rotini with ratatouille style vegetables

Rotini with Ratatouille-Style Vegetables (adapted from Shine)
Started to feel a touch of cabin-fever today! I went for a walk to the neighborhood market. It was drizzling, and the stores and restaurants on Amsterdam Avenue were starting to reopen. Still no word on when the subway will come back online or when power will be restored downtown. So, when I am stressed, I cook (or bake). This one is a great vegetarian recipe, but I can see adding ground turkey or ground beef to this would make it a hearty dish that Andy would appreciate more! Asian eggplants are either long and purple or small, round, and green. I used the long purple ones.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced, slices cut crosswise in thirds
2 cups button mushrooms, halved
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
red pepper flakes
coarse kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 x 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
3/4 cup dry white wine
pinch sugar
2 Asian eggplants, cut lengthwise into thirds (can use zucchini)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
12 ounces multigrain rotini pasta (can use fusilli)
1/3 cup fresh goat cheese, crumbled

In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat the 2 tablespoons oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, thyme, and a pinch of red pepper flakes; sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Sauté until the peppers are tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with juice, and break them up with a spatula. Add the wine and simmer to blend flavors, 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a pinch of sugar if the sauce tastes too acidic.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct-heat grilling over medium-high heat, or preheat the broiler. Arrange the eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet, brush both sides with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to the grill rack, cover, and grill until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Or broil until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Cut the eggplant and zucchini into bite-size pieces and add to the sauce. Add the basil.

Cook’s Note: I used the George Foreman grill, brushing the cut side with a little olive oil.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir well, and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes. Drain the pasta, and then sauce and toss to coat. Return to the pot. Sprinkle generously with cheese and serve right away.

quinoa black bean patties with tzatziki sauce

Quinoa Black Bean Patties with Tzatziki Sauce
Our company has arrived. Hurricane Sandy is howling in the dark outside. The lashing rains I expected has not come yet. We’re not sure what will happen next; the subway system will be shut down again tomorrow. I thought about family and how scattered we are between two continents.  For a brief time this month we came together. Andy flew in from Bangkok for his birthday.  Then Taranee came to NYC for the Rock ‘n Roll New York 10k race and we made this meal together. Good times, remembered.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes (includes quinoa cooking and resting time)
Makes 8-10 servings

2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa* (1 cup uncooked)
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup shredded Jarlsberg cheese (I used 3/4 cup Monterey Jack and 1/4 cup feta cheeses)
1/2 cup tomato salsa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

To cook the quinoa, put the dried quinoa in a large pot. Rinse and drain. Add 1 1/2 cups cold water to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Let the quinoa cool, uncovered, about 10 minutes.  You can do this step a day ahead then refrigerate the cooked quinoa until ready to use.

Line a rimmed baking tray with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Brush with olive oil. Set aside.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Using a third-cup measure, scoop up a level cupful of the quinoa mixture, firmly packed.  Turn it out into your hand, compress and flatten, then gently place the patty on the prepared baking tray. Make another patty and place it about an inch apart from the first patty. Continue making patties.

Put the baking tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until browned on the bottom. Flip. Bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Serve with tzatziki sauce. And, I also recommend whole wheat pita pocket bread and a fresh salad.

Tzatziki Sauce (adapted from the South Beach Diet)

1 cup plain non-fat Greek style yogurt
2/3 cup cucumber, seeded and diced (Use long English cucumber–it’s called Japanese cucumber in Thailand)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 heaping tablespoons of fresh dill or 1 teaspoon of dill seeds
2 heaping tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 tablespoons white vinegar, or to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until well blended. The mixture should be slightly thick. If additional thickness is desired, increase the cucumber to 1 cup.

cooking when company’s coming

If a hurricane named Sandy counts as company.  Sandy has forced me to take stock of the pantry and the fridge. I went out to the market this morning to pick up onions, bread, bananas, and a barbecue lighter. If these seem odd choices when a hurricane is imminent, well, I suppose it’s because I’ve either gone into survival mode or I’m mad. Or both. Last night I made a kaeng a Thai coconut curry soup–its spiciness was bracing, perfect for a near-stormy night. Tonight should have been our burger night-out but we will be eating in. I think I will make quinoa patties.

fettucine with quick bolognese sauce

Fettucine with Quick Bolognese Sauce (Adapted from Shine)
Hurricane Sandy’s coming. The skies have been leaden and gray all day, expectant with rain. I joined a whole lot of other New Yorkers stocking up on water, batteries, and lamps. I went to the market to stock up the pantry, too. So we wait for Sandy’s arrival tomorrow, and I thought, it will be a good night for comfort food.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 38 minutes
Total time: 48 minutes
Servings: 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb. ground beef (I used lean ground turkey)
2 oz pancetta, finely chopped (I used bacon)
coarse kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes in juice
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
2 cups green peas, frozen
12 oz dried fettucine (can use egg pappardelle)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, for serving


  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oil. Add the onion and sauté until it softens and begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the ground turkey and bacon. Season with salt and pepper and sauté, breaking up the meat with a spatula. Cook the meat just until it is no longer pink. Add the wine to the meat mixture and boil until it has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with juice, broth, cream, and nutmeg. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer. Break up the tomatoes and stir occasionally, until slightly thickened and the flavors are blended, about 30 minutes. Ten minutes before the sauce is ready, add the frozen peas to the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir well, and cook until just tender, about 5-7 minutes for al dente. Drain the pasta, and then return to the same pot. Add the sauce and toss to coat.
  4. Divide among 4 bowls. Sprinkle each with thyme and cheese. Serve right away, passing more cheese alongside.

“where’s the recipe?”


Brandi had asked me this question about the rosemary loaf cake. Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready to publish because it didn’t have the height or the texture I expected. This is because I tried a new recipe with a new stand mixer. (I’m used to hand-held mixers.) I have always taken my baking tool–the mixer I used–as a consistent part of my baking, not a variable that needs to be controlled. Now I’ve learned that even with a good brand mixer, I need to figure out its quirks and limitations, or it will affect the product quality.

introducing Moby

My handheld Black and Decker mixer that I bought for $15.00 Canadian two years ago finally expired. The whipping beaters took a whipping and won’t whip no more. I decided to go to the top-of-the-line and bought this huge white Kitchenaid stand mixer. It is awesome. It is monstrous. It squats stolidly  in a corner of my kitchen table because it doesn’t fit in any of my cupboards. I think it would break the cupboard. Actually, I’m intimidated. It looks so professional and I’m just an amateur baker! It’s going to take some getting used to because it doesn’t handle like the little Black and Decker. I thought I should give it a name; when I name something it makes it less fearsome and just a bit friendlier. That’s why I’ve called it…Moby, the Great White Mixer.

miami beach birthday cake

Miami Beach Birthday Cake  (adapted from
I’ve made this cake once before two years ago. When Andy requested a chocolate cake with caramel sauce for his birthday, I thought at once of this cake. It’s not richly  gooey chocolate-y, which Andy dislikes. In addition, it has a crunchy topping that he would appreciate; chunks of chocolate mixed with slivered almonds and graham cracker crumbs. And through it all, the quiet tang of crème fraîche.


1 cup (6 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate morsels, divided (I used bittersweet chocolate)
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
2-4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup slivered almonds

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons for pans
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, plus 2 tablespoons for pans
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1 tablespoon vinegar in 1 cup measure topped up with milk)
1 jar butterscotch caramel

Crème Fraîche Frosting
11/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar


Preheat oven to 375˚F. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and mix it with 2 tablespoons flour. Grease bottom and sides of one 9- inch spring form pan with this butter-flour mixture. Line bottom with parchment or waxed paper and grease again.

Cake Baker’s Note: I used two 8 inch spring form pans.

Melt 1/3 cup morsels in a bowl over hot boiling water and set aside for the cake. To make the topping, combine graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Add enough melted butter to make the graham crackers come together. Add nuts and 2/3 cup morsels; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add half the buttermilk or sour milk. Scrape down the sides. In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Add the remaining buttermilk/sour milk and vanilla. Add 1/3 flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Scrape down the sides. Add half the egg mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides. Add half the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides. Add the rest of the egg mixture and all the melted chocolate. Beat until just combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just moistened. There should be light streaks of flour in the batter. Scrape down the sides.

 Cake Baker’s Note: To make a chocolate swirl cake, add the melted morsels after the batter has been poured into the pans. Use a thin metal blade or a skewer to make swirls. Be careful not to tear the parchment/waxed paper liners.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with crumb mixture.  Bake for 30-40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in the pan then unmold and cool completely on wire racks.

To make crème fraîche, put heavy cream, sour cream, and sugar in a medium bowl. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes. Whip until soft peaks form.

The cake must be completely cooled to frost. Slice the cake horizontally in half. Spread butterscotch caramel on the top of the cut side of the bottom layer. Place the layer with the chocolate-nut mixture on top of the butterscotch topside up. Frost sides with creme fraiche. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice with a serrated knife.


  • For the bottom layer, spread crème fraîche instead of butterscotch. Then frost the sides with crème fraîche.

overnight blueberry coffee cake

Overnight Blueberry Coffee Cake (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)
After watching Dr. Oz yesterday talk about how much better all natural ingredients are for our bodies, I switched out the sugar substitute and butter flavoring in this recipe for real sugar, vanilla, and almond extract. Because of the whole wheat flour and  just 1/3 cup of sugar, this cake is still low in carbs and sugar, in my opinion. The cornmeal also gives it an interesting texture and flavor. Use a fine ground cornmeal like polenta for best results.

Servings: 12-16
Prep Time: 12 hours and 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35-40 minutes

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal or polenta
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup canola or almond oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
Frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed (optional)
Ground ginger (optional)

1. Lightly coat one 9 inch square baking dish with a mixture of 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon flour; set aside. In a large bowl stir together pastry flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, the baking soda, the 1/2 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Cake Baker’s Note: You can use cooking spray but I think the butter-flour trick is foolproof as cooking spray tends to burn in non-stick pans which discolors the exterior of the cake.

2. In a medium bowl whisk together yogurt, egg, oil, applesauce, vanilla and almond extract, until well mixed. Add egg mixture to the flour mixture; stir just until combined. Spread half of the batter into the prepared dish.
3. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the frozen blueberries. Top with the remaining batter; spread evenly. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours.

Cake Baker’s Note: I put it in the refrigerator overnight.

4. Allow the coffee cake to stand at room temperature while the oven preheats to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl toss together the remaining 1 cup frozen blueberries, the brown sugar, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle on top of the batter. Bake, uncovered, about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm. If desired, serve with whipped topping and sprinkle with additional ginger.

peach cake

Peach Cake (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)
The cooks at America’s Test Kitchen maintain that peaches these days do not have the flavor they once had.  They need a flavor boost. Though I agree with them, I did not want to buy a whole bottle of  peach schnapps. I would never bake enough peach cakes to finish it. So I substituted peach flavoring for the schnapps. And I substituted yogurt for the sour cream. The cake came out moist and tender, dense with fruit and a delicate scent of peach that lingered even after baking.


2 1/2 pounds peaches, pitted and cut into 1/2 inch-thick wedges
2 1/2 teaspoons peach flavoring
4 teaspoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour plus 1 tablespoon
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek style yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs, finely crushed in a food processor


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil spray. In a small bowl, gently toss 24 peach wedges with 1 teaspoon peach flavoring, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar; set aside.

2. Cut remaining peach wedges crosswise into thirds. In a medium bowl, gently toss chunks with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons peach flavoring, remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Spread peach chunks in single layer on prepared sheet and bake until exuded juices begin to thicken and caramelize at edges of sheet, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer sheet to wire rack and let peaches cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Cake Baker’s Note: If using a pan with a dark non-stick finish, reduce the heat to 325˚F.

3. Brush a 9-inch spring form pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter mixed with a tablespoon flour. Whisk a cup of flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and eggs together in second bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter until combined. Add yogurt, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract; whisk until combined. Add flour mixture all at once and whisk until just combined. Be careful not to over mix!

4. Transfer half of batter to prepared pan; using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Sprinkle crushed breadcrumbs evenly over cooled peach chunks and gently toss to coat. Arrange peach chunks on batter in even layer, gently pressing peaches into batter. Gently spread remaining batter over peach chunks and smooth top. Arrange reserved peach wedges, slightly overlapped, in a ring over the surface of cake, placing smaller wedges in center.

Cake Baker’s Note: Don’t worry if the batter seems a little skimpy for the amount of peaches. It will rise on baking and fill in the spaces.

Stir together the remaining 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and remaining 1/8 teaspoon almond extract in small bowl until sugar is moistened. Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over top of cake.

Cake Baker’s Note: I left out the sugar topping on the peaches. Didn’t need it, didn’t miss it!

5. Bake until center of cake is set and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool 5 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Cake Baker’s Note: If using a pan with a dark nonstick finish, check to see if the cake is done after 45 minutes.