chips and dip

this sack of pita bread and an eggplant have been wallowing at the bottom of my fridge, sadly forgotten until today when i was inspired to make a bit of baba ghanoush and pita chips. such a simple dip to make as long as you have a supply of tahini on hand - otherwise making hummus or baba ghanoush might require an extra trip to a specialty shop for ingredients. and pita chips are almost as easy to make as buttered toast. seriously.

baba ghanoush:
1 eggplant, cut length wise
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clover garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt & pepper to taste

drizzle a bit of oil on the bottom of a baking dish and swirl the eggplant in the oil to coat. bake eggplant face up in a 475 degree oven for about 40 minutes until very tender and golden brown. once removed from the oven, let cool before diving in with a spoon to scoop out the flesh of the eggplant - (i like to snack on the charred eggplant skin, but maybe i'm just odd). in a food processor, blend the eggplant innards and the remaining ingredients until smooth. drizzle with olive oil to serve. (makes about 2-3 servings)

smokey-spiced baked pita chips ~ serves 5-8
10oz package whole wheat pita bread
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
½ - 1 teaspoon harissa paste (optional)
¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper or aleppo chili flakes
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

preheat oven to 400 degrees. cut pita bread in half and use kitchen scissors to cut around the rim to separate the two sides. lay the half-moon-shaped pitas out on a work space, inner side face up. whisk oil with spices in small bowl. use a brush to thinly coat the inner side of the pita with oil. stack the pita and use a large knife to cut into 3 equal triangle shapes. scatter the cut chips out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. roast until lightly browned and crisp. turn and rotate chips every few minutes to cook evenly. place baked chips out on paper to cool. adjust seasoning to taste. 

fruit leather

on my book shelf is an old tattered recipe book (that looks more like a children's coloring book than a cookbook) entitled 'dry it, you'll like it' ... it's a recipe book my dad would use to make me fruit leather as a kid. sometimes i still borrow his dehydrator for various 'cooking' projects, but fruit leather can also simply be made in an oven at it's lowest temperature (165 or 170 for most ovens). with higher heat you do loose more of the raw enzymes, but oven-dried fruit leather is just as delicious!

such a simple recipe. a great way to use up over-ripe or under-ripe fruits!

3 cups of fruit - berries, mangos, bananas, apples/pears, peaches/plums... probably not grapes or citrus or mellon - those would be a little too wet.
4 dates (optional to add a bit extra sweetness)
1/4 cup water

blend all ingredients together in a high-power blender until very smooth. cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper - making sure that it is fitted perfectly so it can lie flat. spread the fruit puree on the parchment paper, spreading and giggling until it is about 1/4 inch thick. bake at your oven's lowest temp for 4 to 8 hours or until the edges are a little crisp and it has a nice leathery look across the entire surface. it will still feel sticky to touch, but it will not be soft.

cut into squares and roll it up! save in the fridge for up to two weeks. enjoy!

black bean - chocolate - coconut cookies

these are definitely a don't-knock'em-till-you-try-them type of thing. you would never know there are black beans in these... oh my goodness are they delicious!! they are more like a brownie bite than a cookie, but decadent none the less. easily adaptable to other flavor combinations too - try nuts, or dried fruit, or maybe some spicy cayenne pepper to liven things up. not to mention, they are extremely simple!

black bean - chocolate - coconut cookies

3 cups cooked black beans, drained
4 tablespoons coconut oil
2/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2/3 cup brown rice syrup (or 100% maple syrup or honey)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup dark chocolate bar or baking chocolate, shaved or chopped into small chunks
1/2 cup large unsweetened coconut flakes + extra for sprinkling

in a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients except the chocolate and coconut flakes. blend until smooth. the texture should be wet but not soupy. fold in the chocolate and coconut flakes. spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. sprinkle each cookie with extra coconut flakes. bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until the edges of the cookies and coconut start to brown. serve warm! to be honest, these cookies are best straight out of the oven and don't make the best leftover if stored in a tupperware. instead, freeze the cookies in single layers between sheets of wax paper. when you want some cookies, heat the oven to 350 and bake for 5 minutes until warm again. sure, a little more work on your part, but entirely worth the extra effort to enjoy these cookies warm!

gluten free cornbread muffins

i adore corn bread. with a bowl of chili, or on it's own smothered with butter and a drizzle of honey. yum. there's a cafe in my neighborhood - the sunlight cafe - that serves wonderful gluten free cornbread. however, their cornbread is made into a loaf and cut into slices, which in my opinion is way less fun that getting to eat a cornbread muffin. they would not share their recipe with me though, so i've been testing a few different gluten free corn bread recipes over the past few months... and here is the results! i've played around with different flours and ratios - this recipe is very adaptable to ingredients you have on hand, but here are my preferences. i'm sure you could use any gluten free baking flour mix, but i especially like the combination of flours here with a bit of buckwheat - it gives the cornbread a lovely brown speckle and nuttiness. i use fine cornmeal, rather than coarse polenta - but you could experiment with a mixture of the two if you enjoy a coarser cornbread. enjoy!

1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup soy flour
2 tablespoons buckwheat flour
3 tablespoons tapioca flour/starch
*(or use 1 cup of your own gluten free flour mix)
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg
1 cup milk, milk substitute or buttermilk
2 heaping tablespoons of honey or brown sugar
1 cup frozen sweet corn, thawed and drained (optional)

heat oven to 375 degrees. sift all dry ingredients together. add butter, egg, milk and honey and mix until just combined into batter (does not have to be perfectly smooth - small clumps are ok!) finally, fold in the corn kernels. pour batter into muffin pan lined with cupcake wrappers... about 1/4 cup batter per muffin. bake for 15-20 minutes.

you could also pour this batter into a 9x9 baking pan, lined with parchment paper or buttered. bake cornbread a few extra minutes (25 total or so) until golden brown around the edges.

savory sage & squash tart

i spend a considerable amount of time preoccupied with thoughts about flavors. perhaps i should pursue becoming a mixologist at some swank speakeasy and make this preoccupation an actual occupation. anyhow... sometimes inspiration comes from something i've tried here or there, out at a restaurant or a bar and such. and then sometimes a random thought pops into my head for a recipe. for example: "what if i made a savory pumpkin pie?" well now, that's a ingenious idea, aubrey. do it! 

i was envisioning something with winter squash, nutmeg and savory flavors like onion and sage. i wanted it to be a cross between a pumpkin pie and a quiche but with the flavors of a butternut squash soup or something. i considered a pie crust in a pie pan, but then settled on a savory tart crust recipe adapted from the roost blog. i'm quite pleased with this recipe. it would make a fabulous addition to a thanksgiving feast. or maybe for a christmas brunch. or just whenever you need to feel cozy. 

for the crust:

3 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt

for the filling:
2 cups canned or cooked winter squash or pumpkin, pureed
1 egg
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon mace (or use double the nutmeg)
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh pepper
2 oz soft goat cheese

3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, or seeds reserved from squash

small handful of fresh sage
1/4 cup grapeseed oil

preheat oven to 375. 

you can either use canned squash or pumpkin or make your own puree! i used an acorn squash. to do so simply halve the squash, remove seeds, and cut each half into two pieces. in a large pot, steam squash in a steaming basket for 15+ minutes or until the squash if fork tender. let squash cool for 30 minutes before handling. you can reserve the seeds, clean them and roast them on a baking sheet with a teaspoon of oil in a 375 degree oven until lightly brown and use these as your topping for the tart! (or you can use store-bought roasted pumpkin seeds. those are tasty too!) 

let's begin your crust! in a bowl combine all ingredients for crust, stir with a fork until a dough forms. using fingers, press almond meal dough into a un-greased removable-bottom tart pan (or use a pie pan if you don't have a tart pan!) try to form a consistent thickness and use fingers to form a clean edged crust. make several pricks on the bottom of the crust with a fork. place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes to par-bake the crust. remove from oven and let cool. this dough recipe makes enough for a larger 11 or 12 inch tart pan, if you have a smaller 9 inch tart pan, you may have a bit of extra dough. just form to your desired thickness. 

for the filling, saute onions in grapeseed oil at a low temperature until translucent. then, tear the sage leaves into smaller bits and rub them in you fingers to break down the cells a bit and add the sage to the onions. cook for one minute. once squash has cooled, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh from the rind and place into a food processor. add spices, egg and goat cheese and pulse until smooth. add the sage and onions. i did not process the onions with the squash, but if you would like a smooth consistency you most certainly could. i enjoyed the texture of the sauteed onions in the tart. 

finally, pour the filling into par-baked crust. do not overfill. sprinkle with pumpkin or home-roasted squash seeds. place the baking sheet in the center of you oven and bake the tart for 60-75 minutes or until the crust is a golden brown and the filling is firm - aim for the consistency of a moist pumpkin pie or quiche. remove from the oven and let cool in the tart pan. once the tart reaches room temperature, remove the rim of the tart pan and slice the tart into 6 or 8 slices.

as a garnish, fry sage leaves in 1/4 cup grapeseed oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat. it only takes a few seconds to get crispy. use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove sage from the oil, and let oil drain off on a paper towel. place a few fried sage leaves on each slice of tart! yum. 

in other news. in case i didn't think about flavors enough already, i now have a three-quarter length sleeve tattoo of botanical vegetable drawings. to be exact: an artichoke, garlic, carrot, chilies, asparagus, pea vines, flowering dill, wheat, purple cabbage, rosemary, and of course .... a beet. i'll show more progress when i get it filled in! 

roasted stuffed dates

every family has their own special holiday foods. the staple menu items that cannot be forgotten. for my family, those items are my dad's smoked turkey, which leaves him smelling like smoke for several days to follow. his whiskyed yams, smothered in equally heavy portions of maple syrup, butter and whisky. and then there is a cherry chutney recipe, that came from my first grade teacher who we had invited to our thanksgiving meal. that recipe has been repeated every year since and is expected to appear on the table just as much as they turkey and the yams. a few years ago, my contribution to thanksgiving dinner was an appetizer that are now (happily) expected of me each year. the point being, there is a reward for branching out of the traditional foods we've come to expect. some of the greatest contributions are adapted from the guests we invite to join us for the holidays over the years. you never know what dish will become the latest family "tradition." 

my annual thanksgiving contribution are these roasted stuffed dates. simple, elegant, and oh so delicious. 

roasted stuffed dates with balsamic reduction: 

for the reduction ~ makes more than enough:
1 small bottle balsamic vinegar

buy a small inexpensive bottle of balsamic and empty the entire contents into a small sauce pan. bring to a simmer, and then continue to gently simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the volume is reduced by at least half. if you want more of a syrupy consistency, continue until the volume reduces to a quarter. try to maintain a very low simmer - you should see steam rising off, but just a few gentle bubbles, to keep the balsamic from burning. poor the balsamic into a small jar to let cool. remember that the consistency will thicken, once cooled to room temperature. you will likely have an excess of reduction, which will store perfectly in the fridge for several weeks - drizzle over salads, roasted vegetables, meats, bread and oil... everything! 

for the roasted dates ~ makes a dozen: 
(note: this recipe is easy to scale up or down. i like to make 2-3 dates for every person)
12 medjool dates, with or without pits
1/2 cup soft goat cheese, room temperature
1 cup walnuts 
1 tablespoon, chopped fresh rosemary 
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch sea salt 

preheat oven to 375. fillet each date, making one cut on the length of the date and scooping out the pit. roughly chop 1/2 cup of the walnuts and finely chop a few sprigs of rosemary. reserve the remaining 1/2 cup of walnuts. in a small mixing bowl, combing goat cheese, chopped walnuts, rosemary and salt and stir to combine in a crumbly mixture. using your fingers, press about 1 teaspoon or more into the cavity of each date. you may have extra mixture, depending on the size of the dates. feel free to pit more dates and make more! 
ideally, find a small baking dish that won't have too much extra space surrounding the dates. goat the bottom of the dish with a tablespoon of olive oil, and pack the dates close together to prevent them from tumbling over. use the final 1/2 cup of walnuts to fill spaces around the dates. roast in the oven until the walnuts are lightly toasted, and the goat cheese is softened and a touch browned ~ about 20-30 minutes. 
to serve right from the roasting dish, just drizzle with balsamic reduction. or for a slightly more elegant presentation, drizzle balsamic reduction directly onto a serving platter and then place dates on top with extra roasted walnuts and a few sprigs of rosemary. 

these dates are excellent with thanksgiving leftovers. or chopped up and tossed on top of a greens salad! 

happy holidays everyone! - aubrey

better than oatmeal

you've probably had black sticky rice pudding at thai restaurants before, no? rich and soft and creamy. and oh so very sweet. it is served in thailand for either dessert or breakfast, but to me, the american restaurant version is far to sweet to be served as breakfast. rather than adding sugar, i used a small amount of coconut palm sugar - giving the dish just a subtle sweetness and hint of coconut. and rather than coconut cream, you could use almond milk or rice milk or a lighter coconut milk beverage. topped with fresh or dried fruit and toasted shaved coconut, i'd say this breakfast is equally as fulfilling and healthful  as a bowl of oatmeal. better tasting than oatmeal and perhaps, even more nutritious since black rice is full of antioxidants. *note, black sticky rice (aka black glutinous rice) is different from wild rice. it is a shorter grain, and almost purple in color. you can find it at most health and specialty shops! 

black sticky rice porridge with coconut and date: 

1 cup black rice, soaked in 2 cups water for 30-60 minutes
1 cup coconut milk (or almond or rice milk)
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup pitted dates, quartered
1/2 cup coconut shavings
extra coconut milk for drizzling

soak rice in 2 cups water for 30-60 mins in your steamer or small sauce pan. after it has soaked, turn on heat and let simmer for 45 minutes until rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed. add coconut milk, salt and coconut sugar and simmer at a low temperature for another 30 minutes. if you have raw coconut flakes, toast them in a 350 degree oven on a baking sheet until lightly brown (peek at them every few minutes... they will toast quickly!) to serve, top 2/3 cup porridge with dates, toasted coconut and a few tablespoons of coconut milk (or another rice or nut milk). serve warm! also wonderful topped with raisins, fresh bananas or other dried fruits! 

a beet smoothie

as much as i love juicing fruits and vegetables, i also want the fiber. so a few years ago i sold my fancy juicer and bought a vitamix. *best birthday present to myself. ever.* i've gotten into a habit of packing a smoothie for my lunch. especially when working in an industry that doesn't always allow for a lunch break, smoothies keep me energized, hydrated and full while i'm buzzing around behind the bar or out serving tables. also, they are delicious and packed with nutrients. my latest favorite concoction includes raw beets. gorgeous in color, and delightfully earthy. coconut water for electrolytes and cashews to help you absorb fat-soluble nutrients. it's a smoothie suitable for any meal of the day! note: i have not tried making a veggie/fruit smoothie in a 'regular' blender. my vitamix does a powerful job of creating a smooth and enjoyable texture and consistency that may be lacking from vegetable smoothies made in 'regular' blenders. so no promises, but feedback  is welcome! (sorry, did that sound like a vitamix commercial? i can't help myself. i'm obsessed.) 

beet smoothie...
8 oz coconut water + 1 small or medium beet + 1 small apple + 1/2 banana
2 small carrots, or 1 large + 2 medium stalks celery + 1 handful spinach
1 oz raw cashews, soaked overnight in water & drained
...blend for up to a minute until very smooth. chill to desired temperature. 

the forgotten cheese of my childhood

when i was young, my dad would make me pasta with brown butter and mizithra cheese... a classic dish. it was probably my favorite pasta dish for years, but somehow i forgot entirely about the lovely mizithra cheese! it's been years since i've had the dish, and my tastes have changed (i can't seem to go a meal without veggies)... so here is my new take to this old childhood favorite:

for the pasta:
spinach spaghetti
unsalted butter
greek mizithra cheese, finely grated
olive oil
1 head of garlic, peeled
cherry tomatoes
fresh basil
sea salt and pepper

to time the cooking right, i first roasted peeled garlic with olive oil, wrapped in foil (450 degrees for about 25 minutes or until lightly brown). while the garlic is roasting, bring a large pot of water to boil with salt. in another small pot, brown a few table spoons of butter, heating slowly and stirring often until color becomes dark caramel-like. once the garlic finishes, mix the garlic cloves and their oil with the brown butter. let cool. then spread your cherry tomatoes out on a foil covered tray, and spray with olive oil to coat. toss your pasta in the boiling water, and then throw the tomatoes under the broiler for about 5-10 minutes until the tomatoes start to pop and blacken. in the mean time, grate the mizithra cheese. once everything is finished, toss your cooked pasta with a bit of the brown butter and olive oil mixture. top with whole garlic cloves, whole roasted tomatoes, fresh basil, sea salt, cracked pepper, and of tons of mizithra!
i just love the way the light mizithra clings to my pasta! yumm!

savory green tomato cobbler

last summer i came up with a brilliant idea for using an excessive amount of cherry tomatoes growing from my parents garden. i wanted to stew them, and i knew i wanted some baked good to soak them up with. and then it dawned on me: cobbler. i had never heard of a savory cobbler before, but if one were to make such a thing, tomatoes would be the perfect filler. 

i don't know why i didn't think to remake the cobbler this summer. until this week, when i was gifted with a bag of green tomatoes from my band mate's garden. i could have just substituted them into the previous recipe, but i decided to tailor it to the new flavor. i envisioned some cross between cornmeal-fried green tomatoes and my old recipe. i was a bit skeptical as i was throwing it together... preparing myself for plan b: leftover vegetable soup. i don't know why i lost confidence. the cobbler turned out to be spectacular! the next day, i reheated the leftovers in a small cast iron skillet in the oven and topped it with a fried egg. 

savory green tomato cobbler ~ serves 4-6

3 lbs green tomatoes, or about 5 cups
1 large yellow onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch chili flakes
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

biscuit topping: 
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold butter
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoon coarse cornmeal
extra grated cheese

preheat oven to 375. cut onion in half and cut into thin slice. heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. cook onions slowly, stirring every few minutes, until caramelized - about 15 minutes. remove from heat and transfer onions to a large mixing bowl to cool. remove any stems on tomatoes, and cut into large chunks and add to the mixing bowl along with remaining filling ingredients. using your hands or spoon, gently stir the mixture without squishing your tomatoes. pour this mixture into a 9-inch square casserole dish (or pie pan works just as well). 

to prepare the biscuits, mix dry ingredients in a bowl. cut butter into tiny bits, and add to flour. using your hands, work the butter into the mixture until it forms crumbles of dough. add grated cheese & diced jalapenos, stir to distribute evenly into the flour mixture. finally, add milk (starting with one cup) and stir to combine. add more milk if needed - texture should be fairly sticky and not very formable. 

to assemble, drop 1/2 cup dollops of dough on top of the tomato mixture. i fit about nine drop-biscuits on top of my cobbler. allow a little space in between each biscuit for room to spread. top each biscuit with a small sprinkle of grated cheese and a dusting of cornmeal. if you have extra dough, do not cram it onto your cobbler. just make a few drop biscuits on a lined baking sheet (about 25 minutes in the oven) ... you can snack on these while you wait for the cobbler to finish! 

bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the tomatoes are clearly bubbling and biscuits are nicely browned. let cool for 10 minutes before serving. excellent with a fried egg or a green salad! 

coconut macaroons

for the past, oh maybe two or three years, i have been feeding an addiction to coconut macaroons. i've changed dealers a few times. first, there was jodee, that tempress! her shop was just two doors down from the yoga studio i practiced at daily. she made amazing bite-size raw vegan coconut macaroons with chocolate and served amazing cold brew coffee with the best house-made almond milk i have ever tasted. it was impossible not to go to yoga without going next door for my well-deserved treat.

then i discovered macrina bakery made an equally delicious, non-vegan, but still chocolate-infused coconut macaroon. they are lighter in texture and maybe a half-bite larger than jodee's. but when i moved to the central district, i didn't have an easily accessible source. or so i thought! until i realized that the best coffee shop in my neighborhood, broadcast, had jars of macrina macroons in their pastry case!! so while i may be missing out on jodee's fabulous almond milk, my coffee options have expanded and i still get my dose of macaroons. 

this story is all quite ironic considering i used to hate coconut as a child. maybe it was because of those awfully sweet almond joy candies that i dreaded finding in my halloween treat bag. i guess i liked coconut milk on my thai sticky rice. but you couldn't get me to try anything else with coconut as a kid. 

i have no reason (yet) to curb my addiction. instead, my ambition was to recreate these little treats in my home kitchen. i started with a classic coconut macaroon recipe. eventually, i hope to perfect my chocolate infused coconut macaroons. stay tuned...

coconut macaroons ~ makes many! 
2 egg whites
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
10 oz un-sweetened, shredded coconut

preheat oven to 325. line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. 

in a bowl, whisk together all ingredients except coconut. continue whisking until foamy and sugar is dissolved. then add coconut, and mix to coat evenly. 

using a deep spoon, or or small ice cream scooper, lightly compress the mixture into a mounded shape and drop onto the baking sheet - about 1 inch apart. *i didn't have an ice cream scooper so i used a looseleaf tea infuser thing that gave my macaroons a cute egg shape. 

bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on the bottoms and edges. let cool completely and store in an airtight container. 

autumn chia breakfast bowl

i love the heat of summer, but fall is probably my favorite season. the colors of the trees, the true sense of changing seasons, and the cool breeze and chilly evenings that force you to dig out your sweaters from the bottom of your dresser. autumn in the northwest is gorgeous. i get giddy thinking about winter squash and winter vegetables, but i absolutely love all the jewel tones of autumn fruits. pears, plums, figs, pomegranates... they are almost too beautiful to eat, sitting all together in my fruit basket. almost.

chia seeds have become rather popular in the past couple years. i think it's hard for people to imagine anything past chia pets when they hear the word. anyhow. instead, try to imagine a superfood that tastes like tapioca-like pudding. ish. chia seeds are packed full of antioxidants, omegas and complete proteins. simply soak them for 30 minutes in your choice of water, juice or non-dairy milk, and you have a wonderful porridge. add a touch of sweetness, or sweet spices or fruit and enjoy.

autumn chia breakfast bow:
serves one very happy morning person

3 tablespoons chia seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or even better with a small scrape of vanilla bean seeds!)
2 fresh figs
1 small plum or pluot
1/4 cup raw or toasted nuts - hazelnuts are my favorite
a drizzle of honey
a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds
a dusting of poppy seeds

soak chia and poppy seeds in almond milk with vanilla for 30 minutes. whisk every 10 minutes or so to separate clumps. top with slices of fresh fruit, nuts, seeds and a good drizzle of honey. sit in the autumn sunshine and enjoy.

parmesan radicchio salad

last week's post left me reminiscing about wonderful dishes i've had at restaurants that i filed away into my memory in order to recreate at a later date. i was thinking back to our last trip to portland, and remembered a simple, yet delicious salad from tasty n sons. it was a torn radicchio salad, with a few croutons and a heap of parmesan. goodness, i loved that salad. we head back to portland in a few weeks for a bouldering competing david is partaking in. i can't wait to go back to tasty n sons for their to-die-for biscuits and bloody mary menu, but also to see if this salad is still on their menu.

this week at the farmers market, i picked up a few heads of radicchio and went to work recreating the dish. i skipped the croutons, doused whole leaves of raddichio in my favorite basic vinaigrette, piled on the parmesan, and added a few capers. it was messy, dripping with vinaigrette, and parmesan flying off my plate, but it was perfection.

parmesan radicchio salad ~ serves 2
1 small head radicchio
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 cup parmesan
1/4 cup vinaigrette 

tear radicchio or leave them as whole leaves, drizzle with vinaigrette and top with a heavy portion of shaved parmesan and a sprinkling of capers. note: i used a microplane to grate my parmesan, but whatever you use, be sure to buy fresh, real parmesan! 

my favorite vinaigrette ~ serves 6 (ish) 
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste 
small clove garlic, crushed (optional) 
fresh or dried herbs (optional) 

blend together with a whisk. keeps well in a jar on the countertop for a few days. excellent also for dipping raw vegetables or steamed artichoke into as well! 

roasted grapes

sometimes i sit back and look at a meal i've prepare for myself and wonder how much it could be sold for in a restaurant. can you even put a price on a lovely meal prepared with compassion for yourself and those you are sharing it with? when i was younger, my family lived two blocks away from my grandfather. he would join us for dinner every week, and my dad would cook up something fantastic, as he always did. my grandfather would sit at the table at the end of the meal and ask "if this is what we are eating, i wonder what the rich people are eating?!" 

when i'm out enjoying a bite at a swanky restaurant, i'm constantly filing away recipe ideas and inspiration for flavor combinations. it's a wonderful thing to be able to recreate something you enjoyed out, from your home kitchen! not only will it cost you a fraction of the menu price, but you get to put your own spin on it, save it in your repertoire of recipes, and share the pleasure whenever and with whomever! 

my grandfather would have enjoyed this recipe - a recreation of an appetizer at terra plata in capitol hill, made personal with concord grapes growing in the yard of my bandmate and his wife. this is fantastic as a small amuse-bouche or appetizer with some red wine. or, throw it on top of a greens salad with blue cheese and a vinaigrette! oh so good! 

notes: you could use any variety of grapes - concord grapes are very sweet and have a great texture to them. they turn a lovely fuchsia color after roasted! however, you could play with mixing red and green grapes. for an appetizer, i like having pits in my olives. but for making into a salad, i would suggest pitted cured olives.

2 cups grapes, remove stems
1 tablespoon olive oil
several sprigs of fresh thyme, remove stems
1 cup cured black olives
1 cup walnut halves
salt & pepper

preheat oven to 400. place walnuts on one small baking sheet or roasting pan and bake in oven until fragrant and lightly toasted. on another baking sheet, spread out the grapes. drizzle with olive oil and toss around with thyme. roast in the oven for 8 minutes. grapes will start to shrivel slightly, but pull them out of the oven before they start to split and pop. let cool to room temperature. once cooled, combine grapes in a bowl with walnuts and cured olives. salt and pepper to taste. 

goat cheese & summer squash risotto

it has been a bizarre week of thunderstorms, downpours and misty rain. i spent one rainy day at the russian spa in seattle, soaking in tubs and melting away in the sauna. another rainy day, i sat on our balcony while it thundered and dumped buckets of rain from the sky - yet still warm and humid, it was quite an experience just reading my book while listening to thunder roll through the city. it doesn't feel like fall has crept in yet. just strange weather worthy of a cozy bowl of creamy risotto and summer squash. this next week promises warmer weather. nevertheless, i am still fully enjoying my risotto leftovers (which, by the way, are best re-heated over a stove with an additional splash of broth and a fresh sprinkling of parmesan). 

goat cheese & summer squash risotto ~ serves 6

2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
6-8 cups homemade broth 
2 shallots
1 large clove garlic
2 small zucchini 
several sprigs fresh thyme
5 oz chevre goat cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3-5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

note: i happened to have an excessive amount of home-made chicken broth i had made the previous week, which was fabulous in this dish. if you don't have homemade broth on hand, use any type of broth you prefer. 

start by heating your broth in a saucepan. bring to a simmer and turn heat off to low. 

cut washed zucchini in half lengthwise, and slice into quarter-inch thick half moons. peel and finely mince 1 glove of garlic. in a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat. add zucchini and garlic and saute until zucchini is fully cooked. add more oil if necessary. once cooked, remove from heat and set zucchini aside in a small bowl. 

thinly slice shallots and pick the thyme away from the stems. using the same saute pan, heat an additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and saute shallots with the fresh thyme until the shallots translucent. add uncooked rice, and fry for 2 minutes, stirring frequently - coating the rice with oil. add more oil if needed to keep rice from burning. deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup white wine. add a ladle full of hot broth to the rice and stir constantly until it is almost fully absorbed. continue adding a ladle of broth at a time, allowing the rice to absorb most of the moisture before adding more fluid. continue cooking and stirring for about 20-30 minutes until desired consistency. the rice should not be overcooked or overly mushy, but the starches from the rice should release into the broth creating a creamy, saucy texture. once the rice is fully cooked, stir in crumbled goat cheese and the pre-cooked zucchini. salt and pepper to taste. serve with a sprinkling of grated parmesan. 

spiced white melon salad

it's hard to believe that today is labor day! summer has flown by - a fact that i am grappling with. i only read two books. i worked all but one weekend. never jumped into a lake. only took one camping trip. maybe there is still time to tuck in a few more summer activities this month while the weather is still warm. but i also happen to love the fall for its colors and flavors. so not to fret. there are other things to look forward to. 

this snow leopard melon has been sitting in my fridge for a week or so. and while it is a fashion faux pas to wear white after labor day, i don't see why i can't eat a white mellon salad. hmm? i recently had a cocktail at joule that had white rum, lime and sumac. now i know i had sumac in my spice drawer, and have used it to make za'atar (a middle eastern spice mixture of sumac, thyme and sesame seeds) but have rarely used it on it's own for flavor. the cocktail was unusual and amazing. sumac is tangy and tart, with a flavor unlike anything else i can think of. while sipping my cocktail, i was imagining what other flavors would go along with sumac and melon came to mind. so here you have it: a white melon salad spiced with sumac and aleppo pepper. 

white melon salad ~ serves 2
half of a small white melon (or other melon varieties)
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 large pinches of sumac
1 pinch aleppo pepper
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

chill your melon for at least an hour or more. slice melon in half. remove seeds and pith with a wide metal spoon. slice melon as you like, small bites or larger thin triangle shapes. place in bowl and toss with rice vinegar and spices. top with crumbled feta and a drizzle of olive oil. serve chilled. optionally: let melon pickle slightly in vinegar for an hour or two before serving. 

*be sure to use unseasoned rice wine vinegar. you don't need the added sugar that 'seasoned' vinegars have... the melon is plenty sweet enough! 

cotija y maíz

did i mention how much wonderful food we had on our recent trip to orcas island? doe bay cafe is alway delicious - a bit spendy, but rightfully so when the majority of the food comes from doe bay farm and the island's own shellfish farms. there we shared clams in a white wine broth, a foraged mushroom macaroni and cheese and a gorgeous kale salad with edible flowers. over in eastsound (the only real 'town' on the island) mia's cafe servers up a killer breakfast, as does my all-time-favorite roses bakery. during the music festival, however, you don't even have to venture away from the main stage to find amazing food. local vendors (or just some really good home chefs) from around the island set up shop to serve bbq ribs, wood fired pizza, falafel, and the world's messiest corn on the cob. this corn had me drooling, cheese and chili tumbling from my chin, and strings of corn stuck between my teeth. damn was it good though! it begged to be recreated back at home! 

corn on the cob with cotija cheese, chili and lime ~ serves 2

2 ears of white or yellow corn
1/2 lime
butter to taste
1 tablespoon chili powder*
4 tablespoons finely grated cotija cheese
sea salt to taste

*note: if your chili powder has been sitting around in your spice rack since you-don't-know-when, then go buy some fresh chili powder. it will make all the difference! believe me! also, i just learned that the sugars in corn rapidly turn to starch as soon as you peek under the husk - so just feel for the ends of your ears of corn, rather than peaking in at them to see if the kernels look plump. 

in a large pot, bring several inches of water to a boil. husk and boil corn for 4 minutes. remove corn from water and while the corn is still hot, rub the end of a stick of butter all over to coat evenly. cut a lime in half, and gently squeeze and rub the corn with one half of the lime. take a large pinch of chili powder and sprinkle all each ear of corn. top with a dusting of cotija cheese. salt to taste. 

summer gazpacho

august has been slipping away from me. david and i were able to escape for a long weekend to doe bay on orcas island for their annual summer music festival. it just so happens, that the festival lined up with my birthday this year (huzzah!) you can't quite beat listening to live music in the sunshine on a picnic blanket with your guy on a gorgeous island while sipping an island hoppin' brew on your birthday. orcas island is my most frequented vacation destination (for so many good reasons), but i had never made it to the music festival before. it felt like the island population doubled overnight for the festival [ok - actually, the population of orcas is about 4,000 and the festival brought in about 2,000 folks. on such a small island, it was kind of comical] it was a very different vibe from our last visit over new years, when the island was very sleepy and quite. both experiences, however distinct, created some wonderful memories. 

so my birthday has come and gone, which always reminds me that summer is quickly approaching fall... i keep making large batches of gazpacho, enjoying the tastes of summer for as long as is possible. the heirloom tomatoes at our local farmers market are amazing!! but so are their 'under the table' over-ripe tomatoes (who cares if they are just getting mushed up into bowls of gazpacho?) my shopping list for every trip to the farmers market has been pretty much limited to all the ingredients for gazpacho. oh and doughnut peaches. i could happily live off of gazpacho and peaches for the month of august. 

gazpacho ~ serves 4

2 large over-ripe tomatoes
1 medium cucumber, peeled
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
3 banana peppers, or 1 1/2 bell pepper
1/2 cup cilantro
1/4 cup red onion
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
1 pinch red chili flakes

garnish options:
1 avocado
1/2 bell pepper (i used a purple pepper for added color)
1/4 cucumber, peeled

prepare vegetables by washing and dicing into smaller bits. using either a food processor or blender, blend together tomatoes, cucumber, water and oil with garlic until juicy and fairly smooth. add peppers, cilantro, red onions and pulse briefly. i like a bit of chunkiness. season to taste. to garnish, top with slices of avocado or a mini 'salsa' of diced peppers & cucumber with avocado. drizzle lightly with olive oil. serve chilled or at room temperature. great with garlic -sauteed shrimp or ears of grilled corn. 

thirst quenchers

i really should be better about consuming sufficient amounts of water. my days are often non-stop activity, but it's easy to get "too busy" to drink water until you hit a wall, your mouth is parched, and you realize you've been sweating for four hours and haven't sipped any fluids! water should be your go-to beverage, but in the summer time it sure is fun to mix things up and make juices, smoothies, iced teas and coffees to quench your heat-driven thirst. last week, i wrote a blog post for full circle farms on thirst-quenching beverages. check out the watermelon juice recipe, as well as some other fun beverages to try! 
easy watermelon juice with mint or chili powder

in other news, david and i have settled into our new home in the central district of seattle. we hosted a house warming party last weekend - which was a good motivation to get artwork up on the walls and to purchase a dining room table. i have been wishing and hoping for a dining room table for years! i've made do to host dinner parties over the years, but have never had the appropriate space or furniture to comfortably host a proper dinner party. wow, that sounds so domesticated. but heck! i love to host dinner parties!! i am very excited about our dining table. 

i am also very excited about the container garden i have started on our balcony. i've got peas and strawberries growing, fresh herbs and lavender. hanging baskets and potted plants. they are lovely to look out at from our living room. if i can't have a farm... container gardens will just have to do for now. 

tunisian spiced roasted eggplant & pepper salad

i have lived in this wee little one-bedroom apartment just up the path from beautiful greenlake for three full years. prior to this home, i had been living out of a bag, with things scattered between a few different temporary 'homes.' it was a period of time in which i felt i was always forgetting something, and never had my bike when and where i needed it to be. since that period, i've enjoyed being able to set my roots here... making this space a reflection of myself and my passions. art-filled walls, bookshelves full of cookbooks, and a kitchen that will be hard to say goodbye to: granite countertops, vintage wood floors and stainless steel appliances. but three years is a long time to be in one space when your in your twenties, and i've always wanted to experience my home city from a different perspective. so, my love and i have decided to move across town to the central district, just south of capitol hill. despite having lived in seattle my whole life (north seattle that is), it will feel like moving to a whole new city! i'm excited to reorient myself and explore new restaurants and coffee shops and establish new bike routes. it's will be an adventure! 

before i packed up my kitchen, i made one final meal with plenty of left-overs to power my packing & moving days ahead. so this will be my last post from the current rendering of the drum beets kitchen. soon, there will be new natural lighting to toy with, new kitchen appliances to dial into, and a bit more space to organize my growing collection of food photography 'props' ... i am quite excited!

tunisian spiced roasted eggplant & pepper salad ~ serves 3-4
3/4 cup hard red wheat berries
1 firm medium eggplant 
2 red bell peppers
1/2 red onion
1/3 cup tablespoons olive oil 
1 tablespoon harissa spice blend
1 teaspoon smoked paprika 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 juice of one lemon
2/3 cup crumbled feta (optional) 

in a medium sauce pan, submerge wheat berries in cold water and let soak for at least 2 hours. the bring to a simmer and let cook on low until wheat berries are tender, slightly chewy but not falling apart [cooking time will greatly depend on how long you soak them prior... between 30-60 minutes]. preheat oven to 425. de-stem peppers, and trim off top and bottom from eggplant and peel outer layer of onion off. chop vegetables into small cubes - aout the size of a pistachio. in a small bowl, combine spices with salt and oil. in a large mixing bowl, place all of your chopped vegetables. pour about half of your oil mixture over the vegetables and mix with your hands to evenly coat. divide vegetables onto 2 baking sheets, so that there is plenty of room for them to roast and get crisp. if they are piled on top of each other, they will just steam. roast until edges are slightly charred and vegetables are fully cooked. 

reuse your large mixing bowl!... thoroughly strain wheat berries from water and combine in the large bowl with the remaining oil mixture, warm roasted vegetables and the remaining ingredients. salt and pepper to taste. 

serve warm or at room temp. or enjoy the salad chilled the next day, as i am currently doing. and now it is time to go deep clean my oven. uck. 

asparagus soup

i could enjoy asparagus with every meal. for breakfast with a fried egg. in hearty salads for lunch... in the spring time, i simply can't get enough. i tried an 'asparagus' soup off a menu about a month ago. i was curious and excited, and then instantly disappointed when i took my first sip. it tasted like a potato bisque and only pale green. i'll credit the potato for giving the soup a smooth consistency without the need for cream, but it craved twice the amount of asparagus. it was a stingy asparagus soup that left me inspired to create my own rendition. this recipe is simple, delicious and gorgeous. it was the perfect side to a soft cheese and prosciutto sandwich on a cool spring evening. 

asparagus soup ~ serves 4-6
2 pounds fresh asparagus
1 yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
3 stalks of celery
1 large yellow sweet potato
3 tablespoons olive oil
vegetable stock 
salt & pepper
parmesan (optional) 

prepare asparagus by washing, trimming and cutting each spear into one-inch chunks. peel the yellow sweet potato, and cut into small cubes. roughly chop onion, garlic and celery. in a large soup pot, heat oil and saute the onions, garlic and celery for a few minutes on medium heat. add potato and asparagus chunks and cover with just enough stock so that all vegetables can cook evenly as they stew in the broth [they do not have to be completely covered... too much broth with make for a very thin soup. always better to add more as you puree the soup to control the consistency] cook on medium heat until all vegetables are fork tender. using an immersion blender (or in a regular blender in smaller batches) puree the soup until smooth. salt and pepper to taste and add more broth if needed. if the soup is too thin, simmer for 10-20 minutes until it cooks down a bit more. serve with shaved parmesan and cracked pepper. yum!