Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Recipe: NOT Kasha Varnishkes

I guess I'd better do some quick explaining here...this recipe was inspired by a recipe for "Kasha Varnishkes" (a Jewish classic) that I saw on a television program a while back. I wish I could remember which show it was - probably Martha Stewart, but I really don't remember.

The dish looked so good, but on the program they used chicken fat in the recipe. I don't keep chicken fat around, and didn't feel like buying some chicken just to render the fat from the skin. However, I do - in fine Southern tradition - keep bacon drippings in a special tin in my refrigerator. These drippings are from Applewood Smoked Bacon that we buy at The Fresh Market, and they're great for anything from seasoning vegetables to making "Fodder" (A wonderful and fresh Southern dish that my mom makes when the garden first comes in during Spring). They also remind me of some really nice pork smaltz I've had in Germany.

Needless to say, I was all for substituting bacon drippings for the chicken fat, but then there was the matter of kasha...I didn't have any at the time, and I couldn't find any at The Fresh Market either. I decided to substitute pearled barley for the kasha. At this point the only things recognizable from the original recipe were the bow-tie pasta, caramelized onions (that's what sold me on the recipe to start with), salt and pepper. But what a wonderful recipe of substitutions it turned out to be!

I've made this dish several times because Corey and I both like it a lot. Hope you do too!

"It may not be kosher, but it sure is scrumptious!"

NOT Kasha Varnishkes (aka 'Bow-ties for Gentiles')


2-4 servings Bow-tie pasta aka Farfalle pasta (cooked al dente)

1 Large yellow onion or 2 small ones

1/4 - 1/2 cup pearled barley (pre-cooked measurement), cooked

2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced (optional - not in the original recipe, but I occasionally add it in)

2 - 3 tbsp bacon drippings

sea salt

fresh ground pepper

The most time consuming part of the cooking process is preparing the bow-tie pasta and the pearled barley. The barley cooking instructions say to boil it for 45 minutes, so I'd recommend starting the barley, then the pasta, then prep your onions and garlic while they're cooking. Don't forget to add salt to the water while they're cooking - that way you don't have to add as much later on.

Cut the onion(s) in half, then slice them thinly before caramelizing them in the bacon drippings. Usually I cook them in a pressure cooker (w/o the lid, of course) so there's plenty of room to add the cooked pasta and barley. If you're going to add garlic, add it to the caramelized onions once they've reached the desired color, and continue to cook for about 30 seconds before adding the drained pasta and barley. Salt and pepper to taste, carefully stir to distribute barley, pasta and seasonings evenly, and serve.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Food For Casablanca

My husband made a very interesting observation as we watched Casablanca for the first time on Saturday - everyone seemed to be drinking, but no one was seen eating. Well, we had a dinner that day that would have had everyone in Casablanca running to the table, and the theme was appropriately Moroccan.

Our friends Elizabeth and Brian (last name "Cook" - very fitting as Elizabeth loves to cook!) invited us to their house for a Moroccan dish she wanted to try out, and to watch Casablanca - our version of "Dinner and a Movie". She and I shared the cooking duties - I supplied some freshly ground spices, chicken, chick peas, dried apricots, cilantro and couscous for the savory part of the meal which, except for the couscous, is cooked in a crock pot - and she supplied the remaining ingredients, and started cooking it early in the day for us. I've posted the recipe for "Easy Crockpot Moroccan Chicken" below, but you can view the original recipe posted by French Tart at this url: http://www.recipezaar.com/Easy-Crock-Pot-Moroccan-Chicken-Chickpea-and-Apricot-Tagine-137530

Elizabeth added the optional carrots, cut at an angle she explained, to "absorb the flavors better". Neither of us had the ras el hanout spice mix, so I used the alternate spices listed, grinding the cumin and coriander (or did I accidentally use cardamom?!) myself. It would've been nice to have the rose petals that are included in the ras el hanout, but it was so good that we didn't really miss the rose flavor.

Meanwhile, I racked my brain for a dessert idea that would complement the meal. I finally decided to make a rice pudding - something mild and delicately flavored with coconut milk - but topped with fresh pineapple purée and a dried apricot garnish that echoed the apricot in the curry. I would have liked to have served the pudding warm but I had to make it in advance, so I prepared individual cups for everyone including little Sophie, and refrigerated them. (See "Lesson Learned" below)

I searched for a good rice pudding recipe, and as usual sort of put in my own flair, as explained below. Here's the url for a highly rated recipe I found posted by Erica G. : http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Creamy-Rice-Pudding/Detail.aspx

We all had a great evening enjoying our "Dinner and a Movie". Brian and Elizabeth had seen Casablanca several times, but Corey and I got to see a great classic for the first time. I've spent a lot of time photographing the food (except for the raw image of the plated food taken by Elizabeth), playing in Photoshop, and finally writing this blog entry, but it was time well spent to document this adventure in cuisine and film. Check out Elizabeth's take on our Saturday get together at her blogspot A Girl In Her Kitchen



  • 3/4 cup uncooked white rice
  • 2 cups milk, divided
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. In another saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk, beaten egg and raisins. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla. Serve warm.

My Version:

I used 1 cup jasmine rice cooked in 1 cup coconut milk and 1 cup water, used my homemade clarified butter (ghee - it has a toasted nutty flavor) instead of regular butter, omitted the raisins, used the rest of the 12 oz. can of coconut milk with the remaining milk and beaten egg for the pudding, replaced white granulated sugar with Demerara Cane Sugar (has a molasses flavor- you can read about it at Wikipedia), added puréed fresh pineapple and dried apricot as garnishment, etc. In other words, I didn't really follow the recipe, I just used it as a reference guide.

Lesson Learned:

In retrospect the rice set up a little stiffer than I had liked - it was perfect when made, but while it was chilling the rice absorbed more of the creamy pudding than it would have if it had been served immediately. Also, the fresh pineapple was really light and frothy when it was first puréed, but expect some separation of liquid and pulp if it sits for a while. This will not affect the flavor, just the texture.

Easy Crockpot Moroccan Chicken

(We halved the recipe and it served 4, plus leftovers for 1)



1. Heat up olive oil in a frying pan/skillet & saute chopped onions & garlic for 5-10 minutes.

Add chicken stock & gradually mix in flour or cornflour until well mixed & not lumpy.Add honey & tomato paste & mix well.

Add herbs,spices & finely chopped ginger with salt & pepper to taste.

Finally add tinned tomatoes & mix well.

Pour the above tomato,onion & spice mix into slow cooker or tagine.

Add chicken & chickpeas & mix well.

Add dried apricots making sure they are covered by juice. (Add

the carrots if using.).

Give it a gentle but good stir to mix everything together well.

Crock Pot or Slow Cooker - Cook on high for about 3 to 4 hours OR automatic with keep warm facility for up to 8 hours. (Please note that the cooking times depend on your crockpot, the cooking times I have suggested work fine with mine which is a Morphy Richards Slow Cooker.).

If cooking in a Traditional Tagine, do as above & cook SLOWLY over gas or barbeque for about 2-3 hours.

Electric Tagine cooking - same as the slowcooker. If you need to thicken it up towards the end of the cooking time, add cornflour which has been mixed with a little water & add to the tagine - mix well.

Serve with freshly chopped Coriander/Cilantro sprinkled on top & either with couscous, rice, fresh flat bread, pitta bread or salads. It is also good (if not traditional) served with fluffy pureed or mashed potatoes & pasta.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Disappearing Art of "Tatting"

I learned to tat today quite by accident, really. I was going to learn from my friend Linda, and about an hour before we were supposed to try and meet up I popped into Hobby Lobby to get a needle and some thread. The only tatting needle they had was included in a DVD 'how to' kit, and they only had one of those. Fortunately, I was able to go online with my phone and use a 40% off coupon, so I got the DVD and a small amount of thread.

Well, Linda's schedule didn't quite match mine, so I decided to pop in the DVD. It was actually very well made - well enough to teach me how to start tatting, and yes, I've now made my first "rings and chains" project (had to pick up more thread first).

I'm still hoping to get some great tips and techniques from Linda...I can't wait to tat some more! I'm very encouraged by her positive feedback, and I agree - not too bad for my first day ;-)

The DVD Title:

"Learn the Easy Art of Needle Tatting and More"
by Barbara Foster, Handy Hands, Inc.

Recipe: Lamb Meatloaf with Rosemary

It's good when the animals on the farm make nice - especially since this recipe calls for both lamb and turkey, and I found they do play well together!

Wanting to experiment with ground lamb for quite a while, I finally decided to give it a go. Meatloaf seemed like it would be the fastest and easiest way to get it onto my table and into my hubby's mouth (he normally doesn't like to eat lamb - see posting "Our Kitchen's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy"). The lamb is the featured meat in this loaf, but it needed to be paired with another meat to keep it subtle, so my logical choice was ground turkey - it's not too oily, it's very juicy and mild, and it just blends well with other meats. Oh yeah - it's healthy too!

Of course, there are as many meatloaf recipes out there as there are moms, grandmas, aunts, cousins, and Uncle Buds that like to cook. The great thing about a meatloaf is it can be pretty forgiving, so it can be very fun to play with. That being said, you'll want to refer to my "Lesson Learned" below, where I share an important thing to remember about one particular ingredient.

BTW, before you laugh at the topping...sure, I could've/should've paired this meatloaf with some apple/mint concoction on top, but my husband really likes ketchup with his meatloaf, and I mean he squirts a mountain on his plate for dipping (sigh). Sometimes it's best to just go with the flow a little.

So, without further adieu...

Lamb Meatloaf with Rosemary


1 lb pkg ground lamb
1 lb pkg ground turkey
1 medium yellow onion, diced into small pieces
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3 - 4 small garlic cloves, minced
5 tbsp (1 dollop) applesauce
1/2 cup jasmine rice (measured before cooking), cooked
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely minced (can substitute dried)
1 tbsp lavender buds, ground (optional)
1/4 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt (approx.)
1 tsp ground black pepper (approx.)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (approx.)


approx 1/2 cup mix of your favorite BBQ sauce and ketchup.


Oh, this is so fun and easy! After you've cooked your rice, diced your onion and minced your garlic and rosemary (and ground your lavender buds if you're using them), just throw all the ingredients (except the topping) into a large bowl and mix well.

Put meat mixture into a bread loaf pan (I use Pyrex), or you may shape your own loaf on a cookie sheet pan covered with foil. Try to eliminate any air pockets in the meatloaf - this is easy to do in the bread loaf pan because you can tamp it down with your wooden spatula or a large spoon.

Spread your topping mixture evenly on top, and bake uncovered at 350° for 1 - 1.25 hrs.

Serve with a side of applesauce, mint sauce, or (gulp!) ketchup.
  • "Like my mother, I don't measure any of my ingredients (except when it's required, as when baking), so the measurements are approximations of what I used. If you cook a lot you'll know how to season this to your taste, otherwise just follow the recipe. Remember - cooking is one big experiment! Have FUN with it!!!"
  • "I used to emulate my mother by using my hands to mix, but over the past few years I've started using a large wooden spatula, and it's now much easier to clean up afterwards."

Lesson Learned:

I thought I would take a short cut this time and let the rice cook in the meatloaf while it baked, because you can literally see the juices boiling through the sides of the glass. I found out the hard way that only the exterior rice touching the sides of the glass was cooked properly - the rest of the rice was cooked too, but the texture was way off. It didn't affect the flavor, nor the overall texture too badly, but I learned my lesson about rice and shortcuts. ;-)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Our Kitchen's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy

Yes, it's true. I hide great secrets from my husband. That is, when he is scarfing down a nice meal going "Mmmmmm Honey! What's IN this!? This is GREAT!!!", I prefer to wait until after he's finished eating before I tell him.

Why? Because sometimes if I tell him before he's finished eating, he won't finish his meal. If he finds out a yummy spaghetti sauce he's been slurping has anchovies in it...over. Done. If he finds out a meatloaf he's been gobbling has lamb in it, such as the one we started on last evening, (and are still eating on this very evening - hope he reads this after dinner), he'll dig his feet in, clamp his jaws shut, and let me finish off the rest in a series of leftovers. He knows better than to ask if my curry is goat or beef...he just might get an answer he doesn't like.

He can get pretty adventuresome sometimes in the food department, but he says he can't eat lamb because he sees a poor little lamb in front of him when he's trying to eat it. I guess he gets bad images also if he hears "mushrooms", "veal", "anchovies", etc.

Of course, sometimes I do use his meat of choice just to lull him into a sense of security. Once he's gotten out of the habit of asking, I can pull out the exotic and sometimes healthier stuff, and he assumes it's beef or pork. Like when I make turkey burgers...(much juicier and tastier than beef in my opinion).

Just have to add that there's always the exception to the rule, and sometimes I do actually tell him when he asks, but usually I say "Don't ask...just EAT!" And, being afraid of the answer I could give, he shuts up and continues to eat...then we're both happy ;-)

March 18, 2010 Update: We finished off the meatloaf last night - yes, I saw him chew it with my own eyes....yes, he DID read this blog the night before...and finally, yes, he did still say it tasted great! I believe he may actually be learning to get past his lamb issues. Yay!

I think this warrants posting the lamb meatloaf recipe ;-)

Recipe: Herbed Vegetables
(aka "VeggieWOW Bake")

This is a recipe that was inspired by a dish a friend of mine made (her name is Dana, pronounced like 'Donna'). She owns a wonderful little store called "Family Food Mart" where I buy the freshly butchered goat meat for my goat curry.

If you don't keep tons of herbs in your kitchen or garden, you can find most of those listed below at The Fresh Market or at an Indian grocery. If you don't feel like spending a fortune on herbs you may not use very often, consider the abridged basic version of the recipe (below).

Herbed Vegetables (aka “VeggieWOW Bake”) by Michelle Young


Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Yellow Squash

Roma Tomatoes (5 – 7)

Yellow Onion

Herbs/Spices: (spices are whole unless indicated otherwise)

Fresh Garlic Cloves (minced and whole, mixed)





Fresh Rosemary Sprig (broken into 1” pieces)



Coriander Seeds (fresh ground)

Fennel Seeds

Cumin Seeds

Yellow Mustard Seeds

Lavender Buds

Cinnamon (ground)

Sea Salt

Red, White &Black Pepper mix (Fresh Ground)

Cayenne Pepper


Fresh Garlic Cloves (minced and whole, mixed)


Black Pepper


Cayenne Pepper


Wash squash and tomatoes, and peel the onion. Quarter the Roma tomatoes, and cut the squash and onion into chunks of your preferred size (not too small, or they’ll dissolve during cooking). You can also use zucchini or eggplant in this dish, or any vegetable that’ll absorb flavors well…personally I wouldn’t use carrots, but they might be good too.

Put your vegetable chunks into a large bowl and start adding your herbs and spices to taste. Some herbs you can go to town with, like oregano and most of the green dried herbs. Other ingredients, like the cinnamon or cumin, you’ll want to just add a dash. Feel free to be generous with the lavender – it’s awesome! You can also be generous with the mustard seed. Just use your creativity – you can hardly go wrong, and if you do you’ll know what to change the next time! ;-)

Once you’ve added all your seasonings, stir the mixture until the vegetables are evenly coated. Empty the bowl into a baking dish (I use a Pyrex bread loaf pan), being sure to scrape all your seasonings from the sides of the bowl into the baking dish. Pour a generous amount of olive oil over the top of the vegetables – I usually have about ½ inch of oil at the bottom of the dish, more or less. Cover with foil and bake at 350°F for about an hour. I guarantee the odors will have you salivating long before the dish is finished!

Best served in a bowl with bread or rice . I prefer a nice mini baguette – the bread is perfect for dipping into the juices - sort of like going to an Italian restaurant, but the oil/juice mixture is much tastier than olive oil with cracked pepper. (In the South we’d call that “sopping”). If you serve with rice, I suggest a fragrant jasmine or basmati.