Category Archives: Fruit Dishes

Granola-Yogurt Parfaits

I almost clicked on the “Weeknight Suppers” category for this post featuring Granola-Yogurt Parfaits because, to be completely honest, this is one of those breakfast meals that I’ve had more than a few times for dinner.  It is light, refreshing, and reasonably healthy so it makes a quick evening meal.  Of course, it is a wonderful breakfast, too, especially with all the gorgeous, ripe summertime fruit and berries coming into season.

The basic component of this is a granola recipe that I found in Bon Appetit and adapted to my own tastes.  Molly Wizenberg (aka Orangette) talks about a recipe inspired by one that she got from a spa that her mother had visited.  My mother wasn’t the spa-going type, and, as far as I know, never made her own granola.  I don’t even remember eating it when we grew up.  She did, however, make her own whole wheat bread from scratch for a stretch so I guess on the hippie scale of things, that sort of counts.

Golden Brown crispy, crunchy, sweet granola

I’ve had my own granola phase for a while over the past few years.  It is actually an excuse to make me eat more yogurt, as I generally don’t really like it very much, even though I know how good it is for me.  It also helps to get an extra serving of fruit, fresh or dried (in the wintertime I like dried cherries or cranberries with this) into my diet.  I just love the toasted, nutty, sweet crunch of this granola, and often have to stop myself from eating it plain and dry so that I can have enough to cover me for breakfasts during the week.

Granola Yogurt Parfaits

Serving Size: 4 portions

Prep Time: 10 minutes (minus time making granola)


1 Mango, cut into small pieces

16 Strawberries, hulled and cut into slices

You can really use any seasonal fruit that you like in these.

8 Tbsp plus 4 tsp. plain Yogurt

1 cup Granola (recipe to follow)


In each of four wineglasses, parfait glasses, or, uhem, margarita glasses (like the above), place several pieces of mango and one strawberry’s worth of slices.  Top each with 1 teaspoon yogurt.

Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of granola, per glass over the fruit.  Top with more strawberry slices and mango pieces, distributing them evenly among the four glasses.

Put 2 Tablespoons of yogurt in each glass on top of the fruit.  Sprinkle the remaining 1 Tablespoon of granola per glass over top of the yogurt and fruit.  Serve immediately.

Granola Ingredients

Homemade Granola*

Serving size: Makes about 4 cups

Prep time: 50 minutes


2 cups organic rolled Oats (you don’t want the flakes to be small)

1 cup chopped Pecans

1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded Coconut

1/4 cup Sunflower Seeds

1/3 cup Pumpkin Seeds

1 tsp. ground Ginger

1 tsp. ground Cinnamon

1/4 tsp. Salt

2 Tbsp Light Brown Sugar

2 Tbsp Canola oil

1 1/2 Tbsp high-grand Maple Syrup

1 Tbsp Honey


Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a large baking sheet with sides with parchment paper.  In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (oats through brown sugar), mixing them together thoroughly.

Pour the oil, maple syrup, and honey into a microwave-safe measuring cup in that order.  The oil will make for easier pouring and cleanup.  Heat liquid on beverage setting for 15 seconds.  It should not get overly bubbly.  Pour liquid over dry ingredients and stir to coat completely.

Dump out wet-dry mixture onto the parchment paper-covered baking sheet.  Use the back of a spoon or a spatula to spread the mixture evenly over the sheet.  Place in the oven to bake.  Set the timer for 10 minutes.

When the timer goes off, remove the tray from the oven without turning off the heat.  Stir up the mixture and redistribute it evenly over the sheet once again.  Place the sheet in the oven to bake for 10 minutes more.  Repeat this stirring, distributing, and baking step two more times, so that the mixture has baked for a total of 40 minutes.  This method might seem odd, but it keeps the mixture from clumping together and ensures a more even toasting overall.

As the granola bakes the scent of toasted nuts and oats and spices will fill the air, giving your home a well, homey feel to it.  This is why it is so hard to resist snacking on it when it comes out of the oven, but you must.  At the 40-minute mark, remove the tray from the oven and it set aside so that the granola can cool down.  To store, pour granola into an airtight container and put it in the refrigerator.  It should keep for at least a month.

Buon appetito!

*Kitchen Witch Tip

This would be an easy and tasty recipe to get kids involved in the kitchen, as there’s lots of measuring and pouring.  If you cut up the pecan pieces for them (or buy them pre-chopped), then there are no knives needed in the preparation.  They would need assistance with the microwaving and baking part, but in the end, they could feel as though they’d helped out by putting all the initial ingredients together.

Chili con Queso and Guacamole for Game Day

Today is the big playoff game for New York with the Jets taking on the Patriots this afternoon.  I don’t have any stake in this match-up or in any of the teams that will eventually make it to the Superbowl this year.  What I’ve been thinking about lately, no surprises here, is what great food I can bring to a game-watching party.  As it’s unlikely I’ll be hosting the whole thing, I’ve been toying around with some portable pre-meal snacking options.

It might sound a bit naff, but I really like the Tex-Mex classics, even though I know that they might not represent authentic Mexican cuisine, which I also do enjoy.  They were the way that I first learned about these flavors, which were completely foreign to my generic 1970s-80s upbringing.  One of the things I probably first ate was Chili con Queso.  I used to love to order it when we went out, but I never seem to do so now.

Chili con Queso

For a game day party, however, I think it is the perfect thing to offer to your guests.  It’s gooey, rich, cheesy, with a punchy spiciness.  Frankly, when I was testing this recipe, I forgot how much I enjoyed it and how addictive it can be.  Why did I ever stop eating it?  Paired with another version of Guacamole that I also created to go along with it, these two things should keep your hungry hoards satisfied, no matter who ends up winning the match.

Chili con Queso

Prep time: about 15 minutes
Serving Size: Depends upon your group

8 oz. Cream Cheese
1 1/2 cup Cheddar / Monterey Jack Cheese mix (or plain Cheddar)
1/3 to 1/2 cup Brooklyn Salsa Company’s Brooklyn Salsa (or your favorite)*

In bottom half of double boiler, bring about 1 inch of water to the boil.  Put in the top half of the boiler and add the cream cheese, stirring until it becomes smooth and creamy, rather than being a solid block.  Add the cheddar / monterey jack cheeses and stir until they melt completely into the cream cheese.  Pour in 1/3 c. of the salsa and stir thoroughly to blend together with the cheeses.  Add more salsa as necessary to taste.  Serve immediately, garnished with tortilla chips for dipping.  This can be made in advance and re-heated.

*The salsa that I recommend, which can be found several places in New York or on line, is their hottest one, so proceed accordingly and add the lower amount first, bringing the dip up to your desired level of spiciness by gradually adding more.  If you prefer, substitute a less spicy version and add more salsa to the cheeses to give the dip its kick.


Prep time: about 15 minutes

Serving Size: Depends upon your group
2 ripe Avocados
1 Jalapeno, finely minced
1/3 cup White Onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp. ground Cumin
1/4 tsp. ground Coriander
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
1 Lime, juice of, plus wedges for garnish
Peel and mash avocados in medium bowl leaving some chunks, if desired.  Add jalapeno and onion and stir to incorporate.  Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine thoroughly.  Allow to sit for at least an hour, covered before, serving with tortilla chips.
Buon appetito!

This entry is also cross-posted at Blogher.

How to Peel a Tomato

In my last blog, I posted a recipe that called for peeling tomatoes.  This is something that I hadn’t actually attempted to do myself before making that dish.  For the Pappa al Pomodoro, however, I felt that using end-of-summer fresh produce would be the best way to highlight their flavor so I launched in to de-skinning these round red delicacies myself.  Truthfully, if I were to make this in the wintertime, I would use canned, peeled tomatoes, but there’s no need for that now.
Start off by making an “x” on the bottom of the tomato
Submerge in pan of boiling water and cook on each side for 15-20 seconds, until skin wrinkles
Allow to cool and with knife or tongs, peel skin away starting from the “x.” 
The skin should come off easily without taking the flesh.
Tomatoes are ready for chopping up to be put into dishes that call for peeled tomatoes.
Kitchen Witch Tip:
To capture even more of the tomato flavor for the above dish, when de-seeding the tomatoes while chopping them, put the seeds and other bits into a sieve placed over a bowl, and push the liquid through the sieve to get some of the reserved juices to add to the pan when cooking down the tomatoes.
Buon appetito!

Pappa al Pomodoro

Last week Eataly opened up for business, this past week The Kitchn has been running Italian-themed posts, and the issue of Food & Wine that hit my mailbox yesterday features “Italian-American Favorites.”  Sense a pattern here?  It’s as though that part of my life is calling to me to rekindle my love for Mediterranean food.  Even yesterday, after going on an art gallery tour in Chelsea, I ended up at BuonItalia showing someone the specialties found there.

So, today when a picnic that I was supposed to attend was canceled due to the dreary weather, it seemed like a good day to make Pappa al Pomodoro, a Tuscan dish which I haven’t eaten since I was in graduate school.  I had picked up some tomatoes at the Greenmarket yesterday from Keith’s Farm, and I had some stale bread left over from one of the meals that I had had at Eataly last week.  With two of the key components in hand, I decided to put this together for lunch.
As with many Italian dishes, it is the attention to using the best ingredients possible to pull together the flavors that makes the difference.  Using seasonal ingredients, like the tomatoes, basil and garlic, high-quality olive oil, and good (but stale) bakery bread, are key to create a meal that is simple but fulfilling.  With the end of summer approaching, this is a great way to try to capture the last of its warmth in a bowl.
Pappa al Pomodoro
Prep time: 20 minutes
Serving Size: 2 adult portions
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large clove of garlic, cut into thin slices
3 slices of stale bakery bread (not sourdough), cut in half
4 good-sized tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded, and chopped
1 c. vegetarian vegetable stock
1 Tbsp basil cut into strips*
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
parmesan cheese, grated
Warm olive oil in large skillet over medium-low heat for 30 seconds.  Add garlic slices and continue to cook for another 30 seconds as they release their aroma into the oil.  Place bread in one layer in the pan and cook on each side for one minute.
Put the tomatoes and any reserved juice into the pan.  Pour in the vegetable stock.  Raise the heat to medium and let the mixture cook down for 5-7 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and have broken down to create a sauce with the stock.  The bread will also absorb some of the stock and the tomato juices.
Turn off the heat.  Sprinkle the basil and black pepper on top and stir to incorporate.  Save a few pieces of basil as garnish.   Dish up three pieces of the bread and half of the tomato mixture per bowl.  Garnish with the basil, grate parmesan cheese on top, and drizzle several drops of extra-virgin olive oil over everything.  Serve while still warm.
Buon appetito!
*Kitchen Witch Tip
Cutting basil (and other leafy food items) into long thin strips is called “chiffonade.”  This technique creates prettier and more uniform pieces than simply tearing up the herb.  To make this, wipe off the basil leaves, put them one on top of the other, roll them together lengthwise, and chop across.  You will end up with something that looks like this:

Peach Melba

Peach Melba is the perfect dish to celebrate three of the wonderful things about summer: ripe golden peaches, ruby red raspberries, and ice cream. It is also a dessert that my mother enjoyed eating, so it holds a sentimental place in my heart, although I’m much more of a Poire Belle Helene person myself. Named after an Australian singer, Dame Melba, and created by the famous French chef Escoffier, this can claim to be a bit more grown up ice cream sundae and something worthy of a dinner party table.
In the recipe below, you get the contrasts of sweet and tart and creamy and crunchy. This is a bright way to end any meal or for an afternoon snack, as mine was today. I served it in a bowl, but it would be really beautiful presented to your guests in a wide-mouthed champagne glass or dessert cup. Drizzle a little raspberry sauce on the bottom, add the ice cream and peaches, and then drizzle some more sauce over the top. Sprinkle the almonds over everything and eat.
Peach Melba
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Serving Size: 4 portions
1/4 c. almonds, blanched and slivered
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. vanilla sugar*
1/4 c. sugar
4 peaches, cut in half
1 c. raspberries
1 T. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 T. sugar
1 pint top-quality vanilla ice cream
Heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place almonds on shallow baking tray. Put in oven and let toast for about ten minutes until lightly golden brown. Check on the almonds a few times in between steps with the peaches to make sure they don’t get too browned or, worse, burnt.
Poaching Peaches: While the almonds are toasting, prepare the poaching liquid for the peaches. This is a simple syrup, which is water and sugar cooked together in equal amounts. Put sugars and water in saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugars have dissolved and the liquid is starting to bubble a little bit. Turn the heat down to medium-low.

Place the peach halves in the syrup cut side down and pour a couple of spoonfuls of the liquid over the peaches as they cook for three minutes on that side. Then, turn the peaches over to the skin side and let them cook for another three minutes. Scoop the peaches out and put on a plate to cool. By this time, the almonds should also be out of the oven and set aside to cool. When the peaches are not too hot to handle, take a knife and gently lift off the skin, leaving the smooth fruit. The skin should come off easily.
Raspberry Coulis: While the other parts of the dish are cooling, take out a food processor to make the raspberry sauce. Place the raspberries, lemon juice, and 2 T. sugar in the bowl of the processor. Blitz on high until everything is a liquidy puree. Then, take a fine-mesh sieve and place it over a clean bowl. Pour the puree into the sieve and, with the help of a rubber scraper, force the liquid through the sieve without pushing through any of the pips of the raspberries. Discard the pips. This will create a thick, silky smooth sauce or coulis which is useful in any number of recipes.

The final stage is to bring it all together:

You can make the peaches and the raspberry sauce in advance and then assemble the dish shortly before you are ready to serve it. Divide the vanilla ice cream into four portions (about two scoops per person) and place two of the peach halves alongside the ice cream. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of the raspberry sauce around the dish and over the top of the peaches. Sprinkle the almonds over all of it. Serve immediately.
Buon appetito!

*Kitchen Witch Tips:
To make vanilla sugar, place a vanilla bean pod in a jar of sugar and leave so that the perfume of the pod infuses the sugar with vanilla aroma. This is a good use of a bean pod when you have had to use the seeds for another recipe.

Salsas for the 4th

What you are looking at is my no-fail, family-favorite guacamole, which I brought to a 4th of July fireworks watching party last night. The hostess loved it and kept going back for more, as did several of the guests. This is one of my internationally-tested recipes, created by me when I lived in Italy and was missing a taste of home. You can find the directions for making it here.
The base for the guacamole is my sure-fire-hit Pico de Gallo recipe. This is best made several hours in advance of eating it, ideally the morning of the day you are going to serve it, as I did yesterday. That way, the flavors have time to come together and you can adjust the seasonings, and heat, accordingly. The recipe is found at the same link as the guacamole one above. This batch benefited from the gorgeous early-season tomatoes that I found at the Greenmarket on Saturday.
One of the real stars of my salsa trio, however, is a recipe that I cannot claim to have created. I found it years ago as a tiny sidebar in Real Simple. The Papaya Mint Salsa* is perfect as a sweet-spicy accompaniment to seared or grilled fish or seafood. It also stands well on its own scooped up with tortilla chips, as we ate it last night. With papayas now in season, and the temperatures rising in favor of no-cook grazing style meals, I definitely recommend giving this dish a slot in your meal rotation.

*Kitchen Witch Tips:
I think that the point of the sidebar was to feature the mezzaluna, a wonderful kitchen implement that I encourage you to buy, if you do not have one already. I bought one years ago, and it is perfect for those times when you need to chop anything very, very finely. There are also double-bladed ones, but I find that this one works well for what I need on a day-to-day basis. As you can see from the photo below, a few minutes under the mezzaluna, and the mint is chopped in very small bits, ready to be incorporated into the salsa dish.

Buon appetito!