Monthly Archives: March 2010


Good news everyone!  I’m no longer allergic to avocados.  For years, I had a reaction every time I had more than a bite of guacamole.  Because I love it so, I would have my one bite and then stop.  I kept trying and guess what?  I am cured.

To celebrate, I make this awesome guacamole whenever I can and at least every other week.  The recipe is one that I have added to and perfected over the years.  You see, M is not allergic to the stuff so I often made it for him to enjoy while I sadly sat by and watched.

Celebratory Guacamole

Yes, avocados are incredibly high in fat.  But it’s the good kind, the kind that actually lowers cholesterol, or so I’m told and choose to believe now that I am able to include this wonderful fruit as part of my diet.

Here is the recipe…



Filed under Appetizers

Cheese Biscuits

Clementine Paddleford

Last summer, during the height of Julia mania, I was reminded that, even with a cookbook collection of nearly 200, we do not own Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I went to eBay to find it and was quickly discouraged by the inflated prices and decided to wait to obtain our copy.  M suggested that we get Clementine Paddleford instead.  Clementine who?

Clementine Paddleford was the first American journalist to take food seriously, with a writing career that spanned from the 1920s to the sixties.  She was the food editor of the New York Herald Tribune and This Week magazine and travelled across America gathering the best recipes from the best cooks she met along the way.  Her out of print, hard to find book that we are now proud owners of, thanks to eBay and last summer’s Julia distraction, is titled How America Eats.  It is a compendium of 800 recipes that were popular in her columns and is also representative of her travels throughout the US.

What makes the book unique is the stories she tells of the colorful characters she met along the way.  I would like to share one of my favorites courtesy of Mrs. Robert Conover of Manhattan, Kansas.  

Darlene Conover was a professor’s wife and often had to entertain on a modest budget.  To simplify, she used ten basic recipes, one of which is for biscuits.  Her basic biscuit recipe can be turned into cheese biscuits, a cinnamon crumb coffee cake, or even niff-niff (celery seed and parsley dumplings!).

Clementine’s description of her is perfect.  “She was neither young nor beautiful, except for her eyes.  They were straight-at-you eyes, gray-blue, which held a joy-in-living look.”

 I tried the cheese version and have attached the recipe.  Thank you, Clementine.

Click here for Mrs. Conover’s recipe…


Filed under Breads, Savory

Pork with Clams

M went to Portugal many years ago and still cannot stop talking about Pork with Clams, the popular signature dish of the Alentejo region.  I enjoy pork and I love clams but these two items together just didn’t resonate with me.  That is, until I tried it.

Pork with Clams

I discovered a cookbook called Piri Piri Starfish one day when we were at the treasure trove of cookbooks, Kitchen Arts and Letters, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  We make frequent trips to this mecca of over 13,000 cookbook titles and never leave empty-handed.  This particular book, however, did not make the day’s final cut for I don’t remember what reason.

Unavailable in the United States, this book by Tessa Kiros features the cooking of Portgual.  In addition to excellent recipes and beautiful photographs, the book also serves as a travelogue and a wonderful introduction to the Portuguese kitchen.

I surprised him with this for his birthday and he surprised me with…Pork with Clams.

We have made this exactly as it appears in Tessa’s book (delicious) and have also lightened it up with a few variations.  Instead of pork shoulder, we have substituted pork tenderloin, a less fatty cut that requires a shorter cooking time, 30 minutes as opposed to the 75 for the pork shoulder.  Also, instead of frying the potatoes in oil, we have simply added them to the pot ten minutes before the clams.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to serve it with a chunk of crusty peasant bread to soak up all the delicious sauce.

Here is the recipe if you’d like to give it a try


Filed under Entrees, Meat, Seafood

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

Jane says this is the best Bloody Mary she has ever had…IN HER LIFE.  Marihelen agrees.  Gail was a little skeptical at first but ultimately concurred.

I am a huge fan of the Bloody Mary, and not just on a Sunday morning.  Over the years, I have experimented with the ingredients quite  a bit but have included  the recipe that has them all raving.

Regarding the vodka, you decide the brand. It does not need to be  premium vodka but does not need to be the cheap stuff either. Somewhere in the middle should do the trick.  I have used lemon vodka and that provides nice results as well.

I use and prefer Clamato juice.  I find the tomato/clam combination to be so much tastier than tomato juice alone.

Regarding the horseradish, I prefer the creamy refrigerated kind for this beverage.  Lately, I have been using Kelchner’s. It is usually found in the dairy or seafood section of the grocery store and is also available directly online.

I like Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce – not much more than the generic store brand and well worth it.

Finally, the Magic Dust provides a nice element of surprise to this wonderful and popular beverage.

Green beer this St. Patrick’s Day or a Bloody Mary?  Such an easy answer!

Click here for the recipe…

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Filed under Alcoholic, Beverages

Crab Cakes with Mango Salsa and Smoky Chile Dressing

Crab Cake with Mango Salsa and Smoky Chile Dressing

Crab cakes make me happy.  They remind me of summer and sun and the outdoors.  I love enjoying a crab cake with a chilled glass of white wine on a patio somewhere, be it near the beach or in a friend’s back yard.

After a winter of stews and heavier dishes, I was feeling the need to bring some summery lightness to the table and what better way to do it, for me anyway, than to make one of my favorite summer dishes.  These cakes, paired with a mango salsa, smoky chile dressing and lightly dressed greens, did the trick.

Inspired by Mesa Grill, I adapted a few recipes and have included them here. What I like so much about these crab cakes is that they have zero mayonnaise in them.  I used fat-free sour cream mixed with horseradish and the result is lighter and much less gloppy.  I also used premium wild claw crabmeat, which is about half the price of the lump back fin meat, and perfect for crab cakes.  I cannot even imagine trying these with imitation crabmeat.  What is that anyway?

Now, about that salsa.  I have a love/hate relationship with mangoes.  I love the flavor and consistency.  I hate cutting them.  Determined to get it right this time, I consulted M who, of course, knew how to cut a mango.  Here’s what he had to say.

A properly cut mango

1. Stand the mango on your cutting board on end and grip firmly.  Using a sharp knife, cut down through the mango about 1/4″ from the center. Repeat this on the other side. You will be left with two pieces of mango flesh.  The fibrous middle piece is the seed and cannot be used.

2. Cut parallel slices into the mango flesh, being careful not to cut through the skin. Turn the mango flesh 1/4 rotation and cut another set of parallel slices to make a checkerboard pattern.

3. Turn the scored mango flesh inside out by pushing the skin up from underneath. Scrape the mango chunks off of the skin, using a knife or a spoon.

The smoky red chile dressing is super easy to make and provides a perfect balance to the tropical fruit flavors and crab.

While it may not be summer just yet, we took a bite, closed our eyes, and were there.

Here are the recipes…Enjoy!


Filed under Entrees, Seafood

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies


I  live with the Cookie Monster.  I make a fresh batch every couple of weeks.  He keeps them in the freezer and doles them out one by one until the supply is gone.  Sometimes, I even get one.   

The other day, I had several cookbooks out on the table and, as he passed though the room, he quickly pointed to a book  and said, “Hey, when are you going to make these?  The cookie he was referring to is on the cover of Martha Stewart’s Cookies.  Never, I thought and here’s why.  They are chocolate.  And double chocolate no less.  When did he start liking chocolate?    

I too am not a huge chocolate fan but welcome the excuse to bake anything.   And guess what?  This cookie is incredible.  Soft, dark, chewy, surprising and wonderful.  A perfect balance of chocolate and ginger, two bold usually stand-alone flavors.  

You need to try these.  

Here is the recipe…


Filed under Cookies

Ode to Magic Dust

Many years ago I spent quite a bit of  time in Memphis on business.  One morning, while I was scouting locations for a large event, I found myself on Beale Street.  I had a 10 am site survey appointment at a famous Memphis barbecue joint.  I needed to see the private rooms, strategize a seating plan, get a sense of the menu, etc.  This was the first of many stops that day.

I was promptly met by the hospitable General Manager and wife team who greeted me with a red plaid paper carton full of dry beef ribs.  Or were they pork?  How nice, I thought, to bring some show and tell to the meeting.  After all, this is what my guests would be eating.

“Arent you going to try the ribs?” they asked right away.  I have an issue with bones, prefer using a knife and fork, crave coffee over meat at 10 am  and am not a huge beef or pork eater but I also have a sense of decorum so I had a seat with the couple and got down to business.    I picked up a rib (with my hands) and obliged.

I couldn’t help but notice that, as well as standard salt and pepper shakers, every table had a shaker of some reddish-brown powder on it.  “What’s this?” I asked.  “Why, that’s Magic Dust”, they replied.  “That’s what we rub our ribs with before we cook them nice and slow for hours.”  And so began my love affair with Magic Dust.

Magic Dust is a combination of spices – paprika, salt, sugar, mustard powder, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic.  The hotness or sweetness can be adjusted with the addition or subtraction of sugar or cayenne.

Coincidentally, upon my return, I decided to make baked beans as a side dish.  Several of the recipes I sourced all had Magic Dust as an ingredient.  So, I set out to make my first and far from last batch of the dust.  I ended up making a larger quantity than I needed for the beans and started looking for other uses for this magical powder.

We now have a shaker full of it at the ready.  In our house, there are three main, almost weekly, uses and countless other “well, I guess we could put some Magic Dust on it” moments.  The three primary uses are:

1) as a dry rub on pork tenderloin

2) as a “hmm, what is in here?” ingredient for a Bloody Mary and for a decorative and tasty addition to the cocktail glass rim

3) on popcorn.

Magic Dust

I have also found that people love receiving it as a gift.  Different, unexpected and fantastic.  Here is the recipe for when you too want to experience the magic of Magic Dust.

Magic Dust Recipe


Filed under Condiments