Friday, December 10, 2010

Pecan Pie - Thanksgiving 2010

I have never been a pie person, but starting last year the Thanksgiving dessert responsibility has been delegated to me.  Last year I made an Apple Tart and a Pumpkin Pie and had planned to do the same this year (even had the pumpkin pureed and ready) when Kiki said she would really like a pecan pie. Although I think I liked Mom's pecan pies when I was younger (recipe below), pecan pies now remind me of corn syrup and runny over-sweet middles, not the best finish for a big Thanksgiving dinner.   But not wanting to disappoint. I consulted How to Cook Everything (original edition/1998) where Mark Bittman shares my sentiments: "There are two kinds of pecan pies, one of which contains not only sugar but corn syrup. I don't like this version - not only is it too sweet, if you taste corn syrup by itself you'll never cook with it again."*  Though I have never tasted it straight-up, I can imagine. Then after you've made the corn syrup laden dessert that was pretty awful, you have the almost full corn syrup bottle staring you in the face every time you open the pantry closet until you finally pour the syrup down the drain and recycle the bottle.  I liked Bittman's alternative, a custard pie that thickens the sugar with eggs.  Moogie and I made the pie using Bitmann's recipe but I reduced the vanilla from 1 T to 1 t.

Prebake the Pie Crust.  While heating the oven for the pie crust, place

2 cups shelled pecans

on a baking sheet and bake  (this can and should be done well before oven reaches 425 degrees F) shaking and stirring for about 5 minutes or until pecans are hot.  Cool the pecans. Select one cup of in tact whole pecan halves and coarsely chop the remaining nuts.

Start the filling while the crust is in the oven.  When the crust is done, turn the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, beat until foamy:

5 eggs,  then beat in:

1 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
Pinch of salt
6 T (3/4 stick) butter, melted

Warm this mixture over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is hot to the touch. Do not boil, then stir in:

1 t vanilla extract and the pecans.

Pour this mixture into the still-hot pie crust and bake 30 - 40 minutes, until the filling shakes like Jell-O but is still quite moist.  Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.  Unsweetened whipped cream is an excellent accompaniment to offset the sweetness of the pie.

A WORD ABOUT CONVECTION OVENS:  I cooked this using the convection oven option at 375 degrees F.  The filling was too hard when I checked the pie after the minimum time, 30 minutes.  I am going to use the regular oven option next time.  Alternatively if you do use a convection oven use a lower heat.

*  How to Cook Everything,(original edition/1998) page  694


Prepare pastry and make an unbaked 9 inch pastry shell. Chill throughly.


1/2 c butter

Gradually add:

1 c sugar gradually and cream together until light and fluffy.

Then add and blend well:

3 eggs, lightly beater
3/4 c dark corn syrup (Moogie notes: if I don't have dark, I use light)
1/4 t salt
1 c pecans, halves or broken

Pour mixture into pastry shell. Bake on lower shelf in moderate oven (350 degrees) 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the filling comes out clean.

Jason did an awesome job of cooking the turkey (without stuffing - stuffing was baked and served on the side) on his Sykes grill.  It was greatly enjoyed by Moogie, Jason, Kiki, Christopher, Ed and me. Parker was at a ski camp in Colorado and Alex and Dan stayed in Portland and cooked their first Thanksgiving turkey. They got the turkey (from the Pine Mountain Buffalo Ranch in Bend OR) at the Portland Farmer's Market the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Reviewed 6/17/2017

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sole Variations

Serves 2

If necessity is the mother of invention, then necessity = available ingredients.  I had pureed pumpkin left over from Thanksgiving (the vote was for Pecan Pie and Apple Tart this year) and Ed was getting sick of Pumpkin Soup.  Hence a variation on Sole Florentine.


2/3 pound sole/flounder filet (4-6 pieces, approximately the same size) and rub with:



1 c pumpkin puree
2 T dark maple syrup
2 T dried cranberries
2 T fresh sage, chopped

Divide mixture among the filets, spreading evenly over the top of each filet.

Roll the fillets and place them in a  lightly oiled baking dish..

Sprinkle ground nutmeg on the tops of the rolled filets.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes (less time if pumpkin is warm to start) or until fish flakes.

I served this with fall crop Haiku Turnip Sautee dressed with a bit of tarragon vinegar - a good contrast to the sweetness of the pumpkin.

Reviewed 5/22/2017

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pumpkin Soup 2010

And the pumpkins.... One turned into pumpkin soup. Unlike the Pumpkin Soup recipe posted earlier on this blog, this soup contains no cream/milk.

Peel, seed, quarter and cut into one inch cubes:

~ 5 pounds pumpkin

Steam the pumpkin until tender or brush with olive oil and bake in a 350 degree F oven until tender (about 30 minutes).

While pumpkin is cooking, in a heavy stockpot sautee until onion is tender:

1 T olive oil
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

Then add:

Pumpkin chunks
4 c chicken stock and simmer for ~ 30 minutes until heated through

Puree the mixture in a food processor* until smooth, adding additional stock if necessary to get desired consistency. Either refrigerate/freeze for future use or return some or all of the soup to the pan and keep warm until served.

Garnish with:

Shallots, thinly sliced and fried in olive oil until browned and

Sage leaves fried in oilve oil until browned (bowl at lower left) OR
Roasted chili (bowl at upper right).

* April 2013: Just made some Beet Soup with Cumin with an immersion blender (see Cool Tools 3). Wow! The prep time is shorter and the clean-up much easier. Going forward I will be using the immersion blender instead of the food processor for all pureed soups.

Reviewed 9/7/2017

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pumpkin on Spinach

Taking advantage of the local fall crop, I bought a big bag of spinach. So now I had a lot of spinach and a lot of pumpkin.  I had seeded, peeled and cut one one of the pumpkins (about 5 pounds total) into quarters then wrapped the quarters tightly and stored them in the refrigerator for future use. Combining one of the quarters of pumpkin with some of the spinach, I made the following dish for dinner.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

While oven is heating cut:

One quarter of a pumpkin (see above for prep) into 1 inch chunks, toss to coat lightly with:

Olive oil

Place in an oven proof dish.  Bake for 15 - 25 minutes, tossing every five minutes after the first ten minutes until the pumpkin is tender and browned.  When pumpkin is almost done, in a skillet or small wok sautee:

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 t olive oil

When the garlic is browned add:

10 ounces fresh spinach, large veins and stems removed, rinsed and drained

Cook until spinach is barely wilted then divide between 2 plates.

Remove pumpkin from oven and add:

2 T dried cranberries
2 T pecans
1 T maple syrup

Toss well then divide mixture on top of the spinach.  Garnish with

2-3 sprigs fresh sage, coarsely chopped

Reviewed 10/1/2017

Pumpkin Time Again

Expecting Alexandra and/or Christopher home at Halloween time and having had a hard time finding big enough pumpkins to carve last year, I got two sugar pumpkins in mid October. Christopher decided to stay in NYC for a Halloween party and Alex was too busy to carve, so I still had the pumpkins and no sentimental attachment to any Jack-o-Lanterns. Time for more pumpkin recipes:

Pumpkin on Spinach
Pumpkin Soup 2010
Sole Variations
Pumpkin Sage Lasagna

Also time to return to:

Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Steamed Pudding
Fiery Pumpkin Seeds
Baked Pumpkin Slices
Pumpkin Pie Muffins
Poblano Chili Stuffed with Pumpkin

Reviewed 9/19/2017

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lamb Shanks with Fig Sauce

When travelling in Spain recently Ed or I occasionally ordered leg of lamb and soon discovered this usually meant lamb shanks - a favorite of my Mom but something I seldom, if ever, cook.  Long ago, my Mom gave me her recipes for "Lamb Shanks Tra La" and  "Mid Eastern Lamb Shanks" (see recipes at end) but I liked the elegance of the lamb shanks I had recently at La Finca de Susana in Madrid.  These lamb shanks were cooked simply (as I try to reconstruct below) and served with an accompanying fig sauce.  This makes sense to me as this is a rather fatty cut and much fat accumulates in the cooking water.  Removing the lamb completely from the cooking stock and serving the moist tasty meat separately seems to reduce the fat consumed.

Serves 3-4, depending on size of lamb shanks

Heat  in a deep skillet or casserole sized so that lamb shanks just cover the bottom:

1 T olive oil

3 lamb shanks (~1 pound each), and brown on both sides.

Alternatively broil lamb shanks (as in Mid Eastern Lamb Shanks) turning once or twice until browned on both sides.  No oil necessary, and much neater.  Even neater - sear on gas grill.

Remove the lamb and discard all of the fat.   In same pot sautee:

1 t olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

When garlic is soft, return lamb to pot and add

1/2 c wine (red or white)
Water to almost cover lamb
1 t thyme leaves

Cover and turn the heat to low.  Cook for at least an hour and thirty minutes, turning the shanks every half hour and  adding more water if liquids run low, until the meat is very tender - nearly falling off the bone.  Avoiding or spooning away the accumulated fat, remove lamb from liquid and place on a carving board. Garnish with with fresh rosemary and serve with:


I sometimes make this sauce without the pear as shown in photo at left.

In a small skillet heat:

2 t olive oil


1 large Vidalia onion, peeled and very thinly sliced.

Sauté until onion is wilted and golden, then add:

1 t sugar

Stir until the onion is well coated then add:

1 pear thinly sliced, cook until pear is just barely soft then add:

2-3 T Stonewall Kitchen Vidalia Onion Fig Sauce 
(Stay tuned for a "from scratch" fig sauce recipe)

Cook just  until sauce is throughly heated.


[I only recently discoverd that this recipe shares the same name as one from Peg Bracken's I Hate to Cook cookbook, so is probably verbatim or Mom's adaption of Ms. Braken's recipe]

To make sauce combine and heat until jelly melts:

1 large onion, sliced thin
1 c catsup
1 c water
1/2 c mint jelly
2 T lemon juice


4 lamb shanks in
flour, salt and pepper

Brown lamb [in in a deep skillet or casserole sized  that lamb shanks just cover the bottom in 2 T olive oil]. Pour off excess fat and pour sauce over the lamb.  Cover and simmer basting once in a while for 1 1/2 hours.


[In a large dish with sides,] broil:

6 lamb shanks on each side 7 minutes

Simmer for a few minutes:

2 T butter
1 t dill
4 t parsley, minced
1/4 t cloves

then add and mix well:

1/4 c water
1/2 c chopped nuts
1 T orange peel [zest]
2 t brown sugar
1/2 c raisins
1/2 c white wine
1/2 c catsup

Pour mixture over shanks and bake at 350 degrees F for 2-3 hours until tender.

Reviewed 5/29/2017

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Two Restaurants - Three Museums

As we headed from Seville to Madrid on the AVE (one of Spain's super fast trains) on the afternoon of October 2nd,  I found a restaurant described in Lonely Planet's Spain that looked interesting: "Naia has a real buzz about it, with a cooking laboratory overseen by Carlos Lopez Reyes, delightful modern Spanish food.... The emphasis is on natural ingredients, healthy cooking and exciting tastes." I made a reservation for dinner that night.  From Hotel Moderno on Puerta del Sol, where Alex and I had stayed during our trip to Spain in 2002, Ed and I walked through Plaza Mayor and past many tapas bars until we came to Plaza de la Paja and Naia Bistro. Revisiting the menu as I write this, I find the menu has changed considerably to suit the season.  For example, on a warm October night, we started our meal with an Solmorejo - Andalusian gazpacho with celery and lemon sorbet. The gazpacho, like most Andalusian gazpachos was very smooth (not like the chunky soup I usually make and most likely contained bread) and the sorbet was awesome. Next we had wrinkled potatoes with two sauces.  The "wrinkled potatoes" were not exactly what we expected - small round potatoes cooked to perfection, with a slightly wrinkled skin.  I recently got some small carola potatoes at Verrill Farm, boiled them for a few minutes then Ed finished them on the grill.  The effect was very similar. These were served two sauces: "mojo verte and spicy [red] mojo sauce". This was an excellent entree for our main courses which came without any starches or vegetables. Ed had blackened red tuna steak  and I had confit cod with carmelized onion and boletus ali-oli sauce.  Salt dried cod is very common in Spain, served both cold with tomatoes and hot with among other things carmelized sauce.  I had versions of the latter on several occasions but this was by far the best. (For my attempt with fresh cod see: Cod with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms). For dessert we shared  lime mojito sorbet with rum. brown sugar and mint. This was a perfect finish and a dessert I intend to revisit next summer.  From start to finish this was one of the two best meals we had in Spain (see Barcelona to Biar for the other).

photo © 2010 Edward C. Kern, Jr.
The following morning we got up early to be among the first to arrive at the Prado.  I had just finished reading Terry Tempest William's Leap and was delighted to have Room 56A with Boch paintings including The Garden of Earthly Delights and Table of the Seven Deadly Sins to ourselves for some time before any other visitors arrived.  I had been to the Prado with Alexandra in 2002 but this was Ed's first visit and he along with me enjoyed the awesome collection of Velazque paintings as well as those of El Greco and Goya. His favorite, however, is Raphael's The Cardinal.  From the Prado we went to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Renia Sofia.  Again a first for Ed and a return visit for me. We saw Guernica again as well as a model of the Pavillion that Jose Lluis Sert designed to house this painting for the Paris International Exposition in the 1937 Worlds Fair.  After a tapas lunch at a nearby restaurant our final stop for the day was at the  Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, a collection of over 800 works collected by the Thyssen-Bornemiza Family over two generations.  We focused mostly on the nineteenth and twentieth century works which included a lot of paintings with marine themes our favorites of which were Kingston Point Hudson River by Francis Silva (1873) and Summer Clouds by Emil Nolde (1913).  A Miro favorite, Mujer, Pajaro y Estrella (a print of which hangs in Alex's Lincoln bedroom) and which Alex and I enjoyed when we were there was no where to be found and apparently is no longer at this museum.

photo © 2010 Edward C. Kern, Jr.

Along the way we took time to admire the Caixa Forum Museum Le Mur Vegtal designed by Patrick Blank (photo below, left).  The plants are grown hydroponically in felt pockets attached to a rigid plastic backing. We also did a walk in the light rain through the Royal Botanical Garden next to the Prado where we serendipitously ran into an excellent photo exhibit, Imagenes de un Siglo en Espana, one hundred mounted photos depicting the history and daily life of Spain for the past century, actually 114 years starting with Spain's departure from Cuba in 1896.

We made it back to the hotel as the rain intensified and were glad we did not have to walk far for dinner.  Based on a good review in Lonely Planet's Spain we decided to try La Finca de Susana. Since this restaurant does not take reservations and we had seen a fairly long line there the previous night we arrived shorthly after their eight thirty opening and found the restaurant close to full.  It felt like having lunch at Google (though the food was not as good), I really had to look to find anyone much over thirty, and the few diners who looked over forty appeared to be there with their children and the children's friends. The setting was good but the food was mixed.  My lamb leg  (actually lamb shanks) with fig sauce was excellent and inspired me to try a similar dish when we returned home.

Reviewed 0/20/2017

Chicken Biar

Roberto Medoro, the owner/chef of Mas Fontanelles, a delightful "Hotel Rural - Restaurante"  in Biar, Spain was kind enough to share the recipe for a dish he had cooked for Ed and me the previous night.  While he carefully explained the proceedure, he apologized that he did not measure the ingredients, just did it by eye. Since I often cook this way (and have had to make a point of measuring when checking out recipes for this blog), I can appreciate his approach.  To date I have made this by  "by eye" so offer photos but no exact measurements. While Ed and I have enjoyed this rendition, neither of my attempts have met the bar set by Mas Fontanelles in either taste or presentation. Perhaps it is a combination of my reluctance to use butter,  the size of the chicken pieces I have used,  not exactly hitting the magic combination of the "mixture", or no doubt the exaggerated memory of a perfect evening.

Make a very thin omelette using 1/2 an egg in a standard size omelette pan.

[Bone, skin and trim the excess fat]
3 small/2 medium second joints per person

Slice open so they are still in one piece but lie flat and stuff with:

Omelette, thin slice
Ham [Iberian/Prosciutto]
"A mixture" of: anchoives, garlic, tyme. pepper, tapenade  [I used Whole Foods black olive tapenade]
Fresh sage

Roll each chicken piece and secure with small wooden skewers [toothpicks]

In a skillet large enough to accommodate all of the chicken, heat to cover bottom

Butter [olive oil]

Sautee until chicken is nicely browned on the bottom, then turn chicken and brown opposite side. Add:

Dry white wine [I used about 1/3 c for 9 pieces of chicken]

While chicken is cooking prepare:

1 carrot per person, washed and thinly sliced on the diagonal
1-2 thinly sliced rings of onion per person [last night since I had no onion 1 used 1 thinly sliced shallot for 2]

Saute in a separate pan; cooking the chicken and the carrots separately makes it much easier to get each cooked to perfection, with [a small amount of]:

Butter [olive oil]

Cook until the onion is wilted and the carrots are just barely soft. [Do not overcook and if it appears carrots will be ready before chicken turn off heat under pan before carotts are fully cooked].

When the chicken is cooked through, place on individual plates and top with the onions and carrots.

At Mas Fontanelles the chicken was served with fresh grilled asparagus.

VARIATION:  Mr. Medoro said he constantly varies the stuffing "mixture", using different kinds of olives (black, green or both), sometimes adding sun-dried tomatoes (which have been boiled for one minute).

January 2012: VARIATION (photo left): While this is really best with second joints, I also make this with boneless chicken breasts (much less fatty than second joints) and when my herb garden is bountiful, throw a few extra sprigs of sage into the sautee.

Reviewed 5/13/17

Barcelona to Biar

Ed's memories of Barcelona,  navigating with a map with street names in Spanish while the street signs were in Catalan, were not the best.  I hoped with the GPS this trip would be different. We had reservations at El Jardi a small hotel on Placa Sant Josep Oriol in the heart of  Barri Gotic; the rooms are very small but very clean and the location is excellent. The GPS took us right to the foot of the Ramblas which was closed to vehicular traffic due to pedestrian crowds.  The GPS proceeded to take us to every street with access into Barri Gotic and we found each street in turn to be closed also. Finally on our second circumnavigation of Barri Gotic, a policeman let us go up the Ramblas to the first parking garage, near Placa Reial. We hoofed it from there, getting separated from each other in the dense crowds that had gathered all through Barcelona for a huge music festival.  Ed found the hotel about nine o'clock, half an hour after I did.  By then we had missed our reservation at Cheriff, a restaurant recommended for its paella by Mark Bittman, and they were unable to take us later in the evening or the next evening.  We settled for tapas in the square near the hotel. The next day we walked, first taking in Gaudi buildings in L'Eixample though we chose not to stand in the long lines to see the inside of La Sagrada Familia again. As we walked around Barcelona we saw huge sound stages set up on most every large public plaza reminding us of the previous night's crowds.  We stopped for lunch at Cafe Viena on the Ramblas touted by Mark Bittman as having the "world's best sandwich".  The Jabugo, salt cured ham,  was excellent but little of the fat had been trimmed off (see photo in the NY Times article - the white stuff is pure fat) and the bread was excellent but, best sandwich I've ever had?  Not so sure.  In the afternoon we went to Ed's favorite, Santa Maria del Mar then on to the waterfront where Ed was fascinated by an old wood submarine, up to Montjuic and finally to Foundation Miro. For dinner, we found a local crowd and excellent paella at Elche though I would make the same comment about Elche's paella that Bitman made about Cheriff's: "Unfortunately, the waiter didn’t let the rice sit in the paella pan long enough to form a socarrat, the golden carmelized crust formed at the bottom of the pan."

The next morning (September 26th) we headed for Biar.  Ed needed to be near Almeria on Monday night so he suggested I pick a place about half-way between Barcelona and Almeria for Sunday night. In the course of finding a place, I discovered Inns of Spain and the Mas Fontanelles in Biar.  This small inn ("Hotel Rural - Restaurante") looked like a delightful spot to break our drive.  At lunch time we were near Benicassim.  We got some bread and cheese there then drove a short distance into the hills to Desierto de las Palmas, a hilly nature reserve with a Carmelite monastery (1697) at its heart. We ate our lunch overlooking the Mediterranean in the distance.  Just before we got to Biar, I noticed a large lake, then realized the "lake" was sloping.  This turned out to be a large PV installation in Beneixama, nestled into the landscape.  We had a quick walk around Biar, a tiny medieval town surrounded by hills with olive trees, then checked in at Mas Fontanelles where we found we were two of  four overnignt guests (the inn has only 8 rooms and is, I suspect, more of a weekend/holiday destination) and the only dinner guests.  We arrived at the dining room at the appointed time where the chef/owner, Robert Medoro, greeted us with a plate of red and yellow sauteed peppers and wonderful fresh bread.  This was followed by excellent stuffed chicken thighs (more on this later) and fresh asparagus grilled to perfection.  Dessert was a delicious lemon tart. One of the best dinners of our trip!  In the morning when I was checking out I told Mr. Medoro again how much we had enjoyed the inn and dinner and asked if he might share the chicken recipe - see next post :-)

Reviewed 7/20/2017

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cod with Carmelized Onions and Mushrooms

This recipe was inspired by Ed's and my recent trip to Spain. At La Table in Perpignan Ed had turbot and porcini -  with "net crusted" potatoes. And, at Naia Restaurante Bistro in Madrid I had confit cod with carmelized onion and boletus (a kind of mushroom) ali-oli sauce.  For some reason, although I cook a lot of cod, it had never occurred to me to serve it with a mushroom sauce.  And, although I serve cod on crisp potatoes (Cod with Roasted Veggies), it had not occurred to me to serve it on a mashed potato base.  For the record "net crusted" potatoes are mashed/whipped potatoes covered with a pastry crust lattice.  Ed has encouraged me to add this to my version of the dish but it is not going to happen!

Serves 2, scale accordingly.

Prep and start cooking the sauce and potatoes (see below) so that both will be done at the same time as the fish. If scaling up for a dinner group, sauce could be made ahead and reheated.


On the top of a broiling pan that has been lightly coated with olive oil place:

2/3 - 3/4 pound fresh cod

Sprinkle the fish with:

1 t herbes de Provence

Bake at 400 degrees F, approximately ~15 minutes*, depending on thickness of fish, until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Note: In his cookbook Fish Mark Bittman advises starting the fish on broil and cooking less time,   “(about 8 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness, measured to the thickest point). If the fish is cooking too quickly, turn off the broiler and finish cooking with the oven set at 500 degrees F. Cod begins to “gape” – its sections separate – when it is done, is opaque throughout, and will offer no resistance to a thin-bladed knife; avoid overcooking."

CHECK AFTER 10 minutes to see how done the fish looks (see criteria above).


In a small sautee pan heat:

1 T olive oil 
1/2 large sweet onion thinly sliced (cut rings in half)

Cook until the onions are wilted, about 2-3 minutes and then add:

1 t sugar

Cook an additional 2-3 minutes until the onion is browned, then add:

6-8 mushrooms thinly sliced (I use shitake, crimini or baby bella)
Fresh sage, several leaves, coarsely chopped

Cook until the mushrooms are soft.

Then add: 

4 T  Demi-Glace/Demi-Glace with Olive Oil Roux and cook until heated through. If you have no premade Demi Glace on hand, in a small pan combine:

1 T Demi-Glace Gold
1/4 c boiling water water

Wisk over medium heat until all of the demi-glace is dissolved and sauce is smooth. Then add this to the onion-mushroom mixture.


In a small pan half filled with boiling water put:

2-3 small potatoes, cut in half 
1 large clove garlic (do not peel)

Cook just until potatoes are tender, drain well, squeeze pulp out of garlic skin into potatoes and mash with a potato masher.


Divide potatoes between 2 plates, top with 1/2 of the cod and then 1/2 of the sauce. Garnish with fresh sage.


I had a little leftover Mushroom Risotto (made with sage and no cheese) and spotted a nice piece of cod in the market. I warmed the risotto adding a bit more chicken stock and serverd the cod and the mushroom sage sauce over the risotto.

Reviewed 5/22/2017

Poached Figs

Serves 2

This dessert is inspired by an amazing fig tart Ed and I had recently at le Figuier in Perpignan. Returning home I found some fresh figs. Both for calories and expediency,  I skipped the pastry.

In a small sauce pan,  poach

6 fresh figs in:

50% water (just enough so the water and wine cover the figs)
50% white wine
1 T sugar
1 T lemon juice
Lemon zest

Bring the water to a boil just until the sugar is dissolved and then simmer for just a couple of minutes until the pears are very soft.  Serve these with:

Stonyfield Farm non-fat vanilla yogurt topped with:

Lemon zest and
Fresh rosemary and/or thyme


Surround a scoop of vanilla ice cream/vanilla frozen yogurt with a few fresh figs, sliced in half, and top with orange fused olive oil and fresh rosemary.

Reviewed 10/1/2017

The Spanish Pyrenees to Perpignan France

The highlight of Ed's and my recent trip to Spain was hiking in the Pyrenees which we in fact decided to do at the last minute after Condor was hauled on September 2nd due to hurricane warnings for Earl.  With the boat high and dry and no tickets yet for the conference in Perpignan where Ed was to give a paper, we decided to go 5 days early and drive from Barcelona to Perpignan via Torla and Espot.

"Old Man", upper left
TORLA: We arrived in Torla on Thursday September 16th, after a lunch stop at the Medevial city of Ainse which we found quite serendipitously. The following day we had a magnificent hike in Parque Nacional de Ordesa. The day was overcast and clouds blew in and out as we crossed the Rio Arazas and climbed steeply (600 meters vertical) through the woods on the Senda de los Cazadores (Hunter's Path) on the valley's south side. We reached a point which reminded us of the Old Man of the Mountain (NH) then a overlook on top of the "head of the Old Man".

Cola del Caballo
From there we followed the Faja de Pelay (mostly level or downhill) to the Circo de Soaso and the Cola del Caballo (Horsetail) waterfall.  We returned by the path along the valley floor passing several other waterfalls before being caught in a drenching rain storm which continued the last half hour of our 12 km hike.  By the next morning the weather had improved and we hiked up to the waterfalls we had missed in our run in the rain. We stayed at the Hotel Abetos in a room with a beautiful view toward the mountain and ate both nights at El Duende (good regional food) as the town is small with not a lot of interesting options.

Looking up Circo de Soaso

Falls in the Valley
Estany L'Amitges
ESPOT:   On Saturday afternoon we drove through several mountain passes, one in thick fog to Espot.  The Hotel Surat where we stayed, the original hotel in Espot, shows it age. Our room was clean and had a view of the mountains but the large dining room was used only for breakfast (most likely still open in season). Tired, we opted for pizza in their crowded grill. The following morning we took a jeep taxi (leaves from the center of town as soon as it is filled with 6 passengers) to Estany de Sant Maurici (part of Parc Nacional D'Aiguestortes I Estany de Sant Maurici).  From here we headed up the trail to Port de Ratera d' Espot. We followed the directions downloaded from the Lonely Planet.

Port de Ratera d'Espot

Jeep tours go to the first part of the trail and continue around the lake so this part of the trail is wide, easy and crowded until the fork soon after Estany de Ratera.  Here we took the right fork and hiking became steeper and rockier.  If Ordesa is a hike of waterfalls, this is certainly a hike of lakes; an occasional waterfall but well over a dozen beautiful blue lakes. We continued across some rocky scree to Refugi d'Amitges then to Port de Ratera d' Espot where we ate lunch. Returning, we took the right hand forks so repeated  little of the first part of the 14.5 km hike.  For dinner we tried Hotel Roya which had a very good regional menu.  Ed had an excellent Andalusian gazpacho and I had my first taste of salt cod with tomatoes (served cold as an entree) which was very good both entrees followed by lamb.

PERPIGNAN: Monday morning we drove through more mountain passes to Perpignan.  Following his Garmin Ed wound up in the narrow streets of the old city. After a very challenging u-turn we headed to the parking garage then walked to Hotel de Loge. This is a  restored mansion in the heart of the old city.  It apparently fell into some disrepair under the former owners but the new owners, Mireille and Herve Barruad have done an excellent job restoring the public spaces.  The bedrooms could still use some refurbishment but the Barruad's  helpfulness more than compensated for the worn carpets.  They recommended two excellent restaurants, Le Figuier and La Table (now closed).  Monday night was business and mediocre tapas. On Tuesday night we ate at Le Figuier and I had a white fish on potatoes with an aioli topping; very good.  I'm tempted to try it at home but somewhat deterred by the requisite butter.  The show stopper was the fig tart; a pastry shell with whole poached figs. Figs have a very limited season but I was able to find some when I returned home and did a yummy poached fig dessert.  The next night we attended the conference banquet. I never look forward to these events and was pleasantly surprised.

photo © 2010 Edward C. Kern, Jr.
The banquet was in an old Gothic church that had been stripped of all things religious. Colored lights played on the stone walls and a dance band played in the distance so we could talk above the music.  The food was excellent as was the conversation since we sat at a table with some of Ed's younger clients. On Thursday night we went to La Table, a newly opened bar and restaurant.  I had fish with crispy leeks on top and Ed had fish on a bed of potatoes topped with a pastry lattice and mushroom sauce.  I have since done a similar dish at home (minus the pastry lattice which Ed keeps asking for). 

Reviewed 9/20/2017

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Two Days in DC

Ed and I spent a few days last week in DC - he on business, me for fun.  We drove down on Sunday, meeting Christopher at Vesylka in his old East Village neighborhood for brunch (his breakfast, our lunch). The company was awesome and the borscht did not disappoint.

On Monday I had a long walk enjoying the unseasonably warm weather and caught a view of the White House vegetable garden. Happiness turned to sadness as I walked along the Vietnam War Memorial, so many names... and thought of the next memorial we will soon be building, so many names, so young and so many permanenly disabled.... That evening Ed and I went to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and saw a special exhibit (runs through January 2, 2011): "Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell  from the Collections of George Lucas and Stephen Speilberg" before having a tapas dinner at Zaytinya  (Turkish, Greek and Lebanese inspired cuisine). The Garides me Anitho, (sauteed shrimp, dill, shallots, mustard, lemon juice), was especially good.  Marine 1 and two escort helicopters flew directly over our heads as we crossed the Ellipse walking back to the hotel, Marine 1 then landing on the South Lawn.

Tuesday I went to the Smithsonian to see, among other things, Julia Child's  Kitchen, indeed one of the most popular exhibits that day.  I remember our first kitchen in Cambridge.  The entire (but not very big) end wall was covered with a blue peg board on which I hung all my orange Creuset pots and pans (wedding presents) as well as black cast iron items, wood rolling pin....  I did not draw outlines around anything though as I did not have much stuff or many people in the kitchen. Both days I had lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian.  The museum is not my favorite but the food in Mitsitam (Let's Eat) Cafe has to be the best on the mall and very good in its own right.  The Cafe features a Native inspired menu representing five different regions of the Western Hemisphere made with natural and locally grown ingredients. I finished my day at the National Gallery of Art seeing old favorites, though unfortunatewely the Miro tapestry originally in the main lobby has been removed  and Dali's The Sacrament of the Last Supper was blocked by supplies for an evening reception. I also saw two special exhibits, one featuring the drawings of Edvard Munch and the other, Arcimboldo (runs through January 9, 2011). The Arcimboldo paintings, reflecting the serious study of science and nature that was characteristic of the sixteenth century are also clever intellectual puzzles, in fact, according to the exhibit guide, viewed as scherzi or jokes by Arcimboldo's contemporaries.  In the  lobby of the East Wing outside the exhibit is a large contemporary  sculpture depicting the Arcimboldo painting "Winter".  In the evening, another unseasonably warm night, Ed and I walked around Georgetown (not as "cool" as Ed remembered) then back to the mall. Having cleared the wait-list at the popular Rasika , we had an excellent dinner there. Rasika is an Indian restaurant (which boarders on Indian fusion); I had a shrimp curry and Ed a lamb one, neither of which I will try to duplicate. I will be giving some thought to trying to make the delicious dessert we had, date and toffee pudding with berries. Stay tuned.

Reviewed 9/20/2017

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

We had this delicious soup at Bonnie's on Aspen Mountain last February.  The recipe is taken directly from Bonnie's at 1:00 * by MaryAnn Greene.  I have not tried making it yet but maybe will now that the weather is getting colder again.  At anyrate, I'm hoping it is still on the menu this winter.

"One of the favorites. Serves 8-10

1/4 C. FLOUR
7/8 C. SOUR CREAM (9 OZ.)

1. Saute onions in butter with salt.
2. Add mushrooms and simmer until limp.
3. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and immediately add dill, paprika, tamari, and chicken stock. Stir! Stir!
4. Simmer 15 minutes.
5. Add milk, pepper, lemon juice, and parsley.
6. Cook 30 minutes.
7. Check seasonings.
8. Whisk in sour cream and heat carefully.


* Page 67

Reviewed 7/9/2017

White Bean Chili

Recommended by an Aspen friend, I tried this chili last December at Bonnie's and had it again during our visit in February.  I've yet to make it myself, but it's on my list "to try" using,  instead of the sour cream, 12 oz (1 1/2 c) non-fat yogurt whisked with 2 t  cornstarch - NB To keep yogurt from "breaking down" whisk with cornstarch before adding to pot and avoid high heat after adding yogurt.   Recipe is from Bonnie's at 1:00* Bonnie's serves soup topped with multi-colored, thinly sliced, fried tortilla strips

"Bonnie Lynn's White Chili

3 15 OZ. CANS OF WHITE NORTHERN BEANS (DRAINED) [and rinsed well**]

1. In a 5-6 qt. soup kettle, melt butter.
2. Add onion, red and green pepper and cook until soft.
3. Puree 1 1/2 cans of the beans until smooth and add to the kettle.
4. Add the rest of the beans, picante sauce, chiles, tomatoes, and spices. Cook for 2 minutes.
5. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Then lower heat.
6. Add sour cream and simmer until blended.
7. Add shredded jalapeno cheese and simmer and
stir until smooth. Yields 8 cups."

* Page 69

** January 2015; See Beans and Comfort

Reviewed 7/9/2017

Apple Strudel/Gretl's/Bonnie's

When Ed and I skied Aspen in the 1970's our favorite lunch stop was Gretl's, a restaurant nestled in the trees below Tourtelotte Park.  I sometimes had soup and apple strudel, but more often than not as I recall, just a big piece of strudel. If it was really cold, we made a strudel stop in mid morning to warm up. If the weather permitted we ate our lunch on the sundeck, our faces well greased with Piz Buin (SPF 0 or worse).  At the end of the 1979-80 ski season Gretl did not renew her lease with the Aspen Ski Company;  Ed and I were so occupied by Alexandra who had arrived that October that we scarcely took notice.  This past winter, however, we had a chance to ski Aspen Mountain with  Christopher at Christmas time then Alex and Dan in February and all had a chance to have lunch on the sundeck that was once part of Gretl's and is now part of Bonnie's.  The strudel is still excellent (as good as Gretl's? debatable; time tips the scale). We also had a couple of good soups, White Bean Chili and Hungarian Mushroom Soup. The recipes for all are found in Bonnie's at 1:00: Recipes from Aspen Mountain's Dining Tradition by MaryAnn Greene along with many other Bonnie's recipes and Greene family favorites. While the book has an extensive introduction it does not dwell on the restaurant's first incarnation as Gretl's or how Gretl's changed Aspen "mountain dining".  An October 2001 article from the Aspen Times addresses this and gives a portrait of the amazing woman, Gretl.

Now for the recipe from Bonnie's at 1:00 *.  It's delicious but looks like so much work I will probably wait for next winter at Bonnie's, when as an added bonus I can ski off the calories.

1/8 C. SUGAR

If making three portions or three strudels, you will need nine apples.Three apples (we use Rome apples) will yield four cups of sliced apples and fill one strudel sheet. Wash apples. Using an apple cutter, press out the core and cut the apple into sections. Peel the skin off each part and slice each section of apple as thin as possible. Cover the apple slices with 1 1/2 C. apple juice & juice of 1/2 of a lemon. Sprinkle with 1/4 C. raisins.

1/4 C. SUGAR
LEMON JUICE (1 1/4 oz.)
1 1/4 C. MILK

(dough may be prepared in advance the night before, if so desired)
1. Mix flour, sugar and salt, using mixer paddle.
2. Add oil, egg, and 1/4 C. hot water.
3. Change to dough hook and add 1/4 C. more hot water.
4. Knead until smooth and shiny.
5. Divide the dough into three small portions. Run one portion at a time through a pasta machine. You will rollout two more portions.You can make up to a total of three small strudels. If one is all you need for this occasion, consider freezing the rest of the dough or preparing it with a spinach or mushroom filling.
6. Using a pasta machine, run each portion through to make a rectangle sheet. (Or use a rolling pin.) Place the strudel on a floured cloth and stretch it as thin as possible without breaking - paper thin. (At the most, it should measure about 8"x 12").
7. Brush strudel dough with melted butter.
8. Cover dough with a handful or so of sliced apples, sprinkle with one handful of raisins, one handful of sugar mixture, and then sprinkle with lemon juice until all of the apple mixture is used.
9. Fold the two opposite short ends of dough over apples, then fold the long sides to the middle, making a seam. Then lift the edges of the floured cloth and roll the filled dough, seam down, onto a greased pan or baking sheet.
10. Brush the top with melted butter.
11. Bake the following day. Allow the strudel to rest in a cool space overnight.
12. Pour milk over strudel before placing in oven.
13. Bake for 60 minutes at 350 degrees.
14. Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar.
15. Cut into thick slices, about two inches each.
16. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream."

* page 34

All photos this page: © 2011 and 2013 (bottom photo) Edward C. Kern, Jr.

Reviewed 5/17/17

Lobster Mushroom and Leek Risotto

When I was visiting Alexandra and Dan in April 2009, we went to one of my favorite places in Portland, the Saturday Farmer's Market. So much good stuff to choose from, but the selection of mushrooms is incredible. Among other things, we got some great lobster mushrooms (about a pound I think but perhaps more) and some leeks.  This led to  Lobster Mushroom and Leek Risotto for dinner that night.  Any question about where the name "lobster" mushroom comes from should be answered by the photo at left.

In a large skillet, sautee:

1 T butter
3 T olive oil


2 chopped leeks, white and pale green part only (though we pushed the "pale green" part)
1 clove garlic, minced
and cook, stirring, until the leeks begin to soften. 

Then add:

1-2 pounds lobster  mushrooms, stems trimmed and caps and stems coarsely chopped
Season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook stirring, until the mushrooms are tender. Set aside.

In another pan heat 3 T olive oil/butter or a combination then add:

1/2 c onion, finely chopped 
and cook 3 minutes until the onion begins to soften


2 c Aborio rice and stir well to combine. Add (optional):

1/2 c dry white wine, and cook, stirring, until wine is mostly absorbed by the rice.

 Begin to add:

6 ½ c hot chicken or vegetable broth

ABOUT ¾ CUP AT A TIME, stirring well after each addition until the broth has been mostly absorbed by the rice.  Continue to add broth, stirring, until the rice is tender but firm, al dente, about 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat, stir in one last addition of broth, the leek and mushroom mixture and :

½ c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 T chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Stir until the cheese melts and is incorporated into the rice. Serve immediately.

Reviewed 5/29/2017