Still Life with Chocolate Kissel and Squash

I am honored with the opportunity to review this new cookbook, Leo Tolstoy: A Vegetarian’s Tale, by S. Pavlenko. As a woman with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction and a food blogger, I was told I was contacted because I was considered a “literary foodie.” Highest praise. This cookbook necessarily targets similar “literary foodies” as it is a review of a diary kept by Sophia Tolstoy (wife of Tolstoy) in the 19th century. She maniacially collected recipes from relatives and family friends. Her younger brother stole her diary and published the thing as the “Cookery Book” in 1874 as a gift (prank?). There were over 160 recipes in her version, and this book by S. Pavlenko reproduces 30 of the finest. Most of the originals were entirely imprecise, so Pavlenko, et al, tried to approximate something the average recipe-follower might decode. The biggest surprise to me in all of this is that Tolstoy went totally vegetarian in his 50s. That isn’t to say he started eating healthy…lots of sugar and heavy cream in this book… in fact, my favorite part of Sophia’s diary is the part where she expresses concern over how much Tolstoy likes to indulge himself, “Today at lunch I was watching him eating and was terrified by how much he had: first came pickled milk mushrooms…followed by four big buckwheat toasts with soup, all with sour kvass and brown bread. There was quite a great deal of everything!” All this to say, just being vegetarian doesn’t imply a healthy or balanced diet.


Whoa, whoa, whoa is this a thick brew! Watch that cornstarch, unless you like your cocoa thick as mud. I doubt he could have written War and Peace while drinking this due to sugar coma.


Chocolate Kissel

Adapted from Pavlenko’s Tolstoy: A Vegetarian’s Tale

1.5 oz dark chocolate or ¼ cup cocoa powder (I used Equal Exchange due to my particular love and loyalties)

2 cups milk

¼ cup sugar

½ TB cornstarch

¼ tsp vanilla

Pinch of cinnamon

Melt the chocolate bar in a double boiler, if you’re using a bar. If powder, dissolve in several tablespoons of cold milk until a paste forms. Watch out for clumping!

In a saucepan, stir the milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon together. Bring to a boil and pour in the chocolate mixture. Dissolve the cornstarch in water and slowly add to the milk. Reduce the heat and stir until thickened. Don’t let it boil a second time.

You can find the book for purchase here. I most look forward to attempting my first Ankovsky Pie.

Sabores de Cuba Ropa Vieja to #StopDiabetes

I swear I did not time the publishing of this post to occur in the wake of the late Fidel Castro. I love Cuban food, pure and simple. And I’m thrilled there is now a healthy Cubano cuisine cookbook.

November is American Diabetes Month, and so I am celebrating with a series of cookbooks the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has published. But here’s my attitude, as a physician, even if you do not have diabetes, these meals are smart and healthy eating for all who hope to prevent diabetes–a preventable disease with rising prevalence in the United States.


This Cuban-inspired cookbook by Chef Ronaldo from ADA is fantastic because it is published in both English AND Spanish. The recipe I chose to feature, Ropa Vieja, translates to “Old Clothes.” The name refers to the era right after the Castro regime took over when Cuban people were left with very little, such that they had to cook down old clothing into sauce and compensate by adding a TON of spices and vinegar broth to break down the clothes. Well, instead of clothes, this recipe uses round steak, old clothes of sorts for the former cow, I suppose. I love how Cuban cuisine features holiday colors, red and green peppers!


Old-Fashioned Ropa Vieja

Adapted from Sabores de Cuba, by Chef Ronaldo ©2016 by the ADA, Inc.®

2 cups washed and sliced green and red pepper (core reserved)

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tb black peppercorns

1 bunch cilantro

2 tsp garlic powder

2 quarts water

20 oz top round steak

1 TB avocado oil

1 cup sliced onion

4 cloves garlic

½ tsp ground cumin

1 tsp Spanish smoke paprika

½ tsp oregano

¾ tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tb tomato paste

6 oz diced canned tomatoes

8 pitted green olives, chopped

2 dried bay leaves

3 tb cilantro, chopped

In a large stockpot, add the cores of the red and green pepper, apple cider, peppercorns, cilantro bunch, garlic powder to the water and bring to a boil. Add the top round steak. Reduce heat and simmer steak for 90 minutes until the meat is tender.


Remove the steak from the water and shred on a plate. Reserve 3 cups of the stock.


Heat a large saute pan and heat oil. Add red pepper, green pepper, onion and garlic and saute for 1 minute on high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, add cumin, smoked paprika,  oregano, salt, pepper, and tomato paste. Saute for 3 minutes until flavors “marry.” Add diced tomatoes, olives, reserved stock, and bay leaves and simmer for 10 minutes. Then add the shredded steak and simmer for another 10 minutes. Fold in chopped cilantro and serve.


I served it over the Congri, which I made using half brown rice and half quinoa.

Thanks again to ADA for sponsoring this post! To order this book, or the other books featured on Bake This Day over the last two weeks, please call 1-800-232-6733 or order online at

Dhoodhi Handvo, or Indian Zucchini Muffins

It’s a gorgeous autumn day in New Orleans. I had forgotten how summery the southern fall tends to be. Perfect day for a bike ride around town to see what our local shops have in store for holiday gift potential.


These ultra-healthy muffins for the granola Birkenstock crowd feature savory summer squash and are an exotic electric yellow color, which will attract skepticism and interest from all who witness your enjoyment. Many of these Indian spices are gaining traction as health foods because of their anti-inflammatory properties. So feel righteous.


Dhoodhi Handvo

Adapted from Eating Well

2 cups fine semolina flour

2 1/2 tablespoons grapeseed oil plus 1 1/2 tablespoons, divided

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 cloves garlic, finely grated or minced

1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated or minced

3 1/2 cups packed shredded zucchini (about 1 pound—very important that this is as dry as can be)

1 cup low-fat plain yogurt

1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 12 muffin cups with liners (or butter). Mix flour, 2 1/2 tablespoons oil, salt, baking soda and turmeric in a medium bowl. Combine garlic and ginger in a large bowl; press with a spoon to make a paste. Add zucchini, yogurt and sugar; stir until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add water and stir to combine again. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each cup until almost flush with the top. Level the batter. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds and mustard seeds; cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 45 seconds, being careful not to burn them.


Remove from heat. Spoon a scant 1/2 teaspoon of the seasoned oil on top of each muffin, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20 minutes. Leaving the pan in the center of the oven, switch the oven to broil, and broil the muffins until the tops are browned, 7 to 10 minutes more. Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes before removing. Serve warm or room temperature.


Summertime in my mouth. And in my garden too.


Sicilian Caponata to #StopDiabetes

Ok diabetes, allow me to blow your mind. Here is a recipe that is both Italian and rife with chocolate that is made especially for you. November is American Diabetes Month, and so I am celebrating with a series of cookbooks the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has published. But here’s my attitude, as a physician, even if you do not have diabetes, these meals are smart and healthy eating for all who hope to prevent diabetes.

In 2012, 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, had diabetes. AND, even more harrowing, 86 million Americans age 20 and older had prediabetes; this is up from 79 million in 2010. So think about getting one or all of these cookbooks for the holidays and feeling good about how you impact the health of your family. (And don’t worry, there are cookie and cake recipes in there!) Izzy has taken to napping with the Italian cookbook; instead of sugar plums, I imagine sweet dreams of eggplants and capers and green olives dancing in her head.


The epigraph of this book is an Italian proverb: The cuisine of a people is the only true testimony of their civilization.

Let’s not be a fast food nation anymore, America, shall we?

One other thing, I would never have put green olives and chocolate together in a sauce. But Oh Man is this good.


Sicilian Sweet and Sour Vegetable Caponata

Adapted from the Italian Diabetes Cookbook, by Amy Riolo ©2016 by the ADA, Inc.®

¼ cup EVOO

¾ pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

¼ yellow onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/3 stalk celery, chopped

¼ tsp black pepper

1 TB tomato paste, thinned in ¼ cup water

½ cup canned crushed tomatoes

2 oz green onions, pitted, rinsed and chopped

1/8 cup white wine vinegar

1 TB finely grated unsweeted chocolate

3 TB shredded fresh basil

1 tsp pine nuts

4 slices of bread, toasted (I use my Tartine homemade sourdough)

Heat oil in 12 inch skillet on medium heat, and add eggplant to skillet and fry, tossing occasionally until browned. Transfer eggplant to a large bowl.


Then add the onions and celery to the skillet, season with pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add tomato paste, and cook until vegetables are caramelized and paste is evaporated, 2-ish minutes. Then add crushed tomatoes and continue cooking for 10 minutes.


Then stir in olives, vinegar (the original recipe adds 1/8 cup of raisins, but I hate raisins), and CHOCOLATE (whaaaa?) and stir until thickened, about 15 minutes.


Transfer mixture to bowl with eggplant, add basil and pine nuts and mix together. Let cool to room temp and then serve over your toasts like the weirdest bruschetta. YUM.



To order this book, please call 1-800-232-6733 or order online at Stay tuned for ADA’s take on Sabores de Cuba coming up next.

Speaking of healthy, besides the good stuff falling on the floor from this cookbook’s recipes, make sure your dog’s regular diet is also as healthy as possible, like Wellness Pet Food! Thanks Wellness, Izzy LOVES her treats and kibble.



Rib Eye Roast with Black Garlic Red Wine Gravy- A Turkey Alternative

As a flexitarian, on occasion I will eat meat, and Thanksgiving just so happens to be one of those occasions. That said, I’ve never been a big fan of turkey. I think it tastes great in a post-Thanksgiving Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich, but traditional Turkey Day turkey is just blah to me. Long ago, my mother began the tradition of preparing for me a small steak on Thanksgiving, and for that, I was truly, truly thankful… I think, in this rib eye roast, I’ve found a new tradition. What a fabulous slab of savory meat. If you’re going to eat meat, make it a prime cut, soaked in shallots, prunes and juniper berries one succulent night a year.


Rib Eye Roast with Black Garlic-Red Wine Gravy

Adapted from Food and Wine


1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup pitted prunes

4 shallots, chopped

1/3 cup rosemary leaves

3 tablespoons juniper berries

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon pepper

One 5- to 6-pound cap-on boneless rib eye roast


1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

2 heads of black garlic, peeled (1/3 cup)

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tablespoon light brown sugar

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon dry red wine

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 quart beef broth

3 thyme sprigs

1 rosemary sprig

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Kosher salt


Make the roast In a blender, combine all of the ingredients except the rib eye and puree until smooth. Set a rack in a roasting pan. Set the roast on the rack and rub the marinade all over. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.

gimme-gravy-marinade gimme-gravy-marinade-izzy

Preheat the oven to 350°. Roast the beef for about 2 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 120°. Transfer the roast to a rack and let stand for 30 minutes.


Meanwhile, make the gravy In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the black garlic, crushed garlic, flour and sugar and cook, stirring often, until a golden-brown paste forms, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the wine and the soy sauce and simmer for 2 minutes, then add the broth, thyme and rosemary. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 4 cups, about 30 minutes.

Stir the remaining 1 tablespoon of wine and the vinegar into the gravy and season with salt and pepper. Strain into a gravy boat. Thinly slice the roast across the grain and serve the gravy alongside.

I’ll substitute pictures of the gravy with Izzy because I learned that gravy, even black garlic red wine gravy, really isn’t photogenic. But Izzy on the other hand….


Gluten-free Socca with Poached Eggs, Roasted Tomatoes and Fresh Basil for American Diabetes Month

Just in time for Thanksgiving, red alert that November is also American Diabetes Month. When I help my patients to understand a diagnosis of diabetes, many are disappointed because they believe they will have to give up some of their favorite foods. The good news: how many more favorites you have yet to discover. Living with diabetes doesn’t mean you have to kiss flavor goodbye. There are ways to make all of our favorite foods a little healthier. This post is sponsored by the American Diabetes Association, and in the forthcoming posts this month through Christmas, I’ll be featuring a series of some of my favorite recipes from several fantastic diabetes-friendly cookbooks written by chefs and nutritionists. This recipe comes from Whole Cooking and Nutrition by Katie Cavuto. This book is easy to read, principle-based, the recipes are simple. Fresh spices and fresh fruits and vegetables stand in for simple sugars, as it should be. As a bonus, many of the recipes are building blocks that you can make all on a Sunday, then use in different combinations throughout the week.


Enjoying this gluten-free dish, I couldn’t help but transport now and then to some of the best eggs benedict plates I’ve ever had. Oh the flavor.


Socca with Poached Eggs, Roasted Tomatoes and Fresh Basil

From Whole Cooking and Nutrition by Katie Cavuto

1 cup chickpea flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill garbanzo bean flour)

½ tsp cumin

¼ tsp salt

1 cup warm water

2 tbsp EVOO

1 TB rice vinegar

As many eggs as you want to eat

1 cup roasted tomatoes*

1 cup chopped fresh basil

¼ black pepper

My eggs were so fresh, Lucille’s tail fluff was still stuck to one of them… haha.

eggs-with-juicys-feather-attached socca-tomatoes

Place a cast iron skillet in your oven and set to Broil. In a small bowl, mix the chickpea flour, cumin and salt together. Whisk in the water, then the oil and beat out all the clumps. Then let it rest for 15 minutes on the counter. Meanwhile, start boiling some water with the vinegar to poach the eggs! When the skillet is hot, add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan and then pour in the socca chickpea pancake-like batter into the skillet and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Stir the boiling water into a whirlpool and add as many eggs as you want to eat, and let poach for 4-ish minutes (as set or runny as you like), then scoop them out with a slotted spoon. Remove the socca and cut it into wedges. Top with eggs, tomatoes, and chopped basil. YUM.


To make your own roasted tomatoes, super easy, take a pint of tomatoes, mix with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp spices (fresh thyme, rosemary, oregano), 3 cloves of chopped garlic, ½ tsp of lemon zest and 1 tbsp lemon juice. Pour this mix onto a foil-lined baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Seriously, this tastes like I got it at Ruby Slipper. Except this one will keep you alive longer, to continue enjoying over and over again.


Thanks, American Diabetes Association. You’ve published what promises to be a series of winning cookbooks! I look forward to trying the Italian Diabetes cookbook next.


Whole Cooking and Nutrition is ©2016 by the American Diabetes Association, Inc.® To order this book, please call 1-800-232-6733 or order online at

Red Lentil Dal with Mustard Seeds as Pseudo Soup

Onion cutting had always been a painful, eyeball drenching task for me, until I discovered this failsafe method: ski goggles. A matchstick in the teeth worked partially, but the issue is the chemical irritant onions release when their cell wall is breached. Basically onions are the vegetable equivalent of a skunk. But don a pair of goggles and lo, you are protected by a plastic barrier. You look a little bit like a serial killer at the kitchen counter, but it’s worth it.


Been gorgeous weather here in New Orleans. All blossom and bee buzz. Seems a little counter intuitive to participate in the usual winter routines, such as making soup and hearty bread and cozying around a hearth, blanketed. I’d rather be on my porch—and dal seems a perfect tropical sort of pseudo-soup to accompany me. And healthy to boot. Enjoy with flatbread!

 autumn-in-nola red-lentil-soup

Red Lentil Dal with Mustard Seeds

Adapted from Food and Wine

4 cups red lentils

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 cup ghee (clarified butter)

1 1/2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 large onion, minced

1/4 cup minced peeled fresh ginger

One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped

1 serrano chile, minced

2 teaspoons ground coriander


  1. In a large cast-iron casserole, combine the red lentils with the bay leaves, turmeric and 12 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the lentils break down to a thick puree, about 40 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the ghee. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and cook over moderately high heat, 
stirring, until the seeds start to pop, about 1 minute. Add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, chile and coriander and cook until the tomatoes just start to break down, about 5 minutes. Season the tomato mixture with salt and pepper.
  3. Stir the tomato mixture into the dal and cook over moderate heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with yogurt and chopped cilantro, cucumber and tomato.