Saturday, July 18, 2015

Carrot Ice Cream With Salted Caramel

Nothing beats a really good carrot. They are just so tasty! Sweet, simple, crunchy, aromatic and awesome! Carrots and I had a moment a few weekends ago when I got some really tasty ones in my CSA box from South Central Farmers Cooperative. They were just so good and I just got so inspired. I think we tend to dismiss carrots as a whole, as they are very common and we have been eating them since we were wee babes. Carrots have a lot of potential and should not be overlooked!

Imagine tasting a carrot for the first time....I am pretty sure it would blow your mind.

Before I get started about ice cream, here is a bit about carrots. I have also included links to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds if you are interested in growing these awesome things!

Carrots are pretty much always in season, and are easy to grow. They are high in fiber and antioxidants and good for digestive, dental, eye and heart health. They come in all sorts of crazy colors and shapes. Carrots were domesticated from the wild carrot Daucus Carota that is native to Europe and Southwest Asia. The wild carrot is not very palatable (quite bitter) and is woody. It's naturally occurring subspecies, Sativus, was selectively bread to be the carrot we know today. The domesticated carrot originated in Persia (Afghanistan and Iran) around 1,100 years ago and they were yellow and purple, not the orange color commonly associated.

Yellow carrots like the Amarillo Carrot, Jaune Obtuse du Doubs and the Lobbericher Yellow  are high in lutein and xanthophyll, which are good for eye health, helping to prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Studies have also shown that they are very helpful in preventing cardiovascular disease as well.

Purple carrots like the Cosmic Purple,  Pusa Atica Black Carrot and the Spanish Black Carrot contain the highest amount of the antioxidant anthocyanin and vitamin A (specifically the black carrots), which, along with these carrot's anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties, can be useful in treating cancers and Alzheimer's, as well as also being good for digestive, colon, and heart health.

As carrot cultivation spread from Afghanistan, red and purple became popular in Asia.

Red carrots like the Atomic Red are super high in lycopene which is an antioxidant that also gives tomatoes and watermelon their red color. It has also been linked to help prevent cancer and is good for heart health like it's purple and yellow sisters.

Yellow, orange and white carrots took over Europe, and then made their way to America where the orange varietals are the most popular, having been brought over by european settlers to colonial America in the 17th century.

White carrots like the Lunar White and the Snow White have all the same benefits as the others in regards to fiber.

The orange carrot is the most popular today, and was developed in the Netherlands in the 17th century. They are exceptionally high in betacarotene that the body metabolizes into vitamin A which helps vision health, as well as helping white blood cells fight infection. Some orange carrot varietals are the Oxheart, Parisienne, Nantes, Muscade, Kuroda.......and any more.

And last of but not least, don't forget carrot tops! They are not poisonous, contrary to popular belief! They are very high in vitamin K which is good for bone health, and very high in potassium which can help prevent Osteoporosis and lower blood pressure.  Add to salads, make pesto! Carrot top pesto is amazing. Sometime I will post about it. Believe it or not, carrots were originally grown for their aromatic tops before being cultivated as a root vegetable. Some of it's close relatives are still grown for their foliage and seeds, such as parsley, fennel, dill and cumin. They do all smell a bit similar, do they not? You can definitely tell they are related, I think.

And.....finally, carrot seed oil, extracted from the wild carrot I mentioned earlier and and Queen Anne's Lace, has been used to treat exhaustion and stress. It also has a detoxifying effect on the liver, and digestive system and is highly valued in the skincare industry. It is used in skin creams to nourish, tighten, revitalize and rejuvenate the skin, while improving skin tone and elasticity. Some even claim it slows the progression of visible wrinkles!

Well, you probably didn't expect to learn so much about carrots here. You are here for the ice cream, right? Because ice cream. Ice cream is one of the greatest inventions of mankind!

So, I did some research and ultimately ended up referencing Thomas Keller's red beet ice cream recipe to make this. I wanted the carrot flavor to be preserved and to be as fresh as possible. I added a caramel swirl (hard to tell in the picture because it's light in color) because I thought the awesome burnt sugar and fatty rich awesomeness would be a nice compliment to a fantastic carrot flavor.

So here we go! No pictures of the process. Ice cream making pictures are not the most interesting things to look at. I didn't time this so I don't know how long it will take. I just got too excited and went for it. You do need to chill things over night up to 24 hours, this is not a make it in the evening eat it in the same evening type of's worth the wait though I promise!

Carrot Ice Cream With Salted Caramel

Carrot Ice Cream

2.5 - 3 pounds of carrots. Orange ones will be the sweetest.
2 cups of heavy cream
2 cups of milk
3/4 cup of sugar (or less...up to you)
8 egg yolks
>>>>A juicer. Or a blender. Or a food processor.

Salted Caramel
Note: This recipe makes A LOT more than you need but in my experience it is easier to make a larger amount than a smaller amount....but it's up to you. You can scale this back if you like, or....just have lots of extra homemade caramel to do what you wish with!

2 cups of white sugar
12 tbsp butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp salt. (You choose type....I used french grey because why not)

Make the ice cream:
Juice your carrots and reserve the pulp. If you don't have a juicer (like me), blend in a blender or food processor (I don't have these things right now either....I borrowed my co-worker's masticating juicer for this process) with enough water to allow them to blend, and strain. Reserve the juice and set aside for now.

in a saucepan, combine the cream, milk and enough of the reserved carrot pulp to make a thick, but still liquidous mixture. I messed up and added ALL MY PULP and ended up with a mass of carrot cellulose pulp that soaked up all my liquid and defeated it's purpose. I had to strain it out and adjust my pulp amount to liquid amount. Bring to a simmer, cover, remove from heat and let it steep for about a half hour.

While steeping, whisk your egg yolks and half of the sugar in a bowl until the mixture lightens a bit and thickens.

Strain your carrot cream mixture (I use my thai tea sock because it's really useful for these types of things) and reserve 3 cups of liquid. Save the rest for whatever you want. I made popsicles with it in my Zoku.  Bring this liquid back up to a simmer and add the other half of your sugar. Slowly whisk a third of the carrot cream into your egg yolks to temper them, and then return to the saucepan and heat until it turns into a custard and coats the back of a wooden spoon (or nicely coats a wooden chopstick, in my case). Pour into a bowl and set into an ice water bath to cool it as quickly as possible so it doesn't continue to cook and thicken. Once cool, put in the freezer over night for the creamiest texture, but a couple hours would be fine as long as it is frozen through if you are Mr. Impatient or Missus Alwus-Inahurry.

Make the caramel:
Bring your 1 cup of cream to a simmer and add your salt and whisk to dissolve.

Put your 2 cups of sugar in a saucepan with 2 tbsp of water. Cook over medium heat, whisking once it starts to melt and as it clumps up until it is completely melted. Keep cooking it until it is a dark amber color (around 350 degrees). Add all of your butter and whisk until butter melts, and then remove from heat and slowly stir in your salty cream mixture until a smooth sauce forms. Once cool enough, move to a container and cool completely in the fridge.

Bring it all together:
Before you are ready to churn, reduce your reserved carrot juice in a small saucepan, skim as necessary, down to 1/4-1/2 cup and strain it out. Cool completely and mix it into your carrot custard before adding to your ice cream maker. Follow your ice cream maker's instructions, and right before you turn it off, add a couple tablespoons of caramel sauce into the mixer. Layer the mixture and more caramel, stirring slightly to swirl and get that ribbon-y effect, into a freezer safe container and freeze overnight. You don't have to add the caramel to the ice cream if you don't want to, you can simply serve this ice cream with it if you want more control.

Viola! What a perfect way to celebrate the carrot.
Carrot Ice Cream with Salted Caramel

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A New Meaning of the Term: "Holiday Cookie."

First of all,  please accept my most sincerest of apologies. I realize my last post was in August! Turns out I am not too great at sticking to a schedule! Although, I have been trying to take lots of pictures. I have many posts planned, but now need to actually execute them!

I made these cookies as "holiday cookies" but that is not to say they can't be enjoyed at any time!

So now, I introduce you to:

White Fir Sugar Cookies!

White Fir Sugar Cookies
Did you know that most varieties of pine are edible? They have a refreshing lemon-like flavor and scent, and are high in vitamin C; therefore traditionally brewed as a tisane for it's health benefits.
White fir (abies concolor) is a species native in the mountains here in LA. It also contains the following compounds:

Terpinolene: has shown anti-tumor activity, this is a form of a terpine.
Myrcene: astringent, antiviral, and anti-microbial activity
Limonene: evaluated in trials for use as a cancer chemotherapeutic agent.
Gallic acid: a tannin that has shown anti-tumor activity

You probably recognize white fir from it's most popular modern use - you guessed it - christmas trees!

My good friend and mentor, Mia, was the creative genius that conjured up the idea of mixing pulverized white fir needles (foraged by her and Pascal!) and powdered sugar, and therefor creating "white fir sugar," and man is this stuff amazing!! I first encountered this flavor in a semifreddo we had for an event. It also had peruvian balsam in it, and it was divine, quite unlike anything I have ever tasted before! And most recently, we made and covered little doughnuts with this sugar and then added whipped cream and elderberry syrup. Amazing. Now my mouth is watering! Mia, you are my hero!

Mia was awesome enough to gift me a jar of the stuff!! Thank you so much! While trying to think of how I should use it, I decided dusting sugar cookies with them was perfect: especially for the holidays. Most people that tried them loved them (except for my boyfriend's dad, that's okay! ;) ) even people at work who surely thought I was out of my mind when I offered them: "You mean to tell me, you made cookies out of christmas trees..." well, yes I did! Try one! You don't have to like it and eat it if you don't want to! I greatly enjoy introducing people to out-of-the-box (no I don't mean boxed food, but rather, the way of thinking!) eating and flavors. There are so many possibilities out there!

My favorite sugar cookie recipe I can't take credit for. It belongs to Emily Slocum. We went to high school together and were in the same french class, and she was quite the baker and brought these in. They are soft, pillowy almost shortbready, and not too sweet. They are my favorite sugar cookie recipe by far. I introduced the White fir flavor by dipping each cookie into the sugar and agitating to coat, fresh out of the oven. Wonderfully effective!

I know I usually post pictures of ingredients beforehand...but I think you all know what goes into cookies. Nothing super special.

White Fir Sugar Cookies
Active time: 20 minutes
oven time: 8 minutes per batch
Oven Preheat: 400°

4 cups  of flour
1.5 cups of white sugar
2.5 sticks of butter
4 eggs
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
.5 tsp salt

White fir sugar (put fresh white fir needles and powdered sugar in a blender and pulverize.....for more info there are many articles about infused sugars on the interwebs online edition)

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, mix well. Add vanilla. In a separate bowl sift and mix the dry ingredients. Gradually add  the dry ingredients to the wet to avoid clumping.

I like to dump out onto a floured surface and cut into 4 equal parts. I put 3 in the  fridge so they can stay firm for rolling while I am working with one batch.

Roll out to any thickness you would like (I like between 1/4" and 1/2" thickness) and cut into any shape you desire, but make sure you adjust your cooking time accordingly. Thinner cookies will cook quicker.

Put in the oven for 8 minutes. Keep an eye on them, though. Once they start to be golden around the edges they are usually done.

Put your infused sugar into a bowl or other shallow dish that can accommodate the size of your cookie.

As soon as your cookies are cool enough to handle, which doesn't take long, grab them, place them lightly (top side down) into the sugar, and agitate to coat that surface. The reason to do this while they are still war, is because there is still moisture escaping them, and it helps the sugar stick. Yes, you could also use a shaker and shake the sugar over the cookies, but I was trying to waste as little of my precious bounty as possible!

Lightly place the sugar cookie into the sugar.

The result after a little agitation!

There you have it! White fir sugar cookies! You could modify this concept with any type of infused sugar you can think of. The possibilities really are endless!
White fir sugar cookies!!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mussels and Beer

I've been feeling especially homesick lately. The life I left behind in Maine when I left for college was a simple one. Summers were filled with good friends; there were amazing (but rocky) beaches almost around every corner, pan dances,  Blue Hill Mountain, endless BBQs, The Blue Hill Fair...and last but not least, seafood.
Curtis Cove, East Blue Hill, Maine. 

Curtis Cove, East Blue Hill, Maine.
I grew up going down to Newbury Neck beach with my mom at low tide to pick mussels from the rocks, buried under all the seaweed. As soon as I could walk, I would go with her.  This also happened to be around the same age I decided bathing suits were for chumps, and in my discomfort would immediately take mine off once we got to the beach, much to the horror of my father: 

"Susan!! She's not wearing her bathing suit!!!" 
My mom 's reply :  "So?? She's 3!!"

We never paid for mussels, ever. Why pay for them when you could just pick them yourselves??  We never had to worry about pollution, or red tide or any of that stuff. It was like an easter egg hunt to me, but for FOOD. Finding a nice patch of decently sized mussels? The best thing ever!

"Mama!!! MAMAA come look!!" I would yell, scrambling over the rocks in my bare feet (And lack of bathing suit) trying not to fall from sliding around on the seaweed, or cut my feet on barnacles.
Underneath Perry's Pier, Newbury Neck Beach, Surry, Maine. 

The only downside of picking them right off the beach was that they might be a bit gritty. Sometimes our family friend Perry would let us hang some in a crate off the side of his dock, and we would come back and get them the next day. Purging them gets rid of the all the grit. You still have to be careful and watch out for tiny mussel seed pearls's a miracle I never broke my teeth on them!!

So, we would take them home in a 5 gallon bucket topped with seaweed to keep them moist and cool. My mom mixed it up a lot, but it was not uncommon that they would be steamed in garlic, onion, white wine, and parsley. We would eat them by themselves dipped in lots of butter, sprinkled with lemon, and maybe over pasta. Sometimes with cream...sometimes not.

But one thing's for sure...they were always delicious and I have very fond memories of growing up eating them.

Here is my take on steamed mussels. I steamed them with beer ( I used Newcastle brown), onions, garlic and chile flakes. I finished with a touch of parsley,  salt and pepper,  and a bit of half and half. Oh! And perhaps the most unconventional: I cooked the garlic and onions in some sweet white clover butter I had stored in the freezer that I had leftover from my previous post last weekend. The clover lent a sweetness and herbaliness reminiscent of tarragon. I suppose you could try that instead, and just toss a little bit of chopped fresh tarragon in towards the end. 

I served with some baguette I had toasted, drizzled olive oil on and rubbed tomato all over.
I do not have pictures of prep...but here is an ingredients list. I did not measure...I am sorry! Measurements are approximate.

Mussels Steamed In Beer With Sweet White Clover
Serves 4 as an app, 2 for dinner.

1 1/2 pounds of fresh mussels. I will never trust frozen. 
1 bottle (12oz) of beer, your choice. 
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 TBSP sweet white clover  butter (or, just unsalted butter)
1 to 2 TBSP of freshly chopped parsley
Chile flakes to taste
A splash of half&half

GO THROUGH YOUR MUSSELS. Especially buying them at the store. If you live close to the beach, check and make sure it is safe to gather them, and see if you need a special permit. For all I know....we were picking illegally  all my life...haha. It's a good thing to check in this day and age. 
But seriously. Scrub all of your mussels. If any are open, or slightly open, and with a little prod do not close, TOSS. They are dead. You can remove the beard if you like. I never had a good method for doing so and would just pinch them off after cooking. If any mussels do not open while cooking, TOSS.
Nicely steaming and bubbling along!

Heat up the oil in a deepish pan. Sautée garlic and onions with S+P until soft. Add chile flakes, and taste. Once onions are soft, add a bottle of beer and all of your mussels, and cover. Once all mussels are open, add fresh parsley, sweet white clover butter (or tarragon, or what have you) and half&half, and stir to combine and heat through. Serve. Do not overcook the mussels, they can become tough. 

Enjoy with some toasted crusty bread! You better not waste any of the juices! 
Mussels steamed in beer and sweet white clover.

Thanks for reading!

On the way to Newbury Neck, Surry, Maine.

**Please, do not steal my pictures! The site I use to watermark them with is down. As soon as it is back up I will replace with watermarked photos. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wild Things and Giant Artichokes, Because Why Not?

Wow, it's been a few weeks, I'm sorry! Lots of things have been going on. I had a couple posts planned...and I accidentally just deleted all the pictures off my phone. Oh well....

But here's a little bit of what I have been up to.

First of all: GIANT artichokes. I ended up steaming them and making a basil(I grew it from seed!!) butter to dip the leaves in. Would you believe I had found these at Ralph's??
Artichokes as big as my head!!
2nd of all: A good friend of ours is in town and I decided to host a dinner for 6 people at our place last night. The original plan was to grill (burgers and things, I think everyone was thinking) but I got super excited and inspired (it's all my friend Mia's fault!!) and put together a pretty crazy menu....well, crazy for us and WAY above and beyond just "grillthing".

I wanted to do 3 small plates, a charcuterie plate, and a main dish with 2 sides, and a dessert. This was the most difficult food

And so the menu:

Small Plate 1:
Nettle leaves stuffed with fresh homemade fresh goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, and sauteed lambsquarter flowers and seeds, topped with a black mustard flower.

Small plate 2: 
Quail eggs marinated in smoked black tea, soy and spices on a pita cracker with nettle pesto and crispy pancetta.

Small plate 3:
Heirloom caprese wrapped in ribbons of summer squash.

Charcuterie plate: I did not put this together, and didn't get a chance to eat much of it, but it looked pretty great!

Chicken Kabab marinated in lemon, yogurt and wild California spice mix
Lamb Kabab marinated in spices (marinated by our friend)
both grilled, served on a bed of french green lentils, a side of baby potatoes roasted with sweet white clover,  and a side salad of watercress with roasted parsnips tossed in a simple red wine vinaigrette. 

Pink peppercorn panna cotta with homemade elderberry syrup, and candied toasted California buckwheat flowers. 

I don't have recipes or pictures of prep as I was wayy too busy. I went to Whole Foods before work on friday, and when I got home from work I got straight into prepping until the wee hours. I then woke up early and ventured out in to the wilderness to obtain stinging nettles, lambsquarter flowers/seeds, mustard flowers, sweet white clover, various sages and mugwort. Then went home and continued prepping until people showed up...

Here are some pictures of the final products!
Stinging nettle leaves stuffed with fresh homemade goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, and lambsquarter flowers and seeds, topped with a black mustard flower. 

Heirloom cherry tomato caprese wrapped in summer squash ribbons with fresh basil from my garden (I started it from seed!) with an olive oil drizzle and S+P.
Cracker topped with nettle and red skinned walnut pesto, quail eggs marinated in smoked tea, soy and spices with crispy pancetta.
All of the appetizers together! Top to bottom, left to right....wild foraged olives marinated in orange,  nettle pesto and quail crackers, charcuterie and cheese plate with rosemary marcona almonds, mustards and fig jam, stuffed nettle leaves, squash wrapped heirloom caprese.
Main dish: chicken kababs marinated in lemon, yogurt and wild spices, lamb kababs, baby potatoes roasted with butter and sweet white clover,  watercress and roasted parsnip salad with a simple red wine vinaigrette. The kababs are on a bed of french green lentils. 

And let's not forget dessert! Pink peppercorn panna cotta with homemade elderberry syrup and toasted candied buckwheat flowers:

That is all for now. I have lot's of posts planned...I just need to actually write them up!! Thank you for your patience. Thank you Mia and Pascal for your inspiration.  

And as always, enjoy! 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Be Careful What You Put In Your Spice Grinder....

I had originally intended this to be my first post. WHOOPS. Better late than never, right?

As I have eluded to in the past, I love to cook things from different cultures. Give me a recipe from anywhere in the world, and I will try to make it! I'm serious. 

I love Indian food, but didn't really appreciate it until I got to college. The only Indian food place I had been exposed to growing up was a very small spot in Bangor, Maine. It was far enough away that I probably went only 3 times in my life. 

Once I got to college, Boston opened my eyes to many things, including Indian food. But as I delved deeper I realized the limitations of what I knew. One of my boyfriend's best friends' (who I am now close to as well) family is from Tamil Nadu, a state in South India. It is ultimately because of him that my palate was educated further into the wonders of Indian Cuisine. I was exposed to things other than chicken tikka masala and naan. Naan is not generally served in South India (there is a plethora of other breads), and chicken tikka masala is actually not an Indian dish! It was born in England! Wow. 

Anyways, it is from our friend that I learned that regular chai (not masala chai) is not to be spiced, and is really just strong black tea with milk and lots of sugar. Chai literally just means "tea." I learned the importance of yogurt and pickles. It is because of him I now know that idli and vadai and dosai exist. These are all amazing things. 

When I lived in Berkeley California, I had access to some of the best and most affordable Indian food ever. Naan N' Curry and House of Curries have been some of the best North Indian style restaurants I have ever been too. This style of restaurant doesn't exist in LA...affordable and of quality. You order at a counter, are given a number to bring to your table, grab your own silverware and plates and cups, and a pitcher of water if you want. And chai is always FREE with a meal. I have not seen that in LA!

Upon the recommendation of our friend, Berkeley was also the first place I tried South Indian food, at Vik's Chaat Corner. Cafeteria style (almost) and amazing! It was there that I experienced Chana Bhatura for the first time (big, puffy, wholewheat bread that you break into pieces to scoop up the chana masala). I also lived around the corner from a great little dosa spot called Udupi Palace on University Avenue. Berkeley was a really great town for Indian food.

And here in LA, we have Paru's on Sunset. Absolute heaven. 

Another thing about the South Indian cuisine I've tried: It's mostly vegetarian. Of course, there's ghee, paneer, and yogurt. Gotta love those dairy fats.

One of my favorite Indian dishes, either in the northern or southern style, is chana masala, or chole. It's really just amazing. The North Indian style gets it's character from onions, tomatoes, spices and dry mango powder. Garam masala may also be added. The North Indian style is a bit "sour and tangy". The South Indian version gets it's character mainly from coconut and whole spices and is a bit sweeter, it does not have the "sour and tangy" quality that it's sibling does.

So I decided to make it. And I wanted to make it RIGHT. South Indian style is the one I prefer.

So, one trip to India Sweets and Spices later, I came home with all of this:
Left to right, top to bottom: Asofetida, tomatoes, chickpeas, onion, ghee, indian bay leaf, black mustard seeds, curry leaves, green chili, turmeric (powdered and fresh), garlic, ginger, cilantro, dried unsweetened coconut, spice mixture (chili, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, cumin, coriander, cloves.)
And then I got started. The recipe I was trying to follow was based off of this one.

First thing was first, I laid out all of my ingredients (see above.)
I love the way these spices look!!
The first step here, is to prepare your chickpeas. I would have liked to have started with dry ones, but I didn't plan enough ahead, and just used canned ones instead (I used 2 cans). I highly recommend you use dry. Soak 1 cup of them overnight or for about 8 hours. Since I used canned ones, I just drained and rinsed them and set aside. If you are using dry, the recipe wants you to pressure cook them after soaking. I don't have a pressure cooker, I probably would have just cooked them until al dente, and set aside. 

Next, you get together your batch of "roasting spices" (also referred to as "roasting masala"). Dry roasting brings out the flavors of the spices in a big way that really makes a difference in the final dish. If you have a chutney grinder, which is a dry/wet grinder that this recipe called for, dry roast the spices and coconut together, add some water, and grind it into a fine paste in said grinder. I had heard of this before because it's also used to grind lentils and rice to make idli and dosas, etc. I don't have one of these, unfortunately!

In a dry pan (I used our trusty Lodge dutch oven), add 1 inch of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1 tbsp of coriander seeds (I only had ground), 1-2 red chilis (or more), 2-3 cloves, 2-3 green cardamom pods. It also called for black cardamom, but I did not have any luck finding that at the market. Dry roast all of these together until fragrant. 
Dry roasting the spices. 

Then, add 3/4 to 1 cup of grated coconut. The recipe called for fresh, but I just used unsweetened dry. I added a little more coconut to account for not using it fresh. I did not measure the amount that I added, though, sorry!
Add the coconut to your masala mix. 
Roast the coconut with the spices until the coconut is browned. Make sure to keep stirring the mixture so that it doesn't burn. Once the coconut is browned, take the mixture off the heat to cool. Once cooled, put it through a spice grinder.  

In my case, I used a coffee grinder that we got specifically to grind spices. And...I broke it. The piece of cinnamon I used was WAY too hard, and it got caught somehow and broke it. I finished grinding the spices in another grinder, and added some ground cinnamon.

After grinding the spices, add enough water to make a paste and set aside.
Grating the turmeric! Smells amazing, but stains everything...careful!

crushing the ginger and garlic. It helped to to slice them up a bit first.
Use a mortar and pestle to crush a 1/2 inch of ginger and 2-3 cloves of garlic. Set aside.

Black mustard seeds, ghee, and bay leaf. 
Chop up a medium onion and 3-4 smallish tomatoes. Keep them separate. 

Then, put 3 tbsp of ghee into a pot. I reused my dutch oven from earlier (I washed it, of course!). Once hot, fry 1/2 tsp of black mustard seeds in it. Once they are sputtering, add the bay leaf to fry as well. 

Add the chopped onion to the pot. Sauté until soft. Then, add 10-12 curry leaves (I used dry), a pinch of asafoetida (let me tell you, asafoetida is REALLY stinky, and does not smell appetizing at has foetid in it's name for a reason. It kind of smells like B.O. or burnt rubber. I had to quarantine the little jar inside of a closed mason jar with some baking soda so it doesn't make my kitchen smell awful, but the result is a tasty flavor reminiscent of leeks), and the crushed ginger/garlic mixture. Then add the turmeric, I used powdered and grated. Cook until the smell of raw garlic/ginger disappears.
Adding the onions, curry leaves, garlic ginger paste. 
Then, add the chopped tomatoes. The recipe called for 1 medium, but I used about 4 smallish ones. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes while stirring so they do not stick.  
Add the tomatoes!
Then, add the masala spice paste; stir and mix well.
Adding your masala!
Then, add your ckickpeas and one (or more) split green chiles. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Then add water, or chickpea "stock" (leftover from pressure cooking or what have you). I added enough water to cover a bit.
It's all starting to come together!

Then, bring to a boil and simmer, until sauce becomes thick. I crushed a bunch of chickpeas with a bean masher to help create a nice gravy.

Cook until the flavors come together and you've a nice gravy going on. 
Then, add chopped fresh cilantro. Check for seasoning! Serve over rice and with any Indian breads you might require. May I perhaps suggest a sweet lassi with it as well? 


Recipe: Serves 4-6 easily. 
For more details that are not included in this post, here is the recipe I referenced.

Spices to be dry roasted for the masala:
¾ to 1 cup fresh grated coconut
1 inch cinnamon
½ tbsp fennel
½ tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1-2 dry red chilies (3 or 4 chilies would make the dish very spicy)
2-3 cloves
2-3 green cardamom

Everything else:
2 15.5. ounce cans of chickpeas, or 1 cup dried.
3 tbsp ghee
1 small bay leaf
½ tsp mustard seeds
10-12 curry leaves
1 green chili, slit
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
¼ or ½ tsp turmeric powder
a pinch of asafoetida
½ inch ginger + 2-3 garlic - crushed or made into a paste in mortar-pestle
1.5 to 2 cups of the chickpea stock or water
salt as required
some coriander leaves for garnishing

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Zucchini Lasagna: Don't Be Soggy.

Almost all of the ingredients! Not Pictured: Eggs, S&P.
So, I had a bunch of veggies left from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box to get rid of, while also having leftover homemade pasta sauce (my Dad's recipe) that needed to be eaten. I evaluated my options.

Pasta with sauce is one of my all time favorite things (made with MY (and my Dad's) sauce only...) I remember being a little kid waking up sunday mornings to the smell of sauce simmering away in the kitchen. I would pitter patter into the kitchen in my nightie just as my Dad was browning sweet italian fennel sausage and his amazing homemade meatballs. Upon my entrance, he would be sure to leave a few pieces of sausage and a meatball in the pan to cook all the way through while he added the rest to the giant pot of sauce that would be simmering for most of the day. After the bits of sausage and meatball finished cooking, we would devour them, "testing" them to make sure they were okay. We would also "test"the sauce all day by dipping bits of bread in (any kind) when we thought my mom wouldn't catch us. She always knew though, of course! At the end of the day we would be rewarded with a big bowl of capellini with sauce and meatballs piled high with lots of asiago or parmigiano reggiano.

....and I digress. This is not a post about pasta and sauce. I will leave that for another time. As I said earlier, I evaluated my options. I COULD have made pasta with sauce, but that would have only utilized one of the items that needed to be cooked and eaten. Finally I settled on swiss chard and zucchini, with the addition of my leftover sauce.

And so, I decided to make Zucchini Lasagna.

This required a trip to the store, of course, but at least I had most of the core ingredients and was using up fresh produce. I did not follow a recipe, most of the time I do not. I instead chose to base it off of my Nanie's recipe. There is no pasta in this dish. I remember when I thought that was weird when I was little ("How is it lasagna without noodles!!? wahh!!") but apparently noodle-less lasagna is a traditional and common thing where my family is from in Sicily.  Gotta love having some Italian-American in you!


1 bunch of swiss chard
2 cups of whole milk ricotta (about 1 15 oz container, or I highly recommend you make your own.)
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh italian parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated hard Italian cheese of your choice ( I used parmigiano reggiano), do not pack
2 small shallots, finely chopped
3 small(ish) cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 eggs (there is only one in the picture you will see later)
salt and pepper to taste
nutmeg, freshly grated to taste
EVOO, splash

2 medium sized zucchini, sliced thinly
2 cups of tomato based sauce, your choice.
1/2 8 oz package of fresh buffalo mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375º

Total prep time: 1/2 hour
Total time in oven: 45 minutes


Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil.

While you are waiting, coarsely chop the swiss chard, set aside.
Thinly slice zucchini, however you want to. I don't have a proper peeler at the moment, or I would have used that. I tried to slice lengthwise (see pictures) but I found it ended up being easier to just slice it in rounds. Put in a bowl and sprinkle with salt, and toss. This will release some liquid, this is good. get rid of it. Squeeze that ish out if you need to.  With the zucchini and chard, if you don't try to remove as much water as you can before cooking, it will be released in cooking and the dish will come out watery and not keep it's shape and just kind of be a mushy mush.

Pretty Shallots!
Finely chop your shallots and garlic. Heat up a medium pan and add a splash of EVOO. Add shallots and sauté until almost translucent (about a minute and a half) and then add garlic. Sauté for another minute and a half or until onions are fully translucent and lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside to cool a bit.

At this point, your water should be boiling. Add your swiss chard and blanch until bright green and al dente. About a minute. Drain into a colander, and add some ice cubes and rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle. Once it is cool, take handfuls of it and squeeze out ALL excess water ( I just used my hands). Don't be soggy. Nobody wants soggy, watery lasagna. After you have squeezed out as much as you can, chop it as finely as you can, stems and all. I suppose you could use a food processor but I don't have one of those.
Blanching the chard.

Cooling the chard.
Swiss chard: Post Squeezing!!

The Filling ingredients! Looks like bibimbap?!
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, basil, parsley, grated cheese, shallot and garlic mixture, eggs (There is only one in the bad), chard, and salt, pepper, and nutmeg (nutmeg is really awesome in ricotta mixtures, or anything creamy based for that matter. And nutmeg with squash!!? Great! Especially in savory situations). Mix to combine. I also used my hand for this. I like to be involved and get dirty. Why use a spoon...if I can use my hands?
Filling after mixing. 

Anyway...assembling the lasagna is the next step.

Line the bottom of a 9x9 baking dish with a layer of zucchini. Follow with a layer of filling, about a half inch thick. Follow with a layer of sauce, and repeat. You should end with zucchini (or's really up to you) and then slice up your mozzarella and put it on top of that.
Oh, the delicious layers!
...when I decided to just slice the zucchini.

Last but not least, the fresh mozz. 

Cover in foil, and bake at 375º for a half hour or until bubbling. Remove foil, and brown mozzarella for about 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, and let sit for about 5-10 minutes (it's still going to be hot...don't worry!)

Then eat it. Makes about 6 servings.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

First Post! An Introduction. Includes Chicken Stock, a Cocktail Cake, Prickly Pears, Potatoes, Rose Hips and other Wild Things.

As a first post, I am going to introduce myself a bit, and give a background of what I am all about. As a consequence, this first post is quite long, and I apologize, and please do not feel like you need to read the whole thing. Also, I am trying to get better at taking pictures. Most of the photo quality is sub par, sorry! Future posts will be about a single adventure and should not be as absurdly long. This blog is meant to be an informal thing! Please enjoy! I will be including not only my own cooking, but reviews of other tasty things that I have experienced that I just have to share.

My name is Sara. I grew up in Maine, went to college in Boston, moved to the San Francisco area for a bit, and now I live in Los Angeles. I am a creative, in more ways than one. I enjoy making things and sharing with the world, whether it be producing music, engineering music, playing music, painting, and of

Those of you that know me, know me well. Cooking has always been one of my favorite things and is like therapy to me.  It has never been a problem for me to take 3-4 hours (or more) to cook something awesome and then clean up after -- especially if I have had a bad day otherwise. Ever since college, I have loved to cook and explore different parts of the world through food, and I love to share it with other people. I would send texts out: "I'm making Thai Curry!!! Come eat it!!?" -- Or whatever it was I happened to be cooking at the time. I remember knocking on the door of my roommate Owen's room and saying "Pad Thai?" and his face would just light up like none other. I love these moments. I have been known to decline offers to hang out (sorry, friends!) countering with "Well....wanna come over here?" because I had decided to spend the entire day simmering chicken bones with leeks, carrots and onions to make homemade chicken stock.

Chicken stock after being drained out.
I have had friends tell me that when they eat with me and my boyfriend, we are the only two people they know that have the ability to be eating something and still manage to talk about food... and sometimes completely unrelated to what we are currently eating. We are completely out of our heads. "Hey guys! Does this remind you of that other thing we ate/want to eat? We should eat that soon..." I have planned food dates with my friends...which is not just ONE meal...but rather a day of planned meals. "We are going to eat this, and then we are going to eat this, and then go to this other place and eat this...."

And all my friends know that if they invite me to something, I will be bringing something delicious, from homemade picked golden beets with rosemary (adapted from this recipe), to Roasted Grape Crostini with homemade (yep!) Ricotta, to a salad of Watermelon With Fresh Mint and Feta (adapted) and anything else in between. I once even made an awesome cake inspired by an "Old Fashioned" cocktail for my friend Kris on his birthday.

Please observe:
"Old Fashioned" Cake.
And...I am the only person I know that is crazy enough to climb up the steepest hill imaginable behind the back patio of a house I was housesitting (I was for the big black dog barking at me from below as if yelling "Please don't die!!!"On the way back down I accepted the fact that I was going to have to slide down most of the way). I was bound and determined to get up there. I had a paper shopping bag, a silicone oven mitt, a knife I didn't end up needing, and I got myself full of prickers that to this day have still not washed completely out of my beloved Disneyland sweatshirt. All for the sake of the beautiful prickly pear cactus. I'm nuts. I'm the first to admit it. Not my smartest or proudest moment, but I just couldn't stand looking up there and seeing them like beautiful red garnets just waiting to be plucked and enjoyed. I made prickly pear syrup which found its way into prickly pear margaritas and prickly pear lemonade that night. Definitely worth it.

Prickly Pears.

....all the scooped out prickly pear insides!
Making prickly pear syrup!

As you may have guessed, I love cooking with color. I found these beautiful potatoes at Whole Foods once and I just HAD to do something with them!

Potatoes at Whole Foods.
Whole Foods potatoes ready for the oven!
And last but not least, I love utilizing wild and foraged ingredients. I appreciate the time and effort gone into obtaining the ingredients and I love incorporating these wild (and traditional and often forgotten) flavors into my kitchen life. I grew up in Maine, and I had made it my mission to know about the plants around me and what you could use them for. I couldn't wait for spring where we could find fiddleheads at the market! Super short season, but my mom used to steam them and toss them with butter, garlic and lemon. I remember the first wild plant that I picked and used.....I learned you could eat dandelions! I must have been 12 or so. I picked a bunch of dandelion buds and steamed them and ate them with butter, salt and pepper. I also remember sitting on my friends lawn with a tiny cup of salad dressing picking dandelion greens and dipping them and eating them. I was a weird kid, what can I say? I can mostly attribute this curiosity of wild things to my Mother, who would be driving through the countryside and would just HAVE to stop because she saw a big patch of St. Johns Wort and she just HAD to pick it to make a tincture later. I also have fond memories of driving down to Bar Harbor and picking bags of rose hips with her. These are from the Rosa Rugosa variety that line the shores of Downeast Maine. She would make jelly out of them, dry them and use them in tea and cider, etc. They are really high in vitamin C and used to be ingested to help prevent scurvy (gross). Now you know where I get my crazy from. This is a good thing. I love you, Mom!
Rose hips.
They were HUGE! I never remembered them being this big!
Rose Hip cleaning last time I went home! I made a giant mess....
I also grew up with my Czech uncle (by marriage) Peter coming to visit and going into the woods around my house and coming back with BAGS full of wild mushrooms. When I got old enough, he started to take me with him. I used to love going out there with him. He's an expert, he grew up with his family teaching him about mushrooms in the forests of what was then Czechoslovakia. He always says, "If you are not sure, TOSS it. Do not eat it." And there are only a few types I trust myself with, even if I get excited because I *might* have finally found this great elusive tasty mushroom for the first time. But this is serious business, and I stick to the ones I know.......none of which I have ventured far enough to be able to find here in Southern California.
Wild mushrooms from last time Peter came to Maine. He brought a paper bag full on the plane to take back to Florida with him! Photo taken by Katy Eggleton. 
One of my biggest dilemmas with moving to SoCal was that ALL of the plants here were foreign to me. I was used to looking around and being familiar with what was around me. Not here, nope! Most of my wild food knowledge here I can attribute to Pascal Baudar and Mia Wasilevich of Wild Food Lab. They both are some of the nicest people I have ever met, and definitely some of the most creative and inspiring. It has truly been a pleasure and a privilege to learn from both of them, whether it is from Pascal's foraging/hiking classes (Urban Outdoor Skills) and following him on social media; or being able to help out in the kitchen to put on a Wild Food Event (Transitional Gastronomy) which included duck breast prosciutto, nopal sorbet (cactus pad), homemade nocino from wild black walnuts....and much much more. It was really an awesome experience and I look forward to learning more from them!

Because of this new found knowledge, I have created many dishes such as potatoes roasted with wild sweet white clover (truly amazing flavors); wild mugwort beer; polenta cakes with asparagus, fava beans, and a wild nettle puree topped with a fried egg; and pickled wild mustard buds and flowers.
Pickled mustard flowers and buds with garlic, California bay leaf, black pepper, pink pepper, bird's eye chile, white vermouth and cider vinegar, salt.
Spoils from a foraging hike. From left to right, top to bottom: black mustard flowers, giant nettles, black sage, california sagebrush, mugwort, and two piles of sweet white clover.
And thus concludes my first post about my adventures. If you are still reading this and have made it all the way through, I commend you! That is a feat. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have enjoyed it! From now own I will be posting a single adventure each time. Please stay tuned for South Indian Style Chana Masala, and some juicing adventures.