A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Another Lemon Goat Cheese Cheesecake

I made this recipe again for a dinner party last night, and it was better than ever. This time, I made the crust out of gingersnaps (two cups crushed up and 4 T melted butter). I also added another cream cheese package because I used a bigger (9") springform pan. (So, 12 ounces of goat cheese and 16 ounces of cream cheese.) It was very fluffy and delicious. The cat was obsessed with trying to get some for herself.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Homemade Sambal Oelek

I found myself with a surplus of cute little jalapenos from Dad's garden, so I made a batch of sambal.  This is so salty, bright, citrusy, and hot that it just hollers "Hey tastebuds!  Wake up!!"

This is very close to a recipe by Peter Kuruvita, just simpler.

Sambal Oelek

25 or so small jalapeno chiles
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
Zest of 1 lime, grated
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons salt (some people might like less)
2 tablespoons sugar, or less

Chop chiles, ginger, and garlic (I used the whole chile, just cutting off the stem) and then puree coarsely in food processor with half the lime zest, salt, and vinegar.  Cook in a small saucepan over medium heat for ten minutes, adding sugar halfway through, and remaining lime zest for last minute or so.

Store in a non-metal container in refrigerator.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Dollar Store Challenge

Last year Will made me a meal sourced entirely from the Dollar Tree up the road. According to the rules we set, everything but salt and oil came from there. It was tasty: a traditional pasta with herby red sauce; spinach; and premade garlic bread. The most challenging thing, of course, was finding or replicating fresh foods. He actually reconstituted dried onions in water and then sauteed them.

Sunday, it was my turn.

There were some surprises at the Dollar Tree. I didn't know dollar stores had that much food. They had fish: 4-ounce filets of frozen pollock for $1 each. How could I not at least try that? I also bought a packet of pre-cooked salad shrimp.

The rest of my haul:
  • a can of refried beans 
  • a can of pickled jalapenos
  • a can of red chili/tomato sauce 
  • a jar of roasted red peppers 
  • a can of diced tomatoes 
  • a tiny tub of cream cheese 
  • pepper jack cheese 
  • mozzarella cheese 
  • a pack of tortillas 
  • a bag of frozen peas
I also had some herbs left over from Will's experiment -- oregano, red pepper flakes, etc. We decided those counted.

I ended up making creamy seafood burritos based on your old recipe for krab burritos. And they were pretty good, honestly. The fish sauteed up nicely once I'd blotted the hell out of it with paper towels. I mixed it with the shrimp, tomatoes, red peppers and cheeses. I stuffed the burritos with that, then put the chile-tomato sauce on top and baked them. I heated up the beans and boiled the peas, and we had a reasonably healthy, square meal.

It wasn't cheap, exactly. I spent $15. But it was instructive and fun. And I think we'll be going by there occasionally for pantry staples. That big can of El Pato sauce has been very useful -- we've been putting it on everything.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Basil Syrup

Here is the basil syrup mentioned below.

1/4 cup sugar
3 cups fresh basil leaves

Heat sugar with 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved.  Transfer to blender.

Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Submerge basil in it and boil for 3 minutes.  Drain basil in a colander and run cold water over it to stop the cooking.  Place basil in blender with syrup and process for 2 minutes.  Strain in a sieve.  Sprinkle with salt.

(I probably wouldn't add salt if I wanted to use this for cocktails.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fancy Food

This cauliflower soup came from Rocco Dispirito's Flavor, which I received for Christmas several years ago.  This is the second time I've made it, and both times I ended up a little disgruntled by how labor-intensive it is.  First, you make a basil simple syrup, which involves two saucepans and a blender; then, browning the pine nuts in oil--a small skillet; and finally cooking a whole head of cauliflower with a sweated onion--one saucepan and the blender, and finally another clean pot to reheat the soup.  And this is only a first-course soup, as it's very light.  I made focaccia with sage and walnuts to go with it, which made a balanced supper.

We ate it cold for lunch the next day, equally tasty.

Why am I whining about this?  Because I prefer to make simple things.  I've vowed to live without recipes for a while.  I already know how to cook!

On the positive side, there was leftover basil syrup, and I made this drink at Eva's suggestion:  gin, soda, a squeeze of lemon, and a teaspoon of the syrup.  Delicious!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Downtown Salads

I had jury duty last week, and because we had an hour and a half lunch break and a whopping $12 per diem, I decided to use my time and money to explore some downtown restaurants.

My first salad was at Ike's, and was named The Clooney.  It was so perfect:  greens topped with a lightly dressed mixture of garbanzo beans, walnuts, diced beets, and feta cheese!

Next I ate at the relocated famous Poca Cosa Cafe and ordered the salad pictured here.  This was a chicken and artichoke salad dressed with cilantro pesto dressing containing a hint of sesame oil and peanut, with bell peppers, peanuts, cherry tomatoes, and grated carrots.  It was a masterpiece of color and flavor. The Poca Cosa has a blackboard menu which changes daily and always features an inventive mole (how do I put an accent on the last e?).  I was afraid I would fall asleep during testimony if I ate the chef's choice plate, which is a trio selected from the day's offerings.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Eating in Portugal

I so looked forward to our trip to Portugal, but I dreaded eating out for three solid weeks:  I am a big fan of home cooking, fresh light meals, and lots of fruit and vegetables, which are hard to find away from home.  I knew that I loved Portuguese foods and had eaten in good restaurants in the Azores and Lisbon in the past, but I was so impressed by the wonderful and healthful meals we encountered at every turn in our travels.

Breakfasts included in hotel stays usually had cheese, sliced ham and Portuguese sausage, fresh breads and butter, as well as sweet pastries.  And espresso or cafe au lait.  And fresh fruits—most impressive were the very sweet local oranges, and sometimes strawberries.

Every block in Lisbon had a mini-mart.  This wasn’t like a 7-11 with chips and frozen pizza, but instead a tiny grocery with wine, bottled water, canned goods, small cheeses, and the basic produce such as beautiful tomatoes and oranges, onions and cucumbers.  We often had one big meal in a restaurant and then picnicked on bread and cheese for lunch or dinner—not for economy, but because of having walked for eight hours and needing to relax.  Or sometimes we were driving around the countryside and were away from civilization.  And sometimes we were just stuffed from the last ample meal.

Here are some of the memorable things we ate.

Portuguese wine is fabulous—there are vineyards everywhere—and can be bought for as little as $2 per bottle.  Also there is little markup in restaurants, so you can have house wine for a couple of Euros, and a more expensive bottled wine for a little more.  The wine seemed lighter and so we drank multiple bottles every day.

First night in Lisbon at a restaurant near the bullfighting ring:  Salada Croscente—crispy thin-sliced grilled eggplant, red lettuce, cashews, grated asiago cheese.  I had grilled tuna and Dad had sea bass.  Steamed and smashed baby red potatoes.  Sauteed vegetables.  Local champagne.  $65.

Next, to Tony and Manuela’s apartment.  It’s in an old building in the historic Belem area where Henry the Navigator is celebrated, and where Vasco de Gama and others embarked on their New World travels.  First, wine and appetizers.  Then an impressive spread of partridge pie, shrimp roulade (souffle rolled around a shrimp filling, with tomato sauce), bread, salad with the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten, a mixed fruit cup, chocolate cake and custard tarts. I had a piece of cake but could only manage one bite of the beautiful custard tart. The partridge pie was pie-shaped with a rich pastry dough, and the partridge filling was very dark and rich, perhaps with the organs pureed in the sauce.  It was heavy but flavorful and so special.

Bread, cheese, and wine for supper.

We ate at Vitaminos (like a mall food court place) for breakfast at the Campo Pequeno mall.  Fresh fruit cups, cafe au lait, a slice of quiche.

The da Silvas took us to the seaside town of Caparica where they often go to Sunday lunch.  First course, steamed baby clams with garlic and cilantro accompanied by crisp garlic toast.  Then fish plates:  dourado for me,  robequeno for Dick, flounder for Tony and Manuela, with boiled potatoes and green beans for the table.  Beautiful bread.  Goat cheese. Cheesecake, coffee. 

In a small town we passed through driving down to the Algarve:  lunch of pizza for Dad, ham and cheese baguette for me, and salada primavera (also with ham). 

Arrived at beach hotel in Salema where we’ll stay for three nights.  Find that there are seven fish restaurants within walking distance!

First Salema night:  at Lourencos, the waiter brought around a platter of fresh raw fish and we chose chunk of stone bass.  It must have weighed two pounds, and I wasn’t aware that we had ordered the Whole Thing.  Anyway, with olives, bread, goat cheese, fish,  potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, and a bottle of white wine, we were stuffed.  $48 Euros.

Breakfast at the hotel; lunch of bread, cheese, and fruit at Sao Vincente fort.  Beer at a beach cafe in late afternoon.  Dinner, a cataplana, which is a hinged cooking vessel in which a whole meal is cooked.  Ours had fish and vegetables in it

Third night in Salema, Boia Bar:  prato do dia (daily special) was lamb—thin tender slices in a brown gravy with fresh mint, little browned potatoes, salad.  Dick had fresh swordfish.  Red wine from Alvor, a town we had been lost in that very day!

In the town of Mertola, a rough cafe:  bacalhau de casa (home-style salt cod) for Dick, corvina for me, local wine.  Then we walked up to the castle.

In Evora: wine, cheese, and strawberries in room for dinner.  Lunch next day at Mr. Pickwick:  the famous regional dish of pork with clams for me, roast lamb for Dick.

The nearest restaurant to our hotel in Evora (we had walked from 10:00 to 5:00 already) was a “medieval” one.  Dick had bacalhau (a plain boiled hunk, but he likes that), and I had a Salada Portuguesa, an ambrosial black-eyed pea salad served over greens and topped with fresh crumbled tuna and hard boiled egg..

Porto lunch down by the river:  grilled sardines for Dick and swordfish (different than what we call swordfish, but wonderful), salada mista, broa, (yeast-raised cornbread).  My vegetable was sauteed cabbage.

We had a glass of cheap white port at a riverside outdoor cafe in Porto.

We ate in the Leiria town square, with castle in background and little boys playing soccer in the foreground.  Outdoor cafe with pigeons who carried off our leftovers (while Dick was still sitting at the table!).  A toasted baguette with grilled vegetables and goat cheese drizzled with honey and topped with fresh rosemary; a green salad with sliced cold meats; and lasagne de peixe (fish lasagna—light pasta, white fish sauce with bacalhau and other white fish, some green layer, probably swiss chard—totally wonderful).

Torres Vedras, stumbled into an excellent cafe while looking for the castle.  Dick had the soup of the day, which was a rich tomato soup poured over chunks of bread, with a plate of garnishes:  two kinds of sausage, pork rinds, a hunk of bacalhau.  I had cold tuna and bean salad garnished with onion and cilantro, and piri-piri sauce.  The waiter sternly cautioned me about the piri-piri—trop fort, he warned me in French, very strong.  It was chiles in marinated in olive oil.  That meal, with a jar of house white wine, was 13.50 euros, or $17.00

Cabo Verdean restaurant near our Lisbon apartment—no menu, just the national food, said the English-speaking waitress.  This was a large plate of chickpeas, maize or hominy, and tuna made into a sort of stew.  Very heavy and not too flavorful, but always interested in trying new things.

Near the Convento at Tomar with Tony and Manuela:  Rancho for me and Tony, a sort of macaroni casserole with ham, sausages, and tomato sauce.  Manuela had alheira, a fake sausage filled with beef and bread stuffing, very delicious (the lore is that when Jews were forced to convert to Christianity or leave the country in early times, they only pretended to eat pork and substituted this sausage instead).

Near Sao George Castle in Lisbon, right in the middle of the tourist area, a museum attendant recommended the restaurant where he ate daily—no tourists there, only locals.
I had a mushroom omelet and salada mista, and Dick had a delicious red mullet, a wonderful firm flavorful fish like snapper.  Fruit salad for dessert.

Cooked a chorizo (Portuguese sausage) at home in our apartment this evening, with broad green beans and bread.  Strawberries and Portuguese dark chocolate.

Back to Caparica with Tony and Manuela, same great fish restaurant.  I had the best flounder of my life, a small whole one crusted with salt and I think finely ground almonds, grilled with a little lemon and olive oil.  Rice pudding, just like the Scandinavian type.

That evening walked out to the restaurant nearest to our apartment.  A rough place filled with soccer fans, but very good food.  Mixed grill, french fries, salada mista, house wine for two, about $15.

In the Chiado shopping district, ate lunch at a combination cafe/bookstore, lots of interesting folks around.  A rainy day, so I had the tomato soup of the day and then we both had the chicken prato do dia.  I wanted a little extra greenery so ordered a salada mista and received a large, delicious platter of greens, sweet onions, and tomatoes with dressing for 90 eurocents.

Our final dinner in Portugal was at a nearby Goa restaurant—Goa is an Indian colony of Portugal.  The food is very refined yet spicy.  We had exquisite vegetable and chicken curries.  It’s so great to be able to walk to dinner

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lemon Goat Cheese Cheesecake

This is a modified version of a recipe from your Luscious Lemon Desserts book by Lori Longbotham, Mom. It was super tasty even on Day 1; I imagine Day 3 would be excellent. Not too sweet.

The original recipe would have made a very tall cheesecake; I split it more or less in half to make it more reasonable. It served about 12.


  • 1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together butter and crumbs. Press into pan. (I used a regular nonstick deep cake pan, which worked fine. Springform would be good too.) Bake for 10 minutes an set aside to cool.

Put a dry deep pan in the oven and turn it down to 325.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup or more lemon zest (I used the zest from 3 lemons.)

Mix together, or pulse in food processor. Set aside.

  • 11 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 eggs

Beat the cheese together until fluffy. Add the sugar mixture, vanilla and lemon juice and beat until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Scrape into pan. Pour boiling water into pan to come halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. Bake for an hour and a half.

My regular New York cheesecake recipe doesn’t use a water bath, and I may try this without one next time, reducing the heat accordingly.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rum Cake

Here's the family rum cake recipe. I got it from Lily Gaddis in Hawaii.

Rum Cake

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 package yellow cake mix
1 3 ¾ oz package instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup dark rum

Sprinkle nuts in bottom of 10-inch bundt pan.

Mix all ingredients and beat 2 minutes. Pour batter over nuts in the pan and bake 1 hour at 325 degrees. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then invert and remove to finish cooling on a wire rack.


1 stick butter
¼ cup water
1 cup sugar
½ cup dark rum

Boil butter, water, and sugar together for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Prick top of cake all over and drizzle and brush glaze over cake.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Broa is a Portuguese yeast cornbread. I've eaten it in the Azores and made it a few times from Jean Anderson's The Food of Portugal. This loaf turned out especially well. I served it for the first course of a dinner with the neighbors, accompanied by Iberico cheese and Black Olive Pate.


Make a sponge by mixing 1 package dried yeast, 1/3 cup stone-ground cornmeal, and 1/4 cup warm water. Let work for about 40 minutes. I do this first step in the bread maker, and then add these remaining ingredients:

2/3 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup scalded milk, or reconstituted evaporated milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
Scant teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour (more or less depending on humidity)

Mix and knead in bread maker, and let rise until puffy. Form a round loaf and let rise in a greased pie pan for 20 or 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 475 degrees--get it really hot!-- turn down to about 425 when you put the loaf in and then bake for 30 or 35 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on rack.

For the Olive Pate: Wrap a whole head of garlic in a a double layer of aluminum foil and bake for an hour at 300 degrees. Let cool, and then squeeze out the softened garlic into food processor bowl. Add 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives and some fresh black pepper and puree. Serve with bread.