Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bon Appetit!

Thank you! I started this blog two years ago, the same month I quit my full time job at Microsoft to be a stay at home mom. I love cooking and I needed a hobby as I am a person who really needs to stay busy, less I start bouncing off the walls. I am finally fully settled into this stay at home gig; a friend told me it would take two years and she was right.

In two years...

I've learned what I know about cooking (a lot!) and what I don't know (a lot more!). I received some great comments and emails from my readers and feedback from friends.  I realized that salad really is my all time favorite food. I was sent a very interesting cookbook from a publisher that I still haven't cooked from as the recipes all take three days.

My kids are my customers in the kitchen and I have become increasingly suspicious that my daughter was secretly swapped with a baby of French descent. She asks me for fresh mint leaves in her (freshly squeezed only please) lemonade. She loves brie and all sorts of stinky cheeses that would make some people faint. She loves braised meats and beans. Ranch dressing and sandwiches? Definitely not her thing but some of my son's favorite foods.

I have realized that as much as I love cooking, my favorite part is seeing the people I love enjoy the food I make.

I will keep cooking but I am hanging up my culinary blogging hat and just wanted to write a short note to you, my readers, to thank you for reading my blog. I enjoyed writing this blog but it is no longer where I want to spend my time. I wish you all well on your own culinary adventures and thanks again for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Corn and Jerusalem Artichoke Tacos with Cabbage Slaw

Sometimes I walk around the produce section and pick up something that is new to my kitchen -- and even more exciting -- that I don't really recognize. I purchase a small quantity, take it home and figure out what to do with it.

Jerusalem artichokes have been hanging around my kitchen for a while now though so they aren't in the unknown category anymore but this was a new way to cook them that I felt pretty happy about.

If you haven't seen one before, they look similar to an overgrown ginger root, knobby and brown with a white interior (usually). They have some similarities to potatoes in texture but with a slightly more prominent flavor that is nutty and sweet at the same time. With those similarities in mind I thought they might make a nice taco filling.

I usually peel Jerusalem artichokes though I have read that you don't necessarily need to (another thing to try!). They can be eaten raw or cooked, you could put them slaw or a salad or make a soup out of them as well.

Corn and Jerusalem Artichoke Tacos with Cabbage Slaw
Yields 8 tacos

1 pound Jerusalem artichokes, peeled, sliced thin and cut into strips (~1/2 inch wide)
1 cup corn kernels (fresh is great! frozen or canned is fine too)
2 T olive oil
(scant) 1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper

1 cup green cabbage, washed and thinly sliced
1 cup red cabbage, washed and thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, washed and grated
a small handful of cilantro, washed and finely chopped
1 tsp honey
2 T red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

8 corn tortillas
sour cream (optional)
1/2 cup grated cheddar or crumbled queso fresco (optional)

(If you wish to warm your tortillas in the oven, pre-heat it to 250 degrees.)

Make the Cabbage Slaw:

Mix the green and red cabbages in a bowl with the carrot and cilantro.

In a small saucepan, heat the red wine vinegar and honey, stirring, just until the honey melts. Add to the bowl of cabbages along with some salt and pepper, toss well and set aside.

Make the filling:

In a large skillet, heat the 2 T olive oil over medium high heat. Add the Jerusalem artichokes, cumin, red pepper flakes, oregano, 1/2 tsp salt and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Stir and let cook until the Jerusalem artichoke starts to brown, a couple of minutes. Add the corn, stir again and cook until the filling is browned and cooked through, a couple of minutes more.

Warm the tortillas:

Heat the corn tortillas. I usually warm my tortillas on a dry skillet and wrap them in a towel to keep them warm (while I warm the remaining tortillas). Alternatively, you could wrap them in a towel and pop the in the oven until they are warmed through.

Put it together:

To serve, put a heaping spoonful of filling on each tortilla and top with the slaw, (optional) cheese and (optional) sour cream.

Serving Suggestion: Serve with fruit or for a more substantial meal, beans and rice.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rice Noodle Salad

I get out with some girlfriends pretty regularly and we recently went to a Vietnamese restaurant in Seattle called Tamarind Tree. I have been there several times before and my husband and I take our kids out for Vietnamese pretty regularly. I love the fresh versus cooked contrasts that Vietnamese seems to frequently feature. The fresh basil and cilantro with roasted peanuts. The sliced cucumbers and grilled meat. The Rice Noodle Salad bowl with its hot grilled meat and fresh lettuce.

One of the ladies in our group is Vietnamese and Tamarind Tree is her favorite spot so we asked her to order and she picked some things I had never tried. And to be honest, I am not sure I ever would have ordered them on my own. She described it as something that one might make at home (an easy home-cooked Vietnamese meal) which I will have to investigate and report back here. A soup with pineapple, bean sprouts, fresh tomato and seafood. As an accompaniment she ordered a braised fish pot, which sounds potentially redundant but trust me (or my friend actually), she knew what she was doing. It was an amazing combination.

At home the primary Vietnamese dish I make is a rice noodle bowl. It is a flexible dish and has so many things going for it. It is pretty healthy with a pile of lettuce in the bottom, cucumbers, carrots, some rice noodles and grilled meat, spring rolls and/or meatballs with a flavorful sauce poured over the top. It would be easy to turn it into a vegetarian dish by adding some fried tofu or using vegetarian spring rolls. If you need the sauce to be vegetarian, substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce. It is also great with kids as they can make their own bowls putting in the veggies they are wiling to eat. My son ate two big bowls of this last night.

Rice Noodle Salad
Serves 4


1.5 lb flank steak
3 T vegetable oil
2 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves removed and chopped
5 T garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 T fish sauce
2 tsp brown sugar


1 cup water
3 T fish sauce (or soy sauce, if you want vegetarian)
4 T lime juice
3 T sugar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

noodles and vegetables:

8 ounces rice noodles
1/2 head of lettuce, shredded and washed
2 carrots, washed, peeled and grated
1 cucumber, cut lengthwise and sliced (peeled if it has that waxy exterior)
small handful of cilantro, washed
small handful of basil, washed and julienned


1/2 pound shrimp
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper

Place the flank steak in a low flat dish. Put the vegetable oil, lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce and brown sugar in a food processor and puree until it forms a paste. Rub it into the flank steak and set aside. Let it sit for an hour if you have the time.

In a bowl, mix the water, fish sauce (or soy sauce), lime juice, red pepper flakes, sugar and garlic until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

Cook the noodles, drain, rinse with cold water and set aside. If they are really long you can cut them up with some scissors.

Heat a grill to medium high heat. Grill the steak until it is charred on the outside and lightly pink on the interior. Let sit for ten minutes and then slice thinly.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and when it starts to shimmer, add the shrimp and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until it starts to brown and then transfer to a bowl.

Put it together:

Place a handful of lettuce in the bottom of a bowl, pile rice noodles on top, add a handful of cucumbers and carrots. Place some meat and shrimp on top and sprinkle with basil and cilantro. Spoon some of the sauce over the top and serve.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Potato Gratin with White Cheddar Cheese

We have been having some sunny days here in Seattle which is always cause for celebration. No, it doesn't really rain all year round. Yes, it really does rain a lot. Yes, you do get used to it. I love the rain but the grey sky does get hard after a while so a bit of spring sunshine is always welcome.

In celebration of the sunny weather we marinated and grilled flank steak, served with sour cream parsley sauce. For sides we had grilled romaine salad and potato gratin. Grilled flank steak and potato gratin go well together but gratin is a stand up dish that can be served by itself with a simple green salad to make a satisfying (vegetarian) meal.

I was looking for a quick weeknight gratin and found it in Gourmet's cookbook but despite the impressive variety of cheese in my fridge, there was no Gruyere. In the interest of getting my kids to eat it, I went with a simple white cheddar from Beechers instead of something more exotic and the results were great. I cooked this gratin first on the stove and then in a 400 degree oven which speeds up the cooking time. Instead of transferring the contents to a buttered dish, I cooked the whole thing in a cast iron skillet. Less things to clean plus I love my cast iron skillet(s).

Potato Gratin with White Cheddar Cheese
Serves 4 - 6

3 russett potatoes (between 1.5 and 2 pounds total)
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups of half and half
3/4 cups grated white cheddar
salt and pepper
1 T butter

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the potatoes and slice them as thinly as you can (or you can use a mandoline).

Grease your skillet with the 1 T of butter and leave the remaining butter in the pan. Put the pan over medium heat and let the butter melt and begin to bubble. Add one layer of potatoes and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Repeat until all the potatoes are in the pan.

Sprinkle the freshly ground nutmeg over the potatoes. Pour 2 cups of 1/2 & 1/2 over the potatoes. The liquid should come up to just below the height of the top layer of potatoes. If needed, add the additional 1/2 cup of milk to bring it up to the right level.

Turn the heat up on the stove and bring the dish to a boil. Sprinkle the cheese on top, transfer the dish to the oven and cook for 30 - 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the potatoes are soft.

Serving Suggestion:
Add a green salad for a simple vegetarian meal.
Add a salad and grilled flank steak for you meat lovers.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pizza Bianca - Smoked Mozzarella, Fontina, Parmiagano Reggiano and Garlic Confit with Arugula

I was eating pizza with my husband, son and father-in-law about a year and a half ago when I realized that I was witnessing a competitive eating event. All three of them were devouring pizza at an impressive rate while simultaneously eyeing the remaining slices. I could tell they were gauging when the others might finish their current slice, even my then four year old boy. I was not involved in this competition, merely acting as a spectator. I like pizza but it wouldn't even make it into my top twenty favorite foods. 

When we make pizza at home we let everyone make their own, which reduces the competitive nature of dinner. Lately I have been replicating a pizza I had at Marjorie, a great little restaurant in Capitol Hill.

The pizza has garlic confit, smoked mozzarella, fontina and Parmigiano-Reggiano. After it comes out of the oven I pile arugula on top. I love fresh and cooked things in the same bite and this pizza delivers that contrast. 

For the dough I used the Barefoot Contessa's recipe after enjoying pizza night at a friend's house who had used Ina's recipe. It is a great pizza and Ina has an alternative white pizza with Arugula that I am planning to try as well.

On my second iteration of using Ina's pizza dough recipe, I replaced a small amount of the all-purpose flour for semolina flour which gave it a grainy texture. I liked it but my husband preferred the original so depending on your preference you may sub in 1/2 to 1 cup of semolina flour for all-purpose in Ina's recipe.

Pizza Bianca - Smoked Mozzarella, Fontina, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Garlic Confit with Arugula
Serves 1

1 ball of dough from Ina Garten's recipe (she has you split the dough into 6 balls at the end)
2 cloves garlic confit (optional excessiveness)
scant 1/4 cup grated smoked mozzarella
1/4 cup grated fontina
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1/2 cups arugula

Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees.

Wash the arugula and spin it dry. Break off any thick stems and discard. Set aside.
Roll out your dough on a baking sheet or cookie tray to less than 1/4 inch thick.
If you are using the garlic confit, mash it up and spread it over the rolled out dough. Then sprinkle the fontina, Parmigiano-Reggiano and smoked mozzarella evenly over the pizza. 

Put the pizza in the oven until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown and the crust is crisp.

Remove from the oven, cut into 4 slices and transfer to a plate. Pile the arugula on top and serve.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Coconut Tomato Soup with Mint and Yogurt

The soup pictured above was made in my own kitchen.

My husband and I were at Marjorie last week for dinner, a beautiful little restaurant in Capitol Hill with brightly colored chairs, blue walls and big windows. The space is calming and cheerful and we had a fantastic dinner. On the walls in the back of the restaurant there are amusing posters on the wall showing 'good' and 'bad' habits.

There were many things on the menu that I wanted to order but I settled on the coconut tomato soup for my first course and a white pizza for my main (which I am going to try to recreate and write about in my next post). My husband ordered the Maguro Crudo which was was served on a long, narrow plate with green apple, jalapeno, white soy, yuzu and celery. It was a little spicy and the maguro was perfectly 'cooked'. For his main, my husband had the beef cheek bolognese. We also ordered their columbia city bakery baguette with housemade butter because pretty much whenever housemade butter is on the menu, we order it. We were glad we had.

They also served us up some delicious cocktails, the trenchtown and a greyhound. The trenchtown was made with Appleton Estate V/X Rum, Fresh Coconut Water, Ginger, Lime. It was a good drink and I will say that they do not skimp on the alcohol at Marjorie. And for dessert we shared their bread pudding which is really as over the top and delicious as they claim it is.

The next day I went to the store and bought some lowfat coconut milk and pacific foods tomato soup in an effort to keep eating that soup. In the summer I would love to make something like this with fresh tomatoes from our csa. This recipe is what I ended up with, not what I ate at Marjorie but something that is super easy to make at home, low in calories and a nice treat for lunch.

Coconut Tomato Soup with Mint and Yogurt
Approximately 150 calories per serving
Serves 2

2 cups of Pacific Natural Foods Organic Creamy Tomato Soup (or other good quality tomato soup)
3/4 cup Lite Coconut Milk
1 to 1.5 tsp mild curry powder
2 tsp tomato paste
4 T plain yogurt
1 T mint, washed and sliced thinly

Place the tomato soup, coconut milk, tomato paste and a heaping tsp of curry powder in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until the curry powder and tomato paste is blended and stir occasionally until the soup is heated through. Taste and add salt and more curry powder, if desired.

Divide evenly between two bowls. Put 2 T of yogurt in each bowl and sprinkle with the mint.

Marjorie on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Falafels and Lemon Tahini Sauce

One of the many cookbooks on my shelf is a small, unobtrusive looking one written by the original owner of a famous but now closed vegetarian restaurant in Montepelier, Vermont called the Horn of the Moon.

I have carried this cookbook around since it was given to me in college by a good friend. There is a small inscription in the front, 'to Miss Petunia, Hey good lookin', what you got cooking?' We are still good friends and she is one of the healthiest people I know so this cookbook reminds me of her and it reminds me to be healthy. I was a vegetarian when she gave me this cookbook and it seems like we might be heading that direction again, at least according to my husband. The debate on vegetarianism has been a hot topic in our household lately.

Flipping through this book I had no plan but came across the author's recipe for falafels. After locating a bag of garbanzo beans in my cupboard from my favorite bean supplier, Rancho Gordo, I decided falafels were what we were having for dinner. I forgot how good homemade falafels are.

Barely adapted from the Horn of the Moon
4 Servings

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T Oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 cup whole wheat flour, split
3 - 4 cups of oil for frying
4 pitas
1 cucumber, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
Lemon Tahini Sauce (recipe follows)

Put a skillet over medium heat and add the 1 T oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until they start to brown. Add the spices, mix well and turn the heat off.

Mash the garbanzo beans finely (or use your food processor which is super fast and easy).

Put the mashed beans in a large bowl with the tahini, breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup of the flour. Add the onion, garlic and spice mixture and mix well.

Heat the oil in a large, deep pan over medium to medium-high heat.

Put the remainins ~1/4 cup whole wheat flour in a small bowl.
Make a ball (about the size of a small golf ball) with the mix and lightly roll it in the flour. Drop it in the oil. The oil should boil and foam around the ball without foaming up too much. If it foams up a lot, then the oil might be too hot so turn it down. If it doesn't start sizzling, then turn it up a bit. When you have found the right temperature, add the rest of the balls and cook until a dark golden brown color,watching closely. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.

Serve in the pitas with the cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes and lemon tahini sauce.

Lemon Tahini Sauce
Makes 1 cup
Barely adapted from the Horn of the Moon cookbook

3/4 cup tahini
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 T tamari
1/2 cup water
freshly ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until fairly smooth. Add more water if the sauce seems too thick. Taste and add more lemon juice if desired.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chicken, Biscuits and Mustard Shallot Gravy

One of the most frequently requested meals in our house is chicken, biscuits and gravy. It is our comfort food, easy to make and if I have chicken, I usually have everything else I need. The meal is sometimes requested at 5. Or I decide it is a good idea at 5:30. And I frequently don't have a whole chicken, I just have some bone-in chicken breasts. I can finish this meal in just over an hour which makes it an obtainable weeknight meal with the feel of a weekend treat.

Despite my happy claims, I would like to clarify that this meal uses bowls, pots, cutting boards, baking sheets and knives. It is not a one pot meal that gets your family to the table in 30 minutes and leaves you with 0 dishes to clean except that one pot. You could trim the time down by using boneless skinless chicken breasts and get the meal to the table in 45 minutes but it would take some organization and one of those evenings where you don't get the yell from the other room that, "it spilled". Or a meltdown that they can't find "that toy", which despite your pointing out that there are five thousand other toys to choose from, still results in a massive hunt throughout the entire house for that one specific toy that ends up getting played with for about five minutes after you find it. Or if you don't have kids and you don't know what I'm talking about then maybe you had one of those days at work where you wished you had picked a different major in college (or went to college in the first place), and again, this is not the night to make this meal unless cooking soothes your soul. I return now to the regularly scheduled program of food.

Biscuits which might seem mysterious at first glance, are pretty straightforward. Most recipes call for 2 cups of flour, 3/4 cup of milk, cream or buttermilk, 6 - 8 T butter, 1 tsp salt and 1 T baking powder. If you chose buttermilk, then you need to add 1/4 tsp of baking soda and reduce the baking powder. If you search for biscuit recipes this is a pretty universal recipe which ironically brings about wildly varied reviews from people saying they are the best to worst biscuits they have ever made. So it must be in the details. Is the baking powder fresh? Did the biscuits sit on the counter for too long and loose their bubbles causing them to fail to rise when they were put in the oven? Did the dry ingredients get properly whisked together so the leaveners are evenly distributed in the flour? Was the oven hot enough? If it isn't then the biscuits don't rise as the process is quick and the bubbles will pop if they don't expand. Now that I write this, it seems that biscuits are more mysterious than I claimed, but it's just science. There is no magic and if your biscuits don't rise I would argue that there is a 95% chance that your family will still enjoy them.

Chicken, Biscuits and Mustard Shallot Gravy
Serves 4

4 bone-in chicken breasts
2 T Olive Oil
salt and pepper

1 - 2 shallots, chopped
2 T flour
1/4 cup white wine
3 cups chicken stock
1 T dijon
salt and pepper

2 cups all-purpose flour plus another 1/4 cup for rolling out the biscuits
1 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
8 T unsalted butter
3/4 cup milk

Pre-heat the oven to 425degrees.


Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Place a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 T of Olive Oil and when it starts to shimmer, place the chicken, skin side down in the pan. Let it cook until it is golden brown, about 3 - 5 minutes, and then flip it over. Check the chicken frequently, you want it golden brown but not too dark because it is going to keep cooking in the oven. Cook for 3 - 5 minutes more and put it in the oven and cook for 20 - 30 minutes, when the temperature reaches 160. The time will depend on the size of your chicken breasts.


In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter (I use my fingers), until it looks like coarse meal. Add the milk and using a large wooden spoon or spatula, stir gently, pressing lightly with the spoon until the liquid is all absorbed. Take the 1/3 cup of flour and coat your hands and the counter you will be making the biscuits on. Gently knead the biscuit dough a few times until it is holding together, but without overworking it. Place on the floured surface and press out to a square until the dough is about 1/2  inch high. Cut into squares and place them on an ungreased baking sheet. I usually get 12 - 15 biscuits.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and put the bisuits in, setting a timer for 12 minutes.


Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Drain off the fat from the pan (that the chicken was cooked in) and put the pan on a burner over medium heat.

Throw in the shallots and stir them around. When they start to look translucent, add the wine Scrape the bottom of the pan and simmer off about 1/2 the wine. Add the flour and cook for 1 - 2 minutes, stirring. Slowly add the chicken stock, whisking constantly to blend. Whisk in the dijon, if you are using it. Taste and add salt and pepper.

Serving Suggestion: Steamed broccoli or wilted greens (like spinach or chard).

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Preserved Lemons and Hummus

My mom sent me a new cookbook, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous - My Search for Jewish Cooking in France written by Joan Nathan. It is not a trendy cookbook and it isn't trying to be. If the cookbook had been released four or five years ago when foam was all the rage, the author still wouldn't have mentioned it. This cookbook is refreshingly unique in it's abject refusal to be trendy. I know very little (but more now!) about French Jewish cooking but this seems pretty straightforward in delivering what it promises. It has beautiful pictures but the recipes and stories are the center of the book, not the shiny pages or beautiful photographs.

Her recipes seem accessible to me both from a time and experience standpoint for the home cook (even one with small children in the house). Most fill one page with a few that span over two pages and they almost all sound like things we would like to eat - Fennel Salad with Celery, Cucumber, Lemon and Pomegranate or Brisket with Ginger, Orange Peel, and Tomato for example. It is also filled with interesting stories like the one about Marthe Layrle who lives on a farm in Southwest France and who did amazing things during World War II. She grants the author, and now us, a unique view of a very different lifestyle.

The first recipe I tried from the book was Preserved Lemons. I love lemons and seem to have passed that love down to my daughter who at age 3, will sit and eat them raw. She requested one this morning in fact. I had a couple of bags of Meyer Lemons so I decided to preserve them. The hardest part of preserving lemons is that after you jar them, you have to stick them in the refrigerator and just wait a couple of weeks.

Then you can just let your imagination run away with what to do with them. Slice and layer them on a fish and bake it. Stuff them in a chicken along with some herbs and garlic and roast it. Or, as Ms. Nathan suggests, throw one in some hummus. I cooked my own garbanzo beans though canned beans are fine - but if you are pondering cooking your own, read this for some general encouragement on why you might consider giving it a try.

Preserved Lemons
Barely Adapted from Joan Nathan's Recipe

8 lemons
Kosher Salt
1 cup or more of lemon juice
2 T Olive Oil

Rinse the lemons and cut off the very tip of each end. Then cut them in quarters but not the whole way through (see picture above). Sprinkle the pulp sections of the lemon liberally with Kosher salt. Place them in a jar and fill with lemon juice and then water* so that they are completely covered.

Let them sit over night and then cover the top with the olive oil. Place in the refrigerator and allow to cure for 2 to 3 weeks.

* Ms. Nathan recommends using straight lemon juice. This sounded good in theory but I found that I had to use a lot of lemons (more than 1 cup though it depends on your jar I guess), so I did a mix of lemon juice and water so I wouldn't need to purchase quite so many lemons.

Hummus with Preserved Lemon

2 cups of garbanzo beans
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 - 1/2 preserved lemon, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Drain the beans, saving the liquid they were sitting in.

Place the garbanzo beans, tahini, 1/4 preserved lemon (minus any seeds you see), the garlic and 1 tsp salt into a food processort. Add 4 T of bean liquid. If you didn't save it or don't have the liquid you can use water. Blend until smooth, adding more liquid if the hummus congeals and is too dry. I usually end up adding about 6 - 8 T of liquid.

Taste and add the rest of the preserved lemon and salt if desired. The preserved lemon holds a lot of salt  itself so consider that when tasting and adding more.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Roses Bakery & Cafe, Frying an Egg and an Egg Sandwich with Tomato, Bacon and Arugula

Roses Bakery & Cafe is a place that could easily do well in any culinary focused city, but for imagery, if you plopped it down in the middle of Napa Valley it would fit right in. It has a deli attached to the cafe that sells a variety of cheeses and deli meats as well as a small handful of bulk items like salads which are sold by the pound. They have a small selection of mustards, oils, vinegars, pickled items and kitchen utensils. They sell baked goods and my children consumed an astonishing number of their chocolate croissants during our short visit to Orcas. In the freezer case are pies, meats and frozen mains. Everytime we visit Orcas on holiday, which is tending towards once a year, we spend some time at Roses. They serve good coffee and great food. The portions are not huge but I am never hungry when I leave.

They have a well thought out menu with things like baked eggs with gruyere, homemade granola with fruit and a breakfast bread pudding. They offer lunch too but we always seem to end up there during the morning meal.

Our waitress offered to do a plate of scrambled eggs and toast for our kids when she arrived to take our order. My son agreed to the eggs, while my daughter opted for a bowl of their homemade granola served with milk and fruit.  I had an egg, cheese, tomato and arugula sandwich that was delicious. It was served with thinly sliced french bed, toasted and smeared with butter and a perfect fried egg sitting prettily on top with a very cheery yolk. The arugula was a smart addition and the bacon was flavorful and tasted like the bacon we get from the best butcher in Seattle. I love a good breakfast sandwich but sometimes I forget to think outside the box. The arugula was a good reminder that an egg sandwich can be so many different things.

I have read in numerous cookbooks, cooking memoirs and online that to test a cook's real ability, hand them a dozen eggs and watch them scramble, fry and hard (or soft) boil them. I guess I think there is some truth to that.

The consistent message for fried eggs seems to be to warm the pan and butter (or oil) first, add the egg and then turn down the heat.

Outside of that, the advice is all over the place. For example, I have read not to put salt on the egg while it is cooking, as it reduces moisture and can cause the egg to be rubbery. Or for sunny-side up, Delia says to start the pan on high and turn it down to medium. She also says to tilt the pan and let the hot fat run over the top of the egg - I assume to ensure the yolk is properly cooked and to enhance the flavor. For sunny-side up, Saveur says to cover the egg while it is cooking, which is what the Joy of Cooking recommends too. The Kitchn offers both as an alternative, depending on how the egg is behaving. I find covering a sunny-side up egg to be easiest for even cooking. For over-easy, most people advise not covering the egg, which I have also found to be what works for me.

Egg Sandwich with Tomato, Bacon and Arugula
Derived from a delicious egg sandwich at Roses Bakery & Cafe
Serves 1

2 thin slices of french bread, cut from a loaf wide enough to hold an egg
2 slices of cooked bacon (optional)
1 egg
a small handful of arugula, washed and dried
2 thin slices of tomato
1 tsp butter
olive oil
salt and pepper

Put a frying pan and some olive oil or butter over medium heat. Let it warm up. Crack your egg in the pan and turn the temperature down a little, leaving it alone until the white firms up. Flip it over if you prefer it that way or for sunny-side up, consider covering it to let the yoke set while it cooks over medium low heat.

While the egg sizzles away, pop your bread in the toaster.

When the bread has turned into toast, spread butter on each side. Place the cooked egg on one slice and follow with the arugula, tomato and bacon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and enjoy.

Roses Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Jicama, Radish, Avocado and Cucumber Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

We are on Orcas Island this week staying in a house that overlooks East Sound. There have been rain clouds sweeping in over our home so thick that the bay will suddenly disappear into a sea of gray until the clouds suddenly float away and the view seems to magically reappear. It is perfect reading weather.

I brought along four cookbooks from home and yesterday I was flipping through Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis. It is a fabulous book with beautiful pictures and nicely put together menus. He also has stories and suggestions and tips throughout the book. My favorite was reading about his bafflement at why someone would want to rush through baking bread. It is sweet and a great reminder for slowing down in the the same time though, it is a hint that this guy has never cooked with two little kids running around his feet.

I grew enchanted with one menu of roasted pork, hominy and a prepared plate of jicama, radishes, avocados and cucumbers sprinkled with lime juice dipped in chili power. The menu sounded fantastic but I wanted a salad (as I almost always do) so the recipe below is a modified version of his ingredients with a lime vinaigrette. The flavors of the whole meal were distinctly Mexican, the roast pork shoulder recipe I made (a different recipe than his) had cumin, chili adobo, limes, green onions, garlic and a few other things. This salad was a perfect accompaniment as it seems like it would be with almost any Mexican inspired main course.

Jicama, Radish, Avocado and Cucumber Salad with Lime Vinaigrette
Serve 4

~10 radishes, washed and cut into wedges (eighths)
2 avocados, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into halved or quartered rounds
1/2 medium sized jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks

2 T lime juice
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp (or more) chili powder
2 T extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, add the lime juice, vinegar, salt and chili powder. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste and add more salt and chili powder if desired.

Place the radishes, avocados, cucumbers and jicama in a medium sized bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss gently.

Serving Suggestion: Slow roasted pork shoulder and hominy.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Penne with Roasted Garlic, Cauliflower and Parmesan

The other night dinner started out as a single head of garlic roasting in the oven. I was reading to my kids and imagining its beautiful golden color as its delicious smell filled our house.

Sometimes I fall silent when I am reading and thinking about cooking. My kids usually poke me until I start up again but this time I was trying to figure out where it was going to take the meal. Roasted garlic can be a versatile tool for your meal. Add it to the top of a pizza or mix it in a tomato sauce or put it on crostini. I started wondering what would it taste like in pesto?

I ended up adding it to a butter and olive oil sauce with pasta. I had parsley, cauliflower and parmesan so the meal was formed. I wasn't sure if one head of garlic would be enough but it was, though if you love garlic or your heads are small, you might put in two.

The cauliflower is parboiled so that it is just cooked through but still firm. This adds a nice texture balance to the pasta.

The quantity of parmesan is very flexible, I just grated a pile that was close to a 1/2 a cup. If you want a bit of spice, the red pepper flakes can provide that for you.

Penne with Roasted Garlic, Cauliflower and Parmesan
Serves 4 - 6

1 lb penne
1 large head of garlic
1 small head of cauliflower
1.5 T olive oil plus 1 tsp
1.5 T butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
small handful of parsley, washed and chopped
salt and pepper
2 tsp dried red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut the top off the garlic. Drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 50 minutes.

Put a large pot of lightly salted water over high heat for the pasta.

Cut the cauliflower up into small florets, bite-sized. Put in a small stock pan, cover with cold water and sprinkle in a little salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for about a minute, until cooked through but still firm. Drain and place in a large bowl.

Cook the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter and mix with the remaining olive oil in a small bowl. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skins into the bowl and mash with the back of a fork, mixing with the butter and olive oil.

Add the pasta to the large bowl along with the garlic mixture, parsley, parmesan and (optional) red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well.

Serving Suggestion: Belgian Endive, Raddichio and Grape Salad and Sole Meuniere

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Belgian Endive, Radicchio and Grapes with Lemon Honey Vinaigrette

Belgian endive and radicchio are fantastic partners. Their colors compliment each other, as do their textures. The radicchio has a bit of bitterness to it while the endive has a softer more gentle flavor.

I have been eating a lot of different variations of this salad. It is great with apples or pears and some parmesan or blue cheese. It is tasty with a mustard vinaigrette or a lemon vinaigrette or an apple cider vinaigrette.

The Belgian endive leaves make a lovely appetizer when they are filled with any of the above combinations and drizzled with one of the vinaigrettes. The other night I opened my fridge and saw grapes which ended up being my favorite fruit for this salad. The grapes are sweet and sit well in the endive leaves; they add another flavor and texture dimension to the already complimentary pair of lettuces.

It is a good idea to tear and prepare the Belgian endive at the last minute because they bruise and brown easily once they are removed from their base.

The optional and annoying step of cutting the grapes in the recipe below is still one I would strongly recommend. They sit better in the salad and are more easily speared with a fork if they have been cut.

Belgian Endive, Radicchio and Grapes with Lemon Honey Vinaigrette
Serves 2

2 heads of Belgian endive
1/2 head of radicchio
1/2 cup grapes
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (optional)

1 tsp honey
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Tear the leaves of the endive off their base and wash. Slice the radicchio into thin strips and wash. Spin the lettuces dry.

Cut the grapes in half.

In a small bowl, add the honey, lemon juice and whisk in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Put the endive, radicchio, grapes and (optional) cheese in a medium sized bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the top and mix gently.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Romaine, Blue Cheese, Avocado and Almond Salad
with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette

I love romaine lettuce.  It is sturdy but somehow delicate, crisp but more persistent than iceberg with its light pale green insides and dark green exterior making it seem like two different lettuces in one bundle. I love its ability to act as a strong canvas to whatever you want to do with it and I felt like using it to pretend it was summer.

Standing in our central coop in the produce section always leads me to good things. In went the romaine, along with various other fresh fruits and vegetables. I walked away from the produce section in search of more dried mango, which my daughter and one of her little friends have been consuming at an amazing clip. The mango was out of stock, I am guessing due to our recent consumption rate, so my thoughts returned to romaine when basil vinaigrette and summer popped into my head.

I figured if they had fresh basil at the coop from a, (I feel I can assume), sustainable and organic source, then my desire to eat it was somehow justified despite it being a summer produce. Hence this salad.

Romaine, Blue Cheese, Avocado and Almond Salad with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette
Serves 4

1 head of romaine
1 - 1.5 ounces of blue cheese
1 avocado
1/4 cup of slivered almonds

1 cup loosely packed basil
6 T olive oil
3 T lemon juice
1 T champagne vinegar or apple cider vinegar
zest of a lemon
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper

Tear or cut the romaine into bite sized pieces, wash and spin dry. Place in a large bowl. Crumble the blue cheese and sprinkle it over the salad. Cut the avocado into bite sized pieces and add to the salad along with the almonds.

Wash the lemon, zest it and then juice it. Put the basil, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, zest, salt and pepper in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss gently.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Vegetable Curry Pies

I have noticed that when my kids help me cook something, they are more inclined to eat it. I wanted some vegetable curry pies and I wanted my kids to eat dinner too,  so I set up a little cooking project for them - they love cooking!

I did five bowls - potatoes, carrots, corn, green beans and grated cheddar. I chopped the potatoes and carrots into small cubes (1/3 inch) and boiled them until they were cooked but not falling apart. The corn and green beans were frozen and I didn't bother cooking them as they'd thaw on the counter and cook in the oven. Taking some pie dough, I rolled it out and cut out large circles. I put each circle on a plate and let my kids go to town. They happily navigated filling their pies and sealing them.

In the interest of fun, instead of doing classic slits in the dough, I cut the first letter of their name so they could identify their pies after they came out of the oven.

I think we will do this again but their filling was a little bland and it could have used a little more liquid - the cheese was the only real moisture which wasn't quite enough. I was thinking of trying to mix 1/4 cup of flavorful broth in with the potatoes next time, like a pot pie filling consistency.

For myself, I got a little more creative and made a quick and easy vegetable curry that I loved. Biting into the flaky, buttery crust to a lightly sweet and spicy curry was a blissful contrast.

Vegetable Curry Pies
Makes about 12 pies

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
16 T cold unsalted butter

1 T Oil (I used coconut oil but any high heat oil is fine)
10 mushrooms
1/2 small head of cauliflower
2 - 3 carrots
1/2 onion
1 T mild curry powder
1 T brown sugar
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes. Spread them evenly over the flour mixture and using your hands or a fork, blend the flour and butter together. Add about 1/2 cup of ice water and smear the mixture together with the back of a wooden spoon and your hands until it holds together as a ball (you may need to add more water).

The vegetables are tucked into a relatively small pastry so small pieces work best! I chopped the carrots into 1/4 inch pieces and the  cauliflower into small florets. Wipe the mushrooms free of dirt and slice them.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Put the onion in and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally.  Add the carrots and mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Add the cauliflower.

Sprinkle the curry powder, brown sugar and salt over the mixture. Add the coconut milk and a little water (about 1/4 cup). Add the red pepper flakes and stir to coat all the vegetables. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, the mixture has thickened and most, but not all the liquid has evaporated. The mixture should look wet but not be dripping if you scoop some up in a spoon. If it is too wet, the pastry will get soggy.

Take the dough out of the fridge, cut it in half and we-wrap the second half and return it to the fridge. Throw some flour down on a clean surface and roll out your dough (to a little more than 1/8" thick). Cut out five inch circles. Spoon 3 T or so of filling onto one half leaving an edge. Fold the circle in half (so it looks like a half moon) and pinch the edges together. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Meal Suggestion: Serve with a green salad and yogurt soup.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Little Lemon Cakes

I purchased some Meyer lemons the other day and they were a deep yellow color, almost orange. Their skin was soft and pliable. I love lemons, both unadorned and in almost anything made with their juice and zest.

So my vague plan was to use the Meyer lemons to make individual cakes with a chocolate topping but I had trouble finding the time. We were snowed in this week and my husband was in South Africa on business so I was flying solo with the kidlets. My saving grace is that I am an insomniac and when someone isn't around to keep me in check, I go to bed at 2. So for part of the week I stayed up reading a terrific, happy book called the Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz (possibly my favorite food blogger), but last night I made cakes.

While the cakes were cooking I made a caramel sauce and then a chocolate glaze and in the freezer we happened to have some vanilla custard from Old School Custard. I think the custard won as the best accompaniment to the cake, though all three were interesting and delicious in their own way. My test subjects thought the crust of the cake was a little overdone and I agreed. I should have pulled them out a couple of minutes before I did.

Little Lemon Cakes
Cake modified from the Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake recipe in the Joy of Cooking
Makes 4 generous individual cakes

5 T unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 meyer lemon, washed and dried
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
a scant* 1 tsp baking soda
a scant* 1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Butter or spray to grease the cake dishes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Grease 4 12 oz individual ramekins or other small dishes that are oven safe.

Melt the butter and transfer to a large bowl. Let cool a little.

Add both sugars, the vanilla extract, salt, egg and sour cream. Whisk until smooth.

Zest the lemon and add it to the bowl. Cut the lemon in half and juice one half, adding ~1/4 cup of lemon juice to the bowl (a little extra wouldn't hurt). Whisk until blended.

Add the flour and fold in gently with a wooden spoon until just mixed.

Transfer the individual dishes to the oven. Start checking at around 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean (a few small crumbs is okay as long as they don't look overly moist). Let cool for a few minutes and then running a knife around the edges, turn gently onto a plate and flip over, right side up.

The current winning vote in our household is to eat the cake warm with vanilla ice cream or custard.

* Why am I saying a scant? The original recipe calls for 3/4 tsp but I would scoop up 1 tsp and scrape a little out to approximate 3/4 tsp.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Beef Stew

The Weather Channel is forecasting a rare snow storm. Embarrassingly, I must admit that it briefly crossed my mind to rush out to the store and stock up on canned goods. Then I remembered that we live in a big city and have lots of friends nearby. Plus we don't really eat a lot of canned food and in the worst case scenario, we will be making pasta from scratch for dinner. Worst, worst case scenario, we will have to cook it on our camp stove.

Today it is sunny but very cold. Along with the cold weather come requests from my family for beef stew, which is one of the easiest comfort foods to make. Give it a tasty savory liquid as a base, throw in some root vegetables along with the meat and you are golden. People walking into your house from the frosty outdoors will sigh with happiness at the permeating smell that speaks to winter warmth, being inside, and all the comfort of a bowl of beef stew. This is one variation I make, it is easy to get creative once you have made it a couple of times.

Beef Stew
Serves 4 - 6

2 T Olive Oil
2 - 2.5 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 onions, peeled and chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 T flour
3/4 cup white wine
4 cups chicken broth
1.5 cups water
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
salt and pepper
10 carrots, peeled and chopped - do this while the meat is simmering
1.5 lbs baby white potatoes, peeled - do this while the meat is simmering
3/4 lbs haricot verts, washed and trimmed (optional)

Sprinkle the meat liberally with salt and pepper.

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sear the meat in batches, without crowding the pan. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Repeat this process until all the meat is seared.

Turn the heat down to medium low and add the onions. Cook, stirring, until the onion starts to soften and look translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Sprinkle the flour and cook for about two minutes, stirring to coat the onions.

Turn the heat up to medium and add the white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the wine has reduced by approximately half and the sauce has started to thicken.

Add the broth, water, thyme, Worcestershire Sauce and meat to the pan, including all the juices that have gathered in the bottom of the bowl holding the meat. Turn up the heat and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. The meat should feel fairly tender when pierced with a fork. Occasionally scrape the top of the broth to remove the scum that will gather while the stew is simmering.

Add the potatoes and carrots. Bring back to a simmer, taste and adjust for seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the carrots and potato are cooked through and tender but not falling apart.

If you wish to add the haricots, add them right before serving. Stir them in, bring the stew back to a simmer and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.

It is nice served with a crusty french bread.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lentil Carrot Curry Soup

While eating this soup last night, I mentioned my love of lentils to my husband. They are not traditional comfort food to Americans, but somehow I picked up that association. They are beautiful and versatile and they cook quickly. Lentils are the third highest in protein of all legumes and are an important staple in many areas.

I made some lentil fritters, a couple of weeks ago, that you never actually boil. I found it interesting that you could just soak and fry them and they would end up properly cooked.

This soup can be made in under an hour. It is nothing fancy, but it is soothing and healthy. I like the carrots just cooked through so that there are tangible bites to the soup, adding contrast to the smoothness of the lentils.

Lentil Carrot Curry Soup
Serves 4

2 bunches of 'new' carrots, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces (you can do this while the lentils are simmering, to save time)
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup red lentils, rinsed well and picked through (remove any sad-looking lentils, or rocks)
2 T peeled and finely chopped garlic, about 3 cloves
2 T peeled and finely chopped ginger, about 2 inches of a root
4 cups water or broth
1 1/2 tsp mild curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 T Olive Oil

Set a large stock pot over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 - 8 minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger and cook for one minute.

Add the lentils and stir to coat them in garlic, ginger and oil.

Add the stock, salt* and curry powder and bring to a simmer. Cook until the lentils have softened, about 15 - 20 minutes.

Add the carrots. Simmer until the carrots are soft, about 10 minutes more and serve.

* Depending on the salt content of your stock, you may want to add more. Taste it after bringing to a boil and adjust as necessary.