Update on what’s going on…

My old e-mail, jimhastings@elp.rr.com, is no longer working.  I had to close the Time Warner account that was in my partner’s name and also carried my e-mail.  I opened a new account with Spectrum (they had purchased Time Warner) with the assurance that my e-mail would migrate to my new account.  I have not had e-mail at that address since June 30.  The Spectrum engineers are “working” on it, but do not reply to queries to a named person about my account status.  I’m asking that if you have comments, you post them.  I trust WordPress will send me notices at eprjh1@gmail.com. You are welcome to contact me at that e-mail address.

Just an additional stress in serving as an estate executor; please be patient with me as I get posts going again.  And feel sorry for the account people at Spectrum when I appear in the office Monday with my inch-thick file of what are you doing for me since I’ve opened my account?   I will post a notice if I need help with posting bail.

Thank you,


Boned trout… there’s a first time for everything!

Do you ever become the victim of a dramatic magazine photo and a beguiling recipe?

I consider finding a show-stopper a challenge so I have a throw-down between the magazine and me! Usually with good results.

Chard-Stuffed Trout With Charred Tomato Vinaigrette. The magazine photo challenged me!

The beguiling recipe called for butterflied boned trout. In visiting two markets, I found whole trout, heads and tails intact, and not boned. The other choice was flat filets. I thought and asked myself, how hard could it be?

I didn’t know what to do with the heads and tails at home, so my fishmonger removed them for me. He’s better equipped to dispose of trimmings like that than I.

I took the trout home and searched for a boning video.  YouTube has several and all are pretty much the same.  It was helpful to watch the video chef make a slice on either side of the spine and gently cut under it to remove it from head end to tail end.

She then carefully slipped her knife under the rib bones and cut a paper thin slice of flesh under them and carefully used the blade of the knife to lift them out. Kitchen tweezers helped remove a few pin bones that were left. That maneuver was repeated on the other side.

I was able to remove the spine just fine, but the rib bones were a little more challenging.  The were removed, but not as quickly or gracefully as the TV chef did hers.

The charred tomato vinaigrette and the stuffing took some prep time, but were worth it for the flavor.  I learned one lesson from charing the tomatoes.  I thought I’d loosened the  fond from the pan with a splash of water and add it to the blender. It turned my vinaigrette brown instead of pink like the original recipe’s. Ah, well, lessons learned.

The experience with boning fish was a good lesson. I’ll be prepared if I ever want to stuff a fish again.  the stuffing is bright and colorful and just might appear as a side dish one day. I will have to make the tomato vinaigrette again just to get the color right.

FYI, I only prepared two trout and it was not difficult to halve the recipe.

My chard-stuffed trout with an accidentally browned charred tomato vinaigrette. It was still delicious!

Chard-Stuffed Trout with Charred Tomato Vinaigrette

 The Vinaigrette


2 large tomatoes, cut into ½ inch slices

¼ cup fresh flat-leaved parsley leaves

2 Tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed

6 Tbsp. oilive oil, divided

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely divided

1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided


Heat a large cast-iron pan or grill pan over high heat.

Add tomato slices to pan; cook 6 minutes on each side until well charred.

Place tomatoes in a blender. Add parsley, capers, ¼ cup olive oil, rosemary, juice, vinegar, garlic cloves, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.


The Stuffing


1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into thin strips

1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into thin stripps

1 shallot, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 bunch chard, leaves and top portions of stems thinly sliced

¼ cup chopped fresh basil


Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to pan. Add bell peppers, shallot, and sliced garlic cloves; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add chard; sauté 2 minutes or until chard is just wilted. Remove from heat, stir in chopped basil.


The Trout and Assembly


4 (6 oz.) butterflied boneless trout, heads and tails removed

¼ up pitted Niçoise olives

5 thyme springs

Preheat oven to 400° F. Spread tomato mixture in a bottom of a 9X13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle olives over mixture and arrange thyme sprigs over mixture.

Sprinkle trout inside and out evenly with ¼ tsp. salt and1’2 tsp pepper. Place about ½ cup stuffing in each butterflied trout and fold halves back together. Reserve a little stuffing for garnish when plating.

Heat remaining Tbsp olive oil in large non-stick pan. Add 2 stuffed trout to pan; cook 2 minutes or until skin is golden brown. Turn trout over and cook another 2 minutes until skin is golden brown. Place browned trout on mixture in baking dish. Repeat browning on remaining two stuffed fish. Place baking dish in oven and bake at 400° for 12 minutes until trout is just cooked through.


A recipe called Fridge-Dive Pesto Pasta caught my eye.  Described as a rewarding way to clean out the fridge hooked me.  My fridge has a way of collecting leftovers from a recipe that needed a pinch of this or a quarter cup of that.  I deal with it by buying spices from the bulk purchase jars at a couple of the better markets in town.  I can get things such as a teaspoon of turmeric for pennies rather than a one ounce jar for dollars.  It’s a good way to try out new flavors without breaking the bank or cluttering up the cabinet with more little jars. I can even get loose carrots one at a time, but somethings just come in larger sizes and result in leftovers.

There is usually a mystery bag in the bottom of the crisper drawer  that may or may not contain something that had been there way too long. Fridge diving seemed a good idea to cope with those mysteries.

Below is the inspirational recipe followed by what actually happened one night in my kitchen. Yes, I was playing with my food — again!

Fridge-Dive “Pesto” with Pasta and Shrimp. Really good sauce made (mostly) green stuff in your refrigerator crisper. It’s cooked, a little, and has no basil, so put the “pesto” in quotes and dive into it!


This pesto pasta recipe is the solution for any leftover hardy green, lettuce, or herb you don’t know what to do with. Cleaning out your fridge has never been so rewarding!



½ red onion, quartered through root end

8 cups (lightly packed) torn mixed greens and tender herbs

Kosher salt

¼ cup toasted sesame seeds, plus more for serving

½ cup grated ricotta salata (salted dry ricotta), divided

3 tablespoons plus ¼ cup olive oil; plus more for drizzling

8 garlic cloves, smashed

12 ounces tripoline or mafaldine (wavy-edged ribbon pasta) or fusilli (spiral-shaped pasta)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter


Cook onion and mixed greens and herbs in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 2 minutes. Using a spider or tongs, transfer to a bowl of ice water and swish around in the water to cool down as quickly as possible (this helps retain the bright color). Drain and gently squeeze to remove excess liquid, then press between a double layer of paper towels to remove as much remaining liquid as possible. Reserve pot with greens cooking liquid.

Process ¼ cup sesame seeds in a food processor until finely ground. Add onion and greens mixture and ¼ cup ricotta salata and process until a coarse paste forms. With motor running, stream in 3 Tbsp. oil and process, adding water by the tablespoonful if needed to thin, until pesto is very smooth.

Heat ¼ cup oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add pesto and cook, stirring, until sauce looks like most of the moisture has been cooked out, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, bring reserved pot of greens cooking liquid to a boil and cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions.

Using tongs, transfer pasta to pot with pesto and add ½ cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing, until each strand of pasta is coated. Remove from heat, add butter, and toss to combine.

Divide pasta among bowls. Top with more sesame seeds and remaining ¼ cup ricotta salata and drizzle with oil

The Recipe, reality based in my household:

As I inventoried my crisper drawer, I thought about pesto.  Originally, pesto was an uncooked sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan or pecorino cheese and olive oil. Now we chop up almost anything and call it “pesto.”  I am putting the “pesto: in quotes for this recipe because it has no basil and it is cooked! What I appreciate most about this recipe is its flexibility.  The technique for building the pesto was very helpful.


My Fridge and Pantry Inventory of Ingredients on Hand and Ingredients Needed

1 gigantic head of Bok choy purchased in desperation when I couldn’t find baby Bok choy.  I found the baby bok the next day and the gigantic one was just sitting there sadly abandoned.

1 bunch flat leaf parsley

1/2 head cabbage


Garlic heads

Olive Oil


A variety of pasta shapes

So far, so good.  I wasn’t about to put pricey pine nuts into an experiment, so, I though let’s go for a different spicier crunch!  I bought four snack packs of chile peanuts, a couple of limes and (per the original recipe) ricotta salata because it is a terrific dry, slightly salted ricotta that crumbles nicely.

I decided to add some more protein to the dish, so I got shell-on raw shrimp.

My Method

Rinse and drain shrimp, blot dry with paper towels,  toss with a liberal amount of Tajin Chili Lime powder and let sit while you do the rest of the prep and cooking.

Experience the joy of washing and chopping the Bok choy, parsley, some of the cabbage and savor smashing garlic cloves!  Note: You’ll have to jump back and forth to the original recipe what I  did how it influenced what I actually did.

Blanche the chopped greens until the Bok choy and onion wedges until tender, the immerse them in ice water to stop cooking and retain the bright green color.  Use a spider or tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the greens.  Save the vegetable water, or broth if you want to call it something fancy, for cooking your pasta.

More fun will be had draining, squeezing and patting the greens dry. Be sure to squeeze as much water out of the vegetables and pat them as dry as you can or you’ll have soggy “pesto.” Place one packet of chili peanuts in a food processor and chop into a coarse powder. The peanut powder will help with moisture when you add the greens.  Process until a paste is formed.  Add a good shot of olive oil, pulse until blended.  Add a packet of chile peanuts and a couple of tablespoons of crumbled ricotta salata.  Pulse a few times to reduce size of peanuts and mix the peanuts and ricotta into the “pesto.”  Add the juice of half of lime.

Lightly brown the smashed garlic cloves in olive oil, then add the “pesto” and cook over low heat while the pasta cooks, according to package directions, but keep it al dente.  I didn’t have a wavy edged pasta, so I used my favorite bucatini noodle.  I figured it would work as a base for the shrimp when coated with the “pesto.”

When the pasta is done, use tongs to transfer it to the pot of “pesto.”  Gently stir to blend and add the butter called for in the recipe.  Reduce the heat to low and cook the shrimp in butter until curled and flesh is bright pink throughout.

Place pasta and “pesto” mix in a shallow bowl, top with shrimp, sprinkle with whole chile peanuts and crumbled  ricotta salata and a couple of lime wedges.  Dive in.




Play with Breakfast

I’m a chileholic. I must have chile in some form several days a week or I’m off my game. When I wake with the craving, I check out the refrigerator and see what I can come up with.  The other day, it was corn tortillas eggs, roasted and peeled green chiles, cheese and a few grape tomatoes on the counter. I remember covered dish dinners featuring chile relleno casseroles which were mostly virtuous because the were tasty and not fried.  I’d never made that casserole, but I figured it couldn’t be too hard. and of course, I had to give it a Gringo Gourmet spin or two.

img_2695I used a small glass loaf pan for my casserole. I coated it with non-stick spray and set my oven to 400º.  I beat four whole eggs and about 1/4 cup of liquid egg product together and added a pinch of salt and pepper to the mix. I cut three corn tortillas in half and placed two tortillas overlapping in the bottom of the loaf pan. I placed two roasted, seeded and split long green chiles on top of the tortillas then mourn in about a third of the egg mixture and sprinkled it with pepper jack cheese.  I repeated this procedure two times to make three layers in the pan.  A few sliced grape tomatoes on top added some color.

I baked it for about 30 minutes and checked it for doneness with a wooden pick I keep handy for this purpose. After determining it was done, I left it to setup for about 10 minutes, then sliced and served it.

This casserole differs from a chile relleno casserole because of the addition of layers of tortilla and use of a multi-peppered jack cheese.

Layered green chile, tortilla, egg and cheese breakfast casserole satisfied a chile craving.

Just sharing

Gringo Gourmet in Action at Cactus Appreciation Day
Couldn’t have done it without lots of help from Marianela and Clarisa.
Sometimes, I think Stephan Pastis has a camera drone following me! I recognize myself in his strip!

More Fun with Aleppo

My recent posts about Aleppo and Aleppo oil have nothing to do with Gary Johnson’s now famous statement, “What’s an Aleppo.” Rather, they are about a wonderful taste treat you might like.  I’ve been using Aleppo oil I make myself.  My daughter sprinkles crushed Aleppo peppers on salads. It is versatile and mighty good.

Braised Greens with Aleppo oil and feta and tiny lamb chops on the side.

This recipe uses braising or what the  author called “the cooked to hell” method of tenderizing fennel, Tuscan kale and broccoli rabe.  It takes some prep work and simmering time, but is well worth the effort.

Braised Greens With Aleppo Oil And Feta

The creator of this recipe called braising the vegetables the “cooked to hell” method, for making the greens meltingly tender. If you can’t find Aleppo, use 1½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes instead. Aleppo pepper will me more mild than the red pepper flakes in my opinion.


SERVINGS: 8 – the recipe is easily halved.

½ cup olive oil, divided

1 large fennel bulb, cored, thinly sliced

1 large onion, thinly sliced

Kosher salt

8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 bunches Tuscan kale, tough stems removed, leaves torn into pieces

1 bunch broccoli rabe, tough stems removed, large clusters separated into smaller pieces

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper

½ teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

6 ounces feta cheese, broken into large pieces


Heat ¼ cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Add fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned around the edges, 5–8 minutes. Add onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and just beginning to brown, 5–8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Add kale and broccoli rabe to the pot a handful at a time, tossing to wilt after each addition before adding more. Stir in red pepper flakes; season with salt. Add 3 cups water and bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce heat and cook, partially covered, until greens are very tender, 35–45 minutes.

While greens simmer, make Aleppo oil. Bring Aleppo pepper, paprika, and remaining ¼ cup oil to a simmer in a small saucepan over low heat, swirling often, about 1 minute, let cool.

Add lemon zest and lemon juice to greens; taste and season with more salt.Transfer to a serving platter along with some of the braising liquid and top with feta. Drizzle with Aleppo oil.

Lamb Chops

Coat lamb chops with lemon juice, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and pepper.  Pat dried oregano leaves onto chops’ surface so they will stick to the lemon juice.  Bake at 400º for two to three minutes a side until an internal temp of 145º is reached for medium rare or 160º for medium.  Tent and rest for five minutes before serving.

Make Thyme for Wine

Work in the Gringo Gourmet Academy Test Kitchen

Make Thyme for Wine jelly as a baste on chicken breast cutlets makes dinner very special.

Kelly Wiseman of Wiseman’s Garden Creations gave me a treat and the honor of working with and reviewing one of her culinary original creations.

Wiseman’s Garden Creations is the dream child of Kelly and Geoff Wiseman. The couple create and make wonderful jellies and pickles and sell them at Ardovino’s Farmers Market. I’m lucky enough to be able to sample them and to try different ways to enjoy them.

Among my favorites are Kelly’s wine salts – finishing salts made with wines and kosher salt. The merlot salt makes a grilled steak stand up and sing on your plate and your palette. People don’t readily grasp the concept of wine salt until they try it.

Kelly asked me to try her Thyme for Wine Jelly. She asked me to think of ways the jelly might be used. I’m game for anything trying anything she creates, so, I took a jar into the Gringo Gourmet Text Kitchen and went to work.

The Thyme for Wine Jelly is made with Gewürztraminer, a wine that has been called a grown-up moscato. It has a higher alcohol content than moscato, more striking aromatics and lower acidity. It aromatics are described spicy and citrusy, a little sharp with a smoky aroma similar to burned incense.

The wine pairs well with duck, chicken, pork, bacon, shrimp and crab. It works with soft cow’s milk cheeses and dried fruit. It works well with highly spiced aromatic herbs including cayenne pepper, ginger, clove, cinnamon, allspice, Madras Curry, Sichuan pepper, shallots, soy sauce, almond, rose water, lime leaf, bay leaf coriander and cumin. Another working category includes roasted vegetables and vegetables with a natural sweetness including coconut, red onion, bell pepper, eggplant, tempeh, squash and carrot.

When Kelly added thyme to the wine, she created and explosion of flavor that was almost peppery. The first taste on a spoon ignited my taste buds. A second taste wooed me and I had to have a third. I personally wouldn’t put this on toast and immediately thought of is as a glaze for meats and poultry.

As I tried the jelly as a finish baste on proteins, I felt was the jelly was a little thin for standing up to heat. When brushed on meats, it melted down and rolled off. I had to let meats rest and then brush them with the jelly. A thicker set might make it possible to caramelize the jelly. Caramelized bits from the fond in the pan were excellent when spooned over the meats.

My first test was with pan roasted chicken leg quarters. I love dark meat chicken because it is juicy and flavorful and doesn’t get dry the way white meat can.

I basted the thighs three times to get enough of the jelly on the meat to stick well. I served the leg quarters with patty pan squash stuffed with green chile and a little cheese and a salad of lettuce leaf basil, fresh mozzarella and grape tomatoes dressed with a touch of Italian vinaigrette. The side dishes and the jelly finish on the chicken worked together. I pan roasted the chicken and didn’t get quite enough color on the skin.

My next trial was an inch-thick center cut pork loin chop. I did a simple salt and sugar brine for a little over half an hour to help keep the meat moist during cooking. Again, it required multiple basteings of the jelly to remain on the chop.

The chop was served with a Swiss chard and onion sauté with a finishing splash of red vinegar and a berry salad dressed with a strawberry yogurt and Thyme for Wine dressing.

The chop was OK. The basting jelly complemented it well, but it didn’t set off any rockets for me.

The hit of the plate was the salad inspired by a chat about the Thyme and Wine Jelly testing with my daughter. She said it sounded like it might make a good salad dressing. I made a mixture of three tsp. strawberry yogurt and two tsp. Thyme for Wine Jelly. The flavors were a very good match. I tossed strawberries and blue berries lightly with the dressing and plated them on a bed of mixed greens. I drizzled the leftover dressing over it all. I will say that this salad is worthy of a repeat run… perhaps with a little toasted slivered almond sprinkled on top.

Make Thyme for Wine and strawberry yogurt on berries over lettuce – a great jelly turns into a fantastic salad dressing!

My third adventure was chicken breast cutlets, pan roasted and simply seasoned with salt and pepper.   I pounded the cutlets to an even thickness and browned them in a pan with a little olive oil cooking spray.

They colored up well and, because of their shape, held the jelly baste nicely. I used some of the pan sauce that had caramelized on the cutlets with a couple of bastes of the jelly. A garnish of a few springs of fresh thyme was nice.   Mixed greens with radishes and grape tomatoes and steamed fresh green beans with paper thin slivers of ham and baby onions rounded out the meal.

Gringo Gourmet Academy Test Kitchen Test Results

The Thyme for Wine Jelly is amazing. The spark of thyme and the medley of tastes and aromatics of the wine jelly are a pleasure on the tongue. I do wish the jelly had been a bit thicker to hold up to head.

I liked the jelly baste on the chicken breast cutlets.   That and the dressing on the berry salad were my favorites.

In second place, I put the leg quarters. Cooked skin-on, they were a little over powering for the jelly baste.

As I said, the pork chop was OK, but it needed a stronger basting sauce than did the chicken entrees.

Visit the Wiseman Garden Creations booth at the market and treat yourself to some wonderful jellies and pickles and be on the lookout for the specialties Kelly develops!



Over the Top Tomato and Cannellini Bean Soup

Nights are getting cooler now. Not really cold, but cool enough to send me looking for soup and stew recipes to ward off the chill. I found one that would be perfect for a Meatless Monday supper, but it worked on a  Sunday night when I couldn’t wait until Monday.

The recipe called for soaking dry beans overnight and cooking them for a long time. That wouldn’t work with my 4:30 p.m. starting time that included a trip to the store. I did some shortcutting on the beans I’ve shared below and was able to pull off dinner at a reasonable time.

The clinchers for me in the recipe were two favorites – fennel and chard. Recipes with either are probably going to be tried and experimented with in the Gringo Gourmet Academy Test Kitchen. Short cuts on the bean prep qualifies as a test kitchen experiment.

I’ve labeled some of the ingredients “PDP” which is what took the recipe over the top.  PDP = Pretty Darned Pricey.

Tomato and Cannellini Bean Soup with Parmesan Garlic Bread – a great vegetarian supper on a cool fall evening.


INGREDIENTS (Recipe Version)


1 cup dried cannellini or other small white beans, soaked over night

1 onion, quartered through root end

4 garlic cloves crushed

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt.

Beans (Gringo Gourmet Academy Short Cut Version)

1 16 oz. can cannellini, navy or other small white beans, rinsed

1 onion, quartered through root end

4 garlic cloves crushed

2 bay leaves

1-1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth

Soup (Ingredients unchanged)

4 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained  “PDP” – I splurged on a can of tomatoes grown domestically from Italian San Marzano tomato seed.  You can find good canned tomatoes at a better price. (Save the drained juice for another use.)

1/2 tsp (or more to taste) crushed red pepper flakes

Loser salt

1 onion, chopped

1 fennel bulb “PDP” my fennel got the PDP mark only because on a Sunday evening, there were only a few very small organic fennel bulbs on the shelf when I went shopping. I had to buy two.

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 Tbsp sherry vinegar“PDP” I keep sherry vinegar in my pantry. It is pricey, but worth it, when you do buy it. Most recipes call for only a tablespoon or two, so it really isn’t that big of an investment over time.

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (includes the broth used in the short cut beans)

1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves torn into pieces “PDP” if you choose organic chard over non-organic. Guess which was the only choice on the shelf last night!

Chopped unsalted, roasted almonds (for serving) I consider the almonds as optional



Combine beans, onion, garlic and bay leaves in a large pot and add cold water to cover by two inches. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, add several pinches of salt and reduce heat to low. Cook at a bare simmer until beans are creamy, but still  hold their shape – thirty five to forty five minutes. Let beans cool in cooking liquid; discard bay leaves. (May be cooked three days ahead. Cover and chill.)

Beans (Gringo Gourmet Academy Short Cut Version)

Rinse cannellini beans and place in pot with onion, garlic and bay leaves. Add vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Let the mixture simmer while you prep and start the other vegetables. Simmering the savories in the broth imparts their flavor to the soup and the beans pick up some of it, too. How simple and fast is this?


Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add drained tomatoes and crushed red pepper and cook tomatoes undisturbed until caramelized and borderline blackened on one side – 5 to 7 minutes.  Any residual juice from the tomatoes will reduce. Break up the tomatoes and continue to cook, scraping and stirring occasionally until tomatoes are caramelized all over. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pot while the tomatoes finish caramelizing.  Transfer the tomatoes to a plate.

Heat another two Tbsp oil in the same pot over medium. Add onion, fennel, garlic and another pinch or so of crushed red peppers, if desired. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft and beginning to brown around the edges. Stir in vinegar and tomatoes, scraping browned bits from the bottom and sides of the pot. Drain beans and add to pot with the broth (If using short cut method, add the bean broth and the broth from the box.) Cook until flavors meld – about 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste and add another pinch of crushed red peppers if you like.

Just before serving, stir in chard and cook until wilted. Ladle soup into bowls, top with almonds, if using and, if you like, drizzle with a little very good olive oil.

I served my version of garlic bread with the soup so I’d be able to sop up all the broth.

I don’t use a whole loaf of French bread because I’d eat the whole loaf at one sitting.  I get whole wheat bollios at the market and serve one of these wonderful Mexican-style rolls per person instead.

Split the rolls, spread them lightly with butter (or olive oil), then sprinkle them with garlic powder and Italian seasoning.  Wrap them in foil and health them through in a 375° oven for 10-15 minutes. When I’m feeling decadent, I take the rolls from the oven, up the temp to broil, open the foil and sprinkle the roll halves with a little finely grated parmesan cheese (never the green cheese-flavored sawdust in the green can). I pop them under the broiler for a minute or two until the cheese melts and the bread gets a bit of color and then serve them in the opened foil wrap. It just takes the dinner a little bit more over the top!


Here’s How Good Breakfast Can Be

I love chiles rellenos (stuffed chiles). I like them in the traditional way – friend in an egg batter and topped with a mild chile and tomato sauce. I like them as cool rellenos – peeled long green chiles served cold stuffed with guacamole, or shrimp, or salpcion (spicy shredded chilled beef) or even chilled tuna salad. My favorite way is fried in a crumb batter. My mother used to crush saltine crackers for the crust. Now we have access to Panko crumbs – Japanese style bread crumbs, which make it easier to have crispy crunchy rellenos. As much and I love them and enjoy them, I’m not at all fond of cleaning up after frying or figuring out what to do with left over cooking oil.  And, yes, I know I’ve written about this way of making rellenos before, but it is worth repeating.

Chiles rellenos con huevos. I leave my yolks runny so I can dip a bite of relleno in them.

When my niece visits from Montana, I’m expected to make a batch of rellenos for her. A couple of weeks ago, I made her a batch of fried ones because that’s the way grandma taught us and it is tradition. And then I got to clean up after frying about two and a half dozen rellenos for four people. My niece and her husband and father got to take the leftovers home. I did manage to stash four away for breakfast the next day.

A couple of weeks later, I woke with a craving for chiles rellenos, a favorite breakfast. I didn’t want to fry them because I was just making a few for breakfast. I resorted to my old standby trick – baked rellenos.

I poured a pile of Panko crumbs into a sauté pan and toasted them to a nice golden brown.  If you don’t toast them, they remain pale and  your rellenos look anemic. While the crumbs toasted, I preheated my oven to 375°. I laid out flour on a plate, poured some liquid egg product on a second plate and put the Panko on a third plate.  I’ve started using a carton of egg product when I bread something because it is easier to wipe off a carton than to stop everything and whip an egg or two in the middle of breading.

I can buy freshly roasted long green chiles year ’round in El Paso. A local market roasts them every day.  I just have to take a bag home and peel the blistered skin off them.  I put a big bowl of water in the sink and peel and swish my chiles in the bowl. That uses less water than washing them under the tap.

Then I slice my cheese to fit in the chiles. We’ve been getting beautiful long chiles lately and it takes a long slice of cheese.  I like colby/jack or jack cheese in my rellenos. Plain cheddar gets rubbery when it cools.

The chiles are stuffed, then I roll them in flour; next in the egg product and finally a roll in the toasted crumbs.  I put the coated rellenos on a rack on a sheet pant and pop them in the oven  for about 10 minutes, then turn them carefully and bake about 10 minutes more.  The baking melts the cheese and cooks the egg product giving me a nice lightly crunchy rellleno.  I keep my  rellenos warm after the batch are cooked while I fry eggs to go with them.  Sometimes I make refried beans as a side dish, but usually I just have a couple of rellenos and a couple of eggs and call it breakfast. If the chiles are very hot, I can quickly warm up corn tortillas to temper the heat.

On the Sunday I made these, I served us each two relines and two eggs.  Plates and cutlery went in the dishwasher, pans were given a quick had wash and there was no frying clean up to worry about. And it all came together in under 40 minutes.

Panko crusted chiles relines coming out of the oven.


Some times you win; sometimes the wind wins.

The success story.

A while back, I came across a pack of four beef tenderloin fillets marked down for quick sale. I snatched them up and put them in the freezer for a special occasion. The occasion arrived. Clean out the freezer Friday!

Friday evening was cool and breezy. I wanted to use the charcoal grill. I used lump charcoal – far better than briquets for higher temperatures and easy starting. I prepped two fillets with a little olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. I found baby pattypan and zucchini squash at the market, so I tossed them with a little oil, salt and pepper and put it all on the grill.

I learned that the thermometer on the charcoal grill reads low.  I kept checking the meat with an instant read thermometer and was getting readings higher than the grill thermometer.  Because of the wind, it all took longer than anticipated to cook.

The result was sad. My baby squash were cooked unevenly and the tenderloin dried out a bit. I blame it all on the wind and the havoc it wrecked on temperature control. The meal was edible, but not what I had hoped it would be.  I didn’t photograph if.

Then, Saturday came along. I still had two fillets in the fridge and I was determined to do them justice.  I decided to cook them indoors. That was a good choice, because the evening wind picked up again.

I began by setting the tenderloin out to come up to room temp.  While I waited on that, I peeled and sliced an onion and started it sautéing in a little butter.  I let the onion soften and take on a little color, then added a good splash water and a teaspoon of Better Than Boullion beef base to the pan and stirred it in well.  A little more water  helped soften the onions even more and they absorbed the intense beef flavor of the beef base.  I let them reduce to an almost confit consistency and then added a health splash of brandy to the pan and let it simmer with the onions for a few minutes.  Then I took the almost confit off the burner and turned my attention to the fillets.

I seared the fillets on both sides in a hot dry pan, then popped the pan into a 375 degree oven. After 10 minutes, I checked the internal temp of the meat with my trusty thermometer, turned them offer and put them back in the oven for three minutes.  I then removed my fillet from the pan and tented it while the other fillet cooked a little longer to suit the other diner’s taste.

I plated the tenderloin on the onion almost confit with a twice baked potato half and a generous serving of Tuscan (dinosaur) kale and shaved raw Brussels sprouts in a dijon mustard vinaigrette and a little grated pecorino cheese.  The salad was a good sharp contrast to the sweetness of the onion.

I’m happy to report that the Saturday meal was far superior to the windy grilling adventure and very satisfying for us both.

Kale and Brussels sprouts salad is a tart counterpoint to the sweet onion almost confit served with a medium rare tenderloin fillet. A half a twice baked potato rounds out the plate.

Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad

     Dijon Vinaigrette Dressing


1/4 C fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (I like the whole seed Dijon)

1 Tbsp minced shallot (can substitute red onion)

1 small garlic clove, finely grated (thank goodness for microplanes)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning


Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic and  1/2 tsp kosher salt in a small bowl.  Stir to blend and set aside to let flavors meld.

The Salad


2 bunches Tuscan kale (about 1-1/2 lbs), center stem removed, leaves thinly sliced.

12 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed and finely grated or shredded with a knife.  I used the slicer side of a box grater and held the sprouts by the tip while grating. When you reach the tough core of the sprout, it is time to let go and save your finger tips.

1/2 C extra virgin olive oil, divided

1/3 C almonds with skins, coarsely chopped

1 C finely grated Pecorino


Spoon a tablespoon of olive oil into a small skillet; heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add almonds to skillet and stir frequently until golden brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Turn almonds out onto a paper towel lined plate.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and let cool.

Slowly whisk remaining olive oil into lemon juice mixture. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. (Isn’t is amazing how mustard makes emulsifying oil and lemon juice or other liquid easy!)

Add dressing and cheese to sprouts and kale and toss to coat.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Plate and garnish with almonds.