Thursday, December 29, 2011

walnut stuffed figs

we really didn't eat a lot of desserts
when i was a kid
after dinner
a pot of coffee was brewed
bowls of
fresh fruit
were heaved to the table
one particular treat
at holiday time
freshly cracked walnuts
stuffed into
dried figs

this year
i gave the treat a little update
by dipping the figs
bittersweet chocolate
a sweet
walnut stuffed figs
12 dried figs
12 large walnut halves-toasted

warmed honey and flavorful cheese
bittersweet chocolate-melted and tempered

using a sharp knife, make a split in the fig without cutting all the way through
like this
push a walnut into the fruit
like so
and close it up
leave as it, 
drizzle with honey and serve with cheese as a savory snack
dip in chocolate for a great sweet

Monday, December 26, 2011


we had a gorgeous feast 
christmas dinner
a feast
of seven fishes
i was excited to present
home cured
during cocktails

many years ago
before i had cable
leaving me with 5 channels
(and surprisingly a lot more interesting tv)
i watched a lot of julia child on pbs
each episode
numerous times
an episode i distinctly remember
is one where she made gravlax with a seattle chef
i was amazed
but never actually made it

i'm not much a fan of salmon
but this
this gravlax
is something really special

pure in flavor

my family
never shy to poke fun
was primed to make bait jokes
 found it difficult
to utter much of anything
through their stuffed gullets
this takes several days to cure, plan accordingly

1 1/2 lbs fresh salmon filet (you must use salmon in season)
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vanilla sugar*
1 Tbs grapefruit zest
1 heaping Tbs pink peppercorns
1-2 sprigs thyme

rinse and dry the salmon filet.  line a casserole dish with plastic wrap, overlapping considerably.  place salmon filet in dish.  in a bowl mix together the salt, vanilla sugar, brown sugar, grapefruit zest, peppercorns and thyme.  coat the salmon heavily with the generous and make sure the entire surface is covered. close the salmon in the plastic wrap, making sure it is well covered. 
 place a board or casserole dish on top of the fish, then use cans or bottles to weigh it down.  place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  
after 24 hours, remove the weight, open the plastic wrap, you will see that the sugar and salt are now liquid, use it to baste the fish. wrap again in plastic and place the weight back on.  place in the refrigerator for another 24 hours.  on day three, repeat the process.  on day four, your fish will be cured (if you are using a larger piece of fish, it may well take a bit more time).  your fish should be firm and have become a bit deeper in color.  remove from the cure and gently rinse with very cold water.  dry.  slice off a thin piece and taste.  if it is overwhelmingly salty, place cold water in a casserole dish and put the fish in meat side down. cover and place in refrigerator and let sit for 1 hour.  remove from water and taste again. if the fish is still unbearably salty, soak it again for a maximum of 1 hour.  

serve with blini, creme fraiche and dill or chives

*to make vanilla sugar, whirl 1 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 dried vanilla bean pod in a food processor. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

feast of seven fishes

christmas eve dinner
has always been a bit of a hodgepodge for us
growing up
my mom and i would do most of the cooking
relatives would contribute to the bounty
with a specialty or two of their own
the only constant
linguine with clam sauce
the rest
a crap shoot
as the crowd grew from 20 or so people
to upwards of 70
my folks began having the affair catered
among the large chaffing dishes of gorgeous catered food
there was always a platter of
linguine with clam sauce
for the first time
in the 40 plus years my folks have lived in california
we are doing an immediate family only christmas eve
which means
instead of 70 people
we will be 
for the very first time 
we are doing a traditional italian christmas eve supper
a feast of seven fishes
(for more on this tradition click here)
because i am italian
which means
my fear of not having enough food for people to eat
supersedes my need for stress reduction
we are having
2 by land and 8 by sea
what is christmas without just a little bit of pork?

i am not crazy enough to make the food twice
(once for the blog and once for real)
i will be sharing the recipes
post christmas
i wanted to share our menu
just in case 
you are looking for last minute ideas

A Feast of Seven Fishes
Christmas Eve
roasted shrimp cocktail
gravlax with blini
calamari fritti
bluefin tuna tartar
cheese platter

linguine with clam sauce
orchiette with sausage & spinach
king crab
swordfish siciliano
baccala pugliese
kalua pork

arugula salad
braised leeks
roasted asparagus

cream puffs

Merry Christmas 
to those of you who celebrate
...a weekend filled with joy
for all

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

chocolate dipped

i'm a chocolate girl
when i was young
young, like grammar school, young
my sister and i had a chocolate business
we spent our evenings

melting chocolate
making caramels and creamy marshmallows

eggs in spring
christmas trees in winter
chocolate lollies for every holiday in between

as an adult
my choice in chocolate
has become a bit more sophisticated
i prefer dipped confections
to molded ones

for the holidays
i made a few of my favorites
"100grand bars"
chocolate dipped grahams
gingerbread "mallomars"
for the 100Grand bars
 i like this caramel recipe from joyofbaking
just add a nice pinch of sea salt
cut into squares
mix crispy rice in the tempered chocolate and dip the caramel into it

for the gingerbread mallomars
the gingerbread marshmallow recipe can be found
place on top of a graham cracker and enrobe in tempered chocolate

for the chocolate covered grahams
i simply cut the graham crackers into 4 pieces and dip them in tempered chocolate
the design on the top is made with a chocolate dipping tool

i buy my chocolate 20 lbs at a time and to be frank, only use callebaut 63% and 70%
i find it is terrific both in sweets and baking

here is a great video showing you an easy way to temper chocolate using your microwave

like anything, the better the ingredients, the better the result
happy dipping!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

cake decorating birthday

yesterday was my niece's 7th birthday
a cake decorating party

she was very specific
about the cake
one layer
vanilla frosting
chef hats
 (i took a bit of artistic license and made clouds out of the fondant chef hats)

for the cakes to decorate
hot pink fondant
lots of candy

some of the candy made it onto the cakes
but mostly it was being "taste-tested"

it was unanimous
fun party
not "christmasy"
which was all part of the plan
happy birthday
sweet isabella

Saturday, December 10, 2011

tomato chutney

i am obsessed with this stuff
its a recipe
i swiped
from my visit to
in the hills of umbria
it was served one afternoon
 after catching me
licking the jar clean
jenny shared the recipe with me

great on a turkey sandwich
or a perfect condiment to

make it
tomato chutney
makes approx 6 pints
3 lbs cherry tomatoes-cut in half
1 head garlic-peeled and finely chopped
1 heaping tsp crushed red pepper
about 2" root ginger--peeled and finely chopped
10 oz cider vinegar
1 1/2-2 lbs dark brown sugar
generous pinch of kosher salt
place all ingredients in a large pot, stir and allow to sit for 30-60 minutes.  place over medium heat, stirring occasionally and allow it to get to a dark, jammy like consistency.  this should take the better part of an hour. when you think the chutney may be ready, taste for flavor. you can adjust the sweet/sour/spicy at this point by adding more sugar, vinegar or red pepper.  test for doneness by placing a small bit of the chutney on a cold plate. if the chutney allows you to run a finger through it leaving a clean break, it is ready. you do not want it to get hard like a candy. place in glass jars and store in the refrigerator or if you are familiar with proper canning procedures, process for 15 minutes (at sea level) in sterilized jars.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

gingerbread side-cars

i have made
gingerbread villages
for as long as i can remember

last year
i spotted
little gingerbread houses perched on a mug
(as far as i can tell--this is her original idea)

giddy and obsessed
as i have been known to get
i went to hubster
 he agreed to
make cookie cutters
(so i wouldn't have to knife cut each piece)
blowtorch in one hand
pliers in the other
he made these
in turn
made these
use your favorite gingerbread cookie recipe
bake as directed
assemble and decorate
i plane the sides with a microplane to ensure straight edges
 these attach quite easily with
(make it nice and stiff)

the wreaths are also made from royal icing colored green
piped with a no.63 tip onto parchment paper
sprinkles for berries

allow to dry overnight--remove carefully--attach with royal icing

i am using them this year
as place cards
piping names on the broad side of the house
packaging them
like so
as gifts for friends
(you can get a template for the house from the not martha link above)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

carciofi alla giudia {jewish artichokes}

much like finding
crawdads in louisianna
brisket in texas
barbeque in  memphis
you can find 
specialties in each italian region
rome is no exception
it also has something really special
jewish ghetto
it is very small

virtually abandoned come dusk on fridays
it has
a cuisine of its own
the most famous item
the fried artichoke
carciofi alla giudia
(printable recipe)
serves 4-6
4-6 chokeless or baby artichokes
olive oil for frying
salt and pepper
italian parsley (for garnish)

fill a large bowl with cool water. squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the water and stir. trim each artichoke, removing all tough outer leaves and trimming the stem (do not remove entirely).  toss the trimmed artichoke into the lemon water to prevent discoloration.
*if you cannot find chokeless or baby artichokes, you can use any artichoke, however, you must trim it to the tender leaves, cut off the prickly tops and remove the choke prior to placing in the water.
heat at least 3-inches of oil on the stovetop to 325 degrees.
meanwhile, remove the artichokes from the water and place on paper towel to dry.  place each artichoke stem side up on the counter and gently push to flatten, being careful not to break the leaves.  place in small batches in the hot oil and cook until soft, but not browned.  remove from oil and place on paper towel or kitchen paper to drain and cool.  allow to sit at least 30 minutes, and up to 3 hours.  just before serving, heat the oil to 375 degrees and fry the artichokes, careful not to crowd the pan, until they are browned and very crispy. depending on the size of the artichokes this can take as little as 5 minutes and as long as 10 minutes.
remove from pan, drain slightly. sprinkle with salt and pepper. serve with a garnish of chopped parsley and a lemon wedge.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

as this day
draws to a close
i reflect
upon the gifts
family, friends, kind strangers
health, joy, laughter
 i am thankful
right this instant
chestnuts are roasting
in our fireplace
the perfect ending

may the spirit of being thankful,
carry us


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

it is probably time to get a cat...

we have a mountain home
i often talk about all the wonderful things about it
what i rarely mention
is our rodent population
it is the mountains
after all
we have mice
they stay outdoors
 under the house
as it begins to cool
snow falls
they make their way inside
it does freak me out
when i find a nest
in the arm of my robe
under a pillow

this morning
may possibly be my favorite tell
 the pantry held an empty walnut bag
across the room
another cabinet held this

walnuts in a vase
we have
fancy mice
eating only
from the finest of crystal

Sunday, November 20, 2011

almond cake

i owe david lebovitz a debt of gratitude

while searching for 
an almond cake recipe
not calling for almond flour
i came across his recipe
one he admits comes from chez panisse

my pantry held marzipan rather than almond paste
so, i changed the recipe
ever so slightly

this cake looks light and airy
and it is
but it is also
incredibly moist
and almondy

have a slice on its own
or pair it with
 brandied cherries
peach ice cream

this cake
would be a gorgeous addition
to your 
thanksgiving dessert display
almond cake
(v.slightly adapted from david lebovitz)
1 cup + 2 Tbs granulated sugar
7 oz marzipan paste (i used odense)
1 cup all purpose flour--divided
1 cup unsalted butter--room temperature
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp pure almond extract
6 large eggs
preheat oven to 325^F.  butter and flour a 9" springform pan.  line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.
using a food processor with the metal blade, process the marzipan, sugar and 1/4 cup flour until it resembles fine sand. in a separate bowl, mix together the remaining flour, salt and baking powder.
to the almond mixture, add the butter, vanilla extract and almond extract and pulse until a smooth batter forms. add the eggs one by one, and scraping the bowl as necessary in between additions.
add half of the flour mixture and pulse until just combined.  add the remaining flour and pulse a few times. if need be, hand stir the flour until it is fully incorporated.
pour into prepared pan and bake for about an hour.  begin checking after 50 minutes.  you can use the toothpick test to check for doneness, or whichever method you prefer.
once removed from oven and while the cake is still hot, run a sharp knife around the perimeter to loosen the cake. do not open the springform pan until the cake is completely cooled.  allow the cake to cool in the pan.  
serve with a dusting of powdered sugar

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

the original food trucks {travelogue}

i never understood
the why 
waiting in queues winding corners
for food
by virtue of a great social media strategy
the food
usually expensive
often disappointing
always a lesson in compromise

i prefer
finding my next great meal through a twitter feed
the next hot
rolling rip-off
can wait

is handcuffed in that environment

when i am in italy
i follow the markets
freshly made porchetta each wednesday
made by the same hand i shook
as we exchanged pleasantries

they are food trucks
without the 
of a trend
that may already have seen
its best days

*these photos were taken at the weekly market of a small village in umbria
(apologies if i offend any food truck vendors. some of you may have amazing food..stop hiding your light under a bushel)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

white truffles of umbria

as you may have figured
i am mid-term into an italian holiday
the bulk of our trip is in umbria
more luck
it is truffle season
the white truffles of umbria 
are highly fragrant
and prized
i met a purveyor this afternoon
and was able to get a few knobs for myself
the truffle hunter gave me a little tip
to store the truffles in a large container
aside 2 or 3 raw eggs in their shell
after several days
the eggs themselves will taste of truffle
i'll let you know
how it goes

Thursday, November 10, 2011

through this window {travelogue}

this is a window
florence italy
7 via de conti
to be exact
twenty five years ago
give or take a few months
i sat on the other side
looking out
watching merchants, tourists, students, neighbors
wander to and from
the san lorenzo market
my friends would shout 
from the street below
an invite to the jolly cafe
pink floyd videos playing all day across the back wall
grande heinekens and great hot dogs
really cheap

tacked along the walls within that room 
behind the window
letters from home

beds shoved against 
3 of the 4 walls
3 strangers from california
memory makers
memories that swarm
and ooze like honey
into the creases of our lives
of days
that changed us
made us bold
gave us a bit more context
allowed us to shed our comfort

i visit this window each time i come to florence
and this year
the 25th anniversary
the shutters are flung wide
empty building

i asked the shop keep
across the way
about my surrogate home

he simply said
non c'e piu
it is no more

*i am currently traveling about italy...gathering more memories

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

child catcher halloween costume

i know
halloween is in the past
and we have moved rapidly on to
the next big holiday
i want to share something

i am not a seamstress
there was that one quarter of sewing
in jr. high school
where we made pillows and wrap skirts

really, i don't even know 
how to sew
i do it anyway
i act unafraid
i improvise

i'm sharing with you
so you understand
it is possible
with little or no training
with a bit of creative thinking
anyone can make
these costumes
for the child catcher coat
i used simplicity pattern 5386--closed the back and didn't add the collar or cuffs
i cut the sleeve pattern as prescribed, then pinned parchment paper to it, and fashioned it around my arm to the desired shape...and cut the parchment to match. opened it up..and had a new sleeve pattern.
all of the colors and patterns, are added on top of the the original coat giving it heft.  i made this in one afternoon
the glove is a black glove with a piece of oasis duck-taped on it. the lollipops are simply stuck and hot glued.
for the planet of the apes costume
i used butterick pattern  b4574--instead of an open collar for the shirt, i kept it closed and added a rolled collar, and hemmed the shirt cuff rather than adding elastic.  from the same pattern, i was able to make the vest--eliminating the cap sleeves and shortening it to hit at the hip.  the vest is made of pleather. i was able to make the ridges by taking strips of the pleather hot-gluing 1/4" cording down the center, then sewing the strips onto the vest.  the ammo belt is also pleather, with a covering of fishnet. 

i know this all seems rather simplified...but it is to make a point
it is rather simple
the work with sewing
is in the preparation
much like carpentry
measure twice
cut once
prepare your materials
pay attention to the directions
don't sweat it
i doubt anyone will criticize your costume
while you are handing them candy

i hope you had a great halloween
aren't freaked by the notion
christmas is only 52 days away

Friday, October 28, 2011

dracula dinner

"We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here I stopped for the night at the Hotel Royale. I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem. get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called "paprika hendl," and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians"
"I had for breakfast more paprika, and a sort of porridge of maize flour which they said was "mamaliga", and egg-plant stuffed with forcemeat, a very excellent dish, which they call "impletata".'
Bram Stoker

i'm really not much for horror stories
if the opening chapter
references two meals
i become open-minded

for the record
it is a well written story
with astounding imagery

we all know
is the only vampire
that counts
(get it? count dracula!)

if you are indecisive
your halloween meal
or this weekend lead

i present to you an idea
both clever and delicious

dracula dinner party
recipes inspired by
the words of stoker himself
dracula dinner party
chicken paprikash
eggplant implatata-ish
(printable recipe)
hungarian-bacon stuffed corn fritters
(printable recipe)
other recipes coming soon
custard tart with sour cherry glaze 

*the final recipe will be up soon--if you want more fun ideas for halloween...i will be a guest on azmomofmanyhat-radio this afternoon. pull up the archived podcast if you miss it

Friday, October 21, 2011

travelogue spokane {travel}

spokane, washington was my home for 6 interrupted years
interrupted because
the years weren't consecutive
 i attended university here
then left
transferred back for a job
and left again
i return several times each year
for meetings
and i find myself
envious of spokanites
it. is. true.
each time i return to spokane i find new treasures

frozen mornings, warming to crisp afternoons
flaming red leaves of trees readying for winter
a crook of the river, hugging a long forgotten road

along a stretch of highway leading out of town
sits a charming eatery
a jewel of a place
called chaps

walking in the door
is more like stumbling into a magical cottage
i felt a bit like gretel  
following the scent of sugar and spices
to an airy room
dressed in chandeliers, marbled tables
incredibly hip patrons

i am a pastry chef
for professional reasons (cough,cough)
i sample
the adorable young man behind the counter {trevor}
apple fritter
vegetable omelet with chorizo
(not on the menu)
i added a pumpkin latte

the omelet was overstuffed and oozing with cheese
joined with perfectly cooked breakfast potatoes 
and freshly baked thick toast
the latte was as large as the harvest moon and filled with the flavors of pumpkin pie
it all was delicious, but i must admit
the fritter was my favorite
eschewing the cloying sweetness of a donut, for the mastery of a french pastry
it had me plotting my next visit before i finished my last

if you find yourself with a grumbling stomach
wandering the by-ways of the northwest
seek out chaps
a not-so-hidden treasure
in spokane washington

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

halloween wreaths

guess who is getting 
halloween happy
the mantle is nearly complete
costumes are in full planning stage
the kitchen is awash
in frightful projects
but for me
no holiday is official
until the wreaths are up
this year
i went simple
starting with wreaths
already aflutter in feathers
i  added a little bling
feather wreath, paper crow sprinkled in silver glitter 

feather wreath, styrofoam skulls covered in silver glitter, silk flowers 

i'm linking this up to

Sunday, October 2, 2011

crepe brulee

is not all about
rose queens and debutantes
penny loafers and posh hotels
along the edges
nearing the fringe

bijouxs and the rippler (that's me)
inspired by
art & culture
the storied past of pasadena
underground than paseo
after hours than high tea
pop art than prep school

created an unexpected gem
a confection well loved
in the tea salons of paris
to lust worthy
in the altier of bijouxs

bijouxs and the rippler
met at camp
instantly bonded over
immaculately curated bunk rooms
(think pendleton blankets, leather steamer trunks and vintage oil lamps)
and an
aversion to mingling
it was no surprise to learn
they both hail

it was an instant friendship
bonding while breaking bread
not clear who said it first
but both agree
pasadena can be sexy
and hip
ahead of the curve
it just doesn't want everyone to know

now the secret is out

lynn and i have collaborated
on an amazing dessert
preppy handbook meets laduree

 crepe brulee
(printable recipe)

lynn gray of bijouxs is an artist in the kitchen
she brings a designer's palate to food

when the light casts like chiffon in my kitchen
i close my eyes
wandering my mind to the bijouxs studio
to watch
my simple dessert of crepes and custard
become art

to learn more about lynn and her classic Bijouxs style
jewels from the kitchen
click here

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

turmeric & cumin crispy smashed potatoes

i do enjoy
serving a meal 
freshly harvested food
i swell with pride
as i lay a platter down proclaiming
all prepared from our garden harvest
'so simple and easy'
knowing full well
that the ease i feel is from years
of curiously
observing generations of the amazing cooks in my family
of boldly
wandering into restaurant kitchens simply asking to see a technique
of sitting with locals
at a farm table in the hills of italy
on the banks of a river in costa rica
roadside in india
and listening 
of trial and error
of trial and success
i learned of turmeric potatoes in india
brightly colored and deeply spiced
a perfect accompaniment to richly stewed meats
the version i present here
is a bit more tame
still brightly colored and assertively spiced
but more suited to roasted meats or a vegetarian meal

sadly, my potato harvest was a bit of a bust this year...but in a brush of serendipity, i was sent a few pounds of potatoes from friedas asking if i would like to give them a try.  i like the piccolo potatoes (sold in 1 1/2lb bags from the little potato company at Ralphs grocery) for this recipe once cooked they have crispy crust, with creamy interior
 turmeric & cumin crispy smashed potatoes
1 1/2 lbs small potatoes
(i used piccolo from the little potato company, this will work with new, fingerling or any other small potato)
1 Tbs turmeric powder
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
3 Tbs olive oil
1 generous teaspoon whole cumin seed
1/2 generous teaspoon whole mustard seed

place whole potatoes in a pot of cool water to cover.  add turmeric and 1 tsp salt and stir.  bring to a boil and simmer for approximately 15-20 minutes (until the potatoes are cooked through)
drain and place in a roasting dish in a single layer.  
using the back of a fork, press each potato until it is a bit broken and smashed, but not completely flattened.
in a skillet, place the olive oil, cumin and mustard seed.  heat on medium until the seeds begin to jump and pop.  immediately pour the hot oil and spices evenly over the smashed potatoes.  place immediately into to 375 degree oven for about 30-45 minutes. check periodically and stir if needed for even roasting.  remove from oven and taste for salt.
pair with roasted chicken or minted lamb or simply dab a bit of plain greek yogurt mixed with a bit of lemon juice over the top for a warm salad.

while i was sent the potatoes as a courtesy, i was not prompted to write about them nor was i compensated in any way to write this recipe-post.  the opinions are my own.


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