Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

Hash-Browned Sweet Potatoes with Garam Masala and Turmeric

by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of


Here is a toast to replacing the everyday with the truly extraordinary – especially when the extraordinary is exceedingly simple to create.  Take these hash browns, for example.  Paired with Sunday morning omlettes (try them stuffed with spinach, scallions, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, and some spicy pepper jack), this preparation is a surprisingly simple, altogether incredible addition to the breakfast table.

Light some white candles and serve with a pot of hot tea.  (Even if you’re still in your jammies.)



Hash-Browned Sweet Potatoes with Garam Masala and Turmeric

2 med. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut to ¼”dice

2 small russet potatoes, cut to ¼” dice

1 onion, cut to ½” dice

5 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

¼ C olive oil

Kosher salt

3 tsp garam masala or to taste

1 tsp turmeric, or to taste


In large heavy pan with a good lid, heat pan over medium heat.  Add oil until hot but not smoking.  When oil is ready, add potatoes, onion, garlic, and spices.  Combine and cover – cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  When potatoes are golden brown and lightly caramelized on the base of the pan, remove lid and allow some of the moisture to dissipate.  Keep warm until ready to serve.

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Green Beans Sauteed in Olive Oil

by Danica Waters / image courtesy of


There are lots of recipes for sautéed green beans out there in the wild blue yonder.  Most of those recipes invite a whole lot of other ingredients to the party: tomatoes, wine, garlic, cream of mushroom soup, etc. – the list goes on and on.  It seems that somewhere along the way, we forgot that the good ol’ green bean can hold its own on the dinner table; its simple, spectacularly fresh flavor doesn’t need a lot of help as long as it’s treated properly.  Allowed to simply be itself, the green bean has all sorts of great things to offer:  Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Manganese, and a full range of beneficial B Vitamins, carotenoids, and antioxidans are but a few of its virtues.


This recipe is simple.  It features fresh green beans sautéed in a bit of extra virgin olive oil until crisp tender, and sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh lemon juice.  Exquisite!  .


An excellent accompaniment to Chicken with Tarragon Cream Sauce, these green beans go well with French and Italian cuisines, in addition to fish, poultry, and vegetarian dishes.  This preparation is so delicious, it might have you looking at that grayish green been casserole on the Thanksgiving menu in a whole new light.




Green Beans Sauteed in Olive Oil

(serves 4)


1 lb fresh green beans, washed, trimmed, and patted dry

2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Juice of ½ a lemon

Kosher Salt to taste


Prepare beans, be sure they are thoroughly dry to avoid splatter when they are added to the oil.

In a wide, shallow sauté pan or frying pan, heat olive oil until hot but not smoking.  Add green beans and cover; allow to cook for about a minute.  Beans should be lightly browned, but not charred – keep your eye on them.  Remove cover and allow condensation to run back into the pan; turn beans and cook another minute.  Once beans are browned a bit on all sides, add 2 -3 Tbsp water to the pan.  Reduce heat to medium and allow to steam until beans are bright green and crisp tender, approximately an additional 3 -5 minutes, depending on your preference.


Remove to a serving dish; squeeze fresh lemon juice over beans and season with Kosher Salt to taste.  Toss well and serve.


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Zucchini: Grilled and Stuffed Southwestern-Style

by Danica Waters

After spending a happy, busy weekend experimenting with different variations of stuffed grilled zucchini (so far I’ve done it Italian-style, Asian-style, and with green chiles and Parmesan cheese – yum!), this variation nearly got me a standing ovation.  Folks were placing dibs on leftovers for lunch the next day.


The secret ingredient is the tequila in the marinade.  It gets ‘em every time; it deepens the flavors and mingles well with all things grilled.





Zucchini:  Grilled and Stuffed Southwestern-Style


4 medium-sized Zucchini



¼ C extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp chili powder

Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp tequila

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice




1 – 15 oz can black beans

½ red bell pepper, seeds removed, cut to ¼” dice

2-3 diced green onions

1 ear fresh corn, kernels removed from the cob

½ C cold cooked jasmine rice

4 oz cream cheese, softened

1 tsp whole cumin seed

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

½ C shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

1 fresh jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, finely minced






Trim ends from each zucchini; cut in half on the bias (crosswise).  Cut each zucchini section in half lengthwise.  Using a teaspoon, scrape seeds and pulp from the center of each zucchini section, leaving about a quarter-inch border on all sides.  Marinate zucchini in tequila mixture; set aside.


Heat grill to medium.


In a small sauté pan, sauté minced jalapeno with diced red pepper in a bit of olive oil until soft.  Add cumin seed, allow to cook for a minute to release the flavor of the cumin, and remove from the heat.


In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients with peppers and cumin and mix well.  Fill zucchini sections; drizzle any remaining marinade over each stuffed zucchini section.  Grill zucchini 3-5 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly charred and cheeses are thoroughly melted; remove from grill and arrange on serving platter.


Allow zucchini to rest another five minutes before serving.



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Zucchini: Stuffed and Grilled Asian-Style

by Danica Waters

Smitten with the results of my first spontaneous attempt at grilling stuffed zucchini (see Zucchini; Grilled and Stuffed Italian Style), I excitedly devoted the rest of my weekend towards developing several variations on the theme.  You would think “la familia” would be picketing outside with large signs that read “SQUASH THE SQUASH” or “IT’S X-NAY THE ZUCCHINI DAY”, but surprisingly, that’s not what happened.  Because zucchini has a relatively neutral flavor, it acts as a nearly perfect culinary canvas for all sorts of world cuisine.


Today’s variation has an Asian flare; the flavors and textures on this little gem will set your taste buds on fire. (Or was it the chili sauce?) It’s my personal favorite; I think I could live on this variation, like, forever..




Asian Grilled Stuffed Zucchini


4 medium-sized Zucchini



2 Tbsp chili sauce

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp dark brown sugar



1/2 small can diced water chestnuts

½ C diced roasted and salted peanuts

¼ C chopped fresh cilantro

½ C cold cooked jasmine rice

3-4 chopped green onions

Chinese Chicken Salad dressing or other Asian-style dressing ( I use Trader Joe’s Spicy Thai Peanut Dressing) to bind.




Trim ends from each zucchini; cut in half on the bias (crosswise).  Cut each zucchini section in half lengthwise.  Using a teaspoon, scrape seeds and pulp from the center of each zucchini section, leaving about a quarter-inch border on all sides.  Marinate zucchini in chili sauce mixture; set aside.


Heat grill to medium.


In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients and mix well.  Fill zucchini sections; drizzle any remaining marinade over each stuffed zucchini section.  Grill zucchini 3-5 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly charred; remove from grill and arrange on serving platter.


Allow zucchini to rest another five minutes before serving.




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Kentucky Bourbon Peaches

by Danica Waters


 I discovered this gem of a recipe in a canning guide given to me by my Mother-In-Law nearly a decade ago.  I suspected just by looking at the ingredients that this recipe would be over-the-top; boy, was I was right.  Let’s put it this way:  if you could bottle that wonderful butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of feeling that comes with the change of the seasons, this is it.


The ginger and clove accents make the peaches smell like the autumn harvest and Christmas all at the same time;  the deep, heady flavor of a good Kentucky Bourbon transforms blushing summer peaches into a gourmet gift everyone will clamor over.


Try serving these peaches warm over vanilla ice cream, perhaps on some chilly late autumn evening when the fire crackles in the hearth and your home is filled with the lively conversation of friends and family.




Kentucky Bourbon Peaches

(Adapted from the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving)


17-20 medium peaches, ripened

8 inches cinnamon stick

2 Tbsp finely chopped gingerroot

1 tsp whole cloves

1 C sugar

2 C water

½ C good-quality bourbon


Fill boiling water canner with water.  Place 5 clean pint mason jars in canner over high heat.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and keep jars hot until ready to fill.



In separate small saucepan, place lids in hot but not boiling water to soften sealing compound.  Keep hot until ready to use.



Bring a large saucepan or stockpot filled with water to a rolling boil.

Fill another large bowl or pot with ice water, place next to the stove.

Fill another large bowl or pot with a solution of ¼ lemon juice to 4 cups water – this is your color preservation solution for the blanched peaches.


To blanch peaches:


Thoroughly wash ripened peaches.  Blanch the peaches by placing them in the boiling water for only 2 minutes.  Remove with heatproof tongs and immediately place in ice water bath to cool.  When peaches have cooled to the touch, simply slip off their skins.  Cut peaches in half and remove seeds.  Immediately place in color preservation solution; set aside.








Make syrup:


Break cinnamon stick into pieces; tie with gingerroot and cloves in a cheesecloth square (creating a spice bag).




In a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan, combine sugar and water;  add the spice bag.  Bring to a boil; boil 5 minutes.


Drain peaches;  add to boiling syrup.  Return to a boil and cook for about 3 – 5 minutes.



Remove from heat and discard spice bag.  Add bourbon to the peaches and mix well.


Pack hot fruit snugly in overlapping layers in a hot jar;  leave ¾ inch headspace.  Pour in syrup to ½ inch headspace.  Remove any air bubbles by sliding a rubber spatula in-between jar and fruit; readjust headspace by adding more syrup, not to exceed ½ inch headspace.



Wipe rims of jars with clean, damp cloth to remove any stickiness; center prepared lid on jar, and secure with ring.  Do not over-tighten – screw on ring to fingertip tightness.


Place jars in hot water bath canner; return to a boil.


Process 20 minutes at altitudes up to 1,000 feet.


Remove jars and allow to cool for 24 hours.  Test your seals:  if center of lid springs back when touched, your seal is broken and you should immediately refrigerate and use contents promptly.


If center remains depressed when touched, your seal is good, and peaches can be stored in a cool dark place for up to a year.




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Vermicelli Frittata with Eggplant

by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of


One of the biggest joys of the summer harvest is the eggplant.  They are beautiful in the garden, eye-catching on the produce stands, and sumptuous in nearly every type of world cuisine imaginable.  One of my favorite ways to prepare it is in this exquisite pasta frittata.


The flavors in this frittata are bold and hearty.  Top thick slices with a simple marinara and a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese; serve with a salad of romaine, thinly sliced purple onion and a generous bunch of cherry tomatoes fresh from the vine.






Vermicelli Frittata with Eggplant

(Gourmet Magazine, April 1994)

A 1-lb eggplant, trimmed

1 Tbsp salt

3 garlic cloves, minced

6 Tbsp olive oil

1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼” dice

½ c brine-cured pitted black olives, sliced

¼ C thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

½ lb vermicelli

4 large eggs, beaten lightly


Cut eggplant into ¼ inch dice and sprinkle with the salt.  Drain eggplant, weighted with a plate topped by several cans, in a colander 45 minutes.  Rinse eggplant well and squeeze dry by handfuls.  Drain eggplant on paper towels.


In a heavy skillet cook garlic in 3 Tbsp olive oil over moderate heat, stirring until golden.  Add bell pepper and cook, covered, until softened.   Add eggplant and cook 10 minutes, or until eggplant is tender.  Stir in olives and basil.


In a kettle of salted boiling water, cook vermicelli until al dente and drain.  In a large bowl boss vermicelli with eggplant mixture and salt and pepper to taste and cool 2 minutes.  Add eggs and combine well.


In a 12-inch skillet heat remaining 3 Tbsp oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add the pasta mixture and with 2 forks, spread across the pan evenly.  Reduce heat to moderate and cook frittata 3 minutes.  Shift skillet so that one fourth of frittata is directly over center of burner and cook1-1/2 minutes.  Shift skillet 3 more times, cooking remaining fourths in same manner.  Put a heatproof platter over skillet and invert frittata onto it.  Slide frittata, browned side up, back into skillet and cook other side in same manner.  Slide frittata onto platter and cool to room temperature.


Note:  This recipe serves 6 – 8 generously, and is great served with a nice marinara over the top.  This frittata also freezes exceptionally well, and can be cooked in a smaller skillet so you have another meal ready and waiting in the freezer!


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The New York-Style Cheese Melt

by Danica Waters


It occurred to me that I should be embarrassed to post a recipe for a cheese melt.  I mean, really.  A cheese melt?

But this is no ordinary cheese melt. Here’s the back story:


One particularly cold and miserable  winter afternoon, my friend, my mother, my sisters and I went to my Nana’s house to play bridge.  It was Nana’s favorite game, and she was very, very good at it.  After playing several rounds and having our pants beat off by this dear, sweet, innocent-looking lady every single time, we decided a break was in order.


My Friend  and I marched off to the kitchen to see what we could throw together for lunch.  She flung open the refrigerator door and enthusiastically rummaged through its contents for a minute or two.  “Mmm-hmmm…  oh yes!…. oh goody! We have this, too!”  With an air of victory, she produced several ripe tomatoes, an onion, some hoagie-rolls, condiments, and cheese.  “Now THIS is the way we used to do it in New York!”


And so the story goes that, back in the ’60’s,  while pursuing her artistic endeavors in The Village in New York City, she and all the other starving artists in her building used to gather in a single apartment, bringing with them whatever they had in their refrigerators at the moment.  Some would bring a rind of cheese and some bread, another a bottle of catsup and a can of beans, and so on and so forth.  Their hope and primary objective was concoct something that would feed the lot of them in a tastier, more substantial way than if they were to dine alone.  Needless to say, more than a few gatherings rendered questionable results.  But this cheese melt was such a culinary success that the group made sure to have all the ingredients on hand at all times from that point forward.


Yes, this is no ordinary cheese melt.  It is bold, artistic, worldly, and accompanies soup or Balsamic Grilled Artichokes perfectly.  I can pretty much guarantee you’ll never eat a cheese melt any other way.



The New York-Style Cheese Melt


“Hoagie” or other roll


Mustard of your choice – be generous!

Yellow Onion, thinly sliced

Fresh Tomato, thinly sliced

Extra-Sharp Cheddar Cheese



Cut the roll in half lengthwise (like a sandwich) and lie each half on its back (open-face).  Make several scores on the face of each roll to allow the condiments to soak in.  Spread each face with mayonnaise and a generous amount of mustard. (Note:  your choice of mustard will change the flavor of this sandwich – have fun and experiment!  I love a spicy brown mustard, personally, but it is equally fantastic with good old fashioned basic prepared yellow mustard!)


Layer thinly sliced tomato on top of the condiments.  Follow with rings of thinly sliced onion (I prefer a yellow onion for stronger flavor), and top with slices of extra-sharp cheddar cheese.


Place sandwiches under the broiler until cheese is golden and bubbly.  Serve, and NOSH!


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Balsamic Grilled Artichokes

by Danica Waters


Although artichoke season is at its best from March to May, with another strong spike in the fall, occasionally mid-summer harvests will yield some absolute beauties at a terrific price.  Last weekend’s farmer’s market featured some globes too glorious to resist – and at a mere $1.50 apiece, why try?  Besides being delicious and incredibly economical, artichokes are super-easy to prepare and lots of fun to eat.


For those of you who don’t know about the many wonders of the artichoke, let me fill you in.  The artichoke is truly a super-food; it packs an antioxidant capacity that happens to be one of the highest reported for any vegetable.  It has been shown to drastically reduce cholesterol levels, it’s a natural diuretic, it strengthens liver and gallbladder function, and it has been shown to be of extreme benefit to intestinal flora (which would be those little bugs you want to have living long and happy lives inside your gut).  Artichoke extract is also reported to be of immense assistance to those who suffer from IBS.  (


Artichokes are actually large thistles; they prefer cooler, temperate climates with full sun, which makes California’s Mendocino County just about the most perfect place to grow artichokes that there ever was.  (If you happen to find yourself in Northern California in mid-to-late May, be sure to check out the Castroville Artichoke Festival. )  They are best when the leaves are closed – as they open they become more tough and fibrous.  Artichokes can usually be kept up to a week in your refrigerator’s produce compartment.


Given all the health benefits the artichoke has to offer, it’s ironic that they are usually smothered in lots of things known to clog your arteries – they’re usually dipped in loads of melted butter, mayonnaise, Hollandaise sauce and the like.


Here’s a recipe that will make you think you died and went to heaven while allowing the artichoke be its super-food self.  Marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with just a hint of garlic and set on the grill, the flavor is so heavenly you won’t miss all the fat one bit.  Besides accentuating the flavor of the artichoke, the balsamic vinegar also enhances your body’s ability to absorb all the great health benefits the artichoke has to offer.



Balsamic Grilled Artichokes


Remove any tough leaves on the outer layer from the artichokes.  With a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, trim the top and end of each artichoke, and clip the spiny ends from the rest of the leaves.  Rinse thoroughly under cool running water to remove any dirt.


Steam artichokes in a large pot – if you do not have a steamer insert, simply poke holes in a tin pie plate, invert and place in bottom of pot.  In a dire emergency, wad up pieces of tin foil and place in the bottom of the pot so that the artichokes will not rest on the bottom of the pot.  Add water just to the base of the stems, season with a teaspoon of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and a slice of fresh lemon.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat so that water simmers enough to give off plenty of steam.  Be careful not to let your pot run dry.  Artichokes are done when a leaf pulls off easily, or when a fork can be easily inserted into the stem.


Remove artichokes from pot; allow to cool until safe to handle.  Cut artichokes in half lengthwise; scrape out the fuzz and any smaller purple-tipped leaves with a spoon.  Place artichokes in a large resealable freezer bag.  Add:


¼ C olive oil

¼ C balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced


Seal bag and gently “shake” bag so that artichoke halves are thoroughly coated with marinade – be careful not to break apart the artichokes.  Allow to marinate at least an hour; for a richer flavor, allow to marinate overnight.


Drain artichokes; reserve marinade.  Heat grill to medium; place artichokes cut-side down and grill for 5-7 minutes.  Turn, and baste with remaining marinade.  Grill for another 3-4 minutes or until the tips are lightly charred.

Serve and enjoy!

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“The Queen’s Rings” – A Recipe for the Ultimate Onion Ring

By Danica Waters


You know how there’s just some days where you simply need to throw all caution and sensibility to the wind, light some candles and indulge yourself in whatever your lil’ ol’ heart desires?  For some, that indulgence comes in the form of a quart of Haagen Dazs.  For me, it’s an onion ring.  None of this frozen- bits- of- minced- onion- in- a- batter- shaped- into- a- ring nonsense, either.  I’m talkin’ about the real deal.


In one particularly acute FML moment, I decided I was finished making due with all of the substandard offerings of the kingdom.  And given that, at that particular moment,  my personal bit of self-indulgence was the one thing I had the most personal control over,  I promptly appointed  myself  “Queen of the Ring”, and proceeded to declare that all onion rings in my kingdom must adhere to the following criteria:


They Must Be Hearty.  No wimpy onion rings in my kingdom.  I like ‘em thick-cut.

They Must Be Lightly Spiced.  Inspired by the flavor of  Indian bhajis and spiced with a bit of cayenne pepper, my onion rings have just a hint of curry and leave a little tingle on your tongue.  Tingle is good.

They Must Have Crunch.  No sad, soggy batters shall ever adorn my rings.  Ever.


Here’s the recipe.  You’ll be happy to know these rings became known far and wide across the land, and are requested for celebrations and FML moments alike.  Enjoy!



The Queen’s Rings


Cut off ends and remove peel from:


1 large yellow onion


Cut onion in 1/3 sections crosswise (across the bias), separate into rings.



In separate bowl, place:


2 eggs, beaten well



In a second medium-sized bowl, sift:


1-1/2 C all-purpose flour

1 tsp (medium-heat) curry powder

½ tsp turmeric (optional)

½ tsp cayenne pepper or to taste

1 tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper


In a third, small deep bowl, place:


2 C panko bread crumbs


Establish an “assembly line” as follows:  raw onion rings, egg, flour mixture, and panko bread crumbs.  Have a large metal baking sheet at the ready to place coated rings on.


First, dip each ring in egg, then dredge in flour mixture and place on baking sheet to rest.

Continue with remaining rings, and place in freezer for five minutes.


Remove rings from freezer, dip each in the egg again, and then coat thoroughly in Panko Bread Crumbs.  Return rings on baking tray to the freezer for about an hour.


In a small, deep pot or deep fryer, heat to 365 degrees F:


Vegetable oil


Remove coated rings from freezer and fry in small batches until golden brown.  Keep warm, and serve with your choice of condiments (or none at all).


Indulge!  And enjoy!


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Southwestern Corn Cakes

by Danica Waters

These savory little cakes are the perfect thing to make when you want a little something extra with that salad or those kabobs.  This recipe was originally published in the March 1993 issue of Gourmet Magazine; it is part of a much more extensive and complex Southwestern menu that involves fire-roasting everything.

Fear not. This is the easy part of that menu.


Southwestern Corn Cakes

(Gourmet Magazine March 1993)


1 C stone-ground yellow cornmeal

1/2 C all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp sugar

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional melted butter for brushing the griddle

1 large egg

1 C buttermilk

1 C fresh or frozen thawed corn, chopped coarse

1/4 C finely chopped onion

1/4 C finely chopped, rinsed, drained, and patted-dry bottled roasted red peppers

1 fresh jalapeno or serrano chili (or to taste) seeded and minced (remember to wear rubber gloves)

1 C coarsely grated Monterrey Jack cheese


In a bowl whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking soda, pepper and sugar.  In another bowl whisk together 2 Tbsp of the melted butter, egg, and buttermilk; stir in the corn, onion and minced red pepper, chili, and Monterrey Jack.  Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stir until just combined.

Heat a griddle over moderately high heat until it is hot, brush it lightly with melted butter, and working in batches, drop the batter by a 1/4-cup measure onto the griddle.  Spread the batter slightly to form 3-1/2  to 4-inch cakes.  Cook the cakes for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden, and transfer them to a heatproof platter;  keep warm.  Makes about 12 corn cakes.

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