Garlicky Soy Honey Green Beans

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One of the most popular requests I receive is for inspired side vegetable dishes.  Something easy, something delicious, something that (hopefully) everyone at the dinner table will eat.

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Green beans are one of those vegetables that pretty much everyone likes.  You hear complaints about broccoli or eggplant or spinach, but green beans are quite well-loved, or at least pretty inoffensive.

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This recipe takes this ho-hum vegetable and with a new preparation technique and just a handful of ingredients, transforms it into something altogether different than what you’ve likely encountered before.  It’s inspired by green beans I’ve eaten at Chinese restaurants.

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Plus it doesn’t involve the oven or even steaming (a bonus for these summer months).  Sauté the green beans until they’ve blacked a bit, then add soy, honey and garlic and you’ve got yourself some mean beans.

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And with this post, I’m going to say so long for a few months.  As I type, our London house is being packed up and on July 4th we fly back to the States (oh, the irony!).  We’ll be vagabonds for the summer traveling through California and the midwest, until we settle in Boston at the end of August, hopefully timing our arrival with that of our household goods from London.  I’ll be back with more recipes probably in September, once my Boston kitchen is up and running.  Enjoy the summer and happy cooking (and eating).  xo

1 year ago:  Salmon Salad with Dill and Capers

Garlicky Soy Honey Green Beans (serves 4 as a side dish)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

12 ounces (340 grams) green beans, trimmed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon honey


In a medium sauté pan heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat.  When the butter is melted, add the green beans and salt.  Cook, stirring the beans occasionally, until most are well-browned, shrunken and tender, 8-10 minutes.  (The butter in the pan will have turned dark brown.  If beans aren’t browned at 8 minutes, turn up heat a bit.)  While the beans are cooking combine the soy sauce and water in a small bowl.

Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until the garlic is softened and fragrant, about 15 seconds.  Carefully add the soy and water mixture then the honey.  Cook, stirring, until the liquid reduces to a glaze that coats the beans, about 1 minute.

Transfer the beans to a serving dish, scraping the pan with the spatula to get all of the garlicky sauce, and serve.

Adapted from finecooking.com

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Lemon Polenta Cake (gluten-free)

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This lovely cake represents my first successful foray into gluten-free baking.  My daughter and I attempted a birthday cake for a friend earlier this year which yielded dubious results.  Now I realize the error, and on the opposite side of the coin, what it takes for successful gluten-free baking (and this theory also applies to successful vegetarian and vegan cooking):  don’t strive for an exact replica of your favorite food containing gluten, meat or dairy.  Rather embrace recipes and foods that are naturally gluten-free or meat/dairy-free.

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This Lemon Polenta Cake doesn’t attempt to be a light, fluffy chiffon layer cake.  It is a dense, earthy cake with the slightly gritty polenta and the nuttiness of the almond meal.  These two ingredients are showcased – the recipe in no way attempts to transform them into something which they are not.

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And that’s a typical mistake I see with vegetarian and vegan dishes.  Can’t have pork bacon?  Then eat some weird “fake-on” (FYI – that’s my word for fake bacon).  Can’t have cheese?  Have a lab-cultured cheese-like creation.  There is a bounty of delicious and amazing vegetarian and vegan foods already existing in nature – fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, herbs, spices, pulses.  Feast on those rather than on some not nearly as satisfying imitation product.

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Give this delicious Lemon Polenta Cake a try.  Not because it’s gluten-free, but because it is an amazingly delicious cake!

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1 year ago:  Shakshuka (eggs in spicy tomato sauce)

Lemon Polenta Cake

Note:  If you don’t have or can’t find almond meal/flour, grind whole almonds or almond pieces in a food processor or Nutribullet until they make a fine powder (don’t overmix or can turn into almond butter).  This cake lasts longer than most cakes:  keeps for up to 6 days.

For the cake:

1 3/4 stick (200 grams) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar

2 cups (200 grams) almond meal/flour

3/4 cup (100 grams) fine polenta/cornmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3 eggs

Zest of 2 lemons (save juice for syrup)

For the syrup:

Juice of 2 lemons

1 heaping cup (125 grams) powdered/icing sugar

Plain yogurt or créme fraîche

Fresh or frozen raspberries


Line the base of a 9″/23cm springform cake pan with parchment paper and grease its sides lightly with butter. Preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C).

For the cake, beat the butter and sugar until pale and whipped, either by hand in a bowl with a wooden spoon, or using a freestanding mixer.  Mix together the almond meal, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.

Finally, beat in the lemon zest and pour the mixture into your prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. It may seem wibbly but, if the cake is cooked, a cake tester should come out cleanish and, most significantly, the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its pan.

For the syrup, boil together the lemon juice and powdered/icing sugar in a smallish saucepan. Once the sugar has dissolved into the juice, you’re done. Prick the top of the cake all over with a toothpick, pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its pan.

Cut cake into slices and serve with a dollop of yogurt and a few raspberries.  (The cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead and stored in airtight container in a cool place. Will keep for total of 5 to 6 days.  It can also be frozen on its lining paper as soon as cooled, wrapped in double layer of plastic wrap and a layer of foil, for up to 1 month. Thaw for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature.)

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

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Strawberries in Lemon Syrup with Fresh Mint

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Desserts….oh, how I love them!  Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, layer cakes with buttercream frosting, chocolate walnut brownies – I could go on.

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But I also love very simple, no-bake desserts, especially as summer comes around.

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These strawberries fit that bill.  It is likely the simplest dessert you’ll ever make.  It’s not so much a recipe, as a simple preparation of a few good, fresh ingredients.

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Use the freshest, ripest strawberries you can find and toss with fresh lemon juice and sugar.  As it sits, the strawberry juices release to form a syrup along with the lemon and sugar.

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To serve, top with créme fraîche, the tang of which pairs nicely with the sweet syrup, then sprinkle with fresh herbs like mint and/or basil.

It is the perfect end to a summer barbecue, when everyone is quite full, but that sweet tooth is saying “feed me”.  And it honestly could not be any easier!

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1 year ago:  Avgolemono Soup

Strawberries in Lemon Syrup with Fresh Mint (serves 4)

Note:  Fresh basil is also nice with this dish; or do a mixture of mint and basil.

14 ounces (400 grams or about 3 cups) strawberries

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

4 tablespoons créme fraîche or sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint


Using a small paring knife, hull the strawberries.  That is, remove the stem and hard white core.  Quarter the strawberries or if they are small, just cut in half.

Place in a medium bowl and gently stir with the sugar and lemon juice.  Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Spoon strawberries and syrup in four small bowls.  Top each with a dollop of creme fraiche (about 1 tablespoon per bowl) and sprinkle with fresh mint (about 1/2 tablespoon per bowl).

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The Only Marinade You’ll Ever Need

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The official start of summer in the US – Memorial Day – is upon us this weekend.  In the UK it’s a holiday weekend as well, though it’s a generic “bank” holiday…don’t exactly know the significance, but I’ll take the holiday nonetheless.  Plus kids are off school next week for half-term break.  Yeah!!!!

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To kick-off the summer, I’m sharing with you my absolute favorite marinade.  It’s comprised of super fresh, Mediterranean flavors: lemon, olive oil and fresh herbs.  You can use it on chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, fish or veggies – pretty much anything.

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I use about half of it to marinade and then use the other half as a sauce.  You can marinade for as little as an hour, or if you want more flavor (and have superior planning skills to me) then marinade in the refrigerator overnight.

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Incorporate whatever fresh herbs might be growing like gangbusters in your garden this summer, or what looks particularly nice at the farmer’s market….or whatever bits and bobs you have in your refrigerator.

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1 year ago:  Mini Roast Beef Sandwiches with Horseradish Mayo

The Only Marinade You’ll Ever Need (makes 1 cup)

Note:  You can use this marinade on chicken, pork, steaks, chops, prawns/shrimp, salmon, vegetables – pretty much anything.  I like to use half of it to marinade the aforementioned items and save the other half to serve alongside as a sauce.

1/4 cup (60 ml) lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 strips lemon zest

3 garlic cloves, minced then crushed with the side of a large knife (see picture above)

1/4 cup chopped parsley (about a handful)

1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs (about a handful – dill, basil, cilantro/coriander, tarragon, oregano…use whatever combo you like)

1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil


In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, red pepper flakes, pepper and salt.  Stir until salt has dissolved.  Add the lemon zest, garlic, parsley and herbs and stir.  Slowly add the olive oil in a stream, stirring continuously with a fork or whisk.  Pour over your poultry, meat, fish, seafood or vegetable of choice.  Let sit for at least an hour or overnight.  Grill to desired doneness (or if not grilling, can cook on the stovetop or in the oven).

Adapted from Epicurious

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Fast Vietnamese Caramelized Trout

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I’m always leery to use terms like “fast” or “30-minute” or “easy” or “best ever”.  Oftentimes they’re tagged onto recipes which don’t live up to the hype and you’re left disappointed.  I’d rather just be told the truth.  Not every recipe has to be fast, but if one is sold to me as fast, I’ll usually make it when I’m in a hurry and then when it takes too long and I’m stressing out to get dinner on the table before having to run off to something else….argh!!  Don’t like that.

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At my Asian cooking class a few months back we discussed favorite Asian dishes that we make at home.  My lovely friend Stacy was kind enough to email links to a bunch of delicious-sounding family-friendly, quick Asian meals. This Vietnamese Caramelized Trout not only appeared to be quick but the ingredient list had me hooked.

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The original New York Times recipe calls for bluefish, but as that isn’t available in the UK (at least not at my local fish market), I found some delicious whole trout that the fishmonger filleted for me.  Since the trout is relatively thin, it cooks quickly, and indeed makes this a quick 30-minute meal.  The lemongrass, soy, brown sugar, ginger and fish sauce make a sweet, flavorful pan sauce.  The green onions added at the end lend color and a bit of oniony bite.

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If you’re looking for a true 30-minute meal, give this one a go!

1 year ago:  Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting, Chimichurri with Steak

Vietnamese Caramelized Trout (serves 4)

Note: Lemongrass is found in many supermarkets, but if you don’t find it in your local store try an Asian food market.  Or substitute lemongrass with some strips of lime zest (use a vegetable peeler).  You don’t need to bruise the peel (as you have to bruise the lemongrass).

4 (6-ounce) skin-on trout filets (or substitute bluefish, mackerel or salmon) – thinner filets are best

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 stalk lemongrass (or use lime zest, see Note above)

1/3 cup (70 grams) brown sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 spring onions/scallions, sliced

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro/coriander

Cooked rice, for serving


Brush fish all over with oil. Remove outer layer of lemongrass stalk and cut stalk into 2-inch lengths.  Using the butt of a kitchen knife, pound and bruise stalks all over.

Place lemongrass pieces, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger and black pepper in a large skillet.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and reduce sauce for 1 to 2 minutes, until syrupy.

Place fish, skin side-down, in pan. Simmer, basting fish frequently with pan sauce, for 2 minutes; carefully turn fish and continue cooking until fish is just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes longer.

Transfer fish to a serving plate and garnish with scallion, jalapeño and cilantro. Drizzle with additional sauce.  Serve over rice, if desired.

Adapted from The New York Times

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Whole Artichokes with Melted Butter

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Artichokes have always been to me, a beacon of spring.  In the US, though available year-round on the west coast, most of the country starts seeing them in March; in the UK they typically debut in May.  So living in the UK – for less than two more months :(( – I’m just now glimpsing the first artichokes of the season.

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Most people eat the hearts which are sold marinated in jars and often feature in salads, on pizzas and with antipasti platters.  My local grocery store just started selling a grilled, olive-oil marinated artichoke heart in their prepared section which has become my new favorite picnic staple.  (Yes, now that it’s finally sunny and warm here, I’m using any excuse to pack a blanket and head off to Richmond Green!).  I do love my artichokes.

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But when I’m fixing artichokes at home, boiling them with a bit of lemon and salt is the way I roll.

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Everyone gets their own whole artichoke and dish of melted butter.  These are too good to share.  The artichokes are eaten in two steps:  (1) leaves and then (2) heart.

Step #1 – leaves:  Pull off outer leaves one at a time.  Dip the base of the leaf into the melted butter then pull through your teeth to remove the soft, pulpy portion of the leaf.  Discard remaining leaf.  Continue peeling off leaves until you get to the small, soft leaves in the center which don’t have much pulp on them.  Discard these inedible leaves and then you’re left with one of the best parts of the artichoke, the fuzzy heart.  Which brings us to…..

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Step #2 – the heart.  Using a sharp knife, remove the fuzz covering the top of the heart.  Cut the heart into a smaller pieces, dip them into the melted butter and eat.  Now repeat this entire process as often as you can, until artichoke season has ended.

1 year ago:  Tuna, White Bean and Fresh Herb Salad; Shaved Asparagus and Mint Salad

Whole Roasted Artichokes with Melted Butter (generously serves 4 as a side dish)

Note:  Recipes don’t get much easier than this.  My only advise is this: although the artichokes take only about 20 minutes to cook at a simmer, it can take at least 20 minutes to get the water boiling, so plan on starting the artichokes about an hour before you intend to eat.

4 whole artichokes

2 slices lemon

1 tablespoon salt

Melted butter (salted), for dipping


Cut off the artichoke stems as close to the base as possible.  Discard the stems.  Place artichokes in a pot with a lid and fill the pot with water so that artichokes are completely covered by at least an inch of water (water will evaporate as artichokes cook and you want them to be completely underwater the entire cooking time).  Add the lemon slices and salt.  It’s best if artichokes fit snuggly, as this prevents them from bobbing up to the top. However if artichokes are bobbing (as mine did) place a heavy lid or plate above the artichokes to submerge them.  Place the lid snuggly on the pot and heat on high until boiling.  Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted into the base meets no resistance and the leaves pull off easily.

Serve with melted butter for dipping.  Salted butter is best, but if you only have unsalted, add a pinch of salt to the melted butter and/or a onto the cooked artichokes.  And if you’ve never eaten a whole artichoke before, here’s how:  Pull off outer leaves one at a time.  Dip the base of the leaf into the melted butter then pull through teeth to remove the soft, pulpy portion of the leaf.  Discard remaining leaf.  Continue peeling off leaves until you get to the small, soft leaves in the center which don’t have much pulp on them.  Discard these inedible leaves and then you’re left with one of the best parts of the artichoke, the fuzzy heart.  Using a sharp knife, remove the fuzz.  Cut the heart into a smaller pieces, dip them into the melted butter and eat.

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Turkey and White Bean Chili

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The timing of this chili post, when the weather is just beginning to warm up in London and most of the States, may seem a bit odd.  However, let me explain.

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I’ve been wanting to post my favorite chili recipe for this entire winter.  Originally I’d thought to tie it in with the Superbowl.  Football and chili, a classic combination.

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But Sticky Glazed Chicken Wings won out.  Fast forward a few months and May is upon us and I’m sorting out what to make for our Cinco de Mayo celebration.  And it hits me…. chili would be perfect.

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This Turkey and White Bean Chili has a secret ingredient that gives it some Mexican cred…..cocoa powder.  It’s a bit like a molé sauce.  It’s best topped with sour cream, cilantro/coriander, avocado, cheese and a squeeze of lime.  All favorite ingredients in Mexican cooking.

Make a batch, or a double-batch, keep it warmed on the stove, and let guests ladle up their own bowls.  Set out all the toppings and you’ve got yourself a Cinco de Mayo chili bar.  Olé!

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1 year ago:  Cilantro Lime Tequila Spritzer with Jalapeño

Turkey and White Bean Chili (serves 4)

Note:  This recipe makes 5 cups (1.25 liters).  If you like more beans in your chili, add another can.  You can also substitute dried beans for the canned beans.  Place ½ cup dried cannellini beans in a medium saucepan, cover with 2” / 5cm cold water and add a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer until the beans are fully cooked, about 3 hours.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 lb (500 grams) ground turkey/turkey mince

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 bay leaf

½ tablespoon cocoa powder

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

14 ounces (400 grams) canned/tinned whole peeled tomatoes

2 cups (475 ml) water

3 tablespoons tomato paste/puree

15 ounces (400 grams) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Toppings:  Fresh cilantro/coriander leaves, chopped onion, sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, avocado slices, lime wedges


Heat oil in a medium or large pot over medium-low heat.  Add onions and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, stirring often, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.  Add oregano and cumin and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.

Add turkey, increase heat to medium-high and cook until no longer pink, breaking up with a spoon, about 8 minutes.  Stir in the chili powder, bay leaf, cocoa, salt and cinnamon.  Add tomatoes with their juices and break up with a spoon.  Add water and tomato paste, stir well, and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes.

Add beans to chili and simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes.  Serve chili with desired toppings; add a bit of water if too dry, especially when reheating.

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