Three Cheese Salad

3 Cheese Salad
On a hot, humid Saturday, we wanted something light, fast to prepare, and which would go nicely with a Brooklyn Lager wheat beer. Our combination:

Ripe tomatoes, sliced into bite-sizes (campari, grape or cherry tomatoes recommended)
A big handful of fresh basil, torn
Mozarella cheese, cut into small cubes
Feta cheese, cut into small cubes
Parmigan cheese, shaved
Pine nuts
Olive oil
White wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper

For reasons only known to the most obscure of Greek god, Audrey has decided today that she is a squirrel and mommy and daddy are trees. We managed to scrape her off long enough to throw together a meal!

Scavenger meal: stuffed green peppers

Post audrey bathtime, post work conference call, I looked in the fridge to see what I could throw together. Green pepper, check, leftover black beans, nice!, spring onions, cilantro? hmmm that isn’t a happy color for cilantro, moving on … tomatoes… ok, we’re off to the races.

1 green pepper
Basmati rice
1 medium tomato, diced
Black beans (see recipe)
2 spring onions, diced
Montery Jack cheese
salt and pepper
Hot chili sauce

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Halve your green pepper, then remove the seeds leaving the stem. Steam them for 8 to 10 minutes then set aside. Cook up some rice (in this case I used basmati and made a full cup but only used a serving spoon’s worth). In a mixing bowl, combine your rice, beans, spring onions, tomato, a handful of grated cheese, and a little salt and a healthy dose of pepper. Add something to give it some heat, this dish wants a kick — right now I am using some Sriracha hot chili sauce but would have preferred some fresh serrano or jalapeno peppers. Ah, the limits of the scavenger meal.

Stuff the pepper halves with your mixture and grate some more cheese on the top. Pop in the oven for 30 minutes.

And now for the ultimate scavenge score: ONE more bottle of wine in the house, and it’s a South African Shiraz. Ok enough blogging, time to eat.

Minnesota cream of wild rice soup?

Lisl’s gastronomic business trip continues. We rocked up to St Paul last night looking for comfort food. Who knew that cream of wild rice soup is not only a Minnesota specialty but quite delicious? Looking for the recipe on, there seem to be two schools of thought on how Minnesota wild rice soup should be made – one with cream and the other with tomatoes and spices. I had the creamy one last night and it was great, but I’m sure Giff will want the spicy one.

Here’s a recipe I found that looks close to what I had last night. Looking forward to experimenting when I get home (when the temperature drops below 60 or we get air conditioning)


1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. raw wild rice
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1/2 c. diced onions
1/2 c. diced celery
1/2 c. diced carrot
Soup stock, about 4 1/2 c.
3-4 tsp. cornstarch
2 c. whipping cream or half and half

In heavy pan, melt the butter over medium heat and saute the wild rice, almonds, onion, celery and carrot for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the soup stock and simmer over low heat for 1 1/4 hours, skimming occasionally. Thicken with the cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup of cream. Stir in the remaining cream.

Dinner at Venticello in San Francisco

While Giff tends the kitchen at home in Rye in 100 degree heat, I have been on business in San Francisco. After meetings were finished yesterday evening, I went with a colleague to Venticello, a small Italian restaurant on Nobb Hill. We took a cab from downtown; the streets around there are incredibly steep and it would have been an adventure in my suit and heels. Brought back memories of wheeling Audrey around there in her stroller on our visit in March (wearing sneakers then).

The restaurant is on the corner of Taylor and Washington and boasts a peek-through view of the Bay Bridge through the corner window, open to take advantage of the gorgeous weather. Still on NY time, the restaurant was nearly empty when we arrived and we were early enough to grab seats close to the view. (The photo here looks back at the dining room away from the view at the pizza oven.) The service was friendly and reasonably attentive, although I discovered a service peeve – waiters who obsess over the possessive. Why did this waiter describe the specials as his very own? “my soup today is…” “my appetizer special is…”? Does he really think we believe he’s going down to the kitchen to put it together personally? Or that he designed the menu? “Our” would have been so much more appropriate. I know – picky, picky.

The food was very good. I had a lovely beet, bibb lettuce and tomato salad to start served in a raddicio cup (which went by the tongue-twisting name of Barbabietola) and the rabbit special to follow. Rabbit is not something I usually gravitate towards, but there was something very warm and satisfying-sounding about the dish (guess the waiter did his job well there) and I had great memories of a rabbit dish Michael Granne cooked for us once (my then 13-year old niece Ashleigh was visiting at the time and we had to tell her it was chicken; she was appalled when she discovered what it was, but had eaten and enjoyed most of it by that point). I remember being pleasantly surprised at the color, consistency and flavor of the meat. This rabbit came stewed in a delicious brown sauce with mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, served around polenta – I really enjoyed it. The meal was rounded out by a lovely Italian red wine chosen by my colleague from Taurasi in the Campagna region. Altogether a very good meal.

Vibing the Oliver

I’m a huge fan of Jamie Oliver’s cooking style. He cooks wonderful but totally unpretentious meals. In the immortal words of Dennis Denuto, it’s the vibe of the thing. Some cookbooks are so complicated that it is hard to free-form with a recipe or simplify to speed the process, but not Jamie’s. I recently picked his “family cookbook” and now have a slew of recipes to take apart. While I have my eye on a Pumpkin Laksa soup, I think in this heat my prime target is the Thai Watermelon Salad, which is a combination of watermelon, cilantro, arugula (i.e. rocket), mint, radish, sunflower seeds (or peanuts), and feta, with a dressing that is a classic mix of ginger, chilis, soy sauce, sesame oil, limes, and olive oil. I think that’s definitely on the menu for next Saturday lunch.

Since Audrey is clamoring for watermelon at breakfast, lunch and dinner, we definitely have some around!

Blue Cashew Cuban Black Beans

Gregory Triana, co-owner of the fabulous kitchen and dinnerware supply store Blue Cashew in High Falls, NY (warning: dangerous store to wallet), sent me this wonderful vegetarian black bean recipe.

It definitely takes some time and attention but is worth it. Given my carnivore tendencies and my inability to leave a recipe alone, I have started dabbling with adding chorizo or beef to it to good effect, but so far I think the original vegetarian version below is the best.

I usually just make 1 pound of dried beans, and therefore cut the amount of garlic, but have played with keeping the cumin, green pepper and onion portions the same, also to good effect.

Thank you to Gregory for letting me share this here.

2 – 1lb. Bags of Goya Black Beans ( I like the size and texture of their beans when cooked)
2- Medium to Large Spanish Onions –red onion works as well (To be used at different times)
2- Medium to Large Green Peppers (To be used at different times)
8- Large Garlic Cloves (To be used at different times)
6 – Dried Bay Leaves (To be used at different times)
Coarse Salt ( To be used as you cook, you must taste as you go and depending on your salt level add accordingly
Pepper and (Crushed Black Pepper also for a touch later)
Spanish Olive Oil ( I suggest Goya Spanish Olive Oil or a Sicilian Olive Oil its hearty and cloudy and great for beans)
1-Teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar
Ground Cumin

Preparation for Soaking The Beans
Take your beans and clean/rinse very carefully several times they sometimes contain little pebbles etc…place in the pot
Cut 1- Spanish Onion into quarters – place in the pot
Cut 1- Green Pepper remove seeds into quarters – place in the pot
1-Teaspoon of Ground Cumin – place in the pot
1-Teaspoon of Coarse Salt – place in the pot
1-Teaspoon of Black Pepper – place in the pot
1 1/2-Tablespoon of Olive Oil – place in the pot
4-Large Peeled Garlic Cloves – Take ur paring knife and cut a slit into them – place in the pot
3- Dried Bay Leaves

Mix all together — Gregory likes to use his hands but spoons work as well.
Fill the pot with water about 1 inch above the bean line, cover and soak overnight for at least 12 hours….

In the morning….
Check the water bean line and some of the water might have been absorbed so add more at least 1inch above the bean line
Bring to a high boil for about 5minutes, stir and reduce to low
Cook uncovered for about 2 1/2 hours…. Skim occasionally and stir – check the water line never let it dry out and check bean tenderness.
If you need to add water it must be warm.
After 2 1/2 hours the vegetables (onion, green pepper, cloves, etc.. should have basically dissolved to nothing)
Discard the bay leaves and remove the vegetables and place into a food mill most of them do not worry if you leave a few behind.
Add some liquid of the beans and a few beans to create a nice paste- remove from your food mill and add back to the pot….
Taste the bean tenderness most should have cracked and they should be tender not MUSH, not hard…
Continue to cook low heat…. Add your last 3-remaining bay leaves
Add some fresh cracked pepper – to taste.

Final Step…. Making the Sofrito!

A Skillet/Fry Pan will be needed
Finely dice/cube your remaining onion – set aside
Finely dice/cube your remaining green pepper remove seeds – set aside
Mince your remaining garlic cloves – set aside
Add about 1/4 cup of olive oil to the fry pan low heat until FRAGRANT do not smoke it at all
Add the garlic stir do not let it brown
Add the onion continue to stir until opaque and tender about 8-10minutes
Add the green pepper cook until tender
Add pinch of salt to taste
Add pinch of black ground pepper
Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar sometimes I use the cap of the bottle as the measurement
Add the cumin 1teaspoon
Stir – mix well making sure all flavors are combined
Remove from heat and add all contents to the beans that are still cooking at low temp.
Continue to cook ur beans for about another hour low heat – covered.

Gregory’s Notes: You’re basically done… The beans should be tender, the broth a bit thick and ur done… Set aside serve and eat or store in the fridge. Black beans should always be served with long grain white rice – but we sometimes use a kashi rice or brown but never yellow!

Pork and Fennel Braise

I winged this one early evening several weeks ago, inspired I think by a picture in a Jamie Oliver book for a different recipe. This is my attempt to remember what I did. The results were quite nice, with the fennel almost melting and the pork roast cooked inside a blanket of a kind of stuffing.

2 slices white italian or farm bread
1/2 cup black olives
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 or 3 fennel bulbs, cut into eighths
2 garlic cloves
1.5 to 2 lb pork roast
1/2 cup dry white wine (more or less… I sometimes use more)

Preheat oven to 310 F. Peel your 2 garlic cloves and slice into slivers. With the tip of a sharp knife, poke holes around your pork roast and tuck the garlic slivers inside. In a dutch oven, heat up some olive oil on high heat and sear the pork on all sides for a minute or so each, then remove and turn off heat.

Place the fennel bulb pieces in the bottom of the dutch oven, leaving a bit of a dip in the middle to hold the roast.

In a food processor, pulse up the bread, olives, walnuts, fennel seeds, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Take this paste and thickly coat the pork roast with it, then place the roast on top of the fennel, and pour the white wine around. Grind some salt and pepper on the fennel, cover, and pop in the oven for a slow cook. After an hour, flip the roast carefully so you don’t wreck the coating, and gently stir the fennel. Continue checking the pan and stirring the fennel every 30 minutes or so. If it is dry at the bottom of the dutch oven, add a little more white wine or water. Cooking time will depend on the size of the roast, but expect 2 or 3 hours (I usually check by testing firmness of the roast).

Grilling Mushrooms

Grilled Mushrooms
I love to grill mushrooms, especially big white cup mushrooms. I’ll put them top-side down in a baking dish and drizzle them with olive oil, then balsamic vinegar. I will also pour into each cap a touch of worcestershire sauce, and a touch of soy sauce. If you have a basting brush, it makes it really easy to ensure that the tops (face down in the dish) and sides also get a coating. Let the mushrooms marinate for a good 30 minutes before you grill, and then grill on medium heat, flipping once or twice.

Try not to cook these on a really hot part of your grill, because you want them to cook for about 20 to 25 minutes, and you don’t want them to burn. Your mushrooms will come out with a wonderful texture and rich flavor.

Asparagus & Black Olives

Here is another quick recipe that I can’t quite remember where I picked it up, but it is an easy and delicious way to make asparagus.

black olives
Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Wash and dry your asparagus, trimming the ends where they get tough. Place in a baking dish and scatter the tomatoes and black olives on top (I like adding healthy amounts of both). Drizzle olive oil across everything, and if you have more than one layer of asparagus (too many to fit on the bottom of the dish), then mix it all together a bit. Grind some salt and pepper on top and place in an oven set for 350 F. After 10 minutes, stir the dish again. Continue to check for when the dish is done, but my recollection is that it takes about 20 minutes.

I have also added basil, a touch of white wine, or a touch of rice vinegar to this.

Moqueca de Peixe

This is a fabulous Brazilian fish recipe that I got out of a Saveur magazine and simplified (I think their recipe called for dende oil, which needless to say, I did not have easy access to).

6 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
4 to 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt, to taste
several skin-on or skinless filets (grouper, tilapia, snapper)
3 medium yellow onions (2 chopped, 1 thinly sliced)
1 13.5 oz can of coconut milk
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 ripe plum tomatoes (2 finely chopped, 2 sliced)

1. put 2 tbsp of the cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and salt in a wide, shallow dish and stir to combine. transfer the fish to the dish and turn to coat all over with garlic mixture. let marinate at room temperature for 20-30 minutes

2. puree half of the chopped onions and the coconut milk in a blender and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add remaining chopped tomatoes and 2 tbsp of cilantro and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are soft (about 5 min). Add reserved coconut milk puree and salt, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

3. nestle fish in the sauce (skin side up if skin), and pour marinade over the top. Add remaining cilantro. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook, covered, spooning sauce over filets from time to time, until fish is just cooked through (depends on size of your filets, but say 15 to 20 min). During last 5 minutes of cooking, scatter the sliced onions and sliced tomatoes over the top. Serve with rice.

Giff’s notes: I have made this with Tilapia and loved the results. I like to use a red onion for the sliced rings that you sprinkle on the top of the dish for the last 5 min of cooking.