Curried Carrots and Peppers

Curried Carrots and Peppers

Curried Carrots and PepperIndian food is often my go to comfort food. When the warm intense spices fill the kitchen with the scents of cumin, coriander, and mustard seeds, I feel at home. I also don’t feel guilty after eating a big meal because most of what I make from this unique spicy cuisine, is healthy (unlike other comfort foods like mac and cheese and mashed potatoes that I also adore). Indian food isn’t usually considered diet friendly because Indian restaurants often use a lot of oil and cream. And the Samosa, arguably the most popular Indian dish/appetizer, is basically potatoes and vegetables fried in dough. But since the traditional spices are strong and flavorful, it’s easy to make tasty Indian dishes with very little fat – especially vegetables. This recipe for Curried Carrots and Peppers uses just a little oil, spices, lemon juice, and touch of sugar. It makes a flavorful side dish (or main dish if you are full from all of that holiday food).

Surprisingly, this recipe is from “The Art of Good Cooking.” It continues to amaze me how my grandmother managed to replicate and publish such ethnic recipes over 50 years ago, when so many side dishes still came from a can. Living in Harlem, she was surrounded by diversity and learned many of these recipes from friends or neighbors. This dish, titled “Oza’s Carrots and Peppers” in her book, is an example of that influence. An obvious question is, who’s Oza? The introduction to the recipe mentions that Oza was an Indian friend and neighbor. Not long ago, I heard from Oza’s son. He mentioned that Oza, now 92, still has fond memories of my grandmother and grandfather.

The only modifications I made to the original recipe is the amount of oil and curry powder (I believe curry powder was less potent in the 1960’s). I also prefer to make my own curry powder by using a combination of ground coriander, cumin, and turmeric (proportions below). The original recipe already had the fat, acid, and sweet components to make it the perfect party for your taste buds. As we fatten our bellies with baked goods and rich foods this holiday season, these spiced vegetables can provide a nice break for your body but still provide the comfort of the holiday season.


1/3 cup peanut oil
2 teaspoons brown or yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons curry powder (or 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 carrots, thinly sliced
3 green bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Salt and Pepper
Juice of 1 lemon

In a deep saucepan, heat peanut oil until almost smoking. Add mustard seeds. Turn heat down and add cumin seeds, curry powder, and cayenne. Cook 2 minutes. Add sliced carrots and green peppers and stir into the spices. Cook until vegetables begin to change color but are still crisp. Stir in brown sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.

Serves 4



Ginger Almond Sandwich Cookies

Ginger Almond Sandwich Cookies

Ginger Almond Sandwich Cookies

There is no shortage of cookie recipes this time of year. Everyone seems to have a favorite type of cookie or baking tradition that they don’t normally stray from during the holidays. I am no different. I have few really good cookie recipes that I repeat for special occasions. A recipe has to be both special and scrumptious to make it into that repeat category. But this year, I used a familiar good cookie recipe and promoted it to an amazing one by creating these sandwich cookies. These are delicious cookies. Seriously. After taking just one bite, a friend commented “you should sell these,” and he doesn’t even like dessert.

Ginger is an obvious go to flavor this time of year and I’ve been making these tasty almond cookies from “The Art of Fine Baking” for a few holidays now. I even shared the popular recipe in culinary school when we were required to make a gourmet buffet of sorts. Molasses, cinnamon, cloves, and ground ginger provide these buttery cookies with a rich spicy kick. Sliced almonds add a tender crunch to the soft (but not gooey or crumbly) finished cookies. Since the dough (if you don’t eat most of it first) is formed into a log, chilled, and then sliced into even symmetrical rounds, these are easy candidates for sandwiches. Lemony butter cream was the logical choice to help balance the strong spices that accent the deep molasses flavor. Piping this sweet cream onto the cookies proved surprisingly quick. I had to stop myself from eating each cookie sandwich as I made them.

It’s easy to fall back into the same habits and bake the same desserts every holiday season but without trying anything different, you may never establish your next favorite baking tradition. This is the lesson I’m learning…as I gobble down another gingery lemon scented sandwich cookie.


1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sliced almonds
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour

Lemon Buttercream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, molasses, spices, baking soda, and almonds. Mix in flour. Form dough into two logs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or line baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice dough logs 1/4 inch thick and place slices on prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake 8-10 minutes or until just lightly browned.

While cookies cool, make the lemon cream:

Beat butter with sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in zest, lemon juice, and vanilla.

When cookies are cool, fill a piping bag with lemon cream and pipe an even layer of cream on half the cookies. Top each cream filled cookie with a plain one to create sandwiches.

Yield approximately 30


Pumpkin Cake Roll

Pumpkin Cake Roll

Pumpkin Cake Roll We can’t seem to get enough pumpkin these days. From pumpkin spice Oreos to pumpkin spice latte burgers (yes, really), there’s more and more of this popular flavor combination every year. And why not? The pairing of this seasonal squash with sugar and comforting cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg can be almost addictive. This is also why many classic recipes are so easily adaptable to a pumpkin spice version. Although Pumpkin may not have been a common ingredient at the height of my grandmother’s career, the spice mix was. My grandmother used these spices in her simple spiced sponge cake recipe, which I used as a base for this pumpkin cake roll.

I often wonder what my grandmother would think of this pumpkin explosion. I’m sure she would have first perfected pumpkin pie and then possibly expanded to pumpkin cookies or bread. She may have stopped at that point or continued on a quest to master the best of the pumpkin recipes. This type of cake roll would have been somewhat abstract for her but I was inspired by the pumpkin craze and decided to merge her chocolate roll/yule log recipe with her spiced sponge cake one. The light whipped mascarpone cream is what differentiates this from other cake roll recipes that often use cream cheese frosting. I have nothing against cream cheese frosting (love it on carrot cake) but those of us who are somehow offended by it may prefer this light whipped cream to help balance the spice of the cake. The rich buttery taste remains but without the sourness often experienced with cream cheese. If you’re not tired of pumpkin yet but don’t want to stray too far from the classic pumpkin desserts, a cake roll could be the sweet finish to end your Thanksgiving meal.


4 eggs
pinch salt
1/2 cup + 2 tbs sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sifted corn starch
3/4 cup sifted all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mascarpone Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 11 x 16 jelly roll pan or a 9 x 13 pan and line with parchment paper.

Separate eggs. Beat egg whites with salt until they hold soft peaks. Gradually beat in sugar, sprinkling it in a little at a time. Continue beating until whites are very firm, about 5 minutes in all.

Stir yolks with a fork to break them up. Whisk in pumpkin. Add vanilla. Fold a quarter of the stiffly beaten egg whites thoroughly into egg yolks. Pour egg yolk mixture on top of remaining whites. Sprinkle corn starch, flour, and spices over mixture. Fold all very gently together until no pieces of egg white show. Careful not to over mix.

Pour into prepared pan, spreading batter evenly. Bake 10-12 minutes or until cake is very lightly browned.

While cake sheet cools, make the whipped cream:

Beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar. Continue beating, gradually adding remaining sugar, until the cream holds stiff peaks. Carefully bear in mascarpone cheese until just combined.

To assemble the cake roll:

Place cake on a sheet of wax paper large enough to extend at least 1 inch on all sides and dusted with powdered sugar or a little flour. Spread cake with whipped cream. Lifting one long side of the wax paper, roll pastry inward. Continue to lift wax paper while pastry rolls up, jelly-roll style. Twist wax paper firmly around cake roll to help give it shape. Dust with powdered sugar.



Mizutaki Soup

Mizutaki Soup

Mitzutaki SoupIt’s officially soup weather here in the Northeast. Now that the days are shorter and less likely to get above 50 degrees, hot soup is a favorite staple in our diets again. As the warmth of the summer sun becomes a distant past, soup as well as hot beverages are like comforting familiar friends that make the increasingly cold weather bareable. That and all of the delicious holiday food, of course.

My grandmother had many tasty soup recipes both published (in “The Art of Good Cooking”) and unpublished. I have yet to try them all but I’ve been very happy with the ones that I’ve posted here such as Stuffed Cabbage Soup, Basil Vegetable Soup, Fresh Tomato Soup, and New England Clam Chowder. Soup recipes are also some of the easiest recipes to change and adapt to your preference. This Mizutaki recipe is a good example. It can be made with chicken, beef, or fish and other vegetables, such as enoki mushrooms, can be added as well. Similar to hot pot, the sauce is really the most important part. The chicken is cooked in the broth until just barely tender and then placed in soup bowls with spicy watercress and cooked vermicelli rice noodles. The broth is poured into the bowls and the meat and vegetables are dipped in the sauce before eaten. An intense combination of soy sauce, lemon, daikon, and ginger, the sauce balances the subtle light flavor of the broth.

Much like many of my grandmother’s ethnic recipes, it took some time to figure out the origin of this dish. The title is spelled Misu Taki in her book but after researching, it seems to be an adaptation of the lesser known Japanese Mizutaki dish. Written and tested in the 1960’s, this recipe must have been incredibly unique, especially with the use of daikon or chinese radish (a store that no longer exists, “Japanese Foodland Inc” on Broadway in NYC is listed as a source in her book and is noted as having “very good Japanese soy sauce”). But I can imagine my grandfather, a lover of all types of Asian food, enjoying this soup on wintery days in Harlem back when Chinese take-out was a novelty. My grandmother writes in the introduction of this recipe, “This is not the original version of misu taki – but it is my own, and very good I think.” It is still an easy recipe to make your own and still perfect for a cold winter-like day.


1 1/4 cups grated daikon
1/2 grated ginger
1 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup lemon juice
6 cups well seasoned chicken stock
6 skinless boneless chicken breast, cut in 1 inch cubes
3 cups cooked vermacelli or rice noodles
3 cups watercress
3 scallions, chopped

Combine grated daikon, ginger, soy sauce, and lemon juice. Divide this mixture among small bowls.
Heat chicken stock in a heavy pot over medium heat until simmering. Taste for seasoning and correct, if necessary. Add chicken pieces all at once and cook only a few minutes, until chicken changes color. Be careful not to overcook. Turn heat off. With a slotted spoon, remove peices of chicken to serving bowls. Place cooked noodles and watercress in each of the bowls.

Reheat broth and boil for a few minutes, then remove from heat. Poor broth over chicken, noodles, and watercress. Sprinkle with scallion. Serve with small bowls of soy sauce mixture for dipping chicken.

Serves 6.

Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking,” by Paula Peck.


Stuffed Baked Apples with Homemade Caramel Sauce

Stuffed Baked Apples with Caramel Sauce

Stuffed Baked Apples with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream

This recipe might be over the top. It didn’t start out that way but before I could realize what was happening, I had created the most delicious and elaborate Stuffed Baked Apples with Homemade Caramel Sauce that I have ever had. The plan was originally a minimalist approach. My grandmother doesn’t have a baked whole apple recipe (though she has many other apple recipes) but her mentor, James Beard has a very simple one in “The James Beard Cookbook.” It offers a few options of varying spices for the cavity of the apples but doesn’t venture as far as stuffing them. It even offers a flamed version which involves pouring heated alcohol over the apple and igniting it (“bring to the table blazing”) but I thought it might be best to avoid burning down my apartment building or at least the complaints of “fire smell” from the neighbors. Perhaps I will wait for a special occasion.

I settled for a simple spiced baked apple. But I couldn’t help feeling that something was missing or that it somehow lacked the excitement I was looking for. That’s when I decided to stuff it with crisp. Apple crisp is a favorite I make at least a few times every fall. It’s hard to go wrong with oats, sugar, butter, flour, and cinnamon so why not stuff a whole apple with this lovely crumbly topping? This simple baked apple was getting more interesting.

I then thought about those lonely parts of the apple that wouldn’t be exposed to the tasty crisp. Perhaps it needed a sauce? Enter my second favorite apple accompaniment: Caramel. And not just any caramel, easy homemade caramel sauce. Drizzled over the finished juicy baked apple stuffed with the cinnamon spiced crisp, it’s a combination to die for. I was already out of control so I topped the finished warm apple with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Melting into the crevices of the crisp and dripping down the sides of the apple while mixing with the caramel sauce, excessiveness never looked or tasted so good.

Stuffed Baked Apples with Homemade Caramel Sauce

Stuffed Baked Apples with Homemade Caramel Sauce


1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup unsalted butter, diced
5 baking apples around the same size (I like Macoun or Honeycrisp)
1 lemon
cinnamon sugar
Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a shallow baking dish (large enough to hold all of the apples).

Combine flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and oats in a medium mixing bowl. Add diced butter and mix until well combined but still a little crumbly. Set aside.

Slice the tops off of apples. Carve out the core and some of the flesh, leaving about a 1/2 inch border. Slice lemon in half and rub the cavities of the apples with lemon to stop from browning. Sprinkle the cavities with cinnamon sugar.

Scoop crisp mixture into apples until full and rounded on top. Place apples in baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until apples are soft and can be easily pierced with a fork (baking time may depend on the type of apples used).

To Make the Caramel Sauce:

Heat sugar over medium heat in a heavy saucepan until melted and amber in color. Be careful not to let burn. Add butter and whisk until combined. Whisk in cream (careful adding both cream and butter as it causes the mixture to seize and possibly splatter). Remove from heat and allow the caramel to cool slightly (it will thicken as it cools).

Drizzle caramel sauce over crisp stuffed apples and serve with vanilla ice cream (see Peach Melba recipe for a homemade version).

Baked Apples


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