Trendy Beet Arugula Salad

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Beautiful Beet & Arugula Salad

Beautiful Beet & Arugula Salad

As many of you “foodie” people know – there’s always a new food trend either heating up or dying down. The clothing you see in stores certainly evolves and particular looks come and go:  bell bottoms, flowy tops, neon colors.  And what you see in grocery markets and on menus is no exception.  Right now – beets, pistachio nuts, ricotta  and arugula are in the spotlight. I cannot remember finding fresh beets or arugula (I didn’t even know what that was) on menus decades ago, but at this point in time if you peruse restaurant offerings here in Seattle, you’d be hard pressed not to find these ingredients featured in some type of dish. I hardly refer to myself as trendy … but I gotta say – I love my beets and arugula!

The salad I created here is a copycat from a place in Ballard, Washington where I ate the other night: Percy’s, a creole/southern restaurant.  It was LOUD and too noisy for me, and the bar was filled on a Monday night with oodles and scads of adorable young people.  My friend and I guessed that we were at least 30 years older than anyone else there.  And I’m not that old!! Thankfully, this restaurant had the most delicious food.

Anyway, we shared this starter salad, which turned out to be so tasty  that I couldn’t wait to come home and make it for dinner.

Trendy Beet Arugula Salad

Serves 4

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Salad Ingredients
  • Fresh roasted, peeled beets – I used eight average-sized ones
  • 4 cups fresh baby arugula
  • 1 ½ cups shelled and coarsely chopped pistachios
  • ¼ English cucumber
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta salata cheese
  • Lots of fresh ground pepper to taste
Dressing Ingredients
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • ½ tsp toasted sesame oil
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
Instructions

Prepare your beets by following my instructions here.

Prepare English cucumber batons by halving the cucumbers, removing seeds and slicing into 1 ½ inch x ¼ inch pieces with the skin still on.

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together, and use about one tablespoon to coat the cucumber batons for 20 minutes, then drain the batons and add the liquid to the dressing you’ve made.

When you’re ready to serve, toss the arugula and cucumbers with the rest of the dressing.  For each plated serving, heap one cup of the dressed arugula and cucumber, sprinkle with slices of beets, pistachios, and dollop with the ricotta. Top with ground pepper and serve.

I made this alongside very simple, oven blasted fresh salmon and it was a meal from the gods.  Truly.

Salad & Salmon - Nothing Better!

Salad & Salmon – Nothing Better!

I also tried this with feta to replace ricotta – and it had more zing.  It changed the whole thing so decide if you prefer a different cheese.

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Mediterranean Halibut

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Mouth-Watering Mediterranean Halibut

Mouth-Watering Mediterranean Halibut

OK, I confess: this recipe incorporates the type of flavors and cooking techniques I love best.  Mediterranean saltiness and herbs, one tray cooking in the toaster oven (or conventional oven), beautiful colors to gaze upon, whole, seasonal foods … what could be better?  Honestly, the texture of this dish is just sublime … the limes turn almost sweet and soft, the onions retain a bit of body and crunch but not a raw-onion taste and the then there’s the creaminess from the feta … heaven.  Oh yes, I forgot to say that halibut is one of my all-time favorite fishes to eat so in my mind – enduring all the rainy, gray days here in the Pacific Northwest is worth it just to be able to buy the freshest, bestest seafood.

My Fave Feta

My Fave Feta

Halibut tends to be a little bland so I almost always start with a salt/sugar brine.  However, in this case, the feta and olives add enough saltiness and flavor that brining is unnecessary.   Since this fish tends to be expensive, either make it for special occasions or use another type of firm white fish – even lingcod would be fine.  But Halibut is the “fish de resistance!”

Even More Beautiful Before It Goes Into The Oven!

Even More Beautiful Before It Goes Into The Oven!

I often make this in the summer months when I have lots of fresh herbs growing on the deck.  It is saucy – almost like a fish stew – and I usually serve it over toasted, cooked quinoa pilaf or black rice, and accompany it with crusty fresh bread.  Along with a simple salad you’ll hum your way through the meal.

Mediterranean Halibut

Serves 4

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Ingredients
  • A smear of soft butter for your pan
  • 1 ½ pounds of halibut filet, cut into 4 equal portions
  • 1 white onion, sliced thin into semi circles
  • 3 large organic limes, seeded and sliced the same thickness as the onion
  • 16 small assorted, colorful cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 12 sprigs of herbs – either choose dill, cilantro, tarragon, or oregano or a mix
  • ½ cup mixed brined olives, green and black (WITHOUT pits)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 20 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ⅓ cup dry vermouth
Ingredients to Garnish
  • ¼ cup of whole sprigs of fresh dill, cilantro, tarragon or whatever is growing in your garden
  • ¼ cup chopped feta
Instructions

Preheat oven or toaster oven with rack in the center to 425 degrees.  Butter a casserole dish that will easily hold the fish filets.

Begin by putting a layer of onions on the bottom, then top with the sliced lime.  Place the fish filets on top of this and scatter tomatoes, herbs and olives around the dish.  Top each filet with drizzled olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika.

Pour vermouth around the sides of the dish.

Bake uncovered for about 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked to your liking.

Divide fish and veggies and all the olives etc into four shallow soup dishes and divide the liquid too.  Top each serving with sprigs of fresh herbs and a sprinkle of chopped feta cheese.

Lick your lips!

 

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Por Ultimo Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie ... Too Good to Wait!

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie … Too Good to Wait!

By now, you know me well.  You know I’ll eat almost anything homemade, and you might even remember that I am always in hot pursuit of  “ultimate” recipes: ultimate chocolate cake, ultimate chili, ultimate salad dressing.  Once a recipe hits the mark for me, I am done and no longer interested in seeking new creations for the same thing.  Call me stubborn, but I move on to new territory and instead try novel, appealing recipes that speak to me.

So how in the heck did I end up replacing my many-year-long, tried and true Cook’s Illustrated chocolate chip cookie recipe made without a micr, with browned butter?   Good question, thanks for asking.  I happened to read a Smitten Kitchen blog post, and the author began waxing poetic about these cookies; I checked out the original source(s) and thought what the heck!?  I was downright curious about what this fuss was about AND intrigued by the addition of salt flakes and the ease of preparation compared with my Cook’s Illustrated recipe (the one that that features hand whisking for a long time with pauses in between).

My brother came over and we attempted this recipe together.  I purchased the ingredients I didn’t already have on hand (really, just the chocolate chunks). He measured the flour and sugars  while I measured the rest.   I mixed, he scooped, I washed, he dried.  If you have a brother like mine, try cooking together.  It’s the best.

My Bro and Our Cookies

My Bro and Our Cookies

And you know what?  These struck my chocolate chip cookie chord within.  They are my new favorite dessert and although I have 20 huge cookies cooling on my counter right now, I know they won’t last long. I also know that I’ll be making them again and sending this recipe to every man, woman and child who bakes and who isn’t gluten free or sugar free or dairy free or calorie obsessed.  That would be my siblings and kids.

Believe this from the horse’s mouth and just try them once.  You will not be disappointed!

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

From Smitten Kitchen blog via Ashley Rodriguez’s Not Without Salt – along with My Global Kitchens personal flourishes and changes

Yield: Approximately 20-24 cookies ( 3 inches in diameter finished size!)

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Ingredients
  • ½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp granulated (white) sugar
  • 2 Tbsp turbinado sugar-this gives the cookie a little extra crunch
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • Slightly rounded ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chunks. (I used my favorite Scharfenberger chocolate bittersweet (70%) chunks which were already the perfect size)
  • Flaky sea salt, to finish (we used Maldron sea salt flakes, if you must know)
Instructions

Heat oven to 360°F (340 degrees if you have a convection setting) and line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Move the three racks equal distance apart.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, at least five minutes. Add egg and vanilla, beating until mixed with the other ingredients. Add flour, salt and soda which have been mixed together with a fork.  Do this on low speed just until everything comes together.  Add the chocolate chunks and mix a minute more. Note: at this point you can refrigerate the dough for up to a couple of days, or scoop and freeze balls of cookie dough or proceed pronto to make the cookies.  Also note if you are checking the original recipe that I didn’t find the dough to be crumbly at all.

We used a cookie scoop to make things even and made cookies into what looked like 1 ½-2 tablespoon mounds (my ice cream scoop said #30) spacing them apart on the prepared baking sheet, six to eight cookies per sheet. Press down slightly and  sprinkle each dough ball with a few flakes of sea salt.  We then pressed down very slightly again to imbed the salt flakes – we didn’t want them to fall off.   Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, until golden on the outside but still very gooey and soft inside. Take them out of the oven, let rest on baking sheets on the counter and after five minutes transfer the individual cookies to a cooling rack.  They should easily come off the parchment with a metal spatula.

Pour a large glass of milk and enjoy.

End note:

Following this baking adventure with my brother – I learned that my sister in Santa Cruz also made these amazing cookies. The first picture in this post with the bite out of the cookie was hers!  The note along with it said, and  I quote, “Yeah baby, that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Mmmmm! Show me ONE other family where 3 sibs tried a new CCC recipe within days of it being posted on a blog. Sick-o’s.”  

 

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Whole Roasted Cauliflower

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Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love cauliflower.  It is meaty, tasty, and can be enhanced with various herbs or sauces.  Most often I break it into cauliflowerettes, coat it with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and spices and roast it in a hot oven.

The other night I had some vegetarian friends come for dinner and I decided to roast the entire head of cauliflower intact.  I read various recipes and reviews – I was especially enamoured with the comments because they saved me from disaster.

And here is what I did: I quickly boiled the entire head of cauliflower, drained it and patted it dry and then brushed it with a butter/olive oil mix, sprinkled with salt and pepper and roasted it for another hour at 350 in my toaster oven.  Just like a roast or a chicken, I let the final product “rest” before “carving” it into half inch full slices or steaks.  I then passed my homemade tomato sauce and some fresh grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese to top it off.

This recipe received rave reviews and I’ll be making it again soon.  I’m thinking about whipping up a sharp cheddar cheese sauce next time…

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Serves 3-4

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Ingredients
  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt -about 1 teaspoon
  • White ground pepper
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 (you can use your toaster oven if it’s big enough for the head of cauliflower).

Trim the leaves from the head of cauliflower.  Fill a large stock pot with water and submerge the entire cauliflower head in the water, stem side up. Add the juice of ½ a lemon and a little salt to the pot.   Once it starts to simmer, cover it and cook  for six minutes.  Drain well and pat dry with a kitchen towel.   Melt the butter and add the oil. Brush the cauliflower with some of the butter/olive oil mixture and sprinkle with salt and white ground pepper.

Put the cauliflower stem side down on a greased, foil-lined pan and bake it for one hour, basting with the butter/oil mix every 20 minutes.  Keep baking until the cauliflower is really tender.  To test, insert a sharp knife blade into the center – it should slide in very easily.  Allow to rest at least 10 minutes before slicing into “steaks” about ¾ inch thick.

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Sesame Salmon Pasta Salad

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Sumptuous Sesame Salmon Salad

Sumptuous Sesame Salmon Salad

The other morning while drinking my morning latte, I was flipping through old recipes — well, not actually flipping since my recipes are all on my computer.  Surfing.  Surfing through recipes.  And up popped this salad that was on my “list” during the 1990s when my middle son Daniel played high school baseball.  Potluck meals were de rigeur back then since games began late in the afternoon and often ended well after dinner.  Although there was a snack stand with hot dogs, chips and soda, some of us baseball moms brought more tasty, healthful dishes to share amongst ourselves.

This hearty “salad” was always a hit with the other parents – but also the kids!  And this week I resurrected the recipe for friends and family – serving it for a late Sunday lunch/dinner.  I didn’t mention to anyone that I was going to assess their feedback to test if this dish is still popular – but I’m happy to report that everyone raved about it. Just like back in the good old days…

Warning – I am well aware that some of you are mayonnaise averse.  Well, this custom-made mayo barely, barely coats the salad and tastes so different from the store bought stuff.  Give it a try.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present…..drum roll….Sesame Salmon Vegetable Pasta Salad. The nice thing – or I should say one of the nicest things – here is that the recipe makes a pretty large quantity.  Since I often eat lunch at home or pack it to go, nothing could be better.  Pair this with some fruit salad and marinated asparagus or broccolini and you will be happy campers. A couple of days later I was pressed for time and scooped a nice amount of this atop an arugula salad.  Divine!  Oh, and you can use leftover cooked chicken in lieu of salmon if you prefer.

Salmon Pasta Salad with Sesame Dressing

Makes almost 2 quarts, enough for 6-8 people

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Salad Ingredients
  • 1-2 cups poached, grilled, or sauteed salmon (leftovers work great)
  • 2 cups raw rotini pasta, cooked, cooled and drained (spiral tricolor pasta is visually great)
  • 1 ¼ c diced celery
  • 2 average carrots, peeled, matchstick-cut and blanched
  • ½ lb green beans, trimmed and blanched
  • 6 red radishes, cut into 8 wedges each (like you would cut an apple)
  • 1 cup toasted almonds, chopped or slivered
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
Sesame Mayo Ingredients
  • 1 raw whole egg, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp soy (I use GMO free Tamari)
  • 1 ¼  Tbsp Dijon
  • 1 Tbsp + sesame oil
  • 1 cup canola oil
Instructions

Combine all the salad ingredients, leaving out the tomatoes and almonds.  They should be added at the end along with the below recipe for sesame mayonnaise, salt and pepper.  Note I only used about half the Sesame Mayo – but you can use more if you like.

For the dressing – I make this exactly like I do homemade mayonnaise – instructions are here. A few extra notes though… Have all the ingredients at room temperature (this is very important).  Combine all the ingredients in a tall, narrow container.  Use an immersion blender and begin at the bottom, slowly bringing the wand to the top of the mix.  You will instantly have mayonnaise!

To serve the salad, if you want to look impressive, line a large platter with purple or curly kale.  Mound the salad in the middle and garnish the platter with hard boiled egg wedges, chopped parsley and extra almonds. I am sorry my picture isn’t what I am describing but by the time I had a chance to snap a photo a huge amount of the salad had been consumed!

The salad stays perfectly well in the refrigerator for up to four days if it lasts that long!

The leftover sesame dressing makes a fantastic dip for blanched or raw veggies too.

 

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Everyday Oven Omelette

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Easy Omelette & Crisp Rye Toast

Easy Omelette & Crisp Rye Toast

Here is the ideal recipe for when you want something kind of light and different … and it works for either brunch or a lazy dinner (in my house … “lazy” means you are out of ideas for what to make).  The ingredients here are just a rough guideline.  Feel free to swap out fresh spinach for the vegetable, a different herb for the dill or basil, red onion for shallots, any other fish for the smoked fish, sweet potato for regular potato.  In other words … the sky is the limit.  You will need a good nonstick pan to make removing the finished eggs from the pan super easy – I have my favorite Swiss Diamond frying pan for this.

And be careful to use oven mitts when taking the saute pan out of the oven.  I always forget the handle will be piping hot and I have burned my fingers more times than you care to know.  I make this when I am alone in the house at dinnertime and I am here to testify that the leftover egg dish is good out of the refrigerator or slightly warmed the next day.

Put on your favorite play list, start pulling things out of your refrigerator and go!

Colorful Ingredients

Colorful Ingredients

Everyday Oven Omelet for Two

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Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • ½ cup cooked chopped potatoes (I actually had tri colored small potatoes left over)
  • 1 Tbsp shallots (thinly sliced
  • ½ cup flaked smoked fish
  • ½ cup chopped leftover broccoli or broccolini or asparagus
  • 2 Tbsp chopped dill or basil
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 with the oven shelf in the middle.

Over medium high heat, warm the olive oil and butter together in an 8-inch saute pan. Lightly saute the potatoes and shallots for minute until they are a little brown.   Add the fish, vegetables and herbs and distribute evenly.  Meanwhile mix the egg ingredients below together:

  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • Fresh ground white or black pepper, as much as you like
  • 1 Tbsp plain yogurt (at least 2%) or sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp crumbled feta or goat cheese

Pour egg mix on top of the sauteed veggies and fish.  When the edges of the omelette are lifting (after one to two minutes), slip the pan carefully into the heated oven for about ten minutes.  Slide out of the pan onto a serving plate and slice pizza style.

Note:  This can be easily doubled for four eaters and put into a 10-inch nonstick skillet.

This was great served with rye toast and a huge bowl of mixed fruit.  So satisfying!

 

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4th Anniversary – Labels & Lessons

This is the fourth anniversary of My Global Kitchens website … so I decided to casually write about some of my current thoughts.

In Oaxaca - making mole... no electricity, surrounded by chickens running around ... but we make the MOST delicious food!

In Oaxaca – making mole… no electricity, surrounded by chickens running around … but we made the MOST delicious food!

I recently took an “Are you a Foodie” quiz. It was funny and although I love food and do a lot of foodie type things, eating regularly at new restaurants isn’t “my thing.”  Yes, I possess  a great deal of  food and nutrition knowledge and can understand most random menu items and descriptions. I love to get together with others who truly enjoy food – ordinary street food, local specialties as well as the unusual ethnic delicacies. And yet I am happiest cooking  food in my own kitchen, where I know where everything comes from and how my creations should taste.

Most of my friends and even my husband are amused with me and giggle at my obsession with cooking, my love of reading cookbooks and food blogs, and my tenacity with trying new ways of making just about everything.  Of course, I have my favorites – chicken picatta, vegetarian soups, crazy salads.   If I am stressed or lonely or happy or sad or tired or energetic – I cook.  I even laugh at myself – I don’t really understand why I love to be in the kitchen and create – but I do.  I’m at peace with it, even if I am cooking just for me!

This is not to say that everyone else is incapable, or that I am in some way superior because I pay so much attention to food.  Quite the opposite.  I almost feel embarrassed that an “Are you a foodie?” quiz exists.  The responses made my skin crawl: For example, I had 19 out of 20, so does that make me a foodie?  On and on, with kind of a smug sounding ring to most of the responses.  Most comments were from foodies.

I don’t call myself a foodie.  I love food, but I call myself a good cook.  A former cateress.

The real problem for me is that I don’t like to be put into any “box” or be labelled as part of a group because usually I’m a bit of an outlier, a rebel.  I don’t relish being casually thought of as  a foodie.  In my experience, once we or others are labelled, it’s almost one size fits all.  “She’s a Republican and probably grew up with guns.”  “He’s a Catholic so when I mentioned my daughter living with her boyfriend, he looked horrified.”  “She has a PhD and is really bright.”  “He grew up with family money, is spoiled and can’t relate.”  Blah blah blah.

I don’t appreciate the “us” versus “them” mentality. Having lived the first 17 years of my life in Iowa in a two parent, middle class family,  I’ve heard more than once how sheltered and naive I must be coming from this background.   In reality I have lived in different locations and travelled throughout this country, and throughout the world so I have personally seen the  many many possibilities and blurry lines when it comes to religion, politics, race, education, interests.

And yes, food.  Some of the best meals I have eaten came from wood burning stoves in villages without electricity.  I don’t enjoy solely surrounding myself with people who are exactly like me, who believe the same things, attend the same religious institutions, belong to the same gym or groups.  For me variety is the spice of life and I enjoy my various  friends and acquaintances, I really do.  Sometimes a person with vastly different beliefs becomes a teacher to me, and what I thought was true absolutely goes up in smoke.  I will also say I am delighted, in a perverse way, when some of my stereotypes and the stories I make up based on appearance or preconceived notions prove to be entirely false.

I’ve learned a lot over the past four years. I’m thrilled I’ve been able to share my stories with you. I hope you’ve grown and expanded along the way. And I’m looking forward to many more adventures, to learning many more lessons and to being proven wrong … again.

And now for one of my favorite quotes:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

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Muffy’s Moussaka

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Marvelous Moussaka!

Marvelous Moussaka!

If I had to choose a type of ethnic food I love the most, I would select Greek or Mediterranean cuisine.  Something about the eggplant and potatoes and lemony flavors, olive oil and clean spices grabs me, yet I seldom prepare these dishes at home…don’t ask me why because I really have no idea.

I recently started fantasizing about Moussaka, one of the best known of all Greek main dishes. Layers of sauteed vegetables (in my case, eggplant and potato), covered by layers of meat sauce topped with a savory custard Bechamel.    I visited Greece in 1973, and during that trip I ate Moussaka nearly every single day.  I also bought a small paperback cookbook at a streetside kiosk (published in 1973) that has very very basic simple authentic Greek recipes.  And I have used that book so many times I can’t count.

My beloved cookbook - covered in olive oil and fingerprints ... still one of my most treasured books.

My beloved cookbook – covered in olive oil and fingerprints … still one of my most treasured books.

BUT the last time I can recall making Moussaka was probably back in the late 1970s.  We were living in Iowa, I had one child and we made friends with another couple, Mary and Steve.  My husband and I cooked with them  a lot and produced some pretty awesome weekend meals.  I distinctly remember sitting in their kitchen and consuming lots of Moussaka and huge bowls of Greek salad.  Those were the glory days!

And then I forgot about it.  Moussaka, as good as it is and as much as I love it, requires many steps.  Salting the eggplant, waiting, rinsing, roasting the eggplant.  Roasting the potatoes, chopping fresh vegetables for the sauce.  Grating the cheese, preparing the fresh bread crumbs, finishing with cooking the Bechamel.  Dishes… More dishes. Too many dishes.

When my brother Kal was here a few weeks ago baking Rhubarb Crostata and salted chocolate cookies with me, we made a date to create Moussaka.  I sent him my recipe and we individually made everything but the Bechamel sauce.  He used chicken sausage with mushrooms (his wife doesn’t like red meat) and I used lamb.  The following day we did the final Bechamel at his house and baked our Moussakas and had a taste test.  I do confess that we both agreed this wasn’t a good project to do together since all we really did in tandem was the final Bechamel, but otherwise we’d have been cooking for four hours in one of our houses.  However, we caught up and had fun conversation while the Moussaka baked away.

Me and My Bro!

Me and My Bro!

And what, pray tell, does someone like me – with a healthy appetite, mind you – do with a lasagna pan full of rich Moussaka?  I gave away a couple squares to friends who also love this dish then cut the rest into serving sizes,  each piece enough for two large servings and froze it for later.  At least four meals for two people, essentially.  I’m guessing this won’t last too long in the freezer… it’s just the perfect dinner to reheat when it’s a rainy or cool evening.

Pan FULL of Moussaka

Pan FULL of Moussaka

As much work as this is, I will absolutely make it again before another 40 years pass!  In fact, I’ll make it before too long.  It’s one of my top ten favorite creations for sure. And PS… For those of you who didn’t know me in my younger days, my nickname is Muffy.  HAHA

Muffy’s Moussaka

Serves 10-12

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Vegetable Ingredients
  • 2 Italian eggplants
  • 2 potatoes
Meat Filling Ingredients:
  • 2 brown skinned onions, peeled and chopped ⅓ inch
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 lbs. ground lamb, beef,turkey or chicken  (I am partial to lamb)
  • ¾ cup red wine (I used vermouth as that is all I had available at the time)
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes, core removed and diced into ½ inch pieces.
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 ½  tsp salt
  • Ground  black pepper
Instructions

Vegetable Preparation

Weighing the two eggplants and two potatoes together you should have about three pounds worth.

Make in a large 9 x 13 inch or bigger lasagne pan that has been coated with olive oil.

Remove about 3 vertical strips of flesh from the eggplants with a peeler and slice the flesh horizontally  into ½” rounds.  Stack in a colander after coating the pieces with about two teaspoons of salt.   Weigh down the eggplant with a plate to put pressure on the slices, and leave one hour.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400 degrees with the oven rack in the middle.  Remove the eggplant from the colander and dry each slice with paper towels, squeezing gently.  Place each slice on a  parchment lined cookie sheet at 400 degrees for and bake for 20 minutes per side. (I was able to fit two eggplants worth on one large cookie sheet.)  When you turn it over halfway, loosely cover the sheet with foil to help make it tender.  It softens just fine even without oil.

Peel and  slice the potatoes widthwise, about ⅜ inches each. Dry the potatoes with paper towels and lightly brush the pieces with olive oil on one side.  Bake oiled side up for about a half hour at 400 degrees until the underside is a little golden brown.  You don’t need to flip these over.

Meat Preparation

In a large straight sided sauce pan, heat oil and butter, add onions and cover the pan to sweat the onion, then remove the lid and slowly brown the onion on low heat. This can take a half hour or so.  Remove the onion from the fry pan but don’t clean it out   Increase the heat, add meat to brown it well, and drain the fat if there is any.  ( I had about 1-2 Tbsp from the lamb.)  Add the browned onions and the rest of the listed ingredients in the “Meat Filling Ingredients” list, cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed.   Let it cool off well then add:

  • 2 beaten eggs
  • ¼ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup good quality Parmesano Reggiano cheese

Set aside the meat sauce until it cools and thickens.  The meat sauce isn’t “saucy” but rather thick and resembles a bolognese.

If doing this the day before, layer the Moussaka as follows:

First make a layer of potato, then top with half of the meat sauce.  Spread everything out evenly, trying to cover the potatoes.  Then lay out the eggplant slices atop the meat sauce  and top them with the remaining meat sauce, again spreading the meat evenly.  At this point either pour over the Bechamel sauce or cover and refrigerate the moussaka until the next day.

Bechamel Sauce Ingredients
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 6 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground pepper
  • Dash freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups milk – heated so it is warmish
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (I whirled this in the food processor so it was smooth like cream cheese)
  • ½ cup grated imported parmesan (I grate this with my microplane grater)
Sauce Instructions

Melt butter over low heat, add flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir for two minutes.  Remove from heat and gradually add warm milk until thick and smooth.  Put back on the stove on low heat.

In a 2 cup measuring cup, beat two eggs.   Add a little of the sauce into the eggs (a half  cup first) and whisk well while adding so the eggs don’t cook and curdle.   Then put this egg/sauce mix back into the pot of remaining sauce and stir constantly.  Heat one minute, stirring.  Add one cup blended cottage cheese and ½ cup grated parmesan  Cool for 10 minutes.   (Taste to see if you need more parmesan.)

Pour Bechamel sauce over the top of the final meat sauce, evening it out with a knife so it covers everything.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or  until golden brown. Let rest at least 20 minutes before cutting.  The next day it holds together more easily and tastes even better.

For leftovers – cut into serving sizes and freeze in airtight containers.

PS: You can make this with all eggplant, or with zucchini, eggplant and potato.  Cook’s choice.

 

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Mini Rhubarb Galettes

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Magical Mini Rhubarb Galettes

Magical Mini Rhubarb Galettes

My little brother (a mere 60 year old brother, that is) called me last week and invited himself over to my house so we could bake together.  He specifically wanted to watch me work with pie dough – his nemesis – and asked to make mini rhubarb galettes.  He’d made these before and thought we could split the goods during rhubarb season.  Additionally,  earlier in the week I emailed all my siblings a recipe for a dark chocolate chunk cookies with salt flakes on top – and we both wanted to make this as well.  Sugar and flour and butter — oh my!

What a morning it was…  Kal and I are simpatico in the kitchen.  We both bake often and are thankfully both quick, tidy, and on the same page when it comes to seasoning and estimating quantities–in other words we have fun yet get the job done.  I do, however, have more pie crust experience so I was able to show him a few tricks of the trade.  It turned out that both these projects were way easier with two people – and four hands.  I rolled and cut the dough, he filled and crimped and brushed and we baked and ate and divided.  The cookies were made during the lag time for these pies and it worked out perfectly.  Win win!

I LOVED these little rustic pies.  As pictured, they look a little brown because my farmers market only had green rhubarb, and although it tastes great I prefer the look of red rhubarb for a project like this. (Note: next time I find only green rhubarb I’ll add the peel from a plum or dark red apple to give it a reddish hue).  Adding ginger and dark brown sugar to the rhubarb gave it a complex, deep flavor.  Soooooo good, and a little different  for company.  I always prefer a small, individual dessert rather than something fussy and too rich after a meal. So I’m thrilled to have another perfect accompaniment for spring meals for my guests!

And the aforementioned chocolate chunk cookies?  Let’s just say they were an 11 out of 10.  Look for the recipe and my experience with those soon…

And now, the rhubarb galettes!!

Mini Rhubarb Ginger Rustic Galettes

Servings:  16-18 individual pies

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Dough Ingredients

I always use the same recipe for pies and galettes – which you can find here.

Refrigerate dough for at least an hour so it is pretty cold but not too hard.  I always take the crust out of the fridge a good 15 minutes before I start to roll it.

Filling Ingredients
  • 1 ½ lbs trimmed rhubarb (about 6 cups)
  • A little less than ¾ c dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp vanilla
Ingredients to use right before baking
  • 2-3 T whipping cream
  • ¼ cup mixed cinnamon/sugar
Instructions

Make galette filling:

Trim rhubarb stalks and cut them into ½ inch pieces. Add the brown sugar, ginger, and vanilla and stir every few minutes so it brings out the rhubarb juice, about 15 minutes.

Take half the rhubarb out of this bowl and heat it in a saucepan, covering once it starts to simmer.  Let it steam for 5-7 minutes until the rhubarb starts to soften.   Add this hot mixture to the uncooked rhubarb left in the bowl and let everything sit until it is room temperature.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees (or 350 convection if you have that feature) with oven racks in the center of the oven.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment.

Roll out ¼ of the dough and cut into 4-inch diameter circles. Spoon about 1 ½ Tbsp of the rhubarb onto the center of each circular piece of dough.  Fold up and pinch the sides around the rhubarb enough to hold it all in.  Continue until all the rhubarb is used up.  Know that the little pies won’t spread out so they can be within an inch of each other.

Use a pastry brush to swipe the dough edges of each little crostata with cream and sprinkle the edges with a little cinnamon sugar.  Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Remove them from the oven and carefully put on a wire rack to cool.  You can also freeze these when cool and re-warm slightly before serving.  Add a dollop of whipping cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you feel like indulging!

I am even thinking of freezing a batch of uncooked pies so I can enjoy them after rhubarb season.  And my rhubarb sauce, from now on, will be made with dark brown sugar and fresh grated ginger.

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Rhubarb Custard Dessert

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Rhubarb Custard Dessert ... or "Rhubarb Crack" as it's lovingly known in our family

Rhubarb Custard Dessert … or “Rhubarb Crack” as it’s lovingly known in our family

I love living in my condominium … no huge yard to tend to but just the right amount of room in my planter boxes for herbs and tomatoes.  That said … every spring when I pass by yards featuring huge, wild patches of rhubarb – it gives me pause. And I have to admit – I get a little jealous.  When my daughter and her family lived in Iowa, her office had a massive clump of wild rhubarb growing outside that we would harvest for days on end, creating countless desserts and sauces and salsas.  Those were the days…

From all this rhubarb madness, I became most enamored of today’s recipe – it’s my all time rhubarb dessert prizewinner. I saved a typed copy of this recipe a while ago and cannot for the life of me remember the origin. But I’ve made it several times since, tweaking it here and there (surprise, surprise).  I do know that it originated back in the day before anyone worried about consuming too many eggs and too much butter and such.

Rhubarb Custard Dessert

Serves 10-12

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Crust Ingredients
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (not plain whole wheat, but whole wheat pastry flour.  It makes a difference)
  • 2/3 cup cold salted butter, cut into ½  inch pieces
  • 1 egg
Rhubarb Filling Ingredients
  • 8 cups rhubarb, cut into 1 inch slices
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
Topping Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup cold salted butter, sliced into 1/2 inch bits
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar  (add a bit more if you like pretty sweet desserts – I do not and this amount is perfect for my tastebuds)
Instructions

Use an 11-inch springform pan or a 9 x 12 cake pan.  I like the looks of pieces cut from the springform pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 with a rack in the middle of the oven.  Grease and flour the bottom and sides of the springform pan. I line the bottom with a round piece of parchment paper to fit, then re-grease and flour the paper.

In a food processor pulse together the two cups flour, and ⅔ cup butter until it looks like sand. Stir in the egg.  Dump all of this into the bottom of your pan and firmly press it on the bottom (and up the sides if you are using the springform.  It doesn’t have to be perfect!)

Put the rhubarb on top of the crust.  It will be pretty full, which is OK since the rhubarb cooks down.

Mix together the remaining six eggs and two cups sugar and pour over the rhubarb.

Pulse the topping ingredients (flour, butter and sugar) in the food processor until crumbly and sprinkle over the rhubarb and custard layer.

Bake mid oven for 70-80 minutes or until topping is browned.  Let it cool completely on the counter then put in the fridge and let it get cold before removing the ring of the springform pan.

This is wonderful if you sneak a nibble right out of the oven, or when barely warm or even cold.  I store this in the refrigerator and it stays nice for a week.  I eat it for breakfast straight up, but if using it as a dessert I always serve this with a scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream or even slightly sweetened whipped cream.

Now go harvest that rhubarb!!

 

 

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