December 16, 2018

A la Carte: Asparagus Soup Two Ways

AsparagusThis is the time of year I always yearn for. I think about what is available in the supermarkets (rhubarb is in!) and I will buy asparagus.

I have a few tips for you about asparagus. Buy your asparagus with tips tightly wound. It can be thin or thick (I prefer the thick ones). I cut about half an inch or an inch from the bottom with a sharp knife (I do this five or six stalks at a time). Then I peel around the stalk 2 or so inches from the top. This way, every stalk is incredibly tender.

I love roasting the asparagus in a little oil and salt. But I also love to blanch the stalks in boiling water for maybe 3-4 minutes. I serve it with a little butter and salt. Sometimes I make a hollandaise sauce, which I adore, but it may be gilding the lily (or gilding the asparagus).

I am also crazy about risotto. I would add asparagus stalks, cut on the diagonal, each about 1 inch, and add them about halfway to the point when the risotto is ready, about 10 minutes.

Here is a lovely recipe for asparagus soup from Julia Child. If you need a recipe for risotto, e-mail me at and I will send it to you.

Cream of Asparagus Soup
Adapted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child (Alfred Knopf, New York, 1994)

Yield: about 2 quarts

1 cup sliced onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed about 2 inches from bottom
2 quarts lightly salted boiling water
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground white pepper (use black if you don’t have white)
1/2 cup heavy cream, crème fraiche or sour cream, optional

Cook onions and butter until tender and translucent. In the meantime, cut the tender green tips from the asparagus stalks. Drop the tips into boiling water and boil 2 minutes, or barely tender. Dip out with a skimmer, reserving water, and refresh tips in bowl of iced water to set the color; drain and reserve. Chop the remaining stalks into one-inch lengths and add to the onions with a sprinkling of salt. Cover and cook slowly 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, 3 minutes more. Remove from heat, and, when bubbling stops, blend in the hot asparagus cooking water (I strain the water into the mixture). Simmer, uncovered, 25 or 30 minutes, or until tender enough to puree.

When the mixture is a bit cooler (maybe 15 minutes), pour into blender (or use a soup blender). If you like the soup clearer, you can use a sieve or Foley food mill. The soup will be a lovely pale green color; to keep it that way, reheat it only just before serving. Carefully correct seasonings.

You can serve this soup hot or cold. If you are using cream, crème fraiche or sour cream and serving it hot, gently reheat the soup and add the cream just before serving. If you are serving the soup cold, refrigerate the soup and swirl in the cream before serving. To decorate each bowl of soup, garnish with the asparagus tips.

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 and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.


A la Carte: Lamb Stew

Braised Lamb with Spinach - Gourmet magazine

Braised Lamb with Spinach – Gourmet magazine

Last Saturday, I took a bunch of hamburgers along with some hamburger rolls out of the freezer. It had been a nice week, and I thought I might fire up the grill and pretend it was almost summer. After all, not only were my crocuses up and gorgeous, but so were my little daffodils. I hadn’t seen my lilies of the valley, but it is my birthday flower and, I thought, they would be popping up soon.

Then Sunday happened. By the time I woke up, there had been a little snow but the temp was in the high thirties. I made a chicken soup with carrots and celery and onions, since I was going to drive to Cromwell to see a middle school show directed by Tom Sullivan. His wife, Barbara, and I have become good friends and she mentioned that Tom had a horrible respiratory upset but had been working all week to get the show on the stage. What could I do but make chicken soup for him?

I left the house at 11:30. There had been snow, odd snow, gigantic flakes, maybe hail? I made it to Cromwell, adored the play and, then drove to Norwich to watch the women’s game. No problem driving home and I watched the second game and went to sleep. The cats let me sleep until 9:30. I opened one eye. No, it couldn’t be. Snow! Not one to let a little bad weather stop me, I had to make a decision—would I drive to Connecticut College to hear Bryan Stevenson talk about his book, Just Mercy? Sure, why not? Got there okay but scared myself to death driving home. Once into the kitchen, I tossed the hamburgers and rolls back into the freezer and took out some lamb. Tomorrow I will make lamb stew instead.

Braised Lamb with Spinach
From Gourmet, March 1991

Serves 4-6

8 garlic cloves
1 ½-inch cube peeled fresh gingerroot
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
7 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
3 onions, chopped fine
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup chopped drained canned tomatoes
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
1 and one-quarter pound fresh baby spinach
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted lightly

In a blender, purée the garlic and the gingerroot with 1/3 cup water; set aside. In a heavy kettle, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking, then brown the lamb, patted dry, in batches. With tongs, transfer lamb as it is browned to a bowl. To the skillet add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, heat until hot but not smoking, and fry the cinnamon stick, cloves and bay leaf, stirring, for 30 seconds, or until the cloves are puffed slightly. Add the onions and cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden. Add the garlic purée and cook the mixture, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the liquid is evaporated. Add the cumin, coriander and cayenne, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and yogurt, simmer the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the lamb, salt and 1 cup water.

Bring the mixture to a boil and braise it, covered, in a preheated 350°F oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the lamb is tender. The lamb mixture may be prepared up to this point 2 days in advance. Let the lamb cool, uncovered, then chill it, covered.

At serving time, reheat the lamb mixture. In a large saucepan, bring 1 inch water to a boil, add the spinach, and steam, covered, for 2 minutes, or until wilted. Drain the spinach in a colander.
Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Distribute the spinach over the stew and stir it in gently. Transfer the stew to a heated serving dish and sprinkle with the pine nuts.

Nibbles: Coney Island Hard Root Beer

One of the perks of writing about cooking, instead of writing restaurant reviews, is that I can go to restaurant press dinners, since being anonymous isn’t necessary anymore.

Last Friday I went with friend Elise Maclay to Tale of the Whale in Stamford. The food was almost all seafood, from tuna tartare (one of my very favorite dishes) to fish tacos and an edgy bouillabaisse with at least five or six different fishes. Did I need dessert? Not really, but along came a Celebration Sundae (with at least a quart of ice cream and toppings), chocolate cookie ice cream sandwiches and an adult root beer float. I decided against the first two but fell in love with the float. The next day I stopped at a local liquor store and asked if there was such a thing as adult root beer. I bought a six-pack of Coney Island Hard Root Beer. A 12-ounce bottle is 5.8 percent alcohol. I don’t drink hard liquor (or beer) but, in a tall glass with good ice cream and whipped cream, I could be converted.


Nibbles: Ricotta Cheese Pie


This was an odd Easter weekend for me. On Good Friday, I picked up my daughter-in-law Nancy and second-youngest granddaughter Casey in Newbury, Massachusetts, then drove 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 a 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 in 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 be 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 Casey are Greek; my cousins are Jewish, as am I; so we celebrate Greek Easter and Passover (which isn’t a Jewish Easter but a spring kind-of festival) later this spring.

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

Ricotta Cheese Pie

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. Butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray a 9-inch springform 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, saving a few for the top. 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 and process until incorporated. Pour into prepared crust and dust top with crumbs. Take care not to overmix.

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 on a wire rack. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

Nibbles: Perk on Main

A couple of weeks ago, I judged the 14th Annual Chocolate to the Rescue. For the past few years, the fundraiser benefits the Middlesex Family Shelter and, according to John Roberts, executive director, I have judged each year since its inception.

As always, the chocolate was delicious. I am not sure who won but the chocolate seems to get better and better every year. My favorite this year was from Perk on Main, primarily because it was warm crepes folded around warm chocolate, raspberries and blueberries. Even better, it is a café that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in two different locations: 6 Main Street in Durham and 20 Church Street in Guilford. And if that were not enough, there is Perk on Wheels. Check out

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 and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.


Nibbles: Enjoy Gluten-Free Apple Crisp, Try Tiano Smokehouse

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp. King Arthur Flour photo

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp. King Arthur Flour photo

I love social media, but before I tell you why I do, here is what I do not love. I never, ever have a meal, at my house, someone else’s house or in a restaurant with my cell phone next to my plate. If I forget to turn my phone off at a movie, I turn it off as soon as the note on the screen asks. If I am in a meeting and forget to turn it off and someone calls me, I turn it off without looking to see who called.

I don’t text. My friends know that. As soon as someone tells me why I should text, I listen to their reasons. No one has yet convinced me.

Here is what I love: I have met friends from high school, many decades ago, and I am thrilled we are “friends” again. I love seeing what cookbook authors, chefs and teachers are up to. I love the fact that I can order tickets, books and gift certificates for myself, my friends and my children and grandchildren.

Yesterday I bought four sets of tickets for the UConn women’s basketball games at Gampel. When the brackets were set, UConn e-mailed me the tickets. I print them.

I also love that I can “meet” friends I have never met. Seven years ago, I wrote about the fact that my husband had died. Sybil Nassau had just lost her husband and we e-mailed back and forth for years. A few weeks ago, we met at the Shoreline Diner in Guilford. She reads my columns; I e-mail her when I know about gluten-free menus, recipes and new products. She herself is gluten-intolerant (though she does not have celiac disease). I am not.

She is branch manager of GIG, Gluten-Intolerance Group. Her daughter writes the newsletter. She gave me a copy in which there are a dozen recipes. So many supermarkets have shelves and shelves of gluten-free products. Even the King Arthur catalog has pages and pages of gluten-free products ( This recipe looks great.

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

4 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 pinch nutmeg
½ cup almond flour
1/2 cup certified gluten-free old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a pie dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss together apples, sugar, water, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and pinch of nutmeg until well combined. Set aside.

Make the oatmeal topping*: In a bowl, gently combine almond flour, oats, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and butter until crumbly.

Place apple mixture in the dish. Sprinkle topping evenly over the apples and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until apples are cooked through, juices are bubbling and topping is browned. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

*You can quadruple or even more, then save the topping in little plastic and freeze for more crisps you might make.

Tiano Smokehouse

On a recent Sunday morning, before I had to drive to Middletown to judge chocolate at Chocolate to the Rescue, a fundraiser for Columbus House, I read a review in the New York Times. Tiano Smokehouse, a barbecue restaurant in Middletown, got a rave from Rand Richards Cooper. As Joan Gordon and I drove to Middletown, we talked about stopping at Tiano to get some ‘cue. (Joan is the only friend I have who would, for sure, go to a restaurant right after we judge chocolate.)

What a find this place is. We took lots of food for takeout. I ordered a pulled pork dinner—half a pound of pork so perfect that I never added barbecue sauce on it, creamy mac and cheese (they also have one they called macaroni Alfredo), creamed spinach and a luscious piece of cornbread. I figured I would eat half that night and the rest the following night. Ate it all in one sitting.

Tiano Smokehouse, 482 South Main Street, Middletown, 860-358-9828

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 and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.


A la Carte: Chicken Salad from Poached Chicken Tenders

chicken salad photo 2

In early February, the members of Groton’s Board of Education met for its retreat. Since I am a new member, I was truly excited to sit with my fellow members along with the superintendent and assistant superintendent. I didn’t actually realize that many of us are new members, since some are two-year members and some four-year members. Each is elected and, in many cases (including mine), the roles changed from Democrats to Republicans.

I thought there might be some partisan bickering (see Trump and all the Republican skirmishes and Clinton-Sanders disagreements), but in Groton it was non-partisan before the election and after. I liked the concept of a retreat, off the record and into a new venue, this year at the Submarine Museum. For four hours we newbies asked questions for which the superintendents and the veteran members had answers.

Best of all was the food. I agreed to make the desserts, which everybody enjoyed. (Restaurant owners know that if the meal is mediocre, delicious desserts can save the day.) But Andrea Ackerman, former Groton teacher and principal, handled the savories. I think it is fun to make pastries and sweet stuff, but when I smell cabbages and quiches, I begin to salivate. I especially like standby dishes that include twists and turns that I never thought would work.

Andrea’s chicken salad was my favorite. For me, chicken salad (and I do love chicken salad) is always the last thing I make with the roasted chicken that goes from Sunday dinner, to a chicken and gravy sandwich, to an omelet with vegetables and chicken, and, three days later, chicken salad. For Andrea, it is the first meal, which begins with poached chicken tenders. And she says it is even better the next day.

Chicken Salad
From Andrea Ackerman, Ed.D., Noank resident and assistant chair of the Groton School Board

As with most savory dishes, this is approximately how Andrea makes it. If you like more of one thing or less of another, taste as you go.

Yield: serves 2 (for dinner) or 4 (for lunch)

1 pound chicken tenders
Sprinkle with garlic salt, steam and let cool. Cut into ½-inch cubes.

1 cup mayonnaise (she likes Cain’s but I’m sure Hellman’s would be fine)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Garlic salt/garlic powder/pepper
1 full teaspoon celery seed

Cubed chicken
1 small onion, diced
1 or 2 celery stalks, diced
¼ cup dried cranberries (or Craisins)
¼ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Season to taste with garlic salt/garlic powder/pepper

Fold in dressing. Add more mayonnaise if it seems dry.

Again, these measurements are good guesses, and everything tastes better the next day.

Nibbles: New (to me) Restaurants

I don’t write restaurant reviews anymore. Mostly I cook, write about cooking and eat my own food. I do go out to eat, but often only to restaurants I love. But in a one-week span, I ate at two new restaurants and one I reviewed almost 25 years ago.

The nearly-three-decades-old restaurant is the Willimantic Brewing Company in Willimantic. It is bigger, as is the menu. We shared barbecued pork sliders and chicken pesto sliders. Both were luscious.

At a new place in Norwich, These Guys, I had a superb Caesar salad, a roast vegetable grilled cheese sandwich and, instead of fries, I had a side of Brussels sprouts. All terrific.

At Smokash, in Uncasville, I had pierogis, kielbasa and sauerkraut. Two days later I ordered it again and took it to a Polish friend who was in the hospital.

Restaurants are alive and well, even north and west of the shoreline.

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 and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.


Nibbles: Curried Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie – Terrific Winter Comfort Food

Curried vegetarian shepherd's pie

Curried vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

I bought a 10-pound bag of russet potatoes, planning to make scalloped potatoes for Super Bowl Sunday. Then I didn’t. I looked at the amount of food I made, which included pink beans (because I love pink beans), kidney beans and black beans for chili; lots of tortilla chips for guacamole; cheeseburger pie; and Velveeta and Rotel tomatoes; plus a pie for dessert. We didn’t need any more starch.

But I still have all those potatoes and I want to make mashed potato bread, so I looked for a recipe I could use up at least some of it. In the new Food Network magazine, I spied recipes for Shepherd’s Pie. One called for just veggies. I made it. It is terrific.

As with winter comfort food, I would add more carrots, maybe more mushrooms, maybe more peas. I find turnips a bit sweet (although I’m not sure many other people find that to be true). I like curry so I might add more. I might use some winter squash …

Curried Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
From Food Network magazine, March 2016

Yield: serves 6

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
Kosher salt
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 carrots, chopped
1 small rutabaga, peeled and chopped
1 medium turnip, peeled and chopped
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), sliced one-inch thick, rinsed well
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ cup freshly ground nutmeg
1 ½ cups half-and-half
1 cup frozen peas
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons curry powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and season with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a separate large saucepan with 6 cups water; add bay leaves, thyme sprigs and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil. Add carrots, rutabaga, turnip and leeks; reduce heat to medium low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid, then drain the vegetables. Discard bay leaves and thyme. Pat vegetables dry; set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms; cook until they release their liquid, 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium; cook until liquid is evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour, coriander and nutmeg; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in the reserved vegetable liquid and ¾ cup half-and-half. Bring to a simmer; cook until thickened, 3 minutes. Stir in the carrots mixture, peas and lemon zest and juice. Return to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Season with salt and stir in the parsley.

Drain the potatoes and let cool slightly Return to the pot and add the curry powder and the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and ¾ cup half-and-half. Season with three-quarters salt and mash well.

Spread mushroom mixture in a 3-quart baking dish. Dollop the mashed potatoes on top; spread with back of a spoon. Bake until bubbling around the edges and the topping browned in spots, about 20 minutes. Let rest before serving.


Nibbles: Pork Roast with Maple and Rum Glaze


Maple Glazed Pork Roast, Yankee magazine

Just before I went to bed on a Sunday or two ago, I watched Lady Edith call Lady Mary a “bitch” more than once. (That’s “Downton Abbey,” for those of you not hooked on this Masterpiece Theatre show, which will end maybe by the time you read this. Sob.)

My reading matter was “Five Days at Memorial,” a nonfiction book about Memorial Hospital in New Orleans, before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. But before I began the book, I decided to read my new issue of Yankee magazine.

I have been subscribing to Yankee for years and the food editor is Amy Traverso. The recipes she chooses are always good. In the new issue, there is a story about maple syrup season. I loved a feature about two sugar shack competing owners in Vermont and a “flatlander” who decided to move to Vermont just over 10 years ago. (“Flatlanders,” according to Vermonters, are those who haven’t lived for at least a couple of generations in their gorgeous state.)

Dori Ross convinced the two owners to allow her to market their maple products. By the way, Ross, who got this article into Yankee, is a marketing guru because the owners are making a lot more money now.

There were recipes, of course, and reading them had me salivating. I don’t make pancakes or waffles at home, but I am crazy about maple anything. I was planning to make dinner for my neighbors, so when I saw a recipe for a pork roast using maple syrup, I was hooked. I rarely give you recipes I have not tried myself, but, just by reading the ingredients, I know it will be absolutely delicious.

Soon, I plan to make a spinach, feta and grape salad with maple-soy vinaigrette and maple affogato, an ice cream treat, also from that article.

Maple-and-Rum-Glazed Pork Roast
From Yankee magazine, March/April 2016

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 3-pound boneless pork-loin roast, tied at intervals with kitchen twine (perhaps the butcher at the supermarket will do that for you)
2 teaspoons plus 11/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and set a rack in the lowest position. Sprinkle pork all over with 2 teaspoons salt and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Now make the glaze: In a medium-sized bowl, stir together syrup, mustard, cider vinegar, rum, cinnamon, and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt until blended.

Place the pork, fat side down, in a 9×13-inch roasting pan (Pyrex would be good) and pour the glaze over the meat. Transfer to the oven and cook 30 minutes, basting halfway through.

Remove meat from oven, turn it fat side up, baste and return to the oven. Cook, basting every 15 minutes until the meat reaches 150 degrees when an instant-read thermometer is inserted into the center, 30 to 40 minutes more. Remove meat from the oven and let it rest 10 to 15 minutes. Slice and serve with additional glaze on the side.

Chicken Fried Chicken at Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub

Generally, I avoid medium-sized, medium-inexpensive franchising restaurants, the ones I used to call fern bars. There are a few that are standouts for certain menu items: the Cobb salad at Chili’s and risotto with chicken and butternut squash served with a Caesar salad at Brio. But generally, I would rather get a burger and fries at Five Guys or choose the salad bar at Ruby Tuesday.

But now I can add the chicken fried chicken at Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub. In the group of $9.99 dinners is the chicken fried chicken, a pounded-thin chicken breast, lightly battered and fried, a lovely mound of mashed potatoes and, for a vegetable, sweet corn. Best of all, like its sister, chicken-fried steak, it is topped with white, somewhat peppered country gravy. No, it is not on my healthy, low-calorie diet, but sometimes one must splurge. This is a nice splurge.

Around the Valley Shore area, Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub is at 117 Long Hill Road in Groton. A few Other Connecticut restaurants are in Cromwell and Glastonbury and Norwich.

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 and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.


Nibbles: Two Culinary Memoirs, Two Delicious Recipes – Enjoy Both!

Over the past month, I have been reading interesting recipes. That’s not a big deal, since I pore over recipes daily from newspapers, cookbooks and, especially, food magazines. These days I tear recipes from magazines and newspapers, then chuck them out.

Hear&Soul_in_the_Kitchen_PepinMany of my 500 cookbooks are gone, too, living at the  Book Barn. But two food memoirs I bought recently, and which I cannot recommend highly enough, are Jacques Pepin’s “Heart and Soul in the Kitchen” and Ruth Reichl’s “My Kitchen Year.” I read each of these books in bed. I am hungry while I read them, both for the recipes (which “taste” lovely) and the prose, which is glorious.

In Jacques’ book, he talks about cooking with Shorey, his granddaughter, his best friend, Jean-Claude Szurdak, the “greats,” like Julia Child and James Beard, his wife, Gloria (no slouch in the kitchen, either) and his daughter, Claudine. And much of the book is about Connecticut, where he and his family have lived for more than 30 years.

A-Kitchen_Year_ReichlRuth Reichl’s memoir is pretty much about one year in her kitchen in upstate New York, one year during which  she and all her colleagues lost their jobs, and we lost Gourmet magazine. She wrote and cooked and wrote and cooked, through fierce winter storms and power outages. She learned how a pantry and some great recipes can keep sadness at bay. Both books should be under your menorah or Christmas tree this year…

Both these recipes include pantry items that require little money and little time at the supermarket. Most items may already be in your own pantry.

Rice with Cumin and Green Olives

From Heart and Soul in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2015)

Yield: serves 4

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 and one-half cups thinly sliced washed leek greens

1 cup diced (one-inch) onions

1 and one-half cups long-grain white rice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Three-quarter teaspoon salt (less if stock is salty)

3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth

One-half cup pitted green olives, cut into three-quarter-inch pieces

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat/ Add leek greens and onions and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add rice, cumin, salt and stock and bring to a boil. Stir in olives, cover, reduce heat to very low and cook for 20 minutes, or until rice is cooked through and tender. Fluff with a fork and serve.


Spaghetti alla Carbonara

From My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl (Random House, New York, 2015)

Yield: serves 4

one-quarter to one-half pound bacon

1 pound spaghetti


3 eggs

Parmesan cheese


Bring as pot of water to a boil, salt it well and toss in the spaghetti. Most brands of spaghetti take about 10 minutes, which is all the time you need to make the sauce.

Cut anywhere from a quarter to a half-pound of bacon into small pieces and brown them in a liege skillet with a couple of whole peeled cloves of garlic.

Break eggs into a big bowl. Grate a generous amount of Parmesan cheese (about half a cup). Cook your pasta al dente.

Drain the pasta and immediately plunk it into the bowl with the eggs, tossing frantically so the hot pasta will cook them. Remove the garlic from the bacon and add the bacon, along with as much of the bacon fat as your conscience allows. Toss/ Add cheese. Toss again. Add salt to taste.

Grind a good amount of pepper over the pasta and serve. You will instantly understand why this quick, easy dish given so much comfort to so many people.


Nibbles: Super Summer Salmon

Salmon with tarragon sauce is the quintessential summer dish.

Salmon with tarragon sauce is the quintessential summer dish.

Why don’t I like salmon? Maybe because the few times I order it in restaurants it is overcooked. Maybe because I only want fresh salmon, preferably wild caught.

It’s funny: every time I have had salmon at someone’s house, it is glorious.

James O’Shea roasted a huge piece of salmon on my grill in Old Lyme, chopping only the herbs in my herb garden plus a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and it was heavenly.

My friend Joan does a slow-cooked salmon that I adore.


Maybe I should just try it with Andrew Zimmern’s recipe with my friend Robert Rabine’s recipe for tarragon sauce. By the way, this sauce is wonderful with cold roast beef, grilled chicken or any other fish, especially swordfish. He served it last week with poached salmon, tiny sliced warm potatoes, sliced summer tomatoes and a corn and tomato salad. I will make this before the summer is gone.

Cold Poached Salmon

Recipe by Andrew Zimmern on Epicurious

3 cups white wine
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
3 celery ribs
1 tablespoon black peppercorn
3 sprigs of parsley
1 three-pound-salmon fillet, pin bones removed

In a fish poacher or a pot big enough to hold salmon, pour wine, onion, celery, peppercorns and parsley. Add 3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add salmon (submerged with a plate). Bring to a simmer, cover and cook gently over low heat, 6 to 8 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cook for 5 minutes more.

Using two spatulas, transfer salmon to a platter. Remove white bits. Allow it to stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool. Serve on the platter or cut into slices for serving. (You can reserve the liquid, refrigerated, to use again for chowder.)

Swifty’s Tarragon Sauce

1 bunch fresh tarragon, washed, leaves only
1 large shallot, peeled and finely chopped
Juice from 2 lemons
1 and one-half cups mayonnaise
One-half cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
One-quarter cup thinly sliced chives
Small pinch kosher salt
Additional mayonnaise to taste

Finely chop the tarragon leaves and place them in a medium stainless bowl with the chopped shallots.  Squeeze in the juice from the lemons, stir and let it macerate for two hours.  Add the remaining ingredients, stirring well to combine.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.


Nibbles: Summer Just Isn’t Summer Without Ratatouille (and a Five-Bean Bake!)

Ratatouille is always a welcome addition to any summer meal -- or as a meal on its own.

Ratatouille is always a welcome addition to any summer meal — or as a meal on its own.

I am so enjoying this summer.

I do love my CSA baskets (Hanukkah or Christmas every Tuesday afternoon), but I still delight in visiting my local farm and farm markets twice a week to get more tomatoes and sweet corn, either at Whittle’s in Mystic or Becky’s in Waterford.

If that were not enough, a neighbor, who is a scientist at Pfizer, asked if I liked tuna. “Fresh tuna?” I asked. Sure enough, her colleague was going tuna fishing the next day and she came home with two simply gorgeous tuna fillet.

The next day I marinated it with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh tarragon. Aside from the fact that I overcooked the tuna, it was amazing and my plate shared space with two big tomatoes with burrata (from Fromage) and sweet corn. Life can be pretty darn good.

Over the July 4 weekend, I went to a party at John Colton’s house in Lyme. His sister, Beverly Picazio, made two salads—ratatouille with fresh vegetables and another that can be whipped up with pantry staples.

I loved both of them so you might consider making these from your next potluck or party. The ratatouille is not only a great side dish, but, with a crusty loaf of bread and a salad, it is a terrific vegetarian dinner.


Slightly adapted from recipe of Beverly Picazio of Stonington


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 4 large cloves of garlic, minced

One-half teaspoon crusted pepper flakes

2 medium-sized eggplants, peeled and chopped

3 zucchini, chopped2 green peppers, chopped

2 8-ounce packages of sliced mushrooms

4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

1 can lima beans

1 yellow squash, chopped

2 28-ounces crushed tomatoes

Fresh ground fresh black pepper and salt, to taste

Chop all vegetables to about the same side.

In a large (or Le Creuset) Dutch oven, saute garlic in oil. Add pepper flakes. Stir in all the vegetables, including the tomatoes. Bring ingredients to a simmer, then cover and bake until fork tender, about 45 minutes. Season to taste.

Beverly thinks the dish is better made a day or two earlier. When reheating, water if ratatouille is too thick.

Five-Bean Bake

From Beverly Picazio of Stonington

Yield: serves 12 as a side dish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

8 bacon slices, chopped

1 medium onion, diced

1 28-ounce can Bush baked beans

1 19.75 ounce of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 16-ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can lima beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup ketchup

Three-quarter cup firmly packed brown sugar

One-half cup water

One-quarter cup cider vinegar

Cook bacon I a large skillet over medium high heat until crispy. Remove bacon, reserving 3 tablespoons drippings in skillet. Add diced onion and saute until tender. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.

Add all ingredients into a 9-inch by 13-nch baking dish and cook in the oven covered for 1 hour; uncover and bake another 30 minutes.


A Number of Nibbles: Strawberry Recipes Galore and Corn Chowder


strawberries_compressedIt has been a pretty wonderful seven-day period. My daughter had given me tickets to see Bette Midler at the TD Center in Boston, along with a lovely room at the Onyx, right next to the arena. I took my daughter-in-law, Nancy, with me. We had a wonderful dinner at Bricco, walking distance to both hotel and Bette, loved the show, and had cocktails at 11 pm in the hotel lobby.

We slept ‘til 9:17 the next morning, then heading home, she via Amtrak to pick up her car at GE and I in my car to Connecticut.  (If you are a dog lover, Onyx, a Kimpton Hotel, not only allows pups in the rooms, but the manager’s own 100-pound-plus Alaskan malamute greeted all visitors and looked into my handbag to see if there was anything good to eat.)

On the way home, I stopped at Whittle’s in Mystic to buy strawberries, but it was not open and didn’t look like it has plans to do so.  I hope I am wrong.

Instead, I drove down to East Lyme and bought two quarts of gorgeous, ruby-red berries, hulled them, mashed about a quarter of them, added a little water and a little sugar. Four hours later I juiced the strawberries, used half of them along with rhubarb to make a crisp, and then froze the berries and juice separately for next winter.

As I mentioned last week, I will do that often before the season is gone.

I found two new recipes for the strawberries, both simple, as all recipes should be in the summer. I also found out that rhubarb can also be frozen easily: wash it, cut the bottoms and tops, slice the stalk into one-half to one-inch pieces and froze in plastic bags.

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote with Greek Yogurt
From Ina Garten Make It Ahead (Clarkson Potter, New York, 2014)

Yield: serves 4

1 pound fresh strawberries
2 cups fresh rhubarb, three-quarter-inch-diced
1 and one-half cups sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
17 ounces \Greek yogurt, for serving
Good granola

Hull the strawberries and cut them in half or. If large, in quarters. Place the berries and rhubarb in a small (9-inch) heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the juices release from the fruit and start to boil. (Winter fruit doesn’t release as much juice as it does in the summer, so you may need to add one-quarter cup of water.) The fruit should still remain most of its shapes. Off the heat, stir in the sugar, lemon juice and salt and stir to combine. Cover pot tightly and allow preserves to sit overnight at room temperature.

The next day, bring the preserves to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until mixture thickens (it will be about 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir in orange zest and serve warm or cold over Greek yogurt and sprinkled with granola.

Strawberry Sour Cream Sherbet

From Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts (Clarkson Potter, New York, 1997)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and rinsed
Three-quarter cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
One-half teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a food processor or blender, puree strawberries until smooth. Add sugar and whirl for another minute. For best flavor, refrigerate for about an hour. Stir sour cream and vanilla into the strawberries and whisk well until smooth.

Transfer to an ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Store in freezer in a covered container until ready to serve.

Note: the sherbet can be served straight out of the ice cream maker, but it keeps well in the freezer, too. If your freezer is particularly cold, let the sherbet soften a little, at room temperature or in the refrigerator before scooping it.


Oh, summer is here and native strawberries are in. I haven’t bought them yet, but I will buy quarts during the next couple of weeks. I will come up with a new recipe for you in my next column.

In the meantime, here is how to freeze native strawberry juice so you can add it to those not-so-wonderful strawberries next winter: Take a quart of strawberries, wash them, hull them and cut them in half (or smaller if they are big), put them in a stainless steel bowl. Mash about a quarter of them, add maybe a quarter cup of sugar and about half a cup of water; stir the mixture. Put the bowl on the counter and let them marinate for a couple of hours. Pour the juice into little Mason-type jars. Put the lids on and freeze them.

When you buy those winter strawberries, thaw the juice and mix it with the berries. Close your eyes and pretend it is summer.

I did have my first fried oysters at Starboard Galley in Newburyport, Mass. Within days I will have my first lobster roll at Captain Scott in New London or, depending where I am, at Lobster Landing in Clinton. At Captain Scott’s, the roll goes to the geese or swans or gulls as I eat the lobster. I love gulls.

In any case, summer is here. This afternoon I thawed (and drained) about a pound of sweet corn kernels I had frozen last summer. I cooked a corn chowder I hadn’t made in years. It was absolutely delicious. I still have about five or six pounds of corn and will make this often until it’s time for native sweet corn, maybe four weeks from now?

Corn Chowder
Adapted a lot from an 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking

corn-chowder_compressedOne of the best things about this recipe is there is no butter or heavy cream in this recipe. Sure, some salt pork for flavoring, but this is pretty healthy after all.

Yield: serves 6 to 8 as a main dish with a salad and maybe some good bread

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 to 8 ounces salt pork, diced
one-half cup chopped onions
one-half cup chopped celery
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 and one-half cups peeled diced raw potatoes (with Yukon Gold, you needn’t peel)
2 cups water
one-half teaspoon salt
one-half teaspoon paprika
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk*
6 to 8 ears of fresh corn, blanched for 2 minutes in boiling water, then drained in iced water
3 cups hot milk*
chopped fresh tarragon (fresh tarragon if you have it, dried if you don’t)
salt and pepper to taste

Pour oil into a heated heavy-bottomed stock pot, add salt pork and saute until browned. Add onions, celery and green pepper and saute until lightly brown, Add potatoes, water, salt, paprika and bay leaf and simmer until potatoes are soft, around 15 minutes. Add flour and 1 cup of milk and stir until mixture is thick.

Remove kernels from ears and add kernels to stock pot, along with hot milk. Toss fresh chopped tarragon into soup. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

*I used 2 percent milk, but 1 percent might be fine


One of the most amazing about cooking is learning how little you actually know, or how much you can still learn. Last Sunday I went to the Gordons for leftovers. I have already said, in print, that going to Michael and Joan’s  for leftovers is better than having dinner at my house before leftovers.

Among the leftovers were chicken filled with pancetta and cheese, a scalloped potato dish with fresh mussels (trust me, it was luscious) and a fava bean and chickpea salad.

Flossie Betten had brought  a yeast bread with onions, black olives, chopped tomatoes and dried chiles that was terrific, but even better was her strawberry-rhubarb pie made just for us. I make that, too, but hers was way better.

The pie was a one-crust dessert, filled with the filling and topped with a crumble. Here are the differences: the crust was an all-butter one with the addition of a little sugar and cold buttermilk (instead of water.)

For the topping she added shredded coconut instead of nuts. She added some of the topping into the filling. For the filling, she added brown sugar and granulated sugar and some cornstarch.

Now, I make my crust in my food processor. I quadruple the recipe of my topping and freeze most of it in little baggies. I am going to give you the recipes for the filling and the topping.

Please e-mail me at for her crust recipe and my own, which Deb Jensen gave to me years ago

Strawberry-Rhubarb Filling and Topping
From Flossie Betten of Norwich


3 cups one-inch thick slices rhubarb (about 1 pound)
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced in half
One-third cup light brown sugar
One-half cup granulated sugar
One-quarter cup cornstarch
Large pinch salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a medium bowl, toss together all the ingredients. Toss until all the fruit is covered in a coating of sugar and cornstarch. The cornstarch will disappear and the sugars will begin to make juice with the fruit. Allow to rest at room temperature while you make the toppings.


Three-quarter cup all-purpose flour
Three-quarter cup old-fashioned oats
Two-third cup granulated sugar
Large pinch of salt
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
One-half cup unsweetened coconut flakes

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, sugar and salt, Add cold butter chunks and, using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture. Quickly break the butter into the mixture until well incorporated. Some butter bits will be the size of peas and smaller. Add the coconut and toss to combine.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. When the crust is in the pie pan, add a handful (about one-half cup) of topping into the fruit filling and toss. Dump the fruit mixture into the pie crust. Top generously with topping mixture. Place on a preparing baking sheet. ( I put the baking sheet in the oven while preheating to give the bottom of the pie a bit of a searing.) It is important to use the middle rack because if the pie is too close to the top of the oven, the coconut will burn quickly.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 35 to 45 minutes, or until the pie is juicy, bubbling and golden brown.

(Please e-mail me at for two crust recipes. Also, Oronoque makes an incredible frozen pie crust. I have at least three of them in my freezer at all time.)


A Number of Nibbles: Places to Go – Chester Farm Market, St. Sophia’s Greek Festival & JAMMS


Chester Farm Market
Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., June 2 through October 2

Chester sunday marketI know summer is here when the Chester Farm Market opens, I missed the first, but I will be there every Sunday ‘til fall. This year they have closed Main Street, there is music and the tents are full of gorgeous food and incredibly nice people. Friends and I spent almost an hour there (my friends say it takes that long because I have to pet every dog there, and there were quite a few).

This year, in addition to produce, there is a dairy with fresh milk (in bottles!) and the most delicious yogurt you’ve ever tasted. At the Hay Person’s tent, there were beautifully flowers and handmade jam. There was lots of honey, a lot of lettuces and seafood.

The amazing thing, to me, was the bread. Howard Kaplan had not only baguettes but bialys. Joan and I bought all that were left.

I got two boules from Alforno’s Bob Zemmel and Linda Guica (some of which we ate with fresh radishes, salt and butter at home). At Simon’s Market, we shared mozz, tomato and basil sandwiches on salt-encrusted bread that was chewy enough to give our teeth a workout. And Charlie van Over wasn’t even there with his incredible baguette. We are one fortunate shoreline denizens.


St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church Festival

st sophia NewLondonSome years ago the congregants of New London’s St Sophia Greek Orthodox Church had a serious problem: the church’s needed a new roof and the cost was mighty expensive. Their solution was to have two Greek Festivals instead of its annual fundraiser in order to help raise money to pay for the new roof.

Because both were so successful, there are now two festivals each year. I have never missed one, although I know people who go six times at each of the festivals, from lunch on Wednesday until the last on Friday night.

In June I went with friends. I had lemon chicken soup, moussaka, spanakopita and one cookie.

I never eat the stuffed grape leaves because they are simply not as good as those made by my daughter-in-law and her mother. I have made it myself with their recipe. If you e-mail me (, I will send the recipe to you.

And if you know where I can find real grape leaves (instead of the jarred ones), I will be forever grateful.


1522 Boston Post Road
Old Saybrook, CT 06475

jamss_fruit_3I do head south quite a few times during the week on I-95, though rarely on weekends in the summer. I had errands to run and decided to have lunch at J.A.M.S.S in Old Saybrook.

Ooops, it had moved, but not too far away. It now has a much bigger kitchen and dining room and serves breakfast all day. (By the way, their breakfasts may be better than those at Kitchen Little.)

But it was lunch. The menu and specials are fabulous, and I chose a soup and half a sandwich—the former cream of mushroom and the latter curried chicken salad with halved grapes. For a side I opted for macaroni salad.

Everything at J.A.M.S.S is housemade, by the way. The sandwich was the best ever, as was the macaroni salad (almost as good as Gloria Pepin’s recipe). But the mushroom soup was pure heaven. I asked to buy a pint to take home; sadly, I had gotten the last bowl and there was not a soupcon left.

Service was terrific: pleasant and knowledgeable waitstaff, including a 6’8” waiter who just finished his freshman year at Kenyon College. And, yes, he does play basketball.



Nibbles: Now is the Time to Bake a Spice Cake

On Sunday, March 1, I decided that winter was done. That afternoon, though, I drove to the Ward’s home in Madison to celebrate Zimmy’s 90th birthday. There would be around 40 of us and the food promised to be yummy. I had bought my Coca-Cola Cake and a slow-cooker full of Cincinnati four-way chili. Both were good but Eugenia’s baked rigatoni along with chopped liver, potatoes Lyonnaise and Norma’s  gorgeous jelly roll, 18-inches long ringed with beautiful berries were even better.

It was snowing as I drove my car out of the garage and the light precip turned into serious snow (I’d worn real shoes instead of the knee-high mukluks’ I lived in for more than a month.) By the time I got to Madison, there was an inch on the ground. The party was fabulous, but by late afternoon, people began to head home.

When I got into my car, it was a serious snowstorm, and I had “miles to go before I sleep,” as Robert Frost wrote. The usual 45 minutes tuned into two and a half hour, never seeing a white or yellow line. All I could do was follow the cars in front of me. Fortunately, I made it home safe and sound.

Obviously, my decision that winter was over made God laugh. Once home I made a cup of tea and warmed my toes with a blanket. After watching “Downtown Abbey,” my new decision would be to make a spice cake the next day.

Old-Fashioned Spice Cake

Adapted from Linnea Rufo, Bee & Thistle Inn, Old Lyme, CT

Yield: serves 10 to 12 people

old_fashioned__spice_cake1 cup sugar
One-half cup (1 stick) butter
One-half cup currants or raisins or dried cherries (optional)
One-half cup candied ginger, chopped
2 eggs
2 tablespoons molasses
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
One-quarter teaspoon cloves
One-half teaspoon ginger
One-teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease a 10-inch tube pan.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
  4. Pour batter into prepared tube pan. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until cake pulls away from sides of pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool cake in the pan, set on a rack, for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and spread on icing at once, while cake is still warm.

Espresso Icing

1 and one-half cups of confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon of espresso
1 tablespoon milk

Whisk icing ingredients together.


Nibbles: Super Squash Soup Warms The Heart

It was a bit of an iffy week, with some weather including rain, heat (mid-seventies in October!) and a pretty cold evening when I thought I might take the soft and comfy throws into the living for the cats and me.

Each of the days, while my friend Nancy was vacationing in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, I fed her feral cats. She had packed up eight enormous plastic bins of dry cat food and left me a quart-sized bottle for fresh water. Each early afternoon, I would change my shoes for sneakers and walk a path down a hill and into the woods, rife with poison ivy, to the little den she fashioned with one of those plastic igloos and a large green trash can set on its side to hold the food and water.

I am a city girl so for decades I thought poison ivy was a maple leaf (three points on a leaf) for three leaves, so I guess I am not allergic to the little devils though my husband knew exactly what they looked at and was very sensitive. On the other hand, I did get scraped by some twigs and wound up with a few infected sores which are fine, now.

Doug and I were never leaf-peepers. We grew up in upstate New York and together we lived in New England. We never thought it important to drive hours to Vermont or New Hampshire when we saw gorgeous colors up and down I-95 and in our own backyard. But my good friend Kirsten McKamy and her adorable partner, Charles, invited me to have lunch at his 1750 cape in Storrs, Conn.

It took about an hour from my condo on the shoreline to Storrs and I must say that the foliage was spectacular. His magnificently restored house sat in seven acres, at least two of which were mowed. The vivid green of the lawn, the enormous maples and oaks and the big pond across the road turned my quiet Sunday into quite a picture.

Even better was the food: an herb “cake,” squash soup and two desserts, Kirsten’s pear tart and my apple cake. I will serve that soup the next time I have friends for dinner. Then again, maybe sooner.

Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup with Pancetta and Sage

From Epicurious

Roasted kabocha squash soup with pancetta and sage

Roasted kabocha squash soup with pancetta and sage

Yield: 8 servings (about 11 cups)

1 4-pound kabocha squash, halved and seeded

1 cup vegetable oil

20 whole fresh sage leaves plus 1 and one-half teaspoon chopped fresh sage

One-quarter pound sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 and one-half cups chicken broth

3 and one-half cups water

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Dollops of crème fraiche (optional)

Roast squash: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roast squash, cut sides down, in an oiled roasting pan in middle of oven until tender, about an hour. When cool enough to handle, scrape flesh from skin.

While the squash is roasting, heat vegetable oil in a deep small saucepan until it registered 365 degrees on a deep-felt thermometer. Fry sage leaves in 3 bathes until crisp, 3 to 5 seconds. Transfer leaves with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Cook pancetta and make soup: Cook pancetta in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until brown Transfer pancetta with slotted spoon to power towels to drain.

Add olive oil to pancetta fat remaining in pot, then cook onion, stirring, until softened. Stir in garlic and chopped sage and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add squash, broth and water and simmer 20 minutes to blend flavors.

Puree soup in batches in a blender, transferring to a bowl. (Use caution when blending hot liquids.) Return soup to pot and reheat. If necessary, thin to desired consistency with water. Stir in vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve sprinkled with pancetta and fried sage leaves. If you like, dollop spoonsful onto soup.

Cooks’ note: you can make soup 3 days in advance and chill, covered.


Nibbles: Chicken and Wine with Capers Perfect for Boules Bash

Inn-607x401When Linnea [Rufo – the owner of and executive chef at the Bee & Thistle in Old Lyme] and I talked about what she would make for her boules party, she thought about Lasagna Bolognese.  This can be made ahead of time and baked just before dinner time, usually around 7 pm.  A big salad (we usually have somewhere around 45 people for dinner), maybe Charlie van Over’s bread. I would do a bar dessert while Linnea would get ice cream and fruit.

A couple of weeks later, we talked again. I said I would make the Bolognese sauce and the salad, too, if she would like.  “No, I’m not doing lasagna. I’m going to do chicken in wine with capers.”  The Bee & Thistle doesn’t even have a walk-in freezer and here she is choosing chicken with wine and capers, and she wanted to play boules, too. I thought she was nuts.

It turns out she wasn’t crazy. She had done most of the work ahead of time and the final roasting would take place in a big, big oven (it is a restaurant, after all) along with roasted zucchini. Everything was delicious and I, who can’t find a word for how boring zucchini is to me, loved this zucchini. Here are her recipes:

Chicken and Wine with Capers

From Linnea Rufo, executive chef of Bee & Thistle inn

Yield: serves 6

6 very large skinless boneless chicken breasts

Flour, salt and pepper to taste, for dredging

2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup of a nice white wine

1 large chopped shallot

2 cups low-salt chicken stock

One-half cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup capers, rinsed

One-half cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped


3 large lemons, halved (optional)

Cut each chicken breast horizontally so each opens like a book.

Chicken with white wine and capers

Chicken and wine with capers

Heat oil in a large high-sided skillet or a small roasting pan. Dredge the chicken in the flour, salt and pepper mixture, shaking excess and sear chicken until brown on each side. Do this in batches so you don’t cook them to the point where they will steam. If you are serving later, cool chicken and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until just before dinner.

Before ready to serve, in the same skillet with all the browned pieces, heat and deglaze with shallots and wine. Add stock and lemon juice. Place chicken pieces in the broth and roast until chicken is done. Add capers and cook another few minutes. Place chicken and sauce in a platter and sauce with the juice. Sprinkle with parsley.

Optional: If garnishing, place half lemons on a grill until brown and serve each on top of each chicken.

Roasted Zucchini

Also from Linnea Rufo

Here is a zucchini that is truly memorable. And easy to make. So if a neighbor rang your doorbell and ran away and you open the door and see 10 pounds of zucchini, call him and thank him.

Small zucchini

Fresh chives

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and dry the zucchini. Cut the bottoms and tops off, cut them into thin strips and place in a large bowl. Mince the chives and add to the zucchini. Top with olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste. With your hands (or with a big spoon), toss together. Leave them to macerate on the counter for a few minutes or in an hour or so. Set the oven at 350 degrees. But the mixture in a baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, tossing once or twice during the roasting. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

headshot_LeeAbout the author: Lee White (left) 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 and the Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 


Nibbles: Lee on Life, Lemon Cake and Lids … Well, Canisters Actually

My kitchen is starting to look like as kitchen, but not like the kitchen I had before.

I am not complaining.  The kitchen in Old Lyme was created by me and my husband.  As always, it was the first room to be finished.  It was two rooms and a hall.  It was dark and applianced in harvest gold.  The counter was Formica or faux Formica (is that an oxymoron?)  The floor was linoleum.

In around two months, the two rooms began one, the hall was annihilated, and the door to what would become a patio became French doors.  The counter was granite on the island, butcher block on two other walls.  I had a six-burner gas cooktop, two electric ovens and a warming drawer.  Under the cooktop were two enormous shelves that held my two-foot salad bowl and my big stockpots.

My new kitchen is pretty, too.  But I have an electric range with one oven.  My dishwasher died after two turns with dishes.  I do have granite counters, but no island, no easy action to my special rack for muffin pans, warm cookies or half-sheet pans.  But I am making do and consider myself lucky that a mediocre cook learned how to be better with a great kitchen.  I am good enough, now, to cook anywhere.

Parties have begun and I am expected to bring food to the homes of terrific friends.  Last week I made potato salad (yes, two of my stockpots are on top of another rack over the sink.)  This week I may make a dessert.  I gave away at least 10 loaf pans and round pans and square pans in 8”, 9” and 10” sizes.

Here is the lemon cake everyone likes; as Staples says, “We have that!”


Lemon Cake

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, New York, 2001)

Yield: Two 8-inch loaves

Lemon-cake_592½ (one-half) pound unsalted butter at room temperature
2 ½ (two and one-half) cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large (or 5 large) eggs at room temperature
1/3 (one-third) cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups all-purpose flour
One-half teaspoon baking powder
One-half teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher (or sea) salt
Three-quarter cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided*
Three-quarter cup buttermilk at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

three and one-half tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 ½ (eight and one-half) by 4 ¼ (four and one-quarter) by 2 ½ (two and one-half) inch loaf pans.

Cream butter and 2 cups of the granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine one-quarter cup lemon juice, the buttermilk and vanilla. Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Divide batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean. (I find that on convection bake, this takes just over 35 minutes, so check with a cake tester after this period of time.)

Combine one-half cup granulated sugar with one-half cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves.

When cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert them onto a rack set over a tray. Spoon lemon syrup over inverted cakes. Allow cakes to cook completely.

For the glaze, combine confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. (It should be thick but if it’s too thick, add a few drops of water.) Turn cakes right side up and pour glaze over tops of cakes. Allow glaze to drizzle down sides.

This is where I use the release kind of Reynolds Aluminum foil to wrap the cakes. But wax paper works well, too. The important part is to wrap them so the wrapping doesn’t strip off the glaze when you unwrap. After wrapping (if you’re not serving these right away), I put them in zippered freezer bags and freeze until ready to use.

*If you squeeze all the lemons you use for the zest (7 or 8), you get about 1 cup of juice, enough for cake, syrup and glaze..

Canisters for dry goods

One thing I did not mind leaving at my old house was the weevils.  Maybe they are not exactly weevils, but they began as evil little things and wound up as moths.  I spent lots of money on Pantry Pests, not as ugly as fly paper, but not the prettiest thing in my pantry.  Before I left the old kitchen, I dumped all the dry food, like flour, sugar (although I don’t think they like sugar), barley, couscous and the like, along with the canisters that held the stuff.

For over two weeks, I looked for canisters that would hold at least 10 pounds of flour, 5 pounds of sugar and enough rice and quinoa to hold weevil-free white goods.

I found them in T.J. Maxx.  Not sparingly, they are made by OXO Good Grips, a company that began with a potato peeler for people whose grip wasn’t as good as it used to be.  I wrote about them years ago and they sent me a Christmas card signed by all seven of OXO’s employees.  They still make incredible, reasonably priced, gadgets. Especially now that my grips are not as young as they used to be.

headshot_LeeAbout the author: Lee White (left) 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 and the Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 


Nibbles: Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble is Always a Winner

strawberries&rhubarbI spent a fair amount of time with friends and sometimes  acquaintances turn out to be friends.  As usual, we talk about food.

One of the evenings, three of us were to eat Thai food at Spice Club and walk over to see, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” in Niantic Cinema.  Because one of us hurt his back, we ordered pizza and I made a salad.

I like to make the salad dressing because I don’t like too much vinegar, but I wasn’t sure what might be available to make the dressing.  There was a lemon in the refrigerator and the only vinegar was balsamic.  I am tired of that, so I used the lemon.  I asked if there was fresh garlic.  There was, but it was in a plastic bag in the crisper of the fridge.  It was sad and tired, but I found two cloves that were good enough.  I also mentioned, not that anyone asked, that garlic doesn’t want to be in a plastic bag nor in a refrigerator crisper (and neither do lemons, by the way).

So we talked about grocery shopping.  Neither Gil nor Max love grocery shopping as much as I do.  Then again, maybe no one likes to go grocery shopping as much as I do.  I always go with a list, but sometimes I actually make the list while I am parked in the lot of the supermarket, i.e., I just want to go grocery shopping and pretending I had a  list means that I must go grocery shopping.

On one of my five-times-a-week supermarket jaunts, to get two tomatoes and a quart of Lactaid, I saw rhubarb and bought six ruby-red stalks and some anemic strawberries.  I had  frozen strawberry juice from last summer.  I also have lots of Deborah Jensen’s crumble mix  in the freezer.  So I made three strawberry-rhubarb crumbles.  Friends ate one, and I froze two, unbaked.

Here’s the recipe.

To make rhubarb: 2 pounds rhubarb, washed, trimmed at both ends and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place rhubarb into a bowl and add one-half to one cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch and, if you like, one-half teaspoon of pure almond extract; stir together.

To prepare strawberries: Buy one pound of strawberries, remove leaves and part of the core. Wash them in a colander, halve the berries and put them in another bowl. Add a little sugar, toss them and let them sit on the counter for a few hours (or overnight in the fridge).

To make a crisp, use the following recipe.

Deb Jensen’s Perfect Crisp Topping

Yield: makes around 5 cups (put the rest in two small plastic bags, freeze them and save for another two crisps)

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

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix together with nice, clean hands.  Place the rhubarb and strawberries in a buttered ovenproof glass or ceramic gratin (8″ by 8″ or a 9″ x 12″) and top with enough crisp topping to cover.  Bake until rhubarb bubbles, about 30 minutes.

headshot_LeeAbout the author: Lee White (left) is a resident of Old Lyme in a section of town where she and her house are the oldest members.  She 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 the Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 


Two for One Nibbles: Best Meatloaf Ever: Craving Cookies? Try These in Oatmeal

To paraphrase from Philip Roth’s “Love Story,” what can I say about a winter that simply won’t go away.

Last Wednesday I shoveled five different times, just to allow me to get from my front porch to get my newspapers.  And the same number of times so I could get to my garage.  I failed.  The snow was so heavy I was exhausted.

Friends were able to visit me for dinner Sunday, but they had to clomp through now-hardened moguls.  When they left Sunday night, it was snowing again.  Weather reports now say Thursday and Friday, there may be sleet, snow and freezing rain.

meatloafOn Super Bowl Sunday, Joan Gordon brought me a terrific meatloaf she made the day before.  We had sandwiches on good rye bread, salad and dessert while we watched the Stupid Bowl.  I ate the rest of the meatloaf over the next few days.  It is superb.

Lenny Schwartz’s Market Street Meatloaf (adapted)

Yield: serves 8

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Three-quarter cup finely chopped onion

Three-quarter cup finely chopped scallions (white part and 3 inches of green)

One-half cup finely chopped carrots

One-quarter cup finely chopped celery

One-quarter cup finely chopped red pepper

One-quarter cup finely chopped green pepper

2 teaspoons finely minced garlic

3 large eggs

One-half cup ketchup

One-half cup half-and-half cream (Joan used sour cream)

1 teaspoon cumin

One-half teaspoon nutmeg

One-quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

3 pounds lean ground turkey

Three-quarter cup breadcrumbs, toasted and crumbled (Joan uses whatever is in the bread box)

  1. Melt butter in large heavy skillet over medium low heat and add onions, scallions, carrots, celery, peppers and garlic.  Cook stirring often until moisture has evaporated, about 10 minutes.  Set mixture aside to cool, then refrigerate it, covered, until chilled, 1 to 2 hours.
  2. Beat eggs, ketchup, half-and-half, cumin, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and black pepper in a bowl. Add ground turkey and bread crumbs.  Add chilled vegetables and knead with your hands until well mixed.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Form into loaves or one big loaf and place on a rimmed baking pan.  (You can cover the baking sheet to avoid cleanup.)  Bake until loaf is cooked through to about 160 degrees (about 45 to 50 minutes.  Let loaf rest for at least 20 minutes.

Sweet  Thoughts 

There is almost nothing sweet about my pantry, refrigerator or freezer.  Oh, they’re pretty enough and I keep them clean inside and out.  But when I look, I find not one sugary something to crave my sweet tooth.

This, of course, is reasonable.  I am down many pounds at this point and I have another 20 to go.  I’m afraid that if I had some homemade brownies or Girl Scout cookies in the freezer, I might eat them without thawing them.  If there were Newtons or jelly beans in the pantry, they would be, figuratively, toast.  There are pints of ice cream in both freezers,but ice cream was my husband’s siren song, not mine.

Of course, I can cook sweet things in a New York minute, like my cooktop chocolate pudding.  That would be fine if I would eat just one cup, but I usually eat all four ramekins.  Or make the recipe for a microwave chocolate cake in a mug.

But I figured if I make something truly luscious that I could have “one of” and then give the rest away, I might be happy enough.  So I did have one, gave all the rest away and I’m keeping this recipe.

Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies

“A Good Appetite,” by Melissa Clark (New York Times, page D2, January 22, 2014)

Yield: 36 cookies

Three-quarter cup sweetened coconut

1 cup unsalted butter

2 tablespoons honey

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 and one-half cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided

3 cups rolled oats

One-half cup dates, pitted and chopped (actually, buy Sunsweet dates, pitted and chopped)

5 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the filling:

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

6 tablespoons mascarpone

3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1 and one-half teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Toast coconut in a rimmed baking pan until lightly colored and fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Cool. Raise temperature to 375 degrees.
  2. In bowl of mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter until light. Beat in brown sugar and honey and beat until very fluffy, about 5 minutes Beat in vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking powder and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. With mixer on low, beat flour mixture into butter mixture until combined. Beat in dates and coconut.
  4. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment or Silpat. In a small bowl combined granulated sugar and rest of the cinnamon. Roll heaping tablespoons of dough into balls, then roll them in cinnamon-sugar. Transfer to baking sheet, leaving 1 and one-half inches between balls. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool in pan 2 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Make filling: With a mixer, beat in cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Scrape down sides of bowl.  Sandwich about 1 tablespoon filling between two cookies.  Repeat until done.

headshot_LeeAbout the author: Lee White (left) is a resident of Old Lyme in a section of town where she and her house are the oldest members.  She 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 the Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 


Nibbles: It’s Cold Outside … So Try Caribbean Bread Inside

One morning a few days ago, the outside thermometer outside was -6 and the  bedroom was 47 degrees Fahrenheit (I don’t heat the bedroom because I like the electric blanket on my bed atop my featherbed and over the goose down comforter to keep me warm).

Yesterday it was 57 degrees Fahrenheit and pouring.

This morning, outside, it was 6 above.  At 10:45, it measured 10, a veritable heat wave.

I just bought my third SoftShine Throw (the cat Junie took the first one, Elderlee the second) to keep myself warm in the den.

But I am happiest in the kitchen, where my metabolism is in overdrive.  Last week I made chicken soup, onion soup, chicken salad from the chicken soup and some extra for pad Thai.  I took an unbaked meatloaf from the freezer, thawed it and roasted it for sandwiches (made in my Joseph’s Flat Bread).

When my newest Fine Cooking arrived, I devoured it (figuratively, of course).  Tony Rosenfeld, who writes great food articles for that magazine (headquartered in Newtown, Connecticut), wrote about chili.  I love chili, although I’m more interested in chili whose main ingredient is not chili powder.

His recipes showed me how to use seven different meats, 18 flavor accents (and he says to use at least two and up to six), deglazing and stewing liquids, eight different beans and lots of vegetables and garnishes.  I made one with meat, yellow peppers, cayenne, canned tomatoes, black beans, cannellinis, summer-frozen sweet corn and a squish of lime.  It was better than great.

With it, of course, came Caribbean cornbread, from a recipe given to me by Karen Goodspeed some years ago.

Caribbean cornbread

Caribbean cornbread

Caribbean Cornbread

Yield: 8 to 12 people

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cups cornmeal
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (one-half pound) unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ (three-quarters) cup sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ (one and one-half) cups cream-style corn
½ (one-half) cup crushed pineapple, drained and squeezed a little
1 cup shredded jack or mild cheddar cheese
Butter and flour a 8- or 9-inch Pyrex dish.

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a mixer, cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add corn, pineapple and cheese and mix to blend. On low speed, add dry ingredients and mix until blended well.

Bake until tester is clean, about 1 ¼ (one and one-quarter) hours and golden on top. Do not underbake.

headshot_LeeAbout the author: Lee White (left) is a resident of Old Lyme in a section of town where she and her house are the oldest members.  She 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 the Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 


Nibbles: All in a Day’s Work — Hummus, Spiced Pecans

Seasonal spiced pecans.

Seasonal spiced pecans.

The snowstorm two weeks ago took me by surprise.  It isn’t as if the meteorologists got it wrong; as a matter of fact, they pretty much got it right.  But I don’t watch local television weather reports: I get The Day every day, along with The New York Times.  I TiVo Jeopardy (and lots of other shows, some good enough to talk about, others of which I am ashamed that I watch them.)  But I don’t watch television in the morning or from 5 to 7 p.m.  I am usually in bed before the 11 o’clock news.

As a result, I realized just Friday afternoon that I would not be driving to New York State for a memorial service for the wife of a high school classmate.  On Sunday morning I decided I would miss a Sunday afternoon party at my friend Tracie Armao’s house because I did look at the Weather Channel and thought the melting ice might freeze before I could get home.

What I did, instead, was cook.  I had leftover chili, so I also made a meat loaf (for sandwiches, primarily), onion soup, chicken soup (with the chicken I would make into salad for the week), hummus and spiced pecans.  Here are the two latter recipes, one for  hummus I adapted from Claire’s Corner Copia Cookbook (Penguin, New York, 1994) and the other, for pecans, Kim Severson, Atlanta Bureau Chief for The New York Times, put on Facebook.


Yield: serves 8 to 10

2 to 3 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup tahini (sesame paste, found in health stores and most supermarkets)

One-quarter cup olive oil

Juice of 2 to 3 lemons

One-quarter cup water

Lots of cloves of garlic (I use at least 6 to 8)

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash or two of cayenne pepper

One-half teaspoon paprika

Place all ingredients except salt, pepper, cayenne and paprika into a blender or food processor.  Puree into smooth.  Taste and add salt, pepper and cayenne (careful about that cayenne!)  Pour into a bowl and serve with pita, tortilla chips and/or raw vegetables.

Spiced Pecans

One and one- half teaspoons salt

Three-quarter teaspoon black pepper

Three-quarters teaspoon cayenne

One-half teaspoon ground ginger

One and one-half teaspoons cinnamon

2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar

5 tablespoons butter, melted

6 cups pecans (although less expensive unsalted nuts would work, too)

Set oven at 350 degrees.  Whisk all ingredients except pecans together in a small howl.

Brush 1 tablespoon of butter over the top of a large rimmed baking sheet.  Add nuts, and toss to coat.  Spread nuts in a single layer and bake about 10 minutes.

Place pecans into a large bowl, add remaining butter and toss.  Add spice mixture, toss and add baking sheet to the oven.  Roast 4 to 5 minutes, stirring once.

Cool and try not to eat them all.