Archive for the ‘vegetarian’ Category

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Top Ten Vegetables for Grilling

Yes, I know, things have been a little quiet around here. I hope to get back to it soon. In the mean time, check out the guest blog I wrote for Full Circle Farm: Top Ten Vegetables for Grilling



Sunday, February 12th, 2012

Zucchinana Bread

What do you do if you don’t have enough zucchini for zucchini bread and you don’t have enough bananas for banana bread? You create a completely new bread that contains both, zucchinana bread.

I started with the basic quick bread recipe found in Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio and adapted from there. The result is a moist, yummy bread that is wonderful slathered with butter, or even better, peanut butter. Here’s the ingredients.


In one bowl mash the banana. I think the easiest way to do this is just to use your fingers (put a glove on first if you don’t like messy hands).


Then add the rest of the wet ingredients. In a second bowl combine all of the dry ingredients.


Stir each of the bowls contents well.


Stir the dry ingredients into the wet. Then stir in the toasted nuts. Divide the batter between two loaf pans, a muffin pan, or a combination of the two.


Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted into the bread (or muffin) comes out clean. This will take about 40 minutes for muffins and 50 minutes for a loaf.


Let cool before slicing. Enjoy plain or topped with butter. Or, be like Elvis and combine the flavors of banana and peanut butter for a delicious breakfast treat.


Zucchinana Bread
Recipe type: Bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
Cut down on dishes by using a scale. Simply add an ingredient to the bowl then zero out the scale before adding the next one.
Wet Ingredients
  • 2 small ripe bananas (about one cup)
  • 2 small zucchini, grated (about one cup)
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 ounce milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 ounces (one stick) butter, melted and browned (browning butter is optional)
Dry Ingredients
  • 12 ounce flour
  • 4 ounce sugar
  • 2 ounce brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Optional Ingredients
  • 4 ounces chopped nuts, toasted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl mash the bananas using your fingers or a fork. Add eggs and beat lightly. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Set aside.
  3. In a second bowl, stir together all of the dry ingredients.
  4. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Add the nuts is using and stir until the mixture is well combined.
  5. Divide the batter between two loaf pans, muffin tins or a combination of the two.
  6. Bake muffins for 40 minutes and loaves for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.
  7. Let cool before slicing.



Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Sriracha Soy Chex Mix

The other day I was walking through Costco (no story starts that way and doesn’t end without spending $100) and I saw this on the end cap.

“Make Chex Party Mix. What a good idea” (I am so easily influenced, sigh).

I haven’t made Chex Mix in years (and years and years) and, I was hosting a party where I knew snack mix would be a welcome addition. I like the traditional Chex Mix recipe well enough, but I’m not a huge fan of pretzels and I wanted something a little spicier. So, I decided to switch it up a little (or a lot as it turns out). The idea of using Sriracha as the heat in my mix popped into my head, which then led me to add some other Asian flavors. Although the mix takes a little while in the oven it comes together very quickly.

Here’s the ingredients:


First, melt the butter in the microwave (or on the stovetop) and then stir the seasoning ingredients into the melted butter. Give the butter a little taste at this point and add more sriracha if you like.


Put the cereals and the toasted almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, pour the seasoned butter over top …


… then use a spatula to stir and distribute the seasonings throughout the cereals.


Place the sheet in a 250 degree oven and bake for one hour, stirring the mix every 15 minutes. Let cool completely and then enjoy!


Salty and spicy (and mildly addictive), all my guests raved about my mix. Try it as an addition to your next party. You’ll be glad you did.

Sriracha Soy Chex Mix
Recipe type: Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
Make this recipe gluten-free by omitting the wheat Chex and increasing the amount of rice and corn Chex to 4½ cups each.
  • 3 cups wheat Chex cereal
  • 3 cups rice Chex cereal
  • 3 cups corn Chex cereal
  • 1½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 6 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon hoisen sauce
  • 2-3 teaspoons sriracha
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  1. Heat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Melt butter in microwave or saucepan. Stir in remaining seasoning ingredients.
  3. Place the cereals and almonds on a large rimmed baking sheet. Pour the seasoned butter over and stir well to distribute seasonings.
  4. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely. Store in airtight container.


Friday, April 8th, 2011

Mashed Garbanzos, Roasted Beets, Harissa

Although it is completely out of the way, I adore a trip to Melrose Market on Capitol Hill in Seattle. I’ll stop by Rain Shadow Meats for naturally raised, local meat (essential for my Charcutepalooza endeavors) and eggs. Then I’ll visit The Calf and Kid for yummy, hard to find cheeses from very knowledgeable staff. Then I’ll check the vegetable selection at Marigold and Mint (and sometimes buy myself some flowers).

Lastly I’ll stop by Sitka and Spruce for lunch. They have a communal bar table right off of the open kitchen (one of the quietest kitchens I’ve ever seen). Every meal that I’ve eaten there has been just outstanding. The last, a couple of weeks ago, has stuck with me so that I wanted to try a hand at something like it at home.

The dish consisted of three parts, garbanzo beans blended into a thick, textured mash, beets that had been roasted, then dressed with a vinaigrette, all topped off with a generous dollop of harissa.


For the Harissa, I used this recipe from Saveur (minus the mint).

The recipe is pretty straightforward, so I won’t really go into it here, but I can add, make sure to wear gloves while you seed the peppers or you will really regret it later when you rub your eyes.

The harissa can be made way in advance. and then stored in the refrigerator until meal time.


Here’s the ingredients for the Beets.

I roasted the beets whole a couple of days prior to dinner. I wanted to keep the flavors simple so I made a really basic vinaigrette, tossed the beets in it and then set it aside. This could easily be stashed in the fridge for a couple of days.


And for the garbanzos.

I put a little olive oil in a pan and sauteed the onion until it was soft and translucent.

Then I tossed in the garlic and smoked paprika and cooked it for another 30 seconds.

Then I added two can of garbanzos with just enough of the liquid from one of the cans to not quite cover the beans. I let this mixture simmer for ten minutes or so.

Then I took the stick blender to the mix and pureed it a bit. I wanted quite a bit of texture, so I didn’t go to crazy with the blender. This too, could be cooled and then stashed in the fridge.

Finally all of the elements of my meal were ready. I spooned some of the mashed garbanzos into a shallow bowl then layered on some of the beets and a dollop of harissa.

While I’m not sure this was an exact replica of the meal at Sitka and Spruce it was mighty similar and extremely delicious. It takes a bit of time to assemble all the parts of this meal, but the work can be spread out and then the meal can be assembled quickly when it is time to eat. Sitka and Spruce served their version at room temperature. I served mine hot (though the beets were at room temperature) and then enjoyed the leftovers cold, right out of the refrigerator. All three temperatures were good.


serves two generously, with leftovers

I highly recommend a hunk of crusty bread to serve alongside the meal. Everything on the plate is a natural for dipping and scooping. The Harissa recipe from Saveur is great, but commercial Harissa is also available if you are interested in a shortcut.

for the garbanzos:
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained, juice reserved

In a saucepan, heat a little olive oil and saute the onion until it is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and smoked paprika and saute for another 30 seconds. Add the beans and enough of the reserved juice to almost cover the beans. Simmer for 10 minutes then use an immersion blender to puree the beans slightly. Set aside.

for the beets:
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1-2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper
6-8 beets, roasted, peeled and diced

Whisk together all of the ingredients to create a vinaigrette. Toss the beets in the vinaigrette. Set aside.


Assemble your plate by spooning some of the mashed garbanzos onto a plate or shallow bowl. Spoon on some of the roasted beets and add a dollop of Harrisa.


Friday, March 25th, 2011

Grandma Isern’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Starting at the age of seven, every summer my parent’s would ship me off to Kansas for some time with the Grandparents. When I was younger, the stays were relatively short, a week or two. But as I got older, I stayed longer and longer. Four weeks, six weeks or more. I loved spending the summer with my cousins. Daily trips to the pool? Yes! Dress up with Grandma’s make up and jewelry (and sometimes her nighties)? Why not. Having co-conspirators in general mischief? Excellent!

Plus, she had the cookies.

In all the time I was there, I only saw her make these cookies once. Yet, somehow, there were always cookies to be had. It was some kind of Grandma magic I’m sure.

I think that one of the secrets to the tastiness of these cookies is that the raisins are ground. The one time that I saw her make them, she used an old school hand crank meat grinder (that I really hope was not also used for meat) to accomplish the task. These days, however, she uses a food processor.

The other secret is that they are kept in the freezer. Yes, the freezer. These cookies are best consumed about 45 seconds out of the freezer (too soon and they are too hard). It’s hard to explain why though. Maybe it’s just more Grandma magic.

Here’s the ingredients.

Stir together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

Put the oatmeal in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse for ten 1-second bursts, then add the nuts.

Pulse 5 more times. Remove the mixture from the food processor and set aside.

Add the raisins to the now empty bowl of the food processor (don’t bother washing it) and grind them into a paste. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.

Add the ground raisins.

And mix until they are incorporated

Add the eggs and vanilla.

And mix until they are incorporated

Add the flour mixture and mix until it is combined.

Lastly, add the oatmeal and nuts and mix until combined.

Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet. I used a scoop because it makes things easier. Your cooking time may need to be adjusted depending on the size of the scoop.

Cookies will spread, so leave plenty of room around them. Bake for 12-13 minutes (with the size of my scoop, I needed the full 13 minutes).

Seriously, make sure there is enough room around the cookies.

Let cool for a few moments, then move to a rack to cool completely.

Whisk together the powdered sugar and vanilla, then the milk, a bit at a time, until it is  a good consistency for drizzling.

Drizzle the cookies with the glaze and let them set until it hardens. There may not be enough glaze for all the cookies. That’s fine, they’re still good.

For best flavor and texture, store the cookies in the freezer. They will still be plenty tasty if you do not heed my advice (and the advice of generations before me) but really, try them frozen, perhaps with a glass of milk.


makes 3 dozen

I only know these as my grandmother’s cookies, but I’ve been told that the recipe originated with my Great Grandmother Meta Isern. My mom told me that she sent a batch of them along when my parents let for their honeymoon (which they found funny, but then thoroughly enjoyed). I used golden raisins because that it all that I had, but Grandma uses regular raisins. Use what you like or have.

For the cookies:
2 cups (10 ounces) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups (7 ounces) oatmeal
1/2 cup (2 ounces) chopped nuts
1 cup (6 ounces) raisins
2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces) white sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the Glaze:
1/2 cup (2 ounces) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a food processor, grind the oatmeal using ten 1-second pulses. Add nuts and pulse 5 more times. Remove from food processor and set aside.

Add the raisins to the now empty bowl of the food processor and grind them into a paste. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the ground raisins and mix until they are incorporated. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until they are incorporated. Add the flour mixture and blend until combined. Lastly, add the oatmeal and nuts and mix until combined.

Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet. Cookies will spread, so leave plenty of room around them. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Let cool for a few moments, then move to a rack to cool completely.

Whisk together the powdered sugar and vanilla, then the milk, a bit at a time, until it is  a good consistency for drizzling. Drizzle the cookies with the glaze and let them set until it hardens.


Friday, February 4th, 2011

Ode to the Captain

I am all for the organic food movement. I shop local when I can. I love going to the farmers market and actually meeting the people who grew my food. I make special trips, way out of my way, to buy meat that I know was humanely raised. And I try to limit processed foods in my diet.

All that being said, there is absolutely a place in my life for Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch Cereal.

Growing up I enjoyed all the classics, Fruit Loops, Cocoa Pebbles, Apple Jacks, etc. but the only sugary cereal that remains in my diet is Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch Cereal (though I do enjoy the very occasional Frosted Mini Wheat).

As I was trying to decide what do make for dessert for my friends last weekend, I came across a recipe for cereal milk custard in David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook. However, he used Cornflakes to make his cereal milk. I have never been a fan of flake type cereals. When my parents would buy me the cereal variety mix when I was little I would eat (and enjoy) most all of them. But the Special K and the Raisin Bran? No thank you. Too squishy.

So, I figured, why not just use the cereal I enjoy the most.

I used the recipe for Perfect Panna Cotta from David Lebovitz but added the additional cereal soaking step as described in the Momofuku cookbook.

Panna Cotta is great for a dinner party because it can be made a couple of days in advance (leaving you to concentrate on the rest of your meal).


Per the instructions in the Momofuku cookbook, I spread out my cereal on a sheet pan and toasted it in the oven for 12 minutes.

Once it had cooled a bit, I put it into large bowl and poured the cream over the top.

I let the mixture steep for 45 minutes (stirring it a couple of times) and them drained it, squishing the cereal so as much cream as possible would come out.

This left me with about 4 1/2 cups of delicious cereal infused cream. And I not going to confirm that I ate some of that cream-soaked cereal, but if I did, it was delicious.

From here I just followed David Lebovitz’s instructions. Warm the cream to dissolve the sugar.

Bloom the gelatin.

Stir the gelatin into the warm cream, stirring until it disolves, then divide the mixture between the serving dishes (my glasses are just the right size to fit into a muffin tin which makes them easier to move en masse).

Lastly, into the fridge.

I like to leave them uncovered until they cool. Otherwise steam collects on the plastic wrap then drips back onto the top (not tasty). However, once they have cooled, be sure to cover them if they will be stored for long (otherwise they develop a nasty skin).


Now, of course, this panna cotta would be enough dessert for most people. But, because I am an over achiever, and because this would be topping of what I hoped would be an extravagant meal, I decided I needed more.

Since chocolate and peanut butter are BFFs I decided a chocolate something was the way to go. I turned to Twitter and asked if anyone had a crispy chocolate cookie recipe that they loved. Jeanne (@fourchickens on Twitter) told me that she did and pointed me to the Oreo cookie recipe on her blog The Art of Gluten-Free Baking. I made them following her instructions exactly (well, other then substituting gluten flour for the non-gluten flour mix the recipe calls for). I also skipped the filling since all I wanted was the crispy cookie part.


Lastly, I wanted something really crispy on the plate. Like a spun sugar something or other. In my brain, this turned into peanut brittle which then turned into the star of the evening, Peanut Butter Cereal Brittle.

I used a pretty standard peanut brittle recipe that I found on but rather than cooking the peanuts in the sugar solution …

… I stirred the cereal in as soon as the candy thermometer hit 300 degrees. Then I stirred like a mad women and spread it out as fast as I could before it set up.

I wish I had more pictures, but if you have ever made candy, you know it is a quick process, not really a, let me pause for a minute to shoot a picture, process.


This might have been prettier if I had unmolded the panna cotta onto the plate, but I’m lazy (yes, the person who made a five course dinner for her friends just called herself lazy), so this is the best I could do. Plus, it ate the same either way (and I certainly didn’t hear any complaints).


I loved, loved, loved the panna cotta (and the cocolate cookies were pretty darn good too), but I have to say that the cereal brittle was the true hit of the dessert. If you only make one thing, make the brittle. So, so good.


adapted from recipes by David Lebovitz and David Chang
serves 8

Half and half can be substituted for all or part of the heavy cream if you want to save a few calories. However, you shouldn’t be eating this every night anyway, so a little splurge probably won’t kill you.

6 cups Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch Cereal
6 cups heavy cream (or half-and-half)
1/3 cup sugar
2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)
6 tablespoons cold water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread out the cereal in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast the cereal for 12 minutes. Let cool a bit then place cereal in a large bowl and pour cream over the top of it. Let it sit for 45 minutes, stirring one or twice.

Strain the cream through a chinois or sieve, pressing on the cereal to get as much of the cream out of the cereal as possible. You should end up with about 4 1/2 cups total. Discard the cereal.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let it bloom for 5-10 minutes,

Meanwhile, heat the cream and the sugar in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved (it should be very warm) then remove it from the heat. Add the gelatin to the cream and stir it until the gelatin is dissolved.

Divide the cream mixture between eight serving glasses or bowls. Place in refrigerator and chill until firm, 2-4 hours. Once cool and set, cover the panna cotta with plastic wrap until ready to eat.


makes about a pound

Store the finished brittle in an airtight container and it will stay crunchy for several days.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch Cereal

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Measure out the butter, baking soda and cereal and have them standing by.

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt and water. Boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar reaches 300 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat and stir in the butter and baking soda, followed quickly by the cereal.

Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet and quickly press it into a single layer using a rubber
spatula. Let cool completely then break into pieces.

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Cuban Mojito Simmer Sauce (Just Like Trader Joe’s)

A while ago (longer than I would like to admit) one of my best friends pressed a jar of Trader Joe’s Cuban Mojito Simmer Sauce into my hands and said “I love this sauce but Trader Joe’s has discontinued it, can you figure out how to make it for me.” “Well of course” I replied and then I put the jar on a shelf and forgot about it.

While doing a little spring cleaning I came across the jar. I put it on my desk as a reminder and it sat there, mocking me, all summer.

This weekend I decided, finally, that it was time to get it done. I took a look at the ingredients, onion, orange juice, water, olive oil, cilantro, cider vinegar, lime juice, garlic, sea salt, cumin, arrowroot, black pepper, oregano and xanthan gum. Well, except for the arrowroot (a thickener) and the xanthan gum (a stabilizer) the ingredients seemed pretty straight forward.

The most important thing (other than getting the flavor spot on) was that the sauce had to be easily cooked by my friend (a very busy working mother of two). I also hoped to make sure the recipe could be doubled, tripled, maybe quadrupled and then stashed in the freezer for an easy weeknight meal.

It took two tries, but I think I got it right. Here’s the line-up (I also added just a touch of sugar to balance the flavors but it’s not in the picture).

I started by chopping the onion and smashing the garlic.

I cooked the onion and garlic in the oil in a medium-size saucepan.

When the onion was soft and translucent I stirred in the cumin, oregano and flour and cooked it for another couple of minutes, stirring constantly, to make a roux.

I added in all the liquids, stirring to make sure I didn’t get any lumps.

Then added the cilantro.

I gave the whole thing a whiz with the stick blender.

I tasted my sauce, then Trader Joe’s, then mine, then Trader Joe’s. It just wasn’t right. I added a bit of sugar to help balance the acidity and a bit more salt. Tasted again, but it was still just not right. The Trader Joe’s sauce just seemed more developed, more complex. The best way I know of to develop the flavor of a sauce is to let it simmer for a while so that’s just what I did. After 20 minutes of simmering, the flavor was spot on.

The next challenge? Freezing. I cooled the sauce then popped it in the freezer overnight. Then I thawed it in the refrigerator and it came out perfect. Time for dinner.

I browned a couple of chicken breasts then added some of the sauce to the pan. I turned down the heat and simmered the dish until the chicken was cooked through, About 10 minutes. I served the chicken with white rice and a few sauteed green beans.



This sauce may not be much to look at, but I totally get why my friend wanted it back in her life. A little bit tangy and completely tasty. Kerry, I hope this recipe serves you well.


makes 12 ounces

If you don’t have a stick blender the sauce can also be pureed in batches in a food processor or blender. Sauce can be frozen for up to three months, just thaw it in the refrigerator before using.

1 Tablespoon oil
1 onion
4 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon flour
1 1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 cup orange juice
1 lime, juiced (approx. 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Peel and chop the onion then smash the garlic with the edge of a knife. Heat oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic and onion until it is soft and translucent. Stir in the cumin, oregano and flour and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly, to make a roux. Add all the liquids, stirring rapidly to make sure no lumps form. Cook for two minutes, then add the cilantro. Using a stick blender, puree the sauce until smooth. Reduce heat, and simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper and sugar. Taste for seasoning add adjust if necessary with additional salt, pepper or sugar.

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Roasted Pepper and Cheddar Pie

As I think back on this summer, I realize that for me, it was all about getting better. I mean that literally of course as I refer to my recovery from ankle surgery. But I also invested quite a bit of time to make myself, my blog and even my cooking better.

Most recently I attended the International Food Blogger Conference which was held right here in Seattle. Two full days (and two evenings) chock full of panels, new (and old) friends and lots of tasty food. My favorite session was an inspirational slide show and talk from photographer Penny De Los Santos. She just made me (and I think everyone else there) want to be better. Because of her, you’ll probably be seeing a few more photo essays on the blog (much like this one from last Saturday) as I self-assign new photography projects for myself.

My other big summer project was a 5-week class series at Cornish College for the Arts called the Art of Food. Here’s the description:

A series of evenings in which different aspects of food + art get explored: food AND art, food AS art, artists and their food practices, food blogging, food as a medium for leading a creative life, food photography, the creative practice of gardening, art + food + sustainability. Participants include author and master forager Langdon Cook, Chef Becky Selengut, “Top Cheftestant” and artist Robin Leventhal, photographer Clare Barboza, food writers Molly Wizenberg and Shauna James Ahern, and Delancey owner and composer/dancer Brandon Pettit.

My favorite weeks were the two that were focused on photography with Clare Barboza and food writing with Molly Wizenberg and Shauna James Ahern. I’ve really been trying to improve my food photography over the last year and it was great to have input from a professional. Here’s a couple of the photos I took at class:


You can see the rest at my Flickr site here.

I also really enjoyed the week focused on food writing. I am always a little nervous about my writing and I am really trying to improve this as well. During the class we read examples of several popular food writers, Frances Lam, Jonathon Gold, MFK Fisher, Laurie Colwin and others. The piece from Laurie Colwin was titled “Tomato Pie” from the book More Home Cooking. It was a beautiful description of a recipe for Tomato Pie.

“I have never yet encountered tomatoes in any form unloved by me. Often at night I find myself ruminating about two previously mysterious tomato dishes, which I was brazen enough to get the recipes for. One is Tomato Pie and is a staple of a tea shop call Chaiwalla, owned by Mary O’Brien, in Salisbury, Connecticut. According to Mary, the original recipe was found in a cookbook put out by the nearby Hotchkiss School, but she has changed it sufficiently to claim it as her own. The pie has a double biscuit-dough crust, made by blending 2 cups flour, 1 stick butter, 4 teaspoons baking powder, and approximately 3/4 cup milk, either by hand or in a food processor. You roll out half the dough on a floured surface and line a 9-inch pie plate with it. Then you add the tomatoes. Mary makes this pie year round and uses first-quality canned tomatoes, but at this time of year 2 pounds peeled fresh tomatoes are fine, too. Drain well and slice thin two 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, then lay the slices over the crust and scatter them with chopped basil, chives, or scallions, depending on their availability and your mood. Grate 1-1/2 cups sharp Cheddar and sprinkle 1 cup of it on top of the tomatoes. Then over this drizzle 1/3 cup mayonnaise that has been thinned with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and top everything with the rest of the grated Cheddar. Roll out the remaining dough, fit it over the filling, and pinch the edges of the dough together to seal them. Cut several steam vents in the top crust and bake the pie at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. The secret of this pie, according to Mary, is to reheat it before serving, which among other things ensures that the cheese is soft and gooey. She usually bakes it early in the morning , then reheats it in the evening in a 350 degree oven until it is hot.

It is hard to describe how delicious this is, especially on a hot day with a glass of magnificent iced tea in a beautiful setting, but it would doubtless be just as scrumptious on a cold day in your warm kitchen with a cup of coffee.”

Her description was so lovely that I knew I just had to cook this dish. I made it for brunch for a group of friends (several of whom are, or used to be, fellow personal chefs) and it received rave reviews. Basically the pie was  tomatoes, cheddar cheese in a biscuit crust (and really, how could that combo not be good). It was obvious that this recipe was ripe for adaptation.

After the last class (the food photography session), many of the props (read leftover food) were divided among the students that had stayed to help clean up. I ended up with 2 mini cupcakes, one tomatillo, a lime and a bunch of bell peppers and hot peppers. So, after I ate the cupcakes, I decided to get to work on turning the peppers into something delicious. Of course, I would roast the peppers and make a version of that delicious pie.

Here’s the ingredients for the filling:

And for the crust:

I started by roasting the peppers. I roasted mine right over the flame on my gas stove, but they can easily be done on a grill or under the broiler. Just cook the peppers until they are blackened then through them in a covered bowl and let them sit for at least five minutes.

Once they are cool enough to handle the skins will peel right off. Try to keep the seeds out of the peeled pepper pile and no matter how much easier it would make things, do not run the peppers under water or all the roasty-toasty goodness will go right done the drain. Oh yeah, and notice the gloves, gloves are a must when you are seeding really hot peppers (because if you don’t wear gloves you will invariably touch your eye and then pain will ensue).

I cut the bell peppers into strips and then diced the smaller peppers (I wasn’t sure just how hot they were and I didn’t want to end up with a huge bite of “burn your mouth” hot pepper in the finished dish). Then I set this aside to work on the crust.

The crust comes together very easily in a food processor. Just whir together the butter, flour and baking powder until it looks a bit like fine sand. It doesn’t take long, maybe 10 seconds.

I added the milk and then gave it another whir. It will come together as a dough fairly quickly.

At this point I moved the dough to a very well floured work surface. This dough is very sticky so flour is your best friend. Flour your hands, flour the rolling pin, flour the work surface, trust me.

I divided the dough into two halves and rolled one of them out until it is large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. In addition to being sticky, this dough is also very forgiving. Holes can be easily smushed back together.

Once the bottom crust was in the pan I laid in the peppers, the tomatillo (which didn’t add much to the mix so I’ve left it out of the recipe below) half the cheese and the chopped scallions.

I stirred together the juice of a lime and 1/3 cup of mayonnaise and drizzled this over the pie.

Then I added the rest of the cheese and topped the pie with the second half of the biscuit dough, trimmed off the excess dough, pinched together the edges and then cut a few vent holes in the top.

Into the oven (I used my toaster oven) for 25 minutes until the crust was golden brown and delicious and the pie was warm and toasty inside.

While I adored the tomato version of the pie that Laurie Colwin write so beautifully about this version was another lovely take. Sharp from the cheddar and tangy from the lime with a beautifully crisp and tender crust.

My friends who were over for yet another potluck (and belly dancing, but we’re not going to talk about that) all agreed it was delightful as well.

Next up I think a sweet version of this pie is in order. I think berries with goat cheese might be nice but it’s a little past berry season. Maybe plums…



2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cut into cubes
2/3 cup milk

4 bell peppers
5-6 jalapenos, serranos or other hot peppers
1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
6 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise
juice from one lime

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roast and peel the peppers and hot peppers. Cut the peppers into strips and dice the hot peppers. Stir together then set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup stir together the mayonnaise and lime juice.

In the bowl of a food processor pulse together the flour, baking powder and butter (it should resemble dry sand). Add the milk and continue to pulse until the dough come together. Divide the dough into two pieces. On a well-floured surface roll out half the dough and line a 9-inch pie plate with it.

Cover the bottom of the pan with the pepper mixture. Sprinkle on half of the cheese and all of the scallions. Drizzle the mayonnaise mixture evenly over the  scallions then sprinkle on the remaining cheese.

Roll out the second half of the dough, lay it on top of the filling, trim off the excess dough and pinch the edges of the dough together to seal them. Cut several slits in the top crust to vent.

Bake the pie for about 25 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is warmed through.

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Chilled Lettuce Soup

Every once in a while a person may end up with too much lettuce. Maybe you planted a couple too many rows in the garden, or your CSA packed too much into your box for the week. Or maybe you asked your husband to run to the store to pick up a head to use for garnish for your catering gig and he came back with three.

Maybe you’ve tried to use it up by making salads (perhaps a delicious chefs salad to use up the leftover crudite and cold cuts from your catering gig) but now it’s just too wilty for more salads. What are you to do?

You may think the only option is the compost bin (that might have been my answer too) but after chucking one too many heads of wilty lettuce I decided to give soup a try.

Here’s the line up:

To start, melt the butter in a stock pot. I used a 3-quart pan but I really should have gone a little bigger (you’ll see why later).

Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and sweat the onion (saute over medium heat so that it does not brown) until it is cooked through and translucent.

Add the lettuce and the broth.

Simmer until the lettuce is soft, about 10 minutes. You’ll need to stir it a few times because the broth will not cover the lettuce at first (and this is why I needed a bigger pan).

Toss in the tarragon and cook for another minute or so.

Remove the pan from the heat and blend it in batches. Seriously, do it in batches. If you fill the blender to full, hot, bright green soup will erupt from the blender all over you and your kitchen.

Leave some of the broth in the pan, if you add it all at first the soup may be too thin at the end.

Pour the soup through a mesh strainer to get rid of the larger solids.

You’ll need to use a spoon to force it through a little.

If the soup is very thick, add some of the reserved broth. Then let the soup cool to room temperature.

Add some cream to taste (I used about 1/4 cup) and pop it in the fridge to cool completely. Once it’s chilled, taste the soup for seasoning (if you season while the soup is warm it will probably be off once the soup is chilled). Ladle the soup into serving dishes and top with a few croutons.



I’ll admit, when this soup was warm, I did not care for it. However, once it cooled it really started to grow on me. Light and sunny, like summer in a bowl. And the color, well it was just the most vivid beautiful green. A great start to a meal or a lovely little side dish. Next time you’ve got wilty greens on your hands, this is a wonderful way to use them up.


L E T T U C E   S O U P
Serves 4-6

While this is a great way to use up green leafy or romaine lettuces, overly bitter greens will probably not be as tasty here.

2 Tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 head lettuce, chopped
2 cup vegetable stock
2 Tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 – 1/2 cup cream

Melt butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and sweat the onion until it is cooked through and translucent. Add the lettuce and the broth and simmer until the lettuce is soft, about 10 minutes, stirring 3-4 times. Add the tarragon and cook for another minute.Remove the pan from the heat and blend the lettuce in batches, leaving some of the stock in the pan. Force the soup through a mesh strainer to get rid of the larger solids. Add reserved broth to thin the soup if necessary. Let the soup cool to room temperature Add cream to taste and refriderate to cool completely. Once chilled taste for seasoning. Ladle the soup into serving dishes and top with a few croutons.

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Cucumber-Mint Tea Sandwiches: A Tribute to Betty

As a personal chef I am often alone in the kitchen. Many times I will meet a new client, spend 45 minutes talking to them about their food needs, get a key to their house and then never see them again. I had a client for a while that even though I had been in their house every two weeks for over three years, I had only seen them twice.

However, on occasion, my clients are home when I am in their kitchen. They might work at home or be a stay-at-home parent but usually they are elderly.

I cooked for Betty almost every week for five years. When I was there I could always count on two things. One, the kitchen would be a little messy when I arrived and two, the TV would be on and tuned to either the news or a judge show.

Over the years we talked a lot. At first it was mostly about food, where we had eaten over the weekend, what she might like for me to make the next week. In time we started talking about more, politics, vacations, Project Runway, the big news story of the day. Her favorite topics, however, were gardening, her pets and especially her family.

In the summer, we would go out together into her garden so that I could harvest fresh vegetables to use for her meals. She was always concerned about my safety as I stepped over fences (designed to keep the rottweilers out of the garden) to pluck tiny carrots from the ground.

When we met, Betty was in fine health. I watched over the years as her legs started to fail her, going from needing a cane, to a walker until she eventually needed a scooter to get around. I never once heard a complaint. I could always tell when she was anxious about something because she would “pace” in her scooter, rolling from the back door to the living room over and over again. I always wondered how long she could keep that up before she would have to plug it back in.

One of Betty’s favorite things was throwing a party. Any excuse to have her family over (especially in the summer so they could be in the garden) was welcome. Often, rather than making meals for the week I would make hors d’oeuvres for an upcoming party. One of her favorites to include was tea sandwiches, specifically cucumber-mint tea sandwiches. Over the years my recipe changed a bit, honed for her tastes. The recipe started with all butter, went for a time to all cream cheese before finally settling on a combination of the two.

Betty passed away last week at the age of 91. As I sat, thinking about our time together, I was reminded of a time when she told me that the day after her last party she had enjoyed leftover cucumber tea sandwiches and a martini for lunch. I loved seeing the absolute glee in her eye as she described this slightly naughty thing she had done.

So today, as I reflect on, and write about Betty, I am munching on her favorite, Cucumber-Mint Tea Sandwiches. And of course, toasting her memory with the perfect vodka martini. Cheers to you Betty, you will be missed by all who knew you.



C U C U M B E R – M I N T   T E A   S A N D W I C H E S
Makes 4 sandwiches (16 triangles)

Tea sandwiches are not tea sandwiches if you don’t cut the crusts off of them. While this may seem wasteful, I can admit to making more than one lunch out of tea sandwich crusts. If you make these in advance be sure to cover them well as they will dry out if they sit for too long.

4 Tablespoon butter, softened
4 Tablespoon cream cheese, softened
4-5 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint
8 slices potato bread
1 cucumber, sliced thin

Stir together butter, cream cheese and fresh mint. Taste for seasoning and add a pinch of salt (or two) if necessary. Spread the mixture on all eight slices of bread. Distribute cucumber slices evenly over four of the pieces of bread and then top with a second slice of bread to make the sandwich. Carefully cut the crusts off of each sandwich then cut each sandwich diagonally into quarters.

About Me

I'm a personal chef living happily with her picky-eater (but willing to try anything) husband, neurotic black lab and a red heeler puppy.

I watch way too much TV and enjoy hip-hop more than any reasonable grown-up should.

I'm an avid swimmer and sometime triathlete (whenever I'm not nursing an injury).

Find out more about me here.

About This Blog

I started this blog at a time when my personal chef business was quite slow and I needed to keep my mind busy and my skills sharp. But now, business is booming so I've had to put the blog on the back burner. So, no new recipes for now, but please enjoy my archives.

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