Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Dash and I listen to music while we cook. If he likes a song, he'll place his hands on the upper crest of my pelvis, hoist himself up, and say, "Mama, let's dance." He likes the slow songs.

Last week we experienced Ke$ha's "Tik Tok." This song is not slow. We did not dance. Instead, we listened to the words.

"Mama," Dash cackled, "What a silly song.  I love it. WHAT does she brush her teeth with?" 

"Jack Daniels."

And then Ke$ha started rapping about getting crunk. And then she said something about her junk. I turned the radio off so crazy fast.

"Wait. Mama. She brushes her teeth with someone named Jack?"

"Nope. She brushes her teeth with a grownup drink called whiskey."

We agreed this was a bad idea because it doesn't kill the sugar bugs. And oh my god my kids have a ton of sugar bugs on their teeth right now because of all the fruit butter we've been making (AND ice cream, french toast, and pancakes—but those are for another post).

Last year, a quarter of Dash's lifetime ago, we made strawberry butter. This spring we've taken on blueberry butter.
Caramelize one tablespoon of sugar. Carefully drop in a big handful of blueberries.
The blueberries sizzle and seize up with caramel. After a minute, the hard sugar dissolves and the berries start to bleed their beautiful purple juice. Dump them on a plate to cool until room temperature. Be patient. If you add warm berries to the butter it can split. Blueberry butter is hardcore ugly when it splits.
Beat the heck out of some super soft butter and one tablespoon powdered sugar. Add half the berries. At this point you're coloring and flavoring the butter. Add the rest of the cooked berries and mix until the softened purple spheres just burst open. Serve it right alongside some strawberry butter. We had it on toast, pancakes, waffles, french toast, and even in oatmeal with warm milk.
"Mama. One more thing. What did Ke$ha mean when she said the party doesn't start until I walk in."

"Ke$ha THINKS she is the life of the party."

Long pause from Dash. "Okay. I think I understand her now."

printable recipe
Don't mix the cooked berries into the butter until they're room temperature. Don't put the berries in the fridge to cool because you also shouldn't add cold berries to the butter. All these steps prevents the butter from splitting. If it does split, place the bowl over a low flame to loosen the butter up and then mix vigorously until the butter comes back together.

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup blueberries
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
pinch salt

Mix granulated sugar and water in a medium-sized saucepan. Swirl around until sugar is dissolved. Keep watching the sugar. When it just starts to caramelize (light brown), turn off the flame. Toss in blueberries and coat with the caramelized sugar. But back on a low flame, stir with a wooden spoon, and cook until blueberries just start to release their juices (1-2 minutes ). Take off the heat, pour onto a plate, and cool until room temperature.

Combine soft butter, powdered sugar, and a pinch of salt, in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix together really well (2 minutes high speed). Scrape down the sides. Add 1/2 of the cooked blueberries. Mix really well again on high speed (at this point you're coloring the butter by mashing the cooked berries). Scrape down the sides. Mix in the other 1/2 of the blueberries until they just burst open (about 10 seconds).  Scrape blueberry butter into a ramekin. The butter tastes best served right away. But you can refrigerate it up to 5 days. And it freezes really well and stays a beautiful vibrant color. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Bella shares my love of necklaces, Nutella, novels, and flavored lip gloss.
She does NOT share my love of green vegetables and deep breathing.

Hearing "deepen your breath" is as natural to my kids (and I'm sure as annoying) as "find your inside voice" and "put your napkin in your lap."

I'm also a broken record about the importance of eating green vegetables.

Last week, I bought a ridiculously large bag of pea shoots from the farmers' market. Bella was disgusted. She has perfected that swallow-grimace-holding-back-vomit look. 

"Ooh girl, I'm going to make you some pea shoot pesto that you will eat and like."

"Fine. Try. But I'm not going to like it. 'Cause those pea shoots are green."

Chlorophyll is what makes plants green. This pigment is powerful in flavor (parsley juice, blech!) and in function (photosynthesis). The chlorophyll helps plants absorb energy from the sun. Plants use this light energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars (plant food). Then these green plants spit out oxygen as their garbage. Their garbage is the precious oxygen I'm inhaling deeply as I try to get my children to eat green vegetables. Full fucking circle.

I thought about this pesto for a few days. These pea shoots would need a lot of transformation to please my Bella. So I roasted garlic until it was soft and sweet. I bought goat cheese, picked lemons, and toasted some almonds.

After softening the pea shoots for 30 seconds in boiling water, I shocked them in an ice bath to stop them from cooking.
Some friends told me they had just experienced gnarly stringy pea shoot pesto. No way Bella was going to eat anything stringy. So I pulverized the hell out of the shoots. 
Dash came in and started heaping spoonfuls of pea shoot purée into his mouth. He is one of those strange children who will eat anything. And then he pushed me aside and took over the pesto-making. 

"More cheese. I want to squirt in the cooked garlic. Gimme the lemon. Salt, mama? Yeah, salt." He kept tasting the pesto and narrowly missing the sharp blade with his little fingers. So I handed him a tasting spoon.

I found my Bella curled up in a chair with her book.  I slid a big spoonful of the pesto into her mouth. 
She kept her eyes glued to her book, waved her hand at me like she was Brando in The Godfather, and said, "Fine. I'll have it on pasta."

Normally I don't let her talk to me this way. But she knew that I so totally told her so with this one. She could talk to me any way she wanted. 

I cooked some farfalle and then watched her eat a whole bowl of it coated in pea shoot pesto—eyes still glued to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

I tried to get her to look up from her book and laugh, "What planet did Dash come from? He's sure not from earth." 


I continued. I told her I had a theory about Dash's boundless energy and his crazy love of green vegetables. I've been reading about these sacoglossan sea slugs that scarf up algae and actually perform photosynthesis within their bodies. Pea puree plus California sun. We have a solar-powered Dash performing kleptoplasty in our very own house.

Bella was not amused.

She's also not going to be amused when I tell her that tonight we're having nettle and walnut pesto on rack of lamb. I can just hear her now, "Mama, why would you ruin a perfectly good lamb popsicle with NETTLES!" And then she will eat it. And then, I'll bet you a hundred dollars, she will like it.


4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 tablespoon salt, to blanch pea shoots
6 cups pea shoots
1/2 cup goat cheese
1/3 cup parmesan, grated
1/2 cup blanched almonds, lightly toasted
juice/zest from 1/2 lemon
1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350° F. Wrap unpeeled cloves of garlic in tin foil. Bake until garlic is soft. 30-45 minutes. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt. Blanch the pea shoots in salted boiling water for 30 seconds. Shock the shoots in ice water. Pour shoots into a colander. Use your hands to squeeze out most of the excess water. Pulverize pea shoots in a food processor until smooth.

Squirt cooked roasted garlic out of the skin into the pea purée. Add goat cheese, parmesan, almonds, juice/zest of lemon, and 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Pulverize for 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides. Pulverize again. Taste. Add salt, pepper, and more of any ingredient that's lacking. If it's too thick add some more olive oil. This keeps in the fridge for up to a week. Cover the top with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent browning. Or you can freeze the pesto in an ice cube tray and then store the cubes in a ziploc bag.