Roasted Plum Tomatoes


When it's really really cold outside, (like it is where I live) I think of soup and make a pot or two

But I also dream about summer and sunshine and the garden fresh tomatoes you can only get at the end of August.

Winter tomatoes are not good. Not for salad anyway. They're typically too hard and the flesh is usually too dry.

But a good tomato taste does come out when you cook them, especially if you use Roma (plum) tomatoes. Use them for sauce for spaghetti or in ShakshukaBraise them with string beans as a side dish.

Roasted tomatoes are also flavorful, even if you use winter tomatoes. This dish couldn't be simpler. It goes with any meat protein and also as part of a meatless Monday meal. 


  • 4 large plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs
  • 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • cayenne pepper, optional

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and place them cut side up in an ovenproof pan. Mix the olive oil and Dijon mustard and brush this evenly over the tops of the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the herbs and breadcrumbs. Dust lightly with a pinch of cayenne pepper for more flavor. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are crispy.

Makes 4 servings

Love Livornese

One of our favorite restaurants dishes is some-kind-of-fish Livornese style. Ed and I both like the tangy components -- olives and capers -- and how they give so much extra flavor to the more typical tomatoes and garlic red-sauce. 

Somehow I never made Livornese sauce at home, until recently, when I saw a great looking hunk of halibut in the market and decided to dig right in and try it out.

It was absolutely perfect. I used Aleppo pepper, because I like the hint of smokiness that it has, but crushed red pepper would be equally good.


Roasted Halibut Livornese

  • 1-1/2 pounds halibut, about 1-1/2-inches thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cut up black imported olives
  • 2-3 teaspoons capers
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or crushed red pepper)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the fish in a lightly oiled baking dish. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the olives, capers, white wine and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes or until soft. Spoon the sauce over the fish. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness of the fish, or until cooked through.

Makes 4 servings

Veal Shoulder Roast with Shiitake Mushrooms, Rosemary and Thyme


As usual we bought too much smoked fish for our New Year's weekend. So, thanks to bagels, we've been slowly using up the salmon, whitefish, sablefish and herrings every day since. Thank goodness also that my husband doesn't complain about leftovers.

Besides, it was delicious and we don't often have smoked fish in the house.

But it's time to move on.

Need meat.

This veal shoulder roast is easy, nourishing and flavorful. A good cold weather dish too. And perfect for Shabbat.

It's nice with cooked egg noodles and roasted carrots.



  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 veal shoulder, about 3 pounds
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (about 1/2 teaspoon dried, crushed)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup white wine


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Soak the dried mushrooms, rinse them and cut them into shreds. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heatproof, ovenproof casserole over medium-high heat. Brown the meat on both sides (about 3-4 minutes per side). Remove the meat to a dish and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until lightly golden. Return the meat to the pan. Season with the rosemary, thyme and pepper. Pour in the wine. Cover the pan and place in the oven. Bake for about 1-1/2 hours or until tender.


Makes 4 servings

Smoked Salmon and Avocado Toasts

At the end of each year food professionals discuss fads and popular trends in the culinary world and often make predictions about what's to come.

I don't know what's coming but I can say that as far as I know, one food trend this year was: avocado toast. Which is basically guacamole sandwich. Which is basically mashed avocado with some lime or lemon juice and anything else you might want in your guacamole, like tomatoes or chili pepper and so on.

I also know this: there's a good reason that avocado toasts became a thing. They're scrumptious. They're easy to prepare. They are incredibly versatile, as in you can use them as a base for a whole host of hors d'oeuvre, which might come in handy for New Year's get togethers.

For example: these avocado toasts on melba rounds topped with chopped salmon and some seasonings. 

Honestly, it couldn't get much easier than this and they do look pretty don't they?

They're on my menu for my New Year pre-dinner cocktail hour.

And btw, I buy salmon "scraps" that (fortunately) my local supermarket sells -- the leftover but still good pieces of salmon that the lox cutter cuts away to get those perfect slices. Because you chop this salmon up, so why not buy the cheap stuff?



  • 24 toast rounds (or packaged Melba rounds)
  • 2 small avocados, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
  • 2-3 tablespoons lime juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 pound smoked salmon pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • pinch or two of cayenne pepper

If using bread, cut out small circles with a cookie cutter, or use packaged Melba rounds. In a bowl, mash the avocados. Add one tablespoon olive oil, the scallion, 2 tablespoons lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and add more lime juice if desired. Spread the avocado mixture evenly over the bread. Chop the smoked salmon, add the remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil, the chives and some cayenne pepper and mix ingredients thoroughly. Spread equal amounts of the salmon mixture on top of the avocado mixture.

Makes 24


Cream Puff Swans on the Lake


I love that my grandchildren love to cook and absolutely love that they like a challenge. My eldest makes perfectly shaped butter cookies; the next eldest recently cooked a vegetarian rice and beans dinner for her siblings. One of them once helped me bake a flourless chocolate roll for Passover.

Recently, my 9-year old grand daughter said she was bored and wanted to cook something really delicious, very pretty and also "hard." 

Be still my heart!

What better choice than cream puffs made into the shape of swans?!

I have taught baking classes on this particular recipe and have seen fully committed grown ups nervous about getting it right.

But off we went into the kitchen.

There are two really difficult challenges to making swan shape cream puffs. The first thing is mixing the eggs into the butter-flour dough, which is very stiff and therefore not easy to incorporate the liquidy eggs. Fortunately, this kid is athletic, with the kind of strong arms that come with spending hours doing chin-ups and stuff at the playground.

No problem! Stiff dough/eggs, perfectly mixed and blended. Check!

The second hard part is piping out small slivers of dough for the necks. There were lots of not-so-good ones (we just ate these as snacks after they were baked) but she did manage to create enough for us to use in the final product.

After that it was easy: we made some vanilla pudding but I told her that some other time you could also fill the swan bodies with whipped cream, sorbet or ice cream.

She said it would be really nice for the swans to have something to swim on.

Remember that old piano piece, Swans on the Lake? The music that so many of us learned as children taking our first year or so of piano lessons?

Well of course, there had to be a lake. We melted some chocolate. So easy. So lovely to look at when we put the swans down on each serving plate.

Wouldn't this be a beautiful finale to a lovely dinner for New Year's or someone's birthday or other special occasion?



  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 4 large eggs
  • whipped cream, ice cream, sorbet or vanilla pudding
  • melted chocolate or chocolate sauce


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, salt and sugar together in a bowl and set aside. Heat the water and butter in a medium size saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. When the water comes to a boil, raise the heat and add the flour mixture, all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Spoon 12-18 mounds of the dough onto one of the baking sheets, shaping them into ovals with your fingers, and leaving some space between each oval for the dough to spread. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 12-18 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and let cool. 

To make the necks, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spoon some of the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a narrow-holed tip. Pipe the dough into "S" shapes about 2-inches long onto the second baking sheet. Bake the necks for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. 

To assemble: Split the swan puffs in half lengthwise using a serrated knife. Cut the top portion in half lengthwise to use as wings. Spoon some whipped cream, ice cream, sorbet or pudding into the swan bottoms. Arrange the split top wings on top of the filling. Spoon some melted chocolate or chocolate sauce onto dessert plates. Place the filled swan bottoms on top of the chocolate. Insert the necks into the front. If desired, use a toothpick to dip into some meted chocolate and make a dot as an eye on the top of the neck.

Makes 12-18


Latkes of a Different Kind

Hanukkah wouldn't be right without latkes. And, while classic potato latkes are my favorite and I once made 200 of them for my sister-in-law and brother's annual holiday party, I also like to cook up different varieties.

In addition to fried foods, dairy is also an iconic food for Hanukkah.

So -- dairy latke!

This one is made with cornmeal and cheddar cheese. Good for breakfast, lunch or as a side dish at a vegetarian meal. Perfect accompaniment to sunnyside eggs, for dipping into runny yolks.

Also, versatile. Add chives, scallions, corn kernels, chili peppers. Whatever.

Also -- make them ahead and rewarm. 


Cornmeal-Cheddar Latkes

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/3 cups milk, approximately
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 ounces shredded cheddar cheese 
  • butter for frying
  • optional: 1 small chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper; 1 cup corn kernels; 2 tablespoon chopped chives

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. In a bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, eggs and cooled melted butter. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture, stirring gently. Fold in the cheese. If the mixture seems too thick, stir in more milk.

Heat about 1 tablespoon butter in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, drop 1/4 cup of the batter per pancake and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown.

Makes about 24


The Silver Platter Simple Elegance Cookbook

The older I get, the easier my recipes become. Years ago I was willing to trek through a 3-pager with multiple steps. I made dishes such as French Onion Soup only after preparing my own stock. I was willing to put together a long-winded recipe for Paris-Brest.

No longer. I don't have the time, energy or patience -- and will leave those wonderful, worthy chores to younger folks. These days I create recipes that are simple, flavorful and interesting, but without taking shortcuts that would detract from the food.

I also appreciate when other people share the same ideals, which is why I love "The Silver Platter Simple Elegance," a new cookbook from the kitchen of Daniella Silver, with tips and notes from Norene Gilletz, renowned food blogger, cookbook author and matriarch of kosher cooking.

This is not merely a book where you can pick up a good recipe or two. Every recipe is approachable, using ingredients that even novice cooks will find familiar, with selections that are perfect for everyday cooking and many that are suitable for entertaining: Zucchini Dill Soup and Flaked Quinoa Schnitzel and Mustard-and-Garlic Roasted Potatoes and Granola Ice Cream Cake are just a few, glorious but easy finds that will make your family happy at dinnertime.

There's more: at the bottom of each recipe are tips from the master, Norene Gilletz, on such topics as what equipment is best to use, what can be done ahead, what substitutions are appropriate, how to make an everyday dish more company-friendly, and so on. 

The photos are gorgeous too.

The first recipe that caught my eye is the one for Candied Cauliflower. Can you imagine such a thing?! With but 5 ingredients (not including salt and pepper), this sounded too fabulous to miss, and it was every bit as delicious as it looks on the page. (And includes tips on buying cauliflower and nut-seed substitutions.)

Next, the Mango Wild Rice, because I love any dish with mango in it. This recipe is fairly simple, colorful, flavorful and with the bonus that you can cook it ahead. One of Norene's tips is to substitute dried apricots for the dried mango, but I used fresh mango instead. The recipe is versatile too!

Taste for yourself: Here are the two recipes I found particularly worthy. The recipes and photos are reproduced from The Silver Platter Simple Elegance by Daniella Silver with Norene Gilletz, with permission from the copyright holders. ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications, LTD.

Another thought -- this book make a delicious Hanukkah gift for someone who likes to cook.



pareve, Passover, gluten-free, do not freeze, yields 6 servings


Candied cauliflower, drizzled with honey and thyme and topped with sliced almonds, is a beautiful dish that will keep your guests coming back for more. I suggest you double the recipe!



  • 1 large cauliflower, trimmed

  • kosher salt

  • freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  • 3 Tbsp honey

  • ½ cup sliced almonds

  • thyme sprigs, for garnish




1.  Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Cut cauliflower into 2-inch florets. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. 

3.  Sprinkle florets with salt, pepper, and thyme. Drizzle with oil and honey. Top with sliced almonds. Rub all over to coat evenly. (Can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated.)

 4.  Bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes, or until cauliflower is golden brown and tender. Serve immediately.


Norene’s Notes:


Variation: Use pecan pieces or coarsely chopped cashews instead of almonds. If you have a nut allergy, substitute pumpkin seeds.


Hot Stuff: Don’t worry about the almonds burning. The steam created during cooking prevents that from happening. If your oven is on the hot side, you may prefer to stir in the almonds during the last 15 minutes of baking.




pareve, gluten-free, freezes well, yields 8 servings


My three girls are in love with mango, and this wild rice dish has become their latest obsession. The nutty flavor of wild rice is a perfect match for sweet mango and red onion. The dried mango plumps up a bit when marinated in the dressing, adding some softness to the texture of this dish.



  • 4 cups water
  • 1½ cups wild rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ medium red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 12 dried mango slices, thinly sliced into strips
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup orange or mango juice
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper




1.  Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add rice and salt; cover. Reduce heat; simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the grains split and burst. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Drain, if necessary. Transfer to a large bowl; let cool.

2.  Add onion, dried mangoes, and cranberries. Stir in oil, orange juice, honey, parsley, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Norene’s Notes:


Variation: Since wild rice is fairly expensive, you can use ¾ cup wild rice and ¾ cup whole grain brown rice — their cooking time is about the same.

No dried mango? Substitute dried apricots.

Wild rice is gluten-free, fiber-packed, and high in protein and B vitamins. Elegance in health!

An easy way to cut dried mango is to use kitchen scissors.  




Saigon Chicken Pho

Last March Ed and I travelled to Vietnam and Cambodia. We had wanted to go to both countries for years, Angkor Wat (in Cambodia), the big draw of course. But when we were young adults it wasn't possible because of the Vietnam War, which, btw, the Vietnamese call The American War.

And then way led upon way, we took other roads more or less travelled until finally this trip got on our radar and we grabbed the opportunity.

It was a revelation in many ways. Because of the politics. Because these days Vietnam is a friend and trading partner. Because Vietnam is thriving, entrepreneurial and modern whereas the only photos I had in my head were horrific ones from the 1960s (and if you have any desire to see those they are on full display in Saigon's War Remnants Museum). 

I also didn't realize how totally different Vietnam and Cambodia are. In every way: culture, ethnicity, religion, language, food, the look of the people.

I vowed to try cooking some of the food we sampled in both countries. 

So far, so good. Especially the pho, one of Vietnam's iconic dishes.

Chicken Pho -- basically chicken noodle soup -- is what your bubbe would make if she were Vietnamese. It's nourishing, flavorful, rib-sticking, comforting, warmth-giving. Perfect now that the cold weather is upon us, at least here in Connecticut. 

Really. Try this pho. I can't stop wanting some.

Fyi, the second photo is a scene from the breathtakingly beautiful Ha Long Bay in what used to be called North Vietnam. The third photo is the scene in Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) where the helicopters took off on that fateful day in 1975 when the Americans left.



  • 3-1/2 to 4 pound chicken
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • One 2 1/2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 3 1-inch thick slices fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 8 ounces dried rice noodles
  • 3-4 chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • garnish to taste with thinly sliced jalapeno peppers, bean sprouts, basil leaves, mint leaves, lime wedges. Sriracha (in the United States)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken in a soup pot and cover with water. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 4-5 minutes, removing the debris that rises to the top. While the chicken in cooking, place the star anise, cloves, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick and peppercorns in a single layer in a small dish. Roast the spices for 3-4 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the roasted spices to the soup pot. Add the onion, ginger and brown sugar. Simmer the soup for about 2 hours, until the chicken is very soft. Strain the soup. Remove the chicken to a carving board and, when cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin and bones. Cut the breast and thigh meat into julienne shreds. (Use the rest of the chicken for other purposes or add more to the soup.)

Keep the soup stock hot over low heat. Cook the rice noodles according to package directions.

To serve, place some rice noodles in serving bowls. Pour the stock over the noodles. Scatter scallions and cilantro into each serving bowl. Garnish as desired with jalapeno pepper slices, bean sprouts, basil leaves, mint leaves and lime wedges.

Note: in restaurants in the United States it is customary to serve Pho with Sriracha sauce on the side, to splash into the soup. Not the case in Vietnam, where fresh chili peppers do the job of spicing the soup.

Makes 8 servings

Winter Squash and Cranberry Muffins Perfect for Sleepovers

It's December already and I am still sorting through summer clothes and several newspaper articles from last March and April that I was going to read when I had more time.

Why am I always so far behind?

I should be posting about Hanukkah. But somehow I am more focused on New Year's weekend. Probably because I made some unbelievably delicious winter squash muffins recently.

That really isn't a non sequitur. I thought of these muffins because every year we celebrate the coming new year with my brother and sister-in-law and my cousins. The cousins sleep over for a few days. We watch a lot of movies. Watch a lot of British mystery tv (Morse, Endeavor, Foyle's War, etc.). We sit around and enjoy each other's company.

We used to drink a lot of wine but have slowed down over the years.

We used to eat much more too.

(You get older, you can't keep going quite the same way, the same amount, the same speed.)

Still, there are meals to consider.

Breakfasts are usually smoked fish, bagels and stuff like that. 

But every once in a while I like to break up the monotony and have at least one different something for breakfast.

This year: those squash muffins I mentioned. I made a few batches recently and I can honestly say that they are the best muffins I ever ate. I've given some out as samples to my usual "tasters." Most of them also said they were the best muffins they ever ate. 

You'll see.


  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup mashed cooked squash (or canned squash or pumpkin)
  • 3/4 cup fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin tins. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger and whisk the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Set aside. Beat the sugar and vegetable oil in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium for a minute or so or until well combined. Add the eggs and beat them in. Add the orange juice and squash and blend them in thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients to the squash mixture and stir gently until just blended. Fold in the cranberries. Pour the mixture into the prepared tins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins


Child’s Play: How a Young Cook Makes a Perfect Meal for Meatless Monday

And so, another generation of passionate, creative cooks.

Recently I spent some memorable time with one of my grand daughters. She cooked almost an entire dinner for herself and siblings as I watched. I encouraged her to use her judgment about flavors and amounts. She was thoughtful, asked questions and was unafraid to follow her senses and taste buds rather than someone else's recipe.

At each step of the way she got off the stool she needed to reach the pan so she could write down what she did.

In the end: Rice and Beans with Roasted Brussels Sprouts for 4.

First, I must say, she knew to wash her hands before cooking. She also used disposable gloves when she tossed the Brussels sprouts in olive oil.

I watched her pour olive oil into the pan and toss a bit of chopped onion in to see if it sizzled because I had told her that's when the oil was hot enough for the rest.

She added chopped onions and made a decision about how much was enough. About 1/4 cup.

I told her how to rinse the beans, and why, and watched her do it.

She added the beans and some crushed tomatoes and when she said she didn't think it was tomatoey enough I encouraged her to add more. And she did.

She wondered about spices. I suggested either chili powder or cumin and she asked "why not both?"

Indeed. I told her to add both, starting with 1/2 teaspoon each.

When she tasted she said it needed more chili powder. And added some. And salt. To her taste.

As the beans cooked, she cut the Brussels sprouts, placed them on a baking tray, tossed them with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and placed them in the oven.

The only thing I cooked was the rice. 

Everyone gobbled up this magnificent feast. The perfect meal for a meatless Monday or whenever you have yen for a scrumptious vegetarian dinner.

I left smiling. Still am.



1 cup brown rice

1-3/4 cups water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1-1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

salt to taste


Place the rice and water in a saucepan over high heat. Bring the water to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for about 35 minutes or until the grains are tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. While the rice is cooking, pour the olive oil into a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and salt. Stir to distribute the ingredients evenly. Cook for 8-10 minutes. Spoon the rice onto plates; top with some of the rice and beans. 

Makes 4 servings