29 June 2009


Not sure why I put so many "o"'s except to emphasize the "oooooooooooh" part of smoothie. One of my favorite hot-weather treats is a cool, refreshing fruit and yogurt smoothie, made slightly differently each time, but with these approximate proportions:

I-Need-A Smoothie

1/2 cup plain yogurt
one banana, sliced
handful of frozen fruit (5 - 6 strawberries, for example)
vanilla (1/2 tsp.?)
sugar to taste (start with a TBSP; depends on sweetness of fruit)
milk to cover (maybe another 1/2 cup?)

Throw everything in a blender and whiz until smooth. Really, this is not a science. I get a slightly different taste and texture each time. What's important is that it is cold and fruity and takes less than five minutes to make. YUM!

Yields one very large serving or two of the size pictured.

25 June 2009

Pasta Primo

I have vague memories of making pasta with my mom when I was a kid. Mostly, I remember the strips of noodles hung out to dry over clothes-drying racks. So, although I've helped make pasta in the past, I will consider this my maiden attempt.

I've thought about making pasta before, but the idea finally came to fruition due to a mint-picking romp through my mother's garden. Driving home, the smell of fresh mint awoke a desire in me for pasta with mint. I went in search of a recipe for fresh pasta. Several cookbooks and websites later, I came across this, which I basically halved.

Pasta Primo
(makes about 6 servings)

1 cup semolina
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 small eggs
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
Water as needed (to bind dough)

I made a mound of the two flours plus salt on the kitchen table. I formed a well in the center into which I cracked the eggs and poured the olive oil.

The several recipes I read had instructions for using a fork to simultaneously break the eggs and incorporate the flour. I gave up on that pretty quick as the flour spread in an ever-wider circle on my slick formica table top. I dug into the mess with my hands, adding a little water to help the dough bind to itself.

The ball of dough got wrapped in a piece of plastic and stashed in the fridge for use at dinner time. But not all of it lasted that long. I couldn't resist trying a little sample batch. I rolled out a small piece of dough as thin as I could get it on my grandmother's bread board, dusting generously with flour to prevent sticking. When my arms tired, I folded my rectangular piece of dough over on itself twice and cut it into strips with a pizza cutter.

The noodles cooked in boiling, salted water in a matter of minutes (3-5). For this sample, I simply doused the cooked and drained pasta with some virgin olive oil, and sprinkled with fresh, chopped mint and parmesean cheese. Wow! A great 10am snack!

In the evening when I prepared it for my husband, I dressed it a little differently. I heated a few tablespoons (TBSP) of olive oil in a frying pan and gently sauteed a minced clove of garlic and a finely diced tomato in it. Salt and pepper to taste. Fresh, chopped basil! And parmesan cheese again.

We had our dinner al fresco, paired with a lovely mostly green salad made of lettuce, cabbage, parsley, mint, green onions, and radishes. The salad was dressed in my favorite salad garb: lemon juice, virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.

My taste-tester evaluates the dish . . .
I think he liked it!

Cook's Word: besides rolling out the pasta dough, quite a simple dish to make. I love all the fresh herbs that can be paired with a good pasta. And it will be extra yummy later in the summer when we've got some of our own garden-fresh tomatoes! The noodles were considerably thicker than "boughten" ones or noodles you might make with a pasta machine, but they were still delicious and soaked up the tomato juice very well.

24 June 2009

Summer Squash

Wow. It's been seven days since I posted! I was actually gone over the weekend, and had my hands busy with flowers (for a friend's wedding--24 corsages and boutinniers!) rather than food. I enjoyed other people's cooking, though. Since getting home, I haven't done much in the way of cooking either, though I did whip up a shoo-fly pie for Father's Day.

Today I'm back in the swing of things. I spent part of the morning making fresh pasta for dinner tonight and steeping a new batch of iced tea with mint (I'm getting better at the tea thing, by the way). Because of time constraints, I'll have to postpone the pasta post (like all that alliteration?), and take you back to last week for a sweet little summer squash stove-top dish I made. Hopefully I'll be able to remember what all I did!

Summer Squash Skillet (with tomato and fresh basil!)

Heat some olive oil in a skillet (maybe 1 TBSP per squash). Saute some sliced onions for a few minutes. Slice squash and add, sauteing until tender. Add a diced tomato and some chopped, fresh basil and heat through. Pull off stove. Add another drizzle of virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and parmesan cheese if you like. Eat!

Cook's Word: Simple, refreshing, and delicious! My taste-tester wanted some too, even though we were having a fend-for-yourself (or "root, hog, or die") supper.

17 June 2009


Lahmacun (pronounced "lah-ma-joon" with a hard "h") is also known as Turkish pizza. But don't be expecting lots of great tomato sauce and melty cheese. This is very different from the western pizza that we know. The only resemblance is that there is some topping cooked on top of dough.

It took me awhile to get to like lahmacun. I think things really clicked when I learned to eat it with a sprinkle of lemon juice and a sprig of fresh parsley rolled up in it. Wow. Pair all that with a cool glass of ayran (that salty yogurt drink) . . . you can see why I was craving it.

My friend came over to hang out while I was cooking. Besides whipping up a great salad, she also faithfully recorded all the ingredients for my lahmacun with amounts:

Lahmacun Topping

1 lb. ground venison (lamb would be best, but beef also works)
1 green pepper, finely diced
2 med. tomatoes, finely diced
1 med. onion, finely diced (are you getting the theme here . . .)
Parsley (I only had what was growing in my back yard--1/2 a bunch would be good), finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP tomato paste
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. black pepper (ah, ah, ah-CHOO!)
2 tsp. salt
1 TBSP olive oil

Here comes the fun part . . . place all ingredients in a bowl and squish together with clean hands. The smell is incredible! Roll out your dough--any yeast dough will do--into thin circles or ovals. Spread a thin layer of topping on each piece and bake at 425-ish for 10-15 minutes, depending on how sure you need to be that the meat is thoroughly cooked.

Serve with lemon wedges and sprigs of parsley. Sprinkle the juice right on the lahmacun, place the parsley on top and roll it up to eat! Of course, ayran is great to drink with it, especially if you've added a lot of hot pepper.

I ended up making way too much topping, so I baked six (for the three of us) and kept the rest of refrigerated until the next day when we had a family picnic. I made the lahmacun in varying sizes over the two days, but overall it made enough to feed 15 adults (about two pieces each) and a small child. Served just by itself with salad would probably only feed 10 people.

Afiyet Olsun!
(the Turkish equivalent of Bon Appetit!)

Cook's Word: Not quite the same flavor I remember from Turkey, but delicious anyway. I think I would add more hot pepper next time to make them more spicy. Using lamb would also increas the authenticity of flavor. It sure was a fun project, though! And not nearly as hard as I though it would be.

Taste Testers: finished them all off! (so I guess they liked them)

13 June 2009

Strawberry Jam Sauce

In my last post on rhubarb cake, I alluded to the fact that I'd made some failed strawberry jam. It wasn't entirely my fault. I wanted to make plenty of jam, so I added more strawberries to the recipe, intending to also increase the amount of pectin for thickening it. I didn't know that the box I'd bought at the grocery store contained just one package of pectin, just the amount I needed for the original recipe. I went ahead and made it. And now I have strawberry freezer sauce instead of strawberry freezer jam. I've been finding plenty of uses for my sauce--over ice-cream, over cake, on biscuits and bagels, with waffles . . . so it hasn't been a total loss. But now I know better for next year.

12 June 2009

Rhubarb Cake

What food blog is complete without something rhubarb in late spring? My rhubarb actually came all the way from Illinois, making its way here in a car, then getting stashed in my mom's freezer (and mine) before it got dumped into this cake.

I actually made this cake about a month ago from this recipe on All Recipes. It is supposed to be made in a 9x9 pan and I only have an 8x8, so it came out pretty thick. Plus, I had doubled the rhubarb according to other user's feedback.

This time, I made only 3/4 of the cake batter part and kept the rhubarb at 2 cups. Instead of serving it with the vanilla sauce, I topped it with vanilla ice-cream and some of my strawberry sauce (failed strawberry freezer jam). You'll find the recipe for the cake below.

Rhubarb Cake

1.5 TBSP butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1.5 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups rhubarb


1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 cup brown sugar

1TBSP vegetable oil

Cream butter, sugar, and egg together. Add lemon juice, yogurt, milk, and vanilla. Mix with wooden spoon or spatula until incorporated. Sift dry ingredients over wet and stir in with spoon. Batter will be thick! Fold in rhubarb. Spread batter in a greased 8X8 dish and sprinkle with topping. Bake at 350° F for 40-45 minutes.

Cook's Word: The cake took longer to bake than I thought it would, but it turned out very light and moist. Delicious warm with some ice-cream on top!

Taste-Tester(S) seemed to enjoy. Claims the cake is good by itself!

10 June 2009


There's a lot that's in-between about this food. In-between other "real" meals. Not pretty or ugly, just in-between. Eaten in-between other more important activities. Etc., etc.

But it seemed like a good idea. In fact, I was day-dreaming about this combination as I hungrily made my way home from a late shopping excursion yesterday: cold leftover chili, a dollop of homemade yogurt, and the last of the slaw. It was actually quite good! I don't have any recipes, but I'm thinking of calling it Chili Frio. Or Chilly Chili. How about Frijol Chili Frio? Anyhow, whether pretty, ugly, or in-between this worked for one ravenous girl on a rainy late-spring day.

09 June 2009

A Tale of Two Salads

Summertime. Salad Time. We helped a friend move from one apartment to another last weekend, and I naturally wanted to know if lunch would be involved and "could I bring anything?" We discussed a simple menu over the phone. She would do BBQ ("sloppy joe") sandwiches and chips. Perfect opportunity for some salad-ing. "I'll cover the vegetables," I promised.

Of course, being from the South, I had to make some slaw to go on those sandwiches. And what kind of picnicky-type lunch is complete without potato salad? Never mind that my parents-in-law were down for the weekend too (and staying at our house). It seems like every time they come, I'm up late cooking/baking up something or other. It gives mom-in-law and me a chance to talk food.

After perusing some of my cookbooks for slaw recipes, I decided to wing-it (especially with Mom C's expert advice on hand). Finely cut cabbage (I don't have the patience to hand-grate it), grated carrots, minced onion, a little fresh parsley (from my own herb patch!), and a dressing with . . . well, I don't exactly remember what. Light mayo, a little mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper?

The potato salad went together with a little more consideration. I think I can actually assemble a recipe. I initially thought to call it BP Salad after the four main ingredients, but then it sounds like it came from a gas station . . . not really the feel I'm going for.

Anita's Potato Salad

4 medium-sized potatoes (I used red-skinned because they're pretty)
1/2 bell pepper
4 strips of bacon (I had turkey bacon on hand)
1/4 med. onion, minced (about 3 TBSP)
Fresh Basil, to taste

1/2 cup light mayonnaise
2 TBSP prepared mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
sugar, to taste (go tsp. by tsp.--I think I used 2-3)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. prepared horseradish (optional)

Dice potatoes (I leave on the skins), cover with water, and boil over medium heat until soft. Meanwhile prepare other ingredients: dice pepper, mince onion, chop basil, and fry and crumble bacon. Mix dressing ingredients until smooth. When potatoes are soft, drain and return to pan. Pour dressing over warm potatoes and stir to coat. Once potatoes are cool, stir in other ingredients. Yum!

Cook's Word: I wasn't too impressed with the slaw. I think some poppy-seed would have helped. It was improved by serving over a BBQ sandwich, though! The potato salad did not originally include basil, but my taste-tester and I agreed that it added a lot of flavor. I also noted that I used turkey bacon which was hard to taste. I think using regular pork bacon would increase the flavor (along with the fat content!).

04 June 2009

Confessions of a Foodie #1

I cannot make iced tea.

Without a recipe. A recipe! For iced tea!

Mainly, the problem is that I get the tea steeping then promptly forget about it for the next thirty minutes. This means that my tea turns out bitter. Then I never know how much sugar and water to put in. Because of the bitterness I almost inevitably put in too much water. Weak, bitter tea. Not refreshing.

So, in the sweltering 90's two days ago, I went in search of a recipe (this is rather embarrassing). I found this page with basic instructions on amounts of tea (bagged and loose), water and steeping times. Very well. I did all that, remembering to use a timer to remind myself when the tea should be done steeping. Okay so far.

Then. How much sugar? I did some quick calculating*. My mom used 2 cups, but I was only making a 1/2 gallon. So I did the right thing and cut it back to only 3/4 cup. SWEET! Too sweet. No problem. Add some water, and viola! Refreshing iced tea. It only took a few recipes and a small blow to my ego.

I wrote a recipe card for future reference:

"Iced Tea
4 cups boiling water over 8 bags (or 8 tsp.) tea

-steep 5 - 6 min.

Strain out tea and dissolve 1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar in concentrate

Add 4 cups cold water to make 1/2 gallon tea"

Pour over ice and enjoy!

*I actually did quite a mis-calculation. My mom would put 2 cups of sugar in two gallons of iced tea. For half a gallon I should use only 1/2 cup maximum!

01 June 2009

Shortcake Saga

I'm sitting at my kitchen table, enveloped in a cloud of beet-pickle aroma and dreaming of strawberry shortcake. No, not the little pink fairy-tale character. I'm talking about a slightly sweet, warm shortcake smothered with vanilla ice-cream and fresh-picked strawberries. The very stuff we neatly polished off the remains of today. It's starting to feel (and taste) like summer.

I definitely remember where this story begins. Well, I remember where the story of this particular shortcake begins though the relationship with "strawberry shortcake" in a general since has murky beginnings way back into my childhood I'm sure. But back to the present. This cake began with a phone call from my sister-in-law. "We're going to be away for the weekend and were wondering if you'd like to pick some of our strawberries while we're gone." Would we?!? Ever!

On Sunday afternoon we donned our stainables and headed for strawberry country. I promise, most of the berries made it past our mouths and into our picking bowls. Most. Oh, but the few glistening red, sun-warmed berries that tempted our tongues and whispered, "you're all grown up now. go ahead. eat me!" With that digression and a quick note to say we spent another considerable chunk of time ooohing and aaahing over the size of the country relatives' garden . . . I'm back to the shortcake saga.

When we got home with our berries, several actions were in order. Wash, cap, slice and freeze some. Wash, cap, crush, and make freezer jam out of some. Wash, cap, slice, and spoon over the aforementioned "slightly sweet, warm shortcake smothered with vanilla ice-cream". Are you drooling yet?

I went in search of a recipe. My mom always made strawberry shortcake in a pan. It was a cake, dense and moist with a wet finish. To me, that's shortcake. But could I find such a recipe among all the cookbooks and recipe sites I frequent? You guessed it: NO. And my mom wasn't at home either. It was near-desperation. But the berries were fresh, and I was determined to make some kind of shortcake to have under them.

It was back to the classic "Mennonite Country-Style Recipes (& Kitchen Secrets)" by Esther H. Shank. The cookbook I grew up on. On page 207 was a recipe for the kind of biscuit shortcakes that abounded everywhere. I resigned myself. And with a few minor cuts and changes, I had some biscuits baking in the toaster oven in no time.

Wow. YUM! I know I say that a lot about food. But: YUM! The biscuits weren't too sweet (we saved that role for the ice-cream) but moist, and light-tasting, and just wonderfully yummy smothered with ice-cream and those fresh-picked strawberries! (I'll admit, without the ice-cream . . . well, let's just say the ice-cream added a lot)

Overall, Cook's Word is: I've said enough. Recipe below.

Shortcake Stack

Or Open-Face Shortcake (my preference)

Shortcake with Strawberries

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. cold butter
1 small egg, beaten (really, use a small one--it should actually be a 1/2 egg)
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Optional (but highly recommended): vanilla ice-cream and sliced, slightly-sugared strawberries

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut in butter and set aside. In another bowl beat egg and add milk and vanilla. Stir wet ingredients into flour mixture only until moistened. At this point you will have a very sticky dough. Resist the temptation to add more flour!!! Make a little pile of flour on your working surface and dump the dough onto it. Generously sprinkle more flour on top of your dough and pat into a 1/4 inch shape. Cut biscuits. Bake at 350F for 12 minutes (or a little longer if you like them browned). The rest is up to you! Stack. Open. Ice-cream. Whipped cream. Strawberries. Blueberries. Go wild! And enjoy.

Yield: I got 7 biscuits with a 3-inch cutter

Labane 2

I first encountered labane in a small cafe in Gaziantep, Turkey. The owners of the start-up business were excellent hosts. They made us a delicious herbal tea (their own mixture) and served flatbread with labane. They made the kind of labane that I described in the previous post, the creamy type laced with garlic and herbs. It was love at first taste.

Then, a few years later, I re-discovered labane in Nazareth, Israel where it is almost ubiquitous at Arab meals. They would spread their labane in a dish, drizzle it with olive oil, and sprinkle za'atar on top. My North American roommate and I kept it in our fridge at all times. It was in Israel that I also encountered the type of labane that has had more of the liquid strained off. This kind can be rolled into balls and kept in olive oil. This is my "Labane 2" attempt.

I strained the yogurt for three days this time instead of just one day. You can see that the labane is drier, clumping together more than in "Labane 1".

I rolled the labane into little balls the size of walnuts. It was actually difficult because it was still quite "sticky". I should have let it strain longer, but we were leaving for Illinois the next morning at 4:30 am, and I was taking the labane as a host gift. So . . . At this point the labane was at room temperature, and refrigerating it probably would have made it easier to work with. I used this jar, adding a few peppercorns and a bay leaf. I poured olive oil over each "layer" to eliminate air bubbles.

A few days later in Illinois I taught my sister-in-law and her children how to make pita. We used some of the labane as a topping for the flatbreads. At dinner, her husband exclaimed: "You made these!?! They look store-bought!" We're taking that as a compliment.

More later on pita . . .

Cook's Word: Refrigerate the labane before rolling. In fact, as summer approaches, refrigerating it the whole time it strains is probably a good idea. For myself, I might just stick with Labane 1. It requires a lot less olive oil, and we'll end up smearing it on bread anyway!