Modified Muffaletta

22 Jul


One thing I’ve learned as I cook more and more is not to be intimidated by a long list of ingredients. Now, lots of steps or long resting times are one thing…that I’m still not really into. But I’ve discovered that if a long list includes a lot of spices or staples, I usually have them (as was the case with the shrimp etouffee). If I don’t have them, or don’t like them all, improvising is a great way to go.

This muffaletta is the perfect example. The Filthy Fowl and I had plans for a dinner picnic in Riverside Park with friends, and I just didn’t know what to bring. I didn’t have a lot of time, and didn’t feel like grabbing bland sandwiches from the deli that would just end up getting soggy. Then I remembered this muffaletta. It’s delicious and just tastes better the longer it sits. I looked at the long list of ingredients and decided I could improvise. I don’t really love lots of sandwich meats, so I scaled back to two, and used two different kinds of cheeses. The olive salad, which called for many ingredients, ended up simply being mixed olives from Zabar’s olive bar.

I’m sure the original version is great. But you know what? My version took literally five minutes to prepare, and was delicious. Go figure.

Modified Muffaletta

adapted from Nola Cuisine


1 10″ round loaf of bread
1/2 lb mixed olives (include some green olives with pimentos, and kalamata)
1 tsp minced garlic (less or none if your olives have garlic)
Handful parsley
1/4 lb Genoa Salami
1/4 lb Ham
1/8 lb Sliced Mozzarella (I used fresh)
1/8 lb Provolone


To make the olive salad, combine olives, garlic and parsley in food processor (the mini is perfect for this) and blend until coarse. Or, coarsely chop.

Cut the bread in half length wise.

Layer the meat and cheese on the bread, in any order (I alternate meat and cheese). Top this with the olive salad. Put the lid on and press it down without smashing the bread. Quarter it. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.


Heavens to Mergatroid!

16 Jul

On our honeymoon in May (yes, 7 months after the wedding), the Filthy Fowl and I stashed some fruit and packaged crackers from our hotel to take on a day trip. We joked that my grandmother would be proud, because we were well-prepared with what she called “emergency rations.” My family traveled a lot with my grandparents when we were younger, and Grandma would dole out emergency rations to me, my sisters and my cousins when we got cranky.

When we returned from our honeymoon we got the sad news that we had lost Grandma. When we went home to be with my family, my mom made this pie, and I realized that besides “emergency rations,” this is the food I associate with Grandma. We all love it, and it’s even more special because the recipe came from her very good friend Florence.

Since I was little, I can remember my mom making this pie. My grandmother called it mergatroid. We weren’t really sure what to call it. Sometimes we called it mergatroid. Or mergatoid. Sometimes it was merbatroid. Or merbatoid. No one really knew, but there were no complaints. This dessert has a deliciously buttery crust, sort of custard-y filling, and sweet Italian plums (or sometimes blueberries) to top it off. Yum.

The Filthy Fowl immediately requested this recipe when we got back to New York. I asked my mom and she sent me a recipe for “merbitude.” I asked her to confirm the spelling, and she said she would ask Florence.

Florence responded that the pie is actually called Muerber Teig – not exactly what we were expecting! And I got the background straight from Florence, who says this about Muerber Teig:

The word “muerber” in German means soft, and “teig” means dough.  But it is understood to mean butter dough, and of course it can be made with margarine, but unless someone can’t eat butter for health or other reasons,  margarine would be sacriligous. It can be filled with blueberries or peaches, but the most divine muerber teigs are made with small Italian blue prunes, which are usually available in late August.

I  made the acquaintance of this pie when Ed and I were first married and he was teaching chemistry in Mohawk College in Utica. NY, which was a junior college set up for returning veterans to prepare them for a 4 year college.  Most of the instructors were young married people such as we, and we made lots of good friends several of whom remain good friends to this day.  One couple (he taught history) came from Wisconsin, and Betty had a treasure trove of recipes from her grandmother that used pounds of butter, dozens of eggs, lots of cream.   What did we know about cholesterol in those days?

I love this dessert, and I love it more knowing the story behind it. I also think it is the easiest dessert I’ve ever made. I hope you enjoy it as much as Florence, Grandma, my family, and now the Filthy Fowl!

Muerber Teig

family recipe courtesy of Florence Levy


For crust:
1 stick margarine
1 cup flour
1 tsp sugar
1 egg yolk

For filling:
Approx 1 pint blueberries (or fruit of your choice)
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. flour
Dash cinnamon
Few drops milk or cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Blend margarine, flour, sugar and egg yolk until it is the consistency of cornmeal. Pat into pie plate and layer with fruit.

Combine all filling ingredients. Pour on top of fruit.

Bake for one hour or until brown on top.


Spring Chicken Roll-Ups

1 Jul

Blog Pics 282

I used to really love Rachael Ray. I used to watch her show, think how easy and good things looked, and promptly make some pasta or order take-out. Lately, although I’m capable of making pretty much anything on 30 Minute Meals, I have a difficult time watching her show because I find her so incredibly annoying. However, I do watch occasionally, and often see some really easy and good recipes.

This is one of them. It’s incredibly easy and packs a lot of flavor. I’d tried stuffed chicken before without much luck, but pounding the chicken really thin keeps the cooking time low and potential for success high. I used thin cutlets because they were on sale, and I still had to pound them a little.

I did have a bit of trouble with the pan sauce. I’m just not good at making gravies or pan sauces…but I attempted this one and the flavor was still good.

This is definitely something I’ll make again!

Spring Chicken Roll-Ups with Lemon Dijon Pan Sauce

adapted slightly from Food Network


  • 2 (6-ounce) pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 thin slices provolone cheese
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto cotto (I used baked Virginia ham)
  • 12 thin spears asparagus, trimmed of tough stems and blanched in salted water 2 minutes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 cup chopped, flat-leaf parsley, a handful

Cook’s Note: Some markets sell “thin cut” chicken for a premium price. With a sharp knife, cutting the chicken breast yourself is easy. When chicken is on sale, stock up. Plastic storage bags can be stacked and frozen. Each portion will thaw in minutes and ready to use for dinner any night of the week. Plus, by halving and pounding out the breast meat, you’re stretching your dollar and the meat to provide twice as many portions.

Halve the chicken breasts horizontally separating each into 2 cutlets.

Place each halved cutlet in an individual freezer plastic storage bag (with slider tab). Add a tablespoon of water to each bag and pound into1/8-inch thick cutlets.

Arrange the 4 cutlets on work surface. Season cutlets with salt and pepper on the side facing up. Cover each piece of chicken with 1 slice cheese and 1 slice ham. Starting on 1 side of the breast, place a small bundle of 3 asparagus spears. Wrap and roll the chicken around the asparagus. Wash hands.

Heat about 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, a turn of the pan, in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, using tongs, add the chicken roll-ups to skillet with seam side down. Season the roll-ups with salt and pepper. Cover the pan loosely with tin foil and cook 4 to 5 minutes, turn roll-ups over and cook and other 4 to 5 minutes. Remove cooked roll ups to a serving plate. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons flour Stir in the chicken stock and Dijon mustard, scraping up any drippings from the bottom of the pan, and simmer 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the lemon zest, lemon juice and parsley and spoon over chicken.

Blog Pics 281

Soft Pretzels

23 Jun

Blog Pics 219

I love soft pretzels. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought one on the street in Manhattan, only to be disappointed by the fact that they tasted strongly of stale smoke and were anything but soft.

A few months ago, these soft pretzels were going around the food blog world like crazy.  I don’t often make those “craze” type foods – mainly because they’re usually complicated or use a level of hand-eye coordination I just don’t have. I would love to make cupcakes that look like ladybugs, or complicated cassoulets (fine, you got me, I don’t know what that is, but it sounds fancy). It’s just not going to happen.

But soft pretzels were one thing I would take a risk with. It sounded complicated, with a lot of steps. Honestly, though, these were worth it. They were really soft and flavorful, and didn’t end up being all that difficult.

Soft Pretzels

adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature


2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

1. Pour warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar into bowl and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.

2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and stir until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined. Mix until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup flour, and mix 1 minute more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour (this will depend on weather conditions); stir until combined. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about ten times, or until smooth.

3. Pour oil into a large bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

4. Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (parchment paper, ungreased, also works). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each) or 32 if making miniature pretzels, and wrap in plastic.

5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. [I find the pretzels much easier to roll on an unfloured board, oddly enough, but see what works for you.] Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; eight will fit on each sheet (you may need a third sheet if making miniatures). Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, fill large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda (and step back, it foams up quickly) and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.

7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.





Easy French Bread

2 Jun
(sorry for the bad picture!)

(sorry for the bad picture!)

When I recently made mussels for dinner, I realized we didn’t have any bread and it was too late to run out for some. Ihappened to come across a recipe for bread in under an hour. I was sold!

I didn’t have incredibly high hopes for this bread, but it was pretty good! I was a little dense, but flavorful. This is a great bread to make in a pinch, and perfect for dunking in sauces or broths.


French Bread
recipe from Firesign Farm via The Fish Wife Cooks

1 1/2 C. warm water
1 Tbs. honey
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. (one packet) active dry yeast
3-4 C. flour

In a medium bowl, combine water, honey, salt and yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes, until bubbles form.
Add flour, one cup at a time, until dough is no longer sticky. (I used 4 cups)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Shape dough into a 12″ “loaf” and place on prepared cookie sheet.
Using a razor or sharp knife, cut four 1/2 inch deep slits into dough.
Bake for 20 minutes.

Classic French Mussels

19 May


I grew up right on the beach. To my friends who grew up in a city or in the plains of the Midwest, it sounds strange that my sisters and I used to collect mussels and my mom would steam them for dinner.

When my youngest sister told me she made this recipe, I was impressed. She insisted it was easy and she was right. The end result seems very fancy and exotic, and yet it’s so easy to put together. Despite some flavors I may not have liked when I was little, it brings me back to summers on the beach.

If you’ve never cooked mussels, this is a great starter recipe and the flavors are really delicious. Serve with crusty bread for dipping!

Classic French Mussels
recipe courtesy of The Food Network (and thanks A for sharing!)


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds mussels, cleaned
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (I only used about 1/4 cup. I used fat-free half & half once and light cream once. Both worked.)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces (I omitted)
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Crusty bread, to serve


Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the mussels, wine, cream, butter, and parsley and season well with salt. Give it a good stir, cover the pot, and cook until mussels open and are cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Divide the mussels and the juices between 2 bowls and serve with the crusty bread.

Chocolate Valentino

18 May

Blog Pics 292

I have so many things to blog that I don’t even know where to begin. The extent of the backup is made clear by the fact that this is a cake I made for Passover. Yes, early April. Whoops.

Passover desserts, at least in my family, have never really amounted to much. It made for some sad birthdays when I was younger and couldn’t have a decent cake. This year, I made several attempts at finding a stellar Passover dessert, and this was the clear winner. This cake is incredibly rich – a smaller sliver is enough for even the most die-hard chocolate fan. I had it with a little Cool Whip, which was delicious.

This is not technically a Passover cake, so feel free to whip one up whenever you’re in the mood for something super chocolatey! I was actually pretty proud of myself because this is a bit more sophisticated (and slightly more challenging) than my normal cooking or baking adventures!

Chocolate Valentino

recipe from Dinner & Dessert (but this was a recipe from the group Daring Bakers, so it can be found on a lot of blogs in February!)

16 ounces (1 pound) semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons  unsalted butter
5 large eggs, separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling, butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment. (I used a springform pan)

3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.

4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.

8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375

9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140. If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.