Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mark Bittman's Granola

Granola, is deceptively unhealthy, as it is generally very high in fat and sometimes sugar. Usually, the better it tastes, the worse it is for you. Mark Bittman has a simple, low fat recipe which is easy to make and as soon as it is in the oven, the cinnamon, nuts and honey will get everyone asking (hovering), what are you making?? Once cooled, add your favorite dried fruit, seal in a air tight container and have your granola, guilt-free.
(Should I mention that this also makes a great gift!)

Mark Bittman's Granola

6 cups rolled oats, not quick cooking
2 cups mixed nuts or seeds. (almonds, cashews, sunflower, walnut, pecan...)
1 cup dried, shredded unsweetened coconut, optional
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 to 1 cup honey, agave, or maple syrup
1 cup raisins, or any dried fruit

Preheat oven to 350
Combine everything in a mixing bowl, except dried fruit, and place on a sheet pan. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Watch for burning! Remove from heat, add dried fruit. Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Yummy honey from Traverse City, MI, a gift from Cheryl and Ian! Delicious!! Love it!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Home Made Bath Salts. Gift idea #1...

My sister is getting married next May (yay!), and as the dutiful Maid of Honor, I have been thinking of personal gifts to make to give out as wedding favours. I'm not sure if this task fits in with the requisite duties that the Maid of Honor holds, but I'm doing it, nonetheless - and getting really in to it, I might add! After spending some time in Michael's, (mecca for crafters and scrap-bookers, which I never thought I'd be associated with...), I found the perfect jars, labels, ribbons and stickers, to package my home-made soaking salts. I bought some coarse sea salt and a tiny bottle of lavender essential oil from Whole Foods, and for an added dose of loveliness, I threw a small handful of lavender flowers in to the mix. As soon as the oil met with the salt, a delightful aroma filled the house, invoking calmness. Ahhh, well worth the effort! This is so easy and low budget, it's perfect for the upcoming holiday season or for a sweet and simple hostess gift. Better yet, why not just do it for yourself? : )

Home Made Bath Salts

In a large mixing bowl, add about 4 cups coarse sea salt and mix in a few drops of essential oil (whichever you like), and a handful of dried flowers.
Breath in and relax!

Note: If you are adding dried flowers, pour into a spice sachet to prevent flowers from floating in your bath water.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


We all have that one certain meal that makes us shuffle our feet and bob our heads in utter happiness. We instantly feel safe and comforted -- no matter what might be going on in our grown-up lives. For me, it's Spinach Pie, or Spanakopita, if you happen to find yourself in Greece. I would eat dozens of "pitas" every summer at my grandparents' home on Long Island. In their tiny kitchen, we would set up a factory line-like production. One of us would man the phyllo dough, both keeping it from drying and ever-so gently handing over one sheet at a time to the next person in the assembly line. That person, would be in charge of painting melted butter across sheet after sheet like an abstract painter,(a kid's job, no doubt!). Then came the job of spooning out the filling, (usually my grandmother), and carefully rolling the dough into tight bite-sized triangles. It's because of this hands-on family tradition that I am not only well-trained at making my own, but it also has a special place in my heart, a rare moment with generations of women in one kitchen at the same time. (Grandma is still with us, at 94 years young!)

This is a fairly labor-intensive project, so when the mood strikes me, I go for it. I'll make about a dozen and a half, so I will freeze what I don't immediately eat for a later time. If you have never worked with phyllo dough before, it's a fantastic vessel for both savory and sweet recipes. It is, however, a pain to work with, so be prepared to loose a few sheets from either drying out, or tearing. The best way to keep phyllo as your friend, is to roll it out and keep it covered with a barely damp tea towel. (If you towel is too wet, it will ruin the very thin sheets of dough and make them gooey and un-usable). Phyllo dough must be layered sheet upon sheet, (about 5 sheets), in order to be strong enough to hold up to whatever you might be filling inside. Between each layer, paint with a pastry brush, either melted butter or olive oil. You don't have to saturate each layer, but do get all the sides and a majority of each sheet should be moist.

Makes about one and a half dozen pitas

2 lbs spinach, washed
1 yellow onion, diced
drizzle of olive oil
about 3/4 lbs feta cheese
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
pinch or two of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
juice from 1 lemon
1 package of PHYLLO DOUGH, thawed. (usually in frozen dessert section)
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted. (or about 1/2 cup of olive oil)

Preheat oven to 375
In a large pot, saute spinach and the drain very well, pressing out any extra liquid.
In a medium saute pan, heat oil and saute diced onion until transparent.
Once spinach and onions are cool, combine in a large bowl, along with parsley, feta, pine nuts, nutmeg, salt and pepper and lemon juice. Taste this and alter any seasonings.

To Assemble:

Make sure phyllo has completely thawed out if frozen.
Unwrap phyllo and lay out flat. Cover with a barely damp tea towel, keep covered through out this process.
Find a clean working space (I use a large cutting board). Start with one layer at a time. Lay first layer down and working with a pastry brush, paint butter over sheet, not soaking, but relatively coated.
Place second sheet on top of buttered sheet and repeat 5 times, keeping the last layer dry -
If you find that your phyllo is tearing, you can patch it by over-lapping each little torn piece and using the melted butter or oil to seal the places where you have improvised.

Cut 3 even strips down the sheets, about 2.5 inches apart. You will have 4 columns.

At the top of each column, drop about 2 tbls spinach mixture and begin to roll each column into a triangle (see below). Paint a little extra butter over the triangle and seal up any unsealed edges.

Place on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake until golden brown and crispy, about 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Note: These can be made vegan by replacing butter with olive oil and firm tofu replaces feta.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I, like many of you, was shocked when I heard that Gourmet magazine was going out of print after nearly 70 years of publication. It's always been such a source of inspiration for me and it's a tragic end to such a beautiful homage of food and photography alike. I will be holding on to whatever issues I still have - tucked away in various places - and return to them often when I feel a sudden strike of culinary whim.
Please take a few minutes to hear Pulitzer Prize winner and LA Weekly food writer, Jonathon Gold's eulogy of Gourmet. It also offers other insights to the ever-changing food publishing forum, even the diminishing trend of food blogging. Very interesting!

Note: This Jonathon Gold piece begins about 4 minutes into this podcast.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Rhode Island Fall Wedding - Sara and Kyle

We were lucky enough to be guests at our friends, Sara and Kyle's, wedding last weekend in Little Compton, RI. (A place very dear to me, I was also married in RI!) I have been going to LC for almost 25 years with my family. I used to visit in the heat of summer, but after experiencing two Octobers in RI now, Fall has emerged as my favorite time to be in New England. Not to be disappointed, this trip offered cool, crisp Fall weather, including the beginning of the leaves turning all those amazing colors. A torrential downpour threatened their wedding day, but miraculously, the rain stopped about an hour before the ceremony and it turned into a beautiful evening. Needless to say, with the crazy weather, it was a very New England day, and the made-to-order lobster rolls served during the cocktail hour were the definitive New England appetizer - and I thought I had to share this with you. I have never seen lobsters this freakin' big - they were wicked good!
Our best to Sara and Kyle! We love you!

The wedding was catered by SMOKE AND PICKLES, out of Westport, Mass. Chef Dan George has collaborated with grill masters Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby on the cookbook Quick Pickles - Easy Recipes with Big Flavor.