Monday, November 22, 2010

May the Best Buckeye Win

This coming Saturday is the big college game day. My alma mater, Ohio State, plays Michigan in a match that has long been the biggest rivalry in college football. Some of my family will be at the game cheering for my Bucks, and my friend and fellow Buckeye, Debbie, is coming over with her family to watch the game with me.

Debbie is a diehard Buckeye fan. Her dog’s name is Wayne Woodrow Hayes (Woody, for short) after the infamous Buckeye coach of many years. She is worried that our TV is not big enough, that I will talk too much during the game, that I don’t know any of the player’s names, that I don’t have a scarlet and gray sweatshirt to wear and that I know nothing about football. She’s right on all fronts. I only care about what we will eat.

I decided to make an All-Ohio menu. We will be serving chili cheese dogs with Skyline chili (imported from Cincinnati), Buckeye potato chips (imported from Columbus) with a garlicky blue cheese dip topped with bacon. And for dessert, I will be making Buckeye candies—a delicacy that is served at many an OSU tailgate party. Little balls made of peanut butter and confectioners sugar are dipped in melted chocolate, leaving a cap of peanut butter at the top. Made to look like the buckeye nut—the fruit of the tree of my home state—these yummy treats are one of the best things about being from Ohio.

I am looking forward to game day. My daughters and I made a big batch of buckeyes, and in the spirit of good sportsmanship I shared some with a parent at Sophie's school who is a diehard Wolverine. And I’ll definitely tune in to the Ohio State marching band half time show—in between the chili dogs and dessert. Let’s Go Buckeyes!!!


1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

1 stick softened butter

1/2 tsp. vanilla

3 cups powdered sugar (about 1/2 lb.)

4 cups good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tsps. vegetable shortening

In a large bowl (or the bowl or an electric mixer), combine the peanut butter, butter, and vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar to the mix until it is well mixed.

Roll the mixture into 3/4" balls, using your hands, and place on a plate lined with waxed paper. Stick a toothpick in each of the balls (to be used as a handle for dipping in the chocolate). Chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

When the peanut butter balls have set, gently melt the chocolate and shortening in the top of a double boiler, stirring frequently, under smooth.

Dip the frozen peanut butter balls in the chocolate, holding them by the toothpick. Leave a small portion on the peanut butter showing at top so the candy resembles the fruit of the buckeye tree. Return the buckeyes to the plate. Gently remove the toothpick and smooth over the hole. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving.

Giving Thanks That The Turkey is Gone: Turkey Chili

My children won’t eat leftovers. No amount of cajoling, bribing, or demanding will get them to eat food the day after it was cooked and served. That poses a bit of a problem for the biggest leftover meal of the year: Thanksgiving. Nothing can be served in its originally prepared state to these picky eaters. So, to throw them off, I began creating a party the day after Thanksgiving—a Mexican fiesta with guacamole, chips, cheese quesadillas and steamed tortillas (served up with drinks that have pineapple and cherry skewers in them!)---and a big steaming pot of turkey chili.

It looks or tastes nothing like Thanksgiving dinner. The thick spicy tomato sauce is flavored with onions, peppers, celery, garlic, beans and a mixture of spices that completely mask the fact that it was yesterday’s meal. I have even chopped up the previous days steamed carrots or baked sweet potatoes, as long as they don’t look like they did at Thanksgiving. My girls have happily eaten the chili topped with shredded cheese, sour cream and a little extra hot sauce. And it packs a nutritional punch with the protein loaded turkey and beans.

Our Turkey Chili Fiesta has now become an annual event—and I have passed along the recipe to friends and family who cannot face another turkey pot pie or turkey soup leftover meal. Blend up some nice icy margaritas and chill the Coronas—it’s a great way to celebrate the weekend--con gusto!!

Turkey Chili

2 onions diced fine

2 peppers diced fine

2 stalks celery diced fine

2 carrots diced fine

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp allspice

2 tbsp chili powder

salt/pepper to taste

(I have also thrown in curry, chinese five spices, and cayenne before to taste)

(I have used up our cooked carrots from dinner and also sweet potatoes--it's a great way to use leftovers!)

Olive oil

2 cups chicken stock.

turkey diced into small bites (2 cups or whatever is leftover. If you have the turkey carcass with meat on, add it with the chicken stock and let the meat steam off--then shred with a fork.

2 large cans tomatoes, chopped

1 can tomato sauce,

1 can garbanzo beans

1 can kidney beans

1 can pink beans.

Heat Oil in large stock pot or dutch oven. Add vegetables and spices above. Saute 5-7 minutes. Add chicken stock and turkey/carcass. Cover and let steam 20 minutes. Shred remaining meat from carcass with fork and return to pan. Discard carcass. Say prayer of thanks that the turkey is finally finished.

Add to stock 2 cans tomatoes, chopped, 1 can tomato sauce, 1 can garbanzo, 1 can kidney, 1 can pink beans. Simmer for 1 hour (or put on low and let cook all day--that's what we did). Correct seasoning and add tomato paste to thicken about 10 minutes before eating.

Serve with cheese, sour cream, guacamole, chips, steamed tortillas and beer.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Healing Foods: Miso-Marinated Black Cod

I cooked for our friends Cynthia and Michael this weekend, which is always a fun challenge. Both are worldly, consummate foodies who love to cook, and they are great company. Our evenings together are always fun, and full of laughter and great conversation. I wanted to cook healthy, and when I saw the beautiful cod fillets at the fish market I was reminded of a recipe from one of my favorite food websites Bee Yinn Low, the blog founder and editor, is an amazing cook who has adapted (and created) many Asian recipes that are easy and delicious. Her Nobu inspired Miso-Marinated Black Cod is one of those—and is as easy as it is mouth wateringly delicious. And with two nutrient dense foods, miso and cod, it is a great healing dish.

According to the World’s Healthiest Foods website (, cod is an excellent low-calorie source of protein (a four-ounce serving of cod provides 52.1% of the daily need for protein for only 119 calories) cod contains a variety of powerful nutrients (vitamins B12, B6, and Omega 3 fatty acids) to aid in heart health, lowering cholesterol, and strengthening the immune system. Paired with miso, cod becomes an even healthier choice, since miso is recommended as a powerful B12 source. It also provides daily needs for manganese (for healthy bones and blood vessels), and the trace minerals zinc (for aiding immune function and healing) and copper (for aiding in energy production and antioxidant defenses).

We vowed to make this dish more often—so I will work on great sides to pair with it in future posts. Steamed broccoli and rice were our side dish choices this time around—which were tasty. So, with thanks to Bee and Nobu, I am happy to introduce you to this recipe.

2-3 black cod fillets (about 1 lb)

For the marinade:
1/4 cup sake
1/4 cup mirin
4 tablespoons white miso paste
3 tablespoons sugar

Mix the marinade ingredients thoroughly in a plastic container (with lid) and set aside. Save some for plating purposes.

Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels and put them into the plastic container with the marinate. Cover the lid and leave to steep in the refrigerator overnight or for 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Preheat an indoor grill at the same time.

Lightly wipe off any excess miso marinade clinging to the fish fillets but don’t rinse it off. Place the fish on the grill and lightly grill on both sides until the surface turns brown.

Transfer the fish fillets to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Add a few extra drops of the marinade on the plate and serve hot.

Adapted from Nobu: The Cookbook

Recipe and photo courtesy of

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Comfort Food: Norcino Pasta (Butcher's Spaghetti)

One of my favorite New York restaurants, Beppe, closed its doors a couple of months ago. Beppe was a warm, welcoming space with delicious Italian foods prepared by chef Cesare Casella. Cesare grew his own herbs, both in clay pots outside the restaurant and in his own garden, and generously flavored his foods with herbs, both fresh and fried. His Tuscan fries—french fries with quick fried herbs and sea salt were a favorite of many returning customers, including me.

But my favorite dish there was a simple bowl of Norcino pasta, or butcher’s spaghetti. It is such a delicious, satisfying and comforting dish—so simple in its ingredients and so pleasing to the palate—it became my only main course as I went back again and again with friends to introduce them to this amazing comfort food. The mix of flavors and spices is complex and rich, and as hard as I tried I could not seem to replicate it at home. A friend and I found a recipe on an Italian website which came close—but it did not quite match Cesare’s dish.

I recently came across a blog written by Cesare (Italian Cooking in the Loop) in which he divulges the recipe for this revered dish. Imagine my delight when I saw HIS recipe, and realized that I could make this at home for my family. I am certain it will become a staple in our comfort food repertoire.

And since my daughter and I promised to start making comfort foods from different cultures and countries on our Sunday cooking days, we will gladly make this one. Grazie Mille, Cesare, for generously sharing this recipe with your fans. Comfort food—with a lovely Italian accent.

Norcino Pasta (Butcher’s Spaghetti)

2 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic

1 1/2 cups roughly chopped red onions

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 1/2 pounds hot sausage, casings removed and meat crumbled

1 cup dry red wine

3 1/2 cups canned whole tomatoes, with their juice, pureed or finely chopped (You can also buy pureed tomatoes, but whole ones are less acidic and of higher quality)

Large pinch crushed red pepper

Large pinch grated nutmeg

Large pinch ground cloves

Large pinch ground cinnamon


Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound spaghetti or tagliatelle

Grated Parmesan cheese, for finishing

In a food processor puree the garlic and onions to a coarse paste.

Coat the bottom of a large skillet with the olive oil. Add the garlic and onion paste and the rosemary and sauté over medium heat until the mixture begins to color, 10-15 minutes.

Add the sausage meats, stirring with a wooden spoon to break them up. When the sausage is brown, add the wine and reduce completely, 8-10 minutes

Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and 4 cups water. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over low hear for 3 hours, adding additional water, a little at a time, if the mixture starts to look too dry. When the sauce is ready, skim off the excess fat and adjust the seasonings.

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until just under al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

Add the spaghetti to the sauce with 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Continue cooking 2 to 3 minutes for the pasta to absorb some of the sauce, adding more pasta water if the mixture becomes too dry. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Pumpkin With a Purpose: Curried Pumpkin Soup

My daughter Sophie thought it would be a good idea to recycle our Halloween pumpkins this year. Of the 4 pumpkins that we picked on our apple and pumpkin picking excursions, only one was carved into a jack-o-lantern. After watching me struggle with a bevy of sharp, dangerous carving and x-acto knives to make the first one, Sophie suggested we draw faces on the rest. Phew.

When I suggested that by not cutting the pumpkins we could actually repurpose them after Halloween and make them into something delicious, she was all for it. We roasted the seeds with olive oil and salt (a big hit), and made pumpkin and sweet potato puree (not so big). With more than 6 cups of purée after cleaning, roasting and scraping the pumpkin from its skin (and throwing it into the food processor to mash), we had enough pumpkin to try a couple of experiments. Curried pumpkin soup was the big favorite—a creamy, spicy and warm bowl of goodness, and I am pleased my girls will eat something so healthful.

I have gone on before about the nutrient dense winter squashes (see sweet potato puree and butternut squash farfalle recipes) so I will be brief about the many health benefits. These beta carotene and vitamin rich foods help lower the risk of asthma, heart disease, arthritis, colon cancer and diabetes. In addition to all that has been mentioned before--we all have good reason to get more winter squashes into our meals.

So feel free to give your pumpkin an even better purpose than creating an eerie ambiance on Halloween. Cook it up and make some healthy and delicious fall foods!

Curried Pumpkin Soup

2 medium onions, finely chopped (2 cups)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons curry powder

3 ½ cups fresh pumpkin purée (or use canned pumpkin)

4 cups water

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 (14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 cup olive oil

Cook onions in butter in a wide 6-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, curry and cardamom and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in salt, red pepper flakes, pumpkin, water, broth, and coconut milk and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. In batches, purée soup in a food processor or blender until smooth (be careful when blending hot liquids!), and return soup to pot. Keep soup warm over low heat. Correct seasonings and thin with additional chicken stock, if needed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Food to Comfort the Grieving

When I was 20, my oldest brother died in a car accident. It rocked our family to the core, and my sisters, younger brother and I together watched our grieving parents and wondered how we could possibly help them in their sorrow. We couldn’t begin to focus on our own loss as we helped to plan the funeral mass, and began the sad task of letting our extended family and friends know what had happened.

My forever friend Mary, who I have known since first grade, came over to console me. She brought me a bag of salted cashews, one of our favorite foods. I was so touched that she would come over to offer her sympathy and dry shoulder to me, and I remember how heartwarming those first salty cashews tasted once I was reminded by my friend to eat.

Mary was the first of many friends and neighbors to start arriving with food gifts--comforting, sustaining foods to feed our family and help us through our grief. It was such a lovely gift of community, sympathy and sustenance as we made it through the sad and painful rituals that follow death. Warm, bubbling casseroles, frosty delicious cakes and plates of hearty, comforting food, both savory and sweet, graced our tables and helped to feed the family and friends who passed through our home that week. These gifts of kindness and sympathy were a wonderful comfort to all of us, and I promised myself then that when I knew people close to me were grieving, I would start bringing out comfort food recipes of my own.

Two weeks ago, a dear friend from childhood was in town from L.A., and he was coming to dinner at our house with a group of friends. I haven’t seen my friend Terry in a few years, and was excitedly planning the menu for our evening together. On the morning of our dinner, he got a call that is father was very ill, and he needed to go back to our hometown of Grove City, Ohio. His father passed away that day, and Terry began his grieving rituals. I was happy to know that so many friends from our childhood were sending Terry their thoughts and prayers, and I started thinking about what I could do to offer support.

It got me thinking about the comfort foods I have had in times of grief, and the dishes that I make for friends and family as they go through the grieving process. From shepherd’s pie and boeuf bourgignon to pound cake and brownies, there are a host of foods that sustain and comfort in tough times. I am offering a couple of mine below—and sending Terry the chocolatey brownies for when he needs to finally sit down and have that big cry that he’s been holding in while keeping everyone else together.


4 squares unsweetened chocolate

3/4 cup butter or margarine

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)

Heat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Spray foil with cooking spray.

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on high 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and nuts; mix well. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 25-30 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Do not overbake.) Cool completely. Use foil handles to remove brownies from pan before cutting to serve.

Shepherd’s Pie

1 lb ground beef and 1 lb ground veal

1 onion chopped

1 cup chopped carrots, I cup (frozen) peas

1 1/2 - 2 lbs potatoes 5-6 medium/large potatoes

8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)

1/2 cup beef broth

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice

Peel and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes). While the potatoes are cooking, melt 4 Tablespoons butter (1/2 a stick) in large frying pan.

Sauté onions in butter until tender over medium heat (10 mins). If you are adding vegetables, add them according to cooking time. Put any carrots in with the onions. Add peas either at the end of the cooking of the onions, or after the meat has initially cooked.

Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add salt and pepper. Add worcesterchire sauce. Add half a cup of beef broth and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes, adding more beef broth as necessary to keep moist.

Mash potatoes in bowl with remainder of butter, season to taste.

Place beef and onions in baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely.

Bake at 400 degrees until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minutes if necessary to brown the top of the potatoes.