Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How To Eat Alone

I just love this link.  I hope you do, too.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Moving On

It's been quite some time since I visited my own pages here. As usually takes place with John and me,everything seems to happen at once.

The short version is that John was offered a full-time job at the insurance company for which he has been working part-time for years. It was an offer too good to refuse that came at just the right time. So he took the job and sold his medical practice.

In the meantime, we saw a smaller condominium nearby that we really liked, put down a deposit, listed our house and sold it. Phew!

Needless to say, all the work attendant to selling a business, preparing the house to sell, and the actual showings and negotiations all proved very time consuming and stressful. All of this began mid April and now I am spending my days weeding through what seems like endless possessions all of which seemed vitally necessary at one time or another. And I'm packing, of course.  One good thing is that the buyers of our house have bought a good deal of our furniture so I am trying to let go of everything we don't need. In a way it's liberating. In a way it's not.

I barely have been able to breathe over these past few months, let alone cook. We eat mostly vegetables, salads and a piece of grilled protein. If I crave anything it's comfort food like a soft-boiled egg reminiscent of my childhood.
Or a zucchini frittata made with fresh ricotta.
Or a bowl of chickpeas with Indian spices.
And lots and lots of coffee.
And a little bit of alcohol.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Familiar Patterns

The temperature, after many false starts, is finally rising in New Jersey. Although one still needs to wear a light jacket, the sun is shining through--a mood elevator for sure.

When my life gets crazy, as it is right now, I tend to become super organized. Controlling the quotidian aspects of my life makes me feel less out of control. I am one of those people who finds comfort in familiar patterns and the predictability of routine. And one of my patterns is very predictable as I've said before--I go into the kitchen to cook.

This week I made a few tasty dishes for week-night dining. As I was racing through the market one afternoon, I saw some very nice flounder filets. I knew that at home I had some shallots, garlic and feta cheese, so I grabbed a bunch of spinach as I flew through the produce aisle.

When I got home,  I poured some olive oil into a saute pan, added a large minced shallot and brought the pan up to heat. I cooked the shallot until it was starting to soften then added a clove of garlic, minced.

In the mean time I cleaned and chopped the spinach then dropped it into the pan and sauteed for a couple of minutes. When it was wilted I turned off the heat and tossed in a handful of cubed feta cheese, letting it soften a bit then setting it aside to cool.

When it was time to prepare dinner I laid out the filets and put about 2 tablespoons of filling on each one. I rolled them up and placed them into an oiled baking dish, sprinkled them with olive oil and a dusting of paprika.  Then into a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes until cooked through but not dry.

Not bad for a Wednesday night.


 Spinach and Feta Stuffed Flounder Filets

1 pound flounder filets (4)
10 ounces fresh spinach
1/3 cup feta cheese, cut into small cubes
Olive oil for pan
1 large shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Pour olive oil into saute pan, add minced shallot and bring pan up to heat. When shallots start to soften add minced garlic and saute until translucent.  Add spinach to pan and saute for about 3 minutes, until wilted.

Off heat add feta cheese and stir until it just begins to soften. Season with nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

Season flounder filets with salt and pepper, then place about 2 tablespoons of the filling onto each filet. Roll fish filets and place in an oiled baking dish, seam side down. Drizzle fish with some olive oil and sprinkle with some paprika.

Bake in 400 degree oven, uncovered, for about 20 minutes until fish is firm but not dried out.

Serves 3-4

Thursday, April 4, 2013


The calendar says it's Spring, but here in the Northeast it is still just 29 degrees. Enough already! It's April for goodness sake. The weather did not cooperate when we were in Los Angeles either to celebrate Chris' birthday. What was predicted to be 80 degrees and sunny was really cool and cloudy with a marine layer that never lifted. That being said we were never deterred from eating at Chris' and Jess' favorite restaurants.

We had great burgers at Plan Check in their funky West L.A. neighborhood. Well-crafted anejo honey sours at the Peruvian restaurant, Picca. And fabulous fire-roasted vegetables and pizzas at Gjelina in Venice Beach--just to name a few outings.

Back at home I was still hoping for Spring when I came across this beautiful and delicious radish salad to brighten the day.
Next came Easter. Our Easter celebrations usually range from large gatherings to very large gatherings, but this year was a much smaller group. We were to be six adults and three children,  so I decided to keep the cooking low key.

There was no mixed antipasto, no glazed ham this year, no sweet potato casserole, no baked rigatoni with beschamel and prosciutto. And I don't remember the last Easter that I did not make Aunt Louise's Cheesecake.

Instead, I  served a shrimp cocktail to accompany a glass of champagne before dinner. Then came a perfectly cooked, if I do say so, filet of beef  served with slender haricot vert, parboiled then sauteed in butter,  and roasted new potatoes, followed by a salad of baby lettuces. Dessert was easy--cupcakes for the kids, and a very simple coffee cake along side a bowl overflowing with ripe strawberries and whipped cream.

This was the surprise--the coffee cake was the hit of the day. Who knew?
I found this recipe in one of my old kitchen notebooks. I used to make it a lot when we were first married and have no recollection where it came from. This unpretentious cake is quick to put together, small enough not to last forever and delicious!
Ready for the oven
Out of the oven

I knew it was a hit when my niece's 8 year old son said,"This is the best coffee cake I ever had. I wouldn't mind taking the rest home."  With pleasure, Tucker.


For Cake:

3 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees and butter an 8 inch square or round baking pan.

Mix butter with sugar; add egg and beat until creamy.

Mix together dry ingredients. Add to sugar mixture alternately with milk and mix to incorporate. Add vanilla and stir. Spread batter evenly in a buttered 8 inch square or round pan.

Sprinkle with topping and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until done.


Mix 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 cup flour and 3 tablespoon cold butter until crumbly.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rachel's Chicken alla Romana

Chicken all Romana a la Rachel

This past week has been a tough one for me, and I am beginning to realize that one of my coping mechanisms is to cook. Duh! Although I have been in a winter funk food wise, I made no fewer than six new-to-me-recipes over the past two weeks. Some were good, one not so good.

Ina Garten's Lemon Chicken with Croutons was a total disappointment. My chicken lacked the flavorful juiciness that was to flow over the crisp croutons. The staff of one national magazine dubbed this recipe "Engagement Chicken" because every staffer who made it for a date ended up engaged to be married. Let's say that I am glad that I've been married for forty-one years.

Next came a scrumptious Orecchiette with rapini and goat cheese from Saveur via David Lebovitz' Pinterest Board which we shared with L and J along with a nice Sauvignon blanc.

One cold afternoon I simmered a Sausage and Pork Ragu for four hours then tossed some with rigatoni and dusted the dish with Pecorino Romano cheese. This was shared with T and J with a lovely Amarone.
No photo of the finished dish--so this is the beginnings of the sofrito base

I've already written about the deliciousness that is Domenica Marchetti's Crema di Pomodoro Soup,  a great addition to any cold-weather soup repertoire.

But my favorite of the week has to be Pollo Alla Romana from rachel eats. Rachel's food is straight forward and quite satisfying. Braising is one of my favorite ways to cook chicken, especially in the winter, and this chicken braise does not disappoint. Using a good chicken, some pancetta, white wine, canned tomatoes and beautifully ripe red peppers you will be able to create a delicious dish. Click on the recipe and start cooking.

Cook's Notes: Instead of a whole chicken, cut up, I used 8 chicken thighs. I used about 2 ounces pancetta, 6 ounces of white wine and a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained. May be made ahead and reheated before serving.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Crema di Pomodoro

As anyone who reads about food knows food fads come and go. Cauliflower has now replaced broccoli  as the darling of the cruciferous family. And, yes, we all know that we must roast our vegetables--it is the only way--it brings out such nuttiness. I'll say. But how about trying these picatta-style cauliflower steaks for your next meatless meal?  Okay, they're roasted, but it's how they're treated next that is the treat. Or try cooking the cauliflower like the Italians do--until it is actually cooked through--add some black olives and toss with your favorite pasta like Rachel does.

Is there any other leafy green vegetable out there besides kale? Seriously?  Tender spinach sauteed in olive oil and finished with some balsamic vinegar and golden raisins is a quick and delicious side dish. Or try my personal favorite, escarole. Escarole is  so versatile and much under utilized. It's great sauteed in olive  oil with garlic and eaten alongside chicken or a veal chop. It can be stuffed, or cooked in soup. Give it a try.

This season the most ubiquitous recipe award goes to tomato soup. The best tomato soup recipe is  everywhere you look. Even I have a best tomato soup recipe, but I only make it at the end of  summer when Jersey tomatoes are at their peak. But now I  think I found a winner for winter.

This recipe by Domenica Marchetti is just what I was looking for for Friday night's dinner, the first Friday in Lent. It ticks all the boxes--simple ingredients, ease of preparation, meatless and delicious! Good quality canned tomatoes are key here. It could be prepared handily after work giving you a hot, fulfilling meal in a little over an hour.
Give it a try!

Cook's Note: It took forever for the thinly sliced carrots to cook. Next time I will dice them. Even if you plan to serve this soup to a group of Lilliputians I doubt that it would serve six. I served grilled smoked Gouda cheese sandwiches with the soup. We were very happy.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Here We Go Again

It's snowing already, and we're now under a blizzard watch. Seriously? It feels like "deja vu all over again."

So I'm finishing up the work on my desk and heading into the kitchen to make a mid-morning cappuccino. After that  I'll be making vegetable soup for lunch today and tomorrow, and maybe I'll throw in some of these grilled cheese croutons.

It's hard to get snowed in when you live in a densely populated county just ten miles outside of New York City, but it will probably be  one of those cocooning weekends in front of the fireplace with some good movies and good books--we're halfway through Netflix's new series, House of Cards.

But just for the fun of it, I'm ordering myself  a new midnight blue swimsuit this afternoon. A girl can dream of sunnier days, can't she?

What are you doing this weekend?

Chickpea  and Spinach Stew with Ginger

This is my spin on a recipe by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 1-inch knob ginger, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
6 ounces fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed, (my favorite brand is Goya); or approximately 4 cups cooked chickpeas
1 cup water
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Kosher salt
Sherry vinegar for serving

Drain tomatoes in strainer placed over medium bowl.  Transfer liquid, half the tomatoes and the ginger to blender. Blend on high speed until completely pureed. Set aside. Roughly chop remaining tomatoes and set aside.

Heat olive oil on medium-high heat in soup pot. Add onion, garlic, and parika, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened. Add tomato-ginger puree and stir to combine. Add spinach a handful at a time, allowing each handful to wilt before adding the next. Add salt to taste. Reduce heat to medium and simmer spinach mixture, stirring occasionally, until spinach is completely tender, about 10 minutes.

Add chopped tomatoes, chick peas, 1 cup of water and soy sauce. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Correct seasoning and serve drizzled with a few drops of sherry vinegar.

Serves 2


Monday, January 21, 2013

With what seemed to be a marathon of cooking and entertaining during the holidays behind me, it was time for a break. Whew. While I would have loved to be basking in the sun on the beach, I have had to settle for closing out the business books and transferring end-of-year files in my home office. Boring, right?

But since the above photo is indicative of the what January's weather has been like around here, staying at home, reading some books, watching some movies and not cooking large meals has been just fine with me.

In fact,  I hope to catch up on my blog reading, plan a trip to Los Angeles for Chris' 30th!!! birthday, meet some friends for dinner and others for lunch, eat lighter, exercise more, and day dream about our trip to St. Thomas in the Spring. Ah, Spring, it will be here before you know it.

In the meantime, here is a recipe for a cracker I made last week. It is spicy and buttery and goes perfectly with a Martini or a glass of wine. I think it also would make a good accompaniment to a steaming bowl of soup or stew. Enjoy.

Cacio e Pepe Crackers

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Position oven rack to center of oven and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line  a baking sheet with parchment.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cheese and pulse to incorporate. Add butter and pulse until the mixture is coarsely combined and looks like wet sand. Slowly drizzle in 1- 2 tablespoons of cold water and pulse until the mixture begins to form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a 12-inch long log. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 week.

Cut log crosswise into 1/4 or 1/2 inch slices and bake 20 to 25 minutes until the crackers are very lightly browned.

Makes about 30 crackers

Cook's Note: Depending on your flour and the weather, you may need to add more than 2 tablespoons of water. Instead of one long log, I made two shorter ones and put one in the freezer for later. Both uncooked dough and baked crackers keep well in the freezer.