Monday, July 30, 2007

Winter Night Salad

When Shane & I used to frequent Ports Cafe, I'd almost always order the winter night salad. It combines crisp romaine lettuce; sweet but tart apples; salty, tangy blue cheese; and a few other goodies to create a delectable salad.

I hadn't had it in over a year (we've been distracted by this place, this place, this place, this place, and many of these places) but the salad was very easy to recreate for dinner last night.

It's just as good as I remembered -- just as tasty, just as filling, just as satisfying.

If you're feeling a bit ambitious, complement the salad with a slice of good bread brushed with a bit of pesto and topped with Parmesan, broiled until the cheese melts a bit. The piquancy of the pesto and parm pairs well with the salad.

Winter Night Salad

1/2 bag of Romaine lettuce,
1/2 large "salad" apple, chopped (red for more color)
Raspberry vinaigrette (recommended: Newmans' Own)
1-2 Tbsp of blue cheese, crumbled (recommended: Old Chatham Ewe's Blue)
1-2 Tbsp dried cranberries
2 Tbsp red onion, chopped
1 Tbsp glazed walnuts

In a medium-sized bowl, toss lettuce and apples with raspberry vinaigrette to taste. Add blue cheese, cranberries onion and walnuts; toss again and adjust flavors as needed. Plate and top with fresh-ground pepper; serve with bread.

Yield: 1 large dinner salad or 2 appetizer servings .

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Food Bloggie Pets of the Month Submission: Chester the Cockatiel

The lovely Doodles, Mooncrazy, & Maltese Parakeet at Peanut Butter Etouffee announced the first ever Food Bloggy Pets of the Month, asking participants to blog about "any pet, as long as it's breathing." (Hee!)

Dead Parrot sketch jokes aside, here's Chester, a white-faced cockatiel, expressing interest in my copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Though, in all honesty, he's less likely to cook from it than chew up its pages. (If you look closely, you can see he snuck in a quick nibble of the Helen Corbitt Cook Book near his feet.) His hobbies include:

  • Chewing on books
  • Whistling the theme song from "The Sting"
  • Meowing
  • Favorite TV Character: Zippy in "John From Cincinnati"
  • Chewing on paper

Thanks to Doodles, Mooncrazy, & Maltese Parakeet for hosting this event!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Food Love: Installation No. 1 -- Tony Chachere's Original Creaole Seasoning

Read about Food Love here.

I don’t fully know what’s in Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning -- the ingredients list reads mysteriously: “ salt, red pepper and other spices, garlic and silicon dioxide (to prevent caking)” -- but it packs a spicy and delicious wallop. (It must be all the tasty silicon.)

In the past week since I discovered it (I must be the last one to the party since it’s been around since 1972), I’ve sprinkled it on fish, burgers, pizza, beans and rice, and right now, popcorn. My tongue and lips are tingling with flavor and fire, and I can’t wait to figure out what its jolts of heat and flavor will perk up next.

I know this probably doesn’t make sense, but it’s “zazzy.” And I like it.

Food Love

From time to time, I fall hard and fast for a particular type of food. My love for it is all consuming– I have difficulty thinking about any other flavor, it’s what I crave, it’s what I want, it’s what I need -- until something inside me clicks and I’m ready to move on to something else.

Food Love will be a recurring feature seeking to document these fickle taste affections. I hope you enjoy reading them, and I hope you'll share your own Food Loves with me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

You know what this needs? GARLIC.

I'm all about delicious and easy recipes, so I'm a big fan of Mark Bittman's mission (at least that's the way I see it) of serving those up. Last Wednesday, the New York Times published his list of 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less (which has been at the top of's most e-mailed list all week) and, on Monday, I stumbled upon Bittman's recipe for Penne with Ricotta, Parmesan, and Peas.

It's a very simple recipe (cook pasta, cook peas, throw them together with ricotta, parm, salt and pepper) but it's also kind of bland. Really, how much more difficult would it be to saute several cloves of minced garlic in olive oil and toss it in with everything else? Answer: NOT HARD AT ALL.

So the moral of this story is: for maximum deliciousness with minimum effort, add garlic.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Cardamom Banana Bread

As long as I've known Shane (coming up on six years), he's wanted to go on a camping trip.

My idea of camping is staying at a hotel that doesn't leave a mint on the pillow. (HEY-O! I'll be here all week!)

So we've never been. Oh, Shane has tossed out the idea of buying a tent, snuggling in sleeping bags and finding a wild spot near a waterfall -- but it's never come to anything. And, I certainly did nothing to encourage it.

Until this year -- sort of. Last week, we headed down to the Hayowentha cabin in Onanda Park, a former YMCA camp turned public park on the shores of Canandaigua lake. (I made sure to get the only cabin with an indoor bathroom.) We cooked on a grill outside, or used the propane fueled Coleman stove Shane bought for the occasion.

Just before we left, though, I used some nearly over-ripe bananas to bake up loaf a Cardamom Banana bread. I increased the amount of ground cardamom (to one teaspoon) but still couldn't detect it in the final product (sigh). Still, the bread was delicious: it had a fresh banana flavor that I haven't tasted in banana breads before and it was wonderfully moist. The bread was a wonderful quick breakfast or afternoon snack at the camp ground.

Cardamom Banana Bread (adapted)

2 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (or more)

Preheat oven to 350-degrees and coat a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Place sugars and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, sour cream, and cardamom; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Stir in pistachios. Spoon batter into loaf pan and bake for an hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool bread completely on wire rack.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

La Cocina

I just found this article on and thought it needed to be shared. I love that La Cocina helps women take their talent and passion for cooking and aids them in turning this into a sustainable and profitable career.

New York Times
June 23, 2007
For Women, a Recipe to Create a Successful Business
By Laura Novak

SAN FRANCISCO — One morning in May, Veronica Salazar stuffed refried beans into sandal-shaped masa cakes, concentrating to block the commotion in a cavernous kitchen here in the Mission District. The chopping of vegetables added to the din as the clang of metal pans against stainless steel equipment competed with background music from a local Spanish-language radio station.

But this kitchen, known by the Spanish name La Cocina, is no ordinary restaurant or commercial operation. Instead, the chefs here — all women, most of them immigrants — work side by side to achieve a common goal: starting their own food businesses and, in some cases, elevating themselves out of poverty.

Known as a “kitchen incubator,” La Cocina (la-koh-SEE-nuh) is a shared-use space created two years ago to provide a platform for women entrepreneurs without assets. Offering a low hourly rate for access to 2,200 square feet of restaurant-quality kitchen space, the nonprofit La Cocina also provides training from high-profile mentors and technical assistance on creating business plans and building marketing programs.

“There’s an entrepreneurial gene,” said Valeria Perez Ferreiro, executive director of La Cocina. “And we are finding amazing entrepreneurs who are already cooking or have a product that is so promising that it deserves to be seen in the market and that we think has a chance for success.”

Ms. Salazar, 32, was one of the first participants in La Cocina and is one of its bigger successes. Her company, El Huarache Loco, makes traditional foods from Mexico City.

Working with intensity, she needed to produce 700 of her trademark huaraches, the bean-filled cakes, for her weekly booth at a farmer’s market and hundreds more for Carnaval San Francisco festivities over Memorial Day weekend. She also prepared fish and shrimp ceviche as an employee stirred 30 gallons of carnitas in a brazing skillet for a catering job for 100 people.

“I come here to learn all the business, and I need to learn more every day,” Ms. Salazar said, while dicing pounds of tomatoes for a salsa roja. “Tomorrow, I have three parties. So if I do this tomorrow, I know I can do something by myself.”
The specialty foods prepared here are a reflection of the ethnic makeup of La Cocina’s participants. More than half the women are Latina, with another 8 percent African-American. The rest are Asian or Caucasian. Their products, both fresh and packaged, range from Mexican street fare to Irish chocolates, vegetarian sushi, South African meat pies and Brazilian cakes.

La Cocina has opened its own booth at the high-end Ferry Building Marketplace, where it sells its participants’ packaged products along with house-made charcuterie, pricey olive oils and $8-a-dozen organic eggs.

Every day La Cocina’s calendar is replete with participants preparing packaged products and hot food for catering jobs, coffee shops and a busy farmer’s market near the airport. Anna Shi’s Gourmet has a standing weekly order for 900 of her vegetarian tofu egg rolls for the Berkeley school district. Maria del Carmen Flores sells 1,500 of her yucca and plantain chips in 50 stores. Independent grocers around the Bay Area and Whole Food Markets throughout the state have picked up many of La Cocina’s specialty products.

“The really cool thing about a business incubator is that when you get entrepreneurial people in one place, there’s a synergistic effect,” said Tracy Kitts, vice president and chief operating officer of the National Business Incubation Association, a nonprofit membership organization. “Not only do they learn from staff, they learn tons from each other, and this really contributes greatly to their success.”

The association estimates there are 1,200 incubation programs in the United States. Only 19 of them are kitchen incubators, Mr. Kitts said, because the start-up and operating costs are much higher than for a mixed-use space. Eight of those programs are in urban areas, including Rochester, New York City, Denver and Minneapolis.
La Cocina is housed in a starkly modern structure wedged among tattered row houses and apartment buildings in the Mission District. Residents are primarily low-income people from Mexico and El Salvador, where Ms. Perez Ferreiro says there is a strong tradition of entrepreneurship.

La Cocina was created by the California Women’s Foundation in response to a survey that indicated that 90 percent of women in the Mission District said they needed adequate equipment and proper permits to run their businesses, but that commercial kitchen space in San Francisco was either unaffordable or geographically inconvenient. Many of them said they were cooking illegally out of their homes.
The foundation and government grants make up more than three-quarters of La Cocina’s $575,000 annual budget. About 17 percent of its funding comes from rent charged to six commercial tenants (including men), who pay $30 to $40 an hour, depending on the type of equipment being used. The program participants pay $8 to $10 an hour for the space, utensils and small ware.

“We are not creating a parallel nonprofit world where they are in a sheltered workshop,” Ms. Perez Ferreiro said. “The reason we charge a fee is that we want them to have a business model that is sustainable. If they don’t incorporate the cost of doing business, it’s artificial, and it’s going to crumble.”

To avoid that, Jason Rose, La Cocina’s culinary director, and Caleb Zigas, the program director, both of them bilingual, meet weekly with the women to review food costs, recipes and sales and marketing plans. Participants also pair with consultants from partner organizations who work on finances and cash flow statements.
Ms. Salazar of El Huarache Loco employs five family members at her booth at the Alemany Farmers’ Market, where Mr. Zigas says she takes in $3,000 every weekend. Costs of goods, licenses, employee wages and kitchen rental means she nets $1,000. But he points out that Ms. Salazar will soon be able to afford to buy a home; he is searching for commercial space for her to open a restaurant, a prospect he calls “thrilling.”

“It’s the translation from informal economy, which is cash-in, cash-out, to a formal economy, which is concept, then investment, then growth,” Mr. Zigas said. “It’s a really hard conceptual translation to make, to go from knowing how much you’re making every day to thinking about money in a longer-term vision.”

When Jill Litwin applied to La Cocina, she had abundant vision but needed help with what she calls her “road map.” Ms. Litwin is the owner of Peas of Mind, a line of frozen organic toddler food that she developed in Vermont.

At first, she was only capable of making 12 mini-casseroles at a time. The staff brought in a food scientist to help Ms. Litwin recalibrate her recipes so that each batch would turn out 400. They also introduced her to a human resources specialist and made a critical introduction to a food buyer for Whole Foods Market.

“They are helping people produce products that are high quality and of great integrity,” said Justin Jackson, executive coordinator for purchasing at Whole Foods in Northern California. “If it wasn’t well thought through and executed properly, our interest wouldn’t be what it is.”

Peas of Mind is now in 80 stores in California, 20 of them Whole Foods Markets, which is discussing plans to take her product national. Ms. Litwin says she has doubled her 2006 sales in the first quarter of this year.

“If you are an entrepreneur, you are in your own world and you never know if you’re on the right track,” Ms. Litwin said. “This is definitely a community you can bounce ideas off of. And if they don’t know the answer, they’ll find somebody who does.”

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mother's Souvlakia with Tzatziki

The chicken in this Cooking Light recipe is quite good, but it's the tzatziki that makes everything delicious. Trust me and double the amount of tzatziki you make so you can drizzle it all over your chicken and some pitas toasted on the grill, too. It's so freakin' good.

All hail the mighty Tzatziki!

Mother's Souvlakia
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 32 bite-sized pieces

1/2 red onion, cut into 8 (1-inch) pieces
1/2 large green bell pepper, cut into 8 (1-inch) pieces
8 button mushrooms
8 large cherry tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Cooking spray
Tzatziki Sauce

To prepare marinade, combine first 6 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; add chicken. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 3 hours; turn occasionally.
Prepare grill.

Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Thread 4 chicken pieces, 1 piece each red onion and bell pepper, 1 mushroom, and 1 tomato alternately onto each of 8 (10-inch) skewers. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

Place kabobs on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 12 minutes or until chicken is done, turning once. Serve with Tzatziki Sauce.

(Totals include Tzatziki Suace.)

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 skewers and 2 tablespoons tzatziki sauce)

CALORIES 143 (31% from fat); FAT 4.8g (sat 0.9g,mono 2.9g,poly 0.5g); PROTEIN 16.5g; CHOLESTEROL 35mg; CALCIUM 69mg; SODIUM 277mg; FIBER 1.7g; IRON 1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 8.5g


1 cup finely chopped seeded peeled cucumber
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (8-ounce) carton plain low-fat yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

Place cucumber in a colander over a bowl; sprinkle with salt. Toss gently to coat. Cover and chill 1 hour. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Squeeze until barely moist.
Spoon yogurt onto several layers of heavy-duty paper towels; spread to 1/2-inch thickness. Cover with additional paper towels; let stand 5 minutes. Scrape into a bowl using a rubber spatula.

Combine cucumber, yogurt, parsley, and remaining ingredients in a bowl. Serve with Mother's Souvlakia.

1 cup (serving size: 2 tablespoons)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 21(29% from fat); FAT 0.6g (sat 0.3g,mono 0.2g,poly 0.0g); PROTEIN 1.5g; CHOLESTEROL 3mg; CALCIUM 53mg; SODIUM 91mg; FIBER 0.1g; IRON 0.1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 2g

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Italian Lemon Cookies

***WARNING: long, rambling blog post ahead featuring dental mishaps. Scroll down for recipe.***

I have a long history of hating dentist visits. When I was 8, I knocked out the bottom half of my top, front tooth when my bike collided with another kid's bike. A neighborhood mom sent me running for home, crying, carrying the tooth fragment in my hand.

I don't remember much about the incident other than being taken to the VA hospital where my uncle -- a dentist -- was working. Earlier in the day, an HIV-positive patient had been in and the dental station where he'd been was taped off with yellow and black "danger" tape. I was hurried past, the adults speaking in urgent, hushed tones. In my uncle's station, I lay back in the chair, frightened and struggling not to see my broken tooth reflected in my uncle's protective goggles.
Bonding was placed on the remaining shard of my front incisor, remaining there for nearly 20 years until that same uncle replaced it with a well-crafted porcelain crown. I was heavily sedated.

In my middle school years, there were a number of visits to Dr. Ianuzzi, who filled the cavities dotting my molars. Ianuzzi was tall, dark and hairy, with the gentleness and temperament of frustrated serial killer. His hygienists -- and I have found many hygienists to be this way -- were overly permed, lids heavy with blue eyeshadow, and spoke in cooing, cotton-candy toned voices, better suited for pre-school TV programming than legitimate medicine.

Two years ago, I visited yet another dentist for a check up. With barely contained glee, she pointed to my new X-rays, and asked me, "What's wrong with this picture?"
Not being a dentist, I could only guess. So she pointed again -- to the three wisdom teeth that had not "erupted," and pointed at other teeth in 45-degree angles, on a trajectory never to emerge above the gum line. The one wisdom tooth which had made it out should be extracted, too. ("Might as well!" she'd chirped .) I'd need $5,000 in dental work. The wisdom teeth -- an oral surgeon who would cut into my gums and chisel out the bloody fragments -- would cost extra.

I am finally addressing that dental work she recommended, albeit at another dentist, for a much lower price ($1,500). Today, he replaced three fillings first installed during the Ianuzzi days, and if not THE most traumatic dental experience I've had, it's certainly up there.

I suppose he's not a fan of the topical anesthetic that gives some relief to the giant needle entering a patients gums, as he injected me not once, not twice, but three times with a torture device from Orin Scrivello's office. A tear ran from the corner of my right eye, rolled down my check and landed in my hair. I was handed a tissue.

Then, metal clamps were put on my teeth, which helped hold onto the latex dental dam he then stretched across my mouth. "OK," he said. "Now we're ready." At first, I wasn't sure if he was referring to dental work or oral sex but, when I saw a loud, spinning drill head approaching my mouth, I resigned myself to the former.

The next two hours were filled with drilling, scraping, pushing, picking, and grinding. Had The Big Dig been rerouted to teeth 19, 20 & 29? Was he pushing my molar around because it had gotten fresh with him?

When he asked his assistant for a "ball burner," I'd never been so happy not to have testicles.

When it was finally done, he told me I'd be sore when the anesthetic wore off. (It did, and I am.) On his way out of the room, he told me not to eat until I'd gained feeling back, otherwise I might "bite off [my] tongue or lip and not even know it."

It was at this moment that I finally cracked, leaving his assistant to explain which teeth should be done next to me, a visibly shaken, teary-eyed patient. "Are you OK?" she asked, surprised. "Was it something we did? Said?"

I smiled as best I could with a jaw, chin, bottom lip, and tongue completely without feeling and said, "It's me. I'm just freaked out by all this. Where's the bathroom?"

I left the office 10 minutes later, $450 lighter and an appointment to go back in two weeks.

It didn't really hit me until I got home (conveniently just around the corner from the DDS) how upset I was, and how badly I needed a distraction. With that, I decided to bake up some Italian Lemon Cookies I've long been meaning to make. While the work involved did little to distract me from my numbed and swollen jaw (note: when my tongue is numb, so are my taste buds) now that both the cookies are done and I've regained most of the feeling in my mouth, they are a comfort. (Well, the one bite I had was a comfort. Now that the anesthetic has worn off, I'm sore from the injections. The fun doesn't stop.)

Back to the cookies: they're cakey, soft and a bit crumby, with a subtle lemon balanced with a gentle sweetness. Mmm-mmm. I'm looking forward to eating a whole mess of them tomorrow.

Italian Lemon Cookies (from Wegmans Menu Magazine Holiday 2004, pg. 54)

1 cup shortening (if desired, use butter in place of half or all the shortening)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp sour cream
2 1/4 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2-3 Tbsp warm milk
1/2 tsp lemon juice (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat together shortening and sugar in medium bowl until light. Add eggs, sour cream, lemon extract, vanilla extract, and lemon zest; beat until combined, scraping down sides of bowl. Combine flour and baking powder; add to mixture in bowl and beat just until moistened.

Shape dough into small balls, using about 1 level Tbsp for each. Arrange about 1 inch apart on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Do not over bake. Remove from pans and cool.

Combine confectioners' sugar and milk in small bowl; whip lightly with spoon until smooth and slightly thick. Add lemon juice if desired; stir briskly until well-combined. Dip tops of cookies into icing; decorate with sprinkles if desired. Let set until icing is dry to the touch. Store in closed container.

Yield: approximately 4 dozen cookies.

Nutrition Info: Each serving (2 cookies) contains 160 calories, 22g carbohydrate (0g fiber), 2g protein, 7g fat (2g saturated fat), 25mg cholesterol and 70mg sodium.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Retro Recipe Challege # 8: Retro Wobbles But It Won't Fall Down

I'm thrilled to announce that the next edition of the Retro Recipe Challenge will be hosted by Rachel of Food Maven. (Thank you, Rachel!)

Here's her announcement & fabulous theme!

I'm excited to be hosting RRC #8: Retro Wobbles But It Won't Fall Down. This time around we will be making food that wiggles and wobbles. Think aspic, Jell-O salad, gelatin parfaits, jelly candies or even jam. The only catch? You have to use a recipe that was first published before 1985. For help in finding a recipe, check out the "helpful links" sidebar on the Retro Recipe Challenge blog.

Once you've created your dish, post a picture of the finished product, along with the recipe and your review to your blog or flickr account. Don't forget to include the year the recipe was first published and its source.

When you're done, send an email to coconutlimeblogATgmailDOTcom by August 10th at 11:59pm EST. In the email, please include:

Your name or blogging nickname
Your blog's name and URL
The recipe's title
The post's URL
Please attach a photo (no larger than 100x100 pixels) and include "RRC#8" in the subject line.

The round-up will posted by August 12th on Food Maven and the Retro Recipe Challenge Blog.