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!

Stuffed Napa Cabbage Leaves

Inspiration for this recipe came from a few different sources both online and from a cookbook. The cabbage I used was quite large at 3.7 pounds so the outer leaves that I used were big. Make more smaller bundles if you are using a smaller cabbage. I'm writing this up from memory because I didn't take notes while I putting the  dish together but I don't think that precise measurements are necessary.

Dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water* (about 1 ounce, I didn't weigh them)
1 bundle bean thread noodles, soaked in warm water **(noodles are packaged in multiple bundles)
8 large outer leaves of Napa cabbage

2/3 pound ground beef (pork would be good too or ground dark meat turkey)
Peanut oil
About 1 cup chopped onion
1 large stalk celery, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 small carrot, grated
Chopped cilantro, to taste
2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce (try 1 1/2 T next time, it was a bit salty)

2 cups chicken broth
Lime juice from 1 small Makrut lime (about 1/2 Persian/Mexican lime)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (use less if the broth is salted)
Turbinado sugar
Aji Angelo hot sauce
Chopped cilantro
Sesame oil
Toasted black sesame seeds

Let the bean thread noodles and the dried mushrooms soak while the cabbage leaves are blanched and the filling is prepared.

Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water until just wilted (about 20 to 30 seconds) and refresh in ice water. Drain and set aside.

Drain the mushrooms and chop them. Heat the peanut oil in a small skillet set over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery until just barely translucent, add the chopped mushrooms to the mix and stir in. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow to cool a bit.

Mix together the ground beef, grated carrot, chopped cilantro, fish sauce and sautéed vegetables. Drain the noodles thoroughly.

Spread the cabbage leaves out on a work surface, inner sides facing up. Divide the noodles evenly between the leaves and then the beef mixture***, place the filling at the thick bottom end of the leaf so that it covers the middle third of the leaf crosswise. Roll the leaves into a packet, starting by rolling from the bottom into a log to completely enclose the filling, then take the empty sides of the leaves and fold them toward the center covering the roll, then finish rolling to make a neat packet.

Heat the broth in a straight sided sauté pan large enough to hold all the rolls snugly (10-inch pan). Add the lime juice and fish sauce then add sugar and hot sauce to taste, it should be tangy and just a little sweet and spicy (or hot if you like it that way). Place the rolls in the pan and bring the broth to a strong simmer. Partially cover the pan and simmer the rolls for about 30 minutes.

To serve, place a couple of rolls in a bowl, add broth, drizzle with a bit of sesame oil, scatter some chopped cilantro over the top, sprinkle with some sesame seeds.

Makes 4 servings.

* Alternatively, use chopped fresh mushrooms and sauté them with the onion and celery.

** Cooked rice would be a good alternative to the noodles, brown rice would be my preference.

*** I don't have room to spread all the leaves out at once so I weigh all of the filling and then figure out how much a single portion is and pull that much out of the total as I fill each roll. My scale shows negative amounts so it shows how much I remove or add to whatever is on the scale.

Zucchini and Ricotta Gratin

Another recipe in my exploration of vegetable and and ricotta gratins. The dried peppers soaked up some of the excess moisture from the zucchini which helped to keep the gratin from being too juicy. Definitely something to add to the zucchini repertoire.

Olive oil
1 oz. Pancetta, chopped
1/4 very large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. zucchini, diced
1 oz. dried roasted sweet peppers, chopped
8 oz. sheep milk ricotta
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup stock
3 eggs
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons fermented pepper flakes
2 oz. Parmesan, grated.
Bread Crumbs
Almond meal (optional)
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly oil a 6-cup oval gratin dish.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat, add the pancetta and cook until soft. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Stir in the garlic and add the zucchini to the pan, cook about 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until softened. Stir in the dried peppers and set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk together the ricotta, creme fraiche, stock, and eggs. Stir in the oregano and pepper flakes and then fold in the vegetables.

Pour the vegetable mixture into the gratin dish, evenly distributing the vegetables in the dish, smooth the top. Evenly scatter the grated Parmesan over the top, then the bread crumbs, then the almond meal. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of olive oil over the top and bake for 1 hour.

Variation #2
Used 1/2 large red onion.
Added 2 tablespoons Sonora wheat flour to the custard mix.
Added about 1 teaspoon dried Persian mint.
Omitted almond meal from topping.

Celery Root Soup With Chard, Beans And Corn Chicos

5-6 oz. Rattlesnake beans
1/4 cup corn chicos
1 small boneless smoked ham (or a large ham hock)

Place the beans, corn, and ham in a large enameled cast iron pot (Staub 5 quart) and add 4-6 cups water. Place in a 225ºF oven and cook for 1 hour, reduce the heat to 200ºF and continue to cook until the beans are tender but not falling apart, maybe 2 to 3 hours, check every hour. The beans may take longer or shorter to cook, it depends on how old they are. Turn the ham over once or twice during the cooking process. When the beans are done remove the ham and set a side to cool. Reserve the beans, corn, and broth.

Olive oil
1 large leek, split lengthwise and cut crosswise into slices
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
About 16 sage leaves (2 large sprigs), thinly slivered
9 ounces chard, stems removed and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices, leaves chopped
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 lb. celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Chicken stock
Tomato paste
Fermented dried Jarales peppers, pulp scraped from the skin, mashed, and reserved (toss the skins)

Warm some olive oil (1-2 Tbsp) in a large pot and sauté the leek until softened. Stir in the rosemary and sage, add the chard stems and celery and continue to cook until slightly softened. Drain the broth from the beans and corn, add the broth to the pot and set aside the beans and corn. Add the celery root and fish sauce to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook until the celery root is nearly tender but still firm. Meanwhile dilute the tomato paste and pepper pulp in a cup of chicken stock. When the celery root is nearly tender add the chard leaves, beans, and corn to the pot and add the tomato paste mixture and more chicken stock to generously cover all the vegetables. Bring back to a simmer and cook until the chard leaves are wilted and tender. Chop the ham into 1/2-inch or so cubes and add it to the pot, simmer to heat through. Taste for salt and add more if desired.

Serve with a spoonful of your best extra virgin olive oil.

Broccoli and Ricotta Gratin

1 pound steamed broccoli florets (3 small heads)
3 eggs
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup stock
8 oz. sheep milk ricotta
1 tsp. kosher salt
freshly grated nutmeg
large pinch dried fermented Aji Golden flakes
1/4 cup thinly sliced I'itoi onion stalks (or use dried sweet onion powder or chopped dried onions)
2 oz. grated parmesan
dried breadcrumbs
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Cut broccoli into large pieces and steam for 3 minutes. Let cool and then coarsely chop.

Whisk together the eggs, creme fraiche, stock, ricotta, salt, nutmeg, and pepper flakes. Stir in the onions and broccoli.

Smear a 6-cup oval gratin dish with some olive oil. Spread the broccoli mixture evenly in the dish. Scatter the parmesan and breadcrumbs over the top and drizzle generously with olive oil.

Bake for 1 hour.

Kalettes and Duck Confit

This was a wonderful accompaniment to the Smashed Root Gratin. Fresh kalettes can be sauteed until tender but I prefer to blanch mine first to remove any aphids that are always hiding inside the frilly little heads.

About 1/2 pound fresh kalettes
2 legs duck confit
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large pinch dried fermented Mareko Fana pepper flakes
1 small handful dried tart cherries
Cherry balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Blanch the kalettes for 2 minutes and then drain them and plunge them into a large bowl of ice water. Let them cool completely, drain them, spin most of the moisture off in a salad spinner. Set aside.

Remove the skin from the duck legs leaving the skin intact. Heat a 10-inch skillet over low heat and place the duck skin in the pan. Slowly cook the duck skin, turning over occasionally, until most of the fat is rendered and the skin is crisp. Place the crisp skin on paper towels to drain. Set the skillet aside, do not discard the fat.

Remove the duck flesh from the bones and shred it into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Place the skillet with the duck fat over medium heat. When the fat is hot again, don't let it smoke, sizzle the garlic briefly then add the pepper flakes and dried cherries to the pan and stir to mix. Add the blanched kalettes to the pan and toss for a couple of minutes to heat them through. Add the shredded duck to the skillet and continue tossing until everything is hot. Transfer to a preheated serving bowl and drizzle with the Cherry balsamic to taste and season with salt and pepper. Chop some of the crisp duck skin and sprinkle that over the top. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

Smashed Root Gratin

I added a rutabaga to the mix here because I had one and only one that was big enough to harvest. Fresh celeriac from the garden, a stash of potatoes lingering from a summer harvest, and that lone rutabaga came together into an amazingly flavorful and satisfying gratin. I used Red Boat salt, which is the salt left over making Vietnamese fish sauce, but any good salt is fine to use.

About 1 pound celeriac
About 1 pound potatoes
About 1/2 pound rutabaga (swede)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish
1 teaspoon salt (Red Boat)
1 pinch saffron threads
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces semi-soft cheese (Abondance), grated and split into 3 ounce and 1 ounce portions
Dry bread crumbs

Preheat the over to 350ºF.

Peel the celeriac and cut it into about 3/4-inch cubes. Place it in a bowl of cold water. Do the same for the potatoes and rutabaga and hold them in separate bowls of cold water.

Drain the celeriac and steam it until tender enough to mash, about 8 to 10 minutes, maybe more. Place the hot celeriac into a large mixing bowl and toss it with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Repeat the process with the potatoes and rutabaga, each may take a different time to become tender enough to mash so do them separately. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil as each steamed vegetable is added to the bowl.

While the vegetables are steaming prepare the saffron. Pulverize the threads in a small bowl and add 1/4 cup hot water. Cover and let sit.

Season the steamed vegetables with 1 teaspoon of salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste, an additional tablespoon of olive oil, and the saffron water. Use a potato masher to smash the mixture into a somewhat chunky puree, add more water if the puree seems too thick. Stir 3 ounces of cheese into the puree. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Spoon the puree into an oiled 6-cup gratin dish or baking dish and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining ounce of cheese over the top, sprinkle with a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs, and drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over all.

Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes until the top is brown and crisp and the gratin is bubbling around the edges. Serve immediately.

Makes about 6 to 8 servings as a side dish.

Chicken and Rice Soup with Asian Flavors

This recipe is still a work in progress. I started with a whole 5 pound chicken which produced 2 huge breasts. I poached both breasts to make a broth even though I knew that it would be more meat than what I needed for the soup. But what I really wanted was the flavorful broth and one breast would not make a broth with as much flavor as both breasts. The second breast was perfect for adding to a salad another day so I got at least 2 meals for my effort.

I also ended up with more rice than I thought was appropriate for the soup. Next time I'll start with about 2/3 cup dry rice. On the other hand it's nice to have leftover rice to make a fried rice dish, so perhaps next time I'll make a larger pot of rice and then make chicken fried rice the next day. That sounds like a plan!

2 bone in chicken breasts with the skin attached, from a 5 pound chicken (wings removed)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 whole star anise broken into pieces
6 whole cloves
1 black cardamom pod
a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
5 to 6 cups of water

1 cup brown jasmine rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water

Coconut oil, 1 to 2 tablespoons as desired
About 1 cup of 1/4-inch thick celery slices
About 1/2 pound of carrots cut into 1/2-inch dice
About 1 cup of coarsely chopped onion (leek?)
2 to 3 tablespoons fish sauce or to taste

1 large bunch of fresh cilantro
Sesame oil
Hot pepper sauce

Diced daikon radish would be a nice addition to the veggie mix.
Napa cabbage would be good.

First poach the chicken breasts. Place the chicken breasts in a 3 quart or larger saucepan along with the seasonings and enough water to completely submerge the breasts, at least 5 cups. Turn the heat on to medium, cover the pan, and bring the water to a gentle simmer. Do not boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer the breasts until the broth turns clear and then remove the pan from the heat and allow the breasts to at least partially cool in the broth.

Steam the rice while the chicken breasts are cooking. Place the rice, salt, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to the lowest setting or put the pan on a low burner with a flame tamer, cover the pan and allow the rice to steam until all the liquid is absorbed. Set aside. (This made more rice than necessary, I had at least a cup leftover after adding as much as I wanted to the finished soup.)

Heat the coconut oil in a large soup pot set over medium heat. Add the vegetables, toss to coat with the hot oil, cover the pot and allow the veggies to sweat for a couple of minutes. Uncover the pot and sauté the vegetables until they are slightly softened, a couple more minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken breasts from their pot and set them aside to cool until they can be handled. Strain the broth into the soup pot. Season the soup with a couple more tablespoons of fish sauce and bring the soup to a simmer.

While the soup is simmering, shred the chicken meat to be used in the soup, you will probably only need the meat from one of the breasts if you started with a 5 pound chicken. Remove the chicken meat from the bones, setting the bones and skin aside for another use (they can still be used in a long simmered poultry stock). Shred the meat into bite sized pieces.

Finish the soup when the vegetables are cooked to your liking. Add the cooked rice and shredded chicken. Simmer until the rice and chicken are heated through. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or salt if needed.

Garnish each bowl of soup with a drizzle of sesame oil and a handful of chopped cilantro leaves. Serve with the hot sauce on the side to allow each diner to season the soup to their own taste.

Roasted Peppers Stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach

Too many peppers this year! 70 plants, what on earth was I thinking. I've been preserving many of them but there's still loads of them so now I need to dream up ways of eating more of them now. So here's one dish that I whipped up for dinner recently that got rave reviews from Dave so I knew I needed to write it up because I won't remember how to make it again the next time he wants it.

Blanched chard can be substituted for the spinach. Sautéed chopped onions can be substituted for the dried onion. (I used dried onion for the sake of expediency). Chopped fresh sage or sage cooked in brown butter should be a nice addition to the filling. Or onion and sage sautéed together in butter or olive oil should be good too. Hmm, and since I just wrote a post about corn chicos, some presoaked chicos might be tasty too.

12 ounces ricotta, preferably sheepmilk
2 ounces freshly grated parmesan
1/4 ounce dried sweet onion, chopped (no need to rehydrate)
1/2 teaspoon mild pepper flakes
Freshly grated nutmeg
5 ounces blanched spinach measured after squeezing out excess moisture, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt (or more, I'm watching my salt intake these days)
9 or more roasted sweet peppers such as Ajvarski
Olive oil
Dry coarse breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Lightly oil a 8 x 12-inch oval gratin dish or equivalent sized baking dish.

Mix together the ricotta, parmesan, dried onion, pepper flakes, nutmeg, spinach, and salt.

Leave the roasted peppers intact but slit down one side so that they open like a book. Place a couple of tablespoons or so of the ricotta filling on one side of a pepper and fold the other side over to cover the filling. Repeat for the rest of the peppers using all the filling. Place the peppers in the baking dish with the seams to the side. Pack the peppers tightly into the dish so there are no gaps between the peppers, this keeps the filling from oozing out.

Scatter the dried breadcrumbs generously over the top of the peppers and then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until the dish is bubbling merrily all around the edges. Let sit for at least a few minutes or longer before serving.

Makes 3 to 4 main course servings or more as an appetizer.

Cast Iron Skillet Roasted Frying Peppers

I tried a more hands off approach to cooking up a bunch of frying peppers by roasting them in a cast iron skillet and found that I like the end result even better. 

Mehmet's Turkish Sweet

About 1 1/2 pounds frying peppers (Mehmet's Turkish Sweet)
Olive oil
About 1 tablespoon salt packed Capers, rinsed
3 cloves Garlic
About 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
2 anchovy filets

Preheat a 12-inch cast iron skillet in a 350ºF oven. If the peppers are quite young you can leave them whole. For more mature peppers with hard seeds you may want to remove the stems, cut them in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. 

Chop the capers and put them in a small bowl. Chop the garlic and parsley leaves separately and then chop them together and then add them to the capers. Mince the anchovy filets and add them to the caper mixture. Thoroughly blend together the caper, garlic, parsley and anchovy mixture with a bit of olive oil. Set aside.

Toss the peppers with enough olive oil to coat them and salt to taste. Add them to the preheated skillet and roast for 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes or so. After 30 minutes add the caper mixture to the peppers and toss to combine. Continue roasting the peppers for another 15 minutes, tossing once or twice. 

Serve hot.

Makes about 4 servings as a side dish.

Ricotta and Dried Tromba D'Albenga Stuffed Prosciutto Rolls

I'm always looking for ways to use my stash of preserved vegetables. This dish uses both a dehydrated veggie and homemade frozen tomato sauce. The grated squash that I used can be used interchangeably with zucchini, Tromba D'Albenga squash is harvested young, firm, and green and used like zucchini. The dried squash does not have to be rehydrated, it will absorb the moisture from both the ricotta (don't drain it, include any whey that might collect in the container) and from the tomato sauce. The dish can be assembled ahead of time and then baked for serving hot from the oven. Go light on the salt in this dish since both the prosciutto and Parmesan are salty to begin with and perhaps your tomato sauce too.

12 ounces sheep milk ricotta
1 ounce dried shredded Tromba D'Albenga squash or zucchini
1 ounce freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried fermented Aji Amarillo Grande flakes
Freshly grated nutmeg
12 thin slices prosciutto
2 cups prepared tomato sauce
additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese
crunchy dried breadcrumbs
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.

Gently fold together the ricotta, dried squash, Parmesan cheese, pepper flakes, and nutmeg. Use your hands so as not to crush the zucchini if it is very dry. There's no need to salt the filling because the prosciutto and Parmesan are salty enough.

Smear a bit less than 1 1/2 ounces of the ricotta mixture over a slice of prosciutto, no need to be precise, it doesn't have to go all the way to the edges nor does it have to be smoothed out evenly. Then loosely roll the prosciutto starting from a short side, you want a short fat roll rather than a long skinny one. Set aside and prepare the rest of the rolls.

Smear the bottom of a 6 cup oval gratin dish or similar sized baking dish with some of the tomato sauce. Arrange the rolls in the baking dish, pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the rolls, sprinkle more prosciutto over the top, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons or so of breadcrumbs over all and then drizzle some olive oil in a pattern over all.

Bake until heated through and bubbling around the edges, the rolls should have puffed up some, about 45 minutes.

Serves 4, or perhaps 6 or more as an appetizer.