Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I LOVE my freezer, but it gets dangerous when it's full. Dash and Bella now know to stand back when they reach up to open the door so as not to get bopped on the head by a pint of ice cream.

I managed to clear out a little corner of the freezer by removing lima beans, farmers' market corn from last August (cut off the cob), parmesan rinds, pecorino, and pine nuts. I'm all about eating seasonally but this week I really needed a taste of summer. January has kicked my butt. We've all been sick. It has been raining FOREVER. Lima Bean and Corn Pesto helped bring some brightness into the house. And green just happens to be Dash's favorite color. Yes, I realize how lucky I am to have a 2-year old who loves green.
We ate this pesto three different ways: on crackers, on lamb chops, and mixed into rice with caramelized onions. You can freeze it in an ice cube tray overnight and the next day pop the pesto cubes into a ziploc bag for the rest of the winter.
P.S. One more idea: replace the Feta Pesto with Lima Bean Pesto in my Root Vegetable Tart.

LIMA BEAN AND CORN PESTO: printable recipe
This tastes great lukewarm (just made), room temperature, or cold. Try it on meat, mixed with rice or pasta, as a spread on crackers, or as a base for a sandwich. Use fresh vegetables when available. This would also work well with white beans instead of lima beans (not as pretty a color though).
(Makes about 2 cups)

1/3 cup pine nuts
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely grated or minced or pressed
1 cup frozen lima beans
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup parsley leaves
juice & zest from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup grated pecorino
anchovy (anywhere from none to 2 fillets)
pepper to taste
pinch of salt

Toast pine nuts in a pan or the oven until lightly browned. Set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, add shallot, and cook on medium heat until translucent. Add garlic and stir for about a minute. Don't let it brown. Turn heat down to low. Add lima beans and corn.  Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat. Place a lid on the lima bean mixture for 10 minutes. In the bowl of your food processor or blender add toasted pine nuts, parsley, remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice/zest, both cheeses, optional anchovy, and pepper. Leave out salt until the end since the cheeses and anchovy are very salty. Pulse for 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides. Add lima bean/corn mixture. Pulse for another 10 seconds. It's up to you how much you purée the vegetables. You can leave them chunky or make them quite creamy. Taste. Add salt if necessary. Serve or refrigerate for up to 5 days. Or freeze overnight in a ice cube tray, the next day place cubes in a ziploc bag, and freeze up to 6 months.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Last year, I decorated Bella's birthday cake with hot pink frosting, candy cane powder, and 50 mini chocolate cookies. The year before that was a four-tiered light pink cake with roses and a disco ball. Very over the top. Both designed by Bella and decorated by me. This year Bella turned seven. I let go and let her decorate her own cake.

Here's her design. With a bit of back and forth we determined it was to be a three-tiered vanilla bean cake with ganache glaze and white chocolate flowers.

I'm often frustrated with frosting. Buttercream is way too rich and time consuming (I never have a pound of room temperature unsalted butter just sitting around).  Powdered sugar icings can be sickly sweet. I could eat a whole tub of cream cheese icing but it doesn't work on everything. That's why ganache is so genius. As long as you have good quality chocolate and some heavy cream, you're set.

In keeping with this month's theme of taking one recipe and using it multiple ways, we used ganache for three different birthday treats.

Bella glued the three layers together with ganache glaze. Then she poured the glaze ALL OVER. A little spreading, a little patching, and she was ready to add flowers made from melted white chocolate.  The cake we used was a very dense white chocolate vanilla bean cake. In retrospect, not the right combination with the ganache glaze. But the kids gobbled it up. I would recommend a lighter white cake to which you could add lots of vanilla bean.
Add more chocolate and less cream if you want a glaze that's more spreadable. More spreadable was much easier for Bella to work with but you do lose that slick and even finish that you get with the pourable ganache glaze.
Cool the ganache glaze, whip it up for a minute, and you get ganache frosting.  It's lighter in texture and color, even more spreadable, and not glossy. If you like the glossy look you can quickly torch the top with a blow torch or mini kitchen torch. Yes I have a blow torch (for creme brulées) but I couldn't find it. (Who borrowed my blow torch? I want it back.) Instead, I popped them in a hot oven for 5 seconds. You can see the lone cupcake with the candle has a glossy top. A nicer look for a photo but it's not necessary.
The yellow cupcake recipe is from Cook's Illustrated. It's my all-time favorite. I follow every step as written. The only change I make is to undercook them a bit so that the center is a bit gooey. It's worth becoming a member of their site just to get this recipe. You can also do a free 14-day trial. I swear I don't work for Cooks Illustrated. I'm just so grateful for all rigorous testing that they do. This recipe is all over the web with errors. Go right to the source.

Chill the ganache, scoop and roll into balls, dredge in unsweetened cocoa, and you've got chocolate truffles. Dash dropped his truffle right into his mug of camomile tea. Very sad.

BASIC GANACHE:printable recipe

This makes enough glaze for one 9 inch cake OR frosting for 24 cupcakes OR about 20 truffles. Some people add a bit of butter or corn syrup to help with the sheen, but I find the chocolate and the cream to be enough on their own.

- 6-9 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or shredded into small pieces with a heavy chef knife—use less chocolate for a pourable glaze (6-7 ounces); use a bit more chocolate for spreadable glaze, whipped frosting, or truffles (8 or 9 ounces)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon cognac or vanilla (optional)

Place chopped chocolate into a large heat resistant bowl. Bring cream up to the boil. Turn off heat. Pour cream over the chocolate. Cover bowl with a plate or plastic wrap. Stir after 5 minutes. Cover for another 5 minutes. Stir again until it's smooth. (Alternatively, you can pulverize the chocolate in a food processor, pour over the hot cream, and mix until smooth.) At this point you can add a bit of cognac or vanilla if you want.

1. For Ganache Glaze (pourable or spreadable): Let ganache cool to room temperature. Make sure your cake is cool as well. Place the cake on a rack over a sheet pan so that the excess chocolate drips onto the sheet pan. Pour over the glaze. You can help guide the chocolate down the sides with an offset spatula or a knife. Let set for a few hours. Or refrigerate for 20 minutes and then pour on another layer of glaze (this would require you to make half again as much ganache). You can store it 2 days at room temp or up to 10 days in the fridge.

2. For Whipped Ganache Frosting: Let ganache cool in the fridge for a few hours. Stir every 20 minutes or so. Don't let it harden. When it is cold and thick, whisk for about a minute in a mixer or by hand. If you overwhip it you can melt, cool, and then whip it again. You can store is for no more than a day at room temp or up to 5 days in the fridge. It goes bad faster once it's whipped.

3. For Chocolate Truffles: Let ganache harden in the fridge overnight. Scoop out a tablespoon size of ganache and roll it into a ball with your hands. Repeat with the rest of the ganache. You can place cocoa in a bag and add the truffles balls after you roll them. Gently shake bag to coat with cocoa. Keep refrigerated.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Here's a challenge: come up with a simple recipe that tastes good enough on its own but at the same time can be a component in many different recipes. I tried to do this by making Chunky Pesto with Feta, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Parsley, and Pine Nuts. I used it successfully in four different dishes. Plus I just scooped it out of the jar and ate it by itself. It's a deconstructed pesto in that you don't blend it. When you dump the hot pine nuts on top of the cheese mixture they sizzle like sizzling rice soup. Here are the four ways we used it:

1. On grilled bread.
2. Mixed in with pasta.
3. Served over roast chicken.

4. In a root vegetable tart.

The grilled bread and pasta dishes are straightforward (see below for simple recipes). And it is great as a topping on almost any meat. Here's the story of how the pesto ended up in a tart.

Because of our Full Belly Farm CSA box, I always have a big bin of root vegetables. Last week I had carrots, turnips, parsnips, onions, and delicata squash. I was in the mood to cut vegetables. I ended up with a huge pile of vegetables and no idea what to do with them. I figured I'd better cook them so I threw them all on a sheet pan with some unpeeled garlic cloves, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. I cranked the heat up to 425°F. About halfway through the cooking time I pulled the tray out of the oven to check on the vegetables and Dash asked, "That for a tart? Yummy tart." Great idea. So we made our first tart of the decade.
It might have been good with just the vegetables, but I was worried it would be a bit dry. Plus, I wanted it to be more of a meal instead of a side dish.  I had a big jar of chunky feta pesto that I'd made the day before. Dash smeared the bottom of the tart shell with the pesto. Then he scooped on the partially roasted vegetables.
He grated lots of parmesan cheese on top.  I told Dash he owed me a dollar because he bit off the ENTIRE tip of the parmesan cheese. He went and got me some plastic money and apologized.

Before baking the tart we made a little pile of roast garlic in the center.
"That's my tart. MY tart." said Dash.


(makes 2 cups)

-1 1/4 cups crumbled feta cheese
-10 sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
-handful of parsley leaves, roughly chopped
-3 tablespoons olive oil
-1/2 clove garlic, minced or pressed or grated
-juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
-big pinch of salt
-a few turns of pepper
-1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted and hot 

In a bowl, mix together feta cheese, sun dried tomatoes, parsley, olive oil, garlic, lemon zest/juice, salt and pepper.  Toast pine nuts in the oven or in a pan on the stove until they smell nutty and are lightly browned. Mix hot nuts in with the cheese mixture. Taste for seasoning. Let it sit for a minute and then taste again.



-sliced bread
-garlic clove, peeled and whole
-chunky pesto
-olive oil
-crunchy salt

Toast or grill the bread. When it's still hot rub the garlic clove all over one side of each slice. The garlic will almost melt into the bread. Top with pesto, olive oil, and salt.

(serves 2)

-1 cup of chunky pesto
-1/2 teaspoon salt 
-1/2 pound  of pasta
-1/2 cup reserved pasta water

Place pesto in a large bowl. Bring large pot of water to a boil.  Add salt. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve a mug of the pasta water before draining the pasta. Pour drained pasta over pesto. Add a tablespoon of the pasta water. Mix. If it's too dry add more pasta water and mix again. Grate parmesan cheese on top. Eat right away.


Many root vegetables have different cooking times. Don't worry about this. It's actually nice to have different textures in this tart. Use an 8, 9, or 10 inch tart pan. This tart would also be really good on puff pastry (easier too if store bought). My great chef friend Michael just let me know that the skin on late season delicata squash can be very tough -- use at your own risk or peel it to be safe. September/October/November delicata should be fine with the skin on.

-1 1/2 cups chunky pesto
-1 recipe basic shortcrust pastry dough (read here for tips), disc refrigerated 
-any combination of root vegetables including: delicata squash (skin on), carrots, turnips, parsnips, onions, spring onions, shallots -- (about 4 cups vegetables total)
-10 cloves garlic
-4 tablespoons olive oil
-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
-2 springs thyme
-1 sprig rosemary

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Peel the vegetables (unless it's delicata squash). Chop up vegetables into chunks that are approximately the same size (about the size of a quarter). Peel and slice the onions or shallots if using them. Leave the garlic unpeeled. Toss everything together on a sheet pan. Drizzle over some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add herbs and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss again until all vegetables are coated. Roast in the oven until vegetables are just getting tender but not mushy. Toss them around every 15 minutes or so. It's okay for them to caramelize and get crispy, maybe even the tips will burn a bit. This will take 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, roll out pastry dough, press into a 9 inch tart pan. Trim or press off edges. Refrigerate.

Once the vegetables are out of the oven, turn it down to 350°F. When oven temperature has dropped, bake tart shell until it just starts to smell nutty and buttery (about 10-12 minutes). Remove from oven. Leave oven on. If your children are assembling the tart let it cool for a few minutes (otherwise go right ahead with the hot shell). Spread pesto evenly all over the bottom of the shell. Place partially roasted vegetables on top of the pesto. Put all the roasted garlic cloves in a pile in the center. Grate lots of parmesan all over the top of the tart. Bake for 30 minutes or so until the cheese and the tart shell are nicely browned.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Phew! I made it. HAPPY NEW YEAR.

When I told a friend 2 weeks ago that I was going to try to do a post a day until the end of the year she looked a little concerned. "Seems like a lot of work," she said. "Oh, it will be fun." I said. They will all be short."

I would like to thank Yo Gabba Gabba!, Max and Ruby, The Sound of Music, and my husband for giving me the time to do these posts.

In doing this mad recipe dash to the new year I stumbled a bit...

1. I left the sugar out of the sugar cookie recipe and put too much butter in the shortcrust recipe.
2. I stayed up until 1 am working on the shortcrust pastry post.
3. I had to get up at 5 am the morning after the shortcrust pastry post AND be a nice parent.
4. Two days ago I was officially sick of cooking. So I ate frozen pizza. But by the morning I was ready to make a pie.
5. My husband told me (lovingly) I was becoming an obsessive blogger.

On the other hand...

1. I am getting faster at putting a story together.
2. Recipes are flowing more easily now.
3. I have many new recipes that I can now call my own. Satisfying to own a recipe. Who knew?
4. Dash still asks me every morning, "What we gonna cook today?"

It really means a lot that you all are reading, commenting, trying the recipes, and giving me feedback. It feels like it is all adding up to something. Thank you.  See you in a week or so with Bella's three-tiered birthday cake. She is designing it as we speak.

Here's the list of recipes from the Recipe Countdown to 2010 in case you missed one.



We made this pie several times over the past few weeks. Dash likes to help assemble it. We put slices of cheddar cheese directly beneath the top crust.
Make sure you use a deep pie or cake pan. Let your kids decorate the top of the pie with scraps. Here are two of the pies we made this month. You could also do mini pies in ramekins.
All the components for this pie freeze really well. You can freeze the pastry dough and the cooled lamb filling. You can even half-bake the pie, cool it, and then freeze it. Or make a shepherd's pie by omitting the pastry dough and spreading mashed potatoes on top of the filling. Bake until potatoes are golden brown.

We've put yogurt and pomegranates on everything this winter— from stews to curries to pies. There's something wonderful about the cool and sour yogurt with the sweet explosive pomegranate seeds. Our dog agreed.

LAMB PIE: printable recipe 
Use a deep pie plate or cake pan that's around 9 inches.

for the shortcrust pastry (check out tips):
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons butter, cut into small chunks and very cold
6-12 tablespoons ice water 

for the filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 bay leaf
1 can (14.5 ounces) of diced tomatoes in their juices
1 cup frozen peas
8 slices of sharp cheddar cheese (or enough to cover filling)
1 egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream or half and half 

for the dough:
Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Cut butter into 1/2 inch square chunks and toss into dry ingredients. With your fingers or a pastry cutter, incorporate the butter into the flour mixture until the butter chunks are the size of peas. Add half the cold water and mix it in with a fork. Add more water if you need to, enough so that when you squeeze the mixture in your fingers it's just moist enough to form a dough. Split mixture into 2 piles on 2 large pieces of plastic wrap. Use the sides of the plastic wrap to press each pile of dough into a 1 inch high disc. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling them out.

Roll out one disc of dough until it's a bit bigger than your pie dish. Place shell in dish firmly (leave edges untrimmed for now) and put it the fridge. Roll out the other piece of dough until it's about the same size. Place on a sheet pan in the fridge until your filling is ready. Cover the dough with plastic wrap if it's going to be more than an hour.

for the filling:
Heat large saucepan over medium heat. Drizzle in olive oil. Add onion. Add salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until onions are translucent. Press or grate in garlic and cook for one minute stirring constantly. Add ground lamb and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Cook while stirring until lamb is no longer pink (about 5 minutes). Add tomato paste, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and bay leaf.  Cook for about 20 minutes to bring the flavors together and to reduce down the liquid. Remove the bay leaf. Turn off the heat and stir in the frozen peas. You can let it cool all the way and put in the refrigerator or freezer until later or bake the pie right away. The filling doesn't have to be cool when you bake the tart.

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Remove pie pan from fridge. Pour lamb filling into the shell. Place cheddar slices all over the top of the filling. Place rolled out pie shell on top of the filling and cheese. Pinch the top and bottom shells together with your fingers or a fork. You can make scalloped edges with your thumb. You can even put a fancy pattern on top of the dough with the dough scraps. Whisk egg with cream or half and half. Paint the top of the pie with a thin layer of the egg mixture. Slice a few decorative holes on top of the pie for steam to escape. Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 60-75 minutes.

Serve just the way it is. Or serve with yogurt and pomegranate seeds.

1. Make mini pies in ramekins.
2. To make shepherd's pie: omit pastry crust and instead cover the cheese and lamb filling with mashed potatoes. Bake until potatoes are golden brown.