Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mushroom Stroganoff over Zucchini Noodles

This dish is vegetarian, but has a hearty beef-like taste.

You will need a mandolin slicer for this recipe.

1 green zucchini
1 yellow squash
12 ounces sliced, baby portabello (cremini) mushrooms
1 cup sour cream
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese as desired
Seasoned bread crumbs as needed to thicken the sauce
1 handful of chopped, fresh parsley

Use the mandolin to slice the squash lengthwise. With a knife, slice the slices into long strips as shown below.

Briefly wash the mushrooms but don't soak them. Add the mushrooms to a hot dry pan to dry them out. Season with soy sauce and pepper. After you start to smell them, add a couple of tablespoons olive oil and stir fry. Set aside.

Season the vegetable stock with soy sauce and pepper. While simmering, stir in the sour cream. Add this mixture and the mushrooms back to the frying pan. While the mushrooms and sauce are simmering and reducing, boil the squash noodles for a couple of minutes. Set aside.

Add two tablespoons butter to the mushroom sauce. Stir. To thicken even more, add maybe a tablespoon of seasoned breadcrumbs and stir. It does a great job of thickening. Add a little more if needed.

To plate: Season the noodles with salt, pepper and optionally, Parmesan cheese.

Stir the fresh parsley into the sauce. Spoon the mushroom mixture over the noodles. Optionally, add more grated cheese. Serves two.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

I made this the way I had it in an authentic Irish Pub. Everything was cooked separately.

How did  I know it was authentic? Well, the staff cursed in Celtic. I picked up the occasional "fookin". My barmaid's name was Grainne pronounced nothing like it looks. It was something like "grawn-ya".

I haven't made corned beef and cabbage in years. How hard can it be? Hunk of meat, cabbage and potatoes. Sadly, the label on the hunk of meat recommended a three hour cooking time. THREE HOURS! What kind of show leather did I buy?

I was ready to season this myself and I saw there was this tiny seasoning packet. Okay, let's use that too. In a big pot, place the meat, water halfway up the sides, add salt, black peppercorns and bay leaves. Bay leaves are the key flavoring during a long simmer time. Set the timer for 3 hours and forget it. Simmer covered

Cut a green cabbage in half, from root to top. Remove the hard white core. Quarter one of the pieces as shown below.

Season with salt and pepper. Simmer covered with two cups of water and half a cup of apple cider vinegar. Simmer for about 45 minutes.

The potatoes. Clean some small Red Bliss potatoes and cut them in half. Boil uncovered in water with salt and turmeric for about 30 minutes or until tender.

I like my corned beef and cabbage with mustard and horseradish. The idea here was to combine the two into a sauce.

Two tablespoons Dijon mustard, one table spoon prepared horseradish and a teaspoon of water. Whisk together and drizzle over the final dish.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Vegetable Lasagna

2 large cans crushed tomatoes
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 16 ounce package of lasagna noodles
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrots
8 ounces mozarella, sliced thin
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons olive oil, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces ricotta
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 pinch nutmeg

I made this recipe in a 10" X 7" Pyrex baking dish. This would work well in a lasagna pan as well.

A mini-food processor will make things much easier. Don't have that? Sharpen that chef's knife.

Prep the  Vegetables

Chop up the mushrooms. Set aside. Chop up the zucchini and set aside. Chop up the carrots and set aside. Chop the onion and set aside. Chop the garlic and set aside.

Boil the lasagna noodles according to package instructions. Set aside.

Make the Vegetable Sauce

This recipe makes a lot of sauce. If I am going to make sauce, I am going to make a big batch. Jar the leftover sauce for pizza and pasta dishes.

In a pot with the olive oil, stir and cook the tomato paste. Add the onions and stir. Add the garlic.

Dump in the crushed tomatoes, the vegetables, oregano, some salt and pepper and red wine vinegar. Simmer for at least 15 minutes, preferably one hour, uncovered. It should thicken nicely. Season again with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble the Dish

Grate the Parmesan cheese.

Slice the mozzarella into thin slices.

Season the ricotta with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Spread some sauce on the bottom of the tray.

  1. Layer with noddles but don't overlap. Trim the noodles with a knife if necessary. If you need a half wide noodle for the edge, cut a noodle in half.

  2. Spread the ricotta on the noodles.

  3. Place the sliced mozzarella into the pan.

  4. Ladle with sauce.

Repeat steps 1 through 4 until you have 4 layers of noodles.

Top with finely grated Parmesan.

Bake at 375 degrees, covered with foil for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the Parmesan is golden and bubbly.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Anytime Chocolate Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup flour
2 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine butter and sugar in a bowl, and mix until combined and fluffy.

Add vanilla and milk to the butter/sugar mixture.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder in a separate bowl.

Combine the dry and wet ingredients, using either a spatula or your hands.

Add extra flour as needed if the dough is too sticky.

Form 12 equal-sized balls. Roll the dough balls in additional sugar if desired.

Place the balls on parchment paper in a cookie sheet. If you don't have parchment paper, that's okay.

Leave plenty of space - about 2 inches - between cookies. They will expand and spread out.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in a cookie comes out dry.

This all comes together very quickly. If you forget to leave the butter out to soften, 20 seconds or so in the microwave should do the trick.

Sunday, March 12, 2017


So many bagel places, thousands of bagels and good luck finding a bialy. If you do, they are the saddest things to look at: Small, thin and a quarter teaspoon of precious onions in the center. You'd think the onions were caviar.

After less than thorough internet research, the one thing I see that distinguishes an authentic bialy is the sourdough starter.

I have made bagels from scratch.

A lot of effort was involved and they were only incrementally better than what you can get fresh from the local bakery or bagel shop. With bialys, I pretty much have a clean slate because anything is better than nothing. Plus, I get to use a lot of buttery chopped onions.

The sourdough starter literally takes days to make. Using store bought pizza dough or pizzeria pizza dough I can get 90% of the result I am looking for with 90% less time and effort. The result was extremely good.

Pizza dough
Rye flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Yellow onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt

Put the pizza dough in a bowl and dust it with rye flour. It will help prevent  sticking and adds flavor. Cover the bowl and leave out at room temperature for 3-4 hours. Take the dough out of the bowl, flatten it slightly and cut into 6 pieces:

[caption id="attachment_393" align="alignnone" width="300"] Stock image[/caption]

Flatten each piece into a 5 or 6 inch circle. Dust generously with the rye flour.

While the dough pieces rest, melt the butter in a hot pan and saute the chopped onion for 7 minutes or until golden. Set aside.

Back to the dough. Flatten again. Use your thumbs to get a depression in the middle of the dough. Fill with as many onions as will fit. Pierce the bialy all over with a fork to prevent puffing up in the oven. Push the onions down with the back of a spoon because the dough will tend to spring back.

Sprinkle the bialys with salt. Place in a pre-heated 475 degree oven for about 10 minutes. This will vary from oven to oven. The important thing that the dough is cooked through. You test this with a knife by piercing the edge of a bialy and having a look. It should look airy and bread-like.

When you take them out, push the onions down one last time. I like a good salt kick so I will salt the bialys again while hot.

Serve with or without a schmear of cream cheese.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Cauliflower Steak

Cauliflower, cut into rounds
Carrots, small sized, peeled and trimmed
Olive oil
2 cups (16 ounces) canned chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), drained
Hoisin or barbecue sauce
Pistachios, crushed
Garlic clove, minced
Shallot strips, fried
Vegetable stock
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Cut the cauliflower into 1 or 1-1/2 rounds. Too thin and it just falls apart. If big pieces do break, no one will know once they're on the plate.

Brush both sides the cauliflower with the hoisin sauce.

Brush the carrots with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Bake the cauliflower and the carrots at 375 degrees for 30 minutes on a wire rack placed in a sheet tray. The cauliflower will still have some chew which I like. Bake longer if you want it softer.

Make the chick pea puree. Cook the chick peas in vegetable stock for 20 minutes to soften them up. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Put the chickpeas in a blender with with a handful of fresh chopped parsley and the minced garlic. Blend until smooth. If it's too thick, add some vegetable stock or water.

Put some shelled pistachios in a Ziploc bag and smash them up with a meat hammer. Alternatively, you can use your chef's knife to chop up the nuts.


Chickpea puree goes into the middle of the plate. The roasted cauliflower goes on top. The roasted carrots go anywhere you want.

Sprinkle the chopped pistachios over everything.

Nicoise Salad

Through different dishes we can travel to other parts of the world. We recently "traveled" to Israel for Shaksuka and today we take a trip to a French bistro for a Nicoise salad.

A classic Nicoise salad uses some kind of fish, flaked or sliced. It has olives. It has a lemony, mustard vinaigrette. From this starting point we can pretty much do what we want as far as salad ingredients.

Boston lettuce
12 ounces white albacore tuna, flaked
4 hard boiled eggs, sliced in half
4 small potatoes, peeled and sliced in half
1 tomato, chopped
1 big handful of green beans
Red onion, two thin slices
Nicoise or Kalamata olives optional, or as many as you like
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1 teaspoon turmeric
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Juice of one lemon
1 clove garlic 
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Worcestershire sauce
Olive oil

Get the prep work out of the way first. You can do this a day ahead.

Peel 4 small potatoes and slice in half. Boil them in salted water with the saffron and the turmeric. Cook for 20 minutes or until pierced easily with the tip of a knife. The potatoes will get a nice yellow color.

Make 4 hard boiled eggs as directed here:

Place the green beans in plain boiling water for two minutes then plunge into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking.

Chop up  some tomato. Slice some red onion - about two thin slices sliced again into strips.

The Dressing

Mince the garlic as fine as you can. Ideally, make a paste by spreading it with the edge your knife and chopping. Don't worry. I can't do it either. If you have it, a garlic press will work too.

Mince half a slice of the red onion.

In a Pyrex  cup or bowl, add the garlic and onion. Add the juice of one lemon. Add a tablespoon of mustard. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper and whisk.

While whisking, drizzle in olive oil, about 1/4 cup. Taste. If too strong, use a little more oil. I think water would work as well. I don't like an oily dressing.

Assemble the Salad

Line a plate with lettuce leaves. Decorate around the edge with 4 potato halves and 4 egg halves.

Add chopped tomato, as much or as little as desired. Add half the green beans. Add half of the flaked tuna to the middle of the plate.

Sprinkle some red onion strips over the salad. Add the olives.

Sprinkle salt and freshly ground black pepper over the salad.

Spoon the lemon-mustard dressing over everything.

This recipe will make two servings. This recipe passes my "keep shoveling the food into my face" test. The dressing probably would work well on other vegetables as well as fish. It's so good I think it would make an old leather shoe tasty.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Perfect Hard-Boiled Egg

Bring eggs to a boil.

Cover for 10 minutes.

Run under cold water for 5 minutes to stop the cooking.

Peel and enjoy.

How easy was that?   

Salt, pepper and chili sauce anyone?


Thursday, March 2, 2017


This is a Middle Eastern and North African dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. It is usually served in the skillet with soft bread to mop up the sauce.

3 large eggs
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped (any Bell pepper is okay)
1/2 onion,  chopped
14 ounce can of diced tomatoes (Hunt's is a good brand)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 clove of garlic, sliced
Spices: Cumin powder, ancho chili powder, sweet paprika, Cayenne pepper, salt and pepper as desired
1/4 cup olive oil

Once the skillet with the oil gets hot, add the tomato paste and stir. Keep stirring until the paste is "cooked" and the oil has turned a burnt red color.

Toast the cumin seed and black mustard seed in the hot oil and paste.

Add the pepper and onions and stir. Season with salt, pepper, and Cayenne. Stir until well combined. Add the garlic and stir some more.

Add the diced tomatoes. Lower the heat to a simmer. After about 10 minutes, add the paprika and stir well. If the mixture looks too thick, add a little water and stir until you have a slightly soupy sauce.

In a soup bowl, crack open an egg trying not to break the yolk. Slide the egg from the bowl into the skillet. Repeat for the other two eggs.

Cook until the egg whites are opaque, about another 10 minutes.

Serve with any kind of bread. Challah bread would work nicely.

This recipe is for one lonely guy with a big appetite. Double the recipe for two or three.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Dal - Red Lentil Stew

1 cup red lentils
1 tomato, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 small carrots, peeled and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups vegetable stock
Cumin seed, as desired
Black mustard seed, as desired
Paprika, as desired
Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

Dal is an Indian dish. Simply, it's a lentil stew. The red lentils are likely available in your supermarket. If you are in an Indian market, they will be labeled Masoor Dal. Red lentils are actually a burnt orange color.

One of the keys to the recipe is to cook the red lentils like pasta - 8 to 10 minutes. Longer and you get mush.

Get the oil hot in a pot. Toast the cumin seed and mustard seed until fragrant.

Add the onions and carrots, stir and soften about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic.

Add the stock. Simmer uncovered long enough until the carrots are almost perfectly soft - about 10 minutes.

Add the lentils and stir. Add the tomatoes and stir. Simmer the lentils for 8 to 10 minutes.

If it looks like the stew is getting to thick, stir in some more stock. If the Dal looks like it is too soupy, you can do one of two things: One, let the lentils cook another couple of minutes. They will absorb the stock. Second option is simply to spoon off the excess liquid.

Garnish with cilantro, parsley or celery leaves.

For additional heat add a peeled and minced knob of ginger and a thinly sliced serrano chili.

Fried Shrimp and Grits with a Spicy Tomato Sauce

The Shrimp
1 package butterflied fried shrimp

For the Grits
3 cups water
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup finely ground corn meal like Indian Head stone ground yellow cornmeal - more or less

For the Sauce
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
Two tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
A pinch of sugar

Lemon wedges
Mrs. Dash all-purpose salt substitute

Bake the shrimp to  package instructions.

While that is baking, combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Taste. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

In a small pot, add the water, salt and butter. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat. While whisking constantly, sprinkle in the cornmeal a little at a time. Add cornmeal and whisk until the lumps disappear and the grits  thicken. Keep stirring to make sure the cornmeal is cooked. If it gets too thick, add a little water. From start to finish, it should take ten minutes or less. The consistency you are looking for is smooth and so that when it hits the plate, it spreads out. Season with fresh ground black pepper.

Since grits thicken while cooling off, they must be served hot.

Spoon the grits in the center of the plate.

Spoon the sauce over the grits.

Add as many shrimp as you think you will like.

Garnish with lemon wedges and sprinkle the plate with Mrs. Dash all-purpose salt substitute.

In case you were wondering, Mrs. Dash is a spice mix like Adobo seasoning with parsley flakes as part of the mix. It's good on eggs too. 

Hamburger Wrap with Vinegar Chips

Make a burger. Slice it into strips.

Dot a flour tortilla with ketchup. Add lettuce, tomato and sliced pickles. Put salt and vinegar potato chips on top.

Roll up the good stuff in the tortilla and enjoy.

Diner Classic: Chicken Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce

4 thin-sliced chicken breast fillets
Your favorite salad veggies
Pita bread

Buttermilk marinade

Pound the fillets even thinner with a meat hammer. Have the chicken between sheets of plastic wrap or it gets messy.

Marinate the chicken for 3-4 hours.

The marinade:

Worcestershire sauce
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Hot sauce
Lemon juice
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Season the buttermilk aggressively. Eyeball the amounts.

Pound the chicken breasts flat between two sheets of plastic wrap with  a meat hammer. No meat hammer? Rubber mallet, bottom of a small pot or if all else is unavailable, the side of your fist. Place the chicken in the marinade, cover with plastic and put in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours.

While that is marinating, make the tzatziki sauce. The recipe is here:

Cut up your favorite veggies. Season with salt and pepper.

Shake off the excess marinade and fry in a hot skillet (no oil) for two minutes on one side and 1-1/2 minutes on the other.

The choice here is a charred chicken or a juicy chicken that is slightly golden. I went for golden. I have had to many dry chicken gyros to want to replicate that experience.

Pile the veggies, chicken and tzatziki sauce on a pita. Fold and enjoy.

Diner Classic: Greek Omelette

2-3 large eggs, whisked smooth
Feta cheese, crumbled, as desired
Tomato, chopped as desired
Red onion, sliced, as desired
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Kalamata olives, as desired
Pita bread for serving

Put a couple of tablespoons in a hot pan. Add the eggs, tomato, feta and onions. Lower the heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Let the eggs set until the middle is starting to set. Fold in thirds. There will be two folds. You can just fold it in half too.

Cut up a pita. Maybe drizzle some oil on the pita. Put some olives on the plate. Sprinkle the omelette with oregano.