Archive for May, 2011

May 31, 2011

Baked Stuffed Zucchinis

Very quick weeknight dinner (: Not to mention low carb and vegetarian!


  • 4 medium sized zucchinis
  • 1 12oz package of Smart Ground Veggie Protein Crumble*
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 small crimini mushrooms, minced
  • 1/2 15oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbs parsley
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 2 tbs white wine
  • grated parmesan
  • salt

*looks to be about the volume of 3/4 to 1lb of ground meat


  • Preheat oven to 325F.
  • Halve zucchinis and scoop out the seedy insides.
  • Line a baking pan with aluminum foil, add a dash of beef broth and place zucchini halves, skin side up, in the oven and bake ~ 15 min.
  • Heat a bit of oil in a large nonstick pan. Saute onions, 2 min. Add mushrooms and garlic. Continue sautéing until mushrooms lose much of their liquid and reduce 50% in size. Season with parsley, allspice and salt.  Remove into separate bowl and set aside.
  • Reheat the pan and add the protein crumble, adding some of the tomato juice from the can.
  • Add onion mixture back in, along with diced tomatoes with juice and the wine. (Add more beef broth if too dry, but you don’t want the mixture to be soupy.) Stir and let the liquids absorb fully.
  • Pull zucchinis out of the oven and spoon protein mixture into the halves. Pack tightly, top with shredded parmesan, and return to oven for 10 more min. Remove and serve!

May 30, 2011

Portuguese Baked Cod (Bacalhau) in Stewed Tomatoes

This is actually the first meal I had in Lisbon, Portugal back in December of 2008. Never forgot that meal. The traditional version is made from dried, salted cod simmered in a rich tomato stew. Seeing as I have no salted cod on hand, and considering the fact that I am way too lazy and last minute to salt and brine fish 24 hours ahead of time, I went ahead and made it from fresh cod. Er, and by fresh I mean thawed flash frozen cod fillets. And canned tomatoes. And poblanos that I roast in bulk and always keep in my freezer.  Yea yea.. I was a little short on time to get dinner on the table today.


  • 2-3 fillets of cod (brined or fresh)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 roasted poblano, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 tbs parsley
  • salt pepper
  • pat of butter

Pat fillets dry and salt/pepper both sides. Set aside. In a 2-3 qt pot, melt a generous pat of butter. Saute onions 2-3 min, then add poblanos and garlic. Add a generous sprinkle of salt, the bay leaf, and parsley. Continue to saute until soft ~5 min. Add tomatoes and its juices (and a dash of fish stock or chicken stock if still too dry), bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a low simmer. Salt to taste if needed, then cover and simmer for 15-20 min. Preheat oven to 325F. Pour tomato mixture into a deep baking pan (I used a 9” pyrex pie pan). Nest the fillets in the pan, baste and top with tomato/onion mixture. Bake for ~30 min, flipping once, or until fish flakes and is no longer transparent.

May 30, 2011

Spiced Chickpeas and Apricot Salad

My new favorite salad! Very summery with deep earthy spices, a citrus-y dressing and sweet ripe apricots. It just might become your new favorite, too!

Adapted from Cooking Light magazine:


  • spinach
  • 1 large apricot, pitted and sliced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup sliced red onions
  • 1 15oz can of chickpeas
  • 1.5 tsp cumin
  • 1/2-1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbs olive oil


  • 1/2 tsp grated orange rind
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Drain, rinse and pat dry 1 can of chickpeas. In a small tupperware container or a ziplock bag, pour in chickpeas, 1 tbs olive oil, a few pinches of salt, cumin and coriander, then shake and bake: Spread on a foil lined baking pan and toast on 450F for 20 min or until crunchy, stirring once or twice.  Remove and set aside to cool. In a large salad bowl, add several handfuls of spinach, top with onions, apricots, feta and toasted chickpeas. Pour over dressing and serve immediately.

May 30, 2011

Spiced Apple Bread

Let’s start out by saying… I can not bake. I rarely pull out my measuring utensils, I have trouble following instructions (and not just in the kitchen), and the last time I tried to make a dessert, I ended up presenting chocolate chip biscuits to my friend at her birthday party (I mean come on. How many different types of flour can there BE?)

Much to my surprise, last night’s little endeavor turned out to be quite a success. Ok, so I accidentally mis-measured my baking soda and had to double the recipe, but fortunately that first loaf quickly disappeared between snatching hands and a chorus of “yummy” sounds. And nothing makes me happier than people making yummy sounds at my food.

(That’s the thing about baking at 12am…terrible lighting…)

This Spiced Apple Bread was adapted from Imagine that. Useful site, I’ve found. The final product is more cake-like than bread-like, with juicy morsels of apple and plump raisins dispersed throughout a moist, dense, cinnamon-y  cake. I might add a bit more pecans next time. I liked the extra crunch and wanted more of it.


  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tbs apple pie spice
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped apples
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • optional topping: 2 teaspoons sugar mixed with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325F. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a small bowl. In a separate, larger mixing bowl, mix sugar, eggs, vanilla. Then fold in raisins and pecans and apples. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients. Butter/grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans and pour in batter. Bake for 20 min. Remove and top with optional cinnamon sugar mixture. Return to oven for 40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside and cool for ~10-15 minutes before you slice and serve!

May 28, 2011

Cheddar and Apple Grilled Cheese + Tomato Basil Soup

Inspiration for today’s lunch? Not that anyone needs a reason to make grilled cheese sandwiches and its perfect accompaniment, tomato soup, but I ordered this meal at a local cafe last week and for $12, I was less than impressed. One dimensional soup and what looked like packaged american cheese between two slices of heavily buttered Mr. Baird’s white bread.

Screw that. THIS is a bit more time consuming, but much more satisfying:


  • bread
  • 2 kinds of cheese, shredded/grated*
  • thinly sliced apples
  • butter

Preheat oven on 350-400F. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place them, butter side down, on a non-stick frying pan heated on medium high. As it sizzles and browns, spread shredded cheese on each slice. Place sliced apples over the cheese of one slice of bread. Top with other slice of bread. Pop in oven and bake until apples warm through ~ 3-5 min.

*I used a sharp white cheddar mixed with a mild orange cheddar.

The second batch came out much thicker. Use more cheese! Also, green apples would’ve given a nice tart bite, but since I was using cheddar, which is already rather sharp, I wanted a sweeter apple to mellow it out. Here I used Gala.

adapted from Michael Chiarello’s recipe on

  • 1 can (14oz) of diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 small carrot, minced
  • 1 small stalk celery, minced
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • 4 or 5 fresh basil leaves, large
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Preheat oven to 450F
  2. Drain canned tomatoes from juice, set juice aside. On an aluminum lined oven pan, drizzle on ~ 1 tbs olive oil. Spread drained tomatoes over pan, rolling them to coat in oil. Distribute tomatoes evenly and as thinly over the pan as possible. Broil ~ 20 min to caramelize.
  3. Heat a small pat of butter over medium high heat in a small dutch oven/pot. *butter has a lower smoking point than olive oil. I actually keep a tub of homemade ghee in my fridge. That stuff never burns. Great for sauteing!
  4. Saute onions, carrots, celery, and garlic until soft ~10 min.
  5. Add roasted tomatoes, reserved tomato juice, chicken stock and bay leaf. Bring to a low boil, then reduce and simmer ~ 20 min.
  6. Basil CHIFFONADE: stack basil leaves on top of each other. Roll into a tube. Slice into ribbons from one end of tube to the other. Add to soup along with milk/cream.
  7. Remove bay leaves and process in food processor until smooth.
  8. Top with extra basil leaves for presentation.

May 25, 2011

Summer Barlotto


  • 1.5 cups arborio rice (or pearled barley for a “barlotto”)
  • 4-5 cups chicken broth (or beef/mixture)
  • 1/2 cup white wine (drinking quality)
  • grated parmesan
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • butter

Heat a small dutch oven on medium high heat and melt a pat of butter. Saute onions until soft (~5 min). In a small separate sauce pan, bring broth to a boil. Lower heat and keep on simmer. Add rice/barley to onions, toss and coat with butter (adding more if necessary). Toast but dont brown. Add wine and stir until fully absorbed. Add a ladle-full of broth and again stir until liquid is mostly absorbed. Add another ladle of broth and repeat until grains are almost al-dente but still on the hard side. Keep stirring. You dont want the grains to stick to the bottom of the pot. Now add extras (such as mushrooms, blanched asparagus, frozen peas + one slice of smoked  bacon, chopped finely) and stir until cooked through, adding broth when needed. Top with grated parmesan (and parsley) and serve immediately! It’ll get gummy if it sits.

Something to note: white wine freezes beautifully. So don’t skimp and buy the cheapest bottle because you know you’ll never drink it all, and don’t waste money on the tiny bottles that cost more than the full size. Get a good quality, large size drinking wine, use what you need, drink what you will, and freeze the rest in ice cube trays. Then whenever a recipe calls for it, just pop out cubes of white wine from the tray and let it thaw at room temperature.

Mmmm…look at those plump little chewy kernels of barley. (:

May 24, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes + Fresh Berry Compote


Adapted from this recipe.

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 tub (250 grams) or 1 cup (250 ml) ricotta cheese
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • ½cup all-purpose flour
  • zest of a large Meyer lemon
  • butter for greasing the pan
  • berry jam (see below)
  • confectioners sugar to sprinkle on top

In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks, ricotta cheese, sugar, flour and lemon zest.

In another bowl, whip egg whites with a mixer until glossy peaks form. Stir about one-quarter of the whites into the ricotta mixture, then fold in the remaining whites gently.

Melt butter in pan over medium heat, drop batter on using small ladle or large spoon. I used a ¼-cup (50-ml) measure.) Flatten slightly, then let cook for about two minutes per side until lightly browned. Top with macerated strawberries.

Note: Seeing as I almost never bake, I never bothered investing in a stand mixture. Good grief I don’t know how they did it back in the day before electric mixtures, but my arms are so friggin’ sore. Some things I learned about beating egg whites:

  1. Don’t get yolk mixed up in your whites. It wont bubble correctly.
  2. Room temp eggs whip better.
  3. Add some acid to stabilize the bubbles: I added a few drops of lemon juice. Magic. (salt apparently works too.)
  4. Get a stand mixer.


Adapted from this basic jam how to.

  • 1 cup fresh berries/fruit
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup water
Mash berries with back of spoon (I like the texture of little berry bits, so I wouldn’t stick these in a blender). Add to a large pan with water and sugar and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once you reach a boil, reduce to medium or a low and slow boil, and let jam reduce. Stir occasionally. Stop when you reach the consistency you want (syrupy, thick and jammy, etc).
May 23, 2011

Beef Empanadas + Black Bean Soup

EMPANADAS ***EDIT: new and improved! Try my empanadas TAKE TWO. Much tastier… 

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 1/2 small potato, diced finely
  • 1 tiny can tomato sauce
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins soaked in ~1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 pinch clove
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 package of frozen empanada dough (I used Goya, flakey crust for the oven/horno)


  1. Heat a bit of beef broth (or water) in a small sauce pan and add minced potatoes. Cover and let potatoes cook until just soft.
  2. Heat some oil in a large nonstick pan and cook beef, breaking up pieces as you go. Salt and remove into a separate bowl when beef almost but not quite cooked through.
  3. In remaining oil, saute onion until soft. Add potatoes and mix. Add half the seasonings. If mixture is too dry, add some of the juice from the meat.
  4. Reintroduce beef into mixture. Add tomato sauce/paste and mix. Then add raisins and wine it was soaking in, as well as the rest of the seasonings.
  5. Let meat mixture reduce until all liquids absorbed. Salt to taste. Remove and set aside to cool.
  6. Preheat oven to 350F
  7. Spoon meat into center of each round, fold and crimp, apply egg wash.
  8. Bake ~20 min or until golden brown.


  • 2 (15oz) cans of black beans
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced finely
  • 1 small rib of celery, diced finely
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder (Mexene brand)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 pieces of bacon, diced
  • 1 cup chicken stock/beef stock
  • 1 cup greek yogurt + lime juice or sour cream for serving
  • optional: cilantro or parsley


  1. Saute bacon to render the fat. Remove bacon pieces and set aside.
  2. Saute onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic in remaining bacon fat (mmm..bacon fat..). Season with cumin and chili powder.
  3. Add black beans, drained but not rinsed, along with chicken stock. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium low heat.
  4. Using a hand blender or a food processor, puree some of the black beans (1-2 cups) until smooth. Add back into soup.
  5. Add bacon and corn. Cover and simmer 30 min to let flavors distribute.
  6. Serve with a dollop of greek yogurt mixed with lime juice (substitute for sour cream)!
  7. optional: I also added a pinch of parsley before serving. I hate cilantro but the dish needed some green…

May 21, 2011

Greek for Dinner: Lamb Shank Stifado + Gigandes Plaki

or “Greek Lamb Shanks + Gigante Beans.”

I claim no authenticity. I just wanted some tomato-y lamb shanks and butter beans tonight and this is what I ended up with. I believe a true stifado should include pearl onions, vinegar, and red wine. To avoid buying more ingredients than I had room for in my pantry, I used sweet yellow onions instead of pearl, and white wine instead of red wine and vinegar. I believe white wines are a tad more acidic than red, so I thought I could get away with leaving out the vinegar. And since I was using a lighter, white wine, I used a heavier/more robust beef broth instead of chicken.


  • 3 medium lamb shanks (~ 2 lb)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 med sweet yellow onion (pearl, if you have them)
  • 1 stalk celery (~30% amount of onions.)
  • several small cloves of garlic, halved
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 1-2 tsp greek oregano
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 pinch allspice
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch mint
  • ~1 cup beef broth
  • ~1/2 cup dry, crisp white wine
  • black pepper (whole kernel if possible.)
  • olive oil
  • lemon pepper (I forgot to buy lemons at the store…if you have them, use zest)

You will use your typical braising method for this recipe: (preheat your oven to 300F)

  1. Prep meat: Cut about 5 slits into the lamb shank between the muscle bundles and stuff halved garlic cloves in. Salt and (lemon) pepper generously.
  2. Brown meat: Heat olive oil in 5qt dutch oven. Sear meat on each side until evenly brown all over. Remove from pot and set aside.
  3. Saute aromatics: In remaining oil, saute minced onions and celery ~3 min or until just soft. Add garlic and saute until fragrant. ~5 more min or until onions are translucent and just browned. Salt and add half the spices.
  4. Deglaze: Add tomatoes + juice and deglaze bottom of pot.
  5. Reduce: Add beef broth and wine. Reduce until ~50% original volume of liquid is left. Add rest of the spices.
  6. Reintroduce Meat: Preheat oven to 300F. Return shanks into pot, distributing evenly. Spoon onion mixture and sauce over tops, cover, and pop in oven for 2.5+ hours. Remove from oven to flip shanks over at the 1 hour and 2 hour mark. Serve immediately or:
  7. Optional: Flip shanks once more, then put immediately into fridge over night. The next day, spoon off fat layer, gently reheat over stove, and serve. OK. This is not really optional. Make it ahead! Tastes better. I promise.

Braising is hands down, my favorite cooking methodology to date. (:

Yea, it’s not too pretty. but it taste good! I love how the garlic just melts away into the soup and how the nice tang of the tomatoes really balances with the dark earthy flavors of lamb. You really can’t go wrong with braising lamb.

Now on to the beans.


A note on beans:
1 lb dry yields ~ 7 cups cooked or ~ 4 fifteen oz cans
(2 cups/can). Not exact, but you can get away with this conversion.

Recipe from Serious Eats.

  • 1 pound Greek gigantes (giant) beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cups raw ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or use canned plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons tomato concentrate, or tomato extract, or sun-dried tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs, minced (dill is preferred by Greeks, but you could also use un-Greek basil, or a tablespoon of mint and a tablespoon of thyme)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Put the beans in a large saucepan with water to cover to a depth of about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer, cover the pan, and simmer very gently for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the beans are starting to soften but not yet ready to eat. Periodically, skim off any foam that rises to the top. When the beans are ready, remove from the heat but do not drain.
  2. Set the oven at 325 degrees. Using 3 tablespoons of the oil, cook the onions in a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and starting to brown.
  3. Using 3 tablespoons of the oil, cook the onions in a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and starting to brown.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the hot beans from the saucepan to an oven dish, preferably a bean pot–a terra cotta or ceramic dish that is taller than it is wide (lacking such a pot, you could also use an ordinary casserole or souffle dish, but a bean pot is preferable). Stir in the remaining olive oil, the onions, and the chopped or crushed tomatoes. Dissolve the honey and tomato concentrate in about 1 cup of the hot bean water and add to the beans, mixing carefully and tucking the bay leaves in with the beans. There should be just enough liquid in the pot to barely cover the beans–add a little more if necessary, but make sure it is boiling hot. Cover the pot securely with aluminum foil (and the pot lid if available), transfer to the preheated oven, and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Check the beans from time to time and add a little more boiling bean liquid or plain water if necessary.
  5. Remove the bean pot from the oven. The beans should be meltingly tender at this point. Stir in the fresh herbs and the vinegar, along with salt and pepper. Return the bean pot, uncovered, to the oven and let the beans bake for another 15 minutes to absorb all the flavors.

K. I’ll be honest. I f*(^ed this one up the first time around. I’m not too keen on the idea of cooked red onions, but I figured “what the hell do I know about Greek cooking” so I stuck with the recipe. They do, in fact, turn into an ugly shade of purple when cooked and I don’t feel they impart any particular flavor that would warrant its use in future cooking endeavors. Red onions will stay raw in my kitchen here on out. For some reason the recipe following ended there. I inadvertently used way too much dill. So don’t do that either. Anyway, I didn’t have time to remake my beans. But I’ll give this recipe another shot later. And this time I’ll follow it. ):

May 13, 2011

Chả Cá Thăng Long

Greaaaaat recipe. Tastes as good as it looks. The vivid green of the fresh dill fronds and the shocking yellow of the tumeric impart as much flavor as they do visual stimuli. Not that tumeric tastes like anything, but I suppose that’s debatable. Maybe it’s all psychological. How can something SO pretty not affect how you perceive its taste?

Things to note: I forgot how salty fish sauce is. I added extra salt only to realize later that it is totally unnecessary. Also, I think I’ll try broiling in the future. Perhaps cut back on some of my oil intake…


  • 1 lb  firm white fish, cut into 2” pieces
  • 3 tbs Vietnamese Fish Sauce
  • 1.5 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tbs garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 2 tbs shallots, sliced
  • 1 tbs dry dill for marinade
  • black pepper
  • 4 green onions, chopped in segments
  • 1 small white onion, sliced
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill, de-stemmed
  • handful of toasted salted peanuts, chopped


  1. Mix fish sauce, garlic, ginger, tumeric,  shallots, dry dill, and black pepper. Coat and marinate fish. Cover and refrigerate ~1hr.
  2. Heat oil in nonstick pan. Saute onions until just soft. Add 1/3 of the dill and all the green onions. Saute 1-2 more minutes, remove from heat and plate.
  3. Drain off marinade and pat fish dry.
  4. Heat remaining oil in nonstick pan on high and sear fish ~3 min each side or until golden brown.
  5. Place the rest of the dill on the onions. Plate fish and top with crushed peanuts.
  6. Served with rice.