make food at home! April 25, 2013

Filed Under: Cassoulet seasoning,food chatter,italian seasoning,rosemary roasting blend,Tandoori spice blend - Sue Fuirst @ 5:24 pm
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Michael Pollan, the popular author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food and the obligatory tiny read Food Rules, has recently been in the news again.  He’s simplified his message:  make food at home.  In an Op-Ed piece written last week he told Mark Bittman that “Cooking is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your diet. What matters most is not any particular nutrient, or even any particular food: it’s the act of cooking itself. People who cook eat a healthier diet without giving it a thought. It’s the collapse of home cooking that led directly to the obesity epidemic.”

Making dinner each night is a difficult task for the most dedicated  of us.  I’m using this blog to help make the job less daunting.  Perhaps the simplest thing to prepare are boneless chicken breasts.  They’re quick, low in fat and very versatile. Basics Fuirst Cassoulet Seasoning, Rosemary Roasting Blend, Italian Seasoning and Tandoori Spice Blend all work well here.

Season chicken breasts with Spice Blend of your choice.  Heat olive oil in a large fry pan or sauté pan over a medium heat.  Place the chicken cutlets in the hot pan.  Do not crowd or overlap the chicken.  Cook 4-5 minutes per side and turn when lightly brown.  When sautéed on both sides remove to plate and serve.  A whole grain salad like the Farro Salad below is a great accompaniment and can be made ahead of time.

farro salad

1 ½ cups farro

2 pints cherry tomatoes or Campari tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise

½ bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 scallion, thinly sliced

¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon and 1 teaspoon olive oil

2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

1 garlic clove, crushed

Kosher salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 400°.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the 1/4 cup olive oil, Balsamic vinegar and crushed garlic.  Let sit.

Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.  Toss tomatoes with 1 Tablespoon olive oil.  Place cut side up on baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.  Bake in hot oven for 30 minutes.

Place farro in a sieve and rinse under cool water.  Transfer to saucepan, add water to cover by 2 inches and salt generously. Bring to a boil and let farro simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.  Drain and place in a large bowl with a teaspoon of olive oil.

Toss cooked tomatoes, parsley and scallions together with the farro. Discard garlic clove from oil and vinegar and pour over farro until lightly dressed, save remaining for another use like a green salad. Season generously with salt and pepper.  Mix to combine.  Serve.



Tandoori is tasty (not scary) April 17, 2013

Filed Under: Tandoori spice blend - Sue Fuirst @ 12:35 pm
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As my sales are picking up, I’ve noticed that many people are hesitant to try my Basics Fuirst Tandoori Spice Blend.  I understand.  For many of us exotic food and flavors are intimidating and best prepared by the experts.  But anyone who saw last Sunday’s episode of Mad Men knows that Italian food was once in this foreign category.  Today Italian cuisine is as common and ubiquitous as burgers and fries.  Indian food is now on the same fast track to becoming part of our dinner repertoire.

To ease you in, I’ve created this delicious, family-friendly Tandoori flavored chicken.  Feel free to serve it with the Raita wrapped in naan or flatbread as a lunch or dinner sandwich.

 grilled tandoori chicken breasts with cucumber raita

Tandoori Chicken

4  boneless chicken breast halves

½ cup lowfat plain Greek yogurt

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1 Tb fresh lemon juice

1 Tb grated fresh ginger

1  Tb Basics Fuirst Tandoori Spice Blend


Mix together all ingredients but the chicken.   (If you are short of time or ingredients, just mix Tandoori Spice Blend and yogurt.) Rub yogurt/spice paste all over chicken breasts.  Cover and refrigerate for ½ hour to 3 hours.  Remove from dish and grill in stove top grill pan or on outside barbecue until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side..  Slice on the diagonal and serve with Cucumber Raita.


Cucumber Raita

1 small seedless cucumber, peeled and grated

1 tsp whole cumin seeds

2 cups plain lowfat Greek yogurt

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 Tb fresh cilantro, chopped

¼ teaspoon Basics Fuirst Tandoori Spice Blend


Place grated cucumber in a strainer over a bowl.  In a separate bowl mix together yogurt, garlic, cilantro and Basics Fuirst Tandoori Spice Blend. Squeeze excess water from cucumber and place in bowl with yogurt mixture.  Mix to combine. Heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Toast cumin seeds in dry skillet for a few seconds.  Add cumin to yogurt mixture.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Spice Therapy April 9, 2013

Filed Under: food chatter - Sue Fuirst @ 12:06 pm

I’m re-reading the Magazine section from this past Sunday’s NYT.  The Spice is Right article about spice blender Lior Lev Sercarz of La Boite obviously caught my interest.  Now, I’m not equating myself with this spice superstar or “Spice Therapist” as many chefs call him, but I get his message.  And I’m bringing it to you.  You can all saute onions, carrots and celery as the mirepoix or classic base of many dishes.  It’s what you add next that makes the difference.  Are you heading Italian, Indian, Mid-Eastern, French?  The spice that you add next determines the destiny of your dish.

Can whatever you cook survive without the addition of spice?  Sure.  But when it’s so easy to turn bland to flavorful why would you?  Spice is what makes my Cassoulet Seasoning so good – it’s the written-on-the-label “secret” ingredient of allspice that evokes the classic French garlic sausage of a true Cassoulet.  And my Chili Seasoning has a perfected blend of cumin, chili powder and just enough cayenne for flavor without the fire.

Spices also matter to our well-being as “a smell can bring on a flood of memories, influence people’s moods and even affect their work performance.”  Don’t you love walking into a shop or home that smells delicious?  It makes us happy. Spice therapy.


Basics Fuirst Spice Blends can be purchased from or by emailing

On top of spaghetti… April 4, 2013

Filed Under: italian seasoning - Sue Fuirst @ 12:30 am
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Sometimes you just want a simple dinner of meatballs and spaghetti.  It’s not fancy, it’s easy to make, it’s so, so satisfying and it’s loved by all.  When my kids were young, we ate this almost every week.  Spaghetti and meatballs is our go-to celebration meal for the ”night before”:  sleep-away camp, first day of school, bar/bat mitzvah.  I think it’s the comfort and predictability that makes it requested for these bigger events, plus it’s a multigenerational pleaser.  Sometimes I make the meatballs with turkey, sometimes all beef or all veal and then other times the pasta is swapped for spaghetti squash.  But my favorite recipe is a traditional mixture of beef, veal and pork.  And, although I advocate sitting down and eating dinner together, meatballs work well for a family on the run.

basic meatballs


  • 2 lbs meatball mix (1/3 each of ground beef, veal, pork)
  • 2 slices white bread, torn into pieces or 1/3 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Basics Fuirst Italian Seasoning


Preheat oven 350°.  Line a baking sheet or roasting pan with foil.  Place bread and milk in a large bowl or the bowl of stand mixer. Let bread sit for a few minutes to soften and absorb milk. Mix in eggs, Parmesan and Basics Fuirst Italian Seasoning. Add meatball mix. Gently mix until just combined.  Shape into 2” balls and place on baking sheet. Cook in oven for 30 minutes.  Once cooked they may be added to your favorite red sauce and served with spaghetti or cool slightly and freeze in a zip lock bag for another time.  Serves 8.