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I am certain that anyone who likes taco salad already has a favorite recipe for it, so this is not for them. This is for me. I have made this three times this summer when it was too damn hot to cook. The first time was a veggie taco salad. The second time was with some bits of steak thrown in. The third time we made tostadas.

I am sure that by next summer I will have forgotten what I did to make this, hence this post. There are tons of possible variations.



  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt and pepper

Stir together and refrigerate.


Chopped tomato, chopped red onion, sliced black olives, 1 can corn, 1 can kidney beans or black beans, shaved cheeseP1050824

Top that with

Romaine, iceberg lettuce, shredded cabbage


Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

On the grill:

Heat refried beans in skillet. Keep diced steak (or chicken, or pork) warm in foil packet.

Place corn tortillas on grill and lightly brush each side with oil.



Flip tortillas as necessary and let them get crisp.

Toss salad with dressing.


Smear crisp tortillas with refried beans. Top with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or sour cream, then with salad, bits of steak, and pour green and/or red salsa on top. Pick up to eat. Have lots of napkins available.


For taco salad, break up some bagged tortilla chips and toss with the salad and dressing. Some avocado would not be amiss with this.


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It’s one of those unfair life situations: just when the best, sweetest, juiciest fruit is ripe, it’s too damn hot to turn the oven on to bake a pie. I mean, it was over 122 F/50C in parts of Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona yesterday and they’re not expecting that to change soon. You just go into survival mode when it’s that hot. Pie doesn’t even cross your mind. You are just trying to not cook to death.

I almost never turn the oven on from June through mid-September. But summer pies are legendary. Jesse Colin Young sang about them in “Ridgetop.”

I’ve got hundred foot pine trees
That just love to dance in the wind

And a yard full of bushes
That turn into pie in July

So what’s a piemaker to do when the summer fruit is plentiful but you don’t dare heat the house up any more than it already is? Turn to the barbecue. Instead of making a two-crust fruit pie, make one giant crust and use it like a hobo pack to envelope all the filling.

This is called a gallette in French – a flat, round(ish) pastry filled with fruit.



  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons very cold butter
  • ice water

Directions for making pie crust are here.

When you’ve made the crust, wrap it in waxed paper and store in the fridge for at least 20 minutes – an hour or two is better –  until very cold.


  • 2-4 cups fresh summer fruit (slice fruit like peaches or apricots thinly as well as oversized berries; leave small berries whole)
  • sugar to taste (I use two or three tablespoons, depending on how sweet the fruit is)
  • tapioca

Combine fruit, sugar, and tapioca, and let sit until ready to make the pie. If you use the larger BB-sized tapioca like I do here, let the mixture sit an hour or two to allow the tapioca to soften and start absorbing moisture.

(If you really feel you can’t bear to make a crust, buy one of those refrigerated pie crusts in a box and roll it out really thin on a floured board.)

Roll out the crust on a floured board. Do not worry if the crust isn’t perfectly round. It’s fine if it looks like a map of France.  Roll it thinly to get a very large crust.


Patch any holes with dough from the edges and a dab of water.


Using a dough scraper or spatula if necessary, fold the crust in half and then in quarters, and transfer it to an aluminum pie plate. Unfold and let the edges flop over the sides.


Spoon the filling into the center. Here I used plums and peaches.


Then flop the edges over the filling.


If not baking right away, refrigerate the pie. Do not set the pie near the barbecue because you want the crust to stay cold and not allow the butter bits in it to soften.

When ready to bake, preheat gas grill to 350 (charcoal BBQ, use this guide to determine temperature.)

Invert an empty aluminum pie plate or other aluminum pan on the grill.


Set the pie on top on that, and close the lid.


Monitor the temperature to keep it between 350 to 375.

A smaller pie with about 2 cups filling will take about 25 minutes. This larger pie with four cups filling took about 40 minutes. It’s done when the filling is bubbling and the crust feels crisp instead of soft.

At this point you can remove the pie, or you can set it directly on the grill for about five minutes to let the bottom crust brown. Watch it carefully (lift a section of the pie up gently with a spatula) because it can go from golden brown to burned fast.


Cut into fat wedges to serve. Makes about four servings.







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It’s Memorial Day weekend, which here in the US of A is considered the Unofficial Start to Summer, as well as being a three-day weekend. (I am glad my grandmother didn’t live to see this, as she would have disapproved of Decoration Day, as she always called it, being hijacked like that and not given proper respect.) It is also a huge weekend for outdoor  barbecuing, and tri-tip is going to feature on many grills around the country.

I don’t remember seeing tri-tip until about maybe 30 years ago when it suddenly became popular, and that’s because it wasn’t available. It was either made into ground beef or sometimes cut into steaks or stew meat (which is still how it’s treated in the rest of the world). But then in Santa Maria, California, a butcher took the bull by the horns (as it were) and created tri-tip roast – if you’re interested you can read all the details right here.

I wasn’t all that crazy about tri-tip for a long time because it was almost always overcooked and sinewy and tough. I did find a foolproof way to cook it in the oven, but when it’s a zillion degrees outside, turning the oven on is a last resort.

After beef being sky-high for months and maybe years due to the drought (no matter what Donald Trump says, THERE IS A DROUGHT), we suddenly noticed the prices tumbling, and especially the price of tri-tip. It was time to get some and figure out how to cook it on the grill, and that’s where the internet came in handy. I won’t pretend this is a method I dreamed up; it was blatantly stolen from The Tri-Tip Guy. It’s a good method and quite easy, though there are a few points that are really important to follow in order to not screw this up.

An instant-read meat thermometer is essential for this.


All tri-tips look about the same and weigh about the same. You can buy them “trimmed” of fat for a nominal fee, but get an untrimmed one and do it yourself.

They look like this….


…until you flip them over and find a huge slab of fat.


Get a sharp, long-bladed knife, and start at one end, pulling as you slice. The fat will peel off as you work. Don’t obsess over tiny bits of meat that may come off with the fat.






You can go back and trim off any remaining large pockets of fat, which usually cause flare-ups on the grill.

Once you have your tri-tip trimmed, you can leave it as is or marinate it. We put this one in a bowl and poured low-salt soy sauce over it and added garlic powder and freshly ground pepper, and let it sit and think about things about a couple of hours.

POINT 1: Let the tri-tip come to room temperature.

Now get your grill going. For a gas grill, bring it up to 350. For charcoal or wood, you want a medium fire (to judge this, put your hand just above the grate without touching and count how many seconds you can hold it there – figure 6-7 seconds for 350).


Point 2: Once the grill is up to temperature, put the tri-tip down and put the lid or cover on for 15 minutes.


After 15 minutes, uncover the trip-tip and flip it over.


Let it cook undisturbed for about 15 – 20 more, then start testing with the meat thermometer. Could take 20 minutes, could take 40 0r 50 minutes. Go with the thermometer reading. If you want, paint some barbecue sauce on the top when it’s almost done.

When the tri-tip is almost up to the temperature you prefer, remove it from the grill. (The temperature will continue to rise during the next step.)

Point 3: Wrap tri-tip in aluminum foil and let it sit 15 minutes. Do not skip this step.


When you’re ready to slice the tri-tip – stop! Do not slice it the way you’ve been slicing – that is, slicing off the narrow ends.

Point 4: Slice it against the grain, across the widest part, and slice it thinly.


Once you grill tri-tip this way, you’ll be converted to this method. It turns this tough cut of beef into a juicy and flavorful roast on the barbecue.





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There are people who are frightened by kimchi. It’s too… too much. Too fermented, too cabbage-y, too hot, too salty. It’s like the inside of a subway car in July. It explodes when you open the jar (much like a subway car).

This is not for them.

But if you’re feeling puny, overwrought, in dire straits, in need of restorative potions, this might cure what ails you. I originally found the recipe on Epicurious and of course made some changes, partly because I could not find the gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) required. I made do with what I had. I used King brand kimchi, available in every supermarket here (it would be even better if you get some real kimchi from a Korean store, but it will cost more).

This isn’t for sissies, kittens, Lawrence Welk fans, or the fearful. If you have to have chop suey and sweet & sour pork at Chinese restaurants, if you’re the girl in the horror movie who is running from the monster and sprains her ankle – open a can of Cream of WTF instead.


  • 1 16-ounce package soft tofu, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 14-ounce jar cabbage kimchi, drained (reserve the scary orange liquid)
  • 2 tablespoons chile-garlic paste or Sriracha or sambal oelek
  • 4-6 green onions, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon  sesame oil

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, reduce heat, and carefully add the tofu.


Under the best of circumstances, tofu doesn’t look too exciting.

Let simmer about 4 minutes, then drain and set aside. (The original recipe said to remove the tofu to a “medium” bowl and you can certainly do that if you don’t mind washing an extra “medium” bowl.)

Open the kimchi carefully – it is still fermenting, which is why the jar lid may be bulging.



Drain the orange liquid off the kimchi and save it.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large saucepan and add the drained kimchi plus the 2 tablespoons of whatever hot chile paste you have. If you can get the gochujang, more power to you, but don’t obsess over it if you can’t.


Saute the kimchi and chili paste over medium-high heat until it starts to brown. (This may smell pungent, in which case open a window.) Then add the kimchi liquid and 6 cups water, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.



Let simmer about 35-45 minutes until the kimchi cabbage gets tender.

Then add the green onions, soy sauce, and tofu.


Let this simmer very gently for 25 minutes to allow the tofu to absorb the flavors.

Stir in the sesame oil; season (if necessary, though I don’t think it will be) with salt and pepper.

You can serve as is.


Or you can add an egg yolk, to cook very lightly by the heat of the broth, and some toasted sesame seeds. To toast sesame seeds:

Put sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Shake and/or stir the seeds very frequently.



When the seeds are lightly browned, remove them from the pan right away; otherwise they will continue to brown and burn by residual heat.

If you wanted some more body to this, some rice noodles (the silken type used in pho) would be a good addition, or some shrimp tossed in the last five minutes of simmering. Some fresh basil leaves – especially Thai basil – or mint leaves or cilantro would be nice shredded and used as garnish, though that might just be window dressing and not really required.



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My great-great grandfather was born in Ireland, but that was only because that was where the boat happened to be docked when his Danish parents were on their way to America and Mama Davison went into labor. From there he made his way to California, where he enlisted in the Union Army at a very small town called Volcano and later became the first mayor of Chico.


I think he may be the gentleman in the second row standing behind the severe-looking woman with the white cap. Or maybe not.


At least, that was the story I grew up with.

It turned out to be only partly true, as I discovered recently when I did a little online research and found he had his own Wikipedia page and was also given space in an 1891 volume called  A Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California. Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure. He certainly set the bar high for his family, and I think I can safely say without fear of contradiction that most of his descendants never bothered to try to equal his accomplishments and good works. Underachievers R Us.

Anyway. Ireland. Guinness.

St. Patrick’s Day came by about a week ago. I made the standard American tribute to Irish food, corned beef and cabbage (which I believe is unknown in Ireland, but never mind). We had guests for dinner and I had planned to make Nigella Lawson’s Guinness Cake until I read the recipe and realized it was basically a chocolate cake: one of our guests is not a chocolate fan. I figured that someone out there on the internet had devised a recipe for a Guinness cake sans chocolate, and sure enough, I found one on A Beautiful Plate.

This was fun and interesting to make, and it was delicious to eat. Despite a cup of molasses and a cup of mixed sugars, it was not very sweet; it was more like a deeply mysterious velvety spice cake with only the suggestion of sweetness. I can’t imagine it appealing much to children or anyone who loves those ghastly Crisco-frosted bakery cakes from supermarkets. It looks fiddly, but the three parts (Guinness-molasses, egg-sugar-oil, flour-spices) are all easy to assemble separately and at your own pace. Just be sure you have them all completed before mixing the final batter. A couple of caveats:

  • Use a REALLY big pan to boil the Guinness and molasses together because when you add the baking soda, you will create your very own Hiroshima in the kitchen and trust me, you do not want to have to clean that up.
  • I used a microplane to grate the fresh ginger, and it takes a rather large piece of ginger to yield 1 tablespoon grated ginger. Don’t omit it: it really oomphs up the cake flavor.
  • Spray the inside of the measuring cup with nonstick spray before measuring the molasses: it will pour out much more easily.
  • I can’t think of anything that replicates the blackness, dark mineral taste, and satiny texture of Guinness. I suppose if you really had to, you could substitute very, very dark espresso coffee, but then you couldn’t really call it Guinness Cake, could you?

Slightly adapted from the original. This is best the day it’s made, but will keep for one or two more days.


  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 1 cup  dark molasses
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3  eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup  firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup  vegetable oil
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger root

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Grease  two 9″ cake pans (or spray with cooking/baking spray or a product like Baker’s Joy) . Line them with parchment paper and grease or spray them again.

Here I pieced parchment paper together to fit the pans, which works just fine.


Pop open your Guinness. Measure out one cup and either drink the rest or recap with a cork. For God’s sake, don’t waste it.


Combine the Guinness and the molasses in that really big pan, whisk together, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  It will start to foam up. This is not the time to walk away to answer the phone.


Remove from the stove and whisk in the baking soda. It will foam way, way up. This is why you need a large pan.


Let it sit and cool for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Beat together the eggs with the granulated sugar and brown sugar, being careful to either dissolve or remove any teeny hard lumps of brown sugar. Then whisk in the oil, which will try to resist being incorporated with the eggs.

In a large-ish bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and all the ground spices, plus the grated ginger.016

Here is the only slightly tricky part:

Slowly pour the Guinness-molasses mixture into the egg-sugar-oil mixture. You do not want to pour it all at once: slowly pour in about 1/3 cup and then whisk it into the eggs thoroughly.  Again, slowly add about 1/3 cup more and whisk again. Keep adding and whisking until all liquids are combined. This is so you do not heat the eggs too fast and risk scrambling them – they need to be heated (“tempered”) slowly.


Once that’s all done,  pour half of the liquid into the flour mixture and combine with a spoon.


Then pour in the other half and mix until just combined and there are no pockets of flour in the batter.

Scrape half of the batter into each prepared cake pan. Bake  about 28 to 35 minutes. Do not open the oven door until 28 minutes has passed; this cake has a tendency to fall in the middle. Close the oven door carefully. When the cake is done, it will spring back when touched lightly.

Remove cakes to cooling rack for about 15 minutes.


Remove cakes from pan. Invert each one carefully onto your hand or a plate and peel off the parchment paper. Re-invert and let cool completely on the rack.

The original recipe suggested a Bailey’s Irish Cream frosting, and you can do that if you want, but I personally can’t see whatever it is people seem to like about Bailey’s. It’s just a big bleah nondescript sweet creamy liqueur to me. I made a Jack Daniel’s frosting instead; cognac, rum, or other booze would work too. Or just flavor frosting with vanilla or almond extract.

Whiskey Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 8-ounce bar cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons whiskey of your choice

Combine softened butter and cream cheese, then mash in the powdered sugar (this takes patience and it looks like it won’t work, but go slowly and keep mashing the sugar into the cream cheese & butter) . Then add salt, vanilla, and whiskey; stir until combined. Taste and add more sugar or whiskey as you prefer. If this seems a little liquid-y, store in the refrigerator until ready to frost the cake.

This makes enough to frost tops of each layer. You can, of course, make more frosting to cover the entire cake, but I loved the look of the nearly-black cake with the white frosting.


Let sit, covered, a couple of hours before slicing and serving. A few strawberries and perhaps a big pillow of sweetened whipped cream would go well with this.





If you buy a small (16 ounces) can of pumpkin, that is just enough to make one pumpkin pie. But if you buy the big can of pumpkin because it’s cheaper, you might still only make one pie, and then you have half a can of pumpkin left over. You will put it in a dish in the fridge and intend to make it into muffins or pancakes, or you might put it in the freezer and intend to make a pie out of it, and we all know how that winds up, right?   Recently I threw out an unmarked frozen glob in the freezer which I realized about a week later was frozen pumpkin puree from God knows when.

I have been making pumpkin puddings – which is pumpkin pie filling baked without a crust – because it’s way easier than pie, and far fewer calories and less fat, and that works out very well, except when there’s half a can of pumpkin left over.  To that end, I thought pumpkin bread would be a good solution.

I found a Bobby Flay recipe at Epicurious for Pumpkin Bread, and I adapted it a little bit, primarily by cutting the sugar way down, but this is still plenty sweet. If you have leftover baked sweet potato or winter squash like Acorn or Butternut, use those in place of the pumpkin. This would be an excellent bread to serve thinly sliced with coffee or tea. It also toasts very well the next day.


  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 – 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like your bread)
  • 1 16-ounce can pumpkin puree or half of one 29-ounce can (NOT canned “pumpkin pie filling”)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously grease (I use vegetable oil) and flour a glass loaf pan.*

[To grease and flour a pan: take about 1 tablespoon oil, Crisco, or other fat, and smear it around the inside of your pan, being sure to get up on the sides and in the corners. {I don’t recommend butter for this because butter is not entirely fat, and the fat-less portions will not coat a pan – leaving places where batter will stick.} Then toss in a generous tablespoon of flour and tilt the pan around to get all of the greased areas covered with flour. You might need a little more flour. Pour out any big excess of flour.)

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan and add the raisins and dates. Turn off heat and let sit 5 minutes, then drain thoroughly and set aside. This will remove any sulfur (used to keep dried fruit soft; it can cause allergic reactions and is unbelievably nasty if it seeps into the rest of the bread) and also soften and plump the dried fruit. (if you have more time, steep the rinsed fruit in hot tea or hot orange juice.)


Combine softened butter, oil, and sugar, and cream with a wooden spoon until sugar is fully incorporated. Stir in the pumpkin, then add eggs, one at a time, until combined.

Add the flour, salt, and spices.


Mix to completely incorporate dry ingredients. Mix in dates and raisins.

Scrape into greased and floured loaf pan. It will be a little soft and gooey and pudding-like, but don’t worry.


Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 1 hour, 15 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool 15 minutes. Loosen around the loaf with a knife. Place a cooling rack on top of the bread, hold the pan and the rack, and flip it upside down to release the bread.


While it is tempting to slice it right away, it will crumble if you do so. Let it cool at least 15 minutes and it will slice much more evenly.

Serve as is, or with softened butter or cream cheese. Let cool completely before wrapping for longer storage. A brown paper bag is really better than plastic wrap – the bread won’t sweat and get ugly and moldy.


  • Add powdered or diced candied ginger.
  • Add up to 1 cup toasted chopped nuts.
  • Substitute brown sugar or turbinado sugar for all or part of the sugar.
  • Use all unbleached flour, OR all whole wheat flour.
  • * To use a metal loaf pan: preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake as above.
  • If you don’t want to use the raisins and dates, increase sugar to 1 cup. But you will find that if you soften the fruit in hot water as above, that it simply seems to melt into the bread rather than stay intact like odd little lumps. Also, golden raisins (sometimes called white raisins) are much more tender than black raisins.





Years ago I read a rather sweet story, possibly in one of my old cooking magazines, written by an elderly man about his one experience at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

He was an army private during WWII, on leave at home in New York one Christmas. He wanted to propose in a spectacularly romantic fashion to his girl (this was before flash mobs and YouTube) but was on a limited budget. So he wrote to the maitre d’ at the Waldorf Astoria. He explained that he would like to take his girl there for dinner on New Year’s Eve and propose to her at midnight, and told the maitre d’ his budget. I don’t remember now what the budget was, but it was low. Very low for the Waldorf-Astoria, but he didn’t know that.

Eventually he got a note back from the Waldorf-Astoria saying there was a table reserved for two on New Year’s Eve. He and his girl dressed in their finest and arrived at the hotel and were escorted to their table. They were presented with a hand-watercolored paper menu outlining what they would be served: consomme, breast of chicken, baked potato, vegetables.

The two lovebirds enjoyed their dinner. Afterwords, at a word from the maitre d’, the house band struck up their song, and they stepped onto the dance floor – where the young man proposed.

I don’t remember now what the bill was, or if it was comped by the Waldorf-Astoria, or how that was worked out. She said yes and that was the important part. It was only years later that the young man realized that his budget could not ever have covered the cost of the dinner, and that he had been given a great gift courtesy of the Waldorf-Astoria.

So I told you all that to get around to this.

I’m always a little surprised when people tell me they have never heard of Waldorf Salad. My mother always made it at Christmas and Thanksgiving. We never had it any other time, and I don’t know why not because it’s easy to make and goes with a lot of other foods. And I never think to make it except for a holiday dinner. It is credited to Oscar of the Waldorf  but actually was made elsewhere before he got credit. No matter.



  • fresh crisp apples, preferably with pretty peel color
  • fresh crisp celery, preferably not stringy
  • walnuts
  • mayonnaise

This isn’t even a recipe: Chop apples, celery, and walnuts. Mix together with mayonnaise. Refrigerate until serving time. Proportions are up to you.

This can be varied in 58948594 ways. Grapes are a good addition, and so is avocado. Try sour cream instead of mayonnaise. Olives, chopped chicken, capers, oranges, cucumber, a spoonful of horseradish, yogurt, whipped cream….

This keeps well several days in the refrigerator.






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