Friday, December 15, 2017

Zesty Chicken Tortellini Soup

Earlier this week both of my guys were sick. It’s been miserably cold out here (well, for California, anyway) and colds seem to be everywhere. I know how comforting chicken soup can be when you’re sick, and I know some that are convinced that chicken fat holds natural antibiotics. I think that special food always makes me feel better when I’m sick. Because it’s high in vitamin c, I “snuck” some parsley in. I wouldn’t say it added much to the flavor, but it was nice to think of my soup having extra cold fighting powers. Because my toddler has been sort of picky lately (the horrors!), and especially so when he is congested, I decided to make this chicken soup more tempting with tortellini and do a sort of play on tortellini en brodo. A version of the dish with a hearty soup as its staple. And just for fun and because it always helps to clean out the sinuses, a bit of a kick with crushed red pepper flakes. The tortellinis worked to convince him to eat the solids out of the soup, carrots, chicken and all. He had great fun holding the bowl in both hands and slowly slurping the broth.

Perhaps the best thing about this soup is that it comes together quickly. Surprisingly, you can still build some excellent flavors in that short amount of time.

Thankfully, my guys are all better. It was probably just rest and time. But I would like it believe it was my soup. That magical chicken tortellini soup.

Chicken Tortellini Soup

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups mirepoix
2 Tablespoons minced Italian parsley
2 Tablespoons olive oil
8 cups low chicken broth
16 ounces cheese stuffed tortellini
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons herbed salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Cut chicken into 1” pieces. Heat your soup pot over medium heat. Add olive oil, then mirepoix, parsley, crushed red pepper 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper.

2. When mirepoix has been cooked through, add garlic and saute for one minute, stirring constantly. Add chicken stock, chicken, remaining salt and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.

3. Add tortellini. Cover and cook until tortellini is tender, up to 10 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Autumn Gumbo Pie with Herbed Biscuits

I’m hosting a pie challenge all this month at Foodies+. The challenge is to try to use two or more ingredients from the challenge list. When I saw that two of the three proteins were chicken and shrimp it immediately suggested gumbo to me. I realized the rich, zesty, tangy stew would be perfect for turnips and either pumpkin or squash. To cut down on labor I chose butternut squash, since it is available here peeled and chopped. The slightly tart, spicy and intensely flavorful gravy was a perfect match for the sometimes too sweet squash, mellowing out its sweetness and enhancing its richness. It was also a great match for the turnips, similarly offsetting their sweetness as well as their vegetal aroma.
I used chicken breakfast sausage, but you can use any kind of sausage you like, just be aware that highly seasoned sausages, especially spicy sausages, will add extra flavors to this already incredibly flavorful dish.
My family will not eat okra, so I've left it out, even as a thickener. I've found the amount of roux I made was sufficient.
After covering the layer of gumbo in the baking dish with biscuit dough, you will have dough leftover (about 1/3 of the total amount). You can bake it up to eat with the gumbo pie or cut it into rounds and freeze it raw. If you freeze it raw lay it in a single layer on a baking sheet and once it's frozen through store in the freezer in an airtight freezer bag. I used the biscuit recipe from this blog post: and they were fabulous. Use any herbs you like in the biscuits, fresh or dried. I used dried parsley and it imparted a nice little herbaceous flavor.

Make ahead: serve this when company comes, since it can go in the oven about a half hour before your dinner guests arrive. The gumbo can even be made the night before, then kept in the fridge overnight, until pie is ready to be assembled.

Autumn Gumbo Pie with Herbed Biscuits

For the gumbo:
8 oz chicken sausage, casings removed
8 oz shrimp, deveined and chopped into 1" pieces
1/2 large yellow onion
6 oz butternut squash, diced
1 large turnip, diced
2 small carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 (15 oz) can chopped tomatoes
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
5 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons Cajun spice mix
2 teaspoons buckwheat  (or similarly dark) honey
2 teaspoons caldo de res (beef bullion)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
salt, to taste

For the biscuits:
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 large egg, beaten

1. Melt 1 Tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, then carrots, onion, celery, turnip and butternut squash. Add 1 teaspoon cajun spice mix. Salt to taste. Saute until turnip and squash begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

2. As the veggies saute, sift together the dry ingredients for the biscuits. Add chicken sausage to veggies and continue to cook until chicken has been cooked through.
3. Add tomato paste, and mix in thoroughly. Cook for a moment, then add chopped tomatoes, 2 cups of water and beef bullion.
4. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add honey. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add shrimp to the stew.
5. Make the roux: toss 4 T flour with 1 t Cajun seasoning. In a separate pan, melt remaining butter. Whisk in flour/Cajun seasoning mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mix turns deep golden brown, about 5 minutes.
6. Add the roux to the gumbo. Taste and add salt, if needed. Take gumbo off of the heat and pour into a 9 x 13” baking dish. Finish making the biscuits: pour cream into dry ingredients, add chopped herbs and mix until just combined. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently a couple of times. Roll out to approximately 1/4“ thickness and cut to cover the entire baking dish, with little room to spare. Cut into 12 squares and lay them as closely as possible over the gumbo. Brush with egg wash and bake until browned, 20 - 30 minutes. Serve with white long grain rice.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pumpkin and Parmesan Arancini

Halloween is upon us, and with it plenty of holiday parties and the return of pumpkin everything season. I love pumpkin in savory dishes, especially when combined with rich, sharp and nutty parmesan. So, I've done it two ways and this is the first. Since I'm so late getting the first post up the second will appear here in November and be a fancy little finger food to serve to holiday guests. Actually, that can easily be said of both preparations, since if you serve your guests crispy fried balls filled with gooey, creamy delicious pumpkin they may never want to leave!
The recipe I used for pumpkin risotto made three times as much as I needed for the arancini (we're only so many people and those bad boys are kind of decadent). If you're expecting lots of guests and want to use all of the risotto for arancini (we instead had it for dinner the night before), for every four Tablespoon sized balls you need 1/3 cup breadcrumbs and 1 large egg.

The risotto recipe I used is here:
But I would use less wine next time and I did use less parmesan, as well as using vegetable stock, as I didn't want the chicken flavor to overwhelm the pumpkin

Makes approx 12
2 cups pumpkin parmesan risotto
1 cup breadcrumbs
3 jumbo eggs
Neutral oil for frying

1. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish. Lay the breadcrumbs in another shallow dish. Form the risotto into roughly tablespoon sized balls.
2. Heat the oil to medium. Roll the risotto balls in the egg, then the breadcrumbs.
3. Fry in a single layer (may need to be in batches, depending on the size of your pan), turning every minute, until brown on all sides. Serve hot.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Vegetarian Saltado with Tempeh

I love Peruvian food. And I love Tempeh. I know there are many, many people who would agree with the first sentence. And I suspect I’ve lost many of you at the second sentence. I know Tempeh can be a polarizing food; either you love it or you hate it. I imagine the people who can’t stand it have a hard time getting past the deeply bitter aftertaste that is incredibly hard to correct for or cook out of it, no matter how you prepare it. The main flavors in this dish are rich, tart, sweet and salty, so I thought it would be a fabulous combination to bring tempeh’s satisfying nuttiness to the fore while vastly muting its off putting bitterness. The vinegar and soy sauce marinade, crispy fatty fries and sweet peppers complimented the tempeh in exactly the way I had hoped. I did not taste a trace of the bitterness, but it's nuttiness shone through.

Saltado is a stir fry typically made with beef and served with french fries. The sauce is made with vinegar and soy sauce, as well as a pinch of a pepper used widely in Peruvian food, Ají Amarillo. It is a stir fry from Peru in the Chifa tradition, a culinary tradition which merges Cantonese cuisine with traditional Peruvian dishes. Chifa originated in Peru with a growing number of Chinese immigrants from the southern China province of Guangdong around the turn of the 20th century. It is a popular enough culinary tradition that Chifa restaurants can be found in many parts of Peru.

This dish is a flavorful, fantastic option for meatless Mondays. As well it is a perfect thing to serve to impress a vegan or vegetarian guest.


I used store bought frozen french fries, which you can choose to bake or deep fry I chose to deep fry it to bring the fat content to a satisfying level. If you bake them toss them in plenty of olive oil, since the fatty fries really complete this dish (the vinegar marinade cuts through that richness just perfectly).

If tempeh is still not your thing, fear not. I'll be posting a traditional version here sometime in October

Tempeh Saltado

1 lb tempeh, cut into 1/4" slices
2 bell peppers, sliced
1 small yellow onion, sliced thinly
3 small roma tomatoes, ribs and seeds removed and sliced into strips lengthwise
2 large russet potatoes, cut into fries*
1/4 cup vinegar
2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/2 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon Ají Amarillo pepper paste (or hot sauce of choice)
Fresh Black Pepper, to taste
To make marinade, whisk together vinegar, Ají paste, soy sauce, oils, sesame seeds, garlic and season with pepper. Lay tempeh, onions and peppers into a wide bowl. Pour marinade over tempeh and veggies and toss gently to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for one hour. Meanwhile deep fry potatoes, or bake them according to package directions; whichever you prefer. (If you bake them toss them in plenty of olive oil, since the fat on the fries is what really makes this dish as the vinegar marinade cuts through that richness just perfectly). Set potatoes aside on a paper towel lined plate. Heat a wok or large saucepan to medium high and toss in tempeh, veggies, tomatoes and marinade. Saute, stirring frequently, until onions are cooked through and peppers have softened. Serve over rice and topped with a handful of french fried potatoes.
*I used 1/2 bag trader joes handsome cut fries from the freezer section

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Labor Day Recipes: Onion Balsamic Relish and Beer Braised Carrots

Have you been invited to a bbq and don't know what to bring? This post is going to help you out with that! try bringing a sweet and tart savory onion relish or a fancy-ish side dish of beer braised carrots. Everyone loves beer, right? Both dishes are vegan and the relish makes a great topping for veggie burgers or tofu hot dogs (I can personally vouch for this, since we tried it as a topping on the latter and it was scrumptious), but don't let that stop you from piling the relish on your beef burger, hot dog or sausage or helping yourself to some carrots alongside your steak or bbq chicken!

Since I haven't posted in awhile, enjoy two recipes at once!
Deglazing caramelized onions with balsamic vinegar enhances their sweetness and at the same time imparts a lovely, subtle tart flavor that keeps the relish from tasting too sweet or too one note.
The braised carrots were inspired by Lisa’s fabulous traditional rosemary and garlic braised carrots, which are one of the many delicious recipes in our very first foodies+ collaborative cookbook, Foodies+ Christmas Around the World. Seeing how lovely carrots can be sauteed and then braised with the right aromatics inspired me to experiment with the vegetable. I decided to try braising them in beer on a whim, since no bbq is complete without beer! Just a touch of beer will lend its bitterness to the sweet carrots and balance out the slight vegetal taste that tends to put many people off of the vegetable.

Onion Balsamic Relish

Makes 10 ounces

5 onions, diced finely
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. Heat a medium heavy bottomed saucepan over medium flame. Add olive oil, then onions. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Turn heat down to medium low and sauté until onions brown (about 30 minutes).
3. Add balsamic and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has been absorbed. As you cook the vinegar in, try to scrape up any browned bits from the pan to add more flavor to your relish.

Serve warm with bbq item of your choice.

Beer Braised Carrots

Makes 6 side servings

8 carrots, sliced thinly
2 ounces India pale ale, or similar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, julienned
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan over medium flame, add olive oil and sauté onions until they begin to soften (about 3 minutes).
2. Add carrots and sauté until they have begun to soften and have caramelized (roughly 15 minutes ).
3. Add beer and cook until liquid is absorbed (about 10 minutes).
Serve as a side or bring to a bbq as a side.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Creamy Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry (Chana Gobi)

This recipe will delight both vegetarians and curry lovers alike. If you fall in the center of that venn diagram, you are probably about to do a happy dance. For those of you seeking a way to mask your vegetables, creamy Chana Gobi delivers. The sauce is fragrant and creamy, made richer and thicker by the addition of yogurt and irresistible by the inclusion of mouthwatering spices. As spicy curries go, this one is certainly on the milder side. If you would like to bump up the heat level, add a diced chili of your choice in with the onions.

I specifically chose a cauliflower in our farm basket because my husband and I have agreed to cut down on our meat consumption, which left me scrambling to find dinners that are filling and substantive. I love Aloo Gobi and wanted to do something similar, but to add protein I decided to sub the potatoes for chickpeas. Soft, creamy chickpeas are wonderful in combination with sweet, crunchy cauliflower. The creamy tomato gravy, just a touch tart and very flavorful, provides a delicious backdrop.

Chana Gobi

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and parboiled 3 minutes in salted water
1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large heirloom tomato, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup crushed tomato
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup half n half (or 1/4 c milk & 1/4 c cream)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, julienned
1 ½ inch piece of ginger, peeled & grated
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Chopped cilantro, for garnish

In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add in olive oil, onions and a pinch of salt. Sweat onions until they begin to brown (5 minutes).
Add spices, garlic, bay leaf and ginger. Cook for 90 seconds, stirring constantly. Add in chopped tomatoes, and when their moisture has cooked out (about 3 minutes), add crushed tomatoes, then mix in yogurt and half n half.
Add in chickpeas and cauliflower. Stir to coat. Cover and bring up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes to thicken sauce.
Serve garnished with chopped cilantro and accompanied by steamed long grain rice.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Norman Scrambled Eggs

I haven’t been blogging much. Our lives have been hectic and sadly last month my grandfather passed away at 87. He was such a smart, successful cultured man who loved his six grandchildren fiercely. Did I mention he was funny? Well, he could be just as serious as he was funny, but when he told a joke he had a warm, infectious grin.
We spent nearly every summer with my grandparents on Long Island and although my grandmother did nearly all of the cooking, my grandfather would sometimes make us a special scrambled egg dish for breakfast that we referred to as Norman scrambled eggs. It started simply: he would add bacos (crunchy fake bacon bits that are popular in some places as a salad topping) to his fluffy, moist scrambled eggs. One year he started a vegetable garden and we began to add his homegrown cherry tomatoes to the eggs at the very end of cooking.
When I went away to college I would often make “Norman Scrambled Eggs” to combat bouts of homesickness. Over the course of my schooling I began adding onions. I made it for him with onions that next summer and he proclaimed it delicious. With Norman scrambled eggs on my mind I added some Heirloom Tomatoes to my farm share box. Because I’m fancy and because I had some to use up, I’ve subbed out the bacos for bacon (see notes) I felt the eggs were silkier because I then used the rendered bacon fat to cook them.

I served mine with a potato rösti made with schmaltz and some fluffy blueberry pancakes for dessert (blueberries were also in my farm share box). Dinner for breakfast is popular in our family.

Norman Scrambled Eggs

Serves 3

6 jumbo eggs
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
3 slices bacon, chiffonaded
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 medium Heirloom Tomato, diced
Small pinch of salt
Pepper, to taste

1. Whisk together eggs, cream, milk and salt. Season with a small pinch pepper.
2. In a pan over medium high heat, fry off bacon until thoroughly crispy. Remove bacon from pan and set on a paper towel lined plate to drain. There will be some rendered bacon fat in the pan. Turn the heat to medium and add the onions and cook until they are soft and translucent.
3. Add the eggs, stirring or whisking constantly. When eggs have started to set, remove from heat for a few seconds, long enough for it to stop cooking somewhat. Return them to the stove, still whisking constantly. Add the tomatoes. Repeat the process until eggs are set but still moist; you’re going for a fluffy but creamy consistency (a little like custard).

Serve with breakfast potatoes or a side salad.

Notes: If you don’t eat meat or don’t eat pork I think McCormick sells the fake bacon bits and they’re called something like bac’n pieces. You’ll want to use about 1 Tablespoon of butter in place of the bacon fat to saute the onions and cook the scrambled egg.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thyme Roasted Zucchini and Carrot Cassoulet

Since this is in fact vegetarian, it is a stretch to call it a cassoulet. I’ve used white beans, finished it with a buttery crumb topping and for the first time ever cooked my beans entirely in the oven, so perhaps we could just say that is inspired by a cassoulet. Heavily. We can also say of this baked bean dish that it is absolutely delicious. If I could have this every day I might be persuaded to give up meat. Maybe. Except for bacon.

Thyme Roasted Zucchini and Carrot Cassoulet

1 lb great northern, cannellini or navy beans
1 cup mirepoix
1/2 leek, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons minced Italian (flat leaf) parsley
32 ounces vegetable stock
1 can chopped tomatoes (400g)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon thyme leaves + 5 sprigs
2 zucchini, sliced into 1" thick pieces
4 small carrots, in 1" slices
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
Pepper to taste

Crumb topping:

1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 Tablespoons butter

Soak the beans covered in 6 - 8 cups cold water a minimum of 8 hours. Preheat oven to 450. Strip 3 thyme sprigs of leaves and discard stems. Melt the 1 Tablespoon butter. Toss the zucchini and carrots with butter and thyme, salt and pepper and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Lay two remaining thyme sprigs in the center. Roast for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. Turn oven down to 325.
In a dutch oven or similar pot over medium heat, add olive oil. Add mirepoix, leeks, parsley, thyme and a little salt and pepper. Cook until translucent​ (3 minutes). Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, one minute. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Add wine to deglaze. Scrape to get the caramelized bits off of the bottom. Cook for 5 minutes. Add stock, drained beans, chopped tomatoes, bay leaf and water to cover beans. Cover pot and cook in the oven for 2 hours. Meanwhile, make the crumb topping: melt butter and combine with breadcrumbs and thyme, a small touch of salt and pepper. Carefully remove dutch oven, and mix in roasted zucchini and carrots. Turn the heat up to 350. Top with a layer of breadcrumbs and return to the oven uncovered. Bake until the breadcrumbs turn golden (approx 15 - 20 minutes).

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mozzarella in Carrozza (inspired post)

I learned about this magnificent cross between a grilled cheese and savory monte cristo from Andrew Zimmern’s fascinating post on Google+. I usually write my own recipes, but I really loved the flavors he put into it, so I used his recipe as a guide with a few minor touches of my own. His recipe is a departure from the original dish as it is enjoyed in Campania: he makes a salty, herbaceous spread to cut the richness of the cheese and rather than batter it in egg and then breadcrumbs he makes a thin egg and flour batter. I have yet to try it the traditional way, although I definitely plan to have a go at it, but I particularly loved the sound of his recipe and I was almost convinced to try making them myself. Almost. Until Paul posted his recipe for homemade tomato soup during Foodies+ cheese month and I knew it would be a match made in heaven.

When you are making these lovely, crunchy, flavorful sandwiches, you’ll want to cover the pan with a lid so that the cheese gets all melty. And luscious. I’ve cut Mr. Zimmern’s recipe down from 6 sandwiches to 4 and I’ve made other changes. I’ll include the link below so you can compare the two.

Mozzarella in Carrozza
1. Make the spread: in a small saucepan, saute shallots in olive oil until they begin to soften (about 3 minutes). Add pepper and anchovies and cook, stirring frequently, until anchovies have dissolved. Add tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes to marry flavors and slightly rehydrate. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
2. Meanwhile, make the batter: whisk together eggs and flour, and then add cold water, a little at a time, until it is the consistency of crepe batter (think thin pancake batter). Set aside.
3. Finish spread by mixing parsley in. Assemble sandwiches: evenly divide the spread between four slices of bread. Top the other four slices with an even layer of mozzarella slices and cover cheese with spread slathered bread, spread side inward. One or two at a time (to avoid pan overcrowding), carefully dip each assembled sandwich in batter. Carefully flip to cover each side.
4. Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed saucepan over low-medium heat. Lay sandwich(es) in in a single layer. Cover pan with a lid and cook for 4 minutes. Flip each one, cover, and cook for an additional 4 minutes.

Serve and enjoy for dinner, lunch or a decadent late night snack.

Andrew Zimmern's Mozzarella in Carrozza:

Notes: if you are using sundried tomatoes preserved in olive oil you can use the olive oil they’re preserved in (as I did).

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Beef, Black Bean & Roasted Sweet Potato Chili

I have already written a chili recipe, which is a hearty, healthy and satisfying meal. However, I recently became inspired eating at the cafes at my husband's work. He is lucky enough to work for a company which not only feeds its employees for free, but also has many fabulous gourmet cafes to choose from. Some of the 23 cafes my husband's company sustains are open for breakfast and dinner and all are open for lunch. Since he is allowed the occasional guest for a meal I have sampled the food from a few cafes and can attest to its remarkable quality and diversity. One thing most of the cafes seem to do is soup or chili. This sweet potato and black bean chili is one that pops up from time to time. It usually features quinoa instead of beef, but my family loves their red meat, so I've changed it up.

Why try this chili? Well, while it is savory it has just a touch of sweet, courtesy of the sweet potatoes and cinnamon. Far from being a handicap it enhances the rich beef tallow and the starchy beans and is delightfully reminiscent of a rich mole sauce. We love it and it makes a perfect quick meal, garnished with crema (Mexican sour cream) and sprinkled with cotija cheese. I usually serve it with cornbread, but you can serve it with just about any starch.

Beef, Black Bean and Roasted Sweet Potato Chili

1 lb 85/15 ground beef
2 (15 oz) cans organic black beans in their liquid
1 1/2 sweet potatoes diced & roasted (see notes)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 a yellow onion, julienned
1 Tablespoon butter, melted (see notes)
2 Tablespoons Olive oil
Tiny pinch Cayenne (see notes)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. heat a dutch oven or heavy bottomed large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and onions and saute until they begin to caramelize.

2. Add spices and cook for another minute. Add beef, season with salt and pepper and break it up into small bits. Cook until thoroughly browned.
3. Add tomato paste, beans in their liquid and about 20 ounces of water.
4. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes to thicken, stirring occasionally.
5. Add sweet potato, cover, and simmer until fully cooked (about 5 minutes).
Serve drizzled with crema and sprinkled with cotija cheese alongside cornbread.

Notes: to roast sweet potatoes: preheat oven to 400. Dice sweet potato and toss with butter and Cayenne. Spread on a cookie sheet in an even layer. Bake until slightly undercooked according to your preference (~20 minutes).

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Chai Chocolate Cheesecake

What inspired this decadence? Well, it is chocolate month at Foodies+! Since chocolate is such a magical ingredient, I really wanted to create something spectacular. I remembered I'd long ago tried a hot chai spiced tea with a squirt of dark chocolate sauce and that it was an incredibly special combination. Then I thought why not try incorporating those flavors into a cheesecake? I had a little trouble at first, using my lemon cheesecake bars as a guide for how long to bake my cheesecake, and at what temperature. I must have forgotten how hot my oven runs, because my first attempt dried out and cracked pretty severely. It tasted fine, but was nowhere near as smooth and luscious as my second attempt. Full disclosure: despite my best efforts my second cheesecake cracked just a bit. But ganache can hide a multitude of sins. Thank goodness it is also a perfect finishing touch on an amazing dessert!

Chai Chocolate Cheesecake

Makes 9” cheesecake

1/4 cup butter, melted
3 Tablespoons sugar
8 (full sheet) chocolate graham crackers, crushed

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces good quality belgian chocolate
10 spice cloves
6 green cardamom pods, gently cracked
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 earl grey tea bag
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 jumbo eggs
1/4 cup sugar

3 ounces good quality belgian chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon clarified butter

1. Assemble the crust: mix together chocolate cracker crumbs and sugar, then add melted butter. Toss until thoroughly combined. Press mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9” spring form pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set in fridge for one hour.
2. Chop chocolate for filling and put into a medium mixing bowl.
3. In a larger bowl, use a mixer to cream together eggs and cream cheese.
4. In a small saucepan combine cloves, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, tea, vanilla and one cup cream. Steep on the lowest possible heat for 20 minutes, watching carefully. If it begins to bubble take it off the heat and stir for a few seconds to cool it back down.
5. Preheat the oven to 350. Fill a roasting pan or large baking dish with 1/2 inch boiling water and place on the lower rack of the oven.
6. Pour the hot cream through a fine mesh sieve and into the chopped chocolate in small amounts, stirring to thoroughly incorporate in between (should take about 5 pours). When all the cream is in, stir until the mixture has become smooth (all chocolate pieces are melted).
6. Combine chocolate and cream cheese, mixing thoroughly. Fold in sugar and corn starch. Pour mixture over crust in spring form. Spread evenly.
7. Bake for 10 minutes at 350, then turn heat down to 300 and bake for another 40 minutes.
8. Allow the cheesecake to chill in the fridge at least one hour and up to six before making the ganache topping.
9. Chop remaining chocolate. In a small saucepan heat cream and whisk in butter. Add hot cream to chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate is thoroughly melted and ganache is smooth and shiny. Pour over cheesecake, spreading with a spatula over the entire surface.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Passover Food Charoset

I hosted a Seder this Passover and it was a lovely event. Three of my mama friends joined me with their children. For most of them it was their first, or maybe second seder. Wanting to show them the best of me Eastern European roots I cooked quite a bit: roasted beet, chevre and baby kale salad with an orange vinaigrette; homemade matzah ball soup (recipe is on my blog) with schmaltz; a brilliant apple noodle kugel from The New York Times. And of course I prepped the food to be eaten during the seder rituals, all of which is reflected on the seder plate.

My favorite of the ritual foods, Charoset, is a wine marinated apple salad that is meant to represent mortar. Passover is the story of how Moses led the Israelites out of their bondage in Egypt. Several items on the seder plate are meant to represent the bitterness of that slavery. None are as sweet or as looked forward to as Charoset, which varies from home to home, but always includes finely chopped apples, red wine and walnuts. It is eaten with Matzah, a holiday cracker and is a delightful treat. I made mine with a touch of cloves and honey and it turned out fabulous. I’m including the recipe below, along with a picture of my seder plate. Now, you may have already had all of the Seders you’re going to have. Bookmark this recipe and save it for next year and the year after. You’ll have the most delicious Charoset every Passover. For those of you who have a few seders left to plan and have just run out of Charoset, give this recipe a try. If you don’t celebrate Passover you can still enjoy this cold apple salad. It is delicious on its own or with Matzah (or another basic unsalted cracker such as water crackers). Try it with brie on toast.


Makes 3 cups

3 Fuji or Braeburn apples, peeled and finely chopped
6 ounces red wine
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground spice cloves

1. Mix all ingredients together. Marinate for up to an hour. Serve on the seder plate (to be eaten at the appropriate time), or any time.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Saag Paneer (Spinach Curry with fresh cheese)

I've been staying out of the kitchen as much as possible since my son had surgery to correct his polydactyly. He's been in a cast all the way up his arm for almost three weeks. (he finally gets it off Wednesday!) The first week he needed extra help and constant attention. As he's gotten used to his cast he has gotten more independent. So, I've gotten the chance to resume planning and cooking weekly menus for my family. Perhaps because I've been away for a little while I went a bit overboard this week. I made Croatian Chicken Paprikash, Shakshuka with the leftovers as well as a loaf of homemade sesame semolina crusty bread to accompany and finally Saag Paneer with homemade cheese. The Saag Paneer was inspired, in a roundabout way, by my son.

Usually we try to get our 17 month old to try whatever we’re eating, but my son is not a fan of spinach. He's willing to eat it in purees, as long as it's disguised by beans and other vegetables. But when I make it the star of a dish, he refuses to eat it. He's not generally a picky eater. After all, he happily eats curry rice noodles and beef koobideh, as well as chicken paprikash... Thankfully, he seems to be willing to try and enjoy a lot of different food. Because he's an adventurous eater, I give him lots of flavors to sample. That is more or less how I started to conceive a baby food cookbook. As I was writing recipes for it I tried to think of a spectacular spinach dish to convince Henry to like it. First I tried baby creamed spinach, with roasted garlic and Greek yogurt. He spit it out. He never spits anything out. I then remembered a friend's fabulously simple homemade paneer recipe and I thought of making Baby Saag Paneer. He didn't like it, either, although he was perfectly willing to eat the paneer on its own and a soft piece of semolina bread dipped in the Saag Paneer gravy. So, I still hadn't convinced him to eat spinach, but me and my husband didn't mind; we eagerly finished the leftovers. This dish was clearly more to adult tastes. And wow was it ever tasty! Using Azlin’s easy recipe for homemade paneer, it was easy. And so delicious you'll be hoping for leftovers, too.

because this was originally conceived for my baby food cookbook you're getting a sneak peek at the photography.

Saag Paneer

Serves 6

18 ounces baby spinach, sauteed and strained (see notes)
2/3 cup greek yogurt
1 cup half n half
3 Tablespoons clarified butter (see notes)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Tiny pinch anise seeds
1 small onion, julienned
70 grams paneer (see notes for substitutes), in 1/2 inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 bay leaf
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

1. Toss cheese cubes with 1/2 teaspoon curry powder. In a saucepan over medium high heat, add a Tablespoon clarified butter, a few drops of olive oil, and fry the cheese cubes until they developed color all around the outside. When they are done remove from heat and set them aside.
2. Add remainder of butter and olive oil. Saute onions until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in spices and ground ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until spices become fragrant (about 1 minute).
3. Turn heat down to low. Stir in half n half and yogurt. When everything is mixed together add spinach and reintroduce cheese. Bring everything up to temperature.

Serve with long grain rice and flat bread.

After sauteeing spinach, press all of the liquid out before continuing to add it to a dish.
To clarify butter, melt it and pour through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve.
You can substitute mozzarella, especially fresh mozzarella (rinsed) for panner; you can also substitute tofu.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Matzo Ball & Chicken Soup

What are matzo balls? They are a kind of dumpling made from a holiday cracker called matzo. Matzo is eaten during the Passover holiday to symbolize the haste with which the Isrealites were compelled to flee Egypt (they did not even have time for their bread to rise). During the week long Passover holiday, out of respect for our harried ancestors, we are forbidden to eat all foods which are leavened. Matzo becomes fairly important to a lot of dishes during that week. It is scrambled with eggs and served with jam (called Matzo Brei); it is used as a binder in holiday casseroles (such as savory kugels--a dense casserole resembling a kind of pudding); a very popular use for it is as a dumpling in chicken soup. These dumplings are so popular the dish is named for them: matzo ball soup. Matzo balls can be large or enormous, light and soft or dense and chewy. They are made according to the cook's preference. My ideal matzo ball is on the small side, light and soft with just a little bit of bite.

I may seem like a lot of work for one pot of soup, but this chicken soup is flavorful and immensely satisfying (especially as we start to catch change of the season colds). If anyone in our house has the sniffles I leave the skin on the chicken. This is because of a homeopathic belief that chicken fat has natural antibiotics.

Matzo Ball & Chicken Soup

Makes 16 servings


32 ounces organic chicken stock
1 whole (~5 lbs) chicken, broken down
16 ounces mirepoix
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. In a stockpot over medium heat, add olive oil. Add mirepoix, thyme, a pinch of salt and pepper and the bayleaf. Saute until mirepoix has softened and become fragrant (approx 5 minutes).
2. Rinse chicken pieces under cold water and add to stock pot. Add stock, then water to cover.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 20 - 25 minutes, or until chicken breasts are cooked through. Remove chicken breasts and when they are cool enough to handle, remove meat and return bones to the stock pot. Simmer dark meat for another 20 minutes, then remove, pull from bones and return bones to the pot.
4. Cook on the lowest setting for an additional 40 - 60 minutes, skimming the fat off of the surface occasionally.
5. When needed, strain broth and bring to a boil to cook the matzo balls (see below).

Matzoh balls:

4 jumbo eggs
1 1/2 cups matzoh meal
1/4 cup neutral oil*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 ounces carbonated water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Whisk together egg and oil (or schmaltz). Mix in matzoh meal, salt, baking powder and soda water.
2. Set in fridge for 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, strain 8 cups of soup into a pot with a tightly fitted lid. Bring to a boil.
4. Form balls approximately 1" diameter.
5. Place balls in boiling soup. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Cook the balls in two batches to give them enough room to expand.

Serve dumplings in broth with chicken meat.

*Substitute schmaltz if you should have some in your pantry

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Parmesan Pepper Roasted Cauliflower (Cacio e Pepe)

Before I apologize for mis-using the term cacio e pepe (an amazing simple pasta preparation with parmesan and black pepper) I have quite a bit of news to announce! It is well into the new year now and I want to share with you what will be upcoming for The Joyous Kitchen. First, the bad news: I’ll be updating with less frequency for a while, probably the better part of the year. However, that is because I will be working hard on two new cookbooks for you to put on your kitchen shelves! That’s right--two cookbooks! Hopefully you’re as excited about my upcoming barbeque cookbook and my upcoming baby food cookbook as I am. I’ll be updating with news on the books from time to time, as well as continuing to share recipes here.

Ok, on to the apology: I am sorry to use the name for my dish of a gorgeous cooking alchemical event whereby the heat from cooked pasta infuses into it the flavors of cheese and spicy sweet black pepper and the starchy cooking water forms a luscious sauce over all. Seriously, if you’ve never tried cacio e pepe pasta, you should. It is difficult to believe that something with three ingredients can be so deliciously sophisticated.

Why have I used the name of this preparation so liberally? Because it struck me just the other day what a sexy combination parmesan and pepper is for roasted cauliflower. Although cauliflower doesn’t exude enough moisture to form a sauce and isn’t porous enough to absorb the flavors in the same way, I still think the combination is good enough that it can borrow the name.

Cacio e Pepe Roasted Cauliflower

Serves 4

One head cauliflower, cleaned and trimmed into florets
1 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 ounce Parmesan cheese
Generous pinch pepper
Salt, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Toss cauliflower in olive oil to coat. Season with salt and liberally with freshly ground pepper.
2. Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment. Lay cauliflower florets in a single layer.
3. Bake for 20 - 35 minutes, or until the cauliflower is cooked through.
4. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. When the florets are cool enough to handle grate cheese over them and toss to coat.

Serve warm.

Monday, January 9, 2017

3 Step Chicken Cacciatore

Happy new year, everyone! I’m posting today to help everyone with their new year’s resolutions--at least the diet related ones. Diet food can be a drag. Bland, or uninspiring, sometimes even downright unsatisfying. Chicken Cacciatore is none of those things! It is a hearty, satisfying peasant dish. More of a concept, really; endlessly customizable, the word Cacciatore simply means “catch.” So it was a stew or a roast made from not only the hunter’s spoils, but also the vegetables one had laying around one’s pantry. That being said, in America Cacciatore (which almost always features chicken) is thought of as something of a specific dish. There are always bell peppers of some kind, and usually tinned tomatoes, mushrooms and/or olives.

Since I've been obsessed with my calorie counting app (especially since the new year) and since you can input your own recipes, I know exactly how many calories this hearty stew is per serving: 337. An excellent number, considering how filling it is.

As i mentioned above, this is a dish that is highly customizable. As such, this recipe is just a jumping off point. Make this dish however you want it to be, however your family likes it. I hope you enjoy my version of it, but don’t be afraid to experiment.

I've made this stew in both my dutch oven and my crockpot. I've used a Dutch oven in this recipe because I find more people have a dutch oven than a crock pot. To cook it in a crock pot simply transfer the sauteed veggies to the bottom of the crock pot between steps 2 & 3. Cook in the crock pot for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low.

Chicken Cacciatore

Serves 8

3 - 3.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 (28 oz) can chopped tomatoes
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup olives
2 medium green peppers, cut into strips
2 medium orange peppers, cut into strips
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. In a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat, saute onions, and peppers in olive oil until they begin to soften.
2. Add garlic, oregano and basil and cook for an additional minute.
3. Add chicken, tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf and olives. Season with salt and pepper. Bring stew to a gentle boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 90 minutes.

Serve over pasta (we've tried rigatoni and gemelli, with the latter bring our favorite).