Upside Down Baking: Raspberry, Fig and Almond Cake

Fig Raspberry Cake TasteFood

Upside-down baking is  irresistable to me, whether it’s in the form of a tarte tatin or a cake. The common denominator is a gorgeous, gooey caramelized bottom, which, once inverted, becomes the top. Nestled in the sticky caramelized goodness are hunks of seasonal fruit, which release their juice and perfume the pastry, while studding the topping like jewels in a crown.

The other winning quality of upside-down desserts is that they are generously flexible with the seasons. In the fall, pears and apples are the fruit of choice. In the summer, stone fruit, figs and berries display their wonders. Mix and match to your taste. It’s impossible to go wrong.

Rasberry, Fig, and Almond Upside-Down Cake
Serves 10 to 12

1/2 cup plus 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
8 large figs, halved lengthwise
3 ounces raspberries
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter the parchment. Tightly wrap the bottom of the pan with foil.
2. Melt the 1/2 cup butter and the light brown sugar together in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, whisking to combine. Pour into the springform pan. Arrange the figs, cut side down in a circular pattern in the sugar. Fill in the gaps with the raspberries.
2. Beat the 1 cup butter and the granulated sugar in a mixer with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the buttermilk, lemon zest, vanilla, and almond extract. Whisk the flours, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the batter, mixing just to combine. Pour the batter over the fruit and smooth with a spatula. Bake in the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes then invert onto a plate. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Pomegranate Chicken Skewers with Yogurt, Pistachios, and Mint

pomegranate chicken skewer tastefood
The secret ingredient in this recipe is pomegranate molasses, a viscous syrup made from the juice of pomegranates. Sweet, tart and sticky, it adds a unique flavor to marinades and sauces. I like to use it with chicken breast meat, because it gives a welcome flavor boost to the mild white meat, and the sugars help to caramelize the chicken while grilling. Pomegranate molasses is a popular Middle Eastern condiment, and can be purchased in the international section of your supermarket or at specialty stores.

I made these skewers for a cocktail party I catered a few weeks ago and posted a photo without a recipe on Facebook and Instagram. They were a huge hit with the guests – and my followers – and a number of you asked for the recipe. At last here it is.

Pomegranate Chicken Skewers with Pistachios and Mint
Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
Bamboo skewers, pre-soaked for 30 minutes
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon chopped mint

1 cup whole milk Greek style yogurt
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside about 1/4 cup for basting. Place the chicken in a large bowl, pour the marinade over, and stir to thoroughly coat. Cover and refrigerate the chicken for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.
2. Whisk the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until use.
3. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Thread the chicken on the skewers. Grill the skewers over direct heat, basting once, then turn and continue to cook until the chicken is lightly charred and thoroughly cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, turning again as needed.
4. Arrange the skewers on a serving platter. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle the 1/4 cup pistachios and 1/4 cup mint over the skewers. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon pistachios and 1 teaspoon mint over the dipping sauce. Serve with the chicken.

Hot and Sweet Pepper Crostini

crostini peppers

Late summer reaps brimming bushels of peppers in a kaleidoscope of color and shapes. I shop with my eyes, because the first thing I do when I get home is pile my peppers into a bowl where they do double-duty as a decorative centerpiece. Gnarly basques, pristine cherries, sturdy pimentos, and pert jalapeños vie for my attention, and I slowly pick away at my psychedelic pile of peppers as I cook throughout the week, adding them to salads, stews, pasta, and pizzas.

This simple recipe showcases a colorful assortment peppers on crostini and makes a great starter to a meal. I like to use a mix of sweet and hot for more complex flavor. When using hot peppers, such as poblanos, serranos, and jalapeños, remember that they can vary in heat, so take a small bite to test their strength. The heat is concentrated in the ribs and seeds of the pepper, so remove as much as desired with kitchen gloves or the tip of a paring knife to protect your fingers from the oils.

Hot and Sweet Pepper Crostini with Mozzarella

Choose a variety of peppers to your taste – for this recipe I used poblanos, hungarian pimentos, and gypsy peppers. Makes 12 large crostini.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt
12 slices baguette, cut on the diagonal, ½-inch thick

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound sweet summer peppers, stemmed and seeded, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish

8 ounces buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced
¼ cup basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Make the crostini:
Heat the oven to 375°F. Whisk the oil, garlic, and salt in a small bowl. Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and lightly brush with the oil. Transfer to the oven and bake until the bread is lightly toasted, 12 to 15 minutes.

Saute the peppers:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and saute until crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and black pepper and saute 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Arrange a slice of mozzarella over each crostini. Top with some of the peppers. Broil in the oven until the cheese begins to melt, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and  garnish with fresh basil.  Serve immediately.

Squash Blossom Pizza with Sweet Peppers, Onion, and Pecorino

squash blossom pizza

The title of this recipe might make this pizza sound pretty fancy, but it really isn’t. Squash blossoms are everywhere at the farmers market at this time of year. I’ve been eyeing them, contemplating ways to incorporate the floppy, sunny flowers into a meal. I’ve had blossoms fried and stuffed, but to be honest, I find them oily and heavy (at least the ones I’ve tried).  So I decided to layer them into a “white” pizza (with no red sauce) and see what happened. The results were resoundingly good and a unanimous hit at the dinner table. The flowers added a subtle, nutty flavor to the crisp and cheesy pizza, rounded out by the sweet Italian peppers, onions, and a kick of heat from crushed red chili flakes. It’s very clear the squash blossoms may be delicate, but they are no shrinking wall flower.

Squash Blossom Pizza with Sweet Peppers, Onions and Pecorino

Make your own dough (recipe here), or purchase prepared dough. For quick dinners I often purchase good quality dough ready to form from my supermarket. For family meals I stretch one package into a large rectangle, but feel free to shape it into 2 smaller pizzas. Makes one (10 x 15-inch) pizza.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 prepared pizza dough, about 1 pound
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced, about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet peppers (I used 2 “Jimmy Nardello” peppers)
8 squash blossoms, quartered lengthwise
1 (8 ounce) fresh mozzarella ball, patted dry and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the grill for indirect cooking over high heat (about 500°F for a gas grill) and preheat a pizza stone for at least 15 minutes. (Or preheat the oven to 500°F. Place a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack and preheat for at least 15 minutes).
2. Whisk the oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.
3. Stretch the dough out as thinly as possible and lay on pizza peel (or rimless baking sheet lined with parchment). Lightly brush with the oil. Sprinkle half of the Pecorino over the pizza. Top with the onions and peppers. Arrange the squash blossoms over the vegetables, then place the mozzarella around the squash. Sprinkle the oregano, chili flakes and pepper over the pizza and lightly season with salt. Top with the remaining Pecorino.
4. Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone. Close the grill lid and grill until the pizza is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove and brush the crust with some of the oil. Drizzle any remaining oil over the pizza. Cut into serving pieces and serve immediately.

BLT Salad with Avocado and Grilled Croutons

BLT salad view

Bacon-ends: contemplate that. I spied a bag of bacon ends at the farmers market and had to examine. The bag was hefty, lumpy, and thick with triangular hunks of bacon mounded in vacuum packed togetherness. Bacon indeed, but not the typical neatly fanned skinny slices. You see, when those tidy OCD sliced packages are created, all irregular knobs and ends are discarded in order to produce supermarket packaged perfection. I am here to tell you that you want those ends. They are veritable chunks of heaven for bacon lovers, evoking food craving delirium. Of course I bought them.

BLT saladBLT Salad with Bacon Ends, Avocado and Croutons
Serves 4 as a main course salad

1 1/2 to 2 pounds bacon ends, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups coarsely torn bite-size pieces of levain or ciabbata bread

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large head red leaf lettuce, leaves washed and torn into bite-size pieces
4 small vine ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
Corn kernels cut from one ear of corn
1 large hass avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1. Prepare the grill for indirect medium heat (about 400°F for a gas grill). Trim any excess fat from the bacon ends. Cut the ends into 1-inch chunks and arrange  on a grill rack (or grate) set over a grill pan to capture the rendered fat. Grill until the fat is rendered and the ends are crispy golden, about 25 minutes. (You can do this in the oven with a broiler pan, if you like.) Transfer the ends to a plate.
2. Toss the bread in the rendered fat and lightly season with salt. Spread the bread on a grill pan or the grates and grill until golden and crisp, turning as needed. Set aside.
3. Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.
4. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add half of the dressing and toss to coat. Scatter the bacon and croutons over the salad and drizzle with additional dressing to taste. Serve immediately.

30 minute Dinners: Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil

broccoli shrimp tastefood

This light and lovely dish is healthy, low maintenance, and delicious. A series of quick cooking steps ensures that each component is perfectly cooked before tossing together to serve. Tender broccolini spears and sweet shrimp are independently sautéed with chili flakes and olive oil just long enough to brighten in color and coax out their natural flavors without overcooking. A simple tomato sauce consisting of plum tomatoes and garlic has a short simmer just long enough to blend while still tasting fresh. Then all of the elements come together in a big serving bowl with a shower of fresh basil leaves which release their aroma in the warmth of the dish. This recipe is a keeper and can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. It’s perfect for easy family dinners and simple cooking on a warm summer day.

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil
Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti or linguine
Extra-vrigin olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 pound broccolini, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails intact
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup whole basil leaves, torn if large
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain  and transfer to a large serving bowl.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the broccolini and sauté until bright in color and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the broccolini to a plate and lightly season with salt.
3. Add 1 tablespoon oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes to the same skillet.
Add the shrimp and cook over medium-high heat until pink on both sides and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to another plate and lightly season with salt.
4. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the sugar. Simmer over medium-low heat until slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes, breaking the tomatoes apart with a spoon.
5. Add the tomato sauce, shrimp, broccolini, and basil to the spaghetti and gently stir to thoroughly combine. Garnish with a generous grind of black pepper and serve immediately.


Duck Crostini with Radicchio Slaw and Roasted Apricots

Duck Crostini TasteFood
Messy is ok sometimes – especially when you are heaping lots of delectables onto crisp crostini. In such the case it’s inevitable that some of the ingredients will tumble onto the plate, creating random ‘garnishes’. This is when the term rustic comes in handy. Rustic implies comfort and nothing too fancy, with an emphasis on adjectives such as finger-licking and delicious. Or at least that’s how it works here.

Crostini are a fun way to present a light and casual meal. They are also a great way to showcase simple fresh ingredients and use up interesting leftovers. For this recipe I used duck meat that was leftover from my current cookbook project. I shredded the leg meat and quickly caramelized it in the oven, then mounded it over the toasts. While chances are you may not have leftover duck loitering in the back of your fridge, duck legs can usually be found at your local market or butcher. Otherwise, shredded pork is a great substitute. The point is to have a little fun building your crostini, and try to be creative with what you’ve got. And it’s ok if they are messy – just call them rustic.

Duck Crostini with Radicchio and Apricots
Makes  12

Radicchio slaw:
1 small head radicchio, shredded
1  1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1  1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of black pepper

2 apricots, halved and pitted
Vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 (1/2-inch thick) ciabatta or sourdough bread slices, cut in half
Extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces cooked and shredded duck leg meat with skin
1 tablespoon rendered duck fat (or vegetable oil)
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Coarsely chopped Italian parsley leaves for garnish

1. Combine the radicchio slaw ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
2. Heat the oven to 375°F. Brush the apricots with oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish and bake, skin-side down, until the flesh is soft, about 10 minutes. Remove and cool; do not turn off the oven.
3. Arrange the bread slices in one layer on a baking tray. Brush the bread  with the olive oil and lightly season with salt. Bake in the oven until golden and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and cool.
4. Turn on the oven broiler. Combine the duck ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Spread in a baking dish and broil until brown and beginning to crisp in parts, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring once.
6. Drain the radicchio. Arrange the bread on a serving platter. Mound some of the radicchio over each bread slice. Top with a few pieces of duck and a small dollop of apricot flesh. Garnish with parsley and additional salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Asparagus Carbonara

Asparagus Carbonara TasteFood

Just grill it – in a skillet. My favorite cooking vessel is my cast iron skillet. Not only is it versatile in the kitchen, it’s handy on the grill. When it’s too hot to cook in the kitchen, I move outdoors and use my grill as an oven and a stovetop, and my cast iron skillet becomes a grill pan. Last night I made a simple carbonara pasta dish on the grill. Carbonara is the Italian version of chicken soup – a supremely comforting meal for all ages – consisting of pasta and bacon whisked with a slick sauce of eggs and cheese. It’s a family favorite year round, which I like to lighten up with seasonal vegetables.

If you use a gas grill, prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. The pasta may be boiled on the grill in a grill-proof pot (most are), and the bacon and asparagus may be prepared in a cast iron skillet. Alternatively, use your stove!

Asparagus Carbonara
Serves 4

The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs when mixing. Be sure to do this away from the direct heat to prevent the eggs from scrambling.

8 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 pound orecchiette

3/4 pound thin asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook the bacon in batches in a large skillet (or on a griddle) over medium heat until the fat renders and the bacon is crispy. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. When cool enough to handle, break into small pieces. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the skillet.
2. Whisk the eggs and cheese in a bowl until smooth; set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the orecchiette and cook until al dente; drain.
4. While the pasta is cooking, add the asparagus, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Saute over medium heat until the asparagus are bright and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the orecchiette and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the eggs and cheese, stirring constantly to coat the pasta and to prevent the eggs from cooking. Add the bacon to the skillet and stir once more.
5. Serve immediately garnished with black pepper and grated cheese.

Greek Tabbouleh Salad

Greek Tabbouleh Salad TasteFoodWhen it’s super hot outside (like now), who wants to cook? (Not me!) In the heat of summer, dinner prep should be low maintenance with oodles of fresh ingredients. I like to make all kinds of salads brimming with crispy garden vegetables, often including a grain or legume and not-so-much heavy meat protein. These salads can stand in for a light dinner, or accompany anything fresh off the grill. Tabbouleh salad is a favorite of mine, a Middle Eastern mixture of bulgur wheat, handfuls of fresh herbs, peppers and spice. It’s light yet substantial with a kick of heat to wake up any lazy tastebuds enjoying a siesta.

Greek Tabbouleh Salad
Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 cups bulgur
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, diced
1 poblano pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup crumbled feta

Combine the bulgur, water, and lemon juice in a bowl. Cover the bowl and let stand until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur is tender, about 20 minutes. Add the oil, cumin, salt, black pepper, and cayenne and stir to blend. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. If the bulgur is too dry, add additional olive oil to achieve your desired consistency. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop. Serve as is, or add to pita pockets with spoonfuls of tsatsiki and harissa.


Lisbon Snapshots #TasteFoodTravel

Afternoon Light - Casa de Pasto

Casa de Pasto



Rooftop Sunset

Sao Roque

Sao Roque

Chiado Wine Bar

Chiado Wine Bar


LX Factory

LX Factory

Pastéis de Nata

Pastéis de Nata