Pork Tamales ala Amore

Kelly adds: you can make a vegan / vegetarian version of these. For the filling, use jack cheese (or vegan cheese substitute), brewer’s yeast, and rinsed and drained corn.

From the chef:

“I make a large pork roast and use some of the meat for tamales instead of starting with raw pork. If you do start with raw pork, you can brown it, then add it to the sauce for the entire 1.5 hours of simmering time. I also make the filling the day before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. This is a pretty lengthy process if you do it all at once, but most of it can be done in advance to make the final assembly and steaming time go very smoothly. It is great to have people help assemble the tamales!”

Boil a large pan of water and layer about 20-25 cornhusks in the water. Weight with a plate so they are completely submerged and allow to rehydrate for about 1 hour.

4 dried ancho (pasilla) chiles
chili powder (optional)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 inch thick slice white or yellow onion
1/2 pound cooked pork cut in 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoon salt (approximately)
olives (optional)

Toast chiles in dry skillet over high heat until fragrant and barely smoking and cool. Remove stems and seeds. Cut chiles in large pieces and cover with hot water. Allow to rehydrate for about 30 minutes. Place chiles, garlic cloves, onion, pepper and enough chile liquid to cover everything in a blender or food processor. Blend thoroughly. Press mixture through a strainer into a medium saucepan to remove any seeds or skin. Add 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer over low heat for about 1 hour (if you are using raw pork, brown it and add it at this time).

Add cooked pork pieces and simmer for about 15-30 minutes more until meat has soaked up some liquid and is falling apart tender. Add about 1/2 – 1 more teaspoons salt to taste. I sometimes add some additional chili powder at this time if the chile taste is too mild. This filing should be very flavorful since only a small amount of it will go in each tamale.

1 3/4 cups dried masa harina
1/2 cup shortening or lard
1 t. baking powder
1/2 to 1 cup beef broth
salt to taste

Reconstitute 1 3/4 cups masa harina with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water. This mixture should be barely moist and still crumbly (you may need to add more water). Cool. In a large mixing bowl beat together the shortening and baking powder until fluffy. Alternate adding 1/3 of the masa with 1/3 of the beef broth and continue beating. Add more beef broth if necessary to make a batter that is similar to a thick but soft cake batter. Try the raw batter and add salt to taste.

Cut two or three of the cornhusks into strips about 1/2 inch wide to use as ties. Dry the remaining cornhusks with a towel. Assemble tamales; you may need to use two husks on one tamale if they are small. Add about 1/4 cup masa, 1 – 2 tablespoons filling (and olive if you choose) to a cornhusk. Tie with strip of husk. Place open end up on a rack in a pan of boiling/steaming water. Steam steadily for 1 hour. If the water is not very deep, add a little water a few times during steaming process, but do not allow the water to stop boiling.

Enjoy as-is or with sour cream and salsa.

Meatball In Every Pot

My friend Abi and I for years loved to cook the Escarole and Little Meatball Soup from The Sopranos Family Cookbook. Easy, rich, and tasty. If you have extra greens from your garden (and if you have a garden, you often get a lot of them) you can use almost any of them. One time Abi brought me over a big batch of it, frozen. I’ve never thought frozen soups were that appetizing. Nevertheless, a couple weeks later when I cooked it up it was fabulous – better, even, than a fresh batch.

My experience was confirmed a few months ago when my family and I had leftovers of soup I’d made the night before. My husband and I decided this soup really should set at least a day before eating.

By this time I’d made my own changes to the original recipe. I like turkey meatballs a lot (from ground turkey breast) because you can add herbs, spices, and small-dice vegetables and the turkey will not overwhelm these flavors the way beef does. I thought it might make sense to make a large batch of the soup, put a pot of it in the fridge for the next day, and date and freeze the remainder – so that’s what I did. The recipe below is a big recipe and makes four family-sized servings (well, depending on your family size!)

Furthermore, I think it’s almost a crime to make meatballs without a flavorful shredded Parmesan cheese.

1/2 cup oil
4 49 oz. cans chicken (or vegetable) stock, or equivalent
8 cloves (1/2 head) garlic
2 pounds carrots
4 pieces stale bread (if you only have fresh bread, toast it and let cool)
3 eggs
2 tablespoons salt, divided into 1 and 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fennel
2 tablespoons dried parsley (or 1/4 cup fresh, small dice)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 pounds ground turkey breast (or ground turkey)
1 pound spaghetti or similar pasta
2 large or 3 medium bunches greens – spinach, kale, romaine, escarole, or a combination
3 gallon freezer ziploc bags, or equivalent

Heat oil on medium heat in the bottom of a very large stock pan. While it’s heating, peel garlic cloves and put in a food processor. Process until small-dice (between 1/4″ and 1/8″) and remove half of the garlic. Saute in the oil until soft. Add the stock or broth to the pot. Cover and turn to high.

While the stock heats up, wash and peel all carrots. Coarse chop three large or four small carrots and put in the processor with the garlic. If you have fresh parsley, wash and chop or put in food processor. Pulse. Add bread slices and pulse.

If you do not have a food processor or do not want to use one, dice the garlic and parsley, grate the three carrots and tear up the bread into 1/4″ pieces then proceed.

In a large bowl whisk eggs, then add mixture from food processor, 1 tablespoon of the salt, the pepper, fennel, and dried parsley. Mix up. Toss in milk. You want the mixture the texture of uncooked stuffing, not to have liquid. Add more or less milk accordingly. Add the parmesan cheese and finally, the three pounds of turkey. Mix with hands until uniform.

By this time the stock should be boiling. When it does, take lid off and add the remaining 2 tablespoons salt. Form meatballs either small or size of a ping pong ball and drop in (careful! Don’t get splashed). Do not add meatballs all at once, but if you have a friend to help, that’s good (It’s a lot of meatballs!). When the meatballs have all been added, add lid and reduce heat slightly to an active simmer.

Wash and slice the greens. Greens should be no larger than the head of a large spoon. Slice the remaining carrots into 1/4″ coins. Break the spaghetti into thirds.

Ten minutes or so after the last meatball was added, add the spaghetti, bring to a boil. Add the carrots. Bring to a boil and cook for the pasta directions. Lastly, add the greens and stir until wilted.

The soup is now ready to be eaten, cooled, or frozen. I usually put a dinner sized serving in a small pot in the fridge. I cool the rest in the fridge and then later divide to be frozen. Bon appetit!


I’m told this isn’t an “authentic” naan recipe – well, I don’t have a tandoor oven either. This tastes pretty damn good. I got the original recipe at allrecipes.com.

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or one packet, which is 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup warm water
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons milk
1 egg

2 or 3 cloves minced garlic (optional)
1/4 – 1/2 cup butter, melted

You’ll need two large bowls. In one whisk the yeast and honey in the warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes until frothy. In the other bowl add most of the flour, sugar, and salt. Add this to the yeast mixture and give a brief stir; crack the egg and sprinkle the milk onto this mixture. Mix and add flour until the dough comes together and you can easily scrape the flour out the bowl.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes or until smooth. Place dough in the flour bowl, after oiling it. Cover with a cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.

Punch down dough and knead briefly. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat.* At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.

* Alternatively, fry in a cast iron skillet.

Cypress Easter Bread

This recipe is adapted from Paul Hollywood’s book 100 Great Breads. Personally, I think his directions lack something. However I’m experienced enough of a breadmaker I worked it out and it was divine! One way it’s “adapted” is that I accidentally doubled the butter. No really, it was an accident. A happy one.

4 cups bread flour
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fennel, crushed
3/4 cup currants
zest of one orange
1 tablespoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 cup warm water, divided
1/3 cup milk
3 eggs, hardboiled and dyed red (this product will give a deep red)
1 egg, well-beaten, for eggwash

Mix flour, butter, sugar, cinnamon, fennel, currants, orange zest, and salt in a bowl. Whisk the yeast in half the warm water. Stir the yeast mixture and milk into the flour mixture. Add remaining warm water until you have a nice soft dough consistency.

Take dough out and knead on a lightly floured surface for about five minutes. Put back in the bowl to rest for one hour.

Divide dough into three strips and braid together. Place on a floured baking sheet and let rise until roughly doubled in bulk, about one hour. Preheat oven to 400. Brush dough with egg wash and place colored eggs along the top of the bread. Bake for 25 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Rustic Baked Beef Stew

Let it not be said I don’t take shortcuts nor enjoy comfort food.

1 round peasant or sourdough loaf
1 1/2 – 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 carrots, scrubbed or peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
3 potatoes, scrubbed or peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes (I use petite dice)
2 bay leaves
1 – 2 cans beef broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Take your sourdough loaf and cut out the top, leaving the “wall” of the bowl about one inch thick. Slice the top crust off to make a lid and set it aside with the bowl. Take about half the remaining bread and shred; put aside on a plate. You can freeze the rest of the bread for later use as croutons, bread crumbs, etc.

In a large saucepan (or dutch oven) over medium heat, brown the stew meat; drain. Add the meat to a large covered casserole dish. Place the chopped carrots, celery, potatoes, and bread on top of the meat. Combine the tomatoes, bay leaves, 1 can of beef stock, cornstarch, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour into the baking dish. Add remaining beef stock or water as needed; it does not need to cover the veggies but you don’t want the stew to dry out. Cover and bake for 2 hours, or until meat and vegetables are tender (alternatively, you can bake for 4 hours at 325).

Take the stew out of the oven to briefly cool; raise the temperature of the oven to 400 and place the bread bowl and lid inside to warm and crisp it. When the bowl is done, ladle the stew into the bowl (it won’t all fit) and top with bread lid. Refill the bread bowl as needed until you’re scraping into gravy-soggy bread – the best part of this dish!

Graham and Chocolate Bread

I love the toasty flavor of graham flour. You can make a whole wheat confection that is decidedly lighter and more tender than you’d typically predict. This recipe is adapted from a Sunset, April 1990 recipe. The directions are for a loaf, but the parenthetical instructions are for a larger amount (i.e. what I’m making for Sophie’s kindergarten class today).

2 (3) cups graham or whole-wheat flour
1 (1 1/2) cup all-purpose flour
1 (1 1/2) cup semisweet chocolate baking chips
1/2 (3/4) cup chopped almonds or walnuts
1/2 (3/4) cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 (2 1/2) teaspoons baking soda
1/2 (1) teaspoon salt
2 (3) large eggs
1 1/2 (2 1/4) cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix graham flour, all-purpose flour, chocolate, nuts, sugar, soda, and salt. In a small bowl, beat eggs and buttermilk to blend; add to dry ingredients, stirring until moistened. Pour batter into a buttered 5″ by 9″ inch loaf pan (13″ by 9″ baking pan).

Bake until edges begin to pull from pan sides and toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour (45 minutes). Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Tip bread out of pan and let cool on a rack.

Wanda’s Delight

This is my great-aunt’s recipe and much celebrated in my FOO. She was full-blooded Polish and skinny as a rail, if that can possibly excuse this fat-laden dish (I mean please – mayonnaise, condensed cream soup, and butter!?!).

3 full chicken breasts
2 head broccoli*
2 cans cream of mushroom soup**
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter
2 oz. cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350. Cook chicken 40 minutes. Cook broccoli ten minutes. Arrange broccoli lining casserole dish. Put chicken in center. Combine soup, mayonnaise, and lemon juice to pour over. Sprinkle crumbs, dab butter, and sprinkle cheese. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.

* Original recipe called for 2 packages broccoli, whatever that means.

** Original recipe called for cream of chicken soup but I can’t bear to use it.

And Another Thing Salad

Last night we had company and I made calzones and this delightful salad, inspired by one from – surprise! – allrecipes.com. My parents return from a trip to California today and so my version of this recipe is named in honor of my father; even though it’s something he likely wouldn’t eat.

1 cup dried garbanzo beans, sorted, washed, and soaked*
1/2 cup chopped celery (about two stalks)
1 apple, cored and chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon honey
juice from one lemon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons? I dunno)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
fresh lettuce or savoy cabbage (I used the latter)
sea salt

Prepare the beans by rinsing off the soaking water, putting them in a pot with plenty of water and bringing to an active, covered simmer for an hour and a half or until tender.

When the beans are almost done assemble the chopped celery, apple, and pecans. Prepare the dressing by whisking the honey and lemon together. Add the mayonaise, mustard, and salt to taste.

Drain the beans and rinse with cool water. You can wait for them to cool or (and I like this method better) fold the dressing into the beans, toss, and add the rest of the salad.

Serve on a bed of lettuce or cabbage, either whole leaf (garnish) or shredded (to eat).

* ask me about cooking with beans!

Sausage & Green Bean Slow Cooker

Modified from this recipe, which is in turn taken from the Fix-It and Forget It Cookbook (a book of crockpot recipes). This is fast to assemble and smells amazing when your man or woman comes home after a hard day of work.

I don’t have a crockpot – a couple years ago I gave it to someone who wanted one. The dutch oven I had (given to me used) finally wore out. So for this I use my one large-ish stockpot with tinfoil on the lid. It works great. Since this current stockpot’s lid is warped and it wasn’t a great piece to begin with, later this year I will be putting something on layaway (warning: kitchen porn, in kiwi or cherry please!) but for now I’m making do.

2 lbs. green beans, washed with ends trimmed
2 – 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
16 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon sea salt, celery salt, or garlic salt
1 lb turkey kielbasa

Before you do the veggie work, cook the sausage until browned. Remove and let cool a bit and cut up carrots and green beans. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook on high about 4 hours. Serve over noodles or with hot french bread.

10 Minute Eggs

Also called Perfect Hardboiled Eggs.

I had to name these to remind myself how long to boil them. These eggs are perfectly done and always easy to peel (fresh or less fresh doesn’t seem to matter). If you like your yolk a little bit softer try seven minutes on the boil.

Boil enough water to cover the eggs by an inch. At the boiling point, turn the water down to gently roll / simmer. Lower each egg in by spoon gently to make sure they don’t crack and assure yourself the action of the water won’t do the same. Time them ten [seven] minutes. If you want you can stir them during the boil to insure the yolks are dead-center in the finished egg! I like my deviled eggs imperfect, though.

Remove each egg one at a time and immerse in ice bath or running cold water until relatively cool. Peel and eat or use in recipe.

If you make deviled eggs out of them, just use a bit of mayo, lemon, soy sauce, celery seed, salt, fresh ground pepper, and a teensy bit of mustard. Then stick black olives impaled on pretzel sticks in the top.