Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Fresh Ricotta

Adapted from The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

The best ricotta I ever had was from Salvatore Brooklyn. I once went to a Williams-Sonoma store in NYC to see a demonstration by Betsy Devine of how she makes it at Salvatore, and that was when I decided I would be able to make my own. You can see the thick texture, which is what I was - and am - aiming for.

The recipe I use is adapted from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's recipe in his seminal work, The Food Lab, but there are other good recipes for you to check out - FOOD52 and Smitten Kitchen, who also likes Salvatore. If you don't have or use a microwave, Jennifer Perillo's recipe on FOOD52 is the way to go. It is the first recipe I tried so I know it works!

Salvatore Ricotta

I often use 3 cups whole milk and 1 cup heavy cream unless I want to make it extremely rich in which case I use 2 cups whole milk and 2 cups heavy cream. I imagine I could use half-and-half, but I have never done that.

I put my 4 cups of dairy in a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup. I add 1/2 teaspoon salt, either kosher or fine sea salt, and 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar. Kenji says you can add the same amount of lemon juice; however, since the white vinegar is consistent at 5 per cent acid, I find it unfailingly reliable.

I heat the milk and cream mixture in the microwave until the temperature reaches 165°F on an instant-read themometer. In my microwave, which is small, this takes about 8 minutes. 

At this point, I remove the cup from the microwave and stir it gently for about 5 seconds. It is already separating into curds and whey.

I transfer to a fine sieve that I have lined with a white mesh vegetable bag. It can certainly be lined with cheesecloth.

I cover the top with plastic wrap and let it reach the desired consistency. The more it drains, the "dryer" it will be. 

My Ricotta

You can see the texture. It's almost like ice cream. Since I am usually using this to make manicotti, it gets thinner with the addition of eggs so this is a perfect texture for me to start with.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Vic's Chicken


This is something I have basically been making since I was twenty years old, and my grandmother made it long before that. I think it's delicious. And it's easy. Since it goes with so many side or starter dishes, I often make it for company. I once had a dinner party where only one person was a vegetarian and made enough side dishes to be substantial enough for her. Everyone else had the side dishes with a piece of this chicken, and it was a great success.

Don't substitute chicken breast halves here because the white meat does not take well to this method. (If you have someone to cook for or if you yourself don't like dark meat, Spicy Roast Chicken using breasts was discovered by Luisa, The Wednesday Chef, and it's as good a recipe as you will find anywhere for white meat chicken.)

I usually cook the chicken in a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet depending on the number of pieces of chicken I am cooking. (My oven is large enough that it has been known to hold two 12-inch skillets filled with chicken pieces side by side.) 

If you have time, salt the chicken pieces all over, put them on a rack on a platter, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. This is dry brining and will help the chicken to crisp. However, more often than not I skip this step because I haven't planned it long enough in advance, and it's still great.

Vic's Chicken

Please read the whole recipe through before you start as steps are taken to avoid contamination of any bacteria that may be on the raw chicken.

Best-quality-you-can-get bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or whole chicken legs, as many as you like. 
Vegetable oil (I usually use expeller-pressed grapeseed.)
Pepper - be generous
Garlic powder
Whatever dried herb you like with chicken (I use GREEK oregano)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. If you have a roast setting, use it now.

Have the pan you are going to roast the chicken in on the counter or on the stove. Slick a tiny amount of oil in the pan and wipe any excess out with a paper towel. 

Also put a plate or platter large enough to hold the uncooked pieces of raw chicken on the counter next to the sink. 

Then put a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of your sink,  covering the whole bottom. Put the chicken pieces in the sink on top of the foil, and pour a little oil on the chicken followed by salt, pepper, garlic powder, and whatever dried herbs you like with chicken. (Note that if you have salted the chicken in advance, don't use any more salt.) Now rub the chicken pieces all over with your hands to distribute the oil and herbs. 

Place the chicken pieces on the plate or platter you have put next to the sink. Then move them from the platter into the pan you will cook them in. 

Right now, to avoid contamination with any bacteria from the chicken, throw the aluminum foil away, wash the sink, and wash your hands before you touch anything else.

Put the pan in the oven and roast until the pieces of chicken are very, very crisp – 45 minutes to an hour. I usually cook them for an hour because the result I want is extremely crisp, well-done chicken. I baste the chicken occasionally while it is cooking, but I do not turn the pieces over. 

Friday, February 2, 2024

Nigel Slater's Really Good Ragu

Adapted from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater and FOOD52

I have been making Marcella Hazan's iconic Bolognese sauce for years, and it is, I believe, authentic. I have even used it to stuff inside my grandmother's crespelle, turning it into canneloni. But as delicious as it is, it is not very saucy, and sometimes something saucy with an indescribable depth of flavor is exactly what I'm looking for. 

I have been led to believe no self-respecting Italian would even think about serving Bolognese sauce over spaghetti. But English people do, Nigel Slater does, and now so do I. I just call it Ragu instead of Bolognese. (If you haven't discovered Nigel Slater yet, I think Appetite would be a good place to start.

Nigel Slater's Ragu
Adapted from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater and FOOD52

4 tablespoons butter
About 3 ounces pancetta, cubed
1 small to medium onion, chopped
2 plump cloves garlic, chopped,
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, peeled and chopped
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped the same size as the onions, carrot, and celery 
1 bay leaf (I use Morton & Bassett)
1/2 pound ground pork or beef (I use pork because I find it more flavorful)
1 400g can of whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
1/4 cup red wine (good enough that you will drink it with dinner)
3/4 cup stock (I use Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base to make it)
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream (Use a light hand.)
Freshly grated Parmesan, to taste

Melt the butter then cook the pancetta without letting it color but rendering some of the fat - 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the onion and garlic; then the carrot and the celery; then the mushrooms. Add the bay leaf. Cook over medium heat, stirring often.

Turn up the heat a little and add the meat, breaking it up. Cook for about 3 minutes without stirring so the meat starts to brown. Stir again. Add the tomatoes, red wine, stock, a grating of nutmeg, and a little salt and pepper. 

Turn the heat down till the sauce is gently moving. Partially cover the pan. Let it cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally, checking the liquid so it does not dry out.

Pour in the heavy cream slowly and with a light hand. Stir. Let it cook a little longer - for 10 to 15 minutes.

Taste for seasoning.

Serve over spaghetti with grated Parmesan.

Amazon links are not affiliate. 

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Hard-Boiled Eggs

 Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

I was a charter subscriber to Cook's Illustrated and have been "with them" from the beginning through a number of iterations, from Christopher Kimball to J. Lopez-Alt to where they have landed now. Even with all the changes, their mission has stayed on track, and they are an excellent source of inspiration, reliable recipes, and excellent unbiased product reviews. I find a digital subscription to America's Test Kitchen, where all the Cook's recipes reside, to be worthwhile. There is a group of Cook's ecipes* that has stayed in my repertoire since I first found them, and this, along with their method for soft-boiled eggs, is one of the most used.

I store my eggs in the refrigerator in the carton they came in. For this recipe, use large eggs that are straight from the refrigerator and still cold. Make sure they have no cracks. I always wash eggs before I use them as I often have local eggs from a farm or a friend, and it's a habit I have gotten into.

I have found this recipe to be fool-proof. I usually make 4 eggs at a time, but you can make 6. There is no exaggerating how nice it is to have some beautiful hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator.

These eggs are essentially steamed, not boiled.

Hard-Boiled Eggs
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Put an inch of water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Put a basket steamer in the pan, and carefully add the eggs to the steamer.

Cover the pan, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook the eggs for 13 minutes,  no longer. 

While the eggs are cooking, get a bowl of ice water ready using 2 cups of ice cubes and 2 cups of cold water.  I keep it in the sink.

When the 13 minutes are up, take the pan off the heat, put it near the bowl of ice water, and use a pair of tongs to carefully move each egg individually to the bowl of ice water. Let the eggs sit in the cold water for 15 minutes before peeling. 

Depending on the age of the egg, there is usually an air cell at one end, and it is usually at the larger end. I find the easiest way to peel these eggs is to kind of "smash" the large end and starting from there, peel under running cold water.

*Group of Recipes I regularly use from Cook's

If you are a digital subscriber to America's Test Kitchen, as am I, these recipes are available.

Shrimp Salad
Simple Lasagna with Hearty Tomato Meat-Sauce
The Best Sangria
Quick Simple Full-Flavored Iced Tea
Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake
Basmati Rice, Pilaf Style

Caviar and Egg Mold

There is excellent American caviar now available. I have tried Paddlefish and Hackelback and enjoyed both very much. However, at Spirited Wines in Lenox, Massachusetts, I am able to find Spanish grey mullet roe, called Mujjol "caviar." It is delicious, very well priced, and a treat served with sour cream on a salted potato chip accompanied by a shot of very cold vodka of a glass of Champagne. It is worth looking out for and would work well here.

Caviar & Egg Mold
Adapted from Cook and Love It: A Collection of Favorite Recipes and Entertaining Ideas, published by The Mothers' Club of The Lovett School, Atlanta, Georgia, Contributed by Polly Pater and Deddy Bartenfeld

For the Mold

4 hard-boiled eggs, mashed
⅓ cup butter, softened
¼ to ⅓ cup mayonnaise (Use your favorite. I like Ojai Organic Mayonnaise.)
⅓ cup chopped scallions or shallots
Lemon juice
Salt to taste

For the Top

½ cup sour cream (I use full fat, preferably Breakstone.)
Caviar, about a quarter of a cup (or more if you want to be extravagant)

Combine all the ingredients through Salt.

Line a small bowl with plastic wrap. Pack the mixture into the bowl, cover with more  plastic wrap, and chill well. As the butter chills, it will harden. Unmold onto a serving plate; frost with sour cream, and top with caviar.

You can serve this with crackers, but I like it best with buttered white toast points.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Sweet Cream Ice Cream

Adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer

When I moved to the country and bound myself to a 40-minute drive to the food store, I resolved that I would make all my own ice cream, and for eight years I have done just that. There are lots of great books about ice cream, but there are three I prize in my library and recommend to anyone who wants to go on this journey.

The first two books are Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home and Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Desserts, both by Jeni Britton Bauer

Jeni developed her technique for making ice cream using cream cheese as the stabilizer and generously wrote two books letting us in on her method, uniquely practical for the home cook. I use Jeni's method all the time, most often making the Sweet Cream Ice Cream in Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Desserts. There is always a pint of this in my freezer.

You may be lucky enough to live in a place where Jeni has a Scoop Shop, or you may be able to get her delicious ice cream at your local store, or you can order it here. If you have any issues tolerating milk or have guests who don't eat dairy products coming over, I highly recommend her Lemon Bar, which is so delicious you will be eating spoonfuls out of the freezer whether you have an issue with lactose or not.

The third book I found, which includes a shout-out to Jeni, is Hello, My Name is Ice Cream by Dana Cree. No matter what books or recipes you decide to use for making ice cream, this book will be an excellent addition to your library. It explains the science of ice cream in basic understandable language. It is endlessly usable, thorough, and interesting. 

With these books you can make delicious ice cream and adapt any other recipes to Jeni's brilliant method.

There is another book I have recently acquired, LaGrotta: Ice Creams and Sorbets: a Cookbook by Kitty Travers. I am currently reading it all the way through like a novel. It's a beautiful book full of innovative ideas, which I plan to explore through the next four seasons. I am dreaming of going to her workshop in the UK. 

This ice cream is lovely and delicate with only the taste of milk and cream - what Italians call flor di latte - the flavor of milk - and can be applied to mozzarella or, as in this case, gelato. It is definitely NOT vanilla and is splendid in its simplicity. I once spent a week in Italy eating only this flavor every day to compare them gelateria to gelateria. The best one was in Florence, which turned out to be the city of my dreams (which does not change London as the city I would most like to live in if I had to choose a city other than my own). 

David at the Accademia Gallery in Florence
Sweet Cream Ice Cream

Makes 1 quart

600g whole milk
336g heavy cream
150g granulated sugar (I use Domino Golden Sugar)
3 tablespoons Lyle's Golden Syrup (what I use) or corn syrup 
14g Bob's Red Mill Tapioca Flour (what I use) or cornstarch
56g cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

First steps  

Weigh the tapioca flour or cornstarch into a tiny bowl - the kind you use when prepping and doing a mise en place

Weigh out the 56 grams of cream cheese onto a small flat plate and add the 1/8 teaspoon of fine sea salt and press it into the cream cheese with the times of a fork. You are going to add some hot mixture to this in a while, so for now put it into a container you will later be able to add heated milk to. If you have an immersion blender, it will work well here. I have a container that came with my immersion blender so that's what I put it in.

Measure the Lyle's Golden Syrup into a small glass - I use a 5-ounce measuring glass. If you like, you can heat this a little in the microwave (for about 30 seconds) so it's easier to pour. 

Next steps

Into the pan you are using on the stove, put the milk, then take a small amount of that milk and put it into the little prep bowl holding the tapioca starch or cornstarch and mix it well, eliminating any lumps. Set this aside. 

Add the heavy cream to the pan with the milk, then add the sugar and the Lyle's, stir, and bring to a low boil. Boil this mixture for 4 minutes, stirring the whole time. Turn off the heat,  and stir the mixture in the pan well, then stir the tapioca/milk mixture (or cornstarch/milk mixture) you have set aside to make sure it's still smooth, and add it to the pan on the stove. Stirring constantly, bring it back to a boil, and boil for ONE minute, no more. Push the pan off the heat. 

You now want to mix a little of the hot mixture in the pan with the cream cheese you have already put in a container. An immersion blender does this well. Otherwise, stir it to combine well. Add this back into the pan and stir. Strain this through a sieve. I strain it into an 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup, which easily holds it and is easy to pour from. Now pour the strained mixture into a tallish container with a lid (what I do) or a Zip Lock bag making sure it is completely and well sealed (not what I do) and chill in an ice bath. For the ice bath I use a large stainless steel bowl. Put the container with the mixture in it into the bowl, add enough cold water to the bowl to cover the mixture (without letting it get into the mixture), and either use ice cubes or reusable ice packs (much easier) to chill it. Once it has cooled down enough, put it in the refrigerator, and keep it there long enough for it to get very cold. I usually leave it overnight to cure it.

When it is cold, spin the mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. I pack it into two pint cardboard ice cream containers and place in the freezer. (I cut a small circle of parchment to sit on top before I put the top of the container on. I keep 6-inch parchment circles on hand to use for this.) 

It's best if it sits in the freezer for 8 hours before eating so leaving it in the refrigerator overnight to and spinning it in the morning is great.


After successfully using a Cuisinart ICE-21 Ice Cream Maker for years, at a friend's suggestion I upgraded to the Lello 4080 Musso Lusino 1.5 Quart Ice Cream Maker and like it very much. David Lebovitz recently wrote about getting the Breville compressor ice cream maker, and he said he likes it very much.

Amazon links are not affiliate.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

The Doubting Doug

The Doubting Doub - Our Summer House Cocktail

Douglas, who is married to Sharyn (a fantastic cook) and is a dab hand in the kitchen himself, has an elegant palate. He prefers gin to vodka. (Who doesn't?) And, I agree it’s almost impossible to beat a Plymouth Gin & Fever Tree Indian Tonic on a hot summer's day. But the drink I named The Doubting Doug, which comes with two caveats, is a revelation to us Gin & Tonic drinkers and does just that (even though Doug doesn't believe me).

First, you must use Fever Tree MEDITERRANEAN Tonic; second, you must use half a lime for each drink.  

Just give it a try. No one will call the police.  

The Doubting Doug
For one drink


Squeeze half a lime into an old-fashioned glass. Fill the glass with ice then pour one shot of vodka (we use Tito’s) over the ice. Top with chilled Fever Tree MEDITERRANEAN Tonic.  Stir with a bar spoon and plop the spent lime half into the drink.  

Sharyn & Douglas

Douglas on Thanksgiving in his clan tartan

Friday, May 12, 2023

Pasta with Eggplant, Tomato, Basil, and Cheese

Adapted from Rachel Eats by Rachel Roddy

This recipe is from Rachel Roddy's blog, Rachel Eats. She is the writer of three cookbooks, all of which I like very much. In fact, in a library of over thirteen hundred books, her book Five Quarters is literally my favorite cookbook. If I could have only one, that would be it because I can read from it like a novel and cook delicious meals from it too.

Her books were all published in England before being published here, and I have the English versions in my library. I recently got a copy of the American edition of her newest book, An A - Z of Pasta, to gift for Christmas, and I am surprised, but it is even more beautiful than the English edition. I'm having trouble giving it away. The question is (always) do I need two?

This recipe, inspired by, but not, Pasta Alla Norma, a dish typical to Catania in Sicily, is from her blog.

This was my favorite new dish of summer 2022; I have already made it about a million times. When I’m making it for 2 (which is, essentially, always), I use one Italian eggplant (about 8 ounces), but I do not change the amount of tomatoes.

I prefer the pecorino Romano cheese here over the Parmesan or ricotta salata.

Pasta with Eggplant, Tomato, Basil, and Cheese
Pasta Sorta Norma
Adapted from Rachel Eats by Rachel Roddy

Serves 4

1 eggplant (I use 1 small Italian, not Japanese, eggplant  weighing about 8 ounces.)

Extra virgin olive oil.

2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into thick slices

400g tinned plum tomatoes, roughly chopped (I squish them by hand.)


Fresh basil (If you don't have fresh basil, do not substitute dried; just skip it.)

Pecorino Romano, or Parmesan, or ricotta salata (I prefer the pecorino Romano)

Short pasta - penne works well. (I make 3 ounces of pasta per person for a dinner portion, and, I think, this is very generous, but I know a lot of people make 4. For a starter portion, use no more than 2 ounces per person.)

Cut the spiky cap from the eggplant, and then cut the eggplant into 1 cm thick slices. (Don't get me started on why we don't use metric measurements - a centimeter is slightly more than 1/4 of an inch.) Cut the slices into 1 cm cubes, first cutting in one direction, then perpendicular in the other. 

Cover the bottom of a sauté pan with 1 cm of olive oil, and warm over a medium/high flame. Once the oil is quite hot, add a single layer of eggplant, and cook until tender and golden, then remove with a slotted spoon onto a plate. (Because I use such a small eggplant, it all fits in a 3-quart pan. If all your eggplant isn’t cooked, continue cooking the eggplant in batches until it is all done.)

You should still have some olive oil in the pan; if not, add some more. You want about 4 tablespoons. Once the olive oil has cooled a little, add the garlic and cook until lightly gold and fragrant – do not let it burn, or it will be bitter.

Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring often and pressing gently with the back of a wooden spoon, until thick and saucy but not dry. Add salt to taste. Add the eggplant cubes to the tomatoes, cook for another minute or so, then pull from the heat, and STILL OFF THE HEAT add a handful of fresh torn basil leaves. Do not substitute dried basil. If you don't have fresh, leave it out.

Meanwhile, having brought a large pan of water to the boil, add salt, stir, and then add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Drain or scoop the pasta and add to the sauce and stir.  Add cheese and stir before serving rather than sprinkling it over the pasta after it is plated.  

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Things I Like

 From Gustiamo

They have a maximum shipping cost of a little under $20 no matter the weight. Also, they usually have a sale the Monday after Thanksgiving with free shipping as a promotion so I order whatever I need at that time and send some Christmas presents.

Porcini Mushrooms They pack them in a smaller amount, but since I make this Rigatoni with White Bolognese regularly, I like to have them on hand. 

Faella pasta, specificaly bucatini, penne, linguine trenette, all of which I buy in 5.5-pound bags, and toffe, which I buy in a 1.1-pound bag and which I use for a particular recipe, Pasta Shells with Sausage

This is where I get the rest of my pasta,  Pastaficio Setario, specifically spaghetti chitarra, penne rigati, rigatoni, vermicelli, spaghettini (it's very thin) and a little shape called nodi marini (marine knot), which stays delightfully chewy. 

I learned about Pastaficio Setaro from Luisa, The Wednesday Chef. At the time, like she, I was able to go to Buonitalia to buy it myself, and that's when I got hooked on it. If you check out that link of hers, read it to the bottom and find the hidden recipe for spaghetti with ricotta. It's a gem.

I order IQF shrimp 21-25 per pound and always keep them in my freezer. They are wild Georgia shrimp. This is a. family owned and operated company. The shrimp are delicious, but the shipping can be expensive because you should get the red (two-day) shipping if you are in a zone for it. It's worth it. Having these in the freezer is like money in the bank. These are shrimp - no salt, no preservatives, nothing but shrimp.

From here I get real Hungarian Sweet Paprika, house brand sweet mango chutney, house brand hot mango chutney (not really hot), and basmati rice in 10-pound bags.

Their grapeseed oil is excellent. I get it in cans because I avoid liquid in plastic.

From Amazon

Casina Rossa Fennel & Salt I always have this in the house. It is coarse, basically a finishing salt, but I blitz half of it in an electric coffee grinder and keep it in a spice bottle to sprinkle and leave the rest coarse. I use it in many things but most often with pork - in meatballs, on ribs, on pork roast. I love it and often gift it.

Links are not affiliate.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Mrs. Chang's Shrimp & Scallions

 Adapted from Myers & Chang by Joanne Chang

Joanne Chang is a baker and the owner of Flour Bakery and Cafe in Boston and Cambridge, MA, and co-owner with her husband, Christopher Myers, of Myers & Chang, an "Asian-ish" restaurant in Boston. She has written four cookbooks, Flour, Flour Too, Pastry Love, and Myers and Chang at Home

David Lebovitz adapted her thin chocolate chip cookie from Pastry Love and that has become one of my "house" cookies, so thin and crisp it almost shatters if you look at it.

This recipe, which was a "signature go-to" dish of her mother's while she was growing up, is delicious.

I always have IQF wild Georgia shrimp, jumbo (21 to 25 per pound) in my freezer. They are shipped to me from Anchored Shrimp Company, a family-owned and operated seafood company in Brunswick, GA. They are shrimp - no preservatives, no salt, no anything but shrimp. Having them in the freezer is like money in the bank.  

Mrs. Chang's Stir-Fried Shrimp & Scallions

For 4

1-1/2 pounds large (21 to 25 shrimp per pound) shrimp
2 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (about a 2-inch knob)
2 to 3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 large egg whites
A pinch (what I use) of red pepper flakes*
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup stock, chicken or vegetable (I use Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base.)
1 tablespoon sugar (I use Domino Golden.)
1-1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
Black pepper to taste
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use Salute Santé Grapeseed.)
4 or 5 scallions, white and green parts, chopped

*The recipe calls for 1-1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, so adjust accordingly to your taste.

Amazon links are affiliate.

You can cook this recipe in a wok or a large, heavy flat-bottomed skillet.

Combine the shrimp, ginger, garlic, egg whites, red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch in a large bowl and mix well. In a small bowl whisk together the ketchup, stock, sugar, salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 teaspoon cornstarch until well combined.

Heat the vegetable oil in your pan over high heat until it shimmers. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until the shrimp start to turn pink and get a little crispy around the edges. If your heat is high enough, this will take about 1 minute.

Add the ketchup mixture, and simmer until the shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Turn the heat off, stir in the scallions, and serve immediately with rice (I make basmati.)

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Flourless Almond Cake (Amandier)

Adapted from From Baklava to Tarte Tatin by Bernard Laurance 

This is the little black dress of cakes. It’s a one-bowl cake, easy to make. It’s very sticky, not cake-y, rather like the difference between a brownie and a piece of chocolate cake.  It will be a thin disc of a cake to be served with whipped cream. I usually add a little Amaretto liqueur to the cream before I whip it. I also like it with Jeni’s Sweet Cream Ice Cream, but vanilla would be good too.

I have adapted this recipe quite a lot. The original recipe calls for almond flour, sifted, but I blitz my own unblanched almonds not quite as fine as commercial almond flour, and I definitely do not sift the ground almonds. I can't quite decide if I notice the difference between toasting the almonds and not toasting them, which probably means it's nice but not necessary.  The original recipe calls for baking the cake in a 6-inch cake pan, but I usually double the recipe and bake it in an 8-inch cake pan. If you want to use a 6-inch pan, half the recipe. 


This is best made the day before you are going to serve it, but don’t let that stop you if you want to make it the same day you are going to eat it; just make it early in the day.

Flourless Almond Cake


Ingredients for 8-inch cake


120 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled but still liquid, plus more for coating the pan

200 grams unblanched whole almonds, raw or roasted but definitely unsalted

1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt

100 grams confectioner’s sugar, sifted (I sift through a coarse sieve, not a flour sifter.) 

100 grams granulated sugar (I like Domino’s Golden Sugar)

2 large eggs at room temperature, beaten with

1 teaspoon vanilla extract




Preheat the oven to 325°F, not convection. If you're going to toast the almonds, now is the time to do it. Toast them in the oven 8 minutes, stirring at the 4-minute mark. Cool.


Generously butter the sides of an 8-inch cake pan and then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper cut to fit. Do not butter the parchment paper.


Add the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the beaten egg, and beat again. 


Blitz the unblanched, toasted, cooled almonds in a food processor but don’t grind them as fine as commercial almond flour. They should not be reduced to a powder.  Do not sift.


In a large bowl, combine the ground almonds, salt, sifted confectioner’s sugar, and granulated sugar. Add the beaten egg (to which you have added vanilla) and the cooled-but-still-liquid melted butter to the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth. The batter should be quite thick. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan, and, using a small offset spatula, smooth the top.


Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out (sort of) clean. (In my oven 40 minutes is just right.) You want to turn it out of the pan quickly. After 2, but no more than 5 minutes, carefully run a small straight metal spatula around the cake in the pan.If it seems to be “pulling,” wait a minute and try again.  After you have done this, release the cake. If it doesn’t seem to release right away, hold it upside down for a minute, and it will release. Cool before serving.

Amazon links are affiliate. 

Monday, February 27, 2023

Shrimp Mixed Grill

 Adapted from the July 1993 Isssue of Gourmet Magazine

Most of my friends who like to cook were shocked when Condé Nast folded Gourmet Magazine, seemingly quite out of the blue. Fortunately, if you didn't keep paper copies of your favorite recipes, you can subscribe to Epicurious and often find what you are looking for there. 

This recipe was discovered by my friend Marsha. We made it at the beach in the summer of 2005. 

Shrimp Mixed Grill

You trim the stems off across the bottom of the mushrooms right up against the cap to make them flat and easy to skewer - side-to-side, not top-to-bottom.

We minced the cut-off mushroom stems and sautéed them in olive oil. We also sautéed some chopped red peppers and then turned the mushrooms and red peppers with A LOT of chopped parsley into the couscous we had already prepared to be served at room temperature. If my memory is correct all these years later, we used a package of Near East Roasted Olive Oil & Garlic Mix for the couscous.

Remember to soak the bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.
¾ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons packed fresh thyme  
2 large garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper (use less to make it less spicy)
32 large raw shrimp, peeled
32 cremini or white cultivated button mushrooms, stems trimmed flat right against the cap
1½ pounds andouille or other spicy, smoked, fully cooked sausage cut into ¾-inch-thick rounds.       
8 bamboo skewers soaked for 30 minutes in water

Process the olive oil, thyme, minced garlic, and crushed red pepper in a food processor fitted with the metal blade for 1 minute. Pour the resulting mixture into a large bowl, add the shrimp, and let stand for one hour at room temperature.

Remove the shrimp from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Thread one mushroom horizontally (side-to-side) on one skewer. Hold one sausage piece in the curve of one shrimp, and thread them together onto the skewer, sliding next to the mushroom above. Make sure the skewer goes through the shrimp in two places. Repeat, alternating sausage pieces inside shrimp and mushrooms on each skewer - shrimp with sausage, mushroom, shrimp with sausage, mushroom, and so on. If doing in advance, refrigerate skewers, but bring back to room temperature before grilling, and refrigerate marinade.

Prepare barbecue grill at medium-high heat. Bring reserved marinade to a boil in a small saucepan whether it's been refrigerated or not. Arrange the skewers on the grill, and brush them with some of the just-boiled marinade. Grill until the shrimp are cooked through, turning occasionally and basting with marinade, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plates and serve.  

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Sunday, February 26, 2023

Perfect Basmati Rice

Adapted from Made in India by Meera Sodha
Whenever I want plain perfectly-cooked rice, this is the recipe I use. I order my basmati rice from Kalustyan’s and buy Super Quality Basmati Rice Dehraduni/Indian White Extra-Long Grain in 10-pound bags.
For this dish I use an All-Clad 3-quart saucier, which, unfortunately, has been discontinued. I think a 3-quart covered sauté pan would work well. Meera Sodha uses a skillet with a lid. Whatever pot you use, it needs to have a lid. 
Mason Cash Cane Collection bowls are my favorite, and I have a nice selection in different sizes. They are no longer made in England, but except for the Batter Bowl, as of now they are made in Portugal. I have found that Everything Kitchens consistently has the best selections that I've seen.   
Perfect Basmati Rice
I know you don't use liquid measuring tools for dry ingredients, but in this case, since the instructions call for a ratio of rice (1) to water (1-1/2), I use a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup to measure both ingredients (not at the same time).
I use a stainless steel rice washing bowl and bless the day I discovered such a thing exits.  I put the rice in the rice washing bowl, rinse it till the water runs clear, and place the rice washing bowl into a Mason Cash Cane Size 24 bowl, fill it with cool water until the rice is covered, and let it sit for at least 20 minutes. When it's time to drain the rice, the rice washing bowl tips easily, and the water runs out. This turns what could be a bit of a pain into an easy step. 
You can of course do the same thing with a strainer in a bowl provided the holes are small enough not to let the rice through.   
For 4
1 cup of basmati rice
1-1/2 cups of just-boiled water
2 tablespoons neutral oil (I use cold-pressed grapeseed)
¾ teaspoon salt
Wash the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Let the rice soak in a bowl of cold water for at least 20 minutes. Drain.
Put the oil into a wide-bottomed, lidded shallow pan and turn the heat to medium. Add the drained rice stirring a couple of times to coat each grain in the warmed oil.
Pour in the boiling water, add the salt, stir once, and bring the rice to a boil, then put the lid on, and immediately turn the heat down to a simmer. Let it cook for 10 minutes without lifting the lid.
When the 10 minutes is up, turn the heat off, and let the rice rest for another 10 minutes. Before serving, fluff the rice with a fork.  
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Saturday, August 7, 2021

Ailene's Chocolate Mousse

Ailene's Chocolate Mousse
Adapted from my friend Aliene Martin

My friend Lewis told me Ailene traveled around the United States in 1973 with Carl Sontheimer doing Cuisinart demonstrations to rapt audiences anxious to see the new piece of equipment that had been adapted from restaurant kitchens in France to the home kitchen. This was one of their recipes  

Serves 8 but can easily be cut in half.



The eggs in this recipe will not be cooked so make sure they are from a source you trust, and don't feed this to anyone with a compromised immune system, including the very young and the very old.

If your eggs are not at room temperature, put them in warm water until they are. 

I use chocolate between 64% and 70% cacao.


½ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 eggs at room temperature
6 ounces of good quality bittersweet chocolate chips or chocolate you have chopped by hand into small pieces 
2 tablespoons Cognac or 4 tablespoons Kahlúa, optional
1 cup cold heavy cream

Whipped cream for serving



Put ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water in a small saucepan, and boil until it dissolves into simple syrup.

Put two room-temperature large eggs and a pinch of salt into your food processor fitted with the metal blade, and whir until blended.

Add the 6 ounces of chocolate to the food processor bowl with the eggs in it, and whir until it's as combined as it's going to get. It may still be a little lumpy; don’t worry.

Next, while the machine is running, pour the still-hot simple syrup through the top of the food processor, which has the chocolate mixture in it. Whir until the chocolate is completely melted, and the mixture is smooth. Pour this mixture into a separate clean bowl, and set aside.

Add 1 cup of cold heavy cream to the unwashed but empty food processor bowl, and turn on the food processor until the cream whips.

Pour the chocolate mixture you have set aside back into the food processor, which has the whipped cream in it, along with 2 tablespoons of liqueur if you are using it. Whir again, and combine completely. It will be as thin as chocolate milk; don't be alarmed.

Pour this mixture into pots de crème, ramekins, small martini glasses, or a pretty glass bowl, and chill.

Serve with whipped cream.

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