Saturday, August 4, 2018

Clams and Garlic Sauce (w/pasta)

Friday nights are usually pasta night in our family. (It is the Italian in us) Hearty and rich in the cold months, light and fresh in the hot summer and early fall. This recipe for clams and garlic sauce is perfect each month of the year.

Fresh clams, garlic (lots!), extra virgin olive oil, a bit of lemon, dash of spicy red pepper flakes, and freshness from parsley & seasonings, merge together to produce a dish that is wonderful on its own...try piling in large bowls and eating with good Italian or sourdough bread dipped in the delicious broth, or served tossed with  pasta.  My husband could eat this once a week.

In season, I make this with garlic scapes from the farmer's market. The rest of the year, fat garlic cloves are the way to go. Italian parsley is easy to grow, so I am able to "shop" my garden 8 months of the year. I think the key to this dish is, as always, the best, freshest ingredients possible. This is especially important with the clams. Buy them alive, store properly, and use within (max! ) three days of purchase. I tend to use them on the day I buy.

Buon appetito!

Clams & Garlic Sauce (w/pasta)
(Serves 4)

4 dozen littleneck clams
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic scapes (or 4 fat cloves garlic), minced
2 shallots, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup bottled clam juice
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped & divided

1 lb long noodle pasta. I prefer bucatini.

Place the clams in a large bowl and sprinkle the cornmeal and salt over the top. Cover with water. Soak for 45 minutes, drain and rinse. (This process removes any grit and sand in the clams.)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the scapes (or garlic), and shallots and saute until soft. Add the drained clams, wine, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, paprika, saffron and black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook until clams open, stirring occasionally. Remove clams as they open and place in a bowl. Discard any unopened clams.

Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and keep warm in a colander.

When all clams have been removed from pan, add clam juice and all but 1 tablespoon of parsley.  Keep heat on high and cook garlic sauce for 2-3 minutes or until reduced by half. Taste and add additional salt if needed. Add pasta and clams and stir to combine. Ensure all of the pasta and clams are coated with sauce.

Divide between 4 plates. Garnish with remaining parsley and serve immediately.

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Some other garlic and garlic scape recipes to enjoy:


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Friday, March 30, 2018

Marinated Pork & Red Onion Kebabs

The pear tree is just starting to bud out. In late spring it is covered with blossoms. Glorious!

It is a cloudy day in late March, and I am longing for Summer. Lazy days, warm weather, gardening, grilling, picnics, I could go on and on. But northern New Mexico weather means it will be months before those dreams are realized...except, maybe the grilling?

Last summer we purchased a gas grill.  What a wonderful purchase. I still use the charcoal grill when I have a lot of time (those long summer days I was talking about.) But I have fallen in love with the ease of almost year-round grilling with the gas version. Flip on the burners and grilling can happen whatever the weather (except hard rain.). How cool to grill with snow on the ground.

So, on this cloudy, dreary, early Spring day we are having marinated port and red onion kebabs for dinner. Grilled. So there!  :)

Marinated for 24 hours, then grilled. This pork dish is delicious.
Marinated Pork & Red Onion Kebabs
(Serves 4)

1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin, cut into 16 pieces
1 red onion, cut into 16 pieces
4-6 bamboo or metal skewers
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons cherry preserves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced

Alternate 2 pieces of pork and two of onion threaded on a skewer until filled. Complete the process on remaining skewers with remaining pork and onion. Place kababs in a glass baking dish and season generously with salt and pepper.

Make the marinade by combining the remaining six ingredients in small bowl. Whisk until combined and pour over kababs. Let stand a minimum of two hours at room temperature, or up to 24 hours, covered in the refrigerator. Whichever method you choose, occasionally turn the kabobs to evenly marinate.

If you have refrigerated the kabobs, allow sitting at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking.

Preheat broiler or light the grill to medium-high. Drain marinade into small saucepanCook on grill for 15 minutes, or until meat is cooked through. Turn skewers, and baste often with sauce during cooking.

I served the kababs with rice pilaf and spinach salad. Enjoy!

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Friday, December 22, 2017

My Mom's Gingerbread Men Cookies

Today is the Friday before Christmas, and I am finishing up all my last minute baking, shopping, and wrapping of gifts. It is the perfect time to finally share one of my favorite holiday mom's gingerbread men cookies.

These cookies have been part of my family's holidays for my entire life. My mom started baking them with my Great-Aunt Lena when my mom was a small child. When I was growing up, mom made them three times a year...a huge batch at Halloween for the neighborhood children in addition to candy for trick-or-treating, another huge batch for Christmas, and the third batch for Valentine's Day. Each student in my class and the classes of both of my sisters received a cookie with our handwritten valentines. I loved them for each of these holidays, but my favorite was eating gingerbread men at Christmas. One of these soft, cake-like cookies with a hot cup of tea just screams Christmas morning to me.

Now, my mom, has a hard time getting around without a walker and our "new" tradition is for my mom and me to make the cookies together. I prepare the dough, she cuts out as many gingerbread men as she can before she gets tired, I finish, bake, and then, together, we decorate. We make about 125 cookies at a time, and then my mom divides them up among family and friends who eagerly await the gingerbread men delivery.

These are not fancy cookies. The old gingerbread man cutter has been used by my mom for over 70 years. We decorate them the same way every exceptions. Red hot candies for the eyes? Check. A dab of buttercream frosting on the head to make a jaunty hat? Check? Another blob of frosting for the tummy to make a winter sweater? Check. Red hot or raisins dotted down the front for buttons? Check. More frosting on the hands and feet to replicate mittens and stockings? Check. No changes...ever! My family would revolt.

Maybe these cookies can become part of your family tradition. That would make my mom very, very happy. Happiest of Holidays to you and yours. See you in 2018!

My Mom's Gingerbread Men Cookies
(Yield depends on the size of cutter. My mom's makes 14 cookies per batch)

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp white vinegar
1 jar red hot candies
Buttercream frosting (recipe follows)

In the bowl of a mixer, cream shortening until light and fluffy. (about 3 minutes) Gradually add brown sugar and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Add molasses and beat until incorporated.

In a small bowl, sift together 1 1/4 cups flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Gradually add dry ingredients to molasses bowl with mixer running at low speed until just mixed.

Add vinegar to mixing bowl and, with mixer running at slow speed, add remaining 2 1/2 cups flour (1/4 cup at a time) alternating with buttermilk until just mixed. Pat dough into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and chill dough for a minimum of 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray and set aside.

Cut dough in half and roll one of the halves 1/4  inch thick on a lightly floured board. Dip cutter in flour and press into dough making as many cookies as you can. Reroll scraps and repeat. Repeat with second dough half. Place cookies on to cookie sheets, add two red-hots per cookie to represent eyes and bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes depending on how soft you want your cookies to be. 
Check after 10 minutes. The cookies should be lightly browned on the bottom but still soft. They will firm up as they cool. Transfer to racks and allow to cool completely before decorating.

Classic Buttercream Frosting

3 3/4 cups Confectioners Sugar (1 lb. box)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

pinch salt
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
food grade dye in holiday colors. We use red, green, and white

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer at low speed, combine sugar, butter, salt, milk, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed 1 to 2 minutes, until creamy. If desired, add more milk until frosting is spreading consistency.

Decorate the cookies any way you like.

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So, you still have time to whip up a batch or two (or eight like in my family) If not, there is always Valentine's Day!

With my Mom and sisters at a holiday tea this year. I am the one in white

  1. diane

    I have started sharing my newest blog "California Girl in Taos."  Please visit and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Spicy Noodles with Chopped Peanuts

I have been making this dish since it was first published in Bon Appetit Magazine...back in July 2007! On the little over 10-year anniversary, I decided to finally "blog it." I have served this dish hot, cold, and at room temperature, It has served as a side dish, main dish with added grilled chicken, shrimp and/or tofu, or part of a salad bar luncheon. I have added different vegetables depending on what is in season, and what looks good at the farmer's market (blanched sugar snap peas and shredded cabbage and carrots are particularly good.) Trust me, this is a flexible dish and, as long as you don't overcook the noodles, hard to mess up.

Regular readers know that I almost always take a published recipe and then tweak it quite a bit to make it my own. Today's dish is an exception as it is pretty perfect as is. Other than switching up the vegetables sometimes as discussed in the previous paragraph, my only change is that now spicy Asian sesame oil is widely available. So I use 3-4 tablespoons of that instead of the plain oil and hot chili oil. But both options work. I also prefer a thicker noodle so use bucatini pasta instead of the egg noodles or angel hair pasta. And if I cannot find Thai basil (I live in a small town) I use the easier-to-source Italian basil in the winter...otherwise I grow my own.

Spicy Noodles with Chopped Peanuts
(from Bon Appetit, July 2007)

1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon (or more) hot chili oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles or fresh angel hair pasta
12 green onions (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh Thai basil leaves

  1. Heat peanut oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Transfer to large bowl. Add next 6 ingredients; whisk to blend.
  2. If using the Chinese noodles, place them in a colander over the sink. Separate noodles with fingers and shake to remove excess starch. Cook in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, stirring occasionally. (If using pasta noodles, cook according to package directions but remove as soon as al dente. Do not overcook.)  Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain thoroughly and transfer to bowl with sauce. Add sliced green onions and toss to coat noodles. Let stand at room temperature until noodles have absorbed dressing, tossing occasionally, about 1 hour. Stir in peanuts and Thai basil; toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature. 
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  4. PS, I couldn't leave this post without mentioning the devastating fires this past week in Napa and Sonoma Counties. As of today, 41 people have died, and 5500 have lost their homes. I know many of the now homeless, along with numerous friends and loved ones who have evacuated, some cannot come home yet because the air quality is so bad. Wine Country will survive and, as horrible as it is right now, the truth is that the majority of the wineries, shops, and restaurants are perfectly fine. We need to give them a month to get back on their feet and then support them by visiting! If you cannot go to Napa or Sonoma, please buy and drink their wines! They are depending on our business as part of the recovery. Thank you! #napastrong #sonomastrong
  5. best,
  6. diane

    I have started sharing my newest blog "California Girl in Taos."  Please visit and let me know what you think.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Peach & Blackberry Cake with Brown Butter Glaze

I'm back....and I brought cake!

It has been over a year since my last post. I really missed you guys. The past year has been crazy. I spent nine months as the Acting Executive Director of our local animal shelter and worked 70 hour work weeks during that time. It was supposed to be a two-three month assignment but went three times as long. Then, just as the new director was hired, I fell in love with a very shy, scared, formally abused dog that I just had to adopt. (Of course, I fell in love with every dog and cat in the shelter, but this one ripped my heart out.)

The boys watching me get ready. Jax is one the right.

So I have spent most of the summer working to develop a bond with our newest dog (Jax.) It has been a long and sometimes painful process. He is terrified of men, and I am working with the shelter's trainer to establish trust between Jax and my husband. Very slow going, so please keep this sweet boy in your thoughts. The best thing for all of us is to live our lives as normally as possible so he gets used to being part of a family...I am blogging today while both dogs sleep at my side...and my husband watches football. Pure happiness.

Yesterday was Saturday, and there was a hint of Fall's crispness in the air. Our local farmers' market carried beautiful peaches and the sweetest blackberries I have ever tasted. Nothing to do but bake a cake, right? I am always happy when cooking or baking so having the time to hang out in the kitchen for the day was a gift. Cake, homemade pasta, homemade pesto sauce, salad from ingredients grown in our garden...perfect day.

I have baked all of my life but, after moving to Taos, New Mexico with our 7000 ft elevation, I was lost. I didn't know how to make my tried and true recipes work with our higher altitude and needed help from numerous online sources and cookbooks. This cake is an adaptation from one of my favorite bloggers, Mountain Mama Cooks. Her recipes are tailored for cooking in the mountains. I tend to pick something from her blog as a starting point and either make it exactly as is...or try some slight tweaking. I used her Apple-Spice Bundt Cake with Brown Butter Frosting and substituted peaches and blackberries for some of the apple. Delicious. *** BTW, this one is not a high-altitude recipe so it should work for anyone at sea level. AND, I did not need to make any adjustments so higher elevation are in luck too. Enjoy!

Peach & Blackberry Cake with Brown Butter Glaze
(adapted from the Mountain Mama Cooks blog)


2 cups white, unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups diced fresh peaches
1 pint blackberries
1 Granny Smith apple1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 eggs
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. Grease a 12-cup bundt pan. Set aside
In a medium size bowl, sift together unbleached flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; set aside. 
In a small bowl toss peaches, blackberries, apple, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar; set aside.
In a large bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat together both sugars and oil. Add one egg at a time incorporating each one thoroughly. Mix in vanilla extract and apple cider. Slowly stir in flour mixture into wet batter stirring just to combine. Fold in fruit and any juices that have accumulated. 
Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake in preheated oven on the middle rack for 55-60 minutes or until cake is done. (Mine took exactly 55 minutes.) Test using a cakes tester or thin chopstick. Cake is done when tester comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a baking rack for 10 minutes before turning out of pan. While cake cools, prepare glaze.
For the Glaze:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons milk

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat until light brown in color, 8-10 minutes. (It took me 7 minutes. Maybe my heat was higher?) Remove pan from heat and pour butter into a bowl. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons milk; stir until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add the remaining tablespoon milk, a little at a time, until consistency is spreadable. Let cool 5 minutes. Then use immediately and pour over warm cake. Frosting will harden as cake cools.

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Additional peach recipes you may enjoy:

I have started sharing my newest blog "California Girl in Taos."  Please visit and let me know what you think.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Tomato, Peach & Melon Salad

This is one of those simple recipes that should only be made in summer when the in-season produce is perfectly ripe. Please use the absolute best quality extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt because you will taste each ingredient separately in this simple salad. You will not believe how delicious the combination of tomatoes, peaches, and melon is when married into this easy dish.

I made this yesterday for dinner and paired with a pecan crusted grilled trout. Over the top good and perfect for a hot summer night, or make for your next potluck dinner.This salad will be a hit at the party. Enjoy!

Tomato, Peach & Melon Salad
(serves 4)

2 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 large ripe summer peach, cut into wedges
1/2 honeydew melon, scooped into balls
extra virgin olive oil
best quality pure, aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn or chopped
sea salt

Arrange tomatoes, peaches, and melon in a decorative pattern on a large platter. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the top. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar over the oil. Scatter the basil over the salad and sprinkle with sea salt.
Serve immediately.

It is "Tomato" week at Food Network's Summer Soiree roundup. Do you have a favorite tomato recipe to share? Please list (or link) in the comments below. And be sure to check out the other delicious sounding recipes from my blogger friends and Food Network. 

Feed Me Phoebe: Steamed Clams with Chorizo, Tomatoes and Kale
The Mediterranean Dish: 
10 Fresh Tomato Recipes with a Mediterranean Twist
The Mom 100: 
Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce
Homemade Delish: 
Roasted Tomato and Poblano Salsa
The Wimpy Vegetarian: 
Easy Summer Tomato Tart with Artichoke Spread
The Heritage Cook: 
Tomato and Cucumber Summer Salad (Gluten-Free)
Praise Caprese with 6 Twists on Tomato Salad
Healthy Eats: 
How to Use Up Your Last Batch of Fresh Tomatoes
Creative Culinary: 
Fresh Tomato Summer Pie
In Jennie's Kitchen: 
Classic Caprese Salad
Napa Farmhouse 1885: 
Tomato, Peach & Melon Salad
Taste with the Eyes: 
For Tomato Lovers Only
FN Dish: 
The Best Fresh Tomato Recipes You to Make, Like, Right Now


I have started sharing my newest blog "California Girl in Taos."  Please visit and let me know what you think.