Category Archives: Cooking

A Morning in Old Greenwich, Connecticut

In April of this year my dear was all geared up to run the Greenwich Cup Half Marathon, something he’d been dreaming about and planning for some time.  Of course I wanted to be there to support him, and we both wanted to check out Old Greenwich for the first time.
What I didn’t realize until that weekend was that it meant I’d be getting up at 4:00am on a Sunday, tying on my sneakers, and rushing out to catch the early train on Metro North that would take us there just in time to register for the 7:00am starting line.

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No problem, I said. We sped through the pitch dark morning along with other passengers on their way home from all nighters in the city, then hitching a ride at the Old Greenwich station with other runners so we wouldn’t have to walk the mile of road in the cold weather.  It was April in New York, and at 5 degrees below zero – a particularly cold weekend.  I had my feather down coat on but was freezing my toes in sneakers, wishing I had worn boots.  I wasn’t the one, of course, dressed in long tights and a long-sleeved jacket warming up to run 13.1 miles.  That was my honey.

So we stood at the beach at 1  Tod’s Driftway waiting for the race to begin.  And then they were off!


I waited patiently, enjoying the ocean view, and thinking about my dear happily sweating, running and toiling through the track.  They could have had some nice little coffee shop nearby, that would have been nice.  Old Greenwich appears to be largely residential, and while this stretch of beach is beautiful, it was not very “built up” which is its appeal to the wealthy who live here in peace and serenity, I have the feeling.


I got my cafe fix however, don’t you worry.  First my guy came busting through the finish line, got his medal, and we both devoured free bagels and orange wedges.  Then after a leisurely stroll down Shore Road and Sound Beach Avenue back in the direction of the train station we were led to this wonderful little bakery called “Sweet Peas’s Baking Company”.

We had a great brunch there, including a veggie omelette and smoked salmon toast with capers.  The best part was the take-away:  carrot cake muffins brimming with chopped nuts, bakery fresh donuts, and crisp baguettes to go.

Click here for my review of Sweet Pea’s Baking Company on Yelp.

We made Ham and Pepper Frittata sandwiches the next day with the baguettes, which were still crisp and fragrant the next day.

Click Ham and Pepper Frittata Baguette for my recipe.

A lovely morning in Old Greenwich, and I would come back to Sweet Pea’s Baking Company just for the donuts!

Ham and Pepper Frittata Baguette

One morning in April I got up at 4am to start a day trip to Old Greenwich, Connecticut.  The excuse was to cheer on my boyfriend at a race, but the excitement was also about checking this area out.  It was a great morning, but by 11:00am it already felt like we’d had a full day.  Gratefully we stumbled into The Sweet Peas Bakery, where we had a wonderful brunch, coffee and tea.  I munched on toasts spread with cream cheese and topped with smoked salmon and capers.  

Just as enjoyable was stopping by the counter to load up on goodies before we left:  scrumptious carrot cake muffins, the best fresh doughnuts I’d ever eaten, and of course we had to grab their baguettes!  They had a heavenly crispy exterior and that tender and fluffy interior that you look for in a great baguette.  We saved one for the next morning for brunch and weren’t dissapointed – even the next day it made a great brunch sandwich, filled with a frittata made with what I had around that day, ham and green and red bell peppers.  Delish!  


Ham and Pepper Frittata Baguette

Serves 2

French baguette

1/2 a green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 a red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 a cup chopped baked honey ham

4 eggs

2 Tbsp milk

1 Tbsp each olive oil and butter, plus more for the bread

Salt and black pepper to taste

2-3 Tbsp grated Parmean cheese

Note:  you can make the frittata in one big skillet and then cut it in half to make two portions, or divide the ingredients in half and make two single servings in a small skillet, as I did here.

Directions

1.  Cut baguette into two pieces and then split lenghtwise.  Toast lightly and spread with olive oil or butter; set aside.


2.  In a non-stick skillet that can go in the oven, heat olive oil and add chopped ham, green and red bell peppers. 


3.  Sauté over medium-low heat until the ham has crisped up and the bell peppers have softened.


4.  Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a bowl with the milk and season with a little salt and black pepper. 

5.  Add butter to the skillet, and when it has melted pour in the eggs.  Cook until the eggs are just beginning to set around the edges.  Top with grated Parmesan cheese.


6.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place frittata in the oven.  Bake until it is cooked through and slightly puffed and golden brown on top, about 10 minutes.

7.  Let rest for a minute then flip out onto a plate, fold in half with a spatula and fill the toasted baguette with the frittata.


That’s all there is to it!  A great baguette makes the sandwich.

Czech Hamburger (Karbanatky)

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One of my favorite recipes from Mom, and a classic Czech family dinner, is Karbanatky or a Czech hamburger.  Made from ground beef it is kept moist and juicy with meatloaf additions like bread soaked in milk, egg and chopped bacon.  Typical seasonings like paprika and marjoram make it Czech.

It is also different in that it is coated in breadcrumbs and fried until the outer coating is dark and crispy.  “Karbanatky” translates loosely in English into something that is barbecued, and this meaty burger definitely takes on that dark, crispy and smokey sensibility.

It is not served on a bun, but rather next to mashed potatoes dotted with butter and perhaps some caramelized shallots.  Enjoy topped with ketchup on a cold winter day, with a Czech beer, like Pilsner Urquelle.

1 slice white bread

1/4 of a white onion

2 sprigs fresh Italian parsley

1 clove garlic

1 slice bacon

1/2 lb ground beef (chuck or sirloin)

1 egg

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

1/2 tsp dried marjoram

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

Canola oil for frying

DIRECTIONS

1.  Remove crusts from slice of white bread, place bread in a small bowl and pour a little water or milk over it to soak.  Once bread is softened, squeeze out the extra liquid and place in a large mixing bowl.

2.  Finely chop white onion, by first slicing it: 

Then chopping the slices crosswise into small dice:


Place in mixing bowl with the bread.
Tear off the leaves of parsley from the stalk, and chop finely as well.  Place into bowl.

Mince garlic clove finely, so that there are no large pieces of garlic:


Place minced garlic into bowl.  Chop bacon, by first slicing crosswise and then chopping slices crosswise into dice:

 Add chopped bacon to bowl.  Mix everything in bowl thoroughly with a fork until combined:

3.  Add ground beef to the mixture in bowl.  Separate the egg, place the egg yolk into the ground beef mixture and the egg whites into a separate small bowl.

4.  Add all seasonings to the beef mixture.

5.  With your hands, smush and mush the beef mixture until thoroughly combined.  Shape the mixture into two hamburger sized patties and place on a plate while you prepare to fry.


6.  Pour bread crumbs out into a large plate or shallow bowl.  Pour canola oil into a heavy frying pan to coat the bottom, and heat slowly over medium heat.  Meanwhile, with a whisk whip the egg whites for a minute or so, until softly foamy (this breaks up the egg whites and makes it easier to coat the beef patties):


7.  Handling the beef patties gently, first coat one in the egg whites, then coat completely in bread crumbs, patting the crumbs in lightly.  Do the same with the other beef patty.


8.  Place patties in hot oil in pan and fry until deeply golden brown and crusty on both sides, about 10-15 minutes per side, flipping once.


Serve with mashed potatoes topped with caramelized shallots, a green vegetable and a cold beer.

Red Beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage

This is a one pot meal that satisfies on many levels – it’s easy and quick to put together, slightly spicy, nourishing and filling.  While this recipe is considered a one serving recipe, it makes a full bowl of flavorful, steaming rice studded with chunks of crispy andouille sausage and hearty red kidney beans.   Other types of sausage can be substituted, such as kielbasa or chorizo.  However the spice of andouille pairs nicely with the “sofrito” here, which is a base of finely chopped blend of aromatic vegetables that are sauteed before adding the rice.

This recipe can be made very quickly and economically using several tips that are listed at the end of the recipe, such as making batches of sofrito in a food processor in advance and then freezing 1/4 cup portions of it.  The beans (we are only using half a standard 15.5 oz can here) can also be pulled from a frozen stash.  When I buy sausages, I like to go to the organic section of my market and buy a package of sausages that are made from meat without any added antibiotics or hormones, which I feel is important for good health.  I then take the sausages out of the package at home and freeze each sausage in its own snack size food storage bag.  This makes it very easy for me to take out the amount of sausages I need to defrost for a recipe (here for example, we are only using one).  To defrost sausages, beans or sofrito safely, place them still sealed in their food storage bag into a bowl or other container filled with water, and leave in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

Even without any frozen assets, you are only a few chops away from a satisfying meal with great Spanish flavor.  If you are not familiar with “alcaparrado”, it is bottled green olives with extra pimento and capers added.  It is sold in some markets next to the bottles of green olives stuffed with pimento, which can be substituted if you can’t find alcaparrado.  Adding olives at the end of the dish, along with the crispy sausage, adds a nice salty tang at the finish.

Red Beans and Rice - up close

Olive oil, about 2 tsp

1 andouille sausage (defrost if frozen)

1/4 sofrito (see recipe below).  If not using frozen, finely chop the following:  2 Tbsp white onion, 1 Tbsp each green and red bell pepper, 1 seeded plum tomato, 1 clove garlic, and 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro

1/2 cup white rice

1 1/4 cups water

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 a 15.5 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (or defrost if frozen)

1 Tbsp alcaparado, or green olives stuffed with pimento

Directions

1.  Cube sausage, by cutting in half crosswise, in quarters lengthwise, and then across into small chunks.

Andouille Sausage

2.  Add 1 tsp olive oil to a medium saucepan, and heat over medium heat.  Add sausage and saute for about 5 minutes, until crisp.  Then remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.  If oil in pan starts to smoke, remove pan from the heat for a few moments, and turn down heat.

Crispy Andouille Sausage

3.  Add another tsp of olive oil to the same saucepan, and add the sofrito.  Stir and cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes or so, until the vegetables have softened.  Stir in the rice to coat with the sofrito mixture.

4.  Pour in water.  Add rinsed and drained beans, and all seasonings.  Raise heat and bring to a boil.

5.  Reduce heat, and simmer until the level of liquid meets the level of the rice.  You will see some rice poking through the surface of liquid.

Red Beans and Rice - step 3

6.  Cover, lower heat and cook over very low flame for 15 minutes.

7.  Uncover, add the crisp sausage and olives, cover again and turn off the heat.  Let sit covered for another 15 minutes until the rice has fully absorbed all the liquid.

8.  Uncover, fluff with a fork, remove bay leaf and serve.

Tips:

To make sofrito in advance, finely chop the following in a food processor:  1 chopped white onion, 1 small seeded red bell pepper, half a seeded green bell pepper, 1 seeded jalapeno, 1 vine ripened tomato, 2-3 cloves garlic and 2 handfuls of washed fresh cilantro.  Portion out by 1/4 cups into a snack sized food storage bag, press flat and freeze flat so that it defrosts quickly.

As only half a standard 15.5 oz. can of beans is used in this recipe, you can drain, rinse and freeze the other half for future use in the same or other recipes.  You can also freeze cooked dry beans in the same way if made in advance.

 Black Bean and Quinoa Burger

Take a break from the beef burgers of summer with a tasty vegetarian quinoa burger, delicately spiced with cumin.  Black beans provide substance, along with fiber and iron.  Quinoa, even though a grain, is a source of complete protein.  Boost the health quotient even further by serving this burger topped with smashed avocado on a whole grain english muffin or bun.

Quinoa burger

1 Tbsp quinoa

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 Tbsp green bell pepper, chopped

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1/2 cup cooked or canned black beans (about half a 16 oz. can, see note)

1/4 cup panko crumbs

1 egg, beaten

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 whole wheat english muffin

1/2 of a Haas avocado

1/2 of a small lime or lemon

Directions

1.  Cook quinoa in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water and a pinch of salt over medium heat for 10 minutes, until done (when fully cooked, the center of the grain will turn white, surrounded by a transculecent circle.)  Drain quinoa and place in a medium bowl.

2.  In a small skillet heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat and saute chopped onion, garlic, green bell pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes about 5 minutes, until softened.  Remove to the bowl with the quinoa.

3.  Drain and rinse the black beans if using canned, and add beans to the bowl with the quiona.  With a fork or potato masher, mash the mixture into a paste.  It’s ok if you leave the texture a little chunky.

4.  To the black bean mixture stir in panko crumbs, 1 Tbsp of the beaten egg (use the rest in scrambled eggs the next morning or as an egg wash for another recipe) and all the seasonings.  Form into a patty the size of your english muffin or bun.  Place the patty on a plate, cover in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to set for about 10-20 minutes.  This is not essential, but it helps to firm up the mixture and lets the flavors meld.

5.  Meanwhile, pit avocado and scoop out half into a small bowl.  smash the avocado with a fork, add the juice of half a lime, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Mix well and set aside.  If you don’t know what to do with the remaining avocado, it can be sliced and served as an appetizer, sprinkled lightly with salt, black pepper, and drizzled with olive oil.

6.  When ready, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil in a small non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the black bean and quinoa patty and fry until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side.

7.  Split and toast the english muffin or bun in a toaster or toaster oven.  Place cooked burger on the bottom, top with the smashed avocado, and top with the other half of the english muffin or bun.  Serve with sliced tomatoes or hot buttered corn on cob.

 

Quinoa

Quinoa grains, uncooked

 

Yield:  1 serving

Tip:  I like to  cook 1 lb. of dry beans, then cool and portion them out by 1/2 cup amounts into small food storage bags that I freeze for future use.  If you don’t have any cooked beans on hand or waiting for you in the freezer, drained canned beans will work in this recipe as well, however cooked bean will have more nutritional value than canned. You can also freeze the leftover canned beans for future use in the same way.

 

 

Kale Mac n’ Cheese

I love how creamy and cheesy the sauce is.  Kale adds super-food nutrition to an all-time favorite comfort food.  It’s so easy and so worth putting together this one serving of deliciousness for yourself.

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1 cup loosely packed fresh kale, washed, stripped from the stems and cut or torn into bite-sized pieces (see how to video:(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FK62n-FqXg0)

1/2 cup dry elbow macaroni

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp flour

1 cup milk

1 slice American cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 tsp mustard powder

1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced

Directions

1.  Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and add half a teaspoon of salt.  Add the prepared kale, pushing down with the back of a spoon until the kale has wilted into the water.  Reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes, until tender.  Lift kale out with a slotted spoon to a bowl and reserve.

2.  In the same saucepan, bring water back to a boil.  If there’s not enough water in the pan to cook the pasta, you may add more water.  Once the water has come to a boil, and add the pasta.  Lower heat and simmer until the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes.  Drain in a colander and set aside.

3.  In the same saucepan, pour out the water then place back on the heat.  Melt the butter in the pan, whisk in flour and cook a minute or two, stirring with a whisk.  Slowly pour in the milk, whisking to incorporate all of the butter and flour mixture and stirring until smooth.  Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then lower heat again and simmer, whisking occasionally until the sauce has thickened, about 5-10 minutes.

4.  Turn off the heat and gradually stir in the slice of American cheese torn into smaller pieces,, shredded cheddar cheese, mustard powder, black pepper and sliced scallions.  Stir to combine until smooth.  Stir in the reserved cooked kale and pasta.  Serve hot.

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Yield:  1 serving

Tip:  Kale contains protein, calcium, iron, and is a great source of vitamins C and A (www.nutritiondata.self.com).  It is a hearty dark leafy green, and keeps  well for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, if covered loosely in paper towels  and sealed in a plastic bag.

 

Roasted Vegetable Medley

This makes a simple side dish to anything.  I planned to make this to go with a breaded chicken cutlet, but ended up making it my dinner for tonight because I was too tired to make anything else!  So you know it’s easy to put together.  Yummy roasted baby potatoes go great with the sweet zucchini, scallion and bright orange accents of carrot.  I season it simply with salt, pepper and throw in a few stems of fresh thyme (dried thyme can be substituted.)

Roasted Vegetable Medley

3-4 baby Yukon potatoes, or fingerling potatoes

1 small zucchini

2 scallions

2-3 carrots

few sprigs fresh thyme ( or 1/4 tsp dried thyme)

Salt and black pepper to taste

Olive oil

Butter (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 F degrees.  Line a toaster oven tray (or small oven-proof skillet) with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  Peel potatoes and half or quarter them, place on the tray.  Peel carrot and cut into 2 inch pieces, trim zucchini and cut into 2 inch spears, trim scallions and cut on an angle into 2 inch pieces.  Add all vegetables to potatoes on the tray.  Throw over a few sprigs of thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Pour over a few tablespoons of olive oil, and toss with a spoon to coat (or use your fingers – much easier).

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Dot with butter, if liked.  Roast vegetables for about 30 – 40 minutes, until tender and lightly browned.

 Yield:  1 serving