Saturday, December 22, 2012


Sweet treats are always very appealing at Christmas time. When I was young, my dad would bring home a stollen every year at this time. Another treat we would find when we visited neighbours were baskets filled with a special vanilla sugar cookie known as Vanillekipferl (va neel kip furl) These were delicious crescent-shaped cookies that originated in Vienna, then a part of Austria-Hungary.

There is an interesting story that goes with vanillekipferl. Since the thirteenth century, the Ottoman empire had been battling and conquering lands in Austria-Hungary. Finally, in 1683, German, Polish and Austro-Hungarian forces defeated the Turks and finally ran them out of Europe for good. After the joyous victory, the bakers mimicked the Turkish flag's crescent emblem by baking crescent-shaped sugar cookies. Also noteworthy is the Turks leaving behind sacks of coffee beans which led to the famous European coffee houses, one in Liepzig where J.S.Bach hung out and wrote his famous secular Coffee Cantata in the 1730's . Vanillekipferl, those vanilla crescent cookies with that historic crescent-shape, were served all over Vienna and today are beloved Christmas cookies not only with central Europeans but also by those descendants living here in the USA, who call them Christmas Vanilla Cookies. In the eighteenth century when the vanilla cookies were brought to Paris, bakers there took that crescent shape and created the flaky Croissant (French for “crescent”).

Basically these Christmas Vanilla Crescent Cookies include ground nuts, usually almonds and/or hazelnuts, along with the vanilla for flavour. Often they are dusted with powdered sugar and sometimes dipped in chocolate.

Here is a fine vanillekipferl recipe, from Saveur magazine which uses walnuts for the nut flavouring.

Christmas Vanilla Crescent Cookies              Makes 4 dozen


1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for finishing cookies
½ pound. unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups walnuts, finely ground in food processor
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for rolling


Heat oven to 325F

Beat together sugar, butter, and vanilla in a bowl; mix in ground nuts and flour.

Flour and roll into a cylinder.

Divide into 48 pieces.

Roll each piece into a sausage shape.

Taper ends; bend into a crescent.

Transfer to parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 1" apart.

Bake until golden-coloured, about 12–15 minutes.

Sift with confectioners' sugar. Let cool

Enjoy these wonderful, historic cookies, served at Christmas for more than 300 years.

The Education Tipster and I wish everyone everywhere peace and love this Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012



We visited our daughter in Florida for Thanksgiving and her spouses' mom put on a big spread. All the traditional foods were on the table and there was plenty of it. So when we left that beautiful home on the water, we brought back a huge bag of turkey including the carcass.

The next day my BW picked through the bag and separated all the meat. We decided to prepare a casserole using items already on hand. Everyone raved about the casserole so I thought I'd mention it here. It is not difficult to prepare and is a taste sensation. I know because we all finished the casserole that night. My daughter had these cans of soup in her cupboard and they became the flavour base.

Turkey Pasta Casserole           serves 8 normal people


4-5 cups chopped cooked leftover turkey
1-pound of macaroni, I used Ziti
¼ pound of butter
½ cup flour
1-teaspoon of seasoning salt, such as Lawry's. I used Tony Chacherie's Creole Seasoning
2-cups milk
2-18.5 ounce cans of soup, I used Progresso brand Bacon, Potato Soup but there is a wide variety of these prepared soups to choose from.

1-2 cups grated cheese, I used mostly Asiago with Parmesan directly on top but Mozzarella, Monterrey Jack and Provolone would also be good.

Put on a pot of water to boil the macaroni. When boiling, add a little salt and macaroni
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F/175C
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat
  3. Heat the milk almost to boiling in microwave or stove-top saucepan
  4. Add the flour and seasoning to the butter, stir to combine, cook a minute or two
  5. Pour the hot milk into the flour/fat roux and stir to make a white sauce
  6. Drain the cooked macaroni
  7. Grease or spray non-stick on a 13inch by 9 inch baking pan
  8. Spread the macaroni in the pan
  9. Add most of the cheese to the white sauce and stir thoroughly. Reserve some cheese.
  10. Add the cans of soup to the cheese sauce and combine
  11. Pour into the macaroni and combine
  12. Place in middle of oven and bake 20-30 minutes
  13. Shut oven, turn on broiler
  14. Spread some grated cheese atop the casserole. Optionally, shake black pepper all over.
  15. Place under broiler a minute or so to make top golden.
And that is a wonderful way to deal with leftover turkey. Quite frankly, if it wasn't for tradition, I would serve turkey this way on Thanksgiving day, but of course it wouldn't be the same, would it? But the next day? Oy, what a treat. Deja vu never tasted so good.

Monday, November 19, 2012


An Onion Tart, known as Zweibelkuchen (onion cake) in its German birthplace, is always popular in the fall and winter. Alluding to the Reese's candy metaphor, what if a quiche collided with a pizza? Or what if a quiche and a pizza got married and had a baby? Or... well you get the idea. Zweibelkuchen shares genes with both a quiche and a pizza but is just different enough to be interesting. Bacon and sour cream and caraway seeds marry (A menage a trois?) on a nice onion-laden crust and form a delicious tart rendering a delectable luncheon treat, or a nice snack on a cool windy afternoon. Aw shucks, it would be welcome 'most any old time.

Zweibelkuchen is like a German cousin of the Gallic Pissaldiere, only the toppings above the main event, the onions, are different.

Zweibelkuchen is most often made with a yeast dough but can be made with pie pastry. You could even make the filling and use store- bought pastry. There was a lady who made this tart with frozen bread dough from the market. If you have a Kitchenaid or a Cuisinart, a yeast dough is easy to make, should you be so inclined. Use whatever crust you fancy. Early TV star Molly Goldberg used a prepared pie pastry for her Jake's Zweibelkuchen, so you certainly can too. Pre-heat oven to 450F/225C.

Zweibelkuchen             Serves 6



2 lbs onions, peeled cut into half and sliced into half-rings
Four slices of bacon, diced
16 oz/473 ml sour cream
4 eggs
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon caraway seeds

Fry the bacon but do not brown it, using a large skillet or a pot over medium heat.

Add the onions to the bacon and fry, stirring from time to time, until the onions are transparent, and soft, but not caramelized. This will take about 15 minutes. OR: You could put the bacon and onion mixture in a crockpot (sprayed with cooking spray) and leave untended for 5-8 hours. Slow cook them overnight if you wish.

In a separate bowl, mix the sour cream, eggs, pepper and nutmeg.


¾ teaspoon baking yeast 1 cup warm milk
½ teaspoon sugar
3 cups flour
4 tablespoons butter
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt

Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk, add the sugar and a dash of the flour, stir, cover and keep in a warm place for ten minutes.

Add this and the remaining dough ingredients to your dough-hook mixer or food processor or bench board. and mix .Knead about ten minutes by hand, 5 minutes by dough-hook or one minute in food processor.

Cover and keep in a warm place for 45 minutes to let the dough rise.

Roll the dough out and place into a flat, large roasting pan. Two separate 9 inch square pans are good too. Just divide the dough in half. You want a ridge on the sides to provide a wall to hold the filling. The ridge should be about 1/2 inch high, then pour the onion and bacon mixture over the dough and spread it out to cover evenly. Optionally, you could sprinkle a little grated Swiss cheese over this if you like.

Pour the egg-sour cream mixture over the top, sprinkle the caraway seeds evenly and put it in the oven for 30-40 minutes, at which time it should be a lovely golden brown.

If you like pizza and/or quiche/pissaldiere and you know your onions, Zweibelkuchen is a pleasant, tasty diversion. Enjoy.

Monday, November 12, 2012


My spouse, the education tipster, taught for years on Long Island. This is an open letter written by one of her former students in Long Beach on the island, who is impacted by the terrible storm up there.

Please read this letter from a former student of Kathy. He has lost his home, business and two vehicles! Please consider donating to his fund at this site:

To my friends and family,
Thank you all for your well wishes and your prayers I deeply appreciate them. My friend Lisa has been good enough to post on here for me and today I'm in Rockville center for some Wifi, to post this.
So everyone understands, I'm appreciative of FEMA, the National Guard, and the Red Cross but the reality of the situation is that when this type of disaster happens the first responders, neighbors, and yourself are what will get you through. My day begins at 5:30 am when I get up and get myself, my son, and my dog ready. I power my cell phone on the car charger while we drive to get online for gas two towns away and fill up our gas cans and the car we are using. My car was submerged by the bay on Monday night. My mother is letting me use her car after the cars at my parent’s house were miraculously left untouched. After an hour wait for gas we see if we can grab a guilty luxury of hot coffee somewhere and maybe a newspaper to see if anyone can tell us when the power could be back.

My father will be at city hall at 9am. His usual routine is to ask questions and be told to talk to FEMA officials. When he asks where they are no one knows. The FEMA volunteers are giving out water and food today by the schools but anyone with answers will be available at some point later. I sat outside Starbucks in Rockville center to get WiFi and filled out my FEMA application on their website for my home and my business both of which are ruined. The house I will clean out on Monday but it is 17 miles away and I don't want to drive out there until I know gas will be easier to obtain. The business will only be given a loan at 4% and only after I go through my insurance. My insurance broker has been unreachable for the business and when I drive to Rockville center tomorrow for cell service I will try the main company. At best they will look at my store in 2weeks and most likely a month, not sure when FEMA will or what either will do or what I will qualify for, it's mostly just about waiting when it comes to either of them. I stop by home depot to try and get a kerosene space heater but they are sold out. I'm bummed. I wanted to buy one for my grandmother and my friend who have no heat other than their gas stoves. I stop at ACE and they are out too but just got kerosene fuel in so I buy two gallons just in case I get heater later.

We drop newspapers and gas off to my parents and then meet the kids They know I can't pay them for awhile and they still show up, to say I'm thankful would be an understatement, and their parents should be proud of the kind of kids they raised. My store is ruined. The floor and roof caved in the back and the floor is sinking in the front. The water rose past any barriers and flooded out the store, destroying

all the inventory including the early inventory we brought for Christmas. The florist case is destroyed and the flowers are rotting in the case. Every plant in my greenhouse was flooded with salt water, every bag of soil, and fertilizer is ruined. We put a forklift and Gerard's motorcycle in here for protection and both appear to be dead. The front of the greenhouse was smashed when the rising water brought pallets of soils from the back of the store to front, crashing them in to the benches that then pushed in the front wall of the greenhouse. The heating systems were destroyed and the pickup was flooded as well. Today we will work cleaning out the store till 3. I speak to my friend who owns the repair shop across the street. He asks me if he could buy some fire wood but I refuse his money and tell him to take what he needs. He lost everything in his shop. All his tools and equipment are gone. He got in touch with his insurance broker who told him he is covered for hazard but not flood. He doesn't want a loan to get back in business so he will take his own savings to reopen. He is a good man and I'm sorry for him. We had some people come in to buy firewood even after I warned them it needed days to dry out from the salt water and wet sand covering it. They didn't care. It broke my heart to turn one guy away when he didn't have cash, but there is no power for credit and we are down to three chords of wood. If I knew I could get more wood I would have given it to him but I can't get a hold of my wood guy. We finish cleaning and as we head out, I thank everyone.
While there is still light out I walk Nula through the town. The pictures I saw in the paper don't do it justice and they don’t describe the smell of oil and gasoline that had been everywhere. There is a 12' section of the boardwalk on top of a red Nissan a half of a mile from where the boardwalk used to be. It’s quiet too, with just the sounds of generators or clean-up crews breaking the silence, but the liveliness that was this town is gone. The bull dozers have been pushing the beach out of the streets round the clock for two days now and the west end of long beach is obliterated. All the apartment buildings have been vacated except for the supers who are pumping water out. I bump into my uncle who is back from the rockaways and tells me they are worse. His neighbor’s house in belle harbor is missing the front. He tells me the Hess in Island Park opened one pump an hourago and the gas line is 2miles long already. He told me state troopers are there to keep it in order. My beautiful beachside town I grew up in and love has its sidewalks lined with the contents of people's homes, all just ruined. There are so many abandoned cars that they have been slapped with stickers so the tow companies know which to get later. I walk by my friend Carlos's clothing store. It's boarded up but I already know he must have lost everything there. I remember reading that Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen are doing a benefit concert for the devastated areas. I think it's kinda funny that they think they will help anyone when they really need it. If they didn't do the concert and sent some generators here that might be of help, but I'm not a fan of either so I'm just a little jaded. I have to get home before curfew starts. The National Guard will arrest anyone on the street after 7pm. 5 days of this and I'm exhausted, I just have to hold out till it’s back to normal.

I would like to say I talk to my parents but I'm so mentally tired I just nod a lot and tell them I don't know. I try not to speak because I want to keep level headed and focus on what I can do. When I think of what I can't control I start to lose it. I tell my parents LIPA might have the power on by November 10 or 11th by what the paper said but I don't think we will have before Thanksgiving because of a nor'easter that might hit next Wednesday. They say we might have water by Monday or Tuesday and we shouldn't use the tap to even wash. My son brings firewood in and I am thankful for him. He has been my right arm since he moved in with me and I try to keep strong for him. I don't know where we will live when the power comes back. The house I have I had just rented out was destroyed, and the apartment that I was renting most likely will be condemned. The foundation shifted in the flood and until they get a structural engineer they can't pump the water out of the basement for fear it might collapse. Apartments will be hard to find because there won't be that many livable ones available and most of my savings will be used up just living without any income coming in from my store. I spend my night watching my son play with my nephew. My nephew runs through the house laughing the way only toddlers can. It has become my greatest joy watching them and spending time with my parents, my sisters and my nephew. God can show you how important the little things you take forgranted are. I try not to let everything else worry me and just dwell on these things, letting them become my most important memories. I thank the Lord that so far everyone I know is ok. I thank him that my parent’s home was ok and they have heat and room for my son and I. I am fortunate compared to most. I hope I can find some heaters for my grandmother and my friend. It’s going to be chilly at night now and they could get sick. I know my uncles will take care of my grandmother but they are in the Rockaways and if thats worse then here then I have to help them. We might get assistance by the end of the month but I can't think that far ahead. I just need to get through tonight and get ready for tomorrow, where I will get up at 5:30am and start over again. Keep us in your prayers and if you choose to help someone find out what they need and fed ex/ups it. They will get it from you before any government assistance will get there, and it will go directly to them. I love you all, God Bless you.
Sean Newman, Long Beach, NY


Monday, October 22, 2012


So I’m at this birthday party held for me at a nice Italian restaurant and there are eight of us and we all have a salad course that includes a sliced beets garnish. No one likes beets and I'm eating everybody’s. I’m incredulous that no one appreciates beets so I decide to prepare beets in a way that all would appreciate.

If the notion of eating beets makes you sad, get ready for a happy upgrade. There is a wonderful way to enjoy this very healthy vegetable which is so rich in folate, manganese and fiber.

If you think you don't like beets – think again. You could like beets; but not the way they are usually prepared. Forget those horrible canned, bland beets and roast up some fresh ones. When you do, you'll be a beet-lover.

As their intense colour indicates, beets are big-time antioxidant providers and also have cancer and heart- disease fighting properties, as well as a host of vitamins and minerals. Nutritious beets are inexpensive; they store well; and they’re available throughout the year.

But forget about the numerous health benefits these ruby-coloured gems bestow. Roasting the beets magically brings out an extraordinary flavour that you can savour with an all over warm pleasant taste. Beets done this way will tickle your innards. Roasted beets could become as popular as baked Idaho potatoes, or okay, at least an occasional culinary diversion.

Roasted beets pair blissfully with greens, cheese and nuts. If you haven’t eaten beets in awhile, or never; please try this dish and excite your taste buds. A zesty, vibrant salad of greens, cheese and nuts that features roasted beets. I know - your mouth is already watering, so I’ll stop talking now and let you go ahead and enjoy.

Salad of Roasted Beets with Gorgonzola and Walnuts serves four


5 small beets

¼ cup raspberry vinegar
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
½ teaspoon of honey
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
½ pound baby spinach, torn
Small handful of radicchio, torn
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted lightly in a dry skillet
4 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (or blue cheese or goat cheese)
Cut-up sliced peaches or mandarin orange segments
  • Heat oven to 350F/175C. Wash and scrub the beets thoroughly. Leave the skins on.
  • Rub the beets with some olive oil
  • Put the oiled beets in a baking dish just large enough to hold them.
  • Bake them for 45 minutes.
  • Check that they are tender. Depending on their size they may need a couple more minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let the beets cool slightly.

  • Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar, mustard, honey, and garlic in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and season with salt and pepper. Set this vinaigrette aside.

  • After beets have cooled enough to handle, remove and discard skins and cut into bite-size pieces.
  • Mix beets with half of the vinaigrette, then mix spinach and watercress or radicchio with the rest of the vinaigrette.
  • Transfer greens to plates and top with the beets, walnuts, and gorgonzola cheese. Add the peaches and/or orange segments.
I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but eat beets this way for your good health. These beets are great. Try this and get ready to eat beets more often

Monday, October 15, 2012


I 'm so proud of my lovely spouse, the Education Tipster; Kathy Stemke. Her charming children's book: “Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep has just garnered another award. She won a silver award in the 2012 children's literary classic awards.Yes, this beautifully illustrated tome, perfect for young boys who have just acquired a younger sibling, or any child, has been recognized for its educative value.

I already knew Miss Kathy had great teacher skills so this award validates that. When we travel to schools and libraries, the little children get the biggest thrill from her readings. I know because while helping miss Kathy set up and such, little ones exuperantly exclaim “This is fun”. The gleam in their eyes is so rewarding. I was kneeling on the floor retrieving kinetic exercise placards and a little girl kissed my arm. It was so sweet. The librarians and first-grade teachers love “Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep” and all enjoy our visits immensely.

I would urge everyone to take a look at this precious book and perhaps make it a part of your personal library.

Please join me in congratulating miss Kathy for the silver award. (Hearty applause) Well done sweetheart.


Friday, October 5, 2012


Just a few months after the successful performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s first big musical work, his Symphony #1 in C (opus 21), his hero Napoleon Bonaparte was also making a name for himself by audaciously crossing the Alps (on a mule) and leading his army to defeat the Austrian army at the battle of Marengo, in northern Italy. Driving the Austrians from Italy, Napoleon insured his success as First Consul (French government leader) and that particular victory ended the French revolutionary period (beginning the Napoleonic era) and allowed him to boldly reform France and Europe as he wished.

They say an army travels on its stomach, and Marengo had decimated Napoleon’s food supplies. Legend has it that he sent his chef and cooks foraging out into the countryside. Accordingly, they brought back chickens, eggs, tomatoes, onions, garlic, mushrooms and crayfish from a river, and thus a classic dish, Chicken a la Marengo, was fashioned. So memorable was that battle victory, that when later- exiled French Bonaparte supporters initially settled a county in the state of Alabama, USA, they named it Marengo. Perhaps few people are familiar with the battle of Marengo but plenty know and love the Chicken a la Marengo dish. And for good reason – it is sensational; vibrant and jam-packed with bucolic flavour.

When Beethoven had composed his Third Symphony in E flat, (Opus 55) a couple years later, he originally dedicated it to Napoleon because he cherished Napoleon's new constitution, founded on representative government with sacred rights of property, equality, and liberty.  But when Bonaparte arrogantly crowned himself emperor, Beethoven saw him for the imperial tyrant he had really become. A few years later Bonaparte was exiled and the rest is history.

Beethoven went on to compose eight more symphonies, several string quartets and piano concertos, even an opera since that historical Marengo battle. By the time his 3rd Symphony was performed in 1805, Beethoven was regarded as a master composer. That “Eroica” (heroic) symphony revealed a breadth and profundity of orchestration that significantly lifted music from the sweet, melodically appealing music of earlier periods to a new dynamic structural standard where bold passion played a big part. I don’t know if Ludwig ever dined on Chicken a la Marengo, (his hero worship of Napoleon had certainly expired) but the immortal composer would have surely loved this tasty classic dish, richly imbued with its own culinary breadth and profundity.

Classic recipes for Chicken a la Marengo abound; here is one from Julia Child that is extraordinary. Many modern recipes omit the shellfish and the croutons and the eggs and many use boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Because of the history, I like Miss Childs’ faithful to the original version, which I can assure you will taste wonderful. But if you refrain from the garnishes, it is okay, you will still have a wonderful dish. I hope you will try Chicken a la Marengo; perhaps listening to the Eroica symphony while preparing it. Think of it all: the sight, the sound, the taste, the aroma.

Chicken a la Marengo                                     serves 6


1 chicken, cut into parts for frying or personally chosen parts 4-5 lbs
4 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup dry white wine divided into 3rds (3- ¼ cup sections)
1 tablespoon cognac or brandy
2 medium onions, diced

2 lbs diced fresh tomatoes or a 28 ounce can highest quality tomatoes, chopped up
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed or pressed
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ lb white mushrooms, caps and stems
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup of the white wine from above

2 tablespoons olive oil
6- ¼ inch slices of baguette (small ovals)
6 large cleaned shrimp or prawns or crayfish tails

1 tablespoon olive oil (perhaps a little more)
6 small eggs
1 generous teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
½ cup pitted black olives, sliced


  • Rinse the chicken and pat dry thoroughly
  • Heat a large skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and when hot brown the chicken well on all sides. May do this in portions to avoid overcrowding the skillet
  • Add ¼ cup white wine, cover and simmer all10 minutes
  • Add BRANDY, then ONIONS, recover and re-simmer 10 minutes
  • Remove chicken to a platter

  • Remove stems from MUSHROOM CAPS and dice them, reserving caps
  • Fry the GARLIC and MUSHROOM DICE together
  • Add the chopped TOMATOES, ¼ cup WHITE WINE and HERBAGE
  • Stir well and loosen up any chicken bits in the skillet
  • Add salt and pepper, tasting for proper amount
  • Bring heat up and add chicken to the tomato mixture
  • Reduce the flame, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes

  • As the chicken cooks, heat a saucepan over high flame with olive oil and white wine and briefly add the mushroom caps tossing lightly
  • Now set them aside keeping them warm ( a slow, 200F oven is good)

  • Heat a frying pan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil and lightly brown bread slices
  • Keep warm

  • Add the shrimp to hot oil and fry only about 1 or 2 minutes, just until they curl up Place on a rack or paper towels and then keep warm
  • Poach the eggs in water or fry them in olive oil. When cooked drain on rack or paper towel

 I usually serve this individually or you can put the chicken on a platter and then spoon the tomato sauce over it. Garnish with the black olives and parsley
Place the croutons around the chicken platter.  Place an egg on every crouton and a shrimp between them. If you want to serve wine with this, a cabernet sauvignon is a good companion.

Despite its rustic beginning, Chicken a la Marengo is a noble dish to prepare for a special occasion if not a weeknight thing. A couple working together can enjoy preparing this historical entity easily and the heroic symphony will add to the happy thrill. There is a lot to love here, especially the Chicken a la Marengo.


Thursday, July 26, 2012


It’s hard to say the word “prune” without thinking of wrinkles - and plenty of jokes have been written with reference to the elderly and wrinkled prunes. I guess it got so bad that the humourless prune people decided to take steps. Therefore in the super market nowadays, it’s hard to find prunes because they’ve changed the name to “dried plums”. So now it’s okay for all age groups to eat this sweet, rich- tasting, chewy- textured gem. Forget their vast amount of vitamin K, fibre and other nutrients; prunes are delicious stewed in port wine or maneuvered into main dishes. But don’t forget to go easy as they are quite sweet.

Many people love prunes (I mean dried plums) apart from their dessert realm, like for instance in a Moroccan- seasoned, fabulous, spicy, beef and prunes. If your only use of prunes (I have to get used to dried plums; lets pretend they haven’t changed the name yet) is in stuffing or in your morning oatmeal or in rice pilafs; try this beef with prunes Moroccan style and get ready for a marvelous surprise when you cook with them.

The exhilarating flavours of Moroccan-spiced beef and prunes are cherished in my kitchen. I want to share it with you because even if prunes are not your idea of gastronomic goodness you will love this. The prunes actually cook into the sauce.

I don’t recommend eating prunes right out of the box when you are on the road because you’ll get the steering wheel sugar-sticky, making it uncomfortable to drive. Of course if you live in a large metropolitan area you can invite those squeegee-bearing windshield cleaners to wipe down your steering wheel when stopped for a light, but you may prefer not to get so intimate with them, especially if there is no published rate for this particular service. But I digress. Prunes are a seriously scrumptious companion to beef.

Moroccan food employs a spice blend known as ras el hanout (Rahs el hah noot) which is a blend of many spices. I’ve seen the McCormick brand blend in the market or you can make your own. It is akin to an Indian garam masala in that it is made up of many different spices.

Here is a superb Beef with Prunes, Moroccan style recipe that is not too complicated but quite delicious from  It is a good, loving, home-style dish to warm your innards on a cold night. (Or a hot night if you have central air). The prunes give the dish an unexpected eruption of flavour. By the way, this dish could be made with lamb instead of beef and would be excellent. Lamb is non-existent where I live, so beef it is.

Beef and Prunes              serves 4-6


2 pounds braising steak such as chuck or bottom round, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons ras el hanout, store bought, or recipe follows
Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 inch piece of ginger root, finely chopped or cut into thin matchsticks
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 pound of chopped tomatoes, from your garden or canned
1 can (14 ounce) chickpeas, drained, or: 1 pound of sliced carrots
1 pint of beef stock
1 cup pitted prunes, cut in half
Small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
Thinly sliced almonds for topping


  • Put the cubed beef in a large bowl
  • Sprinkle the ras el hanout plus a pinch of black pepper over the meat
  • Mix thoroughly, cover with plastic wrap and put in the icebox
  • Let chill overnight or at least one hour

  • Heat the oil in a dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the meat and cook gently for 2 minutes, to brown the meat but not burn the spices.
  • With a slotted spoon remove the meat and place on a plate.
  • Add the onions and cook gently for 2 minutes
  • Add the ginger and cook for one minute
  • Add the garlic and cook for one minute
  • Put the beef back in the pot and add the tomatoes.
  • Stir well, bring to a boil then simmer, covered, for 90 minutes. If you like, you could now put this in a slow-cooker or put dutch-oven in 350F oven.

  • After the 90 minutes has passed, add the chickpeas and prunes.
  • Simmer for an additional 90 minutes. The prunes will cook down and enrich the sauce.
  • Check that there is sufficient liquid in the cooking vessel, adding water if becoming too dry. It should not be soupy or so dry it might scorch.
  • Taste for salt, adding some if necessary.
  • When the cooking is complete, serve this fragrant beauty over couscous or rice, topping each serving with coriander and almonds. Toasted sesame seed is good too.

Ras el hanout


2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon hot Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Generous pinch saffron threads
In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the ground spices. Crush the saffron threads between clean, dry fingers, sprinkle over the spice mixture, and whisk again.
Transfer the Ras El Hanout to an airtight container, and store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.

BUT WAIT!  If you don’t have all the above spices on your rack, a most basic ras el hanout can be made thusly:

2 teaspoons cumion powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
Whisk together to blend.

Beef and prunes is a terrific homey dish. I hope you will prepare this fabulous delight because You and your guests will love it, and you don’t have to ride the Marrakesh express to get it.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


 A major migration took place in the 13th century when the Mongol hordes under Kublai Khan were subjugating China.  In 1238 the independent Kingdom of  Siam (modern Thailand) was formed by Chinese expatriates and to this day remains a monarchy,

Thai cuisine was influenced by China and India, evident in the stir-fry technique and the curry concept. But Thai food is definitely distinct from both since they use their own spices, fresh herbs and vegetables; and is characterized by a particularly  balanced combination of sweet, salty, bitter, sour and spicy tastes. Thai cookery flourished because it is very artful, and employs stimulating ingredients such as tangy fish sauce, coconut milk, and fragrant lemongrass, basil, coriander, and citrus fruits.

We love all those wonderfully vibrant Thai red, green, yellow, masaman and panang curries. All are delectable. I recently enjoyed a Thai green fish curry locally that was so laudably luscious it deserved mention. Happily, the green fish curry in my kitchen is every bit as enthralling as that prepared in local Thai restaurants.

Green curry is made with fresh, young green chilies, and is usually significantly hotter than other curries but not necessarily; as you can control the heat by manipulating the ratio between the amount of chilies and the coriander. Green curry tends to lean toward a sweeter flavor as opposed to say a red which tends toward the savory.

Here is my Thai Green Fish Curry                    serves 4


2 tablespoons peanut or other vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons (or more to taste) green curry paste, store-bought or use recipe below
1 small eggplant, peeled and diced or 2 cups trimmed green beans
½ cup of coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pound of firm fish filets, such as halibut, cod, snapper, northern pike, sea bass and such
½ cup fish stock or bouillon
2 teaspoons each, grated zest of lemon and lime
15 leaves of Thai basil, (if unavailable use half regular basil and half fresh mint leaves or just basil)


  • Heat the oil in a skillet or wok.
  • When very hot add the garlic
  • As it turns a golden colour add the curry paste, stirring well
  • Add  eggplant or green beans, stir-fry 4 minutes
  • Add the coconut milk and bring to boiling
  • Stir well as milk thickens
  • Stir in the fish sauce and sugar
  • Put in the fish pieces and bouillon
  • Simmer while stirring occasionally for 3 minutes to cook fish
  • If more liquid is required, add a little more coconut milk
  • Add the basil and lemon and lime zest, cooking one more minute

You can serve this aromatic ambrosia over steamed rice.  

Thai Green Curry Paste
5 fresh green chilies, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 small or medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon grated gingerroot
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander stems or stems and leaves
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon grated lime zest
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
½ teaspoon salt

Put all the ingredients in a blender and whirl to a paste. If necessary add a little water.
If you cannot find shrimp paste, forget about it. More green chilies can be used if desired or less for a milder taste. If using less, add a little more fresh coriander.

Thai green fish curry is a flavour phenomenon; I hope you will try some soon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


My little baby-sugar daughter's spouse happens to like the sweet and tangy pickles I make, so every time I give him some, he eats them with relish. Well, not pickle relish of course; that would be redundant, but he definitely delights in eating them. As I dote on them as much as he, I plant a garden to grow my own pickles, so I plant some, like these:

Here is my little garden plot, devoted to my son-in-law’s pickle supply. As you can see, some are already finished.

Since I’m growing the pickles I think why not grow the jars too. I plant pint jars and already some have grown into quart-size.

Here they are

Oh look, one is filled with pickles already.

Putting up your own sweet and tangy pickles is a good idea since you control the ingredients and can tweak the spice amounts to your taste. For instance, try star anise or a cardamom pod in a batch if you like. Here is the way I do it.

Adapted from: Retro Barbecue, Linda Everett, Collectors Press, Portland, OR, 2002

Sweet and Tangy Pickle Slices

Ingredients:                       Makes 10 pints

7 pounds cucumbers, washed and cut into slices *
2 gallons cold water
2 cups dehydrating lime (for canning)

6 cups apple cider vinegar
4 pounds plus 1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 ½ teaspoons pickling spices
1 teaspoon mustard seed
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon whole cloves


  • Place the sliced cucumbers, the canning lime and the cold water in a big stainless steel bowl.
  • Mix gently to combine
  • Let the cucumbers set in a cool place for 24 hours
  • Stir occasionally

  • After the 24 hour period, drain the cucumbers and rinse well.
  • Cover the cucumbers with more cold water and let sit for 3 hours
  • Drain well

  • In a large saucepan or pot, put in the remaining ingredients
  • Stir to thoroughly dissolve sugar while bringing to simmer
  • Let the syrup mixture cool
  • When cool, pour over the cucumbers
  • Let sit overnight

  • Next day, bring the cucumbers and syrup to simmering
  • Gently cook for about 25 minutes, when cucumbers become transparent
  • Boil plenty of water to sterilize canning jars, seals and lids as well as to submerge the filled jars
  • Carefully remove the jars, seals and lids and proceed to fill jars with cucumbers
  • Seal jars and process in the boiling water for 10 minutes.(if your pot is not large enough to hold all the jars, then do in batches)
  • Remove from water and they are done

There is a certain sequence to this pickling procedure but it is not difficult. All you need is a big pot to hold the jars covered in boiling water, the jars, lids and the ingredients listed.

Last year I had an abundance of pears on my trees and made a lovely pear relish, so you may want to “can” other fruits and vegetables. I had plenty  many tomatoes last year and made a couple gallons of home-made tomato sauce, which was a blessing. It is not difficult to “can”, so, yes you can “can”. You can start with these Sweet and Tangy Pickles; you won’t believe how great they taste, on sandwiches, with bread and butter or right out of the jar like bro’ in law.

* Look for pickling type cucumbers; they are smallish with “bumps” on them. Most importantly be sure they do not have a wax coating on them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


One of France's most rugged regions, the northwestern province of Brittany, is a captivating blend of spectacular coastline, verdant countryside, ancient towns with castles and medieval cobbled streets, stone megaliths, exquisite islands, inland woods and inviting sandy beaches.

 Jutting out into the Atlantic, between the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay; Brittany was a Celtic duchy for more than one thousand years before its annexation to France in the 16th century.  It is a land rich in culture, tradition and history. Even today, one-fourth of Brittany speaks Breton, a language closely related to Celtic Cornish and Welsh. Many habitu├ęs prefer beer over wine.

Brittany is also famous for their large number of Michelin starred chefs, and is the birthplace of crepes.
Surrounded by the sea, Brittany’s coastal location offers a wide selection of seafood dishes; but of particular note are the fish stews, which provide a popular, hearty meal and use a wide variety of fish.

One particularly tempting seafood dish is Cotriade (co tree ahd), a specialty of Brittany. Cotriade is a wonderful fish stew, sometimes made from monkfish and/or mackerel and mixed with onions, parsley, white wine, garlic and potatoes, and is traditionally served with crusty baguette slices.

Adapted from Practical One Pot, Parragon Book, Bath, UK 2002

Cotriade – Fish Stew from Brittany           Serves 4
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron
  • 2 ½ cups fish bouillon or stock, heated
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 leek trimmed and sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound potatoes, pared and cut into chunks
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 ½ teaspoons dried
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 pounds mixed fish filets, such as haddock, cod, mackerel etc
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Crusty bread

  1. Crush the saffron in a mortar and pestle or spice grinde
  2. Stir into heated fish bouillon and then let steep for ten minutes
  3. Heat oil and butter together in a large saucepan
  4. Stir in the onion and cook 4 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally
  5. Stir in the garlic, leek, fennel and potatoes
  6. Cover and cook for about ten minutes or until the vegetables are almost softened
  7. Pour in the wine, stir, turn up the heat, and gently boil for three minutes
  8. Check level, wine should be reduced by about half
  9. Stir in the thyme, bay leaves and tomatoes
  10. Add the saffron/fish bouillon
  11. Bring to the boil, lower heat and cover
  12. Simmer gently for about ten minutes so that all vegetables become tender
  13. Add the fish, bring to the boil and then simmer for only three minutes
  14. Stir in the parsley and season to taste
With a slotted spoon, remove the fish and vegetables to a warmed serving dish.

 Traditionally, the soup portion is served separately followed by the fish and vegetables, but you could serve it as one dish.

Last time I served this Brittany fish stew, the hummers came out. After every mouthful it was hmm, umm, hmm, almost ad infinitum; and why not?  It’s that good.

Enjoy Cotriade, a fine fish stew from Brittany soon.

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