Spicy Spaghetti Sauce loaded with invisible vegetables


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I’m hastily posting this recipe per the request of a close, known-just-about-all-my-life girlfriend.  Her name is Jodie, (note -ie NOT -y!), and we first met in kindergarten, Happyland, 55 years ago.  Man.  That’s pretty scary.  She lived one island way, down the street from my friend Andrea and one further island away lived our other best friend, Dana.  Jodie and I became close in high school…I believe a freshman year science class sealed the friendship.  We started to really hang out and party together.  And though all our parents were strict disciplinarians, we may have been the slightest bit wild.  Proper etiquette and good form were exacted, demanded of us. Not just proper manners or perfect posture but dignity and self-respect; not behaving “ladylike” but BEING a “lady”.  Jodie, unknowingly, taught me that lesson during one of our escapades gone wrong.  We all went to the same high school, Lauderdale High, which was one of the best public high school for miles both academically and athletically.  It was the week before Thanksgiving, our homecoming weekend, when the football game of the year was to be played with our arch rival, Stranahan.  We must have been sophomores because by then we were driving.  We had 5 minutes between bells to change classes and, for some forgotten reason or maybe even happenstance,  I found myself and four girls in the bathroom freshening our makeup, catching up on gossip or just goofing around.  Three of the girls had gone to Happyland with me: Jodie, Jody and Susie.

Andrea and me...probably up to no good.

Andrea and me…probably up to no good.

The fourth, Andrea, went to Miss Johnson’s for kindergarten but we all lived so close and our parents all knew each other that we don’t remember a time not knowing each other.   Anyway, we must have been chatting about homecoming because, on a spur of the moment lark, and without thinking, we had all tucked fat, black, permanent markers into our purses, thrown the top down on my Spider and were careening down the road headed towards Stranahan, home of our enemy, to teach them a lesson they would NEVER forget.  I was driving, Andrea had called shotgun, and the other three girls were sitting on top of the back of the car, feet on the seat.  Jeez.  THAT’S an accident waiting to happen.  And did we get pulled over, with all our hootin’ and hollerin’?  No.  No, we did not.  We pulled into Stranahan, parked and made our way in, trying to blend with all the students.  We headed towards the closest ladies room and waited for it to be vacated to begin our act of defiance. Out came the Sharpie; quickly and quietly we began our task.  We covered the putty-colored metal doors of the stalls with enormous outlines of our school logo, a “Flying L”.

The Flying L logo. We drew it everywhere!

The Flying L logo. We drew it everywhere!

We wrote slogans all over; on the walls and paper towel dispensers, leaving no doubt as to who was going to be the victor come Thanksgiving weekend.  In every spot we wrote “Flying L’s rule!” and “thrash Stranahan!” and “drown the dragons!”.  In no place, thank our most merciful Lord, did we use any bad language or curse words.  We hadn’t talked about what we were going to write; it just played out that way.  At breakneck speed we finished, dropped the markers back into our purses and made our way out of the school cool as cucumbers and back to my car.  Without warning, swiftly and out of nowhere we were surrounded by teachers and the police officers who were on school duty that day.  Oh God.  Where did they come from?  And how did they know?  They herded us through throngs of rubbernecking, nameless students to the principal’s office all the while our hearts were beating like rabbits on crack , our eyes huge with panic, darting back and forth to each other as if to telepathically say, “Oh my gosh!  What’ll we do?  Oh my gosh!  We’re dead!! Dead!!”.  It was at that moment I noticed Jodie walking close to me, tall and straight.  Ramrod straight.  Positively regal.  At her side was a chunky woman with short, blonde, frizzy hair (a real no-no), who reached out and roughly jerked Jodie by the arm, at the elbow, as if to keep her from running away, the imprint of her fingers leaving deep, red welts.  She turned to the teacher and without raising her voice she said coldly, “Get your hand off of me.  Don’t you dare touch me.”  I don’t think anyone heard except the rough and tumble teacher and me.  Jodie spoke those exact words with such gravity and formality as if she was a 70-year-old woman addressing an inferior upstart .  She wasn’t try to get away; we were all in trouble and we knew it.  We knew what we had done.  But touch me?  I don’t think so.  My friend never lost her cool, she never yelled or made a scene.  That teacher’s hand flew off of Jodie’s arm as though her arm was a screaming hot coal.  I was so impressed.  My friend showed such poise and reserve yet still managed to get her point across.  There was no need to get physical.  We were marched straight into the principal’s office where his secretary took down all of our names.  I looked over and saw that Susie was all hunched over crying and sniffling.  I looked at Andrea and we rolled our eyes at each other.  The principal lectured us…matter of fact he put the fear of God in us.  “If any of you girls step out of line, EVER, while in high school your parents will be notified, (Just kill us all right now, please. None of our parents put up with this kind of nonsense.), your principal will be notified and you will be suspended!”  And that was that.  He let us go.   NO ONE had been called or notified.  He let us go.  And we had used permanent marker!  Turns out that because not one dirty word or curse word was used he figured out that we were good girls that just weren’t thinking; we hadn’t thought about any repercussions never mind property damage.  We had done something foolish and stupid.  He ended his tongue-lashing with “Now I hope you girls have learned your lesson.  I don’t EVER want to see any of you around here.  Do I make myself clear?”  With a resounding “Yes, sir!  Thank you, sir!  I’m so sorry, sir!” we shuffled out of his office, heads hung low, our bodies limp with relief.  And, true to his word, our parents were never told.  Our principal never called any of us into his office or mentioned anything about that day.  Did we ever step out of line again?  Not in school.  Oh, hell no!  We had been reformed.  And that weekend we won our homecoming game.  Cleanly, exhibiting  honest athletic prowess, good sportsmanship and respectfulness.  Bup, this recipe is for you because you asked for it.  I will always appreciate the incredible example you unknowingly set when we were so young. You were a lady then and a lady now.  You make me proud!




Spicy Vegetable Spaghetti Sauce

Partially pureed sauce

Partially pureed sauce

Be fore-advised this is a low and slow cooking sauce.  4-6 hours will give you a thick, rich sauce.

I like a bit of texture to my sauce so this this the most I puree it.

I like a bit of texture to my sauce so this this the most I puree it.

yield: 2 1/2 quarts, depending on the size of tomatoes and length of cooking time

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 6-7 medium sized organic carrots, sliced into rounds 1/4″ thick
  • 12 medium to large, very ripe tomatoes
  • 2 large zucchini, grated using the large holes of a box grater
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • red pepper flakes to taste, I use about 1 tablespoon
  • 3/4 of a 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated parmesan cheese, optional

Perfect for those nights when you treat your family to a pasta dinner!

    Perfect for those nights when you treat your family to a pasta dinner!



  1. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and add onions, stirring and cooking until clear.
  2. Add garlic and carrots stirring well to coat with the olive oil.  If needed, drop the heat down to avoid scorching.
  3. Cut the cleaned tomatoes into eighth, cut off and discard stem pieces and add tomatoes to pot, again, stirring well.  The pot should be bubbling gently, uncovered.
  4.  Place the grated zucchini on a clean, cotton dish towel, gather up the corners and, over the sink, twist the ball of zucchini to drain off as much water as you can.  There’s a ton of water in that zucchini and you want to get out as much as you can or you’ll have a watery sauce.
  5. Add oregano and basil and red pepper flakes if using, stir well and simmer on medium-low, partially covered for 4-6 hours or whatever time allows.
  6. With an immersion blender or conventional blender puree fully cooked sauce to desired texture taking care not to burn yourself.  If using a conventional blender return sauce to pot.
  7. Add tomato paste and stir until completely incorporated.
  8. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as needed.
  9. Serve over al dente spaghetti and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Beignets Puerto Rican Syle…Pan de Mallorca


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I just returned from an idyllic week in Puerto Rico where I met my older sister, Cynthia, for a much-needed visit with our two elderly aunts.  Our aunts, one 93 years old and the other maybe 85, welcomed us with soft and gentle open arms, sweet kisses and many, MANY blessings.  The younger of the two worked for many years in the Chemistry Department of the University of Puerto Rico, her husband was the head of the department and together had done cancer research at Fordham University back in the ’50’s.  We affectionately named her “Maita” years ago, an informal name for godmother.  An analytical academician, her intellectual brilliance is surpassed by her goodness, her tender-heartedness and charity.  I’ve always said, “Maita, when I die I’m going to grab onto your ankles and sneak into heaven right behind you!”  As she has always had this saint-like, beatific stature I, on the other hand, started to gain the reputation of a some what naughty little girl from a young age.

Cynthia and me on the front balcony with our brand new bunnies. I had not evolved into the "bad seed" yet.

Cynthia and me on the front balcony with our brand new bunnies. I had not evolved into the “bad seed” yet.

I was constantly being compared to Cynthia and one my better-behaved cousins in Puerto Rico who is close to my age.  I’ll just refer to her as “M”.  The three of us, Cynthia, “M” and I played constantly.  Fairies, dollies, coloring, tea parties or in her playhouse, the envy of my childhood.  But as we grew older our tastes changed and we moved away from dollies and tea sets and were more intrigued with tween fashion and, of course, boys…but only from afar.  Decades before even portable phones, this was a time of letter writing.  Long distance was hideously expensive so those calls were arranged for twice a month at best.  Cynthia, naturally, was an excellent, well-disciplined writer.  I was lazy, had messy, illegible  penmanship and would do anything to get out of writing…including lie.  My mother insisted that each and every letter we received be answer immediately and well-written.  None of this 3-line nonsense.  Oh, no, ma’am.  Not my mama.  She proof read every letter we wrote until we came of a certain age, maybe pre-teen.  And that’s when the trouble started.  She felt we were old enough to write informative, loving letters, all grammatically and punctually correct.  We had eight aunts and uncles, their children plus a complete set of grandparents in Puerto Rico all more than happy to write to the one family which was stateside, namely us.  Regrettably, by the time I reached 11 or 12 years old I could not sit make the effort to do homework, practice my music lessons, clean my room or return letters.  I loved receiving them, especially when a pale blue check came fluttering out, but I did not have the thoughtfulness or moral fibre to sit down and pen not even a “thank you”.  It all came to a head one summer when I had received numerous letters from cousin “M”, the final one imploring me to please, please write back.  I loved her, I did!  But did I write her back? No.  No, I did not.  I probably shoved that letter under my bed where I threw everything including dirty cups and sandwich plates, napkins and trash.  At length my grandmother called and though she only spoke with my mother I knew I was in trouble when I saw the fire coming out of Mama’s eyes.  She was incensed, “Oh, yes!”, she castigated me, “You can go swim and play at “M’s” country club, play tennis and go out to dinner but you can’t write her a simple letter?  Hmmm???”   She was boiling; I had embarrassed and shamed her, she was disappointed in me.  I remember Mama taking me by the arm, unceremoniously sitting me down at the dinner table set with paper and pen and informing me in no uncertain terms, “You are NOT to get up from this table until you write your cousin!  Is that understood?”  Well!  If she was fuming, I was enraged.  How dare my cousin rat on me?  How dare she?  You want a letter?  I’ll give you a letter!  All afternoon I wrote, every few minutes Mama would glance at me pleased that I was responding, putting out the fire of family scandal and enriching our cousinhood.  I sealed the letter, addressed it and tossed it on the dining room table to be stamped and mailed while I snapped at my mother, “There! There’s your letter.  Hope your happy!” and off I went, free as a bird, never giving it another thought.  Weeks, maybe months, went by and off we went on summer vacation.  We spent two or three weeks in Jamaica as a family then split up as Dad had to return home to work and we flew on to Puerto Rico to spend the rest of summer.  I was excited and looked forward to the time at our grandparent’s house.  We were positively smothered with love, sugary treats, outings and adventures and oodles of quarters pulled out from the bottom of our uncles pockets then singles as we grew older.  We counted our loot often.  “I have $12.00!  How much do you have?” “Aww.  I only have $9.75”.  Well, one of those hot mornings, nothing different about it, Mama came to me and said, “How would you like to walk to Maita’s house?  Just you and me.”, I was incredulous.  “Nobody else?”, I asked, “I don’t have to share you?”.  “No, cielo, change your clothes, brush your hair and we’ll go.”  And so we did.  I was too old and sophisticated to skip but my heart was bursting with happiness that I had my mother’s undivided time and attentions.  It was a short walk to my aunt’s condominium plus a great ride in the elevator as it was an incredibly tall building.  The doors to the elevator opened, we walked down the hall and knocked on her door.  I thought of the hard, spicy sausage she often served with thick, crunchy Goya crackers and hoped I would be seeing them brought out that day.  The door swung open and my aunt swept me up with hugs and kisses.  There was a flurry of greetings between her and my mother when suddenly I found myself in her living room alone.  I turned and there, legs crossed and sitting in an enormous, dark-wood monster of a club chair sat my uncle…the father of “M”.  Terror set in.  It gripped my 11-year old heart.  I knew what was coming; I knew what I had done and now so did he.  I had been summoned, tricked, fooled and now I was going to get it.  It would seem that the letter I had written my cousin, “M”, had hurt her deeply.  It had evoked a flood of tears, especially the part where I called her an “ass”, so he said.  I hastily back pedaled and reassured him, “I didn’t call her an “ass”.  I said ‘Don’t BE an ass.’ I didn’t call her an “ass”!”  Let me remind you, Gentle Reader, this was over 45 years ago.  A true lady would never, EVER use that kind of language.  And he was heartbroken, crestfallen…desolate.  This darling, generous, loving man who gave me, and my brother and sisters, everything.  Treats, adventures, nickles and quarters.  I felt horrible.  I felt cheap and horrible.  He forgave me; of course he forgave me.  I was a still child.  But it caused a huge divide between my cousin and me.  It was never the same between the two of us…even to this day.  Maybe I called her a dirty word but she did worse.  She told on me.  Tattletale.  She knew what she was doing when she ran to her father, our grandmother and our aunts.  She knew full well that the entire family on the island would learn what I had done and that I would be judged accordingly.  I had sullied our name.  At all of 11 years old.  Oh, the shame of it all!  So foolish and wasteful is the loss of a tender friendship.  We adored “M’s” father as one of our favorite uncles.

Strips of sweet dough are coiled to look like seashells and ready for their second rising.

Strips of sweet dough are coiled to look like seashells and ready for their second rising.

My uncle would, time and again, bring us sweet indulgences, one of them being Pan de Mallorca; a smooth, ambrosial yeast bread heavily dusted with an abundant and generous dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

Finished with their second rising and slathered with melted butter, the sweet rolls are ready to be baked.

Finished with their second rising and slathered with melted butter, the sweet rolls are ready to be baked.

To gild the lily, take it over the top, it can be split and stuffed with thin slices of sweet ham and extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Cut, stuffed, buttered and ready for the grill.

Cut, stuffed, buttered and ready for the grill.

The bread is then buttered on the outside and grilled with a weight on top.  When the cheese has melted and is hot and gooey the sandwich is again dusted with confectioner’s sugar, sliced and served.


Sweet and salty has never been better!  Just like life.

This bread is truly special.  Soft and fluffy due to slow risings, Pan de Mallorca begs for time and patience.  This isn’t the recipe you want to start at 3:00 in the afternoon.  But if you wake up early one dark morning in the mood to rattle around in the kitchen all the day then this is the bread for you.  You just can’t rush the risings.  It keeps well for a little less than a week, well wrapped in the refrigerator as do the sandwiches.  It’s the best with a hot cup of cafe con leche.

Pan de Mallorca

yield: 12 large rolls

  • 1 cup water, warm, between 110° and 115°
  • 1 cup milk, warm, between 110° and 115°
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast, (one standard envelope)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 stick, (8 tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled, plus 4 tablespoons, melted and cooled
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour plus more to dust counter when rolling out dough
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar for powdering baked rolls, more if desired
  1. In the bowl of a stand-up mixer combine water, milk, yeast, granulated sugar and 1 cup of flour.
  2. Mix well and allow yeast to bloom 30-45 minutes.
  3. Whisk in egg yolks and 1 stick melted butter to yeast mixture.
  4. Add salt, mix well, and add remaining 4 cups of flour in one cup increments.
  5. When well combined cover with plastic wrap, cover and let rise until double in size.  This can take anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours.  Last week it took forever!
  6. When risen, generously flour counter or work surface.  Transfer the dough to the floured counter, flour the dough and knead until no longer sticky using as little flour as you can.
  7. Roll dough out into a rectangle, flouring and turning when needed to avoid sticking to the counter.
  8. Divide into 12 equal pieces.
  9. Roll out each portion into a long strip, and roll each strip into a coil, tucking the outside end under the coil.
  10. Place each bun on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, 6 per baking sheet.
  11. Brush each roll with the remaining 4 tablespoons of melted butter and let rise another 20-30 minutes.
  12. Preheat oven to 375°.
  13. Bake, one sheet at a time, in the middle of the oven for 13-16 minutes.  Check the bottom of bread at the 13 minute mark to avoid over-baking.
  14. Remove from oven and let each roll cool directly on cooling rack for 5 minutes then generously dust with powdered sugar.
Now dust them with more powdered sugar y mete mano!

Now dust them with more powdered sugar y mete mano!

Sweet Filled Strawberries for our Sweet Bride


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The passage of time becomes more apparent when your children’s peers and their siblings begin to wed.  Ouch.  Admittedly there is a slight sting to getting older, but on the other hand, we have a wedding to celebrate!  Weddings and baptisms are such sunny, exhilarating events.  They are celebrations filled with the promise of hope and jubilation; of all-consuming love for another living soul and the unspoken word of honor, vow, that all gathered have pledged to others in their lifetimes.  Big wedding, small wedding it matters not.  They are all lovely and joyous.  This past weekend I took part in a wedding shower for a young lady who grew up in our neighborhood and went to the same schools as our son, James.  Katie’s’ brother was in James’ class beginning in Pre-K through high school.  Pre-K is where this group of students’ mothers met and forged a bond that, through the years, has withstood the tragedy of drugs, financial ruin and even death.  There were four core families, all Catholic with working mothers and fathers and more kids than you’d care to count.  We lived within a one mile radius of each other.  The boys all played T-ball up to high school together and the teams were coached by the  fathers.  What a time we had!  As parents we learned to prepare snacks for the kids AND hors d’oeuvre for the grownups.  Hot? Sweet baby Jesus, but it was hot at that ball park.  We started bringing our cocktails in insulated coffee mugs then graduated to large beverage coolers filled with OUR version of jungle juice, hooch, grain punch…bad girl punch.  The poor coaches were out on the 100° field and dugout and never got any.  And though it was hot as blue blazes up on those rickety bleachers we parents laughed, caught up with one another and cheered all the boys on.  And yes, we got tanked.  Back then that was what Saturday afternoons were for.  After a few Solo cups full of “juice” no one cared about the steady stream of perspiration flowing from the top of their backbone down to their fanny!  Katie’s father, Bob, one of the coaches, would take a big, old boom box and crank out baseball tunes between innings.  Sometimes we sang.  We had a blast!  The coaches encouraged all the Little Leaguers, lifted them up and boosted their self-confidence even when mistakes were made.  The boys adored their coaches.  Never was there a happier group of people.  We always gathered to pre-party and post-party when there were evening functions at school.  Friday nights we’d potluck it, each family contributing to the meal.  When school let out for summer we formed the 601 Club.  Again, each family would contribute a dish or appetizer, sometimes booze, and we’d meet at the beach, across from Bahia Mar, at the grills, by the swings.  We named it the 6-oh-one club when it was discovered that after 6p.m. parking was free on the beach.  Our caravan pulled into the parking lot every Friday evening during summer.  If it’s free sign me up!  Whoever arrived first claimed two or three tables and a grill or two.  The children ran and screamed in the waves.  Often several of the children would build entire villages filled with sand castles.  There was always an adult tossing a football, sipping beer or wine by a grill sizzling with burgers and dogs or passing out chips and salsa.  All of us so appreciated and savored those enchanting evenings.  There’s just something about the beach at night.  The smell of salt water and the sound of the waves rolling in coupled with the moon transforming into a colossal pearl, its reflection shimmering away on the inky water is positively mesmerizing.

My favorite photo of Fort Lauderdale beach at night.

My favorite photo of Fort Lauderdale beach at night.

The stresses of the week melted away as we slowly loosened up and let our hair down.  This is where I discovered the miraculous world of frozen Whiskey Sours.  One of the core moms, Harriet, showed up with a cask full of them and changed our lives completely.  She’s from New Orleans and is accustomed to novel and exotic libations.  We were nothing short of enthralled.  If she gives me the recipe I’ll post it.  Well, the years went by and yes, to a certain extent, we grew apart as our kid’s interests evolved, new friends were made, the children graduated and went on to college.  Every now and again we’d run into each other, usually at the grocery store or Mass, but it wasn’t often.  This past weekend though, we were reunited.

L-R Suzanne, Julie, Katie, Harriet and me

L-R Suzanne, Julie, Katie, Harriet and me

If only for three or four hours the four core moms…Julie (who hails from the Keys and is mother of the bride), Suzanne (matriarch of FOUR darling boys and one spectacular girl!), Harriet (Southern girl extraordinaire who single-handedly raised three incredibly gifted children after unexpectedly losing her husband years ago), and me (you know all about me, I think!), were together again.  What joy!  What bliss!  Yes, there were a few misty eyes every now and again, but way more high-pitched shrieks and good-natured laughter, whispered gossip from scandals past and, more than anything, hugs.  Lots of hugs.  We just couldn’t get enough of each other.  Thankfully all our children are happy well-adjusted young adults, each up and coming in their chosen field and blazing their own trails.  The bride-to-be glowed all afternoon and I believe her shower guests took delight in the festivities and got a kick out of us “older ladies”.  I am so pleased and grateful I was included.  One of my contributions to the party was this little pick-up.  Ruby colored fresh strawberries, hulled and filled with sweetened cream cheese.  They’re lovely, easy and luscious.  In fact, this is one of the dishes I served at Suzanne’s baby shower when she was pregnant with Madeline.  It’s a classic.  One tablespoon of orange flavored Gran Marnier is wonderful in place of vanilla.  Feel free to experiment with flavors.  The filled berries I took to Katie’s shower were topped with toasted almond slices but fresh mint leaves also marry well with the fruit.  Keep in mind this dish is absurdly easy but it’s best not assembled more than two to three hours prior to serving or your berries will become soggy.



Sweet Filled Strawberries

yield: one quart filled berries

  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, rinsed, dried and hulled
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature, reduced fat may be used, (I use it all the time!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract OR 1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or other liquor
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced, toasted (toast 3-5 minutes at 350°)


  1. With a paring knife, trim a small piece off of the bottom of each berry so they stand straight up when served.  Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl whip cream cheese until light and fluffy.  If using a hand mixer beat 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add vanilla or liquor and confectioner’s sugar to cream cheese and mix until well combined.
  4. Transfer the cream cheese mixture to a corner of a gallon freezer bag.  This will be your piping bag so use a heavy, freezer weight to avoid having the bag pop or break on you.
  5. With sharp scissors cut the tip (cut the size of a piece of confetti) off of the corner of the bag filled with the cream cheese mixture.
  6. With the cut tip placed down in the berry squeeze the cream cheese into the strawberry until the mixture brims over the top of the berry.
  7. Top each berry with fresh mint leaves or sliced toasted almonds.
  8. Chill until serving.  Serve within a few hours.

Brown Butter Pecan Cookies with a Bourbon and Brown Butter Glaze…whew!


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Early to bed, early to rise.  I am an early riser.  Often I awaken in darkness and have some version of the following conversation with myself.  “If I get up now I can pull some butter and cream cheese out of the refrigerator to soften on the counter while I have my coffee.  Am I going to even use the butter and cream cheese?  And I can look through some cookbooks for inspiration.  Do I have any eggs?  What was it I ran out of and was supposed to get at the store?  Did I remember to get it?”  Wide awake I grab the clock to learn it’s 4:17 in the morning.  Ugh!  I lie in bed as long as I can and then that’s it.  I have to get up…have to.  It’s still too early to wake the household with my banging about, but I WILL quietly pad to the kitchen, prepare the morning coffee and mull over what it is I want to cook or bake.  The morning is deliciously dark, the kitchen hushed and still.  It is an exquisite peace, well worth leaving 1200 thread count sheets.  No phones ringing, no dog barking, too early for music, my thoughts silently bounce around my noggin with the speed of a crazy ball.  This morning I focused on pecans.  And butter.  Brown butter.  And cookies.  With a glaze.  More brown butter.  Rum?  Uh-uh…too harsh.  Bourbon, yeah, bourbon.  A bourbon and brown butter glaze.  Bingo!  I know what I want to do with the morning.  Pecans mean autumn to me as does brown butter.  I pull out books, pens, recipes and notebooks.  My coffee sits on the window sill of the kitchen as I settle into the window box to sip and see what I can come up with.  I know everyone’s excited about pumpkin right now but I just can’t.  I’m sorry.  I’m already over and done with all the pumpkin.  Pumpkin lattes, coffee cake, Rice Krispy treats, cinnamon rolls and snickerdoodles.  Maybe sometime I’ll bake off some pumpkin bread but that’s it for pumpkin.  Maybe some soup, too.  However, pecans?  Georgia pecans?  Oh, hell yes.  Pecans say college ball, the occasional lit fireplace, short days and cool nights.  Pecans say gumbo parties, your favorite boots, cashmere, apples and no bad hair days.  The result of all this is a cookie that will blow your cozy, autumnal socks off.  The glaze is not at all boozy but a warm, soft blanket of icing with the deep, smooth flavor of butter hinting towards bourbon .  The cookie is ever so slightly crisp at the edge becoming chewy, salty and buttery with the joyous meeting of sweet pecan to tastebud.  Good Lord, but they were good!  I say were because I had to get them out of the house.  Too much temptation for this girl.

I was a fool for these cookies. Something about that sweet, salty combination.

I was a fool for these cookies. Something about that sweet, salty combination.

It’s an easy cookie but because the butter is melted when browned, the dough is best chilled overnight.  I put together my dough in the afternoon and bake the cookies off the following morning up to a day later.  I bake them for exactly 12 minutes because I have a “hot” oven.  I need to buy a new oven thermometer and calibrate it but until that happens I’ll just keep a watchful eye on what’s baking.  Also, with holiday baking right around the corner, I strongly urge you to pick up a pack of parchment paper.  I find the packs at food warehouses and Michael’s craft store also sells it.  The packs are by far easier to use rather than the parchment paper rolls sold in boxes.  The edges of the boxed paper curl uncontrollably back to their boxed form.  Plus I believe the packages are infinitely cheaper.  To form the cookies I used a medium cookie scoop which holds 1 1/2 tablespoons.  I packed the dough in generously with a bit extra spilling out.


Brown Butter Pecan Cookies with a Bourbon and Butter Glaze


yield: approximately 3 1/2 dozen cookies


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cup toasted pecans (400° for 7 minutes), roughly chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Bourbon Brown Butter Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • Extra pecan halves for decoration, optional
  1. In a large, heavy bottomed pot brown the butter over medium heat.  Stir continuously and briskly to ensure even browning.  It will foam up and begin to brown from the center of the pot.  Continue stirring until the butter turns a dark brown.  Allow to cool 10-15 minutes off the heat.
  2. Pour browned butter into a large bowl and add both brown sugars. Mix to combine then add eggs and vanilla.  Mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl combine flour, salt and baking powder.  Stir to combine.
  4. Add toasted, chopped pecans to brown butter/sugar mixture and stir well.
  5. Add flour mixture to the wet pecan mixture and beat until all ingredients are well incorporated.
  6. Transfer dough to plastic wrap, shape into a ball, wrap well and chill the dough in the refrigerator until hard and set.  I find overnight is best.
  7. When dough has chilled sufficiently pre-heat oven to 350° and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Using a medium cookie scoop, cut out dough and place on parchment lined baking sheets.  12 mounds per sheet works best.
  9.  Cover the bottom of a smooth meat pounder, salad plate or small flat-bottomed bowl with plastic wrap and press down on each ball of dough so that it measures about 2 1/2″ in diameter.
  10. Bake for 12 minutes.  Check the bottom of a cookie for browning and if further baking is needed return to oven checking every 2 minutes.  These cookies firm up on top once out of the oven so take care not to over bake.
  11. Cool on baking sheet for 3-4 minutes then transfer to cooling rack until completely cool.

Bourbon Brown Butter Glaze

  1. Place glazing butter in a small heavy bottomed pot and melt over medium heat.
  2. Remove from heat when the butter is dark brown.
  3. Carefully, because it will pop and splatter, pour in bourbon and stir vigorously.  The alcohol will burn off but you’ll still be left with that caramel like bourbon flavor.
  4. Stir in confectioner’s sugar and continue stirring until the glaze is smooth and there are no lumps of sugar.
  5. If the glaze is too thick add milk, water or bourbon one teaspoonful at a time taking care not to make it too runny as you’ll spread the glaze with the back of a spoon.
  6. Spread one teaspoonful of glaze over each cookie using the back of the spoon to swirl it around and cover the top of the cookie.
  7. Finish each cookie with one perfect pecan halve pressed into glaze.


Spicy Roasted Tomato Bloody Marys, perfect for the weekend!


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Yes, today is Monday.  The day we dread.  The day that makes us just a tad bit blue around 5:30 p.m. every Sunday.  But I think if we plan for some luxurious, leisurely down time for the upcoming weekend we might be able to stave off some of those crummy, useless feelings.  I look at it as a plan to reward myself for being the best I can be during the week.  At least I start off that way.  Unfortunately by the time Thursday rolls around I’ve had a plethora of, shall we say, unchristian thoughts…and possibly words.  It’s not pretty.  And I’m tired, oh am I tired!  Thursdays try my patience and before I know it I’m questioning my very existence.  Or, at the very least, if my current path in life centers around taking Dad the NYTimes, brown rice, grilled chicken, sweet potato salad, stamps for his letters, bandages, Neosporin and hydrogen peroxide for post-fall cleanups, batteries for his walkman, a ride to the market or simply a visit from daughter #2, me.  I tell myself I am one lucky girl that I can honor my father this way, however, I must admit there are some days, (usually right about Thursday!), when I just want my own time…time to read, write or rattle around the kitchen.  Therefore, on this Monday, I mixed up a batch of homemade Spicy Roasted Bloody Marys to show y’all that Sunday Drinkday is merely a snap of the fingers away.  Plum tomatoes are always going on sale; pick them up when they do and allow them to ripen to an intense, vibrant red on your counter.  When you’re ready, roast them off.  At that point the roasted tomatoes may be refrigerated until the time they’re put in the blender with the rest of the ingredients.  I’m not a fan of putting a boatload of meats, cheeses and vegetables in my Bloody Marys.  No okra, bacon, pickles, roasted peppers, carrots, cheese chunks or chicken wings are going to be hanging off the rim of my glass or, worse yet, swimming about the tomato and vodka.  Oh, hell no.  And I have to tell you I’m of the old school in that we only drink Bloodies in the morning, absolutely no later than 2:00 in the afternoon.  In my world drinking Bloodies later than that is just not good form.  So we’ll just keep it between us that this batch, (at 5:51 p.m.) is really, really good.  feel better and when YOU begin to plan your next batch, well, you will, too!  Sunday is just a batch of cocktails away.

Spicy Bloody Marys

yield: 4 1/2 cups Bloody Mary mix

  • 2 tablespoons celery seed or celery flakes
  • 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 2 pounds ripe plum/Roma tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • freshly ground salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 3 good dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • the juice of 2 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons Sriracha Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Place celery seed/flakes and sea salt in small food processor or spice/coffee grinder. Pulse only until the ingredients are the texture of granular sugar.  Set aside.
  3. Cut the stem end off of the tomatoes and slice each in half horizontally.  Using your fingers swipe off any seeds.  You don’t have to be exact. Place in a large bowl.
  4. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes, scatter salt and pepper over them and, using your hands, toss well until tomatoes are completely covered.
  5. Place on a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes.
  6. When tomatoes are finished roasting and cool enough to handle, put in your blender with the following: Old Bay, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and Sriracha sauce. Blend until smooth.
  7. At this point, the Bloody Mary mix can be covered and stored in the refrigerator until the weekend.
  8. If serving immediately, (and I don’t blame you), run a cut wedge of lime around the  rims of your glasses.
  9. Pour the celery seed/flake and salt mixture into a bowl which is a bit larger than the diameter of your glasses.  Dip the damp rim of each glass into the mixture.
  10. Taking care not to disturb the celery salt, pack each glass with ice and pour in 2-3 ounces, (or more and I’m not judging), of vodka.
  11. Follow with the Spicy Bloody Mary mix.
  12. Garnish with a pretty stalk of celery and lime wedge.  Maybe some green olives on the side.  Maybe.

Cilantro Rice will Save the Dinner


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Why is it every time we finish preparing dinner, eating dinner then cleaning up from dinner, it seems we have to start all over again; from deciding what to have, to making a list, assembling the meal, it seems as though the cycle just doesn’t end.  Lord knows, it’s exhausting.  To add to our woes, our families become bored and disinterested when the same meal is prepared over and over.  I know I could eat salad EVERY SINGLE NIGHT but, for some reason, my husband and son revolt on day number 2.  Precious little time and money also contribute to the problem.  As luck would have it, I ran across an article in the New York Times cooking section that brought to mind something I keep on hand, in the freezer, that I had completely forgotten about.  I puree large quantities of cilantro, fresh baby spinach, a little onion and garlic and a bit of lime zest together in the food processor and, after freezing the mixture in ice-cube trays, I transfer the frozen cubes to a plastic freezer bag for soups, stews and anything else that might need a blast of color or flavor.  I had forgotten about them because my freezer is an ice-covered disaster.  I label everything but the freezer’s small and packed…and…whatever!  I can’t go into it.  I’ll get all angry and mean.  Just believe me when I say these cilantro cubes are just the ticket to wake up a dreary, tiresome dinner.  I add five or six of these babies to a pot of rice cooking and my dinner has completely changed.  My leftover chicken thighs stand up a bit taller next to cilantro rice and sliced tomatoes.  Leftover steak and grilled shrimp or fish love cozying up to the bright and cheerful side dish.  I prepare the cilantro puree in batches, mix it all together in a large bowl then divvy it up into the ice-cube trays.  After the cubes have frozen solid I’ll put them in a labeled freezer bag, squeeze out the air and flatten the bag for easy storage in the freezer.  I add a bit less water to the pot if I’m preparing rice, maybe one or two tablespoons less per cube.  Towards the end of the rice’s cooking time I check to see if more water is needed and if the color is to my liking.  If the rice has a little too much water I’ll remove the lid of the pot and allow that excess to steam off.  I might add another cube or two or only water if that’s what’s needed.  But I find cilantro rice is a welcome change from plain white or brown, jasmine or basmati.  The spinach gives almost no flavor but deepens the rich emerald color.  The onion, garlic and lime zest takes this condiment to another savory level.  They take away the raw harshness that a strong cilantro taste can sometimes bring.  I add no salt as I can season the dish itself later.  So tuck this recipe under your bonnet and the next time you find yourself wanting to rattle around in the kitchen consider preparing this.  Keep the cubes on hand and you’ll buy yourself shortcut and a culinary hack.  Your sweet family will love you for it!


Cilantro Cubes

yield: 2 trays or 28 cubes

  • 4 large bunches fresh cilantro, washed, dried and leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 8-ounce bag baby spinach leaves
  • 2 bunches flat leaf parsley, washed, dried and leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • zest of two limes



  1. Working in batches, combine all ingredients in your food processor pulsing until mixture has pureed.
  2.  Transfer mixture to ice cube trays or storage containers and freeze until ready to use.

Key Lime Shortbread Cookies with Key Lime Glaze…it’s Daddy’s 93rd!


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If it’s October then it’s time to celebrate my father’s birthday…his 93rd birthday this year!  This past year has been kind of hard on him; Mom died last November and Dad has slowed down considerably.  Well, for him anyway!  We still go to our chosen outdoor organic market one town over every Saturday morning.  I treasure those mornings.  Each trip, even during the week to the grocery store, I learn something about him.  From the mundane minutiae to the spectacular.  And laugh?  Oh, do we laugh!  Here’s an inside fact about Dad that even some of his closest friends didn’t know.  And I don’t have to be concerned that Daddy might find out; he’s internet savvy but has no interest at all in reading my blog.  His feeling is “Once you’ve seen one church or museum, you’ve seen them all.”  Whaaaat?  I tell him, “Dad!  It’s a cooking blog.” And he always responds, “Nah, I’m not interested!”.  Although Dad is a thin as a rail and a vegetarian, his resolve and self-discipline is weak as a baby when it comes to sweets.  There…it’s out!  Bake him a pie, some cookies or some sort of crisp or crumble and he will protest vehemently because he knows what’s coming.  The following day, after taking possession of the unwelcome sweet he’ll call and in a defeated tone, and it’s always the same, he’ll say, “Vishinsky, you’re not going to believe this.  I had my dinner and thought I’d have a slice of that pie you dropped off.  I really liked it so I thought I’d have another piece…not a big one just a little piece.  So I did.  Then I thought, “Well, I can have another taste.  And you know what happened, Vishinsky?”.  And that’s my cue to answer,  “Oh no, Dad!  What happened?”.  He always answers the same way, “You know what happened.  You KNOW what happened!  I ate the whole thing.  I felt sick, SICK, afterwards.  Sick.  I’m never eating pie again.  Ever!  So don’t make me any.  Don’t make me anything.  I’ve sworn off all sugar.  Really.  I mean it.”  But he doesn’t.  I’ll go back with a blueberry cobbler or peach tart and his eyes will light up.  “Just leave it on the counter.  I’ll have some after lunch.  Thanks, Vishinsky, that’s great!”  And since he never reads my blog, I’ll tell y’all something else.  Sometimes I lie to him and tell him there’s no sugar in the, say cobbler, nope, no sugar at all.  “Just a little honey, Dad.  Greek Thyme honey, Dad, from the mountains of Greece.  You’ll like it!”  I feel he could use a bit of weight. Sweet Jesus, he only weighs about 120 pounds and that’s way too thin.  So what’s a little sugar and butter?

Happy Birthday, Dad! Look! You have all your precious children around you!!

Happy Birthday, Dad! Look! You have all your precious children around you!!

So for this birthday he received a homemade sweet potato bread, a blueberry cobbler, four dark chocolate bars from Whole Foods and the following Key Lime Shortbread cookies with Key Lime Glaze.  He loved them all and hasn’t gotten sick yet!  Happy Birthday, Jungle Jack!


Key Lime Shortbread Cookies with Key Lime Glaze

yield:  approximately 35

  • 3/4 pounds butter, (3 sticks), room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Key Lime zest
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup Key Lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

Key Lime Glaze

  • 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Key Lime juice
  • pinch of salt
  1. Pre-heat oven to 325°.
  2. In a food processor pulse granulated sugar and Key Lime zest until the pieces of zest are small, about the size of a grain of short grain rice.  This can also be done by hand on a cutting board mincing the zest with the sugar.  Set aside.
  3. Using a large bowl and hand mixer beat butter until light and fluffy.
  4. Add granulated sugar/key lime mixture to the butter and mix well.
  5. Add the confectioner’s sugar, Key Lime juice, vanilla and salt and mix well.
  6. By hand gently fold in flour and incorporate just until the flour is mixed in.
  7. Transfer dough to plastic wrap and shape into a log roughly 18″ long.  Wrap well and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour or until firm.
  8. Slice into rounds 1/4″-1/2″ thick and place on parchment lined baking sheet 1″ apart.
  9. Bake 22-25 minutes or until barely golden on the edges.
  10. Cool 10 minutes on baking sheet then transfer cookies to cooling rack.
  11. While cookies are cooling place all ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl and mix until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved.
  12. Put about 1 teaspoon of glaze in the middle of the cooled cookies and, using the back of a spoon, swirl the glaze covering the top of the cookie.  Place on cooling racks set over baking sheets and let glaze set and harden to touch.


The Queen of Spain’s Tapas…Tortilla Espanola


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Partially growing up in Puerto Rico, my siblings and I saw a side of entertaining that definitely gave a nod to mother Spain.  As I’ve mentioned before in earlier posts, my mother’s family has always been extremely formal as well as intellectually and culturally blessed.  Family gatherings were planned with the same attention as any other courtly affair.  Aunts, uncles and all cousins were summoned.  Men were in coat and tie or, at the very least, their dressiest linen “guayabera”, the favored lightweight shirt worn untucked by legions of Latin men.  Women were dressed in silk sheaths, dupioni and peau de soie heels, hair sprayed in place, the still air heavy with their French perfumes.  My grandparents house sang with the deep voices of my uncles weaving through the melody of my aunts’ muted murmurs of secrets and town gossip all the while their charm bracelets tinkled faintly and caught light as they raised their cocktails to their ruby-colored lips for a cool sip.


Those evenings were always incredibly steamy making it impossible for me to stay looking fresh.  Many of those nights I remember sitting in a corner trying desperately to look sophisticated as I dabbed the perspiration running down my face and neck in rivulets.  Still too young for contact lenses, my bland and boring cat classes routinely slid down my nose.  The only other moisture seen were the water droplets trickling  down the sides of the grownups’ cocktails into damp cotton napkins held loosely in their hands. Due to the humidity, Cynthia’s hair took a decidedly unattractive turn as uninvited waves and feral curls sprang wildly to life; MY hair, on the other hand, chose the equally unfortunate opposite end of the beauty spectrum and fell limp and flat, lank and lifeless.  Oh, that damned muggy heat!  Not a pretty picture.  The grownups didn’t care…heck, they didn’t even notice!  Unsurprisingly my uncles lit up cigarettes, one off of another, leaning in and drawing in deeply to then blow it all out in a big cloud of smoke.  God bless.  You couldn’t even breathe.  I prayed for a breeze.  But did I ever get up, walk out to one of the balconies and pull up my hair?  Not a chance.  I might miss something!  The men drank their rum neat and sipped it.  If whiskey, or “whee-kee”, was their chosen nip of the night then maybe, MAYBE, one or two ice cubes would be casually tossed into the glass.  My sister and I were given exquisite flutes filled with iced water.  We held those glasses as though we were enjoying champagne.  Close friends of the family dropped by as did invited neighbors.  And our beautiful mama flit about like an exotic butterfly from conversation to conversation.  She bloomed in Puerto Rico; she always went back to her island with the faint aura of celebrity.  She didn’t just study in the States…she LIVED there.  Such an adventurous woman.  AND she played tennis!


No one ever really ate, except maybe Cynthia and me, but there was always a beautifully laid table well stocked with hors d’oeuvre from the delicate finger sandwich or small chip of cheese topped with a rosy mound of guava paste all the way to garlicky fried cod and culantro fritters alongside platters of cold and creamy tortilla Espanola, cut into bite sized squares, the soft potatoes just melted in your mouth.  Late into the night music could be heard as one uncle, or two or three, would softly strum their guitar, their rich baritones melding together perfectly as they played and sang classic Latin songs and madrigals.  There was no dancing at these get-togethers, just close friends and family connecting and catching up.  At some point Cynthia and I would wander off to bed gradually falling asleep to the enchanting sounds of faint farewells at our grandparent’s heavy front gate.  Sheltered and loved there were only sweet dreams that night!


This dish, Tortilla Espanola, is absolutely beautiful.  Perfect cut into squares and served with cocktails this torta will also segue easily into brunch as well as a hastily cut slice eaten on the run.  It is the traditional tapas served throughout Spain and other Latin locales.  I don’t consider the American equivalent of the tortilla as being an omelette because I find omelettes are more egg than any other ingredient.  In a torta the egg is more of a binder.  Also the tortilla is cooked slowly rendering the potatoes soft and almost gooey in texture; the onions melt into the mixture but their flavor remains smooth and sweet.  The following recipe is the classic Spanish version of just four ingredients; potatoes, onions, olive oil and eggs.  But feel free to add peppers, mushrooms, sausage or herbs.  Every recipe is different and individual so there really is no right or wrong way.  Please don’t be put off by the “flipping” or inverting procedure of the torta from pan to plate and back.  Just use a large, flat platter that feels good in your hand, take your time and invert the tortilla over your sink.  Cook the tortilla slowly and resist the temptation to jack up the heat.  Medium-low is the ideal temperature throughout the cooking process.  If time allows, prepare the dish the day before you plan to serve it to give it sufficient time for the flavors to marry and also to get good and cold.  If you decide to prepare this recipe again, strain the olive oil, pour it into a glass jar fitted with a tight lid  and store it in the refrigerator.  This oil can be used again and again for tortas and the flavor of the oil will make your tortilla taste better and better with each use.  Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, definitely use a nonstick pan otherwise your beautiful torta will stick to the pan and fall apart.  Buen Provecho!

Torta Espanola

yield: 8-10 slices

  • 2 1/2 cups good quality olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced thin
  • 8 medium red skinned potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ rounds
  • 6 eggs, good quality and preferably organic
  • salt to taste
  1. In a 10 inch or 11-inch pan heat the olive oil over medium-low.
  2. Add the sliced onion and slowly cook until soft and translucent, about 20 minutes, taking care not to brown them.  You don’t want any color.
  3. Wipe the potato slices dry with a paper towel and carefully add to the hot olive oil.  Cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and cooked thoroughly.
  4. Place a colander in a large bowl and take the pan of potatoes off the heat.  Using a slotted spoon or spider transfer all the potatoes and onions to the colander.  Reserve the drained olive oil in the bottom of the bowl for later in the recipe.
  5. In a clean glass jar strain the olive oil remaining in the pan for some other time.  Refrigerate when completely cool.
  6. In a medium to large bowl lightly beat the eggs, season with salt and thoroughly mix in the drained potato-onion mixture.
  7. Using the same non-stick pan heat one tablespoon of olive oil that drained from the potatoes over medium-low heat.
  8. Pour the potato-egg mixture into the pan and allow to cook without moving the pan or mixture for 4-5 minutes.
  9. Gently shake the pan back and forth to loosen the mixture and, using a soft, rubber spatula, pull the edges of the torta away from the sides of the pan tucking the edges under.
  10. Cook another 4-5 minutes until the bottom is set.  The top of the torta will still be completely uncooked.
  11. Give the pan a quick shake, place a large plate or platter on top of the pan and, holding firmly, quickly turn the pan over and invert the torta onto the platter.  It feels better if this is done over the sink.  At least it gives ME a sense of security!
  12. Again wipe the pan clean, add another tablespoon of reserved olive oil and heat the pan over medium-low heat.
  13. Holding the plate as close to the pan as you can, gently slide the torta back into the pan.  Press the spatula on the sides of the tortilla tucking any edges in and under.  You should now have the “top” facing down and cooking and the “bottom” facing up.
  14. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, repeat the inverting process of the tortilla, clean the pan, add one tablespoon of olive oil and gently slide back into the pan.  Repeat 2 or three times until the tortilla no longer oozes and looks to be set, all pretty and golden.
  15. Serve warm in wedges or squares or allow to cool completely, cover with plastic wrap and maintain in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Welcome Your Guests with Pimento Cheese


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When our son, James, was doing his undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill Jimmy and I would visit any chance we got.  That translates to any time James invited us up. Parent’s weekends, football games, basketball games and then fraternity parent’s weekends we went to all of them!  And when we did, Jimmy always did his best to secure rooms at the Carolina Inn.  No easy feat as it seems to always be entirely booked, the inn is right on campus complete with a killer porch, massive columns, first-rate restaurant and a more than welcoming bar that gives day-drinking new meaning.  The lobby and rooms all call attention to classical Southern design and appointments.  Colossal flower arrangements grace the entrances replete with all manner of lilies, roses, peonies, orchids and hydrangea; lush berries, ivy and drippy greenery tucked in here and there make the flowers spectacular.  Fat tropical palms flank doorways and stand as sentries on duty at each end of sofas.  Lavish fabrics dress the floor to ceiling windows, chairs and pillows.  Quite frankly, I want to live there.

Oh, please let me go back!

Oh, please let me go back!

On our way to our rooms our footsteps echo reassuringly against the gleaming, burnished wood floors.  All halls have original black and white photographs hung from the chair-rail up of visiting dignitaries,  alumni and sports giants so captivating that Jimmy and I would take our cocktails and wander up and down passageways reading and exploring every once in a while exclaiming, “Oh, wow!  Look at this! It’s Andy!”.  That would be extended family member, (not really but we adore him), Andy Griffith of Mayberry fame.  Literally hundreds of photos of presidents, civil rights leaders and movie stars all grace the walls and never cease to capture attention always making me late for which ever function we were expected.  The suites were unfailingly enchanting showcasing the rich traditions of the gentile South.  A tantalizing tray showcasing their sharp and spicy pimento cheese heightened by the addition of bread sticks, carrot and celery stalks, pecans and grapes.  Sometimes drink coupons peeped out from a corner of the goody platter.  The Carolina Inn pimento cheese, (known in the South as “puhmenuh cheese”), is some of the best I’ve ever had.  Jimmy and I closed in on their offering like ducks on June bugs.  Weary from travel, I closed my eyes and savored each and every bite.  It was the perfect pick me up until dinner which would be hours later.  Piquant, peppery and tangy this spread begs to be slathered on soft, fluffy bread or perched atop crunchy crudite accompanied by seasonal fruits and nuts. Hell, this stuff is fabulous alongside a bowl of crinkle cut potato chips.


The following recipe has been refashioned slightly to accommodate today’s fascination with heat and spice.  Purists won’t be happy, but, hey, they never are!  If you’re not keen on sriracha, cayenne pepper is a fine replacement or, if you’re not a fan of heat, leave it out entirely.  Both jarred and homemade mayonnaise work well in this recipe.  I had one cup of homemade already on hand and used 1/2 cup of reduced fat Duke’s for the remainder.  It’s best when chilled for an hour or so just because not only do the flavors meld but the texture becomes creamier.  Well covered, it will keep two to three days refrigerated.  I made grilled pimento cheese sandwiches the other night and, boy, was my family happy.  Not only is pimento cheese a culinary treat for adults but kids love it, too.  So slip some into your child’s lunchbox or trot it out with cocktails at your next LNO, (Ladies’ Night Out), and watch those eyes light up!



Pimento Cheese

yield: a generous 7 cups

  • 1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 7-ounce jar diced pimentos, drained
  • 1/4 small onion, finely grated
  • 1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, more if desired
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, (I use 2)
  1. Into a large bowl grate the cheddar cheese using the large holes of a box grater.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  3. Cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.


5 Star Curried Chicken Salad


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I was recently invited to help with a wedding shower for a sweet, sweet girl who also happens to be of the millennial generation.  From what I’ve been told these young men and women are more than reluctant to entertain because they just don’t know how.  I was fortunate in that my mother was all about the party and although she didn’t cook she was a great hostess, always in the know about the town’s premier caterers, florists and bartenders.  Mama made certain we, my sisters and brother, all knew how to prep the house before a party, how to lay a table and how to arrange the flowers in every room.  I am eternally thankful.  Over the years I’ve built up a stable of no-fail recipes for all manner of get-togethers.  Here in the South chicken salad is the queen of ladies luncheons, wedding and baby showers and lunch out with the girls.  This curried chicken salad recipe is outstanding in flavor, ease and portability.  It actually should be prepared one day in advance of serving thus freeing up more precious  time.  I’ve taken it to the Keys for Girl’s Weekend in a gallon size freezer bags and to friend’s houses in plastic quart containers for baby showers and funerals.  I’m telling you, it travels well.  The sweetness of the curry, pineapple and banana marry well with the savory flavors of the roasted chicken, celery and Greek yoghurt.  There is a slight departure from the Southern chicken salad rule.  In the South only white meat, the breast, is used.  Thigh meat or any dark meat in this dish is considered downright trashy but I’m here to say that’s old school!  I find solely using breast meat leaves your salad flat and lacking somewhat in flavor whereas the addition of dark meat gives an added richness and succulence.  And by all means, take advantage of grocery store rotisserie chickens.  Many a time I’ve used them and do they save time.  I use my hands to pick off every bit of skin and and fat.  If the grocery store birds are small you’ll need two.  If large, one will suffice.  Lordy, but it’s good!  Whether or not you toast the pecans is strictly up to you.  Toasted or untoasted, both yield a gorgeous flavor.  A fat dollop of chutney on top is a lovely touch and won’t be unnoticed by your guests.  I typically use whatever homemade I have on hand but on those occasions I’ve been without I use Crosse & Blackwell’s Hot Mango Chutney.  It’s not really hot; in fact it’s barely spicy and the chutney needs to have a little backbone if you are going to include it in this dish.  The salad may be plated on a bed of baby greens or as a sandwich on crunchy French bread.  Along side some sliced fresh fruit and a handful of cold, lightly steamed haricot vert you will have a luncheon to be proud of!


Curried Chicken Salad

yield: 4 large salads or 6 sandwiches

  • 3 1/2 cups cubed roasted chicken
  • 1 1/4 cups finely diced celery
  • 1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted or untoasted, cashews may be substituted
  • 2 medium bananas, sliced just before serving
  • 1 cup homemade or good mayonnaise, (Duke’s is good)
  • 1/2 cup Greek plain yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • chutney, (optional)


  1. In a large bowl combine roasted chicken, pineapple, celery and pecans. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, yoghurt, curry powder, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Add curry mix to chicken and gently toss until all ingredients are completely coated.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving.
  5. Right before serving slice bananas and gently fold into salad until completely coated with curry dressing.
  6. Serve chutney on the side or atop each portion of chicken salad.



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