September 27, 2012


The last rose

The spider webs of the orb weavers, purple asters, ripening grapes, a perfect, cyan blue sky. Autumn's breath has whispered into the world, bringing me that particular energy for which I wait all year. That frisson of expectation ~ for preserving and canning, reading heavy books, getting back to my art projects as the rain falls, the rich flowers that bloom in early fall, mushrooms to forage ... lots of things.

I harvested the last of the borlotti beans today - more than I realized were out there - they'll be part of the vegetable salad tonight. Grilled fennel, roasted beets, steamed beans and zucchini, all bathed in a creamy lemon chive dressing on arugula. Tastes of the season.

I sat outside this afternoon, writing in my journal and playing around with some poetry. The sounds of clucking chickens and splashing ducks were the soundtrack. It cracks me up to see the chickens lying on their sides, wings spread, sunning themselves. Must feel good. Well, actually, it did. As I often do, I was out there topless, soaking in that same delicious heat.

A languid, beautiful day. Here are some more photos of it ...

Streusel Cake of Fresh Fruits

Sleepy Garden

Hänsel, watching for field mice

September 13, 2012

Food Traditions ~ Doughnuts at home

When my sister and I were kids, my Mom started a tradition of making homemade doughnuts with us for Halloween. The recipe is different from most, since it contains mashed potato and a lot of nutmeg. No other doughnuts taste like these! We all looked forward to the heavenly smell of frying doughnuts, glazing them while they were still warm, then going off with one in each hand to eat out in the autumn air.

My husband and I have continued the tradition and most years we make a batch. Jim has added more glazes, chocolate and sugars, but I still like just the glazed ones best.

Food histories, family, memories ... they change, but they stay the same.

August 26, 2012


Jim gave me a call ~ he'd decided it was his turn to cook dinner and said he wanted to make French toast. I grimaced at the thought, but said okay. Then he told me that a friend had given him a loaf of day-old jalapeño bread from a local bakery and he was going to make a savory version. Now he had me on board! 

He had some ideas, but said he wanted some technical help and we ended up creating it together. It was great for dinner but would be equally delicious for breakfast. Think huevos rancheros flavors. Many specialty bakeries and some supermarkets offer jalapeño bread. Great Harvest, which has many national locations, makes one and also makes "Popeye bread" with red pepper, spinach and Swiss cheese which would work very well, too. If you can't find anything like this, just add some minced jalapeño chiles to your egg mixture and you'll be there. 

The toast was particularly good with the chipotle based salsa on the left, but also good with a basic, store-bought salsa. Just depends what you like! 


One loaf jalapeño bread, sliced
3 large whole eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. minced onion
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. ground black pepper
1/4 c. milk
Butter for pan
Cilantro leaves
Salsas or chile sauces of your choice

Combine eggs, onion, salt and pepper in shallow bowl and whisk completely. Add milk and whisk until combined.  Heat a cast iron skillet (preferably) or a non-stick skillet on medium high heat. Soak bread slices in egg mixture until saturated, about 20 seconds per side. Add a dollop of butter to the pan, swirl until sizzling, then place two to three slices of soaked bread in pan, depending upon how much room you have. Fry until browned on one side, flip and brown on the other. Serve with salsa and cilantro leaves on the side. Sour cream is nice, too. 

* * *

August 15, 2012


I needed a cooking therapy day. With all that's been going on, I haven't had much opportunity to be in the kitchen. The herb garden is lush and fragrant. The sage is blooming, I can almost see the rosemary getting taller and wider, the lavender hums with bees and the lemon verbena perfumes the air with the slightest touch. Especially when the hot days cool into evening, the scents drift to find me and I want to do more than just inhale. I also want to taste.

I decided to make some herbal simple syrup. There are so many ways to use it - in cocktails and punches, lemon or limeade, drizzling on fresh fruit, mixing into whipped cream ... mmmm, cream!

The lavender is in perfect form. When cooking with lavender, use the unopened flower buds for optimum flavor. The lemon verbena plant has plenty of leaves to spare. There are so many herbs that can be used. Rosemary makes a complex-tasting syrup that makes great cocktails using gin. Beebalm (bergamot) leaves are one of my favorites - it's the distinctive flavor of Earl Grey tea. Mint leaves are great for mojitos. Pineapple mint is especially good. Lemon or lime peel can be added while making the syrup, if you like. 

The house smelled amazing while the syrups were simmering. The lavender syrup turned out a dusty purple color which makes drinks turn pink. Very pretty! 

Here is the basic recipe for infused simple syrup:

~ Herbal or Spiced Simple Syrup ~ 

1 1/2 c. water
1 c. white sugar
Fresh herb of your choice:

- 2 T. lavender buds OR ...
- 2/3 c. packed lemon verbena leaves
- 2/3 c. packed mint leaves of any type
- 4 6-inch sprigs rosemary
- 1/2 c. packed bergamot leaves
2 T. thyme leaves

Bring sugar and water to boil. Turn down to a simmer and add herbs. Simmer for 15 minutes, partially covered. Remove from heat, let stand 15 minutes. Strain into a jar. Can be kept in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks. Or you can put them in ice trays and then into a freezer bag. Use within 3 months.

* * *

June 28, 2012


Foods Around My House

We are so lucky in these times to have access to ingredients from all over the world. This thought comes to me as I make Indian Salmon with Grilled Potatoes, a dish of Indian spices in yogurt as a marinade for chicken or salmon which also coats potatoes and vegetables for grilling. I have all the spices here in the kitchen. 

For the photo above, I took some things off the shelves and out of the fridge. All of them are from another country or contain ingredients not found in the U.S. I know it isn't the usual array of stuff most people have in their cupboards, but I'm a foodie type (hate that term, actually) so that's what I have around here. 

When Madhur Jaffrey wrote her cookbook An Invitation to Indian Cooking, in 1973, many of the ingredients called for were next to impossible to find in America. Unless one lived in a big city, you were pretty much out of luck. She gave substitutions where she could, but it wouldn't have been the same at all. Same goes for Julia Child, Marcella Hazan and many other cookbook authors pre-1980 or so. 

We can't now imagine being unable to find mangoes, arugula, wild mushrooms, rice noodles, tamari, specialty cheeses, lemongrass any number of herbs and spices and on and on. In some small communities it's still not easy, but there's always the internet! Pick a cuisine and you can find recipes on the net, get the odd ingredients and get cooking, if you're so inclined. Even finding produce out of season (which I don't recommend) is possible with modern shipping methods. 

I'd hate not being able to make some of my favorites like Indian yogurt rice, risotto with porcini, spanakopita, sukiyaki ... well, just tons of foods I love. We're lucky to have all the variety from which to choose, even if we don't need to. So, what's your favorite "exotic" dish to eat or cook? 
• • •

April 7, 2012

EGGS for Easter

The Hen
by Oliver Herford

Alas! my child, where is the Pen

That can do justice to the Hen?

Like Royalty, she goes her way,

Laying foundations every day,

Though not for Public Buildings, yet
For Custard, Cake and Omelette.
Or if too old for such a use
They have their fling at some abuse.
No wonder, Child, we prize the Hen,
Whose Egg is Mightier than the Pen.

º  º  º        

To celebrate Easter, I give you an old German recipe from my family for Eggs in Dill Sauce. This is comfort food - a farm and home dish - simple, straightforward and filling. Best made with the freshest, free-range eggs with their golden yolks like suns in the sauce. 

Eier und Dill Tunke
(Eggs in Dill Sauce)

8-10 extra large eggs
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. white flour
2 c. milk, heated to scalding
1 c. chicken broth, heated
1 t. salt
1/4 c. chopped fresh dill (do not use dried)
Freshly ground white pepper

Bring the eggs to a boil in heavily-salted water. Boil 4 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand in their water. 
In stockpot, melt butter over medium heat, then add flour & salt and whisk, cooking for about two minutes. Slowly add hot milk and broth, whisking constantly. Bring to a gentle boil for one minute, then remove from heat and add fresh chopped dill and a generous amount of white pepper.
Peel eggs and quarter. Add eggs to the sauce and stir gently to combine.
Serve over boiled potatoes.
4-6 servings 

March 23, 2012


It seems all the world loves gelato. The first time you taste it, it's an epiphany. It's better than ice cream - intense flavor, ultra smooth, richly satisfying. Whenever I'm in Italy, I often make three stops a day at gelato stands and shops, already planning the next flavor to try as I'm finishing the last spoonful of the one in my hand. I still haven't tried them all because it's so hard not to choose my favorites when I stop ~ pistachio, limone, stracciatella and my ultimate favorite, fiore di latte - flower of milk. There is no better name for what has to be one of the most perfect expressions of milk transformed. 

Some recipes contain egg yolk and have a cooked custard to start, others simply use cream. I'd intended making gelato di limone, but then saw my fruit bowl full of blood oranges and changed course. The result of my indecision turned into a delicious batch of gelato. 
º º º
Blood Orange and Lime Gelato

4 medium blood oranges
1 large navel orange
1 medium lime
1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. heavy cream

Peel 4 strips of the navel orange and 6 strips of peel from the lime, avoiding as much of the white pith as possible. Place in a small saucepan. Roll the fruits around on the cutting board before cutting and juicing them. Squeeze as much juice from each fruit as you can through a strainer over a large bowl. Discard solids. Add strained juice to the saucepan, along with the sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer 2 minutes. Allow the mixture to stand, off the heat, for five minutes. Strain juice into a bowl and cool completely in the fridge.
Once it's cold, start your ice cream maker spinning (be sure the freezer bowl has been well frozen). Add the cream to the juice and pour immediately into the ice cream maker. In 15-20 minutes, your gelato will be ready.
Transfer to a freezer container (if you haven't eaten it all).
º º º

March 3, 2012


Nasi goreng is Indonesia's national dish. It is to Indonesia what meatloaf is to America. Every family has their own recipe. Or so my Dutch friend told me. The Dutch East Indies became Indonesia after WWII, so the Dutch have melded quite a bit of Indonesian cuisine into their own. You can eat some great Indo food in Amsterdam! 

Nasi goreng means 'fried rice' in Indonesian. It's a one-dish meal that can be endlessly varied, depending on what vegetables and meats or seafood you have on hand. I like it best with shrimp or chicken (or a combination of both) but you could certainly use tofu or no protein at all, as my vegetarian friend does. It's a highly spiced dish, usually with a bit of heat. There are some basic ingredients common to the many versions of nasi goreng. Fried shallots, sweet soy sauce and cold rice, which is preferred to freshly cooked rice because it becomes soft and mushy during the cooking of the nasi. You can use ANY leftover rice for this dish. You needn't cook it in coconut milk.

You can make your own bumbu - spice mixture - or buy a commercial variety. The one I like best is made by the Rijsttaffel company. You can visit their website at You can use the recipe on the back of the package for guidance, but do your own thing with what you have around, or follow my recipe and get ready for some YUM.

× × ×


2 14 oz. cans light coconut milk *
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. jasmine or long grain white rice

Bring coconut milk and water to a boil. Add rice, stir and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until almost done, when rice still has some bite to it - about 18 minutes. Drain well, reserving the milk. Place rice in fridge to cool (cold is best). 

3 T. canola oil
1 large shallot, chopped
1 large carrot, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 lb. large shrimp, cut into thirds
3/4 oz. Nasi Goreng spice mixture
2 T. sweet or regular soy sauce
1 c. frozen peas, thawed
Leftover coconut milk, as needed
Sambal oelek, to serve on the side, if desired ***

In large, deep sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until turning brown. Add the carrots and about 1/3 c. reserved coconut milk. Cover pan and simmer on low until carrots are just barely tender. Uncover the pan, increase heat to medium high and add half of the spice mixture and the shrimp pieces. Saute two minutes, then add the cold rice, crumbling up as you add it to the pan. Squirt the soy sauce evenly over the rice, pour about 1/2 c. of coconut milk over it and mix all together gently. Let the rice sizzle, turning over occasionally, allowing the bottom to get browned and a little crusty. Turn the heat up higher, if you need to, watching carefully. This browning really adds to the flavor. Once you have some areas of nice browning, remove from heat and serve immediately, with sambal oelek on the side if you like it with a hot kick.
Serves 4 

* light is thinner, so the rice cooks more evenly OR use regular coconut milk, thinned with water
** use wild-caught shrimp to avoid a muddy taste
*** Sambal oelek is a ground red chili paste - HOT!

February 28, 2012

SHUCK ME, SUCK ME, EAT ME RAW ~ Oyster Heaven ~

That's the motto of the Brady Oyster Company (and others around the country) and they sell bumper stickers! 

Yes, you need a shellfish license to harvest oysters, clams, mussels, cockles, crabs, shrimp, lobsters as well as seaweed. The license costs $18 per year. Seasons and open harvest beaches vary throughout the year for each type. Oysters have the widest range of season compared to clams and crab. There are limits for each type of shellfish, counted per day. 

Before going out shell-fishing for anything, I check the fish and wildlife website to make sure there hasn't been a closure for red tide, PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning), or other reasons, like allowing the shellfish population to come up again on that beach. I check when low tide is and make sure I arrive within an hour either side of that time. It's very disappointing to arrive at the wrong tide! 

The old adage "only eat oysters in months that contain an 'R'" was a crude way for people to remember when oysters are likely to spawn, which is in the warmer months, generally. It isn't that you can't eat them during spawn, but they're not as big, they're watery and flubby and the liquor is milky. In some areas of the country, warmer waters also mean higher possibility of PSP or red tide. It's dependent on location, water flow and temperature whether oysters are good to harvest at different times of year. Because Pacific Northwest waters are so cold year-round, I've eaten delicious oysters in May and June. Same goes for Nova Scotia, Maine and the excellent Prince Edward Island oysters. 

As to shucking ... in the drawing above, you see that the "hinge" is to the left of the picture. It's where the oyster is attached so that the oyster can open and close to feed and regulate body temperature. That is where you want to open it. If you try to open it at the "lip" end, the shell just continually chips away, there isn't anywhere to get a good bite to start opening the shell. At the hinge, there is a divot between the two shells where you put the tip of the oyster knife, push hard, kind of waggling a bit until you feel the tip break through. The juice will start to run out at this point - don't waste it! Most beginners try to pry the oyster open by twisting the knife back and forth. It works, but it's a lot harder. Better to pry up and down. Once the oyster is open a quarter inch or so, you slide your knife along the top shell, as close to the shell as you can, to cut the attachment on that side, allowing the shell to fall away. Now your oyster is in the "half shell" but still attached to that one. Again, slide the knife gently under the oyster and cut the attachment. That's how you'd be served oysters on the half shell. Or you use it in your cooking and toss the shell. It takes some strength, but when you get the technique down, it isn't a fight. 

Choosing which ones from the beach might be easiest to shuck gets to be clear once you've learned to shuck them. I look for a clear hinge, with a divot. Sometimes, the hinge is almost fused, with nowhere to put your knife. Those are frustrating, though not impossible. Also, if the oyster is in a cluster, some may be easy to get at, others not, due to how they attached to themselves or the rock they're on. 

With oysters of different types ranging from $8 to $14 a dozen, it's worth it to go out for your own. Even if I only go three or four times, I feel I more than paid for my license. Plus, I go for clams, mussels and seaweed, too, so very worth the $18 license fee. Plus, I get to be outside, smelling sea air, watching birds and gathering food. Can't get much better than that! 

January 5, 2012


Spiced Beef Parcels in Banana Leaf

One very long day of making hors d'oeuvres for the Christmas party order -- and I survived! It's so much more work doing appetizers than even doing a multi-course dinner. I always forget that. But, it was fun to do and I hope the report from the client will be positive. 

I really wanted to do the beef parcels because they fit a holiday party so well. It's an Indonesian-inspired flavor of minced beef, with toasted coconut and sweet chili sauce to garnish. I think I'd like to do a variation on the theme and serve larger packets as a dinner course, with rice on the bottom, the minced meat on top and sauce already in the wrap. As for the little parcels, one has to have patience. I should have done them first, not last! 

Another offering was a vegetable terrine with gelatin. A very European sort of dish -- I find that gelatin is used much more often in cold starters over there and I think Americans have a bit of an aversion to it because of Jell-o. If done properly, a savory gelatin or aspic is a pretty way to start or separate courses. The terrine I made yesterday was made with roasted eggplant, zucchini, and grilled red and yellow peppers in a gelatin of rich vegetable stock, tomato paste and white wine infused with thyme. I'm very happy with the way it turned out. After making the party terrine in the form, I had enough left over that I put the rest in a bowl for us. This is - roughly - how it looks when sliced, although, the real terrine mold produces much prettier results. This is just to give you an idea of what it looks like. 

The third dish I made was Greek Koftas (meatballs) with a radish tsatsiki sauce. I like this radish version even better than the usual cucumber tsatsiki. It's slight bite and the pink color with red shreds is just so pretty.

Radish Tsatsiki Sauce

They were pleased and enjoyed the flavors. Now the come-down from the holiday excesses and some lighter, refreshing dishes to come. 


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