Friday, December 22, 2017


I have been cooking up a storm this holiday season! I love to make appetizers so will share a few I have made lately.
Front and center are Beef Koftas. There are hundreds of variations on this tasty treat. They can be made with beef, lamb, pork, chicken or a combination of several meats as you would an Italian meatball. Popular throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa, they are similar to a meatball, but spiced very differently.

Kind of looks like a spaceship has landed!
This recipe combines several different recipes I found online. I like the sweet of the raisins with the rich spices. I served them with two different sauces: Cooling Mint and Hot and Spicy Harissa yogurt. I also like the fact that all can be made in advance broiling the meat just before your guests arrive.

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. allspice
2 Tsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 piece white bread soaked in milk
1 egg

In a food processor or mini food blender finely chop the onions and raisins. Add the cumin, garlic powder and allspice and blend until a thick paste is formed. Remove from the blender and add half the beef (if using a mini as I did; otherwise add the full pound). Pulse it a few times until the grind becomes more smooth. Add the paste into the meat and pulse again until incorporated. Add the fresh parsley, cilantro, salt and pepper. And finally, add the bread that has been soaked in milk. The bread helps to bind the koftas so they don't fall off the stick when you eat them. Remove the meat to a bowl and add the egg mixing thoroughly with your hands. Form into oblong shape (about 2 oz.--think 2 bites) and keep chilled in fridge until ready to broil.  Bring to room temp before broiling. I made the mistake of skewering before broiling. I had soaked the skewers in water all day and figured they would not burn. Wrong. Because the meat is right under the broiler the wooden sticks 'catch' quickly. I did not start a fire, but it did come close. Very smoky! Next time I will broil and then skewer. As it was I had to remove all the burned skewers and re-skewer before serving.
Broil for 5 minutes then turn koftas over and broil for another 5 minutes. Skewer and serve.


In a food processor or mini-blender combine 2 cups packed fresh mint leaves, 2 Tbsp. chopped onion, 1 clove chopped garlic, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, a little lemon zest, and 1/2 tsp. (or more to taste) salt. Blend until well combined. In a slow stream add 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You may need more oil to achieve the desired consistency. Blend until smooth.

Harissa is a spicy pepper sauce from Northern Africa; Tunisia to be precise. In a bowl combine 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with 2 Tbsp. water to thin the yogurt to a dipping consistency. Add 2 Tbsp. (more if you want extra spicy) Harissa paste and 1 tsp. smoked paprika. Add 1/4 tsp. salt. Adjust seasoning.

I've had this recipe so long I can't remember where it came from, but most likely Gourmet Magazine. Easy to put together and very flavorful. Delicious with an assortment of crackers, toasted baguette, or toasted pita bread.

2 (7-8 Oz.) jars roasted red peppers (or roast your own, which is what I did)
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1 cup walnuts, toasted and then chopped
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Puree roasted peppers, bread crumbs, walnuts, vinegar, cumin, cayenne and 1/4 tsp. salt in food processor until almost smooth. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream, blending until well incorporated. This is also a "do-ahead" recipe and can be made several days in advance. Bring to room temp before serving.

The Candied Bacon make these traditional Deviled Eggs very special!

To candy the bacon:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil. Lay strips of bacon on a rack on top of the foil-lined pan. Combine about a cup of brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. cinnamon. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture on top of the bacon slices. If you happen to have pure maple syrup on hand, drizzle the bacon with a little syrup.
Bake for 10 minutes. Flip bacon and repeat topping. Bake another 10 minutes or until bacon is crispy. Because of the moisture of the sugar and syrup the bacon may not get crispy until it cools. If you like extra crispy bacon, pop under the broiler for a couple minutes, but use caution as the sugar burns very easily.

Prepare your favorite Deviled Eggs (I use mayo, grainy mustard, curry powder, salt, white pepper) and top with large slices of the Candied Bacon. I garnished my eggs with freshly chopped parsley and smoked paprika.

My husband, Jerry had to "test" the Candied Bacon
to make sure it was alright for serving!

This simple appetizer is one of my favorites and the easiest of all. Place a block of cream cheese on a serving tray. Cover generously with Raspberry Chipolte jelly. Our pomegranate tree bore fruit for the first time this year so I topped with pomegranate seeds which add a nice element of texture. Serve with assorted crackers.
This jelly is not as "AssKickin" as advertised, but it was the perfect complement to the smooth and mild cream cheese. I bought it at the Santa Cruz Chili and Spice, Co. in Tumacacori, ( but similar jellies are readily available at Trader Joes and many other locations.


Friday, December 8, 2017


...And Acorn, and other squash season, too. Persimmon run a little longer--October to February, where squash is in-season October to December, although stores carry squashes almost year-round. So if you are buying in July know that it has been picked awhile. I was fortunate to receive this freshly picked bounty from our good neighbors, Brian and Lori Itule, who are in the food business. Thank you friends!
The first thing I decided to do was roast and stuff these beautiful squash.


3 squash cut in half
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups+ cooked Red Quinoa (or other whole grain, such as brown rice, farro, etc.)
1/2 cup cubed Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced leeks, sauted in butter until tender
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. clove
Salt/Pepper to taste

Cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds and stringy pieces. If you want to save the seeds, rinse in a colander and pull off any remaining squash pieces. Spread the seeds on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle 2 Tbsp. olive oil and sea salt over the seeds. Roast for about 10-15 minutes at 375 until seeds start to pop. Remove. Cool. Enjoy!

Back to the stuffed squash...

If you decided to roast the seeds, reduce oven temp to 350 degrees. Rub the insides of the squash with olive oil and salt liberally. Place cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until squash is just tender. Timing will depend on the size of your squash.

Mix all ingredients together and fill squash. Either set aside or re-bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until cheese is melted.

These squash are delicious filled with about any combination of grain, veg, nut, and dried fruit you can come up with. Have fun experimenting! I am going to try them stuffed with Persimmon!

Since the oven was hot and I had lots of squash I roasted the rest of the squash and made Acorn Squash Soup.

Here's a similar recipe I made a few years back using Butternut squash.

This time I kept the soup very simple. Bring 1 Qt. of chicken stock to boil. Add a diced carrot, diced celery stalk, and 1/2 diced onion. Simmer until veg is tender; about 20 minutes. Scoop out the roasted squash from the shells (cool first) and add to the stock. Cook another 10 minutes. Season with salt/pepper. Let cool and blend either in the blender or using an emulsion blender. It is so rich and creamy that no cream is necessary! It also freezes well.

And now on to the Persimmon. I found this recipe for Persimmon Bread on  The only change I made to the recipe was to cut the sugar from 3 cups to 2. Now that my fruit is a little more ripe I will add 1 1/2 cups sugar. My batter easily filled 5 little bread tins, not 3.

There are several varieties of Persimmon that have different characteristics. These Persimmon are called Hachiya or Japanese Persimmon. When the fruit is not completely ripe it has a very astringent, pucker your mouth, kind of feel. Delicious taste, but mouth-feel not so nice, but once cooked they lose that mouth-feel and their delicious delicate flavor comes through. And once ripe, they lose most of that puckery feeling when eating raw.

1 cup persimmon pulp (about 1 1/2 persimmon)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups white sugar (amount of sugar will depend on ripeness of fruit)
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 12/ tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup water
3 cups white flour
1 cup walnuts

I love the way these fruit look inside!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 5 mini loaf pans (6x3"). In a small bowl, stir together the persimmon pulp and baking soda. Mix so the soda dissolves. Let stand 5 minutes to thicken the pulp.
In a medium bowl, combine sugar, oil, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Blend until smooth. Mix in persimmon pulp and water alternately with flour. Fold in nuts.
Divide batter into prepared pans, filling each pan 2/3 full.
Top the uncooked breads if you like with a sprinkle of Turbinado Sugar.
Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
That's all for today.
I hope you are doing lots of holiday baking
in preparation for the festive Christmas Holiday!

I am feeling HO! HO! HO! festive.
So many little time!