Archive for March, 2009

Sumac Chicken & Cabbage Bake

March 28, 2009

sumac-chicken1Sumac is available in Middle Eastern markets, Asian markets, and your better culinary shops.  Do not use sumac berries from native American bushes, they are poisonous.  Edible sumac closely resembles paprika and adds a decidely lemon flavor to most dishes.   This recipe is adapted from one given to me by a Jordanian friend in Seattle.  This would also work well on a bed of onions or bake it without the bed of cabbage and serve it over steamed spaghetti squash, pasta or rice.

  • 6 chicken thighs, skinless, boneless
  • 1 cup homemade yogurt
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 small head of cabbage, shredded coursely
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 green bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped fine, divided
  • 1 Tbsp sumac  

Generously salt and pepper chicken thighs, place in a zip-lock bag.  Stir sumac and cayenne  into yogurt and pour half of it on top of chicken, seal bag and massage.  Set in refrigerator to marinate for 40 minutes.  Sauté garlic, onion, red and green peppers, and 1/2 the cilantro in olive oil until wilted, remove from pan and set aside.  Place shredded cabbage in an oven-proof casserole dish.   Remove chicken from marinade, discard marinade, roll chicken in Panko bread crumbs and fry just until lightly browned on both sides.  Place on top of cabbage in casserole.  Heat the remaining half of the yogurt marinade in the same skillet over medium heat, whisking to blend with pan drippings.  Add the sauteed vegetables and simmer for 2 minutes then pour over chicken and cabbage. Sprinkle remaining sumac over top.  Cover and bake at 350° F. for 30 minutes.  Remove cover and continuing baking for 10 minutes more.   Top with remaining cilantro, serve with a black bean salad and warm lavash or pita bread.

Sumatran Yellow Rice

March 27, 2009

yellow-riceThis Indonesian recipe is from my Sumatran friend living in Australia.   The first time I tasted this I fell in love.  It is so light with just a whisper of lemon and coconut to tease your taste buds.  I’ve since made it my own and friends always ooh and ah.  Use your rice cooker for best results.  The lemon grass, fresh turmeric root, fresh coconut, and kaffir lime leaves can be found at Asian markets and some supermarkets.  The lemon grass leaves can be steeped in boiling water for a refreshing cup of tea.   Fresh turmeric stains everything so take care when handling this root.


  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup  fresh coconut milk (or 1 cup of  unsweetened coconut milk in the can)
  • 1 knob fresh turmeric (or 1 tsp ground turmeric)
  • 1 lemon grass bulb, bruised
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf (or zest of half a lime)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine


  1. Break coconut, shred meat, soak in 3 cups warm water, place in a fine sieve , and push solids to extract milk.  You need 1 cup of coconut milk.  Use the remaining coconut milk  in another recipe (see below).
  2. Crush fresh turmeric in a blender with 1/4 cup water, place in a fine sieve and push solids to extract juice.  You want 2 Tbsp of the extract.
  3. Place everything in your rice cooker, give it a stir and push the switch to cook.
  4. When finished cooking, remove lemon grass bulb, bay leaf and kaffir lime leaf.  Fluff with a fork.  Serve with your favorite curry dish, chicken, fish, or Thai dish.

Use leftover coconut milk in curries, baked chicken, mix with shaved watermelon for a fruit dessert, add it to your favorite ceviche, cook octopus with it, cook green bananas or plantains in coconut milk for a starch dish, cook ripe bananas with coconut and honey for a hot drink  like the Tongans do.  Dry the grated coconut and toast it for cakes.

Pickled Ginger (Gari)

March 26, 2009

sushi-with-gingerI’ve been using this recipe for the last 20 years and it never fails to impress my guests.  It’s from Jeff Smith’s book, The Fugal Gourmet – Our Immigrant Ancestors.  The only thing I’ve changed is to substitute the red food-coloring with a sliver of red beet.  Be sure to buy fresh young ginger root and wear plastic or rubber gloves when peeling and shaving the root.   Otherwise, your hands will be on fire for the rest of the day.  Use a potato peeler to shave strips from the root.  This is a Japanese condiment used to cleanse the pallet between sushi courses and is served along with wasabi, takuan pickles and the like.  Try it with pork roast, roasted chicken, or ham steaks.

1/4 lb. of fresh young ginger root, peeled and shaved paper thin

1/2 cup Rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 slice of raw red beet

In a stainless steel sauce pan, place the vinegar, sugar, salt, and beet slice, bring to a boil over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.   Add the ginger, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 minute.  Remove beet slice once the ginger is lightly pink in color.  Pack sterilized jars with the ginger, pour brine over and seal.  When cool, refrigerate up to one month.

Once you have your  ginger pickles and daikon pickles made, plan a sushi party and include tempura veggies, hijiki seaweed salad, pear and saki sorbet, and almond cookies.

Daikon (Salad & Pickles)

March 26, 2009

daikonDaikon radish is fairly common in supermarkets and Farmers Markets these days.  And it’s not just for Asian cuisine anymore either.  It tastes very much like our little red radishes, perhaps more mild.  If you haven’t tried daikon,  it could be an acquired taste, I urge you to buy a small one and experiment.  Here’s a couple of simple ideas :

Wash and peel daikon like a carrot.  Make long threads of daikon on a mandolin or with a zester.  Do the same thing with a carrot so you have  equal  parts daikon and carrot.  In a small bowl whisk together 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (or any vinegar you have on hand), 1 tsp sesame oil, 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1 tsp soy sauce.   Pour over the angel-hair daikon and carrot and toss lightly.  This can be added to a master-piece Chef salad or your favorite green salad.  It’s crunchy enough for a sub-sandwich and of-course it can be added to a sushi box or sashimi plate.

Daikon has amazing health benefits, such as digesting fats and as a diuretic, and you can get those facts on the web, just google daikon health benefits.

This Japanese pickled daikon (called Takuan) is good with fish and meats and very simple to make.   It’s usually yellow in color from the addition of yellow food coloring, however you can attain the same color with a small slice of fresh turmeric or 1/4 tsp of ground turmeric.  Fresh turmeric  is available at Asian markets and looks like ginger root.  Once pickled, Takuan will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks and makes a great gift for foodie friends…add it to a basket of your homemade pickles. 

Takuan (Daikon pickles Japanese Style) 

 6 medium Daikon radish – peeled, sliced 1/4 inch thick and halved

1/4 cup sea salt or pickling salt

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1 sliver fresh turmeric root (or 1/4 tsp ground turmeric)

1 dried chili pepper – chopped

1 cup water

Pack sterilized canning jars with daikon.  Boil all the brine ingredients until sugar is dissolved.  Cool.  Remove turmeric root.  Pour over daikon in jars and cover.  Place in refrigerator.   Shake jars occasionally.  Pickle will be ready in about two days.

Swordfish & Zucchini Pie

March 24, 2009

ist2_6222730-grilled-swordfishThere is nothing quite like reeling in one of these sport fish.  They put up a hero’s fight and are beautiful breaking the surface with their long lances flailing the air.  The flesh is much like halibut, dense and pink in the raw.  Swordfish grills beautifully, even without marinating, though the marinade helps retain moisture.  This recipe is from the classic cookbook by Dorothy Batchelder, The Fishmonger Cookbook.  Tuna or halibut also work well in this recipe.  It was so popular at my restaurant in Tonga that lunch customers would come early so they wouldn’t miss out on this Friday special.  It is a bit time consuming with many steps, but it is not a difficult recipe and is well worth the effort.  Serve this with pickled lemons or hot and spicy mango chutney, a Greek salad, and a glass of wine.


Orange Zest Crust:

2 Tbsp orange zest

2 1/2 cups flour

1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar

1 cup cold butter, 4 egg yolks

Cut butter into dry ingredients and mix in egg yolks just till crust holds together.

Knead together 2 or 3 times.  Roll out 3 rounds of crust to fit a 9-inch spring form; use the bottom of the form for a pattern.  Transfer to a flat baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and chill until assembly.  Sprinkle 1 Tbsp bread crumbs in the bottom of the 9-inch spring-form pan.

Zucchini Filling:

4 pounds zucchini julienned

1/2 cup flour, 1 beaten egg

Olive oil for frying

Dip zucchini in beaten egg then dredge in flour. Fry little bundles of the zucchini in oil until golden brown. Drain on a rack.

Halibut Filling:

1 1/4 pound swordfish steaks- cut into chunks

1/4 cup olive oil

1 clove garlic minced

1/2 cup onion minced

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 celery rib, finely chopped

1/2 cup green olives chopped

1 Tbsp capers chopped

Sauté onion, garlic, and celery until translucent, add tomato paste, stir, and then add the fish.  Cook just until the fish is done, add the olives and capers.  Cool.


Place one crust on top of crumbs in spring form, top with bundles of fried zucchini, add another crust on top of zucchini, fill with swordfish, and top with last crust. Cut vents into top crust and egg wash.  Bake at 350° F. 45-60 min or until golden brown.  Let cool for 15 minutes before removing sides and slicing.

Chicken and Mushroom Quiche

March 24, 2009


This is a great way to use up leftover chicken or turkey.   I prefer to use chicken sautéed in white wine and herbs and I usually make extra just to use in this recipe.   The basil pesto adds zip and color if you’re inclined to use leftovers that are more on the bland side.  Any kind of mushrooms will do but portabella gives the dish more color, texture, and flavor.  With the store-bought pie crusts that are now available, preparation is a zip.  However, my own crust recipe, modified pâte brisee (recipe follows), never fails and blind baking prevents a soggy bottom.  Do enjoy this as a main-dish with a salad and glass of wine.

1 unbaked pie crust

1 cup chicken sliced or shredded

1 portabella mushroom, sliced thin

1/2 small onion, sliced thin 

1 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. basil pesto (homemade is best)

6 thin slices cream cheese (use dental floss to slice)

2 eggs

1 cup half-and-half

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

pinch of nutmeg

Place pie crust in a 9-inch spring form cake pan with 2-inch sides.  Blind bake for 12 minutes at 400° F..  Reduce oven to 375° F.  Cool crust and lay chicken over bottom, set aside.  Sauté mushrooms in butter for 5 minutes, add onions and continue to cook until water dissipates.  Spread mushrooms and onions over chicken, dot with basil pesto, and top with cream cheese slices.  Whisk eggs and half-and-half together with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.  Pour batter over filling, sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg.  Bake 45-50 minutes until eggs are set.  Cool 15 minutes before slicing.

Pie Crust (modified pâte brisee)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup salted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 egg, whipped with 1 tsp cold water

Cut butter into flour until cornmeal consistency.  Make a well in center of flour and pour in egg.  Toss flour and egg together with a fork for 5 seconds and scoop up the whole bit onto a sheet of plastic wrap, pull the corners together and twisting the plastic, form a ball, then chill for 10 minutes.  Wipe your counter with a damp cloth, cover the damp area with plastic wrap, dust with a little flour, place ball of dough in center and flatten slightly, dust with a little flour, cover with another sheet of plastic wrap.  Roll out crust.  If you’re in a hurry, skip the chilling and rolling.  Just push the dough into your pie pan like playing with putty.  Once the dough is uniform in thickness throughout and sides are crimped, chill to set it.  Then blind bake as instructed. 

Salad Niçoise

March 18, 2009

j04365891The term Niçoise refers to the region of Niçe in France.  Salad Niçoise and Niçoise olives are specialties of the region.  There are as many recipes for this salad as there are chefs.  Some prefer the classic ingredients with anchovies, green beans, new potatoes, hard boiled eggs, and olives.  Others prefer tuna and capers as anchovies are not too popular with most restaurant patrons.  At my restaurant in Tonga, we served marinated and grilled tuna on this salad with lots of veggies, olives, eggs, and a Caesar dressing, made with anchovy paste.  It’s a meal in itself with just a side of garlic toast.

The Marinade:

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 tsp minced onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 anchovy fillet, mashed to a paste

Pinch of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine

2 dashes Tabasco sauce

2/3 cup olive oil

Salad for 2:

½ lb. tuna fillet, 3-4 oz per person

2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved

1 waxy potato, boiled, coarsely chopped and tossed with a little marinade

1 cup of fresh green beans (young tender skinny beans), steamed 5 minutes, tossed with a little marinade

4 cups Romaine lettuce, chopped (reserve a few large leaves for lining bowls or plates)

1 small fresh carrot, scraped and julienned

1 small daikon radish, scraped and julienned (may substitute jicama)

1 small cucumber, washed and sliced thin

 A few paper thin slices of red onion

12 Niçoise olives

6 green olives

12 cherry tomatoes

4 marinated artichoke bottoms

Whisk all the Marinade ingredients together in a small bowl or shake in a jar.  Pour about 2 Tbsp of marinade on a plate and dredge tuna fillet on both sides and set aside to marinate while preparing the eggs and veggies.  To assemble:  arrange large lettuce leaves on a plate, top with chopped lettuce, arrange the eggs, veggies, olives and artichokes around the circumference of the plate, leaving the center for the tuna.  Heat the grill or non-stick skillet over medium high heat and cook tuna until barely done… no more than 2 minutes per side.  Place in center of salad and sprinkle with capers and parsley if desired.  Remaining marinade may be served as dressing. Wedges of lemon are a nice touch and add color. 

Real Tomato Soup

March 16, 2009

tomato-soupNothing says “comfort food” like a bowl of creamy tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.  It is so basic, no wonder kids love it.  Campbell’s may be convenient but the healthier version is homemade with fresh ingredients and no preservatives.  When tomatoes are in season, buy a box of them and make your own puree.  Pureed tomatoes freeze beautifully and make the best sauces, V-8 juice, and soup.  With a simple food mill, there’s no need to skin tomatoes before cooking.  If you don’t have a food mill, a China Cap or sieve will work.  The trick is not to overcook these beauties.  Wash and quarter tomatoes, place in a sauce pan over medium heat with a pinch of salt, do not add any water.  The tomatoes will make their own juice so stir ocassionally and cook only until juices are rendered and tomatoes are tender but not mushy.  Transfer the solids to a food mill and puree.  The skins and seeds will be left in the food mill.  Stir the juices and puree together and pour into freezer safe containers or zip-lock bags.   You may can the puree also.   Seal in sterilized jars and water-bath in enough boiling water to cover for 20-25 minutes.  Jars will keep in a cool, dry pantry for several months.

Okay, now for the soup.

1 Tbsp butter (or olive oil)

1 carrot, chopped

1 stock of celery, tops and all chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

4 cups tomato puree (homemade is best)

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 Tbsp sugar (or honey)

1 Tbsp lemon juice

2 dashes Tabasco sauce

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried thyme and 1 tsp dried dill)

1 cup half and half

Saute onion, celery, and carrot in butter, transfer to food processor or blender.  Add 1 cup of tomato puree to blender and process until smooth.  Transfer to a sauce pan, add remaining tomato puree, cinnamon, sugar, lemon juice, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, add thyme and half and half.  Cook until heated through.  Adjust seasonings and serve.  Garnish with croutons, fresh basil, dill, chives, scallions, or parsley.  Serve with crakers or your favorite toasted cheese sandwich.

Potato Leek Soup

March 16, 2009

soupLeeks are giant spring onions (scallions).  They must always be washed thoroughly so slice them down the middle and rinse under running water, inspecting the layers for dirt as you rinse.  The leaves make an elegant terrine for brunch or canapés and the entire stock, leaves and root, make this soup stand out.  Puree half the veggies for a super creamy style. 

4 slices bacon, chopped

2 large leeks, washed and sliced thin

2 russet potatoes, diced ½ inch

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 dashes Tabasco sauce

½ cup dry white wine

2 cups chicken stock (homemade is best)

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1 cup half and half

1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

Chopped parsley or scallions for garnish

In a stock pot or Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until browned.  Pour off all but 1 Tbsp of fat, add leeks and potatoes, cook 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 3 minutes more.  Add Tabasco then the wine to deglaze the pan.  Add the stock and salt and pepper.  Simmer until potatoes are very soft, about 30 minutes.  At this point, you may puree a third or a half of the veggies and return to pot.  Add half and half and thyme, cook over medium heat until heated though.  Garnish each bowl with parsley or scallions.  Serve with crusty French bread and your favorite salad.


Green Pepper With Beef Soup

March 15, 2009

bell-pepperDon’t let the photo confuse you.  This recipe is for a soup that is reminiscent of stuffed bell peppers.  It is very hardy and goes down well with a Waldorf salad and cornbread.  Serve it on those cold, snowy nights or rainy days when you need something to stick to your ribs.

1 lb ground round

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes

3 large green bell peppers, chopped

1 cup white rice

1 tsp thyme

1 Tbsp Worchestershire Sauce

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 cups beef stock

1 Tbsp tomato paste

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Warm a medium sized stock pot or dutch oven over medium high heat.  Brown beef thoroughly and drain off grease.  Add onions, garlic, and bell peppers, cook another 5-7 minutes.  Add tomatoes, wine, thyme, Worchestershire, 1-1/2 cups beef stock and the rice.  Whisk tomato paste with remaining 1/2 cup of beef stock and add to the pot.  Add salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes or until rice is done.    Serve with grated cheddar cheese on top.  Makes 5 servings.