Make dinner tonight, inspired!

Wondering what to make for dinner tonight? This is your place for quick and healthy meal inspirations. Here you'll find recipes for seasonally focused dinners, desserts, breakfasts, and everything in between.

My cooking focuses on the freshest ingredients prepared in a simple and careful way, to highlight their uniqueness. My own diet is primarily vegetarian, but does include sustainable fish and seafood, and is gluten free.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to sharing some of my favorite recipes with you!

30 December 2010

Happy New Year!

Wishing you all the very happiest of New Years! May 2011 be filled with many delicious meals enjoyed with friends and family. I wish for us all a peaceful world, a strong economy, and that we will all treat one another with kindness and respect.

This marks the first full year of my Dinner Tonight blog. It has ben a true pleasure sharing so many recipes with you (118 and counting!). I have many more delicious ideas and recipes to share with you in the coming year so please stay tuned. I hope you'll keep reading and share this blog with your friends and family. I will certainly keep writing and cooking and posting for you.

Before we get started with all the new recipes, I wanted to once again share with you my top 10 favorite recipes from this past year. Perhaps these might inspire some end of year feasting for you too. I'd love to hear from you as well and what your favorites have been.


Dinner Tonight's Top 10 of 2010 (in no particular order):

Buckwheat Crepes: - Why? Because I can think of few other foods that I could eat with such frequency. They're just so darn delicious.

Pizza Festa Romana- Why? Because this pizza is simple and perfect and it reminds me of a magical night in Rome.

Roasted Carrots with Parsley, Mint, & Feta- Why? Because they're so super easy and I can't think of anything that wouldn't be great to serve with them.

Vanilla Honey Lavender Ice Cream- Why? Because it's my very favorite ice cream!

Grilled Fish Tacos- Why? Because second only perhaps to the Buckwheat Crepes, I could eat these practically every day.

Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce- Why? Because, this is another staple in my house and a super comforting, fast, and easy dinner.

Zucchini Crudi- Why? Because it's so simple and fresh and it reminds me of summer.

Baked Butternut Squash Risotto with Kale- Why? Because I'm delighted and obsessed with this new way of preparing risotto.

Quince & Apple Crumble- Why? Because I'm a sucker for a good crumble. These are my favorite kind of desserts... fruit based and homey.

Salmon Chowder- Why? Because it's my new 'go to' soup. It's simple and light and comforting all at the same time.

19 December 2010

Dungeness Crab Cakes

It's Dungeness Crab season here in the Bay Area and I think they're especially tasty this year. The crab has been super sweet and tender... really delicious. Tonight I made my favorite crab cakes that are packed full of crab meat with very little else. They're rich and delicious and allow the flavor of the crab to shine through. Best of all, they're super easy to prepare.

Tonight I served the crab cakes with a simple pea puree and a light yogurt sauce with mustard and capers. I've included the recipes for both below as well. A little sparkling wine and it's a proper holiday season dinner with no fuss.... truly 'Dinner Tonight Style'.


Dungeness Crab Cakes:
Yields 4 large crab cakes

1/2# lump crab meat, picked clean
1/4 cup gluten free bread crumbs, plus more for coating 
1 rib celery plus celery leaves, finely diced
2 scallions, finely minced
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
2 large eggs
sea salt & freshly grated black pepper
olive oil for frying

1) In a small bowl, mix together the crab meat, celery & leaves, scallions, Old Bay seasoning, and 1/4 cup bread crumbs. Stir together to combine. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Add 1 egg and stir together with a fork until the mixture just holds together. Form the mixture into 4 equal sized patties.

2) In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg lightly. In another small bowl, add about 1/4 cup more bread crumbs. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. While the oil is heating, dredge the crab cakes first in the beaten egg and then in the bread crumbs. When the oil is very hot, but not smoking, add the crab cakes. Turn the heat to medium high. Cook the cakes about 3 minutes on each side until the outside is deep golden brown and crispy and the middle is heated through.

For the Pea Puree:
1, 10 oz bag frozen peas
1/4 cup vegetable stock
2 TB butter
sea salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

1) Melt 1TB butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the frozen peas and the vegetable stock and simmer until the peas are tender and very bright green, about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender with the remaining 1 TB butter and puree until mixed but still a little chunky. Serve warm, with the crab cakes.

For the Yogurt Sauce:
1, 3oz container 2% plain greek style yogurt
1 TB whole grain mustard
2 tsp capers, drained

1) In a small bowl, stir together all the ingredients. Place a dollop of the mixture on top of each crab cake, just before serving.

(* To make enough gluten free bread crumbs for this recipe, grind up 4 slices of well toasted gluten free bread of your choosing in a food processor. Voila!)

17 December 2010


I really look forward to a good gingerbread round 'bout this time of year. Now, procuring what I deem a 'good' gingerbread can be quite an arduous task. I often find myself disappointed by the restrained flavors in most gingerbread. They're just not spicy or gingery enough for my taste.

I really want to taste that gingery bite and all the deep richness of spices and molasses. This recipe is for just that kind of gingerbread. The cake itself is quite light but the molasses gives it a sticky indulgence. The color is that of dark chocolate and just perfect for a showering of snowy white powdered sugar. I can almost see those little plastic trees and woodland creatures adorning the cake. But I shall resist such kitschy temptations this one time, if only for the benefit of you, my readers.

I encourage you to make this cake before xmas. Trust me, you'll be glad you did!

Yields 1, 9"x13" cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup boiling water
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup unsulfured molasses (not blackstrap)
2 TB fresh ginger, grated
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 cup blanched almond meal
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp five spice powder
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground ginger
2 large eggs, at room temperature
powdered sugar, for dusting

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9"x13" baking dish with nonstick spray and line the bottom and sides with parchment. Bring the 1 cup of water to a boil. Add the baking soda and stir to dissolve. Set aside.

2) In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the fresh ginger, baking soda & water mixture, and the molasses. Mix to combine and scrape down the bowl. Add the flours with the spices. Mix. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix again to combine well.

3) Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan. When completely cool, invert cake onto serving plate and remove the parchment. Slice into 2" square portions. Dust the whole thing liberally with powdered sugar.

11 December 2010

Gluten Free Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have been interested in using Mesquite Flour for quite some time now. As I was recently challenged to come up with a recipe using this flour for a baking demonstration, I've been experimenting with lots of combinations of ingredients. It's really delicious. I'm almost surprised at how much I like it. That said, it's definitely a strong flavor. You would want to use it as part of a blend of flours, not exclusively on its own or I think it would overwhelm the finished item. It's similar to other strong ingredients like cumin, saffron, coconut... in that way.

Mesquite has a heady aroma, somewhat reminiscent of chestnuts and a deep earthy flavor. The color is a warm amberish gold and I think that almost describes the flavor too. It's divine and I think it's just perfect with chocolate.

This cookie recipe is simple and really highlights the unique flavor of the mesquite. These are definitely making it into all my Christmas gift tins this year. Please look for this unique ingredient. You'll be glad you did!


Gluten Free Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Yields about 2 dozen

1 cup/ 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup superfine sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 cup mesquite flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix until well combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the chocolate chips and mix briefly until evenly distributed.

2) Using a 1 TB size cookie scoop, dollop the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Space cookies, about 2" apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the edges are just golden brown and the centers are still soft but just set. Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*Optional additions:

1) You can add 1/2 cup oats to the cookies. Just note that the cookies will be slightly drier and denser than without the oats. The may also be puffier and won't spread as much in the oven.

2) You can also add 1/2 cup of any chopped nut that you fancy. This will add some nice crunch to the cookies.

3) You can substitute 1/2 cup of the brown rice flour for another gluten free flour, like millet, almond, or sweet potato. If you're not gluten free, you can also use Spelt flour or All-Purpose Flour in place of the entire quantity of brown rice flour.

02 December 2010

Salmon Chowder

This recipe is from Lucinda Scala Quinn and is truly a comforting bowl of winter goodness. It's one of those wonderful recipes that manages to be both hearty and light at the same time. It really couldn't be easier too. Serve with a side salad and some crusty bread for dunking and you have a lovely weeknight meal, ready in no time at all.


Salmon Chowder:
Yields 4 generous servings

2 TB olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3 small yukon gold potatoes. peeled and cut into 3/4" pieces
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
12 oz skinless salmon fillet, cut into 3/4" pieces
1/4 cup cream
2 TB chopped fresh dill
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1) In a 5 quart dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the leek and onion and saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, potato, salt & pepper, and cook until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, about 4 minutes more. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer 6-8 minutes until the vegetables are just tender.

2) Add the salmon and simmer until opaque all the way through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cream, just to heat through. Add the dill, reserving a sprinkle for the top of each bowl when serving. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve hot, sprinkled with remaining dill.

*The lovely photo is from

30 November 2010

Whole Grain Pasta with Pumpkin, Kale, & Sundried Tomatoes

I think this just might be my new favorite pasta recipe. It's just perfect for this time of year, when the weather is chilly, and every day seems more busy and hectic than the one before. It's the perfect meal to tuck in to after one of 'those' days. Open a bottle of red wine, sit down next to the fire with a warm bowl of this baked pasta, and muster up the fortitude for another day.


Whole Grain Pasta with Pumpkin, Kale, & Sundried Tomatoes:
Yields 8 servings

1# gluten free penne ( I used Jovial brand)
1, 15 oz can pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling, use 100% pure packed pumpkin)
1 bunch black Kale, sliced into 1" ribbons
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
2 TB buttermilk (or cream, sour cream, plain yogurt, creme fraiche...)
1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup Pecorino cheese, grated
2 oz Chevre
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp red chile flakes

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

2) While the pasta is cooking, chop the kale. To soften the kale ever so slightly, I tossed it in a large bowl with about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. The heat from the water will wilt the kale while adding some starch to your sauce. In the same bowl as the kale, stir in the pumpkin, sundried tomatoes, stock, buttermilk, 2 TB grated Pecorino, salt, pepper, & red chile flakes. Mix around to combine all of the ingredients. Add the drained pasta and stir to completely coat the pasta. Lastly, stir in the chevre.

3) Pour the entire mixture into a 9" x 13" baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Pecorino cheese and the sliced almonds. Bake, uncovered, for about 40 minutes until the pasta is heated through and the top is golden brown and crunchy.

28 November 2010

2010 Cookbook Roundup

It's getting to be that gift giving time again. The holidays are really sneaking up on me this year. It seems like just yesterday I was enjoying tomatoes from my summer garden and lingering over long dinners eaten al fresco. Now, suddenly it seems, I'm bundled up in scarves and hats and shopping to the din of carols surrounded by holiday decor.

It probably comes as no surprise that I'm a bit of a cookbook collector. I have hundreds of them and go through phases of cooking through a few intensely at one time and then revisiting favorites. I'm always looking for new ideas and inspirations and below are some my favorites from 2010. I'm separating them into cooking and baking lists. If you're looking for gift ideas for the cooks on your list, especially those bakers, some of these might make a welcome surprise under the tree:


Around my French Table, Dorie Greenspan: - I can't seem to get enough of the wonderful & easy recipes in this beautiful book. This is definitely at the very top of my favorites list this year.

Super Natural Cooking, Heidi Swanson: This is actually from 2007, but new to me this year. I'm a big fan of Ms. Swanson and her cooking approach is very similar to mine.

Nigella Kitchen, Nigella Lawson: She's lovely and full of simple ideas. This is a great, completely approachable book for the home cook.

River Cottage Preserves, Pam Corbin: For those of you interested in canning, both savory and sweet items, this is a wonderful handbook with both recipes and basics.


Ready For Dessert: My Best Recipes, David Lebovitz:

Good to the Grain, Kim Boyce: This is a wonderful book on baking with whole grains. Creative and approachable recipes that are really delicious.

Laduree Sucre, English version, Phillipe Andrieu:ée-Sucré-Recipes-Phillipe-Andrieu/dp/1902686713/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1290974984&sr=1-1- Such a beautiful book filled with classic Laduree recipes. Definitely one for the skilled amateur or professional. The English version is only available through UK booksellers but it ships to the US. I just received mine and I can't wait to start working my way through it.

Farmers Market Desserts, Hennie Schacht: Very seasonal approach to simple, produce based desserts.

Tartine Bread, Chad Robertson: For all of you interested in bread baking, this is a great one from the oh so fabulous, Tartine Bakery, here in San Francisco.

Sarabeth's Bakery, From My Hands to Yours, Sarabeth Levine:

24 November 2010

Apple Pie & Chestnut Pear Stuffing

We have been enjoying all of our favorite Thanksgiving foods all week now. I think I've almost had my fill. Perhaps after just a couple more pieces of apple pie. It's my favorite. I made about a zillion pies this week for the bakery but this one (photo above) is all for us. I can't wait!

I have been making this Martha Stewart recipe for years and I just adore it. It's simple and perfect. I use my own special pie crust recipe which involves hazelnut flour and which I will share here one of these days soon, but this is a great basic one too. My only other change to the original pie is that I always make apple pie with golden delicious apples. Yes, you heard right... golden delicious. They're by no means my favorite eating apple but they are absolutely perfect for pie. Really.

I also made stuffing this week, although perhaps 'dressing' is a more appropriate term since I don't actually 'stuff' it inside of a turkey... since I don't actually eat turkey. Some people find it surprising that I don't eat any turkey at all, even on Thanksgiving. I'm not militant about it, I just find all the yummy sides more interesting, so I generally stick with those. Anyhow, I followed the basic instructions for the previously mentioned Mushroom & Walnut Stuffing but used my favorite g-free sandwich bread and added fresh pears and chestnuts in place of the mushrooms and walnuts. I happen to adore chestnuts so I work them in as much as I can this time of year.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and family and lots of yummy food! I, for one, am very thankful for your support of my little blog. I so enjoy sharing my passion for food and cooking with all of you. Thank you for reading!


22 November 2010

Cranberry Conserve & Vanilla Scented Sweet Potatoes

As promised, I'm updating my previous post about Thanksgiving recipes with some of my own experiences and photos.

I made Ina's cranberry conserve today and I now remember why I make this every single year. I just love it. It's the perfect blend of sweet and tart, with emphasis on tart. The cranberries are like ruby red jewels in the sauce and it's lightly flavored with orange. I omit the raisins and walnuts, and lemon zest from Ina's original recipe. I also reduce the sugar as I love the natural tartness of the berries. I'm sharing my adapted recipe below.

I also made the Vanilla Scented Sweet Potatoes from Heidi Swanson's blog today as well. This was my first time with this recipe but let's just say that they are so incredibly divine I just can't even stand it! I mean really really really good. I doubled the original recipe and I could have eaten the whole entire thing, just by myself... but I held back... at least until breakfast tomorrow. You can refer to Heidi's recipe for this one. I didn't change a thing and neither should you. It's perfect!

I do hope both of these recipes will find a place at your table this Thanksgiving. Tomorrow is pie baking day for the bakery so I'll be sure to photograph some of those beauties and share them here with you as well.


Cranberry Fruit Conserve
Yields about 4 cups

1, 12oz bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 orange, zest grated and juiced

1) In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, and water. Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes or until the skins just begin to burst. Add the apple, orange zest and juice and continue cooking, about 10-15 minutes more.

2) Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least two hours or until well chilled. Serve chilled.

21 November 2010


Thanksgiving is far and away my favorite holiday of the year since it's really ALL about the food! I love the idea of a big long table surrounded with friends and family, and filled to the brim with abundant platters of food. No gifts, no tree ....just the food.

People seem to be especially sentimental about Thanksgiving foods and are often hesitant to to try new things at this meal in particular. It's rather beside the point IF they actually like the jello mold, the marshmallow topped sweet potatoes or the green bean casserole with crispy canned onions. That's just what they've always eaten on Thanksgiving and it somehow doesn't seem right if they don't have those things.

I also have many favorites that I make year in and year out to celebrate this holiday but I always try to introduce one or two new dishes each year. It's a nice way to mix things up a bit without losing the essence of the traditional feast that we all love.

Below, I'm sharing links to some of my very favorite holiday recipes. Some are my own and many come from various other sources, all of which I've made and adapted over the years. I plan to make several of these dishes over the next couple of days. As I do, I'll update the blog to share any changes that I make to the recipes and photos of my finished dishes.

This should get you started though if you're planning on doing some early week shopping in preparation for the big day. I can personally attest that all these recipes are winners and time tested in my own kitchen. I hope you'll enjoy them as well!

Happy Thanksgiving from my table to yours!!

Main Course:
Butternut Squash Lasagna with Basil Bechamel (use g-free lasagna sheets):

Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes:
Mushroom & Walnut Stuffing (using g-free sandwich bread):
Roasted Dumpling Squash with Maple & Sage:


16 November 2010

Cauliflower Gratin

I get that not everyone loves Cauliflower. In fact, truth be told, it's not my favorite vegetable either. However, this recipe is changing my mind and I hope it will change yours too. It's just plain yummy and so so simple.

I think this would make a lovely Thanksgiving side or a side for any other day of the year, for that matter. It sort of reminds me of a dish my mom used to make growing up, except that my mom made hers with broccoli. I didn't love broccoli and her casserole got me to eat it and eventually I liked it. Now I love it. I think my relationship with cauliflower might be headed for the same fate.

I hope you love this simple recipe and make it often!


Cauliflower Gratin:
Yields 4 serving

1 medium head of Cauliflower, core removed and cut into florets
1/4 cup cream
1 TB flour
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 TB g-free breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch red chile flakes
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the washed cauliflower florets along with the cream, flour, 2 TB parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and chile flakes in a small bowl. Toss gently to coat. Empty the contents into a 9"x 9" baking dish.

2) Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender when pierced with a knife. Sprinkle on the remaining parmesan cheese and the breadcrumbs and return to the oven for about 10 minutes more, until the top is evenly browned.

3) Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

White Bean Stuffed Roasted Portobellos

This is the kind of simple & hearty meal I love to sit down to after a busy day. It's a snap to prepare and is very healthy yet satisfying. I generally roast up several mushrooms and make more beans than needed so I can reinvent them the next day in hearty salad for lunch. Paired with some crunchy romaine and a lemony dressing, you have the perfect midday meal.

One of the great things about mushrooms of all types is their sponge-like quality. Portobellos are no exception. This recipe bastes them before roasting with a lemony dressing and they really soak up all that flavor which comes through nicely in the finished dish.

I hope this will become a weeknight staple in your house as it has in mine.

White Bean Stuffed Roasted Portobellos:
Yields 4 main course servings

4 medium Portobello mushrooms
2, 15 oz cans Cannelini beans ( I like Eden brand)
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup g-free breadcrumbs 
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
juice and zest from 1 lemon
3 TB olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 TB fresh thyme
salt, pepper, and red chile flakes to taste

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the stems and place the mushrooms stem side down on a lined baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, zest, and 2 TB olive oil. Sprinkle the mushrooms with salt & pepper and brush them with the lemon juice mixture. Roast for 15 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.

2) Meanwhile, add the remaining 1 TB olive oil to a saute pan. Add the whole garlic clove to the oil and heat until barely golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Rinse and drain the beans and add them to the garlic and oil. Add the thyme, water, salt, pepper, and chile flakes to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook, until most of the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove the garlic clove and set aside.

3) When the mushrooms are cooked through, remove them from the oven and turn up the heat to 450 degrees. Flip the mushrooms so the gills are now facing up. Add 1/3 cup bean mixture to each mushroom cap. Sprinkle on 1 TB breadcrumbs and 1 TB feta per mushroom. Return to the oven and cook until the breadcrumbs are golden and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes more.

02 November 2010

Baked Butternut Squash Risotto with Kale

I think I might be a late adopter of this baked risotto thing? It certainly wouldn't be the first time I was late to know about the latest and greatest new 'thing'. But now that I know, I am never going back. I shall not stir and stir and stir a pot of risotto ever again. I shall only whip out my dutch oven with tight fitting lid, bring ingredients to boil, and place in oven for 20 minutes, from here on out. Truly, that's it! And yes, it really does makes a creamy, dreamy pot of risotto. I didn't believe it would actually work until I tried it for myself. But now I have and dare I say, I do believe!


Butternut Squash Baked Risotto with Tuscan Kale:
Yields 4 generous servings

1 TB olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2# butternut squash, diced into 1" pieces
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
4 cups vegetable stock
1 bunch tuscan kale, tough mid ribs & stems removed, sliced into 1/2" ribbons
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt, pepper, and red chile flakes to taste

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a 5 quart dutch oven, or other oven-safe pot with tight fitting lid, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the thyme, the rice, and a sprinkling of salt & pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is well coated with the oil. Add the white wine and stir until evaporated.

2) Add the butternut squash, the vegetable stock, and the kale. Cover and bring to a boil. Stir to combine ingredients. Place the covered pot in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Reserve 2 TB of the parmesan cheese for serving and stir in the rest. Season to taste with salt, pepper & red chile flakes. Sprinkle with reserved parmesan and serve warm.

29 October 2010

Farro Salad with Orange Glazed Tempeh & Oven Roasted Grapes

Although I generally avoid soy products, I really love Tempeh. There's something about the fermented flavor and the nutty texture that I have always loved. I generally just sear it with some tamari and olive oil and serve it over rice or in a sandwich. This time though, I took inspiration from one of my favorite blogs, 101 Cookbooks, and cooked it in a reduced orange sauce which makes for a lovely amber glaze and infuses the tempeh with wonderful flavor.

I served the tempeh over a simple farro salad with oven roasted grapes and wilted greens for a yummy one dish meal. If you have never roasted grapes, it's so easy and delicious. It brings an entirely different flavor to the grapes, somewhere between wine and raisins. For the wilted greens, I used a simple braising mix of baby kale, mustard greens, chard, and beet greens. The combination of everything together packs so much flavor into a very healthy meal. This salad makes for excellent leftovers as well and is great served warm or cold the next day.


Farro Salad with Orange Glazed Tempeh & Oven Roasted Grapes
Yields 4 generous servings

1 cup pearl farro (or a wild rice- brown rice blend)
3 cups water
1/2 # seedless red grapes
5 oz braising greens
10 oz tempeh, cut into 2" triangles
juice of 3 oranges (@3/4 cup)
1 TB tamari
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 TB mirin
olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
red chile flakes, to taste
1 oz pecorino cheese, broken into little chunks

1) In a small saucepan, bring the 3 cups of water and farro to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 35 minutes, or until farro is tender.

2) Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment (or foil). Place the grapes on the baking sheet in a single layer and toss with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until they're just starting to burst and some are shriveling slightly.

3) Heat a bit of olive oil in a nonstick saute pan. Add the tempeh and cook to sear the outside, turning frequently, about 2 minutes. Add the orange juice, the ginger, mirin, tamari, and red chile flakes. Cover the pan and simmer, until the sauce is reduced by about 2/3 and has formed a nice glaze over the tempeh, about 10 minutes. Set the tempeh aside.

4) In the same pan in which you cooked the tempeh, add the braising mix over medium high heat. Add a sprinkling of salt & pepper and cook the greens for about 2-3 minutes, until they are wilted and most of the liquid has cooked off.

5) Place the farro in a large serving bowl. Add the roasted grapes and tempeh with the orange sauce. Toss in the wilted greens. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and chile flakes. Brake up little chunks of pecorino and sprinkle over top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

21 October 2010

Roasted Dumpling Squash with Maple & Sage

These lovely little dumpling squash make a perfect fall side dish. I often fill them with brown rice and braised greens and make a simple meal of it. However, I think they'd be equally beautiful on a holiday table. They're naturally so sculptural and the perfect size for a single serving. I've seasoned them here with a bit of maple syrup, fresh sage leaves, a sprinkling of red chile flakes, and the tiniest drizzling of cream to finish. All those flavors get absorbed into the flesh of the squash and make for yumminess in every bite.

Note- Dumpling squash are essentially round Delicata squash which would be a fine substitute if you can't find these. Acorn squash would be great here as well.

Roasted Dumpling Squash with Maple & Sage:
Yields 4 servings

4 small round Dumpling squash, interior cleaned and seeds removed, top reserved for serving
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 TB pure maple syrup
1 tsp red chile flakes
8 fresh sage leaves
4 tsp heavy cream (or creme fraiche)
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment (or foil). Place the cleaned squash and the reserved tops on the baking sheet. Drizzle each cavity with a bit of maple syrup, olive oil, a sprinkling of red chile flakes, salt & pepper. Place 2 sage leaves in each squash. Roast both the tops and the seasoned cavity for about 45 minutes until the flesh is fork tender. Remove the sage leaves.

2) Preheat the broiler to medium high. Remove the tops from the baking sheet. Drizzle in 1 tsp of cream per squash and place them under the broiler for about 2 minutes. This will thicken the cream quickly and will blister the skin so it comes off easily when you eat the squash. Serve with the tops set ajar.

18 October 2010

Apple Crostata with Hazelnut Crust

Hazelnut meal is officially my new favorite ingredient. It's perfect to use right now as hazelnuts go very well with many fall flavors like pears, apples, squash, sage etc.... I used this same hazelnut meal in my butternut squash pizza recipe from a few posts ago. I found the hazelnut meal at my local natural foods store in the bulk section. Bob's Red Mill also makes one that is pre-packaged and available online. It's a bit pricey as it's purely just ground up hazelnuts but only a little bit is needed to impart excellent flavor and texture to your recipe.

This rustic crostata couldn't be easier. The dough makes enough to for two, 9" crostatas so you can freeze one for the next time inspiration strikes. This would be equally delicious with figs or pears. Serve with a little cinnamon flavored whipped cream and you have a simple yet elegant dessert, easy enough for any weeknight.


Apple Crostata with Hazelnut Crust
Yields 1, 9" free form tart

For the dough:
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/2 cup hazelnut meal
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 TB cold, unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into small cubes
1/4 cup ice water

For the filling:
3 medium apples
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
1 tsp milk or cream

1) In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flours, hazelnut meal, sugar & salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the machine running, drizzle in the water through the feed tube until a loose dough forms. (Listen for a change in the sound of the machine just before the dough comes together. This will tell you that you're very close.)

2) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead very gently, just enough to bring the dough together. Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate one for at least 1 hour to use for this tart. Freeze the other for later use.

3) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the chilled dough to a 10" (approximate) circle. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Peel, core, and slice the apples into 12 slices per apple. Fan out the apples like the spokes of a wheel around the inner portion of the crust, leaving a 1-1 1/2" border around the outside. Sprinkle the apples with the sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Fold the edges of the dough up around the apples in a rustic way. You don't need to be fussy here. The whole point is that it looks rustic. Brush the outside of the crust with the 1 tsp milk or cream.

4) Bake for 30-35 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender and bubbling. Serve warm or at room temperature with lightly sweetened cinnamon whipped cream.

17 October 2010

Pumpkin & Pear Soup

Welcome fall! I will say it was rather abrupt, how you arrived this year. One day it's 90 degrees outside and the next it's 60 and raining... literally. I would have liked a few more days of 70 degree weather, with that beautiful amber sunlight so unique to this time of year. However, I do welcome the cool weather as it's a great time to make all of my favorite foods!

I adore squashes, apples, pears, chestnuts, sage, cranberries, kale.... all the wonders of this time of year. Since this is my first fall with my own blog, I'm excited to share some of my favorite recipes with you. There will be plenty of favorites that I look forward to making every year (like this one) and many new ones too. This is a great cozy soup for any busy weeknight. It's silky and satisfying and beautiful too. I served it with grilled cheese sandwiches made with gruyere, sliced apples, and fresh sage leaves. So easy and so yummy.

Be sure not to skip the oven dried pears on top. They really add to the presentation and are super easy to make. This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart from several years back. It's a go-to recipe for me this time of year. Martha is my favorite homemaking goddess, as anyone who knows me can attest.


Pumpkin & Pear Soup:
Yields 6 generous servings

6 medium pears ( I used d'Anjou)
1 small sugar pumpkin (@ 2#), peeled and seeds removed, cut into 2" pieces
1 medium rutabaga, cut into 1" pieces
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into 1" pieces
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 sprig fresh sage
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1 TB olive oil

1) Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, cut 2 pears lengthwise into paper thin slices. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until pears are dry, about 1 hour. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

2) Meanwhile, heat 1 Tb olive oil in a large stockpot. Add the leeks and saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Peel the remaining 4 pears. Cut them in half lengthwise and core; dice into 1" pieces. Add them to the stockpot along with the pumpkin, rutabaga, sage, chili flakes, salt & pepper. Saute until vegetables are coated with oil and spices are distributed evenly. Add the vegetable stock, cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

3) Discard the sage and strain off about 1 cup of stock, reserve. Puree the soup in batches in a blender, or with an immersion blender until smooth. Whisk in the cream. If the soup is too thick, add back some of the reserved stock to reach the desired consistency. (I added only 1/4 cup of the reserved stock.) Season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve garnished with the beautiful dried pears.

13 October 2010

Moroccan Spiced Vegetable Tagine with Crispy Chickpeas

A tagine is a classic Moroccan stew, generally made with meat. I thought this would be a fun variation on that idea, using root vegetables as the primary component. The flavors are spicy and savory. The crispy chickpeas on top are divine... addictive actually.

I served this over brown rice but it would also be great over couscous. Don't be scared off by the number of ingredients listed in the recipe. It's just a simple stew after all, several different veggies and spices all tossed into one big pot and served family style. You most likely have most of the spices in your cupboard already. Use what you like and adjust the heat to suit your own tastes.

I also wanted to acknowledge that this marks my 100th post. That's a lot of recipes for a little over 9 months of blogging! I continue to be so thrilled to share my passion for cooking with you and the many easy recipes that I rely on every week. I hope the recipes continue to inspire you as well!


Moroccan Vegetable Tagine with Crispy Chickpeas:
Yields 6-8 servings

1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp tumeric
3 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced 1/2"
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 TB tomato paste
2 carrots, peeled and diced 1/2"
2 celery stalks, diced 1/2"
2 cups water
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
3 medium orange flesh sweet potatoes (yams), diced 1"
2 medium rutabagas, diced 1" (or turnips)
1/4 cup brine cured green olives, pitted and chopped
1 whole preserved lemon (optional), finely minced (or juice and zest of 1 fresh lemon)
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
cooked brown rice (or whole wheat couscous)
crispy chickpeas (recipe below)

1) Toast fennel, coriander, and cumin seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice mill and process until finely ground. Transfer to a small bowl and combine with red pepper flakes, tumeric, and 1/2 tsp salt.

2) Heat olive oil in a 5 qt dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add toasted spice blend and tomato paste, stir. Add veg stock and water, sweet potatoes, turnips, olives, and preserved lemon. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, keeping pot partially covered. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes until vegetables are tender and stew has thickened slightly. Stir in 1/2 of the parsley and mint, reserving some for garnish. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

3) Spoon rice (or couscous) into a large bowl, making a well in the center. Spoon vegetable tagine into the center of the bowl. Top with reserved parsley and mint and scatter crispy chickpeas (recipe below) over top.

Crispy Chickpeas:
Yields 1 1/2 cups

1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
pinch cayenne pepper
1, 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed, and dried well
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

*Note- It's important that the chickpeas are dried well in order to insure crunchiness. I find that spreading them out on paper towels and patting dry works well.

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice mill and process until finely ground. Place the chickpeas, olive oil, pinch of cayenne, salt, pepper, and ground spices in a small bowl. Toss gently to coat.

2) Transfer to a parchment (or foil) lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven until golden and crunchy, about 30-35 minutes.

09 October 2010

Fig & Lime Jam

We've had such a cool summer in NorCal that figs are just ripening now.... in October! What a wonderful way to stretch the summer just a little bit longer. I do enjoy fresh ripe figs but I also try to preserve a few for the colder months ahead. This jam is super easy and brightens the sweet flavor of the fruit, with just a spritz of lime.

I go through the extra step of processing the jars so they're safe to keep at room temperature for at least 1 year. However, you can just as easily skip this step and keep the jam refrigerated. It will last for at least a month in an airtight container.

I can think of lots of ways to use this tasty jam. Obviously it would be divine spread on toast with good butter; but it would also be great spooned over ice cream. I think it would be lovely with cheese and fruit or heated and used as a glaze for chicken or pork (that is, if I ate such things). It could also be spread on bread before making grilled cheese so that it melts with the cheese and makes the sandwich sweet and fruity. Be creative with your own use for this lovely little spread. I'd love to hear your ideas!


Fig & Lime Jam:
Yields 5, 1/2 pint jars

2 1/2 # fresh figs (any variety)
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup lime juice

1) Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and mash with a potato masher. Let stand at least 2 hours or overnight.

2) Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 35-40 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken slightly, stirring occasionally.

3) Place hot jam in sterilized jars and process 10-12 minutes. Or, if you're skipping the canning step, allow the jam to come to room temperature then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

07 October 2010

Butternut Squash Pizza with Hazelnut Crust

This pizza has so many delicious fall flavors. The fresh sage and butternut squash not only look lovely but taste so yummy with the sharpness of the pecorino and the nuttiness of the hazelnuts. Of course you can change the toppings up to suit your taste. Pears and camembert would be wonderful as would wild mushrooms with leeks.

This is a great recipe, easy enough for any weeknight, that both kids and adults will love.


Butternut Squash Pizza with Hazelnut Crust:
Yields 2, 9" pizzas

For the Hazelnut Dough:
2 TB extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the bowl
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (one, 1/4 oz packet)
2 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup roasted hazelnut meal
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
pinch salt

1) Stir together the water and the yeast in a large bowl. Let stand until bloomed, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in oil. Add flours, hazelnut meal, xanthan, and salt. Stir until dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead with floured hands until smooth and elastic.

2) Transfer to an oiled bowl. Cover bowl with plastic and place in a warm & draft free spot, until doubled in size. This should take about 1 hour. Divide into 2 balls.

For the Pizza:
Yields 2

1 small butternut squash, peeled and very thinly sliced
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
2 TB fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
2 TB toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment (or foil).

2) Roll 1 ball of dough into a 9" round. Transfer to baking sheet and brush with 1 TB olive oil.

3) Arrange 1/2 of the squash on top, followed by 1/2 of the pecorino, and 1/2 of the sage, leaving a border around the edges. Bake for about 9 minutes until crust is golden and the squash is tender. Garnish with toasted hazelnuts and season to taste with salt & pepper.

4) Repeat with remaining dough.

*Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

03 October 2010

Quince & Apple Crumble

Fall has officially arrived and finally the weather feels like it should. Crisp mornings, golden afternoons, brisk evenings. This is the time of year when I really love to cook, even more than the rest of the year! I just adore the flavors of fall and the thought of a comforting meal, a good glass of wine, and a cozy evening indoors. What can I say, I'm a Cancer. It's in my nature to nest.

A wonderful surprise at today's farmers market were quince! Such gorgeous fruits, I love setting a big bowl of them on my table in lieu of flowers. They're sculptural all on their own. However, they usually don't last long just sitting there looking pretty as I just can't wait to cook with them!

This will hopefully be the first of several quince related posts in the coming days/ weeks. 'Tis the season for these beauties, after all. If you're unfamiliar with quince, this simple crisp is a nice introduction. Using them in combination with apples is classic but also really allows their distinct flavor to shine. They're often compared to an apple or a pear in flavor, but they are uniquely and deliciously their own.


Quince & Apple Crumble
Yields 1, 8"x8" pan (about 6 servings)

3 medium Quince, peeled, cored, and chopped in 1/2" pieces
3 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped in 1/2" pieces
1 cup millet flour 
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 TB cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 TB low-fat buttermilk
1 TB Calvados (or Cognac)
2 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar

1) In a large saucepan, heat the 2 cups water and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Bring to a boil and add the quince. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside.

2) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8"x8" baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to incorporate all the dry ingredients together. Add the butter, and combine with the dry ingredients, using a fork (or your fingers), until the butter is about the size of peas. Stir in the Calvados and the buttermilk. Finish mixing, enough to bring the mixture together slightly. It should form a clumpy, shaggy dough.

3) Add the diced apples and the poached quince to the prepared baking dish. Dollop the crumb mixture evenly over the top. Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect, it will spread out in the oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is tender and bubbling. Serve warm with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.

If you can't find quince, you can substitute pears, in the same quantity here.

24 September 2010

Ratatouille with Baked Farm Eggs

Thank you, Martha for another yummy inspiration. All of my favorite flavors in one dish plus baked farm eggs. This is my idea of comfort food. I adore ratatouille, the simplest of cooked veggies packed with savory flavor and a hint of vinegar in every bite. Now is the perfect time to enjoy it with all the last of season eggplants, peppers, and zucchini that are so ripe and delicious.

This is a good way to end the week or a nice cozy meal to tuck into this weekend.


Ratatouille with Baked Farm Eggs:
Yields 2 servings

4 large farm eggs
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, smashed
1, 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
2 medium zucchini, diced 1"
2 medium Japanese eggplant, diced 1"
1 medium bell pepper, any color, diced 1"
2 fresh bay leaves (or 1 dried)
2 sprigs fresh majoram (or oregano)
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
2 TB olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1) Place the tomatoes in a 5 quart dutch oven or heavy bottomed stockpot. Break them up a little with a fork. Simmer the tomatoes, stirring occasionally, until they become thick and reduced by about 1/2. This should take about 20 minutes.

2) In the meantime, dice the eggplant and toss with 1/2 tsp salt. Place in a strainer set over a bowl. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3) When the tomatoes have reduced, remove them from the pot and set aside. Using the same pot, heat 2 TB olive oil in. Add the garlic and the onions and saute until translucent. Add the drained eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes. Stir in the bay leaf, majoram, and red chile flakes. Season with salt & pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.

4) Place 2 cups of ratatouille in an oven proof casserole dish (or 1 cup each in 2 individual dishes). Make indentations for the eggs and crack them on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the whites are fully set and the yolks are just set. Serve warm with a crusty piece of bread to mop up the vegetables and egg.

23 September 2010

Tuna, White Bean, & Tomato Salad

This is one of my most often made dinners, especially on those days when I'm short on time. I typically have all the ingredients for this salad in my pantry so I don't have to think too hard or make a special trip to the store. It's best if you can make the tuna and white bean mixture an hour or so before and chill it before serving. But, don't worry if you don't have time for that. It will still be great.

Make sure you seek out the best quality canned ingredients you can find. It really makes a huge difference in flavor. A few fresh veggies and tomatoes also go a long way here to brighten up this dish.


Tuna, White Bean, & Tomato Salad:
Yields 4 servings

1, 15 oz can Navy or Cannelini Beans ( I like Eden brand)
2, 3 oz cans line caught Tuna, packed in olive oil
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1, 5 oz bag pre-washed 'spring mix' lettuces
1 large tomato, sliced into wedges
2 TB red wine vinegar
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1) Drain and rinse the white beans and add them to a small bowl. Drain the tuna, reserving 2 TB of the olive and add it to the bowl as well. Gently flake the tuna with a fork. Add 2 tsp of the red wine vinegar and season with salt & pepper. Stir to combine. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes- 1 hour, if possible.

2) When ready to serve, add the baby greens to a large serving bowl. Drizzle the lettuces with the remaining red wine vinegar & olive oil. Toss gently to coat. Add the sliced cucumber and radishes to the tuna mixture and stir to combine. Spoon over the salad greens. Add the sliced tomatoes and serve.

13 September 2010

Grilled Eggplant, Tomato, & Mozzarella Timbale

This is a simple yet impressive dish that can be prepared well in advance. In fact it's better if it sits in the refrigerator for at least a few hours before serving. The flavors exemplify the end of summer when tomatoes, eggplant, and basil are plentiful. I generally make this in an 8" x 4" ramekin/ souffle mold with straight sides but it would also be fine in a loaf pan or a springform pan. You can substitute flavors based on what you have in your garden and what you prefer. Roasted peppers or grilled zucchini would both be nice additions. These are some of my favorite late summer flavors.


Grilled Eggplant, Tomato & Mozzarella Timbale:
Yields 6 servings

1 large globe eggplant, sliced into 3/8" rounds (about 12 slices total)
5 medium tomatoes (early girl or similar), sliced into 3/8" rounds (about 20 slices total)
3 large balls fresh mozzarella (ovolene size)
20 basil leaves
2 TB black olive tapenade
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp fennel pollen (optional)

1) Line your mold completely with plastic wrap. Make sure the bottom is entirely covered and the sides are lined, all the way to the top. Allow enough overhang for folding the plastic over the top of the dish.

2) Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Grill until tender, about 3-4 minutes per side. Set aside to cool.

3) When you're ready to assemble, place a layer of the grilled eggplant on the bottom. Arrange decoratively since when the dish is turned out, this will be the top. Add a layer of tomatoes and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fennel pollen. Place a layer of mozzarella on top of the tomatoes, followed by a layer of basil leaves. Spread 1 TB of the olive tapenade over the basil. Repeat the layers, starting with tomatoes and ending with eggplant which will be the top layer in your mold.

4) Fold the plastic wrap over the top of the dish and press down firmly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

5) When ready to serve, fold back the top plastic wrap and place your serving plate face down on the top of the mold. Invert the mold onto a serving plate. Pull away the mold and peel off the plastic wrap. Slice into wedges (if using a round mold) or into slices (if using a rectangular mold). Serve chilled.

11 September 2010

Buttermilk Biscuits

I made these biscuits last night to serve with my Fresh Corn Chowder . They were great hot out of the oven, perfect for topping with butter and dipping in the soup. I just finished eating one for breakfast this morning, with plenty of butter and jam. It was equally delish at room temperature and was still light and flaky.

To flavor the biscuits, I generally toss in whatever herbs I have about. Sometimes I'll add chopped olives or sundried tomatoes. I've even added a bit of sugar and tossed in golden raisins and fennel seeds for a sweeter biscuit. The recipe is very adaptable and it's a good one to memorize as it's such a nice compliment for so many mains.

The most important thing to remember when making biscuits is not to overwork the dough. If you do, they'll be dense and tough. The dough should be shaggy and loose when you roll it out. I generally don't even bother with a rolling pin and just pat it into a circle with well floured hands. Once you get a feel for the dough and the optimal thickness, you might also find this an easier method.


Buttermilk Biscuits:
Yields 8, 2.5" biscuits

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 TB baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/4 cup sugar plus 2 TB dried fruit (raisins, currants, cranberries...) & 1 tsp spices (cinnamon, fennel seed, 5-spice...)
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, thyme, chives...)
1/4 cup grated cheese (cheddar, parmesan, gruyere...)
1/4 cup chopped vegetables (olives, sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers...)

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, xanthan, and salt. Add the butter and mix, either with a pastry blender, or with your hands, working quickly to incorporate the butter before it gets too warm. The butter should be about the size of peas.

2) In small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and the egg.

3) Add any of the additions above (herbs, cheese etc....), and the buttermilk & egg. Reserve about 1 TB of the buttermilk/ egg mixture for washing across the top of the biscuits before they bake. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry with a fork until you form a shaggy mass.

4) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and gently knead a few times, taking care not to overwork the dough. Roll or pat into a 9" diameter round x 3/4" thick. Using a 2.5" round biscuit cutter, punch out biscuits and set them onto the prepared baking sheet. You can re-gather and re-roll the dough scraps to form the full 8 biscuits if needed.

5) Brush the tops lightly with the remaining egg and buttermilk mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown and puffed. Serve warm or at room temperature with butter.

10 September 2010

Fresh Corn Chowder

Corn is very much in season now. It's sweet, and plentiful, and inexpensive.... a perfect time to buy several ears for this chowder. This soup is both satisfyingly creamy yet light at the same time. The sweet, distinctively corny flavor really comes through. The soup is actually quite low-fat and takes most of its creaminess from the pureed corn and the potatoes. It does contain some milk, but 2% or skim work quite well.

I'm serving this tonight with an arugula and raddichio salad featuring apples from our tree and toasted walnuts. I also whipped up a batch of buttermilk biscuits, some with chives and some with olives. They're so super easy, always flaky and delicious. I'll share that recipe here in the coming days.


Fresh Corn Chowder:
Serves 6 as a main course

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 stalks celery (about 1/2 cup), diced
1/2 medium jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, diced
3 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
6 ears corn (about 4 cups), kernels removed from cobs
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup milk (low-fat is fine)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
2 TB parsley, chopped
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 TB olive oil

1) In a 5 quart stockpot or dutch oven, heat the 2 TB olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and jalapeno and saute until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the potato, salt & pepper and saute another 3 minutes until the potato is just beginning to soften. Add the stock and the milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook about 15 minutes until the liquid has reduced some and the potatoes are fully cooked. Add the corn and simmer another 3-4 minutes.

2) In a blender, puree about 2 cups of the soup. Stir the blended portion back into the remaining soup. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Sprinkle the top with cheese, fresh cracked pepper and fresh parsley.

*I completely forgot to take a photo before devouring this. This lovely photo is courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine. If any of you make this soup, please do take a photo and send it to me so I can use it here. Thank you!!

09 September 2010

Apple, Yogurt & Olive Oil Cake

I've adapted this recipe from the fabulous Cannelle et Vanille blog from which I always gather tremendous inspiration. Aran's photos are beautiful and her recent posts conjure up daydreams of France. Truth be told, it doesn't take much to get me dreaming of France, but that's another story.

This is a simple cake, the kind of cake you could put out with cheese and fruit for a weekend brunch, or that you could serve with caramel sauce and sauteed apples for a lovely fall dessert. I happen to love yogurt & olive oil cakes in general. There's something very 'french breakfast' about the yogurt cake, not too sweet & just the sort of thing that's perfect with a morning cup of tea. The olive oil keeps the cake moist but also has a fruity quality that's distinctly different from butter.

I chose to bake my cake in a 9" Savarin mold which is very similar to a bundt pan, which is what I'd suggest here, assuming you don't have a Savarin mold lying about. I think bundt cakes are so old fashioned and completely non-fancy and I love that. Don't worry that the batter will only fill the bundt pan about halfway. I've adjusted the baking time for that. You could just as easily make this in a loaf pan if you don't have a bundt pan. But, it does lead me to ask, why the heavens not?! Just go buy one already!


Apple, Yogurt, & Olive Oil Cake with Walnuts:

1, 6 oz container plain yogurt (low-fat or whole milk are both fine)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs (room temperature)
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups blanched almond flour
1 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2 medium apples
2 tsp butter
3 TB sugar

1) Butter and flour the inside of a bundt pan or spray with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2) Slice one of the apples thinly. Heat 1 tsp butter and 1 TB sugar in a nonstick saute pan. Add the slices of apple and cook for about 1 minute on each side, just to soften slightly. Set aside to cool and then line the bottom of the bundt pan with the slices.

3) Dice the remaining apple and saute in the remaining butter and sugar. Set aside to cool.

4) In a bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugars, eggs, olive oil, and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and stir to combine. Fold in the chopped apples and the toasted walnuts.

5) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in pan about 30 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate to cool completely.

05 September 2010

Peach Galette with Lemon Thyme & Lavender Honey

I was inspired by my dear friend Jodi for this recipe. Jodi is a very talented pastry chef and creator of a wonderful blog, Milk & Honey with beautiful photos, stories, and of course, wonderful recipes. Her recipe was for a 'cheery little peach galette' and it sounds divine. This is my take on the peach galette, using lavender honey, lemon thyme, & Amaretto. I generally love Amaretto's sweet almondy flavor with fruit, especially stone fruit.

It's Sunday and I was feeling less than energetic but happened upon some last of season beautiful peaches at the market this morning. As such, I went for a store bought puff pastry crust here. Jodi's pate brisee would be equally as delicious if you're feeling a little more 'do it yourself' than I was today. If you're using store bought Puff, look for the best all butter brand you can find. I like 'DuFour' and it's readily available at most good markets. Making a 'quick puff' of your own is truly easy as well and oh so satisfying. I'll share that recipe with you here one day very soon. For now....


Peach Galette with Lemon Thyme & Lavender Honey:
Yields 1, 10" galette

4 medium peaches, ripe but firm
1 tsp lemon thyme leaves
2 tsp Amaretto liqueur
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
12 oz sweet pastry dough, rolled to 12" diameter
2 tsp heavy cream

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the peaches into 1/2" thick wedges. Place them in a bowl with the lavender honey and Amaretto. Toss gently to coat and allow to macerate for about 10 minutes while you prepare the pastry.

2) Lightly flour your counter or a cutting board. Roll out the pastry to a 12" diameter circle. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Arrange the peach slices in 'spoke fashion' (ie: loose concentric circles) in the center of the dough working out towards the edges. Leave about 2" perimeter around the edge. Fold up the sides loosely, in rustic fashion, so they just cover the outer edges of the peaches. Sprinkle the peaches with the fleur de sel and the lemon thyme. Brush the outer pastry crust with 2 tsp heavy cream.

3) Bake for about 35 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the peaches are tender, maybe slightly charred, and still hold their shape. Remove from the parchment while still warm and slide onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Serve at room temperature with ice cream or creme fraiche.

30 August 2010

Rosemary Socca & Provencal Vegetable Ragu

I'm new to Socca. In fact last night was the first time I'd ever tried it. I read about it recently on the ever fabulous, Patricia Wells's blog . After that I seem to be hearing about it all over the place so I thought it was time to give it a whirl. Socca is essentially a savory crepe made with chickpea flour. It's nutty and salty and crispy from frying in olive oil. It's commonly served in and around Nice, so I thought a provencal stew would be a fitting partner to round out the meal.

I spiced up my Socca with some fresh chopped rosemary and lots of cracked black pepper. I made the ragu with fresh tomatoes, capers, white beans, and olives. It had all the flavors of Provence and was perfect for mopping up with torn bits of the yummy Socca.

I hope you'll give this a try. If so, I have a feeling Socca is soon to become one of your favorites too!

For the Provencal Vegetable Ragu:
Yields 4 main course servings

6 medium tomatoes (like Early Girls or Roma), cut into 1.5" pieces
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 anchovy filets
1, 15 oz can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1.5" pieces
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1.5" pieces
6 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
1/4 cup pitted nicoise olives, halved
2 TB capers, drained and rinsed
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1) In a 3 qt stockpot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, and anchovy and saute until the anchovy melts and the vegetables are translucent. Sir in the Herbes de Provence, chili flakes, salt & pepper. Stir in the fresh tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, sundried tomatoes, and Cannellini beans. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and reduces by about 1/2. Depending on the juiciness of your tomatoes, this will take about 15-25 minutes. You're looking for the vegetables to be thick and stewy.

2) When the Ragu has reduced to your desired consistency, add the olives and capers and stir to combine. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Cover and set aside while you cook the Socca.

For the Rosemary Socca:
Yields 2, 10" crepes

1 cup Garbanzo Flour (aka Chickpea Flour)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 TB fresh Rosemary, finely minced
1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, for frying

1) In a small bowl, whisk together the Garbanzo flour, rosemary, black pepper & salt. Add the water and whisk until smooth. This should look like a think pancake batter.

2) Heat 2TB of the oil in a nonstick skillet. When hot, add 1/2 of the Socca batter. Swirl around, like you would a crepe, to form a thin pancake. Cook over medium high heat until you can just see the edges start to brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the crepe over and continue cooking the other side until golden brown and crispy, an additional 2-3 minutes. Keep warm in a low oven while you repeat with the remaining oil & Socca batter.

* I served my Ragu with sliced avocado and a dollop of creme fraiche.