Monthly Archives: September 2010

Caesar salad

Once in a while, I’ll be inspired to make my own salad dressing, but usually, I just reach for the Newman’s. One salad that I love entertaining with is a classic Caesar, made with anchovies, Worcestershire, Dijon, garlic, Parmesan and lemon. I’ve made it before with raw egg, which honestly tastes a little weird, but this recipe doesn’t need it. I love the inclusion of Parmesan mixed into the dressing, giving it a richer body.

You must, must, must use anchovies in this. If you don’t have the whole fillets, use about 1 1/2 tablespoons of anchovy paste. I used fillets and they smelled HORRIBLE, as usual. I mean, it was gross. Those tiny hairy bones, the fishy smell, I could hardly take it. But you know I love cooking with anchovies, and they truly did melt right into the flavorful dressing, giving it a nice savory, almost nutty edge.

Mixed with crisp romaine and my garlic croutons, this was a wonderful first course at a recent dinner party.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Caesar Salad with Garlic Sourdough Croutons


For croutons –

  • 6 slices sourdough bread, cut into cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • EVOO, S&P to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss bread with garlic, olive oil and S&P. Bake until toasted on all sides, about 15-20 min., mixing occasionally. Let cool in pan.

For salad –

  • 4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1-2 large hearts of romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley
Whisk first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil, then 1/2 cup cheese.
Toss lettuce, croutons, 1/4 cup cheese, and dressing in bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and season to taste with pepper.

The sauce is light and tangy, and I swear you can’t taste the anchovies and all their fishiness. The croutons are amazing – as my roommate said, “They are like crack croutons!” Next time you reach for the bottles Caesar dressing, consider this, instead. You’ll just love it. Enjoy, friends! xoxo


Crack pie

Crack pie was made famous by the likes of Kelly Ripa, Anderson Cooper and The Los Angeles Times, which wrote about the Momofuku Milk Bar confection that retails for $44 in New York City. Ever since I read the story, I became obsessed. Then, Bon Appetit printed the recipe and I fainted.

From what I can tell, crack pie is basically a chess pie with a cookie crust. Chess pie was another confection new to me when I moved to The South. The super-sweet pie is a basic custard sweetened with sugar, vanilla and often includes cornmeal. Crack pie has a similar custard that includes cream and powdered milk (?), but the crust is the key: made out of a giant oatmeal cookie that you crumble and press with butter and more sugar, it gives the pie a salty crumb to mingle with the gooey insides.

I think what makes it addictive is that saltiness. Something about salt, especially when matched with sugar, makes people lose all control.

Before I post the recipe, let’s get something very straight. This pie is rather unattractive. It’s one of those pies that you have to serve with the disclaimer, “But it tastes really good!” or “It cost me $45!”

My most foodiest friend Jeb made this pie recently in his Portland, Ore. home. When I texted him to say the custard had a rather blah, brownish color, he replied, “I dare you to name a more ugly dessert.” Luckily, a dusting of powdered sugar helps disguise that.

And then I had problems with how ooey-gooey it was, making it nearly impossible to cut out a clean slice. Jeb, who is no novice in the kitchen, made me feel better, saying his turned out the same. Perhaps creator Christina Tosi left something out of the recipe so no one could quite copy it? I’ll have to investigate next time I’m in NYC (December!).

From Bon Appetit, I give you…

Crack Pie


Oat cookie crust –

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 9 T unsalted butter at room temp
  • 5 1/2 T golden brown sugar, packed
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 c. plus 2 T old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Filling –

  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 packed brown sugar
  • 1 T nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 6 1/2 T heavy whipping cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar

(Note: crust can easily be made the day before, which I recommend. Also note that the pie must cool overnight in the fridge before serving.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9x2-inch baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan (mine was spotty and uneven, but it cooks great). Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes (it will still be soft in the middle). Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.

Using your hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish as evenly as possible. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.

Now, for the filling.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled.

A face only a mother could love

Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.
If you’ve made this, please let me know how you liked it. I enjoyed it, although it is sweet enough to give you tooth decay on the spot.
Don’t get addicted, friends! xoxo

Mark Bittman’s Pad Thai

This is delicious and tastes about as close as I’ve come to recreating restaurant-quality Thai food. I used real tamarind, real fish sauce and everything else. But there was still something missing – MSG? More cooking oil? That smoky char you get from cooking on a huge wok? Still, even the next day, it was damn good. And it made about 50 pounds of noodles flavored with the tangy tamarind, the crunch of sprouts and peanuts and a squeeze of citrus.

This recipe came to me via Twitter, from Mark Bittman’s feed: @bittman. I instantly went to the local Asian market for tamarind paste, which of course ended with me buying unprocessed tamarind that I had to steep in boiling water and then strain in order to use. I also bought a bunch of huge prawns, the cabbage, sprouts and bottles of authentic soy sauce, rice vinegar and fish sauce that the store owner recommended. Everything cost me about $20.

The mise en place took forever because my shrimp still had their heads, my peanuts needed to be shelled because Harris Teeter doesn’t have any unsalted, and the tamarind needed to soak in hot water. Quite a bit of work on a late Friday night (while the “crack pie” was baking!), but I got to relax with a wonderful meal afterward.

Pad Thai


  • 1 box rice noodles
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 4 T tamarind paste (or packed tamarind soaked in hot water and strained to 4 T)
  • 1/4 c. fish sauce
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c. chopped scallions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 c. shredded Napa cabbage
  • 1 c. bean sprouts
  • 1 lb. peeled, deveined shrimp
  • 1/2 c. roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges

Place noodles in boiling water to cover, simmering until just tender, 7-10 min. Drain and drizzle with 1 T oil to keep from sticking.

Meanwhile, put tamarind, fish sauce, honey and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir in red pepper flakes and set aside.

Put remaining oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add scallions, then garlic, and cook 1 min. Add eggs, and once they begin to set, scramble until just done. Add cabbage and bean sprouts and continue to cook until cabbage wilts. Add shrimp. When shrimp is pink, add drained noodles and sauce to skillet. Toss everything together and continue to cook so the sauce thickens and coats everything, another 3-5 min.

To serve, sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro and squeeze a little lime over.

Yum, just seeing the pictures again make me hungry! Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Spaghetti squash with turkey meatballs

My day starts at 5:45 a.m., when I slowly make my way out of soft, warm sheets and onto a cold, wooden floor in the dark of the morning. From then on, I am running – whether it’s for my marathon training or from meeting to meeting at work. My day ends with friends, eating cheese and crackers on a lanai or having a home-cooked meal in a  backyard garden or dining out at a new restaurant.

On rare nights, I have an evening alone where I indulge in the quiet and lack of responsibility. I cook a delicious meal with leftovers for lunch, do a load of laundry, pour myself a glass of wine and relax with all those issues of Bon Appetit that I’ve been neglecting. Sometimes, I’ll multitask by catching up on my Bravo shows.

This next meal is perfect for such occasions.

Spaghetti squash is the one thing keeping me from total anti-squashville. It is sort of fun like spaghetti and bland enough to absorb whatever flavors you add to it. This Martha Stewart recipe makes a play on the spaghetti-and-meatballs dish, but it is much, much healthier. And some have said it is quite tasty. I doubled the meatball recipe so I could use the leftovers in a little aglio e olio the next night.

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs and Spinach


  • 1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise
  • EVOO
  • S&P
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 package baby spinach
  • 1 c. organic chicken stock

Preheat oven to 375. Season cut sides of squash with salt and paper. Bake, cut sides down, on a baking sheet until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool and scrape flesh into a bowl (you can microwave these as well, instead). Drain before using.

Heat 1 tsp. EVOO in  medium skillet over medium. Cook onion and garlic, 1o minutes. Add oregano, cook 30 seconds. Divide between 2 bowls.

Stir 2 T cheese into one bowl of onion mixture. Mix in breadcrumbs, turkey, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Form into balls.

Heat 4 tsp oil in large skillet over medium. Brown meatballs on all sides, 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat as necessary. To pan, return remaining onion mixture, chicken stock, and meatballs. Gently simmer, slightly covered, until meatballs cooked through, 5 min. Add spinach and cook until just wilted, 1 minute.

To serve, spoon spaghetti squash onto plates, then top with meatballs and spinach-sauce. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese.

The meatballs really have great flavor – be sure to brown them nice and dark. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Artichoke dip

My friend Lori made this dish at a party in Oregon a few years ago, and I’ve been making it ever since. Unlike most artichoke dips, it’s not overly oily and full of mayo. Instead, it uses Great Northern beans to give the dip body, but still has the artichokes, garlic, lemon and Parmesan cheese for flavor.

Originally from Cooking Light, it’s a nice alternative to high-fat dips. Great served with pita chips or anything else crunchy.

Artichoke Dip


  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (14oz) cans artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained,
  • divided
  • 1 (15.5oz) can Great Northern beans, rinsed and
  • drained
  • 1 cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Regggiano cheese,
  • divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a food processor; add 1 can of artichokes and beans. Process until smooth. Add remaining can of artichokes, 3/4 cup of Parigiano-Reggiano cheese, 1 tablespoon parsley, and garlic. Pulse 20 times or until artichokes are coarsely chopped.

Spoon mixture into a baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and  remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

Enjoy, friends! xoox

Peach and almond galette

Ah, another peach dish. Another Semi-Homemade dish. How did I get here? I always wanted to be more Ina Garten than Sandra Lee, but now look at me. I am one recipe away from cooking exclusively with cream of mushroom soup and a packet of dried onion flakes.

Almonds are an interesting nut to bake with. I only started appreciating them later in life, when I started making things like Julia’s poached-pear tart with the almond frangipane and this pear-almond cake with chocolate chunks. Something about that almost chocolatey roasted flavor plays well with sweet, soft fruits and buttery pastry.

This Bon Appetit dish is semi-homemade because it uses store-bought pie crust. However, making the almond crumble requires a food processor, which is decidedly not Semi-Homemade. It was WONDERFUL. Again, I love almonds with fruit. And these peaches performed beautifully. We had it with soft vanilla ice cream and it was perfection.

Peach and Almond Galette


  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup almond paste
  • 6 tablespoons all purpose flour, divided
  • 1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust (half of 15-ounce package)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1 1/2 pounds peaches, halved, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • Vanilla ice cream
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line large baking sheet with parchment (I obviously forgot the parchment, so used foil). Combine 1/4 cup almonds, almond paste, 5 tablespoons flour, sugar, and salt in processor until almonds are ground. Add butter; pulse until almond topping begins to clump together. Transfer topping to medium bowl.
If necessary, roll pastry to 11-inch round. Transfer to prepared sheet. Brush crust with some beaten egg. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup almond topping. Toss peaches with 1 tablespoon flour in large bowl. Add 1/3 cup topping; toss again. Spoon peaches onto crust, leaving 1 1/4-inch border and mounding in center. Sprinkle remaining topping over peaches.
Fold crust up at edges, pleating as needed. Brush crust edges with beaten egg. Bake galette until crust is golden brown, peaches are tender, and juices are bubbling thickly, about 50 minutes. Transfer galette on paper to rack to cool. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon almonds over. Cool completely. Cut into wedges and serve.

Don’t forget the ice cream! This is a relatively easy dish that you can whip up on a week night. Who needs a special occasion to cook elegant dishes?

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Chicken-andouille gumbo

I’ve been thinking recently about things that get better with time – from men to fine wine, the age element can turn a pretty good thing into a really great thing.

When my friend Merissa sent me this recipe a year ago, she warned not to eat it the day you make it. She said it gets much better the second day. But after smelling it cook for four hours, could you resist? Merissa first made this for a large group a year ago (photo above). I made it for a couple of hungry bellies last weekend.

The recipe takes roughly 4-5 hours, but saying it’s worth it is an understatement. First, you brown 4 lbs. of chicken thighs and two kinds of pork, during which Grant said the house smelled like cracklins (and that’s no complaint!). Then, you stir a dark mahogany roux for 25 minutes (a task made easier with a glass of wine in hand) and add a ton of onion, garlic and celery hearts (I omitted the green bell pepper because I hate it). A dash of spice here and a crunch of pepper there and it will bubble away for the next 2.5-3 hours.

I did not add gumbo file, because I didn’t know it existed until afterward, but of course you can add this classic gumbo flavoring, if you have it.

Served over rice, or with some buttered toast, this is delectable. And that was just the first day. The second day, the sauce is thicker and richer – spicier, more peppery, better seasoned, and just generally more gumbo-looking.

I adapted this to  my liking – feel free to improvise!

Chicken-Andouille Gumbo


  • 4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage
  • 1 lb. smoked ham
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 medium onions, chopped
  • Heart of a celery cluster – small handful, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 (32 -oz.) boxes chicken broth (less sodium)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Hot cooked rice or cornbread
  • Sliced green onions, for topping

1. Cut first 3 ingredients into bite-size pieces. In batches, place meat in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, and cook, stirring often, 20 minutes or until browned. Drain on paper towels. (you really don’t need to if you skim off the fat the next day). Wipe out Dutch oven with paper towels.

2. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat, gradually whisk in flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 25 minutes or until it is a dark mahogany.

3. Stir in onions, celery and garlic; cook, stirring often, 18 to 20 minutes or until tender. Gradually add broth. Stir in chicken, sausage, ham, thyme, black pepper and paprika.

4. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Stir in parsley . Remove from heat; serve over hot cooked rice. Garnish with green onion.

I can promise you will enjoy this, friends! Especially the day after… xoxo

Coconut Curry Mussels

My favorite place to buy seafood is Costco. I know it sounds corporate, but it really is a frugal gal’s best friend. (Although I recently went to an Asian market, where I opened a random cooler to find all these HUGE prawns from the coast for $5 per pound … so just take what you can get.)

I always go to Costco when I know I need good fish, because it is exactly half as much as Whole Foods for comparable product. Recently, I went for 2 lbs. of mussels. Instead, I left with 5 pounds of fresh mussels for $10. I know they were fresh because only a couple didn’t open after cooking (dead).

After soaking them in water sprinkled with a little flour (so they will spit out the grit), these beauties performed beautifully on one pretty weekend. First, I made the following coconut curry dish with half. Next, I made them in a simple garlic-thyme-white wine broth. Each played well with the mussels’ delicate flavor.

This recipe made a wonderful Saturday lunch with crusty Costco bread and a glass of crisp wine.

From Simply Recipes.

Coconut Curry Mussels

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 2 lbs mussels, cleaned and debearded (pull those little hairs on the side out!)
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 Thai chili, finely chopped (or pinch chili flakes)
  • 3 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons green curry paste (which has kaffir lime leaves in it, yum!)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 can of coconut milk (13.5 fl. oz.)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, chopped into four pieces and smashed
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges

Place mussels in a bowl of cold water with a sprinkling of flour, so the mussels will spit out any sand or mud. Let them sit for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat. Debeard the mussels, pulling out their byssal threads (aka: their “beards”) and place them in a bowl of cold water until ready to use.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and stir for a few minutes until they become soft and slightly translucent. Add the chilies, ginger, and curry paste and stir for a minute until fragrant.

Add the chicken broth and reduce by half. Add the coconut milk, salt, lemongrass and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, reduce heat to medium and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 6-7 minutes until the mussels open. Discard any that are closed as these were dead before cooking. Spoon mussels into bowls and pour over broth. Garnish with chopped cilantro and juice from lime wedges.

You are guaranteed to love this – it’s so light and fresh, you feel full but not stuffed. I would say it’s rather elegant, too, if you have someone to impress…

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Double rainbow (OMG) cake!

Sometimes, it’s as if everything happened just as it should. As if I were meant to find this rainbow cake recipe more than a year ago and never make it until… As if my friend Ben had never sent me the most awesome video ever, Double Rainbow (a.k.a. Naturegasm), which makes me cry with laughter every single time… As if I hadn’t seen this even awesomer Double Rainbow remix, which I could watch on repeat…

To quote the video, “What does it mean?!?

Now, you don’t have to cry like the guy in the video, but this is pretty neat. I also like to call this my Psychedelic Cake, Anna’s Technicolor Dream Cake and the Tie-Dye Cake.

All rainbowness aside, the cake is very tasty, albeit completely Semi-Homemade. That makes it perfect for kids, if you have them. The Sprite keeps it nice and slightly tangy and the whipped topping makes a pillowy frosting. I took the leftovers to work and all that remained were a few rainbow crumbs.

Double Rainbow (all the way across the sky) Cake!


  • 2 boxes white cake mix (buy the appropriate number of eggs and oil)
  • 2 cans Sprite
  • gel food coloring
  • 16 oz fat-free whipped topping
  • 2 oz instant fat-free sugar-free pudding mix (2 boxes)

Preheat oven to whatever the box says. Mix the cake mix with the soda according to regular instructions on box. It will be lumpy afterward. Separate into six bowls, a little over 1 c. in each. Mix in the colors of the rainbow…ROY G. BIV. You will be impressed with the gel food coloring. It’s less messy and the colors are so vivid!

Now, butter and flour two cake pans. In the first pan, pour half the red, then orange, then yellow, etc. ON TOP OF EACH OTHER. So the blobs of color will spread out but not mix. In the other pan, do the same, but with the colors in reverse over: purple, blue, green, etc. It will look like this:

Bake the cake for however long the box tells you to bake it. Let cool completely before moving to a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make your frosting by mixing the pudding and whipped topping until smooth. Add frosting in between the cake layers and all over the top, of course!

Enjoy, friends! I know you will … xoxo

Rib-eye steak with blue-cheese butter and fried shallots

I’m usually not a HUGE fan of blue cheese, unless it is somehow mingling with red meat and butter. This adaptation on a Bon Appetit recipe showcases just how well blue cheese and steak marry. Adding fried shallots is just a delicious cherry on top. You may do this with any cut of steak, although many will say rib-eye is the best. Use whatever looks good in the discount meat bin.

Rib-eye steak with blue-cheese butter and fried shallots


  • 2 steaks, seasoned well with salt and pepper
  • 3 T unsalted butter, room temp
  • 3 T crumbled blue cheese, room temp
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 large shallots, sliced into rings
  • EVOO

Prepare your grill with all-wood charcoal.

Using a fork, mix butter, blue cheese, lemon, parsley and pepper. Chill.

Heat 4-5 T EVOO over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add shallots and fry until crisp and golden. Drain and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Grill the steaks to desired doneness. Let rest 5 minutes before serving with a scoop of butter on top. Sprinkle with fried shallots. Ta-da!

The smokiness of the steak pairs with the smoky qualities of the cheese. Really, the butter is just there to bind everything together. Parsley and lemon give it a fresh taste and the shallots make you feel like you’re eating a much-easier onion ring.

We only used a tiny bit of the butter compote, so I twisted it up in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for the next red-meat recipe. Perhaps little beef sliders?

Enjoy, friends! xoxo