Somehow coming back from the Kaua’i vacation just didn’t turn on my cooking button and creative juices.  I’ve been plodding away at cooking without anything grabbing my imagination.  But that will change soon.  Strawberries are out in the local markets, and I just bought a 6 pint box from my local veggie stand.  This weekend the organic stand may have some of their delicious berries for sale and we’ll be elbow deep in strawberries.

I just love those red berries and they are great for snacking and munching – low in calories, high in fiber.  It is time for strawberry-rhubarb pie, fruit crumbles, and jam.  But most important, fresh spring fruit snacking.  Mix cut-up berries in your yogurt with a little flaxseed and oat bran and you have a wonderful dessert/breakfast that will hold through to lunch time.

As for the cheating heart bit, you’ve probably noticed that pizza prices are now starting to head toward the $30 level.  Sorry, but that is too expensive for dough, cheese and tomato sauce.  We have found an economic alternative.  Buy pre-made dough and put in your own toppings.

I am truly uncoordinated when shaping the pizza dough.  Trader Joe’s makes a good dough but my pizzas are always weird looking when I have to form my own pie.  So now, I go do Safeway and buy their large Safeway Select fresh pizza.  Those pizzas are usually found on the end isle, are about 42 ounces, come with sauce and several types of topping which suck.  I get their 5 cheese pie and use my own toppings.  Sunday, we were in the mood for a Greek Pizza and it was excellent. Eat this with  steam spring asparagus and a green salad (don’t forget your SaladSuccess shaker to make the dressing).

Greek Pizza Topping

6 ounces baked and cut up (I use scissors) bacon or pancetta

20 Kalamata olives halved and pitted

Feta Cheese

½ can artichokes – I get them from Trader Joe’s

Pesto

1 Italian sausage – get it from the Butcher’s section of the grocery store – take off the skin

1 cup grated fresh Mozzarella cheese – don’t use that rubbery crap but try to find a softer cheese.  Trader Joe makes an excellent Mozzerella cheese.

DIRECTIONS

Spread ingredients evenly over pie.  Bake for 23  minutes in an oven set at 425 degrees.

In 1976 and ’78 Cuisinart provided a wonderful little wire-bound cookbook called “New Recipes for the Cuisinart Food Processor and it was written by James Beard and Carl Jerome. Unfortunately, it is out of print and my copy (I lost my original) came from a garage sale.  Buy it if you can find it; the recipes are magnificent.  And here is the wonderful Green Goddess Recipe.  If you are squeamish about making your own mayonnaise, substitute with Best Buy’s, Trader Joe’s or another good mayonnaise.  This recipe needs to be made in a food processor, not in the SaladSuccess shaker.

Green Goddess Salad Dressing – makes 2 cups

1 ¾ cups mayonnaise

6 anchovy fillets

3 green onions (scallions) chopped roughly

2 shallots halved

2 tbsps of a good white vinegar such as tarragon, balsamic or apple

10 sprigs parsley with stems removed

2 sprigs fresh tarragon leaves or 1 tsp dried tarragon leaves

Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions

With the metal blade in place, add mayonnaise, anchovy fillets, green onions, shallots, vinegar, parsley and tarragon to the beaker.  Process until mixture is evenly chopped, about 30 seconds.  Taste and season with salt & pepper.  Process for 5 seconds.

Optional ingredients: A bunch of chives (coarse chop), 1 tsp of Worchestershire sauce, chopped fresh cilantro, lime (for Southwestern Cobb Salad) dash of cayenne pepper.

Salads: Cobb, Southwestern Cobb (add freshly cooked corn, black beans and taco strips), Spinach with Egg, and Mixed Greens.

Green Goddess Dressing recipe courtesy of James Beard and Carl Jerome

I’ll start with appliance hell.  Our dishwasher from Hell (Frigidaire) died about a year ago, and we finally got fed up of hand washing.  Why did we put off the decision to buy a new dishwasher for so long?  Easy, we did buy a Bosch but it wouldn’t fit in the cabinet.  Years ago I hired a tiler to redo my kitchen floor and he tiled in the dishwasher.  Contractors in California are interesting, many got started in their trade to support a drug habit.  Now they are all reborn, but definitely brain cells are missing especially when tiling kitchen floors.

For a year we angst’ing whether to pull out our tiles from around the dishwasher, which I have no replacements of the old tile, or to pull out the old dishwasher by making a hole through our stucco wall.  Both solutions were expensive and imperfect.  Finally we decided to get a shorter dishwasher that would fit our space.

Now our choice was limited, shorter dishwashers are ADA-compliant, and for the most part, hard to buy since no one keeps them in stock.  Plus they are either super-expensive such as Miele or Asko, or have an old fashion design.  I really wanted a stainless steel front, steel tub, low noise and lower water usage, plus a hidden control panel.  All that was left in my price range was a Blomberg, a brand similar to Bosch, but not well established in the US.  With a leap of faith after reading the reviews (no one brand stands out), I ordered the Blomberg at HomeEverything.com.

One month later, no dishwasher.  I called HomeEverything.  “Yes, it will be here in 7 to 10 days”.  Two weeks later, (total of 6 weeks) same old story.  In fact until yesterday, the lovely guys at customer service were singing every two weeks the same song.  Yesterday, I called again and found out that there was a “Master” back order.  “What is a Master back order”, I asked Mr. HomeEverything customer serviceman.  “Well, it seems that there is a major amount of product that is overdue”, said the calm voice on the phone.   “And does this mean that I should expect my dishwasher in SEPTEMBER?” I said with a slight panic in my voice.  “No”, said Mr. HomeEverything, “but it will probably take another 2 to 4 weeks”.

That’s it.  These guys at HomeEverything have been stringing me on the line for 3 months.  They have totally lost their credibility with me.  I’ll never try buying anything from them again. Tomorrow I’ll go talk to the guys at Sears (you can haggle with them and the warranty is good) and get a Bosch.  Do you have another idea that might work?  Comments are really appreciated.

On another subject, here is the recipe for Shrimp and Celeriac Remoulade.  Celeriac (Celery root) is a celery bulb, a hairy, incredibly unattractive object that is wonderfully mild.  You’ll need to peel it with a very sharp knife, like a pineapple and use a food processor, a god-send to cooks around the world, to make the thin strips.  I first had remoulade at the Carlyle Hotel during a Sunday Brunch.  It was one of those perfect weekends in NYC, caught the evening show at Café Carlyle with Bobby Short, drank lots of champagne and luxuriated in a room at the hotel.  I felt like an adult “Eloise at the Plaza”, only I was at a better hotel, the Carlyle.

I like to add poppy seeds to my remoulade and you can substitute the shrimp with crab or lobster.  This 5 minute recipe is delicious, exotic and elegant.  But it ain’t cheap so make it for a special occasion.

Shrimp and Celeriac Remoulade – Serves 4 – 8 people.  Prep time:  10 minutes,  inactive refrigerator time:  ½ hour.

1 lb of cold cooked and peeled shrimp

1 – 2 peeled bulbs of celeriac – bulbs are usually slightly under 2 lbs each

1 cup of good mayonnaise – I use Best Brand or Trader Joe’s Organic

2 lemons – make sure that they are full of juice

2 tsps white vinegar such as white wine or white balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp freshly grounded pepper

1 tsp poppy seeds

Directions

Using the food processor and the shredding disk, feed chunks of the celeriac thru the machine.  You can also use a mandoline on a matchstick setting.  Place the celeriac shavings in a large bowl, add the lemon juice and kosher salt, mix well, and allow mixture to stand for 30 minutes to soften the bulb and add flavor.

In a small bowl whisk mayonnaise, white vinegar, Dijon mustard and pepper.  Pour over celeriac mixture, add cold shrimp and poppy seeds.  Refrigerate until serving time.  Garnish with additional poppy seeds.

This dish makes a delightful cold main course, with a light dry white wine, good bread, steamed asparagus and a light green salad with a shallot vinaigrette. Don’t forget to use your SaladSuccess Shaker!

Looking for something different and spring-like, but don’t want to indulge in off season produce?  Try this salad for a change of pace.  Warm and delicious, this will tempt the most demanding palates.

INGREDIENTS

2 red onions finely sliced

Olive oil

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 crushed, pressed or finely chopped garlic cloves

2 tsp grated ginger root

1 ½ cup split lentils – I use the common red lentils that you can find in any grocery store

3 cups vegetable stock or bouillon

2 tbsp chopped fresh mint

2 tbsp chopped cilantro

4 – 5 cups spinach

2 avocados, pitted and sliced

1 tsp hazelnut or walnut oil

4 tbsp Greek or strained plain yogurt – greek has a richer texture

Fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS

In a large skillet over medium heat with enough olive oil to cover the bottom, sauté onions until soft, for about 10 minutes.  Add cumin seeds, garlic and ginger root.  Sauté for 2 minutes, constantly stirring.

Stir in lentils; add stock at a ladleful at a time and constantly stirring, until the stock is absorbed – about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in herbs.

Toss spinach in hazelnut or walnut oil, then divide among 4-6 salad plates or one large serving plate

Mash goat cheese with yogurt in a small bowl (you can also use a stick or mini-blender but don’t puree) and season with fresh ground pepper.

Place lentils among salad plates or serving plate and top with avocado slices and goat cheese mixture.

Courtesy of Salad by Love Food

Hurray, I am done with 2009 taxes and sending out financial packets to my daughter’s potential colleges.  So now things can get back to normal with recipes and writing.  Thanks for your patience.

I like re-gifting; it makes sense and is economical.  No more guilt about receiving a present that is useless to you or hangs around in your garage, waiting to be broken.  I’ve got a lovely 2 foot brass corkscrew that I have no use for since I like tools that are small and multi-functional.  Right now the damn thing is in its box and being used to hold up a bunch of crap.  But it was given to us by my husband’s best friend and so we are torn up about what to do with a tool that is the size of furniture.

This year my cousin gave me or really, re-gifted me a garlic press.  It has got to be the weirdest tool  I’ve ever seen and probably was last year’s hot kitchenware product.  I’ve worked with it and here is the  summary on the little monster; this tool is stupid unless you have arthritis or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in your wrist and hands, which I have.

It presses and slices garlic very well, but you cannot fill the individual wells more than half way, otherwise it doesn’t work.  It also is a bitch to clean, since the pressed garlic gets stuck in the little metal holes. It is hard to set up with the swinging metal pressure pieces, and you need to be careful with the slicer, since it has VERY SHARP BLADES.  In all, it is a crappy and badly designed product.

However, if you are like me and have pain in your wrist from squeezing or whisking, this tool works.  I don’t like using it since it is cumbersome to set up and clean.  But I have no more pain when I use this press, and that is worth its weight in gold.

Now here is my bad news.  Since we are going to Hawaii for spring break, I’d like to lose some weight and get into a moderately pleasing looking dress.  Right now, I feel like the mother blimp and I need to get this lard off of my body.  It came on from eating great food, and now it is time to come off.  Which means that I’ll be hallucinating new recipes that my family gets to try, while I go back to protein shakes,2 per day.

I’ve tried most of the protein powders, and in my humble opinion, the protein/whey powder from Herbalife tasted great, but the price tag was nuts.  Not only do they charge 3x as much for a container of the stuff, you also have to pay $11 for shipping.  Forget it.

So I use the products at Trader Joe’s and it is fine.  But since I still get hungry in the first couple days, I also add oat bran and flaxseed (love that omega-3) to help fill me up.  So here is my Caribbean Cooler recipe.    If you have any great protein shake recipes, please email me.  I am so bad at sticking to any diet or lifestyle change and can get all the help possible.

Caribbean Cooler Shake

In a blender add:

8 oz. Almond low-fat milk

½ cup frozen pineapple – Trader Joe

½ cup frozen mango – Trader Joe

1 medium or small banana in 3 pieces

2 spoonfuls of your favorite protein powder

½ cup of water

1 tsp flaxseed

1 tsp oat bran

Liquidate mixture, and voila – a wonderful filling shake.

But come evening, I can’t wait to make myself a HUGE salad with avocado, feta cheese, cucumbers and of course, a salad dressing using SaladSuccess shaker.

Today David Lebovitz sent out a new blog about Cahors, France, that was so rich and loaded with mouthwatering pictures, I almost left my computer inebriated from the thought of the superb wine and food.  Then I saw the picture of Cahors menu and read it; Joue de Boeuf.  This doesn’t mean “game of beef” but refers to the cheek of an ox.  And the French don’t make up silly marketing names to enhance the sale of meat, but tell it like it is.  Concerning food, the French have no sense of whimsy.  I am quite sure that average Americans would reel away from a dish made from the check of a cow, brains or kidneys.

Which reminds me of a time my husband, Warren, and I spent a month in France.  Now I don’t just speak French, I’m fluent (thank you Mommy for being French) and I always pride myself to try anything as long as it doesn’t wiggle.  We had dumped my five year old daughter with Grandmere in Paris, and had three days to tour through the Chateaux de la Loire countryside drinking, sightseeing, smooching and most importantly, eating.

While spending time in Amboise, I saw a little sign for menu fixe that looked charming.  I had given up on the tour book restaurant suggestions since it seems that place listed required reservations and that is not my style of traveling light and cheap.  My main criteria for choosing a restaurant is that air must smell good, the restaurant must be populated by locals and it needs to be crowded.  This little place in Amboise fit the bill and into the abyss we went.

We sit down in this charming restaurant and the first thing that hits my eyes is lamb.  Lamb is taboo our house when my husband is around.  He hates the stuff and I love it, so I’m always a lamb sucker.  Warren probably ordered some chicken dish and when the two plates came out, we were delighted.  Truly a menu fix dream that we moaned and groaned over.  At the end of the meal, I asked the server about my lamb plate, since I’ve never had lamb before made in that manner.  The server went into great detail about the type of GLAND and its secretions that were used in the meal and at this point, I decided not to understand French.  So when in France, don’t try to understand too much when ordering a meal.

Being a cheap and reluctant cook makes me always want to economize on the amount of cooking I do, the complexity of recipes and the number of dishes to clean.  So three nights ago I roasted 2 chickens, one for the dinner and one to go.  Yesterday night I cubed ¾ of all the chicken and made Chicken Pot Pie with Sherry and Leeks.  Warm and delicious, it was the perfect meal accompanied by a glass of white wine and a mesclun and avocado salad topped with shallot vinaigrette.   This recipe is based on Ina Garten’s Chicken Pot Pie but with less work and with a French twist.

Chicken Pot Pie with Sherry and Leeks – Courtesy to Ina Garten

Ingredients Serves about 8 people, Prep time: 1 hour, Cooking time: 1 hour, remember you’ll need at least ½ hour to chill the dough

  • ¾ of a cooked chicken or 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • Olive oil
  • Salt &  ground black pepper (I use Costco)
  • 5 cups water or chicken stock.  Using water I add 3 heaping tablespoons of “Better than Bouillon
  • About 10 sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes
  • 2 leeks – cleaned and sliced
  • 1 bag – 10 to 14 oz. frozen small whole (pearled) onions
  • 1/2 cup of sherry – don’t use the expensive stuff

For the pastry: – This only makes enough for a top which is enough for use.  If you want a top and bottom, make the pastry recipe 2 times (don’t just double, it will break the food processor)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash – optional

Directions

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, heat the water and add the “Better than Bouillon (or just heat up your chicken stock).

In a large pot or Dutch oven with enough olive oil to cover the bottom, sauté the mushroom over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the liquid is reduced. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken bouillon and sherry to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, leeks, onions and parsley. Mix well.  If mixture is a little too thin, add a little more flour.

In a deep oven-safe casserole dish, pour in the mixture (remember, if you want to have a bottom crust, you need to roll and prepare the dough. Place the rolled dough on top and trim to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the casserole. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash (optional) and make 3 slits in the top. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.


Here is another southwestern rendition of ranch dressing, this time with chipotles, limes and cilantro. Has a delightful clean fresh taste and it’s great as a dressing or a dip.

INGREDIENTS

Mayonnaise

Buttermilk or sour cream

4 large spoonfuls of parmesan cheese

4 large spoonfuls of lime juice

4 large spoonfuls of pureed chipotle peppers

1 large spoonful of cilentro

1 spoonful of minced dried onion

1 spoonful of cumin

1 clove of garlic, pressed or minced

2 dashes of salt

1 dash of cayenne

DIRECTIONS

Mayonnaise to the ½ blue marks on the SaladSuccess Shaker

Buttermilk or sour cream to the top of the blue vinegar line

Add the rest of the ingredients

Shake vigorously and chill for ½ hour or more.

Reshake before serving

Once again, don’t squeeze out the dressing through the poppet top; just unscrew the top and pour over your salad.

Well, let’s turn up the heat.  And the spices.  You can use any taco seasoning with this recipe.  I myself have a large bottle of McCormick Taco Seasoning that I bought at Costco, but the best I found was Chef Andrew Cohen’s Southwest Spice Seasoning.  Give a call at Malabar Trading Company at 831-469-8233 to order.  Warning, these packets are small so order enough.  This dressing is not only great while eating chicken wings, but also on a green salad with jicama, cheddar cheese, sweet red peppers and of course, avocado slices.

INGREDIENTS

Mayonnaise

Buttermilk or Sour Cream

4 large spoonfuls of taco seasoning

1 clove of garlic, pressed or minced

2 dashes of salt

2 dash of cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS

Mayonnaise to the ½ blue mark on the SaladSuccess Shaker

Buttermilk/sour cream to the top of the blue vinegar line

Add taco seasoning, garlic, salt & cayenne pepper

Shake vigorously and chill for ½ hour.

Reshake before serving

Once again, don’t squeeze out the dressing through the poppet top; just unscrew the top and pour over your salad .

Fried Chicken with Ranch Dressing, it’s an American classic.  Here is a simple and wonderful way to make Ranch Dressing for chicken or for a mixed salad.  I especially love it over beets.  If you want it with a  richer taste, then replace the buttermilk with sour cream.  Delightful, either way.

INGREDIENTS

Mayonnaise

Buttermilk

4 large spoonfuls of Parmesan cheese

2 large spoonfuls of dried parsley

1 spoonful of minced dried onion

1 clove of garlic, pressed or minced

2 dashes of salt

1 dash of pepper

DIRECTIONS

Mayonnaise to the ½ blue mark on the SaladSuccess Shaker

Buttermilk to the top of the blue vinegar line

Add Parmesan cheese, dry parsley, minced dry onion, garlic, salt & pepper

Shake vigorously and chill for ½ hour.

Reshake before serving

Once again, don’t squeeze out the dressing through the poppet top; just unscrew the top and pour over your salad.

Vinegared dishes in Japan are called sunomono as su means vinegar in Japanese. Sunomono has a light, clean taste and goes with many types of dishes. Try this dressing on finely sliced cucumbers (get out the mandoline), a bit of daikon (Japanese radish), scallions and carrots.  If you want to be adventurous, put few tiny raw scallops and a slice of raw salmon, along with a little dollop of crab meat (steam these if you’re squeamish). Then sprinkle with sesame seeds.  This recipe is from a fabulous web site, www.edibleparadise.com and was contributed by Chef Andrew Cohen, Chef in Residence, Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets.
INGREDIENTS
Rice vinegar
Dashi (see below)
5 large spoonfuls of sugar
DIRECTIONS
Rice vinegar to the ½ blue mark on the SaladSuccess Shaker
Dashi to the top  vinegar line
Add sugar
Shake vigorously in the SaladSuccess Shaker
Pour over salad
In small bowl, whisk all ingredients vigorously until sugar goes into suspension.

Chef Andrew has provided a dashi recipe at Edible Paradise.  Dashi is the stock used in Japanese cuisine.  It’s made with kelp and bonito flakes, all available at Asian markets. Instant dashi powder is also available at stores. Use it if you are time-limited. Usually, about 1 tsp of dashi powder is used for 3 to 5 cups of water. Just follow the instructions on the package.