Monday, June 19, 2017

French Potato Salad

It's stupid hot lately. Not by the numbers, really - high 80s, low 90s is hot, but not stupid hot. It's the humidity. With readings like 83% at times, it makes going outside a scary proposition. It also makes wanting to eat nearly impossible. That's why I love this recipe so much.

This type of weather is the perfect time for this delicate salad. Unlike its American counterpart, which is generally smothered in mayonnaise, this potato salad, made with new potatoes, spring onions and an oil and vinegar dressing, is lighter and bright in flavor.

French Potato Salad

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes


1 1/2 pounds new potatoes (small red-skinned potatoes)
1 Tbs shallots - minced
1/4 cup spring (or green) onion - sliced thickly
1 clove garlic - minced
1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon - finely chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Kosher salt - divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground


  1. Pour 2 quarts cold water into a medium saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon salt and set aside.
  2. Wash potatoes well and slice thickly -- about 1/4-inch per slice.
  3. Add sliced potatoes to water and heat to a simmer. Simmer until potatoes are tender but not mushy -- 4 to 5 minutes. Check doneness with a fork.
  4. While potatoes are cooking, combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until well blended.
  5. Drain potatoes and rinse briefly in cold water until no longer steaming hot. Add to dressing and toss gently but thoroughly. Refrigerate if desired or serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Sesame Slaw

Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Sesame Slaw
Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Sesame Slaw

Here's another great way to use one of those rotisserie chickens sold at the deli in your favorite grocery. I love lettuce wraps - they're like egg rolls without all the extra fat and calories. I'm lucky enough to have kids that will eat lettuce, among lots of other veggies, so these are great for us. I like using the rotisserie chicken since it's already cooked and more tender than other pre-cooked chicken products. It's also pretty straight-forward without extra preservatives and junk added. The sesame slaw is fast and full of flavor and pairs perfectly with the lettuce wraps. Having similar ingredients in both recipes speeds prep-time, as well.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 -6 servings


     1 Teriyaki flavored rotisserie chicken
     1/4 cup red pepper - diced small
     1/4 cup water chestnuts - diced small
     1/4 cup bamboo shoots - diced small
     2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
     2 tablespoons soy sauce
     1 tablespoon sesame oil
     1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
     2 cloves garlic - minced
     8 - 12 lettuce leaves, depending on size


1. Remove meat only from rotisserie chicken and dice small. This should give you about 2 cups of diced chicken.
2. Toss chicken with remaining ingredients.
3. Cook until heated through - about 5 minutes.
4. Serve with lettuce leaves for wrapping.

Notes: A plain rotisserie chicken works fine for this.
We used Boston lettuce for our wraps, although any lettuce will do. I also like the crunch of romaine lettuce. Smaller lettuce leaves yield more wraps.

Sesame Slaw

Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 45 minutes
Yield: 8 servings


     4 cups shredded Napa cabbage
     1 cup shredded carrot
     1 cup snow peas - blanched and sliced thinly, lengthwise
     1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro


     2 tablespoons sesame oil
     2 tablespoons rice vinegar
     1/4 cup soy sauce
     1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
     2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion


1. Toss together cabbage, carrot, snow peas and cilantro.
2. Mix dressing ingredients well and pour over cabbage.
3. Toss well to coat.
4. Refrigerate for at least half an hour before serving.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Amish Community Cookbook

Here in the Lehigh Valley, we don't live too far from Amish communities. It's no surprise, then, that I have several Amish cookbooks. Most are the same - recipes written with no fluff or extras, and no photographs. Amish food isn't exceptionally pretty, but the flavor more than makes up for it.

This cookbook, Amish Community Cookbook (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2017), authored by Carole Roth Giagnocavo and the Mennonite Central Committee, with photos from bloggers Joel Kratzer and Kaleb Wyse, fills in the photography gap in a beautiful way.

Most of the recipes are familiar to me, as they would be in Amish cooking, but the photos and anecdotes are what help propel this book above and beyond the rest. Oh, I still love my other cookbooks, but in my house there is always room for more - especially of the Amish variety.

The book begins with a brief introduction and history of Amish and Mennonites and goes on to offer little details about Amish cooking that are essential to know - things like using potato water and what "salad dressing" refers to throughout the book. While I fully enjoyed the anecdotes about Amish and Mennonite life, the thing I missed the most were descriptions of different recipes and how they had come to be. Mostly these are things I already know, but the average home cook may not.

The recipes are divine, and that's really the point, In fact, I've made Zucchini Casserole 3 times in the past two weeks! That stuff is just perfect and even my pickiest kids love it. Every recipe is comfort food at its finest - the kind that sustains a farmer for hours on end and nourishes the body and the soul.

Zucchini Casserole
Zucchini Casserole

This is light and fluffy and SO delicious! It's the perfect complement to any meat dish and my vegetarian daughter loves this as-is!

Zucchini Casserole

3 cups grated zucchini
1/2 cup onion
1 cup all-purpose baking mix
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Swiss Cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup oil

Mix all ingredients together and put in 7x12 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when inserted in the center.

My notes: The onion is chopped finely, the Parmesan is grated, and I have used different cheeses in place of the Swiss with no ill effects.

If you adore Amish and Mennonite food like we do, pick up a copy of this book and you won't be disappointed!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Any Sharp Pro

One of the best things about all the gadgets, gizmos, and gear one can obtain in a kitchen is the fact that you can choose just about any color your heart desires. This means that no matter how many times you move (how does 15 times in 20 years sound?), you can take your favorite little bits of "decor" with you.

With so many moves during my first marriage, there wasn't a lot I could do about the way my kitchen looked from a construction standpoint, but I could sure decorate with my favorite color, red, in all the little extras I bought for that room.

No matter what color was on the walls, the countertop and stovetop were filled with reds of all hues and in all shapes and sizes. Here is a photo of a few of my favorites.

My Beautiful Reds!

Now my newest favorite red gadget is this funny-looking little guy - the Any Sharp Pro Sharpener.

The Any Sharp Pro

This is a brand new type of knife sharpener that you have to see to believe. First of all, it's very compact, which is a Godsend because several of the kitchens I cooked in were postage-stamp-sized. It suction-cups itself to the countertop and is as sturdy as can be. No more hanging onto your sharpener with one hand and drawing the blade with another. It sharpens more than one type of knife, too, even serrated!

Seriously good stuff.

When I first opened the box of the Any Sharp Pro, I really wasn't sure this thing had the teeth for the job, but two single passes through the sharpening tools is more than you'll need. My knives are now sharper than ever in so little time. This tiny powerhouse is really worth it!

The Any Sharp Pro comes in many different colors!
Check out the Any Sharp USA website for the Any Sharp Pro and a few other choice products that you'll want to have a look at. You can purchase the Any Sharp Pro directly from the website, as well.

Disclosure: Thank you to Any Sharp Pro USA and 3D Communications for providing the Any Sharp Pro! All opinions are my own and in no way influenced by free product.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Modern Pressure Cooking

Modern Pressure Cooking by Bren Herrera, Page Street Publishing Co. 2016.

I recall, when I was a child, Sunday's in my grandmother's kitchen. After morning church services we would come home and get changed then play until dinner time, which was mid-day so we would be ready to head back to evening church services. Because our day was scheduled so, there was one other thing I remember: this hiss and rattle of my grandmother's pressure cooker.

Every week, without fail, she would make a chuck roast for dinner, and the only way to get that done in the time span we had was to pressure cook it. The meat was ever so tender and flavorful and it was something I looked forward to each time we visited.

As an adult I didn't have a pressure cooker for many years. I was afraid of them, as many cooks are, and for a time I wasn't able to afford one, either. Once I settled in as a much older adult I was gifted an electric pressure cooker. I was hooked. With 9 mouths to feed daily and busy beyond all with school and life I found it to be my cooking savior. Meats were done in no time and dinner that tasted as if it had cooked hours was now ready in a fraction of the time. Sadly, the very day I received my copy of Bren Herrera's Modern Pressure Cooking (Page Street Publishing, 2016), my electric pressure cooker died.

I decided after a mere year's worth of use that I wasn't going to make that mistake again and bought a trusty old 8 quart aluminum stove top pressure cooker. I'm already in love - and not just with the cooker! This book. Oh, my.

If there is anything at all you want to know about pressure cookers, this is the book to buy. Bren covers everything from which types of cookers are available to all the methods of release there are to international, vintage and gadgets and gizmos for your cooker. After all that? The recipes, oh my.

I made Bren's mother's Famous Cuban Black Beans (recipe below!) right off the bat and they are just to-die-for! I mean, beans from dry to delicious in 40 or so minutes? This is my kind of recipe.

Once I had those beans done, I was hooked. I started throwing everything in that pot with Bren's beautiful book as a guide and created meal after beautiful meal in no time flat. Best You've Ever Had Braised Round Roast? YES. Herbed Chicken Stock? YES. (No more cooking for hours.) And flan? Oh, flan ... Bren is the QUEEN of flan and shares no less than 4 recipes for flan, and with a 13 to 17 minute cook time, what is not to LOVE? I feel a Braised Pulled Pork BBQ coming on this week, and after that I may just keep going until I've made every single recipe.

So, get your own copy, please don't even question this! GO and get a copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM!, IndieBound, or iBooks. You can also find more about Bren at House of Bren.

Now, here is that beautiful recipe and photo, to boot!

Famous Cuban Black Beans, photo: Ken Goodman

Famous Cuban Black Beans
Black beans are Cuba’s most beloved food. They are pedestaled to glorious heights in Cuban homes around the world. You’ve seen and probably made a version of these “Cuban black beans” at some point in your Latin food exploits, but you’ve never made these. This is my late grandmother’s recipe as translated and perfected by my mother for over 40 years. Her beans are the point of query after reconnecting with childhood friends. They are the single food in my family that is still rationed. It’s the one dish that humbles my skill. I can make my mother’s beans, side by side with her, but hers will always exceed triumph. There’s something indiscernibly magical about her touch. I hold this recipe close to my heart, but have waited for over a decade to share it publicly. I hope you love them as much as everyone who’s ever eaten in Mami’s cocina. For your convenience and ease, this recipe does not require any soaking.

Goya and Rancho Gordo dried beans are my go-to brands. To enjoy a very classic experience, ladle about one cup (172 g) of black beans over fluffy white rice and serve with a side of sweet fried plantains.

Serves 8 to 10

3 tbsp (46 ml) canola oil
½ Spanish onion, diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp (1 g) dried oregano
½ tsp ground cumin
16 oz (455 g) dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
2 quarts (1.9 L) water or Simple Vegetable Broth (page 157)
2 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
2 tbsp (30 g) raw sugar
1 ½ tbsp (27 g) kosher salt
1 tsp (5 ml) dry cooking wine
1 tsp (5 ml) olive oil

Heat the oil in the stovetop pressure cooker over high or use the sauté setting for the electric pressure cooker. Make the sofrito: Sauté all of the vegetables and garlic, with the oregano and cumin, until it is fragrant and the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low or cancel the sauté setting. Add all of the remaining ingredients, except the cooking wine and olive oil, to the cooker and stir to combine well. Close the lid.

Stovetop: Set to high pressure (15 PSI) and set the timer for 35 minutes. Cook over high heat. When the pressure point is reached, reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook.

Electric: Set to high pressure (10–12 PSI) and 40 minutes.

When done, remove from the heat or turn off the cooker and allow the pressure to release on its own (natural-release) for 10 minutes, then apply auto-release. When all of the pressure is out, open the lid and top the beans with the cooking wine and drizzle in the olive oil. Allow the beans to rest a few minutes before serving.

B’S COOKING TIP: If you soak the beans overnight, you can save up to 20 minutes with this recipe! Simply reduce your cooking time by 10–13 minutes. Also, these beans can last up to 1 week in the refrigerator and 4 months in the freezer.

All photo and recipe credits to Bren Hererra, Page Street Publishing and Ken Goodman.