Sushi Rice Crostini

When you hear the term rice cake, a crunchy, dry, tasteless round with the texture of styrofoam may come to mind. Not so in this case, in fact, here I prefer the term rice crostini. Sounds a little more sophisticated, fancy even. And the opposite of dry and tasteless. Topped with creamy avocado, piquant peppers, and other fresh veggies, these “crostini” are as pretty as they are delicious.

This fun little appetizer comes from the April issue of Food & Wine Magazine. Intrigued by small rectangles of golden rice, I left the magazine open to that page and kept coming back to it. The other day I bought sushi rice for the first time in my life and got to work on the recipe.

Cook the sushi rice either by package directions or in a rice cooker if you have one. I used mine, it’s hands-off, and no matter what type of rice you’re making, it turns out perfectly every time.

The toppings can be switched out to whatever you prefer. If you’re not vegetarian, you could use sushi grade tuna, along with the veggie toppings.

One thing to note, the “crostini” are best topped and eaten soon after they come out of the oven. Also, the recipe is easily halved. I made a half batch and used an 8×8 square baking pan. If you do make a full recipe and don’t have a quarter sheet pan, just use two 8×8 pans. You’ll need to do a little planning ahead because once the rice is in the pan(s), it must be chilled for at least eight hours (mine was in the fridge for close to 24). Enjoy!

Sushi Rice Crostini

From the April issue of Food & Wine Magazine

6 cups cooked sushi rice, cooled

3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Cooking spray

3 tablespoons neutral oil (grapeseed, canola, avocado)

Suggested toppings:
Chopped avocado
Hot & sweet cherry peppers, sliced
Shaved carrots
Sliced scallions
Flakey sea salt, such as Maldon
Tamari (which is gluten-free) or soy sauce for dipping

Line a rimmed quarter sheet pan with plastic wrap, leaving 2 inches of overhang on all sides.

Place rice in a large bowl. Stir together rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl until salt is dissolved. Drizzle over rice; gently fold together. Lightly pack rice into a 1-cup dry measuring cup; invert onto prepared pan. Repeat with remaining rice, creating 2 rows of 3. Moisten hands slightly; gently press rice into an even layer. Place another piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of rice; press firmly into a compact, even layer (1/2 inch to 5/8 inch thick). Fold overhanging plastic wrap over top, gently pressing on top and smoothing outer edges. Chill 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. with oven racks in middle and lower third of oven. Remove baking sheet from refrigerator. Unwrap plastic wrap and remove top piece on rice; invert rice onto a work surface (I used a large cutting board). Remove plastic wrap from back.

Cut into about 56 (1 1/2- x 1-inch) pieces. (For clean slices, dip knife into warm water, and wipe clean often.) Lightly coat top of rice pieces with cooking spray. Brush 2 rimmed baking sheets evenly with the oil. Place 28 rice pieces, cooking spray–coated sides down, on each oiled baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until crisp and lightly golden, 14 to 20 minutes. Flip and top immediately. Makes 56.


Beet Reuben Sandwiches

Sometimes you get a hankering for a good ol’ reuben sandwich, even if you’re vegetarian. At restaurants, once in while I’ll order the reuben minus the meat, which is usually met with a curious look by the server (and one, years ago, said, “Honey, that’s not going to be any cheaper.”). Occasionally there will be a meatless reuben on the menu with tempeh or portabella mushrooms swapped in for the corned beef. And when I happen to be on the Minneapolis side of the Twin Cities, I’ll pick up some vegan pastrami at the amazing Herbivorous Butcher, which makes for an outstanding pastrami rendition of the sandwich.

But a couple months ago, we came across a unique reuben on the menu at Red Cow in St. Paul that really intrigued me, a beet one. Interesting. And delicious! I knew I needed to recreate it at home, with the goal of making it even better.

A version with roasted sliced beets and dilled sauerkraut was my first attempt and it was tasty, but not knock-your-socks-off good. Then I made one with a caraway kraut that moved things up a notch. Today, though, I hit the jackpot. The key was braising the beets in a little water seasoned with the same spices you would use to make corned beef. Wow, it was fantastic!

To speed things up a bit, make the seasoning mixture and Russian dressing ahead of time. Also, make sure to have good quality rye bread on hand, either homemade or from your favorite bakery. Served with a batch of oven fries, you’ve got yourself a perfect comfort food meal. Enjoy!

Beet Reuben Sandwiches

Two large beets, peeled and sliced 1/3 to 1/4 inch thick

1 tablespoon seasoning mix (recipe follows)

Russian dressing (recipe follows)

4 slices Swiss cheese

About ¾ pound homemade or packaged sauerkraut, drained (I used Farmhouse Culture Classic Caraway Kraut)

8 slices good quality rye bread

Olive oil spray

Place sliced beets in medium saucepan and just barely cover with water. Add about a tablespoon of seasoning mixture. Cover pan and heat till boiling. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until beet slices are tender, 35-45 minutes. Remove beets from liquid and set aside. Discard liquid.

Preheat oven broiler. Arrange bread slices on large baking sheet and spritz with olive oil spray (alternately, brush bread slices lightly with olive oil). Broil about 6 inches from heat until bread is lightly browned, about 1 or 2 minutes.

Remove 4 slices of the bread to a cutting board. Flip the remaining 4 slices on the baking sheet and top with Russian dressing, beet slices, sauerkraut and cheese. Broil 6 inches from the heat until the cheese is all melty.

Meanwhile spread more Russian dressing on the untoasted side of the reserved bread slices. Remove pan from oven and top sandwiches with reserved bread slices. Cut in half and serve. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Russian Dressing:
Adapted from this Epicurious recipe

1 tablespoon finely chopped onion

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/8 cup ketchup

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

1 teaspoon hot sauce, preferably Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (I love Annie’s Organic)

1/8 teaspoon sweet paprika

Fine sea salt, to taste

Wisk together all ingredients, except onion, until smooth. Stir in onion, cover and refrigerate until cold and flavors have melded.

Seasoning mix:
½ tablespoon black peppercorns

½ tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

½ tablespoon coriander seeds

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ of one cinnamon stick

½ bay leaf, broken into small pieces

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon smoked sea salt

Toast peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, shaking pan frequently, about three minutes. Transfer to a mortar, add remaining seasoning mix ingredients, and finely crush with a pestle (alternately, pulse mixture in a spice grinder to a coarse texture).

Honey-Glazed Sweet Potato Steaks with Brussels Sprouts

I’ve noticed the word steak applied to portabella mushrooms for years, and more recently, to cauliflower, but a new one to me was sweet potato steaks.

This wonderful recipe was found in a Food & Wine Magazine article about Baltimore-based chef Spike Gjerde, who approaches local sourcing like no other. For instance, instead of olive oil and lemons, he uses locally-grown and pressed oils and vinegars in his restaurants, thus providing more opportunities to area farmers and producers.

There were several of Gjerde’s recipes included in the article that sounded amazing like Baked Sheep’s Milk Ricotta with Dried Persimmons and Potato Soup with Sage Butter and Rye Crumbs, but Honey-Glazed Sweet Potato Steaks with Brussels Sprouts intrigued me the most, plus, it was by far the healthiest.

The recipe, as written, only serves two, and it’s really more of an appetizer or small plate quantity, so double it if you want a full meal or if serving as a starter for a small dinner party. Most of the prep can be done ahead of time and the dish comes together quickly after that.

The coating on the sweet potatoes is an addictive bit of crunch and the drizzle of honey that finishes them caramelizes nicely and will have you scraping your plate to get every remaining drop. The less sweet Brussels sprouts are the perfect pairing with their browned bottoms and nutty, savory flavor. Enjoy!

Honey-Glazed Sweet Potato Steaks with Brussels Sprouts

From Food & Wine Magazine, March 2019

Be sure to use a cast-iron skillet for this recipe; it maintains heat and will result in beautifully caramelized honey and well-cooked Brussels sprouts.

1 (1-pound) sweet potato, peeled

1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger

1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon neutral oil (canola, grapeseed, or avocado)

1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, halved top to bottom

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons clover honey, divided

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut sweet potato lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Place the 2 center-cut potato slabs on a cutting board; reserve remaining sweet potato pieces for another use. Score 1 side of each slab in an 1/8-inch-deep diamond pattern.

Stir together ginger, 3/4 teaspoon salt, coriander, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Rub mixture evenly on both sides of sweet potato slabs.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high until smoking, about 3 minutes. Add oil, and swirl to coat bottom of skillet. Add sweet potatoes, scored side down, and cook until bottoms are golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip and arrange Brussels sprouts, cut sides down, in a single layer around sweet potatoes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons honey; transfer skillet to preheated oven.

Roast until sprouts are tender and cut sides are caramelized, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove sprouts from skillet, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and set aside. Return skillet to oven; continue roasting until sweet potatoes are tender, 5 to 8 more minutes.

Remove skillet from oven, and drizzle sweet potatoes with remaining 1/4 cup honey (I used most, but not all of the honey). Tilt skillet, and baste sweet potatoes until honey caramelizes and sweet potatoes are glazed, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer sweet potato steaks to serving plates. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and drizzle with remaining caramelized honey in skillet. Top with Brussels sprouts. Makes two servings.

Cabbage, Onion, and Farro Soup

Last week I got a new cookbook,
Six Seasons—a New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg. It’s a heavy, hard-covered, almost 400-page tome that has tons of beautiful food photos, with recipes broken down into seasons, and summer gets three divisions (early, mid, and late), thus the  title.

Because I love cooking seasonally, of course the first recipe I made was from the Winter section. They all sounded wonderful, but something about this hearty soup got my attention. The cabbage and onion are caramelized and result in a sweet richness that was unexpected. And truth be told, it really doesn’t taste like cabbage. The farro makes this a full-meal-in-a-bowl and the flavor combination is warm and comforting just like a winter soup should be.

As with most soups, it is even better the next day, or next three days of work lunches this batch provided. Each day at lunch I kept saying to myself, “This is so good, this is so good!” Any recipe that makes me do that just has to be shared! Prepare to be amazed at the flavors you create. Enjoy!

Cabbage, Onion and Farro Soup

Ever so slightly adapted from Six Seasons—a New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg.

Notes: If you want to go vegan, just omit the cheese; it’s still outstanding as I found out the third day when I forgot the Parmigiano-Reggiano. And if you don’t have farro, barley would be a good substitute or brown rice for a gluten-free version.

1-pound cabbage, savoy or green (I used green—couldn’t find savoy)

¼ cup Extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon, divided, and more for drizzling

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1 healthy sprig rosemary or thyme (I used thyme)

1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar (I used red)

2/3 cup uncooked farro

About 4 cups vegetable broth, homemade or store-bought (I used Edward & Sons Not-Beef Bouillon cubes)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cut out the cabbage core and finely chop it. Cut the cabbage leaves into fine shreds.

Heat ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the cabbage core and onion, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion starts to soften and becomes fragrant, but not at all browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes until the garlic is soft too.

Add the shredded cabbage leaves and rosemary or thyme. Cover the pot and let it steam for a bit to soften the leaves, then toss the cabbage to help it wilt and soften more.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the cabbage is very tender and sweet, about 20-30 minutes. When the cabbage is ready, stir in the vinegar. Taste and adjust with more salt & pepper, if necessary.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the farro and cook, stirring constantly, until the farro is lightly toasted and fragrant, 5-8 minutes.

Stir the farro into the cabbage mixture and add broth. Adjust the heat to a lazy simmer and simmer until the farro is tender and all the flavors are married, 25 to 35 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice. The soup should be very thick, but if it seems like it needs more liquid, add another ½ cup water or broth (I added about ½ cup more broth). Taste and adjust with more salt, pepper, or lemon juice. Remove the rosemary or thyme sprig.

Serve soup in shallow bowls, with a shower of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil (I skipped the olive oil drizzle). Makes 4 generous servings.


Tofu Bulgogi

Bulgogi, a Korean dish typically made with beef or pork, is super easy to veganize. Switching out the meat for tofu, which easily absorbs the delicious marinade, makes for a dish with all the bold flavors and textures minus the meat.

Several years ago, my sister-in-law Jeannie shared this recipe on Facebook and it sounded so good, I made it immediately. Pete and I both loved it, but for some dumb reason, I didn’t make it again.

Recently Jeannie made a beef bulgogi for a family get-together and I was instantly reminded of that wonderful tofu version—making it again was a high priority and I knew I needed to share it as a blog post.

As with many traditional dishes, there are almost as many different recipes as there are cooks, but this one is definitely a winner. Vegetarian or not, your taste buds and tummy will be happy you made it. Enjoy!

EZ Tofu Press

Tofu Bulgogi

Slightly adapted from this Allyson Kramer recipe

Recipe note: Mirin is a Japanese rice wine similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol content. It can be found in Asian markets, the Asian section of well-stocked grocery stores, and on If you can’t find it, a sweet marsala wine will work as a substitute.

One 16-ounce block organic extra-firm tofu (water-packed, not vacuumed packed)

4 green onions, chopped, both white and green parts

3 cloves garlic, minced

Half a large onion, sliced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root

2/3 cup reduced sodium wheat-free tamari or use soy sauce if gluten-free isn’t important

4 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

¼ cup organic sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

4 tablespoons mirin (see recipe note above)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Half of a medium pear, shredded on a box grater (include skin—no need to peel)

Peanut oil for pan frying (or other neutral oil)

Cooked brown or white rice

Toasted sesame seeds

To remove excess moisture from the tofu, place the tofu block between a couple layers of paper towels and set on a cutting board. Top with another cutting board and weigh it down with a large can of tomatoes or a couple cookbooks. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Alternately, use a tofu press for the same amount of time.

Meanwhile, make marinade: In a medium bowl, mix tamari, sesame oil, sugar, black pepper, red pepper flakes, mirin, and rice vinegar. Stir in shredded pear.

Cut drained tofu block in half and then slice into thin strips. Layer strips in a deep container and top with green onions, garlic, onion and ginger. Pour marinade over tofu and vegetables. Cover and marinade in refrigerator for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

When ready to start to cooking, drain marinade off into a measuring cup for easy pouring. Spoon vegetables off tofu into a bowl.

Heat a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium to medium-high heat. Add about a tablespoon of peanut oil or other neutral oil. Once oil is hot, add some of the tofu strips to pan in a single layer (you’ll have to do this in batches). Top with some of the veggies and pour a little marinade over tofu and veggies to just barely cover tofu. Cook until most of the marinade has cooked off and bottom of tofu is nicely browned. Flip tofu slices and cook a few more minutes until the underside is browed.

Serve tofu and vegetables over steamed brown rice. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Makes about 4 servings.


It’s been years since I made a new kind of cookie during the holidays. This year, rugelach seemed to be everywhere, the December issue of Bon Appétit, in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook and blog, and a local newspaper cookie spread to name a few. A treat that was never on my radar before had me so intrigued, especially the version in Bon Appétit after Pete even noticed the delicious looking cover.

Most of the recipes were very similar, but a couple aspects of Bon Appétit ‘s got my attention: the slightly different shape and the use of raspberry sugar (made with freeze-dried raspberries) for the final sprinkling instead of the cinnamon sugar that most others used. Other than that, I kept more toward the Smitten Kitchen’s rugelach.

Thinking freeze-dried raspberries would be hard to find, I was surprised to find them at Whole Foods. And there was nothing added to them—no sugar or preservatives—yay! If you can’t find freeze-dried raspberries, just use more cinnamon sugar in place of the raspberry sugar.

It was a little confusing going back and forth from the magazine, the Smitten Kitchen blog and the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, but I wanted aspects of each. What I’ve typed up below is a mish-mash of three recipes, which take some liberties regarding the traditional mini-croissant shape, and, in my humble opinion, makes for prettier cookies that are less putzy—no cutting the dough into tiny wedges to be rolled individually, thank goodness!

And the funny thing is, I haven’t sampled them yet. I had a tooth pulled two days before I made them and was still babying my mouth with softer foods, so Pete was the sole taster. With his trustworthy opinion, I’m confident everyone will love them come Christmas—they’ve been banished to the freezer till then–I can’t wait! Enjoy!


  • Servings: makes about 40
  • Print
Adapted from December 2018 Bon Appétit Magazine, the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and the Smitten Kitchen Blog

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1/2 pound (225 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 pound (1 8-ounce or 225-gram package) cream cheese, room temperature

2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips or finely chopped bitter- or semi-sweet chocolate
1/3 cup toasted nuts, chopped small (I used pecans)
1/3 cup dried fruit, chopped small (I used tiny dried currants, no chopping needed)
1/2 to 3/4 cup jam (I used seedless raspberry)

1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
½ cup freeze-dried raspberries
¼ cup granulated sugar

To make the dough, in bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, combine the salt and flour, then pour the flour mixture into the mixer. Beat on a lower speed until the flour is just incorporated. Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form into a flat rectangle.

Chill dough in plastic wrap until totally firm, about 2 hours in the fridge or 30 minutes in the freezer. (Dough keeps in fridge for up to a week, and in freezer much longer.)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

To prepare fillings, stir cinnamon and sugar together in a small dish. Combine coarse mixture of chocolate, nuts and dried fruit in a second dish. Warm the jam in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave to make it easier to spread thinly.

For finishing, make raspberry sugar by finely grinding dried raspberries in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a small bowl and mix in ¼ cup granulated sugar. If you can’t find freeze-dried raspberries, just use more cinnamon sugar in place of the raspberry sugar.

Divide chilled dough into quarters and roll first quarter (the remaining three can go back into the fridge until needed) out on a floured counter, parchment, or baking mat into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 7 to 8 inches long, with the wider side to you. Thinly spread jam to all but the furthest 1/4 inch from you—which seals better once rolled if bare—with about 2 to 3 tablespoons jam. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar mixture, then 4 tablespoons coarse fruit and nut mixture. Use a piece of waxed paper to gently press the toppings into the dough so they stay put better when rolled.

Roll dough from the 12-inch side in front of you into as tight as a log as you can, using your fingers to lightly seal the ends onto the log. Repeat with remaining logs.

Place log of filled dough in freezer for 10 to 15 minutes; it will cut more cleanly once semi-firm.

Trim ends from log so they have a clean edge. Brush tops of dough with egg wash. Sprinkle with ¼ of the berry sugar and cut into wedges 2” wide at the base and ½” wide at the point. Make each cut on a diagonal, changing directions each time so that the short and wide ends alternate. Place cut pieces about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until puffed and golden. Transfer the rugelach to cooling racks while they are still hot because the jam that spills out will harden as it cools, making the cookies difficult to remove.

Cookies keep in a container at room temperature for a week, and in the freezer for a month. Makes about 40 cookies.

Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

Even though it’s been years since turkey has been on my Thanksgiving table, I still love many of the dishes that traditionally go with it. Cranberry sauce is one of them. I used to make an Ocean Spray version that was more of a relish, uncooked and made in the food processor with orange. It was good, but this year I was craving a cooked sauce.

I came across a recipe with bourbon and thought that sounded swell—almost cocktail-like. Works for me! Alas, that recipe called for a pound of sugar, which seems like it would sweeten any tartness right out of those cranberries, taking away their best quality.

After a little more looking, I found this one; much less sugar and still has the bourbon. Plus, it incorporates orange, like that old tried and true relish. I could tell this was a winner while cooking it (I just may have licked the spoon after stirring, and yes, more than once). Where has bourbon in cranberry sauce been all my life?!? Enjoy!

Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

Adapted from this Savory Sweet Life recipe

One 12-oz bag fresh cranberries

¾ cup orange juice

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 ounces bourbon

Zest of half an orange, for garnish

Place all ingredients, except for the orange zest, in a medium-sized saucepan. Cook on medium-high for 15 minutes or until most of the liquid has reduced, stirring occasionally. Cranberries will burst open. I had to turn the heat down after about 5 minutes or it would have boiled over. Just lower it to a heat that keeps it bubbling, but not boiling over.

Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Mixture will thicken as it cools. May be served chilled or at room temperature. Sprinkle with orange zest just before serving. Serves about 6.