October 13, 2016 Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup


Joe begins planning the vegetable garden right after the Christmas holidays. As always, he asked me if there was anything I wanted to add this year. I knew right away I wanted him to grow butternut squash. They were never planted before because the vines need considerable room to grow. Since the ever-expanding garden now includes an area near the orchard and the berry bushes, there would be some more room available. Last year he grew some loofah and bird house gourds in that area but since they were not going to be repeated, butternut squash got the okay.

Butternut is a variety of winter squash. The name is a bit of a misnomer however,  since all winter squashes are frost tender (the plants will die with the first frost) warm season (seeds must be planted when the soil temperature is above 65°) annuals (plants that complete their life cycle in one growing season). With a growing season of 110-120 days for full maturation, they are harvested in the fall and can be kept well through the cold winter months, hence the name. Summer squash like zucchini and yellow crookneck are harvested all summer long while the fruit is still immature and the skin is still tender. Not counting the ones that “get away” and could fill in for baseball bats. And yes, botanically speaking, both winter and summer squash are fruit since they develop from a flower and are the part of the plant that contains the seeds. Winter squash should only be harvested when fully mature. When winter squash is mature, the stem end will turn from green to brown and will appear that the stem is beginning to dry out. The skin should look dull, not shiny and it should be difficult to dent the squash skin with your fingernail. Winter squash do not require refrigeration but should be stored in a cool dark area.

Last weekend the harvest was finally ready and Joe brought them in by the wheelbarrows full, 60 in all. Some of the squash were slightly damaged and they will be the ones I use first. Some I will give away to friends and the rest we are storing on shelves in our basement.

Low in fat and rich in vitamins A, C, fiber and antioxidants, butternut squash is a great addition to many recipes. I like to roast cubes of butternut squash to add to my fall salads.The butternut squash seeds can be tossed with olive oil and salt and roasted for a crunchy snack or a salad topper.

The creamy texture of butternut squash makes a wonderful soup and I have recipes for two on the blog from years past, butternut squash soup with cider cream and butternut squash soup with Asian pear and ginger, both unique and delicious.

Because of fall’s chilly temperatures, I wanted to make a more substantial main course soup. I liked the idea of roasting the vegetables on the baking sheet to bring out their natural sweetness. For easy clean up, I lined the baking sheet with parchment paper. The leek, pepper and squash should be cut into pieces all relatively the same size so they cook evenly. A medium dice works best here, about 1 to 1 ½ inches. Toss the vegetables with olive oil and spread out evenly on a baking sheet, don’t overcrowd. Arrange the chicken thighs on top of the vegetables and season everything with salt and pepper. I think chicken thighs are the best choice for this recipe, the skin keeps the meat moist during the roasting process. Rotate the pan halfway during the cooking process to ensure even cooking.

Transfer the chicken thighs to a plate to cool and add the roasted vegetables to a pot along with the chicken broth and spices. Simmer over medium heat and use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to mash-up some of the vegetables to give the soup a thick, chunky texture. Shred the chicken into bite sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones. Add to the soup and stir in fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. When the soup is almost done stir in the kale ribbons and cook until they are wilted, an additional five minutes. Additional add ins for this soup could include cannellini beans and fire roasted diced tomatoes. The soup can be frozen or stored in the fridge for several days.

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup

Serves four to six


  • 6 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 medium butternut squash, (2½ to 3 lbs) peeled, seeded and diced medium
  • 1 medium leek, sliced medium
  • 1 small red pepper, diced medium  (I added a red poblano too for a little kick)
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 c low sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ t ground cumin
  • ¼ t ground coriander
  • ¼ t smoked paprika
  • 2-3 cups of thinly chopped kale (avoid thick stems)
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh parsley or coriander (optional)



  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl toss the squash, red pepper and onion with the olive oil. Spread evenly on a large baking sheet. Arrange the chicken thighs on top, spacing out evenly. Season everything with salt and pepper.
  2. Roast until the squash and chicken are cooked through, rotating pan halfway through the cooking process.
  3.  Transfer the chicken to a plate, loosely cover and let cool. Transfer squash and onions to a medium pot and broth, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. Simmer over medium high heat.
  4. With a potato masher or the back of a  wooden spoon, mash some of the vegetables until soup is thick and chunky.
  5. Discard the skin and bones from the chicken, cut meat into small pieces and add to the soup. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir in the thinly chopped kale and cook for five minutes more, until the kale is wilted. Taste and adjust seasonings, To serve, top with fresh parsley or cilantro.
Preparing the butternut squash.
Preparing the butternut squash.


I used a leek from the garden but an onion will work as well.
I used a leek from the garden but an onion will work as well.
Lining the baking sheet with parchment makes for easy clean up.
Lining the baking sheet with parchment makes for easy clean up.
The "after" picture.
The “after” picture.
Kale ribbons only need about five minutes to wilt into the soup.
Kale ribbons only need about five minutes to wilt into the soup.


October 5, 2016 Culinary Adventures in Orlando

Recently we spent a week in sunny Orlando Florida. The reason for our trip to this area after an absence of over twenty years was the FMX or Family Medicine Experience. It’s the yearly meeting of the American Academy of Family Practice to which Joe became a fellow this year. It’s an opportunity for him to obtain continuing medical education with just a little bit of a vacation. One of the highlights of the recreational part of our trip was an excursion one late afternoon/early evening to a Florida winery, Quantum Leap, followed by a cooking class conducted by Cuisiniers Catering Company at the East End Market in Audubon Park Florida.

“A winery in Florida?” you say. On a previous trip to south Florida we visited a winery that made from wine from tropical fruit. Quantum Leap is quite different, they describe themselves as a winery with “a sustainable focus and global reach”. They grow no grapes of their own, instead they buy sustain ably grown, good quality juices from producers all over the world and bring them to their facility. It is here the wine is made, the juices are blended and the wine making process is completed. Matt Uva, tasting room manager and brand ambassador for Quantum Leap was the very knowledgeable guide for our visit. He shared the history of the winery and lead our group through a tasting of several of the wines. one of which we purchased for later. We enjoyed the wine, the art on the walls and the fact that they are a dog friendly winery, with several rescues, AKA the Quantum Leap pack who might just be there when you visit.

The next stop on our trip was the East End Market, a food court/neighborhood market. On the first floor artisanal vendors offer up fresh-baked bread, gourmet cheeses, juices and smoothies, sushi, craft roasted coffee, local produce and much more. We spent a little time there checking out the vendors but  soon moved to the second floor to the kitchen of Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine and Events for a hands-on cooking class. Chef Jamie McFadden, award-winning executive chef and founder of Cuisiniers and his staff broke us off into teams and lead us through three different cooking stations. The instructors were informative and very patient. Even for experienced cooks like Joe and myself, it is always good to hone one’s skills.

One of the stations gave us the opportunity to work out our arm muscles with a mortar and pestle to make a garlicky achiote seasoning rub. Achiote, also known as annatto seeds, imparts a red color to foods as well as its earthy flavor. It has been dubbed “poor man’s saffron” in Latin American cuisine. For many years we have cooked annatto seeds in oil, and used the strained oil to brush on whole roasted pig. We donned disposable gloves so the annatto seeds wouldn’t stain our hands. All of the ingredients for the rub were pre-measured out in small disposable containers. As a former caterer I appreciated the efficiency of this step. We dumped the whole dried spices in the mortar first and crushed them into a powder, next the allspice and oregano were added.  Finally the whole garlic and orange juice were added to make a paste. The hardest part was keeping everything in the mortar, just wished it had been a little bit bigger.

We were then able to enjoy the fruits of our “labor” with a delicious buffet style dinner in the well-appointed dining room. We started with a wonderful salad of field greens, dried cranberries, cashews with blue cheese and honey vinaigrette. It reminded me of a salad I would make at home. Our main courses were an Indian curry rubbed rack of lamb, jerk chicken and salmon with the achiote rub we just made. Whipped potatoes and grilled vegetables rounded out the dinner portion of our meal.

Our final lesson was a mixology session. At each place setting was a glass of blackberry shrub, often referred to as a “drinking vinegar”. This version is cold process, which means the berries are not cooked. They are mixed with sugar and refrigerated for 24 hours. The berries are strained out and red wine vinegar is added. Pour this into a clean glass bottle and refrigerate this mixture for four weeks (patience please!) Your efforts will be well worth it, the vinegar mellows out and blends nicely with the fruit. It’s a refreshing sipper on its own mixed with some club soda, but a little vodka, rum or vermouth make it a delicious cocktail. Our meal finished with a dessert of sticky toffee pudding, another personal favorite of mine.

We left the Cuisiniers kitchen and boarded our bus back to the hotel, full and happy with not only a recipe sheet to recreate some of the evenings dishes but with a container of garlicky achiote rub. What we needed to remember here was; #1 be sure that this perishable rub was kept in our hotel room refrigerator and #2 with all the flurry of last-minute packing, not to leave this wonderful rub behind for the hotel maids!  I am happy to say that we brought home both containers and we used it the evening we got home for some veal chops on the grill the first night and salmon the following night.

Garlicky Achiote Seasoning Rub

Serves four


  • 2 T annatto or achiote seeds
  • 2 t ground allspice
  • 1 T black peppercorns
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 3 whole peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 2 T orange juice


  1. Place the dry whole spices into a mortar and crush with a pestle until they become a fine powder.
  2. Add the other spices and grind again.
  3. Add the whole garlic and orange juice and make into a paste. Store in a covered container for several days.
As Jimi used to say, “are you experienced?”


The logo for Quantum Leap winery.
The logo for Quantum Leap winery.
Behind the scenes at Quantum Leap.
Behind the scenes at Quantum Leap.


Matt Uva, our guide for our visit to Quantum Leap.
Matt Uva, our guide for our visit to Quantum Leap.
Uva is the Italian word for grape, coincidence? I think not!!


Ready to cook!


Chef Jamie leading a group at the knife station.


Achiote or annatto seeds are popular in the cuisine of Latin countries.
All of the rub ingredients were measured out and ready to go. We took our rub home in cute little canning jars.


I kept most of the rub in the mortar.


It made a delicious rub for the salmon.

September 15, 2016 Harissa

dsc_7983aThe challenge facing us in late summer/early fall is preserving the harvest.  A prime example is hot peppers. In tropical climates they thrive as perennials and can grow for many years. It would be great if I could just walk down to the garden in January to pick a few fresh jalapenos. But given the fact that January temperatures where we live are below freezing and pepper plants prefer a daytime temperature of 65-80°F, it won’t be happening anytime soon . So it is necessary to find methods of preservation now to enjoy them later while the peppers are at their peak. Every year I freeze whole peppers, dry them, make chili flakes, pickle jalapenos, I’m even making sriracha now, but a new method is always welcome.
A very simple recipe I found for eggplant, another garden stalwart, suggested topping grilled slices with prepared harissa and yogurt. In the past I purchased harissa in a jar or a tube at the middle eastern stand at the local farmers market. This time I decided to see if this was something I could make myself. Harissa, is a garlicky spicy condiment found in the Northwest African countries of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. It can be used as a condiment for meat or fish, roasted vegetables, stirred into soups and stews and served alongside couscous. Think sriracha with more complexity. It’s ingredients can include roasted peppers, garlic, chile peppers of all varieties, fragrant spices such as coriander, cumin and caraway, dried mint, lemon and olive oil. There is no one master recipe for harissa. The ingredients in harissa vary by country, ethnicity, even neighborhood. You can adjust the heat by the number and type of chilies you use, just remember, harissa is supposed to be hot.

My recipe is a little different from most since I used fresh hot peppers, not dried ones that need to be reconstituted. This meant using double the amount of peppers. I used one red bell pepper, four mild poblano peppers and a mix of jalapeno, cayenne and ancho. I added a little tomato paste for sweetness, preserved lemon peel with just a little juice, chopped garlic, smoked paprika and an aromatic spice blend. I think the spice blend is what really gives this dish its unique flavor. Whole spices, coriander, cumin and caraway are toasted in a small skillet until the fragrance fills your kitchen. I find it easiest to grind them in a mortar and pestle, a mini food processor doesn’t quite give the consistency you are looking for.

All the peppers need to be charred to remove the skin. I did this in a hot oven, turning occasionally to blacken all the sides. I put the charred peppers in a bowl and covered it tightly with plastic wrap to steam the peppers. It is important for to wear rubber gloves when removing the skin, seeds and stem from the hot peppers. Conventional wisdom for years has said that the hottest part of the pepper is the seeds. A recent study however has shown that even though the seeds pack some heat, it’s actually the placenta, the white tissue that holds the seeds that is the source of the most heat. As you peel the peppers put them into piles, no heat, some heat and hottest. That way you can hold back on some of the hottest peppers until you are certain the sauce will be palatable for you.

Combine the chilies, toasted spices, garlic, salt and other optional ingredients in a food processor. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until you have a smooth, thick paste. Scrape down the sides occasionally. Taste, now is the time to add that extra pepper if desired. As I said before, harissa is supposed to be hot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer harissa to clean jars, top with a thin layer of olive oil and store in the refrigerator for several weeks. Since I freeze pesto I may try to see if harissa can be frozen too.

As a postscript, the harissa received immediate approval from Joe who topped cucumber slices with harissa as an after work snack.

A harvest of both bell and hot peppers.


Makes 2 cups


  • 1 medium bell pepper
  • 8 to 10 ounces fresh chili peppers of varying heat, poblano, ancho, jalapeno, cayenne
  • 2 t cumin seed
  • 2 t coriander seed
  • 2 t caraway seed
  • 3 to 4 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 t preserved lemon peel
  • 1 t juice from preserved lemon
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 3-4 T extra virgin olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.Line a baking sheet with foil. Place all the peppers on the baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.
  2. Turn the smaller peppers over and roast for another 10 minutes, until the skins are blackened. Remove them to a bowl. Turn the bell and poblano peppers over and roast for another 10-15 minutes, until the skins are blackened.
  3. Remove all the peppers to the bowl and tightly cover with plastic wrap to steam the skin.
  4. Place the cumin, coriander and caraway seed into a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast until seeds have darkened a bit and have become fragrant.
  5. Pour toasted seeds into the bowl of a mortar and pestle. Crush seeds to a powder.
  6. Using rubber gloves to protect your hands, stem, skin and seed the peppers.
  7. Place the peppers (hold back a few hot ones if you are concerned), toasted seeds, garlic, tomato paste, preserved lemon peel and juice, smoked paprika into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine the ingredients, scraping down the sides.
  8. With the food processor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until you have a smooth, thick paste. Taste, add salt and pepper to your liking and pulse in the extra peppers if desired.
  9. Transfer harissa to clean jars and top with a thin layer of olive oil. Store in the refrigerator for several months.
Place the peppers on a foil lined baking sheet for easy clean up.
Place the peppers on a foil lined baking sheet for easy clean up.


Cumin, coriander and caraway seeds are toasted in a dry pan.
Cumin, coriander and caraway seeds are toasted in a dry pan.


Pulverize the seeds in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Smells great.
Pulverize the seeds in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Smells great.
Stem, seed and skin the peppers. Be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands from the hot peppers.


I added some preserved lemon peel and tomato paste.
Everything is combined in the food processor.
Everything is combined in the food processor. Add olive oil to make a thick paste.


September 9, 2016 Grilled Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Oregano

dsc_7944aOur summer barbecues often include the combination of ribs and chicken. The ribs are sourced locally from a pork farm less than ten minutes from our home. The rich, succulent meat pairs very well with a sweet hickory barbecue sauce. I didn’t want to duplicate the same flavor profile for the chicken. I was thinking of a nice contrast, lemon, garlic and herbs. My need wasn’t for a method of cooking the chicken, Joe has mastered that quite nicely, I just wanted a different way to finish the chicken.

I found this very well reviewed method from a 2002 issue of Gourmet magazine. What makes this recipe unique is that the chicken is only seasoned with salt and pepper, grilled, and THEN tossed in a dressing of lemon, oregano, salt, pepper and olive oil. My husband was a bit skeptical but was willing to give it a try.

Sounds too simple but resulted in a surprisingly moist and flavorful dish that we will definitely be making again. We had plenty of fresh oregano from the garden for this, I would imagine that fresh rosemary or thyme would work as well. It’s a dish that can be done out of season as well. Put the chicken, skin side up in a shallow baking pans in the upper and lower thirds of a 500°F oven, switch the pans halfway through baking. Bake until the skin is crisp and chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes. The lemon slices can be grilled in a grill pan. Toss the chicken pieces in the dressing and serve.


Grilled Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Oregano

Serves 8


  • 2 lemons cut crosswise into 1/3 inch slices
  • ¼ c fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ c finely chopped oregano
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • ½ t kosher salt
  • ½ t coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/3 c good quality olive oil
  • 6 lbs or more, chicken parts, breasts, thighs and legs


  1. Whisk together lemon juice, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk in the olive oil in a  slow stream.
  2.  Season chicken parts with salt and pepper. Grill chicken according to your usual method on a gas or charcoal grill. Transfer cooked chicken to a tray and keep warm.
  3.  Transfer chicken parts to the bowl and turn to coat the pieces
  4. Grill lemon slices until grill marks appear, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to platter with the cooked chicken.



August 31, 2016 Miso Glazed Eggplant (Nasu Dengaku)

DSC_7877aMiso glazed eggplant or nasu dengaku is a classic Japanese dish and sushi bar favorite. It’s an quick and easy preparation this time of year when eggplants are at their peak. Our garden has produced an amazing array of eggplants this summer. From fuchsia to dark purple, beautifully variegated lavender and white to pure white, they have loved our weeks of 90 degree plus temperatures and abundant rain. What we consider to be Asian eggplants are the long slim tapered varieties. Actually, Asian eggplants whether Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Indian can be round or pear shaped, pure white or lime green and as small as an egg. In this dish the creamy flesh of the eggplant is the blank canvas for the umami rich flavors of a sweet, salty and savory glaze.
This recipe is quick and easy, but there are a few special ingredients you may not have on hand. Toasted sesame oil, mirin and miso are usually available at most large supermarkets. If you don’t want to buy a bottle of sake just for the two tablespoons in the recipe, substitute dry sherry. The eggplant is sliced down the middle lengthwise and the flesh is salted for a few minutes to draw out any excess moisture. While you are waiting on the eggplants, preheat your oven and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. Keep the parchment in place with a little non stick spray in the four corners. Lightly brush the baking sheet with toasted sesame oil. This will prevent the eggplant from sticking and adds a rich nutty flavor to the dish.
Blot the excess moisture from the eggplants and place cut side down on the baking sheet. While the eggplants are roasting, prepare the glaze. Combine mirin and sake in a very small saucepan, bring to a boil for twenty seconds, then stir in miso and sugar over low heat. Off heat stir in the additional sesame oil. The eggplants are done in about 15 minutes when the skin collapses and the flesh becomes soft Remove the eggplants from the oven and carefully turn them over, cut side up. Adjust the oven rack to it’s highest position and turn on the broiler.Brush the eggplants with the miso glaze and place under the broiler for about 1 minute, be sure to watch carefully! Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serve hot or at room temperature.

A recent harvest of all the varieties of eggplant we are growing.
A recent harvest of all the varieties of eggplant we are growing.

Miso Glazed Eggplant

Serves 2-3


  • 1 lb of Japanese eggplants
  • Kosher salt 
  • 1 t sesame oil, plus additional for the baking sheet
  • 1 T mirin
  • 1 T sake
  • 2 T white or yellow miso
  • 1 T sugar or honey
  • Toasted sesame seeds


  1. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and cut off the stem and calyx. Using the tip of a paring knife, cut an incision down the middle of each half, making sure not to cut through the skin, but cutting down to it. Salt the eggplant lightly and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425°F.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and brush it with sesame oil.
  2. Blot the eggplants with paper towels and place, cut side down, on the baking sheets. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin is beginning to shrivel and the flesh is soft. Remove from the oven, carefully turn the eggplants over, and preheat the broiler.
  3. To make the glaze, combine the mirin and sake in the smallest saucepan you have and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 20 seconds, taking care not to boil off  too much of the liquid, then turn the heat to low and stir in the miso and the sugar. Whisk over medium-low heat without letting the mixture boil, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sesame oil.
  4. Brush the eggplants with all of the miso glaze. Place under the broiler, about 2 inches from the heat, and broil for about 1 minute, until the glaze begins to bubble and looks shiny. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool if desired or serve hot. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.
Scoring and salting the eggplants.
Ingredients needed for the glaze.


Place the eggplants cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Place the eggplants cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Use your smallest saucepan to make the glaze.
Use your smallest saucepan to make the glaze.
Once the eggplant is soft turn it cut side up. apply the glaze and put the tray under the broiler.
Once the eggplant is soft, turn it cut side up. apply the glaze and put the tray under the broiler.


August 20, 2016 Orange Tomato Soup

DSC_7773-copyaThis recipe could also be titled Orange, orange tomato soup. All the recipes I found on line for orange tomato soup included orange juice, but not orange tomatoes. My recipe uses both. Orange tomatoes come in all sizes, from the cherry sized Sun Gold, that you can eat out of hand like candy to the Valencia, an heirloom variety that we are growing this year. Orange tomatoes are less acidic and fruity while still providing a true tomato flavor. Orange tomatoes inspired me to add a little orange juice to the soup to highlight the sweetness of the tomatoes.

This is a very quick recipe to prepare, begin by melting some butter and olive oil in a large saute pan. Add chopped shallot and carrot and cook until softened. Shallots provide a milder flavor, but a white onion could be substituted. Add cored chopped tomatoes, roughly torn basil leaves, chicken stock and just a touch of maple syrup. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Allow the mixture to cool a bit before transferring to a blender. Blend the soup in two batches. Very hot liquids expand as you blend them so place a kitchen towel over the lid to protect your hands from any soup that might escape the blender. For the finest texture you could put this soup through a food mill. Next, stir in the orange juice, fresh squeezed of course. Cool the soup to room temperature before placing in a covered container in the refrigerator. Chill for at least four hours or overnight to allow the flavors to blend.

This soup is great for entertaining, it can be made well in advance. It could be dressed up with a seared scallop or a poached shrimp. Serve the soup garnished with some basil leaves and some quartered Sun Gold tomatoes. We enjoyed ours along with a BLT.



Orange Tomato Soup

Serves 4


  • 1/3 c chopped shallots
  • 1/3 c chopped carrot
  • 4 c cored and quartered orange tomatoes
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • ½ c shredded basil leaves
  • 2 c chicken stock
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • ¾ c orange juice




  1. In a large saute pan melt the butter and olive oil over medium high heat.
  2. Add the shallots and carrot and saute until softened, five to six minutes.
  3. Add chopped orange tomatoes, basil leaves, chicken stock and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Allow the soup to cool for at least five minutes before proceeding to the next step.
  4. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. If desired you can also put the soup through a food mill.  Put the soup in a bowl and stir in the orange juice. Cool the soup to room temperature. Put the soup in the refrigerator in a covered container and chill for at least four hours or overnight.
  5. Serve garnished with orange cherry tomatoes and a few basil leaves.


August 13, 2016 Oven Roasted Ratatouille

DSC_7741aI love recipes that use the bounty of the garden in a single dish and ratatouille accomplishes that in a very delicious way.  In case you didn’t know, ratatouille (rat-uhtoo-ee), is a summer vegetable stew that had it’s origins in the Provencal city of Nice in southern France. Traditionally, each ingredient, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onion, garlic and tomatoes, is cooked separately on the stove top and tossed together at the very end. So it’s really a sauté that is presented as a stew.

In this version the vegetables are tossed in olive oil and roasted in the oven, eliminating the time cooking over a hot stove. Our red and yellow bell pepper harvest is the earliest I can remember. They must like the hot temperatures and abundant rainfall this year. The orange Valencia peppers are not far behind. I prefer using Chinese or Japanese eggplants for their thin skin and milder flavor. I substituted shallots for onions since our harvest was so plentiful this year. The garlic was also from the garden, a first for us.

Cut the vegetables in similar size so they will get done at the same time. The smaller the cut, the less time it will take to cook.  Lightly toss the vegetables with about a half cup of a good quality olive oil.  Spread them out evenly over two large baking sheets. Rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back half way through the cooking time. Roasting allows the vegetables to retain their shape and they take on a delicious toasted flavor. Move the cooked vegetables to a large serving bowl and tossed with a basil chiffonade. Chiffonade, translates “made of rags” from the French (of course!).  It is a technique for cutting herbs and vegetables into long thin strips, in this case, basil.

Ratatouille can be used in many ways, a side dish, a topping for bruschetta, chicken or fish.  We used it as the topping for an impromptu flatbread pizza. It can be served hot or cold and is even better the next day, if it lasts that long.

This season is the earliest we have had ripe bell peppers. I guess they really like the hot and rainy weather.
Ingredients for the ratatouille, I substituted shallots for onions since Joe just harvested his crop.


Oven Roasted Ratatouille

Serves four (or two very generously)


  • 2 small onions (about 5 oz. each), cut into ¼-inch-thick half-moons
  • 2 bell peppers, red, yellow or orange, cored, seeded and cut into ¼-inch lengthwise strips
  • Japanese eggplant, about 1 lb, cut crosswise ½ inch thick rounds, then sliced in quarters
  • 1 lb small to medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into ½ inch thick rounds
  • 10 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • ½ c extra virgin olive oil, and more as needed
  • 1 t chopped fresh rosemary
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1½ lbs medium tomatoes (about 4), cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • ¼ c basil cut into a chiffonade
Toss the ingredients in a large bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Transfer the vegetables to two large baking sheets.



  1. Place racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Heat to 400°F. If using convection heat, 375°F.
  2.  In a large bowl, toss the onions, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, rosemary, and 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt and a grind of pepper. Spread the vegetables evenly over two large 12 x 16 sheet pans. Don’t spread the vegetables too thin or they may burn (they shrink a lot as they cook).
  3. Roast, stirring the vegetables a few times and swapping the positions of the pans once, until the vegetables are slightly collapsed or shriveled, starting to brown, and very tender, about 35 minutes for my oven. It could take 10 minutes longer if you are not using convection heat.
  4. Scrape all the vegetables and any juices into a serving bowl. Toss with the basil, taste for seasoning, and serve.


Ratatouille makes a great pizza topping.
How could I resist posting a picture of Remy, the star of the movie Ratatouille  who presides over my kitchen from his perch above.

August 5, 2016 Swordfish Steaks with Orange, Fennel and Kalamata Olive Salad

DSC_7633aWhen I am looking for a quick and easy fish entree that comes together in about 15 minutes, swordfish is one of my first choices. I love it’s rich, meaty texture and like to balance it with something that is tart, a bit sweet and a little salty. This palate pleasing salad of oranges, fennel and olives takes it’s inspiration from Sicily.

The orange supremes take some careful knife work but are worth the effort. Using your sharpest pairing knife, trim off the top and bottom of the orange. Rest the orange on one of the cut ends and trim off the peel and pith in large strips, carefully following the contours of the fruit. Cut the segments free from the membrane. Be sure to do this over a bowl to catch all the juices. Squeeze the remaining membrane to capture every last drop of juice. I reduced the juice in a small saucepan to intensify the flavor in the vinaigrette.

I think fennel is a greatly under used vegetable. Related to carrots, parsley, dill and coriander, it has a crunchy texture and refreshing licoricey flavor popular in Mediterranean cooking. To cut, trim the feathery foliage and stalks off where they meet the top of the bulb. The stalks and foliage can be used as a bed for cooking the fish. Cut the bulb in quarters lengthwise and cut out the core. Slice the sections thinly using a mandoline or a very sharp knife. I used fennel thinnings from the garden. They didn’t have a hard solid core so I used the entire fennel bulb.

Kalamata olives are almond shaped and dark purple in color. They are cured in a red wine vinegar brine that gives them a rich, fruity flavor. They are often found on the Mediterranean bar in many supermarkets. To pit olives, place them on a flat surface and lightly crush with the side of a broad flat chef’s knife. Remove the pit and cut the olives in half lengthwise.

Cumin is one of my favorite spices and toasting cumin seeds really intensifies their flavor. Use a small dry skillet over medium to medium high heat. Keep the pan in constant motion, the seeds will darken and your kitchen will be filled with a warm toasty aroma. Immediately remove them from the pan and transfer to a bowl or a mortar and pestle. Crushing the toasted seeds brings out their flavor even more. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, put the seeds in a plastic bag and crush them with the bottom of a heavy pan or a rolling pin.

Combine the reduced orange juice, toasted fennel and olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and lightly toss. Serve salad with the fish and garnish the plates with fennel fronds.

DSC_7602aOrange, Fennel and Kalamata Olive Salad


  • 1 small to medium fennel bulb
  • 2-3 medium oranges
  • 1//3 c kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half lengthwise
  • ½ t cumin seed
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste



  1. Cut the fennel in quarters lengthwise, removing the core. Thinly slice the fennel, preferably with a mandoline. You will need 1 cup.
  2. Remove peel and pith from the oranges using a sharp paring knife. Working over a bowl to catch the juice, carefully cut between membranes, to remove segments. Squeeze remaining membrane to extract juice. In a small saucepan reduce the orange juice to two tablespoons. Set aside.
  3. Toast the cumin seed in a small non stick saute pan until fragrant and toasted. Grind toasted cumin seed in a mortar and pestle. In a small bowl combine reduced orange juice, cumin and olive oil, stir together.
  4. In a medium bowl combine the sliced fennel, orange segments, and olives. Pour the dressing over and lightly toss.  Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.
Baby fennel from the garden.



  •  2- 6 oz swordfish steaks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Wondra flour
  • 1 T each olive oil and unsalted butter


  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Measure steaks using the Canadian method to calculate total cooking time.
  3. Season swordfish steaks with salt and pepper. Dust with Wondra flour.
  4. Heat an oven-proof saute pan over medium high heat.
  5. Melt butter and oil in a saute pan large enough to hold the fish without crowding and small enough to fit in your oven.
  6. Brown swordfish for two minutes on each side.
  7. Move saute pan to oven. Finish in oven, subtracting four minutes from your total cooking time. For example 1″ fish=10 minutes cooking time minus four minutes equals six minutes in the oven.
  8. Using oven mitts, remove from pan from oven, transfer fish to serving plate with spatula. Serve with the orange, fennel and kalamata salad.



July 28, 2016 Ginger Cucumber Salad with Scallops

DSC_7580aOur current scorching, almost 100 degree temperatures with no end in sight, call for a minimum of time cooking over a hot stove. This recipe, from Mark Bittman’s Minimalist column in the New York Times is just what I was looking for. Ginger cucumber salad with scallops combines sweet buttery scallops with a crisp refreshing cucumber salad.

The cucumber salad is very simple and good in it’s own right. To get the thinnest cucumber and onion slices possible, use a mandoline. Since I am using smaller just picked cucumbers from the garden, there is no need to seed them, but I do prefer to peel them and leave strips of green skin. A classic dressing of rice wine vinegar, fresh grated ginger, sugar and salt provides a quick pickle for the cucumber slices. Remember to use plain rice vinegar, seasoned rice vinegar is flavored with sugar, salt and sometimes MSG. Plain rice vinegar is just mildly acidic and allows the cook to choose the amount of seasoning in the dish. A two inch piece of ginger translates into about two tablespoons. That might seem to be a bit too much but it is mellowed out with the other ingredients. If you are not sure, hold back a little and taste first.

While the cucumbers are marinating, preferably in the fridge, sear the scallops. Use a large non stick pan and brush with two tablespoons of a neutral oil, like grapeseed or canola, olive oil would compete (and win) against the delicate flavor of the scallops. When the oil starts to sizzle, add the scallops like the numbers on a clock starting at the top and going around, putting any additional scallops in the middle. If your pan isn’t large enough to cook all the scallops in one batch, divide them into two. Give the scallops room to sear, if they are too close they will steam. Check the first scallop, (twelve o’clock) after two minutes, if there is a nice brown crust, it’s time to flip. Continue checking around the clock until all the scallops are flipped. Repeat the step for the second side, this time moving the finished scallops to a plate.

The remaining oil, thinly sliced onion and turmeric are added to the same pan, no need to wash in between. Turmeric is the spice that gives Indian curries their vibrant color and adds warmth and a slightly bitter taste to dishes. The medical component in turmeric, curcumin, is used to make a wide variety of medicines as an anti inflammatory agent. The addition of turmeric is optional but adds another dimension to the salad.

Don’t skip the toasted sesame seeds, they add their own fragrance and just a little crunch. Stir the sauteed onions into the cucumber salad, top with the scallops and serve.

Seared Scallops with Ginger Cucumber Salad

Serves 2-3


  • 1 ¼ lbs small cucumbers
  • ½ c rice vinegar (not flavored)
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, minced or finely grated
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 3 T canola oil
  • 1 lb medium to large scallops
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ t ground turmeric
  • 2 T toasted sesame seeds




  1. Slice cucumbers thinly, a mandolin  does the best job, if the cucumbers are large, peel and seed before slicing.
  2. Combine rice vinegar, ginger, sugar and salt and toss with cucumbers. Let stand 30 to 60 minutes.
  3. Put 2 tablespoons oil in a large non stick skillet over medium high heat. When the oil starts to sizzle add the scallops. Sear on first side for two minutes, flip to the other side and  sear for about two minutes. Remove scallops to a plate.
  4. Add the remaining oil, then add the onions and turmeric. Cook until the onion softens, about five minutes.
  5. Toast sesame seeds in a small dry skillet until fragrant and brown, three to four minutes. Stir the onions into cucumbers, top with scallops, garnish with sesame seeds and serve.


July 21, 2016 Wakame and Cucumber Salad

DSC_7557aSeaweed has been a regular part of the Japanese diet for centuries. It is low in calories, fat and cholesterol, a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. So why don’t I think of making seaweed salad more often?

Granted it’s not the most attractive item you will find at your local health food store or Asian market and the word weed makes it sound like something you might toss in the mulch heap. But sea vegetables, as they are also known, make an interesting addition to salads. I have several types in my pantry, nori for rolls, kombu for dashi, the base for miso soup. I chose wakame (wah-ka-may) for this salad. It has a chewy texture and a very mild flavor, a little sweet and a little salty. Not much is needed, an ounce of dried seaweed is enough for a salad to serve four. Dried wakame may not look like much but after soaking, it expands up to six to eight times it’s original size.

The wakame should not soak any longer than the directions suggest, it will get soggy. Drain well and rinse with cold water. Remove the inedible stem if present. Thinly slice an equal amount of Persian or seedless cucumbers with a mandolin. The simple dressing uses staples from the Japanese pantry, miso, rice vinegar, and mirin. Combine the wakame, scallions and cucumbers in a medium bowl and toss with the dressing. Top with toasted sesame seeds.

We nibbled on this light, refreshing salad while enjoying the sushi and sashimi dinner Joe prepared last weekend. In Japanese cuisine it is considered a sunomono (vinegar based cold dish).  The crunchy cucumber, (fresh from the garden of course) contrasts nicely to the soft chewy texture of the wakame.

Wakame and Cucumber Salad

Serves four


  • 1 ounce dried wakame seaweed
  • ¼ c rice wine vinegar
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 T yellow miso paste
  • 1 T freshly grated ginger
  • 1 t honey
  • 1 T mirin
  • 1 T dark sesame oil
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 thinly sliced, Persian cucumbers or 1 large seedless cucumber
  • 2 thinly sliced scallions
Ingredients for the salad.
Ingredients for the salad.
Dried wakame.
Dried wakame.
Wakame can expand six to eight times it’s size from the dried state.
The mandolin gives uniform thin slices, always use the finger guard!
The mandolin gives uniform thin slices, always use the finger guard!


  1. Soak seaweed in warm water to cover, 5 minutes. Drain, rinse briefly with cool water and drain again. Use a paper towel to blot excess water. Set seaweed aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lime juice, miso paste, ginger, honey, mirin, sesame and canola oil.
  3. Add the wakame along with the cucumbers and scallions and toss well.
  4. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve immediately.