I’ve had fun making dinners on Sunday afternoon to bring over to Laura and Dave on Mondays when I babysit. They don’t have much time or energy to cook now that sweet baby Julia is in their lives! My plan is to simply post the recipes now and later add photos of the favorites. — Nana

Cauliflower au Gratin

Orange Glazed Chicken Thighs

Coconut Chicken Curry with Cashews

Chicken Chili

Kale Soup with Potatoes and Sausage


This is my attempt to do a Bananafish post. Hope it works! Last night, after a hunt for furnishings, we had mom and dad over to christen our new dining table, living room set up and kitchen island. We made:

  1. Dad’s Cesar Salad (see recipe on this blog)
  2. Yummy Roasted Chicken Provencal – worth repeating!
  3. Smashed Lemon Potatoes

Recipe for Roasted Chicken Provençal


DSC_0819 DSC_0818


  • Time 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Yield 4 servings.

This is a recipe I picked up from Steven Stolman, a clothing and interior designer whose “Confessions of a Serial Entertainer” is a useful guide to the business and culture of dinner parties and general hospitality. It is a perfect dinner-party meal: chicken thighs or legs dusted in flour and roasted with shallots, lemons and garlic in a bath of vermouth and under a shower of herbes de Provence. They go crisp in the heat above the fat, while the shallots and garlic melt into sweetness below. You could serve with rice, but I prefer a green salad and a lot of baguette to mop up the sauce.

Featured in: The Enduring Appeal Of Roasted Chicken Provençal.


  • 4chicken legs or 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 2teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3tablespoons olive oil
  • 2tablespoons herbes de Provence
  • 1lemon, quartered
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4-6 medium-size shallots, peeled and halved
  • cup dry vermouth
  • 4sprigs of thyme, for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 400. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a shallow pan, and lightly dredge the chicken in it, shaking the pieces to remove excess flour.
  2. Swirl the oil in a large roasting pan, and place the floured chicken in it. Season the chicken with the herbes de Provence. Arrange the lemons, garlic cloves and shallots around the chicken, and then add the vermouth to the pan.
  3. Put the pan in the oven, and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, then baste it with the pan juices. Continue roasting for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is very crisp and the meat cooked through.
  4. Serve in the pan or on a warmed platter, garnished with the thyme.

After a week off, we are back with the Sunday Gourmet. This time Mexican themed. Finally achieved a long time goal of making a good carnitas. Hard or impossible to find a proper taco in Beijing, so worth the effort. And pork shoulder is quite cheap here, so this fits the “no expat grocer maxim” (last time’s clams were only 15 rmb, this time 2 pounds of pork shoulder came in at 30 quai). Even the avacados and lime can be had at a typical fruit vender! Only the tortillas and bay leaves came from the french grocer, but that is so buried in the hutongs it stlll counts.

As always, pics and the recipes I more or less followed:

3 sides!

standard guacamole

standard salsa

pickled red onions (so simple, so good, so pretty!)


Carintas in all their crispy glory:



basically follow this super simple recipe

Substituted a bit of milk and honey for the sweetened condensed milk, and threw in some beer to add to the liquid. Definitely cover while cooking, otherwise the broth will simmer away too fast (wasn’t clear in the linked recipe). I cooked for about 1.5 hours, adding liquid (water or beer) as needed, and found it perfectly browned and crispy by the end, so skipped the step in the oven. Hacked at is a bit with a knife once it was done to get it to fall apart all nice and make it taco sized pieces.

Also fried up some white onions and a meddle of chinese peppers to finish things off (howard showing off his stir frying skills):


and the final product:


I’d say a winner!


The tools we are working with here in Beijing

Round II: Victoria, Howard + Jordan

Bruschetta (the old Kanter recipe, is it on the site already??)


Victoria’s Funghi Salad – on the site! (China has the BEST mushrooms!)


Vongole Linguini – Yum! Followed this great and simple recipe (kept the shells on and added a touch of butter at the end)




Instituting a new Beijing dinner night!

Round 1 (w/ Howard, Victoria, + Jordan)


First Course

Fermé Brés Olive Affinade (Nyons, France)


Second Course

Lamb Chops with Mint-Basil Pesto (Amazing!!!), Roasted Heirloom Carrots + Fingerling Potatoes

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/rack-of-lamb-with-mint-basil-pesto-recipe.html (subsituted toasted pine nuts)

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/pan-fried-lamb-chops-with-rosemary-and-garlic-3155 (so easy – 3 minutes per side)



Third Course

Arugula Salad with Pomegranate and Toasted Pine Nuts, 24 Month Aged Comte from Vaison La Romaine cheese shop


Cafe de la Poste Creme Brûlée (cheating…take out from the place around the corner)

Fangja Hutong black tea


Down By Law Jim Jarmusch 1986

photo 4

Sunshine on a plate! I love this recipe and make it whenever I have time. I found it originally on the fantastic smitten kitchen blog, which has a great, easy to follow recipe for Ratatouille just like the movie HERE!

Here are my minor alterations:

  1. I like to get as much flavor as possible into the tomato sauce base – I use my basic tomato sauce recipe and throw in a bunch of anchovies and herbes de provence!
  2. I don’t use parchment paper – I just put some tin foil over the top for the first 40 minutes of cooking, then take it off for the last 5-10 minutes so the veggies can brown a bit.
  3. I always put it over “Israeli” or “Pearl” couscous, which is this big pearl couscous with a great texture. Be sure to brown it a bit (appx 5 minutes) in olive oil, and I like to cook it in chicken or veggie broth instead of water for more flavor
  4. Sour cream and/or ricotto makes a great substitute for goat cheese.
  5. I don’t have a mandolin slicer, so I just slice relatively thin slices of everything with a good knife. Try to find the skinny, long chinese style eggplant, so you don’t end up with giant rounds of eggplant.

photo 1

photo 2

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This is my own simplified version of the Caesar Salad that President Kennedy’s French Chef prepared at the White House.  Simple and elegant, and with an option or two you can vary the look and taste and always have a new exciting salad to present.



  • 1 lemon
  • good olive oil
  • Dijon mustard
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves
  • pepper
  • salt
  • Parmesan Reggiano (the good expensive stuff)
  • crisp fresh Romaine lettuce
  • and any of the optionals you want, especially croutons.


DRESSING (You can make extra of this in advance and keep refrigerated)

1.  Squeeze 1 fresh lemon into glass measuring cup (or bottle with a screw-on top).  Add good olive oil until you have almost twice as much olive oil as lemon juice.  (You can tell easily as the two will stay separate).


2.  Add one generous (heaping) teaspoon of Dijon mustard (the reason you don’t need egg or anchovy).

3.  Add 2-3 large garlic cloves through garlic press, or minced fine with a knife.

4.  Add about 10 turns or so of fresh ground black pepper with a pepper grinder, or if you don’t have a grinder a generous amount of ground pepper, 1/2 teaspoon or so.  Salt to taste, probably about 1/2 teaspoon or so.


5.  Add a bit (generous tablespoon or so) of fresh grated good quality Parmesan Reggiano.

6.  Whisk with wire whisk until creamy thick, or if you are using bottle just screw top on tightly and shake until ready.  Taste and add salt or pepper if necessary.  Whisk again just before dressing individual salad plates.



1.  Wash well in cold water one nice crisp fresh Romaine lettuce and drain or dry in salad spinner.  (You can use pre-washed Romaine hearts from TJ’s if you prefer, but good fresh Romaine is the best).

2.  Plate lettuce pieces  on individual plates generously but not so many layers that the dressing won’t spread around when you pour it on top (tear the lettuce leaves apart to put on plates, discarding the really large spines, but leaving the small and medium sized ones if they look good).

3.  Sprinkle more grated Parmesan over the lettuce on each plate (a  tablespoon or so on each plate of salad).  Luscious red pomegranate seeds (one of the options below) brighten and add a sweet pungent taste.



  1. Croutons—highly recommended—either good quality store bought which can be quickly heated in a little olive oil on the stove before sprinkling still warm on top of each plate; or homemade croutons (see Jordan and Victoria’s separate recipe for Croutons).


2.  Anchovies—only if people like them, get good mild anchovy filets in a tin and place a few of them on top of the salad plate for those who like them.

3.  Thin slices of crisp apples, and/or pomegranate seeds, and/or candied pecans or walnuts, and/or capers (OF COURSE) make nice festive variations.  Don’t go crazy with these optional extras; simple is best.


Put salad plates on the table and drizzle about two tablespoons (no more) of the whisked up dressing onto each salad just before eating.  Serves 4, or 2 with nice dressing left over.  (Cover and refrigerate left over dressing.  When you take it out it will be thick.  Just whisk it up and it will be as good as new.)

 Your guests will enjoy and remember Camelot

Baked oyster mushrooms, breaded with parmigiano, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and garlic on a bed of arugola. A Terroni spinoff, this recipe is adapted from an incredible little group of restaurants in Toronto where I spent the better part of my early twenties. Definitely a beloved staple in our house. Easy, simple, delicious: Enjoy! xovic.

photo 5



  • Oyster Mushrooms [about a bunch and a half per person]
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Parmigano [enough to thoroughly coat the top of your mushrooms, err on the generous side if need be]
  • Garlic [one clove per person is what I usually do, but we do like it especially garlicky. Feel free to adjust depending on your tastes]
  • Arugola
  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to Taste


photo 1

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Chop up your garlic. Here, I cut off each of the hard ends of each clove and smash it with the back of my chef’s knife. This does a great job of removing the peel, as well as getting all those tasty flavours out.


2. I try never to wash my mushrooms because they absorb so much water. Instead, cut off any dirty parts, and use a little brush to clean off any residual dirt. Usually though with oyster mushrooms, especially the organic ones from Wholefoods pictured here, dirt is incredibly minimal. At any rate, you want to cut off the stems: any hard parts that feel like they’d be gross to eat, because they really don’t soften up too much.

photo 2

3. Grate your parm.


4. Line a baking pan with some aluminium. Some people don’t like to cook with aluminium, but for this recipe, the mushrooms and cheese are going to stick, so you’ll make your life much easier when it comes time to clean up if you line the baking sheet.  Your call. Drizzle with olive oil, and spread across sheet.


5. Place trimmed mushrooms on tray. Drizzle again with olive oil and work in with your hands as much as you can, being careful to not break off too much of the delicate caps as you massage. I use this opportunity to mix in the garlic too.


6. Coat mushrooms in parmigiano, then breadcrumbs.


7. Salt (a couple pinches) and pepper thoroughly.

photo 1

8. With all the trimmings, it should look like the above photo.


9. Pop it in the oven. In the meantime, plate your arugola.

photo 2

10. Bake until top is brown and crispy as pictured below, approx 17-20 mins (although I am unsure of the exact time, because the top is heavily breaded, it’s rather easy to tell when it is sufficiently toasted. You’re going to want them to be crispy, not mushy, and that may mean some edges and corners get a little darker, but that’s fine).

photo 3

11. Remove from oven. They are going to stick to the pan a bit, so have a metal spatula or something similar on the ready to scrape them off.

photo 4

12. Place a portion on each bed of arugola. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. Add a sprinkle of salt and a vigorous grind of the pepper mill to each plate. Serve warm.

Cauliflower baked in a creamy goat cheese sauce. Serve with brown rice as a vegetarian main dish. Quick, easy and the essence of comfort food.



  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  •  2 ounces (or more) goat cheese
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs + additional 1 tablespoon butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a shallow baking dish.

butter dish

Cut cauliflower into florets or small bite-size chunks.


Put in bowl and cover with saran wrap. Microwave on high for 5- 6 minutes, or till tender.


While cauliflower is in the microwave, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan.  When melted, add the 2 tablespoons flour. Whisk in the flour and stir until it forms a paste. Cook until it smells like bread.

photo 4

Add milk, stirring with the whisk until smooth. Cook over low heat, stirring until thick. Add the sour cream and goat cheese; stir over low heat.

photo 2

Stir in the cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper and remove from heat.


Arrange the cauliflower in the buttered dish, and pour the sauce over it. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top; dot with small pieces of the extra tablespoon of butter.


Here’s the kind of breadcrumbs I use but any kind is good.

breadcrumbs box

Bake until bubbly and browned on top, about 40 minutes. 

dory cauliflower

Serve it with the rice and a green salad. Variations: arrange cherry tomatoes and black olives around the side of the baking dish before baking to add color and flavor.

This hearty and healthy pizza recipe is easy to make and tastes great. It takes a bit more time than some of the other pizza recipes, but it is so worth it. The eggplant gives a great flavor and the goat cheese gets all toasted in the oven. I like to make two different pizzas to ensure plenty of leftovers – nothing like cold pizza in the morning. Use the basic tomato sauce recipe for the pizza sauce.

photo 5


  • 1 Pizza Dough (find in the refrigerated section in Trader Joe’s)
  • Flour
  • 1/2 Eggplant
  • 1/4 Yellow Onion
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1 Bunch Spinach
  • Crumbled Goat Cheese (Feta, etc.)
  • Basic Tomato Sauce


1. Take the pizza dough out of the fridge and let it sit to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 550 degrees.

2. Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch sections, brush both sides lightly with olive oil and season with a dash of salt and a grind of pepper. Place on tin foil on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees in your oven or toaster oven. Roast for about 8 minutes, flip over carefully with a spatula, and roast for another 4-6 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Make sure they don’t burn. Set aside when finished.


2. Finely dice the onion and garlic. Wash and dry the spinach, and chop coarsely.

photo 2 (1)

3. In a skillet, sauté the onions in olive oil for about 4 minutes on medium heat. Add a pinch of salt, a couple grinds of pepper, and the garlic, and sauté for another minute. Add the spinach, stirring constantly so that it is coated with the oil, garlic and onions. Sauté until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Set aside when finished.

photo 5 (1)

4. Lightly flour a wooden cutting board and place the pizza dough on the board. Using your hands, press down hard on the dough to kneed it about 10 times, flipping it over each time.


5. Using a rolling pin or a wine bottle (rolling pin works much better), roll out the dough, pressing out the bubbles. Keep adding flour so it doesn’t get sticky, but don’t go too crazy with the flour or the dough will dry out. It is important to work the dough to break down the glutens so it will hold its shape and stay nice and thin. A proper rolling pin really helps here. Roll it out until it is about 9″ in diameter.

photo 1 (2)

6. Pick the dough up and work it with your fists, mamma mia style. I also like pinch the pizza by the edges, and let gravity pull the dough out, slowly rotating the dough. Be careful to not let it get so thin it rips. (If it does rip, pinch it back together, no big deal)


7. Lightly oil a large, thin (ideally round) baking pan. I like to use the underside of the baking pan as this makes it easier to keep the dough stretched out and thin. Keep rolling out the dough until it is about the size of the pan. Use the edges of the pan to hold the dough on one side as you stretch it out over the rest of the pan (like putting a fitted sheet on a bed). Watch out for thin areas and stop stretching if it gets too thin.


8. Put a couple big tablespoons of tomato sauce and spread around to cover the pizza. Add the roasted eggplant slices and the spinach. Make sure to get all the good onion-garlic pieces on there too! Sprinkle the goat cheese all over and put into the top shelf of the pre-heated oven.

photo 4

9. After 10 minutes in the oven, check the pizza. Rotate it 180 degrees to make sure it cooks evenly. Bake for another 2-4 minutes, until the edges are just starting to get charred and the top of the cheese is light brown. Test the edges and make sure they are getting hard. Take out of the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting. Sprinkle with crushed red peppers and serve!

Prep Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour

Cooking Time: 15 minutes