Looking for the rays of light in this cloud-covered town

Buffalo Wings — September 18, 2017

Buffalo Wings

There are certain foods of home you simply learn to do without when living as an expat. Bagels, New York-style pizza, Cheetos, many ethnic-inspired cuisines. I cannot remember the last time I ate buffalo wings. It’s not about the kind of gross fried chicken wings that have more skin than meat; no, buffalo wings have always been about the awesome hot sauce marinade. Like a light bulb turning on above my head, it recently occurred to me that I most likely have all the necessary ingredients to make the sauce and should give it a try.

Here is the recipe I found in All Recipes:

Restaurant-Style Buffalo Chicken Wings


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 chicken wings
oil for deep frying
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup hot sauce
1 dash ground black pepper


  1. In a small bowl mix together flour, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt. Place chicken wings in a large nonporous glass bowl and evenly coat with sprinkle flour mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 60 to 90 minutes.
  2. Heat enough oil to cover wings entirely, an inch or so deep, in a deep fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Combine butter, hot sauce, pepper and garlic powder in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir together until butter is melted and mixture is well blended. Remove from heat.
  3. Fry coated wings in hot oil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until parts of wings begin to turn brown. Remove from heat, place wings in serving bowl, add hot sauce mixture and stir together. Serve.

From All Recipes, Restaurant-Style Buffalo Chicken Wings,

Now for my caveats.

Perhaps it goes without saying but in case it does, my tiny European kitchen does not have a deep frier. Nor do I have aspirations to buy one. I will say that the absolute best chicken wings I ever had were made with a stove top frying pan. I ordered them at a random pizzeria in West Orange, New Jersey, and watched closely as they were prepared. Simple and impressive. They were the best I ever tasted by a distance.

My other caveat is that I really have no intention of buying and preparing chicken wings. I realize the recipe likely depends on the chicken skin for both the marinade and the crispiness, but I do not care. I do not like the texture of chicken wings, so my experiement will be performed on skinless chicken breast. I haven’t made them yet, but I’m optimistic.


Salmon Florentine — July 5, 2016

Salmon Florentine

Unfortunately, I’m not sure where this recipe came from, Cooking Light? maybe. Undoubtably when I wanted to find new ways to enjoy the health benefits of salmon. This recipe is surprisingly easy to make.


2 packages (10 oz each) frozen spinach, thawed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 teaspoons minced garlic
5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
4 skinless salmon fillets (6 oz each), rinsed and patted dry


Heat oven to 350°.

Squeeze spinach of all excess liquid. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute more. Add spinach, tomatoes, salt, pepper flakes and pepper; cook, stirring, 2 minutes more. Remove from heat; let cool about 15 minutes. Add ricotta; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Pack about 1/2 cup spinach mixture on top of each fillet, matching the shape of the fillet.

Place fillets on a rimmed baking sheet or in a glass baking dish; bake until cooked through, 15 minutes.

  • 334 calories per serving
  • 14 g fat (3 g saturated)
  • 11 g carbs
  • 4 g fiber
  • 43 g protein
Tahini and Hummus — May 7, 2016

Tahini and Hummus

I have always enjoyed making hummus from the very first time I tried it. Hummus is one of those wonderful sides that can be good, great, or amazing based on the balance of ingredients. So why not take control of the effort and make it at home. Tahini, on the other hand, is a mess of sesame seeds that seems more cost effective and efficient to serve from a jar. Well, try making it and judge for yourself.



  • 2 cups sesame seeds
  • 1/3 C olive oil


Heat a heavy, wide-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add sesame seeds and toast lightly for about 2 minutes, shaking the pan so they toast evenly: they are done as soon as they start to brown. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.

Put the toasted sesame seeds in a food processor and drizzle in the olive oil. Pulse for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it’s as smooth as you can get it. Add a little more olive oil if necessary.

Remove from food processor and store in the refrigerator.



  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas drained
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 Tablespoons virgin olive oil


Place all ingredients in your food processor and puree to desired consistency. Add a little purified water for a creamy consistency. Adjust flavor to your taste. Try adding a half teaspoon cumin for a more Middle Eastern variety.

Serves 6 to 8 as a dip or sandwich spread.

Hot Artichoke-Spinach Dip — March 25, 2016

Hot Artichoke-Spinach Dip

Recipe from the Food Network


Kosher salt
1 10-ounce bag baby spinach
1 cup packed fresh basil
3/4 cup canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
6 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained, squeezed dry and finely chopped
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 or 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
Baked chips, for serving


Preheat the oven to 450. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a bowl of ice water. Stir the spinach and basil into the boiling water and cook until bright green, about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge in the ice water. Drain and squeeze dry, then roughly chop.

Puree the beans, cream cheese, garlic and chicken broth in a food processor until smooth, scraping the sides as needed. Transfer to a medium bowl and fold in the spinach and basil, artichokes, parmesan and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Add the cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste.

Mist a deep 1-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Spread the dip mixture in the dish and top with the remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella. Bake until golden and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm with baked chips.

Per serving (1/4 cup): Calories 100; Fat 5 g (Saturated 3 g); Cholesterol 19 mg; Sodium 338 mg; Carbohydrate 7 g; Fiber 2 g; Protein 6 g

Kefta — February 13, 2016


Thinking back, I cannot recall what I was looking for when I happened upon this recipe as I had never heard of kefta, nor do I cook with beef or lamb often, if at all. How fortunate, as this dish is both easy to make and tasty. If you, like me, never heard of kefta, the recipe as published gave this description:

Kefta, seasoned ground meat, is one of Morocco’s most popular street foods. Traditionally, kefta is washed down with a glass of sweet mint tea.


  • 8 ounces ground beef, 90%-lean or leaner
  • 8 ounces ground lamb
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 8 pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Harissa, for serving


Place beef, lamb and lemon juice in a large bowl. Gently combine until incorporated. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Transfer the meat to a colander and press to squeeze out excess moisture. Place onion, garlic and olives in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add to the marinated meat along with oil, cilantro, parsley, 1 tablespoon cumin, salt and pepper. Gently combine until evenly incorporated.

Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack on it. Using about 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture for each, form 12 thin patties, about 2 1/2 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. Place on the wire rack. Broil the patties until brown and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with additional cumin and harissa, if desired.


Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes (includes marinating time).

Makes 4 servings, about 3 kefta each. Nutritional information per serving: 354 calories; 25 g fat (7 g sat, 14 g mono); 90 mg cholesterol; 6 g carbohydrates; 26 g protein; 1 g fiber; 607 mg sodium; 385 mg potassium.

from “Kefta,” Eating Well.

Spice Moroccan Stewed Fish with Couscous — October 10, 2015

Spice Moroccan Stewed Fish with Couscous

If memory serves, this one came straight off the GOOP, back in the day when Gwyneth Paltrow was actually publishing interesting content, before her business managers convinced her of the money behind marketing her name. I actually like Gwyneth Paltrow, or more precisely, I think she gets a bad wrap. Yeah, she’s kind of clueless about the lives of us ordinary folk, but she doesn’t have an ordinary life. She means well, and because of who she is and what she has, she started GOOP as a weekly newsletter in which she would publish snapshots of her fabulous life and contributions from her fabulous friends: the stuff that ordinary people would not otherwise get to see. The spin doctors can go either way on that description, but I subscribed and enjoyed receiving my email every Thursday.

She should probably be more cautious about some of the advice she doles out. These days GOOP is more like Williams Sonoma than a friendly blog, I cannot attest to the quality of the content as I long ago unsubscribed when it became clear that I was never going to buy any of her high-priced wardrobe essentials and did not particularly care to look at all the pictures of GP modelling the clothing herself. I digress.

This recipe quickly became one of my staple go-to because it is really easy and I usually had most of the ingredients at home or easy access at my local grocery store. After a while, I kind of stopped following these directions and pretty much started dumping all the ingredients in whenever, and I thought it still came out good. Unless entertaining, I rarely served it with the accompanying couscous because of, well, the carbs.


  • 1 cup quick-cook couscous
  • olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • sea salt and freshly ground
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 fresh red chili
  • a bunch of fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2x 6-ounce white fish fillets, skin off and bones removed
  • 3/4 pound large shrimp, raw, peeled
  • 1x 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 handfuls of fresh or frozen peas, fava beans, or green beans (or use a mixture)

Prepare the couscous. Put the couscous into a bowl and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Halve the lemons and squeeze in the juice from two of the halves. Add a pinch of salt andpepper. Pour in just enough boiling water to cover the couscous, then cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap. Let the couscous soak up the water for 10 minutes.

Prepare the stew. Get a large saucepan on a medium heat. Peel and finely slice your garlic. Finely slice your chili. Pick the basil leaves off the stalks. Put the smaller ones to one side and roughly chop the larger ones. Add a couple of lugs of olive oil to the hot pan. Add the garlic, chili, basil, cumin seeds, and cinnamon. Give it all a stir and put the fish fillets on top. Scatter over the shrimp. Add the canned tomatoes and the peas and beans. Squeeze in the juice from the two remaining lemon halves. Put a lid on the pan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Serve. By the time the fish is cooked, the couscous should have sucked up all the water and be ready to serve. Spoon the couscous into a large serving bowl and give it a stir with a fork to help it fluff up. Top with the fish, vegetables, and juices from the pan, sprinkle with the reserved basil leaves, and tuck in!

Originally published “Spicy Moroccan Stewed Fish” from GOOP

Remembering Joan — September 6, 2014
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