Showing posts with label cheese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cheese. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Endive Salad with Prosciutto Recipe

Growing up I ate a green salad pretty much every night with dinner. In Italy, we did the same, though it was served at the end of the meal. These days, I find it hard to convince my other half to eat salad. My solution is to make main dish salads. This one uses Belgian endive and is easy to make for one or a group. It has many delicious things added to a base of endive and fennel, namely candied walnuts, fresh mozzarella and prosciutto.

Endive and fennel just seem to have a natural affinity for one another. Both are crisp, but fennel has a chewier  texture and a sweetness, while endive is lighter and juicier and has a slightly bitter edge. You could use them to make a simple side salad but this one has lots of goodies to make it a main dish. Use a Champagne vinaigrette or a Dijon mustard vinaigrette to dress it. Or even just lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

One of the tricks to this salad is that one thin slice of prosciutto pulled into shreds adds loads of flavor. If you have jamon de Bellota, by all means use it. That's what I originally used in this salad. Just be sure to add it at the very last minute. Make extra candied walnuts, they are terrific for snacking.

Endive Salad with Prosciutto
One serving

1 Belgian endive, sliced
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel
1/4 cup diced fresh mozzarella
1 slice prosciutto, shredded into about 5 thin strips
2 Tablespoons walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Pinch salt

Make the candied walnuts by very gently heating the walnuts, sugar and salt in a non-stick skillet until the sugar melts and the walnuts toast. Swirl the pan so the sugar sticks to the nuts. Set aside and let cool while assembling the salad.

In a salad bowl toss the endive and fennel with a couple tablespoons of dressing. Place the salad on a plate and top with the mozzarella, walnuts and the prosciutto.


Disclaimer: My thanks to California Endive Farms for providing me with a generous sample of endive to use. I also wrote about endive on

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Passover Spinach Ricotta Gnudi

Passover spinach ricotta gnudi

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Quinoa Salad with Feta and Dill Recipe

I've very excited to announce I will be doing a cooking demo during Macy's Flower Show in San Francisco on March 30th at 2 pm. I'll be sharing some recipes for jazzing up your sack lunch. So skip the sandwiches! This fresh and hearty salad is healthy and inexpensive to make and might make your co-workers jealous. Better bring some to share! 

Quinoa is kind of like a blank canvas, it doesn't have much flavor or texture. It has protein but to be satisfying I think you need more variety. A little bit of feta and chickpeas add more protein and creamy textures. Originally I was trying to make a Greek inspired salad, but I didn't want to add salty olives and I found it was a little bland. Fresh dill and lemon really add some zest to it. I also used English cucumbers which are available all year round.

I do have a few tips for making this salad, for one, always remember to rinse quinoa before you cook it. It is very bitter otherwise. Also I use less water than the package suggests, I find 1 and 1/2 cups of liquid is plenty for 1 cup of quinoa. Finally serve this salad at room temperature. It keeps well in the refrigerator but doesn't taste quite as delicious when it's chilled so just take it out a half an hour or so before serving it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Warm Winter Farro Salad

When I first got married  I used to ask my husband if he wanted salad with dinner, the answer was usually "no." After a few years I wised up and started serving him salad without asking first. But often he didn't eat much of it, despite my raving "Have some salad! It's delicious!"  Lately I've hit upon a solution. I serve salad as a main dish, or pile everything onto it so it's an integral part of the meal. Main dish salads, if only someone had told me 12 years ago! 

During the Winter or whenever it's cold outside salads, either side salads or main dish salads are not top of mind, but they should be. Just as Summer is the perfect time for cold soup, Winter is the ideal season to try a warm salad. I like to start with a cooked grain like farro or quinoa then use seasonal fruits or vegetables and add some heartier elements too, in this case feta cheese and almonds. 

I have to admit, this salad sounds a bit like a parody, it's filled with trendy ingredients and super foods, all that's missing is a little chocolate and kale! I love the sunny colors and hearty crunch to this salad, it's kind of the antithesis of a tossed green salad all floppy and wilted. It's bright and cheerful and yet very hearty. I like combination of citrus, pomegranate, almonds and feta with a touch of ginger but feel free to change up the ingredients in the salad or use a different dressing or spice if you prefer. 

Warm Winter Farro Salad
Serves 4


1 cup pearled farro
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup diced feta, about 6 ounces
1 cup toasted sliced almonds
2 tangerines peeled and segments cut in half 
3/4 cup sliced celery about 2-3 stalks
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and freshly ground pepper


Bring a pot of water to boil and add the farro, cook for 10- 15 minutes or until al dente (or cook according to package instructions). In a bowl combine the feta, almonds, tangerines (remove any seeds) and celery. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and ginger in a bowl. 

When the farro is cooked, drain it and toss it in a bowl with the other ingredients and dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 


Thursday, August 02, 2012

Roasted Corn & Black Bean Salad Recipe

This recipe for Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salad is brought to you by the fresh corn, leftover cotija cheese and a can of beans. And that lazy feeling that strikes during the Summer for something delicious yet easy. Like most everyone, I love fresh corn. Eight ears for 2 dollars? Sold! When corn is sweet it's a cinch to prepare. In addition to adding it to a salad, my other favorite ways to prepare it are making corn chowder (I make a different version just about very time) and on the cob, slathered with mayo and dredged in crumbled cheese served with a wedge of lime.

While corn should be cooked soon after picking or purchasing, cotija cheese is the exact opposite. I bought cotija for some recipe or another and found the leftover cheese lasted and lasted. Like other Mexican cheeses, it's inexpensive, and easy to use. Cotija is a crumbly cheese, less salty than feta, but a little goes a long way. The beans in this recipe make the salad feel hearty and substantial. I suppose you could make it with canned or frozen corn all year round, but it really feels like a Summer dish to me. 

Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salad makes the perfect side dish to go with barbecue chicken, steak, pork chops, you name it. It's a very flexible recipe, you can leave out the cilantro if you like, add more green onions or use red onions instead. Add more tomato or less. Add as much or as little hot sauce as you like. If you don't like spicy food, start with a teaspoon, taste, then add more. I hope you will make this recipe your own! 

Roasted Corn & Black Bean Salad

Makes 4 servings


1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 ears of corn
1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tomato diced, include the juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 green onions, chopped
1 Tablespoon Habanero Pepper Tabasco Sauce
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1/2 cup crumbled Mexican cotija cheese (or feta)


In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Strip the corn from the cobs, into the skillet and
cook, stirring, until beginning to brown in spots, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Stir in black beans, tomato and juice, cilantro, green onions, Habanero sauce and lime juice. Fold in the cotija cheese. Taste for seasonings and add salt if needed. 


Disclaimer: I created this recipe on behalf of Tabasco and I was compensated for it. The choice to post it here, was my own.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Mexican Cheese Primer

Mexican cheese
Mexican cheese is readily available where I live, not expensive and yet I admit, I am often bewildered when I go to buy it. What's the difference between Cotija and Queso Anejo? Will Panela melt or crumble? If Quesadilla cheese is good for quesadillas, is Enchilado cheese for enchiladas? I have finally made sense of Mexican cheeses, thanks to lots of great information from the California Milk Advisory Board and some generous samples from Cacique, the largest Hispanic cheese brand in the US. Cacique has very detailed descriptions of all their cheeses as well as recipes when you're ready to dig in even further.

Don't be afraid to buy Mexican cheeses because you are not sure what to do with them. They are actually very easy to use and enjoy and often available in supermarkets. And they can be used in all kinds of dishes, not just traditional Mexican cuisine. Many are similar to cheeses you already know, like feta or mozzarella. It was the Spaniards who introduced cows and goats to Mexico as sources of meat and milk, so it's not surprising that Mexican cheeses bear a resemblance to European cheeses, especially ones from the Mediterranean countries including Spain, Italy and Greece.

When thinking about Mexican cheese, it's better to extend the category to Mexican dairy and divide everything into three categories, Fresh Cheeses, Aged Cheeses and Cream. I've listed the most popular and commonly available cheeses first.

Many fresh, or un-aged Mexican cheeses will soften but do not actually melt. Some of these cheese can be crumbled or fried. Of the fresh cheeses, only Queso Quesadilla and Oaxaca are melting cheeses.

Queso Fresco
This is the most commonly used Mexican cheese. Most similar to feta, it's mild, buttery and slightly salty, it softens, but it doesn't melt. It's typically used on salads and refried beans and it's perfect for enchiladas. You could easily use this cheese on any kind of salad, even Greek salad, in cheese spreads, blintzes, or in corn pudding.

Panela is a really fun cheese! It softens but does not melt and can be pan-fried like halloumi. Put it on salads, in potato casseroles, omelets and in sandwiches. You can also crumble it over spicy dishes. It is very mild in flavor.

Like a braided mozzarella or string cheese, it does melt and gets stringy when hot. Use it for stuffing, especially in chile rellenos but also on lasagna, pizza or nachos.

Queso Quesadilla
A buttery melting cheese for use in quesadillas, but also in any grilled cheese sandwich and has an almost nutty buttery flavor. It's similar to jack cheese.

The sweetest Mexican cheese, and very soft and grainy, like ricotta. Use it in desserts.

Mexican aged cheeses will last longer, and are all firm because more moisture has evaporated, but range from crumbly to very hard. Of the aged cheeses, Asadero, and Manchego are melting cheeses.

Cotija aka Queso Anejo
The most strongly flavored cheese, most similar to parmesan or romano cheese but quite as dry. A little packs a punch! This is the cheese to use with corn, roll the cooked cob in mayonnaise then coat it in crumbled cotija and sprinkle it with cayenne and drizzle it with lime. Use it in place of parmesan as a topping on pasta or in a Mexican style Caesar salad.

A buttery, mild melting cheese you can use in quesadillas, nachos or in grilled cheese sandwiches. It's very creamy and similar to fontina in flavor but like provolone in style, especially in the way you use it, sliced and draped over food to create a melted layer of cheese. You could use this on a cheeseburger or even melted in fondue.

In Spain Manchego is made with sheep's milk cheese, but the Mexican style of Manchego made in the US, is made from cow's milk and more similar in flavor to a mild cheddar with a nutty flavor. It melts extremely well. You could use it in grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta dishes, or in Mexican dishes like queso fundido or chile rellenos. It's also great on a cheeseburger or in macaroni and cheese.

It is coated in mild chile, giving it a distinctive color and flavor. There are two versions, Enchilado and Enchilado Anejo, an even more aged style. It is a crumbly cheese that does not melt. It is milder than cotija and can be used as a stuffing in enchiladas or chile rellenos.

There are creams from other Latin American countries but the Mexican style is generally most common. Try to find one without stabilizers if possible.

Crema aka Crema Mexicana
Think creme fraiche or thin sour cream, this rich yummy cream is thick but still liquid and not as firm as sour cream or American style yogurt. Drizzle it on spicy dishes, enchiladas, soups, chilaquiles. Crema can be used in cooking and on dishes as a finishing touch.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Helen Roberts & the Kikkoman Test Kitchen

Helen Roberts
Chef Helen Roberts is the manager of culinary development and public relations at Kikkoman. She works on consumer recipes using the whole range of Kikkoman products from soy sauce to panko bread crumbs to soy milk and beyond. She used to work in product development and was hired because of her amazing ability to taste subtle differences in 16 different soy sauces! At the time she was hired, she had never even tried Japanese food.

Kikkoman kitchen
I recently got to visit Helen and her test kitchen in downtown San Francisco. What a treat! Helen is friendly, enthusiastic and has a great sense of humor, and so it was no surprise to see that her recently renovated test kitchen in San Francisco is cheerful and lively as can be. The kitchen has a big island, two stoves and a large refrigerator. It also has a big flat screen television with cooking shows on all the time and the radio set to "old school." By the way, is there anything better than cooking with Prince playing in the background?

Kikkoman recipes
I had a great time cooking with Helen, whipping up some recipes for Valentine's Day. She was working on a version of a recipe she swears convinced her husband to propose to her. She fills puff pastry shells with a cajun spiced cream sauce (made with soy milk) and shrimp sauteed in butter. Helen made us a snack to nibble on while we cooked and shared tips with me such as use a splash of soy sauce in the water when you blanch vegetables instead of salt.

I made one of Helen's recipes for crab stuffed mushrooms which came out beautifully which is a testament to her skills, because I was so distracted chatting that I did not follow the directions as well as I should have.

Kikkoman office mates
The other recipe I made was from 1984, and it was not created by Helen. It shows how much tastes change. The original recipe for Artichokes with Zesty Blue Cheese Dip called for only one tablespoon of blue cheese! Needless to say, it needed a little more. Ok, a lot more. I've adapted it here if you'd like to try it. Helen's office mates liked it a lot. I think it's a great choice for Valentine's Day, after all, it has plenty of heart.

Note: since this recipe calls for boiling rather than steaming, and I found the artichokes I used cooked very quickly. If you prefer, you can cook the artichokes any way you like.

Artichokes with Zesty Blue Cheese Dip(adapted from the Kikkoman Kitchen)
4 servings


4 medium (about 8 oz. each) artichokes 

1/2 cup mayonnaise 

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mushrooms 

2 Tablespoons minced green onions
6 Tablespoons crumbled blue cheese 

2 teaspoons Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce 

Grated peel and juice of 1/2 fresh lemon


To prepare artichokes, slice 1 inch off tops; discard. Cut off stems even with base; remove small outer leaves. Trim off sharp leaf tips (about 1/2 inch) with kitchen shears or paring knife or scissors. Rinse artichokes under cold water. (To prevent darkening, rub lemon half on cut edges of artichokes.) Arrange artichokes upright in saucepan. Add water to depth of 2 inches. Bring water to boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, 20 minutes, or until leaves pull out easily.

Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise, mushrooms, green onions, blue cheese, less sodium soy sauce, lemon juice and peel.

Drain artichokes; cool enough to handle. To serve, spoon the blue cheese mixture into a bowl, and serve with the artichokes.


Monday, November 08, 2010

Winter Cobb Salad:Recipe

Winter Cobb Salad
Last year I had the pleasure of having breakfast with Michael Symon at a demo that he did at Williams-Sonoma. From recipes in his cookbook, Michael Symon's Live to Cook, he made creamy scrambled eggs with goat cheese, potato pancakes and of course, plenty of bacon. Michael Symon loves bacon, it features prominently in many of his recipes.

The next best thing to eating Michael Symon's food, is seeing him cook, so you can replicate his recipes at home. Right now you can see a number of videos with Michael Symon at, where he demonstrates some very interesting techniques. For example, he makes gnocchi that is cooked in a pan, with no need to parboil.

I'm always looking for more salad recipes and I like his version with arugula, apples, radishes and Wisconsin blue cheese. Symon's salad is a side dish, but with just a couple more additions, it actually makes a great main dish. To the salad I added crunchy jicama, creamy avocado, toasted walnuts and in honor of Symon, smoky bacon. The result is a very substantial "Cobb" style entree salad, with rows of seasonal ingredients. I'm not going to lie to you, while not hard to make, this salad does take a fair amount of time to prepare, but it is absolutely worth it. Even the least enthusiastic salad eater will love it.

Winter Cobb Salad
Serves 4, as a main dish


1 shallot, minced, about a tablespoon
3 Tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup radish slices
1 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 cup jicama, peeled and diced
6 cups arugula
1 cup Black River blue cheese, crumbled (Buttermilk blue would be good too)
1 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)


Place shallots and large pinch of kosher salt in mixing bowl. Add vinegar, honey and mustard. Mix. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Taste for seasoning then put in a small pitcher or ramekin for serving.

Make a bed of arugula on a large serving platter. Place the radishes, apples, avocado, jicama, blue cheese, walnuts and bacon on top of the salad in rows. Serve with the dressing on the side. Alternatively you can create individual servings of the salad if you prefer.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Macaroni & Cheese with Spanish Peppers: Recipe

Macaroni & Cheese with Spanish Peppers
I love quick and easy recipes. So I must confess, when I make macaroni and cheese I generally cook it on the stove top and subsequently eat it as fast as I can get it onto my plate. But if I had my choice, I like a bubbly casserole of macaroni and cheese, moist, oozing with cheese, spiked with a little hot mustard and paprika. The perfect macaroni and cheese for me would also have some chewy cheese around the edges and a crisp topping for contrast. I wondered, does everyone prefer this style? So I asked on Twitter and fifty nine people told me they prefer baked macaroni and cheese and about four said they are happy with stove top versions. Baked it is!

ingredients for Macaroni & Cheese with Spanish Peppers
Macaroni and cheese is a very versatile dish, some recipes use a white sauce, others a custard sauce and some have no sauce at all. Many variations include the addition of ham, bacon, tomatoes or peas. When it comes to cheese, I've seen recipes using American cheese, gruyere, cheddar, Colby, Monterey jack, and even goat cheese. Most recipes I've seen rely on a combination of cheeses, which adds more depth of flavor.

soupy texture
In preparing to create a baked version I read an article in the New York Times that said most times recipes don't use enough cheese, they recommended twice as much cheese as macaroni. It took several tries to get this recipe right, and along the way I discovered a few more keys to a great macaroni and cheese casserole. If you cook the macaroni all the way through, it will be overcooked after you bake it. For baked versions, you need to undercook the macaroni, and make sure the sauce is fairly soupy so the macaroni has something to absorb. I like layering some cheese to ensure some gooey cheesiness along with a cheesy sauce. Finally a topping of butter, parmesan and panko yields a crunchy and flavorful crust. Panko is crunchy even before being baked, but if you want a dark brown crust, you may need to broil it for a few minutes.
oven ready casserole

For this recipe I used a combination of sharp cheddar and a fairly new cheese, Bellavitano made by Sartori in Wisconsin. In some ways it's a bit similar to parmesan cheese, it has a dry texture and little crunchy crystals, but it's also a bit like an aged cheddar in terms of flavor and how it melts. Because it's so intensely flavored you don't need quite as much of it when you cook with it. My personal touches to this recipe were the addition of sweet sauteed onions, smoked paprika and piquillo peppers. I wanted to spice it up, but gently. The smoked paprika also lends an orange color to the casserole which is nice if you are using a white cheddar, as I did.
Macaroni & Cheese with Spanish Peppers

Macaroni & Cheese with Spanish PeppersServes 6-8

3/4 lb elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 Tablespoon Spanish smoked sweet or hot paprika "pimenton de la vera"
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1/2 lb Bellavitano cheese, shredded
1/2 lb sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
10 ounces about 1 1/4 cups piquillo peppers drained and diced

1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta to the water, cook until almost al dente (half as long as directed) drain and reserve.

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add butter. When butter melts, add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stir in paprika and dry mustard, cook over low for about a minute. Add the flour and cook a minute more, stirring. Whisk in milk slowly, and bring up to a simmer, thicken over medium low heat for a couple of minutes.

Turn off the heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then stir in the drained macaroni, Bellavitano cheese and piquillo peppers. Layer the pasta and cheddar cheese in a broiler safe 13 x 9 inch pan, in 3 layers, starting with the macaroni and ending with the cheese. In a small bowl combine the panko, butter. and parmesan. Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake for 30 minutes. Broil for 2-3 minutes if you want a browner crust.


For more macaroni and cheese recipes check out

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Double Stuffed Baked Potato Recipe

Double Stuffed Baked Potato
David Lebovitz and I should never go out to dinner together. Why? Because I have a wandering fork. I love sharing food for several reasons. First of all, I can rarely decide what I want, so sharing generally means I get to try more than one thing. Also I fear I have bad ordering karma and will choose the worst thing on the menu and be stuck with it if I don't share. Finally, I don't like massive portions so sharing also helps me keep from eating way more than I want.

A few years ago there was a diner that was known for serving gigantic portions and my mother and I used to share a double stuffed baked potato and salad. It was one of those potatoes that was way over a pound to begin with and then it had loads of vegetables in it. It probably wasn't as healthy as I like to believe it was. The restaurant and the potato are long gone now but for years I have tried to recreate it. This latest version is my best effort to date.

My double stuffed potato is really just a formula, you can add or subtract the ingredients and the vegetables you use are really up to you. I bet bacon would be a great addition (isn't it always?) and you could use another variety of cheese or leave out the cheese altogether if you prefer. I do strongly suggest you don't skip the green onion though, it adds both flavor and texture. And be sure to find the biggest potato around, because this dish is intended as a main dish, not a side. Oh, and the one time I did have dinner with David Lebovitz, it was Chinese food so I guess he's better at sharing than he likes to admit.

Double Stuffed Baked Potato
For each serving


1 large Russet potato, the largest you can find
1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped vegetables, cooked (I like spinach, carrots, and celery but use whatever you prefer)
1 Tablespoon cream cheese, low fat is fine
1 green onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Pierce then bake the potato in a preheated 425 degree oven for approximately one hour, or until cooked through (do not microwave or the skin will be too floppy to stuff). Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 - 10 minutes.

Slice off the top of the potato so that you can easily scoop out most of the pulp. Leave around 1/4 inch around the bottom and sides of the potato. Place the pulp in a large mixing bowl and mash, then mix in with the cheddar cheese, vegetables and cream cheese and just enough milk to make stiff but creamy mashed potatoes. Fold in the green onions and season to taste with plenty of salt and pepper.

Stuff the potato with the mixture and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through and beginning to brown on top.


More stuffed baked potato recipes...

Coconut & Lime's Spinach & Onion Stuffed Potatoes
Simply Recipes Twice Baked Potatoes
Blog Appetit's Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Sustainable Pantry's Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Whole Wheat Mini Pizza: Recipe

whole wheat pizza
In an attempt to eat more whole grain this year, I've switched to whole wheat versions of products I used to buy in more refined form. I buy whole wheat pasta, whole wheat tortillas and whole wheat bread. It's important to make sure wheat bread is whole wheat or you can look for the Whole Grains stamp introduced by the Whole Grains Council (an excellent source of whole grain information), otherwise you may not be getting all the benefits. If you didn't already know, whole grains help reduce the risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke, diabetes and help with better weight maintenance. Three servings a day is considered optimal and switching to whole wheat is a good way to do that.

Whole wheat bread is a no-brainer but when it comes to using whole wheat pasta and tortillas I've had to rethink how I cook. Whole wheat pasta has a rougher, rustic style that works particularly well with chunky or nutty sauces and not as well with cream-based or smooth sauces. I like it with broccoli, tomatoes, olives, with a sesame or peanut sauce or a sauce that has bread crumbs or toasted nuts and olive oil.

Whole wheat tortillas are best when crispy, not soft. Both quesadillas or mini pizzas are a fantastic way to use whole wheat tortillas. Lately I have developed a couple of recipes using little rounds of whole wheat tortillas as a crust. I punch out rounds using a biscuit cutter but you could even cut them in quarters if you like. Toasting them in a 400 degree oven on a baking sheet works great. Top them with whatever you like for a thin, crispy crust mini-pizza snack. They are quick to make, tasty, healthy and absolutely delicious. They even look pretty good, don't you think?

Whole Wheat Mini Pizza
serves 2


2 whole wheat tortillas
1/2 cup grated cheese (whatever you like that melts)
1/4 cup vegetables such as olives, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms or a combination
2 Tablespoons meat (crumbled sausage, bacon, cooked chicken, etc.) optional


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut 4 rounds from each tortilla. Place them on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes or until slightly crisp. Top each round with cheese, a sprinkling of vegetables and meat if desired. Return to the oven until cheese has melted, about 3 - 4 minutes.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Pear Pecorino Potato Soup: Recipe

pear pecorino potato soup
I know what you're thinking. What kind of still life is that? In addition to being a study in ingredients that start with the letter "P"; pear, potatoes, pecorino and pepper are also the main ingredients in a most delicious soup.

You don't have to look hard to find a number of recipes featuring the combination of pear and the dry Italian sheep's milk cheese, pecorino. What's truly amazing is the range of recipes. Salads are an obvious choice, and there are sandwiches too. But how about ravioli from Lidia Bastianich? Ice cream from David Lebovitz?

The sweetness of the pear is complemented by the sharpness of the cheese and amazingly it works as well hot as it does cold. The combination is so good, it can make you rethink the ubiquity of those other classic combos like peanut butter and jelly or macaroni and cheese. I mean, you don't see peanut butter and jelly salad or macaroni and cheese ice cream! If any molecular gastronomists are reading please, don't go there.

It was all those pear and pecorino combos that inspired me to come up with a variation on a simple classic, creamy potato soup. Not only does this soup have very few ingredients, it takes very little time and effort to make. It's a rich and complex soup, the creamy potato backdrop accented with a little sweetness from the pears, a little sharpness from the cheese and just a tiny bite of pepper. It also pairs well with many different sandwiches, though probably not peanut butter and jelly!

Pear Pecorino Potato Soup
Makes about 4 cups (recipe can easily be doubled)


4 medium to large russet potatoes
1 pear
2 cups water
1 cup broth (I used chicken broth but any mild broth is fine)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Peel and chop the potatoes into thumb-sized chunks. Peel, core and chop the pear. Add pear and potato to saucepan and cover with water and broth. Simmer until potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until fully melted. Add the milk and a few grinds of pepper. Puree in blender in batches, until thick and creamy. Taste and season to taste.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Chutney Cheese Puffs: Recipe

I'm a cheater, in the kitchen anyway. While I may not be a fan of mac and cheese from a box, I positively love using gourmet specialty products. What kinds of products? Jams, mustards, chutney, tapenade, Chinese sauces, so many things! Two of my favorite secret weapons are in the freezer--phyllo dough and puff pastry.

You could easily write a book on all the things you can make out of phyllo dough and puff pastry. I suggest the title "How to Succeed in Baking Without Really Trying". Once you learn how to handle them, the possibilities are endless. They even turn something mundane into something special. For example you could make a stew into an elegant pot pie. You could turn a fruit compote into pastries. You could make fancy little appetizers to serve hot from the oven. How fancy? I suggest little napoleons or tartlets. It's really easy.

A few weeks ago I had a lot of goat cheese languishing in the fridge. I had promised my friend Alison I would develop some recipes for her fabulous chutney and it dawned on me that using puff pastry I could make a delicious pastry with nothing more than goat cheese, puff pastry and chutney.

As it turns out, I am a real chutney fanatic. I am happy to have 4 or 5 jars in the fridge at once. But I should make a distinction--there are chunky chutneys and mushy chutneys. Mushy goopy chutneys have their place; they are saucy and work great in sauces and dips. But chunky chutney is what you want for this recipe so either pick up some of McQuade's Chutney or make some yourself. Runny chutney is not going to work for this recipe.

Note: The size and number of puffs you make is entirely up to you. You can make one or 101. You can make them bite sized or larger.

Goat Cheese Puffs


Puff pastry (frozen is fine)
One jar of chunky style chutney, I recommend McQuade's
Goat cheese, one log, chevre style


Allow the puff pastry to defrost according to package instructions. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut and lay out puff pastry into squares and place equal amounts of chutney and crumbled goat cheese in the center. For large puffs, use approximately 2 teaspoons of filling per 3 inch square of puff pastry. For small puffs use approximately 1/2 teaspoon of filling per 2 inch square of puff pastry. Brush the edges of the square with water and fold over to create a triangle, pressing edges to seal. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes or until brown. Serve warm.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Portabello & Sausage French Bread Pizza: Recipe

Last week on the Epicurious blog Tanya Steel wrote about serving a Proscuitto and Taleggio macaroni and cheese to a friend who it turned out, preferred the blue boxed verson. When I was little I enjoyed that mac and cheese that comes in a box too. But years later when I tried it again, I realized it wasn't very good. The sauce made from powder was artificial tasting and the macaroni was pasty. As an adult there is no question, my tastes had changed.

The other packaged food I remember liking way back when, was Stouffer's French Bread Pizza. I still remember how tasty that crunchy pizza was. Of course, if I tried it now I would probably not be as impressed, but as a 13 year old babysitter, it seemed like a very delicious treat.

I'd rather recreate what I loved about those french bread pizzas than be disappointed trying the original version. This recipe took a couple of tries to get right. It's a little messy but also savory, crisp and cheesy. In other words, delicious! Once you have the technique down, you could probably make other versions too. I developed this recipe to go with an Argentinean Malbec.

Portabello & Sausage French Bread Pizza

4 to 6 Servings


1 loaf French bread
3 Italian sausages, hot or mild
1 Tablespoon flour
1/4 cup red wine (Malbec is perfect)
2 large Portabello mushrooms
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
8 slices Provolone cheese, about 8 ounces


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the bread lengthwise and in half so you have four equal portions. Place on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about five minutes then remove while preparing the topping. Meanwhile prepare the mushrooms by wiping clean with a paper towel and removing the stem. Thinly slice the mushrooms and set aside.

Remove casing from sausages and crumble into a large skillet. Cook over medium heat until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and continue cooking for another minute or two. Add the wine and stir the mixture then add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently and scraping up the bottom of the pan. Mushrooms will release their juices and turn brown. Cook another few minutes until mushrooms are cooked through. Take skillet off the heat and mix in the Parmesan cheese.

Spread the sausage and mushroom mixture evenly on top of the bread halves. Cut each slice of cheese in half and place on top. Bake for five to ten minutes or until cheese is melted. Cut each piece in thirds to serve.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Cool Quesadilla Combos:Recipe

Somewhere along the line I seem to have forgotten about quesadillas. But recently a couple of factors lead to me rediscovering them and their potential. One is the Organic Whole Wheat & Corn Flour Tortillas available at Trader Joe's. Each tortilla has only one gram of fat, five grams of fiber and is high in iron. They fit into my "try to eat more whole grain foods" resolution. A little experimenting lead me to discover that the nutty flavor of whole wheat tortillas is really good with non-traditional, not-necessarily Mexican fillings.

The other bit of inspiration came from a recipe I read in Sara Foster's Casual Cooking for Grilled Shrimp and Goat Cheese Toastadas. That jumping off point lead me to create a shrimp, avocado, radicchio and goat cheese quesadilla with a drizzle of chimichurri sauce. It was truly outstanding. I know quesadillas were all the rage about five years ago, but if you haven't played around with them in a while, they are definitely worth revisiting.

Below is a list of some of my favorite filling ingredients and my tips to get you started.


bitter greens
red peppers

roast pork



bbq sauce
truffle oil
garam masala
black pepper

1. Pair up classic combinations, some suggestions:
cheddar and chutney
chicken, mango and bbq sauce
shrimp, feta and green onions
brie and pear

2. Restraint is key. Don't overstuff! For one regular sized flour tortilla, try not to add more than 1/2 cup of fillings.

3. Not every combination has to have cheese, I find leftover Indian food tastes great in a whole wheat tortilla without any cheese at all. Pesto, with or without parmesan cheese is wonderful with potatoes.

4. Use a lightly oiled non-stick pan for cooking your quesadillas and when cooking them open face, use a lid to help melt the cheese and heat up the fillings quickly. When the cheese melts, fold the quesadilla over and remove it from the pan.

5. You can also make them open-faced or tostada style. So technically they are not always "quesadillas" but, who cares?

If you'd care to share, let me know your favorite combo, the more nontraditional the better. The one in the photo? Roast pork, asparagus and Stilton.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Brie & Bacon Fettuccine Recipe

I love the story of stone soup. I love it for all the wrong reasons. You know the story, right? The moral is that by sharing what one has, everyone eats well. But for me, I am like the greedy villagers, still amazed that soup can be made with a stone.

While not quite stone soup, you might think of this as "stone pasta". A dish of plain pasta it is made better with a bit of bacon, onion and a knob of brie. The resulting dish is kind of like Spaghetti Carbonara only faster and easier, and possibly even tastier. And I love Spaghetti Carbonara!

Brie has long been considered by many to be the most popular of all French cheeses. It comes from a province once called, "Brie" now called Seine-et-Marne which is not that far from Paris (and now more famous for being the site of a Disney Resort). Real brie is made from unpasteurized cow's milk but the version available in the US is made from pasteurized milk so the resulting cheese is milder and less ripe than true brie.

Though it's a shame we can't get the real deal, our ersatz brie is still pretty tasty. It is very rich and when heated it melts to an oozy sticky sauce like consistency with a tangy bite that is perfect for pasta. When melted, a little brie goes a very long way. This recipe calls for 1/4 cup which is about 10 grams of fat. But that tiny bit of cheese flavors the entire dish.

Note: You could easily leave out the bacon and make this a vegetarian dish. But you know what they say --everything's better with bacon...

Brie & Bacon Fettuccine
serves 2 - 3 as a main dish or 4 as a starter


1/2 lb fettuccine
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
2 strips of bacon, chopped
1/4 cup brie, rind removed
1/4 cup of pasta water (water the pasta has cooked in)
black pepper
parmesan cheese


In a large skillet saute the bacon and onion slowly over medium heat until bacon begins to crisp and onion is light brown. Meanwhile cook the pasta in salted water until al dente.

Take the pasta out of the water with tongs and place in the skillet with the onion and bacon. Add the brie. Toss with the pasta water. When the brie melts, add a good grind of black pepper and serve with a scant sprinkling of parmesan cheese on each serving.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Lemon Cottage Cheese Pancakes: Recipe

When I was growing up we always had cookies in the house. Some of my favorites were almond windmills, raisin biscuits and lemon coolers. Lemon coolers were really yummy lemon cookies with powdered sugar and they came in a bright green and yellow box. They were nothing like the Girl Scout Cookies called Lemon Coolers. There was something about that sweet sour combination of intense lemon and sugar that I loved.

I had some lemon cottage cheese pancakes recently and eating them brought back memories of those cookies. Even though I already have a perfectly delicious recipe for lemon ricotta pancakes, this was different. It was a more cakey style of pancake, but with some body to it from the cheese. It also had that distinctive lemon and sugar tang.

So here's where the story takes a turn. I found two versions of the recipe online and guess what? One was missing a key ingredient. Flour! And it had an unconscionable amount of clarified butter in it. The other recipe had twice as many yolks as whites. And it served 8-10 people. Either way, this was a recipe in need of a makeover. My version is inspired by the Big 3 version at the Sonoma Mission Inn. If you are in the area around breakfast time, do stop by. Meanwhile, if you miss those cookies as much as I do, or if you just enjoy a sweet and sour pucker, try these pancakes!

Lemon Cottage Cheese Pancakes
2 servings, about 7 pancakes


1 lemon, both grated peel and juice
1 large egg, separated
1/4 Cup powdered sugar
1/2 Cup cottage cheese (lowfat is fine)
1 Tablespoon oil (mild-flavored such as canola, rice bran or grapeseed)
1/2 Cup flour


Combine the lemon juice, peel, egg yolk, sugar, cottage cheese and oil. Mix in the flour. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold the whites into the batter. Spoon onto a greased skillet and cook until bubbles appear, then flip gently and continue cooking until golden on the bottom.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

There are many versions of eggplant parmesan. I probably like them all. The earthy sweetness of the eggplant and tomato sauce, the gooey mozzarella, and the sharpness of the parmesan all come together to make something delectable. Eggplant parmesan was the most satisfying vegetarian dinner I ate when I was growing up.

In some recipes the eggplant is breaded and fried. While this adds a whole extra layer of texture, I don't think it's necessary. The version I grew up with was one my mom made and perhaps it's just the familiarity of it, but I really do think it's the best. Because it isn't fried it's not greasy which is often what happens with eggplant. A hearty filling entree I wouldn't dream of serving it without spaghetti on the side.

There are two techniques necessary for this recipe. One is roasting eggplant slices. Once you master roasting eggplant in the oven you may want to use the slices in other recipes as well. They are great in sandwiches served hot or cold. I also make a dish where I spread them with soft goat cheese and roll them up and serve them with a red pepper sauce.

The other key to this recipe is making a homemade spaghetti sauce. Really, in this recipe you just don't want to use the jarred stuff. I'm including my spaghetti sauce recipe because it's such a staple. Use it for pasta, lasagna, with sausage and peppers, over polenta, the list goes on and on and on....

Eggplant Parmesan
4 servings


2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot
1 medium onion
1 stalk celery
2 cloves garlic
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
1 Cup water
1/2 Cup red wine (optional)

1 large eggplant
8 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/2 Cup grated parmesan cheese


For the sauce: Finely chop the carrot, celery and onion. Smash the garlic but don't chop. Saute the vegetables in olive oil in a large sauce pan. When golden but not brown add the tomatoes, squishing each one with your hands. Sorry, this is a very hands on recipe! then add the tomato paste and rinse out the tomato paste can with the water and add to the pan. Add the red wine if desired. Simmer for 30 minutes and taste for seasonings. You can add dried basil and oregano if you like but I prefer a couple of fresh leaves of basil.

Slice the eggplant into 1/4 or 1/3 inch slices crosswise. Salt the slices on each side and place in a clean sink or in a basin. Leave the eggplant to sweat for at least 30 minutes. Wash the salt off the slice and pat dry with a paper towel. Be gentle! Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray. Place the slices of eggplant in a single layer on the pan and spray the tops with cooking spray. Place in broiler. Watch carefully! You want the slices to brown, but not burn. When they are brown turn them over and brown on other side. Leave the oven on, but turn the heat down to 375 degrees.

In a glass baking pan place 1/2 cup of sauce and make a single layer of eggplant slices--about 8 or so. Layer each slice of eggplant top with a slice of mozzarella a sprinkle of parmesan and an spoonful of sauce, repeat. Top final slices with sauce and parmesan. Bake with a piece of foil covering the pan for 20 minutes. Remove foil for last 5-10 minutes. Serve with spaghetti and sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Spring Macaroni & Cheese Recipe

The weather can't seem to decide what it wants to do, in turn making it hard to decide what to eat: something comforting and cheesy or something fresher and green? I decided the only solution was to combine the two.

One of the great American dishes has got to be macaroni and cheese. Gooey, cheesy and rich with a slight crunch on the top it is pure goodness in a casserole dish. The one problem I have with macaroni and cheese is the guilt. It's soooo rich, it's not the healthiest dish in the world.

One way to make a dish healthier is to cut back on the rich ingredients, like the milk, butter and cheese. Well, that's no fun! I'd rather add in some heathy but tasty stuff as a compromise that really doesn't feel like a compromise at all. My healthy additions are some peas and artichoke hearts, both tasty Spring arrivals. They both go particularly well with gruyere cheese. And gruyere is a perfect cheese for macaroni and cheese.

The topping for this dish is a Japanese type of bread crumb that you find on pork tonkatsu and other Japanese fried dishes. It crisps up like a dream. Use it for a topping when you want crunch on almost any gratin style dish.

Ok, I wish I could say I used the freshest Spring vegetables straight from the farmer's market, but I didn't. I used frozen peas and canned artichoke hearts. Are fresh ones better? Sure, but frozen peas are one of the few vegetables I don't mind using. Canned artichokes have a way of dressing up a dish and are so much less bother than fresh. I love the baby artichokes you can buy this time of year, but canned ones are just fine in this dish.

Spring Macaroni & Cheese
Serves 4-6


1/2 lb macaroni or mini penne
1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tablespoon butter
3 Tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cup milk
salt to taste
pinch nutmeg
pinch cayenne
8 1/2 oz canned or frozen artichoke, quartered
1 cup frozen petite peas (with or without pearl onions), defrosted
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs


Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the macaroni according instructions, but subtract 1-2 minutes from the cooking time. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish or two smaller dishes; set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking over low heat, 2 minutes.

Continue whisking and slowly pour in milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, cayenne and parmesan cheese. In a large bowl mix the macaroni, the cheese sauce and add the rest of the cheeses, peas and artichokes.

Pour mixture into prepared dish (or into two dishes if you prefer). Sprinkle Panko bread crumbs over top. Bake until browned on top, about 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Transfer to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes; serve hot.


Monday, July 26, 2004

Grilled Mozzarella Tomato & Pesto Sandwiches Recipe

Lots of people pooh pooh the George Foreman grill. Not me. I think it's great for roasting vegetables, making shish kebabs and grilling delicate things like fish. But most of all I love it for being a makeshift panini press.

Last night's grilled sandwich was mozzarella, heirloom tomato and pesto. Perfect with a green salad dotted with olives and shreds of parmesan cheese. It's the end of July and tomatoes are just starting to ripen in California. While I cook with canned tomatoes all year round, when tomatoes and fresh and in season I find the less you mess with them the better.

Heirloom tomatoes come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. But whether your tomatoes are heirloom or not, the best things to do with ripe fresh tomatoes is to make a salad out of them, add them to a sandwich or toss them with pasta. Cooking fresh tomatoes does not enhance them. When they are at their most sweet and delicious, eat them as close to raw as possible. That's what makes this sandwich is so terrific!

Grilled Mozzarella Tomato & Pesto Sandwiches
serves 2


4 slices of sourdough bread
6 slices of fresh mozzarella
1-2 Tablespoons pesto
1 medium tomato, sliced (blot slices with paper towel if excessively juicy)


Preheat the grill. Spread two slices of bread with pesto. Top the bread with tomato slices. Top the tomato slices with the cheese then put the second slice of bread on top. Spray the top of the sandwich with cooking spray and place on the grill, top side down, so that you can spray the second side. Close the grill and give the sandwich several minutes to grill until crispy on the outside and oozy on the inside.