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Monthly Archives: July 2014


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This spring I optimistically planted six tomato plants, five chiles (three Jalapeno, two poblano) and six squash plants. The squash plants are a bunch of worthless slackers. The tomatoes got a late start but are making up for it now with avalanches of yellow pear-shaped tomatoes and a crop of beefsteaks coming on. The chiles found their footing early and have been producing like there’s no tomorrow. I had planned to make salsa – loads and loads of salsa – but the main ingredients didn’t all ripen at the same time. So, jelly.

Most of the Jalapeno jelly recipes require a couple of green bell peppers, which seems a distraction and beside the point; also, you had to go through all that jelly bag draining nonsense which is tiresome. I found this one online and it’s much simpler. I adapted it ever so slightly to go with what I had.


  • 12 ounces red Jalapenos (about 12 medium)
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 6 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 three-ounce pouches of liquid pectin
  • red food coloring

Before you start with the recipe, prepare six 8-ounce canning jars with lids and ring bands by heating in large pot of simmering water, which will be used to process the filled jars later.

I decided that 14 smallish Jalapenos plus two red poblanos equaled 12 ounces.


Remove the stems from peppers, slice in half, and remove most of the seeds. The seeds and ribs are where the heat is so don’t be too scrupulous about removing them all. Mo hotta, mo betta.

Cut into pieces and put in a blender or a food processor with one cup of the vinegar, and blitz. Do not strain.


Combine the pureed chiles with the remaining 1 cup vinegar and the sugar in a largish pot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar, and boil over medium heat, stirring as needed. Do not allow to boil over because you will have the stickiest mess ever.

The mixture will turn from red to orange.


Meanwhile, cut the tops off the two pouches of liquid pectin and prop them up in a cup.


After ten minutes, add the pectin. Quickly squeeze the pouches to get all the contents out and into the boiling liquid. Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly. The mixture will go from foamy and puffy to condensed and shiny.


Remove from heat. Add food coloring if using (I found it took about 1/4 teaspoon to get the red color I wanted) and skim off any foam.

Ladle the hot jelly into hot jars. I find a canning funnel invaluable here.


Leave about 1/4″ headspace. Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp paper towel (anything on the rim may interfere with sealing). Fish a ring and band out of the simmering water and apply, tightening comfortably by hand (these jars are hot so use a mitt if necessary). As jars are filled, place them back into the pot of simmering water. When all jars are filled and in the hot water, water should cover jars by 1″.

Adjust heat so water is at a fast simmer. Do not boil violently as this may cause jars to rattle around and interfere with the necessary vacuum sealing. Process for 10 minutes.


Remove jars with a jar lifter and place on a folded towel away from drafts. Let cool completely. When sealed, lids should stay down when pressed. Any that do not stay down should be stored in the refrigerator. The recipe said it made 5 8-ounce jars but I got 5 1/2.


If what you have are green Jalapenos, they work fine in this – just use green food coloring.

If you want a much hotter jelly, add hotter chilis (though I do think the Jalapenos make a good base note with their slightly fruity, distinctive flavor) – try a serrano or two, a chipotle (available dried or in adobo) for a hot smoked flavor, or go on up the heat scale to pequins, Thai bird, Scotch Bonnets or habaneros. Hey, it’s your creation.

This is usually presented on a bar of cream cheese with crackers, but it also makes a nice glaze for chicken, ham or pork. I think it would be interesting used as a filling for chocolate cake. And of course, spread it on toast or biscuits.



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That’s maybe a little prosaic for a title, but it’s hot and I’m cranky and don’t feel like thinking up a cutesey-pie title,  mmmkay?

The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum is the last best word on baking cakes ever written. This is not up for discussion. Anyone who wants to learn how to bake a cake beyond a box of Betty Crocker would do well to get this because it explains everything about the science behind making cakes. Everything from a very simple pound cake to an extravagant triple-layered dotted Swiss cake, folded chocolate pages, cake with trellised roses – it’s in here, with careful directions and sources for equipment.

One important lesson I took away from this book is about sifting. It does not mix ingredients; it aerates them. I had thought this for a long time but Beranbaum actually wrote her thesis on it. So those instructions in most recipes that read, “sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together”? Pffft.

I have made the Buttermilk Country Cake from this book dozens of times and it’s always perfect. Yesterday I wanted to make it but didn’t have buttermilk and didn’t want to run to the store. I also wanted to cut down on the fat and sugar a bit.  I adapted the recipe and it turned out very well.  The next time I make it, I will use almond extract instead of the vanilla.


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 10-inch springform pan, line it with wax paper or parchment paper, then grease again and flour.

Combine the eggs, 1/4 cup of the yogurt, and the vanilla and lemon extracts in a small bowl and mix with a fork until there are no lumps of yogurt remaining. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Using an electric mixer, beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining yogurt and beat until dry ingredients are moistened, then increase speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture in 3 batches, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides as needed.

Scrape batter into pan. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool 10 minutes on a rack, then run a knife around the inside of the pan. Loosen the sides and remove, then invert cake onto rack. Remove the paper, invert right-side-up, and let cool completely.

To serve, cut into wedges. Slice each wedge in half horizontally and fill with fruit. Top with sour cream, whipped cream, or ice cream. Here I used nonfat sour cream and a hot cherry filling.



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There used to be a restaurant in Eureka, California, called Ramone’s Opera Alley Cafe.  I never got a chance to eat there – well, I guess I had chances, but I didn’t take them. There’s now a place called Cafe Nooner where it was; Ramone’s lives on as a bakery.

Anyway, a few years ago I found an interview online with a guy who cooked at Ramone’s and he gave a recipe for a Spanakopita burger they apparently used to make. I looked at the recipe the other day and it included ground pork along with turkey, which I am sure is delicious but not really on our recommended diet these days. I made some adjustments and made these for dinner last night along with sauteed corn & red onions and a heirloom tomato salad. It was divine.


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and shape into patties.


Refrigerate until well-chilled (turkey burgers tend to fall apart easily; the chilling helps them stick together).

I cooked these on a Lodge cast-iron grill.



Cook until well-done (I used an instant-read meat thermometer).

Serve on toasted buns with the usual burger toppings – though we tried some homemade peach chutney in place of ketchup and it was fabulous.



  • Use half ground pork and half ground turkey.
  • Substitute ground lamb for the turkey; omit the panko. Cook until rare or medium-rare.
  • Substitute blue cheese or gorgonzola for the feta.
  • Substitute basil or rosemary for the oregano.
  • Add chopped Kalamata olives.
  • Serve on focaccia bread.


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I’m so over summer, but like honey badger, summer don’t care. It’s going to be here for the next million years, or at least that’s what it feels like.  It’s a long string of days in which it’s just too hot to do a lot of cooking.


On those kinds of days, I often make bruschetta. It’s virtually no-cook (except for making toast) and is an extremely good way to enjoy the best summer tomatoes. There’s no set recipe: use as much of each ingredient as you like or you have on hand. This approaches Nirvana if made with heirloom tomatoes.

  • Real summer tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Core and chop tomatoes. Mince garlic. Chop or sliver basil. Combine in a bowl. Pour in some olive oil and add salt & pepper to taste.

Toast the best bread you can lay your hands on (i.e. not  squishy supermarket bread like Rainbo).  If you feel ambitious, cut a garlic clove in half and rub the cut side onto the toast until the garlic disappears. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the toast. Eat.

Possible add-ins:

  • Minced hot peppers, cayenne, or hot sauce.
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • Fresh oregano along with, or in place of, the basil.
  • Minced sweet onion.
  • Chopped roasted red bell pepper.
  • Chopped good-quality olives (like Kalamata).

Other things to try:

  • Top bruschetta with cheese, then run under the broiler.
  • Spread tapenade on toast, then top with tomato mixture.
  • Spread pesto on toast, then top with tomato mixture.
  • Skip the toast. Mix this into hot cooked pasta.
  • Pour over green salad and toss.
  • Puree leftovers and serve as cold soup.
  • Use to top baked or grilled fish.
  • Use to top grilled eggplant.
  • Puree and strain. Pour over ice along with a healthy shot of vodka.


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Remember Freedom Fries?

You cannot go around renaming food because you’re mad at its namesake. If we did that,  we would have had to say goodbye to hamburgers, Korean BBQ, chicken Kiev, peaches (old name for Persia, AKA Iran), seltzer, French toast,  German chocolate cake, and whoever else it is we don’t like this week.

So I make no apologies for Iraqi Spice-rubbed Chicken. If you feel very strongly about it, I suppose you could call it Mesopotamian Chicken or Assyrian Chicken, but really – let go of whatever feelings you may have about the politics, and revel in the amazing flavors of the cuisine.

This is from Saveur. I have slightly adapted it. See  recipe for The Greek Layered Salad  for details about and an explanation of sumac. Also? I think if any one (or two) spices are too difficult to locate, they could be skipped here – but I am a big proponent of a well-stocked spice cabinet. If your supermarket charges an arm and a leg for Spice Islands or McCormick or other name brands, seriously consider buying herbs & spices in bulk (as I do) and keeping in an old mustard jar, or buying from a mail-order place like Penzeys or Amazon. If you intend to learn to cook, it is imperative that you not be afraid of having ingredients at hand, and using them.



  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 4 dried red chiles, stemmed
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • 8 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • optional: 4 dried rose hips (available at health food stores)

Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the coriander, cumin, peppercorns, cardamom, chiles, allspice, and cloves, and cook to toast lightly, shaking the pan often, for one or two minutes until the spices become fragrant. Remove spices to a bowl (if you leave them in the pan, even off the heat, they will overcook.) Let cool.

If you have a spice grinder, grind the cooled spices in it, then mix with the other spices and mashed garlic.

If you don’t have a spice grinder, combine the toasted spices with the other spices and the mashed garlic in a blender or food processor, and blitz, stopping the machine often to scrape down the sides, until you have an unbelievably exotic-smelling blend.

Rub this spice mixture into the skin and under the skin of chicken. Discard any leftover spices (since you will have been dipping into it with hands that have been handling raw chicken).

Either grill chicken or roast in a 350 degree oven until cooked through (a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees, or a knife inserted at that point produces clear or yellow juices – if the juices run pink, it isn’t done).

Use this on whole chickens to roast, or halved/cut-up pieces. Makes enough for about 6 pounds of chicken.

Appropriate accompaniments would be rice, especially Persian jeweled rice, or couscous, plus eggplant prepared in any of a thousand ways.  I think a raw, crisp salad with a tart vinaigrette or quick pickled vegetable is required here too. Fresh summer fruit such as apricots or melon would make a perfect dessert.

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