Spike's & Jamie's Recipe Collection & a Whole Lot More!

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Recipes from Spike & Jamie

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How to use these pages:  Below is a list of the recipes on this page.  You can either scroll down the page and look at all of the recipes, or look at the titles.  When you find one that seems interesting, use your web browsers FIND function to take you directly to that recipe (on my IE browser it's Edit/Find (on this page)   or Ctrl - F on your keyboard).










































































2 tbsp achiote paste

6 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup lime juice

2 tbsp orange juice

2 LB lean boneless pork shoulder

Cilantro-- Garnish

16 to 18 warm tortillas

2 large banana leaves


Rough chop garlic and smoosh garlic and salt together until a paste results.

Combine garlic and achiote paste enough water to form a thick, spreadable paste. Combine above mixtures with citrus juice in large bowl.

Coat meat with new mixture. Rub the mixture into every part of the meat.

Cover the meat in the large bowl--refrigerate over night.


Preheat oven to 325 f. Wrap pork in banana leaves--add any excess spice paste. Place pork in roasting pan with 1 cup water. Cover. Cook approximately 3 hours or until pork falls apart. You may want to add water occasionally during roasting. Let the meat cool and skim the fat from resulting liquid. Shred pork. Serve warm with remaining liquid from roasting. Reduce liquid if needed.

use to fill tacos, burritos or tamales




Achiote is the saffron of Mexico: If it's not fresh or if it's used in tiny pinches, the orangey color is all you notice. More than a pinch of fresh achiote gives any dish an exotic, earthy perfume that to me is as captivating as good, mushy saffron; it's certainly less expensive. you'll know you've got fresh achiote when the little chalky feeling seeds have a punchy aroma and a vibrant rusty color that's more red than orange.


Though in Oaxacana they make "pure" achiote paste (it has only a little salt, augar and acid added), it is the Yecatecan garlic flavored, spice riddled achiote paste that most Mexican use. Even in the States, Yucatecan achiote paste is available in most concentrated flavors (some of the commercial brands contain fillers), and it's really very simple.


Smeared over fish before it's grilled, slathered on pork before it's braised or roasted stirred in tamal dough before it's steamed-achiote reveals the genius of Mexican cooks. Not spicy-hot here, but spicy-complex without chili. My version nods more in that direction than some I've encountered. Silvio Campos, a Yucatecan who came to Frontera grill to make his famous pork pibel, make his with double the achiote of mine and half the spices. Try that version for an even more true-to-achiote flavor. Rick Bayless,"Mexican Kitchen"


Makes about 1/3 cup


2 tablespoons achiote seeds

2 teaspoons all spice, whole or freshly ground

1 teaspoon black pepper, whole or freshly ground

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

6 garlic cloves peeled

Generous teaspoon salt


The spice grinder method: In a spice grinder, pulverize the achiote as finely as possible, then dump it into a small bowl. Pulverize the allspice and black pepper (if you're using whole) along with the oregano, and add to the achiote. Sprinkle in the cider vinegar and mix thoroughly (it'll be a damp powder at this point and won't hold together). roughly chop the garlic, sprinkle it with salt, then, right on your cutting board, use the back of a spoon or the side of a knife to work it back and forth into a paste. Little by little, work in the spice mixture (it probably still won't hold together) Last, work in a tablespoon or two of water, if it's needed to give the mixture the consistency of a thick paste.


The mini-chopper method: Pulverize the achiote, allspice, peppercorns, and oregano together with the sharp blade. Add the vinegar to the spices, along with the garlic and salt. Pulse until the garlic is roughly chopped, then let the machine run until everything is as smooth as possible. Dribble in a tablespoon or two of water, if it's necessary, to bring everything together into a thick, pasty consistency.


Advance Preparation: This seasoning will last for several months in the refrigerator, if tightly covered (small jar)


Traditional dishes that use this essential as a starting point: Yucatecan Grilled Fish Tacos, Achiote Roasted Pork Tacos, Achiote Rice Supper with Pork Carnitas, Achiote Grilled Turkey Breast, Tomato Braised Grouper.



A tasty alternative with less fat and fewer calories than traditional guacamole.


Makes 2 cups dip


1 can (15 ounces) asparagus cuts, drained

1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (1 cup)

1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise or salad dressing

1 tablespoon lime juice

3 to 6 drops red pepper sauce

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Baked tortilla chips, if desired


1. Place asparagus in blender or food processor. Cover and blend on medium speed until smooth.


2. Stir together asparagus and remaining ingredients except tortilla chips. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors. Serve with tortilla chips.




You are right, it is a Puerto Rican traditional dish. The way I cook my "arroz con gandules" is with pork or baked ham. I use several spices such as adobo (Goya), sazon with achiote Goya (magic powder, sold in the Hispanic section of the supermarket), toasted cumin and oregano. I also make "sofrito;" a must have traditional condiment to use for almost every meal that one would like to cook. I chop 2 onions, a whole head of garlic cloves, two bell green peppers, 1 1/2 bunch of cilantro, I put it in the blender with olive oil and make sure that is well blended. I use at least two tablespoons per meal I cook. To make the rice you want to make sure that you have a pot that will keep the steam in while the lid is on. Put in oil, sofrito, ham or baked pork, stir, add red fine chopped bell peppers, adobo, tomato sauce (1 can), gandules, water, let it boil, make sure that you add some oregano and cumin. Let it boil, then add the rice, cover it, lower the flame to a low temperature, once the water has began to disappear (after boiling), then lower the flame to the lowest, cover it and make sure that you stir by bringing the rice to the middle of the pot like a pyramid.. Do not stir from the center of the rice use the outerside with a spoon. If you think the rice needs water because it is too dry, put it around, not directly on top of the rice. I had Puerto Rican, Dominican and Cuban friends tell me that my arroz con gandules is very delicious. By the way, I am Mexican.


PS. Try visiting the Puerto Rican Cuisine sites they have great food. Moreover, try putting sofrito with all the other condiments/spices on pork, add salt if needed, putting it in a baking bag and baking it at 350 degrees for 3-4 hours.



The following recipe is probably the most commonly made guacamole in Mexico. It is very rich and buttery and is so simple to put together that it can be done right at the very last minute. Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.


2 ripe California avocados

3 serrano chiles* with seeds, minced, or 1 fresh jalapeño chile with seeds,

minced (wear rubber gloves)

1/8 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste


* available at Mexican markets and some specialty produce markets


Halve and pit avocados. Scoop avocado flesh into a bowl, discarding peel, and mash together with chilies. (Guacamole should be chunky.) Season guacamole with salt and serve immediately. Makes about 1 cup.




3/4 pound fresh tomatillos

4 large garlic cloves

3 California avocados

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro sprigs

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste

4 tablespoons finely chopped red onion


Remove husks and rinse tomatillos under warm water to remove stickiness. Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or griddle over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and lightly brown tomatillos and garlic in spots all over (do not let burn). Transfer tomatillos and garlic to a plate and cool them to room temperature.


In a food processor purée tomatillos and garlic until smooth. Halve and pit avocados and scoop into tomatillo mixture. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Stir in cilantro, lime juice, 3 tablespoons onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish dip with remaining tablespoon chopped onion and serve with tortilla chips.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups.




2 to 3 large, ripe avocados, peeled and pitted

4 to 6 cups (1-1.5 L) canned or fresh chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

A grating of fresh nutmeg

Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Lime wedges

Mash the avocados and press them through a fine sieve. Add the mashed avocados to a large soup pot along with the stock, cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring frequently with a wire whisk. Sprinkle a little chopped cilantro or parsley on the surface and garnish with lime wedges. Serves 4 to 6.




2 tablespoons canola oil

2 onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 chipolte pepper in adobo chopped

Salt to taste

4 ripe Haas avocados, peeled, cut into chunks

1 quart vegetable stock, plus more if too thick

1/2 cup sour cream, or yogurt

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Thinly sliced scallions for garnish


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat and add onions, garlic, chipotle pepper and sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add salt, avocados, stock bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until avocados are soft. Add sour cream or yogurt and simmer for a minute more. Remove from heat and puree in a blender or with an immersion blender. Add more stock if too thick. Stir in cilantro and lime juice. Ladle into bowls and top with scallions. 4 servings




1 small onion, finely chopped

Olive oil for saute

1 med. avocado

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 1/2 cup of water

sea salt


Saute the onion until it's transparent. Peel avocado and remove the pit. Combine the onion, avocado, soy sauce and water in a food processor or blender and beat well. When the mixture is smooth put into a saucepan and let it come to a boil. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. Serve right away or it will discolor. This is a very creamy unusual soup. Serves: 3-4



- A Long and Sordid History

"In the center of the fruit is a seed like a peeled chestnut. And between this and the rind is the part which is eaten, which is abundant, and is a paste similar to butter and of very good taste." 1526 Oviedo


Called ahuacatl by the Aztecs, avocados grew wild throughout Central America and Mexico as early as 900 AD. In fact, archeologists have found pottery with images of avocados from this time period.


Some early cultures ate avocados more for function than taste, believing them to be bland, tasteless fruits. Understandable, I avoided avocados for years thinking the texture and salt I sprinkled liberally on my avocados to be their only memorable assets. Shrimp stuffed avocados in Mexico convinced me that avocados are actually a fruit of the gods and I haven't turned one down since.


From these roots, the avocado spread South first separating into three distinct varieties - Guatemalan, Mexican and West Indian. From these original three, over 400 varieties have since evolved.


As the avocado evolved, the name changed to reflect the shape. Avocado actually means testicle in reference to the appearance of the fruit. This unusual shape was something the Native Americans had noticed long before, their functional use of the avocado was often as a sexual stimulant. In fact, avocado replaces a word meaning "testicle tree." Spanish Missions even forbid avocado trees because of their implications! Today, we tend to eat them just because they taste good.


I have talked with many people who shy away from avocados because of the "fat." The avocado has a high fat content compared to other fruits. However, what they are missing is the long list of nutritional benefits that far outweigh any problems the fruit may have. For example, calorie for calorie, avocados are the most energy rich fruit. For pregnancy cravings, folate is present in each bite. For the trendy, avocados are packed with antioxidants A, B6 and C. For the athlete, avocados contain more protein than any other fruit. For the ... frustrated, avocados contain no salt and are high in fiber. Oh and that fat? Avocados contain monounsaturated fatty acids which helps to lower cholesterol while contributing nothing to your bad cholesterol count. What more could you ask from a fruit?


Still not convinced you want to eat one? The E, B1, B2 and B3 are great externally on your skin!



3 cups self-rising flour

1/2 cup sugar

12 ounces beer

2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a loaf pan and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and beer and mix well. The mixture should be sticky. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 55 minutes. At the last 3 minutes of baking, remove from oven, brush the top of the loaf with butter and return to oven.



Warm flour tortillas envelop a mixture of black beans and fresh corn, topped with melted jack cheese.


Tomato Salsa:


1 small, fresh hot chili, seeded and chopped (see note) WEAR GLOVES

2 medium-size tomatoes, diced

1/3 cup chopped yellow bell pepper

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro



Savory Black Beans:


11/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium-size, coarsely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 15-ounce cans black beans, liquid reserved

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar




2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 cup shredded jalapeno jack cheese (about 4 ounces)

12 flour tortillas (about 7-inch diameter)

Thin avocado slices

Fresh cilantro sprigs


To make salsa: In a medium-size bowl, combine chili, tomatoes, bell pepper, lime juice and cilantro. Season to taste with salt. If made ahead, cover and let stand for up to 6 hours.


To make beans: Heat oil in a wide frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft and lightly browned. Reserving1/2cup of the liquid, drain and rinse black beans. Add beans to onion mixture with the1/2cup liquid and the vinegar. Coarsely mash beans with a spoon or large fork.


To assemble tacos: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spoon Savory Black Beans onto a large ovenproof platter, spreading into about a 10-inch oval. Layer with corn and cheese.


Bake until heated through (about 10 minutes). Meanwhile, wrap tortillas in foil and heat in the oven until hot (about 10 minutes). Or, heat in a microwave oven (wrap tortillas in paper towels and loosely enclosed in plastic wrap; microwave on high until hot, 30 to 40 seconds).


Garnish bean mixture with avocado and cilantro. Spoon the mixture into tortillas. Serve with Tomato Salsa.


Note: Wear gloves when handling fresh chilies; the oils can cause a burning sensation on your skin.




6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1/2 inch strips

1 egg, beaten

1 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 quart oil for frying


1 Place chicken strips into a large, resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, mix the egg, buttermilk and garlic powder. Pour mixture into bag with chicken. Seal, and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours.

2 In another large, resealable plastic bag, mix together the flour, bread crumbs, salt and baking powder. Remove chicken from refrigerator, and drain, discarding buttermilk mixture. Place chicken in flour mixture bag. Seal, and shake to coat.

3 Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

4 Carefully place coated chicken in hot oil. Fry until golden brown and juices run clear. Drain on paper towels.



1 pkg. broccoli slaw (16 oz)

chopped sweet onion (as much/little as you like)

3 ribs celery (I don't always add this)

Mix and chill

Add remaining ingredients when you serve:

3/4 can chow mein noodles (buy the bags and use about 2 cups

3/4 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup sunflower seeds


1/2 cup oil

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1&1/2 T. soy sauce



1/4 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (or substitute orange juice)

1/4 cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

4 (3- to 5-ounce) salmon steaks or fillets, skin on

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring juice, syrup, vinegar and garlic to a simmer. Do not boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until reduced to 4 tablespoons. Remove pan from heat, set aside.


Preheat broiler. To minimize overcooking, adjust broiler rack to no closer than 6 inches from heat. Line broiler pan with foil.


Place salmon on pan, skin side down. Season with salt and pepper and brush with glaze. Broil for 5 minutes, brushing with glaze occasionally. Turn off broiler but do not open oven door or remove salmon for 5 minutes. Serve warm.




1/4 cup catsup

1/4 cup lime juice

1 to 2 tsp. bottled hot pepper sauce

1 lb. fresh or frozen shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cooked

1/2 cup chopped tomato

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup snipped fresh cilantro

2 avocados, seeded, peeled, and chopped

Lime wedges (optional)

Purple flowering kale (optional)


In a large bowl stir together catsup, lime juice, and hoe pepper sauce. Add shrimp, tomato, onion, and cilantro; toss to coat. Cover and chill for 2 to 4 hours. Just before serving add avocados; toss to coat. Garnish with lime wedges and flowering kale, if desired. Makes 8 appetizer servings.



Oil or margarine and flour for greasing pot

1 small thermos cup flour

1 large soup spoon of milk powder

1/2 large soup spoon baking powder

Pinch salt

1 tablespoon margarine or oil

3 large soup spoons of sugar

1 egg

2 1-ounce squares semi-sweet baking chocolate

About 1/4 thermos cup water

Dash of brandy or vanilla


Rich chocolate icing

2-3 1-ounce squares semi-sweet baking chocolate

1 tablespoon margarine

About 1/4 thermos cup water

Dash of brandy or vanilla


Build fire, developing a bed of coals. Grease and flour smallest pot you have. In a separate medium pot, mix flour, milk powder, baking powder and salt. In lid, cream margarine and sugar. Add egg, combine until smooth. Melt chocolate over fire with a little water, being careful not to burn chocolate. Add chocolate and brandy to margarine, sugar and egg mixture. Stir into dry ingredients with enough water to make a smooth, thick batter. Scrape into greased, floured pot and cover.


Clear a space in front of fire and set pot in it. Rake hot ashes around pot at least halfway up sides. Depending on size of pot, temperature of coals, and weather, cake should take 25-30 minutes. Rotate pot in coals to bake evenly, adding ashes if fire seems cool. Cake is done when knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pot, then run knife around edge and turn it out.


For icing: Melt chocolate in pot lid with enough water to keep it from scorching. Chocolate should be thick and smooth. Add margarine, stir until melted, remove from heat. Add brandy. Cool until chocolate thickens. (On hot day, setting frosting container in cool creek water helps.) When chocolate has frosting consistency, ice cake.




1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed

1 large sweet potato, peeled and quartered

1 cup corn

1 teaspoon prepared Dijon-style mustard

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and chopped

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup finely chopped peanuts


1 Place the Russet potato pieces into a large saucepan, and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the sweet potato, and cook about 15 minutes more. Remove a piece of each potato, and cut it in half to see if it is cooked enough. Once the potatoes are tender, add corn kernels; cook another 30 seconds. Drain through a colander. Fill the saucepan with cold water, and drop vegetables into water. Cool for 5 minutes, and drain.

2 In a large bowl, whisk together mustard, lime juice, cilantro, and garlic. Slowly whisk in oil. Mix in salt and black pepper.

3 Cut cooled potatoes into 1 inch cubes, and add to dressing along with cucumber, and red onion. Toss well. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Toss the peanuts in just before serving. Makes 5 servings




2 cups shredded potatoes

1/4 cup grated onion

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 head cauliflower, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon paprika


1 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a shallow 9 inch baking dish or pie pan.

2 To make crust: Use a cheese cloth to squeeze extra liquid from the grated potatoes. In a medium size mixing bowl, combine potato, onion, egg, salt and flour. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pie pan, and pat it down with a rubber spatula or your fingertips. Bake for 30 minutes. Brush the crust with oil, and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove crust from oven, and reduce the oven's temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

3 To make the filling: In a large frying pan over a high heat, heat the oil until hot. Reduce the temperature to medium and saute onion, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and paprika in the hot oil; cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Stir the cauliflower into the pan and cook for 15 minutes.

4 Spread 1/2 of the cheese onto the potato crust. Spoon the vegetables on top of the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the sauteed vegetables. Beat the milk and eggs together in a small bowl, and then pour over the vegetables and cheese. Sprinkle paprika over the mixture.

5 Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the custard is set and the top of the pie is slightly browned. Makes 4 servings




1 whole head garlic

2 tablespoons ground annatto (achiote)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Salt, freshly ground pepper

1 cup white vinegar

3 pounds shoulder of pork, cut into 2 inch cubes

2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil

Juice of 1 Seville (bitter) orange, or 1/4 cup orange juice

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes


Peel the garlic cloves and reduce them to a puree in an electric blender with the annatto, cumin, salt and pepper to taste, and vinegar. put the pork pieces into a large bowl and pour the garlic marinade over them, mixing well. marinate overnight in the refrigerator, covered . Strain, reserving the marinade. Pat the pork cubes dry with paper towels. Heat the lard or oil in a large skillet and saute the pork pieces until golden brown all over, transferring them to a casserole as they are done. pour the reserved marinade over the pork, add the orange juice, cover, and cook over very low heat until the meat is tender, 1 1/2 hours. If the meat seems to be drying out, add a little water; 3-4 tablespoons will probably be enough. There should be very little gravy when the dish is finished.

peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into slices about 3/4 inches thick. Cook in boiling salted water until tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain.

To serve , heap the pork in the center of a large warmed platter and surround with the sweet potato slices moistened with a little of the meat gravy. White rice is another traditional accompaniment to this dish.


Recipe from, The Book of Latin American Cooking", Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz



Makes 12 empanadas

1/4 cup cream cheese

4 tablespoons crushed piloncillo , or dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cups seedless grapes, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1/3 cup cold water

2 tablespoons melted butter


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


Mix cream cheese and 2 tablespoons of piloncillo until smooth. Gently stir in grapes. Set aside.


Sift baking powder, salt and flour into a mixing bowl. Add shortening and by hand or with pastry cutter. Mix in shortening to form a coarse meal. Add enough water to form a loose dough. Transfer to a floured surface and roll out dough until about 1/4-inch thick. Using a cutter or knife, make 12 4-inch rounds.


Place a large spoonful of filling on half of each dough round. Lightly wet edges with water and press to seal. Arrange empanadas on a baking sheet. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle remaining piloncillo on top and bake 15 to 20 minutes.





1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 jalapeño peppers, stemmed and seeded

3/4 cup finely chopped red onion

(about 1/2 large onion)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 avocado, peeled and diced

2 cups diced tomatoes

(about 2 large tomatoes)

8 cups heavy cream

1 bunch cilantro, stemmed and chopped

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper to taste


Mince the jalapeños and set aside. In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the jalapeños, onions, and garlic and sauté, stirring, until the vegetables are soft.


Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the avocados, tomatoes, and cream. Lower the temperature and return the pan to the heat, watching and stirring so the cream does not separate. Bring the soup slowly back to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes to reduce by one third and to blend the flavors. Be sure to stir the soup occasionally to prevent sticking or scorching.


Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving stir the chopped cilantro leaves into the soup, reserving some for garnish. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with remaining cilantro.




Shrimp Tips



Sodium tripolyphosphate: This chemical protects shrimp against moisture loss. If the additive is present in shrimp, it must be included on package labeling.

Sodium bisulfite: This chemical is commonly used to prevent melanosis, a disease in which the membrane between the shell and the tail muscle darkens as shrimp deteriorates. Melanosis is a cosmetic problem caused by improper handling and is not harmful to humans. The FDA states that sodium bisulfite concentrations cannot exceed 100 parts per million because bisulfites can cause severe allergic reactions in people with respiratory problems. It will always be listed on shrimp packaging. When overused, sodium bisulfite gives shrimp shells a rough texture, causes the meat to glisten and feel slippery. It can give the meat an unpleasant soapy taste.

Physical properties of shrimp in the market


Fresh: When available, head-on fresh shrimp must be handled carefully, because the head contains digestive organs which can deteriorate quickly and taint the meat. Diseases, such as melanosis and "shrink," can also occur in fresh shrimp.

Frozen: This is the most common form found in the markets and grocery stores. Proper freezing preserves the fresh flavor of shrimp and will not affect the texture of the meat. "Green headless" is the standard market form for frozen shrimp. These shrimp are raw and deheaded with the shell and tail intact.

Cooked: These can occur in variety of forms. The most common method of cooking is steaming.

Raw: These are available in several forms (all previously frozen). Peeled undeveined are called PUD. Peeled and deveined are P&D or PDI (peeled, deveined, individually frozen). Raw shrimp should be peeled and washed (removing some or all of the vein.) "Tail-on" raw are peeled shrimp with only the tails left on and the veins left in. "Tail-on, deveined" shrimp are cut along the vein (dorsal side of the shrimp) to varying degrees and marketed as "split, "butterfly" or "fantail."

Breaded: Percentage of breading, by weight, is critical and is governed by FDA standards for product labeling. "Breaded Shrimp" must contain at least 50 percent shrimp. "Lightly Breaded Shrimp" must contain at least 65 percent shrimp. "Imitation Breaded Shrimp" will contain less than 50 percent shrimp. Most of these shrimp are headless, tail-on or tail-off, and generally deveined if larger than seventy count. Hand-breaded is labor intensive and more expensive than machine-breaded shrimp. "Mini-round," or "basket" shrimp are generally not deveined and are breaded with either head-on or head-off.

Canned: These are usually the smallest shrimp, which are always cooked and peeled but not always deveined.

Dried: This is not a common form in North America, but is an important product in India and Asia. Dried shrimp can be found at many Asian food markets and are useful in sauces and shrimp fritters.

Home Preparation


Before cooking:

Be sure to store fresh seafood in the coldest part of your refrigerator (usually the lowest shelf at the back or in the meat keeper).

Always marinate seafood under refrigeration and discard used marinade since it will contain raw fish juices.

Always keep raw and cooked seafood separate to prevent bacterial contamination. When handling raw seafood, thoroughly wash knives, cutting surfaces, sponges and your hands with hot soapy water before handling cooked seafood.

Cooking: Raw shrimp turn pink and firm when fully cooked. Depending on the size, it should take from 3 to 5 minutes to boil or steam 1 pound of medium size shrimp in the shell. .

Storing: If you buy frozen shrimp from your local market, they should last about 9 months if they come frozen and are kept frozen, 5 months if they come fresh and are stored frozen, and 4 days if they come thawed and are stored in the fridge.






1 pound Green Beans -- fresh

1 medium Onion -- sliced

2 tablespoons Fresh Dill

1/2 cup White Vinegar

1 1/2 cups Water

3/4 teaspoon Salt

1/4 cup Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Mustard Seed


Wash green beans in cool water, and snap to remove ends. Combine all

ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat

and simmer until crisp tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Cool and refrigerate,

covered, several hours or overnight. Serve chilled.



1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest

1 1/2 teaspoons pure lemon extract

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup packed almond paste, room temperature

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 large eggs

Confectioners' sugar for dusting


Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Lightly butter 8-inch round cake pan with straight side, line bottom with parchment or wax paper, and butter and flour paper.


Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.


Whisk milk, zest, lemon extract, and vanilla in another bowl.


Beat sugar, almond paste and butter with electric mixer on low in a large bowl until mixture begins to come together. Increase speed to medium and beat, scraping side of bowl, until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour.


Transfer batter to pan. Smooth top with rubber spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until cake is golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack 15 minutes, turn out of pan onto rack to cool to room temperature. Remove parchment paper and invert cake. Before serving, sift confectioners' sugar over top of cake.



2 cups of cooked chicken (or turkey). cut in bite-sized chunks

2 tablespoons butter/butter sub

1 small onion, diced

1 slice deli ham, cut in squares of approx 1/2"

4 pitted dates, chopped small

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 stalk celery, sliced thin

1/3 cup diced sweet red pepper (can sub green pepper)

2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill

heaping 1/4 cup slivered almonds

5 tablespoons mayonnaise or to taste (do not sub any other dressing)

salt and pepper to taste

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the onion

until it's medium-brown. Mix the onion and all the other ingredients together in a

large bowl. Taste, and adjust the amount of mayo, salt, and pepper if needed.

(It will appear to be too "gloppy" with mayo, but, trust me, once it has sat in the fridge awhile, it won't be.) Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Adjust amount of mayo, salt, and pepper if needed. Serves 3.




6 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced

11-ounce package pizza-crust mix

1-1/4 cups tomato sauce

11 ounces mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

4 ounces wafer-thin slices smoked ham

6 bottled artichoke hearts in oil, drained and sliced

2-ounce can anchovy fillets, drained and halved lengthwise

10 pitted black olives, halved

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan, add the mushrooms and fry until all the juices have evaporated. Let cool.

2. Make up the pizza dough according to the directions on the package. Roll it out on a floured surface to a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Brush with oil and place, oiled side down, on a medium-hot grill. Cook for 6 minutes, until firm.

3.Brush the uncooked side of the dough with oil and turn over. Spread with the tomato sauce and arrange the sliced mozzarella on top. Scrunch up the smoked ham and arrange on top of the pizza with the artichoke hearts, anchovies and cooked mushrooms.

4. Dot with the halved olives, then sprinkle with the fresh oregano and Parmesan. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and season with black pepper. Return to the grill and cook for another 8 - 10 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and crisp. Serves 8



By Dianne Jacob, ucook.com contributor


There's a time-saving cooking trend with a vague name: food assembly. It means that you don't really cook much, but you just pile foods together instead. Isn't that perfect for busy people?


Here's an example: You buy tortillas, heat some black beans in the microwave, you pile on shredded cheese and salsa, and then add chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and onion.


Voila! You have assembled a burrito. You have not really cooked anything. It's not exactly haute cuisine, but it took about 10 minutes, and you can't beat that for a quick dinner after work.


You probably know these time-saving assembly meals by heart: boil some pasta, open a container of pasta sauce. Slice some bread, make a sandwich. Open a bag of lettuce, add a can of tuna and dressing. All these years, you've been participating in the assembly trend without knowing it. Hey, maybe you even started it!


The bottom line is that busy people can't cook dinner every night and most don't want to, anyway. But we like the idea of making something that seems homemade. So here are a few inspirational suggestions for quick meals - mostly assembled - for the days when you can't face one of the above concoctions one more time:


• A whole roasted chicken. Eat it with crusty bread and a salad the first night. The second night, shred it and tuck pieces into soft tacos, adding salsa, shredded cabbage, and a little yogurt mixed with tahini, if you feel daring. Put the bones in the freezer for soup stock.


• Vegetables. Whenever you cook vegetables, make extra. Then, when you're looking for an assembly item, get out your leftovers. Suggestions: steamed broccoli, zucchini sautéed in olive oil and garlic; sliced mushrooms, cooked potatoes, sliced. They're great in pasta, wraps, eggs, and salads.


• Roasted red peppers. Puree a jar of drained peppers in a food processor, add a clove of garlic and a little sugar. Now you have a sauce for pasta that you made yourself. Add peppers to wraps, eggs, salads and pasta.


• Wraps. Spread a tortilla with herbed soft cheese. Add roasted chicken slices and top with red pepper slices; or add marinated artichoke hearts, sliced turkey breast, and capers.


• Pre-made polenta. Take home a sturdy yellow log. Slice it, pan fry the slices in a little olive oil, top with leftover vegetables and shredded cheese. Broil until the cheese melts.


• Frozen potstickers. Pan fry and place on a bed of salad greens. Dress with an Asian salad dressing. Drop frozen potstickers into boiling soup stock, add a dash of soy sauce, and at the end, a handful of spinach leaves and chopped cilantro.


• Pasta. Nuke a few designer sausages, slice them, and add them to marinara sauce. Add smoked salmon pieces, capers and dill to a cream sauce. Add fresh peas and chopped ham to cream sauce for a quick carbonara.


• Hummus. Top a baked potato with it, or stir it into chicken stock to create a bisque. Sprinkle both with green onions.


• Canned stock: Bring it to a simmer, add vegetables such as zucchini, spinach, tomato, canned beans, frozen peas, or broccoli florets (allow 10 minutes or less to cook); herbs or pesto; cooked, bite-sized pieces of meat; and tiny pastas that will cook quickly.


• Pre-made pizza shells: add a layer of cheese, such as grated mozzarella, ricotta or feta. Top with vegetables, such as yellow pepper strips, spinach, mushrooms or thin zucchini slices. Add seasoning such as fresh mint, olives, capers, chopped green onions or pine nuts. Bake.




Grapes offer a big bunch of benefits


Grape season has finally arrived and markets are full of sweet, plump California grapes. Grapes have a lot going for them. A single serving has 18 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C and as much potassium as a banana. Studies suggest that grapes contain the kind of antioxidant nutrients that many researchers believe protect cells from aging and chronic disease. And they can add a whole new dimension of flavor and texture to your favorite dishes.


When buying grapes, look for plump clusters attached to pliable stems. Don't worry about the white film that often covers the fruit. It's a natural ``bloom'' that prevents moisture loss and decay, and easily rinses off with water.


I like to include grapes in a variety of both sweet and savory dishes. For an elegant dessert ice, puree three pounds of grapes with 1/3 cup sugar and the juice of a lime. Add 1/4 cup red or white wine, depending on the kind of grapes used. Strain, then freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker.


Grapes add balance to seafood, poultry dishes and salads. You can even add grapes to rice, to serve as a side dish or as a light main course with shrimp. I hope these recipes will inspire you to come up with other combinations using grapes.




Makes 4 servings



1 large peach, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch pieces (or about 11/2 cups frozen

peaches, thawed)

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1/2 cup finely chopped black olives

1/4 cup finely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives

2 teaspoons capers

1 canned anchovy fillet, mashed into a paste (or1/2teaspoon anchovy paste)




1 1- to 11/2-pound salmon fillet, thawed if frozen

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper


To make tapenade: Place peaches in small bowl; stir in lime juice. Add olives, capers and anchovy paste; stir to combine. Set aside. Makes about 2 cups tapenade.


To make salmon: Prepare grill or preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush salmon with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Grill or bake for 10 minutes per inch of thickness, or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve salmon topped with tapenade.




1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup red wine

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 pound fresh mushrooms, halved

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut in strips

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut in strips

1 zucchini, cut in 11/2- to 2-inch long sticks

1 whole yellow onion, cut in strips or rings


At least 1 hour (or up to 1 week) ahead of grilling, prepare the marinade by combining vinegar, red wine, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, garlic and oil; set aside.


At least 1 hour (or up to 4 hours) ahead, place the vegetables and the marinade in one or two large resealable plastic bags. Marinate until ready to grill, turning occasionally so the vegetables are evenly coated.


For grilling/stir-frying, you will need grill pans that fit on your barbecue that are designed for fish or "stir-frying" of vegetables (they should have sides to keep the vegetables from falling down into the grill; check the grill sections of hardware stores). To grill, drain the marinade from the vegetables and place on grill pans over hot coals or gas heat source. Grill and stir-fry until the vegetables are hot and golden brown on at least 2 sides. Remove to platter and serve over rice or grilled polenta. For nonvegetarians, these vegetables make a delicious accompaniment to grilled chicken, beef, fish or pork.





1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 onion, minced

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 cup pecans

2 heads bib lettuce- rinsed, dried and torn into pieces

3/4 pound grilled skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced

2 large oranges, peeled and segmented


1 Add red wine vinegar, sugar, vegetable oil, salt, onion, mustard powdered, and white pepper in a blender; blend.

2 Place nuts in a dry skillet. Toast over medium heat, turning frequently, until nuts are fragrant and lightly browned.

3 Arrange Bibb lettuce on plates, top with grilled chicken slices, seasonal fruit choice, and nuts. Drizzle arranged salad with dressing. Serve.



3 cups finely shredded green cabbage

1/2 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts

1 chopped green chili (optional)

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/4 cup chopped cilantro


In a salad bowl, mix cabbage, peanuts and green chili. Set aside. When ready to serve, heat olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. When hot, put in mustard seeds. As soon as mustard seeds begin to pop, add cumin seeds and let crackle for 3-4 seconds. Turn heat off and immediately add oil-mustard-cumin seasoning to salad mix. Add salt and lime juice. Mix well. Garnish with cilantro.



From your Mexican Cuisine Guide


Learn how to prepare fresh clams and mussels for cooking.


Using a stiff scrub brush, clean outer shells and rinse well. Anchor threads, also called "beards" can be found on mussels. Remove these with a sharp knife.

Steam mollusks with ingredients specified in your recipe. Shells should open in 5-10 minutes when you can remove them from the pot. Serve as is or shuck mollusks. Shuck by holding in one hand and using an oyster knife. Pry open entire shell. Slide knife under clam or mussel to free meat. Serve as directed.



Do not cook mussels or clams that are already dead. Check for life by making sure shell is closed tight or will close when tapped.




36 mussels

3 green peppers

3 red peppers

3 red onions

1 cup vinegar

1 1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp salt


Clean mussels shells

Steam mussels until they begin to open - approximately 3 minutes

Mince vegetables

Mix vegetables together with oil, vinegar and salt

Open mussels and remove mussel from shell (use a butter knife or clean flathead screwdriver)

Toss all mussels in vinaigrette

Place mussels back in half shell with about a teaspoon of pepper mixture.



(Rice-Stuffed Pockets of Fried Tofu)

Makes 10 pouches, 5 servings


Inari Zushi -- fried tofu pouches (abura-age) cooked in a seasoned stock and stuffed with sushi rice -- is excellent picnic and bento lunch fare.


10 fried bean curd pouches (see note)

11/2 cups prepared dashi (see note)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 cups water

5 cups prepared sushi rice (see accompanying recipe)

Wasabi (Japanese horseradish)

Pickled ginger


Carefully open each bean curd pouch, gently breaking apart the network of tofu inside. Carefully rinse in hot water and drain completely in a colander; gently press with plastic spatula to remove excess water.


Bring dashi, sugar and soy sauce to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add pouches. Cook until about 80 percent of the liquid is absorbed, turning the pieces several times to ensure an even color and flavor.


Drain the pouches in a colander. These can be prepared to this point ahead of time and refrigerated overnight in a covered container, or they can be frozen.


In a bowl, combine the rice vinegar with the 2 cups water. (This mixture will be used to wet your hands while filling the pouches.) Wet fingers of both hands and open a tofu pocket to make a football-shaped container. Stuff rice carefully into pouch, tucking and folding over the open edges to enclose the rice. Fill remaining pouches.


Stand the filled pouches with the cut portion facing the bottom.


Serve with wasabi and pickled ginger.


Variations: Add sesame seeds, cooked mushrooms, peas, bamboo shoots, julienned carrots or finely chopped walnuts to the rice before stuffing it into the pouches.


Note: Find fried bean curd pouches (abura-age or sushi age) in the tofu aisle of Asian markets.


Note: Make dashi from hondashi bonito fish soup stock mix (follow directions on package) or from instant dashi mix (about 1/2 teaspoon hondashi to 11/2 cups water).




2 tablespoons olive oil

6 chicken legs, separated into legs and thighs

3 leeks, white parts only, cleaned and sliced

4 celery stalks, chopped

4 carrots, coarsely chopped

4 parsnips, peeled and chopped

2 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered

6 cups homemade chicken stock

1 tomato, chopped

2 dried hot chiles or dash of cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instant Dumpling Mix:

4 teaspoons powdered egg whites

1/4 teaspoon paprika

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon dried herbes de Provence

dash cayenne pepper

3/4 cup plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

To rehydrate:

1 tablespoon oil, shortening, or margarine



In a large Dutch oven, heat oil and brown chicken until golden on all sides. Remove chicken and excess fat, if desired. (Extra calories can be a plus when camping.) Place leeks, celery, carrots and parsnips in pot and cook 5 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften slightly. Return chicken to pot along with potatoes, chicken stock, tomato, chilies, and salt and pepper. Bring to boil, lower heat, simmer 20 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and take meat from bones. Puree vegetables with stock. Put meat into pureed vegetables, simmer 5 more minutes. Season aggressively because foods taste a little more bland when rehydrated.


Line racks of dehydrator with plastic liners or aluminum foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Spread stew on racks, about 1/2 inch deep. Turn on machine and dehydrate several hours or overnight, until stew has turned into dry flakes. (If food is not thoroughly dried, it can spoil.) Store in airtight plastic bags in refrigerator until departure.


Measure ingredients for instant dumpling mix and place in sealed plastic bag. Don't forget to pack oil or shortening and a water filtration device.


At camp, place stew flakes in pot. Add about 2 small thermos cups of filtered water. Let flakes soak until softened. Add water if mixture looks dry. Heat stew, stirring occasionally, adding water as needed. After 5-10 minutes, stew should look almost as it did before dehydration.


In separate pot or in pot lid, mix dumpling mix, oil and enough dribbles of water to a form thick paste with the consistency of biscuit dough. Drop by spoonfuls into bubbling stew, cover tightly, cook 12-15 minutes without lifting lid. When done, dumplings should be fluffy with no trace of raw flour taste. (If campers are too hungry to wait for water to boil, dried stew can be munched right out of bag.)



1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

6 tablespoons ( 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup finely grated lemon zest

1 1/2 pounds soft, mild fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet)

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1/2 cup lemon juice

8 large eggs


Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter bottom and side of a 9-inch springform pan. Have a roasting pan ready. Boil water for water bath.


Stir crumbs and butter with fork in medium bowl until combined. Press mixture into bottom of pan. Bake 8-10 minutes, until crust is set. Cool on wire rack. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.


Process sugar and zest until zest is finely ground.


Beat goat cheese and cream cheese with electric mixer in medium bowl, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium-high, until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium, add sugar mixture and lemon juice, beat until smooth, scraping side of bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.


Wrap outside of springform pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Pour filling into pan and set it in roasting pan. Place in oven, and carefully pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up side of springform pan.


Bake about 1 1/2 hours, until center is almost set but still slightly jiggly. Do not over-bake; cheesecake will firm as it cools. Remove roasting pan from oven and let cheesecake cool in water bath for 15 minutes. Remove from bath and cool on a wire rack. Remove foil. Refrigerate cheesecake in pan, loosely covered, for at least 8 hours or overnight.


Let cheesecake stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.



1 1/3 cups sugar, divided use

1/4 cup water

2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

1/4 cup finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)

3 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Pinch of salt


Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Have ready an 8-inch round baking dish and a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Put on kettle of water to boil for water bath.


Heat 1 cup sugar and the water in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil, without stirring, until mixture is dark amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush and swirling pan. Immediately and carefully, pour caramel into round baking dish, tilting to coat bottom and side evenly. Let stand to cool and harden. (The caramel may be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated, covered; return it to room temperature before adding custard.)


Meanwhile, bring cream, zest and fennel seeds just to a boil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes.


Combine eggs, yolks, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, lemon juice and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add 1/2 cup cream mixture and stir gently to avoid forming air bubbles. In a slow, steady stream, pour in remaining cream, stirring constantly. Pour custard through strainer into a 4-cup glass measure and then pour into round baking dish. Place baking dish in the 9-by-13-inch pan, place them in oven, and pour enough boiling water into pan to reach halfway up side of round baking dish.


Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until custard is just set around edge and still jiggly in center. Do not over-bake; custard will set as it cools. Carefully remove baking dish from pan and let cool on wire rack. Refrigerate, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days, until set and thoroughly chilled.


To serve, run a table knife around edge of creme caramel and make certain it is loosened. Invert a flat serving plate with a slight lip over round baking dish, and invert creme caramel onto plate.



Plain nonfat yogurt heightens the texture of this easy dip while adding a nice tang. To thicken the yogurt properly, it needs to be drained, so begin preparing the gua-camole at least two hours ahead. Offer light beer and iced tea throughout dinner.

1 1/2 cups plain nonfat yogurt

1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, diced

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

3 carrots, peeled, sliced diagonally

1 small jicama, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick triangles

1 bunch radishes, trimmed sliced

Fresh cilantro sprigs


Line strainer with double later of cheesecloth. Set strainer over bowl. Add yogurt to strainer. Let drain in refrigerator until yogurt is very thick, at least 2 hours or overnight. Discard liquid.


Place yogurt in processor. Add avocado and next 4 ingredients to processor. Puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)


Place guacamole in center of platter. Surround with carrots, jicama and radishes. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Makes 1 3/4 Cups



1 tablespoon vegetable oil

5 pounds Vidalia onions -- sliced

5 cups lowfat chicken broth -- reduced sodium

Salt and pepper -- to taste

1/4 cup fresh chives -- snipped, for garnish

In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook,

stirring occasionally, until they are evenly caramel colored, about 1 hour

and 45 minutes. (Lower the heat after first 45 minutes to prevent

scorching.) Add 4 cups of the broth and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Puree the onion mixture, in two batches if needed, in a blender or food

processor until very smooth. Add a fifth (and possibly sixth) cup additional

chicken broth if soup is too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Gently reheat before serving. Garnish with snipped chives. 6 servings.



(simmered tofu with ground pork)

1 tablespoon peanut or other oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste

1/4 to 1/2 pound ground pork

1/2 cup chopped scallions, green part only

1/2 cup stock or water

1 pound soft or silken tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Salt to taste

Minced cilantro for garnish (optional)


Put oil in a deep 10-inch skillet or wok, preferably non-stick, and turn heat to medium-high. A minute later, add garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes, and cook just until they begin to sizzle, less than a minute. Add pork and stir to break it up. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it loses most of its pink color.


Add scallions and stir; add stock. Cook for a minute or so, scraping bottom of pan with a wooden spoon if needed to loosen any stuck bits of meat, then add tofu. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tofu is heated through, about 2 minutes.


Stir in soy sauce; taste, and add salt and red pepper flakes as necessary. Garnish with cilantro and serve.



Makes 3 half pints


1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 cups sliced strawberries

2 tablespoons strained fresh lime juice


Wash 3 half-pint jars and keep hot until needed. Prepare lids as manufacturer directs.


Place sugar and strawberries in 2 alternating layers in a deep 12-cup microwavable bowl. Pour lime juice over top. Do not stir.


Microwave, uncovered, on high (100 percent power) for 5 minutes, stirring twice. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 10 minutes or until the gelling point is reached on a candy thermometer (220 degrees F from sea level up to 1000 feet; 216 degrees at 2,000 feet; 214 degrees at 3,000 feet; 212 degrees at 4,000 feet; 211 degrees at 5,000 feet; 209 degrees at 6,000 feet; 207 degrees at 7,000 feet; 205 degrees at 8,000 feet).


Ladle the jam into clean jars. Wipe jar rims with a clean, damp cloth. Attach lids. Let cool on counter for several hours, then refrigerate for long-term storage.


Adapted from "Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving" by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard



(Mock Guac)


5 or 6 combination of small fresh green zucchinis, pattypan, and scallopini

squashes (pattypans make the guac creamier)

3 garlic cloves, sliced into narrow strips

salt and pepper to taste


lime or lemon juice


chopped tomatoes

chopped green onions

chopped chilies WEAR GLOVES

chili powder



1. Chop the squash into small pieces.

2. Steam the squash, garlic, and salt/pepper together until the squash is completely cooked but still green.


3. Drain the liquid out of the squash and place the squash in a large bowl.


4. With a fork or potato masher, mash the squash until you cannot detect individual pieces of squash. Drain the squash again.


5. Add any of the other ingredients to taste. Mix together. Chill (to set) or serve immediately.




The World Encyclopedia of Cheese (Juliet Harbutt, Roz Denny)

Publisher: Lorenz Books


Although feta is perhaps their best-known cheese, the Greeks have a number of others that can be used in cooking. Kefalotiri, a hard cheese made with sheep's or goat's milk, makes the perfect topping for a classic Moussaka.

2 large eggplants, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped, or 7 ounces canned chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs

2 egg whites


ground black pepper


For the topping:

3 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1-2/3 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1-1/4 cups grated Kefalotiri cheese

2 egg yolks, plus:

1 whole egg


1. Layer the eggplant slices in a colander, sprinkling each layer with salt. Drain over a sink for 20 minutes, then rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread out the eggplant slices in a roasting pan. Brush them with a little of the olive oil, then bake for 10 minutes, until just softened. Remove and cool. Leave the oven on.

3. Make the meat sauce. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan and brown the ground beef, stirring frequently. When the meat is no longer pink and looks crumbly, add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Add the chopped fresh or canned tomatoes to the pan and stir in the wine. Season with plenty of salt and pepper to taste.

5. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, let cool for about 10 minutes, then stir in the chopped parsley, fresh bread crumbs and egg whites.

6. Lightly grease a large baking dish, then spread out half the sliced eggplant in an even layer on the bottom. Spoon over the meat sauce, spread it evenly, then top with the remaining eggplant.

7. To make the topping, put the butter, flour and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over low heat, beating constantly until the mixture thickens to form a smooth, creamy sauce. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, season, then stir in the nutmeg and half the cheese.

8. Cool for 5 minutes, then beat in the egg yolks and the whole egg. Pour the sauce over the eggplant and meat sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the dish stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6






Balsamic vinegar


Olive oil


Tomato (optional)


Toast some good bread. Cut slices of ripe avocado (and tomato, if you like) and

arrange them on the toast. Spoon over the avocado a vinaigrette made with shallots, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Garnish with cilantro and serve.




Warm weather brings picnics, barbecues, and potlucks, and none of these important eating occasions would be complete without a big bowl of potato salad! Your mother and your grandmother may have their famous recipes for this summertime staple, but what makes a perfect potato salad is different for everybody. Once you understand some of the basics regarding the composition of this beloved side dish, you'll be ready to invent your own soon-to-be-famous recipe!


Though there are as many different kinds of potato salad as there are people who make them, most of these spud concoctions fit into one of two categories: creamy, or vinegar-based. Creamy potato salad almost always has a mayonnaise-based dressing, but it can also contain sour cream, yogurt, and creamy-style salad dressings. Creamy potato salad is served cold. Most vinegar-based potato salads (frequently called German-style potato salad) are dressed with a mixture of cider vinegar, vegetable oil, and sugar. This style of salad is often served warm.


Spud Safety

You have probably been warned that mayonnaise-based potato salad can be dangerous if you leave it out for too long. The rumor is most definitely based on fact: homemade mayonnaise is made with raw eggs, and raw eggs are prone to develop salmonella bacteria when left at room temperature. However, commercially prepared (i.e., store-bought) mayonnaise is quite safe because it is made with pasteurized eggs. What's more, commercial mayonnaise has actually been proven to KILL bacteria due to the salt and acidic ingredients such as vinegar and lemon juice that it contains! Low-acid foods in the salad such as potatoes, chicken, and ham are much more susceptible to bacterial growth than the mayonnaise itself. All the same, it's important to practice safe handling methods with potato salad as with all other foods. Hot foods should stay hot, and cold foods should stay cold. If you're taking potato salad to an outdoor event, we recommend that you keep the bowl on ice, and keep it out of direct sun.


Pick a Potato

Don't overlook the most essential part of your potato salad: the potatoes themselves! While Russets are still by far the most commonly used variety of potato, consider mixing it up a little. There are several high-moisture varieties with a texture that many people refer to as 'waxy'. Among these varieties are Yellow Finns, Yukon Golds, and red potatoes. Their high moisture means that they have a more pleasant texture when they are cold, and their waxier flesh holds up better to chopping and to tossing with dressing than that of the drier, more mealy Russets. However, your salad will be outstanding no matter which variety you choose, as long as you cook the potatoes carefully.


If you wish to add a little extra color and texture to your salad, leave the skins on the potatoes. Just be sure to scrub them thoroughly before you begin; 'gritty' is one texture that nobody likes in their food! Once you've either scrubbed or peeled your potatoes, cut them into bite-size chunks, place them in a pot, and cover them with water. Bring them to a boil on the stove, then generously salt the water. Reduce the heat if necessary to keep the pot at a gentle - not a violent - boil. Depending on your definition of 'bite-size' the potatoes will take between 8 and 15 minutes to cook. Check them often by fishing a piece out and tasting it. As soon as they're tender enough to bite through easily, drain them. Remember that the potatoes will continue cooking a little bit even after they've been drained, so it's better to err on the side of firm than to end up with a big bowl of moosh. If you're making a hot potato salad to be served immediately, have your dressing ready to mix with the potatoes right away. Otherwise, you should cool the potatoes by spreading them out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Potatoes are at their most absorbent when they're hot, so this is a good time to add some seasonings: salt, pepper, dried herbs, and a sprinkle of your favorite vinegar. When the potatoes are no longer steaming, transfer them to the refrigerator to chill.


Now is the Time to Season

While your potatoes are busy chilling, you can mix the rest of the salad ingredients together. You can make your potato salad as casual or as highbrow as you'd like depending on what you add to it. Some people prefer the simple route, with few additions, while others like as many treats and surprises as they can possibly pack into one bowl and still leave room for the potatoes! Whether you're making creamy or vinegary potato salad, some favorite choices for seasoning the dressing are cider vinegar, lemon juice, pickle juice, horseradish, paprika, hot pepper sauce, dried and fresh herbs, and any variety of prepared mustard from plain yellow to stone-ground, Dijon-style to extra spicy. Dill, chives, and parsley are especially good partners with potato salad, but some other potato-friendly herbs are sage, tarragon, basil, thyme, and rosemary.


Apart from herbs and spices, there are so many other delicious additions you can make to potato salad, it will make your head spin! Just a few of the possibilities to choose from are:


Diced fresh or cured veggies and fruits, like tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, bell peppers of any color, pickles, capers, chilies, peas, celery, red onions, green onions, shallots, olives, fennel, pimentos, and artichoke hearts. Crumbled cheeses including Gorgonzola, blue cheese, smoked cheddar, or feta. Toasted nuts and seeds, especially sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, or pecans. Tidbits of cooked or cured meats like salami, ham, prosciutto, smoked salmon, shrimp, chicken, or bacon. Any other ingredients that make your eyes light up, like hard-cooked eggs or watercress. Once you've chosen all the ingredients that will create your ideal symphony of flavor and texture, mix everything together well, and taste a little of it. Need more salt? Vinegar? Spice? Adjust all the seasonings to the best of your ability before you start tossing the dressing with the potatoes; the less you need to stir those potatoes, the prettier your salad will look. When adjusting the seasoning, though, keep two things in mind: first, the potatoes are, of course, much blander than the dressing, so what tastes too strong when you try a big spoonful of dressing may be just right once it's mixed with the potatoes. Second, if you're making your potato salad several hours, or even a day, in advance, the flavors will intensify and mingle with each other, as well as soak into the potatoes. If you can manage it, we do recommend making potato salad a day ahead to achieve optimum flavor. It may take a little practice before you get the hang of mixing the perfect dressing, but we've never met a potato salad we didn't like, so experiment and have some fun!


(vintner's chicken)

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons flour

2/3 cup dry white wine

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup half and half or reduced fat milk

2 cups seedless grapes


Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saute pan over medium high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Saute chicken for 3-5 minutes each side, or until lightly browned and cooked through. Transfer chicken to a warm plate.


Add remaining butter to pan. When melted, stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add white wine and chicken stock, whisking to mix with butter and flour. Add half and half. Continue whisking until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in grapes and cook for another 30 seconds. Spoon sauce over chicken.



Makes 8 servings


1 1/2 pounds small red new potatoes with skins, cleaned and halved

1 pound green beans, cleaned and trimmed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

41/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

1/2 cup shredded fresh basil

21/4 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano


Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling water until tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Transfer potatoes with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.


Add green beans to the same boiling water; cook until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain in a colander; rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Add to bowl with potatoes.


Whisk together oil, mustard, salt, pepper, basil and oregano in a small bowl; mix into bowl with potatoes and beans. Serve, or refrigerate until serving.

From "Family Circle Quick & Easy Recipes"





2 cups finely chopped rhubarb

1/2 cup water

2 cups stemmed gooseberries, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice

5 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 3-ounce pouch liquid fruit pectin


Wash 5 half-pint jars. Keep hot until needed. Prepare lids as manufacturer directs.


Place rhubarb and water in a large, nonaluminum pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 3 minutes.


Stir gooseberries, lemon juice and sugar into the rhubarb. Return to a full boil over high heat and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in pectin.


Ladle the hot jam into 1 hot jar at a time, leaving a 1/4-inch head space. Wipe jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Attach lid. Fill and close remaining jars. Process in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (at 1,000 to 3,000 feet, process for 15 minutes; 3,000 to 6,000 feet, for 20 minutes; above 6,000 feet, for 25 minutes).


Variation: Add 1/3 cup finely chopped candied ginger when adding the gooseberries, lemon juice and sugar to the rhubarb.


Adapted from "Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving" by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard




Four 3- to 5-ounce fillets salmon, skinless

2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

1/2 cup sake (may substitute 1/4 cup sake and 1/4 cup mirin)

Vegetable oil for the grill


Place salmon on a plate. Sprinkle both sides with salt. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. Rinse under cold water and pat dry. Transfer salmon to a bowl. Cover with sake. Turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes, turning once.


Preheat grill. Drain salmon, pat dry with paper towels. Oil grill with vegetable oil. Over direct heat, sear salmon 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer fish to indirect heat until fish is cooked through and flakes easily, 3 to 7 minutes.




1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup milk

3 tablespoons butter or margarine -- melted

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

In a small bowl combine first 4 ingredients. Gradually add milk and stir to

form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead gently 3 to 4 times.

Roll into a 10- x 5- x 1/2-inch rectangle; cut into 12 breadsticks. Place

butter in a 13- x 9- x 2-inch baking pan. Place breadsticks in the butter

and turn to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 450 degrees F. for 14

to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen



1 package dried somen noodles, buckwheat or plain

1 green onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, julienned

1 celery stalk, julienned

1 cup sweet corn kernels

1 can Spam, fried and julienned

Sliced kamaboko (fish cake), about 1/4 cup, or shredded crabmeat

2 eggs, fried omelet-style and sliced

2 cups red leaf lettuce, shredded

2 cups romaine lettuce, shredded


2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 cup sesame oil

1/8 cup salad oil

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce


To make dressing: Whisk all ingredients and store in a container with a tight lid. Mix well before serving. Store in refrigerator.


To make salad: Cook somen noodles, rinse in cold water and drain. Do not overcook. Add some dressing to noodles to keep from sticking together. Layer ingredients in a 9-inch by 12-inch casserole dish or in individual dishes: noodles, vegetables, meats, egg, finishing with lettuce. Serve cold, drizzling dressing over individual servings.



3-4 avocados

1 cup heavy whipping cream

6 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup dry sherry

salt (to taste)

pepper (to taste)

crushed ancho chili (to taste)

2 tsp. cumin


Peel and mash the avocados smooth. Season with the salt and pepper, beat in the cream, put in a soup warmer and set aside. Heat the stock, add the sherry, and when it's really hot, pour over the avocados in the warmer, mixing well.



(Avocado Soup)


2 avocados, peeled, cut in half

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup milk

1 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon Maggi seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of white pepper

Chopped fresh chives


Place avocado in food processor. Add whipping cream, milk, chicken broth, lime juice, Maggi seasoning, white pepper and salt. Process until smooth. Chill for 2 or 3 hours. Serve in bowls topped with a spoonful of sour cream. Sprinkle with chives.




1 tablespoon Penzey's Buttermilk Dressing Base

1 tablespoon water

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon smoked chipolte pepper sauce

1/2 ripe avocado -- mashed


Mix buttermilk base with water, let stand 5 minutes. Combine this with the buttermilk, mayonnaise, chipolte pepper sauce, and mashed avocado until well-blended. Will keep several days in refrigerator. Great on salads, used as a dip for chips, on eggs, on almost anything!


Makes 4 main-dish servings




3 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, defrosted

2 tablespoons water

11/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon minced shallot

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper




1 6-ounce bag fresh baby spinach

1/4 pound fresh mushrooms, such as cremini or shiitake, sliced (11/4 cups)

1/2 cup peeled and coarsely grated carrot

1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries

1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained well

12 ounces tiny cooked shrimp


To make dressing: In a small jar, combine the orange juice concentrate, water, olive oil, shallot, cumin, salt and pepper. Close jar and shake to combine. Refrigerate if preparing ahead.


To make the salad: Remove the stems from the spinach; put the leaves into a large salad bowl. Trim the stems of the mushrooms and wipe with a damp paper towel. Slice thinly. Add to the spinach along with the carrot, dried cranberries, oranges and shrimp. Toss with the dressing and serve.



Makes 8 servings


Fruit filling:

1 quart ripe strawberries, hulled and quartered (2 pint baskets)

1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 31/2 cups)

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

11/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Amaretti topping:


1/2 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter (1 stick; see note)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 2/3 cups coarsely crushed amaretti cookies (4.4 ounces amaretti cookies

yields about 2 cups; see note)

Vanilla ice cream (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees; position oven rack in center of oven. Lightly butter a shallow, 2-quart baking dish.


To make filling: In large mixing bowl, combine prepared strawberries and rhubarb with lemon juice. Sprinkle sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon over fruit; toss until covered evenly. Pour fruit mixture into prepared baking dish.


To make topping: Spread chopped almonds in a baking pan and toast 5 to 10 minutes, being careful that they do not burn. Cool completely.


In large mixing bowl, combine butter, flour and sugar using hand-held pastry blender. Add toasted almonds and crushed amaretti. Mix well.


Spread amaretti topping over fruit filling. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until fruit is bubbly; rhubarb will be tender when pierced. If topping becomes too brown before rhubarb is tender, cover lightly with foil. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.


Note: Using unsalted butter will let the natural flavor of the dessert come out.


Note: To crush amaretti, place cookies in self-sealing bag and crush with a rolling pin.



Makes about 9 cups

3 cups raw short-grain Japanese white rice (see note)

51/4 cups water

1 2-inch square kombu (kelp; optional)

2 tablespoons sake (rice wine; optional)

1/2 cup rice vinegar (divided)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar, to taste

2 2/3 teaspoons salt


At least 1 hour before you plan to begin cooking the rice, rinse the rice by covering it with cold water and rubbing it in the water 10 to 20 seconds. Discard the liquid. Add fresh water and repeat the process 3 times or until the water runs clear.


Instead of soaking the rice after its fourth rinsing, drain it and let it rest in a colander for an hour before cooking. This produces firmly cooked rice, which is perfect for tossing later with vinegar dressing.


Place the rice and the 51/4 cups water with kombu (if using) and sake in a rice cooker (following instructions for cooking) or a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting, heavy lid over medium heat. If using a pot, cook the rice uncovered until the water level is decreased almost to the level of the rice. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot with a heavy lid and continue cooking the rice until all the water is absorbed and the rice grains are plump, 10 to 15 minutes uncovered and another 10 to 15 minutes covered. Discard kombu, if using.


As soon as the rice begins cooking, make the dressing by combining 6 tablespoons vinegar, sugar and salt; stir well. By the time the rice has cooked, the sugar and salt will be almost dissolved.


When the rice is done, let it stand in the rice cooker or pot, covered, 5 to 10 minutes.


For mixing cooked rice with dressing, the best container to use is a hangiri tub, made out of Japanese cypress wood, which is soaked in cold water for 30 minutes before use. The best substitute is an unfinished wooden salad bowl, or, if you don't have one of those, a glass or glazed ceramic bowl.


While waiting, drain the hangiri tub or salad bowl and the spatula, wipe off excess water with a paper towel, and rub the inside surface of the tub and the surface of the spatula with the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar.


Transfer the cooked rice all at one time into the wooden tub, and with a large circular motion, quickly pour the vinegar dressing evenly over the rice. Toss the rice thoroughly by cutting it vertically with the spatula, then lifting the rice and turning it over. Be careful not to mash the rice. The tossing should take less than 2 minutes.


Toward the end of the tossing, fan the rice briefly with a hand fan or a square of cardboard. This facilitates quick cooling, which gives the rice a glossy surface.


Prepared sushi rice should be stored at a cool room temperature, covered with a moist cotton cloth, until ready to use. It may be made early in the day for use later in the day. Never refrigerate sushi rice.


Note: Use American-size cups, not Japanese rice cooker cups, which are smaller.






Perhaps you've gone fishing in the Yucatan and, upon returning, had your Mexican guide split open some of your catch, smear it with anchiote and grill your tikin xik on a banana leaf over a wood fire. With a little blazing habanero salsa and some fresh tortillas, there is simply no better eating. I love the perfume that wafts from a grill full of banana leaves, and I'm sold on the flavor it imparts to the fish. Don't be afraid the leaves will burn; If your fire is only medium hot, the leaves will crisp slightly, but still be pliable.

Rick Bayless, "Mexican Kitchen"


Makes about 12-16 tacos


For 1/3 cup essential garlicky achiote seasoning paste:

2 tablespoons achiote seeds

2 teaspoons whole allspice, preferably freshly ground

1 teaspoon black pepper, preferably fresh ground

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

6 garlic cloves, peeled

1 generous teaspoon salt


3 tablespoons fresh sour orange or lime juice


1 to 1 1/2 pounds skinless fish fillets (such as sea bass, snapper, grouper, halibut, mahimahi), cut into 4 pieces


1 banana leaf (you'll need a piece at least 2 feet long, 10-12 inches wide), plus

extra for garnish if you wish, defrosted if frozen

12-16 corn tortillas (plus a few extra in case some break)

About 1 cup salsa(essential chopped tomato habanero salsa)


1. Making 1/3 cup essential garlicky achiote seasoning paste. Very finely pulverize the achiote in a spice grinder, then transfer it to a small bowl and mix in the allspice, pepper, oregano and vinegar (you'll have a crumbly, very thick mixture at this point). Roughly chop the garlic, sprinkle with the salt, then on your cutting board work the two into a smooth paste with a spoon or the flat side of a knife. Scoop the achiote mixture into the garlic, work the two together , then dribble on and work in enough water (about a tablespoon or 2) to give it all the consistency of a thick but spreadable paste.


2. Marinating the fish: Stir together 3 tablespoons of the achiote seasoning (cover and refrigerate the rest to use as seasoning for rice or marinade for chicken or pork). and the sour orange or lime juice in a shallow dish. lay in the fish fillets and turn to coat well with the marinade. cover and refrigerate about an hour but not longer than 3 hours.


3. Finishing the dish. Light a gas grill or prepare a charcoal fire, letting the coals burn until they are covered with a gray ash and medium hot. Position the grill grate about 8 inches above the coals and lightly oil.


While the grill is heating, tear off eight 1/2 inch strips of banana leaf ( tear with the grain-each strip will be about 12 inches long). Cut the remaining leaf into 4 sections-they should be about twice as wide as your filets.

Lay out the section of leaf, center a fillet on it, spoon on a little of the marinade that's still in the dish, then fold the leaf over to enclose the fillet and fold both ends up. Tie each direction with one of the banana leaf strips. Wrap the other fillets in the same manner.

Set up a steamer (a vegetable steamer in a large saucepan filled with 1/2 inch of water works well); heat to a boil . Wrap the tortillas in a heavy kitchen towel, lay in the steamer and cover. Boil 1 minute, turn off the heat and let stand without opening for 15 minutes.

Lay the fish packets on the medium hot grill. cover the grill and cook for about 10 minutes, a little longer for large fillets-there's really no way to tell if the fish is done enough to flake without opening a package, though 10 minutes is about average.

You have two choices for serving; Either remove the fish from the packages, slice into 1/2 inch strips and serve on a small warm platter (be sure to drizzle on all the juices from the packets) with salsa and warm tortillas passed separately; or carefully open the packets, fold the leaves back and under, creating a little nest for the fish, and serve each guest a packet to pick at, flaking off fish to dollop with salsa, wrap in warm tortillas and enjoy immensely.


Advance preparation: The achiote seasoning paste can be made a week or more in advance of marinating the fish. the fish can marinate as long as 3 hours before grilling.


Shortcuts: Commercial achiote paste can replace homemade, and banana leaves may be omitted (make sure your grill grates are well oiled to ensure that the fish wont stick).


Variations and Improvisations: perhaps you'll want to make extra to have leftovers to flake into pasta (penne would be nice); top the dish with chopped tomato salsa and Parmesan, if you want, and you'll be ready to eat . You can prepare the same dish with 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (you'll have a hurry up pollo pibil); simply increase the grilling time to about 15 minutes.




A simple stir-frying solution



I have long enjoyed stir-fried tofu creations such as ma-po tofu, a classic dish from Sichuan. But I found making them difficult. Tofu is as delicate as cream cheese and no easier to saute. Unless you pour a half-inch or so of oil in the skillet or wok, the tofu sticks and falls apart.


Even the elaborate preparations devised to toughen up tofu -- pressing, drying, freezing -- don't keep it from sticking. Since the soft and silken kinds are best, why would you want to make it tough? To me, the ethereal nature of soft tofu is half the joy of eating it.


Since many stir-fried tofu dishes are little more than tofu mixed with a bit of meat and some seasonings, it occurred to me that their preparation did not originate concurrently with the invention of non-stick pans. After further thought, I figured out that these dishes are not correctly described as stir-fries. They are really simmered dishes, with the tofu introduced at the last minute, after just enough liquid has been added to keep the dish moist and the tofu from sticking.


My ruminations paid off. I now find this dish easy and fast, regardless of the type of skillet or tofu I use. I quickly stir-fry garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes in oil, add a little meat (not too little, but not so much that it becomes a meat dish), scallions, liquid, tofu and, finally, soy sauce. The liquid can be rice-flavored stock, but even if it is water, the results will be delicious. If you're planning to serve the dish with rice, the rice should be the first thing you start cooking.



1 cup white sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

3 tbs. cocoa

1 tbs. white vinegar

6 tbs. vegetable oil

1 cup cold water

1 tsp. vanilla

Combine the dry ingredients, mixing well. Add the liquid ingredients; mix thoroughly until smooth. Pour into an 8 inch un-greased cake pan or 12 lined muffin tins. Bake at 350F for 30 min. for the cake or 15 min. for cupcakes.

Doubles well.






By Doug Hubley, ucook.com contributor


Parma is a city of yellow and gold. Gold as in wealth. Yellow as in the mustard hue of Parmesan walls. Yellow and gold as in eggs, butter, cheese - and a squash you won't forget.


We met the magnificent zucca on a chilly day a few months ago when we stopped in at the Gallo d'Oro, the Golden Rooster restaurant. The Rooster's coop was a complex of small rooms and a rambling cellar. The walls were yellow, naturally, and the décor manifested a cool and subtle wit. The nerve center was a bottle-covered counter and a wooden table heaped with cured meats, ready to be sliced for antipasti.


The dark country salami was tasty but a little tough. Better was the local specialty, prosciutto di Parma, Parma ham. It's served with butter. In slices thin as silk, this stuff practically is butter, melting on the tongue in a fine harmony of tastes.


For the pasta course, my companion ordered a Parmesan specialty, tortelli di zucca. This is pasta pockets filled with a sweet local squash, served with sage-seasoned butter, and topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (yellow and gold again).


I sought to warm my bones with that old standby, pasta e fagioli, pasta and bean soup, which was more satisfying than such a humble dish has any right to be. The seasonings were familiar yet maddeningly elusive. The waiter, with genuine enthusiasm, explained that what I tasted was garlic, rosemary, and sage, sautéed in butter. It was thick and had much more pasta than large brown beans.


Don't dismiss fresh pasta. The difference, which is significant, lies less in taste than texture. Fresh has a complexity that can only be called toothsome, and that elevates pasta from being a mere vehicle for sauce to equal partner.


Then there was la zucca. This sweet squash, called zucca barucca, is a specialty of the city of Ferrara and served throughout the region of Emilia-Romagna. The little egg pasta pockets filled with squash were among the few foods that have ever, literally, shocked me with goodness. Each pocket exploded with flavor: sweetness hinting of cinnamon, the richness of cheese and butter, the resinous tang of the sage. It was unforgettable.


Zucca is hard to find in this country, but Lynne Rossetto Kasper, whose The Splendid Table is the definitive American cookbook on Emilia-Romagna, recommends substituting butternut squash or pumpkin mellowed with a little sweet potato.


The minutes heaped up into hours and still we lingered. But we had a train to catch and obligations ahead. Yet we went back into the cold without regret, for we had captured some of the finest Parmesan gold. Even if it was only squash.



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