Watercress Composed Salad with Citrus Dressing ~ March Daring Cooks


I haven’t been living in one place for a long enough period of to really concentrate on joining any cook-alongs. It’s been over 6 months with this back and forth stuff! I’m so excited t his month to not join one of The Daring Kitchen’s challenges, but TWO!

For March’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge, Ruth, Shelley and Sawsan asked us to totally veg out! We made salads and dressings, letting the sky be the limit as we created new flavors and combinations that reflect our own unique tastes.

I’ve always made my own dressing. Probably because my mother always made her own dressing and my grandmother always made her own dressing. I will occasionally buy a dressing in a bottle, if I want a quick marinade for something, but otherwise I just find them … hmmm, ICKY! Thick and gloppy and off-tasting.

This challenge was right up my alley!

Many, many moons ago, Erie and I went to a Spanish restaurant in Queens (the name escapes me at the moment and perhaps she will chime in and let us know). We had the most wonderful composed salad – and I was surprised as I’m not usually a fan of composed salads.

Since then, this is my go to company is coming, steak themed dinner, salad. It’s simple with lots of great ingredients.

  • 1 bunch watercress
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1 can hearts of palm
  • 1 shallot
  • juice from 1/2 an orange, lime and lemon
  • 3 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 t oregano
  • s&p

NOTE: I used plum tomatoes, use whatever tomatoes make you happy.


Wash watercress thoroughly and cut off stems. Place watercress on a platter

Quarter hard boiled eggs into wedges.  Scatter over watercress.

If using Roma tomatoes, cut into wedges. If using other tomatoes, cut into chunks. Scatter over watercress.

Slice hearts of palm into 1/4″ rings. Again, scatter over watercress.

Thinly slice shallot into rings. Scatter over salad.

Dressing salad

In a bowl, whisk together citrus juices, oregano and s&p to taste. While whisking, stream in olive oil. When ready to serve salad, drizzle dressing over the top.

Hasselback Potatoes with Bacon

Potatoes Finished
A side dish. A side dish. Don’t you just find yourself making the same ones over and over again? Rice, potatoes, orzo (no comments, Marg!) I find that particularly true with POTATOES … mashed, baked, roasted, baked, mashed, roasted, and roasted again … B-O-R-I-N-G.
If this dinner was going all the way, the potato had to go all the way as well.  I had seen Nigella make these years ago and had tagged them in Forever Summer to try one of these days.
Always to be one to gild the lily, I added BACON. Bacon makes everything better!
  • 2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • 2 slices thick cut bacon, cut crosswise into 9 pieces
  • 2+ tablespoons butter, melted
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375º.

After peeling potatoes, place them in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning.

Lay the bacon pieces on a baking sheet and freeze until hard, about 30 minutes. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

Cutting Potatoes

Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and carefully transfer to a baking sheet; let cool slightly.

NOTE: This just gets them started cooking a little faster.

One at a time place potato lengthwise on a cutting board. Place wooden spoons lengthwise along the potato. Cut slices across the short side of the potato, about 1/8 inch apart. The wooden spoons will prevent your knife from cutting completely through the potato. You don’t want to cut through to the bottom of the potato.

Stuffed with Bacon

Once cut,place potatoes on a baking sheet and insert 3 pieces of the frozen bacon into the cuts of each potato, spacing the bacon evenly and letting it poke out of the top. Melt 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter and brush generously over the potatoes and in the cuts. Reserve any excess butter for basting. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper.

NOTE: Okay, so I used more than THREE pieces in each potato. THREE? Seriously?

Transfer the potatoes to the oven and bake until the outsides are browned and crisp, about 40 minutes, basting halfway through with the reserved melted butter.

Season with salt and pepper.

Baked Orzo with Vegetables

Ready to serve

So you move to a new place (or are in the process of moving) and you know one person. Granted it’s a person you’ve known since you were 10 or 11, and the sole reason for moving to this far, far away, freezing cold land. And he knows plenty of people – though you wouldn’t necessarily think so listening to him at times!

Now, I am by nature, basically, a very shy person (Now, stop laughing. I can hear you from here), and don’t make friends easily (No, really, stop laughing!) Always afraid I won’t fit in or that people won’t like me. That shyness can at times be perceived as snobbiness, but really it isn’t.

So, how to make a good impression?

Well, when you’re a foodie, it’s simple, FEED THEM! But what? When you have big eaters and small eaters and flesh eaters and non-flesh eaters and who doesn’t like this, that or the other thing, it ain’t easy!

This particular night I decided I wanted to try not ONE, not TWO, but THREE new recipes. I should have had my head examined. Not that anything was particularly difficult, but it was the first time out of the gate with these so there was an unknown factor. There was lots of chopping and grating and mincing and almost every bowl and utensil in the kitchen was in the sink by the time things started to cook, and I couldn’t have done any of this without my favorite kitchen sidekick. Thank you, dear man.

But, truly, there is something to be said for a partner who will roll up his sleeves, pick up a knife and do any task barked asked of him, and then wash all the dishes!

So, this recipe for my dear, new friend, Lisa, the vegetarian, was adapted from both Yotam Ottolenghi and the Smitten Kitchen. I came across this recipe a couple of months ago and knew I had to make this for her! It was fabulous!

Serves 6

  • 2 large eggplant, (about 2 pounds) cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 1/2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 celery stalks, in a 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 ozs orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 t tomato paste
  • 2 1/4 C vegetable stock
  • 1 to 3 T fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 t grated lemon zest or more to taste, up to the zest of a whole lemon
  • 6 ozs mozzarella, firmer is better here, cut into 1/3-inch dice
  • 3/4 C parmesan, grated
  • 4 medium tomatoes, diced

NOTE: The original recipe was for 4. We were going to be 6, so I made a 1 1/2 times recipe which reflects in the measurements above.  Also, I lessened the number of carrots and amount of celery

Preheat your oven to 400°F.


Sprinkle your eggplant generously with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. I used this time to get the rest of my ingredients ready. After 30 minutes, rinse it well and pat it dry on towels.

Place eggplant cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and a splash of olive oil. Roast until golden brown at the edges, about 20, 25 minutes.

NOTE: The original recipe calls for frying the eggplant. I really couldn’t deal with frying the eggplant, so I put the cubes on a cookie sheet, salt and peppered them, a splosh of olive oil and let them roast until golden brown at the edges. About 20 minutes.

Carrots and celery

While the eggplant is roasting, heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the celery and carrots and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat.

Toasting orzo

Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two minutes more. Off the heat, add the oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, tomatoes, eggplant, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon table salt, many grinds of black pepper and the stock and mix well.

NOTE: The original recipe called for putting the tomatoes in thin slices over the top before baking. I chopped them up and mixed them in.  Instead of mixing everything in the pan I put everything in a large bowl to mix. By this time, I had used EVERY pot, pan, mixing bowl and counter space in our kitchen, so what was one more! (Oh, my dear dish washer, you are so appreciated for putting up with a Tasmanian Devil in the kitchen!)

Ready to bake

Transfer mixture to an 8×11-inch (about 2 quarts) ovenproof baking dish (I used a 3 quart dish here).

Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, then bake 20 minutes without the foil. (You can increase the ration of foil-on to foil-off time if you don’t like a crunchy pasta lid.) Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

NOTE: We had more folks over the next night and there was enough left over to serve the same meal again! I just stirred in a little more mozzarella and poured in a little vegetable stock to make sure it didn’t dry out too much in the oven.

Fattoush Salad #SundaySupper

Ready to serve

One of the things I long for during the long, cold, dreary winter is meat on the grill.

Nothing smells better. Nothing tastes better. Well, only if you’re a carnivore at heart, of course.

One of my favorite things on the grill is lamb … lamb chops, to be exact. And to bring this end-of-the-winter, let’s-celebrate-the-spring feast together for me nothing is better than a Fattoush Salad from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson.

The salad is bright and fresh. Great, simple ingredients, simply dressed.

To make the salad gluten free,  just skip the last step and don’t add the pita bread.

This is another one of those do-ahead dishes that just gets better as it sits waiting for you to devour it! And devour it you will!

  • 2 pita breads
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise and chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • Generous handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 6-8 T olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt
  • 1 t Sumac powder to sprinkle over finished salad


NOTE: I used an English cucumber and had to cut it into eighths, not quarters. I find they’re much less watery.


Gently, but thoroughly, mix the chopped red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, parsley and garlic together.


Dress the salad with the olive oil, lemon juice and a little salt.  Refrigerate until almost ready to serve.

You want to have the pita bread still slightly warm and crisp, so this final step should be done just before serving.  Split the pita bread in half and toast or put in the oven for five minutes.  They should be crisp, but not completely brittle.

Using scissors, snip, or just break apart with your hands, the toasted pita bread into medium to small pieces and stir into the salad mixture.

NOTE: This was a lot of salad for two people. Knowing I’d be using the rest of this salad for lunch the next day, I sprinkled the pita shards on top so they would be eaten then and wouldn’t be a yucky, soggy mess in the salad the next day.


Sprinkle over the sumac so it is noticeable but not too thick.

This is part of another wonder Sunday Supper. This week’s theme ‘Free for All’ hosted by Beate at The Not So Cheesy Kitchen. Check out the rest of the posts if you get a chance!

  • Dairy, Egg, Gluten, Nut & Soy Free Brown Rice Breakfast Pudding by girlichef
  • Dairy & Nut and Sugar Free Blueberry Tangerine Muffins by Vintage Kitchen
  • Dairy, Egg, Gluten, Nut, and Soy Free Homemade Mango Jam Recipe by Masala Herb

Main Courses




sunday supper Sneak Peek: 45+ Fabulous Summer Berry Recipes for #SundaySupper

Roasted Baby Artichokes

Ready to serve

Love artichokes. Love, love, LOVE artichokes.

And a stuffed artichoke is enough to send me over the moon.

When I saw the recipe for Roasted Baby Artichokes in Family Table by Michael Romano and Karen Stabiner, a collection of recipes from the staff of Danny Meyers’ restaurants, I immediately wanted to try it.

It should be noted, I already do have a favorite artichoke recipe from Lucinda Scala Quinn that I make constantly, but wanted to try something from my newly acquired cookbook.

Oh, wait, did I say newly acquired? Oops, no, ummmm, not newly, errrr, no, really, had it for ages. See, there’s a moratorium on NEW cookbooks, don’t ya know. So, I would never, ever … wink, wink, nudge, nudge …

Anyway, back to the artichokes …

It’s Mother’s Day. My Mom and I have decided to share the cooking for the day. We both really hate to eat out on holidays, love to be in the kitchen together and thought it would be fun to do. Mom made the chicken, Flat Roasted Chicken, another fav from my darling Lucinda, I was making a potato roast, another fav from Every Day Food and Mini New York Cheesecakes for dessert.

While shopping, my Mom saw and bought baby artichokes, the perfect side dish for us, and the hunt was on for a recipe.

Try this one, I says. It looks great, I says. Okay, send it to me and that’s what I’ll make, says my very indulgent, trusting Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Thanks for everything. And thank you for going through all the trouble this recipe caused.

  • ½ C olive oil
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) fresh lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ¼ t red pepper flakes
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 12 baby artichokes (about 2 pounds)
  • 2/3 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 C dried bread crumbs, preferably homemade or panko
  • 1/3 C coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Place the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and pepper flakes in a shallow 9×13 dish or bowl large enough to accommodate the artichokes.

Prep the artichokes: Slice the woody end of the stem. With a vegetable peeler, peel the outer layer of the stem. With a sharp knife, slice the top 1/2 inch of each artichoke. Peel away three or four layers of the tough outer leaves until you find lighter green layers. Slice the artichokes in half lengthwise. Remove the choke, if any.

NOTE: OMG, according to my Mom, this took a ridiculously long time. You end up with a HUGE pile of leaves and stems and teeny tiny bits of artichoke halves.

Place in the vinaigrette immediately to minimize discoloration. Allow artichokes to marinate for about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.


Remove the artichokes from the vinaigrette and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Reserve any remaining vinaigrette.

NOTE: This makes a lot of vinaigrette.

Roast the artichokes for 30 minutes, or until fork tender when pierced all the way through.


Meanwhile, mix together the cheese, bread crumbs and parsley in a small, plus 2 tablespoons of the reserved vinaigrette.

NOTE: We added a lot more than 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. The bread crumb mixture was very, very dry and it really seemed to need more. Personally, I thought the breadcrumb mixture was too cheesey, needed a little lemon juice or zest, and more parsley, but my Mom and I both try recipes straight from the pages the first time and then play with it.

Stuffing artichokes

Spoon the bread crumb mixture onto each artichoke, then roast for 15 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are golden.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Makes four to six side dish servings.

NOTE: Nope, not again. Dealing with the baby artichokes took any and all joy out of this recipe. Frozen artichokes make life easier. The stuffing, at least for us, needed a lot of changing. Lucinda, Rose’s Artichokes remain and will remain my absolute fav.

There are so many great recipes in this book. I can’t wait to try another, just not this one!

Cranberry Sauce


I have never quite understood the appeal of canned cranberry sauce. I know people who swear by it … whose families would call for a mutiny if there was not a jelled, can shaped blob on the table when turkey is served. Okay, you don’t want to go through the trouble of making your own, at least mush the canned stuff up a bit so it isn’t can shaped, rings and all!

My dad’s family has always been very fond of a cranberry relish, which is raw and really a bit tart for my delicate palate … hush up, all you naysayers, I am SO delicate!

My bestie Ernie gave me this recipe, and she gives it to me EVERY year, as I always misplace the scrap of paper I wrote it on, AND I ask her the same question every year after she sends it to me and I have promised to keep the recipe in a safe place!

This is so simple and so tasty and it freezes really well too! It’s best made days in advance so the flavors have a chance to meld. And besides, before you get down to the hysteria of cooking a Thanksgiving meal, this can be done and tucked into the fridge and you have a (false) sense of security that you’ve begun your cooking!

  • 2 bags (24 ozs) cranberries
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 3/4 C water
  • 2 C sugar


Preheat oven to 350

Ready for oven

Stir all ingredients together. Pour into an 8×8 Pyrex dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour.

NOTE: I have stirred this in the Pyrex dish itself and in a bowl. If you’re a bit of a messy cook, like me, the bowl is easier!


Let cool completely. Refrigerate.

NOTE: This will look very loose when it comes out, and you’ll want to call Ernie, as I do EVERY year, and say IT’S TOO LOOSE. But, once it cools it will thicken, I promise. You can also easily halve this recipe if necessary.

Orzo with Brown Butter and Parmigiano Reggiano

I know. I know. It’s the evil ORZO. Those that know me know this is the ingredient that strikes fear in my heart and soul.

As soon as it gets a slight bit colder, I’ll make the lamb and orzo dish that has me shaking in fear of ORZO. But for now, let’s just say, when I was a far less confident cook, I followed a recipe my Uncle gave which he mistakenly told me FOUR boxes of orzo. Yes, 4. In a single pot. Naturally, it boiled over … all over everything. Can you say Strega Nona?

But the good folks at Fine Cooking Magazine used two words far too enticing for me to pass up … BROWN BUTTER.

How could I possibly pass up a recipe with BROWN BUTTER, even if it means confronting my demons.

And this was well worth the cold sweats and shaking that went on while measuring the orzo. Nutty, with almost the consistency of risotto but without all the stirring. Great side dish for chicken or fish. Personally, because this is on the heavy and substantial side, the main should be something on the lighter side … but that’s just me!


  • 1 1/2 C lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 C water
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 C orzo
  • 1/3 C dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Thinly sliced fresh chives (optional)

In a 1- to 2-quart saucepan, bring the chicken broth and 1/2 cup water to a simmer over medium-high heat.

In a 3-quart heavy-duty saucepan, cook the butter over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter turns golden brown and smells nutty, about 2 minutes.

Add the orzo and stir with a wooden spoon to coat well. Cook until the orzo just begins to turn a light golden color, about 2 minutes.

Pour in the wine and stir until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add the simmering broth mixture, stir, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the orzo is just tender, about 12 minutes; the mixture may still be wet but will set up.

Stir the orzo, season to taste with salt and a generous amount of pepper, and mix in the Parmigiano. Cover and let rest 5 minutes. Add the chives (if using) and serve.

NOTE: Okay, so easy was that!? Nothing to be afraid of … they’re just little pellets of pasta …


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