Monday, October 30, 2017


It's finally beginning to feel like fall here in beautiful southern Arizona and time to start making soup!
The Minestrone is all cooked. I will reheat and drop in the
meatballs when the soup is served and top with chopped
fresh parsley and a little parmesan cheese.
An Italian classic, you do not really need a recipe for Minestrone Soup, but it generally contains seasonal vegetables--carrot, onion, celery, potato; beans-cannellini or some other type of bean; pasta or rice. This soup dates back to 30 AD where a recipe appears in Marcus Apicius's ancient cookbook De Re Coquinaria (which translates to On The Subject of Cooking) described as polus, a Roman soup made up of farro, chickpeas, and fava beans, with onions, garlic, lard, and greens thrown in...that sounds a little heavy to me, and in fact, over time the recipe has changed quite a bit to include more veg and depending on the season and availability meat or chicken. 

I like to add meatballs to Minestrone, either beef or chicken, and this morning decided on spicy chicken meatballs. Again, completely up to you. Here is the recipe I came up with.

1 Qt. chicken stock (I had some in the freezer, which made things easier.)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried sage
Bay leaf
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes, in their broth
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 15 oz. can Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained well
1 cup pasta (I used cellentani which is a thick curly pasta and holds up well in soup.)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 Tbsp. fresh oregano (or 1 tsp. dried)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt/Pepper to taste
You don't have to chop the veg too finely.
I like them kind of chunky because this is a rustic soup.
In a large stock or soup pot bring chicken stock to a boil. Add celery and onions. Reduce heat to a gentle boil (medium-low). Cook for 10 minutes. Add carrots and potatoes. Continue cooking another 10 minutes. Add 1 cup diced tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, sage, bay leaf and cook another 10 minutes. Add beans and cook another 10 minutes. Add pasta, garlic, fresh parsley and oregano. If you are eating the soup right away cook for 10 minutes. If not, only cook the pasta for 5 minutes or it will get mushy. Take off heat, let cool, and either package for fridge for the next couple days or freeze to have down the road.

And, next is my recipe for SPICY CHICKEN MEATBALLS. Make these meatballs as mellow or spicy as you like. Just reduce red pepper flake and black pepper to get a milder ball.

6 chicken tenders
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp. minced onion
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flake
1 Egg
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried Italian herb mix
2 Tbsp. plus more for frying meatballs

To start remove any chewy white tendons. This is kind of a pain, but you will be happier with the end result...a much more tender ball.

Next, chop the chicken breasts. I used my gorgeous meat clever that my husband, Jerry bought me earlier this year, but any very sharp knife will work. Mince the chicken.
Add garlic, onion, salt, peppers, 1 egg, panko crumbs and parmesan. Gently work all ingredients using your hands until well mixed. Form balls (the chicken will be quite loose and moist) and let the balls sit for about 15-20 minutes to help them firm up and dry out a bit.
This recipe made 17 balls so you may not
need all for the Minestrone, but they freeze well.
Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet until smoking. By starting on a high heat you get a nice crust on the ball. Gently drop a few balls in, lower heat, and brown well on all sides rolling around in the pan. Cook only 6 balls at a time to give yourself room to turn the balls. Reduce heat further and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove and repeat with uncooked balls.

Many soups, including this one, offer a license for total creativity. Please let me know what you come up with!

Here's another soup I put together that turned out really well. I recently learned that wild mushrooms, especially these Asian mushrooms are really good for you. Healthy + Tasty = GOOD.


This is another recipe where you can take many liberties, but here are the basics.

1 Qt. rich chicken stock*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, minced
1 package each of, all roughly chopped:
Bunashimeji-I think these were the Enoki variety
Maitake aka Hen-of-the-Wood
Bunapi or white beech mushroom (I have so much to learn about Japanese mushrooms and cuisine in general!)
1 Tbsp. Yuzo** (You don't really need this, but I do think this paste gave a great flavor and depth to the soup. You can get it online or it might be equally good without out it and choose other flavors of your  choice.)
1/2 cup roughly chopped Thai (or regular) Basil
2 cups cooked lentils
Bring 1 quart of rich chicken broth to boil in a large soup pan. Add minced onion and garlic and slowly simmer for about 20 minutes. I wanted this soup to be all about the mushrooms so did not want to heavily season with other herbs.
Lower heat to a very gentle boil and add Yuzo and all the mushrooms. Simmer for another 20 minutes. Add the pre-cooked lentils and basil and simmer for another 15 minutes. Delicious on the spot or holds well in the fridge for 10 days.

*To make rich chicken stock: Make a regular chicken stock and then re-cook with another batch of bones and herbs. Yum! Yum! Yum! Very rich and so much better for you because of all that collagan, but most importantly the taste.

** A quick word about Yuzo Kosho. I am still learning about yuzu, but this spice is amazing! This paste is made from fresh chiles, fermented with salt along with the zest and juice of yuzu, a tart, fragrant East Asian citrus. It's lemony, limey, luscious and delicious! I will try it in many different recipes.


Sunday, October 22, 2017


I received this lovely North African cooking vessel from my good friends, Dennis and Diana Makes 3 years ago, and I have been hesitant to use it. Why, I am not sure, as I generally am not shy about anything in the kitchen. I have never cooked in a Tagine and am still perplexed I did not do the research right away to see how easy (and fun!) it is to use. I am so glad I finally did. What a great night we had cooking together. If cooking in your Tagine for the first time, you have to "cure" or "season" it.
First, soak both top and bottom for several hours or overnight in water. I have a round prep sink that was the perfect size for soaking both pieces. Dry well. Next, place in a cold oven set for 300 degrees and "cook" for 2 hours. Turn the oven off and let the Tagine cool in the oven. When cool, gently hand wash in soapy water. Dry and rub lightly with olive oil for storage. Now you are ready to cook!

Now that I have used it I can see the possibilities for great combinations of spices, herbs and flavors; meats, sauces, fish, are endless! Here is the first recipe we tried, which I found online at Simply Recipes. I followed fairly closely, with only a couple variations, since it was my first time.
2 tsp. paprika (I also added 1 tsp. smoked paprika)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground ginger (I also added some fresh ginger root zest before cooking.)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 chicken, 3-4 lbs., cut into 8 pieces (I used 4 large chicken thighs, bone in, skin on)
3 cloves minced garlic
1 onion chopped
The rind from 1 preserved lemon rinsed in cold water, pulp discarded, rind cut into thin strips (Recipe says regular lemon works, too, but it is easy to make preserved lemon*.)
1 cup green olives (I used Castlevetrano.)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (Had no parsley so used more cilantro.)
Preparing the green beans, which accompanied our meal.
Diana prefers to set all the ingredients out before beginning her cooking so that is what we did. I go back and forth, but was happy to do it that way since she was the guest in my kitchen. It does help you to NOT forget an ingredient.
Make the spice rub by combining all spices--paprika, cumin, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper--in a large bowl. Pat the chicken pieces dry and put in the bowl, coat well with the spice mixture. Let the chicken stand for one hour in the spices. I like to put the pieces in a zip lock bag so every so often you can turn them easily to ensure that all pieces get the benefit of the spice rub.
Add the olive oil to the Tagine. Brown the chicken on medium heat in your Tagine (you can also use an ordinary skillet, but this is much more exotic!). If you are using a clay Tagine on top of the stove you must place a heat diffuser underneath to prevent it from cracking.  Sprinkle the chicken very lightly with salt (both olives and preserved lemon are salty). Cook for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
All ingredients together.
Ready to cook for the last 30 minutes.
Here I am adding the onions.
Add garlic and onions, (and freshly grated ginger root if you are using it) and water, then cover and simmer: Turn chicken pieces over. Add the lemon slices, olives, raisins, and 1/2 cup water.
Bring to a simmer on medium heat, then lower heat to low, cover, and cook for an additional 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through and tender.
Stir in parsley and cilantro. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Served with lightly steamed green beans seasoned with
a tbsp. of butter and fat tsp. of Dijon mustard
and farro cooked in rich chicken broth topped with fresh cilantro.
To make preserved lemon:
Place 3 to 4 lemons in a container large enough to cover with water. Add 3 Tbsp. Kosher salt, a few peppercorns and the juice of 1/2 lemon.
I am tasting this delicious dish all over again. Wish it was on the menu tonight! I will let you know what I come up with next using my beautiful Tagine.
Until next time...
Besseha and Ma-saa Al Kh-ir!
(Bon Appetit and Good night!)
Tune in again soon for another episode of:

Monday, October 16, 2017


This recipe came to me via my friend, Debby Vis, which she got from her "America's Test Kitchen-6 Ingredient Recipes" cookbook. I have been a fan of Christopher Kimball's "Cooks Illustrated" for many years so was delighted to try this easy chicken dish. It's a simplified version of the Italian classic Chicken Saltimbocca, but was a snap to put together. It took me under 30 minutes to prepare and cook this meal. I did make it an 8 ingredient dish, but it was still very easy to put together! I added basil pesto inside the chicken breasts and topped with pomegranate seeds from my own pomegranate tree. Both ingredients are optional.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
8 thin slices prosciutto
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Fresh sage (This recipe calls for chopping the sage, but I prefer leaving the leaves whole and frying them with the chicken.)
1 Lemon (I also added a little lemon zest to the cooked chicken breasts.)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Basil Pesto, optional
Pomegranate seeds, also optional, but they do add a nice pop to the dish!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim chicken, rinse and pat dry. Season with salt/pepper. If you are using the basil pesto, cut a slit along the fat end of the chicken breast and put 2+ tsp. basil pesto into the slice. Slightly overlap 2 slices of prosciutto on cutting board and lay 1 chicken breast in center; fold prosciutto over chicken. Repeat with remaining prosciutto and chicken. 

Heat oil in a 12" nonstick skillet over medium high heat until just smoking. Place chicken in skillet and cook until lightly browned on both sides, 6-8 minutes. I deviated from the recipe here, too, by adding the whole sage leaves (about 1/3 cup of leaves) into the pan as I was browning the chicken. The sage then becomes nicely fried and sticks to the chicken.

Transfer chicken to rimmed baking sheet and bake until it registers 160 degrees, 10-12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a platter and cover to keep warm.

If you are following the original recipe, mince 2 tsp. sage and squeeze juice from a lemon into a bowl. Melt butter in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat, swirling occasionally, until butter is browned and has a nutty aroma, about 1 1/2 minutes. Off heat, stir in sage, pinch of salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Drizzle sauce over chicken and serve. If you are making this dish as I did, still make this brown butter as it is a wonderful sauce, which pulls the dish together.

I served the Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken with Butternut Squash, which had a unique addition, thanks to Debby's husband, Steve's creative cookery.
What is that mystery ingredient?
Debby served me this wonderful chicken dish the other day along with the Butternut Squash and a Tomato Caprese salad. The squash had a unique flavor that I could not identify. After questioning, she told me her husband Steve added a big tablespoon of vanilla ice cream to the squash after mashing. The rich, sweetness of the ice cream was the perfect addition. Thank you, Steve! I would have never thought of that!

Peel the squash. Cube into 1 inch pieces. Cook in salted water until very tender. Drain. Add 4 Tbsp. butter, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and the surprisingly delicious vanilla ice cream (one fat tablespoon)!

To complete this meal, I made a salad of sliced cherry tomato, black olive, feta cheese, and chives, drizzled with a white balsamic vinegar. I made this meal for my friend Paula Schaper.
Paula seems pretty excited to drop that
ice cream into the Butternut Squash!
Cooking with friends is so much fun!

I have a very exciting blog in mind for next time.
Last night I used, for the first time, my beautiful tagine, which was a special gift from other good friends,
Dennis and Diana Makes.
I think you will like this
Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Green Olives!
Tune in again soon...