October 1, 2022

A la Carte: Chicken Provencal is One of Lee’s ‘Favorite Dishes’

Editor’s Note: While Lee White is taking a short break, we are republishing some of her previous columns. This one is from September 2021.

Lee White

By the time you read this, I will have flown home from La Mirada, California, having visited with my Darcy, her husband and their greyhound, Whitney.

Darcy was planning many of her meals ahead of time: I was to arrive at Long Beach airport, in mid-afternoon on Sept. 2.

She had hoped we could drive to Palm Springs, but I reminded her it would be Labor Day weekend and driving in Los Angeles that weekend could be more annoying than doing the same on Labor Day weekend on the Connecticut shoreline.

Instead, she will probably have other plans for us, although I mostly love running on the wave pool at the local community center. I have also added three novels on my Kindle in case the weather is uncooperative. She also plans we will watch the Anthony Bourdain documentary.

This will be the first plane travel I will have done since before the pandemic. Darcy reminded me to bring extra masks, although she is not sure if masks are mandated indoors in California. In any case, I have had my third vaccine and feel fairly safe.

And I am to eat in someone else’s house for the first time after almost 18 months — I’m especially happy that it’s Darcy’s house.

On the other hand, I am thinking what my first dinner home will be. I looked in the freezer. Lots of chicken. All I have to buy is mushrooms. And this is one of my favorite dishes. 

Chicken Provencal
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma catalog, June, 2002
Serves 4

1 chicken, 3-4 pounds, cut up into 8 pieces (I used skinless boneless since that was all in had)
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
½ pound cremini mushrooms, quartered (I used a lot more)
2 cups white wine
1 ½ tablespoons chicken demiglace (More Than Bouillon is my favorite)
3 fresh thyme sprigs
½ pound Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ½ -inch pieces (I used more)
1 pint cherry tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put flour onto a flat plate, add salt and pepper, and mix.  Add chicken and toss to coat evenly.

In a large stock pot (I use a Le Creuset Dutch oven), add oil and warm  over medium high heat.

Working in batches, brown chicken 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Transfer to a large plate.

Add onion and mushrooms to pan; cook until just golden and mushrooms start to brown, about 4 to 8 minutes. Off the heat, add wine and demiglace; set pan over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to get the brown bits (fond) into the braising liquid, about 5 minutes. 

Return chicken to pan, add thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook 2 minutes.

Transfer pan to preheated oven and bake 25 minutes. Add potatoes to pan and stir to combine.

I then covered the pan, Continue baking until chicken is falling off the bone, about 35 minutes more.

Remove pan from oven, add tomatoes, stir gently and let stand 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately. This dish is even better on the second or third day. Always heat in a microwave so is doesn’t dry  m

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: Pears, Pie and Autumn Make a Perfect Mix

Lee White

Editor’s Note: While Lee White is taking a short break, we are republishing some of her previous columns. This one is from September 2019.

Many years ago we moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut, having found an old house with land in Canterbury.That beautiful old house took years to make it gorgeous (thanks to my husband, who worked nights and weekends inside and outside that 1750 center-chimney colonial).

The kitchen barely existed when we moved in. It took months before the work was done. I washed dishes in the downstairs tub (I hated paper towels and plastic or paper glasses and cups even 25 year s ago).

I learned what I could make in a microwave (not much).

We were on a budget, so once a week, since I was writing restaurant reviews for The Day, the newspaper paid for us to eat pretty well.

There were few good restaurants within both our budget and 10 miles of our house. One restaurant in Willimantic, long gone and whose name I forgot, had for dessert a two-crust pear pie, the pears nestled in a soft, cream-cheese pillow.

I love pears and pies and autumn, but I never got that recipe. I would love if someone knew what that filling was, but here is a recipe I love.

The crust was Deb Jensen’s, who had a couple of incredibly good restaurants in Stonington until she died a few years ago. I have been using that recipe ever sense she shared it with me. The pear recipe I make with cinnamon or sometimes vanilla, since some people do not like cinnamon.

Deb Jensen’s Perfect Pie Crust

Makes enough for two, two-crust, nine-inch pies (what is not used can be frozen)

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups solid shortening (1 cup Crisco, 3/4 cup unsalted butter)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 cup ice water
1 egg

Combine dry ingredients. Cut shortening into dry ingredients. Add egg to ice water, beat, then add vinegar. Stir into dry ingredients with a fork. Form into four balls, place individually in plastic wrap or small plastic bags and chill. Bring back to room temperature before rolling out.* Dough keeps one month in refrigerator and longer in the freezer.

*My biggest problem with pie crust is the rolling out. I use a floured pastry cloth and a well-floured “mitten” on my rolling pin. When it’s the right size, I roll the crust up on my rolling pin and gently “roll it out” over the pie plate.

Pear Pie Filling

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a large sheet pan into the oven.

2 and one-half  pounds (about 5 cups) Anjou or Bartlett pears, cored, peeled and cut into one-quarter inch slices
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
One-third cup all-purpose flour
One-half cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
2 tablespoons butter

Toss the pears in a large bowl with lemon juice and allow to macerate for half an hour. Mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon (or vanilla),, then toss with the pears.

Add the pear mixture into the bottom crust, then dot with pieces of butter.

Add the second crust and crimp the edges. Use a knife to put a few vents onto the crust. I also place thin pieces of aluminum foil on the edges of the crust so they don’t blacken before the pie is ready.

Put the pie on the hot sheet pan for 15 minutes.

Then turn oven to 350 degrees, and cook until fruit is bubbling, about 45 minutes more. (I take the foil pieces off around 15 minutes for the pie is ready.

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: Tomatoes Times Two: One Recipe (Tomato Ginger Salad), One Tip

Lee White

When I received my Food Network Magazine, I was, as always, taken by the cover: The Secret to a Perfect Pesto.

But in the Editor’s Letter, I was even more taken with words: “… In looking back at all the September covers in this magazine, about half of them show some variations of corn, basil and tomatoes. … So why should we question putting the farmers’ market trifecta on there every September?” says editor Maile Carpenter (whose husband, brilliant chef, Wylie Dufresne, “hates tomatoes and passed that rare and terrible trait onto our children.”)

Aha, I thought. When national food editors see no reason to not bet on a full-bore reason, neither will I. For this week and the next two, I will give you two recipes. One will include a recipe for the ingredient du jour (today, tomatoes) and the second a ‘how to’ piece with a way to save each of these this so-local and so-delicious ingredients for many winterish dishes.

So, here we go with tomatoes, and it begins with note from friend Steve Setless, a friend from high school who asks quizzically: ‘If most of us know that tomatoes are a fruit and not a vegetable, and we all know not to put tomatoes in a fruit salad, then do we assume that Bloody Mary is actually a heathy smoothie?!’

Tomato Ginger Salad
From Food Network Magazine, September, 2002

For the dressing:
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar (light brown will do, though)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly ground ginger

For the salad:
1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
Kosher salt
¼ cup fresh basil
8 inner celery stalks with leaves, thinly sliced
Grilled crusty bread slices, for serving

In a medium bowl, whisk vinegars, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in olive oil and ginger. Taste for seasoning.

Arrange tomatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet and season with salt. Using a scissors, snip basil into smaller pieces and sprinkle over tomatoes. Transfer to a bowl, then toss tomatoes with dressing and celery, Spoon over grilled bread.

Today’s Tomatoes for Next Winter

I wrote about roasting tomatoes three years ago, but maybe you forgot. Just in case, we have less than a month before delicious tomatoes are merely a memory. The best tomatoes for roasting are the plum, or sauce, tomatoes. And they might be less expensive by mid-September.

Here is what to do:

In a large baking sheet(s) lined with foil (for easy cleanup), place cored tomatoes (cut in half vertically if using plum tomatoes, horizontally if using regular tomatoes) cut side up. Lightly salt and then drizzle with just a little oil. Place sheets in preheated 275 degree oven and roast for around 3 to 4 hours. When cool, place about half a pound of tomatoes into plastic bags for the freezer. Next winter, when you decide to make stews, pasta sauce, meat loaves or side dishes, add some of those summer tomatoes to other recipes and pretend it is still summer.

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: Verdict on Neighbor’s Gift of Stuffed Peppers With Marinara Sauce: “Absolutely Delicious”

Lee White

My friend Suzanne and her husband Bob are next-door neighbors in our condo complex. Their house was not far away, so I do not know whether they had a big vegetable garden, but I know that I had.

Over the past week or so, we have all been the kindness of friends, who gave use peppers and zucchini and green beans. The zucchini were particularly lovely (“not too large, not too small, just right,” as Goldilocks might say), but I have been a bit under the weather and all my good ideas went elsewhere.

But Suzanne had a very good idea and made stuffed peppers. 

Stuffed peppers are another entrée I’d never had as a child (my mother made stuffed cabbage sometimes), but I had them for the first time maybe in college and have loved them ever since. (Maybe it is because I love stuffed anything, from turkey to cabbage to shrimp). 

Last night Suzanne made me two stuffed peppers. They were absolutely delicious. I haven’t had time to get her recipe, but I have my own. Hers used rice, and I think I like hers better than mine. But, for now, with all the green peppers available, I think you will like this one.

Stuffed Peppers with Marinara Sauce

Yield: serves 2 to 4
Heat oven to 350 degrees

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound chopped beef
½ (one-half) teaspoon dried oregano
½ (one-half) teaspoon dried mustard
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 cup tomato sauce
2 to 4 large green peppers
1 cup water

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic until translucent. Add beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add seasonings, mix and taste. (Remember, green peppers are a bit bland, so season meat well.) Add tomato sauce and mix.

In the meantime, cut top of peppers and remove ribs and seeds. (If you are using small peppers, remove stem and cut horizontally.) Place peppers skin (or bottom) side down in one layer. Add beef mixture. Add 1 cup of water to pan, cover pan and place in oven. Bake for ½ (one-half) hour, remove cover and continue roasting until pepper can be pierced with a fork.

Place a pepper (or more) on each plate, pour some sauce on top and around the bottom, and serve hot.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can good-quality whole or diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

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: Savor Intense Flavors From This Summer Vegetable Gratin

Lee White

It is difficult to believe it is already August.

On the last day of July, there was a boules party. You probably remember how I love playing this lawn game (like bocce, but with little wooden balls at which we throw larger stainless steel balls) with great friends, wine and incredible food.

There are rarely themes, but yesterday it was Italy.

In addition to chef Michel Nischan and his sprightly wife, Lori, there were about six other chefs from New York City, including restaurant chef Rocco DiSpirito, who has written lots of cookbooks and starred in The Restaurant reality show some years ago.

After hors d’oeuvre, dinner began with the most delicious meatball in red sauce (created by our own member John Murphy, who, it turns out is about four percent Irish and 96 percent Italian), followed by a yummy risotto. Those two could be almost anyone’s full dinner, but instead there were two kinds of bread, grass-fed meat and many vegetables, perfectly roasted. Finally, ices and Italian cookies.

Ah, but my, oh my, the vegetables.

On my way home, friends gave me lots and lots of veggies from other neighbors’ garden. And I thought about the very best gratin I ever made.

If you can Google this article (it is available), it is much longer than this recipe (and beautifully written), but this recipe alone can be your go-to side. I have served it at room temperature. There is rarely anything left over to reheat the next day.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash.

Summer Vegetable Gratins with Intense Flavor
By Susie Middleton, Fine Cooking, Issue 33
Yield: 8 to 10 as a side dish

Use a gratin pan that is at least 8-inches by 11-inches  Pyrex pan or something pretty that is at least two inches high. Use the very best fresh vegetables, the best cheese and the best olive oil.

To customize your gratin, choose all sizes and colors of tomatoes, zucchini, small eggplant, sliced potatoes.

Choose parmigiana Reggiano, feta, goat cheese, gruyere, mozzarella (my least favorite, though) and fontina.

Use whatever herbs you like: thyme, oregano, rosemary, basil, mint, savory or parsley. 

Use a sharp knife to prep the veggies. Susie starts the pan with caramelized onions. She suggests par-boiling the eggplant and potatoes. Let some of the tomatoes drain a bit. Toss squash with olive oil. Cut the vegetables evenly, on the bias. 

Now layer the gratin. Spread onions in one tin layer in the dish. Then, starting at narrow end, if you have one, arrange a row of vegetables, slightly overlapping. Prop up the row at a 60-inch angle. Sprinkle with cheese. Do the same with each layer. Top the finished gratin with a drizzle of olive oil, a good covering of breadcrumbs and more cheese. 

Cook until gratin is well browned and greatly reduced in volume. Most gratins cook in about an hour and 10 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

A rule of thumb: after a few minutes in the oven, gratins begin to bubble as the veggies release moisture. Bubbling becomes quite vigorous and, as the vegetables juices reduce, the bubbling lessens. At the end, much of the vegetables will have shrunk and pulled away from the sides of the pan. 

Let the whole dish rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. If there is extra, refrigerate. The caramelized flavor will be even better.

I have served this dish 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: Everyone Loves Gluten-free Cappuccino Rice Crispy Treats

Lee White

I think I have mentioned that there are certain things I have never baked or cooked.

I have never made a soufflé, even though I do understand how to gently incorporate the whipped egg whites into the mixture. Could it be because I am afraid of failing? Doubt it. I have not just screwed up recipes once, but sometimes more than once. One of these days I will make a soufflé.

As I child, I was asked to at least try everything at least once; who knows, maybe you will love those garlicky, buttery snails. I did and I do adore then.

But I do not like grapefruit.

My parents loved grapefruit and, every day, my mother would cut one in half, horizontally, and, using a special serrated knife that was bent at an angle, cut each into its wedges. I don’t remember them adding any sugar. I tasted it once, when I was very young, and made a face.

This was the same “face” I made when my husband would say, “Try this beer, baby, I think you will like this one.” He knew I would not and did this only so I could make that “face” and laugh.

Maybe this week I will buy a grapefruit (friends says it should be the pink one), cut it into wedges, top with brown sugar and broil the fruit.

Maybe I will love it.

Or maybe I will forget this for another decade.

In the meantime, I had never tasted a rice crispy treat. But a friend, Dede Wilson, a cookbook author and magazine writer, recipe creator and, interestingly, a breeder and handler of champion bull terriers, included this recipe for her followers on Facebook.

And, for those have tricky tummies, she is the founder of FODMAP, a clinically-proven diet to help many who have IB (dedewilson.com).

In the recipe below (which is also lactose- and gluten-free), I have added both the melted milk and white chocolates.

No wonder everyone loves this quick dessert.

Low Fodmap Gluten-free Cappuccino Rice Crispy Treats
From Dede Wilson

Photo by Jade Wulfraat on Unsplash.

4 tablespoons butter pieces
6 cups mini marshmallows
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
6 cups rice cereal
2 or 3 ounces milk chocolate melted (optional)
1 ounce white chocolate, melted (optional)

In a 8- by 8-inch square pan, cover bottom and sides with plastic wrap. 

Melt butter in a large pot on low heat. Add marshmallows on low heat, stirring frequently.

When three-quarters done, add powders and cinnamon and stir vigorously, until powders dissolve.

Remove from heat and using a spatula add the rice cereal.

Pour into prepared pan (allow to cool a little if too hot). You can use your fingers and palms to press the layer down so it is even.

Allow to set for about half an hour or hasten it by refrigerating.

Cut into layers.

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: Sweet and Sticky Grilled Chicken Always Hits the Spot

Lee White

This weekend was fun.

My friend, Conrad Heede, and his mother, Jayne, came over and I gave a lesson for Conrad on making crème brulée. He likes sweets and wants to learn to make desserts.

Crème brulée uses only four ingredients, but you learn patience in making it and even more patience because its needs to cool, then be refrigerated for many hours. The brulée itself is done at the dining room with a big propane torch.

Later in the afternoon, I made noodle kugel and invited them and another friend for dinner, serving the kugel along with good bagels, cream cheese, sliced tomatoes and thinly sliced onions. In many Jewish homes, this is called a dairy meal, since meat and dairy are never served at the same time. A dessert of crème brulée made the dinner pretty festive.

The next day I called Whittle’s to see if sweet corn is in yet. I hate the fact that I get so antsy for the fresh Connecticut shoreline produce, but I so wanted sweet corn. I understand that it is only July, but I also know that farms in the middle of the state get sweet corn sooner;  maybe, just maybe, Whittle’s has some.

Sad to say, it is closed today. I will call tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, as Shakespeare says. Maybe he was impatient, too.

Instead, because the weather is simply gorgeous and my Weber beckons, I can grill some peaches for dessert to go with the last few tablespoons of strawberry ice cream.

What to make for dinner?

A few weeks ago I made a chicken dish in the oven, although the recipe calls for the grill. I used breasts and legs. This time I had a 4-pound, cut-up chicken; leftover chicken will be incredible on a salad for two or three days.

Sweet and Sticky Grilled Chicken

From Bon Appetit, June, 2022

Yield: serves 4

Photo by Atharva Tulsi on Unsplash.

1 3½-4 pound chicken, halved, or chicken breasts, halved, and legs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup orange marmalade or seedless jam of choice
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 jalapeno, finely chopped (optional)
5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for grill
Flaky sea salt (if you have some)

Generously season chicken with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, or chill up to a day. If chilling, let sit at room temperature 1 hour before grilling.

Whisk marmalade, mustard, vinegar, soy sauce, jalapeno (if using) and garlic in a small bowl to combine. Set glaze aside.

Prepare grill for medium-high indirect heat (for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side of grill; for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off). Lightly oil grate. Pat chicken dry with paper towels, then rub with 1 tablespoon oil. Place skin side down on indirect hear. Cover grill and grill chicken, turning halfway through, until skin is lightly browned and instant-read thermometer inserted in thicken part of t high registered 120 to 130 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes.

Uncover grill, turn chicken over and move over direct heat. Brush chicken with reserved glaze. Grill, turning often and brushing generously with glaze (move to indirect heat if browning too quickly), until charred in spots and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast registered 150 degrees (it will climb to 160 as chicken rests), 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer chicken, skin side up, to a cutting bread; let rest 15 minutes.

While chicken is resting, transfer any remaining glaze to a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until bubbling and slightly thickened, about 5 minute es. 

Curve chicken and transfer to a platter; sprinkle with sea salt and serve with sauce alongside.

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: Take Time to Make Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

Lee White

I have been to the beach exactly three times since the end of May, each time for less than an hour and a half.

One day it was blistering hot and humid. As much as I like summer, I really dislike humidity to the point that I can stay in my condo for two days just because I have central air conditioning.

I remember that my mother could stay in her apartment for the exact opposite reasoning: she hated winter. She tried to spend as much time in Florida or, later in life, Arizona, just to avoid cold weather.

My father never complained about weather: he would play golf as soon as Daylight Savings Time began, so he could close the store by 5 p.m. and get in 18 holes in before it went dark. On weekends he’d play 27 holes on both Saturday and Sunday.

I like it cold in the winter (with my thermostat at 60) and I turn the central air on in late May, turning it off in early October. (My condos have heat pumps and, although I cannot understand how it works, I just turn “cooling” to “heat” and vice-versa twice a year.)

I like to cook what I want whatever the weather. I just ordered packages of Wick Fowler 2-Alarm Chili Kit to make chili in August and today found a recipe for Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore.

I foraged into the freezer and hauled out two, unthawed freezer bags of chicken thighs. No reason to heat the oven; dinner tonight will be this new recipe.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

From Food Network Magazine, March, 2017

Yield: Serves 4 (and freezes beautifully)

¼ cup dried porcini mushrooms (about ¼ ounces)*
1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, mined
2 sprigs fresh basil, plus torn leaves for topping
14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes, crushed (fire-roasted tomatoes are fine instead)
½ cup dry red wine
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup white rice

Soak the mushrooms in 2/3 cup hot water, 10 minutes. Strain through a paper towel-lined sieve, reserving the liquid. Rinse mushrooms and finely chop.

Toss chicken and carrots into the oil in a 6- to 8-quart slow cooker, season with salt and pepper. Top with mushrooms, garlic and basil sprigs, the pour in the tomatoes and their juices.

Whisk red wine with flour, tomato paste and reserved mushroom liquid in a bowl until smooth; add to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low, 7 hours. 

About 10 minutes before chicken is done, cook rice as the label directs. Uncover the slow cooker and stir, breaking the chicken into chunks; let stand, uncovered, until sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Discard basil sprigs and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve chicken with rice and top with torn basil.

*If you have fresh mushrooms, any kind, use them instead.

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: Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream is the Ultimate Summer Dessert … and so Easy to Make!

Lee White

In the early 80s, when we lived in Massachusetts, I bought an ice cream maker called a Lickety Split. It was all plastic, except for the two bowls, which were maybe aluminum or stainless steel. It costs around $25 and it could make two different pints of ice cream simultaneously.

A few years later, Ben and Jerry’s and Haagen Dazs entered the freezer aisles, and eventually my Lickety Split entered the basement shelves of my appliance cemetery.

But the covers of food magazines this year brought back my love of home-made ice cream. I may have mentioned this to my friend, Lisa.

In early June, just a few days after my birthday, there was a notice to pick up a package at the post office. I dragged it home and inside was a Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt-Sorbet and Ice Cream Maker, the very one my magazines said was the best. And it was smack dab during that short, three-week strawberry season.

This appliance is a fantastic machine. If you keep its bowl, which encases water, in the freezer, you are almost 25 minutes from a heavenly frozen dessert. You can eat it immediately, but I pack it in quart plastic packages and will keep it more than a week.

This is one of the easiest recipes; I have made it three times (2 quarts at a time).

Next will be fresh peaches or blueberry gelato. Later in the fall and winter, perhaps chocolate ice cream with Heath bars.

Should you buy this particular ice cream maker, it costs around $100 or even less.

E-mail me at leeawhite@aol.com when you are ready to begin if you have any questions. And let me know how many other recipes you come up with yourself.

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream
From Cuisinart’s small brochure that came with the ice cream maker

Yield: about 14 ½ cup servings

Photo by micheile dot com on Unsplash.

3 cups fresh ripe strawberries, stemmed and sliced
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ cups sugar, divided
1 ½ cups whole milk
2 ¾ cups heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla ice cream

In a small bowl, combine strawberries with lemon juice and ½ cup sugar. Stir gently and allow berries to macerate in the juices for 2 hours. Strain berries, reserving juices. Mash or puree half the berries.

In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine milk and remaining granulated sugar until sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream, reserved berry juice, mashed berries and vanilla.

Turn machine on; pour mixture into freezer bowl and let mix until thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Five minutes before mixing is complete, add reserved sliced strawberries and let mix in completely.

The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture.

For a firmer consistency, transfer ice cream to an airtight container and placed in freezer for about 2 hours or longer. Remove from the freezer about 15 minutes 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 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: Got to Grill? Try Chicken with Peach BBQ Sauce for a Tasty Change

Lee White

I spent a lot of time in the past couple of weeks driving. I wasn’t going long distances; rather I had errands so I did a couple, got home for lunch, and finished the rest a hour or two later. 

While my husband and I frequently went out for breakfast (always on weekends), now that I am husband-less (and have been for more than a decade), I do most of my reading, writing and thinking in the morning. Sometimes I look at the mantel clock and notice it is 11 a.m. Well, I wonder, is it going to be late breakfast or an early lunch? 

It is usually an early lunch. I often have enough leftovers from dinner the night before.

Today I have some leftover chicken salad (made from a roast chicken a couple of days ago), so I plate the chicken salad with some lettuce, sliced grape tomatoes and, to drink, an enormous glass of V-8.

And I muse about dinner. 

It will be chicken again, mostly because I love chicken and I’d thawed some skinless, boneless breasts this morning. (I really do not like boneless, skinless chicken, but this is what I found first in the freezer.)

Over the weekend, I took the cover of my Weber, cleaned the grills, found the tongs I left last fall and looked to make sure there were no squirrel nests in the lava rocks. I have plenty of propane.

I love this recipe. 

Photo by photo_ reflect on Unsplash.

Grilled Chicken with Peach BBQ Sauce
Adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s “My Father’s Daughter” (Hachette Book Group, New York, 2011)
Yield: serves 4

1 cup chopped peeled fresh peaches (I used canned, without added sugars), chopped
½ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo or 1 teaspoon soy sauce*
Kosher (or sea salt) and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Vegetable oil

Combine first 5 ingredients in a small saucepan. Season lightly with salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, simmer until peaches are very soft and flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat; let cool.

Pour peach mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place half the sauce in a medium bowl; add chicken and turn to coat.

Let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes, or cover and chill for up to 8 hours, turning occasionally. Cover and refrigerate remaining sauce.

Prepare a grill to medium-high heat. Brush grill rack with oil. Grill chicken until browned and almost cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Slice crosswise.

Serve with remaining sauce alongside.

* I have at least four cans of chipotle in adobe in my pantry. I sometimes make omelet or scrambled eggs with cheese cream and a mashed chipotle. It is a bit on the spicy side, but it’s delicious.

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: Summer Means Picnics; Picnics Mean Cole Slaw & Potato Salad! Lee Shares Favorite Recipes for Both

Lee White

I have a friend who lives in Noank and she asked me some time ago why she should keep her large Cuisinart. I literally blanched. 

There are two reasons to keep your kitchen counter appliances. One, of course, is because you use them fairly often enough that you want them close to you. The second is perhaps you adore them, as I love mine, and consider them — if not as pets — but as best friends in the kitchen. 

On the other hand, if you have a terrific yet very small kitchen, sometime things have to go.

I have just a galley kitchen, but it has a bay window a shelf below it. That shelf was utilitarian but incredibly ugly, covered with the same humble tiles on the floor.

I asked woodworker Josh Friedman in New London to make maple board the exact size as the shelf. Now the shelf holds large and small Cuisinarts, a 6-quart KitchenAid mixer, an Instant Pot, a Slow Cooker, a Ninja Pro blender and two tiny grinder (one for spices, one for coffee).

I use all of them the gadgets constantly. I keep them shinier than my desk. They are my own pieces of art.

This weekend I was asked to make cole slaw and potato salad for an indeterminate number of friends. Using my big Cuisinart thin slicing disk for the cabbage and the grater disk for the carrots. I used my Instant Pot for the potato salad. Both dishes were ready for the refrigerator within half an hour.

With summer coming, my counter appliances will keep my kitchen cool. 

Zimny’s Cole Slaw
Yield: serves 10 to 15. 

Photo by Jacques Bopp on Unsplash.

1 cup good store-bought mayonnaise
5 ½ (one-half) tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice (or celery spice, if you don’t have five-spice)
One-half teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly white pepper to taste
About 6 to 8 cups green and red (Savoy) cabbage, shredded in a food processor
2 carrots, shredded in food a processor*

Using whisk, blend mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, five-spice, salt and pepper.

Combine cabbage and carrots. Pour dressing over vegetables and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours. It is even better on the second or third day. 

Lee’s Favorite Potato Salad
Yield: Serves 6 to 8

2 pounds of potatoes (I love The Little Potato Company’s tiny potatoes; no need to peel them)
1 small onion, thinly diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
About 3 to 4 tablespoons bottled Italian salad dressing (I love Wish Bone brand, full fat)
Salt and pepper to taste
About 4 tablespoons Hellman’s mayonnaise (full fat) 

In a large pot of water, bring potatoes to a boil and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.

Drain water and, in the same pot, toss potatoes with onions and celery and stir. Wait a few minutes before you add the Italian dressing and mayonnaise and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool on the counter at room temperature before covering and refrigerating.

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: Can’t Imagine Grilling a Salad? Then Try This, But Don’t Forget Blue Cheese & Basil!

Lee White

When I was little, my mother used to call me Sarah Bernhardt. I had no idea who Sarah Bernhardt and she told me Bernhardt was a famous actress in the early 1900s. 

I think today my mom would call me a drama queen. She also suggested I not wish my life away, that someday I would wish I could get those years back.

I thought about this again as I was reading my newest food magazines, wishing it were summer again so I could write about late June strawberries, July’s sweet corn, August’s tomatoes, and earthy fall squashes.

Look, I’m doing it again, and it is only mid-May.

On the other hand, it is time to fire up the grill. I saw a recipe for grilled kebabs of cake and fresh pineapple on skewers tossed with brown sugar, vanilla and little salt. I have a fresh pineapple on the counter and a few slices of pound cake. 

I also have romaine in the crisper and some blue cheese, too.

I can wing the dessert, but here is a recipe for the entrée.

Photo by Petr Magera on Unsplash.

Grilled Romaine Salad with Blue Cheese and Basil
From Food magazine, May/June, 2022
Yield: serves 4 to 6

Dressing:
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon capers
Kosher salt
6 cloves garlic
1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoons hot sauce
6 oil-packed anchovy fillets (or a teaspoon or two anchovy paste)
½ to ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:3 romaine lettuce hearts, halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil for tossing
Kosher salt
1 lemon, halved
20 fresh basil leaves
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
Sliced rotisserie chicken (optional)

Preheat grill to medium. Make dressing: in a blender combine lemon juice, vinegar, capers, 1 teaspoon salt and the garlic. Blend until smooth. Add Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, anchovies and ½ cup oil until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Blend in up to ¼ cup more oil if needed. Set dressing aside.

Make the salad: In a large bowl, toss 4 of romaine halves with a little olive oil and season with salt, put them in a single layer on the grill and cook 3 minutes per side (the romaine should feel slightly warm and tender). Spoon a little dressing on each of 4 to 6 plates.

Finely chop rest of the romaine and add to a medium bowl. Add remaining dressing, a touch of lemon juice and the basil leaves. Toss to coat.

Top the grilled romaine with the remaining dressing. Garnish with blue cheese and serve immediately, topped with diced chicken, if desired.

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: How Do I Love Lemons? Let me Count the Ways …

Lee White

Over the past few weeks there have been so many holidays– Easter Sunday, Passover and Ramadan– and all had something to do with food.

For Lent, we gave up something we wanted (often sweet stuff) for 40 days and had to have fish on Fridays; for Passover nothing leavening (desserts made with matzoh and matzoh for breakfast, lunch and dinner for eight days) and, at Ramadan, which lasts for a month, each day the first meal must begin before dawn, while the second meal begins after sunset.

This week it’s Mother’s Day.

For most mothers, me included, we are fasting — but dieting (except for those, who are doing the intermittent fasting, so never mind about that!).

I will try to get a reservation for Mother’s Day Brunch.

If you mothers are cooking (and many, like me, actually love cooking), make something delicious that is sweet but tart and pretend it isn’t caloric.

I love lemon anything and this may be my favorite of all. 

Lemon Shortbread
From Felicia Gotta, one of my favorite pastry chefs ever

Photo by Adam Bartoszewic on Unsplash.

1 pound unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon lemon oil (if you have it)
½ teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups cake flour
1 cup cornstarch

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add lemon oil and lemon zest and mix.

Sift together both flours and the cornstarch. Mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Do not overmix.

Spread and press into a greased 13”x 9” pan or use your favorite shortbread molds. Prick entire surface with a fork at one-inch intervals.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until slightly golden. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes.

Slice with a sharp knife into the size you’d like (1” by 1” squares is nice).

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar (optional). Enjoy warm or at room temp. Store in an airtight container

Lemon Cream

Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax (Chapters, Shelburne, VT, 1994)

There is almost nothing better with a little lemon cream (or curd) on top. It’s incredible with the lemon shortbread or lovely in a little tartlet, topped with berries or even with a berry pie. This will keep in the refrigerator, tightly closed, for at least a week.

Makes about 3 cups

Grated zest of 1 lemon
½ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons water
3 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream, well chilled

  1. Place lemon zest and juice, sugar, butter and water in a heavy nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until butter melts.
  2. In a bowl, beat eggs and egg yolks with a whisk, just until blended. Whisk in about 1/3 of the hot lemon-butter mixture to warm the eggs; return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, just until the mixture thickens, usually about 3 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and strain into a large heatproof container. Press a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to prevent a “skin” from forming. Refrigerate until cold. (The curd can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Chill until needed.)
  4. Up to 20 minutes before serving, beat cream until it forms soft peaks. Fool cream into the lemon mixture. Cover and chill until needed.

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: Spring is Here … Celebrate with Spring Minestrone

Lee White

I have spent the past few weeks with friends, first with the Oscars (yes, we all saw the slap and, with all the brilliant actors and crew from the amazing movie, CODA, they knew what Will Smith was saying. I myself don’t read lips, but I knew what he was saying.)

The following Friday, we watched UConn ladies in the Final Four.

On Sunday, I watched them alone.  Sigh.

I had also made two cakes, the one called Emergency Chocolate Cake because it is dairy-free and can usually be made easily with pantry and refrigerator staples. During the Friday game, we all made make-your-own ice cream sundaes with slices of the cake.

During half-times, we talked politics and food. Libby is cleaning up her gorgeous flower and vegetable gardens, while the rest of us talked about how lucky we are to get incredibly superb frozen vegetables.

And now that I don’t have a garden, I do have a big freezer and buy pounds of Whole Food and Trader Joe’s frozen sweet peas, corn, beans and broccoli (I am also buying the broccoli, plus cauliflower, from the produce aisles). 

Ingredients for the following recipe can all be found without driving almost an hour. And feel free to add other vegetables and change the ones you can’t find. I have been using fresh asparagus for some weeks. Is it fresh and local? Probably not, but they are lovely, the tips tight and the green stalks wonderful upright.

Spring is here and summer is right around the corner.

Spring Minestrone
From Real Simple, April, 2022

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only sliced into thin rounds
3 stalks celery, sliced (about 1 ½ cups)
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
6 cups lower-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup ditalini pasta
4 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (1 cup)
4 ounces cups green Swish chard
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil plus small leaves for serving
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add leeks, celery, crushed red pepper (9if using), and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks soften, about 4 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil.

Add pasta to pan. Return to a boil. Cook over medium high, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in beans during final 3 minutes of cook time. Remove from heat.

Stir in chard, basil, lemon juice and remaining 1 ¼ teaspoon salt. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with remaining 4 tablespoons oil. Top with parmesan (if using) and small basil leaves.

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.