Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I don't think of Ladies' Home Journal as a foodie magazine and can't remember using any recipes from that source over the years. That said, their description of a tamale pie was a good springboard for a weeknight dinner. With quite a lot of tweaking, it will make its way into our rotation. With credit to LHJ for inspiration, here is my recipe for a one-dish dinner.

Serves 4
2 tsp canola oil
1 small onion, minced
1/2 small red pepper, chopped finely
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 lb tomatoes, chopped
2 tbs cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup pitted olives (Kalamata or green), coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1/2 can corn, drained
1/2 can black beans, drained
1 -  8 1/2 oz pkg corn muffin mix, prepared according to pkg instructions
3/4 cup shreddedd cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper. Saute 3-4 minutes. Add ground beef, breaking it up with a fork. Add the chili powder and cumin and cook beef until browned. Add the chopped tomatoes, cilantro, olives, salt, pepper, corn, and black beans and stir to combine.

Prepare corn muffin mix according to package instructions.

Divide beef mixture among 4 casserole dishes and top with corn muffin mix. Divide cheese evenly among 4 dishes.

Place casserole dishes on a baking sheet and bake 15-17 minutes, until topping is cooked and mixture is bubbling. Serve with salsa and crema, if desired.
I am not a chili eater, but I loved this simple casserole. The original recipe had no seasonings, corn, or beans. These additions amped up the flavor and also made the portions generous without adding lots of extra calories. We loved the flavor and I froze the leftovers right in the crocks for a night when there's no time to cook. It just proves that there's inspiration everywhere if we pay attention.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Leafing through the September issue of Ladies Home Journal, I spied an article on a mix and match recipe for tortillas. Given our enthusiasm for all things Mexican, I decided to try a filling of chipotle shrimp on flour tortillas with a chipotle crema and shredded red cabbage.  You could use corn tortillas or even turn these into quesadillas.

Serves 2
1 tsp canola oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in half
2 tsp finely chopped chipotle in adobo
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Heat 1 tsp canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and shrimp and cook until just pink, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped chipotle in adobo, ground cumin, and salt.

1/2 cup crema
1 1/2 tsp adobo sauce from the chipotle in adobo
cumin to taste

Whisk ingredients together until smooth.

shredded red cabbage
pickled red onions
chopped scallions

To serve 2:
Warm 4 small flour tortillas. Fill each with 1/4 of the shrimp, drizzle with chipotle crema, and top with the shredded red cabbage (or other toppings).
The hardest thing about this dish was peeling and cleaning the shrimp (my supermarket no longer does this). We loved the flavor of the chipotle crema, which reinforced the chiptotles in the shrimp. The shredded red cabbage added just the right amount of crunch. Served with some black beans and fresh corn, this dinner sings, "Ole!" Sometimes really simple is simply delicious.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Irene Kuo's The Key to Chinese Cooking was one of the first ethnic cookbooks I ever purchased. I've been using it since the 70's and it has never failed me. When we don't want "take out,"  it's still my go to source for more healthful eating with a Chinese twist. Chicken and broccoli is one of our favorite dishes, but moo goo gai pan (chicken with assorted vegetables) is a close second. If you love crisp Chinese vegetables with a nice glazy sauce, this dish is for you.

Serves 2-3 as a main course with rice
1 lb velveted chicken (velveting chicken)
1 large garlic clove, lightly smashed and peeled
2 quarter-sized pieces of ginger
3 tbs peanut oil
1/4 cup chicken stock

(you can mix up your veggies; these are what I chose on this night)
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2 lb shitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (hard stems removed)
4 scallions, sliced
3 large bunches broccoli florets, trimmed and sliced

1 tbs light soy sauce
1 tbs hoisin sauce (I changed this from the oyster sauce recommended; I prefer its taste)
1 tbs dry sherry
1/2 tsp sugar
dash white pepper
2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbs water
2 tsp sesame oil

Set out the velveted chicken.

Smash the garlic lightly and peel; slice the ginger; prepare the veggies. Mise en place is critical to a successful stir fry.

Heat a wok or large, heavy skillet over high heat until hot. Add the oil, swirl, and heat until hot. Toss in the ginger and garlic and press them against the side of the pan. Scatter in the vegetables and stir fry for a few minutes. Add some salt and continue to stir fry, using a tossing motion, for another 45 seconds. Add the stock, even out the vegetables, and spread the chicken on top. Cover, lower the heat to medium,  and steam cook for about 3 minutes, being careful not to burn. Uncover, add the sauce, and toss again until the sauce glazes all the meat and vegetables. Taste for seasoning, adding more soy sauce, if desired. Pour into a hot serving dish and serve with rice.
What I love about moo goo gai pan is that it tastes different every time, depending upon what veggies you use. In the winter, I love bok choy, baby bok choy if it's available. If you love summer squash, add it in. I always love broccoli and mushrooms, but have also used red pepper slices, bamboo shoots, snow peas, string beans--mix it up! The chunkiness of the meat and veggies makes this a hearty dish. The sauce is lovely, not gooey or artificial looking as so many sauces in Chinese restaurants can be. While there is a lot of prep, once that's done, the dish comes together in minutes. I can't say enough about the importance of velveting. For health reasons, I velvet in water, not oil. It renders your protein into a delicate, tender morsel.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


A recipe for cheeseburgers? Really? That was my thought, too, as I flipped through the pages of my June copy of Food and Wine. After reading about these griddle burgers inspired by the sliders at White Manna in Hackensack, however, I clipped the column and placed it in my "to do" folder. DSO and I are both very glad that I did.

Makes 4 burgers
16 thin bread-and-butter pickle slices, patted dry
four, 4 inch potato buns, buttered and toasted (I used mini whole wheat potato buns)
1 1/4 lbs ground beef chuck (I used 85% )
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small vidalia onion, sliced* paper thin (you'll have leftovers)
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
Optional:  umami dust (I'll give you their recipe; I didn't have the ingredients)

Heat a cast-iron griddle* until very hot.

Without overworking the meat, loosely form it into 4 balls and place them on the griddle. Cook the meat over moderately high heat for 30 seconds. Using a sturdy spatula, flatten each ball into a 5-inch round patty. Season the patties with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, until well-seared. Press a handful of sliced onions onto each patty. Using the spatula, carefully flip each burger so the onions are on the bottom. Top with the cheese and cook for 2 minutes. Cover and cook just until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute more.

Toast the buttered buns and layer the pickle slices on the bottom.

Transfer the burgers with the onions to the buns, sprinkle with umami dust. Top with the buns and serve.

Umami dust:  mix together 3 tbs bonito flakes, 1/2 oz crumbled dried kambu mushrooms into a powder (or wait, umami dust will soon be available)
As with direct and indirect grilling, using a cast iron frying pan (yes, it works as well as a cast iron griddle) has been key to perfecting some old favorites of mine. I eliminate the mess in the kitchen by using the burner on my outdoor grill, a bonus! In a word, these smashed burgers were the BOMB! The only change I'd make for next time is to chop the onions--they'll adhere better than the slices. The success of these juicy, flavorful burgers was using the very hot cast iron grill, using a fattier ground beef (85% instead of my usual 93%), buttering and toasting the potato rolls, and not overhandling the meat. I'm going to try the umami dust next time. Although I loved these as much as DSO, I couldn't help but comment that I got more "yummy noises" from him for these sliders than I get from my homemade pasta! Men!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


This is another no-brainer, "I've just walked in the door and need dinner on the table pronto" idea.

1 can thin crust pizza dough
1 head broccoli, trimmed into florets and steamed
1 cup diced chicken (you can use rotisserie or poach a large breast)
1 1/2 cupsshredded  Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
1 cup favorite tomato sauce for dipping

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Steam the broccoli and chop roughly. Dice or shred the chicken. Unroll the pizza dough and gently pat into a large rectangle. Spread to within an inch of the edge the broccoli, the chicken, and the cheese. Fold in the short sides, then roll with the seam on the bottom. Make 3 or 4 slashes so the steam can escape. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serving with a side of your favorite tomato sauce. Serve with a large salad for a quick meal.
This take on stomboli (a wonderful crust filled with Italian meats) made a quick and tasty supper alongside a big salad. It's not rocket science and there's nothing gourmet about it, but children and adults will enjoy getting their protein, veggies, and carbs in a neat package and, let's face it, cheese makes everything better.

Friday, August 5, 2011


If I could only eat one meal each day, I would choose to eat lunch. I would have to say that my decision is greatly influenced by the fact that the sandwich is often the star of lunch. Whether it's a PBandJ sandwich, a mozzarella and prosciutto panini, or a chorizo and cotija quesadilla, there's just something about being able to get your hands around your food that makes me smile. Next to pizza (which could be counted as an open-faced sandwich), quesadillas have been making a lot of guest appearances in the Food of Love kitchen this summer. I was pleased to learn that I'm not alone in my devotion to the Mexican cheese sandwich. Visiting one of my esteemed food-blogger friends the other day, I learned that the inimitable Foodycat is equally passionate about her cheese and breadstuffs.

Getting to the point (will she ever? you ask), I decided I had overlooked an obvious choice of filling and set about remedying this while indulging my obsession with this week's quesadilla fix. How had I not seen this before? Why not simply replace the messy taco, whose crumbs end up all over my dining room floor and whose sauce usually manages to migrate to whatever shirt I'm wearing, with an easy- to- hold, dainty triangle of taco filling and cheese and condiments on a non-crumbly flour tortilla? And that's just what I did.

There's no need for a recipe here. Just take your favorite taco meat filling, some lovely cheese (preferably Mexican), and your pepper of choice, place it on half a flour tortilla, fold over and gently press, then heat in a skillet that has been brushed with a small amount of oil until golden brown. Cut in half and enjoy with crema, guacamole, and salsa. Life is good!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Seldom does a week go by without my seeing a recipe for some protein or another that is brined. I've not yet brought myself to brine my Thanksgiving turkey, but thought that I'd see what all the fuss is about by trying this recipe found in the August/September issue of Fine Cooking.

For the brine:
1 oz Kosher salt
1/4 cup bourbon
3 tbs dark brown sugar
2 tbs unsulfured molasses
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

4 bone-in pork chops (2-3 lbs total)

For the spice rub:
1 tbs sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tbs dark brown sugar
1 tbs Kosher salt
1 tbs freshly ground pepper
2 tsp dried ground sage
1 tsp ground cayenne
1 1/4 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

Brine the pork chops:  in a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups warm water with the brine ingredients, stirring until dissolved. Add 1 cup ice to the bowl to quickly cool the brine. Place pork chops in a 9X9 inch baking dish and pour the brine over. They should be submerged. Cover with plastic wrap and put on a tray (in case of spillage). Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours. Remove the chops from the brine (discard brine) and pat them dry.

Make the spice rub: combine all of the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl or jar. The rub will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.

To prepare:
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for indirect cooking over medium-high heat (400-450 degrees F). Sprinkle 2-3 tbs total of the spice rub generously over all sides of the chops. Grill the chops over direct heat, flipping once, until grill marks form on both sides--about 2 minutes on each side. Once the chops are marked, move them to the indirect heat, cover, and cook until their internal temperature registers 140-145 degrees F on an instant read thermometer, 4-6 minutes more per side. Transfer chops to a serving platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Keeping it real, I have to say that in my opinion brining is much ado about nothing. The chops were flavorful, but I found them salty. I will use the rest of the spice rub on unbrined chops and I'm sure they will be much more to our liking. As for brining making the pork juicier, I contend that if you don't overcook your pork, it will be moist and delicious (and not too salty).