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 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.