For Emily.

I’ve been remiss, again, with my posts. Life and long summer days have wrapped me in a tight cocoon and I’ve gone adrift; carried through sadness, sunshine, grief, laughter and bliss.
The loss of a loved one, followed by the loss of another have left great voids, and yet I’ve just come back from one of the best vacations in some time.
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Spending the past two weeks in the company of my teenage daughter, just she and I, has been surprisingly pleasant.
A bit of sand and surf in the mix can’t have hurt.
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In the weeks prior to our departure, I made use of summer’s finest. I set aside sweet aspirations and went straight for the savory: eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers, crafting them into an unctuous load of ratatouille, fat with flavor and richly satisfying.
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I don’t generally fare well with nightshades unless they are well-cooked. With ratatouille, the biggest investment is time; the peppers and tomatoes have ample opportunity to languish about at gentle simmer until their flavors mellow, sweeten and concentrate into jammy perfection. Into which gets folded a load of caramelized, roasted eggplant and zucchini. I use a recipe from Francis Lam as my template, following his method (nearly) verbatim, save a shortcut, here and there. I’ve been using it for years; as it’s probably the best ratatouille recipe I’ve found. Its yield is quite generous, encouraging me to divide in half and freeze some for later, however my leftovers were pulled from icy depths within about two weeks, as I found myself craving it daily.
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Ratatouille is incredibly versatile, I folded it into fluffy omelets, enjoyed it with quinoa, served it with toasted baguette, and alongside cold salmon during an impromptu picnic. I also recall serving gently warmed over salad with a bit of feta and chickpeas.
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This’ll likely eat up an afternoon, however the hands-on investment is pretty modest. Having the ingredients prepped and at the ready makes for a smooth experience.
The rest is merely waiting. And waiting. And…
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Enjoy, and Much Love,
J
Weapons-Grade Ratatouille by Francis Lam, with adaptations.
Note: this recipe yields approximately 1/2 gallon of ratatouille. I wouldn’t recommend halving it, as the effort alone is worth its yield. Ratatouille will keep well, refrigerated for ~5 days, or up to three months in the freezer.
Ingredients:
1 head garlic, minced
3 shallots, minced
1 large onion (about 12 ounces), minced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 large red peppers, puréed
4 pounds of tomatoes, puréed
2 pounds of zucchini, cut into cubed
2 pounds of eggplant, cubed
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Additional 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
Method:
  1. Salt eggplant with ~1/2-1 tsp of salt, then set in a colander to drain. This will aid the eggplant in releasing some of its water content. Set aside and proceed with the following.
  2. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-low and add garlic, shallot and onion. I used a 4-quart wide-bottom Le Cruset enameled cast iron, which I knew would handle the volume. Season with salt and pepper; ~1/2 teaspoon each, or a nice healthy pinch.
  3. Once the aromatics are glossy and golden, add the red pepper puree and another pinch of salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to simmer for a good 30-45 minutes, until the volume is reduced by about half.
  4. Next, add the tomato puree and continue to simmer, giving a gentle stir every 20-30 minutes or so. The sauce will simmer for ~1.5 hours, during which time you’ll proceed with roasting the eggplant and zucchini
  5. Preheat oven to 450. Line two large baking sheets with parchment. Pat the eggplant dry, then toss both eggplant and zucchini with a generous amount of olive oil, salt and pepper.
  6. Roast until nicely-charred, about 40 minutes. This may require shifting pans about halfway through, and may require two stages due to the sheer quantity of veggies. However, this dish has nothing but time on its hands. Set roasted veg aside for later.
  7. Once the tomato base has reduced considerably, down to a mere quart, maximum, and the olive oil has become visible on the surface of the sauce, fold in the roasted vegetables. Give the mix a few more healthy gratings of pepper.
  8. Fold in basil and thyme. Taste again and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

In Need of a Redirect.

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Full disclosure: I love all things sugar. If I were to estimate the ratio of sugar to just about everything else I’ve been consuming lately, I could easily say that it’s about 2:1.
 Ice cream, gelato, chocolate, pie, cake, candy bars, crisp. Ice cream, pie, crisp.image
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Oh; was there a repeat there?
My cravings tend to swing like a pendulum toward the extreme; with sugary indulgences leaving me sleepy, hypoglycemic, and most importantly, craving more. I know enough about sugar and metabolism that when I eat sweets, and I don’t balance them out with a hefty dose of other savories, it leaves me wanting. I am intimately aware of my tendencies toward  emotional eating, stress; eating; nervous eating.
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Having attuned myself to interplay between body and mind, I am able to sense when something is off. That being said, the resultant feeling of being uncomfortable doesn’t necessarily result in changed behavior. Rather, it usually takes a knockdown before I am motivated to do something different.
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So, this week, in keeping with a healthy body-mind, I have set an intention to nourish myself with a bit of temporary restraint, so as to regain the balance which I know is inherently there.
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Am I planning to toss my gorgeous pie plates, cake moulds, bundt pans and French rolling pin?
Absolutely not.
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Rather, I choose to bring balance to the forefront, give presence to my meals, savor and cultivate community around the shared dining experience.
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I’ll leave that with a post of a recipe I made last week for an energy bar that’s loaded with good things: protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc and manganese. They also just happen to taste amazing; sweet, chewy and filling; they are the perfect pack along for a busy day and a great option to reach for when the urge to nosh strikes. These bars require a bit of oven time, which many not be of interest in the midst of a summer heat wave.
For a no-cook bar that’s equally satisfying, check out my recipe for Cherry Chocolate Energy Bars (AKA: The Mega).
Enjoy, and much love,
J
With unfailing kindness, Life presents what you need to learn.
[Charlotte Joko Beck]
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Cherry Tahini Bars
1 c oats
1 c shredded coconut
1 c dried cherries
1 c pumpkin seeds
1/2 c sesame seeds
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 c tahini
1/2 c honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit
Line an 8×8 glass baking dish with parchment, or grease with coconut oil or butter; set aside.
Combine salt with tahini and honey and warm over low-medium heat until just bubbly. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
Combine dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl; add tahini-honey mixture; stir until incorporated.
Using oiled hands, press evenly into pan.
Bake for ~20-25 minutes until golden brown and fragrant.
Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
Cut into bars.
Bars will keep for ~5-7 days at room temperature when stored in an airtight container. Freeze for longer storage.

Umami Bomb

Of course there is something amazing happening in my kitchen right now. 

Of course there is.
Rhubarb Fizz

Rhubarb Fizz

Cherry Tahini Bars

Cherry Tahini Bars

Last week found me perpetually craving this dish, which needless to say, I’ve made twice now. It’s that good. I know that I’m on to something when I’m left scraping every last morsel out of the bowl, producing audible moans of delight, and exclaiming to practically anyone who will listen that this is one of my most favorite meals, yet.
 
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I have a girlfriend who inspires me frequently with her culinary ingenuity, so when she was raving about a dinner she’d prepared, I had to co-opt it somewhat and make it my own. At my last visit, she’d acquainted me with fermented black garlic, which has a similar texture to that of roasted garlic, and a subdued flavor that is sweet and mild. I tend to use a light hand with garlic, as it can so quickly overwhelm. The fermented garlic, however, provides beautiful accent, contributing to a dish that draws on the trifecta of taste: sweet, salt and fat.
 
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It’s one of those meals that’s fairly easy to pull together, if you have a few basics on hand. I always have a jar of puréed ginger and tamari in my fridge; the rest can be modified to suit taste. You can use fish sauce, however I prefer anchovies; add one or two at the start of the sauté and they disintegrate, lending their flavor to the umami base. This is deepened with the addition of shitake mushrooms, tamari and a touch of seaweed. Sautéing endive tames the bitterness completely, and the red onion is pleasantly sweet. Chile and ginger add a bit of kick. 
 
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It all comes together with a bit of cooked rice, more or less to preference, and some shredded smoked trout. Smoked tofu could easily stand in for the trout, however this combination is simply magic.
 
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Enjoy, and much love,
J
 
Fried Rice with Shitake and Smoked Trout
 
Ingredients:
 
1-2 cups cooked rice, preferably cold
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 anchovy fillets
1 small red onion, halved and sliced ~1/4 in 
2 heads endive, sliced ~1/4-in thick along the diagonal
1 pint shitake mushrooms, sliced ~1/4 in
6 oz smoked trout, or tofu; roughly shredded
2 sheets toasted nori, torn into ~2-in pieces 
2 tbsp toasted coconut
 
For the sauce:
1 tbsp ginger paste, or 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
3 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp chili flakes 
 
Method:
In a large sauté pan, heat coconut oil over medium heat. 
Add anchovy fillets; Using spatula, press anchovy into pan; they should disintegrate in 1-2 minutes. 
Add red onion and sauté for ~4-5 minutes until translucent. 
Add endive and continue to sauté for 3-5 minutes, then add shitake and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Turn heat up to medium high and let char slightly while whisking together sauce ingredients. 
Lastly, add cold rice and sauce to pan; stir quickly to combine. Add another 1-2 tbsp of coconut oil if the mixture seems dry.
Remove from heat, then add shredded trout and nori. Adjust for seasoning and serve, garnished with chopped scallion, if desired.

Eating My Words.

90° in Seattle means minimal cooking, little adherence to a clock (save for those pesky responsibilities such as work, etc.), beaches, cooking as little as possible, immersing myself in the company of good friends, lazy afternoon naps, early morning runs, getting lost in a good book, Sunday brunches.
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Consummate Summer.
While I haven’t yet been able to reconnect with my passion for cooking, I have been flirting with it the tiniest bit, here and there. Fortunately I have dear friends who remind me that, while delicious, gelato is not best consumed breakfast, lunch and dinner.
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Here’s a few flavors I’ve made over the past week:
Mulberry-Thyme
Rhubarb and Lemon Verbena
Chocolate Peanut Butter (vegan, no less!)
Straight-Up Green Tea
And I think there’s a Cherry and Toasted Almond in the works…
I’ve made use of cast offs from other people’s gardens, like this fabulous basil-walnut pesto, which I folded into a summer salad with garbanzo beans farro, cucumber and mint.
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Then there was a post-coffee meander through the city that led me to a lesser-traveled street and a bunch of the juiciest blackberries, warm and sweet in the summer sun. I ate what I could, then gathered a pint or so, to which I introduced to a bit of lavender and blueberries and let them bubble and burst into a pretty fantastic pie.
There’s a hint of cardamom in the filling, which grounds it somewhat, because this truly is a ‘knock your sandals off’ kind of pie. I used bits of leftover dough, which I’d saved from a decorative galette I’d made a couple of weeks back. You could easily substitute a crumble, or top with another layer of crust, or simply leave it naked and blushing.
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Enjoy, and much love,
J
A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it.
It just blooms
~Sensei Ogui
Lavender Black and Blue Pie
Ingredients:
Crust for 9-inch pie (for a great pastry and technique, click on the link, here)
Filling
4-5 c mixed berries
1/4 c brown sugar
1/3 c unbleached sugar
3 tbsp tapioca starch
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried candied lavender flowers, or 2-3 drops lavender essential oil
1/2 tsp cardamom, ground
1/4 tsp salt
**Demerara sugar, or other coarse sugar, for dusting
Method:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Fit crust into a 9-inch pie plate; let chill in the refrigerator for ~10-15 mins while preparing pie filling.
Combine berries with lavender and lemon juice in a bowl. Sift together remaining ingredients and toss with berries.
Fill crust and brush pastry with egg wash. Sprinkle with demerera and bake for ~15 minutes. Turn heat down to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes until golden and bubbling.
Cool completely on wire rack, then serve.

 

All Good Things.

I’ve had intention to post for a while now. Sometimes words are difficult when I’m experiencing a full spectrum of emotion. I’d rather project a sunnier disposition.

Lavender Honey Custard Pie

Lavender Honey Custard Pie

I’d recently been gifted some pearls of wisdom that have become woven into my consciousness and given me sustenance. While the intended topic was somewhat unrelated, the sentiment resonated with me in such a way that I feel it in my quiet moments, reminding me to quickly get myself back to doing what I love.And so while my heart just hasn’t been there, I go through the motions, and find some nourishment, physically, emotionally and spiritually. In feeding others. In feeding myself. In running and not being concerned about time or distance. In foraging, photographing, hugs, conversation.

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I picked mulberries and thimbleberries with a dear friend, I made lavender honey custard pie that would knock your (argyle) socks off. I crafted a salad with Sunday afternoon’s farmer’s market bounty.

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And I said goodbye to a loved one.

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Sitting here as I’m typing this, the scent of rhubarb and lemon verbena are filling my cosy little apartment, and brightening my spirits.

At six a.m.

I’ll share more on that later, but for now, here’s a recipe for a salad that’s been sustaining me for the past several days. I roasted some walnuts with a bit of honey, olive oil and salt, then pulled together the remaining ingredients, rather quickly. The lemon-thyme vinaigrette is the perfect complement to the sweet astringency of the walnuts and the bitter kale. It’s a great one-dish meal.

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Enjoy, and much love,
J

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Kale and Farro Salad
2 c farro, cooked
2 c finely shredded flat-leaf kale
1/4 c finely diced red onion
1/4 c toasted walnuts
2 medium to hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered

Lemon-Thyme vinaigrette:
1/4 c olive oil
juice of 1/2 large lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Method:
Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together; set aside.
Combine cooked farro, kale, onion and toasted walnuts in a large bowl. Combine with vinaigrette, and garnish with egg when serving.

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Everything’s Coming Up Rhubarb.

My father is the champion of all things kitchen. He has more gadgets than I care to mention, and what seems like an endless amount of storage space with which to put them. I, on the other hand, have had to whittle things down to fit into my urban kitchen.

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Needless to say, when he offered me his DeLonghi gelato maker, still in its original packaging, I said yes; perhaps a bit more for him than for myself. It’s what daughters do.
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Now, given the amount of real estate that I have, making space for this 30-lb pound beast required I engage in a bit of kitchen economy. Minor hassles aside, I couldn’t help but get swooned by the promises of sweet, chilled confection at my fingertips. As soon as I’d had it wrenched from the box, I started dreaming about what I was going to make.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. A more accurate statement would be that I found myself dreaming about gelato allweek long. I’d be out for an early morning or afternoon run, inhaling the scenery and the ideas would percolate. Wild flavors like rosemary peach andthyme rhubarb would swirl like the paddle of the machine, blending possibilities.

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 I still had a bit of rhubarb left from the last foraging, to which I added a couple of sprigs of thyme and a bit of sugar and let it bubble away on the stove until it made a nice jammy compote. While the rhubarb was doing its thing, I steeped vanilla bean in some milk and brown sugar and let it simmer for a while until it had just the faintest hints of caramel.
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Mixing the components together took hardly any effort, and within little time, I had an incredibly flavorful treat. The hint of thyme was quite complementary to the rhubarb; its subtle flavor layered between sweet and tart. Definitely present, but not overpowering.
The gelato can be enjoyed straight up, or embellished a bit of granola or perhaps a few gingersnaps.
Rhubarb-Thyme Gelato with Caramel Cream

Rhubarb-Thyme Gelato with Caramel Cream

Enjoy, and much love,
J
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Rhubarb Thyme Gelato with Caramel Cream

Caramel milk base:
1 1/4 c milk
1/2 c cream
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 tsp vanilla

Rhubarb Thyme Compote:
8 oz rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 c sugar
2 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

Method:
Combine milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean, if using, in a small saucepan. Over moderate heat, stir until sugar dissolves, then continue to summer until reduced to ~1 cup. Remove from heat; add cream and vanilla, if using liquid. Pour into bowl and chill.

While milk is simmering, prepare compote:
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Let bubble over medium heat until rhubarb is soft and cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. Remove thyme stems and then place in a glass container or bowl and chill.

Pour cream base into gelato maker and prepare according to manufacturer directions. When firm, add 2/3 c rhubarb compote. There will be a bit left over, which will taste fantastic on scones or toast, or mixed with yogurt.

Freeze up to two weeks, though gelato is best enjoyed within 1-3 days.

You’re Baking Me Crazy.

PicFrameI’ve been thinking about rhubarb pretty much constantly for the past several weeks, picking up stalks regularly at the farmer’s market and grocery, as it finds its way into cakes, jams and spreads.

photo 1This weekend, I was able to do a bit of pruning at my father’s and took home a moderately sized sack of perfectly rosy beauts. I’d been planning to make dessert for some friends, and, given our glorious hint of early summer, a sort of strawberry-rhubarb shortcake came to mind. A recipe I’d discovered recently boasted a sweet-savory concoction of roasted fruit with balsamic and maple flavors, which brought my own craft into the sweet-savory realm. I dreamt of thyme and pepper-coated berries and barb, caramelized and tender, folded into layers of whipped cream and fluffy biscuits.

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Given that I still had a bit of ricotta on hand from recent baking adventures, I thought it might be interesting to incorporate it into some pastry for shortcake. Much of baking is the result of a formula: fat+liquid+flour. I recalled Michael Rhulman’s genius concept of using ratios for basic batters, pastry, cake and the like. You can find a link, here.
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I added a couple of tablespoons of sugar, as this is more of a dessert biscuit, and used equal parts ricotta and milk. The rest is well, all me.
Like so many fine things, this dough takes only a moment to come together, then it must rest, given some delicate handling, then rest again. The biscuits can be refrigerated, or frozen to bake at a later time. The resultant crisp and flaky texture is ruined by moisture, so it’s aways best to eat biscuits the day they are baked.
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I measured my ingredients out using a scale, however I’ll provide approximations using household measurements. For the original recipe, refer to link above. Additionally, I bake my scones and pastry at a higher temperature, say, 425 degrees F. This melts the butter quickly and creates those lovely air pockets that make for a light, fluffy, buttery-layered biscuit.
Enjoy, and much love,
J
Thyme and Balsamic-Infused Rhubarb with Strawberries , Ricotta Shortcake and Vanilla Whip Cream

Thyme and Balsamic-Infused Rhubarb and Strawberries , Ricotta Shortcake and Vanilla Whip Cream

Thyme and Balsamic-Infused Rhubarb and Strawberries 
Inspired by Ladystiles Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberries:
**Note: the fruit can be prepared 1-2 days ahead of time and stored along with their juices, until ready to serve.
2.5-3 cups rhubarb, cut into ~1-inch lengths
1 pint strawberries, split
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
2 sprigs thyme, plucked of leaves
dash of freshly-ground black pepper
Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper.
Combine rhubarb and strawberries in a large bowl. Whisk remaining ingredients together; pour over fruit. Toss gently.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 40 minutes, until juices have started to bubble and thicken. Remove and serve with Ricotta Biscuits (recipe follows)
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Ricotta Biscuits
Ingredients:
2 c flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c butter, chilled and diced
1/2 c ricotta
2 oz milk
Method:
Mix dry ingredients together; set aside.
Using a pastry blender or food processor, cut flour and butter until the mixture starts to resemble coarse sand; leaving a few larger pieces strewn throughout.
Whisk together ricotta and milk; add to flour.
Using a wooden spoon or hands, stir the liquid into the flour/butter until it’s just barely absorbed. Turn onto a flat surface, and knead, just a few times to bring it all together. There will still be bits of butter poking about; this is key to a flaky biscuit.
Wrap in plastic/parchment and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Once chilled, begin rolling: roll out dough into a rectangle ~1/2 inch thick.
Fold in thirds, then refrigerate a further 30 minutes.
Repeat the rolling, folding and chilling cycle once more.
As the dough makes its final rest, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment; set aside.
Shape dough with your hands, or roll out to ~3/4-inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter.
Brush biscuits with a bit of milk, if desired, then bake for ~12-15 minutes until golden and puffed to about twice their original volume. Serve either warm or at room temperature.