My goal has always been to make traditional comfort food accessible.

When I began this blog over 15 years ago, I never thought it would be such an all consuming and ongoing project. However, it has become a haven and a place to share my love of cooking.

I guess it’s safe to say I have the cooking gene, if there is such a thing. Cooking comes naturally to me. I think about recipes and ingredients and I can see how they will come together and imagine how they will taste.

I started writing initially because friends asked for my recipes and I realized having them written down would be vastly easier. It sort of took off from there.

To sum up my blog in a few words, it’s designed for cooks at most any level to be able to follow the recipe and produce some wonderful food. I always strive to be authentic to the cuisines I cook, and if I deviate, then I explain why. I also include substitutes for hard to find ingredients, but call out the essential ones.

I’ve included many vegetarian and vegan recipes as well, as I realize this is important to many people and I want to show that non meat recipes can be very good.

We learn so much about ourselves and others by cooking different cuisines and I feel it makes us realize how similar we are rather than different. Cooking is family, cooking is comfort and most of all, for me, it’s affirming.

I hope you enjoy the recipes and please comment and reach out. I really enjoy hearing from readers.

Khoresh Bademjam – Chicken and Eggplant Stew

A khoresh is a Persian stew. There are many variations and all sorts of flavors, but this is a personal favorite.

In Farsi, khoresh means stew and bademjam means eggplant. This particular khoresh is often made with beef or lamb, but I enjoy the chicken and find it lighter.

All of these ingredients are available online or in most Middle Eastern markets. It’s worth searching out the authentic ingredients.

Ingredients

2 lbs Chicken Thighs, or boneless skinless chicken thighs.
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Onion, sliced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
.

1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1 tsp Tumeric
1 stick Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Saffron
Salt and Pepper
1- 2 cups Vegetable Stock
1/2 cup Sour Grapes
4 Dried Limes, pierced.
4 Tbsp Sour Grape Juice.

 
Preheat oven to 400F. Peel eggplant and slice into quarters. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove to let cool.

In sauté pan, heat olive oil and brown chicken thighs. Remove from pan and add sliced onions and garlic and sauté until browned. Add tomato paste and cook further, add vegetable broth and turmeric and cook until a sauce is formed. Loosely chop the eggplant and add to the dish.

Add back the chicken and then add sour grapes, dried limes and sour grape juice. Crush the saffron and add to sauce and allow to cook gently for 1 hours. Serve with basmati rice.

Chicken with Black Bean

This is super easy to throw together and the flavor is off the charts. I have made it with both ground chicken and sliced chicken. Either way is good, but sliced is likely more traditional. You may use breast or thighs. Although thighs will be better cut into cubes.

Fermented black beans can be found in most any Asian market. They normally need to be rinsed before using In Chinese they are called Douchi.

Ingredients

2-3 Tbsp Vegetable OIl
1 lb Chicken, either ground or sliced
2 tsp Rice Wine, known as Shaoshing
2 tsp Light Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Fermented Black Beans, rinsed and splashed with a bit of Shaoshing.
4 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 2 inch piece go Ginger Root, peeled and minced
1 Red Pepper, slice or cubed
3-4 Green onions, sliced into 1-2 inch pieces
2 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil
 
Begin by preparing your chicken and marinading it in the light soy sauce and 1 tsp of the Shaoshing. Set it aside in the refrigerator. Rinse your black beans and then add about 1 tsp of Shaoshing and set aside.
 
Chop your garlic and ginger and set aside. Then prepare your red pepper and green onions.
 
Heat your wok with approx. 2 Tbsp of oil and when very hot, add your garlic and ginger and quickly stir fry. Add your chicken and allow it to get slightly brown around the edges, or if using ground chicken, cook until the rawness is gone. 
 
Add it your red peppers and green onions and continue to stir fry until they are slightly soft. Remove from heat and toss in your sesame oil and serve.

Chicken Fricasse

Another French classic which has many variations. This is the kind of food French grandmere’s have perfected over generations. It’s a bit of a cross between a sauté and a stew, but the real key is the braising sauce. 
 

 It utilizes that workhorse of the French kitchen, the mirepoix. A mix of onions, carrots and celery. Gently sautéed in butter and a bit of oil, it’s magical. 

 
I’d suggest that the classic recipe for Fricassee is from Julia Child. I’ve made her version and it is very good, but very involved. This modified version from Martha Stewart is excellent and vastly easier to prepare. I’ve changed it a bit, but essentially the same. 
 

Both recipes call for a whole chicken cut up, but I find the consistency of the boneless skinless thighs work very well, feel free to use either. 

 
Ingredients
 
2 1/2 lbs Chicken Thighs, boneless skinless. Trimmed of excess fat. 
4 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Carrot, minced 
1 Onion, minced 
1 Celery stalk, minced 
2 cups Mushrooms, quartered
2 Tbsp Flour
1/2 cup White wine
2 cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth
1/2 Tbsp Thyme
1- Bay Leaf 
2 Egg Yolks
1/2 cup Heavy Cream 
1/2 Lemon, juiced 
 
Preheat your oven to 350F. Heat your butter and oil in your oven proof Dutch oven and begin by lightly browning the chicken on both sides. Brown only a few pieces at a time, or they will steam rather than brown. Remove and set aside. 
 
Add your mirepoix(onion,carrot and celery) into the pan and gently sauté as you scrape away any browned bits. These are packed with flavor. 
 
Add your mushrooms and sauté until they give up their water. Add your flour and stir until the mixture starts to thicken. You are basically making a roux, to thicken the fricassee. 
 
Add in your wine and cook until it reduces and begins to thicken. Add your broth and simmer gently. Then, add your thyme and bay leaf.
 
Put the chicken into the Dutch oven and gently stir to coat the chicken and into the oven uncovered for 40 minutes. 
 
Just before the chicken is done, whisk together your egg yolks and heavy cream. 
 
Remove the chicken from the oven and carefully add a few tablespoons of the sauce to the egg yolk/ cream mixture, one at a time to temper it and then fold the mixture into the chicken to finish the sauce. Give it about one minute to thicken. Finish with lemon juice.

Pork Belly with Garlic Chives

I’ve been cooking for almost 40 years. I’ve made many sorts of food and dabbled in many cuisines, but I must say Asian cuisine is one of my favorites. The incredible diversity across the various cuisines is truly inspiring.
 

It’s hard to believe that after cooking all these wonderful dishes, that I\’d never tried to cook with pork belly or garlic chives  What a revelation. The flavors are made for each other and the result was so good, I made it two nights in a row!

 
A quick note, garlic chives can easily be found in any Asian markets, and the ones with the garlic buds are worth serching out. Additionally, garlic scapes and garlic chives are not the same thing, but they are related.
 

 

 
Ingredients 
 
1/2 lb Pork Belly, cut into 1 inch pieces. 
1 Tbsp Soy sauce 
1 Tbsp Shaoxing Rice Wine
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 inch piece of Ginger Root, minced
4 – 6 Dried Chilies, depending on the heat you enjoy.
1/8 tsp White Pepper 
1 tsp Sugar
1 bunch Garlic Chives, sliced into 2 inch pieces. 
1 tsp Sesame oil 
 
Marinate your pork belly in the soy sauce and rice wine. I marinaded mine overnight, but that\’s not essential.
 
Then bring the marinaded pork belly up to room temp. Bring your oil to just smoking and add your pork and let it brown well. Use your skimmer or slotted spoon to remove the pork from the oil and pour off all but one Tbsp of oil. 
 
Put your wok back on the burner and sauté your garlic, ginger, chilies and eventually your garlic chives at the very end. 
 
Add back the pork belly and finish with sesame oil, white pepper and a bit of sugar.

Baked Egg Muffins

These are easy to make and very tasty. They are low carb and filling. 
 
You have numerous options for what to put inside, but just make sure your ham lining is a drier ham. Or if normal sliced ham, dap with paper towels to remove the moisture. You want the eggs to roast, not steam.
I’ve also made them with smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives and they are wonderful.
 
Ingredients
 
Olive Oil 
6- Eggs
6 slices of Parma or other dry Ham
6 Tbsp grated Parmesan, Gruyere or other cheese. 
Roasted Peppers, sliced. 
Salt and Black Pepper
6 cup non stick Muffin Tin
Baking sheet
 
Preheat oven to 400F, while you prepare the muffins. 
 
Grease the tin with a bit of olive oil. Line the individual muffins with the ham. A bit on the bottom and some around the sides. Add in the grated cheese and roasted peppers. 
 
Gently crack the egg into the tins, trying not to let it overflow. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper and top with a little more grated cheese, if desired.
 

Place on a baking sheet and into the oven for 15-17 minutes. You will know they’re done when they don’t jiggle with a slight shake of the baking sheet. 

 
Remove from oven and let them rest for a minute and gently remove with a spoon by loosening around the edges. Serve immediately.

Roasted Chicken with Tomatoes and Kalamata Olives

I modified this recipe from one I saw in BA. It’s excellent and very easy to make. While the ingredients are basic, the flavor is incredible. As mentioned below, adding feta or goats cheese is a nice way to give even more flavor, but it is very good both ways.
Ingredients 
2 lbs Chicken Thighs, boneless and skinless, trimmed of excess fat. 
10-12 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half. 
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives
6 cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced. 
4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Thyme 
2 tsp Calabrian Chili in oil. If this is not available you can sub with another chili powder like Aleppo or Korean chili powder. Just not too hot. 
Salt and Pepper 
1/2 cup Feta or Goats Cheese, crumbled. Optional
 
Begin by trimming the chicken and cutting each thigh in half. Salt and pepper both sides and allow to rest in refrigerator. 
 
Prepare your tomatoes and then add all ingredients and toss well and let the mixture marinade on the counter. 
Preheat oven to 425F. Place the tomatoes in one layer into the bottom of an oven safe pan (I used a Le Cruset) and arrange the chicken on top. Baste the chicken with the remaining sauce and into the oven uncovered for 40-50 minutes. 
Serve with crusty bread to soak up the juices. Rice can work as well. 
 
Note: You may also use goats cheese, however I’d suggest substituting oregano for the thyme if you choose this route.

Thai Chicken with Basil/ Gai Pad Prik Grapao- Top Thai Dish

Thais’ love fresh basil, and use many different types. Most of us are familiar with Sweet Basil, and this is easy to find in any market. However, it’s the “Holy Basil”, known as Bai Grapao, which is the most flavorful and authentic.

 

This basil has an anise type of flavor and gives this dish an amazing flavor and dimension that just doesn’t taste the same with sweet basil. If you can\’t find the holy basil, a good quality fresh Thai basil will work as well.
 
You should always use fresh basil for this recipe, as the dried variety will not give acceptable results, unless you can find the authentic dried Thai Grapao.
 
Ingredients

¾ lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, coarsely ground and marinated in about 1 Tbsp. of fish sauce, and 1 Tbsp. of light soy sauce.
1/2 sliced large Onion
1/2 sliced sweet Red Pepper
2 finely chopped Thai Chilies
2 Tbsp. of Peanut or another Vegetable oil
3 cloves chopped Garlic
1 tbsp chopped fresh Ginger Root
4 stalks of fresh Basil, pulled apart just before adding to the dish. Chopping fresh basil causes it to turn black while cooking.
 
Sauce, this will be added at the end.
 
1 Tbsp. Fish Sauce
1 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
1/2 tsp Dark Soy Sauce or Kecap
2 tsp. White Sugar, Brown Sugar or Palm Sugar
 
 
Start the heat under your wok, or a large skillet may also be used. After pan has heated for about 2 minutes, add the oil. Then quickly add the ginger and the garlic. Stir-fry for about 1 minute. 
 
Add the chicken and stir-fry until the pinkness is just gone. This takes only about 2 to 3 minutes. 
 
Add the onions and peppers, and cook until they soften slightly, then add the sauce and the fresh basil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the basil starts to release its wonderful fragrance. Serve with steamed Jasmine white or brown rice.

Shanghai Shrimp with Rice Cake (Chao Nian Gao)

This is a dish that I often used to order at Din Tai Fung in LA. Along with their rightfully famous xiaolongbao. I had tried it a few times in China, but not with shrimp.
 

 

After tracking down the rice cakes (who knew there were so many types and shapes), it was a bit of a learning curve to figure our how to prep them for the wok. 
 
I finally settled on boiling them in water with a splash of fish sauce. The big take away, was it only took about 2 minutes for them to cook and they were done when they floated. Additionally once you drain them and start stir frying everything else, they tend to stick together, but quickly release once they hit the wok.
 
Ingredients
 
3 Tbsp Vegetable oil 
1 cup Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced 
2 cups Bok Choy, hard ends removed and cubed and sliced
2 Green Onion, chopped into 1-2 inch pieces. 
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 cups Rice Cake, see note. 
10-12 large raw Shrimp, cleaned and peeled, tails intact. 
1 Tbsp Shaoxing Wine
 
Sauce Mixture:
2 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce 
1 tsp Dark Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 tsp Black Vinegar
1 tsp Sesame Oil
2 tsp Sugar 
 
Heat pan with vegetable oil, add green onion, garlic, shiitake and bok choy and stir fry until they wilt. 
 
Add rice cake and stir fry until the rice cakes are cooked through and flexible Add shrimp and stir fry until shrimp just curl. Add a splash of Shaohsing wine to deglaze the wok and then add your sauce mixture and stir fry until rice cakes are soft. Serve with steamed vegetables. 
 

 

 
Note: If rice cakes are dried or vacuum packed, they will need soaking for three hours. For a faster method, cook for 2 minutes in boiling broth or until they float. Drain and reserve.

Pan Pizza, quick and easy.

There are so many options to make your own pizza. I really enjoy my 72 hour cold proof pizza dough, but sometimes I want something faster.

The pizza dough in this recipe is more like a focaccia texture, but that makes it perfect for a pan pizza. It is a recipe from the amazing Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC. It is from his book “My Bread”.

Ingredients 
3 3/4 cups/500 grams Bread Flour
2 1/2 tsp Instant or Active Dry Yeast
3/4 tsp Salt
3/4 tsp Sugar
1 1/3 cups/300 grams Water, at room temperature. 
2 Tbsp Olive Oil 
Mix all of your dry ingredients together in a large bowl, slowly add your water and mix well with a spoon or spatula until well mixed. About 1 minute. Cover and allow to rise for two hours. 
Turn it out onto a floured surface and form into a ball and allow to rise for another 30 minutes covered with a damp cloth. 
Preheat your oven to 500°F. Once the dough has finished its second proof, oil a half sheet pan well and gently stretch the dough into a loaf shape and place the dough into the pan and use your fingers to stretch it into a thin even layer and a little bit of thicker crust around the edges.
Add whatever ingredients you desire and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until well browned. Slide it onto a cutting board, and slice into squares. 
Note: The pizza above with Parma Ham, Mozzarella and Arugula was particularly good.