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!

Zucchini and Spinach Gratin with Ricotta Custard

My adaptation of a recipe from Deborah Madison's Book The Savory Way takes advantage of dried zucchini and frozen spinach from the garden. A pound of fresh zucchini dries down to about 1 ounce. I rehydrated it with the liquid that the frozen zucchini gives off as well as the moisture from the mushrooms and onions. The vegetable mixture should be prepared in advance to allow the zucchini to absorb the moisture from the other vegetables. It can be mixed and kept in the refrigerator overnight or longer.

1.25 ounces (35 g.) dried sliced Romanesco zucchini
8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed, excess moisture squeezed out and reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste thinned with a little water
sweet fermented pepper flakes to taste (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
crumbled dried oregano to taste

1 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 cup milk, cream or a combination
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper
freshly grated nutmeg

Place the dried zucchini in a bowl. Add the reserved spinach water to the zucchini and set aside.

Warm the oil in a medium skillet and add the onions and garlic. Sauté about 1 minute, then add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook until the mushrooms soften and begin to release their liquid. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of zucchini, stir to mix, cover and set aside for a few hours or overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Season the rehydrated zucchini mixture with the tomato paste, pepper flakes, parsley, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to a gratin dish. Chop the spinach and distribute it over the zucchini mixture, season with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Beat the ricotta with the eggs, then stir in the milk or cream, the cheese, and the remaining parsley. Season with salt and nutmeg. Pour the mixture over the vegetables. Bake until the custard is set and lightly browned on top, about 40 to 45 minutes. Allow the gratin to stand about 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

Makes 4 main course servings.

Back Country Rice Noodles and Veggies with Shrimp

10 g. dried Petite Marseillaise or Yummy Belle peppers
10 g. dried napa cabbage
10 g. dried Pomme D'Amour tomatoes
15 g. dried Romanesco zucchini
10 g. dried Oven Caramelized onions
50 to 60 g. dried cooked shrimp
2 to 3 cups water, depending on how soupy you want it to be
1 single serving size Thai Kitchen Bangkok Curry Rice noodles or 50 to 60 g. rice noodles (break up the noodles at home)
1 dried Thai Lime leaf
1 small packet soy sauce
2 to 3 tablespoons coconut milk powder, optional

At home, package the dried vegetables and lime leaf into a small resealable bag, package the shrimp separately, package the noodles and seasonings separately.

In camp. Put the shrimp in a pan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and remove from heat, let soak for 5 minutes. Add the veggies to the pan and soak for at least another 5 minutes.

Add the noodles and seasonings, including the coconut powder if using, to the pot, add more water if desired for a more soupy dish, and slowly bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and insulate and let sit for another 10 minutes.

Serve immediately

Makes 2 portions.

A Stew of Beans, Pork Sausage, Zucchini, Tomatillo, and Green Chile

This came together as a result of raiding my pantry and freezer. I had tomatillos that had been roasted until soft and then frozen. There was a frozen packet of green Anaheim peppers that I had roasted, peeled, and seeded. The pork sausage was from the freezer also. Beans were from the pantry and dehydrated sliced zucchini from the refrigerator. I started the beans in the morning using what has become my favorite slow cook method. The slow method works magic with old beans. My 3 year old Petaluma Gold Rush beans took about 6 hours, fresher beans will cook more quickly and different varieties cook at different rates.

For the beans:

8 ounces Petaluma Gold Rush beans
1 quart water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 inch piece dried kombu kelp (supposedly has enzymes that make the beans more digestible)

Combine the beans, water, salt, and kelp in a lidded heavy 2 to 3 quart casserole (such as a Staub cocotte). Place in the oven and turn it on to 250ºF and bake for 1 hour. Turn the heat down to 220ºF and continue to cook until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Check on the beans every hour and then more often when they start to soften. Don't let them boil.

When the beans are done remove them from the oven, remove the lid and allow them to cool in their broth. They can be done ahead and refrigerated overnight in their broth. Remove the kelp or not, after 6 hours it will be falling apart and will just disappear into the sauce of the finished dish without leaving a noticeable flavor.

For the stew:

1 ounce dehydrated sliced zucchini
1 pound bulk pork sausage or ground pork
Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon Oregano Indio
1 teaspoon dried fermented Aji Amarillo Grande pepper flakes
About 2 cups roasted tomatillos
About 8 ounces roasted and peeled green Anaheim peppers, coarsely chopped
About 2 teaspoons or more piloncillo sugar (or brown sugar) or to taste
Creme fraiche and grated cheese to serve

Place the zucchini in a bowl and add enough of the bean broth to cover generously. Set aside and allow it to soak. This can be done a few hours in advance but that long is not necessary.

Heat a large enameled cast iron casserole over medium heat. Break up the sausage with your hands and add it to the casserole with a splash of olive oil and cook until browned, breaking it up more with a wooden spatula as it cooks. Turn the heat up near the end to cook off most of the juices. Drain the cooked sausage, reserving the fat, and set the sausage aside. Return the fat to the casserole and add more olive oil and heat it over medium heat. Saute the garlic briefly and then add the onion, continue to cook until the onion is translucent. Add the cumin, cinnamon, Oregano Indio, and pepper flakes to the casserole and stir a minute or so. Add the tomatillos and break them up with a potato masher. Add the peppers, the zucchini with their soaking liquid, and the pork. Bring to a simmer, cover the casserole, and cook until the zucchini is just al dente. Add the beans with their remaining broth and the sugar. Bring back to a simmer and heat through. Taste for sugar and salt.

Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkling of grated cheese, I used Carmody but a jack cheese would be nice too.

Made about 6 to 8 servings.

White Bean, Winter Squash, and Cabbage Stew

The 3 main components for this stew are prepared separately and then combined at the end. I find it's easiest to make sure each different component is properly cooked if prepared separately and they also retain their individual flavors. This can easily be turned into a vegetarian main dish by omitting the ham hock and anchovy. Perhaps substitute some dried porcini mushrooms for the ham hock.

For the beans:
6 ounces dry Tarbais beans
1 small smoked ham hock
1 bay leaf
A 1 1/2-inch piece of dried kombu kelp (supposedly aids digestibility)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 quart cold water

For the squash:
1 1/4 pound piece of winter squash (Terremoto)
Olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 small sprigs rosemary, chopped (1 to 2 tablespoons?)
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon fermented sweet pepper paste
1 anchovy packed in olive oil
2 cups tomato puree
Cooking liquid from the beans (the bean broth)

For the cabbage:
1/2 head small green cabbage, cut in about 1 to 1 1/2-inch squares
Olive oil

To finish:
salt to taste
chopped fresh parsley

Start the beans first, I do this in the morning. Put all the ingredients for the beans into a small heavy covered casserole and cover. Place in the oven and heat to 250ºF. After 1 hour turn the temperature down to 220ºF. Cook, covered, until the beans are tender but not falling apart, about 5 to 6 hours, more or less depending on how old the beans are. Check the beans every hour or so and once they are plump and starting to soften check them more often. Set the beans aside to cool in the bean broth. The beans can be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator in the cooking liquid. They can sit at room temperature until the stew is assembled. Once the beans are cool remove the ham hock and remove the meat and shred finely. Set the shredded ham aside separately.

To cook the squash and stew base. First remove the seeds and then cut the squash into 3/4-inch thick slices (I use the width of my index finger as a guide), cut off the skins, then cut the slices into cubes and set them aside. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a deep heavy pot, I use a 5-quart Staub enameled cast iron pot. Saute the onions and garlic over medium-low heat until they are softened. Add the rosemary, tomato paste, pepper paste, and anchovy to the pot and stir until the pastes and anchovy are incorporated. Allow the flavor base to sizzle a bit and then add the tomato puree. Stir the squash into the tomato sauce and stir in enough bean broth to cover the squash. Bring to a strong simmer and cook uncovered until the squash is tender.

While the squash is cooking prepare the cabbage. Heat a couple of tablespoons over medium heat in a wide saute pan. When the oil just starts to shimmer add the cabbage and saute a couple of minutes and then add about 1/2 cup of the bean broth. Cover the pan and allow the cabbage to cook until it is just tender. Remove from the heat and reserve.

To assemble the stew. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid, and gently stir the beans into the pot of squash. Stir in the reserved shredded ham. Stir in the tender cabbage. Add the rest of the bean broth. Season to taste with salt and stir in some chopped fresh parsley. Serve with additional chopped parsley on top.

Made about 6 main course servings.

Spinach, Cheddar, and Brioche Pudding

I didn't measure most of the ingredients as I went along so the quantities are a bit vague.

1/4 loaf or so of Brioche, cut into about 1-inch cubes and toasted in a 350ºF oven
Butter as needed
1 small onion, chopped
A couple of small cloves of garlic, minced
Frozen spinach (about 12 ounces?), thawed, excess water squeezed out, and chopped
3 ounces cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 eggs
Freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.

Generously butter a 10 x 6 x 1 3/4-inch glass baking dish or a similar sized gratin dish.

Saute the onion and garlic in a couple of tablespoons of butter over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Season to taste with salt. Add the spinach to the pan and stir to mix. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a bit.

Scatter half of the spinach mixture over the bottom of the baking dish. Top the spinach with the toasted cubes of brioche fitting them in fairly snugly. Scatter the remaining spinach mixture over the brioche and then scatter the cheddar evenly over the top.

Whisk together the milk, eggs, and nutmeg. Pour the mixture evenly over the contents of the baking dish being sure to moisten all the brioche. The milk mixture will not completely cover the brioche and spinach.

Bake for about 30 minutes until the top of the pudding is browned and crisp. Serve hot or warm.

Makes about 3 to 4 main course servings or 6 to 8 side servings.

Savory Winter Squash and Ricotta Custards

This is adapted from a recipe for a savory squash torte that is baked in a pan with a breadcrumb crust and then cut into wedges for serving. That sounds great but I didn't have any breadcrumbs or bread on hand so I decided to bake the custard in individual ramekins instead which is what I do for sweet pumpkin custards, aka pumpkin pie filling, because I don't eat the soggy pie crust of pumpkin pies. The savory custards came out better than expected and I think these will become a regular dinner item while I have winter squash around.

I used a chunk of the big Terremoto squash that I grew this year but butternut or pretty much any winter squash should do.

1 3/4 pounds winter squash
4 tablespoons butter
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
Fresh sage leaves, sliced thin (I used about 20 small leaves)
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces ricotta
1 1/2 ounces parmesan
3 eggs
Nutmeg to taste
More salt to taste if desired

Remove the skin and seeds from the squash and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium sized saute pan over medium heat and allow it to brown. Add the garlic and sage leaves and cook another minute or two. Add the squash and salt to the pan, stir to mix and add 1/2 cup water, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook the squash until it is soft, about 30 minutes or so, check it every once in a while and give it a stir. Mash the squash (I used a potato masher) to a puree and let some of the moisture cook off, and set it aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter 6 7-ounce ramekins and set them on a parchment lined baking tray.

Whisk together the ricotta, parmesan, eggs, and nutmeg. Stir in the cooled squash. Divide the squash mixture evenly between the ramekins and bake for about 50 minutes until the custard is puffed and set in the center and golden brown.

Serve immediately in the ramekins or they can be cooled and kept in the ramekins and reheated later. They can also be turned out of the ramekins and reheated with some cream or a sauce.

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.