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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING:

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping. This book is about a young man, a young father also, who loses his beloved wife. He’s barely functioning, trying to get through a day, taking care of his young son. And visiting the cemetery (the one in Montmartre, Paris). There are several peripheral characters (his son, a neighbor and best friend of his departed wife, a good guy friend too, plus a young woman he befriends at the cemetery). As a parting request, his wife asks him to write 33 letters to her after she’s gone, and to put them in a special box hidden in the cemetery monument. And that begins the story.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. It became a monument, of sorts, a lovely garden too, and people became friends, heard their stories of the tsunami and watched as they approached the phone booth, entered, and began to talk solemnly to their loved ones. This book is just amazing. I found myself tearing up several times. Maybe not for everyone, but I can’t imagine anyone not appreciating the poignancy of this special phone booth. And what it did to heal people through grief. I sure could identify.

As you’ve read here many times, I marvel at authors who come up with unusual premises for their books. This one Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding. And yes, it IS somewhat about Grace Kelly’s wedding, but most of the novel is about a young woman perfume designer, Sophie, who accidentally rescues Grace Kelly from the relentless photographers who hound her every move. It begins when Grace visits Monaco for the Cannes Film Festival, and a few days later she meets Prince Rainier. Young Sophie becomes Grace’s friend, and actually, so does the relentless photographer. I can remember when Grace Kelly married the Prince – the fairy tale come true. It was quite the big news (I was in my late teens then). Definitely this story is a romance, but not the sappy type you may be used to. Loved the book.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. The book IS a novel, but the event is true. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. On the voyage the ship encounters a hurricane and several giraffes are lost, but two young ones survive. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission. A young boy (barely an adult) becomes the driver (his only goal is his desire to go to California), with the zoo’s delegate (a middle-aged man with a past), and it’s the story about these two misfits and their caring for the giraffes, feeding them (that’s a laugh – onions play a big part). No freeways existed back then, and the mental picture of the vehicle they used (basically a small truck) with the two giraffes confined within two tall boxes precariously strapped to the truck, and their driving and carrying-on getting under bridges and over rivers is just a hoot. I so wanted this story to be true – parts of it ARE true. Worth reading if you enjoy such animal stories. The giraffes survive, thankfully, and they both lived to a ripe old age at the zoo!

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Maybe she had a bucket list of sorts, and she knew none of those places would ever happen in her life if she stayed put. She sets off to find a long-lost girlfriend. The book is about her journey. Her travels. Friendships, and lost friendships. Everyone can probably empathize with Kay Bright as she examines her life. And yes, there are letters and chapters with her daughter, Stella. Cute book.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one. A novel, however. About her work life and the harrassment she endures (some of it’s with love, some not) and about her relationships. The pros and cons of transferring to a different fire station (just like any job move, not always smooth). Good read.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman. Such relationships were fraught with problems from the very strict Japanese families who resented the American presence in their country, to the American military higher-ups who made it impossible for the servicemen to marry Japanese nationals. Could hardly put it down. Yes, it’s a romance of sorts, but not in the typical sense of today’s novel-romance-writing. There aren’t always happy beginnings, middles or endings, but the in between made for very interesting reading.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s. Wow. What an eye-opener. Of their small but loyal family enclaves, the hard-scrabble lives they led, the near poverty level of farming. I’d never heard that any Indian migrants were a part of farming here in California. Obviously they made up a very small percentage of the immigrants who settled there.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war. Fascinating glimpse into the hardships not only for patients (the war-wounded) but for the underappreciated and hardworking staff at various hospitals (even a tent one in Normandy where she worked for many months after D-Day). She meets her to-be husband and even that is fraught with difficulty from many angles.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. My friend Ann recommended it. I was gripped with the story within the first paragraph, and it never stopped until I turned the last page. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. Some very ugly things happen at that school. Eventually they  escape, and they are “on the run.” With a few others with them. If you loved Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a great appreciation for this story as they use a canoe to get themselves down river. Never having very much to eat and getting into trouble way too often, and authorities on their tail. Well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Vegetarian, on July 8th, 2021.

Utter deliciousness. Is that a word? Should be if it’s not.

A post from Carolyn. You will want to make these. They’re actually quite easy. My granddaughter Taylor has moved in with me because she’s in nursing school at Concordia University here in SoCal. When she finishes her 13-month accelerated nursing program she’ll have her second bachelor’s degree, this one a B.S.N. (nursing). Her first B.S. is in hospital administration. She drove down from NorCal with her good friend Quinn, to keep her company, and I wanted to have dinner for them before Quinn got on a plane to fly home.

So, dinner. My other granddaughter, Sabrina, got me onto a new (to me) blog called Half Baked Harvest. Tieghan is a very gifted and prolific food blogger – she puts together the most interesting combinations of food, and the photography definitely intrigues my taste buds. The impetus of my version was her post about these vegetarian enchiladas. I made some changes to her recipe, however. I added a sweet potato and a yellow squash to the roasted veggies. I didn’t add chipotle (I like chipotle, but thought the mixture had enough heat from the pepper jack, which was quite hot). I didn’t add honey, either. I also used more cheese. And I totally forgot to add all the garnishes (avocado, sour cream for instance). Tieghan is a wizard with garnishes.

The vegetables are roasted – I didn’t buy fresh corn – I used frozen, defrosted – so they aren’t showing up in the photo. I forgot to halve the poblanos. Next time I wouldn’t keep the onions intact as they needed to be separated once adding to the enchiladas, but you can do what you prefer. Really, these enchiladas could be called calabacitas enchiladas, but for sure some Southwestern cooking gurus would lambast me since calabacitas is a vegetable dish, not a Mexican enchilada . . . oh well. Do you ever have these kinds of conversations with yourself? Like my head was going . . . if these are made with flour tortillas, then they become a burrito, don’t they? instead of an enchilada. Corn tortillas = enchiladas; flour tortillas = burritos?? Or the one about calabacitas maybe I should call this calabacitas enchiladas. Or, no, calabacitas burritos. Oh dear, never mind. (telling my brain to be quiet!)

Prepping the veggies was easy – a bit of EVOO, salt and pepper and into a hot oven they went for about 30 minutes. I skinned the poblanos, chopped them up, grated the cheeses and I was in biz. I used a brand of thick salsa verde – a bit is poured into a baking pan/dish, then you make the enchiladas. Now, I used flour tortillas (I prefer them to corn) but you can use either. The veggie mixture with the cheese is put in the center of a tortilla and rolled up, seam side down in the pan. More salsa verde is spread on top (not a lot – just enough to moisten all of the top of the enchiladas), and a little more cheese and back into a hot oven they go. I baked them at 400°F for about 20 minutes (because the veggies were cooled to room temp when I constructed them). If the veggies are still hot from the roasting pan, you could probably bake them less time.

This version made 7 enchiladas. My guests ate two per person; I had one. I suppose it depends on what size tortillas you use. More hungry appetites will want two per person, so keep that in mind if you make this. If your family is sensitive to heat, use regular jack, not pepper jack.

As I said, utter deliciousness. Everybody’s plate was slicked clean.  I served it with a green side salad. I was a bit alarmed at the calorie count on this, AND the sodium. It appears it comes from the flour tortillas, as I had no choice on size. So I hope these really aren’t this high in both.

What’s GOOD: cheesy and veggie goodness. Quinn thought she might be able to fool her growing boys with eating more veggies. You could add some chicken to these if you wanted protein in them. I loved the flavors from the veggies – and the smoked paprika. And the poblano – I love the depth of flavor from that variety of chile pepper. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing really – it does take a bit of time to roast the veggies, but it was a relatively simple dinner to prepare once that was done.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Roasted Poblano Corn and Squash Enchiladas with Cheese

Recipe By: adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Serving Size: 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup corn — or use fresh corn
2 whole poblano peppers — halved
1 small zucchini — chopped
1 small yellow squash — chopped
1 yellow onion — cut in wedges
4 whole garlic cloves — peeled
1 small sweet potato — peeled, 1/2″ cubed
3 cups salsa verde — store bought, chunky
1 chipotle chilies in adobo — optional – chopped (or 1/2 tablespoon chipotle chili powder)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 cup fresh cilantro — chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil — chopped
7 flour tortillas — or corn tortillas, 8″ size
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese — grated
1/2 cup pepper jack cheese — or regular jack, grated
Garnishes: avocado, yogurt or sour cream, cilantro, lime wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2. Arrange the corn, poblano, sweet potato, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then toss with your hands. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables have a light char.
3. Remove the corn kernels from the cob, de-seed the poblano peppers and chop, along with the onions and garlic. Add everything back to the baking sheet and toss with 1 cup salsa verde, the chipotle, paprika, half the cheese, the cilantro, and basil.
4. Reduce oven temp to 400°F.
4. Pour a cup of the salsa verde into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Tip the dish to cover. On a plastic cutting board or plate, place tortilla, then spoon the vegetable-cheese filling down the center; roll and place the tortillas, seam side down, into the baking dish. Pour the remaining salsa verde over top of the enchiladas. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes, OR until the cheese has melted and just beginning to get golden brown. If vegetable mixture is at room temp, baking may take longer. Top with various garnishes and serve.
Yield: “7 enchiladas”
Per Serving (sodium and calorie levels seem exceedingly high – probably from the tortillas – even though I specified the size, it doesn’t recognize that part): 647 Calories; 37g Fat (52.1% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 53g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 77mg Cholesterol; 2047mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 553mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 859mg Potassium; 511mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on March 30th, 2021.

corn_poblano_chile_lasagna_baked

A combination that is positively made in heaven. Lasagna with a Southwest twist.

Linda_T2My good friend Linda, who lives about 50 miles south of me, (pictured at right) spent a few days with me out in Palm Desert. (We’ve been friends for about 30 years.) We agreed ahead of time that we’d maybe go out to lunch, and would cook dinner in. She cooked dinner one night, and I did it the following evening. This is what Linda made – and oh my goodness – is it ever good. There are a number of recipes here on this blog from my friend Linda, who is an excellent cook. If you do a search (search box top left on my home page) for “Linda,” all of her recipes should come up.

corn_poblano_before_baking

There’s the casserole before baking.

Since I try to reduce carbs, this was a super-treat for me. Lasagna in any form is a treat. But corn and poblano sounded so good. Linda said she was served this lasagna at the home of a friend, and she was SO enamored with it, she wouldn’t leave until the hostess gave her the recipe. Linda has made it many times since then, and has altered the original recipe a little bit.

The original recipe came from Marcela Valladolid (Food Network). In the comments many people increased the number of zucchini, onion, and increased the corn too. And increased the peppers. She did all of those things, and Linda also added just a little bit more to the corn and cream mixture too.

corn_poblano_lasagna_servingSo what is it? It’s lasagna noodles layered with roasted poblano (pasilla) chiles, thinly sliced (and cooked) zucchini, a mixture of corn and cream, and plenty of grated Mozzarella cheese. Linda had made it the morning we went to Palm Desert. She took it in a Rachael Ray Lasagna Lugger, Marine Blue Stripe Casserole Carrier, 13X9. If you don’t own one of these, you should – they are just the best out there. I bought the carrier for her several years ago. I own one too, and it’s rated highly for keeping the temp of things (both hot or cold) better than most other carriers out there.

mex_chop_saladSo I didn’t see all the work that went into making this (yes, it’s a lot), but then making any kind of lasagna is a labor of love, I think! It went into the oven and baked for about 50 minutes, then we turned on the broiler, and it took only a few minutes to get the top really golden brown.

Linda also made Mexican Chopped Salad, a Phillis Carey recipe (picture at right) I’ve had on my blog since 2007. I hadn’t made that salad in a long time, and it went so well with the Southwest style lasagna.

What’s GOOD: the unusual flavors for a lasagna. SO tasty. Different. Worth all the work, Linda says. I absolutely love the unique flavor of poblano/pasilla chiles, so this was a winner in my book!

What’s NOT: This recipe takes a lot of time to make and assemble, requires the use of lots of pots and dishes, plus it’s high fat with cream. The carb count on this is off the charts. You could try to cut this into 10 servings, but I assure you, hungry eaters will go back for a second portion if you do that.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Corn and Poblano Lasagna

Recipe By: Marcela Valladolid, Food Network
Serving Size: 8

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic — minced
2 1/2 cups frozen corn — thawed, may use fire-roasted style
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large white onion — thinly sliced (on Mandoline preferably)
8 medium poblano chiles — also called pasilla, charred, peeled, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips, or use 4-5 if they’re very large
2 medium zucchini — halved crosswise, then thinly sliced, preferably on Mandoline
12 lasagna noodles — plus a couple extra in case of breakage during cooking
3 cups mozzarella cheese — grated, or Oaxaca cheese, reserving 1 cup for the top of the casserole.

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add two-thirds of the garlic and the corn and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream. Add dried thyme. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and season with the thyme and some salt and pepper, and puree until smooth. Pour out into a 6-cup measuring cup/bowl, so you can measure how much you pour onto each layer.
3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and cook for 1 minute. Mix in the poblano strips and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.
4. Reserve one cup of the grated cheese to put on the top.
5. Spread about one-quarter of the corn mixture over the bottom of an 11-by-8-inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Spread one-quarter of the poblano mixture and one-quarter of the cheese over the pasta. Repeat the layering three more times. Add cheese to top layer. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the casserole (inside dimensions – this is to keep the cheese from sticking to the foil) then cover casserole with foil.
6. Bake until the pasta is cooked and tender, about 50 minutes. Remove the foil and turn up the oven temperature to broil. Broil until golden brown and bubbly, 5 to 8 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.
Per Serving (this calorie count is too high – I think the recipe program doesn’t interpret the pasta correctly – I think it’s more like 750 calories per serving – still high, but more reasonable than this): 1138 Calories; 55g Fat (43.1% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 121g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 169mg Cholesterol; 466mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 2mcg Vitamin D; 542mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 685mg Potassium; 668mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on November 8th, 2020.

pasta_alla_vodka

Ever had vodka sauce over pasta? SO delicious.

Back last month when my grandson Vaughan was staying with me, he prepared an additional dinner. His signature dish. Can you imagine a 13-year old having his own “signature dish?” He’s prepared it for many sections of the family, and to family friends too. I’d not been there on any of those occasions, so he offered to make it for the two of us. He asked if I had any sausage to serve along with it – I did. You can see the Italian sausage coins in the back side of the plate above. It was not cooked with the sauce, but provided some protein for the meal.

He prepared the sauce. I had a box of Capello’s almond pasta (which is the best non-wheat pasta I’ve had) in the freezer, so I used it (in photo above). I didn’t use all the pasta, so had enough to make a second pasta dish (up soon), a Rachel Ray dish with pancetta and radicchio. Vaughan really prefers rigatoni with this (because the large tubes will hold a lot more sauce per bite); I didn’t have any, so we used penne for his.

vaughan_making_pasta_vodka_sauceAnyway, what I will say is that my kitchen was a big mess when we got done. Vaughan did the sauce; I cooked both of the pastas and prepared the Italian sausage. We had 4 burners going (because my pasta needed to be cooked separately from the penne). Today I discovered a splatter of vodka sauce on a container somewhat near the kitchen range – I hadn’t noticed it at the time. That sauce went everywhere.

There’s Vaughan at left – he was grating Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I suggested to him that we get everything out and ready, so when he started making the sauce, we’d be prepared to serve when it was done. The recipe calls for a shallot, garlic, tomato paste (not tomato sauce), red pepper flakes, cream (not a lot) and the grated cheese. The sauce is prepared in a large skillet – and a warning – don’t stir too vigorously or you, too, will get sauce in various places near your stove.

vodka_sauceThe sauce comes together very quickly once you begin. First the shallot and garlic cook over a very low heat in butter (you do not want even golden browned garlic). If I were making this, I’d cook the shallot first and add the garlic during the last minute so there would be no chance of burning the garlic. Then you add the tomato paste, red pepper flakes and the vodka (only 2 T). At the last you add in the cream and some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce a little bit, and some Parm. The pasta is stirred into the sauce on the stove, but off heat (NOT poured on top on your plate), and when you serve it, add more Parm on top and if you think of it, sprinkle a few basil leaves for garnish. I had some, but didn’t realize the recipe called for it.

The sauce takes little time – Vaughan was very diligent keeping the sauce stirred frequently. That’s a ceramic pan, so nothing stuck to it at all. Thank you, Vaughan, for making dinner! So delicious!

What’s GOOD: such a flavorful sauce. The tomato paste gives it lots of character. Vaughan said he’s made it using tomato sauce and it’s definitely not as good. So be sure to use tomato paste.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. Fabulous pasta sauce.

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Pasta alla Vodka

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Delish
Serving Size: 4

3 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot — minced
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 cup tomato paste — do not use tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons vodka
kosher salt
1 pound pasta — such as penne or rigatoni
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons basil — torn, for garnish

NOTE: It’s important to save the pasta cooking water as some of it is used in the sauce.
1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until paste has coated shallots and garlic and is beginning to darken, 5 minutes.
2. Add vodka to pot and stir to incorporate, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Turn off heat.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water before draining.
4. Return sauce to medium heat and add 1/4 cup of pasta water and heavy cream, stirring to combine. Add half the Parmesan and stir until melted. Turn off heat and stir in cooked pasta. Fold in remaining Parmesan, adding more pasta water (about a tablespoon at a time) if the sauce is looking dry. Season with salt if needed. Serve topped with more Parmesan and torn basil leaves.
Per Serving: 647 Calories; 21g Fat (30.3% calories from fat); 17g Protein; 93g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 57mg Cholesterol; 105mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 64mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 637mg Potassium; 266mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Vegetarian, on April 24th, 2020.

mushroom_masala

A vegetarian Indian entrée. Full of meaty mushrooms and sauce.

It’s not news here that I enjoy Indian food. So, lacking the ability to go visit a restaurant these days (although take-out is certainly an option), I took the problem into my own hands and tried something new in my own kitchen. As I write this (actually about 3 weeks ago) I’m having others go grocery shopping for me. My neighbor went to Costco and I asked for mushrooms. I got a one-pound box. Lots. More than I’d usually use. But instead of making a vegetable side dish and mushroom soup, I had this recipe in my head. I found the original recipe online and adapted it to my somewhat limited Indian-spiced kitchen. And oh, this was wonderful. The original was made in the instant pot. I chose not to; no particular reason. I just thought a longer, slower cooking would provide more flavor.

What I didn’t have was Kashmiri red chili powder. No-can-do. But I had New Mexican chile powder, which has really rich, deep flavor. I also didn’t have dried fenugreek leaves. My little bottle of fenugreek is likely 15 years old, and it’s not leaves anyway, so that got left out altogether. I didn’t have cashews, either, so instead of a cashew-cream to drizzle on top I used yogurt mixed with milk. And a little sour cream. Probably not authentic. Oh well. In these times of self-quarantine, we do the best we can, right?

Ghee was melted in a big pot, then onion was added and lightly sautéed until translucent. Then I added fresh ginger and garlic. The mushrooms were added then, but as expected, the mixture was quite dry. I stirred it a bit, added the turmeric, then the fairly big jar of passatta tomatoes (a kind of puree). That gave plenty of liquid. I added the chile powder, stirred, then the garam masala and salt. After cooking just slightly, I put a lid on it and put the pot in the oven for about 2 hours at a low-low temperature. I thought the mixture was too thick to cook well over the heat of a gas burner – the oven provided gentle but all-around heat.

Meanwhile, I made a small pot of rice in my instant pot. I’ve read that if you slightly undercook rice, it doesn’t get absorbed so much as a carb. And that if you make it ahead and refrigerate overnight, it also allows less absorption. Sounds good to me. Making rice in the instant pot is so incredibly easy – if nothing else, I want you to remember this part:

Instant Pot Rice: add 1 cup rice (I used basmati), 1 1/4 cups water or broth, a tablespoon of fat (combo of butter and EVOO) and a big pinch of salt to the Instant Pot. Cook on pressure for 3 minutes. Vent immediately, remove lid and allow to cool.

I made this masala the day before I ate it  – kind of like soup – always better if allowed to chill overnight. I have nothing but time on my hands these days, so that was no big deal. The next day it was so simple to scoop out a bit of rice into a bowl, spoon an ample portion of the mushroom masala on top, then heat in the microwave for 2 minutes on high. Meanwhile I made the yogurt cream to drizzle and chopped up the cilantro. Done. As I write this, it’s been my lunch for 3 days in a row and I’m not at all tired of it.

What’s GOOD: oh, the flavor for sure. Mushrooms have umami, one of those enhanced flavor profiles, and it comes through in spades here. Very satisfying. The rice (made as paragraphed above) was still just slightly chewy which I liked, and the mushroom mixture was just so good. Altogether delicious.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. A bunch of cutting of mushrooms, but that’s all.

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Mushroom Masala

Recipe By: Adapted from Ministry of Curry blog, 2020
Serving Size: 5

1 pound mushrooms — rinsed, blotted dry and sliced
1 tablespoon ghee — or EVOO
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 large yellow onion — minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger — grated
2 teaspoons garlic — minced
1 1/2 cups tomato puree — or same amount of peeled fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 tablespoon red chili powder — [I used New Mexico, though that would not be traditional]
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon milk — or half and half
Cilantro leaves chopped for garnish
INSTANT POT RICE:
1 cup basmati rice
1 1/4 cups water — or broth
2 teaspoons ghee
2 teaspoons EVOO
2 pinches salt

1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
2. In a large pot (that has a good fitting lid) heat ghee over medium heat. Add onion, stir and saute over low heat for 4-6 minutes until onion is translucent. Add ginger and garlic and continue stirring for about a minutes.
3. Add the sliced mushrooms and stir well, then add the tomatoes. Add turmeric, chile powder, garam masala and salt.
4. Put lid on pot and bake for about 2 hours. Remove from oven, cool and allow to refrigerate overnight, if time permits. Reheat over low heat until bubbling.
5. INSTANT POT RICE: To instant pot add rice, water/broth, ghee and EVOO. Pressure cook rice on high for 3 minutes. Vent and cool. May be served immediately or chill overnight. To serve: Scoop about 1/3 to 1/2 cup rice into each serving plate or bowl, then top with ample portion of mushroom masala.
5. Meanwhile, mix yogurt with milk and drizzle on top, then add chopped cilantro.
Per Serving: 324 Calories; 15g Fat (39.7% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 776mg Sodium.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on April 12th, 2020.

broccoli_spaghetti

This recipe has such an interesting story. I hope you’ll read it to learn why it’s called “Stop Trying So Hard” Broccoli Spaghetti.

Reading other blogs is a favorite pastime for me. And Food52 is one of them, with the staff there posting sometimes 4-6 stories a day. And perhaps because I had so much time on my hands the day I read this story, I read more of them than usual. I might have breezed by it just because I don’t eat much pasta. But I did click through (and am so glad I did, as the story is just so fun) and read the short saga of a young chef, James Park, who moved away from his home in South Korea to New York City. Some years had past and he hadn’t made the time to fly home to visit his family. Finally, his family decided to visit him. He went into semi-panic mode. He lives in a tiny, tiny Manhattan apartment and he needed to house them (his mother, father and brother) in the space. And he needed to cook for them. As the arrival became closer he mapped out what he would do with them, partly being tourists and he thought he’d take them to some of his favorite restaurant haunts, assuming they’d be impressed not only with the food, but with his now-prodigious knowledge of food. Uh, no. It didn’t happen that way. They didn’t want American food at all. They wanted to eat Korean food.

The chef never mentioned how difficult it must have been to sleep everyone in his small home space, but he did mention the various restaurants he took his family to, encouraging them to order particular dishes that were his favorites.

But I’ll back up. Arriving at his apartment from the airport with his family in tow:

“. . .per my mother’s request for pasta, I made my signature dish of penne, rosemary-infused oil, charred Italian sausage, and lots of Parmesan cheese—a weeknight go-to for me. This pasta was, in many ways, a reflection of various flavor-building techniques I had learned in culinary school. I wanted them to taste it, to see what their new chef son had learned during our years apart. Aiming to impress, I plated the pasta with extra Parm and garnished with fried rosemary, a flourish of freshly cracked black pepper.”

Her response (he obviously wanted, desperately, to impress his mother) was that this certainly wasn’t what she had been hoping for. She took a bite and said this is good, but she wanted that “other thing.” The one that was white and creamy. She said, you were eating it once when we were FaceTiming.

“. . . To many older Koreans, especially those of my mom’s generation, “pasta” is a dish with long noodles, pretty much always spaghetti, drenched in either tomato or cream sauce. Koreans love their cream pastas. Now that I think back on it, oil-based pastas, like the one I had just made, were not something my family would’ve ever associated with pasta.”

So, on their last morning there, he dug into his memory and tried to recall what he might have been eating during that long-ago phone call and pulled ingredients from his pantry and frig. His mother took a bite and made a satisfying sound of contentment. Yes, this is it, she said. It rated a 10 out of 10 in his mother’s eye. So Chef Park named this Simple Stop-Trying-So-Hard Broccoli Spaghetti, obviously referring to his wanting so hard to impress his family (mother) and finally resorting to something he threw together.

broccoli_spaghetti_cookingWith that kind of story, the recipe had been percolating in my head for the last 2 weeks or so. I had a big bunch of broccoli. I had some thin linguine (my fav). I had milk. And I had lemons. (My Meyer lemon tree is absolutely drooping from the weight of so many lemons.) This recipe is kind of incongruous – adding milk into a pot full of broccoli and onion? Doesn’t even sound good (oh, but it is).

Really, the only change I made was to double the amount of broccoli, and I also cut some of the stem to add in as well. So mine had more broccoli per serving. Not a bad thing.

What’s GOOD: how easy it is to make as long as you have broccoli. This is a dish you could throw together in less than 30 minutes. I don’t buy frozen broccoli, but I’m sure you could make it with that as well. Good flavor, although it’s somewhat bland (just know that if you make this) – with the only highlight the red chili flakes that give this a little zip. I think I’d try to make more “sauce” if you can call it that. When you add in a bit of the pasta water, usually it helps thicken some of the liquid, but mine didn’t do that very well. Since I’m into comfort food these days, this definitely filled the bill, so to speak. The milky consistency was actually quite good. Next time I might add just a tetch of chicken broth granules to the milky broth, but it wouldn’t be a necessary thing. It’s good just the way it is.

What’s NOT: not a thing as long as you have broccoli, pasta, lemon zest and milk. Everything else will likely be in your pantry already (onion, red chili flakes, Parm, garlic powder, butter, oil, fresh garlic). I noticed the leftover pasta had soaked up all the remaining milk, so I may need to add a bit more for reheating.

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Simple Stop-Trying-So-Hard Broccoli Spaghetti

Recipe By: James Park, NYC chef
Serving Size: 4

8 ounces pasta — like spaghetti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic — half sliced and half crushed
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 medium onion — sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 teaspoon lemon zest — or more
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Melt butter and olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat. When butter is melt, add sliced and crushed garlic and red pepper flakes until they are fragrant. Stir occasionally to make sure garlic and red pepper flakes don’t get burnt.
2. Once they are fragrant, add sliced onion and broccoli florets. Season them with salt and pepper. Toss everything until onions are translucent and florets are tender but still firm, for 3-4 minutes. Add lemon zest at the end and quickly toss everything again until it’s fragrant.
3. Add whole milk to the pot with salt and garlic powder and let it simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, cook pasta in heavily salted water, occasionally stirring, until very al dente (2–3 minutes less than package directions). Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
5. Using tongs, add pasta to milk broth. Cook everything over high heat and bring everything together with pasta water and Parmesan for a minute, or until the pasta is cooked when you taste, “al dente” if you can.
6. Serve pasta with freshly cracked black pepper and more grated Parmesan cheese.
Per Serving: 391 Calories; 13g Fat (29.6% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 28mg Cholesterol; 404mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, Vegetarian, on March 25th, 2020.

veg_sheetpan_bowl_arugula_wh_beans

A great combo of flavors – all tasty by themselves, but tossed with a light balsamic dressing, it takes it to a tastier level.

When this veggie bowl was served to me I was certain I wasn’t going to care for it. I was at a cooking class, and often this instructor includes a vegetarian entrée at her classes. Then I took a bite, and decided it was really quite wonderful. I don’t eat very many beans (carbs) and I definitely don’t eat hardly any potatoes, either (more carbs) so I ate a bite or two of those things and devoured the rest of the bowl. It’s the dressing that pulls it all together.

Truly, I love sheetpan dinners – and this one is very easy – it’s just done in stages – pine nuts first (and removed), then potatoes and garlic, and zucchini last. Meanwhile, you make up the dressing – adding the roasted garlic to it once you take the sheetpan out of the oven. The arugula adds a lovely texture to this – making it equally a salad rather than just roasted vegetables, and as I mentioned, the dressing just enhances it all. When I make it myself, I’ll probably use sweet potatoes since they are healthier for me.

I’ve adjusted the recipe to use fewer potatoes (and added the sweet potato option). Do chop up the arugula – if it’s mature arugula it can be quite unruly to eat – easier to eat if chopped. The cold halved tomatoes also add a nice textural contrast. Making it for myself I’d add more zucchini and fewer beans, but that’s totally up to you. I don’t think you can buy half cans of cannellini beans!

What’s GOOD: for me the dressing brought all the various ingredients together and made it more of a salad than a sheetpan dinner, exactly. Loved the dressing element. Liked the contrast using chopped arugula and fresh tomatoes.

What’s NOT: only that it helps to have everything out and ready when you start – you make this in stages, but still, all on one pan. Yeah!

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Sheetpan Veggie Bowl with Cannellini Beans and Arugula

Recipe By: Cooking class with Susan V, 2/2020
Serving Size: 4

1/4 cup pine nuts
1 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes — cut into 1-inch cubes (or substitute sweet potatoes)
4 cloves garlic — unpeeled
1/4 cup olive oil — divided
3/4 teaspoon salt — divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper — divided
2 zucchini — quartered and cut into 1-inch slices
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
15 ounces canned cannellini beans — drained and rinsed
3 cups baby arugula — chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes — halved

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200 degrees C).
2. Spread pine nuts on a sheetpan; roast until golden and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
3. Place potatoes and garlic on the sheetpan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake 20 minutes. Add zucchini and rosemary, toss, then continue roasting until vegetables are tender and browned, about 20 minutes. Let cool about 5-10 minutes.
4. Squeeze roasted garlic out of its skin into a small bowl, mashing it slightly with a fork. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, balsamic vinegar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; whisk to combine.
5. Toss roasted potatoes and zucchini in a large bowl with beans, chopped arugula, tomatoes, and dressing. Serve in bowls sprinkled with toasted pine nuts.
Per Serving: 670 Calories; 19g Fat (25.0% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 97g Carbohydrate; 20g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 436mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, Vegetarian, on December 7th, 2019.

potato_pie_montlucon_slice

Montluçon just means this pie’s origins are French. This is a marvelous brunch dish, or hearty entrée for a holiday breakfast. Or a light Sunday supper, even.

Having made this about 4-5 months ago and having taken pictures of it, I was finally getting around to doing something with the photos. I thought I’d posted this recipe years and years ago – because I’ve been making this forever (I believe I made this the first time in 1981), and I was going to update the photos. But I certainly can’t find any post on my blog about it. I served it to a group of friends who came to my house to watch a movie. It was a fund-raising event I did for my P.E.O. chapter in which they bid on coming to my home to watch The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie. Our book group had read it a few years ago, and the movie is available on amazon prime (I think that’s where I found it) and I’d serve lunch. So, I prepared a meal suitable for the movie title – potato pie.

The recipe came from an ancient French cookbook I had (or still have somewhere) from Sunset Magazine. How many times have I made it? Probably 15-20 times. It was a frequent entrée I served over the years when Dave and I did brunch on our boat. We’d invite a group of friends (4 guests plus us) for an early morning sail on a Saturday or Sunday (after church), we’d brew up a big pot of strong coffee, I’d have fresh fruit, maybe sausages, maybe a green salad, and after we’d enjoyed a late morning brunch I’d serve some kind of dessert. And champagne would be a featured item on the menu. Normally I prepared the pie the night before, let it sit out on the kitchen counter overnight to cool, took it to the boat and reheated it in the small oven onboard. Once heated I’d pour in the additional cream through the little window in the piecrust that was called for in the recipe, let the cream soak in a bit, then slice it and serve.

potato_pie_wholeThere’s nothing all that unusual about it – a rich, buttery pie crust is made. You can use the most recent pie crust recipe I posted in 2018 that uses some cornstarch. It was a winner of a recipe. You’ll need to double the recipe to get enough for a top crust too. The top crust is important – it holds in the moisture so the potatoes steam-cook. Do notice, there is no cheese in this recipe.

The potatoes are thinly sliced (use the food processor so they’re evenly sliced, or a hand-held slicer), layered with salt and pepper, then the top crust is affixed. Cut a hole in the center so the steam can escape and pour in most of the cream. Bake until golden brown, then when you’ve removed it from the oven you add the extra cream, as I mentioned. Be sure to use enough salt – potatoes require a LOT of it.

What’s GOOD: can be made ahead and reheated. Wonderful flavor. Rich. Hearty. Different.

What’s NOT: only if you’re on a carb-restricted diet, it wouldn’t be so good for you! This is a tried and true recipe. Surprisingly it doesn’t have all that many calories – moderate fat grams, however.

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Potato Pie Montlucon

Recipe By: old Sunset magazine cookbook about France
Serving Size: 8

2 each pie crusts (9 inch) — to make one double crust pie
4 1/2 cups russet potatoes — thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons onion — minced
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter

1. Prepare the pastry dough. I use a short crust dough, make one half slightly larger than the other and chill. Roll out the larger piece to fit into a 9-inch pie pan, or a 9-inch cake pan, or even a springform pan.
2. In a large bowl mix together the sliced potatoes, onion, salt and pepper. Arrange the potatoes compactly in the pastry shell. Pour in 3/4 cup of heavy cream and dot the potatoes with the 1 T. of butter.
3. Roll out the remaining pastry and fit over the potatoes, sealing the edges. Cut a 1-inch diameter round hole in the center of the pastry. Brush top of pastry with some of the remaining heavy cream, which gives it a lovely glaze.
4. Preheat oven to 375°, and bake the pie, uncovered, for an hour and 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove from the oven and pour (through the hole in the middle) as much of the remaining cream as the pie will hold. Allow it to sit for a few minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.
5. If making this ahead, do not add the cream at the end, but cool the pie, cover and refrigerate until the next day. Reheat the pie in a 350° oven for 50 minutes. Then add the cream and allow to sit for just a minute of two to allow the cream to absorb. Cut into wedges and serve.
Per Serving: 384 Calories; 25g Fat (57.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 45mg Cholesterol; 456mg Sodium.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on August 8th, 2018.

mushroom_asparagus_garlic_sauce_shirataki

You know about shirataki noodles? They’re a pseudo-pasta. They contain zip-zero-nada carbs.

Many years ago when shirataki noodles became more widely available, I bought some for my DH and me to try. Since he was a Type 1 diabetic, any suggestions on how to reduce carbs was a good thing in his world (and hence, mine). We prepared them according to the package directions, and I served them with some kind of sauce (don’t remember what). We thought they tasted awful. They had a kind of musty taste and the texture was mushy. Yuk. Well, since then, since I’ve gone on the Gundry (Plant Paradox) diet, I’ve learned more about these shirataki noodles (Gundry calls them fool-dles) and have followed his method of preparation (which isn’t much more work, but there are 3 steps to it – rinsing, cooking, drying). I decided to give them another try, and was very surprised at how good they tasted this time. You can find them in most mainstream grocery stores, usually in the refrigerated Asian section – they come in a flat pack, clear. There are a few brands out there – I used Miracle Noodles. They also come in a spaghetti shape and rice shape. What’s nice, is that the noodle becomes zero calories (they are made from an Asian yam and apparently they just slip through your digestive track without metabolizing, hence zero calories).

Now, you need to know, I love mushrooms. I’ll eat them just about anytime, although I rarely eat them raw (like in a salad). But cook them in a little oil and butter, salt and pepper, and I’m a happy camper. I love mushroom soup, and this came about because I had about a cup of mushroom soup without cream in my refrigerator. So I started with that and enhanced the mixture with more ingredients, and this soup was created. Since you won’t want to prepare a whole recipe of that soup, I’ve re-arranged it here with all the ingredients from the soup, plus the enhancements I added.

When I made it, it served two and I was tickled to have a second portion to have as leftovers. But here, I’ve started you off with 2 packages of shirataki noodles (I used the fettuccine shape) so it will make 4 portions, I believe. If you’re feeding a starving teenager, then this amount of shirataki may not satisfy. You can easily make this with regular pasta. I’m just telling you how I’m able to eat it with this carb-free diet I’m on.

This sauce comes together in a hurry – although you DO want to utilize some dried mushrooms in this (they have a LOT of flavor, believe it or not), and they need to be soaked in warm water for at least half an hour. But the rest of the preparation is just chopping and slicing the various ingredients. And then combining them at the right time. You don’t have to use asparagus, but I had some in my refrigerator and thought they added a lovely texture and flavor to the dish.

What’s GOOD: the mushroom flavor is very prominent (a good thing for me anyway), and I loved all the different textures of the different mushrooms. And the asparagus. And the shirataki. As long as you don’t overcook the shirataki, they also have good texture. Overcook them, and they become mushy. Obviously, don’t do that!

What’s NOT: there is a bit of prepping – all the slicing and dicing, but truly it’s not that time consuming.

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Mushroom and Asparagus Shirataki [Pasta]

Recipe By: my own concoction
Serving Size: 4

12 ounces shirataki noodles — (I used fettucine shape) 6 ounce packages serve two
SAUCE:
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 medium onion — diced
1 large shallot — minced
1 large leek — cleaned, chopped
1 ounce dried mushrooms — cleaned, reconstituted in water for 30 minutes
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms — cleaned, sliced thickly
4 ounces shiitake mushroom — stems removed, chopped
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1/2 pound fresh asparagus — (use small stemmed ones) cleaned, chopped in 1″ lengths
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 large garlic clove — minced
1 cup low sodium chicken broth — or more if needed
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream — or half and half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — optional
3 tablespoons Italian parsley — minced EVOO to drizzle on top (optional)

1. NOODLES: Drain fluid from shirataki noodle package. Place noodles in colander and rinse well under tap water for 1- 2 minutes, using your fingers to move the noodles around. (Alternately, rinse for one minute, then place them in a clean bowl, fill with cold water and allow to rest for about 5 minutes, swishing them around once or twice.) Drain noodles.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a sprinkle of salt and cook the noodles for 1-3 minutes (read package directions) until they are not quite done. If you overcook them they will be mushy. Cooked just under-done, they’ll be similar to al dente pasta. Drain and place noodles out on paper towels to dry. Move them around a little so they all will dry. Allow to sit at room temp while you prepare the sauce.
3. SAUCE: In a large skillet over medium heat, pour in EVOO and when hot add onion and shallot. Cook, stirring frequently, until both are translucent and mostly cooked through. Add fresh mushrooms and dried mushrooms (discarding the soaking liquid) and cook for 1-2 minutes until mushrooms have begun to cook through. Add fresh garlic and cook 3-4 minutes, then add chicken broth. Add fresh asparagus. Allow sauce to cook for 2-4 minutes, simmering. Test the asparagus to see that it is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add butter and cream and bring to a simmer. Add the noodles and allow mixture to simmer until the noodles are hot throughout.
4. SERVE: Using tongs, scoop up equal portions of noodles on plates and then spoon the sauce on top, dividing equally. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top, then sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and fresh parsley. Serve immediately. You may also add a drizzle of EVOO on top as extra flavor.
Per Serving: 389 Calories; 24g Fat (51.6% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 9g Dietary Fiber; 56mg Cholesterol; 366mg Sodium.

Posted in Vegetarian, on April 29th, 2018.

savory_teff_tart_chard_sweet_potatoes

No, it’s not pizza. Sort of looks like it, with some arugula on top. It’s a grain type crust with a filling that contains caramelized onions, sweet potatoes, Feta cheese and Swiss chard.

When I was served this tart, I’d only heard the name teff. Knew nothing about it. Had never tasted it. It bakes up kind of dark (see the crust at the back edge?) and it’s crunchy. Even though the grains are tiny, they don’t dissolve, but they remain crunchy through the baking. I liked that part. Teff is an ancient grain and is full of iron, in case you need some in your diet. It’s a carb, of course. You can buy both the grains (whole, tiny little things) or you can buy teff flour. In this recipe, don’t use teff flour, only the grains.teff_grains

There at right you can see a photo of the grains. It’s hard to get a perspective with the photo – but those grains are about the size of poppy seeds. Golden brown, obviously.

teff_grains_pkgSo the crust you make here contains regular flour too, along with salt, butter and ice water to bring it together. You make it, then chill it for a bit, to make it easier to roll out and get into a tart pan. Use a tart pan with a removable bottom. You can press the pastry some to get it up into the edges. It’s chilled for a bit again, then you pre-bake it, blind bake with foil inside and filled with pie weights or dried beans. The only caution with this tart has to do with the baking . . . After baking for about 10 minutes, lift a corner of the foil. If any of the tart shell sticks to the foil, bake another 1-2 minutes and check again. It shouldn’t take much more than that. If it sticks, the shell isn’t quite cooked through and will get soggy.

Meanwhile you will have started on the filling. Sweet potatoes need to be baked, then cooled, peeled and chopped into small pieces. Red onions need to be rendered and caramelized, which takes awhile. Balsamic vinegar is added to the sweet potato mixture and another little jot added to the Swiss chard mixture. Some Feta is crumbled up and you use eggs to hold the filling together. Those things are layered in a particular order, then the tart is baked for 25-30 minutes, then the caramelized onions are added on top. They warm up just from the temperature of the tart coming out of the oven. Garnish the top with some arugula and serve warm. Or it can be served at room temp, but I’d recommend the warm version. The recipe came from Tarla Fallgatter, at a recent cooking class.

What’s GOOD: the crunch of the teff, for sure. Liked the combination of sweet potatoes and Swiss chard, plus the little bit of Feta. And the super-sweet caramelized onion add a lovely flavor. Altogether delish.

What’s NOT: this takes a bit of work on all counts – baking the potatoes, making the crust and blind-baking it, chopping  up all the other ingredients and cooking both the Swiss chard part separately from the sweet potato part. Just more work than you might think.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Savory Teff Tart with Swiss Chard, Sweet Potato and Feta

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 8

CRUST:
1 cup teff grains — see notes (not teff flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces unsalted butter — cold, cut into pieces
4 tablespoons ice water — or up to 1 T. more
FILLING:
2 medium sweet potatoes — roasted until tender, cooled, peeled, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium red onions — peeled, halved, sliced 1/4″ thick
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large garlic cloves — peeled, chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard — (large quantity)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 ounces Feta cheese — crumbled
1 pinch red chili flakes
2 large eggs
freshly ground black pepper
arugula, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Notes: do seek out teff grains, not teff flour. It may be hard to find, although you can buy it on amazon if you’re inclined to order there. Health food stores will likely have it and probably Whole Foods.
1. CRUST: Combine teff, flour and salt in food processor. Pulse in butter and add just enough ice water to form a dough. Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes. Roll dough into a 14-inch circle and unroll over an 11-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Chill tart. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake tart blind, lined with foil and filled with pie weights or dried beans. Test tart at 10 minutes by lifting up an edge of the foil. If the dough sticks, bake another minute. Test again until the foil doesn’t stick – approximately 10-12 minutes. Cool on a rack and remove pie weights and foil carefully.
2. Heat olive oil in saute pan and add onions, stirring, and cook until onions wilt and develop a dark-brown color, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low, partially cover pan with foil and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have caramelized. Add balsamic vinegar and stir until it evaporates and glazes the onions. Set aside for later.
3. Remove onions and set aside. Add second amount of olive oil to the pan and stir in garlic. Cook just until fragrant. Add swiss chard and cook on medium heat until completely wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with second quantity of balsamic vinegar, tossing it until the vinegar cooks away. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
4. Add most of the feta cheese to the chard mixture along with eggs and a pinch of red chilii flakes. Spread this mixture into the bottom of the crust. Top with sweet potato pieces and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
5. Bake the tart on a flat baking sheet until cheese is nicely browned, 25-30 minutes. Spoon onions over the top of the tart, allowing bits of cheese to peek through. Let tart cool slightly, about 10 minutes, then remove the tart rim. Sprinkle arugula on top if desired. Slice and serve warm, or at room temperature.
Per Serving: 446 Calories; 25g Fat (45.5% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 46g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 109mg Cholesterol; 349mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on April 1st, 2018.

zucchini_patties_feta_dill

Tender little pancake-shaped fritters of shredded zucchini, onion, Feta and topped with a dollop of yogurt. Make sure you add the dill!

Some years ago I made a version of this, Turkish Zucchini Pancakes, and liked them. Those, that I made in 2008 contained tons of green onions instead of white onion, and had 4 eggs in the batch and included chopped walnuts too. I don’t know why I don’t make some version of these more often, because I love them. They could easily (for me anyway) be dinner. I’d have about 4 of them, I suppose. These are quite thin, and they’re fragile-tender. They’re full of flavor (from the onions, dill, the spice rub and Italian parsley), and once cooked, they have a lovely (but tender) texture. There is a bit of flour added to help hold them together (plus an egg and egg yolk).

Do start an hour or so ahead as you need to salt the grated zucchini and let it sit a bit, to give off some of their water before you start to mix up the batter. The onions (chopped) need to be squeezed of their extra fluid also. Then you can mix up everything, including about 1/2 cup of Feta. Speaking of Feta, Tarla Fallgatter, the cooking instructor who made these recently, recommended Bulgarian Feta. She buys it at a local ethnic market, and prefers it because it’s lower in sodium and she likes the flavor of Bulgarian over others. So, the batter is formed into thin patties, and you can work as you go – do some for the first batch and while they’re frying, form more rounds of them.

Into a big frying pan they go with some olive oil (you’ll likely need to add more olive oil with each subsequent batch you fry). This recipe makes 16-18 of the pancakes, but they’re thin, so surely you’d have 2 per person, or more. For an entrée you’d have 4-5 per person, I’d guess. Maybe more if your crowd is really hungry. Anyway, they take about 5 minutes per side to get golden brown. Transfer them to paper towels to drain. If you make as you go, you’d be serving them immediately. Otherwise, put them on a paper-lined rack on a tray and keep them in a 250°F oven while you finish preparing them all. Because they are thin pancakes, they’ll cool off way too fast.

Meanwhile you chop up some fresh dill for the pretty-factor. DILL is essential in these – there are just food combinations that are made in heaven – zucchini-yogurt-dill is one. To serve, make them pretty with a dollop of the yogurt and garnish with a little sprig of dill on top. My mouth is watering . . . . .

What’s GOOD: the pancakes are delicate and tender. Full of flavor and satisfying. I would think these could be prepared and frozen too, then reheated in a toaster oven easily enough. If you have a bumper crop of zucchini this could be a great make-ahead dish. This would go nicely with a roast (lamb or pork I’m thinking), or all by itself.

What’s NOT: really nothing except that you do need to drain the zucchini and onion so start a bit ahead of when you’re going to prepare them.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Zucchini Patties with Feta

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 8

2 1/2 cups zucchini — coarsely grated (about 3 medium)
1 teaspoon salt — divided use
1 teaspoon spice rub — or use a combo of Mediterranean spices/herbs
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup all purpose flour — (or more)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup olive oil — (about)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — with dill to garnish

1. Toss zucchini and 1/2 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer to sieve. Press out excess liquid; place zucchini in dry bowl. Chop the onion finely and gather it into a couple of paper towels and allow to drain for a couple of minutes, then squeeze to extract some of the liquid from the onions. Add onion in with zucchini. Mix in egg, yolk, 1/2 cup flour, cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix in parsley and dill. If batter is very wet, add more flour by spoonfuls.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls into skillet. Fry patties until golden, 5 minutes per side, adding more olive oil oil as needed. Transfer to paper towels. Serve immediately or keep warm by placing patties on paper towels on a rack, on a baking sheet in a 225°F oven. Serve with yogurt and garnish with dill.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Place on baking sheet, cover, and chill. Rewarm uncovered in 350°F oven 12 minutes.
Per Serving: 218 Calories; 18g Fat (73.9% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 67mg Cholesterol; 396mg Sodium.

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