English Toffee

Toffee topped with chocolate or chocolate and almonds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

English Toffee
Author: 
Recipe type: Candy, Snacks, Gifts, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 2+ pounds
 
This recipe makes a crunchy, nutty, chocolate-covered toffee that is perfect for holiday gifts and parties. You will probably have to make more than one batch as it is pretty irresistible. Candy gets very hot when it is cooking, so this is not a good recipe to make with children. Store the candy in an airtight container or it will tend to get sticky. If you use salted butter, omit the salt in the recipe. This is the kind of recipe where having the right tools can make a big difference in how easily the job is accomplished, but you can make this uncomplicated candy even if you have none of these tools. A candy thermometer, offset spatula, non-stick silicone spatula and non-stick silicone pan liner make this so simple any cook can be successful with little effort. I prefer to prepare the candy with small nut pieces/nut dust on top of the chocolate layer, as it is neater to break and eat. You can put chocolate on both sides of the candy by leaving about 1/3 of the chocolate aside and melting it for application once the first side has set, but I find that unnecessary.
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups whole almonds
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (bar broken into small pieces or 1 1/3 cups chocolate chips)
Instructions
  1. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes or until they are slightly darker throughout. Do not over-toast or the nuts will taste bitter. Using a silicone pan liner such as Silpat reduces the chances of burning the bottoms of the nuts and allows you to toast the nuts without any stirring. Let the nuts cool. Using a rocking motion, chop them into small pieces with a chef’s knife, holding the point of the knife against the cutting board and lifting the handle slightly and rotating the knife to a new position for the next cut. Set aside about 1/4 cup of the smaller pieces and 'dust' to use for topping the candy.
  2. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil or use a silicone pan liner such as Silpat.
  3. Place the butter, sugar, salt and water in a heavy pan on medium heat. The mixture will foam up as it cooks, so the pan should be at least twice as deep as the ingredients. Place a candy thermometer in the mixture. Cook, swirling the mixture occasionally until the foaming subsides. At this point, the candy will cook rapidly. Continue to cook, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon until the candy reaches the hard-crack stage at 300 degrees (see Note). The candy will be a golden brown caramel color. Remove the pan from the heat immediately. The temperature will continue to rise. Working quickly, stir in the vanilla and the larger quantity of nuts. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and spread and smooth the surface with your spatula or spoon to about 1/4 inch. Distribute the chocolate pieces over the candy and allow them to melt for two minutes. Spread the chocolate over the surface. An offset spatula will help spread it evenly. Sprinkle the almond dust/nuts that you put aside onto the chocolate, pressing them in lightly to help them adhere. Cool the candy until the chocolate is set, break it into pieces and store in an airtight container with waxed or parchment paper between the layers. You can also put the candy in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set the chocolate.
  4. Note: If you are not using a candy thermometer, you can test for the hard crack stage by dropping a little of the molten syrup into very cold water that you have standing by next to the stove. At hard crack it will form brittle threads that break when bent. Be careful not to touch thick pieces of candy in the water as they are likely to be hot. You cannot leave the candy on the heat while you are testing or it will burn the sugar and cause the caramel to be bitter.

 

Eggplant Ricotta Bake

 

 

 

 

 

Eggplant Ricotta Bake
Author: 
Recipe type: Vegetarian, Entrée
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 servings
 
In early Fall, there is an abundance of beautiful, shiny, purple eggplants in the markets. I like to make one of my favorite eggplant dishes that I adapted from Martha Stewart. It is classic comfort food and reminds me of lasagna, but without all the pasta carbs. It is great made the same day, but it might be even better reheated the next day…At least that is what I found when eating the leftovers! This casserole serves 4, but you can double the ingredients and use a 9x13 dish instead of the 8x8 dish. Using Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (freshly grated with a microplane and pressed lightly into the cup) will give you especially rich flavor. You can use your favorite pasta sauce. I made mine with Prego mushroom sauce.
Ingredients
  • 2 large eggplants (1 1/4 pounds each)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper to season the eggplant
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese (1 2/3 cups)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (divided use)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 16 ounces store-bought or home-made pasta sauce (2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil leaves
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Slice the eggplants lengthwise into 3/4 inch thick slices. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets lined with aluminum foil or non-stick silicone liners such as Silpat. Brush lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper. Turn the slices over and oil and season the second side. A silicone pastry brush makes for easy application and clean-up. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes until the eggplant is tender and golden, turning halfway through to brown both sides.
  2. While the eggplant is baking, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, oregano, salt, and pepper. Brush an 8-inch square baking dish with oil.
  3. Divide the eggplant slices into 4 similar quantities for layering. It is fine if you need to cut some of the pieces. Place one layer of the eggplant slices into the bottom of the oiled dish. Spread with 1 cup of pasta sauce. An offset spatula can help make the layers even. Place another eggplant layer. Spread with half of the ricotta mixture. Repeat the layers, ending with a ricotta layer. Distribute the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese over the top. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake until bubbling and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving with the chopped basil leaves garnishing each portion.

 

Caramel Popcorn


Caramel Popcorn
Author: 
Recipe type: Snacks, Gifts, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 quarts
 
Whether you think of caramel corn as a Halloween treat, an inexpensive holiday gift or a delicious snack, this recipe is easier to prepare than recipes that have you cook the syrup to a higher temperature before covering the popped corn. The oven heat finishes cooking the candy, while stirring the warm corn helps distribute the syrup evenly. Fill decorated holiday cellophane bags with cooled caramel corn and tie with ribbons or raffia to make great trick or treat favors or stocking stuffers for family, friends and coworkers. Fill a large tin with caramel popcorn to make a substantial holiday present that is fresher and more personal than mail order popcorn.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed firmly
  • 1/2 pound (1 cup) butter
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup (Karo)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 7 to 8 quarts popcorn (see Note)
  • 1 cup of salted peanuts (optional)
Instructions
Note:
  1. One (1) ounce or 1/8 cup or 2 tablespoons of unpopped popcorn will make approximately a quart of popped corn; therefore you will need to pop about 1 cup popcorn kernels. I prefer the electric poppers that have a stirrer in the bottom which make up to 6 quarts at a time because I find that air-popped corn sometimes has a scorched taste. Depending on your popper, you might need to pop the corn in two batches. Of course if you don’t have a special appliance, you can pop corn in a large pot. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil per half cup of kernels and shake the pot as you hear the kernels popping to avoid burning the corn. When the popping slows down, remove the pot from the heat and transfer the popped corn to your baking pan.
PREPARATION:
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Use a large, non-stick roasting pan or lightly oil a large baking pan or roasting pan. If you have a silicone liner such as Silpat, you can also line your pan with that. Check the capacity of your pan before you find yourself with a lot of popcorn and a pot of hot syrup. If one pan is not large enough, plan to split the ingredients between two pans. Pop enough corn kernels to get 7 to 8 quarts of popped corn (about one cup). Place the popped corn (and the peanuts if you are using them) into your baking pan. You can leave the popped corn in the oven in your baking pan while you make the second batch and prepare the syrup. Boil sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt to the soft ball stage, 234° to 238° on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, just boil without stirring for 5 minutes. Add the baking soda (and vanilla if you are using it) and stir well. Be careful, as the hot sugar syrup will foam up when you add the soda. Pour the syrup over the popcorn and stir. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes. If your oven doesn’t go that low, check the popcorn and stir more frequently. The caramel corn should be golden in color and feel less sticky when it is done. Slightly underdone is better than overdone. Remove from the oven and cool. When it is cool, break into pieces if necessary and store in airtight containers.

Clouds with Custard and Fruit



Clouds with Custard and Fruit
Author: 
Recipe type: Desserts, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 12
 
This is a variation of the classic Pavlova dessert. It is a simple meringue, baked into crisp little nests for custard filling and ripe berries. I developed this recipe to enter a contest held by the local hospital for heart healthy recipes. This was a winner in the dessert category. The hospital’s chef prepared a wonderful dinner for us, serving our winning entries. It was a little early for strawberry season and that was the only berry he used as cost was probably a consideration, but he enhanced the flavor of the strawberries with a little lemon juice and thinly sliced mint leaves. You might choose to do the same. I find they make an elegant presentation when each person has an individual serving, but you must assemble the dessert just prior to serving or the custard and berries will start to melt your crisp meringue shell. If fat and calories are not an issue for you, you can use whole milk for the pudding and perhaps even serve the clouds with a pouf of whipped, sweetened heavy cream with a touch of vanilla extract. It would not even be outrageous if you decided to make only 8 servings with this quantity of ingredients. When making the meringue, separate the yolks from the whites while the eggs are cold so that the yolks won't break as easily. It is helpful to use a small bowl to put each egg white into while separating so that if you accidentally break a yolk, you will only lose the single egg white. Use a very clean bowl and beaters and ensure that not a bit of yolk has gotten into the egg whites. Any fat in the whites will stop them from beating up into a stiff meringue.
Ingredients
  • 4 egg whites (room temperature for greatest volume)
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 small package Vanilla Instant Pudding (can use sugar-free)
  • 1 1/2 cups cold low-fat or skim milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 2 cups fresh berries (any combination of, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries or sliced strawberries)
  • 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 225ºF.
  2. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar gradually, beating until stiff, shiny peaks form.
  3. Spread the meringue into 12 small circles or one big circle on parchment-covered baking sheets, indenting center slightly. Bake 1-1/2 hours. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in until cool. You can leave them overnight. If you make them ahead, store in an airtight container or they will absorb moisture and get sticky.
  4. Whisk the pudding mix, milk and flavoring in a medium bowl for 2 minutes until thickened. Refrigerate. When you are ready to serve, stir the pudding to make it creamier, place the meringues on plates and fill the centers with the pudding. Top with berries and dust with powdered sugar. (If you have a tea strainer or mesh ball, that is an easy way to sprinkle the sugar without much mess.)

Mean Woman Pasta

Mean Woman Pasta
Author: 
Recipe type: Salads, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 12-16 sides
 
Here is another very versatile salad that is great for potlucks. It is best after it has marinated for a minimum of several hours, so it is a good salad to prepare the day before you plan to serve it, with no last minute effort other than a quick re-stir. If you are going to a party with a loved one, make sure you both eat some, as garlic has a strong role in this. As with other pasta salads, it can go a long way and is inexpensive, especially in the late summer when tomatoes are abundant. You can still make it at other times of the year using good quality canned, diced tomatoes, but there is nothing quite like the sweetness of a home-grown, ripe tomato. If you are planning to do some of the preparation with a food processor, I suggest dropping the garlic cloves into the running processor and when they are chopped, stop to add the tomatoes and pulse them to get small chunks of tomato. Resist the urge to set the processor to “on”, as that will give you tomato sauce. If you haven’t tasted a Kalamata olive, you should. Kalamata olives are the ones you also will find in a tasty Greek salad. I don’t recommend trying to substitute with other sliced black olives as they will not have the distinctive taste of the Kalamata which makes this salad so good.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound small pasta such as shells, elbows, bowties, etc.
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 24 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped coarsely
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 pepperoncini (pickled peppers)
  • 1/4 pound of feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain, but do not rinse. Combine the tomatoes, garlic, olives, basil, olive oil, and pepperoncini. Toss the pasta with the sauce and marinate for several hours or overnight. You could eat it immediately after preparation, but it will improve from letting the flavors meld and the garlic mellow a bit over time.

Cabbage Ramen Salad

Cabbage Ramen Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Chicken, Salads, Tofu, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 18
 
My family loves this salad. It is a great dish for taking to potlucks as you can feed a lot of people without spending a lot of money. I have doubled and even tripled the recipe for parties and it always seems to disappear. Cabbage is one of the superfoods that should have a bigger role in our diets. It is low in calories, high in fiber, and a good source of vitamins and minerals. It is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family which is associated with a reduced incidence of a number of cancers. You can buy coleslaw mix, but cutting your own cabbage will give you a fresher salad and save you money. If you are concerned about nut allergies, toasted sunflower seeds make a substitute for the almonds. If you are serving vegetarians, you can use Top Ramen brand Oriental flavor, which contains no animal products. To turn this into a full meal, add shredded roasted chicken or sautéed tofu cubes (dredge in corn starch to get them to brown well) to the salad. This makes 4 generous servings as an entrée.
Ingredients
  • 1 head of cabbage, grated or sliced thinly* You can use a mixture of green and red cabbage for variety. (2 - 2 1/2 lb. cabbage = ~9 cups)
  • 4 whole green onions (scallions), sliced into thin rings
  • 1 3-ounce package ramen noodles with chicken flavor seasoning packet
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup of slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup salad oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (I use cider vinegar, but white vinegar is fine too.)
  • Black pepper
  • Cilantro leaves (optional)
Instructions
  1. I love almonds, so I use the larger quantity. Toast the almonds in the oven, microwave, or while stirring in a small heavy pan on the stovetop, but watch them carefully as they can burn easily. If you are using a 350 degree oven, it will take about 8 minutes and you can reduce the chance of the nuts burning by placing them on a silicone sheet such as Silpat. Set aside to cool.
  2. Crush the ramen noodles while they are in their original bag. A small mallet, hammer, or meat pounder used gently does a good job. It helps to put the ramen noodle bag in a larger plastic bag to avoid getting noodles all over the place if the bag breaks.
  3. For the dressing, dissolve the sugar and the chicken seasoning packet from the ramen noodles in the vinegar in a small jar. Add the salad oil and black pepper to taste and shake to mix.
  4. The cabbage and onions can be prepared the day before, mixed together and refrigerated in the serving bowl or a plastic bag. The almonds and noodles can be prepared the day before and mixed together and stored in a plastic bag at room temperature. The dressing can be made the day before and refrigerated in a small jar.
  5. Mix all the ingredients together shortly before serving. If you like cilantro, don’t forget to add it now. This salad will still taste good on the second day, but the cabbage and noodles will soften after storage with the dressing on them.
  6. *To slice cabbage, cut it in half through its core. Put the flat side down and cut in half once again through the core. Holding one of the quarters vertically, slice the tough core part out down the length of each quarter. Put one of the flat sides of the cabbage quarter on your cutting board, and make very thin slices across the wedge. Start making slices at the pointy end and continue making slices until you finish at the core end. Now you can use your knife to slice the pile three or four times across all the slices to make smaller pieces.

Pralined Almonds

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pralined Almonds
Author: 
Recipe type: Snack, Gift, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 2 1/2 cups
 
Pralined almonds, also known as candied almonds, are a sweet treat that can be eaten whole as a snack, crushed for decorating frosted cakes or adding to ice cream sundaes, or chopped coarsely to add to salads. They make a great hostess or holiday gift in a pretty jar with a ribbon or in a decorative can. The recipe itself is very easy, but I do not recommend trying to cook more than one batch at a time as stirring the sandy, sugar-coated nuts can take a bit of effort until the sugar re-liquefies.
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups whole almonds (untoasted)
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
Instructions
  1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner such as Silpat or aluminum foil to use later for cooling the nuts. In a medium saucepan with a handle you will be able to hold onto securely, heat the water and the sugar over medium heat without stirring until the temperature reaches approximately 248F degrees on a candy thermometer. If the thermometer is not completely submerged in the syrup, tilt the pan a bit to get an accurate reading. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the almonds with a wooden spoon or other strong, heat-proof utensil. Continue to stir until the sugar crystallizes and appears sandy. Return the pan to the stove top and cook the almonds over medium heat, stirring constantly until the crystallized sugar liquefies and coats the nuts. This will take about 10 minutes. Be careful to not overcook at this point or you’ll risk burning the nuts and the caramel, which can taste bitter if it burns. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter. Spread the nuts on the lined baking sheet and working quickly with two forks, separate the nuts from each other. Allow to cool. If you find that you have too much butter coating the cool nuts, blot with paper towels. Store the almonds in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

 

Toasted Walnuts with Rosemary


Hard to photograph...Delicious to eat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toasted Walnuts with Rosemary
Author: 
Recipe type: Snack, Gifts, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 cups
 
Whether you are serving these as a snack, with drinks or using them to dress up a salad or sautéed vegetables, you will enjoy the earthy, resinous flavor of the rosemary and the salty-sweet-spicy combination of salt, sugar, and black pepper. They are delicious warm, but if you are packaging them, make sure they are completely cool. They also make a nice hostess or holiday gift. Do not substitute table salt for the kosher salt. The larger crystals of the kosher salt not only add a nice texture and crunch of salt in some bites, but the same volume of table salt has twice the saltiness of kosher salt. You can use any of the larger-grained sea salts. You can make the dried ground rosemary by stripping fresh rosemary needles from their stems and leaving them to dry on a sheet of parchment paper for a day or two. Grind them in a blender or electric coffee grinder. If you do not have ground rosemary, you can substitute 3 tablespoons of chopped, fresh rosemary needles.
Ingredients
  • 4 cups (1 pound) walnut halves
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried ground rosemary needles
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground fresh black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the rosemary, salt, sugar, and pepper. Add the nuts, drizzle in the oil and gently mix all of the ingredients until the nuts are evenly coated with the oil and the seasonings. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with a non-stick silicone liner such as Silpat or aluminum foil. Bake on the middle rack of the oven, stirring occasionally until the nuts are golden and toasted, about 15 minutes. Cool the nuts in the pan on a cooling rack. When the nuts are cool, transfer to a serving bowl or an airtight container. These will keep for 2 weeks at room temperature.

 

Chocolate Pudding


Flavored with orange and garnished with orange zest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Pudding
Author: 
Recipe type: Desserts, Snacks, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 1/2 cup servings
 
When the weather starts turning colder, my thoughts move to comfort food and nothing says comfort better than chocolate pudding. There is no comparison between home-cooked pudding and instant pudding or those little tubs of pudding you find in the supermarket refrigerated section. Since this comes together in minutes, there is no reason to deprive yourself of the chocolaty goodness. You can use vanilla, almond, orange, or any flavoring you like with chocolate, but start with no more than half a teaspoon and taste before adding more. Some flavoring agents are very strong. My favorite is orange extract. For a mocha flavor, dissolve a teaspoon of instant coffee granules into the mixture before you start cooking it. An attractive way to serve the pudding is to layer it with berries or bananas and whipped cream in a parfait glass. If you need an almost effortless dessert for guests, you can pour the pudding into a pre-baked pie shell or graham cracker crust, chill, and top it shortly before serving with swirls of sweetened whipped cream scented with a little vanilla extract. This is an excellent recipe for making with children, especially if you use the microwave oven method.
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • A pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 cups milk, half and half, or soy milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of other flavoring
Instructions
  1. In a medium sauce pan (stove-top method) or 2 quart microwave-safe bowl, sift the dry ingredients together or whisk them together thoroughly until there are no little lumps. Whisk in the cold milk using a small amount at first and then the rest once all the dry ingredients are moistened. Using the stove-top, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly at the end, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. In a microwave oven, cook on high stirring at 1 minute intervals for about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flavoring. Spoon into serving dishes. If you are not cooling the pudding in individual serving dishes, you can cover the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap to avoid the formation of a “skin”. Garnish and serve.

 

Pasta with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Red Pepper


Made with Juice and Zest from a Lemon, and Capers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasta with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Red Pepper
Author: 
Recipe type: Pasta, Vegetarian, Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 6 servings
 
When I am tired of tomato sauces and I want pasta with an easy, yet satisfying taste I turn to extra virgin olive oil, lots of garlic, red pepper flakes, flat leaf Italian parsley, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese sprinkled over the top. A microplane grater makes quick work of grating a block of cheese. Although Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is expensive, a little goes a long way because of its depth of flavor. Once you have tried freshly grated cheese, you won’t be satisfied with pre-grated parmesan cheese in those green cans. The olive oil loses some of its distinctive taste when heated, which is why we are reserving half of it to add to the dish when it is off the heat. After the basics, you can throw in extras like tuna fish, capers, lemon zest, lemon juice, Kalamata olives, broccoli, spinach leaves, asparagus, marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil leaves or a myriad of other ingredients to switch up the pace. If you are adding chunky ingredients, it is good to use chunky-shaped pasta. The base recipe clings nicely to any of the long pastas. There is a classic Italian dish called Pasta Aglio Olio e Peperoncino which is made with those basic ingredients I described. Here is a base recipe which you can tweak to your own tastes.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound of pasta of your choice
  • 12 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, sliced very thin or minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup packed flat Italian parsley leaves, chopped coarsely
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground coarse black pepper
  • Salt
  • Water
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta in a large amount of salted water for a minute or two less than the time suggested on the package. Taste. The pasta should be cooked, but still a little short of the ideal “al dente”. Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the cooking water.
  2. In a skillet large enough to hold the drained pasta, heat 6 tablespoons of the oil. Sauté the garlic and the red pepper flakes in the oil until the garlic is golden, but not browned, about a minute or two. Stir in the drained pasta and some of the pasta water to moisten the pasta if needed. Add the reserved extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground coarse black pepper to taste, the parsley and any add-ins that you would like. Serve the pasta with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.

 

Tabouli

 

 

Tabouli
Author: 
Recipe type: Salads, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 16 servings
 
Middle Eastern food has become mainstream in some areas of the country. For me, a favorite Mediterranean meal includes tabouli, hummus (a dip made of garbanzo beans, garlic, tahini (sesame seed butter), lemon juice, and spices), falafel (garbanzo bean fritters made with parsley, cilantro, and spices) and pita or pocket bread. When making salads, there is tremendous flexibility in proportions for all of the ingredients so that you can create the salad that appeals to your tastes. Some versions of this Middle Eastern salad are predominantly bulgur wheat, the cracked, steamed whole wheat grains that have been dried and are reconstituted with boiling water. I like to use fine bulgur, sometimes called #1, but other grinds work well although they will require longer soaking to soften. Other versions of the salad are rich in herbs and this is one of those, using a large quantity of mint and flat leaf Italian parsley to produce a more intensely flavored salad. This recipe is a starting point for you to modify and make your own. Sometimes this salad is our whole meal with the addition of garbanzo beans, feta cheese, and Kalamata olives. Some people like the addition of a pepper sauce such as Tabasco. When I make a large batch of salad (and the following recipe makes 4 generous entrée salads or 16 side salad portions) I do not add salt to the salad bowl unless I am sure that we won’t have leftovers. I do not want salt drawing the water out of the herbs, cucumber, and tomatoes and leaving the salad watery. For the same reason, I use the feta cheese and Kalamata olives as a garnish. If you use salty items like cheese, olives, capers or anchovies with your salad, you may want to limit the salt that you use to season the salad. This recipe comes together quickly and easily if you use a food processor. You can get similar results by chopping and dicing ingredients with a good knife, but it will take much longer.
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups dry bulgur wheat
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • Juice from 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 green onions, tops included
  • 1 large bunch fresh mint leaves (spearmint)
  • 2 large bunches fresh flat leaf parsley (Italian parsley)
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 1 pound of English or Persian cucumbers
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper sauce such as Tabasco (optional)
  • Garbanzo beans (optional)
  • Kalamata olives (optional)
  • Feta cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place bulgur wheat in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the boiling water over the wheat and mix to moisten all of the grains. Set aside to rehydrate the wheat while you work on the other ingredients. Slice the green onions and using the steel knife, pulse them in the food processor. Leave them in there as you pulse the first batch of herbs. Remove the spearmint leaves from their coarse stems. Cut the bottoms off the parsley bunches, discard and remove the leaves from the stems if the stems are very coarse. Pulse the herbs until they are finely chopped and transfer them to your salad bowl. Core and quarter the tomatoes and pulse until chopped and add to the salad bowl. Cut the cucumbers into large chunks and pulse until chopped and add them to the salad. If the wheat is softened and there is water remaining, drain the excess liquid. Pour the wheat into the salad bowl and add lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, black ground pepper, salt, and pepper sauce if you are using it. Mix, taste and adjust the seasoning. You can add more vinegar if you prefer your salad to be more acidic. Serve in bowls and garnish with desired condiments.

Eiko Ahuna’s Sukiyaki

Eiko Ahuna’s Sukiyaki
Author: 
Recipe type: Beef, Chicken, Tofu, Entree, Vegetarian, Dinner Party
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 6
 
When I started work at my very first “real” job, I met a wonderful woman of Japanese descent who came from Hawaii. She was a great cook who was happy to share her expertise with friends, including me when I was a newly married young woman transplanted from the east coast to the west. This dish is the version of sukiyaki that Eiko taught me to make to wow dinner party guests. The ingredients can be arranged attractively on a tray or platter and cooked at the table in an electric skillet in front of your guests. It is actually very easy to prepare. A rice cooker can steam rice while you are preparing the dinner. Serve the sukiyaki with steamed rice (white or brown), a salad (with Asian-style dressing from a bottle or homemade), and a pickled vegetable such as Asian-style pickled cucumbers with sesame seeds. The sukiyaki can be made vegetarian by using only tofu as the protein component. You can eliminate the step with the meat and increase the amount of tofu used later or cut the additional extra firm tofu into cubes, dry them on a dish towel or paper towels, dredge them in cornstarch (pat off the excess) and sauté them in hot oil in a non-stick pan until they are golden brown on all sides. Continue with the recipe with the sautéed tofu in place of the meat.
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs tenderloin or rib eye beef, sliced thin or 3 chicken breasts sliced thin
  • Oil for sautéing the meat
  • 1 can of bamboo shoots (approximately 8 ounces)
  • 1 can of water chestnuts (approximately 8 ounces)
  • 1 bunch of green onions (tops included), cut in 1 inch slices
  • 1/2 pound button mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 bundles of dry rice noodles (~ 6 ounces total)
  • 1 pound of bean sprouts
  • 1 pound Extra firm tofu, cut into cubes
  • Several large handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
Sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (low sodium or “light” soy is fine)
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine or mirin
Instructions
  1. Mix the sugar, soy sauce, and wine in a small cup, pitcher, or bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat the electric skillet or large pan and add some vegetable oil to film the bottom of the pan. Add enough meat to fill half the pan. Sauté quickly until the meat no longer looks raw. Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Move the meat to one side of the pan and add the vegetables, tofu, and noodles, ensuring the noodles are in the liquid to soften them. Cook for 10 minutes or until done.
  3. Serve with rice, a green salad and a pickled vegetable for a complete meal. Serve tea at the end of the meal.
  4. Notes
  5. The easiest way to slice the meat thin is to freeze it for a while first so that it doesn’t move with the knife strokes. If you have a food processor, that is effective for slicing the slightly frozen blocks quickly. Just make sure that you cut the meat against the grain so that it will be tender. You can also buy the meat already sliced at Asian grocery stores or have your butcher do it, but it tends to be very expensive that way.
  6. You can use any vegetables that appeal to you and except for including the sauce, most ingredients are optional and to your taste. Spinach leaves wilt down to almost nothing very quickly, so don’t worry about putting in a lot even if you have to do it little by little because of the size of your pan.
  7. The rice noodles come in small bundles of about 2 ounces. They are the white crinkly ones you see fried in some Chinese dishes. In this recipe, they turn soft and glassy.