Tag Archives: potato masher

Launch Number Two

Last Saturday I got up at 6 am to help pack the car and take Isabelle back to college. The start of year number two was completely different than it was for year number one. For starters it was just the two of us. No whole-family entourage like we’d done for her freshman year. Just two girls, a loaded Prius, and a couple of energy bars in case we felt peckish between Whately and West Haven. Even the weather was different –

UNH Weather

These screen shots from my radar app show the difference from one year to the next. Despite the lack of precipitation, for which we were very grateful, there was still some pretty intense cloud action to gawk at as we zoomed south on 91.

Coulds in the Pioneer Valley

Clouds in New Haven

Instead of the cutie little house she was in last year she’s in a big dorm, smack dab in the middle of campus. There are pros and cons. One of the pros was we could load all her stuff into a gigantic orange crate on wheels then ride it up the elevator to her room in two trips. Yeah for giant orange crates and elevators!

Easy Transport

One of the cons of said elevators is that she won’t be able to use them on ROTC days since there is a regulation which states that when cadets are in uniform they may not use the elevators – they have to use stairs. I think the government just wants them to get a little bit more exercise. Of course for my kid that is just fine and dandy since she loves to work out. When she was describing her dorm to us after the housing lottery this past spring the main pro of this dorm (in her eyes) is the fact that the gym is right behind it – literally a hop, two skips and a jump, which makes her very happy. After I left there were some texts saying she’d been to the gym, had gone out to dinner with friends, but somehow hadn’t quite unpacked her room (this via snapchat) –

Unpacking - not


I’m sure being on the quad will be noisy, but she went prepared with earplugs plus we picked up a box fan for the window which should at least provide some white noise to counteract the boisterous revelers who decided to skip the gym. And let’s face it – any college campus would be noisy compared with our house in the country.

As for me, once we finished with the requisite last minute trips to Target, Whole Foods and IKEA (which somehow took hours), I toodled home for my first night as an empty nester. Since Shawn had gone up to the Cummington Fair to watch the demolition derby, it was less empty nest and more a night of having the house to myself. Just me and the dog and about six loads of laundry left behind by my sophomore girl. I unpacked boxes and bags, threw a load in the washing machine, and settled onto the couch with some crackers and this amazing Morracan Carrot Purée. I’ve been whipping up vats of this stuff ever since my sister took me to Sofra Bakery and Cafe in Cambridge. It is delicious and zippy, exotic (the spices) yet familiar (carrots) and I am in love with it. I’d had something similar at a African restaurant in another part of Cambridge years ago but never managed to get my hands on the recipe. Now I have a recipe and it is a winner.

Sofra Meze plate with Basil Lemonade

Above is our platter of five meze dishes – the offerings change every day – including the Moroccan style carrots with dukkah (second from the right) all of which is served with crick-cracks. The green drinks were a very refreshing basil infused lemonade. Honestly it was some of the best food I’d had in ages, so much so that I made my sister go back with me the following day for breakfast.

Breakfast at Sofra

I know I’m a bit intense about this recipe, but I need to be honest with you –actually this recipe is three recipes (well four if you realize that one of the three has another recipe within it) in one, which probably will seem a bit daunting. I took the lazy woman’s way out and bought two of the components ready made, and when you do that this recipe becomes easy peasy. Hey, I bought Ana Sortun’s cookbook Spice just to get my hands on this recipe, so it seemed silly not to pick up a packet of dukkah and a jar of harissa paste at the same time. Even if you’re not near Cambridge you can call their store manager at 617.661.3161 and ask them to ship you your own supply, which will last for many batches of Moroccan Carrot Purée. Empty nest or no, you will be a very happy camper.

Harissa and Dukkah

Empty Nest Moroccan Carrot Purée

2 pounds of carrots, peeled

5-7 Tablespoons olive oil

2-3 teaspoons cider vinegar

2-5 teaspoons harissa *

1 teaspoon cumin (ground)

1/2 teaspoon ginger (ground)

1-2 cloves minced garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Dukkah **

French bread or crackers

Chop the carrots into smallish chunks and put into a medium saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium high heat 20-30 minutes or until fork tender. Timing will somewhat depend upon the size of our carrot chunks. Drain the carrots but leave them in the saucepan and return it to the stove. Over medium high heat “dry” the carrots by shaking the pan constantly, sort of like you would for jiffy pop popcorn. You may be tempted to skip this step, but don’t or it will make your carrot purée watery. It only take a minute or so.

Then with a potato masher mash the carrots, cider vinegar and harissa to taste, cumin, ginger, garlic, and enough olive oil to loosen the whole mixture. You don’t want mashed potato smooth, you want the mixture to be smashed up, with a few chunks left for texture. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

You can serve this the way they do in the restaurant with a scoop of carrot purée, the dukkah sprinkled on top and crackers or bread to scoop it all up with. Or you can serve it in separate bowls of carrot purée, olive oil and dukkah. I’ve even spread some of the purée on a piece of bread then topped it with with a few slices of leftover steak and a handful of arugula to make a divine lunchtime treat. It would also be great to pack for a picnic.

Empty Nester Moroccan Carrot Puree

So you really want to go all out and make your own harissa and dukkah? Here are the recipes (though I have not tested them myself). All three come from Ana Sorten’s cookbook Spice.

* Harissa

1 cup ground Urfa chilies

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, soaked in warm water for an hour

3 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup water

1 Tablespoon Moroccan Ras el Hannout (yep, another recipe)

1/4 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredient in a blender and purée until smooth. Sore in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Moroccan Ras el Hannout

1/4 cup cumin seeds

3/4 teaspoon saffron

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 Tablespoon tumeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 Tablespoon fresh ground black pepper

1/2 cup paprika

In a cast iron frying pan toast cumin seeds for a couple of minutes until fragrant, shaking the pan vigorously. Cool seed and grind with the saffron in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Mix with remaining spices.


1/2 cup blanched almonds

3 Tablespoons coriander seeds

2 Tablespoons cumin seeds

2 Tablespoons sesame seeds

1/4 cup unsweetened dried coconut

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a cast iron skillet over medium/medium low heat toast the almonds until golden. Cool, then chop.

In the same iron skillet toast the coriander and cumin seeds until fragrant. Cool, then coarsely grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

In the same iron skillet toast the sesame seeds until just browned. Cool.

And yet again in the same skillet toast the coconut until golden and then cool.

Once everything is toasted and cooled combine together and grind or pound slightly to combine.



Filed under 50 Recipes

Exam Pancakes

"textbooks"It is officially summer now. My kids attended the graduation ceremony at the Academy of Charlemont on Saturday so for our family it’s summertime! Graduation was the fun part–a party and celebration, saying goodbye to their text books and teachers for nearly three months while making plans with friends for get-togethers over the summer. In order to get to the celebratory part though they had to  make it through exam week.

I am so glad I’m not in school, not because of the things I don’t learn by not being in a classroom, but because not being in school means I don’t have to take exams. They’re a brutal yet necessary way for teachers to measure what you’ve learned. I helped both kids where I could with the studying part, which mostly centered around French vocab (I would say the word in english and they would tell me the French version). They were on their own for their other subjects because really what do I remember about chemistry, geometry or world history? My other contribution to their (hopeful) successes was to make them a hearty breakfast at the start of each exam day.

Isabelle already eats an amazing breakfast each morning having taken to heart the old adage, “It’s the most important meal of the day.” So it was three more days of omelets stuffed with veggies served with a piece of dry whole wheat toast for her. Russell was a little more challenging. Sometimes he’ll have what I would call a proper breakfast (some protein, fruit, and a bit of whole wheat something), while other days I’m lucky to get him to eat a single piece of toast with jam. So for exam week I made an old favorite family recipe which the kids have been eating since they were toddlers–Silver Dollar Pancakes.

"cottage cheese pancakes with bananas"

Silver Dollar pancakes with bananas

The genus of this recipe is from my friends in the Nicoll clan. A pamphlet that came with my potato masher included a recipe for “Dad’s Sunday Morning Pancakes”. This recipe was adapted from an old issue of Gourmet which every member of that family subscribed to until the magazine’s untimely demise. I’ve seen variations of this same recipe in the Fannie Farmer Baking Book.

"cottage cheese pancakes with strawberries"

Silver Dollar pancakes with strawberries

What I love about these particular pancakes is that they don’t make you feel like you’ve eaten an expanding brick after you push away from the table, which is my main complaint when I eat other pancakes (which also explains why I’m more of a waffle person than a pancake person, but more on that later). These pancakes are light and delicious with either maple syrup or fruit preserves and a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top. Fresh fruit works well with them too, more as a topping put on before serving as opposed to an ingredient cooked into the pancakes while they’re in the pan. These pancakes get an A+ at exam time is because they’re not only full of protein, calcium and fiber, but they’re so good nobody knows it.

Silver Dollar Pancakes (or Exam Pancakes)

1 cup cottage cheese (I use the no salt version)

4 large eggs

1/2 cup flour (I use either all whole wheat or 1/2 ww and 1/2 white flour)

2-3 Tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

pinch salt

I melt the butter in the pan or griddle I’ll be cooking the pancakes in so that I accomplish three tasks in one–melting the butter plus preheating and greasing the cooking vesicle. Then it’s just a matter of combining the ingredients. You can use a potato masher to squish everything together or throw it all in a food processor (I have a mini one which does an excellent job) and zap it till mostly smooth. The trick to getting really picky eaters not to ask, “Eeww, what is this?” is to make the cottage cheese curds so small they are rendered invisible to the naked eye. Once you’ve got your batter mixed simply spoon silver dollar size dollops onto the heated pan or griddle and cook on medium low heat until the pancake looks slightly dry at the edges. Note–these aren’t like traditional pancakes that have a lot of bubbles on the uncooked side prior to flipping, sometimes they have a few and sometimes then have none. Flip and cook for another few minutes until golden.

"cooking pancakes"

To serve top with maple syrup and cut up fruit or a few spoonfuls of fruit preserves and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

"cottage cheese pancakes with jam"

Silver Dollar pancakes with jam and powdered sugar

My friend Jim has assured me that it’s ok to lick your plate when you’ve eaten all your pancakes yet a small puddle of maple syrup remains. While I don’t normally think of Jim as my go-to guy when I have food related etiquette questions, I have to say I agree with him in this particular instance due to the astronomical price of real maple syrup. The exception of course is when my parents come for breakfast. Then I try to make enough pancakes to sop up all the syrup on everyone’s plate.

"no more pancakes"

No more pancakes...


Filed under 50 Recipes

Favorite Tools #1

I have more kitchen stuff than any normal person has a need for. I tell myself that the vast horde of pots, pans, obscure devices, and hundreds of cookie cutters are necessary because of my food styling work, but the truth is I have a bit of a collecting problem. So when I read Jane Lear’s post on her favorite pot it got me to thinking about Continue reading


Filed under Favorite Tools