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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Green Noodles

No, it's not green eggs and ham. This is perhaps even better. Te story goes that yesrs ago (more than fifty), my brother was courting the woman who became his first wife. She had promised to cook him dinner but had no money for groceries, so she used what she had on hand, melting butter in the skillet, adding cooked spaghetti and lots of lemon juice. Over the years, I “improved” on the idea.

First, I substituted spinach fettucine for the spaghetti. Then I added scallions and mushrooms. Next inspiration was to add chopped artichoke hearts. Finally, when I had lots of basil, made my own pesto, and froze it in an ice cube tray, I began to add a cube of pesto. I always topped the whole thing with freshly grated Parmesan although these days I prefer Pecorino.

I frequently served this to my children as they were growing up. It was a family favorite that they called “green noodles.” Megan, always weight conscious, used to complain I used too much butter, but I like it that way.

The beauty of it is that it’s still good without any one of my additions, if you have butter and lemon. I often make a single serving for myself.

Green noodles

1 16-0z. pkg. spinach egg noodles or fettucine

1 stick butter

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I always buy whole and slice them myself)

4 scallions, chopped

1 can quartered artichoke hearts, chopped

1 ice-cube of pesto, thawed (about a generous Tbsp)

Juice of one lemon

Grated fresh Parmesan or Pecorino

Cook and drain noodles. Melt butter in the skillet. Sauté the mushrooms and scallions in the butter. Add lemon juice to taste—I like lots; the mushrooms soak up the lemon and are delicious. Add artichoke and pesto and stir to incorporate. Add noodles and toss to coat. Top with cheese

Jamie’s wife, Melanie, did a slightly different version for her daughters, Maddie and Edie, both of whom at a very young age loved sour things like pickles and capers. Mel cooked angel hair pasta and buttered it liberally; then she added lemon juice and capers. I watched in amazement as she dumped in capers out of the jar, not bothering to drain them (as I always do, with some difficulty). “Oh, yeah,” she said, “the juice adds a really good taste.” I tried it, and she’s right.

Makes a good and quick meatless meal.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The everyday sandwich

Sandwiches seem to be all over the internet food sites these days. I first noticed this trend with an article on peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. It seems you either love them or despise them, with most people falling into the latter camp. This struck home to me because I’ve eaten those sandwiches all my life. My mother fixed them for me, and now my oldest son eats them while the rest of the family scoffs. We like to put some lettuce in the sandwich for a bit of crispness—and, you know, eat your greens every day.

It seems the sandwich, once as revered as peanut butter and jelly, was a staple in the South during the Depression, when rib-sticking food was hard to get. I’m not sure how my mom, who spent almost her entire life in Illinois, came by this southern tradition, but it was a staple in our house.

In other parts of the country, people experiment with additions—you can put pickle on the sandwich, or bacon, or cheese. But always that thick layer of mayo. I have been known to try a combination of peanut butter, mayo, cheddar, and bacon—in some regions that’s called an Elvis sandwich (or how much cholesterol do you want in one bite?). Today I’ve heard of people putting Siracha sauce on peanut butter sandwiches. I’m not a fan of that hot sauce, though I have a friend who puts it on almost every and anything, especially pimiento cheese.

Grilled cheese is another staple that’s in for revision these days. Many of us grew up on tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. To me, they present a dilemma—I never get them quite right. They’re either undercooked—the cheese still firm, the crust on the bread pale and limp—or they’re burnt. One grandson refuses my grilled cheese because they’re always burnt.

Now I’ve seen suggestions for modernizing that standby. I’ve tried adding pickle and bacon before cooking. That makes one huge and hearty sandwich! But it’s difficult to keep all the parts in place as you flip it, unless you let the cheese get gooey enough to hold everything before flipping it. I think I like the idea of adding just pickle better, and I have always liked tomatoes in a grilled cheese.

How about grilled pimiento cheese with tomato? Or grilled cheese with pesto? The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Then there’s the question of bread—traditionally these sandwiches have been made with white bread, what I call “cotton candy bread” because it sticks to your teeth and the roof of your mouth. I prefer a bread with more substance—a light wheat or a rye. And a modern technique I’ve begun trying—use mayo rather than butter on the outside of the sandwich to fry it.

My mom used to have a kitchen gadget that made round grilled cheese sandwiches. It was two round pieces of metal, attached at one end and each with a long handle. You made your sandwich the same way, fit it into the mold, clamped the mold shut, and trimmed off the outside bits of bread. We “grilled” by holding over a burner. The process sealed the sandwich shut all around—no leaks. You could use it for all other kinds of things—I remember banana sandwiches, I think, and egg. Sound familiar to anyone? I’ve looked online but don’t know what to call it to do a thorough search.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Chicken lettuce wraps

On Wednesdays, Sam Sifton’s column in the New York Times usually includes a no-recipe suggestion for a dish—directions but no quantities. Just kind of “do this and then do that.” Recently the recipe was a chicken lettuce wrap that struck my fancy. The night I wanted to fix it, I discovered I was missing several ingredients—cilantro, fresh mint, fish sauce (I didn’t really miss the latter—never used it, though I suppose I should try sometime). Also I didn’t have head of iceberg lettuce. I usually refuse to buy it—all water and no taste. I buy leaf, but we found that leaf lettuce doesn’t wrap. We ended up with open-faced salads, with a meat layer as the base. Here’s what I did:

Ingredients (this serves two, two-to-three wraps each)

4-6 leaves from a head of iceberg lettuce (no other), washed and patted dry

1 lb. ground chicken

1 small red onion (if such exists—all I ever find in the stores are huge red onions), diced

3 scallions. chopped

¼ c. dry white wine

A generous glug of soy sauce, to taste

Pepper, if needed—go light on salt because the soy is salty

1 small can chopped green chillies

Diced tomatoes

Cilantro sprigs (I didn’t use but will next time)

Crumbled feta

Optional: ½ tsp. cumin.

            Use a large skillet. I started out with my small skillet and found ground chicken jumping over the side. Put a little water in to keep the chicken from sticking and cook until all pink is gone from the meat. Remove pan from hot plate. Keep warm on a low heat while you dice the tomatoes and onion. Add onion, scallions, and chillies to the meat  mixture and remove from heat (you want the onions to be crunchy, not sautéed).

Spread lettuce leaves flat. Put generous spoon of meat mixture in center, top with tomatoes, cilantro, and feta. Wrap—or eat with a fork, like a salad. This is best eaten the night you cook it—I had some meat leftover and tried to duplicate the wrap for lunch the next day but without heating the meat. It wasn’t as wonderful as it had been the night before.

Every cook is entitled to an oops moment. Please don’t judge me by my biscuits. First of all, I should make them from scratch, but I don’t (hear the guilt!); I use a tube of grands. But my wonderful toaster-oven-sized cookie sheet will only hold five biscuits at most, so I do them in batches. My attention clearly wandered the other day when I was baking my breakfast.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

An apology…and my family’s favorite casserole

Last week on “Judy’s Stew” I blogged about fixing Doris’ casserole, a family favorite, for a houseguest and promised the recipe on Thursday’s “Gourmet on a Hot Plate” blog. Trouble is, I never did the blog. We were busy entertaining our guest, and when I blogged, I forgot all about the casserole and blogged about the day’s events. Mea culpa. So here it is: ta-da, the recipe for Doris’ Casserole.

For those who didn’t read last week’s blog, here’s the back story. This was served to me at a dinner party nearly fifty years go by a woman named Doris. She called it Mrs. America Beef Casserole. Our husbands were training together as residents, and after residency I didn’t see much of Doris. Once when I did mention how much my family likes the dish, she barely remembered the casserole or the dinner party. I gave the recipe to a friend who insisted the noodle layer should come first. I assured her it shouldn’t. Another friend calls it American lasagna.

This is supposed to feed six, but it disappears quickly, so I sometimes make a double batch. It freezes beautifully. A bit of trouble to make, so I think of it as making two separate dishes—the meat layer, followed by the noodle layer.

Doris Casserole

Meat layer:

1 lb. ground beef

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed in garlic press

2 tsp each sugar and salt (I cut back to one tsp. on those, but sugar is important in tomato-based sauces—my mom taught me years ago it sort of rounds it off.)

Pepper to taste

Brown ground beef in skillet. Drain grease and return to skillet. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer 20 minutes, until it thickens a little.

Spread in a 9 x 13 pan.

Noodle layer:

5 oz. egg noodles  (approximately—they don’t come in this size pkg.)

3 oz. pkg. cream cheese (here again, you have to fudge; cream cheese doesn’t come in 3 oz. pkg. anymore, and I use half an 8 oz. package)

1 c. sour cream

6 green onions chopped, with some of the tops included


1-1/2 c. grated cheddar

Cook egg noodles and drain. While the noodles are hot, stir in cream cheese, sour cream, and green onions. Spread evenly over meat mixture. Top with grated cheddar, bake 35 minutes at 350 or until bubbly and cheese is slightly browned.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Eggplant Parmesan

Years ago I used to fix Eggplant Parmesan (or Parmigiana if you prefer)—it was one of my favorite “company” dinners. Instead of layers of sliced eggplant and meat sauce, I used halved eggplant shells as dishes and piled the filling in. But then along came four children who must have consulted about the matter, because they uniformly rejected eggplant. I admit that it’s one of those touchy things—you either like it or you hate it, and I have known people who were allergic to it. So I took it off my list, lost the recipe in my great downsizing, and occasionally thought about it wistfully.

When I joined Imperfect Produce, I impulsively ordered an eggplant, mostly because they looked so sleek and pretty. Then serendipity hit—I found a recipe online by Michael Chiarello (a chef whose work I admire). He called it “Mom’s stuffed eggplant,” but it was the same principle as what I’d done years ago. A friend was coming for dinner who I was pretty sure would eat eggplant, so I fixed it. But of course I had to fiddle with the recipe a little. Here’s what I did:


1 eggplant

Olive oil

½ lb. ground beef

Salt and pepper

1small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp. dried basil

1 cup grated Pecorino (I like it better than Parmesan)

¼ c. seasoned bread crumbs

1 egg

Note: Chiarello’s recipe called for a red pepper but bell peppers are among the few things I never eat, never cook with. Feel free to add it in with the garlic and onion


            Remember slicing eggplant and frying it, then draining it—the whole things was a mess, and eggplant soaks up oil more than anything. This is easier—slice the eggplant in half and hollow out the shells, leaving enough meat inside so that each half will hold its shape. Dice the meat you’ve removed and fry in olive oil—don’t use any more oil than you have to. Set aside to cool.

Brown onion and garlic in a bit of olive. When the onion is limp and slightly browned, add the hamburger and brown, breaking it up into small chunks. Stir frequently so the onion doesn’t burn.

In a separate bowl, combine 2/3 cup cheese, bread crumbs, basil, and egg. Mix thoroughly and then stir in the eggplant and the meat-and-onion mixture.  Pile this mixture into the carved-out eggplant shells (you will have leftover meat mixture, so just put it in a small oven-proof dish to bake along with the eggplant halves).

Top generously with more pecorino. Bake at 350o for 30 minutes. Watch carefully that the top of the eggplant halves aren’t too close to the heating element in your toaster oven—the cheese topping will burn. In fact, that cheese is sort of your guide as to when the dish is read—watch for the cheese to not only melt but darken a bit.

Enjoy with crusty baguette slices and a green salad. My guest loved it, and said, “You notice I never say, ‘Let’s go out to eat.’ Your dinners are too good.” The kind of praise I love to hear.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Pan bagnat – sort of

Pan bagnat is the street taco of Nice, France, a sandwich layered with the ingredients of the classic French salade niҫoise. The recipe I have used and liked calls for chicken, but good albacore tuna is more traditional. The bread is usually a small round loaf (the French pain de campagne). Because it’s a made-a-day-ahead recipe, pan bagnat is great for company. You just whisk it out of the fridge and serve with a salad.

Like many folk foods or foods of the street, pan bagnat is flexible—you can substitute, and when I recently made it for supper for two, I did just that. All the round loaves I found at Central Market were way too big, and I remembered I had ciabatta in the freezer. It worked just fine.

Then I got out the rotisserie chicken breast I’d bought for the sandwiches, but it turned out to be a rotisserie turkey breast, so that’s what I used. A sliced hardboiled egg is sometimes included in the sandwich, but I knew my dinner guest was traumatized by eggs in childhood and does not eat them. So I guess what I’m saying is “Here’s a basic recipe. Take it where you want.” The only hard and fast rule that may be hard on the American palate is “No mayonnaise.”


Rotisserie grilled chicken or canned albacore tuna (preferably packed in olive oil)

Round loaf of artisan bread

1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 Tbsp. anchovy paste

1 garlic clove, pressed


2 sliced tomatoes

sliced red onion to taste

Sliced hard-boiled egg (optional)

Romaine lettuce leaves

Slice the bread in half horizontally and pull out all the bready insides; discard or freeze to use for bread crumbs, etc.

Drizzle anchovy/lemon sauce over top and bottom of bread. You may want to add a bit of softened butter to make it more of a paste that will spread nicely on the bread. Line bottom of the bread with capers, drained.

If using chicken or turkey, slice into slivers If using tuna, drain well and break into chunks. Place the meat on top of the capers. Top with remaining ingredients.

Put the top on and smash it down with your hands to flatten. Wrap in foil and put in fridge overnight, weighted down by heavy skillet or canned goods--I used a lighter skillet and two cans of green beans. Cut into wedges and serve.

My dinner guest liked it so well she decided she’d make it for an upcoming casual dinner party for about twenty people. I call that an ambitious plan.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Traditional American Food and Recipes Old and New

In between other projects, I’m researching background for a culinary mystery, and I find myself reading a lot about James Beard. In fact, I’m browsing through one of his memoirs, Delights and Prejudices. For all his broad-ranging knowledge of international food and his snobbishness, Beard was a proponent of traditional American cooking. He despised French fries, calling them soggy, greasy, and tasteless—but he relished a good pan of cottage fries, those potatoes sliced thin and fried until crisp. To read Beard is to rediscover some old favorites—and the right way to fix them.

I’m also a devotee of Sam Sifton’s New York Times cooking column, but reading it—what? five times a week? —I sometimes feel bombarded by recipes calling for ingredients I’ve never heard of and probably can’t get easily and dishes I’ve never imagined—maqluba, Baharat, gojuchang, pad kee mao. And recipes that sound outrageous to me, like charred strawberry ice cream—do you char the berries on the grill before making the ice cream? (I think that one is not Sifton’s fault but came from a “cutting edge” food magazine). Or Oaxacan hibiscus foam—I’m not sure yet if that’s a topping for a margarita or a flower (the web offers pictures of both). Sometimes I long for good old-fashioned meat loaf and mashed potatoes.

But it is spring and, as I said before, time to think about salads. Buried in the research material I inherited for the Alamo book was a folder of vintage recipes.  For now, I’ll spare you the ones dealing with liver and tongue sandwiches and offer instead the advice on spring salads.

“The greatest possible discrimination must be exercised in the selection of the salad at this season of the year. For a luncheon salad, the fancy may be permitted to move at will [you can include nuts, berries, and other fruit] … but for a dinner salad, simplicity itself must be the rule. It may be composed of lettuce or endive or romaine or cress, and it must be dressed in the only perfect way such a salad can be dressed, with the mixture of oil and acid of the ancient Latins and Greeks. To be absolutely without fault, the dressing should be mixed at the table, just as it is to be served.”

The article recommends placing ¼ tsp. each pepper, salt, and paprika in the bowl, followed by a Tbsp. olive oil. Then, impale an ice cube on a fork, stir the ingredients until well blended. Add a tsp. of vinegar, and then alternate oil and vinegar, always stirring, until you have added three Tbsp. of oil and one of vinegar. Taste and add salt and paprika as needed. Apparently, the moisture from the melting ice aids in the vinegar/oil emulsion. That ice cube would make a showy presentation, but it reminds me of a family favorite recipe.

Rub a salad bowl thoroughly with the split sides of a garlic clove. Discard garlic and rub bowl with salt, dry mustard, and a bit of pepper. Crumble blue cheese in the bottom of the bowl and add vinegar. Mash blue cheese into vinegar, with a fork, until it dissolves in the vinegar. Add olive oil. These days the ratio is considered two parts oil to one of vinegar (it always used to be three-to-one). The amount of vinegar you put in determines how much dressing you make. (I frequently end up with way too much dressing, so I simply save it in the fridge for another day; I believe salads should be lightly dressed.) Add torn greens, toss and serve.

And on the subject of dressings, I just made a batch of Chuy’s creamy jalopeño dip and dressing. There are several versions on the web, and I believe any of them will do—except that I used pickled jalopeño slices and a bit of the juice. And do use cilantro and lime juice.

Happy spring salads everyone.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A spring salad

Spring is here, and it’s time to turn our kitchen thoughts to lighter dishes and more salads. My freezer has several small containers that combined will make one last pot of soup, and I’m wondering—almost wishing—for a cold snap so I can use them. But otherwise, my mind is on lighter eating.

And here’s a salad that is refreshing and different, but it requires a bit of dexterity. It means hollowing out a head of iceberg lettuce, so you can stuff it. Whatever you say about iceberg—tasteless, all water, etc.—you have to admit it is lovely in its crispness.

Get a good, firm head of lettuce and wash it thoroughly under cold running water. Peel off the outer layer of leaves and then core it. You can dig the core out with a paring knife, but there’s an easier, faster way. Hold the lettuce in your hands, core end down, above a cutting board. With all your might, slam it on that cutting board so that the core takes the brunt of the force. It should sleep right out. (This is also useful for making wedge salads.)

Scoop out as much lettuce as you can without threatening the integrity of the shell. If you want, chop a bit of the extra lettuce fine and mix it into the filling.

Separately, mix the filling:

1 pkg. cream cheese, softened to room temperature

2 Tbsp. soft, creamy blue cheese

2 Tbsp. grated carrot

2 Tbsp. fresh tomato, diced fine

1 large scallion, diced fine

Salt and pepper to taste but be cautious—it’s easy to overdo here.

Pack the filling into the center of the head of lettuce. You will think you have way too much filling but keep packing, pushing down into all the spaces, You’ll be surprised at how much fits in.

Wrap the finished salad in clear wrap and chill for an hour before serving. Slice to serve. Serves four.

Makes a nice change from a tossed salad. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A weird day of food, some avocado ideas, and a list of dislikes

Dinner tonight
Admittedly, my eating habits today were a bit weird. I started the day with a biscuit with butter and honey—good wild honey, straight from the hive. Good but not nutritious, nor the balanced breakfast nutritionists recommend.

For lunch today I met two friends—how we know each other is complicated, but one is the mother of kids my kids went to school with and the other is the aunt of yet another schoolmate. We met at Carshon’s deli, and I ordered something I’ve been wanting—pickled herring with sour cream. Turns out I was eating with a picky eater who said it almost turned her stomach to watch me eat herring. Surely, she was joking—you think? Then she mentioned sweetbreads, which I’ve never tried and apparently, she thought were revolting. She even made a face at the server’s suggestion of butterscotch pie. I must learn to be more sensitive to other people’s finicky tastes. Often at the deli, I have a tongue sandwich, and I know that’s hard for some people to watch me eat it.

Today my friend said, “Who taught you to eat like this?” and I said, “A little bit my folks. We had tongue when I was growing up”—though I think of it as British and not Jewish. But the real culprit or benefactor, interpret it as you will, was my Jewish ex-husband. From him I learned to eat herring, and lox and bagels, and chopped liver, and other delicacies. I’ve always said he gave me two wonderful gifts: four beautiful children and a taste for Jewish food. But a balanced meal, my lunch was not.

I did better at dinner, with hamburger Stroganoff (the recipe is in Gourmet on a Hot Plate) and a green salad with leaf lettuce, avocado, croutons, blue cheese, and Paul Newman’s Own Vinaigrette, because making the Stroganoff took a while, and I was too lazy to make my own dressing. If you want to talk about Jewish food, Stroganoff would not be on the list. I have known adults who, having put their religion aside, still cannot eat Stroganoff because it violates the old kosher law against mixing meat and dairy. Fortunately, I have no such baggage and love it. Tonight, I had a half pound of ground sirloin left, for a recipe that requires two pounds, so I kind of guessed at the amounts, but it came out fine.

Avocado toast
I am loving avocados lately. I’m not sure if they’re in season or I have just happened on good ones and finally learned how to treat them—refrigerate at the first sign of softening. But I fix them every which way. Jordan’s version of avocado toast is more elaborate, but I simply butter a piece of toast, done medium, and put chunks of avocado on it, mushing them with a fork until they turn into a lumpy mess. Then I sprinkle lemon or lime over them and enjoy. Sometimes, as in this picture, I put a little smoked salmon under the avocado. Or try scrambled eggs on top of it.

My favorite avocado salad is so easy: chunk up a half or whole avocado, depending on how piggy you feel, in a bowl with a sliced scallion, some halved cherry tomatoes, and a generous crumble of blue cheese. Dress with lemon juice. With the oil in the avocado, you don’t need oil in the dressing.

Finally I saw a thing on the internet tonight about foods some celebrities won’t eat. To my delight, bell peppers were on the list for two chefs, and one said, “They ruin everything they touch.” That’s what I’ve been preaching for years. Mayo made the list for Rachel Ray because the idea of eggs in shelf-stable mayo bothers her (that’s a mild translation of what she said), Ina Garten doesn’t like cilantro (a lot of folks don’t, and some are allergic—it was an acquired taste for me), Martha Stewart and Alton Brown are united in opposing truffle oil which they say is nothing but chemicals and has nothing of truffles about it. Anne Burrell—remember her from America’s worst cooks—can’t eat salmon or blue cheese but wishes she could. I don’t blame her—they’re both favorites of mine. And finally there was a man I didn’t recognize who said he can’t eat okra because of the slime factor. Now there’s a man after my own heart.

Happy cooking everyone!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Meat loaf and the millennials

Millennials seem to be setting the standard for us in a lot of areas, from fashion to food. But I am particularly bothered that I keep reading about things that millennials won’t eat. Foods that are passé now. Many of them are my favorites. I don’t mind giving up American cheese, that plastic substitute for cheddar, and I won’t miss chain restaurants, but I will kick and scream when you tell me it’s not fashionable to eat meat loaf.

Other things on the list of foods that are “out” include chicken pot pie, mayonnaise, canned tuna, big turkeys, sloppy Joe, and an entire meal—brunch. Really? Have you had chicken pot pie made with cream cheese in the sauce? So good. And mayonnaise and canned tuna? What  do these people eat for lunch? How do you celebrate Thanksgiving without the biggest turkey you can fit into your oven? As for sloppy Joe all I can say is that the writer who made that pronouncement never had my sloppy Joe made with red wine. Even Jacob loves it. And brunch? That most delightful of meals—I’ve often found it an easy way to entertain. My menu includes sliced ham, egg casseroles, fruit salad, some good Danish, and, of course Bloody Marys. Do away with that? Never.

But the abolition of meat loaf really got me. When my kids were little, I made a lot of meat loaf. It wasn’t always popular. Megan called it “gelatinous,” a word she manages to infuse with unbelievable disdain; Colin complained that it was too much filler and not enough meat. I happily made meat loaf sandwiches with mayo the next day—see? Where would the world be without mayo? I confess in those days I rarely followed a recipe.

Somewhere along the way I discovered Hunt’s canned meat loaf fixings, and things got better. Then I found a recipe in Texas Electric Co-op magazine that had all that meatloaf should—onion, celery, ketchup, mayonnaise, I think even Worcestershire, everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. I also learned that if you shaped meat into a loaf on a larger pan, you didn’t get as much gelatinous stuff as you do if you make it in a loaf pan. I’ve never tried those special meat loaf pans with faux bottoms so the juices drain, but they might be the solution too.

I made a lamb meat loaf recently, and we loved it. I realize not everyone likes lamb, but this mixes lamb and beef, and it was really good. Here’s my take on it:

2 eggs

½ c. breadcrumbs

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. ground lamb

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried basil

½ c. ketchup

1 Tbsp.  Worcestershire

            Sauté the onion, garlic, thyme, and basil in olive oil.

            Use a medium bowl to beat the eggs until light and frothy. Then add the bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Add the onion and garlic mixture, the ground meats, and the ketchup and Worcestershire.

The only way I know to mix meat loaf is to wash and dry your hands thoroughly and dig in, Mix until no streaks of egg show and you’re quite sure everything is blended..

Shape as you wish—either round or loaf-shaped—on a greased jelly roll pan or roasting pan, something with a lip to catch the juices.

Bake at 350o for at least an hour, probably a little more. Let it sit to “collect itself” for ten minutes before slicing and serving. This works well in your toaster oven.



Friday, March 1, 2019

All thing salmon

I goofed. Yesterday was supposed to be my cooking blog day, and I wrote a regular, every-day Judy’s Stew post. Mostly because I keep getting the days of the week mixed up and am chronically a day ahead of myself. So yesterday was Friday to me, and I have no idea what I did with Thursday. So please pretend today is Thursday, and let’s eat some smoked salmon. In case you haven’t noticed, I love all things salmon. Today smoked salmon is on my mind—and my taste buds. In case you haven’t noticed, I love all things salmon. Today smoked salmon is on my mind—and my taste buds.

Hot smoked

A word about smoked salmon: because I love lox, I ordered smoked salmon on my first trip to Oregon. What I got was totally different than what I expected. It was hot smoked salmon, which means it had been brined and then cooked in a smoker, probably over wood coals. It has the texture of broiled salmon but a distinctive flavor according to the brine used to prepare it.

Cold smoked salmon, however, is really raw fish. It is smoked by brining it. The texture is quite different from hot smoked salmon. I prefer cold smoked, and that’s what I used in the following recipes.

Not too many years ago, cold smoked salmon (or lox, which is salt cured) was a treat to be gotten only at the deli. Now it comes in four-ounce packages in many groceries. A butcher behind the deli counter at Central Market once told me that the packaged smoked salmon was fresher than the so-called fresh in his display counter.

Cold smoked
Last week I had a delightful visit from an old friend. We decided to eat lunch in the cottage because it would mean more visiting time. Besides, she always liked my cooking. So I prowled around and tried to decide what to serve her—something simple and easy but distinctive. No tuna or chicken salad stuffed in an avocado. I made a salmon-and-potato-salad platter, and it got raves.

Smoked salmon and potato salad platter

1 lb. new potatoes, cooked and peeled (this might be one of those rare cases where canned sliced white potatoes work best).

Salt and pepper

Juice and zest of one lemon

A splash of white wine vinegar

Olive oil

Capers, rinsed and drained

2 tsp. horseradish

¾ cup creme fraiche (substitute sour cream if you must or make your own crème fraiche: see note in Condiments section)

2 Tbsp. red onion or two scallions, chopped fine

¾ lb. smoked salmon, separated into bite size pieces
1ripe avocado, sliced

Boil potatoes until just cooked; peel and dress while still warm (if using canned, perhaps heat in microwave or toaster oven just a bit—warm potatoes absorb dressing better).

Mix all of lemon zest and half the juice, vinegar, and olive oil (remember the 3:1 proportion of oil to acid) and whisk to mix. Pour over warm potatoes.

Separately mix horseradish into crème fraiche.  Stir in remaining lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.

Lay out salmon pieces on plater. Spoon any dressing left over. Artfully add potatoes, mounding them in the center of the platter. Randomly arrange avocado slices.Drizzle crème fraiche dressing over all and sprinkle with chopped dill and whatever form of onion you choose. Nice served with baguette slices and a glass of white wine.

Another easy but showy dish is smoked salmon pizza. Years ago there was a restaurant that served individual pizzas, using tortillas as the crust. The topping was spinach, with tomatoes, onions, and, I think, cheese. Delicious and an idea to remember. But when I was trying to copy a picture of a smoked salmon pizza from a magazine, I remembered the tortilla trick. Great way to serve two.

Smoked salmon pizza

Two flour tortillas, lightly toasted

3 Tbsp. crěme fraiche or sour cream

3 Tbsp. chopped chives or the green parts of 2 scallions

4 oz. sliced smoked salmon

2 heaping Tbsp. black caviar

Mix the 2 Tbsp. chives and crěme fraiche and spread generously over tortillas. Top with salmon and spoon one Tbsp. caviar into the middle of each salmon tortilla. I used black caviar for color contrast, but you could use golden. I’d advise against red. A tiny jar of caviar really isn’t that expensive. Garnish with remaining chives and serve immediately.

I’m not through with salmon yet. Coming another week: salmon burgers vs. salmon croquettes.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Lessons learned, warnings, and a killer salad dressing

The recipe had been in my pending file a long time, so last week I fixed kalpudding, a Swedish dish that is basically a meatloaf between layers of caramelized cabbage. I’m a fan of cooked cabbage, though much of the world is not, so this sounded good to me. It was a disappointment, and the recipe is now in the round file.

The cabbage on the bottom was okay but didn’t add much distinctive flavor. The cabbage on the top burned—I don’t know if that was my toaster oven or if my timing was off or what went wrong.

The meatloaf in the middle was good though, and I eventually scraped all the cabbage off and used the meat for sandwiches. It was the most basic meatloaf recipe ever: one half pound each ground beef and pork, ½ c. milk, ½ c. rice, and a medium onion (measurements are approximate because, not thinking ahead, I didn’t keep the recipe and couldn’t find the exact same one online). You can find several versions of kalpudding online if you want to try it despite my negative experience. Rice is not something I keep on hand, so I substituted panko, the Japanese bread crumbs made without bread crusts.

The point about the meatloaf is that the ground pork gives it a different, denser texture than my usual all-beef meatloaf. My mom used to mix pork and beef, and I liked it—this reminded me of Mom’s dinners. Or maybe the bread crumbs did that.

My advice summarized:  forget the cabbage and substitute a bit of pork for some of the beef in your next meatloaf. Rice or bread crumbs? Which you usually use and like. Just keep it in proportion. One of my sons never liked my meatloaf because he claimed I got too much filler and not enough meat. I don’t suppose it occurred to him that I was watching the budget and stretching the meat.

My warning: without meaning to I bought panko seasoned with herbs and garlic. It worked fine in the meatloaf, but a few days later I made salmon croquettes and, being lazy, again used the panko. My mom told me once never to use anything but ground saltines with croquettes, and Mom always knows best. With the panko, I ended up with salmon hash. Tasted fine but was not pretty to look at. Read labels carefully.

Essentially the same thing happened to me with butter. I prefer Kerrygold, the Irish full-fat butter that gives everything a better flavor and is generally GMO-free. So recently, I unwrapped a new stick of butter and to my horror, it had mold—little green flecks all through it.  Closer inspection revealed that it was not mold but seasoned butter—herbs and garlic again. Great for garlic bread, not so much for my cookie dough. Again, the moral: read labels carefully. I prefer to do my own seasoning, thank you very much. (And I keep butter in the freezer, so it won’t go rancid if I don’t use promptly—keep one stick in the fridge to be soft enough for quick use. I also avoid whipped butter—don’t need that air beaten into it, nor the extra moisture which throws many recipes off). And we won't even talk about margarine, which is a chemical product no part of which has ever been near acow.

So with my negativity about kalpudding and pre-seasoned products, here’s a positive: the best vinaigrette I’ve ever made. I stole the recipe from a novel—The Last Chance Olive Ranch, by Susan Wittig Albert. It’s called Sofia’s salad dressing:

Whip together ½ c fresh lemon juice, ½ c olive oil, 1 Tbsp salt (yes, that’s right!), and three garlic cloves minced. No, it doesn’t taste salty. I don’t know chemistry of what the salt does for the mixture, but it is delicious. Do not substitute for the fresh lemon juice. 

Be sure to put croutons in the salad—soaked in this dressing, they are beyond delicious. Even here, though, there's a warning--leftover dressing gets too salty. Maybe cut the recipe in half.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Coquille St. Jacques, or toying with a recipe

Once years ago I fixed dinner for a small group of women who were attending a sales meeting the next day. My entrée was Coquille St. Jacques, and I confess it was probably the most complicated dish I ever fixed—and time-consuming. Worth it though, because one woman, who had traveled the world, said she’d never had a finer meal. The next day one of the men asked what we had for dinner, and when I told him, he said, “Gesundheit!”

Coquille St. Jacques is French for scallops in a creamy mushroom sauce. I prowled around the internet, found lots of recipes, but no explanation of the name or its history. I do know that it is traditionally served in a shell-shaped dish, piped around the edge with mashed potatoes

Some time ago I came across Ina Garten’s recipe for Make-Ahead Coquilles St-Jacques. Because Jordan loves scallops, and because I wanted to try the recipe, and because Jordan’s husband doesn’t like scallops, I fixed the dish this week when Christian was entertaining clients. I’m not at liberty to reproduce the recipe for you—Ms. Garten might object—but here’s a link to it:

What I want to share with you today is how I toyed with the recipe. Basically, the dish has three components: a creamy white sauce; sautéed scallops, shallots, and mushrooms; and a crumb topping.

The original recipe calls for curry in the white sauce, but I firmly believe in letting delicate flavors, especially seafood, speak for themselves without distracting spices. I don’t want chili powder anywhere near my lobster, nor do I want curry in my scallops. I left it out. Otherwise, I made the cream sauce as recommended, except I didn’t bother with unsalted butter. I did use heavy cream—no cheating with half-and-half.

The recipe called for sea scallops, which are large and very expensive; I substituted the smaller bay scallops, which are still expensive, but a bit more reasonable. As luck would have it, the bay scallops I got were a perfect medium-to-small size—bite-size, whereas sea scallops often require cutting.

Ms. Garten recommends sautéing thinly sliced shallots first, adding sliced mushrooms, and finally adding scallops. I sautéed the shallots until soft and transparent, added the mushrooms, and cooked over medium heat until soft and tender. Then I took them out of the skillet, turned up the heat and seared the scallops—the trick is to get a brown crust quickly while leaving the inside soft and tender. It only takes a minute. Don’t look away.

I put the shallots, mushrooms, and scallops into the sauce, stirred it all, and divided into individual ramekins. Then I turned my attention to the crumb topping—and learned a wonderful new trick. The topping is fine bread crumbs (I used panko which turned out to have a bit of thyme and parsley—just a hint) and grated gruyere cheese. But then you moisten the mixture with just enough olive oil. Absolutely made the best, crunchiest topping ever—and held its crunchiness through reheating the next night. I’ll use that topping (with varied cheeses) on lots of other dishes

I halved the recipe and got three nice-sized servings, so that Jordan and I dined on it the first night, and I had the one leftover ramekin the next night. The full recipe would easily serve six. A bit rich, a bit of work, but oh my! Was it good!

Hats off to Ina Garten.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Chicken and green chili casserole

Jordan brought me a recipe the other day she thought sounded wonderful. No wonder! It had all her favorite things—chicken, cream cheese, sour cream, and green chilies. But it had no proportions—to get the recipe with amount of each ingredient you had to download a program that I didn’t think I wanted on my computer (my computer guru son-in-law always scolds me for the junk on my computer). So I started a search.

Came up with a recipe I thought sounded good—until I started to make it. It called for skinless, boneless breast that you pour the sauce over. To me, it sounded better to use the two large bone-in, skin-on breast I had in the freezer—cook them first and dice.

A word here about poaching chicken breasts: thanks to the New York Times cooking column, I’ve learned a new way to poach chicken pieces. I always thought boiling them made the meat tough (I’m not a terrific fan of chicken!). What I now do is put a large pot of water on to boil and season it with some chopped green onions and black peppercorns. Be sure the pot has a tight-fitting lid. When the water comes to a full, rolling boil, turn off the heat, slide the chicken pieces in, and clamp that lid on tight. Let it sit at least two hours—I prefer three. When you do fish the chicken out, cut to the bone in a test piece. If it’s still pink, put it back and simmer for another twenty minutes. Soft, tender meat.

Back to my recipe: I realized it had cream cheese but nothing to liquefy the sauce. So I added sour cream. Then, when I got it all together, I thought it needed a topping or something to finish it off. You can use your imagination here. Corn chips would have been good, but I didn’t have any. French’s fried onions would also have worked. I used Ritz crackers because I had them.

So here’s what I ended up with.

Two large chicken breasts, skin on, bone in, cooked and diced—about three cups (Yes, you could use rotisserie chicken)

1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese

½ c. sour cream

1 4 oz. can green chilies

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated

½ tsp. garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

For the topping:

½ c. cracker crumbs

2 Tbsp. butter, melted

            Mix casserole ingredients together in a 4x9 baking pan. Top with crumbs or whatever. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly and hot. What could be easier?