After sampling the chicken skewers with chermoula at the preview for Fresh Thymes Eatery, I was inspired to make some chermoula myself. A marinade or sauce in North African cuisine, chermoula varies greatly from recipe to recipe, but the common ingredients are generally cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic. (Although there were a lot of recipes I found online which resulted in a reddish or orangish sauce, so clearly not all use cilantro).

Christine (the Fresh Thymes chef) mentioned sumac when talking about her chermoula. So being a sumac fanatic myself, I wanted to include that in mine, despite the fact that the majority of recipes I found online were sadly sumacless. (Seems like it should be a word to me, given my love for it.) Sumac is a spice made from the dried fruit of a bush native to the Middle East, and is frequently used in Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s a gorgeous redish-maroon color, and tastes very lemony, but with a more complex flavor I can only describe as somewhat like the taste of red pepper flakes without the heat. I buy mine in a huge container that I use extremely liberally in the dressing I make for Fattoush.

Chermoula Sauce Ingredients

Chermoula Sauce Ingredients

I wanted my sauce to be lower in fat than most recipes I found online, so it turned out like more of a paste, but still tasted completely delicious. I used a recipe I found on as a starting point, and used more cilantro, less olive oil and lemon juice, and added sumac. The result was a gorgeous vibrant green, which seemed perfect for spring.

adapted from a recipe on
makes about 3/4 cup

2 cups fresh Italian (flat) parsley
2 cups fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 medium cloves garlic
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground sumac
1/2 tsp hot smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red chile flakes
1 pinch saffron*

Put all ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until a paste forms.

* Technically, you should soak the saffron for a couple of hours in warm liquid, but I just soaked it for about 10 minutes, then drained it, and added it to the processor. If you want to maximize the taste, soak it in a tsp or so of warm water well before you start on the sauce, then break up the saffron threads and add the liquid to the processor.

Chermoula Sauce

Chermoula Sauce (fine, Paste)

I made two dishes using my chermoula during the week. The first was scrambled eggs with oyster mushrooms, spinach, and chermoula, and the second was baked halibut with chermoula. The sauce (paste) worked wonderfully with both of them. Another keeper!

Scrambled Eggs with Oyster Mushrooms, Spinach and Chermoula Sauce

Scrambled Eggs with Oyster Mushrooms, Spinach and Chermoula


Chocolate Almond Biscotti

September 2, 2012

When I was younger, I didn’t really appreciate biscotti. I always thought of them as ‘the disappointing cookie’ (kind of like oatmeal raisin, when compared to chocolate chip). But then one day I decided to give them another try, and found that I actually really like them. And of course they’re perfect with coffee (one of my big passions!)

A while ago a friend of mine mentioned that she had a biscotti recipe, and told me about the double-baking process used to make them. Before that I hadn’t ever thought about how they were made, but that sounded intriguing. So I decided I needed to make some biscotti. I was having trouble deciding on what flavor to make, though. Should I do citrus? Something with nuts or dried fruit? Given that when I was ready to start, I still hadn’t made a decision, I went with the default — chocolate.

I glanced at a few recipes for a baseline, and then just started throwing stuff in. I went with some really good ground cocoa (Dagoba), almond and vanilla extract, and just a touch of espresso powder. I used a smaller amount of fat than most recipes called for, and supplemented with a bit of applesauce. As with most of my baked goods, I replaced a large amount of the sugar with erythritol to cut down on calories. The baking process wasn’t too difficult – they took a lot longer to ‘dry’ in the second baking than all the recipes I looked at, but they eventually did. And the taste? TURBO chocolatey!

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

makes about 20

1+3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c erythritol
1/4 c sugar
3 T olive oil
3 T apple sauce
5 T cocoa powder
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp espresso powder
1 egg + 2 egg whites

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil, and spray well with cooking spray.

In one bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside. In another bowl mix together the erythritol, sugar, olive oil and applesauce. Add the cocoa powder, almond extract, vanilla extract, and espresso powder. Next add the egg and egg whites. Gradually add the flour mixture (in about 3 batches), combining well.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti Dough

Chocolate Almond Biscotti Dough (really more of a dough/batter hybrid)

Divide the dough in half, rinse your hands in cold water and just shake (but not dry) them off. Form two skinny loaves between 2-3 inches wide and about 12 inches long. (The dough will spread a bit as it bakes.)

Biscotti Loaf Ready for First Bake

Biscotti Loaf Ready for First Bake (No, not very attractive at this point, but keep going – it’s worth it!)

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until it has the consistency of a loaf of bread (just a tiny bit of give when you touch the top).

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. As soon as you remove the biscotti, decrease the oven temperature to 275.

Sliced Biscotti Loaves

Sliced Biscotti Loaves

Slice each loaf diagonally with a serrated knife into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. Wipe the aluminum foil with a paper towel to get rid of excess cooking spray, then arrange the slices on the baking sheets, and bake until the biscotti are dry. (Most recipes I looked at online indicated this would take about 8-10 minutes. But it seriously took a full 30 minutes for mine to be *mostly* dry). Remove from oven, and cool on a baking rack.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Nutritional Information:
per biscotti: 73 cals, 2.7 g fat, 2 g fiber

I always look forward to trying a new flavor of Pappardelle’s Pasta. I had been eyeing the Spicy Red Hot Thai Curry Orzo for some time, but haven’t made a lot of Thai dishes in the past, so I was somewhat hesitant. I finally decided to get some though, and thought I’d do something with grilled shrimp and stir-fried vegetables to go with it. I had some bell pepper and wax beans from the Farmers’ Market, so I figured those would be perfect for a Thai dish. (Sure, Thai food uses green beans or (green) long beans, but I’ve always thought of wax beans pretty much equivalent to green beans. But they have the added bonus of keeping their color when you cook them, unlike those disappointing purple beans!)

Bell Pepper, Wax Beans and Green Onions

Bell Pepper, Wax Beans and Green Onions

One of the main features of Thai food is its wonderful balance of hot, sweet, salty, and sour tastes. I wanted to try to do something using authentic Thai flavors for the sauce, so I did a bit of internet searching, as well as paging through my newly acquired copy of Culinary Artistry to get some ideas. Culinary Artistry is a great book recommended to me by a woman at Sur la Table in Boulder. It has lists of different herbs and spice combinations, as well as different ingredients used in the cooking of various countries. It also has a lot of great information from many famous chefs. For my Thai sauce I decided on fish sauce, coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce and brown sugar.

After I mixed together everything for the sauce, it tasted pretty good, but was way too thin, so I added a bit of corn starch so it would thicken once I added it to the vegetables. I enlisted my husband to grill the shrimp, which came off the grill looking absolutely gorgeous. I was really pleased with the overall result – not only was it incredibly tasty, but it was a really beautiful dish!

Spicy Red Hot Thai Curry Orzo with Shrimp, Bell Pepper and Wax Beans
serves 2

4 oz Hot Thai Curry Orzo
10 oz shrimp (fresh or frozen)
1+1/2 bell peppers, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
5 green onions, chopped
1/2 lb wax or green beans, ends trimmed, and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tsp sesame oil, divided
6 basil leaves, chopped

2 Tbsp fish sauce
1+1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp lime juice
3 Tbsp coconut milk
4-6 tsp brown sugar (start with the lower amount, and add more if desired)
2 tsp canola oil
1+1/2 tsp cornstarch

Mix all the ingredients for the sauce (except the cornstarch) together. Taste and adjust as necessary – you might want more coconut milk, lime juice, or sugar, depending on your taste preferences. In a small bowl or mug, add a teaspoon or so of the sauce to the cornstarch, and mix well. Add a couple more teaspoons of sauce, and mix again until the cornstarch is dissolved. Now add the dissolved cornstarch to the sauce, and mix well. Set aside.

Cook orzo as per package directions. It’s okay if it’s done before everything else. Just set it aside and you can add it to everything at the end to heat it up again.

Peel Shrimp if needed. Toss in 1 tsp sesame oil. Grill on high heat (use a grill tray or basket if needed) about 2-3 minutes per side. If you’re lucky and can con someone else into doing this part, have them time it so that it will be ready about the same time as the vegetables.

Heat 1 tsp sesame oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beans and cook for two minutes. Add the pepper, and continue to cook until the beans and pepper are crisp tender (it seemed to take between 8 – 12 minutes – I got different results in my two rounds of this dish). If the beans start to brown before things are tender enough, you can turn the heat down a bit, or add a couple teaspoons of water.

Bell Pepper and Wax Beans

Bell Pepper and Wax Beans

Add the green onion and the sauce (and your pasta if it has cooled completely), turn the heat down to low, and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened.

Add the pasta to the vegetables and sauce if you haven’t done so already, and stir well. Plate (or bowl) the pasta, top with shrimp and basil.

Spicy Red Hot Thai Curry Orzo with Shrimp, Pepper and Wax Beans

Spicy Red Hot Thai Curry Orzo with Shrimp, Pepper and Wax Beans

I had been wanting to make some crackers for a while, since I haven’t done so for years and years, but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Then last week, while I was chopping fresh rosemary for a fish rub during a cooking class at the Boulder Sur la Table, the fragrant smell overtook me and I thought ‘I need to bake bread. No – crackers!’ So I went out, bought some rosemary, and set about making some.

I love to make crackers with some kind of cheese for extra flavor, so I took a look at our cheese supplies, and determined that the pecorino romano would probably go best with rosemary. I decided to use a bit of olive oil, and to use milk instead of water for a richer taste. I really wasn’t sure how much rosemary to use, since it can be somewhat overwhelming, especially in dried form, but I threw in a tablespoon of minced leaves, and it worked just fine.

This was a bit of an unusual result for my making up a recipe for baked goods. Normally I have to tweak whatever it is I’ve done several times before I’m really happy with it. But these actually turned out great the first time! I think crackers, being so simple, are pretty forgiving. All you have to do to make these is mix the ingredients together, roll the dough out and cut it into pieces, and bake it with one break in the middle to brush with oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. So simple! Which is fortunate, because they’re so delicious, they end up disappearing in just a few days. On to the next batch!

I used some gorgeous Black Lava Hawaii Kai’s Palm Island Sea Salt from the Savory Spice Shop for the top of these, but you could use any coarse salt.

A bunch of white ingredients that don't photograph well

A bunch of white ingredients that don’t photograph well

Rosemary Pecorino-Romano Crackers
makes about 25 crackers

1+1/2 cup white whole wheat flour*
1/2 oz finely grated pecorino romano (or parmesan**)
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1/3 + 1/4 cup milk
1 tsp olive oil for brushing
coarse salt for sprinkling

*I bake with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour, since it has more fiber than regular white flour. You should be able to use all white flour or a combination of white and wheat without any problems.

** Really any strong-flavored hard cheese will do. Omit the rosemary or use a different herb that goes well with whatever flavor you choose.

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients as well as 1/3 cup milk, and mix well. Add the additional 1/4 cup milk as needed, one Tbsp at a time, to form a very stiff dough (I used all 4 Tbsp).

Stiff Cracker Dough

Stiff Cracker Dough

Roll out the dough on a very floured surface (flipping the dough over a few times as you roll it, so that you can re-flour the surface as needed), to about 1/8 inch thickness (or a bit thinner if you’d like). Cut into squares 2 to 3 inches on a side. Place on two baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray.

Crackers ready for baking

Crackers ready for baking

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, then take the pans out, brush lightly with the 1 tsp of olive oil (more if you need it), and sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt. Return to the oven, and bake until crispy, about 15 more minutes (but check every 5 minutes!). Remove the crackers and cool on a rack.

Finished Crackers - YUM!

Finished Crackers – YUM!

Nutritional Information
(per cracker, 25 crackers per recipe, and made with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour): 41 cals, 1.6 g fat, 0.7 g fiber

For other great baking recipes, check out the Love to Bake Global Carnival on The Family Feed!

Why is it that stuffed (suitable vegetable here) always sounds like a great idea, but then turns out to be a huge, laborious production with merely adequate results? I can think of two reasons, now that I’ve done a couple round of ‘pretty, but not a repeat’ stuffed vegetable dishes.

First, for whatever reason, it always seems to involve about 4 pans/pots/baking sheets. For this dish I used a pot to boil the squash, a pot to simmer the rice, a sauté pan to cook the mushrooms, leeks, garlic, and peppers, and a baking sheet to bake the stuffed squash. And then I did a lot of dishes.

Ingredients for Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Ingredients for Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash

The second reason is because the vegetable receptacle often seems to be somewhat bland on its own, and since it’s serving as a shell, there’s quite a bit of it in a large continuous piece. I didn’t actually buy the pattypan squash at the farmers market with the intention of stuffing it, but when I was coming up with a menu plan, I thought that might be a good way to use them. Unfortunately, since they aren’t really huge, they didn’t hold too much rice, and they had such thick walls we found we had to add quite a bit of salt to ‘flavor them up’.

Hollowed Out Pattypan Squash

Hollowed Out Pattypan Squash

The rice component (made with ruby red Jasmine rice, mushrooms, leeks, and pepper) was pretty good though. Since I had quite a bit left over after this meal, I ended up extending the remainder later in the week with a couple of andouille chicken sausage, some more mushrooms, and some chicken stock.

So, what did I learn with this dish? If you’re going to do a complex stuffed meal, try to find a shell vegetable that’s really tasty on its own. Pattypan squash probably doesn’t quite fit that bill. And maybe it really isn’t worth all the hassle – for me at least. But I must say, it was a pretty dinner!

Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Mushroom, Leek, Pepper and Rice Stuffed Pattypan Squash (should you choose to embark upon the laborious path)
serves up to 6 (with bonus rice leftovers if you use less than 6 squash!)

up to 6 pattypan squash (or other suitable squash)
1 cup ruby red jasmine rice (or brown, white, etc)
3-4 leeks, chopped
1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms (or your choice), sliced and then cut again into 1/2 inch pieces (if necessary)
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 + 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, divided
2 tsp olive oil, divided
thyme (or your choice)

Cook the rice according to package directions, but use the chicken or vegetable stock instead of water. (Mine called for 2+1/2 cups, but adjust as necessary for whatever type you are using).

Meanwhile, boil the pattypan squash until they are tender (but not too tender), about 20 minutes. When they are done, remove and let cool a bit.

While the rice and squash are cooking, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, then cook the mushrooms until they release their juice. Keep cooking until most of the juice evaporates, then remove from the pan and set aside.

(Carefully) wipe out any mushroom detrius, then heat another 1 tsp in the sauté pan over medium heat. Add the peppers, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until they just start to get tender. Then add the leeks and garlic, and continue to cook until the leeks are tender, roughly 5-8 minutes.

About this time you’ll want to pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Turn off the heat under the vegetables if the rice isn’t done yet. Otherwise, add the rice, then add 1/4 cup of stock. Add the thyme (or other herbs) and salt to your taste, then stir well, and cook a minute or two until the stock cooks off. Turn the heat off.

Cut the top of each pattypan squash off, then using a spoon, hollow out the squash, being careful that you don’t go through the sides or bottom (although it’s not a disaster if you do). I had to empty the squash of juice a few times as I was doing this.

Once you have the squash hollowed out, fill each cavity with the rice and vegetable mixture. Place the squash on a cookie sheet covered in foil and sprayed with cooking spray. If the squash and rice/vegetables are still pretty warm,you can just put the filled squash in the oven for 5-10 minutes until everything is hot.

The remainder of the rice/vegetables will be used as a bed for the squash. If it has gotten coolish before you serve the dish, just reheat it right before you take the squash out of the oven.

Put a bit of rice on each plate, flatten it out, then put the squash on top.

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