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!

26 May 2010

The kitchen continues

It's still a dusty mess in the kitchen but things are coming along. The cabinets are in and finally starting to look like something. I think it's still too early to say that I can 'see the end in sight' but maybe in a few more days.

The novelty of pre-prepared foods from my local markets and favorite restaurants has worn off entirely and I'm more than ready to start cooking again. I wonder if I'll even remember how?

18 May 2010

The kitchen work begins

Since I don't have an actual kitchen to cook in at the moment and I won't for several weeks, I won't be doing much in the way of dinner making. I don't consider microwave cooking actual 'cooking' so I'll spare you the details of such events. I have yet to dive into the world of convenience foods but browsing the freezer case at Whole Foods yesterday was quite an education. I actually had no idea that so many pre-made, relatively healthy and appealing looking items even existed! I generally just walk on by all those boxes in my hunt for fresh ingredients. Perhaps before this experience is through I'll have to try some of those. Who knows, maybe this will open up a whole new world of eating for me?!

For now, my ceiling is opened up and new lighting is going in. I'm sharing the 'Before' photos and the 'Day 1' photos here. I'll be posting photos every week or so showing the progress as I sneak behind the plastic each evening to document. Hopefully the end result will be as pleasing as I imagine it to be in my mind and all this work (and dust!) will be worth it.

10 May 2010

Desert Muffins with Mixed Berries & Honey

I call these Desert Muffins (not dessert muffins) since I've been calling the Hi-Desert home for the past several days. A trip to the local farmers market here, which was surprisingly large for such a small town, turned up many locally grown items that aren't quite in season yet where I live. It's warm and dry here (very very dry!) and things like zucchini, tomatoes, and berries are in season year round. I came home with a jar of cactus honey from the local cacti blooming now, a dozen lovely farm eggs for a mere $4 (they're $7 at home), and a few baskets of beautiful fresh berries.

So, feeling like I just needed to bake something, after all it is what I do every day and not baking anything for several days in a row just felt too strange, I decided some simple morning muffins would fit the bill. I thought they should be easy enough in an unfamiliar kitchen, if a reasonably well stocked one at that. I'm including the recipe below. Note that I'm using fresh berries, which on first thought would seem preferable to frozen (fresh is always better, right?), although in my opinion just the opposite is true. I find that fresh berries in general bleed too much in the muffins and tend to leave a wet, somewhat uncooked bit of batter right around the berry itself. To prevent this I either freeze them for a few minutes to harden up the outsides a bit or toss them in some cornstarch or flour before mixing them in. Adding the starch absorbs some of the juice which leaks out when exposed to the heat.

This particular part of the California desert is one of my favorite places. I am always inspired by the fortitude of the plants and animals that call this land their home. Being a city dweller I realize how much noise is around me at all moments that I don't even notice. I also notice how entirely quiet it is here, the calls of ravens fill the canyons, the birds are a symphony of song every morning. This is a place that's really alive. Life is hard here, the land is inhospitable in almost every way but all around are treasures of beauty. The quiet and the open space are refreshing and expansive. It's a place that as whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That is also what I love about baking, cooking in general. Start with a few simple ingredients and combine them together and you make your own bit of alchemy in the kitchen every day.

Desert Muffins with Mixed Berries & Honey:
Yields 12, large muffins

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mixed berries, toss with 1 TB cornstarch if using fresh or use frozen berries that are not defrosted (I used blackberries and raspberries)

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.

2) In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, cardamom, and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, honey, canola oil, melted butter and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just barely combined. Fold in the berries and finish mixing just until all the ingredients come together.

3) Spoon the batter into each of the muffin cups, filling each almost to the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until just golden brown around the edges and the middles are puffed and set. Serve with butter and honey. Enjoy!

04 May 2010

Cheddar & Chive Scones

I served these last night with a simple salad of tuna, white beans and arugula for dinner. They were a small indulgence for an otherwise light and healthy meal. I love scones of all varieties, sweet or savory, and these are no exception. Even though I am well aware they're made with butter, cream and cheese I don't see much wrong with a little more butter on top for serving, of the good European salted variety, of course.

Serve these scones with any soup or salad for a light meal. They'd be a perfect savory accompaniment to any brunch menu of eggs and potatoes as well.


Cheddar & Chive Scones:
Yields 9, 2" diameter x 1/2" thick scones

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1 tsp salt
1 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cut into 1" pieces
1 large egg
1/2 cup heavy cream plus 1 TB for brushing tops of scones
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (yellow cheddar preferred)
2 TB chopped fresh chives
1 tsp finishing salt (I used Maldon)

1)Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a food processor, combine the flours, xanthan, salt & baking powder. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and process until it is well incorporated and the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Pay attention here, just before the butter is properly incorporated, the sound of the machine changes, which is a signal you're very close.

2) Add the egg and the cream into the mixture. Pulse until the mixture is still shaggy and not quite combined. Add the cheese and the chives and pulse to finish combining. At this point, the dough will be a shaggy ball.

3) Empty the dough onto a well floured board. Pat into a 8" round circle x 1/2" thick. Using a 2" round biscuit cutter, punch out the scones. Place them on the lined sheet pan, spaced 1 1/2" apart. Brush the tops with the 1 Tb reserved cream and sprinkle with the finishing salt.

4) Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Cool slightly before serving or serve at room temperature with salted butter.

02 May 2010

Salmon Cakes with Parsley & Mint Puree

These salmon cakes are light, flavorful, and simply delicious. Make them smaller for an appetizer portion or large like these ones for a main course. I poach the salmon before adding the other ingredients and forming the patties. Poaching is a simple technique which adds no fat and it preserves the flavor of the salmon itself.

The parsley and mint puree is a vibrant accent on the plate and adds a fresh, herbal compliment to the dish . It makes use of the tender herbs growing in my garden right now. I serve the cakes sprinkled with a few chive blossoms, a dollop of creme fraiche, and a simple side salad of raw snap peas and breakfast radishes tossed with a little lemon oil and fleur de sel.

I hope you'll try these. They're quick and easy enough for any weeknight but pretty enough for guests or a special weekend dinner.


Salmon Cakes:
Yields 4 patties, (4" diameter x 3/4" thick):

1 # Wild Pacific King Salmon fillet
4 large scallions, white and light green parts only, sliced very thinly
zest of 1 lemon (remaining lemon reserved for poaching liquid)
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs (I use whole wheat)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1/4 g-free bread crumbs, for coating outside of patties
3 TB Olive Oil

1) Fill a large saute pan (12-14" diameter) with 1" depth of water. Squeeze in the reserve lemon and add the whole lemon halves, plus 1 TB olive oil to the water. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer.

2) Season the salmon fillets lightly with salt and pepper. When the water is simmering, add the salmon to the poaching liquid, cover the pot and cook, until just barely cooked through but still moist and tender, about 8 minutes. Set salmon aside to cool. Discard poaching liquid.

3) In a large bowl, whisk the egg, thyme, scallions, salt & pepper. Flake the salmon into small pieces and add it to the egg mixture. Add the bread crumbs and stir to combine. Form the mixture into 4 patties, each about 4" diameter x 3/4" thick.

4) Add the bread crumbs to a shallow bowl. Lightly coat the patties, dusting off any excess. Heat the remaining 2 TB Olive Oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add the salmon cakes and cook until deep golden brown and warmed through, about 3-4 minutes per side.

For the Parsley & Mint Puree:
1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh spearmint leaves
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 TB Dijon mustard
2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1) Combine all the ingredients, except the Olive Oil, in the jar of a blender. Process until combined. Scrape down the sides of the jar. With the machine running, stream in the olive oil until the mixture is smooth and emulsified. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Reserve for use with the salmon cakes.