Archive for the ‘Vegetables/potatoes/rice’ category

Hash browns at home

October 8, 2019

A lot of folks, myself included, would think of these as a treat to have when eating breakfast at a diner. But they are so easy to make at home, so why wait? They are a simpler version of the classic Latkes and are a favorite accompaniment to breakfast.


2 c finely chopped potatoes*
2 TB minced onion (optional)
2 TB bacon fat or vegetable oil (not butter)
3 TB heavy cream (optional)

If using onions, mix with the potatoes. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet, medium heat. When a speck of potato starts to sizzle, add the potatoes. Use a spatula to shape and press them into a pancake no more than 1/2 inch thick. Let cook, undisturbed, until the bottom is nicely browned, 5-10 minutes. Flip over (easier if you cut the pancake in half first). If using cream, dribble over the potatoes. Continue cooking until the 2nd side is browned. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

* about the size of a raw navy bean, or a bit smaller

Eggplant Parmesan

August 9, 2017

Like most simple dishes, this is dependent on highest quality ingredients. If you use pre-grated cheeses your result will be meh. Be sure you have a chunk of fresh, preferably local mozzarella and some real Parmesan (that is, from Italy). Breading and browning the eggplant gives a better taste and texture than simply using the bare eggplant slices.

2 medium size globe eggplant, as fresh as possible.
1 quart best marinara sauce, I like either Nellino’s or Rao’s (see Note 1 below)
10 oz fresh mozzarella
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan
1 egg
fine dry breadcrumbs
About 2 dozen fresh basil leaves

Peel the eggplant and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle with salt and set in a colander for an hour or so. Rinse and pat dry. You can omit the salting step with super-fresh eggplant.

If you did not salt the eggplant, sprinkle with salt; then dredge in flour followed by beaten egg and then crumbs. Brown both sides in 1/8″ of olive oil. You do not have to cook it thru, just a browning.

Working a few at  time, roll the basil leaves tightly and slice thinly (see Note 2 below).

Cut the mozzarella into 1/4 inch slices and then into stick-of-gum sized pieces.

Spread a little sauce in a 12″ square baking pan. Layer half the eggplant, half the basil, half the cheeses,  and half the remaining sauce. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 min until cooked thru and bubbling a bit at the edges. Let sit for 5-10 min before serving.

Note 1: I find some jarred sauces, such as the ones I mention, to be every bit as good as almost all homemade sauces, and better than many. They certainly are convenient! The downside is price – you are not going to get really good sauce for a few bucks a jar.

Note 2: It’s a common misconception that one should tear basil leaves rather than cut them for best flavor. This is not so. If you are interested in the details, click here.

Chick peas with sesame and honey

December 7, 2016

There’s a definite oriental theme to these beans. They are quite strongly flavored and could make a meal on their own. Serve on plain white rice.

2 c dried chick peas (measure when dry) cooked, or 2 – 15 oz cans chick peas
1 medium onion chopped fine
4 large or 6 small garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 c honey
2/3 c soy sauce (Kikkoman is excellent and widely available)
1/4 c toasted sesame oil
1/4 c vegetable oil
2 TB rice wine vinegar
1 TB grated fresh ginger
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Optional garnishes: Toasted sesame seeds and/or thinly sliced scallions

Put all ingredients except chick peas in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring now and then. Add the drained and rinsed chick peas and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. If the sauce seems to be getting too thick, add a bit of water. Serve over white rice.

Kimchee fried rice

May 20, 2016

Kimchee, or spicy pickled cabbage, is a mainstay of the Korean kitchen. At it’s simplest it is chopped nappa cabbage mixed with salt and lots of red pepper and allowed to ferment for a while. It can be bought at Oriental groceries and is also ridiculously easy to make at home (my recipe is here). Combined with Spam it make a very tasty fried rice.

Did I say Spam, that meat-like substance is the square can that is the butt of many culinary jokes? I did indeed. It seems that Spam, a regular part of military rations for many years, has been introduced into the indigenous cuisine of some places where the U.S. had a strong military presence for many years, including Hawaii, the Philippines, and Korea. And it works very well in this dish. Lacking Spam, you can use ham or some other cooked meat.

The best rice for this is short-grained “Japanese” rice. I think of this rice as Japanese because it is the rice typically served in Japanese restaurants and use to make sushi rice. The rice should be rinsed well, cooked, and allowed to cool. Leftover rice that has been in the fridge for a few days is ideal.

Serves 4

1/2 stick butter
1 small onion coarsely chopped
2 c kimchee in about 1 inch pieces
1 c spam or other meat in small (1/4″) dice
4-5 c cooked short grain rice at room temperature
1/4 c kimchee juice or more to taste
1-1/2 TB soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 TB vegetable oil
4 eggs
Nori and toasted sesame seeds for garnish (see note below)

Melt the butter in a wok or nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook the onion for a few minutes. Add the kimchee and kimchee juice and bring to a simmer. Add the Spam and cook, stirring, until the liquid is almost gone. Add the rice and stir, breaking up any clumps, until the rice is hot and evenly mixed with the other ingredients. Stir in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Reduce heat slightly and let cook, uncovered and undisturbed, while you prepare the eggs. The bottom of the rice will get slightly browned and crispy.

In another skillet, heat the oil and cook the eggs “sunny side up” until the whites are set and the yolk is still runny. Divide the rice among 4 bowls and top each with an egg. Serve with the garnishes on the side.

Note: Nori is roasted seaweed that is perhaps best known for wrapping maki (rolled) sushi. If your nori is a bit stale (not crisp) you can rejuvenate it with heat. On a flat-top range do this directly on the element, on other stoves use a griddle or large skillet. Over medium high heat, use chopsticks or tongs to quickly drag each sheet of nori over the hot surface, both sides. That’s it!

Sesame seeds are tastier if toasted. Simply heat a dry frypan over medium heat, add the seeds in a thin layer, and cook, shaking, until aromatic. Cool and store in an airtight jar for up to a few months.


Roasted sweet and spicy squash

November 29, 2015

My favorite squash for this is kabocha, but any orange-fleshed variety should do (acorn, butternut, delicata, etc.). In my experience the skin is perfectly edible although it has a slightly chewier consistency than the flesh.

  • One 2 lb squash, washed, quartered, and cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1 tsp sriracha or similar hot sauce
  • big pinch salt
  • 1/4 c neutral oil (peanut, canola, etc.)
  • 1-2 TB white sesame seeds
  • black pepper
  • cilantro leaves

Heat oven to 450 degrees

In a large bowl, whisk the soy sauce, honey, hot sauce, salt, and oil together.  Add the squash to the bowl, grind some pepper over, and toss to coat. Arrange in one layer on an oiled baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes until soft and starting to brown. While baking, toast the seasame seeds in a small, dry skillet over medium heat, shaking often, until lightly browned. When the squash is done, transfer to a serving bowl, top with the sesame seeds and cilantro, and serve.

Half-sour kosher dill pickles

September 20, 2014

When I was a kid, I remember that some of the delis in NY City would bring a bowl of these to every table, and they would quickly disappear. Crisp, only mildly sour, with a nice garlic flavor, they have been a favorite of mine for years. And, they are ridiculously easy to make at home. They are fresh, not heat-treated, and they contain no vinegar, with the mild sourness coming from natural fermentation. The cucumbers are important. You want firm, fresh cukes a maximum of 4 inches long. “Pickling” cukes are ideal but not required. I provide 2 slightly different recipes.

DillFor half-pickles, which develop their flavor faster:

2 lbs cukes washed and halved lengthwise
2-1 quart widemouth jars. They can be “canning” jars but do not need to be because there is no heat processing involved.
10 whole black peppercorns or whole coriander seeds
5 large or 8 small cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tsp dried dill
1/4 c kosher salt
2-1/2 c water

Divide the cuke halves between the jars. Pack them in vertically and rather tightly, which will keep them in place below the surface of the brine. You may have some extra, save them for a salad. Push 2 garlic cloves down between the cuke halves in each jar. Divide the dill and peppercorns between the jars. Dissolve the salt in the water and pour over the cukes. Make sure all the cukes are submerged. Cover the jars and let sit at room temperature.

After 24 hours taste the pickles. If they are not “pickley” enough for your taste, let sit for a while longer, tasting every 12 hours or so. When ready, transfer to the  fridge, where they will continue to develop, but much more slowly. Keep up to 3 weeks.

For whole pickles, which take a little longer to develop but are preferred by some:


You’ll need a 2 quart widemouth jar.

Follow the above recipe, but do not cut the cukes. Make the brine using 1/3 c kosher salt and 1 quart water.. Pack all ingredients into the jar and pour in the brine. Fill a zipper bag with water and insert it to keep the cukes submerged.

Corn on the grill

July 20, 2014

I don’t like to cook shucked corn on the grill. It can dry out and if it starts to burn, well, no one likes that taste. Here’s a better way.

Take your corn and pull back the husks, leaving them attached to the ear at the stem end. Remove the silk. If desired, brush with butter or sprinkle with seasoning. Pull the husks up to their original position and fasten with a length of kitchen string at the tip end. Soak in water for a few minutes, then grill. If you are worried that soaking will wash off your seasonings, wet the husks thoroughly with a sprayer before closing up the ear.

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