Monthly Archives: April 2018

Tater Salad Twist

A speedy “Make-It-Tonight” staple from William Stewart of Fine Cooking harkens the advent of warmer weather with visions of outdoor BBQs and picnics dancing in my head. This riff, Curried Yogurt Potato Salad, gets a fresh Indian spin with curried yogurt dressing, bright ginger, and crisp vegetables. I was pleasantly surprised how creamy tasting and good it was without the addition of mayo or eggs!

The Persian cucumber is a variety of burpless cucumber, meaning its consumption is less likely to cause gastrointestinal upset than other types. This cucumber is also small, sweet and essentially seedless. I didn’t have luck locating Persian cucumbers but the seedless English variety was a fine substitute because they are similar to Persians, only longer in length and generally come wrapped in plastic.

In contrast to the thick, bumpy skin of the common garden cucumber, the Persian version features a smooth, thin skin that doesn’t require peeling. Its flesh is largely free of bitter-tasting seeds and is firm instead of watery, attributes that lend crunch and a mild sweetness.

The potato salad is especially yummy right after it is made, but can be served room temperature or even after refrigerated.


Curried Yogurt Potato Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1-1/4 lb. baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved (or quartered if large)
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. curry powder
  • 3/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. finely grated lime zest, more for garnish
  • 1 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely diced


  • Put the potatoes in a large pot of  well-salted water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  • Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger and curry powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute; transfer to a large bowl.
  • Whisk in the yogurt, lime zest, and juice, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt.
  • Add the carrots, cucumbers, and onion, and toss well, then add the potatoes and toss gently. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, and garnish with additional lime zest, if you like.

We served ours with sautéed sugar snap peas and a seared steak.

Kickin’ Up the Curry

Thai cuisine is one of my faves so when I can have it in quick fashion, I’m a happy camper. This Spicy Thai Beef Curry from the Fine Cooking’s Make It Tonight series was just the ticket for a weeknight dinner when I didn’t have a lot of time but craved a flavorful curry dish. Remember, our bodies are not just heavy machines that we tote around with us each day, and our culinary pleasure isn’t just a whim when it comes to the mechanics of eating—curry can be a joy to both eat and behold.


The “spicy” title is a bit of a misnomer. Even though it calls for 1 to 2 teaspoons of red curry paste, almost all of the reviewers commented that they had, or wished they’d had, added more than the directions called for. So, being a connoisseur of all things with a kick, I added a healthy tablespoon full of the flavorful paste, resulting in a robust pungency that was not at all overpowering. If you possess a “delicate palette,” you may want to stick with the smaller amount first time out of the gate.

The directions do not instruct you to, but for a thicker sauce that will cling nicely to the meat and rice, after you remove the meat in Step 5, reduce the liquid over medium-high heat for about 6-8 minutes to thicken, then proceed with the remaining steps.

My only other suggestions would be to use fresh sugar snap peas if you can find them; and incorporate some sweet red bell pepper strips for added color and nutrition, but that’s totally up to you.


Spicy Thai Beef Curry

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 lb. beef sirloin tips
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 2 medium-large)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 to 2 tsp. Thai red curry paste
  • 1/2 cup low-salt canned chicken broth
  • 1 13-1/2-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen sugar snap peas
  • 1 large lime, zest finely grated and fruit cut into wedges
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Heat the oil in a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the sirloin tips with salt and pepper and sear the meat in batches until nicely browned on two sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the shallots to the pan and cook until just tender and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minute. Add the ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1/4 cup of the broth, scraping up any bits that are stuck to the pan.
  4. Add 1/3 cup of the coconut milk, stirring until the curry paste has blended in completely. Stir in the remaining coconut milk and broth. Add the fish sauce.
  5. Increase the heat to medium high. Return the beef to the pan (along with any juices), stir, and simmer until the meat is just cooked through, 8 to 12 minute. Remove the meat and transfer to a cutting board. (Here’s where you should reduce the liquid for a thicker sauce.)
  6. Take the pan off the heat. Stir the sugar snap peas into the sauce and cover the pan. Let the meat rest for 1 minute, then slice it thinly across the grain; return it to the pan along with the lime zest. If necessary, return the pan to medium heat until the peas are thawed and  heated through.
  7. Portion the curry into four warm bowls or deep dishes, sprinkle with the cilantro, and serve with the lime wedges.


By Joann Smart from Fine Cooking

Baked Rollatini of Flounder

Part of our international week of dinners, we wanted the Italian menu to be something other than pasta so this Baked Rollatini of Flounder entrée fit the bill nicely. Unlike other highly regarded cuisines, Italian cooking is usually simple to make with many dishes having only 4 to 8 ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. And so it almost is with this simple fish recipe with 10 ingredients—just be sure to have some great olive oil on hand.

“The Sicilians have a tradition of using breadcrumbs in many of their recipes, like involtini di pesce spada, or swordfish rollatini, which are dressed with dried- oregano- seasoned breadcrumbs and olive oil.”  —  Lidia Bastianich

Despite Lidia’s undisputed reputation as a great Italian chef, there were a few things we did, or will do in the future. For instance, I didn’t feel that half of a sliced lemon was enough to cover the bottom of the baking dish so I very thinly sliced the entire zested lemon to build the foundation, and used half of another lemon for the juice. Plus we found that a full cup of white wine was too much liquid, feeling a 1/2 cup would more than suffice (I noted this in the list below.)

Oops, I’m noticing a few citrus pits I should have removed first, mea culpa!

And while this has nothing to do with Lidia’s choice of fish (her original recipe is Rollatini of Sole), it’s uncommon to find sole at our local supermarkets because here in North America we have no true sole, only flounders. They are interchangeable because both sole and flounder have delicate, flaky flesh and a mild, sweet taste; and while each are oval in shape, flounder is more rounded.

Oh, and the fact that Lidia’s cookbook says this serves six, that would be pretty meager rations in just about anyone’s household. We think two fillets per person is more realistic. Otherwise this delicious, delicate dinner was ever-so-satisfying and light. And in that vein, we served it simply with a side of sautéed asparagus.


Baked Rollatini of Flounder

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • large lemon, grated, then half of the lemon juiced, the other half thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • skinless fillets of flounder, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons drained tiny capers in brine


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Toss together the breadcrumbs, grated cheese, parsley, lemon zest, and oregano in a bowl. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, and toss until the crumbs are evenly coated with the oil.
  3. Coat the bottom of a 9-by-13- inch Pyrex baking dish with the softened butter. Arrange the lemon slices in 1 layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Pour in the lemon juice and white wine.
  4. Lay the fish on your work surface, and press the crumbs into the fish. Starting with the short side, roll each fillet up with crumbs on the inside, and secure closed with toothpicks.
  5. Arrange the fish in the baking dish atop the lemon slices, and scatter capers in the open spaces. Sprinkle any leftover crumbs over the fish, and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  6. Place the baking dish on the bottom rack of the oven, and bake until the flounder is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove the toothpicks, spoon some of the capers and sauce over the fillets and serve.


A Quick Mexican Feast!

According to Liz Pearson from Fine Cooking, you don’t have to sacrifice authenticity for speed with these quick and flavorful enchiladas. And an easy, homemade salsa verde adds a tangy kick to this hearty Quick Beef Enchiladas with Salsa Verde.


A few changes we made included flour tortillas instead of corn—only because the supermarket carried ooo-gobs of the flour variety, and zero of the corn. Plus, ours were 8″ in diameter as opposed to 6,” but they actually fit perfectly in the 9×13″ baking dish. I also got a little carried away with the amount of cheese inside each tortilla, so my leftover quantity for the top wasn’t going to cut it, therefore I included some shredded cheddar which added a nice pop of color.

The salsa verde was terrific, but take a note from me. I did a disservice when selecting the very large tomatillos as opposed to 15 small ones. Not a good idea. I unfortunately quartered them before boiling with the onion and jalapeños and they lost a lot of the pulp in the process. So do yourself a favor and buy the small ones and leave them whole when boiling.

Even though we like things spicy, I did seed and devein the peppers, but next time I think I’ll omit that step to retain more of the heat. But to remedy that fact, I topped mine with a few slices of pickled jalapeños. Two is typically a serving, but one was plenty for me especially with our side dish.


The accompaniment of Mexican Tomato Rice & Beans recipe was also from Fine Cooking, but by chef Raghavan Iyer. When cooked using the absorption method, medium-grain rice yields a tender, starchy, slightly creamy kernel that’s ideal for saucy rice dishes like this one. Absolutely delicious! While neither recipe is difficult to make, they both require some prep work and use quite a few kitchen utensils/pots. Oh, but they are sooo worth it!


Quick Beef Enchiladas with Salsa Verde

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. tomatillos (about 15 medium), husked and rinsed
  • 3 jalapeños, stemmed and halved lengthwise (seeded, if you like)
  • 1 large yellow onion, half cut into 4 wedges, half chopped
  • 2/3 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8, 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese


  1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the tomatillos, jalapeños, and onion wedges; cover and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain well and transfer to a blender along with 1/3 cup of the cilantro. Purée until just slightly chunky and season to taste with salt.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, chopped onion, cumin, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper and cook, stirring occasionally to break up the meat, until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir 1/2 cup of the salsa verde into the beef.
  5. Position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler to high. Grease a 9×13-inch metal or ceramic baking dish with the remaining 1/2 Tbs. oil.
  6. Wrap the tortillas in a few slightly damp paper towels and microwave on high until warm, 30 to 45 seconds.
  7. Working with one tortilla at a time, spoon some of the beef mixture down the center of the tortilla and sprinkle with 1 Tbs. of the cheese. Roll up snugly and transfer to the prepared baking dish, seam side down.
  8. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and beef mixture. Pour the remaining salsa verde over the enchiladas and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  9. Broil until golden brown and bubbly, 3 to 5 minutes. Garnish with the remaining cilantro and serve.

Mexican Tomato Rice & Beans



Mexican Tomato Rice and Beans

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 1 cup uncooked medium-grain white rice
  • 1 14-1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes (preferably “petite-cut”)
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium fresh jalapeño, cored and finely chopped (if you like spicy foods, leave in the ribs and seeds; if not, remove them)
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp. kosher or fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh oregano leaves and tender stems
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems


  1. In a 1-quart saucepan, combine the rice with 2 cups cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the pan stand, covered, for another 5 minutes.
  2. While the rice steams, set a fine sieve in a bowl and drain the can of tomatoes. Pour the tomato juices into a 1-cup liquid measure. Add enough water to the tomato juices to equal 1 cup.
  3. Heat a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the oil and stir-fry the garlic and jalapeño until the garlic browns and the jalapeño smells pungent, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the black beans, salt, cumin, and chili powder; stir two to three times to incorporate the mixture and cook the spices, about 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in the tomato juice and water mixture and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans absorb much of the liquid, 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes, oregano, cilantro, and cooked rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is warm, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Peppers by Lidia

Stuffed peppers are a comfort food for Russ. He loved them growing up—me, not so much. However, that all changed somewhere along the line decades ago, and we both now look forward to dining on the one-pot meal. Yes, there is a bit of prep to start with, but once the mild chilies are stuffed, it’s hands off.

Since Russ received Lidia Bastianich’s latest cookbook: Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Great Italian Cook, as a Christmas gift, we’ve been trying out quite a few of her recipes and have not been disappointed—until now. Now don’t get me wrong, the taste of the peppers was spot on, we just didn’t care for the watery sauce that accompanied them; the consistency was more like a broth. Even though you squeeze as much water out of the soaking bread as possible, there is still some residual moisture, plus the peppers themselves will release some more wetness.


So here’s what we would do to remedy our dissatisfaction with the sauce. First, we’d double the amount of canned tomatoes (we like a lot of sauce), then, and most importantly, omit adding any additional water. Next, we’d incorporate some tomato paste to thicken, the amount is up to you but start with two tablespoons and add more to satisfy your preferences. I altered the ingredients list and directions below to reflect our changes.

The whole peeled canned tomatoes are placed in a bowl and crushed by hand.

Because the bell peppers at the store were gigundo, I only used four instead of six, and selected all green ones. But you can use the red, orange and/or yellow bell peppers too, which tend to be a bit sweeter than the green.

Not noted in the directions below, I cooked ours in a 350 degree oven as opposed to heating on a stove burner. The total cooking time was lengthened by 15 minutes to address the size of our peppers. While mashed potatoes are traditionally served with stuffed peppers, we opted to omit them this time and pair them with a side salad.


Stuffed Peppers

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 28 oz cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2-4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 5 cups crustless day old bread cubes
  • 2 lbs ground pork
  • 1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 6 medium bell peppers (any color combination)


  1. Heat a dutch oven large enough to hold the peppers upright in one layer over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Spoon about  half the onion into a large bowl to cool.
  2. To the onion in the pot, add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Season with 2 tsp of the oregano, 1 tsp of the salt, and the red pepper flakes.
  3. Put the bread cubes in a medium bowl with water to cover. Let them soak 5 minutes. Squeeze all of the excess liquid out of the bread, and add the squeezed bread to the cooled onion in the bowl.
  4. Add the ground pork, grated cheese, eggs, remaining tsp oregano, and remaining tsp salt. Mix with your hands to make a cohesive stuffing.
  5. Cut the tops from the peppers, remove the seeds and ribs and divide the stuffing among them. Nestle the peppers in the sauce, cover and simmer until the filling is cooked through and the peppers are tender, about 1 hour.
  6. Place each pepper in a shallow bowl, slice in half, and serve topped with sauce. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese if desired.

Sherry-Infused Baked Sliced Potatoes

A coveted Spanish cookbook, “La Cocina de Mama” by chef author Penelope Casas, has brought us many a mouth-watering meal. So when we decided to prepare week-long dinners based on an International theme, we didn’t hesitate to start with her book.

Along with Penelope’s Chicken with Ham, Olives and Sherry, we paired it with Fernando’s Sherry-Infused Baked Sliced Potatoes—and what a duo they made! She happened across the delicious spud recipe while in Restaurante Bigiote in Sanlucar de Barrameda with a group of American gourmets in tow (wish I had been one of them!)


They are simple and straightforward enough but with an extraordinary surprise ingredient: the subtle flavor of bone-dry Spanish sherry, such as Manzanilla or Fino. Since Russ likes to have a nip or two of this type of sherry while cooking on Sunday evenings, we always have some on hand. Not my cup of tea (or wine 🙂 ) for imbibing, but I do love sherry in cooking.

A mandoline makes quick work of slicing uniformly thick potato slices.


Fernando's Sherry-Infused Baked Sliced Potatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
  • Print


  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8 -inch slices
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves, cut in halves
  • 1/4 medium-large onion, slivered into 1/4 -inch slices
  • 3 tablespoons manzanilla or dry fino sherry
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley


  1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Coat an 8-by-12-inch baking dish with one-half tablespoon olive oil. Add half the potatoes in a slightly overlapping layer and sprinkle with half the salt and pepper.
  2. Scatter the bay leaves and onion over the potatoes and cover with the remaining potatoes, sprinkling again with salt and pepper. Spoon the remaining oil over the potatoes.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes. Cover the pan lightly with foil and return it to the oven in a rotated position. Bake 20 minutes, until the potatoes are almost tender.
  4. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Sprinkle the sherry over the potatoes, cover again with foil and continue baking until the sherry is absorbed and the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Oh Sherry, Sherry Baby—Sherry Can You Come Out Tonight?

Arguably the greatest Spanish food is found not in the nation’s restaurants, but in private homes off-limits to tourists, where women still cook the recipes their mothers and grandmothers cooked before them. Penelope Casas takes us into those homes to uncover the secrets of this simple, easily reproduced, and altogether marvelous cuisine. For La Cocina de Mamá, she has collected recipes from great chefs and traditional home cooks in every region of Spain.


Having been enamored of her recipes and side stories since we bought the book a number of years ago, this Chicken with Ham, Olives and Sherry was one entrée we hadn’t tried yet. But since making it, it has risen to a top-contender spot when poultry becomes the meal of choice. The ingredients list does mention you can substitute prosciutto for the Serrano ham, but if at all possible, use the Spanish version.

About the Serrano Ham: The word Serrano means “from the mountains,” and refers to the cool dry climate necessary to cure hams in the traditional way. Today most moderately priced cured hams are produced in plants that simulate mountain conditions. Top of the line cured hams, called Jamon Iberico (not as yet imported to the United States) are in fact, naturally mountain cured and come from the extraordinary native Iberian pig.

The best cured ham sold in the United States today, according to Penelope (far superior to prosciutto), is the Redondo Iglesias Serrano ham that is imported from Spain and available from We were able to order a thick slice (shown below) at our local upscale supermarket deli. Beware, the price is nearly $25 per pound, but you only need about a quarter pound.


The chicken dish paired fabulously with Penelope’s recipe of Sherry-Infused Baked Sliced Potatoes which take a similar amount of time and get cooked in the oven while the chicken simmers on the stovetop.


IMG_4030To complete the meal, we added a side salad for more veggies and fiber.

Chicken with Ham, Olives and Sherry

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 3 1/2-4 lb. chicken
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 cup pitted and sliced Spanish green olives
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, preferably Vidalia or other sweet type, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup diced Serrano ham (or prosciutto, if you must)
  • 1 tsp. flour
  • 6 Tbsp. dry Manzanilla or Fino sherry
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp. dried)


  1. Cut the chicken into small serving pieces, first detaching the wings and legs, then with kitchen shears, cutting the breast into 4 pieces, and each thigh in half crosswise. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the olives and wine. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and reserve the olives.
  3. Heat the oil in a shallow casserole, and brown the chicken all over, about 5 minutes per side. Do in batches as necessary, and remove to plate when browned.
  4. Lower the heat and add garlic and onion and slowly sauté for 5 minutes.
  5. Scatter in the ham, cook for a minutes then stir in the flour.
  6. Add the sherry, broth, salt and pepper to taste, and thyme. Nestle the chicken pieces back into the pot with the breasts sitting on top of the dark meat. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this time period.
  7. Add the reserved olives and simmer for 2 more minutes. Serve.


Bookmark This Weeknight Duo

“Make It Tonight” is a weekly series from Fine Cooking that we subscribe to and provides quick weeknight recipes. While of course not everyone of them caters to our personal preferences, the vast majority are pretty spot on. Take this simple and satisfying easy main course, Roast Chicken with Chickpeas dinner for instance. Here, crisp-skinned, bone-in chicken thighs braise in a stew of fragrant Indian spices, onion, and chickpeas, each flavoring the other.


Because it was just the two of us, our package of poultry consisted on only five thighs, weighing in at two pounds instead of three. They all fit into one pan so there was no need to brown two batches, saving about 10 minutes.

And the “Make It Tonight” pairing of a Middle Eastern Savoy Cabbage Salad was a knock out side dish that was a perfect accompaniment to the flavors of the chicken. I mean, who doesn’t love pistachios?! I did cut the veggie ingredients in half for just the two of us, but made the full amount of dressing, and I’m glad I did. Personally, I do not like salads saturated with dressing, but in this case, after I initially added only half, we both agreed, it was so tasty and the vegetables were sturdy enough they could handle the entire amount. Yes, it was that good!


Even if you’re not overly fond of chickpeas, the treatment in this recipe adds the perfect amount of pungency from both the spices and the thighs as they impart their juices during the roasting process. The end result takes the chickpeas to another level with a subtle crispness and a boat-load of flavor. And you can’t ignore the health benefits of these legumes.

Chickpeas are sometimes known as garbanzo beans. They are particularly high in fiber. The iron, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K in chickpeas all contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength. Plus, research shows that including chickpeas in the diet lowers the amount of low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol, in the blood. Finally, the choline in chickpeas helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory.


Roast Chicken Thighs with Chickpeas

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 3 lb.)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper; more to taste
  • 1/2 cup lower-salt chicken broth
  • 2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°f.
  • Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken dry if wet and season lightly with salt. Working in two batches, brown the chicken on both sides, about 10 minutes per batch, adjusting the heat as necessary. Transfer to a plate.
  • Pour off all but 1 Tbs. of the fat in the skillet. Add the onion, garlic, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, and 1/2 tsp. salt. cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the broth, scraping up any browned bits. Add the chickpeas and bring to a simmer. Return the thighs to the skillet, skin side up.
  • Transfer to the oven and roast until the chicken cooks through, 20 to 25 minutes. Top with the cilantro and serve with lemon wedges.


Middle Eastern Savoy Cabbage Salad

Middle Eastern ingredients like lemon, yogurt, cumin, and coriander flavor a creamy dressing that crinkly Savoy cabbage soaks right up. Use regular yogurt for the dressing; Greek yogurt is too thick. If you have extra dressing, (which I doubt you will) use it as a dip for vegetables or to dress another small salad. This would make a great lunch salad by itself.


Middle Eastern Savoy Cabbage Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
  • Print


  • 1/2 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 small head Savoy cabbage, halved, cored, and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick ribbons (12 loosely packed cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and shaved into ribbons with the peeler (about 2 lightly packed cups)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (not Greek)
  • 1/4 cup chopped salted pistachios
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • Soak the onion in cold water to mellow it, about 20 minutes. Drain.
  • Meanwhile, in an 8-inch skillet, heat the oil, cumin, and coriander over medium-low heat until the spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Let cool completely.
  • Add the lemon juice and zest, honey, and 1/2 tsp. salt to the spices in the pan and stir to combine. With a silicone spatula, fold in the yogurt until well combined.
  • Put the cabbage, carrots, mint, and onion in a large serving bowl.
  • Toss the salad with about two-thirds of the dressing. Let sit for about 10 minutes to soften the cabbage.
  • Sprinkle the chopped pistachios over the salad. Grind some black pepper over the top and then drizzle with more dressing to taste. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, and serve.

In a Nod to Tuscany

In Italy, Tuscans living in rural areas were once referred to as mangiafagioli, or “bean eaters,” a reference to their consumption of economical bean dishes. The most traditional preparation is an ultrasimple wintry one in which dried cannellini beans are simmered with herbs and garlic until tender and then drizzled with olive oil for serving.

This riff on Tuscan-style beans gets a fuller seafood flavor with a quick concentrated stock from the shrimp shells used to simmer the beans. The shrimp also get cooked with the beans rather than separately, and minced anchovies meld with the sautéed aromatics. While the shrimp flavor the beans, the beans also insulate the shrimp from direct heat so that they stay plump and moist.


To season the shrimp and keep them plump and juicy, brine them briefly, and add them late in the cooking process, cooking them gently. Canned beans and canned tomatoes make this dish fast and doable at any time of year; plus, the liquid from one of the cans of beans lends the stew good body. Plenty of fresh basil and lemon juice and zest provide freshness and nice acidity.

If like us, you have some homemade seafood stock on hand, you can skip Steps 2 through 5 and shave off about 15 minutes. Now that’s a real time saver! And it isn’t yet tomato season, so use canned tomatoes instead of the fresh ones. For ease, and because they maintain their shape due to the addition of calcium chloride, use the diced variety.

We loved how simple, yet tasty this dish was. The final flourish of fresh basil not only adds a nice pop of color, but lends an initial subtle peppery flavor, then evolves into a slightly sweet, aromatic punch. An essential ingredient in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, basil pairs exquisitely with lemon, tomato and garlic, all of which are in this recipe.

Do yourself a favor and make a batch of homemade seafood stock, portioning it out into different sized containers, then freeze them until needed. You’ll thank yourself in the future…


Tuscan Shrimp and Beans

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound large shell-on shrimp (26 to 30 per pound), peeled, deveined, and tails removed, shells reserved (If you have your own seafood stock, buy the shrimp already peeled.)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced thin
  • 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and minced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans (1 can drained and rinsed, 1 can left undrained)
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • ¼ cup shredded fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice


  1. Dissolve sugar and 1 tablespoon salt in 1 quart cold water in large container. Submerge shrimp in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove shrimp from brine and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add shrimp shells and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to turn spotty brown and skillet starts to brown, 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Remove skillet from heat and carefully add 1 cup water. When bubbling subsides, return skillet to medium heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  4. Strain mixture through colander set over large bowl. Discard shells and reserve liquid (you should have about 1/4 cup). Wipe skillet clean with paper towels.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil, onion, garlic, anchovies, pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in now-empty skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add 1 can drained beans, 1 can beans and their liquid, tomatoes, and shrimp stock and bring to simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
  7. Reduce heat to low, add shrimp, cover, and cook, stirring once during cooking, until shrimp are just opaque, 5 to 7 minutes.
  8. Remove skillet from heat and stir in basil and lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Transfer to serving dish, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and serve.


Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Thick, Spicy, Rich, and Dee-lish.

Cutting back on carbs? Who said Italian night has to include pasta? This quick-cooking stew has onions, garlic, and spicy Italian sausage—classic flavors you expect in an Italian meal—and it’s warming and comforting too, the perfect antidote to these frigid temperatures. Of course if you can’t tolerate spicy, use sweet Italian sausage instead.


This Spicy Sausage, Escarole and White Bean Stew recipe hits all the right buttons. Thick, spicy, rich, and delish. Plus it’s super easy to prepare. If you’re not into escarole or can’t find it, substitute spinach or kale. Just make sure that whatever greens you decide on, wash them real well and spin dry.

The jury is in, we loved it! Of course we used more sausage, escarole, and vinegar than originally called for (reflected in the directions below.) The only other change we’d make next time, is incorporating 2 cups of broth as opposed to one.

And if you don’t care about counting carbs, make some toasted bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil for a nice accompaniment. Or, make your own garlic butter to spread on Italian or rustic bread.


Spicy Sausage, Escarole and White Bean Stew

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 head escarole, chopped into 1- to 2-inch pieces, washed, and lightly dried
  • 1 cup low-salt canned chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. red-wine vinegar; more to taste
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (we used Grano Padano)


  1. Heat the oil in a heavy 5- to 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 minutes.
  2. Add the sausage, raise the heat to medium high, and cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula until lightly browned and broken into small (1-inch) pieces, 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the beans.
  4. Add the escarole to the pot in batches; using tongs, toss with the sausage mixture to wilt the escarole and make room for more.
  5. When all the escarole is in, add the chicken broth, cover the pot, and cook until the beans are heated through and the escarole is tender, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with the vinegar and salt. Transfer to bowls and sprinkle each portion with some of the Parmigiano.


Adapted from a recipe by Joann Smart from Fine Cooking

Ham-ming It Up

While lamb is our usual go-to for Easter dinner, we decided to switch things up and make a ham this year. Part of the reason was the Roasted Ham with Mustard-Herb Crust recipe by Tracey Seaman that caught our attention in the most current issue of Fine Cooking Magazine. You don your Easter outfit, and the ham gets dressed up with a simple sweet-savory topping. Of course, this lovely dinner could be served anytime of the year.


Not sure why we don’t serve ham more often. It usually makes for an easy meal. Here, the ingredient list is short and the prep minimal, which left us time and energy to concentrate on our other dishes that included a Sriracha Deviled Egg appetizer, a Spring Salad with Strawberries, a Rainbow Chard Casserole with Parmesan Crumb topping, and a Potato, Fennel and Leek Gratin.



The original recipe said the ham serves 6-8 people. Well, we hosted a small crowd of seven and there was easily a half of ham left—which suited us just fine because we had leftovers for future meals such as ham-fried-rice, frittatas, sandwiches, casseroles, and soups.

So next time you have a craving for ham, and you need to feed a crowd, this recipe may be just the ticket!

Roasted Ham with Mustard-Herb Crust

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 9-lb. spiral-sliced ham (preferably uncured)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. apricot preserves or apple jelly
  • 6 Tbs. whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tsp. dried herbes de Provence
  • 3 large yellow onions, each cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1-1/2 cups unfiltered apple cider or unsweetened apple juice


  1. Put the ham cut side down in a 9×13-inch roasting pan. Let stand at room temperature for up to 4 hours before roasting.
  2. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat to 375°F. In a small saucepan or microwavable bowl, warm the preserves. Using a small offset spatula, spread onto the rounded top side of the ham; spoon the mustard over the preserves, then sprinkle the herbs on top. Scatter the onions in the pan, and cover the ham loosely with a sheet of foil to prevent the crust from burning. Place in the oven and roast for 1 hour.
  3. After 1 hour, brush about 1/2 cup of the cider on top of the ham; pour the remaining 1 cup of cider into the pan with the onions, cover with the foil, and roast 30 minutes more, until the onions are tender.
  4. Transfer the ham and onions to a serving platter and the pan juices to a gravy boat. Let the ham rest for a few minutes before carving.
  5. Arrange slices and cooked onions on a platter and serve.

The Devil’s in the Details

These Sriracha Deviled Eggs have a tangy filling while remaining silky smooth and luscious. A requirement for deviled eggs is a good amount of tanginess and acid in the mix. You need to add a bite to them to offset the inherently rich egg yolks. Often that would be mustard, but these little “devils” use one of my favorite condiments, Sriracha.


They are pretty much a staple for Easter Sunday in our house, and most years I’ll try a riff on the old classic. Presentation makes or breaks the recipe, so don’t forget that the devil’s in the details when plating up the eggs. A flourish of slanted scallion slices not only adds a nice pop of spring green color, but also a tangy bite and a bit of texture.

My original intent was to use a star tip with the pastry bag but the mixture was too fluid and the shape wouldn’t have held up, so I used a large circle tip. Russ and I both agreed that the addition of two tablespoons of olive oil was way too much which produced a limp blend. I adjusted the list below to indicate using only one teaspoon oil for a firmer batter.

As a substitute for the pickle juice I incorporated cornichon juice, which is basically the same thing. Enjoy!

Sriracha Deviled Eggs

  • Servings: 5-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 12 large eggs, hard boiled and peeled
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons pickle juice (not sweet)
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Greens of 2 scallions, sliced at a slant, as garnish
  • Light dash of paprika, as garnish


  1. Hard boil the eggs your preferred method. (We use a pressure cooker and they come out perfect.)
  2. Halve the eggs and scoop out the yolks and transfer them to a mixing bowl.
  3. Add the mayonnaise, olive oil, pickle juice, Sriracha and a few pinches of salt. Blend with a hand mixer until creamy. Give it a taste, and adjust the seasonings to your preference.
  4. Transfer the filling into a piping bag (fitted with a star tip for the fluted effect) and fill the egg whites with the mixture.
  5. Garnish with a sprinkling of some sliced scallions and a dash of paprika.

One-Pot Braised Cabbage with Bacon

What to do with an almost whole head of leftover cabbage? In cool weather, which we are STILL experiencing in the Northeast, braising is a great option. After a quick Google on the web, Russ came across this simple recipe from We had all of the ingredients on hand so it was a perfect side dish for our seared pork chop entrée.


Cabbage is pretty simple, as vegetables go. It’s a beautiful, firm ball of Spring-colored leaves with a distinct pungent scent and taste. But when chopped up and left to melt and brown in salty, savory bacon fat, cabbage transforms into a pot of soft, mellow vegetable magic that soothes the soul. And trust me, until the weather starts warming up around here, the soul and other body parts need some soothing…

Rooted in the Southern tradition of cooking, fresh cabbage cooks in bacon fat for an easy side dish that delivers pure, vegetable comfort. It starts with cooking thick-cut bacon bits, until they’re crispy. They get set aside and wedges of cabbage go into the pan.

Rather than chopping the cabbage into pieces, keep the cabbage attached to the core, making for soft, tender hunks of cabbage to spoon onto each plate. This creates soft cabbage “fans” on the plate once they are cooked down and ready to eat. The cabbage gets braised in broth until tender, with a titch of apple cider vinegar to finish.

Not a bacon fan? Substitute black pepper pastrami in its place. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

One-Pot Braised Cabbage with Bacon

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 5 thick-cut slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick pieces
  • Olive oil, if needed
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium green cabbage (about 2 pounds), cut through the core into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat a 5-quart or larger Dutch oven on medium-high heat.
  2. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy and most of the fat is rendered, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.
  3. Take the pot off the heat and let cool a few minutes. If you have less than 3 tablespoons of grease in the pot, add olive oil to make up the difference.
  4. Place the Dutch oven back over medium-high heat; add the garlic and stir.
  5. Place the cabbage wedges cut-side down in the pot (they will not sit in one layer). Cook undisturbed until the cabbage pieces on the bottom begin to slightly brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
  6. Using a wooden spoon, bring up the cabbage sitting on the bottom to rotate the pieces on the top to the bottom of the pot. Continue cooking until the cabbage slightly wilts and more pieces brown on the edges, 7 to 8 minutes.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the broth, bay leaf, and salt. Simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the cabbage is tender and all the liquid is evaporated, 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Scatter the crispy bacon on top and serve immediately.

IMG_3766We served ours with seared bone-in pork chops and roasted butternut squash.



With a fork, pierce the outer layer along the length of both sides of squash. Microwave on high for three minutes. Let cool slightly, then slice along perforation to cut in half easily. Drizzle with butter or olive oil, sprinkle with spices and finish roasting in a 400 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes until fork tender.

Tso Friggin’ Good!

I have a confession to make. This General Tso’s Shrimp with Broccolini recipe almost didn’t make the cut because of the “fried” shrimp. But Russ convinced me to at least give it a try—and I’m really glad I did because they were delightfully crunchy, but not at all greasy!


The directions indicate to fry each batch of seven-to-eight shrimp for three minutes, but we found no more than two minutes did the trick. And we covered the wok after adding the water to the broccolini to make sure it got tender enough. Initially the two bunches seemed like overkill for two people (the recipe serves 4), but in the end it was the proper ratio to the other ingredients, and we enjoyed leftovers for lunch the next day.

There is a certain fear that exists around cornstarch (um, hello), an assumption that it was created in a lab and is nothing short of some mysterious white powder. No need to fear—it’s a pure starch made from finely ground corn flour. And it makes fried shrimp (or chicken) 10 times better.

Coating small pieces such as shrimp that will be stir-fried in some straight-up cornstarch, gives you a crispy coating after a super short time sizzling in oil. They’re not battered (like fried chicken), but texturally they’re not far off.


General Tso's Shrimp with Broccolini

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 large egg white
  • 3 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine, mirin or dry sherry
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch, plus more for coating (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails intact)
  • 1/3 cup Thai-style sweet chili sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil, plus more for deep-frying
  • 2 bunches broccolini, trimmed
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups cooked white rice, for serving


  1. Whisk the egg white with 1 tablespoon each rice wine, soy sauce and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and toss; refrigerate until ready to fry.
  2. Whisk the chili sauce, the remaining 2 tablespoons each rice wine and soy sauce, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 cup water in a bowl; set aside.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok or large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the broccolini; stir-fry until charred in spots, 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and stir-fry until crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes; transfer to a plate.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium; add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the scallions, garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir-fry until tender, 2 minutes. Add the chili sauce mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 1 minute. Cover and set aside.
  5. Heat 1 inch of oil in a deep saucepan over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 365 degrees F. Working in batches, toss the shrimp in cornstarch to coat, then fry until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  6. Return the wok to medium heat and reheat the sauce if needed. Add the broccolini and shrimp and cook, tossing, until warmed through, 2 minutes. (Add up to 1/2 cup water if the sauce is too thick.) Serve with the rice.


Courtesy of Food Network Magazine