Archive for May, 2009

Red, White and Blue Potato Salad for Memorial Day

May 29, 2009

peruvian casulaI found this stunning Peruvian causa recipe on and thought this would be a perfect salad, with a couple tweaks, for Memorial Day.  The colors are so vibrant and the taste is sensational with lots of lime and garlic in the potatoes, and a red pepper and celery salad with green olives.  A causa is anything layered with mashed potatoes.  So this will not be a causa, strickly speaking, as I’m going to do the layers in a trifle bowl of clear glass with sliced purple and white potatoes instead of mashed potatoes, top it with a layer of roasted red pepper salad and dress it with a Spanish sherry vinegar and avocado oil vinaigrette. purple-pasta-sauce-550x366

Purple and blue potatoes are the latest trend in designer veggies but they’ve been around for decades in Peru and Chile.  Jamie Oliver’s recipe for purple potato salad incorporates sour cream or creme fraiche but it muddles the colors of the potatoes and radishes, though its very tasty and comforting.  Another lovely veggie is the purple cauliflower  (Cafe Liz photo) and it too makes a fabulous salad with fresh asparagus, yellow summer squash, red peppers, ripe olives, fresh dill and a Spanish sherry vinegar vinaigrette.  purple potato-salad-su-523403-lPhoto from Sunset.

Grilled country style ribs, corn on the cob, and strawberry shortcake will complete the menu. Be sure to take flowers to the cemetary on this national day of remembrance.


  • 2 lb blue or purple potatoes, steamed until tender
  • 2 lb new potatoes, steamed until tender
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 jar roasted red bell peppers, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup stuffed green olives, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro or curly parsley
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 2 Tbsp Spanish sherry vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp avocado oil (or olive oil)


  1. Peel potatoes, slice in half lengthwise, then slice half-moons no more than 1/2 inch thick
  2. Whisk together oil, lime juice, garlic, cracked pepper and salt.
  3. Toss purple potatoes with half the oil mixture.  Layer into bottom of the glass bowl.
  4. Toss new potatoes with remaining oil mixture.  Layer on top of purple potatoes.
  5. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl.  Spoon on top of white potatoes. 
  6. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Stripped Octopus Salad

May 28, 2009

octopus salad

In 1979 I attended an IBM Systems Operator Certification program in Tempe, AZ.   At that time reel-to-reel magnetic tape was still being used in systems and cobal was the programming language of choice.  My most memorable experience, besides graduation ceremonies and floating the Mesa River in inner-tubes, was a romantic dinner at an Italian restaurant in Phoenix.  The restaurant was elegant with white linens and silver cutlery, the service was attentive, and the starter dish, Octopus salad, was to die for.  From the first bite, I was in love.  It was not rubbery, nor fishy tasting, but lemony and salty with capers, creamy with olive oil and crunchy with celery.  

I moved to Alaska shortly thereafter, where octopus is fresh caught, blanched to a coral color, and the tenacles are as big as tennis racket handles.   In fact, whole octopi are so large in the Aleutian Islands that one tenacle was enough for 6 servings of this starter dish.  The easiest way to the strip the skin off the tenacles was with a boning knife.  Once the tenacles were stripped and diced, it was easy to marinate and throw together on a bed of lettuce, garnish with parsley and serve with a crostini.

You can leave the skin on if you prefer, I don’t, unless the octopus is very skinny as they are in the South Pacific.  Then I prefer them really well cooked, until the skin turns purple, and simmered in coconut milk.  That’s the Polynesian method and it is very tasty also.

Whatever octopi you use for this dish, pulpos from Mexico, or larger varieties from the Pacific Northwest, be sure to include the tips of the tenacles for extra crunch, remove the beeks and clean the heads.  The ink from the heads can be used to color fresh pasta dough.


  • 1 lb octopus, blanched, cleaned, diced the size of fresh peas
  • 4 lemons, 3 juiced and 1 cut into wedges for garnish
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 shallot, chopped finely
  • 2 Tbsp capers
  • 2 Tbsp red pimento, diced
  • black ripe olives to taste
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • handful of parsley, chopped finely, reserve 1/4 cup for garnish
  • 3-4 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch romaine lettuce, chopped coarsely


  1. Mix all ingredients except lettuce in a glass bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
  2. Place a mound of lettuce on each of 6 cold serving plates, top with 1/2 cup of marinated octopus.
  3. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.
  4. Serve with crackers or toasted crostini.

Red Snapper Meuniere

May 27, 2009

meunierWhen you live on an island in the middle of the Pacific fish is paramount to your diet.  There are relatively few cases of grouchy teenage syndrome, behavioral and learning problems among youngsters and life expectancy is above average for the adult population.  The indigenous diet is full of veggies, fruit, fish and coconut in every form.  Its probably a contributing factor to the high number of PhD’s per capita among the Tongan populace.  Unfortunately, this results in a brain-drain of the islands as the educated migrate to mainland countries. However, they do return to the islands for retirement.

One of the most popular main courses served at my restaurant, Coco’s, was red snapper meuniere.  Lightly dredged in flour, pan fried in butter and olive oil, and dressed in a aromatic lemon sauce with hints of tarragon and chili sauce for sparkle.   Side dishes included a choice of yellow coconut rice or baked potato and ratatouille.  Nothing compares to a fresh caught fish for flavor and nutrition.  The American Heart Association recommends 3 servings of fish per week so try this dish one night soon.


  • 1 lb. fresh red snapper fillets (or cod, white fish, or tilapia)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • pinch of tarragon
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • splash of white wine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • dash or two of Tabasco sauce


  1. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add oil and butter and heat until bubbly.
  2. Mix flour, salt, pepper, and tarragon in a flat pan or plate.  Dredge fish fillets lightly, shake excess flour off, and place in skillet.
  3. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown and fish flakes with a fork.  Remove from pan to a plate. 
  4. Add wine to deglaze pan, scraping up brown bits, add lemon juice and swirl.   Add butter and Tabasco, swirl until creamy.
  5. Pour sauce over fish fillets.  Garnish with lemon slices, capers or parsley sprigs.

Olé! Chocolate Glob Brownies

May 27, 2009


The original recipe for chocolate globs appeared in Maida Heatter’s   book of Great Chocolate Desserts, published in 1980.  Maida Heatter is a three time winner of the James Beard Award and was inducted into the Chocolateria Magazine’s Hall of Fame.  She is known as “The Queen of Desserts” and her specialty is chocolate.   Maida’s cream filled chocolate cookies (chocolate globs) was the inspiration for the Chocolate Glob cookies published in the SoHo Charcuterie Cookbook.  Sally Schneider, author of The Improvisational Cook, created her recipe for an elegant Essential Chocolate Cake from the chocolate glob recipe in the SoHo Charcuterie Cookbook.  Several TV personalities such as Ina Garten and Paula Deen have also developed decadent brownies and yummy chocolate globs based on the recipe from the SoHo Charcuterie Cookbook.

The impetus for creating amazing recipes is virtual necessity.  The cook starts with an idea, takes stock of the ingredients on-hand and improvises.  In baking, this could be substituting almond extract for vanilla extract, using yogurt instead of cream, or adding dried herbs and spices to a chocolate batter.   Experimentation or accident can result in dynamic combinations of flavors and textures that awaken taste buds and turn ordinary into extraordinary fare. 

The recipe given here is based on Ina Garten’s Outrageous Chocolate Brownies, Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Copyright 1999.  Everyone loves rich moist chocolate gooey brownies.  The addition of Kahlua and cayenne pepper give these brownies a little kick.  They’re perfect for a piñata party or a coffee break with your favorite espresso or French press brew.


  • 1 lb unsalted butter
  • 1 lb plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 3 Tbsp Kahlua (or coffee liqueur of your choice)
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Pinch of cayenne powder
  • 3 cups chopped walnuts (or nuts of your choice)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 x 18 x 1-1/2 inch sheet pan.
  2. Melt together the butter, 1 lb. chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly.
  3. Stir together the eggs, Kahlua, almond and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.
  4. Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne. Add to cooled chocolate mixture.
  5. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Fold into the chocolate batter. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Do not over-bake!
  7. Cool thoroughly and chill in refrigerate before cutting into squares.

Meyer Lemon Budino with a Twist

May 26, 2009


budinoMeyer lemon budino is a sumptuous souffle that has its beginnings in San Francisco eateries.  Budino, Italian for pudding, made with Meyer lemons, a cross between lemons and mandarin oranges, is redolent of a lemon meringue pie without a crust.  Along with the balance of the sweet and tart characters of lemon is the creamy consistency of the pudding and crusty topping of whipped egg whites that rises out of the pudding during baking.  Traditionally, it is served with whipped cream or cream fraiche and is an elegant light finale to a heavy meal.  Berries and chocolate are also delicious accompaniments.

The basic recipe lends itself to improvisation.  Lavender will add another depth of flavor that becomes apparent after the first bite and lingers until the last.  Adding ginger will give the budino sparkle.  Substituting another juice for the Meyer lemons will completely change the budino flavors but the basic light souffle and creamy texture will remain.  Adapt the recipe given here and make it your own.

Servings:  6

Cooking Time:  30 minutes


  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp Meyer lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Meyer lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter 6 ramekins (3/4 cup size) and dust with sugar.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, flour, lemon juice and lemon peel in large bowl, whisk until blended. Whisk in milk.
  3. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in medium bowl until frothy, 1-2 minutes. Add remaining 2 tbsp sugar and beat until soft peaks form; the peaks should fall over when the beaters are raised from the bowl. Gently fold half the beaten egg whites into lemon mixture. When incorporated fold in remaining egg whites.
  4. Divide mixture among prepared custard cups using a spoon or ladle. Place custard cups in roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the custard cups.
  5. Bake puddings until tops are golden and spring back when lightly touched, about 30 minutes.


  1. Substitute mandarin orange juice and zest for the lemon components. Add 1 tsp of anise seeds to the beaten egg whites before folding into the batter.  Serve with chocolate shavings and a dollop of whipped cream.
  2. Steep 1 Tbsp lavender (McCormick’s Gourmet brand) in ½ cup warm milk for 30 minutes or longer, stain through a fine mesh sieve, and add to the remaining milk before preparing the lemon batter.
  3. Add 1 tsp black poppy seeds to beaten egg whites before folding into lemon batter.

Beans and Sausage in a Pressure Cooker

May 23, 2009

recipes 020Pressure cookers for homemakers have been around since 1917 when the USDA announced that the only safe way to can low-acid foods was with a pressure cooker.  From then on the National Pressure Cooker company, now called Presto, has engineered and redesigned pressure cookers with reliable safety features for home use.  So long as the rubber gasket around the inside rim of the lid is in good shape and you haven’t lost the regulator (jiggler) or damaged the pressure valve, you can save time when cooking dried beans, roasts and other long cooking dishes.  A pressure cooker is absolutely mandatory if you home-can veggies, meat or fish.  They come in 4 quart and 6 quart sizes and up to the 10 gallon size for canning quarts.   You can find them in most housewares departments and even at garage sales. 

Try this method for chili, corned beef, pulled pork, or octopus.  Flavors have no where to escape, they’re locked in using a pressure cooker.  For more information on cooking  with a pressure cooker, see Presto.

Half full pot

Half full pot

Getting up a head of steam.

Getting up a head of steam.


Valve stem up, pot is pressurized

Valve stem up, pot is pressurized

Soup's Ready

Soup's Ready


  • 2 cups pinto beans, washed and sorted
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper (about 1 tsp each)
  • handful of cilantro, chopped


  1. Soak beans overnight in 2 quarts water.  Drain and cover with fresh water.
  2. Saute ground pork in skillet over medium high heat.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, cook for 3-4 minutes, and transfer to pressure cooker.
  4. Cover pressure cooker, locking lid into place and set jiggler over steam vent.
  5. Once valve stem pops up and jiggler begins to rock, set timer for 40 minutes.
  6. When timer goes off, turn off stove and leave pot to cool down.  When valve stem drops, it is safe to remove jiggler.  If no steam is escaping from vent, open lid.
  7. Check seasoning and adjust if needed.

Kumquat Chicken with Basil and Shoyu

May 22, 2009

basil chicken A good friend of mine in Tongan, Kimiko, was married to one of the Royal Family, Baron Vaia.  Kimiko lived in Hawaii for 20 years before coming to Tonga where she lived for 30 or more years.  Many of the dishes she cooked for the Royal family have melted into the Tongan culinary repertoire.  This recipe is adapted from Kimiko’s shoyu chicken dish.  It combines Hawaiian shoyu (Japanese for soy sauce),  Thai gra pow (holy basil), and kumquats.  Kumquats are a miniature orange with a sweet rind and sour flesh and juice.  They can be eaten out of hand and are a delicious addition to savory meat dishes.  The seeds are bitter with lots of pectin, just like oranges and other citrus, great for jams and jellies but not for eating.

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 8 chicken thighs with skin
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar (or mirin)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch in 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 scallions, 3 chopped, 1 sliced for garnish
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 or 2 Thai red chilies, seeded and minced
  • 8-10 Kumquats, halved and seeded
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil (a few whole leaves for garnish)


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Salt and pepper chicken pieces liberally.  Place in a Dutch oven or casserole dish.
  3. Stir together soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch, water, and sugar, until sugar dissolves.
  4. Add remaining ingredients, stir to combine.  Pour over chicken.
  5. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes.  Uncover, bake for an addition 20-30 minutes, glazing chicken with sauce every 10 minutes.
  6. Garnish with whole basil leaves and sliced scallions.  Serve over rice.

Quest Post by Sarah Ludwig

May 21, 2009

Sarah E. Ludwig is a freelance writer and mom to four busy kids between the ages of 10 and 5, including a set of twins. She blogs at Parenting By Trial and Error  and her philosophy is that anyone who has kids knows that parenting is all about trial and error, learning, growing and, most importantly, staying flexible. Each child is unique. What might work for one, may not for another. Nobody knows better than you, the parent, how to best handle your child, but sometimes you have to try several solutions before finding the right one. Discussions, advice and shared experiences between parents can help us find the right formula for our children’s personalities and needs, and it is with that in mind that she created a blog.


I’ll admit it; I’m not much of a cook. The smattering of times I’ve stretched my culinary skills have always ended up with complaints such as, “Ewww, what is this??” or “Do I have to eat this?” and me angry that I wasted my time. Even though I really like trying new dishes, as a busy mom of four, I just don’t have the time to make even semi-complicated meals that nobody but me enjoys anyway. It’s not worth it.

So when one of my friends introduced me to her taco salad recipe, I was intrigued. It’s easy, delicious, feeds a ton of people and has fast become a potluck and family gathering favorite. Fat- and calorie- free it’s not, but it’s rare for me to find a dish that all my kids love. This is one of the few.


  • 1 lb. hamburger
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 1 head lettuce, chopped
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bag Doritos, crushed
  • 1 lb. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 bottle Catalina salad dressing
  • 1 small can black olives, sliced 

Cook hamburger with taco seasoning according to the package directions. Add the kidney beans and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. Stir tomatoes, olives and cheese in with the meat. Just before serving, add lettuce, Doritos and dressing. If you add these too soon, the chips will get soggy.


  • I never add tomatoes because I’ve found that most of the people I serve this to don’t like them.
  • This recipe makes a huge bowl full, so unless you’re taking it to a big gathering, sharing with another family or don’t mind soggy leftovers, you’ll probably want to halve it.


Easy Paella for Two

May 20, 2009

recipes 014

Running late today, no time to shop, driving home and thinking… dinner at 7:00…what do I have that’s fast and delicious.  Still have mixed seafood, 1 chicken breast, kielbasa, rice, canned tomatoes…hmmm…paella.  I have garlic, onions, saffron, cilantro, wine, stock.  Yes, paella it is…on the stove top…too hot to turn on the oven!   I made lavender lemonade Monday.  Add a little bubbly (or a lot of bubbly) to that and make a salad.  Enough!!!  Voila, romantic dinner for 2.  You’ve got to give this a try. 


  •  4 inches of kielbasa sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 1/2 chicken breast, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 Tbsp chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • pinch of saffron (or 1/2 tsp each turmeric and paprika)
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or parsley flakes)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 dashes Tabasco sauce (or pinch cayenne pepper) 
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup mixed seafood (or 8 prawns)


  1. In a 2-quart sauce pan over medium heat, fry sausage until fat is released.
  2. Add chicken pieces and fry for 5 or 6 minutes until they brown a little
  3. Add onion, garlic, and bell pepper.  Cook until wilted and fragrant.
  4. Add wine and stir to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add rice, stock, tomatoes, saffron, cilantro, bay leaf, Tabasco, salt and pepper.  Stir.
  6. Cover pan and simmer for 14-15 minutes. 
  7. Add seafood, continue simmering until rice is done and seafood is pink (about 5 minutes). 


  1. If you haven’t got saffron, use annatto oil or turmeric and paprika.
  2. Use sweet Italian sausage or pieces of leftover pork chops instead of kielbasa.
  3. You can add peas, green beans, artichokes, or broccoli florets.
  4. Make this dish with just chicken or pork.

Raspberry Coffee Cake

May 19, 2009

raspberry coffee cake Start your morning with your favorite cup of coffee and this tender, moist cake with a layer of raspberry jam and almonds on top.


  • 2 1/3 cups Bisquick
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam


  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.  Grease a 9-inch square baking tin.
  2. Mix together Bisquick, sugar, and cinnamon.  Reserve 1/2 cup.
  3. Mix together egg, yogurt, and milk.
  4. Stir wet mix into dry mix just until dry mix is moistened.
  5. Pour half the batter into prepared baking tin.
  6. Sprinkle half the reserved dry mix over top.  This will prevent jam from sinking to bottom of cake.
  7. Stir the jam and spoon over top.
  8. Top with remaining batter, sprinkle with remaining dry mix, top with almonds or nuts of your choice.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes or until tester comes out dry.