Archive for January, 2011

Season for the Succotash

Got the love the succotash. My recipe qualifies as simple because it only has 2 steps: combine and heat. I read that the Succotash was most popular during the Depression where it blossomed into popularity because of the cheap use of its ingredients–beans and spices; this was served with whatever meat was available. I served my Succotash with spice-rubbed ribeyes (god bless steak) πŸ˜‰

This American dish is simple, easy, and tasty and you can use almost any leftover ingredients you have lying around to contribute to the dish, anything like broth, spices, onion, alcohol, nuts, vinaigrette, mustard; there’s plenty of room for some creativity, so I wouldn’t hold yourself back.

I used what leftover ingredients I had lying around, which were dried Fenugreek leaves, Tecante beer, and poppy seeds (ha!) Like most succotash recipes, you just warm the beans and reduce everything up until you’re ready to eat πŸ™‚


Cannellini, Black-Eyed Pea, & Garbanzo Bean Succotash w/Beer & Dried Fenugreek


1 can Cannellini beans, drained

1 can chickpeas, drained

1 can black-eyed peas, drained

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup beer

4 Tbs. dried Fenugreek leaves

3 Tbs. rice vinegar (or white vinegar)

Sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook on medium high until bubbling and liquids reduce, about 10 minutes; serve warm with meat entree.

Serves 4

So this succotash proved as satisfying as any other side dish like rice or pasta, except with double the protein. I prefer to use recipes that have versatility and include some of the good things in life, like broth and beer πŸ™‚ According to Wikipedia, the phrase ‘sufferin’ succotash!‘ was coined during this same era as a euphemism of ‘suffering sailor’ and that’s how most Americans know the word Succotash, not because they’ve actually had some πŸ˜‰Β  Well, I think we should change the tide of this trend starting with the new slogan: succotash, it’s what’s for dinner.

My question: does anyone have a favorite bean they like to cook? (Mine would have to be fava beansahhh…)



Grain Goodness

It sounds like an advertisement, Grain Goodness. My mother always laughs when telling the story about how when she asked me what the 1 thing I would change about my childhood was, I replied that we would have had white bread. Now, by white bread, I mean NOT multigrain bread because, frankly, it’s terrible tasting, and there’s really no saving bread that is browner than dirt, I mean no thank you πŸ™‚

Unfortunately for me, I need to eat grains, just like all humans in order to maintain what the FDA terms a ‘nutritious diet’. So, grains equal goodness because of all the fiber, protein and other good stuff–or, as we say goodness. I do like grains however, with the right flavors of course (and loads of them). One of my favorite ways to eat grain is in cold salads, full of herbs and vinegar πŸ˜‰

I’m including this recipe as the last of my Hawaii posts 😦 Trust me, it’s best I not go on and on, it makes my separation from the pretty island more tolerable. While we were there, I ate this salad for breakfast several days in a row, keeping it cold at the back of the fridge.

The original recipe I got from last month’s Cooking Light; they used Quinoa and I used Farro, out of necessity. Farro is a grain that was found in the tombs of ancient Egyptians, just some snacks for the afterlife πŸ˜‰ This recipe includes some of the Hawaiian produce in light of the season πŸ™‚ I thought, overall, it a was lovely example of how tasty grains can be.

Golden Beet, Blood Orange, & Cherry Tomato Farro Salad


(for salad)

1 bunch green onions, chopped

4 golden beets, cooked & chopped

4 blood oranges, peeled & chopped

1 container cherry tomatoes, halved

1 Avocado, peeled & sliced

4 cups uncooked Farro (or wheat substitute)

(for dressing)

2 Tbs. paprika

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbs. lemon rind

1/3 cup fresh Cilantro, minced

1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

2 Tbs. white wine

2 Tbs. lime juice

2 Tbs. orange juice (or fruit substitute)

2 Ts. ground Coriander

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 Ts. ground Cumin

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl until well blended; refrigerate until ready. (2) Prepare the Farro according to package instructions (usually about 25 minutes in double the amount of boiling water until chewy and cooked throughout); drain and set aside until cooled, about 10 minutes. (3) Add all of the fresh ingredients into the Farro and mix well; cover and refrigerate for about 3o minutes. (4) When ready, take out the Farro and toss with the vinaigrette before serving. Leftovers can be kept for 1 week in the fridge πŸ™‚

Serves 6

The perfect Hawaiian breakfast, at least for me πŸ˜‰ I am happy that the smooth taste of starch requires creative utilization of ingredients like these, and just when I thought fruit couldn’t get better!

My question, what is your favorite grain to cook? (…barley, basmati, couscous?)


Chickpeas were made for Hummus

So, in this entry I deviate from cuisine of the tropics back to a dose of reality in Colorado which is basically me, craving protein, still working with a limited budget, and finding nothing in the cupboard but a pile of tortillas. What to do? Why, make hummus of course!

I have decided to post this recipe after some discussion today with Jill, a close friend of mine and killer cook herself πŸ™‚

We all can agree on the delicious simplicity of hummus, as well as the room there exists within these parameters for some creativity; I mean after all, it is only a thick paste of protein, so why not experiment a little? What’s the worst that could happen…more flavorful hummus?

I only say chickpeas are made for hummus simply because their texture, flavor (and did I mention price?) all support this easy conclusion. I have made countless concoctions of hummus from leftover ingredients and spices I have but I post this particular hummus recipe with pride because I feel it is uniquely special…oh yes, and tasty.


Petit Pea Hummus with Preserved Lemons, Green Onions, & fresh Basil


2 cans chickpeas, drained

1 bag frozen petit peas, thawed

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1 bunch fresh Basil, chopped

1 preserved lemon, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 Tbs. red wine vinegar

3 Tbs. lemon juice

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 Ts. ground Cumin

1 Tbs. paprika

1 Ts. cayenne pepper

Sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Mash the chickpeas coarsely with a fork. Combine the chickpeas along with the next eight ingredients (through vinegar) together in a blender and mix well; puree the entire mixture until smooth and well blended throughout, adding extra vinegar if moisture is needed. (2) Add the remaining ingredients (lemon juice – cayenne) into the mixture and stir well at the end; season with salt & pepper to taste, adding extra olive if needed. (3) Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before eating; serve with warm tortilla or crackers (great for a midnight snack…)

Serves 4-5

So, this may be a short entry, but I got to love that at 2:00 AM. Before I make this massive move across the Atlantic, I still plan on kicking out a few good meals and I hope to further tantalize my readers (any of my readers, really) with some more tasty recipes I plan on making in the near future. Like I’ve been telling my boyfriend, I’m always hungry πŸ™‚

My question: What was the best hummus you ever had? (Silly question, right? No, because we’ve all had some first-class hummus, sometime, somewhere πŸ˜‰


To continue on my musings from Hawaii, I have posted a recipe I made for fish tacos (!) This recipe I based off a version from Cooking Light (an awesome magazine) and includes a version of my own fresh salsa. It seems you cannot go wrong when using multitudes of fresh ingredients πŸ™‚

And why, you ask, are fish tacos bomb? I think it’s all due to the perfect setup–spicy salsa, some crema, fresh fish, and warm tortillas. I made a salsa for this recipe using some of the fresher ingredients I found in the store including honedew melon, heirloom tomatoes, and cilantro. We baked the fish in an aromaticly spicy rub until it was just tender enough to flake into pieces.

The fish you use in tacos is important. Any fresh fish will do, and you can come up with some interesting combinations depending on your seasonal sea-faring selection. My mother and I purchased a fat cut of a Hawaiian fish called Ono from the local market; the meat was freshreshingly light and tasty! I got a picture of the fish alive, just for a visual of the slippery (and delicious) creature πŸ˜‰

Cumin-Coriander Crusted Fish Tacos with Lime, Melon Red Onion Salsa & Cilantro Garlic Crema


(for the crema)

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

2 Tbs. fresh Cilantro, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt

2 Tbs. crumbled feta cheese

1 Tbs. lime juice

(for the salsa)

2 cups honeydew melon, cubed

1 1/2 cups red onion, chopped

1 Tbs. fresh cilantro, chopped

3 cups tomatoes, chopped

2 Tbs. lime juice

1 Tbs. white vinegar

1 Tbs. garlic powder

(for the rub)

1 Ts. ground Cumin

1 Ts. ground Coriander

1 Ts. paprika

1/4 Ts. cayenne pepper

Sea salt & cracked pepper, to taste

1 1/2 lbs. fresh fish filet

olive oil

small Flour tortillas

(1) Combine all the ingredients for the crema (ingredients 1-7) in a bowl and mix until well blended; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (2) Combine all of the ingredients for the salsa (8-14) in a blender and pulse until salsa is coarsely pureed; refrigerate until ready. (3) Preheat the grill on medium. Combine all the spices for the rub (15-19) in a small bowl and spread evenly over both sides of the fish fillet. When the grill is at 400 degrees, coat with cooking spray and grill the fish, turning once until cooked through (10-15 minutes). (4) Flake the fish with a fork until it is torn into small pieces and toss well with salt & pepper in a bowl. (5) Arrange all ingredients needed to make tacos; set out the crema, salsa, and grilled fish with serving spoons along with a pile of heated tortillas. Tacos can be assembled before being brought to the table. Enjoy with a few extra napkins, lime wedges, and cold beer πŸ™‚

Serves 4-6

So, although they proved a bit messy, fish tacos are definitely a meal worth grilling πŸ™‚ the combinations of fresh and spicy ingredients lend unique flavors to this lively dish and its my memory of the clean, zesty taste of these tacos that has kept me craving more of this white-fleshed fish from the sea…

My question for anyone today, what would the best fresh fish to use in fish tacos?



Everything delicious is grown in Hawaii

Well, I am finally back from my long (and wonderfully sunny) vacation in Hawaii! It was amazing, the weather, the ocean, and especially the food–all food they make on that warm little island. Seriously, I’m not joking when I say they grow/make EVERYTHING delicious in Hawaii, because it’s true and trust me, I tested it πŸ™‚

Papaya and avocado orchards, Macadamia nut and coffee farms, they are all over the island and their fruits and vegetables are all just so pleasantly juicy, ripe, and truly too tasty to resist. Do I wonder why? Well, I’m guessing it’s all the sun and warm, humid air…I know it sure made me look better than I normally do πŸ˜‰

Now…I could allow myself to get completely carried away here in talking about all the delicious food there, but I will refrain since my subsequent postings should hopefully do an adequate job of relishing on some of these more delicious delights πŸ™‚ Alas, since my internet connection was so intermittent on that island, I was unable to post any of our meals, but I did take notes and so I shall try to recreate some of the dishes. Ingredients like these are widely available in grocery stores nowadays and my own revelries in this cuisine have proven to be definitely worth the effort…if not to delve into the tropically unique cooking styles of the Hawaiians.

This recipe was actually my favorite meal during the entire trip, especially since I got to grill it for my dad. We got a mixed coffee rub from a Coffee farm called Kona Joe and the beef was grass-fed and born, raised, (and butchered) on the island. Mmmm, got to love a good filet :~)

Coffee Paprika-rubbed Filet Mignon with Grilled Anaheim Peppers & Maui Onions


(for the rub)

1 Tbs. ground coffee beans

1 Tbs. paprika

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Ts. sea salt

1 Ts. cayenne pepper

1 Tbs. dried Basil

1 Tbs. onion flakes

1 Ts. brown sugar

2 (2-4 oz) Filet Mignon steaks

(for the veggies)

3 Maui onions

4 Anaheim peppers

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Combine the first 8 ingredients for the rub and mix well. Wash and dry the steaks and place them in a Tupperware, covering every available inch of the steaks with the coffee rub. Seal the Tupperware and refrigerate until ready to grill. This can sit at room temperature up to 30 minutes before grilling if you want to allow the meat some time to fully absorb the flavors. (2) Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Wash and seed the peppers and slice the onions into thick slices; toss the veggies lightly in olive oil and season with sea salt & pepper. (3) When the grill is ready (at around 400 degrees), throw the veggies on and let them grill for about 10 minutes, turning every couple of minutes. (4) With the grill still on medium-high heat, use a brush or folded paper towel to brush the grill with olive oil before throwing on the steaks. Let them cook until medium rare (or whatever preference you have in mind), turning once, for about 4-6 minutes. Serve the steaks with the grilled vegetables on the side and with any choice of salad πŸ™‚ Enjoy!

Serves 2

All in all, I think steak rubs are a marvelous invention and leave a lot or room for maximizing on quality ingredients such as coffee and spices. Not enough green? Just crack open an avocado and have it on the side, it’s just the perfect buttery smooth veggie to accompany the sharp taste of the char-broiled steaks. And in my own, humble opinion, most things are better served medium rare, or just enough to keep it juicy πŸ˜‰ Then again, I’m just happy we were able to get the grill working in the first place!

So, the question I have for anyone out there tonight:

How do you like your steak cooked? Is there a medium-rare preference? I wonder… πŸ™‚



Mmmm…Shepherd’s Pie

As it gets colder (and colder…) I get the craving for comfort food. Not to be harsh, but I think Shepherd’s Pie is about as awesome as British cuisine gets, I mean, at least it’s not boiled meat or butter & toast πŸ˜‰ I decided to make a healthier (if only slightly) version of what’s known most formerly as English Cottage Pie; these two are the same thing really, a meat & vegetable pie with mashed potato crust, delicious right?! For help with this, I turned to cooking light, although always with my usual modifications πŸ˜‰


Turkey Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie


2 cups chopped onion, chopped

1 cup carrot, peeled & chopped

1 cup parsnip, peeled & chopped

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

2 lbs. ground Turkey

2 cans beef broth

1 can tomato paste

bunch fresh Parsley, minced

2 Tbs. dried Thyme

4 cups mashed potatoes

1 cup cheddar, grated

2 Tbs. butter, softened

2 Tbs. flour


salt & pepper

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the butter and flour in a small bowl & mix well; set aside. (2) Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with 1 Tbs. olive oil; add onion, parsnip, and carrot & cook until just tender, about 7-8 minutes. (2) Add mushrooms and cook 6-7 minutes until browned; remove vegetables from skillet, cover & set aside. (3) Add turkey to pan and cook until browned, using spoon to crumble the meat, for about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook 4 minutes; stir in the beef broth, salt & pepper! (4) Return the cooked vegetables to the pan and bring the entire mixture to a simmer. Stir in parsley, Thyme, & some more salt (why not?) (5) Add the flour mixture to the skillet and cook everything for about 2 minutes more until melted and well blended throughout. (6) Pour the mixture into a large oven-safe glassware dish and spread evenly; combine the mashed potatoes and 1/2 the cheese, mixing well before spreading atop the meat mixture. (7) Sprinkle the remaining cheese across the top and cover with paprika. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the crust has bubbled & slightly browned. Enjoy at leisure πŸ™‚

Serves 6

Well…alas I must say goodbye to comfort food soon as I’m off to Hawaii tomorrow (!) I do hope all this pie will serve my boyfriend well, if not fill him up a bit πŸ™‚ Ahh, full at last.

But hey, does anyone have a favorite British dish they like to cook? Like something edible? πŸ˜‰


Dinner with Friends

Yesterday evening I was given the pleasure of cooking in a much more spacious and well-equipped kitchen than my own; this event was organized by myself and my good friend Kim, whose good taste and refined cooking skills made me feel all the confidence in the world to make a meal alongside her :~)

The recipes I have included in today’s post consist of the dinner the 2 of us made and served last night. I am particularly proud of the Quinoa side dish, which I actually dreamt up in my sleep two nights before πŸ˜‰ But what can I say? It looked so tasty in the dream, I thought I’d obey the cravings of my subconscious.

As for the stuffed chicken recipe, I highly recommend it to everyone as it is very worth all the preparation and work πŸ˜‰ But what would any meal be without the sauce? This white wine sauce is a version I came up with after looking over some of the variations in existence. My recommendations: Add double the wine (hey, it’s wine sauce), double the cracked pepper, and double the herbs. Why not? When the time of dinnertime pressure arrived, all I had to do was mix up some flour and water and stir it into the sauce boiling on the stove and it thickened it up in minutes. Ah, if only everything was this easy!

Overall, I am very happy to have made another dish that involved my most favorite of all foodsprosciutto. God bless Prosciutto and god bless Kim and Val for letting me trash their kitchen. Let’s do it again some time!

What follows is the Menu for Dinner at Kim’s:

Prosciutto & Fontina Stuffed Chicken Breasts with White Wine Mushroom Sauce

Ingredients (for chicken breasts)

6-7 oz Fontina cheese, shredded

1/4 lb. sliced Prosciutto

1 bunch fresh Thyme, chopped

cooking twine

4-5 (6 0z) chicken breasts

(for white wine sauce)

1 1/2 cups white wine (dry, like a Pinot)

1 can chicken broth

5 Tbs. butter

1/4 cup Shallots, minced

1 lb. mushrooms, chopped (any kind)

1/4 cup fresh Parsley, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 Tbs. all-purpose flour

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Combine all of the shredded cheese, Thyme, and prosciutto in a bowl, making sure to cut the prosciutto into smaller pieces so the mixture blends well. (2) Wash and trim the chicken breasts and, using a paring knife, cut a horizontal slit through the thickest part of the breasts and widen the pocket with your fingers, being careful not to cut or tear the pocket all the way through. (3) Stuff the pocket with as much of the cheese & prosciutto mixture as it will fit and press tightly to seal it closed; using a couple of pieces of cooking twine cut into 5-inch strings, tie the chicken breasts tightly enough to ensure the pocket remains sealed during cooking. (4) In a medium saucepan, cook the shallots and garlic over medium heat until soft and fragrant, 2-4 minutes; add the chicken broth, wine, & mushrooms, and allow the mixture to cook until mushrooms have softened, about 6-8 minutes. (5) Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high; cook the chicken breasts in the skillet, turning every so often until all sides are browned and the chicken is cooked through, 12-15 minutes. (6) In a small bowl, mix the flour and 1/2 cup warm water with a fork until well blended and stir into the sauce. Add the fresh Parsley, butter and any extra wine if needed and let the sauce cook until thickened, 3-5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. (7) Cut and remove all the cooking twine from the cooked chicken breasts. Serve chicken covered with the white wine sauce, garnishing with parsley πŸ™‚

SautΓ©ed Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Shallots


1 lb. brussels sproutsΒ Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β Β  and…

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 1/2 cups shallots, coarsely chopped

3 Tbs. sugar

4 Tbs. red wine vinegar

5 Tbs. butter

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In an oven-proof skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat until melted and add the chopped shallots. Let the mixture cook until the shallots brown, about 10 minutes. (2) Add the vinegar and some salt & pepper and put the entire skillet on the top rack of the oven and let cook until the vinegar is reduced and the shallots are caramelized and semi-crunchy, 10 minutes. Remove skillet from the oven, cover and keep warm on the stove until ready to use. (3) Wash and dry the Brussels sprouts, cutting off the ends before cutting each brussels sprout in half. When ready, reheat the skillet over medium heat and add the Brussels sprouts and olive oil, stirring until the caramelized shallots are mixed evenly and cooking the entire mixture until the veggies are soft, 6-8 minutes. (4) Season with salt & pepper and serve immediately.

Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Pine Nuts, Currants, & fresh Parsley


4 heads of garlic

16 0z uncooked Quinoa

1 package pine nuts

1 cup dried Currants

1 bunch fresh Parsley, chopped

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a serrated knife, cut the tops off the heads of garlic and wrap each one individually in foil, sprinkling with olive oil, salt, & pepper before enclosing tightly. Bake all of the heads of garlic in the oven until the cloves are golden and the garlic is tender when squeezed, about 1 hour (this you should be able to smell). Remove from the foil and let the garlic cool. (2) Cook the Quinoa according to package instructions (usually, 1 1/3 cup of water for every 1 cup quinoa); this should take 12-14 minutes depending. After the grains have absorbed all the water, cover and remove the quinoa from heat. (3) When the garlic has cooled enough, gently squeeze all the roasted cloves out and separate all the garlic cloves from the skins, coarsely chopping. Lick your fingers afterwards }:) (4) Add the dried currants, pine nuts, fresh Parsley, and chopped roasted garlic to the cooked quinoa, stirring until well blended. Reheat mixture over low on the stove if needed and serve warm garnished with parsley, salt, and pepper.

Serves 4

Well…I hope this is not too lengthy of an explanation, but this is all we had for dinner! I just love cooking with friends, definitely could not have done it without help πŸ™‚ and they were nice enough to send the leftovers home with me so, guess what’s for dinner tonight!?


The Mother of all Marinades

Lately, I’ve been craving a good cut of red meat (yes, beef) but my recent trip to the grocery store confused me enough that I went with a cheap cut and found myself a bit skeptical to just throw it on the grill. Luckily for me, my grandfather gave me a colorful book on South African cooking with an entire section on–marinades! After looking through several of the versions, I decided to come up with a marinade of my own (a sensible combination of all the recipes I looked at πŸ˜‰

I know what you’re thinking, what do marinades matter? I think they do matter, at least if your dinner meat selection is lacking. I mean, just think about what marinades do–make meat more tender, juicy, and full of flavor and who doesn’t want more of that? Luckily for us, you can’t overdo it with marinating (at least I haven’t had an experience) so it’s a pretty great way to experiment with different ingredients.

I have included my own the recipe for the marinade I used to juicify the steak πŸ™‚ and yeah, jucify is a word, I just made it up!Β  This recipe is pretty simple and easy and it yields amazingly tasty results (I have tested this myself, many, many times).Β  Remember, the meat only needs to marinade an hour or so before it’s ready (or overnight if you’re fearless like me πŸ˜‰

Enjoy meat-lovers! And please share your favorite marinades with me, as I’d love some fresh ideas…

Spicy & Savory Steak Marinade


2 Tbs. soy sauce

2 Tbs. lemon or lime juice

2 Tbs. grated fresh ginger (or 1 Tbs. ground ginger)

2 Tbs. Curry Powder (any kind)

1 Ts. ground cloves and/or 1 Ts. ground cardamom

3-4 Tbs. minced fresh Parsley (or 2 Tbs. dried)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbs. Turmeric or 1 Tbs. ground Cumin (or both πŸ™‚

3 Tbs. sugar

1 cup beer or white wine (add more if needed…)

1-2 Tbs. grated orange rind

1 Tbs. mustard

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 1/2 cups cold water

2 beef Steaks (any cut worth marinating πŸ˜‰

(1) Combine ALL the ingredients (minus the steak) in a gallon size Ziploc bag and stir with fork until everything is combined (2) Rinse and pat dry the steak, trim any excess fat and place both steaks in the Ziploc bag with the marinade, sealing tightly. Let the meat marinade for 1 hour (at room temperature) or 2+ hours (in the fridge), turning every so often. (3) When ready, discard the marinade and cook the steaks as desired on the grill.

So, after all is said and done, hooray for marinades (and more so, tender meat)! I just love steak, but did I say that already?

Hey! Does anyone have a secret ingredient they use in their marinades? If so, do tell-your secret is safe with me!

I think I’m hungry again, and I want more steak


Sandwiches, on the Grill!

I know it may sound a bit silly, but to those of us who don’t have a sleek and very effective panini press (which I’m sure is really cool)–you can still replicate these effects on the grill to get perfectly tasty paninis. I will warn you, it can (and probably will) be messy, especially if you’re using a lot of cheese like me. But having a surplus of cheese myself this week I set out to make a vegetable deli dinner-type sandwich, so I based my methods off a recipe I saw in Fine Cooking about 4 months ago.

My version has been modified to make it a lot simpler, but I really think when it comes to making a sandwich, the more ingredients the better and any number of combinations make for impressive (and filling) meals. I don’t know, I just love really hot food, especially when it oozes cheese after being taken off the grill πŸ™‚

And by the way, Heirloom tomatoes are the BEST for sandwiches, especially when served warm; my favorites are yellow heirloom tomatoes which are available most of the year and are among the more affordable kinds. I added pesto to this recipe, but I add pesto to everything, especially if it involves bread (but any good sandwich needs a spread and, luckily, we still have a lot of choices). As for the cheese in my sandwich, I like to mix it up with different kinds so in this case I used fat pieces of fresh Mozarella as well as slices of Fontina cheese but honestly, you cannot go wrong with cheese, so any kind would do. It’s always more fun to experiment πŸ˜‰

Grilled Cheese, Pastrami, & Spinach Sandwiches


8 slices fresh country bread (or any thick sandwhich bread)

3 cups fresh Spinach leaves, stalks removed

6 oz. sliced Mozzarella (or other light cheese)

1/2 lb. deli pastrami, thinly sliced

2-3 large heirloom tomatoes, thickly sliced

pesto (or lite mayo, mustard)

olive oil, as needed

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Preheat the grill over medium high heat. (2) Butter the pieces of bread with your choice of spread, in this case pesto (but any other reasonable substitute will work); arrange spinach leaves on each side of the bread and top with layers of Pastrami, tomato slices, and cheese. (3) Brush the outsides of the bread lightly with olive oil and take sandwiches out to the grill. (4) Use a grill pan and cook the sandwiches over the grill until the cheese melts and the spinach just w ilts, about 6-8 minutes total, turning the sandwhiches once to brown both sides of the bread. Make sure to place a skillet or heavy pan on top of the sandwiches to press them while grilling. (5) After removing them from the grill, cut each sandwich in half and serve πŸ™‚

Serves 4

So that was my experiment with grilling sandwiches and I’m happy to say I found it to be exhilarating, if not uniquely tasty!

History has proven to me that every recipe involves a different cooking time (and always different from the instructions) be it on the stove, in the oven, or on the grill; and with all these random appliances (of which none seem to work fully), it takes a bit of estimation and some enthusiasm to determine how long everything should remain over the burners. But seriously, I encourage everyone to go with their instincts on the matter and cook food until you think its done. That’s the trick to cooking right perhaps, languid and tolerant bliss…

What is your favorite sandwich? Anyone?

I think mine would have to be one of the first recipes I posted on this endless (and my Dad says verbose) blog of mine: Watercress and Peppered Egg Salad Sandwiches (or something like that). I think it’s my British ancestry that makes me so impartial to these tasty treats and when accompanied with a hot cup of tea, it definitely induces bliss πŸ™‚



Entertaining Risotto

I cannot accurately describe my aversion to attempting risotto in my own kitchen, but I can say it owes a lot to the fact that it burns easily and cooks slowly and since I have such a talent for overcooking rice 😦  I generally avoid it. However, yesterday found myself staying the night with my mom up in the family house in the mountains. Luckily for me the kitchen is well-equipped so I felt sufficiently brave enough to try making my own risotto.

I picked a recipe from the latest issue of Food & Wine, and it was an unusual mix (if I might say so myself) of ingredients. While my results pleased my culinary tastes, it did happen to disappoint my younger brother, couldn’t quite establish why, but he doesn’t like anything anyway. Their version of this dish was a bit complicated and a tad bit inaccurate for our altitude so I adjusted this recipe to reflect cooking at high altitude (above 4,000 ft). I renamed it too, because it really ought to be more descriptive πŸ˜‰ I hope it serves as an interesting example–if not an intricate one–of the many variations you can create with simple risotto dishes like this one.

White Wine Risotto with Coffee Reduction & Capers


3 Tbs. capers, chopped

1 cup brewed coffee

8 cups chicken broth

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 3/4 cups Arborio rice

1 cup dry white wine (like Pinot Grigio)

2 Tbs. butter, softened

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Put the chicken broth in a glass bowl and microwave it 2-3 minutes or until hot. Cover and keep warm until needed. (2) Next, in a large saucepan heat the olive oil and cook the minced garlic and onion until it is tender, 5-6 minutes.

(3) Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the coffee over medium-high heat until it is reduced to about 5 Tbs; this should take about 10-15 minutes depending, stir occasionally.

(4) Add the rice to the large saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice turns translucent through and through and begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, about 3-4 minutes (add more garlic, if lacking πŸ™‚ (4) Add 1/2 cup of the white wine and simmer for 2 minutes.

(5) Every five minutes, add 1 cup of the warmed chicken broth, stirring constantly until it is all absorbed; keep doing this until all of the chicken broth is used. Remember, this may take some time (up to 1 hour, sadly no joke) and it will require patience as well as constant stirring, but eventually, all will be absorbed until the rice is just al dente (sticky as opposed to crunchy between the teeth) and almost ready.

(6) Remove the pot from heat; add the remaining wine, softened butter, chopped capers, Parmesan cheese, and all of the coffee reduction, stirring thoroughly. Season with salt & pepper as needed and serve immediately; garnish with grated Parmesan and cracked pepper. Enjoy!

So that was my experience with risotto! Thank god my mother was there to guide me through this experience, I certainly had a wonderful time cooking with her πŸ™‚ and cannot wait for our next challenge!

I love you, mom

I was wondering, does anyone have any risotto horror stories? I know I came close to ruining the dish several times…