March 26, 2014

Pickled Asparagus with Fennel

5 pounds asparagus, cut into jar sized pieces
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 oz fresh dill, chopped
1 oz fennel fronds, chopped
4 cloves garlic
8 fresh bay leaves
4 1/2 cups water
5 cups white vinegar
1/3 cup pickling salt
3 teaspoons black peppercorns
3 teaspoons dill seeds
3 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
3 teaspoons fennel seed

Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Prep the lids/jars. Evenly divide all of the spices, peppers and garlic between 4 wide mouth 1 1/2 pint jars.

Add the asparagus and fennel, leaving 1/4 inch headroom.

Pour in the vinegar mixture. Close the jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Allow to sit 1 week before eating.

Yield: about 4 wide mouth 1 1/2 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:
I wasn't planning on pickling today but I went to the store and they had beautiful, skinny asparagus for $1.29 and I bought 6 pounds. I saved one pound to eat now and canned the rest. I had some fennel leftover and since one of my favorite things in the world is pickled fennel, I tossed that in too.

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March 24, 2014

Fennel-Orange Pickled Shrimp

3 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined and steamed
6 green onions, chopped
1/2 Cara Cara orange, thinly sliced
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
juice of 2 Cara Cara oranges
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons nonpareil capers (with juice)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons white peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon dill seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen
sea salt
fennel fronds

Place the shrimp, green onions, orange slices, fennel and onion in a large, non-reactive bowl. Whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour over the shrimp mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve. Store leftovers up to 2 days.

My thoughts:
I had pickled shrimp in a restaurant years ago and loved it. I don't see it on menus often and it is a shame. Think of it is a lightly pickled, thinly dressed shrimp salad. I love pickled fennel so I added fresh fennel for some crunch knowing it would pickle well. Cara Cara oranges are still going strong (a silver lining to the winter-without-end) so I used them instead of the more typical lemon. Their sweetness really complemented the natural sweetness of the shrimp. I wanted some heat so I threw in a jalapeno but beyond that I relied on spices to bring the flavor. When it came to serve, I scooped up big spoonfuls into bowls and large Weck jars and served it as I would shrimp salad, with crackers, hard-boiled eggs and raw vegetables. If you are fancy, toast points and tomato aspic would work as well! I think makes for a refreshing meal so I tend to serve as such but feel free to try it as an appetizer and let people spear the shrimp with tiny daggers.

Thanks to OXO and Eastern Fish Company, a member of the NFI Shrimp Council, for asking me to develop this recipe and supplying the shrimp and tools needed to make it great! I steamed my shrimp using my favorite OXO Good Grips Silicone Steamer, drained them in my OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Bowl and Colander Set, used the OXO Good Grips Shrimp Cleaner to clean and de-vein the shrimp, OXO Good Grips Flexible Kitchen and Herb Snips to "chop" my green onion, juiced my Cara Cara oranges with OXO Good Grips Wooden Reamer, and tossed it all together with the OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Tongs with Black Silicone Heads.

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March 19, 2014

Smoky Avocado Ranch Dip

1 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 avocado
3 tablespoons dry buttermilk*
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon freeze dried chives
1 1/2 teaspoons dillweed
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle
1/2 teaspoon dried onion
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Use a potato masher or a mini chopper (I love my immersion blender/chopper combo) to mix all ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate 20 minutes prior to serving.

*look for this in the baking aisle

My thoughts:
Sometimes you just find yourself with an avocado that is just on the verge of being too ripe! I'm not lucky enough to live in an area where avocados sell for less than $1 each so I hate throwing them away. Instead, I turned this one into a yummy dip. I had the end of a giant vat of (full fat!) Greek yogurt so I used that instead of sour cream and thanks to a recent gig that required me to do more with ranch dressing mix than I could have ever imagined, I had all the ingreidnes I needed to make a great dip. I love smoky flavors and a bit of heat with avocado so I tossed in some smoked paprika and chipotle too. I love how it turned out, cool and refreshing with just a enough spice to keep it interesting. We had it with chips, of course, but it was also suprisingly good to dip tamales in!

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March 17, 2014

Parsley-Cheddar Pesto

3 large bunches Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
4 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
4 cloves garlic
freshly ground black pepper

Place the parsley, cheddar, olive oil, almonds, garlic salt and pepper in a food processor or blender, pulse until a thick paste forms.

My thoughts:
I had some cute shamrock shaped pasta that was filled with cheddar. I didn't think a tomato sauce would be good (maybe it would be?) but didn't feel like a heavy cream sauce so I came up with this instead. It was surprisingly delicious! The parsley was really tasty, I was worried it would taste like garnish but now I want to try out other parsley based recipes.

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March 14, 2014

Corned Beef Stuffed Cabbage

1 very large head of cabbage
1 1/2 cups vegetable, chicken or beef stock
1 1/2 tablespoons grainy deli-style mustard

for the filling:
1 cup vegetable, chicken or beef stock
1/2 cup kasha (buckwheat groats)
1 large onion, chopped
1 egg, beaten
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup milk
2 cups diced cooked corned beef*
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds


for the filling:
Bring the stock, salt and pepper to a boil. Mix the kasha and the egg together in a small bowl. Add to the stock mixture, cover and cook until the liquid is fully absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the potato and onion. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain. Add butter, milk, pepper and mash until fairly smooth. Stir in the corned beef, mustard seed and kasha. Set aside.

Core the cabbage by placing the head of cabbage stem side up on a table, inserting a knife 4 or 5 times around the stem angling in towards the stem, and then slamming the cabbage stem side down on a table to loosen the core. Pull to remove. Carefully remove the leaves of the cabbage by pulling on the thick ends and peeling down. Remove and set aside all leaves that look big enough to fold around 1/3-1/2 cup of filling. Steam the leaves to be stuffed for 7 minutes or until pliable.

Place a steamed cabbage leaf in the pan, scoop 1/3-1/2 cup of filling onto the middle. Fold one side over the stuffing, then the bottom up, and then the other side over sort of like you are folding a burrito. Fold the cabbage, rolling towards the fat part of the leaf until it forms a rectangular package. Place in a 9x13 pan folded side down. Fill the pan with stuffed cabbage in a single layer.

Whisk together the mustard and the stock together. Pour stock over the cabbage rolls. Bake 30 minutes or until cooked through.

*I cooked my corned beef in a slow cooker overnight; cover in water or stock and cook 8 hrs on low. I added some corned beef spices to the water mixture.

My thoughts:
It is that time of year again! I aim to make a new corned beef and cabbage dish each year but some times life gets in the way. I've been very busy developing recipes for my new cookbook and various clients and thought I'd run out of time before St Patrick's Day but I pulled it off!

My favorite corned beef and cabbage recipes are the wackier fusion ones. I loved the corned beef and baby cabbage hash but my corned beef quesadillas and even more so, my corned beef and cabbage bao were my favorites. After all, corned beef and cabbage is an Irish-American thing, not really Irish-Irish. Why not put yet another twist on it? This time I decided to continue the Jewish/Eastern European fusion kick I've been on since Thanksgiving and make corned beef stuffed cabbage. Potatoes were an obvious addition,  I took a hint from the deli and added a bit of mustard, I added the kasha as a nod to the traditional rice found in stuffed cabbage. The result? A surprisingly light tasting, very savory dinner.

Still have some corned beef to use up? Check out my corned beef Pinterest board for ideas.

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March 12, 2014

Butternut Squash Fig-Orange Hamantaschen


for the cookie:
1/3 cup  butternut squash puree
1/3 cup oil canola oil
2 tablespoons fig preserves or jam (I used my homemade fig honey cardamom jam)
3/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (I used Cara Cara oranges)
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup fig preserves or jam (I used my homemade fig honey cardamom jam)


In a large bowl, mix together the butternut squash puree, canola oil, fig preserves, and orange juice until smooth. Stir in the flour, baking powder and sugar until a smooth batter forms. Refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour or until firm to the touch.

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two cookie sheets with silipats or parchment paper.

Roll the dough out onto a clean, floured surface. When the dough is about a 1/4 inch thick, cut 2 1/2-3 inch* circles out of the dough. Place them on the prepared pans. Spoon a little less than 1 teaspoon preserves into the middle of each circle. Fold three sides towards the center and press down to form a triangle.

Bake 12 minutes or until golden. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

*I use a doughnut cutter  with the insert removed or a biscuit cutter.

Note: If using a fig jam/preserve that does not include honey, this recipe would be vegan. Try my fig-port jam.

My thoughts:
I decided to make hamantaschen because Purim is this weekend! I love hamantaschen and the story behind why we make these cookies this time of year.  I wrote an article about Purim and hamantaschen for NPR a while back and since then, I've created recipes for a rugelach-inspired cream cheese based hamantaschen, chocolate hamantaschen, vegan hamantaschen filled with kiwi jam and orange ginger hamantaschen. Since I can, hamantaschen are a great excuse to use up last year's homemade jam (just make sure it is thick or it will run) just before canning season starts up again. This year's hamantaschen is packed with not only sneaky squash but fig jam is baked into the dough for extra flavor and fiber.

I wasn't sure how the puree would work in a cookie recipe but the puree was so smooth, it really seemed to "disappear" into the batter. Using the puree not only added extra veggies but it gave it some of the bulk I would normally get from butter so that means the recipe is vegan and pareve (without using margarine!). The dough was very easy to roll out and work with and tasted fantastic! No one would know there was squash in the cookies if you didn't tell them, they were just lightly sweet.

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March 10, 2014

Buttermilk Pain Perdu

2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 eggs
8 large slices bread

Whisk together the buttermilk, rum, sugar and eggs until smooth. Place sliced bread in rimmed baking sheets in a single layer. Pour the liquid over the bread. Let soak 30 seconds then flip, taking care that both sides are fully coated in batter. Allow to sit 5 minutes. Melt butter in a large skillet, fry (in batches) the bread on both sides until golden.

My thoughts:
My love of milk (and buttermilk!) delivery continues with yet another recipe I came up with to use up buttermilk. I can't resist buying those beautiful 1/2 gallon glass bottles!

Pain Perdu is sort of a dressed up French toast. You make a sort of custard and soak the bread in it verses just dipping the bread in egg batter. I used some country white bread from a big, round loaf but French bread works too. I topped mine off with a bit of butter and a drizzle of my beloved hickory syrup. I don't love regular French toast but pain perdu gets a big thumbs up, it is richer and creamer without being heavy. The bread almost gets a pudding texture inside while remaining crisp on the outside.

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March 07, 2014

Root Beer Pecan Brittle

2 cups halved pecans, toasted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
8 tablespoons butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon McCormick root beer concentrate

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Bring the sugar, corn syrup, butter and root beer concentrate to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until the mixture darkens and a drop of the mixture dropped into a cup of ice cold water hardens instantly. Stir in baking soda. Fold in pecans.

Immediately pour the mixture onto the lined baking sheet and use a spoon to create a layer between 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Allow to cool completely. Break into bite-sized pieces.

My thoughts:
McCormick contacted me recently about developing a recipe for their 125th anniversary using their original product, root beer concentrate. In 1889, 25 year old Willoughby M. McCormick was selling root beer extract door-to-door here in Baltimore. I've always had a fondness for McCormick, since it is based here in Baltimore and when the spice plant was downtown when I was very young, you could smell the spices wafting over the harbor. We've always used McCormick growing up and in fact, when I told my mother about the root beer project she told me that my Grandpop (born in 1914) had told her about his aunt Hilda making root beer at home and what a treat it was. I bet that was made using McCormick concentrate! Buying soda at the store was expensive so it was popular to make your own at home. How fun is that?

While root beer is tasty on its own, I wanted to take the flavors of root beer and transform them into something new. I thought about making peanut or almond brittle with it but then a friend suggested I use pecans instead. I'm glad I did! It gave the brittle a richer flavor and the pecan paired nicely with the root beer. I can't stop eating it.

Check out McCormick's Flavor Together project where you can share your flavor story in honor of their anniversary. Share your own unique flavor story by commenting on this post using the hashtag #flavorstory and be entered for a chance to win a McCormick Anniversary Pack. The pack includes exclusive McCormick Anniversary Edition product (both black pepper and vanilla extract – not available in stores!), a McCormick recipe book, and a branded canvas tote – all valued at $50.

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March 05, 2014

"Everything" Soft Pretzel Bites

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
4 1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup baking soda
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons coarse salt
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
3 teaspoon granulated garlic
3 teaspoons dehydrated onion


In large bowl of stand mixer, stir together yeast, sugar and warm water; let stand 3 minutes. Add flour; mix with dough hook attachment until dough forms a smooth, elastic ball. Grease large bowl with canola oil; place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Place in cold oven 50 minutes or until doubled in size.

Remove bowl from oven. Heat oven to 425°F. Gently push fist into dough to deflate; divide dough into about 35 1 1/2 inch pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece of dough into round ball then shape into a nugget.

Pour baking soda into 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven or stockpot; fill with water. Stir with whisk until baking soda is dissolved. Heat to boiling.

Line large cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. Drop each nugget into the boiling baking soda-water mixture for 30 seconds. Place on cookie sheet. Brush dough with egg; sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion, garlic and salt. Bake 12 or until golden brown. Serve warm.

My thoughts:
You all know how much I love "everything" related foods thanks to last year's turkey and rolls so when I had a craving for soft pretzels, I decided to be creative and stray from the usual salt-topped. Instead I topped them with all of the seeds and flavors that make everything bagels so great!

Pretzels sound tricky but they are actually quite easy. They only rise once (and for less than an hour!) then a quick dip in baking soda-spiked water magically turns them into pretzels and not just baked dough. Added bonus of making your own? They taste so much fresher than one ones from the grocer's freezer or the street hawker.

Note: if you'd rather, you can make pretzel shapes instead of nuggets. It should make about 12 pretzels.

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March 03, 2014

Peanut Butter & Cocoa Chili

2 lb cubed beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 serrano chiles, diced
1 onion, diced
1 shallot, minced
30 oz fire roasted (canned) tomatoes, drained
15 oz canned dark red kidney beans, drained
2 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon Ancho chile
1 1/2 teaspoon Hot New Mexican chili powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon epazote
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Spray a skillet with nonstick spray. Quickly saute the meat and vegetables until the meat is just barely cooked on all sides. Add to a 4 quart slow cooker. Stir. In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter, tomatoes and spices. Pour over the meat mixture. Stir to evenly combine. Cook on low 8-10 hrs. Stir prior to serving.

My thoughts:
Peanut butter and cocoa chili sounds, well, nutty, but it really good, I promise! Cocoa and peanut butter are both popular "secret" ingredients in chili so I thought why not combine the two? They add an intriguing flavor that doesn't shout chocolate! or peanuts! but adds a lot of depth to the chili. The peanut butter also helps thicken the chili which is always a bonus in a slow cooker recipe. Make this for your non peanut-allergic friends and family and have them guess what the secret ingredients are!

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