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April 7, 2008

Blogging Bake-Along! Israeli "Pizza"

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In many bakeries and homes in Israel, a pizza-like flatbread with toppings is made for lunch or snacking. The crust is slightly puffed, crisp on the bottom, and the toppings run from white or yellow cheeses, tomato, oil and herbs, or oil and zataar, an ancient spice blend. Zataar is made from ground thyme or marjoram, sesame seeds, sumac, salt and pepper. It has a slightly astringent, yet herbal taste.

My friend Nava taught me how to make them. Come cook along!

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April 18, 2008

Pesach Cook-Along

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I staggered home from work yesterday afternoon and began to Kosher my kitchen for Passover. Cleaned out the fridge, and cleaned all chametz (leavened food) out of the kitchen pantry (pasta, breads, crackers, cereals, etc). Later that evening I did the ritual sweeping up of chametz crumbs with a feather and spoon, and burned them. I certainly don't do everything completely--I don't change over my dishes and cookware, my chametz just goes to the basement instead of being temporarily "sold" to a non-Jew during Pesach, and during the end of the week we tend to eat more Sephardic (allowing rice) than Ashkenazi.

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Pesach Cook-Along, Part 2

Some of the chicken soup, after five hours simmering and straining through cheesecloth--liquid gold. I got about eight quarts, I think. After skimming off the fat, tomorrow I will finish it with thinly sliced carrots and celery, and chopped dill for serving with matzoh balls.

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Next up, matzoh balls. I like "sinkers," with lots of chopped dill and parsley.

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I made about 40.

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Matzoh Balls, My Way
Makes about 10-12 large matzoh balls, recipe doubles or triples easily

4 eggs
3 tablespoons melted chicken fat, or melted margarine, or oil
1 teaspoon salt, ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup minced mixture of parsley and dill
1/4 cup chicken soup, plus 2 Tbs. water
1 cup matzoh meal

Beat the eggs, add the chicken fat, which should be at room temperature, and then the salt and pepper, herbs, water and soup.
Fold in the matzo meal, mix well. Batter will be loose.

Refrigerate the batter for about I hour, or until batter is thickened up. With wet hands, shape into balls a bit bigger than a golf ball. They'll enlarge as they cook.

Drop the balls carefully into 2 quarts of boiling salted water or hot soup. Cover and cook for 45 minutes. Gently remove from water with slotted spoon, and refrigerate until needed.

To serve--Add Matzoh Balls to soup.

Cook for another 10 minutes in the soup.

Continue reading "Pesach Cook-Along, Part 2" »

April 19, 2008

Pesach Cook-Along, Part 3

Whew. At 7:30, I had the soup on to finish cooking with the final garnish of carrots, celery, and dill. I made two different kinds of charoset, the red-brown mixture on the seder plate that symbolises the mortar the Jewish slaves were forced to use. I make the traditional Ashkenazi apple/walnut/cinnamon one; and also a Sephardic one with dates, figs, apricots, and pistachios.

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Later, I made mashed potatoes; a salad of roasted golden beets dressed with mint, roasted broccoli with walnuts, and salmon with herb vinaigrette. Everything could be made in advance, and either wrmed while we were going through the first part of the Seder, or gets served at room temperature.

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Salmon with Herb Vinaigrette

1. Make a herb vinaigrette. Whisk together a 1/2 tsp seedy dijon mustard, a finely diced shallot, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, a pinch of sugar to taste, and enough olive oil to make a dressing. Add generous amounts of chopped chives, parsley, dill, whatever herbs you like with salmon. You almost want a salsa verde-looking dressing. This may also be made in a food processor. Salt and pepper to taste.

3. Preheat oven to 325.

4. Cut salmon into serving-sived pieces. Place skin-down on an oiled baking sheet. Bake, checking after 10 minutes or so. The fish will be done before it flakes, so be careful to not overcook. (Mine took about 12 minutes for a thin piece. People's taste in doneness for salmon varies, so use your judgement).

5. Remove the fish. Lift the fish off the sheet,(leaving the skin behind) and arrange on a serving platter. If there is white residue, wipe it off. Spoon some of the vinaigrette over each piece, and chill. Let return to room temperature before serving, and drizzle on more vinaigrette.

Continue reading "Pesach Cook-Along, Part 3" »

May 10, 2008

Takeout, Russian Style

One of the great benefits of living in my area is the wealth of international foods available. Within a 1/2 hour drive from my house are shops catering to people from China, Korea, Japan, India, Pakistan, Israel, Armenia, Lebanon, the Caribbean, Russia, South America, Vietnam, Italy, and probably more.

We often go to Bazaar, a Russian grocery in Brookline and their larger one in Allston. I'm always amused when everyone there tries speaking Russian to me. Yes, my hips have their roots in Vilnius. They've got racks and racks of real, crusty rye breads from Russian bakeries in Brooklyn, have aisles of pickled vegetables, preserves, strange pharmaceuticals, smoked sausages and meats, Russian candies, frozen Russian dumplings and pastries, fresh cheeses, sour cream and yogurt, and all the produce you need for borscht. There's a huge deli counter with a vast array of prepared foods, salads, spreads, smoked fishes, tubs of mysterious lumps, and a tray of home-made blini on the top. There's no showy displays or pretty presentation--just good food. I prefer the Allston store, where there's easier parking and the Deli ladies will make you taste the six eggplant salads before you decide which one to take home. If you stare in befuddlement, someone will nudge you toward their favorites. Prices are astonishingly reasonable--their grape leaves are $3.99 a pound, vs the $6.99 at other shops. You can visit their interesting website: http://www.bazaargourmet.com/

Here's yesterday's lunch, courtesy of Bazaar: Russian Rye bread, topped with mushroom salad and eggplant-tomato salad; stuffed grape leaves, Georgian style; and beet salad with walnuts.

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June 26, 2008

Zucchini-Spinach Lasagne, Minus the Pasta

My sons requested lasagne for dinner, so I made my regular spinach-ricotta filling with fresh pasta and tomato sauce for them. As I was listening to my tummy gurgle at the sight of all that off-limits goodness, I remembered a recipe I'd seen for a lasagne where zucchini substituted for the pasta. Worth a try, and I had some zucchini and yellow squash in the fridge.

It turned out very well, and is low-fat, low-carb, and full of vegetables and protein. Not quite pasta, but good.

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September 8, 2008

Tomato Season

My poor neglected tomato plants have forgiven me.

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This year I'm growing Sun Gold (orange cherrry tomato and very sweet), Brandywine (heirloom variety with funky shapes and deep rich flavor), Champion (an old reliable), Jet Star (a huge producer for me) Sweet Million (another cherry, red this time), Green Zebra (just because they're fun, and they taste good), and Pruden's Purple (which never do so well, but the few fruits I get are delicious).

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I think I'm making gazpacho tomorrow.

September 9, 2008

Gazpacho, Not Soupy Salsa

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When I traveled through Spain many years go, I ate a lot of gazpacho. Some thick, some thin but some crunchy with diced vegetables, some pureed with garnishes on the side. I preferred the pureed ones, with some body to it so that it didn't taste or feel like extra-soupy salsa. Sadly, most of the gazpacho I've eaten in the US falls into the soupy salsa category.

A friend whose mother was born near Cordoba served me her version, which was a thick, smoothly blended soup that seemed more than the sum of its parts. She told me her mother's version contained the usual fresh tomato, cucumber, red pepper, bread, oil, vinegar, garlic and onion--but used egg as a binder. I've made this often, and have found that the recipe in The Silver Palate Cookbook is very similar. Because of concerns over raw eggs, I gently heat the soup to slowly cook the egg, then cool and let sit overnight in the fridge. It's delicious after the flavors have blended and the vinegar mellows and brightens the tomato taste.

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September 18, 2008

Pastitzio

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There's a Greek diner in my area that has one of the world's best comfort foods. Pastitzio is a homestyle Greek layered dish similar to lasagne, where the layers are a chunky meat sauce, tubular pasta, and a cheesy bechamel sauce. Gloriously fattening, so a small slice with a greek salad does the trick. I'm experimenting with a lighter version using ground turkey and a yogurt-based topping, which I'll post when I get it right.

This will feed 8-12, depending on the serving size. It needs to be made a day ahead, and is great for a party or large dinner.

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September 20, 2008

Rosh Hashanah Planning

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, begins at sundown next Monday. Monday night will just be seven of us, and I'll make a whole fish stuffed with almonds and dates. I usually host a big dinner on the second night, and this year there will be 20 people at the tables. Yikes.

Last weekend, I made three pots of chicken stock, which resulted in eight quarts of stock in the freezer. Next weekend I'll defrost them, and simmer with leeks, carrots, celery, parsnips, parsley, cilantro and dill to finish into soup to be served with matzoh balls. I put lots of parsley dill and cilantro into the matzoh balls as well.

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This weekend, I'm making brisket to freeze. This is a great recipe, using sundried tomatoes and wine to give a deep flavor to a thick gravy and tender meat. It must be made a day in advance of serving, and freezes very well.

My menus tend to change a bit as I shop, but here's what I've been thinking. It's a mixture of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Rosh Hashanah recipes:

Monday Night:--7 people

Pita with hummos, baba ganoush, and Muhamara (a pomegranite-walnut dip)
round challah

Whole Fish stuffed with dates and almonds
Bulger Pilaf
Sauteed Green Beans

Homemade Ice Cream--coffee has been requested by my sons

Tuesday Night: --20 people

Chicken soup with Matzoh balls
round challah

Brisket with Sundried Tomatoes
Chicken and seven-vegetable Tagine with apricots and almonds, over cous cous
Roasted potatoes
Carrots with pomegranite and honey
Green Beans with pistachios

cheesecake (from my cousin)
Apple pie (from another cousin)
Some other dessert (a friend)
Homemade Ice Creams--I'm thinking Honey-Ginger and Caramel

September 24, 2008

Chicken with Leeks and Figs

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I tried out this recipe to see if I wanted to serve it for Rosh Hashanah. Leeks and figs are customarily served in many Sephardic homes for the new year, being both in season and symbolic for the holiday. (Leeks are to "cut off your enemies." Heh.) I adapted it from an old Cooking Light recipe. Easy to put together, it was just a bit bland upon first tasting. However, it was much better the next day, when the flavors had blended. The wine's acidity tempers the sweetness of the leeks, figs and honey. A winner!

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September 30, 2008

My "O" Recipe--Green Beans with Pistachio

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From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 21,650 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the U.S. in 2008 and about 15,520 women will die from the disease.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose. There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.
In spite of this patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.
When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.
Please donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and help spread the word!
********************************************************************************************

We're at the end of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month--but I hope, not at the end of every woman's knowledge of her body. Every woman should be aware of the possibility that you, your sister, your friend may be sailing along comfortable in life, and then teetering on the edge of the unknown with a frightening diagnosis. Be aware, be vocal, be unafraid.

My previous post on Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and the "O" Foods contest, is here:
http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/amy/archives/2008/09/o_foods_for_ova.html

This one's for Gina, who taught me that Sicilian does matter. *grin*

I love green beans, cooked just past crisp and not yet mushy--that perfect stage of tender but still fresh in texture. And I love pistachios, and the precious bottles of pale green pistachio oil I insist on dragging back from visits to Paris.

This is my go-to dish for dinner parties, as it can be prepared in advance, is unusual and yet 'safe" enough to appeal to most people (obviously, not for people with nut allergies). It goes with just about any main course or cuisine. And it's really delicious. Since there are so few ingredients, make sure they're of excellent quality--fresh oil, good nuts (preferably from Sicily), farmstand beans if you can get them. If you simply cannot get your hands on pistachio oil, you can substitute a really fragrant toasted hazelnut or walnut oil, and the appropriate nut. But please, do try to find pistachio oil, and good, fresh pistachios.

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Green Beans with Pistachio
Serves 6-8, can be doubled or tripled; or halved

2 lbs fresh green beans, rinsed, stems snipped off
2 Tbs. sweet butter
3 Tbs. pistachio oil
1/2 cup pistachios
salt and pepper

Generously salt a kettle of water, and add the beans. Bring to a light simmer, and cook beans until at the appropriate moment of doneness. You want them just soft to the bite, but not limp. Quickly drain and refresh under cold water, then pat dry.

While the beans are cooking, place the pistachios in a small ziploc. Smash them with a rolling pin, hammer, or whatever you have. Think of the financial crisis, your boss, your annoying but well-intentioned relative. Have fun. You want some just cracked, some finely ground, most somewhere in the middle.

In a large skillet, melt the butter, and then stir in the pistachios, letting them crisp for 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat, mix in the oil, add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the cooked, dried beans into the skillet, and toss to coat the beans with the nuts, oil and butter. Either serve, or refrigerate until needed. Can be warmed in the microwave.


October 5, 2008

Sunday Slow Scoopers--Crepes for Blintzes

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I knew right away what I would use this week's selection to wrap. My mother's mother, my Nana, made the world's best blintzes. Of course, didn't everyone's Jewish grandmother?

She could crank out enough for an army, with her secret weapon--an ancient electric crepe maker. When we were cleaning out Nana's house after her death, I was the one who dearly wanted that crepe maker we found in the back of a cabinet. It's been in my basement for far too long, and I was excited to have the chance to use it again.

It has a domed surface that you dip into a shallow dish of crepe batter. After 20 seconds or so, you lift off the perfect crepe. Well, after the first four or five imperfect ones. *grin*

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October 27, 2008

Chicken Paprikash

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This is a wonderful dish, but its crucial to use a good paprika. I have paprika that my parents brought back from Hungary, both sweet and hot. A good grocery store will have the red and white cans of Szeged paprika, which is far and away better than American brands. I've also found that fullfat sour cream is really important, as the lower fat ones will curdle. I just adjusted the recipe to use less.

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November 2, 2008

Fish Chowder

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I love a bowl of fish chowder on a cold night, with a garlicy crouton floating on top and a glass of crisp white wine on the side. What I dislike are those overthickened chowders you're too often served that are made from a frozen base, tasting more of undercooked flour than of the sea.

This version is a combination of fancy fish and shellfish chowder I used to eat at a long-gone restaurant called Tapas in Cambridge, and my grandmother's comforting New England-style fish soup. I've kept the diced vegetables and pancetta from Tapas, and the technique and thin but savory broth from my grandmother. This isn't quite as rich as a restaurant chowder, but its still a once-in-a-blue-moon soup because of all that cream. A small bowl makes a good serving.

The chowder can also be made without the pancetta, like my grandmother did it. What's crucial is good fish, and some fish or clam broth that's honest and briny, without additives or too much salt. A fish market may be able to sell you fish stock/broth or clam juice; you can sometimes find frozen fish broth; and the clam juice from Whole Foods is very good. If you're using bottled clam juice, don't salt the chowder as much as you would if you were using fish stock. I usually serve this several hours or the day after preparing, to let the flavors blend.

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November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving

Whew. Twenty-one people.

Two turkeys, one roasted, one grilled.
Gravy
Cranberry Sauce
Stuffing with Herbs, Chestnuts and Pecans
Spicy Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Vegetables--brussels sprouts; parsnips/squash/peppers; broccoli
Green Bean and orange Salad
Breads

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Rum Balls
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Torte
Pecan Pie
Pumpkin-Bourbon cheesecake
Honey-Ginger Gelato

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December 18, 2008

Chicken Stuffed with Sundried Tomato and Chevre

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A few weeks ago, I used some of the enormous jar of sundried tomatoes I bought at Costco to make sundried tomato pesto. It was delicious over pasta, and I put a few containers in the freezer for future use. I was thinking of something else to do with it, and came across a recipe for a boneless chicken stuffed with the pesto and goat cheese. It also worked out well, and was pronounced a "do-again" by the boys. It was just a bit fussy to prepare, but making the pesto in advance takes out that step; and I also think next time I'll do the variation where the chicken is just coated in parmesean instead of flour-egg-breading to make it lighter. I also think the stuffing would be delicious for filet of sole.

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January 1, 2009

New Year's Eve Appetizers

We were invited to spend new Year's Eve with some dear friends, and I volunteered to bring appetizers. I made mushroom turnovers; crostini with caramelized shallots, walnuts and blue cheese; and mini peppers stuffed with goat cheese.

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Crostini with Caramelized Shallots, Walnuts and Blue Cheese
(adapted from Pedaling in Burgundy, Sarah Chase)

10 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tbs. walnut oil
1-2 spoonfuls cassis (blackberry cordial)
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
crumbled blue cheese
sliced baguette

Saute shallots in the walnut oil in a skillet until very soft. (About 20 minutes on low medium flame). Add cassis, and cook a few minutes more to slightly caramelize the shallots. Add salt and pepper to taste. Crush walnuts, add to pan and mix.

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Place baguette slices on a baking sheet, and bake at 400 for 5 minutes until just beginning to color. Spoon shallots onto baguette slices, then sprinkle with cheese. Return crostini to oven, bake until cheese bubbles, around 5-7 minutes. Serve with a kir.

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January 18, 2009

Vietnamese Caramel Shrimp and Sauteed Sesame Vegetables

We had friends over for dinner last night, two of whom don't eat gluten (foods containing wheat) and one vegetarian (who will eat seafood). I was a little tired of the risotto route, so thought I'd go for some Asian influences. Whole Foods had Maine shrimp on sale, a seasonal delicacy that's great to take advantage of. Vietnamese caramel sauce is a peppery sweet-and-sour sauce often used for simple Vietnamese dishes. There isn't much sauce to this dish, just enough pungent liquid to glaze the shrimp. You can make the caramel sauce well in advance, and store it in the fridge for quite a long time. I served the shrimp with brown rice and sesame sauteed vegetables.

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Shrimp Simmered In Caramel Sauce (Tom Kho) (Adapted from "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen")
Serves 4 (I doubled the amounts to serve 7)

1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp. salt
2 tsps. fish sauce
3 Tbs. sake, rice wine, or dry white wine
2 tablespoons Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tsp. red chili flakes, to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
2 scallions, green part only, chopped
2 Tbs. chopped cilantro

In a shallow saucepan or a skillet, combine oil, teaspoon salt, fish sauce and Caramel Sauce and bring to a vigorous simmer over high heat. Add onion, chili and pepper and give mixture a big stir to distribute the ingredients evenly. Continue cooking another 10 minutes, until onions are cooked. Be sure to stir often. Add wine and shrimp, cook another 3-4 minutes until done. Sprinkle with cilantro and scallion and serve.

Caramel Sauce: http://www.sgvtribune.com/rds_search/ci_4432122?IADID=Search-www.sgvtribune.com-www.sgvtribune.com

Continue reading "Vietnamese Caramel Shrimp and Sauteed Sesame Vegetables" »

January 27, 2009

Polenta Lasagna

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I made this as the second main dish of the Boston GTG, since I had already made two pesto lasagnes and didn't want another pasta dish. It was unexpectedly delicious, and people enjoyed it. But hey, throw mushrooms and cheese onto mud, it'd probably taste good, right? Great party dish.

Polenta and Mushroom Lasagna

First, make your Mushroom Ragu--

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 lb mixed mushrooms, sliced (I use a combo of white mushrooms, shitakes, and portobellos)
1/4 cup dried porcinis, put to soften in 1 cup hot water
6 cloves garlic
2 large cans diced Italian plum tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs. butter.

In a large pot, heat the oil. Toss in the fresh mushrooms, and cook until they release their liquid. Let almost begin to brown. Meanwhile, take out the dried porcini from the soaking liquid (save that liquid!) and chop. Add to the pan with the garlic, and saute just a few minutes. Strain the porcini liquid through cheesecloth to remove any grit. Pour the wine and porcini liquid into the pan, and then the tomatoes. Let gently simmer uncovered for at least an hour. At the end, stir in the butter, taste and add salt and pepper. Refrigerate until needed.

Now, the Polenta--

Into a large pot, pour 6 cups water and 1 1/2 cups polenta. Stir in 1 1/2 tsp. salt. Put into a 400 oven, and turn the heat down to 350 after 15 minutes. Start checking the polenta after another 15 minutes, giving a stir every now and then. When the polenta is thick and the grains are creamy, remove from oven. Stir in 4 Tbs. butter and 1/2 cup grated parmesean. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Have a large, deep, buttered lasagne dish ready; along with
a cup of shredded mozzerella (the decent stuff, but not necessarily the really good buffala),
a cup chopped fontina, and
a cup freshly grated parmesean.

Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of the ragu. You can make 2 or 3 layers, depending on the size of your pan. I only did two, since my pan was enormous.

Pour a (half or) third of the polenta into the buttered pan. Cover with a thick layer of the ragu, and then dot with a third of the cheese. Repeat two more times, ending with cheese. Can be refrigerated at this point. About 30 minutes before serving, put into a 375 oven until bubbling. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Dish out with a spatula or large serving spoon, as the polenta will be rather soft when hot. It firms up as it cools, and then can be sliced into neater squares.


February 2, 2009

Crabcakes

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I adore crabcakes. I usually order them when I see them on a menu, with varying expectations and results. Some taste more like mayo and breadcrumbs than of crab; others are so filled with extra ingredients that as interesting as a coconut-chili crabcake can be, it strays too much from the original.

I had been eyeing the large containders of lump crabmeat at Costco for a while, and having crab-loving friends over for dinner seemed a good opportunity. I looked at a lot of recipes,and ended up mixing and matching to wind up with a fairly simple mixture. They were really, really good! A pound of crabmeat (around $14) made 16 small crabcakes. Three made for a nice serving. The leftovers reheated fairly well in the toaster oven for lunch.

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February 24, 2009

Food and Cooking Meme

Got this from Annie, and just in time because I was stuck for a blog entry!

Food and Cooking Meme

What is your go-to ingredient?
Oh my goodness, it's hard to choose just one. Probably pasta, which can be used for everything from "there's nothing in the house but spaghetti oil and garlic" to a fancy dinner party with homemade fettuccini with lemon and lobster.

What nationality of food do you like the best?
Again, too hard to choose just one! I love to cook Italian and Mexican; and always want to eat out at Japanese and French restaurants. I have a strong interest in Sephardic Jewish cooking, and adore those great old family recipes from Morocco I get from my cousins and Israeli friends.

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What’s your favorite meal of the day to prepare?
Dinner, when you can relax around the table and drink a glass of wine.

What is/are your signature dish? (What dish are you ‘known’ for?)
Lasagne with homemade pasta; cool salmon with herb vinaigrette; Whole Snapper Stuffed with Stuffed Dates; Brisket with Sundried Tomatoes (my veggie friends eat meat once a year when I make this for Rosh Hashanah) ; Moroccan artichokes stuffed with lamb meatballs; cheesecakes.
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March 3, 2009

Orzo with Parmesan, Tomatoes and Basil

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This is a weeknight standby at our house. We're having it tonight with baked boneless chicken with almonds, and a salad. It goes with almost anything, can serve as a bed for grilled or sauteed meats and is wonderful with grilled vegetables. In summer, I serve it at room temperature with a few more squeezes of lemon.

Recipe came from here, but I've tweaked it a bit: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Orzo-with-Parmesan-and-Basil/Detail.aspx

Orzo with Parmesan and Basil
Served 4-6, depending on if you have teen boys

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
lemon slice or two to squeeze (optional)

Melt butter in a heavy pot. Stir in orzo and saute until lightly browned.
Stir in chicken stock and water, bring to boil. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender and liquid is just about absorbed, about 15 - 20 minutes.
Mix in Parmesan cheese, diced tomatoes, and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon juice in if you're using it, stir gently with fork. Gently reheat if needed.


March 8, 2009

Hamentashen

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I made a batch of hamentashen yesterday, the triangle-shaped cookies eaten at Purim. I only made two kinds this year, since I didn't like the cherry filling I bought. I made some with a Nutella filling; and some with apricot-almond. For the dough I used Kim's delicious recipe, here: http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/kim/archives/003721.html

Here's how I make the apricot-almond filling (which is also a nice "jam.")

Put 1 cup dried apricots and 2 Tbs. honey in a small saucepan. Add water just to cover. Simmer for 1/2 hour, or until apricots have begun to soften. Add 2 Tbs. toasted almonds. Put apricot mixture into a food processor, straining out most of the liquid. Puree, adding just enough liquid back to make a jammy consistency. Add a tablespoon Amaretto, and more honey to taste.

March 16, 2009

Seafood Paella

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I love paella. It can be used as a vehicle for everything from homey chicken thighs and sausage, to shellfish and fish, or a combination. This simple recipe came from my colleague Kat, who grew up in Mallorca. We had it last Friday night, and I also added some browned chicken-garlic sausage to it. You can skip the shrimp; or add browned partially-cooked chicken thighs. It's a very flexible recipe, as long as you keep the 2 to 1 proportion of liquid to rice, and don't overcook the seafood. For the version in the photo I used schrod, shrimp, and bluefish.

Continue reading "Seafood Paella" »

March 19, 2009

Fusili with Sausage, Fennel & Red Wine

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This recipe is from At Home in Provence by Patricia Wells, with some minor modifications. Doug posted this on SlowTrav during the winter, and it's become a family favorite. I used store-made Italian turkey sausage from Whole Foods, and like Doug, I changed the amount of tomato paste.

Continue reading "Fusili with Sausage, Fennel & Red Wine" »

March 24, 2009

Nana's Chicken

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After looking at the spruced-up former home of my grandparents on Sunday, Larry and I spent time laughing about our memories of her. "Nana" was short, round, and could hold on to a political issue or a blouse on sale at Filene's with equal tenacity. She studied journalism at Boston University as a young woman, took care of her ill mother, married and had four children, helped out at my grandfather's doughnut shop until he fired her, lived for her family and Hadassah (the Jewish women's organization), and apologized for everything that came out of her kitchen. "I don't know about that steak-- the butcher told me it was tender, but it doesn't look good" she'd say about the expensive cut of meat she had broiled into a charred piece of leather. "I don't know about those lemon bars, I think something's wrong with the oven" as she brought out her sweet and tart lemon bar cookies. Her cooking technique was legendary in the family--cook everything till it was "tendah." (delivered in a strong Boston accent that pulled the "r" off the ends of words and deposited them elsewhere)

Luckily, it worked for most of what she made--thick soups, hearty kugels, brisket, sturdy bars and cookies, and chicken with vegetables. (I prefer to not remember what she could do to asparagus) She didn't consider dinner a dinner without chicken, and you were not allowed to leave without a tupperware container going home with you. She cooked the chicken with a few vegetables in a clay casserole, tightly covered so the chicken would bathe in its own juices. So simple it doesn't really need a recipe. I wanted to recreate that chicken, but give it just a bit of updating.

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March 26, 2009

Cauliflower and Mushroom Gratin

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I grew up hating cauliflower with a burning passion. Only recently have I learned to like it, and have found recipes that emphasize the nutty and peppery taste. This was a happy experiment, a mashing together of a sinfully fattening cauliflower and mushroom gratin I'd tasted at a fancy grocery store and the healthier version I'd seen on Kalyn's Kitchen. Kalyn's recipe is here: http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com/2009/01/recipe-for-cauliflower-gratin-with.html I roasted the cauliflower first to make it nutty and dry it out a bit, but you could steam it or saute it with the mushrooms to save a step. This isn't a gooey gratin, the sauce acts more as a creamy condiment for the vegetables. It made for a nice dinner with a salad.

Hopefully my offspring will appreciate cauliflower in another 30 years or so.

Cauliflower and Mushroom Gratin

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 Tbs. oil

Place the cut-up cauliflower onto an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle a bot more oil over, and toss the cauliflower to thinly coat with the oil. Put into a 425 oven for 10-15 minutes, stirring once or twice. You want the cauliflower to develop some light brown spots, and soften. Take out when its done to your liking.

Meanwhile--
1 package mushrooms, sliced
1/2 onion, diced
1 Tbs. butter

Heat the butter in a large skillet, and add the mushrooms and onion. Cook until mushrooms give up their liquid, and let the liquid evaporate and the mushrooms begin to brown. Throw the roasted cauliflower into the skillet with the mushrooms and onions, and mix well.

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Last thing--

1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. flour
1/2 cup lowfat milk, warmed
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 tsp. mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour, and cook a few minutes as you stir. Add the warm milk, and let cook until it begins to thicken. Add the mustard, sour cream, salt and pepper. Mix well, taste for seasoning. Stir in the cheese, let melt.

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Put the vegetables into a baking dish, and pour the sauce over. Mix well. Top with some panko bread crumbs, and some additional shredded cheddar. Bake in a 400 oven till browned, around 20 minutes or so.
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March 29, 2009

Turkish Green Beans

I forgot where I got this recipe from, but I've been making it for a long time. I've cut down the oil a lot from the original, but can't cut it out completely because its important for the taste and texture of the dish. It's at its very best the next day, after the flavors have a chance to blend. This is a dish where the idea is to not have crisp beans--the long cooking is meant to almost melt the beans into the sauce. It's served at room temperature. I love it with bulgar pilaf and grilled lamb.

Turkish Green Beans--make at least three hours in advance of serving.
Serves 6

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
4 chopped garlic cloves
3-4 tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 lb green beans
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper
1 Tbs, chopped parsley

In a large skilled with a lid, heat the oil. Add the onions, and gently saute until softened. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and salt and pepper. You want to season the mixture somewhat aggressively. Mix well, then add the beans, and mix to coat them with the mixture. Add the water, stir, and cover the skillet.

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Simmer for 35-45 minutes, until beans are very soft. Take off cover, let cook another 5 minutes of so to evaporate the water. Remove from heat, scoop into a bowl (leave most of the water that hasn't evaporated in the skillet), and refrigerate. It'll taste better in a few hours, promise.

Before serving, sprinkle with parsley, taste for salt and pepper (adding more if needed). Serve at room temperature.

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April 4, 2009

Pesach Madness 2009

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Time to start planning for Passover. We're going to a friend's home for the first seder on Wednesday, and are hosting the second seder for (Yikes!) 22 on Thursday night. I'm cleaning out the fridge and kitchen today, starting my lists, and have sent Larry out for the first round of shopping. I'm declaring freedom for this particular slave by not making matzoh ball soup this year. Honestly, there's going to be so much food I hope no one misses it.Here's what I'm thinking, for 22 people that includes some children and vegetarians:

Sister Laura, Sam, and Beth are bringing wine, I have wine, grape juice and sparkling water

Passed during Seder:
Veggies and dip
Tam-Tam matzoh crackers, vegetarian chopped liver, and "real" chopped liver (courtesy of my Mom)

Three kinds of charoset. I usually have my cousin bring the Ashkenazi apple-walnut one and I make a Moroccan date-pistachio-apricot one. I just saw a recipe for an Italian (Venetian) one based on chestnuts and figs, so I thought it'd be fun to do that as well.
Seder Plate with--charoset, roasted egg, shankbone, parsley, horseradish.
On table--salt water for dipping, extra charoset, matzoh

First Course: Gefilte Fish (Sorry Mom, not making it from scratch this year!) with horseradish

Buffet meal:
Cool Salmon with Herb Vinaigrette
Chicken with preserved lemons and green olives; or Chicken Marabella
Roasted Potatoes
Artichoke Hearts Stuffed with Lamb and Herbs
Sauteed Spinach--or maybe asparagus?
Golden Beet Salad with Mint
Raw Veggie Salad Platter--fennel with oranges; carrots; cherry tomatoes with basil; peppers

Desserts:

Amaretto torte (cousin Jon)
Homemade Chocolate macaroons (sister Sue and David)
Something from the Kosher bakery (Mom)
Some other dessert (cousin Karen)
Passover Tiramisu? (Me) Or maybe just sliced strawberries if I run out of steam

April 5, 2009

Charoset

As I began my passover planning this year, I thought it would be fun to add to the charoset selection I offer on the table. Charoset is the reddish-brown mixture that is part of the Seder plate of symbolic foods that help people remember the events in the story of the Jewish people leaving slavery in Egypt. The charoset is to remind us of the bricks and morter the slaves used in building. In Hebrew cheres means clay. There are some other interpretations, with scholars wondering why we would choose to symbolize our slavery with something sweet. I like the theory that the European tradition of using apples comes from the midrash (rabbinic story)that the Jewish women would meet their husbands in the apple orchards, in defiance of the Egyptian's rule that Jewish spouses be separated. The sephardic Jews use figs and dates, mentioned in the Song of Songs for their sexual symbolism as well.

Ahem.

In any case, I usually serve both the Ashkenazi charoset of apples, walnuts, cinnamon and wine; and also a Moroccan version of dates, figs, apricots, and pistachios.

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Moroccan Charoset
Here's my general recipe that I got verbally --I tend to fiddle a bit till I get the taste and sweetness I want. Into the food processer goes:

1 cup pitted dates
4-5 dried figs
1 cup dried apricots
a pinch cinnamon
1/2 cup pistachios (imported are best, and necessary this year due to possible Salmonella contamination in the California crop)
sweet wine to taste, to loosen things up as needed.


I thought it would be interesting to find out what the Italian Jews used for charoset. I found many variations using all sorts of fruits and nuts, a Venetian one with almonds, figs and chestuts; but this one from Piemonte sounded most interesting:

From The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Rosen:

Piedmontese Haroset


1/2 lb (250 g) cooked chestnuts

2/3 cup (125 g) blanched almonds

2 hard-boiled egg yolks

Grated zest of 1 orange

Juice of 1 orange

About 3/4 cup (175 ms) sweet red kosher wine

1/3 cup (75 g) sugar or more to taste

Boil the chestnuts for a minute or two, and drain. Grind the almonds fine in the food processor, then add the rest of the ingredients, including the chestnuts, and blend to a paste.

April 8, 2009

Pesach Cook-Along, 2009 Part 1

6:00 am: Put potatoes in the oven, and started sauteeing leeks, carrots, and peppers for Maakud or Mahookha, a Sephardic dish similar to an Ashkenazi potato kugel, but with more vegetables and herbs and somewhat lighter.
6:30 Made Sephardic charoset with dates, figs, apricots, pistachios, cinnamon and wine.
7:00: Sent Larry to the grocery store. Answered several phone calls from Larry about how much ground lamb, do we really need more parsley, and there are no baby red potatoes.
7:30 Peeled and mashed the baked potatoes, prepped spinach for maakud.

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8:00 Finished putting together the maakud while Larry tears the house apart looking for the hagaddahs, which for reasons unknown are not in the china cabinet drawer where they belong.

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8:15 Made another pot of coffee
8:30 Marinated chicken in garlic, vinegar, olive oil, oregano, olives, capers and dried fruit for Chicken Marabella.
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9:00 Cleaned up Kitchen, Larry washed first round of dirty dishes. Larry escaped to the safety of his office
9:30 Started on Lemon Meringue Torts, whipping eggwhites for meringue "crust", filled pans, put pans in oven.

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10:30 Started cleaning house. Still no hagaddahs. And I've managed to jam the garbage disposal. *curtsies*

Maakud, or Mahookha, Sephardic Potato-Leek Dish--serves 12

olive oil
8 large potatoes
2 Tbs. butter or olive oil
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
4 leeks
1 sweet red pepper
1 cup shredded carrots
2 cups frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry (important!)
6 eggs
2 tsp. salt
ground pepper
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 cup matzoh meal
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup minced dill

Bake the potatoes in a 350 oven until very soft.
While the potatoes are baking, clean and slice the leeks, and finely dice the pepper. Saute the leeks in a skillet with some oil until tender, then add the pepper and carrots and continue to cook until they're also tender.
Using an oven mitt to protect your hands, peel the potatoes. Mash in a large bowl with the butter or oil, and broth. Stir in the dry spinach, mix to combine. Add to the potatoes, and mix well. Beat the eggs, and add the salt, pepper, cumin, parsley and dill. Mix, then add to the potato mixture. Add the matzoh meal, and stir very well to combine everything. Put into an oiled 9x13 pan, and smooth the top. Before baking, drizle the top with olive oil to prevent drying out. Bake in a 350 oven till puffed and brown on top, about 40 minutes.

April 11, 2009

Pesach Cook-Along, 2009 Part 2

The rest of Wednesday and Thursday was spent in a flurry of cooking, yet more shopping, hunting for the mysteriously disappeared Hagaddahs (which are somewhere in limbo between S&K's house and mine. My theory is that they were in a bag after being returned here, and mistakenly got tossed during a bout of housecleaning last summer), hunting bookstores for more Hagaddahs in the version I like, attending a lovely first night Seder at S&K's house, and hosting second night at mine.

Whew.

Here's a bit more of what I cooked.

Herb-stuffed eggs, to go with gefilte fish as a first course.
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Chicken Marabella
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Cold Salmon with Herb Vinaigrette
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Morrocan Artichokes Stuffed with Lamb
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Moroccan Potato-Leek Mahookha
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Golden Beet Salad
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Sauteed Spinach

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I didn't grab photos of the garlic-roasted potatoes and the salad platter.

Lemon Merengue Torte (before serving I put sliced berrries and whipped cream on top, very pretty. This was a keeper, one I'll absolutely make again)
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We also had awesome desserts brought by others--chocolate macaroons and fantastic homemade chocolates from sister sue and her finacee David; almond torte from cousin Jon, macaroons from cousin karen, and flourless chocolate cake from Mom.


April 13, 2009

Artichokes Stuffed with Lamb

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Stuffed vegetables are a mainstay of Middle-Eastern cooking, and there are many Sephardic recipes for various stuffed vegetables. These stuffed artichokes are from a recipe given me from my cousin Aimee, who was raised in Morocco. It's perfect for Passover (or those avoiding gluten) since it doesn't need breadcrumbs or grains, and uses a Spring vegetable. The lamb, herbs, lemon and pistachios make these "meatballs" especially tasty. I buy whole frozen artichoke hearts from my local Armenian store, and any good Middle-Eastern grocery should have them in the freezer section. This year I also stuffed some of the small sweet peppers with the mixture, which was a big hit. Precooked small zucchini or baby eggplants could be used in Summer. If you don't want to use the mixture to stuff vegetables, you could just form meatballs and bake them, then serve in a sauce of tomato and meat broth over cous-cous.

Here's the recipe.

Continue reading "Artichokes Stuffed with Lamb" »

April 14, 2009

Lemon Meringue Torte

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I was given this recipe recently, and tried it out for Passover. It doesn't have flour, and is kind of an upside-down lemon meringue pie. Everyone loved it, and I'll certainly make it again! The recipe makes one torte. I doubled the ingredients to make two, with no problems. The meringue "crust" softens as it rests with the lemon filling on top, with the outer crust staying slightly chewy.


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April 21, 2009

Pizza!

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Made homemade pizza for dinner Tuesday night. We made four different kinds--fresh tomato/mozzarella/basil; mushroom; pesto/mozzarella, and gorgonzola/sundried tomato/arugula.

Larry the Dough Boy rolls out a crust.

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We have a somewhat odd method which works well in our lousy oven. We roll out the dough, let it rest a bit, and then brush with oil and bake at 450 for 5-7 minutes to just get the crust started. We prick the bubbles that develop. Then we put on the toppings and finish the baking. This way we get a nice crisp crust without burning the toppings, especially good if you're using a fresh, noncommercial mozzerella.

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Yummy!

May 21, 2009

Mexican Turkey-Stuffed Peppers

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No, these aren't your college cafeteria stuffed peppers. I used Kalyn's Southwestern Stuffed Peppers recipe, with some modifications. (recipe here; http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com/2006/12/southwestern-stuffed-peppers-recipe.html )

I used ground white-meat turkey instead of beef, didn't add the rice, used a half can Trader Joe's Cuban-Style black beans (delicious), added a cup of corn instead of rice, threw in a good handful of chopped cilantro, and only used a small dusting of cheese on the top of each pepper.

They were really tasty, and I figured the six peppers came in at a bit over 200 calories apiece.

In other news, back into the smaller size jeans!

June 20, 2009

Photohunt--Creamy

Lousy photo, but most excellent creamy dessert.

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This was the Coffee Buttercrunch Pie I made for Dan's 18th birthday. This thing has so much saturated fat that your arteries will beg for mercy, but Oh, so damn good. Bittersweet, nutty crust, thick mocha filling, creamy topping. It's a little fiddly, and needs to be done at least a day in advance. I trot this out for special occasions. The recipe can be doubled and frozen, that's usually what I do.


Oh, take the recipe. I won't tell your cardiologist.

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July 7, 2009

Dinner--Grilled Spiced Chicken, Green Beans, Mango and Melon Salsa

Finally, the rains stopped long enough for a lovely weekend of being outside! We did a lot of grilling and eating out on the patio. At last it feels like Summer.

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This chicken is one I've been making often. The yogurt marinade really tenderizes the chicken, and keeps it moist on the grill. I vary the spicing, adding curry for a more Indian flavor; or keeping to oregano/thyme/and chopped fresh parsley; or chile/cumin/cilantro for Mexican.

Grilled Spiced Chicken Breast

1 pound boneless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut in half, very slightly pounded to be more uniform

1/2 cup 0% or 2% greek yogurt (I use Trader Joe's Greek or Fage)
juice of one lemon or lime
juice of one orange
1 tsp. honey
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1/2 tsp. ground Aleppo chili or other ground chile--or more if you want spicy
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cardamon
1/2 tsp. Allspice or 5-spice powder
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
ground pepper to taste

Mix the yogurt with the rest of the ingredients. Rub marinade on the chicken, and place in a ziplock and then in the fridge to marinate for at least four hours. Don't go for more than 12 or the chicken texture might get mushy. Remove from the marinade and let the chicken come to room temperature for 15 minutes, and then grill on a hot grill, turning once. Serve with chopped cilantro, and/or a fruit salsa or chutney.

Mango and Melon Salsa
You can really use any fruit--pineapple, peach, ripe pear...

1/2 of a ripe canteloupe, cut into small chuncks
1 ripe mango, peeled and sliced
3 Tbs. diced red onion
juice of 2 limes
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 sweet red pepper, diced

Mix everything together. Taste for sweet-sour balance, add more lime juice or some honey if needed. Serve over grilled chicken or fish.


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My sister Laura makes a good, simple green bean dish, sauteeing the beans in oil, garlic, pepper and sea salt. She likes the beans very crispy, I tend to prefer them just a bit softer. Here's my slightly modified version.

Garlic Green Beans--Serves 4-6

One pound fresh green beans
1-2 tsps. olive oil
garlic--3-4 cloves, sliced
cooking spray--I like the Whole Foods canola
sea salt or seasoned coarse salt, black pepper
1/4 cup water or broth

Spray a very large skillet with cooking oil. Put the green beans and olive oil into the skillet. Add the sliced garlic. Spray the beans with cooking oil, tossing to coat. Season well with sea salt or seasoned salt and freshly ground black pepper. Let sit for a while (don't turn on the stove yet) so they can marinate a bit, up to an hour. Turn on the heat to high, and toss the beans until they just begin to turn a brighter color. Add 1/4 cup broth or water to the skillet, and cover tightly. Let steam for 3-4 minutes, then remove the cover. Let the liquid evaporate as you continue to stir the beans. The garlic and some parts of the beans should slightly brown. Remove from heat, taste for seasoning, and serve.

Grilled Asparagus

You really don't need a recipe for this, do you? LOL I spray the asparagus with oil, then salt and pepper. Grill until slightly charred.

July 14, 2009

Thai Green Curry Mussels

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I was hankering for mussels today, so bought two pounds at Whole Foods. I've always loved the spicy mussels I've had in Thai restaurants, so looked at some recipes and cobbled together a version. It turned out very well, so well that I'll use the leftover liquid to simmer some fish in for tomorrow's dinner. I used half of the coconut milk mixture, but if you make 3-4 pounds of mussels, you'll need it all.

1. Prepare 2 lbs fresh mussels--this will serve 2 for dinner; or 4 as an appetizer. Rinse, and any that don't close when pressed throw out

2. In a food processor, combine:

1 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh basil
2 Tbs. Thai Green Curry paste
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 can coconut milk (I used lowfat, but if you're not cutting fat, the regular will give a much creamier, thicker sauce. Next time I may use less so the sauce is thicker)
juice of 1 lime
2 tsp. fish sauce

3. In a large pot, saute in 1 tsp. oil:

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1-inch slice of ginger, peeled and diced
1/3 cup white wine
red pepper flakes, to taste or minced fresh chili to taste

4. Add the mussels, quickly stir, cover the pot, and simmer for two minutes, just till shells open. Pour in half the coconut milk mixture, and stir well.

5. Stir in more chopped basil and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and french bread.


July 20, 2009

Diana's Chicken Cacciatore

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A few years ago there was a thread on SlowTalk about meals that freeze well. Diana from Baur B&B posted her mother's recipe for Chicken Cacciatore, which has since become a favorite in my house. I sometimes make some slight variations to her recipe, adding more vegetables and cutting some calories. Don't skip the anchovies and lemon peel, they add a lot of depth to the sauce! We like it with pasta, and its also good on rice. Thanks, Diana!

Diana's recipe is here: http://slowtalk.com/groupee/forums/a/tpc/f/8566036302/m/912106294?r=621101805#621101805

And here it is, with my revisions in italics.

Diana's Mother's Chicken Cacciatore

Olive Oil
4 chicken legs and 4 chicken thighs, with skin on. (I use 8 thighs, skin off)
one large onion finely minced
My optional vegetable additions--one sweet red bell pepper, sliced; 1 cup sliced mushrooms)
three cloves finely chopped garlic
the minced zest of one lemon
one cup finely chopped parsley
3 finely chopped anchovies (I've used 2 tsp. anchovy paste)
One quart of canned or glassed tomatoes, chopped.
One small Italin red pepper (pepperoncino) seeded and finely chopped.
1.5 cups of dry red wine
(chopped basil or parsley)

In a deep large pan,

Flour and brown the individual chicken pieces in olive oil. (I use 1 Tbs) Remove the chicken, and add the onion, garlic, (red pepper strips and mushrooms) half the parsley, the red pepper, the anchovy and the lemon zest. Let this simmer, adding a bit of oil if desired, until the whole thing is a nice golden color. Add the red wine, and simmer off the alcohol. Add the tomatoes, and simmer five minutes. Add the chicken back in, and cook the whole thing for about 45 minutes to an hour at least. Right before ending the cooking process, season and add the last half of the parsley.

At this point, after it cools, it can be poured into a freezer container and frozen, or eaten directly. (I think it tastes best the next day) I like to sprinkle with fresh basil or parsley before serving.

Can be served with either rice or pasta-

July 30, 2009

Roast Chicken with Preserved Lemon

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I had some leftover preserved lemons I wanted to use up, so I made a sort of relish with them and some herbs and spices, rubbed some on a chicken before roasting, and used the rest as a condiment. This sort of a preserved lemon and herb relish is called Chermoula in Moroccan cooking. Pungent and lemony, it's something I'll do again. The mixture would also be good on fish, I think.

Roasted Chicken with Preserved Lemon Chermoula

2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 preserved lemons, rinsed, pulp and seeds scraped out, and rind thinly sliced (you only use the rind)
2 large shallots or one small onion, chopped
½ birds eye chilli or other hot chili
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste (the lemons are preserved with salt, so you won't need much if any)
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in a little water (My lemons already had saffron)
1Tbs. olive oil

Put everything in the food processor, and chop to a coarse mixture.

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Divide the chermoula in half. Rub half the mixture onto and into a small (preferably organic or kosher) roasting chicken. Push some under the breast skin. Cover loosely, and let marinate in the fridge a few hours. Keep the unused half.

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Place the chicken on a rack in a pan, and roast at 320 for 1.5 to 2 hours, (depending on size of chicken) until done. Let rest for five minutes, then carve and serve with the reserved chermoula.

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August 19, 2009

Provencal-Style Scrod

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I bought a pound of scrod on sale today, and was looking around for a different way to cook it. I remembered eating a fish in southern France when on our honeymoon, a mild white fish covered in a mixture of tomato and other vegetables, garlic, herbs and oil. It was delicious, so I wanted to see if I could make something similar, but without the huge amounts of oil probably in the original. I looked at some online recipes, and combined them into this. I think it'd be even better with snapper, swordfish or halibut. Oooh, I think this mixture would be great on boneless chicken breasts. Probably my Boston upbringing, but to me scrod always calls for buttery crumbs.

Provencal-Style Scrod--serves 4

Squeeze the juice from half a lemon over one pound fish fillets. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Arrange in an oiled baking dish.

In a large skillet, warm 1 Tbs. olive oil. (And if you're not watching calories, pour in some more!) Add a teaspoon anchovy paste (or a good chopped anchovy or two) two sliced small onions (or 1 large), 1 sliced red pepper, and one stalk chopped celery. Let the vegetables soften. Add 3 cloves chopped garlic, 10-12 sliced black olives (or a spoonful of tapenade) and 3 sliced large garden tomatoes. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and a handful of a mixture of chopped parsley and thyme. Let cool, then spoon the mixture over the fish. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour so some of the mixture will seep into the fish. Bake in a preheated 400 oven 15-20 minutes, or until fish flakes. Sprinkle with chopped basil.

September 1, 2009

Dry It, Baby

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I borrowed the dehydrator from school yesterday to make sun-dried tomatoes. Without the sun, yes, but also without the bugs that committed suicide on the sticky half-dried tomatoes the first and last time I tried it the old fashioned way. The dehydrator is also a hell of a lot better than an oven, since warm air blows all around the food. They turned out sweet as could be.

I also experimented by making zucchini chips, which I read about in someone or other's blog a while back. I peeled and thinly sliced zucchini, placed the slices on the dehydrator trays, sprinkled with Trader Joe's 21 Salute seasoning (a spicy blend, but any herb blend will do) and a bit of garlic salt. Dried them at 135 for 4-5 hours or so, until just crisp.

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Wow. Crispy, spicy, and guilt-free. Who knew? Certainly not me. I'm going to hit the farmer's market for more zucchini tomorrow. One thing I learned--these need to be eaten soon after coming out of the dehydrator for best texture. They lose the crunch pretty quickly, sadly.

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September 10, 2009

Gratitude Fridays--African Spicy Vegetable Stew with Chicken-

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Today, I am grateful for being able to explore the world through my tongue.

In my area, I can eat at restaurants that serve food from all corners of the globe--China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Taiwan, Pakistan, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Morocco, Ireland, Italy, France, Russia, Mexico, El Salvador, Somalia. And that's just the ones I know of offhand. Most are owned by first generation emigrants, their children or grandchildren. We are also lucky enough to be able to shop at grocery stores that carry products from around the world, and on several occasions I've gotten verbal recipes or tips from fellow shoppers who are happy to share information about their homeland's foods. Last night I went out of my usual flavor go-to's with an African dish, which was unusual, spicy and complex. A definite do-over.

I had a sweet potato and two boneless chicken breasts to use up, so was looking around the 'net for something different. I found several recipes for sweet potato-chicken stews with peanuts or peanut paste from various African nations, which looked pretty cool. From what I've read, there are lots of regional variations, and I apologize for not being knowledgeable enough to do more than lump them all under "African" instead of being country or culture specific. I settled on this one, http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/AFRICAN-SWEET-POTATO-STEW-WITH-RED-BEANS-1251816 but added more vegetables to make the focus more on vegetable than chicken. I read that eggplant is often added to a groundnut stew in Ghana. The eggplant sort of "melted" into the sauce after the long cooking. My chili powder was very strong, but another might differ. I'd add one teaspoon to start, and taste and adjust after the stew has cooked for a while. Don't skip the chili, lime and peanut butter, which really enhance the layers of flavor. Reducing the peanut butter to just one tablespoon was plenty, giving the sauce richness and a great flavor with the zing of the lime. It looked like sludge, but was very tasty!

Continue reading "Gratitude Fridays--African Spicy Vegetable Stew with Chicken-" »

September 15, 2009

Rosh Hashanah Planning

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Already? So not ready this year. I'm on strike for chicken soup and matzoh balls, it's too warm to have all that steam in the kitchen, and I don't have time. Dan isn't around to complain. I did make a huge brisket with sundried tomatoes over the weekend, so that's in the freezer and ready to go, along with the challot.

Here's my thinking, subject to change, as always.

I'll have either 15 or 19 people this year, and will hopefully be told for sure by Friday. (Just.. .don't ask, really)

Apps--Middle Eastern spreads with pita and crudetes--hummus, baba ganoush, mouharaha (pomegranate-walnut spread), tzatziki (bought, because I am not a crazy person)

Geflte fish (frozen, cook and cool Friday)
Challah
Apples and honey

Brisket with sundried tomatoes (frozen, defrost in fridge Friday)
Grilled Vegetable Platter—asparagus, peppers, onions, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes (late afternoon)
Pomegranate-roasted Carrots (before dinner)
Baked Potatoes? Or mashed?(before dinner)
Salad (Sat)
(an additional dish if there are more people)

Gina's honey-ginger gelato (Friday, churn Saturday am)
Peaches stuffed with amaretti and cocoa (prep Saturday, reheat before serving)
Mom—dessert
Karen-honey cake
Fruit salad

Weekend before—Brisket, freeze. go to farm for peaches and apples
Thursday—Costco—melon, plum tomatoes, asparagus, mini carrots, raspberries, strawberries, peppers
Thursday—Russo’s—lavender eggplant, zucchini, pomegranate, potatoes, other fruit, potatoes, lettuces, amaretti
Thursday, take brisket out of freezer, put in ice cream bowl
Friday--Middle-Eastern stores for apps
Friday afternoon--cook gefilte fish, prep veggies for grilling
Sat after services--churn gelato, stuff peaches, grill veggies, carrots. Potatoes?

Brisket recipe here:

Continue reading "Rosh Hashanah Planning" »

September 29, 2009

I Don't Hate Spaghetti Squash Any More

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Spaghetti squash and I have not had a friendly history. I remember trying it some years ago when it was touted as a pasta substitute, and I think I threw it into the trash after the first few forkfuls. Blech.

OK, I'm eating healthier these days, and loving previously-hated vegetables like cauliflower and eggplant. Time to give the spaghetti squash another go. I looked at some recipes and what was in my fridge, bought a small spaghetti squash at the farm stand over the weekend, and got to work.

Much to my surprise, I liked it! And at 40 calories a cup with loads of fiber and vitamins, it's a great vehicle for a moderate amount cheese.

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Spaghetti Squash Casserole I Don't Hate, or, to be fancy, Spaghetti Squash au Gratin
serves 4-6

1 medium spaghetti squash

cooking oil spray
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced

1 small can diced tomatoes, drained of liquid
1/2 cup nonfat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesean cheese, plus 2 Tbs. for sprinkling
1/2 cup lowfat shredded cheddar
salt and pepper
fresh basil and parsley (about 1/4 cup)
2 Tbs. bread crumbs

1. Cut the squash in half, and scoop out the seeds. Spray a baking sheet wtht oil, and lay the squash cut-sides down. Put some water into the pan, cover with foil, and bake in a 350 oven till soft, about 40 minutes or so. Let squash cool until you can handle it.

2. Meanwhile, saute the mushrooms and onion in a oil-sprayed skillet until the mushrooms give up the liquid and then begin to brown. Add the garlic and can of tomatoes. Remove from heat, and put mixture into a large oil-sprayed casserole dish.

3. Using a fork, comb out the squash strands into the casserole dish with the mushroom mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the bread crumbs. Mix well. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top, and the 2 Tbs. more cheese.

4. Bake uncovered in a 400 oven for 20 minutes. You can run the dish briefly under the broiler to crisp the top.

October 3, 2009

Chicken and Vegetables with Chilis and Coconut

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I adore Indian food. But Indian restaurants generally use enormous amounts of oil, and so eating at them has become a very seldomly indulged in treat. I recently bought the cookbook 600 Curries by Raghavan Iyer, loaded with an amazing variety of recipes. http://www.amazon.com/660-Curries-Raghavan-Iyer/dp/0761137874/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1254572254&sr=1-1 He has cut down on a lot of the oil in traditional recipes, but still insists on the techniques of roasting and grinding fresh spices. If you thought all Indian food tasted and looked the same, you're in for a revelation. There are several large Indian grocery stores in neighboring Waltham, so a shopping trip and an inexpensive spice grinder will give me lots of opportunities to explore the cookbook further. Yum.

I made his Chicken with Chilis and Coconut last night, but added vegetables to the mixture,, simplified a bit, and cut the oil even further. It was fantastic, with layers of flavor. I served it with a minty raita, roasted cauliflower with cumin, and brown rice. I used a shortcut with some of the spices, using a wonderful fresh curry blend I bought at the Indian grocery.


Continue reading "Chicken and Vegetables with Chilis and Coconut" »

October 12, 2009

Chard and Beets and Squash, Oh My

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Larry brought home half the farmstand on Sunday.

First up--Swiss Chard. I was a chard virgin, although I've liked it in restaurants. Here's what I did, and we really enjoyed it. Chard, how have I avoided you all these years?

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Chard with Onions, Orange and Chili

1 large bunch swiss chard, thoroughly washed
Cooking spray
1 tsp. olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small seedless tangerine or 1/2 orange, peeled and segmented
3 Tbs. orange juice
a few shakes chili flakes
salt and pepper

Using a sharp scissors, cut the green leafy part of the leaf away from the thick chard stems. Chop the stems, and shred the leaves. Keep them separate. In a large skillet, spray some oil, then heat the 1 tsp. olive oil. Add the onion, and cook until just starting to brown. Add the garlic, oranges, and chili flakes. Put the chard stems into the pan, and 1 Tbs. of the orange juice. Cover and let cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring every now and then, until softened. Add more juice if needed. Add the leaves in batches, and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper, mix well, and serve.


Continue reading "Chard and Beets and Squash, Oh My" »

October 20, 2009

Eat your Veggies

Another head of rainbow swiss chard was turned into a Tegliata di biete (Swiss Chard Tart). The recipe was in one of Marcella Hazann's books, was posted on Slowtrav by Matt several years ago, and I adapted it to be slightly lower in fat. This was delicious!

Tegliata di biete (Swiss Chard Tart)
serves 8

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Large head of swiss chard
Salt
Spray oil (or olive oil)
2/3 cup onion chopped fine
2/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (Buy the real thing!)
2/3 cup eggbeaters (what I used) or 2-3 beaten eggs
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup seedless raisins
Freshly ground black pepper
9" or 10" springform baking pan
1/4 cup of unflavored bread crumbs, lightly toasted

1. Cut the stems off of the chard, and chop stems. Cut the leaves into 1/4 inch shreds. Soak and wash the chard.
2. Boil water in a pot, using enough water and pot volume to accommodate the chard. Cook until tender, approx. 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
3. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the moisture from the chard.
4. Chop the chard very fine.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Choose a sautee pan that can accomodate the chard. Spray with the oil and add the chopped onion. Cook at medium until the onion turns a light nut-brown.
7. Add the chopped chard, turning heat to high. Cook, turning the chard over frequently, until it becomes difficult to keep the chard from sticking to the pan When done, transfer entire contents to a bowl and let cool.

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8. When chard has cooled to room temperature, add the grated Parmesan, the beaten eggs or eggbeaters, and the pine nuts. Drain the raisins, squeeze them dry in your hand, and add them to the bowl. Add a few grindings of pepper. Mix thoroughly, taste and correct for pepper and salt (the Parmesan is salty, so a small pinch of salt is probably all that's necessary).
9. Smear the bottom and sides of the springform pan with olive oil or use spray oil. Use a little more than half the bread crumbs, sprinkling a thin layer evenly over the pan. Add the chard mixture, leveling it off, but not pressing it hard. Top with the remaining bread crumbs, and spray with a bit of oil.
10. Put pan in preheated oven, bake for 40 minutes.
11. Remove pan, running knife edge along side of pan to release the torte. After 5 minutes rest, use a spatula to loose the torte from the pan bottom and slide it, without turning it over, onto a serving plate. Slice into eight portions. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Continue reading "Eat your Veggies" »

November 2, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Eggplant

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This has become a staple in my house.

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Eggplant

Eggplant, sliced (I prefer the long lavender Chinese eggplants, which I slice on the diagonal)

Mix the marinade:
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. honey
1/2 tsp (or more) chile powder
salt and pepper to taste (no salt if you've salted the eggplant)

Brush the marinade on both sides of each eggplant slice. Let rest for 15 minutes. Grill until lightly charred and soft. If the eggplant begins to burn on the outside but isn't soft enough yet, put those slices into a metal or foil pan on the grill so they can finish cooking. Sprinkle with basil or parsley and serve hot or at room temperature.

November 9, 2009

Nana’s Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

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A bit of a walk down memory lane--I picked up my grandmother's copy of Jewish Holiday Cooking, and her handwritten recipe for cabbage soup fell out. It was a shock to see her loopy, slanting handwriting after so long. Nana was obviously telling me "you're sick! You need soup!" So of course I had to make the soup. I cut down on the meat, used broth instead of water to compensate, and added some balsamic vinegar for the sweet-sour taste so I could cut down on the sugar. Nana wouldn't mind. If you're freezing some of this, leave out the potatoes--just cook some in boiling salted water, and add to the portion you won't be freezing.

Now all I need is the wide, chipped mismatched china bowl.
And I'm still looking for her date ball recipe.

Nana’s Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

1 pound brisket or boneless short rib, most fat removed, cut into small pieces
2 onions, chopped
5 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 boxes low sodium beef broth
1 large can ground tomatoes
2 cups water
1/2 cabbage, thinly sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1-3Tbs.lemon juice
1 tsp.sugar
2 Tbs.balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs. chopped dill
salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, brown the meat. Sprinkle with some salt. Add the onions, carrots celery and parsnips.Stir around. Add the tomatoes and broth. Simmer for 1 hour.

Add another 2 cups water and the cabbage. Simmer for another 1 1/2 hours.

Add the potatoes, simmer another 1/2 hour. Everything should be very "tendah." Add the rest of the ingredients, and taste. It should have a pleasantly sweet and sour taste. Add more balsamic or sugar and lemon to taste.

Let sit in fridge a day before serving for best flavor. Eat with bread, and a dollop of sour cream if you wish. Send everyone home with leftovers.


December 9, 2009

Spicy Black Bean, Tomato and Butternut Soup

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I tend to like the first few sips of black bean soup well enough, but more than that gets too "beany" for me. I came across a version that added more tomato than usual, which appealed to me. The addition of cubed butternut was a happy solution to my heavy hand with the chipotle chile powder, (a bit of a whoops! moment using the shake top instead of measuring out) which had made the soup explosive, even for my chile-head. The butternut's sweetness tamed the chile, and added more lightness. A winner! Let's see if I can replicate it now...

Spicy Black Bean, Tomato and Butternut Soup
At least 6-8 servings

Spray cooking oil
1 large onion, diced
1 sweet red pepper, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chile powder or more
1 tsp. chipotle chile powder (or less to start with)
1 tsp, oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 can Trader Joe's Cuban Black Beans
1 can unsalted black beans (or use 2 cans of any black beans)
1 can diced tomatoes with green chile
1 box low sodium chicken broth
2-3 cups water
2 cups small cubes of butternut squash
1/2 lime
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
sour cream or plain yogurt for garnish, or a sprinkle of cheddar.

Spray a large pot with oil. Saute the onion, pepper, and carrots until soft. Stir in the spices. Add the beans, tomato, broth, and 2 cups of water. Let simmer for an hour. Add the squash, and additional water if needed. When the squash is very tender, add a few squeezes of lime. Puree with immersion blender. Taste for seasonings, and adjust to your liking. Simmer a bit more to let flavors blend. Garnish with cilantro, sour cream or yogurt or cheddar.

December 13, 2009

Latke Experimenting--Baked Potato-Mushroom Latkes

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I love latkes. Fried crisps of potato and onion, eaten with sour cream and applesauce. What's not to love?

Oh yeah, it's about as healthy as eating a half cup of oil and grease-soaked high-glycemic empty calories. So I did some experimenting.

Latkes are traditionally fried in oil, a tangible reminder of the tiny bit of olive oil that burned for eight nights in the rededicated Temple after the Maccabees had kicked out the Syrians. Hey I thought, since we're remembering a tiny bit of oil, why is it necessary to use amounts that make a nutritionist cringe? Why not a very small amount, used to lightly coat the latkes. I decided to use a silpat-lined baking sheet so the latkes could be baked, much easier than standing over the hot stove. I also thought that mushrooms would work very well with the potatoes to further lighten the mixture. The mushroom ones are in the above photo. I began with my basic latke mix, which goes something like this:

5 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 small onions, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup matzoh meal
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp. salt
lots of ground pepper

Using the shredding blade of the food processor, shred the potatoes and onions a bit at a time, making sure to process them together so the onions will prevent the potatoes from discoloring. Place the shredded mixture in a colander, and let drain for 15 minutes. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Mix the eggs, matzoh meal, salt and pepper, and potatoes in a bowl.

If you were making traditional fried latkes, you'd hear about 1/2 inch vegetable oil in a skillet until it shimmers, and then drop in large spoonfuls of latke mixture, pressing down with the spoon to flatten into pakcakes. Turn only when browned and crisp, and cook the other side.

For my baked ones, I sprayed a silpat-lined baking sheet with Pam. I plopped on my latke mixture, and pressed them into pancakes. I sprayed the tops with oil as well to help with browning. I put them into a 450 oven, and turned them when browned on the bottom side, after about 15 minutes. That side crisped up nicely, but with a smoother sirface than fried latkes. The other side didn't crisp quite as much, which was OK. They tasted great, and were amazingly lighter that the fried ones.

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For the mushroom version--and these I'll definitly make again, since they were so tasty:
Dice 2 cups mushrooms. Saute in Pam until very br0wned. Mix with 2 cups latke mixture, and bake as above. I think a little dill would be great in these, too. I made my second batch little ones and froze them to serve as appetizers at a party next month.

December 20, 2009

Cookie Madness

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After six months of not baking, I fell into a sudden fit of cookie madness last week. I like to bake gifts this time of year, and ended up making seven or eight different cookies. (And I was very good--only sampled a small one of each kind, and really haven't been tempted to have more than one a day with my afternoon tea. As good as they are, I like being thin better.)

Judy's Apricot Bars. These were one of my favorites, and strongly reminded me of ones my grandmother made. Judy uses walnuts, but I substituted slivered almonds, and also put some Amaretto into the apricots. Yummy. http://slowtalk.com/groupee/forums/a/tpc/f/8566036302/m/460102647?r=936101387#936101387

World Peace Cookies. These also were very good--deep chocolate, crisp, with bites of chopped chocolate and a bit of salt. http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/recipes/dessert_peacecookies.shtml

Ming Tsai's Buttery Shortbread. This is a fun recipe. It makes a ton of dough to refrigerate, and then you slice and top in different ways. I did a 5-spice topping, glazed another batch with a lemon glaze; and the favorite way was to bake them plain, then dip one side into melted bittersweet chocolate and then crushed pistachios. http://www.ming.com/foodandwine/recipes/season-1/butter-shortbread-cookie-dough.htm

Marta's Cranberry Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip cookies. Another hit. So much so that that they were gone by the time I put together this plate for my friend Leslie. Next time I'm doubling the recipe.http://slowtalk.com/groupee/forums/a/tpc/f/8566036302/m/460102647?r=637104497#637104497

Ginger Cookies with Lemon Glaze. A delicious ginger cookie, and I really loved the lemon glaze. I used a dreidel shape cutter.http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/lemon-glazed-candied-ginger-cookies

David's Brownies.

These are very rich, chocolaty brownies where the quality of chocolate is key. I use Scharffen Berger or Valrhona. These are best a day or so after baking, and David cautions that a mixer will overbeat the batter. Good for the arm muscles.

David's Brownies
Preheat oven to 350

2 sticks butter
10 oz good quality chocolate (bittersweet 65 to 70 percent if possible)
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup regular sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Butter and flour 13x9 pan.
Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler.
Cool slightly.
Whisk together, until combined, eggs salt, sugar, vanilla.
Whisk in chocolate in same manner.
Fold in flour.
Stir in walnuts.
Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, begin checking it at 25 min. It will be done when cracks appear on the surface and a knife in the center comes out clean (just barely). Cool in the fridge before slicing into small squares.

December 30, 2009

Baked Chile Rellenos Casserole

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This is my go-to meal when I want something spicy, "cheesy" and yet won't blow the calories for the day. It's sort of a combination of the Chile Rellenos Bake from Kalyn's website and Shannon's recipe which she posted on Slowtrav a few years ago. Kalyn's recipe is here: http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com/2008/10/recipe-for-chile-rellenos-bake.html
and Shannon's is here (need to be a Gold Member to see) http://slowtalk.com/groupee/forums/a/tpc/f/8566036302/m/458102518?r=458102518#458102518

It's delicious, low in fat, and very satisfying. You can make it vegetarian by simply leaving out the chicken. If you're not counting calories, add another 1/2 cup cheese to sprinkle over the top before baking. I'm going to make it for our new Year's Day brunch.

Baked Chile Rellenos Casserole

10 poblano chiles, roasted, seeded and peeled; or one large can prepared whole green chiles. (I've seen the cans at Whole Foods)
Cooking oil spray
2 zucchini, cut lengthwise and then into thin crescents
(optional--1 sliced sweet red pepper, cooked with the zucchini/onions)
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 large can chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded lowfat cheddar or monterey jack cheese (reserve 2-3 Tbs. of this for top)
1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken (optional)
2 eggs, beaten, or 1/2 cup eggbeaters (I use eggbeaters)

1. Spray a large skillet with oil. Cook the onion (optional red pepper) and zucchini until they soften and begin to brown. Stir frequently so they don't burn. Add the garlic, cumin and oregano and then the chopped tomatoes. Cook for 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes or so.

2. Spray a 8x8 shallow casserole with oil. Arrange one layer of chiles in the bottom.Sprinkle in half the shredded chicken and half the shredded cheese. Spread on just enough of the zucchini-tomato sauce to lightly cover. Repeat with a layer of chiles, chicken, cheese, and sauce.

3. Pour the eggs over the top, and tap a few times so some sinks to the bottom of the dish. Don't worry, as it will sink during baking. Sprinkle the reserved cheese on top.

4. Bake uncovered in a 375 oven for 30-40 minutes, until puffed and set. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

5. Serve with salsa and lowfat sour cream or plain yogurt.

January 17, 2010

Operation Grilled Calamari

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I love calamari when I've had it in restaurants, and I'd noticed that my local Whole Foods sells cleaned squid at a fair (for Whole Paycheck) price. So this weekend I bought a pound of just the bodies. I'll eat the tentacles when served them, but if I don't have to eat something that reminds me of spiders, I won't.

Squid are kind of scary.

I looked around for recipes for grilling squid, and found several that looked interesting. I decided I wanted to stick with Italian flavors this time. One recipe was in Mario Batali's Simple Italian Food, for a stuffed grilled calamari; and the other was a Bobby Flay recipe I saw online. I changed ingredients in both to suit my tastes and dietary needs but kept the basic technique, and they were delicious. Tomato paste is great to use as a low fat way to add flavor and moisture to recipes. A definite do-over. I'd happily do the stuffed ones again; and for the grilled plain ones, I think I'd grill them whole, then slice into rings for serving .

Grilled Stuffed Calamari (adapted from a recipe from Mario Batali)

12 large cleaned squid bodies

1 chopped onion
1/2 Tbs. olive oil
4 chopped cloves garlic
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
1 Tbs. pine nuts
3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 diced scallion
2-3 Tbs. tomato paste
2-3 Tbs. white wine
2 Tbs. grated Parmesan
chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste.

1. Put the calamari into a pot of water, and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, and let very gently simmer for one hour. Drain, rinse in cold water to chill.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan. Saute the onion, and then add the garlic. Saute for 2 minutes, then add the sundried tomatoes, pine nuts and bread crumbs. Stir and cook until crumbs just begin to brown. Add the rest of the ingredients. Add just enough of the tomato paste and wine so that the mixture will lightly stick together. Let cool.

3. Stuff each tube with some of the stuffing, and use a toothpick to close the wide end. Lightly brush the outsides with oil.

4. Grill on a hot grill for 2 minutes each side. Don't overcook. Sprinkle with chopped basil and serve.

Grilled Calamari (adapted from a Bobby Flay recipe)

8-9 whole squid bodies
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3-4 Tbs. olive oil
4 cloves chopped garlic
salt and pepper to taste
chopped parsley

Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

1. Using a sharp knife, slice open one side of each calamari body, so that you get flat triangles.

2. Weave each flattened calamari onto a skewer, so it lies flat.

3. Mix the vinaigrette from vinegar, oil, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Take out and reserve 1 Tbs. of it. Pour the rest over the calamari, making sure each is coated with vinaigrette. Marinate for 20 minutes.

4. Grill on a hot grill, 2-3 minutes per side. Sprinkle with the reserved vinaigrette and parsley before serving.

February 13, 2010

Eggplant, Tomato and Peas with Coconut-Chile

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I adore Indian food, but since traditional recipes and most restaurants use so much oil I've had to learn to cook it at home in self-defense. I like Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks, but am really enjoying "660 Curries" by Raghavan Iyer. It's an enormous cookbook (luckily in paperback) with loads of intriguing recipes from all regions of India, many of them vegetarian. There's lots of information given on spices and techniques for recipes both traditional and more "modern." Indian cooking relies heavily on spices in different combinations, there's no one "curry" flavor, unlike what you'd see in an American spice rack. I bought a little electric spice grinder so I could make the blends called for in many of the recipes, and luckily the next town over has several wonderful Indian groceries for buying whole spices.

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Last night I tried the recipe on page 493, "Stewed Eggplant with a Coconut-Chile Spice Blend. It called for using a Kolhapuri spice blend of toasted and ground chilis, coconut, sesame, coriander, cumin, pepper, mustard, and paprika. The smell of the finished blend was out of this world. Several recipes in the boook call for this blend, I think next I'll try it in the Onion-Marinated Lamb with Coconut.

I started the eggplant recipe as written, except I reduced the oil from 2 Tbs. to 1 tsp and I used a few spoonfuls of canned tomatoes instead of fresh. When I tasted the eggplant after it had cooked for a while, I was rocked back by the intensity of the chili heat. I like spicy foods, but this was really numbing. I added the rest of the can of chopped tomatoes and let that cook down, and also added more water to make more sauce. At the end I added a cup of frozen peas for some sweetness to offset the heat. It balanced the whole thing out, and the end result was delicious. We ate it topped with plain yogurt; with roast chicken and brown rice.

Next time, I'll use half the amount of spice blend, I think. Here's my adaptation.

Continue reading "Eggplant, Tomato and Peas with Coconut-Chile" »

March 22, 2010

Pesach Madness 2010

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Yes, I do still have a blog. Just too busy to update!
In any case, it's That Time of Year again. Passover Madness.

I seem to be hosting both seders this year, which is only possible because the first seder is Monday night, so I'll have three days to prepare. Here's what I'm thinking for menus so far, subject to whim and availability of ingredients. I made the chicken soup this weekend, and it's in the freezer awaiting matzoh balls.


Monday
Chicken soup with matzoh balls

grilled smoked paprika salmon (Jerry's recipe)
Beef tagine with fennel, olives and preserved lemon (Yes, the "goat" recipe, using brisket)
Quinoa pilaf with pine nuts (Quinoa is kosher for Passover, it's a grass!)
Roasted Asparagus
Moroccan carrot salad (Sue)
Salad--Kristi
Green beans with walnuts and garlic


Lemon meringue torte
Mom—orange cake; Chocolate cake
Sharon—fruit salad

Tuesday
Gefilte fish (from a jar, sorry Mom)

Leftover Beef Tagine
Chicken Marabella (wine-marinated chicken with apricots and prunes)
Beet salad with mint
Cucumber-dill salad
Green beans with walnuts and garlic(leftover)
Roasted potatoes

Lemon torte
Dessert--Karen
Leftover cakes
strawberries
ice cream if needed


March 28, 2010

Matzoh Balls

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After many years, I've finally found a technique that works for fluffy yet tasty matzoh balls.

People tend to fall into two camps regarding their matzoh ball preferences--fluffy, mild "floaters" or chewy, more "matzoh"-tasting "sinkers." I like both kinds, and have been trying to strike the right balance between a nice light texture with still a good, substantial taste of matzah and chickeny-goodness. In my classroom we make our own matzoh meal when the kids make the matzoh balls for our family Pesach program, and the fresh meal makes a big difference in flavor and texture. Adding a bit more egg white also ensures a fluffy result, and the techniques of a long resting period, a light hand when forming the balls, a hard simmer and a covered pot help the matzoh balls quickly expand so you don't get a hard texture.

Here's my recipe and technique. Makes 30 large matzoh balls, which can be frozen.

3 sheets matzoh
1 cup fresh matzoh meal, more as needed
8 eggs
1 egg white
8 Tbs. chicken broth
3 Tbs. melted chicken fat
3 Tbs. mild vegetable oil
2 1/2 tsp. salt
few grinds pepper
2 Tbs. finely chopped parsley
2 Tbs. finely chopped dill

1. Place the matzohs in a large ziploc. Using a rolling pin, crush the matzohs until they're very fine, a bit coarser than the texture of the matzoh meal.
2. Pour the crushed matzohs into a 2-cup measuring cup. Add enough matzoh meal so you have two cups total.
3. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, then add the matzoh meal and stir very well. Add a few more spoonfuls water if the mixture is too thick. It will firm up in the fridge.
4. Cover and place in the fridge for an hour.
5. Meanwhile, set two large pots of water boiling.
6. Add 2 tsp. salt to each pot.
7. Using wet hands and a spoon, very lightly scoop up about a Tablespoon of mixture. Don't try to roll or press it into shape too much, it's ok if it's raggged. Slip the balls into the boiling water, slam on the lid, and only turn the heat down when the boil gets too high. You want them at a nice simmer. If after a few minutes the balls haven;t risen to the surface, use a long spoon to gently poke them off the bottom.
8. Test the matzoh balls after 40 minutes by cutting one open. They may need a few more minutes, although I prefer them slightly underdone because they'll cook a bi more in the hot soup before serving.
9. Lift out the balls with a slotted spoon, let cool on a plate, and then carefully transfer to a container and refrigerate until needed.

March 31, 2010

Best Lamb Ever

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Sorry, Lambchop. I prefer you roasted.

Interestingly, roasted lamb is forbidden under traditional Jewish law for the Passover Seder, both because it too strongly recalls the Temple Sacrifices in Jerusalem that ended when the Temple was destroyed, and because the hind leg is more difficult to Kosher and properly remove the forbidden veins. Well, this is one tradition I was prepared to knowingly not observe. Sephardic Jews commonly use stewed lamb shoulder for Seder meals, but I went with a large boneless leg from Costco.

I had bought a large boned leg that was rolled and netted. I took it out of the netting and cut off a layer of the outer fat, leaving just a thin coating to protect the meat.The marinade was based on a fantastic recipe from my cousin Rob, with some adjustments on my part. I marinated the lamb for 12 hours, and then Larry and I conducted a bizarre lamb bondage ritual to roll and tie up the poor protesting slab of lamb.I had intended to grill, but the monsoon-type rain outside sent me to the oven. It turned out beautifully, although I spent a lot of time poking the meat with the thermometer and pushing it back into the oven.

Roast or Grilled Boneless Lamb

Marinade:
4-5 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
6 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh parsley
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh rosemary
3 Tbs. thyme leaves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch red chili flakes

5-6 pound boneless lamb, untied and unrolled if purchased rolled.

Trim the excess fat from the lamb, leaving just a thin layer.

In a food processor combine the marinade ingredients. Process until pureed; pour the marinade into a large pan. Add the lamb to the marinade, turn to coat, cover, and refrigerate for 6-12 hours.

Roll the lamb, with the fat layer on the outside. Tie with butchers twine to tightly hold the lab into place. This may be a two-person job. Or, if you're grilling, just grill the lamb flat, which will take much less time.

If roasting in the oven, preheat the oven to 425. Place the lamb on a rack over a pan, and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350, and continue roasting for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a meat thermometer reads 140. I'd go by the thermometer instead of the timing. You want the meat to be quite rare inside and crusty on the outside.

Remove from the oven, and let rest under a foil tent for 10 minutes. Then thinly slice and serve to your adoring guests.

Best lamb ever.

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June 26, 2010

Sweet Treat

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I don't have much of a problem cheerfully avoiding sweets during the week, saving indulgences for the occasional weekend. But with summertime heat, I've been eying the kid's ice cream in the freezer.

Somewhere on the web I saw the idea of freezing banana slices, then pureeing in the food processor to make a non-dairy "ice cream." Yeah, right. However, Larry's banana-buying habit had resulted in a pile of rapidly softening bananas on the counter, so I figured there was nothing to lose. I peeled them, sliced thickly, tossed into a ziploc then into the freezer. The next night, I threw some in the processor along with a handful of Trader Joe's frozen mixed fruit and a squeeze of agave syrup.

And Lo, it was good. Look, it certainly wasn't ice cream, but was sweet, creamy, and easy on the hips. The banana had smoothed into a creamy consistency, and the berries were the dominant flavor. Nice! The next night I left out the blueberries, but tossed in a spoonful of sugar-free hot chocolate mix and one of vanilla yogurt. Even better. I'll bet peanut butter would be a great addition; maybe a few chocolate chips; or frozen mango and a pinch of grated coconut for a tropical twist.

Anyway, have fun! Use frozen banana as the base, add flavorings and sweetener of your choice. Puree and enjoy.

June 29, 2010

Springtime in a Dish--Petits Pois a la Francaise

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Years ago, I came across a passage in one of MFK Fisher's books where she lovingly writes about swirling butter and fresh lettuce in a pot, pouring in just-shucked baby peas, slamming on the lid, and then scooping out the results. Her love for the dish intrigued me, and I've never seen it served anywhere.

I had picked peas to start off our Sunday Slow Sides group, as peas are traditional in New England for the Fourth of July to go alongside salmon. So, it seemed fitting to finally try Petits Pois a la Francaise.

I still had a good bit of our CSA bounty in the fridge, including beautiful lettuce, spinach, and peas in the pod. I looked at some online recipes, cut out most of the butter, decided to supplement the lettuce with spinach, and came up with this. It was delicious, light and rich at the same time. Nice springtime side dish. I think it would also be a lovely topping for pasta with some fresh chevre; or stirred into brown rice with some sauteed mushrooms and a bit of yogurt or sour cream.

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Petits Pois a la Francaise

Measurements are estimates, use what you have--all lettuce, all spinach, or a combination. This made four servings.
If you're not watching your weight, feel free to add more butter!

2 shallots, sliced
2 tsp. unsalted butter
1 head lettuce, carefully washed and roughly chopped
6 cups spinach, washed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups fresh shelled peas; or frozen peas, slightly defrosted
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. chopped mint

1. In a large skillet, melt the butter and saute the shallots until soft.
2. Add the lettuce and spinach. Saute until almost wilted.
You may need to do this in batches--just add it all together when the batches are cooked down.
4. Add the broth and peas, and slam on the cover. Cook until the peas are just tender--2 minutes or so. (less if using frozen peas)
5. Add salt and pepper to taste, and the chopped mint. Stir well and serve.

July 7, 2010

Quick Spicy Dill Pickles

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I was happy to get a few small pickling cukes in last week's share from Red Fire Farm CSA. I know it's odd to use a pickling method for something not destined for long-term storage (the reason why people began pickling foods in the first place). But I like this easy method of making a small amount of pickles, which remain crunchy and fresh-tasting. They'll last 2-3 weeks in the fridge, but are at their best within a week. Feel free to leave out the sugar or the chili peppers.

Quick Spicy Dill Pickles
• 4 pickling cucumbers, washed and quartered
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• 1teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sugar
• 3/4 cups distilled white or apple cider vinegar
• 1 tablespoons coriander seeds
• 4 large garlic cloves, halved
• 4 dried red hot chiles, halved lengthwise (some seeds removed, depending on how spicy you like things)
• 8 dill sprigs
Pack cucumbers into a clean 1-quart glass jar or bowl. In a saucepan, combine the salt, sugar, vinegar, coriander and garlic. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add 1 cup of water and let cool. When cool, pour the brine over the cucumbers. Tuck the chiles and dill between the vegetables. Add enough water to keep the cucumbers submerged. Close the jars and refrigerate overnight or for up to 1 month. If you're doing this in a bowl, place a plate or something on top to weigh the cukes down. They should be ready in two days, and are crispiest the first week.

July 11, 2010

Sweet as Pie

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We went blueberry picking this weekend at one of our favorite farms, Honeypot Hill in Stowe. It was only the second day of blueberry picking, and there are hundreds of bushes with ripening berries that should go until late August. We picked four quarts in about an hour.

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The kids have been nudging for some sweets at Chez Lose Five Pounds Before France, so I dug out a pie tin and Googled for a blueberry pie recipe. I settled on a Mark Bittman recipe, which he had gotten from Cooks Illustrated. It used the technique of pre-cooking half the berries, and adding a grated apple and some tapioca to the mixture to thicken things up a bit. I cheated with a Whole Foods frozen crust instead of making the one in the recipe. I like the WF crusts, since they bake up nice and crisp if you keep the oven temperature high. The only changes I made was cutting leaves instead of circles in the crust; and to finish at 375 instead of 350 to help the bottom crust crisp. Oh, and I am very glad I put the pie on a foil-lined cookie sheet, since man it made a mess as the filling bubbled over. Here's the recipe: http://thebittenword.typepad.com/thebittenword/2008/06/blueberry-pie.html

It was difficult keeping the Hungry Hoards away until the pie had rested for three hours. Worth the wait, and yes, I had a sliver and enjoyed every bite. Delicious, perfectly sweet without being cloying due to the lemon.The filling was still a bit runny, but much less so than other blueberry pies I've made.

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Humn...Blueberry muffins tomorrow? I don't like muffins, (they always seemed to me like cakes that just didn't quite make it) so this should be safe.

September 11, 2010

Borekas

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I love all manner of Middle-Eastern savory pastries. We were invited to a party, and I decided to make Israeli-style borekas. They're similar to spanakopita, the greek cheese triangles, but use puff pastry instead of filo dough. The fillings are usually cheese, or potato, or mixtures of vegetables and herbs with cheeses. Kind of a mixture of Middle-Eastern and European, like much of Israeli food. Here's my version:

Spinach and Cheese Borekas

1 box frozen puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm, which gives you two sheets per package)

1 box chopped frozen spinach
1 Tbs. olive oil or butter
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
2 scallions
1/2 cup crumbled mild feta
1/2 cup ricotta or more
handful chopped parsley
handful chopped dill
2 eggs
Optional but traditional--sesame seeds

Take the pastry from the box, separate into two folded leaves, and let defrost for 1/2 an hour. While it's defrosting, make the filling.

Unwrap the spinach, and put into a colander. Run lukewarm water over the spinach until it's defrosted. Squeeze several times to get the spinach as dry as possible.

In a large skillet, heat the oil or butter. Saute the onion until it's softened and just beginning to turn golden. Add the garlic and scallions, and cook another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the spinach, mix well, and let the mixture cool.

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Beat one of the eggs in a bowl. Add the cheeses, the cooled spinach mixture, and the herbs. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. You want it highly seasoned.You can add more ricotta if you think the feta is too strong.

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Unroll one of the pastry sheets onto a floured board. With a rolling pin, gently roll to flatten and enlarge the pastry slightly. Cut into 9 squares. For large borekas, place a teaspoon of filling just off center, and fold over to make a triangle shape. Seal the edges with your fingers, and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. (you'll need to do this in two batches or use 2 sheets) For bite-size borekas, (Mich more fiddly to fill, be warned) cut each square into 2 triangles. Place a 1/2 teaspoon of filling , fold, and seal. (It's helpful to seal one side, then push the filling over to seal the other, adding more if necessary)

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Beat the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush the top of each borek with the egg wash, and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired. Bake in a 350 oven for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. These reheat well, and can be frozen.


Leftover filling can be made into a quiche filling or crustless casserole with a few more eggs beaten in.

September 29, 2010

Butternut Squash Gratin with Goat Cheese and Nuts

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I lightened this recipe a bit, and it makes for a wonderful vegetarian entree; or a nice side dish for a Fall dinner. It's moist but not creamy, and the leeks, cheese and sage give a savory counterpoint to the sweetness of the squash. I'm planning on quadrupling it for Thanksgiving.

Butternut Squash Gratin with Goat Cheese and Nuts adapted from Bon Appetit
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Makes 4-6 servings. Multiply ingredients as needed.

4 cups cubed butternut squash (about 1 medium)
Pam or spray oil; or a bit of olive oil
Coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
1 Tablespoon or more chopped fresh sage
2-3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese (about ½ cup)
1/2 cup or more lowfat Half and Half or whole milk
1/4 cup hazelnuts or pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread out squash cubes on oil-sprayed or oil-rubbed large rimmed baking sheet. Spray or rub all squash surfaces with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until just tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add sliced leeks and chopped sage; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until tender but not brown, about 15 minutes. Spray 8x8-inch baking dish with oil. Combine leeks, squash, and cheese in the dish. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Pour half and half or milk evenly over gratin. Add more if desired—it should be halfway up the sides of the dish. Sprinkle with toasted chopped hazelnuts or pecans. Bake uncovered until gratin is heated through and cream is bubbling, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if previously chilled).


May 29, 2011

In Which Amy Makes Sushi

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We went up to the enormous H-Mart in Burlington this morning, a Korean supermarket chain. In addition to the room-sized kimchee area with a bewildering assortment of marinated and fermented animal, vegetable and mineral; there's produce, meats, rows of exotic frozen foods, dried and canned goods, and fish. We loaded the cart with our usuals--hoisin sauce for marinades, rice, chicken and leek dumplings, baby bok choy, assorted Asian vegetables, three kinds of chili sauce (What? We like heat), and thin-sliced beef for stir fry. The fish is quite good here, and I love being able to get fresh whole fish like red snapper for half of what Whole Paycheck charges.

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Today we noticed that in the fish case were packages of sushi-grade fish. As an experiment, we took home a small package of tuna, a bit more than 3/4 pound for $12.14. We also got a tub of pickled ginger ($2.50), a small sack of sushi rice, and a tin of wasabi (another $2-3).

I got out the book Easy Sushi by Emi Kazuko that has been in my bookcase for about 20 years. I first made the rice.

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1 1/2 cups short-grain sushi rice
2 cups water

3 Tbs. unseasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. salt

Soak the rice in some cold water for 10 minutes, then rinse and drain. Put into a deep saucepan, and add the 2 cups water. Bring to the boil, then lower to a low simmer, and cover. Let barely bubble for just under 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix together the vinegar, salt and sugar.
When rice is cooked, dump into a very wide shallow bowl. Sprinkle with the vinegar dressing. Using a wooden spatula, gently turn and fold the dressing into the rice. You don't want to stir, just gently turn the rice over. Do this every few minutes, moving the rice so that it cools as quickly as possible.

Prepare your fish--slice into 1/2 inch thin slices.

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Prepare a hand dip of 1/4 cup rice vinegar with 1 cup water.
Get your wasabi (prepare according to directions if it's not premixed), serving dish, and pickled ginger.

Dip a hand into the vinegar/water mixture. (Don't get your hands too wet, or your rice will be too wet. I found that dipping after every three pieces was about right.) Scoop up perhaps a Tablespoon of rice, and gently squeeze into a cylinder. Put a slight dab of wasabi on top, then lay a slice of fish on the top, and place on platter. You'll appreciate why sushi chefs train for years before they're allowed to do this. Much harder to get it right than you'd think.

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Repeat, and serve to your adoring guests.

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This made about 25 pieces of sushi. While my rice technique definitely needs work, it was delicious, easily as good as the sushi we've had in many sushi restaurants. And the fish was fresher than in some. Can't wait to do this again, next time with an assortment.

July 10, 2011

Grilled Spicy Sweet Potatoes with Lime and Cilantro

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I got this idea from a Bobby Flay recipe, and tweaked it. It's a great use for any smoky chile you have around, like chipotle powder or smoked paprika. I added cayenne for a kick.

Grilled Spicy Sweet Potatoes with Lime and Cilantro

3 large sweet potatoes
Oil spray or oil to brush on
zest from one lime
1 tsp. smoked paprike, chipotle powder, or cayenne, or a mixture
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 Tbs. chopped cilantro

1. Prick the potatoes in several places, and microwave for 5-5 minutes until just fork-tender but not soft. Let cool.
2. Slice into thick rounds or ovals, keeping skin on (this helps them stay together)
3. Spray a grilling pan, or brush it with oil. Lay the potato slices on the pan, and spray or brush the tops with oil.
4. Grill on both sides on a hot grill until browned and cooked through.
5. Remove to serving plate, mix together the rest of the ingredients, and sprinkle on the slices.

July 19, 2011

Zucchini Carpaccio

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Over on SlowTrav, we're doing a Summer cook-along where we each post a recipe using a particular ingredient. Last week was sweet potatoes, in my previous entry. Susan picked butternut squash for this week, since it's available year-round in London where she lives. I struck out in two stores here, since it's usually a Fall/Winter vegetable on these shores. Instead, I elected to use summer squash.

I had some beautiful bi-colored baby zucchini from the local farm share. This is a light little salad for a first course, or to go with a grilled entree. You should use the freshest, sweetest zucchini you can find.

Zucchini Carpaccio

This recipe is all over the web, but really it's too simple for a formal recipe. Here's what I did.

Need--small zucchini, lemon, olive oil, a chunk of good parmesean, salt and pepper, herbs like chives or mint, vegetable peeler

Wash and dry several small zucchini. Using a good vegetable peeler, slice lengthwise along the zucchini to make very thin slices. Turn and do the other side when the zucchini gets to the seeds. Put the slices into a colander, and sprinkle with some coarse salt. (I don't use a lot, so I don't need to rinse the zucchini afterward)

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Let sit for a while so the slices can exude some liquid. Then spread onto paper towels, and use more towels to dry off the zucchini and take off excess salt.

Tear up some arugula, and lay onto a dish. Mix together a dressing of fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper to taste. Put the zucchini into a bowl, and very gently toss with the dressing. Pile the zucchini over the arugula, and then using the peeler, shave off some parmesean curls onto the zucchini. Sprinkle with some chives or other herbs if you wish. I like the suggestion of fresh mint, will try that next time.

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September 11, 2011

Malaysian Beef Curry

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Larry doesn't get the time to cook much, except for throwing some meat or vegetable on the grill if he's home from work early enough. However, every now and then on a weekend he decides to tackle something more complex, which usually involves multiple trips to the grocery store, a thick cookbook or long search via Google, and a delicious, although usually late dinner.

Yesterday he wanted to do some sort of long-simmering recipe using something we don't see much of anymore, beef. Since he usually keeps to the French or Italian side of things, we thought he'd stretch a bit into some other cuisines. Some searching and we found a Bon Appetit recipe for Malaysian Beef Curry. And what was frightening was how many of the ingredients we already had. Tamarind paste? In the pantry. Dried New Mexico chiles? Yup. Fish sauce? It's that brown bottle that smells like old locker rooms.

We did have to go over to the fabulous Indian grocery stores in Waltham for some star anise, as the package in the spice drawer had lost much of its fragrance. Lemongrass was found at Whole Foods, a nice piece of brisket from Costco. And oh hey, let's have lunch at an Indian place in Waltham while we're at it.

The spice paste smelled astonishingly good. Larry used our little spice grinder, but a food processor or blender would also do the trick, just make sure everything is really finely chopped. The recipe didn't call for much liquid, although instructed that the meat should be fully covered. Larry added an additional 1/2 can of coconut milk, which as the meat cooked and shrunk then seemed to be too much. Instead of using a crockpot, we brought the curry to the simmer on the stove, then put in uncovered in a 325-350 oven. It simmered nicely, and the excess liquid evaporated, making the sauce thicker and more concentrated. If this were done in the crockpot, the one can would probably be enough.

After 3 1/2 hours, the meat was just about soft--and another 20--30 minutes would have been better, so plan on a long cooking tome. The sauce was complex, with hints of sweetness from brown sugar and cinnamon. Larry and Evan thought the spiciness was just right; I added some siracha hot sauce to mine and though it was perfection. This curry didn't have any vegetables, so we served it with steamed carrots and zucchini. I think next time we'll add some vegetables for the last hour of cooking to lighten things somewhat. I also think the recipe would be fantastic with skinned chicken thighs.

Malaysian Beef Curry (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Ingredients:

spice paste

8 large dried New Mexico chiles
4 lemongrass stalks
1/2 cup chopped shallots
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
2 teaspoons brown sugar

stew

3 pounds boneless beef chuck roast or brisket, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 13.5- to 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon tamarind paste or tamarind concentrate

Chopped fresh cilantro
Steamed rice
quartered limes
hot sauce such as siracha or your favorite


ingredient info

New Mexico chiles can be found at some supermarkets and at Latin markets. Fish sauce and coconut milk are sold at supermarkets and Asian markets. Look for star anise, star-shaped seedpods, in the spice section of the supermarket. Tamarind is available in Asian and Indian markets.

Preparation
spice paste
Cover chiles with very hot water and soak until soft, about 45 minutes. Drain. Stem, seed, and chop chiles.
Cut off bottom 4 inches from lemongrass stalks; chop and transfer to processor (reserve tops of stalks for stew). Add shallots, garlic, coriander, cumin, ginger, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper; process until finely ground. Add 1/2 cup water, chiles, fish sauce, and sugar; process to paste. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 week ahead. Transfer to bowl. Cover; chill.

stew
Smash reserved tops of lemongrass from spice paste with mallet or rolling pin. Bend in half; bundle with kitchen twine. Mix beef and spice paste in dutch oven. Stir in lemongrass bundles, coconut milk, star anise, cinnamon, and tamarind. Press meat down to completely submerge. Bring to the simmer on the stove, then put on 325 oven. Cook stew "Low and slow" until meat is very tender, 31/2 to 5 hours. Check every now and then to stir. If it's bubbling too fiercely, turn the oven down a bit. Tilt pot and spoon off excess fat from surface of stew. Remove lemongrass bundles, star anise, and cinnamon stick.
Transfer stew to bowl. Sprinkle cilantro over and serve with steamed rice, hot sauce, and limes.

Nutritional Information (from original recipe)
One serving contains:
Calories (kcal) 499.6
%Calories from Fat 51.5
Fat (g) 28.6
Saturated Fat (g) 11.7
Cholesterol (mg) 128.3
Carbohydrates (g) 13.6
Dietary Fiber (g) 3.1
Total Sugars (g) 3.7
Net Carbs (g) 10.5
Protein (g) 46.0
Sodium (mg) 780.7

December 17, 2011

Chestnut and Wild Mushroom Crostini

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Hooray, my first subbing gig for the Flavors blog! Kim asked me to take on Chestnuts for her, which I gladly accepted. I have loved chestnuts since my aunt started putting them into her Thanksgiving stuffing. A few years back I made a Chestnut and Porcini Soup which was delicious, and mushrooms were highlighted as complements for chestnuts in the Flavor Bible. I had dried porcini in the pantry, and chantrelles happened to be on sale that week. Additional ingredients I pulled from the Flavor Bible were cream, shallots, butter, Marsala, and thyme.

Oh, and about those chestnuts. I've tried the usual technique of cutting an x into the bottom, roasting, then attempting to pry the stubborn little things from the shells. Bloodshed, cursing, and a mess was the result. This time I tried another way which was much more successful. Cut the chestnuts in half, then put them in a ziploc bag with a drop or two of water. Seal the bag, and lay it flat in the microwave, so the chestnuts are in one layer. Microwave for 40-60 seconds, until soft. Let sit for a minute to cool, carefully open the bag, and the chestnuts should easily separate from their shells. Worked a treat!

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Chestnut and Wild Mushroom Crostini

2 shallots, diced
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms, preferably some of which are wild, such as chantrelles or shitakis
1/4 cup dried porcini, soaked in hot water, then drained. (strain and save liquid)
1 cup chopped chestnuts
3 Tbs. Marsala wine
pinch fresh chopped thyme
3 Tbs. heavy cream

1 baguette, sliced

Heat a large skillet. Saute the chopped shallots in the butter until translucent, then add the fresh and soaked/ drained dried mushrooms. Cook until liquid emerges then evaporates. Let the mixture brown slightly, then add the thyme, Marsala and a Tablespoon of the mushroom soaking liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the chestnuts, and then the cream. Let the cream glaze the mixture, cook down a few minutes. Keep warm while you toast the crostini.

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Toast the baguette slices. Top each with a spoonful of the mushroom-chestnut mixture, and serve.

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Delicious!


January 22, 2012

Fancypants Truffled Burgers


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I was asked to be a substitute blogger for the Flavors Blog. For those not familiar with Flavors, it's a blogging community where each week participants must develop a dish using a specific ingredient along with possible flavor enhancers as outlined in the book The Flavor Bible. Confused? Take a look here: http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/flavors/2011/09/we_are_a_group_of.html

So, here's my entry using "Beef."

Burgers seem to be the new thing, at least as reported by the food press and bloggers. From New York to Paris, the humble burger has been tarted up enough to command ridiculous prices.

I used to not like burgers. They were dry, hard, a waste of calories. Seriously, I made a veggie burger when we had beef burgers on the grill.And then my husband Larry was given a subscription to Cooks Illustrated, and because of his engineering background became glued to the obsessive-compulsive search for the perfect techniques in cooking. He went through classic French and Italian recipes involving multiple trips to stores, piles of pots in the sink, and dinner served by 8:30 if we were lucky.

He discovered grinding his own meat for burgers. And Gentle Reader, I am now a convert.

Grinding your own beef results on a tender texture, juices oozing out of a flavorful pile of meat. Home-ground burgers cook quickly on a hot skillet, and you can dress them up or down as you like. For this excursion, we decided to make a tarted up burger, one that if served in a New York restaurant would command an insane price. From the Flavor Bible, I used onions, thyme, red wine, arugula, and a small jar of summer truffles in the pantry sealed the deal. If you don't like or don't have access to truffles, your home-ground burgers will still be amazing.

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Fancypants Truffled Burgers
Makes 6 burgers, which freeze well uncooked
2 lbs beef--we like to use 1 lb chuck and 1 lb boneless short rib

3 large onions, sliced
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. thyme
2Tbs. red wine
salt and pepper
1 Tbs. sliced black truffles (jarred Summer truffles are fine. Use the rest of the jar to top buttered fresh pasta, and invite me over)

Cheese--a mild blue cheese; or a nice nutty gruyere, sliced very thinly
arugula

Good quality buns--Whole Foods make a brioche bun with black pepper that is ruinously expensive but worth it

1. Pour yourself a nice drink. I suggest a classic vodka martini.
2. Slice the onions and saute in the oil in a large skillet over low-medium heat for 20-30 minutes until deep golden brown but not burned. Add the thyme and wine, season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Cut the meat into cubes, then put the meat in the freezer for 10-15 minutes until quite firm but not totally frozen.
4. Using the steel blade of a food processor, put small batches of the meat into the bowl and pulse until just chopped. Empty onto a cookie sheet as you go,

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5. Very gently form the chopped meat into loose burgers. You just want to tenderly gather the meat together, not press it.

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6. Toast the buns. Stir the truffles into the onion mixture and turn off the heat.

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7. Heat a thick skillet on high. Place the burgers on the sizzling hot surface, and turn after 1-2 minutes. Add the cheese, and cook another 1-2 minutes until desired doneness. If you want them any more than medium rare, I do not want to hear about it.

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8. Place the burgers on a bun half, very lightly sprinkle with good salt, top with the onion/truffle mixture, add arugula. Ketchup if you must. A bit of tomato if desired.
9. Inhale. Roasted potatoes with rosemary on the side are nice, and a little salad to appease your arteries.
10. Fight over who gets to finish the leftover onion-truffle mixture.

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Spicy Eggplant Salad with Tomatoes and Peppers

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The hotel we stayed at in Haifa kept to the tradition of having an enormous salad buffet at all three meals. Israeli salad offerings usually include many cooked and raw salads in addition to sliced vegetables. My idea of a good Israeli salad buffet is at least three kinds of eggplant dishes, and our Haifa hotel usually had four. There's often a strong Moroccan influence in many of the salads, and this eggplant goes in that direction. I loved this spicy-tart mixture, and blended several recipes to arrive at this rendition. I also cut way down on the oil. Seriously, one recipe I looked at called for 2/3 cup oil. If you want the finished dish to be silkier, add a few more spoonfuls of good olive oil.

Spicy Eggplant Salad with Tomatoes and Peppers

1 large firm eggplant, peeled and cut into rounds
3-4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided in half
oil spray
1large red or yellow sweet pepper, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small can chopped tomatoes in Winter, or, preferably, 4-5 large garden tomatoes in Summer
1/2 can tomato paste
a few spoonfuls water
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, more to taste
1/4 cup wine vinegar
handful chopped parsley

1. Salt the eggplant slices, and layer them between paper towels. Place a heavy plate on top, and let drain for 1/2 hour. Wipe the liquid and salt from the slices.
2. Heat half of the oil in a large skillet, and cook the onions and peppers until soft. Remove from pan, leaving the oil.
3. Add the remaining oil to the skillet, (I also sprayed it with Pam between batches) and saute the eggplant in batches until very brown.
4. Return the onion/pepper mixture to the pan, along with all the additional ingredients except for the parsley. Cook at a gentle simmer for 30-40 minutes, (add water if it seems to be drying out) until everything has fallen apart and the vinegar has mellowed. Add more crushed red pepper if you like.
5. Let sit overnight in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before showering with parsley and serving with pita, feta cheese, hummus, other vegetables. Pretend you're in a cafe in Israel.


June 25, 2012

Scallops with Mushrooms and Wine

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I adore scallops, but I'd never been able to sear then quickly enough without overcooking them. The strategy of making sure the scallops were perfectly dry, then giving them the lightest dusting of flour to give the bit of butter something to stick to worked well. And scallops with mushrooms and wine, just yum. I adapted the recipe to make it lower fat, and it was a winner.

Now, to wait till scallops go on sale again.

Scallops with Mushrooms and Wine
Serves 3

1/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/4 pound white mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter, divided in half
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 shallot, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 lb sea scallops
spoonful of flour
1 tsp.canola oil
fresh chopped parsley, for garnish

Prepare mushrooms. Bruss off dirt, or gently wipe with moist towel. Remove stems from shiitakes [they can be tough] and slice mushroom caps into slivers. Slice the white mushrooms.

Melt 1 tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick lidded skillet over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms for 5 minutes, or until they are browned, stirring occasionally and sprinkling them lightly with salt and pepper as they cook. Add the shallots and wine. Cook the mixture, tossing or stirring. Reduce heat to medium low, cover the pan and let the mushrooms stew until they are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add a few more spoonfuls wine if it completely evaporates. Remove from the pan and keep warm. (this can be done in advance, but heat the mushrooms before you add them to the scallops)

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Rinse scallops carefully to remove any grit. If they are huge, I slice them in half through the middle. Sprinkle the flour on a large plate. Blot scallops very dry with paper towels and arrange on plate with flat sides up. Season with salt and pepper, and very gently toss in the flour--you just want a very thin dusting.

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In a nonstick skillet, heat the 1 tsp. oil and the butter until hot, and add scallops. Brown the scallops over high heat, about 1 minute, then turn to brown the other side. Transfer the scallops, browned side up, to the pan with the hot mushrooms. Cover the pan, turn off the heat and let the scallops finish cooking in the residual heat of the pan, 1-2 minutes or so. (taste one to make sure it's cooked through to your liking)

Spoon the scallops onto a platter. Spoon the mushroom mixture around the scallops and sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

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July 10, 2012

Spicy Glazed Portobellos

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Costco had lovely 3-packs of portobello mushrooms this week. I was originally going to just throw them on the grill. But since we were also having a Vietnamese vegetable and bean thread noodle salad, I wanted to go in an Asian direction instead. I love the black mushrooms often found in Chinese dishes. Here's what I came up with, and it was delicious. You may adjust the amount of chile sauce to your liking. We like things spicy, YMMV. You can also adjust the amounts up or down, it's a pretty loose recipe.

Spicy Glazed Portobellos
serves 3

3 portobello mushrooms, stems removed, cleaned, sliced
cooking spray
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine

1-2 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 to 1 tsp. or more Asian chile sauce or your preferred hot sauce
1/4 cup white wine
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. cornstarch

1. Spray a large skillet with cooking oil, and heat to high. Add the sliced portobellos, and stir frequently as they cook. It will seem like a lot of mushrooms at first, but they shrink down. Turn the heat down to medium so they don't scorch.

2. After the mushrooms have seared, add the garlic and sesame oil, stir for a minute. Add the wine, and let the mushrooms stew until most of the wine has disappeared.

3. Meanwhile, mix together the remaining ingredients in a bowl, stirring until the cornstarch evaporates..

4. Add the sauce mixture to the pan, stir, let bubble for 1-2 minutes until the mushrooms are glazed. Serve.

July 19, 2012

BBQ Peel-and_Eat Shrimp

This is an adaptation of an old Bobby Flay recipe. I reduced the sugar, salt and oil, and added lime. Very tasty! Use peeled shrimp if you prefer, just cook for less time.

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BBQ Shrimp

Ingredients:

1/4 cup smoked sweet paprika
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon canola oil
6 cloves coarsely chopped fresh garlic

1-2 limes, quartered

1 pound (21 to 24 count) large shrimp, shell on
Special equipment: wooden skewers, soaked in water for about 25 minutes

Directions
Whisk together the paprika, ancho powder, brown sugar, cumin, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

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Divide mixture in half, store one half in a container or ziploc for another time. In the remaining half, stir in the garlic and canola oil to make a rough paste.

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Place the shrimp in a large bowl, add the spice rub and stir well to coat each shrimp. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

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Heat your grill to high.

Skewer the shrimp and place on a grill pan to cook until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Squeeze on some lime juice and toss. Peel and enjoy, passing limes and napkins!

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Note--You may prefer to use peeled shrimp (though leave the tails on for easier handling). Just cook for a bit less so they don't get tough.

August 2, 2012

Summer Vegetable Gratin

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I picked up my neighbor's farm share this week, and was very pleased to get home with beautiful tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini. I love eggplant when it melts into the other ingredients, and pre-baking the slices ensures that result. (credit for that idea goes to Chris and Ken, in a long-ago discussion) I was very stingy with oil and cheese, but feel free to add more for a more voluptuous dish. This was very, very good because of the amazingly fresh vegetables. Here's what I used for an 8x8 baking dish which made four servings, just go with what you have and how many portions you want to make. This reheats very well, and is better if it sits for a bit.

Summer vegetable Gratin

1 small eggplant, sliced
3 zucchini, sliced
4 garden tomatoes, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
spray oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
chopped fresh herbs--I used thyme, rosemary, and basil
salt and pepper

Line two baking sheets with foil, and spray with oil. Place the eggplant on one and the zucchini on the other, spray tops with oil, and bake in a 400 oven until beginning to soften and brown. The zucchini will take about 10 minutes, the eggplant perhaps an additional five.

Spray a baking dish with oil, and layer in the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper as you wish. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake in a 400 oven for 45-60 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving so the juices can be reabsorbed by the vegetables. Sprinkle with some basil.

October 31, 2012

Farrotto with Squash, Sage and Hazelnuts

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Fall in a bowl.

The bitch named Sandy was fast approaching, and I wanted to make something that would be fine to eat and store at cool room temperature if we lost power. I had farro in the pantry, a cute delicata squash on the counter, sage in the garden and hazelnuts in the freezer. Squash and sage always play nicely together, and I had a feeling that the nuttiness of farro and hazelnuts would be a good addition. Farro is a fabulous whole grain from Italy, easily available now in the US. Delicata is a tasty little winter squash with edible skin.

For basic technique, I rewatched this great video from Letizia and Rebecca and used the recipe for the framework. I poured a glass of wine to get into the proper spirit.
http://madonnadelpiatto.com/2010/05/04/cool-inkeepers-cook/

1 cup farro
1 Tbs. olive oil or butter (plus more for squash)
1/4 cup white wine (with more for the cook)
1 box low-sodium chicken broth, heated

1 onion, chopped
1 delicata squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, then thinly sliced (no need to remove skin)
a few fresh sage leaves to taste, chopped

1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsly chopped
freshly grated parmesean
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil or butter in a heavy skillet. Add the farro, stir around and let lightly toast. Add the wine and let it be absorbed, then hot broth, a cup at a time, stirring every now and then. Add more broth as it becomes absorbed. Drink some wine. Keep adding broth and stirring until the farro becomes almost done, but still has some bite. If you run out of broth, just use water to finish the cooking. Mine took about 25 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, Toss the squash, onion, sage onto an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle with just a bit more oil, and roast in a 400 oven until soft and lightly browned. Watch carefully so it doesn;t burn.

3. When the farro is cooked, add the cooked squash mixture. Add the hazelnuts, grated parmesean to taste, and salt and pepper.

Eat warm or cold. If you don't have delicata, use peeeled, cubed butternut or pumpkin.

January 13, 2013

Shakshouka

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I don't know why I've never blogged about this, my favorite breakfast-lunch-dinner go-to when I want something easy, spicy, and healthy. It's an Israeli and Middle Eastern dish with definite Tunisian or Yemeni leanings with the powerful kick of chilis. It take 10 minutes to prepare. I like to add vegetables like sliced zucchini to make it more of a dinner dish when I'm eating alone. In fact, when Larry is traveling it's not unusual for me to eat this several nights in a row. Here's how to make two servings, you can adapt to make a single serving in a smaller pan with 1-2 eggs; or for more people (I love to serve it at brunch) use a larger pan and increase proportions. I've also used "eggbeater" white-only eggs in this and it's almost as good but less rich. It's ridiculously adaptable.

Shakshouka (Serves 2)

2 tsp. olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, finely minced
1/2 red pepper, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1/4 tsp. cumin
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
optional--1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 small can low-sodium chopped tomatoes
optional--chili sauce or red pepper flakes
2-4 eggs
chopped cilantro or parsley
optional toppings--Greek yogurt, feta, or goat cheese


Heat the oil in a small frying pam. Saute with red pepper, onion, and optional zucchini until softened. Add the jalapeno and the chopped tomatoes. Let simmer until it forms a thick sauce, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cumin, cook an additional minute or two. Taste, add additional chili to get it spicy to your taste.

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Break the eggs into the pan, spacing each a bit apart from the others. Cover pan, and let gently poach until eggs are set to your liking--I like the yolks just a bit runny. Serve, sprinkled with herbs, and with optional yogurt or cheese. Good with toasted pita.

March 27, 2013

Gluten-Free Matzah Balls

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Two of my favorite people who are yearly guests at our Passover Seder can't eat gluten. This year I wanted to experiment with making gluten-free matzah balls for them. Matzah balls, for anyone not raised on them, are an Eastern European Jewish comfort food, plump dumplings that soak up flavor from the aromatic chicken soup in which they float. Or sink, as the case may be. People are tend to be firmly in either the "floaters" or "sinkers" camp.

They're made from matzah meal (crushed matzahs), eggs, water or broth, oil or chicken fat, and seasonings. A higher proportion of egg tends to give a fluffier result, less a chewier, denser. In looking around for gluten-free recipes I found those based on potato, almond flour, or gluten-free matzahs. All seemed to have mixed reviews--the potato ones too heavy and closer to a German potato dumpling, the almond meal ones also heavy, and the gluten-free matzah meal ones exploding in the cooking water. I saw one based on quinoa flakes that had overwhelmingly positive feedback, and my Goddaughter also sent me that one as she thought it had possibilities.

I sent Larry to Whole Foods with the shopping list. The first phone call was "I can't find quinoa flakes." It hadn't occurred to him to ask a salesperson. *eyeroll* Men. The next phone call was "Do you know how much xantham gum costs?" A small bag was $14.00--and all I needed for the recipe was 1/2 teaspoon! I called my GF friend, and she said the bag she had seemed to have gone bad, with a sour odor. (it is vegetable-based, so I guess it does have a short shelf life.) Fortunately, my GF guests were happy to split the bag with me.

OK, so on to the matzah balls. I based the experiment on this recipe, with some minor changes--I added a tablespoon of broth, melted chicken fat, and some snipped parsley and dill for flavor; I also let them sit longer in the fridge and cooked the balls longer to see if they'd get a bit lighter. http://www.tamaraduker.com/2009/03/not-your-mamas-gluten-free-matzoh-balls/

The result was quite good--the balls held together, and you could only tell they were not made from matzah meal if you looked closely enough to see some quinoa shapes now and then on the surface. The taste was mild, which soaked up the broth flavor from the soup beautifully. The texture was decent, somewhat on the "sinker" side, but nothing a Grandmother would complain about. Success!

Gluten-free Quinoa “Matzoh” Balls

Makes 10-12 quinoa balls

1 cup quinoa flakes (look in the hot cereal aisle of Whole Foods or other store)

1/2 tsp xanthan gum (look in baking supplies at Whole foods)

2 large eggs

1/4 cup melted chicken fat or vegetable oil

1 Tbs. broth or water

1/2 tsp salt

A sprinkle of ground black pepper to your liking

Tablespoon of each chopped parsley and dill


Combine quinoa flakes and xanthan gum in a small bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the two eggs. Add oil, broth, herbs, salt and pepper and beat again until combined.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mix well until combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 60 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (You don’t want the matzoh balls to be crowded).
Remove batter from refrigerator and wet hands. With wet hands, fashion a SMALL amount of batter into a smooth ball shape and drop into the boiling water. ( Each uncooked ball should be no larger than the size of a ping-pong ball… they will expand when cooking, and if they’re too big, the middle may not cook through sufficiently.)
Cover pot and cook the quinoa balls, maintaining a rolling boil, cook 45 minutes.
Remove the balls from boiling water with a slotted spoon and let sit to cool for a few minutes. Then, refrigerate the balls until ready to serve.
Before serving, place quinoa balls in pot of soup to warm them through.

April 21, 2013

Moroccan Frittata with Greens and Herbs

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One morning several years ago as part of an amazing breakfast served in a friend's home in Haifa, my hostess casually threw this together. She told me it was something her Moroccan-born father used to make. Like my beloved Shakshuka, I eat it for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner. It's one of those freeform things that barely qualifies as a recipe. It's a great way to use up mesclun that may be starting to lose it's freshness. The goal is to have a large amount of greens that wilt down so the frittata is more greens than egg.

1. Prepare a small frying pan with a teaspoon of olive oil or a sprintz of oil spray. Preheat the broiler.

2. Put 3-4 cups of mesclun mix into the pan. You'll probably need to do this in 2-3 batches, adding more as the previous batch wilts. Turn constantly. Add 2-3 Tbs. chopped scallions and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin.

3. Mix two eggs well, and pour into the pan. Let the bottom set, and then transfer the pan into the oven, to the rack in the middle of the oven, not the one close to the burner. In 3-4 minutes, the frittata should be puffed and almost done. Now put it onto the top rack for 30-60 seconds, to lightly brown. (if you like, you can put some feta or goat cheese on top before moving the pan up!)

4. Remove pan from oven, and sprinkle on 3-4 Tbs. chopped fresh mint and cilantro, or more to taste. Top with some hot sauce, chopped tomatoes or salsa, and plain yogurt if you wish.

May 12, 2013

Spicy Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli

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Oh my goodness Internet, why did you not tell me how delicious and easy this is? Seriously, I want to eat this for the next four nights. And it's even healthy!

I've been roasting broccoli forever, but only recently came across recipes that added shrimp. Melissa Clarke may have put the first version online, and I know Kalyn also has one. Here's my version. Because everything's better with siracha.

Spicy Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli
2 servings

1/2 lb shelled medium shrimp
few squeezes siracha sauce
spray oil or 2 tsp. olive oil
3-4 cups chopped broccoli
chili powder to taste
cumin to taste
salt and pepper
optional--1-2 teaspoons finely chopped nuts
chopped scallions

One or two hours before cooking, toss the shrimp with some siracha to barely coat. Put in fridge to marinate until you warm up the oven.
Heat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with oil. Toss the broccoli onto the foil, spray with oil, and season with chili, cumin, salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes. Throw the shrimp onto the pan with the optional nuts. Roast another 5 minutes, and stir everything around.

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Roast for the final 5 minutes. Pour into a bowl, add the scallions, more salt and pepper if desired, and serve..

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