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).








































































This is an extremely strong eggnog; you can reduce the Bourbon to 1 cup, if you prefer.


12 egg yolks

2 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups Bourbon

1 quart whipping cream, beaten to soft peaks then chilled

2 cups milk

Freshly grated nutmeg


Beat the yolks just to break them up. Add the sugar, a little at a time, beating until the mixture becomes lemon-colored, 5 minutes. Stir in the Bourbon.


Fold the cream and milk into the yolk mixture, then sprinkle the nutmeg on top.


Place the eggnog in a punch bowl and set the bowl in a larger bowl of ice to keep cold.


Note: Although many recipes call for uncooked eggs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found them to be a potential carrier of food-borne illness and recommends that infants, the elderly and immuno-compromised people avoid raw eggs. L.A. TIMES 12 26 01




2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 onions, thinly sliced

1 (6- to 8-pound) lean beef brisket

5 carrots, thinly sliced

1/2 cup minced parsley

1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes

1 1/2 to 2 cups red wine

1 head garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled


Freshly ground pepper

1/2 pound pitted prunes (about 1 cup)


Heat the oven to 350 degrees.


Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.


Transfer the garlic mixture to a large, heavy roasting pot and place the meat on top, fat side up. Add the carrots, parsley, the tomatoes and their juice, the wine and garlic cloves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and bake until the meat is tender, 3 to 4 hours. Add the prunes the last 30 minutes of baking.


Transfer the beef to a wooden board and slice across the grain. Return to the pot, squeeze the garlic from the cloves into the sauce, and keep warm until serving.


2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped nuts

1 cup chopped dates

1 cup sliced maraschino cherries

1 cup chocolate chips

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup sugar


Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Stir in nuts, dates, cherries and chocolate chips. In small bowl, beat eggs and sugar. Stir into flour mixture. Turn into well-greased and floured 9-inch by 5-inch by 3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 75 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely, top side up on a rack. Best if stored, well wrapped, for a day or two before slicing.


1 cup honey

1 cup chunky peanut butter

2 cups dry powdered milk

Melt honey and peanut butter together in microwave. Add dry powdered milk and knead well. Roll out on wax paper. Cut in strips and roll into pillows. Wrap in wax paper to store.


Serves 12

1 (8-ounce) carton spreadable cream cheese

Cream or milk to moisten

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

6 slices bologna

6 slices Genoa salami



Place cream cheese in a bowl; stir in chives and mustard. Spread one slice of bologna with the mixture, top with one slice of salami and continue doing this, alternating bologna and salami until cold cuts are used. Leave top slice unspread. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. Cut into small wedges with a sharp knife and stab each one with a toothpick. Makes 12 wedges.


Makes 4 to 6 servings

Chicken wings are one of the foods for which Buffalo, N.Y., is famous. They are served in bars and corner taverns, as well as in "fancy" restaurants and pizza joints. . . . Incidentally, chicken wings in Buffalo are always served with celery sticks and Blue Cheese Dressing. No one knows why, but it is part of the ritual. Use the dressing recipe given, or a commercial brand. Chicken wings:


About 20 to 25 chicken wings

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

1/4 cup butter or margarine (1/2 stick)

1/2 to 1 bottle Louisiana hot sauce, or to taste

Celery sticks

Blue cheese dressing:

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Salt and black pepper

Cayenne pepper


To make wings: Cut wings in half; remove and discard wing tips. Deep-fry wings, about half at a time, in hot oil (370 degrees) until they are crisp and golden brown, about 10 minutes. (Do not use any batter or crumbs.) Drain well.


Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan. Add about half of the bottle of hot sauce; stir until well-blended. (Using half bottle will give medium-hot chicken wings; if you like your wings hotter, add the whole bottle, or to taste. If you want them milder, add more butter.)


Place chicken wings in a large container. Pour butter sauce over wings; mix well. Serve warm, with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing. Dip the wings and celery sticks in dressing as you eat. Provide plenty of napkins.


To make dressing: In a 1-quart bowl, mix together onion, garlic, parsley, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, vinegar and blue cheese. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Keep refrigerated until time to serve; refrigerate any left over.

From Janice Okun, Buffalo (N.Y.) News in "Food Editors' Hometown Favorite Cookbook"




A friend called recently to say he'd made Burgundy beef from "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook" and served it with buttered egg noodles. While I didn't create this recipe, I felt good about his report. And I was inspired. It has been years since I made this dish, which is ideal for cooler weather.


Prepare the stew, cook up some noodles and toss them with a few tablespoons of butter, and serve crusty bread and a salad alongside. The salad I like is made very simply with

11/2 cups of orange sections

1/2 cup of chopped red onion tossed together

served on lettuce leaves.

For the dressing, combine

2 tablespoons of vinegar

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1/2 cup of olive or vegetable oil.

Put the ingredients in a small jar, screw on a lid and shake very well to blend before sprinkling a little on your salad. Refrigerate the remaining dressing to use later.

Burgundy Beef:

1 large onion

1/2 pound mushrooms

1/4 cup shortening or vegetable oil

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 pounds stewing beef, cut in 2-inch chunks

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, crumbled

1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

1 cup Burgundy or other red wine

1 cup water or beef broth

12 small boiling onions


Cut off the stem top and the root bottom of the onion and discard. Slice the onion in half from the stem top down. Put each half flat-side down on a cutting board. Slice the onion in 1/4 inch vertical slices. Holding the half together slice the half into 1/4 inch slices horizontally. Then cut across the onion vertically, making a 1/4-inch dice. Put the onion pieces aside.


Break off the stems and slice the mushroom caps into 4 pieces. Add the pieces with the mushroom stems and set aside.


Melt the shortening over medium heat in a heavy Dutch oven or large heavy pot with a lid. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onion is light golden, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, so it doesn't get too browned. Remove the onion and set aside.


Mix the flour, salt and pepper on a dinner plate and roll the meat in the mixture. Brown the beef over medium-high heat, a few pieces at a time in the Dutch oven, moving them around so all sides get brown. When all the beef chunks are browned and in the pot, add the marjoram, thyme, wine and water or beef broth. Return the onion to the pot, cover, and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 11/2 hours, checking to make sure there is still liquid in the pot. Add a little more water or broth if needed. Add the boiling onions and cook 20 minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook 10 minutes more. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. When the onions are fork-tender, the stew is done.

L.A. TIMES 12 26 01


Makes 4 dozen


1 cup finely ground walnuts

2 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus 2 cups for dredging

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


Combine walnuts, flour and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside. Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed. Gradually add 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and beat until mixture is fluffy. Beat in vanilla, then reduce speed and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.


Using your hands, shape dough, 1tablespoon at a time, into small balls, then place about 1 inch apart on nonstick baking sheets. Bake until cookies are slightly golden, about 10 minutes.


Remove cookies from oven and allow to cool for five to 10 minutes.


Meanwhile, place remaining 2 cups confectioners' sugar on a large plate. Roll cookies, while still warm, in sugar, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once cookies are completely cool, roll them again in sugar.


Note: Take care not to overbake. Handle gently when dredging in sugar.


1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup half-and-half cream

1/3 cup milk

2 tablespoons margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup pecan halves

1- Butter a baking sheet. Butter the sides of a heavy, 2-quart saucepan.

2- In the saucepan, stir together white sugar, brown sugar, cream, milk and

margarine and bring to a boil over medium heat. Heat, without stirring, to

between 234 and 240 degrees F (112 to 116 degrees C), or until a small

amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when

removed from the water and placed on a flat surface. Remove from heat and

cool to lukewarm (110 degrees).

3- Stir in vanilla and beat vigorously until mixture loses its gloss.

Quickly stir in pecans and spread on prepared sheet. Score into squares

while warm; cut when firm. Makes 24 pieces


About 5 dozen pieces

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup pecan halves, toasted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners' sugar

1. Coat an 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a large saucepan, bring the butter, heavy cream, granulated sugar,

brown sugar, and salt to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Allow

to boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove the pan from the


3. Stir in the pecans and vanilla. Add the confections' sugar and stir until

smooth and well combined. Spread the mixture into the baking dish.

4. Allow to cool to room temperature then cut into 1-inch squares and serve,

or store in an airtight container until ready to serve.




Pork and potatoes:


1 3-pound boneless pork top loin roast (single loin)

1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce plus a dash of hot pepper sauce (divided)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces (1 to 11/4 pounds)

1 green onion, slivered

Mango-Jicama Salsa:

1 cup chopped fresh pineapple

1 cup peeled, finely diced jicama

1 medium mango, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 large tomato, seeded and diced

1 green onion, sliced

1 or 2 fresh jalapeno chilies, seeded and finely chopped (see note)

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/8 teaspoon salt


To make pork and potatoes: Trim fat from pork. Combine 3 tablespoons of the Worcestershire sauce, the garlic and thyme. Brush sauce mixture on all sides of pork. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.


Place pork on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer. Roast in a 325-degree oven for 45 minutes.


Meanwhile, cook sweet potatoes in boiling, lightly salted water about 8 minutes or just until tender; drain. Toss with remaining Worcestershire sauce.


Place sweet potatoes around pork in pan. Continue roasting about 45 minutes or until thermometer registers 155 degrees F. Meanwhile, prepare salsa as directed below.


Remove pork from oven; cover with foil and let stand for 15 minutes before carving. (The temperature of the meat will rise 5 degrees during standing.) Sprinkle green onion over sweet potatoes.


To serve, slice one-third of the pork. Serve sliced pork with the sweet potatoes and mango-jicama salsa.


To make salsa: In a medium mixing bowl combine pineapple, jicama, mango, tomato, green onion, jalapenos, lime juice and salt. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Makes about 3 cups. from the Portland Oregonian


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


This is such a versatile recipe. Serve the dumplings plain (as a side dish), with a meat or marinara sauce, even change the flavors. It's unbelievable how many ways you can prepare the same recipe and have it come out with a completely new character.

1-1/2pounds medium potatoes, unpeeled

1-3/4 cups flour (approximately)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 large egg, beaten (or 2 egg whites or 1/2 carton Egg Scramblers)

Cook the potatoes in their skins in boiling salted water to cover just until tender, about 40 minutes. Drain and let cool for a short while. Slip skins off and put through ricer or food mill. (You can use a stand mixer for this step. An electric hand mixer will work, but do not use a food processor...the potatoes will turn to glue and ruin the dish.)


In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, curry powder, garlic powder and black pepper.


When potatoes are cool enough to handle, add the egg and the flour mixture alternately to the potatoes just until it forms a soft dough. Do not over-mix or the dough will be tough. Cut the dough into 8 pieces.


One portion at a time, roll into a rope on lightly floured board until the piece is about a foot long. Cut into pieces about 1/2-inch long. Place pieces on flat surface such as a cookie sheet and sprinkle with flour. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover pieces with a towel and let rest 1/2 hour.


Bring a large pot of salted water (about a gallon) to boil.


Working in batches, transfer the dough to a sieve and shake lightly to remove excess flour. Gently drop pieces into boiling water. They will drop to the bottom and a few seconds later will rise to the surface. Cook until tender but firm to the touch, 4 to 5 minutes.


Remove with slotted spoon and transfer to ovenproof platter and keep warm in oven at low temperature. Repeat with remaining pieces.

In microwave, melt 2 tablespoons butter or margarine and stir in 1/2 teaspoon curry powder. When all pieces are cooked, toss with curry butter and serve.

Serves 4 to 6.




Instead of curry powder, substitute tarragon, basil, cumin, marjoram or any herb that complements your meal.


Incorporate pureed spinach or carrots into the dough.


Substitute oregano for the curry powder, omit butter, and serve with spaghetti sauce.



Makes 2 servings

2 sugar cubes

Angostura bitters

8 ounces Champagne, chilled


Place 1 sugar cube in each of 2 flute (Champagne) glasses. Add 1 to 2 drops bitters to each sugar cube. Pour half the Champagne into each glass. Serve immediately.



Makes 2 servings


1/2 cup peeled, diced carrot (1 medium)

1 cup peeled, diced Yukon Gold potato (1 medium)

1 tablespoon butter

1 medium shallot, diced

1 red or green jalapeno chili, cored, seeded and minced WEAR GLOVES

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup whipping cream

3/4 cup milk

1 cup shredded aged sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and white pepper


Combine carrot and potatoes in small pan with water to cover. Bring to boil. Cook at low boil 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Drain and set aside.


Melt butter in same pan. Add shallot and jalapeno and sauté over medium heat 2 minutes. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add cream and cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and thick. Add milk and heat.


Add cheese, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until cheese melts and mixture is thick. Return vegetables to pan and simmer 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


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


Makes about 4 dozen


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/3 cups packed light-brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup milk

1 cup confectioners' sugar


Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl, or the top of a double boiler, over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.


In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and light-brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, three or four minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well-combined. Add melted chocolate. Add flour mixture alternately with milk. Mix on low speed until just combined. Shape dough into a flattened disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator until firm, about two hours.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Using 1 heaping teaspoon of dough apiece, shape 1-inch balls. Roll each in confectioners' sugar until completely coated. If any cocoa-colored dough is visible, roll dough in confectioners' sugar again.


Place the cookies on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until flat and the sugar coating splits, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating halfway through.


Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to one week.





December 19, 2001 Posted: 04:35:02 AM PST


When you look for chocolate at the grocery, you'll encounter four different varieties: unsweetened, dark with sugar added, milk and white.


Unsweetened is what the name says. It has no sugar; some will have to be added or your dish will be too bitter for most.


Dark chocolate comes in several forms:


Bittersweet has between 55 and 80 percent cocoa (the percent is marked on the label).


Semisweet can have as little as 35 percent.


Sweet dark can have as little as 15 percent cocoa.


Bittersweet is the style of chocolate preferred by most bakers because it is rich and full of chocolate flavor without being too bitter to eat. When a recipe calls for "chocolate," bittersweet is what should be used, unless the recipe specifies otherwise.


Milk chocolate is sweeter and milder than dark chocolate. The percentage of cocoa is much lower; it must contain at least 10 percent cocoa and 12 percent milk. Most candy bars are made with milk chocolate.


Too hot to handle


Pastry chef Cindy Mushet teaches at the California School of Culinary Arts. She dabbles in chocolate like an artist in oils. "Every morning, I wake up and smell the chocolate," she says.


Cooking with chocolate, no matter the form, is all a matter of common sense, Mushet says. Because it melts at a lower temperature than many other solids, chocolate should get only warm, not hot. So tend it closely while it's melting or it could burn in a split second. That's not something you want to taste.


"Scorched chocolate is like a tannic wine; it draws all the moisture out of your mouth."



Chips vs. chunks


Milk chocolate and white chocolate are even more delicate than bittersweet chocolate and require much more attention. For this reason, it's a good idea to break chocolate bars down in tiny pieces before melting, so that they melt more quickly and more evenly.


Chocolate chips are designed to hold up when baked into cookies, so they are not as practical as bars of chocolate when it comes to baking, says David Lebovitz of San Francisco, a former pastry cook at Berkeley's famed Chez Panisse.


Also, make sure when you are cooking with cocoa powder to check the label. Dutch-processed cocoa is not the same as natural.


Dutch-processed cocoa is alkalized to remove the natural acidity of the cocoa, while natural cocoa is what the name implies. In baking, therefore, you would use baking powder with Dutch-processed cocoa and baking soda with natural cocoa.


Guilty pleasure


Chocolate long has been thought of as a forbidden pleasure. Something this good has to be bad, right? So we feel guilty about satisfying our cravings. But should we?


Since the fourth century, chocolate has been exploited for its therapeutic values, both as a stimulant and a source of comfort.


In its bittersweet form, chocolate has a good amount of iron, fiber and potassium, as well as traces of vitamins. It is also the fruit of the cacao tree, though its fat level would probably keep most nutritionists from recommending it as one of the five fruits and vegetables we should eat each day.


Today's scientific studies on the nature of cacao and its effects are going much further into how beneficial chocolate might be. Its mood enhancer, known as phenylethylamine, is said to mimic the feelings people have when they are in love.


Other studies show chocolate to be an antioxidant, like red wine or tea, suggesting that chocolate can raise good cholesterol, reduce bad cholesterol and prevent plaque formation near the heart.


2 cups (enough for 4 sandwiches)

2 (6-ounce) cans solid albacore tuna in water

2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 small rib celery, minced (about 1/4 cup)

2 tablespoons minced red onion


2 tablespoons minced dill or sweet pickles

1/2 small clove garlic, minced or pressed though garlic press (about 1/8 tsp)

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard


Drain tuna in colander and shred with fingers until no clumps remain and texture is fine and even. Transfer tuna to medium bowl and mix in lemon juice, salt, pepper, celery, onions, pickles, garlic and parsley until evenly blended. Fold in mayonnaise and mustard until tuna is evenly moistened. (Can be covered and refrigerated up to 3 days.)


Serves 20

1 pound cold cuts of any ilk, but the slices must be round

1 carrot cut into 2- to 3-inch thin sticks

2 pickles, each cut into 2- to 3-inch thin sticks



Pick up a cold cut slice. Pinch it slightly in the center and hold it upside down. You now have a droopy lily. Push a carrot or pickle stick into the center to make the ``stamen.'' Run a toothpick through the meat and into the end of the carrot or pickle to hold the stamen to the flower.


BY JOYCE GEMPERLEIN, Special to the Mercury News

Any day now, little innocent you will end up at an office party standing next to a cold-cut platter paved with rosy slices of bologna, salami and ham. Having nothing better to do, you will pluck a slice out of the neatly arranged wheel, fold it up and pop it whole into your mouth.


This will be an unpremeditated act. Nobody really intends at a celebratory event to eat lunch meat identical to what is in the company cafeteria. But we do. It's as uncontrollable as hiccupping.


As this wretched year draws to a close, we all deserve parties that feature costly, teensy crab cakes or la-di-da beef thingies on bamboo sticks -- not discs of ground-up, extruded, fatty meat substances mixed with sodium nitrate and other chemicals, interspersed with cubes of processed cheese, olives, parsley and a radish or two.


Indeed, people in high places (shall I mention the name of a certain someone who lives in a white house in Washington?) are exhorting Americans to live large by spending money on expensive hors d'oeuvres -- well, that's what I take him to mean. In this way, we are supposed to get our lives ``back to normal.''


Caterers the nation over, however, say this isn't going to happen. This holiday season, companies are paring down office parties -- what with memories of Sept. 11, the downturn in the economy and free-floating anxiety about anybody bearing a sharp or powdery object.


Alas, it seems cold cuts will be escorting us into 2002.


Let's try to make the best of this situation by examining the deli platter's upsides, downsides, origins and uses through decades of holiday parties.


Where did they come from?


No, not Ohio.


James T. Ehler, a food historian who lives in Key West, Fla., guesses that cold-cut platters evolved from the Italian antipasto, which also includes smoked and cured meats. In fact, these days, incorporating roasted peppers and other elements of Italian cuisine on a cold-cut platter is considered upscale, according to Ivy Goldspiel, director of Catered Too in San Jose.


But the words ``cold cut'' and the platter style were adopted in England as long ago as the 16th century, says Ehler.


The first course, ``or antepast as they call it, is some fine meat to urge them to have an appetite,'' says the Harleian Miscellany, a collection of scarce, curious and entertaining pamphlets from 1590 found in the library of Edward Harley, the second Earl of Oxford.


American evolution


Back in the United States, lunch-meat plates big enough to squash a cat flat first began finding eager audiences in the 20th century. In the 1930s, Prohibition was repealed, and Americans could drink out in the open. Appetizers that soaked up some of the alcohol became competitive, spawning Martha Stewarts who fiddled with food. In her book ``Fashionable Food,'' Sylvia Algren notes that a 1938 issue of American Home magazine recommended spiffing up appetizers by serving them in a dustpan. Another tip was to rescue ``celery and olives from dullness by serving them in fascinating galvanized iron chicken feeders with their neat little rows of oval holes.''


The cocktail parties of the 1950s took playing with appetizers further with dips, cheese balls and ways to gussy up what was by then becoming the beloved cold cut. The bologna cake was an affair that used cream cheese to glue cold cuts into a tower. This clearly was the precursor to tall, stacked food -- the potatoes on top of the vegetable, the meat on top of that -- that recently was all the rage in fancy restaurants. And how could we forget the ribald cocktail lily, which is bologna given a Georgia O'Keeffe treatment?




Aside from their malleability and craftability, cold cuts are an obvious choice for hurried hosts or hostesses because they don't wilt and don't need a bed of ice or a steam tray to remain edible.


And, with a platter, you can hit most of the food groups: meat slices fanned out like a slippery deck of cards atop kale, which sidles up to vegetables and cheese slices or cubes. Toss in a side tray with small buns and a vat of mustard and you're offering a meal that doesn't require a fork. It's magic!


Although pastrami will raise costs, it almost goes without saying that a cold-cut platter is cheaper than oysters, shrimp or crab, which require forks and cannot be formed into cute cakes.


Despite all this, professional caterers can't get excited by cold-cut platters. ``If you had told me three years ago that I'd be doing so many cold-cut platters this year, I'd have laughed at you. Honestly, I'm telling people who order them from high-end caterers to go to Togo's -- unless, of course, you want a real tray instead of a plastic one,'' says Goldspiel of Caterers Too.


The only recourse this holiday season is surrender. After all, the uncontrollable eating of cold cuts is about as normal and American as it gets.


For base:

1 pound baguette, cut evenly (see Note)

For topping:

1 package (8 ounces) light cream cheese

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon curry powder

3/4 pound small, cooked shrimp, chopped

2 green onions, chopped fine


To make topping: In a bowl, beat together cream cheese, egg yolk, lemon juice and curry powder. Stir in shrimp and green onions. Refrigerate, up to 2 days, until ready to use.


To assemble: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread 1 rounded teaspoon topping on each baguette slice. Arrange slices in a shallow baking pan. Bake until tops are bubbly and bottoms are lightly toasted, 6-8 minutes.


Note: Buy baguettes from a bakery that cuts them evenly with an electric slicer; then freeze the bread until needed.



Halibut is a low-fat, firm, mild white fish that lends itself to grilling. Because the fish is light and delicate, I like to keep its preparation simple.


Rub the fish with a cut garlic clove and season it with salt. Then, rather than marinating the fish in high-fat oil, cook it using a touch of nonstick cooking spray to keep it from sticking. It's also a good idea to rub the grill with a lightly oiled cloth before grilling.


The salsa adds flavor. The cucumber and oranges are heightened with cilantro and a touch of cumin. Pomegranate seeds give pretty, seasonal color. Some specialty markets sell just the seeds so you don't have to go to the trouble of peeling a pomegranate. If you can't find these, remember that the best way to handle this fruit is to cut it in quarters, then thresh out the seeds under water. That way the red color won't wind up staining everything in your kitchen.

Halibut With Cucumber and Orange Salsa


1 pound halibut filets

1 clove garlic, cut in half


1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/2 Japanese cucumber, peeled and diced

3 oranges, peeled and cut into sections

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Nonstick cooking spray

Freshly ground pepper to taste

2 cups mixed salad greens


Heat an outdoor grill or an indoor grill pan on high heat.

Cut the filets into 4 portions. Rub each filet with a cut clove of garlic. Sprinkle both sides with salt. Set aside.


Toss together the green onions, diced cucumber, oranges, cilantro, pomegranate seeds, lime juice, cumin and salt to taste.


Spray the filets with nonstick cooking spray and place on the hot grill. Reduce the heat to medium-high and grill the fish about 4 minutes on the first side. Turn and cook the filets just until tender and they flake easily with a fork, an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Place the fish on a plate. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and spoon the salsa alongside. Place a few salad greens on the plate with the fish.

L.A. TIMES 12 26 01



1 large onion

4 baking potatoes, peeled

1 tablespoon lemon juice

5 eggs

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Dash baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

Oil, for frying


Chop the onion in a small dice using a food processor. Remove the knife blade, insert the shredder blade and grate the potatoes. Immediately transfer the potato and onion mixture to a large bowl and add the lemon juice, eggs, flour, baking soda, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.


Heat 1/8 inch of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir the batter well. Spoon about 1/3 cup of batter at a time into the hot oil and flatten with the back of the spoon to make 2- to 3-inch latkes. Cook on one side until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes; then turn and cook on the other side, about 2 minutes. (Turn only once.) Drain the latkes well on paper towels. Continue until all the batter is used up. You may have to add a little more oil to the skillet toward the end. Scoop any stray potato pieces out with a fork as you go so they don't burn. Serve immediately. L.A. TIMES 12 26 01



Cook the potatoes the night before, then the day of the party (OR in the morning), use the reserved bacon grease from the Party Eggs to finish the recipe.


4 pounds baking potatoes

1/4 cup warm bacon grease, divided

2 onions, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 yellow bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced


Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring them to a boil and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes, then refrigerate overnight, covered.


The next day, quarter the potatoes, then cut them into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.


Heat 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the onions and peppers, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent, 20 minutes. Toss the potatoes with the remaining 3 tablespoons of bacon grease, and add the potatoes to the skillet. Cook, turning once in a while so they don't burn, until the potatoes are a nice brown color and a little crusty, 10 to 15 minutes. L.A. TIMES 12 26 01


at www.oregonian.com





2001 has been a difficult year, and much has been on our minds. But we all still eat, and we all could still use a good laugh. With those two things in mind, FOODday offers this tantalizing roundup of weird food news.


-- Compiled by Amy Martinez Starke of the FOOD day staff, Portland Oregonian




Is fast food Catholic or Protestant? Italian Catholic theologian Massimo Salani condemned McDonald's as "un-Catholic." He said fast-food restaurants springing up in Europe are a sign of a Protestant trend toward individualism rather than the Catholic tradition of community meals.


Instead of raising prices, food manufacturers are putting less of their products in the packages -- but not enough to make it obvious. For example, a 99-cent box of Cracker Jack lost 6.7 percent of its weight; the $3.29 bag of Doritos has dropped almost 7 percent of its weight. The industry calls this practice "weight-out."


The cafeterias at two elementary schools in Harvard, Mass., feature wrapped sandwiches with hummus, baby greens and marinated portobello mushrooms. The salad bar has mesclun, beets, roasted peppers and asparagus. On occasion, there is quiche, grilled mako shark or broiled trout, and rotini with chicken, garlic and broccoli. "Kids are more sophisticated today," said Paul S. Correnty, the chef and food service director. "They eat at nice places."




The Hotel Hershey, owned by the trust that controls Hershey Foods Corp., opened a new $7 million spa featuring such treatments as chocolate baths and fondue wraps. For $265, visitors can indulge in the three-hour Chocolate Escape -- a whipped cocoa bath, cocoa butter scrub, chocolate fondue wrap and a choice of massage or facial. A 25-minute cocoa bath costs $45.


Spam cupcakes topped with glaze, mashed potatoes and a garnish is the winning selection in this year's National Best Spam Recipe contest. The cupcakes will be featured on 10 million cans of Spam. Recipe originator Estelle Schmidt of Kansas originally tried a cake made of Spam, oatmeal, milk and eggs.


Among an explosion of new convenience products designed to simplify tasks that weren't all that complicated to begin with is Uncrustables frozen sandwiches from Smucker's; Lipton's Cold Brew tea, Chicken of the Sea Tuna Salad Kit and P.B. Slices -- sliced peanut butter (creamy only) in cellophane wrappers.




Move over ketchup. Dijon mustard is America's favorite condiment, according to Bon Appetit magazine's fourth annual readers survey reported in the March issue. In second place was salsa. Ketchup fell to fourth place.


Twelve of McDonald's traditional restaurants will be converted into diners that serve such American standards as meatloaf and chicken fried steak -- as well as the usual McDonald's hamburgers and fries.


Harper's Magazine reports that U.S. sales of organic foods since 1996 are up 122 percent. In the same period, sales of Krispy Kreme doughnuts have gone up 110 percent.




The First Vienna (Austria) Vegetable Orchestra blows hollowed-out carrots, taps turnips, claps with eggplant cymbals, twangs on rhubarb fibers, and rustles parsley and greens, all in the creation of an experimental sound that eventually winds up -- literally -- in the audience's stomach. For as the concert progresses, the nine musicians toss their instruments into a large pot. Then listeners feast on the fare that has resulted from this smorgasbord of sound. The orchestra is part of the Department for Vegetable Sound (not a joke, they insist) at the Institute for Trans-Acoustic Research in Vienna, a private venture that studies sound. (A sample of the veggie music can be heard at www.iftaf.org/iftafframe.htm. Click on "gemuseorchester," then on "cd/horbeispiele.")




The American Water Works Association, an industry group, has produced a list of terms associated with the tastes or smells of water with contaminants or additives. In addition to the standards -- sweet, salty or citrusy --descriptors include: rancid/fatty acid; model airplane glue; soapy; cat urine; shoe polish; petroleum; varnish; medicinal; fresh fish, rancid fish; aquariumlike/algae; geranium; decaying vegetation; rubbery; rotten eggs; onion; creeky; tobaccolike; pencil shavings; dried grass or hay; potato bin; swimming pool; chalky; metallic.


A national organization has changed the name of Florida's largest grouper species from jewfish, which some found offensive, to goliath grouper. It's only the second name change by the Committee of Names of Fishes of the American Fisheries Society. The last time the organization made such a change was in the 1990s, when the squawfish of the Pacific Northwest became the pikeminnow.


Pizza Hut claims it has sent the first pizza to outer space. The pizza rode aboard a Russian rocket used to resupply the international space station. Pizza Hut said it paid the Russian space agency about $1 million for the promotional stunt, including footage of Yuri Usachov flashing a thumbs-up after eating the pizza, and for pasting the chain's logo on a rocket last year.


Britain's favorite food, as proclaimed last month by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, is chicken tikka masala, an Indian dish.




The Center for Science in the Public Interest -- aka the "food police" -- is responsible for warning Americans about such nutritional dangers as too much saturated fat in movie popcorn, fettuccine Alfredo and Chinese takeout. Now the organization is ready to slice up cheese. Pre day, the typical American averages 1.3 ounces, which contains about half the total amount of saturated fat a person should consume in a day.


Want a peephole into the collective appetite? Epicurious.com's "Search Spy" function takes voyeurism into the kitchen. In a real-time peek at what real people crave, the site's pop-up window showcases the 10 most recent entries typed into the site's search function, updated every 15 seconds.


Who knew that the lowly prune might be the solution nervous hamburger fans are looking for? Food technologists have found that 1 tablespoon of pureed prunes added to a pound of beef kills more than 90 percent of whatever E. coli bacteria is present. It may be as effective on salmonella, listeria and other bugs, according to a recent study.


The Edmonton Journal reports that British army scientists have found a way of using soldiers' food to protect them from accidentally being shot at by their own side. Special meals contain compounds that are expelled from pores in the skin or from soldiers' breath. When viewed by specially equipped pilots or satellites above a battlefield, the troops would appear to be brightly colored.




Trendy restaurants in New York are serving Swanson's Hungry Man TV dinners -- at around $6 a pop.


Chef Philippe Parola thinks we should be eating nutria, a large rodent known for its furry pelt. He told Cooking Light magazine that nutria is low in cholesterol and fat. The critters have been chewing their way through Louisiana's wetlands at an alarming rate.


He may be a few Fritos short of a bag, but Jeremy Selwyn is trying all 10,000 of the packaged snacks being produced worldwide. A Web site, www.taquitos.net, tracks his progress and ratings.


Rat genes could make vegetables produce more vitamin C. Scientists at Virginia Tech University managed to introduce rat genes into the genetic material of lettuces. This caused the greens to increase their production of vitamins by 700 percent.


Burning Pop-Tarts and other toaster pastries have caused fires -- some that caused serious injury and extensive damage -- in kitchens nationwide. In the last 10 years, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has received 17 reports of such fires.


Europe's favorite meat alternative may be headed for the United States. If Quorn (pronounced "corn") meets FDA approval, it will start showing up in frozen chicken-style products such as nuggets, tenders and cutlets, plus lasagna. To make Quorn, the cells of a mushroomlike plant are fermented using glucose, oxygen, nitrogen and other nutrients. The result, known as myco-protein, looks and feels like pastry dough. Egg white, a protein binder, is used to keep it together. Flavored and formed, Quorn takes on the appearance and taste of whatever meat it's supposed to be copying.


How about fish-oil ice cream? A Massachusetts food development and research company, Arthur D. Little, claims to have figured out how to add fish oil's superhealthy omega-3 fatty acids to our favorite dairy treat without addings its fishy odor.




Japan has developed square watermelons by growing them inside square glass boxes. Why? They take up less space in the fridge. Last summer in Tokyo the melons sold for about $83 each.


Shoppers could soon test fruits for ripeness without having to touch them. Scientists at the University of Coimbra in Portugal have discovered that ripe fruits such as apples and kiwi fluoresce brightly if they're zapped with a laser. Work is under way on a commercial device that people could take shopping.


A federal judge in Los Angeles said that, yes, a Utah artist could go ahead and commit free speech with his photographs of Barbie in a tortilla, Barbie in a blender, Barbie in a toaster, and call it art. The artist calls his series "Food Chain Barbie" and he sells it on postcards and prints. Mattel, Barbie's maker down in El Segundo, Calif., tried to convince the judge that "Food Chain Barbie" is copyright infringement.


There is still no Starbucks in Starbuck, Wash. The farm town has only about 160 residents, apparently too few of whom are willing to pay $3.50 for a vanilla latte. The closest Starbucks stores are in Walla Walla and Pullman, both about an hour away by car.


Want to buy edible bugs? Find them at:


Bugs in bulk: www.thenaturesway.com


Canned insects: www.dcothai.com/food/insects.htm


Waxworms: www.flukerfarms.com/


Edible scorpions: www.skorppio-vodka.com


Albuquerque, N.M., police have taken doughnut runs to new heights, swooping down in an official helicopter for a late-night snack. "I don't know how they decided that was a good idea," said Lt. Bob Huntsman, department spokesman. Huntsman said the department is investigating.




In late September, 80 patrons at Rosalie's Cucina in Skaneateles, N.Y., received a letter at the end of their meals instead of a bill. Owner Gary Robinson wrote: "Dear fellow Americans, Since the Sept. 11 tragedy, many of you have given your compassion and donations to assist those in New York City. Many in Central New York have encountered emotional and financial stress.


"Tonight, it's your turn to receive. We are picking up everybody's dinner check."


What price this gesture? About $4,000, Robinson said.


Researchers with the University of Florida and Florida A&M are pushing goat as the other red meat. Except they're not calling it goat. They're promoting "cabrito" -- Spanish for young goat. They think the term "goat meat" is a turnoff to the average American.




Among the weird uses for genetic engineering is contraceptive corn. Epicyte Pharmaceuticals Inc. is splicing into corn a genetic defect found in some women with the aim of making the plant generate a protein that kills sperm.


According to a new study from Greece, living in a water tank while waiting to be cooked and eaten causes a fish tremendous stress and depression, which then alters its flavor. Fortunately, a hydrobiology professor from Athens has spent 10 years researching ways to make fish relax. According to Reuters news service, his recommendations for calmer, tastier fish include customizing the color of the water tank for each species, more "playtime" and better food.


Halloween by the numbers: Number of pounds of candy sold for each person in the United States each year: 25


Estimated number of pounds of candy each delusional American thinks he or she eats each year: 2


Percentage of parents who snitch candy from their kid's bag when the kid isn't looking: 73


"The Gallery of Regrettable Food" by James Lileks (Crown, $22.95) is a hysterical sendup of nasty noshes from food brochures of the 1930s to 70s. The book has plenty of laughs but, thankfully, no recipes. Lileks has a Web site, Gallery of Regrettable Food, at www.lileks.com/institute/gallery.




Food manufacturers are courting kids with new, oddly colored foods, among them: blue and pink squeezable Parkay margarines; green and purple ketchups from Heinz.


David Letterman's Top 10 calls received by the Fig Newtons complaint line:


10. "The Newtons ain't figgy enough."


9. "The figs ain't newtony enough."


8. "Am I speaking to Mr. Newton?"


7. "Yeah, great product, except for one small detail -- they're made from figs."


6. "You sound familiar. Didn't you work at the Chips Ahoy complaint line?"


5. "Do I eat them with a dinner fork or a salad fork?"


4. "Do you make Ham Newtons?"


3. "Who in God's name would take a job with the Fig Newtons complaint line?"


2. "Why is the Fig Newtons complaint line always busy?"


1. "Do you offer any other nauseating fig-based products?"


In a study sponsored by candy maker Mars, Professor Carl Keene of the University of California at Davis reports that flavonoids found in chocolate thin the blood and may help prevent blood clots.


The work of three German artists was recently featured in "Eat Art," a show at Harvard University. Viewers were invited to eat confections of chocolate, caramel, popcorn and other foodstuffs cast in the form of pedestals and display cases, typical gallery furnishings.


Butterball is making the Turkey Talk-Line Internet site a little juicier this year with the Ladies of Talk-Line 2002 Calendar. Download the calendar at www.butterball.com or call 800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372).


One of Britain's largest supermarket chains has renamed brussels sprouts "British sprouts." The company wants customers to know that 99 percent of the world's supply of the vegetable is grown in Britain, not Belgium.


Coffee drinkers are going bananas over a brew that's made of monkey dung. A British newspaper says Brits are clamoring for Kopi Luwak, made from berries that have passed through the digestive system of Indonesian monkeys. The coffee berries are said to emerge virtually intact. Experts reckon the monkey business gives the drink a unique "earthy" taste, which has made it the most expensive and sought-after coffee in the world.




Harper's Magazine reports that the percentage of Chicago sushi chefs who are of Japanese descent is 29. The percentage who are of Mexican or Ecuadorean descent is 30.


What is the well-dressed toaster wearing this year? A Toastmaster toaster features a leopard print, dahling. What price fashion? $20 at many Wal-Mart stores.


You can reach Amy Starke at 503-221-8534 or by e-mail at amystarke@news.oregonian.com.


by Jack Portland

Makes 4 servings


Gnocchi made with semolina is a tradition in Rome. Serve it hot from the oven at dinner in place of the pasta course, or with a simple green salad for lunch.


1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

5 to 10 fresh sage leaves, as desired

4 cups milk

13/4 cups semolina (see note)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, as desired

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (divided)

2 eggs, beaten

Additional butter for baking dish


In a small pan, melt butter and add sage leaves. Gently sauté and set aside.


In a large pot, bring the milk to a boil. Add the semolina in a slow stream, stirring quickly so there are no lumps. Cook about 8 minutes, stirring constantly over low heat or until batter becomes very stiff -- so that a spoon can stand alone when stuck into the center.


Remove from heat and add salt, nutmeg, some of the melted butter (sage leaves reserved) and half of the grated cheese. Stir well and after cheese has melted, add the beaten eggs in a stream, stirring briskly to incorporate thoroughly into mixture.


Evenly spread mixture 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick on a wet cutting board. When thoroughly cool, cut into circles with a cookie cutter or wine glass. Reserve scraps.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an ovenproof serving platter and arrange the semolina cut-outs in layers; scraps on bottom, circles on top. Between each layer and on top of the final layer, dribble the remaining melted butter and the remaining grated cheese. Bake about 30 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and garnish with the sautéed sage leaves.


Note: Semolina is milled from 100 percent durum wheat -- the preferred flour for pasta making. Find packaged semolina flour at natural foods stores and most supermarkets.


From Ninfa's restaurant chain in Houston

Makes about 4 cups dip


If the couch potatoes in your crowd like guacamole, they'll leap goal posts to get to this spicy avocado dip. Ninfa Laurenzo created it as a signature dish for her Houston chain of Ninfa's restaurants.


4 fresh or canned tomatillos (about 6 to 8 ounces), drained (if canned) and


3 medium green (or firm red) tomatoes, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 to 2 jalapeno chilies, chopped WEAR GLOVES

3 medium avocados, halved, seeded and peeled

11/2 cups sour cream

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

1/4 teaspoon salt, or more, to taste


In a medium saucepan, simmer the tomatillos and tomatoes with the garlic and jalapenos for 15 minutes, or until their liquid has evaporated.


While the tomatillo mixture simmers, place the avocados in a blender. Spoon the thickened tomatillo mixture into the blender. Add the sour cream, cilantro and salt, and blend for up to 5 minutes to create a smooth puree. Taste, and add more salt, if desired.


Serve the sauce immediately with tortilla chips, or refrigerate it for later use. Ninfa's makes this sauce fresh every day, but we've kept it overnight, and it has remained tasty and hasn't turned gray the way guacamole does.


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


From "Texas Home Cooking" by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison



If you can't find green tomatoes, substitute under-ripe tomatoes or ask your produce department to order them.


2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

3 pounds green tomatoes, diced (about 8 cups)

1 cup orange juice, heated

Grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon


Combine the sugar and water in a large heavy skillet and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, mixing constantly, until the sugar dissolves, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar begins to turn golden, 20 minutes.


Add the tomatoes, warm orange juice and zest, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the tomatoes are soft and the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup, about 30 minutes. Cool. Makes 3 - 4 cups. L.A. TIMES 12/26/01


Once wrapped for storage, the fruitcake tastes better the longer it sits.


1 1/2 cups dried apricots, chopped

1 1/2 cups dates, chopped

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup red and green candied cherries

3/4 cup red and green candied pineapple

1 1/2 cups blanched almonds, toasted and chopped

1 1/2 cups pecans, broken into pieces

2 cups flour, divided

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup granulated sugar

6 eggs

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons rum

2 tablespoons brandy

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, plus more for soaking

Juice and zest of 1 orange

Juice and zest of 1 lemon


Thoroughly grease 2 (8-by-5-inch) loaf pans. Heat the oven to 300 degrees.


Combine the apricots, dates, raisins, candied cherries and pineapple, almonds and pecans in a large bowl. Mix in 1/2 cup of the flour to dredge the mixture. Set aside.


Cream the butter and brown and granulated sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.


Sift the remaining flour with the cloves, cinnamon, mace, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the rum, brandy, the 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier and the orange and lemon juices and zests. Fold into the fruit-nut mixture. Pour the batter into the loaf pans and smooth the tops.


Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.


Cool the cakes in the pans 15 minutes, then remove them onto a wire rack and cool to room temperature.


Moisten 2 pieces of cheesecloth, large enough to cover each loaf, with Grand Marnier and wrap them around each loaf. Wrap the loaves in foil and refrigerate or store in a cool place. If the loaves start to dry out, sprinkle a little more Grand Marnier over them.




1 cup Long grain rice

1/2 cup Roasted peanuts

1 tsp Cinnamon

3/4 tsp Ground ginger

1 Chicken bouillon cube, crumbled


1/4 cup Butter

1/4 cup Honey

2 cup Water

1 pkg Rice mix (above)


Combine and store in an airtight container.

Honey Nut Rice:

Boil butter, honey and water. Reduce heat, add rice mix, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Makes 6 servings. RF4RP




1/4 cup light butter, melted

1 French bread baguette (10 ounces), cut into 1-inch-thick slices

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup Irish whiskey

1 3/4 cup low-fat milk (1 percent)

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated skim milk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Cooking spray

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Brush melted butter on one side of French bread slices and place bread, buttered side up, on a baking sheet. Bake bread at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.


Combine raisins and whiskey in a small bowl. Cover and let stand 10 minutes or until soft. Do not drain.


Combine low-fat milk, sugar, vanilla, evaporated milk and eggs in a large bowl. Stir well with a whisk. Add bread cubes and raisin mixture, pressing gently to moisten. Let stand 15 minutes.


Spoon bread mixture into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine cinnamon and 1 tablespoon sugar. Sprinkle over pudding.


Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until set. Serve warm with caramel whiskey sauce (recipe follows).




1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water


2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted

1 egg, separated

2 teaspoons orange juice

11/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup raspberry or strawberry jam

Oil, for frying


Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with a dash of sugar and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.


Blend the margarine, egg yolk, orange juice and yeast mixture in the bowl of a mixer. Gradually add the flour, 2 teaspoons of the sugar and salt and blend well. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.


Place the dough (it will be sticky) on a well-floured board and knead it into a flat disk, adding additional flour if needed. Roll the dough out 1/4-inch thick with a rolling pin. Using a cookie cutter, cut out 21/2-inch rounds.


Place 2 teaspoons of jam in the center of half of the rounds; brush the edges with the egg white and put a plain round on top of jam. Pinch the edges to seal. Place them on a paper-covered cookie sheet, cover with a towel and let rise about 45 minutes.


Reseal doughnuts before frying.


Heat about 2 to 3 inches of oil in a deep-fryer or heavy pot to 375 degrees. Fry 3 or 4 doughnuts at a time, turning them with a fork or tongs when one side is browned, and continuing to fry until brown all over, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Do this in batches until all the dough is used up.


To serve, roll in sugar. L.A. TIMES 12 26 01




When Life Hands You Lemon Grass

The fragrant and elegant Asian herb drives some to larceny and others to Fresno. By DAVID LANSING, Special to The Times (L.A. TIMES 12 26 01)

If you really want to hear about it, I suppose it all started several years ago, when I took some cold medicine because I thought I was coming down with something, fell asleep on the train to Berlin and ended up in Hanover. It was raining, and the train back to Berlin wasn't due for a couple of hours, and the last thing I felt like doing, to be honest, was sitting around a damp German Bahnhof, staring at a bunch of drab businessmen holding wet fedoras in their laps and nervously tapping their fingers on the wooden benches. So I thought maybe I'd just hang out at a restaurant for an hour or so and have a bowl of soup. This was in April, which is only important because springtime in Germany is like National Spargel Season or something. Spargel is what the Germans call asparagus, and there isn't a restaurant in the whole country that doesn't make a big deal out of Spargel during the spring. They serve it with hollandaise, they stuff it into chicken breasts, they make soup out of it--you name it.


I found a restaurant near the train station called Sawaddi, which turned out to be Thai. I can get by with my German when I have to, but I wasn't having much luck with the waiter, whose grasp of the language seemed even worse than mine. "Spargel? Suppe?" He became agitated and pointed to a green chalkboard across the room, so I said, "Sure, that would be fine."


What I ended up getting was the night's special, which was a big four-course meal. Everything was made with lemon grass. Lemon grass soup, lemon grass asparagus, lemon grass chicken. Even the dessert was made with lemon grass. But the best thing was the asparagus. They took lemon grass leaves, tied them into knots and steamed them with the white Spargel, serving it with lemon grass butter. Between the cold medicine and a couple glasses of wine, I guess you could say I went a little crazy. I ended up ordering three more plates of asparagus with lemon grass. I think the waiter was starting to worry about me--while I was eating the last plateful, he stood next to another waiter, and the two of them stared at me as if I might eat the napkin or steal the silverware.


I don't want to use that experience as an excuse, but it's probably why I was driving slowly through Westminster in the middle of the night three months later, covertly looking for lemon grass, and why I ended up leaving my shovel behind in an unknown flower bed when a dog started barking and several lights came on in a pink stucco house. I decided I probably ought to get out of there before the dog got me or the cops showed up. Technically, I wasn't a thief. Before the dog started yapping and before I'd even started trying to dig up a little clump of lemon grass from the front yard, I'd left $20 tucked inside a bank deposit envelope beneath a little stone Buddha on the porch.


These days, you can walk into almost any supermarket and buy all the lemon grass you want, but there was a time when it wasn't so easy to get. Back then, I'd get a craving and drive to Orange County's Little Saigon just to buy lemon grass at the 99 Ranch Market. During these trips I noticed that a lot of people in the neighborhood grew the stuff in their yards, which is how I came up with the idea of "borrowing" a clump or two.


Shortly after, I found a nursery 50 miles east of Fresno that sold the herb in three-inch pots. "There are fields and fields of the stuff all along the highway from Fresno to our nursery," said V.J. Billings, the owner of Mountain Valley Growers, when I told her how thankful I was to locate her because I couldn't find any lemon grass in Southern California. "It's like a weed here."


I said I'd heard that it has been used in South America for centuries. I read once that native cultures of the Amazon use it as a contraceptive. She thought that Southeast Asian refugees, many of whom settled around Fresno in the early '70s, introduced it to California.


Like a nervous new father, I called her the day my two seedlings arrived to ask what I was supposed to do with them. Some people might be annoyed by such questions, but Billings, who sells more than 300 herbs, loves weird plants the way some people love old cars. Lemon grass thrives in fertile soil and, like all grasses, needs a lot of water, particularly during the growing season.


"It'll grow fast," Billings warned, "but don't start to harvest it until it gets several feet tall and starts to put out new pups." Then what do you do with it? "Cut the woody outer leaves off until you get just the bulb--like the white part of a scallion. That's the good stuff."


I planted a bulb in a weedy bed behind our backyard fence and another in a 15-inch clay pot that sat next to a potted Mexican lime tree on our brick patio. The lemon grass behind the house did just fine until someone dug it up without leaving any money or a shovel or anything, which just shows you how some people are. The one in the clay pot quickly wrapped its roots around the bottom of the pot and lifted itself up, drying out and dying while we were on vacation. When I told Billings what had happened, she said, "Yeah, they're weird that way." She explained that I should use half a whiskey barrel next time. But my wife doesn't like the look of whiskey barrels as planters, so I thought I'd try growing it in a south-facing bed on the side of the house, this time with larger plants. I didn't get around to planting until this summer, when a friend in San Diego, Su-Mei Yu, mentioned that she grows lemon grass, along with French lavender, in a bed in her front yard. She likes the smell of lemon grass, which is lighter, tangier and more aromatic than lemons, and uses it in her cooking. She said I could have a clump of it, but I'd have to drive down to get it. I told Yu, author of the Thai cookbook "Cracking the Coconut" and owner of the Thai restaurant Saffron in San Diego, about eating three plates of lemon grass asparagus in Germany and how the waiters looked at me. Did she think I was a little crazy?


"Maybe because you were sick, your body was not in balance," she said. "To the Thai people, lemon grass is used as medicine as well as for cooking. It has a 'hot' property." In Thailand, she explained, they use it for upset stomachs, urinary tract problems and excess perspiration.


After giving me a great recipe for a lemon grass dressing, Yu suggested I call her friend Karen Caplan, the president of Frieda's, a Los Alamitos-based produce wholesale marketer and distributor. "Karen knows everything about lemon grass."


Frieda's is a family-owned business known best for taking a little-known fruit from New Zealand called the Chinese gooseberry, renaming it Kiwifruit, and persuading American growers to plant and market it back in the early '60s.


"There was a woman from Bakersfield--I think her name was Sherry," Caplan said a few days later, when I asked how she first heard of lemon grass. "She and her husband had a little farm there, and she started bringing us lemon grass around 1978, '79. But we didn't know what to do with the stuff."


It took Frieda's two years to figure it out and start selling the herb to grocery stores. "It was tough," said Caplan. "We had to convince produce managers that just because it was yellow and a stick, it was still fresh. Now every young hot chef in Southern California uses it in one dish or another."


Since then I've asked several cooks whether they've ever had lemon grass steamed with asparagus, once prompting a conversation about the equal rarity of Kaffir limes. They, along with lemon grass, are what give hot-and-sour Thai soup its aromatic smell. But Kaffir lime trees are almost impossible to find.


My lemon grass grows tall in a raised bed on the side of the house, away from the street. My wife once grew iceberg roses there, but, like I told her, roses will grow anywhere. The Kaffir lime tree, which I bought online from Four Winds Growers, is a year old and growing in a clay pot on the patio. As for the asparagus, I have my eye on the bed where my wife grows arugula from seeds she brought back from Italy. I haven't told her yet, but I'm sure she'll be fine with my taking out the arugula. I mean, if we're going to grow our own lemon grass and Kaffir limes, we might as well plant asparagus, right?


Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times






Baked Apple Slices

Nonstick cooking spray

3 large firm, sweet apples, such as Fuji or Golden Delicious

2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


Place one rack in the bottom of the oven and the other rack in the middle third. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray a 13x9-inch pan with nonstick spray.


Core the apples and slice them into 1/2-inch slices. Place them in the pan, drizzle the butter over the top and toss to coat. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle over the apple slices and stir well to coat.


Bake on the bottom rack of the oven until the apples are tender but not so soft that they fall apart, about 15 minutes, stirring once to mix well.


Maple French Toast


6 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup half-and-half

8 slices firm white, raisin or whole-wheat bread

About 2 tablespoons butter, softened


Generously butter a baking sheet or a jellyroll pan.


Beat the eggs and salt together in a shallow pan, breaking up the eggs. Add the vanilla, maple syrup and half-and-half and beat to combine.


Use a fork to poke a few holes in each slice of bread. Place the slices, one to two at a time, in the egg mixture and let stand about a minute, turning once. The slices should be saturated but not falling apart. Shake off the excess egg mixture and place the slices on the baking sheet; it's OK if they're touching.


Bake until the underside is golden and the slices have puffed up slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the slices over and spread with the butter. Return to the oven and bake until the other side is light brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Place the toast on serving plates and top with the apple slices and their juices. 4 servings. L.A. TIMES 12 26 01


Makes 4 servings


3 tablespoons butter or canola oil

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 to 2 fresh serrano or jalapeno chilies, finely chopped WEAR GLOVES

2 medium, ripe tomatoes, chopped

8 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon sea salt

Crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese (optional)

1/2 firm but ripe avocado, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes


Heat butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Saute onion and chilies until just soft. Add tomatoes and cook 3 to 4 minutes.


Pour eggs into skillet and let them set for 1 minute. Sprinkle with salt and stir gently with fork or wooden spoon. Lower heat if eggs are cooking too quickly. Eggs should be folded together with tomato mixture until softly set, but not dried out. Serve quickly with sprinkle of crumbled cheese and avocado.

Adapted from "Cocina de la Familia" by Marilyn Tausend with Miguel Ravago



Makes 11/2 cups

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced (5 ounces)

1/2 cup oyster mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (3 ounces)

1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (3 ounces)

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon

1 cup slivered almonds (4 1/2 ounces)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Ground white pepper, to taste

Additional almond slivers or slices of red bell pepper to garnish


Heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium-high flame. Add all the mushrooms, onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in tarragon and let cool.


Transfer the mushroom mixture to a food processor or blender. Add almonds, lemon juice, soy sauce and pepper, and process until smooth. Transfer the pate to a bowl and let stand for 1 hour before serving. Garnish with almonds or peppers. From "Vegetarian Appetizers" by Paulette Mitchell



Makes about 1 dozen tarts

2 ready-made 91/2- or 10-inch pastry crusts

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 cup finely minced shallots

2 cups finely chopped mushrooms

1/4 cup toasted, coarsely ground pecans (see note)

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

11/2 teaspoons minced fresh mint

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley (divided)

3 tablespoons sour cream

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel (yellow part only)

1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place pastry on lightly floured surface. With floured 3-inch cutter, cut out rounds. Press rounds into tartlet tins; prick with fork. Bake until shells are firm and golden brown (15 to 20 minutes). Let cool in tins; set aside.


In large skillet over moderate heat, heat olive oil. Add garlic and shallots; sauté

for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and pecans; cook until mushrooms are slightly soft (about 2 minutes). Stir in chives, basil, mint and 1/2 cup parsley. Remove from heat; fold in sour cream. Add salt and pepper.


Spoon warm filling into baked shells. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon parsley, lemon peel and parmesan; sprinkle over tartlets. Serve immediately.


Note: To toast nuts, spread on baking sheet and bake in 375-degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until brown.









Makes 12 open-faced sandwiches


The tapenade can be made up to 3 days ahead to allow the flavors to meld. You can store the mixture in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Place the tapenade in a lidded glass jar and cover the surface with olive oil before storing it.


1/2 pound large, Kalamata olives, pitted

1 ounce anchovy fillets, drained

1 clove garlic

2 tablespoons capers, drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

12 thin slices baguette

Paper-thin slices lean cooked roast beef (about 1/2 pound)

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, for garnish


In food processor or blender, place olives, anchovies, garlic, capers and olive oil. Pulse briefly until mixture is coarse. Transfer to a bowl and add pepper to taste.


Spread mixture onto small rounds of baguette; top with sliced beef. Garnish with chives before serving.



Makes 2 servings

2 green onions, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 eggs

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced, or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced, or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled

Black pepper

1/4 pound ham steak, chopped (about 3/4 cup)

1/3 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley


In an 8- or 9-inch flameproof heavy skillet, cook onions and garlic in olive oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.


In bowl, whisk together eggs, thyme, rosemary and pepper to taste. Add to onion mixture and cook, without stirring, 2 minutes. Add ham and cook, without stirring, 8 minutes, or until edges are set but center is still soft.


Meanwhile, heat broiler. Sprinkle cheese on frittata and broil about 4 inches from heat until cheese is bubbling, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with parsley. Cut into wedges and serve. Adapted from "The Best of Gourmet"


Makes 4 servings

8 lamb rib or loin chops

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 lemon wedges


A half-hour before cooking, trim all but a small ribbon of fat from the chops, blot with a paper towel, rub both sides with the garlic and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.


Heat the oil in a heavy nonstick skillet. Brown chops on both sides, about 1 minute on each. Lower the heat to medium and cook 4 minutes longer for medium-rare (deduct 2 minutes for rare, add 2 minutes for well).


Squeeze lemon over each just before serving.


This method works well for chops up to 1 inch thick. If thicker, stir in a little wine, water or broth after searing and cook to desired degree of doneness.


Adapted from "Serves One: Super Meals for Solo Cooks" by Toni Lydecker



Reserve the bacon grease for Frank's Home Fries (included in this collection)

5 strips bacon

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

6 green onions, diced

Salt, pepper

12 egg whites

2 eggs

1/2 pound sharp Cheddar or Jack cheese, grated


Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the bacon on paper towels, then crumble and set aside. Reserve the bacon grease for another recipe.


Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and green onions and cook until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Beat together the egg whites and eggs, then add them to the skillet. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggs are scrambled, about 5 to 6 minutes. Top with the grated cheese. Remove the skillet from the heat and cover until the cheese has melted. Top with the crumbled bacon before serving.

L.A. TIMES 12 26 01


Makes about a 5 dozen


For the crust:

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

6 tablespoons vegetable shortening

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the topping:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups light-brown sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 cups chopped pecans


Crust: Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and mix well; set aside.


Beat butter and shortening together with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla, then reduce speed and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.


Gather dough into a ball, flatten slightly, then, using your fingers, press into a buttered nonstick baking sheet about 10 by 15 by 3/4 inches (sometimes called a jelly roll pan). Refrigerate dough overnight or place in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prick crust all over, then bake until golden, about 12 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To make the topping: Combine butter, honey and sugars in a saucepan. Simmer, stirring constantly, over medium heat until sugars melt and mixture darkens and foams, five minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in cream and stir in pecans.


Spread filling evenly over crust with a rubber spatula and bake until topping is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool completely on a wire rack, then cut into 11/2-inch squares or diamonds to serve.


Note: Walnuts may be substituted for pecans.


Serves 12-16 as appetizer

For a family meal, I make this with a side of spare ribs cut into 1-inch lengths. But to serve at a party, I buy boneless spare ribs and serve them with bamboo skewers. [] This item was written by a caterer, but no name was given.[]


1 1/2 pounds boneless spareribs

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup dry red or white wine

1/4 cup water


Trim all visible fat from boneless ribs; cut meat into 1-inch cubes. Heat oil in a wide frying pan over medium-high heat. Add pork, half at a time, and cook, turning as needed, until brown on all sides, 6-8 minutes total. When first batch is browned, remove from pan and brown second batch. Discard pan drippings and return all meat to pan. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute.


Add paprika, oregano, salt, pepper, bay leaf, wine and water; stir to coat meat evenly. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring once or twice, until meat is very tender, 50-60 minutes. If pan becomes dry, add a little more water. The meat should be lightly coated with sauce. Discard bay leaf, let meat cool. Reheat before serving.


I've adapted this recipe from my own catering files. While the name sounds old-fashioned, they taste as good as ever.




BY JAN NIX, Special to the Mercury News

Few caterers make everything from scratch. I know. I used to be one.


These days, the sushi, dim sum and mouth-watering cookies and miniature pastries you see are usually purchased from food service vendors. Caterers devote their time to preparing the items they do best: cornucopias of fresh vegetables and dips, platters of grilled vegetables, skewers of seasonal fruit, cheese boards and bread, Chinese chicken salad, pasta salads and, when requested, meat for carving stations.


But no matter what is served, the food is arranged beautifully. It's presentation that turns good food into stellar party fare.


Buying food you don't have time to make is a good idea. But during the holidays, I entertain like a caterer, mixing and matching purchased items with those from my kitchen. Here are a few easy ideas from caterers to help you make the party when you lack a secret chef or a hired staff.


Mashed potatoes. What a surprise to see this homespun food on a cocktail buffet table. Partygoers love them. Caterers keep them warm in a chafing dish and serve 1/2 cup portions in over-size martini or margarita glasses. Guests help themselves to toppings.


I've seen mashed potatoes served two ways. A ``south of the border'' version was served with bowls of salsa, sliced green onions, sour cream, sliced olives, shredded jack cheese and crumbled bacon. The seafood version offered nuggets of salmon, caviar, ribbons of crisp nori (the seaweed used to wrap sushi) and deep-fried shallots. (Buy shallots and nori at Asian markets.)


At home, I cut a skinless salmon fillet into domino-shaped pieces, rubbed them with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and black sesame seeds and cooked them in a grill pan for 1 minute on each side. Since there's no need to serve the fish hot, you can cook it ahead.


Seafood on ice. At a high-end event, caterers serve prawns, king crab legs and freshly shucked oysters. At home, I stick with shelled cooked prawns and buy the largest I can find. Mound crushed ice in a wide, shallow-rimmed bowl. Silver or crystal look especially festive. Cover the ice with prawns and serve with chile sauce spiked with horseradish and a squirt of lemon juice. You'll feel like a pro.


Quesadillas. At catered parties, servers cook quesadillas to order. At home, I set the ingredients next to an electric frying pan, let guests put things together and call it interactive cooking.


Making a quesadilla is foolproof. Place an 8-inch flour tortilla in the pan over medium heat, sprinkle filling ingredients to within an inch of the tortilla's edge and top with a second tortilla. Cook until light brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes, then cut into pie-shaped wedges. Some cooks like to put a little butter in the pan so the tortilla becomes crisp. But the caterers I've observed cook them dry and so do I.


To fill quesadillas, try these combinations:


Small cooked shrimp, tomatillo salsa and Mexican-style queso Asadero.


Shredded roast chicken, fruit chutney and Gouda cheese.


Well-drained, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red bell pepper strips and Havarti or Monterey Jack cheese.

If you want to serve salsa, here's a quick way to personalize store-bought versions: Add 2 fresh tomatillos, husked and minced, and 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro to a 12-ounce jar of tomatillo salsa. Or add 1 chopped tomato and 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro to a 12-ounce jar of tomato-based salsa.


Mushroom bruschetta. Bruschette are slices of Italian bread brushed with olive oil and grilled. In Italy, the slices are rubbed with garlic and eaten hot. But caterers toast them ahead of time and serve at room temperature with a savory topping. Trim and discard stems from 4-inch portobello mushrooms, brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle the gill sides with minced garlic and dried thyme. Cook mushrooms over medium-high heat in a heavy frying pan, turning once, until they are soft to the touch, 12-14 minutes. Once they cool, cut mushrooms into quarters and place 1/4 on each bruschetta. With a squeeze-top bottle, squiggle aioli (mayonnaise spiked with pressed garlic) on top.


Makes 1 pancake


Be sure to have all the brunch dishes on the table and everyone seated before bringing the pancake directly from the oven. This recipe is for 1 serving, which is great when serving a small crowd and individual pancakes can be offered. For larger groups, multiply all ingredients as you increase the pan size. Giant versions can also be baked in a shallow paella pan that holds eight times the batter recipe. Top with: a sprinkle of powdered sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice; sliced fresh seasonal fruit or fruit sautéed in butter; warmed applesauce; almonds, pecans or walnuts.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 egg

1/4 cup low-fat milk

1/4 cup unbleached flour

1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel (yellow part only; optional)

Fruit, nut or sauce topping of your choice


Preheat oven to 475 degrees.


Place butter in 4-inch ovenproof skillet, ramekin or other baking dish. Heat in oven until melted.


Meanwhile, beat egg in food processor, blender or bowl with wire whisk until light and bright yellow. Gradually beat in milk, then the flour until smooth. Stir in almond extract and lemon peel. Pour batter into skillet with hot butter and return to oven.


Bake until pancake is puffed and golden, about 12 minutes. Serve at once, accompanied by selected toppings.


When you make larger pancakes, cut them into wedges at the table or spread with selected topping, roll up jellyroll fashion and cut crosswise into slices at the table. Adapted from "James McNair's Breakfast"


1 (29-ounce) can pumpkin

1 (13-ounce) can evaporated milk

3 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 package yellow cake mix

1 cup chopped pecans

1 1/2 cups melted butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch by 14-inch baking pan. Combine pumpkin, milk, eggs, spices, salt and sugar. Pour into pan. Sprinkle cake mix over top of pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle nuts over cake mix. Pour butter over all. Bake for 50 minutes.




This quick dinner will keep you in a holiday mood and help you through these busy days.


If you already have cranberries on hand, use a few for this simple, tangy red berry sauce. It's thickened by pureeing the cranberries in a blender or food processor. If you have neither piece of equipment, thicken the sauce with cornstarch instead of pureeing it. Mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cranberry-raspberry juice. Add it to the sauce and bring to a boil. Stir until the sauce thickens. This will take only a minute.


Authentic Moroccan couscous takes about an hour to make. Fortunately, precooked couscous, the kind found in supermarkets, takes only 5 minutes. It makes a great side dish for this easy holiday dinner for two.


Sauteed chicken with red berry sauce

Serves 2

3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breast

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 cup raspberry or sherry wine vinegar

1/2 cup cranberry-raspberry juice

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Remove as much fat as possible from chicken breasts. Flatten with a meat mallet or back of a skillet to even thickness. Heat oil in non-stick skillet until smoking. Brown chicken for 1 minute. Turn and brown other side for 1 minute. Remove from pan. Lower heat and add vinegar. Let simmer about 30 seconds, scraping up all of the brown bits while liquid reduces. Add cranberry-raspberry juice, honey and mustard. Thoroughly combine. Add cranberries. Return chicken to pan and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Turn chicken and simmer another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove chicken to individual plates. Pour sauce into blender or food processor and blend a few seconds until smooth. Spoon some sauce over chicken and serve the rest on the side.


Parsley couscous

Serves 2

2/3 cup water

1/2 cup couscous

1 tablespoon raspberry or sherry wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons fat-free, low-salt chicken broth

1 teaspoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, add couscous and cover. Let sit 5 minutes. Whisk vinegar and mustard together. Whisk in chicken broth and oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fluff up couscous with a fork and stir in dressing. Add parsley and mix well. Correct seasoning if needed.


Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 cup rice, uncooked

11/2 cups water

Salt to taste


In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the onion. Cook until wilted and add the pepper, rice, water and salt.


Bring to a boil and cover. Cook 17 to 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.

From "More 60-Minute Gourmet" by Pierre Franey Calories




``Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat, and we can eat, And sae the Lord be thankit.'' -- Robert Burns

1759-1796 ``The Selkirk Grace''



It all started with a rib roast.


It seemed like a great party idea: Buy the meat and cook it up just like Mom used to. A solid day's work.


So the rib roast went into the shopping cart. All six-something pounds and 60-something dollars of it.


But then, panic: How on earth is a rib roast cooked? What do you serve alongside a rib roast? Do you always have to say ``rib'' before roast, or will roast suffice? Is pot roast a roast? Where does ``roast beef'' fit into this equation?


That the questions arose wasn't surprising. In an age of fast food and faster food, we the people, in order to form a more perfect union and ensure domestic ease in the kitchen, have strayed far from the menus of our forefathers and foremothers.


Still, and especially during the holidays, some of us yearn for such old-school menus, foods that remind us of parents or grandparents and the carrying on of family traditions. The only problem: I didn't have a clue how to make these things. It seemed too daunting. Too expensive. Too, well, meaty.


But are these meals really Mission Impossible? I promise you, they are not. I overcame fear and cooked three large roasts: that hunk of beef, a leg of lamb (I wanted mutton but couldn't find it) and a ham. It was easy. And everyone who partook of the meat fest loved it and made like a Hoover vacuum cleaner. Best of all, I was a star.


Standing rib roast


The rib roast had me completely stressed out. I had bought it for a dinner I was hosting for some people who really knew food. I wanted to impress. Also, that hunk of meat was expensive. If I overcooked it, I might as well go to the nearest latrine, open up my wallet and flush sixty bucks down the toilet. And I had no idea what to serve alongside it. Mashed potatoes were just so '90s.


So I asked around. I learned that ``roast beef'' is any cut that is roasted, that is, cooked uncovered in an oven's dry heat, as opposed to a pot roast, which is made from a cheaper cut of meat and cooked covered, with some liquid, so as to tenderize it. That means a roast beef has to be tender (read: a more pricey cut) to begin with. The best cuts for roasting are a rib or rib-eye roast, which come from the animal's upper back. Some rib roasts are sold without the bones, but the classic roast beef for Christmas dinner is a rib roast, or a rib-eye, with the rib bones attached.


At this point I knew more about meat than I really wanted.


``The funny thing is, people come in this time of year, wanting the prime rib roast, but they wonder how to cook it,'' said Alex Castro, assistant manager at Andronico's in San Francisco, adding that bone-in lamb and ham were close runners-up in popularity to beef roasts. ``They're intimidated by the size. It's something they've never really tried to make. So we give them recipes. We have to build up their confidence.''


To build up my confidence, I bought a good meat thermometer and pulled out the Bible of cookbooks, ``Joy of Cooking.'' The Bible recommended a side of Yorkshire Pudding. I obliged.


When all was said and done, the meal was probably the easiest I've made in my life. To slow-roast a beef rib roast, all the ``Joy of Cooking'' recommended I do to cook it medium rare was season the meat liberally with salt and pepper, throw it in a roasting pan rib-side-down for 10 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce the heat to 250 degrees until the instant-read thermometer read 125-130 degrees. In my oven, it took about 20 minutes per pound to cook, and two hours later, after I carved the first slice, the first luscious, pink cut of beef, I mentally high-fived myself. As well as the person who recommended a good meat thermometer.


This old school stuff is a cakewalk, I thought. Bring on the mutton.




I was stunned to find that there are actually people who have fond memories of mutton.


People like my own mother.


``Oh, we all loved mutton in my house,'' said Mom. ``We would gather around, my sisters and I, and chant `Mutton! Mutton! Mutton!' ''


Not at my house.


Like most people my age (thirtysomething), I don't know much about mutton. I know it sounds gross. I know Jerry Seinfeld stuffed it into Grandma Mimma's napkins and hid it in his jacket pockets as part of some convoluted plot twist. I hear it tastes really lamby. I know I've never eaten it.


And now I know that mutton -- that is sheep, or a lamb that is more than a year old -- is also virtually impossible to find these days.


The butcher at my supermarket recommended I try Guerra Quality Meats in San Francisco. Guerra Quality Meats recommended I try the Internet. A Google search turned up a place in the United Kingdom that had mountain mutton, as well as a domestic source for barbecued mutton. Neither of these would work for my recipe, which was also hard enough to find in itself, since not many celebrity chefs have made their name with their mutton dishes.


Vowing not to tell my mother her taste buds were freaky, I bought a plain old leg of lamb with the bone in and used an ancient recipe from Gourmet Magazine's ``Gourmet Cookbook Volume I,'' published in 1950, which boasted an entire section on mutton, not to mention bear, bison and muskrat. I followed a recipe for Scotch roast leg of mutton. It was easy enough, asking for white wine, some raisins and some boiled and peeled chestnuts. You may think boiling and peeling chestnuts is a pain. It's not. They sell them that way these days! And raisins; well, if you're still buying grapes and drying them yourself, then you have issues.


Anyway, the lamb was good. Soft, juicy, warm, hearty, simple . . . I could have eaten it for days. Wait, I did. Because I'd made seven pounds of lamb. Take that into consideration when you're balking at the $30 price of your leg of lamb.




The goal was to cook an uncooked ham.


I mean, in a society raised on stuff like Hormel, there are probably people who don't realize the ham on their plates is the result of a tedious cooking and curing process. Though ham of yesterday (the entire back leg portion of the hog which was smoked or cured) is not the ham of today (generally, a variety of cuts from either the hind leg or front shoulder that are salt-cured and sometimes smoked and aged), the result is generally a juicy, textured, flavored meat.


I wasn't about to try salt-curing at home (imagine the kitchen afterward), I commenced my search for a cured but uncooked ham.


I didn't get far.


``You can buy cured hams that need to be cooked, but it's just not done,'' said Bill Niman, founder of Marin County's Niman Ranch, the undisputed local king of beef, pork and lamb. ``The smoking is such a wonderful process, and done so well, that there's no point for home cooks to do it themselves.''


The most exotic thing I could hope for in the ham department turned out to be finding a bone-in ham that wasn't spiral-sliced. It wasn't so easy.


``As a society, we're getting further and further away from pure foods,'' Niman said. ``People want convenience. . . . Purists want a bone-in ham. It's a different flavor. A better flavor. It's like why you add ham hocks to a soup. The bone just has flavor.''


My ham-hunting advice: Call first. (If you want a Niman Ranch ham like the one I got, you can find them at Bi-Rite in San Francisco, Berkeley Bowl and Cafe Rouge in Berkeley.)


After lugging the ham home -- remember, that bone adds weight, and if you want a workout on the side, this is another good meal to prepare -- and followed Niman Ranch's idiot-proof recipe.


Add a cup of water to the bottom of a roasting pan, add the pre-cooked ham and warm at 325 degrees for 10 minutes per pound.


Carving the behemoth with the ease of a butter knife through room-temperature butter, I served the ham. It was fatty. It was juicy. It was incredible. And I don't even like ham.


But best of all, this meal was a layup. The house smelled like I'd been cooking all day, and for those who don't know that buying an uncooked ham is next to impossible, I seemed incredibly impressive in the kitchen.


And there's the moral of the tale. These comfort foods, these dramatic, festive meals that remind us of days past, can still work their magic on the masses. They're not even that difficult to make.


What a relief it is to discover this just in time for the holidays. Because Mom is coming over. But she wants mutton.


(Lamb Curry With Almonds, Yogurt and Spices)

Makes 4 servings


Roghan Josh (literally, "red stew") is a traditional dish from the Kashmir region of northwestern India. It is rich and usually prepared for special occasions, such as weddings or other celebratory feasts. Its distinctive color and aromatic flavor is given by the spice paste called "masala" in Indian cuisine.

Spice paste:


1/4 cup blanched almonds

1 tablespoon peeled and chopped fresh ginger

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper or pure red chili powder (see note)

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons ground cumin

11/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed

6 cardamom pods, crushed (see note)

3 whole cloves

2 bay leaves, crumbled


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter (1/4 stick)

1 onion, diced

11/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb or shoulder meat, cubed

11/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

Salt to taste

1/2 cup water

2 cups plain yogurt

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, for garnish


To make spice paste: Place the almonds, ginger, garlic, cayenne, paprika, cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves and bay leaves in a blender; add enough water to form a paste. Puree until smooth and set aside.


To make lamb: Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan and add the onion. Saute over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the spice paste and mix well. Add the lamb and sauté, while stirring, for 3 or 4 minutes, until browned. Add the tomatoes, salt and 1/2 cup of water, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 15 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the lamb is completely tender. Add a little more water if necessary. Just before serving, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the yogurt. Garnish with cilantro.


Editor's note: This recipe was tested with 1 tablespoon mixed cayenne and red chili powder. If you prefer a milder curry, start with a much smaller amount -- such as 1/4 teaspoon -- and adjust to taste.


Note: Cardamom pods are available at ethnic food markets such as Uwajimaya.

Adapted from "Omaha Steaks: Meat" by John Harrisson with Frederick J. Simon



(Roasted Tomato-Green Chile Salsa)

Makes about 2 cups


In this salsa, roasting focuses the tomatoes' sweetness and rounds out the typical green grassiness of fresh chilies, creating perfect harmony.


1 pound ripe tomatoes (2 medium-large round or 6 to 8 plum)

Fresh, hot green chilies to taste (roughly 2 medium jalapenos or 4 serranos)

3 cloves garlic, unpeeled

1/4 cup finely chopped white onion

About 1/3 cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro


A dash of vinegar or squeeze of lime, if desired


Roast the tomatoes on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until they're darkly roasted (they'll be blackened in spots), about 6 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side; 5 to 6 minutes more will give you splotchy-black and blistered tomatoes that are soft and cooked through. Cool.


Working over the baking sheet, pull and discard the blackened skins; for round tomatoes, cut the hard cores where the stems were attached.


Roast the chilies and garlic in a dry skillet or on a griddle over medium heat, turning them occasionally, until they are soft and darkened in places, about 5 minutes for the chilies, 15 minutes for the garlic. Cool, then slip the papery skins off the garlic.


Either crush the roasted garlic and chilies to a smooth paste in a mortar or chop them to a near-paste in a food processor. If using a mortar, crush in the tomatoes one at a time, working them into a coarse puree. For a food processor, add the tomatoes and pulse to achieve a coarse puree.


Scoop the chopped onion into a strainer and rinse under cold water. Shake to remove the excess moisture.


Transfer the salsa to a bowl, stir in the onion and cilantro and season with salt, usually a generous 1/2 teaspoon. Thin with a little water (usually about 2 tablespoons to give a spoonable consistency). Perk it all up with vinegar or lime, if you wish.


Advance preparation: Once the onion and cilantro have been added to the salsa, it should be eaten within a few hours. Without onion and cilantro, the refrigerated salsa base keeps for several days, though the flavors will dull.


Note: WEAR GLOVES when handling fresh, canned, dried or pickled chilies; the oils can cause a burning sensation on your skin.

From "Rick Bayless Mexico One Plate at a Time"


Serves 6-8

1 (3 1/2-4-pound) chicken, cut into quarters

2 small white onions, 1 unpeeled

6 garlic cloves, 2 unpeeled

1 1/2- 2 teaspoons salt

10 black peppercorns

15 mint sprigs (1 small bunch)

7-8 cups water

3 ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 (10-ounce) package fideos (nested thin noodles, found in Latin markets) OR

about 8 ounces vermicelli

Freshly ground black pepper (optional)


Place chicken in stockpot or Dutch oven with unpeeled onion, 2 unpeeled garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt, peppercorns and 3 sprigs mint. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil over high heat. At once reduce heat to maintain a low rolling boil; skim off any froth that rises to the top. Cook, partly covered, until chicken is tender, 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and let chicken cool in stock.


Lift out chicken pieces. Discard skin. Remove meat from bones and cut into bite-size pieces. Strain stock into a bowl; discard solids. Rinse out and dry pot.


Place chilies in a small bowl and cover with 2 cups of the hot stock. Let sit for 20 minutes. Transfer chilies and soaking liquid to a blender and puree with remaining onion and 4 garlic cloves.


Add oil to clean stockpot and heat over medium-high heat until rippling. Add nests of fideos and brown lightly on both sides; if using vermicelli, stir-fry until lightly browned. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.


Pour off all but a thin film of oil from pot. Add pureed chili mixture, reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chicken, fried noodles and remaining stock. Bring to a boil and taste for salt, adding a little if it seems flat. Cook over low heat until noodles are al dente, 5-7 minutes.


Meanwhile chop remaining mint. Add most of mint to soup; serve immediately with a sprinkling of remaining mint and, if desired, a few grindings of black pepper.


Serves 8

1 (7-pound) bone-in leg of lamb

Salt and pepper

3-4 cloves garlic, slivered

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup seedless raisins, plumped in boiling water and well-drained

24 chestnuts, boiled and peeled (see Note)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub leg of lamb with salt and pepper. Insert small slivers of garlic near the bone and roast the leg for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and cook for about 1 3/4 hours. Pour off all juice and fat from roasting pan into a bowl. Add 2 or 3 ice cubes to congeal the fat rapidly and when all of it has gathered on the ice cubes, carefully remove them.


Return meat to the roasting pan and pour the white wine over it, then the de-greased drippings. Add raisins and chestnuts. Roast meat 1 more hour in a moderate oven, basting frequently with juices in the pan.


To serve: Carve enough slices for the first serving and pour the sauce with the raisins and chestnuts over the slices and around the leg. Serve with red currant jelly, if desired.


Makes about 55 truffles

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Caraïbe, finely chopped

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons Sichuan pepper, crushed (see Note)

3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 4 pieces

Dutch-processed cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona, for dusting

Put chocolate in a heat-proof bowl that can hold all ingredients.


Bring cream and pepper to full boil in a saucepan. Remove pan from heat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let cream rest for 10 minutes to become flavored by pepper.


Pour cream through a strainer lined with a piece of dampened cheesecloth. Return cream to saucepan and spoon in about 1/3 of pepper that is in strainer; discard remaining pepper. Bring cream to boil again; then remove pan from heat and strain hot cream into center of chocolate. With a spatula, gently stir cream into chocolate in ever-widening concentric circles until ganache is homogenous and smooth. Allow ganache to rest on counter about a minute before adding butter.


Add butter 2 pieces at a time, stirring gently to blend. When all butter is blended into mixture, pour ganache into a baking pan or bowl. Put pan in refrigerator and, when ganache is cool, cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 3 hours or overnight.


When ready to shape truffles, spoon a generous amount of cocoa powder into a bowl and set out a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. Remove truffle mixture from refrigerator and scoop up a scant tablespoonful of ganache for each truffle; put dollops of ganache on paper-lined pan. Dust palms of your hands with cocoa powder and, one by one, roll mounds of ganache between your palms to form rounds. Don't worry about making them even. As you shape each truffle, drop it into a bowl of cocoa powder and toss it in cocoa so that it is well-coated; then roll truffles around in a sieve to shake off excess cocoa. As each truffle is finished, return to parchment-lined pan. Truffles can be stored in refrigerator a day or two, covered and away from foods with strong odors.


Note: Do not use white Sichuan peppercorns commonly found in supermarkets for this recipe. Be sure to use the rose-colored, flaky, husk-like pieces of Sichuan pepper found in specialty shops and spice markets. To enhance the flavor even more, toast the peppercorns lightly in a dry skillet over medium heat before adding to recipes.




Serves 8

Request a rib roast cut from the ``small end'' of the rib, that is, the part nearest the loin. Ask the butcher to remove the backbone. Leave the rib bones intact.

1 4-rib beef roast (7 pounds), trimmed

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 to 3/4 cup beef stock, or another flavorful stock, preferably low-sodium


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season the roast with salt and pepper. Place roast rib side down in a roasting pan and roast for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the roast reads 115 degrees to 125 degrees for rare, 125 degrees to 130 degrees for medium-rare, or 135 degrees to 145 degrees for medium. It will take 15 to 30 minutes per pound. (The temperature will continue to rise out of the oven.) Remove meat to a platter. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes before carving.


Meanwhile, pour off any excess grease and reserve it for Yorkshire pudding. Place roasting pan over medium heat and add stock, preferably low-sodium. Bring liquid to a boil and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon until roasting particles are dissolved. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle the jus over sliced beef.



3/4 cup oil

1 cup sugar, plus extra for rolling

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger


Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking sheet and set aside.


Beat the oil and 1 cup of sugar in a bowl until creamy. Add the molasses and egg, and beat well.


Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Add to the sugar mixture and mix well.


Roll the dough into teaspoon-size balls. Roll the balls in sugar to coat and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake the cookies until cracked and lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. L.A. TIMES 12 26 01



BY JENNIFER VIEGAS, Special to the Mercury News

Opening a homemade tamale is right up there with opening a Christmas present. When you unwrap the corn husk, the escaping steam hints at the gift to come. Then you take your first bite. And even if you have spent all day preparing masa and fillings, the marriage of ingredients is still a magical surprise.


Long before the Europeans arrived in the New World, tamales were associated with the feast days of indigenous people. But as Spanish and Indian cultures joined, the revered bundles of steamed masa corn became a Christmas tradition.


Over the years, families have gathered throughout Mexico to make tamales during the holidays. Men often prepare a fire to cook outside, while generations of women grind spices, simmer meats and create sauces before assembling the tamales.


In my family, we make tamales to celebrate two very special occasions in December: Christmas and my mother's birthday, which falls on Dec. 24. Since my mother spent much of her childhood in the South, all food, including Christmas tamales, seemed to take on a Tex-Mex flavor.


Traditionally, however, three flavors of tamales are made this time of year: carnitas, or pork with red chile; chicken with a green sauce; and chile verde, or green chile tamales without meat. Sweet tamales also are made, often with raisins or tropical fruits. I love them all.


The basis of virtually every tamale is masa, corn soaked in lime and then ground. Fresh masa, which is sold in Mexican grocery stores and some large supermarkets, is preferable because it makes a lighter, fluffier tamale. But if you can't find it, most supermarkets carry masa harina (flour).


Whether you are making savory or sweet tamales, the procedure for cooking and assembling them is the same: Soak several corn husks in hot water until they become pliable. Tear two of the husks into strips that you will use later to close the filled tamales.


To assemble tamales, spread 1-2 tablespoons of masa dough in the center of each husk. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of filling over the dough. Fold the corn husk over the filling and dough, beginning with the right and left sides, and ending with the non-pointed husk end. Tie the bundle together with a corn husk strip, making sure that the filling is fully enclosed and the strips are securely knotted.


Arrange tamales in a steamer pan over boiling water, making sure they are not touching. Cover and steam about an hour, checking the water level every so often and adding more water if needed. One trick is to add a couple of coins to the boiling water. They'll make a clinking sound, which lets you know there is still boiling water in the pan.


Here are recipes for two of my favorite holiday fillings, carnitas (shredded pork) and piña colada (pineapple and coconut). But if you are running short of time, here's another possibility: Buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken and a good prepared salsa. Shred the chicken and use it as a filling with a spoonful of salsa for each tamale.


(pork) Makes 18 tamales

About 2 dozen dried corn husks

For masa dough:

1/2 cup shortening or lard

2 cups masa flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon baking powder

For filling

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

1 (16-ounce) can whole tomatoes with juice, chopped

3 serrano chilies, minced (see Note)

2 ancho chilies, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds boneless pork

Water to cover pork


Soak corn husks in hot water until they are pliable. Tear 2 corn husks into strips for tying the tamales closed.


To prepare masa dough: Beat shortening in a bowl. (You can substitute 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings for 2 tablespoons of the lard for added smoky flavor.) In another small bowl, mix together flour and salt. In a third bowl, combine stock and water. Alternately beat dry and wet mixtures into shortening until a firm dough forms. Add additional water if the dough seems dry. Finally, beat in baking powder.


To prepare filling: Combine filling ingredients in a pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook about 1 hour, or until pork is very tender. Add more water as needed during cooking. Remove pork from cooking liquid and reserve on a plate. With a slotted spoon, remove vegetables and reserve in a separate dish.


When pork is cool enough to handle, tear it into bite-sized shreds using two forks. Add meat to cooked vegetables and toss.


To assemble: Spread 1-2 tablespoons masa dough on each corn husk. Top with 2 tablespoons filling. Fold corn husk and tie with a strip of husk. Place tamales in a steamer pan over boiling water. Cook, covered, over medium high heat about 1 hour, adding more water to steamer pan if needed.


To serve: Top tamales with salsa, cheese and crema Mexicana or sour cream before serving, if desired.


Note: Leave chilies unseeded for extra heat.


Makes 18

About 2 dozen dried corn husks

For masa dough

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable shortening or lard

2 cups masa flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup fruit juice OR milk

1 teaspoon baking powder

For filling

1/2 cup dried banana chips

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1/3 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

2 cups fresh pineapple chunks

1/2 cup tropical fruit juice, preferably pineapple-coconut

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 cup whipped cream

1 tablespoon lime zest


Soak corn husks in hot water until they are pliable. Tear 2 corn husks into strips for tying the tamales closed.


To prepare dough: Cream together brown sugar and shortening. In a separate bowl, mix flour and salt. Alternately add flour, then juice to sugar-shortening until a firm dough forms. Beat in baking powder.


To prepare filling: Chop banana chips, almonds and coconut together in a blender or food processor.


To assemble: Spread 1-2 tablespoons masa dough in each corn husk. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons filling over masa, then press in one pineapple chunk. Fold corn husk over dough and filling and tie together.


Arrange tamales so they are not touching in a steamer pan over boiling water. Cover and steam 1 hour over medium high heat, checking water level periodically and adding water if needed.


Meanwhile, process remaining pineapple chunks with fruit juice and brown sugar to make a smooth sauce. To serve, cut open tamales and spoon fruit sauce over top. Garnish with dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of lime zest.


Makes 4 servings


This is a great way to use up bits of leftover dark meat. If you can find handmade corn tortillas, they are wonderful, but you won't need quite as many of them.


8 small white-corn tortillas

1 pound fresh tomatillos

1 onion, quartered

1 jalapeno chili, stemmed (WEAR GLOVES)

1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Pinch of granulated sugar

10 ounces boneless, skinless roasted turkey meat (2 cups chopped)

4 tablespoons light sour cream

Finely chopped onions and cilantro, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


Wrap the tortillas tightly in foil and place in the oven to heat through for about 10 minutes. Or, layer with damp paper towels and heat in the microwave on half-power for 20 seconds, check and then repeat. Wrap to keep warm.


Meanwhile, remove the papery husk from the tomatillos, then rinse and cut in half. Combine the tomatillos, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, salt, pepper and sugar in a food processor or blender. Process until combined but still slightly chunky.


Chop the turkey into small pieces. Put into either a microwave-safe container or a saucepan with the salsa. Heat through, about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.


Let guests build their tacos with the turkey tomatillo salsa, sour cream, and chopped onions and cilantro.


Makes 8 servings

8 1/2- to 3/4-inch-thick slices of fresh French or Italian bread (baguettes work


2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)

1/4 cup minced fresh basil

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the bread in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast about 3 minutes on each side. The bread should be golden brown on the outside, but still chewy and slightly moist on the inside. Leave the bread on the baking sheet and set aside.


Switch the oven to broil.


In a small bowl, stir together the tomatoes, basil, oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Top each slice of bread with about 1 tablespoon of the tomato mixture and sprinkle with parmesan. Broil the bruschetta for about 2 minutes, or until the cheese begins to melt. Serve immediately.

From "Vegetarian Appetizers" by Paulette Mitchell


Serves 6

3 pounds stewing beef

2 medium onions

5 garlic cloves

10 to 12 small shallots OR pearl onions

1 fresh lemongrass stick

7 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 tablespoons yellow bean sauce

1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili powder

4 whole star anise

1-inch stick cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

2 tablespoons sugar


Cut beef into 1-inch cubes and set aside.


Peel and finely chop onions and garlic. Peel shallots, leave whole. Cut lemongrass into 2-inch sections, from bottom to about 6 inches from top. Cut off and discard straw-like top. Crush each section lightly with a mallet.


Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic and shallots and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add lemongrass and continue to fry, stirring, until onions are lightly browned. Turn off heat. Take shallots out of pan and set aside.


Heat remaining oil in a large, wide, preferably non-stick pan over high heat. Quickly fry meat cubes, 7 or 8 pieces at a time, until brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon. Brown rest of meat.


Return all meat to large pan. Add 4 cups water and garlic mixture. Coarsely chop beans in yellow bean sauce (if not already crushed) and add beans and sauce to the pan. Also put in chili powder, star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns and sugar. Bring to a boil, then cover. Lower heat and simmer gently for 1 1/4 hours.


Add reserved shallots; cover again and simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove lid; increase heat to medium and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until sauce has thickened a little and meat is tender. Skim fat off top of stew before serving. Serve with steamed rice or crusty French bread if you like.



2 1/2 cups flour

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup chopped walnuts


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.


Combine the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and oil in a large bowl, mixing well. Remove 3/4 cup and set aside.


Whisk together the baking powder, baking soda, egg and buttermilk in a small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. The mixture should about double in size and be a bit bubbly. Blend it into the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the cake pan.


Mix the walnuts with the reserved 3/4 cup topping and sprinkle over the top. Bake the cake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 45 minutes. Cool the cake on a wire rack 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm. L.A. TIMES 12 26 01


Serves 8

1 cup minus 1 tablespoon flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup milk

1/4 cup beef drippings or warm melted unsalted butter


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk together flour and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Add flour mixture and beat until well-blended. (Or combine flour, salt, eggs and milk in a blender, mixing until smooth.) If made ahead, refrigerate batter.


Heat an empty 13 x 9-inch baking dish, preferably glass or ceramic, in the oven for 10 minutes. Add beef drippings. Pour in the batter all at once. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until puffy and deep, golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes more. Cut into squares and serve immediately. It deflates quickly.


Note: You can make individual Yorkshire puddings in a muffin tin. Divide the drippings among 8 muffin cups. Fill any remaining cups half-full of water. Heat the tin in the oven for about 2 minutes. Remove the tin and pour batter into the 8 muffin cups that already contain drippings. Bake as directed above.



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