Vegetables and Sides

Black Pepper Shrimp and Zucchini “Fettuccine”

Black Pepper Shrimp and Zucchini Fettuccine

This is probably the ugliest photo of a plate I’ve ever put on this site.

But this zucchini “fettuccine” is one of the most popular vegetables I ever made as a private chef, and one that family members have loved and recreated after I’ve made it for them.

It’s ridiculously simple. With a good vegetable peeler and a flick of the wrist, zucchini gets shredded in ribbons and tossed quickly in hot olive oil until it softens to an al dente-like texture. My former boss didn’t know it wasn’t pasta the first time I served it to him. My father downed his plate in minutes. A client’s guest asked me for details at a repeat dinner visit when he couldn’t quite replicate it after his first go.

So simple, so yummy. Continue reading

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Ramp and Maitake Mushroom Tartelettes (gluten free)

Ramp and Maitake Tart - Gluten-free - The Dusty Baker-3

There’s a line in the movie The Truth About Cats and Dogs where Uma Therman says something like, “It was a joke… but not funny “ha ha“…”.

That line popped into my head yesterday day.

I had carefully wrapped five beautiful pheasant eggs I’d collected from my dad’s pheasants (the boys are named Amadeus, Biff and Guiseppe; the two ladies are unnamed as of now for some reason). Nestled amongst paper towels in a fitted takeaway container, they sat in my purse while I collected Mitra, her blanket, my raincoat, a canvas bag of miscellaneous toys and booty I’d pilfered from the house, and my stuffed weekend bag. I was planning on daydreaming about what I’d pick up at Fairway back in Harlem to feature the tiny little gems during the hour-long drive home. Then, as I searched my bag for my car keys with my shoulders loaded with the rest, the container slipped from my bag and onto the cement driveway. The glass compartment was intact, but as I dropped everything else to inspect the contents… my heart broke. All but one of the eggs was a gooey mess.

It was sorta funny… but not funny “ha ha”.

The night before I had stayed up late to write my post on Living with Lyme: Staying in My Body. I was exhausted and words weren’t coming right, but I was content as I hit “save draft” until… my browser froze, or hiccuped, or coughed or something and poof… I called it a night and started from scratch the next day.

Slightly funny… but not funny “ha ha”.

The thing is, none of that really mattered. I collected my sad little mess of eggs, rinsed off the remaining darling, and kept going. I drove home in my clean car under a gray-blue sky with trees budding all around and my iPhone in my hand recording thoughts that became this blog post. Mitra lay content in her bed on the passenger seat, I had a chilled decaf Americano to sip on, and an hour to talk with Muffin.

Back in Manhattan, I decided to let Fairway source my inspiration. I usually have two options with my weekly grocery haul; buy affordable organics in Connecticut and rotate a limited stock of produce, or splurge a tad at Fairway and find something new and exciting. Today I found these… Continue reading

Summer of Salads: Jicama and Watermelon

Jicama and Watermelon Salad

Every now and then, someone comes into your life and you breathe a huge sigh of relief.

One of those such special people made me a Jicama and Watermelon salad on the 4th of July. It went scrumptiously alongside some huge langostines I fried up all spicy-like and some ridiculously fresh sea bass that took a mere ten minutes to broil to perfection. He was all achy and sore from a pulled back muscle. I was exhausted from long days of cooking for other people. We feasted with white wine I had been saving for over a year for a special occasion – until I grew up and realized that every good meal with a good person is a special occasion. Then we climbed onto the roof and watched NYC’s spectacular fireworks burst over the Hudson river.

Then I stole his recipe.

I adapted it slightly for the family I cook for, and set it on the pink-canopied backyard table with some of my garden chicken salad and grilled burgers. By the time I got around to snapping pictures of it 24 hours later it had faded in color but the flavors had developed even more fully.

Jicama is a root that’s a cross between a water chestnut and rhubarb, believe it or not. Watery, slightly sweet and somewhat starchy, it’s often eaten in its native Mexico with fiery spices. Because of the light sweetness and water content, it pairs extremely well with watermelon, giving a salad of both some crunch and texture. They’re found at most big grocery stores out in the east coast, but are easy to overlook.

After grunting and sweating away peeling the annoyingly large jicama, I tossed it lightly with watermelon, lime, cilantro and a bit of jalapeno for a ridiculously refreshing salad that my blew my  bosses guests away.

Happy summer, happy Friday!

– Jacqueline

Jicama and Watermelon Salad


Jicama and Watermelon Salad

Serves 6 as a side

1 medium jicama, peeled and cut into thin 3″ long strips (about 3 cups)
1/4 watermelon, cut into thin 3″ long strips (about 3 cups)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, peeled, seeded and finely diced
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and chill before serving.

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