One!

A year ago today I was dreaming wistfully about the cabbage and mango slaw I had eaten earlier in the week. From the looks of the few pictures it was warm, but probably not quite warm enough to eat outside.

Today, I am at a wedding on the East Coast. It is murderously hot and humid and I wish I could be naked as the day I was born.

Today though, it’s this blog that is as naked–maybe even nakeder–than the day it was born. A year ago, I didn’t know what to do with the words going through my head. There were a lot of them, all jumbled up in there trying to get out. I was still so new to being at home all day with kids, and I needed a creative outlet. I chose to start writing because it seemed natural at the time: Joe had been telling me for months blogging (or something similar) would be a good way for me to do something for myself, and I finally decided he was right. I believe that my writing has improved since then. I have learned to be more honest with myself and by extension, the page.

I have learned that writing a blog post doesn’t mean that I need to bottle it up and be happy every time, and that it’s OK to tell people I write a food blog–even though I still blush on the inside when I do say it.

Back then, my camera was not yet an extension of my hand. I was still getting a feel for how it saw, and how the differences between the way it sees and they way I see could be reconciled. I still have a long long way to go, but I feel more complete now that I can make the camera do what I want instead of the other way around. Most of the time, anyway.

My birthday wish for this blog would be that I could learn to make it bigger. I wish I could foresee success in some tangible way beyond feeling good about sharing the recipes that grow out of the moral code my family lives by. I’ll be heading to the BlogHer Food conference in a couple of weeks, and hopefully I’ll pick up some useful info. The truth is though, that I kinda know what I need to do. I need to get my hands a little dirtier. I need to be even busier than I already am.

I have some things in the works that could be the solution to my quandary. I and a friend are going to be hosting some backyard dinners this summer and early fall, and I’d love for you to get in on the action. The dinners are a fundraiser of sorts, and a way for us to work towards something even bigger on down the road. They will be prix fixe, and hopefully all will have good weather. Each menu will be seasonally focused and as locally sourced as possible. We’ll be testing out some recipes that will play a part in future plans for a venue where I will be serving food to the public and doing what I do best–sharing myself over a good meal.  If you are interested in attending a dinner, please do let me know. We’d absolutely love love love to have you.

In the meantime, I have a teaser for you–a birthday cake, if you will.

This cake has it all. It’s the cake you were waiting for. The cake of your dreams. And it comes with ice cream, so what could be better than that?

This trio is the embodiment of all the best parts of spring. The chiffon cake is airy and spongy like the soil in a well tended garden after a light rain. It’s warm and billowy with a delicate crumb that’s reminiscent of the way raw silk feels on the skin. The subtle fragrance of cardamom envelops you the way a just blooming flower bed’s intoxicating aroma would.

The snap of rhubarb left raw–green and grassy and tart with that unmistakable rosy cheeked smile hiding underneath–is the perfect pairing with rich, alluring ricotta ice cream. An ice cream as silky smooth as you could hope for, but lacking the aggressive sweetness of vanilla that might overpower the delicate flavors of it’s plate mates.

This is a trio of desserts that allows you to pick and choose. You can easily leave out the ice cream and do a simple very lightly sweetened whipped cream instead. You could leave out the cardamom if you like. You could even roast the rhubarb, if you don’t think you will like it raw (though I heartily encourage you to try it that way). You can switch it out entirely for a different fruit if that would please you. The only thing this cake and it’s accompaniments begs it simply to be shared with those you love, preferably in a pool of caressing sunshine–at the end of the day or at the end of a brunch. Even, perhaps, as a mid-afternoon snack.

Cardamom Chiffon Cake with Ricotta Ice cream

For the ice cream (makes 1 Quart)

1 lb whole milk ricotta cheese, as fresh as you can find
1 cup cream
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
juice of one lemon

First, in the bowl of an electric mixer or other heat proof bowl, heat the egg yolks with a tiny splash of water and the sugar, whisking constantly, until the sugar is just dissolved. Remove from the heat and continue whisking unti it becomes light in color and thickens (ribbon stage).  Whisk until completely cool. Next, heat the honey with the cream just until melted–you don’t actually want the cream to get hot. Whisk in the ricotta, then fold in the egg mixture. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and let chill in the refrigerator for several hours. Freeze following the instructions for your ice cream maker, then return to freezer to set. Either the custard base or the ice cream itself can be made a day in advance of when you plan to serve it.

For the cake (makes one 9-10″ cake, in a tube pan)

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
5 eggs, separated, plus 2-3 extra egg whites
3/4 cup cold water
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cardamom. Make a well in the center and add the egg yolks, melted butter, water and vanilla. Next, whip the eggs whites together with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.

Pour the first mixture over the egg whites and slowly fold the two together with a spatula. Pour into an ungreased tube type pan and bake for 50 minutes, rotating half way though. At 50 minutes, check doneness by pressing with a fingertip–it should spring back quickly. If it’s not quite done, give it another couple of minutes, being careful not to let it over-bake or it will dry out. Remove from the oven and cool upside down on a rack.

While the cake is cooling, wash and slice the rhubarb–about 1 stalk per person. Toss with a couple of Tbsp sugar per stalk and let sit unrefrigerated until service. You can just as easily replace the rhubarb with any fresh, seasonal berries or stone fruits.

The Hunger

During Passover it was hard to find a good snack. Normally if I’m looking for a good satisfying mid-day snack I will eat a handful of tortilla or pita chips dipped in hummus, a bowl of fresh popped corn with garlic salt, or a rice cake with peanut butter. But all of those things–corn, peanuts, garbanzo beans, rice, and leavened wheat–are forbidden by Ashkenazic tradition during Passover.

We ate a lot of eggs and fruit and cheese, which is OK for a little while but can get old pretty fast when you can’t mix it up a bit. And there’s always matzah roca, which is a good sweet bite when you need to satisfy that sort of craving–but you can’t eat too much of that without feeling some good old fashioned Jewish guilt.

So what’s a girl in training to do?

Eat nuts.

Handfuls of them raw in yogurt, almond butter spread over matzah with a drizzle of honey, or nuts like these:

Words like salty and sweet don’t really do these mixed nuts justice, because even though they are those things, that’s not enough. There are more layers of flavor to them than there are layers of matzah in matzah lasagna.

With an immediate crunch and a lingering heat, these are pretty much the perfect snack. The orange zest adds a brightness that isn’t easily brought by other ingredients, and the cardamom adds a floral zing. The chipotle knocks on the door and says “HI!” at just the moment, when you’re thinking you might need a way to get off the phone with the sweetness. And of course, salt. All good toasted nuts have salt.

Even though we ate a big bag of them during Passover, I couldn’t resist making a fresh batch to go with us on the train to Vancouver, where we are right now. It’s supposed to be pretty rainy here this week, and even chillier than the city we left behind, so a good homemade snack was essential to keep up our spirits on this Not-So-Tropical vacation. Along with the bottle of wine no self-respecting international train traveller leaves behind, they make the perfect travelling snack. They’ll cure pretty much any hunger pangs, and be easy to carry around to boot.

Stovetop Toasted Orange Spice Nuts
makes 12 1/4 cup servings

1 cup each raw Cashews, Almonds, and Walnuts, or any nut you like.
1/2 tsp Ground Cardamom
Zest and juice from one orange
1/2 tsp Ground Chipotle pepper
1/2 cup Granulated sugar
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
2 Tbsp butter

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.

In a good, heavy bottomed skillet (cast iron is the best) melt the butter. Add the nuts and sugar, stirring to coat, then add the other ingredients. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the nuts have turned a rich golden brown and most of the liquid has evaporated from the caramel. You want it to be thick but still a little bit sticky–it should take about 15-20 minutes. Turn the nuts out on the sheet pan and allow to cool, stirring every few minutes, all the way through. Once the caramel is no longer sticky or flexible at all, they’re cool enough to store in an airtight container for several days.

Sweet Mourning

This weekend I got some time to myself. Just me and a friend and a few sad bee carcases.

I know, it’s a little morbid. But you have to be realistic when you keep bees. You will inevitably kill a few by accident in the process, and sometimes, you lose a whole hive.

One of the hives I keep with my friend Meghan didn’t survive the winter. Our theory is that they got chilled when the roof of their hive body sprung a leak of sorts and the walls of the wooden boxes they called home became damp and mildewy. Meghan also said she suspects the queen was never very strong to begin with, and that she thinks she died back in November. It’s taken till recently for the last of the colony to die off in the cold, lonely winter.

It made us both a little sad, but it also made us a little bit happy because there was still some honey in those combs!

The harvest took us longer than we expected due to problems with mold on some of the combs, so mid-harvest I had to head home to eat lunch with my favorite people. As a result I didn’t get to see how much honey there was in the end. I did however get to sneak away with a little jar of sweet goodness. We all sampled it with our lunch and it was very good indeed.

I said a little thank you to the bees who gave their lives to provide us with something so amazing, and I said the same little thank you yesterday morning when I poured a tiny drizzle over the pears I sauteed to go with our breakfast–a bread pudding made of leftover wacked out sourdough.

Friday night I took a loaf of sourdough out of the freezer for our Shabbat bread. A pretty miserable loaf of sourdough at that. When I originally baked it on Monday, I baked it in a hurry, which is ironic considering it took three days to actually make the bread itself. In my haste to get it in the oven on time for dinner guests after arriving home late to start our meal, I forgot to slash the tops. It was like adding insult to injury–the bread was slightly underproofed. It baked up flavorful but on the dense side, and the crust never really browned, just toughening up as it went along. It was so weird.

It did make killer bread pudding though. I mixed it up Saturday night and popped it in the oven first thing Sunday morning: I cut off most of the offending crust (the top part was OK, and I like the chewiness of a little bit left in a bread pudding) and cut it into rough cubes, poured on some custard and let it soak overnight. It’s the closest you can get to a decadent breakfast that makes itself. I will spare you the pictures. It wasn’t pretty in the least.

This isn’t a traditional bread pudding. It’s eggier to satisfy a morning hunger, and it’s less sweet than usual to make room for the sweetness of the pears I set alongside. I hope you’ll give it a try next time you have an ugly loaf of bread sitting around, offending your sensibilities.

It was the perfect thing to eat before a trip to the Sunday Farmer’s Market. A trip that was made (mostly) in the sun.

And yes, we still ate a huge muffin as a snack.

Cardamom Breakfast Bread Pudding with Sauteed Pears
makes one dish about 9″x 13″ or a comparably sized pan, serves 6-8

For the Bread Pudding:
1 loaf sourdough bread, crust removed (or mostly removed)
6 eggs
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup cream or half & half (you can use all milk if you like, it will be less rich)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp ground cardamom
1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt
butter to grease the pan
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit cut into small pieces, optional

For the Pears:
6 small–or 4 large–firm pears, such as Bosc
1/2 cup honey, more or less to taste
2 Tbsp butter

Make a day in advance for the most satisfying results. Bake in an oven preheated to 375ºF.

Cut the bread into thick slices and then into cubes about 1″ in size. Set aside.

Mix the eggs, milk, cream, sugar, spices and salt in a large bowl. Add the bread and, using a large spoon or your hands, turn to coat all the bread evenly with the milk mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, turn on the oven (375ºf) and grease your pan. Pour in the bread mixture, stirring well one more time before doing so. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until completely set. It might take longer if you bake it in a deeper pan.

While the pudding bakes, core the pears (peel if you like) and cut into eights. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the butter to the pan. Once the butter is melted, add in the pears and let brown for a few minutes before adding the honey. Stir to coat and then turn down the heat and continue to cook until the pears soften but before they turn to mush. Turn off the heat if your pudding still needs a while to bake. Cover, and reheat briefly over medium heat if need be before serving.

Once the pudding is set, take it out of the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving to allow the custard to set a touch more and to bring down to an edible temperature. Serve everything warm.

A Latke Primer

I don’t really know anything when it comes to most “Jewish” food. I don’t do gefilte, I dislike both pickled herring and lox, and I’ve never made most of your Bubbie’s famous dishes. But give me a frying pan and some potatoes and I’ll make you a latke to write home about. 

We got a piano for Hanukah!
Two nights down…



















Since there are still a few days left of Hanukah, and I’ve heard from a couple of people that they can’t ever get their latkes quite right, I decided to pass on my humble knowledge of this famous fried food. I’ve also had Joe tell me he thinks I was born with a Jewish soul simply based on how well I cook traditionally cultural Jewish food even when I’ve never made it before, but I guess that’s just his opinion.


There’s really nothing worse than a mushy, soggy latke. Or one that falls apart in the pan and then just ends up in a million burnt shreds. Or one that’s too dry because the potatoes were grated too fine.


In other words, there’s a lot of ways to get them wrong. But I’m going to help you get them right, at least the way I do it. Your Bubbie may or may not approve.

Breaking my own rules: not enough onion 😦



There are a couple of key steps:


Grate the onion first. The juices from the onion will help keep the potato from browning as you grate it. I usually grate about 1/4 of a medium largish onion per 3 potatoes or so. And every 2-3 potatoes I mix the onion and potato shreds together to coat them all with that onion juice. Don’t grate everything too fine or too big either, or your’ll end up either with mush or with latkes that don’t hold together at all. 

Don’t do your nails fancy before this: the fancy won’t survive.



Add the salt before draining. This helps release any excess juices from the potatoes, allowing you to really drain them well. This leads to the next step which is:



Drain the mix for longer than you think is really necessary, over a bowl. Start early, and let your shredded onions and potatoes drain over the bowl you will mix everything in for at least an hour. Every 20 minutes or so, go over there and really press the mix down into your colander to squeeze out that juice. Do it again right before you mix up the batter.

Dump off all the juice but leave the starch! At the bottom of the bowl that you have been letting your potatoes drain into, there will be a slime of potato starch. Leave it there and mix everything else into it. This extra starch really helps to bind together the rest of the ingredients. And speaking of starch:

It doesn’t look pretty right now, but whatev.

I use flour instead of matzoh, but either one is fine. Finer starch will absorb the excess liquid more quickly.  A couple of Tbsp for every couple of potatoes is a good rule of thumb.


Ditch the egg whites. They don’t help bind all that much, and they have a lot of extra water content, which you just spent an hour getting rid of. Keep your whites though, to make meringues or for egg white omelets if that’s your thing. Use two egg yolks when your recipe calls for one whole egg, or for every 3-4 potatoes. 



Add extra stuff if you want, just keep the ratio of potato:onion:starch:eggs in mind. I like to add green onions, a little cheese, sometimes celeriac or apples, carrots or sweet potatoes. Mix it up and add different spices too. I’ve seen good recipes for samosa style latkes and dessert latkes, and even greek inspired ones served with tzatziki. 


Get the oil good and hot before you start cooking, and don’t be afraid to use quite a bit. If your pan starts to look dry between batches, add a bit more and reheat before adding more latkes.



Get messy. It’s better if you can hand form your latkes: they’ll be thinner and crispier than if you just drop a big glob in the pan. I take about a palmful of batter and form it into a disk, then drop it into the oil. After I’ve filled the pan (but not too many! You don’t want them to be crowded or they’ll just steam.) I go back and lightly press them down with my spatula.


Cook until golden brown and then flip, just once. If they start to burn before you think they’re getting done inside turn the heat down a touch. But don’t worry too much about raw insides because you can always finish them in the oven. If you flip them too many times they’ll start to fall apart no matter how good your batter is.


Drain as you go, onto a paper towel lined sheet pan in a warm oven. They’ll stay nice and crispy for long enough to fry up all the batter so everyone can sit down together.

Sweet Potato Latkes with Cardamom Applesauce and Mascarpone


Cookie Day

For Thanksgiving, most everyone has traditions related to food. Usually they are related to the Thanksgiving meal itself.  For me it’s to go over the top and make some fancy dessert. For Joe it’s the unfulfilled desire for marshmallows on the candied yams (because I refuse to make it that way). But for my friend Jacey the best part of the holiday is the day after. In her family they have been baking cookies that day, all day, for…I dont even know how long, but it’s a long time.

Jacey and I used to be housemates, and cookie day was something that was looked forward to pretty much as soon as the weather got cold and talk turned towards the holidays. The cookies probably never lasted more than a week. Tops. More like only a couple of days.

The best were the peanut butter buckeyes. Those things are awesome.

Anyway, this year I got invited to cookie day. So, I headed down to Jacey’s parents’ house in Olympia for the afternoon last Friday to hang out, eat cookies and let Lilli work her magic on a grandpa just out of the hospital.  On the way I had a road buddy, Copper, who was also our housemate back in the day. We were pretty excited to see the magic in action.

Once we got there it was immediately clear that I would not be baking any cookies, but instead that I would be following Lilli around while she dismantled all their Christmas decorations. It worked out OK though, since I was totally unprepared and didn’t actually bring any cookie recipes to make. I had been thinking of chocolate crinkles, but I’ll have to save that recipe for another day.


Copper however, was very well prepared. After a recent trip to Germany, she had been inspired to get traditional wooden cookie presses. She made a dough and kneaded it for a while, then painstakingly pressed each cookie, dusting the press each time. She manually cut around each one, placing them on baking sheets to dry for a bit before baking. In the end I had to leave her there to get a ride back with another friend who was coming back to Seattle a little later than I. The cookies took longer than expected to bake and I had to leave kind of early to attend another Thanksgiving dinner. 

Even though I left early I did not return empty handed. The rest of the ladies had been busy since 8 o’clock that morning and there was lots of things to sample and bring home. I ended up the proud owner of a box piled high with goodies and a whole batch of peanut brittle. (If you ever find yourself with a whole batch of peanut brittle and some vanilla ice cream, please mix them together. You can thank me later.)

Just before leaving, I did finally help by make royal icing and even managed to decorate a couple of sugar cookies, but then had to go back to toddler corralling. 


Today, Tuesday, we have only a few cookies left of what I brought home, and about 1/2 of the peanut brittle. Lilli is partial to the peanut butter blossoms and the ginger cookies, but my favorite are the cardamom crescents, which come from a recipe in a magazine that Jacey’s mom had saved. 

We might have drunk a little champagne, discreet tumbler style.
I’m a sucker for cardamom, and they were at once buttery and light. I didn’t see how many the recipe made, so you’ll just have to make them for yourself and find out!

Cardamom Crescents

2 ½ cups flour
¾ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp kosher salt
1 ½ cups powdered sugar, divided
1 cup pecans
1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350ºF. 

Whisk 1st four ingredients in a medium size bowl and set aside.  In a food processor, pulse the pecans and 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar just until a coarse meal forms, and set aside.

Cream the butter with the vanilla. Add nut mixture, blending until just combined.  Add dry ingredients, blend well (dough will be moist but still crumbly).  Transfer to a work surface and knead until the mixture forms a ball, about 4-5 turns.
Measure 1 rounded tbsp of dough, and form into a ball. Roll into a log about 1½” long.  Gently bend into a crescent shape, pinching ends to taper (cookies may crack slightly).  Repeat with remaining dough, spacing about 1 inch apart on cookie sheets.

While baking, be sure to rotate sheets halfway through. Bake until bottoms are golden, 12 – 15 minutes.

Sift remaining 1 cup powdered sugar into a shallow wide bowl.  Working in batches of about 8 cookies each, roll warm cookies gently in powdered sugar to coat and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Not Your Grandma’s Caramel Corn

I am unabashedly in love with popcorn. It’s pretty much a perfect food. It’s sorta plain on its own so it can be flavored like anything. It’s always crunchy. It’s easy to make. It’s easy to make totally fattening with loads of butter, or it’s easy to make very healthy with just a little olive oil.

I also am pretty sure that gingersnaps are another perfect food. They’re spicy and sweet, chewy and crispy. They’re all pretty and crackly, and the flavor is very complex. They’re probably my favorite cookie.

So what happens if you get a totally genius idea. To set gingersnaps and popcorn up on a blind date?


Well, if you add a bottle of champagne, like I did, then they have a love child that is pretty much the most perfectest food in existence. At least, this week.

And then if you have leftover popcorn from making that not-too-big-there’s-no-such-thing batch of caramel corn, you make something that is even better. Because you have the ingredients, and a buddy who is willing to get a little crazy with them. You know, the buddy whose idea it was to add rosemary and maple syrup to her caramel corn, because she’s also a genius.



It will also be spicy and sweet, and sorta floral too. That’s the cardamom talking. But when you taste the chipotle, then you know you have a winner.

The chipotle is like a ninja.


You can put in all in bags if you want, but chances are it won’t last long enough to get stale. Consider that your warning.

If you have a stash of popcorn kernels and some brown sugar and butter, you too can make a delicious snack that will make your house smell good until the next day. 

Variations on Caramel Corn
makes about 8 quarts

Old Fashioned:

8 or so quarts air or oil popped popcorn, plain
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 250ºF. Bring the sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt to a boil while stirring. Once it’s really going, let it boil undisturbed for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the baking soda and vanilla. Stir well (careful, it might foam up) and pour over popcorn. Coat completely and spread over sheet pans. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Let cool, break up any big chunks, and devour store in an airtight container.

Gingersnap Caramel Corn:

Replace the corn syrup with blackstrap molasses.
Replace light brown sugar with dark brown.
With the baking soda, add the following:
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
Omit vanilla.
For extra ginger kick, add a cup of finely diced candied ginger to the caramel just before pouring over the popcorn.

Cardamom Chipotle Caramel Corn:

Follow the recipe for Old Fashioned, but add 1 (heaping) tsp cardamom and 3/4 tsp chipotle when you add the baking soda.

Rosemary Maple Caramel Corn:

Replace the corn syrup with grade B maple syrup.
When combining the popcorn and caramel, add about 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary as you stir, or more to taste.
Omit vanilla.