Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Come See My New Kitchen

The Need To Feed is leaving its Blogger home and migrating over to Wordpress. Please stop into the kitchen for a chat or a bite.

Bye, Blogger. It's been fun.

Saturday, August 4, 2007


These are really easy to make and are always a hit. Make more than you think your family or guests will eat because people will gobble them up! Give yourself an hour to get these on the table, unless you have chopped the vegetables in advance.

4 lbs. skirt steak, cut to fit your grill pan or grill
2 green peppers, seeded and cut into 1/4" strips
1/2 large white or sweet onion, cut into 1/4" strips
1/2 lime
1 large tomato, diced
15-16 flour tortillas, soft taco size
1 pint sour cream, for garnish
Chimichurri Sauce, for garnish
Guacamole, for garnish
kosher salt
black pepper, freshly ground

Special equipment: grill pan or grill, non-stick frying pan

I use a round Le Creuset grill pan because I've had it for years. Le Creuset now makes square and rectangular grill pans, either of which would be a great investment. Le Creuset cookware conducts heat beautifully, but it is very heavy!
  1. Preheat the grill pan over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the skirt steaks with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a little lime juice.
  2. When the pan is hot, but not smoking, place two or three skirt steaks on the grill. Grill for 3 minutes on one side, flip the steaks and grill for 3 minutes on the other side. This meat will be medium-rare to medium. When the steaks are cooked, remove them to a warm, covered tray to stand for a few minutes; a warming oven works well also. Repeat this step for the rest of the skirt steaks.
  3. While the steaks are cooking, preheat the non-stick pan over medium heat. Warm one tortilla at a time, for approx. 10 seconds a side. Remove the warm tortilla to a warm plate and cover with foil. Repeat this step until all the tortillas are warm.
  4. While the steaks are resting, grill the onions until they are nearly caramelized and the green peppers until they are soft. You can even cover the grill pan to speed up this process. Toss occasionally while cooking to avoid scorching. Remove to a serving bowl.
  5. When the cooked steaks have rested for a few minutes, slice each steak across the grain into very thin (1/8") slices. Place the sliced steak back on the warm try while you set out the meal.
Serves 4 adults or 2 adults and three children.

Serve the meat on a tray. Serve the Chimichurri Sauce and Guacamole in bowls. Serve the tortillas on the warm, covered plate. Serve the diced tomatoes in a bowl. Serve the sour cream. Each guest places a warm tortilla on her plate and adds a few pieces of skirt steak. Garnish with any or all of the tomatoes, grilled vegetables, sour cream, Chimichurri sauce, and Guacamole. The best way to roll up the little fajita is to fold up the bottom third of the tortilla; fold in the sides, and roll the whole thing up.

For those who prefer not to eat beef, you can substitute chicken or an assortment of grilled vegetables for a delicious vegetarian meal.


It's been weeks since I've posted anything here. I must have been so busy preparing for Jeopardy! that I forgot to add some recipes. Tonight, I made guacamole to go along with fajitas for dinner. Trust me, this is the best guacamole you'll ever taste.

6 tablespoons white or sweet onion, finely chopped
7 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped (2-3 pulses in the food processor)
1 cup tomatoes, finely chopped (yellow tomatoes OK)
1 small jalapeño, seeded, ribs removed; finely chopped
1 lime, cut in half
2 teaspoons kosher salt
5 ripe Hass avocados
1 ripe Florida avocado

Avocados, a note: Many avocados you find in the grocery store are hard. These are not good. They are not ripe, and they have no taste. Make sure you choose fruit that just yield to the touch, not mushy. Hass avocados have dark green – almost black – skin and are about the size of a tennis ball. They have a nuttier and more buttery taste than Florida avocados. The Florida avocado is larger and has less natural fat than the Haas, so it helps balance the flavor and texture of guacamole. This recipe calls for a mixture of the two. If you can't find Florida avocados, use 6-7 Haas avocados, depending on their size.

Special equipment: food processor, citrus reamer
  1. In a large mixing bowl, place onion, cilantro, tomatoes, jalapeño, and salt. Mix together. Squeeze the juice from both lime halves into the onion-tomato mixture. and mix again.
  2. Cut avocados in half and remove the pits. Peel the skin off carefully, leaving the flesh in tact. For chunky guacamole, cut the flesh in half lengthwise and then cut flesh into 1/2" slices; turn 90º and slice again into 1/2" cubes. For smooth guacamole, mash the avocado halves into the onion-tomato mixture with a fork.
  3. Gently toss avocados into the onion-tomato mixture. Using a clean spoon, taste for balance of flavors. Add more salt or lime if necessary.
Serve immediately. Do not make ahead.
Yields approximately 5 cups.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Chimichurri Sauce

Here's a wonderfully green condiment that goes great with grilled skirt steak or grilled vegetables. Chimichurri is the national sauce of Argentina and Uruguay. There are hundreds of versions. When I went to make the sauce the other day, I mistakenly bought curly parsley instead of flat-leaf, and I did not have enough fresh lemon juice. So, I substituted the curly parsley and added some fresh lime juice I had on had, and the sauce was a big hit.

1 cup curly or flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
6 cloves fresh garlic
1 teaspoon dried hot-pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt

Special equipment: food processor
  1. Put the garlic cloves in the food processor and pulse for a few seconds. Add the curly parsley and process all for about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the lemon juice, lime juice, hot pepper, and salt. Pulse until the juices are incorporated into the parsley mixture.
  3. Turn on the food processor and add the olive oil in a steady, slow stream until the chimichurri comes together. Most food processors have drizzle cups built-in to their lids; feel free to add the oil that way.
Makes a little more than a cup of chimichurri sauce.

Tomato Dill Soup

It's been a while since I've posted here. I just came across a delicious recipe for tomato dill soup that is light enough for summer fare.

1 stick butter
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh garlic
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 28-ounce can whole Italian plum tomatoes, drained and retain juice
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
1/4 cup tomato puree
1 1/2 cups juice from drained Italian tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon sugar
1 2/3 cups heavy cream
Sour cream or creme fraiche for garnish
Dill sprigs for garnish

Special equipment: heavy skillet, 6-quart saucepan, food processor, potato masher
  1. In a large skillet, sauté carrots, celery, and garlic until tender. Pour mixture into a food processor and process until smooth. Do not drain these vegetables, but set them aside.
  2. Put the butter into a heavy saucepan set on medium low heat. Add flour and cook this roux for five minutes, until the roux is light brown and smells nutty. Add the vegetable mixture to the roux and turn the heat to low.
  3. In a mixing bowl, mash the whole Italian plum tomatoes with a potato masher, until the tomatoes are in chunks less than 1/2 inch. Add the mashed Italian plum tomatoes to the vegetable and roux mixture in the saucepan and stir.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together the retained juice from the canned tomatoes, the tomato juice, and the tomato purée. Add the sugar to this tomato juice mixture and stir well to blend.
  5. Add the chicken stock to the tomato juice mixture, and then add this liquid mixture to the vegetables in the saucepan. Bring the vegetables and liquid to a boil.
  6. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Add cream to the soup and mix thoroughly to blend. Add dill, basil, thyme, and tarragon to the soup and stir well.
  8. Remove the soup from the heat. Serve each bowl of soup with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill.
Serves 6-8.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Poached Gefilte Fish

Gefilte fish, literally "stuffed fish," used to be like a fish mousse cooked in the fish skin. Today, gefilte fish is known as balls of processed freshwater fish (whitefish, carp, pike) vacuum-packed in gelatinous goo. You can easily the stuff right out of the jar, but poaching it makes gefilte fish a little sweeter and less fishy.

Although I credit my favorite aunt with this recipe, it was really inspired by my mother and grandmother.

1 64-oz. jar gefilte fish, packed in jelly
2 small onions, peeled and quartered
2-3 carrots, peeled, and sliced in 1/4" circles.
  1. Remove fish from jar and set aside.
  2. Pour fish jelly into a 6-quart stockpot. Add onions and sliced carrots. Bring the jelly to a simmer, not a rolling boil.
  3. Add the fish balls to the pot. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove fish from pot and chill on plates or platters.
  4. When the fish is completely cool, serve each fish ball on a lettuce leaf and top with a slice of cooked carrot.
Note: Poached gefilte fish is best made in advance and chilled in the refrigerator, so you can serve it cold. To store the fish, place the poached fish balls back into their original jar. Remove the carrots from the poaching liquid and store separately. Cover the fish balls with the poaching liquid. Seal tightly and store.

Sephardic Charoset

Charoset, a mixture of chopped fruits and nuts, symbolized the mortar used by the Israelite slaves in Egypt. Recipes vary greatly, depending on the family's country of origin. My family is decidedly Ashkenazi (Eastern European), but Sephardic (Mediterranean and Asian) flavors really perk up otherwise bland Passover food. You can use this condiment like a chutney, and it would be good with roasted meat – lamb – or poultry.

2 Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2/3 cup Mission figs (6 oz.)
2/3 dried apricots (6 oz.)
2/3 cup golden raisins (6 oz.)
1 1/3 cups walnuts, finely chopped, toasted and cooled
1/4 cup sweet red wine (sweet Passover wines are good to use)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  1. Place the apples in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add the figs, apricots, raisins and pulse all until finely chopped.
  2. Transfer fruit mixture to a bowl. Add walnuts and wine and mix well. Sprinkle cinnamon and ginger over top and mix again well.
Makes about 3 cups. Can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.

Roasted Vegetables With Balsamic Vinaigrette

The original recipe appeared on Gourmet's website and included endive. Blech! While I mostly like endive, it was a bitter and disharmonious addition to this recipe. That's why I adjusted things and made it my own.

1 medium eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/4" circles
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs. zucchini, washed, dried, and cut on an angle into 1/4" circles
2 large red onions, sliced into 1/4" circles
2 medium red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1" squares
2 medium yellow peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1" squares
1 lb. yellow squash, washed, dried, and cut on an angle into 1/4" circles
salt and pepper to taste

Special equipment: 2 jumbo zipper bags (2-gallon), 2 large baking sheets, wire whisk
  1. Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
  2. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and set aside.
  3. Divide the eggplant, zucchini, red onions, peppers, and squash between 2 2-gallon zipper bags. Pour 1/3 of the vinaigrette into each bag and seal. Gently toss the vegetables in the vinaigrette until well-coated. Pull out the eggplant circles and lay some in a single layer in each pan; add one bag of vegetables to each pan and distribute evenly.
  4. Place one baking sheet on the bottom oven rack and the other on the middle oven rack. Roast the vegetables for 10 minutes and remove them from the oven. Turn all the vegetables, including the eggplant slices, and return the pans to the oven. Make sure you swap the top pan for the bottom and vice versa (rotate shelves). Roast the vegetables for another 10 minutes and set them aside to cool. Season each tray of vegetables with salt and pepper to taste. The vegetables should still have a crisp bite to them when they are done.
  5. Once the vegetables are cool, arrange them on serving platters and drizzle them with the remaining vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature.
Makes 8-10 servings.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Braised Brisket

My recipe is adapted from one by David Rosengarten. His key idea was to use a Kobe (Wagyu) beef brisket. While Kobe beef tends to be expensive, the lesser cuts and grades, like chuck and brisket, are only a dollar or two more per pound than regular beef. The difference in the final product is amazing.

6 tablespoons simple olive oil or vegetable oil
3 lbs. onions, peeled and sliced evenly
4 teaspoons sweet paprika
8 tablespoons flour
One whole Wagyu brisket (first-cut), approx. 5 lbs.
1/4 cup crushed tomatoes
4 cups rich beef broth at room temperature
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
  1. Place 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or sauté pan over high heat. When it’s hot, add half the onions, and cook them until they are nicely browned, just short of burned, and still a little crunchy. Don’t stir them until the brownness starts to take, then stir occasionally. The whole process may take 5-8 minutes. Remove and reserve. Repeat with remaining half of onions. Remove onions and combine with cooked and reserved onions. Stir in 2 teaspoons of paprika evenly. Reserve.
  2. Season the brisket well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Coat evenly with 6 tablespoons of the flour. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan you used for the onions. Place over high heat. When it’s hot, add the beef. Sear well on all sides until the beef is brown-black; this should take about 5 minutes per side. Remove beef, and sprinkle evenly with the remaining 2 teaspoons of paprika.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 300ºF.
  4. Select a large pan for braising the beef. Spread the reserved onions out in the bottom of the pan, making a bed that’s about the size of the beef. Spread the crushed tomatoes over the onions. Place the beef on the onion-tomato bed.
  5. Place the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour in a mixing bowl. Slowly blend in the beef stock, adding just a few tablespoons of stock at first to make a thick slurry. Then beat in the rest of the stock quickly. After you’ve made sure the flour is blended, pour the stock over and around the beef. The size of your pan will determine the depth of the stock in the pan; an ideal depth is anywhere from 1/4 way to 1/2 way up the side of the beef.
  6. Cover the pan very tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Baste beef occasionally (once an hour or so) with braising liquid. Cook until beef is very tender; this may take 4-5 hours.
  7. When the brisket is tender, remove it from pan, and let rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, skim as much fat from the gravy as possible. You may strain the onions out, but I prefer to keep them in. Cut the beef, against the grain, into slices that are about 1/4” thick. Cover meat with gravy and serve.

NOTE: I did not baste this brisket hourly. I basted it once after about 2 hours. Brisket in a tightly sealed pan will not require so much basting.

Friday, March 2, 2007


It's time for Purim here, and the wild boys are expecting lots and lots of hamentaschen. Hamentaschen are traditional Ashekenazic Jewish cookies usually eaten at Purim. Purim is a Jewish holiday, a feast, celebrating the deliverance of the Persian Jews from Haman's plot to kill them all. We read the Book of Esther, give mutual gifts of food and drink, give charity to the poor, and generally whoop it up and have a good time.

Hamentaschen are triangular cookies traditionally filled with fruit. They can also be filled with nuts, chocolate or cheese. "Hamentaschen" is a Yiddish word roughly translated as "Haman's pockets"; in modern Israel these cookies are known as oznei Haman, "Haman's ears" (modern Hebrew). Some people make their own fruit filling for these cookies. I do not because I have had success with the canned or jarred fillings I mention below.

The original recipe comes from my Aunt Mary, my favorite aunt. She is a wonderful woman who always has a kind word to say about people. Aunt Mary bakes and freezes hamentaschen all year-round so she always has some ready for my boys. She is a phenomenal cook of traditional Jewish foods, and I am grateful she has shared many of her time-honored and beloved recipes with me. No matter where I go in this world, the tastes of hamentaschen or stuffed cabbage and the smell of brisket bring me back to childhood holidays spent at Aunt Mary and Uncle Ozzie's house. They are indelible.

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1/4 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
Canned or jarred filling:
Solo® brand poppyseed, apricot, cherry. almond; Lekvar prune butter; Nutella®

Special Equipment: sifter or sieve; pastry blender; zipper bags; rolling pin; parchment paper or silicone baking mats (Silpat®); 4-4.5" round cookie cutter or a clean, empty 28-oz tomato can with both ends removed; cookie sheets; cooling racks

Cook's notes: The dough will work better if you make it in advance and let it chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. If you do not have time to let the dough chill for that long, put it in the freezer for 30 minutes. Do not double this recipe! I have tried on several occasions and have ended up with a big, unwieldy mess. If you intend to make several batches of cookies, as I always do, make each dough mixture individually.

Make the dough:
  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and sugar into a large non-reactive bowl. Cut the butter into the dry mixture using a pastry blender, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture.
  2. In a separate non-reactive bowl, beat 1 egg with the orange juice and vanilla until well-blended. Pour the egg mixture into the well of the dry mixture. Incorporate the dry into the wet with a fork until blended.
  3. Gently squeeze the dough together until it forms a ball. Easier said than done: it will take a couple minutes to squeeze and incorporate all the solids together. If your mixture seems a little dry, add another tablespoon of orange juice. If the mixture seems a little wet, add a little more flour. You're looking for the dough to just come together but not be sticky or crumbly. (This is the hardest step.) Place the ball of dough into a zipper bag. Squeeze out all the air and gently flatten the dough into a disk. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Make the cookies:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line each cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. In a small dish, mix together 1 egg with a couple tablespoons of water to make an egg wash.
  2. Dust your work surface with flour. Dust your rolling pin with flour. Roll out the dough until it's about 1/8-inch thick. Add more flour, a little at a time, if the dough is soft and sticky.
  3. Use the cookie cutter or can to cut out large circles. Place each circle on the lined cookie sheet. You can fit 6-8 circles on one pan.
  4. Put one generous tablespoon of filling in the center of each circle. Dip your forefinger in the egg wash and trace the edge of the circle of dough. Pull up the rounded edges of the dough and pinch together to form a triangle pastry; leave a small opening in the center of each cookie so you can see the filling. Pinch each seam together well, otherwise it will burst open in the oven.
  5. Bake at 350ºF in the center of the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the cookies are light brown. Cool on a wire rack. Stored in a covered container, the hamentaschen will keep for several days.
Makes 8-10 large hamentaschen. This is an easy recipe to make with and for children, and I encourage you to do so. My boys anxiously await Purim every year so they can "help" me make hamentaschen. Thank you, Aunt Mary, for the legacy.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Crunchy Chicken

When I was a younger mother and cook, I devised my own recipe for chicken like "Shake & Bake". This is my middle son's favorite dish, and we had it for dinner tonight. These measurements are an approximation because this dish is so old-hat for me. Also, this is not for the cholesterol-watchers because the crunchy skin is so delicious.

6 chicken leg quarters
5 eggs
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
2 cups unseasoned breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Special equipment: 2 one-gallon zipper bags
  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil. If the chicken legs are particularly fatty, place a flat rack or broiling rack in the baking pan and cover the rack with foil; poke holes in the foiled rack for the fat to drip through.
  2. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Beat rapidly with a fork or whisk. Beat in the lemon juice. Pour this mixture into one zipper bag.
  3. Pour the breadcrumbs and the rest of the dry ingredients into the other zipper bag. Shake thoroughly to mix the seasonings.
  4. Place one chicken leg quarter in the egg bag and seal tightly. Shake or massage the egg mixture to coat the chicken leg. Remove the wet leg to the breadcrumb bag and seal tightly. Shake, shake, shake, shake until the leg is completely coated with the breadcrumb mixture. Place the coated chicken leg in the baking pan, skin-side up.
  5. Repeat Step 4 for the remainder of the chicken leg quarters. Space them evenly in the pan so they do not overlap or touch each other, if possible.
  6. Bake chicken legs for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and crunchy on the outside. You can turn the oven off at this time and let the chicken remain in the cooling oven for another 10-15 minutes for more tender chicken and less fatty skin.
Serves 6 adults.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Tortellini Bolognese

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 lbs ground veal
3/4 cup red wine
2 24-ounce jars of your favorite marinara sauce (I like Mom's or Rao's.)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch sugar
2 20-ounce packages fresh or frozen cheese-filled tortellini, such as Buitoni (family size)
  1. Fill a pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Add some salt to the boiling water. Cook pasta for the minimum time given on the directions.
  2. Preheat large sauté pan on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Add butter and olive oil and swirl to coat. Add garlic and sauté until soft but not brown. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery. Cover and cook 3-5 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.
  3. Crumble ground veal into the vegetable mixture. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until meat is no longer pink. Drain this mixture.
  4. Stir in wine, one jar of marinara sauce plus another 1/2 jar of marinara sauce, salt, pepper and sugar. Cover and cook 5 minutes on medium-low heat, until thoroughly heated, then turn heat to low.
  5. Pasta should be finished cooking. Drain the pasta but reserve 1 cup of the cooking water to rehydrate it, if needed.
  6. If the bolognese sauce is ready when the pasta is finished cooking, spoon some drained tortellini into a bowl. Add 1-2 small ladles of bolognese sauce over the pasta and serve. There will be bolognese sauce left over.
Serves 6 adults, with leftovers of pasta and bolognese sauce.

Endive and Gorgonzola Salad

You just never know where inspiration comes from. I crafted this recipe and the one for Tortellini Bolognese from ones I saw in a supermarket flyer.

6 heads Belgian endive, rinsed
10-12 sprigs fresh Italian parsley, rinsed
6 slices turkey bacon (center-cut bacon is OK)
1 lemon, for juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 1/2 ounces crumbly Gorgonzola cheese
  1. Peel outer leaves of endive and cut off root end; discard both. Cut endive into 3/4-inch or bite-size pieces. Chop parsley leaves coarsely and combine both in a salad bowl.
  2. Fry bacon in a large sauté pan on medium until crisp. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Squeeze lemon through a small strainer into a small bowl until you have 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Whisk in olive oil, salt and pepper until well blended.
  4. Crumble bacon and Gorgonzola cheese into the salae and mix. Add dressing, toss, and serve.
Serves 5-6 adults as a small salad portion.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Drunk Mushrooms

Serve these with your favorite beef dish, or even better, with my Roasted Tenderloin of Beef.

16 oz. cremini (baby portobella) mushrooms, cleaned and de-stemmed
1/2 cup diced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine
Kosher salt
Black pepper
  1. Slice the mushrooms cross-wise into 1/8" slices.
  2. Melt butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat.
  3. Sauté onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper, and continue sautéing until the mushrooms soften.
  4. Add the red wine and cover the saute pan. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking for 10-15 more minutes. The mushrooms are done when they are wine-colored and soft.
Serve with beef. Serves 8-10 people as a side dish.

Roasted Tenderloin of Beef

This is a perennial favorite in this house. Caveat: beef tenderloin is an expensive cut of meat, so consider making this dish for a special occasion. Plan on purchasing approximately 1 pound of meat per person, pre-cooked and -trimmed weight. Ask your butcher to trim and tie the tenderloin for you.

5 lbs. beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
kosher salt
black pepper

Special equipment: pastry brush, digital meat thermometer, roasting rack and pan
  1. Preheat the oven to 500ºF. If possible, bring the meat to room temperature before roasting. This will reduce cooking time.
  2. Place meat on a rack in a roasting pan just big enough to hold the tenderloin. Using a pastry brush or your bare hands, brush the entire beef tenderloin with the melted butter. Season the meat with salt and pepper all over. Insert meat thermometer into the thickest part of the tenderloin.
  3. Place the meat in the oven and let it sear for 5-7 minutes. Turn the heat down to 300ºF. Roast the meat for an additional 5 minutes per pound or until the internal temperature reaches desired doneness: 125º for medium rare; 130º for medium. Don't cook this meat any more than medium.
  4. Once the roast reaches the proper internal temperature, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. This is to let the juices retract into the meat. If you cut the tenderloin too soon, it will dry out.
  5. Carve the meat into 3/4" - 1" slices for each person.
Serve with oven-roasted potatoes and sauteed mushrooms. Serves 6-8 hungry adults.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Honeybell Tangelos

Honeybells tangelos are hybrids of tangerines and grapefruit. They are sweeter, juicier and pulpier than regular oranges. Honeybells are easy to peel, and thus a nearly perfect fruit! Their season is very short: late December through late January.

A Honeybell is actually a Minneola tangelo. It is a cross between a Duncan grapefruit and a Dancy tangerine. Each fruit is usually 3-3.5 inches in diameter and has a bell-shaped dome at the blossom end. The flavor is rich, tart, and aromatic. Although early Honeybells are more tart, they get sweeter throughout their short season. Last year, the Honeybells came in late and had a very long season here in SW Florida. I was able to buy that fruit through late February. This year the crop came in early and will be done in about two weeks.

For you nutrition nuts, here is the data from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences:
One medium tangelo or 1 cup sections (3.5 ounces in weight) contains: 47 calories,.94 gm protein, 11.8 gm carbohydrates, 2.4 gm dietary fiber, .12 gm fat, 86.8% water, 21 RE vitamin A, 53.2 mg vitamin C, 30.3 mcg folate, and 40 mg calcium.
Honeybells are pretty difficult to find in stores, in or outside of Florida. You usually have to order them directly from the grower. If you haven't had a chance to taste these wonderful fruits, consider ordering a few trays for yourself. You might catch the last batch this year at this grove. Their prices are the lowest I've seen.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

White Chili

This one's made on the stove, but you could easily adapt it for the crockpot*.

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup minced onion
3 tablespoons minced garlic
6 teaspoons ground cumin
1 lb ground veal
1 lb ground chicken
1 lb ground turkey
4 cups chicken stock
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped
1 15-oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 15-oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
2 teaspoons dried summer savory

Hot pepper sauce
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Garnishes: chopped green onions, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream
  1. Heat vegetable oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add cumin and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add veal, chicken, and turkey and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until no longer pink, 8 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock, jalapeños, beans, marjoram and summer savory to meat mixture. Stir well. Add hot pepper sauce to taste. Turn the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until chili is thick, about 1 1/2 hours.Serve chili with green onions, cheese and sour cream.
Serves 8 with lots of leftovers. Chili is always better on the second day, so make a batch and refrigerate it overnight. Serve white chili over turkey or chicken hotdogs for another meal.

*Crockpot notes: If I were making this for the crockpot, I'd sauté the meat first and put it in a 6-quart crockpot. Do not cook onions or garlic, just add them to the meat and stir. Stir in the jalapeño, beans, herbs and cumin and cook on LOW for 5-6 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours. Season with hot pepper sauce before serving.

Wild Mushroom Tart

Another savory tart that is a big hit in the autumn, especially at Thanksgiving.

Pastry dough
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 lb. mixed fresh wild mushrooms: cremini (baby bella), oyster, chanterelle, shiitake,
quartered lengthwise
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (1/2 tsp dried thyme OK)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup creme fraîche (OK to substitute sour cream)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 whole large egg
1 large egg yolk

Special equipment: 9"x1" round, fluted tart pan with removable bottom, pie weights or raw rice

  1. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into an 11-inch round. Fit into tart pan, trimming excess dough. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
  2. While the shell is cooling, put oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 375ºF.
  3. Lightly prick bottom of shell all over with a fork, then line the shell with foil and fill with pie weights or raw rice. Bake until the sides are set and the edge is pale golden, approx. 18-20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weights and bake shell until bottom is golden, 10-15 minutes more.
  4. Cool shell completely on a rack.
  1. Heat butter and oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Sauté mushrooms, shallot, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are tender and any liquid released is evaporated, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature.
  2. Whisk together creme fraîche, heavy cream, whole egg, egg yolk, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl until combined.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 325ºF.
  4. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet. Scatter mushrooms evenly in tart shell and pour custard over them. Bake tart in pan until custard is just set and slightly puffed, 35-45 minutes.
  5. Cool tart in pan on a wire rack at least 20 minutes, then remove side of pan. Serve tart warm or at room temperature.
Serves 8 as a first course or 6 as a main course. The tart shell can be baked a day ahead and cooled completely, then kept in its pan and wrapped well in plastic bag (or sealed in a zipper bag), at room temperature. The baked tart can be made 2 hours ahead and kept, uncovered, at room temperature. Serve at room temperature.

Chicken With Creole Mustard-Orange Sauce

This dish is adapted from one made with duck at Brigtsen's in New Orleans. I serve it with brown rice and a tossed green salad, although green beans would go well, too.

5 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup orange juice
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1/3 cup Creole or whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
Kosher salt
Black pepper
  1. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and sauté until brown, about 4 minutes per side.
  3. Add orange juice and broth to skillet. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  4. Add mustard, honey, and pepper sauce to skillet. Increase heat and boil until sauce thickens, whisking occasionally, about 7 minutes. Sauce should coat a spoon when ready.
  5. Return chicken to skillet. Simmer until heated through, about 1 minute. Transfer chicken to plates; top with sauce and serve.
Serves 5. Can be made in 45 minutes or less.

Friday, January 5, 2007


This is a big hit with my boys. It makes a huge batch and is better the second day.

4 lbs. ground beef
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 14-oz. cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 32-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with chilies
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2 16-oz. cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Toppings: sour cream, shredded Cheddar cheese, chopped onions

Special equipment: 6-quart slow cooker
  1. Using a large skillet, cook ground beef, in batches, over medium-high heat until it is no longer pink. Stir the meat well so that it crumbles. Drain each batch of meat and place it in the crockpot.
  2. Stir in onions and the next 14 ingredients. Mix well.
  3. Cover and cook on HIGH 5 hours or on LOW 7 hours. Remove and discard bay leaf. Serve with desired toppings.
Makes 15-18 cups.

Chicken Cacciatore

Ramblin' Mom asked for some crockpot recipes to get her through her busy season at work. Hope you won't find these unnecessarily "taxing".

2 medium onions, sliced thin
8 oz. mushrooms, quartered
3 lb. chicken, cut up or 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz. canned plum tomatoes
1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
1 lb. spaghetti

Special equipment: 6-quart slow cooker
  1. Place onions and mushrooms in the bottom of the crockpot.
  2. Place the chicken pieces on top of the onions. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  3. Crush the plum tomatoes in your hands and add them over the chicken. Add the garlic, tomato sauce, herbs and wine or stock.
  4. Cover the pot and cook on LOW for 6 hours or HIGH for 4 hours.
  5. Just before the chicken is finished cooking, boil water for the pasta. Cook the pasta and drain.
  6. Serve the chicken with its sauce over the pasta you have prepared.
Serves 4.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Mesclun Salad With Mandarins, Pecans and Goat Cheese

This is a mixed green salad with mandarins, dried cranberries, pecans, and goat cheese. It is a great beginning for a holiday meal or anytime you want something out of the ordinary. Once again, this recipe is for a big crowd, but it can easily be halved without concern.

2 1/4 cups orange juice
12 tablespoons dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds

6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vinegar: champagne, sherry, raspberry, balsamic, or white wine
1 tablespoon reduced orange juice soaking liquid
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

12 cups mixed baby greens or mesclun, washed and dried
3 cans mandarin oranges, drained (rinse and drain if oranges are packed in syrup)
1 1/2 cups pecans or walnuts, toasted

8 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  1. Bring orange juice to a simmer in a heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat. Mix in dried cranberries. Let stand until softened, approximately 30 minutes. Drain well but reserve the soaking liquid.
  2. Put the cranberry-orange soaking liquid back into the saucepan and reduce to 1/2 cup. Reserve this for salad dressing.
  3. Whisk oil, vinegar, and reduced orange juice in a small bowl; blend well. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. (You can prepare the dressing one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
  4. Place greens in a large serving bowl. Gently toss in mandarin oranges, cranberries, and toasted pecans – your hands work best! Pour 2/3 of the dressing over the salad and toss again. Check to see if the greens are lightly coated with the dressing. You may add more dressing to taste.
  5. Add crumbled goat cheese to top of salad and serve.
Serves 12.

Leek and Goat Cheese Tart

For Anne.

Pastry Dough
3 leeks, white part only, sliced thin
3 tablespoons butter
8 oz. goat cheese
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
Pinch of grated nutmeg

Special equipment: 10" round tart pan with removable bottom or quiche pan; rolling pin; pie weights or dry beans
  1. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out pastry dough into an approx. 11" circle. Fold dough in quarters and place the point of the triangle in the center of the tart pan. Unfold the dough and fit into and around the edges of the pan, without stretching the dough. Place tart pan in the freezer and chill for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line the chilled tart shell with aluminum foil. Weight down the foil with pie weights or dry beans. Bake the shell for 10 minutes and let cool before filling it.
  3. Cook the leeks in the butter in a wide saucepan or skillet over low to moderate heat until they are soft but not brown.
  4. Transfer the leeks to the tart shell and distribute them around evenly.
  5. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour this custard mixture over the leeks.
  6. Return the tart to the oven to finish baking, approximately 30 minutes or until the top surface is lightly browned and springs back when gently pressed. Let the tart cool at least 20 minutes before serving.
Serves 8.

: Note: I have made this tart ahead of time and reheated it in a 300º oven. If you do make it ahead of time and reheat, run it under a low broiler for a couple of minutes to crisp the crust and lightly brown the top.

Pastry Dough

This classic pastry dough works well for both savory and sweet pies. I do not use the food processor for this recipe because there is a risk of overworking the dough. I prefer the control of a pastry blender (seen at right).

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening, preferably trans-fat-free
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Special equipment: pastry blender; pastry or bench scraper

  1. Sift together flour and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Blend in butter and shortening with your fingertips or a pastry blender until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
  3. Drizzle evenly with 3 tablespoons ice water and gently stir with a fork until incorporated.
  4. Squeeze a small handful: If it doesn't hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring until just incorporated, then test again. (Do not overwork, or pastry will be tough.)
  5. Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With the heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough together with scraper and press into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. Chill dough, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or sealed tightly in a zipper bag, until firm, at least 1 hour. Note: Dough can be chilled up to 1 day.
Makes enough dough for a 9- to 10-inch round shell.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are easy and pretty quick to make from scratch, and they taste so much better. This is a hearty, full-fat version. You can easily substitute reduced-fat sour cream and milk with no difference in taste or texture. The lowest-fat way to make mashed potatoes is to use low-sodium chicken broth in place of the dairy products; however, this will affect taste and texture. I would still use regular butter, if possible.

5 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes (russets are OK, if that's what you have)
1 onion, peeled
1 pint sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 stick butter, softened
Kosher salt
White pepper
  1. Bring 6 quarts of water to boil in an 8-quart stockpot; a pasta pentola* works great if you have one.
  2. While you are waiting for the water to boil, peel and quarter the Yukon Gold potatoes. If you use russet potatoes, peel them and cut them into eighths: cut in half lengthwise, quarter lengthwise, cut again crosswise.
  3. Once the water is boiling rapidly, add 2-3 tablespoons of kosher salt to the pot. Add the whole onion and the potatoes, using a large slotted spoon or a spider/skimmer. Boil for 18-20 minutes.
  4. Drain the potatoes and discard the onion. Pour the cooking water out of the pot, so you can use that pot to mix and mash the potatoes.
  5. Put the drained potatoes back into the warm pot. Add half of the sour cream, half of the milk, and half of the butter. Mash by hand and mix. If you do not have a potato masher, you can use a ricer or an electric hand-mixer to whip the potatoes; do not over-process them. If the potatoes are still dry, add more of the dairy products until the potatoes are creamy but not gluey. Add salt and white pepper to taste, at least a tablespoon of salt and a 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Serve hot.
Mashed potatoes can be made in advance and refrigerated until needed. Store and reheat in a covered oven-proof dish. To reheat, add 3 tablespoons of milk to the top of the potatoes and place in a 350º oven for 30-40 minutes until hot.

*Note: Although I own mostly All-Clad pots and pans, I would not necessarily spend $350.00 for a pasta pot. All-Clad now makes a stainless-steel multi-cooker that works just the same and is a great value for the money.

Turkey Meatloaf

3 lbs. ground turkey or chicken, or a combination of the two
1 medium onion
1/2 green or red pepper
8 oz. mushrooms
3/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon curry powder
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs
  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Place the ground turkey in a large mixing bowl. Dice the onions, peppers, and mushrooms and add to the bowl. Mix.
  3. Add the breadcrumbs, curry powder, salt and pepper and mix well. Add the eggs and mix, preferably with your hands, just enough to blend the eggs into the turkey mixture.
  4. Roll turkey mixture into a large ball and place on the baking sheet. Mold into a long, uniform loaf.
  5. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Serves 6 with plenty of leftovers. Makes great sandwiches the next day: spread the bread with mayonnaise and a little Dijon mustard.

Stuffed Peppers

This is my much-requested recipe for meat- and rice-stuffed green peppers. It feeds a small crowd.

10 large green peppers
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 lbs. ground lamb or veal, or a combination of the two
4 cups cooked rice (or two bags of Success white or brown rice, cooked and drained)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz. goat cheese
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup beef broth or red wine
  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  2. Wash the pepper and cut off the top 1/4" to 1/2" below its "shoulder". Carefully remove the seeds and the pith from the bottom of the pepper, without puncturing it. Repeat for the rest of the peppers. Keep each pepper's top with its matching bottom.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil and the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are transparent. Add the ground meat and cook until it is no longer red.
  4. Transfer the meat and cooked rice to a large mixing bowl. Stir in Parmesan cheese, goat cheese, and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. The mixture should look well blended and slightly creamy.
  5. Stuff the peppers tightly with the meat and rice mixture and place them in a large baking pan. You might have to use two pans to hold all the peppers. Pour enough broth or wine in the bottom of the pan to cover it. Pour a little broth or wine into each stuffed pepper to moisten the mixture. Place the top on each pepper, matching up the lobes.
  6. Bake for 1 hour, 15 minutes. The peppers should be soft and well-done.