Friday, October 14, 2016

Oaxacan Black Bean Soup

This is another easy, delicious recipe from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen. Even my husband liked this, and he's not a bean soup lover.

I didn't add the shrimp because I couldn't wrap my mental taste palate around them in black bean soup. Also I was just throwing this together and didn't have any. We didn't miss them but I might try them next time.

Oaxacan Black Bean Soup
Makes 7 cups, serving 6

  • 12 ounces (about 2 cups) black beans, picked over
  • 4 avocado leaves or 1 stalk fennel, roughly chopped (I used a bit of ground fennel seed)
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) chorizo sausage, casing removed, crumbled
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • Salt, about 1 teaspoon (I needed much more ... about a tablespoon)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil, for frying
  • 4 to 6 corn tortillas (preferably stale sort-bought ones), sliced into 1/8-inch wide strips, for garnish (Bayless says you can use broken, good quality chips instead of frying up the tortilla strips ... and I did. Delicious!)
  • 8 ounces (about 12) medium-large shrimp, peeled (optional)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or pressed, salted farmer's cheese

The beans
Place the beans in a medium-size (4-quart) pot, cover with 6 cups water, remove any beans that float and heat slowly to a simmer.

If using the avocado leaves, toast them briefly directly over a medium gas flame or on a hot griddle. Add the avocado leaves (or fennel), chorizo, and onion to the beans, partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the beans are fully tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. If you see the beans peeking up through the liquid, add hot water to cover them by 1/2-inch.

Finishing the soup
Use an immersion blender to coarsely puree the soup, or puree in batches in a food processor or loosely covered blender. Return it to the pot. Add enough water to thin to a medium-thick consistency. Taste and season with salt.

Heat the oil in a medium size (8 to 9-inch) skillet over medium-high. When hot, add about 1/3 of the tortilla strips and fry, turning frequently, until they are crisp. Drain on paper towels. Fry the remaining strips in 2 batches.

Serving the soup
If using the shrimp, devein each one by making a shallow incision down the back, exposing the (usually) dark intestinal track; scrape it out. Heat the soup to a boil, add the shrimp and cook until just done, abut 2 minutes. Ladle into warm soup bowls, top with a few of the crisp tortilla strips and sprinkle with a little cheese.

Bayless has several variations including this one which I might try: leave out the avocado leaves and chorizo, using several chopped canned chipotles added with the dry beans.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tacos of Tomatillo Chicken with Wilted Greens and Fresh Cheese

This is from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen which has some of the easiest authentic Mexican recipes ever. And the most delicious. We found this made a good one dish supper.

This looks much more difficult than it is. Just forge ahead and don't worry.

Tacos of Tomatillo Chicken with Wilted Greens and Fresh Cheese

For 1-1/4 cups Essential Simmered Tomatillo-Serrano Sauce
  • 8 ounces (5 to 6 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed.
  • Fresh serrano chiles to taste. (roughly 2), stemmed
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 medium white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped 
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
  • Salt, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon, depending on the saltiness of the broth
Other Ingredients
  • 12 corn tortillas (plus a few extra, in case some break)
  • 2 cups firmly packed sliced chard leaves, lamb's quarters (quelites), sliced amaranth greens (quintoniles), purslane (verdolagas) or spinach (all pieces should be about 1/2 inch wide and 2 inches long. I used kale
  • 1-1/3 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken (you'll need, for instance, 1 very large chicken breast for this amount; it's a good way to use up leftover chicken ... and if you don't have any see Poached Chicken recipe)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or pressed, salted farmer's cheese

To make sauce
Roast the tomatillos and peppers on a baking sheet (I lined mine with foil) 4 inches below a very hot broiler until blackened and soft on one side, 5-6 minutes, then turn them over and roast the other side. Transfer (including all juices) to a food processor or blender.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium, add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until deep golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cook 1 more minute, then scrape into the food processor or blender. Process to a medium-coarse puree.

Heat the remaining 1/2 T of oil in the skillet and set over medium-high. Add the puree all at once and stir for about 5 minutes, until noticeably darker and thick. Stir in the broth, partially cover and simmer over medium-low for 10 minutes. (The sauce will be a little soupy.) Stir in the cilantro and generously season with salt.

(You can make this a few days ahead and refrigerate until needed.)

Finishing the dish
Heat the tortillas. Bayless recommends steaming in a vegetable steamer, wrapped in a kitchen towel. Boil for 1 minute, then turn off and let stand without opening for 15 minutes. I just heat mine on the griddle, though to be fair they are made with a little flour in them to facilitate things like folding without breaking.

Bring the sauce to a boil and add the greens. When the mixture returns to a boil, stir in the cooked chicken, and simmer until the greens are done (chard 3-4 minutes; spinach about 2 minutes). I cooked the kale for about 8 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if necessary.

When you are ready to serve, make the tacos one at a time, spooning a portion of the filling into a warm tortilla, sprinkling the cheese, and folding it over.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Poached Chicken

From Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen. This turned out some of the tenderest, juiciest chicken I've ever had. It's a great technique for a lightly flavored broth as well as chicken to use in various recipes.

Poached Chicken
Makes about 1-1/2 pounds poached chicken, about 3 cups shredded. 

1 medium white onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 good size (3 pound) chicken, cut into quarters (I used a 5 pound chicken, came out great with same timing)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram (didn't have it, didn't miss it)

In a large (6-quart) pot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil. (I used 10 cups because of the larger chicken.) Add onion, garlic, carrot, salt and chicken back (if you're lucky enough to have a separated one - I did because I cut up a whole chicken myself), neck, heart and giblets.

Skim off any foam that rises after a minute or two, partially cover and simmer over medium-low for 20 minutes.

Add dark meat quarters, skim again after a couple of minutes, then add bay and marjoram; partially cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Add breast quarters, skim when the liquid returns to the simmer; partially cover and cook 13 minutes. Remove pot form heat and let chicken cool for a few minutes in the broth.

Remove breast and leg quarters from broth and set aside Strain broth, discarding solids and spoon off any fat that rises to the top. (Refrigerate broth covered, for up to 5 days or freeze it for up to 3 months. Wait until then to remove fat which will have solidified.)

When the chicken quarters are cool, pull meat off bones in coarse shreds. Meat will keep covered and refrigerated for several days or frozen for a few weeks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Mustard Sauce

Basically all of the articles I save on Facebook now are recipe posts from Food and Wine, which is where I found this amazing recipe. It's fast, delicious, and pretty cheap.

I cup pecans
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried paprika
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tbsp water
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.3 lbs)
3 tbsp cooking oil
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp grainy or dijon mustard
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

In a food processor, pulse the pecans with the cornstarch, thyme, paprika, 1 1/4 tsp of the salt, 1/8 tsp cayenne until the nuts are chopped fine. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.

Whisk together the egg and water in a small bowl. Dip each chicken breast into the egg mixture and then into the nut mixture.

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Turn and continue cooking until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through, 5-6 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar, parsley, a pinch of cayenne, and the remaining 1/4 tsp of salt. Serve the chicken with the mustard dipping sauce.

I think Mark put 2x-3x more mustard in than the recipe called for, but use your judgement.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

All Under Heaven by Carolyn Phillips

I was 12% into this book when I knew I wanted a copy for myself. I was 20% into it when I realized I needed to preorder multiple copies for everyone I know who cooks Chinese food.

I've got several Chinese cookbooks and had sworn off ever buying any more. My favorite, The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo, never lets me down and has a lot of variety packed into it.

However, All Under Heaven was written with the same sort of clear instructions and approachable style. Additionally, it looked at the usual Chinese regional cuisine divisions (Sichuan, Hunan, Cantonese, etc.) more closely than I'd ever seen.

This means than you don't just read about Cantonese or Southern Chinese cooking, but also get to try typical Hakka dishes or try that of Taiwan's military families who came from different provinces and then gave everything a big stir to create their own distinctive cuisine. Some of the dishes sound like a familiar twist on our favorites like Silk Road Fajitas, until you realize that this is a traditional Northwestern Chinese dish. Some have a technique that I can't wait to try, like Shaved Noodles with Meat Sauce where you use an ultra-sharp knife to shave noodles off a block of pasta dough.

I loved Carolyn Phillips' writing, especially the accessible headnotes to each recipe. Her explanation of the different regions was always personalized at the end so that we got to share a little of her life in China too.

This book was provided in a terrible Kindle version by NetGalley. I assume the garbling of the recipes is because of NetGalley's conversion. My review is my own.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Green Onion Pancakes

These are one of my favorite things to make, because they can be appetizers or a main course, they take very few ingredients, and they're very easy to make. It can be a little tedious to roll them out, but even that doesn't take very long. And as a bonus, people are usually very impressed both with the execution and the result.

The first time I made green onion pancakes was with a different recipe than the one I'm giving here. It didn't specify that the water for the dough should be boiling, and it didn't have the multiple roll-outs of the dough. These things make a huuuge difference! As did an old gas range and a powerful, newer one, but that was just a benefit of moving.

Now, this recipe is from Serious Eats by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup boiling water
Up to 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil (I actually like regular sesame oil better)
2 cups thinly sliced scallion greens

Dipping sauce:
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinkiang or rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp finely sliced scallion greens
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp sugar

To cook:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Kosher salt

Combine all the sauce ingredients and set aside at room temperature. (The original recipe has this step much later, but I feel it's important to do this early on or the sugar won't have time to dissolve)

Place flour in bowl of food processor. With processor running, slowly drizzle in about 3/4 of boiling water. Process for 15 seconds. If dough does not come together and ride around the blade, drizzle in more water a tablespoon at a time until it just comes together. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to overnight in the fridge.

Divide dough into four even pieces and roll each into a smooth ball. Working one ball at a time, roll out into a disk roughly 8-inches in diameter on a lightly floured surface. Using a pastry brush, paint a very thin layer of sesame oil over the top of the disk. Roll disk up like a jelly roll, then twist roll into a tight spiral, tucking the end underneath. Flatten gently with your hand, then re-roll into an 8-inch disk.

Paint with another layer of sesame oil, sprinkle 1/2 cup scallions, and roll up like a jelly roll again. Twist into a spiral, flatten gently, and re-roll into a 7-inch disk. Repeat steps two and three with remaining pancakes.

Heat oil in an 8-inch nonstick or cast-iron (I use a wok) over medium-high heat until shimmering and carefully slip pancake into the hot oil. cook, shaking the pan gently until first side is an even golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula or tongs, and continue to cook, shaking pan gently, until second side is even golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season with salt, cut into 6 wedges. Serve immediately with sauce for dipping. Repeat with remaining 3 pancakes.

NOTE: If you don't have a food processor, just stir the flour with a wooden spoon or chopsticks in a large bowl as you add the boiling water. After it comes together, turn it out onto a floured work surface and knead for five minutes until satiny and smooth. Proceed as instructed

This chef has great insights into why these techniques are the best ones and how they improve the recipe. If you like this recipe, I would check out his other stuff. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Crab Mac and Cheese

One of the most consistently good cookbooks I've ever gotten was from Julie when I got married. It's Nigel Slater's Eat. All of the recipes are simple, not too many ingredients, and written in paragraph form, which I found off-putting at first but quickly learned to love. So here is one of the first things I ever made out of it: crab mac and cheese.

Crab Mac and Cheese

8 oz medium-sized pasta (penne, serpentelli, macaroni)
10 oz lump crab meat
1+2/3 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup fresh white bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Boil pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water for about 9 minutes, til tender. Drain and return to the saucepan, then add milk, heavy cream, Dijon mustard, and whole-grain mustard and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, stir in crab meat, and simmer gently, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.

Check the seasoning, then transfer to a deep baking dish. Mix the bread crumbs with the Parmesan, scatter on top, and bake for 20 minutes, til bubbling around edges.

And I recommend everyone get Eat, because it really is great for fast, easy meals!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Best Mapo Tofu


I'm Hannah, Julie's daughter, who now has access to this blog to post all my favorite recipes!

So to start off, here is a recipe for Mapo tofu from "Serve the People: A Stir-fried Journey Through China" by Jen Lin-Liu. Now, I will say that one ingredient we used is probably not what the recipe actually intends. The recipe calls for broadbean paste (doubanjiang), which exists in plain and spicy versions. The way the author calls for chili sauce in equal part to broadbean paste in other recipes in the book makes me think it's meant to be the plain version. I couldn't find a kind that didn't have chili in it at the Vietnamese or Thai grocery stores I go to, so I just used Lee Kum Kee's chili bean sauce, which has broadbean paste in it but also a hefty dose of chili. So my husband was a big fan, partly because he takes very spicy food as a challenge, but I like it with a little bit less chili bean sauce. I could have tried a Chinese market, but I'm not made of trips to the store. And I like this version anyway.

"The Best" Mapo Tofu

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons minced leek or scallion
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/4 cup broadbean paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup water
1 package firm tofu, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine

Add the oil to a wok and place over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the beef, breaking it into small pieces and stirring until it begins to brown. Add the following ingredients, stirring for a minute between each addition: leek and ginger, broadbean paste, soy sauce, rice wine, salt, and sugar. Add the water, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the tofu, raise the heat to high, and stir for another 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the ground Sichuan peppercorns and remove from the heat. Serve immediately.

It's easy, fast, and delicious!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Chorizo-Rice Casserole

This is from Texas Home Cooking by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. They say: this casserole is something of a cross between a Tex-Mex picadillo and a Cajun Jambalaya.

Our family says, "This is like Grandma's Texas Hash."

Anyone who didn't grow up in Texas is going to think of something like Corned Beef Hash and say, "What? Hash has chopped potatoes." But in Texas, it has rice instead. And ground beef. And a Mexican flair, if you are lucky.

After being introduced to the Davis family Texas Hash, I tried the recipe below and then began adapting it for our family's preferences. I like the raisins but the rest of the family — not so much. (Lines are through items I just don't include.)


Chorizo-Rice Casserole
I double the recipe and simmer it for 20-30 minutes on the stovetop. For one thing our chorizo comes in 1 pound frozen packages from a local butcher. For another, we like leftovers!)

1/2 pound good store bought Chorizo
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 small tomatoes, preferably Roma, chopped (or canned, diced tomatoes)
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium red skinned potato, diced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped

3/4 cup uncooked rice
1/2 c. currants or raisins
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground (I just use ground and move on)
1-3/4 cups unsalted beef or chicken stock (I use 2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large oven-proof skillet, preferably cast iron, brown chorizo over medium heat, breaking it into small pieces. Pour off the accumulated fat as necessary to leave no more than about 1 tablespoon.

Add the onion, garlic, tomatoes, celery, potato and bell pepper to the chorizo and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are limp and somewhat tender.

Add the rice, currants, chili powder, and cumin, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the stock, cover the dish, and bake casserole for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

Remove the casserole from the oven and stir in the peanuts and cilantro. Serve the casserole immediately.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Favorite Meat Loaf

I've never been a meat loaf fan but for some obscure reason I tried recipe after recipe looking for one I could love. When I came across this in James Beard's American Cookery, I knew I'd found my meat loaf at last. For one thing, it is covered in bacon. For another, it has strong seasoning anchored by sausage. For the third thing ... did I mention the bacon?

Another advantage is that you shape the loaf without putting it in a loaf pan. That means it isn't soggy because the fat has somewhere else to go than soaking into the loaf. That makes the texture nice and firm.

It is the meat loaf I cooked for my family winter after winter and I really love it.

Favorite Meat Loaf

2 pounds ground beef
1 pound ground pork (sausage meat will do)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fairly large onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon summer savory (I never have this on hand and it works fine without it)
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Bacon or salt pork cut in strips

Thoroughly blend the meats, garlic, onion, seasonings, and crumbs.

Add the eggs and blend again.

Arrange the bacon or salt pork slices on the bottom of a shallow baking pan or dish 1 to 1-1/2 inches deep. (I use a jelly roll pan.)

Form the meat into a loaf of rather even proportions and lay it upon the strips. Lay a few additional strips of bacon or pork across the top of the loaf. Bake at 350 degrees 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Test with a meat thermometer, and when its center has reached 150 degrees it is done.

The recipe says to baste, but that's what the bacon on top is for. Am I right? Of course I am!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


This recipe is from Maida Heatter's Cookies. She says: These are rich walnut-oatmeal bars with a baked-in sweet chocolate filling. The recipe gives a large yield and the cookies are generally best stored in the refrigerator and served cold.

They're all that and more. Everyone just loves these, they make a ton, and they freeze well. What's kind of funny is that I've never cared for them that much. But I'm the only one, believe me.


Makes 32 to 48 large or 64 small bars

2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
3 cups old-fashioned or quick-cooking oatmeal
7 ounces (2 cups) walnuts, cut or broken into medium pieces

Chocolate Filling:

1 15-oz can sweetened condensed milk
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons butter
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat to 350°. Butter a 15-1/2 x 10-1/2 x 1-inch jelly-roll pan.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter. Add the coffee, vanilla, and sugar. Beat well. Add the eggs and beat well. On low speed gradually beat in the sifted dry ingredients and then the oatmeal, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Finally mix in 1 cup of the walnuts (reserve the remainder for the topping).

Remove and reserve 2 cups of the dough. Place the remainder by large spoonfuls over the bottom of the buttered pan. With well-floured finger-tips press all over to make a smooth, even layer. Set aside and prepare the following filling.

Chocolate Filling:

Place the condensed milk, chocolate, butter, and salt in the top of a large double-boiler over hot water on moderate heat. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted and the mixture is smooth. (I live on the wild side by just using a regular pan and stirring continually over low heat.)

Remove the top of the double-boiler from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the warm chocolate mixture over the bottom oatmeal layer and spread evenly. Place the reserved oatmeal mixture by small spoonfuls over the chocolate, letting the chocolate show through between the spoonfuls. Do not spread smooth. Sprinkle the reserved cup of walnuts evenly over the top.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Reverse the pan front to back once toward the end of baking to insure even browning. (I also don't reverse the pan. A daredevil, that's me.) The top mounds will flatten slightly but they will not run together to cover the chocolate.

Cool completely in pan at room temperature (not in the refrigerator) for several hours. Cut into bars. If cookies are too soft to cut, place in the refrigerator for a few minutes before cutting.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Second Verse, Same as the First: Thanksgiving Cooking

Thanksgiving means much loved favorites that only get trotted out once a year. And I'm ok with that. So no weird variations to try to make these much loved favorites "new" or "fresh." Just good, honest Thanksgiving cooking.

These dishes, for us, represent the perfect versions of their oeuvre.

Our day-after-Thanksgiving meal also is mandated by tradition. Chef salad featuring turkey (of course), blue cheese dressing and crumbled bacon (the real thing please!) on top. Mmmmmm, crumbled bacon ... except that since we do meatless Fridays, this feast actually comes on a Saturday.

Here are a few links to recipes I've posted before.

Herbed Thanksgiving Stuffing
This is the best stuffing ever and cooks in a slow cooker. I have made this five times now and never been disappointed. It really frees up the oven for other things and, if you happen to have a problem with sticking your hand up a turkey (no problemo here) then you're set free from that as well.

Skillet Cornbread
If you happen to like cornbread stuffing (which I do not), you may want to make this for your base. I've never found a better recipe.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Crumble
The funny bone in the menu is the sweet potato selection which in the past I have always played around with. Here is my current favorite.

Cranberry Ginger Relish
I also used to change up the cranberry recipe from year to year. No longer. This relish is practically perfect in every way!

Perfect Piecrust
This is not a misnomer. Very easy and very delicious. It is long but that is because of the detailed directions. You can't go wrong with this.

Pecan Pie
This is non-negotiable. Gotta have it.

Pumpkin Pie

Are you allowed to have Thanksgiving without this? Or watch the Cowboys play without having some? Nope.

AND Afterward ...
What do you do with the turkey carcass? I used to toss it, until being given a fantastic recipe for Turkey Bone Gumbo.

It is fantastically simple, especially if you fear not the roux which has been given a bad rap as far as I can tell. It does take some time but I do it in steps here and there so that on Sunday we have a delicious bowl of gumbo that hasn't been much trouble at all.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

From The Cake Mix Doctor which has some really terrific frosting recipes. Never, ever use frosting from a can.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoons salt

Beat the butter and cocoa powder until well combined. Add remaining ingredients and beat until frosting lightens and is fluffy. Add additional milk or sugar if necessary to achieve desired consistency.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Pesto alla Genovese

Pesto alla Genovese
(a.k.a. Basil, Garlic and Cheese Sauce)
via Wikipedia

The Time-Life Foods of the World books gave my family many favorites that were exotic in the 1960s but are standard now. So when Rose asked for our pesto recipe I knew The Cooking of Italy was the place to turn. You'll see many variations in different cookbooks but none are better than this.

It freezes well and that's a good thing because the July Texas sun turns my basil plants into monsters that have me making pesto once a week.

This recipe gives techniques for the blender (this was before food processors which is what I use) and the old fashioned mortar and pestle. I'll just leave that technique out because if someone is using those then they've already got a recipe. And they're more dedicated to authenticity than I'll ever be.

Pesto alla Genovese

Makes about 1-1/2 to 2 cups

2 cups fresh basil leaves, stripped from their stems, coarsely chopped and tightly packed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped pine nuts or walnuts
1 to 1-1/2 cups olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated imported sardo, romano, or Parmesan cheese

Combine the coarsely chopped fresh basil, salt, pepper, garlic, nuts, and 1 cup of olive oil in the blender jar. Blend them at high speed until the ingredients are smooth, stopping the blender every 5 or 6 seconds to push the herbs down with a rubber spatula.

The sauce should be thin enough to run off the spatula easily. If it seems too thick, blend in as much as 1/2 cup more olive oil. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and stir in the grated cheese.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Religion & Food: Paschal Triduum

The Paschal Triduum consists of the three days before Easter: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
The German name for Holy Thursday, Gr√ľndonnerstag means "Green Thursday." Green soup made with spinach, parsley, bean sprouts, dill, and cucumber in a chicken or veal stock base; eggs with green sauce; cucumbers and sour cream; and dandelion greens salad are traditional fare in Germany, Austria, and among the Pennsylvania Dutch.

... today's the day to indulge in these sweet rolls [hot cross buns] that are either carved with a cross or inscribed with one in icing. Or perhaps you'd prefer the fifteenth-century German custom of eating big fluffy pretzels with (peeled) hard boiled eggs ...

The Lenten fast is officially over today although many people continue it until Easter Sunday.
The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fissler Magic Edge Can Opener

This can opener was the top rated in Cook's Illustrated recent look at manual can openers.

I have long disliked the trend of can openers in leaving the lid attached so that you have to wrestle it off the can. I realized finally this was to keep it from falling in the food but the risk of slicing fingers seemed an unacceptable trade off to me.

Rushing to Amazon I saw that it was quite reasonable and ordered one right away.

Then I just had to wait for a can to need opening. We really don't open a lot of cans. Just enough to make using that old fashioned can opener annoying.

At last the long awaited opportunity came up with a can of refried beans. This opener really earned the "magic" moniker. It attached effortlessly, turned easily, opened the lid from under the edge, left no sharp edges, magnetically held the lid and then, with a little backwards turn of the lever, dropped it in the trash.

It's the little things in life that are rewarding. This is one of those little things. Go get one.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Religion & Food: Lenten Food

Simple vegetarian soups are traditional throughout Lent, and each nationality has developed its own Lenten specialty. Consider slurping any -- or all -- of the following for the next forty days:
  • Eastern Europe: Vegetable-based split soups.
  • France: Onion soup, of course! Call it Zuppa Magna di Cipolle and you can claim its Italian.
  • Greece: Tomato soup.
  • Italy: Brodo Magro di Digiuno is made with leeks, onions, carrots, cabbage, and lentils; flavored with sage and bay left. Strained, it's a rich broth for other soups or to use with rice or pasta. Pureed, it's a hearty soup.
  • Russia: Borscht (beet soup) with mushrooms or barley. Sauerkraut and mushroom soup. Cabbage, potato, carrot, and barley soup.
Eastern Orthodox Church adherents still observe strict fasting -- relative to what most Roman Rite Catholics do -- during Lent. In fact, they are required to fast twice a week most of the year anyway. Check out this site to see what rigorous fasting looks like. If you decide to go the complete vegetarian route for the next forty days, check out Mollie Katzen's The Moosewood Cookbook. Published over two decades ago, it's still one of the best resources for vegetarian recipes and especially wonderful soups.

Strange but true: The pretzel is the oldest, traditional, authentically Christian Lenten bread. Some food historians trace its origin back to Roman Christians of the fifth century. Others insist that monks in southern France, or maybe it was northern Italy, cooked this egg- and butter-free snack up in A.D. 610. The former called them bracellae, Latin for "little arms"; the latter called them pretiola, latin for "little reward.

In either account, the dough configuration represents arms folded in prayer and the three holes represent the Trinity. thus you may eat these with impunity, but not gluttony, throughout Lent ...

So where does "pretzel" come from? Germans, who called these breads bretzel ("little bread") ... Palatine Germans, who would become known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, imported pretzels to the United States in 1710.
The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Shrove Tuesday and Pancakes

Reposted for your Mardi Gras enjoyment.

Weeks of food antics peak on the last day of pre-Lent, Shrove Tuesday (a.k.a. Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Fasten's Eve, or Fastnacht). The name "Shrove" derives from the customary pre-Lenten "shrift" (confession), but it's mostly known for gluttony.

By now we're supposed to have had our last deluxe bacon-cheeseburger for the duration. In the old days, eggs, butter, fat, milk, and cheese were also considered verboten during Lent, so Shrove Tuesday was devoted to emptying the larder. For old times' sake, you might consider following this tradition, which also happens to be a healthier way of eating...

Flipping out over pancakes is so universal on Shrove Tuesday that the holiday is sometimes called "Pancake Tuesday" ... In England, Pancake Day is celebrated with races at which women over the age of sixteen, frying pans in hand, trot over 415 yards while tossing pancakes over at least three times...

In New Orleans, one of the less over-the-top Mardi Gras customs involves baking King's Cake, a yeasty, buttery confection flavored with lemon zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg decorated with purple, yellow, and green icing -- and these aren't even it's most distinguishing characteristics.

A tiny doll of the baby Jesus is baked inside the cake, which, when done, is doled out in huge slices. Whoever gets the slice with the doll provides the King's Cake the following year ... For an authentic King's Cake recipe check out the one at

Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) precedes Ash Wednesday and the period of Lenten fasting. Pancakes were eaten to use up proscribed foods, and it is claimed that their ingredients have special Lenten symbolism: flour is the staff of life; milk is innocence and purity; salt is incorruptibility; and eggs symbolize creation.
Here's my favorite recipe for pancakes. Enjoy!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Religion and Food: Carnival

Carnival foods could be regarded as a worldwide phenomenon, if the word "carnival" is taken in its wide sense, meaning any occasion of riotous revelry. However, in the narrower and more commonly used sense it refers to the day or week before Lent and especially Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras), when Christians bid farewell to meat for 40 days.

Carnival (a term derived from two Latin words meaning "meat, goodbye") is celebrated most noticeably in Roman Catholic countries such as Italy, Spain, France, where various cities hold traditional processions with dancing, mummers, masks, lights, special street foods, etc. The custom traveled to the New World and is conspicuous in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro for example. However, some would say that the calypso and carnival tradition in Trinidad (and Tobago) eclipses by its size and exuberance anything else in the world. DeWitt and Wilan (1993) provide a vivid description of carnival time in Trinidad and of the street foods consumed by the revellers...

Which of the carnival foods enjoyed in modern times can be traced back to pagan times is an interesting question. One obvious candidate is the pancake ... Another is the fritter. An 18th-century poem entitled, "The Oxford Sausage" neatly pairs these items:

Let glad Shrove Tuesday bring the pancake thin
Or fritter rich, with apples stored within.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Green Beans Dijon

This is from a yellowing scrap of paper I tore from the WSJ weekend section some time ago. I'd stuck it in How to Cook Without a Book since it looked as if it could be adapted to one for steam/sauteing vegetables. It turns out, however, that I simply boiled up the green beans and followed the recipe.

I was afraid that much Dijon would be overwhelming but the cream and cumin worked wonders in gentling it to very palatable levels. Simply delicious and very easy.

Note: the original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of butter but the Dijon broke up when I followed that method. I threw it out and began again using cream instead of butter. So that's how I tell it below.

Green Beans Dijon

2 tablespoons cream
1/4 cup Dijon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound freshly cooked green beans

Gently heat cream, Dijon, and cumin in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk to combine. When mixture is hot, turn off heat and add green beans, stirring gently until all the beans are coated. Serve warm. 3-4 servings.