nigella notes.

On Thursday evening, we made a rare venture into Philadelphia to see Nigella Lawson at the Kimmel Center. We don’t often go into Philadelphia these days, as it is somewhat of hot mess. And yes we saw that last night, and the sidewalk was actually torn up right in front of the Kimmel Center.

An Evening with Nigella Lawson was originally scheduled for November 10th at the Miller Theater, and was moved to the Perelman Theater inside the Kimmel. The Miller (formerly the Merriam) is under renovation. I am actually glad they moved it to the Kimmel, and the space is gorgeous and so clean! And my friend and food blogger Marilyn was two rows behind us!! Marilyn is the genius behind Philly Grub.

It was an amazing experience and some very amusing people watching. In front of us to the left was a woman who literally massaged the top of her companion or husband’s head the entire time. In front of my friend to the left of her there was a person who took off their socks and shoes and put their bare feet up on the seat in front of them!

Overall, it was not a bad audience at all, and we had super nice people immediately around us.

Nigella Lawson is warm and personable. Friendly, funny, self deprecating in the most amusing and human way. I have seen other personalities whom I admire “live”, and seriously I walked away thinking how truly nice I think she is. Of course part of it is I am sure is the fact I am an Anglophile.

I took notes while Nigella was speaking. I wish it had been recorded! She is as lovely in person as we see on our television screens. And I don’t mean just beautiful, because she is drop dead gorgeous. I also mean lovely as in the nice person you meet whom you want to have over to your house for dinner.

To follow are the notes I took as she was speaking. You will note her program wasn’t a cooking demonstration, it was also the woman outside the kitchen. And she is not a classically trained chef, like Ina Garten whom I also admire and follow, she’s one of us just elevated. She’s a home cook.

Michael Klein from The Philadelphia Inquirer was the moderator. He was excellent. He and Nigella had terrific chemistry and rapport. Michael’s manner also helped make this a memorable event. Not that any of us should be surprised if you have followed his columns for years.

So here are my Nigella Notes:

When she was 9 she wrote a play on the meaning of existence. Terrapins were the characters.

At 10 she penned a self-described “very bad” murder mystery.

Originally Nigella thought she would be a novelist.

She spoke about finding her voice in writing. Nigella’s voice evolved from writing about food. I guess that goes along with something that one of my friends and writing mentors who is a retired journalist has always has said to me which is “write what you know.“

Writing – find your own voice. Nigella touched on that again. She also noted her experience when writing about food that people are more connected, almost nicer. As a blogger I can appreciate that, because when I post a recipe everybody loves it and no one complains. But if I write about a politician or politics/political issues, the keyboard warriors salute (and charge.)

Funny little Nigella notes include how she feels about fruit bowls- she doesn’t mix her fruit. Every kind of fruit has their own bowl.

Regarding her first book How to Eat– wasn’t sure at first if she would have recipes. She wasn’t sure she knew how to write about food.

“Life is full of unexpected turns.”

Nigella remarked how inspiration comes to us in odd ways, as we “lurch” through life.

She found it fortunate in her work as a journalist to live through her words.

Nigella started with TV at 38 or 40. She had two small kids, a husband who had cancer. His name was John Diamond, and he was also a journalist. He was 47 when he died. On a rather personal note, this resonated with me because my sister became a widow at 43, when my brother in law, then 49, died of a swift moving cancer. So I respect what Nigella went through and was dealing with back then.

Nigella spoke about what her terms were back then in order to do TV. If she could do TV, she wanted to do it from home but unscripted. Wanted to speak naturally. And with two small children and an ill spouse, it was an early work from home arrangement, and good for her for getting that.

I always have loved Nigella programs because she is relaxed and has fun in her kitchen. Her own dishes and pans, and not everything is perfect, much like our own kitchens. And one of my favorite parts of her shows is when she would go into her kitchen late at night for a snack. It’s so human and real.

Oh did I mention her pink boots?? Seriously an important note, they were truly fabulous!

When asked about writing her books, she prefers to do her books as they evolve, not as a “churning out machine.”

This: a cookbook from the ingredients she loved that was an essay, reflecting on ideas, then recipes to follow.

Home cooking because of COVID seems to have inspired this book in part.

This book, Cook Eat, Repeat are essays with recipes, like a companion piece to How to Eat. For that reason, on my own book shelves, these books are together.

On making or creating a book with food- the feeling of creating something.

The practical can make you feel you achieved something- the dizzying feel of achieving from the blank page.

Cooking for one in book because of COVID but she’s done it before. But cooking for one is important- you can concentrate on process of cooking and learn.

Lockdown caused her to spend more time on Twitter. Also notes recipes for one are important. I agree. I have always cooked for myself, even when it was just me.

Nigella hates the term “guilty pleasures.” It “blinks to snobbery” as in liking the “right” things and being afraid to say that you like something.

Essentially she remarked the hell with you shouldn’t be eating something, just try it. Life is too short. Don’t be counterproductive. Guilty pleasures with food doesn’t really work. Feel grateful not guilty.

When asked about things that she can’t live without or would prefer not to live without, there was bread and butter. “Life would be poorer.” She says she definitely needs lemons and salt in life. She remarked about a chips sandwich and referred to it as an English delicacy. As near as I can grasp it, this would be a sandwich of french fries or chips in between two slices of bread with butter.

She loves English mustard. Coleman’s, specifically. I always have Coleman’s dry mustard in my spice rack, and when I can get the actual jarred mustard I do. It has a bite. I use Colemans mustard in deviled eggs along with curry powder.

Now she and Michael Klein chatted about “brown food.” She said she wants to write about not just bright food and color. Not everything has to be high octane in your face. Or Instagram worthy. There is a need in life for the quiet bits. Food might not always blow your mind, sometimes it has a quiet kind of dignity, comfort. Lasts longer. “ A stew doesn’t shout for you to come to the table, it whispers.” (I loved that description.)

Quiet food, comfort food, has equally rich rewards.

It’s not all about the “shouty look at me.” Not everyone needs to be the same. (Amen. I wasn’t destined to live in a beige, beige world for one.)

We evolve our ideas, but your cooking evolves the way your life currently is. “I bumble away” referring to being a home cook. The more you cook the more you know.

“If you can’t deal with a cracked cake in life, life is going to be more difficult.”

What do you want to eat ? People have different palettes.

Recipes express the nature of cooking. Recipes express the nature of the chef.

Then she and Michael took a few questions from the audience. We were all asked to write a question down and basically put it in a little wicker basket when we were checking into the event.

The event actually went over the time allotted, and I could have listened to her for a couple of hours more. It was delightful. It was such a nice change from the obnoxious world we’ve been living in recently.

This was a really cool experience, and well I didn’t particularly enjoy the City of Philadelphia because it’s just so dirty and the streets and the sidewalks are such a hot mess these days, but the Kimmel Center was really nice.

Thanks for stopping by.

a loss to mourn: taken too soon, julie powell

Writer and blogger Julie Powell has died. At 49, from a heart attack. I am actually truly sad about this. She was unique and I loved her writing style.

You also have to understand, Julie Powell and I never met in person. We were Facebook/Twitter peeps, and we did (do) actually have real people we share in common. So we were connected in that way.

I was a huge fan of her book, Julie & Julia which became a movie of the same name that I have also watched so many times.

I also was a reader of her blog. I could identify with the dead end jobs in NYC, as I had a couple of those there. I could also identify with trying to discover who I was and wish people wouldn’t look at me strangely or whatever when I say I am a blogger. Ironically, we started blogging at the same time. It was new, and people weren’t doing it. Our subject matter was different, I am not saying I am as good a blogger, writer, or anything like that, I just remember the early days of blogging…and Twitter.

Her blog was real, and sometimes raw, much like her social media musings. The blogging AFTER her original blog became a book ran from 2005 – 2010. (/http://juliepowell.blogspot.com/). I read that too. As an early person on the blogoshpere, I followed and read a lot of people. This was something not everyone was doing back then, and it certainly wasn’t the purview of mommy bloggers and more, like the people with the seemingly perfect lives and headshots and photoshoot photos taken solely for social media.

Because of Julie, I figured I would try Julia Child recipes. I figured why not? You see, although a lot of Julia Child’s recipes aren’t that complicated, her recipes can be intimidating. But through Julie Powell, I learned Julia Child. Shall we say, this is the woman who humanized Julia Child?

Julie Powell was found more on Twitter than Facebook. She didn’t really seem to be especially enamored of the Metaverse, and often said so. All these years later, I still enjoyed her musings even in first 140 characters or less, and then 280 characters or less. She could be insightful, outrageous, funny, sad, self-deprecating, and always her own fearless voice.

And Julie liked to cook. I think that is cool. So many people have these giant, glorious kitchens and most are just for show. They don’t even get their ovens dirty. When she was blogging from her apartment with it’s teeny tiny shrinky dink 4 burner stove a lot of that time, so was I. I had the same stove, only mine was white. I even had similar steel wire shelves for storage. And the same apartment sized refrigerator. Honestly, I produced some amazing meals in my shrinky dink kitchen, and she was luckier than I, because she had a gas stove.

Through her online musings we learned of her own human frailties, and I so admired her courage to be honest. I especially respected her ability to say she was feeling anxiety and depression. As a woman, that’s hard. Society may say they wish every woman everywhere to be utterly themselves, an original, but really they don’t want to see it. The reality of a woman being herself often makes others too uncomfortable.

I can speak from personal experience there.

My readers and even my friends might think they know all about me, but they don’t. I have learned the hard way that women still can’t be too honest about how they are feeling, especially on social media. We are supposed to have these picture postcard lives and perfect families, and more. You post a no makeup photo or express you are sick of certain things and it’s voila! Instant social media and more irritation. I often wondered if Julie would get the “I can’t believe you posted/wrote that.” messages and phone calls. Sometimes people post just to vent, ya know? It’s not all about you out there, it’s about them in that moment, not necessarily requiring attention or a comment.

Her second book after Julie and Julia was Cleaving. I think that was a book harder for people to read because it was a deeper journey into her world and marriage.

She recently had COVID. She wrote about it on Twitter. And today I noticed how god damned cruel and awful people are being. There should be a special place in hell for their literal inhumanity.

I am really sick of how people think they can be on social media. Cheering that someone is dead? And then of course, they call themselves “Christians.” She was a human being.

When you write whether as a blogger, a regular writer, reporter, or just a person, people are only O.K. with what you write if it matches THEIR comfort level. That is another reason WHY I admired Julie Powell. She spoke her truth, even if it did not make you 100% comfortable. She had a particular grace and honesty. Even if I was only part of her virtual world for a few years, I am glad I was there.

Fly with the angels, Julie Powel. Requiescat in pace. Read her obituary in the New York Times HERE.

Here are some other things to read. By her and about her.

How Julie Powell and her ‘Julie/Julia’ blog changed food writing
Washington Post

By Emily Heil November 2, 2022

Thank You, Julie Powell. I Owe You.
New York Times
by Frank Bruni Nov. 2, 2022

A Race To Master The Art Of French Cooking by Amanda Hesser/New York Times

Julie Powell, best-selling author of ‘Julie & Julia,’ dead at 49 NY POST

Omelets are hard to master and more lessons learned from “The Julia Child Challenge”
This week on the Julia Child-inspired competition, we tackle the “bean trick” for learning how to make omelets

By JULIE POWELL Salon 4/12/22

“The Julia Child Challenge” and the mystique of one of America’s most iconic chefs
Does this cooking competition
engage in some exploiting and some pussy-footing around? Absolutely
By JULIE POWELL Salon 3/22/22

I can hear Julia Child’s voice in my head again after six weeks of “The Julia Child Challenge”
It’s worth remembering that beneath the dumb corporate exploits, there’s a genuine bond. I still feel it

By JULIE POWELL Salon 4/19/22

Julia Child’s secret sauce and the little black dresses of French cuisine
On this week’s episode of “The Julia Child Challenge,” we tackle our namesake chef’s spy years. Well, kind of . . .
By JULIE POWELL
Salon 4/5/22

NPR: OBITUARIES
Food writer Julie Powell, author of ‘Julie & Julia,’ dies at 49

November 2, 202211:17 AM ET

it’s november, so of course we need soup…french onion mushroom soup….

I have a slight obsession with French Onion Soup. I’ve written about it before and my quest to find and develop a recipe I really liked and I think that was in 2015. I have been fiddling and fiddling with the way I make it, and I think this is the best batch so far.

My friend Karen‘s mother made the best French Onion Soup I’ve ever had anywhere. It was even better than the H.A. Winston soup that we all loved growing up. But I’ve kind of developed my own now which isn’t bad if I do say so myself. But I definitely have a memory of being in Karen‘s mother’s kitchen when she had that soup cooking. The aroma and the fragrance of it just filled the room.

I start my soup the day before with roasting my beef bones in the oven for beef stock. Then I throw everything into a stockpot with wine, water, and a 32 oz. container of low salt beef broth. To that I had a couple of carrots, celery or Celeriac (celery root), onion, fresh herbs, and that’s how I make my beef broth. This time I made my beef bone broth with Celeriac, because that is what I had. I cook this for a few hours. I let it simmer and cook down and condense. If I do it in the instant pot it takes a lot less time for the broth component.

I prepare the beef bone broth the day before because I like to fish the bones out of the broth and dispose of them, and then put the broth in the refrigerator overnight because then as you can see from the photo I shared above, I can skim the fat off the top very easily. This bone broth I made this time was truly gorgeous. This morning it was totally gelatinous like a consommé. That’s what you want.

Also, people always ask me how many beef bones I use. Honestly? It varies and this time I had 10 beef bones.

I line a big sheet pan with aluminum foil. Then I sprinkle them with just a smidge of olive oil and add salt pepper, Herbes de Provence, and garlic. When I roast them I do it at a 375° oven. I just keep an eye on the oven I think they were roasted through in about 35 to 40 minutes. Then I just turned the oven off and let everything cool down a bit before I bring them out of the oven and throw them into the stockpot as indicated above.

These bones were actually a surprise I did not know I still had in the bottom of our chest freezer they had come with a meat order from our local butcher, Worrell’s. Truthfully, you really do have to go to a local farmers market meat purveyor, or a local butcher shop to get good bones. And ask before you want to make the soup, because it’s not like the good old days and they don’t always have the bones.

The next day I start with caramelizing my onions, and today’s onions are the last I will ever get at Pete’s Produce Farm in Westtown which makes me sad. I use a combination of red and white onions. I add a little salt, a couple of tablespoons of butter, and a couple of dashes of balsamic vinegar to the bottom of the pot. You do want to caramelize your onions, but pay attention or they will burn. I almost killed them today because I was on the phone when I was doing this.

I also add mushrooms now to my recipe and that is pretty much because my husband loves mushrooms. The mushrooms, Cremini, came from Pete’s as well. I am so going to miss the produce and that store because these mushrooms were the prettiest I’ve had all year to cook with. But I have to admit that adding mushrooms especially this kind to soup add another layer of flavor that is just wonderful.

When I’m putting it all together after the onions have cooked down and caramelized, if I feel there is not enough liquid, then I will use a little additional bone broth or Better Than Bouillon to help it along. And you also cannot forget your healthy dash of Flavor Master’s Gravy Master. Why? Because that is something they put in the H.A. Winston soup when they were making it.

Today I did add an 8 ounce container additionally of bone broth. I also added a good half a bottle of wine

I wish I had a more exact and proportionate recipe written down, but I don’t a lot of times I cook things by the way I think they feel.

I will serve my French onion soup in a few minutes with a little shredded Gruyère on top but I don’t do the whole thing with the big hunk of bread and put it in the broiler. That’s too much work for me. The soup is work enough on its own. Besides it’s something I always eat around French onion soup when I get it at a restaurant, anyway.

We are also having an arugula and spinach salad with elite seasoning tomato and a honey mustard vinaigrette.

Bon appétit 👩‍🍳

an old pot cleaning hack that is still the best

I am making soup. And I had to start at one step of the soup which involved caramelizing onions, and the phone rang. It was someone I hadn’t spoken with in a while and I moved to the next room to take the call and forgot about what I was cooking on the stove.

I am sorry I forgot to take a picture of what it looked like when I returned to the kitchen and almost had a stroke. I removed the onions that were caramelized and not utterly destroyed and put them in a mixing bowl.

But then I was looking at the bottom of the pan and I’m thinking to myself I am never going get this clean. And it’s one of my favorite pots (by Great Jones– I am a fan of their cookware.)

So I’m standing there wondering what I’m going to do and I remembered what my mother’s mother, my maternal grandmother taught us to do. She used to make a paste out of baking soda let it sit for a minute, then add water and basically boil it on the stove. The burnt on bits literally float to the top of the water surface which is what you see in the first photo.

Next you allow the pan to cool down and it’s an easy cleanup with not a lot of scrubbing. Basically I used one of those safe scrub sponges with Dawn dish soap on it and cleaned the rest up.

I don’t know if anyone else does this or knows about it. But I’m glad I remembered it this morning because the second photo you will see as what the pan looks like now.

I will now go back and start this step of my recipe over.

Sometimes old hacks are the best, and I was reminded not to leave my pans unattended when I’m cooking!

Have a great day!

cod in red curry over rice

Hi there! It’s me your friendly neighborhood kitchen sink cook here. I am really making a concerted effort because of inflation vis-à-vis food costs to cook with what I have on hand, and not go out of my way for extra special items.

I had some beautiful cod fillets in the freezer, we get seafood every few months from Wild Alaskan Seafood Company. We only buy sustainable fish, and generally speaking, it’s a lot of “white” fish.

And one of the things I like in the winter is cod stew. I have actually written about it here before. But I don’t feel like the winter heaviness so I decided to go it slightly different.

In my cupboard I had an unopened jar of red curry paste. So I decided a red curry sauce it was. I sliced up two onions thin and halved – like semi-circles. To that I added four diced cloves of garlic, a little extra-virgin olive oil, a little salt. I needed a little moisture there while I was cooking the onions down so I added a couple dashes of this German red wine vinegar I have.

Once the onions were cooked, I added a 15 ounce can of these little Mutti tomatoes. They literally look like miniature plum tomatoes. I also added a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and fresh basil. I smashed the little tomatoes before adding them to the pan to release all their juices. Once that started to come together in the pan on a low to medium flame watching it so it didn’t boil, I added about 3 1/2 tablespoons of red curry paste. I use the Thai Kitchen curry paste if you’re interested.

After the sauce came together, I took my next step. I opened one can of classic coconut milk unsweetened. It is either a 15 ounce can or maybe it’s a 14 ounce can, I forget. I gently incorporated all of the coconut milk into the tomato onion basil sauce, and added a few more leaves of basil and turned the sauce to low.

Next I took my cod fillets out of the refrigerator and put them onto a plate. I added a little salt and pepper to both sides and let them sit for a minute. Now they have been added in to the red curry sauce and everybody’s cooking nicely on a lowish flame.

I am making rice with saffron to go with it. It’s very simple, it was so easy to make, yes the recipe came out of my head, and finally the sauce tastes amazing!

Bon appétit!

a september soup tale

Soup. It’s just one of those things that once in a while you just want. There’s no rhyme or reason. Today was one of those days. This is a soup tale, not necessarily a traditional soup recipe, because I just made it up and you’ll have to follow along.

I save leftover chicken and actually bones and carcasses from roast chickens and freeze them to make bone broth . I also freeze necks and giblet that come inside a roast chicken when you purchase it from the store.

Today I also had acorn squash left over from a farm box, some fresh onions, garlic, a couple of hot peppers from my garden, and a big container of beautiful local mushrooms. So to me it said “don’t let anything go bad, make soup.”

First I got out my small instant pot and I added all my chicken bits. Then I added a sprinkle or two of kosher salt, fresh sage rosemary and thyme, a healthy dose of Lebanese Za’atar spice blend, Shawarma spice blend, and Persian Advieh.

I know, I know I have a weakness for exotic spice blends and different kinds of paprika. Paprika however was not in this recipe.

So I hit the broth setting on my instant pot after covering up my chicken parts and spices with water, leaving a gap of about an inch to an inch and a half at the top inside. After I cooked it all on the broth setting which is about 40 minutes, I added an extra five.

Meanwhile, I took out a cookie sheet pan and made a large tinfoil pouch and put inside of the pouch the acorn squash quartered, four medium to small size carrots cut into little circles, one large fresh onion chunked, and finally I added a small head of garlic, cloves peeled. I drizzled olive oil on top, tossed in a little bit of salt, folded everything up into a package and put it into a 400° oven for about 40 minutes. When the vegetables were done I turned off the oven and set it on the stove top as I waited for the broth to cool down.

When the vegetables were cool enough to handle, I scooped the squash from its skin and put it and the other roasted vegetables into a soup pot with fresh sage, thyme, rosemary. Not a lot just a little bit more, and a couple of dashes of Sherry vinegar.

After the broth had cooled down enough, I drained the broth through a strainer into my soup pot. I put the chicken parts and bits that I had used to create the broth in a metal mixing bowl to cool further. I used a hand blender and emulsified everything, adding to that believe it or not, 2/3 of a cup of creamy peanut butter.

I know peanut butter sounds odd, but when I was a kid and we first went to Historic Williamsburg one of the historic taverns in Williamsburg served a peanut soup, and it was a chicken stock base with peanut butter and it was amazing. It’s a flavor profile that I like. It doesn’t taste like a Reesie’s cup or anything like that but you do have that undertone of peanut butter flavor. Of course, if you’re allergic to nuts you can’t do this.

So what was my next step? I turned the stove on low underneath the soup. I added back the chicken I picked off the bones of the chicken I used to make the broth with. Then I sliced up all the beautiful mushrooms (baby Bella) I had, and tossed them into the soup pot, followed by two additional carrots and one apple grated. Finally, I had about a half a cup of Minnesota wild rice left over from last year, and since it only has a shelf life of so long, into the pot it went!

I have pretty much pre-cooked the soup and I will turn it off and just let it cook away in the pot with the lid on. I will let it come to room temperature and by that time it will be close to dinner, and I can then heat it up. And allowing this soup to sit hot like this will also help the wild rice cook because if you’ve ever cooked with wild rice you know it takes literally twice as long as any other kind of rice. I prefer wild rice in soup because it holds up very well.

For a made up soup of leftovers essentially, it is not bad. Sometimes I am like the kitchen sink cook, and it’s whatever is around goes in something. In this case it has worked out really well and I have to tell you the flavor profile of the soup is wonderful and emulsifying the vegetables and the broth with the peanut butter gives it a creamy texture without adding any dairy products.

Given inflation, food prices, and the economy, perhaps being a kitchen sink home cook is not so bad? I literally bought nothing special for this recipe I used everything I had around the house or in the garden.

The kitchen smells really good right now. Thanks for stopping by.

summer salads: tabbouleh with a twist

One of the things I like about summer, are summer foods. One of my favorites is tabbouleh. Essentially tabbouleh at its core is a parsley salad flavored with bulgur, mint, scallions, tomatoes, and a bright lemony dressing. It’s quick, fresh, easy, and totally yummy.

Tabbouleh is something I’ve always made in the summer, but as an adult in my own house I essentially make it only for myself unless we’re having company because no one else seems to eat it. Another problem in my house is while I work for myself and can set my own hours, my husband has a corporate job, and corporate jobs seem to have expanded their hours since the onset of COVID19, and the days of traditional 9 to 5 hour days seem to no longer exist. So he works a lot. Often he comes home from the office and works hours more in our home office and eats later. I don’t like to eat late, so tabbouleh the way I make it that I’m sharing with you today, is something I can eat for a quick summer dinner . I don’t even necessarily need to make meat or chicken to accompany it, I can just eat that “as is.”

Yes, there is a young adult living with us, but he’s kind of allergic to vegetables most days and eating with the other people in his house, so he will grab dinner and go sit in front of his computer screen and play video games. Often I will make the two of them something to eat and just leave it on the stove. No it is not my favorite thing to do as I don’t like eating by myself but life is what it is. So I have decided that I’m going to make things that I enjoy more in the summer to have if I am going to be eating early and by myself.

You will note when I share my recipe that I don’t have tomatoes in it, and I added chickpeas. The reason I didn’t add tomatoes is I don’t have any in the house and the ones I am growing in my garden are just plants at this point. I’ve also discovered that the salad stays a little more fresh if I don’t store it with tomatoes added. So if I make this with tomatoes I will often dress the top of the bowl with tomatoes that are diced and I will remove the tomatoes off of the top to put away.

Another thing about tabbouleh is you can indeed make it with couscous if you don’t have bulgar wheat.

This is a great summer salad and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! To follow is the recipe.

1 3/4 cups bulgar wheat

Juice of 4 large lemons (maybe more – depends on you!)

A couple of dashes of apple cider vinegar

Olive oil

1 large bunch of Italian flat leaf parsley

1 bunch fresh parsley

Salt, pepper, dash of garlic powder, ground cumin

One large regular cucumber peeled, seeds removed, diced. Or one English hothouse cucumber peeled and diced.

1 sweet or red onion diced, or two bunches of scallions cut up small.

A 15 ounce can of chickpeas drained

Get out a large mixing bowl and to it add dry bulgar wheat, a little salt, a little pepper, a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and a teaspoon of ground cumin.

To that add about 1 1/2 cups boiling water, and toss. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil and put to the side.

In another mixing bowl, add your chickpeas, onion or scallions, parsley and mint chopped fine, and the cucumber. Add salt to taste. Toss it together and if you think it needs more salt add a little more. I add the salt slowly because you don’t want to over salt this.

And a small bowl add your lemon juice, cumin, small dash of garlic powder, salt, eyeball the olive oil and whisk together briskly. Give it a taste and you may want to add a couple of dashes of apple cider vinegar as well.

Bulgar wheat takes nothing to reconstitute with a little hot water so by now you should be fine and remove the aluminum foil from the bowl and give it another stir to fluff.

Add the vegetables and chickpeas and mint and parsley to the large mixing bowl with the bulgar wheat in it. Give that all a mix together and then whisk the olive oil lemon juice and apple cider vinegar mixture again and pour it evenly over everything in the large mixing bowl and toss together.

At this point you can taste test to see if you want more salt or ground pepper. Cover the mixing bowl and put in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly.

Leftovers are good for a few days. Keep refrigerated.

goat cheese, ham, and scallion frittata

I love a good frittata. True story is one of my frittatas is actually published in an Epicurious cookbook. It’s called The Kitchen Sink Frittata, and it was published in Epicurious Cookbook in 2012. Amusingly enough Nancy Fuller (Food Network personality) has an identically named recipe on Food Network’s website. My recipe I think is better.

But this? This is a new recipe and I thought of it this morning based upon what I was looking at in my refrigerator this morning.

So here it is and I hope you enjoy it!

Preheat oven to 400°

Take 4 tablespoons of butter and put in a baking dish. I use my vintage 12” French copper gratin pan.

Take eight eggs out of the refrigerator, one bunch of thin fresh scallions, about 6 to 7 ounces of deli ham, 1 4oz log of fresh goat cheese. The goat cheese I’m using today had bits of fig in it – it was what I had on hand.

Thinly slice the scallions and include some of the green tops. Maybe about 3 inches if they are in good shape. Chop up the ham. Also if you have it thinly slice one Roma tomato, also known as a plum tomato. But only use a fresh one.

If you’re using a pan like my gratin pan you can heat it up on the stove as well. I wouldn’t recommend using a glass baking dish, so please don’t . But you can also make a frittata in a cast-iron pan, for example. I also use a cast iron pan to make frittatas, and I have an oven safe fry pan from Great Jones cookware I also use.

When the butter is melted quickly sauté the scallions and the ham. Add to that the thinly sliced tomato. Don’t swish it around in the pan too much you don’t want things to break up. Next add a little freshly cracked pepper, and some dill weed. You can either chop up some fresh dill or use dried dill. Turn off the stove, and let that sit while you move onto whisking the eggs.

Briskly whisk eight eggs with a couple dashes of hot sauce, a little bit of salt not a lot, and about three or 4 tablespoons of buttermilk. Please remember not to use more than a little pinch of salt because you are cooking with ham which is already salty.

When the eggs are whisked up and frothy pour them slowly over the ham and vegetables in the pan evenly. Next crumble up your log of goat cheese and spread evenly over the top and add a couple of more dashes of fresh cracked pepper.

Place in your 400° oven and bake for about 35 minutes. Depending on your oven —-you need to keep an eye on it, so nothing burns. Take it out let it sit for a few minutes slice up and serve. It makes a wonderful weekend breakfast or brunch.

portuguese influence: cod stew

When I was little we knew this wonderful Portuguese lady named Belmira. Sometimes she would cook us these amazing Portuguese dishes. She lived somewhere in Philadelphia’s Olney section which had a big Portuguese section in the early 1970s, the time when we knew her.

One of the things she made was a codfish stew. Belmira used bacalao which is dried and salted cod. She would soak it a couple of days in milk. I loved her codfish stew but she is the only one who I have ever known to make the bacalao palatable. My mother tried but it was always too salty.

Yesterday I was wondering what to make for dinner. I had gotten yet more potatoes in my vegetable box. (We always seem to get so many kinds of potatoes this time of year.) I also had a bunch (a little over two pounds total) of flash frozen cod in the freezer my husband had bought. Ash Wednesday was the other day, and I randomly remembered Belmira would make codfish stew.

I couldn’t find quite the right recipe. I looked at a couple of recipes, but then decided to wing it. Codfish stew is essentially tomatoes, cod, potatoes, onions, bell or sweet peppers, herbs, spices and white wine.

I decided I would make the stew part of it without the cod at first. I remember when you’re doing fish stews you only add things in like the last 20 minutes or so you’re cooking it so it doesn’t get over cooked. Cod is a great fish for soups and stews because it holds up and doesn’t disintegrate.

First I sliced thin a red onion and a white onion. I decided it would be prettier sliced than chopped. I put that into the bottom of a big pot with olive oil, five cloves of garlic sliced very thin, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning. To that I added a cup of white wine.

All the onions and garlic were starting to do their thing and white wine I also took two red bell peppers I had. I sliced them into thin rings. I also had three zucchini which I sliced into thin discs, and about six medium red bliss potatoes as well. I did not peel the potatoes. Finally I had a bag of spinach in the refrigerator so I cleaned that and drained it.

I added all of the other vegetables to the onions and garlic and white wine and started to let it cook down. then I added two 14 ounce cans of Mutti Baby Roma tomatoes. They are small, a little bit larger than the grape tomatoes you can buy in the supermarket. I just opened the cans and put them in juice and all. If you can’t find these tomatoes, you can use a regular 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes but you will have to break up the tomatoes because they will be too big. These Baby Romas are little so they just sort of pop open as they cook and they aren’t too large.

To this I added a little more salt, sweet Spanish paprika, basil, a little more Italian seasoning blend. The blend I use contains no salt, by the way.

I added another half cup I believe of white wine, a few tablespoons of tomato paste (maybe four), and then I just kept an eye on everything and let it cook on a low flame until the vegetables were tender and the flavors were right I don’t know how else to describe it.

About 20 minutes to half an hour before serving, I chunked up in two rather large chunks of the thawed codfish. I added it to the stew and bought the heat slightly. When the fish was cooked and flaking slightly at the chunk corners, I served it. It was really good!

I would say that you might have to add a little more liquid if you didn’t add spinach. And spinach as well as zucchini wasn’t part of what Belmira cooked when I was a child. I just had them to use up.

I will make this again. I imagine I could use other meaty white fish and even add shrimp to this dish. Alternately, the dish without the fish would make a good vegan dish. If I made it vegan, I might add capers.

Happy Saturday!

winter cooking & what’s cooking in my kitchen…read and discover

It’s a cold, crisp winter day, and we even had snow flurries this morning. So it’s time for some winter cooking.

My vegetable box this week had some really nice potatoes, mushrooms, and carrots. I had four good size slices of beef shin in my freezer that I had been thawing this week. So that’s basically what dinner is tonight: beef shins in red wine, garlic, beef broth, tomatoes, carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, and some herbs and spices.

The spices are used in addition to garlic, salt and pepper are Herbes de Provence and an Ethiopian spice mix called Berbere. I also added a few sprigs of rosemary from my greenhouse. My greenhouse isn’t heated so I am thrilled it’s still alive.

I started with searing the beef shins in my big Dutch oven. Before I added the meat I had put into the pan some olive oil, a couple of dashes of teriyaki sauce, Berbere, and garlic powder. The beef shins had been drenched in flour and salted a little bit. I added a little red wine and let that cook off as I was searing.

After the beef shins were seared I moved them to a big metal bowl and deglazed my pan with some more red wine. I then added my chopped carrots, onion, celery, and mushrooms. I seasoned them just a smidge added a little bit of Herbes de Provence. I let the vegetables cook down a bit and then it was time for the final step before putting them in the oven. The oven had been preheating at 300°F.

Before I added the beef shins back to the Dutch oven I added two small cans of tomatoes. The tomatoes were chopped and 14 ounce cans. The brand is Mutti. I also had a can of Campbell’s beef consommé sitting in my cupboard and then I added two more cups of beef broth.

I added back the beef shins and I actually had to pull out 2 cups of liquid for the time being and put it in a measuring cup because the Dutch oven was just so full. I added the two sprigs of rosemary. Everything is now covered and doing the low and slow dance for a few hours in my 300° preheated oven.

I will serve with smashed red bliss potatoes.

People always ask what cookware I use besides my vintage Dansk. I use cookware from a really awesome female owned company called Great Jones. I saw them a few years ago on a segment on cooking by the Today Show, tried them and have been using them ever since. I really like them. The Dutch oven is 6.75 quarts and solid cast iron and it’s called the Duchess. I will warn you the one thing I don’t like about it is how heavy it is but it’s great to cook with especially for a recipe like this.

Please note I am not compensated by Great Jones to write about their cookware. I just happened to own it and love it.

This isn’t a recipe that I have written down anywhere. It just sort of came together in my head this morning when I was thinking about what I was going to do with the beef shins. The mushrooms I like to use are the baby Bella. I am just not a white mushroom person unless it’s a salad. And seriously it’s so easy to throw things together. You don’t always need a set in stone recipe, just wing it.

What’s cooking in your kitchen on this winter’s day?