Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fennel Fritters

Fennel. Fresh fennel, in the bulb. I think I first had it in about 1985, served to me by a friend. She and her husband are Italian, and she shaved thin pieces into a green salad. I was blown away by the taste, asked her about it, and have been using it ever since. I buy a fennel bulb every week or so and usually it's reserved for salads, in small little slivers. I rarely take the time to shave the fennel with a potato peeler to get the paper-thin type I was originally served. I even enjoy munching on raw fennel too. It's like celery, but with more flavor. The hint of anise in fennel is very subtle.

And my friend Joan brought some fabulous Baked Fennel with Parmigiano-Reggiano one time to an Italian meal we shared with travel friends when we were heading for a trip to Tuscany together. I've written up that recipe already - click on the title in the previous sentence to get to it. But, other than that dish, I've not had it cooked. Until now, that is.

I don't remember where I was referred to the blog, Rustic Food, or just "Rustic." But Batul lives in England and uploads some very interesting recipes now and then. A recipe has not been posted since January, however, so Batul must be on hiatus. The recipes are different, with lots of Middle Eastern overtones. This one is no exception. Fennel Fritters. They sounded so unusual. I printed out the recipe nearly a year ago, but just made them to accompany a grilled steak for our dinner. My DH loved them. I loved them.

Here you see what the diced up fennel and onion looked like. I did this by hand, so I could control the size better than in the food processor. But, you might be able to use the processor on this anyway. I didn't have fresh dill, unfortunately, but used some dried (never as good). I had Greek feta on hand, which is a bit less salty than some, so did add a little bit of salt. Taste it before you add the raw egg and make a decision about that yourself. I also added a few grinds of black pepper and about a tablespoon of sour cream to the mixture.

They were very easy to fry - just a little bit of olive oil in a nonstick pan, and the fritters/pancakes took about 2 - 3 minutes per side, I'd say. Maybe less on the 2nd side. They were easy to turn, even though the mixture is quite soft. You don't get little air bubbles to tell you they're ready to turn, like you do with pancakes. Have a heated oven and hot plate standing by, so you can transfer them to keep warm while you do another batch. Fennel, when cooked, turns into this lovely smooth texture and very mellow. But the fennel in these fritters doesn't cook completely - there's still a bit of crunch to it. The pancake reminded me of egg fu yung, something I haven't seen on Chinese restaurant menus since I was a youngster. Eggy. Soft. I'll be making this again. I had some sour cream languishing in the refrigerator, so also put a little dollop on each pancake to serve. Batul's recipe called for a dollop of yogurt on each fritter. But, it really doesn't need it. Really.

The original recipe didn't say how many it served. I thought maybe about 4 (leftovers, thank you), but oh well. They're low in calorie and fat. We ate them all, except for one lone pancake. So plan accordingly. Or maybe you can have more restraint than we did.

Fennel Fritters
Recipe: Rustic Food blog
Servings: 4
1 whole fennel bulb -- finely chopped
1 small onion -- finely chopped
4 tbsp dill -- chopped
4 tbsp feta cheese -- crumbled (or cheddar grated)
3 whole eggs
3 tbsp flour -- (up to 4)
1 tbsp sour cream (my addition)
1 tsp baking powder
salt to taste (you don't need much because of the feta)
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, drizzle some olive oil in a nonstick frying pan, pour in the mixture, 2 tbsp for each fritter, cook on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Best when it is warm and served with yogurt.
NOTES : Don' t throw away outer leaves of fennel, they are fine with this recipe.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 139 Calories; 6g Fat (38.2% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 167mg Cholesterol; 317mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
To print a PDF recipe only, click title at top.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Did you know that there are people out there who do nothing but proofread? It sounds like a pretty boring job to me, but it's oh-so-very necessary. I think they're now called "copy editors," but I'm not sure since I worked in advertising, not in the publishing world. I bring this up because I wish I'd had one when I hit the "publish" button a few days ago within Blogger (that's the software that Blogspot uses, I use, to write and complete my blog postings).

One nice feature of Blogger is a spell checker. Good thing. Even though I consider myself a very good speller (I even came in 2nd in a spelling bee back in junior high school), when you type and read, and re-read your own copy (the word copy means the text) you often make typing, spelling and grammatical mistakes. And when you go back and re-phrase things, move sentence structure around sometimes, you forget to go look at sentences from beginning to end.

Most of my recipes reside within my own recipe software program. I've mentioned it before, MasterCook. It's a great little program. But, it's only as good as the human (frail as we are) person who types in the ingredients and taps in the instructions. Some years ago I printed out a completed copy of all of my recipes and they live in two huge 3-ring binders here in my kitchen. When I go back and refer to them I sometimes notice little things about the recipes that need fixing. I've done a global spell-check of my complete cookbook, but there are some small errors that need to be fixed. Grammatical errors. Dangling participles. Detached phrases. Incomplete sentences. So I've attached little yellow stickies here and there to remind me to do that. One of these days I'll get to it and fix all of them. The trouble is, as perhaps many of you have noticed yourselves, unless you have a GRAMMAR checker, you don't know when a sentence contains something out of order. Like when you type is instead of it. The spell checker won't notice that because the word is correctly SPELLED.

That's why proofreaders, or copy editors, are so needed in the life of the printed word. To digress momentarily, during all the years I worked in the advertising field, and during the 17 years my business partner Audre and I owned an agency, we spent hours every week proofreading. We didn't have copy editors, or someone who did nothing but that. All account exec reciprocated with one another to proofread everything that went out of the house. Sometimes ads were proofread more than once. Not enjoyable time, but vital. If we ran an ad for a company and misspelled the name of an important piece of equipment used, especially acronyms, or wrote in that the applicant needed 10 years of experience, when in fact they only needed 1, those were glaring errors, and our client wasn't very pleased about paying big bucks when they might get very few applicants or applicants that were not at all qualified for the position.

That particular ad business is called recruitment advertising. There are lots of these firms out there and most people don't even know they exist. Lots of HR departments don't choose to spend time writing up and placing ads in newspapers and professional journals (or on Monster either) as their time is much better spent interviewing people. So recruitment ad agencies do that for them. That's what we used to do. Big ads, splashy ads, color ads, but mostly they were the smaller in-line black and white ads in local papers under the help wanted section. Ads for accountants, clerks, engineers, production people, scientists, nurses. You name it, we'd write up ads for them. Each of the account execs (we had about 7 or so) wrote up the individual ads and then they got proofread with someone else to make sure all the details got included, and that the fine print, like the company's phone number, address, and company name were spelled correctly. We proofread for spelling and completion, but also for grammar too. Although recruitment ads generally use a kind of "help wanted shorthand" too. Lots of incomplete sentences. Lots of words left out, to save space. Space is money.

So, we get to the crux of the matter. When I typed in the recipe for the Bloomin' Bread the other day (thank you again, Karen, for this awesome recipe), I failed to notice that there was no olive oil in the list of ingredients, but it was included in the instructions. I should have noticed. I'm pretty good at that kind of thing, usually. But not that day! Often when I type in a new recipe (here at home anyway) I re-write the instructions. To make them more clear, or in the proper order. Or to elaborate on something too. So my apologies to anybody who had already printed out my recipe for the Bloomin' Bread - it contains a little error. It really is a small error - it's only 1/4 cup (or less) of olive oil. But what's pesto, for goodness' sake, without some olive oil, I ask you?

Fortunately, I think that if any of my readers out there DID try it without the olive oil, it probably tasted just fine. But, to be true to the recipe, the pesto does include a little bit of oil. Perhaps less than a traditional pesto, which is fine because the cream cheese and goat cheese both add fat.

If you want a corrected PDF recipe of the Bloomin' Bread, click HERE.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What's New about Chocolate Chip Cookies

I come from the school of taste that says cookies are supposed to be crisp. I suppose I should qualify that - most cookies are meant to be crisp. Surely there are some that simply can't be crisp by their very nature. My mother loved persimmons, and every year she made persimmon cookies. More like little bite-sized cakes than cookies to me. I like persimmons, but not that kind of soft cookie. My preference, always, is for crisp. Some years ago I read a very in-depth article in Gourmet Magazine about cookie standards, and exactly what makes a cookie come out crisp vs. soft, vs. crisp outside, soft inside. That kind of thing. It was fascinating reading the chemistry of it all. I still have the article, although I rarely refer to it.

One thing I know for sure is that using butter makes for a crisp cookie. I haven't used margarine for anything in many, many years. I used to use Plugra unsalted for all my baking, but have found that it's too HIGH in butterfat, if you can believe that! So I use grocery store types at the high price end because I don't want butter that is watered down. Grocery store brands usually contain less butterfat and added water. So I use Danish Creamery, or something similar. I always keep a pound of butter in the refrigerator and usually one in the freezer. Just in case I feel inspired.

Last night after I'd gone upstairs to go to bed, my DH's blood sugar went a little low, so he rooted in the freezer hoping to find a frozen cookie somewhere. No luck whatsoever. We ate the last of the homemade cookies about 3 months ago. Since my broken foot on July 6th, there's been zip-zero-nada baking going on in this kitchen unless he did it. He's never made cookies in his entire life, so that wasn't about to happen! But, now that I have my walking papers, he said, please make some cookies. As a Type I diabetic, my DH doesn't eat many desserts. Or at least, he's very careful about when and why he eats anything sweet. But he does enjoy an occasional cookie. Some sweets I'm able to incorporate Splenda, so he can have all he wants. I have yet to try chocolate chip cookies using all Splenda. They might be just fine.

Over the years I've collected plenty of cookie recipes and make a variety throughout the year, and enjoy having something stashed in the freezer for the occasional afternoon cup of tea, or a snack now and then. My first choice, though, is always chocolate chip. It used to be the usual back-of-the-bag Nestle's recipe. But, because I've had trouble a time or two with the recipe (the cookies would come out too flat) I've made one significant change to the master recipe: I add approximately one tablespoon of additional flour to the mixing bowl. If I happen to use Plugra butter (remember, more butterfat) I add 2 tablespoons. I'm also a fan of chocolate chip cookies WITH nuts. Any nuts could be okay, but walnuts just float my boat, as they say. So, these cookies are chocolate chocolate chip walnut cookies.

This time I wanted to do something different, so I added 2 heaping tablespoons of Dutch process cocoa to the batter too. And, I used Nestle's relatively new "Chcolatier" chips that are made with bittersweet chocolate, rather than the usual milk chocolate chips in the yellow bag. So these are really chocolate bittersweet chocolate-chip cookies with walnuts, with 1 T. of added flour.

A few months ago I had trouble finding Dutch Process cocoa when I ran out, so since I needed some new spices and herbs anyway, I ordered it through Penzey's. If you don't know about Penzey's, you're missing a real treat. I buy nearly all my herbs and spices from them now. Even though I live in a busy urban area teeming with grocery stores, and my local markets carry just about everything. But nobody had Dutch Process cocoa. This cocoa from Penzey's is fragrant and dark. The label says it has twice as much cocoa in it as grocery store varieties. Good!

I don't know about you, but I always make one pan of cookies to make sure the batter is right. That's what I did here, and they came out just fine. And if you don't have one of these scoops shown above, you should. If you're a cookie baker, this scoop makes short work of putting the dough onto sheets. I use large sheet pans with a Silpat on each one. There are three sizes of scoops - they're made in Britain. This one is the tablespoon size. The larger is more for muffin sized scoops. The smallest, the teaspoon size, I don't know what I'd use for. My scoop came from the Baker's Catalog (the one associated with King Arthur Flour). Click here if you're interested.

If you want the recipe, click here for the original Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie from Nestle's site. If you use rich butter, just add a T. of extra flour, and about 2 T. of Dutch Process cocoa. Dutched cocoa is processed differently than regular cocoa, a very fine smooth powder that easily dissolves in liquid and disperses in baked goods.

So, DH, these are for you. Look in the freezer in the Ziploc bags in the door. So, excuse me, I need to make a cup of tea.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lentil Soup a la Jack Orr

Who's he, you ask? Well, Jack Orr was my Dad. And he made an extraordinary soup when the mood struck him. It didn't strike often, and only when he was away from home. This is the only cooked thing my dad ever made except for grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, and an occasional steak. And those were all on the outdoor grill. At home, if he had a hankering for this soup at home, he insisted my mother had to make it. But when he was on a trip visiting relatives or friends, and it was the right season, he'd offer to make "his" lentil soup.

My Dad was an engineer. He liked things to be lined up just so, whether it was transistors on the workbench, ohmeter manuals on the shelf, pencils in his pocket (you know, those little plastic sleeves? yep, he had them) or vegetables on the cutting board. When dicing and mincing for this soup, each vegetable also needed to be cut "just so" in size. And he didn't like to make this alone. He always wanted somebody to be there to fetch things for him. When my parents would come to visit over Christmas, this soup was a fairly standard event one evening for sure. I did my best to have all the ingredients on hand every year. My Dad would pamper this soup for several hours, although once you add the lentils, they do reach a point when the texture of the lentil may go over the hill if it continues to cook.

The first order of business was the bacon. It was minced up fairly small, then allowed to render in a moderately warm pan for awhile. Meanwhile, you began chopping and mincing the onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Part of the fun of making this was the drama my dad made out of it. He really wanted an audience, and because it was my kitchen, that would normally be me as his number one fan club and schlepper. We tasted things often, added this and that, tasted again. Thyme was a necessary addition. I love the herb, so was glad to fetch that. Sometimes a quick trip to the market was required for something - maybe a fresh bag of dried lentils or an additional can of chopped tomatoes. When it was finally done everybody needed to ooh and aah a lot, otherwise my dad's feelings would be hurt. He wanted his efforts to be recognized. And appreciate them we did.

One visit I decided I'd best write down his recipe. Although I will admit that his recipe was not precise in the least. Unlike the engineer in him, this was adaptable to what you had on hand, or from his whim to add something different.

My daughter Dana doesn't like soup. Or stew. Still doesn't particularly like soup or stew, but will eat a few kinds if push comes to shove. When she was young she wouldn't eat this. My Dad simply couldn't understand how anybody wouldn't like his lentil soup. He did everything in his power to cajole Dana to have just a little bit. And maybe she did try a couple of mini-spoons, but she didn't like doing it. But she's come around as an adult. Maybe it's just because it's her grandpa's soup. I don't know, but at least she will eat it now. My Dad has been gone about 11 years now, but his legacy lives on in this recipe. I hope when you make this, somebody will ooh and aah about it. My dad will be smiling from heaven.

Ideally this should be made a day ahead. You know how soups and stews are - they really like to meld their flavors over a 24+ hour period. But most times this was started in the morning and eaten for dinner along with some sourdough rolls. You might want to work this into your fall repertoire so it's ready for cooler weather when it arrives. Here in So. California it's going to be 86 today, so I'm not quite ready to slave over a hot stove. But this will be on my list as soon as it turns cooler. I don't have any left in my freezer, so it needs a new supply.

Lentil Soup a la Jack Orr
Recipe By : John Barron Orr, my dear dad
Servings: 10
1/2 pound bacon -- chopped
2 whole onions -- chopped
3 stalks celery -- with leaves
2 whole carrots -- diced
3 cloves garlic -- minced
1 pound lentils -- washed
2 pounds canned tomatoes -- with juice
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, or more if you like thyme
1 teaspoon chile pepper flakes
1 tablespoon salt
In a large, heavy pot sauté the bacon over medium heat until the fat is rendered. If you are using grocery store bacon, you may want to pour off some of the fat. If using meaty bacon, leave the fat in the pan. Add onions, celery, carrots and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are semi-transparent. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, herbs and chiles and lentils, then add water to about 1-2 inches above the level of the bean mixture in the pot. You may have to add additional water as the lentils cook.
Simmer for about 45 minutes or an hour until the lentils are completely cooked through, adding additional water if needed. Add salt to taste, and add pepper if desired.
Serving Ideas : You can also add ground beef or ham if you would like to, but it certainly isn't necessary. If you don't have the carrots, that's fine too, and one onion will do if that's all you have on hand.
(photo from
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 328 Calories; 12g Fat (31.7% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; 16g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 1294mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat.
To print a PDF recipe only, click on title at top.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ba--ck innn the kit--chen a-gain (singing)

Hooray. We're home from our trip. Exhausted, but home. We flew out of Philadelphia at about 5 pm yesterday. Our flight was cancelled, but we were re-booked to Chicago O'Hare, then to L.A. Arrived at LAX at 11:45 pm California time, and made the fastest trip from the airport to home, ever. About 45 minutes from Parking Lot B to the garage. I saw the doctor this morning and I have an okay to do anything reasonable. Still have some pain walking, every step, so need to do some exercises 3x a day to loosen up those tendons that have atrophied during my long sojourn without walking. But, now that I don't have to wear the gosh darned BOOT, I can stand. Made my first grocery store visit (Trader Joe's) this morning.

Bloomin' Sourdough

OMG. This bread. Oh, this bread. It is so out of this world, I can't believe it. While we were visiting with our friends Karen & Phil, where they now live in a town west of Allentown (Bethlehem) Pennsylvania, she showed me her 3-ring binder that has become her "favorite recipes" file. I always enjoy leafing through other people's recipe collections. So, I ran across this recipe for bread, mentioned something about it to Karen and she said, let's have that for dinner.

This picture shows you what it looked like, slathered each direction and ready to be sealed up in foil. You can visualize the concept from the title - like the bloomin' onions from Outback Steakhouse. But this bread, of course, isn't deep fried, but it blooms something like it. It's such a clever idea, why didn't I think of it? You make a batch of fresh pesto, mix it with cream cheese and goat cheese, spread it on the bloomin' style cut of the bread, bake and serve. The cutting of the bread is not difficult, but does require a good bread or serrated knife. You cut the bread almost through, turn the bread 90 degrees and cut again almost through, thus creating these little tall towers or cubes of bread about 3/4 inch or up to 1 inch square and about 2 inches high. Higher if you use a taller loaf, of course. Then you slather the pesto mixture on all 4 sides of the bread. Use a big plastic spatula and spread the cheese mixture down into the bread. Try to cover all sides of each little tower. It does this without working too hard at it if you just do it like you would sliced bread.

Once baked, you grab the very top of each tower and pull. Usually it breaks off right at the base and you have this warm, soft, garlicky mushy bite of unbelievable bread. What was left on the bottom (see picture at top) was cut up into pieces, baked in a hot oven very briefly and became croutons for the Caesar salad we had with dinner.

Get thyself to the grocery store and try this. My only suggestion: Karen decided to use ready-made pesto this time since we were tight on time. But the garlic flavor is much less pronounced, so I'd add more fresh garlic to the cheese mixture in the food processor, then add pesto to your liking.

Pesto-Cheese Bloomin' Sourdough Bread
Recipe: My friend, Karen B, via her friend Erin
1 medium whole sourdough bread
All-purpose pesto:
2 T pine nuts
2-3 cloves garlic,
1 t salt
1 1/2 cups fresh basil
approx. 1/4 cup olive oil
Cheese mixture:
8 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
1. Combine in food processor: nuts, garlic and salt, then add basil. Process until mixed. Slowly add olive oil. You can use less olive oil if you want to - it's just for a binder. If you choose to use ready-made pesto, add additional fresh garlic to the cheese mixture.
2. Cream together, then add pesto mixture and mix thoroughly.
3. Slice bread about one inch apart, not cutting all the way through the bottom crust. Turn loaf 90 degrees and slice bread again, also about 1 inch apart. You'll end up with a cubed effect, but the loaf is still intact.
4. Spread pesto cheese mixture on the bread - going one direction, then turn 90 degrees and spreading again so all the cubes are covered in the pesto cheese mixture. This part can get messy. Wrap bread in foil and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350. Or, on the barbecue, top rack, for about 15 minutes. Serve on a platter and let guests pull each cube.
To print a PDF recipe, click on title at top.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Peach-Raspberry Streusel Cake

We're on the home stretch with peaches these days. Now is the time to make or freeze any of those peach favorites before it's too late. I still have some sliced peaches in the freezer from LAST summer that didn't get made into peach ice cream, as I'd intended, until sometime soon.

A couple of weeks ago my friend Cherrie and I attended a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter. Tarla made mostly tapas, and certainly not traditional ones for sure. But the group always wants a touch of sweet at the end, so Tarla whipped up this very simple dessert. Very homey. Very comfort food. Very peachy. It's more cake than it is fruit, and it doesn't serve out into squares or shapes, so Tarla used a large scoop for it. She had forgotten the vanilla ice cream to serve with it, so we drizzled a bit of half and half on top. I'd recommend the ice cream. You can use any kind of stone fruit for this, but this one was peaches and raspberries. It was still warm, almost hot out of the oven. Delicious.

Peach-Raspberry Streusel Cake
Recipe: Tarla Fallgatter class
Serving Size : 10
1/3 cup all-purpose flour -- minus one tablespoon
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter -- cold, cut in small pieces
1 1/3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter -- softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 large eggs
3/4 pound peaches -- ripe, but firm, halved, pitted, cut in 1/4 inch pieces (approx. 2 cups)
2 cups fresh raspberries
2 1/2 cups vanilla ice cream
1. Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 375. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan, or an oval pan of a similar size. (Make sure there is sufficient room in the dish for all the cake and fruit - you don't want it to overflow in the oven.) Butter the pan.
2. STREUSEL: In a food processor combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add cold butter and pulse in until the butter pieces resemble small peas. Set aside.
3. CAKE: Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together. Beat butter and sugar in a food processor until creamy. Add vanilla and almond extracts. Add eggs, one at a time. Add flour and pulse just to combine. Gently fold in HALF of the fruit and HALF the raspberries into the batter and spread batter into the prepared pan. Distribute the remaining fruit evenly on top.
4. Sprinkle streusel over the fruit and bake until the cake springs back in the center when lightly pressed, about 45-50 minutes. Let cake cool in its pan on a rack. Serve warm with ice cream.
NOTES : This can be made with any stone fruit and different berries. Whatever is available in season.

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 450 Calories; 24g Fat (46.9% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 55g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 128mg Cholesterol; 230mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2 Fruit; 4 1/2 Fat; 2 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click title at top.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Scenes in South Jersey

Fresh tuna, scallops and shrimp on skewers.

The Main Dining Room at Seaview. This used to be a country club when my DH was growing up. Now it's a Marriott. Absolutely lovely. Near Absecon (ab-SEE-con), right on the water. Lovely setting, huge hotel, golf, and dining room.

Eggs Benedict ala Seaview

View from the hotel to the shore

Green Beans - oh how I-o-v-e thee

What fun, when you are served something that is a known quantity (green beans) and they're cooked in an altogether different, new way. You think you know every way possible to make simple green beans. Not so. People who live around these parts (South Jersey, it's called) are quite proprietary about their corn and tomatoes. My DH swears that he's never tasted anything like Jersey corn and Jersey tomatoes. None, anywhere, compare to the texture and flavor he remembers from his youth. I've had them before when visiting here, but it was never so good as last night.

Our hosts, Meredith & Harry, served us a delicious dinner of grilled lamb, Jersey corn, Jersey tomatoes with basil, Jersey cucumbers in a sour cream sauce and Jersey green beans. Absolutely delicious, every mouthful. The corn - Jersey corn - was young ears, and beyond tender. Like melting in your mouth, almost. No butter or seasoning. Fabulous! But it's the green beans that I went back to for seconds. Meredith told me how she made them. And excuse me, I may go grab some for breakfast. They were that good. Very, very garlicky. Hmmm. Breakfast, you say? Where's the mouthwash?

Green Beans with Garlic & Olive Oil
2 pounds green beans, trimmed, left whole
8 cloves garlic
About 2 tsp. Kosher salt (fine grind, or any salt of choice)
1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil
Steam the green beans until just barely tender, but still with a little bit of bite. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, on a large cutting board, peel the garlic cloves and mash with the side of a large chef's knife. Sprinkle the salt on top of the garlic and using the chef's knife chop and mash some more. Allow this mixture to sit for just a few minutes. Then, in a very large skillet, heat the olive oil, then plop this garlic/salt mixture into the pan and allow to cook briefly. Do not brown the garlic at all. When it's sizzled just a bit, throw in ALL the beans and stir (lift and turn) the green beans so all of them are liberally coated with oil. Cook briefly until you're satisfied the garlic is mostly cooked and the beans are hot and cooked to your satisfaction. Serve. May be be served hot or room temperature.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 155 Calories; 14g Fat (75.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 477mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Vegetable; 2 1/2 Fat.
To print a PDF recipe only, click title at top.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Traveling on the Coast Route

All the homes along Cape May, NJ are up high - to weather the hurricanes that might blow through. This was a gorgeous private home along the ocean front. Wish I could have stopped in for a spot of tea.
View from the restaurant where we had dinner the other night. Somers Point, NJ.

View from Ocean City across one of the inlets. Marshland in the foreground.
Stove Pipe mushrooms growing in the front yard of our hosts. Funny-looking things.
Some of the friends going to the 50th high school reunion in a vintage car. Our hosts, Dave and Ellie are in the center. My DH is on the right. Another friend, Kathy, far left.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Jersey Shore - it's nice to know you're welcome

It's Fall weather here in Philadelphia and New Jersey shore environs. So different than the heat in Southern California that we left behind last week. Very pleasant. Cool nights. Even some rain. Cool and windy even. We stayed with friends in Newtown Square, a rural village outside Philadelphia for a couple of days and are now in a rural area near Ocean City (DH's home town). He attended his high school reunion last night, catching up with people he hasn't seen in awhile. I didn't go - I don't know anyone. I went out to dinner by myself. Had a mediocre meal at a local restaurant and tavern.

Today DH and our hosts went out boating. I just didn't think I could manage boating with my broken foot and boot. I'm not very nimble with this boot on level ground, let alone a rocking boat. They had a good time and I enjoyed my solitude.

Here are some photos from our host's home.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No Knead Bread

It was late last year that I first read about the No-Knead Bread on one of the food blogs I watch regularly. Since I have and do make homemade yeast bread (not often, but on occasion), it was not a big deal to think about it and do it, although I could hardly believe it could be THAT good when making it is THAT easy. Truly it is.

You need little more than flour, salt, water, yeast, a heavy-duty iron pot (like Le Crueset) with a lid, and about 24 hours. Of that 24, only about 5 minutes of it requires any hands-on work. The rest of the time the bread is just sitting, doing its thing. And really, you absolutely do not knead it. I love the ciabatta bread from Il Fornaio or La Brea Bakery. But I had no idea making that kind of holey moist bread could be such a cinch. I've made it for guests several times. And just for us several times too. It keeps just fine for a day at room temp. I usually slice it up on the 2nd day (if there is any left over, that is), wrap the slices in foil, then pop them in a ziploc plastic bag and into the freezer.
If you head over to Jaden's Blog - Jaden's Steamy Kitchen, you'll find a long and beautifully photographed blog posting all about this bread. And how her 4-year old son (who is adorable besides) made it. If he can do it, you can do it.
A fellow named Jim Lahey, of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York (photo at top is from the bakery's website), developed this recipe. I found watching the video of making this very helpful. It's on the New York Times' website. Hope it's still there. Here's the link to it. I'm glad I did because I might have done a couple of things differently. I used an oval Le Crueset pan (with lid) and it worked just perfectly. I will say that the bottom crust is VERY firm, which requires a firm hand to slice through. You can use a smaller pot and you'll likely have a higher-rising bread. By the way, Le Crueset does not guarantee the black knobs on their pots will survive in an oven over 400°. However, several other people who have made this bread say they have had no problem with the knob. I used one with side handles and no black knobs. You may also use any other kind of pot - with a lid. If the dough comes out too moist, remove the lid sooner in the baking process.

In my Dacor oven (runs a bit hot) I bake this at 425° for 30 minutes, then remove lid and continue baking for another 15. Each oven is different. Initially the crust was too hard, which is why I reduced the temperature and removed it earlier from the oven. I also mix the flour - half bread, half regular all-purpose. Others who have made this say you can vary flours in small quantities. If you add too much whole wheat, however, it most likely will not rise sufficiently.

No-Knead Bread (Yes, really)
Recipe By :Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery, New York
Serving Size : 10
3 cups all-purpose flour -- or mixture with bread flour
1/4 teaspoon rapid rise yeast
1 5/8 cups water -- plus 1-2 tablespoons
2 teaspoons salt Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt and stir to distribute dry ingredients before adding the water. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. If it's not sticky, add another tablespoon of water if you have any idea it's too dry. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 137 Calories; trace Fat (2.5% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 428mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch).
To view a printable recipe, click title at top.

Goin' On a Jet Plane

You know the lyrics . . .
Going on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again.

Yes, we're going on a jet plane and we'll be back in 10 days or so. I hope to blog some while I'm gone - maybe about the food I'm eating. We're going to Philadelphia, then to Ocean City, New Jersey, to attend DH's high school reunion. Maybe the scenery will be beautiful enough for a few photos. I hate lugging my laptop and accessories. I hope to find enough computers here and there to use other people's, rather than trying to log onto some wireless networks. Anyway, stay tuned. I'll be back. And hopefully upon my return I'll be back in the kitchen doing some cookin'.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Appetizer Cape Cod Meatballs

What is more American, really, than beef meatballs? Not much, except maybe hamburgers and hot dogs. Seems like in years past, as in the 1970's, every party you went to, hostesses served meatballs. Then they seemed to go out of vogue. I served so many of the darned things, I was tired of the usual currant jelly and mustard combination for the sauce. Remember those guys? I even had a copper chafing dish (a hand-me-down from my mother) that I used for them.

These days you never see chafing dishes except brought in by caterers. They really were functional, but they took up SO much space to store. People seemed to move to more casual entertaining. I sure did. After years of not using the chafing dish I finally gave it away. I have a cupboard in our garage that I've usurped for big serving things (my big coffee pot, for one), but my DH really thinks ALL the shelves in the garage belong to him, so I have to fight for shelf space. Just like the vendors in grocery stores fight for one more can width of space for their products. Visibility. Visibility.

Last year, prior to our kitchen remodel, I ordered a 2-burner hot plate to use in our temporary kitchen. It's a very attractive thing - found it on one of the shopping channels. It worked wonderfully well during our construction phase, but it's now stored away in the laundry room. But WITH the hot plate came two equally attractive round cooking pots. They are nothing extraordinary. I had to go look up the brand - Command Performance Gold. Made in China. Hmmm. No wonder the set was such a bargain. But they look very nice. They are stainless steel with a gold band around the middle, gold handles and glass lids. You can cook in them too, although I'm sure they're not up the standards of All-Clad or Calphalon. But they've served me well.

So, when we had a kitchen warming party after our kitchen was completed, I used the 2-burner hot plate for two of the dishes I was serving. The butternut squash soup with jalapeno and ginger, that is one of my favorite recipes now, went in the larger pot, and the meatballs went into the smaller pot, to be refilled from a big pot in the oven keeping things warm. I made lots of the meatballs.

Normally I'd make my own meatballs, but we had about 30 people coming, and just didn't have time, so I did something I rarely do - I went to Trader Joe's and used their pre-cooked mini-meatballs in their frozen cases. What a Godsend they were. And they are delicious. I suppose they have some filler in them, but it's not pronounced. It made the compiling of this dish a snap. Really, I mean it. It couldn't have taken more than 10 minutes prep time to get these ready. The sauce needs to be cooked a little bit, but not much. Then the whole batch went in the oven (or a crock pot would work just fine too) to be warmed through. How easy is that?

Everybody seemed to like meatballs. I had 4 pounds of them, and they were all gone. What does that tell you? You need to make these the next time you have a party. They are sweet - because of the cranberry sauce and the bottled chili sauce - so I don't think they'd make a very good sauce for pasta, for instance. But they taste just fine as leftovers with a vegetable and green salad.

This recipe came from a Cape Cod cookbook: Mystic Seaport: A New England Table. The book was published by the Mystic Seaport Museum and much of the book contains fried things, particuarly fish items, but this recipe jumped out at me, especially for the holidays, since it uses cranberries. The book is already out of print at online bookstores, but is available online at the Museum (click the link above). I found the book in an independent bookstore somewhere several years ago. I'll be making this again and again. Try it.

Cape Cod Meatballs Piquant
Recipe from Mystic Seaport: A New England Table
Servings: 36
2 pounds ground beef
2 whole eggs
1/4 cup water
1 cup bread crumbs
1 small onion -- finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
16 ounces cranberry sauce -- use sauce, not cranberry jelly
12 ounces chili sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons parsley -- minced
1. Meatballs: combine beef, eggs, water, bread crumbs, onion, salt and pepper. Shape into walnut sized balls and set aside.
2. Sauce: In a large Dutch oven or deep saucepan, combine remaining ingredients (except parsley). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until cranberry sauce has melted. Add meatballs and simmer for 45 minutes, gently stirring to make sure none stick. Serve hot in a chafing dish sprinkled with parsley. Or, if you use the Trader Joe's pre-cooked meatballs, you can heat these in a crock pot for several hours. They just have to be heated through.
NOTES : If you want to simplify this, buy ready-made, pre-cooked, frozen (mini) meatballs at Trader Joe's. Put together the sauce, add the defrosted meatballs and heat in the oven for about an hour at 250°, then serve as above. This recipe assumes each person will eat two meatballs. These are on the sweet side, obviously.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 119 Calories; 7g Fat (54.0% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 33mg Cholesterol; 142mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click title at top.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Baked Brie with Apples

I must start off stating that the above picture is not this dish. I'm still not able to walk or stand much, so am still having to resort to internet photos. BUT, it looks similar. Mine is certainly more rustic for sure. The photo looks like a real puff pastry. My version takes a big short cut using tube, store-bought crescent roll dough.

So, now that's off my chest, I can tell you about how easy this is to make. Don't we all have a baked brie recipe of some kind? And it's not exactly baked brie season, if there is such a thing, but hot, oozing brie reminds me more of the winter, maybe even Christmas or Thanksgiving. So save this for some cool night when you're having some friends over.

A few nights ago Jenny, the daughter of friends of ours came to our house and cooked dinner for us. Her parents, Marty & Julie, joined us too. Jenny is such a delight, a teacher, and loves to cook. She made a lamb stir fry dinner, Texas caviar, spinach salad and the cutest cookies (chocolate chip dough with a Reese's peanut butter cup baked in the center - oh yum were they good). The entire meal was just delicious. AND, she brought a wedge of brie to snack on too. That's what made me think about the baked brie.

What's different about this preparation is that after you bake the 2 half-pound rounds of brie, covered in the crescent roll dough, you put it in the microwave for about a minute or two to just finish off the heating/melting of the cheese. What a clever method, I thought, when I first had it. It doesn't stay in the microwave long enough to soggify the crescent dough. And you serve this with sliced apples as the sled upon which you place the brie. Not crackers or bread, which would just add to the high carb nature. But apples. So, you're getting a little bit of healthy thrown in with all the cheese. I think I haven't ever used the 3 apples. More like 2, I think. But, buy 3 just in case you like the apple slices bigger than I do.

I don't remember where this recipe came from - it may be a Tarla Fallgatter recipe (she teaches classes here). My notes don't tell me, so I can't be certain I'm giving proper credit for this recipe. But, from whence it came, any way you do it, it's mighty good.

Baked Brie with Apples
Servings: 12
1 pound brie -- (2 wheels)
3 tubes Pillsbury crescent roll
3 whole apples -- sliced
1. You need 3 tubes of crescent roll dough to make 2 appetizers, just in case you questioned the quantities.
2. Unroll the 3 tubes of dough and divide them into two groups. With one group "cut and paste" so to speak, the pieces to make a large sort-of round shape. Place the chilled brie round in the center and gently pull the dough up around the edges. Generally I trim the outside edges to make them fit better and throw away the excess. Be very gentle since pulling the dough can separate the rolls at the perforations, and you do not want the cheese to melt out during baking. Dampen your finger in cold water to help seal edges, if needed.
3. Follow instructions on the dough tube, but usually these are baked at 350° for about 15 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to sit a few minutes if desired. Then place the brie wheels on a plate and microwave on high for about 1-2 minutes (no more than that) and serve with apple slices.
NOTES : Very easy appetizer, although it's best to make this just before baking. If the dough sits out at room temperature it darkens and doesn't rise as well.
Per Serving: 174 Calories; 12g Fat (62.1% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 38mg Cholesterol; 293mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1/2 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat.
To view a printable recipe, click title at top.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Herbed Biscuit Ring

This recipe doesn't even begin to qualify as gourmet. It's nothing but cinchy easy. I don't buy Pillsbury biscuits much anymore. They probably have transfats in them. But they sure do make it easy to provide some bread for a company meal.

The combination sounds a bit odd - butter, herbs and lemon juice. And when the instructions suggest you MIX this together, just remember that an acid and butter are kind of like oil and water - they just don't blend. The herbs stir in just fine, but it's difficult to get the lemon juice to incorporate in the butter mixture. Just keep trying and it will absorb most of it.

So you get all that done ahead. Heat the oven. Spread each biscuit (top) with some of the butter/herb mix and arrange them into a 8-inch round cake pan with an edge of each biscuit overlapping the previous one. That way you kind of make a spiral. Use a Teflon pan if possible. If there's some lemon juice left over in the mixing bowl just pour it over the biscuits anyway. Will make them more tangy.

Likely these would be even better made with a regular homemade biscuit - even Bisquick ones rather than the Pillsbury rolls. But I never remember these unless I see the Pillsbury tubes at the grocery store. So won't somebody try those and let me know? They're probably even better than this recipe. I've had this recipe for years - it was given to me by a friend, so I don't know the origin. I even looked on the Pillsbury site and this recipe was not there. Kind of surprising, actually.

Refrigerator Herbed Biscuit Ring
Servings: 6
3 tablespoons butter -- softened
1 teaspoon lemon juice -- fresh
1 dash paprika
1/8 teaspoon sage -- rubbed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon thyme -- crushed
1 can biscuits -- refrigerator type, buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400. In a small bowl combine the butter, juice, paprika, celery seed, thyme and sage. The lemon juice really doesn't blend in well, but do your best. Open the canned biscuits and separate, spreading tops with the butter/juice mixture. In an 8-inch pie pan, arrange the biscuits, buttered side up and form into a ring, overlapping slightly. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve while they're hot.
NOTES : The mixture can be made up ahead and you just have to spread it on and bake the biscuits. Don't refrigerate it, though, as it needs to be at room temp.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 84 Calories; 7g Fat (73.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 150mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top. (photo from

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Filipino Lumpia

(photo from
Story telling seems to be the order of the day with this recipe. From the journal of Carolyn's life. I can hardly write up this recipe without explaining how I came to make this dish, let alone how I knew about it. I actually spent about a month in the Philippines in 1965. My first husband was a Navy Officer and just before the start of the Vietnam war, I embarked on a trip around Asia, trying to meet up with the aircraft carrier he was on. But the war intervened. I had the choice to go home, but decided I was up to the challenge of traveling around and finding my way. The air ticket was paid for, and I knew I could stay very economically on the military bases around Asia.

International travel was new to me - very new. I was 24 at the time with the ink barely dry on my passport. And likely I was very naive as well. With hat, gloves, raincoat, high heels (that was simply the way people traveled back then) and suitcase (with no wheels) in hand, I first went to Hawaii and then on to Japan. Stayed there for about 2 months - alone - on a U.S. Navy base. In a family barracks with a bathroom down the hall. But the price was right. A dollar a day it cost me to live there. (There are some nice perks to being part of the U.S. military "family.") Bus service traversed the base and I could shop in the military exchange, use the library, go to the movies for a quarter, attend wives' functions at the officer's club if I cared to, and venture out the gate of the base and explore the town of Yokusaka. I attended free Japanese language classes and befriended the very kind Japanese teacher who invited me to her home one evening. That's when I first ate gyoza, a staple of the Japanese cuisine. Now you can buy it at Trader Joe's, of all things! I could also eat at the two officer's club restaurants on base. I couldn't cook at the barracks where I stayed, so I ate out 3 meals a day. Fortunately, it didn't cost much. And the food was good. I went into Tokyo a couple of times, took a tour, also took a 2-day military-run tour to Mt. Fuji, which I enjoyed very much. But most days and most hours of every day I was alone. To entertain myself. I did a lot of reading and letter-writing to my family at home.

Eventually the ship headed for the Philippines and I flew to Manila. I arrived late in the afternoon, after a very rocky flight on Air France, where the pilots received multiple trays of wine into the cockpit (permitted at the time). I discovered that I'd missed the three-times-a-week flight to the U.S. Navy base I needed to get to. At that point I was standing in the air terminal in Manila. It was hotter than hell. And humid. And I was very, very alone.

I'd gone to an information desk and they had no suggestions. I had no idea what to do. I didn't like the thought of finding a hotel in Manila to stay for 3 days until the next flight went out. I was a little scared and very unsure of myself. But I'd read that if you're in a foreign place and you have a problem, perhaps the American Embassy can help. I could have phoned the Embassy, but no, I took a taxi there. In my high heels, my hat, my gloves, my suitcase and my very sweaty body. Maybe all that dressed-up paraphernalia helped me, since a kind secretary took pity on me and offered to drive me to the bus terminal.
That bus trip, in itself, is another very engrossing story, but it would take another 5 paragraphs to tell it. Let's just say that I sat behind the driver. Passengers of all ages, shapes and sizes piled on, with their cages of live chickens hanging out the windows, luggage stacked on top of the bus, and off we went. It t'was the most frightening bus journey I've ever made in my entire life. And eventually, 3-4 hours later I arrived in the base-side town of Olangapo. It was about midnight.

I was totally unprepared for Olangapo. It's a very un-Filipino-like town with little except bars and houses of prostitution. I count myself lucky that I eventually made it through the town in a taxi, to the gate of the military base. It was a Friday night and raucous American sailors were doing their best to spend their money, get drunk and make merry, I suppose. At one point, stopped at a light, a bunch of them approached the taxi (spotting me, a young blond woman, alone, inside) and rocked the taxi, hitting the windows with their fists. They wanted me to come join their revelry. They hadn't seen an American woman in awhile, I suppose, and they wanted inside the car. I was absolutely scared to DEATH. The taxi driver jumped the light and he drove hell-for-leather through the rest of town. I ducked down in the seat in the blocks to follow so the sailors couldn't see me, and finally the driver delivered me at the bridge. I was shaking like a leaf. Big time. It was now about 12:30 am. Thinking back on it, I should have heavily tipped the taxi driver. I didn't even think of it. So, out I got from the taxi. Still with my suitcase, high heels, raincoat, hat and gloves. Picturing myself just makes me laugh now. I had to drag myself about 150 feet or so across a pedestrian-only bridge to approach the gate. There were no problems crossing the bridge - good thing! Everybody was already in town. Whew.

A couple of other wives I knew were already billeted there, so I tagged along with them. We had very slow days - breakfast at the officer's club, lounge by the pool most of the day, dinner at the officer's club, sleep. Repeat and repeat. I did see my then-husband some, but not much. I stuck like glue to the two other wives who were more worldly than I. Both had been Pan Am stews for some years so were far more well traveled than I. And they had friends everywhere in the world.

So now, we finally get to the focus of the food blog story. The lumpia. Perhaps lumpia are meant to be a main dish, but we had them only as an appetizer at the two officer's clubs. And at the pool. And we wives ordered them every single day for lunch. I just l-o-v-e-d them. They're similar to the Chinese style egg rolls that you know and enjoy, but slightly different. I liked dipping each one into the sauce that accompanied them. I was able, finally, to get somebody to tell me that they put maraschino cherry juice in the sauce. How odd, I thought. But, when you consider the number of maraschino cherries an officer's club bar goes through, they were certainly resourceful coming up with a use for all that brilliant red, highly charged Red Dye cherry juice. No other recipe I've ever seen for them uses that ingredient. Not surprising, I guess.

Eventually, after that 5-month trip (I also went on to Hong Kong, back to Japan for another month's stay, then home) I found a recipe for lumpia. I knew they were made with vegetables, minced up, julienned really, with shrimp, pork and chicken. I haven't made them in many years. But they're awfully darned good. If you don't mind the prep and the fact that they're deep fried.

I actually believe that trip I made gave me the lifetime urge to travel and I haven't stopped since. But think about the maraschino cherry juice when you make this. And one frightened young woman taking a hair-raising bus ride across part of the Philippines, then a taxi ride through Olangapo.

Lumpia (Filipino style egg rolls)
Serving Size : 12
About 60 pieces wonton wrappers
1 pound ground pork
1 cup cooked chicken -- or turkey
1 large garlic clove -- minced
1 cup shrimp -- NOT canned
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup onion -- minced
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice
1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1. In a medium-sized skillet, cook pork, onion and garlic in a little butter or oil for about 5 minutes. Add shrimp and bean sprouts and cook just a few minutes more. Set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes.
2. Place about a tablespoon of meat mixture in center of a won ton skin, fold in sides about 1/2 inch and roll up into a shape similar to a Tootsie Roll. Moisten last edge with water to seal and set aside while assembling others. Don't let egg rolls touch each other or they'll stick.
3. Deep fry lumpia for about 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before serving as they're too hot to eat. Serve with special dipping sauce.
4. DIPPING SAUCE: Bring water, juice and ketchup to a boil; add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Add 1/3 cup of vinegar and cook 1 minute longer. Blend cornstarch into remaining vinegar and add to mixture. Do not boil, but heat until thickened and clear. Makes about 1-1/2 cups of sauce. If you don't have maraschino cherry juice, you may substitute pineapple juice, but add some red food coloring to it.
Per Serving: 202 Calories; 9g Fat (40.3% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 68mg Cholesterol; 454mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates
To print a recipe, click title at top.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Siciliana Sauce

My friend, Sue, another of my friends who is a very good cook, served this sauce one night several years ago when we dined at their home. It was served as a major condiment on pork chops, I believe. And was it ever good! She told me the recipe came from a cookbook she'd purchased after hearing Lynne Rossetto Kasper talk about it on NPR. I tried to find the recipe online, but had no success at all. So, of course, I had to go buy the book too. Amazon being my good friend, it took no time at all to get it. I enjoyed reading it, The Italian Country Table, all on its own. The author includes lots of fun little stories about the different dishes, about the foodstuffs of Italy, and hundreds of little cooking tips. The sub-title of the book is: Home Cooking from Italy's Farmhouse Kitchens.

The recipe suggests this can be served with almost any grilled meat. It would be wonderful with grilled Italian sausages, over chicken, or even served as a side to a pork roast. It has a jammy consistency. In fact, Kasper even mentions it in the recipe write-up, that's it's more like tomato jam than a tomato sauce. So, this isn't a sauce for pouring over pasta. This is a tart and sweet reduced (side) sauce that will mound high on a spoon because it's so thick and goes WITH a protein. Or maybe grilled onions. Or grilled portobello mushrooms. And one of the best things is that this sauce will keep for several weeks. The recipe indicates a week or so, but I've kept this much longer than that with no problem. You could also freeze it in small quantities too. I always double this recipe because we use it on lots of different things. Being this is the end of tomato season, you probably could make this with fresh tomatoes too; it just so happens that the author uses canned ones.

Siciliana Sauce
Recipe From: The Italian Country Table, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Servings: 4-6
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion -- minced
1 1/2 inches rosemary sprig salt and pepper -- to taste
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil zest of one large orange
1 large garlic clove -- minced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup canned tomatoes -- drained, generous cup
1. In a 10-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, rosemary and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Saute until the onion begins to color, then add the sugar. Stir with a wooden spatula as sugar melts and bubbles (taking care not to burn), the finally turns pale amber, while the onions remain light-colored. 2. Immediately add the herbs, zest and garlic. Standing back to avoid splatters, quickly add the vinegar. Stir and boil down until the vinegar is a glaze, coating the onion and barely covering the bottom of the pan. Continue to scrape down the pan's sides, to bring the developing glaze back into the sauce. Watch for burning.
3. Stir in tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as they go into the pan. Boil, scraping down the sides and stirring, until the sauce is almost sizzling in its own juices. It should be a thick jam that mounds on a spoon. Finish seasoning with a few grinds of black pepper, turn out of the pan and cool. Serve at room temperature or warm. Store covered in the refrigerator.
Serving Ideas : Spread this on grilled lamb or tuna, thick slices of grilled onions or portobello mushrooms. Or, daub it on bruschetta.
NOTES : Sweet, tangy and tart all at the same time. Absolutely the best using San Marzano tomatoes from Italy.
Per Serving: 62 Calories; 2g Fat (32.8% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 61mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe click on title at top.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Carrot Cake

My friend Linda T. is a very good cook. We always talk cooking and food and restaurants and all-things-entertaining as part of our conversation. She used to work for the Los Angeles Times (that's how I knew her through the ad agency I co-owned; she was our outside rep).

Maybe one time I mentioned my tried-and-true carrot cake, and she mentioned hers. Then she brought it recently for a get-together. Oh my goodness, was it ever GOOD. Her recipe is better than mine. Maybe one of these days I need to put her recipe and my recipe side by side and compare them. Hers has considerably more pineapple in it than mine, but that just makes it more moist and delicious. I don't know the origin of this cake, but I remember first having "carrot cake" in the late 1950's, or no later than 1960. It was REAL popular back then. Linda, if you're reading and want to comment on the origin of your recipe, that would be lovely. But, 50+ years later there has been no diminishment of carrot cake's popularity. And it's just as good as ever.

Low calorie it is NOT, unfortunately. Delicious it is, though, and I highly recommend you try it. It's not made in the layer format, but in a 9x13 Pyrex dish. Easier. Just as good as a layer cake in my book. And yes it has a cream cheese frosting too. Nothing so different there, even the proportions, whatever. It's just gosh-darned good. And not very many recipes serve 16. You want small portions of this and maybe you can stay out of the pan for seconds. If so, you have more discipline than I do.

Carrot Cake
Recipe: Linda T's recipe, my long-time friend
Servings: 16
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 cups grated carrots
20 ounces crushed pineapple -- drained
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1/2 cup butter
8 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 pounds powdered sugar
1.Preheat oven to 350°. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add sugar, oil and eggs. Mix with a large spoon (do not beat), then add carrots, drained pineapple and walnuts.
2. Pour into a buttered and floured 9 x 13 glass pan, and bake for 1 hour, or until toothpick comes out clean.
3. Frosting: Cream butter, cheese and vanilla. Beat in sifted powdered sugar. If it's too thick add a few drops of milk until it reaches spreading consistency.
4. Frost cake and refrigerate until ready to serve. Refrigerate this cake (because cream cheese could spoil).
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 775 Calories; 39g Fat (44.5% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 103g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 84mg Cholesterol; 437mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 7 1/2 Fat; 5 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click title at top.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

BLT Salad

Well, the good news is that I was able to stand up at the kitchen counter long enough to make one of our favorite summertime salads yesterday. So, my broken bone is still healing well. I'm glad, because I've truly missed cooking. Albeit, I only stood up for about 10 minutes, but that's longer than I've been able to do previously!

So, what is it about bacon that is so darned good? It's that crispy porky piggy flavor, naturally! As with most people, especially those of us trying to watch calories and fat, bacon became a treat, a once-in-awhile kind of treat at least 20 years ago. But I miss it. However, I've found that a little bit goes a long way. Of course, we know that, right? But when a recipe calls for 3 strips, I use 1. I've used turkey bacon and it's okay. I probably should use it always, but I'd rather have less of the real thing and get more of the real flavor. But, what do you do with a big package of bacon when you only need 1 slice? Here's one of Carolyn's tips coming your way. Once I open a package of bacon, I remove the slices I'm using for that meal, then the remaining ones are separated and rolled up, placed on a metal tray - raw - frozen, then the rolls are popped into a Ziploc bag and stored in the freezer. Then, when I need one slice, it's easy to pull out just one. Here's a photo of the bacon rolls currently residing in my freezer.

The photo looks blurry, but it's the vapor in the Ziploc bag you're viewing. Because bacon is mostly fat, it defrosts in a jiffy. And with these little bacon rolls if I really only want a half a slice, a sharp chef's knife will easily cut that one roll in half. If you cut it lengthwise, it's already cut into pieces. But you can chop it a bit more, easily enough.

I do want to talk a bit about bacon itself. I used to buy grocery store bacon. And for some, it may be all that you can afford. I understand - I've been there too. But I've never liked all the tinkering our food manufacturers do with our foods, so I try to avoid chemicals whenever it's feasible. Now that trichinosis is a thing of the past, we needn't worry about acquiring the disease from uncooked pork. So we don't need the nitrates and nitrites so commonly part of the curing process in bacon and other pork products. I avoid them whenever possible. And it's easy to do so if you have a source for Niman Ranch bacon. It's smoked, but uncured. Our Trader Joe's carries it nearly all the time. It's without preservatives, and has a gorgeous taste. It's thick-sliced too, which I prefer. There's a photo of the bacon above - it is a smaller package - 12 ounces I think, rather than a pound. That's to make it a bit more affordable, I'm certain. But I use so little of it, a package will last me months and months once it's in my cute little frozen rolls.

So now, the salad. The recipe for this was published in our local newspaper, The Orange County Register, in 1994. I clipped that little gem out and made it with some home grown tomatoes we had from our garden. It was absolutely fantastic, and I've been making it regularly ever since. I added the basil and the croutons to the original recipe. You can eliminate the croutons if you're watching carbs, but I enjoy the crunchiness of just a few of them. Add as much or as little of the bacon as you see fit. The recipe calls for more than I use, and we're content with it. Certainly you need good, flavorful tomatoes. But even in the dead of winter Trader Joe's and Costco both carry a variety of on-the-vine type that are quite good. So you can really have this year around.

I searched around on the internet today to just see what kind of recipes are out there for BLT Salad. What's unique about this one is the use of rice wine vinegar. It adds a lovely sparkle to the dressing. You can use low-fat or fat free mayo if you want, and it doesn't really make any difference in the taste. Normally I would say nothing but Best Foods (Hellman's) will do, but since the mayo is diluted, there's no appreciable change in the taste. What a great summertime treat. It was delicious for lunch.

BLT Salad (Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato Salad)
Recipe: adapted from the Orange County Register, 1994
Servings: 4
1/2 cup mayonnaise -- fat-free or low fat are fine
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 head iceberg lettuce -- or mix Romaine and iceberg
4 whole tomatoes -- fresh only
1/2 pound bacon -- meaty slices only
1 1/2 cups bread cubes
2 tbsp fresh basil -- minced
1. Allow bread cubes to stale slightly at room temperature, or you may toast them in the oven briefly. You don't want to have real soft bread, as it will absorb too much dressing and get soggy.
2. In small pan sauté bacon until thoroughly brown and crisp; drain on paper towels and set aside. Break bacon into small pieces when cool. It is best to do this just before serving as bacon won't stay crisp more than about 30 minutes.
3. In a small bowl combine mayonnaise and rice vinegar and stir (or shake in a small bottle) until thoroughly combined.
4. In a large salad bowl chop lettuce, add chopped tomatoes, basil and bread cubes. Add dressing, toss, arrange on serving plates and sprinkle bacon pieces on top.
NOTES : This salad is deceptively easy and delicious. I use half the bacon, but then I always use thick-sliced and it's very meaty bacon. Tomatoes need to be very ripe, so this is a salad I prepare mostly in the summertime. The basil and bread cubes are an addition I've made over the years.
Per Serving: 605 Calories; 52g Fat (76.0% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 58mg Cholesterol; 1176mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 6 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates. To view a printable recipe, click on the title at top.