The toast truck will serve soft-ripened goat cheese


This month’s Let’s Lunch theme is Kummerspeck, a German word that means “grief bacon,” the extra layer of fat one accrues from emotional overeating. This is a condition I’m familiar with, particularly this time of year.

If I’m completely honest, in times of deep trouble, what I often crave most is a bag of potato chips (or crisps, if you’re reading from the other side of the pond). And possibly a tub of french onion dip. Of my own.

But this wouldn’t be much of a post if I wrote, “Go to the store, grab a bag of chips, there you go.” And, yes, I could have gone to the lengths of making my own hand-cut chips (and dip from fresh herbs and homemade sour cream), but that’s pure silliness. When I’m in desperate need of comfort, the last thing I should be doing is getting anywhere near the mandoline blade or a pot of boiling oil.

So what I’ll write about here instead is toast. Because toast can be as simple or complex as you’d like. Because you can make it without risking much harm to life and limb. And because it has the essential components that make it an ideal comfort food: simplicity, speed, crunch, starch, warmth, flexibility, portability.

Toast is a palette, a platform, an edible Zelig that can take the form you need for the moment.

Toasting bread

A bit more

No matter how miserable you feel, within a span of ten minutes, you can make two slices of toast and be back on the sofa, nibbling at the crunchy corners, licking the sweet butter and jam from your fingers, and watching a favorite black-and-white movie.

Toast requires no ceremony, no special implements or equipment (though a toaster does make the process simpler), and no special skill.

You can make it fancy if you want. You can make it in the Catalan style, grilled, then rubbed with garlic and tomato, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt. Or, similarly, as the Italians do, topped with crushed tomatoes, basil, and olive oil, calling it bruschetta.

Or buy a loaf of sliced white bread on your way home from work, and eat a toasted peanut butter sandwich while you stand at the kitchen counter sorting the stack of bills and junk mail.

Or, early in the morning, spread a slice of bread with butter, sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar, put it under the broiler until it browns and turns sugary spicy, then go out onto the porch and watch the dawn rise.

You can carry single-serving packets of Nutella in your backpack on a mountain trail, then stop by a waterfall to spread the hazelnut-chocolate on packaged “toasts” while you scrutinize the map.

You can go to a June field, harvest organic strawberries, cook them down into a bubbling jam, and can them for the toast of future winters.

Or chop clementines into bits, mix with the juice of more clementines, honey, a vanilla bean and some whole cloves, and simmer it down into quick winter marmalade that will refresh a someday sultry summer day.


You can cook bacon with onions, garlic, coffee, vinegar, brown sugar and maple syrup until you can’t ignore the savory waft coming from your stove, pulse it down into a paste, and call it “bacon jam.” And if you have any left over, you can spread it on crusty bread, top it with goat-milk ricotta cheese, and broil it until it’s irresistibly crunchy and brown.

Bacon Jam

You can bake your own artisanal loaf of bread, or bring one home from the farmers’ market, or the corner store. You can churn your own butter from the creamy top of the quart you milked from your cow this morning, or you can unwrap an unsalted stick you bought at the grocery store last week.

It doesn’t matter, because all toast, in whatever guise, is your friend, a momentary refuge from everything that is difficult and complicated and prissy.

Ricotta-bacon jam bruschetta

Can I tell you one more toast thing? About my fantasy of owning a little “toast truck”? I’d drive it around town, like the ice cream truck, only I’d serve freshly toasted slices of bread I’d baked the day before, topped with jams or cheeses or spreads that I’d cooked up in the evenings.

And you’d be there on the curb in the morning with your mug of coffee, steam swirling up to your nose, and I’d hand you the slices you’d chosen, and we’d be laughing over some joke you’d made, and you’d brush the crumbs from your mouth with the back of your hand as we talked, and, right there, together we could see the whole beautiful, buttery day in front of us.

Not comforted yet? You should go see what the rest of the Let’s Lunch group craves in their moment of need…

Caramel, Chocolate and Salted Peanut Ice Cream from Lisa at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Pot Stickers from Tammi at Insatiable Munchies
Sabaw ng Monggo: Mung Bean Soup with Bacon from Betty Ann at Asian in America
Dark Chocolate Vanilla Pomegranate Parfait from Linda at Spicebox Travels
Slap Yo’ Mama Brownies from Lucy at In a Southern Kitchen
“Hug-in-a-bowl” noodles from Vivian at Vivian Pei
Evil Grief Brownies from Annabelle at Glass of Fancy
Chicken Noodle Soup from Margaret at Tea and Scones
German pancakes from Cheryl at A Tiger in the Kitchen
Beef Bourguinon with kartoffelkloesse AND maple candied bacon from Karen at GeoFooding
Cold fried chicken and potato salad from Lucy at A Cook and Her Books

Toast recipes

I know you don’t need me to tell you how to make toast, so I’ll just share a few links to toast-related recipes I like. If you have a favorite toast recipe, I’d love to know about it!

Toastable breads
Julia Child’s white toasting bread
Peter Reinhart’s Multigrain Extraordinaire
My favorite Challah

Jams, jellies and spreads
Bacon jam
Cajeta (goat-milk caramel)
Brown sugar clementine marmalade
Crabapple jelly
Chocolate hazelnut spread
Vanilla-peach jam
Freudenspeck Beef Bourguinon with Kartoffelkloesse plus maple candied bacon from Karen at GeoFooding

Cow milk ricotta
Goat milk ricotta
Cream cheese
Butter, cultured and non-cultured

Toasty recipes
Cinnamon toast with butter and honey
Catalan tomato bread

Goat cheese panna cotta with mango foam

March fog


Neither lion nor lamb.

It’s a fickle fish this year, darting in one direction, then another, to the surface, then back under the weeds.

Cold clear days, warm foggy mornings, sweet springing afternoons, hail, snow, rain, mud, ice.

One day, a week ago, we had all the windows in the house open. Today, we’re back to having both wood stoves lit.

Closed-fisted buds. They’re not risking it yet.

March and fog

It’s a little hard to be patient. Even when we know it’s coming. Even when the afternoon light gets longer by minutes every day.

But we can cheat. Let’s springify things around here a bit.

Let’s bring out those beautiful French dessert dishes, the ones with the bees.

Goat cheese panna cotta - Bee cups

Let’s pick out some ripe mangos and make a puree.

Mango puree - Mango

Let’s blend cream, goat milk, goat cheese, sugar, gelatin, and vanilla.

Goat cheese panna cotta - Poured

White as snow. But let’s teach it how to bloom like spring.

Goat cheese panna cotta

Goat cheese panna cotta


This month’s Let’s Lunch theme is Daffodils/Spring, in recognition of the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Daffodil Days, when it sells daffodils to raise funds for the Cancer Society. This theme was suggested by this month’s gracious host, Karen at Geofooding. Visit her post for more information about Daffodil Days and for links to the rest of the Let’s Lunch group’s tributes to spring.

Goat cheese panna cotta with mango foam

Yield: Six or more servings (depending on the size of ramekins/dishes you use)

Goat cheese panna cotta
(adapted from Fine Cooking)

  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (or 2 leaves of gelatin)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream (or 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup light cream)
  • 1 cup fresh goat cheese, at room temperature (I used plain chèvre)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup goat milk (or cow milk, or buttermilk)
  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over four teaspoons of water to soften the gelatin (if you’re using gelatin leaves, follow the package’s instructions to soak the leaves.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and sugar and bring to a simmer. Do not boil the mixture. When it reaches a simmer, turn off the heat.
  3. Whisk the softened goat cheese into the cream mixture, until there are no visible pieces of cheese left and the mixture is smooth.
  4. Add the vanilla and softened gelatin, whisking until the mixture is smooth. Then add the goat milk and whisk thoroughly.
  5. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large, glass measuring cup or a bowl that has a pouring spout.
  6. Pour the mixture into six large or eight (or more) smaller ramekins. (If you want to unmold the panna cottas to serve them, lightly grease the ramekins before you pour the mixture into them).
  7. Refrigerate for at least three hours, or overnight.

Mango purée and foam
If you don’t have a whipper, or prefer not to use a foam, you can use just the mango purée on its own to decorate the panna cottas. For that matter, you can skip the mango altogether and use whatever fruits or embellishments that you prefer. I chose mango because I love the flavor and because the color reminded me of spring tulips and daffodils.

  • 250 milliliters of mango purée (see instructions below)
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (or 1 leaf of gelatin)
  1. Make a mango purée by cubing two ripe mangos (you can also use two cups of frozen, cubed mango), and blending the cubed mango with 1 teaspoon of lime juice, three teaspoons of sugar, and 1/3 cup water. Strain the purée through a fine-mesh sieve. You want to make sure there are no lumps that could clog the whipper.
  2. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over three teaspoons of water to soften the gelatin (if you’re using a gelatin leaf, follow the package’s instructions to soak the leaf).
  3. In a small saucepan, gently warm the purée (do not boil!), then add the softened gelatin to the warmed purée until it is thoroughly combined.
  4. Remove the purée from the heat and strain it one more time through a fine-mesh sieve to be sure there are no lumps of gelatin.
  5. Let the purée cool completely to room temperature.
  6. When the purée is cool, put it in the whipper, screw the whipper lid on, and charge with two gas chargers. Then SHAKE the whipper vigorously for a minute or so.
  7. Refrigerate the whipper for an hour, then shake vigorously again. You can use the foam now, or can return it to the refrigerator to use later. (Shake it again before using it.)

When the panna cottas are set and you’re ready to serve them, decorate them with the foam or the purées, fruits and sauces you choose.

To serve an unmolded panna cotta, heat a pan of water, dip the bottom of the ramekin in the warm water, run a sharp knife around the edge of the ramekin, put a plate over the ramekin, and flip the ramekin and plate over at the same time to unmold the panna cotta.

Pain au levain

Pain au levain

Well, here we are, November.

You and I don’t get along so well. I resent you for stealing my summer warmth. You blithely turn the sun off at 4.15 pm. You freeze the water in the goat’s water buckets every night. You slither your brittle, windy fingers through the walls in this old house. What’s worse, you seem indifferent to my whining.

This month’s Let’s Lunch theme is gratitude. And I admit at first I found little to be grateful for. Because I’m a November grumpy pants.

But even just a few minutes of making a list of all I have to be grateful for yielded an embarrassment of riches (not to mention my embarrassment at not knowing how to spell “embarrassment”).

Health, family, shelter, power, heat, functioning limbs and brain, warm food when I need it, freedom, choice, a light I can switch on when the sun sets, seemingly limitless clean water rushing out of the faucet.

How many people on earth can claim that list? How many people, even on just the east coast of the United States are without warmth and light right now, on this bitter, November-swept day? How many people around the world live in fear, under persecution, without freedom, without adequate food, or healthcare, or clean water?

When I wrote “embarrassment”, I wasn’t joking.

So, in gratitude, I decided to make this simple, unadorned, most basic thing to share for our lunch: a sourdough loaf of bread, from my favorite pain au levain recipe, by James MacGuire.

(Note that the original recipe is a fourteen-page long, wonderful tour through the history of french sourdough breads in issue 83 of The Art of Eating. The recipe I’ve linked to here is a slightly adapted version of that recipe.)

Pain au levain - Starter measured




Flour, water, salt, wild yeast.

Hands, time, heat.

That’s all you need. Plus a little bit of patience.

You don’t even need a mixer, or a spoon.

This is a slow bread, made by mixing the dough with one hand, then “folding” the dough once an hour for four hours.

If you’re at home on a quiet weekend day, you can easily fit it into your schedule: fold for thirty seconds, go back to reading your book in front of the fire, or playing “Careers” with your kids, or raking the lawn. Visit the bread in another hour and see how it’s changed, give it another quick fold. Go back to the laundry, or making soup, or those phone calls you have to make.

You see how it goes.

Gratitude. It can be tangible. And eaten with a slice of perfectly aged goat cheese.

I only wish I could sit down at a table tonight and share it with you.

Pain au levain

Here’s a complete list of the recipes of gratitude made this month by the Let’s Lunch crew (I’ve included my own at the bottom for completeness). Check them out!

Gratitude “Plumb” Cake from Lisa at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Gratitude Fried Rice from Linda at spicebox travels
Seafood Chowder from Lucy at A Cook and Her Books
Cracked Black Pepper and Blue Cheese Crackers (gluten free) from Charissa at Zest Bakery
A Thanksgiving tablecloth tradition from Lucy at In a Southern Kitchen
Gratitude Soup from Rashda at Hot Curries and Cold Beer
Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon Sugar (gluten free) from Linda at Free Range Cookies
Pumpkin Roll with Pecans from Annabelle at a Glass of Fancy
5-Minute Wonder Soup from Eleanor at Wok Star
Green Tomato Salad from Renee at My Kitchen and I
Asian-Style Pickled Oyster Mushrooms from Joe at Joe Yonan
Pain au levain from Rebecca at GrongarBlog

Polyphemus’ Ambrosial Roasted Tomato Soup

Here's looking at you


I loved this month’s Let’s Lunch theme the instant I read it. I just knew there would be a zillion fun possibilities. Muaaah ha ha!!! Cue creepy music. This was going to be such fun!

Problem was, I couldn’t think of anything scary that I actually wanted to eat.

Ghosts made from homemade marshmallows? Nah.

Brownie-bodied spiders? Ick.

“Frog guts” made from food-colored rice krispie treats. Gag.

My mind was a blank. Nada. Zippo. Bupkis.

What did I really want in all this rain and cold and drear? (If you’re in the US Northeast, maybe you’ve noticed it’s been raining for weeks…).

What I really wanted was a warm, soothing soup. Something that held a hint of summer’s brightness and warmth. Ain’t nothing scary about that.

Then I saw this picture, and my creaky brain wheels began to slowly turn.

Tomato soup. Made from slow-roasted tomatoes and a bit of saffron, rich-tasting, but not heavy. Comforting and warm, but easy to make.

Slow-roasted tomatoes

And the eye? That definitely put the dish high on the creep factor chart.

The original picture uses what looks like a peeled hard boiled egg. It works, but…yeah, I don’t really like eggs. They scare me, but not in the Halloween spooky way.

What else?

Ah…. I remembered that really cool Molecular Gastronomy kit my sister gave me as a gift. There’s a recipe in that kit for making “yogurt ravioles” which look a whole lot like pupil-less eyes.


Oh yes. Mad scientist lab experiments! Now we’re cooking!

So, with the help of Hyla, my “cycloptic assistant”, I set to work in my kitchen lab.

H's very creepy eye

Fun with food coloring

We tried two methods: painting with gel food coloring, which gave a really bloody and oozy effect; and the more restrained olive slice pupil and saffron thread veins. Both have their merits.

Either way, the eye pops in your mouth, then oozes. Gross, right? Perfectly scary.

Hey, while you’re making roasted tomatoes for the soup, why not make a second tray so you can put some roasted tomatoes into the freezer for the winter? ‘Cause what’s scarier than a bowl of soup that stares back? A whole winter without a roasted tomato. That’s what.


Here are some other scary offerings from fellow Let’s Lunchers:

Lisa’s Pretzel fingers at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Lucy’s fabulously spooky Halloween cakes at A Cook and Her Books
Annabelle’s Halloween Spice Cookies at A Glass of Fancy
Linda’s Pumpkin Spiced Flan at Spicebox Travels
Rashda’s Spooktacular Stuffed Pumpkin at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Joe’s Sloppy Vegan Joe with Mock Meat at Joe Yonan

Polyhemus’ Ambrosial Roasted Tomato Soup

Makes about one quart of soup


For the roasted tomatoes (I use this recipe from Fine Cooking):

  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4-1/2 to 5 lb. medium-large ripe beefsteak tomatoes (about 12), stemmed but not cored
  • kosher salt
  • granulated sugar
  • scant 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

For the soup:

  • 1 medium shallot, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pinches of saffron
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • plain yogurt or sour cream
  • the end sliced off one black olive


  1. Oven roast the tomatoes using the Fine Cooking recipe or any method you prefer. This will take 3-4 hours. It’s fine to do this a day or two in advance. Let the roasted tomatoes cool, put them and any pan juices into a sealed container, and then store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make soup.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot, saute the sliced shallots with the tablespoon of olive oil over low heat. You want the shallots to get nice and soft, but not to brown or burn. This can take about ten minutes.
  3. Add the roasted tomatoes and all of the reserved juice to the pot.
  4. Add two cups of stock.
  5. Puree the stock with the tomatoes and shallots, either by using a hand blender in the pot, or batch by batch in a blender or food processor. I pureed my soup until it was smooth, but if you prefer a lumpier soup, by all means, puree as much or as little as you like.
  6. If you used a blender or food processor, return the soup to the pot.
  7. Add the remaining two cups of stock and a pinch of saffron. Stir to combine with the tomatoes, juice, and shallots, then slowly bring the mixture just to the edge of a boil.
  8. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  9. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Serve with or without optional eyeball. To add the eyeball, you can either make a “yogurt raviole” (as demonstrated in this video), or just add a generous dollop of firm sour cream or Greek yogurt. You could also use a peeled, hard-boiled egg. Finish the “eye” with a slice of black olive for a pupil and saffron threads for gross-out veins. If you’re being extra creative, you can use some red food coloring to give the eye a blood-shot hue. Yum!

Harry’s Matzo brei

Matzo brei

I keep finding this post difficult to write. I’ve gone about it ten different ways and it always comes back to this: I miss my grandfather and writing about him makes me terribly sad that he is gone.

But writing this also makes me happy, because I got to sort through pictures and memories of him. And because it’s a small but heartfelt tribute to one of the best men in my life. What better way to celebrate Father’s Day and our let’s lunch group than to take some time to remember such a man, to make the simple food he made, to eat it with family, and then share it with friends?

Matzo brei - Matzox

My grandfather, Harry, was a mild-mannered man. On the surface. In my memory, he was quiet and unremarkable, unless you took the time to get to know him and his sly sense of humor; his quick wink meant just for you, his co-conspirator; his little half-grin; his blue eyes that crinkled at the corners when he was laughing inside.

His children—my mother and her brothers—remember him somewhat differently. He was gruffer and tougher as a dad.

As a grandfather, though, he was a complete softie. The only times I ever remember him raising his voice around us was when he bellowed for my grandmother: “Marrr-THA!”

Sometimes—many times—when my sister and I would be giggling and talking late at night when we should have been sleeping, he’d stand in the dark doorway to our room and mock-threaten us with a spanking. We hushed. We knew he’d never do it (he never, ever did), but he sounded almost serious, and we couldn’t see his wink, so who knows?

Matzo brei - Crumbled matzos

According to my great-uncle (my grandmother’s youngest brother), who was sort of raised as another son in my grandparent’s family, my grandfather was always a bit of a trickster. He related this story to me recently, which so perfectly illustrates my grandfather’s sense of humor and the relationship between the three of them:

After my mother had passed away I ate several of my meals with your grandma and grandpa. Harry was a bit of a comic……..I know that is hard to believe…….My sister loved a soup she made that was a burnt flour soup. It was YUCKY but she loved it. One night having supper that was what she served. Harry sat opposite me in the kitchen and Martha, who served, sat beside Harry. Harry took his finger when Martha was not looking to his lips to tell me not to say anything. He then asked Martha to get some salt for the table and when she got up and had her back to the table he poured part of his soup into her bowl. Martha brought the salt to the table sat down and continued eating her soup. Again Harry brought his finger to his lips and again asked Martha for a glass of water. Being a loving wife, Martha again got up and Harry took my bowl of soup and poured most of it into Martha’s bowl. My sister sat down and continued eating and finally said ” I’m eating and eating and my bowl of soup never goes down”. I could not keep a straight face after that. It was really very funny……

Matzo brei - eggs

My grandfather worked all his adult working life at Plan Electric, as a project manager for huge lighting projects in Toronto. When we went into town, he’d point out buildings that his company had worked on. When I was little, I always pictured him actually screwing the light bulbs into the fixtures that sent their glow through the windows of the tall office buildings and hotels. I felt proud of him. He was lighting up the city.

Matzo brei - Beaten eggs

On his time off, when he wasn’t with his family, he loved sports. A true Canadian, he was a great hockey fan. He loved baseball, too. There was always something sports-related on the television when grandpa was home. He bowled with a league. I’ve seen photos, but I regret now that I never saw him bowl in person. After work, he often went to his local gym (to do what, in particular, I never asked). The gym was called Vic Tanny’s. Over and over again, he’d tell us when he got home that he’d been visiting girlfriend, Vickie. Then the wink. And the gentle, chin-led nod in my grandmother’s direction (she was probably in the kitchen, making dinner), then the impish grin.

Oh. How I can picture that smile. And oh how I miss him now.

Matzo brei - Mixed with egg

His real love (aside from his family), was golfing, which led to one of my sweetest childhood memories and my love of swimming. Because of the golfing, grandma and grandpa belonged to a country club, where grandpa could golf all weekend and often after work during the brief-but-intense Ontario summers. My sister and I spent most of our childhood summers with my grandparents and we spent many a lazy summer day at “the club”, swimming all morning, “signing” for a snack of french fries with vinegar at the club snack bar, picnicking on the impeccably groomed lawns, swimming all afternoon. On golfing days, we’d meet up with grandpa at the end of the day. But I never went golfing with him there, and never saw him in action. It was just the guys. No children.

Matzo brei - Fried

Grandpa was a sweetie and softie, but he was pretty traditional as the head of the household. He wasn’t much of a cook. He left all that to my grandmother, which is sort of a shame because my grandmother wasn’t the best of a cooks — see references to “burnt flour” soup above, and have I already told you the story of how she cooked spaghetti in the pressure cooker? Some evenings, he’d come home and light the bbq, pulled just to the edge of the open garage so that the smoke could escape but he could be in the shade, and he’d stand there in rolled up shirt-sleeves, cooking steaks for dinner.

But he did have one recipe that I know of. It was his special treat for the family at Passover (and sometimes, rarely, on other lazy weekend mornings): matzo brei.

Matzo brei is classic peasant food. Take the simplest, least expensive ingredients you have on hand (plain matzos, some oil, a few eggs, a dash of salt), mix, cook, serve. There’s nothing at all complicated about this dish, but, for me, it’s a little mouthful of memory.

Grandpa made this for us, maybe for the last time, when we were all down in Florida for Passover several years back. Like many of their friends, my grandparents had become “snowbirds”, escaping the snowy Toronto winters by way of a little condo near my parents’ home in Florida. Passover was always the dividing line between winter and spring, Florida and Toronto. After Passover, it was time to go home.

For some wonderful reason, M decided to watch grandpa make the matzo brei on our last morning there, and, as grandpa cooked, M jotted down the brief instructions.

Matzo brei

I was his first grandchild. Then followed my sister. Then followed eight more over the years. He was loving and playful with all of us, right down to the last two, who came very late into his life.

Grandpa and me

In many ways, he was a mystery to me. We never had long, heart-to-heart talks. I don’t know what he thought of his life, or what his hopes and dreams were. I do know that he adored his family, and loved to be surrounded by the gang on the rare occasions when we were all in town at once.

My grandmother, Martha, died, after a long illness. Barely three weeks later, my grandfather died, too, unable and unwilling to face a life without her. The last time I saw him, at the end of the shiva for my grandmother, I hugged him and told him I loved him. He told me he loved me, too. We both knew it would be the last time we’d see each other.

I give this recipe to you as a gift in grandpa’s memory. May you eat it with pleasure, and share it with love.


Here’s a roundup of the rest of the Let’s Lunch group’s Father’s Day dishes. If you’d like to join us for July (the theme is bbq/grilling), post a message on Twitter with the #letslunch hashtag, or post a comment below.

Aleana‘s Homemade Scottish Oatcakes at Eat My Blog
Charissa‘s Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks & Uncle Andy’s Chimichurri Sauce at Zest Bakery
Cheryl‘s Mee Pok Ta at A Tiger in the Kitchen
Eleanor‘s Salmon Bok Choy Soup at Wok Star
Emma‘s Ham and Rice at Dreaming of Pots & Pans
Jill‘s Root Beer-Glazed Onion Dip at Eating My Words
Grace‘s Taste of Diversity at HapaMama
Linda‘s Sesame-Ginger Chicken Wings at Spice Box Travels
Lisa‘s Hot Sugary Lip-Smacking Jam Donuts at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Patricia‘s Egg Candy at The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook
Rashda‘s Beth Howard’s Apple Pie at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Sonja‘s Spicy Smoked Paprika Lamb Shank Goulash at Foodnutzz

Harry Cohen’s Matzo Brei

Yield: Serves four to six


  • 7 unsalted matzos
  • 2 or 3 large eggs (depending on how eggy you’d like the matzo brei to be)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil


    1. Break the matzo into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl.
    2. Cover the crumbled matzo with cold water and then drain the matzo immediately. You want to get the matzo damp, but not soggy.
    3. In a small bowl, gently beat the eggs, then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to the egg (add 2 tablespoons if you are using 2 eggs; 3 if you are using 3 eggs).
    4. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil over high heat.
    5. Pour the egg mixture into the bowl of matzo and mix well (be gentle – don’t crush the matzo!).
    6. Put the matzo mixtures in the pan with hot oil, the immmediately reduce the heat to medium.
    7. Gently stir from time to time, breaking up clumps.
    8. Cook from five to seven minutes, stirring as needed to cook all the matzo pieces evenly without letting them burn. After about three or four minutes of cooking, you may need to add another “bloop” of oil.
    9. When the matzo pieces are all brown and the texture is the way you like it (I like mine crispy), remove the matzo from the heat.
    10. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

If you have any leftover matzo brei, it’ll keep well in a tightly closed container or ziplock bag in the fridge for several days. Reheat it by stir-frying it on medium-low just until it’s warm and crispy again.

Roasted asparagus and sage salad (or, Making our own spring green)

Two days ago, the temperature reached into the 60s and, though we’d been granted the easiest winter in memory, we somehow all felt that an early spring was due us.

Humans are like that.

What little snow we had from the single late-season storm a week ago was practically melted. Then it rained. Froze. Iced. Melted.

Yesterday, the sun beat down on bare fields and I searched the garden bed for signs of crocus shoots, knowing full well it’s much too early for such things in this part of New England, but with the snow gone, it was worth a try.

This morning, I opened the door to let the dog out and was greeted by an unexpected fresh six inches of powder and a brilliant, clear-blue sky.

Surprise snow

I guess we have to wait just a little bit longer for the green.

In the meantime, the Let’s Lunchers have decided to take matters into their own hands, proclaiming “green” as this month’s theme.

What could be greener than a salad of asparagus sprinkled with magic, fried sage?

Asparagus and sage

The ingredients are basic: a bunch or two of fresh asparagus, a simple lemony dressing, a handful of fried sage leaves, and shavings of your favorite hard grating cheese.

If you’re short on time, you can mix up the dressing (olive oil, zest and juice of one lemon, chopped sage leaves, salt and pepper) the day before you make the dish. And if you happen to have any leftover dressing, it’s great on other salads, or on a piece of crusty bread.

Asparagus dressing

On the day you want to eat the salad, toss the asparagus with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped sage.

Roasted Asparagus Salad - Preparing to roast

Roast it in a 450ºF oven for about 8 minutes, just until the asparagus is tender. Remove the asparagus from the oven and let the asparagus cool on the tray.
The asparagus comes out of the oven even greener than when it went in.

Roasted Asparagus Salad - Roasted

Shave a couple ounces of cheese with a vegetable peeler.

Roasted Asparagus Salad - Parmigiano-Reggiano

Next comes the magic.

Heat about a cup of vegetable oil to 330ºF, and drop the fresh sage leaves in. They’ll crackle and hiss. Remove them after just 10 seconds (before they brown) and let them drain on paper towels.

The fried leaves keep well for a few days in a sealed container, so you can make these ahead if you have the self control that I don’t possess. They are so light, crisp, and fragrant. I can eat them like sage-y potato chips.

Fried Sage Leaves

Assemble the salad by placing the cooled asparagus on a platter, drizzling the dressing over it, and then sprinkling it with the shaved cheese and fried sage leaves.

Roasted Asparagus Salad - Dressed

In the time I took to write this post, the brilliant blue sky has filled with clouds and it looks like we could be in for some more snow. Winter is still with us, as it should be, in early March. But I’ve seen signs of green, and spring can’t be far off now.

Roasted Asparagus Salad

We got this recipe from the Herbfarm Cookbook. We don’t tinker with it much aside from scaling it up or down to accommodate the number of diners. It’s perfect just as is. If you don’t own the book, you can find the recipe here.

Jewish Vegetarian Kishke

Vegetarian kishke

Kishke. There’s nothing elegant or pretty about it.

It’s a homely dish of humble origins. Strictly peasant food, made from whatever was left over to throw into a bowl (meat or vegetables or both), combine with a filler (flour, barley, bread crumbs, or matzoh meal), color with paprika, and spice mildly with salt, pepper, and maybe some garlic.

Kishke vegetables

Kishke - Chopped vegetables

As far as I remember, my family only ever served the Jewish vegetarian version (celery, carrot, onion, spices, flour, in a synthetic sausage casing). And there was no such thing as making it from scratch. Grandma bought it from the deli down the street, sliced it, and then baked it “to death” (just the way I liked it).

When I was a kid, I had no idea what kishke was made of. It was just… kishke, a delicious entity of its own. I probably would have been appalled to know it was made of celery, carrots, and onions.

Kishke - Ready to mix

Kishke - Flour version, mixed

But this is definitely a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Combine these ordinary ingredients (I bet you have most, if not all, of them in your kitchen right now), add heat, and what you get is something a little ugly and oh-so-delicious.

Close your eyes, take a bite, and isn’t it glorious? Greasy. Crunchy. Savory. The very definition of umami.

Kishke - Log formed

Kishke - Flour version, wrapped for baking

Kishke - Baked for an hour

Kishke is not to be found in our neck of the northeast woods. Not even a frozen, lesser variety.

Until now, the only way to satisfy my kishke craving was to make a pilgrimage to that deli in Toronto and smuggle a few logs across the border. Yes, we do that (we also cart back chocolate bars, halva, bagels, challah, and, oh, let’s not get into this right now…). In fact, we have one of those precious logs in our freezer, thanks to my sister’s last trip. And we’re saving it for a special meal.

Kishke - Sliced for second baking

So, it’s been on my mind for quite awhile to learn to make this dish. This month’s Let’s Lunch theme—a song- or music-inspired dish—provided the perfect excuse. The recipe I came up with, after reading every vegetarian kishke recipe I could find, is pretty good. It comes as close to the real thing as anything I’ve tasted. It won’t keep me from stopping in at the deli in Toronto for a fix, but at least it’ll keep me in kishke between trips.

And the song? Oh yes.

So what if the song was inspired by the dish and not the other way around? So what if I never even knew the song growing up? It’s still a hoot, and you can polka while the kishke bakes.

** I don’t care who the song says stole the kishke. I know the truth. After I sliced the kishke for a final bake, I left the slices unguarded on the kitchen counter while the oven heated. When I returned some minutes later, one of the slices was gone. The culprit? It was Hudson, our ever hungry, food-snatching cat.


Want to know what songs the rest of the Let’s Lunchers are singing today? Read their posts to find out (I’ll continue adding links as they becomce available, so check back here for a full list later).

Tiger Cakes ~ from Ellise at Cowgirl Chef
Honey Mac Wafers with Coconut ~ from Lisa at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Tommy’s Chili ~ from Felicia at burnt-out baker
Purple Rice Pudding ~ from at Pat at The Asian Grandmothers Cooknbook
Banana Bread ~ from Rashda at Hot Curries and Cold Beer
Chicken and Dumplings ~ from Cathy at ShowFood Chef
Quiet munchies for concert-going ~ from Patrick at Patrick G. Lee
Coconut Cake ~ from Steff at The Kitchen Trials
Cuban black beans ~ from Linda at spicebox travels
Gluten-free Thin Mints ~ from Linda at Free Range Cookies
One Meatball ~ from Karen at GeoFooding
Smoked Brown Sugar Crème Brûlée ~ from Maria at Maria’s Good Things
Put the Lime in the Coconut Macaroons ~ from Emma at Dreaming of Pots and Pans
Pear Frangipane Tart ~ from Danielle at Beyond The Plate

If you want to join us for the March challenge (theme still to be determined), just follow the #letslunch tag in Twitter.

Vegetarian Jewish Kishke

Yield: 2 8-inch kishkes


  • 2 stalks celery, washed and trimmed
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or as much as is needed to make a moldable dough that holds together)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


  1. With a rack in the center of the oven, preheat to 350°F.
  2. Very finely chop the celery, carrots, and onions (you can do this in a food processor).
  3. Combine the chopped vegetables and all other ingredients in a bowl and then stir to combine.
  4. Divide the mixture into two equal portions.
  5. Place each portion on a separate piece of aluminum foil and form a log from each portion, each approximately 8 inches long.
  6. Wrap the foil tightly around each log.
  7. Place the logs on a cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour.
  8. Remove the kishke from the foil. You can slice and serve it as is, or can refrigerate or freeze it for later on. If you’re like me, and like a drier/crunchier kishke, before serving, slice a log into 2-inch slices, put the slices on a baking sheet, and bake in 350°F until the slices are browned and crispy.
  9. You can serve the kishke unadorned, or you can top it with gravy or any sauce of your choice (tart, fruity flavors like cranberry and lingonberry go very well with it). Last night, I tried it with this balsamic-fig sauce and it was wonderful.

Martha’s Potato Kugel

Potato Kugel - Baked

It’s all about the tool: the flat, wire grater my grandmother Martha used to grate the potatoes and onions for her potato kugel.

There’s just no making it right without that tool. Sure, you can make a fine kugel with your standard potato grater, or even with a food processor. If you make it that way, you won’t be disappointed, but once you’ve had it made with the wire grater, there’s just no going back.

Unfortunately, I didn’t own the tool for a long time. Nor, in fact, the kugel recipe. The kugel was one of those things that grandma (in possession of the original grater) made. When she no longer was able, my mother or an aunt would step in. In time, the grater and the recipe fell to my generation. My sister became the keeper of both, and she’d transport them to my house for the the holidays when we wanted the kugel.

I was happy for my sister to have the grater. It made sense. She was so close to my mom. It seemed a natural path of inheritance.

Kugel tools

But I wanted to be able to make that darn kugel myself. Whenever I wanted.

I live in a lovely place, but you don’t visit this area for its shopping (unless you have a hankering to visit the King Arthur Flour store, of course). No one around here seems to know about the wire grater. But, by gum, the World Wide Web sure knows about it, and when it (finally!) dawned on me that I could order one online, I had the thing in my hand a week later. And the recipe soon after.

When the Lets’s Lunch group decided that this month’s challenge was to make a holiday side dish from our family or culture, I knew it would come down to either latkes or the potato kugel. After all, what’s a Jewish holiday without some form of potato cooked in oil? And if the recipe requires using a tool where you’re sure to shave some skin off a knuckle, all the better.

The potato kugel is very similar to potato latkes (rendered so ably by fellow Let’s Luncher Lisa, aka @MMCCchikie). Its brief ingredient list yields a rich, irresistible, and festive holiday treat.

Grated  potato mixture

The process of making the two recipes begins identically: grate the potatoes and onions, squeeze out the extra liquid, add a little flour (or matzoh meal during Passover), some salt (and pepper if you like), a couple eggs, and mix.

Kugel mixing

For latkes, you’d form patties out of the mixture and then fry them in oil until golden. For the kugel, you add the oil to an oven-proof pan, then add the mixture to the pan, and bake it until the oil is absorbed and the kugel is golden brown.

If you’re a traditionalist, serve the kugel with some apple sauce. You won’t be unhappy. For an extra treat, though, serve it the way we ate it this evening, topped with sauteed mushrooms. It’ll taste so good, you won’t even notice your scraped knuckles.


Want to find out how the rest of the Let’s Luncher are celebrating their holidays? Check out Cheryl’s post (Auntie Jane’s Potato Gratin), where she rounds up all the Let’s Lunch posts in one place. If you want to join us for the January’s challenge (still to be determined), just follow the #letslunch tag in Twitter.

Martha’s Potato Kugel


  • 10-12 large potatoes (I used yukon gold)
  • 3 medium, yellow onions
  • 1/8 cup flour (or matzoh meal during Passover)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • vegetable oil (I used safflower)


  1. With a rack in the center of the oven, preheat to 350°F.
  2. Peel the potatoes and onions, then finely grate them into a large bowl, alternating the potatoes and onions to keep the potatoes from browning.
  3. Squeeze the potato and onion mixture through cheesecloth to remove most, but not all, of the moisture. Return the mixture to the bowl.
  4. Add the flour (or matzoh meal), salt, and eggs to the mixture, then stir to thoroughly combine.
  5. Pour enough oil into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish to cover the bottom of the dish with 1/8″ of oil.
  6. Heat the pan in the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the pan from the oven and test the oil to make sure it’s hot enough by placing a small spoonful of the potato mixture in the oil. If it bubbles, it’s hot enough. If it’s not hot enough, return the pan to the oven for another five minutes, then test it again.
  8. When the oil is hot, spoon the potato mixture into the hot pan, pressing the mixture flat on top and into the sides and corners of the pan. The oil will rise up on the sides of the pan.
  9. With a spoon, collect the oil from the corners and sides, and then drizzle it across the top of the potato mixture to evenly distribute the oil.
  10. Bake until the top is golden brown and crispy. Depending on the size of your pan, the depth of the kugel, and the amount of oil you used, the kugel may be done in just an hour-and-a-half, or may take as long as three hours. Check at 1 1/2 hours to make sure it’s not browning too quickly, then continue to cook until it’s as brown as you like.

Note: You can also bake the kugel in individual ramekins or baking dishes. Follow the same instructions for preparing the potato mixture, add a bit less oil to each baking dish, and then divide the mixture evenly among the baking dishes. If you use small dishes, the baking time will be dramatically reduced. I made a half batch of the mixture and divided it among four 4″-diameter dishes. The kugel was baked perfectly in just one hour.

Rich tea in October

Millionaire's Shortbread

Your definition of “tea” largely depends on where you were raised, and perhaps how much BBC television you watched as a child.

For some, tea is a steaming mug of English Breakfast with milk and sugar sipped in a coffee house while tapping on a laptop keyboard. For others, it’s a delicate cup of matcha accompanying a platter of sushi. To some, “tea” means a decadent, mid-afternoon splurge at The Plaza, plates towering with ornate pastries, delicate cookies, and scones slathered with strawberry jam and clotted cream. And for others, it means a light early evening meal of sandwiches, cold meats, pickles, fish, and maybe a little cake.

So, when this month’s Lets’s Lunch challenge of “High Tea” was announced, my imagination ricocheted from definition to definition to definition.

Once the image of a gooey square of Millionaire’s Shortbread bounded through my brain, though, all other thoughts went out the window. Have you ever tasted this decadent wonder? A base of buttery shortbread, topped by a layer of oozy, rich caramel, covered by a final layer of chocolate? If you have, you know why I’m lamenting the fact that I made the ones pictured above some weeks ago and there are no more in the house.

If you haven’t, well, then… allow me to introduce you!

Millionaire's shortbread

I first tasted Millionaire’s Shortbread when we visited Scotland a year ago this month. On a trip full of wonderful things, Millionaire’s Shortbread was a standout. We sampled it wherever we found it, but our favorite incarnation was served here, at The Elephant House, where JK Rowling began to write a story about The Boy Who Lived.

Edinburgh - The Elephant House

I’m sure someone sells these treats in our part of the planet, but I haven’t seen them in any bakery windows near me. So I decided to learn how to make them myself. Fortunately, they are blindingly simple to make (which is a good thing considering how quickly they disappear). They are particularly easy if you have a source of ready-made caramel sauce (many grocery and specialty food shops sell dulce de leche in jars), but making your own caramel sauce isn’t hard at all (you can see an easy recipe here, among many other places).

This morning there was frost on the ground and a thin layer of ice on the water buckets in the barn. I have a fire going now, and the caramel-colored dog has rolled himself into a tight donut beside it. I have a mug of black, black tea sweetened with honey. Although I don’t have any Millionaire’s Shortbread in the larder, I’m planning on sharing tea today with my fellow Let’s Lunchers. I can’t wait to see what they bring to the table!


Won’t you take tea with us? Here’s what the rest of the Let’s Lunchers have cooked up for you:

Little Lemon Meringue Tarts ~ from Lisa at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Lemon-Lime Shortbread cookies, Apple-Cheddar Scones, and making High Tea work in real life
~ from Steff at The Kitchen Trials
Ginger Tea and Kaya Toast ~ from Linda at spicebox travels
Tea with Spiced Chickpea and Sweet Potato Tidbits ~ from Rashda at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Welsh Rarebit ~ from Patrick at Patrick G. Lee
Sweet Potato Tea Bars ~ from Cathy at Showfood Chef
Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches ~ from Charissa at Zest Bakery
Taiwanese Sandwiches ~ from Grace at HapaMama
Cheese & Onion Sarnie ~ from Cheryl at A Tiger in the Kitchen
Brown Sugar Shortbreads ~ from Emma at Dreaming of Pots and Pans
Mesquite Hemp Cocoa ~ from Linda at Free Range Cookies
Saskatoon Berry Tartlets ~ from Karen at GeoFooding
Cougar Gold and Shallot Shortbread ~ from Mai at Cooking in the Fruit Bowl

Millionaire’s Shortbread

(Adapted from Millionaire’s Shortbread at Food52)


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • t tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup cajeta, dulce-de-leche, or other caramel sauce (I use David Lebovitz’ recipe for goat-milk cajeta in his terrific ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop. If you are making your own cajeta or dulce-de-leche, make it before you make the shortbread.)
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup cream, half-and-half, or milk (I used whole goat milk)


  1. With a rack in the center of the oven, preheat to 350°F.
  2. Put the flour and salt in a bowl and blend with a whisk.
  3. Whisk in the sugar
  4. Add the butter and stir with a fork until just combined, forming a soft dough.
  5. Gently pat the dough into a 9-inch square baking pan. Don’t press hard. Small holes and gaps are fine.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes, until it is just turning slightly golden and the surface looks dry.
  7. Allow the shortbread to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
  8. If the caramel is cold, warm it gently in a double-boiler, hot-water bath, or microwave oven until it is pourable.
  9. Pour the caramel over the shortbread base, tipping the pan to spread the caramel evenly.
  10. Refrigerate the shortbread and caramel while you make the chocolate layer.
  11. In a small saucepan, bring the cream or milk to a boil.
  12. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and stir or whisk until the chocolate is smooth and shiny. This will take only a minute or so.
  13. Allow the chocolate to cool for a few minutes, remove the shortbread pan from the refrigerator, and then pour the chocolate mixture over the caramel layer, tipping the pan to spread the chocolate evenly.
  14. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, then cut and serve.