Thursday, June 21, 2012


You might want to sedate your children before making squid ink pasta with anchovies, potatoes, sliced lemon, and crème fraiche.

The moment those 24 little fish hit the hot pan, your daughter will sniff sniff the air and look concerned. She will jump to her feet as the light show of spattering anchovy oil glistens high above the stove in the evening sun. Hands to hips, she will look at you like you should be locked up for committing such a heinous crime. Your son will join in the protest because he loves his sister to distraction. And you'll have to put on your ninja-bitch-mom armor and start deflecting numerous requests for a different dinner.

Turn the music way up to drown out your little drama queens.

Be strong.

This dinner will not kill them.

Bring your attention back to the delectable umami mass and watch its magical disintegration. Slide in some sliced pre-cooked potatoes. Fry up paper-thin lemon slices in garlic oil and have your kids chop the parsley. If you've all made it this far without hurting each other, smear an anchovyfied potato on grilled bread, drape it with a garlicky lemon slice, and splash it with a teaspoon of crème fraiche. Offer this bite-sized preview to your kids but don't be disappointed when they turn you down. As you place it in your own mouth, you will moan out oh my god this dinner is going to be so fucking tasty.

At first, it will not be a relaxing or friendly dinner. Have red wine available. When you hit that wall of irritation and desperation, you will stand up, shake your hands in oh là là frustration, and yell out just cover it with crème fraiche and get it down!

As you sigh back down to the table, your kids will help themselves to so much of the thick and creamy white condiment that the mounds of black pasta will look like mountains covered in fresh snow.

And there will be peace across the land.
Crème fraiche recipe #5:

printable recipe
serve 4

6 medium-sized yukon gold potatoes
handful of kosher salt for potato water
1 lemon
3 tablespoons garlic confit oil (or plain olive oil)
at least 1jar or tin of anchovies packed in oil (20 or so fillets)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound squid ink spaghetti (or plain spaghetti)
handful of kosher salt for pasta water
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Peel potatoes and cut into bite-sized pieces. Fill a medium-sized pot with water. Add a handful of salt. Place cut potatoes directly into cold salty water. Place on high heat and bring to a boil. Turn down to low and cook potatoes until just cooked through. Gently strain in a colander. Don't overcook them or you will have mush! Set aside.

Thinly slice the lemon. Pick out the seeds. Add a few tablespoons garlic oil to a sauté pan. Once it's hot but not smoking, carefully slide in the lemon slices. Flip them over after a minute. Just make sure to get a bit of color on each side. With a slotted spoon, remove lemon slices from oil and set aside on a plate. Reserve lemon/garlic oil. Boil large pot of water for pasta. Add salt. Drain anchovies and save remaining oil for something else.

Place medium-sized pan on medium heat and add olive oil. Carefully place anchovies in the hot oil. They will spatter like crazy if the pan is too hot. Stir them for a minute. They will fall apart and come together into a mass of melted anchovy. Slide in cooked potatoes. Saute on medium heat for 30 seconds until potatoes are anchovy-laden. Turn heat down to low.

Place pasta in boiling water. Cook until al dente. Reserve a cup or so of pasta water in a pitcher. With tongs, pull out pasta, drip off some (but not all) of excess water, and place into potato/anchovy pan. Turn the heat up and stir for 30 seconds, boiling off a bit of the pasta water and integrating the sauce with the pasta. Be gentle. You don't want to squish the potatoes because they will look ugly on the black pasta (with white pasta this is not a concern). Slide pasta into a large warm bowl.

Top with chopped parsley, lemon slices, lemon/garlic oil, and lots of creme fraiche. Serve with pitcher of pasta water and extra creme fraiche. Most likely, you will not need to add any salt!

Friday, June 8, 2012


It was a shitstormclusterfuck of an evening with flat tires and such. So let's just look at tarts. And drink wine. And listen to Jeff Buckley. And Giovanni Pergolesi. And be grateful that we get to wake up to a brand new day.

I don't know how many people these tarts serve. The apricot tart was pretty much just for me. But I've been sharing the asparagus tart. These tarts are fundamentally the same. 

If you like your tarts sweet, you should definitely crank up the sugar in the ricotta mixture.

shortcrust pastry dough (make a least 3 hours ahead of time and refrigerate)
3/4 cup ricotta
1/2 cup crème fraiche
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 egg
1/8 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
6 apricots
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons caramel sauce (or brown sugar)
creme fraiche for topping

Roll out dough and press into an 8" round or rectangular pan. Or place free-form on a sheet pan. Place in freezer while you prepare the filling.

Preheat oven to 350º F.

In a standing mixer (or by hand), beat the ricotta, crème fraiche, olive oil, egg, flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Set aside. Halve and pit apricots. Melt butter and caramel together.

Remove tart shell from the freezer. Pour in ricotta filling and spread evenly. Gently press apricot halves (cut side up) into the filling. Sprinkle sugar all over the apricots. Brush or spoon on butter/caramel mixture. Drip extra onto the cheese mixture.

Bake until crust is set and light brown (35-45 minutes). If the apricots don't have much color, you can place the tart under the broiler and brown (or char) things a bit. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before cutting.

Serve topped with creme fraiche or vanilla bean ice cream.


shortcrust pastry dough (make a least 3 hours ahead of time and refrigerate)
16 stalks asparagus, bottoms trimmed
3/4 cup ricotta
1/2 cup crème fraiche
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 egg
1/8 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic confit (or grated raw garlic)
1 teaspoon crunch salt (Maldon, or grey, or fleur de del)
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese, finely grated
chopped salted anchovy (super optional, super tasty)
creme fraiche for topping
chopped parsley

Roll out dough and press into an 8" round or rectangular pan. Or place free-form on a sheet pan. Put in freezer while you prepare the filling.

If your asparagus is delicate, you don't need to peel it. If it's thick, you might want to peel the stalks from the base all the way up to right underneath where the tip starts.

Preheat oven to 350º F.

In a standing mixer (or by hand), beat the ricotta, crème fraiche, olive oil, egg, flour, salt, and lemon zest. Set aside.

Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, and garlic confit.

Remove tart shell from the freezer. Pour in ricotta filling and spread evenly. Place asparagus in any cool pattern that you like. I like to have every other stalk pointing the same way. But it really doesn't matter. Coat stalks with vinegar/oil/garlic mixture. Drip extra between the stalks onto the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with parmesan and salt. Add optional anchovy.

Bake until crust is set and light brown. If the top of the tart doesn't have much color, you can place it under the broiler and brown (or char) things a bit. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. Cut this tart with an insanely sharp knife or poultry shears, otherwise you will have quite a mess on your hands. Serve topped with crème fraiche and chopped parsley.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


"So the 7th and 8th graders have a separate talent show and they get to do inappropriate things like sing that song called I'm sexy and I know it."

"Bella, I don't know that song."

"Mama, come on. You don't know LMFAO?"

"Bella, anyone who is singing about being sexy is, um, kind of, um, a jerky jerk."

I want to say a cocky motherfucker but I'm trying so hard to be a well-behaved mama.

"Yes, mama. True. But it's a great song and you should just download it."

I count alligators in my head and wait for Dash to ask his question. I get to five before he delivers.

"Mama. What does sexy mean?"

"Well, it's a word used by grownups. And it means that you really really like how someone walks, talks, and moves through the world. Like someone really blows you away."

And I'm embarrassed to say that I keep going on and on with various definitions until Dash interrupts me.

"Okay. Okay. OKAY. I get it. Like a dog. Like look over there at that sexy dog."

"Well, that's the first time I've ever heard a dog described as sexy. It's more for people. Like if I'm lucky, on a good day, daddy might use the word sexy to describe me."


"Right. Might."

"I don't know why he'd call YOU sexy."

"Dash. Eat your watercress salad."
Salad of Watercress, Feta, Almonds, Green Onions, Crispy Green Garlic, and Creme Fraiche.

I'm a total whore for anchovy garlic salad dressing, but you don't need it for this salad because the watercress and the spring garlic bring so much flavor. A simple coating of olive oil and sherry wine vinegar is just right. This is a hardcore simple mashup but I swear it's super tasty. I'm not going to give amounts. You could even put out bowls of all the components on the table for people to make individual salads. 

Gather the following:
olive oil 
spring garlic
salt (kosher)
balsamic vinegar
olive oil (for dressing)
sherry wine vinegar
salt (something coarse and crunchy like Maldon or grey or fleur de del)
chopped green onions
sliced almonds
feta (I'm partial to French but any kind works), crumbled

Here's the only cooking you need to do for this salad: Remove the thin outer layer from two heads of spring garlic (if you don't have spring garlic, you can use shallots). Finely chop the stalks all the way down to the white bulbs. Set aside chopped stalks with the chopped green onions. Remove the bottom stems from the remaining young garlic heads. Slice thinly in either direction (the pieces will fall apart). Crank some heat under a pan. Add a few tablespoons olive oil. Once it's smoking, add sliced spring garlic. Add big pinch of salt. Cook until softened and starting to brown a bit. Turn heat down to low. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar. Cook for about twenty minutes until they're melt-in-your-mouth crispy. They should taste like garlic candy.

Assembly: Place watercress in a big bowl. Coat greens with a few splashes of olive oil and sherry wine vinegar (I usually add about two parts olive oil to one part vinegar). Add pinch of salt. Toss. Taste. Adjust. 

Add chopped green onions and green garlic stems, sliced almonds, crumbled feta, and crispy green garlic. Toss again. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Drip crème fraiche all over the top of the salad. Add any additional green onions or green garlic stems. Serve.

If any is left over, don't throw it out because it's tasty (though wilted!) the next day on grilled bread with extra feta, a splash of balsamic, and crème fraiche.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


(Crème fraiche "recipe" #2 is at the bottom of this post.)

Before 6 a.m. this morning, before rooting around in the pantry and snacking on old cookies, before getting into the Super Glue, before deserving a smack upside the head from Bella, before spilling a sticky orange juice concoction all over the table and down the wall, Dash set out a beautiful breakfast for all of us made up of banana bread and a sprinkling of his almond praline. It is Dash's praline because he helped me with every step when we made it last week. 

(WARNING: Please make sure that you and your children are wearing clothes when you make praline. There's no denying that Dash was shirtless throughout most of the process. I was a fucking idiot. But oh my god we had so much fun.)

To start, he measured the sugar, dug out the dried vanilla beans, and sucked on the sweet woodsy sticks. 
We poured a splash of water on the sugar and placed the pan on the back burner. I snapped at him to stop jumping up and down and slamming into me and focus or leave because cooking sugar is serious business in fact it's the hottest thing in the world dude hotter even than lava and he got it and settled on a stool. He watched me watch the sugar turn brown, he leaned in as I inhaled the telltale caramel fumes, and he smiled as I exhaled with delight and satisfaction because he knows that heat hitting sugar is my kind of magic.

With his hand on my wrist, we stirred in the almonds, vanilla, and salt. Then we quickly spread the sticky and rapidly firming mixture onto a sheet pan. Once it was cool enough to handle, he was in hog heaven for an hour with the ultimate edible toy.

He stretched the sugar into a sword and then a gun.
He held up a stained glass window of praline.
He pieced together the capital letter "T." Or maybe a mushroom?
 He bashed the shit out of it with a rolling pin and then a meat mallet.
And he placed it in a pretty jar. Then he looked at his very precise spy watch and said that it was a good thing that the praline was done because it was already 4 p.m. at LAX.
Ideas for what to do with praline once you've made it:
1. Sprinkle over crepes filled with homemade chocolate butter (recipes coming soon).
2. Serve over ice cream or yoghurt.
3. Incorporate into ice cream base at the end of the churning process.
4. Make the best after-school snack ever by dipping strawberries into crème fraiche and then rolling them in almond praline.


2 cups white sugar (or vanilla sugar* if you have it)
about 1/2 cup water
1.5 cups sliced almonds
2 teaspoons vanilla bean extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place sugar in a medium-sized saucepan. Add just enough water to soak the sugar. Swirl (by the pot handle) until all the sugar is wet. Add more water if you need to. Place over medium heat. Don't walk away. Swirl around (by the pot handle) if it's not caramelizing evenly. Cook until it's almost at desired color (Grade B maple syrup or darker).

Remove from heat and quickly stir in nuts, vanilla extract, and salt. Place back on heat just to loosen it up a bit. Spread quickly over a sheet pan using a firm spatula. Let cool. Then bust apart with a rolling pin or meat mallet. This is quite easy if you cover the praline with a dishtowel. Or you can cut it into large chunks with a very sharp knife. Or place all of it in the food processor and puree the heck out of it into a powder. Store at room temperature in an airtight container. If it firms up again you can bash it apart. It lasts for a long time. And it freezes beautifully.

*Place new or scraped vanilla beans into white sugar and allow to infuse for a few days.

Monday, June 4, 2012


Sort of embarrassing, but I'm on batch number three of crème fraiche for the week. Please let me know if you've made any and if so, what you've learned, what questions you have, and what you've done with it.

I keep trying to get close to my computer but I have creatures keeping me away. I picked my son up early from school today with a case of the I-want-to-hang-out-with-mama-now virus (he is currently asleep under my desk wrapped around my feet), My dog won't stop barking (despite all of the anti-anxiety medication). And my magnificent daughter wanted to chill out with me all evening (oh my god it has been a long time) and chat and cook and play cards and talk about life. So that's what we did.

For the moment, everyone is asleep so here's recipe number one. We'll see how the rest of the crème fraiche week unfolds. Six more recipes to go.

Dashi. Bella. I need to know that you're not going to kill each other while I take a shower. I just need five minutes. Do you think you can handle that?

We promise, mama.

Yes, we promise.

I step into the shower, wash my hair, and think about nothing. I even condition my hair. Fucking heaven.

And then I hear a crash, a scream, a slamming door, another scream, some pounding on a door, and hysterical sobbing. And as much as I'd like to be that mom who says they'll work it out and no one is going to die and everything will be fine, I'm just not that kind of mom. It pisses me off. And my shower is ruined.

I'm a dripping wet insanely mad mama as I burst out of the bathroom and start are you freaking kidding me yelling.

Dash. Bella. Sit down and listen. Here's the deal.  I want to shave my legs. I want to use that pumice stone thingy on  my feet. And then I want to eat pasta with corn and mushrooms for dinner. With lots of creme fraiche. And I don't want ANY complaints.

But mama, I hate corn more than anything.

I know, Dash.

This sucks big time. I hate mushrooms.

I know, Bella. Hey. You just said sucks. I've never heard you say that before. Just don't use that word at school because you might get in trouble. I think you can start saying it in front of your teachers when you're thirteen. Does that sounds reasonable?

And then I laugh at how parenting can feel so random and like amateur hour. And my kids laugh because I'm naked and they can't take me seriously.

I get back in the shower and we try again.

And then we eat the tastiest pasta with gobs and gobs of creme fraiche and watch "The Empire Strikes Back" and talk about droids and light savers and the beauty of Han Solo and whether or not Luke is going to go over to the Dark Side and the kickassedness of Princess Leia. Because that's what I want.

printable recipe
If you're making creme fraiche, give yourself at least a day, preferably two.
serves 3-4

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt for pasta water
2 cloves garlic
1 anchovy (packed in salt or oil but for this dish I love the salty ones)
3 ears corn, shucked and cut off the cob
2 cups mushrooms (use any kind,  but I've been loving the combination of shiitake and hen of the woods ), wiped clean with a wet paper towel and sliced thinly
1 pound pasta
1/3 cup chopped parsley
parmesan cheese
1 cup creme fraiche
coarse salt

Crank a pan to high heat. Add butter and olive oil. Once it's smoking hot, toss in the shallots. Stir for a few minutes until they've softened and browned a bit. Add big pinch of salt and balsamic. Turn heat to low and leave for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. 

Boil a big pot of water for pasta. Add a handful of salt.

Bash garlic and anchovy with a mortar and pestle or chop finely. Once shallots are melt-in-your-mouth tasty crispy, add garlic/anchovy puree. Stir and integrate for a minute. Turn the heat back up and add the mushrooms. Toss for two minutes over high heat. They will start to release some water. Add corn. Turn to low.

Place pasta in boiling water. Once the pasta is al dente, reserve a mug of pasta water. Strain pasta and add it and a bit of pasta water to the mushroom and corn mixture. Toss. Reduce the sauce down a bit. Add chopped parsley and about 1/2 of the creme fraiche and stir. Taste. Add salt as needed.

Slide into a bowl. Top with paper-thin wisps of parmesan and more creme fraiche. Maybe add more parsley and some coarse salt. Eat right away.