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Greek baked chicken with orzo

In several previous posts, I’ve written of our Dad. (If you haven’t yet seen it, you may want to read: Orange Flowers. ) His influence  on me (on us all) was enormous, though he didn’t even come to be my dad until I was already a gawky ten-year-old girl. His tender love forever changed me. We lost him a few years back, but his birthday’s coming very soon. I’m posting this recipe now – it’s one I think our Greek Pop would have loved.  I’m thinking primarily of my family when I say this, but if anyone out there would like to prepare this on November 2nd, I’d like to think there will be at least one more smile than the ones you see around your own table.

Efharisto!

This chicken dish is a common Sunday one-pot meal on the Greek islands, where chickens are raised primarily for their eggs. Therefore, it’s considered special – besides that, it’s absolutely wonderful!

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Baked Chicken with Orzo – Kotopoulo Youvetsi

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 4-pound free-range chicken, cut into 6 pieces (or the equivalent weight in pieces you choose)
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or a pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups grated ripe tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes with their juice
  • Salt
  • 2 cups chicken stock, plus more if needed
  • 1 pound orzo (you substitute elbow macaroni) – cooked in plenty of boiling salted water for only 2 minutes, then drained
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1½ cup coarsely grated hard myzithra, pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the chicken parts in batches until brown on all sides. Set aside.

Add the onion to the pot and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, oregano, pepper or pepper flakes and tomatoes. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and return to the Dutch oven. Add about 1/2 cup of stock, or enough to come about two-thirds of the way up the chicken.  (You want to be sure that the breast meat is sunk quite deeply into the sauce, so just the very top of it sticks above. That will help prevent it from drying out.)  Bring to a boil, cover and transfer to the now-hot oven.

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buttermilk biscuits – with a difference

If you’ve been following along, you may recall that one damp gray day it became necessary for me to bring indoors bushels of lemon verbena, listing badly in the rain. You may remember too that – as a happy consequence of this most deliciously fragrant herb having come indoors – our house now smelled like a commercial for the cleanest house on the block (which, no doubt, it wasn’t unless all my neighbors were having particularly messy days.) Anyway, I digress.

That day rather than clean the house, I opted instead to churn up some lemon verbena ice-cream, an impressively easy choice to make. I also dried a pint-jar full and with the rest, I made a lemon verbena sugar to store in the freezer for inspirations that might come later. I had plenty of this citrusy sugar to share and so I did.

Mike, our wonderful son-in-law and certainly one of the biggest foodies in the family – (and that’s not without considerable competition) – decided to incorporate some in his biscuits. What a great idea! And so the next time I made biscuits, I did the same. And they were wonderful! And then, not content to leave it at that, I had to try a different addition from the herb garden. And we loved those too, and so I share:  buttermilk biscuits – with fresh sage and orange zest. There will be a footnote on the lemon verbena variety but, because you can’t find that herb in your grocery store and will instead have to wait until next year when you plant your own, those biscuits won’t be the headliner here. (Don’t worry, I won’t let you forget to plan for it next summer.)

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Did you know there was such a thing as biscuit flour? I didn’t. It’s simply a flour milled from 100% soft winter wheat. But you can approximate it using equal parts of all-purpose flour and the lighter, softer cake or pastry flour. If you have cake flour by all means use it. If you don’t, not to worry. Just use the all-purpose flour but know that your biscuits won’t be quite as flaky and light as they might otherwise be. 

To top these you may want to try incorporating a drizzle of honey and a bit of orange zest into some softened butter — allow the whole of it to melt down the sides and be caught by your tongue, just in the nick of time!

Buttermilk Biscuits with Fresh Sage & Orange Zest

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups cake or white pastry flour
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • ¼teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk
  • 3 large sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • the zest of one large orange

Preheat the oven to 425°F. If you have a cast-iron skillet, put it in the oven to bring it to the same temperature. If you don’t have one, use a cooking sheet instead. (The case for biscuits made in a cast-iron skillet is that the bottoms & tops will be lightly browned and crispy, but the sides, because they’re packed closely together, will be soft and tender.)

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coconut winter squash soup – with coriander, cinnamon & mint

My husband (aka spreesgratefulguineapig) and I are happy-tired. We’ve had a lot of fun these last few days, eaten out with friends and family far more than we normally do, and kept some late nights. We’re ready to settle in at home again, so grateful for celebrations like these and grateful too for the quiet peace that descends when it’s over. It’s 100% comfort on the table tonight. A bowl of savory winter squash soup, made creamy with the addition of coconut milk infused with stick cinnamon, whole cloves and coriander seeds, fresh mint leaves and dried red chili peppers.

I’ll make some herbed buttermilk biscuits too, with a twist. And we’ll have a green salad with cheese, toasted nuts and perfectly ripe pear.

Instead of roasting the squash after first peeling it, then cutting it into cubes, we’re taking the simple way out – halve the squash, remove the seeds, drizzle olive oil on the cut surfaces, place face down on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or so. Then the squash is easily scooped out and into the soup pot. Takes only minutes to do. And while the squash is roasting away you can prepare the rest of dinner. Love a dinner that comes together that way!

Another thought: This soup easily becomes a delicious squash purée by simply adding less water.

Coconut Winter Squash Soup – with Coriander, Cloves, Cinnamon & Mint

(makes about 2 quarts soup)

  • 3 – 3½ pound winter squash (butternut, kabocha, etc.)
  • light olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 15 black peppercorns
  • 15 coriander seeds
  • 4-inch piece cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 3 small dried red chilies, seeds removed (or 1 large jalapeno pepper, de-ribbed and minced) –  (if you love heat, add another dried red chile)
  •  ½ cup loosely packed mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 can coconut milk (13+ oz.) + ½ cup water
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1½ yellow onions, finely diced
  • salt to taste

Garnish:  1 Tablespoon each finely chopped mint leaves & cilantro

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half using a heavy knife. Scoop out the seeds. Brush the surfaces with oil and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Pop in the oven until soft to the touch, 30 to 45 minutes depending on what type and size squash you’re using.

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carrot cake cupcakes

Ever since spreesgratefulguineapig left his comment on morning glorious muffins, word has spread quickly. I might never have admitted to it if he hadn’t spilled the beans first – but I confess, it’s true, I’m married to a rodent. And today is my dear rodent’s birthday! In honor of the occasion, there will be no lab experiments today, no spree in her lab coat, no need to ask with forced cheerfulness,  “so what exactly is this, honey?” Just a few of his favorites – and my grateful guinea pig loves carrot cake!

Happy Birthday, love!

And thank you, for being such

 a good sport!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

(makes about 20 cupcakes)

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 2¼ cups finely grated, peeled carrots
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (see NOTE at bottom of recipe)
  • 2½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (this is 3/4 of a standard-size cream cheese container)
  •  ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature (½ stick)
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (see NOTE)

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

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Cornbread in a Skillet

In my “laboratory kitchen” : ) I’ve sampled many a cornbread recipe. This may well be my favorite. To my mind, cornbread simply has to be made with buttermilk – it improves the texture by making it more tender, and the flavor by giving it a hint of tang. I love the inclusion of whole corn kernels. Love a bit of honey, but not overly-sweet – really like when the corn flavor stays out front. Love the crispy crust you get when you bake it in a pre-heated cast-iron skillet.

This recipe only has one cup of white flour in it, with three whole cups of whole grain for nutrition’s sake. (Another bonus, the addition of whole wheat pastry flour helps preserve the moisture beyond the time when it’s cut, steaming hot, from the pan.) (A word to you finickies: if you equate whole-grain with the texture or taste of sawdust,  this does not taste like a whole-grain recipe.)

A person can vary this recipe in all sorts of ways, and I’ll give you some examples at the bottom of the post. 

Skillet Cornbread

  • 2 cups whole cornmeal
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed – or 1 cup canned corn drained
  • 1 Tablespoon butter for the pan

Preheat the oven to 400°F. For a crispy crust, place either a 9-inch square pan or a 9-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven. (Otherwise you can simply butter your chosen baking pan and set it aside.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients – cornmeal, flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet – eggs, buttermilk, honey and then the melted butter. Stir in the corn.

Add all at once to the dry ingredients, stirring quickly and lightly so as not to overwork it. (Stirring a quick-bread lightly helps keep it light.)

To bake in a preheated pan: Remove the skillet or pan from the oven and drop in 1 Tablespoon butter. Swirl it around to coat the bottom and sides. Carefully pour in the batter and return it to the oven to bake until the top is golden brown and a cake-tester or toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. 25 – 30 minutes.

To bake in a greased pan (not preheated): Pour the batter into a prepared pan and bake until the top is golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. 30 – 35 minutes.

Serve warm – with butter and honey if you like (or the two spun together.)

An idea: the reheated leftovers would go well with huevos rancheros the next morning!

Variations on a theme:

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Spicy Chicken Chili

Halloween night traditions persisted for years. My two eager brothers and I, in our costumes and makeup, masks on the table, hurriedly wolfing down a dinner of tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches and carrot sticks. That orange-hued dinner was meant to celebrate the occasion, we knew. And we cleaned our plates, but our minds were on the pillow cases we’d be filling and the super-hero, cowboy, and ghoulish friends we’d be meeting on our street, comparing our various “takes” for the night and sharing the secret of which house was giving out the best candy. It was the same for you, right?

Years later, with my own daughters all Raggedy-Anned or their broad faces smiling in fantastic clown make-up, I still didn’t question the traditional Halloween dinner I’d grown up eating. Were I to get a second chance though, THIS would be the dinner I’d serve them. But I’d include some bright wedges of orange and a few slender carrot sticks. Even some of the littlest traditions are worth holding tight to.

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Since finding this recipe in a Nordstrom cookbook several years ago, it’s become a family favorite. Different from most chilies I’ve tried, it’s not a homogenous stew. The individual ingredients stand out and shine; it’s highly aromatic and  has an almost brightly spicy, lingering flavor.

It’s said that we taste first with our eyes. I think often that’s true, and visually this chili doesn’t disappoint. Scarlet red tomato, bright green bits of jalapeño and cilantro, petite, deep mahogany black beans and the larger, softly-shaded pintos, with flecks of chili powder and cumin swimming about. It IS kind of pretty. But I think the NOSE of this chili hits you first and wakens your appetite. It doesn’t do it all by itself though. There’s help from the cornbread baking in the oven. They’ll come out together, ready to feast upon! It’s a perfect chili for a chilly autumn night.

(Hint: For the best flavor, if your chili powder is a year or more older, it’s best to start with new.)

Spicy Chicken Chili

( serves 6 to 8 )

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 to 1½ pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into very narrow strips (see NOTE)
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder (or more according to your taste)
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin – or toasted cumin seeds, ground (see NOTE)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (unless you’re using an unsalted broth, in which case it will need more)
  • 2  jalapeño chiles, seeded, de-ribbed, and minced (each about a man’s fat thumb size)
  • 1 can (14½ ounces) diced tomatoes in juice (fire-roasted are wonderful)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro stems and leaves

Garnish:

  • diced onion – yellow, red or green
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • extra chopped cilantro
  • sour cream (optional)
  • diced avocado (optional)
  • lime wedges (optional)

NOTE: on chicken – 1 pound is adequate, but if your tastes run to a meatier chili, you may want more.

NOTE: on cumin – ground cumin is fine. I prefer to dry roast cumin seeds for several minutes in a skillet & then grind them. It brings out a deeper almost-smoky flavor that we love at our house. (Skillet on medium, stir/shake the seeds until medium-brown. Then grind and measure 1 Tablespoon.)

Using a 6- to 8- quart saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Toss in the onions and garlic and stirring occasionally, cook until mellow and softened. (About 7 minutes.)

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morning glorious muffins

Getting out of a deliciously warm bed and stepping onto a cold bare floor with the windows revealing nothing of the day but drear and dark –

not to whine – but it’s hard on us humans. Do you like to think we deserve something special for our heroic efforts? On a rainy morning when the only reason we rise is because we must, these, and a mug of steaming hot something, make it one fraction easier to leave our warm comfy beds.

This recipe reads a bit like a carrot cake. Like the cake, and unlike many muffins, it’s chock full of good things our mothers would approve of.  It’s deliciously moist, surprisingly light and un-dense.  It keeps very well, and  it re-heats nicely (if you’re looking around for something to melt your butter on.) But let’s do better for breakfast than carrot cake. We won’t frost them; instead we’ll top with a liberal scattering of healthy walnuts. We’ll only use whole-wheat flour, and we’ll do one better by adding extra wheat-germ. We’ll grate 2 whole cups of  carrots, newly-pulled from the good earth, and add a grated tart apple, a handful of shredded coconut, some warming spices and some strewn bits of candied ginger. And after a few warm bites, we can raise what’s left and call it a glorious morning, because what we call it matters maybe even more than how we start it.

morning glorious muffins

(makes 12 muffins)

  • ½ cup raisins —  (or substitute chopped dried apricots, or dried cranberries, if you’re not a raisin fan)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour — (either the traditional or white whole wheat – same nutritional content)
  • 1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups peeled and grated carrots
  • 1 large tart apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts – divided — (or substitute pecans, or sunflower seeds)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened wheat germ
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Lightly grease your muffin tin or line with papers and coat with a non-stick spray.

(Excuse me while I digress. I have this muffin “tin” that’s not a tin, but made of silicone instead and I love it. Here’s why: Muffins release easily from it without the addition of oil.  They cook beautifully in it – as brown as you like. Washing is easy – you can simply turn the cups inside out and give a little scrub. When not in use, roll it up and stuff it into cramped places. I’ll include a picture of it at the bottom of the post. All that being said, obviously, any muffin pan will do! )

Put the raisins (or the dried fruit of your choice) into a small bowl and cover with hot water to plump. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt together, until thoroughly combined. Stir in the shredded carrots and apple, the coconut, 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, finely chopped candied ginger and wheat germ.

In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, orange juice and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and stir until evenly blended. Drain the raisins well, and add them now.

Divide the batter between 12 muffin cups – they’ll be nearly full, but they won’t overflow. They’ll just dome up beautifully. Scatter with approximately ¼ cup chopped walnuts (or your choice of nut or sunflower seeds.) Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a tooth pick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan, on a rack, for 5 minutes only. Then remove the muffins to the rack to continue cooling.

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(Or of course, you may eat them steamy warm, and I highly recommend you do.)

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My silicone pan is actually one made for brioche but I use it for muffins because I love the shape. Here ’tis: Read more

Moroccan roasted chicken and buttery couscous

With Ras el Hanout, the blend of Moroccan spices in yesterday’s post, we’re only a few easy steps away from a succulent chicken dinner that will make a Moroccan daydream that much more real.  This is so simple! With the first 9 ingredients you make a paste in your blender. You rub it on your chicken. You put whole or cut lemons and garlic in the cavity. You pop it in the oven. An hour later, you dine like Bogey and Bacall in Casablanca.

Moroccan Roasted Chicken

Put the following ingredients into a blender and puree.

The rub:

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon ras el hanout (see NOTE on where  you can purchase)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
The chicken:
  • 4 to 4.5 pound free-range chicken
  • 2 small lemons, pierced all over with a fork – or 1 larger lemon, cut into wedges
  • 6 cloves garlic, un-peeled, barely crushed with the back of a knife

(In yesterday’s post I specified a chicken 4.5 to 5 pounds. I find that the smaller ones are more tender, but you can make that determination for yourself.)

NOTE on where to buy ras el hanout if you decide not to make your own: If you don’t already have most of the spices called for to make your own, it would be less expensive to buy ready-made. One good source on line is at The Spice House –  http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/ras-el-hanout $6.00 for a standard 2 oz. bottle.

Preheat oven to 400°F. It’s best if you can start with a chicken at or near room temperature, so if you’re able to, remove the chicken from the refrigerator an hour or so before you begin. Rinse the chicken in cold water and dry with paper towels. Rub one-third of the spice rub inside the cavity. Insert the lemons and garlic, and tie the legs together. Smear the remaining rub over the chicken. Roast for approximately 45 minutes, or until the internal breast temperature at the thickest part registers 165°. (Alternately you can pierce the leg and make sure that the juices run clear.)  Remove from the oven and tent it with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 or 15 minutes. (This allows time for the juices to sink back into the meat and not flow out onto your cutting board as you carve it.) The lemons cooked inside will be soft and full of juice and are wonderful squeezed on top and served alongside. (We liked it too on our roasted beets.)

(You can begin the couscous about 15 minutes before you expect the chicken to be coming out of the oven.)

Buttery Couscous

A soft, buttery couscous is an ideal accompaniment to this roasted chicken. And again, so easy to prepare. Though I’ve made it plain here, you can add herbs, nuts, spices or dried fruits. Read more

a trip to Morocco

For years Morocco has held a fascination for me. Some of that – no doubt – is because of how outside of my own experience nearly every aspect of Moroccan life is. Visually, completely captivating! (I imagine a long-lasting dent in my face where my camera goes.) Food, richly colored, and complexly perfumed and flavored with “exotic” spices. Aromas that nearly intoxicate, emanating from food purveyors’ carts. The chords of music played with instruments unlike those in the west and following an entirely different set of “rules” than our own. The sounds of words spoken in a tongue with a non-Romance language root. The intricately painted pottery! The profusion of vividly patterned textiles, for sale in stalls and flowing like brilliantly colored silk streams through the crowded streets! Morocco fascinates me.

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Like most couples, my husband and I have our disagreements. If he could have less than zero interest in visiting Morocco, then he does. That doesn’t make him contrary – exactly. Different things captivate his interest. And I suspect that the total package of Morocco…the whole of it that I find so intriguing…contains just a little too much unfamiliarity for his liking. So when we dream of where we might one day go, on this one (supremely fascinating) destination, we agree to disagree.

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So I regret that the closest I may ever come to Morocco is their sumptuous food – which, for the moment, puts me smack dab in the middle of my own kitchen – and brings me to the subject of my next post – and tonight’s dinner – Roasted Chicken Moroccan. I’ll pair it with a simple couscous to sop up some of the flavored juices, and a refreshing delicious salad of oranges, red onions and black olives. (See Moroccan Orange Salad.)  And because I have them, I’ll roast some beets and perhaps come up with some way to Moroccan-ize them! There, take that, my (not-exactly-contrary) husband!

I go into this knowing that most of you will be uninterested in a recipe calling for so many different spices. I get that. If I had to go out and buy them all at once, I wouldn’t be willing to take out a loan to do so. (OK, I exaggerate.) But believe it or not, I happen to have every one of these spices in my spice drawer already, because, as you know, I really love food that tastes like something!

Only one ingredient is called for that I don’t have, and that’s actually a spice blend called ras el hanout, fairly common in Moroccan cooking. Because it’s a blend (much like a curry) it has many versions, some containing as many as 100 different spices! Ras el Hanout means “top of the shop,” which I imagine to mean (perhaps mistakenly) the very best offering the proprietor has to sell. (I wonder if they keep it in exquisitely painted ceramic apothecary jars high up on the top shelf, out of reach of wide-swinging elbows?) You can buy it already prepared, or make up your own with the spices you may already have on hand. I liked the sounds of the following version, so this is where I begin tonight’s dinner. My next post will be on the dinner itself. (Just so you can either breathlessly anticipate – or completely ignore – the upcoming post, I’ll give a list of the ingredients required at the bottom of this page.)

Ras El Hanout– a Moroccan Spice Blend

  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons tumeric
  • 2 ateaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamom
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

Simply mix them all together and store as you would any spices, in an airtight container away from direct light. (And on the top shelf, if that idea appeals to you.) Read more

green salad with caramelized pears, walnuts & cheese

I have a thing for pears. I didn’t always have a thing for pears. But today my thing for pears is huge. And I think perhaps you need no more of my words on pears, but only to gaze (with your own eyes) upon their shapes, their colors,  their stems, their dimples and imperfections,  to know why it is I have this thing called love of pears.

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pears in pairs

BoscPear

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~ComicePears

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Of course it’s not all  about their looks. They’ve got that whole flavor and texture thing going on too. Here’s one delicious way to enjoy these beauties. For this recipe, I like d’Anjou or Barlett or Comice – and since you want them to stand up to the heat of caramelizing, begin with under-ripe fruit.

My husband’s got a thing for blue cheese. So, that’s one way you could make this salad (and I did for him) – but just as good (and far better if you don’t happen to like blue) is Parmigiano-Reggiano. Each of these cheeses pairs up beautifully with pears.

I told you in an earlier post about this Olive Oil store near us. (Also on line www.oilerie.com) We were in there the other day to re-stock on our lemon-olive oil. (So good!) Do you think I could walk past the pear balsamic without tasting? Do you think I could walk out of the store without a little bottle tucked under my arm? (oh it was paid for!)  The salad I made for us last night was made with pear balsamic and walnut oil – neither of these are necessary – at all!  Olive oil and any good balsamic will do perfectly. But I had them, and it was good. Very good.

Green Salad with Caramelized Pears, Walnuts & Cheese

with Walnut-Balsamic Vinaigrette

for the salad:

  • arugula or lettuce of your choice
  • walnuts (toasted for 10 minutes approximately, in 350º oven) (or candied pecans or walnuts – see post May 9th, 2011)
  • cheese of your choice (gorgonzola, other blue, parmiggiano – or perhaps you have another in mind)

for the vinaigrette:

  • good olive oil (or walnut oil)
  • balsamic vinegar (infused or not)
  • kosher or sea salt & pepper to taste
for the caramelized pears: (these quantities are for 2 salad servings)
  • 1 pear (see above for varieties)
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it on hand)
  • balsamic – a splash – optional Read more