Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day Gingerbread Cookies

These cookies are thin and chewy, so if you like that kind of cookie, you'll really love these.  They are good for making vanilla ice cream cookie sandwiches, or you can frost them with buttercream. They have an interesting soft sugary crystalline texture because the sugar doesn't get creamed with the butter. If you can't have dairy, the butter can be replaced with margarine or Crisco and the recipe will still work, and then you could use 7-minute frosting to ice them.


3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 rounded teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 sticks of soft butter 
1/3 cup mild molasses 
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the flour, sugars, spices and baking soda in you mixer first, then add the butter, molasses and egg. If you butter the measuring cup with one of the wrappers, the molasses will come out of the it easier. Mix the ingredients for a few minutes on medium speed until it looks combined. The dough will look and feel a little bit like wet sand.

Using a heaping teaspoon of dough at a time, roll each lump of  dough into a ball, then squash it flat into a round cookie shape. Place them on the cookie pan, spaced about an inch apart since they will spread out a little. Bake for ten minutes, then let the cookies rest on the pan for another two-four minutes or so, until they stiffen up enough to remove them with a spatula without messing them up. Because they are thin, they don't tell long to cool, so you can frost them after they sit on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bourbon Baked Chicken and Parsnips

This is very similar to my lavender and brandy chicken (and everyone else's baked chicken) so it's not particularly groundbreaking, but it's good stuff. 

Now for drinking, I don't like whiskey or bourbon, or really any dark liquor that much, except for spiced rum. I've never acquired the taste, and that's probably for the best. But in small amounts, I think the nutty spicy flavor of these liquors go really well in meat dishes. 

Not everyone is into parsnips. Even though they look like big white carrots, they taste very, very different. Once you stop expecting them to taste as sweet as carrots though, you'll probably like them, especially if you like other root vegetables. In this recipe, I didn't bother writing it in the ingredients, but I added a few leftover baby carrot sticks I had in the fridge too.


-4 large chicken thighs for two people, or 4 leg quarters for four people
-2 tablespoons melted butter, or good olive oil, or one of each.
-A heaping teaspoon each of thyme, rosemary and marjoram, salt, and pepper. Double these amounts if you're using chicken leg quarters instead of thighs. Now I happened to have these herbs growing still out back, so if you have fresh, use them, and you can just kind of throw as many sprigs as you want in the bottom of the pan before you put everything in, without actually pulling the leaves off and chopping them up.
-2 to 4 parsnips, sliced in half and chopped into even-ish 3 inch pieces (however many pieces you can squeeze into the baking pan with the chicken)
-About 2-3 ounces of good Kentucky Bourbon (you can just get one of those cute little bottles from the convenience store if you don't have any at home)

Coat the chicken and parsnip chunks with the butter or oil, then sprinkle all over with the spices. Bake in a pan in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, until you see some browning on the tops of the chicken thighs. 

After 30 minutes, sprinkle the bourbon over the top of everything, then put it back in the oven on 350 for another 20-30 minutes. I do 30 minutes because when you're cooking dark meat only, you don't have to worry about the chicken drying out, it will just fall off the bone easier and the parsnips will be nice and soft. For leg quarters, add an extra 15 minutes.

Serve with cranberry sauce, or lingonberry  preserves (if you have an Ikea near you, you can get some there.) It's extra special if you have more bourbon to throw some of it in the cranberry sauce when you're cooking it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pork Tenderloin with Peach Sauce and Sesame Arugula Salad

Can you tell we got a lot of peaches from our neighbors this year?

Ingredients for two or three people:

One pork tenderloin, somewhere between one and two-ish pounds 

For marinade:
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Montreal Steak Seasoning (if you don't have this, just use some granulated garlic, coarse salt and cracked pepper)
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon olive oil

Put the pork tenderloin in a dish or  plastic bag, rub the ingredients above all over it and set it in the fridge either overnight or at least for a few hours.

When you're ready to cook it, preheat the oven to 425 degrees, shake off the excess marinade from the meat and put it on a foil-lined baking sheet with an extra slosh of olive oil and a sprinkling of dried thyme over the top. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the meat thermometer says 165 degrees. I REALLY recommend using a meat thermometer. Overcooked pork SUCKS!

For the Peach Sauce:

1/2 cup of peach jam, OR a big fresh over-ripe peach, peeled and chopped up, plus a tablespoon or two of sugar. 
1/2 cup good brandy
1 jalapeno, chopped finely, and/or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon butter

Heat the butter in a small pan and add the chopped jalapeno. Let it cook over medium heat for a few minutes, then add the peach jam and brandy and cook it down, until about half of the brandy looks like it's gone. 

Spoon a small amount over the slices of the pork tenderloin and serve with salad. If you want a starchy side dish, I would do rice.

For the salad:

One bag of arugula leaves
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
a big handful of crunchy Chinese salad noodles (optional, but use slightly less dressing if you don't use these)

2 tablespoons of orange juice
zest of half an orange
2 tablespoons of olive or peanut oil 
2 heaping tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 
1 mashed up garlic clove

Mix all of the dressing ingredients together and let it sit in the fridge while the pork is cooking. When the pork is ready, dress the salad and toss it all up, but take out the garlic clove first.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fall is here! Beef and Golden Beet Stew with Gnocchi

Don't worry about exact measurements here, to be honest I didn't actually measure out the chopped vegetables or meat, so you can play around with those amounts and it won't really matter, but I would err on the side of too much on the vegetables rather than too little. When they are chopped finely like this, they melt into the stew and become a thick comforting gravy, perfect for a chilly fall Sunday evening.


1 1/2 to 2 pounds beef stew meat, cubed (chuck roast is good)
1/2 bottle red wine
5 small golden beets
1/3 cup flour for dusting on the meat.
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup finely chopped  fennel bulb
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon herbs de Provence
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 bay leaves
1 package of gnocchi, or make your own homemade recipe

In your stew pot, heat up two of the tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat, then brown up the stew meat chunks that you've already dusted with flour.  This will take a few minutes, and hopefully you'll get lots of good brown stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan. When the meat is browned on most sides, dump it out on a plate and use about a cup of the wine to de-glaze the pan for one minute, still on medium-high heat, using a wooden spoon to scrape up all the crusty brown bits on the bottom.

Turn down the heat to a low simmer, and put the meat back in the pot, along with a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of pepper and the dried herbs.

While the meat gets started simmering in that cup of wine, you can chop up the onion, celery, carrots and fennel, and then saute them in a separate frying  pan with the other two tablespoons of olive oil, on high heat. Add the other teaspoon of salt and pepper to these veggies and stir them around occasionally. 

After about five minutes of cooking, when you see some brown edges on the veggies, add some of the wine, a few splashes at a time, so that it evaporates as it goes and get absorbed into the veggies, use about a half cup of wine total for this part. 

Turn off the heat when all of the liquid is absorbed and the veggies look soft and yummy. Doing this separate step, instead of just throwing the raw vegetables in, is the difference between. "Mmm, good stew." and "Wow, this is so good!"

With the beets, just use a paring knife to kind of "give them a shave," just scrape the outsides to clean them up a bit, don't peel them like a potato.  

Just before adding the water and bay leaves
Quarter them and add them to the stew, along with the chopped veggies that you just cooked, and the bay leaves. 

Add enough warm water to cover the ingredients, then cover the stew and simmer on very low (just a few slow bubbles) for one hour. After  one hour, tilt the lid so it's partially open, and cook for another hour.

After the two hours, dump in your dried gnocchi packet and stir, then turn heat up to a brisk simmer and cook for about three minutes or until gnocchi is done. 

If you are making homemade gnocchi or paleo sweet potato gnocchi, just follow the recipe cooking instructions and serve the stew over them instead of mixing them in to cook.

I recommend a Tempranillo or red Zinfandel wine with this.

Friday, September 20, 2013

My Best Beef Ribs and Yukon Gold Potato Salad

Beef rib, potato salad and peach-pepper preserves
Does this really need an intro?


7-10 beef ribs
1 bottle of cheap white wine
1/3 cup black-strap molasses
1 tablespoon salt 
1 tablespoon Montreal steak seasoning OR a clove of garlic and a tablespoon of cracked peppercorns. 
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 bay leaves
enough water to cover the ribs in the pot

For glazing:
One bottle of Your Favorite Barbeque Sauce
1/4 cup peach jam preserves
1/4 cup pepper jelly

Cut your rack of beef ribs into one or two-rib portions. Place in a big pot with the wine, molasses and spices, then fill with warm water until the ribs are just covered. Put the heat on high, then as soon as it starts bubbling, turn the heat down to low and simmer for at least one hour, but no more than two.

After you put the ribs on to simmer, you can make the potato salad. 

24 ounces of small yukon gold potatoes, or honey gold baby potatoes (good potatoes are very important)
1/4 cup Best Foods, Hellman's or home made mayonaisse 
1/4 cup of sweet yellow onion, chopped very fine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Malabar black pepper
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon of plain prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
zest of half a lemon
juice of half a lemon

Boil the potatoes for 15-20 minutes, or just until you can stick a butter knife through one of them. Set a timer, it really sucks when you overcook them, you'll end up with mashed potatoes. 

After you drain off the water, cut the potatoes, holding them with a paper towel so you don't burn your hands. If you have the baby potatoes, just cut them in half, if they are bigger, cut them in quarters (duh). 

While they are still warm, toss the potatoes in a bowl with the olive oil, chopped onion, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Leave them out on the counter to cool to room temperature. 

Once the potatoes are no longer warm add the mayo, mustard, dill, and lemon juice and zest, mix well, taste for salt. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. Sometimes I sprinkle it with chopped chives or fresh dill on top so it looks pretty.

Back to the ribs-

When the ribs are done simmering (covered or uncovered, either way is fine), remove them from the liquid and put them either out on the barbeque on medium low for about ten minutes to crisp up, or stick them under your broiler in the oven for ten minutes to crisp up, either way is fine. 

Glaze them with your favorite sauce (I like Rufus Teague) mixed with the peach jam and pepper jelly. (I had my own peach-jalapeno jam, so unless you live in my house you won't have that.) Put the ribs back on the grill for a few miutes to heat the sauce and make it sticky, then they're ready to serve. 

Don't put the ribs with sauce under the broiler though, if you are using the oven instead of the grill, just turn it down to 400 degrees for the post-sauce cooking.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cream Tea Cakes

If you're having the girls over for tea, cake is always a good idea, but making a full sized cake sometimes makes people go into a calorie panic and they ask you for "just a tiny piece". Well, it's impossible to cut a truly tiny piece, and even more impossible to get that paper thin travesty from the serving spatula to the plate without it falling apart and looking crappy. 
Tiny cupcakes are of course a fine option, but even though they are trendy, they might seem a little juvenile for certain gatherings. My suggestion is to dispense with the muffin tin liners and use the large six-muffin pan to bake six small cakes, which can then be cut in half or in quarters to make delicate little pieces of cake, just the right size for a lady-like tea party. Butter and flour the inside of each cup, just as you would a cake pan.


1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
a pinch of cinnamon (just a hint, hardly noticeable) 

Mix all of the ingredients together in your mixer on medium speed for two minutes, or by hand for a few minutes longer. Pour batter evenly into the six cups of the pan and bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes, or until just golden brown and cooked. Try not to overcook them. When they are done, pull them out of the oven, wait a few minutes then run a butter knife carefully around the edges of each little cake and remove them from the pan to cool.

For the frosting:

1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1 tablespoon cream
3 drops red food coloring
1 drop green food coloring

Mix well until fully blended and creamy, then pipe onto each cake to cover the tops. 
Try not to eat them all yourself.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Gigantes, Greek Baked Beans

If you've got vegans coming 'round for dinner, this is going to be way more substantial and comforting for everyone involved than just throwing together some Pasta Margherita.

To prep the beans for cooking: 
Hopefully you can find these beans dried, gigantes are basically like large dried butter beans or large lima beans, or you can use dried fava beans. Pour your bag of dry beans into a large bowl of water and let them soak overnight, at least 12 hours or more. Simmer them in a large pot of water (not salted) for about 45 minutes. You can taste one after 30 minutes to see if they're done, you want them to be soft enough to bite into easily, but not super mushy like canned beans. When you're done you should have about 2 pounds of soaked, simmered beans. (You can weigh out and use canned or frozen beans if you must, but I wouldn't.)

After you drain the beans, put them in a lasagne sized pan, and then in the pot you used to cook the beans, put in:

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. (Yes, all that oil.)
1 large onion, roughly chopped

 Saute on medium heat for five minutes, then add:

1/2 small can (about 3 oz.) tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon salt
(add a pinch of thyme or rosemary if you want to be different)

Saute for another five minutes.

Pour in 2 1/3 cups of warm water or vegetable stock, then pour this pot of sauce over the beans that are waiting in the pan. Mix it all around a bit. 

Bake in a 350 degree oven for one hour, uncovered.The top bits and the edges should look a little brown and crunchy when they're done.

STOVE TOP: If you don't want to heat up the whole house with the oven, after you saute the onions, just add the tomato and spice, then use equal parts of water to beans, and simmer on the stove for one hour uncovered (this is in addition to the 45 minutes you already cooked them,) up to two hours depending on how soft you want your beans. 

You can eat these hot, with big hunks of baguette, but I like to let them cool off a bit, then put them in the fridge and serve them the next day, they are more buttery and delicious served room temperature.

Here they are cooked on the stove top. No crunchy bits but still yummy!
stove top gigantes

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Soft Pretzel Dinner Rolls

Costco has great pretzel rolls, but they come in this huge bag which you are guaranteed to eat in two days and get all fat. Instead, just make eight of them and mitigate the weight gain. I don't know what their recipe is, but mine is kind of awesome.


For the dough:
1 packet Rapid Rise yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup melted lard (just do it)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 2/3 cups flour (if you're flour isn't as dry as mine was, you might need almost 3 cups, you just want the dough to come away from the sides of the bowl easily and not be too crazy sticky.)

For the tops of the rolls:
1 beaten egg, to brush on, plus a little kosher salt for sprinkling.

For "bath" water:
 5 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda

In a bowl, mix up the yeast, warm milk and sugar, then add the rest of the ingredients making sure that the baking powder is distributed evenly in the flour first. Knead the dough for a bit, you don't need to do it for a long time. Separate the dough into 8 even rolls. Let them rise uncovered on your cutting board for 30 minutes. Meanwhile bring to a boil the water and baking soda in a medium saucepan and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 

When the  rolls have risen, use a slotted spatula to carefully lower each roll into the boiling baking soda water, one at a time, face down. Let each one go for about 30 seconds, then flip it over and let it boil on the underside for about ten seconds, then move it to a small oiled cookie sheet, putting them all fairly close together. If you don't have non-stick pans, you might want to line the pan with oiled parchment paper. Brush each roll with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

Bake the rolls for 11 minutes, until they're dark brown like a pretzel.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Roasted Chicken with Moscato Peach Sauce and Black Rice

First of all, you don't have to use black rice. I just happened to see a giant bag of it at Costco and decided to try it. It looks really pretty (if you compare them in your brain to shiny black pebbles instead of bugs) and it tastes sweeter and nuttier than regular white rice. Don't follow the water amounts on the bag though, I noticed that it needed the standard 2 cups water to 1 cup rice just like any other kind, but you do need to cook it for 30 minutes like it says, I didn't add anything fancy to the rice, just salt and butter at the end. 

Now to the chicken. I use chicken thighs- they cook quickly and they stay moist no matter what. If you absolutely insist on using chicken breast (because you're a weirdo like my husband) then at least use the breast with the bone and skin still on.  I'm yawning just thinking about chicken breast. For this recipe, you want 8-10 chicken thighs (two per person). 

Season the thighs first with:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon (or more) of dried herb, I used thyme, but you can do sage or marjoram, or whatever strikes your fancy.
The peach sauce:

2 cups of fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup Muscat wine (Moscato) cheap stuff is fine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or white pepper
1 tablespoon of cornstarch diluted in a little bit of water

Bring the ingredients to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.

To cook everything in order:

-Preheat the oven to 375 for the chicken. 
-Get your peach sauce going on the stove.
-Start the water boiling for the rice. 
-Put the seasoned chicken in a roasting pan in the oven. 
-Pour your rice into the boiling water, cover, turn down to simmer and set your timer for 30 minutes. 
-At the end of that time, pour peach sauce over the top of the chicken and put the chicken back in the oven another 15 minutes. 
 -After pouring the sauce on the chicken, turn the heat off of the rice and let it sit there covered until the chicken is done.

Serve the chicken with the buttered and salted rice and lots of the pan juices poured over the top.

Obviously you could serve white wine with this, but a cold beer and biscuits would be good too.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tomato 'Relish' and Tomato Jam

I had a bit of a disaster yesterday. I tried to make tomato jam, but no one ever told me that if you don't put massive amounts of sugar in with your fruit, the regular pectin doesn't work right. I have read tons of recipes where I thought to myself, "that's a freakin' lot of sugar," but I never knew the reason for it. I guess I should say "skimmed", I skimmed tons of recipes. I mean, sure, the pectin directions stated the sugar to fruit ratio facts very clearly, but by God who would have thought you would need to read a giant double-sided fold-out insert just to use a pouch of pectin?

So here's my recipe for, uhm, chunky sweet and sour ketchup salsa relish...stuff. It's not gross, I swear. In fact with some chicken stock and a splash of cream it would make a good tomato soup. I spooned some of it over an Italian sausage in a bun for dinner tonight and it was pretty damn good, so it would probably work as barbeque sauce too.


5 pounds of fresh ripe tomatoes, at least half should be paste tomatoes like Roma or San Marzano. Mix it up with different varieties though, it will look cool.
1 large sweet onion
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh thyme 
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
 2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pouch of Certo pectin. But regular doesn't work here, so buy a low sugar kind instead if you want this to be jam instead of sauce/relish.

Chop up all of the fresh ingredients in a food processor, but not too much- leave it chunky. Put that chunky mess in a pot with the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn it down a bit and cook for thirty minutes then add pectin. Turn the heat back up and boil one more minute, then pour in sterile jars. 

I think instead of screwing it up like I just did, you really could make tomato jam by adding 2 more cups of white sugar and cooking it down a little longer before adding the pectin. Then you could actually spread it on crackers and cheese like I originally planned. When I get more ripe tomatoes I'll try it and let you know how it works out. I actually tried to save mine after it was too late by adding an extra cup of white sugar, but one more wasn't enough, I think you would need four cups of sugar total for jam. 

Or just get the Pomona stuff that works with low-sugar recipes, which, now that I know about, I will purchase ASAP.

Update, Day 2: Successful tomato jam has happened, and I tried a simpler flavor approach too. I'm going to make a bacon, cheese and tomato jam sandwich for lunch, yay me.

3 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 cups white sugar
1/8 cup apple cider viegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 rounded teaspoon dried savory
Pomona Universal Pectin

I simmered the ingredients about 20 minutes, then added 3 tsp. calcium water, turned the heat up and added 4 teaspoons pectin mixed with 1/8 cup sugar, and stirred while it boiled for about one minute, then filled the jars. (Both the calcium and pectin come in the box together.) 

I found a few good jam recipes online, but none that looked just right. In my search I found some great blogs, but also some of the cheesiest food blogs that made me cringe. I don't mean like, "a blog about cheese," I mean like cheesy. I read one where in order to find the recipe from the title I had to slog through paragraphs of the author raving on and on about his upcoming honeymoon overseas (gag me) and another where the author went on and on about her adorable little boy who just loves his vegetables (double gag me). If I ever sound that insipid (and way off topic,) for chrissake someone just break my laptop and put me out of my misery. 

So I promise, if the title implies that a recipe is forthcoming, I will give you the goods up front and put my off-topic ramblings at the end. Like this. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Roadside Fig Preserves


First, find yourself some figs.

You could go buy some at the store, or if you live in California you can tool around the back roads, preferably near old farms and river levees, and look for huge out-of-control fig trees that grow on the side of the road. 
 My rule of thumb for scavenging figs is that if the tree is not obviously part of someone's yard, and has a large amount of figs on the ground, you can bet that no one will care if you take some. 

If it's part of an orchard, that's pretty much stealing. 

Although having said that, I did take some pears from an orchard that had already been harvested and only had a few banged up stragglers left that were obviously going to be allowed to fall on the ground. I feel no guilt.
This is what I mean by out-of-control fig trees.
After you've collected your loot, you will want to eat a bunch of them in the car. Judging the ripeness of figs is a little different from other fruit. You don't want them firm, although for preserves or jam it's okay if they're not quite ripe yet. Ripe figs feel soft to the touch and come off the tree very easily. If it feels like a firm tomato, it's not ready. If it feels like an over-ripe slightly squishy tomato, it's just right. If they look like they have cracks, that's fine. 
Our Fruit Haul
To make about two big jars of preserves, you need:

Two of the larger sized canning jars and lids
3 pounds of fresh figs 
2 1/2 cups of sugar, or 3 cups if the figs aren't super sweet
1/2 cup water
Zest and juice of one large lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Boil your jars and lids to disinfect. Meanwhile, slice your figs into discs, about four slices per fig. Put them all in a big pot with the rest of the ingredients, and simmer on a brisk med-low simmer (I set the stove top on 3) for about 30-40 minutes uncovered, stirring gently and occasionally, it should look all thick and chunky and syrupy when it's done. 

Fill the jars, leaving just a bit of room at the top. Screw on the lids really well and them put the jars back in the pot of bubbling water that you used to disinfect the jars, for about five-ten minutes. 

Remove and let them cool. I store them in the fridge, but you should be able to store them in a cool dry cabinet until they're opened. 

Serving suggestions-

Obviously you could serve this with good old bread and butter, but fig preserves go really well with goat cheese, and other cheeses (I'm sure you've seen fig and goat cheese recipes all over the internet) and it's also great with Greek yogurt or ice cream. Add a 1/2 cup of it to your favorite beef stew recipe along with some coriander, or use it to glaze a roasted chicken about ten minutes before you take the chicken out of the oven.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Jeannie's Crunchy Custard Lulu's

I promised I wouldn't post another summer squash recipe, so then, of course, I had nothing else to write about. Thank God my sister came to town and dragged me out of my squash rut. We made many non-squashy dishes which I will soon share. 

This first dessert she made for me was so good I ate a whole plate of them- yes, all the ones in the picture. Don't judge me. They're crunchy and creamy and glazed with wildflower honey. What would you have done? We called them lu-lu's because the Greek word for donuts similar to these are called loukoumathes...which is kinda hard to say. And to spell.

Jeannie's Recipe:


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1 T. dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 T. sugar
Oil for frying (vegetable, corn, sunflower, etc.)
Honey for drizzling

Whisk dry ingredients, add water and whisk until smooth.  Cover and let rise in a cool/dry place for about 45 minutes.  Heat vegetable or corn oil in a sauce pot or fryer to 350 degrees.  Drop by the spoonful in the hot oil and flip after about a minute - should be deep golden color, but not too dark (dark will mean bitter to your tongue).  Drain on paper towels and drizzle honey over the pastries before they cool.


It's a great idea to make the custard first, let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate it while you are making the pastry.

1 cup whole milk
2 T. corn starch
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 T. real butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Whisk all ingredients in a sauce pan.  Turn on heat to medium or medium high and continue whisking until smooth and thickened.  Remove from heat and keep whisking.  Transfer to another bowl and whisk again.  The more you whisk, the smooth and fluffier your custard will be.  Cool to room temperature and refrigerate.


Pipe the cold custard over the cooled pastry and serve.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Five of the Easiest and Best Ways to Cook with Summer Squashes

I normally post a recipe a week, not because I have a significant fan base or anything, but because if I don't make myself write down recipes, I forget them. Keeping in mind that I am not quite the only one reading my recipes, I try not to be too redundant, despite the fact that I tend to use the same ingredients over and over based on what's growing in my garden. 

Like any respectable California home gardener, I am now overwhelmed by a bumper crop of summer squash. 
A day's harvest of patty pan squash, eggplant and Roma tomatoes
A zucchini that got out of hand

I am eating squash of some kind every day, but it does seem a little annoying to post squash recipes for two months straight. So here you go, I will just throw out my five favorite and easy (but not original) ways to use up squash, with links to recipes that I've tried and liked. I emphasize the word easy because there are plenty of layered and stuffed squash recipes that are great, but they are more fussy.

Then I promise I will not post anything about squash for the rest of the summer, unless I get hit with some wild and crazy, super-original inspiration.

1.  Sliced, floured, fried and salted. Sometimes, the simple stuff is the best. Nice high heat on your olive oil ( a little smoke is no big deal) and fried squash slices with good-ol' homemade ranch on the side. It's just yum.

2. Grated up and put in a fritter. I have several of these recipes posted, I sometimes call them patties or pancakes too, but Nigella Lawson has some tasty ones here- Courgette Fritters

3. Grilled and served in a salad. Grilling adds a ridiculous amount of flavor to a vegetable that isn't super intense in flavor to begin with. Get a little char on there, and don't salt until after they're grilled. Check out My Grilled Summer Salad.

4. Mixed in with pasta sauce. This is so obvious, but it's just really tasty. The trick is not to do it too soon though. You don't want mushy zucchini and you don't want to water down the sauce. I would lightly saute the squash separately in olive oil first, then mix it up with your sauce, or pasta, at the last  minute. I like Tyler Florence's recipe for spaghetti and meatballs, you could use a smaller pasta instead of spaghetti and replace half the pasta with the squash.

5. Mix it up half and half with mashed potatoes. This works well and it's even better if you leave the skin on the potatoes and go for the chunky kind of mashed potatoes. You will want to grate or finely chop the squash and, just like with fritters, squeeze a bunch of the moisture out of the squash first. Replace about a third to a half of the potato bulk with squash and follow the mashed potato recipe of your choice.

Happy Gardening and Eating!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Savory Cheese-Puff Donuts

These appetizer donuts are really easy but there's kind of a short window of time to eat them in. They are screaming hot when they are just done, but they're not quite as exciting (though still tasty) when they've gone completely cold. My friend Trish has this great vintage warming plate thing that would be great to serve these on, but I don't know anyone else who has one of those, so just eat them within 20 minutes of making them.

1 1/8 cup all purpose flour
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar 
1 teaspoon dried summer savory (or dried mint or parsley if you don't have savory)
-1 small block of really sharp or strong flavored cheese, cut into about 1/2 inch cubes. I had sharp Irish Cheddar. Blue cheese would be good too, if it is a kind that isn't too moist and crumbly.

-Enough corn oil, plus a splash of olive oil for deep frying

-a small jar of pepper jelly, just heated through until it's syrupy 

Mix the first nine ingredients in a bowl and then cover the bowl with some plastic wrap and leave the batter on the counter to rise for one hour.

Heat the corn oil in your deep fryer or small pot until the oil is around 360 degrees, (or just wing it). When the oil is hot, take several cubes of the cheese at a time and drop them on top of the batter. Using a tablespoon, very gently cover each cube with a bit of the gooey, stretchy batter. Scoop the individual cubes out, now covered in dough, by the spoonful and drop into the hot oil. They will puff up right away, and then you fry them for a few minutes per side until they are a deep golden brown. To be honest, the ones int he picture are a tiny bit under-done but I was impatient and hungry.

 Let them drain on a paper towel for a minute or two, salting and peppering them like you do with other fried foods. When all of your cheese is used up you can still make cheese-less donuts if there is leftover dough, or just toss it out, it's not like flour is that expensive.

Serve the donuts right away, drizzled or coated with the warm pepper jelly. You could also use warm honey with chopped jalapenos in it, or you could use a syrupy balsamic vinegar reduction.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper "Pesto"

I don't know if I should be calling this pretty orange sauce "pesto", there's no Parmesan (or pine nuts) in it. I'm only doing it because it does have nuts in it, and I think it would work for the same applications: slathered on pizza, pasta, baguette, pita chips, sandwiches, grilled meat and so on. 

You don't have to be a kitchen over-achiever and grill your own peppers, the ones you  buy at the store or deli are just fine. Actually they might even be better because they'll be the nice sweet ones from Italy or Spain. Plus you can sound really pompous when you  mention that they're, "Imported from Europe."

You'll need some kind of blender or food processor for this easy sauce/spread.

1 10 ounce jar of roasted red Spanish or Italian peppers, drained
1/2 mounded cup of roasted and salted and Marcona almonds (if you can't get those, regular almonds are fine, but you want them peeled and roasted and if they are unsalted, add more salt to the recipe.) For a thicker dip, use one whole cup.
1 tablespoon FRESH oregano leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons of your favorite vinegar, I used red wine pomegranate, for the dip use the juice of one lemon instead.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 smashed garlic clove (a small one)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon of creme fraiche, or something similar like heavy cream, sour cream or cream cheese (or that Toffuti stuff to keep it vegan)
OR, for the dip version, omit the creme fraiche and add 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes.

Blend all the ingredients really well in your blending machine of choice, then let it sit in the refrigerator for at least a half hour, or save it in there up to a week (or freeze it for longer). This makes a cereal bowl sized amount which would be plenty for spreading on appetizers, or it would be enough to coat a bowl of buttered pasta for two.

If raw garlic is a bit much for you, you can add dry granulated garlic, about a teaspoon instead. In that case I would add a few extra splashes of vinegar for punch.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fried Squash and Nasturtium Patties

I thought it would be fun to include a common flower in this recipe for my fellow gardeners out there. Nasturtiums are super easy to grow, even from seed, and you can easily find them in yellow, orange or red. 

Here in the hotter parts of California and other southern states though, be careful when you read the label, "full sun"- it doesn't really apply here. They need plenty of sun of course, but morning sun is better. All of my nasturtiums that get too much harsh afternoon sun are looking pretty haggard.
This recipe is of course super similar to the zucchini patties that I've made before, except that this batter is more of a dough than a batter. The others are really more like zucchini pancakes, but when you stir up this batter you should have more of a thick cookie dough or meatball mix consistency. 

They're so yummy.

3 small tender squashes, grated.  I used one small crookneck, 1 small patty pan and 1 small zucchini (because that's what was ready in my garden).
5-6 large fresh nasturtium leaves, chopped fine
several nasturtium flowers,petals removed
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped fine
1/4 cup fresh flat parsley, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste, I didn't really measure)
1 egg
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup crumbled feta or other sharp or tangy cheese
2-4 tablespoons of olive oil for frying

After you grate up or food process your little squashes, you have to pick the pile up and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. This is very important, they taste watery and bland and don't cook right if you skip this step. Put it all in a bowl with the other ingredients. 

You really need to use wheat flour instead of regular, it absorbs more moisture and has a nice nutty flavor. After you stir it all up really well, you should have a fairly stiff sticky dough. 

In a non-stick pan, heat up about 2 tablespoons of olive oil on med-high heat. Take about a small ice cream scoop of dough (a scant 1/4 cup?) at a time and make a very flat patty with your hands and fry them in the olive oil for 3 minutes per side. Make sure they are nice and flat, in fact when you flip them you can squish them down a bit with your spatula to make sure. You should get about 8-10 of them.

Serve them garnished with your beautiful nasturtium petals, a sour cream or yogurt based sauce on top, and a nice cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc on the side.

The sauce I made was just a big glob of full-fat sour cream mixed with a splash of red wine vinegar and a half teaspoon of harissa paste. You could also use a teaspoon of sun dried tomato pesto or basil pesto mixed if harissa is too spicy.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Roasted Sausage with Fresh Figs and Carrots

My lovely neighbor very generously gave me a HUGE bag of fresh figs from her giant fig tree, and they were sweet and delicious. I ate ten or fifteen, but the thing is with fresh figs is that they get squishy very quickly, and sometimes if you have a lot of them getting ripe at the same time, you just can't eat them quickly enough.  

Obviously you can make jam, but they are really good in breads and meat dishes too.

5 spicy Italian or Spanish sausages, cut in half
10 large fresh figs, whole
1 large sweet onion, chopped roughly into fairly large pieces
1/2 cup chopped fennel bulb
1 bunch small baby carrots, or 4 large carrots chopped into 2 inch pieces (if you don't like cooked carrots substitute sweet potato or Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed into small pieces)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon dried orange peel (or zest about half a fresh orange)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt(or more)
1/2 cup fruity red wine OR if the figs are not very sweet use a ruby port
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a large roasting pan with one tablespoon of oil, then arrange all of the fruit, veggies and sausages in the pan, then pour the wine over everything, then the other tablespoon of olive oil, and then sprinkle over the spices.

Roast in the oven for about 30-35 minutes. You can dish out the sausage and carrots first, then mash up the figs and onions into the juices before serving over the top. This serves about four people, and would pair nicely with an arugula salad and a nice Tempranillo wine like Black Hat from Scribner Bend.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Squash "Moussaka"

4-5 medium sized yellow summer squash
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil  (or more)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper pepper
2 cups of your favorite meat sauce recipe (or just add cooked ground beef, a whisper of cinnamon and extra oregano to a jar of tomato sauce if you're feeling lazy)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup shredded or crumbled sharp cheese (any kind)

1 pinch of nutmeg
1 cup of whole milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pinch white pepper
1 egg 
1 dash Tabasco

Slice the yellow squash lengthwise into three or four flattish pieces each, depending on how fat they are. I would say you want them about a 1/4 inch thick. 

Coat the slices with the flour and fry them in about 1/4 cup of medium-high hot olive oil, in a non-stick pan. When they are brown on both sides (about a minute per side if the oil is hot enough) remove them from the pan to a paper towel to drain. I had to cook them in two batches, using my biggest frying pan. 

When they come out of the pan, salt and pepper them well. You might need to add more oil for the second round, but if you don't want to waste this much expensive olive oil on frying, mix it half and half with some other oil like corn oil. 

Yeah, mine is GMO corn oil, but corn oil is delicious. When they come out with organic corn oil at the grocery store (I'm looking at you, Whole Foods), I'll be the first to buy it. 

Layer the bottom of a 9x9 inch casserole dish, the square kind works well, with some of the squash slices, trying to cover evenly. Spread about a third of the meat sauce on top and sprinkle with a third of the cheese and basil. Do this two more times, but leave yourself like a 1/2 inch of room at the top (squish things down if you have to) because you're going to a put some white sauce on top.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, fry up the tablespoon of butter and flour, stirring it with a whisk. (I use rounded tablespoons here actually). Add a pinch of salt and white pepper as well as a very tiny pinch of nutmeg (optional) and a dash of Tabasco. Pour the milk in slowly, whisking the whole time. Whisk frequently as it cooks, you know, like making gravy, and then when it looks thickened (it doesn't take long) take it off the heat and very quickly whisk in a beaten egg. Pour over the top of your squash dish and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the top gets some brown spots on it. 

The picture up there is actually taken of a leftover piece, I love eating this cold.

Serves 4

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Grilled Summer Salad

4-5 summer squash of different kinds, sliced thickly lengthwise
1 large sweet onion, sliced into disks
Olive oil (extra virgin)
1 teaspoon salt
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
2 ounces soft goat cheese

Rub olive oil over the sliced squash and onion slices, using as much as you need. Grill them on your BBQ on high for a couple of minutes per side (make sure you get nice grill marks). Let them cool, then cut them all into manageable salad-sized pieces and place in a salad bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients and toss together, drizzling more olive oil in if it looks too dry. 

This can sit in the fridge, but if it's going to be a while before you eat it, don't add the salt or goat cheese until right before serving.