Spicy & Fun

Viet Cajun Shrimp and Sausage Boil

September 10, 2020

When my mom grew up in Houston, Texas, excursions to Galveston, where my grandfather owned land, were a beach-filled regularity. Grandfather loved fishing, and my mom loved sea-food. Especially shrimp. Those days, shrimp boats were manned by a tough lot of Texans, with some Cajuns mixed in. But by the time my Mom and Dad bought Neil Armstrong’s old house in the shrimping village of Seabrook on Galveston Bay, the shrimping community had broadened to include a large group of Vietnamese immigrants. Mom—a spicy food lover, was thrilled to discover the fusion cuisine that resulted: Viet Cajun. While the marriage of these two on the plate may seem unusual, both cultures share colonial French roots, which gives them a natural affinity. Best Viet Cajun dishes take familiar Cajun fare, and then ramp it up to include Vietnamese spices and seasonings such as lemon grass, ginger and fish sauce. This shrimp and sausage boil is a classic example. Continue Reading…

Classic Casseroles

Spiced Shepherd’s Pie

August 26, 2020

One of my boys loves lamb and this one-dish classic casserole, layering sautéed garden vegetables and gratineed whipped potatoes over the meat, is the perfect comfort dish to showcase ground lamb. We’ve spiced it with cumin, mint, Kashmiri chili powder, smoked paprika, coriander and cinnamon. (Yum!)  The dish works well with ground beef, too.

Versions of shepherd’s pie featuring beef or mutton topped with a potato crust started appearing under the name “cottage pie” in 1791 Britain. By 1854, it became more widely known as shepherd’s pie. The French were making similar “pies” in 1900 under the moniker hachis (for finely chopped) Parmentier (for Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a big promoter of potatoes in France through the 18th century.)

But whatever you choose to call it—this shepherd’s pie is truly delicious! To make the dish’s three layers, you will simmer potatoes and then whip them for the top layer, brown the ground meat (lamb or beef) with garlic, onion and the medley of spices for the bottom layer, and sauté carrot, more onion, celery and tomato paste for the middle layer. I use a pastry bag to pipe the whipped potato over the layered meat and veggies. Then, sprinkled with a little parmesan and paprika, and popped in the oven for a few minutes to brown the crust, the dish is ready to serve.

A little bonus tip: If you don’t have a can of tomato paste in the house, you can make your own tomato paste using sun-dried tomatoes! Just pulse the tomatoes in a food processor with a few tablespoons of water to create a nice paste. I actually prefer the flavor of this “homemade” version over canned. Continue Reading…

Baked Treats

Honey Cinnamon Graham Crackers

August 16, 2020

For all of you firepit fans and s’mores lovers out there, here’s my absolute favorite homemade graham cracker recipe. It makes an over-the-top s’more, and, tastes great on it’s own. I’m mixing up a batch of these right now!

In case you were wondering….Graham crackers are named for Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham, who introduced the  coarsely-ground, unsifted wheat flour named for him that he believed to be an antidote to the poor health suffered by people who ate too much white bread.  A vegetarian and big believer in high-fiber diets, Graham was also a rather severe guy who recommended “hard mattresses, open bedroom windows, chastity, cold showers & loose clothing” (!) Sooo…not exactly a partier.

Graham would have approved of The Mill at Janie’s Farm flours. Like Graham flour, Janie’s Turkey Red flour is 100% whole grain, milled from organically grown hard red winter wheat, stone ground and unsifted (sometimes called “unbolted) making it perfect for use in this recipe for honey cinnamon graham crackers. You can buy graham flour direct from Janie’s. (Bob’s Red Mill Graham Flour can be substituted if you can’t get Janie’s flour.) Continue Reading…

Poultry Possibilities

Grandma’s Sunday Supper (Chicken Fricassee with Vegetables & Light Slaw)

August 8, 2020

When I grew up in nineteen-seventies Chicago, Sundays were family days. We’d drive to Grandma’s little brick bungalow on the South side and aunts, uncles, and cousins would gather. While the grownups talked, we kids would run to the corner park to climb on and jump off anything we could find. Bored of that, we’d play blind-mans-buff, or, some sort of ball game in the alley until we lost the ball.  Continue Reading…

Summer Freeze

Mango Sorbet with Fresh Lime Juice

August 6, 2020

When the boys came home with a box of very ripe mangoes, they had to become sorbet! This juicy version is incredibly smooth and refreshing. And garnished with little skewers of fresh mango you’ve sprinkled with fresh lime, chili and salt, it takes on a party vibe—like spicing the rim of your margarita glass! Continue Reading…

Cake Walk

Fresh Fig Layer Cake with Caramel Icing

July 13, 2020

My Mom grew up eating fresh figs from a large, spreading fig tree that grew by her house in Southern Texas. She spoke wistfully of that tree, the cool of its shade, the scent and flavor of its fruit, and passed that fondness right down to me. I love fresh figs, the green ones, and the black ones, eaten right out of hand, or, sliced and served with prosciutto. But when I have a lot of figs, I make them into preserves, so good on toast, or, baked into this very moist cake. I’ve shared the recipe for the preserves (which make the perfect filling for my Not-Newton homemade fig bars) as well as a lovely single-layer version of the fig cake. But I also make it into this sweetie of a two-layer cake, glazed with caramel icing. Continue Reading…

American Classics

Apple Pie

July 10, 2020

Good recipes are like friends, they come, they go. In fashion and out. Some, you may not see for a long while, so when reconnected, it’s with a Proustian flood of happy. Some– in your face all the time, you may take for granted. Others, you wish, so much, you could see more of.  Thinking of this, I realized that in all the years I’ve written about vintage recipes, I’ve never done a post about apple pie. Iconic. American. Just apple. Pie.  It seemed about time. 

I do have a favorite. I’ve tweaked it over the years to make my own. It’s originally credited to a community cookbook writer’s grandmother I don’t know to name, but sure would like to thank. (Thank youuuu!) It’s pure, homely and perfect.  Continue Reading…

Summery Salads

Summery French Lentil Salad

June 30, 2020

Greens are great, but for savory satisfaction in a summer salad, I love this cool and crunchy lentil and veggie toss. Made with tiny French green lentils, seasoned with spice and simmered to soak up white wine and broth until tender, the salad is finished with the bright crunch of carrot and celery, sprinkled with parsley plucked from the garden, and topped with pretty pink quick pickled red onion. Dashes of Aleppo pepper and smoked paprika go well with the lentils’ natural pepperiness and a dollop of whole-milk plain yogurt adds cool contrast. I often dish this up on its own, with fresh baked bread and some French cheese alongside. But it’s also nice served in butter-lettuce cups. Oh—and the pickled onions are so easy to make! They’ll keep well in the fridge for a full month. You’ll love them on your tacos, too. Continue Reading…

Country Cornbread

Mile-High Country Cornbread

June 4, 2020

Just had the pleasure of writing about Chicago chef’s favorite food memories, represented in this photo of a golden hour picnic I made with the recipes from the chefs .(I’ll post more here in coming weeks!)  Chef Lamar Moore’s recipe for a fabulously tall and tender country cornbread is the first I’m sharing. Growing up on Chicago’s West side, Lamar Moore spent a lot of time with his grandparents. Afternoons, while his grandfather made a one-pot goulash of chicken neckbones, with potatoes, celery, onions, carrots, “and any herbs he could find,” Lamar says his grandmother would busy herself making cornbread to go alongside. “It was simply white cornmeal, eggs, dried-evaporated milk powder, and lard,” says Moore. “Sometimes, she’d get busy doing something else in the kitchen, and the cornbread would get burnt on the edges. When that happened, she’d crumble it into bowls, pour some buttermilk and sugar on it, and my brother and I would eat it with spoons.” Continue Reading…

Banana Bread!

Chunky Monkey Muffins (Banana Double-Chocolate Chunk)

May 1, 2020

I love bananas, their shape, color, scent & taste–and that they come wrapped in their own packaging, with a handle to boot. I even did a “Banana Crazy” story for the Tribune once-upon-a-time : ) I always look for the shapeliest bunch, wait patiently for them to ripen and buy the exotic ones when I can find them. But it’s rare that those beautiful yellow bundles all get eaten when perfectly ripe. There are always one or two left behind, their skins gone past freckled to bruisy and slack with waiting. But I NEVER throw those holdovers away and you shouldn’t either. Because they are fantastic baked into banana bread and muffins. This recipe can be used to make either! My directions are for muffins, but you can divide the batter between two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pans greased and lined with parchment, for equally tasty results. If making loaves instead of muffins: Just bake for an extra 20 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the tops of the loaves comes out dry.  Continue Reading…