Monday, June 22, 2015

Real Men Make the Best Quiche Ever

Quiche is one of our favorite, time-consuming meals to make. You really have to plan a day in advance, but it is so worth it. You get dinner, and breakfast, and then dinner again. It didn't hurt that an office mate actually gave us three dozen eggs because her neighbor's chickens were on egg-laying overdrive. And, our garden is also bursting with life, so gathering the herbs was no problem either. And it made for a beautiful bright green dough. 

Pie crust
1 ¼ cup flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 tbsp (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
4 tbsp chopped herbs (rosemary, oregano, chives, parsley, thyme)
3-4 tbsp ice water

4 oz cheese
4 green onions/scallions chopped
4 slices of bacon
1 cup cooked greens (kale, spinach)
t tbsp. melted butter
1 cup cream
2 eggs
salt, pepper

Place the flour, salt and pepper in food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. While the machine is running, gradually drizzle in the water, processing until the dough comes together to form a ball. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and shape it into a flat disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour or overnight.

Cook the bacon in a cast iron pan. Once cooked through, remove the bacon and leave the bacon fat in the pan. Sautee the onions/scallions & garlic in the bacon fat, add in whatever vegetables you want to use. Let cool. Whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese. Once the veggies are cooled, add them to the egg mixture.

Take the dough out of the fridge and let it get a little soft – just so you can manipulate it into the pie pan. Roll out into a disc, and shape into your pie pan. I'm afraid of shaping pie dough, so that task falls to D., always. 

Fill the pie with the egg-veggie-cheese mixture. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour,; you know it’s done when you poke with a toothpick in the center, it comes out clean.  Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, and then slice & enjoy!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Buttery Buttercream

Every month, the local YWCA holds a Cupcake Awards event. Residents and staff can nominate one someone who's done something kind or extraordinary in the past month. Since I joined the board of the organization, I've been baking cupcakes for the event at home. It seemed like a worthwhile kind of event that deserved better than store-bought cupcakes. The thing I could never get down was the frosting, though.

When the owner of a local sweets shop, Sue of Sweet Sue's, joined the board, I had to ask: what was I doing wrong? I beat the heck out of the frosting like my mother taught me, but it always separates.

She gave me three key tips: 1. Use quality butter; 2. Don't use a metal mixer, better to use paddles; and 3. Make sure the butter is warmer than room temperature. I was super pleased with the results. I told someone: this might be too buttery for some people's tastes, and that person said: what kind of person would that be?

Buttery Buttercream

1 lb butter, a bit warmer than room temperature
1 tsp salt
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
8 oz whipping cream

Heat the egg whites and 1 cup of sugar in a dish set in boiling water. Whisk constantly so that the eggs do not cook. If any part of the egg solidifies, strain it into a clean dish. Cool it in the fridge while you whip the butter.

Whip the butter with salt in a mixer with paddles until fluffy. Do not skimp on the mixing time.

When the egg mixture is cooled, add gradually to the whipping butter, then pour in the whipping cream slowly. Beat until you get the consistency that you want.

You can add all kinds of flavoring with the whipping cream; for vanilla buttercream, add vanilla extract.

Dainty Carnivores

Roast beef & rocket sandwiches
Every month or so, I get together with a group of women who do policy-related work with the state government in Albany. The woman who hosts the gathering and I usually handle a basic menu, and then others bring a dish if they can. It's not really a potluck because these are busy women, and we want to encourage them -- with some tasty treats -- to come; instead of deterring them because they didn't have time to stop for a bottle of wine or some cheese and crackers.

red and white endive leaves with Trader Joe's spinach & kale greek yogurt dip 

One time I made dainty little egg-salad sandwiches when a deviled egg experiment went awry. They were just as you might imagine--fluffy egg salad on white bread quarters with the crust cut off, pimento, and watercress. They were the perfect finger food. This time I was feeling carniverous, so I made 6 roast beef sandwiches on whole wheat bread. I spread a bit of mayonnaise on one side and then spread with horseradish, a bit of whole-grain mustard on the other, and then layered rocket greens and roast beef in between. Then I cut the crusts off and quartered them. I served them with a side of super-hot horseradish sauce, which I thought they would use sparingly if at all. But it was a hit.

For Saturday breakfast, I took all of the crusts and separated them from the bits of roast beef and greens. I made an omelet with the roast beef and greens, and fed the crusts to the birds. Everyone was happy!

mini chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and caramel sauce

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hands to work, hearts to God

There are two Shaker communities near where we live in Troy, New York. One of them is in the Berkshires, the Hancock Shaker Village, and the other one is in Albany/Colonie. We went to visit shortly after moving here. Aside from their sturdy and simple but beautiful furniture and the song "Tis a Gift to be Simple, Tis a Gift to be Free..." the Shakers were also known for their simple and tasty cooking, folks arts & crafts, a solid work ethic, and gender and racial equality. The Shaker settlements also are said to have sheltered escaped slaves on their way to Canada. Their way of life seems appealing, but they were also committed to abstinence, which may be why there are no more Shakers left. Not a very sustainable way of being. We learned that a few years ago, there was a resurgence and there were a few Shaker men in the community, but when a reporter who came to do a story on the community fell in love and ran away with one of the Shaker men, that was that really.

The gift shop sold cookie molds of a hand with a cut out for a heart in the center. I bought it, and have made the recipe many times since. The cookies are a real hit, and they're fun to make.

On the package reads: "The Heart & Hand reminds us of Mother Ann's saying: "Put your hands to work and your hearts to God."

Shaker Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp lemon peel
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
4 cups sifted flour

Cream butter & sugar. Save 1/2 egg white for brushing cookies. Slightly beat the eggs and add to the butter mixture. Add nutmeg and lemon peel. Sift cream of tartar and salt with flour and work into butter mixture. Chill for 1/2 hour. Roll into 1/2 inch thickness and cut into shapes. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Makes about 3 dozen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patty's Sourdough

Another winning St. Patrick's Day recipe! This one adds sourdough to the soda bread, and raisins (or currants) and walnuts to the traditional caraway seeds. I also added sunflower seeds, which sometimes turn a little green during the baking process. I found this recipe on a sourdough blog compilation. 
This is fantastic as a toasted breakfast bread, served on the side of soup, or just as a snack with some tea.


2 ½ cups flour (I used half white/half wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup raisins or currants
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
¼ cup sunflower seeds
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 cup fed sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
4 tbsp honey


Preheat oven to 400°F and grease a baking sheet.
Whisk the baking soda and salt into the flour, then toss through the currants and walnuts, making sure the currants are coated in flour – this will ensure they stay evenly distributed through the loaf.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the starter, water and honey. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until combined. Add a dash more water if needed for the dough to come together.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead together lightly, pushing back in any currants or nuts that come out.
Form dough into a ball and place on baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut a 1/2″ deep cross in the top.
Bake in center of the oven for about 30 – 35 minutes, until deep golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.​

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Toad in the Hole

Downstairs Toad in the Hole*

3 pork sausages, cut in half
1 medium onion, quartered and sliced
1-1 1/2  tbsp olive oil
2 cups white flour
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
2-3 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Sautee the onion slices in olive oil until just beginning to brown. Slice each of the three pork sausages in half and stand them upright, one in each of six greased muffin cups. Sprinkle each cup with an even amount of sauteed onion and bake in the oven for about 10 - 15 minutes or until sausage is cooked through. While the sausages are baking, whisk together the flour, eggs, and milk until smooth. Add the Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, and salt and pepper. Remove the sausage and onions from the oven and carefully pour the batter over them until each muffin cup is a bit more than 3/4 full, with the sausage standing up in the middle (the "toad" poking its head out of the hole).

Return the muffin pan to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on your oven, the size of your muffin cups, etc.) until the muffins have puffed up mightily and browned a bit on the edges. If you poke with a toothpick, they might deflate, but you can check by poking with a toothpick if they are cooked through.

The most dramatic part is taking them out of the oven, so if you are making them for a loved one or a group, make sure they're around to see! Once they're served--brought to a table or placed on a plate, they will deflate a little bit. Serve with gravy or mustard. Enjoy!

I adapted this recipe from Emily Ansara Baines' Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook (2012). This recipe appeared in a section about sustenance for the household staff--and it truly is a hearty breakfast for worker bees. I couldn't find a recipe that made this dish look appetizing, so I decided to use this recipe, but cook the dish in individual muffin cups so it truly appeared as a toad peeking out of a hole! I also left out the garlic powder (because I don't have any!)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Simple Squash Curry Soup

Simple title, simple picture, simple recipe. Enjoy!


One pumpkin, kabocha, butternut, or other kind of squash
3 carrots
3 celery stalks
2 onions
2-4 cloves garlic
1-2 hot peppers
1 tsp each of: turmeric, cardamom, cumin, pepper, paprika, salt, ginger, cinnamon
1 can of coconut milk
(garnish with thick yogurt, sriracha sauce, and pepitas/pumpkin seeds)


Halve the squash, remove the seeds and pulp, and roast (innard-side down) on a lightly-oiled baking dish until soft. (you can roast the cleaned-off seeds in a roasting pan seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, and either sweet or savory spices afterward).

Scoop out the soft squash and set aside.

Roughly chop the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and de-seeded pepper(s). Saute in a cast iron pan in olive oil. Add spices, which will appear to sear a bit. The scent it gives off will tell you it's curry-ing.

Once the curry has curry'd, add the squash and sautee for a few moments so that the squash sops up the spices. Add coconut milk and simmer--do not boil--for about 10 minutes.

Allow the mixture to cool.

Depending on how you like your soup, eat as is, or blend until the mixture achieves your desired level of smoothness.

Garnish. Serve to someone you love.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dreamy Herbed Pizza

I'm not a fan of NY-style pizza: greasy slices of soggy crust with sliding-off cheese, bland tomato sauce, dotted with pepperoni. But homemade pizza, that's another story. This is the best recipe for pizza dough that I've tried, and it derives from Ms. Martha Stewart; except Ms. Stewart doesn't jazz it up with herbs like I do.

Don't be shy with the herbs--it will look like a lot when you dump them in, but you'll be glad you did.

Best Herbed Pizza Crust

1 1/2 cup warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp sea salt
3 cups white flour
1 cup wheat flour
4 tbsp chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary, chives, parsley, oregano)
some flour for the surface
spray olive oil

Suggested toppings:

thinly sliced sausage
carmelized onion
basil pesto
mozarella cheese

Stir honey into the warm water and sprinkle with yeast. Let it get foamy (about 5 minutes). Mix flour with salt in a mixer. After the yeast mixture is foamy, whisk in the olive oil.  Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture, and mix just until the dough begins to stick together. Add in the herbs until the dough is sticky but holds together and the herbs are well distributed. Place the dough ball in an oiled bowl and turn around so all sides are slick with oil. Spray oil the top and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for an hour. Cut in half (or third if you like thin pizza) and shape into a round (or a rectangle, depending on the shape of your pan) and place on a hot, oiled pizza stone or cast iron pizza pan. Decorate! Pop it into the oven at 400 degrees F until the cheese is melted. Slide off onto a cutting board; cut into slices and enjoy!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Herb Your Enthusiasm

We inherited the most beautiful garden that anyone could ever ask for when we moved from Brooklyn to Troy, New York. But with such a garden comes immense responsibility. This past weekend, I found the herbs in the garden to be tremendously overgrown, with some in danger of going to seed. So I had to take swift action. I pruned all of the herbs and made lots of herbed butter, added dill to pickled beets, and I made a quiche that's a real keeper.

I remember friends in London making a pie-like dinner once with what seemed like an ethereal ease. I've always struggled with crusts, so whenever I watch someone make a crust and transfer it to a pie pan, I am in awe. So I messaged my UK friends and got the recipe: flour, butter, salt, cold water. Then I looked around for a recipe for the rest. I didn't want to have to go to the grocery store, so I just looked around for what I had in the house: smoked chicken sausage in the freezer, a lone yam, some garlic cloves, red onion, and a ton of broccoli leaves from my overripe broccoli plants.
 I followed this terrifically handy recipe: a mix & match quiche formula that turned out great.

And, D loved it. Because real men eat quiche, and love it.

Sausage, Greens & Yam Quiche in Herbed Crust

1 cup flour
5 tbsp butter
3 tbsp finely chopped herbs
1 tsp salt
5 tbsp ice water
1 egg
3 sausages
1/2 small-to-medium sized yam
2 cups of chopped greens (I used fresh broccoli leaves)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 red onion
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
salt & pepper to taste

At some point during this process, roast your yam. You can also use roasted garlic instead of sauteeing it as below.

Combine the flour with the butter and salt, either in a food processor or by hand until the flour and butter have combined into little lumps. Add in chopped herbs and ice water a little bit at a time until the dough begins to form into a ball. Refrigerate in a ball for 1/2 hour. When it's chilled, roll out the dough to fit a 9" pie shell. Fit into a pie pan and pinch the edges. Brush with beaten egg wash. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Set aside.

Saute garlic and red onion in a cast iron pan. Add diced sausage until cooked through (you can dice before you cook the sausage, or after) and then add the chopped greens. When fully cooked, add diced roasted yam. Allow the mixture to thoroughly cool, and then add 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella.

Place about 1 1/2 - 2 cups of the sausage/veggie/cheese mixture into the pie shell.

Whisk the eggs & milk with salt & pepper to taste, and pour over the vegetables in the pie shell.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees; the egg mixture custard will appear to be too liquidy well into that 45 minutes but be patient. The last 10 minutes will see your custard rise a bit and then solidify. When the center stops jiggling and begins to brown just a touch, it's ready. Let sit for 5-10 minutes after you take it out of the oven and before you cut it. The puffy custard will settle down when it's ready to cut.

Enjoy with a side salad or all by itself!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Herby Cheesy Pizza

I've been experi-menting a lot with pizza doughs lately. The mush-rooms at the Troy Farmer's Market have really been the inspiration. Sunday nights have become pizza night in our house, and each one has been a little different. This dough is a keeper, although the original recipe didn't have salt or pepper, which made it a bit blander than I would have liked.

Rosemary Parmesan Pizza Dough

1 tsp dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 tsp honey
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
optional: diced garlic, crushed red pepper

Stir together warm water and honey, add 1 tsp of yeast and let sit until frothy. In a mixer with a dough hook (or you can do this with your hands) mix together flour, olive oil, water/yeast mixture. add tosemary, cheese and seasonings. When all of the ingredients have come together to form a ball, knead for about 5 minutes. Place the dough ball in a greased bowl and cover with a clean dish towel until doubled. Form your crust, and freeze the leftover dough for the next time.

Top your pizza with whatever you like. We topped ours with some red sauce, mozzarella cheese, sliced mushrooms, garlic, leftover sausage, black olives, and some spinach from our garden. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Boozy Banana Muffins

I'm on a muffin tear. Maybe it's because I recently acquired a beautiful muffin tin from a foray to the Bennington Pottery Outlet, just 20 minutes from our house. Two recent happenings led to these muffins: leftover chopped ginger-pecan from our Easter ham, and a surplus of bananas from our 4th anniversary gifts. (Traditional gifts for a 4th wedding anniversary are fruits and vegetables, and my husband and I each bought each other a bunch of bananas! What a bunch of monkeys.) I hope you enjoy them.

 Ginger Pecan Whiskey Banana Muffins

2 mashed rip bananas
2 tbsp vegetable oil or light olive oil
1 egg
1/2 cup whiskey
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
1/4 cup toasted pecans
cooking spray

Mix together in a small bowl the bananas, oil, egg, whiskey, and vanilla. You can use this right away, but I recommend setting it aside for up to 10 hours before mixing it in with the dry ingredients to allow the banana to steep in the whiskey.

While that's happening, chop together in a mini-chopper crystallized (or candied) ginger with toasted pecans and set aside for the topping.

Sift together the dry ingredients. When you're ready to make your muffins, pour the melted butter into the dry ingredients and mix to wet. Then add the marinated banana mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until well mixed. Spray nine muffin cups and fill each 3/4 of the way to the top; top with your ginger-pecan mixture and bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bangers and Mash Muffins

It's a busy St. Patrick's Day week and while we've been guests to four different corned-beef-and-cabbage dinners, we weren't able to do our own this year. I can't let a holiday pass without some culinary contributions of my own, so this year, I made a crazy soda bread with sunflower seeds, as well as a new creation all my own: Bangers and Mash Muffins.

The soda bread is easy enough if you have all of the ingredients. As a guest at a gathering last night  who doesn't see much bread beyond store-bought white described it: hearty. This year, I added currants to my old Shamrock Soda Bread recipe and it is delicious.

I picked up a large "banger" sausage from the meat counter at the Albany Food Co-op last week, but we never had the time to do anything with it. Facing a pre-7 am start to St. Pat's Day, I decided to pre-make some Irish-themed egg muffins the night before. Pop them in your oven 20 minutes before you leave the house, and you have a hot, tasty meal right in your paws.

Bangers and Mash Muffins

6-cup muffin pan
6 eggs
1 pork sausage ("banger")
1 medium onion, diced
2 small red potatoes, boiled and diced
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Boil the red potatoes until tender and cut into small pieces. Saute the diced onion and boiled cut potatoes in a little bit of olive oil. Fry the banger and cut in small pieces. Add to the chopped onion and potato and mix well. Whisk six eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Spray or coat the muffin cups with olive oil. Evenly divide the eggs into the muffin cups. Sprinkle a pinch of cheddar cheese in each muffin cup, into the eggs, leaving some cheddar for the tops of the muffins. Evenly distribute a spoonful of the sausage-onion-potato mixture into each of the cups, into the eggs on top of the cheese. Top each muffin with a pinch of cheese. You can cover this and pop into the fridge the night before so that you can remove it and heat it in the oven the next morning, or you can make it right away. 350 Farenheit for about 15-20 minutes.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Different Dip

When we lived in Park Slope, invitations to pot luck parties were always accom-panied by: "please bring something other than hummous!" People often commented on gatherings at the Prospect Park bandshell by saying: "I wonder how many pounds of hummous are in this park tonite?" Have you experienced this? Just too much hummous in your life? If you have, I have a remedy for you.


It's a roasted red pepper, toasted walnut, pomegranate, and garlic dip. And you will love it.

I first tried it at one of my favorite Brooklyn restaurants, Tanoreen. (Rawia Bishara, the owner and chef at Tanoreen, actually has a new cookbook coming out on Feb. 8th. Can't wait to see if she has a recipe for this dish). There are a bunch of different recipes, but you can't trust any that don't have enough garlic or pomegranate molasses--an ingredient that may be hard to find, but is absolutely essential and makes the dish. I've often wondered if you can make a substitute by creating a simple syrup with pomegranate juice, but I haven't tried it yet. This is one I adapted from an Epicurious recipe.


7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice, or to taste
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (or more)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Serve with warm toasted pita triangles and vegetables.