Apr 092017

There is nothing like freshly made croutons to add the perfect finishing touch to a soup or a salad. I’ve been making these for a while and never thought much of it. I recently made them with soup for my friends Danielle and Bill. When they called me for the recipe, I knew it was time to add it to the website, so here we go. The trick is to use a good quality bread and extra-virgin olive oil.

Croutons (For Soup or Salad)

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

After you have made this a couple of times you'll figure out the amounts and how much heat to use. Really, it's pretty hard to screw up unless you aren't keeping an eye on it while it is toasting. Again, use a good quality bread (Avoid sandwich bread if possible) and your best extra-virgin olive oil.


  • Good quality Bread, a bit stale is OK
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • Granulated Garlic
  • White Pepper, preferably freshly ground
  • Salt (If Desired)


  1. Start with a good quality bread, Italian, French, Multi-Grain or any combination thereof. It's OK if the bread is a few days old and a good way to get rid of the ends of loaves. Slice the bread and dice into approximately 1 inch cubes.
  2. Heat a generous amount of olive oil,several tablespoons (Use a really good quality of oil) in a large frying pan over medium heat and throw in the bread cubes. Toss until coated with olive oil.
  3. Toast the bread for a few minutes and then sprinkle generously with granulated garlic, white pepper and a bit of salt if desired.
  4. Spray the tops of the cubes with more olive oil, and keep turning every few minutes until the cubes are browned. Adjust the heat so you don't burn the cubes. Fresh bread will take longer than stale bread.
  5. Remove from heat and enjoy! The cubes should be crisp on the outside but soft on the inside.

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Dec 212016

I created this recipe a number of years ago for Natalie when she was suffering from a bit of a cold since she is a big fan or ginger, garlic, and hot pepper. It provided some relief and we’ve been making ever since, whether we need it for its curative properties or not. Despite the fresh vegetables, we usually eat it in the fall and winter, as it is soothing for stuffed up noses and sore throats. Of course, spicy soup is always comforting in cold weather.

This recipe can be very flexible and you can adjust the amounts to your taste and by what vegetables are available. However, the key ingredients are lots of ginger and garlic, and some type of hot pepper. Mirin and Soy Sauce also help give the broth it’s characteristic flavor, so don’t omit or skimp on these items. You can leave the soup with just vegetables — I usually add shrimp but cooked pork would probably be good, or tofu to keep it vegan or vegetarian. If your head is really stuffed up, increase the amounts of ginger, garlic, and hot pepper. You have my word that you’ll feel a lot better after a hot bowl of this soup.

Ginger-Garlic Spicy Oriental Vegetable Soup

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 Servings


  • 3 to 4 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 3-4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • I large jalapeno pepper, finely diced, or hot pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 package Shitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 1 large carrot, matchstick cut
  • 1 Baby Bok Choy, sliced at about 1/4 inch, including leaves
  • 1 cup snow pea pods sliced on an angle
  • Green onions, diced
  • Bean sprouts
  • 48 oz. broth, I use "Imagine" vegetarian no-chicken broth
  • 3 Tbsp Aji Mirin, rice wine
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Lite soy sauce
  • Tofu, shrimp or pork (If desired)


  1. Fry the ginger, garlic and pepper in oil over medium heat until softened.
  2. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking a few minutes until the mushrooms are softened.
  3. Add the broth, turn the heat to high, and add the Mirin and part of the soy sauce.
  4. Stir and taste, adding soy sauce to get the proper amount of saltiness. The amount needed will vary depending on your choice of broth.
  5. Keep the broth warm until you are ready to serve, then add all of the vegetables except the bean sprouts and green onions. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil and cook for a minute or two.
  6. Add the shrimp, pork or tofu if desired and heat through.
  7. Put some bean sprouts in the bottom of each bowl and ladle the soup in.
  8. Everyone can top with green onions to their taste.


As stated in the description, you can vary most of the amounts and the ingredients according to your preferences. The key ingredients are lots of garlic and ginger and some type of hot pepper, so don't omit or skimp on these The Mirin and soy sauce give the broth it's flavor so don't omit those. i think the Shitake or at least some type of mushroom is essential also. Experiment with vegetable types and amounts. The protein is optional. i always add shrimp, but tofu or pork or nothing is acceptable. Enjoy!


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Oct 272016
Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

I always hate to see the warm days of summer go, but one bright spot as the cold short days of fall and winter arrive is a nice hot bowl of Butternut Squash soup and a fresh warm piece of good, hearth baked multi-grain or rye bread. This is a savory, spicy soup with just a hint of sweetness. It’s relatively easy to make if you have an immersion blender and a large batch will provide meals for a couple of days along with some to freeze.

I tend to modify the recipe according to which vegetables I have on hand. To change up the recipe a bit, add a couple of large chopped jalapeno peppers and saute with the onions. My current recipe uses 2 large parsnips and 4 large carrots instead of the potatoes.

Butternut Squash Soup

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes


  • 2 Butternut Squash (2-3 pounds each)
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 large or 3 medium Onions
  • 2 large jalapeno peppers (optional)
  • 2 large parsnips and 4 large carrots or 2 large Potatoes
  • 10 cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth or Vegetable Broth
  • 15-20 Fresh Sage leaves (or dried sage)
  • Paprika
  • Fresh-Ground Nutmeg
  • White Pepper to taste
  • Salt if needed
  • Green Onions or Chives (chopped)


  1. Peel, seed and cube the squash.
  2. Peel and cube the parsnips and carrots or the potatoes.
  3. Chop the onions and the peppers if you are using them.
  4. In a large pot, saute the onions and peppers in the oil until they are translucent and just start to brown.
  5. Add the squash and the parsnips and carrots, or the potatoes to the pot and then add the broth until the vegetables are almost covered.
  6. Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  7. When the cooking is almost done, Chop the sage and add it to the pot.
  8. Use a hand blender to puree the soup.**
  9. Season with paprika, nutmeg, salt and white pepper.***
  10. Taste and add more salt and white pepper if necessary.
  11. Serve with chopped green onions or chives.


* I use my favorite vegetable broth called "No Chicken", made by Imagine, which makes for a vegetarian and vegan recipe. You can substitute chicken broth or your favorite vegetable broth.

** If you don't have a hand blender, you can remove the cooked vegetables with a slotted spoon and puree them in a blender or food processor and then return the puree to the soup pot. This is a messy and time-consuming way of doing this, so if you like the recipe, splurge and buy yourself a hand blender.

*** For this recipe I usually grate a whole nutmeg seed into the pot and also season with a considerable amount of white pepper to give the soup a bit of a bite, but add it to your own taste. I add some paprika for color. Taste before you add salt as the soup may be salty enough from the broth.


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Jan 262015

I’ve been making this clam chowder for a long time. I came up with the recipe to mimic what you might get at a clambake, and to avoid the excess calories of New England Clam Chowder. This is a large recipe, because I usually make it for a crowd or we eat it for a few days. This recipe should scale down well. Serve it with crusty sourdough or rye bread.

Mark’s Clam Chowder

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 12 - 20 servings

Serving Size: Bowl


  • 6 strips bacon - (Omit for Vegetarian recipe and add 2 Tbsp. olive oil)
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions (diced)
  • 5# red potatoes unpeeled, diced.
  • 1# carrots
  • 1 sweet red pepper (diced)
  • 8 cups (64oz.) chicken stock
  • 8 cups (64oz.) water
  • 1# bag frozen corn
  • 4 - 6.5 oz. cans minced or chopped clams with juice
  • 1 - 10 oz can whole baby clams
  • 2 bottles of clam juice
  • Black pepper
  • 3 or 4 large sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Salt to taste if needed


  1. Dice the bacon and fry in a large deep pot until crisp.
  2. Add the diced onion and black pepper. Cook until slightly browned.
  3. Add potatoes, carrots, pepper, broth and enough water to cover.
  4. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Skim off any foam that forms on the surface. (This will get rid of most of the fat)
  6. Add frozen corn, clams, clam juice and rosemary sprigs.
  7. Return to boil and simmer another 15 minutes making sure potatoes are done.
  8. Adjust seasonings, remove the rosemary stems and serve.

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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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