July 30, 2007

Guacamole Deviled Eggs

10 hardboiled eggs, peeled and sliced length-wise
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced hot pepper
1 teaspoon minced onion
1 small avocado
hot sauce

to garnish:
baby cherry tomato halves

In a small bowl, use a fork and thoroughly mix together all ingredients. Spoon an equal amount into each of the egg halves. Top each with a baby tomato half.

My thoughts:
I know I've posted a number of deviled egg recipes here, but this weekend I came into posession of some tiny (about the size of my pinky fingernail) cherry tomatoes and kept thinking what a cute garnish they'd be for a deviled egg. I had a fast approaching over ripe avocado and there you go-guacamole deviled eggs.

July 29, 2007

Lamb & Mango Byriani

For rice:

2 cups Indian* basmati rice
2 quarts water
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon powdered mace

For Meat:

2 ½ lbs boneless lamb, cubed
2 tablespoons oil or ghee**
2 onions
6 cloves garlic
1-3 fresh chile peppers
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 cup PLUS 1 tablespoon water
1 large (green) mango, peeled pitted diced
½ cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon amchur (green mango powder)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
6 cloves
ground pepper


Garnish: slice 1 onion thinly and fry in 1 inch of oil until brown. Drain fried onions on paper towels and set aside.

Meat: In a blender or food processor, puree 1 onion, garlic, ginger and chili peppers with 1 Tablespoon of water. Heat oil or ghee in a large sauté pan. Add cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Cook for e few minutes until spices are fragrant. Add lamb and brown cubes on all sides (about 10 minutes). Remove lamb with a slotted spoon into a bowl and set aside.

Add the onion puree and fry for 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes golden. Add the tomatoes, mangos, garam masala, turmeric, mango powder, chili powder, salt and pepper. Fry for 5 minutes until spices are fragrant. Add browned lamb with any collected juices. Add yogurt 2 tablespoons at a time while stirring to combine. Once all yogurt has been added, add water and kaffir lime leaves, then partially cover pan and simmer for 1 ½ hours until lamb is fork tender. The curry should be fairly thick by now. If it is very watery, cook uncovered for 5 or 10 minutes.

Rice: Wash rice in 3-4 changes of water and then cover with water and let soak for 1 hour while meat is cooking. Drain rice and then add it to a large sauce pan with 2 quarts of water, mace, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and cook for 8 minutes until it is softened but not quite done. The rice kernels should be soft enough to crush between your fingers. Drain the rice and rinse with cold water to prevent it from getting sticky. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Assembling and cooking: Grease a large, wide, oven-safe pan with a lid. Spread 1/3 of the rice at the bottom, spread ½ of the lamb curry on the rice, layer with 1/3 of the rice and then the rest of the lamb. Cover with a layer of the rice with the fried onions on top. Cover and cook in oven for 30 minutes.

*Indian basmati rice is highly recommended for this dish. It can be found at any Indian grocery. Other kinds of basmati rice may become too soft or sticky.

**Ghee is just clarified butter. You can buy it in an Indian store or make it yourself. Heat a stick of butter in a pan on low heat until it begins to froth and the solids separate. Strain it into a jar through cheese cloth or a fine strainer. Keep refrigerated.

My thoughts:
I am lucky to have a husband who likes food and to cook as much as I do. When I hear stories of husbands who don't cook, won't eat vegetables or don't care about food, I am horrified. I have the sort of husband who text messages me at work that he is making byriani- "an elegant rice dish that you can post about" and by the time I get home, he's had already gone to the Indian grocery to pick up the right kind of rice, kaffir lime leaves and amchur and started cooking. He also took the time to write up the recipe for me so I could share it with you. Husband cooking abilities aside, this really is a wonderful dish. It is lengthy recipe but not difficult one-it would be the perfect thing to make for company-that is very rewarding.

July 28, 2007

Straight from the Garden Zucchini and Pepper Tomato Sauce

3 pepperincini peppers, small dice
2 zucchini, chopped or diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, small dice
1 small onion, diced
35 oz canned whole tomatoes in juice, cut up
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lb cooked pasta

In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion, zucchini, peppers and shallot, saute until just soft. Add the garlic and saute one additional minute. Add the tomatoes and cook through. Serve over hot pasta.

My thoughts:
One of the best things about growing your own vegetables is trying to come up with recipes to use them all up.Our tomatoes are just starting to come in, but we have already harvested several zucchini and patty pan squash. A lot of the peppers we planted are ready to pick as well, we've had a few a jalapenos and scotch bonnet peppers already and a dozen of the accidentally planted and extremely prolific peppers that appear to be pepperincinis. To use up some of the peppers and zucchini and the huge shallots I bought at the farmers market, I made this sauce, which is a variation of the eggplant marinara we made last year, which has enough peppers to keep it interesting, but not so much that the spice is the star. Always use the best quality of canned tomatoes you can, I find that organic or Italian brand tomatoes have the best flavor.

July 26, 2007

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

2 lb thin skinned potatoes, quartered
2/3 cup buttermilk
4-5 scallions, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoon butter

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender. Drain and hand mash in the buttermilk, butter, scallions, salt and pepper. Serve as is.

Leftovers make great little fried potato pancakes or patties the next day.

My thoughts:
Last week at the farmers' market I bought the cutest purple skinned potatoes and the strongest tasting scallions I have ever had. Last night we made tomato, bacon and marinated chicken sandwiches and I ended up making this for a side dish. It was so good! The buttermilk gives the potatoes a nice tart flavor and adds creaminess without adding fat.

July 25, 2007

Roasted Garlic & Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh arugula
4 cloves roasted garlic
1/3 cup asiago cheese (the longer aged, the better)
1/4 cup toasted pinenuts
1/3 cup olive oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender, pulse until a thick paste forms. Toss with 1 lb cooked pasta.
My thoughts:
Is there a better time than Summer for pesto? It is super quick, barely heats up the kitchen and basil is at its cheapest. Using roasted garlic gives this pesto a milder flavor that might appear to people who don't care for the harsher raw garlic flavor found in traditional pesto. As an alternative to serving pesto over hot pasta, try it as a spread on crusty bread or as a sauce for salmon or steak.

July 24, 2007

How to Roast Garlic

1 whole head garlic, loose skin discarded, top removed
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Brush the garlic with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the head of garlic on a baking sheet or in a well of a cupcake pan, cover in foil. Another good way to roast garlic is in a food safe clay pot (with lid so you can skip the foil step) that has been soaked for 15 minutes. Bake for 35 minutes. Allow to cool, then use a fork to pull the cloves out of the skin.
My thoughts:
Roasted garlic has a very mellow flavor that is great spread on bread, pita or used in pastas. It is one of those simple ingredients that can really add something special to a dish.

Note: before I get overwhelmed with questions, the item pictured about is a cute garlic shaped clay garlic baker that I picked up at Ikea for $1.

July 23, 2007

Hot Pepper Cornbread

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, minced, seeds discarded
1 fresh pepperincini, minced, seeds discarded

Preheat oven to 400. Grease or spray with baking spray one 8x8 baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the peppers, cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat in the egg, milk, buttermilk and oil until well combined. Pour into pan and bake 25 minutes or until golden brown and a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
My thoughts:
Making the fried green tomatoes sparked a renewed interest in Southern style cooking. I had the urge to make cornbread and since our garden is overflowing with 3 types of hot peppers, I thought I'd make a spicy version. I was pleased with how it came out, homey but with just enough of a kick from the peppers to keep it interesting. The peppers are well distributed throughout the batter, so there are no fiery pockets, just a overall background note of heat that I think even the hot pepper wary could appreciate.

July 22, 2007

Fried Green Tomatoes

4-5 green (unripe) tomatoes, sliced thinly
1 3/4 cup buttermilk
1 3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup cornstarch
canola oil

Soak the tomato slices in the buttermilk for 20-30 minutes.Meanwhile heat a 1/2 inch of oil in a frying pan. Pour the cornmeal, cornstarch, salt and pepper on a plate and stir to combine. Dip both sides of each tomato slice in the mixture. Add to the hot oil and cook until golden brown on both sides, flipping once, about 8-10 minutes. Remove to paper towel lined plates, blot and serve hot.

*If you really want to be decadent, add a couple tablespoons of bacon grease to the oil.
My thoughts:
I've always thought about making fried green tomatoes, but never followed through on the urge until today. My deep love for homegrown tomatoes has always prevented me from picking tomatoes from my own garden before they had ripened and my thrifty nature prevented me from buying green tomatoes from the farmers market when I could pick them for free, at home. Then yesterday I had a stalk loaded down with green tomatoes break off from the plant and didn't want them to go to waste so I thought I'd fry them up.There is a limit to what you can do with an unripe tomato-the flesh is fairly firm, and while it is low in calories and high in nutrients; you don't really want eat it raw. No wonder the traditional thing to do with green tomatoes is to fry them. It cooks them just enough that they aren't too crunchy, but they still retain a certain toothiness that contrasts nicely with the thin, brittle crust. They are also slightly tart but have none of the bitterness you sometimes encounter with fried eggplant. div>

July 19, 2007

Grilled Lamb

2-3 lb boneless lamb roast
1 small onion, finely minced
1/2 cup mango nectar or juice
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons of dried rosemary
3 tablespoons yellow mustard powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon of salt (plus more to sprinkle on)
juice of 1/2 lemon
ground pepper


In a small bowl, whisk together rice wine vinegar, mustard powder, ground ginger, and Dijon mustard. Let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Marinade lamb for 24 hours. Cook over hot coals for 15 minutes on each side. Brush on remaining marinade on all sides. Cook for 5 additional minutes. Using a meat thermometer, test for an interior temperature of 145 degrees. Remove to pan and allow to sit 5 minutes to allow the juices to reabsorb before cutting.

My thoughts:
I've never really given lamb too much thought in the past. Partially, I am a bit ashamed to say, because I find sheep so adorable, to eat them for dinner seemed inordinately cruel. Yes, I eat meat all the time, but I do tend to avoid eating the baby animals. Yes, I am one of those people. If I had been absolutely blown away by lamb in the past, I am sure I would have changed my tune but the snippets of lamb I've speared off other people's plates over the years never impressed me so much that I felt the urge to broaden my carnivorous horizons, so I never learned how to properly cook lamb. But when we recently came in possession of a lovely 8 lb lamb roast, I felt it was time to try lamb again. We immediately cut the enormous roast up in to more serviceable chunks. We froze some and marinated the biggest piece overnight. Then this evening, my husband fired up our tiny grill and went to work. So I guess I still don't know how to cook lamb, but I might be a convert. Never have I had lamb so well, luscious before. It was amazing. Amazing! And so fresh-I really think buying lamb as locally as possible makes all the difference. I am sure Australian lamb is wonderful, but by the time it makes its way all the way over here, something is lost.

July 18, 2007

Baked Potato with Onions and Artichoke Hearts

1 large baking potato
1 small onion, sliced
3-5 oz frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
2 tablespoons olive oil
sour cream
asiago cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 400. Pierce a potato and place it in an oven. Bake 1 hour or until soft. About 20 minutes before the potato should be done, heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and artichoke, sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute until caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. When the potato is done, slice it nearly in half lengthwise. Top with sour cream, onions, artichokes and a few slivers of asiago cheese. Eat immediately.

Serves one.

My thoughts:
Recently I had the pleasure of reading Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler, collection of essays about dining alone. It seems like people fall into two camps, those who make the same sort of meal for themselves as they would for company and those who just eat a piece or fruit or microwave a meal. I think I fall some where in the middle. While I am married, and thus rarely eat dinner alone anymore, I only work part time and often have make myself a lunch when I am home during the day. Some times it is leftovers from the previous day's dinner augmented by something that only I enjoy (like deviled eggs) but sometimes I make something fresh just for me. One of my favorite things to make is a baked potato and top it with enough things that it becomes a meal unto itself. Carmelizing onions and artichoke hearts only takes minutes and it makes a simple baked potato feel like a full meal.

July 16, 2007

How to Choose a Mango

While there are literally hundreds of varieties of mangos out there, each with their own unique flavor and texture, here are some basic guidelines you can use to make sure you get the best ripe mango.

  • Color is not always an indicator of ripeness. Some mangos stay green even when ripe while others may ripen into various shades of red, pink and yellow.
  • Choose one that is plump and heavy for its size.
  • Hold it up to your nose. It should smell fragrant.
  • Press the skin with your thumb. It should give slightly.
  • Mangos should not be mushy.
  • Refrigeration stops most mangos from ripening, so if you have an unripe mango, ripen it on the counter before refrigerating.

Green (unripe) mangos are tasty too! Use them in salads, curries and to make pickles.

July 12, 2007


for the cake:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
pinch of salt

for the filling:
16 oz cream cheese*, at room temperature
12 oz evaporated milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs, at room temperature

For sprinkling:

*Use brick cream cheese, not the spreadable kind that comes in tubs.

Preheat oven to 325. In a large bowl, mix together all of the cake ingredients. It should look more like a dough than cake batter. Press into a 13x9 baking dish, covering the bottom and at least 1/2 the way up the sides. In another bowl, whisk together all of the filling ingredients until smooth. The batter will be quite thin. Pour over the cake and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until it looks set. It should not be browned, just sort of custard colored. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve.

My thoughts:
In the Pennsylvania Dutch community, smearcase is cottage cheese. In Baltimore, however, smearcase is the name of a particular sweet cake. It is a hold over from the days when the majority of the city was made up of German immigrants. It is one of those foods that seems to be unique to Baltimore, and I am sure it is probably an Americanization of some Germanic recipe. A handful of locally owned grocery stores and bakeries still make and sell it but beyond that, smearcase has all but vanished. I grew up eating it as a special treat (we rarely got anything from a bakery beyond the occasional doughnut) because it was one of my grandfather's favorite cakes. The best way to describe it is that it is sort of a flat, not too sweet custardy variation of cheesecake that is sold in large, rectangular slabs and is always sprinkled with cinnamon. I have never seen a recipe for it, but then I was researching regional Baltimore foods online I came across a mention of smearcase that gave some hints as to what some of the ingredients might be. That, combined with a trip to Graul's, a local grocery store and smearcase stronghold, where I was able to check out their ingredient list, I think I figured it out. I had guessed it must have a fair amount of cream cheese in it (I did wonder if there was a cottage cheese in there, but when I experimented with that it just didn't have the right flavor) and the article mentioned evaporated milk. I made it easy on myself and just used 2 bricks of cream cheese and 1 can of the evaporated milk, rather than trying figure out complicated proportions and it worked. From past experience I thought the texture of the "cake" part seemed like it was oil based dough (dry crumb, not fluffy or cakey) and I knew it was sweetened, so I just made a basic cake batter but since the cake is on the dry side, left out any extra liquids. It tastes just like I remember it. I love making regional American food, especially those of my hometown of Baltimore. If we don't keep making them, they will disappear forever. As a sidenote: really is a testament to my love for my 93 year old grandpop that I made him this on a day when the temperature loomed near 100. I hope he likes it! Matt liked it, he said it had sort of an old fashioned taste to it. I agree, it tastes like something you'd get in a luncheonette in 1930, very wholesome and comforting.

July 11, 2007

Pineapple-Yogurt Ice Pops

6 oz plain yogurt (I used Greek style, but regular, unstrained would do)
20 oz canned pineapple chunks in 100% pineapple juice

Place all ingredients in a blender, pulse until almost smooth. Pour into ice pop molds, leaving a small space at the top so they can expand. Close the molds and freeze until frozen solid, generally 3-5 hours.

Yield: 8-12 ice pops, depending on the size of your mold

My thoughts:
I generally think of these sorts of treats generically as popsicles, but Popsicle is actually a trademarked brand with a long history that started with an 11 year old boy making a accidental discovery. When I was little I rarely ate commercially make popsicles- we made them by freezing Kool-aid in Tupperware Ice Tup molds and when my husband was little, his family made them using yogurt (they had more a healthy food bent then mine did). Now that I am an adult, I like a little more fruit in my ice pop but I still couldn't resist using my new Hello Kitty ice pop mold.

July 09, 2007

Kiwi Gelato

4 golden or green kiwifruit, peeled
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon agave nectar* OR simple syrup

Place all ingredients in a blender. Pulse until smooth. Pour the mixture into a ice cream maker and churn, about 15 minutes or until frozen and creamy. Serve as is, or freeze until more solid.

*Agave nectar is an natural sweetener that is 1 1/2 times sweeter than sugar. I love to use it in drinks and frozen desserts because dissolves instantly in liquids, and I don't have to bother making simple syrup. It also has a low glycemic index (if that is a concern) and since it is natural, there is no aftertaste. I use 100% Organic Partida Agave Nectar.

My thoughts:
You might be wondering why this kiwi gelato is yellow and not bright green. I made it using the lovely golden kiwi that my friend Heather nicely picked up for me at Trader Joe's this weekend. I've had golden kiwi in the past but haven't been able to find them in years. They are very similar to regular kiwifruit, but their skin is less bristly and they have a higher vitamin C content. I also think they taste less acidic. Anyway, what better, more refreshing way to use kiwi is there than gelato? It has been in the upper '90s for days now, and I needed some relief. I made this recipe so it makes roughly two servings (no leftovers means I can move on and make my next frozen treat!) but it can easily be doubled or even tripled to make this simple, healthy dessert for a crowd.

And let me just mention how difficult it is to photograph gelato when it is over 95 degrees out and you don't have air conditioning. It took about 30 seconds to go from a frozen scoop to completely liquid.

July 05, 2007

Quesadilla Deliciosa

For the marinade:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons mango juice
1 Tablespoon tequila
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
5 cloves of garlic
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper*
juice of a lime
juice of half a lemon
freshly ground pepper to taste

Everything else:
1 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
8 oz portobello mushroom caps, sliced
8 oz frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
2 cloves garlic
juice form 1/4 lime
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
large flour tortillas
refried beans
shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salsa (optional)
sour cream (for dipping)

*Or for a less spicy marinade, substitute smoked paprika.

Marinate the chicken at least one hour or up to one day before you want to make the quesadillas. Put all of the marinade ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Place the chicken in a resealable bag and add the marinade. Refrigerate until you are ready to make the quesadillas. Then, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Saute the chicken (reserving the marinade) until cooked almost cooked through, turning about half way through, about 5 minutes. Then add the marinade into the pan and cook an additional few minutes until it has reduced and the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and cut into strips. Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic, lime juice and mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms are tender.
Heat a pan large enough for a large tortilla to lay flat. Place one tortilla in the pan and heat until warmed through and slightly browned, flipping once. Repeat. Spread one tortilla with a thin layer of refried beans. Top with a thin layer of spinach. Add the sliced chicken, mushrooms in a single layer on top. Dot with salsa if desired. Sprinkle with the shredded cheddar-how much is up to you, but this is the "glue" that will hold the quesadilla together, so this is not the time to be stingy with the cheese. Place the second tortilla on the top of all of this and return it to the pan. Cook until the cheese has melted, spinning it occasionally around the pan with your finger tips, and the bottom is slightly browned, about 1-2 minutes. Carefully flip it and cook it on that side for an additional 1 minute. Remove to a large plate and slice (a pizza cutter works well) into wedges and serve with sour cream to dip.

My thoughts:

I am not entirely sure why it has taken so long for me to post a quesadilla recipe. We eat them all the time! Sometimes we make them to use up odds and ends of leftover meat, but frequently we marinate chicken or steak just for quesadillas. It is sort of our fallback meal for those nights when we just can't think of anything to make but they are also good to make for guests, because a lot of the prep work can be done the night before. Matt marinated the chicken and I made the refried beans yesterday, so today, when we had a much anticipated guest for dinner, Matt only had to saute the meat and mushrooms and assemble the quesadillas. Dinner (and watermelon margaritas!) was on the table in minutes. I've noticed that most people do not make quesadillas (and probably not with our startling frequency or variety) at home which makes it a perfect casual dinner for guests; even though it is simple, no one is ever disappointed.

July 04, 2007

Refried Beans

32 oz canned pinto beans, drained, liquid reserved
1/2 onion, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 strips bacon

In a large skillet, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon (snacking bacon!) and saute the onion in the rendered fat for 1 minute. Add the garlic and saute until soft and fragrant. Remove from heat. Carefully drain off all of the bacon grease, leaving only about 1 1/2 tablespoons in the pan. Return to heat and add the beans and about 1/2 of the reserved liquid. Cook on medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from, add the cumin and mash the beans with a potato masher or the back of a spoon.
My thoughts:
I love refried beans. Cooking them in a bit of bacon fat really makes all the difference, they are almost silky and have just a hint of smoky flavor. I know a lot of people like to make refried beans using dried beans, but I personally prefer to use canned. More than once I have made a recipe with dried beans only to have the final product have the musty, stale favor that comes from using old beans. Fresh beans are the absolute best, but I really think the next best thing is canned, especially if you take the time to buy high quality beans that are low in sodium,and that do not have additives to preserve color.

July 03, 2007

Balsamic Green Beans

1 lb fresh green beans*
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil the green beans about 2 minutes then blanch them in ice water. Meanwhile, whisk together the balsamic, oil and garlic to make the dressing. Drain the beans, toss with the dressing. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

* I was excited to see purple "green" beans at the farmers market and bought them and some regular beans. Then I got home and remembered that they don't stay purple after you cook them-the turn the same green as the regular ones. Still tasty, though!

My thoughts:
This is a simple, simple recipe that I like to make this time of year with the freshest, sweetest green beans. It can be thrown together in a just a few minutes, is good served hot or cold, travels well and even the leftovers are tasty. I ate a whole plate of them last night and kind of wanted more. It is good made with shallots, too or even green onions.