Archive for simple recipes

Try This: Grilled Carrots and Cabbage


I am a huge fan of roasted vegetables, but at this time of year, it is still too hot to crank up the oven. However, the grill, which is doing overtime these days, is a perfect alternative.  Having procured some beautiful carrots and a nice head of cabbage from the market, I was determined to make good use of them with our grilled chicken.  And I did–despite the disparaging remarks from the teens in the crew carpool when I replied to their daily question, “What’s for dinner?”.  Their responses ranged from skeptical to downright horrified, but I ignored them.

Here’s what I did:  I removed the green stems from the carrots, washed them–but didn’t peel them, which seems to be the new trend.  I put them in a ziploc bag with a healthy slosh of red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic.  Left ‘em there for a few hours.


About 30 minutest before dinner, I heated the grill, cut the cabbage into large hunks, pulled them apart, put the leaves into foil packets, doused them with olive oil, salt and pepper, closed the packets.  For a 1/2 head I used two foil packets.  If they are over full they won’t cook properly.

I put the the cabbage packets onto the grill, and carrots directly onto the grill.  I closed the top, let the carrots char a bit, rthen rolled them around to get a uniform sear.  Then I moved them off direct heat and let them roast.  Meanwhile, I opened the cabbage packets, gave the leaves a stir, reclosed them, and kept a cursory eye on them while the chicken grilled nearby.

The result:  delicious, unique side dishes, no hot kitchen, and best of all, teens who admitted that I’d been right and they’d been wrong.  Thank you veggies!

Perfectly Grilled Filet


I know grilling meat is often considered the “men’s department”, but I”m an equal opportunity cook. I recently pulled off some beautifully grilled filet mignons that would have impressed the most macho carnivore.  Here’s my method, which worked for 1 inch thick steaks; for thicker steaks increase cooking time:

Remove meat from fridge 2 hours before cooking to allow it to come to room temp.

Thirty minutes before cooking, splash it with red wine, and give it a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Heat the grill to 500.

Place the steaks on the grill, close cover, and leave for two minutes.

Open the grill and rotate (don’t flip) steaks by 90 degrees — this makes those impressive hashed grill marks.  Cover grill and leave for another two minutes.

Open the grill, flip the steaks, and repeat previous step.  (Total cooking time was 8 minutes for rare steaks.)

Remove steaks from grill, cover with foil, and let sit for five minutes.



You Say Tomato, I Say Dinner!


I was the delighted recipient of a bushel of garden grown tomatoes last week.  I immediately ate two of the luscious orbs for lunch with some tuna salad, and then set to using the rest to their greatest advantage.


Raw tomatoes don’t require much, and I was determined to showcase them in a way that did them justice.  A simple sauce of chopped tomatoes spoke to me, and best of all it was completely fuss-free and super quick.  An added bonus:  this can do double duty as bruschetta or to top grilled fish/meats.  Here’s what I did:


The sauce, pre pasta

6 plum tomatoes (or 3 large heirlooms) coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp salt (to taste)

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (to taste)

10 basil leaves, coarsely chopped

1 lb pasta

Grated cheese for serving

In a large, shallow bowl, add tomatoes with their juice, along with oil, garlic, salt, pepper and basil.   Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente, according to package directions; drain thoroughly and toss with sauce.  Serve with grated cheese and enjoy.



Spicy Slaw, Versatile and Delicious


Ever on the hunt for a crowd pleasing side, I came up with this treasure, which adds a zingy crunch to just about anything.  I’ve served it with tacos as flavorful enhancement to the meat filling; with Indian food in place of a more traditional kichumber salad; with barbecue, as a side dish with a traditional steak dinner, as an accompaniment to Chinese stir fry, and even on deli sandwiches instead of mayo and mustard.

This spicy slaw kicks pretty much everything up a notch.   It’s absolutely divine with green cabbage, but the red cabbage adds a beautiful color accent to your table.  Here’s how I make it:


1 head cabbage, chopped finely or run through food processor

1 onion, chopped finely

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons plain yogurt or sour cream

juice of 2 limes

Sriracha, salt, and black pepper to taste–don’t be shy, this should have some kick!

splash of pickle juice

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Cover, chill, and let sit for several hours to allow flavors to blend.  This keeps for up to a week in the fridge.


Chicken Under a Brick

brickckninpan.I’ve mentioned before that my husband takes over the kitchen on Sundays.  His latest addition to the repertoire is “Chicken Under a Brick.”  I’m not really sure that the whole brick thing is necessary; it seems like a bit of a gimmick to me, but if he’s willing to man the stove once a week and turn out delicious vittles, who am I to criticize the method?  Here’s the Recipe, along with a pictorial journey through his steps:

First, he marinated the chicken pieces:


Then he seared them in an oven-proof skillet:


Then he covered the skillet with another heavy skillet laden with bricks, and roasted it in the oven.

bricksinpan They say that the additional weight spreads the heat more evenly and cooks the chicken more quickly and thoroughly. I’m skeptical, but again, the bird was delicious; well-seasoned, moist and flavorful. So if he wants to haul some masonry into the kitchen on occasion and produce such good results, I’m not complaining.

Cookie Dough, Spiked 3 Ways


Frangelico Nutella Cookies

‘Tis the season!

I was invited to a “Yankee Swap” last night.  I contemplated the gift options, running through scented candles, bath products, gift cards and wine.  Ho hum.  Then I hit on a brain wave:  Why not make a variety of really special cookie dough that the giftee could slice and bake.  She’d have homemade cookies without the bother of messing up the kitchen.

But I didn’t want to hand over any run of the mill dough–chocolate chips, while delicious, are a dime a dozen, and I wanted to offer something with pizzazz, sophistication and elegance.  Inspiration struck, and I headed to my well-stocked liquor cabinet.




I made  batches of traditional butter cookie dough, divided them, and concocted the following:

  • Limoncello Cookies
  • Coconut Rum Cookies
  • Nutella Frangelico Cookies

Here’s how:

Makes 1 batch, or about 2 1/2  dozen cookies:

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

optional:  1 tsp vanilla, if you are leaving them plain.  Coarse sugar for sprinkling.  Additional options follow.

Cream butter and sugar in large bowl for about 2 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients, and blend thoroughly.  Divide dough in to logs, about 8 inches long and 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap in greased wax paper and refrigerate 1 hr (or for several days, or freeze indefnitely.)  Slice in 1/4 inch disks, place on parchment lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with sugar if desired.  Bake 10-12 mins at 350 til edges start to brown.

For Limoncello Cookies:

Add zest of one whole lemon, juice of lemon and 3 tablespoons Limoncello to dough.

For Coconut Rum Cookies:

Add 3/4 cup sweetened, flaked coconut and 1/4 cup rum to dough.

For Frangelico Nutella Cookies:

Add 3/4 cup nutella, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and 3 tablespoons Frangelico to dough.

My fridge looks like this, but it’s all good.  When the sweet tooth strikes, or when I need a hostess gift,  I just slice off a couple of disks and Presto!  Hot, fresh, yummy cookies in 12 minutes or less.



And as for the Yankee Swap–the recipient was thrilled.  She’s not a baker, and has three kids who clammer for homemade cookies.   And I came home with a Chanel lip gloss so l was happy, too!

Mexican Caesar Salad


I know, the title sounds redundant, seeing as Caesar Salad was supposedly invented in Mexico.  But it has evolved culinarily toward a more Italian palate.  I decided to play around with the traditional Caesar last week when I was serving up a Mexican dinner.  Given that it was a weeknight and time was of the essence, I took a short cut on the dressing which worked well.  Here’s what I did:

1.  Rinse, spin, and tear a head of Romaine.

2. Make dressing: mix 1 part adobo sauce from canned chipotles with 3 parts Cardini’s Caesar.



3.  Instead of croutons, crumble up a handful of tortilla chips.  Add some shaved Parmasan, cotija, jack or cheddar cheese.  Squeeze a lime over the whole thing, add dressing, toss, and serve.


Apple Pecan Crunch Cupcakes

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 11.11.30 AM

This is an experiment.  I took a very basic Rachel Roy recipe called My Sister Maria’s Easy Apple Cake and Ice Cream (courtesy of the Food Network), and switched out the yellow cake mix for a gluten-free cake mix from Betty Crocker.

(As the queen of cakes, Betty Crocker surely MUST be able to get gluten-free right?).
Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 11.08.14 AM
My partner in crime Keri, kindly gave me a bag of apples picked fresh from a local orchard so I started googling every apple recipe under the sun.  The caramel apple tartines looked amazing…but seemed to take hours to make.  This Rachel Roy cake took 15 minutes.  But will it taste any good.

I upped the ante on the recipe slightly by adding in my favorite spicy pecans crushed up into little pieces and just tossed these in with the apple cinnamon sugar topping to give it some more oomph.

Well what do you think?

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 11.12.34 AMHmmm.

Jury is out on this one: Cake texture is a little too rubbery.

Gotta give it a go.

Coconut Ginger Blondies


Our book group met last night and I was asked to bring dessert.   Being foodie bookworms, we usually try to match the menu with the book in some way.  This time it was easy; we had read Heat and Dust, which takes place in India, so the food and venue were an obvious choice.  Member Farah, reknown Indian cook and hostess was drafted, willingly, as is her custom, to handle the appetizers and main, and I was tasked with dessert.


I know a billion people can’t be wrong, but I can’t agree with the Subcontinent on dessert.  I find the textures and flavors don’t meet my western palate when it comes to sweets.     But I was determined to come up with something that complemented Farah’s traditional Indian menu while tickling the tastebuds of the group.    I started to think about Indian flavors, and arrived at ginger.  I considered the ginger blondies that we had featured some years back, but I wanted even more of an Indian flavor in the dessert.  These coconut ginger blondies fit the bill; they integrated Indian ingredients and flavors  (coconut, ginger, cashews) while sticking firmly to a western preparation, sweetness level, and texture.  Here’s what I did:

Coconut Ginger Blondies

Grease a square 8×8 inch pan and heat oven to 350.

1 stick butter, melted

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 Tbsp dark rum (optional)

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp powdered ginger

3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1/4 cup chopped candied ginger

1/2 cup chopped cashews (optional)

1.  Mix first 6 ingredients in medium bowl.  Add flour, baking powder, salt and powdered ginger in a heap on top of this mixture.  Give them a few brief strokes to integrate the dry ingredients before blending with the wet mixture.   (alternatively, mix the dries in  a smaller bowl, then add to main mixture—but I hate to dirty another thing!)

2.  Add coconut, candied ginger and cashews.  Blend thoroughly.

3.  Bake 25 minutes until edges are beginning to brown and center is completely set.  Cool and cut into squares.

Note:  my husband gave these raves with one comment:  he thought the cashews were overkill and made the bars a tad too rich.  Everyone else thought they were splendid.


Tuna With Green Olive, Caper and Lemon Relish


Thanks to a recipe offered by this month’s Bon Appetit, we enjoyed a delicious, unique grilled dinner last night.  The recipe in the mag was for slow roasted cod, which was interesting enough, but what really intrigued me was the relish topping.  And, as the temperatures were soaring to 80 this week, I wasn’t eager to slow roast anything.   Grill to the rescue.


I headed off to my favorite foodie mecca, Reading Terminal Market, in search of ingredients.  Since I was using the grill, cod wasn’t my first choice, but Lydia of John Yi Seafood steered me toward the Ahi Tuna Steaks.  After stops at Iovine’s for red onions, lemons and parsley; Salumeria for green olives, capers and olive oil, and Termini Brothers’ Bakery for the requisite chocolate cupcakes for my kids, I trundled home with my provisions.

I assembled the relish according the recipe, leaving out the parsley until almost dinner time.   An hour before serving, I removed the tuna from the fridge to allow it to come to room temp.  Thirty minutes before serving, I marinated the tuna in olive oil, white wine, a generous dusting of black pepper and salt.  I grilled it on high for about a minute per side (for rare) and topped it with the delightful relish.

With grilled eggplant and an arugula salad, life was good.