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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Greek Shrimp and Feta

This is one of my favorite shrimp dishes, and good bread (see posts for Stilton Parmesan or  Spinach Feta breads) is a must for sopping up the scrumptious sauce. So simple, but oh,  so good.

It's also a great company dish, assuming guests eat shrimp.

Greek Shrimp and Feta

1 1/2 lbs. large raw shrimp
1 1/2 c. chopped green onions or 1 large onion, chopped
1/2 c. olive oil

4 large garlic cloves, minced
4 c. chopped, peeled tomatoes (or 1 large can)
1  c. white wine
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley (or 1 1/2 tbsp. dried), a little reserved for garnish
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tbsp. sugar
Salt and pepper
8 oz. feta, crumbled

Shell shrimp (I like to buy E-Z peel shrimp, which  makes the process much faster). Rinse, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Chill.

Gently fry onion in oil till transparent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, wine, herbs if using dried, sugar, salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer sauce for 30 minutes, till very thick. Add fresh herbs if using. Spoon sauce into large baking dish or 6 to 8 individual baking dishes. Arrange shrimp on top. Sprinkle crumbled feta over all.

Bake at 400 for 15 to 20 minutes, till shrimp are pink and feta melts a little. Sprinkle with reserved fresh parsley and serve.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Summer vegetable soup

 It might sound odd to eat soup in the summer, but this is wonderful barely warm or at room temperature. It's also healthful and takes advantage of some of the bounty of your (or someone else's) garden. This is great with a crusty bread or cornbread. (See earlier posts on Stilton Parmesan bread and Spinach Feta bread.)
I admit that I made this before the really long, miserable hot spell we had in the Midwest -- not the best time for cooking up a pot of soup. I'm just way behind in my posting.

Summer Vegetable Soup
Adapted from a Gourmet recipe

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. each dried oregano, dried basil, ground cumin and paprika (I used Spanish smoked)
2 sweet bell peppers (choose among red, yellow, orange), chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium zucchini, sliced crosswise (and lengthwise if thick)
2 medium yellow squash, sliced crosswise (and lengthwise if thick)
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups water*
1 quart chicken broth
1 can corn (or scrape kernels from 3 or 4 ears fresh corn if in season)
1 can chickpeas (I used a 19-oz. can Progresso)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh herb mix such as oregano, thyme, parsley, basil
Feta to crumble over each bowl of soup

In a large deep skillet, cook the onion and the garlic in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened. Stir in the dried herbs and spices and cook 1 minute. Add the squashes, bell pepper and the corn, and cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring, for 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, broth, water, salt and pepper to taste and simmer the stew, covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer the stew, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes more. Sprinkle with the fresh herbs and Feta, and serve just warm or at room temperature.

*For thicker, stewlike dish, omit water.

Variation: Add 1 tbsp. minced sun-dried tomatoes with the raw vegetables.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beef and Stout (Guinness) "Casserole"

This is from a casserole cookbook called Bake Until Bubbly by Clifford A. Wright, but it's really more of an Irish stew that's baked in the oven. I like to double the recipe because it's time-consuming (3 1/2 hours start to finish), and freeze half or give half away, as I did recently to a couple with a newborn.

It's worth every minute and all the knife work.
Be sure to have some crusty bread for sopping up the savory sauce.

Beef and Stout
(not doubled)

1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs. boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 lb. lean Irish bacon or Canadian bacon (which I use), cubed 
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
One 12-oz. bottle stout beer (such as Guinness)
1 pound small white onions, about 14, peeled OR 2 medium onions cut into eighths
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
Bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 4 sprigs thyme, 3 sprigs marjoram, 6 sprigs parsley tied in cheesecloth. . . or just thrown into the pot as I do)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

In large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat, then brown the beef and bacon on all sides, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the meats with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. Discard any accumulated fat and juices in the skillet.

Melt butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a roux and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the stout, stirring until gravy is smooth.

Place beef, bacon and onions in a 12-by-9-by-2 baking casserole or 10-inch round baking casserole (for a doubled recipe, I used a large dutch oven). Sprinkle with the parsley and marjoram, season with salt and pepper, and add garlic and bouquet garni/herbs. Mix well. Sprinkle the top with the sugar and pour the gravy over the beef. Stir again to mix well. Cover and bake until the meat if very tender, about 3 hours. Removed from the oven and stir in the vinegar. Let rest for 5 minutes and serve.

Note: For some reason I was worried about how much sauce there would be this time, and stirred in a jar of "beef gravy" before putting the pot into the oven. I wondered if this lame addition (why did I even have that in my pantry?) would affect the flavor, but it seemed no harm was done.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Orange Rosemary Mini-muffins

The original recipe comes from Elizabeth Alston's Muffins but I borrow the orange juice glaze from a similar recipe in Sarah Leah Chase's Nantucket Open House Cookbook. You can eat these as is, as a nice option for a bread basket, or make little appetizers: I have used a small scallop-edged cookie cutter to cut pieces of ham to sandwich between muffin halves with a little mustard. Yum. Chase's recipe calls for appetizer sandwiches made with duck breast.

I most recently baked these as an Easter bread option.

Orange Rosemary Mini-muffins

3/4 cup milk (I used skim)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tsp. dried rosemary leaves (I used crushed)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut in pieces
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
Grated zest from 1 orange, reserving juice

Simmer milk, raisins and rosemary for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add butter and stir till melted. Let cool (placing pan in small bowl of cold water or ice will cool contents in minutes). Stir in orange zest.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray muffin tins or use foil baking cups.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk egg into cooled milk mixture. Pour over dry ingredients and fold in with rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Scoop batter into muffin cups. Bake mini-muffins 10-12 minutes (regular size about 20) or until golden and springy in the middle. Brush muffins with orange juice while hot. Turn out of pan and serve hot or cool on rack.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stilton Parmesan Bread

The smell of this bread baking truly makes you want to just rip the loaf in half and start gnawing, especially if you've been carb-deprived. Something happens to the Stilton. It somehow achieves a mellow flavor in this bread, so that even those who don't like the blue cheese family should like this savory loaf.

The recipe is from the excellent cookbook Bread Machine Baking by Lora Brody and Millie Apter. The bread bakes fine in the machine. But I prefer to just mix the dough in the machine, saving my wrists some wear and tear, and form it into two loaves to bake in the oven. You can tuck one loaf in the freezer or give it away, as I did recently to friends with a newborn.

Stilton Parmesan Bread

1/3 cup warm water
5 tbsp. butter, softened
2 extra-large eggs (2 large eggs and a few tablespoons of egg substitute works)
5 oz. Stilton (or Gorgonzola or other blue cheese), crumbled
1 cup shredded Parmesan (not the powdery stuff)

1/3 cup chopped red onion
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
2 1/2 tsp. yeast

Place all ingredients into the bread machine pan in the order ingredients are listed.

Program machine for Dough to form it into two free-form loaves later and bake in the oven, or, to bake in the machine: Program for Bread, Basic Bread, White, Basic Wheat or Basic, and press Start. (Since it contains eggs and dairy products, don't program it with a delay function.) Either way, if the dough looks sticky after it has been mixing a while, sprinkle in one or two tablespoons of additional flour.

To bake in the oven: Remove dough from machine pan when the cycle ends and form it into two round loaves on a baking sheet that has cornmeal scattered on it (helps prevent sticking). Cover with a towel and let rise till doubled, 30 to 60 minutes. Bake at 400 for 8 minutes; lower heat to 350 and bake till golden brown, up to 10 more minutes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Breakfast Bars

When I get up in the morning, I tend to run into a few walls or trip over slippers, wondering what day it is. When I wake up enough, I peer into the mirror to see how much work I need to do for a public appearance. Then I run errands.

Sometimes I actually forget to eat breakfast. Not smart, since I am hypoglycemic and need to eat every three hours or so. Most often I am in a hurry to get out the door, so I look for something to grab on the way. It could be a yogurt smoothie (there's often a pitcher in the fridge) or I might make a quick peanut butter sandwich (no jelly; it drips). I always have Luna or similar bars on hand for such occasions but they get boring. And really, these taste better and have a nice, chewy texture. If you follow Weight Watchers points, these are about 4 each if you follow my lower-fat variation and cut 16 bars.

This is Nigella Lawson's recipe for Breakfast Bars, from her cookbook Nigella Express. My variations are in parentheses.

Breakfast Bars

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk (I use fat-free)
2 1/2 cups rolled/old-fashioned oats(I use 4 cups and cut back on nuts/seeds etc.)
1 cup shredded coconut (good, but I skip it to cut calories and fat)
1 cup dried cranberries (I used a mix of dried cherries, blueberries and mango this time)
1 cup mixed seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame (I used 3/4 c. mixed pumpkin and sunflower)
1 cup natural unsalted peanuts (I used about 2/3 c. shelled pistachios)
(1/2 tsp. cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 250 and oil a 9x13 pan or use a disposable aluminum foil pan.

Warm the condensed milk in a large pan (large enough to eventually accommodate all ingredients. You can stir in cinnamon at this point or add it in next step).

Meanwhile, mix rest of ingredients together and add the warmed milk, using a rubber spatula to fold and distribute. (I just dump everything into the pan once the milk is warm and then stir thoroughly).

Spread mixture into oiled or foil pan and spread with the spatula, or wear disposable plastic gloves and press down with hands to make the surface even. (I just get my hands damp and press; works very well).

Bake for 1 hour. (I check at 50 minutes and pull them out if getting brown around edges). Let cool in pan for 15 minutes and cut into 16 chunky bars. Let cool completely (and wrap individually in plastic wrap or foil, freezing what you aren't likely to eat within a few days. Be sure to thaw before taking a bite).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nut-Crusted Grouper with, uh, Flambe Sauce

It's always nice to find out what won't make you panic.

I did something stupid today, but no real harm came of it (though studies show a good scare takes seconds off your life). I was making a browned butter topping for fish, and I was in a hurry. While the amber butter was still on the heat I added lemon juice.

Whoa, jump back! I didn't expect it to flame (DUH), but the lemon juice skittered all over the small skillet and made the butter splash. I took it off the heat, and all was well. My excitement for the day. At least the fish was tasty.


This recipe comes from, though I've altered the instructions to what worked for me. It calls for pecans, but I've used walnuts both times I've made it, simply because I have those in the freezer of the kitchen fridge. I'd have to go to the basement freezer to fetch pecans. 

Nut-Crusted Grouper

1/2 cup pecans (or walnuts)
1/2 cup torn bread pecies
1 lb. grouper fillet(s),  cut into four pieces
1/3 cup flour
Salt and pepper
1 or 2 eggs, beaten (I used about 1/4 cup Egg Beaters, and there was some left)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, divided use
Juice of 1 lemon
Handful of fresh, chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400.

Pulse the nuts and bread in food processor just until a coarse mixture forms. Spread on a small plate and set aside.

Put flour, salt and pepper in a baggie. Beat eggs in shallow bowl and set aside. Dredge fish by adding one piece at a time to the baggie and shaking to coat in flour. Dip each piece in egg and coat by patting each piece gently in the nut mixture.

Melt 3 tbsp. butter in an oven-proof skillet (or wrap heavy-duty foil around handle several times to protect it) over medium-high heat. Saute the fish on one side until brown. Turn fillets and  put skillet in oven. Bake for about 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily.

While fish bakes,  add remaining butter to a medium (not small!) skillet and cook over high heat just until the butter is foamy and brown, stirring constantly. REMOVE FROM HEAT, let cool a few seconds and stir in lemon juice and parsley.

Pour over grouper and serve.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spadaro Pork Chops and Seriously Good Cauliflower

This is the chop recipe I turn to when I've thawed or just bought chops and haven't given any thought to how I want to cook them till I am in the kitchen saying, "Huh. Time to get cooking." They're easy and I always have the ingredients (or close enough). And the pan juices are good enough to spoon up (This is why some of you should be brave and let your foods touch on the plate. . . that's how I discovered the juices are quite tasty on mashed cauliflower. That recipes follows).

The recipe is from Glamour's Gourmet on the Run cookbook. There's no explanation for the name of the dish.

Spadaro Pork Chops

3 to 6 pork chops, 1/2-inch thick*
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 shallots, finely chopped (I often substitute red or white onion, which works fine)
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped, or 1 tsp. dried, crumbled

Trim fat from pork chops. In large skillet over medium heat, rub fat over bottom of skillet to grease well. Discard fat.

Add pork chops and brown well on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the shallots or onions, vermouth and rosemary, deglazing pan to loosen any brown bits. Bring to a boil over high heat,  reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 10 minutes or until pork is fork-tender.

Remove chops from pan to lipped dish and pour pan juice over to serve. (Include a spoon for the juices.)

* I always make the same amount of sauce, no matter how many chops I want to cook. The original recipe calls for 6 pork chops. If you use thicker chops, just cook them a bit longer.


People who try to tell you that mashed cauliflower can be mistaken for mashed potatoes are delusional, lying or tastebud-impaired. But it is good stuff. My husband wasn't convinced he liked cauliflower till I came up with this one day. Now he looks forward to it, and always has seconds. I sometimes double the recipe so we can eat it for days.

Seriously Good Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower
4 oz. cream cheese or neufchatel
Large spoonful (1/4 cup?) diet spread such as Smart Balance (or butter, margarine)
Salt and pepper to taste

Break the head of cauliflower into large florets. Place in large saucepan with water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook till very tender. Drain, keeping cauliflower in the pot. Add the cream cheese/neufchatel and margarine. Mash (I use a potato masher) just to break up mixture, then use hand-held mixer to cream it. Add salt and pepper to taste, adding more neufchatel or margarine if desired. If you want it thinner, add a little milk or cream.

You can vary the seasonings to suit your mood, adding your favorite fresh herb (mine are thyme and rosemary), chopped.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Brownie Bites

This recipe has me peeved. OK, not the recipe itself; that rocks.

I just checked to see whether this had been posted online before I typed it all in, and it was.


In fact it's been posted numerous times, often not crediting the source: Tish Boyle's wonderful cookbook, The Good Cookie.

Not nice.

And another thing: People shouldn't write  "ADAPTED from blahblahblah" when they've copied it nearly word for word and haven't changed a single ingredient. I do not think the word "adapted" means what they think it means, to paraphrase the much-quoted line from The Princess Bride.

OK. Deep breath. On with the recipe.

I liked these so much I wanted to share the recipe -- despite it being splashed across the Internet -- just in case someone would stumble upon it only here. And I wanted to plug the author. I recently made these cookie-brownie hybrids for friends who just had a baby. The parentheticals contain my tips.

Chocolate Toffee Brownie Bites
½ cup butter, cut into tablespoons*
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped*
½ cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup toffee bits, such as Heath, with or without chocolate coating

Chocolate Glaze:
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or use 3 oz. semisweet and 2 unsweetened)
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/3 cup toffee bits, such as Heath (with or without chocolate coating), to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 12-cup miniature muffin pans well and dust them with flour.

In the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, combine the butter and chocolate and heat, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. (*I was too lazy to chop the chocolate or slice the butter, and it worked fine). Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and cool until tepid.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a medium bowl. Stir until combined.

Stir the sugar, eggs, vanilla and almond extract into the cooled chocolate mixture until well-combined. (If you are in a bit of a hurry, you can stir in sugar and extracts while chocolate is still warm. That cools it enough to then add eggs). Add the flour mixture and stir until blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them only about two-thirds full. (This is important; filling them fuller means they will rise over the well and onto the baking pan and become difficult to remove from the pan later. You or your significant other might enjoy eating those torn bits, however.)

Bake for 10 to 14 minutes (check first at 8 minutes or so), until set but still soft in the center; a toothpick inserted into a brownie should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Let the cookies cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert them onto the rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze:
 In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, combine the chocolate, cream and corn syrup and heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat. (If you want to make it thicker, just stir in powdered sugar until you are happy with the texture). This makes almost enough glaze for a double batch.

To glaze:
 Place the rack with the cookies on it on a baking sheet. Arrange the brownie bites, still inverted, so that they are no more than one-fourth inch apart. Pour (mine was so thick I spooned rather than poured) the glaze over the bites, covering the tops and sides. You can use a small offset metal spatula to smooth glaze over any exposed spots. Top with toffee bits. Refrigerate until the glaze is set, about 10 minutes (unless your house is cold; then the topping firms up in a few hours on the counter).

Serve at room temperature or chilled. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days, or refrigerate up to a week.

Joe was happy to see this much leftover glaze (nearly a cup). Mmmmm, chocolate.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Two Spreads: Hummus and Chutney Cream Cheese

 We really like (and miss) the hummus at Tommy's in the Coventry area of Cleveland Heights; they serve it with Cheddar melted on top. That and one of their spinach pies makes a heavenly meal.

These days you can buy commercial hummus of varying quality just about anywhere, but it's really very easy to make.

Both of these spreads are great with pita, naan or other flatbread. The hummus is also good as a vegetable dip; I especially like it with raw carrots. I've tweaked the recipe I got in the '90s from my friend Andrea, who introduced me to hummus. In fact, the bowls are sitting on cloth she brought me from Thailand years ago.

 I admit that I often don't measure exactly; I add a bit of this and that and then taste. Different brands of chickpeas and tahini will vary in sodium, for example. If the tahini is very thick, I might add a little more olive oil or reserved chickpea liquid to the hummus to get the right consistency. You can change it up easily by throwing in pine nuts or roasted red pepper.

The Chutney Cream Cheese spread is adapted from Sarah Leah Chase's Cold-Weather Cooking. She recommends piping it onto dried fruits such as apricots and garnishing with toasted coconut; I've never tried that though I am sure I'd like it. I first ate it at my sister's house with pita bread, and that tastes so good I just never strayed. Chase doesn't specify mild curry powder; that's my preference. I also use neufchatel because it eliminates some fat without sacrificing creaminess or flavor.


2 cans chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1/2 cup tahini (ground sesame paste)
1/3 cup to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 to 4 tbsp. lemon juice (bottled is fine)
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup or so coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. to 1/2 tsp. salt (taste after adding 1/4 tsp., then adjust)
1/4 tsp. white or black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground allspice (you can skip this if you don't usually have it)

Drain chickpeas, reserving about 1/2 cup liquid. Place chickpeas and just 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid in food processor. Add the 1/3 cup olive oil, tahini, garlic and 2 tbsp. lemon juice. Pulse till just starting to get smooth. Add parsley, pepper, allspice and salt. Process till smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings or thickness (with olive oil, reserved chickpea liquid and/or lemon juice; just add a little at a time) as desired.

Tips:   Recipe is easily halved.
          The hummus will be better if you use a good brand of chickpeas such as Progresso. But you don't need to buy the most expensive tahini. I usually get one of the brands I can always find at Giant Eagle -- Ziyad or Kronos, $7 or $8 for a 16 oz. jar. I recently bought it at Meijer for under $7. Sometimes you can find it in a can, also not too expensive. Be sure to stir any brand before you use it because it tends to separate.
        For an excellent sauce for fresh, grilled tuna, thin a little hummus (1/4 cup or so) with a few tablespoons of cold water and stir well. Yum. Also good on steamed carrots, broccoli, asparagus, chicken sandwiches and your index finger.

Chutney Cream Cheese 

1 lb. cream cheese or neufchatel (lower in fat)
3/4 cup  mango chutney, finely chopped if very chunky
3 tbsp. brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp. medium dry sherry
Scant 1 tbsp. mild curry powder
Scant 1 tbsp. ground ginger
Scant 1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. onion powder or small bunch scallions, trimmed and minced
Grated rind of 1 fresh lime, or 1 tsp. lime juice
1 generous cup shredded sharp Cheddar
1 cup smoked almonds, chopped

Cream the neufchatel or cream cheese with chutney, sherry, brown sugar, lime and spices using an electric mixer. Stir in scallions, if using, Cheddar and almonds. Chill for a few hours to let flavors mellow. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quick and Easy Cioppino

It was cool enough for soup but warm enough to enjoy a light dinner in our three-season room, with an entertaining view of squirrels at play and birds at the feeders in our backyard. We often joke that the latter is evidence of our aging (or, as my younger husband likes to point out, MY aging).

This is my version of a recipe from Fresh and Simple Quick-Simmering Soups by Better Homes and Gardens. I added a few ingredients (wine, for one) for the Italian fish stew. While this doesn't have the depth of one made with homemade fish stock that simmers for hours, it's quite satisfying and fits a busy lifestyle.  I didn't have quite enough fish this time; you should be able to see more chunks.

This is a healthful dish; the only added fat is the little bit of olive oil in which you saute the vegetables. It's also flexible. You can use any boneless, skinless white fish. This time I used canned clams instead of shrimp because that's what I had on hand. Even when I use shrimp, I sometimes throw in a can of clams.

Quick and Easy Cioppino

2 sweet bell peppers (green, yellow or red), chopped
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice

1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 cup white wine
1 14 oz. can clam juice or broth
12 oz. fresh cod fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
12 oz. peeled and deveined fresh shrimp (or 2 cans clams)
Small handful snipped, fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a  soup pot, cook sweet pepper and onion in hot oil until tender. Add garlic and cook another minute. Stir in undrained tomatoes, wine and clam broth (include broth from cans of clams, if using. Reserve clams to add near the end so they don't get tough). Bring to boiling.

Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in seafood. Return to boiling, then immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for a few minutes, just till fish flakes easily and shrimp turn pink. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in basil and serve with crusty bread (great for getting that last bit out of the bowl).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Curried Walnuts


I just made these nuts for a gathering of women I hadn't seen since high school 37 er  26 um, 15 (cough, cough) years ago. 

The recipe is from The Frog Commissary Cookbook by  Steven Poses, Anne Clark and Becky Roller. I've included my changes (adding sugar to finished nuts, using a specific chili powder, less black pepper). 

These nuts are popular at parties, they're great to have on hand for snacks and prove to be an interesting salad topper.
They are too spicy for my husband. 
More for me.

Curried Walnuts

1 lb. shelled walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 tbsp. corn oil

3 tbsp. sugar
1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground mild Santa Cruz chili powder*
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Blanch the walnuts in boiling water to cover for 1 minute only; drain well.
While still hot, put in a bowl and toss with the sugar and corn oil. Let stand 10 minutes. Arrange on a single layer on a rimmed baking tray. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes. Watch nuts carefully after the 20-minute mark so they don't burn. While nuts are baking, combine seasonings.
 When brown and crispy, put nuts into a bowl and while still warm, toss with the seasonings to coat. Spread in a single layer to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

*I used to buy this at West Point Market in Akron when I lived there; it is also available online here: Or, you can use 1/2 tsp. any other chili powder.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

I love chicken satay/sate, no matter how you spell it. The chicken is really just a vehicle for the peanut sauce, the real star. My sister and I cannot let peanut sauce just sit on the platter after the chicken is gone. We find spoons; don't watch if you are offended. And if you are the server, don't try to take it away too soon. There are skewers and we know how to use them.

This is a great version. The original recipe is James McNair's, from his Chicken cookbook. It's one of a great series of one-topic cookbooks he did, all of which are excellent.
 I've included my tweaks (I like less lemon juice, more ginger and add coriander, for example).

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tbsp. curry powder
2 tbsp. peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
Crushed, dried red chili peppers (optional for those with heat-impaired spouses)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into long strips about 1/2-inch wide

Peanut sauce:
2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (light is fine)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. grated or minced fresh ginger root
2 tbsp. soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne or to taste
1/4 cup cream (you can use fat-free "half and half")

Soak bamboo skewers.

To make the marinade,combine ingredients in a shallow dish. Thread the chicken on bamboo skewers, weaving skewers in and out of meat lengthwise. Place in marinade and cover. Refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight (for most flavor).

To make peanut sauce, combine ingredients except cream in saucepan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until sauce is as thick as heavy cream, about 15 minutes. (McNair calls for pureeing it at this point, but I find that step unnecessary.) Stir in cream and reserve. Sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated. Return to room temperature before serving. If it's too thick for you, thin with more cream or a little chicken broth.

Grill (or broil) the chicken, turning several times and basting with the marinade, until done but still moist. (Because the marinade had raw chicken in it, don't baste the last minute or so.) Serve with the room temperature peanut sauce for dipping.

Makes about 18 skewers; allow two per serving as an appetizer, four or more as a main course.

Don't forget the spoons.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chocolate-Flecked Peanut Butter Cookies

These are great cookies from Glorious Chocolate, by Mary Goodbody and the editors of Chocolatier magazine. I'm posting this today in honor of my sister's birthday, though I made them a while back. They're a real treat for her; she's a peanut butter fiend who can't bake with it at home because of a family allergy.

If you have the time and energy to grate the chocolate, it ensures chocolate will be spread throughout each cookie, which is tasty and looks pretty. I used chips this time to save time and effort. Of course, you could also just use MORE chocolate chips.

Chocolate-Flecked Peanut Butter Cookies
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, grated or in chip form (1 cup)*
Granulated sugar for dipping fork

Position racks in top two-thirds of oven and preheat to 350. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cornstarch,  baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, using a hand held 3lectric mixer set at medium-high speed, cream the butter for about 1 minute or until creamy. While beating, gradually add the granulated sugar and t then the brown sugar until blended. Beat in the and vanilla and continue beating the mixture for 2 to 3 minutes or until it is thick and light colored. Beat in peanut butter. Using a wooden spoon, stir in dry ingredients just until smooth. Stir in grated chocolate or chips.

Put the granulated sugar (2 or 3 tbsp.) in a small, s hallow dish. Using 1 1/2 tbsp of dough for  each cookie, roll dough between the palms of your hands into 1 1/4-inch balls. Put the balls on an ungreased baking sheet, leaving 2 to 3 inches between cookies.

Dip tines of a fork into the sugar and press the fork into the top of each cookie, then press again in the opposite direction to make a crisscross pattern. Dip fork into sugar for each cookie. The cookies will be about 2 inches in diameter. Bake for about 8 to 12 minutes or until just light brown around the edges. Using a spatula, transfer cookies paper towels for 2 to 3 minutes, then to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen 3-inch cookies.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Creamy Wild Rice Soup

I had mushrooms on the verge of... well, whatever mushrooms do when they take a step toward inedible. (Maybe they grow a fungus?) I had wild rice. I had leftover rotisserie chicken in the freezer.
Time for soup.

This recipe is from Cheap. Fast. Good! by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross, also known for their Desperation Dinners newspaper column and cookbook. I added 1 cup cooked chicken and substituted wild rice for the rice blend they call for. Joe said, "I like my soup." So did I.

I used to turn my nose up at recipes calling for condensed soups as ingredients, but I grew up and got busier and find they can be handy to have in the pantry.

Creamy Wild Rice Soup

8 oz. fresh button mushrooms
2 tsp. vegetable oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
1 large onion (for about 1 cup chopped)
2 tbsp. dry sherry (optional, but it adds a nice flavor)

1 can (about 14 oz.) fat-free chicken broth
1 can (10.75 oz.) regular or reduced fat condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 box (6.2 oz.) fast-cooking long grain and wild rice blend (or 1/2 cup wild rice*, cooked ahead of time and drained)
1 cup or so cooked chicken (optional, I added this)
Black pepper to taste

 Rinse, pat dry and slice mushrooms, discarding any tough stems. Set aside.

Heat oil in 4 1/2-quart Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Peel and coarsely chop the onion, adding it to the pot as you chop. Raise the heat to medium-high. Cook for 1 minute, stirring from time to time. Add the mushrooms and sherry (if using). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 3 minutes.

Add the broth, cream of mushroom soup and 2 cups water (adjust amount to match instructions on instant rice box). Add rice and 1 tbsp. of the seasoning from the rice's seasoning packet. (Reserve the remaining seasoning for another use or discard it.) Stir well, cover the pot, and raise the heat to high. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir well. Cover and cook till rice is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken, if using, to heat. Season with pepper and serve.

Doubles well. I found you can thin leftover soup with a bit of broth if it gets too thick from the rice absorbing liquid.

Note: If you use wild rice and therefore don't have the flavor packet that comes with the box of instant, add 1/2 tsp. dried fines herbes, 1/2 tsp. dried thyme and/or whatever else you like. I also added 1/2 tsp. of Herbes in Duxelles, some fancy stuff with powdered mushrooms and spices that someone gave me. I added about 1 cup water instead of 2 since I precooked the wild rice.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cherry Balsamic Pork Chops/Medallions

 We love this recipe from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave. As the talented Krieger notes, this is one dish that works better if you don't use a nonstick pan. Those bits that get stuck to the pan and caramelize are loosened and added to the flavorful sauce when you deglaze the plan with broth and balsamic vinegar. Yum.

Pork Medallions (or Chops) with Cherry Sauce

One 1 1/4 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed of visible fat and silverskin, cut into 1/2-inch thick medallions (or use four pork chops)
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper, plus more to taste
3 tsp. olive oil, divided use
2 tbsp. chopped shallot
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dried tart cherries

Season the pork with 1/4 tsp. of the salt and the pepper. Heat 2 tsp. of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook till there is just a slight blush* in the center of the pork, about three minutes per side (just a tad longer if you use chops that are thicker). Transfer the meat to a plate and tent with foil (*the meat will continue cooking a bit, so don't freak out about that pinkish center).

Add rest of oil and shallot to pan and cook, stirring, until onion begins to soften, about a minute. Add btroth, vinegar, 1/4 tsp. salt and cherries and cook till liquid is reduced by about half, about 4 minutes. 

Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Pour sauce over pork and serve.
Serves 4.

For another recipe from Krieger's cookbook (Roasted Ratatouille Tart), go to January 2009 in the archives.

Sausages, Potatoes and Artichoke Hearts in Tomato Broth

Very homey and hearty, this recipe comes from Food and Wine magazine. I've added my "improvements," which include making more broth with additional wine and tomatoes.

 Sausages, Potatoes and Artichoke Hearts in Tomato Broth
  Serves about 4

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. mild Italian sausages (I like to use mild Italian turkey sausages)
3 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
1 1/2 lbs. boiling potatoes (about 5), cut into 1-inch chunks (Yukon gold or russets work fine)
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup dry white (or red) wine
1 can chicken broth or homemade stock
1 large (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes in thick puree
1 1/2 cups (one 14-oz. can) drained and rinsed quartered artichoke hearts (one 14-ounce can)
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a large, stainless-steel pot, heat oil over moderate heat and brown the whole sausages on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove sausages to plate or rimmed cutting board. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of the fat.

Add potatoes, thyme and garlic to pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add wine and simmer till it is reduced by about half, approximately 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice sausages into bite-size pieces when cool enough to handle.

Stir in the broth, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, about half the parsley, the salt and the sliced sausages. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Add the rest of the parsley and the pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with crusty bread to sop up the savory broth.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Parmesan Cream Biscuits

These biscuits go together quickly and are worth every calorie. The original recipe is from Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book, which I love (and that's not Richie's mom from Happy Days). My variation adds Parmesan (though they are great without it, smeared with homemade jam). Sometimes I knead in a bit of crumbled, cooked bacon and cheddar instead.

Thanks yet again to my mother-in-law for giving me her old biscuit board. It never fails me; it's as if those cumulative years of baking experience give it special powers.

Parmesan Cream Biscuits

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 heaping tsp. sugar
1 to 1 1/2 cups cream (half and half is fine)
1/3 c. (5 1/3 tbsp.) melted butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir with a fork to blend and lighten. Toss in 1/2 cup to 1 cup shredded Parmesan, if desired.

Slowly add 1 cup of the cream, stirring constantly. Gather the dough together; when it holds together and feels tender, it is ready to knead. If dough seems shaggy and pieces are dry and falling away, slowly add enough of the additional cream to make the dough hold together.

Place dough on lightly floured board and knead for 1 minute (if you forgot to add cheese earlier, add it now by kneading it in). Pat the dough into a square about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 12 squares with a sharp knife and dip each into the melted butter so all sides are coated. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet and bake 10 to 15 minutes, till lightly browned (start checking at 10 minutes).

Note: Leftover biscuits are a great base for breakfast sandwiches.