His Tree, His Pie

Think of the 41 years of deprivation my husband has endured because he, one who eats dessert for breakfast, married one of the few people in the world who does not love nor make dessert unless company is coming and/or it’s either Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas or possibly New Year’s.  Poor thing 😀  Over the years, he has been forced to satisfy his craving for home made sweets by making them himself (I do help with the recipes).

This year my husband’s apple tree was, unaccountably, overflowing with red, sweet apples.  We shared plastic bags full of these apples with neighbors and one of the neighbors, Ann Lynch, kindly shared her homemade apple pie with my husband.  Since then, he’s been moaning about making his own pie.  Yesterday, I handed him an easy, straightforward, traditional apple pie recipe and, backed into a corner, he made his own pie.  Objectively, I tasted a small bite and it was good; buttery, not too sweet and full of apples.

Posted in American, Cooking, Dessert, Food and Wine | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Fresh Borlotti Chili Beans

As you know, I like fresh beans when I can get them.  Fortunately, the Scranton farmer’s market has a few farmers who grow borlotti/red coco beans or what they call cranberry beans to shell.  These beans are quite a bit larger than the borlotti you find in France, about the size of kidney beans or maybe bigger.  They look large 🙂

My mom would often make what she called chili beans, a heavily Texas Mexican influenced, savory pot of beans flavored with ham hocks.  We loved these as much as the chili beans with beef.  Depending on her mood, she would serve these with flour tortillas or thin, unsweetened cornbread.  Cake like cornbread was not admired in our house!  Thank you Jesus 😀

I was going to go out to the ex-Super Duper that is now a Foodtown (bleah) for ham hocks.  Then I vaguely remember seeing several frozen chunks of leftover baked, smoked ham from some holiday meal I cooked.  Frozen, it wasn’t very attractive but it thawed out nicely and we won’t even think about how old it is, why worry?

How could I have forgotten about this pot?!  I looked up on the top shelf of the pantry this morning and it was staring down at me accusingly, and rightfully so!  I apologized profusely and promised it a glamorous day on the stove.

Chopped onions, garlic, bell pepper and a ferocious green chilli.  A routine I never get tired of.

The aromas from this pot assured me that this was going to be absolutely fabulous 😀  A wonderful rich, thick sauce made with canned diced tomatoes or better, if you have them, fresh tomatoes.

Nothing wrong with gilding the lily with a few toppings.  Make America grate again!

“And when you smile for the camera, I know I’ll love you better.”

Fresh Borlotti Chili Beans

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 large green or red bell pepper, chopped

3-6 large garlic cloves chopped

1 long hot chilli pepper, seeds removed or not, chopped

3 cups cooked, smoked ham, cubed

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp oregano

2 – 3 tbsp Mexican chili powder

2 bay leaves

1 cup of red wine

2 large (l lb 12 oz) cans of diced tomatoes

4 cups shelled fresh borlotti beans

2 cups water

Diced fresh tomatoes, sliced scallions and grated cheese for toppings

Warm tortillas, corn or flour

Saute the onion, bell pepper, garlic and chilli in the oil until the onion is soft, add the smoke ham and continue to saute for abou 1 minute.  Add the cumin, oregano, chili powder and bay leaves, continuing to saute for about 3 minutes.  Add the red wine and boil for 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, beans and water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Top with diced fresh tomatoes, scallions and cheese.  Serve with tortillas or cornbread.




Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Mexican, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Sister Rose’s Sister’s Stew

For one year in college, I was a reporter for the campus Third World News.  One of my favorite things was interviewing Black Muslim ministers and their “soldiers” at their Islamic temples.  They were such gentlemen, courteously showing me the work they were involved in in their communities; grocery, clothing and electronic stores, child care, schools and recreation centers.  As they took me on tours of their neighborhoods, the young “soldiers” would surround me like bodyguards,  calling me “Sister Rose.”  Barely out of my teens, I was dazzled 🙂

Since the age of maybe 7 or 8, I have been a voracious reader of just about everything including the classics, over and over again, and science fiction/fantasy, depending on the writer and subject.  George M.M. Martin is one of the best storytellers I have ever read and I was lucky to discover him only after he had completed his 5th book in the Game of Thrones series, providing me with weeks of uninterrupted, quality entertainment.  Now I, along with his thousands of other fans who would rather read the books than watch T.V., have waited over 6 years for him to publish the rest of the series.  In anticipation, I started reading the last book “A Dance with Dragons” again to refresh my memory of what happened last,  rediscovering the description of a luscious sounding fish stew, Sister’s Stew:

The beer was brown, the bread black, the stew a creamy white. She served it in a trencher hollowed out of a stale loaf. It was thick with leeks, carrots, barley, and turnips white and yellow, along with clams and chunks of cod and crabmeat, swimming in a stock of heavy cream and butter. It was the sort of stew that warmed a man right down to his bones, just the thing for a wet, cold night. Davos spooned it up gratefully — A Dance with Dragons

Well, the first time I read that, I intended to make it!  But real life tends to interrupt my obsessive actions instigated by the interesting things I find it books.  I forgot about the stew 😦    And then, I remembered 🙂

No novice when it comes to the preparation of fish stew/chowder/soup, my only worry was to find a whole fresh fish to make the stock.  According to a N.Y. Times article kindly sent to me by The Dog, bouillabaisse aficionados revile any fish stock not made with rascasse or spiny fish but cooler heads suggest an American substitution of grouper, sea bass, rockfish and others.  Fine.  I was pretty sure I would be able to find one of these at Wegmans or certainly at the Southside Fish Market in the “city” of Scranton.

Guys, here in the landlocked, old school, countryside of Pennsylvania, whole fish, head on, with bones is just not done!  It seems that nobody wants to know what any fish looked like before it ended up on their plates as a fillet, preferably breaded.  We visited 6 different establishments and only managed to see one large, sliced, whole salmon, head sliced off but left in the right position for display purposes only.  The fishmonger at Southside told me that his customers complain if he doesn’t remove every single piece of evidence that the fish had a skeleton.

Dismayed and mystified, I grabbed a bag of frozen grouper fillets, went home and listened to James Taylor to calm my nerves, interspersed between Bobby Bland’s hardcore blues ballads.

The commercially frozen grouper, poached for 5 minutes, was what it was but with enhancers, did create an acceptable stock.  If you don’t have to, don’t use fillets.  A stock made with a whole fish is superior.

Anyway.  The fish ingredients for the stew were chunks from a very nice “back” of monkfish, some okay cod, fresh chopped clams and large crabmeat lumps from China. The stew did not disappoint, although I remained bitter about the stock fish.  Do use a reasonable butter;  Trix and Phillip gave me a block of butter from New Zealand which was excellent, French imported butter is also good even if you have to buy President 😀

Sister Rose’s Sister’s Stew

Make the stock

1 small to medium whole, scaled and cleaned rockfish, sea bass or grouper

1 small bunch parsley

2 tbsp peanut oil

1 large onion, sliced

3-6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 long green hot chilli, seeds removed or not, sliced

1 cup of drinkable white wine

8 cups water

1 bouquet garni for fish

1 large bay leaf

Place the fish in a stockpot with the parsley and set aside.  In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the onion, garlic and chilli, sauteing until the onion is soft.  Add the wine and boil for about 2 minutes then add to the stockpot along with the water, bouquet garni and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and poach for 10 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, remove the fish to a board and when cool, remove the flesh from the carcass and set aside.  Also remove the bay leaf, parsley, bouquet and, if you want, the garlic pieces from the stock.

Make the stew

1/3 cup butter

1 1/2 cup sliced carrots

2 turnips, peeled and cut into cubes

2 large leeks, trimmed, dirt removed and sliced

1/2 cup barley

Salt and pepper

2 caps safron

1 lb fresh clams, chopped

1lb monkfish, cubed

1 lb cod, cubed

1lb jumbo lump crabmeat

2 cups of heavy cream

In a skillet, saute the carrots, turnips and leeks in the butter until the leeks are tender then transfer with the barley, salt and pepper, to the stockpot with the safron, bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Add the clams and simmer for about 5 minutes, add the monkfish and simmer 2 minutes, add the cod and simmer 2 minutes.  Lastly, add the crabmeat and meat from the stock and simmer for 2 minutes.  Cool the stew for about 5 minutes, then stir in the cream.






Posted in Cooking, fish, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes, Seafood, Soup | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Miso Marinated Sablefish with Sesame Spinach

The first time I ever tasted sablefish or black cod was at a Jewish deli in Liberty, New York in 197-; just kidding I don’t remember the year, but the taste was memorable.  The fish was smoked, thinly sliced and tasted like butter.  Really.

I had a delicious experience in France, marinating “regular” cod in miso paste.  Having found a good, I thought, online source for skin-on sablefish, I decided to marinate it also with miso paste.  I left the sable in the marinade, refrigerated,  for 3 days and it was luscious!  My disappointment was in the thin, mostly tail end fish pieces I was shipped by the online fish supplier.  I don’t want to dis them by naming them here because when they understood how unhappy I was, they acted like gentlemen/women and did the right thing. My advice: When ordering fish online, call them before you place an order so that you have a clear understanding of what you will be receiving.  For this recipe, I chose the slightly thicker, non tail end pieces.  The rest ( 8 pieces) will go into a chowder.  A shame, but there it is.

I thought I’d make either spinach or bok choy to compliment the fish.  The spinach seemed to shove itself to the front of the vegetable bin, so I made a quick saute with sesame and peanut oils, thinly sliced onion and garlic slivers.

I made this tiny little bowl for my husband to taste while I cleaned the kitchen.  He wanted MORE.  If you want to make this, choose skin-on 6 ounce fillets from the thicker center of the fish.

Miso Marinated Sablefish

1/4 cup sake

1/4 cup hon mirin

4 tbsp white miso

3 tbsp sugar

4  6 ounce skin on sablefish fillets

1 tbsp peanut oil

Mix the sake, mirin, miso and sugar together, then slowly heat, stirring over a flame until the sugar has dissolved.  Cool, then place in a zip lock bag with the fillets, gently squishing to thickly cover the fish with the marinade.  Refrigerate for 2-3 days.

Heat the oil in a hot skillet, add the fish skin side down, cooking for about 2 minutes, turn and cook for 2-3 additional minutes.





Posted in Asian, Cooking, fish, Food and Wine, Japanese, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Roasted Maitake Mushroom Noodle Soup

This all began when Trix Render of Willow River Gallery and Restaurant asked if I would like a large Hen of the Woods mushroom.  Trix is both an extraordinary chef and talented painter. Her restaurant, tastefully decorated with paintings and art work, is one of the most civilized dining establishments in Honesdale; comfortable and just reeking of European ambiance 😀  Of course I said yes, as I would to an offer of any mushroom.  I’d never heard of hen of the woods nor eaten it before but I was excited.

The mushrooms grow at the base of trees in the forest and are also known as sheep’s head, ram’s head and maitake in Japan.  I must say I was vaguely intimidated, especially after talking to Phillip, Trix’s fellow chef, who thought that my idea of oven roasting the mushroom would dry it out too much; we really wrangled over that!  Having roasted mushrooms many times before and detesting overcooked mushrooms, I just couldn’t believe that the maitake mushroom would be any different.  Still, Phillip is a chef and I, although stubborn,  am not.  Stubbornly, I decided to roast a small portion of the mushroom as a test.

I gently shook off as much dirt and debris as the mushroom was willing to release, carefully rinsed it in cold water with a spray nozzle, then left it to drain upside down until mostly dry.  I lined a small roasting pan with aluminum foil, sprayed the foil with olive oil Pam, cut off the tops of 2 large un-husked cloves of garlic and added them to the pan.  I then seasoned the mushroom with salt and pepper, liberally sprayed it with oil, added it to the pan, tucking the garlic cloves underneath, then roasted it in a 450 F oven for about 20 minutes, turning once.

My husband and I ate the mushroom as a snack, pulling off the crispy, juicy, long stemmed “fans” of mushrooms with our fingers.

My inspiration for the next step in the “what to do with this big mushroom” adventure came from both Olives for Dinner, a vegan site,  and my neighbor and friend Anne Lynch who rhapsodized about her love for mushroom soup.  Inspired but by no means mind snatched, I immediately went rogue, making a tasty Japanese stock with dashi,  white miso paste and soy sauce.  I picked the mushroom fans from about two thirds of the large piece added them to the stock, simmering for about 5 minutes.  I then brought the stock back to the boil and added some lo mein noodles (could have been any asian noodle), cooking until they were tender.  I ladled the noodles and mushrooms  into 2 large bowls, sprinkled with slice scallions and we ate the soup immediately.  So good!

I froze the other third of the roasted mushroom for addition to other Asian dishes I’m most likely to make.  Thank you Trix and Anne!




Posted in Asian, Cooking, Food and Wine, Japanese, Main dishes, Recipes, Soup | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Italian Style Peppers and Onions

Unlike the monopolistic, corporate suppliers of produce to U.S. supermarkets,  I don’t think our government realizes how much their Pennsylvania constituents depend on Mexico.

The only bell peppers, garlic (not good), avocados and tomatoes I could find in the supermarket here were all from Mexico. I know local farmers grow these items because you can see them for sale at roadside vendors’ tables in the summer.  Winter is coming.

My experience has been that if you have peppers, onions and garlic whatever meal you make with them will taste good, not just Italian.  Omelette, yes.  Gumbo, yes.  Pot roast, yes.  Anything!  You don’t really need a plan.  Just start sauteing them in olive oil and something will pop into your head.  If it doesn’t, don’t worry, just grab a piece of bread and eat them like that 🙂  However, my husband  “don’t play that.”  So…

BREAD and MEAT with peppers, onions and garlic.

Italian Style Peppers and Onions

4 tbsp olive oil

4-5 garlic cloves, slivered

2 large onions, sliced

2 large green bell peppers, cut into strips

2 large red bell peppers, cut into strips

Crushed red pepper (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the vegetables and saute until the onion is soft and the peppers are a little over crisp tender.  Shake in some crushed red pepper if liked.











Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, Italian, Recipes, Sandwich, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Ibushi Gin

Japanese cuisine fascinates me because of it’s attention to presentation as well as flavors and it’s unique style of food preparation.  I’m not talking about sushi which is, and rightly so when prepared by master sushi chefs, the very expensive epitome of the elegance and flavor that is Japanese cuisine.  Of course they had me at the word “kanji” when I realized that in order to prepare bento boxes, I would have to purchase a satisfying amount of new cookware and serving pieces 😀

Now I’ve discovered the Japanese world of Donabe cooking!  A donabe is a clay pot made for cooking over an open flame, one of Japan’s oldest cooking vessels still in use today. What excites me is that, with the aid of a small butane burner you can cook at the table and serve the food directly from the pot into attractive bowls or plates.  The above clay pot is a donabe ibushi gin or smoker with three smoking racks.  A handful of wood chips is placed on top of aluminum foil on the bottom of the pot, the loaded racks are then added, the pot placed on the gas burner until the chips begin to smoke, the top put in place and allowed to heat for about 2-3 minutes, the gas turned off and the smoking is finished in 20 minutes.

Trying something new is always both exciting and nerve-wracking, at least for me.  And the Japanese are so clever, what if things went wrong ?!  I mean I bought the cookbook, “Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking”  and everyone was just standing around smiling, beautifully dressed (no splatters) and every hair in place.  It looked challenging!  But hey, how hard could it be to succeed at cooking with a pot whose use was first recorded in the eighth century?  Not at all hard.

I raided the refrigerator for boneless, char sui marinated ribs, soft boiled eggs, chillies, yellow wax beans, asparagus tips and red bell pepper.  It bothered me that some sort of seasoning of the vegetables and meat was not required.  Still, I couldn’t help but lightly sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper.  Next time I’ll go further, adding Asian inspired rubs for meats/fish, flakes of aromatics for the vegetables and perhaps marbling the eggs in soy sauce before smoking.

The meat, eggs and vegetables were perfectly cooked and delicious with a delicate smokey flavor.  I tossed some leftover rice noodles with sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar and scallions as an accompaniment (sounds French) or side dish and passed soy and tsuyu sauces as dips.

My husband praised the cooking method and ate lots.  That’s what I like to see!




Posted in Asian, Cooking, Food and Wine, Japanese, Kitchen tools, Main dishes, side dish, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments