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Sunday, October 31, 2021

Cranberry Lemon Bars

It's almost cranberry time. 


Cranberry Lemon Bars

Makes a 9X13 pan of bars

For the cranberry layer:

1 (12-oz) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
3 T water
3/4 c granulated sugar
2-3 large lemons

For the crust:

1 1/2 c AP flour
1/3 c granulated sugar
1 teas fine sea salt
1 teas vanilla extract
3/4 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the lemon layer:

1 c granulated sugar
1/4 c AP flour
1/8 teas fine sea salt
3 large eggs, at room temp
confectioners' sugar, optional

To make the cranberry layer, combine the cranberries, sugar and water in a saucepan. Zest 2 lemons, over the saucepan, and reserve the lemons. Over medium-high heat, bring the ingredients to a boil while stirring occasionally. Cook until the berries pop and the mixture is jam-like. Turn off the heat and set the pan aside.

To make the crust, start by preheating the oven to 350F. Use heavy duty aluminum foil to carefully line a 9X13 baking pan and make sure there are no holes or gaps. Spray generously with cooking spray. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in bowl. Stir the vanilla into the butter and then pour the two over the flour mix. Mix together and the dough will come together into a mass. Break the dough into pieces as you place it into the lined pan. Press with your hands to ensure the dough is an even layer. Place in the oven and bake until the layer is golden brown at the edges. 

Meanwhile, mix the lemon layer. Squeeze the reserved lemons and measure. You need one half cup; if you don't have enough, squeeze a third lemon. 

In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, flour, and salt. Whisk in the eggs and mix only until incorporated. Gently stir in the lemon juice just until smooth. 

When the crust is done, remove from the oven and allow to rest on the counter for 5 minutes and then spread the cranberry mixture over the top. Then slowly and carefully pour the lemon mixture over all, creating two distinct layers as well as you can. I found that the cranberry layer peeked out in some places.

Replace the pan in the oven and bake until the filling is set, 18-22 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack, until completely cool. Then place in the fridge for a couple of hours, at least. When firm and cold, use the foil as a sling and move all to a cutting board. With a sturdy sharp knife, cut into 24 pieces (or more if you prefer). making sure you wipe your knife between cuts. If you like, sprinkle bars with powdered sugar just before serving. 

Plum Avocado Salad

I've never thought of this combination but it's very tasty.


Plum Avocado Salad

Adapted from
Serves 2-4

2 medium avocados, ripened
5-10 plums depending on the size (I found Italian plums, which are cling free, easy to use)
1 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 small clove garlic, minced.
several pinches sea salt
juice of one medium lemon
2 splashes olive oil
a pinch or more ground dried red chile pepper, 1/2 c chopped roasted pistachios, salt free preferably

You can peel the plums if you prefer. Cut the plums into 5/8 inch cubes. Peel the avocados and cut into cubes.

Place the plum and avocado cubes into a bowl. Drizzle with the lemon juice and sprinkle with one pinch of salt. Gently toss together taking care to avoid overmixing.
In a small bowl, mix the garlic with another pinch of salt, mashing them together. Add the amount of chile pepper you wish to use and continue mashing. Add the cilantro, and mash until combined. Stir in the oil (1/4 -1/2 c) to make the dressing. Mash until incorporated with other ingredients.

Sprinkle the avocado and plums with chopped pistachios. Drizzle the dressing over the top and sprinkle with one more pinch of salt, if you like. Allow to sit on the counter for 5-10 minutes until flavors have melded somewhat and serve.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto



Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto

Adapted from:  RIVER COTTAGE VEG by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Serves 4

5-6 cups vegetable stock (homemade is best) or a combination of stock and water
1 generous T butter (20 g)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/4 c (250g) Arborio rice
3/4-1 c roasted tomato sauce, see recipe below, or equivalent amount of a prepared pasta sauce
salt and pepper
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella (about 4 oz or 125g) torn or cut into chunks

 In a 2-3 quart saucepan, heat the vegetable stock until it simmers. Keep it hot.

In the meantime, place large saucepan or medium Dutch-oven over medium-low heat and melt the butter. Add the onion and stir until coated. Sweat until soft, about 10 minutes depending on your stovetop. Stir in the rice and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the rice has begun to look translucent around the edges start to add the hot stock a cup or cup and a half at a time. Stir often, especially right after you add the initial stock, so you encourage the formation of starch in the rice. As each addition of stock is absorbed, add another cup or so, stir a little and let cook until until liquid is absorbed. After 20-25 minutes, the rice should be cooked with just a hint of chalkiness in the middle (in my high altitude, this time is longer since the boiling point is lower). 

Stir in the tomato sauce and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, until all is thoroughly heated. I like this a bit runny with generous amounts of tomato sauce. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Add the mozzarella and cover. Let it sit for a minute and stir lightly to break up the melting mozzarella. Don't be too vigorous in stirring because you should have some melty bits of the cheese within the risotto. 

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a handful of arugula on the side, if you like. If you prefer, top with a chiffonade of basil or some chopped oregano.

For meat eaters, you can top with some cooked bacon, crumbled. Or stir some into the risotto. The cheese can be left out if you prefer. 

Roasted Tomato Sauce (yields about 2 cups)

3-4 pounds (1.5-2kg) ripe tomatoes, larger ones halved
3 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
a few sprigs thyme
couple springs of marjoram (optional)
2 T olive oil or vegetable oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 350F (180C). Place the tomatoes, cut side up on a baking sheet and sprinkle the garlic and herbs over the top. Drizzle the oil over the top and season to your preference with the salt and pepper.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for an hour or more until the tomatoes and soft and beginning to caramelize on the top. 

Allow the tomatoes to cool for approximately 30 minutes. Pour them into a large sieve over a bowl and rub the pulp through. Discard the skins and seeds.

Or alternatively, just use a blender, stick or conventional, to blend through the tomatoes. You'll still have tiny bits of skin and seeds but they don't bother me much. You'll have a much larger yield. 

Note: You can use crushed tomatoes from a can but you might need to use more seasoning and herbs to supplement flavor.

Tomato Fritatta

I'm trying to use up a fall glut of tomatoes after a fast, freezing storm compelled us to strip our tomato plants of their bounty. Of course, this can be made any time of year. If you are buying the fruit out of season, cherry tomatoes taste better than others. 


Tomato Frittata

Serves 6-8

1 1/4 pounds ripe tomatoes, the best you can find
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
freshly ground pepper
1 T fresh marjoram leaves or 2 teas fresh thyme leaves
8 large eggs
2 T milk
1 T extra virgin olive oil

Slice half of the tomatoes about a third of an inch thick and set aside (if you use cherry tomatoes, I advise slicing all in half). Halve the remaining tomatoes, squeeze to remove the seeds and chop. Mix these with the garlic in a bowl or retain on your cutting board until needed. 

In another bowl or large measuring cup whisk the eggs and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the milk and half of whichever herbs you choose. Add the chopped tomato and garlic. Stir to mix well.

Place the olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet (oven safe) and heat over medium-high heat until you can feel heat when you hover your hand over the pan. You can test by dropping some of the egg mixture in and if it sizzles the pan is ready. Add the egg mixture to the skillet and tilt the pan until it evenly covers the bottom. Allow to cook a bit; then lift the edges with a rubber spatula while tilting the skillet again, allowing some of the eggs to seep under the cooked bottom. Do this a few times. When the eggs have set somewhat, turn the heat to low and place tomato slices on the top. Cover the pan and cook about 10 minutes; gently shake it a couple of times. You may also want to look at the bottom to ensure it doesn't burn; again use a rubber spatula to lift and check. 

Once the eggs are mostly set place the skillet under the broiler about 6 inches from the heat. Cook until the top browns slightly and puffs a little. Remove from the broiler and give the skillet a shake to ensure the frittata doesn't stick.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining thyme or marjoram leaves over the top. Slice the frittata with a plastic knife while in the pan (you don't want to scratch the surface) or slip it carefully on to a cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve hot, although it tastes great at any temperature.

Leftovers are best used within a couple of days.

I'm thinking of trying this with chopped cooked bacon and/or cheese, shredded and mixed into the eggs or grated Parmesan on top. But it is good as it is.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Browned Butter Raspberries

This is one of those simple but surprisingly delicious desserts that we should serve more often because they are so easy. The recipe is more of a guide so following this precisely isn't completely necessary. 


Browned Butter Raspberries

Source:  Amanda Hesser on
Serves 4

1 pound raspberries, at room temperature
4-5 T unsalted butter
1/4 teas vanilla extract
raw sugar or granulated sugar if that's what you have, about 1/2 teas per bowl depending on the sweetness of the berries

Divide the raspberries between 4 bowls. Place the butter in a 10-inch skillet and heat over medium. Allow the butter to melt and begin the bubble and boil. It will spatter so you may want to put a spatter guard on top of the skillet. The sputtering of the butter will settle down somewhat and the solids will begin to brown. Swirl the pan a bit so the butter will brown evenly. When the butter begins to smell nutty and the solids turn golden brown you can remove it from the heat. Add the vanilla.

Evenly drizzle the butter over the raspberries and sprinkle with the sugar. Serve immediately because it is best when the butter is warm. Diners can stir their berries before they begin, if they prefer.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Chicken with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Black Olives in a Slow Cooker

This past summer I had huge amounts of tomatoes when I came home from a long trip in Europe. It was too hot to roast and freeze them and to complicate matters I didn't have an oven anyway. So I looked for slow cooker recipes that used healthy amounts of tomatoes. This is one. 


Chicken with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Black Olives in a Slow Cooker

Adapted from THE MEDITERRANEAN SLOW COOKER by Michele Scicolone

Serves 6-10

2 T olive oil
6 sweet Italian sausages (about 1 pd)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper
1/2 c dry red wine
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes, or 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes run through the food processor
6 whole chicken legs, skin removed if preferred, or 12 thighs, boneless or bone-in
salt and freshly ground pepper
1-1 1/2 c pitted Kalamata olives, halved
3 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, or basil sliced in chiffonade, or chopped fresh oregano 

If you are using chopped fresh tomatoes, you may want to cook them by themselves in the slow cooker for about an hour on high to help break them down more completely.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet and place the sausages into the hot oil and cook them until they are brown on all sides. Place them in a large slow cooker. In the oil, cook the chopped onion until it is softened. Add the garlic and the crushed red pepper. Cook for a minute and add the wine. Bring to a boil but turn down to a simmer and cook for about a minute.

Transfer the onion mixture to the slow cooker and add the crushed tomatoes if you haven't used fresh tomatoes. Place the chicken pieces into the sauce in the slow cooker. Turn them over and spoon some of the sauce over the top. Cover and cook on high for an hour and then for approximately 3  hours on low until the chicken is very tender. The meat may start to separate from the bones. You can also test the meat with a thermometer and make sure it is at least 165F.

Check the sauce. It should be about the texture of a spaghetti sauce. If not, remove the chicken and sausage and place the sauce into a shallow saucepan or a skillet and cook over medium heat until it is reduced to your preference. Return the sauce, chicken, and sausages to the slow cooker, stir in the olives, and return to heat. Check for seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve the chicken and sausage garnished with one or the other of the fresh herbs. I believe it would be good accompanied by pasta or polenta, as well.