Homemade baby food doesn’t have to be a hassle

As my 2-year-old clamored for macaroni-and-cheese at the Thanksgiving table, I had to sigh over so many good intentions gone awry.

Rewind to the 2013 holiday, when he was still happily eating squash, sweet potatoes and vegetable soups pureed with turkey stock. Because I made all his food, I naively assumed that he was developing, if not a sophisticated palate, at least a preference for wholesome meals.

It’s just a phase — the beige-food phase — other parents tell me. He’ll come around.

In the meantime, his younger brother is filling up on the same menu of roasted, steamed and simmered ingredients mashed or blended to baby-friendly consistency. I may not have sent out his baby announcements within his first six months of life or jotted down all the myriad milestones in his baby book. But I make the time to make his baby food. In addition to health, economy is major factor.

Winter squash are basically free from my own garden while sweet potatoes, even organic ones, are affordable. Today, I threw a few of each in the oven, left them alone for an hour, then peeled and pureed them, using an immersion blender, with some organic pear juice. In about 15 minutes of hands-on time, I had enough food for the fridge and freezer to last a couple of weeks.

Even quicker is mashing fresh avocado or banana. Even very ripe, peeled pears can be pushed through a sieve. About once a month, I poach a couple of pounds of dried apricots and prunes and run each through a food mill to remove any pit fragments.

It’s as simple as that, I say, when other families have asked me how to make baby food.

Here are a few more tips from the Washington Post:

Whole grains

Grind ¼ cup brown rice, millet or oatmeal in a blender for 1 minute.

Boil 1 cup of water; reduce heat to low and add grain.

Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve, refrigerate (for two to three days) or freeze in ice-cube trays (up to one month).


Grind cooked chicken, fish or meat in a food processor or blender and refrigerate (for one to two days). Babies should be 7 to 8 months before eating most poultry, meat and fish.

Serve alone or mix with pureed vegetables or cooked grains.

Homemade stock

Homemade stock is full of vitamins and minerals. It aids digestion and builds bones.

Mix homemade chicken or vegetable stock into baby’s cereal or vegetables to liquefy and add nutrition.

Babies can drink homemade vegetable stock from a bottle after the age of 9 months.

Worried about allergies? Introduce one food at a time, and wait at least four days before introducing another. Common problem foods: cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, soy, nuts, shellfish and artificial additives. Shellfish and honey should be avoided until at least a year.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Roast squash on hand makes quick, healthful side

After paying top dollar for a locally raised, free-range, heritage-breed turkey, I feel duty-bound to appropriately honor its remains.

But I only have so much stomach for the same ingredient for days on end. So while I’m recasting turkey in various forms with a variety of flavors, I usually shun the bird’s traditional side dishes: potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans and the like. There is one commonplace holiday food, however, that we simply can’t — and shouldn’t — eschew in the coming weeks.

Dozens of butternut squash arose from a single straw bale planted in our garden with the popular variety. Several of the larger squash have been roasted and pureed for a 6-month-old’s palate. Yet there’s no reason he should derive all the benefit from this prolific plant, not when it’s so easy to roast ahead of time and add to our meals.

The cooked or raw squash cubes, refrigerated for several days or frozen for several months, deliver a dose of nutrition and fiber when we’re running short on energy and inspiration for meal-planning. With roasted squash on hand, the following dish would come together in about 10 minutes with pantry staples, including the pomegranate in my fridge. This recipe comes from the Chicago Tribune.

Tribune News Service photo

Caramelized Butternut Squash With Sherry, Maple and Blue Cheese

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons each: dry sherry, pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 medium butternut squash, 3 1/2 pounds total, halved, seeded and peeled

4 ounces (1/2 cup) blue cheese or feta cheese crumbles

1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus rosemary sprigs for garnish

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Heat oven to 400 F. Position rack in top third of oven.

In a small bowl, mix the oil, sherry, maple syrup, salt and pepper.

Cut the butternut squash into 1-inch pieces. Put onto 1 large or 2 small, rimmed baking sheet(s). Toss squash with oil mixture to coat it nicely.

Roast squash butternut on top rack of preheated oven, stirring several times, until fork-tender, for about 25 minutes. Cool. May refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days.

To reheat, turn on oven broiler. Place squash on a baking sheet. Broil 6 inches from heat source, until squash has golden edges, usually for 2 to 4 minutes. Put squash into a deep serving bowl. Stir in the cheese and chopped rosemary. Toss to mix. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds. Serve garnished with rosemary sprigs.

Makes 8 servings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Getting under turkey’s skin produces moist meat

Deconstructed turkey roasted on a bed of stuffing isn’t exactly a new concept. The method, explained by Oregon State Master Food Preservers for the newspaper’s annual holiday guide, was championed by Julia Child and America’s Test Kitchen.

But it’s one I hadn’t touted in years of editing the paper’s food section. And unlike so many recipes and suggestions that make the paper with just a few days until turkey day, this one won’t alter an already planned Thanksgiving menu, but it may just save a couple of hours of cooking.

For cooks who still don’t want to wrestle a slippery turkey with sharp knife in hand, or who simply like the look of a whole bird: consider placing the stuffing UNDER the skin.

You heard right. Like compound butter, a stuffing mixture of fats, aromatics, herbs and fine breadcrumbs puts moisture and flavor on the breast meat. This technique, also news to me until this week, helps to crisp the bird’s skin.

Pulling the skin back from the bird’s breast is bit less intimidating than dismembering the carcass. Just work carefully to avoid poking holes in the skin. And distribute the stuffing mixture as evenly as possible.

The bird’s cavity still can be a repository for herbs, onions and fruit that help to flavor it and keep it moist. The only hard-and-fast rule for turkey cookery, remember, is to bring it to an internal temperature of 165 F before carving.

Tribune News Service photo

Roast Turkey With Herby Pork and Apricot Stuffing

Olive oil, as needed

1 sprig fresh sage, leaves picked

6 strips pancetta or thinly sliced bacon

1 garlic bulb, broken into cloves

4 medium red onions, peeled

2 ribs celery, trimmed and chopped

1 big handful breadcrumbs

1 handful dried apricots

10 ounces ground pork

Zest of 1 lemon

Pinch of grated nutmeg

1 large egg

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

12 small sprigs fresh rosemary, plus a few extra

1 turkey (12 pounds), at room temperature

2 carrots, peeled

1 large orange

2 tablespoons plain flour

1 quart chicken or vegetable stock

Heat the oven to maximum temperature. Heat a saucepan until medium hot and add a splash of the olive oil, the sage leaves and pancetta or bacon. Peel and chop 2 of the garlic cloves and 1 of the onions. Add garlic, celery and onion to saucepan and fry everything gently until soft and golden-brown. Take pan off heat, add the breadcrumbs and, while mix is cooling down, chop the apricots roughly and stir them in. When stuffing has cooled down, add the pork, lemon zest, nutmeg, egg and lots of salt and pepper; mix everything together well.

Chop remaining onions in half and slice carrots thickly. Give the turkey a good wipe, inside and out, with paper towels; place it on a board, with neck end toward you. Find edge of skin covering turkey’s breasts and gently peel it back. Work your fingers and then your hand under skin, freeing it from meat. If you’re careful you should be able to pull all skin away from meat, keeping it attached at sides. Go slowly and try not to make any holes. Lift loose skin at neck end and spoon stuffing between skin and breast, tucking flap of skin underneath to stop anything leaking out. Pop the orange in the microwave for 30 seconds to warm it up and stuff it into bird’s cavity. Weigh stuffed turkey and calculate cooking time (about 15 minutes per 1 pound).

Place bird on a large roasting pan, rub it all over with olive oil and season well. Surround with chopped carrots, onions and remaining garlic, cover with tinfoil and place in oven. Turn heat down right away to 350 F; roast until juices run clear from thigh if pierced with a knife or a skewer. Remove tinfoil for last 45 minutes to brown bird.

Carefully transfer bird to a cutting board and loosely cover with foil; allow to rest, at least 1 hour. When resting time’s nearly up, skim surface fat from roasting pan and add the flour and stock. Place tray on stovetop and bring to a boil on a high heat. When gravy starts to thicken, strain it into a bowl. Carve your turkey, serve with gravy and dig in!

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe adapted by the Chicago Tribune from Jamie Oliver’s “Cook With Jamie.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Legumes, whole grains fill up guests without meat

Teatime with a vegetarian friend and the topic of Thanksgiving called to mind the “vegducken.”

This zucchini-and-eggplant-stuffed butternut squash recently has been heralded as the vegetarian answer to the typical holiday centerpiece. I felt compelled to ask my friend if she’d ever encountered anything like this in the Thanksgiving spread. But even with her parents, she’s usually relegated to choosing among the sides, she said.

The problem, of course, is that many Thanksgiving sides, including four featured in this week’s A la Carte aren’t supremely filling. That’s all well and good for carnivores who are ingesting rich poultry in several forms, including the gravy and perhaps the stuffing. In fact, I often try to lighten traditional side-dish recipes.

But when a vegetarian is at the table, greens beans, corn, squash and even potatoes need a little help, and not just from butter or cream. Nuts add a satisfying element. And legumes and whole grains, prepared with a bit of imagination, can stand in for the main dish.

Less contrived than stuffed squash, this salad of quinoa and lentils is a veritable cornucopia of seasonal produce. Along with the indispensable butternut, this dish offers carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers and corn, along with some herbs and alliums for freshness. Cutting everything into a uniform dice, about ¼ inch, makes for the most pleasing texture and presentation. Serving it warm or at room temperature elevates this dish beyond salad status.

If I had occasion to host my friend again for Thanksgiving, I’d use French green lentils, also known as Puy lentils, in this dish, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press. See a past post to this blog for more tips on hosting vegetarians.

Tribune News Service photo

Fall Harvest Quinoa and Lentil Salad

1 1/2 cups quinoa

1 1/2 cups lentils

1/2 cup cooked butternut squash, peeled and diced

1/2 cup diced sweet potatoes

1/2 cup mixed, sliced orange and white carrots

1/2 cup fresh corn off cob

6 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup diced scallions

2 tablespoons diced red onion

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Rinse the quinoa several times and drain well. Rinse the lentils and pick them over for small stones.

Using 2 separate pots, bring 2 1/2 cups water to boil in each. Add quinoa to 1 pot and cook for 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed, remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes, fluff with a fork and let cool. Add lentils to other pot and cook until al dente, drain and cool.

In a large pot, quick-steam the squash and, if desired, the sweet potatoes, carrots and corn until just crisp- tender. Remove from pot and cool. In a small bowl combine the orange juice, lime juice and balsamic vinegar.

Just before serving, place cooled quinoa and lentils in a serving dish. Add juice mixture and toss to coat; fold in vegetables, the bell pepper, scallions, onion, garlic and mint. Season salad to taste with the salt and pepper just before serving.

Makes 12 servings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lush parsley leaves keep winter dishes fresh

Frost has come and gone, leaving the remnants of zucchini and tomato plants — stripped of their final fruits — to molder in the garden.

Starts of chard, kale and spinach portend garden-fresh produce in days to come. But they’ll take weeks yet to size up.

Still straddling the seasons, flat-leaf parsley has grown vibrantly green and lush in recent rains and stood up to frost, despite tender leaves. It filled the bill for freshness in last night’s dinner of slow-roasted lamb shanks and garden potatoes.

A large handful of parsley finely chopped with some fresh lemon zest and a bit of garlic is commonly known as gremolata. I pressed the mixture onto the cooked shanks’ surface and allowed it to firm up in the oven for a few minutes. But blended with a bit of olive oil, it could have made for a sauce on the side.

More than mere garnish, parsley in such large quantities can almost compose a salad when other greens are scarce. It’s more nutritious than many lettuces, too, providing vitamin A and C, calcium, beta carotene and minerals.

Of course, flat-leaf (aka Italian) is the parsley variety I’m advocating. Its flavor is deeper and sweeter than the curly variety, making it the hands-down better choice for almost any savory dish. Both varieties belong to the carrot family and originally grew wild across the world, explaining parsley’s inclusion in diverse cuisines.

The French incorporate parsley into a “bouquet garni” (or herb bundle). They add it chopped to a stew or soup at the start of cooking and again to the finished dish. Whole stems add depth to stocks.

In addition to gremolata, Italians make parsley into salsa verde. The herb also is great extender of pesto, when basil is in short supply.

If I truly want to extend the life of my parsley bed, I could chop it and freeze it in bags or, blended with a bit of water, in ice-cube trays. Either method will keep for up to six months.

But while it lasts outside, I’ll use parsley by the bunch. I recently strewed whole leaves across sautéed cubes of garden eggplant and grilled halloumi cheese.

Sarah Lemon photo

I also could stir a bit of bulgur wheat into a bowl of parsley for Lebanese-style tabbouleh. In lieu of this classic recipe’s fresh tomatoes, I would consider oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes, or even the last of the garden eggplant.


3 to 4 tablespoons bulgur wheat

4 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley, most of the stalks discarded, coarsely chopped

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 medium red onion (peeled) or 6 scallions, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh mint

1/2 tablespoon sea salt or to taste

Juice of 2 lemons or to taste

1/4 to 1/2 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil

Romaine lettuce, or cabbage leaves for serving

If using very fine bulgur, simply rinse and drain it, then let it fluff up for about half an hour, stirring it with a fork every now and then. If using medium to coarse bulgur, stir together with 1 tablespoon oil in a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over, then cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain in a sieve, pressing on bulgur to remove any excess liquid.

In a large bowl, combine bulgur with the parsley with half the tomatoes, the onion, fresh mint, salt, lemon juice and oil. Gently toss to evenly distribute ingredients. Taste and adjust the lemon juice and salt.

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with remaining tomatoes. Serve over the Romaine or cabbage leaves.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar” by Rawia Bishara (Kyle Books, $30).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rich coconut, hearty lentils are just right for fall

There’s a funny ripple effect with soup. As soon as I start thinking about which to make, more and more bubble to the surface.

This blog’s previous post suggested French onion as ideal for fall, along with five featured in this week’s food section. Unless I miss my guess, the story and recipes whet readers’ appetites for still more soups.

So in the spirit of soup as that infinitely flexible food, here’s a recipe that taps the richness of coconut from one of this week’s recipes and the heartiness of lentils in the quintessential dhal. Combine those ingredients with curry into one warming, filling, just-right-for-fall dish. Add some piping-hot naan bread to evoke Indian cuisine without leaving home for the evening.

While red lentils would be prettiest, any color could be used. This comes from Whole Foods, courtesy of Tribune News Service.

Coconut-Curry-Lentil Soup

1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil

Tribune News Service photo

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon peeled and minced, fresh ginger

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons curry powder

1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (or more to taste)

4 cups vegetable broth

1 can coconut milk

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups dry petite red lentils, rinsed and picked over

2 to 3 handfuls chopped spinach, kale or other greens

Salt and pepper, to taste

Chopped cilantro, chopped scallions and/or sour cream, for garnish

In a stockpot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and stir-fry the onion, garlic and ginger a couple of minutes until onion is translucent. Add the tomato paste, curry powder and red-pepper flakes and cook for another minute.

Add the vegetable broth, coconut milk, diced tomatoes and lentils. Cover and bring to boil, then simmer on low heat for 20 to 30 minutes until lentils are very tender. Season with the salt and pepper. (If you’re going to freeze soup, cool before storing in air-tight containers; soup can be reheated over medium heat.)

Just before serving, stir in the spinach or other greens and garnish with the cilantro, scallions and/or sour cream.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Any bread, cheese, onion makes a meal in a bowl

Five soups for fall are the centerpiece of this week’s A la Carte.

To the roster of squash, carrot, lentil, broccoli and potato-leek, I would add French onion. This classic recipe with its broiled topping of bread and cheese is a meal in a bowl.

But without the bread and cheese, the soup itself freezes extremely well, as noted in a previous post. In a pinch, when there perhaps isn’t much but bread and cheese on hand, it can be pressed into service for a satisfying dinner.

I did just that last week after hoarding a quart of French onion for just such an occasion. Bread fresh-baked by my mother-in-law was begging for elevated status beyond sandwiches and toast. And we were still carving off slabs of havarti cheese from an economy-size block purchased the previous week.

While Gruyere is the traditional topping, any cheese that melts well can be used here. Consider fontina or Muenster, featured in the following recipe.

French onion soup with bread and cheese on top, according to www.foodtimeline.org, is a “direct descendant of modern French bouillon crafted in the 17th century.” Onions were used because they were common and took to many cooking methods.

The same holds true today. When I find myself with a half-dozen onions and no specific plan for using them, it’s time to make a batch of French onion. Any onion is suitable, but I favor red onions, particularly if I have homemade lamb stock to enrich the broth, along with a splash of red wine. As you might expect, this soup achieves a gorgeous purple hue.

For white or yellow onions, I reach for a lighter stock — turkey or even rabbit — and some white wine or sherry. Regardless of the precise ingredient, the ratios of onions to stock to alcohol in this recipe can be applied.

Of higher importance is cooking the onions slowly on a fairly low heat to caramelize the onions’ natural sugars. Stir only every so often to encourage proper caramelization. As the onions caramelize, their color darkens and flavor deepens. Some recipes call for enhancing this process with a tablespoon or so of sugar, but I don’t find that step necessary. Just don’t overcook the onions, or they will burn and the soup will taste burned.

Tribune News Service photo

Onion Soup With Muenster Cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced into half circles

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup sherry

8 cups fat-free, low-sodium beef or vegetable broth

4 sprigs thyme

1/4 cup port wine, optional

1/2 French baguette, sliced 1/4-inch thick

1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half

6 slices (about 1-ounce each) Muenster cheese

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until dark golden and caramelized, for 30 to 40 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper. Add the sherry and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; continue boiling until sherry is reduced by half.

Add the broth and thyme. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until onions are very soft, about for 30 minutes. Stir in the port, if using.

Meanwhile, heat oven broiler with rack in middle. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and broil until lightly toasted. Remove from broiler and rub cut side of the garlic on slices.

When soup is done, turn broiler back on and ladle soup into 6-ounce ramekins. Top each with a toasted baguette slice or 2. Drape the cheese on top of bread so it hangs over edge of ramekin slightly. Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and broil until cheese is browned in spots, for about 2 minutes. Remove from broiler and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Adapted by the Detroit Free Press from Martha Stewart Halloween, October 2011 issue.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kale rolls are a flexible take on cabbage classic

If the topic is cooking without recipes, kale is an ideal ingredient.

I’ve long championed this kitchen workhorse for its versatility in all manner of dishes, adding color, texture and a quick infusion of vital nutrients and fiber. Without a recipe in sight, kale can be sautéed and stirred into soup, sauces, pasta, eggs, rice … I could go on and on.

Eat kale raw as a salad or slaw. Or if you’re one of those types who like green smoothies, blend it into your daily health tonic.

Because it grows so well in all but the hottest spells of summer and coldest winter climes, kale keeps going and going … and going in our garden almost year-round. So we have plenty of incentive to use it whenever and wherever we can.

Recently, I ran across a dish that will do justice to large, thick kale leaves in a preparation that I happen to love. A takeoff on cabbage rolls, this stuffed kale recipe features farro for the commonplace barley. And it would be a vegetarian-friendly dish, if beef stock was replaced with vegetable stock.

Regardless of filling, which could be very flexible, this recipe gives me the flexibility to pick a few gorgeous kale leaves right outside, rather than purchasing an entire head of cabbage and ensuring that I haven’t already hacked into it before the mood for cabbage rolls strikes.

Tribune News Service photo

Farro-and-Mushroom-Stuffed Kale

1 cup semi-pearled farro


1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef stock

1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1 fresh thyme sprig

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced

Kosher salt, to taste

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh thyme

3 cups low-sodium beef stock

1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream

2 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

30 large lacinato kale leaves, 5 to 6 inches across at widest point

Place the farro in a small bowl and cover with cool water; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients for sauce; simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.

To prepare stuffing, place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour 1 cup boiling water over them. Rehydrate them, for about 20 minutes, then drain (reserving liquid) through a sieve set over a bowl; squeeze mushrooms to release excess liquid. Rinse mushrooms well under running water; coarsely chop. Set both mushrooms and liquid aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, season with the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften and sweat. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook for 8 to 10 minutes longer or until mushrooms are golden.

Drain farro, and add it, along with reserved porcini, to pot. Cook, stirring, until farro is dry, for about 2 minutes longer. Add the stock and reserved porcini soaking liquid and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 50 minutes or until farro is tender, stirring occasionally in final 15 minutes — there should be some liquid remaining in pot. Remove from heat; stir in the crème fraîche and Gorgonzola. Season with black the pepper, taste and adjust seasoning.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Have a pot of boiling water going to blanch the kale leaves.

Trim each kale leaf by removing or trimming most of tough, center rib. Use a knife to make a cut right next to, and parallel to rib all the way to bottom of leaf. Repeat on other side of rib; remove and discard rib. Working in batches, blanch leaves in boiling water for 1 minute; drain.

Working with 1 leaf at a time, place a heaping tablespoon of filling 2 inches from widest end. Fold and roll kale around filling to form a roll. Repeat with remaining kale leaves and filling. Arrange rolls in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour sauce over, cover and bake for 40 minutes. To serve, divide between plates and spoon a little sauce over each.

Makes 6 servings.

Adapted by the Detroit Free Press from Food & Drink magazine, Autumn 2015 issue.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Relax and tame the chaos to really get cooking

I can’t help but see similarities between local cooking yogi Julianaa Satie and cosmopolitan kitchen diva Ruth Reichl.

Although the latter built her career on rigorously tested and authoritative recipes for Gourmet, her latest book chronicles how she cooked from her heart to heal from the pain and shock of the magazine’s closure. The book’s recipes aren’t formulas that guarantee results but rather conversations that encourage cooks to relax.

Ways to tame kitchen chaos is the topic of Satie’s Thursday class at Ashland Food Co-op. Several spots remain to register online. Cost is $35. Read more about it in last week’s A la Carte.

Satie’s methods are detailed in her own book, “Intuitive Cooking.” While intended as an educational text, the concept reveals real cooking as a process similar to writing, playing music or even meditation, says Satie.

And when cooks gain the confidence to improvise, they know how to fix their mistakes, says Satie. Reichl’s tone is even more forgiving.

“If you make a bad meal, so what?” she asks. “There’s another meal in a few hours.”

In addition to the grilled cheese and apple crisp offered with Wednesday’s story, here’s another dish from Reichl’s “My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life.” In the spirit of both Reichl and Satie, feel free to use any type of kale, chard or even collards.

Tribune News Service photo

Spicy Tuscan Kale

3 large bunches lacinato (Tuscan) kale

2 large onions

Olive oil

4 anchovy fillets

Chili flakes


4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1/4 pound Parmesan cheese, grated

Homemade breadcrumbs

Wash kale then strip leaves off the ribs. Tear leaves into large pieces and cook in pot of boiling salted water for a minute or so. Kale should stay a vibrant green. Drain, and run kale under cold water until it’s cool enough to comfortably hold in your hands, then squeeze out as much water as you can and set the kale aside.

Peel, then chop onions into a casual dice; no need to be fussy about this step.

Heat a healthy splash of olive oil in large skillet. Throw in anchovies and worry them with a wooden spoon until they’ve completely disintegrated. Add onions, a few pinches of chili flakes, a few grinds pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until everything is soft and fragrant. Toss in kale, along with garlic, and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until it’s all come together in a lively green mass. Taste for salt, add a bit more olive oil if you like, and stir in the Parmesan cheese and the crisp breadcrumbs for texture.

Serves 8.


Homemade Breadcrumbs

1 loaf stale French, sourdough or Italian bread

Olive oil


Cut bread into cubes and grind into crumbs in a blender or food processor. If bread is not stale enough to crumb, you can dry cubes in a 200-degree oven for about 15 minutes before grinding.

Spread crumbs on baking sheet and toast in 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes until they are crisp and golden. Drizzle with olive oil (1/4 cup for every 2 cups of crumbs), season with salt and allow to cool completely before putting into containers.

These will keep in the freezer almost indefinitely. Just stick crumbs in microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off before using.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Commercial candy apples as scary as Halloween

I confess to harboring little love for Halloween. It’s the candy that’s primarily to blame, haunting the house long after the jack-‘o-lanterns have collapsed in a moldy heap near the front doorstep.

But there’s also the effort and expense that goes into a costume to be worn for one night only. Now that my son has reached age 2, and gotten his first taste for the trappings of Halloween, I can anticipate at least 10 more years of catering to his costume whims. Just call me the Grinch … Wait, wrong holiday.

Likewise, caramel apples tend to rub me the wrong way. Although a classic treat of the season and arguably more wholesome than not, they’re cumbersome to eat and can make a real mess of one’s costume. A recent listeria outbreak among commercially prepared, prepackaged apples has done much to tarnish their reputation.

But as with trick-or-treating, caramel apples are a tradition that I’d like my kids to experience in small doses. And because store-bought ones are out of the question, making them at home is the only way to go.

Melting down cellophane-wrapped caramels and dunking apples into them suffices, but it’s not nearly as good as from-scratch candy. Just be sure to have an accurate candy thermometer. A few degrees off, and you get caramel that either slides off the apple or a crispy — not chewy — caramelized shell.

To calibrate your candy thermometer: Boil water and see what temperature registers. If it reads 212 degrees, you’re fine. If it reads 206 degrees, you’ll know to add 6 degrees for every temperature displayed.

Tribune News Service photo

Caramel Apples

8 apples, preferably Granny Smith

8 craft sticks or chopsticks

1 cup chopped pecans, peanuts or nuts of your choice

1 cup heavy cream, divided

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wash and completely dry the apples. Insert a stick into stem end of each. Pour the nuts into a bowl and set aside.

Fit a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a candy thermometer. Over high heat, cook 3/4 cup of the cream, the corn syrup, butter and sugar to 246 F (this is the firm-ball stage). At this point, syrup will be golden. Remove from heat and carefully swirl in remaining 1/4 cup cream and the vanilla. Use caution; this is very hot, and it may splatter.

After bubbles have subsided but caramel is still hot, dip and turn apples into caramel to coat and let excess drip off. Dip bottoms into the chopped nuts. Arrange apples on a nonstick or waxed paper-lined cookie sheet and let cool. Note: If caramel becomes too thick to dip apples, reheat it over low heat, stirring, until it can again be poured.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from a recipe by Wayne Harley Brachman, via Food Network.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
  • Categories

  • Archives