Brooke Jackson – Zester Daily Zester Daily Fri, 05 Jan 2018 10:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 For Good Luck In New Year, Think Green And Round /holidays-wrecipe/good-luck-new-year-think-green-round/ /holidays-wrecipe/good-luck-new-year-think-green-round/#comments Tue, 26 Dec 2017 10:00:52 +0000 /?p=59235 Hoppin’ John. Credit: Brooke Jackson

The New Year’s holiday is a time of closure and new beginnings. Resolutions are a common rite of New Year’s Eve, with people making goals for the coming year and raising a glass to the old one. A dinner of foods representing good fortune then completes the tradition in many cultures.

Around the world, foods are eaten on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day that are auspicious and thought to bring prosperity for the coming year. The ingredients are often chosen for their resemblance to money: coin-shaped legumes and winter greens that look like bills, to name a couple.

In Europe and Asia, fatty, rich pork is considered a lucky food because a pig roots for food in a forward direction, charging into the future and obviously getting plenty to eat. In Italy, a traditional dish is cotechino con lenticchie — juicy pork sausages paired with lentils. The cotechino sausage is fatty and represents abundance, while the lentils’ roundness and green color bring to mind money.

In Asia, long noodles are slurped to guarantee long life, the caveat being that the noodle can’t break before being swallowed. In some cultures, people bake treasures or money into desserts and treats.

In England, a sixpence is steamed in the Christmas pudding; whoever gets the portion containing the coin will have a prosperous year. In Mexico, a traditional King Cake is baked with a small doll in the batter; the lucky diner who gets the doll in their piece of cake gets to be king for a day.

Many cultures celebrate the New Year by eating ring-shaped food such as bagels or doughnuts. The shape is thought to bring good luck by representing the year coming full circle.

In Spain and Portugal revelers eat 12 grapes at midnight, and the grapes must be consumed before the last stroke of the midnight bell. Each grape represents a month of the year, so if the fourth grape is extra-sweet, for example, this could mean April will be a terrific month.

U.S. traditions for ringing in new year are varied

In the United States, the melting pot of cultures adds many choices to New Year’s celebrations. Often decadent or expensive victuals such as caviar and Champagne are consumed, with the pricey roe of the sturgeon thought to bring prosperity.

Throughout the South, Hoppin’ John is served on New Year’s tables. Black-eyed peas with rice are thought to bring luck because the peas are round like coins and the rice grains swell — like your wallet, not your waistline — when cooked. Often served with a mess of greens meant to emulate dollar bills, this is good old-fashioned down-home fare.

The recipe for Hoppin’ John included below has some peppers and spice for heat, but you can temper that by using less jalapeño. I like the pre-soaked black-eyed peas and steamed black-eyed peas from Melissa’s produce company, which can be found this time of year in the produce section of grocery stores. If you can’t find either of these, use canned black-eyed peas and rinse them.

The menu is rounded out by a salad of spicy greens, like dollar bills, with pomegranate seeds for abundance, satsumas for luck and grapefruit for flavor. The dressing is made with fig vinegar, whose plentiful seeds must surely mean prosperity. If you can’t find a ready-made version, I’ve included an easy recipe adapted from “Fig Heaven” by cookbook author Marie Simmons.

After this dinner, good fortune will surely be smiling down on you. Wishing everyone a New Year full of health, good fortune and peace.

Hoppin’ John

Some of the ingredients for Hoppin' John. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Some of the ingredients for Hoppin’ John. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brooke Jackson

Southern-style cornbread, with buttermilk and just a little sweetness, is a natural choice to eat with Hoppin’ John.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 6 servings


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 ribs celery, chopped

2 medium red bell peppers, diced

1 jalapeño pepper, minced (or more or less to taste)

3 cloves garlic, minced

2  (11 -ounce) packages fresh black-eyed peas or steamed black-eyed peas (Melissa’s, for example) or 2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

1 meaty ham hock or ham bone

1 bay leaf

1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained

2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water, or as needed

For serving:

2 cups hot, cooked long grain rice

4 green onions, green and white parts, thinly sliced


1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onion, celery, bell peppers and jalapeño and sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients and enough water to make the mixture soupy.

4. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low; cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are combined.

5. Check liquid level periodically and add more water if the peas are getting too dry.

6. Remove the ham hock and cut off the meat. Dice the meat and add it back to the pot.

7. Serve over white rice with a shower of green onion on top.

Citrus Salad With Fig Vinaigrette

Citrus Salad With Fig Vinaigrette. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Citrus Salad With Fig Vinaigrette. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: 6 servings


For the dressing:

1 tablespoon fig vinegar (see note and recipe below)

3 tablespoons walnut oil

Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:

2 packed cups baby spinach leaves

2 packed cup arugula

2 satsuma tangerines, peeled and sectioned

1 large ruby red grapefruit, peeled and sectioned. Remove as much white pith as possible

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Black pepper


1. Make the dressing by putting the vinegar in a small bowl and gradually drizzling in the walnut oil, whisking constantly, until an emulsion forms. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

2. Place spinach and arugula in a medium salad bowl and toss with enough dressing to just coat the leaves.

3. Distribute salad among six plates.

4. Divide the satsuma and grapefruit sections among the salad plates and then evenly then sprinkle each salad with the pomegranate seeds.

5. Drizzle a bit more dressing over each plate and finish with a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Serve immediately.

Note: If you don’t want to make the fig vinegar, you can substitute fig balsamic vinegar or a good-quality aged balsamic vinegar.

Fig Vinegar

This recipe is adapted from “Fig Heaven” by Marie Simmons. It is a wonderful gift to share with friends.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Rest time: About 24 hours

Total time: About a day, but only 20 minutes active.

Yield: About 2 cups


3 cups red wine vinegar

6 ounces dried Calimyrna or Black Mission figs, stems trimmed and cut up (about 1 cup packed)

1/4 cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick


1. Combine the vinegar, figs, sugar and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan and heat to a boil.

2. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 5 minutes.

3. Let stand 24 hours. Strain the vinegar, pressing down on the figs to extract their flavor.

4. Reserve half the figs; discard the remaining figs and the cinnamon stick.

5. Purée the vinegar and the reserved figs in a food processor. Line a strainer with a doubled layer of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl.

6. Pour the puréed vinegar mixture into the cheesecloth-lined strainer and press down on the solids. Let drain for 30 minutes.

7. Transfer the strained vinegar to a jar and store in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator.

Main image: Hoppin’ John. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brooke Jackson

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7 Sweet Cherry Dishes To Freshen Any Summer Meal /baking-wrecipe/7-sweet-cherry-recipes-freshen-summer-menus/ /baking-wrecipe/7-sweet-cherry-recipes-freshen-summer-menus/#comments Fri, 01 Sep 2017 09:00:13 +0000 /?p=66648 A bowl of fresh cherries. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

American life is full of references to cherries, from George Washington chopping down a tree of them (Why did he do that?) to the popular song “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” sung by Ethel Merman in 1931. But the actual fruit itself, beloved by most, is a sweet, juicy reminder that spring is almost over and summer is just around the corner.

Here in California, our local cherry season lasts just a bit longer, while the Pacific Northwest and Midwestern harvests are still weeks away, guaranteeing that the cherished cherry will be in good supply until the end of July.

Pitting cherries

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A pitter is a handy tool for both cherries and olives. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brooke Jackson

Many varieties of cherries are on the market these days. Some of my favorites are the sweet Brooks variety, the meaty Bing, the orange-red Queen Anne and the pink and yellow Rainier. Generally, the lighter-colored varieties are more fragile and need to be used up quickly.

Virtually any recipe using cherries begins with pitting them. The easiest way is with a pitter hand tool, which also works nicely on olives.

Sweet sauces

A brownie sundae topped with cherry sauce. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

A brownie sundae topped with cherry sauce. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brooke Jackson

Cherries lend themselves quite well to both savory and sweet sauces. For a dessert sauce, combine 2 cups of pitted cherries with 1 cup of water and half a cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved with 2 tablespoons of water, and 1 tablespoon each of amaretto and fresh lemon juice. Continue cooking at a low simmer until mixture thickens. Serve over ice cream with brownies or as a topping for chocolate or sponge cakes with whipped cream.

Savory sauces

Sliced pork tenderloin topped with cherry sauce. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

Sliced pork tenderloin topped with cherry sauce. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brooke Jackson

For an easy pan sauce for pork tenderloin, brown a 1- to 2-pound tenderloin in 1 teaspoon of olive oil in an oven-proof skillet until golden on all sides. Put the skillet in a 350 F oven until pork is done to your liking, (165 F internal temperature), about 20 to 25 minutes, depending on thickness. Pull the skillet out, move the tenderloin to a plate and tent with foil. Over medium-high heat, brown 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion in the pan juices then deglaze with 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Cook down until liquid is reduced by half. Add 1 1/2 cups of pitted, halved cherries and sauté until they are tender and release their juice, about 7 minutes. Finish the sauce with 1 heaping tablespoon of crème fraiche. Slice the pork and fan out on plates, then top with the sauce. The sauce is also delicious with roast or grilled duck, chicken or turkey.


Salads topped with cherries. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

Salads topped with cherries. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brooke Jackson

Tender spring greens pair perfectly with cherries in salads. Use 4 packed cups of mixed baby greens or baby spinach leaves with 1 cup of pitted and halved Queen Ann or Rainier cherries, 1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese and 1/4 cup of toasted hazelnuts. Make a dressing using 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (I like O brand) and 3 tablespoons hazelnut oil, whisking together until an emulsified dressing forms. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then toss with the salad and serve.

You can switch out the hazelnuts for toasted walnuts and use walnut oil in the dressing, and you can also substitute goat cheese for the blue cheese.


A cherry-blueberry tart. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

A cherry-blueberry tart. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brooke Jackson

Cherries are a dessert baker’s dream and work just as well in pies and tarts as they do in crumbles and cobblers. They pair well with apricots, peaches and berries of all kinds.

For a different take on pie, mix 3 cups pitted, stemmed and halved cherries (a red variety works best) with 3 cups blueberries, 2 ounces of butter and 4 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the blueberries release their juice and the cherries become slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 3/4  cup white sugar and 3/4 cup brown sugar; cook until mixture thickens, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add flour by 1/4 teaspoons if mixture doesn’t develop heavy syrup consistency. Remove from heat and cool. Fold in 3 cups of fresh blueberries and pour into a baked pie shell and chill until set. Serve with whipped cream.

To make the volume of filling for the pictured tart, reduce the quantities of all ingredients by two-thirds.

Cocktails and drinks

Cherries can add a taste of summer to your favorite cocktails. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

Cherries can add a taste of summer to your favorite cocktails. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brooke Jackson

Whether you’re muddling, blending or slushing, cherries add a burst of flavor to warm-weather cocktails. Purée pitted cherries in a blender with lime juice, agave syrup and ice and then add tequila and triple sec for a spin on the traditional margarita. Or try a cherry julep: Muddle fresh cherries and mint with superfine sugar in a little water in the bottom of a highball glass, then fill the glass with crushed ice and pour in bourbon. Give it a stir, garnish with a mint sprig and gallop away.

For a sweet cherry take on the mojito, combine ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, 3 ounces rum, 1 1/2 ounces agave syrup, 1/2 ounce lime juice, 6 pitted cherries and 2 ice cubes in a blender jar. Blend on high speed until the mixture is slushy. Pour into glasses and garnish with 1 fresh cherry and a mint sprig.

How to buy and store cherries

When buying cherries, look for plump, firm fruit free of wrinkles and mold. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

When buying cherries, look for plump, firm fruit free of wrinkles and mold. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brooke Jackson

If you can get cherries at your local farmers market, then taste your way through the vendors to find your favorite varieties. At grocery stores, try to taste before buying, if possible, to make sure cherries are sweet and ripe. Look for ones that are plump without wrinkles or mold and are firm to the touch.

Store cherries in the refrigerator for longer shelf life and wash just before using.

Given the fleeting nature of cherry season and the fruit’s amazing versatility, life can just be a bowl of cherries, at least until the end of July.

Main photo: A bowl of fresh cherries. Credit: Copyright 2017 Brooke Jackson

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French Cheese Pairs Well With American Can-Do /people/french-cheese-company-american-success-story/ /people/french-cheese-company-american-success-story/#comments Thu, 18 May 2017 09:00:39 +0000 /?p=60603 Cheeses from Marin French Cheese Co. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Way out on a winding country road in Northern California is a cheese company that has been making European-style cheeses for more than 150 years. Marin French Cheese Co. has been creating its award-winning products using many of the same cheese-making methods as it did more than a century ago.

Founder Jefferson A. Thompson started making fresh cheese on his dairy farm for a burgeoning San Francisco economy in 1865. The Gold Rush was in decline, so many miners found their way to the city by the bay. This increase in population caused a shortage of eggs, which were frequently pickled and served as a saloon snack to hungry dockworkers. To supplant this dearth, Thompson provided his fresh cheeses, which quickly gained in popularity.

One of his first cheeses was Breakfast Cheese, a fresh, unripened Brie still made today. You can just imagine the dusty days of early San Francisco, with rough stevedores wolfing down this delicate, ivory-colored cheese on a piece of sourdough bread.

As the demand for his cheese increased, Thompson created more creamy varieties. By the early 1900s, Thompson and his family added aged cheese to their repertoire of Breakfast Cheese, cream cheese and other fresh varieties. They produced a creamy Camembert and a pungent Austrian variety called Schloss.

Cheese company has grown with the times

Marin French Cheese Co. is considered the oldest continuously operating cheese factory in the United States, and it has operated in the same location of west Marin County all this time. Back in the early days, the cheese was brought to Petaluma, California, by horse and wagon and shipped from there to San Francisco on a steamer called The Gold.

Thompson was the first pioneer to create European-style soft-ripened cheese in California, and he quickly gained recognition for his achievements and for his delicious cheeses. Initially aged in a hand-dug cellar, the washed-rind cheeses have gone on to win a cache of awards, starting in the late 1980s at American Cheese Society competitions. The game changer, though, was the 2006 World Cheese Awards in London, where the Triple Crème Brie beat out all the competition, including from French counterparts. This was a turning point for California cheeses in general because it helped them become recognized on the international stage, and for Marin French in particular as a producer of Brie whose quality rivals that of European cheeses.

In 2014, again at the World Cheese Awards, Marin French won “Super Gold” for its newest cheese, called Supreme. This is a lush, soft-ripened cheese with a decadent 70 percent butterfat. And in 2015, the very first cheese the company created in 1865, the Petite Breakfast, was a winner in the Good Food Awards. This was the first time the company had entered this competition, which is known for recognizing those on the forefront of American craft foods.

What makes Marin French cheeses so good? For one, the milk, which is produced at dairy farms all within 15 miles of the creamery. The cheeses require rich cream and milk to maintain their indulgent textures, so the milk comes from a combination of Jersey, Guernsey and Holstein breeds.

A cheese plate with cheeses from Marin French Cheese Co. Credit: Brooke Jackson

A cheese plate with cheeses from Marin French Cheese Co. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Another way the company maintains its consistency is through employee longevity and satisfaction. Many folks have worked for the company for 30 years — and one person who recently retired had been there for 60 years. Marin French uses a training program in which new production workers learn all areas of cheese making under the guidance of experienced employees, which aids in producing an exceptional product.

Up until 1995, members of the Thompson family were involved with the company. That year, they sold it to Jim Boyce, a cheese aficionado and entrepreneur. Boyce died in 2010, and in 2011, Rians, a French cheese company owned by the Triballat family, purchased Marin French. Rians also owns Laura Chenel’s Chevre, just over the county line in Sonoma, California.

The new owners have upgraded the creamery facility, investing in state-of-the-art equipment. They’ve contributed their business expertise as well and have refined the cheese-making process.

Marin French Cheese Co.’s standards of excellence in producing handmade artisanal cheese gain recognition both within the industry and from legions of fans who enjoy the 40-plus varieties produced at the scenic, historical facility. The cheeses are still made by hand from locally sourced milk creating their own flavor profile, integrity and terroir. Considering their start as a saloon snack, Marin French cheeses have certainly come a long way.

Marin French Cheese Co.

7500 Red Hill Road, Petaluma, California

(707) 762-6001

Main photo: Cheeses from Marin French Cheese Co. Credit: Brooke Jackson

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3 Yummy Meal Bowls Capture Seasonal Flavors /breakfast-wrecipe/3-yummy-meal-bowls-capture-seasonal-flavors/ /breakfast-wrecipe/3-yummy-meal-bowls-capture-seasonal-flavors/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 09:00:38 +0000 /?p=73218 Savory Yogurt Bowl. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

The recent trend of meals served in bowls continues to show its appeal for so many reasons. Bowls continue to be quite popular on restaurant menus too, with endlessly clever combinations to suit any diet or meal.

As Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold put it, “Avocado toast? That was so last year. We are now in the age of the phenomenon I have come to think of as Things in a Bowl, a culinary invention that may depend on rice, pasta, whole grains or legumes but usually includes a poached egg of one sort or another and always, always comes with kale.”

Well, not always kale. On a recent trip through Santa Barbara, California, I had a delicious quinoa breakfast bowl at Backyard Bowls. The Southern California chain offers a choice of quinoa, acai, oatmeal, yogurt and muesli as the base, then builds on that with fresh fruit, nut milks and butters, nuts, granola, dried fruit and seeds. Diners can choose spirulina, bee pollen, goji berries and other super foods to sprinkle on top for added nutrition. My quinoa bowl with cashew milk, berries and honey was just the ticket, comforting, sweet and rib-sticking.

Another Santa Barbara outpost, Buddha Bowls, makes savory concoctions then stuffs them in hollowed-out bread bowls. Some of the fillings include chili, macaroni and cheese with bacon, Hawaiian barbecue and Mediterranean flavors with hummus and veggies — recipes designed to appeal to the mostly student population in that area.

Another restaurant just up the coast from Santa Barbara — Calafia Café in Palo Alto, California — uses noodles, lentils, brown rice and roasted yams for the base of its bowls then adds vegetables and proteins for either vegan or carnivore eaters. One of my favorites is the Fiery Bottom BBQ Pork Bowl with braised pork, barbecue sauce, sautéed spinach, fried quail egg, roasted yams and brown rice.

The Plant Café, another small California chain, has a dynamite bowl featuring wild salmon with ginger lime sauce and seasonal vegetables over soba noodles.

Even some yogurt purveyors have waded in – after all, yogurt was the base for some of the first bowls ever, usually served with granola and fruit. Putting a new twist on that mixture, Pinkberry added a line of savory Greek yogurt bowls to its offerings a few years back. Cucumbers, olive oil, sunflower crackers, toasted quinoa and pumpkin seeds were among the toppings. Pinkberry has since taken these items off its menu, but I like the idea for its versatility and for how easily it translates to the home cook.

Heck, when you have your pantry and fridge to choose from, many iterations of grain, noodle, vegetable, herb, bean, spice, seed or oil could work for a nutritious bowl, making a snappy lunch, snack or even appetizer to share in a jiffy.

Besides being a fantastic way to get food on the table quickly, bowls present a handy opportunity for using up leftovers. Think of the rice you cooked two nights ago, the leftover roasted chicken from Sunday and the asparagus and carrots that need to get used up. Steam the asparagus until tender/crisp and layer baby salad greens, then rice and then chicken in bowls. Top with coarsely grated carrots, the asparagus and some sesame seeds then drizzle with teriyaki sauce.

Or you could take the salad greens-chicken-rice combination a different direction with the addition of cilantro, pinto beans and avocado or use leftover noodles instead of rice and change up the vegetables. Heat up the ingredients or serve at room temperature depending on personal preference. To add spark and versatility, have on hand a few sauces such as salsa, chimichurri, Thai curry, peanut or lemon vinaigrette for drizzling on top.

So whether you’re a trendsetter or not, making bowls at home is easy, fun and quick. Here are a couple recipes to chew on:

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Quinoa breakfast bowl. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Quinoa breakfast bowl. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Yield: 1 serving


1 cup water

1/2 cup quinoa

2 tablespoons golden raisins

1/4 cup almond milk

4 strawberries, stemmed and quartered

1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted

2 tablespoon slivered almonds, toasted

1 teaspoon agave syrup


1. Bring water and quinoa to a boil then lower heat and cover. After 10 minutes, stir in the raisins and continue to cook until the grains open up into translucent flat disks and liquid is absorbed, about 5 to 10 minutes longer.

2. Stir in almond milk and pour into a bowl. Arrange berries on top then sprinkle with coconut and almonds and drizzle with agave syrup. Eat while still warm.

Mexican-style Pinto Bean Bowl

Mexican-style Pinto Bean Bowl. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Mexican-style Pinto Bean Bowl. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Yield: 1 serving


1/4 cup shredded red cabbage

Juice of 1/2 lime

Butter, enough to grease frying pan

1 egg

1/2 cup whole pinto beans, warmed

1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 teaspoon chopped cilantro

1/4 avocado


1. Toss the cabbage with the lime juice and set aside.

2. Heat a small frying pan and add a little butter. Fry the egg to a perfect sunny side up. While the egg is cooking, layer the beans in a bowl, then top with the cooked egg then cabbage salad.

3. Scatter the tomatoes over the top and sprinkle with the cilantro, then perch the avocado on top. Serve immediately.

Savory Yogurt Bowl

Yield: 1 serving


1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, whipped with a whisk to enhance silken texture

1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut in small dice

1/4 cup sesame sticks, broken into small pieces

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon gray Maldon sea salt

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pure New Mexico chile powder


1. Layer yogurt in a bowl. Top with cucumber, then sesame sticks. Drizzle oil over all then sprinkle with salt and chile powder to taste.

Main photo: Savory Yogurt Bowl. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

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Zesty Citrus Fruits Brighten Winter Meals /fruit-wrecipe/zesty-citrus-fruits-brighten-winter-meals/ /fruit-wrecipe/zesty-citrus-fruits-brighten-winter-meals/#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 10:00:57 +0000 /?p=72069 Citrus fruits can help add flavor to everything from salads to dressings in winter, when many other fresh fruits are not in season. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

The orange trees outside the window are laden with fruit turning the colors of a sunset and pulling the branches down with their weight. The lemon tree is full of new buds awaiting a glimpse of sun before they burst open while baby lemons turn from green to yellow among the buds and last season’s fruit drops on the ground.

This is the season of citrus, and just about every corner of the U.S. has grapefruits, limes, lemons, tangerines and oranges in produce bins at farmers markets and grocery stores. The versatility of the different varieties makes it easy to include them in your daily diet in exciting and delicious ways. One of the best is to add the peeled, segmented fruit to salads or recipes.

How to segment a citrus fruit

Using a sharp knife, cut off the top and bottom of the fruit so it stands flat and stable on the cutting board. Carefully cut the skin off the flesh from top to bottom, rotating the fruit as you go, until all the skin and white pith is off the flesh. Then cut each segment from the membrane. Work over a bowl to catch all the juice for use in dressings, cocktails, smoothies or just to drink.

Oranges and tangerines

Oranges and tangerines are a good choice for adding flavor to a smoothie. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Oranges and tangerines are a good choice for adding flavor to a smoothie. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Oranges and tangerines — with names like navel, Cara Cara, clementine and Satsuma — may be the most popular citrus fruits. For eating out of hand or squeezing for juice, these sweet, tasty citrus have no match.

  • Try them peeled in a smoothie for breakfast; I like to use three oranges or tangerines, a banana and a good handful of spinach, which dyes the smoothie emerald green.
  • Zest the skin and add a tablespoon to your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe for a zingy blast — there is nothing like the combo of chocolate with orange.
  • Add segments to raw spinach and thinly sliced red onion for a tangy salad. Toss with a quick dressing of rice vinegar, honey, a dash of sesame oil and olive oil, then top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.


One use for limes: using the juice for making fresh guacamole. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

One use for limes: using the juice for making fresh guacamole. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Limes are one of nature’s seasonings and are absolute necessities for a well-stocked bar, in Southeast Asian cooking and as part of a gutsy margarita.

  • Add the juice to avocados, cilantro, salt and garlic for a creamy bowl of guacamole.
  • Stir coconut milk and lime juice with a good curry paste (I like Sukhi’s or Patak’s) then simmer briefly to make a sauce. Add cooked chicken, sliced fresh mango or peeled pears, peas and chopped sautéed onion for a quick chicken curry. Serve with steamed basmati rice and naan.
  • Make a marinade using the juice and zest of one lime with soy sauce, minced garlic, minced jalapeño and a drop or two of honey. Use on mild white fish, chicken, shrimp or skirt or flank steak cooked on the grill.


These somewhat unwieldy fruits are too large to take in a lunch box, require a knife to cut or peel and have a surprisingly tart/sweet flavor, but what would winter be without this juicy fruit? In salads, dressings, juices, sodas and cocktails, both pink and yellow grapefruit add a tart/sweet smack of flavor. My favorite varieties are Oro Blanco and Melo Gold.

  • To make a healthy winter salad, mix segments of grapefruit and slices of ripe avocado with a mix of arugula and spinach, shavings of fennel and a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds over the top. Make a dressing with the grapefruit juice saved from segmenting, balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of honey and olive oil.
  • For a quick snack, cut a grapefruit into medium-size wedges and eat, pulling the sections off the skin. Stand over the sink or the juice will dribble down your front.
  • For a warming winter cocktail, shake vodka and ice with grapefruit and lime juices in a cocktail shaker. Strain into glasses and fill with pomegranate soda. Add a couple of cubes of ice and enjoy.


Lemon juice adds nice flavor to dressings. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Lemon juice adds nice flavor to dressings. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Lemons are the most versatile of citrus fruits, used year-round and the world over. For squeezing on fish, adding the juice to marinades, dressings, curd, iced tea and cocktails, or zesting the skin into gremolata, baked goods and even pasta, every part of the lemon can be put to good use.

  • For a salad dressing that can be your go-to, whisk the juice of half a lemon, chopped garlic to taste, a dab of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil to form an emulsion.
  • Pile the zest of one lemon, a handful of parsley, ½ teaspoon of fresh rosemary needles, 1 large clove garlic and salt and pepper on a cutting board. Finely chop all ingredients together into a paste. Mix with a little olive oil and spread on halibut, albacore tuna, chicken or pork then grill over coals or sear in a hot pan, lower heat and cook to desired doneness. It’s a heavenly smell!
  • Combine lemon juice, a pinch of zest, honey and a knob of peeled fresh ginger in a teacup. Fill with boiling water and steep 2 minutes then sip for cough and cold relief.

Tools for citrus fruits

Working with citrus fruits requires a few basic kitchen tools. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Working with citrus fruits requires a few basic kitchen tools. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

Pictured above are must-have tools for working with citrus fruits. A handled microplane grater is perfect for zesting citrus quickly and easily. Before microplanes were born, we had the most pathetic zesting tools, now this guy makes it painless.

A small wooden reamer is what I use to juice limes and lemons, it squeezes out every drop. The large juicing reamer is good for any citrus fruit and traps the seeds as well. It also snaps onto measuring cups or bowls for easy catchment of juice.

Main photo: Citrus fruits can help add flavor to everything from salads to dressings in winter, when many other fresh fruits are not in season. Credit: Copyright 2016 Brooke Jackson

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Go Seasonal: 4 Refreshing Thanksgiving Desserts /desserts-wrecipe/go-seasonal-4-refreshing-thanksgiving-desserts/ /desserts-wrecipe/go-seasonal-4-refreshing-thanksgiving-desserts/#comments Mon, 16 Nov 2015 10:00:32 +0000 /?p=70590 Gingerbread With Pumpkin Ice Cream and Salted Caramel. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many of us are thinking of menus, making shopping lists and planning table arrangements. While the meal has certain traditions that remain the same year in and year out, it is refreshing to add new dishes that speak to the season by using what’s available now.

Persimmons are one of those ingredients with a season from October to January. A much misunderstood fruit, the orange globes come in two varieties: the squat and firm Fuyu, which can be eaten as soon as it is deep orange, and the Hachiya, which has a teardrop shape that needs to ripen to a squishy softness before it’s ready to use.

One idea for a Thanksgiving dessert recipe is a tart of sliced Fuyu persimmons encased in rich hazelnut shortbread dough. The top is glazed with apricot jam for gloss and showered with crystalized turinado sugar for show. Each slice is topped with a dollop of whipped cream and is sure to keep diners from missing pumpkin pie.

Speaking of pumpkin, ice cream made with this harvest squash can serve as the topping for a spicy gingerbread sauced with caramel and sprinkled with a few grains of sea salt. Rich pumpkin ice cream is available in grocery stores and specialty shops at this time of year, as is delectable caramel sauce. The gingerbread is super quick to mix up and bake, so this elegant dessert’s classy flavors belie the ease of putting it together. Trader Joe’s makes a decent version of the ice cream and sauce, or check Whole Foods or your favorite grocery store for top-quality caramel sauce (I love Fran’s Classic) and pumpkin ice cream.

Apples and fresh olive oil are two more ingredients that are plentiful and seasonal in November. They come together in mini Bundt cakes, which are all the rage right now. The apples add a moist richness, and the olive oil is a healthy fat, a welcome ingredient after the cholesterol-busting turkey dinner. If you don’t have mini Bundt pans, the cake can be made in a deep round pan or two layer cake pans. Each little cake is topped with bourbon-laced mascarpone cream and chopped walnuts, adding a touch of decadence.

Another decadent and somewhat traditional dessert for Thanksgiving is pecan pie. My northeastern relatives always made it with maple syrup, which is a perfect match for nutty, crunchy pecans. The combination of maple with brown sugar, butter and corn syrup creates a butterscotch-caramel flavor and texture that makes a fine ending to the holiday meal. This recipe is very easy and quick to make, especially if you use a purchased piecrust.

So shake up tradition around the Thanksgiving table this year and bake some unusual tarts, pies and cakes that take advantage of what’s in season now.

Spiced Persimmon Tart With Hazelnut Crust

One idea for a Thanksgiving dessert recipe is Spiced Persimmon Tart With Hazelnut Crust. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke JacksonSpiced Persimmon Tart With Hazelnut Crust. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

One idea for a Thanksgiving dessert recipe is Spiced Persimmon Tart With Hazelnut Crust. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

Prep time: 35 minutes

Bake time: 35 minutes

Total time: 70 minutes

Yield: 10 servings


For the crust:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Pinch of salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut in pieces

1 egg

For the filling:

3 Fuyu persimmons, about 1/2 pound each, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon dried ginger

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 tablespoon apricot jam, melted

1/2 teaspoon large-crystal turbinado sugar

For serving:

Whipped cream


For the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease tart pan thoroughly.
  2. Put flour, nuts, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse on and off until the nuts are ground into flour and the ingredients are well mixed.
  3. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Add the egg and pulse until the dough clumps together.
  5. Press the dough on the bottom and sides of a 4-inch-by-14-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. (You can also use a 9-inch square pan or a round tart pan.)

For the filling:

  1. Combine the persimmons with lemon juice, sugar and spices and stir until all slices are coated.
  2. Layer the fruit decoratively in prepared crust so the slices overlap.
  3. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until crust is golden brown and persimmons are tender.
  4. Remove from oven and, while hot, brush fruit slices with apricot jam. Let cool slightly then sprinkle evenly with turbinado crystals.
  5. Cool on a rack then remove the sides of the pan.
  6. At serving time, top each slice of tart with a dollop of whipped cream.

Gingerbread With Pumpkin Ice Cream and Salted Caramel

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

Yield: 12 servings


For the cake:

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup boiling water

For serving:

Pumpkin ice cream

Caramel sauce, warmed gently in microwave

French gray sea salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square glass baking dish.
  2. Whisk eggs, sugar, molasses, spices and oil in a medium bowl until smooth.
  3. Stir in the dissolved baking soda then beat in the flour, whisking until all lumps are gone.
  4. Add the boiling water and stir lightly until it’s incorporated. The batter will be quite thin.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan and bake about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack.
  6. At serving time, cut squares of gingerbread and put on plates. Top with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of warm caramel. Sprinkle a few grains of sea salt on top of each serving.

Mini Apple Bundt Cakes With Mascarpone Bourbon Cream

Mini Apple Bundt Cakes With Marscapone Bourbon Cream. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

Mini Apple Bundt Cakes With Marscapone Bourbon Cream. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

Prep time: 15 minutes

Bake time: 40 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

Yield: 6 mini Bundt cakes, plus 2 cupcakes


For the cake:

3/4 cup good, fresh olive oil (I like California Olive Ranch)

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups cored, unpeeled grated tart apples

1 teaspoon vanilla

For the cream:

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

2 tablespoons bourbon

1/2 cup heavy cream whipped with 1 teaspoon powdered sugar to soft peaks

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted


  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease the Bundt pans very well with canola spray.
  2. Whisk the oil, sugar and eggs together until light and fluffy.
  3. Whisk in the dry ingredients and mix just until well combined.
  4. Fold in the apples and vanilla.
  5. Fill the Bundt pans to 1/2-inch from the top. Use any remaining batter for cupcakes.
  6. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a rack.
  7. Make the cream by stirring the mascarpone and bourbon together until smooth, then gently fold in whipped cream.
  8. For serving, place a mini Bundt cake on each plate and mound a generous dollop of bourbon cream in the center hole. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

Maple Pecan Pie

Maple Pecan Pie. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

Maple Pecan Pie. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

Prep time: 20 minutes

Bake time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


For the filling:

3/4 cup Grade B maple syrup

1/2 cup white corn syrup

3/4 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, cut in pieces

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups pecans

1 (9-inch) pie shell

For serving:

Whipped cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine syrups, sugar and butter in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until butter is melted. Raise heat and bring mixture to a boil for one minute. Set aside to cool until lukewarm.
  2. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla and salt until well combined.
  3. Fold in 1 cup of pecans.
  4. Pour filling into pie shell.
  5. Sprinkle 1 cup of pecans evenly over the top of the pie.
  6. Place on a baking sheet or tray to catch any drips and bake for one hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a rack.
  8. At serving time, cut the pie into wedges and top each piece with whipped cream.

Main photo: Gingerbread With Pumpkin Ice Cream and Salted Caramel. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

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Distiller’s Green Chile Vodka Adds A Kick To Cocktails /cocktails-wrecipe/distillers-green-chile-vodka-adds-a-kick-to-cocktails/ /cocktails-wrecipe/distillers-green-chile-vodka-adds-a-kick-to-cocktails/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 09:00:05 +0000 /?p=68953 St. George Spirits owner and master distiller Lance Winters and distiller and blender Dave Smith. Credit: Copyright 2015 Ben Krantz

One whiff, and I knew the guys at St. George had done it again — their new line of vodkas hit all the right notes, albeit some unusual ones. The bottle I was sniffing was the Green Chile Vodka, made with jalapeño, serrano and habanero chile peppers, and red and yellow bell peppers as well as lime zest and cilantro. The sweet heat and spice of the peppers was palpable, and a quick sip followed through with pure chile pepper flavors backed with a surprisingly subtle heat, a nice mix that got the juices flowing.

St. George Spirits has been a pioneer in the craft-distilling movement for more than 30 years. Back in the company’s infancy, it created eau-de-vie in a copper-pot still using a recipe from founder Jorg Rupf’s German childhood. Master distiller Lance Winters joined Rupf years later, and the two came up with the idea of making flavor-infused vodka using the eau-de-vie method. The process involves fermenting ripe fruit and roasted grains, building the flavor on the front end before distillation. “We learn more from chefs and perfume makers than from other distillers,” Winters said in a recent interview.

Hangar 1 Vodka is born

The St. George Spirits distillery. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

The St. George Spirits distillery. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

They called their vodka Hangar 1, named after the airplane hangar at the defunct Alameda Naval Air Station in Northern California that now houses the distillery. The first flavor used mandarin blossoms, which were fermented and then distilled. They made 200 cases, priced it at $40 a bottle and sold out almost immediately.

Next up they made a kaffir lime flavor, which reflected their love of food from Southeast Asia; it had an appealing soft, woody quality that was very popular. Finally, the pair got a case of Buddha’s hand, the unusual, intensely floral citrus fruit, and fermented and distilled that; this became Winters’ favorite flavor, and the legend of Hangar 1 vodka was born.

Hangar 1 was so popular it was hard for Rupf and Winters to keep up with production, which prompted them to move into the spacious airplane hangar from their first distillery. The brand’s wild success exceeded both of their expectations.

In 2010, they sold off Hangar 1 to Proximo Spirits and, not long after, Rupf retired. The management at St. George signed a non-compete agreement in effect until the beginning of this year, when it released a trio of new vodkas. Besides the green chile flavor, the distiller crafted California Citrus Vodka out of Valencia and Seville oranges and bergamot and All Purpose Vodka made with a non-GMO base spirit and a touch of distilled pears. By all accounts, each variety is stellar, garnering a lot of praise from the press and liquor industry pundits.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the green chile variety is a “real stunner,”and K&L Wine Merchants published this compliment on its website: “All hail the new kings of American vodka. The boys from the East Bay are back to claim the crown and the throne.”

A little heat for your cocktails

The Green Chile Vodka from St. George Spirits. Credit: Copyright 2015 Jason Tinacci

The Green Chile Vodka from St. George Spirits. Credit: Copyright 2015 Jason Tinacci

The Green Chile Vodka is by far the most unusual and was inspired by a stint in the early 1990s when Winters worked at a brewpub and would drink the leftover liquid from the house-made salsa fresca. Given that pedigree, the spirit is perfect in bloody Mary cocktails, including an offbeat one made with garden-fresh summer tomatoes, lemon juice and zest and a touch of Sriracha sauce (see recipe below).

The flavor also lends itself to any cocktail with fresh fruit juices. Hopscotch restaurant in Oakland, California, makes one called Your Cheatin’ Heart with pineapple and lime juices and a rim dip of smoked salt. The Spicy Paloma (from St. George) pairs the vodka with grapefruit and lime juices and club soda. Spiking a traditional agua fresca with the chile-laced spirit is a natural, especially when made with any type of melon juice (see recipe below).

Winters and his sidekick, distiller Dave Smith, are original thinkers, artists who use unusual ingredients as their paintbrush and the still as their canvas. The addition of these vodkas to their existing portfolio of 18 liquors — running from fruit brandy to single malt to agricole rum — continues the spirit of originality that has guided the distillery since its inception.

Chile-spiked Agua Fresca

Chile-spiked Agua Fresca. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

Chile-spiked Agua Fresca. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

Yield: 1 drink


1 cup watermelon pulp, whirred in a blender to juice

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 1/2 ounces St. George Green Chile Vodka

Lime wedge for garnish


1. Shake the first three ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass.

2. Garnish with a lime wedge

Zippy Bloody Mary

A Zippy Bloody Mary. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

A Zippy Bloody Mary. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

Yield: 1 drink


1 medium juicy, ripe tomato, whirred in a blender to thin to a purée

1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

Juice and zest of 1 small lemon

1 1/2 ounces of St. George Green Chile Vodka

Yellow pear or Sungold cherry tomatoes and celery stick for garnish


1. Shake the first four ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

2. Garnish with skewered cherry tomatoes and a celery stick.


Main photo: St. George Spirits owner and master distiller Lance Winters, left, and distiller and blender Dave Smith. Credit: Copyright 2015 Ben Krantz

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6 Ways To Love Spring’s Vibrant, Tender Greens /vegetables-wrecipe/6-salads-make-springs-best-fresh-greens/ /vegetables-wrecipe/6-salads-make-springs-best-fresh-greens/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 09:00:10 +0000 /?p=63825 Spinach Salad With Strawberries and Feta. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

The verdant piles of greens at the market herald the arrival of spring: Bunches of watercress, baskets of baby arugula, heaps of spinach and kale, newborn heads of butter lettuce and curly sprigs of pea shoots are just part of the riot of ingredients out there now that are perfect for your salad bowl.

Spinach Salad With Strawberries and Feta


Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


For the salad:

6 packed cups of baby spinach leaves

2 1/2 cups stemmed, thinly sliced strawberries (about 1 1/2 pints)

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Put all the salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

2. Make the dressing by mixing lemon juice and honey together in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil, adding it in a very thin, slow stream and whisking rapidly until an emulsion forms. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

3. Toss the dressing with the salad and serve.

Twisted Niçoise Salad

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: About 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


For the salad:

24 asparagus spears, woody ends broken off

4 medium beets

1/2 teaspoon of salt

16 to 20 butter lettuce leaves

4 eggs, boiled to hard or semi-hard, peeled and halved

1 medium cucumber, cut in 1/4-inch slices

2 tomatoes, cored and cut in wedges

20 Castelvetrano olives

2 (5-ounce) cans of Italian tuna in olive oil (such as Genova or Cento), drained

For the dressing:

1 large clove of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Lay the prepared asparagus in a 10-inch frying pan and add about 1 inch of water. Cover tightly with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Lower the heat to a strong simmer and steam the spears until just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. While the asparagus is cooking, make an ice bath in a large bowl using cold water and plenty of ice. Once cooked, plunge the spears into the ice bath to stop them cooking.

4. When cool, remove from bath and drain. Add more ice to the bath and set aside.

5. Put beets in a medium saucepan and add enough water to just cover them, then add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

6. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer; cook until beets are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 to 30 minutes depending on size.

7. Remove from cooking water and submerge in ice bath until cool enough to handle. Slip off the skins and slice each beet thinly.

8. Make the dressing by placing the garlic, mustard and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil in a thin stream until a cohesive dressing forms. Add salt and pepper to taste.

9. Assemble the salads by arranging lettuce leaves to cover four dinner plates. Make a pile of six asparagus spears on one side, a stack of beets on the other and fill in the rest of the plate perimeter with the egg halves, cucumber slices and tomato wedges. Scatter the olives over the top.

10. Put half a can of tuna in the middle of each plate and drizzle the salads with some of the dressing.

11. Finish the plates with a few grinds of fresh pepper and serve. You can pass more dressing at the table.

Spring Salad

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


For the salad:

1 bunch of pea shoots, tough stems removed, washed and spun dry

1 bunch of watercress, tough stems and roots removed, washed and spun dry

4 big handfuls baby arugula leaves

1/4 cup hazelnuts, roasted and skinned

2 tablespoons of mild, creamy cheese, such as chèvre, farmer cheese or ricotta

3 thin slices of watermelon radish, stacked and cut into little triangles

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon best-quality sherry vinegar (I like O brand)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon hazelnut oil

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Tear pea shoots and watercress into bite-sized pieces and put in a large salad bowl.

2. Add the rest of the salad ingredients to the bowl.

3. Make the dressing by whisking the vinegar with the oils until it comes together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Toss the dressing with the salad and serve.

Mexican Kale Salad

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


For the salad:

1/2 cup grapefruit sections, preferably from Oro Blanco or Melogold

2 packed cups of Tuscan kale leaves cut in thin (1/2-inch) ribbons, from about 5 or 6 large leaves with stems removed

1/4 cup radishes, cut in thin matchsticks

1 small avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese

4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (pepitas), roasted and salted

For the dressing:

1 heaping teaspoon grapefruit zest

1/4 teaspoon minced jalapeño pepper

2 tablespoons grapefruit juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Zest 1 heaping teaspoon of grapefruit skin for the dressing by cutting the stem and bottom skin and white pith off. Stand the fruit on the flat bottom (not stem side) so it is stable. Take a sharp knife and cut the skin off from top to bottom, cutting the white pith as you go.

2. Over a bowl, cut the sections from the membrane, catching any juice. Save 2 tablespoons of juice for the dressing and 1/2 cup sections for the salad, cutting any larger sections in half crosswise. Reserve the rest for another use — such as drinking it right down!

3. Put the grapefruit sections, kale ribbons, radishes, avocado and cheese in a large salad bowl.

4. Make the dressing by mixing the zest, jalapeño pepper and juice together, then whisk in the olive oil until combined. Taste and add salt and pepper.

5. Toss the salad with the dressing until well mixed. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on the top and toss again. Serve immediately.

Asian Chicken Salad With Peanut Sauce

Prep time: 35 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


For the salad:

4 packed cups romaine, cut crosswise from 1 large heart of romaine

1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced into half moons

1 cup shredded cooked chicken

3 small sheets wasabi roasted seaweed, cut in strips

2 tablespoons roasted and salted sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons unsweetened toasted coconut flakes

3 tablespoons sesame sticks

For the peanut sauce:

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup peanut oil

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons tamari

2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

2 garlic cloves

6 fresh cilantro sprigs

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped

1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes


1. Make the peanut sauce by putting all the ingredients into a food processor or blender jar and combining until smooth. Reserve.

2. Toss the romaine with the cucumbers then mound in the middle of a large platter.

3. Make a crown of chicken around the top of the mound.

4. Place the seaweed, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes and sesame sticks in each corner of the platter.

5. Put a large dollop of the peanut sauce on top of the romaine mountain.

6. Bring to the table so everyone can see your lovely creation, then toss all the ingredients together, adding more peanut sauce if necessary.

7. Divide among plates and enjoy.

Cherry Quinoa Salad in Lettuce Cups

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 20 to 30 minutes

Total time: About an hour

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


For the salad:

2 cups water

1 cup red quinoa

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons dried cherries

1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted and coarsely broken

1 small fennel bulb, finely diced

1/2 cup finely diced crisp apple

1 head butter lettuce, washed and spun dry

For the dressing:

4 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Zest of 1 orange

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon walnut oil

1 tablespoon chives

1 tablespoons fennel leaves

1 tablespoon parsley


1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add quinoa and salt. Cover and turn heat to low. Cook until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa germ has expanded, about 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the orange and lemon juices with the vinegar and zest. Gradually drizzle in oils, whisking continuously, until dressing comes together. Mix in herbs.

3. When quinoa has cooked, scrape it into a mixing bowl and add the dressing, stirring to combine.

4. Add all the other salad ingredients except the lettuce. Cool to room temperature.

5. Set out lettuce leaves on a large platter and fill with quinoa salad. Serve.

Main photo: Spinach Salad With Strawberries and Feta. Credit: Copyright 2015 Brooke Jackson

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9 Fresh Ideas For Memorable Thanksgiving Leftovers /recipe/nine-fresh-ideas-for-memorable-thanksgiving-leftovers/ /recipe/nine-fresh-ideas-for-memorable-thanksgiving-leftovers/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 10:00:25 +0000 /?p=55921 Red turkey enchiladas. Credit: Brooke Jackson

It’s the morning after Thanksgiving. Bleary-eyed you stumble to the refrigerator to get some milk for your first cup of coffee. You open the fridge door and there is a monster inside, or possibly a monster with babies — a large lump wrapped in foil along with hundreds of little foil packages and plastic containers. You are hard-pressed to find the milk and suddenly feel overwhelmed by the prospect of dealing with all that food.

After years of feeling this way post-turkey day, I’ve come up with a method to deal with the leftovers and leave behind that overwhelmed feeling.

First, have some plans for the leftovers so you can craft your turkey day dinner accordingly. For example, if you plan to make turkey pot pie (see recipe below), be sure to make extra gravy so you’ll have enough left for this pie. Second, pick all the meat off the turkey carcass and get stock going after the holiday meal — otherwise the big lump wrapped in foil in the fridge will be easy to avoid and end up going to waste.

Making stock is an easy exercise and will really pay off in the days and months ahead. It freezes well and can be used in any recipe calling for poultry stock or as a base for soup during the winter.

Wrap all the turkey meat carefully in plastic wrap or foil and then seal the packet inside a plastic bag. If you don’t plan to use the meat within three days, then make several meal-sized packets and put them into the freezer.

Of the following recipes, the enchiladas and the minestrone soup both freeze well if you would like to make them now and freeze them for another time. Here are some other tips for using up the turkey day meal parts:

For sweet potato casserole

Leftover sweet potatoes can be made into patties and fried, then served alongside sausages. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Leftover sweet potatoes can be made into patties and fried, then served alongside sausages. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Scrape off any marshmallows and swirl in a teaspoon of chipotle purée (purée a can of chipotles in adobo and store in a ziplock bag in your freezer — this makes it easy to use a little of this spicy condiment at a time) for every 2 cups of sweet potatoes. Make patties using about 1/2 cup potatoes per patty and then fry in butter in a sauté pan until golden on each side. Serve with grilled sausages and leftover cranberry sauce.

For mashed potatoes

Use them as a topping for shepherd’s pie. Brown 1 pound ground beef with half a chopped onion; add 1/2 cup of frozen peas. Put all this in a shallow baking dish and cover the top with mashed potatoes. Grate on a little cheddar cheese and bake at 350 F for a half-hour until cheese is melted and potatoes are a little crusty on top.

For stuffing/gravy/turkey

Make hot turkey sandwiches by placing a slice of bread on a plate and topping it with a scoop of heated stuffing and a couple slices of turkey. Cover the whole thing with piping-hot gravy and you have Thanksgiving revisited.

For vegetables

Use cooked vegetables in the pot pie or soup recipes below. You could also use them in the shepherd’s pie or slip them into a frittata for weekend brunch.

Turkey Stock

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 2 hours

Total time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Yield: 6 quarts

There are more complicated recipes for making stock involving roasting bones, but you’ve already cooked enough. This recipe will yield a flavorful stock suitable for soups, risotto, sauces or anything else calling for poultry stock.


Turkey carcass

2 medium onions, quartered

2 carrots, cut in large pieces

2 celery stalks, cut in large pieces

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

1/4 cup fresh parsley sprigs


1. Break the carcass into 2 or 3 pieces with a cleaver, large knife or your hands.

2. Put turkey into a large (8-quart) pot with the other ingredients and cover with water.

3. Simmer 2 hours. Do not bring to a hard boil.

4. Strain into another pot and refrigerate overnight.

5. Before using, skim the fat from the surface.

6. Use within 4 days or freeze in 3- to 4-cup containers.

No Stress Minestrone

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

I don’t put turkey meat in this soup, but you could if you like. A steaming bowl will ward off the chill of a November day. It’s also good as a remedy for colds and the flu.

No Stress Minestrone. Credit: Brooke Jackson

No Stress Minestrone. Credit: Brooke Jackson



2 cups coarsely chopped onion

1 cup coarsely chopped carrot

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup medium-diced potatoes

7 cups turkey stock

2 cups medium-diced zucchini

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, undrained

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup uncooked medium- or small-shaped pasta, such as corkscrews, elbows or gemelli

1/3 cup sliced fresh basil leaves


1. Sweat the onion and carrot in olive oil in a covered soup pot for 10 minutes over low heat.

2. Add potatoes and stock and cook until potatoes are barely tender.

3. Add zucchini, tomatoes and cannellini beans and cook another 5 minutes. Taste and add 1 teaspoon of salt and a few grindings of black pepper.

4. Bring mixture to a boil and add pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente, about 7 minutes.

5. Taste again and adjust seasonings. Stir in sliced basil and ladle into bowls.

6. Top with grated Parmesan if you wish.

Note: Add enough pasta only for the portion of soup to be consumed right away. The pasta with swell and fall apart if not eaten.

Red Turkey Enchiladas

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Enchiladas can dry out easily, so have extra sauce on hand just in case.


2 cups cooked turkey, cut into bite-size pieces

2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided

1/2 cup mild onion, finely chopped

1 dozen corn tortillas

Two (15-ounce) cans of mild enchilada sauce


1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Mix onion, turkey and 1 1/2 cups cheddar in a bowl. Set aside.

3. Wrap tortillas in paper towels. Microwave until pliable, about 50 seconds, stopping to turn over the packet after 25 seconds.

4. Cover the bottom of a 9-inch-by-11-inch baking dish with sauce, about half a can.

5. Lay a tortilla on a plate and put 3 tablespoons of turkey mixture on one end. Roll up tightly and place in casserole. Continue in this manner until all the filling and tortillas are used.

6. Pour enough remaining sauce over the enchiladas to amply cover them.

7. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top and bake covered with foil for 10 minutes.

8. Remove foil and finish baking for another 10 minutes until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.

Wild Rice Salad With Turkey, Dried Cherries and Pecans

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Here is a light lunch or supper dish perfect for the days after Thanksgiving. The chewy texture of the wild rice is complemented by the earthy flavor of the turkey, the tartness of the cherries and the crunch of the pecans. This recipe was inspired by one in the first “Greens” cookbook by Zester Daily contributor Deborah Madison.


For the salad:

3/4 cup wild rice

4 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fennel bulb

1 large crisp apple

1/2 cup toasted pecans, broken into pieces

For the dressing:

Zest of one orange

4 tablespoons orange juice

4 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped fennel leaves, (from the bulb in the salad)

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley


1. Rinse wild rice then place into a pot with 4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

2. Bring to a boil, cover and turn temperature to low.

3. Simmer until rice grains have popped and texture is chewy and tender, 35 to 45 minutes.

4. While rice cooks, make the dressing. Put the orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt and fennel seeds in a small mixing bowl.Whisk in the oil and then the herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

5. Once rice is done, drain in a colander briefly.

6. Add the cherries and fennel to the warm rice and toss with enough dressing to moisten all the ingredients. Let cool to room temperature.

7. Just before serving, cut the apple into a medium dice and mix into the salad along with the pecans.

8. Add some ground black pepper. Taste and add more salt, if necessary, before serving.

Turkey Pot Pie

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


2 cups leftover gravy

Turkey stock

1 tablespoon white wine

2 cups mixed cooked vegetables, such as peas, carrots, green beans and pearl onions

1 cup peeled, diced cooked potatoes

2 cups cooked turkey in bite-size pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

1 sheet puff pastry


1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. Heat gravy in a large saucepot and thin with a little stock and 1 tablespoon of white wine.

3. Add all the other ingredients except the puff pastry.

4. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

5. Pour into a 3- or 4-quart casserole dish.

6. Top with a sheet of puff pastry and trim to fit the top.

7. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden and flaky and the turkey mixture is bubbling.

Main photo: Red turkey enchiladas. Credit: Brooke Jackson

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Pear-Blue Nirvana? 11 Ways To Enjoy This Fall Fruit /cooking-wrecipe/11-new-ways-enjoy-pears-falls-favorite-fruit/ /cooking-wrecipe/11-new-ways-enjoy-pears-falls-favorite-fruit/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 09:00:21 +0000 /?p=54090 Upside-Down Pear Cornmeal Cake. Credit: Brooke Jackson

The first pears have arrived in markets and, when perfectly ripe, they are delicious when eaten out-of-hand. And yet, as the weeks go by, you may long for even more from this fall favorite.

A fertile pear tree keeps my supply of this heavenly fruit overflowing for months. One unusual and-little known fact about pears is that they don’t ripen on the tree; they only do so after they are picked. The ones I’m intimately familiar with are about 1 to 2 pounds each and very hard. They are Bartletts, and they grow it abundance each year. Once picked, the pears go into paper bags in the garage until they start to ripen.

Other varieties readily found at most groceries and farmers markets are Anjou, which come in both green and red; the crisp Bosc; the buttery Comice; the voluptuous Starkrimson; and, in some places, the crunchy Concorde.

Often my pears all ripen at the same moment. When this happens, I experiment with ways to get more pears into meals, which has helped me discover how amazingly versatile they are. Here are some ideas on ways to cook and serve them.


Pear and Brie bruschetta: Spread several crostini or a large piece of toasted levain with a thin coat of soft, runny Brie. Lay a very thin slice of prosciutto over the Brie and top with arugula leaves. Cover with thin slices of pear (no need to peel), drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on coarse sea salt.

Pear and blue nirvana: Pear halves with blue cheese and candied pecans. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Pear and blue nirvana: Pear halves with blue cheese and candied pecans. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Pear and blue nirvana: Halve and core 2 pears and put each half onto a small plate. Place a generous wedge of blue cheese into the core cavity and sprinkle candied pecans over the pear.


Toss thinly sliced pears with hearty greens, such as torn kale, baby spinach and arugula. Mix in fresh raspberries and toasted hazelnuts. Serve with balsamic vinaigrette.

Mix arugula with quartered fresh figs, thinly sliced firm pears and toasted pumpkin seeds. Toss with a light dressing made with lemon juice, olive oil and honey.

Main dishes

Make a sauce for roasted pork or poultry. Start by peeling, coring and quartering 3 pounds of pears and putting them into a saucepan with ¼ cup St. George Spiced Pear liqueur or pear brandy, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and a pinch each of ground cloves and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the pears are soft. Mash with a potato masher to a chunky consistency. This sauce is also good with gingerbread.

Grill firm quarters of pears and serve with teriyaki chicken, barbecued pork, spicy sausages or grilled duck breast. The grilled pears are also good on a day-after-Thanksgiving sandwich with roast turkey and cranberry sauce.


Poach pears by peeling them and submerging, either whole or cored and quartered, in wine or sugar syrup flavored with cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, whole cloves or citrus peel. Cover the pan and cook until the pears are tender, about 30 minutes. Serve as is with some of the syrup, over ice cream, alongside a wedge of pound cake or with biscotti.

Make a crisp with peeled, cored and diced pears tossed with dried cherries and a squeeze of lemon juice. Top with your favorite crisp mixture and bake until tender.

Quarter and core pears and toss with melted butter and maple syrup, just enough to coat the fruit. Roast in a 400F oven until tender, about 20-25 minutes depending on pear variety and ripeness. Serve with crème fraiche, as part of a cheese course or with butter cookies or ice cream.

Find further inspiration in the recipes below.

Creamy Lamb Korma With Pears. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Creamy Lamb Korma With Pears. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Creamy Lamb Korma With Pears

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Total time: 1½ hours

Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings.


8 cloves garlic, peeled

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 ounces slivered almonds

⅓ cup water

3 tablespoons ghee or olive oil

1½ pounds lamb stew meat, seasoned well with salt and pepper

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons Indian curry paste

One 14-ounce can reduced fat coconut milk

3 medium pears (Bartlett or Anjou), peeled, cored and diced

½ cup frozen peas

Fresh grapes or raisins for garnish

Toasted, slivered almonds for garnish

Basmati rice for serving


1. Put garlic, ginger, almonds and water into a blender, and puree to make a paste. Set aside.

2. Heat ghee or olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over high until shimmering. Add lamb, in batches if necessary, and brown on all sides. Remove to a bowl.

3. Turn heat to medium and add onions; sauté until tender and golden.

4. Add curry paste and stir until aromatic.

5. Mix in meat, incorporating all ingredients until well combined.

6. Add coconut milk, bring to a boil then lower heat to a simmer. Put lid on and cook for 50 minutes to 1 hour until lamb is fork tender.

7. Fold in the pears and peas and cook for 10 more minutes to incorporate the flavors.

8. Serve over basmati rice, sprinkling the top of the curry with halved grapes or raisins and roasted almonds.

Upside-Down Pear Cornmeal Cake

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings.


2 tablespoons butter

½ cup brown sugar

1 large Bartlett pear, cored and thinly sliced

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup cornmeal

1½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter, softened

¾ of a cup of sugar

2 eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup of buttermilk, shaken

Whipped cream for serving


1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 F.

2. In a 10-inch ovenproof, nonstick skillet or well-seasoned cast iron skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the brown sugar and stir into the butter.

3. Cook for a few minutes until sugar starts to melt. Arrange pears in a pinwheel design in the brown sugar, remove from heat and set aside.

4. Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt on a piece of waxed paper.

5. Cream butter with sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add buttermilk alternately with dry ingredients, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

6. Pour into the prepared skillet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top springs back and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Main photo: Upside-Down Pear Cornmeal Cake. Credit: Brooke Jackson

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