"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Category: Food

fresh pasta with wild mushrooms & lemon sauce. . .

While I was in Gloucester this week, my daughter took me to a pasta store named  Pastaio via corta where I bought some freshly made curly edged pasta called Mafalda. I’ve cooked it before from a package of dried pasta – this was slightly thinner and very tender to the bite when cooked.

We had just shared a tasty lunch of pasta with lemon sauce and caviar, whose basic lemon sauce I also used for this recipe. At Idylwylde Farm, I picked up a pack of assorted wild mushrooms which I saved to cook with the fresh pasta. So in a skillet, I melted a tablespoon of unsalted butter and when it was sizzling, I threw the whole pack of mushrooms in to cook gently. On the back burner, I boiled water to cook the pasta, which was done in about 9 minutes. I drained it, saving some of the pasta water and then shook it to make sure it was separated.

The recipe called for zest of one lemon and the juice of same. I had done that and set it aside. In a large mixing bowl, I put three tablespoons of butter, tossed the warm pasta in it and added a little pasta water. Then, I added the lemon zest and lemon juice, tossing the pasta well. The pasta looked beautifully creamy although there was no dairy in this dish. I divided the pasta onto two plates and then lay the wild mushrooms on top – a twist of cracked pepper is all that it needed. We had parmesan cheese on the side but the flavor of the lemon pasta was so clean and pure that it didn’t warrant adding any grated cheese to the mix.

It’s a keeper and I’m looking forward to going back and buying more fresh pasta – this time, enough so that I can freeze it for future meals!



lemon chiffon pie! . . .

I make a key lime pie that is a family favorite – my 98-year old mother-in-law who lives across the street from us especially enjoys it. But today, I read about a restaurant in NYC that served a scrumptious lemon chiffon pie. I thought that might be nice to try and so went to the store to buy fresh lemons, a graham cracker crust and some heavy whipping cream.

The recipe from Epicurious sounded pretty straightforward but the lemon filling part turned out to be a little tricky when I tried it. Here’s the steps I followed:

  1. Baked a store-bought graham crust in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
  2. During that time, I zested two lemons and separated 4 eggs, retaining the yolks.
  3. I squeezed 3/4 cup lemon juice using my Oster electric citrus juicer (handy for this pie and also key lime pie!)
  4. Set an envelope of gelatin into 1/4 cup of water and stirred it together, letting it set for 15 minutes.
  5. Cooked the 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 lemon juice, 4 egg yolks and lemon zest in a saucepan on the stove. Forgot to add the salt. Stirred it under boiling for 6 minutes. It blended together but didn’t thicken very much. I added the gelatin mixture and stirred it over heat for another minute (following the recipe.)
  6. Placed the filling in a bowl of ice water. During this step, I moved the filling and a little water got into the mixture  (roll eyes!) – so I put it back in a smaller saucepan and tried to cook off the extra water for about 5 more minutes.  Back into the ice water bath to cool down.
  7. I had put a stainless bowl and beater into the freezer to chill for whipping the cream. Took it out when the lemon filling had cooled and wasn’t warm anymore.
  8. I beat the cream until stiff – didn’t take very long because of the chilled utensils which always helps. Then I folded a third of the whipped cream into the lemon filling, using the whipping beater to gently fold it in – then in four more payloads of whipping cream, I folded in the rest. It looked creamy and fluffy – which was good because I had been worried the filling wasn’t thick enough.
  9. I poured the filling into the cooled crust and piled it higher in the middle. Set four toothpicks and put a clingwrap over the top. Instead of chilling it in the fridge, I placed the pie in the freezer, hoping it would “take” for our supper tonight. By this time, it was 4 o’clock and the recipe had called for chilling in the fridge for 4 hours.

I couldn’t resist tasting a little of the filling while washing up. It was delicious! I had used less sugar in both the filling and the whipped cream and a little more lemon juice because we like things tart. It will be interesting to see how chilling it will affect the taste.

I’ll caution you that making this pie was about three times more work than the key lime pie that I make pretty often – the cooking, 6 minutes of stirring the filling, the gelatin, cooling, whipping cream and folding it in. But, I’m also thinking that it might be at least twice as tasty!  We’ll see about that.

Later, I thought of folding the whipped cream into the key lime pie filling rather than putting it on later. The texture of that pie would change dramatically too!

Anyhow, both are nice summer desserts. Good for colder weather too when there are heavier meals – and it would be refreshing to have a light, cool dessert!

Note: We just ate our first slice of pie – it was very different from the key lime pie – the texture in particular was smoother with the whipped cream incorporated into the lemon filling. Plus, there was gelatin in this recipe and you can tell. It’s lemons vs. limes but both pies are very tasty!


tofu dishes . . .

Last week, Caitlin and I had lunch at a sushi bar in Cambridge. A cold tofu appetizer was delicious – a cube of tofu with a little tamari or soy with nori strips and sesame seeds – it was refreshing and tasty. Today, I read a bewitching article in the NYTimes “Eat” section by Gabrielle Hamilton about making tofu from scratch and serving it in a novel way.

This afternoon, I opened a pack of “silken” tofu and spooned about a third of the contents into a large white bowl. It was just enough for a mid-afternoon snack after a rather sparse salad for lunch. To it, I poured a little Ohsawa organic soy sauce, snipped some “spicy nori strips” on top and sprinkled on some Eden brand Gomasio (sesame seeds, seaweed salt, etc.) on top.

It was tasty and satisfied my craving for something cool and savory on a summer Sunday afternoon. If you like fresh cilantro, a little on top might be tasty too.

a (white) peach pie for summer! . . .

I’ve been wanting to make a peach pie all summer but I haven’t found any fruit that was ripe enough to use. Even the local peaches at the farm stand were rock hard. So today at the grocery store, I found some white peaches that were fragrant and felt ripe but not too ripe. I bought six of them and put them in a simmering pot of water for about 3-4 minutes. I took them out and under cold running water, their skins peeled off readily and as easily as any I’ve ever prepared.

The peeled peaches lend an extra challenge when using because the center of the peach has a crusty rough part that sticks to the peach segments when you cut them up. I cut them off the first peach but then cut slices around the core to avoid the tough red stuff on the others. To the sliced peaches, I mixed together about a third of a cup of flour, a third of a cup of sugar, two tablespoons of cinnamon and a tablespoon of ground nutmeg. I stirred it together until finely mixed and added it to the peaches, stirring gently until all the fruit was covered.

Instead of making a pie crust, I had taken out a piece of puff pastry from the freezer when I had begun to prepare the peaches. After it thawed, I spread a little flour on a board and laid it out, rolling it gently with a rolling pin until it was as thin as it could be and still hold together to be a crust.

I then spooned the peach mixture onto the puff pastry sheet and drew up both sides, leaving the top open and closing the sides by pinching the dough together. The trickiest part was lifting the pie in one piece onto parchment paper in a baking pan (next time, I’ll put the pastry on the parchment paper and fill it there!)  Into a 400 degree oven, I set the timer for about 45 minutes.

We’ll give a portion to George’s brother and Mom who live across the street, and serve ours warmed up with a little vanilla ice cream I have in the freezer tonight. A luscious dessert to enjoy after a rather spartan dinner. Yum!

cooking summer vegetables in the morning! . . .

raw eggplant, quarter-cut

eggplant cooked in garlic, peanut oil, soy, honey & grated fresh ginger root

Since I came home last Thursday with an armload of fresh vegetables from the local farm, I’ve been meaning to cook the slender asian eggplants, not wanting to have them languish too long in the fridge. I’ve discovered that cooking in the morning after breakfast suits me very well because it’s still relatively cool and most of the cooking for supper is done before lunch!

So today, I washed and sliced the golden beets in half and put them into a Japanese donabe pot with lid and about an inch of water. I placed the vessel in a cold oven and brought it up to 350 degrees and then 375 degrees, setting the timer for an hour. I’ve been putting off cooking these too because it’s too warm to heat up the oven around 5 o’clock in the afternoon. So, I’ll dress the beets in a Japanese vinegar, honey dressing when they’re cool for a side dish tonight.

In the meantime, I heated up a deep pot with a layer of peanut oil and chopped up a huge clove of garlic, letting it cook gently while I quarter cut the thin eggplants (cut on a diagonal, turn 1 quarter, cut diagonally, in chunks) until the vegetables were cut up and ready to toss into the simmering garlic oil. I used four slender eggplants and cooked them, adding just a little more vegetable oil over high heat midway, and a dressing of Ohsawa soy sauce (organic from VitaCost.) Mixed the eggplant well and added a dollop of honey (vs. sugar) and let it cook. Taking a large piece of fresh ginger root, I hand grated it on the large holes of a box grater (microplane was too small) and added a hefty amount into the cooked eggplant. Stirred it around and turned off the heat.

The eggplant and the beets will stay at room temperature on top of the stove until supper time to serve with bowls of hot jasmine rice.  Right before serving, I’ll chop up some fresh cilantro leaves and sprinkle it on top of the eggplant. So the only thing left to do is to start the rice cooker before dinner. Sounds pretty good to me!


zucchini cake with orange, ginger and pecans

The other day, I came across an interesting recipe on the NYTimes Food section. It was authored by Molly O’Neill and offered up a combination of zucchini, orange zest/juice and hazelnuts. I used chopped pecans in my cake this morning – and also made some other tweaks based on comments attached to the article. It’s baking in the oven now and there’s one more thing I noted about this recipe – it’s supposed to go in a tube pan (which I couldn’t find in the pantry) and is too little batter for a 9 X 13 baking pan, and too much for a loaf pan (soggy middle.) So, I used my trusty fluted white porcelain baking pan which seemed like just the right size!

Here’s my version:

In one bowl, mix together dry ingredients: 2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 3/4 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, heaping 1/2 cup of sugar (the NYT recipe called for 1 and 1/4 cups of sugar but most of the comments cut that amount in half.)

In another bowl, combine wet ingredients: 2 tsp. grated ginger root, 2 tsp. orange zest, 1/2 cup of orange juice, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, 2 eggs and 1 1/2 cups of grated zucchini (I squeezed out the juice and added a little more grated zucchini.)

Add mixed wet ingredients into dry and combine. My batter seemed a little dry so I added a little more orange juice. Chop up 1/2 cup of pecans (or toasted hazelnuts) and add to the mixture. Scrape batter into buttered pan and bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Test for doneness and leave in 5 minutes longer if needed.


super cheesecake pie! . . .

photo courtesy of NYTimes recipe

our cheesecake pie for dessert tonight!

Years ago, I made a refrigerator pie with a cream cheese filling. It was a favorite and I hadn’t made it in a long time. The other day, I saw a recipe on the NYTimes food chain provided by Amanda Hesser’s mother. It used a handmade Nabisco wafer crust with melted butter and cinnamon, 2 packages of cream cheese, 2 eggs, sugar and a sour cream topping.

I simplified it and used a prepared Nabisco oreo crust from the grocery store, brushed it with melted butter and sprinkled a little cinnamon on it. I baked the crust by itself at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. I think this baking step makes the crust crisp so that later it can be cut easily and the cheesecake slice easy to lift out of the pan.

The filling is made by using a mixer and beating two eggs with the two packs of room temperature cream cheese. If it’s too cold, the little lumps are hard to whip out of the filling. Instead of 2/3rds cup of sugar, I used less and mixed it in with some vanilla before filling the cooled crust and baking for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

After the baked pie had a chance to cool, I stirred together 12 ounces of sour cream with about 2 tablespoons of sugar, spread it evenly on the top of the pie and baked it for 7 minutes in a 450 degree oven. I let it cool to room temperature and then put it in the fridge on a cork pad to chill for a few hours before serving.

As I mentioned above, it cuts cleanly and comes out of the pie pan easily. Plus, it tastes divine! It’s appetizing for a summer meal dessert and is so easy to make.

improv jasmine rice dish! . . .

Tonight, it’s a little less humid than it’s been, but it’s still pretty warm. At the local seafood mart, I settled for some frozen Cape scallops when the frozen crabmeat I usually buy there wasn’t the same brand – and it said “Jonah crab” – what’s that?!?

I didn’t want to make a heavy side dish to accompany the scallops, each little nugget worth its weight in gold, cooked in butter, garlic and fresh parsley – and I finally settled on making a rice pilaf kind of dish using jasmine rice. Instead of cooking it in a rice cooker, I found some tips to finely grate some fresh garlic and fresh ginger root into an olive oil, butter mixture in a pot with a lid. As it gave off its aroma, I measured in about 3/4 cup of jasmine rice and stirred it around in the pot until the grains were coated. Then, I added a cup and a half of hot chicken stock and stirred to combine. At the very end, I threw in a handful of golden raisins!

The rice cooked for awhile and I stirred it with a spatula so it wouldn’t stick. After it steamed for awhile and absorbed all of the broth, I stirred it again and lifted the lid for the rice to settle in and for the liquid to evaporate. I wasn’t sure how it would taste, but it was a hit – chewy grains of flavorful rice and plump golden raisins!

Very tasty! And as easy as could be to make!

spinach quiche – sort of. . .

Spinach is one of my favorite green vegetables. It requires rinsing/soaking in cold water, then drying and taking off the longest stems. I store the cleaned spinach in a large container with a paper towel over it. Today, I decided to make a quiche but in a slightly different way. Instead of making a pie shaped quiche, I used a fluted oval baking dish that I use at least once a week, buttered it and lined it with a sheet of puff pastry.

In a skillet, I sauteed some chopped shallot in butter, then added the spinach and cooked it down, adding a couple twists of grated nutmeg. Drained the spinach, chopped it up and layered it on the puff pastry sheet. A handful of shredded swiss cheese was sprinkled on top. Since the baking dish wasn’t very big, I beat four organic eggs with about a half cup of heavy cream, adding a pinch of sea salt. Once I poured the eggs into the quiche, I folded the pastry crust over the top, leaving room for the eggs to cook on their own.

In a 400 degree oven, the quiche cooked for about 35-40 minutes, puffed up and nicely golden brown on the top. After turning off the oven, I left the quiche to settle in the heat for about ten minutes. When we cut into it, it was like having a crostata or a calzone – except the pastry was light, layered and crispy.

On the side, we had a butter lettuce salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumber and carrots. Staying the course so far on eating less rich foods. . . but it isn’t easy.

a “macrobiotic” soup recipe of my own. . .

Since the beginning of this month, I’m resolved to hunker down to a healthier food regimen for the next eight weeks. As help for doing so, I’ve gone back to my macrobiotic books and cooking lifestyle that I encountered years ago when I wanted to recover from viral encephalitis. Western medicine couldn’t help me then except to admit that there wasn’t much they could do for virus infections except to let them run their course. So, I signed up for a macrobiotic cooking retreat at Kushi Institute out in western Massachusetts. At the time, I remember losing weight, eating a lot less and feeling healthier in general.

Now, it’s time to try it on again. What I would like to do is to incorporate flavor and a feeling of eating enjoyment to more stringent-seeming macrobiotic recipes. I know myself well enough to understand that too much austerity won’t last very long.

So today, on a glorious cool Sunday morning, I rescued vegetables from the fridge that needed to be used up – and made this vegetable soup. What I’m aiming for is a basic process for making vegetable soup that’s really tasty and that we won’t get tired of. Since macrobiotic cooking suggests that we eat a bowl of soup a day,  it seemed like a good idea to experiment with a basic soup I could make often, using whatever vegetables I have on hand.

Here’s what I put into my “mac soup” today:

chopped vidalia onion (a leftover piece)

chopped celery (ditto)

chopped organic carrots (leftover from making carrot/hijiki last night for dinner)

1 1/2 chopped roma tomatoes

collard greens (2 stalks with rib cut out and green parts sliced up)

1 medium zucchini (sliced lengthwise and then cut across in bite-size pieces)

a handful of fresh spinach (already washed and stems removed in the fridge)

chicken broth gelatin (Knorr – which I use as needed and store the remainder in a jiffy bag in the fridge)

spring water as broth making medium

After cooking for awhile (20 minutes,) I put a lid on the soup and turned the heat down to very low. It’s important to taste the broth after it’s had a chance to simmer awhile. If it’s too bland, you can add a little more chicken broth or dashi granules if you prefer. If it’s already too salty, then add more water to taste. Usually, I am cautious not to add too much sodium – either in the chicken broth gelatin, soy sauce or salt. After all, the sweetness of the vegetables in broth are what macrobiotic cooking might be after, isn’t it?

I was also considering whether to add some barley, rice or asian noodles (like somen or soba noodles) to the vegetable broth. Maybe some other time. We’ll just have it for lunch in its more basic form.

With the soup, I might make grilled muenster cheese sandwiches with sesame Ezekial sprouted bread. This flour-less bread can be found in the freezer section of health food groceries in many markets.  It’s also tasty as toast in the morning spread with cashew butter. Yum!