Dec 23, 2010

happy happy holidays

december, where have you gone? lost in a whirlwind. in any case my dears, have yourselves a marvelous and most delicious holiday! see you soon.

Dec 7, 2010

thai veggie curry

i am cooking up a lot of this lately. pretty easy. loaded with vegetables, sometimes 10 different vegetables in one dish. (take that dietary guidelines.) i use store bought curry paste, only because i found one i love by thai taste. i use their red curry paste. it is head and shoulders above any other thai curry paste i've tried. it is all natural, good stuff. the result is very soothing and warming on a cold december evening, served with some fluffy thai jasmine rice.

thai veggie curry
serves 4
2 TBSP thai red curry paste
2 cans organic coconut milk
6 cloves of garlic, chopped or smashed
2 shallots, chopped
2 TBSP cilantro stems, cleaned carefully, minced
2 TBSP olive oil

1 tsp tumeric (optional)
2 TBSP fish sauce (optional)
1 TBSP brown sugar (optional)

16 oz tofu, sliced into 1/2 x 1 inch cubes
4 to 6 cups assorted mixed vegetables
such as:
1 large sweet potato, diced
1 or 2 carrots, chopped
2 small zucchini, chopped
1 small skinny eggplant, japanese or italian, chopped
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 red pepper, sliced
1 cup snow peas
1 cup green beans
1 cup okra
1 small head napa or savoy cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 limes

first, get the rice started. then start chopping whatever veggies you have on hand. including the shallots and garlic and cilantro stems. all done? now you are ready to cook. heat up a wok on high heat. when hot, add the olive oil, shallots, garlic and cilantro stems, stir for 30 seconds, add the curry paste, stir for 1 minute, add the tumeric, fish sauce and sugar, if using. taste to check seasoning. adjust sweet/salt balance if necessary. add the two cans of cocunut milk. and the longest cooking veg. i start the sweet potato, or carrots right away. bring to a fast simmer. cover with lid. steam for 10 minutes. add broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, eggplant. cover for 3 minutes. add green beans, snow peas, okra. cover for 3 minutes. add red pepper and chopped tofu. cover for 3 minutes. add cabbage (napa cooks faster than savoy, so add savoy with the tofu/red pepper). steam for 3 final minutes. give it a good stir. add cilantro leaves. squeeze in a little lime juice and serve the remaining lime as table garnish. then serve with that fluffy jasmine rice. warms me up just thinking about it.

Dec 2, 2010

pierogi for breakfast

sometimes we need food to do more than just nourish and sustain, we need it to heal or encourage recovery. i don't usually cook breakfast during the week, the kids have an assortment of fresh fruit, tortilla's with butter, tea, hot chocolate, protein shakes, frozen dumplings, yogurt, cereal, or toast to choose from. i encourage them to prepare their own breakfast once they reach double digits, as self sufficiency is a truly wonderful thing.

this week is different, i've been cooking special breakfasts. one member of our group is down, having contracted poison ivy 2 weeks ago. he's had a really rough time of it. head to toe he has it! it got into his bloodstream apparently as he was still having new outbreaks this week. his eyes were nearly swollen shut this weekend. poor thing.

the itching is nonstop. sleep is elusive with all that itching, and so is any piece of mind. he is, however, still crazy for pierogi's, his appetite being entirely unaffected. he likes his fried with onions and an especially large dollup of organic sour cream. yum. he felt very special getting them for breakfast. it brought a big smile to his otherwise slightly cranky, overtired little face.

in the meantime, the steroid creams from the doctor weren't really working. so we found a cure that actually stopped the rash dead in it's tracks, and we found it by googling on the internet of all places. it is this miracle cream that stops the reaction by removing the urushiol (noxious plant oil that bonds to your skin within 10 minutes of exposure) after it has bonded to your skin. nothing else does that. it's been 48 hours now and his outbreaks have recovered dramatically. like a miracle. if you ever get poison ivy or poison oak or poison sumac, or someone you know is suffering because of it, know that there is a new cure available without a prescription, you will find it in walgreens or cvs, it is expensive but totally works. it is called zanfel. you can read all about it here. it takes about 2 tubes for a large outbreak and the cost is nearly $50 per tube, but it totally totally works, astoundingly effective. of course, i can't be sure it wasn't the lovingly prepared pierogi that caused his miraculous recovery, but i am about to write to zanfel laboratories in clive, iowa to tell them how amazing their product is.

i did not make these pierogi from scratch, as here on the east coast you can readily buy good quality fresh piergoi in most grocery stores. but i have made them before, and homemade are the best. we like ours filled with mashed potatoes, cabbage or spinach. martha has great recipes for homemade pierogi here and here. i've used her recipes in the past and wowee are they amazing. these are her mom's recipes and the pierogi keep quite well. so go ahead, make a batch one of these days, you will be glad you did. it is a great project for kids and grownups.

and in the interest of full disclosure, i am not being paid or compensated in any way to endorse zanfel.

Nov 29, 2010

it was nice, really nice

i hope you had a very lovely weekend. i wasn't sure, but ours turned out to be marvelous after all: seeing old friends, lovely weather, a really clean house, and naturally, wonderful and delicious foods of all kinds. everything turned out just a little better than we'd hoped, making for a rather nice break before the craziness of the season truly begins. the kids had only a little homework, we saw movies, relaxed, talked, laughed, noshed and noshed some more.

and so far we are on top of things holiday-wise. online shopping has begun in earnest, lists are being checked off, presents are becoming wrapped, seasonal decorations are appearing, sprucing and polishing are happening. a happy busy vibe, with only a touch of trepidation this year. we are in a state of readiness. something tells me this holiday season is going to be a good ride. not extravagant certainly, but simple and sweet, and full of great moments.

Nov 24, 2010

pomegranate persimmon salad with leeks, a simple thanksgiving part 4

i love this salad. the pomegranate seeds look like jewels. the persimmons are a slightly sweet and crunchy interesting counterpoint to the greens and the leeks. very festive and a nice light addition to a holiday menu.

pomegranate persimmon salad
serves 6 - 8
12 ounces mixed baby greens, rinsed and dried
1/3 pomegranate, seeds only (about 1/3 cup)
1 large or 2 small fuyu persimmons, peeled and sliced
1 leek, finely sliced

2TBSP pomegranate cherry juice
3TBSP seasoned rice vinegar
3TBSP extra virgin olive oil
(a touch of dijon mustard or some minced shallots is nice here but i usually skip it because i am overwhelmed in the kitchen at this point) assemble ingredients. whisk up the dressing. pour. toss. serve. bon appetit.

Nov 23, 2010

delicious sweet potatoes, roasted two ways. a simple thanksgiving part 3

way number 1: wash sweet potatoes, place in a large mixing bowl. pour 1/4 cup olive oil over the potatoes to coat. mix and massage them with your hands if necessary. sprinkle with up to 1 tablespoon sea salt. place in a baking dish in a preheated 375 degree fahrenheit oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until the potatoes are slightly wrinkly and collapsed. enjoy with lots of fresh organic butter. these are so rich and creamy they taste like dessert.

way number 2: peel and cube the sweet potatoes. place cubes in a medium mixing bowl, pour a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkle a teaspoon or two of sea salt. mix to coat. place in a baking dish in a 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until browned on the edges of the cubes. serve as is. adorable, and delicious.

Nov 22, 2010

bread stuffing with apples and dried cranberries simple thanksgiving part 2

so easy this stuffing. and nearly fool-proof. i love the mix of salty and sweet, moist and chewy in this simple savory, but slightly sweet, dressing.

2 large loaves of freshly baked bread, like baguettes, pain levain or something with a bit of tooth to it. cut into 1 inch cubes and set out to dry overnight.
3 very large onions, finely chopped
4 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 large bunch of flat leaf parsely, leaves only, chopped
1 cup finely chopped apple, a tart one such as granny smith or braeburn
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup olive oil
2 to 3 cups chicken stock (could easily substitute vegetable stock here for a vegan version)
salt and pepper to taste

cook the chopped onions and celery over medium high heat in the olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. add parsley and stir to combine. reserve. heat the chicken stock. now in a large mixing bowl, place the bread cubes. add in the onion/celery/olive oil mixture on top of the bread cubes. combine with your hands or a large wooden spoon. add in the heated chicken stock until pleasingly moist, but not at all soggy, stop before you get to that point. season to taste with salt and pepper. it should already be delicious already, but bake it anyway as your guests will insist on it.

place mixture in large, lightly oiled casserole dish. bake at 350 degrees farenheit for 45 minutes to an hour. cover with foil if it is starting to brown too too much. (this dish can take longer to cook if there are lots of other things in the oven at the same time as is often the case on stuffing holidays). it should only take 45 minutes if it is solo in the oven.

yum. my favorite part of the holiday meal. delicious with gravy, or on its own. also quite good with crown roast of pork or roasted cornish game hens.

Nov 18, 2010

a simple thanksgiving part 1

i like to keep things simple. and when you are a simple cook, as i am, the ingredients are not far out and the procedure is not too too complicated, but all the elements must come together with care and attention. the details and quality are that much more important when the food itself, is rather simple. i buy the highest quality organic ingredients i can. as long as they are not outrageously priced or terribly inconvenient to get to as i think it also matters how far you have to travel to pick up this or that element of your meal, and perhaps also how far it has to travel to get to you. for the next few days i am going to post my simple thanksgiving recipes, which we've been making for about a decade now. though it took us another decade to get everything just where we wanted it. cooking takes time and experimentation, but there is not much more to it than that.

cranberry orange sauce
serves 6*
1 bag fresh organic cranberries
1 large tangelo, or orange, membranes removed and chopped into large pieces
1/2 cup freshly squeezed tangelo or orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
a tiny pinch of salt
*this recipe is dead simple and can easily be doubled or tripled depending on your needs.

peel and chop the orange or tangelo, do try and save all the juice from this process and add it all to a medium saucepan with the orange pieces. add in the bag of fresh cranberries. and now the sugar. allow to come to a boil over high heat, then turn down to medium. cook for 5 minutes or so, the cranberries will begin to make a pleasing popping sound. this is fun. cook another 3 minutes or so as the cranberries collapse a bit. taste for sweetness. most recipes call for 1 - 2 cups of sugar, i try to get away with as little as i can, some cranberries are sweeter than others, so i find it is a bit different every year. when you get it just right, turn off the heat and allow to cool for 3 minutes. then pour into a serving dish and allow to cool the rest of the way. at this point the cranberry sauce can be chilled in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. but i like it best still warm. yum. not to sweet. so simple. and so delicious.

Nov 9, 2010

what have i been up to? mad science experiments

i finally did it! i finally got around to starting my own starter. or natural leavening for bread. with the help and handholding and guidance of peter reinhardt, renowned bread expert. i'm onto day five or so of the process. with a few more days and some luck i will be baking pain au levain with my own wild yeasts and bacteria.

why have this strange mixture bubbling on my countertop at room temperature all week? naturally leavened bread keeps longer, uses an overnight slow fermentation process and tastes better (the last one is just my opinion). will let you know how it goes. to make your own starter, the process is really quite simple. unbleached whole wheat flour and unsweetened pineapple juice and spring water. read more about it from the experts here and here. you can keep the starter forever in your refrigerator as long as you care for it, nurture it and refresh it regularly. in other words, frequent, long vacations are not conducive to healthy starter. but i am going to be around for a while, so here goes nothing. it is bubbling away on my counter right now. apparently one is more likely to be successful if one names the starter, as it is easier to remember to feed your starter with flour every few days if you name it fred or something. so the kids and i have been trying to come up with just the right name. so far we've considered: liz lemon, phineas, ferb, goku, vegita, thomas jefferson, flaubert, etc. if you have any great name suggestions, do let me know. by this time next week, fingers crossed, our first loaf. i wonder if the bread will take on the personality of it's namesake? time will tell.

i've been meaning to do this for about a year now and it seemed for the longest time as though i would never get around to it. but here i am, getting around to it. a great winter project i think. how about you? any seasonal projects on your to do list? i am still carrying around a half-finished knitting project from the 1990s, but who knows, maybe i'll get around to that to, one of these days.

Nov 4, 2010


hey it's a blogiversary. i nearly missed it. now cup and table is two. woo hoo!

amazing how fast the time goes when you add blogging into your weekly routine. it's been a great experience in so many ways. i am still so amazed and flabbergasted at the content and community of the blogging world, which honestly, is a resource we've only just begun to tap.

a very special, heartfelt thank you to all of you who make the time to visit cup and table. i love the conversation about food, vegetables, art, and photography, and reading your interesting comments and thoughts and suggestions. i love to hear what you think, i love to hear what is going on in your part of the world, and also what is going on in your kitchen. i also love meeting fellow bloggers through their blogs, i love going to your sites and seeing all your wonderful photographs and visuals and reading what you are up to. there are so many talented people out there. so many. it is all beautiful. grazie mille!

my family and i must have unknowingly celebrated this small milestone last weekend. it was exciting and special. first, we met maira kalman and alice waters at maira's book signing @ a chelsea gallery, which raised a bit of money for alice's edible schoolyard project. they are now building a garden/greenhouse/kitchen at a school in new york city, ps 216 in brooklyn, which is fantastic news. and they've already broken ground see here. it is so important to support local, sustainable, and organic agricultural knowledge. we cannot leave this important part of our culture entirely up to agribusiness. i think we can mostly agree that would not go so well in the future. i love to see that in the u.s. we seem to be devoting more of our attention to the art of growing and preparing food. eating healthier. enjoying our food more, rather than simply enjoying more food.

i'd also like to thank new york city for being so wonderful, so varied, and so inspiring. i've only been back on this coast for 4 years, but it continues to be great, so many amazing chefs doing such interesting work. on saturday alone, we stopped at pulinos for pizza, where mr. nate appleman himself was behind the counter, (on what appears to be his last weekend at the restaurant), we also stopped by the sweet life on the lower east side, for (yes you guessed it) sweets, then dinner at my favorite family restaurant in the entire world (a warm, authentic, japanese restaurant where they know our names) wajima. all wonderful. great food, family. a fitting celebration i think, seeing artists and chefs and women doing great work in the world, making a difference with their art, intelligence, their care and creativity. it is a sweet life when so many voices are contributing, i love it all.

Nov 2, 2010

taking care of things

we sure eat a lot of salad, see here, here, here, and here.

so, we have a few salad bowls. these maple bowls are my favorite ones of the bunch. i finally got around to oiling them the other day and boy were they happy about it! the bowls, sad from neglect, were looking kind of grey and dull and dry. i am happy to report they now they look fresh and new again. i'd seasoned them (oiled them with mineral oil or olive oil) quite a lot at first, and then forgot all about it. best to do this every month or two, rather than every year or two. lots to do when the seasons change. otherwise, we are going around getting the house, and us, ready for that cold, dark time ahead which i am not ready to name just yet. sweaters and coats and all manner of hats and scarves and mittens pulled from storage. putting away beachy things. turning off hose bibs and sprinkler systems. stocking up on firewood. sewing a few draft-chasing door snakes. making lip balm and body butter to keep our skin fresh and moist. otherwise taking care of things.

Oct 28, 2010

golden lentils with brown basmati, cucumber salad and yogurt

i am enjoying october very much. are you? are you having a good month? i hope so. i've been cooking up a storm of curry. indian, thai, it is all completely delicious. i love when i have the energy to cook a lot. which certainly isn't always. i am a big believer in microwave popcorn and an apple for dinner or pasta every night or takeout when energy levels are lagging. but, when energy and creativity are working together, i love to cook. and then we eat better and feel better and have more energy to cook, a virtuous circle, which is a nice change from all those vicious circles we are always finding ourselves in.

well props to martha for this recipe, recently featured in her magazine whole living, (formerly body and soul). so simple. so fast. so nutritious. so inexpensive. so amazingly tasty. my kids swear it is now their favorite meal. i have made this a few times and have tweaked the proportions and ingredients for our appetites and pantry holdings. you can see martha's version here. deliciousness! the contrasting textures and flavors make this an exciting dish that belies its simplicity.

golden lentils with brown basmati, cucumber salad and yogurt

for the rice
2 cups brown basmati rice, cooked according to package directions. i use a rice cooker for the brown basmati, i make two cups of dry rice, which makes a whole lot of cooked rice, maybe 5 cups. (fyi, i am still terribly in love with my neuro fuzzy zojirushi rice cooker, 15 years of constant use and still makes great rice).

2 cups chopped onion (i giant or 2 small)
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups golden lentils
6 cups of water or chicken stock
1 heaping teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 TBSP olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

cucumber salad
2 small cucumbers, chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, finely chopped
juice of 1 lime or lemon
1 TBSP yuzu or white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne pepper

to serve
1 1/2 cups plain organic yogurt
cilantro leaves for garnish

once the rice is going, saute the onions and garlic with the tumeric and cumin, at least 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. add in the lentils and the stock or water, bring to a boil and then cover and simmer until tender about 20 minutes, add more water if it gets too thick. now make the cucumber salad. stir all ingredients together. once the rice and lentils are done, serve in bowls, first place the rice, then the lentils over top, then the cucumber salad and yogurt, then the garnish. delicious, nutritious, frugal and simple. love it when everything comes together like that.

Oct 22, 2010

autumn winds

the wind is howling today. windy, sunny, cloudy, warm, cold, all of those.

Oct 19, 2010

beet pickles

pickling at home! you can do it too! (it is so easy.) great for lunches and snacking. and i promise, no fancy equipment or long hours of labor required.

i bought some crazy beets at the farmer's market recently, they were kind of radish-colored. more deep fuchsia than dark burgundy like they usually are, i had no idea what they would look like inside but they looked fresh and amazing, so home they went with me. the amazing crazy stripes were a wonderful surprise. i really loved them visually, and completely.

but then i am one of those people who loves beets. love the mineral-y dense sweet taste of beets, most any way at all. i usually slow roast them in a 300 degree F oven as per thomas keller and alice waters instructions, with a little water and/or olive oil and a pinch of salt in a tightly covered small dish. once tender (an hour or two depending on size) peel them while still warm, then slice and splash a little apple cider vinegar over them and serve with roast pork tenderloin, or make them into borscht, or save for a salad or later munching. but the weather was marvelous, and the day i made these and called for something light and crisp, a fresh fall taste. enter beet pickles. they cured up so quickly, in just 4 to 6 hours. wonderful. these are based on david chang's vinegar pickle master recipe from his momofuku cookbook, with a small change or two. i did not have 2 pounds of beets so i made half beets and half carrots. and i never have rice wine vinegar on hand so i used half rice vinegar and half white wine vinegar. i really love these quick pickles, so great for snacking, packed lunches and of course with david chang's pork buns, which we also made that day for a large lunch with friends.

beet pickles
3 to 4 medium sized beets, peeled and thinly sliced into half moon shapes
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
6 T sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt

(note this makes more pickling brine than you need so i made a pound of carrot pickles at the same time. peel, halve and then quarter the carrots into strips). naturally you could double the amount of beets, but that's a lot of beet pickles, even for me.

place cut and trimmed vegetables into a clean glass container (non reactive), pour liquid over the vegetables. cover and allow to cool. after cooled, refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours and a maximum of a week. they will be, of course, lightly pickled at first, which is nice, or more intensely pickled after several days, but will stay crisp and delicious for a week. i have often heard that these quick pickled vegetables retain most of their vitamins and fiber, more so than other preparation methods. try it!

this same recipe will work for cauliflower. many other vegetables and even fruits lend themselves quite well to pickling. some require different recipes and handling than these, based on density and texture. stay tuned for more on my pickling adventures in future posts. once you get started, it is hard to stop.

Oct 18, 2010

beautiful fall days

october is such a gorgeous month, no matter where you live. it's been beautiful here lately, but i've been busy, too busy. i shot these just this morning (from the deck off the kitchen). which reminds me (i often need reminding), beauty is all around, we just need to slow down and look around a bit to notice. xo, g

Oct 8, 2010

squash, beautiful squash

it's finally the weekend. what a long strange week it has been. productive, but so very long. maybe it's because i am so excited for the weekend: an extra day off for columbus day, great friends coming over, a trip to the city for some culture, gardening, meals out /meals in. weather prediction: gorgeous. also, i'll be roasting up these beautiful organic acorn squash fresh from the farmer's market. although they are so visually stunning i hate to cut into them. (i'll get over it). have a great weekend everybody! xo, g

Oct 5, 2010

farro ristotto

i have a new favorite food: farro risotto. have you tried it yet? farro is one of those foods just now entering our group consciousness, recently becoming a favorite of chefs for it's ease of use and high nutrition content when compared to other grains. it is not new to italians, who have been using it for centuries, though it fell out of favor for a while. it has been available in health food stores for quite some time but is now, happily, gaining wider popularity. you can read more about farro here.

farro risotto, of course, is not really "risotto" but an adaptation. i am here to tell you, it is just as delicious, if not more so. farro has a wonderfully chewy texture that makes a great dish with creamy cheese and delicately crunchy vegetables as delicious counterpoints to all that comforting creaminess and chewiness. high in protein, vitamins and fibre, and completely delicious. farro, you are amazing.

farro risotto with zucchini, snap peas, and leek
2 cups farro
3 cups water
1 large onion, chopped
2 TBSP organic extra virgin olive oil, plus more to saute green vegetables
1 cup snap peas, de-stringed
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 leek, sliced and finely chopped
1 quart plus 2 cups organic chicken stock
1/3 cup marscapone cheese
1/4 cup parmegiano reggiano cheese, freshly grated, to serve
salt and pepper to taste

first, soak the farro in three cups of water for 15 minutes. meanwhile, chop the onion, zucchini, and leek and de-string the snap peas.

in a large open saucepan, saute the onion in the olive oil. cook over moderate heat for 4 minutes, until softened. drain the farro and add to the onions. stir and cook for 2 minutes until combined. start to add in the stock, a cup at a time, stirring until it is absorbed. i find with farro, it doesn't absorb much for 15 minutes or so, and then becomes quite "thirsty" for stock, as it does, it becomes quite creamy, then you know you are getting close. taste to test for doneness.

set a medium pan of salted boiling water on the stove. blanch the snap peas for 3 minutes until tender yet still crisp. drain and reserve. discard all but half a cup of the water. add in a tablespoon of olive oil and bring to a boil, add in the zucchini and cook for 4 minutes until softened but still bright green and not at all soggy. drain and reserve. now saute the chopped leek in a little olive oil until tender, 2 -3 minutes.

when the farro becomes creamy and tender, swirl in the 1/2 cup of mascarpone cheese, add the cooked leeks, zucchini, and snap peas. season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with the freshly grated parmigiano.

so creamy and delicious, you won't believe it. kids and adults all asked for seconds at our house.

i first tasted something like this at northern spy, a great little place in the east village, i really recommend for local sustainable deliciousness.

Oct 4, 2010

henri matisse, radical invention @ moma

saw the matisse exhibit at MOMA this rainy new york monday. fantastic. it was so great to see pieces from Centre Pompidou, Art Institute of Chicago, MOMA, Detroit, as well as private collections, all together. it was a compelling grouping on many levels, and i saw several pieces i had not seen up close before. the exhibit focuses on just four years from 1913 - 1917, after matisse returned from morocco, and before he left for nice, and also during the start of WWI. great concept and great execution from the curators. it is only open for 1 more week and i may just go again. the painting above, bathers by a river, is an interesting study of matisse's process and revisions over several years. he worked on the painting off and on for 8 or 9 years, altering pretty dramatically before it was final. for those of you who can't run out to see the show, i recommend the art institute of chicago website about the exhibition. inspiring and gorgeous artwork always makes me feel better, especially on a very rainy monday.

Sep 27, 2010

rustic apple yogurt cake

apple season!!!!!! i just love apple season.

i grew up in the midwest not far from some wonderful farms that had incredible farm markets in the summers. the kind of voluptuous farm markets that dependably unloaded large open trucks of fresh sweet corn every few hours, direct from field to pot, everyone we know bought corn nearly every day in the summer. why eat day old corn when you can eat corn that was picked a few hours ago? there was also an amazing apple orchard with freshly made, unpasteurized cider, and great varieties of apples: early, late, tart, sour, sweet, crisp. the orchard was remote, but always busy and bustling. wonderful.

now that the farmer's markets around here are overflowing with apples, i find myself eating a couple of apples a day (namely jonathans, empires, macouns and macintosh, these are my favorites, the tart eating varieties). amazingly, i still have some apples left for cooking and baking. because apples are completely irresistible to me and, i buy them, not by the bushel, but almost. i really loved going to that apple orchard as a child. so crunchy and sweet/tart these farm fresh apples. we make do, of course, as we must, in late winter when the apples are no longer farm fresh. luckily, all kind of apples are still available and good for baking at that time. this year, i was thinking i wanted to try an apple yogurt cake, since they are perfect for breakfast in a hurry or an after school snack and this cake will keep well for days.

after perusing a lot of recipes, this is what i came up with, it was delicious.

rustic apple yogurt cake

3 cups chopped apples, i use organic granny smith
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups organic all purpose flour (i always use king arthur flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
optional: 2 TBSP brandy instead of the vanilla

preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit

first, chop the apples, i like to make it rustic and leave the peel on. if you have someone who is averse to large apple pieces you could certainly peel and grate the apples instead). pour 1 cup sugar over the shopped apples and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes, this step pulls a lot of the juice out of the apples and flavors the sugar.

next mix 4 eggs with 1 cup yogurt and the vanilla or brandy if using. add in the olive oil. in a separate container, mix the dry ingredients. now, mix the apple mixture with the yogurt/egg mixture. lightly mix the dry ingredients into this, mixing till combined while also mixing as little as possible,. it may look like a lumpy, ghastly mess at this point. that is okay. it turns out delicious. it is not necessary to get the lumps out.

bake in a 9 inch spring form pan that is generously buttered and floured, or since i didn't have that i used a 9 inch insulated cake pan lined with parchment. you could also use a 9 inch rectangular baking pan lined with parchment. i prefer to use parchment in that it doesn't add any butter or flour to the recipe, and this recipe is pretty healthy and not very sweet. no butter, just yogurt and olive oil.

bake in your preheated 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes. allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. a casual, yummy apple yogurt cake for snacks and breakfast. for dessert you could serve it dusted with powdered sugar and with some sweetened whipped cream with brandy. yum. this is a super moist cake that keeps very well. yay, apple season!

Sep 24, 2010

cool blue breakfast

hello autumn. so far you are really hot and humid. steamy even. thickly overcast.

for a gentle start to the day, this could only mean something cool and blue and refreshing for breakfast. one needs sustenance and comfort on a day like today. so a bit of yogurt with a few ripe juicy figs, the last of the mount hood cherries, a few northern blueberries and a couple of freshly toasted pistachios for crunch and color. several cups of iced japanese green tea. it's been a long week and change is definitely in the air. have a great weekend everyone, you all certainly deserve it! xo, g

Sep 21, 2010

fresh fish tacos, revisited

okay, these tacos are fantastic and easy and delicious and healthful. they are also completely inspired by the tuna tacos we ate with great frequency at faith's seafood shack on martha's vineyard this summer. they are so good and so easy, it should be some kind of crime. i feel a little felonious every time i eat these, like i am getting away with something slightly illegal. great food should be more trouble than this, right? a disparaging amount of sweat and toil are supposed to be required to achieve such fantastic results. well, that's what i'd always thought, until these marvelous tacos came into my life.

miraculously, the recipe can be altered to serve anywhere from 1 to 50 people pretty easily. a great meal to indulge in by yourself, or with your husband while your children are otherwise occupied for dinner at any number of sports, parties, dances, sleepovers etc. the kids love them as much as we do, but why waste such great food on them? (mostly kidding, of course) my children are completely pampered and indulged, they are also hard-working students and emerging foodies who adore and insist on great food, and are charming in every way. and yet, parents deserve some perks. so go ahead, indulge yourself. this recipe is completely adaptable, add avocados as i've done here, queso fresco or any number of other elements, it is entirely up to you.

one more great aspect of these tacos is no fried fish, (as is often the case in my favorite fish tacos in hawaii and southern california). here, the fish is sauteed or grilled, with no loss in complexity or flavor. which means, no fried food guilt and no messy fish frying, this really puts them over the top in my book.

fresh tuna* tacos with lime cilantro creme fraiche
serves 4
1lb tuna steak, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, washed and dried, stems removed
3 TBSP olive oil
juice of 1 lime
pinch of cumin
stir to coat the fish
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
8 soft tortillas, only 8 if they are thick, (16 if they are thin and you need to double up)

lime cilantro creme fraiche
1 cup creme fraiche or kefir cheese or sour cream
juice of one lime
pinch of cumin (adjust to taste)
pinch of chile powder
1 TBSP minced cilantro

1 sliced avocado
1/2 cup fresh sweet corn, off the cob
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco

first, marinate the fish in lime a little lime juice, salt, cilantro and chile powder or cumin and olive oil in a non reactive glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowl. just for a few minutes while you get everything else ready. second, slice your cabbage ultra fine. use a mandoline if you like. i like to do it by hand, its a zen thing. anyone can do it, but you need the right frame of mind to concentrate on it to shave it super thin. you also need a super sharp knife that has a nice wide blade, one you are comfortable using. great knife skills practice. next, mix the creme fraiche with the lime juice, and cumin, chile powder and minced cilantro. place this in a small serving bowl. then slice and avocado or crumble the queso fresco, if using.

now set to work on warming the tortillas. to save time, i often wrap them in foil and place in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes. but to get a better result i heat them individually in small pan on the stove, heating them on high until they puff up a bit, then turning. this is a great job for a kitchen helper while you are busy with the fish. keep them warm by covering with a clean dry kitchen towel as you heat the rest, it really works.

now, when everything else is ready and the tortillas are halfway there. heat a medium teflon skillet on high and sear the tuna on two sides, this only takes 2 to 3 minutes at most. they brown up beautifully very quickly. they might be a little pink inside, that is what we want. don't overcook or the tuna loses a great deal of its charm. bring everything to the table and ready, set, assemble. just the way you like it. serve with some fresh sweet corn or some beans and rice on the side.

*always try to find sustainable fish sources. there are limited options for sustainable fresh tuna steaks, but they do exist, and as farming tuna becomes possible through advances in technique, we may not have to give up this delicious fish after all. i buy my tuna only from whole foods at this point. swordfish would also work well in this dish.