Portuguese Egg Bread

April 2, 2021

With ginger, mashed potatoes and some of the water you used to boil the potatoes in the mix, this beautiful bread bakes up into nicely textured loaves with deep-orange hued crusts. I like to braid and curl the dough into rounds topped with little quail eggs for an Easter-y spring celebratory brunch. Continue Reading…


Naturally-Dyed Eggs

April 1, 2021

Well, here’s a Jacob Grimm you may not have heard : ) As a philologist studying Germanic folk customs, Grimm speculated that the custom of Easter eggs may have stemmed from springtime frolics in honor of Eostre—the Proto-Indo-European goddess of dawn.  If so, it’s just one more in a longtime legacy of eggs and the ancients. 60,0000 year old decorated ostrich eggs have been found in Africa. Rituals connecting eggs and rebirth go back 5000 years or more in Egypt, Sumeria and Mesopotamia. And historians tell us Christians in the latter culture were the first to dye eggs ritualistically, coloring them red as a reminder of  blood. Continue Reading…

St. Patrick's Day


March 13, 2021

Yes, my hair is red. And yes, that means some Irish ancestry. Namely? A great-great gran named Ira Lake who was a steamboat captain. Oh—and there are O’Sullivans in the mix too : )

But on St. Patrick Day, everybody gets their green on to celebrate, no matter their heritage. In that spirit, here’s an easy, delicious recipe for colcannon! A buttery mix of potato and cabbage with melted leeks or onion, and (if you’re a meat eater) some bacon over the top, colcannon is delicious. From the Gaelic term “cal ceannann” (white-headed cabbage) it’s been the “food of the common man” in Ireland since the 1600’s. Glad to have that in common here. So, lá fhéile Pádraig sona! (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!) Continue Reading…

Oven Barbecue

Texas Slow-Roast BBQ Brisket

March 6, 2021

Yes, you can use the oven to make a good Texas Slow-Roast BBQ brisket! It’s not quite the same as the melt-in-your mouth meats that came out of my Aunt Barbara’s backyard smoker in Jacinto City, Texas. But slow roast anything for a good long while and add a sauce with soaked and pureed ancho and chipotle peppers and you get delicious eats. To make this brisket, you’ll wrap the meat in bacon, which then becomes part of the thick and zesty sauce. If you have brisket left over, chopped fine and served with the extra sauce it makes great BBQ sandwiches. Continue Reading…

Deep Dark Rich

Stovetop Steak + Stout Stew

February 27, 2021

One of my boys loves deep dark flavors. If you want that in a good stew, steak and stout are the perfect ingredients. And when using a good grade of meat, you don’t really need the super long slow roast that you need with lesser cuts, so you can make this on the stove-top in a Dutch oven. With the pandemic still lingering, we may not be able to gather in crowded pubs right now, but this hearty stew is a pub-worthy comfort that will bring cheer to your home crew. Made with Guinness, sirloin steak, and carrot and onion to mellow the stout, it’s full of deep rich flavors. Continue Reading…

Vintage Veg

Russian Salad

February 26, 2021

I laughed when I saw it. Delightedly chortled, more like, to see that the New York Times was running a recipe story featuring that thousands-of-renditions Slavic home food: Russian Salad. I’d just confessed my love for the stuff the day before to a friend, as if whispering a guilty pleasure. And now the Times had legitimized it. Classically a mosaic of colorful and carefully diced carrot and potato, plus peas and ham, bathed in mayo, I’d long ago found making variations on the Russian Salad theme to be a “treaty” way to eat veg. I make it using everything from trimmed stalks of broccoli (steamed the tiniest bit to tender them) or with celery root, jicama, radish, kohlrabi, and maybe a little cheese, skipping any meat inclusions entirely. But the classic version is good, too.

Near my house, Russian Salad is everywhere. Just travel up the road in Skokie-Evanston to the various mom-and-pop grocers and you’ll find it ready made both plain and fancy. Layered in clear bowls with piped swirls of cream on top, the fancy versions look like frilly parfaits.

As it turns out, fancy is actually a throw-back: The salad’s genesis was quite gourmet. Food historians place its origins in Moscow where a French chef named Lucien Olivier served it starting in the 1860s at the Hermitage restaurant, mixing in everything from caviar and crawfish tails, to capers and veal tongue. Oh, and Lucien slathered his in Provencal dressing. Post Russian Revolution, the salad took on the proletariat stylings that survive today.

With a nod to Olivier, my version of the current classic dolls things up a bit with home-made mayo, sour cream, dill, and quail eggs. Plus, pickled beets that you mix in at the very end. 

My recipe also relies—as the NYTimes version does—on careful, even dicing. Trimming and cutting the ingredients to uniform size makes for good balance, mouth feel and presentation. P.S.—Don’t hold back on your own variations! Let me know what you come up with—I’d love to see. Continue Reading…


Vanilla Chia Pudding

February 16, 2021

I’m so late to the charms of chia! And not for lack of my daughter Em’s trying–she’s been raving about the nutrition-packed little seeds forever: 1 Tbsp has 6 grams of fiber + 3 grams each of protein and Omega-3s.  With all of that packed into the teeny seeds, it’s no wonder the word “chia” came from the Aztec word for “strength.” Aztecs are credited with usage of the ancient grain all the way back to  3500B.C. It was actually one of the main foods in their diet. Honestly? I waited  to try chia because I was squeamish, thinking the seeds looked so alien. But avoiding carbs and sugar, and constantly on deadline (which makes quick food prep helpful) I decided to try making this super easy chia pudding. Put it in a jar, shake it up, stick it in the fridge and in two hours, the seeds plump up into a creamy pudding. No cooking needed. Lots of comfort and nutrition provided. I should have listened to Em sooner. Note: This recipe has no sugar added. You can choose to top with fruit or, use a different healthy sweetener instead of the monkfruit sweetener, if you like.

Continue Reading…

Hot & Spicy

Cajun Crawfish Boil

February 11, 2021

Mardi Gras parades for 2021 may have been canceled, but the feasting goes on. With crawfish season on, fill a pot with bright red “mudbugs” and do this spicy boil! With plenty of andouille sausage, corn cobettes, and red potatoes, it’s a joyful mess to eat. For a more elegant preparation? Try our Crawfish Monica, featuring the crawfish tail meat in a creamy linguini preparation. Note: Save all of the shells (heads, claws & all) and when you have time, simmer them in a pot to make a nice stock you can use for a crawfish bisque or seafood stew. Continue Reading…

Cajun Creole

Crawfish Monica

February 11, 2021

Crawfish season is in full-swing, and there’s no better way to prepare those bright red “mudbugs” than in a hot boil of spices. Our recipe for the traditional crawfish boil including sausage, potatoes and corn in the mix is a joyful mess to eat. But for a more elegant preparation, you can also boil the crawfish without the corn/potatoes/sausage add-ins, picking the tail meat to make this creamy linguini dish that shares part of my name:  Crawfish Monica.  Because crawfish are little (only 2 ½ to 4-inches long) it takes between six and seven pounds of whole crawfish to yield one pound of crawfish tail meat. Note: Save all of the shells (heads, claws & all) and simmer them in a pot to make a nice stock you can use for a crawfish bisque or seafood stew. Continue Reading…

Candy Box

Chocolate-Covered Cherries

February 10, 2021

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day are a forever pairing. For me, the choco-heart tradition is dipped in memories of my Aunt Ruth. She had the loudest laugh, the thickest auburn hair, and the worst record of timeliness. But when she got to the party, her laugh came too, along with jokes she’d tell (forgetting the punchline,) and armloads of gifts. On Valentine’s Day, that would mean heart-shaped paper boxes stamped in gold, with satin bows, lace trim and little frilled paper cups full of chocolate-covered cherries. If Ruth were still around, I think she’d like these very-cherry home-made chocolates as much as I loved those frilly boxes. I’m sure you’ll like them too! Continue Reading…