Friday, August 31, 2007

My foot

A very brief update: I am free to walk SOME. The broken bone is mostly healed, but not entirely. But the doctor gave me my "walking papers," so to speak. However, I can barely stand up, let alone walk. The foot and muscles and tendons have all forgotten what to do and it hurts to put weight on that foot - just because it hasn't had to perform that function for 7 weeks. And my left foot (the good foot) has developed tendonitis from all the extra work it's had to do in recent weeks, so it hurts more than the broken foot does. I'm nowhere near trying to cook. Or really walk more than about 20 very-slow-paces and that with a cane. Hopefully this will improve with practice in the next week.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Apple, Dried Cherry and Walnut Green Salad

(photo from
There's maple syrup in this salad dressing. Sounds way too sweet, doesn't it? Well, it is on the sweet side for a green salad, I'll admit. But there is something seductive about the mixture of mayo, maple syrup and champagne wine vinegar. You counter the sweet with the vinegar, and it's sublime. Usually I serve this in the Fall, and we're steamy here in So. California these days, so I'm waiting for the new crop of apples to come in before I make this again. Although Granny Smiths are good year around, I know. This is kind of reminiscent of a waldorf salad, except there isn't any celery in it. So think of this as a waldorf-ish green salad maybe.

This came from a cooking class with Phillis Carey, a cooking instructor I've mentioned before on this blog. She has such a creative culinary mind. I'm not that inventive - sure, I can put something together if the ingredients are plopped down in front of me, but I'd never have thought to make a salad dressing with mayo and maple syrup. And the combo of the apples, dried cherries and walnuts too.

I think there are too many apples in this salad, although maybe Phillis wanted the apples to be predominant. I prefer to make the lettuce the star (I may use more greens than noted) and the dressing shines through. Then the fruit comes in as secondary. The recipe below is exactly as Phillis made it, with my notes in parens. But, as you start thinking about apples, maybe you'll think about this salad. It's excellent in whatever proportion you choose to use!

Apple, Dried Cherry and Walnut Salad
Recipe By :From a cooking class with Phillis Carey
Servings: 8

6 tablespoons mayonnaise
6 tablespoons maple syrup
4 1/2 tablespoons champagne wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil

10 ounces baby lettuce leaves (I use more)
4 whole Granny Smith apple -- or pears (I use 1, not 4)
3/4 cup dried cherries -- not sweetened
3/4 cup chopped walnuts -- toasted
1. Dressing: whisk mayonnaise, syrup, vinegar and sugar in a medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in oil mixture, until it is slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Will keep in refrigerator for 2-3 days.
2. In a large salad bowl combine the lettuce, cherries and half of the toasted nuts. It is not necessary to peel the apples or pears, but you may if you choose. Cut the apples into julienne strips and add to the salad, then toss with enough dressing to coat the salad.
3. Divide salad equally onto 8 plates and sprinkle with remaining walnuts.
NOTES : This has a sweet tinge, obviously, with the maple syrup as a sweetener, but it's very tasty and easy. It helps if you have a mandoline to do the julienne apple strips.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Normandy Apricot Custard

Maybe I'll have a photo of this special dessert this summer. But only if I can still find apricots in the market by the time I'm able to walk again.

Several years ago I attended a cooking class taught by Susan Hermann Loomis. She's an American woman who took a left turn in her life and went to Paris. Attended culinary school, found jobs here and there cooking for wealthy families, met a Frenchman, married, bought a home in Normandy, settled down, had two children, then wrote a cookbook. And opened her home for cooking classes. And no, I didn't attend a class at her home in Normandy. Maybe one day.

Susan's a fun personality, and her cooking is quite straightforward. She cooks rustic. Country French. Seasonal. But oh, so delicious. This was the one recipe from her class that I made as soon as it was apricot season. I bought her cookbook and memoir On Rue Tatin and read it cover to cover as soon as I brought it home from the class. It's not currently in print, but you can find used copies. But, I very much enjoyed her breezy style, and learning more details about her life. I can't say that I've made very many of the dishes (you know, so many cookbooks, so little time, especially with a broken FOOT!), but I loved reading about them. I tagged the book in many places to remind me of the things I want to make.

I don't cook with apricots very often. They have such a short season, after all. But they're very much a celebrated fruit in Normandy, the region where Susan lives. She obviously subscribes to the Slow Food movement, using only local and seasonal ingredients. Some apricot varieties cook better than others - if you're not careful they become mush. But if you have a good source, and they are full of flavor, by all means, this would make a super end to a meal. Be sure to make this in a baking dish that's got at least 1/2 inch of space once you add all the ingredients, or it may bubble over in your oven. My notes remind me that it's the topping that makes the dish. Otherwise it would be a fruit with a custard on top, I suppose. But this has a simple eggy topping that adds a piquant taste to it. Goes very well with those perfectly baked apricots.

Normandy Apricot Custard
Recipe: Susan Herrmann Loomis, chef and author
Servings: 8
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds apricots -- slightly under-ripe
1/4 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons sugar -- infused with vanilla
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar -- infused with vanilla
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Thoroughly butter and flour a 2-quart round baking dish about 4 inches deep. You may also use 1-cup ramekins.
2. Fruit Layer: Melt butter in medium wide skillet over medium heat. Add apricots and brown sugar, stir and saute until they are hot through and sugar has melted and begun to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Custard Layer: In a large bowl mix together the sugar and 2 T. of butter until the mixture is pale yellow and light, about 3-5 minutes. Mix in eggs one at a time until thoroughly combined. Use a whisk on the mixture until it is light and pale yellow. Sift the flour and baking powder over the bowl, whisking as you do, so it incorporates smoothly into the mixture. Then whisk in the milk. Fold in the warm apricots and the cooking juices, then pour the entire mixture into the prepared mold. Bake in center of oven until it begins to puff and look golden, about 30 minutes.
4. Topping Layer: While the custard is baking, whisk together vanilla sugar and remaining 4 T. butter until light and fluffy. Whisk in the egg until combined. Remove the baked apricot custard from the oven and spread this topping over it. Return it to the oven and bake until golden and bubbling, an additional 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before serving.
5. Serve with a rosemary sprig as garnish.
NOTES : The topping mixture is what makes this dish. Can be made several hours ahead of serving. Whatever bowl you bake this in, be sure to leave at least 1/2 inch of space below the edge, as it may overflow. Use a tall bowl, not a wide flat one. Vanilla sugar is simply regular sugar to which you have added a vanilla bean, cut in half. It will exude some scent to the sugar. Remove after a couple of months. When you add new sugar to your canister, add another vanilla bean. Since apricot season is so short, maybe this could be made with pluots instead.
Per Serving: 335 Calories; 16g Fat (41.9% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 118mg Cholesterol; 103mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Fruit; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 3 Fat; 1 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
To print the recipe, click title at top.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Spicy Garlic Cashew Chicken

Thanks to my DH, he managed to make a nice chicken dinner the other night. Albeit, we only had one chicken thigh and some frozen asparagus each, but it worked. The freezer-burned asparagus was over the hill - but the chicken was scrumptious. We have leftovers, which is a good thing, and I would definitely make this again.

The recipe came from Elise, over at Simply Recipes. I've made several of her recipes in the last 6 months, and have enjoyed them all. This one is a stand-out, for sure. The marinade and sauce (one in the same) is just delicious. You could eat it right out of the bowl it's so tasty. Her recipe was adapted from an article in the New York Times, she said.

The recipe is very simple - you make a cashew-based marinade in the food processor, with cilantro, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and some fresh chiles. Some of this is reserved to scoop on top at serving time, but you marinate the chicken in this stuff for at least an hour, then grill or broil or bake and serve. Even my DH, who doesn't cook, found this fairly easy to make. That's saying a lot from him! This marinade kind of resembles pesto, except rather than basil and pine nuts, this is cilantro and cashews.

My recipe will include a few changes: (1) next time I'll use boneless, skinless thighs (because I don't like to eat the fatty chicken skin and most of the thick marinade sticks to the skin); (2) we used one small jalapeno and a part of a poblano chile, and I'd definitely do that again; and maybe if baking these (3) I'll pat a bit of Panko crumbs on top of the chicken (I like the crunch of Panko); (4) I'll make more of the sauce since it's just so unbelievably yummy (I'd like to try it on other things - like a grilled pork chop - or as a spread on a sandwich, maybe even as a salad dressing - we both just l-o-v-e-d the sauce; and (5) I substituted brown sugar Splenda for the brown sugar just because we try to limit sugar in our diets.

Although the recipe says to marinate just an hour or two, most likely it would be fine up to 24 hours. No more, though, or the chicken will begin to "cook" with the lime juice in it.
Spicy Garlic Cashew Chicken Recipe
Recipe: From Simply Recipes food blog
Servings: 6
1 cup cashews -- salted
6 Tbsp cilantro -- chopped with stems
1/4 cup olive oil -- or grapeseed oil
4 whole garlic cloves -- roughly chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar -- or Splenda brown sugar
1 whole jalapeño peppers -- seeded, chopped

1/2 poblano chile, seeded, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds chicken thighs -- boneless, skinless
1. In a blender or food processor, blend together the cashews, cilantro, oil, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, chiles, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of water. Blend until a smooth paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reserve a third of the marinade for serving with the chicken. Use the rest for coating the chicken.
2. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the chicken pieces. Coat the chicken pieces with the marinade. Chill for an hour or two. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
3. Preheat broiler or grill. Broil or grill chicken, turning frequently, until golden and crisp and a meat thermometer reads 175°F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (not touching a bone), or when the juices run clear (not pink) when cut into with a knife. About 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with lime wedges, reserved marinade, and cilantro.
Per Serving: 600 Calories; 47g Fat (70.0% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 151mg Cholesterol; 487mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 4 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 6 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click title at top.

Monday, August 27, 2007

What's Sicilian about Sicilian Tuna Salad?

It's the capers, of course, that make this uniquely Sicilian. Whether the Sicilians were the first to utilize the little buds, I don't know. I buy a giant economy sized bottle of capers at my local Italian market. A large jar isn't cheap, but I've had this jar for about 5 years, I think. Caper berries are also available - they've just been allowed to mature to a bigger size, hence they're berries, rather than buds. I do like capers a lot, but only in small quanitity. I once ordered chicken piccatta at some restaurant and it had so darned many of them, and probably a bit of the pickle juice, I couldn't eat it. But in moderation, they add a kind of piquant character to any dish in which you choose to use them. Just be sure to rinse them a little before using them.

I think capers are not common in tuna salad, but when I had this, it was just really, really good. There's nothing else in it that is that unusual. I've never been able to put my finger on why this combination is so darned good, but maybe it's the capers and lemon juice together that bring something different to the equation. And the fact that you use imported tuna packed in oil. And there's no mayo in it. There's just lots of flavor there.

Sicily abounds with lemons. There are lemons on trees obviously, lemons in the market, lemons in art, lemons in ceramics, lemons even in the ancient carvings. If you buy dinnerware, often it will contain pictures of lemons. The early people obviously found every possible way to utilize the citrus. Sicilians use lemon juice in lieu of vinegar, so it's found in every avenue of their cuisine. And how could I forget Lemoncello? Oh, so good is that liqueur.

But we're talking about a pasta salad here . . . this came from a Joanne Weir cooking class some years ago. I'd have gone right on by this recipe had I not tasted it, figuring what's one more cold pasta salad with tuna. But this was just different. Better. Tastier. Tangier. Every time I've made this it has renewed my enjoyment of it.
Sicilian Tuna Salad
Recipe: Joanne Weir, author and instructor
Serving Size : 4
6 ounces tuna in oil -- drained
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons lemon juice -- must be fresh
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons capers -- rinsed and drained
1/4 cup Italian parsley -- chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil -- chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro -- chopped
1. Drain the tuna as much as possible. Place tuna in a large bowl and using a fork break it into flakes. Set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt, then add the penne, stir well, and cook ONLY until pasta is "al dente," firm to the tooth. This will be about 10-12 minutes depending on the brand. Drain well.
3. Meanwhile, into the bowl add the lemon juice, olive oil, remaining salt, and the pepper. Then add the hot, drained pasta and stir well.
4. Add the capers, parsley, basil, and cilantro and mix gently. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
5. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl or divide amount individual plates. It is better if it is served at near room temperature. Garnish with additional Italian parsley sprigs or basil leaves.
NOTES : Buy the oil-packed tuna, since the flavor is significantly better. The salad is really good and can be made up ahead. It keeps for 4-5 days with little or no deterioration. It is a fairly dry pasta salad - you can add more oil if you want to. If it's summer and you can find good tomatoes, they are a wonderful addition to the top of the salad or on the plate with it.You can use different pasta if you would prefer.
Per Serving: 359 Calories; 11g Fat (28.4% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 970mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 1/2 Grain(Starch); 2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top. (photo from

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Italian Braciole - Bragiole - Braesiola

(photo from
Update about my broken foot: I'm on a countdown - 5 days to go and I hope to be walking again. Maybe not walking well, but at least not in a wheelchair. Back to cooking again and photographing my blog food! Back to driving again. I hope.
We went to an Italian restaurant the other night - Vessia - in Irvine. One of the chefs from Prego opened it a couple of years ago. Good food. We'd been there when it first opened and were disappointed, but last night was a big improvement. My DH ordered their Braesiola.

When I looked at the word on the menu I wondered if it was something similar to the Braciole that I've made for years. Or if it was a completely different dish. Reading the fine print it sounded very similar. Why the different spelling, I wonder? Maybe some reader of mine who is Italian, or knows Italian cuisine can tell me why a dish can have so many different spellings? I did an internet search and found several also. Confusing to me! I think the meat roll is Sicilian in origin, but it's claimed by all Italians, now.

So, I decided to take a look again at my version of this standby, Braciole - I think it's pronounced brah-jol. Our Mexican waiter butchered the word big time as well as every other Italian word he tried to pronounce. I think I previously asked an Italian how to pronounce it.

Anyway, today I read online of many variations on the braciole theme. I liked reading about the addition of pine nuts, garlic, Pecorino-Romano cheese, parsley too. Here's one version I liked. And I also like the option of cooking it on a bed of tomato sauce. I may have to try some of those options next time I make this. My recipe dates back to the 1960's.

Because refrigerators with large freezers were a new fangled thing back then, there were lots of books and articles in magazines about how to use your freezer. Hard to imagine but I even bought a small BOOK about how to freeze. It seems like second nature now. But back then we didn't have plastic bags. And initially we didn't even have plastic containers (boxes) to store or freeze in either. You just used the ceramic (lidded Pyrex) or metal containers things were cooked in. Hard to believe, I know.

Because I still have the original clipping from this recipe, it was from an article about freezing meals ahead. About buying a larger amount of meat, prepping it, then fixing half and freezing half. Seemed like a logical thing to do. Have done it every since when I make this dish.

At the time I'm sure the refrigerator manufacturers probably paid marketing writers to punch out lots of material about why we needed to have these new-fangled refrigerator-freezers so they'd have umpteen more customers. Freezers had been around for awhile, but they were tiny little cubby-holes nested inside the top of the refrigerator. And they weren't frost-free. Far from it. I remember many a time on a weekend putting bowls of hot-hot water inside the freezer unit trying to hurry-up the process of defrosting the thing. Using an ice pick to pry the chunks of ice off the sides. The opening was so clogged with ice and frost that you could hardly store anything in it. Or what was in it was completely enveloped in ice so you couldn't remove it to use it. Then there were the piles of towels you needed to use to mop of the dripping water. And sponges and bowls to mop up the water on shelves below the freezer. It was an awful process. I hated it. Hated it. Hated it. But do it every homemaker did; otherwise the freezer was a useless feature.

But then they came out with frost-free. I wasn't exactly first in line because such refrigerator/freezers were pricey and beyond the budget, but I do remember, in about 1967 finally getting one. Oh, was I excited! I can hardly believe it now, but my former husband, always pinching pennies, gave me a choice (I was a stay-at-home wife) of getting an old used car of my very own OR a new frost-free refrigerator freezer. We had one car only and he used it to go to and from work. Twice a week I took him to work and used those days for errands, shopping, etc. Then I had to pick him up from work too. The other days of the week I was at home all day. Baking, cooking, cleaning, writing letters, reading, etc. Anyway, I chose the refrigerator/freezer. I was greedy: I wanted both. But both I could not have. It was probably 5 more years before I finally had a car of my own.

So, back to freezing food and braciole. However you pronounce it, it's a very simple stuffed meat roll. You start out with round steak, cut 1" thick, then you butterfly it to make a big flat surface. Then it's filled and rolled with Italian sausage, red bell pepper strips, some cheese and a bit of bread stuffing. You tie it, bake it, adding some additional cheese near the end. Remove, let sit briefly, then slice to serve.

Italian Braciole
Recipe: Magazine recipe from 1960's
Servings: 12
2 whole round steaks -- 1" thick, butterflied
1 lb Italian sausage -- hot or sweet
1 whole onion -- sliced, separated
1 c herb-seasoned stuffing cubes -- Pepperidge Farms
1 whole egg
1/4 c water
1 whole red bell pepper -- strips
8 oz Mozzarella cheese -- packaged, sliced
1. Ask the butcher to split the steaks butterfly fashion, but not all the way; open each steak to 1 large piece. Pound both steaks with mallet until somewhat thin and tenderized. Cut pieces of kitchen string about 12-14" long and lay underneath meat at 2" intervals.
2. Cook the sausage meat briefly in a large skillet, drain well and spread meat on both steaks. Briefly sauté onions and red pepper strips in pan and spread on meat. Add stuffing mix to pan, then egg mixed with water and mix well. Do not cook stuffing. Add to steaks. Remove one slice of cheese, chop and save. Halve lengthwise remaining cheese and lay on steaks. Roll each steak carefully, keeping stuffing inside and tie meat carefully, but not too tight as meat and filling expand as they bake.
3. If cooking immediately: Place rolls in shallow baking pan large enough to hold steak and pour 3/4 cup water over rolls. Bake in moderate oven (350) for 40 minutes, basting occasionally. Sprinkle reserved chopped cheese over rolls. Bake 10 minutes longer, or until cheese melts. Remove to serving or cutting board and remove strings, then slice. Serve immediately.
4. If freezing: wrap uncooked rolls in foil; label & freeze. To bake frozen rolls: unwrap, place in baking pan and pour 3/4 cup water over. Bake in 350 oven for 1 hour and 40 minutes, basting occasionally. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake 10 minutes longer.
Serving Ideas : Wonderful with corn casserole, garlic bread, green salad.
NOTES : The magazine article from which this recipe came was about freezing entrees for ease of serving later. This entree will keep in the freezer well and can be baked right out of the freezer. Do not add the cheese until the last or it will drip off the meat.
Per Serving: 246 Calories; 19g Fat (70.7% calories from fat); 14g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 436mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 2 1/2 Fat.
To print recipe, click title at top.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Goat Cheese with Warm Apricot, Cherry and Green Chile Chutney

(photo from
Sometimes when I entertain I don't have a whole day to devote to preparing dinner. But then, when I entertain I always serve an appetizer, a salad, a vegetable, usually a carb of some kind, and a protein, maybe even with a sauce or salsa or something alongside. And dessert. That's a whole lot of food prep.

I'd like to say that as I've gotten older I've gotten wiser about the work and stress of entertaining, but my DH would heartily disagree. I still do a too-ambitious menu. I choose things that require too much work. Once in awhile I either buy an appetizer, or sometimes buy a ready-made dessert. Or, I cut out the carb. But most often I think I can do it all and still be full of energy at 6 pm. But more often than not I'm still working furiously 5 minutes before the guests arrive. My DH loves to entertain (and he does deal with the wine, the wine glasses, and he even sets the table AND does all the dishes). I can't complain at ALL that he doesn't help. He just doesn't help with any of the FOOD unless it's a grilled meal we're having. So when I start working up a menu I forget to think about the hours of work. I often underestimate how much time it will take. And I must not work at the frenetic level I used to. So I'm normally at work in the kitchen all day. One of these days I'll learn. Maybe.

On occasion I start working on my entertaining menu several days ahead and do some of the work a day or so before. This is one of those recipes to do ahead - it's not all that difficult, but you do have to make the chutney. It's easy enough - just takes about 45 minutes total time, with a bit of chopping and mincing before you start. Then when the guests arrive, you can just whip this out and heat it up.

Poblano chiles are a favorite of mine. They have some kind of deep, complex flavor. They have character. That's it. I don't think I've ever had them and not liked them. This recipe came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter. And the chutney is just wonderful. On my notes from the class I wrote "fabulous." That means it's a "must fix this" dish. And I have. You'll have some leftover chutney, but it's also delicious served with a pork chop or chicken breast popped on the grill.

The picture at the top - of the cheese - isn't actually the right kind of cheese - you want the plain chevre or montrachet. A fresh and plain goat cheese log. Then you make the chutney, have it warm. Heat the log of cheese for 5 minutes, then plate it and mound the chutney over and around it. Some crackers, and you're done. I think you'll get raves.

Goat Cheese with Warm Apricot, Cherry & Green Chile Chutney
Recipe: Tarla Fallgatter
Servings: 8
8 ounces goat cheese -- log
2 1/2 cups dried apricots -- coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar -- or sugar substitute
1 cup poblano peppers -- roasted, peeled, chopped
1/2 cup dried cherries -- chopped
1/2 cup red onion -- chopped
1 whole cinnamon stick -- 3 inches
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Italian parsley -- chopped
8 ounces crackers
Italian parsley sprigs for garnish
1. In a 3-4 quart pan over high heat, combine apricots, vinegar, sugar, chiles, cherries, onion, cinnamon stick, mustard seed and salt.
2. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the apricots are soft when pierced, about 20-25 minutes. Uncover and simmer until most of the liquid evaporates, about 5 more minutes.
3. Let cool, discard cinnamon stick and stir in the chopped parsley. Preheat oven to 350. Place goat cheese in an ovenproof dish and heat about 5 minutes or until JUST warm. Transfer to a serving plate and spoon some of the chutney over the top. Garnish with the Italian parsley sprigs, surround with crackers and serve.
Per Serving: 549 Calories; 14g Fat (22.0% calories from fat); 14g Protein; 98g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 30mg Cholesterol; 609mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 2 Fruit; 2 Fat; 2 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Salmon with Pickled Ginger/Butter Sauce

(photo from
When I watched Phillis Carey make this sauce at a cooking class, I thought, piously, oh, I won't eat but a bite of that, it's just got too much fat in it. Hmmm. Yea. Sure. I tasted it and my resolve went right out the window - my mouth went into a heavenly state. Well, why not, with that much butter in it? But the combination of the butter, the pickled ginger and the basil. Oh my.

I really considered not posting this recipe because of the quantity of butter. But this is just so darned good, I just had to. If you want to watch fat grams, then reduce the quantity of sauce. I think you could. As I recall a lot of the butter sauce drizzles around the plate anyway - you don't get it all right ON the salmon. The calorie and fat content assumes you consume all that sauce, which you won't. So that makes it better for us, right? Sure.

Previously I've mentioned Phillis Carey, her cookbooks, and her creativity with chicken. I mean, the woman is a magician and an Einstein all rolled into one when she invents new dishes using chicken. Plus, she makes them really flavorful and moist. Phillis applies the same ingredient creativity to salmon. I mean, she can't do chicken at every cooking class, right? But, who would have thought to use pickled ginger with salmon? My mind just doesn't work in those tangents, I guess. But I'm glad Phillis' does. And so will you if you try this. This makes a wonderful company meal. And if you read my posting about how I grade cooking class recipes, this one merited a "fabulous." That means it's a MUST FIX. And I did. And I do. And I will.

Salmon with Pickled Ginger and Basil Butter Sauce
Recipe: Phillis Carey, from a cooking class
Servings: 6
36 ounces salmon fillets -- in 6-ounce steaks
1 cup white wine -- not Chardonnay
1/4 cup rice vinegar -- not seasoned style
2 whole shallots -- chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger -- chilled
3 tablespoons pickled ginger -- divided use
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh basil -- minced
1. Preheat oven to 375. Arrange salmon fillets on a parchment lined baking sheet.
2. In a heavy saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil the wine, vinegar, shallots, fresh ginger and HALF of the pickled ginger. Boil it until it is reduced by half. (You can do this up to one day ahead.) Reduced heat to medium low and slowly add the 1 1/2 cups of butter, one tablespoon at a time. Do NOT boil. Strain the sauce, then season with salt and pepper and stir in the basil and remaining pickled ginger.
3. Melt the remaining 2 T. of butter and brush on the salmon. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until just cooked through.Serve salmon with some of the sauce and pour remaining sauce in a pitcher and serve at the table.
Serving Ideas : This can also be made with halibut. Broccoli or asparagus are great sides for this.
NOTES : Chardonnay is too tart for this dish - the chef preferred a Sauvignon Blanc or something a little sweeter than Chardonnay.
Per Serving: 669 Calories; 56g Fat (77.6% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 223mg Cholesterol; 123mg Sodium. Exchanges: 5 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 10 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I know it isn't asparagus season . . . Roasted Asparagus with Chile Citrus Butter

I was trying to put away a stack of miscellaneous recipes yesterday. I'm an inveterate recipe collector. I even have a sort-of-a furniture piece where I now store all of my clippings and miscellaneous food related paper. It's a sort of file cabinet, but looks more like furniture. Sort of. Since I've been doing this recipe-collecting for about 45 years, there are a LOT of recipes and papers in there. I rarely purge. I have, but not much. I'm always certain that as soon as I do so, I'll decide I really wanted that recipe.
These are rattan-type baskets inside a kind of 3-shelf stand in a wrought-iron frame. Doesn't look like a file cabinet, exactly, and isn't too unsightly. It sits in a hallway about 15 feet from my kitchen. When I file, I have to take a chair there and sit and sort. Because it's not very convenient, I tend to pile up recipes and other filing (restaurant reviews, and a little bit of other food trivia stuff) until I have a bunch to go through. There are frames inside each basket which allow you to hang Pentaflex folders, so then I have pocket file folders for lots of food categories. You can see one pocket folder sticking up there. In case you're interested, you can buy this piece at FurnitureFind. That's not where I bought it, but since I couldn't remember where it came from, I did a search and they do have it for $218.

So, I got distracted there. I was going through my stack of recipes to file. I was really trying to find a cauliflower and bacon soup I'd made awhile back (we had some from the freezer the other day and it was just wonderful, but I can't find the original recipe . . . I'd like to make it again). But while sorting I ran across this recipe for asparagus. Brought back a pleasant mouth-watering memory.

I really should be posting this in about March when asparagus hits the markets in abundance. We can buy it year around, but surely it's at its peak in the late spring. Some years ago I bought a Dacor oven. I L-O-V-E my Dacor oven. It has convection and regular baking options. I'd had a convection oven before, but never seemed to figure out, exactly, the best ways to use it, or when NOT to use it. So I was delighted to know that I could attend a cooking class at the Dacor headquarters, which are here in Southern California. In fact they're only about 15 miles from our house. My friend Cherrie, who also owns a Dacor full range, and I have been to 2 or 3 Dacor classes. They've been great fun. Some are for Dacor owners; others you can attend for a fee.

Twice now she and I have been to the convection class. We keep needing refresher courses. I probably should have some kind of cheat-sheet I use to help me decide whether to use convection or not. Even with classes, I don't always know. But this recipe was by far the standout recipe for convection use. And it was served both times, and I've made this innumerable times myself. It's super easy. And scrumptiously delicious. I could make an entire MEAL of this asparagus. Don't overwhelm the piquant flavors with a complicated or highly spiced entree. Allow the citrus flavors to bloom and predominate. The first time I made this, for a company dinner, I bought 3 pounds of asparagus, assuming we'd have lots of leftovers. At least that was my plan. Ha. Gone. All gone.

Roasted Asparagus with Chile Citrus Butter
Recipe: Dacor
Serving Size : 6
2 pounds asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice -- freshly squeezed
1/2 cup lemon juice -- freshly squeezed
3 tablespoons cold butter
1 tablespoon Cayenne
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
salt and pepper -- to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375° on pure convection, if available. Cut off the ends of the asparagus. Rinse to remove any dirt or debris. Dry them on a dry towel to remove all moisture and allow to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before proceeding.
2. Layer the asparagus in a flat pan and season with salt and pepper, then drizzle on some olive oil, and toss with your fingers to cover all of the asparagus.
3. Bake for 15 minutes if they are of medium thickness. Use fewer or more minutes depending on asparagus size. If you don't have a convection oven, just increase cooking time by a little bit.
4. Meanwhile heat a small saucepan containing the lemon and orange juice. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5-6 minutes until the juice is reduced by half. Whisk in the butter, cayenne, salt and pepper. When asparagus is cooked, toss with this dressing and garnish with lemon and orange zest.
Per Serving: 127 Calories; 11g Fat (69.6% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 61mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 2 Fat.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Want a little kick in your meatballs?

(photo from
This is about chiles. You want a bit of chile heat in your meatballs? This is your recipe, then. Usually I make these during cool weather, not in the summer, as the spicy heat seems to taste better when the rain is falling or the wind is blowing. But, there's no reason why this couldn't be eaten any time of year.

We'd been on a hiatus from eating beef when I made this some years ago. The recipe was in Bon Appetit, and just hit a taste button with me and I promptly went out to buy the ingredients. I made a moderate batch of them and froze the remaining in dinner-sized portions. I freeze the rice in a separate quart-sized Ziploc bag but put it with the meatballs in the gallon sized bags. Then my meal is all together.

This could be made with ground turkey or chicken, or a mixture. It's the little bit of capers in the middle that make the meatballs unusual. And the chipotle chiles. Then the fresh tomato sauce is also different. Fresh Tomato Sauce merely means you use fresh tomatoes and you don't cook it very long. So the sauce retains some semblance of a "fresh" taste. It's easy and delicious. Summertime is a good season to use up your abundance of home grown tomatoes.

As I mentioned, the recipe called for rice (I use brown basmati), but it could also go over mashed potatoes just as easily. Or pasta for that matter. But you might want some kind of carb to soak up the good sauce. Generally I make more sauce than the recipe says, but it's truly not necessary unless you like sauce like we do.

Chipotle chiles are an ancient condiment, I'm sure, with all the Mexican or South American cuisines that include hot chiles. They're merely jalapeno chiles that have been smoked and canned or bottled in an adobo tomato sauce. They're spicy. Very spicy. I'd open a can and use a mere teaspoon or two, put it in the refrigerator and months later would discover this moldy messy gunk in there. So I was overjoyed when at one of the cooking classes I attended, the instructor suggested piling the chipotles into a plastic bag and freezing the leftovers. Then when you need some, you just use a spoon and scrape out whatever you need. Very easy, and certainly a better use for the contents of the can. I don't cook Mexican food very often - we have such wonderful restaurants here in our part of the world that I don't need to make it. But I use lots and lots of Mexican food products in my cooking. And this meatball dish certainly isn't Mexican particularly.

Are any of you enjoying Rick Bayless' cooking program on public television? I've been Tivo-ing it for awhile, and have enjoyed it immensely. Rick is a famous American chef from Oklahoma, although he lives in Chicago now, where he has two very popular Mexican restaurants. He's a very unassuming kind of guy - I don't detect a bit of ego in his style. He just adores Mexican cuisine, particularly from the Yucatan. He uses copious amounts of chipotle and other chiles in nearly everything he makes. Some chiles I'd never heard of. Rick has published six cookbooks. (Just an aside here for those of you who follow my cookbook obsession, I own not one single Rick Bayless cookbook . . . aren't you proud of me?) This series, with the recipes from the PBS series is from his book called Mexican Everyday, although the series is called Mexico One Plate at a Time.

My hands are particularly sensitive to chiles. No matter how careful I am with cutting up a chile, I always manage to feel some heat from it - usually underneath my fingernails. Not everybody has this problem, so this is just a friendly warning. I use plastic gloves. The staff in my dentist's office has been kind enough (thanks Joan and others) to give me a box of their gloves every couple of years. They're a must for me. Particularly with the chipotles. Getting a little bit of that spicy chipotle sauce under my fingernails can be so painful for hours and hours.

So, if you're looking for something a bit different, give this a try. Use gloves. :-)

Chipotle Meatballs in Fresh Tomato Sauce
Recipe: Bon Appetit, May, 2003
Servings: 6
3 pounds plum tomatoes -- chopped
1 medium white onion -- chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chipotle chile canned in adobo -- minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons capers -- drained
1. Puree first five ingredients in blender (in batches, if necessary) until almost smooth.
2. Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat, add tomatoes, cover and simmer for 10 minutes just to blend flavors and thicken slightly. Stir occasionally and season with salt and pepper. This can be prepared up to 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
3. In a large bowl combine the beef and pork and next six ingredients. Add 1/2 cup of the cooled tomato mixture and stir well. Using your hands, form about 1 rounded tablespoon of meat mixture into a ball. Insert 2-3 capers into the center and reshape to cover them. Repeat with remaining meat mixture and capers.
4. Bring sauce to a simmer over medium heat. Add meatballs, cover and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, prepare a batch of basmati rice. I use brown basmati rice because it's better for us. Spoon rice into a large shallow bowl and ladle meatballs and sauce on top.
NOTES : At a cooking class I learned to open a can of chipotle chiles, divide them up into small plastic bags, place those in a larger plastic bag that can be labeled. Since you never use much chipotle for any one dish, at least you'll always have it on hand. The chipotle adds a subtle, but important kick to this dish. I make this in at least double quantity and freeze both meatballs (in sauce) and rice in separate bags, and on evenings when I don't want to cook, it's really easy to pop out one of each bag and there's dinner with a vegetable and/or salad.
Per Serving : 511 Calories; 38g Fat (66.6% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 147mg Cholesterol; 635mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 4 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 5 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bet you don't know what Schnecken is?

I probably wouldn't ever have known about Schnecken had I not lived next door to a woman who was German by heritage, and she made these rolls often. Very often. The couple invited us for dinner one night and these were served with dinner.

Now anybody reading this who has a German-Jewish heritage, you may leap all over me to tell me that Schnecken are NOT dinner rolls. They're sweet rolls that are a standard, but special occasion, sweet roll, usually filled with nuts or a caramel nut mixture. And generally they're eaten in the morning, at breakfast, like biscuits, a doughnut, or a bear claw. And actually, I found out that Schnecken is a Yiddish word. And here in the U.S. there seem to be lots of bakeries in the Cincinnati area that offer them. Must be a big German/Jewish population there who know about a good thing when they find it.

I did a google search for these guys, hoping that now that the internet has "everything" I'd find something about Schnecken ROLLS. Nay. Nada. Just a bunch of recipes for sweet dough with a sweet, nut filling. And believe it or not there's even a blog out there dedicated to Schnecken memories. No recipes, just reminiscences. Really. That's where I learned about Cincinnati's love affair with Schnecken. But, I truly don't know whether these are authentic, other than my neighbor was German, and she served these with dinner. They need no added butter as they're layered with some before the second rise.

What these are, are sweet. Certainly sweeter than regular dinner rolls. They're kind of like King's Hawaiian Bread, if you have that where you live. Also kind of like Hot Cross Buns, but without the frosting/glaze on top. But the dough is very tender. Once I got the technique down, and did some research about them, I discovered that they're akin to the Refrigerator Yeast Rolls of old. For those of you young'uns, Refrigerator Yeast Bread came into high esteem after the advent of . . . well, refrigerators. Duh. But no, really, you need to understand a bit more yeast fact and lore. Yeast dough likes a warm rising environment. It needs the time to rise too - that's what we like about raised bread, it has all those tiny little holes in it filled with air. But, homemakers couldn't always stay home all day waiting to work on the dough just when the dough said so. Probably some housewife had to take her children to the lake to swim, or she needed to help weed the south 40, so in desperation, she stuck the dough in the refrigerator. When she returned hours later and removed the dough, and let it come to room temperature she discovered the dough had risen anyway, even being chilled. But it was delayed. Perfect. Hence, Refrigerator Rolls were born. That's my explanation and I'm sticking to it!

The refrigerator thing is what makes these so fun and easy to do. You mix up the dough and let it do its thing in the frig. A couple of hours before you need them, remove from the refrigerator, roll out and cut with a biscuit cutter, set aside, lightly covered in a semi-warm place, and give them 1 - 1 1/2 hours to rise and pop them in the oven. The most heavenly fragrance will perfume the air. Betcha you can't not eat one right away!

Schnecken Rolls
Recipe By : from a neighbor I knew in Washington, D.C. (1963)
Servings : 24
2 packages dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup warm water
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter -- room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
2 whole egg -- slightly beaten
6 1/2 cups bread flour -- approximately
1. In a glass measuring cup combine the 1/4 cup water, sugar and ground ginger; then add the yeast packages, stir and set aside until bubbly.
2. In a large bowl combine the water, sugar, butter and salt. Add the boiling water and stir until the butter melts. Add 2 cups of the flour and beat well.
3. Add the eggs and yeast mixture, stir well, then add all the remaining flour. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth. Chill for 4 hours.
4. Roll the dough out onto a floured board and use a rolling pin to roll it into a 10" by 18" rectangle. Spread the dough with a little bit of butter all over. Fold the dough in half.
5. Cut the folded dough with a biscuit cutter and place in metal pans with the rolls almost touching. Allow to rise for about 1-1 1/4 hours.
6. Preheat oven to 375° and bake rolls for 20-25 minutes.
NOTES : I actually used to make these a lot because they could be made in the morning, put into the refrigerator to chill the dough, then about 2 hours before guests arrived I'd roll it out, cut them, allow them to rise, and bake them just as guests arrived. It made the house smell wonderful! And they're absolutely delicious.
Per Serving: 243 Calories; 9g Fat (32.4% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 38mg Cholesterol; 174mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.

Monday, August 20, 2007

New Wave Garlic Bread

(photo from
Who doesn't like garlic bread, I ask you? Back in the days when we didn't know any better, I served garlic bread with some frequency. I really, REALLY like garlic. And butter too. Put those two together with French bread? Ah. . . But then the butter police arrived on the scene. Then the carbohydrate police joined the parade. So this doesn't get fixed except when we're having hungry guests. Usually family and grandchildren.

This isn't ordinary garlic bread, though. I don't seem to go for anything traditional anymore. I crave the unusual, different ingredients, or something that allows an item to stand out from the crowd. That's this bread. If your family doesn't like a bit of heat (chile type heat) this may not be the right fit for you. I don't mean it's the grab-the-beer or water brigade exactly, but this has some definite bite to it. You can certainly tame it down a bit to try it anyway. It calls for Sichuan pepper. Be very cautious about how much you add - it's very hot. Also, the spicy hot chili sauce has heat as well. Everybody has a different heat decibel tolerance, so add some of the heat, then taste it with a bite of bread before you spread it on the entire loaf.

This is Hugh Carpenter's recipe from one of the cookbooks I own of his. I first served it at a party to celebrate our son's graduation from UCI (University of California, Irvine) at our home in 1990. With a band of hungry young men, I didn't have anywhere near enough, but it went well with the Asian-inspired dinner (all Hugh Carpenter's recipes) I served that night. It was a weeknight, and I was still working full time then. I don't know how I did it - we had just had our kitchen remodeled (this was our previous home), and this was the first meal I cooked in the new kitchen. I must been a whirling dervish.
I suppose this bread would be ideally suited for a meal with some Asian flavors, but it goes just fine with nearly any kind of meal where you'd serve garlic bread. So, give it a go.

New Wave Garlic Bread
Recipe: Hugh Carpenter
Servings: 8
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Chinese chili sauce
1/2 teaspoon Sichuan pepper
8 cloves garlic -- finely minced
1 bunch chives -- minced
1/3 cup cilantro -- minced
1 whole French bread loaf
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese -- grated
1. In a small saucepan, heat butter, chili sauce, Sichuan pepper and garlic. When it has begun to bubble around the edges and the butter is melted completely, remove from the heat and stir in the chives and cilantro.
2. Split the bread loaf in half lengthwise. Brush on a thin layer of the butter sauce. Add a generous amount of cheese to the half. Shake the bread a little to even distribute the cheese. Repeat with second half.
3. Heat oven to broil and toast until golden brown. WATCH CAREFULLY so it won't burn. Cut into slices and serve.
NOTES : If you don't want to use the Sichuan pepper, or you don't have it, that's fine. But the bread needs the Chinese chili sauce. It's available in most grocery stores - a clear plastic bottle, white printing, with a rooster on it. That's the best brand. I think the butter will make more than enough for two loaves of bread, but that depends on how thick you want the butter!
Per Serving: 288 Calories; 15g Fat (46.1% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 35mg Cholesterol; 443mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 2 1/2 Fat.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Do you have a soup library?

Do you know what this is? It's my soup library. We're not into soup season yet. I look forward to making soups - lots of soups - when the weather turns colder. That certainly hasn't happened here in Southern California - the weather turning cooler I mean. It's been hotter in the last couple of days than it's been all summer. In the 90's. Sticky. At least it's sticky for us. Yet I really love soups any time of year. But hearty soups don't frequent my table when it's hot. Except yesterday.

Soups are so comforting. Yesterday, my DH was (and still is today) suffering from a reaction to a drug he was taking, so I thought about defrosting some soup that will go down smoothly. His tongue is swollen. He's itchy all over. Has a sore throat as part of the drug reaction too. So I said, how about I defrost some soup for lunch? He nodded yes since it hurts to talk.

When I make soup I usually make extra. Usually a lot of extra. It's basically the same amount of work to make a soup for 4 as it is to make it for 10. Maybe a bit more chopping and mincing, but that's it. But then we've got leftovers for a day or two later AND some to freeze.

My standard operating procedure is to pour hot soup out into a large flat pan (one of those quarter sheets) or anything large and flatish. Then I label the Ziploc half gallon size freezer bags (not the kind with a zipper) using a grease pencil, so the writing doesn't come off in the freezer. I even write the quantity so I know how many each bag will serve. When the soup has cooled enough to handle, usually within 30-60 minutes, I scoop, ladle, or pour it into the bags, trying to portion out the contents - like getting equal amounts of chicken pieces or other chunky ingredients equalized. When I do this task I make sure there's virtually no air in the bag. This is do-able with some patience by laying the bag flat on the counter and leaving just a corner of the bag open. Holding up that tiny open corner I slide the air bubbles toward the corner, easing air out of the bag before sealing it tight. Then I lay the bags flat on our cool granite countertop for a little longer to cool some more (maybe 20-30 minutes total, usually about 10-15 minutes per side, moving the bags to a different - cool - spot). Then they're plopped into the refrigerator to cool down completely.

A couple of hours later, using a smallish cookie sheet that's just the same size as the Ziploc bag, I lay a soup bag on the sheet and place it in a level place in the freezer. The levelness is critical because you don't want to stand up bags later that are heavier weighted at one end. They cause problems in the "library." I carefully straighten the bag first, so corners aren't crinkled (wrinkled corners will sometimes crack in the freezer if you juggle the frozen "flats" around now and then. Once frozen solid, another bag goes onto the sheet and I continue until all bags are frozen. Once frozen the bags stand upright in the "library." Much easier to handle. Much easier to see. Much easier to remove from the shelf too.

I still have 11 soups lined up in waiting, even after removing one today. We had some tomato soup for lunch. Some of that wonderful cream of tomato soup I made in June from the French bistro cooking class in Sonoma. You can spot the bags of tomato soup in the library - all the same color, all lined up like soldiers. Or sardines in a can. Or books on the shelf.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Halibut Osso Buco. Yes, you read that right!

You know Osso Buco, don't you? Traditionally made with veal shanks, Osso Buco is one of those standbys from nearly every upscale Italian, sometimes even French, restaurants and home kitchens. But if your meat market is like MY meat market, veal shanks are dear. Very dear. So when I saw this recipe in 2001 for halibut prepared osso buco style, it sounded wonderful. I promptly made the dish and we have enjoyed it several times since. You just have to visualize the above halibut steak resting on a bed of herbed and garlic mashed potatoes.

If there's a down side to this, it's that a bit of the preparation must be done at the last minute. And there's a modicum of chopping and mincing to be done. You can make the mashed potatoes an hour or so ahead. You must make the pan sauce ahead - the bed the halibut rests in while it bakes. But, at the last minute you have to saute the fish and bake for 10-15 minutes before plating this up. And then there's the gremolata, an essential - absolutely essential garnish for osso buco - can be made a few hours ahead too. What's gremolata, you ask? Simple: lemon zest, parsley and garlic. Mix them together and let them sit just a bit to meld their flavors before garnishing the fish with it.

There's only one caution: be sure to use low-sodium broth because the broth mixture is reduced (boiled down to a fraction of its original volume) and salted broth would concentrate that salt. Not good - unless you use low sodium. But this is a wonderfully aromatic dish, and anything placed atop a mound of garlic mashed potatoes is bound to be delicious.

Osso Buco-Style Halibut and Whipped Potatoes with Herbs
Recipe: Adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit, 2001
Servings: 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion -- chopped
1/2 cup carrot -- chopped
3/4 cup celery -- chopped
2 whole garlic cloves -- minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup white wine
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup crushed tomatoes -- in puree
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup lemongrass -- chopped
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 whole bay leaf
2 pounds halibut fillets
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds potatoes -- Yukon Gold preferred
5 whole garlic cloves
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mixed herbs -- fresh, chopped (your choice)
1 whole lemon
1/4 cup fresh parsley -- minced
3 whole garlic cloves -- minced
1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic; sauté until brown, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook 2 minutes. Add white wine and simmer until liquid is reduced by half, scraping up browned bits, about 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, orange juice, lemongrass, soy sauce, thyme and bay leaf, and simmer until mixture is reduced to 3 cups, about 50 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Season sauce with salt and pepper.
2. Preheat oven to 350°. Sprinkle halibut with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add fish to skillet and cook until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer fish to plate. Pour off oil from skillet. Reduce heat to low. Add balsamic vinegar to skillet; simmer 1 minute. Add sauce. Whisk in butter. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce into 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Place fish atop sauce in dish. Bake until fish is opaque in center, about 10 minutes.
3. Divide potatoes among 6 plates. Top potatoes with fish and sauce. Sprinkle with Gremolata and serve immediately.
4. POTATOES: Cook potatoes and garlic in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain well. Return potatoes and garlic to pot. Using handheld electric mixer, beat potato mixture at low speed until smooth. Add butter; beat until melted and smooth. Increase speed and whip potatoes just until light and fluffy. Stir in herbs. Season with salt and pepper; serve.
5. GREMOLATA: Using vegetable peeler, remove peel in long strips from lemon. Mince lemon peel. Transfer to small bowl. Mix in parsley and garlic. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Serving Ideas : This could be almost a complete meal, but it's also nice served with a few asparagus spears, or steamed broccoli on the side. A lightly dressed green salad is a nice accompaniment.
NOTES : This recipe appeared in the April 2001 Bon Appetit magazine. I lightened it up just a little bit, although it was a fairly low-calorie and low-fat dish to begin with. Be sure to use the low-salt ingredients mentioned. If you don't have them, don't add any additional salt as the recipe mentions.
Per Serving: 444 Calories; 11g Fat (22.4% calories from fat); 45g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 55mg Cholesterol; 961mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 5 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1 1/2 Fat.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Not your standard German Chocolate Cake

(photo from
Probably most of you have heard and/or made a German Chocolate Cake. You know the kind - two layers with a coconut brown sugar filling and frosting. A very popular cake back in the 70's, as I recall. This ISN'T one of those cakes. And I don't know the origin of this. I've never seen it in any of the cookbooks that come from the cake mix craze, either years ago and recently.

A family friend gave me this recipe way back then, but bears no resemblance either in taste or appearance. Although it IS made with a cake mix. This is baked in a 9x13 pan and requires little more than mixing up the cake mix box. Cake mixes were introduced to the world in the 1960's or 70's. What a boon they were to the home cook. And my recollection is that nearly every homemaker was baking all varieties of cakes from the mixes. Back then it was just the standard white, chocolate, German chocolate, and marble. Later came lemon and other mixes for brownies, angel food, etc. And later yet, the ones with pudding inside. So if you can find it, use a German Chocolate mix without any additions to it. Just the plain, regular stuff. But actually, the pudding inside works just fine too.

Back then, it took a year or two before cooks began to come up with variations on cake mixes - not even mixing them up like a cake, but using them as streusel on top of fruit, or combining different ones. And it was a year or two before they introduced the frosting in a can. I never liked that stuff - way too sweet for me and cloying.

So, when my mother's friend Mary served the cake that day (there were four of us who had a Mah Jong group back then and each time we met the hostess served lunch and dessert), I just went crazy for this cake. It was light and flavorful, but not overly rich. No frosting. But then I'm a nut when it comes to chocolate anyway. There were some chocolate chips in it and nuts. And this elusive sprinkle on the top. It was so simple - just some cinnamon and sugar.

In years following that, my former husband and I used to go camping in the Colorado mountains (we lived in Denver then) during the summer months. This cake was a staple in the camping or picnic category for me. My daughter Dana has always loved this cake, and she makes it herself now, but for many, many years, growing up, this was her most requested cake for her birthday.
This recipe came to the forefront of my mind this week because my friend Cherrie phoned me a couple of days ago and asked, since they're going cabin camping this weekend, if I had a different recipe for garlic bread (I do, will post at a later date) and when she mentioned needing something for dessert my mind leaped to this cake. This cake is so EASY, and I've yet to have anyone not like it. You can serve it with vanilla ice cream, but it's not necessary, really.

The photo from Betty Crocker shows a drizzle of caramel on the top. That would be a nice addition to this cake, even though I've never done it. Give it a try and let me know how THAT tastes.

German Chocolate Chip Cake
Recipe: From Mary Wilfert, a friend of my mother's, about 1970.
Serving Size : 12
1 pkg German chocolate cake mix
12 oz chocolate chips
1/2 c walnuts -- chopped, or pecans
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1. Heat oven to temperature indicated on package.
2. Prepare cake mix as specified on the box. Pour into a greased & floured 9 x 12 inch cake pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and nuts over the top of the batter. Then sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top of that. Bake as directed on cake box and set on a wire rack to cool.
3. Cake will keep in a sealed cake tin for several days, if it lasts that long.
NOTES : Cake mixes were new in the 1970's, so almost every dessert was made with them. Once I had this cake, it became one of our family's favorites. In fact, my daughter Dana usually requests this cake on her birthday. I have used regular chocolate cake mix if I didn't have the German chocolate variety.

Per Serving : 289 Calories; 14g Fat (40.4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 189mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 3 Fat; 3 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Crostini with Blue Cheese, Apples & Watercress

(photo from
I really need to get a photo of this appetizer for you all. The above photo looks sort of like it. Wish I could prepare this right now and could photograph it for real. Soon. Hopefully. The broken bone in my foot is improving, thank goodness.

Crostini is an Italian word - I think it means little toasts, or something similar. That's exactly what these are. The recipe calls for a nut or fruited bread. Here in Southern California we can buy bread from La Brea Bakery (Nancy Silverton's famous bakery, although it's been sold to a big baking conglomerate). They have a raisin and pecan baguette that is perfect for this crostini. Otherwise find some kind of nut bread or fruit bread if at all possible. You slice and lightly toast the pieces, spread on a little bit of the cheese mixture containing mascarpone and blue cheese, some thinly sliced apples, then you top each one with some watercress leaves, THEN you lightly drizzle the top with honey. Oh. My. Goodness. Delicious. This recipe is going into my TOP FAV's over on the right column.

Last Fall Cherrie and I attended a cooking class at Our House South County, in San Juan Capistrano. It was all about apples. The cooking school had about 10 varieties of apples from New England shipped to them and they developed recipes all around them. We did a tasting of 6 different apples with 6 different artisanal honey varieties. Gosh were those good. Many of the apples are varieties we can't buy here in California. They're never available in our local markets. So they have to be shipped.

Remember my adage about cooking classes - if I come home from a cooking class with even one special recipe that I'll make, then I count that class as successful and worth the class fee. THIS is the recipe from that class, and I've made them several times.

With apples, you sort of have to cut them up just before you eat them or they will turn brown. If you want to get everything ready before you serve them, you could toss the apples with lemon juice, but I'm not crazy about the lemon juice taste on the crostini. So maybe just acidulated water (a bit of lemon juice in a cup of water) would be better. You can leave the skin on the apples - in fact the crostini look prettier with it on, especially if you're using a red skinned apple. Everything else can be prepared ahead and then it's just a matter of assembling them. I've been known to ask a guest to make them for me. But, you may want to make one and taste it so you know the proportion of cheese to watercress, apple and honey. The honey helps everything stick, so usually you layer the cheese, then the apples, then a bit of watercress, then honey on top.

This is one of those recipes that had I read it in a magazine or a cookbook, I probably would NEVER have made it. Why? Well, I'm not sure I can say. There isn't anything I don't like in this combination, but I don't know that I would have bothered to layer everything up, toast the toasts, etc. Lots of detail work. And yes, that's true, there is a bit of fussy work to be done to serve these. But the end result is extraordinary. And worth it. Absolutely everyone I've served this to has raved about it. So will you, if you try it. I guarantee it.

Crostini with Blue Cheese, Apples & Watercress
Recipe from: Our House South County Cooking School
Servings: 30
1 cup mascarpone cheese -- softened
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh thyme -- minced and crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper -- freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups blue cheese -- crumbled
30 slices baguette bread -- nut or raisin, toasted lightly
2 large apple -- thinly sliced
4 teaspoons honey
3 cups watercress -- leaves only
1. CHEESE: Mix mascarpone, cream, lemon juice, thyme, salt, pepper, cayenne together in a medium bowl. Gently stir in blue cheese. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
2. CROSTINI: Allow cheese spread to warm to room temperature, then spread it onto the toasted bread slices. On half of the blue cheese spread, place thin apple slices, and on the other half lay a few pieces of watercress, pushing it on slightly so it will adhere. Drizzle the honey over the top and serve.
Serving Ideas : You can't assemble this ahead, but it doesn't take much time to assemble if you have everything ready in small dishes. A tray of these will keep at room temperature for about an hour. AND, leftovers the next morning are just fine. NOTES : This sounds kind of ho-hum. But the combination of the mild blue cheese spread with the fresh, crispy apple slices, the watercress for crunch, and the drizzle of honey makes it sublime. I buy La Brea Bakery's pecan and raisin bread, slice it thin, toast it for about 8-10 minutes at 350. This is best with some kind of fruited bread.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 123 Calories; 5g Fat (38.1% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 280mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Calabacitas con Crema

(photo from
Ever heard of Calabacitas? I hadn't until a few years ago when DH and I traveled to New Mexico and the mountains of Colorado. Dear friends from England joined us and we took a late September driving trip. We met up in Denver, rented an SUV and headed out. It took us 10 days to do the mountains of Colorado, then we headed south to New Mexico, ending up in Santa Fe. Our last night there we had dinner at the restaurant in the Inn at the Anasazi, and with my entree came this vegetable side. of zucchini, corn and poblano chiles. I was in heaven. I nearly licked the plate. Asked the waiter to tell me all about it, which he did.
So once I reached home I started searching around the internet for recipes for Calabacitas. It's quite common in southwest cuisine - it's just a combination of some typical vegetables of southwest but the seasoning and chiles from Mexico. Found several recipes, and have made a couple of different versions. But once I found this one from Rick Bayless (from the internet, but it's from his cookbook Authentic Mexican), I've reverted to it more times than not. Most calabacitas versions are served without cream - traditional calabacitas just combine those three vegies -corn, zucchini and poblano chiles (that have been blackened over the gas range or under the broiler). But with the addition of the cream (or fat-free half and half as I've used also) it's just meltingly delicious in the mouth. I really do plan to make this as my full meal one night. It's that good. Or, I could just add to the dish some chicken broth and make it a great soup. The calories come from the cream, so really, do use the fat-free product instead and it'll be nearly healthy.
Poblano chiles are quite mild - don't be tempted to use any kind of hot chile in this recipe. If you can't get poblanos, you could use a hotter chile but in very reduced quantity. Adding poblanos is not about heat, but about the depth of flavor poblanos bring to any dish. Since corn is on the wane these days, I want to enjoy this one more time before the season is completely gone.
Calabacitas con Crema
Source: Rick Bayless, restaurateur, from his book Authentic Mexican
Servings: 8
1 lb zucchini -- (about four small)
1 1/2 cups corn kernels, fresh if possible
1/2 whole onion -- thinly sliced
2/3 cup heavy cream (or use fat-free half and half) - optional
1 whole poblano pepper -- roasted, seeded, peeled and cut in thin strips
1 tsp salt
1 Tb butter
1 Tb vegetable oil -- or vegetable oil
1. Chop the zucchini in large chunks (about 3/4 inch to 1 inch) and set aside. Prepare onions ahead and set aside. Grill the poblano chile directly on a gas flame, cool, remove skin, then cut into small strips.
2. Using a very large skillet, heat butter and oil until very hot. Add zucchini and toss until tender. Remove the zucchini from the pan with a slotted spoon, allowing it to drain well. In the remaining oil and butter, fry the onion slices until soft and sweet, then add the corn and pepper slices. Add the zucchini and cream and cook until nice and hot. Taste for salt and pepper and serve.
Per Serving: 449 Calories; 46g Fat (89.9% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 58mg Cholesterol; 395mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 9 Fat.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.