Archive for November, 2009

Mayocoba (Canary) Beans


The Mayocoba, or Canary Bean, was named after a small village in Mexico where this new version of an old Incan bean was developed. They are light yellow when dry but when briefly soaked and cooked turn white. About the same size as a pinto bean the interior is creamy with a very tender outer skin which tends to make them easier to digest than other types of small beans. They keep their shape well when cooked for long periods of time in spite of being so tender. Since discovering Mayobcoba beans, I use them in all of my recipes that call for white beans or pinto beans and have come to prefer them because of the buttery, tender texture. They make outstanding baked beans, refried beans and my favorite cold weather soup, bean soup with ham.

Mayocoba Bean Soup

1 ½ cups Mayocoba beans (any white bean will also work well)

1 T olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 carrots, roughly chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups low sodium chicken broth or plain water

1 ham bone

1 bay leaf

½ cup cream sherry

Place the beans in a pot with 4 cups water. Bring to a boil & let boil for 2 minutes. Turn off heat, cover & let sit for at one hour. Drain, rinse & set aside.

In a large soup pot heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic & ham. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables become translucent. Add the beans, ham bone, bay leaf and enough broth or water to cover the beans by ½ inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover & simmer for 1-2 hours or until the beans are tender adding additional liquid if needed (some beans require more liquid than others). During the last 5 minutes of simmering add the sherry.

(NOTE: This can also be cooked in a pressure cooker with excellent results. Process for 35-45 minutes according to your pressure cooker’s instructions.)

Remove the ham bone and add any meat on the bone to the soup. Serve hot with corn bread or corn muffins.




Warm up your weekend kitchen with these Eastern European pull-apart breakfast yeast rolls filled with jam or preserves. Buchty (pronounced booktee) can be made in less than 2½ hours or the dough can be made a day in advance and refrigerated. Just bring the dough to room temperature before shaping and filling with the jam, let rise and bake as directed in the recipe below



2 cups milk, lukewarm
1 cup sugar
1 package yeast (instant or regular)
1 tablespoon salt
3 eggs
8 ounces butter, melted
7-8 cups all purpose flour
about 8-10 ounces fruit jam or preserves (raspberry, plum or cherry work very well)

4 tablespoons melted butter for brushing before baking

Place in a cup 2 tablespoons of sugar and  sprinkle the yeast on top.  Fill cup with lukewarm milk and let yeast proof a few minutes.  Whisk the eggs and yeast together. 

In a alrge mixing bowl place 3 1/2 cups flour and the egg/yeast mixture. Add a little of the butter. Mix. Alternate adding flour and butter mixing after each addition. Beat well until dough is satiny and smooth and starts to pull away cleanly from sides of bowel (a little more flour may be added to reach proper consistency).  Cover with clear wrap or towel and place in a warm, area until double in bulk.

Lightly flour your work table. Take a tablespoon sized ball of dough working with your fingers to shape it into a circle, flattening as you go. Place a teaspoon of filling into the center. Bring up sides and pinch to seal. Place pinched side down in a greased 9 x 12 inch baking pan Continue forming more rolls placing them in the pan next to each other until pan is filled. 

Let rise approximately ten minutes. Brush with melted butter and bake in 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until tops are lightly brown. Remove from pan. Cool. Dust with powdered sugar to serve.


Potato Cakes

These are a quick, delicious and attractive potato side dish. They go particularly well with a steak or chicken.  This is the basic recipe but it can be tweaked by adding whatever herbs, cheese or seasonings that compliment your main dish. To make these extra special, fry them in that duck fat you have been saving for a special occasion in your freezer.

potato cakes

Potato Cakes  

6 medium Yukon Gold or red potatoes

3 green onions, minced

2 tablespoons grated parmesan or Swiss cheese

salt & pepper to taste

bacon drippings, butter or vegetable oil for shallow frying

Precook the potatoes in the oven or microwave and set aside to cool.  Can be done a day or two in advance and refrigerated till ready to use if desired. 

In a bowl, mash the potatoes, skin included until roughly broken down. Add the minced green onions , cheese and salt & pepper to taste. Combine well, mashing everything together but leaving chunks using a large fork, wooden spoon or fingers. Shape into 4-6 patties depending on the size desired. 

Preheat a non-stick pan with enough bacon fat or vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan to medium high. Place the patties in the oil and fry till golden brown and crusty on both sides. Serve hot.


Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

I don’t particularly care for traditional pumpkin pie. In fact, I really dislike it. I’ve been traumatized by too many bad pumpkin pies that have had heavy, wet, slippery fillings, gummy crusts, and way too much pumpkin pie spice in the filling. There is only one pumpkin pie recipe I will eat and it’s a recipe I dearly love. It’s creamy, rich, and full of classic pumpkin pie flavor. I’ve been making this recipe for many years and it always gets rave reviews. 

This is the pumpkin pie my Hungarian born grandmother always made. She called it Pumpkin Chiffon Pie but it’s more of a mousse than a chiffon because of the whipped cream in the filling. Being Hungarian, every dessert involved heavy cream in one form or other. She was a world class baker and was the cook for the mayor of Pittsburgh way back in the 1930’s. I still roll my pie crusts out with the same rolling pin she used-a straight, two foot long piece of  wood fashioned out of a policeman’s night stick my grandfather took from a police officer during a scuffle involving a labor union, steelworkers and a strike in Pittsburgh in the early 1900’s. It makes everything it touches taste better. 

This is her recipe.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie 

1  8 or 9 inch single pie crust baked and cooled. Can be either a standard pastry pie crust or graham cracker style

For the filling:

2 packages plain unflavored powdered gelatin

1 cup brandy, dark rum or bourbon (she used brandy)

1 ½  cups plain canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

¾  cup brown sugar, firmly packed

3 egg yolks – refrigerate whites for later step

½  cup evaporated milk or heavy cream

¼  tsp. salt

¼ tsp. nutmeg

½  tsp. cinnamon

¼ teaspoon powdered ginger

very small pinch of cloves

6 tablespoons white granulated sugar

pinch of salt

2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons brandy, dark rum or bourbon

In a small bowl, mix the gelatin and brandy until blended, set aside for 5 minutes to soften.

In a sauce pan add the pumpkin, brown sugar, and the egg yolks. Whisk in the softened gelatin until well mixed. Add the evaporated milk, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Cook for 8 minutes over medium heat stirring constantly to melt the gelatin.

Place mixture in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool completely, stirring once or twice (this takes about 45-60 minutes). Mixture will thicken.

When the pumpkin mixture has cooled, and in another bowl, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt, adding 6 tablespoons of sugar slowly while beating on medium. When the sugar has all been added, turn the speed up on your mixer and beat the egg whites on high until stiff. Stir the pumpkin mixture well with a spatula to loosen it up and then fold the egg whites into cooled pumpkin mixture until evenly blended.

Clean and dry your mixing bowl and add the whipping cream, vanilla and two additional teaspoons of brandy. Whip until medium stiff peaks form and with a spatula, gently fold the whipped cream mixture into the pumpkin egg white mixture until evenly blended.

Pile the pumpkin mixture into a cooked and cooled pie crust. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving. The filling will set up nicely because of the gelatin. Serve topped with additional sweetened whipped cream spiked with a teaspoon (or two) of brandy. And don’t even think about using Cool-Whip.

Funeral Potatoes

Regional recipes of various cuisines have always been of interest to me. The small fundraising paperback cookbooks often compiled by church groups or Junior League ladies are nothing short of a treasure chest for comfort food recipes. They often reflect the cultures and customs of the predominant ethnic or religious groups in the area. 

This delicious artery clogging recipe shows up consistently in many of those regional cookbooks. Called Funeral Potatoes, it seems to span both sides of the United States. There’s an ongoing feud between Utah Mormon cooks and Midwest Lutheran cooks regarding the origins of this one. Called Funeral Potatoes by both groups the recipe will always call for one or two cans of condensed canned cream soup. The legend from both groups will say this recipe was born of actual custom surrounding funerals where covered casseroles were often taken to the home of the bereaved family for consumption after the funeral. These days it’s just as common for holiday meals and any other time an event calls for a quick to assemble, easy to transport dish that can feed a large number of folks. 

The most common version will call for frozen hash browned potatoes in the recipe but I think using potatoes you par cook for this recipe are far better. And while you could also go all Alton Brown by making your own cream sauce for the canned soup called for in this recipe, this really is one time where you can get away with using a can of soup without shame. It’s not the same without the can of soup.

Funeral Potatoes

4 lbs Yukon Gold or round red potatoes

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

8 ounces sour cream

¼ cup milk

1 can condensed cream of chicken or mushroom soup

4 green onions, finely minced

¼ teaspoon black pepper 

Boil the potatoes till nearly cooked through, they should still be slightly firm when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife and set aside to cool. This can be done a day ahead, just refrigerate the cooked potatoes till needed. 

In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, reserving 1 cup of the grated cheddar. Coarsely grate the cooled potatoes and spread evenly in a 9 x 12 buttered baking dish. Pour the cheese mixture over making sure it combines with the grated potatoes. The recipe can once again be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap to bake the next day at this point if desired. 

When ready to bake, sprinkle the reserved grated cheddar over the top of the room temperature mixture and bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes until cooked through and bubbly.

Peppadew Peppers

Have you noticed those round glossy, neon red peppers as one of the choices in your supermarket olive bar? Maybe you assumed the bright red color meant they might be hot round Italian cherry peppers and perhaps too spicy for your taste. But chances are they’re something new in the pepper world. They might be “Peppadew” peppers and if they are they’re tangy (but not fiery), sweet and the perfect size to pop in your mouth or use in recipes. 

I’ve grown dozens of varieties of peppers over the years and was curious why I’ve never seen the seeds for Peppadew peppers in any of the many seed catalogs I receive every year. What I found out was an interesting story. 

The Peppadew is the trademarked brand name of a pepper first grown in the 1990’s in South Africa. The first plant was a naturally occurring hybrid of plants that originated in South America.  The seeds and the brining process are registered and guarded trade properties. The first jars of Peppadew peppers were sold in the Unites States in 2000.


Peppadew Plant

More sweet than tart, they are sold seedless and hollowed out. They can be used in any recipe that you’d use a pickled pepper or sweet pickles. They’re perfect chopped and added to chicken, ham, egg or potato salad.  My very favorite way to serve them is simply stuffed with an herb spiked cream cheese or goat cheese. They are absolutely delicious and look gorgeous served by themselves or as part of a cheese platter or antipasto. They go great with cocktails and are perfect for holiday entertaining. 

I’ve tweaked this recipe in every direction but the basic recipe is still my favorite

Stuffed Peppadew Pepper Appetizer 

10 ounces pickled Peppadew peppers

6 ounces cream cheese (or mild goat cheese)

½ teaspoon each finely minced parsley and green onion

pinch of coarse black pepper 

With a fork mash the herbs together with the room temperature cheese. 

Drain the peppers well and pat dry on paper towels. Carefully fill the cavity of each pepper with the cheese mixture and serve. 

Makes about 20 bite sized stuffed peppers.

Pomegranate Kumquat Relish

Kumquats are small citrus-like fruits about the size of a cherry tomato with an edible skin.  The entire fruit is eaten either fresh out of hand just like grapes or in a variety of recipes.  They work particularly well in preserves and marmalades because of the high pectin content in the skins. When buying kumquats choose firm fruits that are bright orange in color; avoid those with a greenish tint.


Here’s a beautiful relish to serve with holiday roasts and hams. With only three ingredients it’s an easy recipe to put together. Cranberry juice can be substituted for the pomegranate juice for equally delicious results.


Pomegranate Kumquat Relish 

A twist on the traditional cranberry orange relish 

4 cups kumquats (about 1/1/2 lbs)

4 cups sugar

2 cups pomegranate juice 

Wash kumquats and cut in half removing seeds. Combine all everything in a non-aluminum pan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. 

Remove from the heat, cover the pan and set aside at room temperature overnight (at least 6 hours). This helps pectin to develop. 

The following day return pan to the heat, bring to a boil then over low heat until juices evaporate and any liquid that remains is a medium thick syrup, stirring occasionally. 

When juices have thickened pour into a glass bowl with a tight cover or quart jar and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 4 weeks). 

Mixture can also be canned in sterilized pint jars using standard hot water canning instructions for canning jams & jellies.