About This Blog

This is, as the title indicates, my kitchen notebook (the header is actually a scanned image of the cover of a notebook that I started using about 25 years ago and the background is a stained page from that book). I am not a professional recipe writer. If you try any recipe here, please keep that in mind, these recipes have not been tested by an independent tester. The "recipes" are often not even really recipes but rather a list of ingredients that I've noted after preparing a dish on the fly that I thought came out well. Perhaps I've also added some instructions, but I rarely keep accurate track of what I've done in terms of time or temperature, I've just noted to the best of my memory (feeble) what I did.

Please feel free to take some inspiration from here, but on the other hand, please give credit where it is due. I also welcome any constructive comments that you might have if you are inspired to try a recipe. Questions are welcome, but keep in mind that I may not remember specifics. The dishes do evolve over time...

Thank you and enjoy!

Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

This recipe was inspired by a Summer Farro Salad on Food 52 but I reduced the amount of farro, simplified the cooking of it, increased the amount of "goodies", and used a different dressing so I claim this recipe as my own.

1 1/2 cups uncooked farro
2 cups water, include water from Mozzarella if desired
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 ounces red onion, thinly sliced
1 pound cherry tomatoes, a mix of colors is nice, halved
8 ounces Mozzarella Ciliegine, halved or quartered
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

6 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespooon red wine vinegar

Add the farro, with the water to a 2 quart pot. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off burner and let sit, covered, until cool. If in a rush allow to sit for 5 or 10 more minutes until the water has been fully absorbed by the farro, then spread the grains out on a baking sheet and refrigerate until cool.

Toss the cooled farro with the onion, tomatoes, mozzarella, parsley, and basil.

Whisk together the oil, pomegranate molasses, and vinegar. Pour the dressing over the ingredients and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Makes about 6 main course servings.

Zucchini "Lasagna"

A massive glut of zucchini and an avoidance of carbs led to an experiment with using zucchini as a substitute for pasta for a meatless lasagna. I think I'm on to something here but the method still needs some work.

Zucchini is full of water so simply slicing zucchini and layering it with the other ingredients would just lead to a soupy mess. I've had a lot of success using fully dehydrated zucchini rounds in veggie stuffed frittatas where I simply toss the dried zucchini in with the rest of the veggies and don't even bother to reconstitute the zucchini. The zucchini slices absorb moisture and flavor from the other veggies and the eggs as the frittata bakes. I tried using partially dehydrated zucchini to try to mimic al dente pasta in the lasagna. This version was very good but it was still a bit too soupy.

I didn't weigh how much zucchini I used but it was 5 good sized Romanesco zucchini about 8 to 10 inches long and about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

For my first attempt I sliced the zucchini lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices using a mandoline. Then I salted the slices (no measuring, a few generous 5 finger pinches of kosher salt) and let them sit for 1/2 hour to draw out some moisture. I then rinsed and dried the slices and let them dry in a dehydrator set to 125ºF for almost 2 hours, they were still moist and quite pliable, maybe about half the volume of the fresh slices.

I layered the zucchini with 2 cups of tomato sauce, 12 ounces of sheep's milk ricotta, 8 ounces of buffalo mozzarella, and an unmeasured amount (fairly generous couple of handfuls) of finely grated parmesan, and some drizzles of extra virgin olive. I used an oval gratin pan that's about 9 x 12 inches.

The "lasagna" baked at 350ºF for 30 minutes and then another 10 minutes at 325ºF until the top was nicely browned. We at it after it sat for about 30 minutes.

Adjustments for the next attempt:

- Allow the zucchini to sit with the salt for an hour and then increase the time in the dehydrator. 3 hours perhaps?

- Bake at 325ºF for the entire time. 45 minutes?

Lettuce Gazpacho

A surfeit of lettuce and extra warm weather inspired this refreshing mash up. It also proved to be an opportunity to raid my stash of dehydrated vegetables from last year. I've noted the varieties of veggies that I used for my own info only. I'm not sure if it is the lettuce or using dried peppers and tomatoes, but the soup has a nice texture and doesn't need something like bread to give it body.

For the soup:
1 ounce dried sweet red peppers (a mix of varieties)
1 ounce dried tomatoes (Pomme d'Amour)
16 ounces cold water
1 small sweet yellow onion (Yellow Granex), coarsely chopped, about 3.5 ounces after cleaning and chopping
2 anchovy filets
2 tablespoons salt preserved capers, no need to rinse
8+ ounces of fresh crisphead lettuce (Joker), washed but not thoroughly dried, torn into pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive, a mild one that isn't peppery is good (California Olive Ranch)
1 to 2 cups ice water

For the garnish:
1 small avocado, diced
About 1/2 cup each diced fresh sweet red pepper, tomato, and cucumber
Fresh basil leaves, slivered
Extra virgin olive oil as needed
Small cooked cold shrimp

Soak the dried peppers and tomatoes in 16 ounces of water overnight in the refrigerator.

Drain the peppers and tomatoes, reserving the soaking water. Combine the peppers, tomatoes, onion, anchovy filets, and capers in a large blender (I use a VitaMix). Blend until coarsely chopped, drizzling in the reserved soaking water to help things along. Add the torn lettuce a few pieces at a time and blend until all the lettuce is incorporated. Blend in a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a teaspoon of sugar. Slowly blend in the olive oil and then a cup of ice water. Taste the soup for seasoning and add more vinegar, salt and sugar to taste (I adjusted to the full amounts noted in the ingredients). Blend at a high speed, but not the highest until the soup is very smooth. Strain through a fine strainer pressing on the solids (shouldn't be much, mostly tomato seeds) to extract most of the liquid. Add more ice water if the soup is too thick. Chill thoroughly.

Mix all of the garnish ingredients except the shrimp adding enough olive oil to moisten the mix. Chill. To serve pour some soup into a chilled bowl or cup, add a few spoonfuls of the garnish and top with a few shrimp.

Makes about 1 3/4 quarts without the garnish.

Spring Onion and Goat Cheese Souffle

An adaptation of a favorite recipe for a caramelized onion souffle. I used some of the current bounty of spring onions flooding in from the garden instead of bulbing onions. The recipe needs some work, I either need to add an additional egg white or reduce the amount of onions to lighten it up. It may also help to bake it in a smaller dish to get it to rise higher. The smaller dish would also make for a more impressive presentation when served at the table. The nice thing about baking it in a larger dish is that it bakes more quickly, getting it on the table sooner which is nice because it takes quite a while to cook the onions for the base. Another thing to consider is baking it in a cast iron skillet. The flavor was great, I don't really need to tinker with that.

1 pound spring onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 Sprigs of fresh thyme
1 fresh bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped parsley, measured without packing down
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons flour
1 cup buttermilk (or milk)
1/3 cup cream
4 eggs, separated
4 ounces goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Slice the solid stalks of the onions into 1/4-inch rounds. Slice the green leafy tops of the onions into 1/2-inch long pieces. Reserve the greens separately.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Sizzle the thyme sprigs and bay leaf for a moment and then add the sliced onion stalks. Stir the onions and herbs together a few moments and then turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and starting to caramelize. This may take about 20 minutes or so, don't rush it. Don't worry about the moisture released by the onions, it will eventually cook off. If the onions start to stick to the bottom of the pan that means they are about done. Stir in the sliced green onion tops and continue cooking until the greens are wilted. Add salt to taste and stir in the chopped parsley. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs (the leaves will have fallen off) and set the onion mixture aside. The onions can be cooked hours or even a day in advance.

Butter a medium sized (9-inch by 14-inch) (? cups) oval gratin dish. Preheat the oven to 450º F.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat and add the flour. Stir to combine and let the mixture cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the buttermilk and cream and cook a few minutes more until the mixture is thick and smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the onion mixture. Add the goat cheese and mix well. Taste for salt and pepper and add a few scrapings of fresh nutmeg.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add half to the onion base and fold in. Fold in the remaining whites. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and bake for about 15 minutes or more for a firmer texture, until well browned.

Serve immediately.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Grilled Spring Onion Salsa

An unexpected bounty of spring onions prompted me to experiment. This very chunky salsa was one result. Allow the salsa to sit at room temperature for a few hours to allow the dried tomatoes to soften and the flavors to meld.

25 ounces fresh spring onions, grilled, thinly sliced
1 ounce dried Fiaschetto tomatoes, cut in slivers, or any dried tomatoes not packed in oil
1 teaspoon Mareko Fana pepper flakes, or other medium hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fish sauce (Red Boat brand is my favorite)
2 teaspoons pomegranate concentrate (aka pomegranate molasses)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 - 1/3 cup chopped parsley

Mix everything together in a non-reactive bowl. Store in the refrigerator.

Goat Cheese and Avocado Toasts
with Grilled Spring Onion Salsa

Serving ideas, spoon generously on top of...

- Goat cheese and avocado toasts
- Ricotta toasts
- Smashed beans on toasts
- White bean salad
- White beans and tuna
- Olive oil packed tuna on toasts
- Olive oil packed sardines on toasts (or without toasts)
- Pasta or rice
- Pasta or rice with shrimp or chicken
- Grilled shrimp or chicken or tuna or other seafood
- Grilled asparagus
- Grilled chard stems

Cast Iron Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Parsnips, and Carrots

This is a variation on my basic method of roasting Brussels sprouts in a cast iron skillet. I change the mix of vegetables, condiments, and seasonings nearly every time I prepare it. This is just my latest variation. I don't state a time that it takes to roast the vegetables because it varies depending on how large the sprouts are and how full the skillet it, but generally it takes about 30 minutes, more or less, until the vegetables are browned and tender.

About 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
About 1/2 pound parsnips, scrubbed and cut into chunks
About 1/2 pound carrots, scrubbed and sliced into thick diagonal slices
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon coarse grained mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400ºF and put a 12-inch cast iron skillet in the oven to preheat also.

Toss the Brussels sprouts, parsnips, and carrots in a bowl with the olive oil and salt to taste. When the oven has come to temperature, carefully remove the cast iron skillet and add the butter, swirling until the butter is melted and starting to brown. Add the vegetables and toss to coat with the butter. Return the skillet to the oven and roast, stirring the vegetables after about 10 minutes and then about every 5 to 7 minutes after that. Roast until the vegetables have become tender and have browned on some sides.

While the vegetables are roasting, stir together the mustard, syrup, and vinegar in a small bowl.

When the vegetables have cooked to your liking, carefully turn the into a serving bowl and toss them with the dressing. Serve immediately.

Makes about 4 servings.

Basic Recipe for Cast Iron Roasted Brussels Sprouts

This is my basic method for roasting Brussels sprouts in a cast iron skillet. I don't specify exact amounts because I've never measured. The key to this preparation is to not crowd too many sprouts into the skillet. Use enough sprouts to fit in one layer in the skillet, this ensures that the sprouts get nicely browned on one side and that they don't steam too much in their own juices. The sprouts get nice and browned but not overcooked when they get started in a HOT skillet. Adding the condiments half way through insures that those don't get burned.

The recipe  is really flexible. When sweet onions are available I like to add some thick slivers to the mix at the start so that they become brown and tender. Parsnips and/or carrots are great additions. The bacon or pancetta is totally optional, as are the nuts and pepper flakes. Pumpkin seeds are a nice substitute for the pine nuts. Experiment with different vinegars, balsamic vinegar is tasty although its dark color stains the veggies. Chunks of fresh apple added to the mix from the beginning add a nice sweetness and some apple cider vinegar reinforces the apple flavor. Add some dried fruit, such as cranberries or tart cherries to the condiments. The variations are endless.

About 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Some chopped onion, shallots, scallions and/ or garlic
A few slices of pancetta or bacon cut into small pieces
A handful of pine nuts
A pinch of pepper flakes
Vinegar to taste

Preheat a 12-inch cast iron skillet in a 400ºF oven. Toss the sprouts with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Turn the sprouts into the hot skillet and use some tongs to turn as many of them cut side down in the pan as will fit so that the cut side browns nicely. It's important to not crowd the pan too much or the sprouts will steam in their own juices and you won't get that nice brown side. About half way through the roasting, about 15 minutes, add the chopped onions (I'itoi is great), bits of pancetta, pine nuts, and pepper flakes, without stirring the sprouts. After another 10 or 15 minutes remove the skillet from the oven and toss the sprouts in the skillet with some good quality vinegar. One of my favorite vinegars to use for this is the Late Harvest Honey Viognier from Katz, it is both sweet and tart with a nice honey flavor.

Makes about 3 or 4 side dish servings.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Squash with Crisp Parmesan Breadcrumbs

Another recipe for the Brussels Sprouts Challenge. This time I chose to roast them in an oval gratin dish along with some chunks of winter squash and topped it all with a seasoned breadcrumb mixture. Simple and tasty.

8 ounces peeled winter squash cut into approximately 1-inch chunks
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, halved
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons melted butter for the veggies
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from stale rustic bread (part whole grain) with the crusts retained
1 1/2 tablespoons capers, preferably salt packed, rinsed and drained, chopped
1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper flakes, optional
1/2 ounce (1/4 cup) grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon melted butter for the breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Toss the prepared veggies with a pinch of salt, not too much because the topping is salty, and the 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Place in an oval 12x8-inch gratin dish or similar sized baking dish. Place a piece of parchment paper that is cut to fit in the dish on top of the veggies. Bake for 20 minutes.

While the veggies are baking, toss together the breadcrumbs, capers, oregano, pepper flakes, and parmesan cheese. Toss with the tablespoon of butter.

Remove the veggies from the oven and uncover. Scatter the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the veggies and return the dish to the oven, uncovered, and continue to bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the veggies are tender and the breadcrumbs are crisp.

Serve immediately.

Makes about 4 servings as a side dish or 2 servings as a vegetarian main dish.

Winter Squash Flans

This is the lazy or time challenged cook's method to make a flan with winter squash. With time running short before I wanted to have dinner and a big winter squash demanding some attention before it spoiled and a desire for something custardy and cheesy I decided to try making a squash flan without using baked squash puree. And now that I look at the ingredients and proportions I can see that it is essentially the same as the crustless quiches that I also make. So call it what you will, flan or naked quiche, it's tasty and not too time consuming to make. The ratio of milk and cream is flexible, use more cream if you want a rich dish or use just use milk for a lighter dish.

4 tablespoons butter, plus additional for buttering the dishes
4 ounces chopped sweet red onion
1½ cups peeled and grated Buttercup Squash
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
3 eggs
1 cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
4 ounces grated truffle Gouda or other such cheese

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Thoroughly butter 4 individual souffle dishes. My dishes have interior dimensions of about 4 inches by 1.25 inches. In a small skillet, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When it begins to foam, add the onion and sauté, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the squash, season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, milk and cream until well blended. Portion the squash mixture into the prepared souffle dishes and top each one with 1 ounce of cheese. Divide the custard mixture amongst the dishes. Place the filled dishes on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake until the tops are puffed and golden, about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately or let cool slightly. They can be kept in the refrigerator in the dishes and reheated in the oven or microwave.

Makes 4 servings.

Stracciatella Soup with Brussels Sprouts

The Brussels Sprouts Challenge continues. Stracciatella is an Italian soup that in its most simple form is hot broth into which you stir a mixture of beaten eggs and parmesan cheese. The eggy mixture form shreds or rags, i.e. stracciatella. I've seen riffs on the soup that add spinach or basil or pasta or white beans, or rice, or bread crumbs, or semolina, even tiny meatballs. You get the drift, it is endlessly adaptable. So why not Brussels Sprouts?

I used the sprouts that I had on hand in the fridge which came out to 7 ounces after shredding them on a mandoline. It was probably about 8 ounces before shredding them because I keep the stems long to use as a handle when slicing them on the mandoline and then the stems go into the compost bucket. My homemade stock tends to be a bit concentrated so I added water. Plenty of Italian recipes I read use bouillon cubes instead of stock. Do whatever works for you. I love the flavor and umami of Vietnamese fish sauce (Red Boat is the best IMO), but it's totally optional here. Lot's of recipes added some lemon zest to the egg mixture as well as nutmeg, I thought a hint of cinnamon might be nice instead and I did like it.

2 tablespoons butter
About 1/3 to 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (I didn't actually measure)
7 ounces, more or less, Brussels sprouts sliced 1/8-inch thick on a mandoline
1 quart stock, chicken, meat, or veggie or use instant bouillon
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fish sauce (totally optional but the extra umami is great)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 ounces grated parmesan cheese, plus additional
freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cinnamon, optional
freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until the shallots are soft. Stir in the Brussels sprouts and add the stock, water, and fish sauce. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until the sprouts become tender or are done to your liking. Taste the broth for salt, remember that the parmesan is salty so don't add too much.

Beat the eggs with a whisk and then whisk in the cheese, nutmeg, and cinnamon if using it.

Bring the soup back up to a near boil. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the soup while stirring the soup with a whisk. Continue stirring until the eggs are completely cooked. Serve immediately with grinding of black pepper over each bowl, top with additional cheese if desired.

Makes 4 to 6 portions.