Celery Salad with Kale, Parmesan and Apples

When at first I was inspired to post another version of my favorite fall side, the ubiquitous Kale Salad, I felt as though there was nothing new to say on the topic.  What, really, can little ‘ole me add to all this kale chatter?


Not a whole lot, it turns out.  But really the beauty of this recipe lies not in the kale but in the celery.

Huh? Did I just say celery?  Hear me out.  Celery is that vegetable that I always end up tossing.  I buy it for one recipe, usually soup or marinara, and as good as my intentions are (the popular South Beach Diet snack with Laughing Cow cheese perhaps), I never manage to use it.  I’m betting this is a universal dilemma.

Enter Ina’s Celery and Parmesan Salad.  I started with her recipe and added the kale and apples since I was serving a crowd. And guess what. I managed to use all of my celery and create a healthy ( and dare I say refreshing?) side dish to go with Wendy’s baked pasta for our latest book club gathering.

This one’s a keeper folks.  I’ll never throw away celery again.


For the salad

  • 5 cups thinly sliced celery and chopped celery leaves
  • 3 large leaves thinly sliced kale
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 lemon
  • shaved parmesan cheese

For the dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Start by very thinly slicing your celery.  I broke out my rarely used mandolin for this task but you could just use a very sharp knife.

Place in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.  Allow to crisp in the fridge as you whisk the dressing ingredients together.  Pour enough of the dressing over the celery to coat and continue to crisp in the fridge while you shred the kale.

Add the kale to the celery and toss.

Just before serving, spread the celery and kale mixture on a platter and top with walnuts, sliced apples and Parmesan cheese.

Posted in salads | Tagged | 2 Comments

Zucchini Pie


It may be fall on the calendar, but it’s still summer in my kitchen.  As much as I’m looking forward to soups, braises and cider-based dishes, I just can’t go there while temps are in the mid 70s.

And since zucchini, at least in these parts, is still in abundance in the farmers markets and the grocery stores, why not make use?

This particular version of zucchini goodness is from a Real Simple magazine recipe that I clipped years ago.  I hadn’t made it until this summer (opting instead for another one on the same page, a goat cheesey yellow squash custard) but lo and behold it’s been my favorite easy go-to side dish of the summer.  And it’s delicious warmed over.  Fortunately this one will play well into fall since it’s an oven baked dish that can be eaten straight from the oven, or made in advance to eat at room temperature.


Zucchini Pie 

barely adapted from Real Simple magazine
  • 3 cups zucchini grated (about 2 medium)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup grated provolone cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 4 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, reserving 1 tablespoon of the parmesan cheese.

Spoon into a 10 inch pie plate or a square casserole dish that has been coated with cooking spray.

Bake for 45-50 or until slightly browned.  Sprinkle the reserved parmesan over top and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.


Posted in sides, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Fish Tacos, Spanish Style (¡Olé!)

Granted, I don’t live in Paris or Provence. Or Ireland, Cape Cod or Saugatuck. Or any of the myriad other locales that regularly fill my residential fantasies.


But I do live in Ann Arbor, which is pretty great.  And I need to start appreciating that. Much like the lyric of the fabulous Sheryl Crow-“it’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got”.  A tough but important little lesson to learn.

So when I was trying to figure out something profound and interesting to say about fish tacos, and repeatedly coming up empty (other than the usual, Man, were they good!), I decided that this would be an opportunity to start a semi-regular feature on my town, its businesses and unique little spots and nooks that make it such a great place to live.


The fish, pollock that is, which served as the star ingredient, was purchased at Monahan’s Seafood in the charming enclave of Kerrytown.


Not only do they have deliciously fresh fish on offer (it ain’t cheap) but they have a quite packed lunch counter that serves the best fish and chips I’ve had this far from the Atlantic.


It can take some effort to manage a spot here on a Farmers Market Saturday, since Kerrytown is the sight of the twice-weekly and massive local event (more on that later, if this is indeed going to be, and I hope that it is, a regular feature here).


So the boyfriend had no idea that he’d be taking my camera when he went off to Market for his weekly provisions on Sunday morning .  We had already consumed the fish tacos before I decided to feature Monahan’s.  He did the embarrassing photo bombing for once instead of me but I think he secretly liked contributing.  He was a very good sport. All on-site pictures were taken by him. Nice job Samuel!


The fish tacos were eaten by us both.  And I love me some fish tacos.  These were slightly different from the usual, with the Spanish flavors, inspired by a recently acquired giant vat of Marcona almonds as well as a recipe I saw on the Rachael Ray shows months ago.  I don’t know how I remembered it but it must have struck me.  Searching on her website is no easy task.  Searching Grilled Romesco Sauce yields over 1,700 results on her site alone. Something’s wrong there.  Anyways, so I desperately need to upload my version of this recipe before I lose it again.


There’s plenty of worthwhile steps here, from pickling onions to blackening red peppers and tomatoes, so make these on Saturday.


The leftovers made a mighty delicious salad the next day. So good in fact, that I just might skip the tortilla next time.


Fish Tacos, Spanish Style

For the toppings

  • 1/2 small red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • handful chopped parsley
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and pickled (see below)
  • juice of 1/2 a lime (or lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper

First, pickle the onions.  Bring 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons red wine or cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Reduce to simmer and add the onions. Simmer for about 20 minutes and while you move on to the next task.  Remove onions to a small bowl to cool.

Next, whisk an easy vinaigrette for the slaw using the honey, lime juice, salt and pepper and olive oil. Add to sliced cabbage and chopped parsley.  Allow to sit until serving time.

For the Romesco Sauce

  • 1 slice white bread, toasted (I used an English muffin!)
  • 1 whole head garlic
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 serrano chili
  • 1 red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup Marcona almonds
  • 2 splashes Sherry vinegar
  • fresh thyme (optional)
  • olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°. Slice the top off the garlic head and place on enough foil to wrap it. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap the head and roast in the oven for 20 minutes.  This can happen while you’re grilling the veggies.  Allow to cool, then squeeze each clove out of its skin and place in a food processor.

Grill the red peppers (and the serrano) whole  on your outdoor grill or directly on, one at a time, on your stove top burner, making sure to turn until almost every bit is black. Place on counter and cover with a large bowl so that they steam (thank you to the brilliant Joanne Weir for that tip!)

Preheat a stainless steel skillet over a medium high flame and add the tomatoes whole.   Turn until blistered, but not totally blackened, on all sides and allow to steam with the peppers.  In the same skillet add a little olive oil and grill the onion chunks on all sides so that they blacken a bit.  Cool.

Cut the peppers in half and remove the inside and the stem. Next, peel the peppers using your hands and scraping with a knife. Some black bits are okay.  Also peel what you can of the tomatoes but don’t worry about getting all the skin off since they’re going in a food processor.

Add vegetables to a food processor along with the toasted bread, Marcona almonds, sherry vinegar, garlic, thyme and salt and pepper.  Pulse and stream in  about a 1/4 cup of olive oil until thickened but not totally smooth (about 5 pulses). You will have lots of leftover romesco which is good with crackers, tortillas or on salmon burgers.

For the tacos

  • 1 1/2 or 2 lbs. pollock (or any fish in the cod family)
  • 1 package whole grain tortillas
  • seafood seasoning
  • smoked paprika (optional)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • olive oil for pan grilling

Dry the fish with paper towels and sprinkle with seafood seasoning, salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (if using).  Allow to sit for a few minutes while you prepare the toppings.

Pre-heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet.  Add fish and cook for about 4 minutes per side or until flaky.  Add the juice of the lemon at the end.

Now you are ready to assemble your tacos.  Blister tortillas over a burner (or heat in microwave for a few seconds) and wrap in a kitchen towel.

tortilla + fish + cabbage slaw + pickled onions + romesco sauce + squeeze of lime = one amazing taco (and one long recipe).

I served them with wedged limes and lemons and a kale salad with avocado and some of the pickled onions.


Posted in Main dishes, Seafood | 7 Comments

Classic Pesto with Grilled Bread

Something about starting the school year gives me a distinct and unquenchable desire to take a vacation.  It must have something to do with the impending loss of freedom and gain of anxiety (not to mention those cruel early morning wake-ups).


Today was my last day of freedom and I chose to spend it in the completion of summer chores and enjoyment of leisurely activities. Balance, right? It was a busy day.


1. Two morning hours on the patio reading and coffee drinking (check)

2. Weeding and lilac trimming (check)

3. Laundry/ironing (not complete but will get me through the week)

4. Wash last of 7 windows and blinds (not check, will have to wait)

5. Library and bank (check)

5. Duck visiting, more reading (check)

6. Make pesto (check)

7. Write this here blog post (workin’ on it)


Classic Basil Pesto

Makes one cup. Adapted from Giada de Laurentis.

Even though I’ve been following this recipe for years, my early summer attempts at pesto-making were bitter and unpleasant failures.  I thought I was cool, that I didn’t need to check the recipe.  I’m a foodie I told myself. I know what’s in pesto. Blah, blah, blah.

I read recently that if you make a recipe often, you tend to wing it more and more and get further and further away from the original, until it’s just not right anymore.  I think that was my issue with pesto.  So, back to the recipe for more precise measurements.  As it should, it turned out perfectly.  I used a mix of walnuts and pine nuts, a bit less olive oil, and Romano instead of Parmesan, but other than that, it’s pretty close to Giada’s original. And it works.

  • 2 cups basil, packed*
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts and/or walnuts (not each, but total), toasted**
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1. Place all ingredients except the olive oil and cheese in a food processor.  Pulse and slowly add the olive oil in a drizzle until the pesto comes together.  It will seem quite runny, but not to worry, the cheese will thicken it.

2. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the cheese.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste (I usually don’t need to since the cheese gives it quite a salty taste).

Pesto freezes nicely in a Ziploc bag but they say not to add the cheese if you’re freezing it.  I usually forget to leave out the cheese and the world doesn’t end.

If you’re not going to use it all immediately, store with plastic wrap touching the pesto, as you would guacamole, and it should keep a few days in your fridge.


*If you want to make pesto regularly, measure out the 2 cups basil using a measuring cup, then transfer to one of your often used bowls so that next time, you know just to fill that bowl.

**I toast nuts in my toaster oven (350°) for a few minutes. Keep your eye on them because I have burned many a nut!  You could also do so in a small dry skillet on your stove top.


And so, Grilled Bread!

This had been the culinary revelation of my summer and the easiest way to add a starch to a grilled dinner with summer salads.

Ready, set, go!

  • baguette
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • salt and pepper

Slice your baguette lengthwise and cut into large-ish pieces.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill for only a minute or two (when your meat is resting perhaps).

If you want to get fancy, you can rub the bread with garlic and/or tomato (Pan Catalan!) when it comes off the grill, but I usually don’t bother.

This is a great use for day old bread (buy it cheap and freeze it for this purpose) and is so dang good! My friend Dave thought this was the best part of my Paella dinner earlier in the summer.

Need more Pesto inspiration?

  • Use as the dressing (thin with a bit more olive oil) for a Caprese Salad.
  • Mix with goat cheese and use as a Crostini topping.
  • Add to pasta or gnocchi (but also add a glug of pasta water to help it adhere)
  • Use as the sauce for a shrimp and goat cheese pizza
  • Make the basil balsamic chicken topped with fresh arugula that Rachael made in 7 minutes when her talk show debuted (this is still a great weeknight meal!)
  • Dollop on veggie soup
  • And S’s favorite use, as a cracker topping, straight from the bowl.


Well, I guess I gotta go to bed.  I’m off to the penitentiary (not bright, but early).

Bonne nuit.

Posted in appetizers, snackies, vegetarian | 8 Comments

Sweet Pea Pesto Crostini and Avocado Spread

Both of these nifty little appetizers are worth their weight in summer gold for the flavor of each far outweighs the difficulty in preparation.  Actually, even using the word difficulty is a misnomer.  Ease would be the word of choice for each of these two spreads/dips/pestos/whatever-you-feel-like-calling-them.


The inspiration for this one came from two places. First, my favorite restaurant in town, Mani Osteria, served a version as their seasonal bruschetta. Though they have hands down the best thin crust pizzas around, it’s their appetizer menu that excites me the most. There’s always something new and  interesting, but then there’s what can already be called classics, the pickled tomatoes and the pork belly. I could go on and on. The basic recipe itself came from my longest lasting cookbook obsession thus far, Dinner: A Love Story, in which it’s called Todd’s Minty Pea Dip.  I simply added basil, garlic and toasted pine nuts to give it more of an Italian pesto-y flair.

Serves several as an appetizer.

  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 small garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/3 cup mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 1/3 cup basil leaves, loosely packed
  • juice of a lemon
  • 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and give her a whiz!  If it seems thickish, add more lemon, olive oil or even water to give it a creamier consistency.  Garnish with extra pine nuts if you wish. Serve with pita chips, baguette or crostini (follows).

  • 1 baguette, thinly sliced on an angle
  • olive oil
  • coarse salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°. Place baguette slices on a cookie sheet. Drizzle or brush with olive oil until they have a light coating.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper before toasting in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Serve alongside pea pesto.

Alternatively, you can spread the pesto on the toasts yourself and serve them on a big platter. In this case, I would shave some Parmesan to garnish each along with a pine nut or two.

The following Avocado Pesto comes from my new favorite food blog, Dinner Was Delicious.  Click on over and read their tag line for a guaranteed laugh out loud.  Seriously. Even their recipe writing is hilarious (I think I’ve read through every post so far just for nighttime entertainment). image

They suggest this as an alternative to hummus, which they deem (and I tend to agree) boring. The idea is so akin to guacamole that I was skeptical at first. I love guacamole but didn’t want to change a couple of ingredients and claim to have a whole new recipe.  HOWEVER,  I was proved wrong when I mashed up a bowl for a girls’ dinner the other night.  The lemon and basil actually give it a totally different flavor than the lime and onions of guacamole.  The addition of olive oil makes it creamier.  Serve it up at your next get-together, you’ll see.  Plus, it takes like two seconds to make.

Also, try their Peach and Tomato Salad if you’re grilling meat this summer. There’s still time.


Posted in appetizers, sides | 8 Comments


Unlike those three gents outside who installed my new gutters in under three hours, I have accomplished very little today.


See? Gutters. Fascinating.

So, there’s a closet to be organized, a bathroom to be cleaned and a book to be read. Did I do any of that today? Nope.

Blame it on a first ever nighttime finish of the Tour de France?  A book club meeting that lasted for many hours? Or the addictive qualities of the new toy Ipad mini?  Combo of all three probably and definitely not worth analyzing but the least a girl can do is knock out a blog post for a requested recipe from yesterday’s book club.

And speaking of firsts, Evelyn’s first pick inspired a very spirited discussion. I, for one, highly recommend this read (although it wasn’t totally loved by all ten of us, to be honest).

(photo shamelessly cut-and-pasted from telegraph.co.uk. I hope they don’t mind!)

It also inspired a very spirited gobbling of food!


There was my pissaladière and pea pesto crostini (both of which were requested recipes and shall appear here shortly), Barb’s grilled coconut shrimp with orange chutney, Maeve’s Asian-inspired meatballs, Wendy’s Indian-spiced potatoes (she’s the potato lady after all), and Molly’s dessert duo of banana cake and Oreo dessert.  Norma made a watermelon salad, Beth brought a cheese/fruit plate and Vikki make another cake.

In other words, we didn’t go hungry.  Or thirsty for that matter, but this time the bottles of rosé shall remain, er, uncounted.


Call it caramelized onion pizza, onion tart or the true Provençale name, Pissaladière, which is what I usually call it until people look at me funny.  I’m not trying to be a Frenchie-snob. Back in the 90s, our Luberon-born French friend, Jérôme, used to bring it to every party. This is what he called it (because that’s what it’s called). Thank you for bearing with me.


Yield: 1 cookie sheet sized pizza, can serve several as an appetizer or 3-4 as a main course with salad.

Do not turn your back on this recipe if you are not an onion lover.  Onions that cook for a couple of hours over low heat become caramelized.  Caramelized = candy-like.  They are sweet and delicious contrasted with the saltiness of chopped black olives and anchovies (pssst-I didn’t tell them about the anchovies yesterday. Sorrrrrrry.)

I referenced both Dinner: A Love Story and My French Kitchen.  The crust is Jim Lahey’s no-knead pizza dough via Dinner: A Love Story (which might be my favorite cookbook-I’m just sayin’).  The ease of this crust will change your pizza-making life. Just remember to leave two hours of rise time before you’re ready to assemble the pizza (fine, I’m calling it pizza now).

For the crust

  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • olive oil for greasing the pan and the freezer bag (this recipe yields two doughs)

Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl and add the water.  Mix to incorporate the water with a wooden spoon and then get in there with your clean hands until there is no flour left unmixed.  You will have a stiff dough. I do actually knead a couple of times right in the bowl, just so it all stays together. Cover it with a towel and allow to rise in a warm spot (such as on your stovetop) for two hours.

Preheat oven to 500°.

Once the dough has risen, divide in half.  Work a little olive oil around a freezer bag and plop one dough half in the freezer for later use.

Generously oil (about a tablespoon, depending on your pan) a rimmed cookie sheet with your fingers or a brush.  Add the dough and work/stretch/push it with your fingers until it reaches close to the edges.  Be patient as it may take a while but it will get there and produce a lovely thin crust. (This method comes, again, straight from Jenny). The beauty: no rolling pin needed!

Next add the toppings: caramelized onions, a couple of chopped anchovies (shhhh…) and about 10 or so chopped black olives. Cook in the hot oven for 12-15 minutes.  Allow to cool and cut into desired number of pieces.

For the onions

  • four large onions, thinly sliced (I used Vidalia but you could use white onions)
  • a couple of sprigs of thyme
  • 3-4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar (optional)

In a large skillet, cook the onions over very low heat until they are nicely browned.  Nestle the thyme sprigs among the onions and make sure to remove stems before assembling the pizza (there I go again). This could take up to an hour or more to get these right so I often do this the night before (or perhaps while the dough is rising).

You don’t have to stand in front the onions the whole time.  Here are some tips.  Start with a low flame.  If not much seems to be happening, turn it up a bit.  Make sure, however, that your are not browning your onions (like when you grill them over high heat), so continue adjusting your flame throughout.  They should become a caramel colored brown from time and low heat. Stir every so often. Eventually they will cook down to about 1/4 their original size and, like I said, taste like candy.  Add the tsp. of balsamic vinegar at the end and mix.

Enjoy these on the pizza, as a crostini topping or even on a burger. If you made these ahead of time, it might be hard not to eat them straight out of the container you’re storing them in.


You might notice I’ve been experimenting with adding text to my photos.

Fancy that.

Now, about that closet…

Posted in appetizers, pizza, provencal, snackies, vegetarian | 12 Comments

Shrimp Salad with Spinach and Feta

I’ve been gone for over a month, but I come bearing this shrimp salad with spinach and feta. If you try it, I think you’ll forgive me for my absence.  It’s one of my many “reset” salads. My try at redemption after two back-to-back over-indulgent vacations north. Let me explain.


First there was Northern California with the Mom to visit the Aunt.  Why, yes, we did in fact spend one day trolling San Francisco with an old college friend of mine. It’s a pleasure to be once again with those who knew you “way back when”, is it not?


But actually, if you look at a map, San Francisco is just about in the middle of the state.  When I say we went north, I mean, we in fact went north.

First, to the Russian River Valley, which I must say for my tastes is preferable to Napa.  More laid-back, prettier even, but what do I know?


And don’t even get me started on the charming wine town haven that is Healdsburg.  I could live there quite easily, dining at least once a week at Willi’s Seafood Bar.


I also had the chance to meet the very generous and kind Michel, who is the proud owner of Bistro des Copains in Occidental.  He not only helms this authentic-to-me French bistro, but he also writes a dreamy blog about food and his house in Provence.  If you’re passing through, I highly recommend a meal here.  His roast chicken was better than any I’d tasted in France last summer.  And there’s complimentary tapenade. Can’t go wrong there either.

But when I say north, I mean north, like I said, to the touristy and hippy Mendocino for a lunch stop.


And then, just when I thought we were pretty far north, we drove another 4 hours north, (okay, I’ll stop now), landing finally in Eureka, where the Aunt lives, which has more of an Oregon feel than a California one.  We found the area to be absolutely gorgeous.  It’s the hidden California. Who knew?

Like its more popular big sister to the south, Eureka has an old-timey Victorian past.


There are loads of cute shops in its Old Town.  I’m kind of obsessed with independent bookstores. I take a lot of pictures of them. Sometimes I buy a book too.


The surroundings, though, were really what stunned us with the beauty of it all.  Trinidad was my favorite.


I was charmed by the Eel River Valley, which believe it or not, reminded me Ireland, with its plentiful sheep and cow farms, narrow lanes, overflowing foliage, teensy towns and water views.


And you can’t go this far north without seeing the big trees.


Or dining at a marina.


On our return South we lunched at the “Disneyland for adults” that is the Francis Ford Coppola winery.  No regrets there either.  We had a fabulous lunch.


Otherwise known as Provence en Californie.


We gilded the lily with an evening drive through the Sonoma Valley.


Then, in an instant, it was all over and I was laundering and packing to head Up North (as we Michiganders like to say) once again for the annual family food fest known as Fourth of July at Aunt B’s and Uncle G’s.  I was too tuckered from the other trip to do much more than raise that glass of rosé to my lips.

So about that Shrimp and Feta Salad.

It serves 4 as a starter (2-3 as a main), is slightly adapted from Rachael Ray magazine and is a simple way to redeem oneself after copious amounts of fresh fish n’ chips, the Aunt’s banana cake, 4th of July hotdogs and that there pink wine.  No holds barred on vacation, right?

  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. spice brown mustard
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup (or more) feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 bag baby spinach

1. Whisk together shallot, vinegar, mustard, honey and salt/pepper. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly until the dressing comes together. Set aside.

2. In a skillet preheated over a medium flame, add 2 tbsp. olive oil.  Add the shrimp and stir fry for 2-3 minutes or until just cooked through (when they curl up and turn pink/white they are done).  Add the crushed red pepper.

3. Add the shrimp to the dressing and serve over spinach.  Top with crumbled feta.


Posted in salads, Seafood | 14 Comments


I can’t believe that this blog is almost two years old and I haven’t yet mentioned paella. It’s not because I’m some sort of paella expert, or even that I cook it all that much, but the thing is, it’s the first recipe I  wrote myself a version of. “Adapted” if you will. Before I even knew what a food blog was, or that recipes were “adaptable”.  Before I considered myself a decent enough home cook.



I fell in love with this dish many years ago when I studied in Spain during undergrad.  I didn’t fall in love with Spain-not yet (ask my parents)-rather, I came down with a serious case of homesickness and barely made it through the program.  A few years later, I began taking my students to Spain and then began my, let’s say… crush.  Sidenote: that crush, though, led me in fact to my one true love (isn’t that often how it happens?), when my dad and I headed up to Carcassonne afterwards.  Then Provence, the Alps, Paris and I was one smitten girl.  But my love affair with France is a story for another time.  One I mention regularly here.  For now, I’m talking about an earlier crush.

My paella is really not all that hard and is a definite crowd-pleaser.  It can indeed be spectacular, even.  The bulk of the prep can be completed earlier, with the ingredients measured, ready and waiting by the stove top.  Before guests arrive, you can get on with sautéing the veg, slowly adding the hot broth and, when it’s almost ready save the last bit of broth to add before serving and turn off the heat.  Cover the paella and serve your appetizer.  How about the endlessly adaptable Spring Artichoke Dip?


After your guests have devoured, and I do mean devoured, this succulent dip, you can nonchalantly head back to the kitchen for the finishing touches.  You’ll be a paella master in no time.


Pan Catalan, easier than garlic bread (and tastier), is a necessary and utterly welcome  side.  People will think “what did  you do?” and you’ll think “not all that much really”.

And when it’s almost over, present these charming Provençal Apricot CakesThey take no time at all to make.


Paella: Vegetarian or Not

Serves 6-8 (once I served appetizer portions to a party of 20!). Adapted from so many cookbooks that I can’t remember what they all are!
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (optional), large diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • a handful frozen peas
  • 1/2 tsp. saffron
  • 1/s tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 packet Paellero seasoning (optional, but you can buy it here)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lb. shrimp
  • 1-2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lime, quartered.

1. In a large skillet or paella pan, cook onions in 3 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat until translucent.

2. Bring broth to a simmer on another burner.

3. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes or until browned on all sides. Add garlic and cook for another minute.

4. Add bell pepper, tomatoes, and rice.  Cook for 2 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, crush saffron threads, paprika and coarse salt in a mortar and pestle (or just on a cutting board) until ground. Add a couple of tablespoons of broth to this mixture.

6. Add spice mixture to skillet and slowly add broth, about 1/2 cup at a time over the course of 45 minutes or so. If using, add paellero seasoning at any point during this process. (After about 30 minutes, I stopped this process and covered broth and paella, served my appetizer and mingled with my guests.  The last 15 minutes of cooking can be done just before serving.)

7. Once broth is absorbed (if you run out of broth before rice is fully cooked, you can add a little water to paella), add shrimp and cook for a few more minutes or until the shrimp are pink and opaque.  Add peas and parsley and stir.

8. Serve in the skillet with Pan Catalan and a wedge of lime.

For the Pan Catalan, slice baguette lengthwise and then into a few pieces.  Toast in a 350° oven until browned, about 10 minutes. Rub with half a tomato, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Serve alongside for a crunch accompaniment.

Buen provecho.

Posted in Main dishes, Seafood | 16 Comments

Crispy Quinoa Salad

Once in a while, a feared kitchen disaster actually turns out to be a happy accident.  This is what occurred when I decided to make a post-cinco-de-mayo-party-fridge-freezer-clean-out-meal for my dad. He’s worth it.


He arrived later in the day, garden tools in hand, as dads do, to help me do away with the “monsters”.  These are the monsters.  Turns out they’re not so easily tamed.


Scary. Word of advice: Don’t buy a house with a lot of trees on the property.  Someday, thousands of dollars will be spent maintaining them.  I wish somebody had warned me about tree upkeep.

At least there’s a bright pink one.


So back to the disaster-turned-happy-accident. I decided to make a quinoa salad out of meager leftovers and pantry staples, and, thinking it would be prudent to at least prepare the quinoa itself in advance, I did so.  Quinoa is a simple matter, really just one of boiling water, so of course it turned out perfectly.

And so of course I screwed it up.

What didn’t turn, off, that is, is the burner.  I mistakenly left the burner on low and headed out to assist.  About an hour later, I realized that disaster had ensued, the kind that would result in trashing the pot along with the burnt quinoa.

Actually, disaster had averted. It was nicely browned, crisp even.  Because I had used a non-stickish saucepan, it released and took on a nutty flavor and crunchy texture. Kind of like the burnt parts of a paella, which to some is the best part.


Except this was quinoa.  I rounded out the meal with black bean quesadillas, thawed red cabbage compote and sweet potato tots (you know those, right, the Alexia brand tots? You gotta try those.)

We dined in Provence (aka outside), a term coined by mon père referring to the enjoyment of an outdoor meal, usually with wine, no matter where one resides, which is fittingly how I came about the title of this blog.


Crispy (or not if you don’t want to risk it) Quinoa Salad
Serves 4.
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (any color really)
  • chopped herbs (parsley, chives, cilantro, etc.)
  • handful chopped golden raisins
  • 3 chopped scallions
  • goat cheese crumbles (or feta)
  • lime/mustard vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  • handful chopped olives
  • 2-3 chopped celery stalks
  • handful chopped almonds
  • drizzle of olive oil + dashes of salt and pepper to taste

A quinoa salad takes so well to improvisation that I’m reluctant to actually give you a method here (so I won’t).  Simply follow directions on the quinoa box (allow to cool, or at your peril, leave on low well past the recommended time for a crispier version–careful though, it could burn!).  Add handfuls of the above ingredients or whatever chopped veg, nut or cheese you may have lying around in the fridge/pantry.

Fais-moi confiance. It’ll be delish.

Lime (or lemon) Vinaigrette

Mix in a jar…

  • juice of 1 lime (or 1/2 lemon)
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • dash white or champagne vinegar
  • tsp. (or so) honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Taste and shake.  Drizzle over salad and mix. Let sit for at least 20 minutes to let the flavors come together.


Posted in sides, vegetarian | Tagged | 5 Comments

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

April has been a month of accomplishments.


I drove through Times Square. I had a good reason, but quelle catastrophe!  Technically that was in March but since that vacation ended in April, I’m going with April.


I ate at Roberta’s, one of the 20 most important restaurants in America. It was pizza. Dang good pizza, but still pizza. If you care to know why it’s so important, click the link.


I delighted in the hot chocolate goodness of Jacques Torres.


I ate breakfast at the beach.


I stalked drove by Ina’s house multiple times.  She’s on a main route. Who knew? This isn’t Ina’s house. I wouldn’t be so crass.  But who wouldn’t love to live in a village with a windmill?


I rode a ferry.  Couple of ’em actually.


For a little wine


And a lobster roll on a charmingly named lane.


Because of book club, I learned about the Dust Bowl and made Fallen Chocolate Cake.


I made Jim Lahey’s no-knead pizza dough.  So easy and so good!  I topped it with ricotta and asparagus.


And, perhaps most memorably, I found my chocolate chip, I mean chunk, cookie. I’ve been looking for one for a long time. Task completed. Scratch that one off the list.

Everyone needs a chocolate chip chunk cookie, right?  This one comes courtesy of, what else, Bon Appétit and their January cooking school issue. The lesson, if I recall, was about adding salt to sweets, which made me chuckle because it’s oh-so-chic these days (though for good reason!).  I’ve made them several times recently and found that leaving the dough in the fridge overnight, produces a less flat and more chewy cookie.  In other words, my kind of cookie. Add a sprinkle of Maldon, or other flaky sea salt, to the top, and you’ll be in cookie heaven.  When you get here, make sure you find me and say hi.

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Preheat oven to 375°.  Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

Whisk the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

In a large bowl, beat together for 3-4 minutes

  • 1 stick room temperature butter (I put it on warm in the microwave until soft)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup regular sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Next, add the following and beat 4-5 minutes or until mixture is pale and fluffy.

  • 1 egg + 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Fold in

  • 3/4 cup chocolate chunks or chopped dark chocolate

Use a tablespoon to place rounded spoonfuls of dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Place at least 1 ” apart. Do in two batches or on two cookie sheets, alternating oven racks halfway through the baking time.

Sprinkle with

  • Maldon sea salt (I used smoked), about 1/2 tsp.

Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, then switch to the lower rack for 5 minutes.  This method worked best for making a chewy cookie. If you like yours more crunchy, you might prefer to bake them on the top rack or go a minute longer.

Cool on wire racks and try not to eat them all at once.  A cookie a day, makes the blues go away (or something like that).

Posted in baked goods | 25 Comments