July 18th, 2014

Spaghetti Pasta Salad

It’s the height of summer. That means quite a few things:

Going to the farmers market each week only to find tantalizing produce, not just yarn and honey.
It stays light so much longer.
Pre-dinner cocktails while sitting on the front porch.
Loving and hating the air conditioner.
Dresses! I pity men who can’t wear them all summer long.
Riding my bike around, and not just for exercise!
BBQ! Everything.
Salads, lots of salad.
It being too hot to even think of turning on the oven.

If you’re anything like me, you take the last two mentions very seriously.


Yes, salad means vegetables, and sometimes fruit. It also means pasta. And not the pasta salad of yore– tri-color fusilli, sliced olives, and “Italian” dressing– but cold spaghetti, toasted bread crumbs, a good amount of parsley, and lots anchovies. (Yes, anchovies. Even if you don’t like these little fishies on their own, they’re a must in this salad!)

There’s not much that traditionally Italian about this salad– except the fact that it’s made with spaghetti. It’s cold, for one thing; or at the very least, room temperature. I rinse the pasta after I boil it– starch is the enemy of pasta salads. But that’s ok; this salad is all about flavors and textures. The flavors should be bold: the briny anchovies, the salty Parmesan cheese, and the freshness of the parsley. The breadcrumbs should be dry and toasted, that way they cling to the pasta, drying it out and giving the salad a nice crunch. This is not a slippery salad.


I’ve made this cold spaghetti salad quite a few times already this summer, and there’s not really a recipe. It can be adapted to your own taste. It’s as good the next day, as the day you make it. So go ahead, and play around, but here are the basics:

Spaghetti Pasta Salad

1/2 pound spaghetti
1/3 cup olive oil
a few cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 can anchovies, minced
red pepper flakes
parsley, minced
grated Parmesan cheese
1/2-3/4 cup toasted fresh breadcrumbs*
salt and pepper

Boil the pasta in  salted water until cooked. Drain well, and rinse well under cold water. Put in a large bowl, and toss in a few tablespoons of olive oil to coat. Set aside.

In a skillet, over medium heat, add the remaining olive oil and a few cloves of garlic. Saute until cloves are beginning to brown, then add the anchovies and the red pepper. Continue to saute until the anchovies melt and begin to muddy the olive oil. Pour mixture over the spaghetti, and toss well.

Add the parsley, cheese, and breadcrumbs, and season with salt and pepper. Check for seasoning. The pasta should be well seasoned, as the flavors will dull slightly in the refrigerator. Salad can be made and refrigerated ahead of time.

* If you don’t have fresh breadcrumbs, panko breadcrumbs are a good substitute. Before, simply toast in a bit of olive oil until golden brown.

June 16th, 2014

Best Ever Doughnuts

BestEverDoughnutsNational Doughnut Day may have passed, but that doesn’t (and shouldn’t!) mean you have to stop eating doughnuts. If you’ve never made doughnuts– it’s time– you’re in for a treat!

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece for Food52‘s Heirloom Recipes column. It’s for “Best Ever Doughnuts” a recipe that came with my grandma when she moved to California from South Dakota. This cake doughnut is crispy outside, pillowy inside, with just the right amount of sweetness.

My grandma used to make these for me on very special occasions– but I think this coming weekend is special enough for you to give them a try! If you’d like to read the story, or get the recipe it’s right here.

May 14th, 2014

Ramp Pesto

My husband and I have a tradition. Each year, when the weather finally gets warm, the ground begins to thaw, and little streams erupt, letting water trickle over the rocky landscape– we go foraging for ramps. We will go for a hike, and from past experience, we know where they hide. The first one we spot is always the most thrilling, like a hidden gastronomic treasure. They are truly the first, local green edible we have.

RampPesto1After a season’s worth of cellared carrots and winter squash, I enjoy the ramps with gusto. I will cook with them at every meal– grilled and sprinkled with Maldon, or sliced and sauteed with a grain, or eaten whole after a wilting in my cast-iron skillet. Frankly, I eat them until I almost become tired of them. (Isn’t that the point of seasonal eating anyway?) And when this happens, I always make pesto out the rest of my booty.

A blitz in the food processor gives new life to this vegetable. Ramps can be bracing, garlicky, oniony, peppery (halitosis, anyone?). But given a quick blanching and then pureed, and the strength of flavor mellows into a lovely springtime concoction.

RampPesto3There really is no hard and fast recipe for ramp pesto. Depending on how you use it, and your accessibility to these beauties, the texture of the pesto can change– more paste-like if you’re using it to top pasta, thinned with olive oil and used as an accent in any number of dishes. Just remember, it’s important to blanch your ramps, especially the bulbs, before making the pesto, or you will be exposed to the aforementioned ramp breath.

Ramps are still growing in Connecticut, and are even at the farmer’s market, but you must act quickly– they’re appearance is fleeting. If you can’t find ramps, this pesto would be different, but equally delicious with spring onions. Here’s my basic recipe. Enjoy your spring!

RampPesto2Ramp Pesto

bunch of ramps, cleaned and trimmed
handful of roasted almonds
zest of a lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Boil a large pot of water. Cut the bulb, and the rosy stem end of the ramps, separating it from the leafy green ends. Drop the bulb end into the boiling water, and boil for about 45 seconds, the bulb should be beginning to soften. Add the greens, and continue to boil briefly, about 15 seconds. With a spider, remove the bulbs and greens from the boiling water, and put in the bowl of a food processor.

Add a handful of almond to the blanched ramps, and process to a paste. Add the lemon zest, turn on the food processor, and slowly dribble in olive oil, until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper. If you are using the pesto right away, feel free to add some grated Parmesan cheese. The pesto also freezes well, simply defrost when a taste of spring is desired.

March 21st, 2014

Donut Muffins

Is it a donut or a muffin? It’s both. And I sort of didn’t believe that it could be.

I have always been skeptical of those donut baking pans. If you want a donut, something crisply fried on the outside, tender and moist on the inside– just eat a donut. Although the donut shape they form is cute, a baking pan, just seems like a poor, dietetic substitute. But these muffins, baked in a mini muffin pan, and rolled in sugar-cinnamon, have me rethinking my donut pan bias. Yes, they still look like a muffin, but they actually do taste like cake donut.

This is a recipe that I am playing around with for a baking course that I teach at the local community college. The course is for beginning bakers highlighting the basics of small batch baking. So I wanted a recipe that was quite straightforward, but delicious to boot.

DonutMuffins1The recipe is made from pantry staples– sugar, flour, butter– and can be easily made on a Sunday morning, and on the table for brunch. Because the recipe is so basic, it also is left open for experimentation– something I’m trying to teach my students. Although the recipe call for all-purpose flour, some whole wheat could easily be substituted. Try a little lemon zest in the muffin batter, or some cardamon thrown in the cinnamon-sugar rolling mixture.

The muffins are light, and sweet. A similar texture to frying is created when the warm muffins are rolled in additional melted butter and sugar. These muffins can be made in a mini muffin tin– where they remind me of a donut hole waiting to be popped in my mouth, or they can easily be baked in a standard muffin tin. Either way, they’re delicious enjoyed still warm from the oven, on a Sunday morning.

Donut Muffins
adapted from All Recipes

For the muffins:

2/3 cup (5 ounces) sugar
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour

For the topping:

1/2 cup (4 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

Makes 20-24 mini muffins, 10-12 muffins

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease the muffin tin and set aside.

With a mixing spoon, mix the sugar, butter, nutmeg and salt together. Stir in milk, until well blended. Add the baking powder and flour, and mix until just combined. Fill the prepared muffin cups until half full.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes for mini muffins, 25 minutes for standard muffins.

While the muffins are baking prepare the donut topping. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, place the melted butter.

Remove the muffins from the pan. While they are still warm, gently dip each muffin into the butter, and then roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Allow to cool on a rack. Muffins can be eaten while still warm.

Crispy or chewy, flat or cakey, everyone has their preferences when it comes to cookies. But I guess you could say, that I am egalitarian– I like them all. Every cookie has its place; and it’s often in my belly!

CreamCheeseCookies2There are times when I want just a little something sweet, just a discrete bit, and these cream cheese cookies did just the trick. They are small, about 2 inches in size. They are light (both in color and texture), and are gently sweet. This is not a sturdy, overly decadent treat; these cookies almost melt in your mouth. But as Goldilocks said, I found these cookies to be “just right.”

The dough is almost like a sugar cookie dough, except it is enriched with cream cheese, giving the cookie some body and bite, and the sugar is confectioners’ sugar, or powdered sugar. This amendment makes the cookie soft and pillowy. By using confectioners’ sugar, rather than granulated sugar, the sugar doesn’t have the opportunity to caramelize thus getting crisp and golden brown.

CreamCheeseCookies1After a brief rest in the refrigerator, the cookies get rolled in sugar– granulated this time– giving them a  crackly finish. Before baking, it’s important to give the dough a press. These treats won’t spread when baked, so they need to be encouraged!

I incorporated a bit of chopped bittersweet chocolate. It paired so nicely with the tanginess of the cream cheese. This recipe is not abundant, making about 2 dozen cookies, but the dough will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few days. I like to bake just a few off at a time. There is nothing like a fresh, warm-from-the-oven cookie to satisfy a sweet tooth, and these cookies did just that.


Chocolate Chunck Cream Cheese Cookie

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (8 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese together until smooth, and well-blended, at least 1 minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar, baking powder, and salt, and continue to beat until well-incorporated. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until fluffy. Beat in the flour until just combined. Fold in the chocolate. Refrigerate the dough for a minimum of 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the 1/4 cup of granulated sugar in a small bowl. Scoop the dough into small, 1-inch rounds. Roll in the sugar, and place on a Silpat-lined cookie sheet. With the heel of your hand, press down on the dough slightly, making  a flatter cookie. Bake as many as you would like; the cookies will not spread much during baking.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. The cookies will have slightly browned on the bottom, but will not have browned much on the top. Let cool on the baking sheet slightly, and then remove to a cooling rack.

January 22nd, 2014

Chicken Chili

Christmas break seems like eons ago. I was in Mexico City for part of the holiday, where it was a balmy 70 degrees. Perfection! I came home and was swamped with edits for the latest cookbook. Then there was the polar vortex. And the latest cold snap. Ugh. Weather, and January.

When it gets brutal outside, your style of cooking changes, doesn’t it? You braise and stew, make pots of soup, bowls of chili, hearty dishes that warm you from the inside out. Well here is another recipe that will keep your stove on…


Awhile back I was sent The Lemonade Cookbook. With new takes on classic, comfort food-style recipes, it had a recipe for chicken chili, just the sort of recipe to have on a cold winter’s night. There were very few surprises in the list of ingredients– which was exactly what I wanted– something that was warm, sustaining, reliable, and delicious. But by using ground chicken rather than ground beef, the chili is lighter than most, allowing the spices to shine through.

The original recipe is for one big ol’ pot of chili. Too much for me and my leftover-eating apathy. So the recipe I’m giving is for just about half a recipe. (Don’t worry you’ll still have leftovers!) I used only 1 pound of ground chicken (the original recipe called for 3 pounds), but the chili was still meaty. Simmering on the stove this chili smelled great, and tasted even better.

Stay warm!


Chicken Chili

adapted from The Lemonade Cookbook

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 pound ground chicken, both white and dark meat, if possible
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon dried sage
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
lots of pepper
1 tablespoon flour
1 (16-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven, or large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until they begin to soften and brown. About 10 minutes.

Add the chicken, and brown, breaking up any large clumps. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle in the spices and herbs, salt and pepper. Cook until the spices begin to smell fragrant. Sprinkle in the flour, stirring to incorporate, and to cook out any raw taste.

Pour in the tomatoes with their liquid, and the stock. At this point the chili will be very brothy. Reduce heat to medium-low. Gently simmer, uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning, and serve.

December 2nd, 2013

Cashews with Indian Spices

Did everyone have a nice Thanksgiving?

Lots of turkey? Made a dent in the leftovers yet?

That’s good.

At my Thanksgiving, I had these nuts.

Of course the usual suspects were eaten at the feast as well. But these cashews were a favorite part of hors d’oeuvres hour. (Which of course happened at 3:30 PM, because we ate LINNER or DUNCH at 5 PM. We are celebratory Americans!) And well, this just may be my new favorite nut recipe.

The reason that I’m sharing this recipe with all of you straight off of the first big holiday of the season, and not some clever recipe for what to do with leftovers, is does anyone really need another leftover recipe? With Thanksgiving happening so late this year, the holiday season is surging! You may be already searching for nibbles to serve at your next holiday meal. (Or these nuts would make a nice hostess gift.) Buttery pecans, candied walnuts, or mixed nuts, redolent with warm spices are all common occurrences during the holiday season, but these cashews are different. They are spicy not spiced– buttery, slightly piquant– and will leave you wanting more.

Originally, the recipe from David Tanis’s new book, calls for coriander seeds. I was out, but did have some black mustard seed, so I substituted, and the nuts worked out like a charm. I’ve actually made them a few times. First with blanched almonds, which was very good, but I actually preferred the cashews. (Apparently Tanis does too, because that’s what he calls for.) Although the recipe calls for some melted butter, that’s what adheres the spices to the nuts, the cashews have an additional, delicious buttery flavor to them all on their own. The cashews is also a slender enough nut to crisp beautifully in the oven.

So here you are, my new favorite nut recipe!

Cashews with Indian Spices
adapted from One Good Dish

1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 pound raw cashews
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, toast the mustard seed and the cumin until fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop, about 1 minute. Coarsely grind the spices in a mortar and pestle.

Spread the cashews in a single layer in a baking pan. Roast for 7-10 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Drizzle the nuts with the melted butter, sprinkle with the toasted spices, cayenne, and turmeric. Generously season with salt, and serve warm or at room temperature. Nuts will keep in an airtight container for a few days. If you prefer them warm, they can be reheated in a low oven for a few moments before serving.

November 11th, 2013

Chocolate Guinness Cake

I don’t care for beer. Really, I never have. This is not so much a problem now, but imagine being in college, and refusing that red Dixie cup full of suds at a backyard party. It just never seemed right to say, “I would really prefer a glass of wine.” So I took the cup and held on to it. And sipped. And it got warm. Which was part of the problem to begin with.

When I drink a beer now, it has to be REALLY cold, all of the time. If someone would invent a refrigerated glass– one that actually worked– maybe some of my issues with the beverage would be taken care of. My other issue with beer, is that it is too darn filling. If I drink a pint, I feel the need to run around the block, or do calisthenics.

So, now that we have my issues with drinking beer out of the way, let’s talk about cooking or baking with the stuff. I have no problem doing that. Take for instance this Chocolate Guinness Cake– it was remarkable!

The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson. Dark, moist, simple to put together, but complex in taste, this cake is a winner. Ever the glutton, Ms. Lawson also recommends topping this cake with a frothy crown of icing. One is meant to frost just the top of the cake, making it resemble the foam on a pint of Guinness. This seemed a bit too cute for me, and frankly, the cake needs nothing more than a dusting of powdered sugar.

Although the recipe calls for a 9-inch springform pan, I opted to bake it in a shallow tube pan of sorts, which worked beautifully. This is a cake to be shared. As moist and rich as it is the day that you bake it, it falls a little flat in subsequent days. So grab a can of Guinness, and more than a few friends, and give this cake a try.

Chocolate Guinness Cake
from Nigella Lawson

1 cup Guinness
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray with cooking spray a 9-inch springform, or a tube pan. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, heat Guinness and butter together, until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the cocoa and the sugar, whisking until fully incorporated.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Add this mixture to the Guinness mixture, whisking to blend. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, whisking until smooth.

Pour into the prepared pan. Bake until firm and risen, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Place the pan on a cooling rack, and cool until just warm before removing the sides of the pan. Cool to room temperature before dusting with powdered sugar.

October 21st, 2013

Pie in Connecticut

For all of those readers in the Connecticut area, I will be taking part in a fundraiser for Gateway Community College in New Haven. This ticketed event (don’t worry, there are still some left!) will be a lecture/demo all about everyone’s favorite fall dessert– PIE!

The event supports Gateway’s Culinary Arts program. Last year, I started working at Gateway, teaching a small-batch baking course. It’s a wonderful place to be, with so many students eager to learn; so I was thrilled to be a part of this fundraiser.

The event starts at 6 PM. I will be making a few pies from my book, and will be answering any questions about the pie-making process that audience members may have. All ticket-holders will go home with a signed copy of my book, and a pie baked for them especially by Gateway students. Oh! and of course there will be pie to samples throughout the course of the evening.

Come on down Wednesday evening to do one of my favorite things– talk pie!

Read more about the fundraiser here, and you can buys your tickets on-line here.

October 1st, 2013

Cheese Blintzes

Let me tell you a little story. It’s about being dim (my being dim, of course).

I went to the cheese shop that I always go to. They have a really wonderful house-made ricotta there; it’s light, with just the right amount of salt, and tastes like cream. I was going to bake a ricotta pound cake, and needed 14 ounces of the stuff. I asked the cheese monger behind the counter for said amount, and he replied, “Oh, you’ll need quite a lot,” and handed me a three pound container. (Come to think of it, this story may be about two dim people.) I took the enormous vat, noting it was quite heavy, but not thinking too much about it until I got home. There I struck myself on the forehead; I had a massive brain fart. 14 ounces is just about a pound– that’s what I should have asked for! Now what was I going to do with all of this excess ricotta?

So at my house, September was the month of ricotta. We had a pound cake. I swirled it into some sauteed greens. Ricotta has been spread on baguette slices, then drizzled with honey. But the best recipe by far, has been cheese blintzes.

There are a lot of cheese blintz recipes out there. Some use cottage cheese, others farmers cheese; many contain cream cheese. But the recipe that I decided on– for obvious reasons– just uses ricotta cheese. My ricotta was fairly dry (I think that I would advise draining if your ricotta has an abundance of moisture), so I added an egg for binding, a bit of sugar, and the zest of a lemon. I had read somewhere that esteemed food writer, Mimi Sheraton (her German Cookbook was one of the first cookbooks that I ever received), always added a bit of wheat germ to her filling as well– so I did the same.

The crepes couldn’t be simpler. While cooked through, they are browned only on one side. The pale, golden brown color remains on the exterior of the blintz once its rolled. Although nontraditional, I substituted a bit of buckwheat flour in the batter. The nuttiness paired well with the wheat germ in the filling.

I know that making the crepes, filling them with the cheese, and then frying the blintz, may seem like a lot of work; but I split it into a couple of days. One day I made the crepes, separated each one with waxed paper, then stored them overnight in the fridge. The next morning I made the filling, and recruited my husband to aid in the rolling. Believe it or not, it went by quickly.

I fried some of the blintzes in a mixture of butter and a bit of oil, and then I froze the remainder. That way they will be ready to fry as needed. I guess I’ll have my own dimness to thank the next time that I’m eating a blintz!

Cheese Blintzes
Makes 12-14 blintzes


1 cup water
3/4 cup milk (I used whole)
3 eggs
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cup (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium size bowl, whisk all of the ingredients together until smooth. Set aside for 1 hour, to relax gluten in the flours.

Heat a 9-inch, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease the pan. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the middle of the pan. Swirl and tilt the pan, making sure the bottom of the pan is evenly coated with batter. Cook until the crepe is opaque, and set. Flip the crepe out of the pan, uncooked side down, place a sheet of wax paper over each crepe to cool. Crepes can be made one day prior, an kept, well-wrapped in the refrigerator.

Cheese Filling

1 pound ricotta cheese (drained if necessary)
1 egg
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Whisk ingredients together until well-combined

Assembling the blintzes:

Use about 3 tablespoons of filling per crepe. Place filling oneinch from the edge of the crepe. Spread the filling out some, fold over the crepe, and tuck the edges in towards the center. Loosely continue rolling, like a burrito, folding the free edge under the blintz. Continue with the remaining crepes.


In a medium size frying pan, heat oil, and butter, until foam subsides. You should have a thin coating of fat in the skillet. Place the blintzes, seam side down, in the skillet. Fry to a golden brown, then carefully flip and continue cooking on the other side.

Remove from skillet, and serve with wedges of lemon.

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