Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

When I lived in San Francisco, I worked quite often as a temp. The money was generally good and you could choose what places you really liked to work at and get called back or refused the really awful places unless work had been scarce and the prospect of facing the landlord was more scary than facing the taskmaster at sweat factory.
It was during this period that I took a half-day job at an ad agency downtown.  They had rented out a local restaurant for their Christmas party so I was left to answer the phone and take messages an easy job but also boring as only a few people called and maybe one or two stopped in.  Thank goodness for magazines in the waiting area.
It was while I was browsing through a cooking magazine--I don't even recall which one it was--that my eyes were drawn to this.  thumbprint cookies have been an annual favorite since I was a kid. But instead of pecans or walnuts, this recipe called for hazelnuts....and roasted, at that!  There is something about roasting nuts that brings out a level of flavor that just seems to be hidden otherwise.  I promise, once you try these, you will retire the old recipe forever!

Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
1/2 cup sugar
12 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 3/4 cups flour
Red raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350F. Spread hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet.
Roast for 15 minutes shaking the pan at least once to roll them around to ensure even roasting.
Empty them into a clean towel and rub them vigorously to remove the skins.
This may take a few times to remove most of the skin which will be bitter if there is too much.
Transfer 1/2 cup of nut to a food processor and grind to a medium fine consistency. Remove to a plate and reserve.
Transfer the remaining cup of nuts and the sugar to a food processor and grind.
Add butter, vanilla extract, and salt and process until smooth.
Add flour and process until mixed. Remove dough to a bowl.
Pinch off pieces big enough to form 1-inch balls.
Roll ball in reserved chopped nuts, place 3 inches apart of cookie sheet and press with thumb to make an indentation.
Fill with 1/2 teaspoon of jam and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on rack.

Crab-stuffed Deviled Eggs

So I was at G&G Market in Santa Rosa......
If you are at all familiar with this area (Sonoma County) you know that crab season means a very big line and a very long wait at the back of G&G Market as people order crab.  (20 at a time, sometimes!)  So, if I happen to be there and see a nice mountain of the ocean's tastiest gift piled high and only a few people, it's too much of a temptation NOT to grab a ticket!
This is exactly what happened last week as I was shopping for ingredients for AT&T's Christmas party.  I had been asked to contribute my gingersnap ham and a disgustingly sweet bar cookie that I won't mention.  But I also thought deviled eggs would be nice as some people there will neither touch red meat nor sweets. That's when the idea hit me to stuff the eggs with crab and top them with prawns.  If I'd only had enough in my budget to replace the scallion rings with dabs of Beluga......

Crab-stuffed Deviled Eggs

12 eggs, hard-cooked, cooled, peeled, halved and yolks removed and reserved
6 cooked egg yolks
1 12 cups crab meat
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 scallions, while part only finely chopped reserve green part where the white ends.
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
Salt to taste
24 large shrimp (35-40 count)
1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper corns

In a medium bowl, mash the egg yolks well. Mix in mayonnaise, mustard, scallions, Old Bay Seasoning and salt. Mix well and fold in crab meat.
In the meantime, boil 6 cups of water with celery, onion, parsley, bay leaves, salt and pepper corns. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain liquid, return to pot and bring to a boil. Add shrimp and cook just until pink.
Remove, cool in ice water bath and peel and reserve.
Fill each egg half with some of the crab stuffing. Top with a cooked shrimp and garnish the center with a ring of green scallion.

Candied Orange Peel

I don't remember the last time I bought candied orange peel in the market but I do remember that it was expensive for what I was getting namely something that was pretty tasteless except for the sweetness.  It did not resemble an orange peel in the least.  In fact, if it hadn't been labeled as such, I never would have known just what it was exactly.
Enter Victoria Granof  and her wonderful book, Sweet Sicily, an adventure in  the history of pastries on the largest island in the Mediterranean.  In addition to the fabulous recipes for pastries and candies, Ms Granof treats the reader to recipes for the preparation of liqueurs, syrups, preserves and this wonderful candied orange peel.
You will shun the expensive stuff in the plastic containers and never again have to shell out your food dollars for a something that you can create many times better in your own kitchen.

Candied Orange Peel
3 unblemished organic navel oranges
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup

Wash oranges and cut each into 6 wedges.  Scrape away the pulp but leave the pith. (I love to snack on the pulp during the course of the day!)
Put in a sauce pan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and boil one minute.  Drain and repeat process 3 more times for a total or 4.
Remove from pan and add sugar, water and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium high heat stirring until the sugar melts.
Add the peel and continue to boil for another 25 minutes.  Drain on a rack for 2 to 3 hours and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Cooking

Potato pancakes have crept into many cultures and traditions but none does it justice quite like the Potato Latke that is so closely associated with the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah ( a holiday which has too many times been referred to, unfortunately, as the 'Jewish Christmas'), a celebratory remembrance of the retaking of the temple in Jerusalem in the Second Century BC. It was during this time that the miracle of the holy oil occurred.
What was only enough to last a short time, lasted for 8 days whilst more oil could be procured. For this reason, Hanukkah becomes a celebration not only of lights but of oil (in this case cooking oil) as well.
I learned to make these potato pancakes from a friend, Helen Friedman, from San Francisco one year when invited to spend Hanukkah with her and her late husband, Joe. I have been told that matzo meal should be used instead of flour. If you like, make that substitution which, may be more authentic than this version. But as I stated, it is the one I learned.

Potato Latkes

2 large russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
1/2 medium onion, grated
1 large egg
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
oil for frying
Sour cream (optional)
Apple sauce (optional)

Place shredded potato and onion in a dish cloth and wring out the water.
Place in a bowl and add the egg, flour and salt.
Fry in heaping tablespoons in hot oil spreading them out into pancakes.
Brown well on both sides and serve with sour cream and/or apple sauce, if desired.

Once again, cranberries turned up on my show on Monday. This time, though, it was not in a cocktail but rather a dessert that all members (read: any age) may legally enjoy.
This recalls the old English tradition of the Christmas pudding which still exists to this day which is evidenced by the number of comments and recipes I read at the Jamie Oliver forum, a great place to learn about cooking (and just about anything else) and to meet some of the nicest people in the world. But I digress, here is the recipe...

Cranberry Pudding

2 cups flour
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup butter, melted
2/3 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups finely chopped cranberries
1 teaspoon grated orange zest


1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch baking dish.

2) In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add butter, milk, and egg; beat well. Stir in cranberries and orange zest.

3) Transfer mixture to prepared dish. Bake 45 minutes, until set. Cool slightly and serve.

If there is such a thing as a cooking gene, I can point to the side of the family from which it comes. Not only did the Krumpens (my maternal grandmother's maiden name) turn out wonderful food but completely insane people as well. (And I mean this in a good way!) This all translates into food and fun as far as I am concerned. Time will not allow me to go into stories and antics from this side of the family, but I will share this recipe for snickerdoodles from my second cousin, Mary Stewart Brandt. (Get her family and our family together, throw in a few bottles of wine and it is advised that all doors and windows be secured.)


2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400F
Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt and set aside.
Beat shortening and sugar together until fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl.
Stir in the dry ingredients until well blended.
In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon.
Make 2-inch balls from the dough. Roll in the sugar mixture, flatten slightly on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.

Monday's quick fix brought back a memory of Sicily for me. Our host, Franco, was a very accomplished cook and was legendary for filling up the table with food and surrounding it with guests. For some reason he seemed to think that my capacity for food was far greater than it actually was. On this particular night, the first course was aio e oio a very simply done sauce of olive oil, garlic and chilies (Franco used cayenne). It is not an exaggeration to say the my bowl was spilling over with pasta. In the clamor of talking and drinking and chaos, I emptied half my bowl into his (he never noticed and if anyone else did they kept mum) and was able to enjoy the subsequent courses without feeling stuffed. This is a great one to do when you are hungry and don't want to take a lot of time but need something now. Buon appetito!

Aio e Oio

4 cloves garlic
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Chili flakes to taste (or cayenne)
1 pound pasta, cooked and drained reserving some of the water
Parmegianno Reggiano or Pecorino

Mince garlic and add to skillet along with chili and olive oil, saute just until garlic starts to color. Add pasta and mix thoroughly adding some of the cooking water to make a sauce.
Season to taste and serve with cheese.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rabanada (it's what's for breakfast...)

First off, I want to thank Rodrigo Antunes, um Brazileiro living in San Francisco, for this recipe.
He (and for that matter, all of my Brazilian friends) always gives a willing hand if I have a question or need some help with anything that has to do with Brazilian culture, history or cooking.
Last week, I decided it would be fun to devote the next few weeks to holiday cookies and figured that every country and culture has it's own specialty when it comes to Christmas or Hanukkah. The first person I hit up for a family favorite recipe was my friend Erick who lives in Brazil. He responded by telling me that they didn't have Christmas cookies there...
What? That couldn't be right. He must have misunderstood or was trying to be funny. But as it turns out, baking cookies for Christmas seems to have bypassed Brazilian culture in spite of the
influx of people from Germany and Italy, two countries where making cookies is almost a prerequisite for citizenship. Not to worry, though. The Brazilian has a sweet tooth and it's no wonder considering their history of sugar cane plantations and the number of sweet concoctions I see everyday just showing up on my Facebook and Twitter pages from the recipe sites of which I am a member. But getting back to sweets associated with Christmas...
A Christmas morning breakfast item, rabanada (pronounced ha-ba-na-da in Portuguese) came up more than once and I was curious as to what it could be. But before I had a chance to Google it, Rodrigo had already sent me a link to a recipe for it in English. Yes, I know this looks like the same old French Toast we are all used to but this goes beyond the quick milk and egg dunking and introduces some typical Brazilian ingredients like sweetened condensed milk, something found in many a Brazilian sobremesa. Also, instead of the quick dip, this calls for the bread to soak overnight much like a strata. But the similarity stops there; whereas a strata is baked these slices on saturated bread are deep fried. I must confess that I have not made these yet but am looking forward to it. If they are anything like the other Brazilian food I've made, I will not be disappointed.

1 medium sweet baguette or 1 medium sourdough baguette
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
6 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 -4 cups vegetable oil (for frying, estimated)


Cut bread into 1-inch thick slices on the bias. You should get about 16 pieces. If you have more, adjust other ingredients to compensate.
Whisk together the eggs, condensed milk, whole milk, vanilla extract, and salt until well mixed.
Coat bread slices on both sides in the egg mixture, and place coated bread in a shallow pan or pie plate, add any remaining egg mixture to it. Cover with press and seal wrap or foil and place in the refrigerator to soften overnight.
Mix together sugar, cocoa and cinnamon in a small shallow bowl big enough to hold one slice bread.
Heat oil in a deep skillet to about 2-inches until it reaches 330F (use a candy thermometer to check).
Lift the bread from the egg mixture until it stops dripping, and pan fry the pieces in the skillet on both sides until golden and crispy. Keep the oil hot while frying (check temp), raising the heat if needed.
As the pieces are removed from the skillet, drain on paper towels then dredge in the spicy sugar mixture.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Haleem from American Masala

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this recipe from Suvir Saran's last book, American Masala, is true texas chili. You know the kind I mean. Chili that does not hold back on flavor and heat, that brings a pleasant fire to one part of the mouth while the sweet flavor of familiar spices sing a chorus in another , that only asks for the added sweetness of some red onion and perhaps some bread to enhance the texture and flavor. And while the two renditions share many of the same flavors--onions, garlic, chilies and cumin are noticeably present--the execution and other ingredients make this chili stand out from your typical bowl of red.
When I first started reading the directions for cooking this wonderful dish from the muslim community of northern India, I smiled to myself as one does when an old friend shows up unexpectedly. Hearkening back to his first book, Indian Home Cooking ,Suvir Saran directs the cook to use whole spices in this as he does many of the recipes in that first collection of gems. I must confess that this practice put me off at first. Crunching down on a cardamom pod or whole clove was certainly something out of my midwestern comfort zone. However, what began as a nuisance gradually became a pleasure, a part of the experience, a nice surprise instead of a bother. And now I find myself enjoying the same delights with this "chili" as well. But perhaps even more than that is the additional flavors that take this in a dervishly different direction.
When looking at the word chili, which appears in quotes, one of the first ingredients that comes to mind is tomatoes. How can you call anything chili (quotation marks or not) if tomatoes are not involved? The final taste and texture assured me that none were needed. The traditional Indian spices one uses in Haleem more than makes up for the missing tomate we are at home with in our more familiar versions. And, in fact, they would get in the way of the lovely cardamom, cloves and fresh ginger which finds their way into this exotic bowl of heat* and perfume,
a bowl which, I found, pairs with a good many things besides a wedge of pita and some red onions and cilantro as pictured in the book.
As I am the only carnivore in the house (except for the cat and dog), I found myself with lots of leftover haleeem with which to get creative so I thought I would give my old leftover chili con carne concoction a makeover and was very pleased with the result! While living in Houston, I learned a trick from the Mexican dishwashers who always made the same breakfast for themselves which consisted of fried tortillas topped with eggs, chili, and cheese. This has been a standby for me for years. But why not haleem in a similar dish? Two over easy's topped with red onion on a bed of haleen with sides of guava and dwarf banana proved to be a very delicious breakfast this morning. (Hmmm thinking the same tomorrow with a crumbling of cotijo cheese)
Another tasty bite involved a baked pita wedge topped with some chili, red onion, yogurt (Greek style is best here) and a few strips of fresh mango. My dinner from the other night. I can see this as part of a Super Bowl Party buffet. (Or any buffet, for that matter....)
Can a stuffed omelet be far behind.....

*I use the term 'heat' loosely. Of course, you may adjust the heat to your (and your other diners) liking.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cranberry Margaritas

Growing up in an evangelical home, holiday beverages were limited to eggnog sans any kind of alcohol. Oh yes, and something called Sprite and Spice which was the soft drink put out by Coca Cola that came with a packet of mix that you made a punch with. Without getting into a treatise on religion here, I will say that those days are long gone and I now enjoy my life guilt- and brimstone-free and can enjoy one of these cocktails which use whole cranberries as well as cranberry juice. This particular recipe appeared in Sunset Magazine two years ago.

Cranberry Margaritas

1 1/4 cups cranberry juice cocktail, divided
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
3/4 cup tequila
1/2 cup orange-flavored liqueur, such as Cointreau
3 cups coarsely crushed ice

1. Pour 1/4 cup cranberry juice into a shallow bowl. Pour 3 tbsp. sugar onto a plate. Dip rims of 4 to 6 widemouthed glasses (6 to 8 oz., suitable for margaritas) into juice, then sugar. Set glasses aside.
2. Reserve 12 cranberries. In a blender, whirl the remaining cranberries, cranberry juice, and sugar, the lime juice, tequila, orange liqueur, and ice until smooth and slushy. If necessary, blend in 2 batches, then mix together. Divide among glasses and garnish with reserved berries, skewered on toothpicks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Baked Turkey Sandwiches

Finally, our quick fix from last week. This recipe is based on one from a Brazilian recipe site that I frequent. The original calls for smoked turkey, which you can certainly use if you like, but I thought some leftover slices from the Thanksgiving turkey would be fine. A slice of boiled ham would not be amiss, either!

Baked Turkey Sandwiches

12 slices of bread
12 slices of mozzarella
12 slices of turkey breast
Béchamel using 2 cups milk, 6 tablespoons butter and 6 tablespoons flour
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste
method of preparation

On a baking sheet, place 6 slices of bread.

On each place 2 slices of mozzarella cheese and 2 slices of turkey breast.

Cover each with the other slice of bread.

Top with béchamel.

Sprinkle the grated cheese.

Bake in a 350°F preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pequi Rice

I must admit when I bought that jar of preserved pequi last month at the Brazilian market in San Francisco, that I was afraid to open it based on what a couple brasileiros had told me. Erick, my friend in Brasilia who hails from the Cerrado (say-hah-doo) where pequi is grown, tells me that he not only doesn't like the taste but also can't stand the smell of it. When his family makes this rice, they make a separate one for him....(Between you and me, I think Erick is a little spoiled but I would never tell that to My friend, Rodrigo, who lives in San Francisco and runs a business called Adventures In Brazil, claims it to be the worst tasting thing one could ever eat. So you can understand why, with all the negative reviews--another friend, Felipe, from Amasonas (Amazon) and had never even heard of it so could not comment one way or another--I was hesitant to even open the jar lest I should be repulsed by the stench thinking about what Erick had said. But my miserly ways rose above the opinions of others. (The jar had cost nearly $15 and I was not about to toss it out.) I will admit the odor that emanated from it upon my opening it was different but not in a bad way.
One of those familiar-but-I-can't-place-it sort of odors. Astringent yet earthy. I used the amount suggested in the recipe, several tablespoons for each cup of rice, as I didn't want just a little hint but the full on flavor of what it was supposed to taste like. That was a few weeks ago and I will have nothing else with my beans and stews. It is an ingredient I love as much as hot sauce and dendê. (OK, not as much as dendê which is my ingredient discovery of the year!)
Here is the recipe for pequi rice, one I hope you will try.

Pequi Rice

1 cup rice
1 half onion, chopped
1/4 cup pequi, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt,
2 cups hot water

Rinse rice in several changes of cold water to remove excess starch. Drain in a sieve for 1o minutes.
Heat oil in sauce pan and saute onions and pequi until soft. (Do not let brown)
Add rice and cook, stirring, until the rice achieves a white chalky hue.
Add water and salt and cook stirring until much of the water has boiled out but rice is still quite wet.
Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Fluff with fork.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Side and Rolls to Die For!

The rolls pictured on the left are the large size version of the recipe which is not only easy but also very delicious. The hardest part is kneading which can also be done in a bread machine or a stand mixer with a hook. However, I really find kneading dough a very meditative ritual. It is almost yogic in nature when you feel the rhythm of the the stretching, kneading, turning.... But if you must....
This is a recipe I got online but part of the method is from my Great Aunt Ruth, a fabulous country cook from Wisconsin who I will also remember for the wonderful rolls, homemade preserves and ability to make you feel as if you were there permanently. And it's true that we never wanted to leave when we had to go back to Michigan after our annual summer visits.
Do yourself and your guests a favor this Thanksgiving and leave the brown-n-serves where they belong.....on the shelf of the grocery

Whole Wheat Rolls

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (110 degrees to 115 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups whole wheat flour

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 5 minutes. Blend in sugar, salt and 3 cups all-purpose flour at low speed until moistened; beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Beat in egg and oil. By hand, gradually stir in whole wheat flour and enough remaining all-purpose flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise until doubled or cover and refrigerate overnight. Punch dough down and form into dinner-size rolls. Place on greased baking sheets for plain rolls or knots, or in greased muffin tins for cloverleaf rolls. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour for dough prepared the same day or 1 to 2 hours for refrigerated dough. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and cover with a clean kitchen towel for 15 minutes. Serve warm. If desired, dough
may be kept up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Punch down daily.

I hope if you are one of the people who bring the canned yams with the marshmallows on top every year to the Thanksgiving Dinner that you will delightfully surprise the other diners by taking the sweet potato to new heights by making this delicious, yet simple, soufflé. I promise you will be asked to bring this time and again. (You don't have to tell them where you got this. Tell them you made it

Sweet Potato Soufflé

2 1/2 pounds yams, baked, peeled and mashed
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 400°F

Mix and pour into a buttered baking dish and top with the following:

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons butter

Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving Starters

If you didn't catch the last edition of Hoos Cookin' you're probably wondering what the ingredients for stuffing is doing in a blog titled, Thanksgiving Starters. The answer to that mystery will be revealed soon but first I want to share a very delicious dip that, like other offerings, has become a tradition for the holidays.
There are many versions of hot artichoke dip out there. This is the one I use and is a must during the holidays!

Hot Artichoke Dip

1 can (14-oz) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped coarsely
1 small can diced mild chilies
1 cups mayonnaise
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Mix all ingredients and bake at 325°F in an even proof bowl until bubbly.
Serve with crackers or toasted pita wedges.

Several years ago I happened to be at a local market during the judging of a stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving. I don't remember who won but I do remember this recipe for stuffing-turned-appetizer because I think I have made it every year since. It comes from a local family-Mada-and is simply called The Mada Family Stuffing. The hardest part of this is pulling the bread apart. Get some clean extra hands to help!

Mada Family Stuffing

1/4 pound imported provolone, diced in 1/3-inch cubes
3 hard cooked eggs, chopped
1 cup hard salami, diced in 1/3-inch cubes
2 beaten eggs
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 loaves day-old Italian bread
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Milk, enough to just moisten the bread
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled but still pourable

Preheat oven to 350°F

Remove crust from bread.
Tear into small pieces and place in a large bowl. Add milk to just moisten.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well with hands.
Make into walnut-size balls and bake on a baking sheet for 20 minutes or until they start to turn golden.

Avocado doce

Please take note: the avocado pictured did not have a make-up assistant and ended up looking like an avocado does after a second of being cut open. I was going to put up a picture of a perfectly green, creamy freshly cut avocado but I decided to make this a reality blog this time But while I am on the subject of discoloring, you can always hit the surface of any freshly cut fruit, be it an avocado, apple or pear, with a little fresh lemon juice.
I have not tried it with lime yet but I would imagine it would slow the oxidation process. It is one of the key ingredients in the next recipe which I featured on Monday's show.

Crema de Abacate

2 large avocados, chilled, halved, seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
6 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 lime, cut into four wedges

With the back of a spoon, force the avocado through the mesh of a sieve.
Add lime juice and sugar and chill in parfait glasses. Serve with a slice of lime as garnish.
Makes four servings.

The next recipe comes from the Dr. Oz show. It's also a Brazilian concoction in the form of a healthy shake.

Brazilian Avocado Shake

2 cups of low-fat milk
1 large, ripe avocado
2 tbsp of honey or agave nectar
A little bit of ice

Blend until smooth and serve

Have to share this next recipe that listener and friend and fantastic cook and food stylist, Claudia Raymond sent me. Never heard of this treatment of an avocado before but it sounds good. After all, chocolate is involved!

Raspberry Fudge Cake

Fudge Cake:
3 cups dry walnuts
2?3 cup unsweetened cacao powder or carob powder
1?4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup pitted Medjool dates
1?3 cup semi-soft pitted Medjool dates
1?4 cup agave syrup
1?2 cup ripe avocado flesh (from about 1 medium avocado)
1?3 cup cacao powder
1?2 cup raspberries
To make the cake, combine the walnuts, cacao powder, and salt in the food processor and pulse until coarsely mixed. Avoid overprocessing. Add the dates and pulse until mixed well. Shape into 2 stackable cakes of desired shape and set aside.
To make the frosting, combine the dates and agave syrup in the food processor and process until smooth. Add the avocado and process until smooth. Add the cacao powder and process until smooth.
To serve, frost the top of one of the cakes with half the frosting and top with the raspberries. Stack the second cake on top and frost the top and side. Serve immediately, or place in the refrigerator for a couple hours to firm up.
The cake on its own will keep in the fridge for many weeks. The frosting will keep separately in the fridge for 1 week. The assembled cake with raspberries will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Breakfast Italian Style

The picture here is of Caccamo, Sicily, a little hill town about 45 minutes east of Palermo where we once owned a modest home. In addition to it's medieval fairy tale charm, one of my most cherished memories is that of the bar in town where I had my first taste of a pastry known as a Genovese, a fried pastry stuffed with ricotta or pastry cream and unheard of by most people and search engines. The very best were had by us in a bar (read coffee bar that sells alcohol in the afternoon and night) in Palermo the vouchers for which we were given every morning at our hotel, The Oriental, one of the old grand places just a few blocks from the central train station. (Sadly, this classic building is falling into disrepair but it was in it's day a showplace of splendor and Mussolini used to give speeches from a balcony there.) We would make our way down the street every morning the few blocks to a tiny coffee bar and hope for an available table. Inside, the proprietor would take your voucher, ask what coffee drink you preferred and then point to the row of pastries you were allowed to have. It didn't matter that other were off bounds to us as we chose the same delicious Genovese each time, fresh from the fryer, stuffed with sweetened sheep milk ricotta, chunks of chocolate still in the process of melting and dusted with powdered sugar. You would think that something so wonderful would be so easy to find on the internet. However, the best I have come up with (with a few exceptions) is something called a cassateddi, which also shows up in Mary Taylor Simeti's book, Pomp and Sustenance, a book on the history of food in Sicily which also has a recipe for this pastry containing sweetened garbanzo puree.
I will confess that I do not know if there is the difference between the two but I will offer the one for cassateddi that I received on FB from a Sicilian source. Although it doesn't call for it, some little chunks of chocolate could only make this recipe better?


Ingredients for the dough: 500 g flour, 100 g of caster sugar, extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons marsala Ingredients for filling: 400 g ricotta cheese,well-drained cinnamon, sugar,
Powdered (icing) sugar for dusting Preparation: Mix the flour with 2 tablespoons of sugar, Marsala wine, olive oil and a pinch of salt until a paste consistency. Cover and let rest for about 30 minutes. Sieve the ricotta into a bowl and stir in remaining sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and the grated rind of one lemon. Roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut with a 4-inch disc cutter . Fill and fold the dough into little piles of ravioli. Fry in hot vegetable oil, drain and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve hot.

From the hills of Sicily we come back to the shores of the Pacific in the San Francisco Bay Area for a regional dish of eggs, bacon and......oysters! What? I know it sounds like a very unlikely and strange combination but what's not to love about fried oysters? Even for breakfast! And what's more there are a few legends to go with its origin. One story has it that a miner struck it rich, came back into town and ordered the most expensive thing he could think of for breakfast. But my favorite (and the one I subscribe to) is that in Placervile (aka Hangtown because of the executions) those convicted to "dance from the end of a rope" would order this for their last meal to postpone the inevitable for a bit longer as eggs were not plentiful and had to be brought in from afar. Whichever is the true story, this omelet is worth the splurge!
Hangtown Fry

2 eggs
2 strips of bacon, fried to your liking
2 fried oysters
(1 egg, beaten, bread crumbs, oil)
Drain and pat dry the oysters. Dip in beaten egg, dredge in bread crumbs and fry in hot oil for a few minutes on each side.
Add the 2 beaten egg to the pan and fry lifting up the sides of the omelet as it cooks to let the uncooked egg flow under.
Carefully turn the omelet and cook for a few more minutes.
Lay the bacon on top and serve with toast and hot sauce if desired.

The last offering which comes from the Gourmet Cookbook is perfect for a Sunday brunch item. Invite a few more people over with a few more dishes of fresh fruit, rolls and cheese and this would be a great get together. (Make sure someone brings chilled champagne and fresh oj!)

Breakfast Strata

1 1/2 pound breakfast sausage
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
4 large eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 large loaf Italian bread, crusts removed and cut into slices
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Brown sausage in skillet, add mushrooms and onion and saute until done.

In a buttered baking dish, place 1/3 of bread on bottom. Top with 1/2 the sausage and 1/3 of the cheese.
Pour egg mixture over and top with remaining cheese. Cover and refrigerate.
Bake in 350°F preheated oven for 1 hour or until top is brown and bubbly.

Feijões ala Erick

This recipe comes from my friend, Erick, who lives in Brazilia, the capitol of Brazil. Aside from the beans (I used pinto but I think other beans could be used with equally good results) the chief ingredient in the recipe is garlic paste, something that his family uses in many of their recipes. (I'm thinking that with so much garlic being used, there can't be many vampires in Brazil, a thought that ruins my crazy fantasies of a place I've yet to visit but have fallen in love with like a place you only imagine or read about in a book.)
If you have access to a mortar and pestle, this is the easiest way to make garlic paste. Smash two large cloves (or teeth if you're in the land of "Ordem e Progresso") and place them in the mortar with a large pinch of salt and grind them to a paste. The other method is to mash them, add salt and work them into a paste on a cutting board with the broad side of a chef's knife. Either way this is enough for the recipe that will follow.
The treatment of the beans are much different than the ways I was taught to make them which are to either soak them overnight in cold water or to boil them for two minutes and let them sit, covered, for an hour. It seems that the Brasileiro wants his beans and wants them now! He doesn't have time to wait all night or even a few hours. He will starve to death and miss his day at the beach. This is where the pressure cooker comes into play. I will give you my method. (Erick may have his own but he hasn't divulged that secret to me yet.) After going over your beans to make sure there are no stones or clumps of dirt among them, wash and place in a pressure cooker with 3 times the amount of water. Place on heat and let pressure rise to 15 psi.
(If you don't have a pressure cooker that measures psi, just wait until the weight starts rocking in a slow yet steady motion and keep it there.) Let it cook for 2 minutes and then cool in down under running water. Open and drain the water from the beans then add the same amount of water and return them to the heat cooking them at the same pressure for 15 minutes. Again, cool the pot down under running water and drain the n0w-cooked beans.

Feijões ala Erick

1 cup dry beans
Garlic paste (above)
2 tablespoons oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Make beans in the method mentioned above.
Fry garlic paste in heated oil. Add beans and a little water mashing the beans on the side of the pot with the back of a wooden spoon.
Season to taste.
Serve with rice.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A linguagem da comida (the language of food)

Few things are as satisfying as learning a new language or a new recipe. But I have learned to double my satisfaction by doing both at once.
This first started a few years ago on my first visit to Sicily.
I will confess here and now that I hate writing postcards. Not that I don't love my friends and family. But I hate the limited space on a postcard and my poor penmanship. (OK, so how is it have no trouble tweeting?) So when we went into a small shop in Caccamo, Sicily, I steered clear of the postcards and wandered to the magazine section when this idea hit me: Wouldn't it be cool to practice my Italian and Italian cooking by translating recipes? It was! I have since gone on to doing the same with Brazilian cooking by going to online cooking sites and translating the recipes from Portuguese. In no time at all I have learned to recognize ingredients and measurements.
The following recipe is from last Monday's show and one that I made after arriving home from that first trip to Sicily. It was from the Idee Pasta magazine shown in the photo.

Tagliatelle with Butternut Squash

1 pound butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
5 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
4 ounces prociutto, julienned
8 ounces fresh tagliatelle
2/3 cup heavy cream

Clean, peel and deseed squash and cut into half-inch cubes.
Heat oil in pan and saute onion and garlic.
Add parsley and saute a few minutes longer.
Add squash and cook a few minutes.
Add salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir. Stir in stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add prociutto and cook for a few minutes.
Cook pasta until al dente, add to sauce along with cream and briefly cook, stirring to coat the pasta. Remove to a serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley.
Serve with parmesan or pecorino cheese.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Good Morning, Bom Dia, Buon Giorno....

Most important. But favorite?

Growing up, breakfast was my least favorite meal of the day. "Cereal and eggs" was the answer to "What do we have?" which was the answer to "What do you want for breakfast?" Seriously, I didn't want anything for breakfast. I did not want to even think about food at that time of day. I wasn't hungry and didn't even want to think about food. I hated eggs and cereal was only good for the prize that was offered in the box. No, I'm afraid there was little that could have tempted my palate at that time of day.

I did say "little." Actually, if there were donuts or pancakes or waffles on the menu, I would be at the table in an instant! This was like getting dessert first thing of the day. Your day had to be good if it started out with dessert, no? For sausage and waffles, I would even have set and cleared the table! I still love all kinds of waffles from the wonderful yeast-raised ones with the crunchy coating of sugar that you find from the outside vendors in Brussels to the quick bread type that most of us are familiar with. (You may keep the frozen ones, thank you very much!)
The waffle recipe I am giving here comes from an old out-of-print cookbook called The Settlement Cookbook (The Way to a Man's Heart). I think I got the last edition some years ago when working in a bookstore in Westwood, an area in Los Angeles that is also home to UCLA.
I hope you'll try these and also keep an eye out in used bookstores for any editions of this book.

Sour Cream Waffles

1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs separated
2 cups sour cream
3 tablespoons of butter, melted

Sift dry ingredients. Beat egg whites until stiff (but not dry). Set aside.
Beat egg yolks, add sour cream and mix with dry ingredients just enough to blend. Add melted butter and fold in egg whites. Bake in waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions.

Call them tortillas in Spain, frittatas in Italy or egg foo young in China, every culture has their own version of the omelet. And it seems to me that they originated as a vehicle for leftovers. I smidgen of this or that, a few eggs and a pan and you have an easy and inexpensive meal which is, at the same time, tasty. I think one of my favorite uses for leftover Calabrian spaghetti (or the recipe I have for something with that name) is in a frittata with some extra cheese thrown in.
Not the quintessential breakfast frittata. I think you may find this one a little more appropriate.

Potato Frittata

5 eggs
1 1/2 cups cold boiled or roast potatoes, cubed
1 cup fontina cheese, grated
1 onion, thinly sliced, sauteed until caramelized
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Beat eggs in a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients except the oil.
Mix well.
Heat oil in a large skillet. Pour in egg mixture and lift sides of omelet as they become cooked. When the top is still a little undone, finish under broiler or turn over by placing a large plate over the top of the skillet, turning the skillet upside down, then sliding the omelet back into the skillet. You may need to add a little more oil to the skillet.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

QF: Mushroom Soup

Although I did not get around to the Quick Fix segment of the show on Monday, I did want to give this recipe for mushroom soup which comes from The Gourmet Cookbook. Forget about the nasty stuff that comes in cans and goes in casseroles. This puts them to shame!

Fresh Mushroom Soup

2 cups half-and-half
1 thick slice of onion
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 pounds of mushrooms, brushed and thinly sliced
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 cup beef stock
1 small bay leaf
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Bring half-and-half just to the boil. Remove from heat and cover.
Heat butter in a pot until the foaming subsides and add the mushrooms and cook until golden. Add the onion and sprinkle with the flour and cook stirring for 2 minutes longer. Slowly add the stock, half-and-half, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
Discard onion and bay leaf and stir in lemon juice and serve.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bolo de Chocolate Amargo

One of my favorite parts of learning a new language is translating recipes into English. I first attempt at this was several years ago when in Italy I decided to pick up food magazines and translate some recipes and try them out. Fun and deliciously rewarding.
My recent love affair with all things Brazilian naturally led me to learning Portuguese, Brazilian cuisine and that magic place where the two meet...the online Brazilian recipe sites.
Sharing pics from the sites with online friends has made me have to translate certain recipes whether I planned to eat them or not because of the requests. After I've teased and tempted with pictures, how can I deny?
Just a note here to my American friends: We are the only country in the world who has not converted to the metric system. Our stubborn determination to stick with an out-of-date system of measurement has not done our children any favors. (All recipes in other countries use the metric system with the rare exception when you will find a teaspoon or tablespoon.) You can start the revolution by purchasing a kitchen scales that measure both ounces and grams. Get an electric one. They aren't that expensive and you will use it more than you think. I have translated language and measurements. But, just sayin'.

Dark Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate Sauce
(Bolo de Chocolate Amargo)

400 grams (14oz) dark chocolate, chopped
150 grams (1 stick and 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
150 grams (about 1 cup) icing (powdered) sugar
5 eggs, separated
1/3 cup flour, measured after sifting

200 grams (7 oz) milk chocolate, chopped
100 ml (scant 1/2 cup) cream
20 grams (1 1/2) tablespoons unsalted butter

In a double boiler or a bowl set over (not in) simmering water, melt the dark chocolate, butter and icing sugar stirring until well blended. Remove and set aside.
Beat egg whites until stiff and set aside.
In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks then stir in two tablespoons of the melted chocolate mixture. Stir in the rest of the chocolate mixture slowly and stir until well blended.
Fold in flour until completely incorporated.
Carefully fold in the beat egg whites until well incorporated.

Pour batter into a 9X13-inch (32cmX22cm) greased baking dish. Bake in a 350°F (180C) preheated oven for 10 minutes or until the top is dry and cracked. (It should be soft on the inside.)


Melt milk chocolate, cream and butter in a double boiler or bowl set over (not in) simmering water, stirring until well blended. Keep warm.

While still warm, cut cake into individual pieces and serve with the warm syrup poured over.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Show Recipes

Had a great time doing the show today. Halloween and fall always evoke wonderful images of growing up in the midwest. The colors red, yellow and orange bring with them memories of leaves turning colors, gourds, apples and pumpkins (the star fruit of the season!)
As a midwesterner, I was brought up to think of pumpkins as a vehicle for pies, cookies and quick breads. The idea of this symbol of Fall being used for anything savory was foreign to me as I'm sure it was to others those around me. The first thing I remember having in Michigan with pumpkin in it that didn't fall into the aforementioned categories was pumpkin empanadas, a treat I discovered while delivering produce to a Mexican market in Lansing during my short stint as a truck driver, and also one which I have included in the recipes from the show.
But I think since I have an entire Autumnal meal laid out for you, I think I should start with the soup course by sharing a Pumpkin Soup recipe by Chef David Barker, a fellow forum member at Jamie Oliver's website.

Pumpkin Soup

50g (3.5 tablespoons) butter
1 onion, chopped
1kg (2 lbs) pumpkin,de-seeded and cubed
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves (from my garden)
a glass of white wine
2 tablespoons double cream
900ml(3.5 cups) fresh organic chicken stock,hot
an old parmesan cheese rind! plus extra for shavings for garnish!


First, melt the butter on a med-low heat, add the onion and pumpkin and cook for about 5 mins. Then add the garlic and the bay leaves and cook again, for another 5 mins.

Add the wine and let it bubble for a couple of mins to evaporate off the alcohol a bit!!! then add the stock and the parmesan rind (this is a good way to get some great flavour from a thing that you normally throw away)

Now increase the heat and boil the soup for 10 mins, or until the pumpkin is nice and soft. Then set aside to cool down slightly. When it has, remove the bay and rind...

Puree with a stick blender until really smooth. At his point you can loosen the soup up a little with water if it is too thick!

Stir in the cream and season well with salt and pepper, transfer the soup to a clean pan and heat til hot.

Ladle into warm bowls. Top each with a few thin shavings of parmesan and a good drizzle of a great, grassy, peppery good quality extra virgin olive oil.

Coming back to this part of the world, I have a rather interesting salad from the Cerrado area of Brazil, a massive area that covers several regions. I thought this was such an interesting use of pumpkin. Feel free to cut back on the amount of cinnamon if you wish. It does seem to dominate somewhat. But do try this interesting juxtaposition of fried balls of pumpkin with the coolness of the salad greens.

Savannah Salad with Fried Pumpkin

3 cups water
3 teaspoons salt
1 stick cinnamon
2 cups pumpkin balls (cut with a melon baller)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 cups Boston lettuce
1 cup watercress
1/2 cup roasted unsalted cashew nuts, crushed


2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons olive oil

1. In a medium-size pan, boil water with salt and the cinnamon stick.
2. Cook 1/3 of the pumpkin balls at a time for 3 minutes. Strain and place them in a bowl of ice water. Strain again and allow the balls to dry. Repeat process with remaining pumpkin balls. Heal the olive oil in a heavy skillet and add the cinnamon and fry the pumpkin balls shaking the pan to see they don't stick. Remove and reserve.
3. For the vinaigrette, add the cinnamon to the warm skillet scraping the bottom. Add vinegar and salt and whisk in olive oil.
4. Toss the greens with half the dressing. Toss the pumpkin with 5 tablespoons of the dressing. Finally, mound the greens on a platter placing the pumpkins balls around and sprinkling with the crushed cashews.
Drizzle any remaining dressing on top and serve.

With the exception of Chef Suvir Saran's Pork Vindaloo from his first book, Indian Home Cooking, my favorite way to enjoy a long braising of pork comes from the Latin American kitchen and few are better than Pork and Pumpkin stew. Severed with warm tortillas and boiled rice, this is the ultimate Autumn comfort food!

Pork and Pumpkin Stew

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
a 14-ounce can tomatoes, including the juice
2 teaspoons dried sage
4 potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch kale, chopped
2 pounds sugar pumpkin cut into 1-inch pieces

In a heavy pot, heat oil and sear pork in batches until nicely caramelized. Remove to a plate and reserve. Add onion, saute until soft and add garlic stirring just until golden. Add tomatoes, breaking them up and return pork and simmer covered for 1 hour adding water if liquid if not sufficient.
Add potatoes and continue to cook for an additional 20 minutes. Add the kale and pumpkin and cooked covered stirring occasionally until pumpkin is tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve over rice with warm tortillas.

When I was in my early 20's, I drove a produce truck delivering fruits and vegetables to little markets around Michigan. One such market was a Latin American market in Lansing. It was there that I discovered Pumpkin Empanadas, a sort of turnover affair filled with sweetened spiced pumpkin. I believe there were 6 to a package and none to a package by the time I returned the truck to Battle Creek. I requested that particular route every week. I was so pleased when I found a recipe that rivaled those wonderful Mexican pastries I used to enjoy back in Michigan. Try these soon. They are just the thing to include in a Sunday brunch and just beg to be washed down with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate.

Pumpkin Empanadas

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cups cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, separated
1/4 cup ice water
Pumpkin filling

1. Preheat oven to 400°F
2. Stir together flour and sugar and work in butter with a pastry blender. Beat together egg yolk and the water add gradually to flour mixture and mix well.
3. Divide dough in half for easier handling and turn onto a lightly floured board. Roll each ball of dough out thin. Cut dough into 4-inch circles.
4. Fill each circle with approximately 1 tablespoon filling, fold in half, and pinch edges to seal; then flute the edges. Place on an ungreased baking sheet, brush the tops with the slightly beaten egg white, and bake for 15 minutes.

Pumpkin Filling

2 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon anise seed or ground nutmeg

1. Place pumpkin, sugar and anise seed (or nutmeg)Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Cool.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Coq au vin, Milinciani a Canazzu and Lamb Stew

No matter what you call it or what you use in it, stew is the perfect comfort food for those short cold days, the perfect foil for tough cuts of meat and just the thing to make you smile and sigh at the end of the day.
Any culture that's had a tough bird to deal with has a version of chicken stew. One of my favorites is found in the Gourmet cookbook that came out about 10 or so years ago. Not for the diet-conscious, it contains a good amount of cream but is worth the splurge on a special occasion.
A more traditional version, Coq au vin (rooster in wine) comes to us from France and provides all the comfort one needs as well as all the praise the cook will get for serving this to guests.

Coq au Vin

1 chicken, cut up into pieces
4 ounces bacon
1/2 cup pearl onions
4 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Bouquet garni
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons brandy
2 cups red wine
Kneaded butter

Saute the bacon and onions in butter until browned. Add chicken, garlic, bouquet garni, and mushrooms and saute until golden with the lid on stirring occasionally.
Pour in 2 tablespoons of the brandy and flame.
Add the wine and simmer lively for 15 or 20 minutes.
Remove chicken and thicken sauce with the kneaded butter.
Add remaining brandy, heat through and serve over chicken.

1 chicken, cut up into pieces
4 ounces bacon
1/2 cup pearl onions
4 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Bouquet garni
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons brandy
2 cups red wine
Kneaded butter

Saute the bacon and onions in butter until browned. Add chicken, garlic, bouquet garni, and mushrooms and saute until golden with the lid on stirring occasionally.
Pour in 2 tablespoons of the brandy and flame.
Add the wine and simmer lively for 15 or 20 minutes.
Remove chicken and thicken sauce with the kneaded butter.
Add remaining brandy, heat through and serve over chicken.

1 chicken, cut up into pieces
4 ounces bacon
1/2 cup pearl onions
4 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Bouquet garni
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons brandy
2 cups red wine
Kneaded butter

Saute the bacon and onions in butter until browned. Add chicken, garlic, bouquet garni, and mushrooms and saute until golden with the lid on stirring occasionally.
Pour in 2 tablespoons of the brandy and flame.
Add the wine and simmer lively for 15 or 20 minutes.
Remove chicken and thicken sauce with the kneaded butter.
Add remaining brandy, heat through and serve over chicken.

6 tablespoon butter
1 cup flour

Blend together to make a smooth paste

I've often told the story of our first visit to Sicily. A long flight from San Francisco with layovers, it can take around 24 hours (or more) to get to Palermo where you haven't really experienced the proper welcome until you're luggage has been lost. We got the proper welcome. In addition to that, we were dropped off at a place out in the middle of nowhere by a man we had only just met. While waiting for him to come back to get us, we decided to do a little exploring in the countryside which, in no time, left us with mud up to our ankles. Using an outside pump, we washed our socks and shoes and prayed for them to dry before he returned which he did at about the same time we were pulling on still-damp socks and shoes.
Exhausted, cold, wet and famished, he staggered into his office to talk about looking at property, a subject that my battered mind couldn't get itself around at that time. When we finally stood up, stretched and said, "Well, boys, let's go and get a bite to eat," I was pulling my coat on when he pointed to a door which did not lead outside. It led to a darkened descending stairway which I though would be the last sight I would ever see. (Yes, a tired mind is susceptible...) What we found at the bottom of the stairs was a kitchen and a long table at which we were seated and poured out glasses of homemade wine.
As he walked to the stove, the real estate man, Franco, started talking about everyday things and pulled out vegetables, homemade passata, olive oil pressed from his father's olives and dried Calabrian chilies, an ingredient I haven't been without since. In no time he was dishing up a wonderful stew and passing a big bowl of dried pecorino to sprinkle over it. This welcome made me forget about wet feet and lost luggage. This was a warmth to transcend!
It was also a recipe to keep. I had purposely brought a note pad to jot down recipes I might find and was put to work sooner than I thought. Just a note about the peppers, I have found that looking for sweet peppers that are halfway between green and red provides a very different and delicious flavor to any dish where peppers are called for. If you can't locate them, go with regular red, or yellow, or orange...

Milinciani a Canazzu
(Eggplant stew)

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large sweet red bell pepper, chopped
1 eggplant
1 Calbrian dried chili or dried chili flakes to taste
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, chopped
2 or 3 medium potatoes, sliced thick
Salt to taste
Saute onion, garlic, pepper, eggplant and chili in olive oil until vegetables are soft.
Add tomatoes and cook stirring for a few minutes.
Add potatoes and water if necessary cooking until potatoes are tender.
Season with salt and serve with grated pecorino.

Lamb stew is another of those concoctions that every culture has come up with. My most memorable is not made with a tough cut of lamb but with a milk-fed lamb that has not been allowed to mature beyond the age of one month assuring the diner with a tender succulence he won't find in any other lamb stew. Served only at Easter, this Roman preparation is so popular in the Eternal City that it is wise to pre-order your lamb or go very early in the morning on the Saturday before Easter (as I did) to assure your lamb is fresh and available. For the rest of us and the rest of the year, I offer a recipe from the old now-out-of-print Settlement Cookbook.
You should experiment with this by adding some thyme and additional vegetables of choice. I am offering the recipe as given in the book along with the one for baking powder dumplings, a must pairing!

Lamb Stew with Baking Powder Dumplings

1 pound lamb stew pieces
1 medium onion, chopped and divided into to portions
Salt and pepper
1 large potato, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
Baking Powder Dumplings (Recipe below)

Season lamb pieces with salt and pepper and brown well in the oil along with half the chopped onion.
Add boiling water to cover and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
Add the rest of the vegetables and simmer,covered, for 1 additional hour adding dumplings and simmering another 15 minutes covered.

Baking Powder Dumplings

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 scant cup milk

Mix dry ingredients. Add milk and stir just to mix. Drop by spoonfuls into simmer stew. Cover and let cook for 15 minutes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Moqueca de Camarão

Say the term "comfort food" and stew has to be in the top-ten of what first comes to mind.
I think of a long day that deserves a treat at the end of it. It can be a cold day in the Midwest, where I was raised, or just a busy day here in California that begs to be rewarded for just getting through it.
I've also known it as a welcoming gift when I first went to Sicily and it was prepared for us by the one of the first people we met. It was simple yet very memorable and I still love making it.
The stew pictured comes from the Bahia state of Brazil. It calls for dendê, a red palm oil that I highly recommend you searching out before you make this. It lends a flavor that is unique to the cuisine of the region and must be tasted in this dish to be really appreciated. I know that on a number of occasions I will say to make a recipe even if a certain ingredient isn't available. Not in this case, however. Dendê is as key an ingredient as the shrimp! If you do not live near a Brazilian market, no worries! Let the market come to you. is a great source for all sorts of Latin American food products. In addition to dendê, they also carry mandioca torrada (toasted manioc flour), my ingredient of choice when making farofa. I hope you'll go out of your way to get these ingredients and experience these wonderful dishes for yourself.

Moqueca de Camarão

1 lb shrimp in shell, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 (14- to 15-oz) can tomatoes including juice, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
5 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon dendê (palm) oil

Toss shrimp with black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, garlic, and lime juice and marinate, covered and chilled, 20 minutes.
Cook onion and bell pepper in olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cayenne, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes and simmer briskly, stirring, until mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and bring to a boil, then add shrimp mixture and cook, stirring, until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in dendê oil and remaining 4 tablespoons cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with Brazilian style rice and farofa.

Brazilian style Rice

2 tablespoons oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup rice. long grain
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

Rinse rice in several changes of water to remove starch and let drain in sieve. While rice is draining, saute onions in a pot until translucent.
Add rice and cook, stirring, until it turns a chalky color.
Add 1 1/2 cups water and the salt and bring to a boil.
Lower heat and cook with lid slightly ajar until water is evaporated.
Add remaining water and cook a few more minutes until water is gone and then turn off heat and cover undisturbed for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups toasted manioc flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil and butter in skillet and saute chopped garlic.
Let the flour pour slowly through your fingers into the skillet stirring it into the mixture.
When all the fat is absorbed, move it from one side of the skillet to the other making sure that it all gets toasted well.
Serve over beans or stew or meat.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Frango con Creme de Milho

As you can see, my interest in Brazilian food continues. And there is so much to be interested in! The food, like the culture, is very diverse. But one delicacy that shows up time and again is deep-fried food, something that appears in every culture, it seems, from Chinese to Italian.
This particular recipe turned up on both my Face Book and Twitter accounts from a Brazilian recipe site that has the best food pics around. They also do a lot of simple recipes that can be put together in minutes as well as a few more involved ones such as this is.
I did take liberties with the recipe, something I generally will never do until I've made per the instructions. I detest canned corn! I usually freeze corn every year and if I don't, I use only good quality frozen corn, something that is not too hard to come by. In every other way, I followed the recipe as if it were handed down from God himself. That being said, there are a few ways I will change the next time I make it.
The recipe calls for chicken breast, a cut which I think must be chosen for dishes that will be cooked quickly as it dries out in an instant. Since you want to make sure the filling is heated through completely, you must leave the fritter in the oil long enough for the heat to penetrate. Unfortunately, this can mean that the outer coating of white meat will get a little too dry.
On that account, I think I will use thigh meat the next time or perhaps experiment with ground turkey.
The other thing I may change will be to add some cheese to the sauce.
Also, the original recipe calls for molds for the filling. I just used regular muffin tin molds.

I hope you get around to make this.

Chicken Fritters with Cream of Corn


½ cup milk
1 can of corn with water
1 tbsp butter
½ onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon flour
salt and chopped parsley to taste
2 pounds chicken breast, diced and then briefly pulsed in the food processor, seasoned with salt and pepper
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups coarsely crushed corn flakes

Creamed corn

1 - In a blender put ½ cup of milk and a can of corn with water and mix quickly (or function "pulse") leaving a few pieces of corn. Reserve.

2 - Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a pan and saute
chopped onion until soft. Add 1 tablespoon of flour and cook for 1 minute.

3 - Add the reserved corn mixture and cook until slightly thickened. Season with salt and chopped parsley to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.


4 - Take small patty molds coated with oil, line the bottom and sides with finely chopped chicken breast. In the center of the pan place the creamed corn and cover with a layer of chopped chicken breast. Place in freezer for 30 minutes to firm.

5 - Remove the chicken from the freezer molds, unmold and dip into eggwash and then in crushed cornflakes. Fry in hot oil until golden. Remove and drain on absorbent paper. Serve at once.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Season for Soup

More and more I see that the markets are starting to carry Black Tuscan Kale. If you don't see it with the regular kale, check in the organic produce section which is where they have it at Andy's in Sebastopol, CA.
If you happen to have a vegetable garden, try growing some of this. It does quite well here in Northern California where we've planted it in the Fall with very good results.
The first recipe on the last show uses this in a classic Northern Italian soup called Ribollita. But if you can't get your hands on black tuscan kale, you can certainly use the regular kale instead. I might add that this freezes beautifully.


8 ounces dried cannellini beans
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 dried Calabrian hot chili pepper or dried chili flakes to taste
1-28-Ounce can tomatoes and their liquid, chopped
1 small head savoy or regular white cabbage, chopped
2 bunches of kale (preferably Tuscan black), chopped
6 cups chicken stock
4 cups stale bread, crusts removed

Use one of two methods to cook the beans. Either soak them in water overnight, drain, cook in fresh water adding salt to taste only after tender or
Bring to boil in a large pot. Let boil for two minutes, turn off heat, cover, let sit for 1 hour, drain and proceed as in above with fresh water.
In a large pot, saute onions and pancetta in the oil until onions are translucent. Add carrots, celery, garlic, chili and a little sprinkling of salt and saute until vegetables are tender.
Add tomatoes, cabbage and kale and simmer, stirring, for 10 minutes.
Drain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid. Puree half the beans with some of their liquid and add to soup with the remaining whole beans.
Add stock and enough of the liquid from the beans to equal 8 cups.
Bring to boil and reduce to simmer and continue to cook for 20 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste
Add bread and simmer 10 more minutes mashing the bread against the side of the pot with the back of a wooden spoon to break it up some.
Serve with grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil in each bowl.

I looked at several different Brazilian soups before settling on this one. I think it was the combination of beans, sausage and collards that really crave something like this as a heart and tummy warming soup. Such a combination also seems to just sing Brazil as they are classic staples in the Brazilian diet.

Brazilian Bean Soup

1 pound cooked red beans
1/2 pound linguiça or 1/4 pound dried chorizo
1 bunch collards, chopped
1/4 cup oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 carrots, diced
1 cup small shells, macaroni or other soup pasta

In a large pot, bring 4 cups of water to boil and add beans and sausage.
Cook for 30 minutes removing sausage and beans and reserving the liquid.
In a clean pot, saute onion and garlic in the oil until onion is translucent.
Add potatoes and reserved cooking water from the beans and simmer until potatoes are tender.
Puree adding water if too thick.
Add collards and carrots cooking until carrots are tender.
About 10 minutes before the carrots are done, add pasta and diced sausage.
Correct for seasoning and serve.

I owe my recipe for Corn Chowder to my mom's old neighbor Jillian, a woman originally from Wales who still makes this for friends and family to great cries of praise. I have changed a few things such as the addition of bacon and increase of cheese. (You can never have enough of either!) This does make a lot and if you're watching the calories, make it once and send the rest home with company.

Corn Chowder

1/2 pound good quality smoked bacon, chopped
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
2 potatoes, cubed
2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups whole milk
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Saute bacon in a large pot. Add celery, carrots and onion and saute until tender. Add stock and heat to simmering. Add potatoes and cook until tender. Add corn.
Make a béchamel of the butter, flour and milk. Add cheese and stir until it melts and blends with the sauce.
Add to vegetable mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper.

I also wanted to include a Bay Area classic which was born in San Francisco but which has certainly traveled the world over in popularity and interpretation.
Although there are several theories as to how Cioppino got its name (ranging from the ridiculous to the more sensible) everyone agrees that it was the invention of Italian immigrant fisherman in San Francisco. This particular version is based on one from our own local-boy-who-made-it-big, Guy Fieri.


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups diced onion
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced fennel
1 red bell pepper, diced
8 large cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
6 cups passata, or equivalent of canned tomatoes passed through a food mill
1/2 cup clam juice
Juice of 2 lemons
4 cups water
3 bay leaves
3 dried Calabrian chilies (chopped)or 3 tablespoons dried chili flakes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce Sambuca liqueur
4 pounds Dungeness crab, cooked, cleaned, cracked and broken into pieces
2 pounds little neck clams, cleaned and scrubbed
2 pounds firm white fish such as cod or halibut cut into 2-inch pieces
2 pounds shrimp, shell on, deveined
1 cup chopped parsley
Fresh bread

In a large stock pot over medium heat, add oil and saute onions, fennel, bell pepper and garlic until soft. Add tomato paste and cook until caramelized. Add wine, tomato sauce, clam and lemon juices, water, bay leaves, chili, oregano, basil, salt, pepper and liqueur to sauteed vegetables and simmer for 1 hour. Add crab and simmer for 20 minutes. Add clams and simmer 5 minutes longer. Add cod and continue to cook for another 4 or 5 minutes without stirring.
Finally, add shrimp and cook until it turns pink. Stir in parsley and serve with bread.

The last recipe on the show I didn't give any measurements for as it's a totally thrown together recipe that I literally chop-and-throw into the soup pot! But it's good, hearty and healthy!

Chicken Vegetable Soup with Pasta

1 quart purchased chicken stock
1/2 onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1/2 cup soup pasta such as pastinne, stelline or orzo
1 egg
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Large pinch of dried thyme

Bring stock to a boil, add vegetables and thyme, lower heat and simmer until they are tender.
Add pasta of choice and simmer until tender.
Beat egg and cheese together and drizzle into simmer soup stirring.