Saturday, June 26, 2010


Sometimes people like to try to shock me. They tell me their dirty little secrets. "Oh, June, I have a really easy way to grill asparagus. I spray it with Pam first and then plop it on the grill." or "Oh, you know a great way to make steak? Bake for 20 minutes at 350."

Seriously, people have actually said these things to me, and once I was served baked steaks. Really.

But the other day, I got one of the best dirty little secrets ever. I am out in California helping Grandma Foodie while she recovers from some not major, but not minor surgery. I made plans to meet some old friends from high school whom I had not seen in close to thirty years. (Yes, alright, I am that old.) Making plans in California is not a necessarily easy task. One must consider the time of day, direction of travel and which parking lot of a freeway on which one will have to sit. We finally settled on a hole in the wall place called Esther's taco house The girls worried I might not like it. They are readers of this blog. They said they were afraid of me. Okay, I can see that, people confuse my sarcastic online demeanour with my sweet real life personality. (Stop ;laughing. It's true. Sometimes.)  But, happily the taco place was good, as was the company. It was a blast, girls.

One of my old friends looked sheepishly at me and and told me that one of her best dishes is chicken breasts (boneless, skinless) stuffed with stove top and baked with,wait for it, wait for it,CREAM OF CHICKEN SOUP.

I was nearly speechless. After all, how do you chastise someone you haven't seen for thirty years?

Well, something like this: "You've got to be kidding me? And your husband hasn't divorced you ? "

She did tell me that she had tried one of my recipes but that it didn't turn out very well. The she told me she had changed it. 'Nuff said?

I don't have another good recipe for stuffed chicken breasts, I have published one before. Maybe it's too complicated. So here, Michelle, is a simple one, just for you, from another source. Can't wait to see you again.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Potato Salad

Somehow people seem to think making potato salad is hard. Or maybe they just think making good potato salad is hard. My husband and son used to attend karate classes at a dojo where they would have a year-end picnic and a holiday party. I once brought my potato salad and everybody raved about it. (Of course they did. It was my potato salad, after all). After that, my husband would come home from classes in advance of these parties and tell me he signed me up to bring potato salad because everyone asked him to. I mean, these people were crazy for my potato salad, like it was difficult to make or something out of the ordinary. It seemed like a no-brainer to me; anyone could make potato salad, it requires nothing more than, oh wait, that's right, my well-developed skills in the kitchen.

Well, for those of you who are afraid of potato salad, or who think yours is sub-par, I will bestow upon you my potato salad recipe. The orgins of this recipe are of course with Grandma Foodie, but I have altered it a bit. Grandma Foodie puts sour cream in hers, and you can, too, if you wish. I just happen to think mine is better.

The other thing is that there are no exact measurements for this recipe. I was making it this morning for a picnic today and I tried to pay closer attention to approximate measurements, but they are all just approximations. You'll have to use your judgement. You might want to taste mine first. Pool party is at three. Bring wine.

Dill Potato Salad

Boil 5 pounds of red-skinned potatoes until fork-tender. Do not peel. While they are still hot cut them into 1 inch chunks. You can do smaller or larger. I like a combination of sizes for texture and creaminess. Put them in a bowl and pour about a 1/2 cup of olive oil and 1/4 c of red wine vinegar over them while they are still hot! They won't absorb the olive oil if you wait until they cool. Season with salt (need I say kosher?) and pepper (fresh ground?) and toss well. Let cool.

Meanwhile, chop 3 stalks of celery and a medium red onion. Hard boil 3 eggs. Peel and chop the eggs and add them and the celery and onion to the potatoes. Stir in about 1 1/2 cups of mayonaise. It might take a little more than that, but it certainly won't take less. Add at least 1/4 c of fresh dill, finely chopped. In a pinch you can use dried, but it will take a little less. Then you have to taste it. Does it have enough dill? Is it too dry? Does it need salt or pepper? That's it, people. It's not that hard.

Oh, and if you're coming for swimming, bring your own towels. You don't want to annoy me by leaving me with heaps of dirty towels, do you? I might not give you any potato salad.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Frozen Yogurt

You all know that I am the furthest thing away from a health food nazi you can find. Don't get me wrong, I like healthful food as long as it tastes good, but you can keep your cardboard rice cakes and no-fat, dairy free, sugar free, taste free brownies and chocolate chip cookies made with whole wheat flour, splenda, and I can't-believe-it's-not butter. (My children have all been forced to bake these at school. Fortunately, they had a good upbringing and they tasted them, sneered inwardly to themselves and then politely stated that they weren't hungry. My opinion of school "cooking classes" is, ahem, low.) I think you should eat fresh, freshly prepared unprocessed food and enjoy it.

So, normally, I don't eat frozen yogurt. It usually tastes like it was trying hard to be ice cream and not quite succeeding.

A year or two ago, as I was in the midst of some turmoil in my worklife, a friend decided to cheer me up by having a Cusinart Ice Cream Maker sent to me from It didn't help the work turmoil, but it sure helped to know someone cared and wanted me to have some happiness.
So I got to work making ice cream. We had some great successes. Plain vanilla ice cream takes on completely new dimensions when it is devoid of thickeners and artificial ingredients. Cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla combine into silky, creamy, decadence, especially when eaten with some fresh peach cobbler or strawberry shortcake. (Confession: I make shortcake the way my mother does, with Bisquick. the recipe is on the box. Yes, I know it is pretty much just a biscuit and easy to make without a mix, but I need it to taste like it did when I was a child. Which means bisquick. Besides, it's pretty easy)

One night, the kids were whining for dessert. (Not a terribly attractive quality, especially since they're not anywhere near being preschoolers anymore) They wanted to go down to the ice cream shop and get a cone. Not that I am opposed to that idea, but it was late, I was in my jammies and I didn't have any cash. I looked in the fridge for some cream to whip up  a batch of ice cream for them. Gasp! Can you imagine that I was out of cream? Pratically unthinkable. I did, however, happen to have a carton of plain yogurt. I suddenly had an ephiphany, and I dumped the yogurt into the ice cream maker along with some sugar, vanilla, and fresh peaches. Twenty minutes later, the kids were happy and smiling. And they had eaten something better for them than ice cream.

I have since also made frozen yogurt by using vanilla yogurt. It is really no different, you just don't need to add sugar and vanilla as these are, duh, already in it.

Today I discovered the first of the sour cherries are ripe on my trees. I picked as many as I could from the low-hanging branches. I am putting them in the ice cream maker along with a carton of yogurt and a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten the flavor. It will be amazing, Just get yourself an ice cream maker, you know you want to.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rack of Lamb and Garlic Scape Pesto

I love getting up early and going to the local farmer's market, the Rochester Public Market. Don't get me wrong, I do not consider myself a Locavore; I don't like the holier-than-thou politically charged implications of that word. I will eat grapes from Chili in winter and lettuce from California and and peaches from Georgia when local produce is not available. But the truth that is plain for anyone with a palate to taste is that the food that gets to your table direct from small family farms in the fastest amount of time tastes better. And no, I'm not talking about organic food either. Some food tastes better if it is organic and other food tastes the same. I go for whatever looks and tastes good, because as you know if you've read this blog even once before, I'm all about quality.

I got up at 4:30 this morning (don't think I'm weird, I can't help it. I just wake up) and I headed out the door around 5:00 to go downtown to one of the oldest farmer's markets in the country. What did I have in mind to buy? Well, strawberries for one. No, they are not the incredible California strawberries you get at a stand on the side of the road in spring in my home state; they are small, but bright red and sweet local berries. And they are delicious. Next best thing to my beloved California berries.

I also wanted radishes. Big, succulent, red ones, crisp to the bite and the knife with a little bit of a spicy finish. Hmm, I like to drop in salad, of course, and they are great with an herbed cheese spread made with thyme, parsley, garlic, chives, cream cheese, salt and pepper with a little sour cream thrown in to thin it out to spreading consistency. Top a grilled piece of baguette with the cheese and a slice of just picked radish and you are in heaven. Or, try the snack given to French school children after school: a radish with a bit of butter and some sea salt. I like re Hawaiian salt for this purpose.

What I was really after were garlic scapes. Garlic scapes are the green part of garlic that grows and flowers. Garlic is a bulb, you know. They have a mild, slightly garlicky, slightly spicy taste. When made into pesto the flavors intensify and you get a spread with a real kick. You can use it just like you would any pesto: on pasta, on pizza, as a base for yummy crostini with melted fresh mozzarella and prosciutto. Anything goes! I am going to stir some of the pesto into an orzo risotto and serve it alongside the American rack of lamb I got at the market for $10 a rack! Locally we usually pay almost $16 a pound for Frenched rack and these are a pound each. I am going to grill them simply, after rubbing them with olive oil, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper. Can't wait for dinner!

Garlic Scape Pesto

10 garlic scapes, roughly chopped
1/2C  parmesano-reggiano
1/4 lightly toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil, or enough to get the texture you like

Put the scapes in the food processor and pulse until they are finely ground. Add the olive oil, cheese, pine nuts and whir until uniform consistency. Season with kosher salt. (Shout out to a dear friend who shall remain nameless: get some damn kosher salt, you dweeb. And some decent Parmesan. And for those of you who don't know me, I only call people I like dweebs.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Grilled Flatbread with Carmelized Onions, Mushrooms, and Blue Cheese

When you live in Upstate NY you really learn to appreciate the different seasons. Having lived in California until I was 32 years old, I always romanticized fall and winter and thought how great it would be to live somewhere with real seasons. Not that California, doesn't have seasons. It does, Hot and hotter. Then rain and mudslides. But here it is different. If you are hearty enough to make it through the winter you are rewarded with the three other seasons. (Of course, winter is brutal and lasts about six months. But hey, the cold keeps out the riff raff. They all move to Florida)

So, it is now summer. (Fade in Gershwin, "And the livin' is easy....") Needless to say, the way I cook changes tremendously from season to season. Summer is a riot of fresh produce, from raspberries to tomatoes and corn and everything in between. But the thing that changes most in summer is the method by which I cook. I know I am not alone in making grilling my primary way of getting dinner on the table. But steaks, hamburgers, and chicken do get a little monotonous, so I mix it up quite a bit. Grilled flatbread is a particular favorite in our house.

Grilled flatbread can be topped anyway you please, or used as a foil for some great dips. Topped like a pizza, even the kids will love it. Tonight, I plan on sipping some champagne on the deck, listening to the birds, and enjoying this version of grilled flatbread as a first course. Haven't decided what will come after it yet. But rest assured, it will be good.

Grilled Flatbread with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms, and Blue Cheese

The secret of this flatbread is to use GOOD blue cheese. Point Reyes Blue or Maytag are my favorites. Just don't use anything labeled "blue cheese crumbles". I am convinced that people who don't like blue cheese have only ever had bad blue cheese or bad blue cheese dressing. Try spending more than .99 a pound on it and you might be surprised by how happy it makes your mouth.

1. Slice an onion. Heat 2 T olive oil in a skillet and add the onions. Cook slowly until the onions begin to caramelize. Season well with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

2. Saute mushrooms a la Julia Child: in other words, use a combination of butter and olive oil, season well, and don't crowd the pan. They will brown nicely if they have enough room. Do two batches if you have to. Read Julia's recipe for sauteed mushroom in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" It will transform your life. If you don't have the book, wait a minute, you don't have the book? Really? Are you worthy enough to read my blog? At least go check it out from the library and give it a once over. Seriously.

3. Preheat your grill to medium. Brush both sides of a  flatbread  with olive oil.( I buy mine at the public market, but you can find decent ones at the supermarket next to the pita breads. They are called Naan, or Tandoori Naan, or pocketless pitas.) Season with salt and pepper and put on the grill. Grill one side until slightly crisp and slightly browned,a bout 2 minutes. Turn over and top with sliced fresh mozzarella, the mushrooms, onion, and sprinkle liberally with blue cheese.Turn the heat down and close the lid on the grill. heat until the mozzarella melts and is slightly bubbly, about 5 minutes, moving the flatbread to indirect heat if the bottom starts to get too brown.

And don't forget to eat it with a nice Spanish Cava. I prefer Segura Viudas.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Crab cakes and grilled caesar salad

I couldn't decide what to make for dinner tonight until the last minute. I considered several options, from fettucine with anchovies and tomatoes and fried capers, to Thai coconut lemongrass soup. I finally settled on crab cakes, artichokes, grilled flatbread with cherry tomato bruschetta, and grilled Caesar salad.

Grilled Salad?


It is unbelievably good and easy. And it appeased Hannah since she loves it and she was disappointed that I wasn't making the fettucine.

So, how do you grill a salad, you ask?

Start with some hearts of romaine. Plan on 1/4 to 1/2 per person, depending on how much you like salad.

Quarter the hearts(don't remove the stem) and place them in a shallow dish which can hold them all. Then, pour a LOT of olive oil over them. (I may have been gone a while, but if you have forgotten that you must use extra virgin, first cold press then I may have to come over and beat you severely. Or something. Maybe just chastise you whilst consuming all the wine in your house. Unless it comes from a box.) So, after it is nicely coated,  roll the quarters around in the oil until all sides are coated. Throw in two or three cloves of garlic per head of lettuce and let the whole thing soak for at least twenty to thirty minutes while you make the rest of dinner.

Heat the grill to high. Put the lettuce on and watch it carefully. Turn it frequently. It may actually catch on fire. Don't worry. Pick it up and blow it out. When it is nicely charred and wilted. (I said charred, not blackened) put it back into the shallow dish with the leftover olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with shaved Parmesan. Or Asiago, or romano. Eat. Just not the hard core end. You can throw that away. Unless you want to suck all the garlic oil off first. Be my guest.

No recipe today

I had almost decided to stop blogging.

It wasn't actually a conscious decision at first. Mostly, I was overwhelmed with work, helping to launch the new version of the website I work for. It seemed every waking hour was spent at the computer and I could barely cook a decent dinner, let alone write about it. So a month went by, then two. And soon I just decided that I just wouldn't do it anymore. But then there was the begging....

Priscilla keeps hounding me relentlessly. "You need to  get back to blogging," said in the semi- bitchy, demanding tone that means she is going to bend me to her will no matter what.

And so here is this post by way of explanation. And since I now have four minute until I wake the kids and make them bagels for breakfast, I will post a link to a piece I wrote for the website I work for. This is a review of a piece of kitchen equipment I had been wanting, mostly to make a fabulous dish that we made last year for my daughter's wedding. My mother actually brought her meat slicer in her RV with her, because after all, you never know when you will want to make Seared Carpaccio of Beef with Fried Capers and Parsley Oil. So, I got a slicer and reviewed it. I didn't talk about making the carpaccio, because that is not the audience for it, nor was I my usual snarky self. (Well, maybe a little). So, here is the review. 

PS. I also wrote the review of Greek Peak Indoor Waterpark that is on the homepage of that site, if you want to read that.

I promise to try to blog at least once a week and to rip someone's cooking or cooking practices to shreds in the near future.