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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


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  • 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 (subsituted toasted pine nuts) (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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.