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Friday, June 24, 2016

Cauliflower and Peas, Indian-Style

Snow peas and French bush beans in my garden
Sugar snap peas are currently in season in Boulder. You can get them at the farmers' market. They are always available at my favorite Asian market, Pacific Ocean in Broomfield, or at my local Costco. And most years, I can get them from my garden. I love sugar snap peas which is why I grow them every year. Even though, they take up a fair bit of space, require a lot of water and sun, and some years yield a disappointing amount of peas. But, I persevere in growing them. Because I do love them!

This recipe is adapted from the NY Times. As it turns out, cauliflower has gone on sale this week, which makes this a double win.

As with other stir-fries, it's important to have your ingredients prepped and measured before you start (what we chefs call mise-en-place). Stir fries happen fast and you can't be chopping or measuring things as you go.

Stir-fried Curried Cauliflower and Peas
(serves 4)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 ½ pounds cauliflower (about ½ a large head), cut into florets
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons grated ginger
1 medium jalapeno chile, sliced thinly (if you want less spice, remove the seeds)
3 Kaffir lime leaves (optional)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ pound sugar snap peas or snow peas, stems and strings removed
2 scallions, cut into 2" julienne
juice of ½ a lime
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok with a cover over medium-high heat. Add cumin and black mustard seeds and cook until the mustard seeds start to pop. Partially cover because once they start to pop, they will start shooting all over the place! Add the turmeric and stir for 15 seconds. Add the cauliflower, garlic, ginger, chile, lime leaves (if using), salt, and black pepper to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir often to avoid burning. Add the peas, stir, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover. Cook for 5 more minutes until peas are crisp-tender. Stir in scallions, lime juice, and cilantro. Check for salt. Serve immediately.


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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pickled Cauliflower

This recipe is from Too Many Tomatoes, Squash, Beans, and Other Good Things: A Cookbook for When Your Garden Explodes. It was originally published in 1976 and republished in 1991. It is one of my go-to vegetable cookbooks because so many of the recipes are simple, tasty, and full of veggies. Since it's from the Dark Ages, it also avoids some of the annoying things one finds in newer cookbooks, my primary pet peeve being the use of "superfoods" and trendy ingredients. Though I am a trained chef and I adore interesting food, I often fall back on tried-and-true recipes from the past because they are simple and they work. In this case, it might even get you to eat your vegetables, which isn't a bad thing.

If you happen to have an exploding garden (I do, on occasion: see here and here), this cookbook will be your friend in times of overabundance. If you don't have a garden, fear not, dear reader! Produce goes on sale and this cookbook will help you create delicious veggie-filled dishes from cheap supermarket produce too.

Cauliflower Antipasto
Quick Pickled Cauliflower & Carrots
(makes about 6 cups)

1 medium head cauliflower (about 1 ¼ pounds)
4 medium carrots, peeled
⅔ cup cider vinegar
⅔ cup water
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ Tablespoons sugar
1 large clove garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Trim off leaves from cauliflower. Peel lower stalk because it is quite fibrous. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces. Slice carrots ¼ inch thick. Place the cauliflower, carrots, and remaining ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the temperature to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and transfer to a container for storage. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours for best flavor though it tastes pretty good fresh from the pot. Will keep at least a week, refrigerated.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Baked Polenta

Polenta can be a time-consuming dish. Like risotto, it requires a lot of stirring. Or does it? No, it does not! You can bake it in the oven and it comes out perfect every time. It's so super-easy, I don't think I'll ever make it on the stove top again.

You can use all water or use ½ water and ½ milk. The polenta will be richer and creamier if you use whole milk.

Baked Polenta
(serves 4-5 as a side dish)

2 cups cold milk or water
1 cup yellow corn grits or dry polenta (I like Bob's Red Mill)
½ to 1 teaspoon salt (use the lesser amount if you are going to mix in cheese)
2 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10" x 8" baking dish with butter or non-stick cooking spray. For ease of entry/exit from the oven, place on a cookie sheet.

When oven reaches temperature, combine cold milk or water with corn grits in a large bowl. Combine salt with boiling water and whisk to dissolve salt. Add salted water to grits and stir. Gently pour into the greased baking dish. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir before serving.

You can also embellish your polenta with cheese. Stir in ½ cup (or more if you like cheesy) at 45 minutes, then bake for another 5 minutes to melt the cheese. Stir again before serving.

Note: The original recipe said use a 9"x5" pan, which may work but I have never tried it that way!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Mussels Baked with Tomatoes and Potatoes

Sadly not my local seafood market. These are HUGE mussels on display at the River Market in Valdivia Chile

Dropped off the map recently. Went to Texas to visit family. Not much cooking going on there, though I did make a damn good Greek lamb stew for the fam. Did manage to snag some epically good BBQ at Pecan Lodge in Dallas. Boy, if you are near there, check it out! Delicious. Seriously delicious. Just expect to wait in line - it's also very popular. Back to husband breaks his collarbone. Yeah, that's been fun. And, we just broke ground on our new house in the mountains and we had relatives visiting from Chile. Whew!
Just had to share a photo of the spread at Pecan Lodge. That beef rib weighed nearly 1 1/2 lbs! No, I didn't eat it by myself.

I made this because mussels were on sale. I love mussels. Actually, I like most food that comes from the sea. Mussels are cheap, very nutritious, and amenable to many preparations. Most mussel lovers know of moules frites. This is a bit different, a casserole. Hearty and tasty. The original recipe came from Marcella Hazan and I pulled it out of Gourmet. And I tweaked it. Because that's what I do.

Mussels Baked with Tomatoes and Potatoes
(serves 4)

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds potatoes, scrubbed
1 14-16 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
3 pounds mussels, debreaded and scrubbed
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
4 Tablespoons panko crumbs
4 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
salt & black pepper
non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a 2 quart deep gratin dish with cooking spray or grease with a little olive oil.

Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover with water, add about ½ Tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender but not soft. Drain and run cold water over the potatoes to cool. Set aside while you cook the mussels.

In a large pot, cook the mussels, covered, over medium heat until they open. It takes about 5 minutes for most of them to open. Remove the open ones to large bowl and cook for another 2 minutes. If a mussel doesn't open, discard it.

While the mussels are cooling, peel the potatoes and slice in ¼" slices. Lay the potatoes in the gratin dish and season with salt and black pepper.

As soon as the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells and set the meat aside in a medium bowl. Add olive oil, parsley, garlic, 2 Tablespoons bread crumbs, 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Mix to combine well. Taste it for seasoning and adjust if needed.  Spread the mussels on top of the potatoes. Top with the drained tomatoes. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Cover with the remaining bread crumbs and cheese. Spray generously with cooking spray (see Note). Bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden. Let the dish sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Note: Being a small person, I try to cut back on the fat (which adds lots of calories) where I can. If you want to make this richer, toss the bread crumbs for topping the casserole with an additional 2 Tablespoons olive oil rather than using the cooking spray.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"Flourless" Chocolate Almond Cake with Dried Cherry-Almond Caramel Glaze

This isn't a flourless cake, hence the quotes around flourless in the title. It does include flour, but it's flour turned into a form acceptable for Passover. There are a whole lot of rules for baking at Passover. As I am not at all observant, I make a cake because it tastes good. I would never recommend a cake just because it is Kosher for Passover.

Passover may be halfway over now but if you are like me, that can of matzoh cake meal is still mostly full, because how many cakes are you going to bake and eat in a week? Here is a cake that tastes great AND helps you use up that can of matzoh cake meal. In fact, it's so good, I would make this when it's not Passover. If you don't have matzoh cake meal, I'll bet it will work just fine with cake flour instead.

It's a variation on a classic chocolate-almond torte. Lots of butter, lots of chocolate, lots of eggs - separated so that the whites provide the leavening. Instead of the small amount of flour in such a torte, it contains matzoh cake meal. Which is flour made into matzoh turned back into flour. Yeah, it's one of the imponderables of religion.

"Flourless" Chocolate-Almond Torte with Dried Cherry-Almond Glaze
(serves 16)

For the cake:
butter or margarine for greasing the pan
2 sticks(½ pound) butter or margarine, at room temperature
8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¾ cup slivered almonds, toasted (see Note)
1 cup sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
6 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup matzoh cake meal

For the glaze:
½ cup dried sour cherries
¼ cup Kirschwasser (cherry brandy)
1 cup sugar
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

Grease the bottom of a 9" x 3" springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment. Grease the parchment and the sides of the pan. Set aside.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Melt the chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of hot, barely simmering water. Remove the chocolate from the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, process the almonds in a food processor until finely ground and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with an electric hand mixer), beat the butter with ¾ cup of the sugar and the salt on medium speed until soft and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and mix on medium-low speed until smooth. Gently fold in the chocolate, ground almonds, and matzo cake meal.

In another large bowl, using the whisk attachment or clean beaters, beat the egg whites on high speed until they form soft peaks. Add the remaining ¼ cup sugar and beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks,. 

In three batches, use a rubber spatula to gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spread evenly, and bake until the top starts to brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just some moist crumbs attached, 40-45 minutes.

While the cake is baking, soak the cherries in the liqueur in a small bowl. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan to release the cake from the pan. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze:
In a heavy-based medium saucepan, stir the sugar and ½ cup water together over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, swirling occasionally and brushing down the sides of a pan with a wet pastry brush to wash down any sugar crystals, until the caramel turns a deep, amber brown. Carefully add ¼ cup water (it will bubble a lot; be careful as it is VERY hot), and whisk together until the mixture acquires an even, syrupy consistency. Drain the cherries and then stir them into the caramel, along with the chopped almonds.

Remove the sides of the springform pan. Using a second rack, flip the cake over and remove the bottom of the pan. Peel off the parchment paper. Place a 12" cake plate over the cake and flip to get the cake on the plate. Pour the caramel mixture evenly over the cake, distributing the cherries evenly over the top. The glaze will spill over the sides. Let the cake cool completely to room temperature before serving.

Note: To toast the almonds, place them in a small baking pan in a 325°F oven for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally so they toast evenly. Watch carefully once they start to brown because they can burn quickly.

Altitude Adjustment (5400 ft.):
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • When beating egg whites, beat to very soft peaks before adding the sugar. Once the sugar is added, only beat to soft peaks.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F when you place the cake in the oven.
Adapted from a recipe at

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Food Photos: The Bane of My Existence

Why do I use photos that clearly aren't a photo of the dish I'm writing about? Because I hate having to take photos of my food! Sometimes, it's my dinner. If I need to style the dish, I'm eating a cold dinner. No thank you! Sometimes, my dinner isn't particularly photogenic. As a blog reader, I'm annoyed by articles that have endless photos of the food from every angle along with many photos of the production. Overkill, I say. I also have no patience for scrolling over a bunch of photos to get to the recipe I am looking for.

But, a photo is important for catching a reader's eye in the overwhelming noise that is the internet. That's why I include interesting photos of food that I have found in Wikipedia Commons in my posts, when I don't like/can't be bothered to snap a gauzy, perfectly lit photo of my dinner (oh, wait, I never do that). Live with it. I cook and I write about food which is my passion. Photography definitely isn't my passion. I leave that to people who are way better at it than I am!

Now, I discover that the photos blow up my list of most popular posts. Ugh! As I said, photos make me crazy. [It's a bug in the widget from Blogger so I hope the thumbnails will reappear at some point.]

The photo above is mine. It's not all that pretty but that cauliflower sure tastes good! It's seasoned with tahini, lemon juice, and Aleppo pepper. Aleppo red pepper is slightly spicy - not nearly as hot as crushed Italian red pepper - and has a lovely fruity flavor. I think it's far more useful in the kitchen than crushed red pepper because it's more subtle. Find some. You won't be sorry. It's great on eggs, hummus, chicken, and right here in this cauliflower recipe.

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini and Lemon
(serves 4-6)

non-stick cooking spray
1 large head of cauliflower
¼ cup tahini
juice of 1 lemon
¼ to 1 teaspoon Aleppo red pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a large rimmed cookie sheet generously with non-stick cooking spray.

Trim off leaves and cut off the tough bottom of the stem on the head of cauliflower. Most of the stalk is edible so don't try to cut out all of it. It will cook up tender. Slice the cauliflower about ½" thick. The slices won't hold together; doesn't matter. Put the cauliflower, in a single layer, on the greased cookie sheet. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Roast the cauliflower in the hot oven for 30 minutes or until tender.

While the cauliflower is roasting, combine the tahini, lemon juice, and Aleppo pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

When the cauliflower is done, remove from the oven and increase the heat to broil. Spread the tahini sauce evenly over the cauliflower. Return the cauliflower to the oven and broil until the sauce browns up. Serve hot.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Rhubarb Cake

A simple snacking cake that uses a common garden vegetable: rhubarb. If you have friends with a garden, ask them if they have rhubarb so you don't have to buy it. Every gardener I know has more than they need. Remember that only the stalks are edible. The leaves contain too much oxalic acid (it's actually the chemical that gives rhubarb its distinctive tart flavor), making them poisonous to humans.

If you have an electric mixer, you can make this cake.

You can use a food processor to chop the rhubarb, or chop it with a knife.

Snacking Rhubarb Cake
(serves 12)

butter or non-sticking cooking spray for greasing pan
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen and thawed rhubarb, finely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
½ + ¼ cup white sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup natural applesauce (little added sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda (use 1 teaspoon at sea level)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish well with butter or non-stick cooking spray.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, light brown sugar, and ½ cup white sugar in a large bowl. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and applesauce until combined. The batter may break (mine did) but don't worry about it. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix gently until nearly completely incorporated. Add the rhubarb and stir until it is a uniform batter. Pour into the prepared dish. In a small bowl, mix together ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle uniformly over the top of the cake. Bake for 35 minutes.

When the cake comes out of the oven, run a knife along the edge to release the cake from the pan. Allow to cool completely before serving from the pan. The cake is very moist and sweet. I don't believe it needs any embellishment, but some sliced strawberries would be OK.

Tested at altitude from a recipe at, a great source for all things rhubarb.

Photo credit: By RhubarbFarmer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cream of Asparagus Soup with Lemon

Springtime means asparagus. We won't have any local asparagus here in Colorado for a while yet. But, it's turning up at bargain prices in the supermarket (some weeks as low as $1.50/pound). We love asparagus roasted, steamed, and grilled. Here it is featured in a fresh-tasting soup. It gets some thickness from the potato, which means you don't need to use a lot of cream. The lemon keeps it bright and light.

I like to buy thick spears of asparagus and for this recipe, that is the best choice. You'll be peeling them and it's pretty dang hard to peel a skinny stalk of asparagus! If you don't peel the asparagus, you'll have a bunch of stringy fibers that don't purée well. If you have a really good blender, like a VitaMix (I don't, but I used them when I worked in restaurants), no worries. It can handle the peels. My blender isn't that effective, so I make sure to peel the stalks.

Cream of Asparagus Soup with Lemon
(serves 8)

1 ½ pounds asparagus
5 cups low-sodium chicken stock
4 medium shallots, peeled and minced
1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into ½" dice
2 lemons
¾ cup heavy cream
salt and black pepper

Trim off about ½" of the bottom of the asparagus stalks. Peel the lower ⅔'s of each stalk. Cut off the tips and set aside. Cut the rest of the stalks into 1" lengths. Set aside in a bowl.

Zest the lemons and put the zest in the bowl with the asparagus stalk pieces. Add the shallots and the potato. Juice 1 lemon and set aside the juice.

In a medium soup pot, heat up the stock. Cook the asparagus tips in the stock for 2-3 minutes, until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add asparagus stalks, shallots, zest, and potato to the stock. Cook for 30 minutes until the potato and asparagus are very tender.

Blend the contents of the pot until smooth. You can use an immersion blender right in the soup pot or you can transfer the soup, in batches, to a blender. Return the puréed soup to the pot. Add the cream and reheat until hot but not boiling. Stir in the lemon juice, salt (how much will depend on your palate and the type of stock you use), and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.

Serve with the reserved asparagus tips as garnish.

Adapted from 300 Sensational Soups by Carla Snyder & Meredith Deeds, Robert Rose, Inc., 2008.

Photo Credit: By Frank Vincentz (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, April 1, 2016

Indonesian Beef with Onions

Another recipe adapted from the fantastic (and long out-of-print) The Good Cook series of cookbooks from Time-Life.

I used Thai Black Sweet Soy. Indonesian sweet soy sauce, called kecap manis, is also a sweet soy. I won't say they are interchangeable, but Thai sweet soy also results in a very tasty dish. Use what you have, is my motto!

Indonesian Beef with Onions
(serves 4)

1 pound top round steak, thinly sliced

1 large onion, cut into chunks
3 large cloves garlic
3 Tablespoons kecap manis or Thai sweet soy sauce
10 peppercorns, crushed
3 Tablespoons sweet soy
pinch of ground nutmeg

1 Tablespoon oil
1 large onion
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, including liquid
1 stick of cinnamon
2 whole cloves

Pulverize the onion and garlic in a food processor. Place in a bowl and mix in the remaining marinade ingredients. Add the sliced beef and toss to coat. Set in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes to an hour. Drain the beef, reserving the marinade.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Cook onions until they start to wilt. Increase heat to high. Add the beef and stirfry for a couple of minutes. Add the marinade and the rest of the ingredients. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Serve over rice. Try not to eat the cloves, but if you do bite into one of them, it won't kill you.

Adapted from The Good Cook: Beef & Veal, Time-Life Books, 1978.

Photo credit: By Jdmtdktdht (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fish and Corn Chowder

Winter does not transition nicely into spring here in the Rockies. We've had temps in the 70's this week, but winter is lurking right around the corner. Actually, it's here! There's over a foot of snow in my yard and it's still coming down. Which means it's the perfect time for a hearty soup.

This is a very hearty soup, full of chunks of fish and potatoes. It's a meal in a bowl. I adapted it from a Jasper White chowder recipe. If you ever have a chance to eat at one of his Summer Shack restaurants (in Boston, Cambridge, and the Mohegan Sun Resort in Connecticut), do! It's the lobster shack to beat all lobster shacks. They carry a wide variety of New England-style seafood, not just lobster.

Fish and Corn Chowder
(serves 4-6)

2 oz. salt pork, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon flour
2 cups fish stock
1 pound Yukon Gold or red potatoes, sliced ¼" thick
1+ teaspoons salt
½-1 teaspoon black pepper
1½ cups whole milk
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1½ pounds cod fillets, cut in large chunks

Optional garnishes: chopped chives, thyme leaves, oyster crackers

Heat a soup pot over low heat. Add the salt pork and cook gently until it starts to render its fat. Raise heat to medium and cook pork bits until crispy and golden. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and reserve for garnish. Add the butter, onion, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring often, until onions are soft and golden. Do not brown. If they start to brown, reduce the heat. Add the flour, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of stock, stirring constantly, until soup thickens. It will be very thick. Add the 2nd cup of stock, again stirring, until the soup reaches a simmer. Add the potatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt, and black pepper. If the stock doesn't cover the potatoes, add enough water to keep potatoes submerged. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook for 15 minutes.

Taste for salt. It's hard to say how much you will need because there is a variable amount of salt in any commercial fish stock (and none added to homemade, usually) and the salt pork adds a lot too. You want the soup to be somewhat salty at this stage. You will be adding milk and fish and you want the soup to season them up.

Add the milk and corn. Heat soup until hot but do not boil. Add the fish and cook gently until fish is cooked, about 5 minutes. Taste one more time and add more salt and black pepper, if needed. The soup should be highly seasoned with pepper. Don't make it too salty, though, if you are garnishing with the salt pork bits.

To serve, garnish with salt pork bits, if desired. They are salty little bits of crunch but they are salty. You can also sprinkle on some chopped chives and fresh thyme for a bit of color. Oyster crackers are always a nice touch with chowder.

Adapted from a recipe in 50 Chowders by Jasper White, Scribner, 2000.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Eggplant with Mushroom-Yogurt Stuffing

This is a delicious meatless entreé for 4 or a side dish for 8. The mushrooms give it a meaty texture and flavor. It's very hearty for a vegetarian dish, especially one that doesn't include any cheese.

I like to spray the bread crumb topping with non-stick cooking spray. It helps the crumbs brown up nicely while adding very little fat. If you want a richer, crispier topping, you can combine the crumbs with 2 Tablespoons melted butter before spreading them onto the eggplant.

You can stuff the eggplants ahead of time and bake them later. You'll need to bake them a bit longer to make sure the center is piping hot, however.

Eggplant with Mushroom-Yogurt Stuffing
(serves 4 as an entreé or 8 as a side dish)

2 large eggplants, 1 to 1¼ pound each, cut in half lengthwise
4 scallions, white and green tops, chopped
½ pound coarsely chopped mushrooms
1 medium carrot, grated
½ teaspoon dried thyme
4 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
¾ to 1 cup Greek low-fat or full-fat unflavored yogurt
1½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup panko bread crumbs
non-stick cooking spray

Spray a 9"x5" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Bring a couple of inches of water to a boil in a large pot with a steamer basket. Place the eggplant halves in the steamer and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the steamer and allow to cool until you can handle them. Remove the pulp, being careful not to tear the skin. Chop the pulp coarsely, season with ¼ teaspoon salt and set aside. Place the eggplant shells in the baking dish and season them with ¼ teaspoon salt.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, mushrooms, and carrots. Sauté for 5 minutes until carrots are limp and the mushrooms have started to lose their liquid. Lower heat to low. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for another minute. Stir in the yogurt and chopped eggplant. Season with the rest of the salt and pepper. Taste for seasonings and add more salt if needed.

Fill each eggplant half with ¼ of the filling. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons panko crumbs on each eggplant half. Moisten with a generous dose of non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes until crumbs are browned and filling is very hot.

Adapted from The Good Cook: Vegetables, Time-Life Books, 1979.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Removing the Skin from Salmon Filet

A while back, a reader asked about skinning salmon (thanks Linda!). I explained the process in the comments, but I wanted to find a video of it. It's hard to describe the process - here, a (moving) picture is worth a thousand words. Unfortunately, it's not as simple to skin a piece of filet as it is to skin a whole side. Can be done and in the following video, she demonstrates both removing the skin from a whole side and a piece of filet. This technique works for any type of fish; I used it last night to skin a whole side of mahi-mahi (a fish where the skin is definitely inedible).

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Corned Beef and Cabbage Shepherd's Pie

Here's a recipe I created for a St. Patrick's Day cooking class. Nope, nothing traditional about this. But, it sure is tasty! Get your corned beef in the deli - you can buy a small amount of it and it's already cooked. Or, if you cook a whole corned beef for St. Patty's Day, you can reserve a little bit for this recipe. It's a good way to stretch a small amount of leftover meat into a hearty meal.

St. Patrick's Day Shepherd's Pie
(serves 6)

non-stick cooking spray
1 pound carrots chopped
1 cup chicken broth, preferably unsalted or low-sodium
¼ medium head of cabbage, cored and chopped (about ¾ pound)
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed
7 oz. corned beef, chopped
2 Tablespoons oil
2 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
¼ cup milk
2 Tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400° F. Spray an 11x7x2" baking dish with cooking spray.

Place the carrots and chicken broth in a 3-4 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until carrots tender, about 15 minutes. Place the cabbage, peas, and pearl onions in a large bowl. Start the potatoes cooking in a large pot of water.

When the carrots are done, pour them and the cooking liquid over the other vegetables.Place the saucepan back over medium heat. Add the oil. Sprinkle in the flour and mix with oil. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the vegetables, all the liquid in the bowl, corned beef, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix to combine and pour into baking dish.

When the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes), drain them, and put back in the pot. Add milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Mash until fairly smooth. Spread on top of filling. Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle on shredded cheese and bake until cheese has melted.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Stir-fried Mustard Cabbage

Cabbage is going to be very cheap soon. Every year for St. Patrick's Day, cabbage drops in price. Cabbage isn't exactly expensive to begin with, but around March 17, you can often find it for 19 cents a pound! Who says you need to use it for corned beef?

Here's an Indian take. It can be served hot or warm.

Stir-fried Mustard Cabbage
(serves 8)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 clove garlic, minced
a pinch to ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ pounds green cabbage (about ½ a medium head), thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup minced fresh or frozen cilantro
⅓ cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and immediately cover the plan. When they get hot enough, the seeds will start to pop and they will go shooting all over your kitchen. The cover keeps them contained.

As soon as they start to pop, add the turmeric, garlic, crushed red pepper, and salt. Stir for 10 seconds. Add the cabbage and toss with spices and oil to coat. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook cabbage until it starts to wilt, about 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, cilantro, and coconut. Toss to combine and serve.

Adapted from Moghul Microwave: Cooking Indian Food the Modern Way by Julie Sahni, William Morrow and Company, 1990.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Turkey Pasta Fagioli Soup

Turkey soup loaded with all sorts of good stuff!
About this time in late winter, I look in my freezer and discover the cache of turkey stock I made with the Thanksgiving turkey carcass. Before the warm weather returns, it needs to be reincarnated as a delicious soup. Though the weather isn't nearly as cold now, it can still be blustery, wet, and excellent "soup weather." This recipe makes a lot of soup, but you can make a half batch if you don't want so much of it. The full batch is great for a party!

I created this soup to use up the stock and some frozen cooked turkey too. It's a meal in a pot, with white beans, pasta stars, and lots of vegetables. If you don't have cooked turkey in your freezer, get thickly sliced deli turkey breast and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Turkey Pasta Fagioli Soup
(serves 12)

3 oz. pancetta, diced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, cut into half-moon slices
1 stalk of celery, sliced plus ½ cup chopped celery leaves (or use 2 stalks)
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon salt (if using a salted stock, use 1½ teaspoons)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled or use 1 6" long sprig of fresh rosemary
2 cups diced tomatoes, either fresh or canned
10 cups turkey stock
¾ cup pasta stars (or any other small pasta shape like alphabet pasta)
1 14-oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
8 oz. cooked turkey, chopped into bite sized pieces
freshly ground pepper plus any of these optional garnishes: grated Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, extra-virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the pancetta fat renders out. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Sauté until onions are wilted. Add pepper, salt, bay leaf, rosemary, tomatoes, and turkey stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Partially cover and cook for 45 minutes. Add the beans and cooked turkey.

While the beans and turkey are getting hot in the soup, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente (check the box for the time needed for your pasta shape). Drain well. Once everything in the soup is hot, add the pasta. Taste for salt. Add garnishes as you serve the soup.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Easy Upside Down Cake - Use up those peaches stashed in your freezer

Nearly every peach lover I know here in Colorado has a stash of peaches in their freezer. That's because Colorado grows some truly excellent peaches and they show up by the case almost every summer (sadly, some summers we get very little because Colorado is still a tricky place to grow peaches). I like to make a simple "sauce" with them to put on pancakes or waffles, or in oatmeal.

Without the nuts, you can see the peaches but I like it better with the crunch from the nuts
But sometimes, you need dessert. :-) This one is a straightforward spiced cake baked with a sweet topping of peaches and blueberries. It's the perfect cake for tea, coffee, or an informal dinner party. I brought it to dinner with some friends and it was a huge hit.

Unlike many cakes, you don't need an electric mixer, but you do need a heavy 10" skillet, like a cast iron skillet. You will also need a plate larger than the skillet on which to turn out the cake.

Upside-Down Peach and Blueberry Cake
(serves 10)

1 Tablespoon butter
6 Tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 ½ Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
the zest of ½ a lemon (remember to zest it before you juice it)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen, not necessary to thaw)
¾ cup fresh or frozen peaches, thinly sliced

1 ½ cups sifted cake flour (measure after sifting)
1 teaspoon baking powder (¾ teaspoon at 5400 ft., Boulder altitude)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅓ cup vegetable oil (I prefer sunflower oil)
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup honey
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
⅓ cup skim milk

⅓ cup toasted almond slices for garnish (see Note)

Preheat the oven to 325°F and position an oven rack in the center of the oven.

Melt the butter in a 10" heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and lemon juice. Stir until the sugar dissolves, about a minute. Remove the pan from the heat and gently stir in the lemon zest, blueberries, and peaches. Spread into an even layer. Set aside while you make the cake.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, honey, egg, almond extract, and milk. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix together until well blended.

Pour the batter evenly over the fruit in the skillet. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean and the cake is golden.

Cool the cake for 4 minutes on a wire rack. Place a large plate on top of the skillet. Using heavy potholders (that skillet is still very hot), flip over the plate and the pan. The fruit and sauce shouldn't stick much, but if it does, use a spoon to scrape it out and arrange on the cake. Sprinkle cake with toasted almonds. Cool cake somewhat because it will be too hot to eat the sugary topping right out of the oven. It's delicious warm or at room temperature.

Note: To toast almond slices, put them in a small baking pan and put in a 300°F oven for about 8-10 minutes, stirring now and then so they brown evenly. Watch carefully because they can burn in a flash.

Adapted from Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too by Susan G. Purdy, William Morrow and Company, 1993.

Friday, January 15, 2016

How Salty is the Ocean?

This morning, I heard a chef say "Make your pasta water as salty as the ocean." I've heard many TV chefs say this. To me, a resident of a landlocked state, this is useless advice. I don't spend much time at the beach and my memory of the saltiness of any ocean water is pretty dim. Let's just say this is a pretty imprecise way to describe how salty your pasta water should be. I will say that once you do it more precisely (which is below), you can taste it and then you will know what ocean salty tastes like.

How salty is the ocean? There is 3.5 g of salt per liter of ocean water. This is an approximation since not all parts of the oceans have the same salinity. But, for our purposes, 3.5 g/l is good enough.

But, most Americans don't think is grams or liters. After converting, it comes pretty close to ½ teaspoon of salt for each quart (4 cups) of water. My pasta pot holds 8 quarts, so I should add 4 teaspoons of salt, a heaping Tablespoon. Use a smaller pot and less water, add less.

The next time you cook pasta, measure the water and salt. Then taste the water. Do it a few times and you'll know how salty the ocean tastes! Or do what I do: put the same amount of water each time and put the same amount of salt in your palm each time. No need to taste the water.

While we are talking pasta and oceans, how about a recipe for pasta with clam sauce? This has been a favorite recipe in my house for a long time. It came from a collection of Junior League recipes from the Eastern US. This is a quick recipe. The sauce comes together while the pasta is cooking.

Linguini with Lemon-Clam Sauce
(serves 4)

2 6½ oz. cans chopped clams in clam juice
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, about 6 sprigs
1 lemon
salt to taste
1 pound of linguine
Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

Drain clam juice from canned clams and reserve both juice and clams, separately. Zest lemon - you need about 1 teaspoon of zest (a little more or less is fine). Then juice the lemon. You need 2 Tablespoons juice. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and drop in the linguine.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallots and garlic. Cook until translucent. Add clam juice, oregano, and pepper. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook until liquid is reduced to a few tablespoons. Lower heat to medium. Add clams, parsley, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Cook at a simmer to heat up clams. When the pasta is cooked to al dente (don't over cook as it will continue to cook in the sauce), scoop out a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water and add to the skillet. This helps to thicken the sauce, from the starch in the water. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet. Toss to coat with the sauce. Taste for salt. The clams, clam juice, and pasta water are salty so you may need nothing. Serve hot in a bowl with bread to sop up sauce.

The cheese is absolutely optional. In Italy, they consider Parmesan cheese an abomination on a seafood pasta. But, you do what you want because you don't need to live by Italian rules. This is an American recipe!

Recipe adapted from The Eastern Junior League Cookbook edited by Ann Seranne, David McKay Company, Inc. 1980.

Photo credit: By Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Homestyle Oven Chili with Cornbread Topping

Some stick-to-your-ribs winter food made easy. You can make this without the cornbread topping if you like. Serve it with rice.

Homestyle Oven Chili with Cornbread Topping
(serves 6)

1 recipe of School of Eating Good Cornbread
1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
½ medium onion, minced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
⅛ to ¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 15-oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup diced tomatoes (either fresh or canned)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare Cornbread. Set aside while you prepare the chili.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook ground beef, onions, and garlic, stirring often and scraping from bottom of the pan, until meat is no longer pink. Lower heat to medium. Spoon off all but 1 Tablespoon fat. Sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, oregano, dry mustard, cayenne, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for 2 minutes. Add beans, tomato sauce, and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Pour the cornbread batter over the chili, smoothing to cover chili evenly. Place in the oven and bake until cornbread is done, 25-30 minutes. The cornbread will be nicely browned and a toothpick stuck in the cornbread will come out clean. Serve hot.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Rye Cider Bread

Sometimes mistakes work out. This recipe started as a rye beer bread but I wanted to use up some icky dry hard cider that ended up in my fridge. Because rye has little gluten, I had planned to use bread flour. But, the brain didn't engage and I used white whole wheat flour. Hmm, this might now work out so well. Quickly added some gluten and hoped for the best. Well, I'll be! It came out pretty darn good!

This bread is good for sandwiches and great with cheese and charcuterie. The rye and whole wheat is earthy while the cider adds a touch of fruity sweetness.

Rye Cider Bread
(makes one 1 ½ pound loaf)

1 ⅛ cup dry hard cider
2 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup rye flour
½ cup rolled rye flakes
1 ¾ cups white whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons gluten
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast*
bread flour
cooking spray or oil

Warm cider to 100°F. Combine all ingredients in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the mixer blade. Mix for 8 minutes. If after 5 minutes, the dough looks really wet - sticking to the sides of the bowl - add 1-2 Tablespoons of bread flour. Cover with a towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 8 minutes. Grease a large bowl. Put the dough in the bowl and roll around to cover with oil. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until 3x original bulk. Punch down. Form into a boule. Place on a baking sheet sprinkled with a little cornmeal. Cover with a towel and let rise until double in size.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Slash the top like a tic-tac-toe game. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 190°F. Allow to cool completely before slicing. It's slightly gummy when warm from the oven but once it cools, the texture is much better.

*Increase yeast to 1½ teaspoons at sea level.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Curtido Rojo: Guatemalan Fermented Cabbage and Beets

My friends Deb & John (you can visit their vineyard's website) really got into fermentation when they a) became farmers - grape farmers - and b) when they found themselves with a bumper crop of garden produce. Because of their success, I decided to try my hand at veggie fermentation too.

I found I too had a bumper crop of veggies when my friends Jenny (you can read her poetry blog) and Stephen left their dog and their CSA box with me when they went on vacation. What to do with all that produce??!!

Fermentation is an ancient form of preservation. You salt things and let them sit. Bacteria that like the salty environment start to multiply, producing lactic acid along with quite a number of other "stinky" compounds. Not only does all this bacterial action preserve the food, it makes it tastier too!

Wait, that's supposed to be edible? Yes, it looks (and smells) funky but it's definitely edible.
I won't tell you it looks pretty while it's happening - it definitely doesn't! But, the end result is seriously delicious.

I used a big crock (as you can see in the photo). You need something non-reactive. Acid is produced and crockery, along with glass, stainless steel, and some plastics, won't react under the acidic conditions. A crock is big, which means that when things get bubbling, your fermentation will be less likely to escape.

I selected this recipe rather than standard sauerkraut because I had cabbage and some HUGE beets. Come March, I'm going to give classic sauerkraut a try (as John will tell you, cabbage is super-cheap at St. Patrick's Day making that a great time to make your own sauerkraut).

This is where a food processor, for the shredding of the cabbage and beets, is a huge time saver. You can do it by hand, but it will take you a while. Beets are also pretty messy if you have to shred them by hand.

Fried eggs on toast with curtido rojo. That's a yummy breakfast.
This fermented cabbage is delicious with grilled or roasted meats and eggs. The funkiness does not carry over into the flavor. Mostly, it's pleasantly tart and spicy.

Curtido Rojo (Guatemalan Fermented Vegetables)
(makes enough to fill about 4 pint jars)

1 head cabbage, red or green (it will all turn red anyway)
2 large beets, peeled and shredded
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
½ pound green beans, cut into ½" pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
½ Tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1 Tablespoon grated orange zest
1 Tablespoon dried oregano, crushed fine in your hand
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-2 Tablespoons pickling salt
2 bay leaves

Remove any blemished leaves from the cabbage and discard. Reserve a couple of the next layer of leaves for covering the cabbage while it ferments.

To shred the cabbage, quarter, cut out the tough core, and shred, like for cole slaw.

Combine all the veggies, garlic, jalapenos, cumin seeds, orange zest, oregano, and red pepper in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon of salt to start. Massage so that vegetables start to release their moisture. Taste that cabbage. You should be able to taste the salt but it shouldn't be overpowering. If it doesn't taste salty to you, sprinkle on a bit more salt and repeat the massage and taste until you get to a spot that tastes pleasantly salty to you. Can't take the salt away once it's in there, so go slow.

Let veggies sit until you have a pool of brine in the bowl, up to 45 minutes.

Place the bay leaves in a large crock. Cover with the contents of the bowl. Pack down well to get rid of air pockets. When you press them down, they should be covered with the brine. Cover with the reserved cabbage leaves, place a small plate in the crock and weight it down to keep veggies under brine. Place on a baking sheet to catch any overflow while it ferments. For the fermentation stage, place in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Check daily to make sure the veggies are submerged. Press them down again if they aren't covered in brine. After a few days, it will start to foam and look pretty ugly (see photo above). That's normal. If any mold forms, spoon it off. It's also normal for yeast to start growing on top. Yeast is white and breaks into little bits when you disturb it. No need to remove it.

Taste the cabbage after about 4 days. It will just be starting to get a tang. I fermented mine for 2 weeks and it had the perfect amount of sour for me. Experiment and ferment it to the acidity that you like.

To store, pack veggies into pint jars. Cover top of jar with a small square of parchment or waxed paper, then cover with jar lids and screw down but not too tight. If you store it in the fridge, fermentation should stop, but it's best to give any gas a way out - so don't screw the lids down too tight. I found that after the jars went in the fridge, the cabbage absorbed all the brine. At this point you shouldn't have any trouble with mold so that's OK.

Adapted from Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten K. Shockey & Christopher Shockey, Storey Publishing, 2014.