plum kuchen

August 21, 2014 § 77 Comments


Plum season is upon us and it is time to bake a delicious plum cake!   I don’t typically do a whole lot of baking. I’m more of a savory kind of person as opposed to sweet (unless it’s a fruity pie or cake).  This is the kind of dessert that gets me baking, especially with stone fruit in season.  The wonderful thing about this cake is as the fruit bakes on top, the plums soften into a jammy consistency, which contrasts nicely with the light bready cake underneath.


I was bit surprised when I released the edge of the 9-inch spring form pan and the cake was only an inch and a half tall.  Not what I expected, but still humbly impressive with it’s beautfiully baked plums.  As it turns out I liked the thin cake, it was much lighter, a little less decadent.   Although there are several ways to make plum kuchen this recipe is wonderfully rustic and light. You could use a mix of black, red and yellow plums for contrasting flavor and color, or forego the plums and use your favorite stone fruit, such as apricots or peaches.

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 – 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cups plue 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt (a pinch)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 7 tablespoon butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use full fat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-1/2 pounds plums, quartered and pitted
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Combine flour, 2 tablespoon sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon salt and cardamom in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Cut in 4 tablespoons butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Combine milk, vanilla and egg in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add milk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined.

Spoon batter onto a 9-inch (prepared) springform pan.  Arrange plums in a circular patter over batter.   Combine remaining 2/3 cup sugar, remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and lemon rind in a small bowl, stirring well.  Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter either on stovetop or microwave and stir into sugar mixture.  Sprinkle plums evenly with sugar mixture.  Bake at 425°F for 35 minutes or until browned and bubble.  Cool in pan 1 hour on a wire rack before removing springform.

radish leaf pesto

August 15, 2014 § 85 Comments


Did you know you can make a delicious pesto sauce with radish leaves?  Up until now I always tossed the leaves into the compost bin without much thought.  I brought home two fresh bunches of radishes from the market the other day and the greens were wonderfully alive, crisp and vibrantly green; I just had to use them instead of throwing them away.


Radish leaves don’t stay fresh for very long, and it’s best to separate them from the roots soon after harvesting or bringing them home from the market. Wash, dry and store the leaves like other salad greens and eat them within a day or two.


Garlic, fresh oregano, lemon juice, almonds, red pepper flakes and parmesan are all you need to add to your radish leaves for this wonderful pesto.  So, instead of throwing out the greens when you buy a bunch of radishes, turn them into a delicious pesto.


To blanch almonds simply drop raw almonds into boiling water for one minute.  Drain and rinse with cold water and the skins slip off effortlessly when pinched.


I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 2 cups lightly packed radish leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup blanched whole almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound linguine

Put the radish leaves, garlic, oregano, lemon juice, blanched almonds, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in a food processor and pulse to form a coarse purée.  With the motor running, pour in the olive oil and process until smooth.  Add half the cheese and pulse a few more times.  Taste and add more salt or pepper if you like.  Set aside until ready to dress the pasta.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook until al dente.  Scoop out 3 cups of the cooking liquid and reserve, drain the pasta.

After draining the pasta return to the cooking pot, add the pesto, and gently fold together.  Add reserved pasta water as needed to keep the consistency creamy rather than sticky.  Serve in shallow pasta bowls right away, with the remaining cheese on the side.

green beans with eggs, jalapeño and cilantro

August 12, 2014 § 46 Comments


Young and tender green beans are in the markets right now.  Typically we steam them until just soft and simply dress them with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  This has such a lovely combination of textures and flavors with the soft scrambled egg, tender green beans, spicy jalapeño and nutty pecans.  I found this recipe skimming through a 2011 Food & Wine magazine.  Apparently, this is a Georgian dish called lobio (bean dish). The Georgian word ‘lobio’ means ‘beans’ and there are a number of varieties of lobio dishes. This green lobio dish is typically served cool, but with its buttery scrambled eggs and tender green beans, it’s equally delicious hot. We served it warm and it was wonderful.



I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 pound green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro, plus small sprigs for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans (or walnuts)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 small red chile, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill seeds, ground

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the green beans until tender, 6 minutes. Drain and let cool. Transfer to a bowl.

In a large skillet, melt the butter in the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the eggs are scrambled, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs to the beans.

Stir in the chopped cilantro, pecans, garlic, jalapeño, red chile and dill seeds. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro sprigs just before serving.

The green lobio can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours.



apricot thyme galette

August 8, 2014 § 105 Comments


With a nice bunch of apricots on hand I decided to bake this tangy, scarcely sweet galette for dessert.  I have a weakness for galettes.  I love the ease of preparation and the rustic look with it’s imperfect folds and uneven edges.  And I’ve been a little obsessed with adding herbs to baked goods and desserts.  Thyme pairs quite nicely with apricots in this charming galette.


I always look forward to the weekend because I love preparing dinner when I have time to work slow and relaxed.  Saturday is ideal to cook something a little more complicated and time consuming.  And that was exactly what I had in mind last Saturday.  I made the apricot galette in the morning and went about my day expecting to return to the kitchen early afternoon to prepare dinner; calm and collected.


It’s a good thing I made the galette in the morning because time slipped away and as it turns out, this was dinner last Saturday night, and we loved it.  Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • single pie crust recipe
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 pounds firm ripe apricots, pitted and cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 400°F.   Place your prepared pie dough onto a a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Combine cornstarch and 2 tablespoons sugar; sprinkle over dough, leaving a 2-inch border.  Arrange apricots spikelike on top of cornstarch mixture, leaving a 2-inch border.  Fold edges of dough over apricots (dough will only partially cover apricots).   Combine jam and honey and warm either on stovetop or microwave.  Brush jam mixture over apricots and dough edges.  Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.   Bake at 400°F for 35 minutes or until crust browns.  Remove from oven, spring with thyme.  Cool 10 minutes.


herbal baby pea salad

August 4, 2014 § 72 Comments

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This summer I have been a salad making machine.  Not only salads with leafy greens, but this type of salad too.  Here we have an herbal (parsley, basil and mint) pea salad tossed in a tangy Greek yogurt dressing.   You could use fresh peas if you steamed or boiled them first.  I used thawed baby peas and they were perfectly tender and sweet.


This recipe comes from Ethan Stowell.  A respectable chef who owns NINE restaurants in the Seattle area, one of which is cleverly named “How to Cook a Wolf”.  According to their website,  “How to Cook a Wolf pays homage to MFK Fisher and the philosophy of taking simple ingredients and transforming them into culinary splendor. The food is uncomplicated and rustic. It’s an ever-changing menu of Italian inspired small plates”.  My kind of cooking, and my kind of place.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded mint leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound frozen baby peas, thawed
  • 3 large seedless cucumbers,peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced 1/2 inch thick

In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt with the lemon juice and olive oil. Add the parsley,  basil and mint; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the peas and cucumbers and serve.

summer vegetable tortilla soup

July 31, 2014 § 82 Comments


Grilled bread salad, roasted zucchini with ricotta and mint and tomato pie are a few of my recent posts.  All very delicious and flavorful, however, much time doesn’t need to pass before I find myself spicing things up in the kitchen again. Cooking is like that for me.  It’s very cyclical.  Weeks go by and I find myself preparing  fresh, colorful and delectable foods from the Mediterranean region, like chicken cutlets with tomatoes and capers, tzatziki and cucumber salads. Then my palate shifts.  I start to crave comfort foods, like mac and cheese, roast chicken with mashed potatoes and savory pies.  My poor family, they never know what to expect.  One day we are enjoying a nice subtle quiche and salad and the next I’ve put together a jalapeño ladened vegetable soup.  Pow!  I always return to South of the Border. Mexico. I love Mexican food and I crave it.


For this spicy vegetable soup I used zucchini, summer squash, tomatillos, tomatoes and jalapeño.  We also added chicken and chicken stock, but I think the soup would be wonderful keeping it vegetarian.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • sea salt
  •  cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 6 cups mixed fresh vegetables (such as zucchini, yellow squash, tomatillos, jalapeño, tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 cups shredded chicken (or not)

f o r    t h e    t o p p i n g

  • 3 handfuls tortilla chips, crushed
  • 1 cup crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • lime wedges
  • cilantro sprigs

Put the oil in a large soup pot, add the onions and a pinch of salt, and cook over medium-high heat until the onions are soft and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili powder and cook for another minute or so.  Stir in the tomato paste, add the stock, and bring to a simmer.

Add the vegetables to the stock, starting with the longer cooking ones first, such as chiles and tomatillo.  Simmer for a few minutes and then add the squash and tomatoes, along with 1/2 of the cilantro.  Simmer the soup until all the vegetables are tender, 15 to 35 minutes, depending on what you’re adding and how small you have cut them.  Add the chicken and simmer for another few minutes to heat through.  Taste and adjust with more salt as needed.

To serve, divide the soup amount wide soup bowls and top with the rest of the cilantro, some crushed tortilla chips, crumbled cheese and a drizzle of sour cream.  Let each diner squeeze lime juice over the soup at the table.


This soup is wonderful with loads of fresh vegetables and herbs in a savory broth. Try any combination of vegetables that you like, though be sure to include the tomatoes, which helps flavor the broth.


grilled bread salad

July 28, 2014 § 76 Comments


We eat a lot of salads, but classic panzanella has to be my favorite.  Juicy summer tomatoes, sharp red wine vinegar,  fresh basil, and little grilled cubes of day old bread slightly softened by the luscious tomato juice vinaigrette…delicious.


This is one of those recipes where the ingredients really matter. It truly is much better with with either farmer’s market or (better yet) homegrown tomatoes, rustic crusty day old bread and using a good quality extra virgin olive oil.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1/2 loaf of crusty bread, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into 3/4-inch dice 
  • 1 cucumber peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice 
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil, torn into small size pieces
  • 2 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • sea salt and pepper

Light your grill. Brush bread slices on both sides with 2 tablespoons oil. Grill until lightly charred on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Let cool slightly, then cut into large cubes.

In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with tomatoes, cucumber and basil. Drizzle with vinegar and remaining 1/4 cup oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine, and serve.

roasted zucchini with ricotta and mint

July 24, 2014 § 66 Comments


Our weather has slipped back to clouds and rain.  I had two full days out in the garden this past weekend so really I don’t mind at all.  The cool temperature was like having the air conditioner on.  Why oh why did I allow two weekends to go by without tending the garden?   It took a good solid eight hours to catch up with the weeds and pruning!   I am not complaining, I am just sore from sitting in a squat position for hours. The yard looks magnificent and it’s time to sit down to a wonderful lunch of roasted zucchini with fresh ricotta and mint.


I picked up a delicious fresh ricotta from my favorite Metropolitan Market and roasted two trays of 1/2 inch diced zucchini.


You could grill the zucchini if your kitchen is too hot to turn on the oven.  Simply slice the zucchini into two long halves, brush with olive oil, grill and then dice into 1/2 inch pieces.   Recipe slightly adapted from Food & Wine.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 5 medium zucchini , diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh ricotta, for serving
  • Mint leaves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450°. Spread the diced zucchini on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the zucchini are browned around the edges. Using a non stick skillet toast the cumin and fennel seeds until aromatic.  Crush the seeds.  You can either spin it quickly in a blender or hammer slightly in a sealable bag.  I used a coffee grinder I bought specifically for grinding seeds.  Sprinkle the zucchini with the crushed red pepper, cumin seeds and fennel seeds and roast until fragrant, about 2 minutes longer.
Transfer the zucchini to a bowl. Toss with the lemon juice and season with salt. Dollop the ricotta alongside the zucchini and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with the mint leaves and serve.


apricot, strawberry and lavender crumble

July 21, 2014 § 71 Comments

Am I ever glad it is crumble season!  A simple crumble is the essence of summer.  My favorite dessert involves baked fruit with either crust or a crumbly mixture of oats, nuts and butter.  And here we have it.  A homey apricot strawberry crumble, a little bit tart, slightly sweet, a crispy toasted topping and with a subtle hint of lavender.


We have a ravishing lavender bush happily growing at the side of our house.  It sits next to the rosemary bush and I think they are in a friendly competition to grow larger and more beautiful than the other.   This area is the bumblebee’s main thoroughfare between the garden in the front of the house and the back. This little spot is a wonderfully buzzing place in our yard.   And oh so fragrant too.


I’m sure you’ve eaten lavender and enjoyed it—it’s one of the predominant ingredients in the mild, savory blend known as herbs de Provence. On its own, lavender has a lovely floral flavor with hints of mint and rosemary (it’s kinfolk) and, used correctly, it makes the perfect essence for cakes and of course, vanilla ice cream.


A subtle amount of lavender adds a nice floral flavor.

I n g r e d i e n t s


  • 1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for baking dish
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup dry toasted chopped pecans


  • 4 apricots, pitted and cut into sixths (about 2 cups)
  • about 15 strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 1 tablespoon lavender flowers
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon flour

Combine all crumble ingredients in a medium bowl and massage together with your fingers until butter is incorporated and mixture forms small clumps. Refrigerate until mixture is cold, at least 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 1/2-inch shallow round baking dish or pie plate. Place a non-stick skillet over medium high heat and dry toast the chopped pecans, shaking pan occasionally.  Combine all filling ingredients in another medium bowl. Transfer to baking dish and top with crumble. Bake until bubbling in center and crumble is browned, about 40 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes.



grilled dinner

July 15, 2014 § 75 Comments

Light the charcoal, and in the time it takes for the coals to be glowing hot you have a “one grill” dinner ready to cook.  I always love “one pot” meals and here we have applied the same concept to the grill.


One big plate for the center of the table, a glass of vinho verde (or ice tea for the young one) and you are set for a balmy summer evening dinner.

This garlic-marinated chicken cutlet with grilled potatoes recipe is slightly adapted from Everyday Food – Great Food Fast.  If you are unable to purchase pre-cut chicken cutlets you may slice your own.  Place one hand flat on top of a chicken breast and, holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, slice it horizontally from the thick end to the thin end into 1/4-inch-thick cutlets. It’s OK if not every slice runs the length of the breast.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1-1/2 pounds baby red new potatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • coarse sea salt & fresh ground pepper
  • 1-1/2 pounds chicken cutlets (about 6)
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed

Light your briquets.  Fold a four foot long sheet of aluminum foil in half to make a double-layer sheet.  Place the potatoes on the double layer and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.  Form a packet, folding the foil over the potatoes and crimping the edges to seal.  Place on the grill and cook, turning over once, until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Leave the potatoes wrapped in foil to keep warm.

While your potatoes are cooking make the marinade: In a large baking dish, whisk together 1 tablespoon of olive oil, minced garlic, vinegar, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Add the chicken; turn several times to coat.  Let marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes while potatoes are cooking.

In a large bowl, toss the asparagus with a tablespoon olive oil.  Season with salt & pepper.  Working in batches if necessary, grill the asparagus, turning occasionally until lightly browned and tender, 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears.  Set aside.

Lift the chicken from the marinade and grill until browned and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side.  Remove from the grill.  Cover the chicken with foil to keep warm.


Serve this grilled dinner family style on a big platter and let everyone help themselves.