Thursday, April 10, 2014

Melting Pot

The United States has to be the best place to eat!  Where else can you have an Italian panini filled with
sauteed vegetables spiced with Indian seasonings and melted together with sharp Vermont cheddar cheese?  And the bread used was San Francisco sourdough.

That's exactly what I had for lunch on Sunday.  I tutor long hours on the weekend and the mother of one of my students must have felt badly that I was missing lunch on Sunday.  So, she made me a sandwich.  It was awesome.  It got me to thinking about the melting pot that is this country, not only in the people, but the food.

For example, how about having an egg roll filled with BBQ pork and cole slaw?  Or a pizza with feta cheese and spinach?   I think my favorite melting pot food is Italian polenta served as a base for American BBQ pulled pork. 

The possibilities seem endless!!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

South of the Border Breakfast

This morning I took a trip to Mexico.  Well, not really!  I never left my kitchen in New Jersey.  I sauteed two poblano peppers with an onion and two minced cloves of garlic in 1 teaspoon of olive oil.    I added a few turns of freshly cracked pepper and a pinch of seasoned salt.  When the peppers and onions were completely wilted, I folded it all into a warm flour tortilla.  To round out my breakfast, I had a fresh mango that I peeled and sliced into chunks.  HEALTHY AND SO DECADENT!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Diane's Casablanca Meatball Stew


The "scribble" above is not scribble.  It is Arabic for Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco. 

I love to try ethnic foods and I love to experiment with spices.  My palate has grown each year as I experiment with flavors.  I love the flavors that originate with the ancient spice trades.  The cinnamon, ginger, coriander and cumin flavors that traveled the world with explorers in order to warm European bellies are among my favorites.

Today, I made up my own spice mixture for a fake out Moroccan meatball stew.  


1 cup pearl barley

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons freshly ground ginger
1 cup chopped mushrooms (any kind words, I used reconstituted porcini mushrooms)

1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

3/4 to 1 pound meatballs (preferably lamb)
1 pound baby carrots
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes with chilis
1 bouillon cube or  1 packet onion soup mix
 3 cups water or beef broth

Pour barley into a rice cooker.

In a skillet, heat olive oil using medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic and ginger.  Stir as the onion becomes translucent and the garlic and ginger give off their fragrance.  Do not brown and don't use higher than medium heat.  Poor into rice cooker. Stir to coat the barley with the oils and mix with the aromatics.

In the same skillet, turn heat to medium high and add mushrooms.  (If using dried porcini mushrooms, skip this step.)  Saute mushrooms until they begin to color and have given off much of their moisture.  Add them to the rice cooker.  Add cinnamon to the cooker and stir to coat everything in the warmth of the spice.

Put the bouillon cube or the packet of onion soup mix in the cooker.  Add the carrots and meatballs to the rice cooker.   Add 3 cups of water or beef broth.

Set rice cooker to white rice and cook until done.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


I love cheese!!!  I didn't always like it though.  When I was a kid, I wasn't fond of it at all.  Except on special occasions, we only had American cheese.  And, as it turns out, that is the only cheese I don't like.  So, I assumed that I didn't like any cheese.

On special occasions we would get cheese in a jelly jar.  I am not even sure it is sold anymore.  It came in a threesome.  If memory serves me well, one was pimento cheese, one was a cheddar spread and one was a blue cheese spread.  This was a specialty for when my parents were entertaining guests.  I don't remember getting more than a taste of this delicacy.

On Fathers Day or other celebrations for Dad, he would get a Cracker Barrel log of sharp or extra sharp cheddar.  He would set himself up with a beer and a sleeve of Ritz Crackers and enjoy his day.

I don't remember when I first decided that I loved cheese almost as much as Steve Urkel does.  I do remember knowing that sometimes really good sharp Swiss cheese makes my tongue itch.

Anyhow, now I love all cheese.  But here's the strange part.  With only three exceptions, I don't like cheese on my sandwiches.  I will eat Swiss cheese on a tuna salad sandwich and I will eat cheddar cheese on a bacon cheddar burger, but otherwise NO CHEESE on my sandwiches.

The third exception is what this post is really about.  My very favorite sandwich!!  A grilled veggie sandwich on a crusty baguette or ciabatta bread with a creamy, tangy goat cheese.  I grill veggies in large batches and keep them in the refrigerator ready for salads or sandwiches.  In this case, it works best if the veggies are warm, so that they help to melt the cheese a bit.

Most people steam or boil vegetables.  Almost all veggies can be roasted or grilled and the flavors that come out when they cooked this way are phenomenal.  Some work better on a sandwich.  Basically a mix of juicy and dryer vegetables works best.  For example, grilled tomatoes are fabulous, but if you use too many on a sandwich, they will make your bread soggy.  Before grilling, I usually brush my veggies with olive oil that has been infused with lots of garlic and rosemary.

My favorite combination for a sandwich is grilled eggplant, zucchini,  peppers - one sweet and one chili, onions, and tomatoes.  I slice open the bread and spread both sides with a thick layer of goat cheese.  If I am feeling extremely decadent, I will mix the goat cheese with some oil cured sun-dried tomatoes first.  Layer on the veggies.  Close the sandwich and it's ready to eat.  If you have a panini press, this is a great time to use it too.

Don't limit yourself to my list of vegetables.  Many people like grilled carrots, asparagus and portobello  mushrooms on their panini.  Adding a grilled chicken breast, sliced leftover steak or grilled salmon is also a delicious addition.  Get creative and enjoy!!