Homecoming: Garden Salad with (very) New Potatoes

Spring Garden Salad with New Potatoes, Carrots, Radishes, and Edible Flowers

We just returned from a very special trip to visit very family in Piemonte, Italy that just happened to be prefaced with a quick tour of Zürich and Basel and ended with a week on an island in Croatia. Though we were on the road for about two weeks, it felt very fast.

One of the most beautiful places I have ever been to

Many outdoor markets, lots of pizza, more ice cream, homemade Croatian extra virgin olive oil in an empty Coca Cola bottle, grilled fish, sundry new pastries, waterfall hikes, and many sunny beach days.

Clean drinking water in fountains throughout Switzerland

Playing at the beach

Our trip was not all bliss, however. Our decision to make the huge journey to Europe with two little children in tow was prompted by the tragic knowledge that one of my favorite people on the planet, an Italian cousin of mine, was in the final stages of cancer. Three weeks before we departed he died.

Have you ever met someone who catalyzes everyone around her/him? Who, by some miracle, enables others too to relish life and seize each moment before it escapes? For so many of us it takes excruciating loss to rip us from our day-to-day life of worrying about the little things and remind us that what is most important in life lies right in front of us–the people we love. My cousin was a miracle worker then. No matter if business was bleak or his health, which he hid from his children for quite some time, was deteriorating rapidly. He savored every minute of life and it was impossible not to join him.

His death last month was a bit out-of-body for me. It had been almost three years since I last saw him. I knew about his cancer, but it seemed under control and I thought that surely I would see him again. Living a continent away and being with neither him nor his family regularly made his death surreal.

I thought of so many moments with my cousin–picking grapes with him for the vendemmia (wine harvest) at the family vineyard, taking God-awful hot grappa shots (as if cold grappa were not horrid enough) at each of the local bars at the Ivrean Carnevale, enjoying the peace of walking around the ring of lakes nestled in the foothills, but most of all joining him and his wonderful wife around the kitchen table for late-night animated discussion. He was thoughtfully opinionated, well read, and even better traveled, and when he laughed there was always a hint of mischief.

The kids playing with one of their Italian cousins

The most terrible part of my cousin’s loss for me became my sympathy for his wife and two children, now that I have two of my own. I am ashamed to admit I fretted about what I would say.

For all my anxiety, our visit was beautiful because of the children. On our first day all together (with his wife and children, almost eighty-year-old mother, and brother and his wife) we met at the vineyard to cull all of the vibrant juicy cherries from a tree that was planted upon the birth of my cousin’s now teenage daughter. That in itself was special for all of its symbolic implications. No doubt, it was impossible not to see my cousin in everything we did. Yet somehow, as we all lunched together at the huge family garden amidst the bright green grape vines and munching focaccia, prosciutto, Val D’Aostan toma cheeses, canestrelli cookies, I felt more at peace.

The prolific cherry tree at the vineyard

It warmed my heart to see my children playing with their Italian cousins, kicking around the soccer ball, climbing the cherry tree, and generally being goofy kids. I saw beyond our moment in time to our children’s future friendship and their own cross-continental bond–the next generation.

A Rosy Rose Finn Apple Fingerling Potato

I have many things to share with you from the trip, but for now I leave you with a perfect homecoming meal. Usually I make something with whatever I have in the pantry, a rice or pasta, but this time I had fresh ingredients right outside my door.

One of the most exciting things about coming home was to see the transformation of our garden from plugging-along to lush, especially our potato plot. While I have grown many different vegetables, this year is my first time working with potatoes. I am crossing my fingers that we will not be affected by blight, but thus far they have been wonderful to grow and so much fun for my kids.

For those of you who do not know how potatoes grow, they are extremely interesting. First of all, they are really economical. One pound of seed potatoes will yield about ten pounds to harvest. We planted five pounds at the beginning of the spring. After allowing them to “chit” near a sunny window (enable the first sprouts to poke out of the eyes of the potato), I planted my tiny little fingerlings. After the plants grew six or eight inches tall, I covered all but the very tops of the plants with more soil (“eathing up”) and repeated this three or four times every time the plants grew tall again until right before we left for Europe. From one tiny bit of potato a tuber grows to develop more than a dozen new potatoes. It is phenomenal.

You can wait until the plants wither before unearthing the potatoes whereupon they will have tough enough skins to keep for a couple of months, just like any potato you purchase from the market or store. Or you can harvest them as soon as the plant flowers and eat….da, da, da!…..new potatoes.

Our very first potatoes: Rose Apple Finn

I think before we even visited the bathroom after entering our home my kids and I barged out the backdoor to visit our garden and I squealed with delight (yes, squealed) when I saw that some of my potatoes were flowering. I am sure I could have waited another week or two for more than two flowers on the plant that I robbed, but I could not wait. Our first meal back consisted of gently cooked Rose Apple Finn fingerlings with a gorgeous rosy hue and, given that there were only a dozen little potatoes, I put them into a dinner salad with a bunch of fabulous ingredients right out of our garden.

Borage, chives, and nasturtiums from our garden

New potatoes, which you can get from your farmer’s market between now and the early fall are one of life’s big treats. In all honesty, I have never been a huge potato person. I eschew mashed potatoes during the holidays and I would almost always prefer bread, pasta, sweet potatoes, rice, you-name-it, for my starch. I changed my mind last year when we received new potatoes in one of our Mystery Boxes from Mariquita Farm. The skin is so fragile and thin and the potatoes so new that they really give meaning to the old axiom that potatoes taste “buttery.” They need minimal cooking and adornment. After cooking them briefly in some salted water, I let them cool and dress them with my new favorite olive oil and sea salt. I then add the rest of my salad ingredients and finish with just a bit of vinegar. I am already eyeing the next tuber that I will take down and I have big plans for each and every one. In fact, I just ordered five more pounds of potatoes to plant for a fall harvest which arrived today.


Garden Salad with (very) New Potatoes

(serves 4)

1 lb (approximately) of small new potatoes

Mixed lettuces (about 7 large leaves or 14 small per person)

Freshly shelled peas


Garden flowers such as nasturtium and borage

2-3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1-2 tablespoons Sherry or Champagne vinegar or a fruity vinegar like this one

Sea Salt



Boil very salted water and add the potatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes or until a fork just slides into one of the potatoes. Let cool or rinse with cool water if you are in a hurry. Place into your salad bowl and cover with the olive oil and some sea salt. Toss and then add the lettuces and chives and toss to coat. Add the vinegar, gently tossing once again and then taste for balance of flavors. Add the flowers and peas and serve.

Posted in Salad, Uncategorized, Vegan | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Apricot-Dried Cherry Scones with Stoneground Cornmeal

Apricots for scones

“I looooove stonefruit!” my four and a half-year old son exclaimed in his emphatic and low, but very loud exuberant voice. My mother-in-law took my kids grocery shopping and he chose some apricots. I could not actually believe it when I saw that they were from California (maybe some part that is actually Mexico, and in a greenhouse?). Are we really at cherries and apricots season? Apparently, the answer is yes. On my way to sister #4’s graduation last weekend I simply had to stock up on a bar or two of amazing chocolate from Bi-Rite Grocery and in the process came across a basket of shiny, plump, bright red cherries. We ate them in the car ride to the San Joaquin valley and my son graciously saved about four of them to save with six other people.

Mixed dough, ready to fold in the apricots

I should probably warn those of you who have been reading regularly that the next few months will include preserves madness (I made eleven different types of preserves last summer and I have already prepared for this summer with new Weck jars) and lots and lots of fruit desserts and baked goods.

In a short few weeks we will be in full swing for cherries and apricots and by full swing I mean my small family putting down a flat of cherries or apricots in three or four days…this equals about 15 pounds of stone fruit. My kids have no plumbing issues over here.

Log of scone dough with cut-out triangles, ready for transferring

We are away on a trip for a little while  and so I was trying to make meals using what I had on hand. These scones are the happy marriage of my favorite stone-ground multi-colored cornmeal, fresh apricots, and dried cherries. As with my cornmeal-pinenut cookie, you want to let the scone dough rest for a couple of minutes before forming and cutting the scones so that the cornmeal can absorb a little bit of the moisture.

Flecks of cornmeal color from the scone dough on the mixing spoon

And since we are on the heels of a white chocolate recipe, if you wanted to make this a little more afternoon-tea worthy and less of a breakfast item, you could add chunks of real white chocolate so that they caramelize as they cook. I’ll be back soon and will report on the food I eat on my trip and then to tantalize you with more stone fruit recipes. And to finish, my son’s full quote was, “I loooooove stone fruit! Peaches, plums, Blenheim apricots, pluots, cherries, Rainier cherries, those dark red ones Mommy, ‘Bingos?’ ”

Bings. Ah, I cannot wait either.

A basket full of apricot-dried cherry cornmeal scones

Apricot-Dried Cherry Scones with Stoneground Cornmeal

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

2/3 cup + 1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups stoneground cornmeal like Full Belly Farm’s

1 cup cold butter, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cup dried sweet cherries

5 or 6 small apricots cut into sixths

1 1/4 cups milk with 2 tablespoons vinegar (what I used this time) OR buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Line 1 or 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a baking mat.

Sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder into a large bowl. Add salt, 2/3 cup sugar, and the cornmeal. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Add butter and cut in with a pastry cutter until it is the size of small peas. Using the spoon, mix in cherries. Add the soured milk or buttermilk. Mix briefly, until ingredients just come together and lightly fold in the sliced apricots; some loose flour should remain at bottom of bowl. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes.

Gently pat the dough into a long log. Cut small triangles out of the log. You should have about 12-15. Or make a large circle and cut triangles as a wheel. Or make small rounds for each scone.

Sprinkle the 1/4 cup sugar on top of the scones. Place the scones on the middle rack of the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 375°. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until the scones are golden. Do not underbake because the crunchy, cookie-like edges are heavenly. Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Wedding Biscotti: Chai Spiced Biscotti with Oats, Toasted Nuts, Raisins, and White Chocolate

Wedding Biscotti: Chai spiced biscotti with raisins, nuts, and oats

In under two months, my sister will be getting married to a wonderful man. While I am not sure that either of them would agree to being called foodies (simply because the title is so cloying), they both relish exceptionally well-prepared food. For their wedding, my Ace-of-Cakes aunt who has a mini-cupcake operation will be making their “cake” in the form of several amazing cupcakes. The job of constructing the “cookie cake” tower has been passed down to me.

“Huh?” you mutter. “A cookie cake? What is that?” When I tied the knot almost six years ago, I wanted to have something special, familial, and revolving around food, some sort of choose-your-own-tradition that I could incorporate into my wedding. I could not have run across a more perfect embodiment of those things than the Italian Wedding Cookie Cake.

Wedding Biscotti before their white-chocolate dip

The cookie cake has evolved over several weddings (mine, sister #2, and some cousins) and it goes something like this. Each friend or family member wishing to contribute to the cookie cake prepares a favorite batch of cookies the day before the wedding. For whatever reason, this has tended to be the women in my family–aunts, cousins, sisters, mothers, best friends, and grandmothers. (Men! I’m calling you out!)

They are then carefully mingled and stacked together–tiny thumbprint jam filled trios, chocolate espresso chip cookies, buckwheat-chocolate nib shortbreads, powdered sugar dressed Mexican wedding cookies, mini Snickerdoodles, my Nana’s mistletoe kisses, my recently passed grandmother’s date nut coconut cookies, and tons more. The love and passion that goes into each person’s home-baked cookies makes the tower of sugar, eggs, and butter even more delicious. The guests are invited to gorge themselves and then take a little bag home when they can eat no more.

Well, given that this is my first time as the engineer of the cookie cake, I want to include a few new cookies for my soon-to-be married sister #3. Her fiancée said he loved a vanilla bean macaron I made a few months back so I will definitely make several dozen of those. As for my sister, her perfect cookie has “oatmeal and raisins/currants.” Instead of making a classic, butter-based oatmeal cookie, I decided that I would try to make crunchy, airy classic “cantucci” (what we A-meh-ree-cans call “biscotti,” which just means ‘cookie’ in Italian), but with raisins, oats, and a few other scrumptious, sacrilegious additions.

One wedding biscotto

I have had one or two decent butter-based biscotti, but I have to admit I am generally not a fan of adding any at all. Do not get me wrong, I buy about two pounds of butter each week for baking, homemade bread, or to spread directly onto my thighs. With a butter biscotti, however, you lose the inimitable crunch of a true cantuccio cookie the very next day, no matter how twice or thrice baked you cook them.

While I had my reservations about adding raisins to these cookies–specifically that they would dry out too much–I was delighted to discover that they end up caramelizing and tasting like a surprise ingredient. I am glad I risked it. As for the spicing mix, one could just as easily call these and Indian biscotti since I reached for exclusively my Indian market spices to go with the toasted nuts, oats, and raisins. And I could not resist adding just a bit of whole wheat pastry flour to the dough.

Finally, these are wonderful (and actually healthy), but they taste incredible dipped into not-so-wholesome white chocolate. I would not dip them into milk or dark chocolate simply because it would obscure the warm spice kit and subtle oat flavors of the cookie itself.

As the countdown continues, I will hopefully post more pictures of the new cookie inventions and minimally share pictures of my adventures constructing and transporting the cookie cake in the middle of July. Congratulations you two! You know who you are….

White-chocolate tips of Wedding Biscotti

Wedding Biscotti

1 cup regular unbleached flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

½ cup oatmeal

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon sea salt or ¼ teaspoon kosher

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼-1/2 teaspoon cardamom

½ teaspoon powdered ginger

¼ teaspoon crushed star anise (or regular, if that is all you have)

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon anise extract

1 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (or walnuts, which my sister would probably prefer)

½ cup raisins


1 beaten egg

2-3 tablespoons Demerara sugar (or whatever you have on hand)

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and line two baking trays with parchment. Whisk together the dry ingredients (regular flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, salt, and all the dry spices in a small bowl.

In a larger bowl whisk together the 3 eggs and sugar, add the vanilla and anise extracts. With a rubber or wooden spoon stir in the dry ingredients and then the raisins and toasted nuts.

On a lightly floured surface pat half of the dough into a long log, about as long as your baking sheet. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Place the logs on the baking sheets. Whisk the egg for the glaze and then brush liberally over each log. Sprinkle the Demerara sugar on each egg-glazed log and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or so, until it feels firm.

Take out and let cool for 15 minutes. Place each log on a cutting board and slice on the diagonal with a serrated knife, no more than 1/2 inch thick, and place each cookie, cut side down on the parchment. Whereas you might have gotten away with cooking both logs on one cookie sheet, you will need both cookie sheets for this. Cook for 20-30 minutes, turning the sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through cooking.

Let cool, store in an airtight container, and if you like white chocolate, dip the cookies lengthwise in melted white chocolate. Note that, when melting white chocolate, you want a slightly lower temperature than dark chocolate so you do not lose that lovely sheen (tempering). Stir it at about 87F degrees.

Posted in Almonds, Cookies, Whole Grains | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chipotle Egg Tacos with Israeli Feta and Sautéed Greens

Chipotle egg taco with Israeli feta and greens

I love breakfast. If you haven’t been able to tell from my site, we have such a large repertoire of breakfasts over here that my kids think Cheerios are just snack food and Rice Krispies are for putting in cookies. Oatmeal? Usually Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats, with dried blueberries, cherries, or fruit compote and a healthy teaspoon of delicious organic cream on top. Waffles? Multigrain or Belgian (yeasted), and always homemade. Crumpets, pancakes, oatmeal popovers, crepes, muffins, oh my! The obsession is shared by my kids and (happily) tolerated by my husband, but sometimes teeters on the dangerous side for its sheer amount of dishes for weekday mornings.

That said, breakfast for dinner almost never appeals for me. Having done the sweet thing most mornings, and eaten my half bar of post-prandial chocolate, I want something savory and balanced. This dish, however, may break my rules because I have made it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A recipe almost does it too much justice for how simple it is. In fact, I post it at the behest of my good friend for whom I have made it at least twice.

You need…

Eggs, chipotle peppers, Israeli feta, and greens (this time from kohlrabi)

If you are like me and think that most things taste better nestled inside a tortilla or piled atop a piece of bread, you will love this.

Just scramble together some eggs (I do 1 1/2 per person or 1 jumbo egg if I am alone), some Israeli feta and some roughly chopped/snipped chipotle peppers from a can. Take some cleaned greens (spinach, chard, beet greens, and kale are my regulars) and quickly fry them up with a tiny bit of olive oil. You want them to keep their pretty bright color.

Sauteed kohlrabi greens

Remove the greens and cook your tasty scramble in the same pan. Serve on top of a warm tortilla or toasted bread. These savory and definitively not-breakfast egg tacos taste like so much more than the sum of their parts, largely thanks to the tangy and briny Israeli feta and the smoky chipotle chilis. And, yes, despite the tidal wave of food writers clamoring against recipes touting quick dinners, these take only a couple of minutes to pull together.

I warn you, scrambled eggs with red chillies and greens will not garner any beauty prizes (see below), but they always have me wishing I had been more pigish and made just one more egg’s worth as I dip my tortilla in the remaining juices.

Chipotle egg tacos with greens and Israeli feta.

Chipotle Egg Tacos with Israeli Feta and Sautéed Greens

(Serves 2)

1 bunch washed and roughly chopped greens such as spinach, chard, beet greens, kale, kohlrabi greens, etc.)

3-4 chipotle peppers from a can, roughly chopped

3 eggs

3-4 tablespoons of crumbled Israeli Feta (or another tangy, briny, wet cheese)

4-5 small flour or corn tortillas

1-2 tablespoons olive oil.

Heat the olive oil on medium in a frying pan and cook the chopped greens, covered for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, chopped chipotle peppers, and Israeli feta in a medium bowl. When the greens have just barely cooked and remain a vibrant green, remove them from the pan and set aside.

Cook the scrambled egg mixture in the same pan (you are welcome to add another teaspoon of olive oil if necessary before adding the eggs), stirring with a heat proof spoon or spatula for the first minute and then flipping the mass mixture for the final cooking time. When the eggs are just cooked and the feta is still slightly wet and melted you are done. Serve on warm tortillas with the greens.

Posted in Breakfast, Dinner | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Stone-ground Cornmeal Cookies with Pine nuts

Cornmeal Pine-nut Cookies in a row

Imagine a shortbread-like cookie, enriched with egg yolks and the popcorn-like flavor and odor of toasted pine nuts, except instead of using all wheat flour, it features a mixed-corn, stone-ground cornmeal. This cookie knocks your socks off with its playful, earthy, not-too-sweet flavors. If you like the sweet and homey flavor of corn and you love pine nuts, this is your cookie my friend.

Cornmeal Pine-nut cookies ready to bake

My epicurean uncle’s equally talented partner hosts a cookie party each year where she makes at least a dozen types of superlative little cookies. I loved her little yellow cornmeal cookies so much that she gave me the recipe that inspired her creations. In turn, I have morphed it into a cookie that suits my tastes and fanaticisms. And now I share it with you too.

Cornmeal comparison--look at the yellow, white, red, and purple in Full Belly Farm's!

As with most of the recipes I have posted on this site, this cookie is all about quality ingredients and treating them nicely. Use the best butter you can find. Toast and cool the pine nuts in advance. Most importantly, please find a phenomenal, stone-ground cornmeal, if not the Full Belly Farm cornmeal that I recommend here. It takes the cookie from “tasty” to mind-blowing….as in, “Will someone please pry these cookies from my death-grip right now so I do not make myself ill!!”

More cornmeal pine-nut cookies in a row.

And did I mention that, if you are the type of person who eats cookie dough (like myself who keeps several containers of chocolate chip cookie dough in the fridge and freezer at all times), that the dough is equally addictive? It is. I usually cook just half of the dough and save the rest. Finally, if you have made any of the meringues or macarons I posted in the last week or so, this is a terrific way to use up your egg yolks.

If you wish to experiment with the flavors of the cookie, and you like a busier flavor palette, I have a few suggestions. First, if you want to go a bit Mexican with the cookie, much like Chocolate with Chilies or Jalapeño Cornbread, these cookies would taste really neat with a crack of fresh pepper or a dash of spicy dried chili powder—just a mysterious dash. Another seemingly strange, but tasty combination is a tiny dash of cumin powder, which also causes the cookie to teeter between a savory and sweet biscuit. Finally, I love sweet corn desserts with a little orange zest incorporated in or a little bit of coconut. As for the sugar recommendations, this is up to you. If you like the molasses-like flavor of raw sugar and, again, want to be Mexican in your flavors, go for either the demerara sugar or the pilocillo.

Trio of cookies

Stone-ground Cornmeal Cookies with Pine nuts

¾ cup butter, room temperature

2/3 cup sugar, demerara sugar, or finely grated pilocillo (grate 2/3 of one of the 8 oz long cylinders)

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon very good sea salt, Maldon or fleur de sel

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

½ stone ground cornmeal like Full Belly Farm’s

1 ¾-2 cups all purpose unbleached flour

4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted and cooled

1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. In a mixer beat the butter on medium for one minute and add sugar, beating until it is fluffy. Add egg yolks, salt, and vanilla until just incorporated. Add cornmeal until it is a thick dough and let it rest for 2 minutes.

2. Add 1 ¾ cups of the flour until the mixture is well blended, adding more flour if it seems too soft. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes and then add the pine nuts

3. Roll tiny balls, about ¾-1 inch and press down lightly on the top of each one. They do not expand too much so you can place them pretty close together.

4. Bake for 10-12 minutes (turning the pan front to back halfway through the cooking time) or until the edges just begin to turn golden. Let cool and enjoy.

Posted in Cookies, Whole Grains | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Oatmeal and multigrain flour popover

Oatmeal, multigrain flour popover

My right hand man has been working long days lately, as in days that stretch into the next day. In addition to just missing his company in the evenings, I dread attacking the day’s dishes in our kitchen sink alone. When he is present, he more than pulls his own weight and he does the dishes while I (usually) move on to my next cooking project. I can think of plenty of jobs I hate more than dishes (cutting up raw chicken, for example), but somehow when I am doing them without him, after putting our kids to bed, cleaning up the kitchen is lonely and seemingly interminable. You would think that on these sort of nights the last thing I would do the following morning would be to cook up a “top-tier” breakfast, right?

Oatmeal-multigrain popovers hot out of the oven

Sure. But then in the surprisingly bright early morning I heard a little voice singing in her crib, calling her older brother to wake up. And then I heard his sweet “Good Morning!” response from his top bunk and some sort of fecal joke that the two of them found side-splittingly funny.  Like ninety percent of the food I make, I immediately wanted to make something delicious for them, something that would cook while I cuddled their two warm little bodies in my bed over our morning story. Top tier breakfast day.

I have been niggling over this particular popover recipe for a while now and though it is not perfect (I would love it if they popped up as towering tall as plain unbleached flour based popovers, just for the aesthetics prize), it is pretty darn close. Popovers are an ideal breakfast for their simplicity and because they are the building blocks for an amazing creation. Like a sandwich or a quesadilla, one can dress them up with countless jams, melted butter, cinnamon sugar, whipped cream, cheesy-chive scrambled eggs, etc, or eat them perfectly unadorned.

Best of all, these healthy multigrain popovers are a cinch to make. They take time to cook, but they require only one minute to mix the ingredients and, aside from the mixing bowl and spoon, just the muffin tin to clean up afterwards.

Plate of Oatmeal-multigrain popovers

The only real mistake you can make with these is fiddling with them too much. Do not overfill the muffin cups, nor open the oven while they are cooking. And as with any popover recipe, do not mix the batter too much–just enough to mix in the flour and then stop. In addition, I have both tried letting the batter rest as in Marion Cunningham’s popover recipe, to relax the gluten, and also just mixed the batter and immediately cooked them up and I have found virtually no difference in the height of the popover.

Grapefruit Curd

My favorite way to serve these is sprinkled with powdered sugar and melted butter. If I have a particularly sumptuous jam or curd (grapefruit curd leftover from macaron madness?) I spoon a huge dollop into the middle of the eggy-custardy center of the popover too. And more melted butter. And whipped cream.

Did I say these were healthy?

If you do not load them up like I do, these are wonderfully balanced with calcium, protein, and lots of whole grains from your homemade multigrain flour and the oatmeal. If you do not feel like making the multigrain flour, it is fine to replace it with all-purpose unbleached or a little bit of whole wheat pastry flour.

Finally, contrary to my former opinion that leftover popovers were merely destined for the compost bin, these taste great with a quick toast in the toaster oven. Good enough to save a few for your errant partner in crime if s/he has been working late into the wee hours.

Multi-grain Oatmeal Popover with Grapefruit Curd

Oatmeal Multi-grain Popovers

(makes about 10 popovers)


4-5 teaspoons vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

3/8 cup multigrain flour* or whole wheat pastry flour (or just more unbleached all-purpose)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Pour 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil into each of the muffin cups that you will be using (if you want, space every other cup and use two muffin tins for more even baking). Place into cold oven and let the oiled muffin tin(s) preheat to 450F.

2. If you have a spouted mixing bowl, use it here. Lightly whisk together the milk and eggs and then stir in the melted butter, oats, flour, and salt until just barely incorporated then stop! Do not overmix it. Let the batter sit until your oven and muffin tins have fully preheated (5-10 minutes depending on your oven). Working very quickly, pour the batter into the hot, oiled muffin cups, filling only 2/3-3/4 full and then immediately put back into the oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350F, but DO NOT open the oven for 15  minutes more.

3. Serve immediately with powdered sugar and melted butter and your favorite jam or grapefruit curd and whipped cream.

*Multi-grain Flour

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 cup oat flour

1 cup barley flour

3/4 cup millet flour

1/4-1/2 cup rye flour (this has the strongest flavor and texture so if you like it err on the side of more)

Whisk all the flours together and use whatever portion you need. You can quarter the recipe if you are only using it for these popovers, but I substitute this into all sorts of things from pancakes to waffles, crumpets, banana bread, etc.

Posted in Breakfast, Whole Grains | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Meringues with Chantilly Cream, Toasted Nuts, and Shaved Chocolate

Almond Meringues with Chantilly Cream and Chocolate Shavings

Several years ago my husband (then boyfriend) and I crossed the Italian-French border with my Piemontese relatives for lunch in the town of Menton. We each had an incredible salade composée, but what stood out in relief was the desserts. Each person ordered a dessert of crunchy-marshmallowy meringue bits, whipped cream, freshly churned ice cream and either fresh berries or chocolate and toasted hazelnuts. The combination of the whipped and frozen dairy mingling with the shattered pieces of  meringue just killed me. I adored the dessert with strawberries, but a photo of the meringues from Aux Merveilleux de Fred in Paris reminded me of this amazing dessert and inspired me to recreate a recipe for the chocolate-toasted nut version.

Plate of just-cooked almond meringues

I loved my rosewater-pistachio meringue so much that I elected to use the Ottolenghi hot sugar method instead of the Swiss or Italian meringue method. It also means less dishes since you can bake the sugar on the same parchment lined baking tray as you will eventually use for the meringues. Next, I choose almonds since they were already sliced and therefore would toast perfectly as the meringue cooked. One could omit the nuts completely or simply roll the meringue batter in half, or put the toasted almonds on at the very end with the chocolate shavings. I love the nuts embedded into the meringue like Rocher cookies.

My "Merveilleux de Fred" recipe

Once the meringues have cooled completely, you have many options for how to create your finished dessert. First, if you are going to fill your meringue, you can make a little hole underneath the meringue, or carefully cut it in half and fill the middle with either barely sweetened whipped cream, or ice cream. To do this, you will have to make very large (orange sized) meringues. After this, you take two large spoons or a curved rubber spatula and carefully cover the entire (reassembled) meringue with the whipped cream. Shave on copious amounts of very dark (70-85%) chocolate all around the outside or roll the ball into a plate of shavings and serve. You can do this ahead of time too, if you are not using ice cream, and put the finished product into the refrigerator.

These are so delicious that you may have to sneak a little bit before dinnertime.

Little meringue snatcher

Meringues with Chantilly Cream, Toasted Nuts, and Shaved Chocolate

(makes 7 orange sized meringues)

Meringue Ingredients:

Caster (or regular) sugar 300 grams or about 1 1/3 cups

4 large egg whites or 150 grams

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, I think it would be tasty, but did not use it this time)

pinch salt

Sliced raw almonds (or hazelnuts or walnuts), about 1/2 cup

Filling and Outside of Meringues

1 pint heavy whipping cream

1 pint ice cream (optional, I did not use it this time)

1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Chocolate shavings to taste (do with a potato peeler or a very sharp paring knife), about 3/4 cup

1. Preheat oven to about 400F degrees. Evenly spread the sugar on a parchment-lined baking tray and put in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the edges just begin to dissolve at the edges.

2.While the sugar is in the oven, whisk the egg whites in a standing mixer on high-speed until they begin to froth up add the pinch of salt.

3. With the mixer on medium speed, add the hot sugar carefully and slowly, then the vanilla extract, if using. Turn to high-speed and mix for another 10 minutes or until cool.

4. Lower oven temperature to 225 F degrees and place sliced almonds (or whichever nuts you choose) on a plate.

5. Line a baking sheet (the one you just used for the sugar is fine) with parchment and dab just a tiny bit of the meringue batter under each of the four corners to secure it. With two gargantuan kitchen spoons mold a grapefruit-sized dollop of meringue, roll it onto your plate of almonds, and place on the parchment. Repeat, making room between meringues since they will expand and crack a bit as they cook.

6. Cook in preheated oven (225F) for about 2 hours, turning the front to back every half hour. The outside should be utterly dry, while the inside marshmallow soft. Cool before filling and covering. Cover leftovers in an airtight container or plastic bag.

7. To dress up your meringues, whip the cream in a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, past the point of soft whipped cream, but make sure it doesn’t begin curdling and turning into butter. It should just hold its shape. Whisk in the powdered sugar for 15 seconds. You want the whipped cream barely sweet on account of the sweet meringues.

8. Whilst the cream is whipping, shave your chocolate. I prefer 75-85% cacao solids because, again, the meringues are so sweet that the bitter dark chocolate is a perfect foil.

9. Either cut the meringue in half with a very sharp knife, or cut a hole underneath and fill with ice cream or whipped cream and extra nuts and chocolate. Close the meringue and then cover the entire thing with whipped cream and then sprinkle chocolate shavings (or just roll it onto a plate of chocolate). Voila! Eat immediately or refrigerate before serving.

Posted in Almonds, Chocolate, Cookies, Dessert, Nuts | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Inept-but-Earnest-Cook Night: Seven Vegetable Moroccan Couscous in Fifteen Minutes

Seven vegetable Moroccan couscous

As I mentioned the other day, some variation of this couscous is my go-to dinner when I want to go from no plan to homemade dinner on the table in 15 minutes. This is installation three of “Guy’s Turn” or the less gender dependent title of “Inept-but-Earnest-Cook Night.”

Despite my title, which refers to the traditional Moroccan couscous from Fez, I often do not actually use the lucky seven vegetables and almost never serve this stew with meat. As with some of my salads, I rely on a cheap Kyocera mandoline blade as my workhorse for swift chopping of whatever vegetables I have on hand.

The vegetables for the Fesi couscous

The most bare-bones iteration of this couscous involves the couscous itself and the vegetable stew.  If I am feeling like a fancy girl, I make the couscous with toasted almonds, chives, and currents, sometimes adding some homemade harissa and a pat of cultured butter (to imitate Moroccan “smen,” one of my next culinary projects). Also, if I am feeling fancy (read: not lazy or rushed), I will chop some of the vegetables with an actual knife for textural difference (especially if I am dealing with a Cinderella-size pumpkin).

Simmering vegetables before spices

Let’s start with the couscous. If you are going barebones and vegan, all you need is the couscous (I like whole wheat), olive oil, salt, and water. (If not, you could also use chicken broth and/or cultured butter instead). Measure out equal portions of water and couscous. Boil the water, oil, and salt, add your couscous, turn off the heat, and cover for ten minutes before fluffing with a fork. Feeling big for your britches? Toss a handful of either currants (just small raisins, really) or raisins in with the couscous before letting it sit. Meanwhile, toast some slivered almonds and/or sesame seeds, and snip a few chives to add before serving.

Couscous before ladling on the vegetables

For the stew you need a good base of alliums. I had red onion, spring onions from Mariquita Farm, and garlic so that’s what it was. Of course, shallots, green garlic, or any onion you have is just fine. Grab your mandoline blade and slice them up directly into a large frying pan with several tablespoons of olive oil. Fry on medium until they are translucent (circa 4 minutes since they are so thin) and slice up your other vegetables into the pot.

I used purple and green kohlrabi, carrots, whole snap peas, and three canned Roma tomatoes which I just mashed with the back of a fork. Depending on the season, I may use turnips, pumpkin, parsnips, zucchini, fava beans, cabagge, bell peppers, or potatoes as well. This is mindblowingly flexible. Throw in a can of chickpeas and turn it all down low. If you want to be truly Moroccan about it, sweeten it up with a couple of prunes or dates too. Add a half cup of water and prepare your spices while the whole hot mess simmers for 7 or 8 minutes. You can include: toasted and crushed cumin seed, allspice, cinnamon, turmeric, ground or freshly grated ginger, and cayenne or Aleppo pepper (if you do not use harissa sauce when serving).

A squeeze of lemon in the couscous

I finish with a squeeze of lemon and then taste to see if the flavors are balanced to my liking. I also mentioned harissa. This is a spicy Moroccan paste that can be added in small or large quantities to each person’s dish. There are so many variations of how to make harissa, but at its simplest it includes mortar-and-pestled (or just whizzed in the blender) dried spicy chili peppers, garlic, oil, and salt. I made mine this time with olive oil, chili peppers I dried from last summer’s Mariquita farm padron peppers and ras al-hanout (a crazy mix of spices in itself, including rose petals).

Seven Vegetable Moroccan Couscous

(serves 4-6)


1 ½ cups whole wheat or regular couscous

1 ½ cups water

loving pinch of salt

2-3 tablespoons butter or olive oil

handful of currants or raisins (optional)

toasted almonds and/or sesame seeds (optional)

finely snipped chives (I cut them with scissors) (optional)

extra cultured butter (or butter with a little yogurt), if you like

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup onions or shallots thinly sliced with mandoline blade

4 cloves garlic, minced or also (carefully!) sliced on the mandoline blade

Choose from the following: carrots, peas, sugar snap peas, fava beans, any pumpkin or squash, zucchini, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, kohlrabi, cabbage, etc. Try for at least four, but up to seven, for Fez-style good luck.

2 or 3 Roma tomatoes (fresh or canned) chopped or mashed with a fork

1 can chickpeas

Handful of prunes or dates (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons toasted and ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice (optional)

1 teaspoon turmeric (optional)

1 teaspoon ground or 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (optional)

1 teaspoon cayenne or Aleppo pepper (if not making the harissa sauce)

1/2 lemon for squeezing

Fresh cilantro and parsley (optional)

salt to taste


about 1/8 cup crushed dried spicy chili peppers

1 clove garlic

Ras al-hanout spice mix (optional)

1/8-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt to taste

1.Make the couscous. Boil the 1 1/2 cups water, salt, and butter or olive oil. Take off of the heat, stir in the couscous (and currants, if using), and cover with a lid for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, add a very drops of water, if too dry and cover for another 5 minutes). Add toasted almonds, sesame seeds, and ample snipped chives, if using, right before serving with the vegetables.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan to medium-high and saute the sliced onions (or shallots) and garlic for about 4 minutes until translucent. Stir once or twice.

3. Add your choice of the above vegetables. Slice them with a knife if you care about distinguishing the vegetables. If you are pressed for time, do everything with the mandoline, straight into your frying pan. Add the tomatoes, the chickpeas, the spices, prunes or dates (if using), and 1/2-3/4 cup of water. One everything begins to boil, turn down to medium-low for 5 minutes. (This is where I go fluff the couscous with a fork and cover for its last 5 minutes.)

4. Make your quick harissa, if using. Blend all the harissa ingredients together in either a blender, stick blender, or mortar and pestal.

5. Squeeze the lemon into the vegetables, check the seasoning and adjust the salt.

6. Either serve individual plates with a bed of couscous, the vegetable stew, and some fresh cilantro and harissa on top, or serve Moroccan style in a huge platter. Everyone can choose how much cultured butter, harissa, or cilantro they would like on their couscous and vegetable stew.

Posted in Dinner, Inept-but-Earnest Cook's Night, Vegan, Whole Grains | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Whole Wheat Cardamom-Cinnamon Apple Cake

Whole wheat cardamom-cinnamon apple cake

Last night we had a Moroccan couscous and this apple cake. Both recipes are deceptively easy–ones that I make when it is 6pm and I am still not sure what I will make for dinner. For those of you despairing storage apples at your market and waiting for spring asparagus, rhubarb, shelling peas, strawberries and the like to appear, this cake is for you, since I feel a little bad. I know how good I have it here in California.

That said, this is no second place recipe. This is a heady-fragrant, springy, crunchy, phenomenal cake that you can make for dessert, morph into lazy morning coffee cake, or have it with tea for an afternoon snack.

For those of you familiar with apple cakes, you may balk a bit at the quantity of apples in the cake–four cups. Yes, that is correct. I developed this recipe over the winter holidays when I was asked to make an apple cake with ingredients that I just did not care for. Pretty much the only thing that remained the same was the obscene amount of apples. It transforms the cake into something between a cobbler and a true cake. I could not help myself from sprinkling ample brown sugar over the top for a crackly crunch, but demerara sugar would be fantastic as well.

Cardamom-Cinnamon Apple Cake Batter

The batter is simple, but relies on quality ingredients. I use half all-purpose unbleached flour and half whole wheat flour. The slightly bitter flavor and coarser texture of plain whole wheat sublimates the humble storage apple into an insanely delicious cake. A nice sea salt like Maldon or a fleur de sel is important too because instead of a homogenous salinity throughout the cake, you have a surprise burst of flavor that heightens the sweet apples and spicy, buttery cake.

If you desire, you may peel the apples, but it is not necessary. The skin cooks down nicely and provides textural balance (plus it takes one more step out of the preparation). As for the spices, do not be afraid to bump up the cardamom a little bit. Cinnamon is classic with apples (for a good reason), but it is a really powerful spice. I cut back the amount of cinnamon used in most apple cakes so that both spices have a chance to sing without one overtaking the other. Finally, as always, the nuts are totally optional. I love toasted walnuts with apples so I sprinkle them on half the cake (and no need to toast them ahead of time since the cake cooks for a while).

OK, I just had breakfast an hour ago and now I have worked myself into a hunger for another slice of cake. Enjoy!

Just one more slice of apple cake with brown sugar crust

Whole Wheat Cardamom-Cinnamon Apple Cake

350 degrees for 45-55 minutes

4 cups chopped organic apples, skins on if you like
1/2 cup butter, cool room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (plus 1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar for the topping at the end)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
3/4-1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground or mortar and pestled
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup walnuts (chopped or halves), optional

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.

2. In a standing mixer or by hand, cream the butter with all of the white sugar and only the 3/4 cup of brown sugar.

3. Add the eggs one at a time scrapping down the sides of the bowl between additions.

4. Add the vanilla extract.

5. Sift together all the dry ingredients and add until just barely mixed and then fold apples in gently.

6. Sprinkle walnuts over the top if using (no need to toast ahead of time since they will bake a long time)

7. Sprinkle remaining 1/4-1/2 brown sugar over the top for a crunchy crust and bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. The top will be a nice brown.

Posted in Cakes, Nuts, Whole Grains | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Radish Cilantro Salad with Toasted Pepitas, Feta, and Meyer Cream

Radish Cilantro Salad with Toasted Pepitas, Feta, and Meyer Lemon Cream

I love spring vegetables. When we got this last week’s Mystery Box from Mariquita Farm, my kids and I were chomping on the baby carrots on the way home like they were candy. I always peek into the bountiful bag of treats before I drive away so I can scheme about what I will use for dinner an hour later. The agretti? The rapini? The spigariello?

No doubt. It had to be the spring radishes and the soft-leaved cilantro. The night before, feeling too worn out to make dinner, I had caved and purchased some tortas con chorizo y carnitas at Tortas los Picudos. I love all the garnishes they add to their sandwiches, but I am a sucker for the sweetened raw red onion, pickled vegetables, and extra cilantro.

I had my inspiration. I have written of my salad obsession before. Our house happily consumes salad about five times a week. (And may I please mention one of my proudest parenting moments ever? My one- and four-year old actually fought over a radish that one of them had picked in our garden a couple of weeks ago. Fought! Over a radish!)

I wanted paper-thin radishes and red onion, a tangy cheese, the cilantro leaves, something crunchy, and a lime dressing. Unfortunately, I was all out of limes, but I did have my favorite Meyer lemons so I made a slightly creamy shallot-Meyer lemon vinaigrette.

Meyer lemon and radish

While Cotija cheese would also be fantastic in this salad, I happened to have Israeli feta on hand, which is just pungent enough to be stronger than a queso fresco, but soft enough for the texture I was craving. For the crunch, I decide to toast some pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Just like popcorn, if they get hot enough, they actually start popping because of the moisture inside and provide a really healthful and phenomenal crunch to the salad.

Thinly sliced red onions in cold water

Finally, in order that the red onions would not overpower the almost-sweet spring radishes, I sliced them paper-thin as well, letting them soak in cold water for ten minutes. This takes the bite out of them.

Other hints I have are to layer the salad as you make it. Slice all of your radishes, have your cleaned cilantro leaves ready to go, and your crumbled feta. I make a bed of the sliced radishes, maybe 7 or 8, and then I lay down a couple of leaves of cilantro, a bit of crumbled feta, and some of the toasted pepitas, then I repeat the process with a little bit less of everything. At the end, just to make it pretty, I drizzle the dressing over the top and then add a couple more pepitas and a few more crumbles of cheese. And it tastes even better than it looks.

The only other thing I might change next time I make this is to zest a bit of the lemon (or lime, if you go that way) into the dressing to heighten the sour tang. I chose not to this time because my radishes were not that spicy and I thought a really strong dressing would diminish the flavor of the radishes. If anyone makes this with the lime, let me know how it turns out. I also can imagine a variation that includes a couple of teeny tiny breakfast radishes (uncut) mixed in with the sliced radishes. Or even a little bit of minced preserved Moroccan lemon. I have a few jars preserving right now so I will report back on how that tastes.

Radish salad

Radish Cilantro Salad with Toasted Pepitas, Feta, and Meyer Cream

(serves 4 small)

Radishes (8-10 small)

Cilantro (no tough stems), about 40 washed and dried leaves

Israeli feta, crumbled (or another tangy cheese like Cotija)

1/3 cup pepitas, toasted until they pop, and cooled

Red onion, thinly sliced

Meyer Lemon Cream Vinaigrette

1 1/2-2 tablespoons minced shallot

1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (you can zest one lemon too, if you choose, see note)

very generous 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Thinly slice the red onion and add to a bowl of cold water for 10-15 minutes.

2.Toast your pepitas in a toaster oven or in a dry pan on the stove. Remove from heat and let cool.

3. With a sharp knife or a mandoline blade, slice all of your radishes.

4. Make the dressing by letting the minced shallots macerate in the lemon juice and salt for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the olive oil, carefully stir in the cream, and add a bit of freshly ground pepper. Taste it to see if you need more pepper or salt.

5. Arrange the radishes, cilantro, pepitas, and red onion on a plate, building each part up and then layer more on top, without overcrowding. Drizzle the dressing over everything and then sprinkle more cheese and pepitas over everything.

Posted in Radishes, Salad | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments