Stuffed Squid

Crab Stuffed Squid

I know what your thinking about this photo. What are those awkward tubular things with pale centers speckled with green. Are they giant croquettes? No…it’s a seafood delight: whole squid stuffed with a crab shrimp combination smothered in a tomato wine sauce. If you’re a seafood lover than this dish is for you.

I made very few changes to this Italian based dish from “The Art of Good Cooking.” Primarily, I just eliminated the beef gravy because it’s often too time consuming to make and using a canned gravy with fresh seafood seems like a waste. As with all seafood, the two most important elements for success are: 1. To use the freshest seafood 2. Not to over cook any of it, especially the squid. If you manage these two tasks, you’ll end up with a soft buttery mix of lump crab meat and tender shrimp surrounded by light fresh squid with just the slightest bite. Save this one for a special occasion.


6 medium-size squid
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon tarragon
1 1/2 cups finely chopped cooked shrimp
1 1/2 cups finely chopped cooked crabmeat
salt and pepper
1/2 cup scallions
1 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup red wine
Saute chopped onion and half of the minced garlic in half melted butter. When vegetables are soft, add chopped parsley, tarragon, shrimp, and crabmeat. Toss well together. Season well with salt and pepper.

Stuff this filling firmly into the cleaned squid tubes. Heat remaining butter in saucepan. Add chopped scallions and remaining garlic. Saute till tender. Add tomato puree and wine. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Lower heat. Add stuffed squid and simmer until squid are tender, about  20-30 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Serves 6.


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Slice

Similar to strawberries or asparagus, rhubarb has always been a common spring staple for me. Growing up, we had a rhubarb plant amongst a strip of overgrown bright orange flowers (daylilies?) along our driveway. Though its size changed over the years, it never failed to produce. I remember checking the stalks to see if they were long or thick enough to use, and at least once or twice a year my mother would make strawberry rhubarb cobbler, or sort of a cross between a cobbler and a pie because she couldn’t be bothered with pie dough. This combination has since been a nostalgic favorite of mine and I’m a big fan of this tart fruity celery-like vegetable. You definitely can’t sit around munching on it but I always felt it was an underused fruit on the east coast.

This pie was actually adapted from the rhubarb tart recipe in “The Art of Fine Baking.” By changing from a flan mold to a pie plate and the addition of strawberries, it morphed into a whole new dessert that’s fairly different from its original precise tart parent. Rhubarb and strawberries are just too good to separate.

Other than distinctly tasting both the strawberry and the rhubarb instead of jellylike globs, there are 2 things that make this pie different (and more delicious) than many other strawberry rhubarb pies. Both involve the crust:
1. A layer of ground nuts is spread across the bottom of the pie crust before the filling is added.
2. lemon zest is added to the pie dough
The nuts are a great idea from the original recipe. Not only does it add a toasted nutty flavor but it helps soak up some of the juice from the strawberries and rhubarb without making it soggy. The Lemon zest brightens the taste of the crust and compliments the freshness of the fruit. It’s pleasantly surprising what a difference these small additions make.
If your looking for a replacement for that apple pie whose season ended months ago, this sweet and sour pie will get you ready for the fruits of summer…

3 cups rhubarb, cut in 1 inch pieces
3 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons flour
2-3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 beaten egg mixed with
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup ground walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts
1 recipe rich tart pastry

Grease a 9 inch pie plate and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out pastry on a floured surface until 1/8 of an inch thick. Line pie plate with pastry. Save trimmings for top of pie. Chill.

Press ground nuts into the bottom of pie shell. Mix together, rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cinnamon sugar, zest, flour, cornstarch. Fill pie shell.

Roll out remaining pastry dough. Brush with egg milk mixture and cut into strips the length of the top of the pie. Layer lattice pastry strips on pie.

Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour or until juices are bubbling and the top is lightly browned.


Classic Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

As one of those American picnic salad staples like egg salad, coleslaw, or macaroni salad, chicken salad is often considered a little boring with its mayo base. Though happily sandwiched between lettuce and two slices if bread, a good chicken salad can easily stand on its own. This recipe comes from what I consider a good base recipe in “The Art of Good Cooking.” It benefits from small additions and changes to make it homier, interesting, and less institutional.

As recommended in the original recipe, I made the mayo base from scratch which gives it a much richer flavor. Red grapes provide the sweet contrast between each bite and the sliced almonds fulfill the craving for a nutty crunch. I also added celery and scallions for a crisp freshness. Simple and perfect for a spring picnic or on-the-go lunch, this is a mayo based chicken salad that doesn’t go out of style.

Note: If using store bought mayo, add about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. The acidity helps balance the fat and richness of the mayo and chicken.


8 chicken breast halves, skin on bone in
chicken stock
1 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 cup seedless grapes, halved
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
1 cup diced boiled ham (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup homemade mayonnaise

Place chicken breasts in a low, wide saucepan. Add enough well seasoned stock just to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer breasts for just 8 minutes. Remove chicken from stock.

When chicken is cool enough to handle, pull off skin and pull the meat away from the bones. Cut the chicken into 3/4 inch chunks. Place them in a bowl.

Add ham (if using), celery, almonds, grapes, tarragon, scallions, parsley (if using), salt and pepper. Add mayonnaise and toss lightly. Taste and correct seasoning.

Serves 8

Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking”


Green Beans Catalan

Green Beans Catalan

I haven’t been overly impressed with the vegetables section of “The Art of Good Cooking.” In my opinion, this is the most dated part of the book where it truly shows it’s age. Too much olive oil or butter, often unappetizing soft veggies, more frozen veggies than fresh, and what we would normally try to make clean and simple today, is loaded down with fatty ingredients like mayo or bacon fat. I completely understand why this section is the way it is. No one in the 1960’s was eating kale salads or “super greens.” Like most of her cooking, which was often influenced by friend and mentor, James Beard, my grandmother’s recipes were based on classic French techniques. This is not to say that this section can’t be modernized and updated like the others. It’s just a little more challenging.

This is a very simple recipe from the vegetables section. Per my research on Catalan cuisine, my changes and additions may make it less authentic, as this seems to historically refer to the northeast region of Spain and it’s Mediterranean style cooking (such as the olives and capers I left out). However, it’s quick and the reduced olive oil (1/4 cup to 2 tablespoons) as well as the addition of goat cheese and tomatoes, makes it colorful and healthy.


4 cups green beans, cut in 1″ pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, peeled (optional) and chopped
1 small green pepper, minced
1/2 cup snap peas
1/4 cup white wine
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup black olives (optional)
1 tablespoon capers (optional)
crumbled goat cheese
tomato, quartered

Place green beans in heavy saucepan. Add olive oil, onion, garlic, green pepper, snap peas, and wine. Season, cover tightly, and cook over medium heat until green beans are tender and very little liquid is left in the pan. Check seasoning and add parsley.

Serve with your choice of garnish: goat cheese, tomato quarters, olives, and/or capers.

Serves 6.

A few technical notes about this recipe:
Peeling the tomato before chopping is optional but if you don’t, you may end up with pieces of the skin throughout the dish (as you might see in some of these photos). I personally  don’t mind this but it can be avoided by quickly blanching the tomatoes in boiling water and peeling the skin off.
The snap peas may cook faster than the green beans. To avoid, add them after the green bean mixture has been cooking a few minutes on medium.


Avocado Soup

Chilled Avocado Soup

There’s usually no rhyme or reason for how I decide which of my grandmother’s hundreds of recipes to make. This creamy cool soup happened to sound particularly appealing on a recent day when the temperature climbed to almost 80 and my mind went into summer mode, no matter how hard I tried to reason with it. Summer mode for me usually means consuming a ridiculous amount of ice cream (some of which I can blame on my regular full time job) and pulling out my ice cream maker to tackle some absurdly unhealthy recipe that usually includes chocolate and a combo of too many things that taste good with it. Since it is still too early for summer mode, I managed to convince myself to make something healthier yet equally rich and satisfying. This cold soup does the trick.

The base of this recipe comes from the stack of unpublished Paula Peck recipes I inherited and cherish. These faded typewriter written recipes with handwritten edits, are always the most fun for me to test because the recipes are rough and yet to be finalized. Some, like this avocado soup recipe, have a couple of different versions with varying measurements and instructions. One of these came with a note that said “This is a truly delicious summer soup. My friend Togi told me about it after she tasted it in Mexico.” I find it pretty impressive (and progressive) that my grandmother was making cold avocado soup in the late 1960’s when avocados were still considered somewhat exotic – and not found at every deli or sidewalk produce vendor in NYC like they are today. It’s a very simple recipe and I made only a few minor adjustments like adding scallion, cumin, lemon juice, cayenne, and the garnish of sour cream, corn, and salsa or chopped tomato.


4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth
4 1/2 – 5 cups diced ripe avocado
1-1 1/2 cups half and half
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
pinch cayenne
optional garnish: sour cream, cooked corn kernels, and/or pico de gallo salsa

In a heavy pot, melt butter. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon. Cook, constantly stirring, for about 5 minutes (do not brown). Stir in stock. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook just until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and cool.

Place 3 1/2 – 4 cups avocado and scallion in a blender. Add about 1 cup of the stock mixture. Blend until smooth. Add avocado mixture to remaining stock mixture. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper. Add half and half. Chill.

To serve: pour into bowls and garnish with remaining avocado cubes, sour cream, corn, and salsa (if using).

Serves 4-6.


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