Happy New Year

Happy New Year

 While I had to cancel our little NYE gathering because I got sick, I look forward to a “do over” in the new year…I’m thankful for understanding friends as I sit bundled in a “blanket” and now finally breathing out of half of my nose and wincing at each firework explosion that will probably not end until after midnight.

Michael enjoyed the “original” dinner and I couldn’t even think of dinner so rice and “broth” was an option for a slightly returned appetite, but I opted for a repeat dinner that I made and slurped away with my granddaughter, Michelle, homemade Pho with tofu and a few veggies.  Made me happy and warm and I just might post my faux and slow faux Pho when I have a little time.

With not so many cooperative devices, I find it difficult to “blog” while I am out-of-town, so I might just wait until I get home again…or look forward to a lousy version of Cucina Magia!

Ratatouille – Julia’s Eggplant never looks good unless you are a food stylist…


I changed a few things of course, but this is the recipe that I pretty much follow:

1/2 pound eggplant
1/2 pound zucchini, trimmed
1 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 8-ounce onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2 green bell peppers, thinly sliced into strips
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 pound firm but ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into 3/8 – to 1/4-inch-thick strips
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Peel eggplant; cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then cut into 3-inch-long, 1-inch-wide strips. Cut zucchini into same size strips. Place vegetables in large bowl; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand 30 minutes. Drain; dry with paper towels.

Heat 4 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add eggplant and zucchini to skillet; sauté until light golden, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to plate; reserve.
Add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet; heat over medium heat. Add onion and peppers; sauté until just tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
Place tomato strips atop onion-pepper mixture in skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover skillet; cook over low heat until tomatoes begin to juice, about 5 minutes. Uncover; baste vegetables in skillet with juices. Boil until juices are almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer 1/3 of onion-pepper-tomato mixture to 2 1/2-quart pot; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley. Top with half of eggplant and half of zucchini, then remaining onion-pepper-tomato mixture; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley. Layer remaining eggplant and zucchini over; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley. Cover; simmer over low heat 10 minutes. Uncover; tilt pot and baste with accumulated juices. Increase heat to medium; simmer uncovered, basting several times with pan juices until only 2 to 3 tablespoons juices remain in pot, watching closely to avoid scorching, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cool slightly. Cover; chill. Serve at room temperature or rewarm over medium-low heat before serving.
Recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Spaghetti with Raw Tomato Sauce and Chunky Parmesan Crumbles

Kumato Tomatoes 3

 “High-tech tomatoes. Mysterious milk. Supersquash. Are we supposed to eat this stuff? Or is it going to eat us?”
Annita Manning

A very lazy Sunday dinner indeed if you don’t bother with a “real” cooked tomato sauce and just take advantage of what the fresh vegetable stands and Farmers markets still have on hand this time of year. Since it was just me I didn’t have to worry about anyone asking me to cook the sauce and especially since the tomatoes were nice and sweet. With simple additions of a clove or two of grated garlic a little homemade tomato paste that I had previously made and frozen in small containers, fresh herbs, and finally chunks of parmesan cheese. All in all for that dinner dish I had boiling water and pasta cooking time invested and one simple tool, a box grater to cleanup along with the pasta pot, my bowl and utensils.

Raw Tomato Sauce (2)

Good nibbles with a glass of wine before dinner, a fresh fig from my one and only tree and little bites of Parmigiano Reggiano and a couple of crostini spread with anchovy butter then topped with grated provolone to have with the spaghetti…easy dinner and perfect for a summer treat of fresh tomatoes.

Fresh Figs

Anchovy Butter Crostini

Raw Tomato Sauce

Fresh Raw Tomato Sauce-stir it all together in a large bowl and add hot spaghetti (enough for two), top with cheese/pepper flakes and serve.
freshly grated or small chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano
2 large fresh tomatoes, cut in half and grated with a large hole grater
fresh herbs, thyme leaves, oregano, basil
salt and pepper
pinches of red pepper flakes
2 cloves of grated garlic
1/2 cup store-bought tomato passata if you can find it, puree or homemade tomato paste-not the canned stuff!


Panko, Parmesan & Pretzel Chicken Cutlets


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“I don’t have to tell you how fragile this precious gift of freedom is. Every time we hear, watch, or read the news, we are reminded that liberty is a rare commodity in this world.” – President Ronald Reagan

 Panko,Parmesan, Pretzel Cutlets 3

Something a little different for me in the breading department  I mixed about 1 cup of panko crumbs, a couple of tablespoons of parmesan cheese and crushed pretzels for thin chicken cutlets to be breaded in the 3 step method, boy were they nice and crispy.   I also seasoned the flour with pepper, but no salt since the pretzels and the cheese were salty.  Finished, they needed no additional salt for my taste buds.  Squeeze a bit of lemon over the lightly sautéed cutlets.

Majorcan Vegetable Stew (2)

A big pot of Majorcan braised vegetables (stew) was the perfect side dish for one night with the intention of having again, but reheated with seasoned white beans over a gentle smoky fire on the grill.   Serve over toasted garlic slices of rustic bread.  Traditionally the recipe says “brown bread”, but I just went with what I had and like.

The vegetable dish comes together easily once you have all of the vegetables cut, sliced and chopped with a cooking time of about 30 minutes and is pretty basically seasoned with salt, pepper, smoked paprika,  bay leaf and parsley and finished with a few shavings of Manchego cheese.

Majorcan Vegetable Stew 2nd day

Very nice and satisfying, it is a great next day dish to which I will added cooked seasoned white beans and some spinach or chard…nice side to reheat on the grill alongside the Spanish BBQ ribs.  Grill additional bread slices to go with the vegetables.

Recipe adapted from The New Spanish Table


6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus ¼ cup for finishing the stew
12 ounces bakery whole wheat bread dried sliced about ¼ inch or the same amount of rustic grilled bread rubbed with garlic
1 large sweet onion (such as Vidalia or Maui), quartered and sliced thin
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 medium sliced leek, white and light green part halved and sliced
6 garlic cloves, sliced and an additional 3 cloves sliced
6 fat scallions , trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths
1 bay leaf
1 small hot chili pepper
6-8 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths
3 ½ cups coarsely chopped green cabbage (about 1/2 large head)
2 cups small cauliflower florets (about 1/4 small head)
2 large tomatoes, seeded, chopped
1 package frozen quartered artichokes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
4 teaspoon sweet paprika, preferably Spanish smoked paprika*
1 cup chopped parsley + 2 tablespoon
1 ½ cup + water or vegetable broth
Oil-cured black olives
Sliced radishes


Heat 6 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium heat. Add onion, leek and sliced garlic and cook stirring, until softened, but not browned.  Add bell pepper, cabbage, string beans, and scallions and cook stirring, until cabbage wilts, 5-7 minutes, adjusting the heat so that the vegetables don’t brown.  Add paprika and stir for a few seconds.  Add the bay leaf, chili pepper, tomatoes, and 1 cup water or broth and raise the heat to bring to a boil.  Place crumpled parchment paper directly over vegetables, reduce the heat, cover with lid and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in artichokes, cauliflower, and 1 cup parsley, and ½ cup water or broth and return to simmer.  Season with salt to taste, cover the stew again with waxed paper, and cook, covered, over very low heat, until vegetables are very soft, 25-30 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, place the chopped garlic and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley and a large pinch of salt in a mortar or mini chopper and mash or process into a paste and finally adding in the remaining olive oil.

Place with a layer of dried or grilled bread slices on the bottom of 11-12 inch casserole or baking dish, sprinkle bread lightly with salt and rush with some of the garlic-parsley mixture.  Spoon half of the veggies over the bread.  Top with another layer of bread, brush with remaining garlic-parsley mixture, spoon over remaining stew and its liquid.  Bake 10 minutes.  Allow to stand for a few minutes before serving.  Invite guest to drizzle each portion with olive oil…

Serve stew from pot. Pass olives and sliced radishes alongside.