Archive for November, 2009

Aloha Turkey Sliders

November 30, 2009
  • 8 dinner rolls cut in half. (preferably King’s Hawaiian)
  •  1/2 cup crushed pineapple
  • 1 tbps plain yoghurt
  •  2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  •  1 tbsp chopped green onion. 
  • 8 oz cooked turkey breast, sliced into 8 small slices
  • 8 small lettuce leaves

Combine pineapple/yoghurt in one bowl, and hoisin/green onion in another small bowl.  Slice dinner rolls in half crosswise.  Spread 1 tbsp pineapple mixture on bottoms.  Spread 1 tsp of hoisin/green onion sauce on the underside of the tops.  Top each bottom with a lettuce leaf and turkey slice. Place dinner roll tops  on top of the turkey, hoisin side down.  Stab sandwich with a long cocktail toothpick.  Makes 8 sliders.

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Thanksgiving 2009 recipes

November 28, 2009

Some recipes from this year’s Thanksgiving.  Using cheese cloth to cover the turkey helps it to stay in contact with the butter (otherwise it just slides off the surface into the bottom of the pan). The turkey remains moist, and it doesn’t brown too soon.


Roasted Turkey and gravy

  • 1 12-14 pound turkey, completely defrosted if previously frozen
  • 4 tbsp coarse salt
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 lemon cut into eight pieces
  • ½ onion, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks
  • 1 carrot cut into 1 ½ inch chunks
  • 1 stalk celery cut into 1 ½ inch chunks
  • 1 cup minced mixed fresh herbs:  parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, chives (many grocery stores sell fresh “poultry herbs” in a single packet.  These work just fine)
  • 4 tbsp butter softened
  • 1 cup butter melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Put one shelf on the lowest setting and the other on the highest setting. Remove neck and giblets from turkey cavities don’t forget to check the neck cavity!  Put neck, firm gizzard and heart in a small sauce pan.  Reserve soft, slimy liver for other uses (like pate).  Rinse turkey and drain out liquid from cavities.

Mix salt, pepper and garlic powder together in a small bowl.  Sprinkle 2 tbsp of the mixture into the cavity of the turkey.  Rub it into the sides of the interior.  Stuff 2 pieces of lemon into the neck cavity and the remaining six in the main cavity.  Distribute onion, carrot and celery into the two cavities.  Toss any remaining vegetables into the sauce pan with the neck and giblets.  Sew up or skewer closed the large cavity , or if your turkey comes with a metal bracket, slip the drumstick ends under the bracket to keep the vegetables from falling out.

Add one tbsp of the salt/pepper mixture, and ¼ cup of the minced herbs to the softened butter and mix well.  Slip a plastic spatula under the skin above the breast and move it around to loosen the skin all the way to the neck end, towards the wing and leg joints.  Using a table spoon, spoon half of the softened butter mixture under the skin on either side of the breast and massage the top of the skin to move the seasoned butter back towards the neck, wing and leg joints.  Spoon the remain seasoned butter under the skin and massage to easily distribute the butter evenly under the skin above the breast. 

Combine the remaining salt/pepper mixture with the remaining herbs.  Rub this mixture all over the surface of the turkey, paying particular attention to the legs and wings.

Put a roasting rack in a roasting pan.  Lay the turkey on the roasting rack, breast side up. Tuck the wingtips underneath the turkey.   Cover the turkey entirely with a large piece of cheese cloth that has been folded twice to make it three layers thick.  Brush the melted butter over the entire piece of cheesecloth, making sure that the entire exposed surface of the turkey is in contact with the buttery cheese cloth.  Pour about 1 cup water into the bottom of the pan.

Put roasting pan with turkey in the oven on the lower shelf.  Turkey will roast for about 18-20 minutes per pound.  After about two hours, start basting the surface of the cheese cloth with the pan drippings. Use a large basting brush or basting bulb for this purpose.  Also, insert a meat thermometer into a thigh.  Do not let it come into contact with bone.  Approximately one hour before the completion of baking time, peak underneath the cheese cloth.  If the turkey is not already brown, remove the cheese cloth to allow it to brown.  Otherwise, keep the cheese cloth on top to prevent turkey from overbrowning.  When thermometer registers 180 degrees, remove turkey from the oven, cover it with foil, and let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving.  Discard vegetables in the cavity.


To the saucepan containing the neck, giblets, and extra vegetables, add six cups of water, 2 cups of dry white wine, 2 tsp good quality chicken bouillon granules or paste (I love Better than Bouillon), 4 pepper corns, bay leaf and a handful of parsley.  Bring to boil and then simmer until the turkey has been removed from the oven.

Strain the broth and discard the solids.  You should have about six cups of liquid.  If not, add enough water to make six cups.

Return the empty saucepan to the burner over medium-high heat.  Spoon ¾ cup of drippings from the turkey pan (if you don’t have enough, add butter to make ¾ cup).  Add ¾ cups flour and whisk well, until mixture starts to lightly brown.  Slowly pour in the hot turkey broth and continue whisking until a thick gravy forms.  Add seasoning (salt and pepper) as necessary.

Sweet Potato and Cranberries with Crumb topping

  • 4 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup brown sugar

Crumb Topping

  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp softened butter

Boil unpeeled sweet potatoes for about ½ hour or until you can slip a knife into them fairly easily.  Remove sweet potatoes from the water and allow them to cool.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into ¼ inch slices.  Spray a shallow two-quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Layer half the sweet potatoes on the bottom of the pan.  Layer 1 cup cranberries on top.  Repeat with remaining sweet potatoes and cranberries.  Mix melted butter, orange juice and brown sugar together and pour this mixture evenly on top of the sweet potatoes and cranberries.  Cover the casserole and put it in the oven with the roasting turkey on the top shelf.  Bake for about 45 minutes. 

Remove casserole from the oven.  Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle them evenly on top of the casserole.  Return dish to the oven and bake about 15-20 minutes more.  Serves 8-12 depending on how gluttonous everyone is.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

November 26, 2009

This is a northeast version of this spicy dish.  The tomato sauce is smooth and substantial rather than chunky and light.  John likes it very saucy so he can scoop up the extra sauce with Italian bread.  Quick dish.

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed
  • 2 cups pre-made marinara sauce
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp capers
  • 8 oz dried spaghetti or linguini
  • 1 pound shelled shrimp
  • ¼ cup combination of minced parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary and chives

Heat up olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté briefly but do not brown it.  Add sauce, wine, pepper flakes and capers.  Cover partially and simmer for about 20 minutes. Bring a large quantity of water to boil in a large pot.  Add a little oil to prevent pasta from sticking.  When water is boiling add pasta and stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  After about five minutes, add shrimp to sauce and stir cook for about 3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink and start to firm up.  Do not overcook or they will be rubbery.  Remove skillet from heat and stir in herbs.

Drain pasta and add it to the sauce.  Serve pasta and sauce topped with shrimp.  Make 4 servings.

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Roast Pork with Pineapple Soy Sauce

November 25, 2009

Super easy.  I served it with a side of black beans andrice, affectionately referred to as “Moros y Cristianos” (Moors and Christians) in Latin America.

  • 1 ½ – 2 pound pork sirloin roast
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 garlic clove mashed
  • 1 tsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a medium ceramic casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Place the pork roast in it and stick a meat thermometer in it.  Roast the pork for about ½ hour.  Combine remaining ingredients except cornstarch.  After one half hour, use a brush to baste the pineapple-soy mixture onto the roast every ten minutes.  When bottom of pan starts to brown, pour ½ cup water into the pan, scraping up the brown bits.  Keep roasting until the pork registers 160 degrees (still juicy at that stage and slightly pink) or 170 degrees for done.  Remove pork from the dish and put it on a cutting board to rest.  Put the ceramic dish on a burner on medium heat.  Combine the remaining pineapple soy mixture with the cornstarch and add it to the dish, scraping up the brown bits.  Stir constantly until sauce thickens.  Slice pork and top with sauce.  Makes 6 servings.

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Sweet Potato and Cranberry Tarts

November 24, 2009

These tarts are very easy to make, because you don’t have to prepare a pie crust dough.  Instead, simply use wonton wrappers from the grocery store.  The points of the wrappers tend to brown very quickly, so I recommend covering the muffin tins with aluminum foil and then removing the foil halfway through baking, when you switch the pans.  These tarts are an ideal appetizer to a holiday dinner because they are not very sweet.  If you prefer to serve them for dessert, put a dollop of canned cranberry sauce on top of each tart, followed by a spritz or dollop of whipped cream.

  • ¾ pound fresh or frozen cranberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ pound sweet potato
  • ¾ pound carrots
  • ½ cup non-fat milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 oz light cream cheese
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Nonstick spray
  • 1 package wonton wrappers

Heat about six cups of water in a large sauce pot till boiling.  While water is heating up, put cranberries and sugar in a small sauce pot over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally. 

Peel sweet potato and carrots and, using a shredding blade, grate them in a food processor.  Add sweet potato and carrots to boiling water and parboil for 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat, drain the sweet potato and carrots and return them to the pot, shaking the pot over the warm burner to evaporate any remaining moisture.  When the cranberries have begun to pop, turn off the heat and add them to the sweet potato and carrots.  Stir well.  Take the pot off of the warm burner and allow the mixture to cool till it’s warm to touch.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse the food processor bowl and return it to the machine base with your blending blade.  Blend milk, eggs, cream cheese and nutmeg together to form a smooth batter.

Spritz the inside cups of 2 muffin pans (12 muffins each) with non stick spray.

Take half the wonton skins out of the package.  Leave the other half in so they don’t dry out until needed.  Pretend you have a clock in front of you on a cutting board.  Lay one wonton wrapper on the board so that the points are pointing to 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock.  Spritz it lightly with non-stick cooking spray.  Lay another wonton wrapper on top, with the points pointing to 1:30, 4:30, 7:30 and 10:30.  Press the double wrappers into a muffin cup against the bottom and sides.  Repeat until all 24 muffin cups have been filled.

Pour the batter into the sweet potato cranberry mixture and stir well.  Using a ladle, ladle about ¼ cup of the filling into each muffin cup.

Lightly cover the muffin pans with foil.  Put one pan on the upper shelf and one on the lower shelf of your preheated oven.  Bake about eight minutes.  Remove foil and switch pans.  Bake seven minutes more (total baking time 15 minutes).  Remove from oven and cool muffin pans on racks.  Serve tarts at room temperature.  Makes 2 dozen tarts.

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Thanksgiving side dishes

November 23, 2009

In 2002, I went to Maryland to spend Thanksgiving with my mother, sister and grandmother.  It was the first Thanksgiving we spent together since I graduated from High School.  We knew that this would probably be my grandmother’s last Thanksgiving, and I wanted to spend it with family.  We had a huge international Thanksgiving dinner with many friends.  It was also the year I had secretly forwarded one of my mother’s recipes to Sunset magazine, which it accepted and published in that year’s Thanksgiving issue. At the end of the dinner, I presented my mother with a 3- paneled wall frame with the magazine cover, the page with her recipe, and the “Good Cook” certificate awarded by the magazine.  Incidentally, although I sent them recipes for years, Sunset  never published any of mine.  Hence resorting to my own blog to “publish” my recipes.  These were four of the side dishes I made at that dinner.  The sweet potato, green bean and dressing recipes are adapted from Sunset Magazine.  They all serve about eight as part of a Thanksgiving pig out.

Field Greens with Cranberries, Apples, Candied Walnuts and Feta Cheese

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • One pound prewashed organic mixed greens salad
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 2 large tart apples, cored and diced
  • 1 6-oz bag candied walnuts
  • ½ cup crumbled Feta cheese

Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, mustard salt and pepper.  Toss with salad greens and top with remaining ingredients.

Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad

  • 3/4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded
  • 1 15 oz can diced pineapple
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded jicama
  • 3 tbsp salad oil
  • 2  tsp each minced fresh ginger and grated lemon peel
  • finely chopped parsley
  • red leaf lettuce

Parboil shredded sweet potatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain well.  Drain pineapple, reserve ¼ cup juice. Save remaining juice for other purposes.  Add half the reserved juice to the sweet potatoes.  No more than four hours before serving, mix all ingredients except lettuce and let stand at room temperature.   Before serving, line plate with lettuce leaves and top with mixture and serve.

Green beans with shitake mushrooms

  • 1 oz dried shitake mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp dry sherry
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 pound green beans.

Soak mushrooms in hot water to cover until soft.  Slice mushrooms, discarding tough stems.  Combine mushrooms, ½ cup soaking water, soy sauce. 1 tbsp sherry, sugar, ginger and boil them in a small saucepan until the mushrooms have absorbed all the liquid.  Add remaining sherry and half the sesame oil.  Steam beans for three minutes.  Drain them and soak them in ice water to stop further cooking.  Toss them with remaining sesame oil.  Store mushrooms and beans separately overnight in fridge.  Up to four hours before serving take out to warm to room temperature.  Spoon mushrooms and juices over beans before serving.  Serve at room temperature.

Italian sausage and chard dressing

  • 3/4 lb. French bread, cut into 1 inch cubes.
  • 2  cups  nonfat milk
  • 2  pound  Italian sausages
  • 1  cup  chopped parsley
  • 1  garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 1  onion (about 6 oz.), peeled and chopped
  • 1/2  cup  finely chopped celery
  • 1 1/2  cups  grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  dried basil
  • 1/4  teaspoon  dried rubbed sage
  • 1/4  teaspoon  dried rosemary
  • 1 large bunch chard, washed, leaves and stems chopped and separated.

Mix cubed bread with milk and let stand about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.  Meanwhile, place a large frying pan over high heat. Squeeze sausages from casings into pan. Discard casings. Stir meat often to crumble and lightly brown, 10 to 15 minutes.  Add parsley, garlic, onion, celery and stir often.  After about five minutes, add the chard stems..  Cook about 3 more minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the chard leaves.  Add the cooked meat/vegetable  mixture, cheese, basil, sage, and rosemary to the bread cubes and mix well.Spoon into a shallow 3-quart (9- by 13-in.) casserole. For moist dressing, cover with foil; for crusty dressing, do not cover. Bake in a 325° to 350° oven (use temperature turkey requires) until hot (at least 150° in center) or lightly browned, about 50 minutes (1 hour if dressing is chilled).

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Tikka, kabob and pilau

November 21, 2009

Many people stay away from cooking Indian and other Asian cuisine because of the daunting list of spices required by the recipes.  Places like Trader Joes and Cost Plus World Market have alleviated some of the inconvenience by selling Garam Masala, Tandoori and other spice blends, which are quite good.  Alternatively, if you are fortunate enough to be near a market that sells bulk spices (like Henry’s Market in California), you can purchase just what you need quite cheaply.  After all, who hasn’t had a cupboard full of three-year old spices that have to be thrown out because they’ve gone stale?

The recipes below are adapted from Charmaine Solomon’s “The Complete Asian Cookbook”.  The Parsi pilau is a wonderfully aromatic rice dish.  I’ve added peas to it, as contained in one of her other pilau recipes, to avoid making a separate veggie dish.  The chicken tikka is unchanged.  The lamb kabob recipe is one of her Asian “fusion” recipes and not authentic Indian food, but still has a great Indian flavor.

Lamb Kabobs

  • 1 pound lean lamb cut into 1” cubes
  • 1small clove of garlic, smashed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp crushed dried curry leaves (I once bought a packet of fresh curry leaves from an Asian grocery store, and after using what I needed for my dish, dried the remainder in a low oven and store them in a plastic bag)
  • ½ tsp dried oregano leaves (definitely not Indian!)
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce (also definitely not Indian)
  • 1 ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 ½ tsp fresh lemon juice

Marinate the lamb cubes in a plastic Ziploc bag with the remaining ingredients for at least 3 hours and up to 4 days.  Thread the cubes on bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water for at least 20 minutes. 

Chicken Tikka

  • 1 pound boneless chicken thighs
    • ½ medium onion cut into large pieces
    • 1 clove garlic, peeled
    • 2 tsp minced ginger
    • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tsp ground coriander
    • ½ tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp garam masala
    • 3 tbsp yoghurt (use a brand that does not contain gelatin or carageenan), only milk and live cultures
    • 1 tsp salt
    • Chopped cilantro (optional)

Put all ingredients except chicken in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour the ingredients over the chicken and marinate at least 2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

Parsi Pilau

  • ½ tsp saffron (available at Trader Joes without costing an arm and a leg)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 cup long grain rice (preferably Basmati)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cinnamon stick (don’t buy the pretty ones in the spice section of your grocery, the less attractive ones in the Mexican grocery section are cheaper and will work just as well)
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1.2 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 5 whole black peppercorns
  • rind of one orange, finely grated
  • 1 tbsp raisins
  • 1 tbsp sliced almonds
  • 1 tbsp pistachios our of the shell
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted

Put the saffron and water in a microwave-proof mug in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Heat the canola oil over a small sauté pan and add the rice.  Stir until grains become translucent.  Add saffron water, chicken broth, spices and orange rind.  Bring to boil.  Turn heat to low and cover and steam for 30 minutes (40 minutes if using brown long-grained rice).  Remove the cover.   Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and whole cloves.  Stir in raisins, almonds, pistachios and peas.  Cover and cook five minutes more. 

Grilling the meat

Grill the lamb and chicken on your barbecue or under the broiler for about 7 minutes on each side or until done.  Serve with the pilau.  Makes 6 servings.

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Choucroute Garnie

November 20, 2009


Choucroute garnie is a traditional Alsatian dish, usually made with sauerkraut.  I first tasted it during the summer after my first year of law school.  My roommate and I were house sitting her parents’ beautiful home on Capitol Hill in Seattle, overlooking Portage Bay.  Her dad was a professor at UW and her mom was from France.  They spent the week at their cabin in the San Juan Islands.  Weekends they came back to the house and always had friends over for meals.  One of my favorite guests was Angelo Pellegrini, who grew his own food and made his own wine.  He authored the seminal food literature book “Unprejudiced Palate,” and introduced the first widely-published pesto recipe in the U.S.  He was a charming man, who loved food from all over the world, as long as it was fresh and made with love.  He was also a major influence upon me in my approach to food and cooking.

This time, I had plenty of cabbage, but didn’t feel like stinking up the house making sauerkraut (it’s not hard to do, just smelly), so I made Choucroute with fresh cabbage instead.  A tummy-warming dish for a cold winter night.

  • 1 pound sausage (e.g. bratwurst or kielbasa)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 5 cups shredded combination of green cabbage, red cabbage and carrots (most green cabbage)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 6 juniper berries (optional, but they add a nice gin flavor)
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds (also optional)
  • 2 medium potatoes cut into 1/2″ thick slices
  • ½ cup each apple cider and dry white wine
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon powder or paste

Cut sausage into ½ inch thick slices.  Heat up a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add sausage and lightly brown it. Remove sausage from the pan and set it aside.   If the sausage is lean, add 2 tsp olive oil.  When oil is hot, add cabbage and onion.  Lower heat to medium and sauté for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The cabbage will shrink to about half its quantity. Mix juniper, caraway, cider, wine, sugar, mustard and bouillon in a bowl.  Pour in the liquid mixture to the cabbage and stir well.  Layer potatoes on top of cabbage, layer sausages on top of potatoes.  Cover the pan, slightly ajar, and cook the mixture for another 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and potatoes can be pierced with a fork.   Serve in shallow bowls or soup plates.  Makes 4 servings.

If you use store-bought sauerkraut in this recipe, rinse and drain it in cold water at least 4 times to remove most of the salt and omit the chicken bouillon.

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Shrimp and sun-dried tomato pasta

November 19, 2009

Super fast.   I made this dish with both shrimp and sausage, but think it would be better with just shrimp.  You can make this dish in about 15 minutes.

  • 8 oz dried spaghetti or linguini
  • ½ cup onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tsp oil from sundried tomatoes (below)
  • 3 oz sundried tomatoes packed in oil, slivered
  • 2 tbsp pitted calamata olives, sliced
  • 6 oz frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted (or 1 15 oz can drained)
  • 1 pound shelled shrimp, or ½ pound shelled shrimp and ½ pound sausage (e.g. kielbasa)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • paprika
  • 2 tbsp each minced fresh basil and parsley
  • 2 oz low fat cream cheese (or 3 wedges laughing cow spreadable cheese)

Boil water in a large pot for the pasta. Add a little salt and oil to prevent pasta from sticking.  While water is heating up, make a dinner salad and set it aside. Collect all the other ingredients. 

Add pasta to boiling water and stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Set the timer to 10 minutes.  While pasta is cooking, peel and chop onion, peel and mince garlic. Slice sausage if you are using sausage.  Sliver tomatoes, slice olives, Mince herbs.  Dice cheese into small cubes and set it aside.   

Heat up a large non-stick sauté pan over medium high heat.  Drain about 1 tsp of the tomato oil into the pan and add onion, garlic and sausage (if using sausage), and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add wine, tomatoes and olives and stir.  Then add shrimp and artichoke hearts, and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink.  Add basil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Turn off the heat.

Drain pasta when the timer goes off.  Return it to the pot.  Stir the remaining 2 tsp oil from the sundried tomatoes and cheese cubes into the hot pasta and mix well until cheese is melted.  Serve pasta in bowls.  Top with shrimp mixture, sprinkle with parsley and paprika.  Makes 4 servings.

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Greek Moussaka

November 18, 2009

The best Greek moussaka I ever had was at a banquet in Giza, Egypt, hosted by the governor.  I was still in law school and had managed, along with a classmate and friend, to snag the ultimate boondoggle:  a scholarship to attend an international law convention in Cairo.  This banquet was beyond amazing.  In the shadow of the ancient pyramids, on the banks of the Nile, there were 17 banquet buffet tables, no two with the same dishes, featuring cuisines from all over the world.  Four tables alone were devoted to desserts.  They brought a date palm in, so we could pick dates off the trees.  This being an official affair in a Muslim country there was no alcohol or pork anywhere.  But who cared with food like this?  At any rate, being two of only a handful of single women there (and young ones at that) we had numerous invitations to all sorts of post-soiree functions.  We accepted an offer for late (i.e. 1 a.m.) after-dinner drinks at the Spanish Embassy in Cairo with a pair of handsome 30-something Spanish law professors – Pedro y Ramiro.  But that’s another story.  The governor also graciously sent the flower arrangement floating in the swimming pool to us as a gift.  He didn’t even ask our names, but somehow it ended up all the way in Cairo in our hotel room.

  • 1 large eggplant, stemmed and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
  • Salt
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 onion and 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup dry red wine (my non-halal version of moussaka)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • Non-stick spray
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk (I used 1 cup non fat half and half and 1 cup skim milk)
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Generously salt eggplant slices and place them in a colander in the sink (salting eggplant removes the puckery taste).  While eggplant is draining make the meat sauce:

In a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat, crumble ground lamb and cook it with the onions and garlic.  When lamb is lightly browned, add wine.  Continue cooking until wine has evaporated.  Add sauce, oregano and cinnamon.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes or until sauce is thick.  Turn off heat and stir in chopped parsley.

Place oven shelf just below the broiler.  Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.  Rinse the eggplant slices and blot them dry with paper towels.  Lay the eggplant slices on the cookie sheet in a single layer.  Spray the tops with non-stick cooking spray.  Broil eggplant for about 10 minutes, or until the eggplant is lightly browned.  Flip the slices over, spray the tops with non-stick cooking spray and broil for about another 7 minutes, until eggplant is lightly browned and soft.  Remove cookie sheet from the oven and set the oven at bake to 350 degrees.

While eggplant is broiling, prepare the béchamel (white) sauce.  Melt butter over medium high heat in a sauce pan.  Add flour and whisk constantly with a wire whisk until you have a thick paste that is just starting to turn color.  Turn the heat down to medium and slowly add milk and nutmeg.  Stir constantly as mixture comes to a boil.  Cook for about one minute.  You will have medium-thick white sauce.   Remove pot from heat.  Crack eggs into a medium sized bowl.  Discard shells.  Beat eggs.  Add white sauce to the beaten eggs, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly (if you add all the sauce at once, the eggs will curdle).  After you have incorporated all of the sauce into the eggs, pour/scrape the sauce back into the saucepan and return it to the heat.  Stir over medium heat for one minute.  Add ¾ cup parmesan cheese and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.  Remove the sauce pan from heat and set aside.

Spray a 8X8 casserole dish (about 3 in deep) with nonstick spray.  Layer half the eggplant slices on the bottom.  Spread the meat sauce evenly on top of the eggplant.  Top the meat sauce with another layer of eggplant slices.  Pour the white sauce on top of the eggplant and spread it evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese on top.  Bake in the 350 degree oven for 50 minutes.

Remove moussaka  from the oven.  Let it cool about 10 minutes and then cut it into squares and serve.  Serve with bread and salad.  Makes four servings.

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