Marvelous Marinated Cucumber Salad

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Cool Cucumber Salad

Cool Cucumber Salad

During the long, warm days of summer I love eating cold (or room temperature) crunchy, cool and juicy fruits and vegetables. It’s hard to choose among my favorites – but this dish is tried and true … I’ve been making it for least twenty years and it never fails to please me. I would often suggest this salad when catering for large crowds because it is inexpensive to make, beloved by the masses and, for some reason I haven’t quite figured out, it always rounds out menus and buffets and even small family gatherings. I bring this to picnics or barbeques in place of a green salad or coleslaw. Brunch, lunch, dinner … barbeques or spontaneous picnics in the park, this should be on YOUR “to try” list too.

My Mandolin - and GLOVE!

My Mandolin – and GLOVE!

I happen to own a really inexpensive mandoline for slicing the raw cucumbers, and I also have a sturdy protective glove for using the mandoline so I don’t cut my fingers off since I’ve come close to doing that more times than you can imagine. However, you can slice the cucumbers by hand as long as you can make even and thin slices about an eighth of an inch thick. For me, the mandoline works better and I can make this salad in the blink of an eye. It keeps for several days in the refrigerator – although the color isn’t as vibrant. No worries about that though – you can use leftover cucumber slices as a fresh and delicious addition to summer sandwiches.

Colinwood Farm - Port Townsend, WA

Ballard Market – Friendly Vendor from Colinwood Farm

I usually use English (aka Burpless) cucumbers, and recently picked up what I thought was this variety. However the vendor at the farmers market (pictured here) informed me these cucumbers were Japanese Slenders because they had “bumps” instead of ridges. I love learning new things! Either English or Japanese cucumbers will work; neither requires peeling and they have tiny seeds that don’t need to be removed.

Super easy, very few ingredients, healthful. Salty, a bit spicy, sweet. Delicioso! Just my kind of recipe…

Marinated Cucumber Salad

Serves 4 or more

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Ingredients
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. fine Sea Salt
  • 2 English or Japanese cucumbers
  • Purple onion or radishes for color or garnish, if desired
Instructions

Slice the cucumbers (unpeeled, not seeded) into a large glass bowl by hand or with a mandoline. Boil together the vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes and salt just until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes from the start. Pour hot dressing over the cucumbers, stir around a bit and refrigerate the glass bowl with everything inside covered with plastic wrap. Leave in the refrigerator for about an hour. Once the salad has cooled, transfer everything to a tupperware container with a lid that you can seal and shake to distribute the dressing and coat all the cucumber slices. Refrigerate overnight or for several hours, and shake it around a few times when you remember to do so.

Drain before serving – the salt in the recipe causes the cucumbers to release a lot of liquid. Wonderful and easy!

Note: if you use regular cucumbers, be sure to peel the skin, cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and remove the seeds! Then slice into half rounds and proceed.

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Lemony Lentils

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Luscious Lemony Lentils

Luscious Lemony Lentils

I love lentils and legumes in general, not for reasons that most people turn to beans (they’re so darn healthy!).  For me … they just taste really great and provide a blank slate for sweet or savory ingredients.  This is one of those recipes I watched being prepared and then I tasted and then I HAD to try making it myself. I believe the mixture started with a recipe from Deborah Madison…but this version bears little resemblance to that.

No quantities or recipe was actually given during the demonstration, but I jotted down key ingredients I wanted to utilize, and came up with this version.  Actually, my lentils are superior to those I tasted way back when, if I do say so myself.  I still plan to try to make this using French green lentils; I chose  Beluga or black lentils this time because they take less time to cook and I was (shocking) in a hurry.

Lentils & Lemons

Lentils & Lemons

I call this a vegetable side dish, although technically lentils are legumes.  Low in fat, high in fiber and protein, cooked lentils have an earthy taste.  With the added mint and parsley and lightness of the fresh lemons and preserved lemon too, this dish screams summer.  Serve it at room temperature, top it wily a little crumbled feta and eat it “as is” or scoop some on top of a nice lettuce or vegetable salad.  Putting a poached egg on top of these warmed lentils becomes dinner.  You’ll be full for a long time, I promise.

Lemony Lentils

10-12 large servings

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Lentil Ingredients
  • 2 cups French, green or beluga lentils
  • 1 onion, cut in half and skin removed
  • 3 sprigs of tarragon
  • 3 carrots, cut in 3 inch pieces
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed
  • ½ tsp salt
Lentil Instructions

Rinse the lentils, cover with water by 1 ½ inches.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.  Cover the pot and cook until pretty soft – about 20-30 minutes for black lentils.  French Green lentils take around 45 minutes, but read the package instructions. Once soft, drain until no water remains.  Remove the onion, , carrots and any remnants of the tarragon sprigs.

You can fold in the next set of ingredients (beets, mint, parsley, preserved lemon) while the lentils are still a little warm.  Finally dress with the vinaigrette and add more salt, pepper or herbs to your liking.

Salad Ingredients
  • 1 bunch beets (about six or 1 ¼ lbs) peeled and cooked (see this recipe for cooking method).  Chop into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1  preserved lemon (Rinse, cut in half, squeeze and save the juice then and scoop out the flesh inside the lemon. Discard this inside meat you removed from the peel. Dice the preserved lemon peel into 1/8 inch pieces.)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup of crumbled feta per serving (optional)
Vinaigrette Ingredients
  • 2 tsp chopped shallot
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp grated lemon peel
  • pinch cayenne
  • Juice you squeezed from the flesh of the preserved lemon
  • Ground black pepper
  • Sea salt (start with 1 tsp)
  • 1 ½ tsp honey (or to taste)
Vinaigrette Instructions

For the dressing, use a hand blender  to combine all the ingredients.  The dressing will be thick and yellowish and this recipe makes about twice as much as you will need. Save the half of the vinaigrette you don’t use to drizzle on top of cooked asparagus, fish or another grainy salad!

Next time I’m going to try French green lentils and golden beets, just to switch it up!

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Middle of Summer Garden Chicken Salad

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Summery Salad

Summery Salad

Bear with me, people. I know I frequently publish recipes for salads – Summer, Fall, Winter or Spring… it doesn’t matter to me. I enjoy eating salads, whether they are vegetarian, lettuce-based, grainy, quinoa-y, fruity – you name it and I usually can’t get enough of it! I write about what foods I love to make and to eat and, as you’ve likely learned by now, one of the things I never tire of is hearty salad. That said, I’m not the kind of girl who can live on a meager, lettuce-y, no dressing type salad. In fact, I am so hungry after eating a tiny portion of lettuce with minimal calories that I often come home and have a sandwich or several cookies. A hearty, filling salad, though, keeps me satisfied for hours, and in the summer this is often our dinner.

Lovely Lettuce From my Garden

Lovely Lettuce From my Garden

More vegetable-based than lettuce-centric – Summer Garden Chicken Salad came into my repertoire because I wanted to utilize what was growing up in my rooftop garden. As I often do – I was also foraging through my kitchen and wanted to incorporate extra vegetables from my fridge and the end of a baguette from the farmers market. We had this as a main dish for dinner the day after the 4th of July, when the thought of having leftover noodles, potato salad and beans kind of turned my stomach. I was craving something “clean.”

This salad is summery, seasonal, filled with texture, pretty and very tasty. Don’t overdress it because garden lettuce is soft and fragile. The hubby pronounced this “better than good.” So I knew I had to share it!

Summer Garden Chicken Salad

Serves 3 large eaters

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Ingredients for the salad:
  • 1 ½ cups fresh garden lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • ¾ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¾ cup English Cucumber, diced into 3/8 inch pieces
  • 1 cup leftover grilled or cooked chicken, skin and bones removed and cut into pieces the same size as the cucumber
  • Kernels of one ear fresh corn, cut off the cob
  • 1 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, cut or torn into small pieces
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley leaves, cut roughly
  • 10 grinds of fresh black peppercorns
  • ½ cup baguette croutons (cube bread and put it on a foil lined tray in the toaster oven. Drizzle with two teaspoons olive oil and bake for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees.)
  • ½ avocado, peeled and diced into squares the size of the cucumber
Ingredients for the Dressing

Makes ¾ – 1 cup

  • ¼ cup White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 ½ Tbsp Honey
  • 3/4 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tsp shallots, finely diced
  • Pinch sea salt
  • Pinch fresh ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Dressing Instructions

Dump all the dressing ingredients into a tall, narrow vessel and use your hand blender to combine until thick. Taste and adjust – it should be like honey-mustard dressing with a little “bite”.

Note – this makes about double what you need so save the remaining dressing for another salad or another day

Salad Instructions

Combine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, chicken, corn, herbs and pepper in a 3-quart glass or stainless steel bowl bowl. Toss to fully combine.

Drizzle dressing along the sides of the bowl and toss – add more dressing on the bottom of the salad bowl or along the sides rather than putting directly on the salad greens so the lettuce doesn’t get soggy. At the end, add the croutons, toss lightly and top each serving with the avocado pieces as a garnish.

And for your information, this makes a terrific Salad in a Jar!

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Tangy Noodle Salad

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Tangy Noodles!

Tangy Noodles!

It’s almost the 4th of July and if you are invited to or in charge of  a potluck, you might be scratching your head, trying to come up with something delicious and easy to prepare. Potato salad? Baked beans? Coleslaw?   If you’re like me, you’ve been there and done that.  Time to think outside of the box.

Folks, this is it.  Another tried and true recipe from my catering days!!  If my children are reading this, they are gagging by now since they all, at one time or another, worked for me in my commercial kitchen, and had to boil noodles, grate carrots, toast sesame seeds or put together batches of tangy noodle (aka capellini) salad.  We’d don disposable gloves to toss the noodles and dressing together, then this salad was stored in huge, full-sheet deep pans.  After six hours of nonstop cooking before a huge event (think 400 guests) I’d make a little extra of this salad to take home and then grill and add sliced chicken and make it a meal in one.

Sometimes my son’s entire baseball team ate at our house so I kept this handy for those 17 year old boys.  They loved it, the adults loved it, everyone loved it! Alas… my kids begged me to stop making tangy noodles.

All eating phases generally end, and now my children happily eat this salad if I make it in their homes or when they are visiting Seattle.   It’s perfectly balanced and satisfying and an inevitable crowd pleaser. Plus it’s a little different and visually attractive enough for any 4th of July buffet!

Go forth (or 4th!) and try this.  You can also omit the grated carrots and instead dice up yellow, red and/or orange bell peppers to give it a celebratory appearance. I’ve also added chopped cilantro or black sesame seeds to the top in lieu of green onions. Leftovers really keep well too – at least for a few days.  I’ve even stir fried the noodles as is with some type of protein just to be fancy.

The recipe you will read below has morphed over the years…the original called for black Chinese sesame oil and Chinese balsamic vinegar and fresh noodles, too.  I’ve tested and retested to develop a recipe that is easy – featuring ingredients that can be found at most supermarkets or in your pantry.

Tangy Noodle Salad

Feeds at least 10-15 eaters on a buffet

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Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. dried Angel hair (capellini) pasta
  • 3 Tbsp dark toasted sesame oil (I have Trader Joes brand)
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • ¼  cups tamari sauce (I’ve used soy sauce in a pinch, but prefer tamari)
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili oil* – it must be spicy (add more the next day if needed but be careful!)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds  (sometimes I use black sesame seeds to switch it up)
  • 1-2 large grated carrot
  • 2 scallions (light green and white parts) sliced into thin rings-for garnish
  • 1/3 cups salted cashews – for garnish
Instructions

Fill a large stock pot with water and add two teaspoons of table salt and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, combine the rest of the dressing ingredients (the oils, Tamari, vinegar and honey) and whisk together in a small bowl.

Put the angel hair  noodles into the pot and keep boiling them until they are al dente (a little less than package directions – mine took three minutes).   Drain really well, shaking off all the water.  Keep them in the colander, and let them cool a bit, but keep stirring the noodles in the colander so they don’t stick together.

Add half of the dressing to the slightly warm noodles and toss well to combine. I do use disposable gloves to do this.  I add the remainder of the dressing about a half hour later when the noodles are more room temperature.

Stir in the sesame seeds (reserve two tablespoons for garnish) and the grated carrot (reserving a tablespoon for garnish).  Refrigerate overnight or for at least an hour at room temperature.  Right before serving, toss and taste, adding more balsamic vinegar or tamari as needed for your taste buds.   For me  it is seasoned most often well and I do not need to add another thing, but see what you think.

I like to serve this at room temperature – the flavors seem more robust to me this way.  Garnish the finished dish with the reserved sesame seeds, carrots, scallions and cashews. Enjoy!

*I’ve been in places without chili oil, and I simply add cayenne to the dressing until it is fairl

 

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Eggs For Kids

“So what do you cook when your grandchildren visit?”  This is a question I am asked by curious friends who know I love to bake and make special things for my children and their kids as well.

There are many foods I love to make, but breakfast is a particularly special time for me. Sometimes I’ll make  a batch of granola or hot cereal or french challah toast or pancakes.

But my eggs are legendary. There are two types of breakfast eggs I reserve for these kids, and they originate from my childhood.

Chicken in a Basket

Chicken in a Basket

1) Chicken in a Basket

AKA toad in the hole aka bulls eye,  the name “chicken in the basket” was what my mom, Merry Klass, called this concoction.

Take a slice of bread (I use whole wheat but any type is fine) and cut a hole in the middle with a glass.  Heat butter in a frying pan, place the bread in and crack the egg inside the hole of the bread.  I fry the circle of bread alongside the egg/bread slice.  Flip over gently and serve with some pepper and salt.

Yellow Egg Sandwich

Yellow Egg Sandwich

2)  Yellow Egg Sandwich

My mother concocted – and named – this delicacy. Basically you whisk an egg, add one tablespoon of milk and fry it on medium heat in butter.  Don’t stir, but flip the omelette over when it will hold together.  Heat briefly on the second side, then put it on a piece of bread skimmed with a layer of mayonnaise or butter or what have you.  Top with another piece of bread much like a sandwich and cut in half.

I must admit that I love yellow egg sandwiches and make mine more gourmet with tomato slices, curly lettuce, even avocado. At times I make this sandwich when I am rushing around, and I wrap it in foil to eat in the car.

What are your favorite things you make for your kids or grandkids??

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A GRATE Cooking Tip!

microplane orange

So Simple – So Smart

Those of you – and I know this means each and every one of you – who regularly read my posts understand that I don’t use a lot of fancy dancy kitchen equipment.  I’m not a proponent of the latest greatest gadgets out there; I’m really a minimalist when It comes to what I keep around my kitchen.

I’ve waxed poetic about my microplane grater, which I use a ton for grating citrus zest and hunks of Parmesan cheese.  So here is a little tip I learned while taking a cooking class at The Book Larder with the incredible Rachel Coyle of Coyle’s pop up bake shop.

Turn the microplane upside down and grate your zest with the microplane’s sides facing up so you can see how much you have grated.  The sides make almost a three sided box so the grated stuff won’t pour out.  Otherwise, if you are anything like me, you will be peeking at the underside of this tool, scraping off what sticks there  with your finger to see how much has collected.

This is so genius that I keep wondering why I didn’t think of this first?  And it’s another reminder of why I continue to take cooking lessons.  I always learn something new and useful!!

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Kale & Cauliflower Salad

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Kale & Cauliflower Salad

Kale & Cauliflower Salad

I know, I know. Everyone is sick to death of kale. Kale salad, in particular. Me? I really love kale salads – not to mention sauteed kale and kale in soups. But in salads I only like it when the bitterness of the kale leaves isn’t overpowering.

Let’s begin at the beginning. I eat in restaurants less than most of you, but I love to occasionally patronize my Queen Anne neighborhood place in Seattle, GRUB. It’s consistent, the food isn’t fussy but it’s always fresh and seasonal, the ambience is nice and homey, and it’s obvious that the owner loves what she does…how could I not support a place like this?

The point is, though, that they have a wonderful, room temperature-ish kale and cauliflower salad. It might just as well be called a cauliflower-kale salad because there are about equal parts kale and cauliflower. I always order this whether we stop by for dinner or appetizers.

I loved it so much I decided to try a similar version at home. Originally I thought I’d make mine with lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur kale or black cabbage. It is one of my favorite types of kale because it is pretty tender and tasty. Grub’s kale salad is composed of curly, firmer kale that tends to be more bitter.

Curly Kale

Curly Kale

But hold on. When I visited my daughter in early April, she did HER rendition of the salad using curly kale and adding in tiny tiny barberries that she soaked. The salad went from a “9” to a “10” in my eyes. The tiny, ruby barberries were the perfect addition. These little barberries, available in Middle Eastern grocery stores, are tart with a hint of sweetness and I love love love them. I’m already figuring to other ways to use them in my baking and cooking…

Beautiful Barberries

Beautiful Barberries

Now this salad is in my lineup. It is locally sourced, vegan, non-GMO, non dairy…in other words it fits all the popular foodie parameters. If this sounds bland or tasteless or non-appealing, think again. THIS RECIPE IS FAB!

Kale & Cauliflower Salad

Serves 4-6

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 Ingredients
  • 4 cups green curly kale (I used redbor kale from my farmers market)
  • 4 cups cauliflowerettes, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • ½ cup cooked and rinsed garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • About ¼ cup lemon tehina dressing
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped mint
  • 2 Tbsp dried barberries, dried cherries, dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds-depending on the season. If using cherries or cranberries, dice them into tiny currant sized pieces.
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 425 and line a large, rimmed cookie sheet with parchment or foil.

Begin by removing kale leaves from the stems until it looks like you have 4 cups worth, and roughly tear into pieces that are about 1 ½ inches. Add ½ tsp sea salt and massage for 3-5 minutes. Taste the kale and if it is no longer bitter, you are done and should get a masseuse license! When you are finished it will have decreased in volume and feel softer. Set aside while you do everything else.

Toss cauliflowerettes with olive oil and bake on a prepared cookie sheet in the oven for 15 minutes. They won’t be finished but you can add beans to the pan and do both at the same time!

Dry the garbanzo beans well and coat them with one teaspoon extra virgin olive oil and roast along with caulifloweretttes on the same rimmed sheet. Continue cooking both the beans and cauliflower for another 10 minutes or until nicely browned, sizzling and even charred on the edges. Remove from the oven.

Whisk together the tehina dressing.

You can make the salad while the vegetables are still warm or do it once they are room temperature. Add the kale to the roasted vegetables, barely coat with tehina dressing.  Season with salt and pepper if needed, and fold in barberries and chopped mint. Eat. Eat more!

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Babotie!

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I posted this recipe early early on in my blogging life, and at the time I had a lot fewer readers. Three years later, I still consider this one of my primo recipes. Lately I’ve been swapping out ground lamb for the ground chuck, and I’ve made it in 2 cup ramekins so every guest gets their personal serving.

MAKE THIS RECIPE. Now. With a green leafy salad, you’ll thank me.

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Elephants at Kuyenda BushCamp

When most people think about safaris they likely envision exploring foreign lands in search of elusive, wild animals. This was certainly an important part of the trip I took that included Kuyenda BushCamp in Zambia, Africa. However, much to the surprise of our safari hosts and cooks, I was equally interested in investigating the culinary aspects of this exotic place. I don’t think it’s every day that visitors sneak into the camp’s open-air “kitchens” asking questions about how to prepare local delicacies.

We arrived at this safari camp following a magical morning of viewing lions, elephants, wildebeest, giraffes and zebras. Our large army-green colored Land Rover came to a stop in the middle of a dusty plot of land in the middle of the African wilderness. The air was dry and hot and still and, once our driver turned off the engine, I was struck by the utter quiet. There wasn’t a commercial building in site and my husband and I felt blessedly sheltered from the tourist crowds.

Beautiful table at camp

While the surroundings were simple and rustic, our camp manager was decidedly not. Babette Alfieri, hostess extraordinaire, met us with an exuberant welcome. This is a woman whose career started on 5th Avenue in New York and who, along with her daughter, has established Africa Calls, one of the best adventure travel companies I have ever employed. Soon after we reached the bush camp, Babette guided us toward a table laden with the most beautiful array of food. Chicken salad, beet salad, quiche and a seasonal green salad with freshly baked bread were on display, elevated with ethnic platters and African-made serve ware. The table resembled a spread out of Gourmet Magazine. Babette had taught the staff to garnish every single dish so that the table was inviting and, as she told us, so we would “feast with our eyes.”

The most memorable part of that meal was a dish called Babotie (pronounced ba-boor-tea) an African dish originated by the Cape Malay people. This delicious, moussaka-like food is the national dish of South Africa and combines curried meat and fruit with an aromatic golden topping. I was immediately intrigued by the flavor profile so I wandered over to the cooking area to talk with the chefs. These were proud men who had likely been cooking for tourists for decades. They seemed a bit surprised by my inquiries but quickly became engaged in an animated discussion of spices and cooking techniques. I can still recall their lilting voices as they proudly explained the intricacies of preparing this exotic dish.

Babette & Marilyn with Baboti

When I returned home, I contacted Babette and she kindly sent me a recipe for Babotie. I immediately tried it out and, despite the fact that I did not have the luxury of cooking in the open air, surrounded by the sounds of wild animals, the dish turned out exactly as I remembered it. It has a long list of ingredients, but most everything was already in my kitchen. Every time I prepare Babotie for friends and family I feel like I am sharing a bit of my travels to South Luyenga State Park, and I am immediately reminded of the friends I made in Kuyenda.

Making Babotie

Bobotie (adapted from Babette’s recipe)

Serves 8-10

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Ingredients
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 ½ Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup golden or brown raisins
  • 2 Tbsp chopped dried apricots
  • 2 Tbsp mango chutney
  • 1 Tbsp ketchup or chili sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce (or Tabasco), 1 dash
  • 2 slices bread, cubed
  • ¾ cup milk (or rice milk)
  • 2 lbs ground chuck
  • 3 Tbsp cream or coconut milk
  • 4 eggs
  • Ground cinnamon, 1 dash
  • Vanilla, 1 dash
  • 4 bay leaves (for decoration)
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

Mix in all the dry spices and cook 2-3 minutes. Add the meat and cook until brown, approximately 8-10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and fold in chopped tomatoes, raisins, dried apricots, chutney, ketchup/chili sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Return to the heat, bring to the boil, then gently simmer 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile soak the bread cubes in the milk for approximately 5 minutes. Squeeze excess milk from the bread by pushing it through a strainer, reserving the milk and add bread to the meat mixture. Add cream to the reserved milk so you have a total of ½ cup.

Cook the mixture until the excess liquid has evaporated, approximately 20-30 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to an oiled oven-proof dish (9 x 13 oval baking dish) and even out the top.

In a bowl, beat together eggs and remaining milk and stir in a dash of cinnamon and a dash of vanilla. Pour the milk mixture over the mince so there is a thin layer of milk covering it.

Decorate with bay leaves, and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until custard is set.

Bobotie is traditionally served with yellow rice which is made using turmeric. I serve it with brown rice and a very simple salad with a savory vinaigrette. This dish is even better reheated the following day.

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End notes: if you are interested in contacting Babette and learning more about the glorious bush camp in Zambia – you can contact her via Africa Calls or Kuyenda BushCamp.

There are a number of wonderful cookbooks that feature authentic dishes from throughout Africa. One of my favorites are The African Kitchen by Josie Stow and Jan Baldwin.

If you’re going on safari, I highly recommend you find two books by Trevor Carnaby. Beat Around the Bush – Birds and the similarly titled book on Mammals are chock full of easy explanations and beautiful photography. I found them to be indispensable! But buy them before you go – they’re twice as much in Africa.

I like to use authentic serverware whenever possible. Some of my favorite silver pieces are made by Carrol Boyes and can be purchased online. This “Functional Art” is hand made by artisans in Cape Town, South Africa and features her signature figural style. Her trademark materials include pewter, aluminum and stainless steel.

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Comforting Brown Butter Coconut Dessert “Bread”

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Comforting Coconut Bread

Comforting Coconut Bread

It’s not enough that I dream and think about food and recipes nearly every single day – I think about these subjects in every location imaginable – whether it’s at the gym, the grocery store, the farmer’s market, passing restaurants, in my own kitchen… But it’s not in a bad way at all.  I love to read cookbooks, cooking magazines and cooking blogs. And I found this particular recipe reading a food blog.

Two things attracted me to this recipe, which I haven’t changed much from the Smitten Kitchen  where I found it:    #1: The very thought of browned butter – my “ go to” way of enhancing my roasted vegetables and even my chocolate chip cookies –  anytime I want a nuttiness plus butter flavor. And #2: I can make this bread with very few bowls, one measuring cup (½ cup to be specific) and a spatula.  No mixer bowl or beaters to clean up!

I love to present a sliver of this bread, slightly warmed, with some slices of Pink Lady apple or Asian pear or early Spring strawberries for a not-too-sweet dessert.  I often freeze half of the loaf too because sadly there are just two adults living in my house.  I’ve made this a total of four times in the past month and the next go around I’m going to bake it in individual muffin tins.  And to be honest, the third reason I love making this is that it isn’t something I need to decorate at all.  I love desserts to look pretty but I don’t have the time or the patience to frost, pipe, sprinkle…all those fancy finishing touches.  I rather go for great tasting desserts.

If you choose to make and serve this for company, be sure to find out  whether your guests like coconut or not.  Before my catering days I did not realize that coconut and cilantro are two flavors that people either love or do not like one bit.  So inquire, then go forth and make this if the answer is “I like coconut.”

Kudos to Smitten Kitchen (Deb Perelman) – I have her book, I read her blog and she is one of the young uns that has it together in terms of good recipes, photography and writing style.  I wish I could hate her, but I am in awe.  And here is my version of her inspirational recipe!

Fresh Out of the Oven

Fresh Out of the Oven

Brown Butter Coconut Bread

From Bill Granger, via Wednesday Chef, via The New York Times, via Smitten Kitchen via My Global Kitchens (a few minor tweaks).  I think every single recipe on the Internet is via via via….

Makes One Loaf

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Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups 2% milk
  • 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 
2 1/2 cups (315 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½  teaspoon  salt
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 
1 cup minus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 
5 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (about 1 1/2 cups, but I actually weighed this)
  • 
6 tablespoons or ¾ stick of salted butter, melted until it is just browned*
  • 
Vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray for the loaf baking pan
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a  quart sized bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and sugar.  Add coconut, and stir to mix. Make a “well” in the center of these ingredients, and pour in the egg mixture, then stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add browned butter*, and stir until just smooth — be careful not to overmix.

Butter and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or coat it with a nonstick spray. (I spray it, then put parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan then spray on top of the parchment again.)  The batter is pretty loose for quick bread.   Spread batter in this pan evenly and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, anywhere from 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in the pan five minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

I cannot imagine serving this with butter or with anything sweet or salty at all.  It is perfect as is, particularly when a little warm.

*To brown the butter:put it in a small metal saucepan over medium high heat  until it melts.  Continue cooking, swirling the pan all the time for another two minutes or so until the color turns to a dark golden brown and smells nutty.  (Right before this, my butter always foams up).  Immediately remove from the heat and scrape the butter into a glass bowl so it doesn’t keep cooking.

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Do The Math: Kitchen Calculations

My Favorite Measuring Devices

My Favorite Measuring Devices

Let me begin this post by admitting that math is, actually, my strong suit. As far back as I remember I always did much better with math and reasoning skills than language. And I’ve been  proud of  my keen ability to calculate – it sure comes in handy! I can quickly compute what “40% off” means or how many cups of broth I need when I multiply a recipe by four. Maybe I like math because it is black and white, things can be explained in concrete terms and there is always a “right” and a “wrong” answer.

That being said I do not judge anyone who isn’t proficient at mathematics. Everyone’s brain is different. That said, I do believe that learning some basic calculations can help immensely when it comes to cooking and baking. For example, there are three teaspoons in a tablespoon – so if you see a recipe written that asks for four teaspoons, you will know that you can measure one tablespoon + one teaspoon. If you triple four teaspoons, this is equivalent to four tablespoons. No need to one-by-one measure out twelve teaspoons! And yet, when I had my catering business, I’d see my workers measuring teaspoon by teaspoon 99 times out of 100!

For those of you who can use a little extra help with kitchen calculations – here are some tools I use to measure (as pictured above):

Metal Measuring Cups

These are for dry ingredients like flour or sugar…NOT LIQUIDS people. Scoop stuff into the metal cup, level it off with a knife and voila! (background left)

Oxo  2 oz LIQUID Measuring Cup

This is my favorite little gadget, a tsp/tbsp LIQUID measuring cup with a lip. I use this one daily – especially when making salad dressings or crackers. It’s easy to see where two tablespoons will be (look at the meniscus of the liquid) and it saves me messing around with a teaspoon or tablespoon. Our supermarkets carry this little cup-it’s a 2 ounce size. (rear center)

Pyrex LIQUID Measuring Cup

This is my older-than-the-hills pyrex measuring cup for liquids such as oil, water, and the like. I actually have four versions of this glass measuring cup (1 cup, 2 cup, 4 cups and 8 cups) and I use them all. (right front)

Metal Measuring Spoons

Ta da, finally – my metal measuring spoons tablespoon, teaspoon and fractions thereof. (front left)

I really don’t like plastic cooking utensils and I use metal or glass whenever I can. Just one of my hangups – but to me they clean much more easily and don’t hold onto odors.

And here are the basic equivalents you should memorize or post somewhere until you learn them by heart:

3 teaspoons = 1 Tbsp = ½ ounce
1 cup = 8 ounces = 16 Tbsp (½ cup = 8 Tbsp)

Class dismissed!

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