The thing about homebodies is that they can usually be found at home.
I usually am, and I like to feed people.
Laurie Colwin

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Simple Yellow Cake

A Simple Yellow Cake
Adapted from the King Arthur Flour Website

6-¼ ounces King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
7 ounces flour
1-½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
4 ounces milk
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9 x 2-inch cake pan, and line it with parchment.

With a fork stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Cut the butter into pats, add it to the bowl, and with a hand mixer set at low speed, mix until the mixture is evenly crumbly.

In another bowl whisk the milk, eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract together.  Add half of this mixture to the flour in the bowl, and beat until just combined.   Then add the remaining mixture, and, again, beat until just combined.

Now beat it all at high speed for 15 seconds.

Put the batter in the prepared baking pan, and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  The top should spring baked when pressed with your finger.  Do not open the oven to check until at least 30 minutes have passed.

Remove the cake from the oven, place it on a rack, and after ten minutes, run a knife around the edges, and turn out onto a plate.  Remove the parchment, and let cool completely before serving.

This cake can be iced or not.  I served it with macerated strawberries and vanilla ice cream.  Softly whipped heavy cream would also be lovely, scented with a little Amaretto if you wish.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

King Ranch Chicken

You just have to trust me.

King Ranch Chicken
from Amy adapted from Ro-tel


1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, not olive (I use peanut oil)
2 cups cooked chicken, torn into piece by hand, not cut with a knife
1 can Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup, undiluted
1 can Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, undiluted
1 can Original Ro-tel Tomatoes, undrained
1 teaspoon chili powder (The kind of chili powder you use determines the "heat" of the dish; I use medium)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 corn tortillas, torn into shreds
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese* 

*With regard to the shredded cheddar cheese, you can grate your own or use any of these already-shredded cheeses from Kraft:

Kraft Sharp Cheddar
Kraft Sharp Cheddar Aged Wisconsin
Kraft Mild Cheddar
Kraft Mexican 4 Cheese  (Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Asadero, and Queso Quesadilla)
Kraft Cheddar and Monterey Jack
Kraft Mexican Style Cheddar Jack
Kraft Mexican Style Cheddar Pepper Jack
DO NOT USE Kraft Mexican Style Taco Cheese, which has taco seasoning added

According to the Kraft website, Kraft Cheddar and Monterey Jack has the same ingredients as the Kraft Mexican Style Cheddar Jack so if there's a difference it might be in how fine the cheese is shredded.


Lightly grease a 2-1/2 quart casserole.

Without heating, tear the tortillas into 1-inch pieces, and divide them into three even piles.  I put them on a piece of aluminum foil.

You are going to divide the cheese into thirds too, meaning three portions of 2/3 cups of cheese.  You can divide that on another piece of aluminum foil or just parcel it out as you go along using a 1/3 cup dry measuring cup.

In a large sauté pan, cook the onion and bell pepper in oil until tender, but not browned.  Stir directly into the pan the shredded chicken and the next seven ingredients: the Cream of Chicken Soup, the Cream of Mushroom Soup, the Ro-tel Tomatoes, the chili powder, the salt, the garlic powder, and the pepper.  Remove the pan from the heat.

Layer one-third of the tortillas in the casserole.  Top with, first, the chicken mixture and, second, 2/3 cup of cheese.

Repeat these layers two more times.  The top layer will be cheese.

Bake uncovered in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.  It's important that it's hot, so double-check that it is before you serve it.

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Lewis's Salad Dressing

Lewis's Salad Dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Champagne or sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Edmond Fallot Dijon Mustard
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Mic the above ingredients, and lightly dress well-dried, pristine salad greens.

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Hot Chicken Salad

Hot Chicken Salad
from Jane

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Seasoned salt, to taste
2 cups cooked chicken, hand shredded
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt to taste
Enough of your favorite crackers blitzed in the food processor to strew over the top (I would use Ritz if they didn't have high fructose corn syrup in them and as soon as they make them without it, I will)

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan, stir in flour, and cook for 1 full minute while stirring.  Continue to stir, and add milk slowly.  Turn off heat, add seasoned salt, and stir till blended.

Combine this sauce with the chicken, celery, toasted almonds, mayonnaise, minced onion, and lemon juice.  Mix together, and add salt if it's needed.  Put mixture into a 2-quart casserole.

Mix cracker crumbs with as much of the remaining butter as necessary to make moist.  Spread on top of  the casserole, and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until hot.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Shrimp Salad

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Shrimp Salad
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

To Cook the Shrimp

1 pound large shrimp, peeled, tails removed  (see Note)
¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed, spent halves reserved
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups water

Combine the above ingredients in a medium-size saucepan.  I use an All Clad Stainless 2-quart pot.  Put the pan on the burner, and cook the shrimp over medium heat.  The water will just bubble slightly around the edge of the pan.  Do not let the water come to a boil, even a low boil. Stir the shrimp as they cook.  You want them to cook until the centers are no longer translucent but no more than that.

Remove the pan from the heat, cover it, and let it sit for 2 minutes.

During this two minutes, fill a medium bowl with ice water.  Drain the shrimp into a colander.  Run it under cold tap water so you can handle the shrimp, and remove them to the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and chill.  This should take about 3 minutes.

Drain the shrimp, pat dry on paper towels, and cut into thirds.  I do not cut them lengthwise, just straight across into three even pieces.

You can refrigerate the shrimp until later or continue with the recipe.

To Make the Dressing

¼ cup mayonnaise, Hellman's preferred
1 heaping tablespoon sour cream, Breakstone's full fat preferred
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1 large or 2 small stalks of celery, strings removed from the back with a vegetable peeler, minced
A few grinds of white pepper

Whisk the above ingredients together.

To Make the Salad

If you are proceeding with the recipe right away, fold the shrimp into the dressing.  Taste to see if it needs more salt and/or pepper, but it probably won't.

If you are not proceeding with the recipe right away, you can make the dressing in advance and chill it separately in the refrigerator or make it right before you dress the shrimp.  Just dress the shrimp right before serving.

Can be plated or served in a top split toasted hot dog bun for a delicious shrimp roll.

To Use the Shrimp Salad for a Pearl-Oyster-Bar-Type Roll
Adapted from Chef Rebecca Charles' Lobster Roll Recipe/

Get "top-loading" hot dog buns.  Pepperidge Farm makes New England Buns, which work perfectly here as the sides can be toasted.  Put 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a skillet, and melt over medium heat.  Open the hot dog buns flat, and cook on both sides in the skillet until golden brown.  Stuff with shrimp salad, and serve immediately.


My friend Peggy, who is from Charleston (so she should know), never deveins her shrimp by cutting it down the back. Actually, she doesn't bother deveining it at all, and I have adopted this practice and don't devein shrimp either. However, if you absolutely MUST devein shrimp, you can usually just pull the vein out from where the head has been severed (sorry, maybe you didn't think about this). Obviously, this would be the end opposite the tail.  Your fingers should work fine, but just in case you have a little trouble getting a grip, keep a pair of tweezers handy.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Molly's Peaches in Wine

If you like sangria, you will like this.  It is rather more of an idea than an actual recipe. Molly was inspired by David Tanis’s A Platter of Figs.  The deliciousness of this dessert will depend on how good the fruit is.

Molly's Peaches in Wine
Adapted from Delancey by Molly Wizenberg

For four to six people take 4 medium sized ripe peaches – the best you can find (and Molly says nectarines are delicious this way too) – and rinse them, gently pat them dry, then cut into thin slices.  Molly says she likes to get 12 to 16 slices per peach, which, obviously, will depend on the size of the peaches you start out with.

Put the slices into a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Mix gently, and add 2 cups of wine – Molly suggests a crisp dry white or rosé.  I used a Grüner Veltliner, which is a lovely white wine from Austria that I generally keep on hand because it is so food-friendly and goes especially well with the things I like to make.  Then taste and add more sugar if you want it sweeter; Molly generally likes it made with 2 tablespoons for herself and up for 4 when making it for Brandon since he likes it sweeter than she does.  The amount of sugar will depend on your own preference, the sweetness of the fruit, and the wine you are using.  (I used three tablespoons for two peaches.)  If I had superfine sugar in the pantry, I would use it here.

Put the sliced fruit and the wine in a covered container.  (I made it with 2 peaches so a jelly jar was perfect.)  Chill for 6 and up to 24 hours – 12 to 24 is probably best.

Serve cold in squat glasses that you can easily get a spoon into.  Don’t forget to drink any liquid left in the glass.

This recipe can be increased or decreased as you wish, using sugar to taste and planning on using about ½ glass of wine per peach.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

At Long Last Meatballs - Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Currants

Adapted from Buvette, The Pleasure of Food by Jody Williams

At Long Last Meatballs (Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Currants)
Adadpted from Buvette, The Pleasure of Good Food by Jody Williams

Your favorite tomato sauce simmering on the stove

1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4  cup dried currants
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon freshly-chopped flat leaf parsley
2 ounces homemade breadcrumbs from white bread (if you don't have your own bread, use Pepperidge Farm Sandwich Bread)
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground beef
Pinch of red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoons Maldon Salt, crushed between your fingertips
1/2 teaspoon freshly round black pepper
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese grated on a Microplane
1 large egg, beaten
Neutral oil for frying - I use grapeseed or peanut

Toast the pine nuts on top of the stove.  I use a 10-inch cast iron skillet, which gives me plenty of room to stir them as they toast.  They get crunchy as they turn slightly golden - they do not have to actually color - so take them out a little before you think you should.  Above all, do not let them burn, or you will have to start over.

Put the currants and sherry vinegar in a small bowl, and add a little warm water to soften them.  Let soak for 10 minutes, then drain.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, and add the onion, and cook to soften. This will take about 6 minutes.  Then add the crushed garlic, and cook for 4 minutes more.  Add the parsley, and cook for 1 more minute. Remove the mixture from the skillet to a small plate with a slotted spoon, and using a fork, mash the garlic into a fine paste.  Then let this mixture cool.

Break the egg into a large bowl, and beat with a fork.  Then add all of the ground meat, the cooled onion-garlic-parsley mixture, the drained currants, toasted pine nuts, chili flakes (crushing them with your fingers), nutmeg, salt (crushing with your fingers), pepper, cheese, and breadcrumbs.  Mix thoroughly with your hands.

Portion this mixture into meatballs using a 1-1/2 inch scoop to make them all the same size.  Roll them with your hands, but they do not have to be perfectly round; a little lumpy is okay.  Heat about 1/4-inch of neutral oil (I use grapeseed or peanut) in a large skillet, and brown the meatballs on all sides.  Add to your simmering tomato sauce, and cook for 20 minutes.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Easy Strawberry Jam

Adapted from Joie de Vivre by Robert Arbor and Katherine Whiteside

This jam is so easy, Robert Arbor calls it Immediate Gratification Strawberry Jam

Easy Strawberry Jam
Adapted from Joie de Vivre by Robert Arbor and Katherine Whiteside

Aproximately 1 to 2 cups sugar, depending on how much fruit you use

If the strawberries are large, cut them into four pieces; if small, cut into two pieces.

Put the berries into a bowl and toss with sugar until all the fruit is coated with sugar. Put the fruit in a saucepan. Add water to halfway up the fruit in the pan. Bring to a boil uncovered. Lower heat to a simmer immediately, stirring occasionally.

When the fruit has turned liquid, taste, and add more sugar if it's not sweet enough. Once the extra sugar melts into the fruit, the jam is ready. It still looks runny but will firm up enough after it has been refrigerated.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hollandaise Sauce

Adapted from Appetite by Nigel Slater

The key is to making hollandaise sauce is to heat it gently while constantly whisking and not letting it get too hot. This might sound like a contradiction, but you'll see, it's not. You will need a round-bottomed, heatproof bowl (I use stainless steel) and a saucepan for it to sit snugly on, as well as a plump balloon whisk. Approach this task with infinite patience and an absence of trepidation. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. And it is true that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. You will be well rewarded once you have mastered this sauce.

Hollandaise Sauce
Adapted from Appetite by Nigel Slater

3 extra-large eggs (I use organic free-range)
1 cup butter (This really IS 2 sticks. Don't get crazy. As Nigel Slater says "We are talking heaven here.")
Half a lemon (maybe a little less if it's really juicy)

Separate eggs yolks from whites. Put the the yolks into a heatproof bowl. You can use a metal bowl or glass bowl. I usually use metal because it's light, and I can lift it on and off the saucepan to regulate the heat. (Refrigerate the whiles if you have another recipe you will use them for, but I hope it's not an egg white omelet, which, in my opinion, would not be an omelet at all.)

Fill a saucepan with water halfway up, and put it over a moderate heat. Sit the bowl with the yolks in it snugly on top of the saucepan, making sure it doesn't touch the water, then add a small splash of water to the eggs, and stir gently for a few seconds.

Cut the butter into twelve pieces. Add four pieces of butter to the egg yolks, and whisk firmly but slowly until the egg yolks have taken up all the butter. Slowly whisk in the rest of the butter. You will need slightly less than the two whole sticks.

Still whisking, squeeze in the lemon juice. The color should be a lovely light yellow. Add a little salt. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

The sauce will keep warm over the water for half an hour or so, but whisk it occasionally. This is the point at which it may curdle. No one is immune. But as Nigel Slater says, "It is worth the sweat."

If the sauce does break, throwing an ice cube in and whisking like crazy will work nine out of ten times.

Can be made ahead and kept warm in a Thermos.

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Grilled Shrimp Skewers

Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Grilled Shrimp Skewers
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Serves 6

2 pounds medium or large shrimp, unshelled weight
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (estimate)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (estimate)
⅔ cup fine, dry, unflavored bread crumbs (estimate)
½ teaspoon garlic chopped very fine
2 teaspoons parsley chopped very fine
Sea salt and pepper
Lemon wedges (optional)

Shell the shrimp. I never remove the vein but prefer to leave the shrimp whole, but you can certainly devein them if you prefer. Put the shrimp in a bowl, and add as much oil and as many breadcrumbs as you need to to coat the shrimp lightly but evenly all over. Marcella specifies that you use olive oil and vegetable oil in equal parts; and you might want to try that because she probably has a reason. However, sometimes I only use olive oil and just glug it in until it feels right - enough so when you add the breadcrumbs, they coat the shrimp evenly.

Add the chopped garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Toss thoroughly to coat the shrimp well. It's best if you let them to steep in their coating for 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature, but I have cooked them right away with good results.

Don't be tempted to add lemon juice to the marinade; it will start to cook the shrimp.

I cook these on a preheated electric grill that is part of my stove. If you are going to cook them over charcoal, light the charcoal in time for it to form white ash before cooking. If you are going to cook them on a gas grill, preheat it first.

Skewer the shrimp tightly, curling one end of each shrimp inward so that the skewer goes through the shrimp in three places. This prevents the shrimp from spinning around as you turn the skewer over.

Cook the shrimp close to the source of heat until they have a thin, golden crust. I cook these longer than you might think - usually for a total of 7 minutes.  Even though I don't like my shrimp overcooked - who does? - I have found that undercooking these takes away from the flavor.

Serve piping hot, optionally with lemon wedges.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Turkish Eggplant Puree - Hunkar Begendi

Adapted from The Mediterranean Kitchen by Joyce Goldstein

This is a recipe for Hunkar Begendi, a delicious eggplant puree that was served at Joyce Goldstein's restaurant, Square One in San Francisco, as a bed for little Turkish meatballs in tomato sauce. It goes well with leg of lamb and is perfect as part of a vegetable plate, especially if you want to serve a vegetarian meal, in which case I have served it with green beans in tomato sauceNanny's stuffed mushrooms,  cucumber salad with dill strewn over the top, and pita bread.

A tip about eggplants I got from a very early issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine was to check out the bottom of the eggplant, and if it's flat, it's a male and has few seeds; if it has an indentation, it's a female and has lots of seeds. However, I believe Cook's Illustrated repudiated this tip at a later date.  Nevertheless, I have found that this trick works for me - whether by coincidence or luck I cannot say - so I still follow it.

Turkish Eggplant Puree - Hunkar Begendi
Adapted from The Mediterranean Kitchen by Joyce Goldstein

3 eggplants about one pound each
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup of bechamel sauce made with the following:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Do not peel the eggplants. Wash them and prick them in a few places with a fork. Put in a roasting pan, and bake, turning occasionally, until they feel soft. This will take about 45 minutes to one hour depending on your oven and the eggplants. Remove them from the oven, and let cool slightly until you can handle them. Cut them in half, scoop the flesh into a colander to drain for about 15 minutes. Puree the flesh in a food processor.

While the eggplants are cooling, make the bechamel. In a small pan or the microwave, heat the heavy cream until warm. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. If you happen to have a small windsor pan, now is the time to use it. Add the flour, and cook, stirring for about 4 minutes until well blended. Whisk in the warm cream, and continue to whisk until thick. This should take another 4 minutes. Then add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Mix the eggplant puree, béchamel, and Parmesan cheese in a bowl.  Adjust the seasoning, if necessary.  You can keep it warm over hot water in a pan or heat in the microwave right before serving.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Frittata with Pasta

Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Frittata with Pasta
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan


I think you usually use leftover pasta for this dish, but it's good enough to make some specifically for this purpose especially when you want to make something simple and delicious with what you have on hand.

1/2 pound spaghetti
3 tablespoons of butter
1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
3 eggs, beaten with a little salt and put in a bowl large enough to hold the cooked spaghetti

Preheat the broiler.

Cook the spaghetti a little less than al dente. Drain, and toss with 2 tablespoons of butter; then add the grated cheese, and toss again. Set aside to cool a little (so it won't cook the eggs in the next step).Add the cooked spaghetti to the bowl of beaten eggs, and mix thoroughly, distributing the eggs evenly through the pasta.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Before the butter starts to color, add the pasta/egg mixture to the skillet. Cook until the underside of the frittata has turned golden; then run the pan under the broiler until the top is the same color.

Alternatively, you can flip the frittata in the pan to color the other side, but this does seem more difficult to do unless you're making a small individual frittata.

Slide the frittata onto a platter, and cut it into wedges like a pie.

This is delicious served immediately or at room temperature.

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Crème Pâtissière

Adapted from The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child

The French Chef Cookbook was my first - and is still my favorite - book by Julia Child.

This will keep for 3 to 4 days refrigerated.  It may be frozen.  Is that the life - French pastry cream in the freezer?

Crème Pâtissière

Adapted from The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child

6 egg yolks
A heavy-bottomed 2-1/2 quart non-reactive saucepan (Because I don't want to scorch the cream in the bottom of the pan, I usually use my All Clad stainless 3-quart saucier here.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups hot whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I use Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract by Nielsen-Massey, which I keep in the refrigerator) and 1 or 2 tablespoons Amaretto or Frangelico*

Place the egg yolks in the saucepan, and gradually whisk in the sugar. Continue whisking until the mixture is thick, pale yellow, and forms a ribbon. Whisk in the flour, then whisk in the hot milk in a thin stream. Stir slowly and continuously over moderately high heat with a whisk until the mixture thickens. If it turns lumpy (this is scary), beat vigorously to smooth it out. Lower the heat, and continue stirring for several minutes to cook the flour and thicken the cream. Keep stirring over low heat until the cream has thickened.

Remove from heat; beat in the butter and the Amaretto or Frangelico. Put into a clean bowl. Film the top of the cream with a 1/2 tablespoon of Amaretto or Frangelico, whichever you are using, to prevent crusting. Chill.

*The original recipe calls for rum, and it certainly can be used here in addition to anything else you would like to flavor this with. I just usually use Amaretto or Frangelico because almond and hazelnut are flavors I favor.  If I were to use rum, my choice would be Pyrat, which is caramelly and, I think, delicious.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pesto Torta

Adapted from Above and Beyond Parsley: Food for the Senses by the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri

This recipe can be cut in half.  It can also be frozen, so instead of making one large torta, you can make two and freeze one.

Pesto Torta
Adapted from Above and Beyond Parsley: Food for the Senses by the Junior League of KCMO

Cream Cheese and Butter

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature

Beat softened cream cheese and softened butter with a spoon until smooth.


¼ cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh spinach, tightly packed
1 cup fresh basil, tightly packed
½ cup fresh parsley
½ teaspoon salt or less
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Beat softened cream cheese and softened butter with a spoon until smooth.

Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet on top of the stove, stirring and watching carefully to prevent burning. Puree the toasted pine nuts, garlic, spinach, basil, parsley, and salt in a food processor. Add the olive oil and blend.  Add the parmesan cheese and 3 tablespoons of butter, being careful not to over blend.


Cut an 18-inch square of cheesecloth; moisten with water, wring dry and as smoothly as possible line a 6-cup plain or charlotte mold (I once used a glass flowerpot-shaped mold, and it was perfect) with the cheesecloth. Drape the excess cheesecloth outward over the rim of the mold.

Take two pieces of wax paper or aluminum foil. On one, make six mounds of the cream cheese/butter mixture; on the other one, make five mounds of the pesto.

Use two different spatulas for the next step so the cream cheese/butter mixture has its own spatula, and the pesto has its own spatula. You are going to layer the two different ingredients - the cream cheese/butter mixture and the pesto.

Start by making an even layer with one of the cheese mounds in the bottom of the mold, extending it evenly to the sides of the mold. Cover with one of the pesto mounds, and spread the pesto in an even layer.  Repeat layering, making each layer even, and extending each layer to the sides of the mold.  If your mold is too wide to make this many layers, that's fine, but always finish with a cheese layer.

Fold the hanging ends of the cheesecloth inward over the torta, and press lightly to compact.  Chill for several hours or overnight.

A half hour before serving gently pull the torta out of the mold, but do not remove the cheesecloth yet, and do not turn it right side up.  Open the folds of the cheesecloth to expose the bottom of the torta, put a serving dish over the exposed bottom of the torta, turn it over so the serving dish is in the right position, and gently remove the cheesecloth.  Decorate the top of the torta with sun-dried tomatoes spread out in a fan shape. Serve the torta with crackers (I like Wellington Traditional Water Crackers) and/or thin slices of baguette or ficelle.

To store, remove the cheesecloth, wrap the torta air-tight with plastic wrap.  This can be refrigerated for up to five days. The torta can also be frozen.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Chicken Paprikash - Version 2

Chicken Paprikash - Version 2 
Serves 2 with leftovers (if you want to serve 4, use 8 chicken thighs)

6 chicken chicken thighs, bone-in with skin
2 to 3 tablespoons oil (I use grapeseed or peanut)
1 green pepper, cut into strips (if you're making 8 thighs, increase this to 2 green peppers)
1 large Spanish onion
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce or 1 cup of plain (unseasoned) homemade tomato sauce
1 to 1-/4 cups of strong chicken broth
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
Salt to taste
¼ cup sour cream

I use an All-Clad 3-quart sauté pan, which holds this recipe perfectly if you are using 6 chicken thighs.  You want to use a pan that will hold all the ingredients with the chicken in a single layer.

Make sure the chicken pieces are dry, and sauté them in hot oil, turning over, until the skin side is golden.  Remove from the pan to a plate.

Sauté the diced onion in the oil and fat that the chicken has rendered until the onion starts to turn gold; however, do not let it brown. Add the paprika, and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, allowing the paprika to bloom but making sure it does not burn.

To avoid splattering, turn off the heat, and add the tomato sauce. Then pour the chicken broth into the tomato sauce can or the cup the homemade tomato sauce is in (to get all the tomato sauce out of the can or cup), and add the chicken broth to the pot.

Turn the heat back on, bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Taste for salt. You may not need any because of any salt that may have been in the tomato sauce and/or chicken broth.

Add the chicken pieces to the pan skin side up then strew the strips of green pepper over the ingredients in the pan. Do not stir them in at this point. Put a cover - askew, not tight - on the pan, and simmer for a total of 45 minutes, turning the chicken pieces over after the first 15 minutes and stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.  After another 10 minutes, turn the chicken pieces right side up.  

At the end of the 45 minutes, remove the chicken thighs to a plate, and set it a side.  You want the sauce to be thick enough to coat a spoon, like heavy cream. If it isn't, raise the heat under the pan to thicken it.  When it's the right consistency, turn the heat off, and put some of the sauce into a small bowl.  Beat the sour cream into this sauce to temper it, and then put it back into the pan.  Turn the heat back on, and stir the tempered sour cream into the sauce, never letting it boil as the sour cream can curdle.  Add the chicken pieces back to the pan to reheat and get coated with the sauce.

Serve right away.  I like to serve it with spaetzle, a green vegetable (green beans or broccoli rabe sautéed with garlic are nice), and cucumber salad.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Tomatoes Stuffed with Zucchini

Adapted from Quick Cuisine International - Italian by Anna Maria Victor

Serves 6

This is very pretty and nice to make in the summer when tomatoes, basil, and zucchini are all at their best.
6 tomatoes, tops sliced off and pulp scooped out

¼ cup olive oil
6 medium zucchini, unpeeled, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a shallow baking dish that will hold the tomatoes in a single layer. Sprinkle the insides of the tomatoes lightly with salt, and turn upside down on paper towels to drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Stir-fry the zucchini over medium-high for 6 minutes. Add the basis and stir-fry for two more minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Season with salt.

Heat butter in a small skillet, and sauté garlic and 2 tablespoons of parsley for 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon some of this mixture in the bottom of each tomato.

Then fill the tomatoes with the zucchini-basil mixture, and top each tomato with a little of the additional tablespoon of parsley. Place in the baking dish, and bake for 15 minutes uncovered.

Luisa's Raj Curry

Luisa’s Raj Curry
Adapted from The Wednesday Chef and Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater

4 to 6 skin-on chicken thighs
2 tablespoons butter (if you keep clarified butter hanging around, which I don’t but always threaten to, use it here)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder – I use Sun Brand, but I know that Madhur Jaffrey recommends Bolst’s Hot Curry Powder
½ teaspoon ground Vietnamese cinnamon (you might as well go for the good stuff)
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped (canned are fine)
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
Juice of half a lemon
Black pepper

If you know in advance you’re going to cook this for dinner, rub salt into the chicken, and let it sit in the refrigerator on a rack for a few hours.  If you haven’t done this, don’t let it stop you from making this recipe, just rub the salt into the chicken right before cooking.

Heat the butter and oil in a sauté pan, add the pieces of chicken, and cook, turning over, until the skin is taut and golden.  Add the onions, and cook until they are soft – about 6 minutes; add the garlic, and cook until it is fragrant but not burned – 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the curry powder and cinnamon, and cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes so the spices “bloom” and are not raw when you add liquid to them.

Add the tomatoes and the chicken stock, and cook until the chicken is done – about 15 or 20 minutes.

Stir in the cream.  Cook for just about 2 minutes to let it mingle and thicken a little.  Taste the sauce, and add salt to taste, if necessary.  Stir in the lemon juice, cook for a minute more, turn off the heat, add black pepper to taste, stir once again, then serve.

Mushrooms with Garlic

Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Serves 6

To make this dish even more delicious, at the end of cooking add a very small glug of white truffle oil. Turn off the heat, and stir.

1½ pounds white cultivated mushrooms
1½ teaspoons garlic, chopped
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Clean mushrooms carefully with a paper towel. I don't wash them because they soak up too much water. If you like, you can slice off and discard a thin disk from the end of the mushroom stem, but I often don't bother to do this. Cut the mushrooms with the stems still attached lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Use a frying pan that can hold the mushrooms without crowding. Add olive oil to the frying pan, and heat it to medium. Add the mushrooms, and turn the heat up a little. Cook, stirring occasionally, with a wooden spatula.

When the mushrooms have absorbed the oil, add salt, and turn the heat down to low. As soon as the mushrooms release their juices, turn the heat up a little again, and cook those juices away for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic turns golden, being careful not to burn it or it will be bitter. Add the chopped parsley, add salt to taste,* and stir. (*This is the point at which you might want to add a tiny glug of white truffle oil, just before you turn off the heat. It's tastes very earthy and smells divine.)

Stifado - A Sort-of Beef Stew

Adapted from Simple Cooking by John Thorne (The Outlaw Cook)

1 pound good beef chuck, flank steak, or london broil cut as free of fat as you can make it
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup olive oil
3 pounds yellow onions, peeled and cut into large chunks (use Spanish onions, not sweet onions like Vidalia's for this dish)
5 or 6 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces of tomato paste
A generous pinch of dried marjoram
Coarse salt

Slice the beef into narrow strips. Pour the lemon juice over the meat, and then stir it in to coat every piece.

Heat the olive oil until it begins to sizzle in a large, heavy, non-reactive pot (like a Le Creuset) with a firmly fitting lid. Put in the beef and cook it, stirring constantly, until it is browned on all sides. Once the meat has browned, add the the onions, tomato paste, marjoram, a generous pinch of salt, and a good grinding of pepper. I rarely add pepper when I cook something, usually reserving it to sprinkle on at the end, but this is an exception. It really adds to this dish. Stir the ingredients, cover the pot, and turn down the heat as low as it will go. No kidding, really, really low because you want it to cook for 4 to 5 hours. You should not hear any sounds emanating from the pot. If you hear anything, it's cooking too high.

At the end of the third hour, open the lid, gently stir the contents. Add a little more salt and pepper to taste. The onions should be reddish golden, not brown, soft but intact. Continue to cook for another hour or so at the same low temperature, or until all the liquid has evaporated, leaving off the top of the pot for the last 15 or 20 minutes if necessary. Serve with a robust red wine. I serve this with small steamed potatoes tossed with butter and parsley along with a tart green salad. I know it sounds like it would be good with orzo too, but if you want something noodley, I would serve hot, buttered wide egg noodles.

Orange Salad

I think Maldon Salt is the best salt to use in salads. If it's too coarse for your taste, you can crush it a little in your fingertips when you add it. This helps release the flavor.

Orange Salad
Adapted from The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet by Pierre Franey and Craig Claiborne

Serves 2

2 large navel oranges
8 black olives, cut into pieces (use your favorite - I like Cerignola)
1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (I don't always automatically use pepper in everything, but it's good in this recipe)
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Put the vinegar in a small bowl, add the salt, and let it steep while you proceed with the recipe.

In order to peel oranges so you remove all the pith, cut a slice off the top and a slice off the bottom with a knife. Then stand the orange up on one end, and cut down from top to bottom, curving around the shape of the orange. Go all the way around the orange until the skin and pith are completely removed. Do this carefully on a plate so you can catch any juice that might escape.

Cut the skinned orange into ¼-inch rounds, slicing parallel to the top and bottom slices you removed.

Put the orange slices on a platter and scatter the olives on top.

Whisk the minced garlic, oil, and pepper into the salt-infused vinegar. Pour over the oranges and olives. Sprinkle with parsley.