I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

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Having made traditional boeuf bourguignon via Julia Child’s recipe, when I encountered this version on the New York Times’ cooking page, I was all in: there’s that slow-cooked beef that you crave with traditional boeuf bourguignon, ample wine added to the roux, mushrooms, and onions–but the recipe is dramatically simplified, and spiced very sparingly. I also found the wine flavor in the traditional version to be overpowering, whereas in this recipe, the positive flavors in the wine come through, but only just. In short, the beef is really taking center stage, as beef is wont to do.

I think all meat-eaters can agree, there’s nothing like slow-cooked meat. When meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, packed full of flavor and juicy, it’s terribly hard to resist. (So why would we? The answer is, we don’t.)

Of course, we can’t eat meat like this for every meal. Aside from being labor- and attention-intensive, meat like this isn’t always the most holistically nutritious thing we can put in our bodies for dinner. I wouldn’t say it’s bad for us, per se. But a head of broccoli probably has a little more to offer in the “nutrients” department…(I’m sure there are some meat fans out there ready to argue with me. Shower me in your meat stats, you carnivores!)

Additionally, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, reader, but it’s not the best for the environment. Unless you buy locally-sourced, organic, grass-fed-and-finished beef (costly and often not quite as convenient as the grocery store standard), it’s a little challenging to negate your carbon footprint on some delicious, delicious beef brisket.

I will say I could not find organic brisket at the grocery store. If you really want “guilt free” brisket, this may be an occasion to stop by your local artisan butcher! Support local, eat local, reduce the carbon footprint. Rock on with your bad self. Rock on!!

In summary, a dish like this really calls for an occasion. In this instance, my sister and I ate this together before I take off to move across the country; this, of course, made it taste all the better.

This is one of the most comforting dishes I have prepared in a long, long time. Warming spices, slow-cooked beef, and mashed potatoes–I didn’t even make a vegetable to go along with dinner! It was all meat and potatoes, all dinner long. Who is complaining about this? I ask you!

Of course, if it’s not your bag to eat just meat and potatoes, add some green stuff on a separate plate. The world is your oyster! (Whatever that means.) But tuck in for a cozy, candlelit dinner with someone you love, maybe with a bottle of Beaujolais or maybe with some Amber O’Douls, and feast on the fruits of this 4.5 hour dinner. The wait is definitely worth it. Trust me.

i was really pleased with this beef broth i found at the grocery store–it’s made with grass-fed beef bones and tastes great. i even bought some of their lemongrass and ginger beef bone broth, which makes a great medium for a simple soup. don’t forget to heat low and slow, so the broth doesn’t boil and ruin all that wonderful collagen!

I seasoned the brisket with salt and pepper, trimmed a small layer of the fat cap, and cut it into cubes to be browned in vegetable oil in my cast iron.

Meanwhile, I sautéed chopped onions and mushrooms in rendered beef fat in my Le Creuset, then added spices, thyme, wine, broth, and the browned beef…

i’ve really been pushing the le creuset to its maximum volume capacity lately; somehow, this reduced with minimal spillage. thank you, guardian cooking angel

About 3 1/2 hours over low heat later, aaaand:

cue “heart eyes” emoji

Yes. Yes to all of this!! I was stuffed after one serving, but still wanted more…leftovers just got a lot more exciting.

yep, the only green on my plate came from the ceramic itself, and chives. oh, and those are cheesy mashed potatoes, in case you’re wondering

[This recipe adapted from Pierre Franey of the New York Times.]

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

Serves 6-8

  • 4 lbs beef brisket, trimmed to 1/4” fat cap and cut into 1 ½” cubes
  • Reserved brisket fat, for rendering
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 c chopped onions (about two medium onions)
  • 5 heads of garlic, pressed
  • 1 lb fresh mushrooms, preferably bella
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ c all-purpose flour
  • 1 bottle Beaujolais wine (Beaujolais Villages is a great low-cost bottle)
  • 1 c low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice

Generously season brisket with salt and pepper, and rub spices into the meat. Heat vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the meat cubes in a single layer, with the fat side down first to render the fat. This will take several batches. Drain browned meat cubes on a plate lined with paper towels. (The point here is not to cook the meat all the way through, but to sear it on the outside.) 

While meat is draining, heat reserved beef fat in a heavy bottomed cooking pot, like a Le Creuset or cast iron kettle, until you have several tablespoons of liquid fat in the bottom of the pan. Toss fat chunks or feed to a lucky dog.

Add onions, garlic, and mushrooms to the first cast iron pan used to cook the meat cubes, and sautée about 5 minutes, or until onions become translucent. In the second pan with the rendered beef fat, add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring well, for about 1 minute.

Add wine, beef stock, bay leaf, cloves, allspice, thyme, sauteed onions, garlic and mushrooms, and beef cubes to the second pan. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cook, covered, over very low heat for about 3 and ½ hours, or until the meat is tender and falls apart when gently squeezed with tongs.

Remove bay leaf and serve with mashed potatoes, noodles, or rice. Red wine or dark ales are wonderful compliments to this dish.

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Creamy Mustard Sauce

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With the arrival of the weekend came another opportunity to cook a classic dish and scratch it off the list. Perhaps even better, I was able to throw some ingredients around it which sorely needed to be used up from the fridge, so the chicken really got to be the star of the show. Plus, any time you can eat meat wrapped in more meat, the feeling of indulgence is pretty inescapable. Not a bad way to end the week!

Chicken cordon bleu is credited to Switzerland but seems to have a rather mysterious, folklore-ish background. The only common “facts” I could find in my internet trolling about this infamous creation was that it did, in fact, originate in Switzerland, and “cordon bleu” can refer to any meat stuffed with cheese and panfried, deep fried, or baked.

Though I only used two chicken breasts, the addition of ham, Swiss cheese, and bread crumbs made it so that I could only comfortably eat half of one. This was by no means a bad thing (helloooo fancy leftovers!) but I think it is safe to say two breasts could easily feed four people, especially if there are other dishes on the table.

Simple starch is a good sidekick here, as it acts as another medium for the delicious mustard sauce which is drizzled over the top of the chicken. But hey, use your imagination and pair anything with it that you think won’t upstage your efforts!

before
after (note: this is just one of two chicken breasts)

After the chicken was seasoned and then pounded to about 1/2″ thick, I rolled it up with ham slices and Swiss cheese. Next, it was breaded!

beaten egg, seasoned breadcrumbs, flour, oiled pan–note: a cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet could easily be substituted

I panfried the chicken in a little olive oil then transitioned the whole business to the oven to finish. Meanwhile, I prepared the sauce and made some side dishes. Turns out the fancy name doesn’t mean this dish is any harder to make.

baked chicken
thanks, Switzerland

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Creamy Mustard Sauce

Serves 2-4

Chicken

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning, to taste
  • 6 thin slices of high-quality deli ham
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1 c breadcrumbs
  • 1 heaping Tbs dried parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • ½ c flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 Tbs + 2 Tbs olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Lightly season and pepper both sides of the chicken breast. Using either a plastic bag or two sheets of plastic wrap to contain the meat, use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound the chicken to ¼”-1/2” thickness. Lay three slices of ham over each breast, followed by two slices of cheese. If there is a longer end to your chicken, roll it into a tight spiral, keeping the ham and cheese tucked carefully within it. If you need to, use toothpicks to hold it together (mine stayed together just fine without them).

In a wide bowl, mix together breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, and pepper. Spread flour on one plate and beaten eggs on another. Roll the meat wrap in flour, completely coating all surfaces. Roll the floured meat in egg, then dredge in breadcrumbs, coating evenly both times.

Heat first measurement of oil in an oven-safe heavy bottomed skillet or cast iron. When hot, add both chicken breasts and cook over medium heat until browned, about five minutes. When the breadcrumbs are beautifully browned, add second measurement of olive oil and flip the chicken over using tongs. 

After five minutes on the second side, place the skillet in the oven and bake 20-25 minutes, or until meat thermometer inserted into the chicken breast reads 155°F or higher. While the chicken is baking, prepare the mustard sauce. 

Creamy Mustard Sauce

  • ½ c butter
  • ¼ c flour
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 1/3 c-1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs whole grain mustard
  • 2 Tbs Dijon mustard, plus more to taste
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice (optional)
  • Fresh parsley (garnish)

Heat butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until melted, but not browned. Add flour and cook 1-3 minutes, or until the flour has foamed and absorbed the flavor of the butter, stirring constantly.

Lower heat to medium and gradually add milk, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens. Add cream until sauce is of desired consistency. Add both mustards, salt, and pepper, stirring after each addition and tasting for seasonings. Add lemon juice, if using. 

Spoon sauce over sliced chicken cordon bleu. Finish with fresh parsley and serve with greens, simple starch like fingerling potatoes or rice, and a glass of white wine.

Basic Tomato Soup with Herb Puree

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What better way to kick off soup season than with that old fan favorite, tomato?

A truly great sendoff for even the most overripe of tomatoes, this vibrant soup is the perfect backdrop for cream, yogurt, grilled cheese, crackers, croutons, etc…but can also stand on its own.

Stewed, reduced tomatoes become a medium of sweet, tangy umami. Add some sautéed onions, some fat, and some time: and boom, you’ve got a delicious–and beautifully simple–soup.

these poblanos needed to get used up, so i threw them into the soup to stew before pulverizing everything in the blender.
broiled on high for about 5 minutes, these poblanos were easy to stem, seed, and chop

I cooked the tomatoes with sautéed onions and roasted poblanos in olive oil until some of the tomato juice had reduced, about 30 minutes.

i kept the heat between medium and medium-low to avoid scorching the tomatoes

After pureeing the cooked veggies in a blender and tasting to season with salt and pepper, I decided to get to work on the herb puree.

This puree became sort of a catchall for herbs and greens I already had on hand, so many substitutions or omissions could be made in terms of the greenery–after all, not everyone saves their carrot tops for just such an occasion!

ingredients: basil, parsley, carrot tops, fresh garlic, capers, an anchovy, olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice and salt

This puree integrates beautifully into this simple soup and offers an aromatic freshness to the buxom flavor of stewed tomatoes. Needless to say, I ate this bowl of hot soup straight from the blender within minutes.

the herb puree to tomato soup ratio is entirely up to the eater–fun!

Basic Tomato Soup with Herb Puree

Serves 4

Soup

  • 10-12 medium tomatoes, stemmed and cut into 1” chunks
  • 3 medium poblano peppers
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbs + 4 Tbs olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Herb Puree

  • 1 bunch parsley, stems removed
  • 1 bunch carrot tops
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 Tbs capers, drained
  • 1 anchovy filet
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ c quality olive oil + more as needed
  • Salt, to taste

Roll poblano peppers in first measurement of oil and place on a baking sheet. Broil in the oven on high until skins are blistered and charred, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until cool.

Add second measurement of olive oil to a heavy bottomed pot with salt, pepper, and onions. Sautee until onions over medium heat until they are translucent and tender, 10-15 minutes. Add cut tomatoes and turn heat to medium low, stirring occasionally to prevent the tomatoes for sticking. You are looking for some of the liquid to be reduced, about 30 minutes.

While tomatoes are stewing, remove the stem and seeds from the roasted poblanos. Dice the peppers and add to the cooking tomatoes.

After 30 minutes has elapsed and soup is of desirable thickness, puree everything in a blender or food processor until smooth. 

Set soup aside in a large, preheated serving bowl. Combine all of the ingredients into the rinsed out blender or food processor and puree until smooth. You may require more than ½ c olive oil to achieve this, depending on the size of the herb bundles.

Serve the soup hot with a generous scoop of herb puree, or yogurt, or both. Croutons or grilled cheese are advisable. 

Simple Chickpea Ricotta Pasta

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Are there things in your pantry that you tend to hoard? How about cans and dry goods that sit on the shelf for months at a time?

For me, one of those items is pasta. It’s hard for me to say “no” to a new experience, especially one costing only a few bucks–so when I pass by a new shape or brand of imported pasta in the grocery store, it usually ends up in the cart.

When the pandemic first started, like many people, I stocked up on nonperishable foods. This, coupled with a frankly obsessive amount of time spent scrolling through the New York Times’ cooking app, yielded some fruitful results, alerting me to recipes which I will no doubt be riffing off of for years to come. This is one of those recipes.

This dish is simple, so if one makes too many substitutions in terms of ingredients, it’s essentially a new dish–that being said, it could be made gluten-free by subbing wheat-alternative noodles. I have yet to come across a vegan ricotta substitution out there, unless one were to spring for some vegan cream cheese and whip it up with a dash of sugar.

But if you are a full-time or even part-time dairy eater, I say go for it and eat the dang ricotta! It’s a truly remarkable, natural compliment to pasta of any sort.

This recipe is great for easy weeknight dinner, or for a meat-free meal. Makes for an excellent lunch, also.

one item i’ve tucked away: squid ink pasta…

Cook the pasta in heavily salted water until al dente. While that’s boiling, “bloom” the red pepper flakes along with a few cloves of garlic in a skillet with olive oil. Once the oil starts to change color and become fragrant, add drained chickpeas and sauté for a few minutes, until chickpeas are coated in spiced oil and warmed through.

Add cooked noodles, ricotta, some reserved pasta water, and a splash of quality olive oil to the pan and mix.

I added some cherry tomatoes–the last of the season!

Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and torn basil, adding salt and pepper to taste.

this made for a very satiating fall lunch

Simple Chickpea Ricotta Pasta

Serves 2

  • 8 oz pasta, or enough for two servings
  • 3 Tbs olive oil for sauteeing, plus 1 Tbs for final assembly
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/3 c ricotta cheese
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ½ small lemon, for final assembly
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn, for final assembly
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, 8-12 minutes. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water and drain. 

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the first measurement of olive oil and red pepper flakes until the pepper has “bloomed” in the olive oil, about 2 minutes. (Oil should change color and become fragrant.) Add smashed garlic cloves and lower heat to medium, cooking just until they begin to lose their pearly white look, about 3 minutes. Add drained chickpeas and halved tomatoes and stir, coating everything in oil over heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the garlic has changed from white to translucent beige. 

Change heat to low and add drained pasta, ricotta, a squeeze of the half lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Add remaining 1 Tbs olive oil and stir everything together.

Plate with torn basil leaves and serve immediately. Pairs excellent with a buttery white wine or plain bubbly water, whichever you prefer.

Sesame Beet Salad

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One of my favorite things in this world is enjoying a perfectly cooked beet. (Can I get a show of hands for all you beet lovers out there?) Over the years of cooking beets, I have come to love the messy endeavor of processing them, from staining my hands magenta to turning the bottom of my sink into a kind of Pollock painting.

If I were to ever create a manifesto, I think it would probably have to include a clause about the importance of avoiding overcooking one’s beets. (If this has ever happened to you, you have probably realized what a tragedy this is.)

Beets are humming with vitality, from their color to their natural sugars and minerals. They can be both refreshing and comforting, placed in both sweet and savory contexts. While I love each and every vegetable I’ve ever put into my mouth (except maybe turnips, which I am still learning to love), I have to say that I think beets may be my favorite.

In an effort to welcome in the cold weather and simultaneously give a nod to the last wave of summer, I dreamed up this recipe one morning over a warm cup of coffee. Simple, fresh ingredients, variety of texture and flavor, maximum nutrients. I’m pretty happy with this side dish–and, it paired wonderfully with the ginger miso glazed halibut I had for dinner.

i didn’t end up using the ginger, but if you’re looking for a little bit of spice, i recommend grating it very fine and tossing it raw into the warm beets

The beets were trimmed, wrapped individually in foil, and placed in a shallow water bath, otherwise known as a “bain marie.”

i like to bake my beets so that they are still slightly firm; they taste more “alive” this way. for these medium-sized beets, this took just over an hour.

While the beets were baking, I cut my carrots into matchsticks and soaked them in vinegar for a “quick pickle,” sliced my scallions, and toasted my sesame seeds.

once cooked to my liking, i ran the beets under cold water, peeled the skins off, and cut them into strips

The drained carrots were tossed into the beets crumbled feta cheese and the other add ins, and the whole thing was finished with a drizzle of sesame oil and a squeeze of lime.

earthy and fresh, this dish felt light, comforting, and nutritious.

Sesame Beet Salad (GF)

  • 3 medium sized beets
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • ¼ c white wine vinegar
  • ¼ c rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp white sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 tsp black sesame seeds
  • 1 oz feta cheese
  • 3 scallions, sliced 
  • 2 Tbs sesame oil
  • Juice of ½ lime

Preheat oven to 450°F. Wash beets and trim both ends with a knife. Wrap each beet individually in foil and place in a baking dish with roughly two inches of water in it. Bake beets for an hour and 15 minutes or so, or until a fork can be inserted with minimal resistance the full length of the prong.

While beets are baking, place carrot matchsticks and both vinegars into a small bowl until the carrots are submerged. Leave them at least 30 minutes, but closer to an hour is ideal. 

In a small pan over medium low heat, heat white sesame seeds until they just start to take on color and emit a pleasant odor, about 5 minutes. Mix warm toasted sesame seeds with black sesame seeds in another small bowl and set aside.

When beets have finished cooking, carefully unwrap them in the sink and run cold water over them until they are cool enough to handle. The skin should easily come off in your hands, but some will be more difficult to peel than others. Don’t be afraid to use a knife to cut off any stubborn bits. 

Once cool, cut beets into strips about 1/4” thick and place in a medium bowl. Drain carrot strips and add to the bowl along with sesame seeds, sliced scallions, and crumbled feta cheese. Finish with sesame oil and lime juice. Pairs great with white fish for a full meal.

A Take on Tom Douglas’ Creamy Seafood Chowder

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Think about it: when was the last time you had a really delicious clam chowder? Can you picture where you were when you ate it? What was the weather like? Who were you with? What was it about the flavors in the soup that worked for your palate? Did you make it from scratch or were you dining out?

While the word “chowder” becomes something of a catchall for a conceptual bracket of “soup,” there exist many specific styles of approaching this comforting dish. Wikipedia touches on eight or nine clearly delineated versions of “clam chowder,” each with its own personality; in 1939, just five years after clam chowder reached notoriety in the United States, Maine’s state legislature took its clam chowder identity so seriously, it was posed that the use of tomatoes in the stuff ought to be banned. (Fortunately for Mainers and tomato-lovers alike, this motion did not pass.)

But something that unifies even those variants of “chowder” which hang on the periphery is the fact that sitting down to eat a bowl is usually something of an event. Whether taking a boardwalk stroll and eating from a cardboard cup or settling in on a wintry night for an intimate meal, clam chowder marks a momentous moment. How often does one casually have clams in their fridge, after all?

it’s safe to say I’ve been wanting to make this soup for years

Making this soup successfully is all about prep and timing.

chopped potatoes and thick cut bacon, and disassembled crab

First, the minced onion, carrot, celery, and fennel are sautéed in a modest amount of olive oil until they start to turn translucent and soft. Add garlic and bacon, cooking until the fat of the bacon becomes clear, but doesn’t brown. Add wine, tomato puree, fish stock, and potatoes and simmer…

it already tasted amazing at this stage

When potatoes are just tender, stir in cream, herbs, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Rather than chopping thyme as Tom Douglas suggested, I tied a few sprigs in a bundle with the stems from my parsley leaves and dropped that in the pot.

seafood goes in next, and the pot gets covered to steam thoroughly

Then the assembly line of seafood goes: clams, shrimp, cod, and crab, in that order, accompanied by handfuls of hearty spinach. Add an optional squeeze of lemon, garnish with fennel fronds and cream of some kind, if you like (I used about 1 Tbs creme fraiche) and eat with good company.

don’t forget those herbed scones!
the table went quiet as we ate–a sign of success!

A Take on Tom Douglas’ Creamy Seafood Chowder

Author’s note: Tom advises us to heat the bowls before pouring the chowder in, and don’t forget the herbed scones!

Soup

  • 3 tablespoons 
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ bulb of fennel, cored and finely chopped
  • 5 medium cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 cup thick cut bacon
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups canned tomato puree
  • 5 cups ham hock stock or fish stock
  • ¾ pound thin-skinned potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme or 4 large sprigs of thyme, tied in a bundle
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
  • 1 lb small steamer or baby clams, scrubbed and rinsed
  • 1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined, with tails on
  • ½ pound white fish fillets, such as halibut, cod, etc, cut into 1½ inch pieces
  • 8 cups loosely packed spinach leaves (about 12 ounces)
  • 3 cooked king crab legs (1-1½ pounds), thawed if frozen, each leg cut into 3 sections crosswise and split in half lengthwise OR 1 previously cooked Dungeness crab, disassembled with meat reserved

Finish

  • ½ lemon
  • Sour cream or crème fraiche (optional)
  • Fennel fronds 
  • 12 parsley scones and butter (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, onion, celery, and carrot and sauté until the vegetables start to turn translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and bacon and sauté a few more minutes, until bacon fat turns clear rather than white, but does not brown. Stir in tomato puree, wine, stock, and potatoes, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot and cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 12 minutes. 

Stir in the cream and herbs, season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Add the clams, cover the pot, and cook until they open, about 4 minutes. Season the shrimp and fish with salt and pepper, then add them to the pot, taking care the seafood is submerged as much as possible in the simmering liquid. Cover and simmer for 2 more minutes. Open the lid, stir in the spinach. Cover and continue to simmer for 1 minute. Add cooked crab meat, turn off the heat and let the pot sit, covered, for 5 minutes. 

Remove the lid and check that the shrimp and fish are cooked through and that the crab is warm. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Using a slotted spoon and ladle, divide all the fish, shellfish, and chowder among 6 large shallow soup plates, discarding any clams that have not opened. Garnish with a squeeze of lemon, a spoonful of crème fraiche, yogurt, or sour cream, and/or fennel fronds. 

Molasses Blueberry Bran Muffins

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Well, this week certainly put me through my paces. (Oh, you too? TGIF.)

It’s a good thing I have whole wheat bran muffins for breakfast…I mean, it’s a really good thing.

What’s even sweeter is the fact that they were made with blueberries harvested with a dear friend at a “secret” blueberry farm. And to cinch it all together: these muffins have no refined sugar, but taste like you’re sort of getting away with something when you bite into them before 9 am.

What’s not to love about that?

If you’ve been following with the blog, you have probably gathered that I pretty much always have sweets in the house. When I’m halfway through one baked treat, it’s time to dream up the next one. (As I pen this, there is half of a loaf of bread pudding perched in my fridge, screaming to be eaten…I must remind myself, “adults” eat dinner then dessert…)

So it came as no surprise that I felt compelled (and I absolutely mean compelled) to try my hand at bran muffins this week, like, STAT. I guess I just couldn’t handle looking at the bag of Bob’s Red Mill wheat bran which has been staring me in the face for the last month, hinting ever so subtly that I should, ahem, make it into something delicious and vaguely nutritious already!

Thus, I plucked it from the shelf and did a little internet rummaging. (“How can I recreate those totally spectacular blueberry bran muffins featured at that coffee roaster in Portland?”)

With just a little digging, I found an approximation that brought me one step closer to that goal.

Adapted from this recipe from Food52, this muffin batter creates the perfect backdrop for whatever seasonal fruit, seeds, shredded vegetables or coconut you wish to spotlight. It’s simple to put together, with little mess. They taste like a treat but they’re sort of, like, a super food or something…at least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

that bright orange stuff is mashed baked sweet potato, but applesauce would work great here too!

Like many recipes in baking, the ingredients were placed in “wet” and “dry” bowls respectively, making for simple assembly and easy clean up.

here i am infusing these muffins with the last of summer’s sun…let steep for a few minutes in direct light for best results 🙂

Mix it all together…

i mean, that color just says “nutrient-packed”

Another beautiful aspect of this recipe is how perfectly it fills a 12-part cupcake pan. Less mess and cleanup, and you have 12 perfect muffins at the end of the process–I didn’t weigh or measure at any point during the batter scooping!

pro tip: butter or oil the lip of each “muffin hole” well so that your muffins crisp up nicely during the bake and pop out of the tin easily after

Then bake! And voila:

so delicious, and not so bad for your gut/waistline

For those of you who like to nerd out a little bit about food, part of what’s so great about these muffins is the amount of fiber paired with the natural sugar. As you probably know, your liver processes sugar as well as alcohol. When you consume an excessive amount of sugar in a short amount of time, it “panics” and transforms the sugar into fat rather than processing it as fuel for the body. I guess it’s kind of like hitting the snooze button when your alarm goes off.

Eating fiber with your sugar reduces the chance of the snooze button being hit; it slows down the process of digestion and gives your liver a chance to keep up with your carbohydrates. This is one of the many, many reasons that we love fresh produce.

So, not only are you getting antioxidants from the honey and blueberries and minerals from the molasses, but you’re getting our friend fiber from the whole wheat flour, wheat bran, berries, and coconut to boot. Are you psyched yet??

Molasses Blueberry Bran Muffins

Note: You can add whatever seasonal fruit is desirable, coconut flakes, dates, hemp hearts, toasted seeds or nuts…you can even sub applesauce for mashed baked sweet potato with a few tablespoons of water. It’s all about texture and natural sweetness with these muffins! 

Ingredients

  • butter or oil for muffin tin (optional)
  • 1 c wheat bran
  • 1 ½ c whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ c blueberries
  • ½ c walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
  • ¼ c shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 c milk
  • ½ c molasses
  • 3 Tbs honey
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ c applesauce (or scant ½ c mashed, cooked sweet potato with 3 Tbs water)
  • 2 Tbs melted coconut oil

Preheat oven to 400°F and butter or oil a muffin tin or line with paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together bran, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in fruit, nuts, coconut, and any other desired accoutrements to the flour mixture.

In a medium bowl, mix together milk, molasses, honey, eggs, applesauce or sweet potato mash, and oil.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 cups. (They will feel perilously full, but this is how they should look!)

Bake for 15-18 minutes–no longer than 20 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when inserted into the muffin. Enjoy!

Whiskey Peach Bread Pudding

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Not to brag, but I’m pretty sure I got the last few peaches of the season from my local farm stand.

I showed up looking for the last of summer’s beautiful stone fruits, not quite ready to say goodbye to the sun just yet…I browsed the boxes of produce laid out under their red and white striped tent, snatching up some beautiful Italian plums and passing up the apples and pears. (There will be many weeks of apples and pears to come. Julia Child’s pear tart is on my mind, but that won’t feel right until mid-to-late November, at the soonest. For now, let me cling to summer like I’m clinging to my 20s.)

Thinking Yakima’s peaches were a thing of the past, I made my way to the checkout counter with my plums.

“You don’t happen to have any peaches, do you?”

The friendly young cowboy in the cream-colored hat and tight t-shirt shook his head no. I thought not, I confirmed in my head, Summer must really be over…

But peaches (and maybe summer, too) hadn’t given up on me yet! Another associate from the farm who was stocking pickled veggies of various assortments chimed in–

“We have about four or five left in that far box over there!”

It was true: tucked into the low corners of these deep boxes were a few perfectly imperfect seasonal stragglers.

Containing a whoop and a holler, I snatched up these sweet rays of sunshine and paid for my flavored fructose. Now, what to do with these oddballs…

After recently making a dang delicious plum pie, I decided pie should be out of the picture. I’d already made peach cobbler this season, so that didn’t quite feel appropriate either. Then, I remembered the about-to-mold bread I’d stuffed in the freezer last week. Bread pudding it is, I thought.

When I think peaches, I think cream, honey, vanilla, almond, and whiskey. Why not add a few friends to the bread pudding party?

Peach friends!

I made ginger simple syrup, the whiskey custard, cut my beautiful peaches, and tore my thawed bread into chunks.

this simple syrup is great in cocktails, mocktails, or homemade ginger “soda”

I soaked the bread and peach mixture in milky custard and applied some “secret surprise creme fraiche” to the middle of the pudding.

yay, surprise creme fraiche!

Baked, brushed with simple syrup for a little sheen, then baked some more:

boom. thanks, summer. thanks, yakima. and thank youuu peaches

Obviously I had to eat this with some less-than-secret creme fraiche too.

needless to say, i was pretty happy to eat this.

Whiskey Peach Bread Pudding

Note: In the past, I have made this pudding using sourdough bread with excellent results. Whole wheat or rye would also be delicious, but the simpler the bread, the more your peaches will stand out. I have also subbed oat milk for regular milk which worked beautifully. The orange zest and ginger syrup are optional, but they both contribute to the desired complexity of this dish. I enjoy cutting my peach chunks into a variety of shapes and sizes, but if you prefer a more uniform dish, feel free to cut them as close to identical as you like.

Ginger Syrup

  • 1 c water
  • 1 c sugar 
  • 1” or 0.5 oz peeled ginger, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 Tbs whiskey

Pudding

  • Butter for baking dish
  • 2 c whole milk or alternative milk
  • ½ c sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split down the middle with seeds scraped out, 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • Grated zest of 1 large orange (optional)
  • 4 Tbs whiskey
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 6 c bread, torn into ragged chunks
  • 2-3 c peaches (about 2 large peaches), skin on, cut into 1-2 inch chunks or slices
  • ¼ c creme fraiche 

Generously butter a bread pan and set aside.

Bring water, first measurement of sugar, and ginger matchsticks to a gentle boil. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until syrup has gained viscosity and ginger flavor. Stick a teaspoon into the syrup after 3 minutes; it should appear thicker than water and coat the spoon nicely. Keep boiling until syrup is of a similar consistency to maple syrup, but no more than 10 minutes. When syrup is of desired consistency, remove from heat and stir in first measurement of whiskey. Strain mixture into a jar or bowl using a fine sieve, chinois, or cheesecloth placed over a colander and let cool.

Place milk, sugar, and vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan over medium heat until it is at a bare simmer. Remove from heat and add optional orange zest, and salt. Set aside for 10 minutes, or until you can place your hands on the walls of the sauce pot without burning yourself. Add 4 Tbs whiskey and stir. When the mixture is tepid (or room temperature) to the touch, whisk in blended eggs.

Heat oven to 350°F. Place bread and peach chunks and slices into a large bowl. Pour milk mixture over the top and let soak 15-20 minutes, gently stirring after 10 minutes with a wooden spoon or your hands.

Spoon half of the bread and peach mixture into the prepared bread pan. Dab the surface of the mixture with creme fraiche in teaspoon-sized spoonfuls. Pour the rest of the bread over the top and bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven and brush the top with whisky-ginger syrup until the entire pudding is covered in glaze. Bake 10-20 minutes more, or until bread has started to take on a golden color and peaches on the surface of the pudding begin to blacken.

Let sit at least 30 minutes to cool before cutting and serving. Best with a dollop of yogurt, creme fraiche, or vanilla ice cream.

Spicy Sesame Chard with Salty Tempeh Bites

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I don’t know about you, but sometimes I really crave tempeh.

I am a sane enough person to realize that that can seem like an absurd statement, but hear me out.

Have you ever tried a plant-based diet? (Cool, thanks for trying! If not, why not? Would it kill you to try? 😉 ) Have you ever had baked tofu cubes with edges so crisp and caramelized and perfectly seasoned, you’d even prefer them to meat? If that doesn’t sound absurd to you (and maybe especially if it does), read on, bold omnivore!

I got home from my shift at the bakery the other morning fretting about my garden. The last of my tired chard plants have been dutifully toiling to produce several, perfect, tender leaves in their final push of the season. This is not to say they have not had a long and prolific career. My chard, gifted to me in the form of seeds by a lovely friend, has provided me with many, many leaves. We’ve had a good run this year, chard and I.

The first time I ate chard, I distinctly remembered thinking that it tasted even dirt-ier than dirt itself. I chewed without pleasure, thinking “Who would voluntarily eat this?”

Obviously many lifetimes have eclipsed since then, and I have to attribute any advancements in my palette to my foresighted mother. (Thanks, Mom.)

The point is, I’ve really come a long way with this vegetable. From obligation to enjoyment, there are many miles to span and many bridges to cross. I’ve given this leafy green a chance many times when I didn’t feel up to the challenge, and over time I found merit and reward in the trying. By now, I even crave the vegetable from time to time and its robust, earthy flavor.

So I knew this final harvest deserved a little special something. A final bow, if you will, before winter digs in and this fruitful little plant dies away. She deserved to be the star of the show, and I figured her cast ought to be entirely made up with vegetables.

First, I harvested and washed the tender baby chard.

Then, I gathered the necessary ingredients, chopped my tempeh and chard and sorted the chard pieces into piles of “mostly stems” and “mostly leaf,” assembled my marinade, and zipped the cut tempeh in a bag to rest for 30 minutes.

I roasted the tempeh with half of the marinade until the edges turned crispy in the pan, then sautéed the chard, stems first, in sesame oil and chili flakes. Simple and flavorful, this recipe could easily be adapted to serve two, with another handful of chard. If you are looking to flesh out the meal, consider serving your favorite grain or rice noodles alongside.

garnished with fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and a dollop of coconut cream–do not miss out on the coconut cream!!!

Spicy Sesame Chard with Salty Tempeh Bites

Serves 2

The Sauce

  • 3 Tbs light sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs sweet chili sauce or sriracha
  • 1 Tbs sesame oil
  • ½ tsp honey
  • ¼ lime, juiced
  • 1 medium garlic clove, pressed, minced, or grated with a microplane zester
  • 0.5 oz ginger (about 1” long), peeled with a spoon and minced or grated with a microplane zester

The Plate

  • 1 8oz package tempeh, cut into ½”-1” chunks
  • 10 oz rainbow chard, washed
  • 2 Tbs sesame oil
  • 1-2 Thai chilis, chopped, or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 Tbs water
  • 1 3-fingered pinch of salt
  • ¼ c fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbs coconut cream (garnish, 1 Tbs per dish)
  • Sesame seeds (garnish)
  • Squeeze of fresh lime (about 1/8th of a lime)

Cut tempeh into ½”-1” chunks. Using a small saucepan, steam for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, assemble the sauce. Mix all ingredients in a jar or liquid measuring cup, tasting for seasoning. Set aside.

Drain tempeh and let cool a few minutes. Place tempeh in a quart-sized zip top bag with sauce, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, flipping the bag over after 15 minutes have passed. When you flip the bag for the second 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Wash chard and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1” long) and separate the stems from the leafy cuts. Set aside.

Assemble tempeh in an oven-safe baking dish, making sure none of the pieces are touching. Pour half of the marinade over the tempeh. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add second measurement of sesame oil to a large skillet, set over high heat. Sprinkle in chopped Thai chili or red pepper flakes and “bloom” in the hot oil, about one minute. Add chard, stems first, lowering to the temperature to medium-low. Stir until the stems are coated in oil (about 30 seconds) then add 3 Tbs water and immediately cover. Steam undisturbed for 3 minutes, or until the stems begin to change color and turn tender. Add chopped leaves and toss with tongs until they are coated with the spiced oil, seasoning with salt as you do so. Cover again and steam for one minute. Remove lid and stir. Steam until the water has cooked out, and the leaves have reached desired “doneness.” Remove from heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.

After 10 minutes of baking, pull tempeh and flip the pieces over using tongs or a spatula. Return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes. You are looking for caramelization on the edges and acquisition of color on each tempeh cube. 

When tempeh has finished baking, pull from the oven and add the remaining marinade to the hot dish. You may have darkened bits of cooked sauce around the tempeh. Stir the tempeh around to coat with fresh marinade and let rest while you plate the chard.

Using tongs, pull chard from skillet, allowing any excess water or oil to wick off. Place onto two plates, adding tempeh chunks and any desired residual marinade. Plate with 1 Tbs coconut cream on each dish, fresh cilantro, sesame seeds, and a squeeze of lime.

Slightly Savory Rye Plum Pie

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Well, it’s my “Sunday” today. Which means, of course, that I had to go to the farmer’s market over the “weekend” before heading back to “work.”

I don’t even want to tell you how much of my paycheck I drop on fresh produce.

While I bravely abstained from buying another “happy” local chicken, I definitely ended up purchasing some mushrooms “by mistake.” Oysters. Plus, the kindly mushroom vendor slipped in a king trumpet, on the house! I’ve got the beginnings of a mushroom charcuterie board over here…but I don’t want to get any harebrained ideas. I’ll just stick to sautéing them in butter and pouring them over grains, meat, or pasta like everyone else.

After recently making plum preserves out of some of the most beautiful empress plums I have ever beheld, I’ve been feeling, well, really into plums.

Be honest with yourself: when was the last time you really savored biting into a plum? That tender, juicy, incredibly sweet flesh coupled with a tangy, sour exterior? And that frosted purple skin? I mean, come on! Nature’s just laughing all the way to the bank with that one.

Or at least, the fruit vendors are every time I come around…I snagged some grapes as I was checking out like someone might snag a candy bar at the grocery store. Sugar is sugar, I guess.

I pondered what to make of these gorgeous darlings for a while before finally settling on pie. But to make things a little more interesting, I decided to bring rye flour to the party.

If the thought of rye flour makes you sweat, or you’d rather not buy a $30 bag of flour to use once and never again, substitute for whole wheat or all-purpose flour. I chose rye for its aromatic, slightly nutty qualities. Getting a whiff of this pie as it’s coming into life in the oven is a true treat, and gives your senses something to ponder until it’s time, at last, to eat.

you can use orange or lemon juice in the fruit filling. i wanted to really taste the plum in my pie, but feel free to throw in 1/2-1 tsp fresh zest. (this cutting board made by my talented boyfriend <3)

First, I mixed up the dough using equal parts rye and all-purpose flours, salt, a little sugar, butter, and water. This I let chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

I then washed the plums and cut them into uneven chunks (I like a little variety in each slice). I tossed these in a bowl with sugar, vanilla paste, orange juice, and a pinch of salt.

I rolled out half of the chilled dough on a floured surface. The rye flour makes this crust a little more prone to breaking than straight all-purpose flour, so I rolled the thin crust in my rolling pin and eased it over the pie plate.

dot with about 4 tbs butter

I got a new rolling crinkle cutter toy from the kitchen store, and was very excited to put it to use!

I used the scraps from the pie to make a galette with the leftover plum jam from last week! 🙂 don’t be afraid to freeze your dough in a moisture-proof zip top bag if you don’t want to be swimming in desserts.

Paint your beautiful, beautiful pie with egg wash, then it’s off to the races! Your home is about to smell amazing.

i put a baking sheet under the baking pie so falling drops of syrup didn’t burn and smoke my roommates out.
may or may not have eaten pie for breakfast

Use up these plums while they’re around, people! Your taste buds will thank you, and so will your local source.

Slightly Savory Rye Plum Pie

Serves 12

Crust

  • 1 ½ c all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ c rye flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 c butter (two sticks)
  • ½ c + 1 Tbs cold water

Plum filling

  • 2 lbs plums, cut into varying sized chunks (skin on)
  • 1/3 c brown sugar (light or dark)
  • ¼ c all-purpose flour or white rice flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice or orange juice
  • 1 three-fingered pinch of salt
  • 4 Tbs butter, for dotting the top of fruit

Assembly

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Splash of heavy cream (optional)
  • 1 Tbs finishing sugar, like demerara, turbinado, or another large-crystal sugar
  • 1-2 pinches large flaked salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix dry ingredients for crust in a large bowl with a fork or a whisk. Cut butter into small chunks and incorporate with a pastry cutter or with your fingers. (Alternatively, use a cheese grater on its largest “setting” to break butter into small, uniform pieces and mix into the flour.) Add the water ¼ cup at a time and mix with your hands until dough comes together. Divide dough unto two even pieces, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge at least 20 minutes.

Cut plums into chunks of desired size, leaving the skins on, and place in another large bowl. Add brown sugar, flour, vanilla, fruit juice, and salt, and mix gently with your hands or a spatula or wooden spoon. Let the fruit juices sit in the sugar at least 10 minutes.

Roll out half of dough while fruit is macerating. Line a shallow pie dish, and add fruit when 10 minutes have passed, scraping out all the juice and sugar from the fruit bowl with a spatula. Dot the fruit with second measurement of butter, evenly distributing over the surface. Roll out second half of dough and place over the top of the fruit, creating a lattice if desired. Pinch the edges of the two pieces of rolled out dough together until a recognizable outer crust forms. (Alternatively, crimp edges with a fork and cover with foil, leaving the center of the pie uncovered.)

Beat egg in a small bowl and add cream, if using. Using a pastry brush, spread egg mixture over the top crust, coating all visible surfaces. Sprinkle finishing sugar over the crust and optional salt.

Bake 45 minutes-1 hour, tenting with foil for the last 20 minutes if desired to prevent crust from getting too dark. If you are worried about the pie bubbling over and sending molten sugar to burn on the bottom of your oven, place a cookie sheet underneath the pie tin. You want the fruit filling to bubble in order to cook the flour; this ensures the insides of your pie will thicken and set. 

Let the pie cool at least 20 minutes before cutting into it. Enjoy with plain coconut milk or goat milk ice cream, whipped cream or coconut cream, yogurt, or sour cream or sweetened with a touch of honey.