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!

29 March 2011

Wild Mushroom Parcels with Soft Polenta

Here's another delicious recipe inspired by Ottolenghi's Plenty . I served this over soft polenta and am including that recipe below as well.

I love anise flavors and this has both lovely background flavor from the Pernod and forward flavor from the fresh tarragon. When you open the little package on your plate you're instantly met with a steamy anise vapeur. That paired with the earthiness of the wild mushrooms is a delight.


Wild Mushroom Parcels:
Yields 4 servings

1/2 cup crimini mushrooms, stems removed, and sliced 3/8"
4 cups mixed wild mushrooms, sliced or torn rustically ( I used Hedgehog, Chanterelle, and Royal Trumpets)
1 TB fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
4 TB cream
4 TB Pernod (or other anise flavored liqeuer)
salt & pepper
4 sheets parchment paper, @ 9" x 12" each
kitchen twine

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Divide the mixture into 4 portions, placing 1/4 onto each one of the parchment sheets. Gather into a bundle and secure closed with the kitchen twine.

2) Bake the parcels on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes. Served closed and let your guests unwrap each parcel at their plate so they can experience the steamy anise vapeur. Spoon over the soft polenta, recipe below.

Soft Polenta:
Yields 4 generous servings

4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 cup polenta
2 TB unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese
salt & pepper

1) Bring the stock and water to a boil in a large pot. Add the polenta, in a steady stream while whisking constantly. Return to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 25 minutes until the polenta is soft and creamy.

2) Off to the heat, stir in the butter, cheese, and salt & pepper to taste. Serve hot with mushroom parcels.

27 March 2011

Watercress & Herb Salad with Pistachios & Orange Blossom

What a revelation this salad is! I just received my copy of Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi in the mail. Truly the most inspiring book on vegetarian cooking I have seen in a very long time (maybe ever?!). I am so eager to make every one of these recipes that my blog might be heavy on the Ottolenghi for quite some time to come.

Already, my entire menu plan for this week is from the book. I could barely choose which recipes to make since I just want to make them all. Then I reminded myself that in fact I now own this book and I can take my time cooking my way through it.

This salad is one such recipe. So simple really, but the dressing is a revelation. Just adding a drop of orange flower water to an otherwise basic lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette, makes such a world of difference. It somehow elevates it from 'everyday' to complex and mysterious. I hope you'll try it and agree.


Watercress & Herb Salad with Pistachios & Orange Blossom:
Yields 4 servings

1 bunch Watercress, root ends trimmed
10 leaves fresh Basil
10 leaves fresh Mint
20 leaves fresh Tarragon
1/4 cup Pistachios, lightly toasted

For the dressing:
juice of 1 lemon
4 TB good extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp orange flower water
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1) In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and orange flower water. Drizzle in the olive oil, while whisking constantly, until emulsified.

2) Arrange the watercress and herbs on a serving plate. Sprinkle the pistachios over top. Just before serving, drizzle over a bit of the dressing (there will be some left over). Toss gently and serve.

15 March 2011

Celery & Cilantro Salad

This salad is one of those simple recipes that feels so new and fresh yet uses common ingredients that, if your refrigerator looks anything like mine, you generally have on hand. Celery is such a flavorful vegetable, especially the celery leaves which pack the most intense flavor. Sadly this vegetable often gets overlooked as an ingredient in its own right. Poor celery mostly finds itself relegated to the crudite platter. No longer! I invite you to try this recipe and appreciate celery in a whole new way.

I can think of a million different things to serve this with. Any kind of simply grilled fish or fish tacos would be perfect. Since this is a crunchy slaw-like salad, use it anywhere you'd otherwise serve a traditional slaw, for a lighter and unexpected take on a classic.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe in the April 2011 issue of Living.


Celery & Cilantro Salad:
Yields approx 6 cups

4 medium ribs celery, sliced thinly on the bias
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves (picked from their stems)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (or golden raisins)
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice
fleur de sel & freshly cracked black pepper

1) In a large bowl, combine the celery, cilantro, dried cranberries, and almonds. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and toss gently. Drizzle with lemon juice and good olive oil to taste. Toss to coat all ingredients.

05 March 2011

Buckwheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Two of my favorite things in one morsel of gluten free splendor. These are a scrumptious way to ease into a weekend morning. Buckwheat has a nutty, earthy character that is particularly wonderful with strawberries (photo). Counter to what the name might suggest, buckwheat has nothing to do with conventional 'wheat' and is naturally gluten free.

If you're not sensitive about gluten, just substitute 1 cup of regular all-purpose flour in place of the brown rice flour. I do think though that the brown rice flour gives these pancakes a delicate sweetness and a tender crumb that is very unique.


Buckwheat Buttermilk Pancakes:
Yields 12-16, 4" pancakes

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup brown rice flour
2 TB sugar
1 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp quatre epices (or cinnamon)
2 large egss
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 cup regular low-fat milk
4 TB unsalted butter, melted
fresh strawberries, thinly sliced, for serving
pure maple syrup, for serving

1) In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (buckwheat through quatre epices). Make a well in the center and whisk in the wet ingredients (eggs through milk). Once well combined, whisk in the melted butter.

2) Heat a nonstick griddle to medium high. Brush lightly with melted butter. Spoon puddles of pancake batter onto the hot griddle and cook on the first side until bubbles form all over the surface. Flip and cook on the second side until just cooked through, about 1-2 minutes more.

3) Serve warm with fresh sliced strawberries, good butter, and maple syrup.

27 February 2011

Baked Oatmeal

Today was the second time I made this scrumptious baked oatmeal recipe. I must admit that I'm not a big fan of oatmeal in general. I find it a bit mushy; just not really my thing. Anyways, this recipe appealed to me since it was baked and packed with lots of crunchy nuts and seeds. I imagined it tasting more like a hearty breakfast crumble, which indeed it did, only much less sweet.

The first time I made the recipe pretty much exact and it was quite good but this time I changed it up a bit and I think it's about perfect now. This is such a simple and warming weekend breakfast that can be quickly reheated all week long for a healthy meal before work or school. That's just what I intend to do this week. I hope you will too.


Baked Oatmeal:
Yields 1, 2 qt gratin dish (about 10-12 servings)

2 cups rolled oats ( I use certified gluten free oats)
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted cashews, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp quatre epices (or the equivalent measure of white pepper, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup low-fat milk (or almond milk)
2 ripe pears, cored and chopped into 1" pieces
1/4 cup fresh cranberries (if frozen, do not defrost)

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the oats, chopped nuts, sunflower seeds, cranberries, salt, and spices. Stir to combine.

2) In another small bowl, whisk the egg, maple syrup, coconut milk & milk to combine. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until all is well incorporated.

3) Spread the chopped pears and fresh cranberries in the bottom of a 2 quart baking dish. Pour the oat mixture over top and gently level with a spatula. Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or until the center is set and the edges are golden brown. Serve warm.

26 February 2011

Whole Lemon Bars

These are perhaps the best lemon bars I have ever eaten... ever. The recipe is adapted from the ever inspiring David Lebovitz's blog. I was attracted to the recipe right off, once reading that it used a whole lemon. I happen to adore lemon bars and grew up eating them all the time. My Mom was not really a baker, but she made a darn good lemon bar, which I always asked for at every special occasion. Needless to say, I've eaten a lot of them over the years. The older I got though, the more I found them increasingly too sweet for my taste. I find that now too, with nearly every lemon bar I have met in recent past. I think that's just what most people have come to expect from a lemon bar, a cloyingly sweet jelly-centered bar, with a doughy cookie 'crust'. So unfortunate.

I was thrilled to taste these and after practically inhaling the entire first batch on my own, I had to make a second batch just to make sure I really did like them as much as I thought I did. That it wasn't some fluke or something the first time.

Anyhow, they're fantastic. They have a bitter edge from using the whole lemon, pith and all, which I quite enjoy. The center is more of a lemon cream and not that jello-looking translucent center we've come to expect. The crust is golden and crispy. I used ground lavender blossoms in mine as well as grated lemon zest, for another layer of flavor.

Such a simple and pleasing treat these are. I hope they will become a staple in your bake-sale, tea party, summer luncheon, Sunday couch snacking while drinking tea.... repertoire.


Whole Lemon Bars:
Yields 1, 9"9 pan (about 9 large squares)

For the crust:
1 cup flour ( I used organic brown rice flour)
1/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 TB grated lemon zest
2 tsp ground lavender blossoms

For the filling:
1 1/2 lemons ( I used 1 large Meyer lemon and 1/2 Bearss lime)
3/4 cup sugar
3 TB freshly squeezed orange juice ( I used blood orange)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
3 TB unsalted butter, melted

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9"x9" brownie pan with cooking spray, then press in parchment to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

2) In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all the ingredients for the crust. Mix until the dough comes together. It will be quite soft. Press evenly into the parchment lined baking pan, using your fingers. Bake for 25 minutes or until the crust is evenly golden brown.

3) While the crust is cooking, make the filling. Cut the lemon in half and remove the seeds. Cut the lemon/ lime into chunks. Place the chunks into a blender, along with the sugar and orange juice. Let the blender run until the lemon is very well pureed. Add in the eggs, cornstarch, salt, and melted butter. Process until well combined and almost smooth.

4) Remove the crust from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Pour the lemon filling into the hot crust and return to the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the filling is just set in the center.

5) Let the bars cool for 15-20 minutes at room temperature, then finish cooling completely in the fridge. Using the sides of the parchment, lift the square out of the pan. Slice off the edges and discard. Then slice the bars into 9 equal pieces, about 2.5" x 2.5". Serve chilled. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

16 February 2011

Quick Chickpea Coconut Curry

This quick dinner is my new favorite thing. Cooking a bunch of vegetables together with spices and legumes and serving it over long grain brown rice with cucumber raita on the side. Yumm.

I love Indian flavors but sometimes don't love eating in Indian restaurants. I often find the food served to be heavy and oily and when it's not, it's generally too spicy for me. I love making Indian food at home though since I can make it just how I like it... deep and savory, just spicy enough, hearty yet not heavy.

I'm hardly a traditionalist so I mix flavors I like together, in this case coconut and Indian curry spices. I know, coconut milk lends itself more to Thai curries but this really does work. Next time you're wondering what to make for dinner, adapt this flexible recipe to what you have on hand.


Quick Chickpea Coconut Curry:
Yields 4 servings

2, 15 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed well (I like Eden brand)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2" dice
2 ribs celery, chopped into 1/2" dice
1 bunch swiss chard, sliced into 1/2" ribbons
2 TB tomato paste
1 TB sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
2 TB olive oil
2 tsp yellow curry powder ( I like Morton & Basset curry powder)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp cayenne (or to taste)

1) In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt & pepper and stir until the vegetables just begin to soften. Add the curry powder, cayenne, and cumin seeds, and stir until the spices are fragrant. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes. Add the vinegar, and stir to deglaze the pan. Stir in the chickpeas, chard, coconut milk, and vegetable stock. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

2) Cook for about 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the liquid has reduced by about half. Serve over brown basmati rice with cucumber & yogurt sauce alongside.

12 February 2011

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Chocolate

This lovely olive oil cake is from Kim Boyce's book, Good to the Grain. It's a great book, one of the best I've seen about baking with alternative flours. That said, most of her recipes use all- purpose flour in combination with other flours, not strictly special flours. I rarely bake with AP flour at all, so have adapted the recipe to work with both spelt and gluten free flours. The recipe came out great with the substitutions but feel free to use whatever flour you prefer and/or have on hand.

I had a few problems getting the original recipe to bake properly and also found it was prone to collapsing once baked. I made some changes and in my experience it worked much better with a few adjustments. I've made those changes reflective in the recipe below.

I think this dessert has all the makings of a perfect finish to a special Valentine's Day meal. It's not overly sweet and although it does contain chocolate, it's hardly traditional. Also, it's very easy and fast to put together. It's best served at room temperature and keeps well on the counter for a few days, so it's perfect for making ahead.

Wishing you all much sweetness this Valentine's Day. May we use this 'holiday' as a reminder to appreciate those in our lives that we care most about, not only with hearts and flowers, but with kindness and gratitude each and every day.


Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Chocolate:
Yields 1, 9"x 3" x 5" loaf

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 millet flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup olive oil ( I used a full bodied extra virgin but nothing too special is necessary)
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 TB fresh rosemary, finely chopped
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2" pieces (I used 70%)

1) Preheat the oven to 340 degrees. Brush a loaf pan with olive oil. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the olive oil into the yolks. Set aside. Beat the egg whites on high speed until foamy. Slowly drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

2) Stir the flour, salt, baking powder, and rosemary together in a small bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the egg yolk mixture, in 2 additions, until well combined.

3) Place 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the rest of the batter. Stir gently to lighten the batter, then fold in the remaining whites. Fold gently, lifting and turning, so as not to deflate the egg whites. When the batter is combined, gently stir in the chopped chocolate.

4) Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake at 340 degrees for about 55-60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice only when completely cool.

30 January 2011

Sweet Potato Scones with Blue Cheese & Dill

These lovely little scones make a perfect partner for any kind of soup. I enjoyed them last night with my Spicy Tomato & White Bean Soup . I also enjoyed them this morning toasted with butter and marmalade.

These scones are packed with many layers of savory flavor. They have good piquancy from the blue cheese, smooth tartness from the buttermilk, and roasted sweetness from the sweet potatoes. This is a great recipe that I turn to often when I want a simple and flavorful homemade 'bread' that I can make quickly. I hope you'll make these often as well.


Sweet Potato Scones with Blue Cheese & Dill:
Yields about 24, 2" round or square scones

2 medium orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" dice
1 TB olive oil
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
3/4 cup almond meal
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk, plus 1 TB
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled (I used a buttermilk blue cheese)
1/2 cup mild gouda, grated (gruyere or fontina would also work well)
2 TB fresh dill, finely chopped

1) Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Roast them for about 30 minutes until they're tender and just starting to caramelize. Set aside to cool.

2) In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flours, salt, cayenne, xanthan and baking powder to combine. Add the butter and mix until the butter pieces are about the size of peas. Add the cheeses, dill, and buttermilk and mix until dough just starts to come together. Add in the sweet potatoes and mix until combined. The dough will be sticky.

3) Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Turn the dough out onto a well floured board and roll out to 1/2" thickness. Using a 2" round or square cutter dusted in flour, punch out the scones. Re-roll the dough as needed. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, about 2" apart. Brush the tops of the scones with the remaining 1 TB buttermilk and sprinkle lightly with a coarse salt. Bake for about 20 minutes until the scones are puffed and golden brown on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

28 January 2011

Grapefruit & Meyer Lemon Marmalade with Rose Geranium

I read recently that the legendary 'jamstress' June Taylor makes a meyer lemon marmalade with rose geranium. Ever since hearing that I have been obsessed with locating a recipe. Hers doesn't exist anywhere that I can find, nor does she have a book, so I adapted another recipe to include those same flavors.

I happen to love rose geranium although it's one of those flavors that if taken too far can end up tasting rather like soap. Though at its best the flavor is delicately floral with an intense perfume scent. I'm starting to see rose geranium used in many pastries and confections and it delights me that others are also starting to appreciate this lovely (and easy to grow) herb.

The jam came out absolutely perfect although I had many doubts during the process. It's very very lightly set but still definitely set. It's such a refreshing change from so many heavily jelled jams. The color is a lovely jewel toned, almost amber color, with a gorgeous transluscence.

Marmalade is not particularly mysterious to make but does take some time and is definitely a labor of love. The great thing about this one though is that it can be made in one day. Many recipes you'll find take at least two days. If you find yourself with a garden full of lovely citrus like me, do try your hand at this. The results are incredibly delicious and very satisfying.


Grapefruit & Meyer Lemon Marmalade with Rose Geranium:
Yields about 7, 1/2 pint jars

5 pounds Ruby Red grapefruit
5 Meyer lemons
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2-3 additional lemons)
2 1/2 pounds sugar
10 rose geranium leaves
jelly bag or cheesecloth
powdered pectin- about 2 teaspoons
6-8 sterilized 1/2 pint jars and lids

1) Remove the skin from 4 grapefruits with a vegetable peeler. Cut the skin into 1/8" slivers. You should have about 2 cups. For the remaining grapefruits, slice off the ends so that you can just see the flesh. Using a sharp knife, slice off the peel and the pith and discard. Working over the pot you intend to use for making the jam, and using a paring knife, supreme the grapefruit segments, reserving the middle membrane (essentially the core of the fruit). Stop when you have about 5 cups of segments.

2) Remove the skin from 2 of the Meyer lemons and slice them into 1/8" slivers. For the remaining Meyer lemons, remove the skin and the pith and discard. Working over the pot you intend to use for making the jam, and using a paring knife, supreme the lemon segments, reserving the middle membrane (essentially the core of the fruit). Put membranes from the grapefruit and Meyer lemons in a jelly bag (or doubled up cheesecloth) and tie closed.

3) In a wide and deep pot, combine the grapefruit & lemon segments, grapefruit & lemon peel, and jelly bag filled with the membranes. Add the lemon juice and enough water (or juice) to equal about 2 cups total. Simmer until the grapefruit & lemon peels are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the jelly bag and set aside until cool enough to handle.

4) Working over a large bowl, squeeze the juice from the jelly bag. The juice will extract easily at first but keep squeezing and wringing it out until you extract 1/3 cup of pectin. Add the extracted pectin and the 2 teaspoons powdered pectin to the pot along with the 2 12# of sugar and the rose geranium leaves. Place over high heat and boil, stirring now and then, until marmalade is between 222 and 225 degrees and passes the plate test. (ie: spoon a little onto a frozen plate and put in the fridge for 3 minutes. If it thickens like jam, it's ready.) When the jam is done, fish out the rose geranium leaves and discard.

5) Meanwhile, put 6 sterilized 1/2 pint canning jars and lids on a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm. When jam is done, remove jars from the oven. Ladle jam into the hot jars, filling them as high as possible. Wipe the rims. Fasten the lid tightly. Process for about 15 minutes in a hot water canner. Allow the jars to cool until a seal is made on all the jars. Keep at room temperature up to 1 year.

25 January 2011

Chard Cakes with Goat Cheese Sauce

I always think of these as 'Esalen Garden Cakes' and they are a fixture in my memory from my years at Esalen. They were always made on changeover Monday when the 'new recruits' were receiving their one day of kitchen training as these could be made by the chef alone. My relationship to food was transformed at Esalen. It really was the heart of that community and it was where I was first able to experience the connection between garden and kitchen.

Never before had I tasted food that was so 'alive', harvested just hours before. Feeding a group of 300 on any given day is no small feat and overall the food was very simple but amazingly fresh. Most of the food is grown on the roughly 6.5 acres of organic farm located on the property. Working in that garden was magic. Growing food on a 'large' scale from seed to table was transformative. It definitely has inspired me in every way since and very directly set the tone for my two careers. First, in working with plants and now, in working with food.

I love these Chard Cakes, of course because of my memories surrounding them, but also because they're delicious. This is the kind of food I could eat every day... simple, seasonal, satisfying. You can of course make these with spinach, kale, or any number of greens depending on what you have on hand. I've adjusted this recipe from the original as printed in the Esalen Cookbook as I prefer the cakes with a bit more body. At Esalen these are usually served with a goat cheese and horseradish sauce. My goat cheese, dijon, dill sauce is below.

I hope you'll make this meal often.

Chard Cakes (aka: Esalen Garden Cakes)
Yields 8-9 cakes

1/2 cup millet flour 
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 bunch chard, stems sliced into 1" pieces and leaves sliced into thin ribbons
olive oil for frying

1) Combine the flour, salt & pepper in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk and eggs and whisk until a smooth batter is formed. Stir in the chard leaves and stems.

2) Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Using a 1/2 cup measure, scoop up some of the chard and batter mixture and add it to the hot skillet. Cook until the eggs are set and bottom of the cakes are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip over and finish cooking on the opposite side. Serve warm with goat cheese sauce, below.

Goat Cheese, Dill & Dijon Sauce:

3 oz plain soft goat cheese (ie: chevre, at room temp)
1/4 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
2 TB Dijon mustard
1 TB fresh dill, finely minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt & pepper

1) Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir together until well combined.

23 January 2011

Lemon Cloud Tart

My favorite desserts are those that manage at once to be both light and rich. This does just that and it's the perfect flavor for the season.

It starts with a simple pate brisee tart shell that's filled with a puckery meyer lemon cream and a bitter-sweet marmalade. It's super simple to put together. Since I'm a baker, I generally have several frozen pastry rounds ready to defrost and roll out for last minute tarts such as this, but making it the same day is a snap too. Just give yourself enough time to chill the pastry before you bake.

This is a lovely fresh dessert that highlights the best of season citrus and is perfect for a casual weekend dinner.


Lemon Cloud Tart:
Yields 1, 9" round tart (or 1 rectangular tart)

For the Pate Brisee Crust:
1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 TB sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4-1/3 cup ice water

1) In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flours, sugar, xanthan, salt. Pulse briefly to combine. Add the cubes of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the machine running, drizzle the water through the feed tube until the dough just starts to come together. Pulse a few more times until the mixture resembles a crumbly dough. Add a drop or two more water if needed.

2) Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently to bring the dough together. Pat into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or freeze for later use.

3) After the dough has chilled, roll out into a 10" round, with about 1/8" thickness throughout. Place gently in the tart pan and press carefully into the sides and bottom of the pan. Trim away any excess and return to the fridge or freezer for 20-30 minutes.

4) Heat the oven to 400 degrees. When the dough has chilled for the second time, prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork and bake for about 15-20 minutes until the crust is evenly golden brown all over. Set aside to cool completely.

For the Lemon Filling:
Juice and zest from 1 meyer lemon
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup lemon or orange marmalade (store bought or homemade)
sliced fruit or berries for garnish

1) In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, sugar, the vanilla extract, and the lemon zest to firm peaks. (Note- I generally whip the cream a bit beyond normal here so that when I fold in the lemon juice, the cream holds up.)

2) Juice the lemon. Slowly drizzle the juice into the whipped cream, while folding gently, until the juice is well incorporated. Set aside.

3) Spread the marmalade onto the cooled tart shell. Follow by spreading the lemon cream over top until the shell is completely filled. Garnish with sliced candied citrus or with fresh berries. Serve chilled.

08 January 2011

Savory Cheese & Fig Jam Shortreads

I first read about this recipe here and knew immediately that I wanted to try it. What's not to love.... pungent blue cheese, sweet fig jam in a little biscuit of a cookie. Yumm. I happen to have several jars of fig & lime jam that I made this past summer and this was a perfect place to use it.

I made a few changes to the original recipe with great results. These are really easy and strike that perfect blend of richness, spice, and sweet. I intend to eat several this evening while enjoying a glass of wine.


Savory Cheese & Fig Jam Shortbreads:
Yields about 24, 2" round cookies

1 cup brown rice flour 
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 oz grated cheese (I used a mix of blue cheese, gruyere, and sharp cheddar)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne
Fig preserves, about 1/4 cup

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all the ingredients, except for the fig jam. Mix on low speed until a shaggy dough forms (this can also be done in a food processor).

2) Turn the dough out onto a well floured board and gather into a ball. Roll the dough out to about 1/4" thickness. Using a 2" round cutter, punch out as many circles as you can. I got exactly 24. You can re-roll the dough as needed. Place the cookies about 1" apart on the lined baking sheets. Using your thumb or the back of a teaspoon, make a shallow impression in the center of each cookie. Fill each with a spoonful of fig jam.

3) Bake for about 15-18 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown around the edges and set in the center. Cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes. Serve at room temperature. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

06 January 2011

Savory Mushroom & Nut Loaf

Ever since making this delicious dinner last week, I have been wanting share it with you. Problem is, I don't like the name 'mushroom & nut loaf'. I've been trying to come up with prettier names but none really describe well what it actually is. I've thought of calling it 'Gateau de Champignons et Noix', 'Rice Cake with Mushrooms', 'Vegetarian Meatloaf'.... none of which are any more appealing to me or descriptive to you.

Essentially, it's a delicious combination of mushrooms, brown rice, cheese, and chopped nuts bound with eggs and baked in a loaf pan. I'm generally not fond of vegetarian food that tries to look or taste like meat so I don't really like the idea of calling it 'vegetarian meatloaf', but at least that provides a familiar reference.

Anyhow, what I can say is that this was one of my favorite dinners I've made in a long while. It was hearty yet clean and had great depth of flavor & appealing texture. I would strongly suggest you give this one a go. It does require a fair amount of ingredients and some chopping work but it's truly well worth it. I served this with a simple store bought bbq sauce that I seasoned with a little lemon juice, plain yogurt, and a dash of Braggs liquid aminos.

Original recipe posted here and created by Victoria Pearson.


Savory Mushroom & Nut Loaf:
Yields 1, 9"x5"x2" loaf (about 8 slices)

2 TB olive oil
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup raw cashews, toasted
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/3 # shiitake mushrooms, finely diced
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 TB chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 TB chopped fresh oregano
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp chopped fresh sage leaves
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup cottage cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9"x5"x2" loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment. Butter the parchment.

2) Place dried porcini in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Reconstitute for 15 minutes. Drain liquid and reserve for later use. Finely chop mushrooms and set aside.

3) Chop toasted walnuts and cashews in the food processor until finely chopped.

4) Heat the 2TB olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add shiitake mushrooms and reserved porcini and cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 more minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the rice, toasted & chopped nuts, parsley, oregano, thyme, sage, eggs, Gruyere, cottage cheese, salt & pepper.

5) Spread mixture in prepared loaf pan and bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan about 20 minutes. Using the parchment paper, lift the loaf out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Slice into 1 1/2" thick pieces. Serve hot or warm.