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Salmon and Beets Roasted Together on One Pan


Roast Salmon and Beets

Don’t get me started on my mid-life crisis. It’s way too complicated to go into here. But I think we have time to discuss my mid-week crisis – or I should say crises (which, borrowing from the Greek, is plural for multiple mishaps). It seems no matter how hard I try there’s always at least one night a week when I just can’t get it together. These mini disasters always seem to fall mid-week too. I guess I could start a new internet fad and start posting Woeful Wednesdays. Roasted Salmon and Beets for Woeful Wednesday!

Except it’s not Wednesday, it’s Saturday. The holiday interrupted my regularly scheduled mid-week crisis. Whether it’s mid-week or week-end doesn’t really matter. There are some days when you just can’t seem to get all your ducks in a row. So skip the poultry and reach for fish. It cooks quickly and pairs with almost anything you have on hand, and I almost always have beets on hand.

What makes this Roasted Salmon and Beets such a terrific crisis intervention food is simplicity. The beets and salmon roast on the same sheet pan. Too many dirty dishes can seem insurmountable during the most ordinary of mid-week crises.

I may have only used one sheet pan to roast my salmon and beets, but it’s a two-step process for best results. On the first pass steam the beets by covering the pan with foil. Once the beets are tender, remove the covering and lay on the salmon fillets – drizzling the marinade on top. The marinade and the juices will mingle happily creating a tasty sauce. At this point it’s just a matter of cooking the salmon to your liking. The key to mid-week crises is not overthinking the beets or the salmon. So crank the oven good and hot. I like 450 degrees F. In the spirit of not overthinking this mid-week meal I use this rule: Salmon roasting time depends on the thickness. For every half-inch thickness of salmon, roast 4 to 6 minutes. GREG

PS I added sautéed beet greens (cooked in a second pan) because I’ve trained myself to preform at the highest levels even under the pressure of a mid-week crisis!

beetsbeets Roast Salmon and BeetsRoast Salmon and BeetsRoast Salmon and Beets

Roast Salmon and Beets

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published
Roast Salmon and Beets


  • 1 side, skin-on, wild sockeye salmon (1 ½ to 2 pounds, pin bones removed)
  • ⅓ cup teriyaki sauce
  • 4 clove garlic (peeled and minced, divided)
  • 2 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoon peeled, minced fresh ginger
  • 4 tablespoon olive oil (divided)
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • freshly cracked black pepper (as needed)
  • 4-6 medium beets, with fresh greens attached (about 2- 2½ inches in diameter)
  • 2 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 2-3 tablespoon water (may substitute fish, vegetable or chicken stock)


Slice salmon crosswise into 6 equally-sized portions. Lay them skin side up into a shallow baking dish not much bigger than the salmon fillets. In a small bowl combine teriyaki sauce, half the garlic, shallot, ginger, 2 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch each salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the salmon and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Flip the salmon fillets and marinate an additional 30 minutes.

Meanwhile place the oven rack in the center position and heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Line a 9×13 inch or larger rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Remove the beet-greens from the beets. Wash and dry them well then thinly slice first the stems and then the greens; set aside separately. Peel and halve the beets and place them onto the lined baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle beets with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with a generous pinch each salt and pepper. Cover the baking sheet tightly with aluminum foil. Roast in the heated oven until tender; about 40 minutes depending on size.

Remove and discard foil. Leaving the beets on the tray lay salmon fillets skin side up onto the baking sheet and pour the marinade on top. You may need to move the beets aside to accommodate the salmon. It’s fine to place some of the beets on top of the salmon.

Return the baking sheet, uncovered, to the oven and roast the salmon until cooked to your liking. Roasting time depends on the thickness of salmon, as determined by the thickest part of the salmon fillet. For every half-inch of salmon, roast 4 to 6 minutes (4 minutes for medium rare, to 6 minutes for well done).

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add remaining garlic and tomato paste; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beet-green stems and cook, stirring frequently, until softened; about 2 minutes. Add beet-green leaves and water. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.

Serve salmon, beets and beet-greens together immediately.

Thanksgiving: Learning to be Thankful


Thanksgiving Pie Illustration Shutterstock

You know you’re a grown up when you start looking at the Thanksgivings of your youth for what they really were. Sure, we were all taught about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower. We knew we were supposed to bow our heads and be thankful for our blessings. Kids pick up these things easily. Like multiplication tables and home phone numbers kids learn to be thankful at Thanksgiving by rote. Which makes for adorable memories and proud parents, but it takes some living to be truly thankful.

I can still see my mother beaming when I proclaimed to the entire Thanksgiving table that I was thankful for a mommy and daddy who loved me. Such an easy answer. One I planned knowing I would be asked. I’m sure I meant what I said, but I didn’t really understand it. After all I never knew any other life than the life of a child whose mommy and daddy quietly loved him. Despite the lip service prompted by well-meaning grade-school teachers I’m pretty sure my real true list of items to be grateful for every November started with those extra couple of days off school – perfectly timed in Michigan when the weather suddenly turned cold and stayed that way.

Of course as we grow older things change. My family moved from Michigan to Florida. Thanksgiving still marked a change in the seasons (hot and sticky October to warm and sticky November). But I wasn’t complaining, the teenager in me had spent enough time in Michigan to indeed be thankful for Florida sunshine.

The weather may have been balmier but otherwise the Thanksgivings of my teen years remained much as they always had. While I was less likely to let my parents know I was thankful for a mommy and daddy who loved me, I did begin to understand that it was possible to be truly thankful for my life.

Being truly thankful for your life is always the first step towards autonomy. I’m not a parent, but I see the signs everywhere. So it’s not just me. Teenagers begin to emotionally depart long before SAT tests. A teenager’s Thanksgiving becomes a celebration that must be endured for the sake of one’s parents. At that age anything that has to be endured is not something to be particularly thankful for.

Once kids really do move out of the house (in my case to go to college) Thanksgiving becomes a reminder of just how separate from our parents we really are. Thanksgiving becomes complicated. At that age my holidays were a maze of scheduling tasks that often required plane tickets. Could my mom’s stuffing (with crunchy water chestnuts) really be worth a tedious ride share with that loud girl I went to high school with but barely knew? Certainly my parents understood how thankful I was for a mother and father who loved me. Did it really require letting them watch me eat cranberries to prove it? These were the years Thanksgiving began to feel like a chore.

By the time I graduated from college Thanksgiving had basically lost all its meaning for me. These were the very first years of truly being on my own. I’m not saying I didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, in fact Thanksgiving was the perfect time to play at being a grown up. Or maybe I should say practice being a grown up. In either case these were the years I began to covet a real dining room table of my own, but settled for matching plates from Pier 1. There was absolutely no thought of returning to my parents house for the holiday. They didn’t ask and I didn’t volunteer. Crises averted, right?

Which isn’t to say I didn’t need my mother at Thanksgiving. In fact it took several cross-country phone calls to get the recipe for my mom’s stuffing (with crunchy water chestnuts) just right. She seemed happy to share the recipe and even took it in stride when I told her how I’d improved on her cranberries with the addition of pineapple marmalade. I swear I could hear her thanklessly rolling her eyes across the phone line.

Well as the years go by I’ve learned a few things about this holiday. At the top of the list is how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who love me. Actually that’s the first lesson I learned by rote all those years ago. It’s just took me a while to see exactly what that means. That’s the real lesson in this holiday. GREG

PS There’s no Thanksgiving recipe to share today. Call someone in your own family and get the thing you really crave.

Vintage Thanksgiving Shutterstock

Images appear courtesy of my editorial partnership with Shutterstock.


Glazed Cipollini Onions – Holiday Style


glazed cipollini onions

Harumph. How many times have I started a post with that word, or at least implied it? Way too many to count I’m sure. Today’s Glazed Cipollini Onions came about to illustrate a pet peeve of mine. The holidays are the perfect time to discuss this pet peeve because the holidays are filled with special meals. Meals we prepare at home for family and meals we eat out at parties and at restaurants. It doesn’t seem like there’s much room for a harumph when it comes to discussing the holidays. After all they’re the most wonderful time of the year – especially for eaters, right?

Take the Thanksgiving turkey as an example. Organic? Heritage? Or something that grew up in the freezer case of your Piggly-Wiggly. It doesn’t matter if the bird is highbrow or lowbrow – it’s easy to get lost in our elaborate plans for the centerpiece of a holiday meal. So unless you want me to start another post with the word harumph promise me you’ll give the side dishes just as much love as you do the bird. Then again, you’re not really the party I need to be taking this harumph to are you? If you bother to read food blogs you probably think about the side dishes just as much as I do –  of course you do.

Besides I’m not just picking on home cooks. What I’m trying to say is too many times I’m disappointed with restaurant side dishes. Even damn good restaurants. My disappointment often comes from the lack of detail or attention given to some small (unimportant?) element of the meal. Which I know sounds like I’m just being impossibly picky. But it’s so prevalent I have to say something. Even in some of my favorite restaurants some parts of the meal can be treated as an afterthought. The victim is usually the side dish and most always a vegetable.

Poor damn things. Vegetables are truly one of God’s greatest works of art. The perfect gift. So beware a menu that says “fresh steamed vegetables” they’re likely to disappoint. Too many times this simple side dish tastes watery. How do they get vegetables to loose so much flavor and so much texture?

In my house the traditional way to make vegetable side dishes memorable is through glazing. This year my Thanksgiving table will feature Glazed Cipollini Onions. My mother was an expert at this method. Therefore, glazed vegetables have come to be one of my must have holiday side dishes.. It seems such a simple preparation, and it has very few ingredients. You’d think more restaurants would teach somebody on their line how to perfect it.

Glazed Cipollini Onions

Well, somebody has and of course it’s Thomas Keller.

Which I realize implies that Glazed Cipollini Onions are difficult to prepare. In truth it takes no special skills to glaze vegetables, but the process cannot be rushed.

If you’ve tried to swallow certain versions of glazed carrots, then you know what I’m talking about. You cannot simply “candy” them with butter and sugar, or egads – reheat boiled carrots in reconstituted orange juice. I know it’s hard to believe but some people (at restaurants) simply toss God’s great gift into boiling water and hope for the best. Imagine all that flavor they’re pouring down the drain. It should be a crime. In fact I’m writing a letter to the Mayor as soon as I’m finished here.

That’s because perfectly glazed vegetables are a marvel to behold. Beautiful. Shiny. Colorful. You can dress them up with many flavors, but they don’t need the extra pizzazz to be incredible. Glazing is such a tremendous technique. It’s a wonder more people don’t practice this method. I’ve put some effort into memorizing Thomas Keller’s method of glazing vegetables. It works a particularly well with Cipollini Onions. In Keller’s words, “When cooked carefully, these are the silkiest, sweetest onions. I look for onions that are no larger than 1 1/2-inches in diameter. If you can only find larger ones, or ones that are irregularly sized, the outer leaves of the onion can be removed and used for another purpose so that the onions are consistent in size.”

So from now on I’ll save all my harumphs for restaurants – because I know you know better. GREG

Cipollini OnionsGlazed Cipollini OnionsGarlic Greens glazed cipollini onions

Thomas Keller’s Glazed Cipollini Onions

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Thomas KellerPublished

“It is important that the cooking process is not rushed. If cooked too rapidly, the onions will break apart.” Thomas Keller

Glazed Cipollini Onions


  • 1 pound small cipollini (about 24 to 30)
  • 1 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1-2 cup water (as needed)
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoon minced garlic chives


To peel the onions, bring a sauce pan of water to a boil. Lightly cut an ‘X’ in the root end of each onion. Drop the onions into the boiling water for a few seconds, just long enough to loosen the skin. Remove the onions from the water and peel off the skin.

Place the onions in a 10 to 12-inch sauté pan or straight-sided skillet. They should fit in a single layer with room around the onions. Pour in stock, then add enough water to just come to the top of the onions. The onions will float so press down on them to determine the correct level of liquid. Add the butter, salt and sugar to the pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Adjust the heat as necessary to cook the onions at a gentle simmer until the onions are quite soft, but not yet falling apart; about 50 to 60 minutes depending on size and simmer temperature.

When the cipollini onions are tender, the liquid should be reduced to a golden glaze coating the onions. If the onions are tender but the sauce is still quite liquidy carefully move the onions to a serving bowl and continue to simmer the liquid until a smooth glaze that coats the spoon is achieved. Toss the onions with the glaze and the minced garlic chives just before serving.

I was supplied the onions for these Glazed Cipollini Onions by Frieda’s produce. All opinions are my own.

La Voix Winery: Small Production Big Personality


La Voix Winery: Small Production Big Personality

In my experience, small production winemakers have big personalities. Whether they lean towards Science, Art, or Balance, there is something of the mad professor in their demeanor. They seem to possess childlike enthusiasm and curiosity along with very adult passion and focus. Steve Clifton (a founding partner at Brewer-Clifton Winery) and his wife, Crystal, fit this mold and are expansive forces of nature in Santa Barbara winemaking.

La Voix – Steve Clifton’s New Project

Earlier this year Steve Clifton and Greg Brewer sold a majority share of their pioneering Brewer-Clifton Winery (sob – it’s no secret I have been a fan of that label for some years). It seemed shocking at the time because the winery had hit its stride. There were accolades in the press, and they met their goal of all estate-grown fruit. Yet evidently these big personalities decided it was time to move on.

Fortunately Steve had no plans of retiring from winemaking (he continues to work with Italian grapes for his Palmina label). Though he has flown the Brewer-Clifton nest, he and Crystal have also decided to experiment with different vineyards and methods of production for his brand new label, La Voix (The Voice).

The new La Voix wines were joyously launched at Capitol Records in Hollywood featuring a live band with Steve on vocals. It was an exuberant evening all around – give me wine and play me music and I will dance… guaranteed!

La Voix Winery Party

Before I danced I tasted his three very different Pinot Noirs from the 2015 Fall Release. The names of the wines are song titles, revealing hints of what one might expect inside the bottle.

“Rebel Rebel” from Quinta Del Mar Vineyard (just outside Santa Barbara County) is a light expression of the grape, along the lines of what I expect from a young Burgundy. This wine is bright, fresh and a little rough around the edges, with plenty of acid. Cranberries, violets and chalk yell, “Give me food!”

“Satisfaction” is from the Kessler–Haak Vineyard and a true crowd-pleaser. Wrap a pink feather boa around the bottle and call this Lady Pinot a California Darling! Voluptuous but classy, with mushrooms, cherries and burgundy velvet swirling around the dance floor in high heels without a hint of a wobble, so perfectly is she balanced.

“Reflektor” from the Machado Vineyard, the birthplace of so many yummy Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noirs, is the big daddy of the trio. This wine means business, with its strong spine of pencil lead and blackberries. Rich and meaty, Reflektor provides a purpose driven walk in the woods as the sky turns dark and threatens to pour. Back off and lay it down, it promises to age gracefully.

I tasted the Pinot Noirs in the above order and then asked Ken to guess which was my favorite. He did.  Can you?

La Voix 2015Also worth a mention:  She’s Crafty, a Rosé of Pinot Noir from the Santa Rita Hills, made by Crystal Clifton. Only 98 cases produced and it is a winner! I love the tasting notes from the winery, “Strawberry, blood orange, and white peach on the nose and flavors of pomegranate and currant… with a refreshing hint of herbs.”  Yep. All that. At $30 a bottle, it’s pricey for a Rosé but it is lovely.

Talking of price, Satisfaction goes for $75 a bottle and Reflektor costs $95 a bottle, with only 700 and 200 cases made, respectively. That’s the main problem as I see it for the average consumer’s ability to enjoy all the personality and passion in small production California wines.  HELEN

La Voix WineryKen and I were invited to attend this event as members of the media. All opinions are my own. Some images in this post were sourced from La Voix Winery’s website.

Simple Shrimp Stir-Fry with Tofu and Leeks


Simple Shrimp Stir-Fry with Tofu and Leeks

I’m craving simplicity right now. Partly because the madness of the holiday season will soon be upon us. There’s no easy way to handle the stresses of even the simplest of holiday traditions. That’s because simplicity is complicated. Easy may be the simplest choice, but true simplicity is rarely easy. Does that make sense? However, this recipe for Shrimp Stir-Fry with Tofu and Leeks is a rare exception to the complicated rules about simplicity. This stir-fry comes together easily because its simplicity is the essence of its perfection. That’s not complicated, right?

Let me try it this way. Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Which sounds profound, but I think he was just sharing his cooking notes.

I’m try to say this Shrimp Stir-Fry is easy because the best stir-fries are simple. The easiest mistake we cooks make is overcomplicating what’s intended to be simple. It’s easy to toss 12 ingredients into the wok without realizing 2 or 3 would be simply perfect.

Simple Shrimp and Tofu Stir-Fry

Shrimp Stir-Fry with Tofu and Leeks

In my house the wok lives on top of the stove 24/7 because stir-fries are the essence of quick, stress free meals that are easy to make. Here are my few simple rules:

The best simple stir-fries start with meat and/or vegetables cut into small pieces. Quick-cooking elements like delicate greens should be chopped larger than dense, slow-cooking items like chicken meat. It’s easy to understand why, right?

Once you’ve mastered a thoughtful chop, turn your attention to deftly chosen simple sauces and seasonings. This Shrimp Stir-fry with Tofu and Leeks should taste like, well, shrimp, tofu and leeks. Not the sauce you’ve smothered it in.

Another reason to choose just a few, simple ingredients is to avoid overcrowding the wok. It’s easy to fill it so full that the ingredients steam themselves into a mushy pulp that’s none too easy to swallow.

In order to keep a simple stir-fry easy as possible get the wok as hot as possible – preheat it for at least 5 minutes before adding the oil. Don’t forget to open the windows and/or turn on the fan before you start. There should be an exhilarating amount of smoke. Getting the wok hot enough is the only difficult part of the process. Once you understand that, this simple Shrimp Stir-Fry with Tofu and Leeks is easy. Does that make sense? GREG

Simple Shrimp Stir-Fry with Tofu and LeeksSimple Shrimp Stir-Fry with Tofu and LeeksSimple Shrimp and Tofu Stir-Fry

Shrimp and Tofu Stir-Fry with Leeks

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Published
Shrimp and Tofu Stir-Fry with Leeks


  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoon corn starch
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ pound medium shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • ½ pound firm tofu (cut into ½-inch dice)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 1 fresh leek (white and light green parts only, cut into thin matchsticks, rinsed and dried)


In a large bowl mix soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, cornstarch, red pepper flakes, sugar and salt; ix well. Add the shrimp and tofu, gently fold to coat evenly. Let stand about 10 minutes.

Place wok or large heavy skillet over high heat. Allow it to get very, very hot; about 5 minutes. Add oil, swirling to coat.

Immediately pour the shrimp, tofu and any liquid into the hot wok. Quickly stir and toss until the shrimp begin to turn pink, about 1 ½ minutes. Add the broth and continue to stir until the sauce thickens slightly, about 20 seconds. Transfer to a serving plate, garnish with leeks and serve immediately.


Poblano Jack Mac and Cheese: Southern Heat Cookbook


Poblano Mac and Cheese: Southern Heat Cookbook

Ok. It’s time to take a deep culinary breath and hold it for a count of ten. Because just around the corner lurks the frenzy of holiday cooking. In my estimation we have a week, tops, before the lid flies off the saucepan and starts its annual 6-week whirl around the cook. You may want to take the little time we have left and make something just for yourself. Something comforting and familiar. Something like Mac and Cheese. Heeding my own advice I recently made Poblano Jack Mac and Cheese.

The recipe comes from the cookbook Southern Heat: New Southern Cooking Latin Style by The Food Network’s Extreme Chef winner Anthony Lamas and Gwen Pratesi of Bunkycooks. It’s a big, inspiring book. Bobby Flay describes it as “An American treasure with a Latin beat.”

Having recently returned from my own Latin cooking adventure I was anxious to thumb through the pages of this book and extend my education. I grew up with solid Southern American food, so I had a few delicious expectations about what these pages might hold. What I found was an exciting combination of flavors, ingredients and traditions where “Latin roots are blended with the best ingredients of the South.”

Southern Heat CookbookCharred PoblanosSo if you’re curious about spicing up traditional Southern sides like corn pudding or butter beans you’ll find plenty of creative inspiration in the pages of Southern Heat. There are also sections outlining Latin and Southern pantry staples so you can learn about Latin spices like epazote, and the best way to serve Sea Island Red Peas (which I’ve always called cowpeas).

Poblano Jack Mac and Cheese

The Latin heat in this recipe for Jack Mac and Cheese comes from the just spicy enough poblano pepper. It’s a terrific addition to Mac and Cheese that traditionally shows up as a side dish at Southern Sunday suppers.

I made the recipe almost exactly as written because I wanted to experience the recipe as close to the chef’s intention as possible. As you can see the results are beautiful. However, because it’s mac and cheese there’s room to make the Latin flavors and Southern textures your own. I did bake the mac and cheese you see here a full 30 minutes (that’s 10 minutes longer than the recipe suggests) because I wanted a well-browned, crackly crust. If you want even more crackle and crunch you could try mixing the cheese sauce with the cooked macaroni before baking. In this version I poured the sauce, as instructed, over the cooked macaroni once it was in the prepared casserole dish. This forms a thick and delicious gooey top layer that protects the noodles – keeping them soft and luscious. Pre-mixing the macaroni with the sauce will bring more pasta to the surface to get crunchy brown. Both versions are great. I just don’t know which Jack Mac and Cheese would be considered Latin and which Southern… GREG

Poblano Mac and Cheese: Southern Heat CookbookPoblano Jack Mac and Cheese: Southern Heat Cookbook

Poblano Jack Mac and Cheese

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8-10Source Southern Heat: New Southern Cooking Latin StylePublished
Poblano Jack Mac and Cheese


  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter (plus more for casserole dish, divided)
  • 2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup grated jack or Manchego cheese
  • ½ cup grated pepper jack
  • 5 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 roasted poblanos (stemmed, halved, seeded and cut into ½-inch dice)
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (plus more for boiling macaroni)
  • 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup fine breadcrumbs
  • 1 jalapeno (sliced with seeds)


Position a rack in the center of a convection oven and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 x 2-inch casserole dish (or similar) with butter and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the cheeses and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt 3 Tablespoons butter. Add in flour and whisk until combined. Cook, whisking constantly, until roux is smooth and thick, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly add in 2 cups of the heavy cream, continuing to whisk and cook over medium heat until sauce begins to thicken, several minutes. Add ½ of the cheese mixture and stir until smooth. Add the remaining cream, diced poblanos, salt, and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.

Meanwhile, cook the macaroni in boiling salted water, just until al dente. Drain well and while paste is still hot, add it to the prepared casserole pan. Sprinkle pasta with ½ of the remaining cheese mixture and pour cheese sauce over pasta. Top with the last ½ of the remaining cheese and then cover evenly with breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then remove and top with sliced jalapeno. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit a few minutes before serving.

I received a complimentary copy of the cookbook Southern Heat: New Southern Cooking Latin Style so that I might try this recipe for Poblano Jack Mac and Cheese. All opinions are my own.



Whiskey Cocktails Remind Me I’m Old


New Yorker whiskey cocktails

Whiskey cocktails remind me that I am – old.

Old – every November I run that word through my aging brain.

Old – and all that it entails. Reading glasses and achy joints. Gray hair and stretchy jeans. Sometimes I believe the jargon, and sometimes I don’t. Because honestly being old isn’t so bad. Having faced a few good years on this planet gives you a certain awareness that younger folks just can’t comprehend. When you’re old the years seem to pass quicker, but the world around you inexplicably slows down.

When things move at a slower pace, it’s easier to separate the good stuff in your life from the bad stuff. Beauty takes on a whole new meaning. If you’re lucky enough (and old enough) you even begin to recognize the beauty in yourself (stretchy jeans and all).

“Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough.”

Who said that? Was it Groucho Marx? I can’t remember because I’m old.

There are other things I can’t remember. Things like what it’s like to worry about how things will turn out.

At my age many of life’s major questions have been answered. Will I learn to accept myself? Will I find a job I love? Will I meet the right life partner? Will I be happy? Will I keep my hair? Will I learn to like whiskey? At my age I know the answers to these questions. That’s a good thing.

I realize these are lofty sentiments and you may be rolling your eyes. That’s because you’re young. Another wonderful aspect of getting older, is just how little you care what younger people think!
New York whiskey cocktailNew York whiskey cocktailWhiskey Cocktails

Whiskey cocktails are the perfect example. Once you get older and your palate develops – whiskey begins to taste really good. It really does. Take this whiskey cocktail, simply known as a New Yorker. It’s not much more than the whiskey of your choice (bourbon, rye, mash, Scotch, etc) lightly sweetened with grenadine syrup and stirred with citrus. If you like an Old Fashioned, you’ll like a New Yorker. In fact I thought about making Old Fashioned cocktails today but then there’s that word again – old.

You may have guessed by now, but I’ll tell you anyway. Today’s my birthday. So I made New Yorker whiskey cocktails. In toasting I couldn’t help but think about my life and the journey I’ve been on. Just because I’m old doesn’t mean I have all the answers.

For example: Is it wrong for vegetarians to eat animal crackers? Is there another word for thesaurus? Also, if Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her so many friends? And Madonna! How much longer can she continue to strut her stuff (she’s even older than me)? Is there life on Mars?

These are good questions. However, at more serious moments (like birthdays), I find myself sitting quietly with my partner Ken, sipping whiskey cocktails, pondering what’s next for us. After 25 years together we’ve essentially watched each other grow up. Still I can’t help but look at him and wonder – what will our lives will be like after 40 years together?

I’ll just have to wait til I’m really old and see. GREG

New York whiskey cocktail

New Yorker Cocktail

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1Source Mittie HellmichPublished
New Yorker Cocktail


  • 1 ½ ounce bourbon (or rye)
  • 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 dash grenadine syrup
  • 1 orange twist
  • 1 lemon twist


Pour bourbon and lime into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Add sugar and grenadine and stir well. Twist the orange and lemon peels over the drink and drop them in.

Whiskey Cocktails



Lentil Pâté for V-Day and T-Gives


Lentil Pâté

This is my first ever entry to the widespread, well-loved internet phenomenon known as Meatless Monday. To get me acclimated I made a lentil loaf – but I called it a Lentil Pâté. For obvious reasons, right? Lentil loaf is gray and lifeless. It’s hard to make a glamorous lentil loaf. But pâté, well that’s seductive, huh? After all, why can’t Meatless Monday be enthralling? Burdensome name aside, Meatless Monday has the potential to be magnetic. I’ve often thought that vegetarianism too often focuses on the absence of the meat rather than the presence of vegetables.

I’m sure a lot of vegetarians would disagree with that statement, but from a non-vegetarian point-of-view it seems to me that the produce itself gets short shrift when the dishes are defined that way. I mean come on “meatless” is so negative. Why concentrate on what it’s “not” when vegetables have so much that “is”. Why not call it V-Day? I know there’s no day of the week that starts with “V” but can’t we all be just a little more imaginative? I mean V-day – it’s much more celebratory than sad, drab Meatless Monday.

Lentil Pâté

Nonetheless, I have a reason for participating and bringing you this Lentil Pâté on V-Day (forever formerly known on this blog as Meatless Monday). That’s because I’m trying to do as many meatless Thanksgiving dishes as I can this year. I’m having an unprecedented number of vegetarians at my T-Gives table and I want them to feel welcome. It’s a thankless job, but in my opinion pâté makes people feel wooed!

Who doesn’t want to be wooed? To me (and I hope to vegetarians everywhere) Lentil Pâté sounds like an exceptional, celebratory way to get a special meal rolling. Sure, my Lentil Pâté is a meatless pâté, but I’m no more likely to emphasis that than I am to continue calling the first day of the workweek Meatless Monday. We all know “less” is more… so I prefer the terms V-Day and T-Gives. After all it’s all in the name. GREG

Lentil Pâté

Lentil Pâté

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 24Source Martha Stewart LivingPublished
Lentil Pâté


  • 1 cup dried French green lentils
  • 2 cup vegetable stock
  • ½ onion (cut into 3 wedges)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounce thinly sliced shallots
  • 8 ounce thinly sliced cremini mushrooms
  • ⅓ cup dry sherry
  • ½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs (whites finely chopped, yolks reserved for another use)
  • crackers (for serving)


Bring lentils, stock, 1 3/4 cups water, onion, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat; simmer, adding water as needed (about ½ cup at a time) to prevent lentils from drying out, until they are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard onion, thyme, and bay leaf; set lentils aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, and cook, stirring often, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook until mushrooms have softened completely and shallots are deep-golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add sherry, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Remove from heat.

Reserve ¼ cup of shallot mixture for garnish; refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. Process remaining shallot mixture, the lentils, and nuts in a food processor until coarsely combined. Transfer to a large bowl, and stir in the egg whites.

Line a 2 ½-by 12-inch terrine pan or 5-by-10-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing 3 inches to hang over each long side. Spoon lentil mixture into pan, and fold plastic over top, pressing down until well-compacted. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours (or overnight).

To serve, unwrap top, and invert onto a platter. Bring to room temperature. Garnish with reserved shallot mixture. Serve with crackers.



Apple Blondies Say I Love You, 100x a Day


Apple Blondies

These Five-Spice Apple Blondies aren’t for me. Which isn’t to say I’m not going to eat them. Maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve been featuring sweet treats more often than usual. Well these Apple Blondies are a family obligation. As with all family obligations you have to take the good with the bad. Or in this case the sweet with the savory.

Families are funny things. There’s the family you grew up with, and then there’s the family you end up with. In my case these two families couldn’t be more different.

I grew up the son a pediatric cardiologist, which demanded a certain type of propriety. We weren’t particularly religious, but we were “culturally” Episcopal. This a short-hand combination for genteel reticence. I’m not saying there wasn’t love in our family. I’m just saying our love was best expressed through respectful behavior and good grades. We didn’t speak loudly at the dinner table, the TV shows we watched were decided democratically as a family (though of course we were Republicans) and our I love you’s were (mostly) reserved for birthday cards and broken bones. In my family Apple Blondies and other sweet treats were for after school and special occasions. This is the family I grew up in. It’s the kind of family I’m used to. However, the family I ended up with does things completely differently.

I won’t bore you with details or stereotypes. I will say there are things to love in both types of families. Besides, family obligations exist in every family. Only sometimes they’re shouted and sometimes they’re whispered.

I bring this up because there’s been a change to my family. My partner Ken’s mom has moved in with us. She’s the one with the sweet tooth. She’s the reason I baked Apple Blondies. Some families like to end every meal with something sweet. Some do not. That’s one way families are different. There are lots of others. However I’d like to talk about the way families are the same. In my experience families come “up to the plate” in times of need (that’s a baseball metaphor, not a dining metaphor).

Lately both my families have needed me to come up to the plate at the same time (on two separate coasts). My father has been struggling with health issues that have kept him bed-bound in Florida for a couple of months. You may have also noticed from reading this blog that I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Florida lately.

However, my partner’s mom has also been experiencing some age-related issues. My father’s problems are physical and he’s getting better. It’s more complicated for Ken’s mom. She’s physically quite healthy for a woman in her 80s. Frail, sure – but her heart, her lungs and her zest for life are all rather hardy. Still, she can no longer be alone. She forgets things, short term things especially. But also simple things. The kind of things that make it easy to worry about her. She has a tendency to repeat herself. I find myself saying, “Yes, it’s a beautiful day” 100x a day.

I also find myself saying “I love you, too” to her “I love you” more times in one day than I ever said to my own mother in her entire lifetime. It’s revelations like this that make you stop and think about families.

Apple Blondies

Anyway, she’s moved in and we’re making a new type of family. The type of family that ends its meals with something sweet. I’m happy to do it. Sure, it means binge-watching Friends, and baking more cookies, cakes, and Apple Blondies than I used to. But it also means saying “I love you” 100x a day. I think that could be good for me. GREG

Apple BlondiesApple Blondies
Apple Blondies
Apple BlondiesApple BlondiesApple Blondies

Five-Spice Apple Blondies

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 9Source Adapted from Amy TraversoPublished

Bars can be stored in an airtight container up to 5 days.

Five-Spice Apple Blondies


  • 8 tablespoon salted butter, melted and cooled (plus more for dish)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Five-Spice powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup chopped, toasted nuts (I used hazel nuts)
  • 2 large firm-sweet apples (about 1 pound total), peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch cubes (2 3/4 cups)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center position. Generously butter an 9-by-9-inch (or equivalent) baking dish. Line the dish with a piece of parchment sized to fit edge to edge and extend over two sides by a couple of inches on each side. Butter the parchment and set the dish aside.

Whisk together flour, five-spice powder, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and egg with a mixer until pale, about 2 minutes. Add nuts and apples, and stir by hand until combined. Add flour mixture, and stir until combined, about 30 seconds more.

Spread batter in pan, and bake until golden brown and slightly firm, about 45 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 30 minutes, then use the extended parchment to lift the blondies from the dish. Cut into bars before serving.


Sweet Potato Baked Eggs: My Vessel is a Tug-Boat


Sweet Potato Baked Eggs

Baked Eggs may be the apex of all the eggs-for-dinner recipes. That is – when they’re done right. There are quite a few recipes for baked eggs out there. Unfortunately I’ve found problems with quite a few of them. If you want to succeed with my version you’ll need an extra-large, tug-boat of a sweet potato. Mine weighed 2 lbs (well 1.802). After all, it’s intended to be a meal. A meal for two on chilly autumn evening. However there’s another reason I suggest a monster sweet-potato for this Sweet Potato Baked Eggs with Prosciutto recipe.

As I said, I have a problem with many versions of baked eggs. Sure they’re the ultimate comfort food and we all love making them – in theory. However, baked eggs in general are trickier than you’d think. These Sweet Potato Baked Eggs are no different.

How many recipes for baked eggs have you tried that were utter failures? Quite a few I bet. I often end up with undercooked whites that gross me out, or overcooked yolks I wouldn’t feed a ferret. It seems you need a magic oven to get a baked egg with a perfectly cooked white and a luscious runny yolk.

By runny, I want you to know, I mean runny. I don’t mean soft. I mean runny. I’ve heard all the excuses explaining my failures from all sorts of reliable sources: Cover the dish. Don’t cover the dish. Use a water bath. Your oven is too cold. Your oven is to hot. Don’t use chilled eggs. Irradiated (I mean pasteurized) eggs won’t work… blah, blah, blah.

Sweet Potato Sweet Potato Baked EggsSweet Potato Baked EggsSweet Potato Baked Eggs

Sweet Potato Baked Eggs In a Tug-Boat of a Vessel

Well I’m going to add another excuse to the list. One that I have never heard discussed before: Your vessel is too small.

Well this cook doesn’t like to hear that his tug-boat is too small. But, if it’s true then I need to face the fact. Because common sense tells us that we’ll get softer yolks if the egg whites cook faster than the yolks. A large vessel allows the egg whites to spread out and cook quickly. If it works in a frying pan, why shouldn’t it work in the oven?

My method for Sweet Potato Baked Eggs is not the only way to bake an egg, but it works for me. A tug-boat-sized sweet potato gives the egg white room to roam. There you go. I hope that’s the last time we have to discuss my vessel size. GREG

Sweet Potato Baked Eggs

Sweet Potato Baked Eggs with Prosciutto

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2Published
Sweet Potato Baked Eggs with Prosciutto


  • 1 extra-large sweet potato (at least 1 ½ lb)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 2 slice prosciutto
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature)


Set the oven rack in the center position, then heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Slice the potato in half crosswise. Rub all surfaces with olive oil and season the cut side with salt and pepper. Lay the potato halves onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, cut side down. Season the skin side with salt and pepper. Place in the heated oven to roast until the skin begins to brown and the flesh becomes quite soft, about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on size.

Remove from oven and leave the oven on. Flip the potatoes to sit cut side up. You may need to press them lightly, creating a flat bottom, so that they sit as level as possible. Let cool slightly then use a spoon to scoop out some of the flesh, creating a large well about 1-inch deep in each half.

Line each well with a slice of prosciutto, letting it overhang the sides where possible. Return the potatoes, still on this baking sheet, to the heated oven. Roast another 8-10 minutes, or until the prosciutto begins to get crisp.

Remove from oven, leaving the oven on. Crack one egg into each prosciutto-lined well keeping the yolk intact. Season with salt and pepper, return to the heated oven until the egg whites are mostly opaque, but the yolk is still runny, 8-10 minutes or according to taste. Because the potato retains heat, eggs will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven, so it is best to undercook it slightly.

Remove from oven and let rest on the baking sheet about 4 minutes. Serve warm.

Sweet Potato Baked Eggs