Posts from September 2013

Quiche Lorraine



Gary and I attended a wonderful PetchaKutcha potluck last night, hosted by our friends Ivor and JulieAnne. The idea behind PetchaKutcha is to share ideas, but one is limited to 20 slides and 20 seconds to talk about each slide. Our gathering’s instructions were to compile our summer travel pictures and stories, and each family was allotted 20 images and 6 minutes to share it. Our food choice to bring was suppose to revolve around the place in the world where we visited. We had kimchi and calamari ceviche and a whole host of other delicious dishes outside under the palms. I made a Quiche Lorraine inspired by Gary and my travels to France.

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic


2 diced leeks
3/4 c diced onion
1 T olive oil
1 1/4 c flour
1 T and 2 t cornstarch
6 T butter
4 eggs
1 c half and half
2 T Dijon mustard
1 t Herbs of Provence
1 c diced ham (I used venison bacon from the deer shot by Gary’s brother. Our freezer is overflowing with everything deer at the moment.)
2 shittakes (Optional. Mushrooms aren’t typical of Quiche Lorraine, but when life hands you mushrooms, add them in everything.)
3/4 c cheese (Swiss, cheddar, goat, anything goes)


First, dice up the leeks and onions. I used green onions from our garden, but bulb onions will work fine, too. Heat the olive oil over low heat. Once hot, add the leeks and onions. The correct way to do this is to slowly sauté them over low heat for 30-40 minutes until they caramelize. I did it this way, and they turned out great. Normally though, I don’t have the patience for such things, so a quick sauté on medium-high heat for 7 minutes will work if you’re in a pinch for time. When the onions were almost finished cooking, I through in my diced mushrooms. Set aside when finished.

Next, the crust, which I took from Smitten Kitchen. (Thank you again, Deb Perelman, for your awesome attention to detail in your recipes!) However, I fiddled with her filling to add my garden’s goodness. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and 1/4 t salt. Mix with the mixer. Next dice up the butter, and add it to the mixer in small chunks. The dough will be crumbly. Add one egg, and mix thoroughly. Deb suggests moving this to a floured surface to roll flat. My dough was too crumbly, and was just a mess, so I dumped it straight into my pie pan (I used an 8 incher) and pushed it down with my fingers, and it turned out fine. There’s lots of butter in the recipe, so you need not butter the pan before. Put this in the fridge for the time being.

Filling. Put the cream in a bowl. Add the remaining three eggs one at a time, whisking them into the cream. Add the mustard, Herbs of Provence, and salt and pepper. Dice the meat and grate the cheese. Take the crust out of the fridge. Put the meat on the crust, then the cheese, then the onion/leeks. Pour the egg mixture over everything.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. It’s great warm or at room temperature. Bon appetit!

Vegetable Potstickers



Vegetable dumplings are great comfort food. They’re far easier to make than you think, and just about any vegetable you can grow in your garden will work. I wanted to use our fresh ginger, green onions, shittakes, and jalapeños from our yard while they’re still producing. I think we’ll have the onions and peppers for at least a couple of months, but the ginger is on its way out. As the days get shorter, our ginger plants will begin to go dormant for the winter; thus I wanted to use the flavorful roots while I still can.

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

{ginger, green onions, and jalapeño, respectively}

I amended Smitten Kitchen’s Spring Vegetable Potsticker recipe (can Deb Perelman do anything wrong??) and added what I had as abundant and fresh. Of course you can amend the ingredients as well.


5 green onions, chopped (even the green parts)
3 large shittake mushrooms
1 T minced ginger
2 jalapeños
4 carrots, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
1/2 c ground pork (or you can substitute with 1 c firm tofu chopped small, if you’d prefer vegetarian potstickers)
1 T cornstarch
50 round dumpling wrappers
1-2 T cooking oil
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c rice vinegar


Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil. Once hot, add the minced ginger and jalapeños to flavor the oil. Next add the ground pork (or the tofu chopped in small pieces). Once cooked, remove from heat. While the pan is still hot, add the rest of the vegetables. Depending on what you use, you may want to add them at different intervals. I added my chopped carrots first for 2 minutes, then added the peppers and onions for two minutes, and finally the mushrooms for about 4 minutes. Once everything is sauteéd, remove from heat. Put the vegetable mixture in a food processor, and blend for a couple of seconds. You don’t want things to turn to a veggie paste–that would be gross–you just want things chopped up small enough to fit in your dumpling. Combine chopped vegetables and meat in a bowl.

Next, assemble your potstickers.


Combine 1/2 c water with 1 T cornstarch in a bowl. Paint this onto the empty dumpling; it will help the sides stick together. (I used a pastry brush for this.) Put a teaspoon of the veggie/meat mixture into the center. Squeeze one side together. Next, pinch along the edge.

From here, they’re ready for the skillet. Heat a non-stick skillet with a good fitting lid to medium high heat. Pour enough oil to coat the bottom. Wait until the oil is hot, and put in your dumplings. Once all the dumplings are in your pan, wait one minute for the bottom to brown, and then pour in a 1/2 c water and immediately cover the pan with the lid. (Careful, water and oil don’t mix, so there might be some spray.) Wait about 3 minutes, and they should be cooked and ready to eat.

Serve with dipping sauce: 1/2 c soy sauce + 1/2 c rice vinegar.

These can be frozen, too, and used for an easy go-to meal when you’re too tired to cook.

Fish Tacos


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On Sunday night, we hosted an Autumnal Equinox potluck gathering. The equinox is symbolic in that it is the midway between the solstices, or the high and low points of the year. Although the days are getting shorter, in Florida fall gardens are planted and citrus ripens. Thus, despite the lessening of light, I like to think that we’re on the upswing here.

Our foodie friends brought fabulous dishes, as always. Braised cabbage, fennel and prosciutto, homemade guacamole, and fish dip were the starters and sides. For the entree, our fisherman friend Jason made fish tacos from the fish he caught. Vermilion Snapper, Saucereye Porgie, and Gray Triggerfish were what was on the menu.

Ingredients (to serve four, not eighteen, which was what we had):

1 lb flaky white fish
2 t olive oil
1 T Everglades all-purpose seasoning
1/2 c chopped tomatoes
1 c chopped red cabbage
1/2 c sharp cheddar
1/2 c onions
8 tortillas
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 c Thousand Island dressing


First, chop the veggie toppings and set aside. Next make the sauce. Chop the chipotle peppers and combine with the Thousand Island dressing. Set aside.

Finally, prepare the fish. After patting dry the fillets, put the seasoning on the fish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. (We put the skillet on the grill outside, since pan-frying fish can really smell up a house.) Put the oil in the skillet. After about a minute or so, add the fillet to the hot oil. Grill about 5-7 minutes on each side, or until the fish is flaky and cooked all the way through.

Heat the tortillas. Your guests can build their tacos in preference to their taste. Guacamole, or even just fresh avocado slices, are great on it as well. Serve with chilled white wine or a crisp beer, and good friends.




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Although I bemoan the fact that we don’t have a backyard apple tree here in mid-September, my limequat tree that is full of tiny limes makes up for it. Can’t make cocktails out of apples, eh?

Traditional daiquiris are made from three simple ingredients: rum, lime, and a sweetener. They are not suppose to be frozen, blended, or come in florescent colors, but that’s how they’re known today. To make an old-school daiquiri, just throw a few ingredients in a cocktail shaker with some ice, and you’ve got yourself a good happy hour drink.

Ingredients (makes one drink):

1 1/2 jigger white rum
1 jigger simple syrup
1 jigger lime juice


Place all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well, and pour into a chilled glass. If you like it more tart, you can add a little more lime juice. If you like it sweeter, add a splash more of the simple syrup. Garnish with lime slices.

It’s Friday, people. Go out and enjoy!

Shittake Mushroom Burgers


mushroom.burger 11.25.05 AM

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Gary and I made about a dozen mushroom logs last February. They live on the north side of our house and are visible from our bedroom window. Every couple of months, right after a big rain, we’ll open our blinds in the morning and have these delicious little things staring at us beckoning us to eat them.

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Our logs came from a Mushroom Inoculating Party which we went to last year. Hosted by our friends Lauren and Jason, they gathered an assembly line of our friends to cut logs, drill holes, stuff in the mycelium, and wax over the holes. About six months later, we had our first flush. After the initial work, mushroom logs are completely low maintenance; the only hard part is making sure you check them fairly often for the mushrooms will sprout one day, and two days later, they’ll be dry as bones on the log. Having our logs in an inconspicuous place in the yard (they’re rather unsightly), yet in a place we view them daily helps make sure we always get the crop.

My favorite way to eat them is sautéed in olive oil and soy sauce.


1/2 lb of shittake mushrooms
1 T soy sauce
1 T olive oil
2 cloves crushed garlic


After washing, cut the mushrooms length-wise, and take out the stem. Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the garlic. Saute for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms. After they soak up the oil, add the soy sauce. If they seem too dry, add more olive oil and soy sauce (a splash of each.) Saute for about 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked through.

I served them as a topping to hamburgers with good cheddar cheese. I also like them as an appetizer on crackers, or as a pizza topping.

Dried Hot Peppers


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Our friend Sam recently was paid in peppers for watching a friend’s dog, and he brought over the loot for us to dehydrate. Sam’s friend grew a variety of scorchers, from chilies to cayennes to ghosts and scotch bonnets. The ghost peppers, scotch bonnets, and other ones that I couldn’t distinguish yet I knew were off the Scoville scale chart, are all too hot for my liking. Thus, I ground them up in a coffee grinder I keep around only for grinding spices so you only have to use a pinch.

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Wearing gloves, Sam and I made small slits in each of the small peppers with knives. The larger peppers we cut in half. (Note: when washing hands afterward, use COLD water instead of warm; warm water opens the pores in your skin and causes them to burn.) We placed them in my dehydrator and dried them for about 12 hours, or until they were completely stiff. I left the stems of the chilies and cayennes on, but of course, discard the stem before using.

Ideas for dried cayennes and chilies: put one or a couple in stews, fajitas, sauces, or salsas just like you’d use crushed red pepper. It crumbles beautifully into flakes when chopped with a knife.

Ideas for dried atomic pepper flakes: sprinkle generously on nemeses’ dinners, or blow into the eyes and nostrils of home burglars or intruders. If you choose to do the latter, wearing a respirator may be necessary.



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Here in North Florida, the basil’s beginning to bolt, thus pesto-making season it is. We inherited a bag-full of Mediterranean basil from our friends Lauren and Jason along with the Thai basil they gave us. When the temperature gets too high, or the plants have run their course, they put up a bloom stalk, which causes the leaves to become bitter. You can ward off this process by pinching off the flowers, but there comes a certain time in the summer where you just have to sacrifice the whole plant and turn it into pesto.

My favorite recipe comes from the Joy of Cooking. The mother-daughter duo, Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer, never seem to go wrong with their recipes. In my 1000 page book of theirs that is dog-eared and food-stained, I have yet to come across one that didn’t work.


(I normally double or triple this recipe, depending on how much basil the plants produce. This recipe makes one cup.)

2 c packed basil leaves
1/2 c grated Parmesan
1/2 c roasted pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 c olive oil


First, roast the pine nuts until golden on a skillet, about 5-7 minutes. Put these in a bowl to cool. (Do not add them while they’re hot to your pesto–they’ll cause the basil leaves to brown.) De-stem the basil leaves. Put all ingredients except the oil in a blender or food processor. Add the oil while the machine is running.

I’ve found that pesto freezes well, so I make as many little Tupperware tubs to stick in the freezer as I can. You can also keep it in the refrigerator, as long as you keep a thin film of olive oil on the top.

I used it as a pizza base, and put grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, and feta cheese as toppings.

Drunken Noodles


drunken.noodles 11.25.05 AM

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Along with the peas, our friends Lauren and Jason also have bunches of beautiful basil growing in their garden. This purple-tinged type is Thai basil, and it’s perfect in these Drunken Noodles. Thai basil has a slightly anise or licorice favor, and it holds up to heat better than its Mediterranean cousin.

Drunken Noodles gets its name from the spiciness of the dish, and not because there is alcohol in it; allegedly you have to drink lots of beer to sooth flaming taste buds. However, the spice can be toned down for those who have neither a spice nor a beer tolerance.


1 14 oz package of flat rice noodles
2 T vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves
1 lb chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/8 c fish sauce
1/4 c soy sauce (1/8 c light soy sauce and 1/8 c black soy sauce is the best, but if you can’t find it, 1/4 c of regular soy sauce will do)
1/2 T sugar
4 large plum tomatoes
2 Anaheim chili peppers
1/8 c chopped fresh Thai chilies (Or as much crushed red pepper as you can stand. This is obviously optional.)
1 green pepper
1/2 c fresh Thai basil leaves


Put a pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and Thai chilies to the hot oil. Stir for one minute. Add the chopped chicken. Cook fully. While the chicken is cooking, put the rice noodles in the boiling water. Add the sauces, tomatoes, and peppers to the skillet. Once the noodles are finished cooking, drain them and add to the skillet. Mix well. Top dish, or individual bowls, with the chopped Thai basil leaves.

Eat with chopsticks if you are so inclined.

Stay tuned tomorrow for how to use Mediterranean basil.

Black-eyed peas and Zipper peas


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Last night, we went over to our dear friends Lauren and Jason’s house to pick peas for our dinner. Jason has an amazing green thumb, and his garden full of peas and peppers shows it. Because I grew up above the Mason-Dixon line and knew Black-eyed Peas as a band, not as a vegetable, this was my foray into picking, shelling, and cooking these delicious legumes.

Although these look like beans, they’re classified as peas because peas, unlike beans, have hollow stems. Also, pea plants use tendrils to twine. (We spent way too much time arguing about the difference of the species; I’m adding this here for the record.)

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{These cute little tree frogs were all over.}


1 lb fresh black-eyed peas and/or zipper peas
1/2 c vinegar
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 T butter
1 t salt (or more to taste)


After shelling the peas (we used both the dried and still green peas), put them in a stock pot. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Add the vinegar: this step is key; you may need more vinegar depending on your taste. It brightens the flavor tremendously. Add the rest of the ingredients, and bring to a boil. You can also add bacon, back-fat, or pork if you’d like to make it more of a meatier side dish. Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the beans are soft.


We had them with steak and chimichurri sauce, asparagus on the grill, and salad. Between the food and company, the evening was divine.

Candied Apples


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Apples straight from the tree are divine. This image is from my parents’ tree in Iowa; this year alone they’ve picked 75 gallons, and there are more still on the tree. Fresh apples make me think of crisp air, the start of school, school bags, and colorful leaves. Although Florida gives me none of these, I can live vicariously through those in cooler climates by cooking apples that I WISH came from my backyard tree. (Florida shows her magic in December, when citrus and strawberries are abundant, and the rest of the country is covered under a blanket of snow.) For now, this dish gives me a little taste of home.


3-4 medium sized apples (We used Honeycrisp)
1/4 – 1/2 c water
1/4 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1/8 t salt
2 T butter


Cut and core the apples. Put them in a large sauce pan. Add enough water to cover the bottom of your pan. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on medium heat until the sugar begins to caramelize and the apples are soft (about 15-20 minutes). Serve as a side dish–it compliments pork well–or serve warm over ice cream for desert.

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