Foods That I Have Loved Archives

February 11, 2008

David's Duck Fat Fried Mac & Cheese

Can you guys take one more post about Slow Bowl food from the February Blogging Group?

I took a series of pictures of David's process as he prepared his awesome entry in the Mac & Cheese Smack Down. So rather than making comments...besides Yummmm that is....I'll just post the pics.





February 14, 2008

Be My Valentine & Dance With Me Beside the Market Shelves

Our favorite little local Italian deli/market is one of those places where you place an order at the cash register and then wait for them to yell your number from the pickup window.
You take you food to a bare table, picking up your drinks and utensils along the way.
When you're finished eating you bus your own table.

But, one night a year the doors are closed to the general public. Red table cloths are put on the tables and accented by a single white taper.


A chosen few "regulars" who are in on the secret have a reservation for dinner.
Dinner is a choice of two entree's and the wine of your choice from the racks.


Dessert is homemade raspberry cheesecake with chocolate crumb crust.


Entertainment is provided by the owners of the place and their families. People with a high quality karaoke set up and some amazing voices. The voices aren't a surprise when you know the pedigree. Mama was a well known singer with a national band in her youth. But, Papa said, it's either the bright lights or me. Mama chose Papa. Here are the two lovebirds, 50 years later.


What the lucky insiders to this love-fest got to enjoy was some amazing music running the gambit from big band to old Vegas to 60s rock to blues.


And of course, we all got to dance with our sweethearts between the aisles of Italian specialities.


Those who know us, won't be surprised that the table reserved for Dan and I was placed between the sweets and the wine.


February 24, 2008

New Orleans Meets Calabria

Last week I bought a bag of Southern Greens Blend at Trader Joes. It contained Mustard, Turnip, Collards & Spinach. There was a recipe on the back that involved Andouille. With some fresh hot cornbread, I thought it would be nice to have a old fashioned Southern meal.


When I got home, I discovered that we had used the Andouille I thought I had in the freezer, and I didn't have any cornmeal either. So I stuck the bag in the fridge and fixed Pasta Puttanesca for dinner instead.

This morning I realized that the greens were going to go bad if I didn't use them, so I began to improvise.

I substituted mild Italian sausage (heavy on the fennel) for the Andouille. And I sliced up some polenta instead of making cornbread. The recipe called for chicken broth, but I had an open box of vegetable stock in the fridge I wanted to use up. Plus, to brighten the flavor of the greens I thought a little lemon would be a good addition.


I didn't have a single fresh lemon, so I used some limoncello. What the heck, the alcohol would cook off anyway, right?

First I softened some chopped red onion and garlic in olive oil. Then added chunks of Italian sausage to brown.


Then I added the full bag of greens, Two cups vegetable broth, and 1/8 cup limoncello.


I let it cook down enough to be able to toss it without throwing greens all over the stove. After tossing the ingredients, I continued to let it simmer on low for another 30 minutes or so.


While the greens were cooking, I sliced the polenta, fried it in a little butter and olive oil with a touch of salt and pepper. Then drained the polenta slices on paper towels and transfered them to a parchment lined cookie sheet. I stuck them under the broiler until they were slightly brown, turned them and sprinkled with finely grated pecorino romano cheese before broiling again.


We enjoyed the combination of bitter southern greens, sweet Italian sausage and polenta with a glass of A Mano. A very satisfying and unusual fusion of flavors from the deep south of my two favorite countries!

March 4, 2008

Another Snow Day, Yeah!

Yesterday, the weather report began calling for sleet throughout the night and snow accumulating at 6 - 10 inches today. It is winter's last big show of the year in St. Louis.
Since all of my schools were bound to be closed today, I decided to take the day off.

Once I did I began to think about spending time in my kitchen.

I went to the market and bought a ton of veggies to roast. And some King Arthur flour and fresh yeast to bake the bread that has been on the ST food thread for so long.

I got home about 4:30 and immediately began preparing veggies for roasting. I love to roast and I love to use roasted veggies in recipes that call for cooked veggies. So when I roast, I usually go crazy with it.

Yesterday was: Eight huge fennel bulbs; a couple of dozen shallots; 2 boxes of baby portobellos; 40 brussel sprouts; 6 sweet potatoes; 2 dozen new potatoes; a dozen each baby zucchini & baby yellow squash; and one huge butternut squash.

I used Herbes de Provence and olive oil to toss all of the veggies except the butternut squash before roasting. I use just olive oil and Penzey's Tsardust on the butternut squash.

Today, I'm going to make a big bowl of roasted veggie risotto for dinner. I think I'll use some of the shallots, portobellos & fennel in it.

We'll enjoy it with my very first attempt at 5 minute bread.


April 19, 2008



We've got a new challenge going on the Food Forum at Sunday Slow Bakers. Each week, we take turns choosing a recipe all of us will bake. Then we either post our results on the Food Forum thread, or we blog about it, or both.

Last week, Krista chose the yummy Italian Crumbly Cake from Gina DePalma's new cookbook, Dolce Italiano. It was delicious.

This week was my turn and I picked a recipe from Gina's book as well.

I chose Sicilian Pistachio Cookies

The picture above is what my kitchen looked like after I finished this morning. But, the clean up was worth it, don't you think?


One thing I did that I regret, was to try to make a double batch. I should have taken the time to just make two consecutive batches. I was trying to save time. The result was too much ingredient for the bowls -- a major part of the reason I made such a mess.

Then, I was so frustrated with myself that I said, what the heck, I'll just bake the double batch in one pan. That actually turned out to be a happy mistake.


What I ended up with were cookie bars that were thicker than normal and a bit softer in texture. Almost brownie-like. We ADORE them. This picture gives you an idea of the thickness.


I took half the cookies to the store today. Our booksellers all seemed to agree that they were stellar. At least, if you can judge by the speed in which they disappeared!

April 20, 2008

Pistachio Brownie Sundae

Since I messed up Gina's fabulous recipe by baking a double batch in a single batch pan, I decided to go ahead and roll with it.

Here is how I'm using the "brownies".


The brownie is only about 1 inch square.
I used plain vanilla ice cream because it is all I had on hand.
If I planned on making this as a dessert, I would use lemon sorbet instead.
I poured about 1/2 ounce of my homemade pistachio liqueur on top.

April 27, 2008

SSB Week 3 - Babbo Breadsticks

This was an easy and fun recipe. Since I prefer it to Parmigiano, I used the Grana Padano.

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I was able to get 12 bread sticks out of each of the four balls of divided dough.

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So, I baked three dozen following the recipe. By the fourth pan, I couldn't resist the urge to play. I twisted them into pretzels and sprinkled them with the Grana Padano instead of salt.

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Here's my results. I love them, but Dan says he would have liked them better with herbs instead of cayenne. Next time I think I'll make them with thyme.

I'm also wondering what would happen if I used cocoa powder in the dough along with the cayenne. Hmmm....



May 4, 2008

Not-Grappa-Soaked Not-Mini Sponge Cake(s)

This week Palma selected pan di spagna con grappa. Page 80 in Gina's Dolce Italiano.

It looked delicious. But, I don't like grappa. Oh, yeah, and I don't own mini-bundt cake pans.

So, here is my less than perfect rendition.


I used a regular bundt pan. And since I knew I wasn't using grappa, but hadn't yet decided what I was using for the glaze, I decide the most universal thing I could put in the batter to replace the tablespoon of grappa was limoncello. Lemon flavor will compliment almost anything, right?

I thought I would use vin santo, but then I noticed an old bottle of homemade strawberry liqueur. I made the syrup using the 1/2 cup instead of the 3 tablespoons and I left the 1/4 cup water out completely.

I think my syrup may be a little bit thinner that the recipe intended, but it soaked in really well and I had enough left over to drizzle on the whipped cream.

May 10, 2008

Help With SSB Project This Week

Our grandsons are spending the weekend with us. Their parents will be here tomorrow for Mother's Day BBQ. So, I needed to do my Sunday Slow Baking project today.

My oldest grandson, Sage, has always loved to help in the kitchen, and cookies are the perfect project for him to help with.

This week, Jerry picked Biscotti di Limone e Semolino - page 50 in Gina's Dolce Italiano.

Assembling all of the ingredients:


I like to measure all the ingredients in advance.


He waited and waited and waited - then after mixing, and chilling, It was finally time for Sage to help. We cut the chilled dough into even squares to make it easier for him.

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It didn't take long for him to get the hang of gently rolling the dough into small balls and then rolling the balls in the sugar.

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Setting the timer was fun, but waiting for the cookies to bake was a little bit boring.

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My oven is much slower than most, so we actually baked the cookies for about 20 minutes in order to get them to brown. The final product was beautiful.


Sage had to wait until I took some final pictures of the plate. It was torture. But he finally got to taste the fruit of his labor.

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May 18, 2008

SSB Week 4 - Hazelnut Grape Tarts


I was a little worried that I would mess this up by using mini-tart pans. And the only thing I would do differently next time is to roll the dough thinner.

Otherwise they turned out great. They are very rich. So, these mini-tarts can easily be shared.

I had some left over dough so I decided to make purses with some of my homemade olive/fig preserves.





May 25, 2008

SSB - Week 7 - Zucchini Olive Oil Cake

This week Jan chose Zucchini Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze, which can be found on page 94 of Gina DePalma's fabulous book: Dolce Italiano.
After seeing our results from these first seven weeks of baking, I don't know how anyone could resist going straight away to buy Gina's book.

I was up very early this morning and started my cake as soon as I had the coffee brewing.

I obsessively and compusively measured and arranged all my ingredients.


Then I set to work on the cake. I was especially proud of myself for sticking faithfully to Gina's directions throughout the entire process.... until I got to the very end. Then, true to form, I gave in to the urge to make just one tiny little change. Instead of dusting the glaze with powdered sugar, I sprinkled it with cinnamon sugar. I love cinnamon.


I love the way the skin of the zucchini flecks the cake. It adds such a pretty color contrast.


We didn't wait for the cake to completely cool before we enjoyed it for brunch. It is a good think there is no early morning management meeting tomorrow. I don't think Dan would let me out the door with this cake. In fact, as I type this, I can hear him downstairs in the kitchen. That would be his third piece in 2 hours.


June 8, 2008

SSB - Week 9 - Bittersweet Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies

Gina DePalma has come through with yet another heavenly dolce.

The SlowTrav Sunday Slow Baker are at week 9 of our baking odessy through Dolce Italiano. This week was Marta's turn and she selected the Buttersweet Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies.

As usual, I began with the assembly of all ingredients. You will notice from this picture that there is one tiny addition. That's because I find it very, very hard to resist adding heat to anything chocolate.


So, I made two batches of the cookies. One for me with the kick of cayenne pepper. And one that was totally faithful to Gina's recipe for all the folks who are purists. I can tell the difference between the two batches because I dusted the spicy ones with powdered sugar, and didn't dust the regular ones.



I also remembered that I had a bottle of my homemade chocolate hazelnut liqueur in the basement. Yummy!


August 3, 2008

Our Last Sunday Slow Bakers Week

Our last week baking out of Gina's Dolce Italiano is a transition to our next project -- Sunday Slow Scoopers.

SSB was the kick in the pants I needed to get over my bias against baking. Prior to this fun project, I always viewed baking as too restrictive. It requires and exactness that is hard for me. I love to 'tinker' with recipes. But, tinkering with a baking formula can spell disaster.

I'm now a convert. There are many more recipes in the book that I plan to try on my own. No need for a Sunday deadline to prod me.

Although we wrapped up with Toasted Almond Gelato, I just had to bake. Couldn't help myself.

One of Dan's all-time favorite cookies is the Chinese Almond Cookie. I thought it would be fun to do a little Italian-Asian Fusion and pair them with the Toasted Almond Gelato.

Gina's recipe was so simple. I used sliced almonds with the skins still on and took her recommendation to toast the almonds to as dark a color as possible without scorching. I wanted the maximum flavor she promised.

Then, into the pan with the milk, cream, sugar and honey they went.


After the mixture cooled to room temperature, I strained it into a pitcher and added the Amaretto, Almond Extract, and salt. Then put the pitcher in the fridge for the night.

First thing this morning I took the freezing chamber out of the deep freeze, poured in the mix and turned it on. Then just ignored it while I fixed pancake breakfast for my four grandsons.


After 35 minutes, I scooped it into a freezer bowl so it could harden some in the freezer.
This is what was left for me to enjoy.


This afternoon I baked traditional Chinese Almond Cookies -- only about 1 1/2 inch across instead of 3 inches. After the egg wash, I sprinkled them with sugar and the extra ground almonds.

Here is Gina's Toasted Almond Gelato. Pure and simple. Isn't it beautiful?


And here it is paired with the almond cookies.


August 10, 2008

Sunday Slow Scoopers WK 1

Jerry led off the new challenge with a great selection. He chose Butterscotch Pecan Ice Cream.

An easy and rich recipe. As usual, I organize my ingredients first.


I cooked the custard and then cooled it in an ice bath before putting it in a sealed container and refridgerating it.

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With the custard safely in the fridge, I turned my attention to making the meringue nest for a serving dish. I decided that a maple flavor would be a good complement to the butterscotch pecan.


And here is how the dish looks on the plate.


August 16, 2008

SSS Week 2 - Tiramisu Ice Cream

When Krista chose Tiramisu for this week, I thought it would be an involved, complex recipe. But, I am again surprised at how easy ice cream is to make. Tiramisu is a recipe with an ultra-rich result that belies its simplicity. The ingredient list is short.


After mixing the ingredients in a blender, I stuck it in the fridge and made the mocha fudge sauce for the ripple. Well, actually I made the sauce twice.

I really don't like to use corn syrup in any recipe if I can avoid it. Call it a social protest, if you like. I just think the world would be a better place if corn syrup had never been invented.

I tried substituting honey for corn syrup. It doesn't work. Even the mildly flavored honey I used overpowered the chocolate. So, I started again and used the corn syrup. (Note to self: See if I can make a very thick version of the sugar syrup I use in my liqueurs as a replacement for corn syrup.)

At any rate, after a night in the freezer, here is the finished product, ready to scoop.


Cindy made hers early and posted a picture on the food board at SlowTalk. She served it in a coffee cup, which I thought was a very cute idea. So I stole it. And for those of you on SlowTrav who are contemplating a trip to Puglia, that cup and saucer are from a cool pottery works in Grottaglie called Ceramiche Nicola Fasano.


I used the heavier southern Italian recipe version for the pizzelle. It has more eggs and flour. It comes out sturdier and less lacy so it can hold up to being used to make the ice cream sandwiches. I eliminated the anise flavoring and added two heaping tablespoons of finely ground espresso coffee beans and four heaping tablespoons cocoa powder.

The batter for the southern Italian version isn't really a batter at all. It is more like a soft cookie dough that you roll into one inch balls and place on the griddle.


It makes a very large recipe, so I have several dozen to take to work tomorrow morning for everyone's breakfast. I picked out the best shaped 12 to make a half-dozen ice cream sandwiches. They're in the freezer for a last minute dessert sometime in the future.


A little update here. I just had lunch. Left over coffee from breakfast. Heated in a cappucino cup. Two huge scoops of Tiramisu Ice Cream to turn it into a decadant cafe latte. The pizzelle make great dunkers, tool


August 18, 2008

Krista Sucked Me Into This Meme

I've resisted doing the Meme, until I saw this one on Krista's blog. Curiosity got the best of me.

I was more than a little surprised to discover that I have eaten or drunk 74 of the 100 on the list.

Of the other 26, I would intentionally avoid only 10.

As a disclaimer:
Most of these food experiences are a direct result of having not one but TWO of the country’s best international grocery stores right here in St. Louis. Global Foods is in the suburban town of Kirkwood, close to my house. Its sister store Jay International is in South City in the trendy South Grand neighborhood. I wish I could claim that it was because I was just that well traveled.

The way this meme works: Copy the list below. Bold every item on the list that you have tasted. Add comments about the experiences, as well as comments on why you haven't or wouldn't try the others. In Kim's blog, she put the items that she hadn't tried yet, but was willing to in italics.

The Omnivore’s Hundred

2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros

4. Steak tartare (I just don’t like my meat completely raw)
5. Crocodile (Actually alligator. Doesn’t that count?)
6. Black pudding (and don’t intend to)
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle (and white)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (My best friend's uncle used to make the best plum wine you ever tasted.)
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
(blackberries—but the chiggers were so bad when we were picking them, I've forgotten if they tasted amazing or not)
23. Foie gras (ethically opposed)
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese (I can’t get past seeing the taste buds on the tongue pieces)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (would love to, but afraid)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac
not with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly (is this like jello shots?) But, no anyway.
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
(just one...chocolate covered grasshopper)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
(warm unpasturized, straight from the goat)
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu (I’m afraid I’ll die)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
(way too many. There is a drive through less the 3 miles from my house)
50. Sea urchin (no, but can I substitute barnacles?)
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini (dislike gin—prefer vodka or tequila)
58. Beer above 8% ABV (not a beer drinker at any percentage)
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads (yuck)
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (no amount of cash would induce me to even touch it)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe (I’m considering trying to make it)
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini

81. Tom yum (perfect name because it is Yummy)
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
(I like the bitter black chocolate flavor)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare (only we just call it rabbit)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse (ethically opposed)
90. Criollo chocolate (truly don't get the hype)
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
(I like it as an alternate to mint sauce for lamb)
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
(I love coffee, but I don't get the hype here, either.)
100. Snake (Rattlesnake to be exact. My Dad used to love to grill chunks of it on kabob sticks. It’s very good.)

August 24, 2008

SSS Week 3 - Pina Colada Sherbet

It was Terry's turn to pick the flavor, and for a hot August week, she hit a home run! Refreshing isn't a good enough word to describe Pina Colada Sherbet. This recipe had so few ingredients and was so simple, it seemed pointless to take a bunch of pictures of the process.

However, it did seem that it was a lot more volume than some of the other recipes. Even with my 2 quart ice cream freezer, I found that it was expanding over the top of the lid. So here is how I solved that problem.


I had planned to do coconut shells, but they were a little large. It would have meant that the sherbet was lost in the bowl, or that the serving had to be much bigger than anyone should eat in one sitting. So, I put left over fresh pineapple chuncks in the bottom of the coconut shell before adding a couple of scoops of sherbet.


Then I though, "If I'm going to use the pineapple, shouldn't you be able to see it?" So I dug out a margarita glass with a hollow stem. I put the pineapple chuncks down into the stem and about half way up in the glass. Then I scooped the sherbet on top.


Dan got the coconut shell and I got the margarita glass. We were both happy.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

This weekend I did two day tour of 80 countries.
I bought gifts for my grandchildren in Tiawan, Bolivia, Egypt, and Nepal.

I enjoyed watching interesting dance presentations in India, Scandinavia, Thiland, Bosnia, Greece, Spain, Bolivia, Liberia, Egypt, & the Appalacian US.

By eating small 'tasting' portions I managed to graze my way through Nigeria, Afganistan, Argentina, Berma, Eritrea, Peru, Pakistan, Scotland, Iran, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Belize, Turkey, Cuba, Bosnia, Thiland, Haiti, Senegal, & Brazil.

There were twice again as many cuisines that I didn't manage to get to.

It would be impossible to say which food I liked best. I like ALL of them best. But the actual experience that I enjoyed the most was the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony. I hope the lovely lady who was my gracious hostess manages to have her son check this blog entry out for her. I promised her she was the first picture I posted from the 2008 International Institute of St. Louis' annual Festival of Nations in Tower Grove Park.

First you roast the coffee beans.


While the coffee brews, set the mood with some lovely incense.


From brew pot to serving vessel.


My own cup of coffee being poured by my hostess.


And in Ethiopian I thank my hostess for that delightful experience. Ameseginalehu

August 27, 2008

Paula Deen DID NOT Create Gooey Butter Cake !

I'm really, really tired of seeing Paula Deen's name in front the words Gooey Butter Cake.

A good cook can take any recipe and make it her own, a gracious cook always gives credit to the source and inspiration for the recipe.

The buuttaahhhh, buuttaahhhh, buttaahhhh queen of southern cooking did not invent every recipe in the USA that happens to use butter in large quantity.

She can add all the peanut butter & banana, pineapple, pumpkin, or chocolate chips she chooses. She can serve twenty versions in her restaurant, and name them all after dead rock-and-roll stars if she wishes. But, Gooey Butter Cake still isn't a southern recipe, It is no more the original creation of Paula Deen than pasta is the creation of Olive Garden.

Gooey Butter Cake is a solidly Midwestern tradition from St. Louis, Missouri. Yes, for those geographically challenged on the the left and right banks of this country, Missouri is in the Midwest, not the South.

Somewhere in the ethnic German neighborhood of Bevo Mill in south St. Louis in the 1930s, an unidentified baker made a mistake with a coffee cake recipe and the rest is legend.

Up until about the early 1970s you bought your freshly baked Gooey Butter Cake in one of our many, many wonderful German bakeries. They wrapped it loosly in waxed paper and twine for you to carry home to a very impatient breakfast crowd.

Then a commercial wholesale bakery started producing it for sale in grocery stores. Now you will find it in every grocery store in the St. Louis area. It's good, but it isn't real German bakery Gooey Butter Cake. The two major mass producers are Entenmann's and Haas.


If you want something closer to the real thing, you need to try making it yourself.

I own at least a dozen local cookbooks that contain Gooey Butter Cake recipes. Most of them are the spiral bound church fund raiser type. A few of them are slick productions from groups such as the Junior League or the Missouri Governor's Mansion Preservation Society. Some of these cookbooks date back to the 1950s.

In February, 2005 I took a Gooey Butter Cake to a SlowTrav GTG in Boston. For those of you who are SlowTrav Premium members you can find the thread where I posted the recipe here: Gooey Butter Cake from the Boston GTG

My point is, Gooey Butter Cake was an established St. Louis tradition before Paula Deen was even born. Not to mention before she became the spokesperson for all foods made with butter.

But, for those of you who need written proof from a source other than the St. Louis area, here is a 1989 article in the New York Times.

Who knows, maybe Paula read that 1989 article while she was making those "Bag Lady" lunches that pre-date her celebrity. Maybe the idea went into her own personal recipe box. Maybe it became one of her favorite recipes and she has tinkered with all those various ridiculous flavors for so long she just forgot she didn't have the original idea.

I admit that I'm not a fan of Paula Deen's southern cooking style. I don't care to watch her show because it is all so loud and frantic. My taste runs to a nice low-key and relaxed Giada De Laurentiis or Ina Garten. But, I am a great admirer of Paula's self-made-woman success story. I mean this sincerely when I say that they ought to make her a case study at Harvard Business School.

I just wish she'd publicly acknowledge that she has borrowed the Gooey Butter Cake from a legion of unknown and unsung little German bakery ladies in St. Louis, Missouri.

There, I feel better now that I've gotten that off my chest.

August 31, 2008

SSS Week 4 - Lavender-Honey Ice Cream

As you may of noticed, the Sunday Slow Scoopers are freezing our way through some really yummy flavors in "The Perfect Scoop" by David Lebovitz

I can't believe we are already at week four of our fifteen week project. Week four is Nancy's week and she picked Lavender-Honey Ice Cream, p. 64.

I called my aunt, who raises culinary lavender on her ranch in No. California and ask her to send me some. Then I started thinking about how I would present the finished product for my photos and what bit of sweet I might bake to go with it.

As making ice cream gets easier and easier, the way it's served seems to have become more important to me. I have one of those stemless martini sets that seems just perfect for filling with lavender. Because I think lemon and lavender are made for each other, I made Lavender Lemon Cookies to go with the ice cream. So, I decided to add lemon slices to the serving dish.



Some of the cookies I left plain because I really liked the way the lavender and lemon peel speckled them. But, I also made a simple lavender-honey frosting to ice some of them. I like that look as well, and the icing is delicious.


September 14, 2008

SSS Week Six -- Panforte Ice Cream

This week, Colleen's selection was Panforte. A decadent take on the traditional Italian holiday cake.

When I saw the recipe, it seemed like a lot of work and I almost decided not to make it. But the ingredients were just too hard to resist...cinnamon, cloves, honey, almonds & candied orange peel. Christmas in a bowl!

So, last night, I made my candied orange peel and whipped up my mix for freezing.

This morning at 7:00 AM, after a night in the refridgerator, I put the mix in my ice cream freezer.

At 7:11 AM what was left of Hurricane Ike blew through St. Louis and the power went off. (It turns out it was going to be off for four hours.) After I realized that it wasn't coming back on right away, I mixed the nuts and orange peel into the mix and put it in a container for the deep freeze. It was the consistancy of a Ted Drewes custard. Not exactly scoop ready.

The power came back on at 11:40 AM and I got out the ice cream to try to form at least a soft scoop for my photograph.


Then I put the whole mess right back into the container and in the fridge to thaw. I figured I would try a refreeze once my ice cream maker's freezer bowl was solid again.

I started thinking that if it didn't refreeze properly, I'd at least have the base for a killer eggnog! Then I started thinking that I wanted a killer eggnog. So I scooped three ounces out and strained it into a glass, added an ounce of my homemade 44 Cordial and a cinnamon stick.



September 21, 2008

SSS Week Seven -- Cinnamon Ice Cream

Another super easy recipe that tastes rich and creamy. I love anything spicy, so I was very happy with the strong cinnamon.

My intention was to serve this ice cream paired with apple pie. I went to Dierberg's this morning to buy some baking apples, and there in a huge case...the first Merb's Bionic Apples of the season!!!!!


There is just no use in trying to describe Merb's Bionic Apples to the unitiated. They are tart, crisp granny smith apples about the size of a softball, wrapped in caramel and nuts.

I abandoned the apple pie idea and grabbed four Bionic Apples. At $5.50 each, it is an investment.


When I got home with them, I cut the top third off; scooped out the center about half way down; and chopped the caramel and nuts from the top third up to use as garnish.


I filled the center with three scoops of Cinnamon Ice Cream and topped with the caramel & nuts.

September 28, 2008

SSS Week Eight --- Blueberry Honey-Gorgonzola Ice Cream

This week, Palma chose our first "unusual" flavor. Honey-Roquefort.

It's been a crazy busy week for me, so I really didn't have time to stop at the market. I discovered the selection of blue cheeses in my fridge was limited to one - Gorgonzola. So, that became my cheese choice. I have about four kinds of honey. But only one of the jars had enough in it for the recipe. So, the honey became blueberry blossom honey.

(thanks to Prelock Blueberry Farm of Lafayette, IN for this cool picture.)

As I was it in its ice bath, I decided that I really didn't like the dingy gray color the gorgonzola gave the mix.

The next morning when I poured it into the freezer, I still didn't like the color.

Then I thought: "What the heck, the honey came from the blueberry blossom and gorgonzola is a cheese that just screams to be paired with fruit. Why not add frozen blueberries to the mix?"

The blueberries tinted the ice cream a very subtle shade. Just enough to overcome the gray.


I served my Blueberry Honey-Gorgonzola Ice Cream with a blueberry-honey topping.

October 5, 2008

SSS Week Nine --- No Crepes

For week nine of the Sunday Slow Scoopers, Sandy chose crepes and told us to make any ice cream we wanted to enjoy with them. I quickly settled on Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream. But then got lazy and decided not to make the crepes. So technically, I guess you could say I didn't really participate this week.


October 12, 2008

SSS Week Ten - Green Apple & Sparkling Cider Sorbet

I can't believe it is week TEN already. Shannon picked this week, and it was a perfect selection for the beginning of apple season.

I love the recipes that don't call for making a custard base. It is so much easier. And except for the mess of straining out the apple peels, this was a breeze to make.

After boiling the apples in the sparkling cider (I chose to use the alcohol free since I was too lazy to go to the store), I allowed them to cool in the covered pan to room temperature.


Then I strained out the peels by pushing the apples through the holes of a spaghetti strainer. I chilled the mixture in the refrigerator overnight and then put it in my icecream freezer.


Today, we scooped it into a champagne glass and topped it with some of my homemade Pistachio Liqueur. It was very good. Pistachio and green apple are a nice combination.

After we tasted that, I had the brainstorm of making a Sparkling Cider Float.


I put a few scoops in a water goblet; filled it with Sparkling Cider; and then topped it with a generous splash of my homemade Rose Liqueur.

That was an amazing combination!!!!

October 19, 2008

SSS Week Eleven - Chocolate of Our Choice

Chris, bless her heart, decided we should all pick our favorite chocolate ice cream recipe from the book for this weeks assignment.

I chose the recipe for Aztec Chocolate for my base, but then changed a key ingredient from cayenne pepper to ground ginger. The ginger provides a surprise spicyness that I love.

I rough-chopped some of my Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered candied ginger to mix in for a little interesting texture.


It is quite delicious, but the one change I will make next time is to replace both the cayenne AND the cinnamon with the ginger - not just the cayenne. The cinnamon is too strong a flavor to let the ginger shine through.

December 8, 2008

SlowSoupers Week 3 - Butternut Squash

Krista selected a lovely Butternut Squash soup for her week in our SlowTrav "Sunday Slow Soupers" challenge.

I really liked her recipe because it leaned toward the savory rather than the sweet that you often see in squash or pumpkin type soups.

Here is my final dish. I used sour cream instead of regular cream as my garnish and saved a few pieces of the pancetta to sprinkle on top.


We had one bowl for supper last night, pronounced it delicious and a keeper. Then, as has become my practice, I put all the rest in a plastic container to take to the store this morning.

Our Monday morning managers' meeting starts at 7 AM, so I leave the house about 6:45 AM. This time of year means that it is still quite dark outside. I paid no attention to the shiny sidewalk -- that is until I was looking at it from about 3 inches away.

My feet went out from under me and I hit the ground so fast I didn't have time to realize what was happening, much less try to brace myself or to save the soup.


Fortunately, all I got out of it was a splattered coat, jammed shoulder and perhaps a hairline crack in my left index finger. Not sure about that yet.

I came back in the house and woke Dan up to tell him he had a clean up job on the front walk waiting for him when the sun came up. Poor guy.

I changed clothes, threw my coat into the washer, and prepared to leave again. This time a bit more carefully. But, then I couldn't find my car key. I grabbed my coat out of the washer and searched the pocket. Then I retraced my steps all through the house. No key.

Finally I decided to search the yard to see if I had tossed it in my fall. But I couldn't see it lying anywhere. In the dirt of the flower bed or the dead grass, it should have stood out.

Oh, wait! What is that lump lying next to the edging brick, under the soup?


December 28, 2008

SSS - Week 6 - Hoppin' John Soup

This week Shannon decided to honor new year tradition by selecting a recipe for a soup version of Hoppin' John.

My father's family migrated through the Carolina's and settled in Mississippi where Hoppin' John was an important New Year's tradition for my grandmother. She served it for breakfast on New Year's morning with cornbread.

The two things that are traditional to Hoppin' John, but not included in the soup version are tomatoes and rice. I decided to add some rice to the soup but skipped the tomatoes.

As usual I start by collecting all my ingredients.


It's a pretty easy recipe to put together. A little saute first.


Then some hanging out in the pot.


And its ready to eat.


January 7, 2009

SSS - Week 8 - Portuguese Caldo Verde Soup

Two years ago, when I was researching our trip to Spain and Portugal, I followed my usual m.o. and focused a lot of that research on foods of the regions we would be visiting.

I found only one good cookbook devoted to Portugal. "The Food of Portugal" by Jean Anderson. And what a lucky find that was. Not only was it a wonderful book that was as much travel guide as it was cookbook, it also led me to a delightful email exchange with Jean, who graciously shared her years of Portugal travel experience and incomparable advice.

I've prepared many recipes from Jean's book. They never fail to take me back to the meals we enjoyed on our trip. No single dish says Portugal more to me than Caldo Verde. So, when it was my turn to choose a soup for our SlowTrav's Sunday Slow Soupers it was a no-brainer.


Below is Jean’s description, copied word-for-word from pages 97 & 98 of her book. Enjoy!

Green Soup - Caldo Verde

What makes this potato-thickened soup so green are hundreds of filaments of kale-like cabbage. According to Maria de Lourdes Modesto, star of a Lisbon television cooking show and author of the dazzling Cozinha Tradicional Portuguesa, what Portuguese women use for making caldo verde is the intensely green Galician cabbage (couve gallego), which has large, flat, tender leaves. At country markets you see women stacking the leaves, rolling them into fat “cigars,” then shaving them into the finest of shreds by whisking razor-sharp knives back and forth across the rolls at breathtaking speed. At more modern markets, like Lisbon’s Mercado da Ribeira, rolls of cabbage are fed into giant hand-cranked shredding wheels, each with a plastic bag at the back to catch the flying bits. If Portugal has a national dish, it is without doubt this lusty green soup, which originated in the Minho Province but now bubbles on stoves everywhere regardless of the season or temperature. To be truly authentic, each serving should contain a slice of salpicão (cured loin of pork) or chouriço (garlicky sausage). Obviously, because these Portuguese ingredients are often unavailable here, some concessions must be made. Collards, kale or turnip greens, I’ve found, make a good substitute for the Galician cabbage; spinach may be used in a pinch; even mustard greens, provided you shave them fine enough to cook quickly. As for the sausage, use a Spanish chorizo or Italian pepperoni if the Portuguese chouriço is unobtainable.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 large yellow onion, peeled and minced fine
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 large Maine or Eastern potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
2 quarts cold water
6 ounces chouriço, chorizo, pepperoni, or other dry garlicky sausage, sliced thin
2½ teaspoons salt (about)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound collards, kale, or turnip greens, washed, trimmed of course stems and veins, then sliced filament-thin. (The easiest way is to stack 6 to 8 leaves, roll crosswise into a firm, tight roll, then slice with a very sharp knife.)

The following four pictures are a demonstration for preparing the greens.






Sauté the onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy saucepan 2 to 3 minutes over moderate heat until they begin to color and turn glassy; do not brown or they will turn bitter. Add the potatoes and sauté, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes, until they begin to color also. Add the water, cover, and boil gently over moderate heat 20 to 25 minutes until the potatoes are mushy. Meanwhile, fry the sausage in a medium-size heavy skillet over low heat 10 to 12 minutes until most of the fat has cooked out, drain well and reserve.


When the potatoes are soft, remove the pan from the stove and with a potato masher, mash the potatoes right in the pan in the soup mixture. Add the sausage, collards and simmer uncovered 5 minutes until tender. Mix in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and taste the soup for salt and pepper.


Ladle into large soup plates and serve as a main course accompanied by chunks of Broa. Deborah’s note: (Broa is a heavy yeast-raised corn bread from northern Portugal. The recipe is complicated and involves a 500 degree oven, bricks and steam. I haven’t had the nerve to make it yet. But if any of you are game, it is on page 239 of Jean’s book.

January 27, 2009

My Three New Cookbooks

I bought three new cookbooks. I'm really excited about all of them. I'll tell you about them in a minute. But first, to continue to honor my New Year resolutions -- these are the six things that went into our donation barrels to make up for bringing those three items into my house:

Four pairs of shoes that are in good shape. They just hurt my feet or they are styles I'll never wear.


Two digital cameras that both work but with limitations that are no longer acceptable.


Now, to the cookbooks!

The first one came into the store shortly before Christmas. I'm a sucker for anything published by DK. I love their Eyewitness and their Rough Guide books. I love their, reference books and kids educational books. They have a well developed formula that combines layout style, formatting, and over-the-top use of color photography to present any subject they choose in a fresh and friendly way.

So, when The Illustrated Kitchen Bible: 1,000 Family Recipes From Around the World showed up on our new cookbook table, I was immediately sold. It's a huge book. Over 500 pages in an oversized coffeetable format. It could be a doorstop.


At a price point of $35.00 this is the perfect bridal or house warming gift. It's very approachable for the inexperinced cook, but isn't so basic that a skilled home cook would be insulted.

A few weeks ago, a woman came into the store looking for cookbooks on traditional African cooking. She wanted to do a culinary tour of various countries and regions of Africa. She was also interested to see in recipe form how much different her own African American cooking was from its "old country" roots. The problem was, with cooking in Africa passing from generation to generation without written recipes or cookbooks, choices were slim. After some searching, we found "70 Traditional African Recipes" by Rosamund Grant and published by British company, Southwater. Rosamund Grant is quite well know in London, if not so well know here in the US.


At a give-away price of $9.99, this thin, but colorful cookbook is only 94 pages and staple bound. But it is packed with beautiful pictures, cooking history, and product and ingredient information. It may be only 70 recipes, but they are all presented to tantalize. The countries respresented: Morocco, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, & Mozambique.
Some of the tempting recipes: Yam Balls, Akkras (a fritter made with black-eyed peas), Lamb Tagine with Coriander & Spices, Duck with Sherry and Pumpkin, Cameroon Coconut Rice, Kenyan Mung Bean Stew, & Banana Mandazi.

A new cookbook author was recently booked for a signing in my store. She'll be coming through St. Louis in the spring on her book tour.

I almost didn't buy Scratch That: Seasonal Menus & Perfect Pairings, by Connie Fairbanks. Mainly because I knew she'd be here in a few months and I thought I'd just wait for her visit. But then I started flipping through the book. At $35.00 and just under 200 pages in soft cover, it is a bit pricey. But, I have to say, I do love her concept of easy but elegant seasonal menus with pairing recommendations.


She divides the book into spring/summer & fall/winter. Then she offers complete menus for a variety of occasions in each season.providing the recipes for each complete menu.

For example in the Spring & Summer category you will find "First Barbeque on the Deck". The menu includes:
Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Curdites and Toasted Pita Bread paired with Aromatic White Wine (Viognier or Riesling)
Chilled Cantaloupe Soup paired with Prosecco
Cedar-Plank Salmon, Grilled Asparagus, & Grilled Sweet Potatoes paired with Pinot Noir
Mom's Rhubarb-Meringue Cream Pie paired with Coffee

In the Fall & Winter category you will find "A Night in Barcelona". The menu includes:
Roasted Red Peppers with Manchego Cheese and Serrano Ham
Spicy Mussels & Crusty Country Bread paired with Cava
Pork Tenderloin with White Beans and Spinach paird with Rioja
Fresh Fruit with Chocolate Sauce followed by Espresso

I think Connie's book signing is going to be one I'm going to enjoy -- a lot!

February 11, 2009

Oh, No! They've Discovered Flippers

My favorite place to eat when we visit my brother on Lover's Key near Ft. Myers Beach is right next door -- FLIPPERS


It's casual & friendly. Great food coming out of a tiny kitchen to a not much bigger outdoor only dining deck.
I'm addicted to the mussels.


And the coconut shrimp. In fact, I usually just order the two appetizers as my meal.


But, while we were there last week, the unthinkable happened. They received a glowing review in the local newspaper.

Naples Daily News

My sister-in-law always order the crab cakes. The other night, they were out of them. We asked the waiter if he was seeing new faces. He said lots, and lots. Hmmm. Good for Flippers, I guess. Not so good for those of us who would have loved to keep the place a local secret.

February 13, 2009

Jean Anderson COOKS!!

It is no secret that I'm not a fan of a certain shrill Southern TV celebrity and her cookbooks. You can see that from my 08/27/08 blog rant about Gooey Butter Cake. But, hey, different strokes for different folks, right?

Anyway, I'm so excited about my new cookbook (published in Oct. 2007) by a cookbook writer who has seriously earned my respect. I just had to share the info.

Jean Anderson is the woman who gave me all that great dining and travel advice when I was planning our 2007 trip to Portugal.

Even though she was busy working on this book A Love Affair with Southern Cooking, she graciously answered my many, many questions about Portugal.


Here is what I like about Jean Anderson as a cookbook author. The recipes in Jean's books are researched, tested and re-tested BY HER, not by unnamed research staff who are the real talent behind the celebrity. She knows that the kind of reader she attracts likes to know the stories & history of great recipes. And she gives them to you.

She is a cookbook lovers' writer and a solid journalist. She can write. If she wanted to write and adventure thriller, or the next sappy romance, rest assured they would be well written. She is also a cookbook writer's advocate. She loves well written cookbooks -- even if she didn't write them herself. And she promotes other author's cookbooks generously.

PLUS, she put an email I sent her about Caldo Verde on her website and it mentions SlowTrav & SlowTalk. So that's very cool, too! Jean is working on a new cookbook now, and then in the fall she will be leaving the country for an assignment from Gourmet magazine. So, if any SlowTravelers find themselves in the same neighborhood -- tell her hello and invite her to an impromptu GTG. :grin:

February 17, 2009

Hurry Up August

I'm sitting here on a cold February day, thinking back on August and the wonderful foods I enjoyed at the Festival of Nations. Sponsored each year by the International Institute of St. Louis.


I wasn't able to sample all of the 30 plus countries' food booths, but I did either eat or photograph samples of the following:
1) Afganistan, 2) Argentina, 3) Bosnia, 4) Burma, 5) Eritrea, 6) Ethopia, 7) Haiti, 8) Iran, 9) Nigeria, 10) Peru, & 11) Vietnam.
So for today, to help me remember, I think I'll just post some wonderful food pictures. No descriptions, no country named. I'll make this a game and let you try to guess which picture represents which country's food booth. Some of them are give-aways because of other things showing up in the pictures. Some are going to be very hard.
Just match the country number above with the food picture letter below. Post your guess. The winner is invited to St. Louis to join me next August to sample the great food for yourself.

Fun game, huh?

A) PeruvianFood.JPG

B) ArgentinaFood.JPG

C) KurdishFood.JPG

D) burmafood.JPG

E) EthiopianFood.JPG

F) AfganFood.JPG

G) VietnameseFood.JPG

H) NigerianFood.JPG

I) BosnianFood.JPG

J) EritreanFood.JPG

K) HatianFood.JPG

OK, so here's the answers:
A - Peru
B- Argentina
C- Iran (actually Kurdish)
D- Burma
E- Ethopia
F- Afganistan
G- Vietnam
H- Nigeria
I- Bosnia
J- Eritrea
K- Haiti

So, Candi & Girasoli -- you tie. The good news is our we have two guest rooms. Plenty of room for both of you to take a trip to St. Louis in August. If you can stand the weather, that is. :grin:

February 24, 2009

Salmon/Artichoke Pasta

This is one of our favorite wintertime pastas because it doesn't require any fresh produce.


12 oz – Fresh salmon cut into 1” cubes
14oz can – quartered artichoke hearts, rinsed very well and drained
Juice of 2 medium lemons
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup good dry white wine
4 oz plain fresh goat cheese
¼ cup finely grated pecorino romano
¼ cup chopped mildly flavored green olives
¼ cup milk for thinning

In a food processor emulsify olive oil in lemon juice along with salt, pepper & parsley
Put the salmon cubes and ½ of the artichokes in a bowl, add lemon mixture and toss.
Cover and refrigerate for several hours stirring once or twice


Puree other half of artichokes
Melt butter in saute pan over medium high heat.

Remove salmon cubes from marinade and saute in melted butter until they begin to develop a light brown crust.
Scoop salmon from pan and set aside.


Reduce heat and deglaze pan with the wine but do not allow the wine to evaporate
Add both cheeses and stir until melted and creamy. If necessary, thin slightly with milk.
Add olives, pureed artichokes, and the marinade with the quartered artichokes to pan
Heat, stirring almost continually, while pasta is cooking. (Use whatever pasta you like, but I think that spaghetti or linguini would work best.)


At the last minute stir salmon cubes back into sauce
Toss with pasta to mix.

Serves 4 as a main course, 6-8 as a primo

February 26, 2009

The Virtues of Coffee

I have this really cool book called "Early American Beverages", by John Hull Brown.


It is filled with interesting little tidbits about various drink concoctions. Some of them sound quite strange and so very out of touch with today's information.

However, one of the articles the book quotes is from a cookbook called "Family Receipt Book" (yes that is the way it is spelled). Published in 1819, and discussing a newly discovered drink.

I'm quoting word for word:

VIRTUES OF COFFEE: Coffee accelerates digestion corrects crudities, removes colic and flatulencies. It mitigates headaches, cherishes the animal spirits, takes away listlessness and languor, and is servicable in all obstructions arising from languid circulation. It is a wonderful restorative to emaciated constitutions, and highly refreshing to the studious and sedentary.
The habitual use of coffee would greatly promote sobriety being in itself a cordial stimulant; it is a most powerful antidote to the temptations of spirituous liquors.
It will be found a welcome beverage to the robust labourer, whou would despise a lighter drink.

Family Receipt Book then follows this glowing praise for coffee with a recipe for its preparation:

FOR IMPROVING COFFEE: To valetudinarians and others, the following method of making coffee for breakfast is earnestly recommended as a most wholesome and pleasant jentacular beverage, first ordered by an able physician.
Let one ounce of fresh ground coffee be put into a clean coffee-pot, or other proper vessel well thinned: pour a pint and a quarter of boiling water upon it, set it on the fire, let it boil thoroughly, and afterwards put by to settle; this should be done on the proceeding night, and on the following morning pour off the clear liquor; add to it one pint of new milk; set it again over the fire, but do not let it boil. Sweetened to every person's taste, coffee thus made is a most wholesome and agreeable breakfast, summer or winter, with toast, bread and butter, rusks, biscuits, & c. This process takes off that raw, acidous, and astringent quality of the coffee, which makes it often disagree with weak stomachs. It should not be drank too warm.
A gentleman of the first fortune in the kingdom, after a variety of medical applications in vain, was restored to health by applying to the above beverage morning and afternoon.

March 2, 2009

What Kind of Cook Are You

Looking for something to post today, I found this on BlogThings.

You Are a Creative Cook

Your cooking is unusual, inspired, and definitely one of a kind. People love your unique style, but you've had your share of kitchen flops.

You have the makings of a cult chef. You may not cook at the Four Seasons, but you could have your own little funky cafe in San Francisco!

April 26, 2009



Eden of My Blog: Wanderings and Wonderings not only kicked off our new food challenge this spring, but she graciously bowed to our gentle pressure to make her selection the salad she had posted on the food forum. We had all drooled over it at the time.

One of the things I love about salads are how forgiving they are. You can mess with them - a lot. And get away with it. It's not like baking where the formula is the secret to your success.

Eden's recipe is delightfully non-specific. Her recommended ingredients were:
Blood oranges - Mixed greens of your choice - Candied pecans - Dried cranberries - Berries of your choice - Feta cheese - dressing of your choice.

Here's my take on the ingredients:


The blood oranges I had were so dark purple, they were almost black. Beautiful, but a bit past their prime.


They didn't quite have the orangy zing they needed to carry the salad as the star ingredient. But I had some absolutely lucious strawberries. So, I made them the focal point and used only a few pieces of the oranges. Then I used the juice in my dressing.

My dressing was blood orange juice, lemon juice, raspberry balsamic, & olive oil with only fresh cracked pepper for seasoning. I didn't add a grain of salt to either salad or dressing.

Here's a picture of the finished salad.


May 3, 2009

SSS Week #2 - Black Bean Salad


Judy chose a delicious sounding salad for our second week. But then, I'm a sucker for cold rice salads of any type. My selection for my week in June will be a cold rice salad, too. (although a very different flavor profile)

Here is Judy's recipe - adjusted for my own preferences. You can see her original recipe in our salads thread on SlowTalk.

2 cups dried black beans prepared according to overnight soaking method. NO salt.

Rinse in cold water until water runs clear. Drain completely.

3 cups cooked brown rice. Leaning toward slightly undercooking to avoid mushiness. Also rinse in cold water and drain completely.

Dice in a uniform size to black beans the following:
1- large orange pepper
1- large green pepper
1- medium size red onion

4- 2"-3" long fresh jalapeno peppers
6- garlic cloves

Thaw and drain:
1 1/2 cups- Trader Joe's frozen roasted corn kernels

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss for even distribution.

Prepare a fresh dressing of the following ingredients, emulsifying with a stick blender:

1/2 cup- High quality olive oil (I used Mauro's, of course)
Zest of four limes
1/3 cup- fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tsp- prepared yellow mustard (don't use brown mustard)
3 cloves- minced garlic
3- roasted poblano peppers from a jar
1 tsp- ground cumin
1 tsp- chili powder
2 tsp- dried cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Toss salad with dressing. Cover and refridgerate to meld flavors. Toss again just before serving, adding in fresh chopped cilantro if desired.

May 9, 2009

SSS Week #3 - Raw Asparagus, Pea, and Arugula Salad

Our wonderfully bright, green salad for week three was selected by Amy

Here is her recipe adjusted to my choices:

For the dressing--put these ingredients in the food processor, and whirl to combine:

* 1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
* 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1 shallot, minced
* 1/4 cup pistachio oil
* 1/4 cup light-tasting olive oil
* Salt--a pinch
* Pepper--a few grinds

For salad:

1 lb fat asparagus
2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 lb arugula (about 6 cups)
1 cup toasted pistachios
a chunk of good parmesan cheese

Snap off woody bottom ends of the asparagus.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the stems all the way up, stopping just at the tips.
Cut off the tips, and blanch the tips for 2 minutes.
Slice the stems on the diagonal in one-inch diagonal slices.
Put the arugula in a bowl, and toss with just enough dressing to lightly coat.
In another bowl, combine the asparagus tips, cut-up stems, and the peas.
Toss this mixture with dressing as well.
Place a serving of the arugula on each salad plate.
Top arugula with a portion of the vegetables.
Shave large slices of the parmesan cheese with a vegetable peeler, and add to the salads. Sprinkle on nuts, and serve.

Since this was an all-green salad, I decided to use pistachio oil and nuts, although Amy suggested several choices.


May 17, 2009

SSS Week #4 - Thai Chicken Salad

Jerry Drew week four of our SlowTrav's Sunday Salad Samplers.

His choice was a winner with me even before I studied the recipe. Anything Thai is a winner with me. EVERYTHING Thai is a winner with me.

I'm not going to repeat the post of the full recipe. You will find it in the blog entries of most of our participants.

I'm just going to show you the finished product. Digitally immortalized since it is already all gone. We had it for lunch yesterday, again for supper, and I finished off the last of it as a bedtime snack.


May 31, 2009

SSS Week #6 - Fajita Salad with Creamy Cilantro-Lime Sauce

This week Kim chose A dish that brings to mind my third favorite cuisine - Mexican. (see PhotoHunt post from yesterday.)

I've linked to her blog, so I won't repeat the entire recipe here.

Instead, I'll just make note of the few changes I made. One, I also grilled the onions and peppers, just as almost everyone else did. Two, I can't imagine NOT including avocado, but for a twist, I blended two into my sauce instead of just slicing them into the salad. Three, I left the vinegar out of the sauce recipe. Four, I made it a build your own at the table. And, Five, I decided to use tostada bowls.




This recipe made a LOT of salad. So, Dan and I had ours for dinner tonight and I packed the rest to take to the store tomorrow as a surprise for Sharon. Shhhh. Don't tell her.

June 7, 2009

SSS - Week # 7 - Roasted Corn & Wild Rice Salad

It's my week to pick the salad for our SlowTalk Sunday Slow Salad group.

I wanted to choose an easy, picnic-friendly recipe for hot summer days that could be left out for an extended time without fear of spoilage.

I got this recipe on the internet a few years ago. Unfortunately, I can't remember where in order to give proper credit. It's one of my family's favorites and requested at almost every gathering.

The recipe is very easy. It keeps well and freezes well. You can serve it both chilled or at room temperature. This makes a pretty big batch, so don't be afraid to halve it.


1 package - uncooked wild rice. (the original recipe called for wild rice blend, but I prefer the stronger flavors of only wild rice.)
2 cups - frozen roasted corn nibblets (I use Trader Joes)
1 cup - finely chopped celery
3/4 cup - shredded carrot
3/4 cup - Craisins
2/3 cup - toasted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup - finely chopped red onion
1/3 cup - raspberry vinegar
1 tbs - olive oil
1 tbs - low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp - grated orange peel
1/2 tsp - pepper

Cook rice according to package directions: omit salt and fat. Cool.
Combine rice, corn and all other ingredients in a bowl; stir well; chill overnight to blend flavors.
Serve cold from fridge or bring to room temp if you prefer. (I like room temp., Dan likes cold)

Here is a close-up shot of the finished salad.


June 14, 2009

The Life Cycle of a Lobster Dinner

Yesterday I was telling a friend about how much I'm looking forward to the fabulous Scottish seafood -- specifically langostino. We are only 7 days away from enjoying it for ourselves. My thoughts strayed to past great seafood meals.

I think there is no other food so meant to be enjoyed "at the source" as food from the ocean.

When we were in Muxia, Galicia, Spain, we experienced precebes (barnacles). The locals harvest them and rush them to the restaurants to be eaten that day. We spent the morning watching the harvesters and then enjoyed the fruits of their labor for lunch. The fresh sea taste is amazing.


Sitting in a seaside restaurant in in Gallipoli, Puglia (the heel of Italy) we watched our waiter go outside and call down to the fishermen who were mending nets on the pier below. A minute later a scooter pulled up to the door and the waiter carried a still dripping mesh bag full of my mussels in for the chef to turn them into this....


On the coast of Maine, the life cycle of a lobster dinner is short.

Here is the dock where the lobster boats store their traps between runs. The lobsters we were about to enjoy came in here and were delivered to the adjoining kitchen only minutes before they were on our tray.


Dan waits for his turn to pick up our order.


Bibs in place, dig in.




Scotland, here we come. Our first stop will be here: Temple Seafood

August 2, 2009

SSS Week 15 - Palma's Tropical Rice Salad

I'm back on the SlowTrav Sunday Slow cooking track. I missed some really great salads while we were gone. I hope to catch up at some point. But, in the meantime, I couldn't have come back to a better choice than Palma's!

I made very few changes in the recipe as presented. I did want to swing the flavor profile a little more toward the asian and away from the tropical. So I used my favorite quality sushi rice instead of plain white rice. I also eliminated the canned mandarin oranges and used fresh pineapple instead of canned.


The sushi rice absorbed the flavors of the chicken stock very nicely. To manage the stickiness, I cooled it down rapidly in an ice bath. It had just the right amount of stick to bind with the fresh ingredients of the salad, and yet not be clumpy.


I added chopped fresh cilantro and red pepper flakes to the dressing and served with pineapple glazed, grilled chicken strips.


Thanks, Palma, for another great recipe. You're one of my foodie heros.

September 3, 2009

SSB - Week 1 - Shrimp

SlowTravel friends were here last week for the St. Louis GTG. Friday evening we went to a local Italian restaurant. Of course, I insisted that those who had never tasted them had to try the St. Louis tradition -- “Toasted Ravioli”. Served as an appetizer, it's a meat stuffed ravioli, dipped in egg, then in Italian breadcrumbs, and deep fried. This gave me a crazy idea for my first appetizer of the new Small Bites challenge.

This new challenge is different. Instead of each of us preparing the same recipe each week, we are preparing our own appetizer - or Small Bite - take on a single main ingredient. Cindy drew week one to pick the ingredient and selected shrimp. So here is my recipe.

Shrimp Stuffed, Deep Fried Pasta Shells


Fortunately, I had a kitchen full of the most wonderful people, telling me the idea wasn't so crazy. They taste tested and suggesting additions to the filling spices. (more cayenne, more cayenne, more cayenne).

They pitched in and peeled shrimp. They wrapped prociutto. They dipped & breaded. And when all was said and done, they graciously ate the results. A cook can't ask for more!

3 dozen — jumbo pasta shells cooked al dente, rinsed in cold water and patted dry
3 dozen — medium raw shrimp, shelled & cleaned and patted dry
Prosciutto—thinly sliced, enough to wrap a small piece around each shrimp

For Filling: (whip together with fork)
1 - egg beaten
1—12 oz carton whole milk ricotta
1/2 c—grated parmigiano
2 T—Penzey’s Fox Point seasoning
2 T—Italian herb mix
1 t — cayenne pepper powder
Pepper & salt to taste

For Coating:
2-3 — eggs, beaten
2 C — Italian bread crumbs

To Assemble:

Wrap each shrimp in a small piece of prosciutto


Holding a shell in one hand, place a scant teaspoon of filling in center.
Top the filling with the wrapped shrimp.
Add another scant teaspoon of filling to top shrimp.


Dip finger in beaten egg and wipe on edges of shell.
Fold edges around shrimp filling and seal.

To Cook:

Dip in beaten egg abd roll in Italian bread crumbs


Deep fry in hot canola oil until shells float and turn golden brown. (do not crowd in oil)


Remove and let rest on parchment lined tray for at least five minutes before serving.


Serve with a sprinkle of parmigiano and marinara sauce for dipping.

September 13, 2009

SSB - Week 2 - Crab

It was Ida's turn to pick the "featured ingredient" for our SlowTrav Small Bites challange. She chose crab. I am going to continue to try to create an original recipe for each ingredient. So here's my effort for crab.


THAI CRAB CUPS (yield approximately 45 cups)

2 tbs sesame or peanut oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 fresh red chili, minced
1 thumb-size piece ginger, diced into sticks
¼ cup white cooking wine
3/4 cups chicken broth
1 tbs. Thai chili sauce
1/8 cup ketchup
1 tbs. soy sauce (or tamari)
2 tbs. fish sauce
8 oz all white meat flaked crab
1 tbs. cornstarch powder, dissolved in 2 tbs. water
1 egg
1 1/2 cups prepared high gluten rice of your choice

1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
2/3 cup Thai chili sauce
3 green onions, sliced

6 long seedless cucumbers
½ cup shredded carrots
Bunch fresh cilantro

Step 1 - Filling:

Heat oil in wok and add the shallots, garlic, red chili, and ginger.
Saute 2 minutes over medium to high heat then add wine.


Add chicken broth, chili sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, and fish sauce.
Stir well over medium-high.


Add crab and stir gently for a couple of minutes.
Disolve cornstarch in water. Beat in whole egg.
Add the egg mixture to the wok. Stir well to combine (the egg mixture will thicken the sauce). Turn down the heat to low, and continue to stir.


Remove from heat and mix in the already cooked rice. Transfer to a sealed container and chill overnight in refrigerator.


Step 2 - Make the serving sauce:
Combine peanut butter and Thai chili sauce. Garnish with green onion.

Step 3 - Assemble:

Clean and cut cucumber in 1 inch pieces
Using the large end of a melon scooper, scoop out centers of each cucumber piece, leaving a bottom and wall to form a cup.


Fill with chilled crab/rice mixture
Arrange 2-3 carrot sticks and a cilantro leaf on top.


If you are not planning to serve immediately, cover with plastic wrap and chill. Can be chilled overnight if you like.

September 20, 2009

SSB Week 3 - Sun Dried Tomatoes

I was very happy with Amy’s selection of Sun-Dried Tomatoes as our feature ingredient for week three.

I thought it would be a slam-dunk, because I could just post my Sun Dried Tomato Liqueur recipe. After all, I serve it before a meal as a aperitif.

But, then I started thinking about the container of left over sun-dried tomatoes in my freezer. These are the tomatoes I saved after soaking them in the grain alcohol to make the liqueur. I really ought to find a way to use them to create another recipe.

So, I made a high octane version of Fabio Picchi’s famous Tomato Aspic. If you’ve visited Florence, the chances are you’ve dined at Il Cibreo or it's more informal sister Trattoria Cibreo. And if you’ve dined at either, chances are you’ve enjoyed this dish.

My version substitutes the alcohol soaked and pureed sun-dried tomatoes for the fresh plum tomatoes in Fabio’s recipe and requires some other adjustments. I drastically reduced the amount of garlic and salt because alcohol enhances those flavors and they would be too strong, otherwise. But, basically, I did follow the “spirit” of the recipe.

To serve, I decided to pair the liqueur with the aspic on the same small bite plate, so I molded the aspic in one-ounce medicine cups rather than the full 4 ounce size mold. As a counterpoint, I added a fresh baked parmigiano crisp to the plate.


You can find my recipe for Sun-Dried Tomato Liqueur in this previous blog post.

Here’s the recipe for High Octane Tomato Aspic

1 1/2 cups pureed, alcohol soaked sun-dried tomatoes
Juice from 4-5 fresh tomatoes strained (more may be required)
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons fresh minced basil
1 clove garlic minced
1 small hot red pepper minced or red pepper flakes to taste (I used a Thai chili.)
1/2 teas. sea salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a medium sized glass mixing bowl combine the pureed tomatoes and the fresh tomato juice.
Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a 3 cup glass measuring cup, pressing as much juice as possible out.
If the resulting liquid does not reach 2 1/4 cups add more fresh tomato juice to the remaining pulp; stir to mix and strain into the measuring cup.
Repeat the process until you have 2 1/4 cups strained pulp/juice combination that has the consistency of tomato soup.
Put 1/4 cup of the liquid in a shallow bowl and sprinkle with the entire package of gelatin. Stir and soak for 3 minutes.
Heat 1/2 cup of the liquid to boiling in a non-reactive pan. Add this to the gelatin mixture and stir to finish dissolving gelatin.
Put this mixture back into the 3 cup measuring cup with the remaining 1 1/2 cups of the original liquid. Add the remaining ingredients and whip vigorously with a fork.

Pour into cups and chill for at least 3 hours. Un-mold into the bowl of a spoon, drizzle with a small amount of EVOO and garnish with a fresh sprig of basil.

Makes about 18-20 servings.

September 26, 2009

SSB - Week 4 - Whipped Avocado in Spicy Polenta Cups

This is a long post, because I really want it to be not only my SlowTalk Small Bites challenge for this week, but much more importantly, I want it to highlight this contest:

O Foods Contest for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and for the second year in a row, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are hosting the O Foods Contest to raise awareness of this important health issue.

There are TWO WAYS to take part in the O Foods Contest:

ONE: Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato); include this entire text box in the post; and send your post url along with a photo (100 x 100) to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

PRIZES for recipe posts:

* 1st: Signed copy of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma, Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who is currently battling ovarian cancer, inspired this event, and will be choosing her favorite recipe for this prize;

* 2nd: Signed copy of Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home by Mario Batali (winner chosen by Sara);

* 3rd: Signed copy of Vino Italiano: The Regional Italian Wines of Italy by Joseph Bastianich (winner chosen by Michelle).


TWO: If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word and send your post url to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

Awareness posts PRIZE:

* One winner chosen at random will receive a Teal Toes tote bag filled with ovarian cancer awareness goodies that you can spread around amongst your friends and family.


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 symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose, but include bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).
* 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%.

And remember, you can also always donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at Michelle's page through FirstGiving!
Please help spread the word about ovarian cancer.
Together we can make enough noise to kill this silent killer.

*************NOW TO THE RECIPE ITSELF************

It's week four of our SlowTrav Sunday Small Bites challenge, and I'm still managing to avoid the cookbooks as I try to dream up my own recipes. This week's special ingredient, AVOCADO, was chosen by Annie.

I wanted to feature the avocado, but not just use it in its natural state. Avocado is so strongly tied to southwestern flavors in my mind, that I decided to intentionally avoid them. So before I go any further, I want to give a nod to my new favorite cooking inspiration resource. The Flavor Bible by Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg. I love, love, love this book! It gave me the information that avocado paired well with bacon and with corn. So I took that information and thought...bacon=pancetta and corn=polenta. Ergo, Italian.


There are only five main ingredients, so this recipe is quick to pull together.


For Polenta Cups:
1—Roll Pre-cooked Polenta, grated (because I’m lazy)
2—Tablespoons Italian herbs mix (I used Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset)
1/2—Teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less based on your love of heat)
2— Eggs, (small) beaten

For Whipped Avocado:
2 — Ripe avocados
Juice of 1/2—lemon
1/2—Shallot, very finely minced
Salt and white pepper to taste

For Garnish:
2—1/4” thick pancetta slices

Using the fine side of hand grater, grate polenta into a bowl.
Add beaten eggs, Italian herbs, & cayenne pepper
Mix completely


Spray two 12 cup mini-muffin tins with olive oil spray
Scoop about a rounded teaspoon of polenta mix into each cup and press into bottom and sides. Don’t worry about perfection. These look better if they are a bit rustic.


Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Turn pans at 10 minute mark for even browning. You want your cups to be crispy brown, just short of crumbly.
(I set my oven on 400 degrees convection and put my muffin trays on-top of pre-heated pizza stones.)

While polenta cups are baking:

Remove as much fat from pancetta slices as possible. Then dice into 1/4” pieces and brown in hot skillet. Drain on paper towel or parchment.

Dice avocado into mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, minced shallot, and salt & pepper. Whip with a stick blender.

Take polenta cups from oven, remove them from muffin trays and let them rest on some paper towel or parchment.


When they are slightly cooled, fill each cup with a generous dollop of whipped avocado and top with a few pieces of pancetta.


October 4, 2009

Sunday Small Bites - Week 5 - Goat Cheese

Week Five is Goat Cheese, and I finally succumbed to a cop-out by using the main ingredient in a simple way. But, I made up for it by baking my own fennel seed crackers from scratch and caramelizing my fresh fennel.

Fennel Seed Crackers with Caramelized Fennel and Goat Cheese Dip


Fennel Seed Crackers

2—cups unbleached flour
1—tablespoons green fennel seeds
2—teaspoons sugar
1 1/2—teaspoons salt
1—tablespoon butter
1/2—cup water

Heat oven to 400 with pizza stone on middle rack
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, fennel seeds, sugar, & salt.
Add butter and blend completely
Add water.
Mix until dough forms a ball (this will be difficult because it will be very dry)
Knead for at least 5 minutes
Form into a ball and cover with a damp towel.
Rest for at least 20 minutes


After dough has rested, divide into 6 even portions.
Work with only one portion at a time, leaving the others under the wet towel.
Roll between palms to form a 6-8 inch long tube
Using a rolling pin, flatten into a thin layer about 12-14 inches long and 2-3 inches wide
Cut into any shape you like and prick each piece several times with a fork
Bake on hot pizza stone until crisp with browning just beginning on edges.


Caramelized Fennel


3—large clean fennel bulbs with very tight layers.
1—tablespoon olive oil
3—tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar
Juice of one orange
Zest of one orange
1/2—teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Salt to taste.

Cut off shoots of bulbs and discard.
With a mandolin set on thin, turn fennel bulb top side down and shave into slices.
Use all of one of the bulbs but leave the bottom half of the other two bulbs whole.
Soak reserved bulbs in iced water until needed.
Over low heat, caramelize fennel shavings in olive oil, salt, pepper, fig balsamic, orange juice & zest until liquid is reduced.

Goat Cheese Dip

1—8oz carton crumbled goat cheese
1—6 oz container of honey flavored Greek yogurt
2—tablespoons orange juice

Blend all ingredients with a stick blender until completely smooth

For Presentation (makes two serving plates for passing)

Scoop out 2 halves of an orange and the remaining 2 halves of fennel bulbs to make bowls.
(You will have to use a sharp knife on the fennel bulbs, so be careful. It isn’t easy to do this without cutting through the bulb—or your hand.)
Place one orange half and one fennel half on each serving plate with half of your baked fennel seed crackers.
Fill orange halves with Goat Cheese Dip and Fennel bulbs with caramelized fennel.
Garnish with orange zest.


October 11, 2009

SSB Week 6 - Savory Smoked Salmon Cheesecake


This week's recipe was a hard one to decide on. Marcia chose the ingredient Smoked Salmon -- which I adore. But, I'm a purist. I love it all by itself with just a bit of dill sauce and some capers. So to challenge myself, I decided to to work out a recipe that could be in the showstopper category. At first I played around with the idea of an empanada. But, then decided that I really didn't want to use pastry this time around. So my next idea -- which I thought was totally original -- was a savory cheesecake.

NOT so original. A search of databases revealed at least 20 different savory salmon cheesecake recipes. I picked features from about 6 of them to come up with my final recipe.

Savory Smoked Salmon Cheesecake

2 cups 1/2” diced stale French or Italian bread
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (unsalted)
1/2 cup chopped pistachios (unsalted)
2 tbs fresh dill (minced)

3/4 cup grated swiss cheese
1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter (unsalted)

2 large shallots (minced)
3 tbs unsalted butter
2 8ox pkgs cream cheese
6 oz ricotta
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teas kosher salt
1/2 teas black ppper
1 teas cayenne pepper
4 eggs
8-10 oz sliced smoked salmon (fairly thick slices, not paper thin)


Toast nuts and bread together on a cookie sheet in oven then let cool to the touch.
Transfer to food processor, add minced dill, and pulse to crumbs. Add shredded swiss cheese and melted butter. Blend evenly.
Line an 8” square cake pan with two sheets of parchment paper in a cross pattern so that you have no wrinkles or folds.
Press crumb mixture evenly into bottom of pan only. Do not bring up sides like you would a traditional cheesecake.


Soften shallots in 3 tbs of butter until tender. Do not over cook. Let cool to a point it won’t curdle sour cream.
In a food processor, cream the cream cheese, ricotta, & sour cream. Add in salt, pepper, cayenne, and cooled shallots in butter. Continue to process, occasionally scraping down sides so you don’t have any lumps of cheese.
Add in eggs, one at a time, pulsing briefly after each egg.

Lightly whip heavy cream in a large glass bowl. Fold in cream cheese mixture. At this point you will have a total of about 5 cups of filling.

Pour two cups of the filling over the bottom crust.
Using half of the salmon, layer evenly without overlapping.
Pour another two cups of filling.
Layer second half of salmon.
Top with final cup of filling.

Bake in 350 degree oven until set. (45—60 minutes, but use the toothpick test) Don’t over cook. Should be just a tiny bit ‘wiggly’ in the center when you take it out of the oven.
Let cool to room temperature on rack then cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight in fridge.


Using four hands lift by edges of parchment and transfer from pan to cutting board. While still cold, cut into 1” squares. Bring back to room temperature.

For serving:
Place one square on a small bite plate. Garnish with your favorite caviar and a sprig of fresh dill. Serve at room temperature.

October 17, 2009

SSB Week 7 - Pecan Butter & Coconut Rice Balls

This week just plain got on my nerves! Sheri picked Pecans. Sounds easy right? But not so when you are trying to make up your own original recipes AND you want to do only appetizers! Who knew that pecans could be so obstinate?! They just don't like being the star of a recipe. They want to hang out as a supporting cast member, and even then, they prefer a sweet musical to a savory drama.

Here's what I finally came up with. It came dangerously close to being a dessert. But the rice and dipping sauce pulled it back.


Pecan Butter & Coconut Rice Balls

Step One:
Two cups pecan halves toasted
½ -1 teas. Salt
1-2 tbs. sesame oil
Chop pecans in food processor until fine. Add about half of salt. Drizzle in sesame oil slowly so that you only use enough to get the consistency you prefer. (Use a light hand. You can add more oil if you need to but you can’t take it away.) Taste for salt and add more if you need too.


Step Two:
1 cup sushi rice
1 ½ cup coconut milk thinned to the consistancy of skim milk
In a rice steamer cook rice in coconut milk. Allow to cool enough to handle with your hands.

Step Three:
½ c shredded coconut
½ - 1 ½ teas. salt
½ tea garam masala
½ teas. ground ginger
4 tbs pecan butter
¼ cup chopped pecans
Add all ingredients to cooled rice and mix well. The right amount of salt is vital to the flavor. So you will want to add in half the amount first and then taste before adding more.


Form rice mixture into golf ball size balls. Roll in shredded coconut and deep fry in hot sesame oil. You are not ‘cooking’ the rice balls, you are merely browning the coconut coating. You can also bake in a hot oven, turning once, to toast the coconut coating.


Dipping Sauce:
3 tbs. stir fry sauce (I used the Trader Ming’s General Tsao brand from Trader Joe’s)
1 Tsp Thai chili sauce
6 Tbs. pecan butter
4 Tbs. thin coconut milk
Blend all ingredients. These measurements are just a guide line, you may adjust any of them to your own taste.


October 25, 2009

SSB Week 8 - Native American/North African Pumpkin Stew

This is week eight of the SlowTrav Sunday Small Bites challenge. And it was my week to choose the featured ingredient.

When I picked pumpkin, I was thinking that I'd like to do something with a Native American flavor. And then I started thinking that North African would be cool too. So I decided to use Native American vegetables and North African spices. Here's what I came up with:


Native American/North African Pumpkin Stew

Step One:
One medium heirloom pumpkin of your choice, cleaned, peeled, & seeded.
3-4 garlic cloves finely minced or pressed in garlic press
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil to coat
Cut only the firmest part of the pumpkin flesh into about 1/2” cubes and measure six cups into a bowl for tossing.
Add olive oil and minced garlic and toss to coat.
Spread out in a shallow pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast in a 450 degree convection oven until edges begin to brown.
Remove and allow to cool.


Step Two:
While pumpkin is roasting, soften in a small amount of olive oil —
1 cup red onions (diced into uniform 1/4” pieces)
1/2 cup diced mushrooms of your choice (used a handful from my container of dried mixed wild mushrooms and soaked them in warm water before dicing)

Step Three:
Add in —
1 cup diced tomatoes (Use firm ripe tomatoes. Remove all seeds and dice same size as onion)
1/2 cup warm water in which you have been soak 8-10 saffron threads. (leave the saffron in)
1/2 cup minced dried apricots
1 cup pre-cooked Heirloom Red Quinoa
1 teas. dried cilantro flakes
2 tbsp. minced fresh mint
1/2 teas. each Zatar & Sumac berry spices (I get mine from Penzey’s)
1/4 teas. Each of red pepper flakes & five spice powder
1 1/2 teas. Salt
Toss all of these ingredients together then add —
1/12 cup roasted corn kernels (I use the frozen bags from Trader Joes. Just thaw it first)
6 cups roasted pumpkin cubes


Step Four:
Add up to 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth, one cup at a time as you simmer and gently stir your ingredients to combine. Don’t use more broth than you need to make a stew that has almost no liquid at all. You want this to be a chunky stew you eat with a fork, not a spoon.
You also don’t want to stir so hard that you break down your pumpkin.

To Serve —
Before roasting the pumpkin, I hollowed out 4 small ornamental pumpkins, coated them in oil and added them to the roasting pan.
I used these as serving bowls for the pumpkin stew and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint.
Each mini-pumpkin held about 1/3 cup.


This recipe makes about 10 cups of stew. So, I used only a small portion of the stew as an appetizer, and saved the rest to be used the next day as a main course. It keeps very well for several days in the fridge and can be successfully heated in the microwave, one bowl at a time.

November 1, 2009


This week Jerry picked Olives as our featured ingredient for the Sunday Small Bites challenge. For me it was like getting a pass. All I had to do was go to the pantry and pull out a jar of my Kalamata Olive & Fig Jam.

I put a spoonful on a Scottish Oak Cake (to celebrate our recent trip to Scotland) and topped it with one of my very favorite Greek cheeses - Manouri (to pay homage to Jerry's recent trip to Greece.)


Here is my recipe for Kalamata Olive & Fig Jam:

3 cups good quality pitted kalamata olives boiled in fresh water to remove some of the saltiness. (change the water three times).

Simple syrup made with 1 1/2 cups sugar and 3/4 cups water infused with the peel of one lemon. (strain lemon peel)

- 2 cups diced figs, stems removed but not peeled. I used Mission but you can use any type fig you prefer. (If you can't get fresh figs you can substitute whole fig preserves and eliminate the simple syrup. Or you can substitute dried figs by boiling them in water first to reconstitute and then draining before using)

- one diced apple

Gently boil the fruit together in the syrup for about 10 minutes (or until you get the consistancy you prefer). Careful not to let stick or burn.

Pulse briefly in food processor. Don't puree. You want to see a few chunks of apple and olive remaining. The fig will have already melted down, but the seeds will still add a great texture.

Preserve by your favorite method (canning or freezing)

November 7, 2009


Ahhh, mushrooms! Is there any one single ingredient that lends itself better to a wind variety of appetizer options? I think not. Or maybe it's just that I love mushrooms.

Since the Sunday Small Bites gang at has been assigned mushrooms, I began playing out in my head all the potential "new" ways of using them in an appetizer. I considered, and discarded several dozen ideas. Mostly because, after research, I realized someone else had already thought of them. Especially anything that involves using a mushroom as a cup to hold other items. You could write an entire cookbook on stuffed mushroom recipes. Oh, wait...someone has!
It was during my contemplation of stuffed mushrooms that I suddenly had the brainy idea of using something else as the cup to hold the mushrooms. And thus was born



Soak ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms in 2 cups very hot water

Spray bottom side of a mini-muffin tin with oil
Cut pieces of prosciutto into roughly 4-5 inch pieces and wrap around the bottom of each muffin cup. You may want to do two layers for complete coverage, but don’t do more than two. Don’t worry about being perfect. Rustic is the look you are going for.
Broil in oven until prosciutto cups begin to harden, but not burn.


Remove tray from oven and transfer cups, right side up, to a thick layer of paper towel to drain and cool.


Drain and reserve porcini water.

Chop porcini into small pieces.
Cook risotto according to your favorite method, using olive oil, minced onion, minced garlic, any other spices you may fancy, the porcini soaking water and added chicken broth if necessary.
Mix in chopped porcini, and ½ cup fresh grated parmigiano

Fill cups with risotto mixture, top with grated parmigiano and stick back under broiler just long enough to begin browning cheese.

Serve hot.


November 15, 2009

SSB Week 11 - GINGER

This week the Sunday Small Bites ingredient is one of my favorite flavors (second only to anise.)

I didn't want to do a recipe that basically only used ginger to enhance the flavor of some other "main" ingredient, so I thought it might be about time to share a couple of my liqueur recipes.

I have two that use ginger. The first, (left glass), is Carrot Liqueur which does only use ginger as a flavor enhancement. The second, (right glass), is ALL about the ginger.


Here are the very, very simple recipes:

Carrot Liqueur

Put three cups shredded carrots and 5 slices peeled fresh ginger in a clean mason jar.
Add 3 cups grain alcohol
Steep for 20-30 days, shaking to stir up carrots every 2-3 days

Strain and add 2 cups cooled simple sugar syrup (made with 1 part water and 2 parts sugar, boiled until clear)

Tokyo Rose

Put two cups crystallized ginger piece in a clean mason jar.
Add 3 cups grain alcohol
Steep for 20-30 days, shaking to stir up ginger every 2-3 days

Strain and filter. Then add just enough Sadaf Rose Syrup ( one teaspoon at a time) to produce the color of pickled ginger.

Add 2 cups cooled simple sugar syrup (made with 1 part water and 2 parts sugar, boiled until clear.)

November 22, 2009


This week, our SlowTrav Sunday Small Bites challenge ingredient was selected by Jan of Keep Your Feet in the Street

My ongoing challenges to myself have been first to try to create my own recipe or at least make very significant changes in any base recipe I use; and second, stick to savory flavors. The later has been the most difficult when the ingredient itself leans so obviously toward the sweet.

My initial thought was a confettura with onion to be served on a savory bread or cracker. Then I started thinking of all of the Thanksgiving flavors I could use and a mincemeat pie just kind of popped into my head.

So, here is what it all evolved into:


Cranberry/Turkey Mini Mincemeat Pies

1 cup mild turkey sausage, finely crumbled
½ cup red onion minced
1 tsp fruity olive oil
1 tsp butter
1 ½ cups fresh cranberries
½ cup thawed roasted corn nibblets (I use the ever popular TJ’s brand)
2 tbs wine of your choice (I used red because an open bottle was handy) :wink-grin:
2 tbs honey
1 pinch ground clove
1 pinch crushed sage
Salt & pepper to taste
1 prepared pie crust sheet
1 beaten egg for wash

Cook the turkey sausage separately and drain well.


In a sauce pan, soften the red onion in the olive oil and butter
Add the cranberries, corn, wine, and honey and continue cooking as if you were planning to make jam.
When most of the cranberries are reduced to a mush and the corn is coated with the red glaze, add turkey sausage and spices.
Continue cooking only long enough to blend flavors and heat the turkey through.
Remove from heat and set aside.


Cut the pie crust into 12, 3 ½ inch rounds. Brush each round with egg wash.
Place a heaping teaspoon in the center of each round and form into a gondola shape, pinching the ends together. Then roll the ends to form a scroll shape. Make dents in the sides to create a ‘free form’ cup. Flatten bottom enough to keep cups from tipping over.


Bake on parchment at 400 degrees until crust browns. Serve warm.


I think there is room for lots of variations to this recipe. Someone who wanted to make it sweeter could add additional fruits and sweets. Or you could leave the turkey out and use tofu for a nice vegetarian appetizer.

November 29, 2009

Sunday Small Bites - Week 13 - POTATOES

We're at week 13 and the challenge ingredient is potato. This is a great choice for the weekend after Thanksgiving. I decided to come up with something that would use leftover potatoes from Thanksgiving dinner. For my appetizer, I used left over garlic mashed potatoes. But, I think they would be just as interesting with sweet potatoes.


Ham Rolls

14 - slices of your favorite deli-ham. Cut thick enough to wrap around something without falling apart. And eighth-inch is about right.

28 - Small piece of your favorite meltable cheese. (I used white cheddar)

1 1/2 to 2 cups - Mashed potatoes of your choice.

3/4 cups - Honey mustard sauce.

Spread 1/4 cup of the honey mustard sauce in the bottom of an 8" square glass baking dish.

Cut the ham slices into two rectangles about 2 1/2" by 5".

Place a slice of ham in your palm; lay the piece of cheese in the middle; add a heaping teaspoon of potatoes; wrap the ham around the potatoes to form a roll with the bottom edges overlapping a bit.


Fill the baking dish with the ham rolls so that they are crowded together.

Coat the top with the remaining 1/2 cup honey mustard sauce.

Bake at 350 until the edges of the ham begin to brown and the sauce is bubbling.


December 6, 2009

SSB - Week 13 -- BRIE

Sandi drew week 13 in our Sunday Small Bites challenge. Her chosen ingredient is Brie.

I knew, given the nature of this delicious but runny cheese that there would be a lot of phyllo wrapped recipes and also a lot of traditional baked wheels with wonderful and unique toppings among our group.

So, I decided to try to create a new dish that didn't use either pastry or whole wheels of Brie. Here's what I ended up with.

Brie & Sweet Potato Bites


This recipe makes 24, 2 inch bites. They are very hearty and filling, so as a pass around appetizer, one per guest is plenty. As a starter course, two or three are more than enough. I cut one round in half in the photo above to show the inside of the potato.

1 – Wedge Brie (6-8 oz)
2 – Organic red sweet potatoes, peeled & sliced into 24, 1/4-3/8 inch rounds (choose long uniform width potatoes that are about 2-3 inches in diameter)
2 – 3/8” thick slices pancetta diced
1 – egg, beaten
3/4 - cup Italian bread crumbs (extra fine)
1/2 - cup evoo
Habanero jam


Preheat oven to 450 degrees (convection if you have it)

Slice Brie wedge down the middle like you were splitting a bun
Lay open on a small cutting board and cut into 3/4 inch squares.
Put, as is, into freezer to harden while you cook pancetta & roast potatoes.


Arrange potato rounds on a large cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle with small amount of kosher salt and roast just until top begins to brown, flip and roast other side. Remove and let cool enough to handle.


Cook pancetta in a hot skillet until crisp and all of fat is rendered into pan. Remove with slotted spoon, drain on paper towel.


Retain rendered fat in pan and add olive oil. Heat to just below smoking point.

Dip sweet potato rounds in egg and dredge in bread crumbs. Fry quickly to a light golden brown, turning once. Remove from oil, drain, and pat out excess oil with paper towel.

Remove brie from freezer, and select 12 square pieces from center. Cut off rind on bottom and then cut each piece in half.


Arrange sweet potato rounds on a parchment lined baking sheet. Top each round with piece of cheese and place in oven to just begin melting cheese.


To serve, garnish top of brie with a small dab of habanero jam and a few pieces of pancetta.


December 13, 2009

SSB Week 14 - Artichoke


Ok, I kind of cheated this week. I was struggling with trying to come up with an original creation using artichokes.
But, when a friend asked if I would make a batch of tomato and walnut pesto for her, the light bulb went on.
Why not make a little extra and figure out a way to combine that with artichokes?

Since you don’t really need a recipe to make pesto, and the rest is just an issue of assembly, I’m going to give you an ingredient list and process and let you take it from there.

For the pesto, use whatever quantities of the following ingredients you prefer:
Soaked sundried tomatoes
Roasted walnut pieces
Garlic cloves, Basil, Parsley, Salt, Red pepper flakes
Olive oil, Lemon juice


For the Polenta Rounds:
Slice a roll of polenta into rounds. Dip in olive oil. Dredge in Italian bread crumbs. Bake on a pizza stone in a hot oven until rounds are dark golden brown. Drain on paper towel.


For the artichokes:
One package frozen artichoke quarters, thawed and patted dry. Coat with oil and your favorite spices. I used dried basil, dried parsley, crushed garlic & salt.
Roast in a very hot convection oven.


To assemble:
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Place baked polenta rounds evenly. Spread a dollop of pesto on top. Top that with a couple of pieces of artichoke. Stick back in the hot oven for a couple of minutes to warm through. Serve immediately.


December 20, 2009

SSB Week 15 - Edemame

It finally happened. I've had an unqualified disaster. This week turned out SO badly I'm just going to tell you what NOT to do.

Don't try to make Wasabi Edemame from scratch. No matter how much you love wasabi peas.

I steamed the fresh edemame in the pods and then shelled it. I poked a tiny hole in each and every little bean to allow the moisture to escape while I dry roasted them in the oven.

I set the oven on 300 and roasted FOREVER - I though.

But, they never dried out. They were mushy inside. I tried coating them with the wasabi and roasting them some more. Failure.

Next time, I'm going to buy the roasted beans, toss them in wasabi, and be done with it.

Here's what they looked like. You don't want to know what they tasted like.


January 3, 2010

SSB Week 18 - Eggplant

This week for our SlowTrav Sunday Small Bites, Eden chose Eggplant. I love eggplant!


I remember enjoying baby eggplant sliced in half, broiled, and topped with scallions & soy sauce. It was very good. I though for this weeks Small Bite challenge, I’d try something similar. But instead of an ambiguous Asian flavor, I’d try to make it as distinctly Thai as possible.

At, Global Foods, I found some nice firm striped Thai eggplant, as well as some baby Indian eggplant. I decided to try both of them to see which one worked the best. I found that the Thai eggplant had a much meatier flesh and was a better size to be a one-bite appetizer.



The ingredient list and the process kind of evolved more or less on-the-fly as I tinkered. But I did write down each step so I could remember for my blog entry. So here is what I call - THAI EGGPLANT BITES


Slice eggplants in half, being careful to leave a bit of stem on the end to serve as a handle. Don’t remove the seeds. Have a bowl of acidic water handy to toss them in as you work. I used the juice of one lime for my acid.

Take each half of the bowl of water, pat dry with a paper towel and crosshatch with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut through the skin. Arrange on a nonstick cookie sheet, drizzling olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.

While the eggplant halves are roasting, combine the following ingredients in a bowl:

Juice of 1 lime
1 tbs. each - Thai style chili sauce; Thai seasoning blend; Tamari sauce; sesame seeds; dried chives; grated fresh ginger.
1 tsp each – chili pepper flakes; grated fresh ginger; fish sauce
1 cup - coconut flake
4 tbs. - sliced lemon grass (just the white part)
4 tbs. - coconut/lime liqueur. (This is from my homemade batch. To approximately replicate, use 2 tbs. coconut cream, 1 tbs., vodka, & 1 tbs. sugar)


In a coffee grinder or small food processor, roughly chop ½ cup dry roasted peanuts. I found some at Global Foods that were coated in coconut flavoring, so I used them.

Remove eggplant from oven and let cool just long enough to be able to handle without burning your fingers. Then carefully scoop out the pulp and seeds of each half with a spoon or melon baller into a separate bowl. Be careful not to cut through the tender skin because you are going to use these as cups.

Using a small food processor or a stick blender, process the pulp and seeds until smooth. Transfer to bowl with other ingredients and mix.


Fill the eggplant cups with the mixture and sprinkle the top with the chopped peanuts. Put back in oven, under a broiler for just a few minutes until peanuts begin to darken. Be careful. This takes ONLY a few minutes.


Garnish the top of each bite with a sprig of cilantro and serve warm as a pass-around finger food. Eat by holding stem and putting entire cup in mouth to bite off. Here's what's left over.


I had a good 3/4 cup of the mixture left over after filling my eggplant cups. So I froze it, thinking it would make a really good spread for flat bread. When I'm ready to use it, I'll mix in some freshly chopped peanuts.

Caution: This is a fiery hot appetizer, but the authentic Thai flavors are fabulous!

January 7, 2010

Thinking of Making Ginger Beer

For those who are aware of my new obsession with Ginger Beer, it won't come as a surprise that I'm seriously considering trying to make my own.

I happen to own an autographed copy of John Hull Brown's "Early American Beverages". It's a wonderful peek into the beverage arts of the 17th-19th centuries. So before I do an internet search for Ginger Beer recipes and techniques, I decide to find out how they did it in the 1800's. On pages 42 & 43 I find nine different recipes for Ginger Beer.

I've listed them by name here, along with the original publication where Mr. Brown's research found them.

ENGLISH GINGER BEER - The Young Housekeeper's Friend, 1846
GAS BEER, PATENT - Dr. Chase's Recipes, 1869
GINGER BEER - Family Receipt Book, 1819
GINGER BEER - Kitchen Directory, 1846
GINGER BEER - Dr. Chase's Recipes, 1869
GINGER BEER (QUICKLY MADE) - The Way to Live Well, 1849
GINGER BEER, BOTTLED - Practical Housewife, 1860
GINGER BEER, SIMPLE - Beecher's Receipt Book, 1857
GINGER BEER, SUPERIOR - Beecher's Receipt Book, 1857

They are amusing to read, but the one I may actually try is the fifth on the list, Ginger Beer (Quickly Made) from The Way to Live Well, 1849.

Here is the recipe, word-for-word as printed:

A gallon of boiling water is poured over three quarters of a pound of loaf sugar, one ounce of ginger, and the peel of one lemon; when milk-warm, the juice of the lemon and a spoonful of yeast are added. It should be made in the evening, and bottled next morning, in stone bottles, and the cork tied down with twine.
Good brown sugar will answer, and the lemon may be omitted if cheapness is required.

Does anyone know the body temperature of a milking cow?

Post Script:
OK, I just did my online search for modern recipes that I can understand. Here is the one I'm planning to used... Love the website it's on, by the way.

January 10, 2010

SSB Week 19 - Chickpeas

It is with sadness that we say goodbye to our fifth SlowTrav food challenge -- Sunday Small Bites. It's been a lot of fun. I managed to keep up pretty well. I missed only one week out of 19 and I managed to create original or significantly customized recipes for all but two of the challenge ingredients. Best of all, I only had one that I would consider a failure.

For this 19th and final week, Kathy chose Chickpeas. Thanks Kathy, for choosing such a great ingredient!


As I contemplated what I might do with this week's ingredient, I determined that I wanted to avoid the obvious and not make hummus or some other form of dip or spread.


In my pantry, I found several cans of Rienzi Chick Peas, which in Italian are called Ceci. So, Italian it shall be for the theme of the recipe. Now, what to do. The pantry also held some fresh seasoned breadcrumbs. And in the fridge were both mild italian sausage and fresh mozzerella balls. I hit upon the idea of making arancini out of chick peas instead of risotto. Thus was born:

Arancini Ceci

2 - links mild Italian sausage
1 1/2 - cups fresh Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 - cans ceci, drained and rinsed
2 - eggs
1 - four ounce ball fresh mozzarella
Additional bread crumbs for coating
Vegetable oil for deep frying

Pre-heat oven to 400 and put a wire rack on a cookie sheet to catch crumbs.

Remove casing from sausage, crumble and cook in a skillet. Drain off all fat. I only used two links because I intended that the sausage would be more of a flavoring that a main ingredient.

In a food processor, blend bread crumbs, cooked sausage, drained ceci, & eggs. You will end up with a mix that is the consistency of soft cookie dough.

Press mozzarella ball between layers of paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible and to flatten somewhat. Then cut into 24 equal sized pieces.


Scoop about a golf ball size portion of ceci mix into palm of hand and roll into a ball.
Poke a hole in ball, put one piece of mozzerella in hole and pinch dough back around it.
Roll between palms to seal and form into a smooth ball.


To avoid a doughiness you will be baking them. But, because the coating won't brown in the oven, you will need to deep fry them very briefly.

Roll in bread crumbs and place on wire rack. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven.

Heat oil in deep pan to just below smoking temp. Drop balls into oil and deep fry to a golden brown. Just a few minutes. Remove and drain. Serve warm with marinara sauce.

The texture inside is very similar to hush puppies. The flavor is very Italian with the sausage and the spices in the seasoned breadcrumbs. For our, Arancini Cici is a keeper.


January 14, 2010

Start Checking Into Your Sources

Just an early and fair warning to my Sunday Slow Suppers friends. My week is February 21st.

The method is slow cooker. The recipe is a slow cooker version of a tagine. The flavor profile is clearly Moroccan. The star ingredient is:


So, if you don't have a great source for goat meat, you might want to start looking. I'm giving you lots of advanced notice. For those who live in areas where there just isn't a source, start thinking about what meat you might want to substitute that can stand up to the flavors.

February 21, 2010

Sunday Slow Suppers - Week 5 - Goat Tagine With Fennel and Olives

It's my week to choose our Sunday Slow Suppers cooking challenge. I love goat. So, why not? Especially when I found this recipe on Dana Tommasino's cooking blog - Figments. She credits Paula Wolfert, for the recipe, (Pay attention Paula Deen, gracious cooks give credit. See?) but she tweaked it in several ways. I've also made a few minor changes.


After I started the thread on SlowTalk for this week, and people started discussing the challenges they were having in getting the goat shanks, I began to feel a bit concerned that I had made it too difficult. But, it was soon obvious that everyone was having as much fun with the challenge as I was.

First challenge for me: making sure I had fresh goat shank. My go-to resource for anything that white bread American grocery stores don't carry is a place called Global Foods. I'm sure you guys don't need me to go into yet another rhapsody over Global Foods. Right? Those who don't know what I'm talking about, just check the "This Week at Global Foods" category in the right hand column of my blog.

A few weeks ago, I called the butcher at Global Foods to ask them to special order goat shanks from their supplier, American Halal Meats. I called again on Monday, just to touch base and make sure he was indeed going to have my shanks for me. He started dancing around about how the supplier was a "strange dude" and he had trouble communicating with him sometimes. Upshot, no... no goat shanks. So, I took matters into my own hands and called the supplier directly. The gentleman I visited with explained that he would happily deliver directly to me any order of 10 lbs or more. I said great, I'll take as many goat shanks as necessary to make it 10 lbs. (that turned out to be 12 because they are HUGE)

His farm is about 50 miles west of me, so we determined that he would call when he was near my highway exit and I'd meet him. That was Monday... three goats were freshly slaughtered on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning we arranged to meet at the Moto-Mart Gas Station at the intersection. He would bring 11+ pounds of goat shanks, I would bring $60. The "drop" went off without a hitch. I pulled up to the Moto-Mart, backing into my space so I could make a quick getaway. He drove up in his white delivery truck. We both got out. After a greeting and handshake, he handed me my package, I handed him the cash. We both jumped back into our vehicles and drove away.


I followed the Wolfert/Tommisino recipe fairly closely. Because they were so large, I used only three goat shanks instead of six. (I now have nine shanks individually vacuum sealed in my freezer.)

First I dry toasted the spices, ground them and measured along with the saffron, ground ginger and fresh grated ginger.


Then I prepped the veggies and garlic.


Rinsed, patted dry and seasoned the meat with fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Then seared them in a dry pan.


Removed the shanks to a preheated slow cooker, then used the original pan to soften the onions & half the fennel in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Then added honey, spices, garlic, & tomatoes.


Transferred the veggies and spices to the slow cooker to join the shanks and added the chicken broth, cinnamon, and fresh cilantro bundle.


Three hours hanging out while the project in the kitchen filled the rest of our house with exotic fragrance. Time to add the rest of the fennel, the olives, and preserved lemon.


But first, because I'm not a huge couscous fan, I decided to make one of my favorite rice/grain mixtures from Thailand. It comes from Global Foods in a 2 kg vacuum sealed block called Sawat-D Healthy Grain. It has Red Cargo Rice, Brown Rice, Black Sweet Rice, Job's Tear, Split Mung Beans, & Sweet Cargo Rice. I usually cook it up in huge batches 50/50 with steel cut oats. But, that's another blog post for another time.


I thought the reduction would help pull the rice into compatibility with the rest of the dish. I was using a slow cooker instead of braising in the oven, I had more liquid than I normally would have after three hours. I skimmed off about 2 cups to make the reduction. Added some extra preserved lemon, cinnamon, & olives to intensify the flavors.


Plating was a whole bone-in shank with the rice and veggies on the side, then drizzled with the reduction. Perfect wine pairing was a bottle of Castoro Cellars Tempranillo Reserve.

Leftovers today for lunch. Sorry, folks at the store. There won't be any left to bring in tomorrow.

March 2, 2010

Focus on Elementary School Nutrition

I've been receiving quite a few newsletters and emails from various food organizations lately about the issues of childhood obesity and inferior school lunch programs. Most recently SlowFoods with the "Time for Lunch" campaign. It's an appeal to congress, asking them to revamp the school nutrition program. I signed, and I hope you will as well. I also keep an eye on a couple of newspaper web sites where the food discussion is more than just a home cook shilling for the local grocery store chain. (Do you hear me St. Louis Post-Dispatch?) I especially enjoy reading articles in the Food Matters section of the San Francisco Chronicle.

This whole school lunch discussion started me reminiscing about what my school lunches were like when I was in elementary school.

That would be 1956 - 1963 in the small Ozark mountain town of Hollister, Missouri. Back in the day when Branson was just the bigger small town next door. (Branson wasn't BRANSON yet.) And Hollister was only a poor little spot in the road.

When I say poor I mean dirt poor. Hollister is in Taney County. In the 1950s & 60s Taney was the poorest county, per-capita, in the state of Missouri.

Back then, the women in the cafeteria came in very early in the morning to fix pancakes, bacon and eggs, and homemade biscuits for the kids they knew didn't get a breakfast at home. Nobody kept track of who those kids were, and noone had to fill out any financial hardship paperwork. If a kid was hungry, he got off the bus and went to the cafeteria. He wolfed down a nice hot breakfast and then he went to his classroom.

Back then the lunch ladies actually cooked lunch. From scratch. Every day.

Back then there weren't any big food companies like Sysco bringing tractor trailer loads of cardboard boxes full of high fructose corn syrup, fat & chemical laden processed frozen foods to our school.

Back then there weren't any frozen fish sticks or chicken nuggets or individual foil sealed cups of syrupy fruit cocktail.

Instead, there was something called commodities. Commodities came in wooden crates, gunny sacks and bushel baskets.

Fresh green beans. Fresh brown eggs. Whole fresh milk in grey metal 20 gallon cans. Flour. Sugar. Corn meal. Lard. Fresh butter. Bacon. Peanuts. Oatmeal. Whole chickens & turkeys. Grits. Apples. Great northern beans. Cheese wheels. Tuna. Salmon. Onions. Blackeyed peas. Collard greens. Cottage Cheese. Turnips. Beets. Corn that needed to be shucked. Peas that needed to be shelled. Carrots. Rubarb. Potatoes. Hamhocks. Sweet Potatoes. Okra. Cabbage. (That's just the things I can remember off the top of my head.)

These commodities were delivered by various means. Some from local farmers. Some from the local coop. They came to our lunch ladies, fresh and often straight from the producer.

Nothing was shipped to China first to be processed and turned into mystery meat. Just to be shipped back to us. "Dead' food - packaged in poisonous plastic - ready to be nuked for our enjoyment.

Each week the lunch ladies had to wait to find out what would be in their larder before deciding on the next week's menus.


I remember Chicken and Dumplings with homemade biscuits. I remember Hamhocks and blackeyed peas with fresh sweet cornbread. I remember homemade cabbage slaw with beet pickles. I remember macaroni and cheese made with real cheese, not orange dyed powder or Velveeta. I remember fried chicken with fried okra, mashed potatoes and milk gravy. I remember huge pans of fresh warm bread pudding (half made with raisins and half without for those of us who didn't like raisins in our bread pudding). I remember rubarb pie. I remember chocolate brownies dusted with powdered sugar. I remember oatmeal sandwich cookies with fresh homemade peanut butter as a filling.

I remember that the meals from Monday through Thursday were hot and plentiful, and we got tired of eating so much and so well.

But on Friday, the lunch ladies slacked off. During the week, they had been roasting and grinding the turkeys. They baked homemade bread. They made fresh bread & butter pickles. And they baked homemade apple crisp. So that our traditional Friday lunch would be easy for them, and a welcome picnic for us.

Friday's menu -- Turkey salad sandwiches with pickles, cottage cheese on a pineapple ring, and homemade sweet potato chips. Oh yes, and hot apple crisp for dessert.

We all drank milk for lunch. Whole white milk. Not sweet drinks. Well all but one. One girl in my class got special treatment. I still remember her name, Vicki. Vicki didn't like milk. So, Alma, the head lunch lady (who happened to be Vicki's aunt) put a teaspoon of sugar in her glass of milk every day.

Here's something else I remember...

In my grade there were about 41 kids. Of those 41 kids, there were just three who could be described by today's standards as "over weight". Not fat, not morbidly obese mind you. Just a bit pudgie. That's a 7% rate, compared to today's rate of more than 25%.

Does anyone else remember eating real food when they were kids? Looking back on it now, I realize how very blessed - and healthy - we were.

March 5, 2010

We're Not Quite As Crazy As Julie Powell

It all started when my foodies book group chose Marcella Hazan's autobiography, Amorcord, as our March selection.


I got the idea to see if Mrs. Hazan would be willing to autograph books for the group if I shipped them to her. So, without telling the others, I sent her a note. To my delighted surprise, she called me after she received my note and graciously agreed.

When I told Michele the good news, she suggested that we should each do a cooking challenge. Cooking our way through Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking -- like Julie Powell did with Julia Child.

Cooler heads prevailed, and we hit upon the idea of sharing the challenge. We will each choose a day of the week. Sunday - Saturday.

Starting with the week after our bookclub meeting, the Sunday cook will prepare the 1st recipe in the book. Then the Monday cook will prepare the 2nd recipe. And so we will continue until we finish.

To chronicle this madness, we are setting up a Facebook identity to serve as sort of joint blog. We're inviting all of our respective facebook friends to friend this new "identity" so they can follow our progress; comment; and hopefully offer us lots of encouragement.

We're looking for three more participants. So if you're interested in adopting one of our free days. Let me know. The beauty of doing this on Facebook is that we can participate from anywhere, as long as we each have a copy of the book.

March 11, 2010

Mussel Soup in Gallipoli

One of my favorite little towns in Puglia is the fishing port of Gallipoli on the Golfo di Taranto south of Nardo. It's quiet. Off the tourist radar, but gracious to guests. You're welcome to visit. But, noone courts your business. They're busy living the daily life of a working fishing port.

We arrived at about noon and decided to wander around for awhile before finding a spot for lunch. Street after narrow street was free of traffic. If you had been in a US neighborhood, you would have assumed that everyone was away at work. No housewives here, right?


Wrong, as we past open window after open window, we evesdropped on lively conversations and tried to identify the tempting aromas as women prepared the big midday meal for their hard working fisherman.

At that time of day, those fisherman were already back to shore and were mending their nets, preparing them for the next trip out. Pay attention to that blue vespa in the far upper left corner of the picture, and the shirtless fisherman in the bottom middle. You'll be hearing about both of them later.


The wall the scooter is leaning against is the same wall, 20 some odd feet up, we walk beside as we head for our chosen restaurant.


Inside the restaurant we looked over the fresh fish. Fish that had been swimming only a few hours before.


It did look appealing, but I wanted mussels. I never pass up fresh mussels. And,I was soon to learn what fresh means in Gallipoli. I ordered the Mussel Soup. The waiter went back to the kitchen to place the order. Then he came back out. Walked past us and out the front door. Walked across the street. Leaned over the wall and shouted to someone below.

Two minutes later that same blue vespa with that same shirtless guy, putted up to the door. He handed a net bag, dripping with seawater to the waiter, who carried it, drips and all into the kitchen. Five minutes after than, our meals were served.

My mussel soup was nothing more than a foil pouch full of steamed mussels, floating in the sea water they released when they opened, tossed with a bit of cheese and fresh parsley.


Pure. Simple. The best mussels I've ever eaten. Ever.

March 14, 2010

And Interview with Marcella Hazan

Those of you who know that we've put together a cooking group to cook our way through Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, also know the catalyst was the decision of my Foodies Book Group at Barnes & Noble to read Marcella's autobiography "Amacord, Marcella Remembers".

Perhaps you would like to learn about this amazing lady. The Google Interview is a full hour long. But, I can promise you it is so worth your time. The highlights are when she talks about American supermarkets at about minute 25. Then her story about inviting Craig Claiborne for lunch without knowing who he was at about minute 30. Then at minute 37 she talks about Americans using too much garlic and undercook our vegetables. At minute 45 she talks about the reasons for obesity. Stick it out so you can enjoy the Q&A session, too. You'll get a lesson in olive oil. It appears Marcella and I have different tastes in olive oil. I love peppery, she does not. That tells me that I need to get a milder oil to follow her recipes authentically! OK, off to see if I can find some Puglian oil.

OK, just trust me. Carve out an hour of you day and watch.

April 30, 2010

The Wild Vine

This book pushes a number of my buttons. History, Wine, Intrigue, and most of all - the button that gets me started on a rant about how underappreciated Missouri is.


In The Wild Vine, Todd Kliman has focused his skills as a researcher and writer on the Norton grape. And, since he couldn’t write about Norton without dedicating a considerable amount of the book to Missouri, I’m a happy reader.

First, for those who like to know the credentials of a writer -- who is Todd Kliman? He’s the food and wine editor and restaurant critic for The Washingtonian and a James Beard Foundation Award winner for his writing. He’s a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Harpers, Men’s Health, National Geographic Traveler, The Washington Post Magazine, and He’s a literature professor at American University and Howard University.

Questions Todd answers in this book:

What’s so great about Norton?
How do a bunch of Germans in the immigrant settlement of Hermann, Missouri save it from obscurity?
Who was Henry Vizetelly, and how did he bring Norton to the world’s attention?
How did Norton save the wine industry in France?
How did Norton survive prohibition?
Who is Jenni McCloud, and why do I want to be her new best friend?

The book will be out in May. It’s my Foodies Book Group’s June selection. Here is what the actual cover will look like. (I personally like th ARC cover better)


Now, I have to go pour myself a glass of Norton and re-read The Wild Vine.

June 28, 2010

The Reward for Hard Work

Two of our grandsons were spending the weekend with us. It was too brutally hot to play outside. So, while Dan was on the golf course, it fell to me to figure out how to keep them entertained indoors.

Three of my next four Pomodori e Vino recipes call for homemade pasta. I needed to get it done on Saturday. Grandson #1 became my very able assistant. He thought it was a game, and great fun.

I dug out my pasta machine. The box I keep it in is worse for the wear.


But the trusty ol' Pasta Queen is still bright and shiny. It does have one tiny little nick in one of the rollers. But I choose to look upon it as my own personal identifying mark.


I assembled the ingredients and let Grandson #2 crack the eggs into my '00' flour. He immediately lost interest and wondered off to other persuits.


Grandson #1 wanted to mix the dough. He thought getting his hands into that egg and flour would be quite a bit of fun. I declined the offer, by telling him that I had a much more important job for him -- running the pasta machine. What boy can turn down something with gears? Right?


A double batch of spinach pasta required a lot of cranking. But he didn't get bored or give out on me. He was a real trooper. We rolled the dough, cut it into fettuccine. Then when it was still just moist enough to loop, we made our nests for drying.


There were just a few odd short or broken pieces left over. So I cooked them; dressed them with a little bit of butter, salt & pepper; and the pasta pro enjoyed the fruits of his labor.


July 11, 2010

Richard Barthlemess' Spiced Grapes

From the 1922, Stag Cook Book: A Man’s Cook Book for Men

Here is the recipe # 82, offered by Richard Barthelmess.*



This dish is always reminiscent, to me, of low New England farmhouses, with green blinds. You know the kind – set far back from the road, among tall trees, with hollyhocks, and rose geraniums and old fashioned pinks in the garden. When I see such a house—and I can, sometimes, by closing my eyes—I can always smell the pungent scent of spiced grapes, cooking away on an immaculate kitchen range.

This is the rule for making spiced grapes. A rule that most New England families seem to follow.

To seven pounds of grapes there should be added these materials-three pounds of granulated sugar, one cup of vinegar, two tablespoonsful of ground cinnamon, and one tablespoonful of ground clovers.

Weigh the grapes, wash and pulp them. Cook the pulp until the seeds are loosened-then press the mass through a sieve. Cook the skins just as long as you cook the pulps. Put them on the same stove, but in separate kettles. Add the strained pulps to the skins, then vinegar, sugar, and spices. And cook until the mixture thickens.

This, when served with cold meat, changes a commonplace supper of left-overs into a feast.
It was tempting to take advantage of the availability of seedless grapes to avoid pulping and cooking in two separate pans. But to be true to the concept of following vintage recipes as written, I must avoid any changes that weren’t forced on me by total lack of availability. (Or the occasional outlawed ingredient.)


So, seeded grapes it was. Nice big beautiful black variety. I had to settle for California grapes this time around. But, I plan to make this recipe again in late October when the Concord grape from New England is peaking.

As with most recipes published prior to the standardization of recipe writing**, there aren’t many specifics here. The vinegar…what kind of vinegar did they use in New England in the early 1920s? I did some web investigation and it appears that, in cooking, the word vinegar almost universally applies to the apple cider variety. So that is what I used.


Then there is the imprecision of the word thickens. What is Mr. Barthelmess' idea of thick? How long until it thickens? After 3 hours of simmering, the consistency my sauce had reached was that of a jam without enough pectin. Since it was bedtime, I covered the pot and let it sit on the stove overnight to cool.

This morning, I filled nine 8oz plastic freezer containers and had about four ounces to spare for our immediate enjoyment.


It was breakfast time. We had no cold meat left-overs as Mr. Barthelmess recommended. However, we did enjoy our Spiced Grapes on warm slices of toast with cheese.

Verdict: Viable recipe with no substitutions required. The original probably turned out to be much thicker than my results, because I suspect that on New England stoves of the early 1900s it cooked all day long instead of just three hours. Next time I will start the process early in the morning instead of at 6:30 in the evening.

* Richard Barthelmess (b. 09 May, 1895 -- d. 17 Aug., 1963) was a silent film star with 75 films and 2 Oscar nominations to his credit.


** If you're interested in finding out what goes into the construction of a written recipe, take a look at the book that always sits within easy reach on the shelf above my computer. The Recipe Writer's Handbook by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann and Jane L. Baker.


August 31, 2010

Trying to Replicate the Best Romesco Sauce on the Planet

A few years ago, as we were driving northwest through Spain on our way to Galicia, we stopped for lunch in the town of Pueble de Sanabria. There wasn't much of a choice of restaurants. In fact there wasn't any choice. Plaza Armas was the only game in town. It was a typical dark bar with a simple tapas menu. Or so we thought.


But in the back of the room was a dark winding stairway leading up to a beautiful formal dining room complete with white linens and tuxedoed waiters.


A beautiful restaurant, improbably located in a sleepy little town nestled in a river valley between Spain's Reserva Nacional de la Sierra de la Colebra and Parque Natural del Lago de Sanabria.

I ordered gambas stuffed pimientos morron in romesco sauce, the best romesco I've ever tasted.


It was amazingly rich and as smooth as silk, not like any of the more rustic romesco sauces I was used to. For some reason the other day, that dish popped into my head. I had all the ingredients in the fridge so I tried to replicate it. I came pretty close to what I remember. But only close. The real thing is still just a distant and fond memory. Might need to go back to central Spain and beg for the recipe.


This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Old Shoes - New Trip in the Foods That I Have Loved category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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