When the invitation says the party is a potluck, it’s time to pull out your favorite crowd pleasing dishes. Joe is most likely to bring his delicious baby back ribs or his mouth-watering prime rib roast. Sometimes both! As for me, I’m the designated salad queen. My end of summer salads usually include juicy ripe tomatoes and salad greens. Not this year, an exceptionally rainy and hot summer brought an early end to the tomatoes. Joe usually plants a nice variety of lettuces and greens at the end of August, for the same reason that didn’t happen either.

Not giving up on making a salad, I chose a vegetable that we did have in abundance, eggplant. Joe grows a wide variety; every color, from pure white to dark purple, globe shaped, plump Italian, long slender Asian varieties. The salad can be made with any variety of eggplant. Peel the eggplant, leaving strips of skin and cut into 1″ cubes and place into a large bowl. Sprinkle eggplant lightly with kosher salt, this helps bring out excess moisture.

Set the eggplant aside while you make the vinaigrette. Whisk together oil and vinegar, honey, smoked paprika and cumin. Blot the water off the eggplant and toss with the vinaigrette.

If you don’t already have it, smoked paprika is a great addition to your spice rack Smoked paprika can be made with either sweet or hot peppers that are dried  and smoked over an oak fire. When purchasing smoked paprika, if the label doesn’t specifically say it’s hot, it is sweet, with a deep rich smoky flavor. Cumin is one my favorite spices, it adds a warm, nutty flavor and aroma to this dish.

Preheat oven to 375°F with the rack in the middle position Spread the eggplant cubes evenly over a large parchment lined baking sheet. Roast until eggplant is softened and browned. Every fifteen minutes stir the cubes during the baking process to ensure even browning. The entire cooking process takes about 35-40 minutes.

While you are waiting for the eggplant to cook, whisk together the lemon juice and soy sauce. Return the cooked eggplant to the large bowl and toss with the soy-lemon mixture. Stir in chopped parsley, nuts and most of the crumbled goat cheese. Top salad with remaining cheese and chopped scallions.

Late summer harvest of eggplants.

Late summer harvest of eggplants.


Ready to toss with vinaigrette.

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Roasted Eggplant Salad

Serves  4


  • 2 lbs eggplant
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/3c olive oil
  • 2T apple cider vinegar
  • 1T honey
  • 1T smoked paprika
  • ½t cumin
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 c roughly chopped parsley
  • ½ c roughly chopped smoked almonds
  • 2 oz goat cheese crumbled
  • ¼ c finely chopped scallions

Directions .

  1. Preheat oven to 375°  Cut the eggplant into 1″cubes and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and set aside.
  2. Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey, smoked paprika and cumin. Blot excess liquid from the eggplant, toss with the vinaigrette. Stir in the chopped garlic.
  3. Spread the eggplant out on a large parchment lined baking sheet and place on the middle rack of the oven. Roast until softened and lightly browned, stirring every 15 minutes, eggplant should be done in 35-40 minutes.
  4. Whisk together the lemon juice and soy sauce. Return the eggplant to the bowl and toss with the lemon juice mixture.  Stir in the parsley, almonds and most of the goat cheese, reserving a little.
  5. Place the finished salad in a serving bowl and sprinkle scallions and reserved goat cheese on top


Fellow vegetable gardeners, we’ve all done it. You diligently pick small to medium-sized zucchini, sometimes even with the blossom still in tact. Then it happens, you get busy doing other things, it rains for several days or you just forget. The once compact little fruits now resemble a major league baseball bat. If you are running out of ideas, zucchini chips are a quick and easy way to use up “the ones that got away”.

This recipe works best with medium to large zucchini because the chips shrink as they bake. Slice into 1/8 inch rounds, a mandolin works best here for uniform slices. Place the slices on paper towels and top with another layer of paper towels. Press down lightly to remove excess liquid. Move the slices to parchment lined baking sheets that have been lightly coated with olive oil or olive oil spray. I used half sheet pan (18×13) sized trays. Brush rounds lightly with extra virgin olive oil and season lightly with salt or your favorite seasoning blend. Bake in a 235°F oven for about 1 ½ hours, rotating trays at the half way point. If some of the chips are not ready, remove the crisp chips and put the damp chips back in the oven to finish baking. Let the chips cool a bit before devouring. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Chips can be stored in zip-lock bags, that is, if any are left over.

A mandolin is perfect for achieving even slices.

Line zucchini slices on paper towels to blot excess moisture.


Zucchini Crisps

Makes about 80 crisps


  • 2 or 3 medium to large zucchini
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher Salt and any spice mix


  1. Preheat an oven to 235°F (convection is best). Cover two large baking sheets with parchment and lightly coat with olive oil or olive oil spray.
  2. Wash and dry off the zucchini and cut off the stem end. Thinly slice (1/8 inch) the zucchini, a mandolin makes this easy.
  3. Lay the slices out on paper towels and cover the slices with a second layer of paper towels.
  4. Press down lightly on the paper towels to blot up excess moisture.
  5. Place the sliced zucchini on the baking sheets, being careful not to overlap.
  6. Brush the slices lightly with extra virgin oil and sprinkle with salt.
  7. Bake until crisp and golden, 1½ to 2 hours,  At the halfway point, switch the pans around to ensure even baking.



Rain happens. And when it does day after day I am less likely to make my way out to the garden. Unfortunately that doesn’t stop the veggies from growing. A prime example of this is the bush and pole beans Back in the early spring it’s easy to dream of vines loaded down with beautiful slim beans. Haricot Verts, as the French call them, only need a quick steaming, finished with butter, garlic, thyme and squeeze of lemon.

The beans I picked that first day without rain were well beyond their haricot verts stage but still usable. Since we love just about every other vegetable roasted, why not green beans? Using the method I use for other vegetables, I was certain they would turn out great.

Start with about a pound of beans, we have green, yellow and purple beans this year. Purple beans are pretty on the vine but when you cook them they do not stay purple, they become a very dark green color.

After you have rinsed the beans lay them out on paper towels and pat them dry as possible. This will allow for the beans to be thoroughly coated with the olive oil. Place the beans in a bowl large enough to toss them in. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and toss the beans well.Then add kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and toss again. Place the beans on a lined baking sheet spread out as evenly as possible.

Roasting time is a function of how old your beans are. Slimmer beans may only ten to fifteen minutes, larger ones fifteen or more. When I made the first batch I timed them for ten minutes and rotated the pan, then every five minutes so they wouldn’t burn. As soon as the beans are close to being done, take them out the oven and sprinkle with cheese. Return the pan to the oven to melt the cheese. Serve warm.

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Joe is growing both bush and pole beans.
One days pick.


Roasted Green Beans with Parmesan


  • 1 lb green beans, medium to large in size
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • ½ c freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F
  2. Rinse beans in a colander with cool water. Removing all stems and blemishes, then blot with paper towels to remove off excess moisture.
  3. Transfer beans to a bowl large enough to toss them in. Use enough oil to lightly coat all the beans.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and toss them again to coat.
  4. Put beans on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the beans evenly on the sheet.
  5. Roast for ten minutes, then pull out the oven and toss the beans in the pan again.
  6. Return the beans to the baking sheet and continue to roast until the beans are browned in spots.
  7. Remove pan from the oven and immediately sprinkle with Parmesan as evenly as possible. Return pan to the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese.  Serve warm.


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Nothing is more refreshing to start a meal on a hot and humid summer day than a chilled soup. It’s even better when those ingredients can go right into the blender, no need to spend time cooking over a hot stove. This recipe combines crisp juicy cucumbers and creamy avocado with tangy lime and garlic chives.

All the “green” in the recipe is courtesy of the garden, except the avocado and possibly in the future we will have those as well. Our wonderful and very thoughtful sister-in-law Jody, gave Joe an Avoseedo, an ingenious seed starting device that helps you sprout an avocado pit. With minimal attention, changing the water every 1-2 weeks, in a few months you will have an avocado plant. He’s planted two in pots so far. Certainly beats the old toothpick over a glass of water method. Be sure to use a ripe avocado for a smooth puree.

This is primetime for cucumbers in our garden, just wish they didn’t come in all at once. Since our cukes were more mature they were a bit seedy and the skins thicker, I peeled and seeded them for this recipe. First trim the ends, peel, then cut in half. I found a melon baller (small side) to be the best way to scoop out the seeds. Cut the sections into half-inch chunks. I used three cups of peeled and seeded chunks.

The jalapeno and other hot peppers are making an earlier than usual appearance in the garden. That’s good but there is a rabbit that is taking a bite out of quite a few of our peppers before we can harvest them. Time to put up the chicken wire. Half of a jalapeno added to the soup was the right amount for our taste. Peppers can vary in heat so taste a small piece of the pepper first and add accordingly. Our Persian lime tree is producing the most fragrant and juicy fruit, about two dozen on the tree at last count.  Fresh lime juice adds the right acidity and brightness to the soup.

Garlic chives, also known as Chinese chives are the perfect herbal accent for this soup. If you are not familiar with them, common chives are tube-shaped and bright green while Chinese chives are a darker green and flat. Common chives have pinkish-purple globe like flowers that appear in the spring while Chinese chives have white star-shaped blossoms that are only starting to appear now. The flavor as the name indicates, is garlicky, but milder than a garlic clove.

The soup couldn’t be simpler to make, put all the ingredients in the blender and puree until the soup is smooth. Add yogurt to your liking, anywhere from a half to a full cup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in a bowl and refrigerate for 4-6 hours to allow the flavors to blend. Before serving you may need to thin the soup out with a little water or milk. Garnish with chopped garlic chives and flowers. Makes a delicious first course or light lunch.

Garlic chives in the garden.


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Garlic chives are flat with white flowers.
The heat in the jalapeno comes from the white ribs.
I used the smaller end of the melon baller to scoop out the cucumber seeds.
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Chop into 1/2 inch pieces.
Into the blender
Puree until smooth

Spicy Cucumber Avocado Soup

Serves 3-4


  • 3 cups cucumbers, peeled and seeded, cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 1 medium ripe avocado
  • ½-1 c Greek style low-fat plain yogurt
  • 2 t fresh lime juice
  • ½ chopped jalapeno (or to taste)
  • 2 T chopped garlic chives
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste


  1. Peel and pit the avocado. Cut into chunks.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. Thin the soup out with a little cold water if necessary.
  3. Refrigerate the soup for several hours to blend the flavors. Serve garnished with chopped garlic chives and flowers.

July 18, 2018 Purslane Salad

The next time you are weeding, take a second look, you may be unintentionally pulling out the most nutritious green in your garden. Purslane, also known as duckweed, fat weed, little hogweed and pursley, is the only weed that can claim “superfood” status. Purslane is a rare plant source of omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish and flax seeds. It is also a good source of vitamins A, C and B, magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron. Did I mention it’s low in calories and a good source of fiber? Not bad for a plant that is an uninvited guest everywhere from fertile garden soil to the cracks in your driveway.

Purslane looks a bit like a miniature jade plant with small oval-shaped fleshy leaves that grow on thick succulent stems. Early season purslane leaves and stems are tender and edible, snip branchlets from heavier stems. The plant produces yellow flowers that will eventually produce tiny black seeds. Later in the summer separate larger leaves from mature stems. Most important, be sure you are harvesting purslane from areas that are not treated with herbicides. When in doubt, don’t pick!

Purslane is native to India and Persia and is widely used in both cuisines. In Mexico purslane is known as verdolagas where it is combined with pork to make a classic stew. Purslane’s succulent-like leaves have a refreshingly crisp texture with a slightly tart finish. You can use it raw in salads or cooked as a side dish.

Purslane is abundant in our garden this year. I am using it as a “transitional green” between the greens we harvested for salads in the spring and the new crop that will be ready to pick soon. I harvest it daily but it can be kept in the refrigerator for several days. Since purslane grows so close to the ground it should be rinsed very well in several changes of water. I fill a sink with cold water and submerge the purslane and swish it around to loosen the dirt that may be attached to it. The purslane floats and the dirt (most of it) sinks to the bottom. At this point you can remove any bruised or damaged leaves. Then I lift it out and give it a second quick soak it in the salad spinner.  now it is ready to spin.

In this salad, purslane is combined with a little flat leaf parsley, baby arugula (ours will be ready soon) and cucumbers and sweet Sungold tomatoes from our garden. Walnuts add a little crunch, garnish with edible nasturtium blossoms for additional color.

Purslane has popped up next to the cucumbers.
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My daily purslane harvest.
Up close and personal for better identification.

Purslane Salad

Serves two


  • 2 c purslane leaves and tender stems
  • ½ c Italian parsley leaves
  • 2 c baby arugula
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeds removed, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 dozen small tomatoes like Sungold, cut in half
  • 1/3 c chopped walnuts
  • lemon juice or a light vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Nasturtium blossoms for garnish.


  1. Combine greens, cucumber, tomatoes and walnuts in a large bowl. Sprinkle with some kosher salt and toss.
  2. Add a splash of lemon juice or vinegar and a tablespoon or so of olive oil and toss. Taste a leaf and correct seasoning as needed.
  3. Divide on two plates and season with fresh ground pepper. Garnish with nasturtium blossoms and serve.


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After a cold, very rainy spring, summer has arrived with a vengeance. We are experiencing temperatures in the upper 90’s with humidity that makes it feel like 100 degrees plus. With no real rain in the foreseeable future, drip irrigation and sprinklers are keeping the veggies and berries happy. We’ve had a few Sungold tomatoes, bright yellow blossoms are now producing the first zucchini of the season, tart juicy raspberries are beginning to ripen and we have the earliest eggplants ever.

As you enter the garden, there is a large planting of Swiss chard. Not only delicious and nutritious, the stems and veins bring a pop of brilliant color to the garden. Earlier in the spring, Joe planted the faster growing spinach in between each row of chard. The spinach was harvested first before it had a chance to bolt. Now we are enjoying a daily harvest of chard. The leaves are always a dark green but the stems can be white, red, yellow and even an orangey color. Very small leaves can be used in salads, larger leaves need to be separated from the stems but both parts are edible. You can read about more of the basics of chard in this post.

In season, I love making frittatas with ingredients straight from the garden. They are versatile as an on-the-go breakfast, lunch or a no-fuss light supper. In this recipe I take a basic frittata recipe I use as a guideline and use Swiss chard, both stems and leaves, a little Canadian bacon and, why not, a Swiss cheese. When I say Swiss most people are thinking of Emmenthaler, the mild holey cheese that is paired with ham in a sandwich. But there are other Swiss cheeses and Gruyère is one worth trying. Firm and dense, as in, no holes, Gruyere has a rich, creamy, slightly nutty taste.

Some important tips to remember when you are making this or any frittata. Cook any raw vegetable you will be adding to the frittata first. Even quick cooking vegetables like spinach and mushrooms exude water when you cook them. So cook them completely, no one wants a watery frittata! You also should adjust the amount of salt you use based on the saltiness of the ingredients you use like cheese and cured meats.

A  heavy bottomed oven safe non stick skillet or a well-seasoned cast iron pan is absolutely necessary to make the frittata. Before you proceed with the recipe be sure the skillet fits comfortably under the broiler without a great deal of maneuvering. The handle on my skillet was a bit high and made getting it in and out of the oven quite challenging. Have thick potholders at the ready so you don’t burn your fingers pulling the pan out of the oven. Once out, leave the potholder over the handle to remind yourself the pan is still hot. Use a spatula to loosen the frittata from the pan and transfer to a platter or cutting board. Of course, there are countless variations of the frittata and as the season moves on my add-ins will change.  Whatever you put in yours, it’s a great quick weeknight supper to serve alongside a simple green salad.

Our section of chard.

harvest work
The colorful stems are good to eat as well.

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Everything but the bacon.

Swiss Chard, Gruyère and Ham Frittata

Makes one 12″ frittata


  • 12 large eggs
  • 3 T half and half
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 t olive oil
  • 8 c chard leaves roughly torn into 1″ pieces
  • ½ to 1 cup thinly sliced chard stems (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • ¾ c shredded Gruyère cheese
  • ¼ to ½ c finely diced Canadian bacon or ham


  1.  Adjust oven rack to upper middle position, about 5 inches away from the heating element. Heat broiler.
  2. Whisk eggs, half and half, ½ t salt and a grind of pepper in a medium bowl until well combined, about 30 seconds. Set eggs aside.
  3. Heat oil in a 12-inch non stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering; add stems first if using and saute until softened a bit, 3-4 minutes. Add chard and continue to cook until leaves are wilted and soft, another 4-5 minutes. Add chopped garlic and cook until fragrant.
  4. Stir shredded Gruyère into the egg mixture. Add egg mixture to the skillet and cook, using spatula to stir and scrape bottom of skillet, until large curds form and spatula begins to leave wake but eggs are still very wet, about 2 minutes. Shake skillet to  distribute eggs evenly, cook without stirring for 30 seconds. Sprinkle Canadian bacon over the frittata surface.
  5. Slide skillet under broiler and broil until the frittata has risen and the surface puffs and turn spotty brown, three to four minutes. Remove skillet from the oven and let stand 5 minutes to finish cooking.
  6. Using a spatula, loosen frittata from the skillet and slide onto a platter or a cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve.


June 24, 2018 Carrot Top Chimichurri Sauce


When I exercise on our elliptical machine I catch up on my version of “must-see t.v.”. Right now I am watching the current season of Iron Chef America. For those not familiar with the show, two chefs,  a world-class “Iron Chef”  competes against an up and coming chef. The chefs create a menu in one hour from appetizer to dessert that prominently features that week’s secret ingredient. Two weeks ago it was ” Battle Kobe Beef”. This weekend I tuned into “Battle Carrot”. The show is fun to watch and also stimulates my own creativity in the kitchen. I’m pretty sure when I went to the farmers market after my workout I had carrots on the brain. So along with all the other goodies I found, a lovely bunch of recently harvested carrots went into my bag.

My plan was to roast the carrots and in the spirit of “root to stem” cooking, use the greens as well. Carrot tops are edible and rich in vitamins A,C, calcium, iron and dietary fiber. They have an earthy, herbal, slightly bitter taste. Carrot top pesto was a success last year, this time I was looking for something a little bit different. Chimichurri sauce was a natural for this dish. This rich herby sauce from Argentina was already a favorite of ours. I have served as an appetizer at parties, spooned over rare beef tenderloin on crostini. It was easy enough to swap out the parsley in the original recipe for carrot tops. After all they are both members of the same plant family, along with fennel, dill  and coriander.

Wash the greens well and pat dry with paper towels. The most time-consuming part of this recipe is separating the leaves from the slightly harder stems. Aim for a lightly packed cup, if you want this thicker to use as a dip, either cut back on the olive oil or add a quarter cup more of leaves. Blend all of the ingredients until smooth in a food processor. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Give the chimichurri at least an hour to fully combine the flavors, over night is even better. If you don’t have carrot tops, substitute the traditional parsley or a combination of parsley and cilantro.

I served my chimichurri over roasted carrots. Traditionally this is served with steak but I think it would be just as good as a sauce with grilled chicken or lamb chops. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

sad cake
A cup of lightly packed carrot leaves.
Everything goes in the food processor.



Carrot Top Chimichurri Sauce with Roasted Carrots

Makes about a cup

Ingredients for Chimichurri Sauce

  • 1 c lightly packed fresh carrot top leaves
  • ¾ c extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 1 t salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ t smoked paprika
  • ½ t dried crushed red pepper


  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate for at least one hour but tastes even better the next day. Store in an airtight container. Use within a week.

Roasted Carrots


  • 1 lb fresh carrots, scrubbed well, tops reserved for chimichurri sauce
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T honey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat a large baking sheet with non stick spray.
  2. In a bowl large enough to accommodate the carrots, mix together the olive oil and honey.
  3. Add the carrots to the bowl and toss them with the oil and honey. Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Spread carrots evenly on the baking sheet and use a spatula to scrape the rest of the honey-oil mixture over the carrots.
  5. Roast carrots for about 15 minutes, shaking pan halfway through the cooking process for even browning.
  6. Remove carrots from oven, allow to cool slightly.  Serve carrots topped with chimichurri sauce.




With temperatures consistently in the eighties and more than our share of rain, it was time to do a final harvest of the spring vegetables. The heat, rain and deer damage sadly ruined our edible pod pea crop. On the positive side we have enjoyed a variety of lettuces, spinach, radishes and small white Japanese turnips. Also in the harvest, those funny looking space alien looking vegetables, kohlrabi.

Translated from the German, cabbage turnip, it is the bulbous above ground stem that gives the “turnip” name to the crispy green and sometimes purple vegetable. Oddly enough, it doesn’t taste like cabbage or turnips. When young, about the size of a tennis ball, it is thin-skinned, sweet and juicy with a mild flavor reminiscent of broccoli stems. Older, larger kohlrabi should be peeled, and the flavor is still sweet but a bit peppery.

Kohlrabi is a natural shredded or julienned in a slaw. This time I combined it with another ugly ducking vegetable, jicama. “HEE-kah-mah” is the edible tuberous root of a vine native to Mexico. Resembling a round potato, the papery brown skin needs to be peeled away before eating. The texture of the flesh is similar to an apple or a pear with a flavor that is mild and slightly sweet.

You can either shred or julienne the vegetables. Since the kohlrabi I used was on the small side, I shredded it in the food processor. The kohlrabi were still young and tender, so there was no need to peel, preserving the purple color. Larger kohlrabi with thicker skin should be peeled.

I was looking for a new twist on dressing the slaw so I turned to The Flavor Bible for some inspiration. I saw that both mustard and lemon were compatible flavors so I thought a honey whole grain mustard dressing would add the right texture and tang to the recipe. A little juice from one of our Ponderosa lemons gave the dressing brightness.

This simple slaw is a great addition to any buffet or picnic because it stays crisp long after it is dressed.

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Kohlrabi ready to pick from the garden.
Just picked kohlrabi, love that purple color!
Jicama surrounded with purple kohlrabi
The kohlrabi need to be trimmed before they are shredded.
A recent harvest of Ponderosa lemons.
Nicknamed the “five pound lemon” they usually weigh two to four pounds. Ponderosa lemon is a citrus hybrid of a pomelo and a citron.


Kohlrabi Slaw

Serves 4-6

Ingredients for slaw

  • 3-4 small or 1 large kohlrabi
  • 1 small jicama
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Honey Lemon Mustard Dressing

Ingredients for dressing

  • 2 T honey
  • 2 T whole grain mustard (can add another T if desired)
  • 3 T olive oil
  • ¼ c freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • pinch of salt

Directions for dressing

  1. Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.

Directions for slaw

  1. To prepare the kohlrabi, trim the root stem to the base. Cut the leaf stems from the globes. Wash leaves if using in another preparation. If the kohlrabi is mature, peel, if smaller leave skin on.
  2. To prepare the jicama, peel.
  3. Grate kohlrabi and jicama in a food processor or on a box grater. Squeeze out any excess water with your hands. You should have about 6 cups total.
  4. Place shredded vegetables in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss to combine. Season to taste with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
  5. Refrigerate until serving.


June 2, 2018 Chicken Marsala Meatballs


A friend recently texted me some pictures from the meal he had at a new local restaurant. One photo piqued my curiosity, chicken Marsala meatballs. When I had my catering business, chicken Marsala was a client favorite. Tender pieces of chicken in a luxurious, creamy sauce loaded with umami rich mushrooms, what’s not to love? This was a recipe I wanted to try.

I buy ground turkey quite frequently, ground chicken I have shied away from. I thought that a lean meat like ground chicken would too easily result in a dry dish. But there are ways to ensure that won’t happen. Adding ricotta to meatballs is a tip I learned from chef Michael Symon on The Chew. The mild and creamy consistency of ricotta gives the meatballs a light texture. I prefer a natural ricotta, made with just milk, vinegar and salt. Place ricotta into a sieve and allow it to drain for at least a half hour to ensure a moist, but not watery meatball. I added finely chopped shiitake to the meat mixture to amp up the mushroom flavor and some panko breadcrumbs to lighten the texture of the meatballs.

Take off your rings and roll up your sleeves because it is best to use your hands for the next step. Combine the ingredients until they just come together, don’t over work. It’s easier to feel when everything is well mixed. Use oiled hands or a small cookie scoop to portion out the meat.Be gentle when forming meatballs. If they are packed too tightly and compactly, they will turn out tough, rubbery and chewy.

Place the meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet and lightly coat it with non stick spray. I chose to roast the meatballs in the oven but they could also be fried in oil on the stove top. While the meatballs are cooking, you will have time to make the sauce. The star of the sauce, of course is Marsala wine. Marsala is a fortified wine produced in the region surrounding the Italian city of Marsala in Sicily. Dry Marsala is used in savory preparations like this dish while sweet Marsala is used in desserts. Tiramisu anyone?

Melt butter in a saute pan large enough to hold the meatballs. Saute shallot, then add mushrooms and garlic to the pan, I used a combination of shiitake and cremini, white button mushrooms are fine as well. Cook, stirring frequently until the mushrooms begin to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add Marsala wine to the pan and cook until slightly reduced. Add cream and wine and reduce heat to a simmer. Add meatballs back to the pan tossing gently. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

This dish could be prepped ahead of time, make the meatballs and sauce and hold separately in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook dinner. Chicken Marsala meatballs make a great hors d’oeuvre, sandwich filling on a crusty roll or served over wide pasta noodles or like we did, over zucchini “noodles”.

I used cremini and shiitake mushrooms in my preparation, button mushrooms are fine to use as well.
Place meatballs evenly spaced on a prepared baking sheet.


Chicken Marsala Meatballs

Makes 24-27 meatballs

Ingredients for the meatballs

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • ¾ well-drained ricotta cheese
  • 3 T finely chopped shallot
  • 2 t finely chopped garlic
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 c finely chopped mushrooms
  • ½ c freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
  • ½ c panko breadcrumbs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions for the meatballs

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or foil. Spray the baking sheet with non stick spray, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine chicken, ricotta, shallot, garlic, egg, mushroom, cheese, panko, salt and pepper to taste. Be careful not to over mix.
  3. Using your hands or a small cookie scoop, scoop out the meat mixture and roll into balls. Evenly place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes, until light golden, rotating the tray halfway through the baking time.  Keep the meatballs warm while you make the sauce.

Ingredients for sauce

  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 8 oz thinly sliced mushrooms-more if you like.
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1 c dry Marsala wine
  • ¼ t dried thyme
  • 2 T chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions for sauce

  1. Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat, add olive oil.
  2. Add shallot to the pan, season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until softened, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add mushrooms and garlic to the pan. Saute until mushrooms are cooked through, 3-4 minutes, add Marsala wine to the pan, cook until slightly reduced, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add cream and thyme and bring to a simmer. Add meatballs to the pan, toss gently until well coated.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover; let them simmer in the sauce for 10 minutes. Add chopped parsley, taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

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I served Chicken Marsala meatballs over zucchini noodles.

May 13, 2018 Baked Parmesan Panko Asparagus Fries


Our spring vegetable garden includes several varieties of lettuce, spinach, radishes, Japanese turnips, beets, kohlrabi, sugar snap peas and cooking greens. However there is one spring vegetable that we don’t grow that makes my trip to the farmers market worthwhile, fresh local asparagus. Asparagus is a real sign that spring is here. and the season is fleeting. I will serve it roasted, grilled, raw in salads, in stir fries and a new way (at least for me) I heard about from a new “friend”, Alexa.

Alexa is a digital assistant that performs tasks, like turning on Sirius radio when I’m in the kitchen. “Alexa, play Seventies on Seven”. You can ask her the score of the game, will it be sunny today and even turn the lights on if you have the right smart home device. Our Amazon Echo has a screen that always shows the time, weather and rotating news headlines, fun facts and even recipes. One afternoon I noticed that a recipe for oven baked asparagus fries popped up. I was too busy at the time but thought that this was one I needed to try. On line I found many recipes, this is my interpretation of this popular dish.

Look for medium-sized asparagus for this recipe, twenty spears weighed about a pound. If you are storing the asparagus for any length of time, leave the rubber band on, trim about an inch off the bottom. Stand the spears up in a jar with about two inches of cool water and cover loosely with a plastic bag.

When you are ready to proceed with the recipe, preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil for easy clean up and brush with a tablespoon of oil or coat lightly with cooking spray. Set up your breading station by lining up three containers that are long enough to accommodate the asparagus spears. Place the flour in the first container. Add the beaten eggs to the second container. Combine panko and Parmesan and season with salt and pepper for the third container. Trim off the tough ends and lightly rinse the asparagus. Coat the spears with flour, dip in the egg then turn to coat in the Parmesan panko mixture. Place on baking sheet, lining up in a row but not touching. Lightly coat the spears with olive oil cooking spray. Bake in preheated oven, turning spears over halfway during the cooking process to ensure even baking.

In the category of “in case you didn’t know” panko is a Japanese style white breadcrumb that is light and airy with a texture like crushed corn flakes. You can easily find them in the Asian section of your supermarket. I prefer to only put a third of the breadcrumb mixture in the dredging pan at a time. After you have rolled several eggy spears in the crumbs, they tend to make the crumbs wet, so adding more dry crumbs as needed makes the process easier and neater. Remember the rule of wet hand dry hand. Designate one hand to do the dry steps, flour and breadcrumbs and the other to do the wet step-the egg mixture.These are best served right from the oven.  Serve plain or with smoked paprika aioli.pentadecylic

I love my Williams-Sonoma interlocking stainless steel pans for my breading station.
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Ready to go into the oven.
Crispy, brown and delicious!

Baked Parmesan Panko Asparagus Fries

Serves four


  • 1 lb asparagus-medium thickness
  • ½ c or more unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 c panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Non stick spray or olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and lightly coat with a tablespoon of olive oil or olive oil cooking spray.
  2. Rinse the asparagus and  snap or cut tough ends off.
  3. In a large bowl stir with a fork to combine the Parmesan and panko
  4. Set up your breading station: line up three shallow bowls or dishes that are long enough to accommodate the spears. Put the flour in the first dish. Place the beaten eggs in the second and lightly beat in the lime juice. Place the Parmesan panko crumbs in the third, season crumbs with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Dredge the spears first in the flour, dip in the egg mixture and roll in the crumbs to coat on all sides, pressing crumbs in.
  6. Place asparagus on the prepared baking sheet, spears close together but not touching. Coat lightly with olive oil cooking spray.
  7. Bake the asparagus until browned, crisp and crunchy, about 10-12 minutes. Flip spears over halfway through the cooking time for even baking.
  8. Serve immediately with smoked paprika aioli or your favorite dipping sauce.

Smoked Paprika Aioli

Makes about a cup


  • 4-5 cloves roasted garlic
  • ¾ c mayonnaise (homemade or prepared)
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. To make roasted garlic, cut off top third of a head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil and bake in a 375°F oven for about 40 minutes or until garlic is soft and brown.
  2. With a fork, mash 4-5 roasted cloves in a medium bowl. Add mayonnaise, smoked paprika, lemon juice and whisk to combine. Adjust seasonings and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Refrigerate for at least an hour to meld the flavors.flannelflower