Honey Poached Plums

When my kids come for a few days I buy a ton of fruit. And then usually have to shop again during the visit to get more, because there's none left. 

When my kids don't come I buy much less fruit but never run out of it. In fact, the fruit I buy frequently sits there in the fruit bowl, washed and waiting. Then gets too soft for actually eating out of hand and winds up in a banana bread or cold, summer fruit soup or some other recipe that works well when fruit is past its prime.

Like these plums. They looked so good when I bought them. Alas, they were not as compelling this week as the chocolate covered cherries or the chocolate covered almonds or the NoMoo Cookies I bought.

However -- when I poached them in a little honey, added a few cardamom pods and some orange peel, well, then the plums seemed more like real dessert and therefore more welcome. Especially when drizzled with boiled down poaching juices and accompanied by yogurt (plain, mixed with some of those boiled down juices) and chopped, roasted almonds.

So the fruit did get eaten after all. No leftovers.

 

Honey Poached Plums with Yogurt and Roasted Almonds

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups water
  • 12 slightly crushed cardamom pods (or use 2" cinnamon stick)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange peel
  • 6 large plums
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

Place the honey, water, cardamom pods and orange peel in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Wash the plums, cut them in half and remove the pit if possible (if not it will be easy to remove after poaching). Place the plum halves in the poaching liquid. Mix in the vanilla extract. Let rest until the liquid cools, at least 2 hours. Remove the plums and set them aside. Bring the poaching liquid to a boil over high heat and cook for 4-5 minutes or until thickened to the consistency of maple syrup. Let cool. Place 2 plum halves per person on dessert plates. Mix a small amount of the boiled down liquid into the yogurt and spoon some of the yogurt next to the plum halves. Drizzle the plums with the remaining poaching liquid. Scatter the nuts on top of the plums and yogurt.

Makes 6 servings

 

 

 

 

Love Those Tuna Burgers

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Tuna is not one of my favorite fish. It's frequently dry and chewy, except when it's rare, and unless you buy a really thick hunk of really high quality fish, it's difficult to get it rare to perfection -- if the piece is thin it cooks to an unpleasant looking grayish color.

But tuna burgers? I love them. Because grinding or chopping the flesh makes it tender, even when the burger is well-done. And the color is just fine for burgers, especially because the outside surfaces crisp to a gorgeous golden brown whether you grill, broil or saute them.

I don't mix in too many seasonings when making tuna burgers. Instead, I add flavor with a tangy condiment to serve with the tuna burger on the roll. Recently I mixed the fish with chopped fresh chives -- the only herb I have been successful in growing in my garden this year -- and served the burgers with mayonnaise mixed with chopped kalamata olives and a hint of lemon peel.

This recipe is extremely easy, also quick to cook. Just perfect for casual, summertime eating, meatless/dairy meals and any old time.

 

Tuna Burgers with Olive Mayo

 

  • 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel
  • 20 ounces fresh tuna
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 rolls
  • lettuce, spinach or arugula leaves
  • 4 slices tomato

 

Preheat an outdoor grill or oven broiler (or use a sauté pan). Mix the mayonnaise, olives and lemon peel together and set aside in the refrigerator.

Chop the tuna into very fine pieces (or pulse in a food processor). Place the fish in a mixing bowl. Add the chives and garlic and some salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Shape the mixture into 4 patties. Brush the remaining olive oil over the surface of each patty. Grill or broil the burgers for 2-4 minutes per side or until lightly browned and crispy on both sides and cooked to the degree of doneness preferred. OR, pour the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan and fry the burgers for 2-4 minutes per side over medium-high heat.

Spread equal amounts of the mayonnaise mixture on the bottom side of each roll. Place a lettuce leaf on top, then top with a slice of tomato. Place the burger on top of the tomato. Cover with the top of the roll.

Makes 4

 

 

Gorgeous Hunk of Salmon, Roasted with Orange and Dill

We eat so much salmon at our house that one of these days Ed and I might actually turn into some. That's probably because in years past, when our kids were still living at home, we couldn't have any fish in the house. One of our daughters is allergic.

So we're making up for it now (I decontaminate the refrigerator after a fish dinner to get rid of any leftover fish oils or vapors). And salmon is a favorite. It's tasty, attractive and also healthy. Can you beat that?

We like it all sorts of ways, but I try to vary the seasonings, just to keep it from being too boring (same goes for chicken).

We had this dish recently: roasted salmon with a glaze that's basically orange marmalade and mustard. It is incredibly easy to prepare -- takes less than 5 minutes. I served it to company. Everyone declared it a keeper.

 

Roasted Salmon with Orange MARMALADE, MUSTARD and Dill

 

  • 24-30 ounces fresh salmon
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the salmon in a baking dish. Mix the marmalade, dill, garlic, lime juice and mustard together in a small bowl and spread this mixture evenly on top of the fish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, or until the fish is cooked to desired doneness and the top is crispy-browned. 

Makes 4 servings

 

Variations on a Recipe Theme

Lois Held, a colleague of mine in the food business, posted a recipe for Sour Cream Plum Cake on Facebook the other day. The photo of the cake looked so fabulous that I couldn't wait to try it.

So I did. Except I didn't have all the ingredients, so I varied it a little and it came out just fine -- as fabulous to eat as her photo looked. My cake may not be as gorgeous as hers because as I took it out of the oven to cool on the rack, I dropped it -- fortunately I was able to catch it, although a hunk or two came off. I patched it together for the photo.

Thanks here to Burn jel for that marvelous stuff that's now on the burns on my hands.

The cake has a light, soft and fluffy texture. Not overly sweet taste. Perfect for a post-dairy or fish dinner.

And hey! It's National Cherry Day, so there's an extra reason to bake this one.

 

SOUR CREAM CHERRY CAKE

  • 1-1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided (1/2 and 1/4)
  • 2 Tablespoons orange flavored brandy
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 2 cups halved, fresh cherries
  • Powdered sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch spring form pan. Combine the sifted cake flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Beat the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium for about 2 minutes, or until softened and fluffy. Add the sour cream and beat for a minute or until thoroughly blended in. Transfer the cream cheese mixture to a regular mixing bowl. Wash the mixer bowl, add the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar and beat at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until thick and pale. Add the cream cheese mixture, brandy and orange peel and beat at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until blended. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk attachment, starting at medium speed, then gradually increasing to high speed for 1-2 minutes or until foamy. Add remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold the flour mixture into the cream cheese/egg mixture. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Pour the batter into the prepared spring form pan. Scatter the cherries on top of batter.

Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a cake rack for 5 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan. Just before serving, sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8-10 servings

NOTE: can add grated lemon rind if desired. Or use vanilla extract. Or both.

Meatless

We're big meat eaters here. During the summer, when the grill is open for business on our patio, we especially like beef ribs and veal chops, chicken and salmon.

But sometimes veg-only is on the menu. Maybe it's a meatless Monday -- or Tuesday, Wednesday -- whatever.

Or a fast during the Nine Days.

Or we are too tired to have a big, heavy meat meal.

Or it's just plain too hot to eat a heavy protein meal.

At those times we like a light, vegetarian, filling salad.

Like this one:

Tomato and Pasta Salad with Egg, Avocado and Blue Cheese

  • 1 cup elbow macaroni or other small shape pasta
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 avocado, peeled and cut into dice
  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 3–4 tablespoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and place in a large bowl. Set aside. While the pasta is cooking, heat a half tablespoon of the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Beat the eggs together and pour them into the pan. Cook for about one minute, stirring slightly, turn the egg over and cook for 30-60 seconds or until the eggs are cooked through. Place on a cutting board and chop into pieces. Add to the pasta. Add the tomatoes, avocado, cheese, red onion and dill and toss ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining olive oil, 3 tablespoons vinegar and the mustard. Pour the dressing over the salad. Toss and let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. Taste for seasoning and add more vinegar if desired. Season to taste with pepper.

Makes 4 servings.

 

Do Kids Enjoy Cooking?

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I never met a child who didn't enjoy cooking. Of course, I realize my universe is very, very small, but still ... over the years I have seen kids interested in food and be curious about such things as:

How big chunks get chopped into little pieces.

What happens to eggs when they're boiled.

What vanilla extract and whole cloves smell like.

What okra tastes like.

Why some people fry "grilled cheese" and some people cook it in a toaster oven.

How sushi/sashimi feels in your mouth.

Big questions. All of them. And if you encourage their curiosity, children learn much more than about the food. They learn that you will feed the hunger in their brain as well as in their stomach.

That's a good thing.

I think maybe kids begin the want-to-cook process when they are really young and they get to lick the bowl or taste a hunk of whatever it is you are cooking. Usually something sweet like cake batter or cookie dough. 

Two of my grand daughters once shared a batter bowl and spatula, as you can see in the first photo. YES I KNOW ALLOWING THEM TO LICK THE SAME SPATULA isn't the most sanitary thing. But that picture, one of my favorites of all time, reminds me of the great time we had that day. And that they continued to enjoy cooking, with me and their parents.

They are older now and recently graduated to knife skills. In the second photo they are chopping scallions. Another wonderful day. They are fully into the whole cooking thing and I know that these early adventures will make them unafraid of cooking for the rest of their lives.

The recipe for the cake they made on the sharing-spatula day is here

The scallions? Used for the salad recipe that follows.

If you have a child or niece or nephew or neighbor or know some other kid, encourage him/her to cook. And better yet, do it with them and have some fun.

 

Chopped Salad with Chickpeas and Avocado

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, deseeded, and chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into dice
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chick peas, rinsed and drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
  • 1/2 cup tangy black olives, pitted and halved
  • 2-3 hard cooked eggs, chopped
  • 3–4 scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • 4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice or red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, avocado, chick peas, olives, eggs, scallions, parsley and dill in a bowl and toss ingredients gently. Just before serving, mix together the olive oil and lemon juice and pour over the salad. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Makes 4 servings.

 

Miso Glazed Fish, a Different Way

Are you afraid to tinker with recipes? 

Here's the deal folks. Very few recipes need to be exact. For the most part, if you stay within reasonable boundaries (e.g. -- you wouldn't mix ketchup into your chocolate ice cream mix) most of them are fairly flexible. 

So, if you don't have an ingredient it's okay if you use another. This is how new recipes are created. A change here and there and what do you know! Something tasty to eat.

That's why I wasn't concerned the other day when I was planning to make Miso-glazed black cod but there was no black cod to be found in any store near me. I could have used salmon, a familiar substitute for miso-glazing, but I wasn't in the mood. On the other hand, I did see some fresh, good looking codfish for sale, so I chose that. 

When I got home and began preparing the glaze I couldn't find the Sake. And I wasn't about to go out again and buy another bottle.

So I used vodka instead.

And I decided to use honey instead of sugar because I knew that for flavor, one sweetener would do as well as another one and a fish glaze isn't like a cake where the liquid of the honey vs. the granules of cane sugar would affect the outcome.

And I also added a small amount of hot chili oil because sweet-ish dishes like this one seem more balanced if you give them the tiniest bit of heat.

One other thing -- many recipes for miso-glazed fish tell you to discard the excess marinade before you cook the fish. I didn't. So there was extra "gravy" in the broiling pan. Nice with rice. 

Okay, several major changes.

It was lusciously wonderful. Every flake and morsel was gone, gone, gone, and I had cooked 2 pounds worth instead of the usual 24 ounces. 

Here's the recipe. Feel free to tinker with it.

Sweet and Hot Miso Glazed Fish

  • 1/4 cup Mirin
  • 2 tablespoons vodka (or use Sake)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup white Miso paste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot chili oil
  • 4 6-8 ounce black cod, Arctic char, salmon or cod filets
  • 3 scallions, chopped, optional

Place the Mirin, vodka, honey, Miso, sesame seed oil and hot chili oil in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring continuously, for about one minute, stirring with a whisk, or until the ingredients are thoroughly blended and the Miso is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Place the fish in a shallow pan and pour the marinade over them. Turn the filets to coat all sides. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2-24 hours. Preheat the oven broiler about 6 inches from the heat. Place the fish in a broiling pan and broil for 3 minutes, turn the filets and broil for another 3-4 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with chopped scallions if desired.

Makes 4 servings

 

 

 

Sticky Curry Wings

What's your favorite part of the chicken?

For me it's always been the wings. I was never one of those kids who liked holding a drumstick and eating off that big bone. First of all it seemed like the drumstick had too much meat on it for a little kid to handle.

Second, my mother always told me that wing meat is the softest and sweetest and therefore the best.

So that was that.

She was right. 

I love chicken wings. Any kind. Baked, fried, grilled. 

Here's a new favorite: curry seasoned and honey-sticky. You can bake these. Or grill them for a 4th of July feast.

 

Honey-Curry Sticky Wings

  • 24-30 chicken wings
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and dry the wings and place them on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet. In a small saucepan, combine the honey, Dijon mustard, olive oil, curry powder, garlic powder and salt to taste. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cook for one minute, stirring to blend the ingredients thoroughly and remove from the heat. Brush the tops of the wings with some of the honey mixture. Bake the wings for 10 minutes. Turn the wings over, brush with more of the honey mixture and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the wings over again, brush with the remaining honey mixture and bake for 5-10 minutes or until the wings are golden brown and crispy looking. OR: grill the wings, turning them occasionally and brushing with the honey mixture. 

Makes 4 servings

 

 

 

 

Veggie Here, Veggie There

When my family comes I buy about 83 pounds of fruits and vegetables. And it is never enough! After a couple of days with 6 grownups and 5 kids eating three meals/day plus snacks, I have to run out again and get a few packages of blueberries or a bunch of spinach and stuff.

But last visit I got it right! Not only did I buy enough, there were a couple of leftover items.

Not enough of one particular thing to do much with -- a couple of yellow squash, two portobello caps, a few grape tomatoes. Like that.

I put them all together in a saute pan with a little olive oil and some fresh basil and we polished it off as a side dish for dinner. The recipe will serve 4, but Ed and I finished most of it.

Mixed Vegetable Saute

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 small yellow squash, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 portobello mushroom caps, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the jalapeno pepper, scallions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes, or until softened. Add the squash and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Add the tomatoes, basil and salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened slightly.

Makes 4 servings

Sour Cream or Applesauce?

This is the question. Sour cream or applesauce? But usually when we ask that question it's in December and we're talking about what you want on top of your potato latkes.

But this past weekend, in warm and sticky June, when the whole family came and the kids asked for matzo brei for breakfast it was the same thing.

What to put on top.

There are the sour cream lovers. And those who believe applesauce is right.

And this weekend we got a new request: maple syrup.

Maple syrup on matzo brei? 

What would my grandma think?

 

Matzo Brei

 

4 squares of matzo

hot water

3 large eggs

salt to taste

1 tablespoon butter

sour cream, applesauce or maple syrup(!)

 

Crumble the matzot into a bowl. Pour hot water over the pieces and let them soak for 4-5 minutes or until very soft. Squeeze as much of the water out of the pieces as possible. Add the eggs and salt to taste and stir until the mixture is evenly blended. Heat the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the matzo mixture. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until browned on the bottom. Turn the pancake over (it's easier to cut the pancake into quarters first and turn each quarter separately). Cook for another 3-5 minutes or until crispy. Serve with sour cream, applesauce or maple syrup.

Makes 4 servings