Tag Archives: mamad’s kitchen

In Praise of Gas Grills…and Roasted Red Peppers

Summer is at its peak and fresh vegetables are overflowing their bins. Grills everywhere are fired up and working up a major sweat. Vegetables and grills have a special affinity that is at its best at this time of the year.

Purists will swear by charcoal and I do love me some char-grilled meat, but there are times when the convenience of gas has many of its own attributes. Disclaimer: I have no choice other than using a gas grill. Apartment living requires it for safety reasons (at least in my complex). That being said, I used gas long before I had to. It is at times a love hate relationship but, lately I love it and here is why.

The biggest plus (in my book) is how quickly it is ready to cook. Turn on the gas and press the button and you have a flame.  In a few minutes it is hot and ready to cook. What I love the most about this almost instant grill gratification is that it allows me to grill only the ingredients that I want. These ingredients can then come inside and become part of a pasta dish, frittata or salad. and yes all of those have happened this past week.

Woodman’s, a local mega grocery store, discounts their slightly sad produce. The discount is deep (think large bags of produce for 99 cents) and it is done daily with Mondays seeming to be the biggest day. While there are often some things that are sadder than others, there is usually enough usable produce to be well worth the under a dollar price. Quick processing then becomes the top priority. My bag of peppers, all of which were usable went in several directions. I chopped up a few and froze them for later, some where good enough for a salad and the rest went on the grill.

Grilling peppers accomplishes two things. The peppers cook into a silky textured scarlet bite of deliciousness and the charring allows the skin to easily be peeled.  This peeling step is a must do. For as silky as the pepper flesh gets the skin becomes tough, chewy and isn’t fun to eat.

As with peeling chili peppers, covering with plastic wrap and allowing the peppers to sit for a few minutes makes the skin easy to remove. The jewel like flesh that is revealed is a thing of beauty.

I opted to roughly chop the peppers for the recipes that I made, but slicing them into strips and adding some herbs, vinegar and olive oil create the perfect star for your next relish tray. As I said they made several appearances in the kitchen. My favorite was their co-starring role in a Panzanella Salad.

Cucumbers, cannellini beans, red onions, tomatoes, and whole wheat baguette joined the peppers and some kalamata olives to create a Mediterranean main dish salad that was wonderful. 

A Mediterranean Vinaigrette laced with lots of Rosemary gave a light yet zesty flavor to the salad. A sprinkling of Feta and it was ready to enjoy.

Mediterranean Vinaigrette

A twist on the classic vinaigrette with plenty of lemon and more than a hint of garlic. Add any fresh herbs of your choice. This is wonderful on a Greek salad, but it would be equally delightful as a dressing for grilled vegetable or a pasta salad. It makes a great marinade as well.

  • 1 Medium Lemon Juice and zest
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Grated
  • 1/4 Cup White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes Optional, to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Herbs Parsley, thyme, basil, or you choice
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper To taste
  • 1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 Cup Olive oil
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until completely blended. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

As far as Panzanella Salad Recipes go…anything goes. Tomatoes and cucumbers seem to be a must and of course crusty bread has to be present as this is a “Bread Salad.”

Cannellini and Roasted Red Pepper Panzanella Salad

Another variation on the classic Panzanella Salad.  This is totally open to your own interpretation. add or subtract what you want, just make sure the tomatoes and bread stick around.

Servings: 4
  • Can Cannellini Beans Drained and rinsed
  • 2 - 3 Roasted Red Peppers Chopped
  • 1 Cup Sliced Cucumber
  • 1/2 Cup Sliced Red Onion Scliced vertically
  • 1/4 Cup Kalamata Olives Sliced
  • 1 Cup Grape or Cherry Tomatoes Halved
  • 2 Cups Crusty Bread Cubes Day Old is best
  • 3/4 Cup Mediterranean Vinaigrette Recipe above
  • 1/3 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
  1. If the bread cubes are soft toast them lightly in a 325 degree oven. they should be dry and lightly golden. Combine the peppers, tomatoes, onion, olives, bread, and beans in a large bowl.

  2. Add the dressing and toss to coat everything nicely. cover and chill for several hours.

  3. When you are ready to serve, re-toss the salad adding a little more dressing if necessary. Sprinkle with the Feta cheese and serve.

So now that I have “said my piece” about grills and peppers, I will leave you with this bit of philosophy: Grills and peppers come in all shapes and sizes. Kind of like everything else in the world. Find what works, find what you love, and make it your own.

Holiday Baking 2014…The Adventure Begins

Last Christmas I gave baking my heart (there’s always a Christmas song that gets stuck in your head whether you like it or not).  I was newly unemployed and had recently launched a cooking blog. I had all the time in the world and a large kitchen that could stay in baking mode indefinitely. I baked and cooked constantly and wrote about it almost every day. It was joyous and magical.

This Christmas I’m beginning another new chapter.  I’ve downsized my life and that includes smaller everything including my kitchen. A part-time job that eats away at my time in the peculiar way only a split shift can, makes long sessions in the kitchen a weekend luxury. In spite of all that, Mama D’s Kitchen is still very much alive and it’s filled with more love than ever.

Having less time and space means that organization is critical. I spent several weeks planning this year’s goodies.Things that made the cut met several requirements. They had to be uniquely yummy, and they had to be easy to make. I browsed magazines and web sites as well as my own treasure trove of recipes and finally came up with my cast of characters. I made lists of ingredients and shopped carefully to assure that all the ingredients were on hand (except for the half & half and red sugar that I forgot twice). The pantry is packed with nuts, white chocolate, and dried fruits as well as the necessary flour and sugar.

This year’s baking includes some old favorites that are required and quite a few new items that are competing for places in the favorites lineup. Some of the new recipes use a “short-cut” of one kind or another. Often it is something that comes from a package. There is no shame in using a package mix if the result is delicious and the package ingredients don’t offend one’s health sensibilities completely. Remember too, we are not making something to be the main meal..only a small sweet to be enjoyed as a treat.

I found the recipe for Mocha Crinkles in a Kraft magazine. Devil’s food cake mix joins semisweet chocolate and instant coffee to make a cookie with deep dark chocolate and coffee richness.DIGITAL CAMERA The only challenge presented was melting the chocolate. Not only do I not have a microwave, I no longer have a double boiler. I found a perfect substitute using a dutch oven and a metal mixing bowl.DIGITAL CAMERA The plus here was that ingredients were already in the mixing bowl so it was one less bowl to wash.

These cookies have a wonderful deep chocolate flavor that the coffee enhances. The coffee flavor is subtle but the aroma is right there. Next time I think I’ll use espresso powder for a little more coffee punch.

As long as I can remember, I’ve made biscotti at Christmas. I’ve made many different kinds from chocolate to pistachio and cranberry. I always come back to my tried and true Almond and Anise.DIGITAL CAMERA These are the cookies I grew up loving and that love has only grown stronger through the years. While the licorice-y sweetness of the anise seed is an acquired taste for many, it is a flavor profile that literally screams for coffee or some red wine to me. This recipe creates a cookie that is tender yet crisp. I make them in a size that as my mother used to say looks pretty on a cookie tray. The recipe makes a batch that is large enough to fill several cookie trays and still have enough to give away.

Anise Almond Biscotti
Print Recipe
My favorite biscotti recipe! Hope you'll love it, too.
8 dozen
8 dozen
Anise Almond Biscotti
Print Recipe
My favorite biscotti recipe! Hope you'll love it, too.
8 dozen
8 dozen
Servings: dozen
  1. Beat butter and sugar until well incorporated using an electric mixer. Add the eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Add the flavorings and the anise seeds and mix until well combined. Add the almonds and mix until combined. This is easier than adding the almonds after the flour.
  2. Whisk flour baking powder and salt together to aerate and blend. Slowly mix flour mixture into the wet mixture. You will have to add the last flour and mix by hand. Gather dough together and turn onto a lightly floured board, pat into a flat round.
  3. Divide the dough into six equal pieces. Pat and roll each piece into a log 12 - 14 inches long. Flatten the log to 1/2 inch thick and 2 inches wide. At this point they are ready to bake. If you want you to bake them later, wrap each log in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let logs come to room temperature before you bake them.
  4. When you are ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place no more than 2 logs on each greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time for 15 - 20 minutes.Remove from oven let cool several minutes until easily handled. Carefully move each log to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut logs crosswise into 3/4 inch slices.
  5. Lay cut side down back on the baking sheet. Return to oven and bake 15 - 20 minutes more, turning the cookies after after 8 - 10 minutes to toast other side.
  6. Place the cookies on a rack to cool. Store airtight. These will keep for about a week. They can be frozen for a month or so.
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As the “Big Day” draws closer, my kitchen is filling with love and goodies. I hope you are finding more than enough love and a good amount of goodies in your own kitchen.

Mama D