RSS Feed

Category Archives: Barbara Kafka

Oh. No.

This is not the “best and worst” post promised for Saturdays, although that may come later after I feel better; I have bigger fish to fry. The only “worst” involved here is my guilt.

I had a tough day yesterday, and was delighted and amazed to see in my e-mail “inbox” that I had received a comment from none other than Barbara Kafka, cookbook writer and food journalist extraordinaire. Back in the summer when I first started blogging, I used her newest book Vegetable Love quite a bit, and published a recipe for a Zucchini Custard which I had made. (I will not link to the entry because that perpetuates this problem; I am, in fact, going to delete the recipe portion of the post directly). I was a little horrified that a famous personage had seen that I couldn’t make the dish quite right, and that it was kind of burned in the picture, but I was still thrilled that she had somehow found my blog.

Then I saw this. (Edited to add: I can’t seem to link directly to Ms. Kafka’s blog; so you’ll have to follow this link, enter her blog and read the Noveber 14th entry). One can only assume that Ms. Kafka did not drop by my insignificant little blog because she was so pleased that I had tried one of her recipes; she was amassing evidence of internet recipe stealing. I am beyond humiliated. As I said in a (apologetic) comment on her blog, I am an attorney in my “real” life, and I did some research early in my blogging life on this issue, including speaking with a friend who is an attorney specializing in intellectual property issues. I was told that books are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, but that recipes could not be copyrighted, mainly because it is the general consensus that there are relatively few recipes that are actually “invented” by the writer as opposed to being tweaked. As Ms. Kafka correctly points out in her post, the precise wording of a recipe is copyrightable. I copied her exact words, which means I violated copyright law.

I was also told by my attorney friend that I was probably okay if I was always sure to say where I got the recipe and to link to the source. Apparently this is not the case. In my naivete, I honestly thought I might be doing some authors that I admired a favor by highlighting/plugging their books to the readers of my blog.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do going forward; I always feel comfortable publishing a recipe I have “adapted,” although I also always publish the original source so that a reader can find and use the original if s/he prefers. I am honestly not “tweaking” or “adapting” so that I can get away with violating copyright law; I make changes to suit my preferences and those of my family. I will continue to do that, because its my firm belief that once I change/adapt/revise a recipe it is my own. I also feel comfortable reprinting any recipe I originally discovered on the internet. I guess in the future I will refrain from printing any recipe from a book unless I have changed it in some way; I will simply say what I made and indicate the source of the recipe. I offer a genuine, abject, humiliated retroactive apology to all from whom I have inadvertently stolen the recipes they work so hard to create, collect and publish.


Flames in My Pasta

Tonight I made whole wheat pasta with Barbara Kafka’s Fried Peppers and Tomatoes, along with some focaccia. It was good that I made the bread, because the sauce was so hot (jalapeno hot, not Fahrenheit hot) that my son and my nephew were barely able to eat it. It was good, but it was really spicy. Maybe I used the wrong kind of peppers – the recipe says “hot green peppers (about 4-5 inches long)” which sounds like jalapenos to me, so that’s what I used. Also, Ms. Kafka does use the adjective “sinus-clearing.” Anyway, with apologies to Carly Simon (in the unlikely event that she is reading my blog) I later found myself singing “I had some dreams, they were flames in my pasta, flames in my pasta, ’cause/You’re so vain….”

Try the recipe, but I’m telling you right now that if you are cooking for children, the ulcer-prone, or other innocents, you should seriously consider reducing the quantity of hot peppers and increasing the number of frying peppers and/or tomatoes. I would also probably cut up the hot peppers, at least a little bit, the next time; the recipe calls for no reduction in size other than stemming them, and it took a long time for them to cook compared to the quartered frying peppers.

Reject Pantry Day 3 and Great Gazpacho

For Day 3 of the Reject Pantry Project, I decided to tackle the jar of prepared horseradish that had languished in obscurity since, perhaps, 2001. It seemed like cheating to mix it with mayonnaise and make a roast beef sandwich, so I found a recipe for a cheese spread (the Food of the Gods for my husband and son) that required a bit of horseradish. It was a hit, and although I still have lots of the stuff left, it has moved to cushier quarters in the refrigerator door and will be used again to recreate the cheese spread. Edited to add: we have subsequently discovered that this spread makes a great sandwich filling. We like it on toasted regular or marble rye, with a little salt and pepper. Its like Deviled Ham that died and went to heaven.


Ham and Swiss Cheese Spread Recipe

(Adapted from From Dip It! by Rick Rodgers (William Morrow & Co., via

  1. 1 (3 ounces) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  2. 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  3. 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  4. 1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
  5. 1/2 pound smoked ham, finely chopped in a food processor
  6. 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp Swiss cheese
  7. 1 Tbsp shredded onion (use the large holes on a box grater)

(I doubled this recipe and substituted shredded sharp cheddar for Swiss because I had some to use up). In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the onion until it is almost pureed. Add the ham and pulse until it is in large chunks or strips, but not yet “ground.” Add remaining ingredients and pulse until blended (its okay if your ham loses all structural integrity; its a spread). Move dip from food processor bowl into serving bowl, and stir in shredded cheese. Cover and chill.


Much to Sam’s dismay, I did not serve the cheese spread on crackers as our actual dinner. I did, however, made Barbara Kafka’s gazpacho, which is really, really good. I like it chunky, which this is, although it could easily be processed until it was smoother. Its also easy to adjust the heat – I gave half of this to my parents with no chili pepper, and then added a small jalapeno to our half. Based on this recipe, and last night’s Zucchini Custard, I can now endorse Barbara Kafka’s Vegetable Love without reservations. The recipes I’ve tried have been clear, inventive and delicious, and the book includes lots of useful information about identifying, buying, picking cooking and storing a wide array of familiar and unfamiliar vegetables to get me through farmer’s market season and the Season of Root Vegetables. Who knows; maybe next week I’ll try the Nettle Soup…. I’m not putting the recipe on the blog, because there are millions of great gazpacho recipes floating around right now, but if you really want it, and you ask me nicely, I’ll give it to you.


Reject Pantry Day 2 and Zucchini Custard

The Pantry Reject challenge continues, and today I used the Mesquite Smoked Maine Sea Salt that started it all. After referring to the Maine Sea Salt Company‘s website, I applied about a teaspoon of the salt to a pork tenderloin, and wrapped it tightly to “marinate” for the day.


Rob grilled the tenderloin with no further salting or spicing. It was quite tasty, although I tasted more salt than mesquite. Considering that I still have quite a lot left in the jar, I can try again with more. In all fairness, I never said I was going to use all of these things up this week, just that I would use them.

To accompany the grilled pork, I prepared Barbara Kafka’s Zucchini Custard, which is basically a crustless quiche. We also had a bowl of very fresh heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market, roughly chopped with a bit of kosher salt. They would not have won any beauty contests, those immense, misshapen tomatoes with the odd wormhole and black line, but they are to ethylene-gassed grocery store tomatoes what 18 karat gold is to pyrite.

The Zucchini Custard was delicious, but I think I used too much zucchini – I tried to estimate 2 pounds, but it seemed to me that the finished dish had too much zucchini in relation to the cheese custard. My recommendations are that you try this, because its lovely, but that you try for the correct amount of zucchini and slice it all to the 1/4-inch thickness called for by the recipe.


Menu Planning: Week 8

As I do each week, I am planning my dinner menus for next week before I make my Saturday visits to the grocery store and farmer’s market. As always, I am looking for what is seasonal and plentiful at the market, and what is on sale at the grocery store, and I like to plan no more than 2 red meat meals in a week, and at least 1 vegetarian meal.

This week, summer’s bounty makes it kind of a crime not to make meals around tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, fresh herbs, and the transparent apples that make such good applesauce. I still have to include plenty of protein for my football player and his father The Carnivore, but I can at least work in as many of these lovely, fresh things as possible. This week, I’ll be relying heavily on Barbara Kafka’s cookbook Vegetable Love, which I have from the library. As always, if I cook her recipes and love them, I’ll pass them on in the blog with color commentary. (Although, if you can’t trust Barbara Kafka, you’re in trouble…).



Out to Dinner


Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Zucchini Custard and Homemade Applesauce

Pork Tenderloin is on sale this week, so I’m going to buy 3 or 4 pounds, which will give us hot, grilled pork tonight, and leftovers to make Cuban sandwiches on Wednesday. I’ll marinate the pork in some Italian dressing (my default marinade) which will give it some tenderness and flavor, but not flavor it so strongly that it will taste out of place in a Cuban sandwich. I think we’ll butterfly it for the grill. The Zucchini Custard is a Barbara Kafka recipe, and I make applesauce by coring transparent apples and cutting them into chunks, then cooking them on “Low” in my slow cooker all day until they fall apart. I then add sugar to taste, some cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg, and a bit of lemon juice if the apples don’t have much flavor. You could certainly peel the apples, but I like us to have the fiber from the peels, and transparent apples have very thin skins.



Pasta with Pesto, and Tomato Slices with Fresh Basil

Pesto is another summer-bonanza food that I love. It freezes beautifully, as well, so I’ll at least double the recipe and freeze some for when all of this fresh basil is gone. I’ll toss the pesto with a short cut of pasta (orchiette is my favorite because its so cute) and serve it with sliced tomatoes drizzled with some good olive oil, a little Balsamic vinegar and chiffonade of basil.

Basic Pesto

  1. About 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  2. 2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  3. 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (I’ve also used walnuts and almonds)
  4. At least 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 1/2 cup hard Italian cheese (Parmesan or Romano)
  6. Salt and pepper to taste

Place basil, garlic, nuts and 1/2 cup olive oil in food processor and process until smooth, scraping sides occasionally. If its too thick, add more olive oil. Add cheese and pulse once or twice to blend, taste and add salt and pepper to taste.


Gazpacho and Cuban Sandwiches (and Maybe Plantain Chips)

Last week, I made the gazpacho recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, and I didn’t love it. I still love and trust him, and maybe I made a mistake, but I found that it tasted too bread-y (the recipe called for 4 slices of bread, soaked) and that the absence of onion made it less sharp than I like. This week, I’m trying Barbara Kafka’s recipe, which does not have bread and does contain onions. It would be more ethnically correct to have black bean soup with the Cuban sandwiches, but I can get black beans any time, and its tomato season so I’m all about gazpacho. The Cuban sandwich recipe is Bittman’s, and is basically roasted pork, ham, cheese and pickle on good crusty bread; I’ll post it if we love it.


Grilled Chicken, Parmesan-Breaded Fried Eggplant, and Greens with Oil and Vinegar

I will probably fall back on my Italian Dressing marinade again, and also tuck some sprigs of rosemary into the chicken breasts before they go on the grill. The eggplant recipe is Barbara Kafka’s, and sounds like a fabulous way to get my family to eat eggplant. As for the greens, I’ll ask the farmers at the market to recommend something that’s fresh and good and dress it with oil and vinegar or oil and lemon juice.


Pasta with Fried Peppers and Tomatoes, and Foccacia

The tomato and pepper sauce is another one of Kafka’s recipes, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to find the “Italian Frying Peppers” called for in the recipe. This makes the second vegetarian meal in a week; I hope I don’t have a mutiny.


Burgers on the grill, Fresh melon and Potato Chips

Hey; its summer!