Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Almost Thanksgiving. Time to Bake Pies.

Last week, Avery said she wanted to bake Nutella and cherry handpies for Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma's house. So here she is, happy with her culinary handiwork and quite pleased to be contributing to the family feast we will enjoy tomorrow. She hardly even needed my help to put it all together. The process was so easy that it feels silly to write a recipe because while setting up the baking station for Ave, I cut corners, cheated and did not make everything from scratch. And I don't feel bad about that at all.

Here's what we did.

I bought 3 packages of Jiffy pie crust mix (whatevs, pie crust purists, I'm a busy working mom and I was tired) and prepared it according to the directions. Hint: use ice water not regular cold water like the package suggests. Oh, and mix one package at a time, not all at once. Then I rolled each portion of dough into a ball, wrapped in plastic and chilled for an hour. And by all means, feel free to skip this step by buying completely premade pie crust. Looking back, I wish I had done that. Jiffy is cheap and easy but the dough stuck to my rolling pin and required some care in rolling out to minimize breakage and to achieve even thickness.


She wanted cherries but the store was sold out so I got one pound of frozen strawberries instead and thawed them in the microwave. I threw them in a pan with a big spoonful of sugar, a smaller spoonful of cornstarch and a big splash of water. The berries simmered until softened and the liquid thickened. Then I lightly smooshed the whole berries with the back of a spoon before setting aside to cool while I worked on the dough.

I dusted the counter with flour and rolled out the dough to 1/4" thickness. We used two sizes of round cookie cutters- 3" and 6".  (I am totally visually guesstimating the size of the cutters, I might be off by a half inch but no worries.) We had enough dough to make eight 3"ish pies and twelve 6"ish pies. So that would be sixteen 3"ish rounds and twenty four 6"ish rounds of dough you need to cut out.

So then Avery took one round of dough, spread a spoonful of Nutella on that bad boy and topped it off with a spoonful of strawberries before pressing another round of down on top. She used a fork to crimp the edges shut. Some of the strawberry liquid seeped out but no matter- it caramelizes on the edges during baking and makes the pies look like they were made by a human and not a machine.

She brushed them with a bit of egg beaten with water, sprinkled with turbinado sugar and baked them at 375 degrees, about 10-11 minutes for the small pies and 15-16 for the big ones. They're done when they're nicely golden brown. Like this. Yum.

We ended up having quite a bit of Nutella and about a cup and a half of strawberries leftover. But nobody every died from having Nutella and strawberries on hand so I think we're good. Hmmm.... toppings for pancakes tomorrow?

Medium Rare and Back Again

You guys. My college pal Heath Dill had the coolest idea to create a cookbook featuring recipes based on food described in the literature of J.R.R. Tolkien.


Then Heath had a really smart idea to let other people help this dream come to life through Kickstarter. Check out his submission here.  You can also watch this.

And feast your eyes on some of the dishes featured in Medium Rare and Back Again (that's the name of the cookbook). I would totally eat these.

That's some sexy looking tuna. Gollum would say it's ruined. I say it's time to get in my mouth.

Mmm halloumi. Who knew fried cheese could be so fancy? That ain't no mozzarella stick.

Pork pies! These are not the bleak, pathetic pork pies you remember Pip stealing in Great Expectations. Sorry, Dickens. These are awesome Middle Earth pork pies eaten by Bilbo Baggins! 
There is a difference, trust me. 

Pretty neato stuff, huh? I can't wait to get my hands on this cookbook. I sense a theme birthday party dinner in my daughter's future... She loves The Fellowship of the Ring so this could be perfect. 

Oh and before I forget! Here's Heath.

Isn't he darling? I think so. Come on, ladies. You know you love a man in the kitchen. A man who reads in the kitchen. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fired Up! Ready to Go!

Hoping for four more years!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wisdom from Avery, Age 8

My daughter Avery has a tendency to make hilarious observations about life. Her latest, in response to me saying that I was starving:

"50% of people who eat snacks enjoy a happier lifestyle."

I have no idea if this statement is factually correct but it sounds good to me. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Arugula, Fennel & Blackberry Salad

We had some new friends and some old friends over for a little dinner party this past weekend. Both sets of friends are parents of our son Jakob's good friends. One set lives across the street so we see them fairly often and our sons are always running back and forth between our houses. The other set were people we would always see in passing at school concerts and the like. Matt and I are usually terrible about reaching out to other parents to hang out so, finally, after two years of saying to each other, "Aren't those people really, really nice? We should invite them to dinner." after every school event, we finally called them up and they said yes! On Saturday night, we hosted six adults and five kids (including my 7 year old daughter Avery and a 5 year old boy also named Avery) so I tried to prepare food that would appeal to a wide range of palates and ages. I thought this salad with peppery arugula and juicy blackberries in a honey vinaigrette would go over well with the kids because blackberries are delicious and honey is sugar, right? No such luck. The Averies refused and hid under the table shrieking when I suggested that maybe they could taste just one tiny lettuce leaf. Oh, well. At least everybody else raved about it so my ego wasn't too bruised.

adapted from this recipe
printer friendly recipe

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked white pepper
6 cups of arugula
1 fennel bulb
30 blackberries
12 chives, snipped into 1 inch pieces

Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper.

Finely slice the fennel bulb as thin as you can. (A mandoline can help with this.)

Put the fennel, arugula and chives in a large bowl. Toss with just enough of the dressing to evenly coat. Divide between six plates and garnish with five blackberries per plate.

Serves 6 as a first course or on the side

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Compost Cuisine: Amazing Ways to Make Delicious Food Out of Garbage

Reblogged from

Chefs are taking sustainability to new heights by gazing into the depths: that is, at what would otherwise be deemed not fit to eat.
Photo Credit: Chad Harder
Think you're living the anti-waste life? OK then. Pop quiz:
When you eat dates, do you also eat the pits?
Trace Leighton does. As the co-owner of Origen, a "farm-to-fork" restaurant in Berkeley, California, Leighton saves date seeds, then dries them and grinds them into a paste that subtly flavors trifle and honeycake.
"They're high in protein," she says.
She also halves nectarine pits and extracts their kernels, grinding these into pastes or boiling them into delicately flavored syrups.
If milk sours in her kitchen, she bakes with it rather than pour it down the drain. Coffee left over in coffeepots at day's end? Freeze it in ice-cube trays: These babies won't dilute tomorrow's iced-coffee drinks.
Such waste-not ingenuity is part of a new movement among chefs who are taking sustainability to new heights by gazing into the depths: that is, at what would otherwise be deemed not fit to eat. While we've heard of snout-to-tail, "whole-animal" restaurateurship, the practice of creating fabulous dishes from stems, seeds, skins and other usually discarded plant parts gives "bottom of the food chain" a whole new meaning.
Sean Baker, who spearheads this movement, calls it "compost cuisine."
"When you have high respect for how things are raised and produced, you're not going to throw any parts of them away if you can help it," says Baker, who was named Esquire magazine's 2010 Chef of the Year and is the executive chef at Gather restaurant -- also in Berkeley. "If we're using the whole animal, then why not use cauliflower leaves, carrot peels, corncobs and cornsilk?"
At Gather, he turns carrot parings and lemon peel to ash in a hot oven, then uses the ash to flavor sauces and vinaigrettes. Grilled and charred cobs and tough tomato ends become highly concentrated microstock. Deep-fried cornsilk becomes a lacy, spun-sugarish garnish. Squash stems are suvéed and stuffed, canneloni-style. Baker uses watermelon in at least eight different ways -- including pickling its rind and juicing and gelling its peel.
While the many-fingered citron known as a Buddha's hand is typically used only as a decoration or for its zest, Baker pressure-cooks then purées the whole fruit to make a sauce for Dungeness crab, or flavored with pork skin, for pizza.
"It takes extra work to think and cook sustainably. It's tough, because sometimes you aren't able to use it all. I can't save every single beet top," Baker says with a sigh, "although I wish I could."
Gather's popular kale salad "blows through a hundred pounds of kale a week." Because the salad uses only leaves, "I sat down with a notepad trying to think of how to use kale stems."
Solution: Pressure-cook these tough, fibrous rods, braise them in puttanesca broth with anchovies and tomatoes, then serve them with melted burrata on toast.
"They come out almost like noodles."
At the organic farm in Ben Lomond where he buys fresh produce, "sometimes we'll be looking at something and the farmer says, 'Oh, I'm gonna compost that' -- and I say, 'No, I'm gonna cook that.'"
One day, Baker noticed that the farm's Little Gem lettuces were brilliantly, beautifully green -- but bolted. (When leafy vegetables reach the end of their growing cycle, they "bolt" up tough, tree-trunklike seed-bearing stems. Bolted lettuce is typically dismissed as too hard and bitter to eat.)
Baker surprised the farmer by buying the Little Gems.
"We marinated them, suvéed them, sliced them, then finished them on the grill. They ended up not tasting bitter at all. They looked like sushi rolls" -- and went onto Gather's vegan charcuterie plate.
At Origen, Leighton and co-owner Daniel Clayton boil fruit cores and peels into syrups to use in sodas and cocktails. Ditto fennel fronds. Bumpy Brussels-sprout ends, spinach stems and other typically discarded produce parts are boiled into stock, puréed into mousses, diced and sautéed and served au gratin.
"When they're cooked, when they break down, they've got just as much flavor" as the more favored parts of produce. "They just aren't as pretty," Leighton says.
Rather than composting bruised and overripe fruit, she uses it in sauces and spicy-sweet Southeast Asian sambals. Too-soft fuyu persimmons recently went into a butter-tequila-lime sauce, served over striped bass. Mushy tomatoes become house-made ketchup. Squash seeds go into nutty-tasting moles and pipiáns.
"I've been striving to use every little bit of everything for so long that at this point I can hardly even remember how much gets thrown away every day in other commercial kitchens. But say they cut a lime in half. They'll squeeze the juice out of half and toss the rest." By contrast, "we use the juice, the zest and even the pith for pectin."
As a foster child housed with Asian foster families, Leighton was exposed early in life to culinary traditions far less wasteful than Western ones. She learned to cut fish and meat close to the bone and use fishtails, fins and bones in broth. As for eyeballs, "I grew up knowing that people eat those, too. Western society is very rich in many ways, but with very limited resources. Yet most people still act as if our resources are unlimited. We need to wake up. We need to always be asking ourselves: How can I be creative? How can I use this and this and this?"
Sean Baker agrees. Some ideas come to him in the kitchen, others on the farm. But he's always picturing new possibilities.
"The idea is to get your brain really moving so that you can think: This is something that would have ended up in the trash or the compost pile, but now it's a sauce or a salsa or a soup."
About to toss that orange peel? Not so fast, pal.
"I have a huge problem," Baker says, "with people who don't walk the walk."
Anneli Rufus is the author of several books, most recently The Scavenger's Manifesto (Tarcher Press, 2009). Read more of Anneli's writings on scavenging at

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pork Chops with Lemon & Crispy Sage

This little piggy went to market.

This little piggy went home.

This little piggy jumped into my frying pan.

And I ate him up yum yum yum.

printer friendly recipe

4 bone-in pork chops, 1/3-1/2 pound each
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked blacked pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 sage leaves
4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1/2 cup white wine
juice of 1 lemon

Season the meat with the salt and pepper.

Melt the butter over medium high heat in a saute pan that's large enough to hold all of the pork chops in one layer.  Add the sage leaves and fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Carefully remove the sage leaves to a paper towel.

Add the garlic and let cook for a few seconds, until fragrant.

Place the pork chops in the pan in one layer and brown deeply, about four minutes per side.

Add the wine, lower heat to medium, bring to a simmer and then cover for 10 minutes, until the pork is cooked through.

Place the pork chops on a platter.

Deglaze the pan with the lemon juice and reduce by a quarter.

Pour the pan sauce over the pork and garnish with the sage leaves.

Serves 4 very well.
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