peppers.  Try jarred peppadews for a sweet/hot flavor or pickled jalepeños for a serious kick, for example. 

The ratio of pickles to peppers is about 2:1.  You can adjust this up or down to suit your tastes.  The great thing about using pure ingredients to create your own condiments is that you get to use your own taste buds to find your favorite flavor balance.  Design your own Pantry Pickle Relish and bring it to the next grilling party.

Pantry Pickle Relish
Base recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups relish

1 16-ounce jar dill pickle chips, drained
1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
Optional: pinch cayenne pepper


  1. Place drained pickles in a food processor.  
  2. Roughly chop roasted red peppers and place in food processor with pickles.  
  3. Process/Pulse a few times until you reach the desired rough or fine chop for relish.  
  4. Taste.  Add cayenne if desired.  
  5. Serve immediately or pack in sealed container and use within 4-5 days. 
At our house, this pickle relish is de rigueur on grilled hot dogs with a smear of Dijon mustard.  You can also use pickle relish in egg salad, ham salad or mix it with a bit of mayonnaise to slather on a fried fish sandwich.  One of my sisters would put this in potato salad, I'll bet. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Jalepeño Popper Chicken Casserole

There are several ways to prepare the jalepeños for this dish.  I like to grill them the night before but you can also dry-saute them in a cast iron skillet before making the rest of the dish.  If the peppers are very spicy, it may keep the fumes down to roast them as you prepare the cream cheese filling, as described in the recipe below.  In a pinch you can use canned green chilies and skip the cooking the peppers but the dish will not be as spicy. 

Jalepeño Popper Chicken Casserole
Yield 6-8 servings

8 jalepeños, halved and cored
4 ounces cream cheese
2 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, divided
2 packages thinly sliced chicken breasts (about 10 pieces)
1 egg
2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for pan

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Line a small baking dish with 1-2 inch sides with tin foil.  Oil lightly (or use spray oil.)
  3. Roast jalepeños in prepared pan until wilted and a bit charred, about 10-12 minutes.  Remove jalepeños and allow them to cool.  
  4. In a food processor mix together the cream cheese,  shredded cheddar and one tablespoon mayonnaise to form a thick cheese paste.
  5. Lay chicken breasts out on a platter and cover each with a layer of the cream cheese mixture.  Use the back of a large spoon to spread the cheese evenly.  
  6. Lay one-two jalepeños on each chicken breast and roll up.  Place rolled chicken breasts in the roasting pan.
  7. Mix together one egg and the other tablespoon of mayonnaise in the bowl of the food processor or small mixing bowl that the cram cheese was in.  Spoon this sauce over the chicken breasts and sprinkle panko bread crumbs evenly over the top of the rolled chicken breasts.
  8. Bake at 425˚F uncovered for 30 minutes.  Lower the heat to 325˚F and cook another 10 minutes.  A thermometer stuck into the center breast meat portion should read 170˚F.  Remove the pan from the oven and let casserole sit for 10 minutes before serving.
 This dish may may be cooked ahead, cooled completely and frozen.  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Rhubarb BBQ Sauce and Bonus Rhubarb Applesauce

Rhubarb BBQ sauce is a savory use for rhubarb this season.  Its tartness lends itself really well to grilled pork and chicken.  Use Rhubarb BBQ sauce on burgers as a thick ketchup too.  Just in time for the nation's birthday.

If rhubarb is already out of season in your area, you can use frozen rhubarb for this recipe. 

Rhubarb recipes often use a lot of sugar.  To cut the amount of sugar back, I first made a Rhubarb Applesauce using 4 cups of chopped rhubarb and 2 peeled and diced apples.  Most rhubarb sauces use 1 cup of sugar for 4 cups rhubarb.  With two apples, use only 1/2 cup sugar.

Place the three ingredients into a heavy bottomed pot in which the fruit will cook down over medium-low heat.  Add a splash of water (about an ounce) to get the mixture going without scorching the fruit.  Cover the pot, check it and stir occasionally.  The sauce should be broken down within 20 minutes.  Use a masher to break down the last chunks of apple.

Now you have about 2 cups of Rhubarb Applesauce, a tart and refreshing twist on applesauce.  Set aside half to enjoy as a snack.  Eat as is or enhance with a few drops of vanilla or almond extract and a shake of cinnamon.

Use the remaining cup to make Rhubarb BBQ sauce.

Rhubarb BBQ Sauce
Yields about 2 cups

1 cup Rhubarb Applesauce (see above)
1 14-ounce can low sodium tomatoes, un-drained
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  1. Combine Rhubarb Applesauce with tomatoes, vinegar and molasses in a heavy bottomed pot.  Cook on medium-low heat while you mix the spice blend.
  2. In  a small bowl, mix together the next ten ingredients, ground mustard through red pepper flakes.  
  3. Add spice-salt blend to rhubarb mixture.  Lower heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce. Use warm or cold.  Store in a covered cotnaciner it the refrigerator.  use within three days.
Another great use for Rhubarb BBQ Sauce is to make quick barbequed beans.  Stir some sauce into some canned (drained) white beans and cook to heat through.  Instant barbeques beans, vegetarian friendly.  You can also make these in a small quantity slow cooker-- on low for 2 hours- to really soak in the flavor. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mushroom Goat Cheese Quesadillas

Have you noticed?  The Pure Foods Project is focusing on mushrooms for the past few weeks.  This time of year is wonderful for mushroom hunting.  Find someone knowledgeable to help you forage or take advantage of the abundance that finds its way to farmers markets.

This week, mushrooms sauteed with lemon and parsley create a vegetarian base for several easy meal ideas.  Top a pizza, flavor a quiche, serve as an appetizer rolled into some puff pastry or create a French-fusion dish, Mushroom Goat Cheese Quesadillas.

These can be made ahead and frozen.  To reheat, defrost for a half a minute in the microwave (or defrost in the refrigerator before you head off to work).  Then reheat in a toaster oven or skillet.  Mushroom Goat Cheese Quesadillas are also nice to have around for a last minute appetizer.  Defrost, reheat and cut into wedges to serve guests.

The secret ingredient is mashed white beans.  A lot like Mexican refried beans, mashed white beans provide substance and sustenance here.

Mushroom Goat Cheese Quesadillas
Yield: 8 quesadillas

10 ounces mushrooms
1 tablespoon oil
salt, pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
juice of 1/4 lemon
1 12-ounce can white beans (low sodium), drained
2 ounces soft goat cheese
8 flour tortillas (plain or whole wheat)
1/2 cup shredded Gouda (smoked or plain)

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
  2. In a wide skillet, saute mushrooms in oil over medium high heat.  Salt and pepper mushroom as they cook down.
  3. Once mushrooms are tender, add parsley and lemon juice.
  4. While mushrooms cook, place beans and goat cheese in a a food processor and process until beans are broken down but not completely pureed.  You will have a thick mixture.  
  5. Place bean mixture in a bowl.  Fold in cooked mushrooms.  
  6. Lay tortillas on a lightly oiled baking sheet.  Scatter about a tablespoon of shreded Gouda cheese on each.  
  7. Equally divide the bean-mushroom mixture among the eight tortillas, spooning it over one half of each tortilla.  
  8. Fold tortillas over to form half circles.  Rub the top of each with a little vegetable oil and bake 12-15 minutes, turning once, until tortillas are lightly browned.
Enjoy immediately or cool and freeze for future use.  

Friday, June 12, 2015

Easy Mushroom Steak Sauce

This is a simple sauce for grilled or roasted beef that combines the best of mushroom sauces and classic steak sauces.  Dribble any extra over potatoes or rice.  It can be made well ahead of the grilling task, even a day ahead if you'd like to put your feet up while others do the grilling.

Easy Mushroom Steak Sauce
Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

10 ounces Bella mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
squeeze of lemon juice or splash of sherry vinegar
8-10 ounces beef or chicken broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
2 ounces cold water

  1. Clean and slice mushrooms. 
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add olive oil and mushrooms.  Add salt and pepper and saute until mushrooms a almost cooked through.
  3. Add lemon juice or sherry vinegar and allow to cook down.  
  4. Add broth, Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard.  Lower heat to simmer and cook mixture 2-3 minutes.
  5. In a small cup, stir corn starch into cold water.  Pour into sauce while stirring.  Keep stirring while cornstarch slurry is absorbed and sauce thickens,  Add more water or broth if too thick for your tastes.  Sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  
  6. Remove from heat.  Serve immediately or cover and store in refrigerator.  Use within two days.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Summer Crock Pot Poached Chicken and Mushrooms

Chicken cooked low and slow in a crock pot (aka slow cooker) comes out tender and keeps the kitchen cool.  The slow cooker is a great option on nights when it is too hot to turn on the oven. 

The 'secret' to the rich yet light suace is dried mushrooms. They reconstitute alongside the cooking chicken. 

If you do not have time to make this meal for tonight's dinner, make it alongside a quick to prepare one and enjoy a pre-cooked meal tomorrow night or take poached chicken to work the following day.

For this recipe, select skinless chicken breasts with the bone-in.  Once the chicken is cooked, remove and cool for a few minutes before pulling away the bone. Slice and return to the vegetables and broth to serve over rice.  If you are using boneless chicken breasts expect the dish to be ready about 20 minutes sooner.

Summer Crock Pot Poached Chicken and Mushrooms
Serves 4


6 carrots
4 ribs celery
1 medium zucchini
1/2 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms2 large* skinless chicken breasts, bone in preferred
1/4 teaspoon each dried thyme and basil
Salt and pepper
1 cup chicken broth
 optional: 1 cup green beans

*if using smaller breasts on boneless ones, cut back the cooking time but about 20 minutes.  

  1. Peel carrots and cut in half crosswise.  If very large, split down the middle to create large pieces that are of uniform size.  Place in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Cut celery and zucchini into large chunks. Add to the carrots in the pot.
  3. Scatter dried mushrooms over vegetables.
  4. Place chicken breasts on top of vegetables.  Cover with salt and pepper.
  5. Pour chicken broth over chicken and vegetables. 
  6. Turn slow cooker on high for 2 1/2 -3 hours.  Check chicken at the 2 hour mark.  If it has reached 165˚F degrees, remove and leave vegetables to finish cooking.  Vegetables are ready when you can cut a carrot with a fork.
Serve over brown rice or egg noodles.  

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Salad Caprese To Go

Individual Salad Caprese is the perfect side to bring to gatherings if you just know you are going to forget the serving utensil.  The stiff romaine lettuce leaf underneath allows diners to pick up a single serving with their hands and move on down the buffet.

Salad Caprese requires only a few ingredients and begs to be served when tomatoes and basil come into season. 

Individual Salad Caprese
Yield- 10 servings

10 Romaine lettuce leaves
3 ripe tomatoes, medium size
1 ball mozzarella cheese (fresh recommended)
handful of fresh basil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil or vinaigrette dressing
salt and pepper
optional: roasted red pepper (try a variation with red pepper and no tomatoes when tomatoes are not yet ripe), baguette slices

  1. Lay lettuce leaves on a serving tray
  2. Lay alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella on each leaf. Tuck a few basil leaves in between the layers.
  3. Cover and refrigerate until read to serve
  4. Just before serving, drizzle with olive oil or dressing and finish with a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper
  5. Serve as is or with sliced baguette or country loaf
Use medium sized romaine leaves that have a little backbone.  These salads can even be eaten without a fork.  Smaller leaf versions are a nice option for passed hors d'oeuvres.  Use the inner leaves of the lettuce to collect enough or break larger leaves in two. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fruit Kebabs

Fruit salad is a fun picnic food that can be made more transportable and user friendly by making it into kebabs.  No serving spoons needed and no problem if no one has remembered to bring forks. 

Thirst quenching and not bad with a brownie or cookie, fruit kebabs survive transport without oxidizing and look as appetizing as they taste by using a few simple techniques. 
  • When shopping for fruit, be sure to pick up a lemon or two.  Squeeze lemon juice over your cut fruit and rub the plate with the squeezed lemon to protect your fruit.  
  • Cut fruit into large bite-sized chunks so they do not break off the wooden skewers.
  • Thread pineapple chunks on first.  They coat the entire skewer with an acidic base that will prevent fruit from browning at the skewer core.  Fresh pineapple will hold its shape better than canned.
  • Select ripe yet firm fruits with a wide color variety.  Here bright green kiwis add a new color group to the platter.
  •  Use lemon zest and mint to garnish the kebabs.  
For these kebabs we used:
2 cups cubed pineapple
2 medium-large nectarines
4 apricots
2 kiwis
2 cups strawberries
16 wooden skewers

If it is difficult to find several fruits in season, pick two fruits and alternate.  Red strawberries and yellow pineapple cubes, green kiwis and pale orange peaches, purple grapes and creamy white pears (really nice with some soft cheese alongside).  Don't for get the lemon!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tres Leches Cake for Sarah

Our next portable dessert for picnics and potluck dinners is a Tres Leches Cake, the famous "three milk" cake of Mexico.  This cake is easy to make and only requires a few ingredients.  If you are really short on time, you can serve the cake without the leches with sliced fruit.  It tastes like a giant, cloud of a lady finger.  But try to take the time to let the sweet milks soak in to make this classic dessert.  We topped ours with fresh strawberries for a very international strawberry shortcake variation.

To travel with Tres Leches Cake, leave the cake in its pan swelled by the soaking liquid.  Smear on whipped cream and pack your rinsed strawberries on the side.  Cover the cake and hit the road. Add the finishing strawberry touches once you've arrived. 

Tres Leches Cake for Sarah
Serves 6-8
Two small cake pans (7-8 inch diameter) or one large 9X13

For the cake:
4 eggs
½ t vanilla
½ cup sugar
1 cup + 2 T cake flour (or 2 cups all purpose flour)

For the tres leches filling
½ can sweetened condensed milk (6-7 oz)
½ can evaporated milk (6-7 oz)
4 oz whole milk (or cajeta, a sweet milk cooked until caramelized)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups whipped cream (use about 1 tablespoon sugar for every cup of cream)
1 pint strawberries, sliced

  1. Separate egg whites from yolks.  Place the egg whites in a large bowl.  Place the egg yolks into a medium bowl.  
  2. Beat egg yolks on medium high until they are pale yellow and thickened, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla and beat another minutes.   
  3. Beat the egg whites on medium for 4-5 minutes, until they form soft peaks. Add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, while beating on medium-high until stiff peaks form.  
  4. By hand, using a wide spatula, stir half of flour into the egg yolks.  
  5. Add egg yolk mixture to egg whites in larger bowl.  Gently fold together, adding remaining flour by scattering flour over batter, a spoonful at a time.  To fold, using the side of your spatula, cut down the middle of the batter then turn the spatula to comb along the bottom of the bowl with the flat side. Lift and turn the batter over onto itself.  Repeat this gentle action to incorporate the lighter egg white mixture into the denser egg yolk mixture.  The result is a very light, foamy batter.  
  6. Pour the batter into prepared baking pans and bake 13-15 minutes until the top is light brown and the cake is starting to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Cake can be cooled at this point and the filling liquid added the next day.  It is also nice to fill the cake while it is warm—not hot.  Let cool at least 15 minutes.  Prick cake with a fork and pour filling all over cake.  Soak, refrigerated, at least one hour before serving.  Top with  whipped cream and strawberries.