Home Cook

Ridiculously Good Breakfast

As a rule, I don't do fancy breakfasts. Let me correct that: I don't make fancy breakfasts. I am not a morning person (anyone who knows me is laughing at the understatement). I will however, eat a fancy breakfast if it is presented to me.

My roommate, Claire, is a morning person. Nothing makes her happier than to get up and get outside. Also unlike me, she has the metabolism of a vole. That woman needs food, and she does food at what (to me) are ungodly hours of the A.M.

This morning she woke me up (unusual) saying I wouldn't want to miss breakfast. She was right.

Claire's Puffy Pancake

4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup spelt flour

a lot of butter

powdered sugar
lemon juice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Melt a lot of butter (1 stick? She said 1 stick, but I wasn't in the room to see it) in a 10" cast iron frying pan.

Mix eggs, milk, vanilla and flour together until smooth. Pour immediately into hot buttered pan and place immediately into oven.

Bake for about 8 minutes until it is very puffy and brown. (Claire left the oven light on and watched until it looked right.) Remove from oven, sprinkle top generously with powdered sugar and drizzle with lemon juice. Slice and serve.

Claire said her mother had gotten the recipe from an old brunch cookbook and Claire herself had been making it since she was twelve years old. She tells me the secret ("Which my mom never does...") is to have the butter sizzling hot when the batter is added and to place it immediately into the preheated oven.

Whatever she says--it was delicious! And I was blogging by 9 A.M.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Soup

The other night my roommates and went out to eat at a real, sit-down restaurant , something we don't do very often with the state of our finances. It was a treat. I had the poblano peppers (quite good, if not great), but what I didn't have was more interesting.

The earnest waitperson (all good waitpeople convey earnestness, don't you think?) advised us that the soup of the day was Black Bean, Sweet Potato, Corn and Tomato, with Cilantro. Goodness, I thought, I have all those things at home, including fresh cilantro from the farmers' box that we get. I was curious to taste it, thinking that would guide me later, but didn't order it. Too much food and too little budget, after all.

However, this is what we had for dinner at home the next night:

Sweet Potato Black Bean Soup with Cilantro

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced small (perhaps 1/2 to 3/4 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp (more or less) chili powder

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced small (perhaps 1-1/2 to 2 cups)
1 28 oz can petite-cut diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can sweet corn
1 15 oz can black beans
1 cup (maybe a bit more) water or chicken stock
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp (more or less) fresh cilantro, minced

In a large pan over low heat, saute the onion in the olive oil until it is soft. Add the minced garlic, saute briefly, then add the chili powder. Cook the powder briefly with the vegetables, then add the canned goods, sweet potatoes, salt and cilantro. Add sufficient water or stock to make a good soup consistency. Bring to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender, 20-30 minutes. Check seasonings; add another shake of chili powder if desired. Serve in bowls with a little fresh cilantro on top.

I actually made this in a crock pot, for about two hours on high. Super simple to make and very tasty.

I thought about using Rotel-style tomatoes, but I think the chilies would overwhelm the sweet potatoes and cilantro. Might try it that way, though, with the "mild" version.

Note that if you use water instead of stock, it's vegan. You could also skip the extra liquid and have a stew to be served over rice.

(I really have to start taking pictures for the recipes, but by the time I thought about it, the soup was gone!)

For the Beans

Haven’t been cooking much the past week or so. I’ve had the flu and Spousal Unit went into the hospital last Wednesday for tests, so the kitchen has been operating in survival mode only. Thank goodness Spousal Unit believes in survival pantry stocking; all that chicken soup came in handy.

One thing Spousal Unit has been encouraging me to do is to write tips for husbands in the kitchen. He thinks Teach Your Husband to Cook would be a good title. I dunno; some husbands cook pretty darn well. Maybe it should be Teach Your Partner or Kid or Roommate to Cook. Whatever you want to call it, I’ll share a tip today along with my super-simple, survival-mode supper.

About thirty years ago I concocted a killer bean dip, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve had occasion to make it. Today, as we were out of canned soups, I started eyeing the refried beans. I didn’t have the energy to make the full-out version, plus I wanted to keep it extra mild so as not to stress my system. But it was tasty in a comfort food kind of way, and sure was easy. I’ll upload the killer dip recipe next time I make it.

Simple Bean Dip
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 can* corn, drained
  • 1/2 cup (or more) store-bought salsa
  • Cholula Chili Roast Garlic Mexican Seasoning,** a few shakes to taste
Empty the cans into a 1-1/2 to 2 quart, covered microwaveable dish, something like a Corningware covered casserole. Add the salsa and dry seasonings; stir well. Cover and microwave at 50% power for 10-12 minutes. If not yet steaming hot, stir and nuke again at 50% power for an additional 2-4 minutes. When steaming hot, give it a last good stir and serve hot with tortilla chips or corn chips.

If you want more of a kick, you could drain and add one of those little cans of chopped green chilies, or add a few shakes of hot sauce. It would also be nice with a little shredded cheese sprinkled on top just before serving.

I’m thinking tonight’s leftovers might wind up in a taco for tomorrow’s lunch. Just reheat in the microwave at half-power, then put spoonful or two on a tortilla with some lettuce, tomato and shredded cheese.

Corn is one of the few vegetables I’ll buy canned, rather than fresh or frozen. I think it holds up just fine. I rarely have the patience to use fresh any way but on the cob.

This is a mild, dry seasoning in a shaker jar that I’ve had in my pantry for a while now. It’s made by the same people who make the wonderful Cholula hot sauces, except they don’t seem to make dry seasonings any more. If you can’t find it, use a little chili power instead.

Simple Bean Tip

Since refried beans are so dense, they are not the easiest food to heat. You can do it in a saucepan or small frying pan over medium heat with a lot of stirring. You’d think the microwave would help, but that tends to overcook them around the edges unless you’re constantly stopping, stirring and nuking some more. It always seemed to me to be a lot of fuss and attention for such a simple side dish.

Not too long ago, I discovered that the easiest, least fussy way to heat the beans is just as I describe it in the recipe above. Spread them out in a microwaveable casserole, cover, then nuke at half-power for a good ten minutes or so. Using 50% power is the trick. They heat very evenly with no fuss whatsoever.

Hot Potato!

One of my favorite things growing up was my mom's German potato salad. It's served hot with a thick, sweet and sour dressing, and bears no resemblance whatsoever to a typical American potato salad. (I have to keep explaining that to the people who immediately say, "I don't like potato salad.")

Now, my mother's parents were immigrants from Austria, so I grew up assuming this was some old family recipe. When I was living away from home and asked her for it, much to my surprise she pulled out a newspaper clipping. I have no idea from where she got it, but if she was cooking it when I was a kid, it must have been published fifty years ago or more. I hand-copied it, then later typed it up and pasted it into my recipe notebook (a little three-ring binder which I've been using for the last forty years or so).

This is one recipe I don't tweak, I like it so much just as it is. I was going to post it just as I got it, but decided the rather terse instructions could use a rewrite.

Hot German Potato Salad
  • 3 eggs
  • 5 slices of bacon (or more*)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice **
  • 4 cups sliced, cooked potatoes, skins on (4 large potatoes or 6 or more small ones)
  • 1/2 cup sliced onion (one small or half a large)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, less if dried
  • 1 tsp celery seed

*That's what it says in the original. Need I say, I always go for "more."

**If you're squeezing fresh lemons, you'll probably need two. If you come up a little short, just make up the difference with white wine vinegar.

Hard-boil two of the three eggs. Set aside to cool.

Scrub the potatoes, but do not peel or slice. Put whole potatoes in a pot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Let cook for about 30 minutes, or until just barely tender. (Poke with a fork or a slim, sharp knife. It should go in easily.) Do not overcook, or they will fall apart. Drain, set aside until cool enough to handle, then slice, about 1/4 inch thick. If potatoes are very large, halve or quarter lengthwise before slicing.

In a large frying pan or wide dutch oven, fry the bacon until crisp. Set aside to drain on paper toweling.

Measure out 1/4 cup of the bacon drippings, then discard the rest. Add the quarter cup of fat back into the pan. Add the flour, sugar, salt and pepper to the pan and mix into the bacon fat. Stir over low heat until pasty.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the remaining raw egg with the water, vinegar and lemon juice. Add gradually to the flour mixture and stir until thickened.

Add the sliced onions, stir and cook for just a couple of minutes.

Crumble the bacon and add to the pan, along with the potatoes, parsley and celery seed. Toss gently over low heat until well covered with the sauce and warmed through.

Garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs, Serve warm.

Birthday Greens

Working fifty hours a week has kept me out of the kitchen, but yesterday we belatedly celebrated Isaac's 60th birthday with a cake and a home-cooked meal.

  • Spiral-sliced ham (a heat-and-serve shortcut)
  • Hot German Potato Salad
  • Swiss Chard with Garlic
  • Pumpkin Walnut Bundt Cake with Spiced Rum Glaze

The cake recipe went up yesterday, and the potato salad deserves a post of its own, so here is the swiss chard. I really must flesh out my essay on cooking greens and get that posted. I shall do that in my copious free time ...

Swiss Chard with Garlic
  • 1 bunch swiss chard
  • 1-2 slices of bacon (or a splash of olive oil)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or more)
  • salt
  • pepper

Wash the chard well, especially if it's from the farmers' market rather than a supermarket. Dump it into a sink of cold water, swoosh it around, then drain the water. Repeat until you don't see any more dirt or sand at the bottom of the sink. Set aside.

In a large frying pan (one with a lid) or wide, shallow sauce pan, fry up the bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and pour out most of the bacon grease.

While the bacon is frying, cut off the very ends of the chard stems and discard. Tear off the leaves from the thickest part of the stems. Chop the stems in little slices. Once the bacon and most of the fat is out of the pan, put over moderate heat and toss in the stems. Stir them a bit, then add the minced garlic. Let the garlic and stems cook a minute or so while you prepare the leafy bits.

Roll up the leaves into big cigar shapes and slice across into shreds maybe 1/4 inch wide (precision is not important). Add to the pan with the stems and garlic and toss it around. Shake on some salt and pepper to taste. Cover. The moisture still clinging to the leaves will steam the greens. Give it a good stir every few minutes.

Once it's wilted to your liking, turn off the heat. If you're using a heavy pan with a good lid, you can also turn off the heat any time after it starts to steam and just let it sit with the cover on. It will continue to wilt until you're ready for it.

Crumble the bacon over the greens, toss and serve.

I didn't actually add the bacon back in last night, as I was using it in the potato salad. I usually make this with olive oil, so if I'm using bacon I don't use much salt. Along with the salt, pepper, and garlic, you could also add dried red pepper flakes, or maybe a couple of drops of hot sauce or hot sesame oil. To taste, of course. Hey, it's your dinner--make it the way you like!


Isaac's Belated Birthday Bundt Cake

Isaac's sixtieth birthday was last week, but between my schedule and his health, we didn't really celebrate. As long as I had today off, I declared it birthday day. Here's the cake.

Pumpkin Walnut Bundt Cake with Spiced Rum Glaze
  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp spiced rum
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (approx. 2 cups) pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 2/3 cup barley flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350º. Butter a Bundt pan really, really well.

Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until well mixed. It will be crumbly, not creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla, beat well until it is very creamy and lemon-colored, then add the pumpkin. Mix until just blended.

Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the wet ingredients about a third at time, mixing gently with the machine or by hand. Stir in the walnuts.

Spread the batter evenly in the Bundt pan. Bang the bottom of the pan a few times on the table to shake out any air bubbles. It will pick up the details of the mold much better this way. Bake for one hour, until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes ("no more, no less," according to the official Nordic Ware site ), then invert onto a plate. (Don't pick it up with bare hands; use hot pads.) With luck, it comes out in one beautiful piece.

Captain's Rum Glaze
  • 2 tbsp spiced rum
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar

Stir together, then drizzle over top of the cake.

Alternately, dust with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.

The alert reader may notice significant similarities to the previously-posted Banana Cake. This is hardly accidental. Much of my baking consists of tweaking one recipe to accommodate other ingredients.

The aforementioned Nordic Ware site suggests spraying cooking oil on the pan, then dusting with flour, but I haven’t been thrilled with the results. I liked the butter, but I could see that dusting with flour would have helped the cake climb up the sides of the pan. However, the result was dandy anyway.

Sweet Pumpkin Treats

Autumn is here, which gets me thinking pumpkin, one of my favorite foods. I’ll be cooking with it a lot now through spring. When I was younger and more ambitious, I would cook a pumpkin from scratch for the puree, but frankly, I’m just as happy if not more so with a can of organic puree. There are only so many hours in the day.

Calling these treats "bars" makes them sound more substantial and cookie-like than they are. In fact, the result is very light and cakey. They might be more bar-like with more oatmeal, which is not in the original recipe.

I'm not sure where the recipe came from; I hand-copied it from someone else's handwritten copy maybe 20-25 years ago. Of course, I never make it exactly as written. Here's the way I made them yesterday:

Pumpkin Bars
  • 1 c white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat; I happened to have white whole wheat)
  • 1 c brown rice flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
Sift together and set aside.
  • 1 c vegetable oil (I use canola—don't use olive oil)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c white sugar
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 c oatmeal
In a large bowl, whisk the oil and eggs together until fluffy. Whisk in the sugars, then the pumpkin.

Add the flour mixture by thirds, stirring only until completely moistened. Add the in the walnuts and oatmeal. The batter will be rather wet.

Pour into an ungreased 15" x 10" x 1" sheet pan (jelly roll pan, cookie sheet with sides--whatever you call it) and pop into a 350º for 25-30 minutes. They should be lightly brown and pulling away from the sides of the pan.

My old recipe suggests frosting them—which I never do—or topping with cinnamon sugar. I used a combination of powdered sugar and cinnamon. Either way, cut into squares and serve.

Lentils and Sausage

As promised on Facebook, last Friday night's dinner:

Lentil and Italian Sausage Soup

From the Nyack Farmers' Market:
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage (hot would also be good)
  • 1 or 2 onions, diced
  • 1 clove organic garlic
  • 4-5 ribs of organic celery, with leaves
  • 1 small bunch of organic carrots, or 3-4 large carrots
  • 1 bunch organic purple kale

From the grocery and pantry:
  • 1 lb organic dried lentils
  • 1 bottle lager
  • 1 can (or two) organic diced tomatoes
  • bay leaf
  • salt
  • pepper

From the garden:
  • several sprigs of thyme
  • a few basil leaves
  • sprig of oregano
  • sprig of rosemary
  • 1 bell pepper
  • tomatoes

Take a large pot, larger than you think you'll need, and heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in it.

Remove casing from sausage, if desired, chunk it up into small pieces, maybe the size of half-inch meatballs, and saute in the oil over medium heat until it doesn't look raw anymore. Then toss in the onions, stir and cook until onions are soft but not brown. Mince the garlic and add to the onions. Cook for a minute or so.

Rinse off the lentils and toss into the pot. Add a bottle of lager, a couple of bottles of water, and the canned tomatoes, enough liquid to cover plus about an inch.

Tie the herbs with a bit of string or into cheesecloth and toss into the pot. Alternately, strip the leaves off the stems, mince all but the bay leaf and toss into the pot.

Bring pot up to a boil for a minute or so, then cover and reduce heat to simmer.

While it’s simmering, chop the carrots and celery into small slices. Mince the celery leaves. Dice the bell pepper. Toss each into the pot as they are chopped. If there are any garden tomatoes left, dice a couple and toss them in, too. Return to a simmer after each addition.

The kale you’ll need to clean in several changes of water, especially if it’s from the Farmers’ Market. Otherwise, you’ll be adding a lot of sand, dirt and grit to the pot. Once it’s clean, strip the leaves from the toughest part of the stem. Roll into cigar shapes, slice and slice again crosswise. Add them to the pot, too.

If it looks like it needs more liquid, add a little more water, broth, or beer, or another can of tomatoes. It should be soupy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

At this point, the lentils have been simmering for maybe 45 minutes to an hour. Cover and simmer another 45 minutes or so until both the lentils and kale are tender.

Fish out the bay leaf and the twiggy herbs, ladle into big bowls and serve.

We had some leftover rice, so I added a bit to the bowls. You could also add pasta, something like a small shell shape, in the last 20-30 minutes of cooking. Add the pasta (not too much) bring soup up to a boil, then return to a simmer.

Next time, I might use less water and more tomatoes, or even tomato juice. As usual, it will depend on what I have in the pantry.


Banana Cake

James Beard once said, "Don't let the lack of an ingredient stop you from trying a recipe." I found that very liberating, although lack of eggs might deliver a strange omelet. Nonetheless, it has been a window to much of my experimentation.

I don't eat wheat much anymore. One doctor told me I was allergic to it, and another told me I was not, but over all I think I do better without it. I find I tolerate spelt pretty well, which is related to common wheat (and does contain gluten, for those of you who are gluten-free) but is an older species.

I found the original of this recipe, Spelt Banana Bread, a couple of years ago. It calls for four bananas, which were sitting enticingly on the table this morning. Of course, I was out of spelt flour. However, I had some white whole wheat (I don't remember why) and barley flour. So here is what I came up with.

(Not Spelt) Banana Cake

  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup barley flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350º. Butter a 9x9 baking pan.

Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until well mixed. It will be crumbly, not creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla, beat well, then add the bananas. Mix until just blended.

Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the wet ingredients about a third at time, mixing gently with the machine or by hand. Stir in the walnuts.

Pour into the pan, spreading evenly. Bake for one hour, until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour or so. If you use loaf pans, you might want to turn them out on the rack after 10-15 minutes; I used the 9x9 and just left it in the pan. Dust the top with confectioners' sugar, cut into squares (or slices) and serve.

It is light, fluffy and delicious. I think you could use two round cake pans, frost it and make a banana layer cake out of it, too, if you were so inclined. I might try that sometime. Might also be good in my Bundt pan.

The folks who posted the original recipe said they adapted it from Joy of Cooking, and now I've adapted it from them. Recipes go 'round and 'round!

Kale Soup (with a Digression on Chicken Stock)

I never cooked greens until a year or so ago; they just weren't part of my diet growing up, and I really didn't know what to do with them. I started experimenting with them, and now I use them a lot, and will throw them into all sorts of dishes. Here's one from last week.

Kale and Smoked Turkey Soup

Wash well two bunches of flat-leafed kale (might be called Lacinato or dinosaur kale.) Cut off the thick end of the stems, if any, and chop the rest coarsely. Set aside.

Throw some olive oil in a good-sized pot over low to medium heat. Add a diced onion and cook slowly until onion is soft, but not brown. Add a couple of cloves of garlic, minced.

Slice the meat off of a smoked turkey leg. Save the bone for something else. Dice the meat into maybe 1/2 inch chunks. Toss in with the onions and garlic and stir.

Chop up a couple of carrots and a few ribs of celery, including the leaves. Add that to the pot and stir. Let cook for a minute or two.

Add about 4-6 cups of chicken or vegetable broth*, some parsley from the garden, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and toss the kale on top. Cover and let the kale steam until soft.

Take a cup or so of leftover rice from the fridge and stir it into the soup. When rice is warm, ladle into bowls and serve.

*I used homemade broth cobbled together from the soup stock scrap bag in the freezer. All the raw chicken or turkey skin and trimmings that would normally get thrown away get tossed in there, along with rotisserie chicken carcasses and scraps of onions, carrots, celery and parsley. When the bag is full, it goes into the crock pot along with water to cover, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. I let it brood for for the day, strain out all the bits, then refrigerate until I can remove the solidified fat from the top. It then gets divided into one-cup portions in freezer containers. Those go into the freezer for whenever I need stock.

Before the Summer is Gone

Thought I’d better get this uploaded before the summer is officially over:

Late Summer Garden Pasta

Harvest all the ripe tomatoes and bell peppers from the patio pots. Grab a handful or two of basil and oregano while you're out there.

Get some fresh spinach from the organic grocer. Wash well, stem and coarsely chop.

Start a generous pot of water for the pasta. I like quinoa spirals, but that’s because I avoid wheat. Use what you like.

Heat a little olive oil in a large pan over low to medium heat. Grab a good-sized yellow onion from the pantry, dice, and toss in with the olive oil. Give it a good stir, then let it cook slowly for a few minutes. You want to "sweat" it, not brown it. Let the onion cook, stirring occasionally, while you prep the peppers.

Seed and dice the peppers. Toss them in with the onions and stir. Let cook while you dice the tomatoes.

Cut cherry, grape or little yellow pear tomatoes (they are so cute!) in half. Larger tomatoes chop coarsely, maybe one-half to one inch pieces. Set aside.

Take a couple of cloves of garlic from the pantry, place on cutting board and whack with the side of a large knife. Peel away the papery skin and mince. Throw in the pot with the onions and peppers. Stir., and let cook for a minute or two.

Add the tomatoes to the pot. Mince the basil and oregano, toss in the pot, and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Dump the spinach into the pot, cover, and reduce heat to low. Leave it alone while you cook the pasta.

By now, the water should be boiling. Put in the dried pasta, stir, and cook according to package directions. Drain the pasta and set aside.

By the time the pasta is done, the spinach will be wilted. Give the the vegetables in the pot a good stir, then dump in the pasta. Toss it all together.

Serve in deep bowls as is, or with a sprinkle of shredded Pecorino Romano.


It Resembles Tabbouleh

Last night’s dinner came out very good; I’ll bring it to work for lunch today.

Quinoa Salad

from the store:
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 2 bunches green onions

from the garden:
  • random number of tomatoes, whatever is ripe
  • a good handful of parsley
  • a basil leaf or two
  • tiny sprig of mint

vinaigrette dressing* of your choice

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Usually, you need to wash it in a few changes of water to get rid of any saponins (responsible for a soapy taste and digestive distress), then cook it like rice, one part quinoa to two parts water for 15-20 minutes. Pop it in a big bowl to cool.

Quarter the cukes lengthwise, then thickly slice. Toss in with the quinoa.

Slice off the root ends of the onions then thinly slice the rest, using all the white and whatever of the green is crisp and bright. Toss in with the quinoa.

Cut tiny tomatoes in halves or quarters (I had grape tomatoes and little yellow pear tomatoes); larger tomatoes should be diced to about the same size as the babies. Toss in with the quinoa.

Mince the herbs. I use a large wooden bowl and a mezzaluna knife; works great. Toss in with the quinoa.

Pour in the vinaigrette and blend everything together. Chill for an hour or two so the flavors "marry." Serve cold or room temperature.

*I am no expert at salad dressings, but I used 1/2 cup olive oil, about 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, juice of the 1/2 lime that was lurking in the fridge, two cloves of garlic minced, plus salt and pepper, whisked together. It was just right.


Simple Spicy Catfish with Veggie Rice

Veggie Rice
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 1 bell pepper (bought) and one small banana pepper (grown), diced larger than the onion
  • 1 medium, 2 small, and 5 tiny tomatoes out of the garden
  • 1 surprisingly large clove of garlic, minced
  • 5 ribs celery hearts, including leaves, sliced
  • 1-1/4 cup white rice
  • 2-1/2 cups water (or some sort of broth)
  • 3 sprigs thyme from the garden
  • 1 basil leaf from the garden
  • salt
  • pepper

Throw a good splash of olive oil in a pot or pan. Add onions and stir until they start softening. Add peppers; cook for a couple of minutes, then add garlic and celery. Stir for about a minute, add rice, and cook for another couple of minutes. Add water, herbs and spices and stir. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Let stand until the fish is done, fluff and serve.

Simple Spicy Catfish
  • catfish filets
  • olive oil
  • Zatarain's Creole Seasoning

Drizzle both sides of filets with olive oil, then cover generously with Zatarain's.

When the rice is nearly ready, put fish under the broiler. Time using the Canadian Cooking Method (measure fish at thickest point, cook 10 minutes per inch; double the time if the fish is frozen).

Serve with beer or other beverage of your choice.

The rice could be much spicier, but I kept it mild as a counterpoint to the fish. Leftover veggie rice can be used as a light lunch or as a side dish for another meal.


Can't Leave Well Enough Alone Oatmeal Cookies 1.1

This one is adapted from the oatmeal cookie recipe that comes on the Quaker Oats oatmeal package. My variations are in brown.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup barley flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup dried currants

Creme the butter and sugars together, add the eggs and vanilla and beat well.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix into butter mixture. Do not overbeat.

Add the oatmeal, nuts and currants. Incorporate into other ingredients.

Bake at 350° for 12-16 minutes, until light brown. Let cool on the baking sheet.

This makes a thinner, crisper cookie than the all-wheat flour version. I've also made this with a combination of spelt and brown rice flours, which makes an even thinner cookie.

I like to use a cookie scoop; mine holds about a tablespoon and a half, one really rounded tablespoon.

You could use raisins, but I don't like raisins. If I can't find dried currants (try the health food grocer), dried cranberries work just dandy.

Summer Noodles

Here’s a nice summery sweet and sour salad I’ve been experimenting with lately. It’s adapted from "Vinegar Noodles," a recipe I clipped out of a magazine, probably from Taste of Home. It reminds me of my mother’s cucumber and onion salad, crossed with a 1980s pasta salad. Adjust the sugar/vinegar balance to your taste.

Summer Noodles
a work in progress

  • 2-3 cups uncooked spiral pasta. I use tri-color brown rice pasta.
  • 1 or 2 cucumbers, about 1/12-2 cups, sliced very thin
  • 1 onion, about 1 cup, halved and sliced very thin
  • fresh parsley, chopped, maybe 1/4 cup
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced very fine, or use a garlic press
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 c white wine vinegar
  • 2/3 c white sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp (1/2 tablespoon) brown mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Cook pasta to package directions. Drain.

While pasta is cooking, whisk together in large bowl


Add warm pasta and sliced vegetables, toss well. Refrigerate at least an hour.

If I had fresh dill, I'd probably add that, too.

Really good with leftover herbed pork roast. Cut pork into cubes and heat about two minutes in the microwave; while still warm, toss into the noodles. I'll bet it would be good with canned or fresh-cooked garbanzo beans or kidney beans, too.