Beg, borrow and steal.

A good friend of mine once said to me ‘There are no new ideas; just reinventions of old ones’. While I’m not entirely certain he’s correct, it’s provided comfort on days when I’m feeling unimaginative or uninspired. This year, as I struggled against the current of Time, I didn’t know if I’d be able to show up with the same creativity and personal touch that has become not only a source of joy, but a signature. 

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And so in the midst of an extremely full calendar, I’ve found myself turning toward the talented women in my life…and perhaps the internet. This post is rife with ideas borrowed, heavy with perspiration, and bountiful with Love.
Candied Orange Peel

Candied Orange Peel

My dear friend Lisa, is truly inspiring. She manages the kitchen with deft and ease. To spend an afternoon in her home, watch her dance about the kitchen, confidently balancing multiple dishes with grace ands ease (along with the occasional errant curl whipping about her forehead) is just dreamy. This week, she gifted me with a wedge of panforte, personally-crafted with home-made candied citron. I fell in love with panforte several years ago, while I was traveling in Italy. More confection than cake, rich with nuts, dried fruits and spices, lending bitter and sweet elements; it beats fruitcake, hands-down. Lisa knows that every year, I make a visit to PFI to purchase panforte for my father, secretly hoping he’ll share a wedge with me. Without fail, as soon as it’s out of my hands, he tucks it safely away so he won’t have to share his precious dessert.
I’ve never considered making it at home; I imagined it would be way too labor intensive. Of course, when I asked Lisa to give me the verbal how-to, she said with a tone of both assurance and challenge that I could, indeed, make it myself. She shared a link to this incredible blog, visually appealing and rich with recipes and text; http://www.remedialeating.com.
The list of ingredients was daunting, however the method merely involved tossing it all into a bowl, combining with honeyed syrup heated on the stove, and a stint in the oven for about an hour. Simple. 
 
mise en place: panforte nero

mise en place: panforte nero

And so, over the next two days I went about, crafting home-made citrus zest and panforte nero. I won’t bother lending the recipe; you can find it here.
What I will share is my experience. As the hours passed, labor lent way to meditative practice. I found that there was nothing to do but just…be…and wait. I found the steps startlingly simple, and yet requiring a commitment. On more than one occasion, I felt myself smiling, full, expressive and joyful. And the aroma! That citrus scent filling the air as oranges bubbled away in simple syrup; the warmth and complexity wafting from the oven as the panforte baked. Being greeted by sweetness every time I went out and returned home. This is what I love. This is what I crave. And I will keep baking and borrowing as long as I need to get through this holiday madness.
Citrus Swizzles, inspired by my lovely friend, Paige

Citrus Swizzles, inspired by my lovely friend, Paige

Heaps of Love,
J

Filler.

Funny how a well-planned trip to the store can lead to something different entirely. Just prior, I had been glossing over recipes in my latest aquisirion, ‘Around My French Table’, by Dorie Greenspan. I was inspired by a lentil salad with preserved lemon and thought that adding a little bit of bacon to the mix might be nice.
I also wanted to make a salad with sweet potato and zucchini salad I’d found on one of my favorite website recipe culling sites food 52.com. Alas, the store was out of one thing or another and I had to make a decision. As I was coming home to chill in the air, I thought ‘Soup’! What could be more perfect than a lentil sweet potato stew with smoky bacon on a cold Fall evening?

I have a preference for French lentils however when I was out these tiny little beluga lentils caught my eye. Slightly smaller than the French lentil, the beluga lentils hold their shape well and are great and soups or salads. I like to par-cook my lentils a bit, giving them a rinse before adding to the soup, so as to not muddy the broth. The bacon I sauté separately and then add the bacon fat to the pan in which I sauté the aromatics. The addition of preserved lemons contribute a bit of brightness to complement the more earthly flavors.
Finish it off with a bit of chopped parsley, creme fraiche or yogurt and a slice or two of a good rustic, yeasty loaf of bread.
Lentil Soup with Preserved Lemon

Lentil Soup with Yam and Preserved Lemon

Lentil Soup with Yams and Preserved Lemon
For the soup:
1 c tiny lentils, French, or beluga
4 pieces good peppered bacon (~1/4 lb), diced
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
5 c vegetable or chicken stock
2 medium sweet potatoes or yams, rinsed and cut into 1/2-1 inch dice
1 small handful fresh, or 1 tsp dried thyme
I stem rosemary (about a tsp)
2 bay leaves
1/2 bunch kale, ribs removed, chopped
I/2-1 preserved lemon, peel only, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish:
Small handful parsley, chopped
Creme fraiche or yogurt
Method:
In a small sauce pan boil about 3 cups of water with one cup lentils for ~15 minutes; drain and rinse. Set aside.
While lentils are cooking, sauté bacon over medium heat in a large stockpot until fully cooked. Remove from pan and drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.
Add the chopped onion and sauté for about three minutes until soft, then add in garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add lentils and remaining ingredients, with the exception of kale and lemon. Bring to boil and then lower to simmer for about 20 minutes.
Toss in kale and lemon; give it a stir. Pepper generously. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Garnish and serve.
Oh! There was a bevy of food production last week with Thanksgiving and all. Here’s a teaser of my fabulous pumpkin pie. I hope to post the recipe at some point, however I used a pate sablee for the crust and filled it with (canned) pumpkin in a pinch. Don’t judge.
Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Much Love,
J

It started with a cup of beans.

There are times when I’m completely uninspired, when trying to figure out what to do for dinner just leaves me panic stricken, stoned, mute. A bit dramatic, admittedly, however I flutter at hummingbird speed until I hit the wall. And there it was, my wall. It’s times like those where I have to just sit down and not ascribe too much energy to the moment, and simply wait for the inspiration to come. This weekend’s inspiration came in the form of beans. I think it came about after I was musing on the previous weekend’s feast at my friend Dulce’s. She’s always whipping up these fantastic dishes, familial cuisine, that I find so beautiful and delicious. Whether it be tacos with meat, or eggs with salsa burritos, accompanied by a bevvy of condiments that round out and balance the tastes with sweet, sour, salty, astringent, umami; tempered with a bit of heat and cooling energies. I wanted to invite that into my cooking this weekend, and so evolved a humble meal, embellished with flavors that complement the beans; rich with spices and an array of flavors to satisfy the palate.

Fragrant Black Bean Tacos

Fragrant Black Bean Tacos

I made this dish over the course of two days, not because of the time involved, though cooking dried beans does involve a bit of extra attention. However, as I sat with the aroma from the pot as the beans bubbled along with bay, allspice and cinnamon, I wondered, why ever bother with canned beans? (On a practical note, I am unafraid of busting out a can of beans, when I need a quick meal on the fly.)

The pickled carrot and radish also take time to cure, however I found it quite easy to tuck the more laborious tasks into an already full weekend.

It looked a bit like this:

Wake up; soak beans and marinate veggies. Go for a run.

Come home; check on veggies. Head out for a pedicure.

Nap.

Get a haircut; grab remaining ingredients for dinner.

Cook beans; prep remaining ingredients.

See? It’s totally doable.

Black Bean Tacos

Ingredients

1 cup black beans

1 stick cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp chili flakes

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Sautéed vegetables (recipe follows)

Picked radishes, carrots and scallions (recipe follows)

chopped cilantro

diced avocado

chipotle sauce, or other hot sauce, if desired

fresh, mild cheese (optional)

Soak beans in water for several hours; drain and rinse. Place allspice in a tea strainer or a piece of cheesecloth; combine remaining ingredients, including beans in a 4-quart stockpot; cover beans by at least an inch of water or stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer; cover. Cook until beans are tender, about 40 minutes, checking for doneness periodically. The beans should be slightly firm, skin partially intact, with a creamy center. If not planning to serve the beans immediately, allow to cool in their own cooking liquid and store for later use.

Sautéed vegetables

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, sliced

1 red pepper, sliced

1-2 pasilla peppers, or red peppers, if preferred

4 oz chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

zest and juice of 1/2 orange

Place a large sauté pan over moderate heat. Add onion; cook ~2-3 minutes, until slightly transparent and soft. Add garlic and remaining vegetables; turn up heat to medium-high and give a toss. Allow veggies to sit for a few minutes to develop a bit of char. When nice and soft, add chopped chiles, a pinch of salt, orange juice and zest. Cook for another minute; remove from heat.

saute

Quick Pickles

4-6 radishes, thinly sliced

1 carrot, peeled, cut lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

2 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 cup apple cider vinegar

2-3 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chile flakes

Combine sugar, salt, chile and vinegar in a small pot over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.

Add sliced vegetables, cover and set aside for several hours. Place in a glass jar in refrigerator. This will keep for ~1-2 weeks.

Pickled radish, carrot and shallot.

Pickled radish, carrot and shallot.

Enjoy, and much love,

J

Roasted.

What one can do with a tray of roast vegetables? I recall an article in the NYT reviewing this book titled An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler. It seduced me with its practicality and how a bit of advance prep and cooking in the kitchie yield several days’ worth of meals. I don’t know about you, but my tastes can change quite dramatically within the course of a day or so. Exactly how many things can one do with roasted squash and cauliflower? In actuality, quite a bit! I was pouring though my food photos and discovered a bevy of dishes I’d created doing just that.

Roasted veggies, greens, egg and sriracha sammie

Roasted veggies, greens, egg and sriracha sammie

salmon:delicata

Salmon with delicata squash and greens

Egg and delicata squash on arugula

Egg and delicata squash on arugula

I’ll never cook a week at a time; I’m too compulsive. I feel the need to eat it all at once and will perseverate over what to eat first. I found myself doing just that thing last week, with a tray of roasted vegetables, a vat of soup, cooked quinoa and the like.

Melissa Clark’s NYT article on creamy carrot and cauliflower soup was the seedling that tied it all together. I made a simple soup of pureed roast vegetables and coconut milk. Adding curried spices seemed appropriate, as they marry well with the delicate sweetness of squash and cauliflower. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of chili flakes and top with a dollop of creme fraiche or…Greek yogurt – I won’t judge.

Having the veggies already roasted on hand makes for a quick meal, however I’ve included roasting instructions, if you’re so inspired. This soup would also work well with fresh vegetables, however they won’t have the caramelized flavor and complexity that roasted vegetables provide.

Roasted cauliflower and delicata squash soup

Roasted cauliflower and delicata squash soup

Curried Delicata Squash and Cauliflower Soup

For the vegetables:
1 medium-sized delicate squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch crescents
1/2 large head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces
olive oil; about 2 tablespoons
a generous teaspoon of sea salt
freshly grated pepper nutmeg

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Toss all of the ingredients together; the vegetables should have a light coat of olive oil so that the spices can adhere.
Roast for ~40-50 minutes, giving a toss about half-way through to ensure even caramelization.

For the soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced
2 tsp Madras curry powder
3-4 cups of roasted cauliflower and squash
2 1/2 cups broth (vegetable, or chicken)
1 cup coconut milk
salt, to taste
chili flakes, for garnish
creme fraiche, or Greek yogurt, for garnish

In a large pot, sauté onion in olive oil for ~5 minutes until soft and starting to brown. Add curry powder and sauté for about 30 seconds, then add vegetables, 2 cups of the broth, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower to a simmer for ~15 minutes. Remove from heat and puree, adding additional water or broth as needed to bring to desired consistency.

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Love in the Time of Pastry.

Often, I feel a natural pull toward the kitchen to get creative and make something sweet. I have an insatiable sweet tooth, admittedly. This desire generally peaks after I’ve gotten home from a full day of activities, donned my sweats and T-shirt, and simply cannot bear the thought of leaving my cozy apartment to be assaulted by the bright lights of a grocery. Oh, and people. Not that I am an unsociable person, quite the opposite. It’s just that once I’ve expended my mental and emotional energy of the day, I need a respite. That’s when having a somewhat decently-stocked pantry comes in handy.

Given that it’s Fall, I naturally turn to more things like pastries and pies and cakes; something fruity and not too sweet. I surveyed my cupboard and had odds and bits of different types of flours, a few apples in the refrigerator and a stick of butter. What emerged is destined to repeat, for sure.

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These apple galettes are quite possibly one some of best mini pastries I’ve made; perfect for breakfast, after dinner, or pretty much any time of day, really.

Feel free to substitute a combination of flours with this one; I’m thinking rye flour might be a nice addition.  However, if using a dense whole-grain flour, don’t add more than ~1/3 cup, or you’ll need to play with the fat and liquid components of the pastry dough.

Ooh! And adding some candied ginger to the filling might be nice as well. I would go for about two tablespoons, and cut back on the sugar by equivalent volume. And I would hold off on adding the grated ginger, as is it might be a bit overpowering.

~Mise en Place

~Mise en Place

Apple Ginger Galettes

For the pastry:
2/3 c unbleached pastry flour
1/3 c whole wheat, rye, or Emmer flour
1 tbsp unbleached sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
8 oz (1 stick) butter
For the filling:
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced about 1/4 inch wide
1/4 c unbleached sugar
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tap cinnamon
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
Additional ingredients
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
2 tsp coarse sugar, such as demerera
Method:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
1. Combine all of the filling ingredients; set aside.
2. Prepare the pastry; refer to this link for basic dough prep http://redflowerjlhcooks.com/2013/07/25/or-how-to-make-a-pie/
  1. Cut chilled dough into four equal pieces.
  2. Roll into ~1/8-in thin circles, You’ll want them to be about 8 inches in diameter.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment for the pastry, or put each circle onto individual parchment squares.
  4. Give the filling a quick stir to redistribute the juices, then scoop into the center of each pastry.
  5. Gently fold up about 1-2 inches, pinching each fold together to ensure a decent seal.
  6. Brush the edges of crust with egg, then sprinkle galettes with demerera (or other sugar on hand)
  7. Bake 15 minutes, then turn heat down to 350 degrees F.
  8. Check the pastry in about 20 minutes; if the crust is browning excessively, cover with foil.
  9. Cook another 15-20 minutes; apples should be juice and bubbly at this point.
  10. Remove from oven, cool slightly and serve.
Bon Apetit, and much love,
J

Feed your soul…

It’s good to get a girl out of the city. Just a couple of days, immersed in the awesome wonder and beauty of nature.

Necessary rejuvenation.
White Horse Mountain

White Horse Mountain

White Horse Mountain

Stillaguamish River

And so we drove to Darrington to spend the weekend at the family farm. Nestled on a hill overlooking a small pond, far away from city lights, acres of lush land, trees, nothing to hear but the sound of dragonflies snapping themselves against the glass-paneled walls, denied access to the indoors. Being greeted by the sweet smell of cedar as I enter the cabin. It’s enough to just take a deep breath and…exhale gratitude. It was exactly what I needed; a place of respite, a place to disconnect, to ground, and to eat!
Ooh! and kiss the goats.
Kissing the babies

Kissing the babies

 

Africa
I had a few ideas of what I wanted to make prior to our departure. First, I am obsessed with the new collaboration by Yotam Ottalenghi and Sami Tamimi; Jerusalem. I was gifted this cookbook, full of gorgeous color photos and mouth-watering delights. I aspire to cook every recipe in this book. This weekend I elected to make the Lamb Stew with Cannellini Beans. The broth had an unctuous, mildly sweet profile, and with 20 cloves of garlic (twenty!), surprisingly didn’t leave us smelling like stinking roses for the remainder of our stay. I accented the stew with some crushed cilantro, mixed with lemon, sugar, salt, chile, ground coriander and olive oil. It’s kind of like loose adaptation of Zhoug, a gremolata-style condiment. I must say it was perfect; it brought a citrusy brightness complementing the heft of the soup perfectly.
Lamb stew with cannellini beans

Lamb stew with cannellini beans

I’d been dying to make something sweet and cakey ever since last week’s incredible uber-blueberry cornmeal muffins (of which I’ll try to write a recipe as soon as I recall my method!). David’s mother sent me a clipping from the NY times which served as inspiration:  almond cake with figs; dense, honey-sweetened and rich with eggs and butter. I had a couple of perfectly-ripened peaches on hand, and so the recipe underwent a bit of metamorphosis. this peach-blueberry almond cake is something between a cake and a tart, perfect with afternoon tea, or eaten cold with some Greek yogurt for breakfast. We served it after dinner with a bit of freshly-whipped cream.
With fresh whip!

With fresh whip!

Peach-Blueberry Almond Cake

Peach-Blueberry Almond Cake

Peach-Blueberry Almond Cake
*Adapted from NY Times Fig and Almond Cake
Ingredients:
1 c almond flour
1/2 c unbleached pastry flour (or all purpose flour)
1/4 c fine sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
4 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 med-large ripe peach, sliced into 1/4-inch crescents
1/2 c blueberries
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Butter a 9-inch tart tin with removable bottom (line bottom with parchment, if you prefer).
  3. Combine all dry ingredients in medium-sized mixing bowl.
  4. To a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, honey, lemon zest and extract, then whisk in melted butter.
  5. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and fold in the wet mixture, stirring until just combined.
  6. Spread batter into tart pan. Fan peaches on top, leaving small amount of space between the slices. Toss the blueberries casually over the top, allowing them to roll into the crevasses.
  7. Sprinkle either a bit of Demerera sugar, or other granular sugar over the top (~3 teaspoons)
  8. Bake for ~30 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch.

Upon our return home, we made yet another of Yotam’s recipes for Cauliflower cake. You can find the recipe online. A savory cake, reminiscent of something between a quiche and a custard, this dish packs tons of flavor and is an excellent source of protein. I served it with a salad and a simple vinaigrette. So good!

Cauliflower Cake

Cauliflower Cake

With love (and full belly).

~J