Baked Plantains a la Schmaltz

I recently read Michael Ruhlman’s book “Schmaltz” and was inspired to make some Schmaltz and gribenes myself.

For those who don’t know what that is, schmaltz is chicken fat, made from rendering chicken skin. And gribenes are nothing more than cracklings. (You can find the recipe here:

So now I had all this lovely schmaltz sitting in my freezer. I wanted to do something unexpected with it when my glance fell on two green plantains I had purchased at a local ethnic market. An idea took shape.

I took the two plantains, scored them on two sides and popped them into the microwave for four minutes on high, until they were black on the outside and soft on the inside. Then I peeled them and cut them into ½ inch circles and with a meat pounder, smashed each one into a disc.

I then tossed them in a bowl with the schmaltz and gribenes, and laid it out in one layer on a greased cookie sheet. Just a sprinkle of garlic salt and in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F. And voila, the Jewish/Cuban version of baked tostones was born. Hubby thought it tasted a bit like home fries…I’m sure because of all the delicious bits of caramelized onion. Yummy.

Baked Plantains a la Schmaltz

2 green plantains
½ cup schmaltz and caramelized onions, with or without gribenes (note: this could be done with olive oil and caramelized onions if schmaltz is not available)
1 tsp. garlic salt

Preheat oven to 425 F

Score each plantain on two sides so that you cut through the entire skin but not into the fruit.

Microwave for four minutes on high, until skin is black and fruit is soft.

Cut into ½ inch rounds and smash into discs.

Mix with schmaltz until well coated, and place on a greased cookie tray in one layer (You can line the tray with aluminum foil)

Bake for 10 minutes. Then turn and bake for another five.


A Food App from Alain Ducasse

English: An image of an iPad 2.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just came across a new foodie app:  My Culinary Encyclopedia : recipes and techniques by Alain Ducasse.  

I don’t know about you, but these days I hardly ever use a cookbook for actual cooking.  I do still love to read them for inspiration, and I do still collect them (at a decreasing rate…it has to be spectacular for me to buy it now) but for the most part, if I’m not making up my own recipe, I’m googling or checking Pinterest.  So an app that I can access via my iPad would work for me.

But at almost $35, it’s hard for me to justify this app, as amazing as it might be. However for a newbie cook, this might really work well.  It has numerous videos that show good technique as well as how to plate, with 250 recipes.  You can add your own comments or  email yourself an ingredients list.  There’s nutritional information, plus insights into food origins, storage and more.

Of course if you’re looking to learn how to cook, you can just as easily peruse YouTube videos, or enroll in one of the online cooking schools that have been cropping up.  But then…this is Alain Ducasse one of only two chefs to hold 21 Michelin stars throughout his career!

Everyday Roasted Veggies

There isn’t an easier way to make vegetables!

Since there are only two of us at home to feed, I don’t often use an entire bunch of asparagus or celery, or even an entire broccoli, so I often find myself with just a little of this and a little of that.  Since I’m very fond of simply roasting vegetables, I’ll cut them up into even pieces and toss them with some seasonings and olive oil.  Here’s today’s veggie:
½  lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3-inch spheres

1 medium yellow squash, washed and cut into 3-inch strips

1 medium red pepper, seeded, and cut into 3-inch strips

5 cloves garlic, minced  (we really go whole hog on the garlic, use less if you’re going to be among non-garlic eaters.)

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (or canola oil, or any oil you prefer)

salt and pepper to taste

½ tsp minced lemon rind

lemon juice (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine vegetables and garlic in a small roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat evenly.

Sprinkle on salt. pepper and lemon rind.

Sprinkle on lemon rind.

Drizzle olive oil over it all and stir to coat.

Roast in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes (or less depending on the thickness of your vegetables), until lightly browned and tender.

Drizzle with lemon juice before serving.

Serves 3.

Caponata Sicilian Style


Caponata is the Italian version of the French ratatouille, a stew of eggplant and other vegetables.  Generally both sweet and sour, it almost always has tomatoes, sugar and vinegar, and may also contain anchovies, capers and olives, or in the south of Italy, raisins and pignoli nuts.  I’ve even run across versions that had potatoes.

Caponata is served at room temperature, and can be eaten alone, as a salad, but I know folks who serve it on crusty Italian bread, or over baby greens.  This is a dish that is best made the day before you plan to serve it, allowing for the flavors to meld overnight.

1  medium eggplant ( about 1-1/2 pounds)
1-1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup pine nuts
3-4 TBS olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery rib, diced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 TBS tomato paste, mixed with ¼ cup of water
1 can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup golden raisins
¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained
¼ cup. white wine vinegar
2 TBS sugar

Cut eggplant into half inch cubes. Sprinkle lightly with salt and place in a colander to drain for 30-60 minutes.  Pat dry with paper towels.

While the eggplant is draining, toast the pine nuts over a large fry pan over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, watch to ensure they don’t burn. You will need to stir frequently. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add olive oil to the fry pan and turn heat up to medium. Add the eggplant and sauté until softened and browned, about five minutes.  Add more olive oil if needed.  Remove from pan.

Add the diced onion, carrots, and celery, salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another 2-3 minutes.  Add tomato paste mixture and cook until most of the moisture has evaporated.  Add diced tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes.

Sir in the raisins, capers, vinegar and sugar and continue cooking, about another ten minutes.  Add up to ¼ cup of water if needed.

Add the eggplant and stew an additional five minutes until it thickens.  Remove from heat and add pine nuts. Cool and refrigerate over night.

Bring it back to room temperature before serving.  Serve over greens, plain or on toasted Italian bread.

Food Inspiration

pile of cookbooks

pile of cookbooks (Photo credit: penguincakes)

Food inspiration comes from many places.

It should come as no surprise that I read food blogs and food magazines.  I peruse cookbooks as if they were novels.  The husband likes to say that dinner each night is preceded by a research period as I scour the articles or books for new inspiration.  While it’s not true every night, I actually do that a few nights a week, mostly for inspiration although I do sometimes cook a recipe exactly as written (but not often.)

Lately I’ve added Pinterest to the mix, and I’m finding that the recipe pins are particularly interesting because they are most often from just plain folks…recipes that appeal to them as they peruse “the nets”.

You can find inspiration in novels, food tv (of course), even in paintings, traveling (or watching Anthony Bourdain), childhood memories, and of course…by the ingredients you have on hand.  (I’m endlessly fascinated by Chopped.)

This weeks’s inspirations for me came from:  I don’t know if I’ll be making this exact dish, but I did buy some Chinese sausage at the Asian market this week.  I’ve been having a love affair with strawberries of late.  Sure they’re great on their own or with whipped cream.  But I’m discovering the joys of adding them to salad, make a compote out of them, and discovered this strawberry spoon bread that’s sure to grace my dinner table this week.  There’s nothing that brings out the flavor of vegetables like roasting.  In cauliflower it brings out a nutty flavor that makes pureed cauliflower a taste sensation. I substituted cream cheese for the butter, and added some Parmesan cheese for extra flavor.  And pureed it using an immersion blender.  Delicious!

Confesso, io amo tutte le cose l’Italia

Italian Cuisine

Italian Cuisine (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

It’s time to confess, I love all things Italian!  The food, the people, the country (oh the country.) So imagine my bliss when I stumbled upon  A food and photography blog, which while written in Italian, has English recipes…and thanks to Google translate you can read it in any language.

Go there as fast as your fingers can click, and find gorgeous photos of food and Italy…can you say food porn?  And recipes like Codfish (Baccala) Risotto with Saffron and Calzoncelli with chocolate, chickpeas and figs.

Refreshing vodka “mimosa” for summer

A glass of Orange juice. Esperanto: Oranĝa suk...

The temperature is supposed to go into the 80s this week.  So my thoughts turned naturally to summer drinks.  (Or maybe I was just thirsty?)   Vodka and orange juice seemed like a simple solution and they my eye landed on the seltzer I had purchased to make matzo balls and chocolate egg creams. Thinking it would give it the same sparkle as vodka and champagne, I tried it.  A drink was born:

1 shot Vodka

2 shots seltzer

1 cup Orange juice

fresh mint, to taste

Pour first the vodka, then the orange juice, and finally the seltzer into the glass.

Garnish with fresh mint.

Light and delicious.

Chicken Monte Cristo Sandwich

This image was created by the user Hinchu aka ...

After a day of cleaning and decluttering, I wanted to make something simple for dinner.  Pulling out some boneless chicken breasts I first thought maybe I’d do chicken and waffles.  And then my eyes landed on the white bread and I thought…not waffles…french toast!  Thus was born my chicken Monte Cristo.

1 lb boneless chicken breasts, sliced thin

8 slices potato bread (or any kind you prefer)

4 slices swiss cheese

3 large eggs, whisked

2 TBS butter

3 TBS flour

canola oil

1/4 cup water

Melt the butter in a skillet on medium high heat.

Dust chicken with the flour and then add to the skillet, and let brown on each side.  Remove from pan.

Dip bread into eggs and doing just a few slices at a time, brown in the same pan with just a bit of oil added.  When all the bread is fried, it’s time to assemble it.

Place the chicken on four of the the bread slices, and top with the swiss cheese [omitting the top slice of bread].  Without crowding the pan, and moving quickly, place the open-faced sandwiches on the hot pan, add a bit of water and quickly cover the pan.  This will melt the cheese quickly.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches.  When you remove them from the pan, quickly place the top slice of french toast on each sandwich, pressing lightly.  The gooey deliciousness of the cheese will adhere the bread to the sandwich.

Delicious on it’s own, but feel free to serve with maple syrup or even strawberry preserves like the original Monte Cristo.

Recipe Testing: Roasted Brussel Sprouts

We love brussel sprouts in our family (really!) and often roast them with olive oil and garlic.  The brussel sprouts from Steamy Kitchen have a secret ingredient.  But shhh…I can’t tell.

So easy to make!

Recipe Testing: Asparagus

I’m delighted to have been selected as one of the recipe testers for Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen’s next cookbook.  The first recipe I’ve made for dinner this evening is Steamed Asparagus with Miso Ginger Butter.

It was so simple, and so delicious my husband declared it “better than restaurant food.”  I think he meant that as a compliment. 😉