Archive for the ‘food/recipe’ Category

Opera Ball Punch

May 9, 2018

Don always ordered special refreshments for the university’s Opera Ball. Whether tea sandwiches and fancy small cakes or an assortment of tapas and mini tarts, it was a mad scramble to get the trays ready in time. When the request came in to include a fruit punch, desperate for time, I turned to frozen juice concentrate.

What evolved at the last minute became our standard Opera Ball Punch, and to this day it’s still a respectable alcohol-free party potion. It’s refreshing, not sticky sweet and enjoyable for both adults and children.

As May fills our calendars with end of the school year celebrations, graduations, picnics and parties, a quickly prepared, inexpensive punch is a handy formula to have in one’s recipe file. When I needed fruit punch for a group last week, I noticed that the original frozen grapefruit juice concentrate was no longer available in my large suburban supermarket. Instead I substituted low sugar, high fructose corn syrup free, lemonade. We also found that the punch flavor improved with a rest of a few hours in the fridge after mixing.

The punch may be fancied up with a fruit studded ice ring, a bouquet of fresh mint sprigs or plain with jingling ice in a frosty pitcher. Keep it tart adding just club soda for a last minute sparkle or sweeten it with ginger ale instead.

punch fixings

Opera Ball Punch

2 12 oz. cans frozen orange juice concentrate

1 12 oz. can frozen pineapple juice concentrate

1 12 oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate (low sugar)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 liter club soda or ginger ale, chilled

Stir together the juices plus 18 cups of

my grandson mixing punch

water in a 3-gallon soup pot or plastic

container. Add vanilla. Decant into jars and refrigerate a few hours. Just before serving pour into pitchers or a punch bowl; stir in a generous amount of ice and the chilled club soda or ginger ale. Serves 30 or more.



Brother Peter and Frank’s Slaw

July 31, 2017

“Don’t miss the chance to reconnect,” chirped Barbara, as we walked through the park several weeks ago. I had just recounted how a manuscript fact-checking search linked me with Brother Peter Farnesi whom I met 53 years ago at Nandembo mission near Tunduru in Southern Tanzania. Google led me to the Salvatorian headquarters, and even though I had only a first name, a place and a date, I discovered Brother Peter, now 91, living in a retirement community in Milwaukee, not far from here.

When my choir mate, Amanda, mentioned traveling to Milwaukee to deliver her MFA thesis, I asked to come along and my quest was underway. Of course after all these years, I had no memory of his appearance, but when a lively gent bounded down the hall of the Alexian Village, I knew this must be Brother Peter. The hours flew by as we talked memories, both of us happy to recall and relate stories we could easily visualize from the experience of being there.

The son of Italian immigrants, Peter grew up in the San Joaquin Valley. He worked as a cowboy, rodeo performer, farmer, cook, carpenter before he was drafted. While in the army he felt a call to give his life to serving others. Joining the Salvatorian Brothers, he accepted a mission assignment in Tanganyika. When he reached the Nandembo station in 1960 it was a bare bones, Benedictine house. (In the African bush, missions were developed a day’s journey apart, for means of communication, supplies and basic contact with the outside world.) Over his 24 years at Nandembo, Brother Peter built a carpentry school for boys, a domestic science school for girls and a medical dispensary as well as a farm. The mission farm boasted 50 head of Zebu mixed cattle, flocks of hens, a drove of pigs as well as a large vegetable garden and an orchard of cashew trees. It was ‘shoulder to the wheel’ work for decades for this master craftsman and Jack-of-all-trades. Days were long and hot, often with distress calls to drive a villager to the hospital 30 miles away in the middle of the night.

Brother Peter lovingly fulfilled his commitment to live among and to help the native people. “No man wants to hear the gospel if he is starving or sick” but when bellies are filled this man may ask, “ Who is this God you pray to?”

Peter told the story of a local woman who came to the mission garden, saw a large beautiful cabbage and asked to buy it. “No, madam, I will not sell it to you,” he responded. “But I will give you seeds and teach you how to grow the same cabbage in your own garden.”

All the white missionaries are gone now from Nandembo. The African Salvatorians are carrying forward, and I’m sure Brother Peter is warmly remembered there. I left Milwaukee feeling I had stood in the shadow of a living saint, a man who walked among the neediest and gave his life to their service.

Cabbages were often available in East African village markets and this southern cole slaw recipe from my good friend Frank is welcome on any continent, in any climate, at any time of year.

Slaw fixings

Frank’s Cole Slaw

3 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons white vinegar (wine, rice or distilled)

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons oil (olive, sunflower or canola)

½ teaspoon celery seed (optional)

1 lb. green cabbage (6 cups shredded)

¼ large sweet onion (½ cup chopped)

½ green pepper (½ cup chopped)

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

In a small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, salt, oil and optional seeds. Whisk to disslove sugar and salt dissolve. (This mixture may be boiled.)

Frank’s Saw

Shred cabbage using a Japanese mandolin if possible. Finely chop onion and pepper. Combine shredded and chopped vegetables in wide bowl. Pour over the dressing. Toss and allow cabbage to wilt for at least half an hour. Refrigerate until ready to use. Drain excess liquid before serving. Will keep for almost a week in the fridge. Serves 4-5.


Note: red cabbage and red onion may be substituted for green; shredded carrots, diced apple may be added.


Rhubarb Ginger Jam

May 19, 2017

As I heaved yet another heavy load of weeds from my community garden plot, Elizabeth stopped by to say hello. She noticed the lush rhubarb plant in the front corner and asked if I’d tried Rachel’s rhubarb and ginger jam. ‘It’s lovely with a bit of aged cheddar; I’ll send the recipe,” she added and set my mind whirling. I’ve poached, stewed and roasted rhubarb. Baked it into pies, tarts, muffins and braised it with meats for Persian Khoresh. My sister sent a similar rhubarb ginger jam recipe a few years ago but then I had only the old fashioned green pie plant so my jam wasn’t rosy. Now that I have this healthy clump of red rhubarb, it was time to revisit the jam.

Rhubarb may be one of our most ancient cultivated perennial vegetables, though we use it as a fruit. It’s thought to have originated in Siberia and has long played a major role in traditional Chinese medicine. As we learn more about natural plant healing properties, rhubarb offers benefits for our bones, eyes and brains; it’s claimed to fight cancer, memory loss and tummy troubles At its very best right now, pick rhubarb for a healthy, delicious treat.

A fruit conserve goes nicely with cheese for dessert or a course on it’s own. The quince paste, membrillo, is trendy while in winter, little fig and almond cakes with fennel add that holiday touch of sweetness. This tart rhubarb jam fills in at any time and the punch of ginger makes it a perfect complement for crumbly cheddar, soft goat cheese or creamy Brie. It’s equally good on toast or biscuits or baked into pastry for jam tarts. If your rhubarb plant needs stalks pulled to prevent bolting and to keep it going through the summer, now’s the time to put up a few jars of jam. This small batch recipe will take only a few minutes to prep and about 15 minutes to cook, so in very little time, you’ll have something special to enjoy now or hold for later.

Rhubarb Ginger Jam

 16 oz. sliced rhubarb (4 cups)

15 oz. sugar (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons)

tiny pinch salt

4 teaspoons grated, peeled fresh ginger (use microplane)

grated rind ½ lemon

2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger (optional)

Remove leaves and end bits from rhubarb and weight 16 oz. clean stalks. Cut into ½ inch slices.

Cover cut rhubarb with sugar; add pinch salt, grated ginger, lemon rind and lemon juice. Mix well and allow to stand an hour or overnight until the juices start to run. Bring the mixture to a slow boil stirring occasionally. Increase heat and continue a steady boil, stirring occasionally, for approximately 15 minutes or until the mixture is jam thick. (test by watching jam drop thickly from a spoon, or place a blob on a small, ice cold saucer to check for the set.)

Have ready 2-3 sterilized jam jars and lids heating in a small pot of simmering water. Ladle the hot jam into the hot jars, wipe any drips from the jar rims and tightly pop on the lids.,Jam should seal as it cools. If you are uncertain of a seal, store in the fridge. Makes about 2 ½ cups jam




Magic Vinegar Chicken

April 8, 2016
Vinegar Chicken

Vinegar Chicken

Eons ago I learned to make Vinegar Chicken. When I feel the yen for fried chicken, this is my go-to response. My method is so simple that it could be called “cooking without a recipe.” The dish finds a place in most French cookbooks, and it seems an odd combination. When we stop and think, however, we realize that the acid in the wine vinegar boils away after its tenderizing touch to the protein, and the essence of wine is left to make a lovely glaze. I didn’t think it could work, but it’s magical.

Almost everyone enjoys fried chicken, yet we know we shouldn’t overindulge in fat. Here’s a quick week-night chicken sauté doused with a splash of basic wine vinegar that lifts a simple bird to irresistible flavor. The Vinegar Chicken (sounds much better as Poulet au Vinaigre) combines the golden skin of carefully turned pan-fried poultry plus a rich, amber glaze with minimal fat. Remember that chicken cooked ON the bone has lots more calcium as well as more nutrition and taste all around. The Whole Food concept of eating doesn’t mean boneless, skinless. Likewise many French cookbook recipes call for larger quantities of vinegar, unnecessary in the US where vinegar has a higher acidic content. This smaller dose late in the cooking gives a savory yum—the umami of perfect deliciousness.

Wanting fried chicken without the FRY, then simply sauté and seal in the lip smacking flavor with vinegar.

Vinegar Chicken, Poulet au Vinaigre

3-3½ lb. frying chicken cut up or 2-2½ lbs. bone in, skin on chicken thighs

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

10-12 cloves garlic (papery skin on)

3-4 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

½ teaspoon flour

1 teaspoon tomato paste

¾ cup chicken stock or water

1 tablespoon butter (optional)

Dry chicken pieces with paper towel; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in heavy skillet (cast iron if possible) and sauté chicken over moderate heat until golden. Strew in garlic cloves after chicken has cooked 5 minutes. (Cover pan with spatter screen to contain grease.) Turn the chicken several times as it cooks, making sure it is nicely browned on all sides and done, 20-30 minutes depending on size of pieces.

Measure vinegar into small cup near stovetop. Pour or spoon off excess fat. Reduce heat;  quickly sprinkle over vinegar and immediately cover with lid. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove chicken to a warm platter, stir flour and tomato paste into dripping. Add stock or water and boil up to a rich sauce. Swirl in butter if desired. Pour sauce over chicken. Squeeze softened garlic from paper skins to enjoy along with the chicken. Serves 4.

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon






Summer Squash Cakes

August 5, 2015

summer squashcakes photo-18Hiricas lived in a shabby wooden farmhouse on a couple of acres next to our place. All their linoleum-floored rooms were dark—a dim porch with a ceiling swing and stacks of rumpled Czech newspapers, a black heavy table and buffet in a dining room that was never used, and a low ceilinged grease-stained kitchen with a coal range and smells of old world garlic. For eight-year-old me, this was Gothic. I was drawn almost hypnotically to cross the east orchard and rap at their back screen door. I didn’t venture into the dirt cellar basement, but I’d climb the creaky stairs to the kitchen always hoping there’d be something good to eat—something I’d never find at home.

Now many decades later, there are only a few tastes I remember. In autumn there were sweet, doughnut-like fried rolls filled with the freshly ground poppy seeds harvested from the opium poppies grown alongside the gravel driveway. That creamy, soft, nut flavor can’t be duplicated from the usually stale poppy seeds sitting on grocery shelves. Those rolls and the walnut potica remain a memory.

But back to the subject: In the heavy afternoon heat of late summer, I might find a plate of fried summer squash left on the oilcloth-covered kitchen table. Mrs. Hirica, always eager to offer something to her curious neighbor, helped me buy my first cookbook about European food—a collection of Czech recipes.

Last Sunday I found an almost too large, lumpy skinned yellow summer squash in my garden. It was about seven inches long and too mature to grill or stir-fry. It was from my own carefully tended vine, too precious to toss on the compost heap. I remembered Hiricas’ decadent and delicious squash cakes. My mind whipped back to a memory of something I hadn’t put on a plate in almost forever. As a treat for a meatless Monday supper, my lumpy skinned squash became creamy-centered, crisp cakes served with a pool of basil scented yogurt sauce. Tucked next to a corn and kale pilaf alongside beans stewed with tomatoes and zucchini, a crookneck squash took me home again.

Summer Squash Cakes

1 yellow summer squash no more than 3 inches in diameter



1 egg

1 cup fine, dry bread crumbs

olive, canola or grape seed oil

Remove stem and blossom ends from squash. Cut into ½ inch slices. Sprinkle both sides of slices lightly with salt and allow to stand on a wire rack for 15-30 minutes. Blot away excess moisture with paper towel.

Prepare a plate of flour, a bowl of beaten egg and a plate of breadcrumbs. Dust each slice of squash with flour, dip in egg and then coat with breadcrumbs. Place the crumb covered slices back on the wire rack to dry a few minutes.

Heat a heavy cast iron skillet filmed with oil, and add the squash slices to the hot oil making sure they aren’t crowded. Keep the heat moderate. The squash will need to cook 10-15 minutes per side or until the coating is nicely browned and the center is tender (when pierced with a toothpick). Serve the squash cakes immediately, hold in a low oven or cool to room temperature and leave on the kitchen table for your little neighbor who might knock looking for a snack.

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon






Asparagus with Poached Eggs and Hollandaise

May 14, 2015
asparagus with poached egg and Hollandaise

asparagus with poached egg and Hollandaise

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, and waiting for real June strawberries makes them sweeter, then surely spring asparagus lives up to its anticipated arrival. When our farmers’ market opened for the season a few days ago, I arrived early at the First Orchards stand for thick purple asparagus and boxes of newly laid pullet eggs—spring treasures in any cook’s book.

Now is the time to eat my fill of asparagus. While it lasts, I make it my main green vegetable and select the purple variety if it’s available, always choosing the thickest spears for prime flavor. When it disappears for the season, I’ve had my fill. I’m not tempted by the imported sallow-flavored spears that turn up in supermarkets throughout the year. It’s easy: Just say no to asparagus from Peru or Mexico when Michigan’s bounty promises to return.

Asparagus and eggs have long been a perfect match. Whether in a quiche, an omelet, a frittata or a soufflé, they are the ideal pair. When a new clutch of hens begins to lay, their first eggs, called pullet eggs, are treasured for richness and flavor. Young chicks are pickier eaters, seeking out the best bits, and their first miniature eggs taste better than what they will produce later in life. The pullet egg season is brief, so be sure to include them in your shopping whenever you see them.

Home again with my basket of asparagus and eggs, one of the best spring treats for brunch, lunch or a dinner first course is quickly cooked asparagus topped with a poached egg. To guild the lily further, add a spoonful of homemade Hollandaise sauce, which is far easier to make than you imagined and your small plate will become ultimate high-end restaurant fare. With a quick wrist and a couple of saucepans, your humble egg and early “sparrow grass” will dazzle royalty.

 Asparagus with Poached Eggs and Hollandaise

For each serving:

3-4 thick spears Asparagus

1 small poached egg

1-2 tablespoons Hollandaise Sauce

Hollandaise Sauce

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature

2 egg yolks (freeze whites for meringue)

2 tablespoons water

pinch salt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Whisk egg yolks with water and salt in a small stainless or Pyrex bowl that fits over a saucepan of simmering water (or use a double boiler). Cook, whisking constantly over simmering water until mixture is hot (test with your clean pinkie finger), begins to thicken and fluff. Gradually beat in butter 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture mounts like a soft mayonnaise. Season with lemon juice, pepper, chopped chives and fresh tarragon if available. Makes about 2/3 cup. Hold the warm sauce near the stove, over lukewarm water.

To prepare the asparagus, cut the spears into 4-inch lengths and diagonally slice the remainder of each stalk. Blanch the spears and slices for 3-4 minutes in boiling, salted water, until just tender. Hold on a warm sheet pan.

To poach the eggs, bring a shallow saucepan or skillet with at least 2 inches of water to a boil, season with salt and add a teaspoon of white vinegar. Crack each egg into a small cup. Use a spoon to swirl the simmering water into a whirlpool and slip in the egg. Make another whirlpool and slip in the next egg, etc. Cook each egg about 3 minutes or until the whites are firm and the yolks still soft. Eggs may be poached ahead of time and reheated in a pan of hot water for a couple minutes. Farm-fresh eggs poach beautifully with few shaggy white tails.

To plate, place three thick warm asparagus spears in the center of a salad plate and nestle a few slices alongside. Top the asparagus with a warm poached egg blotted on a tea towel. Spoon over 1-2 tablespoons of Hollandaise sauce. Garnish with chopped chives or parsley.

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon



Tortilla Pizza

December 9, 2014

tortilla pizza  photo-16A grand table lined with trays of bite-sized holiday fare looks like easy entertaining. Though the cook may tremble at tedious finger-food work, larger baked sweets or savories that may be cut in pieces save the day.

Along with shallow quiche cut in squares, appetizer pizzas have been one of my mainstays. I divide a batch of pizza dough into five-ounce lumps, and stretch seven-to-eight inch pizza circles that may be topped, baked, frozen, reheated, and cut into six or eight mini-wedges. All’s fine until I’m asked to include a few gluten-free items. Since most of the powdery, gf flours don’t stretch well or have much flavor, I opt for corn tortillas. Corn tortillas work into the same routine as the regular pizzas and offer gf folks crisp, savory bites.

In almost every corner of Chicagoland from strip mall tiendas to chain supermarkets, El Milagro’s fresh corn tortillas have a regular spot. Actually, they’re better than many tortillas I’ve had in Mexico and worth a place in every home freezer or fridge. Even for a snack or lunch, a corn tortilla quickly toasted over a gas flame or softened in a toaster and spread with peanut butter, drizzled with olive oil and salt or rolled around a morsel of cheese offers nutritious, satisfying flavor.

Whether you need to add some gf items to your holiday party table, or you’d just like a delicious corn tortilla pizza yourself, here’s the plan:

Corn Tortilla Pizza

fresh corn tortillas

olive oil

tomato sauce for pizza (homemade if possible) thick enough

to mound in a spoon

grated cheese—stringy pizza cheese plus grated Parmesan

or a mixture of grated Swiss, white cheddar, Jack or

whatever cheese you have

crumbled goat cheese (optional)

toppings: slivered bacon or pepperoni, diced roasted peppers, halved olives, caramelized onions, sliced canned artichoke hearts

dry oregano, and crushed red pepper

Place tortilla on baking sheet; brush with few drops olive oil. Cover with smear of tomato sauce; sprinkle with grated cheese. Top with second tortilla and press down. Brush the second tortilla with oil, smear with sauce and sprinkle with cheese before topping with any of the listed items, so it looks like a pizza. Lightly sprinkle with crumbled dry oregano and crushed red pepper. Bake in a 450° oven 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is crisp. Use a baking stone if you are doing other baking at the time to merit the long heat-up. Tortilla pizzas also bake easily in a toaster oven. Use right away or freeze for handy gf party food. When ready to serve, cut each pizza into sixths or quarters with a chef’s knife.

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon





Spiced Pan Roasted Pear Cake

October 28, 2014
Spiced Pan Roasted Pear Cake

Spiced Pan Roasted Pear Cake

Where the sidewalk edges the church parking lot, a lone pear tree lives in a fistful of dirt against an old brick wall. There’s not even room for a dandelion. This solitary pear tree is never watered, fed or pruned, yet each season it drops a blanket of rotting fruit crying for recognition beside the holy path. This year Darlene sent a crew up ladders until a bushel of small, green, hard Seckels stood in the church office next to a stack of bags and a sign saying “free.” The pears, strong in character but weak in appearance, weren’t popular. Neither were they wormy, but they were freckled, streaked, blemished, and some misshapen. Visitors thinking of rosy-cheeked golden Bartletts and slender-necked russet Boscs in the supermarket shunned the local organic, ugly Seckels.

I noticed them, delighted at the prospect of giveaways, and scooped them up. I knew they’d need time to ripen and that they’d prefer the dark, so I spread them in the basement, covered them with newspapers and checked every few days. Three weeks later the pears had yellowed and begun to soften. Their juicy flesh liked a pinch of cinnamon and a sprinkle of brown sugar. . .and I remembered the Ballymaloe Spiced Pan Roasted Pear Cake. Reducing the butter and sugar from the original recipe makes a light teacake or a brunch pastry. Warm from the oven, it welcomes a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream for dessert.

Spiced Pan Roasted Pear Cake

1 oz. unsalted butter (2 tablespoons)

3 1/2 oz. brown sugar (1/2 cup)

small pinch salt

4 oz. all purpose flour (1 cup minus 3 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 extra large egg

3 1/2 oz. sugar (1/2 cup)

1/4 cup vegetable oil (or pure olive oil)

1/4 cup grated pear

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (use microplane)

6 small pears, peeled, halved, cored or 3 regular pears cut in sixths


Melt butter in 8-inch cast-iron skillet. Sprinkle on brown sugar and melt over low heat. Add tiny pinch salt.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Peel and cut pears.

Beat egg, add sugar, oil, ginger, and grated pear; whisk together thoroughly. Place flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon in sieve and sift over egg mixture. Beat together.

Circle pear halves, rounded side down, over brown sugar and butter, or pinwheel pear pieces around pan. Keep skillet over very LOW heat. Spread batter over pears. Bake at least 40-45 minutes or until well browned and tests done. If pears are especially juicy, the cake needs extra baking time to thoroughly cook the cake’s center. When the cake is deeply browned and tests done, remove from oven.

Allow cake to cool 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn cake upside down onto flat serving plate or wire cooling rack. Scrape out any remaining bits of caramelized sugar and smooth it onto the cake sides. Serves 6-8.

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon



French Potato Salad

July 18, 2013
French Potato Salad

French Potato Salad

When the haze lifts from the grass at daybreak and the heavy heat punches out the afternoon, even air conditioning doesn’t entice me toward a plate of steaming supper. In high summer I’ll always choose something room temperature. I want it simple and light, with a tart edge.

There’s seldom a dish more tempting than a good potato salad, and for my choice, the French style is the way to go. Here’s the essence of a creamy potato with the zest of good wine vinegar, gentle green onion, fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil. It’s best freshly prepared, cooled to room temperature. It can wait several hours but should never go in the refrigerator. Something happens to a potato when it goes in the fridge. A raw potato will take on unlikely sweetness if stored in the fridge and a cooked potato becomes stodgy. This salad is ideal for picnics even in hot weather since it can be made ahead and there’s nothing in it that can spoil during the day. Lift yourself away from the heavy deli yellow potato salad and try this method for a fresh take, better flavor, better for you.

French Potato Salad

1 lb. small red potatoes (6–7)

l clove garlic

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon white wine or water

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

2–3 green onions

fresh parsley or dill

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Place potatoes snugly in a heavy pot. Just cover with cold water; sprinkle with salt; top with lid and boil until tender when pierced with toothpick. Pour off water and return pot to low heat for 5 minutes to steam.

Meanwhile crush garlic with salt using the back of a spoon in a bowl or use a small mortar. Add vinegar, wine or water and mustard. As soon as the potatoes can be handled (they should still be quite warm), cut potatoes in quarters or eighths and place in shallow bowl. Sprinkle with vinegar mixture and chopped green onions. Fold over to mix using a rubber spatula. Cover with tea towel and cool to room temp. Add olive oil and chopped fresh herbs; gently fold again using rubber spatula and turn into serving dish. Garnish with lettuce, nasturtium leaves or diced fresh tomato. Serve immediately for 2–4 or hold at room temperature for a few hours. Flavor will be drastically altered if refrigerated.

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon

There Are Always Carrots

April 4, 2011

We’ve worked winter’s cruciferous vegetables to the bone with bowl after bowl of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. It’s still too early for asparagus, and spring peas haven’t yet pushed up in the garden. Supermarket green beans are arriving from Mexico but lack flavor. It’s time to dip into the veg bin for a bag of perennial favorites.

Carrots hold their flavor through long storage, pack a healthy dose of vitamin A, cook quickly and are a colorful, sweet treat. Look for carrots free from wooly sprouting roots and if possible stay away from those tasteless “baby carrots,” huge orange roots commercially whittled into bite-sized bits and treated with chlorinated water to maintain their color.

It takes only seconds to peel and slice a few carrots. They cook in about eight minutes, and children will call them carrot candy. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been cooking carrots without water over moderately high heat in a covered pot. The heat forces out carrot juice, which joins with the butter or olive oil to form a glaze—no nutrients go down the drain in poured-off cooking water. A few leaves of early mint, a sprinkle of chives or the first biannual fringes of last summer’s parsley greening in the garden will French-up the carrots; a dusting of ground cumin and a few drops of pomegranate molasses take carrots to the Middle East; a pinch of turmeric and curry powder warmed in the cooking butter conjures India; and some ground chili ancho, a squeeze of fresh lime and chopped cilantro ring in Mexico. Carrots hold their own in all seasons and all cultures.

Glazed Carrots

1 lb. carrots, peeled and trimmed

1 tablespoon butter

pinch salt

pinch sugar (optional)

Choose heavy saucepan with tightly fitting lid.

Cut carrots into 1/4-inch slightly angled slices.

Melt butter in saucepan; add carrots. Sprinkle with salt and optional sugar (use only if carrots lack sweetness). Cover and cook over brisk heat 8–10 minutes.

Uncover, stir with rubber spatula. Carrots should be tender, juicy, glazed and sweet.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at