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Sunday, June 4, 2023

Greek Salad

This briny salad hit the spot this week, with the start of summer. I use the recipe as a framework, adapting as needed to what I have on hand. I've used dried oregano, fresh red peppers instead of jarred, yellow onion instead of red, and whatever tomatoes are convenient. It's especially nice in the summer with my back porch oregano and mint and garden tomatoes.


Greek Salad

Serves 6-8
Source: Cook's Illustrated


3 T red wine vinegar 
1 1/2 teas lemon juice
2 teas minced fresh oregano leaves
1/2 teas salt
1/8 teas black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
6 T olive oil


1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise
2 hearts romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and torn in to bitesize pieces
2 large tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into wedges
1/4 c loosely packed, torn fresh parsley leaves
1/4 c loosely packed, torn fresh mint leaves
1 c (about 6 oz) jarred, roasted red bell pepper, cut into strips no longer than 2 inches
20 large kalamata olives, pitted and quartered lengthwise
1 c feta cheese, crumbled

Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the onion and cucumber, toss, and marinate for 20 minutes. Add lettuce, tomatoes, parsley, mint, and bell pepper to the bowl and toss. Sprinkle with olives and cheese, then enjoy.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Strawberry Shortbread and Cream

We're both experiencing a glut of strawberries, Mom from her garden and me from my favorite local grocery store that has had cases on sale. Here's a favorite way to enjoy them.  



Strawberry Shortbread and Cream

Yield: 4 servings plus extra shortbread (about 50 cookies, if you follow size directions)

For the shortbread:

1 c unsalted butter, preferably cultured (European-style), at room temperature
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teas fine sea salt
1 T vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, split and seeded with a tip of a knife 
1/2 teas orange blossom water or grated orange zest (optional)
2 c AP flour

For serving:

1 pint strawberries, sliced
granulated sugar, to taste, remembering the cookies are on the sweet side
1 c heavy cream
1/2 teas vanilla

Attach a paddle attachment to either a stand mixer or a hand mixer. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and light, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolk, salt, vanilla (extract or seeds), and orange blossom water, if using and beat. Add the flour and stir until smooth, occasionally using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Place a 12-inch long piece of  plastic wrap on a counter and place the dough in the center. Using the wrap to form a barrier between you and the sticky dough, form it into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. You can also form 2 logs if you find that easier. Wrap tightly and place in the fridge until it's completely cold, at least 3 hours and up to 5 days.

Preheat oven to 350F when you are ready to bake and place parchment paper or baking liners on 2 baking sheets.

Remove the plastic wrap from the dough log and slice it into quarter-inch rounds. Place the dough on the prepared sheets and place in the oven. Bake 10-15 minutes until they are golden at the edges. These spread a little so keep that in mind. I successfully placed 4 across with 1 1/2-inch cookies. 

Transfer the baking sheets to a cooling rack and allow them to cool thoroughly before removing. These can be baked up to 4 days ahead as long as you store them in an airtight container at room temperature. 

About 20 minutes before serving, sprinkle the sliced berries with a little sugar and stir. Allow them to sit for at least 15 minutes while they release their juice.

Whip the cream using a mixer with a whisk or a whisk and a bowl (more effort on your part). Add a teaspoon or so of sugar. Again, the cookies are so sweet you may not need sugar in the cream.

Divide the strawberries into serving bowls saving a little juice for drizzling. Top with the whipped cream and drizzle the cream with some of the juice.  Tuck several cookies into each bowl and eat with spoons. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Shrimp and Grits

When I leave my landlocked state and spend time oceanside, this is one of my favorite things to order at a restaurant. Thankfully, freezers make it possible to enjoy this dish other places and other times. 


Shrimp and Grits

Source:  The 150 Best American Recipes by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens
Serves: 4


4 c water
1 c grits (preferably stone ground)
1/2 teas salt
2 T butter
1 c grated sharp cheddar cheese (4 oz)
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground white pepper, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg, all to taste


6 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
oil for frying
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined if desired, rinsed and patted dry
2 c wiped and cleaned mushrooms, sliced
1 cup sliced scallions
1 large garlic clove, minced
4 teas fresh lemon juice
Hot pepper sauce to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c chopped fresh parsley

I found it easiest to prep the ingredients for both portions of the meal before starting to cook either. 

To make the grits:

In a large heavy saucepan, bring the water to boil and gradually stir in the grits. Reduce the heat to it's lowest point and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  When grits are thick and tender, stir in the salt, butter, and cheeses. Add about a pinch of each of the spices and taste to see if you would like to add more.

To make the shrimp:

This can be started as the grits finish up. You may want to keep the grits in a warm oven if they finish first, as mine usually do.

Cook the bacon in a 12-inch skillet and remove bits from the pan when they are finished. You may pour off all but a couple tablespoons of bacon fat.

If you wish, you can add some neutral cooking oil to the bacon fat in the skillet, so you have a thin layer of cooking fat. Bring the fat in the skillet to a medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes or so. Stir in the shrimp and cook until the shrimp start to color. Quickly turn them over and add the scallions, bacon, and garlic. Stir in the lemon juice and some hot pepper sauce, if you wish. Top with a sprinkling of parsley or save it for garnishing each serving.

Place the grits on warm plates and top with the shrimp mixture and serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Here's another baked item (but in a waffle iron) made with a vegetable and some whole grain flour. These make your kitchen smell delicious. 


Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Yield: five to seven 7-inch Belgian waffles

ATK prefers store-bought oat flour with a very fine grind. They suggest if you don't have access to the flour, grind some old-fashioned oatmeal in a food processor into as fine a meal as you can get, about 2 minutes. They warn that it will be different, more dense. They also warn against using toasted oat flour in the recipe.

I made no adjustments for altitude.

2 1/2 c oat flour
1/2 c AP flour
1 teas ground cinnamon
1 teas baking powder
1/2 teas baking soda
3/4 teas salt
1/4 teas ground nutmeg
1/4 teas ground cardamom
1 (15-oz) can unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 1/4 c plain low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt if that is all you have
2 large eggs
1/4 c oil (ATK recommends expeller-pressed canola oil)
1/4 c sugar
1 teas grated fresh ginger (if you like ginger, use more)

Heat your oven to 200F for keeping waffles warm after baking. start heating your waffle iron.

Place both flours, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, salt, nutmeg and cardamom in a large bowl and whisk together.

Measure yogurt in a large liquid measuring cup and add pumpkin, eggs, oil, sugar, and ginger and stir until combined. Pour into the flour mixture and whisk until smooth and well combined. If you use Greek yogurt, you'll need to add some milk or water until the texture is like cake batter or a thick pancake batter. 

When ready to bake, brush the iron with oil. Add a scant cup of batter and close the lid, cooking according to manufacturer's directions. Cook until waffles are deep golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven on a cooling rack. 


The original recipe found here instructs cooks to reduce the liquid in canned pumpkin by draining on paper towels. This worked well; in fact, too well. I had to add liquid and it was guess work, basing my guesses on what I thought waffle batter ought to look like. I added extra milk several times. The second time I made the waffles, I didn't drain the canned pumpkin and still had to add more liquid to attain the correct texture. 

You can substitute whole wheat flour for some of the oat flour, if needed. 

Add-ins are nice. I've used chopped fresh cranberries, blueberries, nuts, pepitas, and/or chocolate chips. I had to oil the griddle more often with some of the add-ins. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Tomato Rice Soup with Caramelized Onions

I have a quite a collection of tomato soup recipes, considering how I detested it as a child. Of course, I was served only canned soup, so I don't blame my younger self. Here's the latest addition. The caramelized onions add texture and sweetness, while the rice makes it heartier than some.  


Tomato Rice Soup with Caramelized Onions

Source: Milk Street
Serves 4-6

1 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced thinly
1 teas white sugar
kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 teas dried thyme
1/2 c long-grain white rice, rinsed and drained (see note below if you prefer brown rice)
1 14-1/2 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 quart chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/2 c parsley or basil leaves, chopped
optional basil pesto or grated Parmesan cheese, or both

Over medium flame, heat oil in a large saucepan or medium Dutch oven until it shimmers. Stir in the onion, sugar and half a teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is well browned and quite soft, stirring occasionally. Place half of the cooked onion in a small bowl and set aside.

Add the thyme to the onion in the pan and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Stir in the rice, tomatoes and juices and broth. Turn heat to medium high and bring the soup to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, covered, until the rice is tender around 20 minutes. Stir from time to time. 

When the rice is cooked, take the soup off the heat and stir in the parsley. Taste it to check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Top each serving with some of the onion and drizzle with oil. Or add either of the optional garnishes.


The magazine indicates you can use short grained rice if that's what you have although authors preferred long grain white. I made mine with brown rice and it needed twice the amount of cooking time. 

I think I'll caramelize 2 onions next time, particularly if I let them get quite brown. One isn't enough for all the servings of the soup and leftovers are easy to use.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Skillet Pumpkin Cornbread

Here's a good way to sneak in a bit of extra vegetables. Although the bread actually looks more orange than this photo, don't be surprised that the pumpkin doesn't make a marked change in flavor. I find this quite tasty but it doesn't have the same height as my usual cornbread. One benefit of the added pumpkin is that it keeps the bread moist for several days after baking.


Skillet Pumpkin Cornbread

Yields one 9" cornbread

1 c pumpkin canned pumpkin puree
1 c low-fat milk
2 T olive oil
1 T mild honey
2 eggs
1 1/2 c ground yellow cornmeal, ideally stone ground, but not necessarily
1/2 c AP flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 teas baking soda
3/4 teas salt
1 T unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400F. Place inside a 9" cast iron skillet or a 2-qt baking pan or a 9" round cake pan.

Place the pumpkin puree, milk, olive oil, honey and eggs in a bowl or large liquid measuring cup and whisk until combined. 

Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix but don't overmix.

Remove the pan from the oven and drop the butter in. When it has melted, brush the sides with the melted butter and pour the excess into the batter. Mix it in quickly and scrape the batter into the hot pan. Return to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. 

The original recipe instructs bakers to let the bread cool for 20 minutes. I've not been able to wait that long.

Portuguese-style Sweet Potato Buns

I don't quite know what to call these because they look a little like English muffins (but their inner texture is quite different); they feel like they would make a sturdy burger bun (but the color is unconventional); and they aren't really a dinner roll. Nomenclature aside, these colorful breads were the favorite part of one family meal over the Christmas holiday, especially with the chive butter spread, which I'll include.


Portuguese-style Sweet Potato Buns

Yield: 8 

If you've got a scale, using it will result in greater accuracy. 

12 ounces orange sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2/3 water
3 T salted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1 T honey
1 1/2 teas kosher salt
3 c bread flour (411 grams)
2 teas instant yeast

Cook the sweet potatoes, water, butter, honey, and salt in a small saucepan until the sweet potatoes do not resist when poked with a skewer. Pour all into the bowl of a stand mixer and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes to cool so the heat doesn't kill the yeast. When cool, use a paddle attachment to mix the potatoes until they are smooth. Or you can use a potato masher. 

Prepare a sheet pan by covering the surface with kitchen parchment.

Stir in the flour and yeast and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Run the mixer on low until the flour is mixed in. A dough should form in about 5 minutes. Increase the speed to medium high and run the mixer for another minute, for a total of 6-7 minutes.

Move the dough into a greased bowl with a cover to allow to rise until double (about an hour). I'm lazy about doing dishes and re-use my stand mixer bowl, after maneuvering the dough around in the bowl so I can mist the bottom of the bowl with vegetable oil spray.

When the dough has doubled, plop it out onto a very lightly floured counter and divide into 8 pieces of equal size. Tuck sides of each piece into the center and pinch, forming a small ball. Place one ball onto the counter where there is no flour and cupping your hand roll the ball until it is smooth. Place each ball onto the parchment, pinched side down, and press into a 4-inch disk, about a quarter inch thick. Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes. 

At about the 15 minute point, start to preheat your oven to 350F (or sooner if your oven is slow to preheat). The oven rack should be in the middle. At about the 20-25 minute point, start to preheat a cast iron skillet, griddle, or a large non-stick skillet. It's ideal (but not imperative) to be able to cook 4 of these buns on the surface at the same time.  After the 30 minutes has passed, when your griddle is hot enough to sizzle drops of water, carefully place 4 buns on the surface, top-side down, and cook for 1-2 minutes until they are golden brown. Flip them over, using a wide spatula and cook for another 1-2 minutes until second side is browned. Place these par-cooked buns onto the sheet pan and repeat with the remaining four dough rounds. 

After all eight buns have been par-cooked, place the sheet pan into the preheated oven and bake until the rolls have reached an internal temperature of 200F or 12-14 minutes. Milk Street instructions indicate you should cook for the full 14 minutes if you don't have a thermometer. 

These can be served completely cooled and sliced in half, or somewhat warm from the oven. They are good sliced and toasted as well, especially after a day or two. They store well in the freezer, too. 

Note: The last time I made these, I didn't weigh the flour and I had to add 1/4 c extra water to get my dough to be the right texture. As the teachers of my Turkish cooking class taught me, roll doughs are best when they feel like your ear lobe when you pinch it. 

Garlic Chive Butter

Also from Milk Street. I think this is plenty for 8 buns so I half it. I've also melted the butter when I've been in a hurry, however, this does cause the liquid to separate from the solids, somewhat.

1 stick of butter
3 T finely chopped fresh chives (in a pinch I've used scallions as well as finely chopped light-green leek leaves)
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 teas freshly ground black pepper

Use a rubber spatula to stir the butter until it is no longer a stick but a creamy mass of smooth butter. Add the chives, garlic, and pepper and stir to combine.