Category: Recipes

Barley Pea Soup Recipe

Even fancy grocery stores have humble, bargain ingredients.    Case in point, smoked ham hocks were on special at our local Gelson’s, where the parking lot is littered with high end cars.    Apparently, even the staff has swanky rides.

The ham and veggie base, browning nicely.

Today I made Barley Pea Soup, and the house already smells amazing.    I sauteed half a chopped red onion, a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley and 5 whole garlic cloves in olive oil, then browned the ham hocks on both sides. Then I added a 16 ounce package of a mix of of yellow and green split peas, white rice, barley and pasta pearls.  8 cups of water went on top, with a healthy couple of tablespoons of good bouillon paste (not the dry stuff in the cubes).   I brought it all to a boil and gave it a stir.  This will simmer all afternoon (with a lid on) until the ham falls off the bone.   If it’s hot out and you want a cozy feeling while you eat the soup, turn the a.c. up.  That’s what we do. 🙂


Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

This is such an American staple it’s easy to forget that basically it’s Italian, being noodles tossed with a few readily available ingredients and amenable to being doubled and tripled to feed a crowd.   Mac and cheese is so beloved that fancy chefs are sneaking it onto menus, knowing full well it will sell as long as it is not too laden with truffle oil (no, god, no), sherry (maybe a touch) or some other overthought ingredient.

As with any simple food, it’s easy to make, but a bit harder to make well.   Here’s my take:

8 oz penne pasta

2 tablespoons of flour

2 tablespoons of butter

1 1/2 cups of milk (I use 1 %)

1/2 cup of very good quality mild cheddar, cubed or grated (you can use super sharp cheddar, but if kids are joining you, choose mild)

1/4 cup of grated parmesan

Panko bread crumbs

Salt, fresh ground pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.

Unlike lengthy slow-baked oven recipes involving elbow macaroni and a ton of cheese, this is quick and almost all stove top, except for a 2 minute broil at the end.

My trusty All-Clad steel pan heats perfectly.

In one pan you’re going to bring water to a boil and then add the pasta. While this is getting done, you’ll make the cheese sauce in another pan.   If you were going to oven bake the mac and cheese, you’d want the penne to be al dente so it would not turn to mush in the oven as it absorbs sauce.  Not a worry in this case.

You’re making a basic bechemel, or white sauce. You melt the butter in a sauce pan at high heat, quickly add the flour, and stir right away  so you get a roux.  Once you can’t see the flour any more and the mixture bubbles, you add the milk, in two stages.  Pour in the first 3/4 cup and lower the stove heat to medium.  Use a whisk or wooden spoon to stir and stir.  It will thicken gradually (maybe 5 minutes), and then add the rest of the milk.  When that’s smooth (it will seem a bit runny and not so thick), add the cheeses.  Of course other cheeses you have around, like good swiss or provolone, can work.  Just don’t use anything smoked. Grind in black pepper, add 1 tsp of  red pepper flakes, and a touch of salt.

Ready to combine.

The penne should be done now, so taste one to be sure, then drain it.  You can certainly make the pasta way ahead of time and just have it set aside and ready when you do the sauce.  Mix the noodles with the cheese sauce, and pour it into a baking dish.   Sprinkle liberally with panko bread crumbs (super crunchy and stand up to heat) and toss on more pepper (black or red).

2 minutes under the broiler, max (watch this like a hawk), and you will have browned bread crumbs.  Even better,  you will have added the crunch that any creamy, gooey dish needs.  This final stage also well incorporates the cheese sauce and pasta.  I tend to  re-salt to taste when I dish it up, but I am a salthead.  Normal palates like this as is.

Crunchy, creamy goodness.

It’s rare, but if you do end up with leftovers, it microwaves great.






Meatloaf Recipe

Meatloaf is hard to do really badly, as long as you follow a few basics.   My rule of thumb for getting the texture right is that all the ingredients, once assembled, should have the consistency of stiff cookie dough.   Another tip is to make sure you have a mix of meats. Plain ground hamburger, or plain ground turkey, will cook up too dry.   If you are a very disciplined non meat eater,  who wants a ground turkey loaf with no secret pork added,  I have some tips at the end of the recipe.   For this recipe, I combine pre-made pork sausage and beef, which is easier than buying ground veal, ground pork and beef and then mixing.

For 4 adults, with leftovers guaranteed, you’ll need:

1.5 pounds of ground beef, not extra lean (85-15)

2 uncooked Italian pork sausages, hot or sweet (non spicy) .  I use one of each.   You can take the spice up or down to preference.

1/2 chopped red pepper

1/2 chopped yellow or white onion (not Maui or sweet)

one egg (2 if the eggs are small)

1/2 cup of plain toasted breadcrumbs

Dash or 2 of worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

For the topping:

Good ketchup – I use Simply Heinz

brown sugar

Uncooked pork sausages are the secret.

Put the beef in a bowl.  Slice open the uncooked sausages and turn the mixture into the beef.  I’ve seen tv chefs try to squeeze the sausage out like toothpaste.  It’s easier to slice it open, believe me.   Add the chopped red pepper and onion – I use a mini chopper as it is almost pureed and very wet. This moistens the meatloaf as it cooks.   Add the egg, cumin and worcestershire.  If you hate cumin, you can add in a couple tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley.   If dried, just a teaspoon.  I add the bread crumbs last, as the mixture is not always as wet or dry as I expect, so I put it in a bit at a time, to get the “tightness” I want.

Miniloaves formed, coated in ketchup.

Now  I get out a flat baking pan with at least a one inch rim and shape it into equal mini loaves, as everyone wants a crusty end, and there are only two if you put it in a regular loaf pan.

I then squeeze ketchup over each one, making a “shell”, and I sprinkle brown sugar over the ketchup and kind of press it in.

Bake this at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn it down to 325 for an additional 35 minutes or so.  You know your oven.   Notes for using ground turkey: double the onion and pepper and double the worcestershire.  Omit the cumin and use fresh chopped parsley.    I don’t do the ketchup topping on this as it is not really complementary to the poultry flavor.   Try it anyway, it may work for you.   You need to leave the turkey at high heat longer as it needs to “cook out”.   Nobody needs undercooked turkey!

We like the burned bits you get from the brown sugar melting down.

We eat it with a big salad and a side of pan roasted broccoli and garlic in olive oil.

Potato Salad Recipe

Whatever market force brought the Yukon Gold potato to the grocery stores over the past decade or so, I am grateful. They take potato salad to a whole new level, well away from the realm of the mealy, runny and soggy taters I seem to recall from childhood picnics.

Ready to dress.

Here’s a simple recipe for a side dish for 5 to 6 people.   My rule of thumb is one medium-sized (about 2 inches across) potato per person, and then add on 2 extra potatoes.   Poke the raw potatoes with a fork so they don’t explode when you steam them.  Yes, steam them, no boiling.  It’s the only way to avoid that watery texture.   If you don’t have a steamer basket, just put 1/2 inch of water in a skillet or saute pan with a tight fitting lid.  Place the potatoes in, bring the water to a boil, then place the lid on and reduce the heat to simmer.    Check them in 15 minute by cutting one potato in half.  It should cut easily.  If it does not, put the lid on for a couple more minutes.

Take the potatoes out and chill them on a flat plate, no lid on it, in the fridge.When they are cool, cut them into quarters.  This allows for your dressing to cover a good amount of potato, without getting gloppy.

For the dressing you will need:

3 strips of bacon cooked crisp, drained and crumbled.  You are making your own bacon bits, basically.

white vinegar (champagne or rice)

1/2  a red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 a small red onion, chopped

red pepper flakes


2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

A little more chopped than this does the trick.

To assemble, douse the cooled, quartered potatoes, in your proposed serving bowl, with the vinegar, about a tablespoon’s worth, or a few good drizzles.   Add in the mayonnaise and  coat the potatoes equally.  Then mix in the red onion, red pepper and bacon.  Finish by shaking red pepper flakes and salt over the salad, to taste.  Don’t overdo either one.

Ready to eat.

Variations on the above include:

–chopped jalapeno pepper instead of the red pepper flakes

–1 tablespoon of spicy grain mustard mixed with the mayo and skip the vinegar step

–omit the bacon for the vegetarians

–omit the pepper flakes for those who hate spice.

–add more mayo if you like a very dressed salad

All the chefs who judge cooking on t.v. talk about how a perfect dish will have it all: sweet, savory, creamy, crunchy and what they call “mouth feel.” Trust me, it’s in that bowl pictured above.

Cabbage Salad Recipe

Sure, call it cole slaw.  If you are a patient cabbage slicer, or have a Cuisinart handy, make slaw.  I am often just cutting cabbage thin enough for a hurried weeknight dinner.   We have some kind of salad with every meal but breakfast, and cabbage keeps so well it’s our go-to when the forgotten lettuce has given up the ghost and turned sad and brown.   How often do we have salad?  One week, through separate, uncoordinated trips to Costco we bought 11 heads of lettuce.  Ate them all over a 10 day period.

For a side salad for 3 or 4 people, half a head of green cabbage is perfect. To make:

Cut out the white “heart” at the bottom – it’s really too tough to eat.    If you have a dog, he’ll happily gnaw on it as a veggie bone.

Not shredded, but stirred.

Then slice the cabbage into the smallest bite size pieces (or slivers) you have the patience for.   In a decent-sized bowl, mix 2 heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise,  1/8 cup of rice vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar, a few grinds of black or white pepper, and  1/2 teaspoon paprika or mild ground chili pepper for color and a bit of bite.    Add the cabbage and stir.  If the dressing seems a little thick, thin it with rice vinegar.  Once the cabbage is coated, chill it in the fridge until you are ready to eat.  The vinegar will soften the cabbage and it will “sweat down” a bit.

If you have one on hand, grate a peeled carrot into it for color and sweet flavor.  Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-types add raisins to this but I find it is overkill.  I always taste it and salt at the end, but I am a salt head.   Lots of people don’t salt their slaw.