HOT Tomatillo Salsa

My latest recipe was put together over the weekend because I was given a bunch of green tomatillos from a friend’s summer garden.  Tomatillos are sort of like tomatoes, but covered with a husk.  They are great for cooking.  



About 10 tomatillos

Peppers – For this recipe I used one large bell pepper, about six habañero, 5 serrano and 8 jalepeño (use any variety you want)

One large white onion

Salt (to taste)


One large tomato

6 cloves of garlic

Process:  Take the tomatillos and de-husk and wash.  Tomatillos are sometimes sticky on the skin, that’s normal.  Wash and then cut the tops off the peppers but do not deseed.  Place the tomatillos and peppers on a baking sheet and place on the top rack of the oven, right under the broiler.  


Heat up under the broiler until blackened, taking the baking sheet out and turning the peppers and tomatillos over to get all sides completely blackened.


While this is going on in the oven (keep an eye, its a rather fast process) – cut the tomato up into quarters and put in a blender and puree.  Put the tomato puree into a mixing bowl.  Repeat process with the onion and garlic cloves.  

Remove the blackened tomatillos and peppers from the baking tray and place in blender.  Puree down as with the tomato, onion and garlic.  Transfer into mixing bowl.  Stir all the ingredients together in the mixing bowl and add in as much salt and cilantro as you’d like.  There will be some water, etc. that will come out of the tomatillos and peppers as you grill them, put that into the mix too, it’s good!  Don’t lose that from the baking sheet!

Now you have HOT salsa!



CSA Dinner

Tonight we made dinner from our ongoing sampling of veggies etc. that comes in our CSA bag each week.   These recipes use the zucchini, scallions, portobello mushrooms and onions from this week.  


Zucchini Fritters



2 eggs

2/3 cups of flour

Bunch of scallions (about 7)


Take your zucchini and after washing it grate it (with the skin on).  Mix the grated zucchini with a little bit of salt and let it stand for 10 minutes.  After the water has drained from the zucchini roll it in paper towels to get a lot of the water out.  Put the zucchini in a bowl.  Add the two eggs, the cut up scallions (all the way to the green ends!) and flour together in a bowl and mix together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  


Heat a little bit of oil in a saucepan and then drop some of the zucchini into the saucepan and lightly pan-fry.  Place on paper towels to drain.





2/3 yogurt to 1/3 mayo 

Italian and Dill seasonings

Whisk everything together and place in a bowl


Steak with Portobello Mushrooms


5 steaks

4 Portobello Mushrooms

2 small onions

4 cloves of garlic

1 can of capers

Red Wine (any kind you have around)

Red Wine Vinegar


In a large saucepan put a little bit of butter in the pan and place the onions and garlic cut up with a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and some salt.  Sauté.  Then place the cut up mushrooms into the pan and continue to stir.  Add in some of the wine and red wine vinegar (about a cup of wine and about 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, but to be honest, I do not measure).  After everything comes to a boil, turn the heat down to the lowest setting and add in the capers and then the steaks.  Stir everything together and cover the dish to simmer for about 50 minutes for the steak to get very tender and the juice incorporated.  Stir occasionally.   

Zucchini Flowers for Dinner (and one guest)

IMG_5691-Zuchini-flower-Squash-blossom-750 Did I mention that I love our CSA?  They are so thoughtful!  We get delivery of our veggies and NY cheese on Wednesdays and just before my pickup time we got this note and warning:   Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 5.53.45 PM I love it!  Bees – happy bees!   So of course I opened my package of zucchini blossoms on the porch because well, I didn’t want one in the house.  Unfortunately, I did have a bee, but he/she didn’t make it.  More on that in a moment.   A new adventure!  I have never cooked zucchini blossoms!   In preparation I spent about an hour last night watching videos online and deciding my plan of attack to this new adventure in cooking which is one of the main reasons Juan and I decided to get a year-round CSA, it forces us every week to come up with new recipes and try out things we haven’t had before, which is about 80% of the joy for me, figuring out how to cook new things and expand my skill set.  There are many preparations for the beautiful zucchini flowers, but the consensus online among professional chefs seemed to be that cheese is the best filling.  And I have cheese!  Lots of NY cheese!  From my CSA!    First the ingredients (this was my set up before I started cooking):   IMG_1373   Ingredients: Vermont Quark that also had local honey and black pepper in it (the honey gave a great slight sweet taste to this!) Moonlight cheese A little bit of milk (or you can use half and half or full on heavy cream)  I decided to use milk so that I can say I made a “healthy” choice…..    Baby green onions More fresh cracked pepper (I put this in everything) Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, best when the cheese is room temperature.  You can use any cheese you want or like, but they need to be soft cheese for mixing.   And if you want to put something else in this (I know some of you might want to put, say, bacon in!) I guess you could do that.  All of my cheese also came from my awesome CSA and it’s all local.   IMG_1376   Next you need to CAREFULLY get the stamens out of the zucchini flowers if that hasn’t already been done.  This is the hard part. It took a lot of effort and patience so I didn’t tear the flowers.    And that’s when I found my bee who didn’t make it.  S/he died in the flower, after s/he had overdosed on zucchini pollen.   S/he died happy.  RIP.     IMG_1374   Next you load up the cheese into the zucchini flowers and close them up.  One of the shows I watched last night suggested using a tiny spoon to do this because even a teaspoon won’t fit.  Luckily, Juan and I kept the baby spoons from 12 years ago and so I used one of those (Parents: if you have a baby right now and wonder, “What will I do with these adorable little baby spoons?” you should keep them!  Don’t throw them out!  They will be very useful for gourmet cooking later!).     You also are supposed to put a small amount of cheese into each flower so it’ll cook better (I may or may not have made that rookie mistake…..) IMG_1378 Next you tuck some of the flower petals in and around the cheese.  I did the best I could.  This was the first time I was doing this after all!  Here are my zucchini flowers all organized with their cheese in them.  See the big one?  That’s the one where I went too far with the cheese!  IMG_1379   Now, there are a ton of ideas about how to cook them.   Some cooking shows have a way of deep frying them, others say pan fry.  There are baking recipes, and other ideas out there. I decided to go with pan fry.   Let me just say it didn’t turn out as it did on TV (as in perfect).  I learned a lot this first time, and think if I did it again I would be nearly perfect.   The reason it wasn’t perfect was because I didn’t listen to the advice about overdoing in on the cheese.   

Finished Product!

IMG_1387     IMG_1388

A happy husband!  

IMG_1393 (opening photo credit, Food and Wine Network)

Fiddleheads | What’s That?!?


So, I’ve been posting some pictures on Facebook of our latest round of veggies, etc. from our CSA bag this past week.  We got foraged fiddleheads and when I posted the photos many people were asking what they were, etc.  

Here’s a great explanation of fiddleheads from Forager’s Harvest.

Tonight I made them for dinner following this video from Martha Stewart.

Only difference from Martha is that I added freshly diced garlic as well.  Yum.  Above is a photo of my finished product.

Bonus Recipe–Colombian Chicken dish inspired by my mother-in-law

Dice up four cloves of garlic and a half a purple onion.

Throw them in a pot with some a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper (I grind my own).

Sauté until golden brown.

Then put a whole little jar (plus the water it comes in) of capers, a fresh tomato cut up into chunks and some white wine in.  

Continue to sauté.

When it’s hot, turn heat down to low and put a package of chicken in.  You can put in drumsticks, thighs, wings, breasts, whichever you want.  

Stir it all up and put the lid on the pot.  

Cook on low for about 45-60 minutes so everything gets really tender and all the flavors are incorporated into the chicken.


Finished product:  a happy husband!


Some CSA Recipes (Slaw, Salad and Pie)

Juan and I have started getting our veggies and fruit (and CHEESE!!!) each week from a CSA. If you don’t know what a CSA is, it’s Community Supported Agriculture. We’ve subscribed to a local one here in Albany that brings food from many different family farms around the upstate New York region.  We decided to join the CSA so that we can try new things each week and experiment with cooking things we haven’t normally cooked and get some fun new things too.  So far so good….

Some things I’ve made thus far, and these recipes are done by me going around the internet, poking around and then putting things together in a way that made sense to me, I sort of mushed a few recipes together. The pie recipe is the one I always make and again its one I drew on a few others for….hope you enjoy making these as much as we have.  


 Kohlrabi and Apple Slaw

This was my finished product.

This was my finished product.


Ok, I had no idea what to do with the kohlrabi. But I figured it out.


One whole kohlrabi, peeled and diced into matchsticks

Two apples (we had Pink Lady apples this week in the CSA bag) also peeled and diced into matchsticks

Dried cranberries—sprinkle as many or as few in as you want


Dice all the above up, throw it in a bowl raw and mix it up.



50/50 olive oil and lemon juice

Salt and Pepper to taste

Whisk it all together


Then dress the slaw up, as light or as heavy as you want. Eat!

Oh and the kohlrabi came with the leaves, etc.  I googled that and you can save the leaves and make an salad with those too.  I’m going to try that next so as not to waste.  Here’s the recipe I plan to try.  I’ll post how that goes…  


Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

My finished product.

My finished product.


Beets (we had six beets of various sizes in the CSA bag, so I used all of them)

1/3 of a large log of goat cheese

Olive Oil

Red Wine Vinegar





  1. Take the beets, and put them in a pot and cover with water.  Scrub them off if they still have dirt on them as ours did from the farm.  Put some salt in the water and boil the beets for 20-30 min until they are tender. Boil them with the skin on. When done boiling run under cold water and peel by hand or with a peeler. Then cut up the beets however you want, sliced, diced, cubed—whatever strikes your fancy. Throw them in a bowl.
  1. Make the dressing: Put two tablespoons of red wine vinegar into a small bowl. Then slowly stream in 1/3 cup of olive oil, whisking it together to make an emulsion. Then I ground in salt and pepper to taste.
  1. Stir together the dressing and the beets in a bowl. Then I let it stand for two hours to marinate.
  1. Cut up the goat cheese, I used 1/3 of a big log, but you can use more, there is no judgment…. Then I cut up the pecans. I don’t know how many I used, I just eyeballed that. I threw the goat cheese and the pecans into the bowl and mixed it all together.

That’s it!


Apple-Cranberry Pie

Pie on the plate.  Flaky so it broke up some.  The pie has only been out of the oven a half hour and half is gone because Juan is obsessed with pie.

Pie on the plate. Flaky so it broke up some. The pie has only been out of the oven a half hour and half is gone because Juan is obsessed with pie.


5-6 large apples, peeled and sliced

Dried cranberries (as much or as little as you want)


Pie Crust (for the top and the bottom)


Sometimes I make my own pie crust. Other times I buy it. If you buy it just roll out the pie crusts.  The photo above is with crust I bought, I was too tired to go through making crust, but I’ll do that for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

When I make crust from scratch I use the Cuisinart Pie Crust Recipe which is high on butter. It’s really good and a deadly treat. When I use that pie crust, I brush the top with a little bit of milk and lightly sprinkle some sugar on it. It’s like a sugar cookie on top when it comes out of the oven.  That’s what Cuisinart says to to, so I blame the bad health choice of that pie crust on them.  

I throw the diced up apples and cranberries in a bowl and mix them together. I drizzle agave over it and mix it in. Agave is like honey with a low glycemic load and super sweet.  It’s not perfect, some people say it’s bad too.  Oh well, it’s pie!  I have no idea how much I put in, maybe two to three tablespoons (?). I don’t measure, I just eyeball it.

Roll out one crust into the pie plate. Fill with the apple-cranberry-agave sweetness. Put the pie cover on and seal with fingers and a fork. Cut some air holes in the top.  

I have learned that you put a pie plate on a cookie sheet in the oven. Sometimes the apples bubble over and then your oven is a disaster. The cookie sheet is insurance against this.

Bake in the oven at 350° Fahrenheit for about an hour. I check it at 30-45-60 minutes. Remove when the apples are bubbling and hot piping. You can also put foil around the edges of the pie crust for the first ¾ of cooking so they don’t burn and then pull off the foil at the end. I only need to do this when I make my own crust.

Let it sit for about 45 minutes before cutting into it to eat the pie. This is the hardest part.


We are having fun with our CSA adventures. You have no idea what’ll come in the bag each week and then you just have to cook!  


How to Make Colombian Arepas (well, the ones my mother-in-law makes….)

Ok, so I have had a number of requests for how to make Colombian arepas because the photos of the ones I put up on Facebook seem to get everyone’s mouths watering.  Some of our friends (and visiting Colombian friends to “Hotel Ocampo”) have gotten to eat these in person and all say these are very yummy.

First of all, let me say that my methodology is just one way of making them.  There are many variations on the arepa.  You can read all about the various types here.   But like most things, it’s all about the family recipe that gets passed down–and we all like what we grew up eating….  My mother-in-law, Rosa Elena gave me a recipe on arepas many years ago that I still use now.  I have a marbled notebook in my kitchen that has handwritten recipes mostly of things she’s taught me to make.  She gave me a Colombian cookbook many years ago but it’s in the metric system and I’m just a little too lazy to do the math.

photoSo, here’s the recipe and some photos (and this photo on the right is from dinner last night, a pretty typical Colombian meal, this one just happens to be meat-less):

  • 2 cups maza (cornmeal)—you can get this in the Latin American food section of the grocery store (I like the white masa that is the instante type)
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • Queso blanco (or farmers cheese, can be bought in blocks at local Latino grocery stores the best kinds are wrapped in plantain leaves).  I am now starting to see “queso fresco” at places like Stop n Shop, but is just isn’t as good as the small-scale places IMHO
    1. Put maza, salt in a large bowl, stir to mix together.  Add ¾ package of Queso Blanco crumbled up.  Stir to incorporate all three ingredients.   If you really like cheese, go ahead…crumble up that whole package and throw it in!
    1. In a glass bowl or large pyrex pitcher microwave together the milk and water until hot but not boiling.  Then stir it into the maza mixture.  At first you will need to use a large wooden spoon, but eventually your hands until it is a large ball.  If it still seems like it’s not fully incorporated make a little more liquid 50/50 milk/water.
    1. Next get your griddle ready on the stovetop, greased.   Have heated to warm/hot.  You will then take a size of the maza mixture (a bit less than a golf ball) and roll in into a ball and then mash until about 1/2 inch thick.  Place arepa on griddle (continue until griddle is full, you may have to repeat multiple times).  Cook evenly on each side in low heat.
    1. Can be served warm, they taste very good with butter, or the rest of the container of Queso Blanco on them!  Colombians also eat them with an egg, or they can be sliced in half and stuffed with chicken, beans, or shredded beef.   You can also put slices of fruit on top, like avocado.  Yum!  Arepas can be made with or without the cheese and are sold all over Colombia, it is a very popular food.  They are often a side in a large meal, or eaten alone with café at breakfast.

And if you are a visual person like me, here is the step-by-step that we photographed at home (with thanks to my little kitchen helper)!

Ingredients: Masa and Queso Blanco (You all know where to get water, milk and salt!)…see the plantain leaf wrapping up the cheese!?!



Step One:  Put the masa into a bowl with salt (dry ingredients)


Step Two:  Mix in the crumbled cheese


Step Three: Mix in the milk and water


Step Four: Roll into small balls of dough mixture in hand, flatten out.  Use your fingers to smooth out the edges.
Step Five: Put the arepas on the griddle.  Turn over as they brown.  Make sure to keep enough oil so they do not stick, cast iron skillets are best (some Colombians deep fry theirs, I like to just use the pan method so I can tell myself this is a healthy thing….).  They’ll be crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.  If you make the arepa too thick you can mash it down with the back of the spatula a little bit after you turn it over the first time).  Practice makes perfect….for your final product!!!