Cassoulet for two…with a pretzel bread crust…

This French, succulent, stew made with white beans as a fundamental, is a one pot rustic dinner that will have you + one = swooning.  The dish gets its name from the pot in which it is cooked, the cassole, a cone shaped earthenware dish.  The shape of the dish helps to ensure a nice crunchy and luscious crust on the top.  So, traditionalists…close your eyes and cover your ears…well maybe to be safe, just stop reading now.  I did not make this dish in a cassole, nor did I use meat, not even a mirepoix involved in this recipe.  However, I was still seduced by this dish and its deep flavor and we had a simmering romance over the stove.  I made my own broth for this dish, it worked out perfect, wasting nothing.  Just throw in the scraps from the peeled vegetables and onions that you will use for the cassoulet into a pot with water, some pepper corns, a bay leaf and herbs, olive oil, some kosher salt, and let simmer to your desired depth of flavor.  The pretzel bread crust is just…well…just the unpredictable crispy balance to the earthy anchor of the stew.  Thank you honey, for being my anchor.

Cassoulet for two…with a pretzel bread crust…

1 ½ cup dried great northern white beans 

***In preparation you will need to soak your beans overnight.

water for the soak, just enough to cover the top of the beans.

1 large leek, rinsed and sliced

3 carrots, peeled and cubed

2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed.

¼ yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bouquet garni (again, no need to be super traditional use what herbs you have, but I would encourage the rosemary)

4-8 cups broth

salt and pepper

olive oil

pretzel bread baguette

canned whole tomatoes (I was fortunate to have a small jar of tomatoes that were canned this summer from my mother in law’s garden)…skip the tomatoes if you do not have a good version. You can add a touch of good quality tomato paste for flavor, and you may require more broth. 

*** This dish was made in a 2qt round dutch oven.

In olive oil, sauté leeks, onion and garlic over low heat until translucent.  Then add carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes. Let simmer for a couple minutes, stirring regularly.   

Add beans and 3-4 cups of broth (enough to cover beans and vegetables), salt, pepper, and the bouquet garni.  Let simmer on low heat mixing regularly until beans and vegetables are tender.  You may need to add broth throughout this process little by little.  Just ladle it in as necessary. You will have a thick stew in the end. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice pretzel bread baguette into thin coins.  Toast lightly.  Once the beans and vegetables are tender, form pretzel bread into concentric circles over the top of the dish and place in oven until set, crunchy, and lightly browned.  Garnish with a little fresh herbs. Serve right in the pot with two spoons.

Eat together, toast to each other, and share!

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Homemade garden burgers…

So hitting rock bottom can be an intimidating but exhilarating place to be.  I found myself sitting on the floor in sweats, eating a frozen, microwaveable, garden burger…rubbery patches and all.  No bun, just the burger and some melted cheese.   My little daughter came toddling over and said “bite?”, and my heart sank  as I shook my head and went scrambling for something worthy for her to eat.  Shameful performance mom. But… I will never cheat on good food again.   My instincts reminded me that I should not be eating food that I do want my daughter eating. I began to see my kitchen in a whole new way, why buy granola bars, I’ll make my own! crackers, those too!  So these garden burgers are not only delicious and healthy, but they can save you when you are in a cooking depressive state…or just in a pinch.  The recipe makes about 15 burgers and they freeze well, and don’t crumble apart when you cook them.   We toasted ciabatta bread and adorned the burgers with grain mustard, Havarti cheese, cornichon pickles, and crunchy lettuce.  Swoon.

 

Homemade garden burgers…

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup rolled oats processed into flour

2 cups breadcrumbs

½ cup sliced almonds

½ cup pepitas, toasted

3 large carrots, shredded

1 ½ cup black beans, smashed (dried preferably)

¾ cup dried cherries, chopped

1 small onion, diced and caramelized

1 tbs harissa powder

1 tsp gram masala

for the binder:

1 ½ cup water mixed with 3 tbs flax meal

Prepare the binder by mixing ingredients together and set aside.  Over medium-low heat, caramelize onions in olive oil.  Add all ingredients together and mix.  Then add the binder at the end and mix again until evenly combined.  Using your hands, scoop out palm sized portions and roll and flatten into paddies.  Reserve a few for dinner, and then freeze the rest. We fried ours on a pan with a little olive oil, but you can grill them or bake them at 350 in the oven on a baking sheet for 10-15 minutes- flipping in the middle. 

Eat together, toast to each other, and share!


Honey preserved lemons…

Over Thanksgiving we made a little road trip to see some family for some good eats and company over the holiday.  It is pretty amazing what one can grow and keep in Southern California. Pumpkins, zucchini, varieties of squash, herbs, lettuce, kale, orchards of lime and lemon trees, and soon to be persimmon trees, avocado trees, oh…and a handful of chickens, some playful cats, and the ever fetching pup. Their citrus trees were so heavy with fruit, the branches were literally breaking, so they spoiled us and sent us home with a trunk full of lemons and limes.  Now what to do with a mountain of citrus other than give some away and freeze the juices? Well, this little darling of a recipe is proving to come in more and more handy as we creep closer to winter.  A snotty nose here, cough there, sneezing here, fevers and chills there.  All of these little bugs are making the rounds and making us want to curl up on our couches with a hot cup of tea and a blanket.  These lemons are amazing in tea, minced in yogurt, on toast with herbed goat cheese, as a preserve in breads. I’m sure preserving tangerines, clementines, or oranges..oooh or blood oranges…would prove equally delectable and delightful. Raw honey has some amazing antimicrobial properties to it created by an enzyme left by our friends the bees, so the lemons will keep refrigerated for up to 3 months…if they hang around that long.  Also, let me know if you turn this into an adult libation, warm scotch or bourbon anyone?

Honey preserved lemons…

6-8 Meyer lemons, cut horizontally into rings (any variety will do, but I like the floral essence of Meyers)

1 cup raw honey

½ cup organic cane sugar

6-8 whole cloves

a cinnamon stick, just for fun

water

*You will also need sterilized jars any size.

 

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup of water, honey, sugar, and cloves to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and slowly add the lemons. Simmer for about 10 minutes.   Remove from heat and let steep covered, for 8 hours. Re-heat mixture to a low simmer, then slowly transfer to your jars.  Let cool to room temperature, then seal and refrigerate for a week before using. 

Eat together, toast to each other, and share!


Roasted root vegetable pot pies…

Sometimes I have this fantasy that I live on real working farm.   I feel like I should be able to go outside and pick my herbs, churn my butter, gather eggs from my chickens, and march down to my root cellar and gather a couple of potatoes all in the name of dinner.  I have never understood what there is not to love about cooking and preparing with your hands.  This is the message that was passed down to me anyway from my grandmother to my mother, from my mother to me, and hopefully I will manage to pass this message on to my daughter. The stories about the women in my family have been slow waltzing around in my mind, and most of my memories lead back to this central theme: in cooking, less is more and it is all in the wrist.  When I fully understand all the choreography and meaning of the stories about these women, hopefully I will be able to share.  What I imagine is a story about Europe, family, connection, and food. None of us lived on farms, but all of us boast a do-it-yourself attitude about food…and life in general…my 15 month old included.

This recipe requires a little care and elbow grease. I have made the crust with a food processor, but I have to say, I missed the large streaks of marbled butter in the dough. Whatever you choose, in the end you will feel the comfort and satisfaction of the two pieces of art cooling on your counter top as you dust the flour off your hands and apron.

 

Roasted root vegetable pot pies…

(makes 2)

filling:

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed

1 bunch mini carrots, peeled and cubed

1 turnip, peeled and cubed

8-10 cremini mushrooms, quartered

1 ½ cups frozen peas

thyme

salt and pepper

olive oil

béchamel sauce (recipe follows)

one pie crust  per serving(recipe follows)

pie crust:

1 cup flour

½ cup (1stick) unsalted butter

1 tsp kosher salt

ice water

1 egg, for wash

béchamel sauce:

½ yellow onion

3 tbs unsalted butter

3 tbs flour

1 ½ cups milk

kosher salt

pinch of nutmeg

Prepare pie crust by mixing together flour and salt. Then cut butter into the flour either by hand or food processor until fully incorporated. Make sure butter is cold.  Then, slowly add ice water 1 tbs at a time, until mixture forms a ball.  Shape, cover, and put in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While the crust is chilling, peel and cube the root vegetables, cover with olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper and place in oven. Roast until tender, about 15-20 minutes, tossing often.  In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté mushrooms in 2-3 tbs of olive oil, salt and pepper until just tender. Then, in a bowl, combine root vegetables, mushrooms, and peas.  Salt and pepper to taste. Add a pinch more of thyme. Set aside.

To make the béchamel sauce, begin by sautéing onions on low heat in butter until tender and translucent.  Then incorporate flour making a roux.  Slowly add milk little by little, whisking. Let simmer on low heat, whisking frequently. The sauce will begin to thicken.  Add salt to taste. Add a pinch of nutmeg.

To assemble, pour béchamel over the vegetable mixture and combine evenly.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Then pour into large ramekins or other serving dishes that are oven safe.  Roll out crusts on a floured surface to ¼ inch thick.  Place over the dishes and secure to the sides by crimping.  Cut a hole in the crust for venting.  For the egg wash beat egg and add a dash of water.  Brush wash over the assembled pies.  Then sprinkle tops with kosher salt.

Bake at 350 degrees until crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Eat together, toast to each other, and share! 


homemade vanilla yogurt…

I have been having a love affair with foodcrafting.  I have been romanced by the succulence of a homemade broth, the deep warmth of a homemade vanilla extract, and enamored by spice blends, salt rubs, preserves, mustards, and breads.  Today I spent the day learning how to make kefir and yogurt from a neighbor and friend. Our two blonde babies ran around the house like happy little heathens, while she told me this story about yogurt. My friend learned how to make yogurt from an Afgani woman, and she said, “her approach was to treat making yogurt as more of an art than a science”, “the process is awfully forgiving, so just do away with the thermometer and watch and feel the milk”.  So, I watched, I felt, and I listened.  I was so relieved to find that making yogurt was so approachable. Most store bought yogurt has an out of control laundry list of ingredients that seem so silly, when all you need is some milk and cultures.   I made this yogurt from whole organic milk from grass fed cows, and added a touch of vanilla just for funzies.  The little flecks of vanilla bean make me happy.  Oh, the little things.

Homemade vanilla yogurt…

1 quart organic milk

1 vanilla bean

store bought cultures or 2-3 heaping tbs of left over yogurt with live active cultures

*These quantities are just guidelines and are really flexible. I just let my container determine the amount of milk.

Measure out desired amount of milk.  Place in a large pot over medium-low heat.  Place cultures/yogurt in the container that you wish to use.

I will let my friend talk you through the rest of the process:

“Watch the milk closely until it starts to bubble, just shy of a simmer, you can see the bubbles rising up off the bottom of the pot slowly. Don’t leave the kitchen during this time, milk scalds so quickly…and I have searched and searched and there is really no way to reuse scalded, burned milk. Then take it off the heat to cool.   I usually let it cool until I can touch my hand on the outside of the pot comfortably and leave it there without it burning”. 

Then, once the milk has cooled, add a couple tbs to your cultures/yogurt to temper them, then add the rest of the milk and stir.  She says, “just remember the cultures are a living organism, so we try and treat them as such by not shocking them with hot milk”.

 “I just use recycled (but sterilized) jars…anything with a lid.  Also, be mindful of where you put your spoon, you don’t want to cross contaminate your bacteria. Wrap your jar in a towel and put in a warm place to incubate for about 8-12 hours depending on the quantity of yogurt and how warm it is in your home”. 

Putting the mixture in the refrigerator will stop the incubation. 

 

*I added a vanilla bean, split in half with the seeds scraped out into the milk during the heating phase for a little vanilla essence. Then once the milk cooled, I removed the bean and poured the milk into my container through a sieve.  

Eat together, toast to each other, and share!


LoveNotes…

These make me want to get married all over again. I can’t stop swooning over this and this.

Yes, I still swoon over my husband…daily.

This color palette:

There is an art to making a mix tape, and boy do I remember those magenta and blue Memorex tapes.

On the agenda next week.

BiBa and the Swede

This cup of coffee:

I want to carry my book in this.

Return home safely, my daily mantra can be worn around my neck

photostrips

This sunset:

It is only Rock n’ Roll but I like it

Now this…is pretty amazing

Sweet peas make me smile…especially hanging in my kitchen


Persimmon marmalade bread…

Persimmon. Persimmon. Persimmon.  The more you say the word persimmon, the prettier it gets.  In thinking about writing this post, the word has streamed through my conscience so steadily for the past few days that I briefly considered naming a child persimmon.  But rest assured Apple, no fruit for us.  The fruit is rather like its name, the more you use, and get used to its subtleties, the more attractive and versatile the flavor becomes. They are quite the fickle fruit (now I will be saying that all day today), from bitter and mealy to soft and slimy in seemingly hours.  That magical transition point in between, harvests a sweet, rich, and quintessential fall flavor.

I had a staring contest with these little fruit, until they blushed the most beautiful sunburst orange.   The minute I turned away they became so soft they slipped straight out of their skins, perfect for bread.  They essentially determined their own destiny.  Slather this bread with butter and you will not regret a single bite.

Persimmon marmalade bread…

(makes 2 loaves…for sharing!)

 3 cups flour

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

kiss of cinnamon

 1 cup organic cane sugar

1 cup marmelade

1 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

3-4 Hachiya persimmons

*1 cup dried cherries, optional

 

Preheat oven to 350.  Oil and flour 2 standard size loaf pans.  Combine dry ingredients, except sugar.  Remove persimmon flesh from skin and stems. Combine wet ingredients with sugar and add zest and persimmon flesh.  Then, little by little incorporate the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes.

Eat together, toast to each other, share!

Had to include this photo, I love the colors…


KidNote…summer berry popsicles…in fall…

So here is my story. I am a hoarder of all things. I get emotionally attached to random objects that arrive in my life and circumstance. I have papers written in high school, my sister’s art work from when she was two (framed I might add), old report cards, photos, letters, notes, and recipes…oh the recipes. I get this way with food too. I try to make the food stretch across the seasons. Continually attempting to preserve the ephemeral.
Summer has come and gone…kind of. Tomatoes are still producing, berries are abundant, and it is still warm beach weather here…for now. Apparently old habits die hard as I began hording my berries from our farm box months ago, freezing them in perfectly airtight single serving portions. Usually, I wait to bring them out on a frosty day to make a raspberry clafoutis or mixed berry pie in the middle of winter. However, I am encountering no problems…so far…finding beautiful, local, organic berries. I write with such hesitation, because although a born and raised Californian, I have lived with intense seasons for the past 10 years. I am still adjusting to the differences in how the food responds to the weather…and frankly loving beach days in October.


I decided I could be a little less paranoid about using up all my berries and made these popsicles that were nourishing and thoroughly enjoyed. These are made with summer sunned berries, ricotta cheese, and coconut oil. For younger kiddos that have not had dairy incorporated into their diet you can always use other frozen milks (breast milk, soy milk) or pureed silken tofu. They are great for those little teethers too!

Summer berry popsicles…in fall…

1 basket of raspberries
1 basket of blackberries
1 container of whole milk ricotta cheese (for those developing brains!)
2-4 tbs coconut oil
popsicle holders

Heat berries separately over the stove and mash gently. Set aside. Heat up coconut oil to a liquid and let cool for 3-5 minutes. Place ricotta cheese into a small bowl and add coconut oil. Add coconut oil to taste. Then layer berries and cheese in alternating layers in a popsicle holder. Freeze overnight. Serve on a hot…fall day…at the beach.
 *If you use a less viscous milk, the layers will not be evident.

Eat together, toast to each other, and share!


dukkha on a perfectly boiled egg…

 

 

Dukkha (or duqqa) is an Egyptian spice and nut blend that probably has as many recipes as there are chefs, home cooks, and street vendors in Egypt. I first had this lovely dance of flavors during a brunch with an old friend at her home in Santa Monica. We sat outside on the grass dipping bread into olive oil into dukkha; noshing and getting lost in our history and memories. Since then it has quickly become the star of my pantry. The major players in this blend tend to be hazelnuts, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, salt, and pepper. But one can add dry herbs, different nuts, dried chickpeas, and on and on. Dukkha adds a beautiful twist to just about anything. With bread dipped in olive oil, to season roasted vegetables, on pasta with some Russian rye bread crumbs and lemon zest. It is earthy, spicy, with a hint of floral undertones all at the same time. My favorite cameo for this fabulous blend has been as a simple sprinkle on top of a perfectly boiled egg. But, be careful getting lost with a friend over brunch, you might smile so much your face hurts.

dukkha…

1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/3 cup black sesame seeds
2 tbs coriander seeds
2 tbs fennel seeds
1 tbs cumin seeds
2 tsp sea salt (I had a grey variety on hand, and it was lovely)
2 tsp cracked pepper

1 egg per person, boiled.

Toast nuts. Set aside. Toast coriander, fennel, and cumin seeds. Combine nuts and toasted seeds in a food processor until a coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl. Add sesame seeds (if using white sesame seeds, toast those as well), salt, and pepper. This recipe makes enough to store for a while. I keep mine in a recycled jam jar. You can freeze the mixture as well. Just remember that nuts can spoil.

 

Fill a pot with water. Add eggs. Turn on flame/stove top, bring eggs and water to a boil together. Once boiling, turn off the burner and let eggs sit for about 5-7 minutes. Then, with a very sharp knife, cut eggs (shell and all) in half.

Serve sprinkled with dukkha and eat with a spoon right out of the eggshell.

Eat together, toast to each other, and share!


Rosemary Tuscan bread…

It is the first day of autumn today, but you would not know it just by looking out my window.  The lazy palms are dancing in a gentle breeze with a perfectly blue sky as a backdrop.  However, there is a subtle change in the morning and afternoon, the marine layer hangs around a little longer, keeping everything damp and cool.  Although the word “crisp” is a stretch in describing the weather, there are the feelings of the beginning of a seasonal change.  I have been playing around with a number of soups lately as the evening fog draws me into a cooler space in my mind.  Tortilla soup, Tuscan cabbage soup, creamy tomato soup, spicy pepper soup, all asking for some good bread for dunking.  I went with a traditional Tuscan round, no salt, but I warmed it up a little with some rosemary and cracked pepper.  This bread also makes for a perfect breakfast with a little olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt.  You can also slice and toast this bread, rub with a little garlic, and serve with your soup of choice.  This recipe makes two little loaves, perfect for freezing…or sharing with your neighbor.

Rosemary Tuscan rounds…

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/4 cup warm water

1 tbs active dry yeast

2 heaping tbs fresh rosemary, minced

cracked pepper

pinch of sugar

Dissolve yeast and a pinch of sugar in warm water for  about 10 minutes.  Stir together rosemary, cracked pepper, and flour.  Now, I just used a bowl and a wooden spoon for this bread, no need to dirty a mixer.  Mix together yeast mixture and 1 cup of flour mixture, then slowly mix in the rest of the flour, little by little. Dough will be stiff. Kneed the dough for about 5 minutes.  Cover on a lightly floured surface or bowl and let double in size, about 2 hours.  Then punch down the bread, cut dough in half, and shape into loaves.  Let double in size again on a floured sheet pan, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake until crust is golden, about 30 minutes.

Eat together, toast to each other, and share!