Monthly Archives: March 2014

It Must Be Seafood Sunday… Satisfying a Craving for Clams

I must be missing California, because I’m craving clams steamed in garlic and white wine, cooked in a rich buttery-tasting broth, meant to be soaked up by some sourdough bread. Usually, my strongest craving is for a Seafood Louie, but this time it’s different. Of course, I can always make a little salad on the side with some shrimp on it, too. I guess this got started because I’ve been noticing the littleneck clams at the seafood counter at Whole Foods lately, and the fact that they’re well priced. So, guess what I’m cooking today?

Littleneck clams!

Littleneck clams!

I ended up with two pounds of the little guys, and guess what? They’re still alive! I feel like such a crazy-kine, cannibal-carnivore, though I do feel that fish of nearly any sort are made to be eaten. I’m making it anyway, because my craving is so strong, and I’m making this for two, though this recipe can easily be doubled to feed four. It’s a good thing all I’m craving is fish!! Haha!! Trust me, I’m just kidding about everything else, but I feel a bit funny about cooking a live animal. Without further ado on the social consequences of needing protein…

To make this for four you’ll need:

A really big pot, for starters~ one that will hold 5-6 quarts or thereabouts

4 pounds littleneck clams

2 tablespoons butter and/or olive oil (I like to use equal portions of both)

1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped

2 teaspoons minced or pressed garlic (I love my garlic press!)

1/2 cup of dry, (maybe more?) white wine~ chardonnay is good

1/2 cup bottled clam juice

1 tablespoon minced parsley

1 tablespoon chopped or snipped basil (I like to cut mine into thin strips with kitchen shears… they look nice and it’s easy)

Salt & pepper to taste

First you’ll need to scrub the clams under cold water with a brush to make sure that they are clean. If you have shells that are already open, tap them on a hard surface and if they don’t close, discard. Same goes with any broken or cracked shells.

Heat the olive oil and/or butter in the large pot and sauté the onion over low heat, until it becomes soft and translucent. I always let onion cook slowly because it comes out sweeter. Oh, and if you’re wondering why the butter in my photo has green flecks in it already, it’s because I bought some lovely, organic herb butter that was on sale. This looks like the perfect use for some of that.


Then, add the garlic and let that sauté with the onions just for a minute. You want to smell the fragrance, and at that point, add the wine and clam juice. Bring to a boil at high heat.

Add the liquids… wine, clam juice, water

Add the liquids… wine and clam juice

Once you get the liquids boiling, add the clams. Cover and steam until they open.

Add the clams

Add the clams

This shouldn’t take too long. Just before serving, add the minced parsley and basil. Gently stir into the mixture. By this time, your kitchen should smell like Monterey, CA. This is a good thing. Just the same, taste the broth and and some water, if needed. It can get quite intense, with the clams cooking in there. This is also a good time to adjust other seasonings, if necessary.

Discard any clams that didn’t open. Transfer them and the broth to serving bowls and serve with whatever kind of good French bread or sourdough that you can get. Good luck with that! Add a salad with a little shrimp or crab to make it complete. That’s California style, in the very best way. *sigh* I’ll get back there for a visit, one fine day.




A Black Rice Salad for the Veggies Among Us


Black rice with mangos and peanuts

Black rice with mangos and peanuts

I’m sharing this recipe for a couple of reasons. The first one is I recently bought some black rice at the supermarket, when I was really looking for wild rice. I thought they were the same thing until I realized they weren’t. I did find some wild rice at another market, but I was thinking that this black rice looks really exotic and beautiful, and as I found out, it is a very, healthy whole grain…so, I went on a hunt for recipes.

Black rice~ I found it at the supermarket.

Black rice~ I found it at the supermarket.

I found one with some mangos that looked really good, though I wasn’t sure mangos were fully in season yet. I was also discussing mangos with a couple of vegetarian friends a few days ago, and they got very excited at the thought of a good veggie recipe with mangos in it. Then today, I found a nice, ripe, locally grown mango at the farmers market. Sold!

I have  a real passion for Southeast Asian food, and that’s another reason this recipe sings to my heart. It has wonderfully stinky fish sauce in it, (a.k.a. nam pla, nuoc nam or patis) which gives it a distinctive Asian flavor, and it also has lime and oranges, (I used cara-cara oranges) which give a lovely brightness to the salad. Peanuts and cilantro give a finishing touch. This is adapted from something I found in a Bon Appétit, magazine, but I did make a few changes.

A few things you'll need for this...

A few things you’ll need for this…


To make this, you’ll need:

2 oranges

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons olive oil or other vegetable oil

1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla, nuoc nam or patis)

1 cup black rice

1 mango, peeled and diced (I’ll demonstrate the best way to cut below)

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, removed from their stems

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts

6 green onions, slice thin

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

Measure 1 cup of rice into a saucepan, shake in a bit of salt, and then cover with 1-3/4 cups water. Bring to boil, stir, and then lower heat and allow to simmer for approximately 35 minutes.

While rice is cooking, peel one of the oranges and separate the slices, carefully removing the as much of the white pith as possible. Using a paring knife, get under the segment’s skin to remove the membrane, and put them into a bowl. I cut the second orange in half cross-wise, and did the same as I did to the first one~ removed the membrane. I juiced the remaining orange half into a measuring cup.

Get the white pith off of the oranges

Get the white pith off of the oranges

In the measuring cup holding the orange juice, add the 1/4 cup lime juice, 1 Tablespoon fish sauce, and the two Tablespoons of oil. Whisk together and set aside.

When rice is finished cooking, spread it out on a rimmed cookie sheet to cool. Add another light sprinkle of salt over the rice. Whisk the dressing again and pour it over the rice, stirring gently to blend it in. Set the rice aside to cool.

While the rice is cooling, dice the mango. If you are not too sure how to do this, let me show you the way. It’s easy!


Your first cut is length-wise on the flatter side of the mango. You’ll realize that the pit is pretty flat and you want to cut along its side. So slice about a half inch away from the center, and the knife should cut all the way through.


The second cut is on the other side. You should have a thin strip of mango with a pit in the middle.


Next, you can trim off the skin from the center portion and cut the mango away from the pit. There won’t be a lot there, but why waste such wonderful tasting fruit?



Lastly, cross-cut the outer portions of fruit and scoop it out with a spoon into the bowl with the oranges. Save the juice, too… it’s wonderful!

All that’s left is to chop the red onion, green onion, the jalapeño pepper, and tear the cilantro leaves from their stems. Gently mix these and the peanuts into the oranges and mango bowl. Add the rice and gently toss. Serve with more lime juice, if desired.


This serves about 4, either chilled or at room temperature. I hope all of my friends enjoy this as much as I!



Frittata ~ An Easy Weeknight Meal


As most people who know me would know, I go to the farmers market every week and stock up on produce. I usually buy more than enough because everything looks so good and fresh. So I need to make a point of using them up, so I don’t feel bad for wasting them. That’s when I have to start getting creative with a meal, because I tend to make the same things over and over. So, there are times I need to think outside of the box. Many people love to have breakfast for dinner, but I really love frittatas. This is really a good weeknight meal because it tends to be easy~ just slice and dice up some veggies and crack some  eggs into it. Add some  leftover grated cheese to give it some richness and flavor. What’s nice about frittata is that it’s so versatile, too. You can use whatever veggies that need to be used up, so you’ll feel good about them not being wasted.

Use what you have

Use what you have

Basics that are needed for this are an oven-proof skillet, 4 eggs (this is for two) about 1/4 cup of milk, and about 1/2 cup of cheese (if you have more, another 1/4 or so is handy for throwing on top, before putting under the broiler). Some onion and garlic are good, too… about 1/2 onion and a clove or three of minced garlic will help the flavor along. I nearly always also have parsley and fresh basil on hand, and you can bet I chop some up and add them in, also. You can add meat or not~ like ham, sausage or bacon, but this is really good as a vegetarian meal.

This week, I have some leftover asparagus, cauliflower, kale and artichoke hearts from the past few days. I also have some bell peppers, potatoes and mushrooms that I need to use. I have some shredded Italian cheese, too.

Sauté potatoes first

Sauté potatoes first

I scrubbed the potatoes and cut them into a small dice~ about 1/4″ cubes. I heated about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in my large, oven-proof skillet and cooked potatoes in a single layer over medium heat until softened. Add a bit of salt & pepper.



While the potatoes were cooking, I chopped the raw vegetables and pressed 2 cloves of garlic. I then added the uncooked veggies to the potatoes (bell pepper, mushrooms and red onion) and sautéd until they were soft and wilting. While those were cooking, I chopped the leftover cooked veggies. These really shouldn’t cook much at all, because they shouldn’t be too overdone. Get those eggs ready!



I whisked the eggs, and milk together with a bit more salt & pepper, and then I tore basil and chopped parsley leaves and the half cup of cheese into the egg mixture and stirred them together.  Once I had the eggs ready, it was a good time to mix in the cooked veggies. This is also the point where you’d want to add chopped ham, sausage, etc., if using.

Mix in the cooked foods last

Mix in the cooked foods last

I then poured the eggs into the skillet, and then gently stirred the vegetables to make sure that the egg mixture spread through the pan.

At that point, I pre-heated the broiler in the oven and cooked the frittata over low heat for about 10 minutes on the stovetop, while the oven was heating. Once the frittata was mostly cooked, (except for a small puddle in the middle) I sprinkled a bit of cheese on top. I used Parmesan for this part.

When the broiler is ready, place frittata under broiler until cheese starts to bubble, then remove and attempt to slip each half on individual plates, though I can almost guarantee you, it will be much messier than that. Also, please remember that that pan is coming out of the broiler… it will be hot! The bottom of the pan will likely be messy, too, but it’s nothing that a soak with baking soda won’t fix.


Add a little bit of bread on the side and dinner is served!

Pineapple Pancakes for a Sunday Morning in Springtime


Their texture is gorgeous, too.

Their texture is gorgeous, too.

I have some leftover buttermilk from that Irish soda bread I made last week, and I figure I’d best use it. That’s why I’ve decided I’m making Pineapple Pancakes. This is something I tried twice, about a year ago. This recipe was supposed to be a take on pineapple upside-down cake, but adapted into pancakes. The first time I attempted it, it was an admitted failure, but I tried again and totally succeeded. I know that because Monty is a true pancake man~ he loves them. So, this is how I make them:


First I get a nice, sweet-smelling pineapple, and chop off both ends.


I understand that you can stick the leafy top part in to the ground and it will likely grow into a pineapple plant, but I’v never had the room to try it. I’m sure it’s true though, in a warm enough climate. I just discard it, but if you try to grow one, let me know how you do, okay?

Next, I trim the outer skin off with a knife.

Trim the skin

Trim the skin

I try to keep it as rounded as possible, though that’s not always easy. I also try to get all the rough little “eyes” out too, since they are really not tasty, nor good for you.

I then cut it cross-wise into thin slices.

Slice cross-wise

Slice cross-wise

Lastly, I cut out the core.

Remove core

Remove core

Preparing the pineapple can be done a day ahead. Just put it into an airtight container and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Actually, the flour mixture can be made ahead, too. One or two less things to do on a Sunday morning is a good thing.

Next, prepare the pancake batter.

You’ll need:

2 eggs

1 cup (or 1-1/2 cups) milk or buttermilk*

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar, honey or other sweetener (I used honey)

You will also need some butter to cook the pineapple rings in

*If it’s humid, or if the batter will be resting for more than 15 minutes, use 1 cup of milk. Use 1-1/2. cups in colder, drier conditions. Pancake batter is just funny like that.


In a large bowl, whisk the milk and eggs until light and very foamy. Stir in the butter or oil. Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the milk and eggs. Allow the batter to rest for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile get the griddle or large frying pan heating.

Fry until golden

Fry until golden

While the batter is resting and the pancake pan is heating, melt butter in another small frying pan and cook the pineapple (a few at a time, depending on pan size) until it is golden. Flip, cook and set aside on a plate. You can get some ready and continue to cook the slices, once the pancakes are ready to cook.

I like banana in the center.

I like banana in the center.

Once batter has rested long enough, ladle batter into the hot pan.  Place a pineapple ring in the center of the pancake. If you like, you can put a banana slice in the hole of the pineapple ring. Once pancakes are done on one side (dry around the edges and bubbles on top) flip pancake and finish cooking. Put cooked pancakes on an ovenproof platter to keep warm, until it’s time to serve.


Serve with warmed maple syrup, if desired.


Makes approximately 12 pancakes.

Happy Sunday!

A Sweet, Little Piece of the Past

Just a quick acknowledgement to my friend Chris, down in Australia. She’s been doing some major de-cluttering, so recently she showed us on Facebook what she was getting rid of. She had a huge pile of beautiful, hand-embroidered and crocheted doilies that she had been collecting~ and it was time for them to go. I’ll bet money  that every single doily went to a very good home, because so many people clamored for them. I know I look forward to featuring the two that she sent me in Spring and Summer dessert photos… especially since I’m such an old-fashioned girl. It’s been a tiring and stressful week, but this gave me really, good reason to smile! Many thanks to Chris!

Such beautiful handiwork!

Such beautiful handiwork!

Colcannon~ Make Those Irish Mashed Potatoes Healthy!


We bought a beautiful, uncured corned beef for tonight’s dinner, and I thought I’d try to make something different, rather than just the regular old potatoes, cabbage and carrots. I guess I got inspired by baking Irish soda bread yesterday, because I felt like I wanted to do another traditional Irish dish. A little bit of research brought me to a colcannon recipe~ mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage. Sounded really good, but I thought to myself, why not use both kale and cabbage?

Uncured corned beef…. mmmm!

Uncured corned beef…. mmmm!

The only thing that made me think I might not make this is the fact that Monty likes his corned beef and cabbage soupy, and I like mine dry. These choices came about due to how our  individual families served this particular food, and the way I see it, it just wouldn’t be that hard to have it both ways. Besides, colcannon looks to be really easy!

So off to another cooking adventure I go!

You’ll need:

6-7 red, yellow or white potatoes~ I’m using these because we got them at our local farmer’s market, but you can use russets, if you like.  You likely just won’t need as many because they are larger.

3 cups diced cabbage and or kale

3 green onions including green tops, minced

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup milk

salt & pepper to taste

chopped parsley for garnish

Wash and dice the potatoes. Place them into a large pan, cover with water, add two teaspoons of salt and boil until fork tender. Drain in a colander.

Meanwhile, chop the kale and cabbage.


In the same pot, melt the butter, and then add the cabbage and kale. Cook and stir until wilted. Add the minced green onions and cook for a minute longer.

Wilt the greens in butter

Wilt the greens in butter

Add the milk to the pot and allow it to heat up, until just before it starts to boil. Add some salt and pepper and stir it into the greens..


When the milk is hot, add the potatoes to the pot and mash together. Yes, I do use a hand masher… I’m an old-fashioned girl! You’ll need to taste to see if it needs more salt, taste and adjust if necessary.



Turn into a serving bowl, put a nice pat of butter on top and sprinkle on the minced parsley. This makes about 4 servings, and I’m sure it will make wonderful leftovers for the 2 of us.  Enjoy the rest of your St. Patrick’s Day~ I know we will!


Irish Soda Bread ~ In honor of My Great-Grandma, Honora Lydon

My great-grandmother on my mother’s side was pure Irish… She was born in 1877, and she came to America back in about 1900 and was processed as an immigrant through Ellis Island, apparently before they even kept good records. No one was ever able to find one, even though research shows they did keep them at that date. She came to America to escape famine and poverty, and she travelled via a boat in steerage, as many Irish people did. She was also dirt poor, like most Irish people back then. It apparently was a complicated journey, with her husband first paving the way to San Francisco from New York, their first residence being on Army & San Bruno Road…. yes, that was their literal address~ not even a number. They eventually moved to the Mission District, which was Irish before it was Hispanic.

Wonderful, easy-to-make soda bread

Wonderful, easy-to-make soda bread

I barely knew my Great-Grandma Nora, which is what she was called for most of her life.  She passed in 1961~ I was six years old. I always knew her as “Grandma-with-the-White-Hair,” and from the stories that were told, I was apparently quite frightened of that white hair, as a baby. I also remember her always carrying a rosary, being the good Catholic that most Irish people were at that time. I don’t remember much more than that, since I was so young and she was so quiet, in her old age.

She came from the day when people didn’t use measuring cups or spoons for cooking, but rather used “handfuls,” “fistfuls,” “teacupfuls” and “pinches of this and that.” I guess she was a really good cook, because when she passed, someone else had to make the Thanksgiving dressing for the turkey. One of my older cousins commented on it that year, saying that it tasted like cement… I guess that’s when she really became missed.

I guess I’m fortunate that my mom saved some of these old family recipes, and is able to tell me some of her story. The story behind this soda bread recipe is that my late grandfather actually stood around in the kitchen, watching Great-Grandma Nora make this and writing down the quantities. She never needed them, because she knew exactly what to do. Now I know where I get my survival instincts from.

This is actually a really simple recipe. If you want to try this, you’ll need:

3 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking poweder

1 cup dried currants (or seedless raisins)

2 eggs (beaten)

1-3/4 cups buttermilk (notes on this say use old buttermilk~ the older, the better. Buy it about 10 days before using it)

1/2 cube melted butter

2 tablespoons caraway seeds (if desired)

The notes on the recipe say that if someone in the family wears dental plates, forgo the seeds. I have  to laugh just a little bit, because dental technology has come a very long way! 🙂



Got a cast iron skillet? I understand that that’s what was really used for this. If not, any bread pan will do. Grease whatever you’re using with some butter or oil. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the currants  (or raisins, if that’s what you’re using) and caraway seeds (if you’re using those).



I don’t sift, but I do whisk



Add currants now… less stirring makes better soda bread

Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter in another medium-size bowl.


Add the liquid mix to the dry ingredients and gently stir until the flour is just moistened.


Turn the batter into whichever baking container you’re using… I have a wonderful, oven-proof frying pan, so that’s what I’m using. Cut a big “X” is  into the top of the bread to scare the devil away… or at least, whatever evil spirits might be lurking about. This is a traditional thing, so go for it! 🙂 These days, we need all the help we can get.

"X" marks the spot...

“X” marks the spot…

Bake at 350ºF for approximately 1 hour & 10 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick~ poke the center of the bread until it comes out clean. Now, let it cool just long enough so you can make yourself some tea to drink with this!


Fresh from the oven… best served warm

Delicious with tea

Delicious with tea

Serve warm with a bit of butter, and then dream of kissing the Blarney Stone! Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you all!


Quick Weeknight Sausage, Beans & Greens

I know you all would much rather see pictures of chocolate, but we obviously can’t live on it alone.  I also know a lot of us have doctors that are constantly reminding us to eat more fiber. This seems easier to do earlier in the day by eating super-high fiber bread for breakfast and lunch, but at dinner it sometimes gets a bit tougher. Beans are a great way to add it, and when you add some greens to those, you are starting to guarantee that you will be getting enough. This recipe came to me one recent evening when we had some things that needed to be used. I had some organic, uncured, chicken-apple sausage in the freezer, some micro-greens that needed to be used pretty quickly and a bag of multi-colored peppers. I also had some cannellini beans in the pantry, as well as an onion, some garlic and molasses.

Added fiber is not the only benefit to this dinner… it’s a one-pot meal, so that means less dishes! That’s a sure way to make the dishwasher in your house happy. This recipe is also easily doubled to have a portion or two available later in the week or to put into the freezer for another day.


It came together pretty quickly, once I started. As much as I like to cook beans from scratch, using canned beans makes it perfect for a weeknight. The only other things I used in this are some red pepper flakes to give it a little heat, a  jalapeño pepper for additional flavor, and about a teaspoon of cumin.  I’ve added an ingredient list at the end to make this easier for you.

I started by sautéing a large, chopped onion is about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I like to cook onions slowly on low heat to keep some of their sweetness.


While they were cooking, I sliced the already cooked sausage cross-wise and chopped the peppers to prepare them for the next steps. Make sure that if you use a  jalapeño pepper, that you don’t accidentally touch your eye. Your fingers will tingle enough just by handling them. I discarded the seeds from them… I’d rather add my heat from the red pepper flakes. I also rinsed and trimmed the micro-greens. Remember that you can use any kind of greens~ kale, spinach, mustard greens~ whatever you have that’s available.



Once the onions got soft and translucent, I added  in the sausage. As I mentioned, the sausage was precooked, but I wanted it to brown a little bit. Browning it  also released some of the juices.


I added in the chopped peppers in next, and  I let them cook for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, I chopped the tomato, keeping as much of the juice as possible. I then stirred them in and pressed a couple of cloves of garlic into the mix.


My next step was to add the cannellini beans and gently mix them in. I didn’t fully drain the beans, because I wanted them a little bit saucy~ something to soak up with some bread. So I took a good look at how much liquid was in the can and added about 1/2 of a cup. I then added about 3-4 tablespoons of molasses, (depends on how sweet you want it) a teaspoon of cumin,  a couple of good shakes of red pepper flakes, and about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.


I stirred these in gently, to keep the beans as intact as possible. Lastly, I added the greens, gently pushing them down into the liquid.


I covered the pot and let it simmer on low heat for about an hour, letting all the flavors mellow and blend. Like most dishes, this one improves with time.

Taste before serving and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Serve in bowls accompanied by your favorite bread, cornbread or tortillas. Serves 4.


Ingredient List

1 lb. chicken-apple sausage, sliced cross-wise

1 large onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

6-7 small rainbow peppers (or 1-2 small red and/or green bell peppers) diced

1 jalapeño pepper, diced small

2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 large beefsteak tomato, chopped

1-15 oz. can cannellini beans beans, drained,  liquid reserved

1 large bunch of greens, (spinach, kale, broccoli rabe, mizuni, etc.) rinsed and stems trimmed

3-4 tablespoons dark unsulphured molasses

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon (or more) red pepper flakes

salt to taste, if necessary


A Late Season Salad


I love bosc pears, and I know that they are going away very soon. Thankfully, they will be replaced by other favorite fruits, but I thought I’d make this salad one last time for another six months or so. It’s easy and actually fun to make. All you need is:

Lettuce~ any kind will do. Spring greens are especially good in this if you can find them, but I’m using romaine in this case.


First, the lettuce

Slice up some red onion and spread it on top of the lettuce.


Red onion slices


Next, add some feta cheese.


Feta cheese


Wash the pear (you really only need one) and slice in half, then quarters, then eighths. You can divide the slices further if some are too thick. Cut out the seed portion and discard.


Slice the pears and discard the seed portion

Arrange the pear slices as you see fit. This might even be the fun part, because obviously it makes a great, happy design almost anyway that you arrange them.

Arrange the slices… pretty almost anyway you do it!

Arrange the slices… pretty almost anyway you do it!


Sprinkle on some nuts

Add a small handful of cranberries. They not only add a nice, sweet-tarty flavor, but they look like pretty little jewels.


Add some cranberries

Last, halve some red or green grapes and arrange them on top. They will add a nice juiciness to the salad. A few grinds from the pepper mill can top this off.


Grapes add juiciness

You can use whatever dressing you like. We were lucky that our friend Rich gave us this great dressing that his daughter made… she is starting to sell it. But, an oil and vinegar, honey mustard or a poppy seed dressing would all bring out the flavors in this salad.


Our friend Rich’s daughter’s dressing. Yum!

That’s it! Easy-peasy!


A late season salad

More Signs of Spring

We may be getting lots of rain, and I have to remind myself how usual that is for the month of March. Still, when I can sneak out for an hour or two, I see more good signs of my favorite season. Looking forward to drier days.