Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Adventures of A Happy Cooker: HERE COMES PETER COTTONTAIL, OOPS!!

Adventures of A Happy Cooker: HERE COMES PETER COTTONTAIL, OOPS!!: "It's Spring, (almost summer, here in Florida) and my last post was in January. I've missed not being able to think about stories, let alon..."


It's Spring, (almost summer, here in  Florida) and my last post was in January. I've missed not being able to think about stories, let alone write them! Of course, I've been cooking and eating, but not many photos..a shame as last week's Beet and Blood Orange salad was as vibrant in taste as it was to the eye, and the Polenta with English peas and Cremini mushrooms was true comfort food for the soul!  Alas, I will start the new season reconnecting with a short story and a random recipe.  

The signs of spring are everywhere, colorful baskets, blooms of exotic shapes and hues, multi-colored eggs and candies  and cute bunnies inviting  us all to enjoy the season. mmm..bunnies, I used to see a them in the yard when we lived in Osprey and even a few showed up outside our villa in the Meadows, but lately, not a one.
I guess word travels fast in the animal kingdom. It's a sad story, but true.

One spring, when I owned the White Rainbow, I had a bright idea for my Cafe Menu. It's still chilly in New England in April, especially along the shore, so a stew or braised dish with fruity Beaujolais and a vibrant mustard seemed appealing. Yes, I would offer Braised Rabbit Beaujolais Moutarde. It would be in keeping with the restaurant's continental style and certainly different from the offerings of other restaurants in the area. Such an exciting choice would surely bring in my customers.

No one ordered the "special" and I was dismayed. How could I have misread my clientele so badly... normally they eagerly anticipated my weekly specials and loved trying them.

My daughters solved the puzzle. They informed me with long faces and tears in their eyes I had put THE EASTER BUNNY on my menu on Easter Week!!  Cruel, insensitive brute, that's me! To think, Peter Rabbit  was the first book I'd memorized as a child and NOW I was in league with Mr. McGregor..oh no!

I've reformed and become more aware of such conflicts, and we now have some chuckles about the incident, but I'm sure I'm still on the list of dangerous criminals in the bunny world and they avoid me whenever possible! No bunny recipes today.

Eggs are also symbols of spring and Easter and the ones left uncolored and unboiled are probably crowding your refrigerator just now. So how about Egg Foo Yong?  You can use spring onions and any meats you have. My favorites are pork and/or shrimp, and with lots of mung bean sprouts!

When I used my wok, those pancakes would just puff up when they hit the oil and I could make several at a time. Now, I use a skillet with sloping sides, like a crepe pan, and I can prepare only one at a time, but I keep them warm and sauce them just before they are served! Yum!

This recipe is hit or miss; it is for 2-4 people. Add what you like and increase the quantities accordingly. Celery and chopped carrots are also nice additions. The sauce is best prepared before you start the omelette.

1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
1 clove garlic
2-3 scallions 
5-6 cremini or white mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped shrimp
6 eggs
oil, peanut or canola or frying

Stir fry the garlic and mushrooms in a little oil until softened. Add shrimp and then bean sprouts and cook about 1 minute. Add a splash of soy and sherry wine and let it evaporate into the mixture. Set aside.

Whisk the eggs gently until just mixed. Stir the shrimp and  veggies and raw scallions, thinly sliced, into the egg. At this point you can add a little soy, sherry and possibly a dash of sesame oil if desired.

Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the skillet or wok, to a high temperature but not hot enough to burn the eggs. Ladle the mixture into the pan and spread out so that it is even. Let cook for a few minutes until set, lifting to allow uncooked egg to flow underneath (as in making an omelette). When slightly browned on bottom, invert onto a plate and flip back into the pan to cook the other side, briefly. If using a wok, you can simply fold the puff and let cook a little more. Slide out of pan and pat dry if oily. Keep warm and continue until you have used all the egg mixture.

Serve warm with sauce.
That other thing on the plate is an egg roll!

Sauce recipes vary. some use chicken broth, cornstarch, soy and sherry. I like to cheat a little and use pork gravy as a base, then add the other ingredients to make it more Asian.

1 packet Pioneer Pork gravy prepared or a jar or can of your favorite
Add 1 tablespoon soy, 1 teaspoon sherry and 1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce. If it is too thin, you can thicken with a little cornstarch. Some like the addition of sesame oil or hot oil. Add your favorite and make it your own!

Here's a photo of a pretty spring salad. Wild Greens with Arugula, Strawberries, Bleu Cheese, Walnuts, Raspberry Glaze, Walnut Oil and Pear White Balsamic Vinegar. Not with the Egg Foo Yong, but maybe with some..umm...chicken??? 

Happy Spring, Easter and Passover!! 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Yesterday at this time, I was vowing to never cook again other than out of pure necessity, so bad were the stresses, interruptions and thwarting circumstances... but, I did manage to get a passable Brazilian Shrimp Curry on the table, and then came the delivery from Suncoast Organics and some intriguing Sunchokes beckoned...
Sunny Soup Ingredients

Butternut squash, and  an apple from last week;  some fresh ginger and a little coconut milk remaining from the curry, a chilly turn in the weather, and my taste buds were screaming: SOUP!!!

Sunchokes or Jerusalem Artichokes, as they are sometimes called, are a North American tuber which were introduced to Europe, mainly France and England in the 17th century. It is a sunflower tuber (girasole) thus the name "Jerusalem" and it resembles a cardoon, a relative of the artichoke.  Whatever the name, it is a humble root vegetable, only a little less ugly than celeriac, another of  my favorite veggies!

The gnarly knobs make peeling the veg difficult..I just cut off some of the smaller knobs, waste :( , I know but not much, and my time is so limited! You could probably cut them up after scrubbing the skin and use them in salad or as a garnish.

1 small onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
several inner celery ribs with leaves, chopped
3 cups cut butternut squash
1 apple, coarsely chopped
2 cups sunchokes, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon, chopped fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
oh, yes, 1/2 cup white wine if desired
3/4 cup coconut milk (optional)
Garnishes as described below

In a medium soup pot, melt the butter and heat the oil together. Add onion, shallot, celery, sunchokes and squash. Saute briefly until coated and then cover pot and "sweat" the veggies over low heat for 5-8 minutes. Uncover, add the apples and spices and pan roast them for another 5 minutes to develop flavors. Do not brown, you want fresh flavor, not caramelization.
Sunny  Colors!

Add a splash of white wine ( I don't know why, I always did this at the White Rainbow to my soups and they were always good, so I just do it out of habit..if you don't want wine, omit this) Let it evaporate and then add broth.

Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until veggies are really 
soft. Puree soup with a stick or regular blender. You can use the food processsor and make it "chunky" if you wish. A Portuguese woman showed me how to make "Caldo Verde" whisking the very soft potatoes in the soup and using a potato masher to "puree" it. Fancy gadgets sometime complicate things!
You can add coconut milk at this point if you wish.

Sunflower seeds toasted with chili would make a nice garnish
Swirl the coconut milk and garnish with poblano or other hot peppers and cilantro.

Having no nuts in the house, I sauteed shitakes with shallots in brown butter and garnished with fresh parsley.


Fresh, vibrant and different!! Enjoy!

Friday, December 31, 2010


A Happy New Year to all my friends and followers!!

Remember the Roman God, Janus, from which our month of January takes its name, was a double-faced god.
One face turned backwards, the other toward the future:  remember and reflect on your past before you move forward into the future!
Fille and I will return shortly to offer you some delicious "wrappy" ideas for the New Year!

A toast to 2011:

Be Safe, Be Happy and Enjoy Life, Great Food and Love to the fullest!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Adventures of A Happy Cooker: THE HAPPY COOKER ET FILLE: CARROTS AND SPICE AND ...: "Adventures of a Happy Cooker has an announcement: a daughter! We share a love of food, cooking and family food adventures, and now we will ..."


Adventures of a Happy Cooker has an announcement: a daughter!  We share a love of food, cooking and family food adventures, and now we will share some of that with you! Approximately once a month we will take an ingredient or topic and give it a "mother-daughter" spin! 

       Hello!  Fille here!  As my mother mentioned, I will be joining this blog once a month or so to offer an alternative view point on a chosen ingredient or cooking style.  While my mother is my inspiration when it comes to cooking, we do have some differing methods and view points, and thought it would be fun to produce a "fair and balanced" blog.   So let the fun begin with carrots!

One of the things I dislike the most about carrots is the tendency of cooks to bring out their sweetness with sugar, butter and honey.  I am not a sweet fan - I tend to lean more on the spice and everything nice side of things.   So I created this dish to allow myself to enjoy the wonderful flavor of carrots, but in the manner that I enjoy them - with lots of spice!

Spicy Carrot Soup 
2 tbsp of olive oil 
1 lb of carrots (preferably fresh farm whole carrots but you can do the package of baby carrots as well), peeled and chopped 
1 lb parsnips, peeled and chopped 
4 small  baby Yukon gold potatoes, peeled 
1 medium onion 
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (more to taste) 
Red pepper flakes 
2 32 oz containers of chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup half and half (optional) 

1.  Heat oil in a large dutch oven soup pot over medium heat.  Add carrots, parsnips, potatoes and onion and garlic.  Sautee until onion is tender (maybe 10 minutes or so).  Add in Stir in chicken broth, salt, pepper and cayenne and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often. 

2.  Let simmer for approximately 30 minutes and then remove from heat.  Parsnips and carrots should be extremely tender.  Process mixture  with hand held blender or transfer soup to a blender and blend until smooth.  Stir in half and half if using.  Taste for heat level, and season with additional salt/pepper/cayenne to taste. 

3.  Serve in a warm soup bowl, drizzled with a touch of high quality olive oil, fresh parsley  and a healthy sprinkle of high quality red pepper flakes.  


A few alternatives:   If you like a smokey flavor, you may want to add a teaspoon of cumin as well.  You could also top the soup with sour cream, fresh chives or a little grated fresh parmesan cheese.  Topping with roasted pumpkin seeds is another delicious idea.  I also like to have something crunchy with any soup (I'm a huge texture fan) so I tend to serve with a toasted baguette, sliced and drizzled with olive oil and salt and chapped parsley for freshness.

This sounds so delicious, Fille, and so like you. You were always my "chips, pretzels and pickle" girl, preferring them to sweets! I like your variations too. Wish you were here to make it for me, but I guess I'll have to do it myself!
I do agree that some recipes treat carrots more like a dessert (and sweet potatoes, too) than a vegetable and the results can be cloying. That said, I  think that some sweetness  combined with the "heat" can emphasize the natural sweetness in the carrot. So I offer my recipe for "Dynamite Carrots" which I recently made with my SunCoast Organics Rainbow Carrots for a particularly colorful meal addition.


1 -2 Bunches of Rainbow or other sweet organic carrots
1/2 - 1 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon (or more to taste) chili powder
1 small jalapeno, minced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Scrub the carrots well. I do not peel my carrots, especially the Rainbow because you will peel off the color which also has the phytonutrients. I scrub them well instead.
Cut them into matchsticks, julienne style.
Add a little water to skillet and cover and cook the carrots for a few minutes until just al dente. Drain, if there is any water left.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and add the rest of the ingredients.
Pour over the cooked carrots and cook for a minute or so additional to make sure they are all coated with the flavored butter.
Serve and enjoy.

Make sure you use good quality chili powder for this. I use Penzey's and sometimes I add a little of their "Arizona Dreaming" spice to the butter too. It adds a little more depth to the chili flavor.
You could also use maple syrup in place of the honey for a stronger flavored dish.

Monday, November 8, 2010


"It was the best of times, it was the..." wait a minute, it could never  be the "worst of times" when we have such fresh, beautiful produce to prepare and eat! What was I thinking?!

Delicata Squash, is just that, delicate. It is relatively petite in size, light in color and markings, and the skin is thin (for a squash, that is). The flesh is also a little lighter in color and density. The flavor is delicate, too, but delightful! Probably the best squash for "people who do not like squash". It is best when baked or roasted, I think.

Carnival, on the other hand, is more dense, heavier and sometimes larger. It takes longer to cook and is more dry. It is good for cutting into chunks and sauteeing, but it's beautiful markings and shape call for baking too!

These two are, of course, not the only types of squash, in fact they are probably more similar to each other than different varieties of squash, such as Acorn, Butternut or the "grandaddy" of  squashes, Hubbard. Their skins are hard, flesh dense and orange. The list goes on: the squashes are a large and interesting family! 

Hubbard, which I love to use for soup, was once a near disaster for me.  Youth is wonderful! You act on impulse and then actually have the energy to cope with your folly.  
I was planning a lovely buffet for a group at a conference center and wanted a spectacular presentation for the soup course. Hubbard Squash, of course! It can be HUGE!! and what a beautiful way to serve soup! So I blithely ordered a giant from the produce purveyor.

First of all, it took two of us to carry it into the kitchen. Secondly, we knew instantly that there was no way our kitchen knives would carve into this ROCK sitting on the counter. The soup was made and lunch was on in about an hour. Fortunately, it was lunchtime  and the maintenance crew was available. We put in an emergency call and they came, saws, chisels and hammers in hand! 
After they cut, ( and we bowed in gratitude!), we scooped the seeds, forever, but finished in time to present our beautiful, natural soup tureen, the Hubbard Squash.  Great idea, but never again. I think that is why they make ceramics that LOOK like vegetables!

The following is a lovely, light fruity recipe for baked stuffed Delicata.

1/4 Granny Smith or other tart apple variety
1/4 pear
1/2 cup cranberries, halved or chopped
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
3 tablespoons Panko or fresh toasted breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place in baking pan with a little water and cover with foil. Bake for 15- 20 minutes until softened.
Turn the oven to 450 degrees.
Meanwhile make stuffing. Cut the apple, and pear into small pieces and cut or chop the cranberries. Add the nuts, syrup, breadcrumbs and mix in the butter with your fingers.
Stuff the squash halves and bake for about 20 minutes until browned.

  A note on the maple syrup. Use Grade B is possible. It is less expensive and has more flavor. 

The second time I made this, I did not have pears or almonds, so I used a little pineapple and walnuts. The cranberries and apples are necessary, otherwise use your imagination or whatever you have in stock! This is so simple and so delicious. I don't think it would be as good with any other squash than Delicata. It is really a "delicate" light recipe.

Now for the Carnival. This recipe would work with Acorn squash as well (and probably many others !). The "stuffing" is based on a sauce I used to make for pasta at the White Rainbow, Sausage, Basil and Cream. Of course back then, it was homemade Italian sausage from Trupiano's. Now I use "Greenwise" Hot Chicken Sausage from Publix. How time changes all! 
The basil is still fresh from my "garden", now a container on the lanai. Does anyone remember my herb garden outside the White Rainbow kitchen?  Mine! The real one!! I have an old newspaper clipping of it and me picking Basil for a Pesto Lasagne, Night Rainbow "special".
Carnival Squash..doesn't it look happy!?
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.
Place it in a baking dish with a little water. Cover and bake for 30-40 minutes until softened. This is a denser squash and takes more time to bake. The recipe takes a long time, but the "active" cooking time is minimal.

4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped (approx. 1/2 cup)
2 cups cream (yes, heavy cream)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
twist of black pepper
20-25 leaves of fresh basil, chopped 
1/4 -1/2 cup breadcrumbs to bind stuffing
1 pound (4) Italian sausages (hot or mild), casing removed
Melt the butter in a skillet. 
Saute the onion until softened. 
Add the sausage, crumble and cook until done.

Add the cream, nutmeg, pepper and parmesan and continue to cook until slightly thickened.

 Add enough breadcrumbs to "bind" the stuffing, but do not make it too dry.
Chop and add the basil.
Stuff the squash and bake for 20-30 minutes.

Cut, serve and enjoy!

This should stuff 4 squash and serve 4