Biscones

It’s been gorgeous here in Seattle.

Warm enough for BBQs and rose on the deck at sundown. Warm enough for all day picnics and (almost) lake swimming.

I’m sure it won’t last for long. It never does.

Since I’ve been training again for a triathlon that is coming up in June, I’ve been trying to eat better, mostly so I will look hot in my wetsuit. So far, I’ve had mixed results. I can easily eat a salad for lunch most days…but others I must have potato chips and PB&J. And cookies. And there was that pie that I made twice last week.

Moving on.

I have been trying very hard–last week I ran almost 6 miles to an event at our synagogue (Then I devoured 4 pieces of pizza and 3 s’mores.)–and I have discovered that it’s all about balance. Balance healthy things with things that make you feel like you did something naughty. Balance an extra scone on the edge of your plate covered in salad and lean proteins.

These scones are the payoff for an extra 20 minutes on your bike. They’re light and flaky like a biscuit, but just dense enough that a couple are plenty satisfying. They make a good breakfast for a busy morning, and are equally at home on a decadent brunch buffet as a counterpoint to sweeter fare. Or you can eat them for lunch, or a snack, or eat them with soup for dinner…Basically they’re good anytime.

These babies inspired a small family altercation at our Mother’s Day Picnic, they’re that good. Just saying.

 Potato, Cheddar and Chive Scones

makes about 12 scones

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt + big pinch
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
6 oz small potatoes
3 Tbsp chopped chives
3.5 oz grated cheddar cheese
2/3 cup whole milk or buttermilk
1 egg yolk
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cold
olive oil for frying potatoes

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Wash the potatoes and remove any bruised spots, but leave the peels on. Slice them thin, and if the potatoes are bigger than about 1 1/2″ across, cut the slices in half. Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a heavy skillet and then add potatoes. Toss on a big pinch of salt, and fry the potatoes, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown and are tender all the way through. Set aside to cool while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Cut the butter into about 20 cubes, 1/2″ or so big. Set aside. Mix together the egg yolk and milk in a small bowl and set aside. Grate the cheese and chop the chives and set aside. Lastly, roughly chop the cooked potatoes into small pieces.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or another large metal bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, and black pepper. Toss in the butter and either mix on low or use either your fingers or a pastry cutter –cut in the butter until the chunks are about the size of peas. Add the egg yolk mixture and mix just until there are no longer visible puddles of liquid on the surface. Next, add in the remaining ingredients and mix until the dough starts to clump together.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and use your hands to gather it all together into a ball. Knead it gently a few times if necessary until it holds together, then pat the dough out with your hands to about 3/4″ thick. Using a 3″ circle cutter, cut the scones by pressing straight down and lifting the cutter straight back up. This keeps the layers of fat from smooshing together on the edges so they rise up nice and tall. Place the scones on a parchment lined sheet pan about 1″ apart and repeat with the remaining dough.

When you can’t cut any more circles, gently scrunch the dough back into a ball and press out flat again. You don’t want to mash it all together, or the fat will start to melt and the gluten in the flour will activate too much and the scones won’t be as tender. Repeat as necessary until you get 11 or 12 scones. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate and bake for about 10 more or until the tops are lightly golden and the bottoms have a good firm golden crust.

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Welcoming Spring

Let’s face it: there aren’t a whole lot of Jews in Ireland. Apparently only about 1,700, to be more precise.

But, I do have some Irish ancestry. That’s one of the benefits of being a Jew-by-choice. Your bloodlines can be a little more far-reaching.

My dad claims that somehow we’re related to the Irish family of William Wallace, but I’m not too sure about all of that. I do know that somewhere it is documented that we can in fact trace our roots back to a specific clan, and that we do in fact have a tartan.

Not that I’m into guys in kilts. But, I do wonder how the Irish spring compares to our Spring. I bet it’s quite a sight to see the season sneak up on that fair isle.

I am glad to be a smidge Irish. It gives me lee-way to go around doing things like corning my own beef for St. Patty’s Day. It doesn’t hurt that I still have a large–though dwindling–portion of a cow in my freezer. And, since there is a connection between Jews and corned beef (all things brisket, really) I figured why the heck not.

And in case you were wondering, the “corned” part of corned beef refers to the rock salt traditionally used to cure the meat–it was called “corns” of salt. I looked this up because my step-sons wanted to know where the corn was when I served them dinner Saturday and I didn’t know how to explain why it was called that.

I used a recipe I found via Punk Domestics, which I chose because it was nitrate and nitrite free. I know there is controversy over whether or not added nitrates/nitrites are actually bad for you, but around here we try to eliminate any ingredient that would not be used in normal every day cooking, so I was happy to let it go. I also wasn’t sure just exactly where to buy it without having it shipped, for one, and I didn’t really care about having that glorified red color that is a characteristic of meats cured with the pink salt. I omitted the whey, which the recipe said was optional, and that kept it kosher. And I opted to leave the brisket out overnight after setting it up. I didn’t cut it into pieces like they did, but I did stab it all over with a knife to let the brine really soak in there.

It brined for about 9 days total, and it turned out amazing. It was a little on the salty side, even for my tastes. It could be that my brisket was a touch under 3 lbs, or that the recipe was overcompensating for the fact that it left out the pink salt most other corned beef recipes call for. If I make it again (I’m totally making this again) I would probably cut the salt just a bit and see what happens. And maybe go easier on the stabbing part of the process.

When it came time to actually cook the thing, I followed the recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. It was very straight forward, which I liked. The whole thing from start to finish was very straight forward, actually. Once you put it in the brine you forget about it for a few days, then you put it in a big pot of water and forget about it for a few more hours. It practically cooks itself.

The leftovers, on the other hand, are another story. Leftovers do not cook themselves, at least not fresh ones.

Since I had never made corned beef, I had never made corned beef hash either. According to some, this is the only reason to actually cook corned beef in the first place, and now I am one of these people.

I wanted to make something a little more vegetable heavy than most other hash recipes, so I started fresh. I know how to make a basic hash, after all, so the concept was nothing new. But figuring out how to ease some of the salt out of the beef was a little tricky.

Just kidding, it was easy. I added non-salty stuff.

Potatoes, of course. Because a dense, waxy potato really is the perfect accompaniment to a salty piece of meat. And kale, since I can’t really get enough of the stuff. And also golden beets, mostly because I had them sitting around and they were starting to get a little wrinkly around the edges. The beets were one of those snap decisions that ends up paying dividends–they were what made the dish. Their earthy, sweet qualities were the perfect balance for the other ingredients, kicked into high gear by the almost caramelized onions hiding throughout. And I served it with coleslaw instead of boiled cabbage, because I tend to like my cruciferous vegetables on the crunchier side of things. I topped it all with some very fresh young flat-leaf parsley and decided that corned beef hash might just be the golden child of the leftovers world.

So if you’ve still got a bit of corned beef sitting in your fridge making you salivate, I suggest you take a look in the crisper and green it up. With the arrival of Spring today in all her glory, it’s all about the green.

Pot O’ Gold Corned Beef Hash with Kale and Golden Beets
serves 2

1 medium yellow or sweet onion, sliced thin
2 cups cubed boiled potatoes, peeled or not
1 1/2 cups shredded or cubed corned beef
3 small or 2 larger golden beets, about 2 cups shredded
1/2 bunch kale, stems and tough veins removed, roughly chopped
1 1/2 to 2 cups beef stock, leftover from cooking your beef if you have it
Olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
1-2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (also called Italian)
1-2 eggs per person, optional

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Heat about 1 Tbsp of olive oil until it shimmers, then toss in the onions. Stir to coat in oil, then let cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Add a splash of broth every now and then in necessary to deglaze the pan and help soften the onions.

Next, add the potatoes, beef and shredded beets. Stir everything together and add about 1 cup of broth. Turn down the heat to medium and let cook until the broth has evaporated. Now add the kale, and add a splash more broth. Cook just until the kale is tender, but still bright green.

At this point you can add eggs if you like. Make a well for each egg you will cook, right in the hash. Crack one egg into each well and let cook until the whites have set but the yolks are still soft, 4-5 minutes. Cook the yolks longer if you choose.

Split between 2 plates and top with plenty of fresh ground pepper and chopped parsley.

Comfort Win

I am not the ashamed to admit that I am unafraid to serve my kids some convenience foods. Sure, our diet is undeniably “homemade” for the most part, but even the best “home-made homemaker” has a few tricks up their sleeve.

I try to limit the foods I serve that fall into that category and to do this I follow a simple guideline. Condiments aside, I pretty much only serve it if it’s something my mom would have served me. I mean, if my mom fed it to my sister and I as kids, chances are it’s ok to eat, because she was eating organic foods before it was cool. Sure, times and food manufacturing processes have changed, but it’s what I know so you can take it or leave it.

Generally this also means that these foods are guaranteed to be comfort foods. They are things like Stouffer’s StoveTop stuffing, Lipton’s chicken noodle soup from a box (which is just about the best hangover food ever invented BTW. Why else would it have like 40% of your daily allowance of sodium?) and frozen fish sticks.

So to make a long story about my eating habits as a child short(er) I’ll just tell you a story about today.

Today it was very snowy in Seattle, with more snow predicted overnight. The boys were headed out the door literally at the crack of dawn to go snowboarding in the closest mountain pass. Lilli and I had to go to the grocery store, sans car. Her in the sled, me pulling.  I didn’t want to spend a ton of time on dinner but I wanted it to be warm and filling and comforting to the hilt. So I settled on kind of a cheesy potatoes au gratin type of thing. And frozen fish sticks. I guess I had frozen things on the brain.

I have to say that this is one area where I have never used a recipe and I know that this is kind of crazy. I don’t know why. I can’t even remember looking at a recipe. Ever. But I just kind of dug my heels in and went for it anyway. The results were not pretty but they tasted amazing.

I used too much cheese and not enough liquid, and for some reason I decided to add a couple of eggs. I guess because you put them in kugel, and they were so fresh I couldn’t resist.

Anyway, it went very very well with the frozen fish sticks I served, alongside a heaping salad of butter lettuce and sweet pink grapefruit. That salad might have been the only redeeming part of the meal, it turns out, because Joe decided he needed to have an apres ski bevvie in the style of the lodge at Steven’s Pass, where he didn’t go today, and so I had to have one too. The recipe is my new project, so more on that in a couple of days.

All in all it was a good day and a good dinner. But if you have a recipe for sort of cheesy potatoes au gratin, do pass it on.

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


Créme Fraîche X2

Last Wednesday I had a few glasses of wine with some friends I don’t see enough of. We decided that no matter the weather on Saturday, we were going to BBQ. I promptly forgot all about it, especially that I had offered to host.

On Friday, James called to ask what I was planning on putting together, and what could they bring. Talk about think fast! I knew that I was planning on making salmon cakes for dinner, and that I wanted to grill asparagus. I also had a new potato salad recipe on the menu. He decided to pick up some early corn and some rosé, and that they would bring dessert. Okay, plan in place.
Saturday rolls around…early. Lilli decides that 6am is the perfect time to wake up after staying up late to have Shabbat dinner at Joe’s parents’ house. After trying to sleep through her kicking and squirming and rolling and practicing crawling in our bed for a while, I got up and made cinnamon pecan coffee cake. “This is the best breakfast I have ever eaten” is declared an hour later by two ravenous 8 year olds. OK, next. Make a picnic, go to the zoo. Make a pitstop first for chicken feed. 3:30pm, eat ice cream. 4:30 head home, and then make a quick trip to the grocery store for a few key ingredients I knew I didn’t have.

Joe kindly took Lilli with him and the boys to the park down the street so I could focus on making dinner without having to stop every 5 minutes and play a game. In the hour until he brought her home, I was able to defrost 1 1/2 lbs of leftover salmon and then make the cakes, and put together a lemon mayo sauce to go with; roast 3 lbs. of small delicious potatoes and some garlic for the potato salad; slice a loaf of bread to grill; rinse and trim a bunch of asparagus; and probably something else that I am forgetting, like do the dishes. This is about when I realized that not only did the salmon have créme fraîche, but also the potato salad was going to be dressed with the stuff. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for weeks to make it from scratch and it has yet to turn out as thick as it should be but it still tastes good. I plan on getting it right, but for now I’m content with trying.

About 6:30 people showed up and it got a little more fun. Copper set the table and entertained Lilli while I finished everything up. The boys brought a friend home from the park and proceeded to go wild in the backyard. Drinks were poured, bread was eaten, and it was a perfect evening despite the chaos that threatened to storm in at any moment.

This potato salad recipe is very simple. It’s plain but in a good way. Sprinkling the vinegar on the potatoes while they are still hot allows them to really absorb that flavor. The tang from the créme fraîche really works well with the rich flavor of a well roasted potato. It doesn’t keep as well as mayonaise based salads, but you won’t have to worry about that because there won’t be any left. I wasn’t even able to take a picture because it was gone too fast!

Roasted Potato Salad with Créme Fraîche
adapted from Good Day for a Picnic by Jeremy Jackson
serves 6

2 lbs potatoes (I used a mix of yukon, red and purple)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra
salt and fresh ground black pepper
6 cloves garlic, peel on
2 Tbsp champagne vinegar
3/4 cup créme fraîche
2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts

Preheat oven to 450ºF. The original recipe calls for you to peel the potatoes, but I prefer to leave the skin on. Cut the potatoes into spears and let dry a bit. Toss in the olive oil in an ovenproof skillet or onto a baking sheet. Salt and pepper to taste. Wrap the garlic in foil with a little drizzle of olive oil and put them in with the potatoes. Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes have gotten nice and golden and crusty. The garlic will be done also.

While the potatoes are still hot, cut them into smaller, bite sized pieces. Jeremy Jackson recommends a serrated knife. In a good sized bowl, toss the potatoes with the vinegar. Press the softened garlic out of the skins and mush it into a paste. Add it to the potatoes and toss the whole thing again. Taste for salt and pepper.

Let the whole thing cool a bit, and then spread the créme fraîche on top, sprinkling the pine nuts over last.