Saturday, December 26, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

making mushrooms

Little meringue mushrooms, piped, baked and assembled this past Saturday -

A fun (and rewarding) undertaking for the very snowy weekend.
If all goes according to plan, these faux fungi will reappear Friday alongside the 'stump'...
Happy holiday baking!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

hope after cookies

I don't want to alarm you with the dangerous quantities of butter and sugar that sit in random spots throughout the kitchen these days, so I have no photos today.

Cookie sheets and rolling pins, batter bowls and spatulas are the tools currently employed - the poor neglected soup pot (normally a fixture on the stove top) has actually found its way back into the cabinet! I say this with humor because it is a joy to bake for the holidays, but a little tricky to balance the baking with the cooking of an honest-to-goodness dinner. Lately I've managed, somehow, to stir up a pot of vegetarian chili and another of a mediocre coconut curry with cauliflower and potatoes - nothing to whet the appetite, really. I do have a vision of a golden, spinach-packed spanakopita, or possibly an earthy mushroom and cashew pie. There may be hope after cookies...

But while we're speaking of sweets, how extraordinary is this dessert?

I'm working up the courage to give it a try.

Monday, December 7, 2009

of weddings and snowfalls, winter colds and the making of pies

It seems more days than intended have gone by since my last post. A flurry of visiting, dining, traveling, and celebrating has deposited me, fevered and sniffley, squarely on the sofa. Needless to say, not much has been happening in the kitchen - except, perhaps, for this - a dish I've not eaten in years, but suddenly craved the other day. Odd how that can happen, isn't it?

Still, great things worth sharing have been happening...

Such as our first snowfall of the season:

and the wedding of my brother to his elegant and charming bride!
(So, so happy for you, Nate and Julia!)

It's been a whirlwind, but I'm sure to be back in the kitchen soon (plenty of holiday baking ahead, certainly).
Before returning to my little sofa, though, I wanted to share my thoughts on making pies, as Mariana so sweetly asked after the recipe for the Thanksgiving apple pie previously posted.

I generally never use a recipe for fruit pies... I suppose I've made enough to have a feel for what's required - a big bowl of fruit, a scoop of sugar (maybe some spice), a spoonful or two of flour, cornstarch, or tapioca, a little lemon juice, and a bit of butter. They may not be the same one day to another, but I feel that's the beauty of them.
I do, however, use a recipe for the crust - for a 'special occasion' pie like this Thanksgiving pie, I use this all-butter recipe that never fails for me. The filling was composed roughly of the following:

3-4 Lbs. apples (about 8), peeled, cored and sliced - I used 4 Cameo and 4 York (the quantity really just depends on the depth of your pie dish)
1/4 - 1/2 Cup sugar, plus a tablespoon for sprinkling over the crust (this amount just depends on the sweetness of your fruit, and/or your preference)
1 - 2 tsp. cinnamon, depending on your preference (cardamom is also a favorite)
1 - 1 1/2 Tb. cornstarch (flour or tapioca or another thickener can be used)
juice of 1 lemon (sometimes I add the zest also)
1 Tb. butter, cut into small pieces (to dot the top of the pie)
1 large egg, beaten with just a trickle of water (to brush over the crust)

Combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Spoon into a pastry-lined pie dish, mounding the mixture in the center. Dot the filling with the butter. Affix the top crust, crimping the edges to seal. Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sugar over the pie. Cut a few small slits in the top crust and bake for about 45 minutes or until crust is golden and juice is bubbling. (I think I set the oven to 400 degrees...)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

busy, busy, busy

So many little projects going on around here lately.
I've had little to no time to spend puttering in the kitchen. Meals are eaten amid balls of yarn and boxes of t-pins (very carefully). Seeding a pomegranate the other morning was a small accomplishment, but little else has been fussed over - quick (and healthy) meals don't seem to be my specialty. So, what do you eat when your kitchen time is limited? I'd love to know, as this is just the beginning of a most busy time of year...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Greedily plucked from this interview weeks ago and currently being devoured with HUGE satisfaction before a quick trip into the mountains.

It is most highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

slightly smokey, slightly sweet

Last night I was thinking about lapsang souchong. It's not a tea I particularly like; it's more a tea I particularly dislike. Yet I have a tiny tin of it in the tea cabinet because I just know it must have a good use, that maybe if I try hard enough, I might just convince myself that I actually like it... All it would take is one recipe.
I don't know if this is the one; I can't decide. Tea-soaked figs, walnuts, honey - a little bit sweet, a little bit smokey - it sounds right, but...
Oh - butter and honey! That's the ticket...

Slightly Smokey, Slightly Sweet Fig and Walnut Bread


1 tsp. lapsang souchong tea leaves
1 Cup boiling water
3/4 Cup dried black mission figs, chopped
2 Cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tb. buttermilk powder
1/4 Cup honey
3 Tb. sweet almond oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
scant 1/2 Cup broken walnut pieces
butter or oil for greasing the pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter or oil a loaf pan and set aside.

Pour boiling water over the tea leaves and steep for 5 minutes. Strain out the leaves and pour the tea over the chopped figs. Steep the figs in the tea for 10 minutes; remove the figs and set aside, reserving the tea.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk powder. Set aside.

In a small bowl, beat together the honey, almond oil, egg, and reserved tea. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the honey-tea mixture. Stir until just combined and fold in the reserved soaked figs and the broken walnut pieces.

Spoon the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until golden and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then turn out and cool a bit more on the rack.

Slice and serve warm with a bit of butter and a drizzle of honey.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


In all honesty, I've not felt terribly inspired in the kitchen recently. Is it noticeable? The light is fading so much earlier these days, the night is quickly turning from chilly to cold and everything seems to slow down with these changes. Shifting into colder days, my energy has begun to ebb with the sunlight as I adjust to the rythym of late autumn and onset of winter. No bad thing - just a temporary lull.
And in these still evenings, tucking under a quilt on the sofa has become quite appealing. As have homey, simple things (simple is the key) like slow-cooked soups and simmering applesauce.
A strong cup of chamomile tea, a drizzle of honey and a few straggling apples don't ask for much from the cook.
No recipe to follow - just a little peeling and chopping and then off to the pot to perfume the house and simmer into a sauce.
Plenty of time to curl on the couch...

Monday, October 19, 2009

something satisfying

There is something satisfying in making gnocchi (or gnuddi). In the kneading and rolling and shaping there is a rhythm - a space for thoughts, meditations.
And then in the finished little pillows, such satisfaction.
Oh, and they're pretty tasty too...
As you may have heard, Gourmet Magazine will no longer be in print after the November issue. While I will be quite sad not to have these gorgeous issues greet me each month, the current website states that their archive of recipes will remain available through their sister site
*A few notes: I found I only used 1 1/2 cups of flour total (including dusting the board) and I used chopped, toasted walnuts in place of the chestnuts as that is what was on hand and the results were quite good.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

leaves and roots

Several blustery days have rustled the trees and stirred the scent of fallen leaves. There is a damp sweetness about that smells like autumn and there nearly was a frost on the ground this morning. Today I'm inspired to sip tea from ceramic mug, click wooden knitting needles through a soft wool, and really not do much else...

Except, perhaps, a little shuffling in the kitchen:
Peeling and slicing and smelling a few earthy root vegetables - a perfectly autumnal task for such days.
Layering them (River Cottage style) in a dish with cream, garlic and chilies to be baked into a gratin.
Then savored with a handful of arugula tossed with lemon juice and olive oil.

Nothing fancy, but everything inspired.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

the eggplant challenge

Sneaking in just under the deadline, here's my submission for the Eggplant Challenge over at Grown in Frederick.

Pardon the not-so-stellar photos - I can't believe I don't have a shot of the raw vegetable. Eggplants are so photogenic too... It's a pity.

But this dish is no slacker - and cooks up in a flash once all the ingredients are prepped. (As the poorly lit photos allude, I whipped this up late one evening after work - the anticipation of actually eating being far more a concern than the photos at that point...)
Tempeh stands in for the more traditional ground pork here* and the eggplant lends its sweetness to this moderately spicy little dish.

Eggplant and Tempeh in a Chili Garlic Sauce

(inspired by the recipe for Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce over Rice in Chinese Rice and Noodles)


2 Tb. coconut oil
2 Tb. garlic, minced
2 Tb. fresh ginger root, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green portions), plus more for serving
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
8 oz. tempeh
1 Lb. eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1 1/2 inch pieces
4 Tb. low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. Shaoxing wine (or sherry)
2 tsp. granulated sugar
4 Tb. water (or stock)
1/2 Tb. cornstarch

Combine the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar, water, and cornstarch in a small bowl, whisking to incorporate the cornstarch smoothly. Set aside. Place a wok or large stir-fry pan over high heat, and when quite hot, add the oil followed by the garlic, ginger, and chili garlic sauce. Cook just until fragrant - only about 3o seconds. Add the crumbled tempeh and continue to stir fry until golden. Add the eggplant and cook until it is meltingly tender - about 10 minutes more - adjusting the heat as necessary to avoid burning. To the fully cooked eggplant and golden tempeh, add the soy sauce mixture (give it a stir just before adding to loosen any cornstarch that may have separated) and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently for a minute or two until the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency (more water/stock may be added to produce a thinner sauce). Serve hot over jasmine rice and garnish with additional sliced scallions.

Thanks to the gals over at Grown in Frederick for putting this challenge together!

*For another take on using tempeh as a substitute for minced meat in Asian cooking see this post which put the notion in my mind...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

waking up productive - making virtuous pancakes

On September weekends I'm waking with the sun, marveling at the thick fog that envelops our tiny riverside town so early, and tucking cold toes into fleece-lined slippers to patter around the kitchen. Autumn is early this year - like a surprise party you began to suspect, but wouldn't let yourself believe until you saw a driveway full of familiar cars (sidewalks peppered with acorns, leaves already beginning to fall!).
With the morning chill comes vigor - waking up productive - and a hunger for something of substance, something virtuous.
Heidi's Wild Rice Flour Pancakes (with twists)
(from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking)


1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup wild rice flour (or roughly 2 heaping tablespoons wild rice blend ground to a powder in a spice grinder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup (heaping) applesauce (to make your own, peel, core and chop 1 large apple and cook it down to a mush with 2 tablespoons water and a scant tablespoon of sugar)
2 1/4 cups buttermilk (I used a buttermilk powder made for baking (5 tablespoons) along with approximately 2 cups of water instead of the buttermilk)
1 cup cooked wild rice
butter or oil for frying, if desired (I use a non-stick skillet and find I don't need any butter or oil)

Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. To the flour mixture, add the melted butter, applesauce, and enough buttermilk to make the batter (use more buttermilk if you prefer thinner pancakes, less if you prefer thicker) - mix only until just combined.
Heat a skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Pour 1/3 cup of the batter onto the hot skillet and sprinkle a tablespoon of the wild rice over the top. Wait until the edges begin to look dry and the batter is bubbling, then flip and cook just another minute or two, until golden. Repeat with the remaining batter and rice - you should have about a dozen pancakes with this recipe.

Serve hot with the usual accompaniments, or do as I did and eat them plain right of the plate with your fingers - they are that good.

*As the summer wanes and fall is upon us, it's time to make the most of what's left of the late summer crop - next up is the Grown in Frederick eggplant challenge!*

Saturday, September 12, 2009

eating purple cauliflower

I steamed the purple cauliflower,
and then, as suggested, made a version of Mostly Eating's recipe for Vivid Cauliflower and White Bean Puree (the timing for which could not have been better!).
Using a few scoops of leftover white beans which had been cooked in their liquid with some sauteed leeks and fennel in place of the canned butter beans, and swapping a bit of chevre (only about 2 oz.) for the tahini (as that's what was on hand), we served it up on some grilled rosemary bread and scattered the tops with a few snips of chives. We ate it alongside small bowls of chunky tomato soup, curled on the sofa, quite contented. It really was the perfect thing for the cool, early fall evening.
Thanks to both Lucy and Sophie for the inspired suggestion and the perfectly-timed recipe!

Monday, September 7, 2009


Just puttering today -
Simmering a big pot of white beans (inspired by this),
baking a pretty pear pie (as found here),
and wondering, incidentally, what to do with this:
a forgotten graffiti cauliflower, discovered while prepping the garden for fall planting...
Isn't she a beauty - and purportedly pink when cooked! Anyone have a recipe that would suit such a pretty specimen?

Friday, August 28, 2009

pondering preserving

I began peeling tomatoes at 7:00 this morning. By 8:00 the scent of boiling oregano-spiced sauce was wafting upstairs into the bedroom. (I won't lie. Even this early the smell sparks a pang of hunger cereal cannot compete with...)
After a few not-so-successful attempts to preserve raw-packed tomatoes, pizza sauce has become the preferred method of canning the San Marzanos that have just begun ripening.
As the canner was bubbling away this morning, I was pondering the act of preserving food. As the notion of eating local, seasonal items is such a hot topic these days, I wondered, even if these items come from your own backyard and were packed away months ago, is it odd to eat tomatoes in middle of January? Blueberries in October? Does doing so confuse our sense of the season?
Best not to think too hard so early in the morning...

But rather to share a recipe that celebrates some of these local, seasonal goodies while they are still abundant:
(adapted from Joanne Weir's recipe for Tuscan Bread Salad with Tomatoes and Basil in From Tapas to Meze)


1/2 loaf of day-old rustic bread (about 1/2 pound)*
3/4 cup water
4 tomatoes (I used a variety of carbon, San Marzano and orange-fleshed purple smudge), seeded and chopped
1 medium red onion, diced
1 seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons capers (rinsed if they are salt-packed)
handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Slice the bread into 1-inch thick slices and place on a large plate. Sprinkle both sides of the slices with the water and let sit for 1 minute. Gently squeeze the slices with your hands to dry the bread. Tear the slices into rough bit-sized pieces and place them on paper towels to dry for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, garlic, capers, basil and parsley. Add the dried bread and toss gently to combine.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the balsamic and white wine vinegars with the olive oil. Add to the bread mixture, tossing gently to combine, and season with salt and pepper.

*If your bread is not quite stale, preheat the oven to 300 degrees and place the slices directly on the center rack for about 5 minutes or so just to dry them out a bit (not toast them) before sprinkling them with the water.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

the august kitchen

My kitchen is a sauna.

On any given evening this month, you will find three of my four burners and one impossibly small oven in use. Jars are in the oven keeping hot, a pot of simmering tomatoes, pickling brine, or fruit of the day is bubbling on one burner, a small pan of hot water for sterilizing canning lids and bands is on another, and on the back, boiling and gurgling away, sits the water bath canner.
Batch by batch I'm pickling, jamming and preserving my way through all the irresistible edibles of the August garden...

...and stopping here and there to sample some things picked straight away.

A pretty post not long ago reminded me that there are bouquets of edible arugula flowers in my herb bed that I've been meaning to taste. I hadn't realized the flowers were edible until earlier this year when I saw intriguing bags of the dainty white blossoms for sale at the farmer's market, and I had forgotten about them entirely until Lucy reminded me.

Some just-unearthed potatoes from a friend and a few handfuls of spicy arugula and cooling burnet were on hand, and since the kitchen was already a steamy tangle of pots and pans, I thought, why not boil another kettleful of water? Let's have pasta.

Ziti with Potatoes, Arugula and Burnet
(adapted from Alice Water's recipe for Pasta with Potatoes, Rocket and Rosemary in the Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook and remembered from this post back in the spring)


2 potatoes, sliced in halve lengthwise, then into 2/3-inch half-rounds
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped, stems discarded
4 cloves garlic
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 Lb ziti (or other pasta)
1/4 Lb mixed arugula and salad burnet (about 3 cups), washed and spun dry
juice of 1/2 a lemon
a handful of fresh arugula blossoms

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the sliced potatoes with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread them in one layer on a baking sheet, and bake until golden - about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. (I found it useful to 'un-stick' the cooked slices from the baking sheet using a spatula soon after they came out of the oven).

While the potatoes cook, heat a pot of salted water for the pasta and mince together the garlic and rosemary.

When the potatoes are done, cook the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a bit of olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the sliced onion for a few minutes, or until beginning to brown. Add the garlic and rosemary mixture and cook for just another minute. Add the sliced, cooked potatoes and toss to coat. Add the cooked and drained pasta and the mixed greens, stirring gently to combine and wilt the greens just a bit. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice, tossing to combine. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish, scatter the arugula blossoms on top and serve.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

never turn your back on zucchini...

...or this may be the outcome:
And it wasn't the only one...
But look! Tomatoes!!! (and beans and eggplant and peppers and cucumbers...)

It's good to be home.

Grill-Roasted Late Summer Vegetables with Fresh Oregano


about 5 Cups chopped zucchini (this was 1 large, 1 medium, and 1 small zucchini for me)

1 very ripe deep red tomato, chopped

1 very ripe orange or yellow tomato, chopped

3 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves stripped, chopped, and stems discarded

1 large clove garlic, minced

olive oil

large pinch of sea salt

a few grinds of pepper

chopped fresh parsley, for serving (optional)

aluminum foil (a sheet about 24 inches long)

This is one of my favorite ways to cook in the summer, but this dish can also be made in a roasting pan in the oven. The cooking time might vary - keep an eye on the veggies, and I would heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare a grill (we use a charcoal grill with a hinged cover).

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, and oregano. Add the salt and freshly ground pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Toss gently to coat the vegetables in the oil. Set aside.

Make an aluminum foil packet: fold a sheet of aluminum foil (about 24 inches long) in half to form a squarish shape. Fold over two of the open sides crimping them a bit to seal. Gently open the one un-crimped side and spoon the vegetable mixture into the packet. Fold over the opening to seal. You should have a tightly sealed squarish foil packet.

When ready, place the foil packet on the grill, put the lid on, and cook until the vegetables are cooked through - about 25 minutes depending on the heat of the grill. Ours was approximately 225 degrees. If the foil packet begins to char on the grill, move it to a cooler spot or lower the coals underneath it. When the vegetables are ready, carefully transfer the packet to a plate, open it slowly (there will be steam) and transfer them to a serving bowl. Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh parsley, if desired, and serve.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Just a quick trip... The beach is calling.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

waiting for tomatoes

While I'm waiting, waiting, waiting for my very own tomatoes to ripen (so slow this year!), I've been using up what's left in the pantry. And though I'm soooooo ready for the first warm tomato off the vine, I still think it's amazing what a can of whole, peeled plum tomatoes can become. Throwing in some fresh herbs (tarragon, for instance) and making a quick sauce for some spectacular homemade ricotta gnocchi yielded some incredible results the other day.
Waiting for tomatoes might not be quite so hard after all...
Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato-Tarragon Sauce
(inspired by and adapted from: this)
For the sauce:


2 Tb. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tb. fresh tarragon, chopped
1-28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes (broken)
sea salt

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Saute for a minute or two, until translucent. Add the garlic and tarragon and saute for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and their juice, bring to a slow simmer, and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until sauce has thickened to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt.
While sauce simmers, prepare the gnocchi.

For the gnocchi:

1 Lb. Ricotta cheese (I use part-skim)
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. sea salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 - 1 1/2 Cups flour
See recipe: here.