Chutney-Cola Grilled Ribs

>> Monday, May 27, 2013

Chutney-Cola Grilled Ribs

This easy and sweet-sour marinade comes from a South African blogger, Lotta Madness, who wrote about her trip back home and the barbeque, or braai, that her family had at Christmastime. I love reading her blog for the gorgeous African pictures and her take on South African culture. Fun reading! I'd love to take a trip to Africa.

We didn't have the South African brand of peach chutney that she used, Mrs. Ball's, so we used an Indian sweet mango chutney. Up above, the ribs have just come out of the oven and are ready to crisp a little on the grill. I could eat this BBQ sauce with a spoon.

Maybe I did. I'm not telling.


1/2 cup ketchup
2/3 cup mango or peach chutney
1 cup Coca Cola
1 (1 oz) packet brown onion soup powder or 2 tbsp beef bouillon granules
2.5 lbs pork ribs (we used country-style ribs, since they have a lot of meat and less bone)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Stir together the ketchup, chutney, cola, and onion soup powder. Place the ribs in a pan with a lid and pour half of the chutney sauce over the ribs. Turn to coat the ribs. Place in the oven and cook for 1 hour.

Preheat the grill to medium heat. Place the ribs on the grill and cook for 15 minutes longer, turning once and brushing on the rest of the chutney sauce every 5 minutes. Pass any leftover sauce with the grilled ribs.

Serves 3-4.


Cannelini-Radish Salad

>> Friday, May 17, 2013

Cannelini-Radish Salad

Bon Appetit magazine must have a spy in my kitchen. How else could they know what leftovers I have, which foods I'm craving, and what meal inspiration I need? Again this month, they featured an enticing salad just when I was wondering what to do with half a bag of radishes.

I changed a few ingredients (like always) because I didn't want to make another trip to the store. The magazine lists oil-cured olives as one of the ingredients. Instead, I used some crumbled feta. Joe came home from band rehearsal and inhaled this salad. He only stopped to exclaim occasionally about how much he liked it. I think he licked the plate when I wasn't looking.

By the way, nobody ever uses many capers all at once, but if you buy a jar of pickled capers, it will last at least a year in your fridge after it's opened. The same is true for a little tube of anchovy paste. We've had one tube in our fridge for about 2 years and it's still fresh and flavorful. So splurge a little, and add these great flavors to your world!


For the dressing

2 tbsp green capers
3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad

2 15-oz cans cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
4 medium red radishes, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
4 large leaves of red lettuce
3 tbsp chives, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese


In a blender or food processor, combine the dressing ingredients and pulse until well mixed.

Stir together the beans, radishes, celery, and chives, then pour the dressing from the blender over the bean mixture. Combine well.

Lay a lettuce leaf on each plate and spoon 1/4 of the bean salad on each plate. Sprinkle with the feta cheese before serving.

Makes 4 side salads.


Vegetarian Saffron Rice (Pulao) with Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce (Raita)

>> Monday, May 13, 2013

Vegetarian Saffron Rice (Pulao) with Yogurt-Cucumber Salad (Raita)
Bottom left: Raita; bottom right: Vegan Pulao

There's something so social and intimate about cooking; besides cooking for friends, our favorite thing to do is cook with friends. When you ask someone to show you how to make their favorite recipes, their stories and memories come tumbling out while the flavors and smells rise through the kitchen.

Indian Saffron Rice with Vegetables (Pulao)
This is a LOT of rice.

When my friend Sheilja offered to teach me some of the traditional recipes of Northern India, I couldn't wait to get started! She told me about growing up in the northeastern coastal city of Calcutta (Kolkata), the fishing-boat smells and the way her mother used food for healing the family as well as nourishing them.

Indian Yogurt-Cucumber Salad (Raita)

When you make these low-fat and fiber-rich recipes, just know that they are bursting with health and flavor. Cardamom helps digestion and is packed with vitamins and antioxidants. Saffron, cinnamon, and turmeric are anti-inflammatory ingredients good for people with arthritis and heart disease. Turmeric also works to prevent Alzheimer's disease. Cumin, which they call jeera, has been proven to aid digestion, boost the immune system, and help cure insomnia. No wonder we wanted to take a nap after cooking and eating all this great food.

The fragrant and flavorful rice is wonderful topped with cool and tart cucumber salad. Saffron can be very expensive, but Sheilja tells me that turmeric is an acceptable substitute though the flavor is different. For the Raita, we used black salt; it is a potent salt with the flavor of hard-boiled egg yolks and adds an interesting touch.

Make sure you take out all the cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks before serving.


For the Pulao

2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard seed
2 cups cut-up mixed vegetables, or 12 oz. frozen mixed vegetables
2 black cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks about 2" long
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 green chiles, thinly sliced
3 cups rice
1/2 tsp saffron threads, or 1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp red chile powder
6 cups water
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

For the Raita Sauce

1 1/2 cups Greek-style plain yogurt
1 cup shredded cucumber
2 tbsp chopped cilantro or mint leaves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp black salt (or 2 tsp white salt)

Stir together all ingredients and keep cool until ready to serve.


In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp of the oil. Add the cumin, mustard seed, and onion and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the vegetables, cardamom, cinnamon, garlic, and chiles and cook for 5 minutes.

Wash the rice until the water runs clear, then let it drain. Pour the second tbsp of oil into the pot and add rice. Saute until the rice is beginning to look golden. Add the saffron or turmeric, garam masala, chile powder, and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Serve topped with cilantro and raita.


Low Fat Eggs Benedict

>> Friday, May 10, 2013

Low Fat Eggs Benedict

Whenever Joe asks me what I'd like for a special breakfast, the answer is almost always "Eggs Benedict! Yes, please, more Eggs Benedict!" That creamy sauce, and the ham and tender eggs drizzling yolk down into the muffin...oh my, that is my breakfast dream.

Unfortunately, traditional recipes use a hollandaise sauce made of egg yolks and enough butter to clog an artery. Of course it's delicious, but very unhealthy. Joe has worked for a long time to come up with a lighter version that still delivers the savory hollandaise taste. He cut down on the butter and replaced it with heart-friendly olive oil. He relies on seasonings to provide flavor in place of the heavy buttery sauce. However, the sauce is a bit more liquid than the full-fat versions. I don't mind a bit.

Thinly sliced fat-free ham or Canadian bacon also cuts down on the calories. I feel much less guilty for lusting for this breakfast dish more often...though Mother's Day is a perfect excuse for a tray of this, in bed, with the newspaper and some tea. Are you listening, Joe?


For the Light Hollandaise Sauce

1 cup egg substitute
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp Lousiana hot sauce
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp cream cheese

4 English muffins
8 eggs
8 slices Canadian bacon, low-fat ham, or cooked American bacon strips


Place egg substitute, salt, mustard, hot sauce, and lemon juice in a blender and give it a couple of pulses. Soften the cream cheese in the microwave for 45 seconds. Add the butter to the oil and microwave for 45 seconds. Stir into the cream cheese and blend well.

Poach the eggs or fry them until over-easy, making sure the yolks are still liquid. Heat the bacon or ham. Toast the muffins and put the halves on individual serving plates. 

Heat the cream cheese mixture for about 30 seconds, until very hot but not separated. Turn on the blender and while it's running, pour the cream cheese mixture into the blender. Blend well.

Drizzle some of the hollandaise sauce over the muffin halves. Lay the bacon or ham on top of the muffins, then put an egg on top of each muffin half. Drizzle with the rest of the sauce before serving.

Serves 4-6.


Amaretto Flan with Blood Oranges

>> Wednesday, May 8, 2013

This velvety-rich dessert is a delicate end to a sweet Mother's Day meal. Bake this for her, and she'll never forget it.


2/3 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (we use low-fat or fat-free for both milks)
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp amaretto liqueur, divided
1 very ripe blood orange (should squeeze easily but the skin should not be dull and dry)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a glass or metal round 9" pan.

Place the sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat it over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is melted and slightly browned. Pour the syrup into the baking pan and swirl it to coat the sides.

Put the eggs in the mixing bowl and beat at medium speed until frothy. Pour in the milks, salt, vanilla, and 1 tbsp amaretto, and beat until smooth. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and cover it with aluminum foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes, or until the egg mixture is completely set. Remove the foil and allow it to cool. Place a dish over the pan and invert the baking dish so the flan and syrup is on the plate.

Peel the orange and completely remove all the white pith. Thinly slice the orange, and arrange the slices on top of the flan. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tbsp of amaretto.

Serves 6-8.


Tuscan Spring Vegetable Soup (Garmugia)

>> Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tuscan Spring Vegetable Soup (Garmugia)

Spring comes earlier to Tuscany than it does to Northern Illinois, and we're wishing the warm weather would get a move on up here and get things blooming. Garmugia is a traditional soup in the western part of Tuscany, around Lucca. Once the first spring vegetables ripen, this quick and cheery soup is a welcome change from the root vegetables and cabbages from our winter diet. Can you imagine how much more welcome these fresh vegetables would have been centuries ago, before the advent of frozen foods and fast worldwide shipping?

When I saw these pretty asparagus spears and fresh English peas, I was craving this soup. It's typically made with fresh asparagus, peas, fava beans, and artichokes, and pancetta and ground veal for richness. Don't they look delicious down there?

Fresh veggies for Garmugia soup

We had some ham broth left over from our Easter dinner, so I passed on the ground veal just to lighten up the recipe. It was so satisfying.


1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound ground veal (optional)
1/2 cup pancetta, cut into matchstick pieces
6 cups ham or chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh fava beans
2 baby artichokes
1/2 tsp fresh sage, snipped
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and Pepper
1 cup fresh peas
1 cup fresh asparagus tips

For the croutons

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups French or Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped


In a large stock pot, saute the onion, veal (if using), and pancetta until the onion is soft and the meat browned on all sides. Pour in the meat stock and bring to a boil.

Quarter each artichoke. Cut all of the tough outer leaves off the the artichokes, trimming them to just around the meaty heart. Add the artichoke hearts, fava beans, sage, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the pot. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the peas and asparagus and simmer about 15 minutes longer, or until the vegetables are tender.

Saute the garlic in the oil until tender, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the bread cubes and brown them on all sides. Drain on paper towels.

Serve the soup with the croutons sprinkled across the top, and a little grated Romano cheese if you like.

Serves 4-6.

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