Sunday, October 24, 2010

Basic Fall Chili

One time I made this recipe for someone and they were surprised to learn that you didn't need 27.5 ingredients and 3.5 hours of simmering to make chili. The flavors may not be quite as complex, but this is the recipe I grew up with and, most of the time, its simplicity suits me just fine!

As I look closely at the recipe card, I see "parley"--which I assume is "parsley." This is very odd as I don't recall ever using parsley! We often served this over rice and then sprinkled grated cheese and saltines on top. I know, very authentic!

1 onion, diced (and maybe some garlic if you're so inclined)
1 pound ground beef or turkey
28-ounce can whole tomatoes, with juice
14-ounce can kidney beans
1 tablespoon chili powder
salt, pepper, cayenne, additional cumin to taste

Saute onion (and garlic) in olive or vegetable oil over medium heat. When soft, add meat and break up somewhat. Cook until browned, then dump in everything else. Break up the tomatoes with a spoon, and simmer 10-15 minutes--or longer to reach desired consistency.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cheesy Tomato & Bread Soup

This is kind of like when you dunk a grilled cheese sandwich into your tomato soup. But the tomatoes are fresh (a must, thus a very summery recipe!), the bread is sourdough, and the cheese is Parmesan (I shudder to think what would happen to American cheese in this). A very thick soup results. Besides the wonderful taste, I also like the fact that this recipe uses Parmesan rinds. I usually have a bunch of these in my freezer, and they add richness to many soup recipes. Recipe adapted from Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals.

4 lbs. very rip beefsteak or Jersey tomatoes, peeled & cut into 1-inch chunks
kosher salt, fresh pepper, sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1-2 stalks celery, finely diced
3-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
2 quarts vegetable or chicken broth
1-2 Parmesan rinds
1 large or 2 small loaves of day-old sourdough bread
4-8 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
fresh lemon juice
basil oil or pesto (optional)

Thirty minutes before you want to start cooking, mix tomatoes with salt, pepper & a pinch of sugar; set aside.

Warm the olive oil in a a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion & celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic towards the end. Stir in the tomato paste and another pinch of sugar, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock and cheese rind(s), raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, season with salt & pepper, and bring to a boil again. Lower the heat and simmer until the tomatoes break down completely, about 40 minutes.

Remove and discard the cheese rind. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes [the original recipes calls for the crust to be cut off, but I usually leave most of it on since I like the texture it adds]. Add them to the tomatoes and stir to break down, cooking for about 15 minutes. Stir in the grated cheese, starting with a little and adding more until you get the consistency you like--too much and it can get a little gloppy, in my opinion. Douse with a squeeze or two of lemon juice.

I happen to have just made fresh pesto last night, but I'm conflicted about whether or not to use it--the tomatoey goodness is pretty spectacular all on its own! Your call...

Lots of tomatoes!

Lots of bread!

Lots of cheese!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Salted Crispy Oatmeal Cookies

A word about photographing's hard! For the most part, they are not that colorful or otherwise interesting looking. But what's more important is that they taste yummy! These cookies are a good example. So sorry about the stock "stacked cookie" photo (really, the most common pose you'll find on TasteSpotting!), but at least this definitely is a Top 10 recipe! From Cook's Illustrated (which also includes an Orange-Almond variation I really must try.)

1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
14 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2+1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk dry ingredients (through salt) together. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in egg & vanilla, then stir in dry ingredients and oats. Divide dough into 24 equal portions (about 2 tablespoons each) and roll into balls. Place on three parchment-lined baking sheets, and flatten dough slightly to about 3/4" thickness. [These do spread quite a bit, so don't put more on a sheet unless you're making smaller cookies.] Lightly sprinkle sea salt over all the cookies. Bake one sheet at a time for 13-16 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, until edges look crisp. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and cool on sheets.

**Update** The Orange-Almond variation is quite good too, although I think I still prefer the plain salted recipe. To make the Orange-Almond, add 2 teaspoons of orange zest to the butter & sugars when you cream them. Then, decrease the oatmeal to 2 cups and add 1 cup chopped, toasted almonds. Do not sprinkle with sea salt.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I love carrots. But I do not like shredded carrot, for reasons unbeknownst to me. A few years ago I bought this implement under the assumption it was a zester.

I'm not sure if it technically is, but I do know that when I want to get some sort of citrus zest I use this implement:

So basically, this first "zester" has been a dud...until I found a new use for it--probably it's proper use--which is julienning!!! It's been a revelation... julienned carrots are so much better (and prettier) than shredded!
Without further ado, here is a recipe using julienned carrots: Sesame-Broccoli Salad. I haven't been making it that long, but every time I have it's been a big hit. (Adapted from an Eating Out Loud recipe here.)

2 heads broccoli, chopped (throw in sliced stems as well)
1 cup lightly packed cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup julienned carrot
2 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds
1/2 cup dried cherries (or cranberries, or raisins)

for dressing:
1/2 cup canola oil (I've been using peanut oil since that's what I had on hand)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 - 2 teaspoons sugar
2 - 3 teaspoons soy sauce

Whisk dressing ingredients together, then pour over salad. Toss to combine and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let flavors meld.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kitchen musings

You know how most pictures of kitchens showcase the spacious layout and fancy appliances? You won't see that here. My kitchen is ridiculously small: 8' x 14'--and it's supposedly "eat-in." Needless to say, I do not eat in it, although I do have a small table in which I deposit the day's detritus. It doesn't have a dishwasher, which made me realize what dishwashers are actually for: hiding dirty dishes. I do not mind washing dishes, I just wish I didn't have to do it so often in order to get rid of the spectacle of dirty dishes.

Nonetheless, it is just me and it's not like I'm catering large dinner parties. Working with limitations (space, as well as--gasp--an electric stove) is not always a bad thing. One adapts. The ability to adapt is a good thing, right?

This is not my kitchen; it's a restaurant in Prague. But I loved their utensil sign, and it made me appreciate my little utensil rack more...

And lest you think there is no color...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Seven Layer Bars

This recipe has been around forever. I have also seen these called Magic Cookie Bars and Hello Dollies. I loved the recipe as a kid: both the fact that you could make it all in the pan, and then of course how good it was, especially if you like super sweet things!

You can see from the recipe card (why oh why, was margarine--or in this case "olio"--in all my recipes from the '70s??) how we used to make it. Today I'd use peanut butter chips instead of butterscotch...though the recipe is obviously open to a myriad of variations!
  1. 1/2 cup (one stick) butter - can be melted right in a 9" x 13" pan!
  2. 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  3. 1 cup coconut
  4. 12 oz. (one package) chocolate chips
  5. 12 oz. (one package) peanut butter chips
  6. 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  7. 1+1/2 cup chopped (not "shopped") nuts
Bake in a 350° oven for 30 minutes.

A corridor of chips (I made this in my zig-zag pan) before adding the sweetened condensed milk.

Monday, May 10, 2010


For many years I didn't really care for hummus and finally I figured out why: tahini sauce does nothing for me. Lots of people use it, and they can continue to do so. But when I first made my own hummus I didn't have any on hand and didn't feel like driving to the grocery store to get some...and I liked the hummus so much more! Another difference with this version is preserved lemon. I realize preserved lemons are not the most common ingredient, but they are very easy to make (though it does take about two months curing time)--just google them and you'll come up with dozens of recipes. Anyway, I almost always have preserved lemon on hand ever since I came across this incredible roast chicken recipe. I can't say that I make it that often, but it is--truly--so wonderful that it is worth having preserved lemon on hand for that recipe alone!

But back to hummus, I think the salty lemony-ness of preserved lemon works perfectly here. The other key ingredients are garlic and cayenne. I happen to like a fair amount of these, but you can add to your taste. (Turns out the lemon-garlic-red pepper triumvirate is also significant in my favorite pasta recipe!) Last but not least, I once read on someone else's blog that processing olive oil makes it turn bitter. I have no idea if this is true--I need some scientist out there to do some testing & analysis! In any case, I usually use a glug or two of peanut oil when I'm processing, then stir in a bit more olive oil at the end.

15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained but liquid reserved
2-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons preserved lemon, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons peanut oil
pinch or two of cayenne pepper
olive oil

Process the first four ingredients, adding a few tablespoons of the chickpea liquid back in to moisten. You may also need to add more peanut oil to get the consistency you want. Empty to a bowl or storage container and stir in the cayenne and a drizzle of olive oil.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Everybody knows the snickerdoodle, but I post it for two reasons...
1. To add it to my Top 10 Cookies set.
2. To make the point that a sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon sugar is not necessarily a snickerdoodle. You must have cream of tartar as well, which adds a little tanginess. I feel strongly abut this. Do not be fooled by impostors!

Another Cooky Book recipe....

2+3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1+1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs

2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together dry ingredients (through salt). Cream the butter, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Stir in the dry ingredients. Shape dough into 1" balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place 2" apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes--cookies will be puffed up, but flatten at they cool. Cool on wire racks.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Just add oil, already!

I've held off posting about the now-famous "No-Knead Bread" recipe because everyone must know about and make this by now, right? I think the original recipe was printed in the New York Times around 2006 and it pretty much swept the nation. I have--truly--made this at least once a month ever since (once a month may not sound like a lot, but it's just me here and I don't even eat that much bread, so actually, for me, it's a lot!). Besides being no-knead, it's also super-easy because it only has three ingredients, plus water.

But now, I am ready to go on the record and announce that adding a fourth ingredient makes a HUGE DIFFERENCE! I'm sure this has been noted many times before, and probably even by Jim Lahey, who came up with the recipe in the first place. But for me, this fourth ingredient is new and revolutionary. Truth be told, the original recipe was getting a little boring.

So this is the difference, people: just add some oil! Suddenly you get a noticeably flakier crumb and crust, and if you use butter, well, it's buttery-tasting-er. I kind of want to eat it all the time.

3 cups flour
1+1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon yeast
1/4 - 1/2 cup oil (butter, olive oil, what have you)
warm water, as needed (about 1+1/2 - 2 cups)

Mix everything up until you get a smooth, if somewhat wet dough. (I manage this just fine with a wooden spoon.) Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 12 - 18 hours. Dump out on a floured surface and let rest for 20 minutes or so. Take a (clean!) dish towel and sprinkle with corn meal. Shape the dough into a ball and place on the dish towel. Let rise for another 1+1/2 - 2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, place a heavy lidded pot (cast iron or dutch oven) in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. When the dough is done rising, lift up the corners of the dish towel and pour the dough into the pot. Put the lid on. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and let cook for another 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pot and let cool on a wire rack. Try not to hack into it too soon!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter 2010

This year's was about as exciting as Easter 2009--that is to say, not very--but I still seem unable to resist making an Easter dessert every year, even if I have no other meal plans. Often I make a Grasshopper Pie, but this year I did a variation of something my mom started years ago which is decorating cake with green-tinted coconut and candy eggs. This year I chose chocolate cupcakes with malted milk eggs (usually I use Cadbury chocolate pastel eggs, but couldn't find them in my grocery store this go 'round). The cupcakes were the same base as Martha Stewart's Hi-Hat cupcakes. It was a fun, if dorky, experience. Then I gave most of them away...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spicy Guinness Mustard

To drink or to cook? In this case I got to do both, since I only made a half recipe (1+1/2 cups of mustard seeds is a lot!) and had half a can of leftover Guinness to drink. Only after buying a jar of yellow mustard seeds did I notice that this recipe called for brown mustard seeds. So I rummaged through my cupboard and actually found some brown ones. But even combining all the yellow and brown seeds, I still came up with only 3/4 of a cup. I don't know how much the final taste was affected by using half yellow seeds, but it certainly came out quite hot! Apparently the flavor will mellow as it ages, however. Like the ketchup I made a few weeks ago, this is from Saveur. Between the two I now I have a lot of condiments on hand. I guess I'll just have to step up my accompanying meats consumption for the next couple months!

12 ounces Guinness Extra Stout
1+1/2 cups brown mustard seeds
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1-2 days so that the mustard seeds soften and flavors meld. Transfer mixture to a food processor and process until seeds are coarsely ground and mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a jar and cover. Refrigerate for up to 6 months.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Curried Chicken Turnovers

For some reason I think of this as a spring recipe--though it's hard to believe spring is really here! Don't skip the dipping sauce; it goes perfectly with the savory filling. Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled & minced
4+1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon flour, plus more for dusting
1+1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup plain yogurt
4+1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt, lemon juice
4 sheets puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, lightly beaten
Cucumber Dipping Sauce (see below)

Rub chicken breasts with salt & pepper and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until cooked through. (The original recipe calls for simmering the breasts in salted water for approximately 12 minutes. I thought baking would be better than poaching, though actually I have no idea!) Let chicken cool, then shred with a fork into 2-inch pieces or smaller.

Heat oil in a large skillet and cook onion, garlic & ginger over medium to medium-high heat until golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in curry powder, cumin and flower; cook one minute. Whisk in stock and bring to a boil. Stir in yogurt, tomato paste and applesauce. Boil one minute, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Stir in peas and chicken and let thicken a bit, about 3 minutes. Stir in cream and season with salt & lemon juice (I'd start with about a teaspoon each). Let mixture cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay a pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface and cut into 4 squares. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the chicken mixture onto each square, leaving a 1-inch border. Brush edges with egg wash and fold over edges to a make a triangle. Press edges to seal. Bake until golden, about 20-25 minutes. Serve with dipping sauce. (Unbaked turnovers can be frozen, wrapped in plastic and foil for one month; thaw before baking.)

Cucumber Dipping Sauce
(this is very similar to a Tzatziki sauce, but without dill or mint)
8 ounces English cucumber, peeled
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Finely dice cucumber (which I prefer), or grate. Press between paper towels or a dish towel to remove as much water as possible. Combine with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate any leftover sauce.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I've been wanting to try this Saveur recipe for a while, but when I opened the fridge and discovered that my ketchup had expired last year (!), I decided NOW was the time. This is spicier and hotter than commercial ketchup, which I like. I would definitely make this again, although what to do with all this ketchup? (I'm actually more of a mustard person!)

4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
2 pounds tomatoes, rough chopped (I used a combination of whole canned tomatoes and large cherry tomatoes, since big tomatoes are not in season)
1+1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar (orig. recipe called for 5 tablespoons)
1 onion, chopped
1 anaheim chile, chopped (I could only find a poblano)
3 cloves garlic, crushed (orig. recipe called for 1 clove)

Wrap cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon, celery seeds, pepper flakes and allspice in a layer of cheesecloth; tie into a bundle and put in a 4-quart saucepan. [FYI, a lot of my celery seeds fell out of the cheesecloth so I just added them to the pot as is.] Add remaining ingredients and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions and chiles are very soft, about 4 minutes. You may need to turn down the heat and/or stir more often if it looks like it's starting to scorch.

Remove spice bundle and puree sauce in a blender until smooth. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer back into saucepan. [This takes forever, and I ended up adding about 1/3 of the solids back in because there's quite a lot left over and I couldn't bear to throw it all out. So mine is not super smooth, but I'm fine with that.] Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Add more salt, sugar or vinegar, if you like. Transfer to a glass jar and let cool. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Bubbling away... (sorry about the flash!)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vegetable Lasagne

I don't remember the last time I made a traditional meat & tomato sauce lasagne. Not that I don't like it, but I love this variation with spinach & carrots even more. I usually make this in a 9" x 9" casserole (more on that below), which means you have to trim the noodles to fit the pan and the layers are quite thick. Alternately you could use a 9" x 13" pan, which would result in thinner layers. Depending on how much crunch you like, you may want to parboil the carrots for a minute or two. I often add them to the spinach towards the end of it's cooking time, and then you can just drain all the veggies together before adding them to the rest of the filling.

Miscellaneous question: why do lasagne noodles always shred when you boil them??

9 cooked lasagne noodles

2+1/2 cups ricotta
1 cup shredded mozzarella and/or fontina cheese (I used an Italian cheese blend this time)
1 cup diced carrot
1 package frozen spinach, cooked & well-drained
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 large onion, finely diced (use 1/2 for filling, 1/2 for sauce)

Mix all ingredients and season with salt & pepper. Spread one layer of noodles in a 9" x 9" or 9" x 13" pan and top with half the filling. Top with layer of noodles, other half of filling, and final layer of noodles. Go to sauce directions...

1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup ricotta

Sauté remaining onions in the oil until soft. Add flour and cook for a minute, then whisk in broth and remaining ricotta. Bring to a boil and simmer until it thickens slightly (shouldn't take long). Season with salt & pepper, if necessary. Pour sauce over the lasagne layers. Sprinkle with additional mozzarella if desired. Cook at 375° for 30-45 minutes, until bubbly around the edges and top is lightly browned.
Below is a favorite casserole that my mother made. Unfortunately, after years of service it has developed this scary crack down the middle. Every time I use it I'm afraid it may be the last. But it held up this time!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wild Rice Chowder

This is a great comfort food for a snowy day like today. It's not as dense as some chowders--it doesn't have any flour or potatoes to bulk it up--but it thickens somewhat when when you blend up part of the soup. Though the wild rice should be tender by the time the soup is done, it still provides a nice, chewy texture. This is adapted from Bon Appetit (I think, not positive).

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
4 ounces smoked ham, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1+1/3 cups wild rice (I only had about a cup on hand and supplemented with a wild rice/long grain mix)
7 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup whipping cream
frozen corn (optional)
parsley, minced (optional--mainly for color)
salt & pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat . Add onion, ham, celery and carrot, and saute until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat. Add the stock and bay leaf, and simmer until rice is very tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Mix in cream. Pur ee 2 cups of the soup with a blender (or immersion blender). Return puree to the rest of the soup and season with salt and pepper. Add corn , if using, and bring to a simmer. Garnish with parsley, if using, and serve.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hi-Hat Cupcakes

In case you can't tell from the photos, these are chocolate cupcakes with a mound of meringue on top, covered with a thin chocolate shell. I'm not going to write out the (long) instructions because Martha Stewart's website recipe is perfectly adequate--and it would take forever to re-type! I will say the following...

1. I love these cupcakes!
2. The chocolate cake base is awesome and perfect for any occasion whether you do the meringue part or not.
3. The meringue is a bitch--but worth it. One time I was using a smallish bowl while beating the egg whites. I stopped holding it for a second, the bowl started spinning like a crazy dervish, and meringue flew everywhere! I was picking off bits of meringue from around the kitchen for days. So use a big bowl!