Monday, October 17, 2011

Pumpkin pie

This morning I had a pumpkin on my counter. This evening I ate pumpkin pie. Who needs canned pumpkin when you can so easily cook your own? I use Chinese five-spice powder because it was what I had in my cupboard and because I enjoyed the especially spicy flavor it imbues. However, you're welcome to substitute a pumpkin pie spice blend or a combination of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice.

1 pie pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup half and half
2 eggs
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
pinch sea salt

prepared pie crust, either homemade or store bought

Slice pumpkin in half and remove seeds and pith. Lay cut side down on a baking sheet with a few tablespoons of water. Cover with foil. Bake at 375 degrees fahrenheit for 45 minutes. Allow to cool, then scoop out the flesh.

Blind bake the pie crust for 10 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

Combine 3 cups cooked pumpkin with the remaining ingredients in a high speed blender and pulse until smooth. Pour this mixture into a prepared pie crust and place into a 375 degree oven for one hour.

Serve with fresh whipped heavy cream.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon with Herb Scented Mashed Potatoes

Enough with all of the vegan recipes. Fall has arrived with its glorious sweater weather, and I am in the mood for comfort food. I served this dish last week and a guest remarked, "I feel like I'm right back in France" and quickly proclaimed that he had a food crush on me. I wish I could take credit for his reveling, but really seared grass-fed beef + red wine simmered forever = love.
Boeuf Bourguignon
serves 4

4 ounces uncooked bacon
1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2 inch cubes
1 cup cognac
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour (Bob's Red Mill gluten free flour works well here)
1 bottle dry red wine
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup beef broth
3 cloves garlic, smashed
generous pinch sugar
2 cups crimini mushrooms, washed and stems trimmed
2 cups pearl onions
Flat-leaf parsley for serving

Cook the bacon with a splash of olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium low heat until it renders a good amount of fat. Remove the meat and reserve for another purpose. Dry the beef with paper towels and season all around with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Turn up the heat to medium-high and sear the beef on all sides until brown. Do this in batches so as not to crowd the pan. You're not looking for stew, not yet anyway. Remove the browned beef and set aside.

Deglaze the pan with the cognac. You may wish to light it with a long kitchen match to burn off some of the alcohol, but alas, I have a poor track record with kitchen fires, so start one at your own risk.

Make a paste of the flour and tomato paste and whisk into the cognac. Add the beef, thyme, red wine, beef broth and smashed garlic cloves and bring to a simmer. Cover and let stew for about one and a half hours.

Meanwhile, blanch and shock the pearl onions and slip off their skins. Brown the mushrooms in a separate pan over medium-high heat in olive oil, then add the onions and cook until heated through. Add them both to the beef pot and cook uncovered until fork tender. Finish with a generous pinch of sugar and sea salt and ground pepper to taste. Remove the thyme.

Traditionally, beef bourguignon cuddles up with egg noodles, but I much prefer the pillowy texture of mashed potatoes, and the way they soak up the luxurious wine sauce of the bourguignon.

Herb Scented Mashed Potatoes
serves 4

1 pint half and half (SO Coconut Non-Dairy Creamer also works wonders here!)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
3 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
12 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

Bring the half and half almost to a boil with the garlic and herbs. Set aside.

In a very large stock pot, bring several quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender. Drain then return to the pot. Take a potato masher and have your way with them. Strain the half and half mixture into the potatoes and stir until just combined. Cover and set aside until the boeuf bourguignon is done.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Banh mi

Ever since I watched the first season of The Great Food Truck Race, I've had a food crush on banh mi. The Nom Nom truck took second place in the race, but their version of banh mi--a classic vietnamese sandwich--earned them cash and accolades around the country. 
Although for every chef there's a different recipe, with few exceptions they all have these ingredients in common: cilantro, cucumbers, daikon radish & carrot pickles, and a French roll. The protein varies from pork or beef to tofu or fish. I chose the latter, a soy and ginger seasoned cod from Trader Joes.
I prepared my daikon and carrot pickles the night before, which made lunchtime so quick and easy the next day. I made (and ate!) two sandwiches, and enjoyed the second one more as I learned how much of each ingredient I wanted on my plate. I have a sour tooth, so I believe you can never have too much pickled carrot and daikon. Same goes for cilantro, which I placed sprigs of in my first attempt but minced for the second one.
Because this is an assembly format, I've structured this recipe a little differently than others:

16 ounces fish (pre-seasoned or marinated in soy sauce, ginger and garlic)

1/3 cup mayonaise
1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce

1/2 English cucumber, sliced thinly using a vegetable peeler

4" daikon radish, peeled and julienned
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons sugar

small handful fresh cilantro

2 small baguettes

Make the daikon and carrot pickles by sprinkling the vegetables with salt. Knead them for a few minutes until they become limp and release some of their liquid. Rinse in cool water and drain. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar and water and then pour over the carrots and daikon and store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Whisk together the sriracha and mayonaise and set aside.

Grill the fish until it flakes apart.

Toast the baguettes in a 350 degree overn for about 5-7 minutes until warm and toasty.

Assemble the sandwich by schmearing both bread halves with the chili mayo. Order the ingredients from there as you see fit. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Green Curried Lentils

The problem with keeping a food blog is that I always gobble up the finished dishes before I can capture a photo. Even the leftovers--if there are any--don't last long. So forgive me, I do not have a photo of the end product to accompany this amazingly delicious vegan dish. You'll have to take my word for it. I found a similar version of this recipe while searching online for entrees using lentils.

Serves 4

1 cup French lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 zucchini, sliced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons green curry paste
1 can coconut milk (not light)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups cooked jasmine rice

Rinse and sort the lentils then bring to a simmer with the vegetable broth. Cover and cook until soft but still chewy. Drain and set aside.

While the lentils cook, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add the zucchini and bell pepper and cook for one minute. Add the chard and cook until wilted. Stir in the curry and coconut milk and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the lentils and cook for another minute to allow the flavors to integrate.

Serve over jasmine rice.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are the only dessert I absolutely cannot resist. Whenever I bake a batch, they usually only last a day or two because I mow through them. Sadly, my diet is devoid of wheat and dairy these days, so I haven't had any in quite some time. Hmm, perhaps that explains why my jeans fit. But alas, I cannot survive for long without the delicious combination of the savory dough and bittersweet chocolate. Enter vegan, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. I would tell you they're as good as their butter-filled counterparts, but alas, butter has no competition.

1 cup coconut oil
1/2 mashed banana
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups evaporated cane juice
1 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour
3/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
1/4 cup flax meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips (not milk chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit.

Whisk together the oil, banana, salt, vanilla and evaporated cane juice. Combine the dry ingredients in a large measuring cup and then fold into the oil and sugar mixture. When integrated completely, fold in the chocolate chips.

Bake on parchment-lined baking sheets for 15 minutes.

adapted from BabyCakes

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Portland Book Launch Party

Celebrating the launch of Modern Family Table at Enchanted Gift Shop 

One of the publishers at Goops Unlimited, Barbara Ross. Such a dear!

I'm so enthralled with the beauty of this book and grateful to everyone who made it possible, especially my husband Rich Ellgen, who photographed it all (and many of the recipes on this blog) as well as the team at Goops Unlimited, Nicholas Beatty and Barbara Ross.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dates & Goat Cheese over Mixed Greens

I'm basking in the beauty of my new book. After months of writing, photographing and editing, it's finally here! To celebrate, here is one of my favorite recipes from Modern Family Table, and it's perfect to share now as fresh date season is upon us. The creaminess and tang of the goat cheese marries perfectly with the sweetness of the dates and peppery complexity of the basil. My absolute favorite salad!

8-12 cups mixed greens, such as Arugula, Frisee, baby spinach and baby lettuces
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh Medjool dates, pitted                   
4 ounces goat cheese

¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic reduction, optional (brown sugar to substitute)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the greens gently, being careful not to bruise, and pat dry. If the leaves are larger than bite size, hand tear them into a serving bowl. Rinse the basil and pat dry. Again if the leaves are small leave them whole. If not tear into slightly smaller pieces and add to the mixed greens.

Roughly chop the pitted dates--you want pieces no smaller than ¼ of each date--and toss to combine with the mixed greens.

In a small jar, whisk together the vinegar, oil and balsamic reduction or brown sugar. Add a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Just before serving, drizzle the dressing over the dates and greens. Crumble the goat cheese into slightly larger than grape-size pieces over the salad and toss gently to combine.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Banana, Hemp & Chocolate Smoothie

I am exploring vegan cooking these days as Cole cannot tolerate dairy in my diet. Soy is the obvious fallback to dairy, but it has its own problems, namely phytoestrogens and being difficult to digest. Reminds me of a comic strip I saw about ten years ago introducing "fofu" for the "tofu intolerant." Ouch.

Enter hemp. The plant could really use a PR campaign separating it from its seedy cousin. It contains about 9 grams of protein per serving and 11 grams of fiber. Plus it's less expensive than animal protein powders. It adds a little grit to the smoothie, making it similar in texture to a cookies and cream milk shake. But of course, far healthier for you!

1 cup almond milk
1/4 cup hemp protein powder
1 banana, cut into pieces and frozen
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons peanut butter
Blend until smooth. Makes one 16 ounce serving.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers with Scallops, Quinoa & Roasted Corn

Serves 2-4

4 bell peppers
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup roasted yellow corn
1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 lime, juiced
8 ounces bay scallops
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring the quinoa to a boil with the tomatoes, a generous pinch of sea salt and 1/2 cup of water. Simmer, covered over low heat until all of the water is absorbed.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Remove the top from each pepper and remove seeds and ribs from top and insides. Set aside in a casserole dish.

Combine cooked quinoa with corn, black beans, cilantro, spices and lime juice. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Season the scallops with salt and pepper as well, then add to the quinoa mixture.

Stuff each pepper with the filling, then place the tops on each one. Pour 1/3 cup of water into the dish, then tent with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove cover and bake for another 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Want to make this recipe vegetarian? Replace the scallops with one cup of sharp cheddar cheese. Want to make it vegan? Remove the scallops and increase black beans to 1 cup.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Quinoa Taboule

Today a reporter from a local paper interviewed me about my book, Modern Family Table, out this week. When she asked me what the book was about, it wasn't the specific recipes or ingredients or the stunning photography that I mentioned. It was the people. Food has this amazing ability to bring people together. And not just the eating, but cooking too.

Tonight we dined with some college friends who live in a gorgeous bungalow in Northeast Portland . We walked in as the fire alarm was just about to sound thanks to some scorched butter. Our hosts opened the doors and windows to let in a lovely breeze, turned on a record of Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole and poured several glasses of wine while the smoke cleared. We sat around the table in the kitchen as they prepared a delicious dinner of salmon, asparagus and quinoa taboule. There's something about cooking with people that's so bonding. We dined in their backyard under flowering trees and enjoyed the late evening sunsets of a Northwest summer.

Quinoa Taboule

2 cups quinoa, cooked & cooled
1 cup parsley, chopped
2-3 shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon basil, chopped
2 tablespoons mint, chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a serving dish and allow to cool for an hour to let the flavors combine.

Adapted from a Bob's Red Mill recipe.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cold Lentil and Black Cherry Salad

This is the perfect summer side dish, cool and delicious. Consider using a specialty pepper blend in place of black peppercorns. I recently tried a variety from Trader Joes called "Flower Pepper" with Calendula, Rose and Lavender petals, which you grind right along with the peppercorns. It was flowery, of course, with a delicate complexity.

1 1/2 cups dried green lentils
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 scallions, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups fresh black cherries, pitted and halved
1 cup fresh basil

Rinse lentils and pick through for any foreign material. Cover with 5 cups water in medium size pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes until just tender. Be careful not to overcook. Drain and place in a serving bowl. Add scallions and cherries and toss gently to combine.

Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper then drizzle over the salad. Hand tear the basil and toss just before serving.

(adapted from a recipe on )

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Baby Meals #2 Vegan Hummus, Falafel and Greek Salad

Thanks to my beautiful friend Elizabeth for bringing this delicious vegan, gluten-free dinner to us after Cole was born. We made it again a few nights ago. Absolutely delicious!

Blend together:
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 to 3 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (or 2 cans)
2 garlic cloves (adjust according to taste desired)
1 tsp ground cumin
up to 1/2 cup water to thin the hummus, if necessary

Season with sea salt, to taste.

The quality of the oil and the freshness of the lemon juice make a big difference in this hummus, but it's delicious any way it's prepared.

This recipe calls for soaked but uncooked beans. They will be cooked in the final step. First, soak 2 1/2 cups of dried garbanzo beans in cool water in a covered container for 24 hours. After the beans are soaked and rinsed, finely chop them in the food processor with:

1 onion
4 cloves garlic, or to taste
1/2 to 1 cup cilantro leaves
2 tsps ground coriander
2 tsps ground cumin
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsps lemon juice
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp cornmeal

Let this mixture sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours before cooking. Form into small balls and fry in olive oil until crisp all around. This recipe makes a lot, but I only fry what we want to eat right away. The next day, we can fry the rest to have "leftovers" that are hot, fresh, and delicious.

Greek salad dressing
Mix together:
1/2 cup olive oil
2/3 cup red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
3 tbsps fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Baby Meals #1 Vegetarian Quiche & Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

I'm pretending that the previous 12 weeks in which I haven't posted are my maternity leave and not simply my neglect. I had a baby in May and have had my hands full ever since. During the first few weeks several wonderful people brought us some delicious dinners so I could stay out of the kitchen and simply bask in the sweetness of my new little one. It was a precious time.

And let me tell you, some of the food was really, really good! Not that I'm surprised; I keep company with others who love food as much as I do. So I had to share their culinary genious with you. The first is a vegetarian, crustless quiche that Rich and I polished off in 9 minutes. Yes, it is that good! Dessert is a gluten-free chocolate cake. Enjoy!

Crustless Vegetarian Quiche

1/2 cup Asiago cheese, shredded
1/2 cup mild cheddar, shredded
1 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup evaporated milk
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
pinch cayenne
handfull fresh basil, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Grease a glass pie pan with butter. Spead the cheese over the bottom of the pan and top with the vegetables and basil. Whisk together the milk, eggs, salt and cayenne and pour over the dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Serves 2-4

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

1/4 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup white sugar
18 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter
6 eggs
kettle full of boiling water

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees fahrenheit. Grease a 10 inch cake pan.  Dissolve the salt and sugar in the hot water. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or a heavy-bottom skillet over low heat. Pour into a mixing bowl and beat in the butter one tablespoon at a time. Follow with the sugar water mixture then whisk in the eggs one at a time.

Pour the batter into the pan and set this into a large baking dish to create a water bath. Put both pans in the oven and then pour boiling water into the larger dish. Bake for 45 minutes.

Chill overnight. To remove from the pan, dip into a larger pan of hot water, then invert onto a plate.

Makes 16 slices.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Raw, Vegan Coconut Ice Cream

As a rule, I don't serve raw, vegan food to guests. Even tofu is a hard sell. So I don't even try with taco nut meat. But this raw, vegan coconut ice cream is a delicious exception. If you serve it with toasted coconut it ceases to be completely raw, but who really cares? It is dessert after all.

1 cup shredded fresh coconut meat
1 cup pineapple, diced
1 cup cashews, soaked in water for 4-8 hours, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup water (not the cashew soaking water!)
1 vanilla bean, scraped (or 2 teaspoons real vanilla)
1/4 cup coconut oil/butter, in liquid form

In a high-speed blender blend together all ingredients through vanilla bean. Turn the blender to "liquify" or whatever is the highest setting on your machine and blend until you achieve a smooth consistency. It will never reach the same texture as milk-based ice cream, but you can come close. Turn the blender down to a low setting and pour in the coconut oil slowly.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker or if you're cheap like I am, pour into a chilled, round metal cake pan. Follow the instructions on your ice cream maker. If you're using a metal pan, place into the freezer for 15-30 minutes. Remove and stir with a spatula, making sure you scrape the sides well. Continue this process until the mixture has reached a desired consistency, then scoop into a container with a lid.

Serve with diced mango and toasted coconut.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie with Coconut Shortbread Crust

Lemon season is coming to a close. And what better way to bid adieu to this amazing fruit than by making lemon meringue pie? This was my first attempt at baking a meringue topping. You have no doubt heard the warnings issued to first time bakers with this sweet dessert, warnings about weeping and gloppy meringue that slides right off the custard beneath. But I'm happy to say, this pie was delicious and tearless from day one until I finally polished it off about five days later. The men in my life were no help. They apparently don't crave sour things like I do. Nigella Lawson says you either have a sour tooth of you don't. Like her, I do.

This recipe is adapted from the Joy of Cooking but improves upon it, in my opinion, with a toasted coconut crust and by including an oven temperature, which the original recipe somehow fails to mention.

1 cup packaged shortbread cookies
1/2 cup coconut, toasted briefly beneath a broiler
1/4 cup butter, melted
Pinch sea salt
Pinch sugar

1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 egg yolks, whisked
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups boiling water
Zest of one lemon

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup water
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar

To make the crust, pulse the cookies and coconut in a food processor until you achieve a coarse crumb. Drizzle in the butter and blend again until the mixture is just combined. Take a quick taste and add a pinch of salt and or sugar depending on the sweetness and saltiness of the shortbread cookies you have used. You're looking for a savory crust to offset the almost cloying sweetness of the lemony filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.

To make the filling, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt with the water and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. After thoroughly combined, whisk in the egg yolks. When combined, add the butter and gradually add the boiling water. Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly, remove from heat and continue constantly whisking until thick. Stir in lemon zest and set aside momentarily to make the meringue.

In a small saucepan, whisk together the water, sugar and cornstarch to form a paste. Stir over low heat until thick. Set aside to cool briefly. In a clean metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add vanilla and cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until stiff and glossy. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and then beat another 10 seconds.

To assemble, pour the lemon custard into the prepared crust. Scoop meringue filling onto the edges of the filling all along the rim to form a barrier. Make sure the meringue touches the filling and crust all the way around. Scoop the remaining meringue into the center of the pie and spread gently to cover. If you wish, use the back of a clean, dry spoon to "lick" the top of the meringue into cute little peaks.

Bake at 425 degrees fahrenheit for 18 minutes or until the top is golden and toasty. Allow to cool at room temperature and then refrigerate. The pie is best on the first two days, but is still delicious for about four-five days.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Creamy Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas with Fire Roasted Green Chilies

These enchiladas are truly the most popular recipe I have ever shared. I regularly get text messages and comments saying, "Hey, I made those spinach enchiladas and they're amazing!" In my recent project to source local ingredients, I updated the recipe with jalapeno cheese curds and fire roasted green chilies. To make the original version, use a shredded Mexican cheese blend instead and add 1/2 a teaspoon of red chili flake to the filling.
Serves 4-6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6-8 cups fresh spinach
1, 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
8 ounces jalapeño cheese
4 green chilies, charred, skins removed, roughly chopped 
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Enchilada Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flake
1 28 ounce can pureed tomatoes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Ancho chili powder
Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

1 package corn tortillas
½ cup cheddar and jack cheese blend

For Serving:
½ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Sour cream

For the enchilada sauce, heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Cook the onions and garlic over medium heat until the onion is golden. Add the tomatoes and remaining seasonings. Allow to simmer over low heat while making the filling.

For the filling, heat the olive oil in a wide, deep skillet. Sauté the onions and garlic over medium heat until the onion is golden. Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Then add the black beans and cream cheese and stir until the cheese is melted. Add the jalapeño cheese, green chilies and cumin and stir until everything comes together. Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium-size baking dish ladle in enough enchilada sauce to cover the bottom. Fill each tortilla with about ¼ cup of filling and snuggle down into the dish. Spoon the remaining sauce over all of the enchiladas and top with shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, testing the middle for doneness. Allow to rest before serving.

Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with sour cream.

Monday, March 7, 2011

DAY 7: Eat Local Project

After my seven days of eating closer to home, I have a new appreciation for local farmers and food artisans. The learning curve was steep. But I learned quickly (hunger will do that to you). And with every new farmer I met, new ingredient I discovered and new recipe I created, I felt my skill as a home chef grow and my palate expand to appreciate exciting new flavors.
Today I used up the last of my lemon, pecan & basil pesto with some fresh mint and one of my final few lemons. I tossed it all with pasta and artichoke hearts. A simple ending to an enlightening week.
If you want to try something similar, here are a few tips and resources:
Getting Started
-Start slowly. Pick one local ingredient to incorporate into your existing menu.
-For more of a challenge, visit a farmers market to create one entire meal from local sources.
-Visit a restaurant that features locally produced foods.
-Celebrate the seasons with new recipes featuring whatever is the flavor of the moment.
-Plant a garden, even if it’s just one potted herb growing in your kitchen window.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Day 6: Eat Local Project

I'm still relishing last night's almost entirely local dinner. I used to wonder how cookbook writers and food bloggers came up with new content. Sure, some of them recycle pasta recipes with only minor tweaks for each subsequent book (Tyler Florence, I'm talking about you.) But for other chefs, I think the inspiration comes with each new season. As one ingredient fades into cool sunsets and another rises with the heat of a scorching summer sun, new recipes are born. That's been my favorite part of this adventure exploring local foods, ditching the same old romaine with balsamic salad and spaghetti we have eaten weekly for the last 7 years.  Last night I reveled in the delicious newness of arugula salad with grapefruit and mint vinaigrette, tepary beans with spring onions and cilantro and locally-crafted tamales.

Arugula Salad with Grapefruit & Mint Vinaigrette
Serves four

6 cups arugula, loosely packed
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rings
2 white grapefruits, peeled with a paring knife to remove pith then cut into segments

1/2 white grapefruit, juiced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 mint sprig, leaves only, minced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together and drizzle over arugula and red onion in a medium mixing bowl. Toss to coat. Portion the salad onto individual plates and top with grapefruit segments.

Today my worry about my tomato seeds ever sprouting turned sharply to concern about how exactly we are going to consume the fruit of about two dozen tomato plants after they reach maturity. The seed catalog promised dozens of tomatoes per plant on the large varieties and as many as 100 on the cherry varieties. It's a good problem to have. I may finally have to face my fear of canning. Either that or my local friends may get that doorbell ditch tomato delivery. Watch out Anna, Hannah, Kim. I know where you live.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day 5: Eat Local Project

The day I've been waiting for since I began this project dawned sunny and warm. The Central Phoenix farmer's market happens every Saturday morning and Wednesday evening and takes up a whole city block with local farmers, food artisans and various other vendors.

Although visiting the farmer's market with children sounds poetic, it's usually a disaster in my experience. Ideally I make a quick jaunt around the market to get a general feel for what's available and then ponder how these foods could be put together for a tasty dinner. With a preschooler in tow, all of my creative energy is diverted to yelling, "No, don't feed that dog your cookie!" or "Please don't sample the coffee!" But today I went alone, blissfully alone.

I met several farmers. Casey and Melissa from Maya's Farm helped me select some native dried Tepary beans and complementary savory spring onions and cilantro. I also snagged a bunch of edible flowers from Maya's. At the Mountgrove Arcadia farm stand I sampled some amazing white grapefruit and bought five for a $1. For a salad I purchased a huge bunch of arugula for $2 from some beautiful Somali women. Through an organization called the International Rescue Committee and its New Roots Farm Program, local Somali Bantu farmers can support themselves through farming. Last year, Michelle Obama toured a New Roots farm in San Diego and praised it as a model for the nation and the world. Who knew that supporting local farmers could be so delicious and inexpensive?

For the main course I purchased half a dozen tamales from The Tamale Store, which was voted best tamale's in the Valley by a local paper. I bought green corn and cream cheese; roasted pepper, mushroom and jack cheese; and chicken with green chile. When I asked the man selling them if the ingredients were grown locally, he said "I sure hope so." Not very reassuring. But at the end of the day, by feeding my family, I'm helping this guy feed his. So even if a Sysco truck delivers the masa harina to his restaurant each week, I feel better about it than I would padding the pockets of chain restaurant stockholders.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Day 4: Eat Local Project

With our orange tree still drooping with fruit and about a dozen lemons remaining on the dining room table, I moved on to perhaps the most obvious answer to the phrase, "When life gives you lemons." I made lemonade.

My friend Crystal spent two years living in Honduras and learned to make limeade from the Honduran women who chopped up whole limes and blended them with simple syrup and water. For my version, I chopped up about four oranges and two lemons and blended them with about 1 cup of simple syrup and a handful of the fresh spearmint I have growing in my window box. I strained the mixture to make about 1 1/4 cups of juice which I cut with sparkling water to make about four small servings. Blending the whole fruit releases oils from the thick citrus skin yielding a more complex, almost bitter taste. If I were not enormously pregnant right now, I would have made margaritas with the juice. I'm trying not to imagine how amazingly delicious it would have been. But seriously, try it.

This afternoon we visited Queen Creek Olive Mill, which is located about 45 minutes southeast of Phoenix. They grow, harvest and mill olives from about 2,000 trees. They also serve dinner from food grown onsite and from farms nearby. We sat under a grove of olive trees while listening to a live jazz band. For dinner, I enjoyed fresh mixed greens with white balsamic vinaigrette and lemon chicken with capers and cheese layered between fresh pasta. If not for an overtired little boy, the evening would have been perfect.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Day 3: Eat Local Project

I've heard the argument recently that purchasing foods from around the globe supports developing economies and is therefore acceptable, even virtuous. It sounds almost plausible. However while working as a journalist in Portland, I covered the city's move to avoid purchasing any goods produced using sweat shop labor. During a rally in support of this decision, I met a woman named Beatriz who worked for Dole in South America. She recounted the familiar tale of long hours for negligible pay echoed from sweat shop and farm workers around the globe. The workers could have improved working conditions by forming a union, but Dole, like other industrial agriculture companies, worked overtime themselves to prevent that from happening.

So what does this mean for you and me? Cheap bananas. Cheap lettuce. Cheap food. When we realize that the inexpensive food we eat comes at great cost to not only the environment but also real people, like Beatriz, it leaves a pretty bitter aftertaste.

Today I ate mostly leftovers--green chile enchiladas, vegan pecan pie cookies and some of the lemon curd stirred into yogurt--while I chewed on the realities of industrial agriculture.

To read the original article, visit:

When Elizabeth Gives You Lemons, continued

Luscious Lemon Curd
I adapted this from Nigella Lawson’s recipe for lime curd in her beautiful book “How to Be a Domestic Goddess,” which has been a staple in my kitchen for the past several years.
6 tablespoons butter
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup sugar
Zest of one lemon
3 eggs
Melt the butter over medium-low heat. In a separate dish, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and zest.  Before pouring the egg mixture into the butter, ensure the butter is not scalding hot or you’ll scramble the eggs. Pour the egg mixture in and whisk over medium-low heat until it forms a custard. It should begin to thicken within five minutes. If not, increase the heat slightly. As soon as your custard has formed, remove from heat and continue whisking for a minute so that the residual heat from the pan doesn’t overcook the curd.
Cool in a glass bowl with plastic wrap covering the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

DAY 2: Eat Local Project

I feel like a contestant on one of those reality cooking shows in which they open a basket full of miscellaneous ingredients and must cook an appetizer, entree and dessert. For me it's not a basket that I'm opening but my front door to discover what's in season here in the valley of the sun.

This morning Brad and I wandered into the backyard to plant the bell pepper and sugar snap pea plants I've had sitting on the kitchen counter for a week now. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the growing seasons here. While the rest of the country is digging out of the snow, we're enjoying balmy 70 degree days while we pick oranges and work on our tans. Don't hate me. We pay a hefty price for this heaven come July. But as far as gardening goes, it's past time to plant around here. So in went the peppers and peas. My tomato and basil seedlings have a couple weeks before they're mature enough to plant outdoors, but it doesn't get any more local than growing your own food.

Brad analyzing the earthworms I uncovered while planting.

Today Brad asked if he could eat the plants. Therein lies the rub with gardening. Just because you plant something in the ground doesn't mean you get to eat it. Weather turns sour. Crops fail. Hailstorms come. That's something we don't really think about under the fluorescent lights of the mega mart. Food just appears. It doesn't seem to have any connection to the ground or the seasons. My project, steep as the learning curve may be, is already impressing on me a sense of gratitude for whole foods. I never thought about being grateful for plants. Animals, sure, they give up their life for me to eat. But for plants? That mindset is changing.

After gardening, I stared down the remaining 15 lemons languishing in a decorative bowl on my dining room table. Pesto would not do. We needed some lemon annihilation. So I made gluten-free lemon scones and fresh lemon curd. It is to die for. Even tonight when I had guests over, I couldn't help but invite the ladies helping me with dishes to dig into the fridge for a bite.

As I finished up the scones, Rich came home quite fortuitously with a bag of fresh fire roasted green chilies one of his coworkers brought back from New Mexico. Suddenly a wave of inspiration hit and I created what must be the most fantastic dish of enchiladas I have ever had. I used the local jalapeno cheese and corn tortillas I bought yesterday and spiced up my existing creamy spinach and black bean enchiladas. Although many of the ingredients came from outside the Southwest, this isn't a religion. It's food. It's not about being perfect. It's about connecting with people around life giving foods and supporting the people, plants and animals that make that food possible.

Lucky Baby Bok Choy Soup

1 batch vegetable broth (recipe below)
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
3 heads baby bok choy, roughly chopped
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 lime, juiced
1 block tofu, drained, pressed and cubed
1 pound shrimp, shells reservered
4 ounces thin rice noodles
4 eggs, whisked
1/2 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

Baby bok choy is the veal of the vegetable garden, soft, tender and ripped from the ground in the prime of its youth. But you're welcome to use regular bok choy is you wish. Simply add it about four minutes before you add the mushrooms in the last step.

Heat the vegetable broth in a large stockpot with the garlic, ginger and the shrimp shells. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, then strain to remove the shells.

While the stock is coming together, pour boiling water over the rice noodles and allow to soften for five minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a saute pan over medium heat and fry the eggs until cooked through. It should resemble a thick crepe. Remove to a cutting board and cut into ribbons when cool.

Return the stock to a simmer and add the fish sauce, lime juice, bok choy, mushrooms and tofu. Simmer for two minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper then add the shrimp. When the shrimp is pink, remove from heat.

Divide rice noodles among four bowls. Ladle soup over the noodles and garnish with egg strips, peanuts and cilantro.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

DAY 1: Eat Local Project

For the next week I'm researching for an article I'm writing on eating seasonal food grown close to home.
I can think of better times to start an experiment like this than when I’m seven months pregnant, avoiding gluten, and cooking mostly vegetarian for my husband. To make matters worse, little more than citrus, nuts and mixed greens grow locally at this time of year. It’s 6:25PM and I still don’t know what I’m serving for dinner.
I did enjoy one moment of success this morning. Brad and I whipped up some quick raw, vegan cookies from the great raw chef, Ani Phyo's dessert book. We combined local pecans, orange juice--from the oranges growing in our front yard--and dates with cinnamon (not local, thank you Trader Joes) for some delicious and healthy cookies. They sustained us while trekking downtown with the jog stroller and our friends Hannah and her little ones.
In the city we visited the local public market which claims to offer local, seasonal produce. A shelf full of bananas should have been my first clue that we didn’t share the same definition of “local.” But I wandered through the store determined to eat as close to home and as close to the season as possible. I picked up a package of corn tortillas and jalepeno cheese, both from local purveyors, and figured I could make some version of enchiladas or fajitas. This is the Southwest after all. Sadly, my search for a tomato, avocado and bell peppers drove me far from home all the way to California and then Mexico.
I have some office work to do until later this evening, but after that I’m heading to the grocery store to buy something to eat, whether it comes from down the street or Chile. At the end of the day, I feel like a failure. A hungry failure. And we still need coffee for tomorrow morning, which I’m confident doesn’t grow in the mountains of Flagstaff.

When Elizabeth Gives You Lemons...

...and Christy gives you pecans, you make Lemon, Pecan & Basil Pesto. I meet weekly with a beautiful group of women who strive to live off the grid, save money and share resources of time and expertise. We undertake projects together, my favorite of which involve food. Last week we shelled about a dozen pounds of fresh pecans Christy picked from a local farm. The same day Elizabeth brought me about 50 lemons from her backyard lemon tree.

I juiced and zested a third of the bunch, tossing the zest into a freezer bag and filling ice cube trays with the juice. But as I stared at another several dozen lemons, I knew I needed to get creative. Nothing makes me feel more womanly than a little black dress and high heels. Second to that, "putting up" food fulfills that part of me that desires to be creative and nurture the people I love. So I put up some of the most delicious lemon, pecan and basil pesto. Enjoy!

1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup raw pecans, finely chopped
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
3/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put all of the ingredients in a high-speed blender and puree until smooth. Refrigerate and use the pesto within a few days or freeze in individual ice cube trays then transfer to a freezer bag. To thaw, place pesto cubes in a bowl and microwave on high for about 30 seconds. Yields about 1 1/2 cups pesto.

My favorite uses for this pesto include spreading it on pizza crust, tossing it with pasta and artichoke hearts, and spreading it on chicken before grilling.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Homemade Vegetable Broth

I began using vegetable broth as a base for my soups recently when my vegetarian husband discovered I had covertly been using chicken broth for many years. I know, shameful. But the truth is he gave me permission to do so early on in our relationship so long as he didn't know. But once the cat, or rather the chicken, was out of the bag, I had to make the switch to vegetable broth. A paltry substitute in my opinion given that it's usually flavored with an inordinate amount of tomato paste or carrot juice, loaded with preservatives and then trucked across the country to sit on a shelf for who knows how long. So after suffering through a few bland renditions of my favorites soups, I decided to make my own. As I loaded vegetable scraps into a pot I felt guilty for not having made my broth from scratch from the beginning. But we're all on a journey with food and eating and cooking, and this is where I'm at. Although it is certainly not as convenient, this broth surpasses packaged vegetable broths in taste and is less expensive.

1 leek, white and pale green parts, washed well and chopped
2 small yellow onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2-3 carrots, diced
2-3 celery stalks, diced
1 cup tomatoes, diced
Italian parsley
Sea salt
Black peppercorns
Olive oil

Sweat the leek, onions, garlic, carrots and celery in a large stock pot with a two-count of olive oil and a generous pinch of sea salt for about five minutes until the vegetables are soft and aromatic. Unlike a saute, in which your goal is to preserve the texture of the vegetables by cooking briefly in a small amount of oil over high heat, a sweat is done slowly over low heat and, with the help of salt, encourages the vegetables to release their juicy, flavorful goodness. 

Toss in a bunch of thyme and parsley tied together with kitchen twine or just allowed to float about loosely. Add the tomatoes, several black peppercorns and about one gallon of water, and simmer uncovered over medium-low heat for about one hour. 

Strain out the vegetables, herbs and spices and allow the broth to cool uncovered. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze and use as needed. This broth is great with the Ribolitta Italian Bean Soup recipe below.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ribolitta Italian Bean Soup with Mascarpone

I’ll admit, I was a late bloomer when it came to dark leafy greens. Sure I experimented with spinach but I kept my distance from kale and chard until I tried this soup in college. That’s when I fell in love with their mellow flavors and soft texture. Later I began putting dark greens into smoothies--who really needs a green powder when you could just put the whole leaf in?--and really began to appreciate the their versatility. So if you’re timid in the produce market and scuttle by these dark beauties, stop, stare and give ‘em a try! This exquisite soup is a safe place to start. 

Serves 4-6 

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 medium carrots, sliced 1/8 inch
½ yellow onion, diced finely
1 tablespoons garlic, minced
8-10 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
Pinch of red chili flake
3 cups kale, chopped
3 cups Swiss chard, chopped
½ teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt 
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
32 ounces chicken broth (not bouillon cubes)
2, 15-ounce cans of cannellini beans
6 ounces mascarpone cheese for serving
Crusty Italian baguette

Heat oil and butter in a medium stock pot. Sauté carrots, onion, garlic, thyme leaves and chili flake over medium heat until onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Add the following six ingredients through chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes until all of the vegetables are tender. Rinse and drain the beans. Puree about one third of the beans in a food processor. Add the beans and bean puree to the soup and heat for another five minutes

Serve in wide soup bowls. Settle a generous scoop of the mascarpone in the center of the soup. Serve with crusty bread. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Feminists Cook Too, You Know

For a long time I’ve felt a vague sense that women of the 50ish set and younger relished their inability to cook, as if knowing how to knead bread or whip up a marinara sauce from scratch were shackles of a bygone era of gender inequity.
I first noticed it one Sunday afternoon seated around a lunch table with several young baby-boomers boasting that they had never made a double-crust pie. I was shocked. Even as a young newlywed before I owned a rolling pin I savored every payday when there was enough money left over in the grocery budget for nearly a dozen green apples and half a pound of butter to make my mother-in-law’s apple pie.
It never occurred to me that donning a floral apron to roll out a pie crust--with a pint glass because it was what we had, and it worked--might be a regression into the past, wasting all of my grandmothers’ hard won battles for women’s liberation. That, gasp, I might appear unliberated in so doing.
And yet, that is the message I hear almost every day now that I’m attune to it. I hear it mostly from food marketers, but also from real women. The message is loud and clear: now that we’re empowered, educated and employed, who has the time to cook?
I suppose it’s a fair question. But let’s forget the time issue for a moment and address the ideology and its consequences.  In her brilliant treatise on food, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” Barbara Kingsolver writes “When my generation of women walked away from the kitchen we were escorted down that path by a profiteering industry that knew a tired, vulnerable marketing target when they saw it. ‘Hey, ladies,’ it said to us, ‘go ahead, get liberated. We’ll take care of dinner.’ They threw open the door and we walked into a nutritional crisis and genuinely toxic food supply.” 
I have only known a world in which the educational and career possibilities were endless. Thus for me, the kitchen has never held this stigma. Neither has housework. At the end of a long day writing, I can shut my laptop and open up the pantry to prepare dinner from scratch. Not because I have to. Not because I don’t have a degree framed on my wall (and the student loan payments to match). Not because I’m not intelligent enough to do anything else. I cook because eating is an integral part of living. And to cede that delicious responsibility to someone else leaves me and my family at the mercy of the American food industry. Don’t even get me started. I cook because it knits me together with people, the people from whom I buy my food, the people with whom I cook and the lovely people I have the privilege of dining with every day.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Roasted Garlic Fettucine Alfredo

Every year around Thanksgiving I make a list of all of my favorite Christmas movies so that I can space them out evenly through the season. White Christmas, The Family Man, Love Actually (of course), and--at Rich’s insistence--Die Hard. (He cites the line, “Now I have a machine gun, ho, ho, ho!” as advent enough.) One of my absolute favorites is The Holiday. The story. The characters. The scenery. On Christmas Eve as both women are deep in emotional metamorphosis, they indulge in fettuccine. So this year as I had nowhere to go on Christmas and no particular interest in spending hours in the kitchen whipping up a traditional porkcentric feast (I had just finished the cookbook earlier in the week) I settled on some Christmas fettuccine. Like the movie, there’s nothing particularly Christmassy about the pasta, so you can serve it whenever you like. But I think it’s perfect for dark winter evenings when you need something completely warm and comforting, like a cashmere throw, but much tastier.  

Roasted Garlic Fettuccine Alfredo
Serves 4

Olive oil
1 head garlic
16 ounces chicken breast, cut into 2”x1/2” pieces
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 LB fresh pasta dough
4 slices prosciutto
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the garlic on a square of foil, snip off the top with kitchen shears and drizzle with about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Wrap loosely in the foil and bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven, unwrap and allow to cool.

While the garlic cooks, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan. Sear the chicken breast on all sides and allow to cook until just cooked through. Remove from heat.

Lay the prosciutto onto a baking sheet and cook for 8-10 minutes until it is crisp. Allow to cool, then crumble into a ramekin.

As soon as the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze each clove out into a small bowl. Mash with the back of a form until it forms a thick paste. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream to create a more blendable consistency.

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente.
In a separate pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until a paste forms. Add the cream, milk and roasted garlic mixture and whisk constantly until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat, allow to cool momentarily, then stir in the parmesan until melted. Add the cooked chicken.

Divide the pasta between four bowls. Ladle the alfredo sauce over each , ensuring each person gets several pieces of chicken. Top with parsley and crumbled prosciutto.