Thursday, September 26, 2013

Oh, Fuyu...Persimmons, that is!

I grew up in a Southern California track home neighborhood that bordered what we would now call semi-rural development- larger parcels of land, zoned for horses, chickens and other "farm animals". Back in the day, we called this area The Heights, as in La Habra Heights. Citrus trees abounded - this is in Northern Orange County after all - as did avocados trees.  As kids, my siblings, friends and I considered the Heights our backyard, spending entire afternoons running through the orchards or navigating the banks of the Hacienda Creek. It was the Creek that provided the most fun, and it was the Creek with a capital C. Its course would change each year depending on how much rain we'd had the previous winter. Whole new islands and inlets would be created on which we'd pitch a make-shift camp as our base of operations. We'd role play as orphans, left in the Creek by ne'er-do-well parents to fend for ourselves on crayfish (never caught one, though they were reputed to live in the Big Six Foot Deep Pond) and what we could pilfer from friendly neighbors' (our real parents') pantries. My friend Keri and I actually convinced some children, not from our neighborhood but traversing the Creek one day, that we were orphans and they brought us candy for 2 days! OK, maybe I'm only imagining that that happened, but it just goes to show what fun we had playing in the Creek.

One other thing the Creek had, in addition to crawdads and faux-orphans, were persimmon trees,
a whole orchard of them. I'm not sure to whom they belonged but they never seemed to get harvested. Every fall our neighbor Cora would wander down to the creek side orchard and pluck enough fruit to make persimmon cookies.

My family were among the lucky recipients of these cookies. They were puffy, doughy and ample enough to give a youngster a nice enough sugar high, but in all honesty, they didn't taste very good. I don't know if it was Cora's recipe, her baking ability or that persimmons just didn't taste very good. I loved the cookies because I loved Cora, but I didn't really love the cookies - do you get my point? I gave up on persimmons after that.

Like many foods I've grown to love as an adult - figs, and oysters among them - persimmons now whet my appetite come Autumn. The Hachiya is the soft-skinned fruit, astringent varietal. This is the fruit that Cora picked to make her cookies. They need to be totally soft and ripened to be used in any culinary enterprise. Maybe because I didn't love Cora's persimmon cookies, I've avoided the fruit all together for lo' these many years. But...

...I discovered the Fuyu varietal and I rediscovered persimmons!

Squat, taunt, and a stunning orange, the Fuyu is eaten easily out of hand and provides crispness and a somewhat herbal flavor to salads and fruit platters. I love adding them as a surprise. Are they apples, oranges? What is this mystery fruit? I then discovered a beguiling appetizer - Goat Cheese Persimmon Wedges...

Goat Cheese Persimmon Wedges
photo by Kameron Flores-Maxfield
This appetizer is so easy, so colorful, so flavorful, it makes me wish that persimmons 
were available year round. But if persimmons were available year round,  I'd miss all the anticipation I have for autumn, when persimmons make this time of year so special.

    • 1/2 cup salted roasted almonds, very finely chopped
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
    • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, softened
    • 4 Fuyu persimmons, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
    • Aged balsamic vinegar, for serving


    1. In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of the almonds and the parsley with the goat cheese. Divide the mixture into 6 equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, stamp out 12 rounds from the persimmon slices.
    2. Sandwich each goat cheese ball between 2 persimmon slices, pressing to flatten slightly. Roll the edges in the remaining almonds and refrigerate until firm, at least 10 minutes or overnight. Cut each round into quarters and transfer to a plate. Drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar and serve.

And why do I now love Hachiya persimmons? Because of my friend Lois' Persimmon Pudding. I may not eat Hachiya's any other way.

I joined a book group in 1994. We were a gathering of women with young children and I was one of the members with the youngest kids. I learned from my sisters with older children and I grew up as a mother, and as a person,  with this amazing group of women. We have not only shared our opinions about books - and boy, have we read the best of them over these nearly 20 years and have had some pretty intense discussions - but we have share triumphs, disappointments, and more importantly, the every day stuff that is life. Lois' Persimmon Pudding is always the dessert at our December gathering.

Lois Ballentine's  Persimmon Pudding 

1 cup sugar
1cup flour
1 cup persimmon pulp
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla (or ½ tsp vanilla and 1 tablespoon rum)
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons melted butter
½ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix dry ingredients.  Add rest.  Stir well.  After filling, cover mold tightly with foil and put in top of double boiler. Add lid and steam on top of stove for two hours.

 For a double recipe I like to pour the pudding batter into a metal bowl that has been put into the basket of my pasta cooker (with and inch or two of water in the bottom of the pot).  I cover the bowl with aluminum foil and then put a lid on the pot.

I have tried a variety of sauces.  Whipped cream sweetened with powdered sugar and flavored with vanilla is the simplest and is well liked.

Lois, thank you!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Just Parsley...No Sage, Rosemary or Thyme

Oh, the lowly parsley. Some of us have only encountered it in its curly form, accompanied by a wizened orange slice, as a garnish on the plate of that included pancakes, eggs, hashed browns and bacon. A few chopped sprigs may have been randomly sprinkled over an omelet or added at the last minute to give a soup or stew some “color”. Parsley may have never crossed your mind as an herb; it may have just been something green on you plate. You may have even been told that chewing a bit of that curly sprig from your plate may help with bad breath. Not bad advice, but parsley has many other uses.

One of the mainstays in my mother’s cooking repertoire when I was growing up was Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup.  This was a soup mix that came in a box and if memory serves me right, there were dried noodles, a gelatin “egg” that contained the chicken flavoring and a foil packet that contained other stuff, among them dried parsley. My sister called this “Green Things Soup” because of that dried parsley and we loved it as part of a dinner that also included grilled cheese sandwiches with Velveeta brand cheese. I do not even want to think about the other contents of that foil packet and their possibility of now being labeled carcinogenic. But, hey, we’re talking the ‘60’s here! My mother made a pitcher of TANG every morning because the astronauts drank it in space and she fed us bacon! Wait, bacon is not bad! 

Parsley often plays second fiddle to other herbs that provide a much bigger punch. Bouquet Garni, a combination of herbs used when preparing stock, soups and stews, is a classic example. And we all remember Scarborough Faire and its chorus of “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme”. 

Those of us who spend time in the kitchen know that, with its clean, grassy flavor, Petroselinum crispum can hold its own as the focal point of many dishes.

My cousin Nancy, who lives in Tiffin, Ohio, is a dedicated home gardener. She has her own bee hives and chickens, so eggs and honey are prolific in her home. And she knows her herbs. Here's what she has to say about parsley:

Here's what I know from trial and error: It's an easy to grow biennial. It needs full sun and well drained soil. Flat leaf has more flavor, but I prefer curly leaf because it chops better. Love it in salads and Middle Eastern dishes.

I will differ with my dear cousin on the curly parsley. Though it may be easier to chopped than the flat-leaf Italian version, I just cannot get that chain restaurant breakfast and its weak attempt at garnishing out of my mind. Curly parsley always says, "Grand Slam Breakfast" to me!

Parsley is the star of Chimichurri, a sauce, or condiment, closely associated with Argentine cuisine, and has now been used in a variety of ways.

Here's a favorite Chimichurri recipe from  Eating Well - Served over a grilled rib-eye steak, you've got one great summer dinner!

photo from Eating Well magazine

  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, (1/2-1 bunch)
  • 1 small clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper, or cayenne pepper
  • Chop parsley and garlic together on a cutting board until the parsley is finely minced. Transfer to a medium bowl, add vinegar, oil, salt and chipotle (or cayenne) pepper; stir to combine.

How have I been spotlighting parsley this summer? In pasta salad!

Pasta Salad with Parsley

Margie MacKenzie, Nutmeg Kitchens

  • 16 oz of shaped pasta - fusilli, penne, rotelli, your choice
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Red wine vinegar
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups Kalamata olives
  • 2 cups cubed Mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, reserving some to garnish the salad
  • Parmesan Cheese

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  2. Toss warm pasta with vinegar and oil. Add the vegetables and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine with chopped parsley and Parmesan. Garnish with reserved parsley. Serve at room temperature. Adjust flavors - more oil, more vinegar, salt or pepper and more parsley to suit your palate.

"Parsley - the jewel of herbs, both in the pot and on the plate."
  - Albert Stockli

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's Hot! Watermelon is Cool!

It is hot, just plain hot, and I am not singing along with Buster Poindexter. It’s hot here in the Bay Area! And I do not like hot, at least not this hot. And it is hot across the Southwest where wild fires have been raging.

Nineteen elite firefighters were killed Sunday while battling a wild fire in Yarnell, Arizona. They were doing what they were trained to do – to fight wild fires and to keep people and structures safe. My prayers go out to the families of these brave men and the community that will miss them so dearly.

My family lived next to a fire station, Woodside FireProtection District Station 8, for 18 years.
When my sons were wee ones, the three of us would almost daily pay a post-afternoon nap visit to the “Fire Boys”, as my sons called them. We became good friends and good neighbors with the men, and eventually, the women, who staffed Station 8. They provided us with care and friendship that exceeds the best of what a neighbor can do. Yes, they actually rescued our kitten from a tree, with a neighbor's barking dog at their heels. Firefighters still do things like that. And they risk their lives. I always said a prayer whenever I heard their truck go out. 

We now live in Redwood City, not far from a busy fire house. I hear the siren daily. I say a prayer each time I hear that siren – a prayer of thanks and of hope that all will be safe.

When it's hot, I don't feel much like eating. Cooking, yes, as I do for my catering and personal chef clients. The family ends up having refrigerator forage nights if I haven't planned something for the grill, which usually isn't lighted until after sundown.

I've found a nifty culinary way to cool down that doesn't require any actual cooking - Watermelon! Native to Southern Africa, watermelon has traveled the world and can be called a truly global ingredient. Sliced and eaten out of hand with a pinch of salt as we all did as kids on hot summer days is perfect, but  Citrullus lanatus has grown up along with my palate.  I now make watermelon the focal point of a summer salad that has my family and clients swooning.

The bright red watermelon - a salute to our brave firefighters!

Watermelon, Feta & Arugula Salad with Honey Vinaigrette

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Honey Vinaigrette


    • 4 TBS Cider Vinegar
    • 1 TBS Dijon mustard
    • 2 TBS Honey
    • Salt and Pepper
    • 4 TBS Olive Oil
    • 4 TBS Vegetable Oil
    • 1 small watermelon
    • 16 oz crumbled Feta cheese
    • Arugula
    • Chopped Mint, optional


    1. Place vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until the ingredients are combined. Add the oils and shake again to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper and even vinegar and honey if necessary. You should have a combination of sweet and sour, with neither flavor overpowering the other.
    2. Cube watermelon according to the recipe below.
    3. Toss arugula in the dressing, arrange cubed watermelon over it and top with the feta and chopped mint. Drizzle some leftover dressing over the cheese. Enjoy!

For a favorite appetizer 

Watermelon-Tomato Cups with Feta and Mint

Watermelon-Tomato Cups

Adapted by Margie MacKenzie, from GIADA DELAURENTIS


    • 1 small seedless watermelon
    • 1 pint cherry tomato
    • 1 bunch fresh mint
    • 16 oz crumbled feta cheese
    • 12 small appetizer cups, bamboo or other similar "tasting" cup
    • 12 wooden cocktail forks


    1. Slice the top and bottom off and then make four straight cuts down the sides to create a rindless cube. Cut the cube into 1 1/2 inch thick slices and then each slice into 1 1/2 inch cubes.
    2. Slices the cherry tomatoes in half.
    3. Remove mint leaves from the stems. Roll 5-6 leaves together lengthwise and then slice into very thin ribbons (chiffonade); repeat with remaining leaves until all are sliced.
    4. To assemble: place 2-3 watermelon cubes and 2-3 tomato slices, depending on the size, into the serving cup. Drizzle with Honey Vinaigrette then sprinkle with a few basil ribbons and then with some crumbled feta. Serve with wooden cocktail fork.

Stay cool and stop by your local fire station and say thank you!

Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's Raining French Onion Soup

It is June 25, 2013. It rained at my house today. For those readers east of the Mississippi River, that revelation may not seem too surprising. You are used to hot, humid and wet summers. We Californians are not.

I remember visiting my Aunt Ginny in Louisville, Kentucky in 1967 (and yes, I know how pronounce that fine city's name correctly and have fond memories of my Kentucky uncle - see my blog post about Black Eyed Peas). It was mid-June, it was hot and humid and it rained one day, and continued to rain, and it rained so much that the street outside Aunt Ginny's home filled with enough water that it was like a wading pool. My brother, sister and I ran outside in our day clothes, into the pooling water with our mouths open to catch the falling drops. We kicked up enough water that we almost drowned 4 year old Laura, but she was laughing too hard to notice. If we had seen the film, we would surely have been imitating Gene Kelley in "Singing in the Rain", so happy were we to be playing in the rain on a hot summer day.

Aunt Ginny stood on her front porch, with my mother, in astonishment. "Haven't they ever seen rain?", she asked. "Not in June when it's 90 degrees", was Mom's reply. It does not rain in California in the summer.

I have one other memorable summertime rain experience. I worked at Knotts' Berry Farm, the Buena Park amusement park, during the summers while I was in college. (It is vastly different from when I worked there 30+ years ago, but I will not dwell on that.) It rained on August 16, 1977 - a really unusual weather pattern for Southern California - and the park closed due to that rain. I did not have to report to work that day.

Now, I have no way of knowing if these two events are linked, and I'm not going to start any conspiracy theories, but it rained in Southern California on August 16, 1977 and Elvis Presley died that same day.

My best friend Pam was a huge Elvis fan and as a way to help her mourn, I suggested we go for a rain walk. We were goofy enough as 19 year olds that a lack of umbrellas, put away until winter, was no obstacle.  We  jumped and splashed  in our day clothes through the water that pooled on the streets of our suburban neighborhood, not a care in the world, temporarily forgetting the death of an American icon. I was my 9 year old self in St. Matthews, Kentucky once again!

The rain today has not been enough to flood our neighborhood street. It's not cold enough for pot roast and mashed potatoes - the temps are quite sultry and almost tropical so I'm imagining myself in Hawaii.  But I guess there is enough foul weather that my younger son has asked for French Onion Soup for dinner. Thanks to the well stocked pantry, I have all the ingredients on hand. We may not run out into the street, delighting in the rain, but we have dinner.

Photo by  Steve Hunter, Fine Cooking Magazine


French Onion Soup

 Serves 6


    • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter
    • 6 large yellow onions (about 3-1/4 lb. total), sliced about 1/8 inch thick
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 tsp. all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup dry white wine (not oaky), such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
    • 8 cups homemade chicken or beef broth, or low-salt canned chicken broth
    • 1 sprig flat-leaf parsley, 1 sprig fresh thyme, and 1 bay leaf tied together with kitchen twine
    • 1 baguette, cut into as many 3/8-inch slices as needed to cover six soup crocks
    • 1 to 1/2 cups (about 6 oz.) grated Gruyère cheese


    1. In a large, wide soup pot (at least 4-1/2 qt.), melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and season lightly with salt and pepper. (It might seem like you have far too many onions, but they'll cook down to about one-quarter of their original volume.) Cook the onions gently, stirring frequently, until they're very soft and have begun to turn a dark straw color, 35 to 45 min.
    2. When the onions are ready, stir in the flour and cook for 3 to 4 min., stirring frequently. Pour in the wine and increase the heat to medium high, stirring and scraping to loosen any caramelized juices, until the liquid is mostly reduced, 5 to 8 min. Add the broth, toss in the tied herbs, and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for 20 to 30 min. to infuse the broth with onion flavor; the onions should be soft but not falling apart. Remove the herb bundle and taste the soup for seasoning. The soup can be made ahead to this point and then cooled and refrigerated for a few days.
    3. To serve -- Heat the oven to 350°F, put the baguette slices on a rack, and toast lightly (7 to 10 min.); set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 450°F. Bring the soup back to a simmer. Set six ovenproof soup crocks on a heavy baking sheet and ladle the soup into the crocks. Float a few toasted baguette slices on top, enough to cover the soup surface without too much overlap. Top the bread with a handful (about 1/4 cup) of the grated Gruyère. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and just browning in spots, 10 to 12 min.
    4. Melted, bubbly, just barely golden cheese is what you're after. Serve the soup right away, while the crock is hot and the cheese is still gooey.

No need to shed any tears when slicing onions. I put on my trusty pair of Onion Goggles, pull out a big bowl and produce sliced onion perfection with my OXO Handheld Mandoline, one of the many wonderful items in my Camp Blogaway swag bag. Bon Appetit!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

It's Not Complicated!

Why do people make cooking so complicated? I went into my pantry the other evening, pulled out a couple jars of imported oven roasted tomatoes and crushed tomatoes and made a sauce for the Italian sausage ravioli I had in the freezer. Maybe it’s because I know how to cook, and cook for a living, that I can make a pantry raid into a successful dinner. It should not be all that hard for the average home cook. By doing a little research into how to keep a well stocked pantry and larder, anyone can provide their family with good food prepared with quality ingredients. Food TV is an excellent place for home cooks to find inspiration, and many people would never be in the kitchen were it not for Ina, Giada  or Bobby. Though I find there are far better televised food resources such as Jacques Pepin, Lidia Bastianich, Eric Ripert
Yes, Chef Eric is easy on the eyes and
 he knows how to cook!
Photo from
and America’s Test Kitchen on PBS, if folks are shopping for and cooking with real ingredients because of “celebrity” chefs, I am happy. (Full Disclosure - I love Ina, I own all the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and use her recipes repeatedly. But don't get me started on Bobby Flay!)

What really chaps my hide are shows like “Chopped”, which is broadcast on The Food Network. I’m not a big TV viewer, but occasionally, when I need a guilty pleasure, I’ll pause on “Chopped” as I channel surf. I watch it with both hope and disdain.

I get nervous as the TV chefs scramble for real ingredients that will make the ridiculousness in that basket somewhat palatable. I root for them; in a strange way, I want them to succeed. These chefs are really going to concoct something out of  Stinky Tofu, Shad Row Sack, Marmite and Astronaut Ice Cream. Yes, those ingredients  have all been in that ridiculous basket, perhaps not at the same time, but just the same. I begin to wonder what I would do with those ingredients and then I slap myself. This is reality TV not real cooking! The chefs are so earnest in their pursuit of greatness. They look into the camera and speak of how their Marmite-Shad Roe Frittata with Astronaut Ice Cream Foam will have the judges swooning. Oops, left out the Stinky Tofu. Geoffrey will not be happy.

Chopped judge Geoffrey Zakarian.
He knows what he's doing!
Photo from The Food Network

Here’s where I move into disdain mode: You can hold your hands up to the TV and feel the warmth of these chefs’ sincerity as they speak about their love of cooking, how they learned to cook from their mother/grandmother/dying frat brother, and how the potential win of $10K will allow them to expand their 20 seat diner/help offset their high interest loan on said diner/lead to a gig on The Food Network. They then proceed to diss and degrade their fellow competitors. It gets really nasty, and we all now know that that is exactly what the producers of “reality” food TV want – blood and guts and Avocado Crème Brulee. This is my big sticking point with shows like “Chopped” – COMPETITION!

Cooking is not about competition. Cooking is about love. Cooking is about sharing one of the most fundamental elements a human can share. We cannot breathe for one another, but we can provide nourishment for one another. We celebrate and mourn with food; we charm and court with food; we impress with food and we humbly offer it when we have little else to offer. Food is love.

Cooking for friends and family is one of life’s simplest and purest pleasures. If you need some encouragement, use resources such as cookbooks, online blogs and video tutorials, and watch food TV (PBS preferred). Purchase quality ingredients from  farmers’ markets and trusted grocers. Cook those ingredients well. You have dinner. It’s not complicated.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I Dream of Italy!

I’m beginning to believe in signs. Maybe I always have. As a nine year old at the Balboa Fun Zone in Newport Beach, I squandered the last quarter my father had given me for games to have my fortune read . The gypsy fortune teller came to life as the coin clinked through the slot. She then clanked and clunked and swayed into a mechanical trance. She may have even winked at me. She raised her hand and then she jerked to a sudden stop, her face becoming as implacable as it had been before the clink of the coin.

There was a slight gasp, mine perhaps, as a card dropped magically into a small open drawer just below the frozen gypsy’s glass encased throne. It was my fortune... And it said...“You will go to the moon before you are 21 years old.” ... And I believed her! This was just 2 years shy of Neil Armstrong’s great leap for mankind in the Sea of Tranquility. How could I not believe the gypsy? Anything was possible in 1967!

I am now 55 and I have not been to the moon. But I still believe in signs, and when Italy began cropping up in almost anything I read or watched, I knew that, this time, destiny was firmly within reach. 

The first sign was an article I read in the New Yorker by Sean Wilsey, about his time as a gondolier in Venice.
Venice had never really registered on my travel radar – it seemed so old and flooded and touristy. But Wilsey’s article captivated me. Always a copious researcher, I spent nearly an hour on Google Earth, scrolling in and out of satellite images of the lagoon, the canals and the islands. I had to go there! Both my sons had visited Venice on a school trip and I could not let them one-up me. Having never been to Italy, they had one-upped me, but I think my whole summer in France as an exchange student trumps their 2 week trip to Italy, but I will not get competitive with my children!

Scrolling through recommended reads on my NOOK, I found The Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. I was captivated by the setting and it didn't take long for me to imagine myself boating along the coast of the Cinque Terre, a mysterious Hollywood star at my side. Those cliffs, the decrepit village, the fishermen so set in their ways, the lovers lost and reunited. I cried. Not only for the lovers, separated for 50 years only to be rejoined as one was dying, but for myself, because I wasn't in Italy. It was a sign...

Then a late night's Netflix surfing brought a movie that just had to be another sign: Roman Holiday, William Wyler’s love letter to Rome, starring the most perfect of star-crossed lovers, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. And I cried, all the way through, because their love was so perfect, and Eddie Albert was so goofy-ly perfect and Rome was so perfect and it was all such a sad and beautiful fairy tale. And then I cried because there was just so much Italy in my life and I was not there.

The final sign was the most powerful. I've joined an online group of food bloggers and a regular listing of new blog posts comes into my inbox daily. A link recently caught my eye and I knew it was another sign: La Tavola Marche! A farm, an inn and a cooking school in Le Marche - magic! My trip to Italy is all planned, and until it becomes a reality, I can still dream of Italy! 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Saved by Turkey Burgers!

I was in college while my brother was in high school, so I never really knew how my mother feed Dave and all his  friends when they came over. I'm sure spaghetti was involved and on more expansive whims, hamburgers or even a grilled tri-tip. 

Until fairly recently, my two sons did not have tremendously huge appetites. They are late bloomers in many respects, both still living at home while they attend the very fine local community college, so their current state of hollow legged-ness has taken me a bit by surprise. They both know how to cook eggs - poached, fried, scrambled - and fry bacon, so breakfast burritos and BLT's are staples in their repertoires. They are also avid grill masters and cook up some pretty good eats for friends on warm afternoons in our back yard. Of course, there are always a few extras that I just happen to have on hand that make eating at Chez MacKenzie all the more appealing to their friends and I'm always happy to oblige.

Yesterday afternoon, I had an excess of ground turkey for some weird reason, so I went to one of my go-to resources, Pepperplate and imported a recipe from one of my other favorite resources, Real Simple. I ran out for the ingredients I didn't have and got to work assembling the burgers.

I should have wiped off my grubby finger prints before taking this photo - sorry!

I made far more than we could eat that evening, so I pulled out my trusty FoodSaver vacuum sealer and proceeded to save a few burgers for future use.  If you don't have a FoodSaver, I recommend getting one, especially if you are an avid Costco shopper and like to have plenty of meat, poultry, sausages and the like on hand for hungry 20-somethings who like to grill on a moment's notice.

Back to the turkey burgers...Bill got the grill going and if by Pavlovian response, 3 friends joined my two sons and they were all hungry. Of course, they know there is always an excess of food at our home and they would be welcomed to help take care of that excess. Happy 20-somethings abounded and these turkey burgers flew off the platter!

Turkey Burgers with Zucchini and Carrot

Healthy and hearty, these burgers will surprise even the most turkey-adverse folks you know.
Adapted by Margie MacKenzie from Real Simple

  • Turkey Burgers

    • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds ground turkey
    • 1 medium zucchini, grated
    • 1 medium carrot, grated
    • 1 sweet onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1 cup dried bread crumbs or panko
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried pepper flakes, or more if you like heat
    • 2 large eggs
    • salt and pepper, generous amounts according to your taste
    • Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste (optional)
  • For sandwiches

    • Ciabatta loaf, cut into medium-thick slices
    • 2 to 3 Garlic cloves,
    • Olive oil
  • Prepare grill

    1. If using charcoal, the coals should be white hot for cooking. I recommend using a grill grate to cook the burgers on either gas or charcoal grills. Alternately, you may broil the burgers.
  • Burgers

    1. Place all the burger ingredients into a large bowl and combine gently but thoroughly. Pat into patties, approximately 4-7, depending on how big you make each one. Place grill grate on the grill to heat up and then place the burgers on the grate. Cook for 3-5 minutes and then turn. Cook another 5-8 minutes, until reaching an internal temperature of 160 degrees with an instant read thermometer. Remove from grill
  • Toasts

    1. Rub both sides of the sliced bread with a garlic clove and brush them with olive oil. Place the slices on the grill and toast. Keep an eye on them, do not let them burn! Remove from the grill. Alternately, the toasts may be done under the broiler, just keep a sharp eye not to let them toast too much on either side.
  • Burger Assembly

    1. Slice the grilled turkey burgers in half. Spread a light coating of mayonnaise on each toasted bread slice, add some Dijon mustard if you are so inclined . Top with a leaf of Boston lettuce and then the turkey burger and enjoy!
Be sure to vacuum sealer and then freeze any burgers you are not going to use right away.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I'm going to camp!

Camp Blogaway, that is!

I've taken the full fledged plunge into blogging and now look forward to learning all the tricks of the trade when I join legions of other food bloggers - newbies, like me, and seasoned veterans - who will mentor and motivate one another over Memorial Day weekend in the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains.

Besides honing my blogging skills, I'm hoping to ramp up my food photography as well. I loved the food styling and photography I took with Denise Vivaldo and Christina Peters in November.

My photo from Denise's class. Apple-Blue Cheese Bites
with Honey and  Walnuts. I love the drip of honey!
See it, there to the far right?

Since then, I've been attempting to improve my image making skills, with mediocre success. I've got the "beautiful food" thing down, I just haven't quite grasped the F-stop/ISO/white balance/natural light stuff. It's sort of how I feel in my new found yoga practice - I get what the pose is supposed to feel and look like, I just can't quite re-create it very gracefully. Maybe I'm being too hard on myself, in both endeavors. But I do feel better after both cooking and practicing yoga, so I must be doing something right. And no, I am not doing both at the same time, though that would be a real Zen thing to do, eh? Someday...

Denise will be at Camp Blogaway, sharing her immense knowledge of all things culinary, peppering her presentation, I'm sure, with pithy comments about the national food scene. I will relish (no pun) all that she and the other amazing presenters have to share. 

Hopefully I can kick Nutmeg's Spice of Life! up a notch or two while still retaining the "voice" I think I've developed here. It's been so gratifying for me to reflect on the cooking influences in my life - my mother, for the most part, though I would never qualify her as a cook, but she really was an influence just the same, plus she has provided a lot of comic relief in my writing. Did I mention the time she tied up a horse on our front lawn when she hosted a Kentucky Derby party? More on that another time...

Please provide me with comments. What am I doing well in this little bit of the blog-sphere? Am I boring you to death with stories about my mother and her non-cooking? Are the recipes I'm publishing working for you? I love writing and cooking and sharing both with you. Please share with me!

And since I love to share...Here's a nifty little appetizer from Athens Foods. I love using the mini phyllo cups for all sorts of finger food. 



Mediterranean Feta & Olive Cups



    • 1/3 cup red bell pepper, small diced
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped kalamata olives
    • 3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
    • Dash of salt and pepper
    • 15 Athens® Mini Phyllo Shells (1 box)


    1. In a small bowl, combine red peppers, parsley, olives and feta cheese. Drizzle with oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix lightly. Chill for 1 hour. Spoon 1 rounded teaspoon of filling into each Fillo Shell. Serve immediately.

Monday, April 15, 2013

We Love Boston!

My heart goes out to the athletes who competed today in the Boston Marathon, the people of Boston and Massachusetts and anyone who was touched by today's tragic events. Boston is one of my favorite cities. I love it's "walk-ability" and how history is within such easy reach of even the most casual visitor.

My sons and I had a brief but memorable visit to Boston in late July 2004. The Sox were playing out of town so we didn't get to see the Green Monster, but boy, were we excited when they won the World Series. My husband still wears the faded Sox cap I brought home from that trip.

Margie in the Sox cap that is now a faded relic,
 with Alec before our Duck Tour
We walked the Freedom Trail and came across some interesting non-Revolutionary War stuff:

Alec and Ian with Red Auerbach, legendary Celtics coach

And we found a place that warmed the cockles of my heart, the oldest pub in the US!

The Union Oyster House

Pizza Regina in the North EndLegal Seafoods at the Pru, the wharf and Logan  were among the best places we dined and the boys and I can still remember, nearly 10 years later how great the food was. The bar was set really high, but then, that's not hard. Boston sets a high bar for just about everything!

Boston is passionate about its cuisine, history, politics, institutes of higher learning and sports. The Boston Marathon of 2013 will be remembered, I hope, not for its tragedy but for the bravery of so many. God bless you all!

I've run the Boston Marathon 6 times before. I think the best aspects of the marathon are the beautiful changes of the scenery along the route and the warmth of the people's support. I feel happier every time I enter this marathon.