Gigantes Beans

I fell in love with these giant — gigantes — beans in Athens, where they’re often served as part of a mezhedes appetizer spread. They’re meaty, soaked through with flavor and thoroughly satisfying. To this day, my favorite way to enjoy them is still with toothpicks and a glass of ouzo.


Banana Licuado

This is my hands-down favorite licuado in Mexico (OK, you caught me … I’m also a sucker for a black zapote). Somewhere between a milkshake and a smoothie, this banana licuado recipe makes a lovely breakfast or sweet afternoon snack.


Sparkling Green Grapefruit Cocktail

This is an ideal winter cocktail to ring in the new year. The grapefruit juice contributes acidity, sweetness and seasonal flavor, the licorice-flavored absinthe lends a little bitterness and the Champagne adds the must-have sparkle. Absinthe–a k a the Green Fairy–is a powerful liqueur made from wormwood, and it’s making a comeback in artisanal cocktails. If you can’t find it, substitute another anise-flavored liqueur, such as Pernod.

2 ounces pink grapefruit juice
1/2 teaspoon absinthe OR Pernod
3 to 4 ounces Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled
Wedge of grapefruit, for garnish

Pour juice and absinthe into a Champagne flute. Top with the Champagne or sparkling wine. Garnish with the wedge of grapefruit.

Serves 1

Spicy Valentine’s Day Love Potion

Drawing from folklore, nutrition, and the laws of good taste, this invigorating beverage contains calcium-rich milk, zinc-rich pine nuts, and antioxidant-rich spices. A bit of honey lends sweetness. Will it help your love life? Who knows, but it’s a delicious and potent energy-booster nonetheless.

love-potion-recipe2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 cups very cold skim milk
2-1/2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chile pepper, or more for an added kick

In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts for 3 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan frequently and stirring with a heatproof spatula. Transfer to a plate to cool completely.

Combine nuts and remaining ingredients in a blender. (Use an immersion blender if you have one.) Divide between two glasses, and serve.

Serves 2

Chicken Pate with Brandy (Chopped Liver)

This recipe is based on chopped liver — a k a “Jewish pate” — but combines liver with skinless, boneless chicken thighs and substitutes heart-healthy canola oil for traditional chicken fat in a version that’s much lower in saturated fat than my grandma’s specialty. I’ve also added a touch of brandy and toasted walnuts to take this a little upmarket. Spending a few minutes thoroughly cleaning and trimming the chicken of excess fat and sinew ensures a smooth pate; sharp kitchen shears make quick work of this task. Serve as an appetizer with crackers, toasted rye or French bread, along with cornichons, a robust mustard and dry white wine.

chicken-pate-chopped-liver-recipe2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 pound chicken livers, cleaned and trimmed
1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes or until tender. Sprinkle livers and chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add livers to pan and cook 2 minutes on each side or until seared on the outside and light pink on the inside (do not overcook). Transfer livers and onions to work bowl of a food processor.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan. Add thighs to pan and cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Add thighs to food processor with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and brandy.

Process until smooth and stir in walnuts. Spoon pate into a shallow 2-cup dish or individual ramekins. Chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Serves 6

Umami Stuffed Mushrooms

Mushrooms and Parmigiano-Reggiano are the kings of umami, amplifying one another’s flavor exponentially. Spinach and prosciutto add even more to the mix to make this hors d’oeuvre simply irresistible.


1 1/2 pounds white or cremini mushrooms (sometimes called “baby bella”)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large shallot, minced
2 ounces prosciutto, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/3 cup frozen spinach, chopped (thawed, squeezed of excess water)
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup dry sherry (or dry Marsala)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375.

Wipe mushrooms clean, carefully snap out stems and chop them finely (you should end up with roughly 1 1/2 cups of minced stems). Toss mushroom caps with garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Place mushroom caps stem-side down on cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and reserve liquid.

While mushroom caps are cooking, heat remaining tablespoon oil in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. Add shallots, minced mushroom caps, prosciutto, thyme and rosemary and sauté until the shallots have softened and mushrooms have released their liquid, 6-8 minutes.

Add spinach, pour in sherry and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook until liquid has evaporated, 2-3 minutes, and turn off heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in parsley, panko crumbs and cheese. Pour any liquid from the mushroom caps into the stuffing mixture (it’s umami-rich).

Stuff about 1 teaspoon into each mushroom cap and arrange stuffing-side up on cookie sheet. Return to oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden and warmed through.

Serves 8

Recipe by Jacqueline Church