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.

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.

Hello Kitty Sandwiches
November 27, 2010, 10:44 pm
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A Hello Kitty Tea Party with Cute Nieces

You may or may not know that Hello Kitty’s birthday is November 1st.  I happen to know some geeky Kitty trivia because I used to be a Hello Kitty buyer for a store.  Hello Kitty is always 8 years old, but still has a birthday every November 1st.  One year I visited the fantastic Sanrio store in San Francisco on her birthday, (where I met Hello Kitty, was served a piece of birthday cake, and played games with other customers).  Otherwise, it’s not a day I would normally celebrate — until I had nieces who love Hello Kitty too.

Now I invite my little nieces over on November 1st to do something creative and fun together that celebrates the cuteness of Hello Kitty.  Last year I made a batch of buttermilk pancakes in the shape of Kitty’s face, with blueberries dropped into the batter for her eyes and nose.

This year I was inspired by my Japanese cookbook  Cute Yummy Time which teaches techniques for designing amazingly cute food, all carefully crafted out of healthful ingredients.  This cookbook doesn’t feature any official animals characters like Hello Kitty, but its techniques for making a variety of animals can be adapted limitlessly.  I decided to design Hello Kitty open-face sandwiches using oval-shaped slices of hard-boiled eggs for her white face.  Then I invited my nieces to a Kitty-themed tea party.

To assemble the Hello Kitty sandwich, I started by slicing a rosemary roll and topping it with a slice of cheddar cheese.  The orange of the cheese visually sets off the white egg slice from the white roll.  The eggs were easy to hardboil, peel and slice.  I cut little triangles for the ears.  Cute Yummy Time inspired me to use mustard seeds for the eyes and a cumin seed for the nose.  Now for the bow.  I slowly poked around the kitchen looking for something red to cut into a bow-shape.  Chilies were the right color, but not the best flavor-choice for little girls.  Aha!  I spied the giant bowl of pomegranates on the counter, fresh from the yard of my grandparents’ neighbor.  I cracked open a pomegranate and used 2 of the seeds to fashion a bow for each kitty.  Too perfect.

I garnished each plate with blossoms cut from a carrot.  I took vegetable-carving lessons from a chef when I lived in China, so carving a single carrot into 10 blossoms is a party trick I keep up my sleeve (and usually gets kids to eat vegetables without thinking twice).  Three carrot blossoms created a starburst shape to decorate the plate, and 5 tangerine slices made a little star or flower shape.

When my nieces arrived in the afternoon for the tea party, we started by designing our own Hello Kitty placemats using crayons.

Because it was a special occasion, we used pretty china cups and saucers.  We each picked our own cup and saucer from the collection in the china cabinet.  Liza and Nadia played rock-paper-scissors to decide on the teapot.

When healthy food is cute, little girls are more likely to eat it.  The philosophy of Cute Yummy Time works.  Nadia wouldn’t normally eat hardboiled eggs, but she ate Hello Kitty’s face.

After the Kitty sandwiches, we enjoyed delicate slices of pear tart with the rest of our tea, then played a few rounds of “Hello Kitty Uno.”

December 16, 2009, 11:04 am
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Honey, are you still buying hummus from a plastic carton? Can I help you break that habit? Honestly, hummus is one of the easiest things to make from scratch, and is worlds away from that stuff in the refrigerator case. Most packaged/processed hummus cuts corners by omitting the tahini, the crucial ingredient that makes hummus what it is. Haram! Without tahini, those dreary tubs are merely bean dip. If you’re ready to try, I can hold your hand through the process.

You can experiment with different brands of tahini to find a rich, toasty, flavorful tahini that you like. You might decide to avoid some of the cheaper tahinis which are pale in color, and as bland as mortar. Arab groceries and health food stores tend to carry a good variety. Try to find something dark and rich, something tasty enough to spread on toast. You can always ask the clerks what their favorite brands are.

I’ve been making hummus from scratch for 10 years, but 2 years ago a Palestinian friend helped me refine my recipe. He told me the basic ratio is 1 can of chickpeas to 1 lemon. In the past, I had added the lemon juice a few tablespoons at a time, tasting as I went. Now I know to simply start with a whole lemon as a solid foundation. You can always add more to taste, but this takes alot of the guesswork out of it. Since then, I have also started adding lemon zest. The zest adds a deeper, more elemental freshness.

Some people keep 2 kinds of olive oil in the kitchen at all times: one of decent quality for a saute, and another darker, fruitier olive oil for raw things like salads. If you have a fruitier olive oil on hand, you’ll want to use that here.

I’m lucky enough to have a big food processor in the kitchen, which whips this up in a snap with its big blades and massive motor. If you’re working with a blender or “stick” immersion blender, it will take just a bit longer because the blades are small. With a blender, you’ll need to pause from time to time to scrape down the sides and make sure everything is incorporated. You might also want to mince your garlic clove ahead of time, in case it gets ignored by the tiny blender blades. I suppose it’s easier than making it the traditional way with a mortar and pestle.


14-oz can of chickpeas
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
3-4 TBS tahini
1 garlic clove
1/4 tsp ground cumin
generous pinch of salt
generous stream of olive oil
1/4 cup water


Wash and rinse the canned chickpeas thoroughly in a colander over the sink to wash away all of the canning slime. Throw the chickpeas in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Blend until very smooth. Taste for adjustments. If you think a particular batch needs more flavor (depending on the size of the lemon or the brand of the tahini) you can add more lemon juice or tahini.

Serve at room temperature in a wide, flat bowl. Make a wide, shallow well in the center of the hummus with the back of a spoon. Drizzle olive oil in the well. Sometimes I sprinkle sumac or zaatar over the top for a pretty presentation. I also had a great version in Lebanon topped with warm, toasted pine nuts. If you’re setting up a mezza spread, muhammara is a natural complement.