Saturday, August 26, 2017


Mezedes. Mezz or Meze. It's a Greek snack. It's not exactly an appetizer, but it can be. It can be satisfying all by itself.

The simplest meze is bread and extra virgin olive oil - Greek olive oil of course. There is Italian, Tunisian and olive oil from other countries. The olive trees they come from were planted by the Greeks. Alexander the Great carried bags of olive pits on his campaigns. He planted them all over the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Meze can be almost anything to snack on by Greek men and women at the local taverna. Fried haloumi cheese. Little fish in olive oil and vinegar. Meatballs - tsoutsoukakia. Fried calamari and cold, marinated octopus.

Here we have fresh tomato, feta, Kalamata olives, English muffin pieces, good olive oil, lemon juice, fresh oregano, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Easy Ratatouille

I have tried the classic Provencal preparation of ratatouille In that one, each vegetable is sauteed separately. It's good, but tends to come out oily if you are not careful. Also, it's labor intensive.
Jacques Pepin has a modified recipe that uses just two pans. Cook's Country has a recipe that roasts all the veg in the oven.
Ultimately, ratatouille is a vegetable stew. Why not treat it that way?

  • 1 small very firm Chinese eggplant
  • 1 small green zucchini
  • 1 small yellow zucchini
  • 1 small yellow pepper
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion
  • 1 medium beefsteak tomato
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil to finish each serving (extra virgin)
  • sea salt (too taste)
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 24 oz tomato puree

  1. Cut all the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Thinly slice the garlic cloves.
  2. Add all the ingredients to the pot. Stir.
  3. Simmer for 45 minutes

How easy was that?
Serve over couscous, rice or pasta or simply as a side dish.
Like any stew, it tastes better the next day! It is a great make-ahead dish.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Veggie Burger

This is loosely based on Bobby Flay Burger's veggie burger. Here I am using different ingredients.  The idea is the same: Some kind of bean, a grain and mushrooms.

  • 10 oz black beans (drained)
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 4 oz cremini mushrooms (chopped fine)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Finely chop the mushrooms. A mini food processor can really help.
  2. Make the couscous according to the package instructions using olive oil instead of butter to keep the dish vegan. Use a pinch of salt in the water as well.
  3. Combine all the ingredients. If too wet, add more couscous. If too dry, add some water.
  4. Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes to firm it up even more.
  5. Form into three patties.

  6. Fry in a neutral oil like canola oil for four minutes per side so that they are nice and crusty. Alternatively, bake in an oven @ 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Serve any way you like your burger.

As is, this is a vegan burger. If you add cheese it becomes vegetarian. Add Worcestershire sauce and it tastes meaty, but it is no longer vegetarian. Worcestershire usually contains anchovies or fish sauce.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Cuban Burger

Cuban Burger

The favorite tastes and ingredients of a great Cubano Sandwich but with char-grilled beef.

  • 1 Ciabatta bread roll
  • 2 beef burgers
  • 1/2 cup Goya mojo marinade
  • 1 dill pickle
  • 4 thin sliceds of ham
  • 4 thin slices of Swiss cheese
  • 1 dill pickle (sliced lengthwise)
  • yellow mustard to taste

  1. Marinate the burgers in the mojo marinade for 30 minutes.

  2. Grill the burgers in a very hot grill pan or skillet. Put two slices of Swiss cheese on each burger in the last minute of cooking.

  3. Slice the Ciabatta bread in half, lengthwise. Generously dot each half with yellow mustard.

  4. Add the burgers to the bottom half of the roll. Add two slices of ham on each burger.

  5. On the other half, add the pickle slices and combine the two halves together.

  6. In the grill pan, weigh down the sandwich with a heavy pot. Turn over after about 2 minutes and weigh down the other side until you get nice grill stripes.

  7. Cut in half and serve.

The mojo marinade is the key ingredient to this recipe.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Learn to Speak Greek Burger

Learn to speak Greek Burger:

Burger  -+- Boorg-ger

Tomato -+- Toe-mah-ta;

Feta      -+- Feh-tah;

Tzatziki -+- Zot-zee-key

Grill the burger. I like a combination of chuck and brisket. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Grill the top and bottom buns in the burger grease.


Burger down on the bottom bun.

Salt and peppered tomato slice on the burger.

A slab of feta cheese on the tomato.

On the top bun, use a generous amount of tzatziki sauce.

Smash the buns together and enjoy!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Big Kahuna Burger

This is one tasty burger.

Grill a burger. A chuck and brisket blend is terrific.

Grill a slice of fresh pineapple.

Grill the burger bun.

The burger and pineapple go on the bottom bun.

Homemade coleslaw and sriracha sauce go on the top bun.

Quickly smash the buns together and enjoy!

The Thai sriracha sauce is less hot and sweeter than the Chinese version. Go with the Thai sauce if you don't like food that is too spicy.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Controlling Heat

Of all the cookbooks I have read, none tell you about the importance of being a master of heat.

There are knife techniques and butchering; flavors and how to build them and pair them; composition and plating: I have yet to see a book that discusses how and when to apply the right amount of heat at the right time for the right amount of time.

Controlling heat is the secret of being a great chef. How many cooking competition shows have you seen where the chef with the under-cooked or overcooked protein gets chopped?

Poached eggs are not as easy as they look. You want a runny yolk. How runny? It depends on the cooking time and a proper simmer.

Bring a pot of water to a simmer. Use cold eggs. Crack an egg into a cup without breaking the yolk. Slide the egg into the simmering water. The simmer will stop. That's okay. Use a timer. 3 minutes - nice runny yolk. I like 4 minutes. 5 minutes and the yolk is almost completely set.

Serve the eggs right away. If preparing ahead, plunge the poached egg into ice water to stop the cooking. In this case, we start cold and end cold. For serving, reheat in the simmering water.

Grilling is another test of heat control. I have complete control over a gas grill. If you like that charcoal flavor, cooking with coal offers a terrific challenge.

Despite what the package of charcoal says, I would never spread the coals evenly over the bottom of the grill. I would pile the coals on one side of the grill and grill indirectly. Why? No flare ups. No blackened burgers or chicken thighs that are raw in the middle.

Baking in the oven is problematical. There may be hot spots. The temperature setting may be off by as much as 15 degrees. Get a quality oven thermometer so you know exactly what temperature you are using to bake.

Know your stove. Know how your pans conduct heat. Know your oven. Know your grill. Know your broiler.

Get an instant read thermometer. It should have a range of temperature readings that go up to at least 350 degrees so you can measure the temperature of oil for frying. If the oil is not hot enough, you will get soggy, oily fries for example.

For meat, steaks will come out a perfect medium rare (130 degrees). Turkey or chicken will not be dry if cooked to 160 degrees. 160 is that magic temperature where bacteria can no longer survive but the poultry still retains its juices.

Get a good oven thermometer. Keep it in the oven!

Even the humble pancake needs the right amount of heat applied for the right amount of time. The first one never comes out perfect because the pan is not hot enough. The last of the bunch are slightly burnt because the pan has gotten to hot.

Master and control heat. It takes practice and repetition.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Stuffed Shells

Stuffed Shells with a Twist

Pasta makes me happy. Here we lighten the dish with lemon zest and yogurt in the filling and finish with a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar.

Quick Sauce

  • 28 oz tomato puree (use a good brand)
  • 1 handful basil leaves (torn)
  • 1 rind Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)


  • 3/4 cup ricotta
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp minced celery leaves


  • 14-16 jumbo shells (or as many as will fit in the baking dish)


  • 3-4 oz mozzarella cheese (grated)
  • 2 oz Romano cheese (or Parmesan, grated fine)


  • minced celery leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar
  1. Get all the ingredients together. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Add all the ingredients for the sauce and simmer while you prepare the shells.
  3. Combine all the ingredients for the filling and stir well.
  4. Boil the shells in salted water for 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  5. Ladle sauce on the bottom of a baking dish.
  6. Add as many shells as will fit.
  7. Fill the shells with a heaping teaspoon of the ricotta-yogurt mixture.
  8. Ladle sauce on top of the stuffed shells.
  9. Grate the mozzarella cheese. Add the grated mozzarella over the top.
  10. Add the finally grated Romano over the top.
  11. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Rotate the dish after 15 minutes if your oven has hot spots like mine.
  12. Garnish with a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar over the dish and sprinkle finely minced celery leaves, or parsley, on top.

  13. Let cool, covered with foil for 20 minutes. Slice and serve.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Old Timey Lemonade

Old Timey Lemonade

The ultimate summer drink.

  • 1-1/3 cup lemon juice (8-10 lemons)
  • 1-1/3 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 80 oz water (2-1/2 qts)
  • lemon slices for garnish

  1. Cut all the lemons in half.

  2. Squeeze the lemons through a strainer.

  3. Using a funnel or measuring cup, pour lemon juice into a large container.

  4. Add the sugar.

  5. Add the water.

  6. Shake or stir very well and taste. Too strong, more water. Too sour, more sugar. Too sweet, add the juice of one lemon and another cup or two of water.

  7. Serve in a tall glass with plenty of ice and garnish with a lemon slice.

If you have an electric juicer, great. There are hand held juicers as well. I put the lemons between a pair of tongs and squeeze, turn 90 degrees and squeeze again.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Celery Leaf Chimichurri

Celery Leaf Chimichurri

The local farm stand has fresh picked celery. Unlike the stuff in your grocery store, this is a dark green product that has more leaves than stalks.

So, what can you do with celery leaves?

Chopped fine, they can be used like parsley. The leaves can be used in salads. Here we make a chimichurri sauce/salad dressing/marinade for use on salads, grilled meats and vegetables.

  • 1 bunch celery leaves
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (extra virgin)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/8 large red onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno (sliced lengthwise)
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt (or Kosher salt)
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

  1. Put everything in a blender and pulse a few times. Turn the blender on medium speed for one minute. Pour into a Mason jar and refrigerate.

Without a doubt this makes the best salad dressing I ever had.

You can use it on almost anything grilled. It might be a little too strong for fish.

Tonight, I used it in a grilled chicken dish.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Ultimate White Pizza


White Slice

Who doesn't like pizza? This is one is rated 'A' for adults only.

Pizza dough literally is a blank canvas. The twist here is that I have mixed ricotta cheese with Greek yogurt to make a tangy spread.

The Base

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 pinch nutmeg (1/8 of a teaspoon)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)
  • 2 tbsp milk (or more to get a pudding like consistency)


  • 1/2 cup golden onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 cup fennel (thinly sliced)
  • 1/4 cup Granny Smith apple (thinly sliced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (shaved very thin like Paulie did in Wise Guys)
  • 1" slice Jimmy Dean sausage
  • 1 handful fennel fronds (for garnish)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (for garnish)

The Dough

  • 1 ball store-bought dough (brought to room temperature)
  • all-purpose flour, as needed (to prevent sticking to the work surface)

  1. Flour the ball of dough, cover with plastic or a damp cloth, bring up to room temperature.

  2. Form the pie. Start with your finger tips pressing down and out to form a small circle. At this point you can get fancy and place the dough onto both of your fists and start tossing it in circles to stretch it out. A rolling pin works as well. Keep the work surface floured to prevent sticking.

  3. Since this is a heavy pie, dock the dough with a fork to prevent bubbles and pre-bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes on a pizza stone or an upside down baking sheet. 

  4. Take out the pre-baked pie crust. Raise the temperature of the oven to 500 degrees.

  5. Assemble the base by combining the ricotta, yogurt, olive oil and spices. Thin out with milk as needed so you have a thick but spreadable consistency. Stir or whip the mixture well.

  6. Spread the mixture on the pie crust all the way to the edge.

  7. Take the time to evenly place the shaved garlic all over the pie.

  8. Add the sliced fennel, onion and apple.

  9. Break up the slice of Jimmy Dean sausage into bits and drop as evenly as possible onto the pie.

  10. Bake at 500 degrees for about 12 minutes. The ricotta will actually start to bubble. The edge will start to get dark. It may char a little, but take out of the oven when you start to see that.

  11. Garnish the pie with fennel fronds and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

If I had to do this again, I think I would oil the crust as opposed to the filling.

The pie lacks acidity, so there is no reason why you can't drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over the finished product.

The ricotta and yogurt together measure two cups. You don't have to use it all. Use what you need to cover the crust from edge to edge.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Roasted Chayote and Goat Cheese Taco with Salsa Verde


Roasted Chayote and Goat Cheese Taco with Salsa Verde

Rick Bayless inspired vegetarian taco.

  • 2 ea soft corn tacos (grilled)
  • 1 ea chayote (cut up and roasted)
  • 1 oz goat cheese
  • 2 tbsp salsa verde
  • cilantro (as desired)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper (as desired)

  1. Cut the chayote into bite-sized pieces

  2. Add to a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Toss until everything is coated.

  3. Roast the chayote in a 425 degree oven for 40-45 minutes

  4. Grill the tortillas in a grill pan or cast iron pan to get some color on both sides

  5. Assemble the tacos: Chayote, pieces of goat cheese, salsa verde and optionally cilantro and any other taco toppings you want like guacamole.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Spicy Tomato Soup


Spicy Tomato Soup

I make soup all the time but I never write down a recipe. Here is the recipe.

  • 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • 6 oz diced tomatoes with green chili peppers (Hunt's is a good brand)
  • 8 oz water
  • 4 oz pickle juice
  • 1 tbsp prepared horseradish
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 pinch sugar

  1. Put all the ingredients in a pot and simmer for about 10 minutes

  2. After the soup has cooled off a little, pour into a blender and blend until smooth

Serve the soup hot or cold. A nice addition is some sour cream or a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Easy Grilled Salmon Cakes


Grilled Salmon Cakes

This is for the grill pan or the grill.

For the salmon cake:

  • .60 lb salmon fillet
  • 10 Saltine crackers (smashed to crumbs)
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • chives to garnish

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives

  1. Poach the salmon in barely simmering water, about 8 minutes. 

  2. When the tip of the knife can pierce the fish easily, it’s cooked.
  3. Scrape off the flesh from the skin. Place the salmon in a bowl and continue to flake with a fork.
  4. Add the cracker crumbs, pepper, egg, oil and lemon juice, combine and flake with a fork.

  5. Form the mixture into 4 patties.

  6. Put the oil in a hot grill pan and fry the patties, about 3 minutes per side. These should be firm enough to put on a BBQ but if there is any doubt, use a fish basket or heavy duty aluminum foil to line the grill.

  7. Mix all the ingredients for the sauce: Mayonnaise, Dijon, chives, lemon juice and pepper.

  8. Sauce the plate and add the grilled salmon cakes.

The patties will be slightly wet. That's okay as they will tend to be more moist.


Bone Marrow Chicken Stock and Dumplings

Chicken Bone Marrow Broth

Add the dumplings and this dish is similar to Kreplach.

We made Hoisin chicken legs before. Now we get to use the leftover bones.

  • 10 bones chicken legs (cracked in half)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt (more or less as desired)
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper (more or less as desired)
  • 1 handful chopped, fresh dill
  • 1 carrot (sliced)
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 ea potato and onion pierogies

  1. Cut the chicken legs in half. Use a rubber hammer to bang the knife down to cut the bone if necessary.

  2. Put the bones in the pot with the water and lemon juice and simmer covered for 4 hours and uncovered for 2 hours.

  3. Strain the contents into a second pot. Add the carrots. Simmer one hour longer.

  4. During the last 10 minutes, add the dumplings.

  5. When the dumplings are floating, add the fresh dill. Adjust the seasonings.

  6. Stir and serve.

This is the best stock you will ever make. It revitalizes and just plain tastes good.


Long Island Lobster Roll with Sriracha Mayonnaise


Long Island Lobster Roll with Sriracha Mayonnaise

A taste of summer.

  • 8 oz cooked lobster (Fresh, frozen or vacuum packed)
  • 1/4 cup minced celery
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce (more or less to taste)
  • 4 ea split top buns (toasted and buttered)
  • 4 pieces lettuce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • minced chives (for garnish)

  1. Chop the lobster meat into smallish pieces

  2. Add the mayo, salt,  pepper, Sriracha, lemon juice and combine

  3. Toast and butter the buns

  4. Lay down a bed of lettuce and pile the lobster meat on top

  5. Garnish with minced chives

Cook time depends on whether you start with fresh lobster, frozen tails or claws or already cooked, packaged and frozen meat.

Don't skimp on the lobster. Your friends will love you!


Friday, June 2, 2017

Pork with a Corn and Cabbage Salsa


Pork with a Corn and Cabbage Salsa

The salsa works well with chicken and fish too.


  • 3 ears small to medium fresh corn
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red cabbage
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)

Pork Chop

  • 2 center cut pork chops (bone in or boneless)
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper


  1. Shuck the corn and boil for 5 minutes

  2. Remove the kernels with a chef's knife

  3. Finely chop the red cabbage

  4. Chop the tomato into small pieces

  5. Add the honey, vinegar, salt, cayenne pepper and taste. Adjust the seasonings to your taste.


  1. Season well with salt and pepper.

  2. On a grill, or in a grill pan, or cast iron skillet, cook until the pork is firm to the touch. With a meat thermometer, the temperature should read about 160 degrees.


  1. Give the salsa a stir and spoon over the pork.

Cook the pork in a hot pan, or grill - about 5 minutes per side depending on the thickness. Thin sliced pork fillets will cook faster.

If the pork has a slight amount of pinkness in the center, this is okay. It will be very tender. Also, there hasn't been a case

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Salty Spicy Beer


Salty Spicy Beer

Perfect for hot, sunny days.

  • 1 slice lime
  • 1 slice jalapeno
  • 1 dish Kosher salt (shallow dish with salt)
  • 12 ounce beer or lager

  1. Wipe the rim of a glass with a wedge of lime

  2. Dip the rim into the shallow dish of salt

  3. Add the lime and the jalapeno

  4. Pour a cold beer

Good non-alcoholic beers you can usually find are O'Douls and Becks.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Cheese In Cheese Out Burger

Per burger:

1/4 pound 90% lean ground beef
2 slices 2% milk fat American cheese
1 teaspoon clarified butter or Ghee
1 plum tomato
1 garlic dill pickle
Worcestershire sauce for seasoning
Spicy barbecue sauce
1 English muffin

Divide the burger meat into two thin patties. Cut one cheese slice into quarters and place on one patty. Cover with the other patty. Press together and seal the edges so the cheese does not leak out.

Season the cheesy patty with Worcestershire.

Cook in a hot pan oiled with the clarified butter. Cook time depends on several factors. Try three minutes on one side and two on the other for medium doneness. With one minute left, put the second slice of cheese on the burger to melt.

While you allow the burger to rest, toast the English muffins, nook and cranny side down, in the greasy hot pan.

To assemble:

  • Barbecue sauce on the bottom bun

  • Burger patty

  • Sliced tomato

  • Garlic dill pickle

  • Press down the burger and slice in half

You can use the poke test to check for burger doneness. 

Claussen Kosher Dill Pickles are very garlicky. Polish dills can be garlicky as well. It might be tough to find but the garlic pickle is a key to this burger.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mussels Fra Diavolo

Translated: Brother Devil Mussels. It's gonna get hot in here.

I haven't had this in a long time. It's real easy to make.

Get 2 pound of mussels. Rinse. Debeard the mussels if needed. Soak in salty water.

Make the spicy tomato sauce.

Simmer the mussels in the spicy sauce until they open.

Serve with crusty bread. Done.

Servings: 2 to 4 depending on how hungry. One pound was good for me.

Prep Time: 30 minutes


2 pounds of mussels
1 28 ounce can of tomato puree
1-1/4 cups of water
1 large lemon
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 table spoons red pepper flakes - more or less to taste
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
10 cloves garlic - thinly sliced like Paulie or finely chopped
1 loaf of buttered, crusty bread cut into wedges

Debeard the mussels if necessary. Rinse in a colander with cold water. Put the mussels into a big pot with salty, cold water.

The sauce is easy. Olive oil, red pepper flakes and garlic until sizzling - or until the garlic starts to brown.

Add the tomato puree. Stir. Add the black pepper. Stir. Add the water with the juice of one lemon. Stir.

When simmering, add all the mussels. Cover and steam with another big pan on top.

When the mussels are all open it's time to serve. Discard the ones that did not open.

Plate with some chopped, Italian parsley. Chopped fennel and/or fennel fronds work too.

The dunk of the bread into that spicy, salty tomato broth is a little bit of heaven.


The mussels and their liquid should provide all the saltiness you need for the sauce. If not, add a little salt.

Marinated Chicken Legs

Game time. Snack time.

Prep Time: 2-8 hours

Cook Time: 40-50 minutes

Passive Time: 5 minutes rest

Servings: 4
1/2 cup Hoisin marinade, slightly diluted
1/4 cup Rice wine vinegar, unflavored
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 pounds Chicken drumsticks

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl. Add the chicken to the marinade. Toss with a pair of tongs to coat marinade all over the chicken. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. 8 hours would be great. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes - longer is you don't like to see pink near the bone. When finished eating, save all those bones. We're going to use them in the next recipe.
Roast on a broiler pan or wire rack. Don't turn.