Posts from the ‘Project Food Blog’ Category

Dinner: Fur Coat Optional


Prawn and Bacon Brochettes

Beef with confit of Piquillo Peppers

Potato Bravas with Aioli and Chile Sauce

Ajillo Mushrooms

Green Beans with Garlic, Vinegar and Paprika

Chocolate Orange Cinnamon Ice Ctream


This was my menu for Project Food Blog round 3 which I didn’t advance to, but had a great time making nonetheless.  I did start out with a completely different menu. I wrote my grocery list, and then completely changed my mind. A luxury dinner is what was requested, but to me every dinner is a luxury. Not everybody has a choice in what they eat, or don’t have access to healthy, affordable food. I didn’t pull out “special” dishes, all my dishes are special and I use them all, or serve escargot. I made dinner.

I made dinner like I always make dinner for friends, and when it’s just us for that matter.  Organic, and/or local ingredients, hopefully a good flavor profile, and wine, or beer. Flowers, if I can afford them that week, if not, roses and greens from my backyard. If the bush isn’t plentiful, some wine corks from the bounty I keep in a fish bowl. I try to use things from nature that are free and go back to the earth. Pine cones, acorns, leaves, twigs, and anything else I find on a walk. And people, wash a napkin. Save the paper for barbecue, or coloring.

I do not plan in ridiculous advance. I do plan a menu, but if  I was planning on making pork, and when at the market there are some gorgeous little lamb chops telling me to take them home, plans might change. I usually shop the day before, and try to get as much done before guests arrive, which usually ends up with me finishing  while people are here. I know some people frown upon cooking and being away from your guests, but my table is in my kitchen so I can skirt this. I also don’t mind a lick when I am the guest and someone else is cooking. I don’t feel ignored. I love to watch people cook. I don’t mind if their attention is on what I am going to be eating that night.  There will be plenty of time for conversation while we eat and after our bellies are full.

The one thing I think is important, is that it is better to have too much than not enough. Food and drink. Other than that, put on some music and start up a conversation. You are not planning a wedding. You are creating enjoyment. Enjoy it! I have seen people with detailed to-do-lists. Crazy. Managing most of it in your head is what makes you good or bad at it. Reminder lists are fine, but if it’s more than one page, it becomes a chore, not a pleasure. The more structure there is, the less artistry and imagination going into it.  Stay in tune with your food, not a schedule. Set dishes you are using on the table so you can grab them when needed. Work with the space you have. I have a small vintage kitchen table that fits 4. Eat in the living room if you need more room. I love casual eating on the floor. It’s a picnic inside. Assuming you have vacuumed of course. I have a big board game collection, and I am not above building a table out of Parcheesi and throwing a tablecloth over it. Keep the temperature in the room accordingly. Warm in the fall and winter. Cool in the spring and summer. And everyone knows to not light scented candles. Let your food be the fragrance.


  • Lemons — 3 to 5
  • Cold water — 6 cups
  • Sugar — 1/2-3/4 cup

Squeeze lemons into a 2 quart pitcher, add some lemon zest, cold water and sugar. Mix. Chill. * Try a slice of preserved lemon in place of a lemon slice.


Serrano and Manchego.

Prawn and Bacon Brochettes

Brochetas de Gambas y Bacon

This combination of prawns and bacon is very popular, and can be found at most Tapas bar, as well as in many banquets and receptions.


  • 5 oz serrano ham or thinly sliced bacon
  • 24 medium to large uncooked, headless prawns, peeled
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 lemons, quartered


Cut the bacon (or serrano, if using it) into pieces which will wrap generously round the prawns. Place the wrapped prawns down flat on a board and skewer them through the fattest part and the tail, making sure the meat is firmly fixed. Season generously and drizzle with the oil.

On a high heat, griddle, grill or barbecue the prawn and bacon brochettes for 2-3 minutes on each side, so the bacon crisps up. Alternatively , roast in a hot oven (425*) on an oiled baking tray for 8-10 minutes. Squeeze over the juice of the lemon wedges and serve immediately.

Beef with a confit of piquillo peppers
Lomo de buey con pimientos del piquillo confitados

Piquillo peppers, cooked in this way, are a very traditional garnish in the steakhouses of northern Spain. You will find extra olive oil left in the casserole after cooking the peppers. This oil will be infused with the flavors of the piquillos and can be used for dressings or for sautéing another dish later.

Yield: Serves 4

20 piquillo peppers (Spanish wood-roasted sweet peppers), or one 13-ounce jar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 clove garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
Salt to taste
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
2 8-ounce flat iron steaks, trimmed of fat

Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees. Place 8 of the peppers in a large cup along with the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Using a hand blender, puree the peppers.

In a small casserole, lay half the remaining peppers in a single layer, taking care not to overlap the peppers. Spoon half of the pepper puree on top of the peppers and smooth it out with the back of the spoon. Slice garlic. Scatter the garlic over the puree and season to taste with salt. Make another layer of peppers, cover with the remaining puree and season again with salt.

Cover the peppers with one cup of the olive oil. Bake in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, until the peppers are completely tender. Remove from the oven, set aside and keep warm.

Increase the oven to 450 degrees. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil in an ovenproof sauté pan over high heat. When the pan begins to slightly smoke, add the steak and sear on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the pan with the steaks to the oven and roast for 6 minutes or until medium rare. Transfer to chopping board and let rest for 5 minutes.

To serve, spread the peppers and puree on a serving tray. Slice the steak into 1/2-inch thick slices and place them on top of the peppers. Drizzle the medallions with extra olive oil from the peppers and sprinkle with salt.

Patatas Bravas (Fried Ppotatoes)

1⁄2 cup crushed tomatoes
9 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil,
plus more for frying
1 1⁄2 tsp. red wine
1 tsp. hot smoked paprika
1⁄4 tsp. sugar
1 serrano chile, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
1 egg yolk
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. milk
4 russet potatoes, peeled
1. Make the brava sauce: Purée tomatoes, 1 tbsp. oil, wine, paprika, sugar, and chile in a blender. Season with salt, transfer to a bowl, and set aside. Make the allioli: Vigorously whisk egg yolk and garlic. While whisking, add 1 tbsp. oil in a thin stream until mixture thickens. Continue whisking, adding 7 tbsp. oil in a thin stream. Add lemon juice and milk, and season with salt; chill.
2. Pour oil into a 5-qt. pot to a depth of 1 1⁄2″; heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 220°. Meanwhile, halve potatoes crosswise. Using a small knife, shape each potato half into a 1 3⁄4″ x 1″ football shape. Transfer potatoes to oil and cook, turning occasionally, until tender and pale golden, 15–20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to paper towels; chill. Remove pot from heat; reserve.
3. Heat the reserved oil over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. Add potatoes; cook until golden brown, 3–5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels; season with salt. Serve potatoes with the reserved brava sauce and allioli.

Me in a blur of serving. I am constantly moving before dinner so most pictures of me are blurry.

I am not posting the mushroom recipe which, while looking delicious, were very sherrylicious. Not good. I’ll try them again and post if I can fix them, but until then they will remain little sherry ghost sponges. Blehk.
I also didn’t end up making the green beans. We had enough food, and I was enjoying my company. No more stove time for me.
Below is why we ended up not having dessert. I completely forgot. We finished with liquid dessert instead.
The three above I served. The two below were brought and delicious.
If debauchery is scarce, you aren’t really having a dinner party. Do it up.

“Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.”- Jonathan Larson

What we did miss is this ice cream. And the churros. Boo. Completely slipped my mind. It happens. Wine and talk happens.

Chocolate Orange Cinnamon Ice Cream

Yield: 1 quart
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
6 egg yolks
6 oz. dark chocolate
1 tablespoon freshly-grated orange zest (plus extra for garnish)
Combine milk, cream, sugar, and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat and stir. In a separate bowl, whip egg yolks. Just before the milk begins to simmer, add about half the mixture to the bowl of egg yolks half a cup at a time, stirring constantly. Gradually pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan. Continue to stir until liquid thickens into a custard and coats the back of a spoon. Add broken up bits of chocolate to a large bowl. Pout the hot custard over the chocolate and stir until it melts and is fully incorporated. It may help to use an electric hand mixer to blend it together. Chill the custard using an ice bath or refrigeration. Stir in freshly-grated orange zest. Pour custard into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Garnish with orange zest.
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 to 4-1/4 cups sunflower oil
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dredging
  • Salt

Pour 1-1/2 cups water into a pan, add a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil.  Pour in the flour all at once and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan.  Remove the pan from he heat and let cool.  Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or deep skillet to 350-375°F or until a cube of day-old bread browns in 30 seconds.  Put the cooled mixture into a churrera and make the churros, cutting them to the required length with a sharp knife as the dough is pushed out, and adding them immediately to the hot oil.  Alternatively, spoon the cooled mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe directly into the hot oil, cutting the churros to the required length with a sharp knife and working in batches if necessary.  When the strips of fried dough are golden brown all over, carefully remove them with a slotted spoon, drain well, dredge with confectioner’s sugar, and serve immediately while hot.

Makes about 25.

from 1080 Recipes by Simone and Inés Ortega


The Best Meal is the One I Prepare Myself- Project Food Blog Challenge II

Erdélyi Rakott Káposzta

Besides those bacon lovelies, some of you may be thinking, that looks like a hot mess. It’s a mess alright. A mess of meaty deliciousness. Hot, most definitely. A perfect Autumn/Winter meal. The meal you want after chopping firewood, helping your friend move, or after a day of sleigh-riding on the golf course. Or for dinner when you are looking to cook something new. Like a Saturday with a deadline. Most likely you won’t have the deadline part. I have that because this is my entry to the second challenge for Project Food Blog due on Sunday afternoon. I made it through round one with 399 other hopefuls, now on to round 2.

With my Russian roots I am always trying to un-blur the lines of Eastern European food. Piggies are claimed by the Polish, Ukranians, and Russians alike, but whose potato pancake is it anyway? Well it’s mine. And yours. I may do sour cream, you may do applesauce. And someone else might do ketchup and lose all of my respect.

But seriously, food is what brings people together, and at the same time, in a healthy home pride way, makes us argue who makes the best piggy. Food tradition melds families and friends, and gives us a common interest.

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”- Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

I was surprised to find out Romanian, and specifically Transylvanian food, shares more than a border with its neighbors. Food always varies from region to region, and from country to country, but nearby places sometimes share the same diet. I love learning the idiosyncrasies of  different food cultures. Even though I have enjoyed the ingredients in the dish I chose, I haven’t had them prepared, or paired in this way. It was one of the richest dishes I have ever had.

Our challenge was to make a classic dish that was out of our comfort zone. French and Italian were off-limits. So of course the first thing that came to mind was Transylvania.

After a dive into Romanian foodstuffs, I was sure this was the region for me. Meat, meat, some vegetables, cakes, pies, stews, cabbage, and more meat. The leaves are turning and I wanted a dish that could turn with them. Enter erdelyi rakott kaposzta. A Transylvanian layered cabbage dish. I hope to offend no natives or transplants alike. I, to the best of my ability, tried to find a recipe as authentic as possible. With few ingredients, and familiar ones at that, it is even more important to get it right. Anybody who has made a tomato sauce can attest to that. If this is wrong I’m not sure I want to be right. I hope I did my part to show that Transylvania is more than just vampires. It’s meat. And sauerkraut. Gratifying, delectable meat and sauerkraut.

The meat of it all.

Erdelyi Rakott Kaposzta-adapted from

4 to 6 servings

  • Rice  — 1 cup ( I used Arborio)
  • Stock or water — 2 cups
  • Oil — 2 tablespoons
  • Paprika — 2 tablespoons
  • Onions, minced — 2
  • Pork butt or shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes — 1 pound
  • Spicy pork sausage (Try to use a Eastern European sausage like kolbász, kielbasa or Polish sausage), sliced into rounds — 1/2 pounds
  • Stock or water — 1 1/2 cups
  • Salt and pepper — to taste
  • Sauerkraut, rinsed and squeezed dry — 2 pounds, (I didn’t rinse, so I suggest 1lb in you go this route)
  • Hard-boiled eggs (optional), sliced into rounds — 4
  • Sour cream — 1 cup
  • Bacon — 6 pieces
  • Paprika — 1 teaspoon


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the rice, 2 cups stock (I used chicken stock. Ham stock would be great, but I can’t  find it in Seattle) and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set off to the side, covered.
  2. Heat the oil in a sauté pan or skillet over medium flame. Add the paprika and stir to just cook through and color the oil, about 30 seconds. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Do not brown.
  3. Add pork, and the 1 1/2 cups of stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add sausage and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add more stock or water if necessary to keep the pan from drying out. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Place 1/3 of the rinsed (I didn’t rinse because I love it straight up) sauerkraut in the bottom of a large casserole or baking dish. Spread 1/2 of the cooked rice over the sauerkraut. Then spread 1/2 of the meat over the rice. Lay egg slices over the pork and sausages. Repeat these layers a second time, finishing with a layer of sauerkraut.
  5. Spread the sour cream over the top of the sauerkraut and lay the bacon strips neatly over the sour cream. Sprinkle the top of the dish with paprika for garnish.
  6. Place the casserole in oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it is bubbling and browned on top.

Polish sausage and my newest knife. My favorite knife.

Let the layering begin!

I made two, because the love of my life has a touch of krautphobia. He loves it, but he can't eat a 1lb bag of it like me. His has less kraut.

Let me introduce you to my new friend Transylvanian cabbage casserole.

It’s a dirty pretty thing. It will most definitely be made again.

Plum brandy is traditionally served. I found cheese and pumpkin pie is also on their menu. I went with the pumpkin. A tart. My first pumpkin dessert of the year. I decided to make a brandy whipped cream with a prune compote to incorporate some traditional ingredients with my American cooking roots.


In honor of wood and pig, and Romania!

I used the recipe below for the tart dough, and used the “press in” method. Chilled for 40 minutes, then blind-baked the tart at 350* for 15 minutes. Then let cool before adding the filling.

SWEET TART DOUGH (Adapted from BAKING FROM MY HOME TO YOURS, but taken from Dorie’s manuscript, so the wording may be a little different from the way it appears in the book)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg yolk

To make the dough:  Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.  Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely – you’ll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that’s just fine.  Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition.  When the egg is in, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each – until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds.  Just before your reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change – heads up.  Turn the dough out onto a work surface.

Very lightly and sparingly – make that very, very lightly and sparingly – knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

If you want to press the dough into a tart pan, now is the time to do it.

If you want to chill the dough and roll it out later (doable, but fussier than pressing), gather the dough into a ball (you might have to use a little more pressure than you used to mix in dry bits, because you do want the ball to be just this side of cohesive), flatten it into a disk, wrap it well and chill it for at least 2 hours or for up to 1 day.

To make a press-in crust:  Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Don’t be stingy – you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it.  Also, don’t be too heavy-handed – you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don’t want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbreadish texture.  Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To make a rolled-out crust:  This dough is very soft – a combination of a substantial amount of butter and the use of confectioners’ sugar – so I find it is easier to roll it between wax paper or plastic wrap or, easiest of all, in a roll-out-your-dough slipcover.  If you use the slipcover, flour it lightly.  Roll the dough out evenly, turning the dough over frequently and lifting the wax paper or plastic wrap often, so that it doesn’t roll into the dough and form creases.  If you’ve got time, slide the rolled out dough into the fridge to rest and firm for about 20 minutes before fitting the dough into the buttered tart pan.  Trim the excess dough even with the edge of the pan.  Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To partially bake the crust:  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil tightly against the crust.  Bake the crust 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil.  If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.  Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack; keep it in its pan.

I used Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe. It’s been around so long for a reason. The tart uses 2 cups of batter which will leave you with 2cups to make another tart, or tartlettes with. Bake at *350 for about 45 minutes, or until the middle jiggle is almost gone.

Prune Compote


3/4 cup chopped dried prunes

1 cup Jubeleale – it’s one of my favorite beers and it was my first of the season. It’s raisin undertones pair perfectly. The alcohol blends wonderfully, but it does taste like prunes. If you are not a huge prune fan, or don’t want to use beer, you can use orange or apple juice, or a combo of beer and orange juice. If you further want to cut the prune, add some figs. Add a little orange zest too!

a splash of Grand Marnier

Things to do:

Mix all ingredients, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Let cool, and serve. This would be great on pork too!

*makes enough for serving with one 9-inch tart.

The Lonely Radish’s Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream, cold

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup brandy (optional), other extract or liquor, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

With whisk attachment, beat on high speed until it’s whipped cream!

* Halve this recipe for 2-4 people.


If you like what you have seen, or read here, I would appreciate your vote.  Really, truly. Go here:

My Life as a Bon Vivant or Project Food Blog Take 1

My chair in the kitchen. So comfy.

I wasn’t alone in thinking this was a strange leg of this race to food blogger bragging rights. I write a blog so that I don’t have to tell people why I am worth giving a readings chance to. If you find me and like me, hooray! If you find me and aren’t sure if you like me, and give me another chance, then I think you did the right thing. If you just didn’t vibe with me, no worries. I cannot be all things to all people. Which brings up one of the most important things about blogging.  Being yourself.  Use puns, use references that maybe everyone will not get, make up your own words (one of my favorites), don’t be afraid to get personal, but not too personal. I read a blog this week that mentions the author’s kid’s diaper. Need I say more, other than it was none to difficult to hit unsubscribe?

I am not blogging to make money, or to cater to what I have seen a hundred times: once the macaroon train came rolling in, it had oversold its tickets. It’s not the macaroon’s fault.  It was up to its blogger to make it interesting. I know pizza has been written about before, so I don’t write about it unless I can share something personal, or something that is interesting to me, or the best I’ve had. Something that 300 people didn’t already tell me. I confess I am not a macaroon fan, but I would have loved to see a post that changed my mind.  I like muffins with the best of them, but I won’t blog about them unless I have a little more to give than a recipe. Unless that recipe is special enough for just a recipe.  I mean knock your socks off muffin.

Strawberry muffins I made on Friday.

I never force a post. I don’t have a posting schedule, and for this I love my brain.  I know people have rules for themselves, and it works for them, but I have never been one to like rigid schedules. Writing this blog is always, fun, fulfilling, never stressful, and never feels like a chore. Some say when writing pretend you are writing to a specific person. I do, but not in the way I think they intended. I first write to myself, then maybe Jim and my mom, and the people who  like the way I wrote when I was writing to myself. So it’s basically to myself (because Jim is marrying me), my mom (she’s a good mom), and everybody else likes the real me. (Well, as close to the real me as you can get when you talk about food for the rest of the world to see.)  I have a dark sense of humor folks, and unless I can go in your fridge for a beer, I will show a little tact, and care.


you take my thoughts

to rest

I am fortunate to have a fiancée who loves food, and loves hearing about it, but if I didn’t have this blog he might forget I have other interests. Getting my thoughts onto screen helps me release some of the thousands of things in my mind that are battling for priority. I can’t possibly verbalize every thought I have about food, but I can write about at least some of them. Food is more than an afterthought for me. I never take it for granted.

I realized when I sat down to write this that most of what I had to say sounded like a love letter, so I decided to stay true to that form.

Dear The Lonely Radish,

You have taught me so many things about the world, other people, and most importantly myself. You have always had a positive impact on my life. You have kept me writing pretty regularly, which is something I have always yearned for. You also encourage my love for photography. We’ve been together less than a year, but I feel like old friends. I love traveling with you. I love staying up late with you. Not a day goes by that we don’t at least check in with each other. I now know no matter where I am, it will never be dull, as long as I have you to come home to. There is always something new to discover with you. With your guidance I have grown to appreciate learning from my mistakes. Although I have been lucky lately not to have made to many. We keep getting better and better together. I think you may be the one.




Visit my profile for the contest here: