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Sicilian Cauliflower, Ph. D.

Sicilian Cauliflower, Ph. D.

Mark Twain wrote that “A cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.” Funny. Think about it. Cauliflower:  B.A., M.A., Ph.D.–and that is just one of those plain vanilla white cauliflowers. Who even knows how many degrees one of those splendid romanesco cauliflowers […]

Blue Cayenne is two! Woo-hoo! Join the party for a slice of lemon-spice visiting cake.

Blue Cayenne is two! Woo-hoo! Join the party for a slice of lemon-spice visiting cake.

This lemon-spice cake is my recipe gift to you today. It’s a visiting cake. The occasion? This week marks Blue Cayenne’s second birthday. Woo-hoo! Let’s party! But, what in the world is a visiting cake? Cooking diva Dorie Greenspan (Dorie’s Cookies, Baking Chez Moi, Around […]

Greek Baked Beans (Fassolia Yiachni)

Greek Baked Beans (Fassolia Yiachni)

 

Oxi! (or is it Nai! ?) I could never keep yes and no straight in Greek. (Could be a dangerous confusion in any language. I know.)

These Greek Baked Beans are delicious.

I just made another big (for me) Rancho Gordo bean buy and used their beautiful white cassoulet beans in this recipe. They are a kind of runner bean and are about the size of a small lima bean. They are a pretty bean, creamy in texture and, unless you really overcook them, they stay intact in your dish.

What makes these beans Greek? They are baked with a generous amount of olive oil, for one, and this slow-cooked tomato and bean dish is nothing if not reminiscent of Fassolia Yiachni, a traditional bean and tomato dish often served in Greek tavernas.

And what fun those tavernas can be! Rather than ordering from a boring old menu, you boldly walk into the kitchen and point to the dishes you want to order from the display of steaming pots. I’ve pointed to many a dish that looks like this bean and tomato combination in my day, particularly at Tria Adelphia Taverna in Victoria Square in Athens–our favorite place when we used to travel there. We spent many late nights dining there amid the glorious bouzouki-tinged tumult that was a constant at the restaurant. It is a very good memory of happy and adventurous times. Here are a couple of old photographs. Yes. That is me in the Jackie O glasses.

 

This recipe is adapted from one that appears in Joyce Stubbs’ 1963 cookbook The Home Book of Greek Cookery. I’ve been nostalgic for Greek cooking lately and found that I have several Greek cookbooks on my shelves. Apparently, I’ve had this book for around fifty years. The sticker on the back of the book says I paid 425 drachmas for the book–about $1.50, I think.

It was nai (pronounced nee), by the way (in that first sentence of this piece). These Greek Baked Beans are a yes in any language.

Here is my adaptation of Stubbs’ recipe. Traditionally, this bean dish is a stove top dish. I took the liberty of transforming it into a baked version. I have yet to meet a baked bean that I don’t enjoy and this dish was no exception.

Greek Baked Beans
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound dry white beans (I used Rancho Gordo cassoulet beans)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 1-2 large onions (chopped)
  • 2-3 T. honey (or sugar) or to taste
  • 1 15 oz. can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Crumbled feta to garnish (optional)
  • Chopped red onion to garnish (optional)
  • Drizzle of high quality olive oil to finish the dish before serving

Instructions

  1. Soak dry beans overnight in water to cover.
  2. On the next day, drain beans and cook either in a large pan with a couple of inches of water to cover the beans (30 minutes on simmer) or in an Instant Pot. (I used my Instant Pot and the process took about 40 minutes.) Drain beans and set beans aside. Your beans may not be totally cooked at this point but they will absorb water and juices during the baking process and will soften a bit more.
  3. Chop onions into a fine dice. In a large pot (I used my Le Creuset Dutch oven.), heat 2 T. olive oil and sauté chopped onions for about 10-15 minutes until the onions are tender and are beginning to caramelize. Watch your onions carefully during the sauté. It is easy to burn them rather than caramelize them.
  4. Add your sautéed onions to the cooked beans. Add remaining olive oil, tomatoes, bay leaf, honey and enough water to cover the beans by an inch or two. Heat the bean mixture to a simmer on your stove top, cover it with a heavy lid and then transfer it to a (preheated) 375 degree F. oven where it should cook for about an hour. Check on the beans several times during the hour of cooking to be sure that the water in the pot has not cooked away (mine did) and to stir the beans. If the water has cooked away, add more water.
  5. After the hour of cooking, take the beans from the oven and add a bit more water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and simmer on your stove until the beans are thick and soft. You can also add more honey (or sugar) at this point. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
  6. Garnish with crumbled feta if you like. Some finely-chopped red onion would be good, too. Drizzle with high quality olive oil and enjoy.
7.6.4
88
http://bluecayenne.com/greek-baked-beans-fassolia-yiachni

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One More Time! Parker House Rolls

One More Time! Parker House Rolls

There are a lot of paths to the same destination. (Sound pretty Zen? I’m having one of those mornings.) I previously posted an excellent recipe for Parker House Rolls on Blue Cayenne (Here), but learned this new recipe in a Sur La Table class this […]

A Ligurian Great-Grandmother And An Artichoke Torta To Remember

A Ligurian Great-Grandmother And An Artichoke Torta To Remember

  For regular people, this is a wonderful dish. For artichoke aficionados this dish makes the earth move. This torta has lots of meaty artichokes (two pounds of hearts) suspended in an airy parmesan cheese and egg custard. Artichokes and egg custard. Wow. This recipe […]

Michael Feinstein, Alexa and Me: Grape Tomato and Basil Risotto

Michael Feinstein, Alexa and Me: Grape Tomato and Basil Risotto

This week’s farmers’ market had the most beautiful grape tomatoes in the history of the world. Impulsively, I bought three baskets. Whoa! What does one person (and a small sweet dog) do with three baskets of ripe tomatoes?

So, this morning I bucked myself up with a little self-talk that I can do this and, by mid-morning, I’m beginning to work my way through my abundance of tomatoes. First stop, this wonderful grape tomato and basil risotto.

Upside: This risotto is decadently delicious. Downside: There is that boring part where you have to stand over the stove and stir six cups of broth into the rice for twenty long minutes. No. That’s not a typo. Twenty boring minutes stirring. Ugh!

I got through it partly with the help of Alexa, my Amazon bestie. She played a medley of love songs sung by Michael Feinstein as I stirred away.  (My favorite Feinstein song, by the way,  is the bittersweet Where Do You Start. Give it a listen. It is extraordinary. You’ll never look at your collection of  books and “tapes” the same way again.  (Michael Feinstein : Where Do You Start?) If you don’t know about Michael Feinstein and have romance in your soul, I recommend that you treat yourself to his album Isn’t It Romantic? It will improve your risotto game. I promise.

This recipe is an adaptation of one I learned in a Sur La Table cooking class in Costa Mesa taught by gifted chef Jennifer King.

Yields 4 Servings

Grape Tomato and Basil Risotto
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Ingredients

  • 6-8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 T. unsalted butter (divided)
  • 1/3 C. finely chopped shallots
  • 1 C.Arborio rice
  • 1/2 C. dry white wine
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 C. finely grated Asiago cheese
  • 1 C. grape tomatoes (quartered)
  • 1/4 C. fresh basil leaves cut into ribbons
  • Chopped basil and shallots for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat broth, cover and keep hot
  2. Melt 2 T. butter in a large pan over medium heat until the butter foams. Add shallots and saute until softened (about 3 or 4 minutes) stirring frequently. Add rice and stir for about three minutes until the rice is well-coated with the butter and heated.
  3. Add the white wine to the pan and stir until most of the wine is absorbed into the rice.
  4. Ladle broth, one scoop at a time, into the rice mixture. Stir the broth into the rice until the ladle-full of broth is fully incorporated into the rice. Then add another ladle of broth. Repeat until the rice is al dente, having absorbed most of the broth. This will take 20-25 minutes. When the rice is ready, it will be creamy. (You, on the other hand, will be tired.)
  5. Take the rice off the heat and season with salt and pepper. Stir in remaining butter and Asiago cheese. Stir in tomatoes and basil ribbons.
  6. Serve immediately in warmed bowls garnished with chopped basil and additional grated Asagio cheese.
Cuisine: Italian/American | Recipe Type: Risotto
7.6.4
83
http://bluecayenne.com/michael-feinstein-alexa-and-me-grape-tomato-and-basil-risotto

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Southern Comfort: Lemon Buttermilk Ice

Southern Comfort: Lemon Buttermilk Ice

Pucker up for this one. This Lemon Buttermilk Ice recipe is adapted from one authored by Steven Satterfield, executive chef/co-owner at Atlanta’s Miller Union and author of the Root To Leaf cookbook. ( Amazon: Root To Leaf  ) Satterfield is a James Beard Foundation award winner […]

An Irish Girl and Mashed Potato Salad with Scallions and Herbs

An Irish Girl and Mashed Potato Salad with Scallions and Herbs

Everyone loves potato salad. Right? Add a dash of Irish heritage and you move right past love to a near obsession. That would be me. True. I haven’t taken the Ancestry.com DNA test.  (I’m waiting for that proverbial Irish bargain sale.) Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure […]

Smashed and Seared Beets

Smashed and Seared Beets

John Keats wrote that “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

So it is with this beautiful salad. The colors are intense. The flavors and textures are delightful. There is joy on your plate.

But why do certain foods, like this beautiful salad, tempt our taste buds while others fall flat? According to an article in Popular Science, how we taste foods is affected by a complex set of factors including temperature, language, the utensils we use, color, environment and expectations.

For example, warm beer tastes more bitter than cold beer. Cold foods taste saltier. Likewise, the environment in which we dine affects our taste. In an interesting study, a group of Scotch whiskey drinkers were rotated through three themed tasting rooms. One room was decidedly “grassy.” As the crowd tippled, grass smells wafted in the air and the sounds of bleating sheep provided background Muzak. Others of the rooms were themed “sweet” and “woody.” Researchers found that the drinkers’ descriptions of the taste of the Scotch reflected the environmental clues. (Where do you sign up for Scotch tastings, by the way? If it will advance science, I’m willing to do my part.)

In another study, this one published in Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, a group of diners were gathered for a steak and fries dinner in a room that was specially lighted to showcase the food. A fine time was had by all until the special lighting was turned off and the diners discovered that the steaks were dyed blue and the fries were green. Yuck! Diners hurriedly pushed their plates away and several diners became physically ill.

I believe that color dramatically affects our sense of taste. I’ve long noticed the unappetizing quality of magazine food photographs where the color register is off or the color combinations are poor. Despite a strong affinity for the color blue, food magazine covers with lots of blues send me running.  On the other hand, covers dominated by reds and bright greens catch my eye and stimulate my appetite. Show me a photo of a bowl of juicy strawberries and I’m a happy camper.

This beautiful Smashed and Seared Beets recipe certainly hits all the right color notes with brilliantly-colored red and orange beets sitting atop a smooth white goat cheese crema and sauced with a bright green Chimichurri sauce.

There are rainbows of colorful beets now available in markets. Put some color on your table tonight with this great recipe. But, whatever you do, don’t let anyone slip you one of those nasty blue steaks.

Yields 4 Servings

Smashed and Seared Beets
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Ingredients

  • Beet Salad Ingredients
  • 1/2 C. (4 ounces) goat cheese (at room temperature)
  • 3/4 C. heavy cream
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds small to medium beets
  • 1 1/4 C. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves (halved)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Baby arugula or baby spinach
  • Chimichurri Ingredients
  • 1/4 C. red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled)
  • 1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 C. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 C. fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 C. fresh cilantro leaves (stems removed)
  • 1/4 C. fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 t. ground cumin

Instructions

  1. To make the beet salad, put goat cheese, cream and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl and whisk. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Put beets, 5 cups of water, cider vinegar, garlic, bay leaf, and 1 t. salt in a large saucepan and simmer over high heat. Once the water begins to vigorously simmer, partially cover the pot with a lid and continue to simmer until the beets are tender. This will take between 35 and 50 minutes depending upon the size of the beets. Remove the beets from the cooking water and let them cool.
  3. Trim the cooled beets (but do not peel off the skin) and then smash them. I put the beets on my cutting board and used a large plate to smash them. You want them to be flattened but not smashed to the point of coming apart. Then, heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the beets and cook them undisturbed until the beet skins are crispy and caramelized. This will take about 3-4 minutes per side. (Turn the beets over once during cooking.) Season with salt and pepper.
  4. To make the chimichurri sauce, combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree. Chill the sauce.
  5. To assemble the dish, spread a thick layer of the goat cheese crema over the bottom of a large serving platter. Arrange the smashed beets over the top of the crema. Drizzle chimichurri over the dish and garnish with arugula or spinach. Serve with extra chimichurri sauce on the side.
Cuisine: American | Recipe Type: Salad
7.6.4
80
http://bluecayenne.com/smashed-and-seared-beets

This recipe was adapted from one in Cara Mangini’s cookbook The Vegetable Butcher, available for purchase on Amazon. (Amazon: The Vegetable Butcher)

 

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You Need This No-Knead Bread

You Need This No-Knead Bread

Trust me. You can do this. I know. I know. It’s (eek!) bread making. Still. This recipe is a “take” on  the slow-rise fermentation bread making technique that was popularized some years ago by Jim Lahey, founder of New York’s  Sullivan Street Bakery. Mark Bittman, […]


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Asian Zucchini Noodle Salad

Asian Zucchini Noodle Salad

Spiralizers. You’ve probably heard of them. Toaster-sized spiralizer appliances take boring old potatoes, beets and zucchini–you know, the vegetables that come to you in the elegant shapes that Mother Nature intended– and turn them into noodles. (Forgive my snark.) Nevertheless, I confess that I’m a […]

Salad Days!  Summer Squash Carpaccio with Arugula

Salad Days! Summer Squash Carpaccio with Arugula

    With the weather heating up here in Southern California, these are salad days to be sure. A digression: If you’ve ever wondered about that expression, “salad days” has Shakespearean origins. In Antony and Cleopatra, a rueful Cleopatra laments her youthful inexperience and recklessness– “…my salad […]

Avocado-Cilantro Salad Dressing

Avocado-Cilantro Salad Dressing

  I’ve lived in my home for forty-seven years and for most of that time we had an enormous Haas avocado tree in our back yard. Talk about an embarrassment of riches! In addition to the abundance of avocados we had to eat and give away […]

Edamame Salad

Edamame Salad

      These days many food sites exhort us to “eat the rainbow”–a colorful visual cue to remind us of the importance of incorporating a variety of nutrients into our daily diets.  Good advice. I know I need the nudge. Here is a recipe for […]