Archive for October, 2011


When I was in New York last week for the Your Father’s Mustache Reunion at Carnegie Hall, I couldn’t resist a slice of New York Pizza.  It was just a little hole in the wall place near the hotel on 57th street, exactly like 1,000 other shops on nearly every street in Manhattan.  There wasn’t even room in the store to stand and eat your slice.  I had to go stand outside.  But the crust was perefectly thin and crisp, the sauce was mild but distinctively tomato, the cheese was gooey with a rich milky flavor.  You CANNOT duplicate this at home.  And apparantly, it cannot be duplicated in any other city in the world. Viva New York Pizza.


PBS has launched a new site to feature all the great cooking on public television.  There are blogs, clips, and tons of recipes including lots from QED COOKS!  You can get to the site here and then explore.  I think the site is very cool and it demonstrates that public television was not just the first place for cooking programs but it is still the best.

Buckwheat Festival

We’re headed out to Ohiopyle this weekend for the Fall Buckwheat Festival at the Firehouse. They’ll be serving “all you can eat” buckwheat or regular pancakes along with whole hog sausage, home fries, applesauce and pickles all day Friday and Saturday, October 14 and 15. The funds raised are plowed right back into the community to support fire and emergency services. See you there!

Stuffed Grape Leaves Recipe

Serap Ozcan was good enough to send me the recipe to share for the stuffed grape leaves.  So here you are:

Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Pine Nuts, and Currants

Zeytinyagli Yaprak Sarmasi (Yalanci)
Serves 4-6 (recipe adopted from Ozcan Ozan,The Sultan’s Kitchen, A Turkish Cookbook)
This is a popular summer meze along the Aegean Coast and the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. These stuffed grape leaves are very good served with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
This recipe is called yalanci, which means “fake,” because the rice, pine nuts, and currants are substitutes for meat in the stuffing.
1 (16-ounce) jar grape leaves, drained (I used the ones I brought from Turkey)
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1 tbsp lemon salt
Lemon wedges
2 tablespoons currants
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts (I used walnuts)
2 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
1 cup medium grain white rice
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh/dried dill (I used both)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh/dried mint (I prefer dried mint)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, crushed red pepper, pinch of cumin
Soak the currants in warm water for about 15-20 minutes. Drain them and set them aside.
To prepare the grape leaves, bring 2 quarts water to a boil, unroll the grape leaves, and place then in the boiling water for 2 minutes to soften the leaves and rid them of the brine. Using a slotted spoon, remove the leaves from the water and drape them over the edge of a colander to drain. With a sharp knife, cut out the small protruding stem from each leaf (my leaves were the young ones, so I skipped this part). Set the grape leaves aside.
To make the stuffing heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and cook the pine nuts for about 2 minutes, until they’re golden brown.Add onion and slowly cook until they are tender, not brown.  Add the currants, rice, sugar, cinnamon, and 2 cups hot water. Stir the mixture, cover the pot, and cook gently for about 20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the dill and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper, red pepper and cumin. Let the stuffing cool for 30-40 minutes. (You can even eat this!!)
To assemble the sarmas, line up 36 of the grape leaves side by side, vein side up and with the notch where you removed the stem closest to you. Place one tablespoon of the stuffing at the end of the leaf close to you fold the end nearest to you over the filling, then fold both sides of the leaf over the filling. Roll up the leaves-but not too tightly or they will burst.
Line a st-steel shallow pan with half the remaining grape leaves. Arrange the sarmas on top of the leaves, seam-side down. Pour 2 cups hot water, the olive oil, and the lemon juice/lemon salt over them. Cover the sarmas with the remaining grape leaves. Place crumpled wet parchment paper over the grape leaves (I did not use it), and weight it down with an heat-proof plate (one small enough to fit inside the dish).This is importan, if you don’t use it, dolmas can unwind). Cover the dish, and on the stovetop over medium heat bring the liquid to a boil (about 5 minutes). Lower the heat and cook gently for about 45 minutes, or until the sarmas are tender and the water has been absorbed.
After cooling to room temperature (if you don’t, they dry quickly and get darker), transfer the sarmas to a serving dish. Cover them and refrigerate. Serve chilled. Garnish with lemon wedges.
Afiyet Olsun


This time of year you have to keep your car doors locked because if you don’t – there will be zucchini in the back seat when you return.  Tha’t not a problem for me since I’ll take as much fresh produce as people want to send my way.  This weekend my neighbor, Mrs. Trojanowski, brought me three huge bags of  kale from her sister’s garden.  I cooked it all up and put it in freezer bags to be combined with some beans for a cold winter’s dinner.  Last week Frank Caloiero, WQED’s Emmy winning Cinematographer and editor, brought me a whole bag of veggies including, red peppers, eggplant, jalepenos and cherry peppers.  I made a big batch of caponatina with most of it and strung up the remaining cherry peppers to dry next to my kitchen window.  I was going to pickle them but drying is so much less labor intensive.  I’ll have peppers all winter to add a splash of flavor to batches of steak pizzaiola, beans or sauces. 

Here’s my basic recipe for Caponata.  I eliminated the zucchini in this version and substituted more peppers.  It was scrumptious!  Thanks Frank.

Pasta Caponata

1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced

1 medium onion, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 celery stalk, peeled and sliced

1 medium zucchini, diced

4 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

2 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup cracked green olives

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon capers

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon pignoli nuts

salt and pepper

 In a large bowl, toss the diced eggplant with about one-half the olive oil.  Pour into a large, non-stick skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until the eggplant starts to brown on all sides.  Add a little more oil if necessary and then the diced onion, pepper and celery.  Cook until the onion is tender.  Add the zucchini and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and garlic and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes.  Pit and chop the olives and add to the skillet along with the sugar, vinegar, capers and red pepper flakes, if desired.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


Serap Ozcan and her husband, Hasan Ozcan just came by for a visit to my office and left an enormous container of dolmas, stuffed grape leaves. Serap was one of the cooks for our Churchlady cooking II program and I’ve been enjoying events organized by the Turkish Cultural Center of Pittsburgh ever since. These are without a doubt the most delicious stuffed grape leaves I have ever eaten- and they are just beautiful!   I love their fresh lemony taste and the little kick of spice.  She was saying that better versions of this are distinguished by how thin a cylinder is created when you wrap the grap leaves around the rice mixture.  These are pencil thin and absolutely addictive.  My family will be lucky if any of them make it home.  If I can get a recipe from Serap I will post.  The Turkish community here in Pittsburgh works so hard to share their culture and to create an atmosphere of dialogue and understanding.  Bravo to Serap and Hasan and everyone at TCCP.  I can’t wait for their new cultural center to open.