Category Archives: Recipes

Best Banana Bread!

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This banana bread is my great grandmother’s recipe except for a single addition, a little trick I learned in Hawaii. It has Cocoa Nibs added. They are pure chocolate which does not have any sugar or butterfat added. They do not melt, but remain crunchy and full of chocolate flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups self rising flour, plus more for pan
  • 4-5 medium very ripe bananas peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 cup full fat yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup cocoa nibs

Method:

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  • Heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mash bananas and stir in the yogurt/sour cream and vanilla
  • Using a mixer beat the butter, add eggs one at a time, beating till fluffy.
  • Blend remaining ingredients in a bowl and using the mixer beat in a little at a time till fully blended.
  • Place in a buttered and floured bread pan.
  • Bake for 70 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool slightly, then serve with sweet butter!

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Persian Saffron Rice in a Rice Cooker or Pressure Cooker

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Persian Saffron Rice in a Rice Cooker or Pressure Cooker

pomegranate chicken with saffron rice

This is lovely perfumed rice that has a crunchy bottom and a pillowy soft center. You can also do this on the stove, but it works best if you use a non stick pan to make it in.

I did this in my digital pressure cooker which has a rice cooker setting. You can halve this recipe if you want, but it is great for leftovers. I used leftovers of this rice in my Avgolemono Soup here.

I serve this with lots of things, but most recently made it with this amazing Pomegranate and Pistachio Chicken. 

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups long grain basmati rice
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1  Tablespoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter). If you don’t have that, vegetable oil is OK, but not as good!
  • 1/4 tablespoon ground saffron threads dissolved i 1 tablespoon hot water. (use a sugar cube or a teaspoon of Sugar in the Raw in a mortar and pestle to grind up the saffron threads. You can store Saffron water in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.
  • 3 TBS full fat yogurt. I buy mine at the Indian Grocery. I think it has the best texture and flavor, but as long as you get full fat you will be fine.
  • In the pressure cooker on saute or in a small pan, add the ghee, yogurt, and 1 cup of the rice. Brown and stir till the rice is golden. Put it in the bottom of your cooker.
  • In a separate bowl mix remaining rice, water, salt and saffron threads. Stir well then add to the cooker.
  • Cook on brown rice setting. Or if using a pot, about an hour covered. Put a tea towel between the lid and the pot if using a pot.
  • Allow rice to cool for ten minutes.
  • Turn out on a platter or large bowl, the crust should be on top.

My Best Shrimp and Grits Recipe

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grits close up

Living in the Low Country where the best shrimp in the world is harvested, one is soon drawn to a variety of shrimp recipes and there is one dish that is so classically Charleston which always comes to the forefront. This was and still is a great breakfast recipe, but I love it for dinner. There are as many Shrimp and Grits recipes here as there are Charleston kitchens. I play around with the elements, sometimes adding cheese to the grits and sometimes adding chiles or okra to the shrimp element. I always use tomatoes, small shrimp and really good grits.

Grits

Let’s talk about grits for a moment. This dish would be seriously compromised by anything other than the very best stone ground grits you can find. I prefer mixed grits, a combination of yellow and white grits. If you live in Europe, you can use coarse polenta. Polenta is always made with yellow corn. Whereas southern grits are available in yellow and while as well as mixed (my favorite). Speckled grits mean that they leave the hull of the corn on (also my favorite).  I do like polenta for some things, it is not the same as good southern stone ground grits. At the bottom of this post I am adding a few links to what I consider the best online sources for the best grits. I am lucky that I can buy mine from Celeste Albers at the Charleston Farmer’s Market. But you can buy really great grits online now.

shrimp boat

Now, let’s talk shrimp. Buy wild caught when you can. For this recipe I really like small shrimp. Not the tiny ones for salads, but about an inch or two long. Buy them with the shells on and peel just before cooking. If you freeze shrimp, put them in a zip lock bag and fill with water, making an ice block.  There will be no freezer burn. I am lucky to be able to go to the docks and get shrimp caught that day here. You may not be so lucky. Our shrimp season is from June-December give a week or two. This is to promote sustainable fisheries. Our shrimp are born early in the year and grow in our incredible estuaries (a series of creeks, marshes and rivers) and then swim to the sea in late May.

On to the recipe! This is one of my favorites, but I play around with it all of the time.

Shrimp and Grits Sassy Spoon Style

My grits recipe is done in a rice cooker, but if you do not have one, follow instructions on the bag. Here is a link to my recipe: https://sassy-spoon.com/2012/07/19/grits-in-a-rice-cooker-perfection/

Mise en place

Ingredients:

  • One recipe of grits for four, cooked
  • 3/4 pound small shell on shrimp, shelled
  • 1/2 cup of butter &/or olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves finely chopp
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of sliced okra (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chives
  • 2 cups tomatoes chopped
  • Pork in one way or another. In this recipe I used a Chinese sausage. You can also add cooked bacon or andouille sausage.
  • Your favorite hot sauce
  • Sea salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper

Method:

  • If using sausage or bacon, brown slightly in a skillet, remove and reserve
  • Put the butter/oil in the skillet
  • Add onion and saute till the onion just starts to turn golden.
  • Add garlic and saute another minute
  • Add tomatoes, herbs, hot sauce and seasonings, cook for 10 minutes on simmer
  • Add shrimp and stir. It will be ready when the shrimp starts to turn pink.
  • Scoop out the grits and top with the shrimp mixture
  • Garnish with chives or parsley

Here are some sources for great stone ground grits.

The Ultimate Beef Stroganoff From Scratch

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Plated Stroganoff with roasted veggies

As Fall starts bringing us cooler weather, I start thinking of these hearty dishes from my youth (a very long time ago). My mother made Beef Stroganoff with Cream of Mushroom soup, dried reconstituted onions and anything else processed she could get her hands on. It was the age of processed foods, I really don’t blame her. My great grandmother (who was my true inspiration for cooking and gardening) on the other hand was a “scratch cook,” nothing processed and everything full fat and delicious. She was raised on an Indiana farm and spent her first 60 years there. Then they sold the farm and moved to Glendora, California where I spent almost every weekend with her till I was 14. I never saw her use a recipe and Beef Stroganoff was probably her most exotic meal. I added a few of my personal touches to this, she never used smoked paprika and  I don’t think she ever used buffalo or sherry. She made her noodles from scratch and we would roll them out with the same old rolling pin I use today. This is an easy recipe and you can take out some of the fat by using milk where I used cream and if you really want to you can use low fat sour cream or yogurt…. but I suggest that you try it this way first. It is a “splurge meal.”

Ingredients:

  • About 1 pound of beef, you can use sliced sirloin, ground beef or ground buffalo like I did.
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 # of crimini mushrooms (baby bella) sliced. Wild mushrooms would be great in this!
  • 3 shallots or 1 sweet onion diced
  • 1/4 cup glace (reduced beef stock (you can make this or buy it. Make it by reducing down 4 cups of beef stock to 1/4 cup)
  • 5 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Smoked Sweet Paprika
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 2 cups cream or milk (I used cream)
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1/2 of a nutmeg grated (about a teaspoon)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Egg noodles cooked and buttered with 2 tablespoons of butter and 3 TBS fresh minced parsley

Method:

  • In a large saute pan or wok add beef and olive oil and start to brown
  • When the meat starts to brown add the onions & mushrooms till slightly golden
  • Clear a hot spot in the pan and add garlic, stir in
  • Add the glace and paprika then put on a very low simmer.

Strog 1

 

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Make the cream sauce:

  • In a 4 qt sauce pan, melt the butter and then stir in the flour with a whisk
  • Add the cream/milk and heat as it thickens
  • Add the Sherry & Nutmeg and stir again.

cream sauce

 

We are ready for STROGANOFF! Pour the cream sauce into the pan with the beef and mushrooms. Heat till almost bubbling, then add the sour cream and stir till the sauce is all one color. Remove from heat. Serve over the noodles with chopped fresh herbs. Parsley, chervil or thyme all go well with this. I served it with roasted Brussels sprouts and Vidalia onions. This serves 4 we had leftovers for two nights.

Strog stirring in

Bucatini two ways!

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Bucatini

Bucatini is one of my favorite pastas. It is a long noodle (#6) and it is hollow. This makes a chewy and delicious pasta dish. The first method is with bread crumbs, garlic, olive oil and herbs, topped with cheese and bread crumbs. The second has a sauce of butter roasted tomatoes with anchovies and garlic. Both are super fast and easy. Both have two layers of garlic flavor, utilizing fresh garlic and Vik’s Garlic Fix, one of my favorite products.

garlic

Bucatini with breadcrumbs

Bucatini with Bread Crumbs and Garlic, serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh bread (Italian or sourdough is best for this) crumbs toasted in a pan with 2 TBS butter
10 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TBS Vik’s Garlic Fix
1 TBS fresh cracked pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch of fresh parsley or 1/4 cup dried parsley
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 cup parmigiana, grated
1/2 package bucatini pasta, cooked al dente

Method:

garlic and oil

The sauce is made as the pasta cooks. While your pasta is boiling place the olive oil, Vik’s and the red pepper in a frying pan and sear till the garlic is soft and lightly browned.

breadcrumbs

When the pasta is done strain and toss with the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then add the cheese and top with bread crumbs and parsley! It is delicious!

Bucatini with breadcrumbs
Next method: Butter Roasted Tomato Sauce, serves 4

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Ingredients:

8 cloves of garlic
1 TBS Vik’s Garlic Fix
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes (and juice)
6 small anchovies in olive oil
1/4 cup Sweet Onion Sugar
2 Tbs Italian Herb Blend
6 Tablespoons of butter cut into small pieces
Salt and Black pepper
1/2 package Bucatini Pasta, cooked al dente

Fresh Italian Parsley or Basil for garnish.
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In an oven proof pan with deep sides, place all ingredients. Roast at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. After removing from the oven, smash the garlic, tomatoes and anchovies with a fork to achieve a thick chunky sauce. Toss half of the sauce with the bucatini and a ladle of pasta water. Then dish up and put remaining sauce on the pasta. Garnish with the fresh herbs.

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Irish Soda Bread Pudding with Cheddar

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Soda Bread and Irish Cheddar Bread Pudding w logo

This bread pudding recipe is a sort of a “two fer”, as it also includes a recipe for really great Irish Soda Bread. Soda Bread does not use yeast, it somewhat resembles a very large biscuit. It is easy to make and you will only use about half of the loaf for this recipe. Try toasting the leftovers with butter and jam.

Ingredients:

For the Soda Bread:

2 Cups all-purpose flour + 2 tablespoons for dusting

1 teaspoon baking soda (be sure it is fresh)

1 teaspoon non aluminum baking powder

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

2 Tablespoons chopped dill

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

1 Cup of buttermilk (shake before pouring)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Pudding:

4 large fresh eggs

2 cups whole milk

½ cup of heavy cream

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 cups grated Irish Cheddar Cheese

¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Paprika

6 6 ounce ramekins or a 2 quart baking dish

Method

Soda Bread before cooking

FOR THE SODA BREAD:

Preheat oven to 350°

In a food processor add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Pulse a few times. Add the caraway, pepper and dill, pulse a few more times. Add the buttermilk and butter. Pulse again till it just begins to form a ball.

Place on a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a smooth ball and flatten into a 6 inch flattened round. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.

With a very sharp knife, cut an X in the top of the dough about ½ inch deep. This assures even cooking.

Use a small sieve to dust the top with additional flour.

Bake on middle shelf (I also use a baking stone for even heat) for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and a hollow sound is made when tapped.

Cool on a rack. This can be done one day ahead.

Soda Bread

FOR THE PUDDINGS:

Preheat oven to 350°

Spray the ramekins with olive oil

Cut ½ of the bread into cubes and place them in the ramekins about half way up. Reserve remaining cubes.

Make the custard by whisking the eggs, milk, cream, salt & pepper. Stir in the cheeses. Pour into a pitcher.

bread pudding in water bath

Place the ramekins in a hotel pan or 9 X 13 baking dish, cover the bread with custard, making sure some cheese goes in. Then add additional cubes to the top of the ramekin 3/4 of the way from the top. Pour all of the mixture into the ramekins, filling them to the top. Sprinkle with a little paprika. Add about 2 inches of water to the hotel pan and bake 35-40 minutes. They are finished when a knife is inserted and comes out clean.

Iriish Soda Bread Pudding

Remove from the water and place on a towel or rack and allow to rest for 15 minutes or more.

Share with your favorite leprechauns.

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Roasted Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes, Olives and Meyer Lemon

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This dish is simple and yet one of the best dishes I have ever made. The flavors come bold and subtly, rich and satisfying and engagingly interesting at the same time. The inspiration came from Jerusalem by Yytam Ottolenghi and Sami Tammi. I added Meyer lemon, olives (black oil cured and green pitted) and used half of the chicken of their recipe. I also used more olive oil and less water than their recipe. So you can just add more chicken if you want to serve four people. You can Also use a whole chicken cut up instead of thighs.

Before oven

Ingredients:

  • 1 # Jerusalem artichokes (sun chokes) peeled and cut into quarters
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (I used Meyer, but any lemon juice is fine)
  • 4 bone in chicken thighs
  • 6 large shallots cut in half
  • 12 cloves garlic peeled
  • 2 medium Meyer Lemons, cut in half and then sliced thinly (you can use other kinds of lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons pink pepper berries crushed
  • A hand full of olives (I used black oil cured and green)
  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves (I used lemon thyme)
  • 1 cup (yes that is a lot) fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt (I used Murray River)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper corns

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Method:

  • Put the chokes in a sauce pan, cover with water and add half of the lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes, the chokes should be just barely cooked. Strain and allow to cool.
  • Mix together all of the remaining ingredients reserving 1/2 of the tarragon.
  • Put the chicken in a bowl and pour everything over the chicken and chokes.
  • Chill for 1-24 hours. I only marinated for 1 hour and it was extremely flavorful.
  • Preheat the oven to 475 degrees
  • Place the chicken skin side up in a roasting pan or clay pot
  • Spread the remaining ingredients all around the chicken
  • Roast for 30 minutes, then cover with foil and roast another 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes, then serve with the reserved tarragon sprinkled on top.

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Crusty bread is good with this as there are fantastic brothy juices.