acorn squash pappardelle with leeks, oyster mushrooms & spicy breadcrumbs

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We recently bought a tiny cabin on an island bordering the San Juans and with it came two huge gardens full of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. It has always been a dream of mine to have land to grow enough food to feed my family. There is nothing more fulfilling to me than to go outside with my kids, pick vegetables and immediately come inside to cook them. Plus my children eat way more raw veggies straight out of the ground than they do if I buy it from the store and serve it to them. The other day my daughter tore off a huge leaf of lacinato kale and proceeded to eat the whole thing. I wouldn’t even do that! Whatever the magic of the garden is to them, I’ll take it.

So now that I have this dream come true, it’s beginning to feel like a pretty daunting task. Mostly because this is a part time residence. How can I possibly keep up with it? But I WILL do this people! My first harvest was leeks, squashes, chard, kale, collard greens and parsley. Now what to do with all of this. I really love hearty pasta dishes in the fall. I could eat pasta ev-er-y day. I decided to roast all of the squash because it is really one of my favorite things and so versatile. I ended up using them in salads, enchiladas and risotto for the week. I had some roasted acorn squash leftover so I decided to puree it and use it to make pappardelle noodles to give them a nice sweetness. Tossed with sautéed oyster mushrooms, melted leeks from the garden and topped with spicy breadcrumbs, it ended up being my favorite meal of the week.

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acorn squash pappardelle with oyster mushrooms, leeks & spicy breadcrumbs

serves 4

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 leeks
  • 1lb oyster mushrooms
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • rosemary- four 3″ sprigs + 1T minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 T fresh Italian parsley, chopped fine
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan
  • kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400º. Cut the squash into quarters and remove the seeds. Lay skin side down on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or foil. Drizzle with 1T olive oil, salt & pepper and the rosemary sprigs. Roast in the oven until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Peel the skin off and put half of the squash in a food processor to puree. You should end up with about 1 cup. Reserve the other half of the squash for another use.

Cut the stem and dark green leaves off the leeks then cut in half lengthwise. Rinse under cold water to get any residual dirt that may be hiding in between the layers. Slice the leeks very thin. You should have about 2 cups worth. In a skillet, heat 2T olive oil over medium heat. Add leeks and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for a minute until they just start to soften. Turn the heat down as low as it will go and cover with a piece of parchment paper then a lid. You want the leeks to steam and get super soft without getting too brown. Stir them up occasionally. It will take about 20-30 minutes for them to get super soft and a bit brown. Set aside.

Cut off the stems to the mushrooms and chop into large even sized pieces. Heat a large skillet with 1T olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the mushrooms stirring occasionally until they release their liquids and start to brown. Then add the wine, a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes more, until most of the wine is absorbed into the mushrooms. There will still be a bit of juice in the pan which is great. You just want to make sure to cook off the alcohol in the wine. Add the leeks to the mushrooms and set aside off the heat.

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In a small skillet, heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat and fry the breadcrumbs stirring often until golden brown and crunchy. Stir in minced rosemary, chile flakes and a pinch of salt and set aside.

For the pasta, put 2 1/4 cups of flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle of it. Add the squash puree and eggs into the well and with a fork, whisk the eggs into the puree gradually incorporating the flour until everything comes together to form a ball. Transfer the ball onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. You may need to add the remaining 1/4 cup flour gradually if it’s too sticky. Once the dough ball is smooth and elastic, set it aside covered with a kitchen towel for at least 20 minutes.

Once the dough has rested you can start running it through a pasta machine. I use an old fashioned hand cranked one but you can also use the kitchen aid attachment or even a rolling pin. I divide the dough into quarters and run it through the 5th setting on the pasta machine, dusting with flour as you go to prevent sticking. You want the sheets to be very thin but not too thin that it tears or is translucent. Think the thickness of a dime or 1/32″. Once all of the sheets are rolled out, cut them into 1″ thick noodles, tossing with more flour to prevent them from sticking together.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While you are waiting, heat up the skillet with the leeks and mushrooms over medium heat. Toss the noodles into the boiling water, cover and cook 1-2 minutes. Do not over cook or the noodles will get mushy. Drain the noodles reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water and immediately transfer the noodles to the skillet with the leeks & mushrooms. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and half of the reserved cooking liquid tossing to coat all of the noodles. If they seem too dry, add the rest of the cooking liquid and another tablespoon olive oil. Remove from heat and toss with the parsley and parmesan. Serve immediately topped with a handful of bread crumbs.

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charred tomato pasta

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I am one of those snobs that refuses to eat a tomato out of season. There is nothing more disappointing to me than a bland, water filled ball that you find in the winter grown in a green house or shipped from Chile. So the end of summer is especially sad for me because it means another 9 months without a perfect tomato. The season is officially over and I just harvested the last of my tomatoes that have ripened. I ended up with a load of green tomatoes that are on their way to the pickle jar which will be a whole other post. These ripe beauties on the other hand are going in the wood oven to roast away with garlic and rosemary for a super easy sauce.

I will use any excuse to fire up the oven before the inevitable cold, wet and gray sets in. The fire also gives a nice char that brings out the tomato’s sweetness and concentrates their flavor as well as leaving a perfect hint of smokiness. If you don’t have a wood burning oven you can absolutely do this inside. Just crank up your oven as hot as it will go. My kids favor the curly-q fusilli and I like the way it grabs ahold of the chunky sauce but any noodle will work here. Gnocchi would be delicious as well.

So, so long summer, you’ve been great. We will miss you. Now I must go stock up on canned San Marzanos to get me through the year.

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charred tomato pasta

serves 4

  • 2lbs ripe heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 lb pasta
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • handful of basil torn into pieces
  • salt & red pepper flakes
  • parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven as hot as it goes. Cut tomatoes into 1″ chunks and put into a roasting dish. Toss with olive oil, rosemary, garlic, salt & pepper. Roast until tomatoes are charred and falling apart and the juices are starting to reduce to make a lovely sauce. About 30-45 minutes. stir a couple of times to get an even char on the tomatoes. Once it is to your liking, remove the rosemary sprigs and season to taste with salt & pepper flakes. Cook your pasta al dente and drain reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Toss, pasta, sauce, cooking water and basil all together with a big drizzle of olive oil. Top with a nice sprinkling of parmesan cheese and eat up!

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gone clamming

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One of the things I immediately wanted to do when we moved to Seattle was start foraging  at the beach. It took nearly two years but I finally managed to wrangle the family together and get out there. It helped that it was mother’s day and I could do whatever I wanted and I wanted to dig for clams. My one request was that no one complain the entire trip, which lasted just until we got into the queue for the ferry. Oh well, it was a beautiful day and we were on our way to Whidbey Island.

I have never been clamming. My only experience was watching a video of Langdon Cook, award winning writer and instructor on wild foods and foraging. I knew what to bring and which beach to go to but that was about it. We arrived at Double Bluff beach at low tide  and to my surprise and relief the kids got right into it and we dug and dug and dug. My 5 year old found one beautiful cockle which she was so proud of and ended up becoming my mother’s day present. I found a huge sea snail and some eels but that was it. Then I realized off in the distance a group of people were digging at the cobbly area near the bluff. So I left the kids to swim with my husband and I set off to dig. After a half hour I ended up with a dozen or so native littlenecks but since the kids would soon be melting down I decided to pack up. Though I will definitely be back soon better prepared and able to leave with a full clam feast.

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Back home we fired up the wood oven and I roasted our little gems in some white wine with garlic, shallots and herbs along with some flatbread. Even though we only ended up with just a taste it was so worth it. The kids had a load of fun and any chance they can be in nature and learn where our food comes from makes me a happy mama.

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fava and jamón salad

favas-3I have a bitter love for fava beans. I get so excited when I see them in the market for the first time in spring and always load up a huge bag to take home. Then I usually stare at them for a couple of days while I try to figure out a time I can sit down for more than 20 minutes to go through the dreaded task of peeling the things. The art of slow living just doesn’t exist in my home at the moment. BUT this spring my 4 year old has taken on the duty as sous chef and shucking beans has become her specialty. Now we can up our fava intake.

If you can find the pods when they are finger length snatch them up because they are amazing eaten whole. Toss them with olive oil and grill until tender then sprinkle with a nice flake salt, squeeze of lemon and some crushed red pepper. Once larger than that the pods are too tough and they must be shucked. The beans inside then need to be peeled of their paper thin outer shells. A lot of people don’t think this process is worth the end result. I’m just obsessed with the sweet, earthy, hearty, protein packed little green gems.

One of my favorites and a classic way to eat fava beans is on a crostini of burrata cheese with lemon, olive oil and basil. They also go amazingly with ham. On a warm spring day, a bit of jamón serrano, manchego and a pile of favas dressed in sherry vinegar, good quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs is a perfect light meal.  You could also use prosciutto and pecorino just don’t forget the really good loaf of bread and bottle of rosé. It’s simple perfection.

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Swan Oyster Depot’s crab louie salad

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Whenever I go back home to visit San Francisco I try to sneak off to one of my favorite places for lunch, Swan Oyster Depot. I say sneak because this is a place I like going either by myself or with one friend, but more than that, you’ll be extending your already hour-long wait. The shop opens early, as it is an actual fish market, but when the bar opens up at 10:30 the queue immediately grows down the block for this 100 year-old 12 seat seafood heaven.

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The present location has been in operation since 1912 where it was owned by four Danish brothers who distributed seafood throughout San Francisco. In 1946 it was purchased by Sal Sancimino who operated it until 1970 when his children took it over. You’ll always see one, if not all, of the five brothers behind the counter and they always greet you like you are the most special person who has walked through the door all day. I belly up to the beautifully aged marble bar and chat with everyone behind the counter like we’ve known each other all our lives. For a lot of people, they have! There are still plenty of customers who’s family have been coming to Swan Oyster Depot for six generations. Just one of the many things that make this place so special….along with it’s authenticity and quality.

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nettle gnocchi in parmesan brodo with spicy pork meatballs

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Every week my first stop at the farmers market is Foraged and Found Edibles. Whatever they have always sets the tone for our meals for the week. They are chefs turned foragers who harvest wild foods from the surrounding Seattle area and always have an amazing selection of things you will most likely never find in the grocery store. This last visit confirmed that Spring is in fact HERE and I walked away with wild nettles, fiddlehead ferns, miner’s lettuce and watercress filling my bag to the brim.

What I was especially excited about though were the nettles. The seasonal window of time is so brief for these barbed little things. February and March is prime for eating them as by April they start to become coarse and you should not eat them once they start to form flowers. If you are lucky enough to have them grow wild in your neighborhood, pick only the tips. The first 4 to 6 leaves on each spear are the most tender. Don’t forget to always wear heavy gloves and long sleeves when handling these ferociously stingy things but don’t worry, once cooked, the sting dies off.

It will probably come as a surprise to you (as it did to me) that nettles beat both spinach and broccoli in their richness in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C and iron. A tea made by steeping nettle leaves has long been used as a tonic. The flavor is similar to spinach and can be used in its place in most recipes. My favorite ways to eat them is on pizza, or made into a soup or pesto. Here I’m trying something new and putting them in gnocchi paired with bite size spicy pork meatballs all swimming in a nutty parmesan broth. For a veggie option you can replace the meatballs with cannelloni beans. Adding fresh peas would also be delicious.

I hope next time you see nettles at the market or growing along the sidewalk, you snatch some up and discover how tasty and healthy they really are!

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a Sunday roast: spring lamb, minty peas & garlicky potato roasties

lamb meal

One of the things that excites me most about the coming of spring is the first lamb. I’m pretty sure I let out an audible squeal at the market last week when I stumbled upon some from Glendale Shepherd, a local farm here on Whidbey Island. They have the most beautiful pasture-raised humanely harvested lamb. And since my in-laws were on their way to visit from England, a Sunday roast was in order. Though, due to a crazy wind storm which downed a tree causing an all day power outage that happened just as I was putting the meat in the oven, it turned into a Monday roast.

Whatever the day of the week is, this meal really is simple and depending on how you like your meat cooked, could take anywhere from 50 minutes to 3 hours to prepare. I prefer my roast falling apart tender which takes hours so I tend to reserve meals like this for the weekend when I can have a lazy afternoon with the family smelling the amazingness coming from the oven…..but if you like your meat rare, you’re done in under an hour!

My favorite things to go with lamb are minty peas, garlicky potatoes with lots of rosemary and olive oil. I’ve added anchovies to the lamb which I learned from The River Cottage Meat book. They melt into the meat giving it a beautiful salty richness. You’ll never go back to not using them once you see how much umami they give to this roast!

Enjoy and happy spring!

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leek soup and a buckwheat pear tart

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It’s a winter meets spring sort of vibe in Seattle right now. We are teased by the sun daily and the markets are showing hints of the coming season with loads of tulips and tender leeks. The days are getting longer and the blossoms are exploding which makes me so excited for warmer days to come but then I’m pulled back down to reality with the next downpour of rain. But hey, the rainbows sure have been epic!

Here is a meal that reflects this moment in the season; warming for the last days of winter yet introducing spring and reminding you of the amazing things it will have to offer. This quick and easy soup is full of flavor and texture; sweet leeks, silky white beans, earthy cauliflower, bright lemon zest and crunchy hazelnuts. For dessert, a rustic tart with the last of the pears which are begging to be eaten. I’ve added buckwheat to the dough for a bit of tenderness and a nice nutty flavor. Enjoy!

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clean out the fridge grain bowls

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I make a grand attempt to meal plan. I buy all the groceries for the week on Monday stuffing them into my fridge feeling a real sense of accomplishment. Then come Tuesday my cravings take over and I want to order in Indian, then go out for ramen, and then “oh I’m not going to make this dish, I’ll make something else instead.” Suddenly its Sunday and I’ve lost the plot. Luckily one of the most satisfying things to me is going through the fridge and scrounging up all the last bits I’ve forgotten about and coming up with something delicious. A lot of times it’s in the form of a grain bowl. The sad beet I forgot in the veg drawer. The wilted kale because I always buy too much. Then I just go through the pantry and choose whatever grain and bean or lentil I have hiding out and I’m halfway there.

The beauty about these dishes is that the options are endless, there are no rules, anything works, whatever the season. AND they are healthy! Start with a grain, roast your veggies in a hot oven then choose whatever flavors go well with it. I always add some nuts or seeds, and some type of protein whether it’s cheese, beans or a poached egg.  Carrots with couscous…stir in harissa, preserved lemon, pine nuts, garbanzo beans and mint . Asparagus with quinoa… add pesto, marcona almonds parmesan and a poached egg. You get the idea. Here are a few dishes I’ve made recently. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to make your own. All of the recipes serve 2-4 people, depending on how hungry you are

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fish tacos in Todos Santos

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It is time for the yearly dose of sunshine to break up this gray winter and our trip to Mexico couldn’t have come soon enough for this lady.  We just returned from Todos Santos where we rented a hacienda with some close friends and the guacamole, margaritas, beans and fish tacos were on repeat the entire time. I’m still in a vitamin D induced haze and have not accepted the reality that I am home and wearing socks and a wool coat.

Todos Santos is a small town in Baja California Sur, about an hour north of Cabo. It is one of Mexico’s “pueblos magicos,” a select group of towns whose cultural, historical and natural treasures have been deemed, well…magical. Founded in 1723, Todos Santos is an oasis in the desert and boomed from sugar cane production but in the 1950’s fell into ruins when the area experienced a severe drought. Water has returned and the area is now an agricultural center, producing some of the best poblanos, avocados, papaya and mangos.

Since the paving of hwy 19, which runs from La Paz to San Jose del Cabo, Todos Santos has also become a tourist destination and a center for art & culture.  It’s charming colonial town center has loads of galleries and shops full of local crafts and is also a host to multiple music, film and art festivals throughout the year.  The area is also big on eco-tourism, birding, sea turtle conservation, surfing….. It really is a pretty magical place.

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