Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Abuela's Avocado Pie (tastes like Key Lime on decadent steroids)

Aguacate / Avocado
Aguacate / Avocado (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Summer! 

Summer in D.C. is hot and sticky. Friday nights we would open the windows and let the fans blow. The delicious spices from Abuela Rosa 's food made our tongues sing. But after the jalepeno, it was always nice to have something sweet and cold. This recipe tastes luxurious and is so quick and easy. But you'll be surprised that people balk when you tell them it's an avocado pie. It might take some coaxing, but then they will love you forever :)  As a matter of fact this recipe is how she claims to have won Abuelo Carlos's heart.



English: Disengaged base and wall of springfor...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For the Crust:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 package of coconut macaroons

For the Filling:
2 medium hass avocados
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt

Optional lime zest for garnish


Make the crust: Brush an 8-inch springform pan with some of the melted butter. Mix the remaining butter with the cookies. Since the cookies are soft this is a mooshing/squeezing with your hands effort. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan. Chill in the fridge.

Make the filling: Halve and pit the avocados, then scoop out the flesh and mush with the back of a fork. Transfer to a bowl, add the cream cheese and beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the condensed milk, lime and lemon juices, and the salt and beat until fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed. Pour the filling into the crust, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface and chill at least 4 hours. (I actually put mine in the freezer so it's more like an ice cream treat)

Remove the springform ring and slice the pie. (If you freeze yours like I do, just let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes before you serve it.)  Garnish with lime zest, if desired. 

NOTE! Serve and eat immediately - wrap and put the unsliced portion back in the freezer. Like an avocado, this pie will brown when out in the air and become unappealing to look at. And that would be a darned shame.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Abuela Rosa's Vodka Spiked Tomatoes with Dipping Salt

Choro guitar.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Abuela Rosa opened her house to family and friends every Friday night. There was guitar music and the rhythm of heels on parquet floors punctuated with laughter. Abuela and I started early in the day to get enough food prepared for the crowd. This recipe was a fun one that was adults only - quick, cheap, and always a big hit.

You'll need:

1 pnt cherry tomatoes
1 cup vodka

English: A pack of organic cherry tomatoes, fr...
English: A pack of organic cherry tomatoes, from a local farm food co-op program. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1T ground cumin
2T finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2T salt

Then all you have to do is take a tooth pick and poke each tomato about a dozen times. Put them in a bowl and cover them with the vodka for about 3 hours.

When the guests are arriving, mix your seasoning and place them into a small dipping bowl/dish.
Pour off the extra vodka and voila! You're done.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jadda's Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Shop with spices in Morocco
Shop with spices in Morocco (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My Jadda was born in Turkey and married a man named Khaled at a very early age. They lived here and there in the Mediterranean as Khaled climbed the business ladder. Finally, he became a sales rep here in D.C.

The thing I remember with the most clarity about Khaled was that he had an amazing voice. His voice reminded me of rich warm spices: nutmeg and allspice, a twist of lemon, and cinnamon.  When he was happy, which was most of the time, Khaled's cinnamon scented voice was like rice pudding on a snow day - comfort food. But like too much cinnamon, too much Khaled -- the angry Khaled -- could burn my sensibilities.

Khaled entertained a great deal - and this recipe for stuffed dates is the one he liked for Jadda to make up and have on hand. She liked the ease and quick clean up. I, of course, just liked eating them.

Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese

English: Tunisian dates called Angou العربية: ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4 oz of crumbled goat cheese
1 clove of garlic crushed in a garlic press
2T freshly chopped basil leaves
16 dates - split these open with a sharp knife (dipping the knife in water between slices helps), remove the pits.

So all there is to it is: mix the first three ingredients and spoon a little of the mixture into your dates. Arrange on a plate, cover and stick them in the fridge to let the flavors blend for a couple of hours. Serve this at room temperature.

(Makes 16 hors d'oeuvres - recipe can be multiplied)
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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Peanut Butter Protein Shakes for Weight Gain

Peanut butter is a semi-solid and can therefor...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay so this is not a Kitchen Grandmother recipe - it's actually a Laura recipe. But since I've been drinking them morning, noon, and night - No, I'm not kidding - I thought I might as well write down the recipe in  case it was helpful to anyone else.

This shake can help you recover from an illness that caused unexpected/unwanted weight loss. It's also great for growing boys who are eating you out of house and home (G8R!)

It has 870+ calories or so depending on how you make yours and about 40g  of protein

2 cups whole milk
Chocolate Protein powder 1 scoop - I prefer soy but whey will work.
Peanut or Almond butter 1/4 cup
Ground flaxseeds 1 tbsp - for those important, brain saving Omegas!
Canola, Almond, or Avocado oil 1 tbsp (or in a pinch you can use olive oil)
Banana 1- the riper the better taste and better for you. Remember spots = healthful :)
Blend together putting liquids in your blender first. Blend to desired consistency adding ice to taste.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nona Sophia's Ribollita

English: Kornakov (2005:88) interprets the sce...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"Tonight we ate ribollita, an ancient Italian soup full of veggies and beans. The story goes that back in the Middle Ages the nobility would eat their meals off plates made from large slices of dried bread, called trenchers. After the meal, the peasants would gather the trenchers, full of the meal’s juices and leftover tidbits that the wealthy didn’t consume, and took them home to boil them for their own dinners. That was the origins of ribollita. Sounds gross. This ribollita was pretty good, though. It didn’t taste at all like boiled leftover trenchers." Lexi Sobado, CHAIN LYNX 

Italiano: Pentola contenente la minestra di pa...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember - Ribolitta is a peasant dish. If you think it would taste good, throw it in. If you don't have an ingredient on hand, make do.
Experiment - and have fun!

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1 onion chopped
1 carrot chopped
6 oz. pancetta chopped
3 cloves of garlic (leave one whole and crush the other two)
2T tomato paste
1 T herbs de Province
1tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
15 oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 box of frozen spinach wrung dry
1 can of white beans
4 cups of vegetable stock (I use Trader Joe's)
1 bay leaf
a baguette sliced
Parmesan for the table

And to put it all together ~
1. Start by heating the oil in a soup pot.
2. With the heat on medium add in the onion, carrot, pancetta , minced garlic, salt and pepper
3. When the onion is yellow and the pancetta is crispy add in the tomato paste, and tomatoes.
4. Using a wooden spoon - scrape the bottom as if you were de-glazing to get up all of those delicious crispy
5. Add in the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Preheat your oven to 350F
6. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
7. Brush your bread slices with olive oil. Toast until golden - keep a close eye on these so they don't 
8. As soon as you remove them from the oven rub them with your whole clove of garlic.
9. Divide the bread amongst your bowls then pour the soup over the top
10. If you like, decorate with a fresh sprig of parsley and Parmesan shavings

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Nana Kate's Cassoulet

Cassoulet cuit
Cassoulet cuit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now granted, Cassoulet is no the most beautiful dish that you would ever put on the table. I usually serve mine by candlelight.  But it is the essence of comfort food. Rich, warm, delicious. And I have found it freezes very well, so making a batch without company is still well worth the effort.

I always start from scratch -  Nana Kate would call anything less "cheating." So no canned beans. To make this right, you'll have to start the night before with the soaking process - so all in all give yourself about 12 hours to get this done. Longer if you have to run by the store to pick up the ingredients - there are lots. BUT Cassoulet was peasant food - so use what you have, substitute, experiment, have fun, and don't sweat the results.


  • 1 lb dried white beans (preferably Great Northern)
    White beans
    White beans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • 8 cups cold water
  • 2 cups beef broth (I try to keep this in the freezer, but surely you could use packaged if you don't have any)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups chopped onion 
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into thirds
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 6 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs plus 1/2 cup chopped leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 (14-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 confit duck legs* (1 3/4 lb total)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 lb cooked garlic pork sausage cut 1/3-inch-thick slices
  • 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


    1. Soak those beans! Put the beans in a pot and cover with 2" of water over night. In the morning rinse them off and drain in the colander.
    2. Pour your bean into your pot with the water, broth, tomato paste, onion, and 1/2 the garlic. Now here's the oolala French-ie part: put the celery, bay, cloves, parsley, and peppercorn onto a cheese cloth and tie the ends together to make a bag and throw it in the liquids (It's called a "bouquet garnis.') Bring everything to a boil, then reduce to simmer (uncovered) until your beans are tender. This takes a little less than an hour.
    3. During the simmer - cut the meat from your duck legs and put it in a bowl. Throw the bones in with your beans.
    4.  Pour in your tomatoes and let simmer another 15 minutes.Cook your duck meat and
    5. preheat your oven to 350 F 
    6. Remove the bouquet garni and bones.
    7. Stir in the meats salt and pepper and the rest of your  garlic
    8. Ladle everything into a casserole dish.
    9. Spread you breadcrumbs over the top and cook in the middle of your oven until it's bubbly - about an hour.

    English: A bowl of cassoulet that I had in Car...
     (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    See? Not complicated - just... long. And delicious! Nana Kate made this every time it snowed. She sevred it with fresh baguette and a tossed salad. 

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    Saturday, May 4, 2013

    Nana Kate's Chicken Soup - It Will Cure What Ails You.

    Chicken soup is a common classic comfort food ...
    (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    I vividly remember the day that Nana Kate taught me to make her famous Chicken Noodle Soup.  Give someone a bowl of soup, and they are fed for the day – teach them to soup and you feed them for a life time. She even gave me permission to post the recipe, such as it is, on my blog.

    Such as it is? Yes. Nana Kate usually cooks by eye and handful. She cooks by feel. (It's me who tries to write it all down).

    We started by taking a big fat chicken and removing the inards and pop-up plastic do-hickey. The chicken went into my very biggest soup pot and was covered with water. We ground black pepper until the surface of the water was covered with black flecks. We brought this to a boil, then covered the pot and put in on simmer until the chicken was fall off the bone tender. Periodically we skimmed any foam from the surface.
    Homemade PastaImage via Wikipedia
    While the stock was being made, Nana Kate dumped flour into a large bowl. She said 2 cups – it looked more like 4. 2 eggs were cracked and added, and enough milk to pull the dough into a ball. It was the consistency of bread dough. Too moist? add flour. Too dry? Add milk. Sprinkle the surface of a large work space with flour and roll out the dough until about a 1/4 inch thick - uniformly. 
    The dough is then cut with a sharp knife. The noodle ribbons should be about pencil wide and six inches of so long. Leave the noodles on the table to dry out. HUGE HINT – they won’t dry when it’s pouring down rain outside – so they will taste a little more dumpling-like but still oh, so good!

    Samgyetang, a Korean chicken soupImage via WikipediaBack at the soup pot…

    When the chicken is falling off the bone tender, take the chicken out to cool in a bowl.
    To the stock pot add:

    Nana Kate said, 2 T of salt, but I think it ended up being about 5 T. Start with a little and keep taste testing.

    2 T Morton’s Nature Seasoning (though again this ended up being about 5T so keep tasting until you are happy.)

    1 carton of chicken stock (or several cubes of bouillon)

    a half a plastic bag of barley (1 ½ cups of dry barley).

    Add about 2c of carrots cut into small bites (we just used a small bag of pre-scraped carrots and cut them into thirds).

    5 stalks of celery cut into bite size pieces (green part only)

    1 onion chopped

    Cook until the vegetables are tender and the barley is chewy. Add chicken that you have deboned, de-skinned, and cut into bite size pieces.

    To your simmering pot, add the strands of homemade pasta. It will take about ten minutes for the pasta to cook through. Your kitchen will smell FABULOUS. Your family will come running to the table. There will be no conversation as everyone settles into the comfort of their bowl of Nana Kate's Mystical Magical Cure Everything Soup….and they will remember it for years to come and feel loved.  

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    Biji's Samosas (Deep Fried Pastry Stuffed with Spicy Potatoes)

    English: Black Tea. Deutsch: Schwarzer Tee
     (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    • Tea time was an important part of the day for my Biji. She insisted that all commotion stop, and everyone sit respectfully down and take tea. Darjeeling tea to be precise. Often she served a cookie, or cake, but the days she served samosas were my favorite. 

    English: Samosa
    English: Samosa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    • How to make Samosas - 

      • 2 cups all-purpose flour
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus 3 to 4 cups for frying
      • 3 medium potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled
      • 1 bunch green onions (white and green parts), chopped
      • 2 fresh green chiles, such as jalapeños, seeded and minced (optional)
      • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
      • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
      • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
      • 1 teaspoon chile powder
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • Plain yogurt for serving

    • And to put it all together...
    (Sorry for the weirdness - here... "Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men." The page insists on changing colors, and I can't get this to stop! Argh!)
    • 1. In medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Add 2 tablespoons oil and, using fingertips, or I use a pastry cutter, bl
      English: A dough blender; also called a pastry...
       (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
      end until mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. 
      • 2. Add 3/4 cup warm water and mix until dough just comes together. 
      • 3. On a lightly floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
      • 4. Lightly oil medium bowl, form dough into ball, and place in bowl. Cover with towel and set aside to rest.
      • ~
      • 5. In large pot, cover potatoes with cold water. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender (about 20 minutes). Drain and, when they've cooled enough to handle, dice them finely.
      • 6. Put the potatoes in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. The moosh it all together :)
      • ~
      • 7. Now this next little bit takes some practice. Just go slowly, 
        12-crust on board
        12-crust on board (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
         emember this is fun! and you'll be fine. First, divide dough into 12 equal portions. 
      • 8. Roll portions into balls (work one ball at a time - cover the other balls with a lightly moistened kitchen 
      •    towel)
      • 9. On floured surface using floured rolling pin, roll out 1 ball into 6-
      •     inch circle. 
      • 10. Cut circle in half. Fold 1 corner of semicircle up and over 
      •      middle. Fold second corner over to make triangle, and pinch 
      •     corners of triangle to seal - leave rounded side open. Imagine that
      •     your making a little bag. 
      • 11. Holding this loosely in your hand - with open rounded side 
      •     facing up - fill the cone with about 2 tablespoons potato mixture.
      • 12. Pinch along rounded side to seal. Repeat with remaining dough
      •     and filling.
      • ~ Almost done!
      • 13. Heat your oil (about 2 inches) to 360 F in a heavy, deep skillet 
      •    over moderate heat. 
      • 14. Work in batches to fry samosas until golden brown, 1 to 2
      •    minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. 

      • Serve warm with yogurt or like in the picture above you can puree some cilantro for dipping.

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