When Natalie and I go to St. Louis to visit Kevin, Katy, Evan, and Nicholas, we usually have breakfast at one of the First Watch restaurants. They are a breakfast/lunch-only restaurant and their menu is unique with fresh and healthy foods cooked with care. On a recent visit there, I discovered they had a cookbook, which I bought. Included was a recipe for their seasoning used in much of their cooking, First Watch seasoning. But, of course, I always adjust and modify recipes. (I can’t help myself.) I increased the spices a bit and added the smoked paprika.
So here’s my version which I call St. Louis Seasoning in order to avoid any copyright and trademark issues.
Now, there is really nothing wrong with Kosher Salt except for the fact there are two distinctly different types, and if you use the wrong kind you will really mess up your recipe.
When we so to St. Louis to visit Kevin, Katy and Evan we will almost always eat breakfast at a restaurant names First Watch. I had always thought it was a small local chain, but recently found out it is a relatively large US chain.
We love the breakfasts at First Watch. They are healthy, they use the freshest ingredients, and do a superb job of providing an alternative to the sugary, fat-laden breakfasts that are typical in most places.
We went there the last time we were in St. Louis and I was delighted to find out that they have published a cookbook, which I immediately purchased.
The next week, I mixed up some special First Watch seasoning from the cookbook and proceeded to use it to re-create their fabulous roasted potatoes. With great anticipation of the potatoes on my plate, I tasted them and found that they were so salty, they were inedible.
Terribly disappointed I checked my recipe against the book and determined that I had followed the book correctly. Was it a misprint? Did they print Tablespoons for the amount of salt when they really meant teaspoons? I assumed that there was a misprint and was planning on contacting the publisher, but as usual got sidetracked with all the other demands of life.
A few weeks later, I was reading Samin Nosrat’s bestseller, Salt Fat Acid Heat, and got my answer. True Kosher salt is dried by a process that forms light, flaky crystals of salt that dissolve easily. The brand that most restaurant kitchens have is Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. On the other hand, Morton Kosher Salt (the kind I had) is formed of large cubical crystals. A tablespoon of Morton Kosher Salt weighs almost twice as much as a tablespoon of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt and thus is twice as salty. They are both pure salt, but because the Morton variety is much denser, it is twice as salty as the same volume of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt.
The problem is not in the salt, but the way we measure. If we measured by weight (grams), it wouldn’t matter which kind of salt you used. One gram of either would have the same saltiness. But, since we in the states typically measure by volume, (cups, tablespoons, teaspoons) we find that a tablespoon of Morton Kosher salt weighs almost twice as much as a tablespoon of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. This makes a good case for measuring by weight rather than volume and is especially important in things like pickling, canning and baking.
I am assuming that most recipes that specify Kosher Salt imply a light salt like Diamond Crystal Kosher salt because that seems to be what most chefs use. It is also better to err by using a less salty product like Diamond Crystal Kosher salt because you can always add more salt if the dish isn’t salty enough. If you oversalt, there is usually no easy fix.
I decided to depart from the “recipes only” format and add a section on cooking tips and techniques. Now, that the kitchen remodeling is done and we have a nice new kitchen, I am spending more time honing my cooking skills and enjoying it immensely.
I’ve been taking some online classes from famous cooks at MasterClass.com and learning some interesting ideas. I have also read Samin Nosrat’s bestseller, Salt Fat Acid Heat, and it’s the first book that I have read that talks in depth about balancing flavors in food.
So, I’ll periodically post some of the most useful gems that I find in this material.
We were caught in a January Polar Vortex with temperatures in the minus range and I needed to drive Natalie to work since her car wouldn’t start. I knew I had part of a loaf of multigrain bread left for a quick breakfast of toast and coffee. I went to slice the bread, but mold had beat me to it. Panic! I looked in the refrigerator and the closest thing I had to bread was a package of corn tortillas, but toasted tortillas wouldn’t cut it for breakfast. So. in a few minutes, this is what I came up with. Usually desperation cooking produces OK results, this one turned out superb, so it made the website. Unfortunately, my Spanish vocabulary is very limited.
When Natalie and I travel we often stay at Marriott
Here’s a potato salad that makes use of summer vegetables and is lighter than traditional potato salad and should hold up better in the heat because it contains no mayonnaise or eggs. It’s also delicious! I found the basic recipe idea on Food Network and modified it for my tastes. It features Castelvetrano olives which have become a favorite with me.
We have been blessed to live in a friendly and loving neighborhood since the boys were very young, and participated in many picnics and parties with our neighbors. Everyone had their specialty item, and Charlotte Welch always made a pot of Calico Beans, which several of us guys referred to as “Beans to die for.” There were never any leftovers on the beans.
When Char moved to Santa Fe, there were no more beans until she graciously gave us the recipe, which she got from her sister, Jeanne. Char always doubled the recipe, and there were still no leftovers, and I would recommend you do the same.
Now, I’ve never met a recipe that I wouldn’t mess with, and this one is no exception, thus the optional Jack Daniels. I’ve been adding Jack Daniels to my barbecues sauces for years since I picked up the Jack Daniel’s Old Time Barbecue Cookbook while driving through Tennessee, many years ago. It seemed appropriate for this recipe, too.
Years ago, there was a Soda Fountain/Magazine Shop in downtown Barrington called the Towne Shoppe. I think it had been there forever. There was the typical long counter that you would find in a Soda Fountain along with the requisite round stools attached to the floor with red vinyl cushions. The food was simple, bagels in the morning, soup and sandwiches the rest of the day. I went in almost every morning for a bagel and tea, and would sometimes pick up soup for lunch since it was only a short block away from my studio. My all-time favorite soup was one that they had only occasionally, and that was hamburger soup. It was unique as it was not tomato based, and it wasn’t overly flavored with beef broth as you might find in a beef-barley or beef vegetable soup.
Recently, I was preparing soup for a dinner with friends and thought I would try and replicate it from my 20-year old memory. Unlike my normal cooking experiences when I try to replicate an unknown recipe, which usually requires many attempts and adjustments, I hit this one on the first try. The soup matched my memory of the Towne Shoppe’s soup and my friends raved about it. This recipe will serve at least 12, and you can adjust the amounts of the ingredients to your liking. Enjoy!
We are always looking for new vegetables and interesting ways to serve them. Celery root or celeriac is a root vegetable that probably most people aren’t familiar with. It is rich in fiber and vitamins and has less than half the carbohydrates of a comparable amount of potato.
In the past, Natalie and I have attended the Food and Wine Festival at Disneyworld’s EPCOT. You can literally eat your way through EPCOT sampling wines and small plates of food from many different countries and different regional American cuisines. This last time, we tried a dish of seared scallops served over pureed celery root with sauteed mushrooms. It was exquisite.
A month or so after that I was wandering through the produce department of my local grocery store looking for something different and saw some large beautiful celery roots, so I bought one with that dish from the Food and Wine Festival in mind. When I got home, I consulted my copy of The Flavor Bible, a book by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg which is my most-used cooking resource and it indicated that celery root pairs well with seafood. It also listed mayonnaise, mustard, and lemon as a favored combination with celery root. After a bit of tasting, I worked out this recipe. It paired well with salmon, and I served it several times thereafter.
I hope you will try it and enjoy it
We made this recipe quite often in the past and recently made it again and remembered how good these cheese balls were. This is a relatively easy recipe to make and a bit different than the usual fare. They are a nice addition to any holiday platter.
When we went to St. Louis to view the 2017 eclipse, Kevin and Katy built a party around the event and served these luscious Asian Turkey Burgers. They reminded us of our Porkies (Barbecued Pork Patties) on this site, but are probably a bit healthier. We made them for a group of friends and they were a real hit.
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 yield 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
Castelvetrano olives are a real joy. I discovered them in the Olive Bar at our local Heinan’s grocery store and have become addicted. They are buttery in flavor and not overly salty. They are great for snacking or in recipes. (Buy from the olive bar, the bottled ones are a little too briny.) So here’s a recipe I came up with to use them for a quick, but elegant dinner. I’ve made this 4 or 5 times in the past couple of months, so it’s time to add it to the website.
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.
My friend Adrienne had a good idea. When you have leftover ends of loaves or bread that is going stale, cube the bread and put it in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. After a while you’ll have a good supply of pre-cubed bread to quickly make croutons. No thawing needed! just throw them in the pan.
This is one of my favorites for a quick, healthy breakfast. I developed this recipe when the boys were young to try and come up with a muffin that wasn’t loaded with sugar, saturated fat and empty calories. It has reduced sugar, no trans-fat and lots of fiber and all the nutrients from apples and nuts.
As with many others, I’ve updated the recipe with Vegan options and have fun testing out these recipes on my Vegan friends. There are probably other Vegan substitutions, but this is the one I have tested.
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 of ginger, garlic, and hot peppers. It provided some relief and we’ve been making it 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. Miri, Soy Sauce and Star Anise 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 sometimes add shrimp but cooked pork or chicken 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.
Since I’ve been growing Tomatillos in the garden, I’ve been looking for new recipes to use them in. I found a couple interesting recipes on the web and adapted them to my own tastes and came up with this one. Grilling the Tomatillos, onions and peppers adds a delightful smokiness to the salsa, so you really need to make an effort to grill them. I made this recipe for our annual trip to the Vintage Illinois wine festival at Mattheissen state park and it disappeared quickly even with a lot of other food around, which let me know it was a hit. This is an interesting alternative to Guacamole, and a nice change when Tomatillos are in abundance.
We’re always looking for Zucchini recipes. Here is a great appetizer with a fraction of the calories of breaded zucchini. Thanks to Marilyn Aliede for introducing us to this one.
Natalie’s pasta salad is a group favorite at summer gatherings. She gets lots of requests for it, and it keeps well in the summer heat.
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.
This is a quick, delicious, summer appetizer that I came up with. We’re always looking for new uses for zucchini. I will usually make this from the first zucchini off the vine and it celebrates the beginning of the summer bounty.
Quantities are approximate and of course it all depends on the size of your zucchini and how much salmon you have. Seasonings are of course to taste.
This recipe has been very popular to those who have tried it, so I feel compelled to add one more Hummus recipe to the website. I’m not sure that it is technically Hummus as it is made from Cannelini beans and not Garabanzo beans, but I’ll leave the arguments to the connoisseurs of correctness. The Rosemary gives this Hummus quite a different flavor than the traditional ones and we like it especially with vegetables even though it is very good with Pita bread. Another selection for my growing list of vegetarian friends.
Avocado toast is a quick, healthy breakfast that uses fresh ingredients. There are a lot of variations and it’s easy to come up with your own. This is one that turned out particularly well and is easy to make. Enjoy!
About August we are looking for as many ways as possible to use up the zucchini that is overtaking the garden. Our neighbor, Charlotte Welch, came up with this recipe for zucchini pancakes. It’s the best we’ve ever found. They can be served for breakfast or brunch and even as a side for dinner. Personally, I like them with Thai Sweet Chili Sauce or red pepper jelly, but you can serve them with butter or butter and syrup.
Everybody loves Natalie’s potato salad and the boys have all wanted the recipe, but it was never written down. Finally, I had Natalie make the salad and I stopped her at each step, measuring as we went. Forcing her to add the seasonings from measuring spoons rather than shakers was not pleasant, but I finally got the recipe down for posterity. (I have also adjusted this recipe a few times as the written-down amounts weren’t quite right. Make sure you taste as you add the seasonings! Here it is — enjoy!
My paternal Grandmother, Helen Kun Karney, immigrated to the United States at the tender age of 16, in 1901. She married my grandfather, Steven Karney in 1904; they both came from the same town in Hungary, Battyan. Dios (‘dee-oshe) or Nut Roll is a Hungarian Christmas tradition, and I’ll never know if she carried a hand-written recipe with her on the boat from Europe, or if she created it from memory, but the recipe remains over 100 years later.
Grandma Karney’s recipe was passed on to me through my mother who used it to make the nut roll I remember so well. Although, I’m sure I watched my mother make it (and probably licked the bowl that contained the sugar and walnut filling,) I had never prepared it on my own until recently. I still use the same Wearever #918 aluminum pan that my mother used, and it perfectly holds the four rolls that that this timeless recipe makes. I recently purchased a second pan on Ebay. They haven’t been made in a long time, but if you can find one on Ebay, it will last for many generations. Nutroll freezes well, so while you are at it, make a couple of batches.
My grandmother certainly had no concept of Veganism in her day. But, times change and I have a number of friends who became Vegan this year, some of whom I have gifted at Christmas with nut roll and Kifli. I always like a challenge, so I decided to see if I could make both of these traditional Hungarian recipes in Vegan form. I made a batch of the cookies in Vegan form and my wife said they were better than what I made last year. So I made two batches of Vegan Kifli and two batches of Vegan nut roll. I had my oldest son taste both without telling him about the change and he though I really outdid myself this year. So, I was happy that the recipe worked and worked well.
I won’t publish the whole recipe here, just the Vegan substitutions and a few other notes. Refer to the original recipe for the technique, because it is the same for Vegan as the normal recipe.
Use margarine or vegan butter in place of the butter, same amount.
I used the same egg replacement for the egg whites as the egg yolks. Mix two tablespoons of ground Chia and Flax seeds (I used Raw Organics “Real Cold Milled Organic Golden Flax Seed & Organic Chia Seed”) with 6 Tablespoons of hot water and let it sit for about five minutes until thickened. Make one batch for the dough and another for the filling.
The sour cream was a little more complicated. Start with a cup of raw cashews (Trader Joes has these at a good price) and cover with boiling water. Let soak for at least 30 minutes and then drain. Put them in a food processor with 1 Tablespoon of cider vinegar and 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Blend to form a thick paste and then add water, 1 Tablespoon at a time and blend until the desired consistency is reached. You’ll need to add 3 to six Tablespoons.
Everything else is the same. Remember to keep the dough on the soft side. If it is too dry, it will be hard to roll and the final nut roll will be dry.
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, and adjusted the recipe slightly in December 2014.