Soup Jerk

I’ve been making a Jerk Chicken dish for several years now.  It has transitioned from a grilled dish to an oven-baked one, with good results.  The original idea got me onto an epidosode of “The Splendid Table” with Lynne Rosetto Kasper. She even took me seriously, which was a thrill.  I say that because the marinade is a little on the strange side, especially if Caribbean cooking is not something you’ve done often.

The Original Jerk Chicken recipe starts with a tangy, spicy, nutty paste made with:

  • 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
  • a very ripe banana (I put overripe ones in the freezer for just this reason – well, and muffins, too)
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite peanut butter
  • a tablespoon of soy sauce
  • as much of your favorite Jerk seasoning blend as you like (Penzey’s has a great one)

Mash it all into a paste and coat some boneless, skinned chicken thighs with it.  I prefer thighs to breaimagest meat.

As I mentioned, this started out going on the grill.  I realized, though, that I lost half the good paste to the grill, since I had to turn the chicken so often to keep the paste from burning.  It can be done, though.

I recently started baking the dish in the oven out of convenience, and found I like it even better.  The sauce thins out as the meat exudes broth, but the flavors move deeper into the meat.  And it is easy; a dish of six thighs cooks in about 25 minutes – just long enough to pan fry some plantain in a bit of coconut oil and sauté some chopped greens, like the last of the Swiss Chard I picked before last weekend’s surprise snow.  What a great warming meal!

Then, last night, as I was putting away the leftovers, I looked at that baking dish with the rich brothy sauce, the remaining three thighs and a nice pile of braised chard and thought “SOUP!”   It was half done, already.

Here’s what I did to finish it this morning.

  • I cut six or seven smallish Yukon Gold potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes and put them in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • The leftover sauce went in next, followed by:
  • the remaining thighs, which I tore into bite-size pieces
  • a good solid cup or more of the cooked Swiss Chard (any greens, including limp Romaine Lettuce would work just as well)
  • and a quart of chicken broth. In this case I used Earth Fare Organic broth in the carton, but homemade is even better, if you have it
  • Just for fun, because it is a Caribbean-influenced dish, after all, I added about 1/4 cup coconut oil.

It simmered on low all day.  It would have been just fine as it was, but I felt like boosting the richness just a tad, so just before serving, I softened about 1/4 cup cream cheese and tempered it with hot broth – ladling the broth into the cream cheese while stirring briskly to eliminate lumps.  This mixture went back into the soup, which was then ladled into warm bowls.

Fantastic stuff. The first bite of those tender, seasoned potatoes and we swooned.




Mustard Mayhem

I started making mustard in 2012.  I had long ago fallen in love with Vilux Peppercorn Mustard.  I used it on roasted veggie sandwiches, in dressings, and to make a sauce for grilled salmon and just about anything else I could think of.  I loved it so much that I bought a case of it before we moved from Minneapolis to NE Tennessee – thinking that would tie me over long enough to find it in a grocery here.  Ha!

Not only could I never find it around here, but our favorite grocery in the world (and only place we could find it in Minneapolis) also stopped carrying it, citing difficulties with the distributor.  Yes, it is available online, but it’s already expensive enough without including shipping.

Mustard is ridiculously easy to make.  It also lasts a long time in the fridge, and can be made shelf-stable with a water-bath canner.  It’s cheap, too.  For the cost of one jar of Vilux or other “fancy” mustard, I can buy a pound of mustard seed – enough to make 14 half-pint jars, easily.

Last year I added homemade mustard to the list of goodies in the Christmas – or as is the case this year – MLK Day goodie basket.  In preparation, I purchased 5 pounds of yellow mustard seed from Penzey’s.


The process for making mustard is simple.  Pour mustard seed into a large bowl.  Cover with apple cider vinegar.  Let it sit.  Keep adding vinegar until the mustard seed stops absorbing it.  You can add things to it at this point, as well: herbs, seeds (like cumin, caraway, etc.).  I wanted to make Green Peppercorn mustard, but I also knew I was going to make some other varieties, so I soaked 8 ounces of green peppercorns in vinegar in a separate bowl.

At this point you can process the mustard or do like I did and carry on with life for a day or two.  Or in my case, three weeks.  It’s all good.  When you are ready, grab your additions, more vinegar, maybe some wine, and a food processor.  Let the Mustard Mayhem begin!  1013363_10152128749128116_2117184311_n


Each recipe below starts with 2 cups of soaked mustard seed.  That’s enough to keep normal people in mustard for quite  while.

Green Peppercorn: The One That Started it All

2 cups mustard seeds that have absorbed as much vinegar as possible.
1/2 c. soaked green peppercorns
1/2 c. white wine*

*I had some boxed chardonnay that needed to be used (no one seemed to want to drink it).  If you don’t have wine, use more vinegar.

Place the mustard and peppercorns in the bowl of a food processor.  Process.  Pour the wine through the feed tube and continue processing until it is the consistency you like.  I process mine for about 3 minutes.  That’s it!  Mustard!  Delicious, earthy, pungent, peppery mustard.  Add more peppercorns or fewer.  Whatever.  These proportions suit us nicely.

Red Pepper Mustard

2 cups mustard seeds that have absorbed as much vinegar as possible.
3 dried red peppers
1/2 c. White wine
1 Tbsp Turmeric^
1 tsp sea salt

Soak 3 dried red peppers in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Coarsely chop.  Add these, along with the mustard seed, turmeric and salt, to the bowl of a food processor.  Process.  Pour the wine through the feed tube and continue processing until it is the consistency you like.  I process mine for about 3 minutes.

^ Turmeric is the spice that gives good old French’s mustard that insane yellow color.  It is also good for you.  And it can be a bit bitter.  The salt balances the bitterness.

Rosemary Thyme Mustard

2 cups mustard seeds that have absorbed as much vinegar as possible.
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
1 tsp ground thyme (or 2 Tbsp fresh, coarsely chopped)
1 c. white wine

You get the idea.  I used more wine in this one because I just wanted it to be a little thinner.  Sometime you just want to go crazy.

And Finally…

Black Gold

Look, I had to call it something.  It has more stuff in it than the others, so it needed it’s own name.  While it is sometimes fun to give recipes names like this,  it is after all, only mustard.  Still, I really like this stuff.

2 cups mustard
1/2 cup black sesame seeds
1/2 cup dried red shiso leaves, ground
3 ounces pickled sushi ginger
2 Tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup umeboshi vinegar
2 cups apple cider vinegar

This is the kind of thing you can do when you make your own mustard.  It gives you something to do with the shiso that grew very well last year, as well as the open jar of pickled sushi ginger that you used once last year and would love to get out of the refrigerator.  Not to mention the half-quart of apple cider that no one drank last fall so you cultured it with some umeboshi vinegar, with this very day in mind.


Well of course, 5 pounds of mustard seed is a bit overboard.  But as I said, it is for gifts, and for long-term use.  And that means putting it in glass jars and sitting it on the shelf until I need it.

That is also quite simple.  Gently heat the mustard at a simmer, stirring often so it doesn’t burn.  Sterilize your jars.  My canner holds 14 half-pints or 10 pints.  A double batch of any of the recipes above will make enough to fill a canner with 1/2 pint jars.  It just so happens that 5 pounds will make about 10 batches of these recipes.  Woo hoo!

Fill the hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Done.  Mustard for gifts, or to last you one very active grilling season.

Carrot-Apple Salad

This experiment is definitely a keeper!

I used the food processor to shred the carrots.   I had about two cups of sliced apples on hand, already rinsed in lemon juice and water to prevent browning, so I used a kitchen knife and julienned the slices.  I would be concerned about excessive browning and mushiness if they had been shredded.  The larger julienne cut kept them crisp.

2 cups carrots, shredded using a box grater or food processor.

2 cups julienned apples that have been rinsed in lemon juice and water to prevent browning.

1 cup sunflower seeds

3-4 Tbsp blood orange fused olive oil* or 2-3 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp orange juice (more or less depending on how moist your carrots and apples are).

3-4 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar* or apple cider vinegar (more or less depending on how moist your carrots and apples are).

2 Tbps honey

1 egg white


*I’ve noticed a trend in fancy olive oil shops opening.  There is one in Abingdon, one in Boone, and at least one in Asheville.  They are worth visiting, but realize there is a psychology being employed on you when you walk in.  It is not unlike getting a tour of a time-share condo at some resort.  They really work you!

That being said, they have some good, albeit expensive oils and vinegars.  My advice is to pick one oil and one vinegar that complement each other and leave it at that – unless you’ve just won the lottery.

My choice was Blood Orange Fused Olive Oil, meaning they pressed the skins from blood oranges at the same time as the olives were pressed.  It’s a beautiful, clear oil with a nice aroma and balanced orange flavor.  It is fantastic all on its own, drizzled sparingly over mixed greens, spinach, and/or arugula, or even roasted asparagus.

I chose the White Balsamic Vinegar to go with it because of the subtle sweetness and the lightness of it, especially when compared to the darker, muskier Balsamic de Modena.

I’ve had the two bottles for over a year; they keep well and go a long way, which is a good thing, considering the price.  A nice splurge.

If you haven’t splurged, use regular extra virgin olive oil and a little orange juice, and apple cider vinegar.  Maybe a little more honey, depending on how it tastes to you.  That’s what I was going to do until I remembered the splurgy stuff hiding in my pantry.

Mix the carrots, apples and sunflower seeds together in a medium mixing bowl.

Blend the oil, vinegar, honey and egg white in a measuring cup with a whisk or immersion blender.  Pour over the vegetable mixture and toss to coat everything well.  Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.

Chicken Breast Stuffed with Capicola and Provolone

I had one chicken breast left from the package after making the Indian-inspired chicken dish, last night.  It would have been big enough for two people sliced and added to some rice, pasta, or soup, but I wanted a real blue-plate sort of meal tonight; meat, potatoes, vegetables.  So, I got out the old meat mallet and took after that lonely thing until it was almost the size of a standard dinner plate.  I seasoned one side with my standby Cavendar’s Greek Seasoning (salt-free version in the blue container), turned it onto a plate and covered it first with a layer of capicola (prosciutto, ham or salami would do, also), followed by a layer of sliced provolone.  I rolled it up into a log and let it chill in the fridge while I was at work.

Roasting veggies in a hot oven with a little olive oil is my favorite way to eat veggies.  Mr. Dewey likes them that way, too.  In fact, he ended his 40+ year ban on beets, turnips, rutabaga and even asparagus when I presented him with a dish of roasted root vegetables one day last fall!  If the weather is too warm to turn on the oven, I grill them.  The great thing about roasting veggies is you can cook a whole week’s worth of veggies at one time.  With minimal seasoning, they are completely versatile.  Portions of veggies can be seasoned and added to dishes or served as sides, or, one of our favorites, stuffed into a mustard-slathered baguette, topped with cheese, wrapped in foil and heated on the grill!

So, I threw some broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots into a small glass dish, and drizzled a little olive oil over all, and tossed them into the 400˚F oven.   I roasted a dish of Honey Gold baby potatoes, drizzled with olive oil and a little sea salt at the same time.  While these roasted, I heated more olive oil in a skillet and browned the rolled, stuffed chicken breast on all sides.  That finished in the oven along with the veggies and taters for the last 10 minutes.

I tossed a little chopped fresh parsley on the potatoes as they came out of the oven and we had dinner!  It looked lovely, too, with that capicola and melty provolone peeking out the side.  A loaf of red wine and cheddar bread from the “Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” book went quite nicely with the meal.  Lemon bars were the perfect dessert.

Indian-inspired Quick Dinner

Mr. Dewey woke up with the beginnings of a cold.  I’ve had a stuffy head for a week or more, and have just felt wrung out.  It seemed some warm, head-clearing, blood-cleaning spices were in order.  I often will make a slow cooker chicken and lentil dish with Buryani paste, tomatoes, onions, and a few other seasonings.  I like to cook the lentils separately in the rice cooker, with lots of cumin, cilantro, and ginger in the lentils, and the other seasonings in the chicken.

I didn’t have everything on hand that I needed for that dinner, so I just started pulling stuff from the fridge.  Here’s what I ended up with:

2 chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 Leek, trimmed of tough ends, chopped, rinsed and well drained
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 -10 ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed
2 Tbsp curry powder
2 Tbsp Coriander Chutney*
1 tsp Ginger, minced
1/4 cup creme fraiche, buttermilk, yogurt, or 1/2 and 1/2
1-2 tsp honey**

Sauté the leeks and onions in olive oil until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté another minute.  Add curry powder and chicken; sauté another 5 minutes.  Add about 1 cup of water, the coriander chutney and ginger; cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, another 5 to 10 minutes.  At the end, stir in the creme fraiche or whatever dairy you have on hand.  Serve.  We ate it just like that, but it would also be good over rice or lentils, or even with boiled potatoes.

**I used creme fraiche because I had some on hand and needed to use it up.  Only after I had stirred it in did I realize that I had sweetened it with honey when I served it with breakfast the week before.  Yikes!  Turns out, it was perfect.  The sweetness from the honey perfectly balanced the slight bitter edge from the curry powder.  It was really good!  So, if I make it again and use some other dairy, I will remember to add honey.

Swad Coriander Chutney

* I am in love with Swad Coriander Chutney.  I found it at the local Kroger and keep at least two jars of  it on hand at all times.  I could eat the stuff with a spoon!

This meal was delicious, healthy, quick, and did the trick of opening up stuffed heads and warming us up from top to bottom.




Orange Marmalade

I recently made some chocolate bread from these wonderful folk, and while enjoying it with mascarpone cheese and strawberry jam, thought how yummy it would be with orange marmalade – not the sickeningly sweet kind found in the grocery, but the slightly bitter stuff  you would find in some tiny British Isles import store in DC.  it is navel orange season, and the ones I found recently were particularly tasty. So, I bought a bunch and decided to try my hand at homemade marmalade.

Recipes for the stuff are easy to find, but I noted little similarity among them, other than the main ingredient: oranges. Some called for pectin, others not.  Some called for crazy amounts of sugar, others for honey and corn syrup.  Some were as simple as “slice oranges, add sugar and lemon juice and boil the hell out of it,” while others were more complicated than the directions for building one of those fake Rolls Royces out of a VW chassis.  Vanilla, cinnamon, brandy, vodka, peel, roast, scald, seed, chop, STOP!

Hoping for something fairly simple but not so simple it wasn’t worth the effort, I did what I often do, and took pieces of several recipes and patched them together, hoping it would turn out in the end.  I started with a recipe that called for a long poaching of a bunch of oranges and lemons together, along with cinnamon sticks.  I did not want to peel the oranges, then remove the pith and chop the fruits and the peels, as some recipes called for. For one thing, the pith is bitter, and I wanted that element.  For another, I’m just not that motivated. So, poaching sounded good.

Fruit is thinly sliced and returned to poaching liquid.

Fruit is thinly sliced and returned to poaching liquid.

I wondered if it made any real difference to poach whole fruit and then cut it, or if I could just cut the fruit and start boiling it straight away.  I’m still not sure, although when I did slice and then poach one orange, I noticed the pith stayed solidly white and, well, pithy.  When I poached the whole fruit and then sliced it, the pith was translucent and more solidly attached to the peel.  It looked more appealing, in any case.  So, I poached.  Most of the recipes called for far too much water. I’m no jelly-making wizard, but even I can tell that 12 cups of water, three cups sweetener and eight whole fruits was not going to make anything remotely spreadable.

In the end, I made two batches, with two different amounts of sugar and water.  One was plenty thick, and the other not so much.  Combined and cooked a little longer, the two were just about right.  Here is what I came up with:


Sugar is added and boiled to the gel point.

Sugar is added and boiled to the gel point.

14 seedless navel oranges
4 lemons
1 – 3# stick of cinnamon, broken into pieces
10 cups water
10.5 cups sugar

Poach fruits and cinnamon in water for 2-2 1/2 hours.
Cool. Remove cinnamon pieces and discard them.
Remove fruit from liquid. Quarter, seed as needed and thinly slice fruit.
Return fruit to water.
Bring to boil.
Add sugar and boil, stirring often, until syrup is desired thickness. At least one hour.

Process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Done and ready for the pantry!

Done and ready for the pantry!

Lobster in Chili Cream with Lemon-Basil Basmati

I have not done much cooking with lobster.  I don’t have much trouble accepting that living creatures are butchered for my dinner, but I hate the idea of putting a live creature in scalding water.  I also don’t like paying a galling amount of money for a lobster tail.  So I was quite excited when Earth Fare had a special offer this week for two lobster tails for $9.  I bought 4.

I scouted the internets for some recipe ideas, but didn’t find myself excited by all the butter, cream, and oils used in so many of the recipes.  For instance, a sauce for 4 servings required 1 cup peanut oil and 2 cups heavy cream.  I already rode the cholesterol carousel once this month, thank you!  But for some reason, my belly wanted a cream sauce for this lobster.  A fairly thick one at that.  I wanted something with a robust flavor as well, but not something that would completely mask the subtle flavor of the lobster.

Here’s what I came up with:

4 lobster tails, uncooked, shells removed and reserved.

Lobster in Chili Cream with Lemon-Basil Rice

Lobster in Chili Cream with Lemon-Basil Rice

2 T. corn starch
2 T. chili powder (I used Earth Fare’s blend for this)
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1 1/2 c. half and half

1 cup basmati rice
2 c water
Juice from two lemons
1 T. dried basil

First, I started the rice, liquids and basil in the rice cooker.  Have I ever said that I love my rice cooker?  I love my rice cooker.  Anyway, I started the rice.  I would probably have preferred to use chicken stock in place of the water, but I was making extra rice for a dish for the church dinner tomorrow, and wanted that dish to be vegan, so, water…

Once the rice was ready, I started on the lobster part.  I cut through the shells and removed the meat.  The shells went into a stockpot with the half and half, and simmered while I worked on the rest of the meal.

The mushrooms were thinly sliced and ready for the pan.  I cut the lobster tails into 5 or 6 pieces each, then patted them dry with paper towels.  These were then tossed in a bowl that had the cornstarch, chili powder and cayenne mixed together.

The coated lobster pieces then went into the sauté pan wherein the oil and butter were hot and ready, along with the mushrooms.   This was sautéed until the lobster was cooked through and the mushrooms were tender but not limp – probably 6 minutes.  I strained the hot half and half over the lobster and stirred it until the sauce was thickened and well combined with the seasonings from the pan. Just for fun, I added a splash of peppered vodka, a little sea salt, and a pinch of sugar (which was needed to offset the slight harshness from the vodka.  If I hadn’t used the vodka, I would not have needed the sugar.

To serve, I placed a nice little timbale of rice in the center of each bowl, piled the lobster and mushroom mixture down one side of each timbale, and pooled the chili cream around the bottom of each bowl.  Garnished with a few chopped green onions (green part only), and served with some fresh baguette and a glass of chardonnay, and it was a festive dinner.