Crunchy Salad

Crunchy Salad

I can’t believe it’s been 2 1/2 years since I’ve updated these pages. Apologies to my beloved and loyal followers. I could make excuses…there was a global pandemic…I’m working on a cookbook…but I will refrain from elaborating.

What have I been doing? Lots of cooking! Bob and I have kept up with hiking every Friday. Thanks to Meg, I’ve been working with a new, beautiful clay body, Brown Bear Clay from Kentucky Mudworks. I’ve been super happy with the way it fires with my glazes. You can see the new pieces in tablescapes on my Instagram feed.

Last week, Brian asked me for a couple of recipes and encouraged me to get back to blogging. So, I resolved to try to learn the new WordPress software. I’m starting off simple; this post is an attempt to educate my old brain.

I learned this technique for making super crispy veggies for salad from a recipe recently published in Cook’s Illustrated. It’s brilliant! You soak thinly sliced raw veg in ice water for several hours. They plump up and their texture becomes crunchy and juicy. I have been kind of obsessed with this technique and all its possibilities.

Here, I’ve soaked red cabbage, beets, carrots, celery, scallions, and radishes in ice water with a pinch of salt for two hours (you can go up to 24). I drained and dried them on towels and then dressed them in my current favorite tahini dressing: tahini, honey, lime juice, and enough water to make it drizzle-able.

Serve a big pile of this over your favorite homemade or store-bought hummus, add some crumbled cheese (here Seriously Sharp Cheddar, but feta would be perfect) and a sprinkle of pomegranate arils if you have them.

I hope you try this. Now that it’s spring, I think we’re all craving color and crunch.

Leave me a comment and say hi!

Posted in easy, gluten free, healthy, low carb, salad, sauce, side dish, side dishes, simple recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 56 Comments

Italian Dunkers

I had the impulse to start this blog post with an apology about how long it’s been since the last one. And then I realized that was a silly idea. I can’t imagine a single person reading this who would say: Yeah, I’m so upset with you. I’ve been sitting and hitting “refresh” on my device for months waiting to see what you’ve been making for dinner during the pandemic/culture crisis!

So instead of an apology, how about a brief update? Bob and I are well, working from home. As we are both over 60 and I have a tricky health history. I’ve had pneumonia 5 times and Lyme Disease twice, and consequently decided to be very protective of my immune system and my lungs. We have been extremely careful. We see Brian often. I cook a little something to share with him, he brings us food and supplies. Meg and Jon have come up from DC twice, testing and quarantining so that we could celebrate birthdays (mosty notably her 30th) together.

Our weekly hikes (we’ve skipped only one since February) manage to help us salvage some small dose of sanity, as do daily walks/runs, and the occasional kayak paddle with my Mary.

We have our pork share, seafood share, csa, and grocery delivery. When I decide to take a break from cooking, we revel in a beautiful pickup Friday dinner from our beloved friends at Fannie’s of Warwick.

As the days get colder and shorter, our social distance deck dinners with Brian get trickier to schedule. I bought a couple of little outdoor space heaters to extend the season a bit longer. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at the weather as closely as I have these last few weeks. Between our precious hiking adventures, and our outdoor meals, these days, the forecast is EVERYTHING!

One of our other COVID times oddities is 3 am texting. The subject almost always drifts toward food unless it started there (like 98% of the time). It was during one of these convos that we followed up on a subject that started at our last dinner together: Italian Dunkers.

Italian Dunkers was a menu offering in the cafeterias in the Warwick schools. I knew they were a favorite, but I don’t think we ever discussed the particulars. Until now.

Brian: Think of the Platonic ideal of the perfect cheesy garlic bread served with a lightly tomatoey long cooked meat sauce. It was nothing like that.

Now the brainstorming begins. We agree the bread needs to be long, but not too thin to maximize textural variation in each bite. Some soft buttery inside, some crusty baked exterior, plenty of cheese, plenty of salty garlic.

The sauce should have rich meatiness that can only be achieved with long, slow cooking.

I made a simple yeasted bread dough with mostly bread flour, a bit of whole wheat, and a bit of spelt. I decided to braid it because I thought this would increase that textural variation. It was a nice touch, but pretty much unnecessary.

Because I had some of my homemade guanciale left, I decided to cube it up for the base of the sauce. Pancetta would be equally good. I sauteed the cured pork along with some minced onion, celery and carrot in a bit of butter. Then, I added two big, meaty turkey thighs, well seasoned. Pulled them out once well browned and deglazed the pan with some vermouth and some milk. Added two big cans of whole peeled tomatoes and their juice. Brought this to boil, added back the turkey, and reduced to simmer. Before covering, I popped in a big parm rind.

The sauce cooked on the back burner for the entire afternoon. I think 3 hours should do it, but it could go longer if you like.

I took the thighs back out and removed the skin*, shredded the meat with 2 forks. Then, I used the stick blender to roughly puree the sauce before putting the shredded meat back in for a nice bath.

Now it was time to make the garlic bread. I preheated the oven to 300° and minced a couple of fat garlic cloves. The minced garlic got mixed with a half stick of softened butter, some salt and pepper, and a good sprinkling of parm. After cutting the bread lengthwise, I shmeared it with the garlic butter and then, buttered sides together, wrapped it in foil. It baked for a half hour while I made the salad and mixed martinis for the guys, who had by then settled on the deck.

Increasing the oven temp to 450°, I unwrapped the incredibly fragrant bread and (refraining from tearing off a hunk), topped each half with sliced mozzarella (shoprite had mistakenly sent me machine sliced thin pieces of mozz. They were ideal for this, but any sliced or shredded mozz would be fine). Cheese side up on a sheet pan, the bread went into the hot oven for 10 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

Time to break for a garlic bread family memory. We had just moved to the “new house,” which means my best friend, Anne, and I were 10. Mom was making garlic bread and needed to run to the bathroom while it was broiling (this is why I don’t broil). She asked Anne to watch the bread. When she came out, the bread was smoking and had charred to the point of inedibility. Controlling herself (only because Anne was not her child), she asked, “What happened, I thought I told you to watch the bread?” To which Anne replied calmly, “I did. I watched it burn”.

The sliced cheesy bread was served alongside bowls of the sauce for dipping. Salad and asparagus were lovely, but superfluous. Brian pronounced this the best thing he’d ever eaten.

*If you nuke, broil, or fry the skin ’til crisp, you can crumble it on your salad or steamed veg.

I hope you enjoy this if you try it. Keep in mind that you can skip the meat for a vegetarian version. You can use gluten free bread to make it gf. The cheese and milk are optional if you’re kosher or don’t do dairy.

Please, please leave me a comment and let me know how you’re doing. Stay safe, my friends and please, please VOTE!!

Posted in bread, dinner, family, main, sauce, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

Unmoules Unfrites

66DC191C-9430-422A-8C58-56BAB56D70B6678F079A-C1FC-41C0-B492-DE5798A004C6FB64ADFF-FF63-4242-A777-6E90C23416AB87FD6D1F-67AD-4AB1-9107-C46DACB017C0OK, are you ready for the absolutely most absurd, yet amazingly delicious recipe makeover ever? Once again, I have Brian to thank for the idea. And for helping me to think through and test this one.

So here’s how the initial conversation went…


Brian: Have you ever had that mussel dish? Mussels in white wine sauce over fries?
Me: Moules Frites?
Brian: Yeah. I want that. But it needs to be low carb and no seafood. Maybe pork meatballs. With cream. And gruyere.
Me: (Totally used to these departures from culinary reason and sanity by now) That sounds amazing! Shallots, wine, cream, cheese, what could be bad? Maybe I’ll stuff the meatballs with cheese curds like I did last week. What should we use instead of potatoes?
Brian: Rutabaga.
Me: Perfect

And thus, Unmoules Unfrites was conceived. And the only snag was that Bob had to go to two different stores to find a rutabaga. He knew this one was going to be genius, so he persisted until the large waxy orb was safely in the reusable shopping bag.784E561E-102E-41E8-A008-CF896DC6E0A5335F598A-7B1C-4155-8E0C-F306EE9BCA818F505C2B-BEDA-4E52-B6EC-8B506B3076C1


Unmoules Unfrites


1 ½ pounds ground pork (preferably organic and pasture raised)
4 oz cheese curd*
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
1/3 cup finely grated parm
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp salt

*Feel free to use a different cheese. Block mozzarella or fontina, anything creamy but firm.


1 large shallot, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 tbs pork fat or olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup heavy cream or crème fraiche
½ cup chicken or pork stock
salt and pepper, to taste


4 oz aged gruyere, grated


1 large rutabaga, peeled, cut into thick “fingers”
1 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375°. Line two sheet pans with parchment.

Mix all “moules” (meatballs) ingredients except cheese curd in a large bowl. I use a stand mixer, but feel free to use your hands or a big wooden spoon. Test seasoning by microwaving a bit on a small plate until cooked through. Don’t worry if the texture is rubbery, you’re just making sure there’s enough salt. If not add some. Meatballs that aren’t salty enough are a crime against balls.

Form meatballs using about 2 tbs. meat mixture (I use a portion scoop to get them all the same size). Poke a hole in each and insert a ½ inch chunk of cheese curd or mozz, then pinch to enclose the cheese. Place meatballs on prepared sheet. Roast for 20 minutes or until they just begin to brown.

Meanwhile, toss the “frites,” with oil, sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes or until they are browned and tender.

While the balls and rutabagas roast, start the sauce in a largish pot. Sauté the onion and shallot over medium heat in the fat oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add wine, cream and stock, and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

When the meatballs come out of the oven, add them and any pan drippings to the sauce. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes and transfer to an oven safe baking dish big enough to hold all the balls snuggled in a single layer. Sprinkle with gruyere. Bake for 15 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving over “frites.”



Posted in gluten free, kid friendly, low carb, main course, one pot meals, pork, pottery, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Mouse in the House





So sorry for being MIA lately. I’ve been working on a huge project for my wonderful goddaughter, Sarah Goff’s wedding to Luke Eldridge. Check out her Instagram to see. I’ll be posting on mine after the nuptials next week.

Lots of exciting and happy news. Meg has moved to Washington, DC. She and Jon spent the holidays with us and we all had fun, relaxing, and sweet family time.

Brian has taken a break from globetrotting to set up housekeeping with his wonderful friends here in Warwick. We are beyond ecstatic to have him nearby, and back to work and the gym after months healing from surgery for a displaced humerus fracture. He’s getting in shape by eating low carb, so when we have our weekly dinner together, recipes are modified accordingly.

Last night, we “celebrated” what would have been my brother’s 59th birthday. Steven loved to make a traditional Shepherd’s Pie, a natural choice for our yearly observance. I usually do my turkey variation, Potter’s Pie, because I don’t love lamb. Since I have wonderful ground pork (and rendered pork fat) from our share from our beloved Ardent Homesteader (#thankyouarlet), I subbed that for this variation. I wanted to extend the meat a bit; mushrooms were a natural option. But my son is mushroom-averse, hence the eggplant. A winner! And, to make it low carb, the cauliflower topping is a delicious substitute for mashed potatoes. Seriously velvety and savory. I promise, you won’t miss the spuds!



Mouse in the House

Thanks to Brian for the name of this recipe. As he says, “it’s moussaka in a cottage pie.”

1 large onion
1.5 lbs ground pork
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tbs tomato paste
1/3 cup white wine
1 large eggplant, peeled, small dice
1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed
3 cloves garlic
1 tbs. pork or duck fat, butter, or creme fraiche
1/3 cup grated parm
2 tbs olive oil, divided
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. Place the eggplant on a parchment lined sheet pan and toss with 1 tbs. of oil, and plenty of salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes or until browned and soft.

Heat remaining tbs. of oil in a 12 inch skillet until just smoking, and cook onion for 3 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the pork with the baking soda, and add it to the pan with the tomato paste and cook over high heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. When the paste has stuck to the bottom of the pan and turned dark brown in spots, add the wine.

Bring to boil, scraping the fond off the bottom of the pot. Turn off the heat until the eggplant is ready and then add it to the skillet. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until the pork is cooked through.

Break or cut the cauliflower into 2 inch pieces and place in a saucepan with the garlic, pork fat or butter, salt and pepper, and 1/4 cup water. Cook over high heat, covered, until the cauli is very soft.

Using a spider, lift the cauli and garlic out of the pot (reserving the cooking liquid) and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade. Add the parm, salt and pepper, and process until completely pureed. Add cooking liquid if needed to achieve a smooth, silky consistency.

Place the meat mixture in a 9 inch baking dish, and top with the cauli mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbly and browned. Let set for 5 minutes before devouring.


*I knew the men would be ravenous, so I took the photos before I baked the pie. After it was baked, it was gorgeously browned, but in this instance, #thecameradidnoteatfirst #sorrynotsorry

*Try not to use much of the cooking liquid to puree the cauliflower. You really want it to be mashed potatoey and not too loose. Plus, that liquid is a delicious little treat for the cook. Hey, there are perks to being Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant!

*Make swirly designs in the topping with a fork if you are a potter. Or you like swirls.

Green Bean Salad

Blanch green beans, toss with good olive oil, salt and pepper. Top with minced preserved lemon. pretty little tomato halves, and gorgonzola dolce (or your favorite blue).



Posted in gluten free, healthy, low carb, main course, one pot meals, paleo, pork, Uncategorized, weeknight | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Roasted Beet Pesto






I wish I could remember the inspiration for this dish. What I do remember is that Brian dreamed it up and made it for us last summer. And I have been craving it ever since.

So, last week I sent Bob to the farmer’s market for beets and to Uncle G’s for their fabulous creamy-dreamy ricotta, and whipped up a batch under my son’s expertly watchful eye (he is recovering from surgery for a badly broken arm, so kitchen duty is limited for him atm).

I just know you will love this unusual, comforting, and visually stunning bowl of deliciousness. Feel free to try it with different colors of beets, but none are as striking as classic red.



Roasted Beet Pesto

This recipe makes enough to dress a pound of pasta with a cup or so left over to play with the next day.

5 medium beets, washed and trimmed
2 cups whole milk ricotta (homemade is wonderful, just sayin’)
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup walnuts
2 tbs. lemon juice
1/2 cup grated parm
1/2 cup good olive oil

handful of basil (optional)

extra parm for serving

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400.

Place the beets on a large square of foil and drizzle them with a tbs. of the oil, salt and pepper. Wrap them tightly. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until they are tender when you squeeze them through the foil. Alternatively, you may grill-roast them.

Open the foil and let them cool until you can handle, then rub off the skins with a paper towel and quarter them.

Microwave the garlic for 20 seconds, and peel.

Place the beets, garlic, ricotta, and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add lemon juice and parm, and mix briefly. With the machine running, add the remaining oil. Add basil, if using.

To dress pasta, make sure you reserve a cup of cooking water and drain the noodles when they are just shy of al dente. Reserve a cup of pesto for later. Place the pasta, half cup of cooking water, and pesto in the empty pasta pot and stir to coat and heat, adding more water as needed for a luxurious sauce. Plate and serve with extra parm and basil.

Ideas for the leftover pesto:

Smear on toasted baguette (or homemade sourdough) for an easy lunch or appetizer.

Top a salad with a big dollop.

Layer in a roasted veggie sandwich.

Make a wrap with arugula, pesto, and cheese (swiss, brie, or cheddar).

Toss with a simple steamed vegetable, like broccoli, asparagus, or cauliflower.

Mix with some chicken stock for a lovely creamy hot or cold soup.

Use as a sauce for grilled meat or fish.

Stir into risotto.



Have fun!!! If you come up with any new ideas, make sure to tell me about it in Comments!


Posted in appetizer, gluten free, main course, pasta, snack, supper, main courses, Uncategorized, vegetarian | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Bun Larb





Brian is home and we are having so much fun playing with food. Because of his extensive travel, he is a wealth of knowledge about Asian ingredients, flavors combinations, and ingredients. Korean, Thai, and Japanese dishes are more deeply understood by a person who has eaten them in their country of origin, rather than tasted only in their American adaptations.

There are two recipes with which we have been preoccupied. Bun cha, is a Vietnamese dish consisting of grilled pork patties with rice vermicelli. Larb is a Lao meat salad which is popular in Thailand.

Because I am less committed to authenticity than my son, I feel free to pick his brain and come up with hybrids that are usually delicious, though conceptually corrupt.

I hope you enjoy this delicious bastardization.





Bun Larb

Serves 4

1 lb ground pork or turkey
2 tbs raw rice
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs. chicken stock
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tbs fish sauce or soy sauce
1 large shallot, peeled, cut into rings
1 med spicy chili, minced
2 tbs raw cane sugar or brown sugar
1 lime, zested

8 oz rice vermicelli, cooked according to package directions, rinsed in cold water
Whole butter or leaf lettuce leaves, washed and dried

Garnishes: lime wedges, cilantro, mint, cucumber, radishes, peanuts, daikon salad (matchstick daikon and carrot with rice wine vinegar and sesame oil), extra fish sauce or soy sauce

Toast the rice in a microwave for 45 seconds. Alternatively, heat it in a small pan until fragrant. Grind to a powder in a spice grinder or food processor.

Mix the cornstarch and 2 tbs stock in a small bowl.

Heat remaining stock in a 12 inch skillet. Add ground meat and cook, breaking up clumps, until very little pink remains. Add fish or soy sauce, sugar, shallot, chili, lime juice and zest, rice powder, and cornstarch slurry. Cook until the meat is coated in thick sauce.

Serve in lettuce leaves with vermicelli and garnishes.

Wine suggestion: a spicy Reisling or Gewurtztraminer.


Posted in dinner, gluten free, main course, salad, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Duck Pappardelle with Ducky Broccolini

As you can see from the pictures above, we escaped Warwick last week for a few precious days of sun and sand. We ate wonderful, summery food on Grand Cayman Island, mostly prepared by me. And then, we returned to the deep freeze!

As the plane landed at JFK and I saw the bleak landscape, I experienced an overwhelming craving for pappardelle pasta with a rich, clingy, unctuous, slightly tomatoey mushroom sauce.

This was an inconvenient craving because I can neither get duck legs, whole duck, nor pappardelle locally. Undaunted, I forged ahead.

Before deplaning, I ordered some ridiculously expensive imported pasta on Amazon. I’d briefly considered making the pasta myself, but my craving was for the texture of dried, pasta, no eggs. I love homemade pasta, but that wasn’t the texture I wanted here. And let me tell you, I will order it again, it’s that good.

The next morning, I sent Bob to Belvale Market, where I knew he could get duck breast. Yes, he had several hundred emails in his inbox and dozens of phone calls to return, but he fully understood the importance of this urgent mission.

Then, I set about researching the issue of breasts rather than the more melting, succulent legs of duck for such a dish. I found little on the interwebs. I spoke at length to Brian, who rightly pointed out that this dish should rightly be made with confit. But I remained determined and was prepared for failure.

The resulting experiment was such a success, I had to write it up here. Plus, Meg asked.  As did several friends on the ATK page. The sauce is velvety, rich, and very ducky. The combination of sauce and the wide pasta embodies the the succulence of my fantasy.

Was it better than a sauce made with confit? Probably equal. And, I can make it any time I want. And now, so can you!

Duck Pappardelle with Ducky Broccolini

1 whole medium duck breast, halved
1 onion, sliced
2 small carrots, finely diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
12 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
1/3 cup dry white wine
12 oz pappardelle
2 small bunches broccolini, trimmed, washed, and dried
Lots of fresh parmesan and chopped fresh parsley (optional) for serving

For the sauce:

Score the skin of the duck in cross hatches. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a cold 9 inch skillet skin side down over medium heat. Sauté 15 minutes or so, until skin is golden and crisp. Turn and cook 3 minutes. Remove duck to a plate to cool.

Pour off and reserve all but 1 tbs fat. Sauté the onion, carrots and celery over medium heat in the duck fat, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables just soften, 5-6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Break up the tomatoes with your hands or with a knife. Add them and the wine, bring to a simmer.

Remove and save the skin from the duck. Nestle the breasts into the simmering sauce, and cover the pan. Cook for 15 minutes or so at a bare simmer, until the breasts are cooked through. Take the breasts back out of the sauce and shred the meat with two forks. Add back to the sauce.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of boiling water to boil and salt liberally. Cook the pappardelle until just tender. Drain, reserving a cup of cooking water. Toss the pasta with 3/4 of the sauce, adding cooking water if needed to coat all the pasta. Serve the remaining sauce in a nice bowl on the side. Top the dressed pasta with lots of parm and a sprinkle of parsley.

For the broccolini:

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place the broccolini on a sheet pan and drizzle with as much of the reserved duck fat as you dare. Add salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread the broc out on the pan, leaving a corner open. Cut the reserved skin into small dice and place in the clear corner. Roast the broc and skin for 10-12 minutes or until the veg are just tender and the skin is crisp and brown.

Serve the broccolini topped with crispy duck skin. Write a letter of apology to all the other vegetables you have ever or will ever eat.

Blog note: The post is dedicated to my beautiful, brilliant daughter, Megan McGrath, who recently completed the heroic tastk of finishing her Master’s Thesis. And who will LOVE this recipe.

Posted in dinner, duck, pasta, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Stuffed Winter Squash




It will come as no surprise to you DebsPots readers that I am a fan of all types of squash. How could we ever forget the ultra famous: Very Excellent Guest Post about Zucchini. By Brian? Or the Foodgawker hit: Zucchini Fries. Not to mention vegan wonder: Epic Thai Zucchini Noodles. Oh, I think I need to go downstairs and make all of these right now.

But this time of year, the winter squashes have my heart. Squash Reconstruction features butternut in a fun, delicious architectural guise. And the spaghetti squash recipes: Squashsagna and Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai are both healthy and satisfying.

This fall, I was inspired by a dish we ate at Dan Barber’s Stone Barns that features a new hybrid call Honeynut. It looks like a small, dark butternut. The taste is sweet and the flesh is silky and creamy. When our dear friend, Cheryl Rogowski offered me one at Warwick’s Farm Market, I was thrilled. We tasted it simply roasted first, and then I began brainstorming.

Last week, at the wonderful Public Market in Rochester, I found a couple of beautiful specimens and brought them home to experiment. This sweet/savory vegetarian main course is the result. Consider it for the non-meat eaters at your Thanksgiving table.



Stuffed Winter Squash

Simply omit the cheese for a vegan dish.

Serves 2, multiply as needed

1 honeynut, small butternut, acorn, or delicata squash, stemmed, seeded, and halved lengthwise
1 small turnip, trimmed and diced
1 small hot red pepper (I used a cherry pepper), minced
½ lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned and torn into small pieces
1 can or pouch chick peas, drained well
1 scallion, minced
2 tbs. olive oil, divided
½ cup grated sharp cheddar (optional)
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line two sheet pans with parchment. Season the squash with salt and pepper, and place flesh side down on one pan. In a small bowl, toss the turnip and minced pepper with 1 tbs. oil, salt and pepper. Place on same pan with squash.

Place mushrooms on second pan, and toss with the remaining oil, salt and pepper.

Roast all the vegetables for 20-25 minutes or until the squash is tender. Let cool for a few minutes.

Scoop out most of the squash flesh, leaving about ¼ inch layer to make a sturdy shell. Place flesh in a big bowl, and mash slightly. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Try not to eat it all before you stuff the shells.

Fill the squash shells with as much of the mixture as you can resist eating. Return to oven for 15 minutes or until heated through and slightly browned. Serve immediately.



Posted in dinner, gluten free, healthy, main, supper, main courses, thanksgiving, Uncategorized, vegan, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carne Adovada





Do you, like me, have a love-hate relationship with social media? To the extent that it replaces real life interaction, does it present a problem for us as individuals and society? Is the way it taps directly into the primitive reward system of the brain causing us to put ourselves in harm’s way?

I’ve had moments of engagement, enchantment, often followed by disappointment, sometimes even anger or hurt. Like any form of human interaction, group behavior can have aspects of magic, but can also bring out the worst in us. The anonymity of the format has the effect of making it all the more seductive to our baser feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

One corner of social media that has had my respect, affection, and attention lately is a Facebook group for members of America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Illustrated, and Cook’s Country. It’s a closed group, so consists of people who are really serious about food. And to belong, you have to agree to a few rules; this tends to keep things focused and prevent much unpleasantness from happening.

To my delight, I was challenged recently to a throwdown. My opponent suggested a dish that we would both create, and post pictures and a written description of our experiences. The dish in question was the one I am sharing here, a rich pork stew containing a full-flavored, lightly spicy sauce made from dried chilies. Since I am not generally a lover of dried spices and chilies, I probably would have skipped this one had I not been given this interesting invitation. But far be it for me to back down from a duel!

As you, my beloved readers know, this has not been an easy year in my life. To my slight surprise, this opportunity captivated my imagination, my energy, and got me motivated. I had a lot of fun, and for that I am extremely grateful. It was wonderful to be engaged in a project. And, as a bonus, we all really enjoyed the results!


Carne Adovada

This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated with only minor modifications to my taste.

3-4 lbs. boneless pork shoulder (butt), trimmed, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
sea salt
4 oz. dried New Mexico Chilies, wiped clean, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1 inch pieces
4 cups boiling water
2 tbs. honey
2 tbs. distilled white vinegar
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. cayenne

Place pork in a large bowl and toss with 2 tsps. salt. Refrigerate for an hour.

Place chilies in medium bowl and pour water over to cover. Preheat oven to 325°.

Drain the chilies and reserve 2 cups of the soaking liquid. Place the chilies, honey, vinegar, garlic, cumin, cayenne, and 1 tsp salt into blender and process to a paste. Add one cup of soaking liquid and blend until you have a smooth, thick liquid, adding up to ¼ more liquid to maintain a vortex. Add remaining liquid and blend for 1 more minute.

Place pork in a Dutch oven and pour chili sauce over, stirring to coat all the meat. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover, and place in the oven for 2 ½ hours, until the meat is very tender. Stir well and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

This is terrific with rice and beans. Or make tacos using store bought or homemade corn or flour tortillas (yes, I made my own corn tortillas). Pile on all the fixins and don’t forget the pickled onions!



carne 3


I used the leftovers to make the best empanadas ever!!! They were irresistable!



Shortly after these were devoured, we made our annual trip to the orchard for apple and veggie picking with family. When I saw the wonderful bounty of hot chilies, I decided to make a fresh chili variation. Subbing in stemmed, seeded, hot and medium chilies for roughly the same volume as dried, I added a couple of tomatoes and a peach, and proceeded with the recipe, no need for added water. The results were fabulous! The pork was tender, well seasoned, and flavorful, with good, but not overpowering heat. We liked this fresh version even better than the original!





Posted in baked goods, dinner, main, pork, pottery, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Pickled Red Onions





We arrived early for our anniversary (32 years!) dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Thirsty after a walk in the field (yes, we pilfered quite a few ripest blackberries), we had enough time for a cocktail at the bar before our seating.


Watching the bartender, I was intrigued by what he was making for an incredibly famous looking gentleman to my left. I inquired. The answer was, “a Gibson with a pickled ramp.” Of course, we had to try this! The drink was a revelation. You can be sure that next spring when I visit my newly identified patch of ramps (sorry, it’s a secret), I will be pickling some to have with my homemade gin.

But how to use this brilliant idea in the meantime? Something seasonal…I started with  garlic scapes. Very good. But then I got inspired by the idea of some color. Yes. Red onion. And what could be more appropriate here in Warwick with the onion fields in full flourish here in Pine Island’s Black Dirt?

I think the resulting Gibson was even better than the one at Blue Hill. And certainly prettier. But then, as I do, I got a bit carried away with pickled onion production. It was just a matter of time before I started exploring other uses for my new favorite ingredient. They found their way into a quesadilla, a dip, and quite a few salads. I know you’ll enjoy them as much as we do.


Pickled Red Onions

Makes about ½ cup, multiply as you like.

I think these are so pretty with all the pink color. But feel free to use white or yellow onions. I’m sure they’d be wonderful with a sweet variety, like a Vidalia. This makes what I feel is a perfectly balanced pickle, with plenty of sweetness to offset the sour and salty. But you may vary the type of vinegar, amount of sugar, or salt to your taste.

1 red onion, sliced
½ cup white balsamic or cider vinegar
1 ½ tbs. cane sugar
1 tsp. salt

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Use immediately or pack into a jar and refrigerate.

Below, I’ll give you a few recipes to get you started on your pickled onion journey. Further down, you’ll see some more ideas. I’m sure you’ll think of lots of other possibilities and hope you’ll post them for me in comments.


Red Onion Gibson

Makes one cocktail.

1 shot gin, we like Tanqueray, or make your own
½ tsp. dry vermouth
1 tsp. pickling liquid
garnish: pickled onions

Place 1 cup filtered ice cubes in cocktail shaker or jar. Add liquid ingredients. Stir for at least a full minutes. Use a cocktail strainer to pour the drink into a well-chilled, beautiful martini glass. Garnish with a piece of onion. Make another one for a loved one. Clink.


Red Onion Sauce or Dip

This is terrific with Corn Fritters. Or serve alongisde raw or lightly cooked, chilled veggies or chips. Slather it on grilled meats, poultry, veggies, or mushrooms. Serve it with cold or hot steamed or grilled seafood. It is amazing on a turkey or roast beef sandwich or with Crispy Chicken, oven fried potatoes, or Zucchini Fries.

Makes one cup-ish.

1/3 cup mayo
1/3 cup sour cream
juice of ½ lemon or lime
dash hot sauce
1/3 cup drained Pickled Red Onions, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients to combine and refrigerate for at least ½ hour to allow flavors to marry.


Quickie Pickled Red Onion Pizza

1 naan, pita or tortilla
1/3 cup cheese of choice
2 tbs. drained Pickled Red Onions

Place the flatbread on the rack of your oven or toaster oven. Top with the cheese. Toast or broil until the cheese is melted. Top with onions.



Other ideas:

Bagel, cream cheese, smoked salmon, pickled onion.
Top a simple green salad with feta, walnuts, pickled onion.
Stir into a cold grain, such as barley or farro, for a quick salad. Add pine nuts and raisins.
Toasted pita, hummus, pickled onion.
Top steamed veggies, like asparagus, broccoli, or green beans.
On a steak.
Add to your cheese board.
Garnish a stew.
Garnish a Roasting Pan Supper.
Topping for Turkey Chili. Or Veggie Chili.
Filling with sour cream for a baked white, yellow, or sweet potato.

And, in memory of my dear dad: whitefish salad on a toasted raisin bagel. Add onions. Insist that the sweetness of the bagel works perfectly with smoked fish and everyone must try it.

Blog note: The gorgeous watercolor above was painted by my amazing daughter and favorite artist, Megan McGrath. Thanks, Meg!

Posted in appetizer, condiment, easy, gluten free, snacks, Uncategorized, vegan, vegetable, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment