light and fluffy mashed potatoes

For Erev Yom Kippur dinner last night, I made mashed potatoes.  I thought they were good, but my daughter Randi swooned as she ate some and said, “These potatoes are like fluffy clouds, they’re so light!  She asked me if I had done anything different than usual to which I said I didn’t, but I realized I’d better write down what I did do!

5 lbs. organic Idaho potatoes

2 sticks Whole Foods salted butter

about 1/2 cup whole, organic milk

salt (not kosher)

about 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Peel potatoes.  Cut into largish pieces and put in large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil (uncovered), and simmer over low boil till you can put a fork into potatoes easily.  Drain in colander.  Put your sticks of butter back in pot to melt over low flame.  Add potatoes back in, and mash.  Add salt to taste and pepper too.  Then add milk, and mash till nice and fluffy.

the perfect summer dinner of fried fish (tilapia or flounder) with homemade tartar sauce, cole slaw, sliced Jersey tomatoes, and Jersey farm corn on the cob, french fries or baked stuffed potatoes!

This is one of my favorite summer dinners to eat and make.  When my parents were alive, I loved to make this for them (with french fries, too) because they loved it to the nth degree.  And what I loved was how much they loved the meal and how they commented with almost every bite about how delicious everything was.  My mother Shirley Fried’s comment would be, “How do you make everything so perfect, dolly?”  My daughter Randi loved the meal too, and she recently asked me to make it.  I invited her father in law and his wife, because I really have fun with them- they are great people- and because they like my food.  As my daughter says, “They are good customers.”

I bought the fish at Whole Foods and it was super fresh. The only other place I’ve bought fish that’s been this fresh has been at the Keyport Fishery.  The corn I bought at an amazing farmstand in Pennington, NJ called Kerr’s Kornstand. The corn is brought right in  from the field while you are there- and it is perfect corn- there is none fresher or sweeter!  I also buy modafinil got my tomatoes there, and they were sweet, dark red, and juicy.

for the fish (tilapia, flounder, or other mild white fish):

My recipe for the fish harkens from the recipe used at Klein’s Fish Market in Belmar, NJ.  I once asked them for their recipe, and they readily gave it to me, I think because they sell the coating mix right there in the market. For the coating they use 1 part McCormick Golden Dipt Tempura Seafood Batter Mix  to 2 parts McCormick Golden Dipt Fry Easy All-Purpose Breading Mix. What a breeze to make.  Simply put the mix into a 9 by 13 baking pan and whisk together to get any lumps out.  Put some cold water in a separate mixing bowl.  Dip each fillet into the water on both sides of the fillet, then dredge the fillet through the coating mix on each side of pharmacy online the fillet, using your hand to sprinkle some extra coating over the fish to cover the fillet completely.  Then heat your oil (about 1/2 inch deep)  on a high flame in a nonstick frying pan till it’s really hot.  Fry about 2-3 minutes till underside is beautifully browned.  Flip with spatula and cook till underside is browned.  No need to drain- the fish doesn’t pick up excess oil if it’s hot enough to start.

For each pound of fresh fish fillets, use about 1 cup of the all purpose breading mix and 1/2 cup of the tempura mix.

Use canola or light olive oil  in a large non-stick fry pan, and get the oil nice and hot before putting the fish in.  Fry till underside is brown, flip and brown the other side. This should take about 5 min. altogether.  Serve immediately with tartar sauce and/or cocktail sauce and lots of fresh sliced lemon.

judy’s homemade tartar sauce:

  • 1 cup of Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh or Minute Maid frozen lemon juice from concentrate 
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly grated onion
  • a few tablespoons of chopped dill pickle (I use Claussen dill sandwich slices)
  • a dash of kosher salt 

After you taste, adjust by adding a little more lemon juice or chopped pickle to your liking.

my simple cole slaw:

  • 2 bags dole cabbage for cole slaw
  • about 1 cup of Hellman’s mayo
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk (you could substitute plain Greek yogurt or sour cream)
  • about 4-5 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • about 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • about 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • about 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • about 1 tablespoon of the BEST herbs- Litehouse dill 

Mix together in large mixing bowl at least a few hours before serving.  Add more or less of any of the ingredients to your taste.

fresh corn on the cob:

Cover shucked corn in a large pot with water.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer on low boil for 8 minutes.  Serve.

french fries (Be careful with this recipe- although it’s easy, only experienced cooks should make this!)

Heat a large pot of oil (corn or canola) till oil starts to shimmer, but is NOT yet boiling. You don’t want your oil to come to a boil before you put the fries in, because the oil could catch on fire!  Carefully place your fries in and stand back a bit so you don’t get burned if oil splatters a little- I use either Whole Foods Crinkle Cut Fries or Nathans Crinkle canadian pharmacy Cut Fries.  Leave the fries alone, do not mix them in the oil.  Fry on a rolling boil till fries are browned- the time may range from 15 min. to 25 min.  Drain in paper towels, sprinkle with kosher salt, and serve.

baked stuffed potatoes:

  • Idaho organic potatoes
  • salted or unsalted butter
  • paprika 

Pierce potatoes with a fork.  Bake at about 375 degrees to 400 degrees for at least 1 hour till a fork goes in easily and potatoes are soft inside. Slice the tippy top of potatoes off.  Scoop out the potato being careful not to break the skin and put in mixing bowl.  Add butter to taste, salt to taste, and a little pepper to taste.  Mash potatoes.  Scoop the mashed potatoes back into the potato shells.  Sprinkle tops with paprika.

Note:  I usually make these in advance, so I refrigerate them, covered, and then I heat them up in a baking pan or sheet pan at 375 degrees for about 45 min. to an hour, till piping hot.

Back to Basics Macaroni and Cheese

When my children were little, I found a recipe for macaroni and cheese on the back of the Creamettes box.  This was the recipe I made for years and years.  I recently made it again instead of the recipe I’ve made for the last 10 years (Judy’s Creamy and Delicious Macaroni and Cheese), and I discovered that I may like it more because it seems a little less rich.  It’s basically the same as my current recipe except that it has much less cheese.

  • 2 cups elbows (I like Creamettes) (about 1/2 of 1 lb. box)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 10 oz. Land o’Lakes yellow American cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk 

Melt butter in saucepan.  Add flour, salt, and pepper.  Whisk over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Add milk gradually.  Whisk over medium heat for about 10 minutes till starts to thicken a little, but not too much.  Add in the cheese.

Cook pasta in boiling water till just cooked- not overcooked.  Drain in colander.  Butter a casserole dish.  Pour sauce into casserole.  Pour the macaroni noodles in and mix together till noodles are evenly coated with the sauce.

Cook at 375 degrees for about an hour till the cheese starts to rise to top and brown and the edges start to get brown and crusty looking.

Greek Pasta Salad

I took my homemade dressing which has a Greek vinaigrette taste, and I added some pasta, and some veggies to create a pasta salad that tastes similar to a Greek salad.

It’s a little heartier than just a salad, and it makes a great leftover lunch.

For the dressing:

  • juice from 1 large lemon (about ¼ cup)
  • ½ cup olive oil (I use a combination of light and extra virgin)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sun dried tomatoes (in oil) minced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated

In a mixing bowl, whisk the lemon juice, the oregano, the salt, the pepper, the red pepper flakes, the optional sun-dried tomatoes, the lemon zest, and the garlic. Then add the oil slowly as you continue to whisk. You can make this earlier in the day, and put it in a plastic container with a tight fitting lid. Then when you are ready to use it, give it a few good shakes, and pour it over the salad right before you serve the salad.

for the pasta salad:

12 oz. rotelle or penne

1 1/2 greenhouse cucumbers, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

about 12 kalamata pitted olives, cut in half

a few slices of red onion, diced

1-2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

1 pint of grape tomatoes, cut in half

about 1 lb. of good feta, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

Cook the pasta till al dente.  Run under cool water.  Place in large serving bowl, and add all the veggies.  Then pour vinaigrette over salad and mix.  Put in fridge until ready to serve.

Cornbread in a Cast Iron Skillet

I’m always thinking about what I can make to bring over to my daughter’s house.  She likes me to make things that taste great but aren’t too unhealthy.  I had all the organic ingredients in the house for this, so I threw it together in no time and it was delicious.  The only problem I had was that the piece of it I brought over to my daughter’s house wasn’t big enough.  So, I’ll make it for her again next week but I’ll bring over the whole thing.

  • 2 cups organic yellow cornmeal (I used 1 1/2 cups of Arrowhead Mills and 1/2 cup of Hodgson Mills
  • 1/4 cup Whole Food organic cane sugar (lately I’ve been reducing this to a  1/4 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder-  Rumsford aluminum free
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk  or- (I didn’t have it on hand, so I used 1 cup whole milk to which I added 1 tablespoon of white vinegar- which sat for about 30 min.)
  • 1/2 cup whole organic milk
  • 1 jumbo large egg
  • 1/2 stick salted organic butter – melted in microwave
  • 2 tablespoons butter for greasing the pan

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In measuring cup, pour 1 cup whole milk as a substitute for buttermilk and add the 1 tablespoon vinegar.  Let sit out on counter for 30 min. to thicken.

Put cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt in mixing bowl.  Melt 1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup) in microwave.  In another measuring cup, pour 1/2 cup whole milk.  Pour into another mixing bowl.  Add the remaining 1 cup milk or buttermilk, the egg, and mix with fork. Add the melted butter and mix with fork.   Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients with rubber spatula just until everything is moistened and some of the lumps are gone.

Place pan in oven with remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.  When butter is melted in pan, take pan out of oven and pour batter in.  Place on center rack of oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until slightly browned on top, bread has come off sides of pan, and toothpick comes out clean.

Serve plain or with butter.

Fastastic Italian Broccoli Or Asparagus With Seasoned Breadcrumbs and Romano Cheese

My friend Lisa gave me this fabulous recipe that her grandmother had made.  I have now made this every week since she gave it to me for my daughter and her family.  This recipe reminds me of the flavors you get with chicken or shrimp oreganata- very tasty and satisfying.  When Lisa gave me the recipe, she told me that she had discovered that when her daughter was really little, she actually liked eating broccoli because, I guess it was disguised by delicious flavors.  So it turned out that my grandson Noah also loved the broccoli this way.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince my son Danny to give it a try- that’s how much he hates broccoli anything.  But what makes this such a great recipe is that it is very substantial, and you don’t need as much of your main course, because this is just so amazing and very filling too! Thanks Lisa for sharing this recipe of your grandma’s with me!

As much broccoli or asparagus as you wish (I usually buy about 2 pounds of organic)

Italian seasoned bread crumbs

shredded Romano cheese

garlic powder, black pepper, kosher salt, dried parsley flakes

extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Cut about 1 inch off the bottoms of the broccoli or asparagus, rinse with cold water to wash.  Boil a large pot of water.  Then drop broccoli into boiling water, and boil for 5 minutes.  Dump into collander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. 

Put oven on broil, and put oven rack about 8 inches from the heat element.  Dump broccoli on sheet pan covered with foil in single layer.  Sprinkle with kosher salt, garlic powder, black pepper.  Sprinkle bread crumbs heavily over all.  Then sprinkle parsley flakes over all.  Then sprinkle shredded Romano generously over all.  Give another sprinkling of black pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.  Place under the broiler for about 5 -7 minutes till nicely browned, but not burned.   

Do the same with asparagus.

Roasted Potatoes

Ive made these a variety of ways.  All are delicious.  I will try to include all the varieties I’ve made below.

Oven Roasted Potatoes:

  • Red new potatoes, or white new potatoes, or Idaho, russet potatoes, or yukon gold
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • light olive oil

Wash potatoes and either leave them whole if they are really small, or cut them in half if they are a little bigger, or cut them into more pieces if the potatoes are large.  I don’t peel any of the new potatoes, which makes the job much easier.

I’ve done this 2 ways.  The first is to put the whole or cut potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water, bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered just until almost tender, then place on sheet pan lined with foil and coated with oil (I usually use light olive oil).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil, toss with clean hands, and roast in a 425 degree oven for about 45 min., turning potatoes a few times during cooking. 

The other way is to not parboil the potatoes, place them on greased pan, sprinkle with salt and a little pepper, drizzle with oil, toss with clean hands, and roast in a 400 or 425 degree oven until the potatoes are brown and tender, turning them a few times during the cooking time, probably roasting for about 50 min. to 75 min. till potatoes are browned and tender.

Another method is to roast the potatoes in a large, heavy dutch oven, like a Le Creuset on top of the stove.  Melt about 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter in pot over medium flame, place very small whole potatoes or cut into 2 or more pieces if they are larger potatoes. You may instead use light olive oil, or a combination of oil and butter, or just butter.  Sprinkle potatoes with salt and a little pepper.   Cover and cook about 30-45 minutes, tossing every 5-10 minutes or so to prevent sticking.  When potatoes are tender, take off heat.  I found that my butter was burned a little at this point, so I took the potatoes out, wiped out the pan, put the potatoes back in, added about 2 tablespoons of butter, about 2 tablespoons of a combination of chopped fresh dill and fresh Italian parsley, and I tossed.  Taste and reseason with salt. 

Eggplant and Zucchini Gratin

This summer my daughter Randi reserves Thursdays to spend with me.  Yesterday was magnificent for me.  Randi and Noah (her 2 year old) came over in the morning.  We went to Holmdel Park with my son Danny, too.  Noah loved looking at and petting the sheep and then throwing stones in the pond.  Then I went home to cook, and Randi took Noah home for a nap.  Before Randi left, we decided on what I would make for dinner, I ran to the market, prepared this dish, then went back to Randi’s house with the food.  We went to the swim club for a great time with Randi’s friend Jessica and her beautiful daughter Maya.  I had the best time in the baby pool with them.  Noah had his first experience floating with a tube.  Then we went back to Randi’s house where I served this really yummy dish (I heated it up in the microwave).  I got the idea for this dish from watching an episode of “The Barefoot Contessa” where Ina Garten makes an eggplant gratin.  I changed a few things in her recipe, and I added zucchini, which really worked out well.  This recipe got the seal of approval from Randi, Noah, and Dan (my son-in-law), so I think I’ll be making this again.

  • 2 medium eggplant or 1 very large (I did not peel, but you may)
  • 1 very large zucchini or 2 medium-largish (I used 2)
  • 1/3 cup ricotta (I used whole milk, but you can use part skim)
  • 1/3 cup light cream or half and half, whatever you may  have around (I used light cream)
  • 1 large or extra large egg
  • 1/4 tsp. each kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • about 10-11 oz. of  freshly ground in processor parmesan (I used Bel Gioioso), measure 1/3 cup, and reserve the remainder
  • about 15 oz. of homemade or jarred marinara sauce- that’s a little more than a half of a 26 oz. jar of sauce (I used Via Roma Marinara from the A&P)
  • light olive oil for cooking the eggplant and zucchini 
  • crushed red pepper flakes for serving, if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Make custard.  In medium mixing bowl, mix cream, 1/3 cup parmesan, ricotta, egg, salt, pepper; set aside.

Slice washed eggplant and zucchini about 1/4 inch thick.  Heat a very large frying pan (I have a huge cast iron skillet that I used; otherwise, I would have used a very large nonstick pan.)  After pan is really hot, pour a very small amount of oil in pan, basically just to coat the pan.  Drop eggplant and zucchini slices in, brown quickly and then flip, and brown again.  Place on paper towels to drain.  Repeat with remaining eggplant and zucchini – or alternately, use a grill pan (I have one that fits over 2 burners, it’s really big- it’s a griddle on the reverse side).  Just brush both sides of eggplant and zucchini with light olive oil, and grill till nice grill marks form, then flip, and cook on other side.  There is no need to drain on paper towels, because veggies are not very greasy when grilled.  This method uses much less oil, and it probably produces a healthier dish with many less calories.  I used this method the second time I made the dish and I loved making the veggies this way, and I will do this in the future.  In a large oval baking dish- equivalent to a 9 by 13 in baking dish, put a layer of eggplant and zucchini, filling up as many spaces as possible, but in one layer.  You can cut the slices of zucchini to fill in all the spaces.   Then sprinkle generously with the 1/3 cup of grated parmesan.  Spoon all of the 15 oz. of marinara sauce evenly over veggies.  Then place another layer of the eggplant and zucchini over, using up all.  Sprinkle lightly with a bit of the reserved parmesan.  Spoon all of the custard evenly over, then sprinkle remaining parmesan evenly on top. 

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 min.  Then change oven setting to low broil.  Place casserole in middle of oven, not too close to heat element.  Watch carefully and take out when top looks browned, but not burned.  Serve.

Note:  Use the smallest amount of oil if you are frying the veggies, because the more oil you use, the more will be absorbed by the vegetables, especially the eggplant.

Easiest Fresh Summer Corn

My children, Randi and Danny love this recipe for corn.  It is super easy to make, and you will be surprised how delicious it is!

Serves about 4 people:

  • 6 ears of fresh corn (I prefer supersweet white)
  • about 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • kosher salt to taste- about 1 teaspoon

Take husks and silk off cobs.  Then hold cob perpendicular to cutting board, and slice kernals off.  Melt butter in large saute pan over low flame.  Place corn in pan, sprinkle with salt,  and saute over medium flame for about 6-8 minutes until corn is tender.  Serve.  (You can reheat any leftovers in microwave.)

Greek Beans with Tomatoes, Celery, And Carrots

After my daughter Randi and her husband came back from their vacation in Greece,  I bacame inspired to find some Greek dishes to make for them.  I came up with this recipe, and Randi and Dan really like it.  It is healthy, tasty, and economical.

  • 1 lb. bag of dried cannelini beans (or fasolia gigantes or similar large dried white beans)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of extra virgin, regular, or light olive oil
  • 2-3 onions, about 11 oz, chopped (rough chop)
  • 3 celery sticks, chopped medium
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped medium
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspooon dried oregano or thyme, or mixture of both (I used fresh thyme leaves, about 1 tablespoon, and dried oregano)
  • 1 28 oz. canned plum tomatoes (do not use juice), rough chop
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste diluted in 8 oz. water
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • crushed red pepper to taste (I used about 1 tsp, but that made the end result a little hot)

1.  Place the beans in a large bowl, cover with plenty of cold water, then let soak overnight in the refrigerator.  The next day, drain the beans, then rinse them under cold water in a collander, and drain.
2.  Pour the beans into a large saucepan, pour plenty of cold water to cover, then bring to a boil.  Cover the pan, and cook the beans at a simmer until they are almost tender, about 50-60 minute.  Giantes will cook more quickly, so keep testing them after they have been cooking for 30 to 40 minutes.  The beans should be soft, but not disintegrating through overcooking.  If the beans are starting to break in half, they are totally cooked.
3.  While the beans are cooking, heat the olive oil a clean saute pan ( I didn’t use a nonstick pan for this), add the chopped onions, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper to taste,  and saute until light golden.  Add the celery, carrots, garlic, herbs, and stir with a wooden spoon until the garlic becomes aromatic and the vegetables are softish.  Stir in the tomatoes, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.  (covering is not essential)  Pour in the diluted tomato paste with water, then return the cooked drained beans to the vegetable mixture, add the sugar the parsley, and any additional salt and pepper.  Mix gently.  Pour into a large 9 x 13 baking dish.  Bake covered for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees and serve.
If you want the dish to have more sauce, bake it covered in the oven.  If you would like the liquid to evaporate more so that the surface of the beans and vegetables become a little candied, then bake it uncovered.  If you are baking the dish uncovered, check the beans once or twice during the 30 minutes, and add more hot water if the beans look dry.
Note:
You can make the vegetable mixture while the beans are soaking, and refigerate until after you cook the beans.
You can probably substitute cooked beans, but you may lose a little of the texture or the authentic taste of the dish.