July 7, 2022

A la Carte: Two Columns Bursting with Strawberry Treats

Lee White

Column 1

Oh my, no matter the season, last week was a perfect summer day. Was it always sunny? Not really, but for Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, the clouds didn’t explode with raindrops and the humidity stayed around 70 percent and in Groton and Madison, there was always a soft breeze.

Friday I learned how to make a watermelon “sorbet (well, it required some sweetened condensed milk),” and I will try it with other fruits.

Next week I will give you that recipe (and the new friend who created it) and another recipe for fresh fruit and a two or three cream that tops a grainy bread. I just met a new friend that was a lovely appetizer that requires only if you make your own bread (which she did!).

For today, now that strawberries are local and delicious. Then again, strawberry’s  two- or three-week season may be my favorite time of the year. (At least until it’s corn time, or tomato time, or basil time).

Toasted-almond Cake with Strawberries in Whipped Cream

Adapted from Gourmet, June, 2007, page 143

Yield: about 8 to 10 servings

Three-quarters cup whole almonds with skins (one-quarter pound), toasted and cooled
1 ¼  cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½  teaspoon salt
4 large eggs at room temperature about 30 minutes
1 ¼  cup superfine granulated sugar (I put sugar into processor to get it fine)
1 ½  sticks (three-quarter cup) unsalted butter, melted and cool
1/3  cup milk (2 percent is fine)
¼  teaspoon almond extract
½  cup sliced almonds
2 pints frozen strawberries with sugar, thawed, or 2 pints fresh strawberries, sugared to taste
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or one-half teaspoon rose water)
1 and one-half heavy cream, whipped

Put oven rack on middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 8- or 9-inch square or round cake pan. 

With blender on high, add half toasted almonds through top hole and finely grind (be careful not to grind to a paste). Transfer to bowl and grind remaining almonds in same manner, transferring to bowl. Add flour, baking powder and salt to ground almonds and whisk until combined well.

Beat eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until foamy, about 15 seconds, then add sugar a little at a time, beating. Continue beating until mixture is thick, pale and forms a ribbon when beater is lifted, 7 to 8 minutes in a stand mixer or 10 to 14 minutes with a handheld.

Add butter in a slow stream, then add milk and almond extract and beat until just combined. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

Spread batter in pan, smoothing top, and then sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake until  top is golden, cake begins to pull away from side of pan and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes in clean, around 25 to 35 minutes, depending on size of cake pan.

Cool on a rack around 30 minutes, then run knife around edge to loosen and invert onto rack. Take cake right side up on rack and cool completely.

To serve, slice cake onto individual plates, cover with strawberries and top with lots of whipped cream. 

Column 2

Oh, the two recipes I’d promised to give you today will have to wait. My friend, Jennifer is leaving today for London for a few weeks, so her recipe will come later in the summer. When she gets home, fruits will be even riper and she will show me how to make them.

I will, however, give you two other fruity recipes.

The first is easy and it comes from Karen Valente.

Cut watermelon from its rind (get rid of all the green and yellow). Cut the watermelon into approximately 1-inch chunks. Place the melon chunks into a fresh gallon-sized plastic bag, carefully push the bag somewhat flat and seal it well.

Freeze the melon overnight or even a few days later.

Open the bag of melon and pour into a Cuisinart bowl. As you puree the fruit, add sweetened condensed milk into the melon. Stop the food processor and taste the melon. When it is sweet enough for you, add a whisk of salt and puree another second or two.

Spoon the mixture into a plastic container, seal it and freeze, What you have here is not a sorbet, actually; sorbet is usually dairy-free. But there is so little dairy in the dessert, yet it has the mouth-feel and texture that is heavenly. 

For my second dessert, I was going to give you a Bon Appetit recipe for a strawberry hand pie, but it requires making a pie dough, making a strawberry filling, then creating frosting and assembling the dessert. And, with that, the hand pie might gush out on your white pants or sneakers. Instead, why not make enough crisp recipes for the whole summer, freezing it (right out of the freezer you can crumble it over the fruit and serve it after dinner). This is a dish you can serve in no time. So here is the recipe for crisp that top almost any dessert all summer long.

Strawberry Filling 

From Bon Appetit, Summer, 2022

12 ounces strawberries, hulled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salter

Toss all ingredients in a medium bowl to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes. Place the strawberries in a gratin or Pyrex pan. Top with one package of crisp over the fruit and place in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until the filling bubbles.

Crisp Topping
Created by Deb Jensen, a dear friend who died just a few years ago
I quadruple this recipe and freeze it in little plastic bags.

Yield: makes around 5 cups 

1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oatmeal (rolled oats)
1 cup walnuts or pecans
1 cup almonds or pine nuts
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, melted

Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix together with nice, clean hands.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Creamy Coconutty Shrimp Makes a Super Summer Salad

Lee White

After the quick turnover to the Dallas wedding (flew there at 6 a.m. Saturday and was home by Monday, mid-afternoon), I unpacked, played with the cats, watched a DVR’d Connecticut Sun game) and finished a book, then slept until 7:30 Tuesday.

Then I drove to Madison and took friends to pick up their new car in Westchester County, NY. 

Eric drove the new car home (the next morning he drove to Montreal to pick up their son from college), Lisa and I stopped at Trader Joe’s in Milford to do some quick food shopping, but realized we could not both go because Lucy the dog was with us.

Since I really needed nothing (I’d gotten my Trader Joe’s fix the week before), I read in the air- conditioned car and played with Lucy. About 20 minutes later, Lisa arrived with a cart filled with goodies, giving me some frozen shrimp and her favorite goat cheese.

I assumed the pink shrimp was cooked. Instead, it was the raw pink shrimp we used to get in Stonington, CT. I had just gotten my new Bon Appetit and saw the recipe below. The next morning, I bought a lime, some cilantro and a little green jalapeno; that night I made the recipe below.

It was as good the night I made it as it was twice more as leftovers.

Creamy Coconutty Shrimp Salad

From Bon Appetit, Summer Issue, June/July 2022
Yield: 4-6 servings 

1 large lime
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, patted dry
Kosher salt; freshly ground black pepper
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
1 small jalapeno, thinly sliced on a diagonal, seeds remove if desired
½ cup cherry tomatoes, preferably heirloom, halved, quartered if large
1 cup packed coarsely chopped cilantro
High-quality extra-virgin olive oil (for serving)
1 cup tortilla chips, lightly crushed
Flaky sea salt

Remove zest from lime in wide strips with a vegetable peeler, cut lime in half and set aside. Bring zest, garlic, coconut milk and fish sauce to a simmer in a large skillet over medium heat. Arrange shrimp in a single layer and cook, maintaining a bare simmer, until opaque, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp t a large shallow bowl and let cool.

Increase heat to high; cook coconut until thick and pourable (similar to the consistency of runny honey), about 5 minutes; remove from heat. Remove and discard lime zest and any shrimpy bits. Season coconut sauce with kosher salt and pepper and let cool in pan.

Squeeze juice from reserved lime half over shrimp and spoon coconut sauce over. Top with onion, jalapeno, tomatoes and cilantro. Squeeze remaining lime over. Drizzle with oil, then top with tortilla chips and sprinkle with sea salt.

Do ahead: Shrimp can be cooked and coconut sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer to separate airtight container; cover and chill.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Chicken Tetrazzini is Lovely for Left-Overs

Lee White

Having a daughter who has taken over my work as a mother can be pretty nifty. When she wants me to go something with her (or even when we are not going together but I mention that I am thinking of doing something alone), she offers to make all the arrangements. 

This time there is a wedding for my late brother’s granddaughter. For me, traveling via plane is hellish: I hate having to get to the airport early and finding a place to park my car (or, worse, staying overnight in a cheap motel or leaving my house at 3 a.m. for a 6 a.m. plane.)

Then there is changing planes and doing the same thing in a few days.

But this time, she really wanted me to go with her, so she got me non-stops to and from Dallas and called to confirm my flight. She even got me priority boarding (maybe because I am old).

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash.

But a week before, I had to think about what I would eat on the plane and during the seven hours until her plane arrived from LA. So, Wednesday I bought a big, fat rotisserie chicken. I used some of it for two dinner salads, and this evening I will make chicken salad on rye (and grapes for grazing) for tomorrow’s flights.

But that leaves me with lots of chicken. What to do?

How about turkey (or, in my case, chicken) tetrazzini. This I made and will save in the freezer for four different “what-to-make” dinners. 

Left-over Chicken Tetrazzini

From Saveur Cooks Authentic American by the editors of Saveur Magazine (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1998)
Yield: Serves 6

½ pound wide egg noodles
8 tablespoons butter, divided (1 stick)
½ pound white mushrooms, sliced
5 tablespoons flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups turkey or chicken stock (low-sodium, if using canned)
1 ½ cups heavy cream (I use less than that)
1/3 cup dry sherry
3 cups coarsely chopped cooked chicken
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Fresh parsley (optional)

  1. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add noodles and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a medium baking dish and toss with 1 tablespoons butter. 
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Scatter mushrooms over noodles.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and melt remaining 5 tablespoons butter in same skillet. Sprinkle in flour, season to taste with salt and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium, gradually whisk in stock and simmer until sauce thickens, about 7 minutes. Add cream, sherry and chicken, then adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  4. Spoon turkey and sauce over noodles, then sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake until sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Heat broiler and brown for 3 to 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley, if you like.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: It’s Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, so Think British With (Sheet Pan) Fish & Chips!

Lee White

My friend, Lian Obrey, asked me if I would teach her a couple of dishes she could make if she invited friends for dinner.

Of course, I said I would.

“One of those days” might happen within a few days, but I am off to Dallas for the wedding of my grandniece. So, as I am writing this column this morning, I will give her the draft of this column, along with a half-sheet pan and a piece of Silpat. Even a person who cooks little will find this recipe very easy.

By the way, for those of us who don’t have Silpat (a non-disposable piece of plastic that fits into an oven pan), I have had mine for decades. I wash and dry them after I use them, and roll them in a circular blueprint holder.

As for inexpensive half-sheet pans, buy a couple but buy good ones; the cheap ones will wobble in the oven. You will use them forever, in every season, for everything from baking brownies or cookies, roasting vegetables or just using them under the rack to keep those apple or peach pies from gushing into the oven.

As for the Silpat, sure, use parchment instead and you will never have to clean up the sheet pan residue.

Sheet Pan Fish and Chips

Adapted from Real Simple, May, 2022
Yield: Serves 4

1 ½ pounds russet potatoes, cut into ½ inch wedges (I use the tiny potatoes, not cut up)
¼ cup olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons josher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/3 cup panko
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 lemon) divided, plus more for serving
4 6-ounce skinless cod fillets
2 cups frozen sweet peas
Malt vinegar for serving (optional)
Finely chopped parsley for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread in an even layer and roast for 25 minutes.

Combine panko, butter, 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl. Season cod with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Push potatoes to side of baking sheet; add cod. Drizzle cod with 1 tablespoon oil and top with panko mixture. Roast until potatoes and fish are golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes. 

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-heat. Add peas; cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Add remaining lemon zest and ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Serve with cod, potatoes, lemon wedges and male vinegar, if using. Top with parsley.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Gingerbread Cake is Super for Sharing

Lee White

What a weekend!

The weather was gorgeous so I thought I would go to Lowe’s and get some flowers to plant in my tiny front yard and some flowering plants to place where my bird feeders help my feathered friends during the fall, winters and early spring.

But Monday morning at 4:30 a.m., as I drove my daughter to catch her plane back to sunny California, I had to use the windshield wipers get rid of the thin ice that had formed overnight. Those flowering plants will wait for a few more weeks. 

But her long weekend with me was positively glorious.

We had a Passover seder at Lisa and Eric’s house Friday night (only three of our seven were Jewish, but that’s more than most Jewish quorum). I’d ordered six-pound flat brisket at Scott’s in East Lyme. I put into the slow cooker, slathered it with seasoned caramelized onions, mushrooms and garlic and cooked it for 8 hours, then reduced the juice into a fragrant gravy.

I also made a very chocolate flourless cake. Jacques made superb latkes (yes, I know, latkes are for Hanukkah, but everyday can be Hanukkah with those yummy latkes), while Lisa made matzo ball soup and sweet carrots, and Paula and Reza made salad and roasted vegetables.

And there was wine.

On Easter Sunday, Darcy and I had a late brunch at the Oyster Club in Mystic. We ate more than a dozen oysters (raw and Rockefeller, the latter perhaps the best I’d ever had, even better than those at Antoine’s in New Orleans where the recipe was born) and shared my Bolognese and her sautéed scallops, plus a caramelized orange sorbet.

Needless to say, I have many kitty bags in the fridge, but I hungered for more something sweet (but not too sweet), so I made this gingerbread cake that I will probably share with friends over the next week. 

Classic Gingerbread Cake
From Cook’s Illustrated (January/February 2011, page 24)

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash.

Three-quarters cup stout (they prefer Guinness)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup mild molasses
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8-inch-square baking pan (a round one works well, too). I use Pam all the time now when baking.

Bring stout to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (mixture will foam vigorously). When foaming subsides, stir in molasses, brown sugar and granulated sugar until dissolved; set mixture aside. Whisk flour, ground ginger, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and pepper together in large bowl; set aside.

Transfer stout mixture to large bowl. Whisk in eggs, oil and grated ginger until combined. Whisk stout mixture into flour mixture in thirds, stirring vigorously until completely smooth after each addition.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and gently tap pan against counter 3 or 4 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.

Bake until top of cake is just firm to touch and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes.

Cool cake in pan on wire rack, about 1 ½  hours. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Ricotta Cheese Pie Makes a Luscious Dessert for any Easter … or Passover!

Editor’s Note: This is a column that our dear friend Lee White wrote for us in April 2016, that somehow we failed to publish (our apologies) — but the recipe is as good today as it was then!

Lee White

This will be an odd Easter weekend for me. On Good Friday, I will pick up my Newbury, Mass., daughter-in-law. Nancy and second-youngest granddaughter, then drive up to Kennebunkport Inn. 

It all began with an e-mail from the beautiful hotel in Maine. It is less expensive to spend a day or two there in the late fall, winter and early spring, but the advertisement said it would be even less so for March and April, with a special discount of 29 percent. Hmmm, it was time to visit my cousins from Portland (she breeder of corgis, he a retired AP reporter). Perhaps a Friday night dinner at Fore Street (one of the many in Portland) and a visit with cousins Adrienne and Jerry. So I called Nancy, and asked if it was time for a road trip. (Our last had been last year in Boston to see a Bette Midler concert and an overnight stay in a boutique hotel walking distance from the concert.) She was game and said, since it was a school holiday for Casey, could she come, too? What a treat I said. She is a high-school sophomore and great company.

I called the Kennebunkport Inn, doubting there would rooms available, but we got one big room with two double beds and a twin for Friday and Saturday. Not only that, I got a reservation for us at Fore Street on Friday night. (By the way, Nancy and daughter Casey are Greek; my cousins are Jewish, as am I, so Greek Easter is the next Sunday and Passover (which isn’t a Jewish Easter but is a spring kind-of festival) isn’t until the end of April.

In any case, I won’t be making Easter dinner for anyone and, hopefully, I will be invited to Greek Easter the following Sunday. Here is what I will make. It is a luscious dessert that everyone loves.

Ricotta Cheese Pie

Photo by Taisiia Shestopal on Unsplash.

For the filling:
2 cups ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
1 cup cream
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the crust:
1 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar (no sugar if using cookie crumbs)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (or chocolate wafer cookie or vanilla wafer crumbs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter, or spray with nonstick cooking spray, a 9-inch spring form pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with two layers of heavy aluminum foil

To make the crust, in a bowl combine crumbs, sugar and melted butter (this can be done in the food processor). Press crumbs evenly over bottom of pan. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

To make the cheesecake filling, in your food processor or electric mixer, mix ricotta, cream and sugar until well blended and smooth. Beat in flour and salt; then add eggs, one at a time, processing or beating until incorporated. Finally, add vanilla extract and cinnamon on and process until incorporated. Pour into prepared crust and dust top with crumbs. Take care not to over-mix.

Bake about 50 to 60 minutes, or until cheesecake is set, yet moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken (the edges of the cheesecake will have some browning). Remove from water bath and cool in a wire rack. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Thinking Lent (or Passover or Easter)? Then Think Fish

Lee White

Oh my, it may be April 1, as you are reading this. But this column is not about April Fool’s Day but rather two important holidays, which follow in just a couple of weeks—Easter and Passover.

Because the two holidays follow different calendars, rarely do Easter weekend (including Good Friday, Easter Sunday or, that new holiday, Easter Monday) and Passover coincide.

As with most Jewish holidays, Passover with its wonderful dinner, or seder — which can include brisket or turkey, sweet potatoes, matzoh topped with horseradish (which I love) and sometimes macaroons for dessert — begins on the evening before the holiday.

This year the seder begins on April 15 at sundown. The seder is sad in the beginning, but ends with happiness and songs.

Easter begins sadly with Good Friday, the day Jesus died and was entombed, and ends with Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose. After church on Sunday, Christians may choose a festive dinner, often with turkey or ham, rolls and butter, fresh peas (because sometimes, although rarely, the peas sown in mild-March might be ready to pick), rich scalloped potatoes and, if you are lucky, a ricotta cake and fresh berries. 

My daughter has Good Friday and Easter Monday off and is taking the red-eye from California; she will arrive very early Friday. By Friday evening, her eight-day Passover fast means no flour, meaning no bread. Also, over the past few years, she had a few bouts with crab legs and an allergist said it might be best if she stays away from shellfish.

I am not the least bit religious, so I do not avoid bread at Passover or seafood ever.

My daughter, on the other hand, has decided that lobster is okay. So, we may go to Ford’s before sundown, where I will have lobster risotto. She decided that rice is okay at Passover (others disagree) and will enjoy just a taste of lobster and order shrimp. 

The next night we will eat at home with this recipe. This is pretty and delicious for Lent or anytime.

Sear-Roasted Halibut with Tomato and Capers
Adapted from Fine Cooking, volume 93, June-July, 2008

Yield: serves 4

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
1 ½ tablespoons fresh oregano (if dried, use only a teaspoon)
1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds thick, skinless halibut fillet (or mild white fish, like cod) cut into 4 even pieces
½ cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I used canola because I was out of EVOO)
2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Position rack in center of oven and heat oven to 450 degrees. 

In a medium bowl, mix tomatoes, capers, oregano, vinegar, ½ teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoons pepper.

In a plate, place flour and the rest of salt and pepper. Dredge fish in flour and shake excess flour.

Heat oil in a 12-inch (preferably non-stick) ovenproof skillet over medium high-heat until shimmering hot.

Add fish, evenly spaced and cook without touching until it browns and released easily from the pan (check by gently lifting one of the corners), about 3 minutes.

Flip fish, sprinkle garlic around it, and cook until garlic just starts to brown on some edges, about 30 minutes. Pour the tomato mixture around the fish and transfer skillet to the oven.

Roast until the fish is just firm to the touch and opaque when you pry open a thicker piece with a paring knife, 3 to 6 minutes.

Let fish rest for a couple of minutes and then serve with the tomato mixture spooned over it.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes ‘Nibbles’ and a cooking column called ‘A La Carte’ for LymeLine.com along with the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Thinking of Those Southern Warmer Climes? Creole Daube Will Take You There

Lee White

Finally, inflation has really got to me at the supermarket.

I so wanted to make a pot roast and saw a lovely fat chuck roast. Before I put it into my cart, I saw the price: $31. I looked again. Yup, $31 for a piece of meat that requires 3 to 4 hours of cooking before it has the perfect chew.

I left that market with chicken. The next day I tried another market. That piece was $23, still expensive, but bought it and made the recipe below.

I shared enough with my next-door neighbors and the next morning Sue told me she saw the circular at McQuade’s said $3.99 a pound. Quick like a bunny, I went to McQuade’s and bought three and put them in my freezer.

Instead of my regular recipe, shared with friend Ralph Turri some years ago, I found this recipe in a new Southern Living. My friend Meredith, a Texan transplant from Connecticut, shares the magazines with me. In return, I give her my New York Times Sunday Magazine. 

This recipe has exact amounts. The bacon doesn’t have to be hickory-smoke, the chuck can be smaller or larger, the veggies can vary. But I am in love with Better than Bouillon stock and they are now available on the shelves of most big supermarkets.

Creole Daube
From Southern Living, January, 2022, page 96
Yield: serves 6 to 8

3 thick-cut hickory-smoke bacon slices, coarsely chopped
1 3 ½ pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 small yellow onions, chopped (about 2 ¼ cups)
1 small green bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large celery stalk, chopped (about ½ cup)
3 tablespoons tomato paste (from 1 6-oumce can)
2 ½ tablespoons chopped garlic from 8 garlic cloves)
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef stock (I use Better than Bouillon—1 teaspoon for each cup water)
5 fresh thyme sprigs
3 bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
5 small carrots, sliced on an angle into 2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
4 tablespoons of flour stirred into 2 to 3 cups cold water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until brown and fat rendered, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and reserve dripping to a skilled.

Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-heat. Add roast to Dutch oven and sear. Until browned on 2 sides, about 12 minutes. Carefully flip halfway through. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onions, bell pepper and celery to Dutch oven; cook, stirring often and scraping browned bits from bottom of Dutch oven, until onions soften, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until paste turns a share darker, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a simmer oven medium.

Simmer stirring occasionally, until it is slightly thickened and some of alcohol burns off, about 3 minutes. Stir in stock, thyme sprigs, bay leaves and clove. Nestle in roast and bacon along with any juices that have accumulated; bring to a simmer over medium, then remove from heat.

Cover and transfer to oven, and braise about 2 hours.

Remove from oven, uncover and stir in carrots and turnips. Cover and return to oven; braise until meat and vegetables are tender, about another hour. Remove and let rest 15 minutes. Remove roast and shred into large pieces. I reduce liquid to 1/3, then add flour/cold water mixture and whisk into a gravy.

Serve with fresh vegetables and roasted potatoes.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes ‘Nibbles’ and a cooking column called ‘A La Carte’ for LymeLine.com along with the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: It’s St. Patrick’s Day, So It Must Be Time For Corned Beef & Cabbage!

Lee White

I had such a fun weekend watching the UConn women play basketball at Mohegan Sun. And as I write this column, the final game (UConn vs Villanova) is tonight. We had only one loss in the Big East, and that was to Villanova. I have my fingers crossed.

Friends Sue and Karen had extra tickets for me to see all the games. Frosting on the cake was the ability to see most of our women watching the game when they weren’t playing. In addition, five rows in front of me were R.J. Cole and Tyrese Martin, members of the UConn men’ basketball team watching the women play. This is the first time I have seen them watch each other’s games. By the way, the men are seeded three in the Big East games.

For two of the days, we ate at Tom’s Urban at the casino. I had a burger on brioche both meals. The better of the two? A burger with mushrooms, Swiss cheese and white truffle oil (or truffle butter). I also had tater tots, something I’d never tasted before. Meh.

What to make at home this week?

Of course, it is almost St. Patrick’s Day. While I love deli corned beef, regular corned brisket isn’t my favorite. What I do love, however, are the veggies: cabbage, potatoes and carrots. With just a whisper of salt and a pat of butter, I’m happy. And in less than 45 minutes in the Instant Pot, it’s dinner time.

Maybe enjoy a green beer with your corned beef this year?! Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash.

Instant Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage

From Real Simple, March, 2022, page 114

Yield: Serves 8

1 3 ½ -pound package uncooked corned beef brisket with spice packet
1 cup unsalted beef broth (or 2 tablespoons More than Bouillon stirred in 1 cup water)
1 ½ pounds yellow baby potatoes (I love the Little Potato Company brand)
4 carrots, sliced into 2-inch pieces (about 2 ½ cups)
1 head green cabbage, cut into 8 wedges, core intact
2/3 cup cups sour cream
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from one lemon)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

Select sauté setting on a multicooker (such as an Instant Pot). Remove brisket from package, reserving spice packet, rinse brisket in cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle both sides of brisket with contents of spice packet. 

Place brisket, fat side down, in cooker; cook for 2 minutes. Flip and add broth, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Lock lid and turn steam-release handle to sealing position. Cook at high pressure for 30 minutes.

Quick-release the pressure. Remove lid and add potatoes, carrots and cabbage in layers on top of brisket. Lock lid and turn steam-release handle to sealing position. Cook at high pressure for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together sour cream, horseradish, lemon zest and juice, 1 tablespoon parsley and ½ teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.

Quick-release the pressure. Remove brisket from pot and thinly slice against the grain.

Serve with vegetables, topped with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley and ½ teaspoon pepper. Serve with sour cream.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes ‘Nibbles’ and a cooking column called ‘A La Carte’ for LymeLine.com along with the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Twice the Usual Feast Today:- First Maple Gooey Butter Cake, Then Whole Coconut Curry Chicken

Lee White

Column #1

All winter, friends have been wailing about winter. When will it be over? Will summer ever come? Others complain about the cold. Some have slipped on ice. 

For me, winter on the Connecticut shoreline isn’t bad.

I grew up in Troy, N.Y. Went to college in Ithaca and Rochester, and lived and worked in Worcester, Mass.

Even the isolation during the pandemic wasn’t bad for me. I read a lot, I write a lot, I cook a lot, I learned about HGTV. My daughter installed Roku on my television.

And I get all my food magazines. 

Last week, my new Bon Appetit arrived and the cover showed a pale green cake topped with chocolate glaze showered with pale green powder. But the recipe called for mochiko (or sweet rice flour) and matcha. So I called Christine, who owns Fromage in Old Saybrook. “Oh, Lee,” she said, “I just sold the last package,” and said she’d have more by the end of the week.

Obviously, I wasn’t the only shoreline denizen who saw the magazine’s cover photo.

The next day I got my copy of Yankee magazine and saw a recipe requiring all the ingredients in my pantry and refrigerator. Wait until you try this one.

Maple Gooey Butter Cake
From Amy Traverso, Yankee magazine, March/April 2022, page 60
Yield: 12 servings

For the cake:
1 cup salted butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan*
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan*
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup  maple syrup, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the topping:
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup maple syrup, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon maple extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and set a rack in the middle position. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with a thin layer of butter, then sprinkle with some flour, tilting the dish to coat evenly. Discard excess. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a medium ball, whisk together I cup melted butter, maple syrup, egg and vanilla. Add butter mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until evenly combined. Use your hands to press this mixture into an even layer in the bottom of the prepared pan.

Now, prepare the topping: Using a stand or handheld mixture, beat the cream cheese with the confectioners’ sugar and eggs in a large bowl until smooth. Add maple syrup and maple extract (if using). Beat until smooth.

Pour topping over the cake base. Bake until edges are golden brown and center is puffed but still jiggles slightly when you shake it, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Sprinkle with additional confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

*I use PAM in the blue can for baking instead of buttering and flouring a baking pan.

Column #2

Almost eight years ago, I sold my big old 1690 cape and moved to a condo. And while I miss the house, without my husband, who died in 2009, I couldn’t keep up with the what an old house requires to stay gorgeous. 

Generally speaking, a condo is just fine for me, especially during the fall (raking all those leaves) and winter (shoveling all that snow). But this winter, with too much snow, the company hired for the complex couldn’t begin to do a good job.

Good thing I always have a refrigerator full of leftovers.

Last week I ate chili three different meals and made my new favorite: pasta with summer-frozen basil pesto, lots of little  tomatoes, tiny frozen sweet peas from Trader Joe’s and flurries of grated good parmesan.

But what I was hunkering for was chicken with red curry and coconut milk, and during those snowy days I couldn’t get into my garage to buy a chicken.

In the meantime, I found a recipe on the internet I had not made before. A few days later, I tried this recipe, adding carrots and fresh cauliflower: Using one pot, a can opener and a good knife, I had four more yummy dinners.

Whole Coconut Curry Chicken

Adapted from Modern Proper
Yield: serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole chicken (about 3 ½ pounds)
2 tablespoons salt
2 cans unsweetened coconut milk, divided
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 cup cauliflower florets (optional)
1 cup carrots, cut into ½ inch dice (optional)
1 lime, zest and juice
Cooked rice for serving

Rinse and pat chicken dry inside and out with paper towels. Discard anything inside the cavity. Salt inside and out.

Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Brown chicken until skin is golden and crispy on both sides. Remove chicken from the pot.

Add 1 can coconut milk, curry paste, onions, garlic and ginger. Bring to a simmer. Add chicken, cover and cook for 30-45 minutes over medium heat.

Uncover and add peppers (or any other vegetables you might like), lime zest and juice, the second can of coconut milk and continue to cook, covered, for another 10 minutes, or until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees. 

When you are ready to serve, either shred the chicken or quarter the chicken from the carcass and serve in a bowl along with the broth and rice.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes ‘Nibbles’ and a cooking column called ‘A La Carte’ for LymeLine.com along with the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: This Five-Way Chili is All The Way From Cincinnati!

Lee White

I get excited when I see old recipes in my computer and haven’t made in decades. 

Friends asked if I could make dessert for 12. I wanted it to be yummy and attractive and decided on a flan, or custard. I’d made it often as a dish but not in years. When you take it out of the oven and turn it onto a slightly oval plate, the caramel waves over and stays that way for hours.

I had all the ingredients but didn’t read the instructions carefully, so there were problems.

I came close to over-toasting the coconut, although I caught it in time and tossed it onto a cool granite counter so it continued to the right golden color.

Then I cooked the cup of sugar into a skillet. Then I sat down to read.

Uh-oh, it burned.

Used another skillet and another cup of sugar. I paid attention and it worked.

As I turned the caramel into the cake pan, I realized I’d misread the recipe: it needed 1 ½ cups of sugar and I should have used an 8-inch pan, not the 9-inch. The recipe worked, but I had not remembered my maxim: like a carpenter reads twice and cuts once, I had not read twice and cooked once. (With elbow grease, I saved the first skillet!)

This weekend I wanted something easier, something that require little precision.

I made a big pot of marinara with sweet and hot sausage. Then I made Cincinnati 5-Way Chili. I love this dish and a note by Kathy Gunst on Facebook reminded me that I have it in my own computer files. Recipes like this one gives me absolution: if you don’t have all the spices and don’t want to add spaghetti and prefer to deep-six the beans, it’s still delicious!

Cincinnati 5-Way Chili
Adapted from USA Cookbook by Sheila Lukins (Workman, New York, 1997)

Photo by American Heritage Chocolate on Unsplash.

Yield: serves 6 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds ground beef (or 1 pound ground beef and 1 pound ground lamb)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
¼ teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, ground allspice, coriander and ground cardamom
1 28-ounce can plum or crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen if you have it)
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound spaghetti or linguine
2 cans (15 ½ ounces each) dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained, for garnish
4 to 6 scallions (3 inches green left one), thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish
½ (one-half) pound grated Monterey Jack cheese, for garnish

Place oil and onions in a heavy pot over low heat, and cook, stirring, until wilted, 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Crumble in the beef (or beef and lamb, if you are using) and raise the heat to medium. Brown well, stirring often to break up the clumps, 10 minutes. Remove any excess fat from the pot.

Add cocoa and all the spices to the meat and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and their juice, tomato paste, vinegar and honey. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the flavors are well blended, 20 to 30 minutes.

Adjust the seasoning, then season generously with salt and pepper, to taste. (You can now turn off the heat and cover the chili until ready to serve, up to 3 or 4 hours. If not ready to use until tomorrow, refrigerate. Bring to a simmer before serving.)

Shortly before serving, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti or linguine until just tender, about 10 minutes. Heat the beans in a covered saucepan over low heat.

Drain pasta thoroughly. Divide the pasta among six shallow pasta bowls. Top with the chili, then the kidney beans, scallions and grated cheese.

Serve immediately.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Caramelized Coconut Budino Makes a Luscious Dessert

Lee White

I am going to a dinner party next Saturday evening in Madison. There may be 12 people. I may have met half of them. Most are flying in to see their daughter and son-in-law in their new house into which they moved just three weeks ago.

The last time I moved, it took me months to unpack boxes, never mind ready to host a dinner party in less than a month. And many of the invitees are flying in from Florida and Pennsylvania and will be staying for a few extra days in their house. I probably wouldn’t have been able to find the boxes of sheets and towels. 

In any case, as I am one of the locals who will be at the dinner party, I told Lisa I would make the dessert. Although the age range of the visitors run from 20 to 80, and assuming no one is lactose-intolerant or on a diet, this gorgeous and luscious dessert will feed 12 and still looks pretty a day or two. It is, in a way, a flan, but the chewy coconut does more than just feel like snowdrops on one’s tongue.

I will also make some little cookies, maybe shortbread, to those who don’t much care for flan.  

Caramelized Coconut Budino
Adapted from More Cooking in the Wine Country by Joanne Weir (Simon and Schuster, New York, 2001)

Yield: Serves 8

2 ½ cups very finely grated sweetened coconut
2 cups sugar, divided
8 eggs
3 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Have ready an 8-inch round cake pan and a larger one in which to place the 8-inch cake pan. 

Place coconut on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until light golden, tossing occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool slightly. Place in food processor and pulse until finely ground. Reserve. Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.

In a large, heavy stainless-steel frying pan, melt 1 cup of the sugar over medium heat. Do not stir with a spoon; instead, swirl the pan to melt the sugar uniformly. Cook until sugar starts to turn golden brown. Immediate remove the pan from the heat and pour mixture into the 8-inch round cake pan, turning the pan so the caramel coats the bottom and sides. Set it aside.

Whisk eggs together in a bowl. Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar, the milk, coconut and flour and stir together until well mixed.

Pour coconut mixture into the caramel-lined, pan, and place in a larger pan. Pour boiling water into the larger pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake in the oven until set and a skewer goes into the center and comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes.

Remove can pan from the larger pan and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then invert the coconut budino onto a serving plate and serve.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: A Soup for Snow? Try This Intriguing Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup

Lee White

What do you do on a Sunday when there is nearly three feet of snow on your front door? Obviously, the meteorologists were right this time …

Is there enough food in my house to keep me a day or two from starvation?

Sure, there is.

But what would I be in the mood for?

Yes, my friends, I had stocked up on produce with what I wanted to cook: three different soups. I also made tiramisu on Sunday, just because I happened to have mascarpone in the refrigerator and, while milk chocolate was not in any supermarket, I have some Ghirardelli cocoa mix in the pantry, too.

Amid all the produce, I bought a sweet potato bigger than my shoe size, a seven. Tonight, I am making a soup to finish up the coconut milk I used yesterday. You may, as I did, forget the parsley relish, since I am out of fresh parsley.

Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup with Spice Relish

Adapted from a recipe by Bobby Flay in September 12, 2010 issue of Parade magazine
Yield: 4 to 6 portions

Spicy Relish
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
pinch of red-pepper flakes
½ small sweet potato, peeled and cut into a small dice
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup
1 ½ tablespoons canola oil
1 small red onion, chopped
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated (ginger gums up your Microplane; cut in tiny dice instead)
pinch of red-pepper flakes
3 cups homemade chicken stock (out of my own, I used the store-bought, low-sodium broth)
½ cup water
1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
1 ½ cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon honey
large pinch of ground cinnamon

For relish, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add red-pepper flakes; heat for 10 seconds. Add diced sweet potato, salt and pepper to taste. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, 15 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to high and cook until diced potatoes are golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in parsley.

For soup, heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and ginger; cook until soft, 5 minutes. Add red-pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds. Add stock and water, bring to a boil. Add sweet potatoes, bring to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for 20 to 25 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a blender and process until smooth. Return to saucepan; simmer over low heat. Whisk in coconut milk, honey and cinnamon. Cook until thickened and warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle into bowls, top with a spoonful of a spicy relish.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Winter Vegetable Soup for a Wintry Day

Lee White

Over the years, I learned a lot about buying cookbooks. Never mind the first one I ever had: it was a cookbook that was part of the first (and only) encyclopedia we order for our daughter. I bet no one under fifty years old has ever bought one.

My second was Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook. It was one hell of a cookbook and still is. I learned to cook from that one. I began to buy chefs’ cookbooks. Like a kid, I loved the pictures. One, the French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller, was gorgeous, but I never cooked a single recipe from it.  The recipes looked easy, just eight or seven ingredients, but embedded were words like “see page this or see page that.” To finish the entrée or dessert I would have had to make two or three different recipes first.

Today I buy cookbooks written by the brilliant Jacques Pepin and television star Ina Garten; I own books from the Moosewood Collective along with Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso. These people are cooks, teachers and recipe writers, rarely restaurant chefs.

Jacques buys most of his ingredients from farmers’ markets or Stop and Shop. Ina Garten shops in the Hamptons. They both have their own gardens. Sheila Lukins cooked for her own little shop called The Silver Palate. New Haven’s own Claire Criscuolo’s Claire’s Corner Copia books are treasures.

So here’s the deal: in the recipe below, there are 18 ingredients, but nine are veggies, a bunch, literally, are herbs and there is some liquid. Most of them are probably in your own kitchen. The soup will feed eight to 10 people and cost you maybe $15. And I found that recipe  from Yankee magazine, which couldn’t be more New England-ish.

This soup is delicious.

Roasted Winter Vegetable and White Bean Chowder
From In the Thick of It by Nadine Nelson (Yankee, January-February, 2022)

2 ½ cups diced butternut squash
2 ½ cups sliced carrots
2 cups diced russet potatoes
1 cup diced parsnips
1 fennel bulb, diced
2 tablespoons plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3 cups diced onion
1 cup diced celery
5 fresh thyme sprigs
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flour (all-purpose or gluten-free)
8 cups vegetable stock (chicken stock if you are not a vegetarian)
2 14-ounce cans cooked white beans, drained
2 cups sliced mushrooms, any kind
2 cups milk of your choice (2 percent is fine)
Fresh thyme sprigs and ground paprika or smoked for garnish

Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss five veggies in 2 tablespoons olive and and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Divide vegetables between two large rimmed baking sheets and roast until tender and browned, about 40 minutes, turning them a few times while roasting.

While vegetables are roasting, prepare the soup base: heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, then add onions, celery, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, black remaining and 1 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 6 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add stock and beans.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and milk, bring to a simmer, and stir in roasted vegetables.

Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if desired.

Serve hot, garnished with fresh thyme and a sprinkle or paprika. 

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee

A la Carte: Count on Chicken Chili on a Cold Day!

I have four definites before I give you a recipe:

  1. I have made the recipe and it was good
  2. Someone I knew had made this recipe and gave me the recipe and I understood the intranets and trusted them
  3. The ingredients were available or that a substitute would work for you
  4. I tinkered with the recipe and felt the tinkering made the recipe even better.

This was not the case with the tourtière you read last week.

I had not made a tourtière, or French-Canadian meat pie, in decades because my husband really didn’t like the cinnamon-blend so I never made it again. But my husband is gone and I love the spice blend (like the sauce the Olney, R.I. diners serve with hot dogs in the Ocean State), so I decided to make a tourtière from a recipe on the Internet. I sent the column before I made the tourtière.

I was gob-smacked. Either my palate had changed (which can happen  to anyone) or the spice blend sucked or my taste memory was faulty.

I drove down to my friend Rich Swanson’s house. He didn’t think the pie wasn’t bad (was he just being kind?), but he gave me an individual spiced lamb pie he’d made that might give me something I’d remember. That day I thawed the pie and had it for dinner with some broccoli, and there was that tourtière-flavor I remembered. 

“Will you give me that recipe?”  I begged over the phone.

“Yes,” he said, but it might take him some time to make the right amount of seasoning for a full-sized pie. “Take your time, Rich,” I said.

Unless you are a kid and it is Christmas morning, waiting for something wonderful is easy.

So, today, I am giving you a  recipe for chicken chili that I have made many times. Because it serves 12, you can halve the ingredients for six people; whether it is for six or 12, it freezes well.

Chicken Chili

Adapted from Ina Garten’s  “Barefoot Contessa Parties!” (Clarkson Potter, New York, 2001)
Serves 12

If you call this recipe a stew, make it a day or two earlier and refrigerate, warm it up and serve over rice, everyone will love it.

8 cups chopped onions (6 onions)
One-quarter cup good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
One-quarter cup minced garlic (8 cloves)
4 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and large-diced
4 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded and large-diced
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½  teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
4 teaspoons salt, plus more for chicken
4 28-ounce can whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained  (I used Muir Glen diced tomatoes)
½  cup minced fresh basil leaves
8 or more split breast chicken, bone in, skin on (thighs or a combination would be fine, too)

For serving: chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar cheese, sour cram

Cook onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne and salt. Cook for 1 minute.

Crush tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the meantime, rub the chicken with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generally with salt and pepper. Roast chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly.

Separate the meat from the bones and skin, and cut into three-quarter chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Serve with toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.

Lee White

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: For Lee, Winter and Widowhood Mean it’s Time for Tourtière

Lee White

Before the holiday season, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, a wonderful cookbook writer who lives mostly in Maine and visits Italy often, talked about the French-Canadian tourtière

I made it a few times for my husband but he really didn’t like the seasoning. He said the same when I made Cincinnati Five-Way Chili (chili with beans, onions, seasoning, spaghetti and cheese). Doug had pretty good catholic (small “C”) food preferences and so, after the tourtière discussion (and all the time, really), I just made food he enjoyed.

In any case, I love all those spices and I adore savory pies like chicken and beef pot pies.

But now it is winter and widowhood, so I can cook anything I like and share the bounty with friends.

The recipe looks long, but if you use a pre-made crust (preferable Oronoco frozen pie crusts), this recipe is a snap. As for the spice blend, quadruple or quintuple it and save in a tight-lidded jar for tourtière or Cincinnati Five-Way Chili for next time!

Tourtière (French-Canadian Meat Pie)
Adapted from Chef John on allrecipes.com 

Photo by Rebecca Matthews on Unsplash.

2 pre-made frozen pie crusts, thawed
Spice blend
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground thyme
½ teaspoon ground sage
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Filling
1 large russet potato, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 pinch salt
4 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup finely diced celery
1 pound each ground pork and beef
1 cup potato cooking water, plus more as needed

Egg wash
1 large egg and 1 tablespoon water, stirred

Place potato quarters in a saucepan, cover with cold water. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat. Simmer until cooked through. Remove potato and mash; save water.

Melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and salt and stir until onions turn golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in garlic, celery and spice blend and stir until onions coated with spices, 30 seconds. Add meat and ladle ¾ cup of potato water into skillet. Cook until meat is browned and has an almost paste-like texture. Continue, stirring, until meat is tender and most liquid is evaporated, 45 minutes. Stir in potatoes and remove from heat. Bring to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill bottom crust with meat mixture and smooth out. Brush edges of bottom crust with egg wash, then place top crust on the pie and press lightly around edges to seal. Trim excess dough from crust. Crimp edges of the crust and brush entire surface of pie with egg wash. Place in preheated oven. Bake until well brown, about 1 hour. Let cool to almost room temperature before serving.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Two New (and Lucky) Soups for the New Year

Lee White

Luck can be two different sides of a coin. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, I lost one very good friend, and another very good friend lost his mother.

Just three days after that, I went to a birthday party for Jacques Pepin, who is now 86. It was a small party of maybe 14 people. Most of us have known each other for 20 or more years. 

Jacques’ beautiful wife, Gloria, died just a year ago, while Marty Travis’ husband died less than a decade ago.  My husband died 12 years ago. While all three of us terribly miss our spouses, all 14 feel lucky to be together, pretty healthy, tripled vaxxed … and even smarter than when we were in college!

We also never talked about politics.

Now it is 2022 and I am hoping all my readers and friends (many are both), my children and their children, and all of yours too, have great luck, superb health and enough prosperity to share with others.

Below are two good luck soups. Both are delicious. 

Good Luck Lentil Soup

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Adapted from Italian Holiday Cooking by Michele Scicolone (William Morrow, New York, 2001)
Yield: serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, chopped*
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 small dried pepperoncini (I use a pinch of crushed red pepper instead)
1 pound lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
½ cup dried tomatoes, cut into strips (I use a 28-ounce can of Muir Glen diced tomatoes, instead)
Salt to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil

In a large pot, combine oil, pancetta, onion, garlic and pepperoncino (or crushed pepper) over medium heat until the onion is wilted and golden.

Add lentils then stir in the peppers and tomatoes. If using dried tomatoes, add 6 cups of water; if using canned tomatoes, add 2 to 3 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, until lentils are almost tender.

Add salt to taste and simmer until lentils are cooked.

Serve hot or at room temperature with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 

*Pancetta is unsmoked Italian bacon. Rolled into a sausage shape, pancetta is used to flavor bean dishes and sauces. Most supermarkets have it in the deli department.

Friendship Soup Mix

From Vange Chatis of Somers, Connecticut
Yield: 4 quarts

1 pound ground beef
3 quarts water
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
½ cup dry split peas
¼ cup pearl barley
¼ cup dried minced onion
½ cup uncooked long-grain rice
1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
½ cup dry lentils
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
½ cup alphabet macaroni or other small macaroni

In a very large stockpot, brown beef, then drain. Add water, tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients except for the macaroni. Stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Add macaroni, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until everything is tender.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Time to Celebrate, Time for Tiramisu!

Lee White

Christmas has become a quiet day for me.

My own daughter, Darcy, is in California with her husband. Stepchildren are all over the country and their children are, too. My stepson and his wife, whom I adore, are divorced and my daughter-in-law will spend her day with her parents, who are quite old and don’t drive the nearly two hours to get to Newburyport. 

I won’t be alone, though.

Noank friends, who are not very religious and don’t have children, have invited me with their relatives to their house for Christmas Eve dinner. This year their new tradition is go to give a book as a Secret Santa. This is may be my favorite Christmas Eve:  good conversation, excellent food, good wine and a book to read after I get home.

I will take a few bottles of wine. I used to buy three cases—two red and one white—for the year; now it is two white and one red, but it lasts for a couple of years!

I will take also take dessert. Christmas is like its cousin the month before, Thanksgiving, and is not a day for dieting so I will make a tirasmisu cheesecake. It is beyond delicious, purely hedonistic and will leave lots of extra for Judy and Dick.

Tiramisu Cheesecake
Adapted from a recipe given to me by Aimee Pezzello from New London
Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Photo by Victoria Alexandrova on Unsplash.

Crust:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder (or regular ground espresso)
1 cup vanilla wafer crumbs

Filling:
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese (or light or Neufchatel cheese) at room temperature
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 and 2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (or regular ground espresso)
1 tablespoon hot water
2 tablespoons brandy or Cognac
1 square (one-ounce) semisweet chocolate, grated

Crust:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter an 8-inch spring form pan.
Stir butter and espresso powder in small bowl until combined.
Stir in crumbs until crumbs are evenly moistened.
Pat evenly over bottom of prepared pan.
Bake 10 minutes.
Cool on wire rack.
Keep oven on.
Tightly cover outside bottom and sides of spring form pan with heavy-duty foil.

Filling:

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and mascarpone in large mixer bowl at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes.
Gradually beat in sugar, scraping down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, until completely smooth, 3 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium and beat in vanilla and salt.
Add eggs one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
Pour 4four cups of filling over crust in prepared pan and place pan in larger roasting pan. (This will avoid extra filling messing up the oven/)
Dissolve espresso powder into hot water.
Fold into remaining filling with brandy and grated chocolate.
Pour over filling in prepared pan.
Place roasting pan into the oven and bake for around 1 and ¼ hours.
Turn oven off and let cheesecake coast in the oven with the door ajar by at least 4 to 6 inches.
Remove on a wire rack and let cool.
Serve cool or refrigerate for a day or two, bringing up to room temperature before serving. 

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn.
Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Terrific (Homemade) Treats to Take to Friends

Lee White

Column #1

A year ago, a COVID vaccine was my holiday hope to family and friends (and everyone else in the world). I think all we wanted was a vaccine that this once-a-century pandemic could be handled and we wouldn’t have to watch Andrew Cuomo every single morning on television (although we didn’t know then that his final showstopper would be his last ever).  By the end of February, I got my first shot and the second three weeks later. Last August I got my booster.

So here it is:  December, 2021. Thanksgiving is behind us. Many of us spent that holiday with friends and family. And what do we talk about now? We talk about the idiots who refuse to be vaccinated. And the problems with delayed flights (although we are thrilled we can begin to fly).

And a new phrase has entered dictionary: supply chains. We see pictures of enormous ships hugging the coast of Long Beach, California. Will there be enough toys for the kids and, for us, every new computer gadget made in China? 

Some years ago, as I drove home after Christmas, I heard this on NPR: Here is what each child should get for Christmas [or Hanukkah]: one thing she needs, one thing she wants and one book.

To this I add: something homemade from your kitchen to take to friends at the holiday. And next week I will give you Richard Swanson’s recipe for the best granola clusters I have ever tasted, along with my daughter’s recipe for fudge. And maybe my dentist’s peanut brittle.

Photo on Unspalsh by Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian

Chocolate Syrup
Recipe from my grandparents’ grocery store a century ago.

2 cups granulated sugar
4 big tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a saucepan, add whisk sugar and cocoa.

Stir in water and continue cooking the mixture until it begins to boil; bring the heat to simmer and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from the stove, add a dash of salt and the vanilla extract.

When cool, add to little Mason jars.

Caramel Sauce
From Cecina Simpatica by Johanne Killeen and George Germon, Harper Collins, New York, 1991

2 cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar

In a saucepan, scald cream and reduce heat to very low;  keep warm.

Heat sugar in another saucepan over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon. The sugar will slowly melt into a clear liquid and gradually darken (don’t worry if the sugar lumps; break up lumps with the wooden spoon and they will melt into the caramel as it darkens.)

When caramel has turned a medium-dark mahogany, pour it slowly into the hot cream, whisking constantly. The caramel will splatter so be careful. If the temperature is too low, you may find portions of the caramel solidify. In that case, increase the flame under the cream and stir until the bits melt and mixture becomes smooth.

The caramel sauce thickens as it cools and will solidify in the refrigerator, where it will keep for days. It may be reheated gently to pouring consistency. Pour the caramel into little Mason jars and refrigerate.

Column # 2

Wow, has my kitchen gotten a workout since the day before Thanksgiving. I made two apple pies, two pumpkin ones, a batch of corn bread and Asian-style green beans. The latter became just green beans, since the sauce I made created would have seared the mouth of anyone who tried it.

Over the weekend, I made chili and a butterflied boneless leg of lamb for three meals, and today I made a batch of the tastiest granola ever. I was also going to make the famous H.G. Sawyer peanut brittle, but it really needs weather a little colder, perhaps below 32 degrees, for it to break into chunks. But I have made it so many times that you can trust the recipe. 

Both the granola and the brittle are easy to make and are wonderful housewarming gifts when you are invited to visit over the holidays. I have even more recipes, so if you need a few more than those from last week’s column, and the ones below, e-mail me at leeawhite@aol.com and I’ll send a few more.

Amazing Peanut Brittle
From the late H.G. Sawyer, dentist from Groton, CT

4 cups sugar
1 ½  cups white and/or dark Karo syrup
1 ½ cups water
4 cups Spanish peanuts
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons baking soda

Butter two rimmed cookie sheets.

Mix sugar, syrup and water into a heavy-bottomed large pan. Stir with long wooden spoon.

Place candy thermometer into the mixture. Heat at medium-high until thermometer reaches 320 degrees (this will take a long time to hit 290 degrees and very little time to hit 320.)

Add Spanish peanuts, stir, then add butter and vanilla.

Stir, then add baking soda and stir until frothy, about 15 to 20 seconds.

Pour into cookie sheets and thin to about one-peanut high. (It is great to have a silicone spatula for this.)

Place outside at it is cold out or put sheets in refrigerator until hardened, about 20 minutes.

Break brittle apart and place in tins or zippered bags.

Photo by Alice Pasqual on Unsplash.

Granola Cereal Clusters
from Richard Swanson of Waterford

Yield: as gifts in small boxes, perhaps 10-12

½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup honey
4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats (best not to use quick oaks)
3 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch
4 cups Honey Nut Cheerios
2 cups chopped pecan, walnuts or almond
¼ cup finely chopped coconut

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line half-sheet baking pan (17” by 13”) with parchment; spray parchment lightly with cooking spray.

Place oil, corn syrup, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and salt together in bowl of stand mixer with flat paddle and stir on low until fully mixed. Add oats, cereals, nuts and coconut and stir on low until thoroughly combined and cereals are somewhat crushed into smaller pieces. About 2 minutes.

Transfer mixture to prepared sheet and spread across entire surface in even layer. Using a stiff metal spatula, press down firmly on mixture until very compact. Bake until lightly brown around edges, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. 

Transfer sheet to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Mixture will be slightly soft until fully cooled. Break into chunks. Store in airtight container.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn.
Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: A Delicious New Twist on Turkey Left-Overs

Lee White

If you are reading this on Wednesday with your morning coffee and you are lucky enough to have scored a Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s house tomorrow, you are like me.

I was asked to make two pies (one apple, one pumpkin), green beans and corn bread. In any case, I will be making these things this evening and all I need to do is show up an hour ahead of the dinner and find an unused counter to stash the pies.

Or maybe you are reading this on Thursday, and everyone will arrive at your house in a few hours.

Hopefully you have asked friends and family to make the pies, a vegetable and rolls or corn bread. If that is the case, this will be your last 15 minutes before you put the turkey into the oven.

All you have to worry about is what to do with the leftover 22-pound turkey since a third of the 15 people you have invited decided they are still worried about COVID and decided to stay home.

On Friday, unless my friends insisted I take home turkey, dressing, gravy, sides and pie, I might bake a 13-pound turkey from my freezer and make it so I have leftovers.

I love turkey for turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey salad and casseroles layered of the meat, potatoes, veggies and gravy. Or pieces of turkey in a skillet with onions, garlic, red curry, some boxed chicken broth and coconut milk atop a cup of basmati rice. 

Almost 15 years ago, I made the recipe below. My family and I liked it a lot, but I never made it again.  Try this entrée instead of three days of turkey sandwiches.

Chicken or Turkey Quesadilla Suiza

This recipe offers a new twist on the traditional quesadilla shown here. Photo by Lottie Griffiths on Unsplash.

Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray (November, 2007)

Yield: 2 servings

1 cup chopped roast chicken or turkey
¼  cup mild salsa verde (regular red salsa will do)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 8-inch whole wheat (or spinach or regular) flour tortillas
1 cup shredded Monterey jack or queso fresca cheese
1 scallions, chopped
green olives with pimiento, chopped (a small handful)
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro

  1. Preheat the broiler. In a small bowl, combine chicken or turkey and salsa and heat in the microwave for a minute.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add a tortilla and cook for 30 minutes, then flip and cook for 30 seconds more; slide the tortilla onto a cutting board.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil in the skillet, then add remaining tortilla and cook for 30 seconds. Flip the tortilla and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Top with the first tortilla.
  4. Slide onto a baking sheet and top with chicken mixture, remaining cheese, scallions, olives and cilantro.
  5. Place the quesadilla under broiler six inches from the heat and cook until the tortillas are crisp around the edges, about 2 minutes.
  6. Slide the quesadilla onto a cutting board, cut into four pieces and serve.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn.
Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.