Sunday, February 25, 2024

Gone To Pot

I’m not against downsizing kitchen equipment or even upsizing, but what I’m really for is RIGHT-SIZING. 

Every time I make soup, I'm faced with the dilemma of using a pot that is much too big... 

or one that borders on being too small... 


Okay I'm being a bit dramatic, but I really love my 12 quart stainless steel pot that I use for huge recipes. It’s my go-to for boiling 20 potatoes on Thanksgiving for example. But reasonably-sized recipes get lost in it and it IS a bear to wash. I also love my 5 quart pot (I think of a POT as having two rounded handles on opposite sides and a PAN as having a long handle, although some say pots are deep and pans are shallow.🤷) But many times if I double a soup or stew recipe the 5 quart pot borders on overflowing, which is never desirable. 

Sooooo, I finally bought an EIGHT quart pot, which is just the right size. 

I absolutely adore it! Size really does matter! It’s big enough to double a recipe and stir it freely without sloshing its contents all over the stove.

Speaking of pots we love, have you ever had a pot you HATED? Whether it was some cheapo aluminum pot from college that always burns on the bottom or a scratched up nonstick frying pan that you should have thrown away long ago. 

For me, my least favorite pot is a Cuisinart (I know!!!) stainless steel Dutch oven type with two handles and a VERY rounded bottom. 

I got it because it was dramatically on sale, and also my previous Cuisinart 5 quart pot (that I used for everything from boiling water to softening onions) finally gave up the ghost. The pot itself was still okay, but it had 2 wooden handles riveted to metal brackets. The wooden pieces eventually blistered and cracked and ultimately fell off after years of dishwasher abuse. 

That left me with a very tricky situation. If I wanted to move the pot (and when DON’T you want to move a pot?) I had to hold it by its poker hot (and sharp) metal brackets. It wasn't a good situation. SO I found this rounded bottom also 5 quart Cuisinart pan, which was seriously on sale. However my old pot had straight sides and I had no idea of the ramifications of the rounded bottom.  Omg, what a pain!

The old pot had a ten inch diameter at the top AND bottom. The new pot has an EIGHT inch diameter on the bottom and an 11 inch diameter on the top. 

On the left, the old pot's interior looked like this. On the right...argh!!!- a rounded bottom.

Do you know what that means?? It takes water FOREVER to boil because you can’t turn the burner on high or the flame will travel up the outsides of the pan. ANYTHING you cook in it takes longer to get going.

I don’t mind spending hours in the kitchen, but I don’t want to be waiting for this stupid pot to be heating up. I struggled for a long time and finally, just like with the soup pot, I couldn’t take it any longer. I did feel bad about buying ANOTHER 5 quart pot, so I bought not the most expensive one in the world, but it seemed well-reviewed. It was this Tramontino one (the one I showed above as being too small for double recipes).

From the first second I put it over the heat, I breathed a sigh of relief that my water would boil efficiently, my onions could be brought to a quick (not languishing) sizzle and each additional ingredient added to a stew wouldn’t take hours to come to a simmer. So sometimes, downsizing is not the answer and a new piece of batterie de cuisine brings harmony and peace to the kitchen.

By the way, there are two things that are absolutely sensational cooked in my round bottomed pan – matzo balls and chicken and dumplings. You’d be surprised how many more matzo balls or dumplings you can cram into an 11” diameter pot, compared to a 10” one. So I won’t be getting rid of that pot anytime soon.


Sunday, February 18, 2024

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup

Who knew? - Melissa Clark’s Red Lentil Soup was the most reviewed recipe on the New York Times website as of last November. She had gotten the recipe from a friend and just like the rest of us, adjusted some things according to what she had in the house. When I made it, I made a few changes too and I think I ended up with one of the best soups I’ve ever made…OR had! 

Jump to My Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup

A few main changes:

I added a diced sweet potato, which melded perfectly with the color of the red lentils and made a beautiful, rich, slightly sweet soup.

I cooked the onions as I usually do, until they are soft, soft, SOFT. I don't add spices or any liquid ingredients until the onions have given up any signs of resistance and are left sweet and almost buttery.

I also added a lot more cumin AND chili powder and cooked them as I usually do on low, low, LOW for 3 (not two) minutes.

Then I added the tomatoes, lentils and finally the stock.

Other little changes: I pureed half the soup at first…as in the original recipe. But I thought the red lentils had a slightly gritty consistency, so I pureed the whole thing. Really good move.

I always add red wine vinegar to my lentil soup and to my chili too, so I did that here as well, instead of the lemon juice.

Instead of tomato paste, use any tomatoes you have on hand - plum, beefsteak or other. And now that I’m thinking about it, if you want to sub a large can of tomatoes for some of the stock, go ahead! 

My version of this recipe includes two techniques that I use almost every day - sweating the onions until they’re completely soft and cooking the warm spices over low heat before any liquid is added. That gets rid of the raw taste and starts to develop the wonderful toasty flavors of the spices. 

The only thing I’d change? I wish I’d made double the recipe to ensure there was some in the freezer… 

My Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup 
(serves 6-8)
2 big onions, chopped
2 tbls. of olive oil (more if necessary)
Large pinch of Kosher salt
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 tsps. cumin
2 tsps. chili powder
Freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts vegetable stock
2 tomatoes, chopped
OR 1 quart vegetable stock and 1 large can (28 oz.) crushed or diced tomatoes  
1 cup red lentils
1 tbl. red wine vinegar   

In a large pot over medium high heat, stir onions in olive oil until you hear a sizzle. Stir in large pinch of salt. Turn down heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 10 minutes until onions are softening nicely. Stir in carrots with another pinch of salt. Cover and continue cooking on low heat until the onions are completely soft, at least another 10 or 15 minutes. (Don’t worry about the texture of the carrots.) 

Stir in sweet potato with cumin, chili powder and black pepper and stir over low heat for 3 minutes to cook the spices. 

Add stock, tomatoes and red lentils. Bring to a simmer. Stir in red wine vinegar and cook, covered, until the lentils are soft, about 40 minutes. Taste for seasoning. 

Puree in batches in a blender until smooth. Or use an immersion blender, which will give you a slightly coarser soup. Serve immediately or cool and freeze.

Monday, July 24, 2023


In the hot days of summer, ratatouille is the perfect vehicle for all those bountiful farm fresh vegetables – eggplant, yellow and green squash, onions, peppers, garlic, as well as tomatoes. Oooh, don’t forget the mushrooms…This does require a fair amount of stovetop cooking, but you can do it in advance and serve it cold, which is absolutely sensational!

Jump to Sue’s Ratatouille

I have a distinct way of making ratatouille, which I think brings out the best in all the vegetables. I use two different pans. First, I get the chopped onions softening in a largish (8 quart) stockpot, while I sauté each kind of vegetable separately in a nonstick pan. As they're finished, I add them to the onions. I add a hit of garlic and as little oil as possible (maybe 1 1/2 teaspoons) to each vegetable and I season as I go.

To minimize the amount of oil, here's a trick. I add oil to the pan, toss in each vegetable and cook them on medium high for 2 minutes. THEN I cover the pan, turn it down to medium low and leave it for another two minutes. That builds up a bit of steam, which softens the vegetables without having to add more oil. I continue sautéing and adding garlic and plenty of seasoning to each batch, which then goes into the stockpot with the softened onions.

I like using a combination of canned AND fresh tomatoes. I add the canned ones when the onions are softened. I throw the fresh tomatoes into the sauté pan last to pick up all the yummy flavors of the other vegetables. Lastly, everything gets simmered together.

I admit there’s a lot of chopping in this recipe. But I love surrounding myself with a pile of vegetables, a sharp knife and a cutting board. What could be more fun? 









Tomato Note: I never hesitate to open a can of tomatoes, even if I'm using just a little bit. I like to freeze the remainder in smallish amounts, so I have them on hand. Here, I used some diced tomatoes I had in the freezer, plus fresh ones. I like the juiciness of the fresh ones and the more concentrated flavor of the canned ones. But use any combination you wish. If you're using all fresh, though, add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste when you add the chopped tomatoes.

Sue's Ratatouille (makes a boatload)

3 onions, chopped
olive oil for sautéing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups canned diced tomatoes
4 Japanese eggplant, peeled and cut into half inch dice
2 zucchini and 2 yellow squash, halved lengthwise, then sliced (If they’re huge, quarter lengthwise, then slice)
8 to 12 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
1 yellow, red or orange pepper, chopped
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, peeled, center core removed, pressed or grated
3 big tomatoes, (juicy beefsteak are good), chopped - about 4 cups chopped
a huge handful of parsley, finely chopped

Add onions to a 6 to 8 quart stockpot with a spoonful of oil. Season liberally with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. (From here on in, I’ll just say “season with salt and pepper”.) Cook on medium high heat until you hear a sizzle. Cover and turn down heat to low. Cook for at least 10 minutes, until the onions are completely soft, stirring occasionally.

Stir in canned tomatoes and simmer on low heat while you attend to the other vegetables.

Add a spoonful of oil to large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add eggplant and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes on medium high heat. Stir in a little garlic. Cover and cook on medium low for 2 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until the eggplant is mostly softened. Add to stockpot with onions. (This is the one vegetable that may require more oil.)

Continue with each vegetable - the zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms and peppers. Add oil to the sauté pan, add each vegetable (separately) with seasoning, cook on medium high heat for 2 minutes. Then add garlic, cover and cook on medium low heat for 2 minutes. Cook each vegetable in turn until they’re happily softened and add each batch to the stockpot.

Add chopped tomatoes to sauté pan. Bring to a simmer and stir well to get all the flavor from the pan. Carefully add tomatoes to stockpot. Stir in parsley. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve immediately or at room temperature. Or refrigerate overnight and serve cold, which is outstanding!



Sunday, July 16, 2023

Frozen Yogurt Bark Isn't Just For Babies


I first became familiar with yogurt bark through a baby I know. It’s a cool treat for all those baby-led weaning kids, but it’s great for anyone else too!

It’s basically a spread-out bed of yogurt topped with fruit and anything else you can think of and then frozen. For babies? Use just fruit. For non-babies? The sky’s the limit! The biggest challenge is to find a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer, but once you’ve done that, it’s smooth sailing.

Jump to Non-Baby Frozen Yogurt Bark

I started with 2 cups of 5% Greek yogurt. The first time you make it, PLEASE don’t use non-fat yogurt. Experience it being really good, before you strip away the flavor and rich feel that the 5% yogurt gives it. (My baby friend actually uses 10% Greek yogurt, which I couldn’t bring myself to do…) Also – and don't do this for babies - I stirred in some honey AND drizzled more over the final product just before freezing.

It’s fun to gather all the ingredients to put on top. 

Use whatever appeals to you, but make the pieces smallish, so they can fit nicely on whatever shapes you cut it into. I used sliced strawberries and blueberries. And I cut delicious pieces of dried mango (chili-covered mango from Trader’s Joe’s) into small diamonds (and a few triangles). Plus I was lucky enough to have some granola in the freezer, so I sprinkled that over at the end.

The amounts are just suggestions. Put as much on top of the yogurt as you think looks good. (If it looks good, it will certainly taste great!) I almost disastrously forgot the best thing that I was going to use - chocolate-covered pretzels! But, luckily, I remembered just before I put the bark into the freezer. I don’t think you can tell that they were an afterthought…

Enjoy. And remember no honey for babies under a year old, and, also, they can’t have all the fun stuff that makes the yogurt bark really heavenly…

Note: If you warm the honey just a bit, it makes it a breeze to stir into the yogurt. Pour it into a small glass bowl and microwave for 20 seconds or so. Never microwave the plastic honey bear!

Non-Baby Frozen Yogurt Bark

2 cups Fage Greek Yogurt - 5% fat
2 tbls. honey (warmed, see note above)
6 sliced strawberries
3/4 cup blueberries
6 small chocolate pretzels, broken into pieces
1/3 cup granola
A tbl. or so of honey to drizzle over the top.

Line a 9” x 13” baking sheet with waxed paper. 

Mix the yogurt with 2 tablespoons of honey. Spread evenly in lined baking sheet. 

Place remaining ingredients on the yogurt in the order given, pressing down slightly. Freeze overnight (or at least 6 hours). 

Place entire sheet of frozen bark (still on waxed paper) on cutting board. Using a long chef’s knife, cut into squares and place on serving dish in one layer. Serve when slightly softened in about 5 minutes. 

Place unserved yogurt bark back in the freezer until ready to use.