Monthly Archives: March 2012

Mushroom-Vegetable Stew Over Polenta

This week for The Food Matters Project I improvised quite a bit!  The original dish was Vegetables au Vin with Coq and I created a vegetarian version, ommitting three of the main ingredients–chicken, bacon, and wine.  As this dish came together it formed into a very rich, flavorful mushroom-vegetable stew.  As Mark Bittman promised, the eggplant melted into the sauce–delicious!  I served mine with some homemade polenta and an arugula salad.  Yum!

For the original recipe, head here.  For a glimpse of what everyone else on the project did, head here.

I had all of the vegetable ingredients called for so I started out with eggplant, salting it and letting it sit for a bit before dabbing off the salt:

For the mushrooms, I chose king oyster mushrooms and shitake mushrooms–both of these mushrooms have an excellent “meaty” texture.  Very chewy and substantial.

The eggplant, pearl onions, and mushrooms went into the pan with some olive oil for about 10-15 minutes to brown up and dry out a bit.  (Tip: the pearl onions can be a pain to peel.  Boil some water and toss them in for a few seconds and the peeling will become infinitely easier!)

I added green beans, garlic, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and a couple of cups of vegetable broth and let it simmer for about a half an hour until the eggplant melted into the sauce.  Feel free to add any vegetables you are in the mood for here.

This recipe is so versatile–just add what you have with some herbs, garlic, and broth and simmer until it is a silky sauce.  I made some polenta for mine and it offset the rich and salty sauce I had created.  Mark Bittman’s polenta recipe:

Polenta Cakes

  • 1 cup course cornmeal
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup milk, preferably whole (or use water)
  • 2 and 1/2 cups water
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  1. Put the cornmeal and a large pinch of salt in a medium saucepan; slowly whisk in 2 and 1/2 cups water and the milk to make a lump-free slurry.  Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring almost to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and bubble gently, whisking frequently, until thick, 10 to 15 minutes.  If the mixture becomes too thick, whisk in a bit more water; you want the consistency to be like thick oatmeal.  Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary and plenty of black pepper.
  2. Grease a large backing sheet with some of the oil.  While the polenta is still hot, pour it onto the sheet and use a spatula to spread it out evenly at least 1/2 inch thick.  Brush the top lightly with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the polenta until it sets up, about 2 hours (or up to a day).
  3. Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a clean large baking sheet with some of the oil.  When the polenta is set, cut it into at least 12 squares or diamonds or use a round cookie cutter to make disks.   Put the cakes on the backing sheet, brush with a bit more oil, and bake until the edges begin to brown (the outside should be nice and toasted while the inside should stay soft), 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Tip:  I cooked my polenta cakes in a skillet with some olive oil until they were browned on each side.

Hummingbird Cake

Happy birthday to my little sister!  On Saturday, Anna turned 25.  We celebrated by going to Marie Catrib’s ( for some delicious sandwiches and spreads, going to see The Artist (blew my expectations away) and eating a big slice of Hummingbird Cake.

I have had Hummingbird Cake twice:  once at Marie Catrib’s and once at Carrie’s a few weekends ago. Both blew me away and after some convincing, Anna agreed to let Hummingbird Cake be her special birthday cake this year.  I am so glad she did!

Many of the recipes out there call for pecans in the cake and on top but I made a female (no nuts!) version and topped it with unsweetened flaked coconut instead.  I love the look of coconut on a cake–it makes it look like a dreamy snowball.

I made my cake with a combination of a recipe from Carrie and a recipe from Southern Living.  I wish I would have stuck more to Carrie’s recipe because it had more pineapple–my cake had a stronger banana presence than hers.  Oh well, now I have a good excuse to experiment and make this again with more pineapple.  Regardless, the results were great and my sister was a happy birthday girl that night.

Here is the Southern Living recipe–try adding more pineapple and reducing some of the banana for what I think would be a perfect balance!


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3  large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1  (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 2 cups chopped bananas
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional–I used unsweetened flaked coconut instead)

  1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. (Do not beat.) Stir in vanilla, pineapple, 1 cup pecans, and bananas.
  2. Pour batter into three greased and floured 9-inch round cakepans. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.
  3. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake; sprinkle 1/2 cup chopped pecans on top. Store in refrigerator.
  4. Break out the ice cream and enjoy!

Abby’s Honey Barbecue Chicken

I also wanted to share a delicious chicken recipe that Abby and Carrie pulled together for Sunday Dinner.  It was a spiced honey chicken served with asparagus and rice along with guacamole and mango salsa brought by Kellie and Bill.  The mango salsa tasted amazing with the chicken.  And sitting on Carrie’s balcony (in a tank top!) until it was dark and we could see Venus and Jupiter was all you could ask for on a Sunday evening in March!


Spiced Honey Barbecue Chicken

  • 2 lbs chicken
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 2 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder (if you can’t find this, just use some adobo sauce–don’t add the chipotles or it will be very spicy).
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • scallions for garnish

Abby pounded the chicken breasts so that they would cook more quickly.  You can also use chicken thighs if you prefer.  This would be a very easy dish to grill but we could not get the grill going so Abby and Carrie cooked them in skillets on the stove.  They turned out great and the sauce was wonderful.

Curried Tomato Soup

Thanks to Joanne for her interesting pick for the Food Matters project this week.  I really look forward to my weekly creation and having someone else pick a dish for me (and everyone else on the project) really pushes me to try new things.  Not that I don’t try new things all of the time…but it’s undeniable that I tend to pick certain types of dishes over others.  Well, this week was Curried Tomato Soup with Hard Boiled Eggs.

I have been going through a hard boiled egg phase lately so I already had that going for me.  And the soup ingredients were very similar to a cauliflower and pea curry I made recently (sans peas) so it wasn’t too much of a stretch.  I put the soup together whilst gabbing on the phone so it took a bit longer than it should have but it was very easy.  When done, I wasn’t sure I liked the big chunks of cauliflower floating around in it (I should have chopped it into smaller bits) so I took my immersion blender (best thing since sliced bread) and went at it.  If you don’t have an immersion blender yet and you like to cook please, for me, just get one.  They are so awesome.  You can make smoothies, puree soups, dips, anything…all without dirtying a food processor or blender.  Anyway, I went at it until the soup was a puree with some very little bits and I really like what it did for the soup although I’m sure it would have been fine without pureeing had I chopped the cauliflower into smaller bits.  For Joanne’s take on the dish as well as the recipe, head to:  For everyone else’s take on the dish check out:  Those bloggers come up with some very unique takes on each week’s recipes.  I took the soup to Sunday dinner with Carrie, Abby, Kellie, and Bill and offered it two ways:  topped with roasted shaved fennel or with hard boiled eggs.  At first everyone thought it seemed more like a sauce or a dip but after a bite or two, everyone seemed to really get into it.  I got more into it myself and am glad to have this added to my repertoire!  One other thing:  I served it at room temp and preferred it this way.  It was a great dish on what felt like a summer day on the patio.


Curried Tomato Soup with Hard-Boiled Eggs

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh hot chile
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 all-purpose potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 cup coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes (canned are fine; include their juice)
  • 1 small cauliflower, cored and roughly chopped
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  1. Put the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  When it is hot, add the onion, garlic, ginger, and chile.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir in the curry powder, cumin, and sugar.  Cook and stir until the spices become fragrant, a minute or 2 more.
  2. Add the potatoes and carrot and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, for a minute or 2, then add the vegetable stock, coconut milk, and tomatoes with their liquid.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the mixture bubbles gently.  Cook, stirring once in a while, until the potatoes and carrots are fairly soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Add the cauliflower and adjust the heat so that the mixture bubbles gently.  cook until all the vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes more.  (The soup can be made up to this point in advance and refrigerated for several days or frozen for months; gently reheat before proceeding.)  Serve garnished with the hard-boiled eggs and cilantro.
  4. NOTE:  I pureed it, which I thought turned out pretty well.  It would translate well into a sauce for vegetables or tofu over rice or as a dip for some crusty bread.

Hummus Served Hot

This was a new one for me–hummus served hot.  The dish was chosen by this week’s host of Food Matter’s project.  I am loving this weekly project.  I get to cook “with” 50+ other bloggers and try things I normally may not pick to make myself.  Don’t get me wrong–I’ve made my fair share of hummus over the years.  Roasted bell pepper hummus, black bean hummus, roasted garlic hummus, lemony hummus, white bean hummus, you name it.  I would have skipped right over this recipe, thinking about how I don’t need a recipe for hummus.  But I have never thought about serving it hot!  So thanks again to Mark Bittman for encouraging a new way to try things.

In some ways this hummus is like any other–a breeze to make and can be served with just about anything.  I have been in need of some serious veggies so I served mine with blanched peas and green beans, orange bell pepper, and radishes.  I also topped the hummus with toasted pine nuts, parsley, and olive oil.  Heating the hummus resulted in a rich and creamy dip unlike any hummus I have had before.  Also, I typically use an immersion blender to make hummus and while it does a fine job it leaves some small chunks.  The trick to getting hummus super-smooth and creamy is a blender or food processor.  Have fun with it and dress it up how you like.  And be prepared to start enjoying hummus in a brand new way!  To see how all of the other Food Matters bloggers made their hummus, go to:

Hummus Served Hot

Makes 6 to 8 servings

From Bittman’s Food Matter’s Cookbook:  The first time I ate this was in Turkey, and it stunned me.  But why?  Of course, hummus, a Middle Eastern staple, has uses beyond sandwich spread or meze platter.  Served warm, it makes an elegant, fondue like dip, sauce, or side dish.  Offer this as an appetizer in a large bowl alongside crudites of all sorts:  cubes or cooked potato, eggplant, or crusy bread, or strips of pita for dipping.  You can also serve this mixture on grains, with pasta, or straight up as an alternative to mashed potatoes.


  • 3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup tahini, or to taste
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  1. Put the chickpeas with 1/2 cup of their cooking liquid (or water) in a blender, add the garlic, oil, and tahini, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Puree for a minute or 2 until the mixture is very smooth.  Add more cooking liquid, oil, or tahini as you like until the consistency is like a smooth dip or thick soup.  (Refrigerate for up to a couple of days or freeze for months).
  2. Transfer the puree to a medium saucepan over medium heat (or use the microwave); heat through while stirring constantly.  Add the lemon juice, then taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or lemon juice as needed.  Serve warm, garnished with parsley.
Ways to Flavor Hummus Served Hot: 
Stir in any of these just before serving, either alone or in combination; taste and add more if you like.
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup mashed roasted garlic in place of raw garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, Gruyere or fontina cheese
  • 1/4 cup pesto or herb past
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts like walnuts, almonds or pistachios
  • 1/4 cup chopped black or green olives
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika (pimenton)
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp chile paste

Blueberry Buckle

One of my favorite memories growing up was picking wild blueberries on the 40 acres in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I grew up.  On hot and humid summer mornings, I would go out and wade through the wet grasses to pick a couple of cups of wild blueberries to make blueberry muffins for my family.  I had a Hearthsong Cook-it! subscription, a Christmas gift from my mom (thanks for getting me into cooking, mom!) and the blueberry muffin page was well-used! Wild blueberries are tiny compared to conventional blueberries and it takes quite a few to add up for a recipe.  But it was always so worth it.  Now I don’t have the luxury of going out to pick blueberries from the field but that doesn’t make me crave them and the blueberry recipes we grew up with any less.

One of my favorite desserts as a kid was Blueberry Buckle.  I loved the name and the dense blueberry coffee cake with streusel topping has always made me swoon.  For whatever reason, the other day (in winter, far from blueberry season) I thought of blueberry buckle and I had to have it.  Luckily I was having my best friend and her family for dinner that night so I got to work.  I keep frozen blueberries in my freezer at all times–I can not tell the difference between frozen and fresh when baked.  I got the recipe from Martha Stewart Living and introduced a twist of my own by adding some raspberries (about 3/4 blueberries, 1/4 raspberries).  Served warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and I was getting my knees wet in the field on a hot summer morning–heaven!

Blueberry Buckle (From Martha Stewart Living July/August 2000)


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 5 cups wild or cultivated blueberries (I used about 4 cups blueberries and 1 cup of raspberries, thawed and drained).
    • Mrs. Kostyra’s Streusel Topping


  1. Heat oven to 350  degrees. Butter a springform baking pan, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add egg and vanilla, beating until fully combined.
  4. Add reserved flour mixture, alternating with the milk, a little of each at a time, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Remove from mixer. Gently fold in blueberries.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan; sprinkle streusel topping over cake. Bake until cake tester comes out batter-free, 60 to 70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Mrs. Kostyra’s Streusel Topping

Yield Makes enough for 1 ten-inch cake or 2 six-inch cakes


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature


  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until fine crumbs form.
  2. Using hands, squeeze together most of the mixture to form large clumps. The topping can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Seared Bean Sprouts with Beef and Sesame Orange Sauce

My third post for the Food Matters Project really impressed me–I felt like I was eating at a trendy asian restaurant!

I seldom cook meat at home so it was a rare deviation from my normal fare.  In the future, I would likely cook this with tempeh or tofu rather than beef but I was pleased with how it turned out with beef. It is also a great dish for people that want to reduce the amount of meat they eat because it shows you that a little meat can go a long way in a dish.  Mark Bittman’s Food Matters philosophy encourages us to eat fewer animal products than average.  “The average American eats a half pound of meat ech and every day, but no one (least of all me) is suggesting you become a vegetarian:  Just aim for less, a pound or two a week.  Start thinking about fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and airy the way traditional cultures do: as a garnish, seasoning, or treat–almost as a condiment.  When used as a flavoring ingredient rather than as the focus of the meal, a little meat goes a long way (Bittman, p. 9).”

Use this meal also as an opportunity to add more vegetables to your diet.  Add anything you have on hand–matchstick carrots, bell peppers, snow peas..all would be great additions.  I added red bell pepper to mine and it turned out great.  This recipe really made me wish I had a high-performing range so I could have seared the vegetables better in my wok–something to tuck away in my dream box!  Note also that it is easy to reduce the amount of this recipe.  I bought 4 oz of beef and one 1/2 pound bag of bean sprouts and it easily made enough for two meals.  Lastly, you should buy small oranges or if they are very large, just buy one.  I found that the sauce was a little too sauc-y for me and I could have gone with half the amount of orange juice.  I served mine with some bean thread noodles–they cook up fast and have the perfect texture for this dish.

Check out everyone else’s takes on this recipe by going to:

Seared Bean Sprouts with Beef and Sesame Orange Sauce

Makes 4 servings; Takes 20 minutes

Bean sprouts are light, crisp, and incredibly fast to prepare:  the freshest ones require only rinsing.  Plus they cook in the wink of an eye, which makes them perfect for stir fries, especially this classic with orange- and sesame-flavored beef.  Toss this with soba noodles or serve over short-grain rice or quinoa.

  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces beef sirloin or chuck, very thinly sliced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 pound bean sprouts
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts separated, all chopped (note that I used all of the whites but only a sprinkling of the greens)
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • Grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
  • 1 Tbsp honey, or more to taste (I used more)
  1. Put the sesame seeds in a large dry skillet over medium-low heat and toast, shaking the pan often, until they begin to brown but don’t burn, 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove them from the skillet.
  2. Put 1 tablespoon of the oil in the skillet and turn the heat to high.  When the oil is hot, add the beef, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring just once or twice, until it sears and loses its red color, just a minute or 2.  remove the beef from the skillet.
  3. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil.  When the oil is hot, add the bean sprouts and the white parts of the scallions.  Cook, stirring frequently, until browned in places and starting to wilt, 2 or 3 minutes.  Add the beef, soy sauce, orange zest and juice, and honey.  Cook and stir until the bean sprouts are just tender and everything is warmed through, a final 2 to 3 minutes more.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more honey if you like.  Garnish with the sesame seeds and scallion greens and serve.