Spicy Aubergine Stir Fry

I wanted spicy, Asian aubergine but not quite having the ingredients it called for and couldn’t be bothered to go to the store, I made some aubergine with refrigerator and pantry things in it;aubergine, scallions, garlic, ground beef, bean sprouts and a spicy sauce of sake, hon mirin, soy sauce, rice vinegar, “african” sauce( a substitute for sambal oelek ) and some powdered ginger, topped with surprising delicious mint leaves.

Okay, tomorrow I’ll get serious with a proper French cassoulet from the town of it’s origin, Castelnaudary.


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Cooking in Sens Again

I’ve actually been in Sens since September 16th but I forgot my camera!  My darling husband thoughtfully mailed it to me and I received it a few days ago.  Barbecue!

There were so many things I wanted to make that we ended up with an obscene amount of meat; ribs, chicken, merguez, spiced lardons, duck magret, chicken.

I was so happy to be back in France and in my kitchen!  Too bad about the knives I forgot to bring with me, but I’ll take these over to the knife sharpener this week.

Not ready for prime time yet, I took a few pictures but mostly spent my time grilling the meat 😀

M. Parret, 80 years old and still lively, attempted to keep up his reputation as the country’s strongest critic of American food but his heart wasn’t in it because the smell coming from the grill distracted him 🙂  He brought his usual tray of some of the best cheeses of the region.

We began, of course, with a Bailly Cremant Chardonnay and continued with a Beaujolais Fleurie and an Irancy Palotte.  Just for fun, we had a trou de Normande (Calvados) between courses.  I need a bigger picnic table!

I used my cassoulet pottery for the salad because I guess all my salad bowls are either in the States or some are in one of the garages.  I’ll probably make a cassoulet some times soon.  The lettuce and mushrooms came from Pascal’s garden.







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Giant Zucchini Stuffed with Chicken Curry

Our neighbor Jane gave me with an enormous, beautiful zucchini, vaguely intimidating but also challenging in a way I like 🙂

I remembered a blog post I wrote in Sens about stuffing small, round zucchini with chicken curry and remembered that I liked it very much, as did M. Parret 🙂

I found some very dirty, rare local mushrooms at the supermarket, washed and wiped them a long time and I was ready to go!

S & B curry tablets are my “go to” for quick, authentic and easy curries.  Slice them up a bit before adding to the pot of sauteed vegetables and they melt right in.

I poached 6 chicken thighs in advance, then skinned, boned and cut the meat into bite sized pieces.  When the chicken and mushrooms are added to the curry sauce and simmered a bit, you’ve got curry!

At this point you could eat some over rice or with chapatis or stuff a large zucchini, as I did.

Unfortunately, I didn’t weigh the zucchini but I remember that I was able to stuff 6 of the small round ones and still have a little left over for snacks 🙂

Chicken Curry Stuffed Zucchini

1 large garden zucchini, ends removed, quartered and hollowed out to create “boats.”

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1 small onion, chopped

2-4 garlic cloves, minced

1 inch fresh ginger, minced

3 cilantro stems, minced

1/2 tsp mustard seed

2 tablets S&B curry, chopped

2 cups chicken broth

8 ounces mushrooms, quartered

Poached, cubed meat from 6 chicken thighs

Saute the peppers, onions, garlic, ginger, cilantro and mustard seed in the olive oil until the onion is soft.  Add the curry tablets, blending and melting well, then add the chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes.  Remove 3/4 cups of the sauce and pour into a baking pan, covering the bottom.  Set aside.

Add the mushrooms and chicken to the remaining sauce in the pot, bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Fill the zucchini boats with the curry, then place in the baking pan on top of the sauce.  Bake in a 375 F oven for 40-45 minutes.  Serve with rice, if needed.




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Spicy Indian Aubergine

Indian aubergine are so cute and also rare in our supermarkets.  I got lucky with these.

They remind me a bit of the popular, indigenous djakattou vegetable found in West Africa, a cross between tomato and eggplant.  The djakattou is about the size and color of a medium tomato with an interior that resembles the interior of an eggplant.  It is widely used in stews and soups and is so bitter that I have never been able to adjust to the taste.  “Chacun a son gout.”

At first I thought I would make curry; you know Indian eggplant therefore curry.  However, it doesn’t always have to be that way.  As I tell my husband, it’s not set in stone that you must boil the corned beef, though it is traditional, there are a million ways to prepare food and I try to take advantage of cultural variations.  It’s true though that when I get lucky with eggplant, I lean towards East Asian cuisine 🙂

In honor of my husband’s 70th birthday week, I decided to prepare rice instead of noodles.   Happy Birthday!

Browned, unbattered eggplant is my very favorite way to prepare it.  When growing up and well into my 20s, I thought the only way to cook eggplant was in moussaka or battered and greasily fried.  Not so!  South and East Asians prepare eggplant in various delicious ways.

I’ve been dissatisfied with the aji-mirin that I have been forced to use for at least a year.  I prefer hon-mirin, especially for Japanese dishes but haven’t been able to find it.  I substituted the mirin with ryorishu cooking sake and think it’s better than the aji.

I often use pan roasted eggplant as a side dish to meats.  It is delicious.

Asian Style Indian Eggplant

1.4 cup tamari soy sauce

2 tbsp chilli garlic sauce

2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tbsp sake

2 tbsp ryorishu cooking sake

1 1/2 tbsp peanut oil

1 1/2 lb ground veal

1 1/2  tbsp peanut oil

3 garlic cloves, grated

1 inch fresh ginger, grated

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 bunch scallions, sliced

3 tbsp peanut oil

12 Indian eggplant, stemmed and halved

Mix the soy sauce, chilli sauce, vinegar, sake and ryorishu sake together and set aside.

Brown the veal in 1 1/2 tbsp of peanut oil, remove from pan and set aside.  Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add 1 1/2 tbsp peanut oil and saute the garlic, ginger, bell pepper and scallions until the pepper is crisp tender.  Remove the vegetables to the plate of veal and set aside.

In a large skillet heat 3 tbsp peanut oil and brown the eggplant halves.  Remove from the skillet and drain on paper towels.  Wipe out the large skillet and add the veal, vegetables and eggplant.  Stir in the sauce mixture, bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Serve with rice.











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Mushroom Dashi Broth with Roasted Cod

Sleepless in Honesdale, I realized that it had been a while since I had made some homemade dashi broth.  Taking mental stock of my pantry, fridge and freezer, I realized I could make dashi etc. first thing in the morning without going to the store 🙂   I hopped out of bed at 6:00 a.m., not rested, but in a pretty positive mood.

While there are other varieties of dashi, I usually make awase-dashi, with konbu (dried kelp) and dried bonito flakes.  I knew I wanted shiitake mushrooms as part of the soup’s ingredients, and while soaking the dehydrated mushrooms I also decided to add some of the soaking liquid to the the awase broth.  I knew this would be fine because I have successfully made Japanese style broths using only the liquid from soaked Japanese mushrooms.

Making dashi from scratch is easy and so much better tasting then using dashi granules.  The konbu is first soaked then brought to just below a boil, then the kelp is discarded, the bonito flakes added and brought to a full boil before straining the finished broth through a paper towel lined strainer.  However, this time, after discarding the kelp, I added 2 cups of mushroom soaking liquid before continuing.

I sliced and added the dehydrated mushrooms to the broth along with a handful of sliced scallions and simmered for about 15 minutes.  I then added a handful of halved snow peas to the broth, simmered for 5 minutes, turned off the flame and placed the cover on my donabe cooker.

Once the broth is completed, you can add anything you want including chicken, shrimp, pork or beef shreds, carrots, daikon, whatever.  The soup was good with just the snowpeas, scallions, mushrooms and 1/2 boiled egg.  Still, I had other things on the menu, like udon noodles and roasted wild cod pieces.


Mushroom Dashi Broth

1 package dehydrated shiitake mushrooms

3 cups water

1 large piece of kombu

6 cups water

2 cups bonito flakes

4 tbsp Usukuchi soy sauce

2 tbsp tamari soy sauce

2 tbsp sake

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp mirin

1/4 tsp salt

Place the mushrooms in the 3 cups of water and set aside.  Place the kombu in the 6 cups of water and set aside.

After at least 30 minutes, pour the kombu and water into a pot and bring almost to a boil (small bubbles appear on the edges of the water).  Remove the kombu and discard.  Strain the mushrooms into a bowl, reserving and setting aside the mushrooms and add 2 cups of the mushroom liquid to the kombu liquid.  Add the bonito flakes, bring to a boil and boil for 30 seconds.  Place a paper towel lined strainer over a bowl and pour the bonito flakes and water into the strainer.  When cool enough, gather the flakes in the paper towel and squeeze the liquid out into the bowl before discarding the flakes.  To season the broth, add the soy sauces, sake, sugar, mirin and salt.  Add your favorite ingredients and enjoy.


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Braised Curried Oxtails with Orzo

I mentioned to a friend in France that I was looking for a good quality cover for our feather bed.  There was an awkward pause, and then she asked why I would need a cover, other than the one that enclosed the feathers.  She explained that she and everyone she knew took her feather bed to the cleaner?  There, the bed was picked apart, the feathers removed and they were fluffed and aired in the sun. The cover was washed by hand and hung to dry also in the sun.  Finally the feathers were returned to the cover, resewn and returned to the bedroom.  This particular bed had been in the family since her grandmother’s wedding.  Good luck with trying to find a feather bed specialist here in the U.S.!  We don’t roll that way; if it’s old we toss it.  The French “conserve”, the feather bed being only one in a thousand ways they place value on the items that they pay for and avoid what they consider foolish waste.   The point I’m making is that the French are…can I say “conservative” without meaning politically?

I started thinking about this as I was making braised oxtails in the pressure cooker.  Oxtails are so expensive these days!  It’s almost better to buy a steak!  Back in the day, when I was I child, my mother often bought this almost free cut; if they were even 10 cents a pound, I’d be surprised.  ($5.99/lb at Petes today.)  She didn’t make oxtail soup, but a big, thick, tomato or gravy rich pot of gloriously meaty bones that were eaten with rice or potatoes.  It was a feast!  Oxtails were considered slave/poor people/soul food cuisine and not many people were interested.  However some smug American chef decided to expose and educate the “chic” and trendy to the oxtail as a meat and not just the bony, fly flecked end of the cow.  Prices soared and remain an outrage!  I mentioned the French early on because they’ve always considered oxtails and just about everything else food, whether a tail or a steak, it’s beef and charged for accordingly.  Waste not want not.  Maybe it was the war but I tend to think they were born this way 😀

I started out thinking that I would make Asian glazed oxtails but, as so often happens, I was mind-snatched and it turned into something else.  I even add 3 orphan strips of what are called “boneless spareribs” (but they’re not) to the oxtails in the pressure cooker.  Whatever.  They were good and I’ll make it this way again.

To appease my husband’s rice eating cravings that he probably learned in Peace Corps, and certainly not in his Irish childhood home, I made orzo pasta that looks a bit like long grain rice but is so much better.  I added basil from the garden, butter, onion, garlic, pancetta and Parmesan cheese.  Get’s him every time 😀

Braised Curried Oxtails with Orzo

2 1/2-3 lbs oxtails

2 cups beef broth

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 cube S & B hot golden curry, grated

1 tsp onion powder

2 garlic cloves, grated

1 star anise

3 slices fresh ginger

1 cinnamon stick

Leaves from 3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/3 cup melted butter

Place the oxtails, as much as possible, in one layer in a pressure cooker.  Mix all the other ingredients together and pour over the oxtails.

Put the top on the pressure cooker and seal well.  Put the little bobble thing over the vent in the middle of the pressure cooker top.  Turn the gas up to high and when the bobble starts to swing back and forth, decrease the heat until the bobble continues a gentle swing. Cook for 30-35 minutes, remove from flame and set aside until the pressure button, located at the top of the handle, sinks completely to the bottom.

Open the pressure cooker and place the oxtails in a platter.  Boil the liquid down (no top) until it is reduced by half, then pour over the oxtails.

Basil Orzo

2 tbsp butter

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 cup dried orzo

1 2/3 cup chicken broth

Salt and pepper

1 1/2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Melt the butter in a large saute pan, then saute the orzo and garlic until the pasta begins to brown.  Add the broth, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for about 20 minutes.  Stir in the basil and cheese and serve.





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Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?

One home leave we sublet an apartment in the New Orleans’ Garden district.  Foreign service home leave is intended as an opportunity for employees assigned overseas for two years to return to the United States and reacquaint themselves with the country of their birth.  In other words, they don’t want you to go native or anything,  possibly like your assignment better than your own country, start wearing inappropriate dress and learning odd dances.  A mandatory biennial psychovac prevention excursion 😀

Of course I researched New Orleans cuisine 6 months before we arrived to make sure we didn’t miss out on anything.  I don’t think we did;  shrimp and oyster po’ boys, shrimp clemenceau, boudain, seafood gumbo, red beans and rice,  fried chicken, smother pork chops, BBQ ribs, deep fried beignets, Slim Goodie’s Diner breakfast, the Gospel Brunch with a giant buffet of breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes accompanied by a wonderful choir and gospel music singers.  We ate out, at least for one meal a day, which didn’t stop me from going to the grocery store to fill up the refrigerator and it’s freezer to make myself feel at home 🙂  Our neighbors across the street, fearing we weren’t getting the authentic New Orleans cuisine and would either get sick or starve to death, brought over pots and platters of food frequently.  And even though the obituaries in The Times-Picayune newspaper published daily deaths from heart related illnesses of the city’s 20 -30 year olds, we convinced ourselves that all the walking, sightseeing and dancing at Tipitina’s would keep us relatively healthy.  Fat but healthy.  Maybe a little breathless 🙂

Central Grocery is a small, old-fashioned Italian-American grocery store with a sandwich counter, located at 923 Decatur Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. It was founded in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo, a Sicilian immigrant. He operated it until 1946 when he retired and his son-in-law Frank Tusa took over the operation. Today it is owned by Salvador T. Tusa, Salvatore’s grandson, and two cousins, Frank Tusa and Larry Tusathe

The Italian Central Grocery is famous for  our favorite New Orleans sandwich, the muffuletta; a round loaf of house baked bread, spread with olive salad and layered  with slices of salami, cappicola, mortadella, mozzarella and provolone.  One loaf serves 4 generously and is delicious.

France has a nice selection of charcuterie (deli meats) and  of course cheeses.  One day while at one of the stalls in the market, I started craving the rich, olive oil infused taste of a muffletta sandwich and determined to make one at home.  A skittish baker, I laughed in the face of bread baking fear when I remembered I had a Kitchenaid!

Since coming back to the States, I have all but given up attempting the few yeast breads I have been successful at making.  The yeast seemed to be the problem.  During his last visit to Senegal,  I asked my husband to bring back some Saf-Levure yeast, the brand I used in both West Africa and France.  Worked.

The olive salad must be made 2–4 days ahead and allowed to marinate in the refrigerator.  I used canned and jarred ingredients for the salad but if you have a Wegman’s or Whole Foods near you, I believe you’ll benefit from the quality of freshly marinated olives.

I bought the cheeses and cold cuts at the Catalano Importing Co. in Scranton.  We had visited them before and were very satisfied with their products and their smiling welcome.  They also make fresh sausages every Thursday!



Once assembled, the sandwich can be wrapped in aluminum foil and allowed to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the olive oil and ingredients to combine flavors.

Nolacuisine is a great site for Creole cuisine and you will find the recipe for the sandwich, bread and olive salad there by clicking the recipe link.




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