Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Foodie Memoirs

In the Summer you need a book or two that you can take on a plane or to the beach. These are the my picks for Summer reads: 

My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family with Recipes
I think I was afraid this book by a nutritionist would be about dieting. It turns out it is and it really isn’t. It’s all about family and author Dawn Lerman paints such vivid pictures of hers that the recipes are just an added bonus. From the very beginning her feelings are tied up with those who feed her and those who don’t. You can feel the plastic covers on her Bubbe Mary’s couch and smell her dad’s “closet” brownies. And even if you didn’t grow up in Chicago in the 70’s, or move to NYC and go to school on the Upper East Side, you can’t help but relate to her memories of her dieting dad, frustated mom, beloved younger sister and especially her doting grandmother Beauty. The book is all about her love for and evolving relationships with her family, her heritage and yes, food adventures of her own. It’s got lots of humor and is a fun read. It's out in paperback.

My Organic LifeMy Organic Life: How a Pioneering Chef Helped Shape the Way we Eat Today. I really didn’t know much about Nora Pouillon before reading this book, but I felt like I got to know her as I read it. Her memories of growing up in Austria post World War II (and a few memories that go back even further) took me to another time and place not just physically but emotionally. You really understand her passion for all things organic and wholesome through this book. The recipes are all at the end of the book and mirror her own journey from old world to new. From the alps in Austria to Vienna to traveling around Europe and finally to Washington DC, her life takes many unexpected twists leading to a strong sense of purpose. Her revelations in the book are both honest and brave. It's available in paperback. 
Life without a Recipe
Life Without a Recipe: A Memoir of Food and Family
While their are many memoirs with recipes, Life Without Recipes as the title might indicate, is not one of them. The book delves deeper into the relationship author Diana Abu-Jaber has with the two sides of her family—one German and the other Jordanian. It’s hard not to be seduced by Abu-Jaber’s beautiful writing and easy to appreciate how like cooking without a recipe, she finds her own path through trial and error, with plenty of sucesses and failures along the way. But like a great meal, it is satisfying and has a sweet ending. Hardcover.

All of NothingAll or Nothing: One Chef’s Appetite for the Extreme. 
I read this book which came out in paperback, last year. I took it on a trip last Summer and could not put it down. It’s about a young man, a budding chef, and his descent into drug addiction and finally his redemption. You can tell from reading the book that author Jesse Schenker has great potential and passion but also a self-destructive tendency that feels at times like it will never quit. The book takes you into some deep dark place—from kitchens to jails and detox centers— but it’s a compelling, some might say “addictive” read. No recipes but plenty of cooking. Paperback. 

Disclaimer: This post includes Amazon affiliate links and these books were provided to me as review copies.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Squash Blossom Pasta Recipe

Summer is in full swing and so are the farmers markets. It’s a joy to walk around and see all the juicy peaches, luscious strawberries, plump eggplants, and many colors, shapes and sizes of peppers and squash. Much as I like Summer squash, I’m even more crazy about their younger selves—squash blossoms. They are wonderful stuffed and fried, in frittata, risotto, in quesadillas and of course, with pasta. 

I am a pasta maniac and swear I could eat a pound of it in one sitting. But I’ve been experimenting lately and I’ve found I can be satisfied with a whole lot less pasta if I add a lot of other ingredients. This recipe is a perfect example. It has plenty of vegetables and just a little pasta. It uses very few ingredients so use the absolute best you can get from either your garden or a farmers market. 

Squash blossoms are very delicate and I like this technique of just blanching them in the pasta water rather than sauteeing them. Many recipes use to many other strong flavored ingredients such as herbs, spices or other vegetables which I think is a mistake. Simpler is better to let the squash blossoms shine. This dish is my version of a recipe I found from Rocco DiSpirito. Mine is lighter and healthier and weighted more towards the vegetables than the pasta. I use whole grain pasta, but you certainly don’t have to if you prefer another kind. Note: Only use sweet and “squishy ripe” tomatoes. Yellow ones would be nice too instead of red.

Squash Blossom Pasta 
Serves 4


2 cups whole grain pasta such as rotini
1/4 cup extra-virgin or olio nuovo olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or smashed 
2 cups squished fresh juicy tomatoes
4 cups squash blossoms, stamens removed, and torn 
1⁄4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water.

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the garlic, and sauté over low heat until the garlic is soft and golden but not brown. Add the tomatoes, raise the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, until very thick and saucy.

When the pasta is just barely al dente, add the squash blossoms to the pot, and stir. Scoop out the pasta and squash blossoms with a strainer and add to the pan with the tomatoes, adding a little of the cooking liquid. Continue cooking until the liquid has been absorbed and squash blossoms wilted. Off the heat season with Parmigiano-Reggiano and salt to taste.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Can-It-Forward Day & Giveaway!

Every year Jarden Home Brands, maker of Ball jars and canning products hosts the Can-It-Forward Day. It’s a good reminder to learn more about preserving, discover their new products and do a little canning. 

This year you'll find The All New Ball Book of Canning and PreservingIt’s the biggest book they’ve ever put out with over 350 recipes for canning, jamming, pickling and preserving.

There are so many cool recipes in this book! Harissa, Worcestershire sauce, fermented Ginger Bug, Citrus Vanilla Bean Marmalade, Whole Grain Thyme Mustard, even Cold Cured Salmon with gin or vodka. There are also guides to dehydrating, freezing and canning fruit and vegetables. It has beautiful photos from Hélène Dujardin

This year I canned cherries for pie, using a recipe from the new book. It was easy as pie! If you’ve never canned pie filling I highly recommend it. It might be the easiest introduction to canning ever. 

The recipe instructs you to combine 6 cups of cherries with 1/2 cup sugar and cook it for just five minutes. You add some flavorings—2 Tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. The mixture gets poured into sterilized jars which you then process for 30 minutes. Done! There are also instructions for how to use the filling in pie.

Ball sent me their latest jars, they are wide mouth pint jars in a pale turquoise blue.
Whether or not you use these pretty jars, I encourage you to tune in on July 22nd to watch live canning demonstrations on Facebook Live from 10-3:30 EST. There will be chances every hour to win prizes. You can also ask canning experts questions on preserving or canning via Twitter with the hashtag #canitforward from 10AM – 5PM EST on July 22nd. Feel free to share your own creations on Pinterest and Instagram and don’t forget to use the hashtag #canitforward


Leave a comment telling me what you last canned or preserved OR what you plan on canning or preserving next, and I will choose one winner who will receive: 

A copy of The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving
A case of Elite Wide Mouth Pint Jars in turquoise blue
A $5 off coupon to use at the 

In order to win you must have a US mailing address. Be sure to enter your email address in the field where it is requested. Do not leave your email address in the body of the message.  Contest ends on Monday July 25 the 2016 Contest courtesy of Jarden Home Brands.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving, a set of four wide most pint jars and a $5 Ball canning supplies gift certificate. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Slow Cooker Smoked Chicken Recipe

Recently I was working on some recipes for a client and was tasked with making “faux barbecue.” By faux, I mean no smoker, no grill. In fact, all the recipes were to be made in a slow cooker. I don’t use a slow cooker very often so I wasn’t sure the recipes would even work. Boy was I wrong!

If you are looking for an easy way to cook chicken, this is it. It stays tremendously moist and flavorful and the meat is particularly good for using in sandwiches, salads or even tacos or enchiladas. One of the secrets to this recipe is dry brining the bird. That just means sprinkling it with salt before cooking. Salting it 24 hours ahead is fine, but 48 hours is even better. 

Don’t freak out over the use of 1/4 cup of liquid smoke. It does not actually touch the bird so you’re not ingesting it at all. In any case, liquid smoke is a natural and safe ingredient. Experts agree you'd have to ingest 3 whole bottles to cause any harm. 

This recipe in particular didn't go to print because it uses a whole chicken. My client wanted a recipe using just breasts. I rarely buy anything but whole chickens because they are so much more economical and you should too. If you’re afraid of ending up with too much chicken, by all means store some of it in the freezer. But I urge you to get in the habit of buying whole chickens. Invest in good kitchen shears and you’ll find it’s easy to break it down into pieces before or after cooking. Even if you only want to eat chicken breasts, you can use the rest of the bird to make homemade chicken broth or stock and still save money. 

Slow Cooker Smoked Chicken


One young chicken, about 5-6 pounds
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt per pound of chicken
1/4 cup liquid smoke
2 Tablespoons paprika, preferably smoked but sweet or hot is fine
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Pat dry the chicken with paper towels and sprinkle the bird all over with salt. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator at least overnight and up to 2 days before cooking. 

When ready to cook, in a small bowl make the seasoning mix by combining the paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and pepper. Pour liquid smoke into the slow cooker, place a rack inside and set to high. If you don’t have a rack that fits, fashion one out of a coil of crumpled aluminum foil

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and coat evenly on all sides with the seasoning mix. Add more paprika if necessary. 

Place the chicken breast down in the slow cooker on top of the rack. Cover and cook on high until it reaches an internal temperature of 165° F in the thickest part of the thigh, about 2 1/2 hours. Carefully remove the chicken from the slow cooker. If you want the chicken to have crispy skin, broil it for about 10 minutes. Let the bird rest 10 minutes before carving to let the juices reabsorb. Note: Remove the rack and discard the liquid in the bottom of the pot.