Kohlrabi: A Gold Mine of Minerals

Kohlrabi: A Gold Mine of Minerals

Americans are discovering what Northern Europeans have known for centuries—the delicacy of the kohlrabi. Its mildly flavored sweet, chestnut-like flavor makes it a wonderful addition to any dinnertable. The kohlrabi bulb is crisp and crunchy when raw, while its nonfibrous pulp takes on a smooth texture when cooked. Its leaves are also edible, raw or cooked. Besides being tasty and versatile, the kohlrabi is economical and, above all, healthy.

Kohlrabi has a root that grows above ground. The bulb is actually a thickened root, usually 3-4 inches in diameter with leaves that grow 15-18-inches long. The stems, called “cords” grow on all sides, encircling the entire vegetable with leaves reaching upward.

Kohlrabi is part of the cabbage family. Not only is it an excellent source of potassium, but it also contains natural enzymes that aid digestion and significant amounts of bone building minerals—calcium, phosphorous and iron. Kohlrabi is chock full of fiber and low in fat. It is nearly a “calorie-free” food, coming in at a whopping 38 calories per cup. And just one cup supplies more than 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Vitamin C.

Picking the Best

Supersized kohlrabi almost as big as my toaster!

Kohlrabi is a biennial vegetable —fall crops in abundance now, with spring crops hitting the stands in May. Many markets offer kohlrabi year-round. Select kohlrabies that looks crisp and fresh, avoid those with wilted or yellow leaves. Avoid bulbs that are split or cracked. Some varieties have light green or white skin, some purple, like those in the picture. There are also giant kohlrabi types like the Superschmelz that grows to 8-10-inches in diameter, but remains sweet and tender when cooked and is not woody at all. The seeds of this giant are Swiss in origin, and many farmers and gardeners here are now offering this wonderful variety, summer sown for a fall harvest.

Kohlrabi bulbs of any size store well, provided you trim off the stems and leaves and store in a cool, dark place like a root cellar or in an open plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper. Store unwashed leaves in a paper bag and refrigerate where they will keep for 3-4 days.

Note that both bulbs and leaves freeze well. Simply blanch the bulbs for 5 minutes and the leaves for 3 minutes in boiling water, and then plunge into ice water; drain, then seal in plastic bags and freeze.

Cooking Kohlrabi

     The bulbs of kohlrabi can be used instead of potatoes, turnips or rutabagas, and its leaves can be prepared like any other leafy vegetable, like kale or spinach. One medium-size bulb generally yields one serving. When ready to use, peel and boil or steam a whole bulb in salted water for about 20 to 30 minutes and a sliced or chopped kohlrabi for about 10-15 minutes.  Preparing the kohlrabi leaves is done just like any other green. You may want to eat the stems, or simply tear the leaves away which will reduce cooking time. A sprinkle of sea salt will help leaves retain their nice bright green color when cooking.

Simple recipes for this tasty vegetable abound. Very thinly sliced, fried kohlrabies make tasty chips for dipping. Very small kohlrabi bulbs (about 1-inch in diameter) do not need to be peeled; just grate them and serve raw in a salad, or add to chicken, crab or egg salad. Pickled bulbs make a great side dish, especially in the wintertime. Chop kohlrabi and add to soups, stews and casseroles. Or try serving kohlrabi as a turnover—one of my mother’s favorite dishes growing up.  Just steam whole bulbs for about 10 minutes with a few apple wedges, a pinch of sea salt and ground cloves; wrap in pastry dough and bake for 20-30 minutes and serve. Delicious!


Seasonings that complement kohlrabi especially well are dill, cumin, tarragon, caraway and fennel seeds.



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Kohlrabi in Orange Butter

Makes 6 servings

A lovely side dish to any main course. Feel free to substitute turnips, rutabagas or Jerusalem artichokes for the kohlrabies in this recipe.


6 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and chopped into even-sized pieces

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons salted butter

1/4-cup orange juice

Grated rind of 1 orange


  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan; stir in the orange juice and rind; keep warm.
  2. Put kohlrabi in a medium-size saucepan along with the sea salt; cover with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, or until fork tender; drain.
  3. Put the kohlrabi in a serving dish; drizzle with orange butter and toss gently. Serve immediately.


A garnish of freshly chopped parsley or tarragon is nice scattered over top.



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Kohlrabi and Hazelnut Gratin

Makes 4 servings

This goes well with a salad of peppery fall greens like arugula, watercress or mustard greens for a quick lunch, or as a side dish accompanying an evening meal.  Walnuts can be substituted for hazelnuts.


4 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and cut into even-sized pieces

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon sea salt

½-teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1½-cups hazelnuts


  1. Put the kohlrabi in a medium-size saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until tender.
  2. Preheat the broiler. Drain the kohlrabi, add the butter and mash well; stir in the sour cream, salt and black pepper.
  3. Spoon the mixture into a shallow gratin dish. Crush the hazelnuts with a rolling pin or whizz in a food mill, and scatter them on top of the kohlrabi mixture.
  4. Put the dish under the broiler for 5 minutes or until the hazelnuts are golden brown. Serve immediately.



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Fruity Kohl-Slaw

Makes 6 servings

Light and delicious, this salad makes a perfect “totable” for a pot luck supper.


6 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and grated

1 cup finely shredded cabbage

1 small red onion, diced

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and diced

1/3-cup currants or raisins

½-cup seedless grapes, halved

½-teaspoon each: sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼-cup apple cider


  1. Put the kohlrabi, cabbage, onion and apple in a large bowl; sprinkle in the currents, grapes, salt and black pepper, and toss gently.
  2. Lightly drizzle in the oil and apple cider; toss gently, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Toss again before serving.

I wish you all the best and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Glorious Sweet Potatoes—An Odyssey of Inspirational Side Dishes!

Glorious Sweet Potatoes!

The sweet potato yields an odyssey of inspirational side dishes!

Did you know sweet potatoes are a member of the morning glory family? And, did you know the brown-skinned, orange-fleshed sweet potato that Americans love to eat candied at Thanksgiving is actually a potato-like tuber which is native to the Caribbean and Central America? The variety is often, incorrectly, called yams, in this country. A true yam is an elongated brown-skinned, white fleshy root native to Africa. Please, let me explain…

Africans who came to the New World as slaves called their yams nyami. When they found sweet potatoes to cook and eat, they called them nyami, too. Soon everyone just started referring to sweet potatoes as yams. And let it be known that true yams from Africa began to be cultivated in the Caribbean, and have become one of the most popular foods there. True yams are now available in American markets and it is important to distinguish between sweet potatoes and yams. Finally, the flesh of a sweet potato is sometimes more golden or yellow than deep orange. These colors are just minor variations on the basic orange sweet potato, and one variety is even purple. It is a beautiful lavender cousin of the basic orange tuber, is denser and drier, and needs a longer cooking time.

Beautiful lavender, or purple sweet potatoes!

More Sweet Potato Folklore…

When Columbus sailed the Caribbean waters, he discovered native American sweet potato plants. Indigenious peoples in Central and South America, as well as in Louisiana also grew sweet potatoes. Portuguese and Spanish explorers took the plants to Asia and back to Europe. The climate in Europe was too cool to grow them, but sweet potatoes did well in the early Virginia colonies. As a result, sweet potatoes have been a popular vegetable throughout the United States ever since.

How to Handle Sweet Potatoes and Nutritional Value…

Sweet potatoes are at their best from September through February and it is best NOT to refrigerate, since the cold will make them tough. Keep sweet potatoes in a dark, dry place and they will store well—almost 3 weeks. Sweet potatoes are excellent boiled or baked, and they can be mashed and added to flour to make cakes, pies, and muffins. When slicing to make stir-fries, or home fries, be sure to use a stainless steel knife to avoid any discoloration.

Sweet potatoes are a powerhouse of nutrition. One medium-size sweet potato provides twice the daily requirement of Vitamin A, and about a third of the daily requirement of Vitamin C, yet it is only 114 calories.

At this time of year, let sweet potatoes be a staple in your kitchen, because these gems can be made into some of the most delicious and economical dishes.




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Warm Sweet Potato Salad with Spicy Apple Cider Dressing

Makes 4-6 servings

This is a super easy recipe and makes use of the season’s first sweet potatoes and apple cider— and the last of the bell peppers (green, red, or yellow) and hot peppers from the garden. It is a frugal dish that is easy on the pocketbook. The salad travels well so tote it to a potluck, beach picnic, or add it to your Thanksgiving holiday meal in place of candied sweet potatoes.


4 large sweet potatoes

½-cup each: chopped onion and bell pepper

¼-cup freshly chopped parsley

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


To Make Spicy Apple Cider Dressing:

2/3-cup fresh apple cider, room temperature

1/3-cup sunflower oil or any mild-flavored vegetable oil

2 tablespoons tomato ketchup

½-teaspoon sea salt

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons finely minced jalapeno pepper or chile pepper (or more to taste)


  1. Bake the sweet potatoes in a 350 degree F oven for about 40 minutes, or just until fork tender. Let the sweet potatoes cool, peel, and chop into bite-sized pieces; place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the onion, bell pepper, parsley, salt and black pepper and mix gently; drape a kitchen towel over the bowl to keep the salad warm while you make the dressing.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients; spoon the dressing over the sweet potatoes, and toss to blend well. Serve warm, but know it is also good room temperature.

COOKING NOTE: If using purple sweet potatoes, be aware that this variety is denser and drier than the other varieties. The key is to bake purple sweet potatoes longer: 350 degrees for 90-120 minutes, at which time they become pleasantly moist and tender. Use as you would any sweet potato.



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Sweet Potato-Fig Casserole

Makes 6 servings

Fresh Brown Turkey Figs—from my very own tree!

Creative fall cooks adore and delight in the vibrant color and buttery flavor of sweet potatoes. Their flavor is enhanced here by fresh figs, cinnamon, and nutmeg—and use as many figs as you like—this recipe has lots of room for creativity, and also note, that one can use dried figs if fresh are not available. The addition of the season’s first harvest of walnuts adds a wonderful crunch, but feel free to use almonds or pecans instead—or no nuts at all.

I love to serve this dish in wedges as dessert, but I have been told that it is a pleasant surprise as a contrast to Thanksgiving’s vegetable purees, or as an accompaniment to hearty fall stews.


6 baked or boiled sweet potatoes, peeled

2/3-cup apple cider or orange juice

3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/2-teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½-teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

½-cup coarsely chopped walnuts, plus a few more for garnishing

1-2 cups coarsely chopped fresh figs


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and grease an oblong casserole dish with butter, oil or non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Put the sweet potatoes in a large bowl and add the apple cider, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon; coarsely mash with a potato masher or large fork—the mixture does not have to be perfectly smooth.
  3. Gently stir in the walnuts and the chopped figs; Turn the mixture into the oiled casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through; let the casserole cool slightly before cutting into wedges and garnishing with a few extra walnuts. Serve.





Full and Bosomy to Narrow and Sleek—Eggplants!

Full and Bosomy to Narrow and Sleek—Eggplants!

It is August and time for eggplants…

Eggplants can be as petite as a plum or as large as a cantelope; chubby or oblong; glossy purple to striped violet, to antique ivory in color.  No matter which variety, eggplants add bulk and fiber to one’s diet, and the subtle flavor and melting consistency provides a bare minimum of calories, which is a real plus for health conscious folks.  Most people are familiar with the full and bosomy purple eggplant, but today, I will take things a step further…

New varieties versus our “old” eggplant…

Broadly speaking, these newer varieties offer more nuances of taste, color and texture, as well as differences in sizes and can be used for a different range of cooking techniques:

White Eggplants

White eggplants are egg-shaped, whatever size, are firmer and less moist, and they hold their shape better than the purple ones.  The flesh can be heavily seeded, but it is creamier and less bitter.  The skins of white eggplants are considerably thicker and tougher, so I would not want to include white eggplant in recipes in which the skin is left on, or when you want a dish to have a paler color.  However, this variety will not become mushy even when steamed, baked or fried, and is a great choice when a recipe calls for stuffing and rolling up slices.

Italian or Baby Eggplants

These small  eggplants are a deep shade of purple in color (some can be striped), and can be round or chubby in shape, and are comparable to “conventional” varieties, but have a more delicate skin and finer flesh.  Italian eggplants are delicious grilled or fried and remain velvety firm even after peeling.  The more dwarf varieties make wonderful stuffed individual appetizers, or leave the skin on, slice thinly, and top a pizza—a favorite of mine!

Japanese Eggplants

Purple and striated smaller eggplants that are narrow and almost straight, Japanese varieties will give you more skin per eggplant, yet the flesh cooks up tender, smooth and creamy.  These eggplants grill well, can be stuffed (they look like little dragons and make a lovely presentation this way), halve and fry, or cut into chunks and steam (see the recipe below).  Japanese eggplants have become very popluar in the last few years and many farmers are now growing this variety.  Japanese eggplants are my personal favorite.

Chinese Eggplants

A pale violet or amethyst in color, Chinese eggplants are slim and sleek looking and light in weight.  They are sweeter and more tender than the Japanese variety and contain feweer seeds.  These are also delicious grilled or quickly pan-fried.

Pea Eggplants

Usually found in Asian groceries and used in curries, pickled, or eaten fresh in chili sauce as in South America, these little eggplants are hard, round, and either green or white, or a combination of green and white in color, and grow in clusters.  This variety is not well known here in the United States, but if you live in a warmer climate like California or Florida, you could probably grown some in your back yard.


CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: BLOG 2017-Steamed Eggplant with Sesame Oil and Thai Basil


Steamed Eggplant with Sesame Oil and Thai Basil

Signature Offering by Annette O. Corona – All Rights Reserved

Steamed Eggplant with Sesame Oil and Thai Basil

Makes about 4 servings

This is a speedy dish because eggplants are cut into chunks and steamed!  I used all the eggplants in the photo above—Italian eggplants, Japanese Eggplants and a lone Chinese eggplant—I peeled the striated and the Italian variety because I thought the skin a bit tough; the rest I simply chopped into chunks.

Toasted sesame oil is now available in most grocery stores and is a part of my kitchen staples.  A little goes a long way, so start out sparingly, perhaps a teaspoon at a time—or just a drizzle.  One can always increase the amount as you go and to your preference.  I did not salt any of the eggplant prior to steaming, but you may do so if you choose.  Many people skip this step and others swear by it.  Traditionally, eggplant is salted to remove any bitterness.  Although it does draw out moisture which is helpful in some dishes, I find is just adds to prep time—the choice is yours.

I like Thai basil, but you can use any freshly chopped herb—cilantro, parsley or mint also work well. Garnishes are optional, and in the photo, I chose pickled turnips in beet juice to accompany, giving the presentation a nice pop of color.  I found tamari and more sesame oil drizzled over my portion to be delicious.


6 small eggplants, about 4 ounces each
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil or more to taste
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼-cup fresh Thai basil leaves
1 tablespoon freshly minced scallion greens
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Tamari, soy sauce, or fish sauce to serve (optional)


  1. If using small white eggplant or Italian eggplants, peel, and cut into 2-inch chunks; Japanese and Chinese eggplants need not be peeled, just chop into chunks.
  2. Put the eggplant into a steam pot or bamboo steamer, drizzle with a teaspoon of sesame oil and sprinkle with half of the salt. Gently tear half of the basil leaves and toss into the pot; cover and steam 7-9 minutes, or until the eggplant is just fork tender.
  3. Immediately remove the eggplant from the heat and transfer to a serving plate.
  4. Gently tear and scatter the remaining basil leaves and scallion greens over the eggplant; drizzle with the remaining sesame oil, sprinkle with the remaining salt, and grinds of black pepper to taste. Serve the dish hot or room temperature.

NOTE:  I drizzled seasoned rice vinegar over leftover eggplant, and it was delicious.  Try it!


I hope your summer is going well and remember if you have any questions at all, please leave a comment or contact me.  Stay tuned for “recipes to bridge the seasons”—signature recipes that pay homage to the bounty of prime farm vegetables and the sun-drenched harvests of September.  Blessings on your plate!






Sour Cherries & Summertime!

Sour Cherries & Summertime!  

 Cherries 101…

Sweet cherries are commonly eaten out of hand as fresh cherries, while sour or tart cherries are used primarily for cooking and baking. Sweet cherries simply do not hold up when cooking and loose much of their flavor. Sour cherries on the other hand, stay plump and juicy while cooking or baking. Some eat sour cherries out of hand (as do I), but they are also very good pitted, with a sprinkle of crusty brown sugar and a dollop of honey-sweetened sour cream or whipped cream on top.

The garnet jewels of summertime…

Fresh Sour Cherries courtesy of Scholl Orchards in eastern Pennsylvania

Fresh Sour Cherries courtesy of Scholl Orchards in eastern Pennsylvania

Sour cherries arrive about the end of June or the first few weeks of July—right after sweet cherries have come into season. Sour cherries should be plump, soft and juicy.  Keep them in the refrigerator, uncovered, and use them as soon as possible—they will keep about 3 days or so. Note that sour cherries do freeze well: just stem, pit (one pound cherries will yield 2 cups, pitted), then simply freeze in small containers.  Or place in freezer containers, sprinkle lightly with sugar as you go; let stand a few minutes giving time for the sugar to dissolve and produce a syrup; stir, then cover, and freeze.

The following is a favorite recipe of mine: plump juicy duck breast with a tangy sour cherry sauce—which is also wonderful served over pork chops, chicken wings or even grilled summer vegetables.

Signature Offering by Annette O. Corona – All Rights Reserved

To see preparation photos, just click the link below.  The recipe can also be printed out and filed.


Pan-Grilled Duck Breast with Sour Cherry Sauce

Meaty duck breast is a real treat and while many like it medium rare, I prefer my duck cooked to medium-doneness.  The recipe here calls for (2) 8-ounce duck breasts which will serve 2-3 people.  Absolutely no oil is needed; the skin will render enough fat to do the job. The sauce is a simple one made with seasonal sour cherries and be sure any extra is served warm on the side. Note that gooseberries, also in season in July, can be substituted for the sour cherries.  Delicious!

(2) 8-ounce duck breasts with skin
1 teaspoon each:  sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 shallots, diced
½-cup chicken or duck stock
½-cup pitted sour cherries with juices
1½-tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon corn starch
Fresh parsley to garnish

  1. Score the skin of the duck breasts in a diagonal, or criss-cross pattern and sprinkle both sides with salt and black pepper

2. Put the duck breasts, skin-side down in a cold cast iron or heavy frying pan. Cook over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes (depending on the degree of doneness you prefer), then flip and cook the meat side for another 3 minutes. Remove the duck breasts from the pan and let rest on a cutting board while you make the sauce

3. Using the same skillet, turn the heat up to medium and remove all but a teaspoon of duck fat (saving any extra duck fat), and add the shallots; sauté for 2 minutes, or just until the shallots are nicely browned; add the sour cherries and chicken stock, and stir in the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar; cook another 2 minutes, and then turn up the heat to medium-high.

4. Make a slurry by mixing a few tablespoons of cold water with the corn starch, and pour it into the sour cherry mixture to thicken it, stirring constantly. This will take about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat.

5. Slice the duck breast and put on a warm serving platter with sour cherry sauce drizzled over top. Garnish with some fresh parsley and serve immediately.

COOKING NOTE:  It will be easier to slice the cooked duck breast skin-side-down!

You will need for 2-3 servings:

Duck breasts with skin
Chicken or duck stock
Dark brown sugar
Balsamic vinegar
Corn starch
Fresh parsley to garnish

Garden, Sugar Snap or Snow Peas?

Which Pea to Pick?

Peas are one of the earliest crops to mature in the springtime, and they can be used in all kinds of dishes.  In fact, you can eat some of them right off the vine!  Usually, the biggest decision is just what type of pea to use: garden peas, sugar snap peas or snow peas? Let’s take a look at each…


Fresh garden peas on the vine

When most people think of peas, they think of those pictures here—garden peas.  Note that they are also called English peas, shelling peas, standard peas or common peas—sheesh!  But there are two things that definitely separate them from the other two types.  First of all, garden peas do not have an edible pod, and that is why we shell them. And secondly, we wait until the seeds, or the actual peas, are fully plumped up and mature before we eat them.  Garden peas add color, texture and valuable fiber to meals.  Just pop them out of the pods and cook in a little salted boiling water until tender—about 3-4 minutes.  But one must remember that garden peas vary enormously in size and the time they take to cook—so, large, older peas may take 10-20 minutes to cook!  In any case, these small green balls make a delicious accompaniment to any spring meal, not to mention, a lovely, delicate soup (my recipe follows) which really lets the flavor of the peas sing out.

Fresh sugar snap peas

At first glance, sugar snap peas look like garden peas. However, the pods of sugar snap peas are more curved than garden peas and a bit glossier in color.  Like garden peas, the seeds are allowed to plump a bit, but the pods are crisp and edible.  Sugar snap peas are actually a cross between the garden pea and the snow pea.  Sugar snaps as they are often called, add lots of fiber to the diet and are wonderful steamed, added to stir-fries or roasted with just a light coating of olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper.

Snow peas on the vine

The easiest way to recognize snow peas? Their pods are almost flat.  When hanging from the vine, ripe snow peas are nearly translucent and you can see the peas inside.  The peas themselves are not allowed to mature and these peas are grown solely for their whole pods. Sweet and delicate, snow peas take maybe a minute to steam—just until tender-crisp.  Added at the very end of cooking, snow peas add a beautiful splash of color and fiber to any dish.

It is almost mid-June here in Pennsylvania where I live, and within another week or so, garden peas will hit the farmer’s markets.  I am including my recipe for fresh pea soup, featuring garden, or English peas.  Along with a handful of fresh spinach and fresh herbs like mint, basil or tarragon, this soup is sure to become part of your repertoire —it is creamless and vegan.  However, a splash of heavy cream can be stirred into each bowl upon serving, and feel free to substitute chicken stock for the vegetable stock in the cooking process—what I want is for you to be inspired.  Follow all or just some of my recipe—and remember, you are only as limited as your imagination! 

The days are getting hotter now, and a nice chilled soup makes a wonderful first course or light lunch, especially when served with fresh fruit on the side.

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD:  Chilled English Pea Soup

Chilled English Pea Soup
Makes 4-6 servings

This is a very light and delicate soup which lets the flavor of the fresh peas sing out.  And although it is wonderful cold, this soup is also very good hot.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped or 6 chopped spring onions, including some of the greens
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
4 cups shucked English peas
6 leaves each:  fresh mint and basil
1 cup fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
2 slices bread French or Italian bread, crusts removed and torn into small pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra basil and mint for serving

In a deep saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic; gently saute just until the vegetables start to sweat, about 3 minutes; add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 

Stir in the peas, basil and mint leaves, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer  about 4 minutes, or just until the peas are tender.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the spinach and pieces of bread.  Carefully ladle the soup into a blender or food processor and pulse just until smooth, or if you like, leave it a bit chunky; check the seasonings, and add salt and black pepper to taste. 

Pour the soup into a large bowl and refrigerate at least 4 hours.  Serve portions chilled garnished with sprigs of fresh mint or basil—or both!

It’s Asparagus Time!

It’s Asparagus time!

Freshly cooked asparagus spears

Willowy asparagus spears become hard to resist on a daily basis, from the end of April, right through the month of June. Thin spears of green asparagus, called sprue, have been grown as a delicacy for over 2000 years!

Wash asparagus spears carefully, especially around the tips, which can contain dirt and grit. Then bend each stem until it snaps—it will break at the part where it becomes woody and tough.  Personally, I like thicker spears—using a peeler, I shave down the stem from the middle to the broken end and simply steam in a shallow pan with barely enough water to cover along with a sprinkling of salt.  Asparagus takes about 3 minutes to steam—just until crisp-tender.

I included one recipe this time around—and chances are you have every ingredient to prepare it—use any type of cracker you wish and any type of mushroom will do.  This recipe is great if you are pressed for time.  It can be made in advance and popped into the oven when needed. Enjoy this lovely casserole: Scalloped Asparagus

Click to Download: BLOG 2017-Spring-Scalloped Asparagus

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Scalloped Asparagus
Makes about 4-6 servings

Pulled from my “retro” files, this casserole is a synch to make and I am willing to bet you already have all the ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator to make it.  Feel free to use any type of crackers you have on hand, and while I usually use white button mushrooms, feel free to get creative and use another like sliced cremini or even oyster mushrooms torn into small pieces.  Pimento-stuffed olives are delicious added to it if you happen to have a jar around (remember to reduce the amount of salt, though).

*Unsweetened almond or coconut milk can be substituted for the cow’s milk, and use vegan butter or margarine, and then you will have a vegan dish.

1½-pounds fresh asparagus spears, washed and trimmed
6 ounces fresh button mushrooms, sliced
2½-tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1½-cups milk
½-teaspoon sea salt
24 wheat crackers, crumbled

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.; oil an 11-inch x 11-inch casserole dish.
  2. Break or cut the asparagus spears into 1-inch pieces and layer with the mushrooms in the casserole dish. Set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and stir in the flour to make a roux; cook, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes, then add the milk and salt and simmer about 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened.
  4. Pour the sauce over top of the vegetables, top with the crumbled crackers and dot with the remaining butter; bake about 30 minutes until the crumbs are nicely browned; let the casserole rest about 5 minutes before serving. Any leftovers can be reheated gently.  Enjoy!

Spring Vegetables and Side Dishes

Spring Vegetables and Side Dishes

The snow has turned to mud, and then the mud turns to humus. The air is heavy all around, expectant—pregnant with spring. We feel the sun’s warmth on our skin, we breathe in the fresh, clean air, and before we know it, the gray of winter recedes and bright shades of emerald green burst forth. New grass trembles under the wind’s flow. The days grow longer. Springtime invites us to connect with the land on which we live and eating locally is healthy for not only us but the environment too.

We souls of Northern latitudes celebrate all spring’s fair flavors. If you visit any farmer’s market in the early springtime, you will be struck by the abundance of fresh turnips, chard, spinach, green onions and leeks, dandelion, foraged wild ramps, bulbs of fennel, radishes, mushrooms, and very soon asparagus, new potatoes, and rhubarb.

Today, I want to concentrate on Hakurei turnips and Ruby chard.

Beautiful Hakurei turnips---sold by the bunch.

Beautiful Hakurei turnips—sold by the bunch.

Hakurei Turnips

Hakurei turnips are a small, delicately flavored Japanese variety of turnip. Their flavor is sweet and fruity and the texture is crisp and tender. While they are good raw sprinkled with sea salt, they are also delicious served slightly cooked, arranged in a serving dish, and sprinkled with a simple vinaigrette and freshly snipped chives.  And don’t forget about those Hakurei turnip greens!  I have also included my recipe—“Turnips Greens in Coconut-Peanut Sauce”.

Bunches of ruby chard at my local farmer's market

Bunches of ruby chard at my local farmer’s market

Ruby Chard

If you like spinach and beets, you’ll adore ruby chard! It is a vegetable with fleshy stalks (resembling flattened celery stalks) and vivid scarlet leaves resembling spinach, but considerably wider and usually quite flat. The taste is rather mild. The two parts are generally cooked separately, but I have chosen to cook them together here and I serve with a sauce—a kind of hollandaise with a hint of orange.

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: BLOG RECIPE-2017-Warm Hakurei Turnips with Vinaigrette

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Warm Hakurei Turnips with Vinaigrette
Makes 6 servings

Hakurei turnips are often used raw in salads, yet they are delicious cooked, too. Cooking accentuates their unique flavor—perfect with your Easter ham, veal, chicken or vegetarian dishes.

12 small Hakurei turnips (about 3 pounds), trimmed and halved
2 hard-cooked eggs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½-teaspoon each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil
2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives

  1. Put the turnips in a medium-size saucepan, cover with cold water, and add a pinch of sea salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook the turnips for about 5 minutes until just tender.
  2. Drain the turnips in a colander, and then lay on a kitchen towel and gently press to remove any liquid; Arrange the turnips in an oblong serving dish and keep warm.
  3. In a small bowl, mash the hard-cooked egg yolks and mustard to form a paste; add the salt, black pepper, and vinegar, stirring until smooth; slowly whisk in the olive oil to make a creamy vinaigrette; pour the vinaigrette over top while the turnips are still warm; chop the egg whites and sprinkle over the turnips along with the chives and serve.

***This dish is also delicious served room temperature, so it is perfect for a buffet table.

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: BLOG RECIPE 2017 Hakurei Turnip Greens with Coconut-Peanut Sauce

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Hakurei Turnip Greens in Coconut-Peanut Sauce
Makes 4 servings

A perfect combination— Hakurei turnips greens plus the creamy sweetness of the coconut milk, the heat of the chile pepper, and the meaty flavor of the peanuts gives these greens unusual depth.  I am sure this will become a favorite side dish on your table! 

NOTE: In this recipe, strip the turnip greens off the stems and rinse with cold water before using; discard the stems.

2 pounds Hakurei turnip greens, stripped off the stems and rinsed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
½ hot chile pepper (or more), such as jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
½-cup roasted peanuts, finely crushed

  1. Cut the turnip greens into fine slivers.
  2. In a large uncovered casserole pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion and chile pepper; sauté about 3 minutes, just until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high, and stir in the turnip greens, adding them gradually until they are reduced enough to fit into the pan
  4. Add the coconut milk and peanuts, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, partially covered, until the greens are soft and velvety, and the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: BLOG RECIPE 2017-Ruby Chard with Orange Sauce

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Ruby Chard with Orange Sauce
Makes about 6 servings

I introduced ruby chard in this way to many people, especially when I catered events.  It was always a big hit. This is a very versatile recipe—in the spring feel free to substitute asparagus spears, baby leeks, or thick strips of cooked carrots for variation. Tuck the sauce recipe away, because it can be used year-round and is delicious on steamed broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, or even Brussels sprouts.

Note that this sauce is a kind of hollandaise and needs gentle treatment, but is not at all difficult to make.  If it gets too thick, remove the pan from the heat and plunge the base into cold water to prevent the sauce from curdling. The sauce will keep for about 1 hour over hot water, but never let the sauce get too hot.

¾-cup unsalted butter, diced
3 extra-large egg yolks
1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
½-teaspoon sea salt
Cayenne pepper to taste
2 pounds ruby chard; leaves torn from stems and chopped; stems chopped into 1-inch pieces

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat; skim off any foam and set aside.
  2. In a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water (or in the top of a double boiler), whisk together the egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon orange juice; whisking constantly over low heat, when the mixture begins to thicken and the whisk leaves tracks on the bottom of the pan, remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Whisk in the melted butter a few drops at a time until the sauce starts to thicken, then pour it in a little faster, leaving behind any (milky) solids at the bottom of that pan.
  4. Whisk in the orange rind (reserving about a tablespoon for garnishing) and about a tablespoon at a time of the remaining orange juice until gone; whisk in the salt and season with cayenne to taste. Keep the sauce warm over a pan of hot water, stirring occasionally.
  5. To prepare the chard; fill a saucepan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the chard stems and boil about 3 minutes; reduce the heat to medium, add the chard leaves, and simmer another 5 minutes or until just tender.
  6. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chard from the saucepan, and lay on a paper towel to drain and then pat dry with another paper towel. Arrange the chard on a serving platter and spoon over a little sauce. Scatter the chard with orange zest and serve at once.
Yellow Swiss Chard

Yellow Swiss Chard

NOTE: Like beets, ruby chard “bleeds” red a bit—something to keep in mind when preparing and serving. Feel free to use yellow or silver varieties of chard in place of the ruby chard in this recipe.


Twist & Snout – For the Love of Pork! Recipe: Spareribs with Orange Stuffing

TWIST & SNOUT – For the Love of Pork!  RECIPE: Spareribs with Orange Stuffing

From nose to belly to butt, if you ask people what food truly rocks their world, the answer is always pork.  Ahhhh, pork—the crack-cocaine of all meats! Especially good is pork that comes from pasture-raised piggies—and if you get acquainted with your local farmers, so much the better.  The best-eating pigs are those raised and left to thrive on a steady diet of goodness.  Pigs should spend 10 hours a day being pigs—outside exploring, rooting and generally creating chaos and naughtiness wherever they wander.  Did you know that the pig is equal in intelligence to a dog?  And, let me ask you this, would you keep your dog in a crate all day and night with nothing to chew on?  It is extremely important to me that pigs wander freely in big pastured pens that are rotated once they have eaten all they can (and they will) in their wake.  I also want to make it perfectly clear that commercially-raised supermarket pork comes from pigs that have NEVER lived or even stepped out of a cage, live in a very sterile factory farm, NEVER set a hoof on the soft green earth, root the ground, or so much as smell clean fresh air.  To prevent disease outbreaks in conventional pig operations, the workers wear masks and shoe covers to prevent the pigs from getting sick—making the pigs so fragile that 10 million pounds of antibiotics are feed to them yearly in this country— to stimulate growth and to prevent a disease outbreak. Their feed really is cheap and slop—I have always said, you will only get “out of a pig”, what you “put into” a pig!

You see, there is nothing more political than food…”Politics of the Plate”…

I ask that people study, read, and be aware of the source of their food.  Be brave ask your local butchers, supermarket managers, and local farmers what their pork is all about.  Do not be afraid!  You have a right to know where food comes from and how an animal is raised and butchered!  And if local, well-raised pork is not available to you, USDA Organic is at least far better and safer than conventional pork.  READ LABELS!  And remember, just because meat is labeled “organic” does not mean the pig has roamed free or is local.

Let me also suggest that one can split a whole butchered pig (or even a half pig) with a small group of friends or family—go in on it together.  It will cost less for each of you.  Teach your children all about the purchase—they need to know.  Take a tour of the butchering facility.  Ask how the pigs are put down—do not be afraid.  Get involved.

Now…Let’s Talk RIBS!

We had a pig raised for us this past summer.  Of all the cuts, my husband loves ribs the most. Since it is still wintertime, I wanted to come up with an easy recipe for ribs—something a little different, but “tasty and warm”, you know?  I only had one 2½-pound slab of spareribs left in the freezer, so I decided to simply cut the rack in half and stuff it.  I want to note that this recipe should really be done with two slabs, but if you only have one, simply cut it in half and it will make about 3 generous servings—four if you aren’t as big an eater as I am!  The next question is what kind of ribs, baby back or spareribs?

Baby Back Ribs vs. Spareribs

First, let’s begin at the beginning…

The pork loin with the fatback attached can weigh up to 25 pounds per pig and is filled with all the cuts people love; chops, roasts, and baby back ribs.  The loin extends from the sixth rib to the fourteenth (pigs have 14 ribs per side) and is the tenderest muscle. The belly which falls below the loin is roughly about 15 pounds of succulence and provides lard, bacon, and spareribs.  

Baby Back Ribs…                 

Back ribs are cut from where the rib meets the spine (after the loin is removed). The upper ribs from the top of the pig are called baby back ribs because they are shorter, very tender and lean (hence the heftier price tag). 

St. Louis-style or Country-style Pork Spareribs - the rack is cut in half and ready to be stuffed

St. Louis-style or Country-style Pork Spareribs – the rack is cut in half and ready to be stuffed


Spareribs come from the belly area of the pig and are usually trimmed down to the popular “St. Louis-style” or in my area of the USA, “Country-style” spareribs.  The breastbone and chewy cartilage are cut away, so the slab is more rectangular in shape, and the ribs are flatter with more fat (but in a good way!) making them very flavorful and the best choice for my recipe.

Low and slow cooking is best for any ribs. 

The Stuffing…

Orange Bread Stuffing

Orange Bread Stuffing

Simple and seasonal is my motto!  I am giving you my recipe for a simple orange bread stuffing. Oranges are at their best during the winter months.  Pictured here are satsuma mandarins—which is what I used.  Note that by now, the season is over (and will begin again in November in California), so, I would suggest Temple oranges—in season in February and/or Valencia oranges in March, or even tangerines which are available throughout the winter and all the way into April (you may need to use 4-5 small tangerines though in this recipe if that is your choice).

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD:  BLOG RECIPE – Spareribs with Orange Stuffing

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Spareribs with Orange Stuffing
Makes 6 servings

First of all, you will need to start this recipe 24 hours in advance.  Also, having (2) 2-pound racks of spareribs will yield about 6 servings, however, if you have only one rack of spareribs, simply cut the rack in half, and half the recipe—this will yield approximately 3 servings.

Ingredients for "Orange Bread Stuffing"

Ingredients for “Orange Bread Stuffing”

This is a wonderfully aromatic yet straightforward recipe for stuffed spareribs.  It is important to use balsamic vinegar to marinate the pork spareribs and leave them to sit overnight.  The bread stuffing is a basic recipe with the addition of potato and plenty of orange zest. The juices from the racks of spareribs permeate the stuffing when roasting—and the smell is heavenly!  In the chilliest depths of winter, I find great primeval satisfaction from gnawing on a meaty bone, especially when paired with a fabulous starchy accompaniment—comfort food at its finest!

(2) 2-pound racks spareribs
1/3-cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon each: sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the stuffing:

6 cups stale French bread cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 red-skinned potato, diced
¼-cup freshly chopped parsley
Freshly grated zest from 2 oranges, plus the juice
¼ cup warm chicken broth (generous)
2 extra-large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon each: sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Extra orange slices and fresh sprigs of parsley

  1. Put the spareribs in an oblong baking dish and add the balsamic vinegar, making sure both sides of each rack are wet, adding a little more vinegar if need be. Cover the pan and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Put all the stuffing ingredients in a large bowl and toss lightly.
  4. Salt and pepper the racks of spare ribs on both sides. Do not pour off the balsamic vinegar.  Put one rack back into the pan, fat side down, and pat the stuffing firmly over the ribs; place the second rack of spareribs over the stuffing, fat side up, press firmly, and tie the two pieces together with some kitchen string. Add about a half cup of water to the bottom of the pan, cover with aluminum foil, and bake 1½-1 3/4-hours.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and let the meat rest for 10 minutes.  Remove the string, and cut between each 2 ribs to serve. Garnish with extra orange slices and sprigs of parsley.  Enjoy!
  6. NOTE:  If by chance one does not indulge in pork, this recipe can be done with chicken—I would suggest  12 whole, meaty chicken drumsticks laid side-by-side, with the stuffing tucked between the two layers of legs: serving size-2 drumsticks with stuffing.   Cooking temperature would be the same; cooking time would be about 1 hour. This would yield 6 servings.  Any leftovers can be frozen.  If reheating, do so gently.

Good, Healthy Food Starts with Good, Healthy Ethics – Wintertime Salads


Healthy food products are propagated by the conscientious farmer in collaboration with the land, fauna, and flora.  The farmer nurtures the land, keeps animals in a proper and safe way, and takes great care when cultivating plants and crops.  The reward is healthy and tasty food.  It seems so many have forgotten about nature’s values and the importance of health, and have exchanged it all for convenience and cheaper prices.  And at what a cost!  We have in this country animal and plant foods which, in worst cases, have never even come close to nature or had anything to do with it. 

Easton Farmer's Market in Easton, Pennsylvania

Easton Farmer’s Market in Easton, Pennsylvania

What Can I do?

First of all, I would like to encourage all of you to think about what you buy.  Buying locally, seasonally, and knowing your producers and farmers is a delightful and rewarding way to shop.  At one time, if you lived in the city, this was not an easy thing to do.  But today, small farmer’s markets are popping up all over, including cities, and personally, I have watched this number grow significantly in the last 5 years alone, and I am thrilled!  Prioritize!  By seeking out and demanding local foods, sustainable farming, organic foods and sound animal welfare, you prioritize!  Listen…if we ALL make a difference just once in a while, we have already come a long way!  Try it. If we can recreate the right balance between plants and land and animals, we can make a huge difference, which in the end is what puts us in sync with the seasons and puts food on our tables.

Local Produce in Season

Buying locally grown and cultivated food is a welcome alternative to the scope of foods offered in supermarkets.  When you visit a local farmer’s market, you can engage in conversation with the producers and even get tips on how to cook from the very person who grew it!  Another advantage is that you get to know how that farmer cultivates his or her land.  Often times you can buy the meat of old time heritage breeds, and also heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables from your region.  How great is that?  And when produce is in season and there is an overabundance, you will pay less money.   At the same time, you reduce the carbon footprint by shortening the distance between farm to fork—for food that is fresh and chock full of nutrients, and therefore putting less of a burden on the environment—and all the while supporting local farmers.  It is such a win-win situation all the way around!

Animal Welfare

Did you know that over 95% of the world’s livestock are bred in intensive-type systems, with no legal requirement that they EVER see the light of day or have access to pasture?  When you buy a piece of meat from your supermarket, it is nearly impossible to tell where that animal came from or how it has been treated.  By making a conscientious choice, the next time you purchase meat or poultry you can help to improve the animals’ living conditions and ensure they have pastureland.  Small-scale farmers are often where you will see the best animal welfare.  Most times these farmers grow crops and have gardens too and so are not solely reliant on their livestock.  Even if you live in the city, you can still make agreements with many small farms.  For instance, you and a few others could join forces and purchase a side of beef or a whole or half hog.  In this way, you will pay less for your meat, and you also know it was raised in a conscientious manner and it has been freshly slaughtered in a humane way. 

Now, governments, fishermen, and groups are working together to prevent overfishing, and to bring red snapper populations back to sustainable levels---the red snapper is on the road to recovery!

Now, governments, fishermen, and groups are working together to prevent overfishing, and to bring red snapper populations back to sustainable levels—the red snapper is on the road to recovery!

Sustainable Fishing

With the figure steadily rising, more than 75% of the world’s oceans are overfished.  Large industrial companies use vessels that employ bottom trawling, whereby heavy nets are dragged across the seabed, which also catches many of the “unwanted” varieties of fish, which get caught in the nets and are needlessly discarded.  Such a waste of life—not to mention the same method destroys coral and stone reefs on the seabed.  These tactics outcompete the small fishermen who fish responsibly.  What you can do is buy fish that is in season and from your region—preferably from a fish monger you have come to know.  Choose fish that has been caught using equipment that is easy on Mother Nature like lines, hooks, traps, pots and jigs.  If you have to shop in a supermarket, choose fish bearing the MSC (Marine Steward Council) label.  MSC is a private labeling system that promotes and strives for sustainable, environmentally friendly fishing.  Please note that this organization also helps fishermen in poorer countries with certification.


What’s in season and what to look for…

Red Beets
Jerusalem Artichokes

Sweet Potatoes
Citrus fruits


Does a salad mean lettuce?  Goodness no, not in the wintertime!  In the winter, salads take on a different look.  There are pickled red beets and salads made with cabbage, carrots or apples—all of which have been preserved in root cellars by many.  Your local farmers can provide a nice variety of root veggies too, and don’t forget about SPROUTS—radish, bean and alfalfa sprouts make wonderful and nutritious wintertime salads…but no lettuce.

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Beautiful Satsuma Mandarin Oranges!

Beautiful Satsuma Mandarin Oranges!

Beet Salad with Orange Yogurt Dressing
Makes 4 servings

This is a tart-sweet salad with an elegant orange flavor that reaches across your whole palate.  It could not be any easier to make and it looks pretty scooped onto individual beds of tender-crisp steamed beet greens, kale or cabbage.  It is the ideal accompaniment to juicy roast duck or a nice smoked fish, and if you serve some boiled potatoes slathered with spicy mustard as a side dish, you have a beautiful winter meal.

To make the orange yogurt dressing:  (Makes about 1½-cups)

1 cup strained plain yogurt
2 heaping tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
½-teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of chili flakes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4-teaspoon each:  sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the yogurt into a bowl and whisk in the remaining ingredients.  Leave the yogurt to stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to infuse.  Taste, and add more salt and black pepper if necessary.  Drizzle on top of the beet salad, or drizzle over pan-fried cabbage or bitter leaves like radicchio or frisee.

To prepare the beet salad:

4 medium-size red beets with tap root attached, greens removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon orange blossom honey
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the beets into a medium-size saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium-low and cook the beets until fork-tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey, vinegar, salt and black pepper.

When tender, remove the beets with a slotted spoon and when cool enough to handle, but still warm, cut the stem and tap root away and slice.  Place the slice beets into a bowl and toss with the olive oil dressing.  Transfer the beets to a shallow serving dish and pour the orange yogurt dressing over top.  Serve immediately. 

Refrigerate any remaining salad. 

NOTE:  This beet salad with the orange yogurt dressing is also quite tasty served cold. Serve as a brunch dish with sliced hard-cooked eggs or sliced chicken or turkey place on top.  Delicious!

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Baked Jerusalem Artichoke Salad with Hickory Nut Bacon Vinaigrette
Makes 4 servings

Jerusalem artichokes are a tuber related to the sunflower and thought to be named after it.  They have a distinctive flavor reminiscent of globe artichokes, but not as delicate.  Jerusalem artichokes look like small oddly-shaped roots with small knobs and can be peeled either before or after cooking, or not at all.  I do not peel them for this salad, although you certainly can, and I underscore their nutty flavor by using walnut oil when roasting.  One must remember to keep an eye on the chokes when roasting so they do not overcook and become mushy!

Hickory nuts are a love of mine, and I buy them shelled every year from the Pennsylvania Nut Growers Association.   Hickory nuts are the fruit of the hickory tree, which is in the walnut family.  The nuts themselves can be difficult to crack open, so I opt to buy them shelled—just so much easier.  Hickory trees bear their fruit in late fall, right about the time of the holiday season.  Of course, if you cannot locate hickory nuts, feel free to substitute walnuts or pecans—and feel free to substitute hickory nuts for walnuts and pecans in your holiday recipes! 

Bosc pears - a lovely addition to any wintertime salad

Bosc pears – a lovely addition to any wintertime salad

In this recipe, smoky bacon, along with orange peel flavors the vinaigrette, and Bosc pears go beautifully with the roasted Jerusalem artichokes.  One can also serve it by adding finely cut strips of an underused bitter green like radicchio—either way, it is sure to become a household favorite wintertime salad. 

Baked Jerusalem Artichokes:

2 pounds scrubbed Jerusalem artichokes
1 tablespoon walnut oil
½-teaspoon each:  sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Pat the scrubbed Jerusalem artichokes dry with a kitchen towel, cut in half, and put on a baking sheet; toss with walnut oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper.  Roast for about 20-30 minutes until tender-crisp and golden; cover the pan lightly with aluminum foil to keep the artichokes warm. 

To make the Hickory Nut Bacon Vinaigrette: (Makes about a ½-cup)

3 thick slices smoky bacon
1 tablespoon boiling water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons lightly flavored oil (like avocado oil or peanut oil)
2 tablespoons satsuma mandarin orange juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons finely chopped satsuma mandarin orange peel
1/2-cup toasted hickory nuts, chopped
1/2-teaspoon each:  sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To assemble the salad:
3 Bosc pears
1-2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley to garnish

Fry the bacon in a small skillet over medium-low heat until crisp.  Once ready, place the bacon on a cutting board, and pour off any melted bacon drippings (save for other recipes).   Put the 1 tablespoon boiling water into the skillet, swish it around, and then pour it into a large serving bowl; chop the bacon and put it in the bowl and stir in the vinegar, oil, orange juice, garlic, orange peel, hickory nuts, salt and black pepper. 

Halve and core the Bosc pears; cut into bite-size pieces and add along with the roasted Jerusalem artichokes, mixing well.   Taste and add more salt and black pepper if necessary, and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley.  Serve. 

Happy New Year!  Thank you for subscribing and please pass along my website and blog info to all your friends and family…I would so appreciate that…blessings on your plate everyone.


Nutty Nutrition—A Tangle of Tastes

Nutty Nutrition—A Tangle of Tastes

Nuts are humankind’s earliest and most nutritious natural foods. Whether they are employed as the major ingredient or as an embellishment or garnish, nuts are an indispensable element in today’s cosmopolitan recipes, as well as to every creative, yet practical home cook.

Beautiful hazelnuts. These were grown and picked by North Star Orchard right here in Pennsylvania!

Beautiful hazelnuts. These were grown and picked by North Star Orchard right here in Pennsylvania!

Nuts can give the contrasting texture, piquancy or flavor needed to impart an amazing quality to foods. Even in small quantities, they are marvelously flavorful and will give character to an entrée or side dish, and if toasted beforehand, the taste is even more pronounced or altered, and the texture crispier.

By using halved, chopped or crushed nuts, or ground to a paste, or whole, one or more types, along with the color and roughness, nuts promise to give a dish not only gustatory appeal but an intellectual one as well. One turns a mouthwatering mound of these savory sensations on the tongue and the mind twirls in gastronomic delight—nutty flavors linger almost indelibly! Each kind of nut impresses with its own distinct personality and when combined with another ingredient, flavors are exchanged so to speak, and one eats them together for the sake of what they mutually do for each other.

Millions of people in the world depend upon nuts to keep them alive…

Nuts are rich sources of protein, iron, calcium, B vitamins, zinc, potassium, and usable fats. They are especially good eaten after a meal, for nuts help to clean your teeth.

The subject of cost and fat arises today when discussing food. The cost of nuts in any one dish like the total sum of their calories is inconsequential. The number of nuts required for any one dish is usually small. If using nut milk mere 1/3-cup raw nuts will yield a quart of nut milk and contain less than 200 calories.

Keep in mind that nuts and seeds are excellent sources of the kind of unprocessed fat our bodies need. Nuts contain fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6) and high concentrations of amino acids that aid the body in burning fat! These nutrients encourage glandular production which in turn catapults the immune system, utilizing vitamins and regulating fat in the blood stream. These fatty acids, along with vitamin D, assist the body in utilizing calcium.

Nuts need freshness to recommend them in cooking. When buying nuts, avoid any that are split, stained or cracked.  Ask your grocer how long he or she has had them and remember that nuts sitting at room temperature for too long may become rancid or stale.

Most nuts sold in their shell are not roasted. Shelled nuts can be roasted or sold raw. Sometimes nuts are sold blanched, salted or spiced. I try to avoid any salted nuts because most are roasted in hydrogenated fats and over salted.

Nut Butter…

Everyone is familiar with peanut butter, right? But know that any nuts or seeds can be ground into a nut butter. The oil is extracted from the nut meal when the nuts are ground under pressure, giving the meal a “buttery” texture. Nut butters are a knockout health food! They can be any flavor and spread on bread, crackers, diluted for some soup bases, sauces or drinks. A tablespoon of cashew butter added to a pot of bubbling stew will add elusive richness and act as a catalytic binder, adding not only creaminess but diffusing balsamic properties through the substance of the dish!

Nut Milk…

Nut milk is another way of making your purchase go further and can be served hot or cold. Milk can be flavored with almond or vanilla extract, fresh or dried fruits, chocolate or carob, maple syrup or honey.

Use 1/3-cup of raw or roasted nuts to about 2 cups water. Grind the nuts to a fine powder and keep adding water until it is the desired consistency. It can be thick like a milkshake, or thinner like milk.  Serve it strained if you like. Adding powdered milk, or milk in place of the water will increase protein, but the nut flavor will not be as pronounced.

Of course, if you do not want to make your own nut milk, there are plenty on the market, but try to make your own at least once.

What nuts are in season now?

Here you go…and I am citing production here in the United States…

Walnuts: Late August to November

Pecans: Early September until the end of December

Pistachios: Usually harvested in the fall

Peanuts: Usually harvested in the fall (when warm and moist)

Hazelnuts: Usually harvested in the fall

Nutty Recipes…

Think of recipes you make by culinary habit and with your new knowledge imagine how the addition of a few, many, plain or salted nuts could enhance the dish. Try substituting one nut for another. Imagine the taste in your mind; walnuts for almonds, pecans for pistachios, pine nuts for macadamia nuts, etc.

     Using these ideas to stimulate your imagination, plant a few new thoughts in each session before you begin cooking— then, setting questions aside, open your senses and explore a new culinary territory! Use the following recipes to create, invent, or revise your repertoire. There will be plenty left over for you to discover and learn.

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: blog-roasted-hazelnut-soup

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Roasted Hazelnut Soup
Makes 4 servings

Hazelnuts are almost always used for confectionary and turn up on holiday tables. It is a shame, for they are tasty and a great addition to stuffing and burgers!  I happen to love hazelnuts and I devised this lovely savory recipe.  It is a simple soup, rich-tasting and very easy to prepare.  Your family or guests will be impressed! It is the perfect paired with a salad of sturdy winter greens like baby kale or spinach dressed with sweet vinaigrette and serve as a light lunch.

Hazelnuts are lowest in fat and a good source of vitamin E.  In this recipe, first blanch your hazelnuts to remove the outer covering—do this by lightly toasting in a dry skillet over medium heat. When hot and fragrant, remove the hazelnuts to a plate and when cooled enough to handle, rub off the papery skins.

1 cup blanched hazelnuts
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
½-teaspoon sea salt
1 Quart chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup whole milk
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
A scattering of freshly chopped parsley (optional)

Grind the blanched hazelnuts in a food processor or blender and set aside.

Put the onion, garlic, potatoes, salt and chicken broth in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Puree the soup in a blender and return the soup to the rinsed-out pot.

Over low heat, stir in the ground hazelnuts and milk; heat gently for a few minutes. Check the seasonings, adding more salt if necessary, plus a few grinds of black pepper to taste.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve each with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley scattered on top if desired.  Enjoy!

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Signature Offering by Annette O. Corona – All Rights Reserved

Cajun Peanut Grills
Makes 8 burgers

These are easy-to-fix turkey burgers with a pleasant chewiness—and a great way to stretch a pound or more of ground turkey breast meat.  Of course, the burgers are also tasty with ground turkey thigh, and even ground pork.  Adjust the “fire” to your liking and serve on toasted buns with your choice of condiments—this is a great all-season recipe, so use whatever veggies are in season at the time!  At this time of the year, I am using bell peppers that I have chopped and frozen—thaw quickly under cold running water and pat dry with a kitchen towel before adding to the recipe.  Condiments could include ketchup, mustard, sweet relish, grated radish, and baby spinach leaves.

1 onion, finely diced
½-cup finely chopped green bell pepper
½-cup freshly chopped parsley
1 1/2- pounds ground turkey breast
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
½-teaspoon each: garlic powder, oregano, cumin, and ground red pepper
1 cup roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1/4-cup whole wheat dry bread crumbs

To serve:
8 whole grain hamburger buns, toasted

Combine all 8 ingredients in a large bowl, mixing gently. If possible, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Form mixture into 8 patties about ½-inch thick; grill (or broil) for about 3 minutes on each side until crisp and browned.  Let rest for 1 minute, and serve on warm toasted whole grain buns.

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Homemade Almond Milk
Makes about 3-4 cups

This is a quick and easy recipe and makes use of any overripe bananas you may have — how sweet you like this milk will depend on the sweetness of the banana.  I add honey for extra nutrition—start with 1 teaspoon, taste, and add more honey a teaspoon at a time until you find the taste that suits you—or leave it out completely.  Feel free to substitute walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts for the almonds.

NOTE:  This almond milk can be served thick, or strained. chilled or warm.

  • For creamier milk, add 1 tablespoon raw almond butter to the mix.
  • This milk will keep up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

2 cups water
1/3-cup raw or roasted almonds
1 ripe banana
Pinch sea salt
1-2 teaspoons raw honey

Pour the water into a blender and add the almonds, banana and salt. Blend for about 3 minutes and taste. If you want sweeter tasting milk, add 1 teaspoon raw honey and blend for another minute. Serve. Delicious!

The Cranberry—More than Just a Pretty Face

The Cranberry—More than Just a Pretty Face

Long before foreign settlers came to North America, indigenous people harvested wild red berries and cooked them with venison, maple syrup, and honey.  Early settlers and explorers called the tart fruits “crane berries”, perhaps because the blossoms of the plant sits on a slender stem resembling the neck of a crane. Another version of the story holds that the berries were named for that same swamp-dwelling bird, which ate them. Either way, the name eventually became the one we know today.

The Harvest…Storage…

Cranberries no longer grow wild. The crimson harvest is big business in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Washington State. The first fresh berries hit the markets in in late October, winding down by the end of the year. Select berries are plump, firm and colorful. Overripe berries will be wrinkled and wet. Cranberries should be placed in a tightly sealed plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Frozen, they retain their shape quite well and needn’t be thawed before cooking. And don’t overlook dried cranberries or think of them only as snacks.  Toss dried cranberries into waffle or pancake batters, bread doughs, salads, or dressings.

Cranberries…their Fate?

Fresh cranberries, sweetened cranberry nectar, and dried, sweetened cranberries

Fresh cranberries, sweetened cranberry nectar, and dried sweetened cranberries

Cranberries, with all their healthful, colorful attributes, deserve a better fate than relegation to a few holiday side dishes. While classic cranberry sauces, relishes, and jellies will always have a place at one’s holiday table, cranberries are turning up in less expected places these days—cocktails, soufflés, soups, ice creams, puddings, and cookies. The culinary adventure is destined to continue as long as we are intrigued by the blending of new ideas with traditional food memories!

Cranberry Tidbits…

  • During Thanksgiving week alone, Americans consume 10 million pounds of cranberries.
  • Research has shown that cranberries are not only beneficial in maintaining a healthy urinary tract; they may also fight Coli bacteria, the ulcer-causing bacteria H pylori, and others.
  • Cranberries are loaded with Vitamin C and anti-oxidants that may improve blood flow and ward off heart disease and certain cancers.
  • Cranberries are thought to help prevent plaque buildup responsible for gum disease.

***All recipes are signature offerings – All Rights Reserved

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Dried Cranberry Chapatis
Makes 12 chapatis

These round unleavened breads studded with “rubies” make an excellent accompaniment to a soup or curry. Brushed with melted ghee or spread with cream cheese, if desired.

1½-cups whole wheat flour
2/3-cup dried cranberries, chopped
2 teaspoon vegetable oil
½-teaspoon sea salt
1/2 to ¾-cups cool water

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and dried cranberries; mix in the oil, salt and just enough water to form  a soft dough.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 5 minutes; cover with a damp kitchen towel, and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes—or up to 2 hours.
  3. Knead the dough again for 3 minutes, and divide into 12 equal pieces; roll each piece into a 6-inch round.
  4. In a dry skillet over medium heat, cook each chapati until lightly flecked with brown, about 1 minute per side. Serve.

NOTE: This is a vegan recipe; however, one can substitute melted ghee or butter for the oil and achieve the same delicious outcome.

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Cranberry and Beet Soup with Wild Rice
Makes 8-10 servings

This soup is lovely hot or chilled.  For a more elegant presentation, puree the soup before adding the wild rice.  Cranberry juice nectar is presweetened with apple and pear juice.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 medium beets, peeled and sliced (about 3 pounds, without tops)
2 cups rich chicken stock
2 cups cranberry juice nectar
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 bay leaves
½-teaspoon each: sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups cooked wild rice (generous)
Sour cream (optional)

  1. In a large soup over medium heat, melt the butter and swirl in the olive oil; add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the beets, chicken stock, cranberry juice, apple, bay leaves, salt and black pepper, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium and simmer about 20-30 minutes until the beets are tender.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
  4. To serve, ladle into warm bowls and top each serving with a scoop of warm wild rice and a dollop of sour cream if desired.

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Cranberry Corn Fritters
Makes about 12 fritters

These fritters make a great breakfast or brunch dish, or a light supper accompanied by broiled chicken or fish and steamed broccoli spears.

1½-cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 extra-large eggs, separated
½-teaspoon sea salt
¼-cup Turbinado sugar or other raw sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
To serve: Honey or maple syrup

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the corn, cranberries, flour egg yolks, sugar and salt, mixing well.
  2. In another medium bowl, whisk the egg whites for about 5 minutes to stiff peaks; gently fold whites into the corn mixture.
  3. Heat a large griddle or skillet over medium heat; brush with some melted butter and drop a heaping tablespoon of batter on to the griddle; cook until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes per side, adding more melted butter as needed. Cook in batches, keeping fritters warm in a low oven of 200 degrees F. Serve as is, or with honey or maple syrup tableside.

NOTE: Turbinado sugar is a partially refined, granulated, pale-brown sugar obtained by washing raw sugar in a centrifuge until most of the molasses is removed. Other raw-type of sugars include muscovado and demerara.  All three have different flavor heights and aromatic depths.  All are considered “raw” sugars, but, as stated, are processed to some extent to be used in cooking.  They are delicious and so much better than white granulated sugar.

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Ruby Red Slaw with Cranberry-Brazil Nut Mayonnaise
Makes about 2 quarts

Brazil nuts are high in protein, thiamine, and magnesium—combined with the tart/sweet flavor of cranberry sauce makes a rich and lovely mayonnaise-type dressing. It is a good way to use up leftover cranberry sauce and this will keep in the refrigerator for at least 1 week.  Stuff any leftover slaw into sandwiches for a good and tasty crunch.

½-cup blanched Brazil nuts, coarsely chopped
½-cup cold cranberry sauce
1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½-teaspoon sea salt
1/4 to ½-cup sunflower oil

1 medium-size head of green cabbage, finely shredded
½-cup dried cranberries
2 carrots, shredded
1 small onion, grated

  1. In a food processor or blender, combine Brazil nuts, cranberry sauce, water, lemon juice, and salt, and puree until smooth. With the machine running, very slowly add the oil—you can use from ¼-cup to 1/2-cup until you like the texture.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, dried cranberries, carrots, and onion. Spoon in dressing and mix—more if you like a creamier slaw, less if you like a drier slaw. If possible, let the slaw sit for about 20 minutes before serving for the flavors to come together. Delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and thank you for subscribing!

Autumn Apples — Sweet Seduction in Variety and Versatility

Autumn Apples—Sweet Seduction in Variety & Versatility

Pennsylvania Apples!

Pennsylvania Apples!

Apples just naturally provoke our senses to tingling anticipation of sweet seduction.  They brag different flavors – sweet and mellow, or tart; different colors – golden, red, green, striped or mottled; and apples possess different textures – juicy, crisp, hard or snappy.  Thus never boring, this fruit offers a kaleidoscope of eating excitement, and most times seasonings and accents need to be discreet or minimal to produce the best results.

     Apples are found nearly everywhere in the world.  There are cooking varieties, eating apples, the majority carrying dual purpose.  No one description fits all apples, except that they all grown on trees!

"Dutch Baby" featuring Granny Smith Apples

“Dutch Baby” featuring Granny Smith Apples

    Apple cookery is chock-full of treats.  But, when branches bend heavy with the fruit of autumn, apple time climaxes, and fruit butters bubble in ovens, glasses of clear, amber jelly sparkle on kitchen counters, as do lovely red-cheeked spice cakes, and that luscious, come-hither aroma of thick, juicy apple pies, cobblers and dumplings intoxicates homes everywhere.   Juice flows from cider presses and smart cooks pour some of this precious commodity into measuring cups for cooking and baking.  Do yourself a big favor and let apples inspire all your gustatory undertakings, from soups to salads, main courses and, of course, desserts.  Have confidence in your abilities and experiment.

     The best time of year to buy apples is October through June.  Apples are at their peak flavor when just picked from the tree.  They should always be refrigerated and never be kept at room temperature.  About 3 medium-sized apples represent a pound.  One pound of unpeeled apples yields about 3 cups peeled, sliced, or diced fruit, and to keep from discoloring, just sprinkle with some fresh lemon juice or place in a pan of salted water or some laced with lemon.

Beautiful, prize-winning apples at the Pennsylvania Farm Show 2014

Beautiful, prize-winning apples at the Pennsylvania Farm Show 2014

Beautiful Impressions

     Besides the traditional uses of apples: pies, dumplings, strudels, steamed apple pudding, apple brown betty, Waldorf salad, fritters and cider, try adding apples to cooked grains to enhance flavor or to salads for added crunch and variety.

     The onset of autumn and cooler weather gives baked apples a big rush.  Stuff them with nuts, raisins, and spices.  One of my favorite ways is to top each warm baked apple half with a swirl of meringue, then shredded coconut; bake about 5 minutes longer until toasted and then top with a small scoop of apple jelly.

Hearty pancakes studded with bits of green and red apple and served with maple syrup is a mainstay in my house.  Apples combined with butternut squash, a bit of sautéed onion, curry and a rich stock yields a fine soup.  Apples slow-baked in a casserole dish with a dash of cinnamon are an unexpected delight and will keep well on a buffet table.  Add grated apple to your morning granola or to your favorite coleslaw recipes.  Stir a bit of grated apple into your mug of warm cider for greater depth, and if you want to pull out all the stops, add a jigger of apple brandy and a pat of butter on top!

Use my ideas as a starting point and create your own apple repertoire.  The following recipes name some specific apples, but if unsure which type of apple to use in any one recipe, ask your local fruit farmer which varieties are in season and best suited for the dish.  Trust they are right.  Enjoy!

Apple Crepes
Makes 12 crepes

A solitary winner, or stuffed with crumbled gingersnap cookies, rolled up and topped with a drizzle of melted dark chocolate and a few chocolate shards sprinkled on top.  I like Honey Crisp apples, but you could use almost any variety of apples for these crepes.

1¼-cups whole wheat pastry flour
¼-teaspoon sea salt
2 extra-large eggs
1 cup milk
2/3-cup water
2 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½-cups grated apple; squeezed in a piece of cheesecloth and placed in a colander

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt; mix in the eggs, then gradually beat in the milk, water, one tablespoon melted butter and vanilla.  Stir in the grated apple.

Heat an 8-inch or 9-inch nonstick skillet or crepe pan over medium-high heat until a drop of water flicked onto it sizzles.  Brush the pan with a little of the remaining butter, and pour about a ¼-cup of batter into the pan, tipping it so the batter runs all over the bottom of the pan.  It will take about 30 seconds for the crepe to set, and then flip it over using a spatula or your fingers.  Cook the other side for about 15 seconds.

Eat immediately or keep the crepes warm on a plate covered with a kitchen towel until you are finished using all the batter.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  Crepes freeze well.  Place a sheet of waxed paper between crepes, then wrap well in plastic and place in a cardboard box, as to not crush them when placed in the freezer.

Apple Chestnut Dressing
Makes 6-8 servings

This is a well-seasoned dressing—perfect stuffing for your Thanksgiving turkey, or anytime baked in a casserole dish until brown and crisp.  Once again, almost any type of apple can be used—I use 3 different kinds here creating a symphony of flavors!

3 cups boiled chestnuts, coarsely chopped, reserving liquid
4 thick slices of day-old whole grain bread, cubed
1 large onion, finely diced
½-cup freshly chopped parsley
2/3-cup milk or light cream (generous)
½-teaspoon each:  sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chopped unpeeled apples: Granny Smith, Rome and Fuji

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a 4-quart oblong casserole dish.

In a large bowl, combine the chestnuts, bread cubes, onion and parsley.   Mix in the remaining ingredients.  Add some leftover chestnut cooking liquid if the mixture looks dry.

Transfer the mixture to the casserole dish and bake 30 minutes, uncovered, until brown and crisp.  Delicious!

Wild Rice-Stuffed Gold Rush Apples
Makes 6 servings

Despite the robust-sounding name of this dish, the taste is delicate and alluring.  Gold Rush apples have a tart, crisp bite, with a rush of spicy flavor.  It pairs beautifully with the wild rice in this recipe, and I consider this to be a savory dish—a wonderful accompaniment to roast chicken, duck or goose.

6 Gold Rush apples
¼-teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups cooked wild rice
½-cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon minced celery
½-cup white wine (or chicken or vegetable stock, or water)
Toasted pecans or walnuts for garnishing (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Core apples and hollow out, discarding the seeds and core, but keeping the excess apple bits.  Finely chop the apple bits, place in a small bowl, and set aside.  Pare the apples half way down and place in a 4-quart oblong casserole dish.

To the apple bits, add the nutmeg, salt, wild rice, onion, garlic and celery and mix well; stuff about a half-cup of mixture into each apple shell; and drizzle all the stuffed apples with wine.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the apple shells are barely tender and the rice mixture is heated through.  Serve the apples with the excess syrup drizzled over top and garnish with toasted pecans.  Simple and delicious!

Happy October everyone…  Blessings on your plate!