Pasta Estivi


From my venerable old 1983 cookbook, Beard on Pasta, by James Beard.  Makes a great summer meal.

Here is the recipe in James Beard’s words, with my changes in parentheses.  Not saying that I know better than James Beard, but I have found I like it better with a few changes.

_MG_2882ingredientsPasta Estivi
(2-4 servings)
2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and cut into sixths (I dice my tomatoes and I don’t peel them)
1 medium onion, peeled and ringed (I slice mine very thinly and then dice)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (I use red wine vinegar)
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound green noodles (I use whatever kind of pasta I have available–I prefer linguine)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, if available
Chopped parsley (lots!)
Mix the tomatoes, onion, olive oil, and vinegar.  Sprinkle with lots of pepper, and let sit for at least an hour, to give the onions a chance to lose their sharpness.
Cook the pasta in boiling water, and drain.  Spoon the cold sauce over the hot pasta, and sprinkle with fresh basil and parsley. (I also add crumbled Parmesan).





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Roasted Lemon and Tomato Salad


I guess if I could only have one flavor, one taste, for the rest of my life, I would choose lemons.  Lemons are as comfortable in sweet dishes as they are in savory dishes.

This is the first time I’ve ever had a lemon salad, though.  I loved it–the flavors are so fresh and it’s the epitome of summer.  I ate it by itself, though I think it would be delicious with something as simple as a perfectly grilled chicken breast.  Or a salmon filet.

I found the recipe on Pinterest, and made it from this blog, Platings & Pairings.


These are the ingredients.  If the mint looks a little bedraggled, blame the late August heat, which has just about done for my mint for this year.  I managed to get enough to make this salad, but only just.  I actually think I would add more, if I had it.


To start with, you need to seed the lemons and slice them paper thin.  This is harder than it looks, but the thinner you make them, the better.  You blanch them for a bit first (2 minutes, but I will cook them about 4 minutes next time I make this), mix them up with some olive oil and oregano and salt, and roast them in the oven.  They will get soft, and you will be able to eat the peel, which is what gives this dish its…appeal.  Ha.

After that, mix the lemons with the remaining ingredients and eat at room temperature.  I will definitely be making this again.  It is the very definition of refreshing.

Here are the directions from Platings & Pairings:

  • 2 lemons, halved crosswise, seeds removed, and cut into paper-thin slices
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2⅔ cups baby tomatoes, yellow or red or a mixture of both, halved
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ⅓ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ cup mint leaves
  • ½ small red onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced into half rings (about ½ cup)
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
  2. Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add lemon slices and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain well. Combine 1 tablespoon oil, sugar, oregano and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Add lemon slices and mix well to combine. Spread the lemon slices out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil
  3. or parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  4. Combine the tomatoes, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper, vinegar parsley, mint and onions in a bowl. Add the lemon slices and stir gently to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired with additional salt and pepper. Serve immediately._MG_2764closeup
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Green Salsa–a jalapeño emulsion




A couple of years ago, I wrote about my three favorite homemade salsas.  Now, thanks to my son Bryan, I’m about to add another to that list.

When he still lived in Texas, Bryan became pretty much addicted to a smooth, creamy green salsa that he first tasted when he lived in Austin, and later discovered was duplicated by the regional supermarket giant, HEB, under the name “That Green Sauce”.  It was one of the things he missed the most when he moved to Indiana in January.

I tasted the sauce on his recommendation, and I liked it, but I had never tasted it before.  It is not a San Antonio preparation, but it is well-known and beloved in Austin.  HEB’s “That Green Sauce” is delicious but pricey, coming in at around $3.50 for a small jar, or at least it was the last time I bought it.  But Bryan, removed by roughly a thousand miles from his HEB source, and being a child of the Internet, surfed around from his living room in Bloomington and found a recipe for a likely substitute, and being a really good cook, he tried it.  Then he told me how to make it, and started sharing it with friends.  He made some in the kitchen of our rented vacation house in Tennessee during our recent family reunion, and now I have it on good authority that more than one batch has been made in a New Jersey kitchen by yet another expatriate Texan, my brother.

I just made my first batch, and it is both easy and inexpensive.

This green sauce is, in cooking parlance, just an emulsion of fresh jalapeños.  You take a big batch of fresh peppers, seed them, cover them with water, and boil them until they are soft.  Then you drain them, blend them in a blender with a little salt, and pour warm oil through the blender’s feed tube in a steady stream until you get a nice thick but pourable sauce.  And that’s all there is to that.

The peppers do have to be seeded, and therein lies the toughest part of this recipe–overcoming the powers of the capsaicin in the peppers.  Good ventilation is key while seeding the peppers.  Let’s just say that I discovered that my kitchen sink area does not have particularly good ventilation, as I coughed and sneezed my way _MG_2493through removing the seeds from a pound of jalapeños.  There is a reason that pepper spray is effective.  I did not wear gloves, and by being careful not to touch the insides of the peppers managed to avoid burning hands.  To seed the peppers, I used a curved-bladed grapefruit knife, pictured here.  It worked well, but according to my brother they make a tool just for this purpose.  I don’t have one though.

_MG_2496After the p_MG_2492eppers are seeded, they are boiled, drained, blended, and combined with the oil.



As to spiciness, it’s all a crapshoot.  Even if you seed the peppers, if the peppers you have are really hot, your salsa will be too.  But I have noticed that it doesn’t seem to be as hot after the first bite.

Here’s the recipe, as told to me by my son.

Green Salsa
makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 lb. fresh jalapeño peppers, seeds and membranes removed
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 cup oil, warmed

Place seeded peppers in a saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and cook for 20-30 minutes.  Peppers will be soft.  Drain.

Place the drained peppers in a blender container.  Add the salt.  Turn on the blender and puree the peppers completely.

Through the hole in the top of the lid, pour 1/2 cup warmed oil (a neutral oil is best) in a steady stream while blender is on.  The sauce will become thicker.

Eat with some good tortilla chips and prepare to be warmed from the inside out.  Store in refrigerator.


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Mango Cayenne Ice Cream




I’m all about the ice cream.  If I could live in a relatively healthful manner and just eat ice cream, that would be my idea of heaven.

I used to like savory food more than sweet, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed more of a sweet tooth.  But now and then I like my hot and spicy food too.  This recipe gives me both.

My friend Jude sent me the link for this recipe, because we had just had a mango salad and  mangos were on our radar, and she knows that if it says “spicy”, I’m going to love it.  I am also very, very fond of salt on sweet, and this ice cream is garnished with chunky sea salt.  I knew this one would be a winner.

For this you will need an ice cream maker.  I don’t use mine too often, but I keep the work bowl in the freezer for just such an occasion as this.  I had most of the ingredients on hand, and it came together beautifully.

Mango Cayenne Ice Cream (from Chin Deep)_MG_1220e

1 (14 oz.) can full fat coconut milk, chilled in refrigerator
2 perfectly ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 large banana, peeled and sliced
juice of 1/2 large, juicy lime
1/3 cup raw honey
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
fresh mint leaves (garnish)
coarse pink Himalayan sea salt (garnish)

Place coconut milk in a large mixing bowl. Place mango and banana in the bowl of a blender.


Puree until smooth and add fruit puree to coconut milk in bowl. Add lime juice, honey and cayenne. Whisk until smooth and evenly blended. _MG_1221ePour into an electric ice cream maker and freeze according to the directions that come with your machine. (I allowed mine to go for 1/2 hour.) Transfer ice cream to a container with a tight fitting lid and place in freezer until ready to serve.

Garnish with fresh mint leaves and a sprinkle of the coarse, pink, Himalayan sea salt.



Note on my changes: I used mangos from a jar, because that is what I had–I used one 20 oz. jar, drained.  I did not have a large, juicy lime to use half of, but I did have a shriveled dryish lime, so I used the whole thing.  I used the entire complement of cayenne, but if you’re squeamish or wimpy you can reduce the amount.  I used red sea salt instead of pink, because the color of the pink didn’t stand out.  I don’t think it matters, taste wise.



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Gooey Butter Cake


_MG_4249 When I was young, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and there was no Internet, I got this recipe the way you did back then–you tasted the dish that someone else had made and asked for the recipe, which they would give you on a 3×5 card if you were lucky.  It was called “Gooey Butter Cake” and I didn’t know that there was a history behind it.

Now, thanks to the Internet and Wikipedia, I have discovered that Gooey Butter Cake is something of a thing in St. Louis, where it is said to have originated.  I found out that in many places, it is called “Ooey Gooey Butter Cake”, which is one “ooey” too many for me.  There are a couple of basic versions–one completely from scratch and one based on a cake mix, and there are lots of variations that I never even thought of, like pumpkin and lemon and strawberry.  There is also chocolate, which sounds awesome… because Chocolate.

My ancient, tattered recipe was of the cake mix version, and since I really wasn’t in a baking mood today, I went with that one.

_MG_4257Gooey Butter Cake is not for the faint of heart, the diabetic, or those who don’t like their desserts SWEET.  Because this thing is sweet, and has lots of butter, cream cheese, and a whole pound of powdered sugar.  I’m going to cut it, put it in the freezer, and enjoy it in moderation over a long period of time.  That’s the theory.

According to Wikipedia, Gooey Butter Cake is traditionally served in place of something like a coffeecake, and not as a true dessert.

It is, true to its name, soft and gooey on the inside, but it’s easy to cut and serve.

One nice thing about this dessert is that it’s very easy to make.

Gooey Butter Cake
makes one 9×13 inch cake

For the cake:
1 yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1 stick butter, softened or melted

For the topping:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the cake: Mix together cake ingredients and press in a greased 9×13 inch pan.  Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes, or until slightly browned.

For the topping:
Mix together topping ingredients and pour over cake mixture.  Bake 10-15 minutes (note: I ended up baking it for 20-25 minutes.  It needs to be just past the jiggle stage, but not too far.  You’ll have to watch it carefully) Sprinkle with more powdered sugar when done._MG_4247

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As the result of a totally new and completely unexpected bout with extremely painful TMJ dysfunction, I’ve been eating soup.  A lot of soup.  More soup than I ever thought I’d eat in a month.  My jaw pain has completely stopped me from being able to do food related things like, you know, chewing.  And biting.  With luck, the oral surgeon that I’m seeing tomorrow will be able to do something to fix it.  Meanwhile…soup.

In my forays through every cream soup recipe I own, I have distilled my likes down to two in particular–Szechuan Carrot Soup, and Mushroom Parsley Soup.  I have just finished a small vat of the carrot soup so I’m a little tired of it at the moment, but this mushroom soup is on its second batch.  And I still have enough for tomorrow.

I came up with this recipe on my own, and I modestly believe it is the best soup I’ve ever eaten.  With all those mushrooms, it’s a real umami feast.

Mushroom Parsley Soup
(serves 2 as a main dish)_MG_2173e

1 leek, sliced
1/2 medium onion, sliced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 large bunch parsley, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 lemon

Melt butter in medium saucepan.  Add leeks and onion and cook until soft.  Add mushrooms.  Cook together for about 5 minutes.  Add chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 20 minutes.

_MG_2177eAdd grated peel of the lemon and all of its juice, and parsley and cook 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Blend with a stick blender, blender, or food processor.  Add salt and black pepper to taste.  If soup is too thick, thin with chicken stock, milk, or cream to taste.




Szechuan Carrot Soup

(serves 4)Carrot soup

1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
a 3/4-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and sliced thin
1/8 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1 cup coconut milk

Garnish: 1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a large heavy saucepan cook onion, celery, and garlic in oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until onion is softened. Add carrots, gingerroot, red pepper flakes, and broth and simmer, covered, until carrots are very tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and in a blender purée mixture in batches (use caution when blending hot liquids). Return soup to pan and heat over low heat until hot, being careful not to let boil.

Serve soup drizzled decoratively with sour cream mixture.

For both of these soups, I use my stick blender and puree them right in the saucepan they cook in.  Very handy, and no blender to clean up.


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Easy Tomato Basil Soup



Y’all are going to be really happy with me for sharing this with you.

For years now, I’ve been making a really delicious tomato soup, that was all kinds of trouble but it was worth it.  It involved fresh tomatoes, and peeling them, and cooking them, and forcing them through a sieve.  It was worth it.  But the other day I was hungry for soup and I decided to make an easy version.  Turns out, though it’s not as good as the original, it’s just almost as good.  And it takes no time at all.

Here are the ingredients.  Seriously, that’s all.  And you don’t even need to shop because you probably have all these things, or they are easy to keep on hand.

_MG_0879Here’s my easy-peasy recipe, and you are going to love it.

Easy Tomato Basil Soup
Makes 2 large mugs

2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 large onion, diced
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes, with their juice
1 small can evaporated milk*
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, or to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan and add onions.  Cook until translucent.  Add remaining ingredients and salt to taste.  Heat to a simmer, then blend the soup in a blender or, even easier, with a stick blender right in the saucepan.
*To my daughter Julie, who always complains that my recipes never have can sizes: I already threw the can away and I’m not digging in the recycling.  Look at the relative sizes and use your imagination and your excellent cooking skills.  I love you.

If you’re feeling daring, adding about a tablespoon (or so) of this makes this soup even yummier. I highly recommend this addition.  I promise you.




If you think this soup seems a little thick, you can add more milk, or cream, or stock, or even water.


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Pumpkin “Brownies”



Because ’tis the season for pumpkin, I’m resurrecting an older post.  Actually, this recipe was on this blog within a post that had several recipes in it, but I felt it deserved its own post, since these are just so special.  I make them every year.

_MG_7170And every year I ask myself why I only make them in the fall.  They’re quick and easy, SO moist, and they will keep for a long time in the refrigerator, should you be able to resist them longer than I can.  I know they freeze well without the frosting, but this time I’m going to try freezing a few with the frosting on, and see how that works.

You can make these really thick, in a 9×9 inch pan, or a bit thinner in a 9×13 inch pan.  It’s really your choice, but I like the thinner ones better.  These are not cakey.  They are dense and rich and they have more butter in them than you really want to know about, plus four eggs and a lot of sugar.

Maybe that’s why I don’t make them more often, after all.

I got this recipe from my friend Andrea and I have no idea where she got it, so I’ll just give her the credit.

Pumpkin Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup melted butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup cooked pumpkin
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup soft butter (stick works best)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Beat eggs well. Beat in sugar, butter, pumpkin and vanilla. Add flour, mixing well; then add spices. Spread brownie mixture into a lightly greased 9″ x 9″ pan. (For thinner brownies, use a 9″ x 13″ pan) Bake at 350 deg. for 30-35 minutes. Cool cake and frost using cream cheese frosting.

For Frosting:

Soften cream cheese and butter at room temperature; blend together. Add vanilla and powdered sugar; beat well. Spread over cool brownies. Makes enough frosting for a 9″ x 13″ pan._MG_7169


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Sausage Kolaches



_MG_6984 title


Made these and just ate two of them at one sitting.  I’m feeling slightly bloated, but they were awesome.

Even though I’ve been a Texan all my life I came late to the kolache scene.  My family was surely the only one in Texas that never stopped at the Czech Stop on the way to Dallas and parts north–I don’t know why, but I feel the loss and the years of kolacheless-ness.

A friend’s husband made fruit kolaches and I think those are the first ones I’d ever had, but now I’m a fan of them all.  Buc-Ee’s has some delightful sausage kolaches, if you’re ever in the mood.


I found jalapeño-flavored wieners yesterday and decided to try my hand at kolaches.  It was ridiculously easy to make these.  I tried the recipe on this blog; their recipe says it is adapted from one by the Pastry Queen.  I have all her books so I may go back and make the original unadapted recipe, but probably there’s no reason to mess with perfection.

As a side note, I baked these for 25 minutes and when I make them the next time, I will reduce that by 5 or 6 minutes.

Sausage Kolaches


  • For the dough:
  • 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup water, warmed to 110-115F
  • 1 cup milk, warmed to 110-115F
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled to warm
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5/8 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 3/4 – 5 1/2 cups flour
  • For the filling:
  • Grated cheddar, optional
  • Fresh jalapeno slices, optional
  • Smoked sausage, cut into 3-4 inch pieces and halved lengthwise if very thick


  1. Sprinkle the yeast over warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Let proof for 5 minutes, until foamy/creamy.
  2. Turn the mixer to low and add the milk, melted butter, 2 eggs, sugar, and salt until mixed thoroughly.
  3. Add the flour in two batches (start with the low amount) and mix only until just combined. The dough will be tacky but should be firm enough to crawl up the dough hook. Add additional flour as necessary.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 1-2 hours, until dough has doubled.
  5. Punch down and refrigerate covered overnight or for at least 4 hours.
  6. Divide dough into ~2.5 inch balls (I weighed mine at 2.5 oz each) and set on a lined baking sheet.
  7. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
  8. Flatten each dough ball and top with a couple slices of jalapeno and pinch of grated cheddar (if using) and place the sausage on top.
  9. Wrap the dough around the fillings, pinching the edges together and placing seam-side down on the baking sheet.
  10. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes, while preheating oven to 375.
  11. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until browned.
  12. Let the kolache cool for 20 minutes and serve.
  13. Leftovers will keep tightly wrapped in the fridge for 3-4 days and can also be frozen.


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Blackberry Cheesecake Bars




These are blackberry cheesecake bars.  But they could just as easily have been blueberry, or raspberry, or peach, strawberry or apricot, or just about any other thing.  Because the fruit is supplied by jam or preserves, and those come in just about any flavor you can imagine.  I’m thinking right now…jalapeño cheesecake bars, maybe, using jalapeño jelly.  Hm…something to think about for next time.


The base is shortbread, and very easy.  I make it in the food processor.  The important thing to remember is to process it just enough so that the butter moistens all the other ingredients and starts to clump together.  This will ensure that the crust will hold together.  Bake the crust, then spread the warm crust with the jelly/jam/preserves of your choice, then pour over the cheesecake filling.  I make the cheesecake batter in the food processor while the crust is baking, and I don’t even wash it out in between.  After the layers are on, just bake the whole thin_MG_6659eg another 30 minutes or so, until the cheesecake layer is set.

This recipe comes from the sadly-now-defunct magazine Gourmet.  Blueberry was the original filling for these.

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

16 oz cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup blueberry or other fruit preserves

Shortbread Base
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

For Shortbread Base:

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces. In a food processor process all ingredients until mixture begins to form small lumps. Sprinkle mixture into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan and with a metal spatula press evenly onto bottom. Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden, about 20 minutes. While shortbread is baking, prepare topping.

For Topping:

In a bowl [or food processor] whisk cream cheese until smooth and whisk in eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Evenly spread preserves over hot shortbread and pour cream-cheese mixture over it. Bake in middle of oven until slightly puffed, about 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan and cut into 24 bars. Bar cookies keep, covered and chilled, 3 days.




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