Archive for April, 2010

Southern Corn Pudding

April 20, 2010

This makes a great brunch dish.  Warming the batter to lukewarm before adding the remaining ingredients will speed up the baking process.  I’ve lightened up the traditionally fatty dish a lot.  If you want it even leaner, substitute chopped lean ham for the bacon.

  •  8 oz lean sliced bacon, diced
  • 1 pound frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 1 cup fat-free half and half
  • 1 cup non fat yoghurt
  • 1 ½ cups liquid egg substitute (egg beaters)
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp bottled hot sauce (Tabasco or Sriracha)
  • 2 tsp New Mexico (hotter) or California (mild) chile powder
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup snipped chives
  • ½ cup roasted red pepper, diced
  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese


  Saute the bacon in a medium oven-proof sauté pan until crisp.  Remove the bacon and drain it on paper towels.  Remove sauté pan from heat.  Drain off all excess bacon fat and save it for another use.  Use a paper towel to wipe the remaining bacon fat up along all sides of the skillet to coat the interior and help prevent the pudding from sticking.  In a blender or food processor, blend half the corn, half and half, yoghurt, egg substitute, flour, sugar, hot sauce, chile powder and ground pepper. 

Put a kettle of water on to boil.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Pour batter into the sauté pan.  Return the sauté pan to medium heat and stir constantly for about ten minutes.  You only want to warm the mixture to lukewarm.  Do not use high heat or the mixture will curdle.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in chives, roasted pepper, cheese and bacon bits and mix well.

Place a large deep oven-proof skillet in the hot oven (sauté pan should fit into the skillet with at least 1” clearance all the way around it).  Put the sauté pan in the skillet and carefully pour boiling water to a depth of 1 1/2”  around the sauté pan.

Bake uncovered for 30-45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Pudding will be quite soft, about the consistency of a quiche filling.  Scoop it into shallow bowls and serve with toast if you like.

Makes 6 servings.

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Fideos Con Almejas y Jamon

April 17, 2010

Fideos Con Almejas y Jamon

This is a Spanish dish. The recipe is similar to paella except that it uses pasta instead of rice.  Fideos are very fine vermicelli.  Supermarkets with good Latino food sections carry it in 7-oz packages at very cheap prices (about $.50 a bag).  If you can’t find fideos, substitute angel hair pasta.  The pasta is toasted to give it a nice brown color and the dish a smoky taste.  It can be messy cutting it into small pieces so dump the pasta into a large clean paper bag and snip away inside the bag.  Then pour the contents onto the cookie sheet as discussed below.

  • 7 oz dried videos vermicelli or angel hair pasta
  • ½ cup peeled and chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup peppers, cut into strips (I used ½ bag frozen multi-colored peppers from Trader Joes)
  • 2 4-oz cans sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups chicken stock or combined chicken stock and clam liquid (see below)
  • 1 generous pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ pound cooked ham, diced
  • 12 oz precooked whole baby clam meat (if canned, drain the liquid and add it to chicken stock to make 4 cups) also available frozen, especially in Asian grocery stores
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • Ground Cayenne pepper or paprika (the former if you like spicy food)

Using kitchen scissors, snip the fideos inside a large paper bag into 1 to 1 ½ inch pieces.  Spray a large cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray and pour the fideos on the sheet, spreading them  into an even layer.  Spray the top with non-stick cooking spray.  Put the tray in an oven set to 350 degrees.  They will toast quickly, so check them after 5 minutes and then check them frequently.  Remove them when they are a nice toasty brown and transfer them onto a cool surface to cool.

While fideos are toasting, bring the stock with the saffron threads to a boil in a saucepan.  Prepare vegetables.  After removing fideos from the oven, in a very wide skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add onions, garlic, mushrooms and peppers.  Saute for about one minute, then add the boiling stock all at once.  Make sure the stock is still boiling and then add toasted fideos, oregano and ham.  Stir frequently until the liquid is almost entirely absorbed.  Add the drained clam meat and peas and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until just heated through.  Garnish with cayenne or paprika to taste.  Makes 6 servings.

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Stuffed Calamari

April 17, 2010

Stuffed Calamari

 Calamari (squid) cooks very quickly.  If you over cook it, it will get tough.  If you do cook it too much, all is not lost because long cooking will tenderize it.  So if you go more than 3-4 minutes, put the calamari in a dish, cover it with the tomato sauce, cover it and bake it for 30-35 min at 350 degrees.

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil slivered
  • 12 oz pre cleaned calamari (many Asian grocery stores sell it frozen)
  • Stale Italian bread, crusts removed and centers crumbled (enough to make ¼ cup of fine crumbs – I used a rosemary olive Italian bread – yum)
  • ¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 tbsp total minced fresh parsley, oregano and chives
  • ¼ cup finely chopped ham
  • Beaten egg or egg substitute (small quanitity just to bind the stuffing)
  • Nice grind of fresh pepper
  • 6 oz small dried pasta
  • Grated parmesan cheese


Saute onions and garlic in olive oil til soft.  Add white wine and tomatoes.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and cook until sauce is thick.  Add basil and set aside.

Pull the tentacles off of the calamari and set them aside.  Rinse the insides of the hoods.  They should be clean but discard anything inside them, including the plastic-like fin if it remains.  Drain them and set the hoods aside. 

Chop the tentacles and sauté them for 30 seconds over high heat in a small quantity of olive oil.  Turn them out into a bowl.  Add bread crumbs, cheese, ham, herbs and enough pepper to taste.  Bind the mixture just very lightly with a small quantity of egg.

Use your hands to stuff the calamari hoods with stuffing.  Do not over stuff as the mixture will expand lightly.  Leave the opening unstuffed so the two sides will come together. Spray all sides of the calamari with olive oil spray.  Flatten them slightly.

Bring water to boil in a pasta pot.  When water is boiling, add pasta.  Stir occasionally.  Cook for about 9-10 min or until al dente.

Heat up a non-stick skillet over very high heat.   Carefully add stuffed calamari, taking care not crowd them in the pan.  Cook until brown on one side (about one minute) and then carefully flip them over with a spatula onto the other side. 

Remove them from the pan and dress them lightly with about 1/3 of the tomato sauce.  Mix the remaining sauce with the drained pasta.  Sprinkle pasta with grated Parmesan cheese.

Fresh spinach sautéed in garlic olive oil makes a nice accompaniment.

Serves 4

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Tax week Black-Bean Soup

April 17, 2010

Tax-week Black bean soup

Hearty and nutritious and cheap.  Perfect when you have left over ham after Easter and you’ve run out of money writing checks to the IRS and state revenue departments.

  • 1 pound dried black beans, covered with a generous amount of cold water and soaked overnight
  • 8 cups water
  • One ham bone, meaty parts removed and reserved
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, strings removed and diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 8 oz chopped ham (from bone and left over ham)
  • Parsley or cilantro for garnish
  • Non-fat yoghurt
  • Shredded sharp cheese


Drain soaked beans and put in a  large pot with water and ham bone.  Bring to a boil and skim and discard surface foam.  Add onion, peppers, garlic carrots, celery, bay leaves, oregano and cumin.  Bring to a boil and then turn down heat and let it simmer, covered for about 2 ½ hours or until the beans mash easily.  Remove bay leaf and ham bone and discard. Ladle 2 cups of the mixture into a blender of food processor and blend until smooth.

Return blended vegetables to the pot.  Add chopped  ham and simmer for ½ hour more.  Correct seasoning.  Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with parsley/cilantro, a dollop of sour cream and shredded cheese.  Makes about 8 servings.

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Spinach Fettuccine with Ham and Cheese

April 9, 2010

Spinach Fettuccine with ham and cheese

After thanksgiving the dilemma is using up the leftover turkey.  After Easter?  The leftover ham.

  • 8 oz dried spinach fettuccine
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ½ dry white wine
  • 1 cup non-fat half and half
  • ½ cup diced cooked ham
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 4 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Paprika or cayenne pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil fettuccine.  Melt butter over medium high heat in a sauté  pan and add chopped onion.  Cook for about 2 minutes till translucent, add flour and stir into a nice roux four about 1 or 2 minutes.  Meanwhile, as pasta water comes to a boil, add fettucine and set timer for 10 minutes or the time on your package.  Stir pasta occasionally to prevent sticking.

Add wine and half and half and stir until a medium thick sauce forms.  Stir in ham, peas and cheese and cook until heated through.  Turn off the heat and salt and pepper to taste.

When pasta is cooked, drain it.  Portion into pasta bowls and top with sauce.  Sprinkle with paprika or cayenne and serve immediately.  Serves 4.

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Easter Dinner

April 6, 2010

Easter Dinner


This year I cantored Easter Morning mass in my old home town in the Bay Area.  When mass was over I hopped in my car and drove 400 miles back to my current home town.  I walked in the door at 5:00 p.m., ham in insulated bag and a couple of sweet potatoes in my trunk, and the rest of the ingredients already in the fridge and pantry.  I had Easter dinner on the table by 6:00.  Just a few short cuts help to make it that fast.

  • 1 lb sweet potatoes (I used garnet yams)
  • 1 spiral sliced ham
  • 1 small orange
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb frozen green beans
  • 4 oz prewashed field greens
  • 4 large fresh strawberries, washed
  • 1 small apple, washed
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup walnut pieces
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup boysenberry jam
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees (if you have a toaster oven it will heat up very quickly, other a conventional oven is fine but will use more energy).  Cut off the tough stem ends of the sweet potatoes and peel them.   Cut them into 1 ½” chunks and put them in a microwave proof bowl.  Microwave them on high for 6-8 minutes, stirring them halfway through the cooking process until soft. 

Cut off 1 pound of ham slices off the ham and wrap and refrigerate the rest for later.  Wrap the ham slices in foil and put them in the oven.  Take frozen green beans out and put them in a pot with just enough water to cover.

Grate the rind of the orange and set it aside.  Cut the blossom and stem end off the orange and cut away the bitter white pith.  Cut the orange into small bite-sized sections.  Stem and slice the strawberries,  core and dice the apple (leave skin on).

Remove sweet potatoes from the microwave.  Blend orange juice, brandy and butter in a microwaveable mug and microwave on high for 1 minute or until butter melts and orange juice is warm.  Add the grated orange rind and orange juice mixture to the sweet potatoes and mash them well.  Cover them, and set them aside in a warm place (like on top of the stove).

Portion salad greens into individual salad bowls. Top with orange, apple and strawberries.  Blend vinegar and olive oil together and drizzle over salad. Sprinkle walnuts on top.

Bring pot of green beans to boil covered.  Cook them for just a minute or two or until bright green.  They should still be crisp.  Drain them well and toss with butter.

In the same mug you just used, blend jam and Dijon mustard together.  Microwave for one minute and turn mixture out into a sauce serving dish. 

Remove ham from the oven. 

Portion ham, sweet potatoes and green beans onto individual plates.  Sprinkle green beans with parmesan cheese.  Serve boysenberry sauce on the side.

Voila!  Under 60 minutes.  Serves 4

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