Sunday, February 28, 2010

A well crafted soup

It is the last day of February, and it is cold outside. I wanted to share the soup that is reminiscent of my childhood. A soup I was reared on. This soup is a meal! "Eat with bread you will be hungry" my grandmother used to say. The direct translation would be "Eat some bread with your meal, so you won't be hungry". Well, with this soup there is no way you will be hungry, with or without the bread. My sainted Aunt Esther, who was the matriarch in our family, used to make this soup when we would come by for dinner. This is my rendition of the soup I remember. My uncle Bob calls this "a well crafted soup"!
It gets better with age. The ditty,"some like it hot" comes to mind..., nobody likes it cold. You can freeze this, but the next day or two after making this it does develop into quite a nice hearty soup. My in laws are coming over for lunch, and we still have a heap of snow, so I thought it would be great to have this soup with some
home made bread, a green salad with sprightly rich dressing, and my apple tart for dessert!


1 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion chopped
3 ribs of celery
5 cloves of garlic
5 carrots
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup barley, with hull
2 cups beef broth
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 lb beef, I used Kobe eye round steak
2 cups frozen lima beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen green beans
1 cup frozen peas
3-4 cups water


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
In a cast iron enamel or another oven proof pot with a lid, add the olive oil, the onion, celery, garlic and carrot and saute' until vegetables are softened. Add the herbs,barley and the tomato paste. Stir to combine. Add the chicken, beef broth and 2 cups of water. Cover and place in the hot oven. Cook for 1 hour. Meanwhile cut the beef into 1/4 inch cubes and saute' in 2 tsp. olive oil until nicely browned. Add to the soup cover and place in the hot oven and cook for another hour. Then add the frozen vegetables and remaining water. bring the soup to a boil. Puree 2 cups of soup in a food processor and add it back to the soup. Stir and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Serve hot. Serves 8

Recipe and photos by Karen Pickus
Recipe and photos courtesy Karen Pickus 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

Eat Your Vegetables

Sometimes I think,"I must catch up on eating my vegetables." Here are a few methods of cooking them that I find relatively easy, actually rather fun, take little time and effort cause sometimes that's how I roll! I want to eat healthy and well, but sometimes I am pressed for time like all of us. I want a wholesome meal so this is how it goes. I had some large portabellos in the refrigerator, half a head of cauliflower, some carrots, some kale, some dinosaur kale, and some spinach. I had some russet potatoes so I thought,"let's have a baked potato party!" It is a snowy day in N.Y., a lazy day, to enjoy the family and eat your vegetables!


I/2 head cauliflower, cut into 1 inch slices
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. minced garlic

4 peeled carrots
1/8 tsp. thyme
1/8 tsp salt
1 pinch ground black pepper

4 large portebello mushrooms
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper

1/2 bunch Kale
1/2 bunch dinosaur kale
1/2 lb. spinach
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. minced garlic

4 medium Idahos or Russet potatoes
1/4 tsp. salt
ground black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 Tbs. fresh thyme
2 scallions sliced
1 bunch chives sliced thin


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the cut cauliflower on a sheet, I used an 18x 24 inch pan, the trick is to not crowd the pan. A cookie sheet will do also, sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, and thyme on the cauliflower. Place into the hot oven, on the bottom rack. Roast the cauliflower until golden, about 10 minutes then flip to the other side and continue to cook for about 8-10 more minuted until golden but a bit tender. Remove from the over and toss with the minced garlic. Place on an attractive serving platter.

For the carrots.
Cut the carrots in half and then in half lengthwise. Place them cut side down on a a 18x 24 inch sheet pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and thyme. Place the pan into the hot oven. Roast for 10 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Place the carrots onto an attractive serving platter.

For the mushrooms
Scrape the underside of the caps(the black gills) with a spoon and remove the gills and discard. Wipe the tops of the caps with a paper towel. Do not wash the mushrooms.
Cut the mushrooms into 1/2 thick slices. Place the mushrooms on a sheet pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Toss with the salt and pepper and set into the hot oven.
Roast for 8 minutes on each side until golden. You could do this with all types of mushrooms. This way they have deep mushroom flavor and do not absorb soo much oil or butter. Place on a serving platter.

For the greens
Cut the kale and dinosaur kale into 2 inch pieces. Wash the greens in a colandar, don't dry. Spray a large frying pan with olive oil cooking spray. Then place the pan over medium high heat. Add the washed greens all at once. Toss the greens with tongs or a wooden spoon. Cover for 1-2 minutes until greens are wilted add a pinch of salt and the minced garlic. Stir well and serve immediately.

For the potatoes
Wash the potatoes then, pierce the potatoes with a fork, about 5 times , all around the potato
Place the potatoes into the 450 degree oven. They can go right on the rack! Bake for about an hour until the skin is a bit crispy and the potatoes give when squeezed.
Remove from the oven and cut a slit down the middle of the potato.
Serve with the accompaniments. Let each person add their own toppings, and have a party!

Recipes and photos by Karen Pickus
Courtesy Karen Pickus 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My morning at GMA

Today we had The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond on the show. She was lovely, smiley and very tall. She did a great job with her demo. I had fun decking out the set with horses and stage coaches that I convinced Maria, our illustrious food producer, to have Marty, our amazing outside prop man, order for the set. I made pot roasts enough for all of the various stages of the demo, for the platters and, for the anchors to taste. I also made her gratin potatoes, lettuce wedges with creamy ranch and a copious amount of brownies to show on the set, and for the audience to taste. The crew really enjoyed the food after wards. Joe, my buddy and amazing, steadfast, work cohort was in a fine mood this morning. We had our usual laughs while working hard to get the set ready for the show. Big D, that's Da, always helps in his multitude of awesome ways. From his warm encouragement, to his generous praise, to helping to bring the platters to the table for me, then helping to bring the tables upstairs to the set. He is responsible for anything big or small coming through the doors for the show. These are some of the behind the scenes folks that are an important part of making it all happen, and have for the most part enhanced my days there as well as my life in general!

Drawings,Photos and Written by Karen Pickus
Courtesy Karen Pickus 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

Green Soup

This soup will cure whatever ails you. It is simple to make and delicious. You always hear "You need to eat more dark green leafy vegetables, they are sooo good for you!" I also often hear from friends and colleagues that nobody knows what to do with them ,or that "you have to cook them for so long". Well you don't! This soup takes so little time, and is so easy to make. My daughter requests this soup all the time. She's a teenager and she loves this soup! It has no down side that I know of. It does taste best when you eat it up the same day. I made it last night for dinner and we all slept great and woke up rather cheery this morning. Not sure it was the soup, but it sure is wonderful!


1 quart chicken broth, homemade or store bought, I use organic varieties when I run out of homemade, or you can use good quality vegetable broth
1 large garlic clove sliced thin
1 heaping cup of broccoli florets, quartered
1/2 bunch kale
1/2 bunch dinosaur kale, four stems
1/2 bunch rainbow chard
sprinkling of ground white pepper


Slice the garlic. Wash and cut the broccoli. Cut the greens into 2 inch pieces, discard the stems, but use the stems of the chard. Wash the greens in a salad spinner or colander, no need to dry the greens.
In a 4 quart pot bring the broth to a boil.
Add the sliced garlic and stir.
Then add the broccoli and stir. Then add the greens in batches and stir until the greens have wilted a bit. Repeat until all of the greens have been added to the pot.
Stir occasionally and simmer for 5-7 minuted until the greens and broccoli are tender.
Add the sprinkling of pepper and serve.

Serves 4

Recipes and photos by Karen Pickus
Recipes and photos courtesy Karen Pickus 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Buckwheat Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Vegetables

My family just went to the Fairway Market with me this morning. I like to browse around and see what looks great and build my meals around those ingredients. It's a lot of fun that way. There are great organic vegetables on the second floor. The fruit and vegetable guy, Tino, is always cheerful with me and knowledgeable about what is in the best shape and is happy to share that with me and when the next shipment will arrive. While I was shopping I got in the mood for, you know, the Chinese take-out cold noodles with sesame sauce. I wanted it to have a lot of vegetables and I wanted to use buckwheat noodles. I knew I had all of the sauce ingredients in my cupboard, but I needed the vegetables and the buckwheat noodles. I picked up what pleased me the most and we got it home and I went to work. Here is what I came up with. We all enjoyed it very much for our Sunday lunch. It is easy to make and far better than the take out variety, if I do say so myself!


For the sauce

1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 pinch red pepper flakes
1 Tbs. brown rice vinegar
1 Tbs. agave sweetener
1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbs. peanut butter
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tbs. water

For the noodles

7 oz. package buckwheat noodles
1/2 red pepper cut into thin strips
3 scallions cut thin on the bias
1/2 cucumber peeled and cut into thin strips
2 carrots cut into thin strips
1/2 bunch broccoli trimmed to the florets and sliced thin
1 small handful of snow peas stringed and cut in half on the bias
1 Tbs. sesame seeds for garnish


Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Prepare the sauce by adding the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to a large bowl big enough to toss the noodles. Then add the vinegar and agave and stir. Then whisk in the peanut butter and sesame oil until combined. Then whisk in the soy sauce and water.
Set aside.
Prepare all of the vegetables.
When the pot of water comes to a boil add the noodles to the pot and stir.
Cook the noodles for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After the noodles have cooked for 5 minutes add the broccoli and snow peas.
Then drain the noodles and green vegetables in a colander
Toss together in the large bowl with the sauce and the remaining vegetables.
Place into an attractive serving bowl and garnish with the sesame seeds.

Serves 3 as a main course and 4-6 as a side dish.

Recipe and photos by Karen Pickus
Recipe and photos courtesy Karen Pickus 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Roast Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

This has got to be my all time favorite comfort food. Roast Chicken with roasted potatoes and vegetables. This meal says love me, love my friends, love my family... well heck, love everybody! You cook the chicken in a very hot oven on a raft of vegetables and potatoes, flecked with dried thyme and lots of salt and pepper and voila -- you have a feast of simple comfort and joy It is nutritious and downright excellent. Everyone needs a roast chicken like this in their repertoire.
Hope you like it!


1 Yam cut into chunks
12 small Yukon Gold potatoes or new potatoes, cut in half
2 carrots, left whole or cut into thirds

1 3 1/2 lb. Whole Organic Chicken
1 Tbs. Olive oil
1 Tbs. dried thyme leaves
2 tsp. fleur de sel or Kosher salt
1 tsp. finely ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In an ovenproof dish place all of the vegetables.
Then rub the chicken with the olive oil and season all over with the salt, pepper and dried thyme. Place on top of the vegetables and place in the hot oven.
Roast for 45-55 minutes. Take it out of the oven.
Carefully turn over the chicken and gently move around the vegetables.
Place the chicken and vegetables back into the oven and roast for another 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. This will make the skin nice and crispy all over.
When the chicken is crispy and cooked through, take out of the oven and place the chicken on an attractive serving platter with the vegetables.

Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Recipe, photos and drawing by Karen Pickus
Recipe, photos and drawing courtesy Karen Pickus 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rice and Beans and the Mother of the Chicken

I had an amazing experience when I did my externship from the Culinary Institute of America. I worked at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida under a Swiss gentleman named Manfred Hacker. He was the Executive Chef of the hotel kitchen. He was a very discerning boss and luckily was impressed by my work ethic and made it possible for me to work all of the different stations in the kitchen. There I worked with a Saucier named Tato. He was a passionate cook and made fantastic mashed yucca, rice and beans and roasted chicken. He used to say "we've got to have rice and beans and the mother of the chicken". This is not only a staple in Spanish homes in North and South America, it is so good for you and a very satisfying feast. Here is my version of rice and beans. I have made the beans, which are pinto, but you can use this method for black, kidney or chili beans. I made my yellow rice with long grain brown rice and added saffron and turmeric. I will blog my roast chicken, called " Galina" at a later date. Hope you enjoy this tasty combo and make this a staple in your home as well! Add a tossed salad to round out the meal. Wishing you excellent health and happiness!

Ingredients for the rice

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, medium dice
3 cloves minced garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. saffron
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 cup long grain brown rice
4 cups chicken broth


In a 2 quart pot saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat,until the vegetables are tender, but not browned. About 5-7 minutes.
Add the herbs, seasoning and rice and stir to coat. Cook stirring occasionally for 2 minutes. Add the broth and stir, raise heat to high. Bring to a boil, cover,

then lower the heat to simmer gently for 45 minutes, until the rice is cooked through and all of the liquid is absorbed. Check the rice while it is cooking and if it is dry before cooked through add a bit of water.

Serves 4

For the beans


2 Cups Pinto Beans or black, kidney or chili beans
Water to cover for soaking
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup diced bacon(optional)
5 carrots cut into 1 inch pieces
6 whole peeled garlic cloves
1 onion medium dice
2 tsp. sea salt
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs thyme
2 tsp. cumin (optional)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Water to cover for cooking


In a heavy gauge pot, cover the beans with water and soak overnight.
In a colander, rinse the beans thoroughly. If you are using the bacon render it in a large enameled cast iron pot with the olive oil until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients except the beans and water and cook stirring often until the vegetables are softened. Then add the beans and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook the beans for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Skim the beans every 1/2 hour and then stir. Add more water if necessary. Alternatively, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. This is my favorite method to cook the beans. Make sure the pot is ovenproof, an enamel covered cast iron pot with a lid works well. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in the pot. Bring to a boil, cover the pot and place into the preheated oven. Stir occasionally and simmer in the oven until beans are fully cooked and tender. Serve with the rice.

Recipes and Photos by Karen Pickus
Courtesy Karen Pickus 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Periyali and the Prince

I went to a Greek restaurant in Chelsea N.Y. called Periyali. I had been there some years back and liked it very much. So I thought it high time to return. Every now and then I get a yen for Octopus. Peryali does not disappoint. It was a serendipitous adventure.
We were greeted by a burly waiter/ sommelier named Mack. Mack was a cheery, ebullient sort of fellow, and had what turned out to be excellent taste in wine. He recommended a white wine from Greece that was crisp without being acidic. Refreshing and smooth. A very extraordinary white, Nasiakos Moschofilero! We had it with a very tender sauteed octopus set in a lemon clarified butter sauce, perfection.

Writing and drawings by Karen Pickus
Courtesy Karen Pickus 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Light Yellow Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

Last night I went to see the musical, Memphis, with my friend Jennifer. Her father had the initial concept for the play. It was outstanding and so enjoyable and touching. I wanted to make a cake for her to thank her for her thoughtfulness. This is one of her favorite flavors, vanilla cake with vanilla icing, so I created this one.
This cake is also ideal for a birthday cake. It has an excellent crumb and the frosting is very versatile. The frosting is a basic Swiss Meringue butter cream. To make it chocolate, fold in 2-4 ounces of warm melted unsweetened chocolate to the finished butter cream. If you prefer coffee flavor, just add instant espresso dissolved in water. Start with a Tbs. of instant coffee granules to 2-3 Tbs. water. Add more the same way if you desire stronger coffee flavor.

This paddle is an exceptional tool. It makes mixing cakes a real pleasure. No more bowl scraping! No longer necessary! It is called a Beater Blade. They have a web site. This is an excellent tool if you do any baking at all, and they make blades to fit on various kinds of mixers.

Here is how you make the cake:


1 1/2 sticks softened sweet butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/3 cup water
2 tsps. pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 10 inch cake pan liberally. Dust it with flour.
In an electric mixer add butter and sugar and mix with the paddle attachment until creamed. Add the eggs one at a time. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl.
With the machine turned off, add the flour mixture all at once. Turn the machine on slowly and add the water until the mixture is smooth and just incorporated. (The Beater Blade helps one accomplish this easily because you can add the water in a steady stream and you don't have to stop to scrape down the sides, so you don't get lumps and you don't over mix the batter) . Then mix in the vanilla.
Place batter into the prepared pan.
Place the pan into the preheated oven and bake 45-50 minutes until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, the cake is golden in color and when the top is pressed gently it depresses slightly . Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack then carefully, un mold the cake onto the rack. Let cool completely. Then place the cake onto a cardboard circle or an attractive serving plate.

For the frosting

5 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
10 ounces unsalted butter
a dash of salt
1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract


In the mixing bowl of your electric mixer add the sugar and egg whites. The bowl must be clean and dry or your meringue won't develop properly.
Place the bowl over a pot with water. Make sure the bottom of the mixing bowl does not touch the water. Over medium high heat, for about 5 minutes, stir the egg white, sugar mixture occasionally with a wire whisk. When the sugar melts and the mixture is about 100 degrees, just a little hotter than body temperature, place the mixing bowl on the machine with the whisk attachment. Put it on high and beat until you have a stiff meringue. The bowl should be slightly warm or cool when you touch the bottom. Change to the paddle attachment. Add the butter and beat until you have a smooth cream. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the dash of salt and mix in the vanilla.

Now you are ready to ice the cake

Cut the cake horizontally into thirds with a serrated knife. Spread about 1/3 cup of butter cream between each layer. Albert Kumin, my amazing mentor used to say... " You want a filling not a stuffing"! Then ice the top and sides of the cake with a thin coat of frosting. This is called a "crumb coat". This prevents the crumbs from getting messed up in the frosting.
Refrigerate the cake for 5 minutes.
Then proceed to finish icing the cake. Have fun and ice it so that it delights you!

Serve the cake the same day.... It is best that way. Serves 16-20

Alternatively freeze the cake before it is iced and refrigerate the frosting in a tightly closed container. Let the icing come to room temperature before frosting. It is easier to frost if the cake is a bit cool.

Serve the iced cake at room temperature.

Recipes, Writing and Photos by Karen Pickus
Courtesy Karen Pickus 2010

Finished Slaw

Finished Slaw
Ready to eat!