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.


Easy Poached Eggs… perfect for girl’s weekend


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Yes, it’s that time of year again.  When the three of us, Dana, Andrea and I head down to Hawks Cay for fun in the sun… a girl-cation.  We’ve been going for five or six years now and we have our weekend down pat.  When we first started going to the Keys we’d load the car up with our Vera Bradley bags almost bursting at the seams, stacks of pillows would take up most of the back seat and the stuffed trunk of the car barely closed crammed tightly with all our Publix provisions.  Well, I’m here to tell you we’ve got this thing down to a science.  We’ve streamlined and pared down to the essentials.  Cases of wine and champagne and handles of vodka and rum now take room in the trunk.  In small bags we each pack two bathing suits, (nobody likes to put on a wet one), two sarongs, (they can also double as towels), one loungy outfit, jammies and undergarments.  Our travel outfits include flip-flops and, in the unlikely event we go out, the travel outfit would also serve as our party wear.  But we never, EVER go out.  We’re always too ripped.  The three of us are early risers so by 8:00 a.m. we’ve had too much coffee, our suits and sarongs are on and the champagne has started flowing.  And that’s when Andrea’s breakfast magic begins.  The three of us love eggs, any way, any time.  Being proficient and well trained girly-girls we want and expect a clean and lovely breakfast and that girl delivers.  Poached organic eggs with nutty, toasted 7-grain bread to sop up the runny, velvety yolks and heirloom tomato slices to cut through the richness.  Heaven!  When one is going to be drinking in the sun, poolside, from say 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. one must have sustenance and a solid, healthful start.  Poached eggs are fast, easy and a ripping good way to round out your first meal of the day.

Our pool from the second story balcony. We were enjoying a splendid early A.M. sun shower when this was taken!

Our pool from the second story balcony. We were enjoying a splendid early A.M. sun shower when this was taken!

Here are a few tips to make the preparing of poached eggs seamless.  Use the freshest eggs you can.  The fresher the egg the more it will hold it’s shape in the poaching liquid.  The addition of a teaspoon of white vinegar to the simmering water is optional but I feel it makes all the difference in the world.  You won’t taste it at all but the egg will stay tighter and more close together thereby ending up with a much prettier poached egg.  Without vinegar it’s easy to end up with a pan full of wispy, cloudy egg white streamers.  Crack each egg into a small cup so that any bits of broken shell can easily be taken out.  The simplest way to nab any pieces of broken shell is to scoop them out with the empty half shell in your hand.  Good luck using your finger or a spoon…the errant shell will be repelled and you’ll be chasing that thing all morning.  But a large piece of egg shell is almost like a magnet to grab shell shards.  At a soft simmer, 3-4 minutes will yield an egg with a firm white but still runny yolk.  This next step is also optional but most people don’t care for their poached eggs sloshing about the bottom of a bowl in warm water.  So, after letting the water drain from the egg through a slotted spoon, hold a folded paper towel in your other hand, gently turn the egg onto the paper towel and from there slide it into your bowl, onto your toast or over your salad, (very French!).  If you are preparing breakfast for several people make certain to add an extra 20-30 seconds cooking time per egg.  Last of all, this is not the time to bypass salt.  Poached eggs sing when well-seasoned.  You don’t need much salt and pepper but the inclusion makes all the difference in the world.

It's Tito time!

It’s Tito time!

Poached Eggs

  • fresh eggs
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • freshly cracked pepper and ground salt to taste
He is NOT part of girl's weekend so scuttle yo' ass on up that palm 'cuz you can't sit with us!

He is NOT part of girl’s weekend so scuttle yo’ ass on up that palm ‘cuz you can’t sit with us!

Have ready your eggs.  Fill a skillet with 1 1/2 inches of water and bring to a rolling boil.  Add the vinegar to the boiling water and drop the heat to a quiet simmer.  Break an egg into a cup and gently slide it into the pan getting as close to the surface of water as you can.  Do this with each egg and simmer eggs 3-5 minutes or until the whites are firm and the yolks appear pink.  Using a slotted spoon remove eggs from skillet, drain and serve.  Season well with salt and pepper.

Empties from Day 2. Sigh.

Empties from Day 2. Sigh.


Wild Blueberry Raspberry Bread…grab and go!


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Every once in a while I find wild blueberries in the market during berry season and when I do I become the baking fool.  Typically the berries are tiny but I’m here to tell you they are packed with flavor.  Years ago we were in Maine for a family vacation when I tasted fresh blueberry juice for the first time.  Cool, rich and gorgeous in color I savored every drop each and every morning.  We were staying at a cushy lodge in Bar Harbor and they served pitchers of the freshly made juice at breakfast.  I was delighted to find the berries growing wild everywhere.  We saw little, scrubby bushes while hiking through Acadia National Park all loaded with the ubiquitous blue-black fruit.  The same scraggly bushes dotted the sides of roads, front lawns and street corners.  It was great!  Unfortunately I rarely find wild Maine blueberries in South Florida but they are available every now and again and that’s when I make, among other things, this bread.  Which is more like tea cake; it’s not heavily sweetened and the fresh fruit also gives the bread a welcome tartness.  It’s perfect for a breakfast on the run by itself or toasted and slathered with peanut or almond butter.  Later in the day it will be gladly received with a steamy cup of tea or coffee to resist that 3:00 p.m. crash.  This is one of those easy, roll with it recipes in that just about all berries work well.  I particularly like the blueberry and raspberry combination but you can add cut strawberries or use strictly one kind of berry.  I usually use 12 ounces of blueberries and 6 ounces of raspberries.  I’m not a fan of blackberries, (way too many seeds), but I made a quick sauce to trickle over the slices.  The bread doesn’t need it, I just wanted another splash of color.  It’s a gorgeous sauce and takes two seconds to strain out the seeds.   Just google “blackberry sauce” and it’ll pop up.  Another plus of this recipe is that it yields 2 loaves so you can surprise and delight a friend who maybe gave you an unexpected helping hand with a project you were working on and, hey, there’s one left for your family.  You can give one to your 93-year old father who never gets freshly baked treats and you still have one for your family.   Or you can just not say anything, tuck them in the freezer and take both of them to Hawk’s Cay for Girl’s Weekend so y’all have something to munch on at three in the morning when you’re ripped and singing “Drunk On A Plane” on top of the coffee table.  It’s just a suggestion.  I’m a huge fan of lemon juice and zest so I included it in the recipe but I’m pretty sure you can leave it out if you like.  I do have one very important piece of advice that being once you add the dry ingredients to the wet don’t overwork the batter.  The batter is thick and heavy so gently mix by hand and I find a large spoon helps to incorporate the wet with the dry with the least number of over/under strokes.



Wild Blueberry and Raspberry Bread

yield: 2 loaves

Preheat oven to 350°.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 18 ounces berries of choice, (3 6-ounce packages)
  • 1/2 cup butter, (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
Leaning up against the counter with a cold wedge in my hand. Damn, but it was good!

Leaning up against the counter with a cold wedge in my hand. Damn, but it was good!

  1. Grease and flour or spray with nonstick cooking spray 2-8.5X4.5 loaf pans (1.5 quarts) and set aside.  I like to use Pyrex.
  2. In a medium bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently incorporate berries so they’re all covered with the flour mixture.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  4. Add sugar and beat well.
  5. Add eggs, lemon zest and juice and vanilla.  Beat well until eggs are completely mixed in.
  6. Stir in buttermilk.
  7. Add flour mixture to the butter/cream cheese bowl and with a large spoon gently fold together until just blended taking care not to break berries apart.  I find an overhand/underhand motion keeps the blending down to a minimum.
  8.  Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 45-50 minutes.  Using Pyrex or glass loaf pans allows you to see how done the sides and bottoms are.
  9. Set pans on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before removing breads from pans.
  10. Allow to cool completely before slicing.


Chess Pie in the House…both Chocolate and Lemon!


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I don’t often make pies because I’m not crazy about them.  But every now and again I get a hankering for a taste and recently that resulted in not one but TWO pies.  And both from Bill Neal’s “Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie”.  That cookbook is a baking treasure trove.  It’s out of print but I’m fairly certain you can still get it.  Anyway, chocolate chess and lemon chess were the pies I baked.  Which one’s best?  Well, you can’t compare the two…you just can’t.  It would be like comparing two children and we all know how wrong that is.  Chess pie is a Southern classic, rich, sweet and intense.  Vanilla and/or nutmeg is the traditional choice, chocolate the rich choice and lemon, oh lemon, probably the South’s favorite.  Lemon is my pet, my treasured pie if I have to pick; the juice and zest adding such depth to the soul of the custard.  It makes me moan.  But don’t despair.  Chocolate is sinful, too.  A small amount of bourbon or rum flavors the custard and raises the desire for another bite to scandalous proportions.  Chess pies improve with a day or two in the refrigerator before serving.  Lemon and vanilla chess pies always includes cornmeal in the recipe, however, it is never found in chocolate.  I always serve these pies cold, with or without whipped cream, but always cold.  Of course, a store-bought crust may be used but if you have a favored recipe these pies will make the pie shell positively sing.  Possibly because it’s such a simple pie but you’ll take note and appreciate everything that makes a crust made by hand special.  I know none who don’t love chess pie.  And this pie is worthy of being a hostess gift, (she can tuck it into the back of the refrigerator and enjoy it the next day while having a post-party chat on the phone with you), or is perfect to take to the house of a friend who’s lost a loved one.  Chess pie says “I love you”, “I’m so sorry for your loss” even “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings”.   But whatever the reason you prepare this, that pie will make everyone happy!


Lemon Chess Pie

yield: one 9″ pie

  • 1 partially baked 9-inch pie shell
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • not enough freshly grated nutmeg to measure


  1. Preheat oven to 450°.
  2. Beat the eggs lightly, beating in the sugar.
  3. STIR in the salt, buttermilk, cornmeal and melted butter until smooth.  Flavor with lemon zest and juice, and nutmeg.
  4. Pour the custard into the partially baked pie shell.  Place in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325° and bake until the custard is just set, but not puffed-about 35 minutes. (Mine takes about 10  minutes more.)


Chocolate Chess Pie

yield: one 9″ pie

  • 1 partially baked pie shell
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon or rum
  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler.
  3. Beat the eggs lightly.
  4. Toss the sugar, salt and flour together and stir into the eggs.
  5. Add the cream and the melted butter and chocolate.
  6. Flavor with the vanilla and whiskey.
  7. Pour into the partially baked pie shell and bake for about 35 minutes or until the custard is set and has a slightly crusty top without excessive puffing.


Kale Salad with Sour Cherries, Frico, Toasted Pecans and Buttermilk Dressing – the last summer salad


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It is STILL summer.  In spite of Target’s back-to-school onslaught, New York city’s fall fashion blitz and the legions of Facebook women dreaming of their first sip of Autumn’s pumpkin spice coffee.  It’s 93° outside right now, with a “real feel” of 109°.  It’s hot.  Lord, it’s hot!  I don’t care how low the AC is set in the car I cannot cool off.  Water trickles down my back into my panties.  My hair hangs flat and listless no matter how much volume product I put on my roots.  But I can still power-walk outside with the gorgeous palms and Florida oaks.  I can lazily float in the pool.  And I can sip rum drinks on that said float.  I can always cool off.  Not so for the cold.  But even when the asphalt is screaming hot, come August we start thinking of the cooler days ahead.  This salad is ideal with the combination of lightness in the kale and the dressing and the more substantial feel of the frico, sour cherries and toasted pecans.  It’s an easy segue to a more filling meal.  Frico is merely baked parmesan and let me tell you it’s a staple in MY kitchen.  Company drops by unannounced? Throw a tray of shredded or grated parm in the oven and minutes later you have a bangin’ hors d’oeuvre perfect to serve with cocktails.  It’s salty and savory, completely unexpected, highly distinctive.  After letting the sheet of frico cool a few minutes it can be broken into cracker sized pieces and served.  How easy is that?  Oh, you want more?  Okay.  Spread the parmesan cheese in long ovals on your parchment paper.  After baking and completely cooled carefully peel the parchment paper off the oval strips.  Use them as a crouton or bread stick jutting stylishly out of your salad or soup.  Toss a bit of allspice or freshly cracked black pepper into the unbaked cheese and then bake for an even more complex flavor.  Crush the frico into crumbs and scatter atop a lobster mac ‘n cheese or really any casserole.


Frico.Is.Great.Stuff.  Wait, wait!  Guess what?  It lasts weeks.  The longest it’s stayed in this house is a week and a half.  Little mystery hands keep nibbling at it.  And if you store it in an air-tight container it remains as crisp as the day you pulled it out of the oven.  There are only two rules you have to keep in mind.  The unbaked cheese has to be scattered over parchment paper and the frico has to cool completely before storing in order to maintain its crispness.  But other that, easy-peasy.  Now on to this dressing.  I know some people are downright scared of buttermilk but don’t be!  Look what it does to biscuit and fried chicken.  This particular buttermilk dressing is lemony, tangy and oh so light.  I use non-fat Greek yoghurt, Duke’s Light mayonnaise and reduced fat buttermilk and it still finishes silky, cool and inviting.  It’s my new favorite salad dressing.  I make it in a mini-food processor but it can be prepared in a blender or with a stick or immersion blender.  I’ve mentioned in other posts that when making a salad with kale it pays to “massage” it with a few drops of olive oil.  After discarding the tough stems and chopping the greens into small pieces squeeze the kale as if you are kneading dough or squishing mud between your fingers. This breaks down the leaves a bit making the salad more tender.  Use both hands and rough it up for a few minutes.  When you finish you’ll see the size of salad greens has been reduced.  If you wish to use less kale you can also chop some romaine lettuce but mix it in AFTER you massage the kale.


I haven’t given amounts for the salad part because everyone has their own preference.  There is no right or wrong way to assemble it.  If you don’t like pecans use walnuts or almonds.  Just make sure you roast them in the oven for a few minutes to bring out their sweet flavor.  If you don’t care for nuts, leave them out.  Same with the dried cherries, although they are truly outstanding in this salad.  Go ahead and substitute them with dried cranberries or blueberries.  I typically get my dried berries in big bags at Costco.  Homemade spicy croutons are fabulous tossed into this dish and if you have dinner guests they’ll certainly give you thanks for that special touch.  So let’s get to it!


Buttermilk Salad Dressing

Yield:  a little over 2 cups

  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup Greek yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  1. Add all the ingredients to your blender or food processor and process for 1 minute.  The dressing will be smooth with small bits of lemon zest and cheese.
  2. Chill until serving.


  • parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Line a standard jelly roll pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper, one on top of the other.  It is imperative that you use parchment paper or you won’t be able to get the frico out of the pan. Parchment also gives you prettier more evenly baked  cookies and cakes so you will be using this paper often if you don’t already.  Makes clean up easy.  It is your friend.
  3. Scatter the cheese over the parchment paper in an even layer.  It’s fine if small spots of paper show through.  It’ll kind of look like lace.
  4. Bake 6 minutes or until golden.  The darker it becomes the crisper it becomes.
  5. Hold both layers of parchment and place frico, still on the paper, on a cooling rack.
  6. Allow to cool until easy to handle before breaking into pieces.  The frico will peel right off of the parchment.
  7.  Store in a tightly covered container when completely cooled.

Comfort…2-layer Yellow Cake with Fresh Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing


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Sometimes not even alcohol can touch my pain.  Last week a horrific late-night boating accident catapulted this town from sleepy, fun in the summer to the nightmare reality that life can sometimes bring.  All the kids on board are about 17 years old, rising seniors at St. Thomas Aquinas.  Several of the teens were critically injured and one boy, one sweet, sweet boy, lost his life.  As a mother I cannot even comprehend that level of grief.  Cannot.  I’ll attempt to post a link to the gofundme fund-raiser below.  When life hits me hard I bake.  Bread, cake, biscuit, doesn’t matter.  And, in the midst of all this, the family was getting together to celebrate my son James’ and my niece Meg’s birthdays at our house.  It was sort of last-minute due to everyone’s schedule.  Meg was preparing to go back to school and my sister, Pamela, was taking her.  Everyone had work of course and Meg’s little sister, Annie, was hostessing at a restaurant at night.   We were all somewhat overwhelmed and certainly shaken up knowing these kids and their families lives were changed forever.  I wanted the cousins to be together and aunts and uncles as well.  Side by side; as a family.  I hastily put together a menu and went about baking a cake.  I wanted something pretty but comforting.  Something that quietly murmured “security”.  No flourless, dark chocolate gateau with coffee beans and sparklers on top for this crowd.  At least not this August.  No, what we needed was something gentle and loving.  I decided on a classic vanilla yellow cake with fresh strawberries whipped into the cream cheese icing.  The recipe for the cake comes from a cookbook I bought years ago entitled “Mom’s Big Book of Baking” written by Lauren Chattman.  It received glowing reviews from Maida Heatter and Christopher Kimball.  The icing recipe is one that I made up and have been using for the longest.  I hope you’ll try this cake.  It’s a kiss and a hug and a prayer all wrapped up in pink love!


Below is the link to help with the medical costs of the boaters.  I thank you for them.  And please keep in mind no amount is too little.  Every bit helps.


Classic Yellow Layer Cake

yield: 2-9 inch round cakes or 16 cupcakes

  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup, (2 sticks), unsalted butter, softened and cut into 16 pieces
  1.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Coat the insides of two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray.  Line the bottom and sides with parchment paper and coat that with spray as well.  Dust the bottoms and sides of the pans with flour, knocking out any extra flour.  For cupcakes, coat the muffin tins with cooking spray and dust with flour, or line the muffins tins with paper liners.
  2. Combine the eggs, milk and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl and beat lightly with a fork.  Set aside.
  3. Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add the butter and, with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix on low-speed until the butter pieces are no larger than small peas.  (I used my hand mixer and the cakes came out great!)
  4. Pour in about 2/3 of the egg mixture and mix on low-speed until all the ingredients are moistened.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix on medium-high speed for 1 minute.  Stir in the remaining egg mixture on low-speed until combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and mix on medium-high speed again for another 30 seconds.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.  Bake until the cake is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes for the cupcakes and 25-30 minutes for the layer cake.  Let the cake cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, invert it onto a wire rack, then turn it right side up on the rack to cool completely.  The cakes will keep, wrapped up in plastic, at room temperature for up to one day or refrigerated for up to 3 days.  Frost as desired.
  6. If using the following strawberry icing, chill the cakes in the refrigerator 3 or 4 hours.  Over night is ideal.

Fresh Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing

yield: approx. 3 1/2 cups

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup puree of fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  1. In a medium bowl beat the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the strawberry puree and vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. Add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time and beat until smooth.
  4. Cover the first layer of chilled cake with several tablespoons of icing and spread a thin layer leaving a 1/4 inch border without icing around the outside diameter of the cake.
  5. Center the second cake layer and carefully place on top of the first layer.  Cover the entire top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of icing and place uncovered back in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.  Chill the remaining icing also.  A morning or afternoon is ideal.
  6. After chilling, ice the top of the cake then the sides.  Return to the refrigerator until serving.

Strawberry, Arugula and Feta Salad Drizzled with a Balsamic Vinegar Syrup


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I’ve got another Girl’s Weekend coming up the end of July so while I was in TJMaxx this morning doing errands, (I was. I was at the cobbler’s next door dropping off an alligator bag and some Lily sandals. Truth!), I thought maybe I would look for a cute, black bathing suit, one that might cover up a multitude of sins.  Big, BIG mistake.  I am a barrel.  A great, big, snowy-white barrel.  You know, you think you hit rock bottom but you really haven’t.  Not when you’re still thinking about that outrageous cupcake you so delicately scarfed down last night.  It was bad, people.  The only reason I didn’t throw myself down on the dust-bunny covered linoleum dressing room floor was that my legs still look pretty good.  Small consolation but I’ll take it.  And I thought, “That’s it.  No more.  You’re done.  You know what you have to do.”  And I do.  I was raised in an almost completely vegetarian household.  I’m perfectly aware of what I should and should not be eating.  I’ve just not been paying heed to my “little voice”.  The “little voice” that continually reminds me that I weigh AT LEAST 20 POUNDS more than MY FATHER.  Ugh.  It’s all so unfair.  So back to loads of salads and vegetables, raw and grilled fruits and lean, mean proteins.  Clean, boneless, brainless chicken breasts, preferably organic, need to be at hand at all times; either grilled or poached.  That always makes a salad better.  I’ll even make wraps with it using  romaine or leaf lettuce instead of a tortilla.  Grilled shrimp and wild salmon, none of that fatty farm raised stuff.  I told myself driving home that it was GOOD I didn’t find a bathing suit this morning.  I have two beautiful, sexy La Biancas at home and there’s not one damn thing wrong with them.  It’s me that’s got the problem.  I have to tell you after I yanked and pulled and tugged to get the TJMaxx bathing suit on I was exhausted.  I turned and looked sideways at myself in the full length mirror.  How did I get here?  My shoulders slumped down, I let my spine curve and allowed my stomach to become COMPLETELY distended.  Oh, sweet Jesus.  I looked like Fred Mertz from the “I Love Lucy” show.  Well, Fred Mertz in drag.  Not a pretty picture and no one’s fault but my own.  So.  Taking the bull by the horns I came home to a kale salad and watermelon for lunch.  This afternoon my snack will be all the Greek mountain tea my heart desires.  Right now I’m on cup number two.  Sweetened with Stevia and completely caffeine free this will jump-start my weight loss.  And dinner will be this salad –  strawberry, arugula and feta with a drizzle of a balsamic vinegar reduction, a LIGHT scattering of toasted almond slices, a few chunks of good, Greek Feta tucked in, all topped with a piece of roasted chicken.  And yes, I will rip that luscious, crispy piece of heaven off, known as the skin of roasted chicken, and lickety-split  deposit it in the garbage can underneath, I don’t know…coffee grounds or something.  I’m able to do that because this salad will satisfy me.  Aesthetically and physically.  Every girl loves shiny, scarlet berries sitting atop arugula, toasted almond slices and the rich purple of reduced balsamic vinegar.  Crown it with blackened or grilled chicken, fish or shrimp and most ladies will be quite happy especially if accompanied by a glass of wine in one hand and an enormous Tory Burch or Michael Kors shopping bag at their feet. When I finish writing today I’ll go to the market for my salad ingredients and a whole watermelon.  Tomorrow, hell, TONIGHT, when I want to tuck into another of those smokin’ cupcakes I made I’ll have sweet, cold watermelon already cut up, protecting me from the evils of Fudgy Cupcakes with Orange Cardamom Cream Cheese Icing.  The photos have already been taken for the next post so I don’t even have to look at them.  And although I’ve succumbed to the temptation of those little cakes I’m stronger now.  Nudity will do that to you.  But in two weeks?  Look out, girls, ‘cuz I’m ‘a crunch those bathing suits!


Strawberry, Arugula and Feta Salad Drizzled  with a Balsamic Vinegar Syrup

yield: 2 dinner servings

  • 1 5-ounce box baby arugula
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced, each in 4 slices
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, PLEASE don’t buy that already crumbled stuff!  Buy a chunk of good quality feta and crumble it yourself.  Makes a world of difference.
  • 1 handful almond slices, lightly toasted
  • 4-5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar syrup, recipe follows, dress salad to your taste
  • shrimp, chicken or fish served along side is optional, a warm, crunchy whole grain roll is great with this also.
  1. Place arugula in a large bowl and drizzle olive oil over it.  Toss so all the leaves are coated with the olive oil.
  2. Mound arugula on two dinner plates.  Divide berries in half and place them evenly through out the greens.
  3. Divide the cheese as well between the two plates of salad.
  4. Scatter half the almonds over each salad.
  5. Lightly drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar syrup over each salad and serve.


Balsamic Vinegar Syrup

yield: approximately 1/3 cup depending on how thick you make it

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  1. Pour vinegar and honey into a small saucepan and mix until honey is completely incorporated into the vinegar.
  2. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, but keep your eye on it so it doesn’t cook down too far and burn.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside.  Syrup will thicken further as it cools.
  4. When completely cool, store in a clean glass jar and refrigerate.
  5. You can change up the dressing by adding a few fresh bay leaves, smashed garlic cloves or cinnamon sticks to the saucepan while you’re simmering it.  Strain the dressing before serving or storing.



Whole Wheat Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes, tall and fluffy!


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Girls like pretty.  Boys want flavor.  When the two meet it is a glorious blending, a union, an alliance of shared contentedness.  In our house there are three boys and one girl.  Jimmy, James and Pericles, the dog, represent the males of the house.  I am the solitary female.  As a result most of the cooking I do pleases and teases their taste buds but I enjoy a good-looking dish.  Though I have to add they appreciate a gorgeous plate and I, in turn, have pretty high standards when it comes to tastiness.  James’ high school and college years brought many an overnight houseguest which thrilled me to no end.  I fussed over those boys taking special orders for cafe con leche, biscuit and gravy and this breakfast, the cake-like whole wheat buttermilk pancakes with masses of fresh blueberries jumbled in.  Those darling boys would come home sometimes at 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning usually stopping to cool off in the pool before coming in.  They’d get a running start from the driveway, propel themselves through the air and execute flawless cannon balls.  Although we pretty much always woke up from those distinctive “thumps” of a 185 pound boy hitting the water, I savored every single moment.  I’d snuggle deep into the covers of our bed delighted knowing they were happy and safely back home.  I knew those days were numbered and, sure enough, all those boys have graduated and moved on to their new professional lives and careers.  This is one of those breakfasts that we all took great pleasure in sharing.  The nutty flavor of the whole wheat plays off the tang of the buttermilk and the berries give that pleasing “pop” of color and flavor while cutting through the richness of each mouthful.  This recipe calls for a large amount of berries because I feel EVERY bite should be loaded with them.  These pancakes cook up tall, light and fluffy belying the fact that they are 100% whole wheat.  I ALWAYS use a large teflon coated griddle or pan otherwise I find the whole process turns into a disaster. For the first few pancakes I give the griddle a very light spray of non-stick spray and after that the butter in the batter is sufficient.  But definitely use a non-stick pan.  And remember, buttermilk is your friend.  It’s lower in fat and calories because the fat from the buttermilk has already been removed in order to make butter.  Buttermilk is what’s left after it’s been churned and made into butter.  A fermented product, it’s loaded with good bacteria vital for a well-functioning digestive system.  Low-fat buttermilk is carried in most grocery stores, is fabulous for cooking and baking and keeps forever in your refrigerator.  If you’re ever at a market or farmstand and they offer fresh buttermilk SNAP IT UP.  Mass produced buttermilk pales in comparison, fresh is tart and cool, rich and smooth.  I’ve been making these pancakes for years and quite some time ago changed the recipe a bit to fit our needs.  I remember making these for James when he was in Pre-K.  He would pick them up whole as though they were slices of toast.  I add a trace more sugar to the batter than traditional pancakes thus making syrup optional, almost unnecessary.  Really, they’re almost like cake.  Okay.  They’re cake.  Whole wheat cakes from a pan.  So good.  So satisfying.  And you”ll be the most loved mom on the planet for a good half hour!


Whole Wheat Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

yield: serves 4-6

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pints fresh blueberries
  • 2 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
  • 2 large eggs, well mixed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl mix buttermilk, butter, eggs and vanilla extract.  When well combined add blueberries.  Mix well.
  3. Bring non-stick griddle or skillet up to medium heat.
  4. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour the blueberry buttermilk into it.  Mix well.
  5. Use an ice cream scoop or measuring cup to ladle out batter for small pancakes.  I use 2 serving spoons, one to scoop and the other to scrape the batter off the bowl of the spoon.  I find small pancakes are easier to flip.
  6. When you see a few bubbles rising in the pancakes turn them over with the thinnest spatula you have.  For a 3″ or 4″ pancake it’s a few minutes.  Depends on the size of the cake and the heat of the stove top.  I also go by the cooking smell.  If it starts smelling a little too toasty in the kitchen I drop what I’m doing and flip those bad boys over.
  7. After turning, cook for 1 minute, transfer to serving platter and continue cooking pancakes until batter is gone.
  8. If serving pancakes with syrup use good Vermont maple and warm it up first.

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