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Oct 04, 2015
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Just Five: Cauliflower Fritters

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015



As you may know, I not only pen this column, but also write a regular column for the print issue of Sauce Magazine, Make This. These recipes only require one to two steps and can be tossed together in less than 10 minute with minimal ingredients. Yep, I keep things simple in the kitchen – but simple ain’t always easy.

My goal with that column is to break down recipes to their basic elements and still retain flavor. Former executive editor Ligaya Figueras originally suggested these cauliflower fritters as a Make This recipe. Alas, I quickly realized there was no way to make it work without steaming the cauliflower first – the texture of raw cauliflower was horrible. Since so many steps are a Make This deal breaker, so this recipe moved to my Just Five file.

These fritters are a marriage of roasted cauliflower and latkes, two dishes my family loves. Cauliflower is a great substitute for roasted potatoes, and these are far quicker to make than traditional latkes. Serve them on a bed of lightly dressed arugula or with sour cream mixed with parsley and chives.


Cauliflower Fritters
8 to 10 servings

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 4 to 5 cups)
½ cup flour
½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup water
¼ cup chopped shallot
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

• Place a steamer basket in a large pot with a few inches of water in the bottom over medium-high heat. Steam the cauliflower 6 to 7 minutes, until fork-tender. Remove and immediately rinse cold water.
•Chop cauliflower into small pieces, but not quite minced and place in a large bowl. Add the flour, Parmesan, water, shallot, eggs, salt and pepper and mix well.
• Add the oil to a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Scoop ¼ cup batter into the skillet, pressing gently with a spoon to flatten to ½-inch thick. Fry 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown, then flip and fry another 2 to three minutes. Remove and let drain on a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter.
• Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve warm.

Make This: 3-Minute Honey-Almond Cake

Saturday, September 19th, 2015



Sometimes, it’s all you can do to throw stuff in a cup and nuke it. Make someone’s day a touch sweeter in minutes with this mug cake. Whisk together 4 tablespoons flour, 2 teaspoons sugar, ¼ teaspoon baking powder, 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and ½ teaspoon almond extract in a coffee mug. Gently fold in 1 tablespoon sliced almonds and 1 additional teaspoon honey. Microwave 1 minute. If still wet, microwave 15 more seconds. Serve warm.

-photo by Greg Rannells

Just Five: Apples with Honey-Caramel Dip

Monday, September 14th, 2015



I’m not Jewish, but I thought I was growing up. We belonged to the Jewish Community Center, and it had a great pool, which in my 3-year-old mind was a perfectly good reason to adopt the culture. I went to dozens of bar and bat mitzvahs in my early years, and my Jewish friends often invited me to their homes for holiday meals. Some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around the culinary traditions surrounding the High Holy Days, like dipping apples into honey at Rosh Hashana to symbolize the sweet year to come. To all my Jewish readers: I wish you a sweet 5776. L’shana tova!

Apples with Honey-Caramel Dip
2 to 4 servings

1 cup honey
¼ cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of kosher salt
Sliced apples

• In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the honey and cream and stir to combine. Stir in the butter, vanilla, cinnamon and a pinch of salt and remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature and serve with sliced apples.


Just Five: A Bulleit Apiece Cocktail

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015



I’m not the only writer in my family. In fact, I married a man who loves to write, eat and drink as much as I do, and this summer, he published his first novel, A Bullet Apiece. To commemorate this momentous occasion, I created a cocktail for his book release party.

In addition to Bulleit bourbon (of course), it had to have a St. Louis connection. Enter The Big O ginger liqueur, which has its roots in St. Louis, and pairs wonderfully with bourbon. I added Campari to break up the sweetness and add some color, while the hints of honey and lemon juice complement the ginger and balance the bitter aperitif. Like its namesake, this cocktail hits you hard and fast – and is just a little dangerous.


A Bulleit Apiece
1 serving

1 oz. Bulleit bourbon
1 oz. The Big O ginger liqueur
½ oz. Campari
½ oz. lemon juice
¼ oz. honey
1 lemon twist for garnish (optional)

• Combine the bourbon, ginger liqueur, Campari, lemon juice and honey in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake hard. Strain in a rocks glass filled with fresh ice and garnish with a lemon twist, if desired.

Just Five: Summer Tomato Jam

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015



There are few things more pleasurable than biting into a ripe summer tomato, but tomato jam sure comes close. Beyond seeding the tomatoes, which is pretty simple with a good paring knife, this condiment doesn’t require much effort, but oh, do you reap rewards. Slather this on grilled cheese or burgers, serve it on toast with eggs and bacon, add it to olive oil  and make it a salad dressing, or just eat it by the spoonful.


Summer Tomato Jam
Makes 1 cup

1½ cups chopped, seeded tomatoes (about 1 to 2 large heirloom tomatoes or 10 to 15 cherry or sunburst tomatoes)
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely minced
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. water
⅛ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

• In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until tomatoes start to break down, 5 to 7 minutes.
• Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring every 15 minutes until the jam begins to thicken. This can take 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the amount of liquid in the tomatoes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
• Tomato jam will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 2 weeks.

Make This: Shrimp Saganaki

Monday, August 17th, 2015




This traditional Greek dish can serve as an appetizer or light meal. The briny feta and olives are a perfect complement to the tomato-laden shrimp and best of all, there’s only one pan to clean. Start by heating ¼ cup olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add 1 cup thinly sliced shallots and saute 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 pound peeled, deveined, butterflied shrimp, 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes and ½ cup pitted, coarsely chopped kalamata olives. Reduce heat to medium, stir, cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill, 4 ounces feta cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with crusty bread or atop couscous.

-Photo by Greg Rannells

Just Five: Boursin-Stuffed Chicken Burgers

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015




My friend Shannon is not a foodie. She’ll be the first to tell you that M&M’s and jarred cheese products are two key components of her food pyramid. So when I tell you these Boursin-stuffed chicken burgers received her seal of approval, I want to be sure you understand its full significance.

I like burgers made from almost any meat: ground beef, turkey, pork or chicken. Burgers made from poultry have to be prepared carefully, though, as they can jump from undercooked to overcooked in a quick minute. To better control that outcome, I make chicken burgers on the stove instead of the grill to better control the heat. The Boursin cheese is creamy, flavorful and a great foil to the sweet balsamic vinegar glaze. Caramelized onions would be a delicious alternative or addition to the fresh tomatoes on this burger. And if you must put ketchup on it like someone I know, I’ll still be your friend.


Boursin-Stuffed Chicken Burgers
4 servings

1½ lbs. ground chicken
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 Tbsp. Boursin cheese
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 hamburger buns
4 thick slices tomato

• Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper. Form 8 thin 4-ounce patties. Place 1 tablespoon cheese in the center of 4 patties and top each with the remaining 4 patties, sealing the edges. Refrigerate 1 hour.
• In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Cook the burgers 4 to 5 minutes, until they begin to brown on the bottom. Flip and cover. Cook another 4 to 5 minutes, then liberally brush the tops with the balsamic vinegar.
• Remove, place the burgers on the buns, top with a tomato slice and serve.

Just Five: Nectarine and Blackberry Coco-Pops

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015



Times have changed (cue old-timey music). Back in the day, we stocked up on boxes of Fla-Vor-Ice freezer pops available in every fake flavor imaginable: orange, banana, root beer, grape and, of course, “red.” Now, there are freezer cases filled with all-fruit popsicles, sugar-free, organic, even some fruit and veggie blends. Still, there’s something to be said for making your own real-fruit frozen treats.

This recipe takes the flavors of a favorite cobbler (nectarine, blackberry and cinnamon) and throws in a little tropical kick with coconut milk. Use whatever sweetener you like – or none at all. You’re the boss! Make them at lunchtime, and they’ll be ready before the fireflies are out.


Nectarine and Blackberry Coco-Pops
6 servings
Inspired by a recipe originally published in Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink

2 ripe nectarines, peeled, pitted and diced (about 1 cup)
1 cup blackberries
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 13.5-oz can full-fat coconut milk

Special equipment:
6 popsicle sticks
6 disposable cups or a popsicle mold

• In a small saucepan, combine the nectarines, blackberries, honey and cinnamon over medium heat. Stir to combine and cook until the fruit is very soft, about 5 minutes. Use the back of a spoon to gently crush the fruit into a lumpy sauce. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut milk. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes.
• Pour about ¾ cup of the fruit mixture into each cup or popsicle molds. Place a piece of plastic wrap tightly over the top of each cup or mold. Use a sharp knife to cut a tiny hole in the center of plastic and push a popsicle stick through into each cup or mold. Freeze at least 5 hours.
• To serve, run warm water over the outside of the cup or mold and gently slide the freezer pop out.



Make This: Beef Kebabs

Sunday, July 19th, 2015



This cookery love story is as old as time: Fire marries meat, and everyone celebrates. To make beef kebabs, begin by soaking 6 bamboo skewers in water. Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal grill for medium-high, direct heat or heat a gas grill to medium-high. In a bowl, make a rub by combining ¼ cup ground coffee, ¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Cut a 2-pound tri-tip steak into 1½-inch cubes and liberally distribute the rub over the meat, coating all sides. Thread 3 to 4 cubes of meat on each skewer. Grill the kebabs 3 minutes per side. Remove from heat and tent loosely with foil 15 minutes before serving.

-photo by Sherrie Castellano 

Just Five: Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015



There is a distinct lack of crust-less sandwiches, petit fours and sugar lumps in the world today. Channel your inner Dowager Countess and invite someone over for a spot of tea and these aromatic cookies. Culinary-grade dried lavender flowers are available at Penzeys Spices in Maplewood and its new location in Chesterfield. When you crush them with sugar and citrus, the smell transports you to tea party in a field of flowers under a blue sky.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies
24 cookies

½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. dried lavender*
1 tsp. lemon zest
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

• In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the sugar, lavender and lemon zest 8 to 10 times until the mixture is well blended. Set aside 1 tablespoon lavender sugar for sprinkling.
• In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the all but the reserved lavender sugar and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until just incorporated.
• On medium speed, beat the flour in 1 large spoonful at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the flour is just incorporated. The dough will be a bit dry. Form the dough into 2 2-inch-thick discs, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
• Preheat the oven to 325. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
• Roll out a disc ½-inch thick on a lightly floured work surface. Cut the cookies out with a glass or cookie cutter and place them onto the baking sheets. Sprinkle the cookies with the reserved lavender sugar.
• Bake 10 to 14 minutes, until the edges are light brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely. Cookies will keep covered up to 1 week.

*Available at Penzeys Spices in Maplewood and Chesterfield



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