Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lucky Peas Time Again

In many corners of the globe, eating lucky peas this week is supposed to kick your New Year off to a flying start toward great good fortune.  Depending on where you are these two tone peas are Bodhi dhal (because they have the Buddha's third eye), cow peas, or black-eyed peas.

It's Hoppin' John time in the deep South, lucky peas twinned with collards the color of money and bits of ham--the meat of an animal that only roots forward, another omen of good luck. I made my first Hoppin' John for a vegetarian potluck and it disappeared so fast with so much lip-smacking, I never changed the recipe. You can of course serve it with ham--inside or by its side.  Here's the recipe I post annually.
Hoppin' John
For 6-8
½ lb. black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained
2-3 tbsp corn oil, enough to cover the bottom of your pot
1 lg onion, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 sm Poblano pepper, roasted and diced
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp ground cayenne
2 celery ribs, diced
4 cups vegetable broth
½-1 cup water
½ bunch collard greens, chopped
1-1½ cups rice (depending on how thick you want this)*
Salt and black pepper to your taste

*I find using short-grained paella rice better than long grain basmati for this dish.
Heat oil in a heavy gauge casserole or stock pot. Add onion and sauté over medium heat until onion is soft and translucent, maybe 5 minutes.
Add garlic and Poblano pepper, stirring to blend.  Sauté 1 minute.
Add spices and celery. Sauté 2 minutes. (Add oil if necessary)
Add broth, water and black-eyed peas. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, cover and cook 45 minutes.
Add collard greens, rice, salt and pepper. Cover and continue to simmer another 20-25 minutes, checking from time to time that you have enough liquid. Add water by the ¼ cupful if you need it.
Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and serve with freshly chopped cilantro leaves.

If you prefer kale to collards, here are two recipes slightly different from each other for sausage, black-eyed peas and kale. One also has potatoes and lentils in the mix.

Black-eyed Peas with Sausage and Kale
Serves 4
¼ cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 lg garlic clove, minced
1 med/lg carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery rib, cleaned and diced
1 c tomatoes, chopped with their juice (canned or boxed is okay)
1 lb linguica or luganega or bratwurst, or other sweet sausage
1 cup dried black-eyed peas, soaked in boiling water for at least 1 hour
4 kale leaves, stems removed and leaves chopped
Salt and pepper to your taste
2 tbsp freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat olive oil in a cast iron or enameled iron casserole. Add onion and sauté over medium low heat until onion is soft and golden. Add garlic and sauté 60 seconds. Add carrots and celery, blend well and cook about 5 minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes with all their juice, lower heat to simmer and cook very slowly for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350º. Puncture the sausage skins with a fork in several places. Then slice the sausages into 1” pieces. Add to the pot and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Drain and rinse the black-eyed peas. Add to the pot and blend. Add the chopped kale and blend. Add 2 cups liquid (broth and water or all water) to cover everything. Cover and bring to a steady simmer on the top of the stove. Then put in the center of the oven and cook at 350º for 90 minutes or until the black-eyed peas are tender. Check from time to time to be sure there is enough liquid. Add ¼ cup of warm water at a time if needed.

If there is fat from the sausages on top, tip the pot over the sink to remove it. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as you like it. Stir in the chopped parsley to serve. This can be made ahead and reheated in the oven at 250º or on top of the stove on simmer.

Black-eyed Peas with Sausage, Kale, Potatoes and Lentils: a thick soup 

serves 6-8

¼ c olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp smoked Spanish paprika
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried sage
¼ tsp crushed chili peppers
1 lb Kielbasa or mildly hot Italian sausage, sliced into ¼” disks*
15 oz (1 can) chopped tomatoes and juice
1 bunch Lacinto/Tuscan Kale, stems removed, greens cut into bite-sized pieces
4 c chicken or vegetable broth
3 c water
1 cup brown lentils
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, cut into cubes
1 14 oz can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp sherry vinegar (don’t worry if you don’t have any)

In a medium stockpot, heat the oil. Add onion and garlic and sauté 3 minutes. Add spices. Stir and sauté 30 seconds. Add sausage, stirring to blend. Sauté 3-5 minutes until onions are soft and sausage starts to brown. Add tomatoes and stir to blend. Cook 30-60 seconds. Add kale, lentils, broth and water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 30 minutes. Add potatoes, black-eyed peas and salt. Cook another 15 minutes. Add optional vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings and spices.
* If you are vegetarian, substitute 1 lb firm tofu, cut into cubes and fried in olive oil with a pinch of fennel or anise seed until brown and crisp. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
Palestinian black-eyed peas and chard
Serves 4

For the beans

1 leek

1 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves

¼ tsp chilli powder or chopped dried chilli

2 cans black-eyed peas

1 cube vegetable soup powder

pinch of ground nutmeg

½ unwaxed lemon

½ lb bunch Swiss or rainbow chard

For the herb smash

;g bunch fresh cilantro

2 green chilis

2 garlic  cloves

¼ c shelled walnuts

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

2 tbsp good quality olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

Fill and boil a kettle and get all your ingredients together. Put a large saucepan on the stove.

Wash and finely slice the leek. Add to the saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil and cook for a couple of minutes until soft and sweet. Finely slice the garlic and add with the chili powder or dried chili and cook 2-3 minutes, until the garlic begins to brown. Add black-eyed peas with their liquid, the cube or powdered soup and 1 c boiling water from the kettle. Bring to a simmer. Add nutmeg, squeeze in the juice of half the lemon, add the squeezed lemon half to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, strip the leaves from the chard stalks. Finely slice the stalks and add them to the pan, then finely shred the leaves and put to one side.

Put all the ingredients for the herb smash into a food processor and blitz until you have a smooth grassy paste. Season well with salt and pepper. Once the peas are soft and the liquid has reduced to a thick soup-like consistency, stir in the chard leaves, season well with salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. Scoop into deep bowls and spoon over the herb smash.

And this black-eyed peas dhal recipe from Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking:

Punjabi-style black-eyed peas  
serves 6

You can prepare this rich and pungent dhal rather quickly by using canned pre-cooked black-eyed peas instead of dried ones, so here is the recipe both ways.

Faster modern times way
2 15 oz. cans of cooked black-eyed peas
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
21/2 -3” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 tbsp olive or canola oil
1 tbsp butter or ghee
1 lg red onion, peeled and finely diced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander 1 tsp chili powder
2 cups chopped tomatoes with juice (boxed is fine)
1/3 cup plain yogurt, thicker is better, at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp smoked paprika, optional but a nice touch
½ bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only, washed and chopped

Heat the oil and butter or ghee in a large heavy gauge saucepan or medium casserole over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 3-5 minutes to soften. Mix in the cumin, coriander, chili and tomato. Lower to medium-low heat and continue to sauté another 2-3 minutes until the sauce is very warm. Slowly stir in the yogurt (yogurt that is too cold in a sauce that is too hot can come apart) and blend the pot contents into a smooth sauce. Continue to heat for another 2 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and salt. If there is not enough sauce to cover the beans, add ½ cup water or vegetable broth and blend in. Continue to simmer about 10-12 minutes, whatever it takes to get everything nice and hot without drying out the sauce. Test and adjust salt to your taste. Pour into a large serving bowl and garnish with the chopped cilantro.

Slower, Traditional Way 
1 ½ cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained
6-7 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 1/2” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 tbsp olive, canola or mustard oil
2 tbsp ghee or butter
1 lg red onion, peeled and minced
3 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
2 med. tomatoes chopped
1/3 cup thick yogurt at room temperature
1 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp salt
½ bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only, washed and chopped

Put the beans in a medium sized pot with 5 cups of water and 1/8 tsp salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 3 minutes. Remove from heat. In another medium sized pot, heat the oil and ghee or butter over medium heat. Add onion and stir-fry 3-5 minutes until slightly browned. Stir in the ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and chili. Continue to cook over medium heat 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir-fry until the tomatoes are soft. Lower heat and continue to stir for another minute. Slowly stir in the yogurt and blend into a smooth sauce. Continue to cook another 2-3 minutes. Pour in the black-eyed peas and their cooking water. Add 1/8 tsp salt and blend all ingredients well. Cover and simmer until the black-eyed peas are tender, 40-50 minutes.

and finally, a hint for out of the ordinary hummus:
Black-eyed pea and chickpea hummus with capers

1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 lg garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 c fresh cilantro leaves
juice of 1 large lemon and pinch of zest
salt and black pepper to your taste
1 c good quality olive oil, in increments
1 tbsp capers, drained

combine everything but the olive oil and capers in the bowl of a food processor or blender and start to whiz. Continue to process while pouring the olive oil in a thin stream until you have the consistency you desire. Remove to a serving bowl and stir in the capers.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Eating for Midwinter

Nobody has to feel bad that summer and all those glorious, colorful vegetables are gone. Berries too. We have so many other veggies come at us right now at winter markets. There's much to be grateful for, plenty to cook. You don't need to buy what's imported from South America.  And since this is the season of merry and bright, we can even make seemingly ordinary winter bounty quite snazzy. There's glamour in carrots, pears, leeks and dried fruits. See here...

Kashmiri Dried Fruit Compote
This recipe is in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, but it's worth repeating because it's surprisingly pretty and tasty. And a healthy way to satisfy a sweet tooth right now.  Serves 6

2 tbsp ghee or butter
¼ cup whole almonds
¼ cup cashews, lightly toasted
½ cup raisins
1/3 cup coconut, chopped or shredded
8 dried dates, pitted
10 dried small apricots
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
½ cup water
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated or turbinado sugar
½ tsp ground cardamom or 6 crushed pods
½ tsp saffron threads
1 tsp fresh orange peel, minced
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
optional garnishes: candied ginger, fresh mint leaves, fried cheese.

In a medium saucepan, heat ghee over medium flame. Add almonds, cashews, raisins, coconut, dates, apricots and peppercorns. Lightly sauté one minute. Add water, sugars, orange peel, cinnamon and cardamom. Stir until the water boils. Lower heat and cook for five minutes. Soak the saffron in 2 tsp of hot water, crush it and pour into the fruits. Stir in lemon juice and continue cooking another 5 minutes, until the juice has become syrupy. Remove from heat. Fish out the cinnamon stick. Serve warm plain or garnished. (Suggestion: serve over cornmeal pound cake, oatmeal or pancakes.)

Carrot Bread
This loaf, thick and rich with cream cheese, is great for breakfast and can even be used for a sandwich.
 Makes 1 lg 9x5" loaf or one medium 7 1/2x3 3/4" plus 1 mini 5 3/4x3 1/4" loaf.

6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 oz cream cheese
1 c turbinado sugar or 1/2 c light brown and 1/2 c white sugar
3 extra large eggs
5 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c all purpose unbleached flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c seedless dark raisins
1 c chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease of butter your loaf pan(s).
In the bowl of a mixer or food processor, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar(s).
One by one add the eggs, beating after each to make a smooth puree.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices.
Blend this quickly into the wet batter. Be careful you do not overmix.
Pour the batter into the buttered pans and shake to distribute it evenly. Level the top too.
Bake at 350º 40-60 minutes, depending on loaf size, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Orzo, Fennel and Clementine Salad
Serves 4-6 depending on how much you like it.

2 fennel bulbs, cleaned and chopped, greens too
1 2/3 cups orzo (about ½ lb)
3 seedless mandarins, or clementines, peeled and pulled apart
1 lemon
½ lime
16-20 pitted prunes, coarsely chopped
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
salt to your taste

Put a few of the fennel fronts aside to chop for garnish. 
Cook the orzo according to package instructions, until just al dente. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small skillet and sauté the chopped fennel 4-5 minutes. Midway, add the garlic and blend. Pour the contents of the skillet into a salad bowl. Add the mandarins and prunes and blend. Remove the zest from half the lemon and dice it. Add to the salad. Juice the lemon and lime, mix and add to the salad. Drain the orzo. Salt them to your taste. Add to the salad Stir to blend everything. Chop the reserved fennel fronds and top the salad. Refrigerate an hour before serving.

 Winter Clafouti
This Provencal pudding/cake famously is made in summer with cherries. I make it with blackberries.
But you can actually use a lot of different fruits, especially pitted prunes, aka dried plums, marinated in brandy or orange flower water. Serves 6.

2 c pitted prunes (dried plums)
3/4 c brandy or orange flower water
1 tsp butter to grease the baking pan
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/4 c milk
3 extra lg eggs
1/8 tsp salt
scant 2/3 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon or nutmeg (depending on your favorite flavor)
In a medium bowl combine the prunes and brandy or orange flower water and macerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350º. Butter a 7-8 cup pie plate or baking dish. Put all ingredients except prunes in a blender or food processor and make into batter. Drain prunes and spread them around the buttered baking dish. Pour the batter evenly over them. Bake 35-40 minutes or until the clafouti is puffy and brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool slightly before serving. Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve. Eat the leftovers for breakfast.

Persian Braised Leeks
Serves 4-6
8 leeks, about 1" in diameter
1/4 c olive oil
1 med onion
3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped or 2/3 c boxed/canned diced tomatoes
1 c chicken or vegetable broth
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

Cut off leek root ends and greens 2" above the white stem. Slit the stems 2/3 lengthwise but not all the way through to sever. Rinse the leeks to thoroughly clean. There will be dirt coming out of that slit. Half the onion and slice it thinly. Heat olive oil in a large skillet with a cover. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Add leeks and turn them to coat in the oil. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until leeks are tender. Arrange on a serving dish, pour the cooking liquid over, and serve. Can also be served at room temperature. Lovely with a pork roast, lamb, turkey or wild rice and dhal.

Super easy Pear Sour Cream Pie
 Preheat the oven to 350º.
To make the crust, you mush the following into a dough and press it  into a  9" pie dish:
1 2/3 c graham cracker OR vanilla OR shortbread cookie crumbs
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp white sugar
1/3 c softened unsalted butter

For the filling you mix together in a large bowl:
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 c turbinado sugar or 1/4 c light brown and 1/4 c white sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of salt

In a separate bowl combine:
1 egg lightly beaten
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 c sour cream

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and blend until smooth.

4 lg barlett pears, peeled, seeded and sliced lengthwise
Squirt the pears with fresh lemon juice and sprinkle with a pinch of ground ginger.
Add the pears to the pie filling.
Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 350º for 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

There's a lot of food going on right now, most of it rich and heavy. Tis the season. And tiz chilly to boot. So twice in less than two weeks, I've made pots of my three favorite comfort foods, all colorful and very tasty soups so thick I can eat them with a fork. Also very healthy, nutritious and easy to make: tributes to the lauded Mediterranean diet. So if you need a time out, and a little something extra for the freezer, here are three recipes for joy to the body and soul.

Greek Island Chickpea and Brown Rice Soup

A rustic soup from Rhodes for 4-6
½ c top quality olive oil

1 lg onion, minced

½ c dry white wine

2 tsp Aleppo pepper*

4 c hearty vegetable or chicken broth

2 cups chickpeas, drained (a 15 oz can is the least you can do)

1 c chopped boxed or canned tomatoes

1 cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried oregano

1 c short grain brown rice (if you use white rice cook it only 20 minutes)

Salt to your taste

½ c crumbled feta cheese

½ bunch flat leaf parsley minced for garnish

*Ground Aleppo pepper is a moderately hot Syrian chili. Substitutes would be ground chipotle pepper or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes.

NB: do not use Basmati or any other long grain rice. Short grain rice is for soaking up flavors and you need that here.

In a medium heavy pot, heat olive oil, add onion and sauté over medium heat until soft and translucent, 8-10 minutes. Stir in wine and Aleppo or other hot pepper alternative. Raise heat and cook briskly 45-60 seconds until most liquid is gone.

 Add 2 cups broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and oregano. Bring to simmering, cover and cook on low heat 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and 2 cups broth. Cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes.

 Season with salt. Remove cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Stir in feta, cover, remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. Serve in bowls garnished with minced parsley. Optionally you can double garnish with pinches of fresh mint.

Turkish Red Lentil Soup 
  Serves 4-6

3 tbsp olive oil

1 lg onion, diced

2 lg garlic cloves, minced

1 fresh red chili, seeded and minced

1/8 tsp ground chili powder

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp ground coriander

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 tsp fenugreek

1 tsp celery seeds

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 ¼ cup split red lentils

5 cups vegetable stock and water

½ tsp freshly ground or cracked black pepper

½ tsp salt or more to your taste

for garnish

 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped

 1 bunch flat leaf parsley leaves only, chopped

 juice of ½ fresh lemon (or lemon wedges for each bowl)

In a heavy gauge medium size lidded casserole or other such pan, heat oil over medium. Add onion, garlic, chili, chili powder, cumin seed and ground coriander, stirring to blend. Sauté over medium heat until onion is soft, 3-5 minutes. 

 Add carrot and cook another 2 minutes. Add fenugreek, celery seeds and tomato paste, pepper and salt. Stir in the lentils, blending everything.

 Pour in the stock and water in any combination you prefer. Bring to a boil.

Immediately cut heat to low, partially cover the pot and simmer 35-40 minutes.

The lentils should now be mushy and the soup thick.

 Serve garnished with chopped scallions and parsley and lemon juice or wedges.

Pasta e Fagioli (Macaroni and Beans)
The traditional Tuscan favorite that some say is not a soup at all. I say it's a miracle of Italian cooking to get this much flavor without garlic.  NB: you can speed this up significantly if you use canned white beans, a 15 oz can drained and rinsed will do it. AND you can ratchet the flavor up ten notches by throwing in a Parmesan rind while cooking the dried beans. Just saying....

Serves 6
1 cup dried white beans (Great Northern, Cranberry, Cannellini) 
1 sm yellow onion, diced 
¼ tsp dried rosemary leaves 
1/8 tsp fresh cracked black pepper 
2 sm or 1 lg carrot, peeled and diced 
1 lg celery stalk, diced 
1 tsp dried oregano 
1/2 tsp dried sage leaves 
1 cup chopped tomatoes in their juice (canned or boxed is okay) 
4 cups vegetable or beef broth 
1 tsp salt 
1 tsp black pepper 
pinch of red pepper flakes 
¾ cup tubellini, ditalini, or macaroni (a very small pasta)
handful arugula, chopped 
½ cup freshly minced flat leaf parsley 
Parmesan cheese grated for garnish

Soak the beans either overnight or in boiling water for 90 minutes.
Cover the bottom of a heavy gauge soup pot with olive oil and heat it. Add the onion, rosemary, carrot, celery, oregano and sage. Sauté over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper and chili flakes. Stir to blend and cook 1 minute. Add the beans, then the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook 1 hr until beans are tender. (If you are using canned beans, cook the onion mix 12 minutes and now the beans only 3-5.) 
When the beans are soft and ready to eat, bring the soup to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until pasta is done--maybe 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Check seasonings and adjust especially salt. Stir in a handful of arugula and the chopped parsley.  Serve with grated Parmesan for garnish.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Annual Holiday Gifts of Season's Eatings

Except for the children, everybody has more than enough stuff. And if perchance they don't, nowadays they are probably so finicky, you won't be giving them anything they want or need.  But food is always welcome. Everybody has to eat and not everybody wants to cook. Homemade from the heart is usually the most treasured gift. After 40 years, I still have friends who eagerly wait for my December care package. And a little heat is welcome in the kitchen right now.

What's normally it it? Happy and healthy ho ho ho
1. homemade jams: strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, wild blueberry, peach, peach raspberry, apricot with cardamom, plum and quince (spectacular with goat cheese as a baguette sandwich). Some of these fruits, like quince and strawberry, you can still get now so it's not too too late. Or you can make apple butter.

2. spiced nuts: usually vanilla walnuts (a profound favorite) but sometimes cocoa covered pecans. There are also available recipes for curried walnuts. Package in elegant tea canisters or cookie tins. These glamorize oatmeal, salads, yogurt and puddings besides being a most welcome cocktail nosh or snack. Walnuts are significantly medicinal, a boost for your energy level.

3. Hot spiced roasted pumpkin seeds: the healthiest snack and crunchy salad ingredient. Nowadays I sprinkle the seed with corn oil, lots of salt and berbere spice (an Ethiopian mix that's savory and slightly hot) before roasting them at 325º until they're colorful and crisp--maybe 60 min. You can use curry powder or just chili powder. Distribute in tea canisters.

4. Date bars or chocolate bark: depends on what ingredients I get. The recipe for Berber Date Bars in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, is a winner for sure. To make chocolate bark, you need a pound of really high quality dark/semisweet chocolate and then 2 c roasted almonds and/or pistachios and maybe a handful of dried cherries or cranberries.  In a double boiler you melt the chocolate, stir in the nuts and fruits and a pinch of cinnamon if you like that, then pour it onto a butter greased parchment on a cookie sheet. It will harden in a few hours so you can break it up and box it. Here's another option:
Chocolate Pecan Squares   (this makes 15)
1 c plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 c firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses
2 c all purpose flour
4 oz semisweet chocolate
3 extra lg eggs
1 tsp vanilla exteact
1 1/2 c pecan halves
1 1/2 c shredded cocolut
1 c Karo syrup
Preheat oven to 350º. Line a 9x13" cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lightly butter it.
In food processor or mixer, cream 1 c butter with 1/3 c brown sugar and molasses. Add flour and mix only until batter is crumbly. Dump it into the pan and press it evenly to fit the entire bottom in a thin layer. Bake at 350º 20 min or until lightly browned.

In the top of a double boiler, melt 1 tbsp butter with the chocolate. Immediately remove from heat and whisk in vanilla, Karo syrup and 1/3 c brown sugar. One by one whisk in the eggs. Stir in pecans and coconut. Pour this mix over the cooked crust and put back in the oven at 350º 35-40 min or until the top is puffy.  Cool in the pan, then in the refrigerator before cutting into squares while very cold.

5. Pan de higos, Spanish fig cake: this is how the Catalans preserve figs and almonds for the winter. Think of it as the ultimate fig newton filling: a large disk of compressed dried figs with almonds, anise seed and a pinch of spice. Great with cheese or tea and perfect to carry around. It couldn't be easier: you remove the stems from a lb of dried figs and put them in a food processor with 1 tsp of anise seed, pinches of ground cloves and cinnamon. Optionally also a tbsp of honey and tsp of brandy. Whiz until figs break up. Then toss in 8-10 raw almonds and whiz until the mixture congeals into a paste. Remove, roll into a ball and flatten slightly. Line a shallow 5" baking dish or pot or bowl with parchment and fit the fig mix in, flattening it into a disk. Cover with parchment, top with a heavy weight and let it sit 24 hours. Unmold, wrap and give!
P.s. You can also do this with dried apricots, pistachios and cardamom.

6. Dilly beans or asparagus: the beans are a kid favorite, asparagus dazzles adults. Couldn't be easier. Or more welcome. Recipe in How to Fix a Leek...on the asparagus page. Works for green beans too.

7. Chutney: usually blueberry/apple which enhances chicken and turkey like nothing else, or this year everybody's new favorite, rhubarb/date, which is sensational on a cheese plate. Fermented foods with vinegar are very nutritious and can supply much needed winter vitamins. Blueberry apple recipe is in How to Fix a Leek.....  Rhubarb doesn't seem to be available right now but if you have some, I posted the recipe earlier on this blog.

8. Cookies or Quickbreads
Cookies are either buttery to the max or gingerbread.  The seasonal quickbread options are carrot/cream cheese/raisin, banana and lemon/cranberry. But here is an old recipe I recently found for a lovely Danish Cardamom Coffee Cake.
1/2 lb unsalted butter
1 c sugar
1 c dried currants
zest of 1 lemon, grated
zest of 1 orange, grated
1 tbsp ground cardamom
1 tsp vanilla
2 c all purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
6 eggs
2 tbsp cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350º. Butter a loaf pan.
Cream butter and sugar. Add the grated zests, currants, cardamom and vanilla. Blend.
Beat in the eggs one by one. Mix flour and baking powder, then slowly add to the dough.
Fill the buttered pan evenly, level the top and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool and remove from pan. Wrap in decorative tin foil and tie with ribbon.

Be prepared to feel the love.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Decades of cooking Thanksgiving dinner convinced me, the occasion is best used as an exploration of New World food--what we're all truly thankful for.  After all, Columbus didn't discover gold and almost lost his life for the failure, but he did discover foods more valuable than gold. Native American eats: turkeys, beans, corn, squashes, chilies, bell peppers, avocados, potatoes, tomatoes, quinoa, cranberries, wild blueberries, lobster, cod, and ta da! Vanilla and chocolate. Try to imagine your life without those ingredients and you immediately know what you should be thankful for.

So Thanksgiving's a great time for an All-American menu. Land and sea, root and tree. Start with local oysters or lobster bisque or my personal favorite: salt cod with potatoes prepared the French way as Brandade.
Serves 8-10 as a first course 
1 lb skinless, boneless salt cod 
1c milk 
1 thyme sprig or 1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves 
2 bay leaves 
5-6 peppercorns 
1/2 tsp ground allspice or 2 allspice berries 
2 whole cloves 
1 lb boiling potatoes, cut in 1” cubes 
6 lg garlic cloves, peeled 
salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1/3-1/2 c olive oil 
Pinch cayenne or red pepper flakes (1/4 tsp if you like this tangy) 
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg 
1 tsp grated lemon zest 
1/2 c crème fraiche plus another 3 tbsp 
3 tbsp butter 
1/2 c bread crumbs (coarse is preferred but fine works) 
Rinse salt cod carefully, rubbing off any noticeable salt. Soak in a large bowl of 
water at least 8 hours, changing the water every four hours or leaving it 
overnight.  Drain and rinse again when ready to use. 
In a medium/lg saucepan, heat milk with 1 c water. Add salt cod, thyme, bay leaf, 
peppercorns, allspice and cloves. As soon as the pot wants to boil, reduce heat 
to simmer and cook until the fish falls apart and flakes, about 15-20 minutes. 
Remove fish from the pot. 
While the cod is cooking, put cut potatoes in another pot with a good pinch of salt 
and cover with water. ring to a boil. Add the garlic cloves.  As soon as the 
potatoes are soft enough to mash, remove from heat and drain. Keep both the 
garlic and cooking liquid; you’ll need them. 
Put the garlic in a small saucepan and crush or smash it lightly. Add the olive oil 
and over medium heat, warm the garlic. Don’t fry, just warm it. 
In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked potatoes and flaked salt cod. Use a 
potato masher to blend them. Drizzle in the warm garlic and oil and keep 
mashing toward the look of mashed potatoes. Add the cayenne, nutmeg and 
lemon zest, thoroughly blending. Stir in 1/2 c crème fraiche and mash to blend. 
Now using an immersion blender or hand mixer or your masher, add about 1/2 
cup potato cooking liquid to thin the brandade into a soft mash. Add salt and 
freshly ground black pepper to your taste.   
Grease a shallow 1 qt baking dish or pie plate with 1 tbsp butter. Fill the dish with 
the brandade, leveling it with a spatula. At this point, you can refrigerate the mix 
overnight if you need to. 
Heat oven to 400º. ring the brandade to room temperature if you refrigerated it. 
Paint the top with those 3 tbsp crème fraiche and sprinkle on the breadcrumbs. 
Dot the surface with bits of the remaining 2 tbsp butter. ake until golden on top 
and bubbling around the edges, about 20 minutes. 
Serve immediately with toast. 

If you want to be more vegetarian, here's Ottolenghi's recipe for Jerusalem Artichoke soup, those being another All-American find.

I've 1 tbsp olive oil
30g unsalted butter
2 banana shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium leek, trimmed and washed, cut in half lengthways, then thinly sliced, white part only
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1.2kg erusalem artichokes, peeled and thinly sliced 1-2mm thick
250ml dry white wine
500ml full-fat milk
700ml vegetable stock
10g chives, finely chopped, to serve
Coarse sea salt and black pepper
For the hazelnut and spinach pesto
50g blanched hazelnuts
1 tbsp hazelnut oil
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve 
30g baby spinach
10g tarragon
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon 
1 tsp white-wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1-2 green bird’s eye chillies, deseeded
First make the pesto. Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan)/gas mark 3. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking tray,
roast for 15 minutes, then remove and, once cool, roughly chop. Set aside 30g and put the remaining 20g in
the small bowl of a food processor with the remaining pesto ingredients and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Add
two and a half tablespoons of water, blitz to a smooth, runny paste and set aside.
Put the oil and butter in a large saucepan on a medium-high heat. Add the shallots and saute for three
minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the leek, garlic, a teaspoon and a half of salt and a good grind of black
pepper, and cook for three to four minutes, until soft but gaining no colour. Add the artichokes and cook for
12 minutes, stirring from time to time, until beginning to soften and caramelise. Pour over the wine, bring
to a simmer and cook on medium heat for three to four minutes, until reduced by a quarter. Add the milk
and stock, and bring to a boil. Skim the surface of any impurities, then reduce the heat to medium and
simmer for 50 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the artichokes are cooked through and soft.
Remove from the heat and blitz in a blender until smooth; add a bit more stock if you need to thin it down.
To serve, spoon the soup into bowls and drizzle over the pesto. Sprinkle with the chives and remaining
hazelnuts, and serve at once with a final drizzle of oil.

I've cooked turkeys every which way and my preferred, which is now everybody else's favorite too, is an All-American BBQ version. This is to say, the night before I slather the bird under its skin and in its cavities with my own barbeque sauce. I set the oven to 450º, slather the bird all over its skin and let it high roast for 20 minutes. Then I lower the heat and cook it, basting with BBQ sauce until the meat wants to fall off its bones. I'm talking seriously tasty turkey!

Turkey BBQ Sauce
14-16 lb turkey 
This is flexible. Combine everything into a thick sauce. 
4” fresh ginger peeled and minced or mashed 
8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or mashed 
(you can put the two together in a mini processor) 
1 tbsp + 2 tsp ground cumin 
1 tbsp ground coriander 
2 tsp ground chipotle chili powder 
1 tsp ground arbol chili powder or cayenne 
2 tsp dried rosemary leaves 
2 tsp dried oregano 
1 tsp cracked or freshly ground black pepper 
½ tsp ground cloves 
2 tsp dried sage leaves 
2/3 cup ketchup 
1/3 c Chinese black bean garlic sauce 
2 cups corn oil 
1 +f1 tsp tbsp soy sauce 
1 tbsp vinegar 
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup (molasses is too strong)

Now you need the perky yellow of corn, best used in its cornmeal form either as cornbread you make and then turn into a stuffing for the BBQ big bird or make into corn cakes (pancakes) you can top with guacamole. For the stuffing, I usually make one loaf of cornbread, then break it into pieces and throw in the bowl 1/2 c corn kernels, 1 poblano chili roasted and diced, 1 roasted red pepper diced, 1 green bell pepper diced, 1 can kidney or pinto beans drained rinsed and dried, 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tsp sage leaves, 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder and whatever else on hand makes this a scrumptious fiesta.

Quinoa is the makings of an alternative stuffing. You cook it til its soft. Meanwhile in a skillet lubed with corn oil, you sauté a diced purple onion, a diced poblano pepper, 1 cup corn kernels, 2 diced celery stalks, 1/4 c dried cranberries, 1 sm jar pimentos, and 4-5 chopped button mushrooms until the onion is soft. Blend in the quinoa, season with salt and pepper, a pinch of allspice, 1 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp dried sage leaves, and 1/4 cup fresh minced cilantro leaves.

You can stuff the quinoa into acorn squashes and bake, then halve to serve. Or you can stuff a large sugar pumpkin or red kuri squash for a more imposing and eye dazzling dish.

Corn pudding, this time with a handful of wild blueberries thrown in, is a festive and fitting sidedish along with mashed butternut sqauash seasoned with coconut milk and cinnamon. Skip the green beans/onion casserole. Skip the sweet potatoes buried under marshmallows.  How about yam biscuits instead? 
makes 9

1 1/4 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp raw sugar or light brown sugar
1/4 c vegetable shortening
1 c mashed cooked yams or one 16 oz can
1/4 tsp finely grated orange zest
1'4 tsp orange flower water if you have it
2 tbsp heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400º. Butter or line with parchment two large cookie sheets.
In a mixer or processor bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and zest. Add shortening and yams and process just long enough to blend into a soft dough. 
Roll dough out to 1/2 " thick. Cut biscuits with a 2 1/2" round cutter and arrange on the cookie sheets with 2" between each one.  Form scraps into another ball, and roll it out to 1/2" thick, cut biscuits and keep on until no dough is left. 
Using a pastry brush or piece of wax paper, coat the top of each biscuit with the cream.
Bake at 400º 10-13 minutes or until biscuits start to brown and crisp.  Serve warm with butter.

And of course, saving the best for last: chocolate bread pudding or chocolate torte, either with vanilla sauce or whipped cream. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

Friday, November 20, 2015


I have been traveling for the last three and a half weeks, so not home on the range. But I've visited some glorious farmers' markets and even more glorious city markets, including Europe's biggest and most famed, Barcelona's Boqueria where you have to fight your way down the aisles.

European markets are far more sophisticated than ours. For starters, every village and town you enter not only has the standard sign announcing its population but one announcing its market days. Loche: Wednesday and Saturday. Beaulieu-de-Loche: Sunday.  These are not just a collection of tables under tents. Fishmongers have huge 18 wheeler refrigerated cases packed with fish on ice, cheese merchants have the same long long refrigerated case displaying dozens of varieties. Butchers bring the same set-up. So you can go home with fresh eggs, chickens, meat, cheese, butter, yogurts and milk, fish, fruits, herbs, dried fruits, olives and other pickled vegetables and all the produce of the season. Even fresh broth. You never need a supermarket.

Here are some photos of the Wednesday market in the medieval French village of Sarlet-le-Caneda, including a whole foie grasse section set up in an unused period church, redesigned by a world renowned architect just for that purpose.

Barcelona's Boqueria is not only a seemingly endless bazaar of charcuterie, cheeses, fruits, nuts, meats and fish, but tiny tapas bars are studded in between the extensive stalls so you can grab a bite and beverage while you shop. The smaller Santa Caterina market a half mile away in a more residential neighborhood has its own market restaurant attached, serving up seasonal fare of the day. With a glass of cava, Spanish prosecco, I had a casserole of fresh artichokes with bits of Spanish ham and clams still in their shell. I also saw in that market Maine lobster for sale, although technically it was,the fishmonger   said, from Canada. They're quicker on the mental draw than Maine, alas.

I am writing this in Nashville, Tennessee where tonight was a special Night Farmers' Market with music, baking demonstrations and a bar so city folks could gather their Thanksgiving ingredients. another one will happen just before Christmas. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Colorful Dinners without dreaded pumpkin spice

The end of October is orange time and pumpkin spice tsunami time. (It's been so overdone someone recently posted a cartoon ad for pumpkin spice motor oil.) The good news is we don't have to get gaudy or tacky to be colorful and flavorful. Opportunity is knocking down the door.

These nippy days are perfect for roasting fennel, braising red cabbage, baking sweet potatoes, even combining the last corn and tomatoes with the first butternut squash. It's time for a vibrant root vegetable stew or potpie, which I am making for company tomorrow night: parsnips, sweet potatoes, daikon, rutabaga, blue potatoes, purple onion, leeks, carrots, celeriac, turnips, ginger, coriander (ground cilantro root) and garlic. There's an exact recipe in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking. It's healthy and nutritious to the moon, dramatic but so simple to prepare, gloriously colorful and tasty to boot. It's perpetually popular.

Now is also cranberry time, about time because these little red orbs are medicinal fireballs that burn away all sorts of messed in the body. And it's the fig's crowning moment too boot, so break out the prosciutto because the original combo was not melon and prosciutto and when you put these two together you'll taste why. For a breakfast treat or heartwarming ice cream topper, you can stew figs with anise seed and cloves. You can also cook them down into a most delicious fig butter for all your toast, and for crackers with goat cheese.

Braised red cabbage recipe is in How to Fix a Leek..... So is the easiest, tastiest cranberry preserve with walnuts and raisins. You can also throw a handful of fresh cranberries into your apple tarts and pies just as you can throw them into the pot when you are preparing apple sauce. The two fruits love each other.

Here fresh off the press is the English chef Nigel Slater's autumn suggestion:
Kale and Sweet Potato Bubble and Squeak
serves 2

Peel 2+ lbs of sweet potatoes and cut them into large pieces. Place them in a steamer basket or colander and steam over boiling water for about 30-40 minutes, until tender to the point of a knife. In a dry frying pan, toast ½ tsp of cumin seed and ½ tsp of chili flakes. Remove and mix them with ½ tsp of sweet, mild, ground paprika.  Lift the sweet potatoes out, tip them into a bowl (or the saucepan emptied of its water) and mash them thoroughly with a good 2 oz butter, some salt and a grinding of black pepper, and the toasted cumin, chili and paprika.

Remove the tough stalks from 1+ lb kale. Cook the kale for a minute or two in a saucepan with about 1" of water, covered by a lid. Drain and roughly chop. Fold the kale into the sweet potato. Pile into a dish, top with a few knobs of butter and bake at 350º for about 25 minutes until lightly crisped on the top.

Here's roasted fennel, Italian style:
serves the usual 4-6

4 medium fennel bulbs (about 2 1/2 lbs), cut off the tops and greens but save the fringe greens
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
1/4 c good quality olive oil
1/2 tsp fennel seed (use less anise seed as substitute) crushed if you can
3 garlic cloves, smashed
pinch red pepper flakes to your taste for heat
2 tsp rosemary
1/2 lb shredded mozzarella
1/4 c coarse bread crumbs
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp chopped parsley and those fennel fronds you saved

Heat oven to 375º. Remove the fennel bulbs top tough exterior layer. Cut each crosswise (with the grain) into 1/2" disks. Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil. Add fennel and boil 1 minute to soften. Put in a bowl of cold water, drain and pat dry.  Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Use 1 tbsp of the olive oil to grease a baking dish and layer the fennel in it. It should end up 1 1/2" high.

In a small bowl, blend 3 tbsp olive oil, fennel seed, smashed garlic, red pepper flakes and 1 tsp rosemary. Drizzle 2 tbsp over the fennel with a pinch of salt. Sprinkle on 1 tsp rosemary leaves, then cover with mozzarella. Cover this with breadcrumbs, the remaining oil/garlic mixture and finally the parmesan on top.

Bake uncovered 20-25 minutes until browned. Garnish with the chopped parsley/fennel fronds and serve hot. Great with roast chicken or pork. If you are vegetarian, serve it with a mushroom leek risotto.

And finally a Mexican inspired stew of corn, squash and beans heated by chilies.
Serves 6

1/2 cup whole, skin-on almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tbsp ancho chile powder
2 tsp dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed well
1  28 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes with juice
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup corn kernels
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper to your taste
Sour cream for serving

Add the almonds, sesame seeds, chile powder, oregano, cumin, and measured salt to the bowl of a food processor and process to a fine meal. Set aside.
Warm the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ground almond-spice mixture and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add squash, carrots, beans, tomatoes, and broth or water and bring to a boil, stirring to make sure the almond mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat, partially cover the pan, and let the stew simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is very tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. If the stew threatens to dry out, add a bit more broth or water.

Add the corn and measured cilantro. Season with pepper and taste, adding more salt if needed. Continue to simmer until the corn is hot, about 5 minutes. Ladle into warmed serving bowls and add a dollop of sour cream with a sprinkling of cilantro leaves.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Stomach safety

First a reminder to those in colder climate where growing season is over: stock up on as much local garlic as you can. Remember most of that blazing white supermarket stuff not otherwise identified as to point of origin is likely coming from the seriously toxic soils of China and has been dipped in formaldehyde to give it that bright complexion. Eat local.

Another reminder brought to you by Roger Cohen's gluten-free opinion column in the New York Times.  I happen to totally agree with him that all the food fetish is the narcissism of the I'm special competitive consumer culture rampant among those under 45. For one thing, their new fuss over ancient gluten is misplaced and misinformed. Non-celiacs who have a verifiable physical reaction to bread are most likely being poisoned not by good old gluten but either by hyped up industrialized wheat with far more than normal gluten so it can be processed more easily, or more probably by the toxic glysophate, the lead chemical in all that Roundup sprayed on industrially grown wheat two weeks before it is harvest.

I've been in the food business as a caterer but the most frustrating time I ever had in a kitchen was at a Dharma Center where half the meditators insisted on special foods just for them. I watched two young cousins start life malnourished because their mother suddenly wanted to be viciously vegan. Last week I ate with a family that is vegetarian because they don't want to eat meat but they have no problem eating other critters killed for their supper: fish. Really? At least Tibetans who had no choice in their frozen desert highland but to eat meat or starve had the resolve to eat only large animals so that one death saved many people. They refuse to eat fish, shellfish, Cornish hens and anything even remotely one on one.

If you want to eat meat, and some of us need to do that from time to time to keep our gut going, try doing it so, as the Thai people would say, you don't butcher at the table. No huge slabs. Itsy bits of pork sausage for flavor on pasta, an occasional stew packed with vegetables, a little ground lamb stuffed into a large eggplant. You can't easily undo 10,000 years of human digestion. The Dalai Lama tried going, how shall I say? cold turkey, and ended up hospitalized. Cutting back to maybe three days a week will do it. Because so many of us are trying to do that, last year 10 million less animals were slaughtered for our dinner.

And don't obsess over the sea salt. It may not contain the vital nutrient you see in cheap salt that's been iodized. Your thyroid will dumb down. So keep some iodided salt on hand to throw into the pasta water and stews and places where you don't need glamour from salt. 

Oops, I started out to write about colorful eating without pumpkin spice and sidetracked into this sermon.
Hope it helps.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Color! and a bit of news

Autumn: the moment your dinner plate can be as colorful as all outdoors.
I roasted and mashed the squash, braised the cabbage with raisins and caraway, sauteed the shisito peppers, and put those Hakurei turnips and pomegranate seeds in a green salad--all served with splashy yellow polenta egg pancakes with roasted red pepper.  The baby sweet potato will get daubed with soy and olive oil and roasted later.

And now the news:
Niman Ranch, the meat purveyors of supposedly pasture raised organic pork and lamb, has been sold to Perdue, you know who. The touch guy who made all those tender industrial chickens. Get your meat from your local farmer. It may cost more but that can help you to eat less. Reports say 10 million--10 million less animals died last year because we are eating less meat.  Let's keep on keeping on.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Blowing Hot and Cold

 I want to apologize for the way this blog always looks but Google's Blogspot with which I am stuck is absolutely impossible to use. It is a horrid program.

Root vegetables are out of the ground, their rich colors piled high on farmers' market tables beside all the winter squash making its debut. And in between the last jewels of summer: tomatoes green and red, eggplants of all sizes and peppers in more colors than Joseph's coat. If there was ever a time to indulge in some fine home cooking, it is right now in the chill before the frost.

For a chilly night,
Autumn Chicken Pot Pie
with leeks, red onion, carrots, celery, bell peppers and baby sweet potatoes topped with a cornbread crust (not on so the photo could show the interior) 4-6 hungry souls*

I made this with two large boneless breasts but I'd prefer 4-5 whole thighs for their flavor. In any event, I recommend slathering the raw chicken with your favorite spice mix: mine for chicken is hands-down Berbere from Ethiopia. Cut the breasts into large bite-sized pieces.

After that, you need 1 large leek, 1 red onion, 2 garlic cloves, 3 medium carrots, 2 stalks of celery, 1 red bell pepper and if you can't find a few baby sweet potatoes from a farm, throw in a 8-10 baby white or yellow or blue potatoes skin on. You will also need 2-3 cups of chicken broth, salt and black pepper and your preferred spices: i loaded this with thyme, rosemary, coriander and a pinch of cinnamon because a pinch of cinnamon revs up everything. (Remember you've got spice on the chicken.) Lastly either flat leaf parsley or cilantro if you like it more peppery.

*If this were spring chicken pot pie, you'd want leeks, purple onion, fresh peas, celery and parsnips, even fresh fava beans.

Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Cut everything but red pepper into a large bite-sized piece. Slice the pepper into thin strips. Heat 4 tbsp butter in a heavy gauge casserole and when it's melted toss in the onions. If you want to make this super fabulous, you can toss in a pinch of saffron for those onions. When onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic, leek and chicken. Stir fry a minute or two to get the chicken to begin brown.

Toss in your spices, then the rest of the vegetables. Add salt and fresh pepper to your taste. Cover everything with chicken broth. Or vegetable broth. Or water.  Stir to blend. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer and cook 20-30 minutes, until everything is close to tender. Don't go to mush.

Using a slotted spoon, distribute the chicken and vegetables evenly in a deep pie dish. Add chopped parsley or cilantro.  Sift 1/4 c white flour into the pot and whisk it into the liquid. Raise heat on the liquid so it reduces and begins to thicken beyond runny. Pour enough over the contents of the pie pan to just cover.

Using polenta or masarepa or corn meal, make a dough according to package instructions. I always add a tsp of chili pepper, a tsp salt and 1/4 c grated cheese to the dough. If you have a roasted poblano pepper around, smash it in too.  Cover the pie pan with dough, sealing the edges.  Bake at 350º 30 minutes or until crust is crisp and starting to brown.  Let it sit 5 minutes before serving. 

For a warmer moment
Crushed corn Salsa
2-3 ears of corn cut off the cob
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c ricotta cheese
1 roasted poblano pepper
2 tsp corn oil (to thin the mix slightly)
1 tsp dried oregano
Juice of a lime
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 bunch cilantro
Sauté the corn in the butter until it's richly cooked.  Pour the contents of the pan into a food processor and add the remaining ingredients. Whiz into a paste for dipping your favorite tortilla chips in.

Color on a drab day: Piperade
the all purpose Basque dish shows off the dazzling array of colored peppers right now

serves 4-6
1 large green bell pepper, washed and seeded 1 large red bell pepper, washed and seeded 
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, washed and seeded 
1 sm Poblano pepper, washed and seeded
1 med-lg red onion, peeled 
3 lg garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c olive oil
Fresh ground pepper to your taste
Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley or cilantro, your taste, for garnish
Optionally: 2-3 tomatoes, diced   
Slice peppers into long thin strips. Cut onion into thin rings, cut rings 
in half and break apart. In a large sauté pan, heat oil. Add onion
and oregano and stir-fry on medium heat until onions are soft. Add garlic and peppers. keeping them in a uniform direction. Cook over med/low heat until soft but still bright, maybe 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook until tomatoes break down. Remove from heat and stir in the green garnish to serve.    Here they are centered among roasted baby cauliflower to accompany grilled lamb chops at a potluck.  They can go on a grit souffle, an omelet, a burger, in rice or with sausages.  

Home roasted red peppers with local goat cheese

 Because red peppers are so cheap right now and won't be for long, it's good to indulge in all their vitamin C. If you have a grill, great: roast 'em. If not and you have a gas stove, tend them carefully over an open flame, turning with tongs until they start to blacken. Then you can finish roasting them in the toaster oven or big oven at 425º for 15 minutes. Pop into a brown paper bag, close it and let them sit. Then remove and you should be able to peel off the membrane. Cool the peppers, halve and clean them.  Dress with good quality olive oil, sea salt and a twist of black pepper.

Tradition kicked up a notch: corn and beans for a colorful table
Another dish that's owed to pepper plethora right now.
 serves 4
2 tbsp corn oil
1 sm red/purple onion, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced*
1 Anaheim pepper, diced (this is light green and torpedo shaped and is used to add color and heat)
 3-4 ears fresh corn, cooked and cut off the cobs
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 c fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste 

 In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and both peppers. Sauté just until soft. Add the corn, beans and oregano. Cook to heat through. Season with salt and pepper, Stir in the cilantro leaves and cook another minute. Remove from heat and serve.
 *In this photo I used a red pepper because I had one to use up.

Because you can: roasted baby cauliflower with chimichurri
Buy a baby cauliflower per person or 1 for every 2 people.
Put them all on a baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle salt.
Roast at 425º 12-15 minutes until they have started to brown and are very tender.
Put on a serving platter and slather each with chimichurri. I've posted that recipe in the past. 
    These look large but that plate is bread-and-butter size. The smallest of the lot was maybe 2 1/2".