Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Chicken and Peanuts

          All the world loves Chinese food, except for my sister who lived in Shanghai for 4 years where she ate the real thing.  Well at least all the world loves adapting Chinese food!  Even in Jordan, some of our favorite restaurants were Taiwan Turismo or China King, until we consistently found "slug" listed as one of the ingredients in most of the dishes.
        A Chinese cooking class I took years ago, demonstrated this recipe and I was thrilled - finally a Chinese dish made at home that tasted as good as Chinese take-out!  The secret is in the process (velvetizing) and the use of a couple of ingredients that most of us don't commonly keep in our condiment collection. One is the Hoisin sauce, a thick sweet and tangy sauce made from soybean and the other the sesame oil.  The sesame oil can elevate any Chinese dish to more authentic flavor - but be careful, a little goes a long way.  Most recipes don't call for more than a couple of teaspoons.
       Not only is this dish delicious, tangy yet sweet, with tender chicken and the crunch of the stir-fried cabbage, green onions and nuts, but it is easy and quick! Chopping of ingredients ahead of time, and preparing the seasoning sauce even days ahead, can cut done on the final prep time.
       Give this one a try - your family is sure to love it, and it's great for company and never fails to impress.  I've never met anyone who didn't like it, except for my sister.  But she has too many memories of gnawing on tough slugs!  Serves 8.

Chicken with Peanuts
4 chicken breasts, skinned boned and cut into 1 inch portions

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons white wine or Mirin wine

1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2/3 cups coarsely chopped peanuts (or cashews or almonds)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 green onions, cut in into 1/2 inch lengths, white and greens

3 cups roughly chopped green cabbage

oil for frying

Seasoning Sauce:

  •        4 tablespoons sugar               
  •        1/2 teaspoon salt
  •        5 tablespoons rice or wine vinegar
  •        4 tablespoons soy sauce
  •        1 tablespoon cornstarch
  •        dash of red pepper or szechaun pepper (to taste)
  •        11/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

      -Mix seasoning sauce and set aside.  Add half of the sliced            green onions. Place diced chicken in a bowl.  Add                          soy sauce, wine, cornstarch, sesame oil and mix well.  Marinate for 20 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon oil.  Heat 1 cup oil in medium skillet and fry chicken in batches until opaque then    remove and drain in a colander set over a mixing bowl, to          catch the drippings.  Repeat with the remaining chicken.

      -In a wok or large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil.  Stir fry                cabbage for 2-3 minutes stirring frequently.  Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Transfer cabbage to a serving platter.

       -Heat the wok again and add chicken and drippings.  Add            the seasoning sauce and stir-fry until chicken is well                    coated with the sauce.  Add 1/2 cup peanuts and stir.  Spoon                    on top of cabbage.  Garnish with reserved green                            onions and chopped peanuts.


Stir chicken with sauce until well coated.

Stir-fry cabbage 2 - 3 minutes over medium-high heat.

A tangy, sweet dish, with tender chicken chunks and 
crunchy onions and peanuts.


**This recipe is equally delicious with cashews or almonds.

**Don't cook the chicken until it is brown, just until it is opaque.  This process of marinating briefly in the cornstarch mixture and then frying in oil in batches is called "velvetizing" the chicken.  It makes the chicken very tender and allows it to hold in the moisture and seasonings from the marinade. Don't cook the chicken in the oil until it is browned, but just until opaque or you will sacrifice the tender, silky texture.  Let the sauce provide the color.

**Likewise, don't over saute the cabbage.  It should still have a crunch to it and have a bright green color.

**You can find Hoisin sauce, Mirin and sesame oil in the Asian section of most grocery stores.


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Tomato Ham & Cheese Cobbler


      I know, I know.  When they hear what you're serving...Tomato Cobbler....they feign an allergy to tomatoes or suggest their diet won't allow a cobbler or that they must leave as they have an early meeting.  But if you can just get half a bite into their mouths and aren't averse to holding them down to do so, your guests will stay as long as you allow to eat this glorious paradoxical side dish.
       Another name might make it easier to lure in tasters, but the name
makes the dish even more fun to serve; kind of like tomato jam, or
pepper jelly or liver & cherries.
      But this combination, regardless of what you call it, is an undeniable
winner!  There is nothing sweet about it but by definition where does
it say that biscuit dough cannot rest on a savory stew of tomatoes.  The tomatoes are stewed with onions and leeks until they roll on your tongue like velvet with a dense rich flavor reminiscent of a rich ragu studded with ham.  With the addition of cream and gruyere cheese to the biscuit, they would admirably crown almost any savory filling. The addition of ham was due to my own take on the dish.  It is is the perfect palate to which to add ham and make a main course of it.
      What a pleasant surprise this cobbler is - even to those who assume an aversion to the tomato. I'll bet this dish will win you over!

Tomato, Ham and Gruyere Cobbler

      1/2 cup olive oil
      1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
      2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
      4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
      1 1/2 pounds sweet cherry tomatoes
      2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
      1 cup cubed cooked ham
      1 teaspoon salt and fresh pepper to taste
      dash of cayenne pepper

Biscuit Topping:
      2 cups all purpose flour
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1 tablespoon baking powder
      1 stick (1/2 cup) cold butter, cut into small pieces
      1 cup grated Gruyere or parmesan cheese 
              (reserve 2 tablespoons for top)
      1 cup heavy cream
      1/2 cup whole milk
      2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

       For filling:
            -Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
             Add sliced onion and shallots and stir 
             occasionally until caramelized (20 - 25 
             minutes).  Add garlic and cook until
             soft, another 3 minutes.  Let cool.

            -Stir tomatoes, flour, cayenne pepper and ham 
             into onion mixture.  Season with salt and 

        For Topping:
            -Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large mixing
             bowl add flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir
             then cut in butter with pastry blender or fork 
             or with your fingers until butter is well 
             incorporated.  Stir in cheese, parsley flakes
             and add cream and milk.  Stir with a fork until
             combined and mixture forms a rough ball. 
             (Dough will be a bit sticky).

            -Spoon the tomato mixture into a 2 quart 
             baking dish about 2 inches deep. Mound
             biscuit dough around the edge of the baking
             dish in a circle, leaving the center open.  Brush
             the dough with extra cream and sprinkle
             with 2 tablespoons of cheese.  Sprinkle the
             entire cobbler with paprika.

            -Bake until tomatoes are bubbly and biscuits 
             are golden, about 1 hour. Remove from oven
             and allow to cool for 15 - 20 minutes before 
             serving.  Serves 6 - 8

Spoon tomato mixture into casserole dish
and mound biscuit dough around the edges.

A rich depth of tomato flavor with soft
cheesy biscuits on top.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Farmer's Harvest Crepes



      I wish I had a green enough thumb to say that I raised all the harvest ingredients of this delicious breakfast/buffet dish and though I did plant green onions, they didn't grow and though we hatched chicken eggs for Easter and raised the chicks through adolescence we couldn't keep them once they started crowing (those particular ones wouldn't have laid eggs anyway.)  But the crepes, other than not milking my own cow, or gathering my own chickens eggs, I have down!
      And yes, I know how crepes should be made as I have eaten more than my fair share at roadside cafes in Paris and in Dinan and in Strasbourg, France, in Creperie cafes and in farmer's kitchens.  And I know that I like them best with just granulated sugar inside, while my children like the banana and Nutella best.  And I know that those French chefs that come to the trade as part of their birthright make them on a large round flat griddle, pour the batter on and smooth it in a circular shape with a handled wooden dowel.  And I know that you don't have to know any of that to make great crepes!  
       In fact all you have to know is how to beat a thin batter smooth, which one of your non-stick skillets is the right size and how to execute the perfect swivel to allow the batter to run smoothly over the bottom of the pan.  One of my proudest moments was when one of my husband's French friends told me that my crepes were better than her mothers.
      Having loved all things French after living in Paris for two years, my husband was pleased when I tried my hand at the delicately thin "pancake" and declared them a triumph.  That ability grew into a bit of a monster as my children asked for them almost daily for breakfast.  It still hasn't stopped, and now my grandson requests them daily for breakfast with cinnamon sugar. 
      Even our dog was a raving fan. While hurriedly preparing 100 crepes for a school event where we served them with ice cream and toppings, I left 30 in a stack in the kitchen as I ran an errand, and returned to find that our puppy had eaten the entire plate of crepes.  I learned a dog could survive that.  I also learned that indeed I could whip up another batch and cook them in under 30 minutes - but you should have seen the kitchen after, egg shells and spilled milk festooned the counters and cupboards
      My point being, crepes are a creation you can easily master and enjoy without any fancy contraptions to help you!  But if you'd rather not, you can buy them already made and perhaps spare yourself the burden of homemade ones becoming a family favorite.  Either way, this is a great savory crepe recipe to try - the filling is just that - filling!  The ham and swiss combination is appropriately authentic and all the rest of the ingredients would make any farmer proud to have harvested!  You're entitled to feel proud of yourself as well!

Farmer's Harvest Crepes:
8 prepared crepes
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chicken stock (or 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon bouillon)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 green onions, white and tops finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup chopped ham
1/2 cup mushrooms, sauted in 2 tablespoons butter until soft
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 large or 2 medium potatoes, boiled until tender,
       peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups shredded or finely diced swiss cheese
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
salt to taste
chopped parsley for garnish

      -In a medium saucepan, melt butter.  Add shallot and 
        saute for 2-3 minutes, until soft.  Stir in flour and
        cook over medium heat, 2 -3 minutes, stirring with
        whisk constantly.   Stir in cup of milk and mix with
        whisk.  Add chicken stock and cook over medium heat
        stirring frequently, until  mixture thickens and comes
        to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Allow to cool for about 10
        minutes then stir in sour cream and green onions. Season
        with salt and pepper to taste.

      -In a medium mixing bowl, combine ham, eggs, potato,
        cheese, parsley and pepper.  Taste for salt - add if needed,
        to taste.

       -Lay cooled crepes on working surface.  Spread a
        tablespoon full of sauce down the center of the crepe and 
        then mound with about 1/2 cup of the filling. Spread the
        filling along the center length of the crepe, on top of the
        sauce to within an inch of each end.  Starting at one end,
        roll the crepe tightly around the filling.  Place seam-side
        down in buttered ovenproof casserole closely together.

       -Pour the remaining sauce evenly over the top of the 
        crepes.  Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup swiss cheese on top
        and sprinkle with paprika and chopped parsley.

       -Bake for 25 - 30 minutes at 350 degrees until cheese is 
        melted and sauce is bubbly.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes
        before serving.  Serves 6 - 8

To Prepare Crepes:
       In a mixing bowl with a whisk, or in a blender, combine
       1 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 eggs,
       2 cups milk, 3 tablespoons melted butter.  Blend or whisk
       until smooth.  (Batter should be the consistency of a thin
       pancake batter and should spread quickly and easily to
       cover the bottom of the skillet.  If it doesn't, mix in more 

       Heat skillet with an 8 - 10 inch flat surface.  Melt 1 
       tablespoon butter in skillet and spread evenly over the
       bottom of the skillet.  Pour about 1/4 cup batter into
       hot pan as you swirl the pan with your other hand, until 
       the batter evenly covers the bottom of the pan.  Place over
       medium to medium-high heat and cook about 2 minutes, 
       until the top appears dry.  Turn the crepe over with a 
       spatula and cook on the other side an additional 30
       seconds to 1 minute.  Invert onto plate and allow to cool.

Pour crepe batter into hot buttered skillet.

Cook on one side until surface is dry.

Cook on other side 30 seconds.

To Assemble Farmer Harvest Crepes:
                            Fill center of crepes with mound of filling

Place filled crepes in buttered baking dish.

Top with sauce, swiss cheese and garnishes


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Apple Caramel Crumb Bars


Caramel Apple Crumb Bars
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
2/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup melted butter
3 cups peeled small-diced apples tossed with 
            1 tablespoon flour

2 cups Kraft wrapped caramel candies

        -Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon,
          nutmeg, salt and melted butter.  Pat half
          of the mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13
          inch glass baking pan.  Bake for 10 
          minutes at 350 degrees.

       -While crust is baking, unwrap caramel candies and place
         in heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium heat
         & cook, stirring frequently until melted and smooth.

       -Remove crust from the oven and cover with diced
         apples.  Pour melted caramels evenly over the apples
         and dot the remaining crumb mixture over the top of
         the caramel.

        -Return to oven and continue cooking at 350 degrees
         for 30 - 35 minutes, until bubbling and slightly browned.

        -Allow bars to cool completely before cutting into 2 inch
             squares.  Makes 28 bars.

              Combine flour, butter and oats to create
                                     crumb mixture.

Press crumb mixture into bottom of pan.

                                                                  Baked Caramel Apple Bars - allow to cool                                                                               completely before cutting.

Tender & Chewy Apple Bars - serve with fresh slices of apples
 as a garnish!


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Carrot & Swiss Bake

       Whether this dish is French or not, I acquired the recipe in a French
cooking class years ago.  Never having been a huge carrot fan, fresh or
cooked, I was dubious, but after the first bite I was amazed at how delicious this version was - and I've liked cooked carrots ever since!  And the combo of Swiss cheese with carrots - who would have thought it?
       Just as with cilantro, eggplant, tomatoes and I'm sure you could add
to the list, there are some things that we are born to appreciate and others not ......carrots may be one of them and if people like them it is often only raw or cooked.  So it is in our home, a warren of raw carrot lovers.  I am the only one who will eat this incredibly delicious recipe and I have coaxed, offered money and promised they would like it if they just tried a bite.  I was determined they needed this in their lives!  But no amount of cajoling would sway them. But there were two, those with the very finest palates who savored it as I did, my mother and oldest daughter, so now I only prepare it when they are around to help me eat it.
      If you were ever scarred in your childhood by being forced to sit
at the table until you ate your carrots, this may be the cure.  Conversely, if you insist your children eat all their carrots, these may be the ones
you don't have to punish them to eat!

Carrot Swiss Cheese Bake:
2 1/2 pounds baby carrots
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 eggs
3/4 cups shredded Swiss cheese
pepper to taste
1 package frozen peas and pearl onions or fresh peas
coarsely chopped fresh parsley

      -Cut baby carrots in half and place in medium saucepan.
Cover with cold water and cook over medium-high heat until water comes to a boil. Drain.

      -Add butter, stock, sugar and salt to drained carrots in 
saucepan and cook over medium heat until carrots are very
tender and liquid is almost gone, stirring occasionally.  (Add a bit more water if carrots are not tender by the time the liquid is almost gone and continue to cook.  Repeat if necessary but let the liquid boil almost away.)  Remove from heat and squeeze lemon juice over carrots.

      -Mash carrot mixture with a potato masher or pulse in
the food processor until very smooth.  Let cool about 10

      -Meanwhile, steam peas and onions or fresh peas just
until tender and the skin stills pops when you bite into 
one.  Rinse in cold water to stop cooking process.  (For
frozen peas, bring water to a boil, place peas in the water and
return to the boil and boil for 2-3 minutes.  For fresh peas,
bring water to the boil and boil for about 5 minutes.)

      -Beat eggs in small bowl until well combined then stir
into cooled carrot mixture along with the cheese and pepper.
Taste for seasoning.

      -Butter a 6 - 8 cups ovenproof casserole dish and spoon
carrot mixture into the dish, making an indentation with the
back of a spoon about the size of a small fist.  Bake at 350
degrees for 30-35 minutes, until bubbly and cheese is beginning to brown.  Remove from oven.

      -Place peas in the microwave on high for 30 seconds and then place in the indentation in the carrots and garnish
with chopped parsley.  Serve warm.  Serves 8 - 10

Saute carrots in butter and stock.

Mash or process carrots until very smooth.

Spoon mixture into casserole and bake.

Buttery, cheesy carrots and fresh popping peas!

Monday, August 31, 2020

Raspberry Creme Tart


Raspberry Creme Tart

1 package frozen puff pastry sheets

1 cup large fresh raspberries, rinsed

6 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 vanilla bean, slit open and 


2 cups hot whole milk

3 tablespoons butter

1  cup heavy or whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

        -Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

        -Place unwrapped frozen puff pastry sheets on clean

           counter.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes, then carefully try to 

           unfold flat on surface. If dough is not yet ready, tent the

           dough by opening the 3 surfaces so they are exposed to

           the air and let rest another 15 minutes.

       -Roll dough on lightly floured counter out to a 12 inch by

         10" rectangle.  Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment

         paper or a silpad.  Poke pastry at frequent intervals with

         fork tines.  Place in freezer for 15 minutes before baking.

         Remove from freezer and place immediately into 

         preheated oven.  Bake pastry for 20 minutes until golden

         brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

       -While the first sheet of dough is cooking roll out the other

         sheet of dough to a 14 by 12 inch rectangle. Cut eight 

         strips about 3/4 inch wide down the length of the dough.

         Take 2 dough strips at a time and holding at one end,

         twist them tightly about each other to create a rope of 

         dough. (2 strips should end up 12 inches long and 2 strips

         should be 10 inches long.)  Place on cookie sheet lined with

         parchment paper or silpad and place in freezer for 15 

         minutes. Remove and place in 425 degree oven.  Bake for

         20 minutes until golden brown.  (If ropes begin to curl, 

         reach in with a spatula or wooden spoon to straighten 

         them. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Prepare Pastry Cream (Creme Patiserrie):

        -Place the 6 egg yolks and sugar together in a mixing bowl

         and beat until thick ribbons fall from the beaters when 

         lifted.  Stir in the flour.

        -Place the milk into a medium-sized saucepan. (If using 

          the vanilla bean, split the bean open and scape out the 

          seeds with a small sharp knife and add the seeds and the

          pod to the milk.  Bring the milk to a simmer over medium-

          high heat then remove from heat.  

         -Add about 1/2 cup hot milk to the egg yolks beating

          constantly until well blended.  Add another 1/2 cup milk

          and stir it in then return milk and eggs mixture back to

          the rest of the milk in the saucepan. Heat until mixture 

          comes to a boil over medium-high heat then continue to 

          boil and stir for one minute.  Remove the pan from the

          heat. Whisk in the butter and if using vanilla extract, add

          that. (If vanilla pod was used, remove it at this point.)

          Place pastry cream into a bowl and lay a piece of 

          plastic wrap directly on the cream and chill for at least 1



To Assemble Tart:

         -Place flat sheet of cooked pastry on serving tray.  Trim 

          ropes of pastry with a small sharp knife until a rope fits 

          nicely down each outer edge of the tart. Pipe or spoon a 

          small amount of the pastry cream on the bottom side of

          each rope then press in place on the edges of the tart.

        -Fill the indentation in the tart with the pastry cream

          smoothing to an even surface with a spatula or back of

          a spoon.

        -Place fresh raspberries, hulled side down on the pastry 

          cream in an interesting pattern leaving space to pipe 

          whipped cream in between the berries.  Place remaining

          whipped cream into pastry bag with star tip and pipe 

          cream in between the raspberries on the top of the tart.  

          Chill for at least 1 1/2 hours before serving.

         -To serve, cut down the middle lengthwise and then 

           across at regular intervals 3 or 4 times to create 8 - 10



Prepared puff pastry tart shell - golden brown and flaky!

Spoon pastry cream into tart shell and smooth surface

Arrange raspberries on top with whipped cream piped in between.

Elegant and delicious, French Patisserie worthy!