Friday, October 24, 2014

Listing to Normal
What's cooking? Herbed Salad with Squash Ribbons

Back when I was working full-time, a friend from the HR department walked into my office and told me about a new program his department was sponsoring for employees, to introduce them to the Franklin Daytimers organizing system.

“Sounds interesting,” I said.

“Yes,” he said as he began collecting the Post-Its from here and there around my desk. “And I’ve enrolled you in the first class.”

You know, I think of myself as an organized person. I array my spices in alphabetical order and my sprinkles on the color spectrum; I organize my recipes in files labeled for “Appetizers,” “Desserts,” “Soups and Sauces,” etc. And my kitchen drawers are, well, neat. So I feel like I’ve got a handle on my life. Then I look around my office. (Don’t hope for a photo here – you don’t really think I’d let you look around my office, do you?)

The main point of the Franklin system was to start each day by listing the tasks you wanted to accomplish that day, noting on each its level of importance, and then numbering them in the order you needed to get them done. It was a great system, and it served me well until I stopped working for that company, and shortly thereafter, I fell off the wagon, so to speak. The one piece that carried over is the lists. Not that daily list of what to do and the order thereof – although I have that, sort of – now I also have the secondary list of  possible blog topics, the list of ingredients for something I can’t quite recall, the list of ideas for Christmas gifts, and, of course, the list of what to buy at the grocery store, along with the separate shopping list for Penzey’s (spice store). Among others. Some of my lists have their own sub-lists.

I was feeling kind of bad about all this list-making, until a couple of years ago when the Morgan Library in NYC held a special exhibit on lists – documents (mostly by artists) from the archives of the Smithsonian. What fun! It turns out that all the world makes lists. From Arturo Rodriguez (artist), a list of his paintbrushes with drawings of each; from Adolf Konrad (another artist), a pictorial list of what to pack for a trip, with each item – down to the socks – carefully illustrated; a letter from H.L. Mencken listing 29 personal facts for a profile another writer was doing on him; from the artist Janice Lowry, a list of 50 Angry Grievances which included “No rain” and “George Bush”; and a list by Picasso of artists proposed for a show.

Lists are a natural part of cooking – lists of ingredients, lists of steps to take. For a party we used to hold each year, I have spreadsheets (!) with lists of what worked the previous year and what didn’t, the serving dishes to use for each hors d’oeuvre, and where to find the recipes I used. So at least the Kitchen Goddess is organized!


From the various cooking and food-related magazines I get, I’ve noticed that, in spite of the change in seasons, salads seem to be popping up everywhere. I don’t know why that is, but I like to seize a trend at the outset. Then on a podcast of America’s Test Kitchen radio show, they featured Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli-born chef and cookbook author. As he talked about how he enjoys mixing textures and flavors, he moved into a discussion of... yes, salads.

“When I visit my parents outside Jerusalem,” said Ottolenghi, “you see how herbs grow – so easily and so wonderfully, just as well any other leaf... Why can I not have a salad that is just plainly tons of parsley, tons of basil, cilantro, a bit of tarragon and some chervil? Have that as the main thing, rather than dressing a salad with just a bit of herb. It seems so fresh and so right.”

Well, I liked that idea, and I remembered herb-centric salads from two of my favorite new cookbooks: A16: Food + Wine, from the San Francisco restaurant, A16, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s latest, Home Cooking with Jean-Georges. Both salads also used squash ribbons, which I’d been dying to try. My own version turned out really well, and the salting/rinsing process with the squash ribbons gave them a smooth but crunchy texture I enjoyed – even into the next day with the leftovers. Fresh and lively, the salad is so much more interesting with the parsley and mint than I would ever have thought. By the way, I’d recommend looking for the smaller, tenderer Italian parsley; it’s lighter in color and less leathery in texture. The dressing couldn’t be simpler – who needs herbs in the dressing when you’ve got herbs galore in the salad?

Kitchen Goddess note on the squash ribbons: You can make these with your vegetable peeler, but I prefer to use my Benriner mandoline. It’s more reliable for getting uniform thicknesses – also more dangerous, and you know how the KG loves danger. An option would be the Kyocera Adjustable Slicer with Guard ($21 at, which was awarded “best buy” in a comparison of kitchen slicers in Cook’s Illustrated magazine, so it’s probably less dangerous. The Benriner, which also has blades for julienning, is $22 at

Herbed Salad with Squash Ribbons

Serves 4-6 ... or 2 if you decide to make it lunch.

2 medium zucchini, 5-6 ounces each
1 medium yellow squash, 6-7 ounces
kosher salt
2-3 ounces baby arugula
2 ounces sunflower sprouts (use any hearty sprouts if you can’t find sunflower sprouts)
½ cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley (leaves only), coarsely chopped
½ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
½-¾ cup Italian olives (I prefer Castelvetrano or Cerignola), pitted and sliced
1 large navel orange, peeled and segmented (optional -- I like it both ways)
freshly ground pepper
Garnish: shavings of aged Pecorino Romano cheese

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (use the best you have)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Trim then ends of the squash and, using either a vegetable peeler or a mandoline, slice them into ribbons no thicker than ⅛ inch. Put the slices into a bowl and toss well with 1 teaspoon salt, then place the slices in a colander set over the bowl and let them sit for 10 minutes. This process will cause the squash ribbons to wilt and soften as the salt leaches the water out.

Rinse the squash ribbons under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. The squash ribbons can be prepared to this point then layered between paper towels and stored in an air-tight baggie for several hours.

When you are ready to serve, place the arugula and sprouts in a large serving bowl, top with the squash ribbons, the parsley and mint, the olive slices, and the orange segments, if using. (You'll note the absence of orange segments in the photo. So shoot me.)

Combine the olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl or jar and mix well. Toss the salad with the dressing, then taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary. This salad will require less salt than usual because the squash ribbons have absorbed some salt and the olives are salty.

Arrange the salad for serving, making sure to distribute the olives evenly. Use a vegetable peeler to shave curls of pecorino on top and finish with fresh grinds of pepper.

Here's the salad before the pecorinoo curls -- a little easier to see.

Kitchen Goddess note: This salad is molto easy to serve at a dinner party. Prepare/store the squash ribbons as noted above, then measure out the other ingredients into separate baggies, and mix the dressing in a small jar. Assembling the salad then takes only a couple of minutes. And it’s very pretty, don’t you think?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lost and Found
What’s cooking? Raspberry Rosé Jam, Vinaigrette, and Shortbread Cookies

I’m wondering if I should feel old. I spend at least half my time these days looking for something – if not the iPad or the cell phone or my glasses, it’s something else entirely necessary for my existence.

I used to be the one who found things. When my kids were young, I was the only one who could locate their shoes, their jackets, their lunch tickets,... on a moment’s notice. I was always amazed at the ability of the men in my life – and now I would also be including my husband – to walk through a room and see... nothing. Perhaps it’s a female thing – that women are just more detail-oriented than men. Which is a good thing when someone has to find the pacifier or the birthday party invitation or the other glove on a cold, snowy day.

Remember that game in which someone would put a group of things on a tray, and you got to look at them for maybe 10 seconds, and then you had to write down what they were? I so rocked that game. And then later, in my career as first an editor and then a corporate communications consultant, I was a master at proofreading – so good, in fact, that even on a typeset page, I could spot those places where there was an extra space between words.

So have these talents left me? Surely not. Maybe I’m just not paying attention. Maybe there’s just more clutter in my life. Back in those days when my life was about finding stuff instead of losing stuff, I didn’t have glasses or a cell phone or an iPad. After all, I can find the phone on the land line. And I’m still the only person who can locate the remote. Maybe things aren’t as bad as I thought.

Rosé and Raspberries 

I first saw this recipe on, an online food/cooking newsletter, in July. I like rosé wine, and I like raspberries, so I printed it out and put it... somewhere. Periodically, over the next couple of months, I’d find it and swear to get the raspberries, then the phone would ring, or I’d realize I hadn’t finished unloading the dishwasher, or the clock would remind me it’s time for lunch,... And before you could say “Wait a minute!” I had put that sheet down... somewhere else.

So about a week ago, my grocery store had a sale on raspberries, and I thought about that jam made with raspberries and rosé wine – sounds good already, doesn’t it? I got the raspberries home, secured the rosé, and couldn’t remember where I’d seen the recipe or where the printout was. I finally found it – four days later, at which point the raspberries were looking sad and sprouting little black hairs. Which took me back to the store. The moral to this tale is: locate the recipe first, then the wine, then the berries.

This jam is not only gorgeous and elegant – there’s a gem-like quality to the color – but delicious, not too sweet, and amazingly flexible. I’ve done the thick, crusty toast thing with it – comfort food for any time of day – but here’s what else:

■ A sweet-tart vinaigrette (recipe below), perfect on fruit salad or a nice contrast on a traditional spinach salad (or arugula, as shown here);

■ A syrupy topping – warmed or not – for vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet or – shown here – lemon-buttermilk sorbet (recipe below);

■ Filling for the best shortbread cookies (recipe below) that I think I’ve ever had. Rave reviews on, so it’s not just me.

So let’s get started. This is about as easy as jam can get, and takes less than half an hour to make. You can process the jars and hope to have enough for the next six months; but I’ve enjoyed it so much, and have even given some away, that just yesterday I went out and bought more raspberries. Also, it’s a great excuse to open a bottle of rosé wine. Rosé is enjoying a surge in popularity right now, with stores everywhere offering a range of choices.

For the winos among you – and surely there are a few – we opened a 2013 Mulderbosch Rosé from South Africa. (The one in the photo at top is Kim Crawford from New Zealand.) The Mulderbosch is fruity but dry, and my resident wino says we paid $10-12. describes it as a nice “picnic” wine, which is great because I am always having picnics in my kitchen. Might even have one today, if you get my drift.

Raspberry-Rosé Jam

Adapted from, who adapted from Saving the Season (blog and book), by Kevin West

Fills 4 half-pint jars.

36 ounces fresh raspberries (six 6-ounce containers)
2 cups granulated sugar
¼ cup dry rosé wine

Pick over the raspberries to remove any bruised or moldy ones. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, and use your hands to mash the raspberries to a thick, soupy texture. Toward the end, you may want to enlist a potato masher to finish the job. As you know, the KG is not one for putting her hands in goop, so she wore a clean pair of rubber gloves. You should work in whatever way floats your boat.

In a 4- or 5-quart saucepan (I used a
5-quart Le Creuset French oven), bring the raspberry mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-high and let the mixture bubble, stirring often, until the jam thickens, which will take about 20 minutes. To test for “doneness,” pour a teaspoon of boiling jam on a cold plate, and put it in the freezer for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the rest of the jam from the heat. If the jam on the plate seems to be gelling (i.e., it’s no longer runny), it should be done. If not, return the jam in the pot to a boil for a few more minutes. Kitchen Goddess note: Getting the water out quickly is key to a good jammy texture, so use as wide a pot as you have that still has high enough sides to let the jam boil hard. More surface area means faster evaporation.

Spoon the jam into airtight containers and let it cool to room temperature before storing it in the fridge for use within a month. Or process it for preserving, to have it last months without refrigeration. Or give some away – your friends will love you for it!

Raspberry-Rosé Vinaigrette

Makes almost 1 cup.

¼ cup Raspberry-Rosé Jam
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup olive oil
5-6 good grinds pepper

Whisk together the first five ingredients well. Add the olive oil slowly, whisking constantly to emulsify. (Or add the oil all at once and use an immersion blender.) Stir in the pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Lemon-Buttermilk Sorbet

Makes just short of 1 quart.

⅓ cup water
⅔ cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cups buttermilk
¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and the lemon zest. Heat at medium temperature, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar dissolves, remove the mixture from heat and pour into a small, heat-proof bowl. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and chill well in the refrigerator.

Whisk the chilled syrup into the buttermilk. Add the lemon juice and continue to whisk until the liquid is well mixed.

Process in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Once processed, the sorbet works best if put in a covered container and stored in the freezer for 2-3 hours before serving.

Thumbprint Shortbread Cookies with Jam

Adapted from LB in Middle Georgia on

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies.

1 cup butter, slightly softened
⅔ cup sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract (pure almond extract, please!)
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup jam (I, of course, used Raspberry-Rosé Jam)

In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add almond extract and continue to blend.

Reduce the speed and mix in flour, about ½ cup at a time, until it is thoroughly incorporated into the dough. Turn out the dough onto Saran Wrap or other cellophane wrap and seal. Refrigerate one hour.

Pinch off dough to make 1-inch balls, and set 1-2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Using the back of a ¼ teaspoon measuring spoon, make an indentation in the top of each ball, and fill with jam. (The indentation will only hold a scant ¼ teaspoon of the jam. Do not overfill.)

Refrigerate the cookies again while you preheat the oven to 350º. This extra round in the fridge will help the cookies to maintain their shape.

Bake at 350º for 14 minutes. The cookies do not need to brown. If you leave them in long enough to brown, they’ll spread.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Feeling a Little Fruity
What’s cooking? Stuffed Figs with Prosciutto and Phyllo Tarts with Fruit and Ricotta

Kitchen Goddess Spoiler Alert: This post may be about figs, but the dessert recipe is très flexible and can work with almost any soft fruit. See for yourself...

It’s still fig season here in Texas, and I know from experience that it’s high season for them in Italy, so even if you’re not in Texas or Italy, there’s probably a market somewhere nearby where you can pick up a few figs. They emerge for a criminally short season, so catch them while you can.

10 Brown Turkey figs, 6 tiger Stripes, 4 green Sierras, 2 Black Mission figs, and a partridge in a pear tree.

I was first introduced to the fruit by my grandmother, who had two huge fig trees in her back yard. They took up most of the space that might otherwise have held a swing set, but it never really occurred to me that she should have swings instead of those marvelous trees. She made wickedly good preserves with them, using a recipe that died with her, but the way I most remember eating them was in a bowl with a bit of cream for breakfast. She peeled them for me; and while today I eat them with the skin on, in my heart, thoughts of figs are inextricably linked with my grandmother.

Fig trees in New Jersey weren’t in the cards unless you had the energy to move them inside every winter. I did not. But when my husband and I built our retirement house in Texas, I felt that I had to try growing one. We planted in an area that seemed just right, and when, over the next couple of years, no figs arrived, we moved it around to get better exposure to the sun. Still no fruit beyond a handful of “figlets” that never matured. Each fall, I’d sigh and hope for better luck the next year.

Then – miracle of miracles – I arrived back this September and found figs! Not too many (the local bird population seems also to have noticed), and not especially large; but I practically squealed with delight when I saw them. Maybe one of these days, I’ll get to serve some for breakfast to my grandchildren.

A Short Primer on Figs: Although fig trees are one of the first plants cultivated by humans, many unfortunate souls in the U.S. have never tasted the fruit. I think that’s because, generally speaking, figs aren’t pretty. They have an odd, bottom-heavy shape, and aside from the recently-available Tiger-stripe variety, they don’t come in eye-catching colors. The skin is smooth but not shiny. Yet they’re one of the richest plant sources of calcium and fiber, and high in antioxidants. The taste ranges from mildly sweet to sweet, with a delightfully silky flesh and tiny seeds that offer a friendly crunch and don’t stick in your teeth.

Figs are one of the most delicate fruits, and they don’t ripen off the tree. So if you come across some at a market, you want to look for ones that feel plump and just barely soft. Think of the best as Goldilocks fruit – not too hard and not too soft. Don’t pile them recklessly into a bag – be gentle. Then when you get them home, store them in a single layer in the fridge, on a paper towel-lined plate (covered with cellophane wrap) or in a shallow air-tight container, so they don’t dry out. Try to eat them within a couple of days. And just as a treat, pick one up and bite off everything short of the stem. Heavenly.

Let’s Get to the Eating Part, Please

Okay, okay – enough with the lecture. Today, I’m giving you a way to serve figs as an appetizer, and a dessert recipe that can use figs or many other soft fruits.

First up is the appetizer way. Possibly the most elegant dish you can put together in less than 15 minutes. I had a similar dish at a tiny restaurant in New Jersey, and even with my embellishments, it takes no time at all. This dish delivers a magical mix of flavors: sweet from the figs and honey, tart and tangy from the balsamic, and salty from the cheese and prosciutto. Add the range of textures -- creamy, crunchy, chewy -- and you've got an epicurean delight.

Stuffed Figs with Prosciutto

To serve 4.

12 fresh figs (any variety will do, though it’s easier with larger figs such as Tiger Stripe or Brown Turkey)
3 ounces fresh goat cheese or mild feta cheese (French or Bulgarian)
balsamic reduction (best) or balsamic vinegar*
4 ounces thinly sliced Prosciutto ham (12 slices)

Rinse the figs and pat dry with paper towels. Slice about ¼ inch off the tops of the figs, and cut the figs in quarters, slicing only halfway down the fruit so that the fig maintains its bulbous shape.

Stuff each fig with ½ teaspoon of the feta or goat cheese. Drizzle a few drops of balsamic reduction (or vinegar) on the cheese, followed by 2-3 drops of honey.

To do ahead: The figs can at this point be covered and refrigerated for serving later.

When ready to serve, place 3 figs on each plate and microwave for 20 seconds. Pile 3 slices of prosciutto together on each plate with the figs and serve immediately.

*Kitchen Goddess note on Balsamic Reduction: *There isn’t anything easier to make than balsamic reduction. Put 2 cups of balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan, and turn on the heat. When you notice steam starting to rise off the vinegar, adjust the heat to keep that level. (No bubbles.) Allow the vinegar to steam for 2-3 hours (adjusting the heat level periodically), at which point it should have reduced to about ½ cup of a thick, syrupy liquid. If you can’t lower your heat enough, you may want to use a heat diffuser. Store the reduction in a jar or squeeze bottle in your pantry. Keeps indefinitely.

And now for the tarts. I’ll admit right off that phyllo pastry is a little tricky to work with. The first thing you have to know is that you buy it frozen and it needs to thaw overnight. The Kitchen Goddess got all primed to make these tarts one afternoon before realizing the overnight thaw business, and was forced to watch re-runs of “Bones” instead of cooking.

Kitchen Goddess note about Phyllo: Yes, it’s tricky. But not hard. It’s very important, though, to get your mise en place (a.k.a., organize your work space) before you start with the phyllo. The sheets are tissue paper thin, so they tear easily; but with a little practice – and the willingness to say “Screw it” to one sheet and start with another – you’ll be fine. Also, you should know that sheets can be patched together once you start with the butter. The Kitchen Goddess herself threw away four or five sheets before reaching a group that worked. But you get 20 sheets in a box for less than $4.00, so what the heck.

The other important point is that phyllo dries out quickly (i.e., becomes unusable), so you’ll need a damp kitchen towel to cover the sheets you’re not working with at the moment. That said,... (1) Let the box thaw overnight. (2) Remove the roll of phyllo sheets and unroll them carefully. (3) Peel off 7-8 sheets, one at a time, and lay them on top of each other to the side of your work surface. (4) Gently lay a damp kitchen towel on top of your “inventory” before re-rolling the remainder and storing them back in the packaging and back into the fridge or freezer. In the photo above, the sheets I’ll be using are under the green-and-white towel.

You can trust me that the results – light, flaky, not overly sweet but delicately delicious – are worth the trouble. David Tanis in The NY Times calls these pastries “a cross-cultural pleasure,... a French tartlet, but with Middle Eastern undertones.”

I want to note here that these pastries work equally as well with various other soft fruits as they do with figs. I tried the recipe with plumcots (shown above) and pears, and both were yummy. You’ll notice that the tart below has been cut in half, to show that you can make 12 smaller servings – for a brunch, say, or an afternoon tea. (You do serve tea in the afternoons, don’t you?)

If you want to do these ahead, I would assemble the pastry packages and refrigerate them between layers of wax paper in an air-tight container, then put the ricotta mixture and the cut fruit (perhaps with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent browning) in two more containers in the fridge. Toast the almonds ahead and set aside. Assembly takes very little time. And by the way, I think these pastries would be stellar topped with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, but I didn’t have any around at the time. So someone should try that and let me know.

Phyllo Tarts with Fresh Fruit and Ricotta

Adapted from David Tanis in The New York Times

Serves 6.

For the ricotta filling:
1 cup ricotta (whole-milk or reduced fat – not skim)
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
⅛ teaspoon almond extract

For the pastry:
6 sheets phyllo dough (but have extras if one tears too much)
6-7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
12 ripe figs (or 3 large plums, plumcots, pears, or nectarines)
turbinado sugar (e.g., Sugar in the Raw) for sprinkling on top
½ cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons honey

To make the ricotta filling, combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the tarts.

Before you begin with the pastry, line a large baking sheet with baker’s parchment.

After fold #1
After fold #2
After fold #3
For the pastry, lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough on a flat surface, the long side toward you. (Note: hands should be dry when working with phyllo.) Brush it lightly all over with the melted butter. Fold the sheet in half, left to right, and brush the top with the butter. Fold again, top to bottom, and brush with butter. Finally, fold left to right again, and brush with butter. You should have a rectangle that’s about 4 inches by 6 inches. Move it to the baking sheet.

Repeat this process with the remaining 5 sheets of phyllo. When you have completed all 6 pastry packages, preheat the oven to 375º.

That's right -- only 4 here.
Spread a heaping tablespoon of ricotta mixture onto each of the phyllo packages, working so the ricotta doesn’t reach all the way to the edges. Cut figs about ¼ inch down from the stems, and slice them into quarters starting from the stem end and finishing just before you get to the bottom of the fig. Lay the cut figs out in a star shape on top of the phyllo, 2 figs per phyllo package. (If you’ll be using pears, plumcots, etc., slice them lengthwise into eighths and arrange 4 slices into a pinwheel pattern on the phyllo.)

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the turbinado sugar onto each pastry, and bake 15 minutes or until golden and crisp.

While the pastries are baking, toast the almonds in a dry sauté pan until lightly browned, about 5 minutes over medium heat. When the pastries are ready, remove them from the oven and sprinkle them with the almonds. Warm the honey briefly in the microwave and drizzle it lightly over the pastries. (The photo below was taken before the almonds and honey.)