Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

These Are a Few of My (New) Favorite Things

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

The heat has finally subsided here in sunny Southern California and I am quickly coming to see why people so enjoy living here. With such beautiful weather awaiting us outside, and so many new people to meet and interesting places to explore, it has been hard for Dustin and I to spend too much time experimenting and developing new recipes for you all. Excitement awaits around every corner, and when adventure beckons, we heed its call.

While I have no tasty recipe to share with you today, I have some new favorite discoveries that I want to tell you about.

First, from the tech world, this app, called List Bliss, has helped me keep my sanity, making it easy to keep my grocery list up to date and ensuring I wont forget it at home when I go to the market. List Bliss even enables you to keep a running inventory of your pantry so when inspiration strikes at the farmers market, you know what ingredients you have on hand at home and can begin to craft a recipe that incorporates your fresh market find with staples from your pantry.

Everyday harumi

I have fallen head over heels for the simple elegance of Harumi Kurihara’s recipes. After checking “Everyday Harumi” out from the library I knew I had to add this to my home collection. Harumi’s recipes are built from a simple pantry of basic Japanese ingredients bringing new light and fresh flavors to some of our favorite vegetables such as green beans or pumpkin. Most of the recipes are quick to prepare and Harumi offers the home cook some ideas on how to experiment with the dressings and sauces to put their own personal stamp on the dish. Be on the lookout for our takes on some of her classic dishes in the upcoming weeks.

Speaking of cookbooks, have you taken a look at what your public library has to offer lately? I have been sincerely impressed by the wealth of cookbooks available to check out at the libraries in the Pasadena area. The selection varies greatly from library to library so be sure to visit a few to determine which branches have the best offerings. The library has so much to offer beyond cookbooks. From books on organic gardening to scientific journals, new CDs and even classic films on DVD you might be surprised at what you can find. Though some libraries function independently, most libraries belong to a regional organization and will allow you to place a hold on books from any branch in the system. They can even have the books, CDs, or DVDs brought into your local branch from a branch far away.

Seaweed Salad

Here in San Gabriel we are surrounded by an almost overwhelming number of Asian restaurants and supermarkets. As I have explored some of the local markets I have been re-discovering some ingredients that had not been as easily accessible in Tennessee. Two ingredients that I am really enjoying experimenting with in our kitchen right now are Seaweed and Lotus Root. If you are lucky enough to live near an asian grocer you will likely be able to find salt packed seaweed in the refrigerated section of the store. For tips on selecting and cooking with seaweed see this fantastic post from David Tanis that was featured on the Splendid Table. The photograph above is of Tanis’s take on a classic seaweed salad and is from that same article, you can find a link to the recipe here.

I came across a lotus root salad at the local farmers market and it brought back memories of the many lotus dishes I enjoyed while living  in China. The lotus root is a commonly used ingredient in Chinese cooking and it is thought to have beneficial health properties, specifically for the lungs. In Chinese medicine it is believed that the fall is a time to focus on strengthening the respiratory system, which is particularly susceptible to infection and illness as the changing seasons usher in colder weather. Lotus can be prepared in a variety of ways including stewing, and stir frying but I particularly like it in a salad where its beautiful shape and crunchy texture really shines. When shopping for fresh lotus look for roots that are relatively evenly colored and free of soft spots, also peek down the tubes to check for signs of mold. Once at home simply peel the roots and slice them before incorporating them into a stir fry. When making a salad, I first place the slices in a bowl, cover the roots with boiling water and let them sit for a few minutes before draining the water and repeating the process. If your roots are harboring a lot of dirt you may need to repeat this several times until the water is no longer murky after soaking.


And while we are on the subject, I may as well continue with the theme of inspiration from The East to tell you about one of my new favorite spots to find cool cooking gadgets and ceramics. Daiso Japan recently opened a new store in Temple City, minutes from our house. The store is quite similar to the many american 5&10 or dollar store chains with the major difference being that all of the products come from Japan. Unlike the american dollar stores which are full of goods made overseas for consumption by the American consumer market, the products at Daiso are mostly created for use by the asian market. Because of this, you can find some really unique knick-knacks which range from patterned ceramic plates to jeweled hair accessories, colorful office stationary, and even some super cute plastic gloves to don while doing dishes. While I cannot guarantee that all the products are made with the highest quality materials, the price is right at $1.50 per item and likely worth the gamble on quality. To find out if Daiso has a store near you, you can check out their list of US locations on their website.

Finally, for those of you who have recently moved to an new area or are simply looking to try out new activities check out On the site you will find numerous local groups organized around common interests or activities. Ever wanted to try sky-diving? There is probably a meet up for that. Looking to try out new trails? There is likely a group of hikers in your area that organize weekly/monthly hiking events.  From book clubs to walking groups there are so many things to try and explore. So check it out for yourself, and if you happen upon some new favorite things of your own, be sure to let me know in the comments below!

*Lotus Root Image Courtesy of

Categories: Uncategorized

Caution – Curves Ahead – Allergy Free Carrot and Oat Muffins

In the last month so much has changed. After months of eating so well and yet feeling progressively worse, I was told that I have IBS and am likely having trouble digesting certain carbohydrates. This temporary fix of avoiding the ferment-able carbohydrates that have been wrecking havoc on my digestive system is simple enough on paper, but in actuality it involves avoiding many ingredients that I have long held near and dear. In a matter of weeks, I have gone from embracing essentially the entire world of whole and wonderful foods (in moderation of course) to working every cell of creativity in my brain to make something delicious and nourishing from of a very limited list of ingredients.

For the next two weeks I will be on the full-blown version of the Low Fodmap diet. Following that begins the challenge phase where small and then larger amounts of a specific type of carbohydrates can be added to see if they are the culprit responsible for irritating my poor tummy. For example, if large onslaughts of high fiber cereal, whole wheat pasta, breads, beets, and broccoli don’t make my stomach churn, it is safe to assume I don’t have problems with Fructans. If, however, a slice or 2 of bread lands me in pain, we can surmise that I do, in fact, have difficulty digesting Fructans and I can work to determine my threshold or tolerance for different Fructan containing foods.

To say that this has had an impact on my cooking would be a severe understatement. I realize now just how much I rely on handful of go to ingredients to build flavor in recipes. Without onions, garlic, or dairy, without the ability to combine nuts and fruits in the same meal, without bread, whole wheat and homey options are limited and I have to get pretty darn creative in order to produce wholesome meals for Dustin and I that comply with the “rules” of the low fodmap diet. Gluten-free recipes are a good place to start, especially for anything baking related. Low FODMAPers can also look to many paleo sites for ideas as there is substantial overlap between the ingredients not allowed in the two diets. I will caution that many Paleo baking recipes rely heavily on nut fours which, while technically allowed, can be a concentrated source of Galactans if eaten in large quantities. Also worth noting, paleo recipes typically incorporate agave and honey, both of which should be avoided on a Low FODMAP diet, maple syrup and regular sugar can be substituted, but, again, when combined with nut flours the recipe may in fact turn out an end product that is HIGH in FODMAPs.

This recipe was adapted from one I found in La Tartine Gourmande’s lovely cookbook. If you have not had a chance to peruse the book (or her fantastic blog) I highly recommend doing so. Her blog is full of sweet wistful recipes and beautiful photos and her book is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to reduce or avoid gluten sources in their diet. The original recipe called for apples, tahini, and muscovado sugar all of which I replaced with alternatives in my version. I am certain that the apples would be lovely and if you are not on a low FODMAP diet feel free to substitute these in equal amounts for the grated carrots listed below (the apples would also need to be grated.) As I am currently on the strictest part of the elimination diet I am working diligently to stick to the list of approved foods, I could not find information on Muscovado sugar so I substituted brown sugar for the Light Muscovado, again I am sure the Muscovado would work amazingly well but for the Low FODMAP dieters, light brown sugar is a safer bet.

As for why I use almond butter in my recipe instead of the tahini called for, it was simply what I had on hand. Even low Fodmappers should be safe to use the tahini paste called for provided that it is either home-made or there are no unapproved additives.  I recently whipped up a batch of almond butter in our Vitamix blender. If you have a vitamix and have never tried making your own nut butter it is so amazingly simple. Any nuts will work, I used almonds but feel free to experiment with whatever you have on hand, or create your own custom blend from a variety of different nuts. I highly suggest toasting/roasting and then slightly cooling the nuts before processing as it will result in a much richer flavor. Simply place about 2 cups of roasted/toasted nuts in the blender and turn the speed to variable 1. Slowly increase the speed, using the plunger to push the nuts down into the blades as you go, until you reach variable 10. Process until you come out with a smooth and creamy butter. If you like your nut butter on the chunky side pulse the nuts until they are fine but not paste-y and then remove some to stir back into the final product. You can also add some sea salt at the beginning of the process for a slightly saltier nut butter.

I list weights below in grams. If you don’t have a kitchen scale I have provided approximate measurements for the ingredients but I cannot recommend enough buying a scale, it is way more precise and conveniently negates the need to clean gooey sticky substances from the corners of all of your measuring cups after each baking procedure (and who likes more dishes?) I use an OXO scale with a pull out display that is available at Target stores. The pull out display is particularly nice when you are trying to measure ingredients onto a large plate or bowl that would otherwise tower over and completely cover the display.

Another handy feature of this scale is that the g/oz conversion button is on the top. My old kitchen scale had the switch on the bottom so to convert you would have to remove whatever you were weighing, press the button, and hope not to lose the weight you were measuring in the process by accidentally turning off the machine and clearing the display. I think there are two similar OXO models, both of which are carried by Target, one has a ~5lb max weight threshold and the other goes to ~11lb. I suggest pony-ing up a few extra bucks for the larger weight capacity as it makes it easier to put large/heavy items on the scale for measurement. This is particularly useful if you bake bread and have to measure 1 KG of flour, plus water into a large kitchen aid mixing bowl. With the lower capacity scale, it is quite easy to exceed the weight limit and they you have to set about using, and dirtying, separate bowls to weigh out your ingredients.

Allergy Free Carrot and Oat Muffins – Adapted, Slightly from La Tartine Gourmande’s Millet, Oat, and Apple Muffins

Yield – 10 Muffins

175g Coarsely Grated Carrots
2 Large Eggs at Room Temperature
80g (~1/2 C Packed) Light Brown Sugar
60 g (1/2 C) Millet Flour
30g (1/4 C) Quinoa Flour
50g (1/2 C) Thick Rolled Oats (Really, Any Kind are OK, Just Like the Toothsome Bite that Thicker Oats Bring to These)
Pinch of Sea Salt  (~ 1/8 TSP)
1 TSP Baking Powder
1/2 TSP Baking Soda
32g (2 TBSP) Almond Butter
50g (3 1/2 TBSP) Unsalted Butter, Melted and Slightly Cooled
1 TSP Pure Vanilla Extract

Preheat the oven to 350°. This recipe barely ekes out 10 standard (from a 12 muffin sheet pan) sized muffins. Gluten free muffins have a habit of sticking to paper muffin liners. I would advocate against using these if possible as you will likely end up losing a large portion of the muffin when you attempt to peel off the paper liner. Many gluten free bakers swear by using silicone muffin liners, I have not used them but imagine they would take care of the problem I just mentioned with the muffin batter adhering to the paper liners. I did not have silicone liners and could not find them anywhere so I sprayed the tins with organic canola oil spray and hoped for the best. For the Low FODMAP-ers out there, do not use baking spray as it has flour and other additives that may produce a reaction. Chose from the above listed options (spray, silicone liners, or paper liners) and prepare 10 out of the 12 muffin molds for filling. Set the tray aside.

Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a large stand mixer (or, if you don’t have a standing mixer, place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and grab and get an electric hand mixer suited up and at the ready – I would not really recommend doing this by hand with just a whisk, your arm may fall off and I cannot claim liability for lost limbs.) Get your stand mixer all fitted with the paddle attachment. Bring the machine up to medium speed, about a 5 on a kitchen-aid, and whisk until the mixture has significantly lightened in color and has at least doubled in volume. This should take a few minutes, so while it whisks away pull out a medium sized bowl and your handy kitchen scale (see note above) and measure out your dry ingredients. Whisk them together. Add the grated carrots and toss them with the flour, separating clumps of carrot shreds as you go until the carrots are evenly coated in the flour mixture.

Your egg/sugar mixture should be nice and fluffy at this point. Add the nut butter, melted butter, and vanilla and mix for another 30 seconds – one minute or until well combined. Scrape the bowl well and mix once more to ensure that all of the wet ingredients are well incorporated. Remove the mixer bowl from the stand and add the dry ingredients. Use a slightly flexible spatula and trace semi circles down and around the outside of the bowl folding gently towards the center as you go. You want to mix the ingredients without adding a lot of air or over mixing. As soon as there are no more visible clumps of dry ingredients in the mixture stop stirring and use a large spoon or ice-cream scoop to evenly distribute the batter into the 10 prepared muffin wells.

Sprinkle a few rolled oats onto the top of the muffins and place them in the center of the preheated oven. Bake for about 12 Minutes, rotate the pan so that the back is in the front and continue cooking for another 12-15 minutes. When the muffins are fully cooked (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean) remove them from the oven. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes before turning them out onto a wire cooling rack to cool. Enjoy the muffins as is or smear with your favorite spread (I recommend trying butter, peanut butter, and/or jam.)

Bolognese and Homemade Pasta

Since receiving a pasta extruder from his parents for Christmas, Dustin has slyly been asking me if we could make pasta. Now, normally, I would jump at an opportunity to make something Dustin was asking for, but, you see, some part of me was dreading what an undertaking this might become. I had these visions of what might go wrong. I feared some huge time investment that would yield little return, and a big mess. I worried that my pasta might turn out like the chocolate cake I tried to bake 2 weeks ago, which, when inverted onto a cake rack crumbled into roughly 200 mite size bits and resembled nothing even close to the cake I had dreamed of producing.  If a mere cake could reduce me to a puddle of tears on the floor, I could only imagine the damage noodles might incur.


And so, I did what any good home cook does when confronted by a daunting request, I stalled. As I stalled, I commenced my research. I watched several videos on You Tube on making home made dough, I browsed through 2 different book stores searching for an authoritative source on pasta making, I visited several different forums which detailed tips on using pasta extruders, and some which debated the finer points of OO vs All Purpose Flour, and read several discussions on the incorporation of semolina flour into dough recipes. Finally, after purchasing not one but  two (I tried but couldn’t help myself) books on Italian cooking, I felt I was ready to try my hand.



I am so glad I took the leap and gave making home made noodles a try. After much research, I had come to the conclusion that I wanted to make a dough with a high ratio of egg to flour, and shape it in the form of a chunky noodle that would be able to stand up to the chunky, unctuous sauce, without being completely overpowered. The pasta extruder made the work of turning out the noodles as easy as can be. If you do not have an extruder you can use a pasta roller and cut the rolled sheets into thick noodles, I imagine a papardelle would stand up well in this dish. I employed my food processor to mix the dough, it seemed a bit dry to me at first and I worried that I had not added enough water, but as I began to knead the dough it became considerably more elastic and flexible and turned out beautiful noodles. The noodles keep well stored in a flat layer on a baking sheet in the freezer for several weeks, but something tells me they won’t last that long.


One of the things Dustin loves most, and that he requests we make more often than any other dish is chili. Bolognese was an easy pick for a sauce, it is essentially an italian form of chili. It is a dish that requires building layers of flavor. First with a medley of herbs and vegetables, then with a mixture of meats, and finally with a sauce formed from tomatoes, alcohol, and dairy. Because the dish cooks for so long, and the vegetables practically melt into the sauce, this could be a great way of getting picky eaters to eat their veggies. While carrots and celery are the traditional veggies for the dish, I imagine that fresh fennel, parsnips, zucchini, and even winter squash, could be worked into the sauce adding valuable nutrients and subtle hints of flavor.



This recipe makes a great deal of sauce. It can be frozen for a month or so and defrosts with great success. It is fantastic on pasta, but very versatile, it makes a fantastic topping for rice, could definately play well as a pizza topping, and would likely make a nice filling for a frittata. It is also great served on its own, with a great hunk of crusty bread. The sauce does take a good deal of time to prepare properly, there are a lot of flavor elements that need to properly blend to form the final sauce. I reduced the amount of cream in the original recipe. If you are a big fan of creamy sauces, feel free to add additional cream to taste. The mortadella makes a great finishing touch but is by no means a necessary component. Feel free to omit it if you cannot find a high quality specimen. Alternatively you could substitute prosciutto, a mild salami, or gently spiced capicola. However you serve it, the Bolognese really benefits from a finishing touch of freshly snipped herbs. Basil or parsley pair extraordinarily well, but I Imagine other herbs such as tarragon or chervil would map a nice twist on tradition. However you choose to enjoy it, this is definitely a dish for friends and family. So gather some loved ones, and enjoy!


For the Home Made Rigatoni – From “The Glorious Pasta of Italy” by Domenica Marchetti

2 – 2 1/4 C OO Flour or All Purpose (I Used All Purpose But Have Read Much About The Wonders of OO Flour)
1 TBSP Semolina Flour – Plus Additional Flour For Dusting The Work Surface
1/2 TSP Sea Salt
Pinch of Freshly Grated Nutmeg
3 XL Eggs
1-2 TBSP Good Olive Oil

Place 2 C of flour in the bowl of a food processor along with the semolina flour, salt, and nutmeg. Pulse to mix. Break the eggs into the bowl along with 1 TBSP olive oil. Pulse the mixture until it forms small curd like crumbs. Pinch some of the “dough” between your fingers. It should not be crumbly or sticky. Try rolling the pinch in  small ball, it should form a smooth ball. If it seems too day add an additional TBSP oil, a bit at a time, until it reaches the right consistency. If it seems too wet, add more flour, a TBSP at a time, until firm but not crumbly.

Sprinkle a clean work surface with semolina flour. Turn the mixture out onto the surface. Remove the blade. Gently gather the dough into a ball. Using the palm of your hand, press the dough away and down in a firm, smooth motion to knead. Do this several times until the dough is smooth and slightly elastic. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 mins before placing it in the extruder to form the noodles. Alternatively, you can stretch the dough using a traditional pasta roller, either hand cranked, or electric. The sheets can be cut by hand into noodles, if you are planning to use the noodles with the Bolognese sauce, I recommend a thicker cut noodle, which can stand up to the hefty sauce.

The pasta will freeze well in a flat layer on a baking sheet that has been slightly dusted with semolina flour. Once frozen, you can transfer the noodles to a tupperware container and leave in the freezer for up to a month.


For the Bolognese Sauce – Adapted from “The Glorious Pasta of Italy” by Domenica Marchetti

3 TBSP Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2-3 TBSP Unsalted Butter
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
3 Large Carrots, Peeled and Finely Chopped
3 Stalks Celery, Finely Chopped
1 Large Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped
1 TBSP Parsley, Chopped
1 LB Ground Beef
1 LB Ground Veal
1 LB Ground Pork
1 C. Dry Vermouth or White Wine
Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Pinch of Freshly Grated Nutmeg
3/4 C. Whole Milk
16 oZ Can Tomato Puree
3 C. Meat Broth, Homemade if Possible
1/2 C. Heavy Cream
4 Oz Thinly Sliced Mortadella, Minced

Warm the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat until the butter is melted.  Stir in the garlic, carrots, celery, onion and parsley and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Sauté for 10 to 15 minutes until softened and golden.  Add the ground meat to the pot and stir into the sautéed vegetables to distribute well.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned but still tender, about an hour.

Raise the temperature to medium, stir in the vermouth and cook until the liquid evaporates.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Add the nutmeg and milk and stir to distribute evenly.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until most of the milk is absorbed.

Don’t Cry For Me Cipollini – Cipollini Onion and Rosemary Flatbreads

Its crazy to think that I have been wearing contacts for over 15 years. I received my first pair as a precocious 10 year old who had just lost yet another pair of glasses. My mom, at her wits end with my quirky penchant for misplacing everything from books, to lenses, to shoes, gloves, hats, and occasionally my entire backpack, was sincerely hoping this would be the last time she would bring me to the eye doctors for a replacement pair. My ophthalmologist proposed the idea of contacts, they would be far more difficult to misplace, and since a single pair would be far less expensive than a set of frames, in the event that I did misplace a lens, it wouldn’t be quite as damaging.

And so, for as long as I can remember, I have worn contacts. I cannot recall life without them, how my morning routine may have differed, how my activities were altered. For as long as I have been cooking I have been wearing my little Acuvue 2 friends. And until recently I had never prepped an onion without my lenses in. That is, until this morning, when, while prepping mirepoix for chicken soup in my brand new glasses, I sliced into an onion and felt a sensation I had never before felt. My eyes were on FIRE! I now know how the rest of the general population fees when slicing and dicing onions, and, for once, I feel blessed to be optically challenged.

These flatbreads, which I discovered on a blog post by one of my new favorite blog writers, Sarah, at the Yellow House blog, don’t employ just any old variety of onion. These beautiful little hors d’ouvres showcase one of my all time favorite varieties of onion, the Cipollini. Like many of my ancestors, Cipollinis hail from Italy. The name Cipollini, means small onion in Italian. And what these little beauties lack in size they make up for in flavor. Like Vadalia onions, Cipollini onions are a sweet variety of onion. They have far more residual sugar, when cooked, than their traditional counterparts. The variety can range in color from white to yellow to red, and can be found at many grocery stores, including Whole Foods, where I found these little beauties, on sale, lucky me.

This dish really highlights the beautiful soft flavors of the Cippolini. Though the onion is the proud “hero” of this dish, the earthy whole wheat flat breads play an important supporting role. It forms not only the literal base of the adorable appetizer, and lends it its name, but serves as a fantastic textural and flavor counterpoint to the silky sweet onion. The goat cheese is the glue that holds it all together, again, literally, in that it helps the onion “stick” to the flat bread and not slide off, but also brings a tangy, and classy element to the party. And, speaking of parties, these would make a fantastic contribution to your next shindig. They may even be the belle of the ball. So go on and try them! Just remember to wear your contacts, or goggles.

Cipollini Onion and Rosemary Flatbreads from a post by Sarah of “The Yellow House” blog

For Onions:
8-10 Cipollini Onions, Bottoms Still Intact, Peeled
2 TBSP Olive Oil
Several Sprigs Rosemary

For Flatbread:
1 1/2 C. 50/50 Flour (50% White, 50% Whole Wheat)
2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 TSP Baking Powder
1/2 TSP Sea Salt
1/2 C. Warm Water

For assembly:
More Rosemary to Garnish

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt for the flatbreads while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.  Add the olive oil, stirring gently.   Add as much of the water as necessary until the dough comes together into a sticky ball.  Once the dough is formed, let it rest while you move on to the onions.

Peel the onions (with contacts in if applicable), and toss in olive oil, roughly chopped rosemary and sea salt.  Place onions in roasting pan and roast for 30-40 minutes, turning every 10 minutes until caramelized and tender.

While the onions are roasting, heat a cast iron skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil (grapeseed or vegetable) over high heat.  Divide the dough ball into 8 pieces, roll each into a ball and flatten into very thin rounds on a wooden cutting board.  Add the rounds to the hot skillet, 4 at a time, and flip when they begin to blister and are lightly browned on one side.  The second side will cook more quickly, so keep an eye on them.

When everything is ready, spread the chèvre onto the flatbreads, top with an onion, smooshed down.  Sprinkle with chopped rosemary and serve!

An Ode to Alliums – Three Onion and Garlic Soup

January 5, 2012 1 comment

Homecomings are always a bit strange. No, I’m not referring to the early fall school year ritual of sports and parties but, more simply, to the act of returning to ones home after a time away. We have been living in Nashville now for six months and this past Christmas and new years holiday marked the first time that I have returned to my family’s homes in Philadelphia since our southern migration. It is the first time that Dustin and I have traveled down to visit our friends in Delaware since that same move, and so much has changed in the interim. In 2011, not only did we move 761 miles away from our long time haunt and college town of Newark, DE, but we excitingly have moved into our first “real apartment,” Dustin has started his first Grown-Up Job in a field that he is oh so excited about, and, of course, we got engaged.

And the Ten Days passed in an eye-bat. Not only did we make the 809 mile trek up through countless mountain ranges, past thousands of farms cutting though six states to see my family, but we then journeyed on northward another 286 miles to Dustin’s family’s home in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, where we spent the Christmas Holiday making merry with his parents and siblings. And with so many people and so much merriment it always seems as though the feasting never stops. For the past few holidays we have taken a break from the insane many-plate dinners by swapping in a grilled cheese and soup night. When I saw a recipe, in a newly received soup cookbook for an onion soup with mini grilled cheese “croutons” I was inspired to try my hand at making a soup to honor one of my favorite vegetables, the onion.

When I started to do some research on onions I was a bit surprised to find that this veggie, which I had always assumed to be “nutritionally neutral,” is actually quite good for you. Onions are low in calories, virtually fat free, and rich in heart healthy, anti-viral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antihistamine properties. I was so overjoyed by the good news I could feel my eyes well up with tears, oh, wait, never mind, that was just the pile of onions I had chopped. But the fruits of my blood, sweat, and, of course, tears, were well worth the labor. The soup, which I made from 3 varieties of onions and a hearty handful of garlic had a great rich taste and fantastic silky texture.

I am all for not taking unnecessary cheffy steps in pursuit of culinary perfection but it is absolutely necessary that you use high quality chicken stock in the soup as it forms the backbone of the flavor profile, without it the soup will lose much of its sensual richness. To reduce the waterworks effect that onion chopping has on even the toughest home chefs use a freshly honed chefs knife and chop just before you plan to use the onions. Additionally, as tear producing compounds are most concentrated at the root end of the onion, chop the top of first and leave the root end intact while slicing the onions. In fact, after slicing the top off and cutting the onion in half vertically, you can peel the outer shell of the onion back towards the root and use it as a sort of handle to keep the onion firm in place while chopping. However you slice it, this soup is good, easy on the wallet, and will help fight off nagging winter colds and holiday pounds. What a welcome way to start the new year!

Three Onion and Garlic Soup

2 TBSP Unsalted Butter
2 TBSP Olive Oil
3 Large Yellow Onions Sliced (Pick a Nice Sweet Yellow Variety)
6 Shallots Sliced
3 Leeks Sliced
8 Cloves of Garlic Smashed and Roughly Chopped
1 TSP Salt
1 TBSP Light Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
4 Cups Home Made Chicken Stock
Salt and Freshly Cracked Pepper

In a large dutch oven melt oil with butter. Add onion, garlic, leeks, and shallots and sautee until soft (6-8 minutes.) Add salt to the onions and stir. Turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for 30 minutes. Add sugar, stir, and cook another 10 minutes.

Turn the heat up to high, add the wine and bring to a boil, cook until the wine is almost absorbed. Add the chicken stock, return to a boil, and cook, stirring often for 10 minutes.

Take the pot off the stove and allow to cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Place half the soup in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Return the pureed half to the pot and season to taste with salt and pepper.


Categories: Uncategorized

It Has Begun – 2011 Holiday Season

December 1, 2011 1 comment

Hello Readers!

We hope that last week’s festivities resulted in new cooking endeavors and lots of time spent laughing and loving with family.  We here at penchant for produce find ourselves in a predicament.  It appears that our one memory card that holds all of the photographs for our posts has been left, by Dustin, in Massachusetts where we just spent all of last week cooking away.  So our next post will have to wait a few days, but in the mean time we were thinking we could turn the table and let you, our readers, have a voice.  We would love to hear what some of your successes and adventures in the kitchen were this 2011 Thanksgiving?  Please feel free to share any exciting new dishes or old family classics that should definitely not be missed.

Our next post will be on its way soon, a very simple yet delicious homage to a beautiful vegetable.  Stay tuned and happy holidays!

And some photos of our favorite veggies to keep you hungry for the good stuff.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Season of Giving – Our Holiday Favorites

November 1, 2011 1 comment

I’m not really the biggest fan of Halloween. Its not that I dislike it really, but as someone whose birthday falls just before the holiday, I have already had enough ghoul and goblin themed parties to last me a lifetime. But I do love the end of October, not just because my birthday falls neatly into the month end season of beautiful turning leaves and crisp weather, but because the end of October means that November is right around the corner. Now you might be wondering why I’m all excited to see the calendar page turn to November – so I’ll tell you. In case you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks I thought might point out that Holiday Season is officially here. And my favorite holiday of all, of course, is Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that seamlessly combines two of my all-time favorite things, cooking and traditions. This second word may come as a bit of a shock to some who know me as, perhaps, not the worlds most traditional person. But I love that Thanksgiving is one day of the year when most of America, many of whom cook a meal this elaborate but once a year, cook a classic English style family roast consisting of a set of traditional side dishes which revolve around a beautiful turkey centerpiece. Families prepare recipes which have often been passed down through generations, compare notes on cooking and shopping techniques, and team together to pull off this amazing meal. In my opinion it is a great time to get a family working together towards a common end goal and spend time as a group collaborating on strategies and laughing at mishaps.

My secret to success? A positive can-do attitude, a jolly sip (or three) of wine, copious planning, and, of course, the right tools for the job. And speaking of the right tools, I want to share with you some of my favorites. Gadgets that make the holiday rush run smoothly (or perhaps just a tad more smoothly.)

1. Rösle® Stainless-Steel Digital Oven and Meat Thermometer  2. OXO Adjustable Potato Ricer 3. Emile Henry Artisan Ruffled Pie Dish 4. Revol Belle Cuisine Covered Cocottes  5. Brining Bags (Set of 4 From Williams-Sonoma) 6. Simplehuman Bamboo-Trim Dish Rack

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A Southern Inspiration – Classic American Cole Slaw

I know this may come as a bit of a shock but until recently I had never tried my hand at making a Classic American Style Cole Slaw. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’ve never made any sort of slaw-esque summer salad. Over the past few years, I have spent countless hours in the kitchen, knife in hand, squinting, in an attempt to julienne a myriad of fruits and veggies and render variations on the classic.

I’m not sure what caused me to steer away from the simple summer staple when planning countless warm weather meals. Perhaps, I was just completely uninspired by the mayo-laden store bought variety that is typically found at backyard BBQs across America – you know the kind I mean – white gray with flecks of purple and orange, watery and bland, funny aftertaste… not exactly the type of dish I seek to recreate at home.

All of this changed when Dustin and I went down to Nashville in March. True to foodie form I spent the weeks before the trip searching online for great local spots to eat. I wanted to sample a broad cross-section of what Nashville had to offer. Using the Nashville Scene’s 2010 Best of Nashville Reader’s Poll and Local Yelp forums I devised a must try list. On the short-list were some great ethnic restaurants including a fabulous West-Nashville Korean spot, a great Tortilleria on the south side of the city, and, one of my personal favorites (and the inspiration for this post) a “hot fish” joint called “East Side Fish” located in a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant in East Nashville.

I will admit when we first walked into the small shack (that we almost drove past) that I was a bit apprehensive about eating there. Between the bars on the windows, and the sparse group of customers sitting on the stools that lined the small wall counters I was wondering if perhaps my researched has pointed us in entirely the wrong direction. True to Southern form when we reached the front of the line the cashier patiently guided up through the options available pointing out what ones might be best for first time hot fish eaters.

Still a bit wary, we settled on sharing a plate of fried catfish with small nuggets of fried okra, and – you guessed it – coleslaw. Holy Heavens to Betsy, you bet your bottom dollar this was not the coleslaw I grew up. While it was made with the smooth mayo base I was accustomed to, the Southern-style slaw was brightened by an strong underpinning of vinegar and a hit of herbal celery salt. With the way it highlighted the creaminess of the beautifully fried fish fillets I thought perhaps this slaw was worth giving a go in my own kitchen. So after inhaling the first plate, we bought a second serving.

Saveur Magazine devoted its entire June/July issue to Barbeque. Nestled in among the featured recipes was one for a traditional American coleslaw and I took it as my grand opportunity to try my hand at the classic. I will admit that in my attempt to push my own limits as an entertainer and create no fewer than seven dishes for this meal I actually conceded to buying store bought julienned veggies for the slaw. Given more time I’d give it a go by hand but it significantly reduced the amount of prep needed to execute the dish.

Tennessee-Style Cole Slaw (adapted from Saveur)

1/2 Cup High-Quality Mayonnaise
1/8 Cup Dijon Mustard
1/8 Cup Yellow Mustard
1/8 Cup Sugar
1/8 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 TSP Freshly Cracked Pepper
1 1/2 TSP Kosher Salt
1 TSP Celery Seeds
1 24 Oz Bag of Cole Slaw Mix (or One Med Head of Cabbage Julienned and One Julienned Carrot)

Mix dressing ingredients in a bowl adjust seasoning as needed – if you like your slaw with extra zing you can add extra vinegar. If you like a sweeter slaw you can turn up the volume on the sugar a bit. As always the salt and pepper measurements are approximate, season with salt and pepper to suit your taste.

Once the dressing is to your liking mix in the julienne until you feel you’ve achieved a good slaw to dressing ratio.

Eat and Enjoy!!

Categories: Uncategorized

A Request – Vegan Quinoa Agave Bread

It was pointed out to me by a reader that my penchant for produce also seems to involve a good amount of meat. And looking back at my first eight blog posts it would appear that is the case, alas, I admit, I have a bit of a thing for bacon, and then there’s that love of slow cooked meat, and eggs, and cheese and… but fear not dear readers I love to cook sans meat as well!

Dustin and I have recently ventured into bread baking, and when I say Dustin and I – what I really mean is, that I have ventured hardcore into the field of bread eating and Dustin has put his manly, bone-crushing hand strength to work kneading dough in the kitchen. The two of us really do make a good cooking pair, while I am good at coming up with ideas for dishes and have some sort of an innate 6th sense for cooking, patience, is not really one of my kitchen virtues. OK, its just not one of my virtues, period. Dustin, on the other hand, has the amazing ability to wait out the long rise times that baking bread by hand requires. And my taste buds are very thankful for this.

I was asked to come up with a vegan recipe, a process which actually proved exceedingly more difficult that I originally thought it would be. I wanted to show a complex dish, something nuanced and not typically vegan (i.e. not a simple vegetable saute or grilled tofu.) Additionally I wanted this dish to be something that both my vegan and carnivorous readers would enjoy. Dustin and I had given a go at making quinoa bread a few months back and it was truly fantastic. The loaf came out with a distinct nutty flavor, heightened by a sweet honeyed accent, and a fabulous crunch from the quinoa topping. The recipe we initially used called for milk, powered milk, and honey. In this rendition, we substituted soy milk for the milk and powdered milk, and agave nectar for the honey, and it was just as amazing, if not better than, the first non-vegan version.

Quinoa is actually an amazing grain-like crop, while most people categorize it as a grain it is actually related to swiss chard. The small nutty flavored pellets are packed with protein, iron, and magnesium. Even better the protein contained in quinoa is considered a “complete protein” meaning that it contains a well balanced amino acid profile, making it a perfect fit for a vegan diet!

With Summer and Fall’s amazing bounty lurking right around the corner, in the months to come, we hope to show you all a lot more vegan and vegetarian dishes that highlight fantastic grains and seasonal produce.

Vegan Quinoa Agave Bread

1 Cup Quinoa (We Used Red)
2 Cups Water
1/4 Cup Oatmeal
1 Cup Soy Milk (Divided)
2 TSP Dry Active Yeast
1/4 Cup Warm Water
1/3 Cup Agave Syrup
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
4 1/4 Cups Bread Flour
2 TSPS Sea Salt
Raw Quinoa for Sprinkling on Top of Loaf

Start by cooking the 1 cup of quinoa in the 2 cups of water and the 1/4 cup of oatmeal in 1/2 cup of the soy milk. Cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes for the quinoa and maybe 5 minutes for the oatmeal. Remove and let cool.

Warm 1/4 cup of water and add the yeast. Let sit for a few minutes so the yeast can activate.

Add the remaining half cup of soy milk (warmed), the agave syrup, and vegetable oil. Mix by hand or in a standing mixer for a few minutes.

Add a cup of the flour and continue to mix. Add the cooked quinoa and oatmeal and mix for a few more minutes. Continue to add flour, a half cup at a time for 5 to 10 minutes, taking the dough to a floured surface for kneeding when appropriate. The dough should be slightly sticky but should hold its shape.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1.5 to 2 hours until doubled.

Note: Remember that the yeast needs warmth to do its job, so a 60 degree air conditioned or winter kitchen might not be the best for rising bread. In the past we have used an oven to heat up the kitchen to aid in the rising process. Today, I just turned off the air and opened the window to let the 87 degree humid air aid in our rising process. Worked like a charm!

Punch the dough down once and form into loaf/rolls. We ended up with a 5″ by 10″ loaf and a couple of fist sized rolls. Be sure to lightly grease the loaf pan or baking sheet used. Let the dough rise once more until nice and puffy. Place in oven.

The rolls cooked for about 15 minutes and the loaf cooked for about 30 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven, letting it cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes before devouring it!

Categories: Uncategorized

Pickles, A Love Story – Grilled Cheese with Ham and Pickles

We have almost exactly one month left until D-Day (departure day.) So with the impending move looming before us we decided to trek up North to spend time with family and visit one of our favorite North East climbing spots in Rumney, NH. We had two of the most beautiful climbing days I have had outside in a long time. The hikes and views were beautiful and the climbs were simply exhilarating. Returning to Dustin’s parents house, I was looking forward to cooking up some old fashioned comfort food.

Dustin’s family always seems to have deli meat, something we rarely buy at home, sliced and ready to go in the fridge. I was inspired to whip up something new for lunch. I realize that, for me, this is a fairly simple recipe and a bit of a departure from my normal, more intricate posts but it was so incredibly deletable I just had to share!

I will admit I am somewhat slightly obsessed with pickles. For this recipe I like a fresh, Jewish deli style garlic pickle. The ones I used were extremely fresh, less vinegary and tasted more cucumber-y than your average kosher dill variety. Use these if at all possible as they impart a certain freshness to the dish that a more garlicky and acidic variety would not.

This buttery bread bomb lands squarely between a Classic grilled ham and cheese and its up market cousin, a Cuban style panini. The smoked deli ham imparts a nice hickory flavor which is mellowed out by the buttery bread and creamy cheese. Thinly sliced pickles add a subtle twang while whole grain mustard provides a punchy finish. As I like my grilled cheeses piping hot, after searing the bread in a pan, I popped the sandwich into a preheated oven to finish it off and bring the ham and pickles up to temp.

Serve this along side a summery slaw and good quality kettle chips for an unbeatable deli-style summer lunch.


Grilled Cheese with Ham and Pickles

2 Slices of Good Sourdough Bread
1 TSP Good Grainy Mustard
2 Slices of Provolone Cheese Preferably Sharp (Sliced at Medium Thickness)
2 Slices Smoked Deli Ham (Sliced at Medium Thickness)
1 Fresh Kirby Sized Garlic Pickle Sliced into Thin Rounds
Freshly Ground Pepper
2 TSP Unsalted Butter

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Start by assembling your sandwich. Lay your two slices of bread on a plate. On one half spread your TSP of Grainy Mustard then top that with a slice of the provolone, on the other half lay down the second slice of cheese, ham slices and pickles. Grind on a turn or two of freshly ground pepper before carefully flipping mustarded-ed half on top of the pickles to close the sandwich.

Heat a small oven proof skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot drop in on TSP of the butter. Once the butter has melted place the grilled cheese in the pan to sear the outside. Cook the grilled cheese until the underbelly is golden. Carefully lift the sandwich with a spatula and suspend over the pan while you drop in the second TSP of butter. Sear this second side until this too is golden. Place the entire pan in the oven and cook for 3 mins. Flip GC and cook 3 mins longer. Check to make sure the center is warm. Remove your steamy and now gooey GC from the oven slice in half, arrange on a plate and serve with sumptuous sides of your choice.

Categories: Pickle, Uncategorized Tags: , ,
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