High on the Hog

We just finished Season Two of the Netflix show "High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America." What an excellent program.

It's no secret that we love food and that we often see food as bridging cultures and cultural differences. The beauty of this show is that the program host, Stephen Satterfield, actually explains African-American food, culture, and tradition, and then brings in people who actually lived and experienced some of the most significant events in our collective history - events not typically taught in any sort of detail, if taught, at all.

One episode had him back in Atlanta - his hometown - and, at one point, focusing on the student activists during the Civil Rights Movement and the restaurants, cooks and bakers who helped to fund the sit-ins and demonstrations - paying for bail, etc.

Every bit of the food had me drooling - corn biscuits that looked lighter than feathers, fried chicken that I could only dream of replicating - but one that really stood out was a Bean Pie. Made from Navy Beans, it was developed by Black Muslims in the Nation of Islam in the 1930s.  It was determined that what we term Soul Foods were relics of the “slave diet” and had no part in the lives of contemporary African-Americans. Kinda the anti-Sweet Potato Pie.

The things I learn...

As luck would have it, we had a bag of dried Navy Beans in the pantry. What I didn't know until after I made the pie, was that to be authentic, it should have had a whole wheat crust. Also, most recipes called for equal amounts of nutmeg and cinnamon, but several went for other spices, as well. I opted for cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, because, while I love nutmeg, a little goes a long way when you're grating it fresh.

Also, some recipes called for simply mashing the beans, others called for food mills and strainers. Different textures seem to be normal. I used my Ninja blender to make it very smooth. Having never had a slice of an authentic African-American Muslim Bean Pie, I went with my own instinct and preferences.

Still learning.

But... I made a damned fine pie!


Navy Bean Pie

adapted from several internet recipes...

  • 2 cups cooked navy beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 unbaked 10" pie shell

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place beans and evaporated milk in blender and process until very smooth. Add butter and mix, then add remaining ingredients and process until creamy.

Pour into unbaked crust and bake 60-75 minutes. Top should be well-browned and center still slightly jiggly.


It's a really damned fine pie!

Silky-smooth, rich, flavorful - everything one could want in a slice of pie. Again, I don't know just how smooth the pie would be, but I do believe that if people had tools like the blenders we have today, they would have used them. Modernizing a recipe is not altering its history or historical significance.

The freshly grated nutmeg came through loud and clear, but was tempered by the ginger. I have my Grandmother's nutmeg grater, which, following the theme of learning through our ancestors, is quite appropriate. Grandma was a great cook, as was my mother.



If you haven't seen the series, I do urge you to check it out.

And make a pie.

The Day After

One of life's great joys is the leftovers from Thanksgiving Dinner! There's such pleasure in revisiting all the delicious flavors...

Ours started with Turkey Sandwiches with mayo, stuffing, and cranberry sauce for lunch - usually on squishy white bread but it's something we don't usually buy and neither of us wanted to go to the store.

I didn't get a picture because I was too busy shoving it into my mouth.

Then, it was a Hot Turkey Sandwich for dinner. We both came close to licking our plates, but we had to save room for Pumpkin Pie with freshly whipped cream.

I'm stuffed, again, just typing this.

The Main Event was at Phoebe and Nancy's - 15 chronological adults, 2 three year olds, and a 7 month old 65 pound Golden Retriever puppy. Everyone contributed to the meal - it takes a village to feed this group.

The Menu


Holiday Sidecars
Cheesy Toasts
Sausage Bites with Dips
Baked Brie
Za’atar Crackers
Veggie Tray with Dips
Clam Dip with Chips

Mains & Sides

Turkey & Gravy
Two Dressings
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Corn Pudding
Butternut Squash Gratin
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Green Beans
Mac N Cheese
Mixed Green Salad
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Canned Cranberry Sauce
Black Olives


Pumpkin Pie
Marionberry Pie
Carmel Apple Pie
Chocolate Cupcakes
Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

If you're thinking that it was a lot of food for 15 chronological adults and 2 three year olds - Hank, the Golden Retriever puppy, doesn't get people food - you would be correct. It was a massive amount. But that's why one brings tupperware and ziplock bags - The Leftovers!!!

I did manage some pictures of the food on my phone, but I took them too quickly and I really didn't do justice to them.

Just envision a Norman Rockwell scene...

That was us.



Cast Iron Orange Cake - Without a Cast Iron Pan

The recipes one finds just reading the daily newspaper! Why I have spent untold thousands on cookbooks and cooking magazines is beyond me...

Case in point - a Cast Iron Orange Cake. We have both been really good about desserts - our A1C was creeping up juuuuuuust a bit, and neither of us felt like succumbing to Type 2 Diabetes in our dottage.

That being said... once in a while we must treat ourselves. That's once in a while - not nightly.

Enter the New York Times...

Victor saw a recipe for this cake that really sounded intriguing - made with whole oranges - skin, pith, and all. Only problem was it calls for a 10" cast iron skillet. We no longer have any cast iron skillets - they didn't make the move west.

We do, however, have the top to a cast iron dutch oven that I have used for bread baking. But it's on a bottom shelf in the far corner of a cupboard, and my hips in their current state do not enjoy crawling around on the floor searching for things. We do, however, have every size cake pan imaginable - all at eye-level. I grabbed one of the 10" pans and went to work.


Now, having never made this cake before, I have no idea how my version compares to one baked in cast iron, but my 10" Allied Metal Spinning cake pan made a damn fine cake!

Cast Iron Orange Cake

adapted from the New York Times

  • 2 cups/400 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 2 teaspoons or vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted and coarsely ground (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup/226 grams butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 cups/255 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup/50 grams semolina flour (or another 1/4 cup/32 grams all-purpose flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup/60 grams chopped toasted walnuts
  • Olive oil, for the pan

Make the cake: Place a 10-inch cast iron pan on the middle rack of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F while you prepare the batter.

Add sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and finely zest one orange into it. Set the bowl aside and then trim a bit of the stem end off both oranges and discard. Cut oranges into 8 pieces and puree in a food processor or blender, scraping the bowl as needed. You need 1 1/2 cups puree; set aside.

To the stand mixer bowl, add vanilla, fennel seeds (if using) and a pinch of salt. Rub ingredients together vigorously with your hands and fingers.

When sugar is fragrant, add butter and set the mixer to medium-high speed to cream until fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Scrape down bowl and paddle, making sure you aren’t leaving any butter unattended.

Add egg yolks and beat on medium-high until well incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes more, remembering to scrape bowl and paddle as needed.

While wet ingredients are working in the mixer, prepare dry ingredients by whisking together flour, semolina, baking powder and salt.

Scrape butter mixture down from bowl and paddle. Give it a good stir to make sure the batter is well mixed. Return to the stand mixer, add the reserved 1 1/2 cups orange puree and slowly incorporate on medium-low speed, then turn to medium-high to blend well.

Starting on low speed, add dry ingredients, then increase speed to medium-high and eventually to high, scraping bowl and paddle until batter is very well mixed.

Stir in the nuts.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven, brush with a generous amount of olive oil and spread batter in the hot pan. It should sizzle and will get a nice, toasty caramelized bottom during baking.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The cake should be set in the middle and golden brown on top. You can use a cake tester if you have one; it should come out clean. This cake can be eaten on its own warm out of the oven after sitting for a little over 30 minutes.

It did not sizzle when I put the batter in, but it did bake up nicely.

I also substituted pistachios in place of the walnuts 'cuz we were out. (Just did a Trader Joe run this morning and we're well-stocked for the holidays!)

I'm thinking 1 1/2 cups of lemon, lime, or grapefruit would work quite well in this recipe...

Just not this week.

Dinner for Two - Italian Style

We caught one of Lidia's cooking shows the other day.

Once upon a time - when we both worked Monday - Friday - we used to watch the PBS cooking shows on KQED in San Francisco or WHYY in Philadelphia. They were fun, something in the background while we were doing chores or whatever, and once in a while gave us an idea for a meal or dessert.

Fast-forward many years and now that we're retired and have all the time in the world, the non-stop PBS cooking shows no longer happen on Saturdays and we rarely have the TV on that early, anyway.

Since we ditched cable, we rarely watch broadcast TV, but our Samsung TV came with its own channel of programs - many completely commercial-free. The other night we stumbled upon a channel showing episodes of Jacques Pepin and Lidia Bastianich, so we watched...

Lidia made a pasta dish that was not only intriguing, we had the basic ingredients in the house!

Dinner was served.

A standard portion of pasta per person is 2 ounces. A standard portion in an Italian household is a pound for every two or three people - along with platters of meatballs, sausages, and braciole. We won't even go into the appetizers. A nice salad rounds things off.

For just the two of us, I usually cook 3 ounces per person - and that's a lot.

Pipette with Sweet Potatoes, Parsley, and Capers

adapted from Lidia Bastianich

  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz thick-sliced pancetta or bacon cut into julienne strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 2 leeks - white and light green parts, only
  • 1/4 cup small capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 lb pipette or elbow macaroni
  • 3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup grated grana padano

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for pasta.

In a large skillet, over -medium–high heat, heat the olive oil and add the bacon or pancetta, the garlic, and the sage. Cook until fat has rendered, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the sweet potatoes and leeks, and cook, stirring continuously, until both begin to soften, about 4 minutes.

Add the capers, if using. Season with the salt and crushed red pepper. Ladle in 1 cup of pasta water, and simmer rapidly until the sweet potatoes and leeks are very tender but the sweet potatoes retain their shape, about 7 to 8 minutes, adding more pasta water if necessary to keep it saucy.

Meanwhile, cook the pipette until al dente. When the pipette are done, remove with a spider directly to the sauce. Add the parsley, and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce.

Increase the heat and boil a minute if the sauce is too thin, or add a little more pasta water if it is too thick.

Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle with the grated cheese, toss, and serve.



Naturally, I switched a few things around...

Pipette is a large elbow-type pasta that you're probably not going to find at your local grocer. For this recipe, I went for 8 ounces of orecchiette - planning leftovers for lunches. We also had thick slices of prosciutto in the freezer that I wanted to use up, so I substituted it for the pancetta and used Greek Oregano and Thyme for the sage.. Otherwise, I pretty much made he recipe as written.

I gotta say, this was pretty good. Simple ingredients and easy to make - but it does take some stove-time. You don't want to leave it unattended for long.

Any good pasta will work with this - a rigatoni, mostaccioli, penne... Use your imagination - or the box in the cupboard.

And, yes... we have leftovers...

Lunch for the next few days!

Chicken Soup and a Loaf of Bread

Fall is arriving here in the Pacific Northwest... Crisp, sunny blue skies, torrential downpours, pea soup fog, barely a cloud in the sky... Totally manic.

Planning a meal around the weather is impossible, because you don't know minute-by-minute, what the weather will be.

Enter soup - the all-weather meal!

I made a huge batch of a basic non-recipe soup:

  • chicken thighs
  • chicken breasts
  • chicken broth
  • chicken bouillon
  • onion
  • celery
  • carrots
  • bell pepper
  • hot peppers
  • garlic
  • frozen mixed vegetables
  • butternut squash
  • barley
  • rice
  • farro
  • cannellini beans
  • aleppo pepper
  • cayenne pepper
  • poultry seasoning
  • thyme
  • S&P

A basic clean out the 'fridge and/or pantry pot. And because man does not live by soup alone... a loaf of bread.

This was a take on a James Beard recipe I've been making for years. I really do love James Beard and his whole approach to cooking. He was a Just Do It person long before the phrase became trademarked!

James Beard's French-Style Bread


  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (100° to 115°, approximately)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups flour - for this loaf I used 1 1/2 cups bread flour, 1 cup white whole wheat, 1/2 cup rye, and about another 1/3 cup water
  • 1 egg, mixed with water
  • sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsp cornmeal


Combine the yeast with sugar and warm water in a large bowl and allow to proof. Mix the salt with the flour and add to the yeast mixture, a cup at a time, until you have a stiff dough. Remove to a lightly floured board and knead until no longer sticky, about 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary. Place in a buttered bowl and turn to coat the surface with butter. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.

Punch down the dough. Turn out on a floured board and shape into a long, French bread-style loaf. Place on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with the cornmeal but not buttered. Brush loaf with egg wash and then liberally sprinkle with sesame seeds. Slash the tops of the loaf diagonally in three or four places. Place in a cold oven, set the temperature at 400° and bake 35 minutes or until well browned and hollow sounding when the top is rapped.

It really is an easy loaf to make and comes out great no matter what type of flour you use. [I'm reasonably certain the recipe was originally developed using all-purpose flour as that was what was most readily available at the time.]

Soup was good, bread was good, and we have lunch, now, for the next few days.


I cannot count the number of times I have made this pizza. It may be the most ingrained recipe I make - after boiling water.

It is simplicity unto itself. It is flavor, it is texture. It is all the things one wants in a slice of pizza.

Pizza dough is one of those things I can make in my sleep – it’s just flour, water, salt, and yeast – but many years years ago I found a recipe in La Cucina Italiana – when they still had an English edition – that was a 2-day slow rise with just a pinch of yeast. It was pretty much the same recipe from my Pirro's Pizza days but broken down to home-use - not starting with 42# bags of flour. It immediately became my dough of choice.

It still is.

Pizza Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (100º to 105º) - or up to 1/8 cup more
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 4 cups “00” flour or unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for bowl

Sprinkle yeast over warm water in bowl of mixer fitted with dough hook. Let proof about 5 minutes.

Mix together flour and salt. Add to yeast mixture. Mix on low speed about 4 minutes or until dough forms a coarse ball. Stop mixer and cover bowl with a towel. Let dough rest about 5 minutes, then remove towel and continue mixing another 2 minutes or so.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Form dough into a ball, transfer to bowl and turn to lightly coat with oil. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes, then refrigerate overnight.

Punch down dough, re-roll, and return to bowl. Tightly cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Divide dough into 2 pieces; shape pieces into balls and place on a lightly floured work surface. Loosely cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours.

The secret is the slow rise in the 'fridge and that pinch of yeast keeps it from exploding in the oven like a loaf of bread.

I bought a 5-piece Dough-Joe oven stone set years ago - 1" thick - that makes a 15" x 18" surface that sets right on top of an oven rack. Perfect for pizza or bread baking.

I pre-heat them in a 500° oven for about 30 minutes and they cook in about 10.

The pizza sauce is usually a bit of Victor's Pasta Sauce, Quattro Formaggio from Trader Joe's, and more often than not, pepperoni - thick-sliced if you can find it.

Of course, absolutely anything can go on top - the toppings are only limited by your imagination and ingredients in your 'fridge or pantry.

Don't worry about the nay-sayers of the world. It's your pizza. have fun with it!


Buena Mulata Pepper Sauce

I made some hot pepper sauce, yesterday - emphasis on the word hot!

It's pretty spectacular, if you like that sort of thing - and we both do!

Our niece, Christine, started a slew of plants from seed and handed them out to the family. We got numerous peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants to add to our garden this year.

One pepper that just exploded is the Buena Mulata. It's a purple heirloom cayenne pepper with a Scoville of 30,000 to 50,000. These seeem on the higher end!

They start out with a really pretty purple flower, and as they grow, they start off a pale greenish yellow color, but then turn bright purple. Once they begin to ripen, the peppers turn orange, then brown, and finally to a deep crimson red. The colors are striking!

I gathered about 4 ounces of peppers and started to make a vinegar-based hot sauce. It's a really quick recipe and only takes about 30 minutes from start to bottling.

You can use this for just about any hot pepper.

Hot Pepper Sauce

  • 4 oz chopped hot peppers
  • 1 medium, carrot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • S&P to taste
  • water, as necessary, to thin

Add all of the ingredients to a small pot and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until all of the ingredients have softened.

Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.

Add water a bit at a time and process to desired thickness.

Strain, if desired.

Bottle and enjoy.

The carrot acts as the sugar. You can omit and add a quarter-cup, or so. It's also a pepper-forward recipe. It's hot. It's also the first sauce we've made from a single source pepper. Usually, we make pepper sauce from a collection of different peppers. I like this one!

I got exactly 3 5 oz bottles from the recipe. A perfect amount.

Now to start thinking about tomatoes...

That's just one of 10 plants we have going!

Sicilian Melon Pudding

Yes, you read that right - Melon Pudding...

Made with local melons from Walchli Farms in Hermiston, Oregon. They're the largest melon grower in the Pacific Northwest - and I have to say, the absolute best melon I have ever tasted.

We heard about them from our friends, Bonnie and Nancy up in Washington. Their local farmer's market up there carries them for a short time each season, and they were raving about how good they are. I found them at our local New Seasons Market and headed over there, yesterday morning. New Seasons is an upscale grocer and can be a bit expensive, for things - but not nearly as expensive as Whole Foods and with a much better and friendly staff - so I just picked up a few things before heading up the road to the local WinCo - much more pocketbook friendly.

The melons were on special in their weekly flyer and I get a 10% veteran discount on Tuesdays - so it was about $11.50 for 2 large melons - about 9 1/2 pounds, total. I put the melons in the car and headed up the road. 20 minutes later, I came out of WinCo and opened the door. I was immediately hit with the strongest melon scent, ever.

Back in my produce-buying days,, a good melon was instantly noticeable by the rich melon scent and a bit of give at the stem end. One doesn't often find those characteristics in supermarket melons, anymore. For several years now, melons have been pretty hit-or-miss. Even when you've gotten a bit of a whiff of melon scent, they've often been mealy or just flat - lacking in that fruity summertime flavor.  I knew these were not going to disappoint.

I added the rest of the groceries - mostly junk food since we're doing a family camping trip this weekend over my Birthday - and drooled all the way home.

Into the house and the kitchen immediately lit up. These are some potent melons - and well worth the price.

The pudding recipe comes from a website called Jul's Kitchen - Stories and Recipes from Tuscany. There are some fun recipes there - and I like her style.

Gelo di Melone - Sicilian Melon Pudding

adapted from Juls Kitchen

  • 2 melons
  • 80 g sugar
  • 70 g corn starch
  • 4 tablespoons elderflower syrup


Cut the melon into wedges, remove the seeds, and then purée it in a blender. Pass it through a sieve placed over a bowl to eliminate the pulp. If you have a juicer, cut the melon into chunks and juice it, then pass the juice through a sieve into a bowl. You should get about 4 cups/1 lr of melon juice. Should you have any leftovers, save the juice for another use, or drink it cold with a squeeze of lime.

Add the sugar and the cornstarch to a saucepan.

Dilute them with 1 cup of melon juice. Add the rest of the melon juice and the elderflower syrup.

Bring it to a simmer on medium-low flame, stirring continuously. When you spot the first bubbles, cook for one more minute, then remove from the heat.

Pour the thickened melon juice into 4 1-cup pudding molds, or glasses, smooth the surface, and refrigerate until set.

I used a Ninja blender and did not have much pulp to strain - those suckers know how to blend!

And the final verdict is - it's eating the melon in pudding form! Smooth, creamy, soft, rich, flavorful... I'm running out of superlatives! It was that good!

It's a very easy recipe. You can use your favorite melon - and I highly recommend the Walchli if you can find it - or go for your favorite summer fruit. Just strain it to make it as pulp-free as possible. Obviously, the more fresh and ripe the fruit is, the better the flavor.

I see this as an annual summer treat.

Thanks, Bonnie and Nancy for the tip!

**edited to add: If you don't have Elderflower Syrup, just omit it. Or, add 4 tablespoons of a light cordial or something that will compliment the fruit. Don't not make it because of one simple ingredient.

Pomegranate Molasses

A million and one years ago when I was The Demo Dude at Trader Joe's #632 - and years before Pomegranate Molasses was readily available outside of Middle Eastern stores - I came up with a recipe to make it with their rather excellent 100% Pomegranate Juice. The juice is pretty tart and most people didn't know what to do with it back in those dark ages. It was before POM and all those other juices and products came into vogue. As was typical with our Demo Process back then, we took products and gave people several different ways to use them - the more reasons we gave people to use something, the more often they would buy it. We figured it was job security - and since I lasted 17 years before finally retiring, I guess it was.

Pomegranate Molasses was one of our definite hits - we sold a pallet of the juice in just a couple of days because it was new, it was unique, and it tasted fantastic. And because we were extremely fun and creative - drizzling it over ice cream, making BBQ Sauce, salad dressing... We were definitely creative!

Pomegranate Molasses

  • 1 qt pomegranate juice
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Lemon juice

Place pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan and slowly reduce by boiling to about 1 1/2 cups.
Cool, bottle, and keep refrigerated.
We really did have a lot of fun back in those days.

Fast-Forward 15 or so years and I now buy it - it's available just about everywhere - and I still use it whenever I'm looking to add a bit of sweet/tart flavor - like tonight...

I had seen a recipe for Charred Eggplant with Burrata and Walnut and Pomegranate Relish quite a few years ago in Food and Wine magazine and filed it away as I do with hundreds of recipes a year.

Today, I was thinking of different ways to cook zucchini - since it has taken over one of the garden beds - and thought it might be worth revisiting... My mind definitely works in mysterious ways when it comes to cooking. I guess it's one of the reasons we had so much fun creating all of those Demo recipes back in the day...


Pomegranate and Pistachio Relish

adapted from Food and Wine magazine

  • 1 cup pistachios - roasted & salted
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • Ground black pepper

Coarsely chop pistachios. Combine them with the pomegranate arils, parsley, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, garlic, and salt. Season with black pepper to taste, and stir to combine.

It really is that easy!


I switched out pistachios for walnuts and parsley for cilantro, doubled the pomegranate molasses and served it over grilled zucchini instead of eggplant. I left out the cheese. And grilled lamb loin chops for the win.



Tons of flavor and totally minimal effort - important when it's really hot outside...


Stuffed Zucchini

Zucchini are stealth-growers.

Their goal is to grow as large as vegetably-possible. They hide. They manipulate leaves to cover themselves. They suck nutrients from the soil as they quickly gain size and shape. Then - without any warning, they show themselves in all of their weighted glory.

Or, at least, that's what it seems like.

I'm in the garden checking things every day, but I didn't see this monster until yesterday morning. It was hiding... mocking me...


But I had the last laugh on this one... What does one do with a 1 3/4 pound zucchini?!? Why... one stuffs it - - with sausage and peppers and onions and a chunk of our homemade bread and lots and lots of cheese!


It was a clean-out-the-'fridge recipe, tonight...

  • Zucchini
  • Buccellato di Lucca
  • Spring onions
  • Bell peppers
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Calabrian Chili Paste
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Mozzarella

I made a quick blender sauce of onion, pepper, tomato, basil, garlic, mint, oregano, S&P. Poured half into a 9x13 bking dish.

I cooked up the sausage, Calabrian chili paste, onion, peppers, basil, ad garlic. Into a bowl with the crumbled bread.

I added the rest of the quick sauce and mixed it all together.

Hollowed out the zucchini, stuffed it, and then covered and baked for 30 minutes. Uncovered, added the mozzarella, and placed back into the oven until all melty and gooey.


It was huge - and waaaaaaay too much for one meal - so we're having it for lunch, today.

I'm on the lookout for more of these monsters!


We harvested our first zucchini yesterday!

They came out of nowhere - as zucchini are wont to do. Wednesday, we had nothing but flowers. Friday, there were 2 huge zukes - with many more coming.

Being the gluttons for punishment that we are, we planted not one, but TWO zucchini plants.

As with our 2 eggplants from our Pennsylvania days, we shall be getting very creative.

Our first zucchini went into Zucchini Bread, because - cake. A simple, very basic recipe from the New York Times that never fails to please.



Zucchini Bread

adapted from NY Times recipes

  • 1/4 cup / 57 grams unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 3/4 cups / 225 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4  teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/8 cup/ 83 grams brown sugar
  • 3/8 cup / 76 grams sugar
  • 3/8 cup / 90 milliliters neutral oil
  • 3/4 pound zucchini, unpeeled and grated on a box grater

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8-x4-inch loaf pan with softened butter and line with parchment paper.

Melt butter in a small pot over medium heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, until the butter starts to brown and smell like hazelnuts, 5 to 7 minutes. Use a whisk to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot; set aside.

Whisk together flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg in a large bowl.

Whisk together eggs, light brown sugar, sugar and canola oil in a medium bowl until no lumps remain and eggs are well blended.

Using your hands, squeeze out as much water as possible from the zucchini. Add zucchini and browned butter to the egg mixture, whisking to blend.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Use a spatula to slowly incorporate until no dry spots remain.

Divide batter among prepared pans, smoothing the top. Sprinkle both with demerara sugar, if using, and place in oven. Bake, rotating once, until bread is golden brown on top, pulls away from the sides and springs back lightly when pressed at the top, 50 to 60 minutes.

Let cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the loaf pan.

I didn't brown the butter because I didn't feel like it. I've done it in the past but I don't think it makes that big of a difference.

Personal taste. Your results may vary.

The other zucchini became our dinner side.


It's a really quick sauté we did as a standard vegetable dish when I worked at the Hyatt Lake Tahoe back in the '70s and have been making ever since.

Zucchini and Tomatoes

  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Olive Oil
  • S&P

Chop zucchini and tomatoes into chunks. Slice onions into either strips or 1-inch pieces. Mince garlic, and chiffonade basil.

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté briefly. Add zucchini and cook until it just begins to soften. Add minced garlic and tomatoes.

Continue cooking until tomatoes begin to break down and zucchini is al dente.

Stir in basil and salt & pepper, to taste.

It really is one of the easiest - and tastiest - ways to cook a zuke!

We have plenty of recipes for zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes. The tomatoes are veeeeeery slowly starting to come in and the eggplant is growing, but mocking us in their lack of flowers.

We shall be getting zucchini-creative very soon!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

My father was a great one for nursey rhymes… One I still remember was “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” “With silver bells and cockle shells, and one damn tulip.”

Okay… I didn’t say he was good at them, but they are definitely memorable!

2023 seems to be bringing us the best garden since moving here! The main reason, I think, is most of our plants came from our niece, Christine who started them all from seed. Christine is the mother of 2 year old twins. She was able to start enough plants for the entire local family up here, and still find time to feed her kids.

Not bad.

The original front yard was pretty beat up. The double deck was full of dry rot and pretty useless. The bottom section – the property is on a slight slope – was a pea gravel seating area. Totally uncomfortable, with chair legs sinking into the ground. Definitely not a place to enjoy an afternoon beverage or an al fresco dinner.

Our nephew, Jacob, got us started with the planters and nephew Brandon and his brother, Chance, helped with the soil and bark. Then we called in the pros for the patio and wall. It’s now a place where we can entertain, relax, and watch nature flutter by.

We have 10 tomato plants going, probably 25 peppers, 3 eggplants, 1 lemon bush, 2 blueberry bushes, 2 zucchini, numerous herbs… plenty of stuff to keep us going in the weeks to come. Hopefully, we’ll have bountiful crops for canning.

I see lots of different hot sauces, tomato sauces – and tomato paste – as well as eggplant caponata, ratatouille, and whatever else we can dream up once we have a panic-amount of produce. [hopefully]

In the meantime, it’s fun to sit and watch the garden grow.

Retirement is great – I highly recommend it!