May 31, 2013

Red Beans & Rice with Hatch Green Chiles and Andouille Sausage

16 oz dried red kidney beans
4 cups chicken
2 stalks celery (with leaves), diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 fire-roasted Hatch Green Chiles
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
3 chicken andouille sausages, sliced into 1/4 inch coins then halved

to serve:
a few cups of cooked, white rice
pan-fried catfish is good too

In a large pot with a lid, soak the beans overnight. Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Fill with water and bring to a boil for at least 10 minutes* or up to 20.

Drain the beans and add them to a 4 quart slow cooker. Add the stock, celery, onion, garlic, peppers, thyme and bay leaf. Stir. Cook on low 8-10 hours.

About 30-45 minutes before you would like to eat, remove  1 1/2-2 cups of the beans from the slow cooker. Pour them into a bowl and mash them with a potato masher until they are creamier but little chunks remain. Pour them back into the slow cooker.

Brown the sausage on both sides in a nonstick skillet. Stir into the beans. Continue to cook the remaining 30-45 minutes. Discard bay leaf and stir before serving over hot rice.

*Red beans must be cooked before serving in order to avoid kidney bean poisoning. It is not safe to skip the boiling step.

My thoughts:
I love going to Costco around Memorial Day because they suddenly have heaps and heaps of sausage. This time they had some chicken andouille that looked good. I normally use regular andouille but I thought chicken might lighten up what can be the heavy dish of red beans and rice. I know lots of people thinking using a pot and simmering all day is the way to make red beans and rice but I don't find it gives better results than the slow cooker which has the added advantage of my not having to be around to watch and stir it all day. I used some Hatch Green Chiles I had prepped and frozen but you can use canned instead or another variety of fire-roasted pepper for a similar effect.

I know it seems odd to use the slow cooker in late May but I like to use it more now than any other time of the year. I became convinced of this when I spent a summer developing the recipes for my first cookbook. While I love stews and whatnot in the winter, the slow cooker is also great for other times of dishes in the summer and it doesn't heat our old house up like stovetop cooking does.

May 27, 2013

Biff à la Lindström (Swedish Hamburger)

2/3 lb lean ground beef
1/3 lb ground pork
1/3 lb ground veal
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
3 pickled beet slices, finely diced
1 1/2 tablespoons capers, minced
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 (cucumber) pickle spear, finely diced

to serve:
top with fried eggs

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients until just mixed. Form into 4 large, flat (a little less than 1/2 inch thick) patties. Set aside. Heat some canola oil or butter in a pan. Cook the patties, turning once, until browned on both sides and fully cooked through. Drain on paper towel-lined plates if needed. Serve hot, topped with fried eggs if desired.

My thoughts:
You all know I love Swedish food so when I was reading Aquavit's Marcus Samuelsson's memoir about growing up in Sweden and becoming a chef on the train the other day and he mentioned a new-to-me dish, beef Lindström, I had to make it. Apparently it was in his mom's usual dinner rotation when he was growing up. He described it as basically a burger or meat cake "mixed with onions, capers, and pickled beets". I love meat cakes and pickles in any form (that's part of why I like Swedish food so much, it is heavy on the preserved foods like pickles and jam) so it seemed tailor made for me. I did a little research (thank you imperfect Google translate) on some Swedish recipe sites and came up with this. I can't be sure it is 100% authentic (the recipes all varied a bit and I don't read Swedish) and I used the pickles etc I had on hand but I think it is close and I know it is very, very tasty. Most of the pictures show it with a fried egg on top (the Swedes do love their eggs, another reason I love their food) so I topped mine with a peppered fried egg too. If you want to Americanize them a bit you could grill these and put them on a roll and serve them as burgers. I had planned to do this myself but we have had a bout of yucky weather lately so I panfried them instead. They were still wonderful and as an added bonus quicker to make than having to wait for the coals to heat up. I used homemade pickled beets but store bought would be fine and perhaps more authentic, Swedish pickled beets are much sweeter than the ones I've made. Whatever you do, you will end up with a flavorful, savory burger that will become one of your favorite comfort foods too.

Quick history lesson: the burger was introduced to Sweden in 1862 by Chef Henrik Lindström who was a Swedish man who grew up in Russia. He demonstrated the recipe in a hotel kitchen and it quickly became popular throughout Sweden. It is still found on menus (sometimes simply listed as "Lindström") in patty form as shown here or rolled into tiny meatballs.

May 24, 2013

Chicken & Spring Onion Dirty Rice

1/2 lb chicken livers, pureed
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large bunch spring onions, bulbs and greens diced (separate use)
2 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1 1/3 cups chicken stock (divided use)
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken breast
3 cups hot cooked white rice

In a 12-inch cast iron skillet, heat some oil. Add the liver and the white parts of the spring onion. Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally until the liver is browned. Add 1/3 cup of chicken stock and all spices and cook until the stock evaporates. Add the celery and jalapenos and cook until they are soft.

Stir in the rice, herbs, remaining stock, cubed chicken and chopped spring onion greens. Stir until the liquid is absorbed then serve.

My thoughts:
Every time I go to Costco, I come home with a rotisserie chicken. I don't always have a plan for it but I can't resist a bargain. I had dirty rice in the back of my mind and was driving past the farm store so I picked up some liver (for like 50 cents!) and spring onions. Normally I use ground turkey or chicken in dirty rice but I decided to try it with the rotisserie chicken and you know what, I might have liked it better. It had it into more of a meal than a side dish.

May 22, 2013

Savory Spice Pickled Beets

3 lbs peeled, cooked beets
3 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons dill seed
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 teaspoons tellicherry peppercorns
6 whole cloves
6 whole star anise
1 teaspoon white coriander seeds
1 teaspoon canning salt
3 bay leaves
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups beet cooking water
1 onion, sliced thinly (about 3/4 cup)


Slice the beets into 1/4 inch slices if large or leave whole.

Place all of the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Prep your jars. Pack the beets into the warm jars and ladle the pickling solution over them. Leave a 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a water bath for 30 minutes.

Yield: about 3 pints

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
Whenever I eat beets I think of Ellen Tebbits pulling that weed in the sidewalk and ending up with a beet. I know it is a somewhat unorthodox choice but Beverly Cleary books are my all time favorite bits of food writing. Who can forget the cracking of the raw egg over Ramona's head at lunch or the eating of tongue disguised as steak when Ramona's dad was out of work? Or Ramona eating just one bite out of all the apples because the first bite was always the best? Ellen Tebbits just wanted to bring that beet to show-and-tell. So many writers forget to include the everydayness of food but Beverly Cleary never did.

I don't think I had ever even had a beet when first I read Ellen Tebbits but it made such an impression. I do love beets now so if I dug up a giant beet, I'd be quite pleased and possibly pickle it. I've made savory beet pickles before and they were very, very good. This time I tweaked the flavors a bit and used some red wine vinegar, which I had found in the proper concentration and in large bottles over the winter and stored so I tried that out. I also decided to use the beet cooking water instead of just plain water.

I wasn't planning to make pickles this week but I needed some pickled beets for a recipe I was developing and when I went to the store, I saw that fresh beets were only 89 cents a pound! It is a bit early for local beets but there they were. So I thought I'd just pickle them myself versus buying a jar. More work but a bit cheaper and a lot more tasty. They came out wonderfully and now wish I had bought more beets.

I know most pickled beets are a sweet and sour affair but I found I really like them when treated as just straight, savory pickles. The beets are sweet enough on their own, I don't think they need extra sugar.

May 20, 2013

Salmon Dill Egg Salad

6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon
3 oz Norwegian smoked salmon, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced dill
freshly ground black pepper

Remove the yolks from the eggs. Place them in small bowl. Mash lightly then stir in the mayo, mustard, pepper, salmon and dill. Chop the whites (discarding some if desired). Stir them into the egg mixture. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an air-tight container.

My thoughts:
I'm still on my quest for an egg salad I will love. For this one, I didn't actually put in all of the whites; I think I had about 3/4 of an eggs' worth left. I did this because I think part of my hesitation to love egg salad (despite loving deviled eggs) is that the egg white sort of remind me of the sneaky, potato-disguised ones I find in potato salad. It is so disappointing to bite into what you think is a potato only to end up with egg! Especially if you aren't expecting any eggs in the salad. You, of course, can leave in all your whites but I found leaving them out made for a creamier salad that I enjoyed. More like a deviled egg salad than a straight egg salad. I threw some salmon and dill in because I love them and that was a good choice too. Lots of flavor throughout.

May 17, 2013

Rye Kielbasa Frittata

8 eggs, beaten
1 lb smoked kielbasa (I used wiejska which has garlic and marjoram), diced
1 small onion, diced
8 oz crimini mushrooms, diced
3/4 oz chives, chopped
1/4 cup milk
2 cups cubed rye bread
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325. In a 12 inch cast iron skillet* heat oil and butter. Saute the kielbasa, onion and mushrooms until the onion is translucent. Whisk together the eggs, milk, chives and spices. Set aside. Add the bread cubes to the pan and saute for 1 minute. Pour in the egg mixture. Stir to evenly distribute the sausage, onions and garlic. Keep on medium heat and cook until just beginning to set. Bake about 10 minutes or until the top is just beginning to brown. Remove from pan and slice.

*or other oven-safe skillet

My thoughts:
One of the many good things about living in Baltimore is the abundance of Polish markets. I'm not just limited to national brand grocery store kielbasa (although a lot of the grocery stores here also sell locally made kielbasa). I can find kielbasa with the flavor profile I want for a dish. I'm partial to the garlic-y varieties so I used that. I also used up some leftover Polish rye bread I had. It was sort of an experiment but I really liked how it turned out. The bread stucked up some of the egg mixture so the texture was a little denser than a regular frittata but in an appealing, I don't need to serve bread with this sort of way. It added a lot of flavor to the dish as well. Not to mention the sturdiness meant the leftover were both tasty and easy to reheat the next day.

3 Fiber One Mix-ins: Cocoa Nib Raspberry, Toasted Whole Grains & Tropical,

3/4 cup Fiber One 80 Calories Chocolate Squares
6 oz 0% plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon cocoa nibs
1/2 cup raspberries

Layer the cereal, yogurt, nibs and berries in a parfait glass or bowl. Serve immediately.

1 cup Fiber One Nutty Clusters and Almonds
2 tablespoons rolled Kamut (khorasan wheat flakes)
2 tablespoons old fashioned rolled oats
1 tablespoon milled flax seed

Place Fiber One Nutty Clusters and Almonds in a mixing bowl. Set aside. In a small, dry skillet, heat the kamut and oats until lightly browned and toasted. Allow to cool. Add to the cereal and top with flax seeds. Toss to evenly distribute all ingredients. Store in an airtight jar or eat immediately.

1 cup Fiber One Nutty Clusters and Almonds
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup dried pineapple chunks

Toss Fiber One Nutty Clusters and Almonds together with macadamia nuts, coconut flakes and pineapple in a small bowl. Serve dry or with milk.

My thoughts:
Fiber One asked me to come up with 3 ways to jazz up their cereal. I went the route of adding some new flavors but also a lot of nutritional ingredients as well like cocoa nibs, kamut flakes, oats and flax. The perfect way to mix up breakfast or a snack! Check out other Fiber One ideas here on their Facebook page.

May 15, 2013

Lemon Cucumber Salad

6 mini cucumbers, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup 10% Ättiksprit (Swedish white vinegar)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed
1 1/2 tablespoons dill seed
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Toss together the salad ingredients in a small nonreactive bowl or jar. Set aside. In a second bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until the salt and sugar dissolve. Pour over the salad and allow to sit at least 3 hours prior to serving.

Note: If you keep this too long in the fridge, you'll find it has turned into pickles! Which are also tasty, of course!

My thoughts:
I love cucumber salad in the warmer months because you can make it ahead of time and it is refreshing. Plus it reminds me of pickles, which is another big love of mine. I used some Swedish vinegar in the recipe, which is like regular white vinegar but much more acidic. It made the lemon rind very, very soft and completely infused the cucumber in only 3 hours. As for the flavor of the dish? Very bright, very lemon-y and crisp. Perfect for serving with any summery meal.

May 13, 2013

Bacon Braised Potatoes

2 strips crisp thick cut bacon, diced
1 large onion, halved the thinly sliced
2 lb mixed Betty Crocker Fresh Baby Red and Yellow Potatoes
3 sprigs' worth of thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups chicken stock
1 oz crumbled Gorgonzola

Saute the bacon in high-walled, lidded pot until crisp. Drain the bacon grease from the pot.

In a single layer, arrange all of the potatoes and onions into the bottom of the pot.  Cook for 1-2 minutes without stirring. Add the thyme, pepper, salt and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and partially cover with a lid. Continue to boil for 20 minutes or until the broth has evaporated to the point of only reaching the halfway point of the potatoes.

Carefully use the back of a spoon to gently crack the skin of each of the potatoes. Raise the heat slightly and continue to cook until all of the broth has evaporated and the potatoes  have browned on the underside, about 10 minutes. Flip the potatoes and cook the other side for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with Gorgonzola. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
When the folks at Betty Crocker asked me to come up with a recipe showcasing the versatility of potatoes, I knew the method I wanted to use. It is very simple but not one I see very often. You are basically braising the potatoes in just a bit of liquid then cracking their skins and allowing them to caramelize. It is based on an old French method but I jazzed it up (and honestly, gilded the lily) by adding bacon, onions and just a sprinkle of cheese at the end. The The potatoes are positively dripping with flavor and the onions caramelize with virtually no effort on your part and the whole dish is just a the most savory, smoky, decadent way to serve potatoes. I like using baby potatoes, I most often use the yellow-fleshed varieties or the mixed bag of red white and blue if I can find* them but fingerlings work well too. Don't use cut up or whole large potatoes because the texture will not be correct and all of the yummy crispness will be missing.

*blue potatoes have been oddly absent from the stores lately, even in potato chip form. Blue potato blight?

May 08, 2013


2 Italian eggplants, thinly sliced
6 pitas, halved
6 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1/3 cup hummus

for the Israeli salad:
2 tomatoes, cubed
1 English cucumber, cubed
1 small onion, cubed
3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
juice and zest of one lemon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Toss together the ingredients of the salad. Set aside.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet. Pan fry the eggplant slices until just golden. Drain on paper towel-lined plates. Assemble the sandwiches by spreading some hummus in each half of each pita pocket and filling with eggs, eggplant and salad. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I've been on an international sandwich kick so when I came across the Israeli sandwich, sabich, I had to re-create it at home. It contains hard-boiled eggs and eggplants, which I love, plus hummus and Israeli Salad, which include two more of my favorites, tomatoes and cucumbers. You don't have to go all out and make the pita yourself (although they are very good, so if you have the time, do it!) as I did and if you don't, the sandwich comes together quite quickly. While the eggplant is lightly fried, it isn't battered which cuts down on the cooking time quite a bit. Like any sandwich there are a few variations, some use huevos haminados instead of plain hard-boiled eggs, some add pickles or amba, some add potatoes or other vegetables or sauces. There are even "sabich inspired" sandwiches on rye, whole wheat bread or even a croissant(!). But the sabich at the most basic form is what I've shared here; eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, and salad all stuffed in a pita. I do think grilling the eggplant instead of frying it would be a fun twist and if it wasn't raining today, I think I would have made both the eggplant (brushed with oil) and the pita on the grill. Sabich makes a great sandwich to pack for lunches as well as the eggplant does not have to be served warm. I would pack the salad separately and add it right before serving to avoid sog. I served mine with some cauliflower pickles on the side to add a bit of punch.

May 06, 2013

Spring Chicken Pasta Salad with Lemon-Thyme Dressing

4 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
10 oz cooked mafalda pasta
3/4 cup chopped red onion
2 stalks celery, diced
1 1/2 cups bite-sized asparagus, steamed (about 12 stalks)
2 (loose) cups watercress
10 cornichons, sliced into coins
zest of 1 lemon

1/3 cup mayonnaise
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon
3 sprigs' worth fresh thyme
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, toss together the salad ingredients. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Drizzle over the salad and stir to evenly distribute all ingredients.

Tip: Steam the asparagus by adding it to the boiling pasta for the last couple of minutes of cooking.

My thoughts:
In the fall, I made an autumnal chicken pasta salad and realized I had made summer and winter versions previously. So when I realized we didn't have anything for lunch this week, I thought I'd make a spring version. The appearance of tulips, daffodils, dogwoods and asparagus always signal the end of winter and the promise of warm weather to come. So I try and use asparagus in as many ways as I can!

I love hearty pasta salads for lunches and picnics because then I don't have to worry about packing bread or crackers, I can just grab the pasta salad and some fruit and go!

May 03, 2013

Sauerkraut Cream Pie


1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup finely shredded sauerkraut (drained, if necessary)

1 10-inch graham cracker crust

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars and cornmeal. Add the buttermilk, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Fold in the sauerkraut. Pour into prepared crust and bake for 45 minute or until "set" (even in the very center) and lightly browned. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

My thoughts:
The other day I received a tweet from a former Baltimorean asking if I had ever had sauerkraut cream pie. My response was a disappointed "no" but I can't say that anymore! Unlike some sauerkraut "pies" I've come across before, the sauerkraut cream pie is sweet, not savory. I love sauerkraut and am always interested in hearing about new ways to use it so I knew I had to make this pie. The origins of the sauerkraut cream pie is a bit murky but it seems to hail from the midwest where perhaps it won a contest at a sauerkraut festival. Or maybe it was an Amish recipe. No one seems to know. If I had to guess, I wouldn't be surprised if it was one of those budget and ration-stretching wartime recipes that used unexpected ingredients in place of ingredients, like in this case, I'd bet coconut, they were unable to get. The finished product is very similar texture to a coconut cream pie. If you know more about the origins of the pie, let me know in the comments.

She found a recipe in an old Baltimore Sun article and further googling uncovered a few more recipes but they all appeared to be the same. The few people who appeared to have actually made the pie seemed to find the recipe lacking: too little sauerkraut, a funny texture or the recipe made too much. Even though I hadn't had the pie before from the recipe and descriptions I could tell it was basically a chess pie with sauerkraut added. My source also said she remembered it tasting sort of like a buttermilk pie, which also pointed towards a chess pie, which tastes very similarly.

Since I couldn't find a satisfactory recipe, I set out to create my own ultimate sauerkraut cream pie. Chess pies are made with milk, eggs, cornmeal and an acidic ingredient like lemon juice or vinegar. I didn't need to use an acidic ingredient because I was using sauerkraut. I wanted to add a bit of additional depth to the flavor to help balance the robust sauerkraut so I used buttermilk and brown sugar. Both chess pie and sauerkraut pie are traditionally made with a pastry crust but I thought it might be tasty and lighter in a graham cracker crust. I just used a store-bought crust because I didn't have graham crackers on hand and even buying a fancy organic graham crust was cheaper than a box of graham crackers or crumbs and I'd still have to make make the pie. Save yourself a bit of effort, especially if you'd use store-bought graham crackers anyway. It doesn't make a difference in this pie.

As for the taste? Not sour or salty at all.It is sweet with a hint of vanilla and very creamy. One could even call it "Mock Coconut Pie". Everyone who tasted it, guessed it was a coconut cream pie.

May 01, 2013

Grilled Pineapple Five Spice Hand Pies

1 box Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts
2 1/2 cups cubed fresh pineapple
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon five spice powder

Unroll the Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts. Using a 4 inch cookie cutter or pocket pie mold, cut out 10 shapes. Vent five of the shapes using a small cookie cutter or the tines of a fork. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the pineapple, cornstarch and five spice powder until well combined. Place approximately 1/4 cup of pineapple mixture in the center of the unvented dough shapes.

Top each with the vented half and pinch or press shut.

Place on a platter and freeze for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare your grill according to manufacturer's instructions. Remove the pies from the freezer and arrange on a grill-safe baking or pizza stone.

Place the baking stone on the grill. Close the grill, leaving the vent open. Grill for 10 minutes or until the crusts are fully cooked and crisp.

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

My thoughts:

How's that for a bit of sunshine? It is pineapple season in Hawaii, and while I'm stuck here in now drizzly Baltimore, it is as good of an excuse as any to indulge. I love, love the combination of pineapple and five spice. I made this pineapple-five spice sorbet a while back, these fruity baked beans and when I did my Hawaiian inspired Thanksgiving I made a five spice rubbed, pineapple infused turkey and this five spice, pineapple SPAM Hawaiian bread stuffing. These pies are no different. Lushly tropical, they ooze pineapple and just a hint of spice. Perfect to perk up any day!

One tip, make these pies first, then use the hot coals to cook your dinner while they cool on a wire rack.