gougères with shallots, bacon & greens

gougeres-2-3I first discovered the magic that is Zuni Café after moving to Berkeley in 1998. Their cookbook, which came out a few years after that, has pretty much been open on my counter ever since. I always am drawn back to Judy Rodger’s food. She has an amazing talent at finding the perfect balance of flavors and textures while really honoring the seasonal ingredients. Like she says about her book, “Many recipes call for little active work and require only the skill and will to select excellent ingredients, perhaps the most useful culinary skill of all.” I couldn’t agree with that more.

One recipe in her book that I come back to over and over again is her New Years Eve Gougères.  It’s become my go-to dish for any special occasion. Basically a savory, cheese-studded cream puff pastry which here are stuffed with pickled onions, bacon and arugula. There being that perfect balance….rich buttery dough and nutty gruyère cheese balanced with the smoky salty bacon, the bright, sweet tang from the onions and the bitterness of the arugula. It’s perfection. I always add an option for vegetarians where I fry shallots until they are dark and crispy and pair it with frisée dressed in sherry vinegar and olive oil. The crunchy, earthy sweet shallots give that sort of umami element that the bacon has and the vinegary bitter greens balances it all out.

This dish guarantees to impress at your next gathering. You can make the batter ahead of time and then pop them in the oven while guests are arriving. They smell so good while they are baking and everyone will be in awe when you take them out.  Serve all of the ingredients in separate little bowls so your guests can split open the warm gougères and make their own little sandwiches. You will be deemed the fanciest person they know, trust me.gougeres-2


Zuni Café’s New Year’s Eve Gougères

makes 20-24 three-bite-sized gougères

  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4oz all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 4 large eggs, cold
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2oz gruyère cheese, grated
  • 10-12 slices bacon cut into 1/2″ lardons
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 heaping cup arugula
  • 1 heaping cup frisée
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400º  In a 2-4 quart saucepan, bring the water, butter and salt to a simmer over medium heat. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture masses and detaches itself from the sides of the pan. reduce the heat to low and cook, beating constantly, until the batter is stiff and almost shiny, usually a few minutes. Transfer the dough to a standing mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on medium-low adding one egg at a time, beating thoroughly to completely incorporate each egg before adding another. The mixture will initially resist but will come together to form a sticky paste. Add the pepper and gruyere after the eggs are all incorporated.

gougeres-2-5gougeres-1

Pan fry the bacon until crispy and drain on paper towels. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil  in a small sauté pan and fry half of the sliced shallots until deep amber brown and crispy. Drain on a paper towel. In a small sauce pan, bring to a boil 1/4 cup water, the vinegar, sugar and peppercorns. Remove from heat and add the remaining sliced shallots, letting them soak for at least 30 minutes, then drain. Finally, dress the frisée with a splash of sherry or red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper. Serve the gougères warm from the oven split through the middle and stuffed with any combination of fillings you’d like.

gougeres-2-2

acorn squash pappardelle with leeks, oyster mushrooms & spicy breadcrumbs

squash-parpadelle-9

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.

squash-parpadelle-3


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.

squash-parpadelle-11

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.

squash-parpadelle-10

charred tomato pasta

tomato-pasta-3

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.

tomatoes


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!

tomato-pastatomato-pasta-2

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.

favas

Continue reading “fava and jamón salad”

nettle gnocchi in parmesan brodo with spicy pork meatballs

nettles b-2

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!

Continue reading “nettle gnocchi in parmesan brodo with spicy pork meatballs”

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!

Continue reading “a Sunday roast: spring lamb, minty peas & garlicky potato roasties”

leek soup and a buckwheat pear tart

soup tart meal

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!

Continue reading “leek soup and a buckwheat pear tart”

clean out the fridge grain bowls

beets bowl

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

Continue reading “clean out the fridge grain bowls”

fish tacos in Todos Santos

todos santos feast

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.

Continue reading “fish tacos in Todos Santos”

An Italian feast via California

feast finish

I love having dinner parties. To cook big meals for friends and gather around the table, eating, drinking and talking for hours. Having been in the Bay Area for nearly 20 years, we had made a community of friends who were truly more like family. Since starting over in Seattle, it has been difficult to meet people and make friends. Maybe it’s our age and the fact that we are busy with small children so are not necessarily whooping it up on the town all the time. In any case, I am increasingly craving those gatherings with people who I know and love so well. So when I convinced my best friend to drive up last minute from Portland for the night, I excitedly jumped into the kitchen. I’m feeling homesick so my inspiration for our meal was from my favorite restaurant in Oakland, Pizzaiolo, which I went to for the first time with this friend of mine.

Pizzaiolo is the epitome of a community building, farm to table California restaurant. Charlie Hallowell started his career at Chez Panisse and has a commitment to using and respecting only the best ingredients, the farmers who grow them and the customers who eat them. Everything is so simple yet always so interesting and delicious. They have the best pizza and bread in the bay (well next to Tartine)…..and the meatballs….those damn meatballs. I never got the recipe for them but I’ve managed to come up with something close. The salads here are my interpretation of ones I’ve had at Pizzaiolo and reflect the transition we’re seeing from winter to spring (first sign of asparagus guys!)  The bread is mine. Though I will not begin to try to explain how to make it here. It’s the recipe from Tartine for their basic country bread and it took me 2 years to perfect.

The dessert I came up with because rhubarb showed up at the market and I bought way too much because rhubarb means SPRING IS COMING, which also means WINTER IS ALMOST OVER. One of my favorite things ever is using bay leaf in creamy desserts and combining it with a tart fruit…bay leaf ice cream with white currents, bay leaf panna cotta with pomegranates. So I thought why not use bay in whipped cream to top a rhubarb shortcake. It was pretty much perfect and I woke up wishing I had some leftover for breakfast.

So here’s to 2016 and having more dinner parties. Besides, good cooks never lack friends, right?

feast veg

Continue reading “An Italian feast via California”