Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tomato-Olive & Fresh Herb Relish

This delicious fresh relish has evolved over the years from a few recipes I used to make. The original sauce was actually served warm from the pan the fish was cooked in, but when the tomatoes are flavorful I like to serve it uncooked so the ingredients are fresh and vibrant.

It is wonderful on fish, chicken, chops , spread on grilled toasts, or mixed with pasta for a light and refreshing sauce.

It's terrific with halved cherry tomatoes. Swap out green olives for the black olives (I used Nicoise olives, but Kalamatas are really good, too. If you don't have pitted olives, just smash the olives with the flat side of a wide knife blade; the pits will come out easily.) Use whatever fresh herbs you happen to love. Substitute red wine vinegar for the lemon juice if you prefer. This recipe is easily doubled or tripled, etc.

Tomato-Olive & Fresh Herb Relish

2 medium tomatoes, finely diced to equal about 1 cup (I cut the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds and gel and discard before dicing the tomatoes)
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped ripe olives
1 Tablespoon capers, rinsed (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
A generous tablespoon of your favorite herb, chopped (or just use the tender leaves)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper
1 large garlic clove, minced

Gently stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until well combined. Use immediately, or store in refrigerator until serving time.
You can make this up to one hour prior to serving (covered and refrigerated), but much longer than that and the sauce loses it's delightful fresh flavors.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Snickerdoodle Cookies ~ A Classic

A fun name for a delicious cinnamon & sugar cookie with a crispy-crackly outside and tender slightly chewy buttery center. I don't know when my mother first began making them; but her handwritten recipe card definitely out dates me! They are just as delicious with a glass of icy cold milk as they are with coffee, or iced or hot tea.
Apparently the recipe dates back to the 1800's, and is probably of Dutch or German origin.

Snickerdoodle Cookies
2 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup butter, room temperature (you can use unsalted, but I don't)
1 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Topping ~
3 Tablespoons white granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon fragrant Cinnamon (I use Vietnamese)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F)

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl, set aside.

With a handheld or standing mixer, beat the butter until creamy.
Add the 1 1/2 cups sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the flour mixture and blend until smooth.

Mix the 3 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl.
Roll the dough, by hand, into 1 1/2-inch balls. Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar. Flatten the balls into 1/2-inch thick disks, spacing them evenly on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake until light brown, but still moist in the center, about 12 minutes. Remove from pan and place on rack to cool.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ricotta-Parmesan Gnocchi with Brown Butter-Herb Sauce

Ricotta-Parmesan Gnocchi with Brown Butter-Herb Sauce
Makes 8 first course servings
(Halve the recipe for 2 to 3 generous servings)


3 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage*
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 container (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
6 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup all-purpose flour or as needed

*I swapped out snipped chives in this version; double or triple the amount if using chives.

Melt butter in a medium large (2-quart) saucepan over medium heat; stirring until it turns a deep golden brown. Don't allow to turn dark or burn or it will be bitter.
Remove from heat and add sage, or snipped chives, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper; set aside and keep warm.

In medium bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Sprinkle flour over ricotta mixture andwork mixture into soft, smooth dough with your hands or a silicone spatula.

If dough is sticky, add some flour. Work dough just until flour is mixed into cheese mixture; don't overwork.

Break off piece of dough and roll into a 3/4-inch-rope on lightly floured surface.,
(If rope doesn't hold together, return to bowl with remaining dough and work in more flour.)

Cut dough rope into 3/4-inch lengths. Place one piece of dough on inside curve of fork tines, gently pressing on dough with thumb as you roll dough along tines. Allow dough to drop off fork, slightly curling in on itself, forming an oval. One side of gnocchi will have ridges and opposite side will have an indentation.

Repeat rolling, cutting, and shaping with remaining dough. (Gnocchi can be made up to 4 hours ahead to this point. Arrange in floured jelly-roll pan; cover and refrigerate.)

To cook:

In 5-quart saucepot, heat 4 quarts water to boiling over high heat. Add half of gnocchi and cook until gnocchi float to the surface, 2 to 3 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to warm shallow serving bowl. Repeat with remaining gnocchi. To serve, toss gnocchi with sage butter, if desired sprinkle with additional chopped herbs and grated Parmesan cheese.

Adapted from "The All-New Good Housekeeping Cookbook"

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Savory Herb Muffins ~ Regular or Mini size

The original recipe was from The California Culinary Academy, but I've tweaked it quite a bit to make it more to our liking.

Savory Herb Muffins
The following recipe will make 12 regular size muffins.
However, I usually halve the recipe; in that case it makes 24 mini-muffins (the cups of my mini-muffin tins are 1-ounce capacity each.)


2 cups Whole-wheat pastry flour, or unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon Baking powder
1 teaspoon Baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped ( or 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
1 Tablspoon fresh basil, chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried basil)
2 Eggs
1 Egg white
1 cup Nonfat buttermilk
2 tablespoons mildly flavored vegetable oil (I use canola)
2 teaspoons sugar (or 1 Tablespoon honey), less if you like.
¼ cup Grated Parmesan cheese

Additional oil for muffin pan(s), or cooking spray

* Note: Use any herbs you like ~ for this batch I used fresh, snipped chives and fresh thyme leaves (increasing the amounts of each.) Minced garlic or shallot are a nice addition, too.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil or spray a 12-hole muffin tin

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, herbal salt substitute, oregano, thyme, and basil in a large mixing bowl.

In another bowl combine eggs, egg white, buttermilk, the 2 tablespoons oil, sugar (or honey), and Parmesan.

Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture, stirring briefly, then spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling two thirds full.

Bake for 25 minutes (For mini-muffins begin checking at 12 minutes, ovens vary. Mine usually take between 15 and 18 minutes.) Let cool slightly, then remove from tins.

Hope you enjoy! ~Mari (Once Upon a Plate)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Indian Fry Bread Tacos ~ Snack Size!

You can fill the "tacos" with any of your favorite meat or vegetable fillings so let your imagination rule. :)

Here is the recipe I use to make the Fry Bread ~ to make them "snack" size, portion the dough and roll it into a small walnut size piece ~ you can roll it out into a flat, round shape on a floured surface with a rolling pin, or do as I do and simply pat and shape with your floured hands. The dough is very soft and easy to work with.

Navajo Fry Bread
Makes 4 regular size, or about 8 snack-size (3-inch diameter)

1 cup unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon powdered milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup water

Vegetable oil for frying

Sift together the flour, salt, powdered milk, and baking powder into a large bowl. Pour the water over the flour mixture all at once and stir the dough with a fork until it starts to form one big clump.

Dip your hands in flour; with your hands begin to mix the dough, trying to get all the flour into the mixture to form a ball. I use a fork to begin, then my hands ~ I find it a little less messy that way.

Mix well, until all flour is incorporated, but do NOT knead it. Kneading it will make the Fry Bread tough. The dough ball will be sticky, just sprinkle a little flour on the outside of the ball to make it easier to handle (and pinch pieces as you form them.)

Traditional size Fry Bread: Cut or pinch the dough into four pieces. Using your floured hands, shape, stretch, pat, and form a disk of about 5 to 7 inches in diameter.

Snack-size Fry Bread: Cut or pinch pieces about the size of a small walnut; stretch and shape into a 3-inch diameter round.

Aim for a round shape, but don't worry if they are not perfectly round.

Heat the vegetable oil (about 1-inch deep in a large cast iron skillet or other pot) to approximately 350 degrees F.

---For the snack-size I cook the fry bread one at a time in my "Fry-Daddy" electric fryer.

To fry: Gently and carefully place the formed dough into the oil, be mindful of splatters from the hot oil.

Using a wooden spoon, or metal tongs press down on the dough as it fries so the top is submersed into the hot oil. (I press down in the middle so the dough fries into a cupped shape.)Fry until light brown, and then turn the dough over to fry the other side. (About 3 to 4 minutes on each side for traditional size, a little less for snack size.)

Carefully remove and drain well. I line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels and place in a warm oven, transferring each little bread to the oven as it is finished frying.

Fry Bread can be served in a number of ways; brushed with butter and drizzled with honey, as a container for your favorite sweet or savory filling, or as an accompaniment to a meal, soup, or salad.

NOTE: In my opinion these are BEST right after they are fried, but here are some hints if you make them ahead:

The fried bread can be kept in a warm (200* F) oven for up to an hour. If you want to make them ahead, fry, cool then refrigerate. To reheat, place on a pan in a single layer in a 350* F oven for 10 minutes or until hot.

I hope you enjoy! :)

If you would like variations of the recipe, you can find them by clicking HERE.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Naan flatbread, without a Tandoori Oven

Again, I'll explain I am not of Indian descent, nor am I an expert of the cuisine (by ANY means)~ but I adore naan, the delicious, slightly chewy, teardrop shaped bread used to scoop stews and the like.

Authentic naan is baked by literally throwing the flattened bread dough against the hot, vertical oven walls of a traditional Tandoori oven. I have no such Tandoori oven, but one of my sister-in-laws taught me this method which works remarkably well. It's a simple recipe, I urge you to try it to see how easy and delcious it is.

You can make the dough by hand, ( I never have made this recipe by hand), rather I just use the dough cycle of my bread machine, then form the dough, season with the topping and bake.

Naan Flatbread ~ Without a Tandoori oven

Makes 5 pieces of flatbread

Note: I use a kitchen scale for accuracy, so I've listed the amounts in ounces. I haven't tried to convert to cups, but I'll attempt to do so soon.

9-ounces (or 250 ml) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

4.5 fluid ounces milk (or 110 to 130 ml)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

2 Tablespoons melted butter (for serving)

Optional toppings: minced garlic, chopped scallions/green onions (my favorite), sesame seeds, chopped fresh cilantro/coriander, poppy seeds, etc.

To make dough in bread machine: Place ingredients (except melted butter and optional toppings) in bread machine pan, select dough setting, allow cycle to run, then shape dough and bake.

To make dough by hand: Sift dry ingredients in a large bowl, gradually add in wet ingredients (the milk and oil), until blended. Knead by hand for 8 to 10 minutes until a smooth, soft dough has formed. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and allow to rest in a warm place for about an hour. Then shape and bake as below.

To shape and bake the dough:

Press any air out of the dough and cut into 5 equal pieces. Dust the rolling surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll each piece out, one at a time, into a thin, teardrop shape about 6-inches by 8-inches.

If you would like to add toppings, firmly press them in to the top surface of the dough with your fingers.

To bake: The bread is actually "baked" under the broiler element of your oven, which simulates the heat of a Tandoori oven.

Place an inverted (bottom side up), heavy duty baking sheet* on the top rack of oven, and adjust oven to "broil". Allow pan to heat until hot. Carefully place one or two naan on the hot sheet, and return to the broiler, watching carefully as they puff slightly and bake. Note! They bake in one or two minutes, so watch very carefully. Remove from pan, brush with butter if desired, and keep warm; repeat with remaining dough.

* I have not used the baking pan method here, instead I use the flat side of my cast iron, rectangular lodge grill to bake the naan. I preheat it under the hot broiler for about 5 minutes and have found this gives perfect results.

If you try this recipe, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Diana Kennedy's Chilatas

Chilatas is a textured powder of toasted and ground seeds and nut, seasoned with chile and salt. It is sprinkled over a freshly made corn tortilla or a dish of beans. Delicious sprinkled on salads. It is delicious, healthy, crunchy and addictive.

This version is from Diana Kennedy.

More about Diana Kennedy

Recipe adapted from "My Mexico" by Diana Kennedy Copyright © 1998

Makes: 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) loosely packed

1/3 cup (83 ml) shelled peanuts
1/2 cup (125 ml) sesame seeds
1/2 cup (125 ml) raw, hulled pumpkin seeds
1/8 teaspoon powdered, hot, dried chiles (such as ancho, guajillo, or chipotle powder, or de arbol powder), or a tiny bit more ~ to taste.

1/2 teaspoon or to taste, medium coarse sea salt

Toast each of the seeds separately in a heavy pan*, taking care not to let them get too brown, set aside to cool.

Grind them separately in an electric coffee/spice grinder to a textured consistency.
Mix together with the chile and salt and store in a dry place in an airtight container. It keeps indefinitely in the freezer.

*Note: I prefer to heat the oven to 350* (F), and toast each nut separately on small rimmed trays or metal pie pans.

Watch carefully as they can burn easily. I set the timer for 2 minutes, then stir the nuts. Set the timer again for 2 minutes and watch as the seeds/nuts begin to become fragrant and slightly turn color. The pumpkin seeds usually only take 3 minutes (depending upon the size and thickness (gauge) of the pan you are using.

I just place all of the cool nut/seeds and seasonings in the bowl of the food processor and pulse until the desired texture is reached.

The secret is to add enough salt and chili powder to spike the flavor ~ that's what makes Chilatas so delicious!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Easy Cinnamon-Almond Biscotti

Easy Cinnamon Almond Biscotti
(makes about 30)

These are EXCELLENT! However they are not the extra tough-crisp biscotti, but instead have a very nice firm cookie texture.

NOTE: If you follow the recipe below yours will be a pretty medium-golden color. I added an extra teaspoon of Vietnamese Cinnamon to those in the picture at the request of the cinnamon-lover I was making them for. (Personally I prefer the recipe just as written!)

I've made these many times to rave reviews, they make a very nice gift. I always include them in my Christmas Cookie Baskets.

This time I dipped the bottoms in melted chocolate; some in White Chocolate, and some in Semi-Sweet Chocolate, and allowed the chocolate to cool and harden (chocolate-side-down) on silicone baking liners. But they are absolutely delicious plain without the chocolate, too.

If you make them I hope you enjoy them as much as my family and friends do.


¾ cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons salt
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
Sanding sugar or regular sugar and more cinnamon for rolling logs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Line a sheetpan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt; mix into the egg mixture. Stir in the almonds. Sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly over the parchment lined baking pan.

Divide the dough equally into two (while it's still in the bowl) and place on the parchment paper forming and rolling them into logs (about 12 inches long) making sure they're covered with the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Don't worry about removing any excess sugar, from the baking pan, it's fine to leave it on the parchment.

Leave them in a roll shape and DON'T flatten. Place logs on baking sheet, and bake in a preheated oven, for 30 minutes, or until the edges are golden.

Remove from oven to cool just 5 minutes (no longer) on the pan.

REDUCE oven temperature to 250 degrees. Use a chefs knife to carefully slice, pushing straight down, (rather than sawing) the loaves, diagonally, into ½ inch thick slices.

Return the slices to the baking sheet on their sides. Bake for 10 minutes, at 250 degrees, turn pieces over and cook 10 more minutes on the other side.

Turn them upright and TURN OFF the oven and just leave them sit in the oven for an additional 4 to 5 HOURS or longer. Cool completely, and store in an airtight container at room temperature. They stay fresh for a month if stored properly. such as an airtight tin, lined with waxed paper. These freeze exceptionally well.

Adapted from Allrecipes

Grilled Shrimp with Saffron-Chipotle Cream Salsa

Grilled Shrimp with Saffron-Chipotle Cream Salsa
Servings: 6


2 pounds large shrimp (about 36 shrimp), I butterfly and flatten them in the shell so the marinade can penetrate.

At least 6 bamboo skewers (I use 2 parallel skewers per serving, for more stability.

Marinade ingredients:

4 to 6 limes (depending upon size)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder (or 4 to 5 fresh garlic cloves, minced)
2 tablespoons chile powder, such as ancho powder or chipotle powder

To serve: Saffron Chipotle Salsa (recipe below)


Make the marinade:

Mix lime juice, salt, pepper, garlic and chile powder in a heavy zip-lock bag. Add the shrimp and marinate (with shell intact) for one hour in the refrigerator. After marinating, thread 6 shrimp on the skewers.

Prepare & preheat a grill; outdoor, stovetop (or broiler)

Grill each skewer for about 3 minutes on each side, or until the shrimp turn pink. After all shrimp are cooked, serve them with the Cream Salsa. Shrimp may be peeled before serving ~ but for a casual meal I serve them right from the grill. Serve with the saffron chipotle salsa.

Chipotle-Saffron Cream Salsa
Servings: 6
NOTE: Below is the recipe the way it was shared, my changes are listed beneath the recipe.


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, mashed
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups good white wine
1/4 tablespoon ground saffron
Salt and pepper


Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan. Add the chipotle and heavy cream to the pan. When the mixture comes to a boil add the white wine, saffron, and salt and pepper. Allow to come to a boil again, lower the heat and leave at low heat for 2 more minutes. Keep the salsa warm until ready to serve.

My Notes:
I prefer a thicker sauce~ Following the above directions, I change the amounts of ingredients:
  • Reduce wine to 1/4 cup
  • Reduce saffron to 1/4 teaspoon (I use whole saffron; crumbled, not ground)
  • If you prefer a milder salsa use 1/2 of a chile instead of whole.

I allow the sauce to simmer over very low heat to thicken for several minutes, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula. Sauce may be strained/sieved to refine sauce if desired.

Recipes adapted from Zivaz Mexican Bistro

Monday, May 4, 2009

Fresh Strawberry Granita

Fresh Strawberry Granita
Adapted from Bon Appétit May 2005

1 cup hot water
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups halved hulled strawberries (1 pound whole berries) plus additional berries for garnish

Add first 3 ingredients to food processor bowl fitted with the metal blade; process until sugar dissolves.
Add 3 cups strawberries in processor until smooth.
Add sugar syrup and blend until combined.
Pour mixture into 13x 9x 2-inch nonstick metal baking, or tempered glass pan (such as Pyrex, or Corningware.)*
Freeze until icy around edges, about 25 minutes. Using fork, stir icy portions into middle of pan. Freeze until mixture is frozen, stirring edges into center every 20 to 30 minutes, about 1 1/2 hours.
Using fork, scrape granita into flaky crystals. Cover tightly and freeze. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep frozen.)
To serve: scrape granita into bowls, garnish with additional strawberries if desired.
Recipe can easily be halved and frozen in a smaller pan.
(I used a large square "Glad" container with lid)
I streamlined the original recipe and simply prepared the mix in the food processor bowl.
I substituted 1/2 of the sugar with Spenda to cut the sugar content.
It's a light, refreshing treat ~ and no fat. :)

Parmesan-Pine Nut Crackers

Another recipe from one of my current favorite cookbooks ~

Essentially a shortbread recipe flavored with good Parmesan cheese.

I made mine with aged Parmesano Reggiano which is drier than younger Parmesan.

If you use the younger, moister parmesan your crackers will spread more than mine did.

Either way, the flavor and texture is divine ~ perfect with your favorite beverage or as a good offering on the cheese or fruit platter.

In Peggy's version each cracker is adorned with a single pine nut ~ I made some that way, and some with tiny tips of fresh thyme, others with a pinch of Piment d'Espelette (the spicy red pepper powder from the French Basque country.) Since I changed the recipe, I renamed them:

Crisp, Buttery Parmesan Crackers

Makes about 5 dozen depending upon how you slice the crackers, and how thick the logs are.
(I halve the recipe)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of cayennne pepper
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 pound Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
60 pine nuts (1/4 ounce)

Sift the flour and salt together in a bowl. In a separate bowl cream the butter and cayenne together with an electric mixer; add one cup of cheese at a time until all is incorporated and well blended.

Add in the flour mixture and mix well.

Shape the dough into 3 logs, 1 1/2 -inch diameter each. Wrap in plastic cling film and refrigerate until firm.

When ready to bake ~ preheat oven to 400* (F)

Remove one log from refrigerator (keep the others refrigerated until ready to slice and bake), cut the log into 1/4-inch-thick-slices.

Place on ungreased baking sheets, leaving at least 1/2 inch between the slices.

Press a whole pine nut into the center of each slice. Bake until light brown (about 8 minutes.)

These can burn easily so I begin watching them at about 5 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Delicious freshly baked, or can store in an airtight container.

You can form the cheese dough logs a day or two ahead and simply slice and bake as you want to use them.

If you try them, I hope you like them, too.

Psst... It's a terrific cookbook!
Check it out:

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