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.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese with Fresh Herbs and Lemon

Over the last few months, I’ve been wanting to make my own ricotta cheese.  I read a few recipes for this delicate and delicious cheese, I took a some ideas from a few sources and came up with my own version.  I served mine this weekend at my grandson’s third birthday party, and it was a hit.  It’s super easy to make and as fresh tasting as you can imagine.

Ingredients:

2 quarts whole milk

1 pint heavy cream

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

for seasoning later:

kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

2 scallions, both green and white part, minced

about 2 tablespoons minced  fresh chives

1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced

the zest of one lemon, and its juice, too

Instructions:

In a heavy six quart pot, pour the milk, the cream, and the 1 teaspoon salt.  Over medium heat, bring to a full boil, stirring every few minutes to prevent scorching.  When it comes to a boil and bubbles all over, add the lemon juice and turn off the flame.  Let sit for a minute until the mixture curdles and the curds separate from the whey (the liquid).  Set a sieve over a deep bowl and line the sieve with 2 layers of cheesecloth.  Pour the mixture through the sieve.  Let sit for 20 minutes.  Then turn the cheese in the cheesecloth into a bowl.  Cover and put in fridge to cool.  After about 30 minutes, take out and add all the seasonings above:  the dill, scallion, chive, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Mix gently with rubber spatula, and refrigerate until you serve with crackers or on toasted slices of baguette.

Eggs and Potatoes in One Pan

I often make one of my specialties, called brenta, which is a recipe of my Grandma Hindes.  Brenta means burned in Yiddish, and these are basically fried potatoes- a Jewish version of hash browns-  but better (you can find this recipe on this site under potatoes). 

To make this, I put about 1 tablespoon of butter in a small nonstick frying pan and melted it on a medium flame.  Then, I put some leftover brenta (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups) in the pan and flattened them to cover the bottom of the pan.  Then I cracked 2 extra large organic eggs on top of the brenta.  I broke the yolks a little, then I covered the pan, and cooked over a medium high flame until the eggs were cooked.  I served and ate immediately, sprinkling with a little kosher salt and some fresh black pepper.  This Is as yummy as can be. 

The next time I do this, I may sprinkle some grated extra sharp cheddar on top of the eggs as they cook.  I’m also thinking about making this dish but in a larger quantity for my family or to bring to school for one of our teacher breakfasts.  I’d do it in an oval baking dish, and bake it in the oven on a high temperature – of course add more of everything- maybe about 4 cups of the brenta, 1 dozen eggs, and about 1/2 cup shredded cheddar over all.  I’ll keep you posted once I do this for more people than just myself.

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 Vegetable Parmesan

I am always looking for great vegetable main courses to cook for my daughter, her husband, and my grandson.  I was talking to a  lovely coworker of mine, Cheryl, who loves to cook, and she gave me this recipe that she makes for her family. I tried it today, and brought it over to my daughter’s house, and everybody loved it.  My 2 year old grandson Noah said, “Mommy, I do like tomatoes!”  when he tasted the dish.  My daughter really liked it too- I think she ate at least half of the entire gratin. The dish tastes delicious, yet it’s pretty healthy, which works out perfectly. 

  • 1 largish eggplant
  • 10 oz. white or baby bella mushrooms (I used white), washed and sliced 1/4 in.
  • 1 large or 2 small zucchini, sliced 1/4 in.
  • 5 plum tomatoes, sliced in 1/4 in.
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • kosher salt, black pepper, dried oregano, olive oil
  • about 8 oz. grated mozzarella cheese, whole milk or part skim
  • about 1/3 cup coarsely grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • about 1 cup of marinara sauce- good jarred is fine

On a half sheet pan, drizzle a little olive oil to grease.  Place eggplant slices and zucchini slices in one layer.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Place in oven for about 15 min.  Put under the broiler at the end to brown a little more.  If you have a second sheet pan, you can do the other veggies at the same time.  Drizzle a little oil on bottom of pan.  Place mushrooms in one layer on half of the pan.  Sprinkle with the chopped garlic, a light sprinkling of salt, pepper, the bread crumbs, and then drizzle with olive oil.  On the other half of the sheet pan, put the slices of tomatoes in one layer.  Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and drizzle with olive oil lightly.  I found that even after these cooked for about 10 min, they weren’t brown enough, so I turned the heat to 450 to get the mushroom browning and the tomatoes roasting the way I like- probably for 10 or so more minutes. 

In a 9 by 13 or oval baking dish, pour about 1/4 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish to coat.  Place the eggplant and zucchini slices on bottom, then put the roasted tomatoes, and then the mushrooms evenly on top of the eggplant and zucchini, sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of oregano, then sprinkle about half of the mozzarella over all, then the romano cheese, then spoon about 3/4 cup more of marinara sauce over- it won’t totally cover, then sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese over all.

You can cover and refrigerate this until you are ready to bake it.  Then preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Bake uncovered for about 30 min – 40 min, till bubbly around edges and cheese is melted.  Then put under the broiler for about 5 minutes, just until the cheese starts to brown.  Serve.

Another Pea Soup

I like to keep a  one pound bag of split peas in the house just in case we’re in the mood for pea soup. We just had the big blizzard the day after Christmas, and I was snowed in with my son Benji.  I couldn’t have been happier.  He loves soup, I love him, so I made him a pot of delicious, warming soup.  It was a great day.

1 pound bag of green split peas

1 pound bag of yellow split peas

2 large  onion

4 quarts water

about pound of organic carrots, cut into smallish chunks

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse the peas.  Put in large saucepan.  Pour the water over.  Peel onions and then pierce with a fork, and place in pot whole.  Put sliced carrots in pot.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Simmer covered about 2 hours over low flame, adding your salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with thin egg noodles, matzoh balls, cooked Kosher hot dogs pieces, or just plain.

Really Easy Marinara Sauce

This sauce is a breeze to make, and you can use it for your homemade pizza, as a sauce for eggplant parm, or just over pasta.

  • 2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin or light olive oil
  • lots of fresh garlic- maybe 6-8 cloves finely chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar (optional)

In saucepan over medium flame, heat oil, add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, and saute till garlic is translucent.  Add crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and simmer covered over low flame for about 1 hour.  Re-season as needed.  

Whole Wheat Pizza Or Calzone

I have made whole wheat pizza dough a few times.  One recipe I have used is on kingarthurflour.com ; I use their whole wheat crust recipe in their pizza marguerita. But I use the King Arthur white whole wheat (organic) flour to make it.  I make my own quick tomato sauce. 

Pizza Sauce 

2 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes

4 garlic cloves

1/4 cup olive oil

red pepper flakes, kosher salt, a little fresh cracked black pepper, and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

1 teaspoon light brown sugar

In large saute pan with higher sides or in medium saucepan, put olive oil, and saute chopped garlic and about 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes in oil till garlic is translucent.  Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and sugar.  Cover, and simmer over low flame for about 30 min.  During the cooking, add the Herbes de Provence.   

Dough (adapted from King Arthur Flour)
2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water (100°F to 115°F)
2 tablespoons honey
3 1/2 -3 3/4 cups King Arthur 100% Organic White Whole Wheat Flour (I tried this also substituting 1 1/2 cups of flour with bread flour when I made the recipe for calzones) 
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten (I don’t use)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425°F. To make the dough: Stir together the yeast, water, honey, and 1 cup of the flour in a large mixing bowl, in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Cover the mixture and let it stand for 30 minutes; it’ll be foamy and  soupy.

Add 2 cups of the remaining flour, the vital wheat gluten if using, and the salt to the yeast mixture, along with the olive oil .  Mix and knead the dough-by hand, mixer, or bread machine-for about 5 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to make a smooth elastic dough. Place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise for at least 2 hours in a warm spot, or until it’s doubled in size .  I like to gently punch it down and let it rise a second time.  I don’t always do this, but if I have time, I like to.  When dough has risen again, gently punch down.  Put on  cutting board and divide it into fourths, thirds, or halves.  Wrap each disc in plastic wrap, and then put in ziploc bags either in fridge if using within a day, or in the freezer.  

Roll out on parchment paper about 1/4  inch thick.  Lift off parchment paper, and sprinkle same paper with cornmeal.  Place rolled out dough on top of cornmeal.  Spoon sauce over.  Sprinkle with oregano and red pepper flakes.  Then sprinkle with mozzerella.  Bake in 425 degree oven for 18-20 minutes until crust is nicely browned on bottom. Cut into pieces and serve.

For the calzone:

Roll disc into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.  Then spoon some sauce on one half of the circle, leaving a 1 inch border with no sauce.  Place any toppings on top of sauce, such as sauteed mushrooms, sauteed broccoli, sauteed spinach.  Then sprinkle grated mozzarella generously on top.  Take the other half of circle and cover the other half with it.  Then crimp the dough so the filling will not come out during the cooking.  Cut a few slits in the top.  Bake at 450 degrees about 18 to 20 min. till hollow sounding and brown on the bottom.

Note for fillings of the calzone or topping of pizza:  I like to saute about 3-5 chopped cloves of garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Then saute either sliced mushrooms, fresh spinach, already blanched broccoli, or any other veggies such as  peppers in the pan with a sprinkling of kosher salt and cracked pepper.  

I also plan to use this recipe, which looks quite good, but I may  not get a chance since I like the one above so much:    

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

1 cup warm water (between 95º and 115º)
2 Tablespoons honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cup bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 US package) instant yeast 
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk together the honey, warm water, and oil in a small bowl. The water should be about 95 to 115°. It should feel very warm, but not hot.

Mix 1 cup bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour, yeast,  and salt in mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment, mix on low for about 30 seconds.

With the motor running on low, pour in the liquids. Continue mixing until a dough begins to form. Clean off paddle and switch to dough hook. Mix in the remaining cup of bread flour a little at a time, to make a moderately stiff dough. Adding more or less flour as needed.

Knead in your mixer for about 8-9 minutes, adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time if dough is too sticky.  The dough should completely clear the sides. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times by hand, form the dough into a ball.  Place in a lightly oiled large mixing bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until doubled in size- about one hour.  At this point, you can form into your discs, and cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you are ready to use that day or the next, or you can freeze the discs in freezer bags. 

When you are ready to make, preheat oven to 450F. 

Take a disc, and place on a lightly floured surface (I often do this on a large piece of parchment paper).  Place rolling pin in center and push outward, rotating dough, continuing until dough is about 12 inches across.  Or you can stretch dough with your hands. Stop for a few seconds every minute or so to let dough relax.

Once dough is shaped, place on a large, heavy duty aluminum cookie sheet topped with parchment paper.  Sprinkle with some corn meal, place pizza round on top of corn meal, and top with sauce, cheese, a little oregano or crushed red pepper flakes if you wish, and any other toppings you like.

Bake 10-15 minutes or until crust is golden browned and cheese is brown and melted. Let cool 5 minutes before cutting.

Pizza Sauce
 

2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes in rich puree or 1 can of tomato puree
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

In a small saucepan, sauté garlic in oil until tender. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until sauce reaches desired thickness.

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. 

Lentil Soup

My son Benji spent a few months in Greece and Turkey as part of his college study program.  He came home a huge fan of the cuisines of those countries and especially of lentil soup.  I made the following recipe which he really enjoyed.  I’ve been making lots of it for myself –  a bowl of this soup makes a great dinner for me when I get home late from work.

for the soup:

  • half of one very large onion, diced
  • about 3 carrots, organic if possible, cut lengthwise and then sliced very thinly
  • about 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28 oz. can peeled plum tomatoes, chopped fine -organic if possible (reserve the juice)
  • 1 small can tomato paste, organic preferably
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, extra virgin or light
  • 2 1/2 quarts of water
  • 1 1 lb. bag of brown green lentils (I’ve used Goya and Stop and Shop brand)
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste (about 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to start)

Rinse well the lentils in collander.  Put into a medium-large pot.  Cover with cold water.  Cover, and bring to a boil over high flame.  When water is boiling, take off lid, and boil over medium flame for about 6-7 minutes.  Drain in collander (do not rinse lentils with water).

At the same time you are starting the process bringing lentils in the pot with the water, get your soup pot going.  In large pot saute onions, garlic, and carrots in olive oil (sprinkle with salt and pepper), till soft (I cover the pot to expedite).  Then, pour the drained lentils from the collander into the pot.  Add the chopped tomatoes, the tomato paste, and the water.  Add the reserved juice from the tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, lower flame – soup should be simmering, adding more salt and pepper as necessary.  Cook about an hour.  I freeze the leftovers in quart containers.