Dill pickles

Cucumbers (specifically, Gherkins) gathered fo...
Cucumbers (specifically, Gherkins) gathered for pickling. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)





Pickled Cucumbers - Li Li's Imperial Cuisine
Pickled Cucumbers – Li Li’s Imperial Cuisine (Photo credit: avlxyz)






Cucumbers Español: Pepinos Português: Pepinos
Cucumbers Español: Pepinos Português: Pepinos (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love pickles but have never made them.  I’m not one to can, preserve etc.  It all seems too complicated and I would fear poisoning myself somehow for not respecting the perfect canning rules.  I don’t follow directions well.  I succeeded in making delicious dill pickles with a hint of heat.  The good thing about these pickles is they could just be stored in the fridge for up to two months.  The trick was to get them to last more than two weeks in our pickle loving household.


You need about 6-8 pounds pickling cucumbers

a big bunch of fresh dill

2 large onions, thinly sliced

4-5 garlic cloves sliced and whole-depending on your preference.

1 quart water

1 quart white vinegar

1/2 cup salt

1/2 cup sugar

One hot pepper sliced in circles.  Keep the seeds if you want it extra spicy.  Note:  When cutting hot peppers wear gloves, unless you want to do what I did and have hot pepper on everything, including my coffee cup.


  1. Cut each cucumber lengthwise into four spears or as I did in rounds. In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, dill, onions and garlic; set aside. In a pot, combine the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cook and stir just until salt is dissolved. Pour over cucumber mixture; cool.
  2. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Yum!



Luscious Lasagne Bolognese

Pastasorten Lasagne
Pastasorten Lasagne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was one of the best meals I made and also froze.  One lasagna has lasted our small family of 3 over a month.  I decided to make a Bolognese sauce and a summer sauce a week prior.  I now have any pasta lovers freezer, with different pasta sauces as well as delicious lasagna.  After living in Italy 2.5 years I realized that the real way to make lasagna is to use Bechamel instead of Ricotta Cheese between the layers.

The Bolognese was already made, I just defrosted a giant tub, about 8 cups worth.  Meanwhile, I started on the Bechamel.   I usually just wing the recipe as I know what the consistency is supposed to be and the outcome always more or less is what I want.  However, for you to follow I’ve tried to get the ingredients down.  Mario Batalli’s Recipe is also a great one to follow if you want something more comprehensive.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/bechamel-sauce-recipe/index.html

My recipe is very similar.

4 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

2 teaspoons salt

1teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 4-5 minutes.

I add milk about 1 cup at a time while whisking continuously until very smooth. What differs from my recipe is I don’t heat the milk separately and add heated milk.  I think I will try this technique next time.  I also didn’t cook it to a boil…. either way, it needs to be a thick, smooth consistency.  I do love to add tons of freshly grated nutmeg.  Invest in a nutmeg mill and you will be thrilled with the results.  The flavor from freshly ground nutmeg is amazing.  So much I felt like eating the bechamel with a spoon, like a nice soup.



Recipe for the lasagna:

1 package of nice lasagna noodles

3 fresh tomatoes

1 big bunch of fresh basil

1 big ball of burrata-this was a splurge and is not necessary

1 pack of fresh mozzarella cheese

5-6 cups of Bolognese sauce. Vegetarians can use another sauce if they like, such as my Summer Sauce.


I then just started with a big lasagna pan.  Make sure at this point you pre-heat the oven to 325 F.  I first put a healthy layer of bolognaise sauce, I then added uncooked pasta, another layer of bechamel and bolognaise mixed, then pasta, then I tour apart the burrata and added chopped basil, the whole bunch.  I then added more pasta, another layer of sauce, another layer of pasta, then more bechamel, sauce, pasta and then I ran out of everything.  I sliced 3 fresh tomatoes, cut up some fresh mozzarella cheese and then layered the top of the last layer of pasta.  I covered the lasagna with tin foil and let cook at 325 F for about 45 minutes.  I uncovered it and turned up the oven to 350 F and let the rest cook and bubble.  It was delicious and will be again tonight.  I suggest you serve with a side salad.  I used a mix of greens, romaine lettuce and arugula with a simple Dijon vinaigrette.

Dijon vinaigrette Recipe:

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

Mix the mustard and olive oil to a nice thick consistency, slowly add the vinegar while constantly whisking… and voila, a great dressing.

Grilled Pork Chop with Sel de Cali

We no longer can use our grill at our apartment due to California law and fires,  so this meal is an ode to the grill.  I accompanied the Grilled pork chop with a mushroom ragu, a side of steamed spinach and grilled red and yellow peppers.

For the pork chop I used some of my Cabernet Sel de Cali, a special wine infused salt from California, infused with California Cabernet and dried in the California sun.

For the mushroom ragu I used about one tablespoon of unsalted butter and sautéed some shallots.  Just as the shallots were tender I added a splash of Marsala cooking wine.  I then added a mix of mushrooms:  cremini, portabella and shiitake, any mix will do.  I wished I had oyster mushrooms or other kinds.   I cooked it until tender.  I grilled the peppers that were drenched in olive oil, Sel de Cali and pepper while the pork chop was cooking.  It turned out to be a nice end of the grill meal.

Pork chop with mushroom ragu

Polenta encrusted tilapia with a side of spinach and parsley shrimp

Usually I make a ceviche with the Tilapia I get from the San Pedro Fish Warehouse but this time I had no time and nothing set for dinner.  I used a recipe that my Italian neighbor in Monza, Italy taught me for veal.  It worked well for the Tilapia!  I set out a plate of olive oil, a plate of polenta mixed with salt, pepper and a tiny bit of chopped fresh sage. I dredged the fish in olive oil then coated it with polenta.  Once fish is ready, prepare spinach to be steamed.  I had another little saute pan ready for my shrimp.  I only had about 6 shrimp but it made for a good side.  At the same time with the fish, I cooked the shrimp, but in separate saute pans.  For the shrimp chop up some garlic-about one clove and chop up a bunch of parsley, even the stems.  Add the garlic to the pan with olive oil.  Add the shrimp.  At the same time, add the fish to the other saute pan with hot olive oil.  Place the fish on one side and let cook for about 2 minutes before turning to the other side.  Start the spinach for steaming.  Soon in about 15 minutes your entire meal will be ready.  Make sure you have cut up lemon for the fish and shrimp.  Squeeze out the excess water from the spinach.  This was really yummy!

1 tilapia filet per person

1/2 cup polenta

1/4 cup olive oil for the dredging

shrimp, garlic, olive oil, sage, parsley and lemon slices

steamed spinach

Polenta encrusted Tilapia


Stuffed round zucchini with a side of tuna and mango salsa

Inspired by a trip to the Redondo Beach farmers market I picked out a bag of mixed vegetables.  I got 6 round zucchini for $1.  I decided they were perfect little vehicles to stuff.  I wanted the meal to be fairly healthy and not carb packed.  I cut the tops of the rounds and then scooped out the meat with a spoon.  I chopped up the zucchini innards and sautéed them with some garlic, olive oil, peppers and salt and pepper to taste.  I then stuffed the mixture back into the zucchini rounds and baked it at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  At the last 10 minutes I added some grated parmesan cheese for flavor.   While it was cooking I made my mango salsa and then fired up the grill to cook the tuna.  All in all it tasted good but I would pair up the zucchini with some other protein like chicken, steak or pork chops… or another fish minus the mango salsa.  The flavors were fighting each other.

stuffed zuchinni IMG_0381 IMG_0382




A few weekends ago I tried to make dishes that I could freeze as I was going on a business trip and wouldn’t be home to cook for my family.  My husband does know how to cook, in fact this is his Chili recipe.  However, with time constraints, I didn’t want him to eat cans of soup.  This recipe is easy.  You need about

One yellow onion chopped

3 large cans of plum tomatoes

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork

2 regular size cans red kidney beans

1 regular size can of white lima beans

1 regular size can of pinto beans

1 regular size can of chickpeas


Cheddar cheese for grating

sour cream

a bunch of chopped chives or scallions

Salt and pepper

Chili powder

Red pepper flakes

1 oz dark chocolate

2 flour tortilla per person or saltines crackers.  I prefer the crackers but my husband likes the tortillas.


To start, chop the onion up and put in a big pot to saute with some olive oil.  Once the onion has cooked for about 3 minutes add in the beef and pork.  Add in the salt and pepper, red pepper flakes and some chili powder, maybe a big heaping tablespoon.  Make sure the meat mixture is well browned, but not too browned.  Add in the cans of tomatoes.  Cook covered for 15 minutes.  Add the beans and let simmer for about 45 minutes covered.  Uncover for the last 15 minutes.  Add the chocolate and stir in.  Meanwhile grate some cheddar cheese.  I prefer sharp cheddar.  Chop up some chives and heat up the tortillas or get out the saltines.  Serve a 2 big ladles per bowl.  Add a dollip of sour cream, add the cheddar cheese and top off with some chives.  Again, YUM!!!

348/365 - Chili Powder
348/365 – Chili Powder (Photo credit: djwtwo)

Veggie melange with sauteed radishes

I received my farm fresh to you box at my door.  It was filled with yummy vegetables including organic celery, Nantes carrots, fennel and some radishes of all sorts of different colors.  I decided to do a quick saute and it ended up delicious.  I used a bit of olive oil and chopped up garlic and shallots to start.  I then added my finely chopped carrots, celery, fennel and then some radishes.  In the end I seasoned with some of my Sel De Cali, the chardonnay infused salt and a few sprigs of rosemary.  I can’t remember what the main protein was for this meal, but I’m sure it was either steak, chicken or pork chops!  It was the first time I added radishes to a saute and it turned out delicious!

English: Easter egg radishes, just harvested
English: Easter egg radishes, just harvested (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

the start of crocking

Halloween Deviled Eggs

Česky: Nachystané bílky bez žloutků vajíček uv...
Česky: Nachystané bílky bez žloutků vajíček uvařených na tvrdo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alas, I lost my fabulous deviled egg platter to this Halloween party I went to.  I decided deviled eggs always go well at a party.  White trash to high-class they make a good nibble!  I decided my 24 egg holder would work.  I looked up different ideas online and decided on making spooky eggs.  I don’t really follow recipes but do look things up for ideas.  I needed a dozen eggs to hold in this fabulous tray I lost… I made more just in case they broke in the boiling or in the cutting in half, which sure enough some eggs didn’t make it to the platter.  I boiled 15 eggs basically by putting them in cold water, a splash of vinegar, then letting the water come to a boil.  Once it came to a rolling boil I took the pot off the heat and covered it, letting it sit for 20 minutes.  After that I soaked the cooked eggs in cold water and let them come to room temp, before peeling.

You can cook the eggs ahead of time to make it easier on preparing for a party and letting them cool in the fridge or on the counter. Funny, in the US people refrigerate eggs cooked and uncooked but in the rest of the world, eggs sit on counter tops and in pantries.  At the grocery market in Europe you won’t find the eggs in the refrigerated section, but rather sitting out on a shelf.

Once the eggs are cooled, I then cut them in half, used the best looking and stongest ones for the fabulous platter.  Put all the yolks in a boal and add 2 heaping spoons of mayonnaise, a small spoon of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and mashed it all up to a smooth yellow paste.  Add the yolk mix to a  pastry bag and pipe them into each halved egg white.  To decorate cut rounds of green pimento olives to look like eyes and add powdered paprika on top for a good bloodshot effect.  For the spider eggs -cut a black pitted olive in half then used the 1/2 and cut 4 strips to make legs.  I put the 1/2 on top of the egg then put the little legs around making a cool spider.  Sure spiders have more than 4 legs, but really, its halloween and I’m not Martha!


15 Eggs hardboiled

2 heaping scoops of favorite mayonnaise

1 spoon Dijon mustard

12 black pitted olives

6 green pimento stuffed olives

paprika for decor

salt and pepper to taste


Easy hors d’ouvres-pizza with filo dough crust

Unexpected guests.  A frozen filo dough in the freezer, some tomatoes, herbs and cheese made a perfect hot hors d’oeuvre while I stalled the dinner menu off a bit till I figured out what to make.  I made a big pizza with tons of different toppings.  First, I spread one side with pesto I also had frozen, added cherry tomatoes and baby mozzarella balls.  On another side I put goat cheese with sliced cherry tomatoes and parsley.  You can really just put what ever topping you want.  I was thinking of making one with pancetta and a creme fraiche (or sour cream) with carmalized onions-making it like a tart flambe, Alsatian style.  I would like to make just a simple Margherita with tomato sauce and cheese.  You can just add left overs and call it a day.  I’m sure cut up chicken would be lovely.  You could Mexicanize it and add sautéed shrimp with cilantro, garlic and lime.  The filo dough makes a great vehicle for anything.  It’s an easy bruchetta!  Enjoy!

Butternut and acorn squash soup

English: Cucurbita pepo (acorn squash). Locati...
English: Cucurbita pepo (acorn squash). Location: Maui, Foodland Pukalani (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Onions on a neutral, mostly white background
Onions on a neutral, mostly white background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I decided that I would eat my still life, autumn display.  I had made a butternut squash soup before and an acorn squash soup, but never did I put the two together.  I started out with about 3 tablespoons or so of butter and melted it into a pot, I added 1 sliced, sweet onion with about 4 fresh sage leaves.  I let it cook for about 5 minutes or more because it was so tough cutting up my acorn squash and butternut squash.  I would advise cutting them up in cubes prior to cooking the onions.  I then added the cut up squash.  I let it cook for about 3 or 4 minutes with the onions.  Then I added about 4-5 glasses of water and two bouillon cubes.  I let it cook for a while till the squash was tender.  It was too thick, so I added more water, each time letting it cook together well.  This soup can be thick or thin depending on taste.  I like it in between.  I used the hand blender to mix it all up.  I cooked it some more.  I saw many recipes that added heavy cream, yogurt, or even cream cheese.  I had none of the above, but I did add about 1/3 cup milk, or one big pour.   It added to the creamy-ness and made the soup silky smooth.  It was delicious.  At the end add a bit of nutmeg.  I served this in my Japanese Ramen bowls which made it look nice, but the photo doesn’t do it justice.  The lighting was bad and we didn’t eat till 10pm.  My husband came home super late from work.  I served this with some french bread. I buy the – french small french baguette from trader joes.  I put them right in the freezer.  When I want them, I just heat the oven up to 350 and pop the frozen par-baked bread in for about 10 minutes. It turns out great.  No preservatives and the closest thing to fresh baguette I get in Rancho Palos Verdes.  This dinner is very inexpensive, filling and yummy.  Enjoy.

5 tbls of butter

1 onion sliced or chopped

1 acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

1 butternut squash, same as above

2 bouillon cubes-chicken or vegetable

1/3 cup milk

4-5 sage leaves or dried sage

pinch of nutmeg and salt

Cucurbita moschata 'Butternut'. Original descr...
Cucurbita moschata ‘Butternut’. Original description: Courges butternut (Cucurbita moschata) Photo JH Mora, septembre 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)