Aug 302014
Oven Dried Tomatoes

Oven Dried Tomatoes going into the oven.

Dried Plum Tomatoes are absolutely luscious. The drying process intensifies the flavor and sweetness. These dried tomatoes freeze well and pulling out a package in the dead of winter, returns you instantly to the taste of fresh tomatoes from the garden. They are great in salads and can be used wherever sun-dried tomatoes are called for. It’s also an easier process than canning, and when the peak yields of tomatoes hits in late summer, this is a way to enjoy the crop later in the year, long after the tomato plants have been pulled up.

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 6 hours


  • Plum Tomatoes (Roma)
  • Extra Virgin Olive OIl
  • Granulated Garlic
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • Salt (If desired)


  1. Wash and dry the tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise and remove the stem. (Drying allows the oil to stick)
  2. Spray or brush with Extra Virgin olive oil, and sprinkle generously with garlic, pepper and salt if desired.
  3. Put the tomatoes skin side down on a baking sheet and bake in a 230 degree oven for 6 hours or so until the tomatoes are somewhat dehydrated.
  4. You can use these immediately or freeze for later use.


At this time I've tested tomatoes that have been frozen for a year and they are good.

I usually don't put salt on them as it can be added when you use them.

An olive oil sprayer makes getting the oil on the tomatoes very easy and avoids waste. It's a great investment. It also keeps you from having to wash a brush every time you use it.

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Jun 222014

The idea for this came from and old Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery that we’ve had since we were first married. As usual, it has been modifies for our taste and for ease of preparation. These are nice, light, summer sandwiches that we often take to Ravinia, an outdoor summer music theater that is known for on-the-lawn picnics. Natalie makes up the filling and we put it in the cooler. We split the bread on-site and spray it with olive oil and put in the filling, thus avoiding soggy sandwiches.

Vegetable Picnic Sandwiches

Prep Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour


  • 12 French rolls
  • 2 red onions diced fine
  • 2 green peppers diced fine
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded and diced fine
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced fine
  • 40 pitted black or Kalamata olives, chopped (1 can, 6 oz. drained)
  • 24 anchovy fillets, chopped (1 small tin)
  • 1 3 oz. jar of capers
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • Arugula if desired
  • Mayonnaise (Smart Balance Light)


  1. Chop all the vegetables except the arugula as directed (1/4 dice or less).
  2. Combine all the vegetables except the arugula. Mix well.
  3. Add just enough mayonnaise to moisten and continue mixing.
  4. When you are ready to serve, Split each roll almost all the way through.
  5. Spray or brush the inside of the roll with olive oil, add some arugula leaves if desired and then spoon in the filling.


You probably won't need to add salt as the olives, anchovies and capers provide enough salt. The arugula is a later addition to the recipe as I had a lot of it growing, but it really adds to the flavor.

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Mar 012014
Mark and Jared at the Chopping Block

Mark and Jared at the Chopping Block

Last Christmas, Natalie gifted our oldest son, Jared and me with a cooking class at The Chopping Block which is a wonderful cooking school and gourmet shop at Lincoln Square in Chicago. (See the link at the left) This was my second class there,  and the first for Jared — hopefully there will be many more.

One of the recipes that we prepared was this soup, and it is to die for. It uses fall and winter vegetables, is very healthy, and is hearty enough to be a complete meal. The combination of spices creates a rich, unique and complex flavor palette. Jared and I couldn’t wait to try this at home, which we both did the week after the class. It is certainly going to be a fall and winter favorite. Many thanks to The Chopping Block for this wonderful recipe.


Spicy Chickpea and Leek Soup with Kale


Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4 main servings. 6-8 appetizer sixed servings.

Spicy Chickpea and Leek Soup with Kale


  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, well-cleaned and tender green and white parts cut into medium dice
  • 1 parsnip, scrubbed well and cut into medium dice (about 1/4 X 1/4 inch)
  • 1 carrot, scrubbed well and cut into medium dice
  • 1 Tbsp. of fresh ginger, grated or finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 4-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 tsp. saffron
  • 1 medium sweet potato peeled and cut into medium dice
  • 1 bunch kale, tough stems removed and torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas (Garabanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice to taste (about 1/2 lemon)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley rough chopped.


  1. Heat a deep heavy pot over medium heat and add the olive oil.
  2. Gently saute the leek, carrot and parsnip until lightly carmelized, about 7-8 minutes. Be careful not to burn the vegetables.
  3. Add the ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin, cinnamon, and curry powder, and cook an additional minute or so until the spices are toasted.
  4. Add the tomato paste and cook an additional minute.
  5. Stir in the stock, saffron and sweet potato, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered until the sweet potatoes are almost done.
  6. Mix in the kale and continue to cook until wilted, about 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add the chickpeas and cook until just warmed through.
  8. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste, stir in the parsley and serve.
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Feb 022014
Ribs in smoker

Ribs in smoker.

Year’s ago we were driving through Kentucky on our way to a video shoot in Chattanooga and stopped to eat at a roadside restaurant. In the gift shop I found a book, Jack Daniel’s Old Time Barbecue  Cookbook.  This is a wonderful book that tells the  history of barbecuing, the techniques and culture of barbecue and has many recipes that came from Jack Daniels employees and other traditional barbecue sources. This recipe is adapted from some of the sauce recipes in that book.

I’ve had a smoker for a long time and I like the taste of smoky ribs. In the tradition of the barbecue greats, I smoke the ribs without the sauce and you add your own sauce before you indulge. That way the great taste of the meat comes through and you are not eating sugary candied pork that is so often passed off as barbecued ribs.


Mark’s Rickyard Barbecue Sauce


  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced fine
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ½ cup Jack Daniels Whiskey
  • ¼ cup dark molasses
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. dry mustard


  1. In a saucepan, add the oil and saute the onion and garlic until translucent.
  2. Add in remaining ingredients and bring to boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Serve on the side with your slow cooked ribs.
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Dec 222013

Kifli is another Hungarian Christmas tradition that I remember well, and they were always my favorite of the Christmas cookies.  Growing up, we called them Kiffles, which is the anglicized version of Kifli.

I had never made them until long after my mother was gone, and reclaiming the recipe was not easy as my mother had about 10 different recipes from my aunts and other relatives. She had one labeled “My own special recipe”, that had graham cracker crumbs in at and some other things not in the other recipes, and I’m sure were not in the Kifli that I remember.

After a few years of experimentation with the different recipes and many failures, I finally settled on this one which produces Kifli closest to what I recall.

Kifli – Hungarian Cookies

Prep Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Yield: 96 Kifli

Kifli – Hungarian Cookies


  • 4 to 4 ½ Cups Flour
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 2 Sticks butter
  • 1 Cup Sour Cream
  • Filling
  • 2 1/2 Cups Ground Walnuts
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp butter
  • ¼ Cup milk
  • ½ tsp. vanilla


  1. For the dough, melt the butter and mix till dough forms a soft ball.
  2. Divide into 8 balls and refrigerate overnight, or at least a couple of hours.
  3. Let the dough warm up and soften a bit, then, one by one, roll each of the 8 balls into a 9 inch circle.
  4. Using serrated pastry cutter, cut each round into fourths and each of the fourths into thirds, pizza style.
  5. Spread about 1 tsp. of filling on on the bottom 2/3 of each triangle starting at the wide end of each section.
  6. Roll each piece toward the center, crescent roll style and place on ungreased baking sheet.
  7. Brush with egg-white if desired.
  8. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until the Kifli just start to lightly brown. The secret is to not overbake. If the filling is oozing out and turning dark brown or burning, you are baking too long.
  9. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.


Kifli can also be filled with fruit butter or preserves. Apricot would be often used or Lekvar, a Hungarian prune butter.

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