Saturday, October 17, 2020


 A couple weeks ago our hot Arizona weather cooled down a bit and I decided to stoke up the smoker. And did I ever go smoking crazy! I have a new cookbook by Steven Raichlen, PROJECT SMOKE, which is filled with fabulous ideas; some his original, and others from smoking adventures around the world. Basically Raichlen believes it is possible to smoke anything. I smoked from 8:30 in the morning until 10:30 that evening. I will have to share these recipes over a couple of blog posts as it is just too much to cover in one post. So I will start with the feature attraction:


"If there's one dish that epitomizes barbecue, that every aspiring smoke master hopes to perfect, it's brisket." Steve Raichlen

I learned that there are several cuts of beef brisket, but the most commonly found in your local grocery is a small, lean, center-cut 'brisket-flat', which is what I bought. Mine weighed about 5 pounds. As Raichlen predicted most of the fat had been cut off this already lean cut of meat so at his suggestion I layered slices of thick-cut bacon over the top of the brisket as I began to smoke. 

I seasoned very simply with lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Next, with the help of my husband, got the smoker up to a perfect 225 degrees. Checking the fire and temp about every hour is necessary to keep the temp between 225 and 250 degrees. My smoker has a water pan so I kept that filled with at least 3 inches of water. 
This brisket smoked for 10 hours at which point the exterior was darkly browned and internal temp registered 175. I then removed the brisket from the smoker and wrapped it tightly in parchment paper. Raichlen recommends butcher paper, but I did not have any. This step keeps the moisture in the meat for the final smoking. Put it back in the smoker for another couple of hours. When done, internal temp of meat should now be around 200 degrees. The 'smoke masters' tell the doneness by look and touch. A properly cooked brisket should jiggle when you shake it. There was not much jiggle left in my brisket, but I proceeded with Raichlen's suggestions for making a perfect brisket. 

As you can see, evening has fallen, but not trusting my 'touch/feel' skills, I was very happy my brisket finally registered 200 degrees. 

The final step involved placing the cooked brisket, still wrapped in its paper, in a cooler for 2 more hours. This step ensures that any moisture that has released into the paper is re-absorbed into the meat.

By this point it was too late for supper, but we were anxious to try it.

I am very pleased with my first smoked beef brisket. It was a bit overdone so lost some of its juiciness, but the taste more than made up, and the fun of spending the day smoking was well worth it. The brisket was wonderful as a meal the next night with potato and veg. It also made fabulous sandwiches with BBQ sauce and I also ground some to make hash. Other items I smoked on that day included: ice cubes, which were perfect in the scotch I had at the end of my 14 hour smoking day!; flour/water to make smoked bread; eggs, and chicken thighs. The ice cubes were the best!...or maybe it was the scotch at the end of a long, but very enjoyable and satisfying day!



Friday, October 2, 2020


 I had my good friend, Dorita Pina, over for lunch on the first day of fall. This was my first "food-guest" since March when COVID19 came on strong. We were able to sit outside, but the day was still very warm so I decided to serve a cold lunch.

I had everything put together except the dressing of the salad so we had lots of time to visit.


2 Wild Coho Salmon filets
Cut 3 lemons into quarters after juicing and zesting for the vinaigrette and sauce. I also added a big squeeze of lemon juice to the poaching liquid. 
1/2 cup white wine
Lots of freshly chopped chives.
Lots of freshly chopped dill.
Water to nearly cover the salmon filets.

Place salmon on a rack in a saute pan. Drop lemon pieces around the salmon. Cover with herbs, salt/pepper, white wine and top with water to nearly cover the salmon filets. Cover the pan. Bring to a gentle boil and reduce heat immediately to a bare simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave in covered pan for 5 mins. Salmon will be done when it becomes opaque and is slightly firm to the touch. Remove cover and let cool on the rack before removing the salmon. Carefully lift out the salmon with a spatula. Peel off skin and any herbs that have stuck to the fish. Set aside, covered in the fridge with plastic wrap.


Juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon. If you don't have Meyers, any lemon is good. I just really like the sweet flavor of the Meyer lemon.*
1/4 cup mayo
Scant tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. capers
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives
Salt/Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients. Cover and place in fridge until ready to serve. Giving it an hour or more in the refrigerator helps to bring the flavors together.

*WHY ARE MEYER LEMONS SO SPECIAL? Meyer Lemons, originally from China, are considerably less acidic than the regular lemons you will find in the grocery, which are usually either Eurekas or Lisbons. Meyer Lemons definitely taste lemony, but both the juice and zest are more fragrant than what you normally get in the groceria. They are also smaller with thinner skin and less white pith under the skin than the regular lemons. You could practically eat the entire Meyer Lemon whole, but probably would not. They are perfect for a totally lemon-forward meal!


Juice 2 Meyer lemons to make 1/3 cup. Again, any lemons are good. Just make sure you have 1/3 cup juice so citrus to oil is proportionate. Add 1/2 cup of your best extra virgin olive oil. I used an oil I bought at my new favorite store in Tucson, Roma Imports. Salt and white pepper to taste. Do not under-salt. Put all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously until they come together and somewhat emulsify. Leave on counter until ready to dress your greens. Shake again just before dressing. 
Just before Dorita arrived, I dressed some beautiful, fresh arugula with the vinaigrette and made a Caprese Salad with heirloom tomatoes, fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and lots of basil from my garden. I drizzled balsamic vinegar over the top and added salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

I completed the meal by steaming asparagus and dressing in just a little, you guessed it, lemon juice and lemon zest. This also was served cold. The theme today was definitely lemon and perfect for a warm first day of fall. 

We had such a fun afternoon eating, sipping some lovely wine and enjoying each others company. I have truly missed sharing food with my friends and hope to do more of it soon!

This meal was so easy to put together. I think you will love it!




Sunday, September 20, 2020


 Last time I talked about the wonderful cured meats at Roma Imports in Tucson. Today we are going to start with a recipe for chicken using their fabulous prosciutto and provolone cheese.




4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thinly to about 1/4 inch

2 cups arugula

12 thin slices provolone

8 slices prosciutto


Olive oil for sauting


Pound the chicken breasts so they are an even 1/4 inch, or simply buy the skinny ones prepared at your grocery store. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the chicken. Spread 1/2 cup of arugula over each breast. Top with 3 slices of provolone. Roll chicken tightly the long way and wrap two slices of prosciutto around the rolled chicken breast overlapping the prosciutto so it sticks together. Prosciutto has a little stretch to it so you can pull it to cover the entire piece of chicken. No need to tie as the prosciutto holds together nicely. Place chicken seam side down in a shallow baking dish. This can be prepared in the morning. If you prepare ahead, bring to room temp before proceeding.

Place a medium skillet over high heat and heat 1 Tbsp. oil until nearly smoking. Saute one chicken breast at a time until prosciutto is nicely browned. The oil tends to splash up so watch your eyes. Add more oil if necessary as you brown all chicken breasts.

Once you have browned all 4 chicken breasts place back in shallow baking pan and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Thermometer should read 165. Slice chicken breasts in half to serve. 
I served with lightly steamed summer squash, asparagus and cauliflower rice. 

Next, I'm going to share an old classic recipe for chicken. No one seems completely sure where this dish originated; possibly London, Belgium or New York. Earliest mention I could find of it was 1914, but it gained popularity in the 40's through 1960. In New York it was often prepared tableside and flambeed as the grand finale. Supposedly it is named after the Roman Goddess Diana or Diane who was the Goddess of the Hunt, but there is also much disagreement on this. Originally it was made with venison and for many years, and often today, with steak. I am sure at New York's finest restaurants they would use steak, not chicken! A simple, luscious lemony sauce flavored with Dijon mustard, chives or scallions and a hint of brandy is what makes this dish so special.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp. salt
l/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. chopped chives or scallion tops
3 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Juice of 1/2 lemon (I used a bit more.)
2 Tbsp. brandy or cognac (I used E&J Grand Blue. Inexpensive and lovely brandy.)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chicken broth

Place chicken breast halves between sheets of plastic wrap. Pound slightly with mallet or rolling pin. You don't want them as thin as in the recipe above, but do want them to be an even thickness. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of chicken breasts. Heat 1 Tbsp. each of olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Cook chicken over high heat for 4 minutes per side. Do not overcook or they will dry out. You can always use a meat thermometer to make sure they are done. 165 is the desired temp. And remember they will continue to cook a bit more so if only at 160 degrees they are fine. Transfer to warm platter. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm while making sauce.
Reduce heat and to the pan you cooked the chicken in, add chives or green onions, lemon juice, brandy, parsley and mustard scraping up all chicken bits. Cook for a few seconds briskly whisking all ingredients. Whisk in chicken broth. Whisk in remaining butter and oil. Check seasoning. Original recipe did not call for it, but I needed to add 1/2 tsp. of salt to the sauce and a dash of white pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and serve immediately. If you have not had this dish, once you do, you will see why it became 'Classic Continental Cuisine'! 





Sunday, September 13, 2020


 I recently visited Roma Imports in Tucson with my good friend, Les Jackson.
This market, located at 627 S. Vine in Tucson, is packed with the most wonderful selection of Italian meats, cheeses, homemade pastas, pizzas, sauces, olive oils, deli products, homemade bread, and much, much more! I felt transported directly to the heart of Tuscany.  Les and I spent 2 hours going over each and every item. We didn't want to miss a thing. And when we finally finished our shopping we bought take-out to go and had a fabulous Italian lunch. Because of COVID they are no longer serving meals in-store, but Candra, our ever-helpful sales lady said they hope to again soon.

The meat counter at Roma's! And here is Candra with carefully wrapped Proscuitto. She was very knowledgeable of their meats and generous by offering samples of the various salumi's and other meats.
I bought several different types of salumi, proscuitto from Parma and one of my all-time favorites--Mortadella. It also happens to be my friend Steve Vis's favorite, too so I picked some up for him. I had a recipe in mind that Steve made for an elegant dinner party he and his wife, Deb hosted several years ago. The pork he served made a huge impression on me--complex, rich flavors, moist and tender. Steve shared the recipe and the story of how he came to know it. Over 20 years ago he took a cooking class with his good friend, Don Brewer when they were living on Bainbridge Island in Washington state. The class was taught by Judy Keen, 
a local teacher, and she got the recipe from Epicurious. The recipe is still on their website this many years later so I guess I was not the only one who fell in love.

And here is Steve eating upside-down biscotti that he just took out of the oven. Both Steve and Debby are excellent cooks and bakers and they love to entertain! Steve also is a very funny fellow!
And now on to the recipe...


2 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns (I used heaping rounded tablespoons.)
3 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
5 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened (I was generous with the butter, too.)

1 pork loin, about 3 1/2 - 4 lbs.
3 Tbsp. black truffle butter, softened (I did not scrimp here either!)
1/2 lb. thinly sliced Mortadella

4 lb. small Yukon gold potatoes
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. freshly chopped rosemary
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

For the sauce:
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. black truffle butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 
Coarsely crush peppercorns and salt with mortar and pestle, then add garlic and mash until a paste forms. Stir in 2 Tbsp. softened butter.
The original Epicurious recipe has a fairly elaborate description of butterflying the pork loin. What I did was simply place the pork on a cutting board and using my sharpest knife cut the pork in half without cutting all the way through so the pork opens like a book.
Using a meat pounder or rolling pin, pound the pork until it is about 1/2 inch thickness. Spread 1 Tbsp. truffle butter over the interior of the pork. Then place half of the mortadella slices onto the pork slightly overlapping pieces. Spread another tablespoon of truffle butter over the mortadella. Top with the remaining mortadella slices and another tablespoon of black truffle butter.  Starting from the long side gently, but tightly roll the pork. You may have to push the mortadella in so it remains inside the roll. Tie with kitchen string. Rub roast all over with the peppercorn garlic butter.

Place fat side up on an oiled rack in a roasting pan. At this point I covered with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for the day. Bring to room temp before roasting.

Roast for 20 minutes at 450 degrees.

While pork is roasting, peel and halve potatoes. Parboil potatoes for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Drain in a colander and then toss with oil, rosemary, 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and black pepper. 

Remove pork from oven and reduce oven temp to 325 degrees. Add potatoes to roasting pan, turning them in pan juices to coat, then add pork and roast pork with potatoes until thermometer registers 155 on the pork, about 30-35 more minutes. The Epicurious recipe calls for roasting pork and potatoes for another 45-55 minutes. Check temp on pork at 30 minutes in. If it registers 155-160 it is definitely done. USDA says pork loin should be at least 145 degrees. The sauce really brings this dish together, but you do not want to over cook the pork. Transfer pork to a platter and let rest 15-20 minutes.

Increase oven temp to 450 and remove rack from roasting pan. Spread potatoes out in pan and roast in middle of oven, stirring every 5 minutes until potatoes are golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

Make the sauce:
The recipe calls for skimming off as much fat as possible from pan juices. Pork these days is so lean that the only fat in this dish is from the butter and truffle butter so I did no skimming. Straddle the roasting pan across 2 burners. Since I used my beautiful ceramic roasting pan from Poland I made the sauce in the oven, rather than stove-top. Add the chicken broth and de-glaze pan by boiling over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, about 1 minute. This worked fine in the oven. Stir together water and cornstarch getting out as many lumps as possible and then add to the broth mixture, whisking for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in one more tablespoon of black truffle butter. 

Cut string off the pork and serve with sauce and potatoes.
I have more recipes to share using 
Roma Imports beautiful products.
Deli counter at Roma Imports. 
By noon when we arrived bread nearly gone!

Until next time, live, love, laugh and COOK!


Sunday, August 30, 2020



My first choice was to smoke these giant, thick-cut, bone-in pork chops, but with temps exceeding 100 degrees I decided to grill them instead. But first I brined them for about 8 hours to ensure a tender, very juicy end result. It's easy to over-cook, and therefore, dry out pork, but brining guarantees a perfectly moist chop. Brining is easy. I wanted to keep my brine very simple, but you can add herbs, garlic, onion, maple syrup in place of sugar or any other similar ingredients. The key is equal parts sugar and salt. Here are the basic brine ingredients:

Brine Ingredients:

1/4 cup Kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups water

2 cups ice cubes


In a large saucepan combine salt, sugar and 2 cups water. Stir over medium heat until sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat and cool. If you are in a hurry, pop it into the fridge to cool down faster. Place the pork chops in a large zip-lock bag. Add the cooled brine plus 2 cups of ice cubes. Place the bagged chops in a 9x13" pan and put back into the fridge for at least 8 hours. Turn the bag every half or so to ensure that the chops get brined evenly. Remove chops from brine. Rinse. Pat dry. Brush both sides of chops with olive oil. Since I wasn't smoking the chops I still wanted a smoky flavor so made a dry rub and generously rubbed both sides of the pork with the rub.


3 Tbsp. smoky paprika

1 tsp. each: garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin and ground dry mustard

1 tsp. coarsely ground pepper

1/2 tsp. ground chipotle pepper

After you have rubbed the chops let them sit on the counter for 1/2 hour before grilling. Grill chops about 5 minutes per side. Internal temp should read 145 degrees. Let them stand for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of the served meal, but the Blueberry Gastrique adds a beautiful elegance to the meal...and enhances the rich, smokiness of these pork chops.


A gastrique is a French sauce that is made by combining sweet and sour, usually sugar and vinegar. Here is what I put together.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 cup blueberries

1 Tbsp. wild blueberry preserves


Bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until desired thickness. You don't want it to be liquid, but conversely you do not want a thick, goopy sauce either. I prefer a pourable liquid that can be spread on the plate with the back of a spoon making a swoosh. Either strain through a fine-mesh strainer pushing the gastrique through the strainer with the back of a spoon or serve chunky. I prefer a smooth, silken texture so strain it.





Sunday, August 23, 2020


 OK...true confession: I am officially on a diet. I joined Weight Watchers 3 weeks ago and am starting to lose some of the extra poundage I put on living through the last 6 months of Coronavirus. It's a very reasonable diet and I do not feel too deprived, but certainly am not making luscious sauces or extravagant desserts at the moment. One cool feature of the WW app is they have tons of recipes. I found this one on their site.


The inherent sweetness of carrots melds perfectly
with the spice of Sriracha and peppery fresh ginger. 


1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

1/4 cup reduced calorie mayonnaise

1 tsp. Sriracha sauce, more or less depending on how hot you like it (WW calls for 1 Tbsp.)

A few drops of toasted sesame oil

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

2 Tbsp. minced ginger root (WW calls for 2 tsp.)

1 tsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. salt 

A few scallions green parts only; more for garnishing


Place carrots in saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and cook until carrots are very tender. Drain. Chill. 

Combine cooked carrots with remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process until completely smooth and blended. Serve garnished with scallions. So easy! And so delicious and good for you!

I served the Spicy Carrot Dip with a tray of veggies and an assortment of crackers. 

Zinnias are edible, but fairly bitter. OK for a garnish, but would not advise eating them!






Wednesday, August 12, 2020


It's hot in southern Arizona. In fact, this July was the hottest on record for the last 20 years. 17 days were at or above 100 degrees! I was curious where the phrase Dog Days came from and this is what I discovered:

"The phrase is actually a reference to the fact that, during this time, the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the brightest star visible from any part of Earth and part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater  Dog."

Thank you Google! 

So, on to another cold soup!


This soup is rich and creamy, but served icy cold also very refreshing. I found the recipe in my Paleo cookbook, but altered a bit by using more avocado and chicken stock instead of water. 


2 avocado

2 large cucumbers, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup olive oil, extra for garnishing

2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint, more for garnishing

1-inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. sea salt

Fresh mint and olive oil for garnishing


Peel and pit the avocados. Place all other ingredients including one avocado in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Chill. Serve with slices of avocado, mint and a drizzle of olive oil. Easy Squeezey!


I got a smoker for my birthday and am really looking forward to perfecting the fine art of smoking. According to Bobby Flay, smoking really is more of an 'art' than 'science'. We christened the smoker by smoking a pork loin stuffed with panchetta, provolone, lots of basil pesto, fresh basil, spinach and arugala, and then wrapped the whole thing in a pound of bacon. This recipe was very similar to the Porchetta I made a while back, but this time smoked, instead of grilled. Since the smoker has 2 racks I also dry-rubbed some chicken thighs and smoked them, too. 

This is a Weber Rocky Mountain Bullet, vertical water smoker. I chose it for the relatively small size, and reasonable price (compared to Traeger or The Green Egg). It has two racks so is ample large enough for my purpose.

And here is our first smoking endeavor. Moist, tender and juicy pork loin served with steamed asparagus and creamy mushroom risotto.