Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kohlrabi (Fennel) Cabbage Salad with Lemon Maple Dressing and a Modern Menu

Grandma Fanny died 5 months before I got married. It was totally unexpected and planning a wedding was bittersweet without her. In fact, we didn't even have the chance to tell her we were engaged.  Though Grandma Fanny wasn't at my wedding she left me a bountiful array of gifts in the form of cookbooks and a Kitchen Aid mixer. I received the best collection of old ORT and Haddasah cookbooks that a girl could ever want, in addition to others that she had bought over the years.

As the years have passed I still read these cookbooks. Though many are dated and falling apart, I treasure them dearly. My grandma was a dietitian in her day and loved to cook. From what I understand she worked a lot and only cooked and baked on the weekends. We didn't live in the same town but when I was older and could drive I would go spend weekends with her. We always had such  fun eating and gabbing and well, I really loved my grandma.

But her cookbooks just keep on giving. She had a favorite bread cookbook and a favorite baking cookbook and every now and then while perusing the pages I come across hand written notes that she wrote in the margins. When I see these I feel like she is talking to me and that is a wondrous feeling. After this "gift" I started writing notes in my cookbooks that one day far off in the future, I hope my kids will find. 

Every now and then I come across an envelope stuffed in the pages that contains a menu in her special penciled script. She must have grabbed the first piece of scrap paper that she could find. Well, I confess to the same. There have been many times that I have written down menus  for special occasions and then stuffed them away to run across when I least expect it. To bad I didn't write them down in a book, which I heartily recommend for anyone young enough that loves to entertain. What memories those scrap papers bring back. Friends you haven't seen, dishes you should cook again or dishes you wonder why you ever made... 

And that leads me to this cookbook I was asked to take a look at. It is a Kosher cookbook and it contains lots of creative, but simple recipes that my Grandma would have adored. Traditional Jewish dishes updated for a modern cook. My grandma would have loved writing menus from this. I love cookbooks and could have a giant library if space and budget allowed. But alas, I find myself at the library quite often in the cookbook section looking for something new to try. How nice it is to receive a copy of a book that I can write in!

Let me be the first to say that my mom told me that if you don't have something good to say, just don't say it. Well, when it comes to this cookbook, I have a lot of good things to tell you. This book, The Modern Menu by Kim Kushner, and photography by Andrew Zuckerman is a fun book for anyone's collection. It may be kosher but you will see no use of margarine here. You do find surimi which I wonder about. I mean if I kept kosher I'm not sure I would use fake crab, but that's me. I will tell you that  the three recipes she uses surimi for sound divine. Subbing in steamed fish or in my case, shrimp or real crab, would work better for me. One is a salad with spicy mayo and a rice krispie topping with avocado and cucumber. Add rice and you've got a kosher California roll! The other is a croquette and the last is a mango salad. All fresh, all luscious. Sorry, I just can't get used to the surimi thing.

Kim teaches cooking and considers cooking her form of therapy. I can't say I disagree. She loves new ingredients, flavors and simplicity. I also agree. And that's why my Grandma Fanny would have loved this book. It's chock full of vegetables that aren't often found on our table, but should be. Things like kohlrabi and celery root. Other flavors include miso and za'atar and sesame and soy. She takes traditional dishes and jazzes them up.

I can't wait to try chicken with pumpkin, figs and honey or beet and goat cheese salad with curry dressing. Heirloom tomatoes with mint and cilantro and  crispy miso marinated chicken are two  others I can't wait to give a go. My grandma's cookbooks didn't have a jalapeno or a mango to be found but Kim gives us a jalapeno chutney and a mango chutney. I tried several recipes but loved her salmon en croute. Basically it is a fillet of salmon wrapped in puff pastry with some mushrooms and miso flavors. It is a fancy dish made extremely simple. My husband would tell you to leave the spinach out as it is not necessary and I agree. But a showstopper this dish is and perfect for Shabbat.

Her zucchini noodle kugel is a keeper for when the garden over produces. I like her use of fine egg noodles which when combined with the zucchini almost resembled a potato kugel. She also adds a touch of Worcestershire and some apricot preserves which give this dish a tempting zing. Very good and I bet your kid would eat vegetables this way!

Zucchini Noodle Kugel
Last but not least was the salad I made that was supposed to contain kohlrabi which I could not find at my local Whole Foods, so I substituted fennel. This is a gem of a salad and I can't wait to try it again with kohlrabi. This dish truly exemplifies her use of new ingredients in kosher cooking. Dried cherries, maple syrup, sunflower seeds and lemon. Most definitely a dressing I will use on any green salad if I don't dunk a piece of bruschetta in it first!

Check this book out. Modern Menu was just published in March and is a book wanting to be cooked from. The print is easy to read. The photos are glorious. The recipes are simple and exciting. The rewards are vibrant flavors, healthy eating and exciting discoveries. Grandma Fanny would have been pleased.

Kohlrabi and Cabbage Salad with Maple Lemon Dressing

Serves 6-8

4 bulbs kohlrabi (I used 2 fennel bulbs and slice them thin,)
3 c shredded green cabbage
1/3 c dried cherries
1/4 c salted, roasted sunflower seeds
1/4 c chopped fresh dill
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
3 T real maple syrup
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
1 minced garlic clove
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

If using kohlrabi, remove long stems and greens. Trim away the thick green skin until you reach the light green to white part that is free of tough fibers. Shred on the medium holes of a box grater or in a food processor fitted with the shredder disc. For fennel, just wash and slice into half moons.

Combine kohlrabi or fennel, cabbage, cherries, sunflower seeds and dill in a large serving bowl. In a small jar with a tight fitting lid, combine olive oil, maple syrup, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Shake to combine. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat well. Let sit for about 20 minutes before serving.

Let your taste buds sing!

Click here for more exciting recipes:
Israeli Salad and other mezze
My Mother's Brisket
Kale Salad with Cherries, Almonds and Feta
Farro Summer Salad
Passover Mocha Nut Cake

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pico de Gallo or Salsa Fresca or Forget the Chips and Give Me a Spoon!

Salsa Fresca or Pico de Gallo

 I admit that whenever I experience a new Mexican restaurant the first thing I judge is the quality of their chips and salsa. Poor salsa doesn't leave me wanting to forge ahead but generally I must. And then when I think of that restaurant the first thing I think about is that poor, tasteless salsa. Or maybe it is old salsa. Or salsa made with ingredients past their prime or perhaps they are under ripe? Whatever. There are a million different  ways to wreck salsa but honestly that should be a crime if you are a Mexican restaurant. I mean, it just ain't that tough to make a good salsa.

That being said-there are a million ways to make salsa. And most of them, I truly enjoy. But salsa fresca-pico de gallo, almost the same thing, is the most basic of salsas. It is the one where if you don't have tomatoes with lots of flavor you may as well forget it. Thank goodness for the cherub tomatoes that are showing up in most groceries year round. I think they have a sweet, full of tomato goodness that is perfect for salsa making when big garden tomatoes aren't available.

This recipe is my son's favorite salsa. It is easy to make which is a good thing when you need to make a lot. It is also easily modified to accommodate everyone's taste buds. Some of us may like it with bigger chunks. Some more smooth. Others crave cilantro and some hate it. Some like it spicy, some don't. The important thing is not to be afraid to create your own. You can't destroy salsa, I promise!

Many salsa frescas contain olive oil, lime juice or vinegar. I don't think they' re necessary unless your ingredients lack flavor. Olive oil adds more calories and I don't need those. If you want your salsa thin, feel free to add tomato juice or sauce or you could add lime juice. Personally, I like to taste the tomatoes and not the tartness of lime juice. If you add salt to the salsa that will help bring juices out, too and make your salsa more liquid.Sometimes tomatoes aren't as juicy as we would like them to be so adding liquid helps with consistency. Personally I like a thick salsa so this is the recipe I use. And it stays on chips well.   A thin taste/dip on my chips just doesn't cut it. I want a big hunky bite!

Feel free to adjust the spiciness of the peppers. Fresh jalapenos left with seeds and ribs are spicier than those deseeded. Your choice. I also like to add a canned chipotle in adobo sauce as I like the smokiness and the heat that it gives. You can find them in the Mexican section of your grocery in a can labeled chipotle peppers in adobo.  Transfer them to another container and store them in the fridge where they last a long time. I use them in many recipes and they are a great ingredient to have on hand. And just so you know, a chipotle is a smoked jalapeno and adobo is a sauce of tomatoes, vinegar and spices.

Take a few minutes. Make a great salsa. Serve it with corn chips. This salsa is also great over grilled chicken or fish. OR spooned right into your mouth!

Pico de Gallo or Salsa Fresca

Makes about 2 cups

2 containers of cherub tomatoes - 10.5 oz each
1/2 white onion
1 5" jalapeno - seeded and deribbed
2 garlic cloves peeled
1 chipotle from the can (See above)
1/3 c cilantro

Dump the tomatoes into your food processor. (If you want this chunkier, feel free to chop with a knife.) Using on/off button, process tomatoes until coarsely, but not too roughly chopped. Empty into a good sized bowl.

Now combine onion, jalapeno, garlic cloves, chipotle and cilantro in food processor. Chop until mixture is evenly chopped, but do not over process. Add to tomatoes. Stir well.Season with salt if desired. 

Eat with a giant spoon!

Other things to try:
Breakfast Burritos
Red Chile
Green Chile Egg Souffle
Tomatilla Salsa
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
Avocado Corn Soup

Friday, May 24, 2013

Grilled Chicken Rub or Fast Friday!

Grilled Chicken Rub
  It's Friday! And it's warm outside! I am ready to get this weekend started. Are you with me? So let's keep this short, sweet and to the point. This is a great rub for grilled chicken. You can use skin free chicken or you can keep the skin on. I'm easy. If you keep the skin on which will keep your chicken juicier, rub this under and on top of the skin. We are talking flavor here folks. I had some boneless skinless breasts on hand and used those.

As you can see I turned these breasts into a big salad. It was somewhat like a taco salad only healthier. I made a green chili vinaigrette that I'll share with you later. It was bomb, so they say. But feel free to use this chicken on a sandwich, on a salad, sliced for tacos, or on a quesadilla.  Using these same seasonings,  stir them into a mixture of half mayo, half sour cream or plain yogurt and have an awesome sauce. Serve the chicken on rice or potatoes, top with sauce and you made a definite man pleaser.

Now you might notice I used smoked salt in this rub. You got to go find yourself some. It's a lot of fun to use and is full of flavor. We sometimes even use it to coat the rims of our tequila glasses, especially when my husband gets out the smokey mescal. It's a bit heavy for me but he loves it. BUT, if you can't find smoked salt, don't despair. Regular coarse salt works, too! This is good without and the smoked paprika gives this a smokey taste all on its own. And as for the chili powder, use what you have. I like using chipotle powder, too and that has a smokey flavor, also. Remember, I'm easy. And this is easy. So get to work!

Chicken should not be overcooked or you won't please anyone. Heat your grill to high. Oil it or give it a spray with PAM if you must. Pound your chicken breasts before you season them. This helps the chicken  cook more evenly without burning in the thinner spots and overcooking in the thick spots. You can baste them with butter if you must. Oh, that sounds good. Or a brushing of olive oil. Cooking should only take about 4-6 minutes on each side.

It is official. I am getting out my St. Germain. SUMMER HAS BEGUN!

Grilled Chicken Rub (enough for 4 breasts on both sides)
1 t smoked paprika
1 t dried oregano
1 t chile powder (I like ancho)
1/2 t smoked salt
1 t garlic powder

Mix it up. Rub it on. the longer it sits the better your chicken tastes. Make extra and use it in a sour cream/mayonnaise mixture and this makes a kick ass sauce!

Click here for more great recipes:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Mama's Chicken, Artichoke, Mushroom Casserole

"This chicken artichoke casserole filled with mushrooms and artichokes and a hint of capers, is what my family calls comfort food. This is the dish to drop off to a neighbor but only if you want them begging for more!"

 Life has a way of letting us know when we need to slow down. The most obvious seems to be illness, and then many of us come to a complete stop. That was the case with my mom who has been in bed for over a month now. One day she was feeling fine and the next moment - BAM! After a few weeks of being flat on her back with only my dad to nurse her I was called in to the rescue and it was off to Phoenix I flew, where I've been the last 8 days. Now I can't say I rescued anything but I was able to put a new face in front of my mother and let my dad go off to work each day. (I believe work is his favorite form of pleasure; next to my mom when she isn't in her sick bed.)

After many, too many tests, the doctors finally made an educated guess that it was just (JUST) a virus that was keeping my mom lying down. Relief set in, that it wasn't more than that. So finally, on her 5th week, she is starting to feel better but still quite a way from normal. At least now she can make her own breakfast and lunch, so I felt it  safe to return to my daily life. And I hope soon, she can, too. I spent my time cooking and cleaning her pantry and the spice cabinet and the freezer, and last but not least, the refrigerator. I expect I'll have to go back and do it again in about 6 months, but at least I know I won't find a container with unknown contents in the freezer and a date from 2009 written on it.

When I was sick as a child my mom let my lie in her giant bed so I could watch TV. She fed me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (light on the peanut butter, please) and heavy on the strawberry jam. I drank Nestle's Quik in milk and ate Mott's applesauce. My mom is a little bit different. Since her stomach hadn't held much for the last three weeks she must have been waiting for me to fill it. Honestly. She had shrimp and grits and spaghetti and salmon and eggs and a burger and oatmeal and this chicken casserole. Twice. 

It is a good chicken casserole. It is her and my dad's favorite casserole. And so I made it. I remember it from my teenage years when it contained broccoli but over the years my mom and dad have decided that broccoli just isn't their thing, and so this casserole no longer contains broccoli. I have not had this in at least thirty years and it is still good. Though I will confess that if I made it again, I would leave out the Campbell's soup and make my own white sauce. Just on principal, don't you know?

This is a warm, comforting, soothing casserole with lots of exploding flavors. It is not bland and not for those on a bland diet. It is a perfect dish for company as it contains special, not everyday ingredients like artichokes and mushrooms and capers. Well, at least those aren't every day for me. My mom wanted biscuits to go with her casserole and rather than sending my father to McDonald's which she considered, she requested I make a baking powder biscuit so that is what I served her. The next night we compared the buttermilk biscuit to the baking powder variety and definitely we felt buttermilk was the way to go. But that is another story.

In any case, I got to see my mother smile and so my week was worth it. I also did sit in the sun a bit and took in the beauty of the desert. I read some good books and perused many of her cookbooks. I took photos of this quail nest right outside her kitchen door, and watched the mother sitting on her eggs. I am sorry I will miss the great event but I read it can take 24 days for those cute tiny eggs to hatch. Not knowing how long they'd been there, I wasn't sure I should wait.

And now it is Memorial Day weekend and I am way behind. But if by chance you aren't grillin' and you want a good chicken casserole, I promise this is worth it.

My Mama's Chicken, Artichoke and Mushroom Casserole
Serves: 8
Time To Prepare: About 35 minutes
Time to Bake: 60 minutes
1 roast chicken from deli (skin and bones removed and chicken shredded)
3T butter
1 lb sliced mushrooms sauteed in 3 T butter (I used a combo of fresh white mushrooms and portabellas with some reconstituted shitakes and some porcinis)
2 cans of quartered artichoke hearts, drained (If you don't want as many, only use one can.)
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 c mayonnaise
1 4oz jar of pimientos, drained
1/4 cup of drained capers
Panko or bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9x13 baking dish. Place boneless, skinless cooked chicken meat on bottom of dish. 

Melt butter and saute mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon cooked mushrooms over chicken.

Place drained artichoke hearts over mushrooms.

Sprinkle cheddar cheese over artichoke hearts.

Heat both cans of soup and mayonnaise until warm and a bit bubbly. Do not let burn. Stir in drained capers and pimentos. Spoon over artichoke hearts and level out. Use all of it!

Top casserole with panko or bread crumbs

Bake for an hour until top is golden and casserole is bubbly. You could serve this over noodles or rice, but it is not necessary. A salad would round out the meal. And if you are sick and have a cast iron tummy, this hits the spot!

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Click here for Memorial Day recipes:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Fresh Strawberry Crepes

The first strawberry grown in a garden was in the  late 18th century in France. Before that they were primarily used for medicinal purposes. Thank goodness someone recognized that strawberries can be appreciated just for being a strawberry. I hate to think about missing out on the wonders of this remarkable red berry. 8 berries have more vitamin C than an orange. The little strawberry is also among the top 20 fruits in the antioxidant category and 1 cup has just 45 calories.

As a child I got hives from eating strawberries. I  don't get them anymore but  still I'm cautious about eating to many. And sometimes they are hard to stay away from. Not that I'd want to. I fondly remember strawberry season in Israel where thirty some years ago the family I lived with had 5 kids. At lunch, dad would march home with food from the market, and with any luck he'd  have giant bags of strawberries. After seeing how they were sold in the US I was amazed that one could buy strawberries in such quantities. As quickly as they were washed, those berries were gone, and all that was left were 5 red berry, stained mouths waiting for the next day when dad would arrive home again with more.

My mother always made us the Bisquick shortcakes for the requisite strawberry shortcake topped with Cool Whip at least once each season. That is unless we were on diets whereby we resorted to bowls of fresh red strawberries along side a big bowl of sour cream and another of brown sugar. Simple and sublime. What a perfect match and one I still serve today. Trust me there is nothing better than dipping a giant red strawberry in sour cream and then in brown sugar. Today Greek yogurt would make a great substitute.

Now I am not a big fan of strawberry ice cream or strawberry syrup-even on a Banana Split. But I love strawberry jam and strawberries on waffles and these strawberry crepes. I love crepes.  Crepes at the Magic Pan in Chicago on Michigan Avenue were like a decadent treat when I was growing up. Any shopping day requires requires a well fortified lunch and that was always my choice. I don't remember what I ordered but it was the only lunch where I was allowed to get dessert, too!  If we were lucky enough to still be in the city for dinner, The Blackhawk and their chilled spinach salad brings up fond memories but alas, I don't believe either are there anymore.

It was the Magic Pan that convinced my mother to buy a proper crepe pan. She bought some black domed iron pan that sat directly on the burner. The idea was to dip it in the batter and then turn it right side up to cook. These didn't require flipping. Frankly, I don't remember it working the way it was supposed to so I just use a teeny Calphalon 7" saute pan to make mine. I think that black pan was probably tossed years ago but I still have the cookbook that came with it. It's missing its cover but that's OK. The good stuff is on the inside.

Crepes are perfect foils for any kind of filling, be it sweet or savory. You can always make crepes benedict or fill your crepes with mushrooms and cheese. I remember dessert crepes filled with chocolate mousse and topped with whipped cream. The varieties are endless but today is really about the crepe.  When my kids were young and for a change from pancakes we often made crepes. One can eat them like pancakes with syrup or fill them with fruit or bacon or just whipped cream. Cheese is a great filling and then the crepe can be folded in quarters and eaten like a sandwich. Crepes always made the meal feel more special and that is why they are another great choice for Mother's Day.

The first crepe is always the hardest but on the other hand it is always the one I taste first. Just to make sure, don't you know? Don't be intimidated. give it a go!

Strawberry Crepes (Makes about a dozen 7" crepes)
2 eggs beaten
1/3 c milk or cream
1/3 c water
3/4 c all purpose flour
1 T melted butter
2 T sugar
1 t vanilla

(Extra  melted butter for greasing the pan)

In  4 cup measuring cup beat eggs and then add milk and water. Whisk well. Gradually mix in flour. This mixture should end up smooth, but if you don't want to do this an immersion blender works, too! Add melted butter, sugar and vanilla and mix well.

Batter should be smooth and have the consistency of heavy cream.

Heat your teeny pan and and brush well with melted butter. You don't want the pan to hot or your crepe will burn. Medium high usually works for me but you may have to lower the heat if it gets to hot. A drop of water should bounce and sputter, not evaporate immediately if you want to check the temp.

Pour in about 1/4 to 1/3 c of batter starting in the center of the pan and pour in a spiral fashion. Now swirl the pan and make sure you have enough batter covering the bottom of the pan and that it is even in depth. Cook until the bottom is light golden in color. This takes about a minute. If you cook the crepe on too high of heat it will get to crisp. Using tongs gently lift the crepe to check. If it is ready turn over and cook the other side until done but it doesn't have to turn gold on this side. Now you've got it! Brush pan with butter and repeat! Crepes can be stacked and kept warm under a towel until ready to fill.

Strawberry Filling
1 lb of fresh strawberries cleaned and quartered or sliced.

If strawberries are not sweet enough feel free to add a spoonful of sugar.

Strawberry Sauce
1 c hulled strawberries
2 T confectioner's sugar
2 T orange juice or raspberry juice or Grand Marnier

Put strawberries in a deep bowl or cup and using immersion blender blend until desired consistency. Stir in sugar and juice or liquor.

Sour Cream Brown Sugar Sauce
1 c sour cream or plain Greek Yogurt
1/4 c brown sugar

Mix together and use for a dollop. Lots of dollops!

To Assemble:
Fill crepes with fresh strawberries. Surround one side with some strawberry sauce. Top with a dollop of sour cream brown sugar sauce.

Make sure your mouth is berry stained and be sure to kiss the cook!

More to Try:
German Apple Pancake

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tomatoes, Shrimp and Grits or One Man's Grits is Another Man's Truffles

Swanky and Cheesy Shrimp and Grits
I tried to cook grits long ago, when I married a man from Texas whose mother grew up in Mississippi. It wasn't just that my husband, Mr. Rabbit Catcher, liked grits. It just seemed a proper thing to be able to do. After all I had married a somewhat Southern man, or so I thought. Growing up in Illinois, grits were not on any menu that my eyes had ever set upon. Nor was red eyed gravy or ham steaks  or biscuits or black eyed peas. 

The closest thing to grits that had ever been on my plate was corn meal mush and that was during a driving trip to Florida with my family when I think I was 11. We passed through Tennessee and if memory serves me right we ate at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. My father was showing us how to blow the paper wrappers off of straws and during the demonstration his blown paper ended up in the middle of another patron's breakfast. It was a good blow, so to speak. My brother and I immediately doubled over, filled with laughter. My dad didn't show us much when it came to sports and such, so this was good stuff. So good, I still remember it.

Whether I ate corn meal mush at this meal I can't tell you. And why I remember this I really don't know. And have I ever had corn meal mush since-not that I recall. But sometimes when I go to the grocery I still see that mush in blocks in the refrigerator case and think it must have my name on it. One day I'll buy it and try it and remember that straw. But what does this have to do with grits? Well, both are made from corn, as is polenta. I like polenta now, but thirty years ago I don't recall that polenta was on the menu many places. I did try to make grits early in the marriage, but didn't know about polenta. Anyway the grits were awful. Gluey and sticky, full of clumps and tasted like paste. Not something I'd want to eat again. My husband just laughed. He never asked for them again. Wise decision on his part.

And so it is that a few months ago he brought me home a cookbook from the bargain bin of our local grocery. I think it cost a full $2.99. I'm sure he didn't realize that he bought me the bible of American regional cooking.  He bought me Patrick O'Connell's  "Refined American Cuisine". Patrick O'Connell of the Inn at Little Washington fame. Patrick O'Connell who Patricia Wells identifies as " a rare chef with  sense of near-perfect taste, like a musician with perfect pitch." Yeah, that Patrick O'Connell. It was printed in 2004.  He got me this book because he liked the pictures. And of course, he was hoping to be the beneficiary of some of them.

So fast forward to the 4th recipe in the book. So far, I haven't been able to make it past this which means I am missing out on bourbon pecan waffles, wild mushroom napoleans, lemon and black pepper risotto, pecan crusted softshell crab tempura, a crab cake sandwich with fried green tomatoes and frozen eggnog souffle. My heart flutters. There is so much more to go and I am stuck at Swanky and Cheesy Shrimp and Grits. I've been stuck here at least 4 times because that is how many times I've made this since he has bought it. And after eating these grits, well shoot, just bury me in them. They are worthy. VERY WORTHY!

And so it is that I give you this oh so rich, to die for recipe, courtesy of Mr. Patrick O'Connell. Last night I served it to Mr. Rabbit Catcher after he came in from chasing what he feels is the last rabbit to elude him. "It was clawing its way up the fence to find a way to escape", he tells me proudly. And then after sitting down and eyeing dinner he says to me, "I love this dish. This is the best polenta I've ever had!" Ugh. Doesn't a southerner know grits when he sees them?

Swanky and Cheesy Shrimp and Grits (serves 2-3)
adapted from Mr. Patrick O'Connell


Cheesy Rich Grits
4 c chicken broth
1 c grits (quick cooking variety)
1 1/2 T cream cheese or mascarpone
1/4-1/3 c heavy cream
3 cloves roasted garlic or garlic powder
salt and pepper
pinch of sugar
2-3 T freshly grated parmesan

In a 2 qt sauce pan bring stock to boiling. Whisk in grits slowly until soft and creamy. This doesn't take long. Do not let stick to bottom of pan. Stir in cream cheese or mascarpone, heavy cream, roasted garlic or some garlic powder, pinch of sugar, parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Add more cream as needed to keep from getting to thick. Consistency should be like thick frosting. Keep warm over low heat while making shrimp.

Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic


1 small container of red baby grape tomatoes
2 T olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
Bay leaves
Basil leaves
Fresh ground pepper and salt

8 cloves of unpeeled garlic or shallots 

I use my small convection toaster oven preheated to 350. Put in foil lined pan and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Tuck in a few bay leaves and fresh basil leaves if you have it. Roast until golden about 30-45 minutes.

Place garlic or shallots in aluminum foil and drizzle with oil. Seal packet and roast in oven with tomatoes.

When tomatoes are roasted and garlic is soft, place tomatoes and 6 garlic cloves freed of their peel into a deep glass bowl or measuring cup. I use an immersion blender to blend them into a coarsely chopped puree. Use reserved garlic cloves to stir into grits.


1 T olive oil
18 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 3/4 lb)
1/2 t minced garlic
1/4 dry white wine or vermouth
Roasted Tomatoes and Shallots or Garlic from above recipe
2 T chopped scallions
1 T butter

In large skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add shrimp and saute for three minutes or until they just turn pink. Do not overcook. Add garlic and saute for a few seconds more. Add wine or vermouth, roasted tomato mixture and scallions. Cook down until liquid has almost disappeared without overcooking shrimp. Stir in butter.

Serve over polenta. Make that grits!

Other fun dishes to try:
Mexican Garlic Lime Shrimp
Kale Salad with Cherries, Almonds and Feta
Breakfast Burritos
Frozen Cheese Souffle
German Apple Pancake
Green Chile Scrambled Egg Souffle
Hashbrown Spud Cups
Israeli Salad
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

Friday, May 3, 2013

Belgian Liege Waffles or Not Just Any Waffle

Belgian Liege Waffle
 A waffle is a waffle is a waffle. Well, I might be waffling here, but not really. There are waffles and then there ARE waffles. If I had my choice I would choose this waffle. Now hear me out. This waffle is a yeast raised waffle but don't let that scare you. It's not like you have to knead this which I'd never suggest first thing in the morning. No, this waffle has such great flavor you really don't need syrup because this waffle contains sugar chunks. Don't you just love that word-sugar chunks. In fact, that would be a great name for a blog, I think.

See those white things on top of the waffle? Those are the sugar chunks. I buy them at a specialty store under the brand name Lars. They come in an 8 oz blue box which is labeled Lars, Imported Belgian Pearl sugar. According to Lars, the sugar creates crunchy pockets of sweetness as it softens under the heat of the waffle iron. Well, if you don't believe me, believe Lars. This is one great waffle. Lars's pearl sugar is not inexpensive and he does recommend using the entire box per recipe. (I mean, he is in the business of selling sugar, is he not?) Can't say that I agree. Half of the box is plenty and if you can't find it, feel free to smash some sugar cubes into chunks. That works, too. 

Now how did I discover this waffle? It's not like Europe is in my neighborhood where apparently waffles are sold like hotdogs on the street here.  When my daughter was in London she fell in love with them. (Oh, I'd just love to be my daughter.) After looking around frozen Liege waffles can be found at Whole Foods in the freezer section. They are very good and come in several flavors, particularly chocolate. They are not inexpensive. The last time I checked, which was awhile ago, they were clocking in at about $1.25 a waffle and  were sold in packages of 6, I think. That's a bit steep for me so I found Lars and he works out pretty good. 

There are many things to love about this waffle besides its incredible taste. For starters, the recipe makes about a dozen which means plenty to freeze. Being able to take them out of the freezer and pop them in to my toaster convection oven and heat them at 350 for no more than 4 minutes and then have a memorable breakfast is perfect for my weekends. Often it is the biggest highlight for my weekend!  The dough can also be flavored with cocoa or chocolate chips or cinnamon and used for dessert. Or you can take the recipe as is and gild the waffle with syrup or ice cream or fruit and also have dessert. The last time making these I threw lots of chopped cooked bacon in and had waffles with bourbon maple syrup. One could even top that with a piece of fried chicken. Are you following me here? The skies the limit when it comes to variables with this waffle.

The Liege Belgian waffle is not the most common Belgian waffle out there. In fact, they are hard to find, but becoming more popular. It is the sugar and the yeast that make them outstanding and different than the other Belgian waffle. From a bit of research it seems that the Liege waffle came about in the 18th century when the prince wanted a sweeter roll. His chef added sugar chunks and vanilla and apparently the prince fell in love with it. Now I'm not claiming total accuracy here, but it is a good story and the aroma of these while they are on the waffle iron is intoxicating.

So the weekend is here folks. Make the most of it. And bake these waffles. You won't be 

Liege Belgian Waffles (Makes 12)from Lars


3 1/2 c flour
1 package dry yeast
3/4 c lukewarm milk
2 sticks softened butter
2 eggs
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
1/2 bag or 4 oz pearl sugar or coarsely chopped sugar cubes

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm milk for a few minutes. After it sits a few minutes I use my mini whisk to blend the mixture better.

Gradually add all the ingredients to the flour, except the pearl sugar. Feel free to use your hands, a pie crust blender or a mixer to do this. Really, I just use my hands and smush. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled. this takes  about 30-45 minutes. Now smush in the sugar.

Divide dough into small patties about 3-4 ounces each. (Believe it or not, I still have my weight watcher's scale from so long ago.) I weigh one to get an idea of what they should look like but this makes about 12.

After your waffle iron has preheated plop each patty in. They take about 90 seconds to bake. Take them out carefully so the sugar doesn't burn you. But don't wait to long to eat them. Nothing like a hot waffle.

So time to stop waffling. Go get a waffle iron. After all, mother's day is upon us. Impress her. Bake these waffles.

Other great things to try:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Run Like the Wind or a Quick Chocolate Cake

This satisfying moist chocolate cake is made in less than 20 minutes and only takes 25 minutes to bake. Topped with a rich chocolate ganache this cake will fit any occasion!

Chocolate Cake

Race Day is now behind us and surely the next race is yet to come. It appears recovering from tendonitis needs to happen before she can think about San Francisco. My daughter, the runner. Who ever would have thought? Not me. But competitive she is. Not only did she surpass the goal of raising $2500 per runner, she had her PBR or personal best record as those in the know call it. Good thing she told me because that just makes me think Pabst Blue Ribbon and I couldn't figure out what beer had to do with running.

She began the race in the dark. See the Capitol in the back? Purple was Team in Training's color.
15,000 women half marathoners raced around D. C.. 2500 of them ran for Team in Training. They raised $6 million dollars for the cause of helping cure leukemia. I am again, so proud of her. And I thank all of you for listening to me through this journey. She received so many contributions. Some big, some small. But all counted. All mattered.All were so important. And to all of you I say thank you. Maybe her journey will inspire others. Maybe her contribution will help find a cure. I hope so. But more important to me is what it did for her. 

Zoe and the goodie bag!
She had no clue how she was going to do this. At first I thought she bit off more than she could chew. (Well, this is a food blog.) But she plugged away at raising money and increasing her time and finished in the top 10%. In her age group, just the top 15%. Just. And that stupid tendon bit her around the 8th mile. She said her coaches were great. They lined the racecourse and jumped in to run if encouragement was needed. She pushed through the pain but dropped from about an 08:10 mile through the first 10 miles to an 08:50 mile because of the pain. She said she even walked some of it. But she didn't care. Quitting isn't her style. She finished with the respectable time of 1:56.

Before she knew it the race was over. After all that adrenalin I think she felt a bit of a let down. Now she has to figure out what's next.  In the meantime though, she will be able to gaze down at the Tiffany necklace with a dog tag that includes the date of the race, hanging around her neck. (I'm told this is one reason why Nike races are so popular. Apparently everyone wants the little blue bag at the finish of the race!).

The jersey and the necklace.
I really wanted you to notice the nails.
 She also bought a cute jersey and these shoes. 

After the race wearing THE SHOES!
Many people have stopped her on the street and asked where they can get them but unless you had a race entry you couldn't purchase them and even then you could only buy one pair. Somewhere, they have a date, too. She had fun. She got to run and shop. She even could have had her hair done by Paul Mitchell but that line was long. It made her feel part of something and I am happy. I didn't take the pictures. I think an Iphone did. Mine wouldn't have been much better but hopefully you will get the idea.

chocolate cake

I decided to bake this chocolate cake in her honor. Actually it was a double duty cake. Since my daughter wasn't here to eat it as she lives in Philly, I really made it for a friend having a 60th birthday. That's a big one, just like running a half marathon, if you ask me. I chose this cake not only because it was chocolate but because you can make it without a mixer. It is easy and quick. It has a great soft crumb interior with a rich, decadent chocolate ganache frosting on top. The recipe claims it is an Alice Medrich cake but since I can't confirm this I will just assume it is. ( I cut this from somewhere and didn't save the source.)

It is perfect for small gatherings if you don't want many leftovers. My husband was a bit disappointed by that thought because when it comes to cake, he likes leftovers. You could double this and split it into two cake pans but if I'm making a real celebratory cake I usually bake my triple layer fudge cake. This weekend her boyfriend is running a marathon. My daughter tells me she plans to do that at least once in her lifetime. That's celebration worthy. But I'll stick with this cake and bake the triple when she runs the marathon! After all only 1% of the population has ever completed a marathon and she thinks it would be cool to be in the 1%. Anyway, go bake this cake. And celebrate!

Quick Chocolate Cake (Serves about 6-8)

Time to Prep: About 20 minutes 
Time to bake: 25 Minutes
1 c all purpose flour
1/4 c plus 2T cocoa (Not Dutch processed)
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t table salt
1 1/4 c light brown sugar
1/2 c warm melted butter (In microwave put in glass measuring cup or bowl and heat on power level 7 for about 1 minute to melt)
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 c hot water or coffee
Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9" cake pan or line with parchment.

Combine flour, cocoa, soda, and salt in small bowl. Mix well with fork to evenly distribute ingredients.

In larger bowl combine melted butter and sugar. Blend well with wooden spoon and add eggs and vanilla. Stir well again. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Now stir in hot water or coffee and beat well one more time. Using a spatula spread the somewhat thick batter into your cake pan.

Bake for about 25 minutes. Do not over bake. Cake should be just starting to pull away from sides of pan. Let cool on wire rack. Then turn out onto serving plate. Frost.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

6 oz bitter or semisweet chocolate chopped fine
3/4 c heavy cream
A drop of vanilla

Pour cream into glass measuring cup and heat in microwave until just boiling. This took me about 1 minute 10 seconds. (I let me cream come to room temperature while I was preparing the cake.) Add chocolate and whisk well until chocolate is melted. Stir in vanilla. Pour over cake and spread well. This is the fun part!

Other fun things to try:
St. Germain Lemon Aid
Brown Sugar Spice Cake
Cupcakes for a Cure
Chocolate Fudge Cake
Martha Mervis's Coffee Cake
Hot Fudge Cake
Passover Mocha Nut Cake
Sugar Cake

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This satisfying moist chocolate cake is made in less than 20 minutes and only takes 25 minutes to bake. Topped with a rich chocolate ganache this cake will fit any occasion! #cake #dessert #chocolatecake

Great job, Zoe!