Raspberry Dimple Cake

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Delicious Raspberry Dimple Cake

Raspberries are, hands down, my favorite fruit.  My love of raspberries began when I was a young girl in Iowa and I have never ever swayed from placing this fruit #1 on my list.

Unfortunately, they are only in season for a short time here in Seattle. That said, our local berries are one thing that makes it worth living here — worth the horrible traffic jams, worth muscling through the grey cool weather, worth it for so many other reasons.  

Look at the size of these beauties!

This Fourth of July I didn’t get my act together to organize a party on our rooftop as in years way past.  We had been busy doing so many other things that I only started thinking about the Fourth two days before the fireworks display.  I did invite our son and daughter-in-law and their 1-year-old and a friend who was staying with them. I had already purchased meat for grilled burgers and I made potato salad and homemade pinto beans and a huge green salad.  All I was missing was dessert. Yes, I had cookies in the freezer (of course) but somehow cookies didn’t seem adequately celebratory.

I looked through old Gourmet magazines from years past and found this pretty easy Raspberry Buttermilk Cake.  Of course, I didn’t have buttermilk in the house, but I found kefir begging to be used. (Note: make your own buttermilk if you wish with vinegar or lemon juice and milk – there are recipes all over the Internet.) I used coarse raw sugar as a topping because I like the crunch and you’ve got to have a bit of sparkle on Independence Day.  I only found salted butter hanging out in my refrigerator so I used that and then reduced the salt. I added lemon zest because how could that be bad?? Oh, and I shortened the baking time a lot – which was ample and perfect. And VOILA! The resulting cake was a thin, raspberry-studded, moist cake, best served with some whipping cream and more berries.  Leftovers (you won’t have any) would be great as a breakfast cake along with your morning coffee.

Breakfast time

Raspberry Dimple Cake

About 9 servings

Adapted from Gourmet, June 2009

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Ingredients
  • 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (2 grams) baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ stick salted butter (2 oz), softened
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon, grated on the Microplane grater
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup well-shaken plain (unsweetened) kefir.  Buttermilk would work here as well. 
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries  (It might take a little less, but have enough raspberries to place on top of the cake pretty close together – see picture)
  • About 1 Tbsp raw demerara sugar for the topping
Instructions

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch square brownie pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. 

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and granulated sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just mixed. With a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the cake pan, smoothing the top.  Carefully place raspberries evenly over top (I put the hollow side – the side with the indentation of the raspberry up and stick the cone-shaped part into the batter) and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon of raw sugar.  My raspberries were taller than the batter, but I put them in there anyway because they collapse. If you do place them with the point side of the raspberry facing up, the raspberries sink into the batter and they don’t show as much which is fine, but I get perfectionistic about these things, you know.

Perfectly placed berries

Bake until the cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean – about 20 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, gently rock the pan to release the sides and cool to warm. If you want to remove the entire cake to a platter or board, lift it gently with the parchment.  Slice and serve. This is beautiful with a dollop of whipping cream and fresh berries on the side. And don’t forget – this is a lovely breakfast option!

PS: I made another of these last night and left it with my grandkids, then got a phone message this morning that gave this cake a “Four Thumbs Up”.  It doesn’t get better than that.

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Napa Cabbage Salad Three Ways

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Napa Cabbage Salad with Peanut Dressing

This summer, I have made salad nearly every single day.  I am growing loose-leaf lettuces up on our rooftop and it produces way more than two people can eat, even when those two people love interesting salads.  And believe it or not, I am also kind of burned out on that other oh-so-popular green – kale. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good kale salad. But a girl needs some variety.  Soooooooo, 2019 has turned into the “Summer of Napa Cabbage.”  

In my opinion, napa cabbage is kind of underrated.  It is easy to slice, it maintains it’s crispness for days if stored without dressing, it is crunchy and the perfect backdrop for all kinds of add-ins.  So, this summer I have a two-quart container in my refrigerator at all times containing chopped napa cabbage, shredded carrot, and diced cucumber along with gobs of fresh mint, cilantro, dill, and tarragon.  And I always make sure I have lemons and limes on hand. I generally prep a few batches of salad dressing each week. As a certified food snob, I will never elect to eat commercially bottled dressing. This way, all I need to add are more veggies if I desire (shredded purple cabbage for color, pea pods, cherry tomatoes, peppers, pickled onion nuts, cheese or even leftover roasted broccoli or cauliflower) or previously served hardboiled egg, beans, poultry, fish or meat.  

Here are my three current faves for dressings:

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Peanut Dressing

Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup avocado oil or vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar (OR unseasoned rice vinegar with a tsp of honey added)
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter
Instructions

Whisk the above together.  This is great to add to the salad mix along with tons of chopped cilantro and chopped peanuts too.  It takes very little dressing to coat the greens.

Miso Dressing

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar (OR unseasoned rice wine vinegar with 1-2 tsp honey added)
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • ½ teaspoon tamari 
  • ¼ cup avocado oil OR peanut oil
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Instructions

Whisk the dressing or emulsify it in a nutribullet or immersion blender.  This is tasty when added to your basic napa cabbage salad mix along with tomato, toasted sunflower seeds, toasted sesame seeds …the sky is the limit.

My Daughter’s “Dressing”

(This is the one that got me started down the Napa cabbage path to begin with.  This is so refreshing and easy! It’s not exactly a recipe but you’ll get the picture.) 

Ingredients
  • Napa Cabbage mix (cabbage, shredded carrot, cucumber)
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh herbs (i.e. cilantro, basil, mint, etc.)
  • Citrus (lemon, lime, etc.)
  • Seasonal veggies of your choice, but I love corn
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Instructions

Toss 4 cups of the basic napa cabbage salad mix of cabbage, shredded carrot, and cucumber with about ½ tsp salt and 2-3 Tbsp of olive oil. And massage a bit to soften (like kale!). Add in about  ⅓-½ cup of chopped fresh herbs of your choice (the other night I did mint and basil from the garden), and seasonal veggies – corn kernels, edamame beans, cucumber. Squeeze fresh citrus (lemon or lime-about 3 Tbsp over the top. Add in about ⅓ c  grated fresh parmesan cheese, and add additional salt and pepper as needed.

Now go crazy! Chop up some napa cabbage and veggies and make a few dressings and you’ll be all set to have delicious salads for days.  Plus – what a perfect thing to bring to the next barbeque!

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Homemade Steak Sauce

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Simple, Savory Steak Sauce

I am in and out of town so much, but when I am “home” in Seattle and my older grandkids are around I love to have them sleep over on a Saturday night.  The two older boys, 10 and almost 8, consider this part of their routine and so far LOVE coming here. Their younger sister is 3 ¼ and is invited as long as we aren’t going out to a movie or activity where we will be up too late.  My youngest grandson just had his first birthday and has slept here for naps; soon he’ll be old enough to join his older cousins. I deeply miss my 3 “Nietos” (grandkids in Spanish) from California, but when we do see them we make up for lost time!

The Nietos!

Sleeping at Bukkah and Zadie’s house means long, hot showers followed by towels that are prewarmed in the dryer, a meal they usually love, an age-appropriate movie or a walk to the park to play, popcorn, hot fudge sundaes, time to read…and very few rules.  Lucky me, my in town children and spouses don’t make rules for what we can and cannot do when they are with us. Truth be told, the kids are unbelievably well behaved. We love having them as much as they look forward to coming here. I know it won’t last and that soon they will have parties and more sleepovers, so this might be a fleeting routine.  They assure us they will ALWAYS love coming here. We’ll see.

The first weekend of May, both boys had baseball games and they were scheduled to have a sleepover.  The prior week they really wanted to order steak at a restaurant and we explained how easy it was to prepare steak, and that next time we would have that for dinner.  And as I write this, all three kids are about to burst through the door and will have grilled steak with HOMEMADE steak sauce, baked potatoes with the works and Caesar Salad.  Blood orange soda to go with all that. I’m not sure if dessert will happen – just the thought of all that heavy food makes me feel full.

This steak sauce – adapted from America’s Test Kitchen – would also be good on turkey meatloaf or even grilled fish.  I like it because most steak sauces are laden with sugar or corn syrup, and this one incorporates raisins or cherries soaked in water for the sweetness.  A jar of this will keep in the fridge for a week or longer. Since I loathe using bottled sauces and salad dressings, this recipe hit a sweet spot with me.

Homemade Steak Sauce

Makes about 1 ⅓ cups

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Ingredients
  • ½ cup water
  • ⅓ cup dried cherries or dark raisins  (I used dried cherries because that is all I had on hand)
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions

Cover raisins or cherries with water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover and let it cook for three minutes.  Remove from the heat for five minutes to cool off.

In a food processor, add the soaked raisins with any remaining water, ketchup, Worcestershire, mustard, and vinegar until smooth, about one minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Grill and slice the steak or meat, and pass this sauce to put on the side.

PS:  I can report that ALL of us really loved this steak sauce.  The boys used it to top their baked potatoes as well. Hmmmm, it actually tasted good used that way.

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Ceviche – Antigua, Guatemala

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Colorful Ceviche

I am a sucker for ceviche. When we had our home in Belize for 18 years, ceviche was top of the menu on every single trip.  Not just once – many times. For me, ceviche and warm weather go together and really the only “hard” part of ceviche is chopping all the ingredients. Other than the chopping, which I actually find to be a Zen experience, preparation is dead simple.

All chopped up and ready to go!

We have a favorite place to eat in Antigua, Guatemala and I have been ordering ceviche there almost every time we go to dinner with friends or just the two of us.  I love their ceviche, made with a bit of mango and a touch of avocado at the end – not too acidic from a touch of lime juice and yet a little sweet. There were peppers, there were tomatoes and of course cilantro and red onion.  

The restaurant wasn’t cooperative when I asked for the recipe or even details of preparation.  A few months back I attempted to replicate this ceviche and I really didn’t do too well. The mango disintegrated and the Philippine variety I tried wasn’t right.  The avocado really mushed up so that the whole mixture looked like a mess. Unlike ceviche we made in Belize, somehow the seafood in the restaurant ceviche seemed cooked but wasn’t too acidic.

And so it came to pass that my other half decided to become a ceviche maker.  He combed the internet and watched a few YouTube videos – of course he did. What CAN’T you learn from YouTube these days?  But at the end of the day, as all cooks know, it’s best to wing it while cooking.

We have had his ceviche twice in the last few days for dinner alongside saltine crackers.  Don’t knock it till you try it! I’m not really a tortilla chip fan but I love saltines, and it pairs well with the slightly sweet mango influence.  I could eat this every single day and not tire of it for a long time, if not forever.

Ceviche de Mi Esposo (my husband’s ceviche)

Serves 3 as a main course or 4-6 as a hearty appetizer

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Ingredients
  • 1 lb shrimp-shelled and cleaned or 1 lb firm-fleshed fish fillet without skin, barely steamed in a steamer basket for about 3 minutes
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, diced ¼ inch (I did remove a few of the seeds here but didn’t get too carried away)
  • ⅓ cup cilantro, washed, dried and finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • ½ peeled, seeded cucumber diced ¼ inch
  • 2 small serrano chilies, finely chopped-seeds and all (use more if you prefer more heat)
  • Juice of one lime
  • Large mango, peeled and cubed (about 1 cup cubed ½ inch) – Haden variety (look up pictures but it is pretty large, with greenish/reddish skin)
  • 1 large or two small avocado, peeled and cubed ½ inch
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges to garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A few roasted macadamia nuts for garnish (optional)
Instructions

Fill a straight-sided saute pan with about one inch of water and bring to a boil.  Put shrimp or seafood in a steamer basket or metal strainer over the water and cover the pot for three minutes or until the seafood is barely cooked.  Remove from the heat to a clean bowl to cool, then cut into small bite-sized pieces, ½ inch.

Meanwhile, chop the Roma tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, cucumber, and chilies.  Squeeze a lime and put the lime juice over these veggies and mix well. Add about ½ tsp of salt and some fresh black pepper. Taste and add more salt or pepper as needed.

Add the seafood once it is cooled and cut.  Stir all of this together and put into the fridge while you peel the mango and avocado.

Peel and cube the mango and avocado for the final presentation.  Cut a lime into wedges and have a few macadamia nuts ready to go.

Let the mixed ceviche (minus the mango, avocado, and garnishes) marinate in the fridge for about 20 minutes.  Finally, stir the bowl of ceviche one more time, add more salt or pepper if needed and divide into serving dishes and garnish with mango, avocado, lime wedges, and macadamia nuts.  Serve with tortilla chips or saltines! Eat. Repeat.

 

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Easiest Potato Kugel

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Positively Perfect Potato Kugel

I had to get over myself to post this recipe!  By now you know that I rarely use anything that is processed in any way – pre-grated, canned, packaged…not usually my style.  BUT my sister Susan had a great recipe for potato kugel and she once whispered to me that I could cut corners and use frozen shredded potatoes rather than peeling and grating them myself.  Horror of horrors! But – I trust my sister, so I went to the store and read the package (only ingredient: frozen shredded potatoes) and decided, for once, to make things easy.

As it turned out, this has become one of my “go to” dishes to bring to potluck type meals and to prepare and reheat for us and for my many relatives who seem to drop by when they are starving.  And for some reason, this potato kugel, which is like a giant potato latke or a plate of better-than-hashbrowns, is one I always keep in mind. It tastes better and better as the days go by. Old people love it, 30- and 40-year-olds love it, and even babies love it.  Take it from one who knows!

Sister Sue’s Dumbed Down and Slightly Adapted Potato Kugel

Makes 9 x 12 ceramic deep dish

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Ingredients
  • 3 Tbsp neutral oil (such as avocado or canola oil)
  • 1 lb, 14 oz. package shredded FROZEN  Ore Ida potatoes (a little bit defrosted but not all the way unfrozen)
  • 1 ½ brown onions, skinned, peeled and chopped in the Cuisinart or Nutribullet
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp matzo meal or all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter (cool slightly)
  • 1 ½  Tbsp salt  
  • Fresh ground white or black pepper
Instructions

Preheat oven with the rack in upper third to 400 degrees. Put the 9 x 12 pan in the oven with the three tablespoons of oil for about 10 minutes before you start to bake the kugel, and let the pan and oil heat up.

Grate or finely mince the onion in a food processor or Nutribullet.  In a large bowl, whisk eggs, salt, pepper and matzoh meal. Stir in potatoes/onions with hands until well combined. OK, wear disposable gloves if you don’t want stinky hands.

Pour the potato mixture into the preheated pan with preheated oil and spread evenly.  Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375 and bake about 45-50 minutes more or until the top is crisp.  Brush top with a little melted butter 30 minutes before it is done if it looks too pale.

Cool before cutting.  Serve cut into squares with ketchup, plain yogurt or sour cream, whatever you like on hash browns.

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Mango Chutney

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Mango Chutney with Brie – Sublime!

Antigua Guatemala seems to be my new “home away from home.”  For the past six months, we have been spending every other month in a tiny rented apartment near the center of town.  Wayne is volunteering once a week or so in a few International Planned Parenthood organizations and procures and donates medical instruments to some Guatemalan doctors after he teaches them the “no scalpel” vasectomy technique.  

I love Antigua for its springlike weather, its friendly people, the colorful native dress, the fabulous huge outdoor mercado and ease of getting around by foot or by chicken bus.  To top it off, I finally found a beautiful yoga studio I walk to most days, just a mile from where we stay.

I don’t mean to be rambling here – I’m simply smitten! That said, I’ll get to the point.  One of my excellent yoga teachers, Ginger, is MY AGE and an ayurvedic practitioner. In March she offered an affordable ayurvedic cooking class at her home, just on the outskirts of Antigua.  A four-hour class, which included a lecture about food and health according to Ayurveda, and a full-on lunch to boot.

Casa San Juan Lunch

As pictured above – here’s what a “full-on lunch” means at Casa San Juan:

  • Kitchari porridge (ayurvedic staple) made with mung beans and basmati and a lot of ghee and spices
  • Mango chutney and raita for the kitchari
  • Injari (Indian flatbread)
  • Fresh veggies (onions, carrots, zucchini, purple cabbage, etc. sauteed in ghee with fenugreek)
  • Fresh sauteed spinach
  • Dessert: pureed mango and tapioca pudding

Not one to miss an interesting cooking class, I went to Casa San Juan.  And what a place Ginger has built!! If you are thinking of a retreat for writers, photographers, healers, yogis….check out the website: https://www.casasanjuan.com.gt. I have never been to a more beautiful space with such a well-designed kitchen!  And the food, mostly new to me, tasted so fresh and good. I mean, milk from the cows on the farm, vegetables from the garden, nothing from a can or jar or box or bottle.  I should have taken pictures of the pantry.

One of my favorite dishes was fresh mango chutney – an accompaniment to lunch.  I loved it, asked her for the recipe and got this text:

“Recipe was just for every cup of cut mango, add ½ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup vinegar, a few raisins, a dash of salt and some chili powder.   God knows what they really did….”

No directions as to how to cook it or if it was cooked at all.  Measurements seemed a little funny to me — too sweet and too vinegary.  And I like a little onion in my chutney.

So, I did what I usually do when I am on the hunt for a new dish to prepare.  I looked at recipes on the internet by Googling “ayurvedic mango chutney”. What I ended up with probably isn’t ayurvedic since it isn’t cooked, but in my eyes when there is vinegar and salt it kind of cooks itself.  Think ceviche.

Nothing could be easier than what I did.  Since I returned I have been eating a smidge of this mango chutney with everything!  With grilled chicken, with fish, with lamb, and as an appetizer when served atop seeded crackers and a shmear of brie cheese (see picture).  AND I weighed and sort of kind of measured what I did to bring you the real deal. So here you go. Extra lucky for me is that mangos have been on sale here in Seattle for the past month!

Mango Chutney

Makes about 1 ⅓ cups

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Ingredients
  • 1 mango, roughly ¾ lb in weight (champagne variety), peeled and cubed ½ inch
  • 1Tbsp small diced red onion
  • 2 ½ Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp dried cherries (raisins would work but I didn’t have them, so I used cherries)
  • ½ tsp ground chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt
Instructions

I combine everything together in a quart-sized bowl, stir it and let it sit for about a half hour to bring out the juice.  I then pour everything into a nutribullet and barely whiz it, for two seconds at the most. I like chutney with some texture.  I supposed I could hand mash it a bit with a potato masher but you are reading a recipe by a lazy cook.

This keeps for a week in the fridge, probably a lot longer but we ate it nonstop and after a week it was gone and I had to make it again.  

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Favorite Flavors Lentil Veggie Bowl

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Luscious Lentils & Vibrant Veggies

You’d think over time I would get tired of grain or rice or quinoa bowls.  I mean, how many variations can you have that would pique your interest? In my case, evidently, grain bowls are one of my favorite types of food and I am always on the hunt for something new to try.

Soooooo, when I spotted a recipe from an online  Bon Appetit article, I earmarked it and waited for a day when the idea of black lentils and sweet potatoes and roasted tomatoes and cilantro sounded satisfying.  This just so happened to be early this March. Although the original recipe was supposed to serve four, I made it in parts and had it for kind of a cross between lunch and dinner and again the following day for lunch, and as a snack.  In my eyes, this would serve more like six people.

I made a lot of changes along the way. Ahead of the game, I decided to swap out some of the black beluga lentils, my favorites, for a bit of ground lamb.  Just because. I didn’t have coriander so I left out that spice. I thought the honey in the dressing was a little too sweet for my taste, so I cut it down.  And adding ground lamb along with sauteed white onion then combining it with the lentils made this much more of a main dish for me.

We ate this with some crusty bread and a very simple romaine salad, dressed with a shallot vinaigrette.  So perfect – nutrient-laden and appealing to the eyes and the stomach.  Eat this with a spoon; it is a lot easier.

Beluga Lentil, Sweet Potato, Burst Tomato & Cilantro Bowl

Serves 6

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Ingredients
  • 1 tsp sea salt plus more for seasoning
  • 1 cup black beluga lentils, rinsed
  • ½ lb ground lamb
  • ⅓ cup small diced onion
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp harissa (I buy mine in a tube and keep it in the fridge)
  • 20 grinds fresh ground pepper
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, washed and peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 4 cups (2 pints) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Scant tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp harissa
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup diced fresh cilantro
Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 with the rack in the center of the oven.  Line a large rimmed cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper.

Bring a medium saucepan of water and the teaspoon of salt to a boil.  Add the rinsed lentils and simmer until barely cooked, about 25 minutes.  Drain lentils and put in a medium bowl. While the lentils are cooking, heat a frying pan and put the ground lamb and diced onion in, chopping up the lamb into tiny pieces as it cooks.  When everything is well browned including the onion, drain off the fat and add the lamb/onion mix to the lentils. Taste and add a bit more salt if needed.

Meanwhile, combine the diced sweet potato and halved cherry tomatoes in a medium bowl.  Whisk the three tablespoons oil, one tablespoon harissa, two teaspoons salt, and black pepper together, and with your hands coat the sweet potato/tomatoes.  Spread this out on the cookie sheet and slide into the preheated oven for 30 plus minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through, turning once. Remove and place the cookie sheet on the counter.

Whisk wine vinegar, honey and one tablespoon harissa in a small bowl.  Drizzle in the olive oil a bit at a time until it is combined. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Add half of this to the cooled lentil/lamb mixture until coated.  

Chop the cilantro.

When ready to serve, place some lentil/lamb mix in the bottom of a bowl.  Top with the roasted veggies and drizzle with a bit more of the honey vinaigrette.  Top with about one or two tablespoons of chopped cilantro and serve.

Cooks Notes:

As long as you keep the veggies, the meat/lentil mix, honey dressing, and cilantro separate, you can refrigerate leftovers and serve for the next 3-4 days.  Personally, I prefer to reheat the veggies and lentils a bit but they are fine at room temperature.

If you aren’t a fan of adding lamb or ground chicken to the lentils, cook 2 cups of lentils at the start and make this vegetarian.

 

My husband, who loves everything I make, said this was almost his favorite thing I have ever made.  Take his word for it. And I loved the sweet potato/tomato veggie mix so much that I would make that alone as a side vegetable!

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Rhubarb Salad Dressing – Revisited

It’s RHUBARB SEASON! A huge cause for celebration in my house. I’ve posted at least six recipes containing this delicious fruit over the years and just had to re-post this salad dressing recipe (originally posted exactly SIX years ago). It’s that good!

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Sumptuous Salad with Rhubarb Vinaigrette

Sumptuous Salad with Rhubarb Vinaigrette

Although it is still pretty cold and on-and-off rainy here, bundles of rhubarb appeared everywhere at yesterday’s farmers market here in Seattle. I usually associate this vibrant vegetable (yes – it’s a vegetable!) with Springtime – so I was pleasantly surprised to see displays of the celery-like, ruby-colored stacks. I purchased a few bunches and immediately starting trying to figure out what I could make besides the traditional rhubarb crisp, rhubarb upside down cake or rhubarb pie. I was in the mood for something savory and two recipes popped into my mind: a wonderful sweet and sour type chicken dish, and a tangy, pink-colored salad dressing that would be good on a main dish salad.

Fresh Rhubarb at the Farmer's Market

Fresh Rhubarb at the Farmer’s Market

And it just so happened that I had a left-over chunk of rare beef tenderloin steak in my refrigerator along with some steamed sweet potatoes, blanched asparagus spears, toasted walnuts, and various peppers and root vegetables. And of course I had some organic salad greens – in this case arugula.

It took just one try to make a gorgeous, zesty salad dressing. Just a little different from my usual and a much more seasonal version. I was so pleased with the results that I’ve decided this vinaigrette is going right into my regular spring line up!

Rhubarb Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 cup

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Ingredients:
  • 1 medium sized rhubarb stalk, thinly sliced 
(about 1/2-cup)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. honey 
(more or less to taste)
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard (regular or grainy)
  • 2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Instructions:

In a small saucepan, simmer the rhubarb in water, covered, for 5-10 minutes until it is very, very mushy.

Put the stewed rhubarb with all the remaining liquid into a blender with the honey, vinegar and mustard. Pulse until smooth. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oils until it thickens.

Store in refrigerator for about a week.

I love these seasonally inspired dinners! And many of you will find rhubarb growing in unexpected places or at local markets.  Be sure to watch for next week’s chicken rhubarb creation.

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Best Ever Brussels Sprouts

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My Beloved Brussels

Most people have a love/ hate relationship with Brussels sprouts.  Personally, I have a “thing” for these tiny cabbage-like morsels. I love them, and I can eat them day after day after day.  A few years back, I was with my sisters in Boston and I believe all three of us ordered Brussels sprouts every night for probably five nights in a row.  That’s how we rock and roll.

Admittedly, this recipe with it’s method of cooking is a pain in the neck, I won’t lie.  Even though there are very few ingredients, it digresses from my usual steaming only or oven blasting.  BUT if and when you have the time and want to eat the best Brussels you have ever tasted, make these. It involves blanching, then sauteeing in a small amount of butter, and finally roasting.  The finished sprouts come out crunchy on the outside, creamy yummy on the inside, and I could eat pounds and pounds of these. But you already knew that.

Just one of the many steps – but SO worth it!

Best Ever Brussels Sprouts

Serves 2 large eaters (can be doubled or tripled)

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Ingredients
  • 10 ounces Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • Pinch smoked paprika
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Few sprigs of fresh herbs: tarragon or mint if you have either, if not no worries
Instructions

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt.

Wash and trim stems of all Brussels sprouts, then cut a  shallow X in the bottom of each sprout.

Put all sprouts in the boiling water and cook four minutes, uncovered. Remove the sprouts with a slotted spoon and place directly into an ice-water bath.

Once cool (~ five minutes), drain the sprouts in a strainer and shake off as much water as you can. Cut sprouts in half lengthwise.  Put them on a dish towel and pat to remove some of the moisture . Don’t get too carried away here, just blot them.

Meanwhile preheat your cast iron skillet if you have one AND your oven (or better yet, your toaster oven) to 450 degrees.

In a large 10-inch saute pan or cast iron skillet, melt the two tablespoons of butter. Add the sprouts cut side down, season with a bit of salt and a small amount of smoked paprika.

Brown the sprouts for about five minutes.  I shake the pan to get a layer of fat under the sprouts but I don’t turn them.    Once brown, remove to a rimmed cookie sheet or ceramic dish with enough room for them to be uncrowded and in a single layer. Include the leaves that fall off the Brussels sprouts too!

Place sprouts and the cookie sheet in the preheated oven(uncovered), and roast for about 20-30 minutes.    Shake the pan every 8-10 minutes. When sprouts begin to look almost burned, they are ready. I baked mine in the toaster oven and it took me about 20 minutes, but it will be longer in a conventional oven.  They should be slightly crispy and creamy in the center.

Put on a pretty serving dish and garnish with fresh herbs if available.  Sprinkle with a few grains of salt if you wish. My husband always dusts the tops with fresh parmesan, just a smidge but IMHO, this is over.   

For me, this is all I need for dinner!

 

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Chocolate Strudel

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Chocolate Strudel!

OK, readers – pay attention. Because this chocolate strudel is one of the best things I bake.  Seriously. I have hemmed and hawed about sharing the recipe with you and finally I decided I am getting older and want my baking legacy to live on.  

Every time I serve this strudel, my eaters go a little crazy.  I’ve been told more than once that the strudel should be sold in pastry shops.  It is rich, chocolatey and it’s hard to imagine anything pairing so well with a cup of coffee or tea.  But be warned: you can’t eat a lot of these at one time or you’ll make yourself sick.

As for the origin, my mother used to make this chocolate strudel.  She got the recipe from my cousin Donnie’s first wife’s mother, Mrs. Schmuckler.  From Minnesota. This isn’t something I could make up. But I do have a recollection of being at Donnie’s wedding when I was probably around 10 or so. So I’ve gotta believe there’s some semblance of reality mixed in.

So, here it is: our world famous chocolate strudel.  I changed it up by adding bittersweet chocolate chunks in lieu of semisweet (always a good idea0 and toasting the nuts too.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dough is finicky in that it crumbles apart – so you’ll have to be persistent.  I find that a pastry cloth (not silicone) helps a lot. Also, Mom used to “score” the dough or make shallow slits in the finished strudel rolls before baking this and after the rolls were baked, she would slice them apart with an electric knife–not pushing down or sawing like you would a regular serrated knife.

Sliced Just So

Put on an apron, recognize you are going to have to be patient and careful and go forth and bake.  It’s totally worth it.

Chocolate Strudel

Makes about 64-70 pieces if you count the ends

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Dough Ingredients
  • 1 ¼ c salted butter (2 ½ sticks)
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ½  tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup milk (2%)
Filling Ingredients:
  • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate chunks
  • 1 can Eagle brand condensed milk
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • ¾ c coarsely roasted chopped pecans to top the filling
Instructions

Mix the dough ingredients using a food processor (I do it there) or a mixer – keep going until everything sticks together.  Knead it briefly, divide into four equal parts and pat each quarter into a smooth 4” x 3” rectangle. All four rectangles go into a Tupperware and chill at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

When you are ready to bake, take the dough container out at least 15 minutes before you start rolling.  Put out the pastry cloth.

Melt the chocolate, condensed milk, and butter in a saucepan over low heat until melted.  Remove from the heat and cool at least five minutes. Have the nuts toasted and cooled in a bowl nearby.

One at a time press one individual rectangle on a well-floured cloth and roll to about 8” x 13”. Be sure it doesn’t stick or you’ll be swearing. I leave the rectangles of dough in the fridge while I work on one roll at a time. 

Filling The Dough

Put a quarter of the filling along the bottom (the long way), about a third of the way down, close to the “lip” of the dough.  Spread it evenly over that third and sprinkle with nuts. Lightly press the nuts onto the chocolate and roll tightly using your pastry cloth.   Transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet with the seam on the bottom and pinch the ends under. Score into 16-18 pieces.

Hot Out Of The Oven

I use two rolls per cook. Bake for 30-35 minutes.  When they are slightly golden, carefully slide the parchment and rolls off of the tray.  Cut with an electric knife into 16-17 slices, wiping the chocolate off the knife every few cuts.

Cool entirely.  These stay at room temperature for five days or freeze for up the three months.  Seriously – beyond great.

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