Stella’s Garlic Cashew Dressing


This stuff is addictive. You will be tempted to eat it with a spoon. Or pour it straight out of the jar into your mouth.

And it’s okay if you do, because it’s super healthy and packed full of good stuff, like turmeric–a powerful anti-inflammatory, packed with antioxidants, that’s good for digestive and liver problems, as well as skin diseases. Garlic, in addition to being one of the tastiest foodstuffs in existence, is also very healthy. Cashews, like all nuts, are packed with protein, and they’re also rich in iron and zinc. The FDA calls them “brainpower boosters.” Their rich, sweet flavor makes a great base for sauces and soups. I think cashews are my favorite nut (sorry, pecans!).

1 cup cashews
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt, to taste

1. In a small electric mixer or blender, mix cashews, garlic, turmeric, and half the olive oil. Stop mixing; use a spoon to scrape down any chunks from the sides of the bowl/blender. Continue mixing. Drizzle remaining olive oil slowly into the mixer.

2. Add a pinch of salt and blend some more. Taste; add more salt if desired. Mix again.

3. Add water as needed to achieve desired consistency.*

4. Pour into an air-tight container and store in the fridge.

Twists: add fresh herbs like basil or cilantro, or some curry powder for an even richer, more complex flavor.


*I usually use about a half cup of water per cup of nuts, but you might add more for a thinner dressing. A thicker sauce can be used as a dip for raw vegetables–mmm! I also like to leave it just the tiniest bit crunchy (see the photo below), but if you blend it a bit longer, you can make it nice and creamy-smooth.



Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

Check out this habanero-infused olive oil we threw together after our recent, massive chile harvest. Spicy! I’m hooked!

~2 cups extra virgin olive oil
4-6 fresh habanero chiles, washed

1. Wear latex gloves.

2. Choose a cutting board that is not super-absorbent (such as glass), or, even better, have a dedicated chile-cutting board. You could also line your cutting board with a plastic bag, being careful not to pierce the bag when cutting. Slice habaneros as desired and set cutting board aside.

3. Fill a glass container (Mason jar, recycled and washed olive oil or salad dressing bottle) half full (or so) with olive oil. Add the peppers to the olive oil, leaving some room for air at the top.

4. Wrap a paper towel or cheesecloth around the mouth of the jar and secure with twine (don’t use a rubber band!). Microwave the oil on high for a few seconds, watching closely, or until it comes just to a near-boil—just bubbling. Do not let the olive oil boil, or you will have a huge mess on your hands.

5. If you used a paper towel for the cover, remove it and replace with a fresh one. Turn the bottle or jar upside down and drain the oil into another container (any material will do—I used a Martha Steward plastic fridge containers!). Place in the refrigerator upside-down and allow the oil to cool until it’s solid. Discard chile hulls and seeds; we use ours for compost.

6. Remove the container and pour off any water that has separated. Allow the olive oil to return to liquid form at room temperature. Pour the infused oil back into the glass container and put the lid on. Eccola! Habanero-infused olive oil!


Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

I added a couple more slices to this, for extra kick and pretty presentation!

Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs with Garlic-Sour Cream Sauce

Pan-fried chicken thighs

This is another fairly straightforward recipe that created with some of my usual, simple ingredients (grits, butter, Brussels sprouts, fresh spinach), this time with chicken!

I’m posting it in honor of my Twitter friend and fellow medievalist David Works, by special request. Enjoy!

4 boneless and skinless chicken thighs*
2 Tbsp butter
~1/2 tsp salt
~1/2 tsp black pepper
4 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
~1 cup Brussels sprouts, washed and roughly shredded
~1 cup fresh spinach, washed and roughly shredded
1/2 cup sour cream
1 portion of my Horseradish Cheese Grits, precooked

1. In a large, cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium high heat. Add chicken thighs and sauté for about three minutes. Turn over carefully with a non-scratch spatula. Sauté each piece on the other side for an additional three minutes or so, so that both sides are nicely browned.

2. Using the spatula, gently butterfly each thigh in the pan. At this point in the cooking, this should be easy to achieve. The pieces may break in half; this is fine. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook for an additional ten minutes or so, or until each piece is thoroughly cooked through (grey, not pink).

Chicken thighs

3. Remove chicken with a slotted spatula or spoon, draining off as much of the pan juices a possible, and place in a large piece of aluminum foil. Close the foil around the chicken to retain its heat, and set aside (I put mine on an adjacent, cool burner).

4. Drain all but about one tablespoon of the chicken fat juices from the pan and discard (or save for later use). Add garlic and Brussels sprouts and continue to cook for about five minutes, until garlic is fragrant and sprouts have brightened.


5. Add spinach and stir thoroughly. Cook for an additional couple of minutes.

6. Reduce heat to a simmer. Spoon in the sour cream, stir thoroughly, and allow the mixture to cook for another couple of minutes. A nice, savory-smelling and creamy sauce will arise. Sample the sauce, adding more salt or pepper as desired.


7. Uncover and plate the chicken on a bed of my warm Horseradish Cheese Grits, spooning out generous amounts of sauce to drizzle over the whole dish. Serve immediately.

Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs with Garlic-Sour Cream Sauce

Serves 2-4.

*You could of course use thighs with skin, if you like them (and I do!), as the pan-frying process will result in some nice, fatty, crispy pieces. You could also use bone-in chicken; just skip the butterflying step and cook a bit longer, until they’re grey all the way through (and/or use a meat thermometer). I used these pieces because I already had them on hand. And they were excellent.

Stella’s Special Mushroom and Onion Gravy

After being included in the photos for yesterday’s recipe, Garlic Cauliflower Mash, I got a lot of requests for the gravy recipe. I intended to post it today, anyway, but your pleas motivated me to get this up first thing today!

This is a pretty standard gravy, one you might want to whip up for any meat and potatoes type of dish. You can of course substitute beef broth for some or all of the water for an even richer version. You could also leave out either the red wine or bourbon, or substitute brandy. Play around with it! I like it best on beef or pork, but go crazy, and let me know what other flavor pairings you find enjoyable!

The result is a pretty rich, semi-complex sauce: a savory gravy with a hint of sweetness. I think you’ll like it.

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 large white onion, widely sliced
two pinches raw brown sugar
splash red wine
1/2 cup thinly sliced cremini mushrooms
1 heaping Tbsp white flour
1 beef boullion cube
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp powdered garlic
1/2 tsp salt
~1/3 oz. dark chocolate (about half a regular square)
splash bourbon

1. In a large skillet, melt one tablespoon of butter over medium high heat and add onions. Add two pinches of brown sugar and stir. Sauté until browned and fragrant, about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Deglaze pan with splash of red wine; add additional tablespoon of butter and mushrooms; stir. Cook until mushrooms are just done—about three minutes.

3. Add dry ingredients and stir furiously until a roux is formed; if your pan is too dry, slowly add water as you stir.

4. Add slash of bourbon, continue to stir for a couple of minutes.

5. Slowly add about a half cup of water while continuing to stir; lower heat to simmer.

6. Cook for an additional five to ten minutes, adding water slowly while stirring, to achieve desired thickness.

You can leave the gravy simmering while finishing up the rest of your meal. Just add more water and stir to thin. Serve directly from pan by pouring over your plate, and enjoy!

Serves 2- 4.

Keeps well in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Shown here with bangers and Garlic Cauliflower Mash. Or try it with my Cheesy Herbed Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

Stella’s Salmon Croquettes

When I created this recipe for salmon cakes, I couldn’t help but think of the ones my mom and stepdad used to make when I was growing up, which they called “salmon croquettes.”

I suspect the recipe came from the deep recesses of some 1950s dinner party guide.  It was a meal we had fairly often, never with fresh salmon.  I didn’t see any fresh salmon until I moved to the UK in 2001 (and, oh, how I loved the fishmonger, who would fillet the giant, red heap right in front of you, to your specification!). And I didn’t realize until I made these that the ones I grew up eating were always burned.

As you may’ve noticed, we’ve been eating more fish around here lately, so I decided to diversify my repertoire from baked lemon and herb fillets to fish cakes!  Since Eric spent five years in Baltimore, I thought these would be right up his alley, and I was right.  They were a big hit, especially with my quick, spicy, and creamy relish sauce.  I served these with my Pecan-Stuffed Delicata Squash, and we were so full.

Stella’s Salmon Croquettes
4 heaping Tbsp coconut oil
~1 lb cooked salmon (I baked a large, de-boned fillet)*
1 cup Italian bread crumbs (fine)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 heaping tsp Old Bay
1 tsp dried dill
1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 lemon, zest and juice

Stella’s Spicy Fish Sauce
1/2 cup real mayonnaise
1 Tbsp horseradish sauce
1/2 cup Cholula or Tabasco sauce (the latter is spicier)
1 heaping tsp pickle relish

1. Wash your hands. In a medium mixing bowl, mix cooked salmon and breadcrumbs with your hands.

2. Add eggs and mix lightly until evenly absorbed. Add Old Bay, dill, peppers, and lemon zest and juice. Mix again with your hands until well combined. If the mixture is too clumpy, add a little water; if it’s too wet, add more breadcrumbs.

3. Using your hands, roll mixture into balls and flatten. Each one should be about one inch thick and about three inches in diameter. You’ll have about eight cakes. Place each one on a plate as they are formed and set aside.

4. Melt coconut oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Gently slide each cake into the pan and fry about five minutes on each side until crispy, golden brown. You may want to add additional oil as you fry; make sure it’s hot before adding the next round of cakes. As they are done, remove them to a plate and place them between paper towels to drain and cool.

5. Meanwhile, combine the sauce ingredients in a measuring cup and stir vigorously until well combined.

6. Once the croquettes are all done, serve immediately with a generous drizzle of the spicy sauce.

A nice, simple side salad with vinegar and oil dressing complements this meal perfectly.

Serves 4.

These will keep for a couple of days if refrigerated, and can be reheated. Be careful not to overcook, or they will become rubbery. For best results, reheat in an oven for ten minutes at 300°.


Pictured here with Pecan-Stuffed Delicata Squash.

* Brush your salmon with a little olive oil or melted butter and bake for about about 20 minutes at 400° in a very lightly oiled baking pan or Pyrex dish, skin side down. When it’s done, it will be pink and flaky. If using several smaller pieces of fish, the baking time will be less.

You can also used canned fish if you want to be more authentically East Texas! Use about 16 ounces of quality canned salmon.