Monthly Archives: June 2011

Courgette & Orzo Bake or Baked Zucchini & Orzo

Zucchini & Orzo bake

With the holiday weekend approaching, it’s time to start making those grocery shopping lists to prepare for the barbecue or whatever plans are on tap.  Although I love the stand-bys like potato salad and s’mores, sometimes I feel like we fall into the usual rut of side dishes.  With so much fresh produce coming into season, it seemed appropriate to try to find something new to make.

summer squashSummer Squash

BBC Good Food Magazine, which is one of my reliable recipe resources, had a whole section of courgette (zucchini) dishes in the June issue.  One of them that caught my eye was this Courgette & Orzo Bake.  Fortunately, the Greenmarket has already begun to showcase this summer’s crop of squash, so the basic ingredient wasn’t too difficult to find in every shape and size.  From there, it was really just a matter of prepping everything and throwing it all together in a baking pan (I used a Pyrex one) to cook together.

Grated ZucchiniGrating the Zucchini by hand is tedious but worth it

OnionsSee my tutorial on “How to Chop an Onion

white wineI think that’s just enough wine left for this dish

Vegetable StockYes, it is store-bought stock.  I don’t usually make my own.

Barilla OrzoYep – just go on and dump the whole box of Orzo into the pan

Pre-baked Zucchini & OrzoI ended up using a ladle to transfer the mixture from stovetop pan to baking dish

oven readyOven-ready.  Not to worry, all of that liquid will be absorbed into the dish during the baking process.

Ready for the ovenThe last 10 minutes when adding breadcrumbs and extra Parmesan

Finished dishHere’s the result – Courgette & Orzo Bake or Baked Zucchini & Orzo

This dish has lots of great flavor with the freshness of the in-season zucchini (or courgettes), the nuttiness of the Parmesan, the crisp of the breadcrumbs, and the al dente pasta.  I think that next time, I would follow what one of the on-line commenters said and add pine nuts at that last 10-minute mark to add some extra heartiness to the dish.  I would also sprinkle some chopped basil on top after it comes out of the oven for an additional herbal punch.

These summertime flavors would be wonderful with grilled chicken or burgers or, what really came to mind for me, lamb.  It is fine served hot but even room temperature it would make a splendid side dish for any summer cookout.  I think this one will go it to the recipe “keeper” file.

Buon appetito!

How to Chop an Onion

It seems like almost every cooking course I take or hands-on class I do has a need for chopping onions.  Even a volunteer project I participated on for years had us processing large, industrial bags of them for soup or other meal prep.  To say I’ve become a semi-pro at it might be bragging a bit, but a few months ago, I realized that I was demo-ing this technique to others frequently.  I thought that a set of instructions would make a good addition to the list of Kitchen Witch Tips on the site.

To begin, you will need:

Onions (medium is fine)

Chopping board

Large sharp knife (chef’s knife size, not paring knife)

Damp paper towel or kitchen towel to put underneath chopping board to hold it in place

The #1 rule is to make sure that you can see your fingers and finger tips at all times when cutting with a knife.

(Sounds pretty ridiculously basic?  I once had to take someone on my volunteer project to the emergency room who didn’t pay attention to this.  She almost lost the top of her finger.  Did I mention, btw, that I’m not all that good with blood?  At least, that Girl Scout First Aid training came in handy.  Oh, and I actually do have a tiny scar on one finger from ages ago when I didn’t follow my own advice.)

After you have put the towel on your workspace and the chopping board on the towel (this step is optional, but many people find that it works for them), take the onion with your non-knife hand and place it on the board.  Then, pick up the knife and make the first and second cuts as below.

OnionsThe first cut is to make the stem end flat so that it won’t roll around on the board.

The second cut is to slice the onion in half going through the root (hairy) end.

The first cutThen, place half of the onion, long flat side down on the chopping board.  Pull back the skin of the onion, but don’t remove it completely, as this and the root end will help hold the onion together as you chop it.

Make cut #3, lengthwise from the cut end towards the root end.

Note where my fingers are in relation to the knife.  For this sized onion, for a “chop” you would make 2 slices, for a “dice” would make 3 slices and for a “mince” you would make one more slice.  These are all general guides.

Option BThis is the same cut #3, with a different position for my hand and fingers to keep well out of the knife’s way.  Use whichever version is most comfortable for you.

Downward cut #4Cut #4 is the downward cut across.  Hold the onion together, fingers on the side. (There is another technique that you often see on cooking shows of making a claw with one’s hand to hold the onion in place, but I’ve never found it to be effective for me.)

Cut #5 - the cross-cutFor #5, you will bring the knife down across both of the previous cuts to make your pile of chopped onions.

As you work from cut end to root end, you will hold the onion together on the sides, moving your fingers towards the root end and that onion skin you didn’t take off (or use the claw method, if you prefer).  Hold on to that skin and the root as you make your final cut of the onion.

There it is, as you can see in that last photo.  You have a pile of neatly chopped onions that are more or less the same size.  This detail  is important as then they will all cook evenly.  You noticed, however, aside from mentioning the importance of not cutting oneself in the process, I did leave out another key factor:

Silently We Weep….

Crying while chopping onions is just one of those things.  I like to think that I have somewhat of an immunity to it, as I’ve been cutting them for years, even while growing up and cooking for my family, but every so often, there’s a really potent onion* that gets me, and I start to blubber like a baby, mascara running down my face in dark rivulets.

There’s several old wives’ remedies, but I don’t really find any one of them solves the problem completely.  I was told that wiping the chopping board with distilled white vinegar helps.  We used this one when I volunteered, but the smell of the vinegar for me was actually worse than the crying over the onions.  I wear contact lenses most of the time, so I was told that that helps, but I’ve had a few crying-contact lens experiences, too.

The one trick that I learned from my mother (who once offered me her old chemistry class goggles to use while chopping onions), that seems to at least relieve the effects once the tears start to flow, is to take a paper towel and wet it with cold water.  Then, dab your eyes and tear ducts with it.  This will provide a temporary relief so that you can get back to the business of prepping those onions!

Buon appetito!

*It sometimes happens with shallots, too, which are part of the same family.

Fulton Stall Market

Fulton Stall Market Entrance

This summer has not only meant the reopening of the New Amsterdam Market on a weekly basis, it has also given us the revived Fulton Stall Market.  I’d written about this historic market (there’s been a version of it more or less in the same place since the 1820s) back in 2009.  Last summer, I noticed that the area where it usually took place was empty.  I don’t really know the whole story behind its absence, but I’m glad to see this market back in action again.

Fulton Stall Market Entrance

Red Jacket Orchard JuicesThe juices from Red Jacket Orchards were perfect to combat the heat from a day walking around the markets.

Strawberries from Red Jacket Orchardas were these gorgeous strawberries

Red Jacket Orchards JameThey also sell these yummy jams and preserves

Sisterhands SyrupsSisterhands Syrups was another beverage option

Pops from Brewla BarsBrewla Bars (at Smorgasburg too) had several refreshing options to cool you down

Root Beer PopI went with the Root Beer Pop – sort of like a really great root beer float in frozen form

CoolhausAnother option would have been to go with Coolhaus and their ice cream sandwiches

Eating choices included this collaboration between two of the market’s vendors:

NY Farm to DoorNY Farm 2 Door‘s meats and cheeses

Sour Puss Picklesplus Sour Puss Pickles wonderful preserved items

GranDaisy SandwichesThere were also sandwiches by GranDaisy Bakery

GranDaisy Bakery Pizzaand these great-tasting, flavorful pizza squares, which I’ve enjoyed on several occasions.

Yummy CoffeeTo keep you going on your visit, Yummy Coffee had samples to try.

Sunday GravyBefore you leave, however, don’t forget to grab a jar of hearty-tangy, delicious Sunday Gravy

Sunday gravy packageThey had this great meal pack, pasta and cheese included, on offer today

Migliorelli FarmPerhaps to pair with a salad or some veggies from Migliorelli Farm

Brooklyn WineryAccompanied by a bottle of wine from Brooklyn Winery‘s own label, maybe?

The Groovy Bakerand finished up with some sweet treats from The Groovy Baker

Bugged outDon’t forget this cute bag (there are others, too) from Bugged Out in which to take it all home!

Buon appetito!

Insalata di rucola con funghi e grana padano (Arugula Salad with Mushrooms and Grana Padano)

It’s been a massively busy few weeks with lots of food events taking place in New York plus a few other things going on.  I’ve been churning out articles for a couple of sites which means I’ve kind of been neglecting things here.  Not being around the apartment much, I’ve been turning to some simple but delicious recipes from my Italian days to keep myself fed between activities.  This Insalata di rucola con funghi e grana padano (Arugula Salad with Mushrooms and Grana Padano) has a bit of snap and bite to it and is the perfect kick-off to a great meal or can stand as a light lunch or dinner all by itself on a hot summer’s day.

Arugula from the Greenmarket

I first had this salad when I was a student in Bologna, Italy.  Scaccomatto, one of the restaurants that we would treat ourselves to sometimes, had many traditional dishes on the menu but, boldly for this town, often had more imaginative fare, all made with top-quality ingredients.  When I was last there, they had licorice pasta, probably made in-house as I have yet to locate it elsewhere, which enthralled my sister-in-law.  It was served with seafood and was delicious.

Cremini mushrooms from the same market

Scaccomatto has always had a special place in my heart and food memories because of that and is one of the places that I try to get to when I’ve been able to return to that town.  In this salad, which I copied from what I remember eating at the restaurant, the peppery arugula (the small-leafed Italian variety) is combined with very thinly sliced, meaty cremini mushrooms and delicate shavings of creamy, slightly sharp grana padano.  Rectangular, soft, barely crisp croutons drizzled with olive oil decorate the side of the plate.  Actually, come to think of it, the bread was probably fried in the olive oil.  Whatever the case, I think I managed to come up with a good approximation of it.

Bread from Hot Bread Kitchen

Insalata di rucola con funghi e grana padano (Arugula Salad with Mushrooms and Grana Padano)

Serving Size: 2 people (easily scaleable)

Prep Time: 15 minutes


2 slices hearty Country Bread

2 cups Arugula (Italian-style), approximately

1 cup Cremini mushrooms very thinly sliced

12-14 shavings Grana Padano cheese

1/2 tsp. Lemon juice, freshly-squeezed

1 tsp. top-quality Italian Olive Oil

2 grinds of Black Pepper (or 1/2 pinch)

2 pinches of Salt

1 clove Garlic

extra Olive Oil for drizzling

Grana Padano


Toast bread in toaster or in broiler.  While bread is cooking, toss together arugula and mushrooms with lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl.  Season with pepper and 1 pinch of the salt.  Divide salad between two plates making sure to have an even distribution of mushrooms and arugula on each.

Lay strips of the cheese on top of the salad, again dividing them equally.  When the bread is toasted, rub a garlic clove cut in half over one side of the bread.  Drizzle with a little bit more of the olive oil and sprinkle some of the remaining salt  on top of the toasted bread and place one slice on each plate.  Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

Kitchen Witch Tip:

Many of the key ingredients for this dish came from the Union Square Greenmarket.  The arugula is from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, the mushrooms are from Bulich Mushroom Farm, and the bread is from Hot Bread Kitchen.


The London Candy Co. Cake Launch

London Candy Co interior

A few months back, a bit of the UK came and put down roots in my neighborhood.  That’s when The London Candy Company opened its doors literally a block away from where I live.  I wrote about it for Woman Around Town, another site to which I contribute articles.  Now, they’ve gone and added an exclusive line of specialty cakes designed by Khahlidra Levister to mimic the flavors of some favoured British sweets to their product line (yes, I added the “u” on purpose), so I think I might really be sunk.

Dairy Milk Turkish Delight cakesTurkish Delight Cadbury Dairy Milk cakes

Turkish Delight cakeIt’s really pink on the inside

The first of the cakes that I tried was the one designed after the Dairy Milk bar with Turkish Delight.  I don’t mind the rosewater flavor of Turkish Delight.  I’ve never eaten it with chocolate before so I was a bit skeptical that it was even a good idea to combine these two tastes.  When I bit into the fluffy cake, a delicate aroma of light rose perfume hit my nose followed by smooth, creamy chocolate wrapping around my tongue.  For me, it worked, although for a few other folks to whom I spoke at the party, it wasn’t up their alley at all.

Double Decker cakesDouble Decker cakes

The Double Decker cakes were fashioned after another candy bar I’ve never tried before.  With chocolate-covered crisped rice, it had sweet and crunchy going for it.  For me, it was enjoyable, but not my favorite one of the evening.  Someone else at the party said that she thought it tasted the most like candy of any of the cakes, which made it a hit for her.

Topic Bar cakeTopic Bar cake

Topic BarThe original Topic Bar

My number two favorite of the evening was definitely the Topic Bar cake.  One of the reasons why is that the chef did something that I found brilliant, if my tastebuds are correct.  I picked up that the hazelnuts were roasted before being put into the cake, which meant that they held up and that their toasty, buttery flavor came through with each bite of soft, rich chocolate cake.

Cadbury Chocolate Orange cakeChocolate Orange cake

Cadbury Chocolate OrangeReal Chocolate Oranges

Unfortunately, the cake that I had wanted to like the most was the one I ended up enjoying the least.  Normally, chocolate and orange is a hit flavor combination for me.  Somehow, I felt it didn’t work in this particular cake.  I don’t know if it needed to be a stronger citrus punch, like that which having candied peel throughout would have imparted or what it was, but it just fell a bit flat on my tongue.

After Eight CakesAfter Eight cakes

Cake with After EightThin layer of mint with chocolate

My favorite one of the evening, as well as that of the manager, Howie, was the After Eight cake.  Mint can sometimes be a tricky flavor to capture without it tasting like toothpaste or those green, gummy slices that always seemed to be around at Christmastime.  This was a little bit closer to real mint essence, which I was told is due to the fact that the chef uses natural ingredients.

All-in-all I think that this is a unique and adventurous effort that The London Candy Company has launched.  With the supremacy of the cupcake still running rampant through our fair city, a selection of cakes that takes its inspiration from well-known UK sweets is a terrific addition to their shop and to the array of treats that one can buy in the neighborhood.  I can’t wait to try some of the other ones that were not available for us to sample tonight.  Look out for the Bounty and Mars bar creations and for a Lemon cake and Blackcurrant version, too.

Buon appetito!

The London Candy Company is located at 1442 Lexington Avenue in New York (corner of 94th Street).  It is also available for private events.


Smorgasburg at Brooklyn FleaSmorgasburg!

It was a long overdue trip, I know, but I’ve either been out of town or just plain busy every Saturday since Smorgasburg, the food fair put together by the folks who also run the Brooklyn Flea, kicked off.  Knowing several vendors who sell at this Williamsburg, Brooklyn waterfront location, I was keen to get out there to support their efforts at this new market venture.  Today, with sunny skies and the free ferry service running between Manhattan and the landing dock right near Smorgasburg, I didn’t have any more excuses not to visit it.

Sir Kensington's KetcupSamples of Sir Kensington’s Ketchup

There’s just so much good food, great folks to chat with, and neat stuff going on, that it’s best just to plunge in and explore it on your own.  I came back home with jam from Anarchy in a Jar, ketchup from Sir Kensington, popcorn from Liddibit Sweets, and organic pecans (which will make an appearance in brownies headed to a bbq tomorrow) from Rio Grande Organics.  That is on top of the food that went into my belly at the market and the samples that I tried.

Sunday Gravy bread boat sandwichSunday Gravy bread boat sandwich

A sweet, cool chocolate-hazelnut ice cream sandwich made with stroopwafels from The Good Batch, ice tea and a delicious, hearty bread boat sandwich from the folks at Sunday Gravy, a red velvet macaroon from Danny Macaroons, along with shrimp rolls from Bite Size Kitchen (a fantastic concept) were my lunch today.  I tried some cool new things, too, and wish I had had more room in my stomach to sample the other goodies that I saw.  It’s so difficult to pick which of all the items I tried that are my favorites.  I could have blown my whole grocery budget this week on all everything I wanted to take home to play with in my kitchen.

Morris Kitchen's Ginger SyrupGinger Syrup by Morris Kitchen

One of those was Morris Kitchen‘s amazing Ginger Syrup that I’ve heard raves about.  Ginger and sugar heated together to make a pure liquid honey-colored creation.  It starts off sweet and a bit floral and then wham! hits you with that spicy ginger-style punch at the end.  Whoo-ee!  That could make some awesome summer cocktails.

Kors d'OeuvresKors d’Oeuvres – so delicious that I couldn’t choose just one to buy

I might have to throw that party myself not just to use the Ginger Syrup but also to make some interesting little nibbles with Kors d’Oeuvres dips.  The Horseradish and Bacon had a great zing and a creamy-smoky feel to it which would go well on thick-cut homemade potato chips, regular or sweet.  World’s Greatest Onion Dip was fantastic, too with sweet caramelized onions, and I could see this being wonderful as a burger topping.  Another dip that I sampled was the Cheddar and Beer combo.  Put some of this on your fries or on your burger or, hey, even both, I won’t tell anyone.  They have a party pack for sale, too, that also comes with the crudites and dippers, so that could be a great way to get the summer festivities started.

Skim kim samplesSkimKim Kimchee and Bloody Kim Jong-il Mix samples

For this next find, I’ll have to come right out and say it: I haven’t jumped on the Kim Chi bandwagon yet.  Yes, I’ve had a kim chi taco and enjoyed it, and, yes, I’ve tried some varieties of kim chi and been o.k. with it, and, yes, I know all the stuff behind how great for you fermented products are, but I’m just not that into it, I’m sorry.  Maybe this has to do with the fact that I don’t really like pickles all that much either.  SkimKim could possibly change my mind about this.  I love her sense of humor about her products, which feature kim chi and Asian ingredients, and how she informs potential customers to use it.  The flavors are great, too, as per my sampling the Kimchee Butter.  The Asian Green Goddess marinade was so hard to resist on this visit.  It will make me come back again to Smorgasburg to track it down as I have several ideas for how to use it.

Tomato Garlic Dipping Oil Cheeky MonkeyThe spicy version of their Tomato Garlic Dipping Oil from Cheeky Monkey

Danny at Danny Macaroons pointed me in the direction of this incredible, spicy Tomato Garlic Dipping Oil by Cheeky Monkey Foods.  This was also one of the items I should have picked up to take home with me as the good words about it were correct.  Need something to pep up some fish?  Looking for a way to dress up the umpteenth chicken dish of the week?  This might just be the ticket.  Robust, tangy, pop of spice, and long on flavor, I could see this being a staple in anyone’s pantry.


I’m not sure how much fun Smorgasburg would have been last week in the rain when I was inside at TECHMunch, but today it was a great day to get out there and see what was on offer.  By no means does my list of the things that I ate, bought, and sampled do justice to the talented and hard-working vendors who were out there today.  I didn’t even get to touch on the farmers market folks who were also selling gorgeous seasonal berries and greens, many of which were used by the food artisans to create their products.  I highly recommend taking a break from your usual Saturday routine to check out this rapidly-evolving part of Brooklyn and to spend some time wandering around Smorgasburg to discover some of your new favorite things to eat.

Buon appetito!