Monday, August 31, 2009


To a foodie book addict, what can be better than a new book about baking? Gesine Bullock-Prado's Confections of a Closet Master Baker (think about that title) will have you lusting for one of her painstakingly-created, carefully researched, ubertasty, and, sadly, secret, treats--her famous macarons.

Thanks to my participation in the foodie book club, Cook the Books, I was invited to participate in this event co-sponsored by A Blithe Palate, the aforementioned Cook the Books, and Dispensing Happiness. The round-up for this Edible Word event will be on September 7th and 8th.

Written with a tongue-in-cheek voice, Confections will once again raise the recognition among closet chefs and bakers that this is not a vocation for the faint-of-heart. Bullock-Prado gives up a successful, albeit not always fulfilling, career in Hollywood to open a bakery in the hinterland of Vermont (with apologies to the denizens of Montpelier and its environs). While she gets to play out with gusto her dream of filling cases with masterful sweets, she does so at the expense of anything reminiscent of a balanced life.

I must confess that it wasn't until I'd read about her sister Sandy a few times that I realized she was talking about Sandra Bullock. Well, duh. That recognition only made my read that much more enjoyable, though I'll also confess that I was waiting for the chapter about that enigma, Jesse James.

A diehard lover of marzipan and French macarons, my only disappointment was not finding the recipe to Gesine's boilermaker sweet in the novel. I was also dismayed to find that her shop in Vermont is on hiatus while she helps sister Sandy open a new showcase for her talents in Texas. I look forward to being able to order some of these delicacies very soon.

One motif in the novel that I could readily identify with was Bullock-Prado's anger over the mispronunciation of her name. I've grown up with people inserting an extra syllable (a vowel, of course) into my very Italian last name. No amount of correction ever seems to work. Add to that the fact that I can't just introduce myself by saying, "I'm Arlene" without having people reply, "Nice to meet you, Marlene." Go ahead, I dare you to say it in a way that won't produce that elision of consonant followed by vowel.

While I was drooling over the Opera cake and the Zwetschgendatschi, my upcoming rendezvous with Weight Watchers forced me to choose the friendlier cream scones, though I did substitute dried and fresh Bing cherries for the currants. They were easy, had a lovely crumb, and were as good a day later, toasted, as they were out of the oven. This girl knows her way around the kitchen.
This is one of those books that you will return to more than once if only for the incredible recipes that Gisene has provided. Be sure to stop by the Edible Word on September to see what everyone else has cooked up.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I used to be a Food Network junkie, watching shows whenever I had a spare moment. Recent years have seen the departure of some of my favorite stars, but I still tune in for Giada, Ina, and Bobbie. Usually I'm reading a magazine or quilting so I don't feel like I'm letting the tube turn my brain to mush. During a recent reunion with Giada, I saw her make a vegetarian version of Bolognese, a sauce that I take very seriously.

Up front I will tell you I am a card-carrying carnivore whose go-to meatless meal is eggplant rollatini or parmigiana. However, I am pleased to count among my friends and acquaintances a number of discriminating vegetarian palates. So, Lee and Rachel, in particular, this one's for you.

I wanted to get the cooking out of the way on Sunday morning. Growing up in an Italian American family, Sunday dinner was typically eaten at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. A good Bolognese improves with time, so I decided to make the sauce up to the point of adding the mascarpone. Preparation and cooking time was under 40 minutes. I then refrigerated the sauce right in my LeCreuset Dutch oven (really, LeCreuset should be paying me for all this free advertising, but I do so love my toys). When it was time for dinner, I placed it on the stove to reheat slowly while I boiled the water for the rigatoni.

When the pasta was cooked and drained--remember to reserve some pasta water to thin the sauce out a bit--I added the mascarpone, then sauced the pasta. I had read the many reviews of this dish, but it didn't convince me to use less of this rich cheese than the recipe called for. I'm glad I used the 1/2 cup called for; the sauce was perfect.

You can find the recipe for rigatoni with vegetable Bolognese sauce on the Food Network site.

1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups hot water
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces assorted mushrooms (like shiitake, cremini, and brown), stemmed and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 pound rigatoni pasta
1/4 cup Parmesan

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups very hot water. Set aside and let the mushrooms soften.

Place the carrots, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse the vegetables until finely chopped but still chunky.
Place the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Strain the porcini mushrooms, reserving the porcini mushroom liquid. Add the porcini mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, and tomato paste and continue cooking, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste, until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the porcini mushroom liquid and red wine. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and let the mixture simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add mascarpone cheese and stir just until the cheese is incorporated.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and add to the vegetable mixture. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid, if necessary, to moisten the sauce. Toss with Parmesan and serve.
My only change was the substitution of 2 stalks of celery for the red pepper. I was out of red peppers or I'd have added that, too. I added the celery because I've been using carrots, celery, and onion as the base for my tomato sauce since I bought Marcella Hazan's cookbook back in the 70's.

From the appearance of the Bolognese to the earthy smell and taste, this recipe is a winner. Could it have been improved by the addition of a nice hunk of pancetta during the initial saute of vegetables? You bet! I'll never be a vegetarian, but I can certainly appreciate a winning combination of flavors and this pasta dish can stand on its own. So whether you're trying to economize--really, a small package of dried porcini and a small container of mascarpone aren't that expensive--or cut down on your meat consumption for health reasons or just venture into a different style of eating for a short visit, give this easy sauce a try. Even reheated, it's superb!

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Once again, my favorite foodie readers at the Cook the Books club have chosen the perfect book for a food-obsessed reader with a voracious appetite for good food and entertaining reads. More than any of the other books we've read in the past, this novel resonated with me. My premise that food is how we show our love for family and friends was echoed in this story of a food writer and a Chinese-American chef.

In Nicole Mones' The Last Chinese Chef, a culinary tour of China serves as both backdrop for a novel about a woman trying to come to terms with the death of her husband, and as metaphor for the nourishment, physical and symbolic, that food provides. This is no ordinary food, however. When Maggie, our protagonist, meets Sam, a Chinese-American chef whose culinary history dates back to Imperial times, she--and the reader--experience cooking that is lyrical in its expression of a civilization through smell and texture and taste.

I could not put down this incredible volume and found myself flagging passages and going back to reread them and ponder their meaning. While clearly a novel, Mones' work is instructional as well. As Sam and his uncles discuss Sam's participation in China's Olympic culinary competition, we begin our education in the artistry of Chinese cuisine. From the ideals of flavor and texture to the notions of artifice and illusion, we learn along with Maggie how different Chinese cooking is from the cuisines of the western world.

I've been eating Chinese food for over 50 years, but never gave a great deal of thought to the fact that Chinese food is not plated. Almost all other cuisines are. As Sam explains, the most important feature of Chinese cooking is the simple fact that it's all about community. "Every meal eaten in China, whether the grandest banquet, or the poorest lunch eaten by workers in an alley--all eating is shared by the group." Early in the novel Sam instructs Maggie, "a cook who is adept can create dishes that will heal the diner." I would recall those words again and again as Maggie experiences one incredible dish after another while her anguished heart begins to heal and she learns that she is capable of both forgiveness and a reawakening of love.

After reading Mones' novel, I was curious about this region of China and did a bit of research about it. I learned that Hangzhou has long been reputed as a city of gourmet food with a focus on fresh ingredients, elaborate preparation, and natural flavor. Attention is accorded to color, smell, taste and shape. In fact, Hangzhou is in the midst of a culinary revolution of sorts.

Not having access to many of the regional recipes alluded to in the novel, I determined to cook something that would use the freshest ingredients in a simple way, but in a way that would focus attention on the essence of the ingredients. After literally hours of searching through my cookbooks and the internet, I decided to try to replicate a wonderful dinner I had just recently at a favorite restaurant, steamed lobster in a scallion ginger sauce.

Having had only terrifying experiences in steaming lobsters, I happily gave that over to the fishmonger. I was able to strike a wonderful bargain for a very large lobster. Regrettably, I was still traumatized by having to hack off Oscar's head and dismember him and neglected to get a photo of him in all his splendid, 4 pound grandeur, pre-dismembering.

I found several recipes for scallion ginger sauce and, with a bit of mixing and matching, used the following, which proved to be delicous.

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons water or chicken broth
1 teaspoon brown sugar, or to taste
6 scallions (green onions, spring onions), ends removed, finely chopped
1 2-inch slice fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 green or red chili pepper, de-seeded and sliced
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

1. Combine the soy sauce, water, and sugar in a small heatproof bowl. Stir in the scallions, ginger, and chopped chili pepper.

2. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until it is shimmering on the bottom and very hot but not yet smoking (about 300 degrees Fahrenheit).

3. Carefully pour the oil into the scallion/ginger mixture. It will sizzle for a few seconds. Once it stops sizzling, stir, and then let stand for 2 minutes before serving.

For this dinner, I removed most of the meat from the lobster's claws, split the tail, and cut up the rest of the lobster, cracking the shell or cutting it with shears to make it easy to eat. I placed the pieces on a platter, poured the scallion ginger sauce over all, and served it that way with white rice.

It was a delicious dinner and far more economical to eat at home than at a restaurant. While I still dream of eating lotus leaf spare ribs and beggars' chicken and sesame cakes, I will have to content myself to the far more pedestrian fare available in New York.

Please check out what other Cook the Books participants are cooking up to celebrate Mones' wonderful novel here.

Monday, August 17, 2009


From Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Family Style comes this variation on her ever-popular lemon pound cake. The bonus here is that the recipe makes 2 loaves, one for now and one to freeze (if you can stop eating it long enough to wrap it).

Ina has never steered me wrong with her desserts. The amount of butter is not for the faint of heart; but, unless you're eating the whole loaf at one sitting, just keep repeating the mantra, "Moderation is key."

1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup grated orange zest
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tbs freshly squeezed orange juice

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 X 2 1/2 inch loaf pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and 2 cups of the granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the orange zest.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the orange juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixture alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared loaf pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.
While the cakes bake, cook the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar with the remaining 1/2 cup orange juice in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes. Take them out of the pans and place them on a baking rack set over a tray. Spoon the orange syrup over the cakes and allow them to cool completely.To glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and orange juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Add a few more drops of juice, if necessary, to make it pour easily. Pour over the top of one cake and allow the glaze to dry. Wrap well and store in the refrigerator.
The triple shot of citrus--orange, in this instance--raises this cake above the ordinary. I used 3 navel oranges for the zest and juice. The freshness factor cannot be downplayed. This cake just wouldn't be the same with dried zest and/or processed juice. Ever bite is naturally sweet but with that bit of tartness on the back of your tongue. By all means glaze the loaves. You can't get too much of a good thing. Another Ina Garten winner. The woman is a genius!!!!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Thank goodness the burger craving goes away with fall. It's a fact of life that the warm weather seems to bring out the carnivore in me. I eat more steaks and burgers in the summertiime than at any other time of year.

A few years back I bought Larry the Kitchen Aid grinder attachment since he butchers his own venison. After watching the box collect dust, I tried it out a while back and really liked what it did for my Bolognese sauce. I decided it was time to try Tyler's ultimate burger (from his cookbook, Tyler's Ultimate), which calls for grinding up your own beef brisket. I had to negotiate with the butcher to get a piece that wouldn't have us eating burgers every night for a week. I still ended up freezing a half dozen burgers and I know they won't taste as delicious as the fresh ones did.

From Tyler's "burger bar," I chose to make the sauteed mushrooms and the carmelized onions. This was burger heaven and we both ate two burgers, one on the bun and one naked just to use up every last topping.

2 lbs brisket, ground
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
8 thin slices Swiss cheese
8 hamburger buns, split
Burger Bar Fixins (see below)

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium hot. Be sure to grease the grill well.

Season the ground meat in a bowl with salt and pepper and give it about 3 turns with a wooden spoon. Shape into 8 patties, When the grill is hot, put the burgers on the grill and cook for 7 minutes per side for rare, 8 for medium, adding the cheese in the final minute.

Saute 1 lb thickly sliced mushrooms in 1/4 cup olive oil with 2 sliced garlic cloves and 1 tbs fresh thyme leaves over super-high heat until nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in a couple of drops of fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavor.

Heat 2 tbs unsalted butter with 2 tbs olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add 2 onions sliced 1/2 inch thick, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook slowly until carmelized, 15 to 20 minutes.
My butcher couldn't grind the brisket for me--something about the grinder being too big, I think. I enjoyed grinding my own--just cut it into chunks and used my tamper. Be sure you don't overhandle the meat. This is what makes some burgers dry. Tyler mentions giving the seasoned meat 3 turns. He doesn't elaborate about shaping them, but I can tell you if you squeeze them into shape, they're ruined. Just pick up 4 oz and very lightly shape with your hands. It's like pie crust: the less you handle it, the better it tastes. These burgers had that really meaty, fresh flavor and were so juicy, I ruined a white tank top. On the matter of oil--don't use 1/4 cup; it's too much!!!!!!!!!! The fresh thyme and lemon juice really made those mushrooms flavorful. The carmelized onions benefit from the longest possible time in the pan. I used my new cast iron skillet for the mushrooms and they browned beautifully. This may be more work than you're used to for burgers, but pour yourself a beautiful Sangiovese or a cold Mexican beer and you'll think you're on vacation.

Be sure to check out what other Tyler devotees are cooking this week at Tyler Florence Fridays.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


If the title of this post sounds like hours of prep, you couldn't be more mistaken. My local supermarket tends to put the boneless country style pork ribs on sale frequently. Whenever I see the BOGO (buy one, get one), I load up. To put this inexpensive meat to its best use, I rely on the simplest recipe ever.

I like to serve the ribs with a salad or cole slaw and some type of potato. For those of you who are diehard The Next Food Network Star fans, this is my inaugural post for the new winner, Melissa. I'll confess that I won't be watching her show. I'd need to take tranquilizers; she's way too hyper for me. I did, however, take this recipe off the Food Network site. It seemed too good to be true. It wasn't. It's so easy and absolutely delicious.

If there are leftovers on the ribs, let me suggest you shred the meat and make sandwiches. While the meat was heating up in the microwave, I ate the last potato...cold. Yes, it was still delicioius.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Summertime seems made for barbecues and cold salads are a traditional accompaniment to hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, and pulled pork. I have to confess upfront that I'm not a huge fan of these mayonnaise-laden salads. I generally can't eat them until they've chilled overnight and the dressing has been soaked up by the potatoes or pasta or vegetables. That isn't to say I don't love mom's recipe for potato and macaroni salad; I'm just not a lover of mayonnaise.
Since Larry loves coleslaw and macaroni and potato salad and can't imagine having a hot dog with at least one--and preferably ALL of the above--I do make these side dishes a few times in the summer. I decided to try someone else's recipe for potato salad and a new recipe for coleslaw this time. Without apologies, I have to say mom's potato salad recipe is far better than this one, which is a bit tangier. That is not to say that it wasn't tasty--just different. The coleslaw was less sweet than what you'll get commercially prepared. That I liked better. If you're looking for a new spin on an old dish, give these a try.
Old-fashioned Potato Salad- Makes 6 cups
2 lbs red potatoes, scrubbed, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
2 T cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
scant 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tbs Dijon mustard
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped red onion
In a large pot, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes. Drain, then toss with the vinegar, salt, and pepper and bring to room temperature.
In a large bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients. Add the potatoes, tossing gently to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Confetti Coleslaw-Makes 8 cups
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbs white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 cups shredded green cabbage
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1 each red and yellow pepper, shredded
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions

In a large measuring cup, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add the shredded vegetables to a large bowl. Pour on the dressing, tossing to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Thirty-five years ago I took several classes at the New School for Social Research. People were signed up for courses that taught them how to start a business or negotiate peace in the world. I was there to learn how to make croissant and brioche. For 3 consecutive Saturdays I woke up at the crack of dawn on the weekend, trekked into Manhattan where it took me as long to find a parking space as it did to make the commute, and paid close attention to the scientifici principles governing puff pastry. In the intervening years, I've made puff pastry and brioche exactly once. All that turning, all that butter, all that worry over room temperature.

But I do love a good piece of danish and, even though I had a box of Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry sheets in the freezer, as I was perusing the King Arthur site the other night, I found this recipe for Almond Puff Loaf and I couldn't rest until I tried it.

The recipe yields 2 loaves. I used Hero raspberry jam on one and a combination of apricot preserves and fig/pear preserves on the other. Yum and yum.

Just one note: I do think I could have baked the loaves a bit longer than 1 hour. There was still some wetness inside (though it tasted divine). If you're a baker, you'll recognize immediately that the second layer is really a cream puff batter.

Try this one. Your friends and family will think you've become a pastry chef.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Let's set the mood. You're on a beach, the sun is setting. In front of you is an icy tropical drink with rum and the requisite paper umbrella. Marley's singing in the background and...who's that I see over there? Why, yes, it's none other than Tyler Florence behind the grill. The sharp scent of allspice mingled with thyme and brown sugar wafts across the terrace and, while your salivary glands begin a dance, you look up and suddenly you're back in upstate New York, it's hot and that's a bottle of water in front of you as you peer out the window to make sure Larry isn't messing with the smoker you rigged up because it's time to cook some jerk chicken, Tyler style.

I'm sure I've said this before--we eat a lot of chicken and we like it. To keep things fresh, I'm always looking for a new preparation. I'll admit I'm not a big fan of "heat" in my food and I've mistakenly believed that jerk chicken would be hot, hot, hot. Nothing could have been further from the truth. This chicken smelled so incredible as it was cooking and that smell translated to big flavor, both hot and cold. We enjoyed our hot chicken with some confetti slaw, potato salad and fresh corn. Then I sliced up some of the leftover breasts--we both love the dark meat, so that was gone-- and enjoyed it for lunch the next day in a wonderful salad concoction.

We don't own a smoker (yet), but I was able to follow Tyler's instructions and rig one up. In lieu of smoking chips, I used smoking pellets, easy to find at the supermarket. The slow finish in the oven doesn't produce a crispy skin, but you won't miss that a bit since this is one intensely-flavored chicken.

You will need to plan ahead since the chicken should marinate in the refrigerator overnight. The rest of the preparation really just involves 10 minutes of smoking followed by an hour of baking in a low oven.
Jerk Marinade
2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 onion
8 cloves garlic
1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger, sliced
3 limes, juiced
3 scallions, sliced
splash low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup EVOO
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, halved, plus more to taste
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

To make the marinade:
Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a blender and process until you have a smooth puree.

1 whole chicken (about 5 lbs, cut into 10 pieces)
limes, for garnish
parsley, for garnish
smoking chips (or pellets)

Begin by making the jerk marinade. Add the chicken pieces to a large resealable bag and pour in the marinade. Put the bag into a baking dish and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat grill to high.

To make a smoker, take a roating pan, line it with foil, add either soaked wood chips or pellets (in a foil bag) to the bottom. Place a wire rack over the top, and lay the chicken pieces over the chips on the rack. Cover with foil and grill over high heat for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Transfer the smoked chicken pieces to a baking sheet and drizzle with EVOO. Bake for 1 hour in the oven. Garnish with limes and parsley to serve.

I will undoubtedly make this recipe again and soon. Next time I'll probably use all legs and thighs. The sweet/tart combination derived from the spices and flavorings really stir up your taste buds. Add to that the fact that the chicken was so moist and practically fall-off-the-bone tender and you have a great combination.

Next time instead of cold beer, we're going to break out those frozen umbrella drinks and toss a Bob Marley CD in the player, mon.
Now, be sure to join us at our weekly party to see what other wonderful Tyler dishes are being served up this week.

Monday, August 3, 2009


How I wish I had a big, beautiful gas stove. It's been far too many years--in the neighborhood of 35 years--since I was able to use a wok on a gas burner. I gave my wok away quite a few years ago because there was just no good way to use it on an electric stove, particularly on a ceramic top stove. And, yes, I've already given away the electric wok I bought thinking it might be the answer. Now for someone who loves Chinese food, particularly a good stir fry, this was a telling blow. I'm not one to take a blow like that sitting down, so a number of years ago I bought myself a deep-sided skillet. While not a wok, to be sure, it allows me to make a decent enough stir fry, though you wouldn't want to have to clean the top of the stove when I'm done. I guess I still stir with the abandon of someone using a deep, slant-sided wok.

When you want to have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes and maximize flavor and healthfulness, you just can't beat a stir fry. Here is my latest incarnation--a sweet, silky sauce (and who doesn't love peanut butter) to contrast with the crunch of the asparagus.

Serves 2
12 oz skinless, boneless chicken thighs (substitute chicken breast, if desired)
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tbs rice vinegar
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tbs toasted sesame oil
1/2 - 3/4 cup water reserved from cooking asparagus
2 tbs toasted sesame seeds and 1 chopped scallion for garnish (optional)

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook chicken until no longer pink, a few minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add asparagus and cook about 4 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, drain asparagus and return to the pot.

Whisk the peanut butter, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, ginger, toasted sesame oil, and 1/2 cup reserved cooking water in a bowl until smooth (add more water if mixture seems too thick). Return chicken, asparagus, and peanut butter sauce to skillet, toss to combine, and heat 1 minute. Serve with toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallioins over white rice.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


What's that, you ask? Isn't this a food blog?

That's Molly Bloom, one of my fur babies and sibling of Blazes Boylan of North Carolina. And, yes, this is a food blog. Molly's photo is standing in for this wonderful salad brought to you by my friend and guest blogger, Lee, mom to Blazes. Unfortunately, the salad was so delicious that Lee ate it all up before a photo could be taken. So while Molly is a beauty, so is this light summer salad brought to you from a friend who knows her way around the kitchen. Thanks, Lee; enjoy, friends!

Serves 2 - generous helpings
1 red pepper, chopped
1 thick slice red onion, chopped
3 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1/2 can small garbanzo beans (I like the Westbrae organic)
2 tbsp. EVOO
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary (( use scissors))
12 halved grape tomatos, or 6 quartered cherry tomatos
tuna (see recipe)

Mix the above gently, and let it sit for about 1/2 an hour.

about 6 oz. of flaky tuna, separated with a fork but not mashed (leftover grilled tuna is great for this, but well drained Italian tonno is also fine, as is a canned fillet)
1 tbsp. capers
1/2 tsp. (or to taste) freshly ground sea salt
course ground pepper to taste
1 tbsp drained capers

Serve on a bed of baby greens. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and add 2 or 3 slivered fresh basil leaves.

You can make another version using cannelini instead of the chickpeas, red wine vinegar instead of the lemon juice, and good olives instead of the capers.
Molly usually smiles when I photograph her, but she wasn't happy that it was past her dinner time and mommy was still quilting, so she was trying to help me finish sooner.