keito potato

Black Olives with Orange and Fennel
August 14, 2012, 2:26 pm
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These marinated olives are mysterious and heavenly.  The fennel and orange peel complement the olives perfectly.  The flavor is soft and subtle, and the marinade seems to erase some of the saltiness of the olives.




2 cups black olives — oil-cured, Nicoise, Kalamata, or a mixture

6 small bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

zest of 1/2 small orange, in large strips

extra virgin olive oil to moisten


Combine everything in a bowl.  Let stand for 1 hour or more for the flavors to develop.  Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 weeks.

Marinated Mushrooms
August 14, 2012, 11:03 am
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Marinated mushrooms are a breeze to make and taste much better than store bought.  You can spice the marinade with a pinch of hot red pepper flakes and some balsamic vinegar, and sent it with just about any herbs growing in the garden.  The mushrooms are ready to eat when they have soaked up enough marinade to flavor them fully.  An hour is sufficient, but overnight is best.  This recipe comes from Viana La Place’s cookbook Panini, Bruschetta, Crostini:  Sandwiches, Italian Style.  These marinated mushrooms can be used as an appetizer or side dish, and sliced marinated mushrooms can be tucked into panini sandwiches.


1 pound button mushrooms, all about the same size, if possible

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon, about 1/4 cup

1/3 cup water

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut into thick slices

4 fresh thyme sprigs

2 fresh sage leaves

1 bay leaf

small pinch hot red pepper flakes, about 1/8 teaspoon

a few black peppercorns

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, optional


Wipe the mushrooms clean with damp paper towels.  Trim stems if necessary.  Cut any very large mushrooms in half.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add mushrooms and saute over lower heat until just tender.  Transfer to a bowl.

Place the remaining olive oil, lemon, water, garlic, herbs, hot red pepper flakes, black peppercorns, and salt in saute pan.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Pour over the mushrooms in the bowl.  Stir in the optional balsamic vinegar.  Let mushrooms cool in marinade.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  To serve, lift out of marinade with a slotted spoon.

Makes 2 cups marinated mushrooms.

Fried Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Drizzled with Citrus Honey
June 28, 2012, 11:57 pm
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A few weeks ago I noticed that one of my neighborhood groceries was beginning to sell zucchini blossoms, which were tied together in bouquets.  I knew that zucchini blossoms are coveted by foodies, but I hadn’t tried them.  My birthday was a perfect excuse to experiment with something so special.  I found this recipe in The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen, which is the newest cookbook in my household.  This book explores delicate and appropriate things to do with a spectrum of cheeses.  This pairing here of goat cheese and citrus honey was simply lovely and elegant.  They were so delicious.

The original recipe calls for “tomme de ma grande-mere” goat cheese, which literally means “cheese as grandmother makes it” and is made just south of France’s Loire Valley.  I failed to find that specific variety of goat cheese, and substituted a standard option of goat cheese.  For the citrus flower honey, I found an unopened jar of orange flower honey in the pantry which was packed with a big piece of honeycomb inside the jar.

This recipe calls for more batter than what is needed for this amount of flowers.  You might want to think of other things to fry in this Italian fritto-misto style.  You might also want to use a little less oil for frying.


12-14 very fresh zucchini blossoms

10-12 ounces Tomme de Ma Grande-mere  or other young fresh goat cheese

1 egg

1 cup ice water

2 cups canola or grapeseed oil, for frying

citrus flower honey, for dipping or drizzling


Brush the zucchini blossoms with a pastry brush to remove any sand.   Gently reach inside each one with the tips of your fingers and remove the pistil of the flower, being careful not to tear the flower.  Stuff each blossom with goat cheese.  An easy way to stuff them is to pipe them using a ziploc bag.  (Fill the bag with cheese, cut off the bottom corner of the bag, and squeeze out to pipe).  Twist the flowers closed at the ends.

To prepare the batter, in a medium bowl, whisk the egg with the ice water.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth.  Add more ice cold water if necessary to form a thick batter similar to a crepe batter.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat the canola oil to 350F/180C over medium heat.  I recommend a wok or another similar pan with a narrow bottom for this.  Dip the stuffed blossoms in the batter two or three at a time.  Fry for about 2 minutes, or until light golden brown and crisp.  Drain on paper towels and serve with the honey.

Endive leaves filled with blue cheese, cognac, and walnuts
April 30, 2012, 2:08 pm
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Blue cheese, cognac, and walnuts complement each other perfectly.  Here they’re combined as a spread, and then piped into Belgian endive leaves for an appetizer.  This classic blue cheese and walnut spread is often served on toast or crostini, just like the crostini paired with this soup.  As delicious as it is on toast, you might find that endive is a more refreshing and healthful platform for the spread compared to starches like bread.

photo by Joyce Hiendarto

You don’t need to buy a piping set to pipe the mixture into the long and slender endive leaves.  The cheaper method for piping is to use a ziploc bag, and snip off one of the corners to use as a piping tip.

This makes an easy and delicious appetizer for parties.  You can make it hours in advance, and the endives will still stay fresh.  The endive leaves are also visually stunning on a platter.



2-3 Belgian endives

4-5 ounces blue cheese, at room temperature

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1-2 tablespoons cognac

1/3 cup walnuts


Toast the walnuts in the oven until fragrant.  Chop roughly.  

Remove the core end of the Belgian endives, and separate the leaves.

In a small bowl, mix the blue cheese, butter, and cognac together to form a smooth paste.  Stir in the chopped walnuts.

Spoon the blue cheese mixture into a small ziploc bag to use as a piping bag.  Using scissors, snip off one of the bottom corners of the bag.  Use this open tip to pipe the mixture into the Belgian endive leaves.

Greek Deviled Eggs Stuffed with Feta and Capers
March 25, 2012, 8:10 pm
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We don’t need mayo to make deviled eggs!  Why didn’t we think of this before?  Instead, feta makes the filling more vibrant and zesty than the standard mayo and pickles.  I’m sold.  This is going to be my new family Easter tradition.

I discovered this Greek recipe in Diane Kochilas‘ cookbook The Greek Vegetarian.  Everything I’ve made from this cookbook has been absolutely wonderful.  I used this cookbook to make a huge Greek dinner for my mom’s birthday this week, complete with about 8 mezze (appetizer) dishes.

I’ve doubled the original recipe here, because if you’re making these for a party or for Easter, don’t you want a whole plate-full to share?  If you want fewer, then simply cut the recipe in half.



8 large eggs (look for better-quality eggs with dark yolks)

1/2 cup crumbled feta

2 tablespoons capers, drained

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

cayenne for garnish

fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish



Place the eggs in a small pan and cover with warm water.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 12 minutes.  Immediately run the eggs under cold water to cool.  Drain and peel.

While the eggs are cooking, whip together the feta and capers in a food processor or blender.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise, and carefully scoop the yolks into a bowl.  Using a fork, mash the yolks with half of the olive oil.  Add the feta and caper mixture, the oregano, and the remaining olive oil.  This mixture should be salty enough  with the feta and capers, but you can salt to taste.  Place a little of the filling into each of the whites, mounding it slightly.  

Sprinkle lightly with cayenne and garnish each stuffed white with a parsley leaf.

February 26, 2012, 10:27 pm
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Pissaladiere is a French onion tart essentially made from pizza crust topped with caramelized onions and good black olives.  The rich and sweet caramelized onions are slowly cooked with fresh thyme, and are perfectly paired here with the salty olives.  On a trip to Portland, Oregon a few years ago, my friend Annarie made this for me…. actually, I think she made it twice on that visit.  She’s seriously addicted to caramelized onions, and has a hard time keeping herself from eating them straight out of the skillet.

This recipe comes from Joanne Harris’ cookbook My French Kitchen.  During my Portland visit, Annarie sung the praises of this cookbook, and used several of its recipes.  I was compelled to pick up a copy for myself.  It’s full of simple and rustic French dishes, including the basic salad dressing I used for the raw brussels sprout salad.

This is best served for a crowd, and has become one of my favorite party appetizers, as of late.  I made it this year for an Oscar party, as well as for New Year’s Eve.


For the onions:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

bunch of thyme

3  1/2 pounds onions, very finely sliced

sea salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the dough:

4  1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2/3 cup lukewarm water

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing

about 1 cup black Mediterranean olives, pitted


Prepare the onions by slicing them very thinly.  Warm the 2 TBS olive oil and 2 TBS butter in a large heavy skillet or saucepan over low heat.  Strip the thyme leaves from the stalks and add about half to the pan.  Add the onions, and cook over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent browning.  They should be soft and slightly caramelized.  Season with salt and pepper and let cool.

While the onions are slowly cooking, make the dough.  Mix the yeast with the lukewarm water and sugar.  Leave for 10 minutes in a warm place until the mixture becomes frothy.

Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, add the yeast mixture and the olive oil, and mix until you have a dough ball.  Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and soft.  Brush the inside of the bowl with a little olive oil, put the dough in, and cover with a cloth.  Leave in a warm place to rise until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Brush a baking sheet with a little olive oil.

Knock the air out of the dough on a lightly floured surface and kneed for 2 minutes.  Roll the dough out to a 12 x 10-inch rectangle, place on the baking sheet, and brush the surface of the dough with a little more olive oil.  Cover with the cooked onions.  Arrange the olives.  I usually cut the olives in half after pitting, but you can leave them whole if you choose.  Sprinkle with the remaining thyme.

Leave somewhere warm to rise again, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 425F.  Bake the pissaladiere for 20-25 minutes, and serve warm.

Chilled Melon Soup with Mint
July 3, 2011, 12:19 pm
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A sophisticated chilled fruit soup for a summer dinner party. 

Yesterday I served this chilled melon soup as the first course at my sister Judy’s birthday dinner.  The soup is clean and refreshing, yet also complex and mysterious because of the infusion of mint and dry white wine, making it perfect for a special occasion during hot weather. 

I’m not a raw-tomato-and-vegetable-chilled-soup kind of person, but I find chilled FRUIT soups to be divine.  They usually consist of ripe fruit, wine, lemon juice, and some fitting herbs or spices.  My Russian-Mennonite friends might think of this as a sophisticated take on “plumemooss” or “cherrymooss.”

I discovered this recipe in Anna Thomas’ newest cookbook Love Soup.  She is a veteran, trustworthy cookbook author.  Over the years, I have found her recipes to be exciting, reliable, and exquisite. 

This chilled soup can be made with any dense-fleshed variety of melon, including but not limited to honeydew, Persian or Saticoy.  I examined most of the  melons in my local market, searching for the sweetest one.  I happened to choose an “Orange-Flesh Desert Owl” melon, which looks like an orange-flesh honeydew.

My 4-year-old niece Nadia excitedly watched the soup preparation, and announced at the table, “This soup has no vegetables — only fruit!!  It’s a fruit soup!”


1 cup (200g) sugar, plus more to taste

3 cups (750 ml) spring water or filtered water

1 large, ripe melon (roughly 6 lbs or 2 1/2 kg)

2 cups (500 ml) dry white wine, such as riesling, pinot grigio, or sauvignon blanc

1/2 cup (120 ml) strained fresh lemon juice

pinch of sea salt

4-6 Tbs. finely chopped fresh mint

1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream (or 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup greek yogurt)


Combine 1 cup sugar in a saucepan with 3 cups (750ml) spring or filtered water, and bring it to a simmer.  When the sugar is completely dissolved, simmer the syrup for another 5 minutes, then allow it to cool completely.

Seed the melon, cut it into wedges, and slice away the rind.  Cut the soft, ripe flesh in pieces and puree the melon in a blender or food processor.  You should have about 5 cups of puree.

Pour the melon puree into a medium mixing bowl.  Stir the wine into the melon puree.  Add the sugar gradually, starting with a half a cup and tasting as you go, then adding even smaller amounts as the sweetness becomes pronounced.  You might use 1  1/2 cups of syrup, maybe more, but you don’t know until you do the final balancing act of sugar syrup to lemon juice.

When the sweetness begins to assert itself, add 2 tablespoons of the strained lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt.  Taste again.  Now add a tablespoon of lemon juice or a tablespoon sugar syrup, tasting each time, until you achieve just the right tart-sweet balance without overpowering the melon flavor. 

Stir in 2 tablespoons of fresh mint.

Remember, every melon is different, every lemon is different, every wine is different.  Find the right individual balance for this combination.  Use the leftover sugar syrup for cocktails, sorbet, or lemonade.  Use the leftover lemon juice for salad dressing, or just about anything.

Chill the soup in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.  It is helpful to put it in the freezer for the last hour or so before serving.

Just before serving, add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint to the cream, along with a little sugar if you like, and beat the cream with a whisk until it just begins to thicken.  Taste, and add more mint if you like.

Serve this beautiful soup very cold, in chilled bowls, with a spoonful of the soft mint cream in the center of each serving.