Sunday, December 30, 2018

Mushroom Rye Casserole

I won't lie. This is one of those be-inspired-by-a-recipe-but-substitute-what-I-had and those don't usually turn out so well. This is the exception that proves the point!

The basic ingredients of cottage cheese, sour cream and mushrooms were sitting in the frig, but no rice and no parmesan. But there were rye berries and emmentaler, so substitutions were made. And it was amazing!

Personally, the rye berries really made this dish: chewy and nutty, more flavorful than rice. Sold! Also, with tons of cheese sitting in the cheese drawer, some was going in no matter what was in the recipe. The nuttiness of the emmentaler paired nicely with the rye and the mushrooms. Definitely a winner that will be making an appearance again!

Although the photo is less than appetizing (hello winter light!), trust me that the dish must be worth it for me to publish a post on it with such a photo.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Spelt Everything Bagels

Ahh bagels, one of my true loves. But since eating wheat is soooo bad for me, spelt becomes my saving grace. These were easier and less time consuming than you would think, and you can customize the "everything" topping - no more poppy seeds in between my teeth!

I prefer my bagels chewy, so this recipe works perfectly; boil for 2 minutes per side and you get a great crumb and excellent chew factor! Of course I couldn't resist eating one nearly straight out of the oven, and it was amazing!

This time around I halved the recipe, fearful of having 8 bagels waiting for me to devour them in a single day, er week. But the full recipe would probably make 6 good size ones, a week's supply.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Garlic, Parmesan, Parsley Pasta

This is a super easy, super delicious, super fast pasta dinner. I know, most pasta dinners are all of the above, but this one is new to you!

Chop up a lot of garlic, a lot of parsley, grate a lot of parmesan or pecorino and toss it all together with your favorite string pasta and Presto Pronto! You have amazingness in no time flat!

By the way that is gluten free pasta and it was terrific!

Garlic, Parmesan, Parsley Pasta
(1 serving, multiply as needed)

3-4 cloves garlic, minced (most of it will be sauted gently in oil, and 1/4 is tossed raw with the cooked pasta, so you choose your garlic amount accordingly)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup parmesan, shredded
olive oil

In a small saute pan heating on simmer, add oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add 3/4 of the garlic and saute slowly so it begins to turn golden, not brown. Remove from heat.

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water. Strain when al dente but keep at least 1/4 cup of cooking water and set aside.

Add pasta back to the pot and toss in the raw garlic and toss well. Add a good glug of olive oil and swirl to coat. Add parsley, cooked garlic and cheese and toss well; then add in 1 tablespoon of cooking water and stir well. It should begin to create a creamy sauce that coats the pasta. Add more oil and or cooking water to create a sauce consistency to your liking. Season with salt and pepper and eat immediately.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Aioli

Fall weather usually means lots of carotene rich foods - pumpkin, winter squash, and of course sweet potatoes!

Yes, sweet potatoes are healthier for you than other potatoes but don't let that be the only reason you try these baked treats. Less mess, less fuss and great crispiness to dunk in your favorite condiment. How can you go wrong?

The natural sweetness of this tuber doesn't really need any gilding for my liking, which is why it is paired with a spicy aioli to balance out its caramelized goodness.

A few notes on preparation. 1) Do pay attention to cutting your fries as uniformly as possible to ensure even cooking. 2) Coat them well in olive oil, using your hands to massage them all and make sure your slices are separated into individual fries. 3) Ensure they are distributed in a single layer on your baking sheet and not too closely together. These important steps will lead to first time success and happy diners!

As the wine manager at the co-op, I've got several requests for wine pairings with recipes, so here are my suggestions: For a red choose a fruit forward wine such as Merlot or Grenache (Garnacha); any rose with strawberry notes would pair well too. The starchy sweetness of these carotene rich foods calls for fuller bodied whites such as Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) or an Auslese (semi-dry) Riesling.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Smashed Fried Potatoes

In the Midwest, potatoes are their own food group, meaning they are always a part of the meal, regardless.  No complaints here!

While mashed potatoes are my hands down favorite (yes, even over french fries). this is a new technique I discovered somewhat recently, smashed fried potatoes.

Boil new or red or yukon potatoes until tender, gently smash them to about 1/2 inch in thickness, then give them a quick brown crust in the frying pan. You get the soft squishiness of boiled with the crisp outer goodness of fried. I often boil them in advance and have them readily available in the refrigerator, waiting for brunch or dinner preparation.

And for those curious cats out there, that is pan seared fennel slices next to the smashed potatoes, and yes, that was my dinner a few nights ago, so satisfying!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Eating Vegetables in the Dark Months

So today marks the end of Day Light Saving time, and many people are sad, literally for those with SAD. Do you too desire to howl at the moon over the loss of light and summer vegetables? Well, allow me to offer a few salvos on how to eat those winter vegetables that seem so uninspiring but are truly hidden gems!

First of all, banish steaming from your cooking repertoire. Really, except greens, just Don't Do It!

Oil up your cast iron skillet...What? You don't have one? Get thee to an Ace Hardware immediately (yes, Ace Hardware), and buy a pre-seasoned one immediately.

And we are not talking starchy squash or potatoes here. Yes, they are winter comfort food, but from my perspective they were created to fatten up humans who had spent the long Spring, Summer and Fall months growing and preparing their store of food for the rest of the year, and during that time they worked hard, "to the bone" and became lean. Winter was the time to rest their weary bones and fatten up, hence the starchy foods. Notice that we no longer need to do that, so portion those starchy veggies accordingly.

I am talking Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Fennel, and Romanesco! Prepare yourself for Deliciousness!

All of these recipes can be stripped down to the simplicity of searing vegetables in a hot skillet with just olive oil and salt or exalted with additional touches. It is up to your time and inclination.

Lemon Garlic Broccoli with shredded parmesan or pecorino on top is to die for. Baking works fine but instead of heating up the whole oven (energy waste) just sear them in a pan on the stovetop, covered, and tip the water that evaporates into the cover back into the pan to fully steam it. Leave out the garlic, lemon and cheese altogether for a faster and just as satisfying dish.

Broccoli Fritters with Aioli is great for breakfast, lunch and dinner! If you're not into making aioli, just mix mayo with chipotle sauce for a great dipping sauce or sour cream works great as well.

For the truly ambitious - that it is sooooo worth the work - there is Cheddar Tacos with Broccoli and Sausage (faux or real). Yes, taco shells made from cheddar cheese, filled with broccoli and sausage. I mean, really, can it get any better?


Cabbage's sex appeal is right up there with...broken twigs. But trust me, once you try Pan Seared Cabbage with Honey Mustard Dill Sauceyour eyes and taste buds will be opened!

And if you haven't been entranced by the sweet complexity of red cabbage yet, People! What are you waiting for! Braised Red Cabbage with Dried Cranberries and Mint will astound you! Of course you could do your own version of Pan Seared Cabbage with the red stuff, but don't be surprised if the edges turn blue (yes, really!)


Liberate your idea of 'slaw and make this Naked Carrot and Apple Slaw. Shred carrots, apples and add some color (mint or parsley or cilantro) and some squirts of lemon juice and salt and you have a refreshing side dish. Plus it's really pretty!

If your family already are carrot fans, introduce this traditional Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing that is great in Sushi Hand Rolls or drizzled over raw or steamed greens.


Cauliflower and cabbage vie for my most favorite veggie at this time of year, and it's still neck and neck! However, lately this has been my favorite; Pan Seared Cauliflower Parmesan Style. Easier than breading it, (tho here's the recipe for that), quick, delicious, and veggie-centric.

My other favorite does involve the oven, but once you try Cauliflower Gratin, you will start to Gratin EVERYTHING, and I make no apologies for making you understand how easy it is to do!

And for those of you who love Mexican food, Cauliflower and Poblano Enchiladas is for you (and here's the vegan version!).


Truly one of those vegetables that people think, "oh Fennel, how exciting!" but then don't know what to do with it. Sear it in a pan and eat it plan or gussy it up as in Fennel and Orange and Red Pepper fFakes or slice it thin with Celery and Lemon and Parmesan or... you get the picture.

But my latest love is Rye Rags with Italian Sausage and Fennel, from my favorite restaurant and subsequent cookbook, Gjelina. Oh heavens, to eat like this everyday!


Ah, Romanesco! The beauty seduces you, the taste mystifies, and its season is all too short. Eat it up while you can! Roast it in the oven or pan seared, it is wonderful on its own. Pictured is another riff on Gjelina's recipe, Pan Seared Romanesco with Pear and Sumac. While my version went with pears, Gjelina used golden raisins. I love both. If you are going to go the more elaborate route, don't skip the sumac, it makes the dish.

Of course tossing any of these pan seared veggies with olive oil, grated garlic and your favorite thick pasta shape is a great way to have your dinner all in one. Fusilli with Romanesco is one of my easy weeknight meals.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Homemade Granola

There are more than 750 posts on this blog and not one is about homemade granola...because I had never made it, until now.

I know. Those of you in the know are slapping your forehead. What took me so long!

Really, there is no excuse.

And now there is none for you either. Because it is dead simple, and you can make it with all of those bits of stuff in your pantry that you have been saving for whenever you a recipe that calls for sunflower seeds and pepitas and chopped nuts and shredded coconut and, well, you get the picture.

Add in some rolled oats, coconut oil, dried fruit of a sort, spice of a sort and bake for 20 minutes.

Yup, 20 minutes and then you have homemade granola. Just like that. To eat with your homemade yogurt, because that is really easy too. But that's for another day.

Happy Samhain! Halloween! Dias de los Muertos!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Summer Squash and Queso Fresco Tacos

Growing up on the East Coast, the extent of my exposure to tacos was limited to that chain restaurant with the horrible bell at the end of its commercials. Moving to California 10 years ago was akin to going over the rainbow. So many possibilities!

Luckily for us Humboldtians, Fall Farmers' Markets still look like summer ones, so whip up a batch of these summer squash tacos with real or faux sausage and continue to enjoy the season's bounty.

Although I often substitute due to laziness and a desire to use up what's in the frig, resist the urge to skip the queso fresco, it really makes this taco special. The same goes for the cilantro and lime, they are essential!

While most people drink beer with their Mexican food, wine is always my choice of beverage. What to pair with this one? A good fruity rose such as Tarantas' Rose of Bobal from Spain. No, not sweet, but lots of fruit. Any rose of Sangiovese or Pinot Noir would go as well. If you want a white, try Gewurztraminer or a medium dry riesling. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Pan Seared Cauliflower Steaks with Marinara and Parmesan

As the days grow shorter and the nights chillier most people think pumpkin spice. My mind screams CAULIFLOWER!

You always knew I wasn't like the other children...

Yes, the white orb beckons me with its promise of nutty buttery goodness. While roasting it is sublime, waiting for the oven to heat up and then waiting for the florets to cook seems to take forever. Then I realized that pan searing and steaming would work just as well and in record time!

Adding a red sauce and grated parmesan isn't probably your first thought of what to do with that gorgeous cauliflower you scored at the farmers' market, but have faith, it totally works! Searing it in a heavy skillet (cast iron works admirably), and covering it so that it steams in the oil and its own juices, produces a tender but charred cauliflower "steak" that marries beautifully with a plain marinara sauce and lots of parmesan. 

The inspiration came from laziness, not surprisingly. Cauliflower parmesan was a dish the New York Times foodies introduced me to - breading cauliflower florets, baking them and then re-baking them smothered in red sauce and cheese. But while breading is always a good choice, sometimes I am just not up for the extra work. So this shortcut was born. Trust me, you will devour it!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Smoked Salmon Phyllo Pie

Not everyone grew up eating hunks of raw cabbage in their high school brown bag lunch...ok, almost no one. You can guess who is the exception!

But even if you do not share my love affair with cabbage, you will be bowled over by the transformation of humble green cabbage in this phyllo encased pie.

Sweating onion, cabbage and finely sliced fennel in olive oil brings out the sweetness in cabbage and blending it with a minimum of ingredients creates what looks fancy, but us cooks know was actually quite simple to make.

While this pie features smoked salmon or lox, you could easily make it with pork or veggie sausage or just make it a cabbage pie for those of you who share my love of this member of the brassica family.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Rye Rags with Italian Sausage and Fennel

Rye is so dear to my heart, my truest love in the bread world, but turning it into a pasta was not something that had ever crossed my mind! Enter the brilliance of Gjelina's Travis Lett!

It is a revelation! The original contained shiitake mushrooms which I left out, but if you are a fan, include them. It is alchemy in the truest sense.

I realize there are lots of superlatives in this post, but this is not hyperbole. Even my husband's youngest daughter, who is a fanatic for true pasta, loved this dish. Speaking of which that version was made with veggie Italian sausage and it was just as good as with the pork variation. You can even go with spicy sausage or add red pepper flakes instead of black pepper.

Yes, the recipe looks long, but make the dough ahead of time and freeze or refrigerate. The sauce comes together in less than 30 minutes, and you will be rewarded for your advance preparation because it is that good!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Pesto and Olive Pizza - Low Carb Crust

Pizza is my favorite food, hands down, no competition. And when you end up on restricted diets - no gluten, low-carb - the alternatives generally leave quite a bit to be desired. Enter this crust.

I cannot claim to have created it - that would be Fat Head Pizza Crust, whomever that is. But I did find it on the internet, and it is blow your mind good! Soft but chewy crust, crisp bottom, good flavor. Who'd a thunk it!

It does require a microwave, and in my wildest imaginings I cannot fathom how the creator dreamed up this recipe. But it works wonderfully. So prepare yourself for some delicious gluten-free, low-carb pizza!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Four Cheese Eggplant Gratin

Eggplant is one of the most gorgeous vegetables out there, seducing me every time I see it at Farmers' Markets - that radiant purple, that glossy exterior. How can you resist!

Sadly so many people admit they don't know what to do with it. Here's the recipe which turns that beautiful vegetable into a happy meal for all. Yes, it is full of cheese, so save up for it if you are trying to reduce your dairy intake, trust me it's worth it!

This dish originates in Sicily, where cooking with anchovies is part of the regional character. For those of you claiming you don't like the little fishes, please trick yourself into leaving them in the recipe. They melt into the cheese and give the whole dish the finishing touch that is essential. You will thank yourself in the end.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Broccoli Fritters with Texan Queso

Decades ago Barbara Bush, then First Lady, created quite a stir when she admitted to hating broccoli. There was such an uproar, possibly because it was what so many people were already thinking but of course it made the broccoli lovers stand taller and proclaim their love to the heavens. Guess what camp I was in!

When you come across eaters who are luke-warm on broccoli, this is the recipe to serve them. Broccoli fritters smothered in queso, which is Spanish for cheese but really means spicy cheese dip if you're from the former Republic of Texas!

I love to make this with broccoli that has been patiently waiting in my crisper for inspiration and it's not coming. Simply cut it up, place it in a large pot of water that covers it, bring to a boil then drain. This will create the perfect texture of cooked by not over-cooked broccoli for your fritters, and you can do it in advance which makes this recipe come together super fast!

The photo above is not the most glamorous, but don't be fooled, it's a party in your mouth! And I went with orange cheddar instead of my usual white since Texan queso traditionally uses velvetta. The color contrast is more fun this way as well!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Grilled Escarole with Caesar Dressing and Sungold Tomatoes

If you have not yet discovered how delicious grilling your salad greens is, now is the time!

Sure, you can be like the crowd and grill your romaine or your kale but why not step way outside the box and get some escarole. Yes! Escarole!

Escarole is part of the bitter green family, which is so nutritious and good for you but sometimes hard to swallow because it is literally bitter, at least when it is raw. But grilling almost anything will not only wilt the greens bring out its hidden sweetness. Drizzle it with the delicious caesar dressing and even the most skeptical of eaters will be won over!

While you can definitely grill on the stovetop, which I do in the wintertime, grilling over wood charcoal gives it a great smoky flavor that only wood imparts.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Spanish Prawns

Before arriving in California, jumbo shrimp is what I referred to the above deliciousness. But apparently, out west they are prawns! Either way, this is an amazing and fast dish that showcases their tender sweetness.

I love how looking at new cookbooks makes your imagination take flight! Pawing through Rustica: A Return to Spanish Home Cooking made my mouth water (and my fingers type in flights to Spain!) but what mostly came of it was a desire to make prawns with paprika.

If you can find Spanish paprika, lucky you! My version made do with what we had at the local co-op and it was still transportive!

This is a quick weeknight meal that usually ends up being served alongside a big salad and lots of crusty bread to sop up all of the great pan juices. If you have a bumper crop of parsley in your garden or brought home a huge bunch from the farmers' market, here's the perfect dish to use it in.

Prepare everything else so that when you start making the prawns, everything else is ready since these cook fast and you need to pay attention to them exclusively so they don't overcook.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Zucchini Crust Pizza

Zucchini - it's the epitome of summer vegetables and you love it...until you hate. it Because you bought a whole six-pack of starter plants without realizing that not only do the plants get really big but once they start producing, that cute little zucchini you saw yesterday will be the size of a baseball bat by the end of the weekend.

What to do with such abundance? (besides leaving them on your neighbors’ doorsteps, anonymously of course.)

Make Pizza Crust. Yes, crust. It sounds like some frou frou healthy thing, but in reality it is a delicious alternative to waiting hours for your pizza crust to rise. The added bonus is that it gets some vegetables in you and your family in a sneaky and tasty way.

Essentially, zucchini pizza crust is a large zucchini fritter. Fritters are shredded or chopped vegetables combined with egg and cheese and pan-fried to a crisp. Doesn’t that sound mouthwatering? So add some pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and a few toppings and you have a winner.

Since my first paid job was in a pizza joint, run by actual Sicilians, I kind of consider myself a bit of an expert on making pizza. The main way people ruin homemade pizza is putting on too many toppings. It prevents the pizza from cooking quickly and can make it soggy, leaving you dejected and disappointed. Secondly, grate your own cheese! Pre-grated cheese loses it moisture in the bag and your pizza will suffer. Lastly, make a good crust. Obviously, that is not an issue since you are going to make a zucchini crust. So let’s get to it!