Friday, July 26, 2013


I love Kale. I do. I love the way it tastes, it versatility (braise it, saute it, massage it into a salad, bake it in muffins, slip it into all sorts of casseroles, scramble it into eggs), and it's good for you. Win, win, win.

Inspired by an article in our local paper, I had my own Kale-A-Rama cooking fest a few weeks back. Here is what I made:

Kale Pesto ( so far I have stirred this into pasta, smeared it on grilled salmon, spread it on turkey wraps, and served it with crackers)

Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad -- don't be a hater until you've tried it

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage, Kale and Squash  -- perhaps a bit heavy for hot summer days, but a family and crowd pleaser all winter long

So, off to your favorite farmers market and pick up some Kale. You'll not regret it.

Kale Pesto (adapted from Fifty Shades of Kale)

2 C kale leaves, stems removed, packed
1 C basil leaves, packed
1 t sea salt
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
2 large garlic cloves (or 3 small) chopped
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese

  • Place kale, basil, salt in food processor. Pulse until kale is finely chopped. About 10 times.
  • With motor running slowly add olive oil
  • Turn off processor and scrape down sides
  • Add walnuts and garlic. Process until fully incorporated.
  • Add cheese and process until combined
Keeps for a few weeks in the fridge. Or freeze in small containers or ice cube trays for later use.

Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad with Walnut Dressing

1 bunch Kale ( tuscan or baby are best)
5 t walnut oil
sea salt
4 brussel sprouts
1 large garlic clove
1 T rice wine vinegar
1 t soy sauce
1/4 C walnut pieces, toasted
chives for garnish

  • Remove kale leaves from stems. Stack leaves and roll tightly, then slice into narrow strips.
  • Place kale in a salad bowl with 1 t of walnut oil. Massage leaves with your hands or tongs until fully coated. Set aside.
  • Remove tough outer leaves from brussel sprouts, and slice in half. Then thinly slice and add to kale leaves. Massage leaves again.
  • Crush the garlic with 1/8 t salt in mortar until smooth. Whisk in vinegar, remaining oil  and soy sauce.
  • Pour dressing over salad, and garnish with walnuts and chives.

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage, Squash, and Kale   

1 1/2 lb butternut squash (2 medium), peeled and cut ; or purchase 1 1lb pre-peeled and cut squash -- easy to find and so much easier than cutting it yourself!
1 Tbsp olive oil
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt, divided
Coarse ground black pepper
1 lb Italian sweet sausage, removed from casings, or grilled whole, then cut into 1/2" chunks*
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 bunch of kale, washed, stems removed and roughly chopped
8 oz uncooked rigatoni
2 C half and half
1/2 C low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 C finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 C breadcrumbs -- regular or panko
Additional cheese for topping

* if you like a little heat, try using 1/2 sweet and 1/2 hot italian sausage

  • Preheat over to 400º. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Lightly oil 13x9 baking dish.
  • Toss together squash, oil, thyme, 1/4 tsp salt and pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast 20-25 minutes, until squash is tender, but not mushy. Discard thyme

  • Reduce oven temp to 375º.
    • If removing sausage from casings: Place sausage and fennel seeds in a large heavy pot; cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to break up sausage, until meat is no longer pink. Remove sausage and drain all but about 1 T of oil.. (If using grilled sausage pieces, add fennel in next step)
    • Return pot to stove; lover heat to medium. Add kale and garlic; saute until kale is wilted, 3-5 minutes. Ad 1/4 tsp salt and pepper. 
    • Turn off heat and return sausage to pot.
    • Cook pasta in boiling water, 2 minutes less than pkg directions. Drain well. Toss with sausage mixture. 
    • Add half and half, chicken broth and half the cheese. Gently toss. 
    • Transfer to baking pan, top with breadcrumbs and remaining cheese. (If making in advance, cool to room temperature, cover and place in refrigerator).
    • Bake 25 minutes until heated through and crusty on top. Serves 8.

    Pulled Turkey Barbeque Sliders -- a light alternative to "the other white meat"

    Yes, I know I have posted this recipe before but this is one of my all time favorite recipes. Always a crowd pleaser, I have been making and tweaking it for over 15 years now, and I have made some recent changes that kick it up a notch.  It is great for a crowd -- at a Crab Feast, a Tailgate or on the Fourth of July. It fills a slider roll as well as a tortilla, and stands on its own just fine along side some slaw. It freezes well too, making it a perfect option for busy weeknight dinners once your fall activities heat up.

    This is a vinegar based bbq , and not very saucy. Feel free to serve it with your favorite bottled sauce or Sriracha on the side, if that suits your taste, and don't hesitate to do your own tweaking.

    Pulled Turkey Barbeque

    2 large vidalia onions, chopped
    1 large garlic clove, chopped
    2 C cider vinegar
    1/2 stick unsalted butter
    1/2 C ketchup
    3 T Worcestershire Sauce
    1 t liquid smoke
    1 chili in adobo sauce
    1 T salt
    1/2 T freshly ground black pepper
    5 1bs turkey pieces ( legs, thighs, etc. or one bone-in breast)*

    *using bone-in, skin on meat will greatly enhance the overall flavor

    • Place onions, garlic, vinegar, butter, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, chili in adobo. S&P in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
    • Add turkey pieces and cook on low heat for 2-2 1/2 hours. 
    • Remove turkey from pan and set aside until cool enough to handle
    • Cool sauce for 15 minutes, or so, and then puree in batches in a blender. Be sure to leave the hole in the top of blender lid open or you will have a hot mess!
    • Remove skin from turkey and pull meat from the bones.
    • At this point, I often refrigerate the sauce and meat overnight. The next day, skim the fat off the sauce (if desired) and continue the recipe as described below.... 
    • Return pulled turkey and sauce to a large heavy saucepan, stirring to coat the meat with sauce
    • Simmer over low heat for 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Adjust seasoning to taste (you may want to add some hot sauce, more liquid smoke, S&P).
    Serve on slider buns with cole slaw.

    Friday, June 28, 2013

    Crab Salad Stack with Green Gazpacho

    We are big crab fans around here, BIG crab fans. There is nothing better than sitting around the picnic table on a warm summer day cracking Old Bay laden Blue Crabs, eating corn on the cob, sipping a cold beer to quell the heat (from spice and sun), all the while chatting with family and friends.

    But sometimes, steamed crabs get messy and you want something a bit more genteel (and less work for the eater) -- like a crab cake or some sort of crab salad. That was exactly my thought when I was looking for "the perfect thing" to serve for Father's Day lunch. My in-laws were coming over and I wanted to do something tasty with a touch of summer, and I had crab on my mind -- but something other than my usual crab cake (delicious, but done). And then, I remembered a recipe torn from the pages of a shelter magazine about a year ago. A simple Crab Salad topped with creamy, sliced avocado and cooling mango set in a pool of White Gazpacho made with cucumber, grapes and Marcona almonds. A spicy Mango Salsa added a colorful compliment. Inspired,  I dug through my pile of  "I want to make this one day" pages (admit it you have one of those too) where it, thankfully, lay near the top:

    Crab Salad Stack with Green Gazpacho - serves 6

    (adapted from


    1 English Cucumber, peeled, chopped, seeded
    2 C seedless Green Grapes
    1 C Marcona Almonds
    2 T chopped Fresh Dill
    1 T minced Garlic
    1/2 small minced Shallot
    1 C Vegetable Broth
    1/4 C plain Non-Fat Yogurt (regular or Greek)
    1/4 C Sour Cream
    1/2 C Olive Oil
    3 T Sherry Vinegar
    2 T Spanish Sherry

    • Place first 6 ingredients in blender. Puree until smooth.
    • Add vegetable broth, yogurt and sour cream. Blend thoroughly
    • Add olive oil in a thin stream as motor runs on medium. Puree 1 minute.
    • Add sherry and sherry vinegar, if using.
    • Season with S&P, to taste
    • Store in fridge until ready to use (up to 3 days)

    Crab Salad

    1 lb lump Crab Meat
    1/4 C diced Celery or Carrot, or a combination
    2 T minced fresh Chives
    1/4 t S& P (each)
    1 T fresh Lemon Juice
    2 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
    2 dashes Hot Sauce
    1 t Horseradish
    1 t Dijon Mustard
    1/4 C Mayo (reg or low- or fat- free)

    • Combine mayo, mustard, horseradish, worcestershire, hot sauce, lemon juice.
    • Add chives, celery/carrot, S&P.
    • Gently fold in crab meat.
    • Store in fridge until needed.

    Mango Salsa

    1 C diced Mango
    1 T diced Red Onion
    1 T diced Red Pepper
    1T chopped Cilantro
    1 t minced & seeded jalapeno
    2 T Lime Juice
    1  Olive Oil

    • Combine all ingredients. Chill.

    Additional Ingredients/Supplies

    2 Mangos, peeled & sliced
    2 Avocados, peeled and sliced
    6 3"x2" ring molds or ramekins 


    If Using Ring Molds:

    • Place ring molds in center of soup plate or other shallow bowl
    • Fill mold with 1/2 C Crab Salad
    • Top salad with 4 slices Mango
    • Top mango with 4 slices Avocado
    • Cover ring mold with plastic wrap and chill in fridge for at least 1 hour

    If Using Ramekins:

    • Line Ramekins with plastic wrap, allowing at least 2" overhang
    • Place 4 slices Avocado in dish
    • Top avocado with 4 slices Mango
    • Cover mango with 1/2 C Crab Salad
    • Cover salad with Plastic Wrap, and chill in fridge for at least 1 hour

    Time to Eat:

    Ring Molds:
    • Pour 1/2 C Gazpacho around ring mold.
    • With plastic wrap in place, and while softly pressing avocado, slowing remove ring.
    • Remove plastic wrap.
    • Top stack with Mango Salsa
    • Peel back plastic wrap
    • Invert bowl over ramekin.
    • With one hand on bottom of  bowl and one hand on bottom of ramekin, flip bowl over
    • Keeping plastic wrap in place, gently remove ramekin.
    • Remove plastic wrap
    • Pour 1/2 C Gazpacho around Stack
    • Top stack with Mango Salsa
    Serve with extra mango, avocado and salsa, and a loaf of warm crusty bread.


    Monday, June 10, 2013

    Blueberry Muffins (just like my mother used to make)

    It was my turn to host Book Group last week. Okay the group volunteered me for our June session when I was out of town. They are always thinking of me! No problem -- I was going to offer anyway.

    Our June meeting marks the end of another year of good books and friendship, so we try to make it a special  night.  Instead of holding a book discussion we all bring reading suggestions for the summer and coming year. For the past two years we have expanded on our typical wine and snacks to enjoy a pot luck dinner. 

    After looking over the list of who was bringing what I decided we needed some sort of starch alongside the grilled chicken breasts and assorted salads. Blueberry muffins were the first thing I thought of -- in fact, I think of them often when planning summer menus The yellow dough bursting with purple hued berries always makes a colorful addition to the table and palate.

    Over the past few years I have tried a variety of "from scratch" muffin recipes. It seems the mother of every food blogger, cookbook author and radio host has a signature Blueberry Muffin recipe. I tried them all, and you what, I still like my mother's the best.  It is easy and foolproof -- all you need are an egg, vegetable oil, milk, blueberries, and this:

    That's right, people, Bisquick!  Don't be a hater. The current healthy  food mantra is "Don't eat anything your Grandmother would not recognize as food."  I think most American grandmothers would recognize this box, don't you?  And it really does make terrific muffins (and pancakes, and biscuits, and  pigs in a blanket wrappers, etc)

    Try them, you'll see......

    Blueberry Muffins

    2 cups Bisquick (reduced fat is fine, too)1/3 cup sugar2/3 cup milk (skim milk is fine)2 tablespoons vegetable oil1 egg3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (not thawed)

    Heat oven to 400 degrees.

    Grease muffin pan well, or place muffin wrappers in each cup

    Stir all ingredients except blueberries in medium bowl, just until moistened.

    Fold in berries.

    Divide batter evenly in 12 muffin cups - (or 9 cups for larger muffins

    Optional: Top with grated lemon zest and a bit of granulated sugar. 

    Bake 13 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.

    Cool slightly and remove from pan to wire rack.

    Yield: 12muffins.

    Monday, April 29, 2013

    CheeseBurger in Paradise

    There it is. The All American Classic that inspired another: Jimmy Buffet's Cheeseburger in Paradise.

    The story goes that after savoring one of these tasty sandwiches at the Cabbage Key Inn, on a small island off the west coast of Florida, Jimmy was inspired to sing about it.  At the Inn the only hint that something inspirational happened here is the signature song blaring from the sound system of a departing tour boat. Otherwise, there is no mention of Jimmy -- on the menu, on the souvenir t-shirts, or on the dollar bill papered walls of the restaurant and bar. But, burger lovers on boats of all shapes and sizes slip into the  dock and walk up the hill for a chance to sample  that American creation on which they feed.

    Let me tell you they will not be disappointed: The Cabbage Key Cheeseburger is a hand formed pattie of high quality beef served with perfect burger to bun ration. I told the Cap'n and our friends Andy and Christine that I was going to place my order just like Jimmy sings it in concert: Hands raised above his head, clapping along in time to:

    I like mine with lettuce and tomato 
    Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes 
    Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer 
    Well good god almighty which way do I steer

    But then we found out that fries are not served ( no fire department on the island, so no deep fryer), the beer was only served in cans and bottles, and I saw nary a bottle of Heinz 57. So I opted for a more subdued "Medium with potato salad, please". Heaven on Earth with an Onion Slice.

    Sadly, we can't spend every day eating burgers in Paradise. There are healthier options for those days you just want a burger but need something a bit lighter. Here is one of my favorites, inspired by the flavors of another paradise:

    Grilled Mediterranean Turkey Burger

    1 lb ground turkey (mixture of light and dark meat)
    1 C feta cheese, crumbled*
    1/2 C chopped Kalamata olives
    1/2  roasted red pepper, diced
    1 garlic clove, finely chopped
    1 T chopped fresh oregano, or 1 t dried
    1 t chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/2 t dried
    salt and pepper to taste

    * sometimes you can find crumbled feta with seasonings. If so, you do not need to add the oregano and rosemary.

    Rolls or Pita,  sliced tomatoes, sliced red onion

    Combine turkey, feta, olives, garlic, herbs & seasonings. Shape into four patties. Let rest for a least 10 minutes.
    Grill over a medium flame for about 5 minutes per side.

    Serve on warmed rolls, or Pita, with sliced tomatoes and red onion. A leafy green salad is nice on the side.


    Tuesday, April 23, 2013

    Carrots, Chickpeas and Fried Almonds -- Oh My!

    Did someone say Fried Almonds? I'll admit that was the first ingredient that popped off the screen when I first read the Serious Eats version of this recipe.  Then I looked more closely: chickpeas, carrots, cumin and  I was intrigued. A crunchy, savory, side salad with a promising flavor profile. I had just picked up some fresh carrots and parsley at the St. Petersburg, FL Saturday Farmers market, and I always have a can or two of chickpeas in the pantry, so I was good to go

    Carrot and Chickpea Salad with Fried Almonds (adapted from Serious Eats)

    serves 4

    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds ( or whole almonds, chopped)
    • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, from 2 lemons
    • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
    • 2 cups packed fresh cilantro or parsley leaves and tender stems, divided
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin - divided
    • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons turmeric - divided
    • 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper - 1/4 t will give you a good kick
    • Kosher salt
    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • One (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    • 1 pound carrots about 5-6 large, peeled and coarsely shredded
    1. In a heavy skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the almonds and 1/4 t each of cumin and tumeric. Cook, stirring, until just beginning to turn golden. Remove from heat, drain on a paper towel
      In a food processor, combine the lemon juice, garlic, 1 and 3/4 cups of the cilantro or parsley , remaining cumin & tumeric, smoked paprika,  cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and half of the almonds. Pulse until chopped. Add the olive oil and process to a chunky paste. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with the carrots and chickpeas. Season to taste with more salt and pepper as desired. Chop the remaining cilantro or parsley and sprinkle over salad, along with the remaining almonds.

      Sweet, savory and crunchy -- perfect!

      But then I got thinking.  Instead of a side salad - why not make it a main course?  So the next day I added some shredded chicken to the leftovers, and served it atop a bed of lettuce. A lovely lunch. Then I wondered:  how would these flavors taste in a warming stew? With Kale added for  vegetarian entree, or with a bit of chicken and kale  for the meat eaters among us.  I set to work -- and here are the results:

      Chicken, Carrots, Chickpea & Kale Stew, with Fried Almonds

      serves 4

      Additional ingredients and other adaptations:
      Handful of kale, or 1/2 bunch, chopped into bite size pieces.
      2 C shredded cooked chicken ( good use for leftover chicken)
      3 C Chicken Broth or Vegetable Broth 
      1 lb Carrots, cut chunky julienne style
      2 T olive oil for almond/seasoning paste

      Fry almonds as directed above.  Remove from pan, but leave oil in pan.

      Saute carrots in retained oil until a bit brown -- they do not have to be soft.
      Add chickpeas and seasoning/almond paste, stir until coated and the steam is aromatic
      Add broth and chicken. Cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes.
      Add Kale and continue cooking for 10-20 minutes.
      Ladle into bowls. garnish with additional cilantro/parsley and almonds.

      Serve with Crusty Bread.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2012

    Testing, testing: Cream of Pumpkin Soup

    In the mid-1990's, new in town and looking for ways to connect with my community and other women, I joined The Saturday Club of Wayne, PA.  A women's philanthropic and social organization. I was an active member for several years, taking on several leadership positions, increasing my awareness of, and donating my time to, several local charities, and making lasting friendships.  To learn more about the club, check out the website:

    One of the enduring endeavors of the club has been their incredibly popular series of cookbooks. In 1982 Main Line Classics was published -- despite its age, and the radical way food and eating have changed since then, I still reach for this book time and again.  In 1996, Main Line Classics II: Cooking Up a Little History was published. Member recipes were mixed in with line drawings and a history of Main Line Philadelphia. As a club member at the time, I contributed recipes and tested recipes (dishwasher fish, anyone?), and after publication delivered cases of books all over town, and sat at many a gift show spreading the good word.  Main Line Entertains was published in 2005, offering an array of recipes perfect for entertaining and for the first time, photographs.

    Income from these cookbooks, as well as other fundraising efforts, have allowed the Saturday Club to maintain its historic building in Wayne as well as donate almost $1 million dollars to local charities over the past two decades. That's a lot of good work and a lot of good cookin'!

    The current board of directors have decided to do it all again. So, now it is time to contribute and test a few recipes that might eventually make it into the Saturday Club's fourth cookbook: Eat Love Philadelphia.

    The club Book Group hosted a recipe tasting at this month's meeting. I am a dedicated book group member, so even though I could not be there I asked for a recipe to test in my On the Water Galley.

    Like a good tester, I made the recipe to a "T". This was hard for me -- I like to tweak as I go -- but I resisted.  I did take notes and for my second round I put a few of my own touches on the recipe - reducing the fat content and bumping up the flavor with an optional garnish.

    Without further ado, just in time for soup weather, and Thanksgiving:

    Cream of Pumpkin Soup

    1 C finely chopped onion
    1 T butter
    1/4 t ground cinnamon
    1/4 t ground ginger
    1/8 t ground black pepper
    1/2 t salt
    2 14.5 oz cans of low sodium chicken broth (or one 32 oz box)
    1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
    1/2 C heavy cream

    Optional Garnish:
    Crumbled Goat Cheese, or
    Spiced Pepitas (recipe below)

    Oops, when I took this picture I thought I needed two cans of Pumpkin. Nope, just one.

    Melt butter on medium/high heat in large sauce pan. 

    Add onions, cook until tender. Add salt, cinnamon, ginger and pepper, fully coating the onions and cook about 30-60 seconds until the aromas open up. 

    Add 1/2 the chicken broth, stirring up all the bits of spice that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.

    Puree onions and stock with an immersion blender*, or in a blender or food processor. Note: let the mixture cool a bit before placing in blender or processor.

    *Using an immersion blender makes this a one pot soup and clean up a snap.

    If necessary , return broth to pan. 

    Add remaining broth and pumpkin, stir to fully incorporate pumpkin. Return to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Do not taste the soup just after adding the pumpkin -- it will be aggressively squash-y and not very tasty. It needs time to mellow, and it needs the next step:

    Add heavy cream, and heat through but do not boil.

    Ladle into bowls, add optional garnish, or simply enjoy as is!

    Spiced Pepitas (aka raw pumpkin seeds)

    1 C raw pepitas
    1 T coconut or olive oil
    1/2 t chile powder
    1/2 t cinnamon
    1/4 t cumin
    1/4 garlic powder
    1/4 t ground pepper
    1/4 t salt

    Melt oil in saute pan, add pepitas, then spices. Stir to coat.
    Cook over low heat until the seeds just begin to brown.
    Also delicious in salads or by the handful.
    Adjust seasonings to taste.