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Sweet Corn Polenta

September 7, 2017

It all started with a much needed cleaning out of the pantry. I found a partial bag of yellow cornmeal which I usually use more in the fall and winter. But I also had some sweet corn in the fridge and we had some hot Italians to grill and before you knew it I had formed a plan and then couldn’t get over the fact that I have been mistakenly dismissing polenta during the summer months. Never Again!

In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t stop pairing this creamy version with all kinds of summer delectable’s: brats, anything bbq’d and smothered in sauce, chicken, salmon, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, ripe tomatoes, fresh herbs, I could go on.

The point is, this quick (and I mean quick) sweet corn polenta can be used as a side, a smear, a dip, even a sauce. Enjoy!

You can also easily make this a vegan dish by using water instead of milk, using olive oil instead of butter and leaving out the parm.

Ingredients
2 T. butter
1 c. sweet corn kernals (fresh in summer, frozen in the off season)
1 c. whole milk
1.5 c. water
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. fresh chopped herbs like chives, parsley, basil, thyme (optional)

Method
1.) Melt 1 T. butter over medium heat.
2.) Add corn (and left over cob if using fresh). Cook for a minute.
3.) Add milk and water and bring to a boil.
4.) Remove left over cob (if using) and discard. (this just added a bunch of extra flavor!)
5.) Whisk in corn meal and stir until thick and creamy (about 5 minutes).
6.) Season with salt and pepper until it tastes amazing.
7.) Remove polenta from the heat add stir in remaining 1 T. butter, Parmesan cheese and optional fresh herbs.
8.) Serve

Component in Action
-serve with toasted bread
-serve alongside roasted or grilled chicken, salmon, steak, veggies
-a perfect pair for anything bbq’d
-use less liquid to make thicker polenta and more liquid to make thinner.

Ratatouille

August 24, 2017

There is a window of time each year where the stars align, the warm winds blow during the day (and maybe could do a better job of cooling at night) but hey it’s worth it, because the queen of all summer dishes has arrived…ratatouille.

The summer staple is smooth and elegant, has a complex texture, bright and bold flavors, and can be enjoyed in oh so many ways. Ratatouille originated in Nice, France where poor farmers cooked this simple vegetable stew to put to use vegetables available to them in the summer months.

This is also where the dried herb blend, herbs de Provence comes in. There are many variations to this regionally inspired spice blend, but the key ingredients are:
summer savory
thyme
basil
marjoram
lavender
parsley
oregano
tarragon
fennel seed and
mint.

This is optional, but adds a third dimension to the dish. I kind of think of it as without herbs de Provence you are sitting in a beautiful restaurant enjoying a simple and delicious summer lunch. When you add herbs de Provence to ratatouille, it’s like the window next to your table is pushed open and a balmy summer breeze enters the room. All of a sudden you notice the garden outside, you can smell the fresh herbs and onions growing just a stones throw away, the stalks of purple lavender sway back and forth and you relax back into your chair and reach for your wine, THAT’S the (totally optional of course) magic of this herb combination.

This recipe calls for the vegetables to be cut into a 1/2 inch dice. You can easily change this to 1 or even 2 inch. This is a rustic dish so it is not as important how big or small the pieces are, but rather that all the pieces are roughly the same size so they cook evenly.

Ingredients
4 T. Olive oil
1 T. Herbs de Provence
Pinch of dried chili flakes (optional)
1 large red onion, 1/2 in. dice
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 T. Tomato paste
1 medium eggplant, 1/2 in. dice
2 red bell peppers, 1/2 in. dice
2 medium zucchini, 1/2 in. dice
3 ripe medium tomatoes, 1/2 in. dice (or can of whole tomatoes, crushed)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. Fresh basil leaves, sliced or torn

Method
1.) preheat oven to 400.
2.) heat oil in a Dutch oven style heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.
3.) add herbs de Provence, dried chili flake and cook for a minute or two.
4.) add onion and garlic and cook for about five minutes stirring frequently.
5.) add tomato paste and cook another minute.
6.) add eggplant, red bell pepper, zucchini and tomatoes to pot and stir everything together.
7.) transfer pot to oven and cook for about one hour.
8.) add fresh basil before serving.
9.) enjoy hot or cold!

Components
-serve over pasta or quinoa
-enjoy warm on its own
-serve over squash or sweet potatoes
-serve cold on sandwiches
-serve on toasted bread
-serve over polenta/grits

The Best All Butter Pie Dough

August 15, 2017

It is so hard to choose what to publish during summer. There is so much to cook and so little time before the tomatoes, berries, eggplant, sweet corn, peaches and cherries fade into a luscious memory until next year. Can you tell I’m a bit hungry as I write this?! This week an unexpected surprise, our peach tree with little green peaches that I thought might be little and green forever, has sprung to life growing big peachy peaches in our little wild yard. I say wild because before we moved to Santa Fe…i think it’s safe to say I would describe us as city folk with a dream.

And now this dream is real life and in our yard lives a array of plant and animal characters that are keeping us in a steady state of wonder and curiosity along with a generous pinch of bewilderment. We have met many a lizard, a few black widow spiders, prairie dogs, gophers, hummingbirds, snails that suddenly appear on the stone patio in the back any time it rains, frogs, a snake who lives right outside our side door and sleeps in a little hole in the side of the house (deep breaths, deep breaths, oohhhmmmmmm) and certainly not least is the little skunk who visits our yard after dark and occasionally brushes its straggly white tail across the outside living room window, usually while we’re watching a movie so then we jump with the heebie-jeebies and then scramble to the window to get a closer look before it disappears under the fence.

We have a peach tree, two big lavender bushes, honeysuckle, mint and blackberries all which we discovered after moving here. Each new discovery felt like finding buried treasure. Then we built a raised bed and have been trying (trying is seriously the operative word here) to grow herbs, onions, eggplant, beets, tomatoes, peppers, kale and corn.  The kale and onions are showing the most only promise, especially with all the rain we’ve been getting the past few weeks, but the rest, well, let’s just say there’s always next year.

So now that there are a lot of peaches in my future, I have pie on my mind. And not just any old pie, but the best pie I can possibly make. So for that, I’m going straight to the source of where I first experienced the best pie I had ever had and that was from Hoosier Mama Pie Shop in Chicago, IL.

This is closely adapted recipe from The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie. I feel like I should probably be punished and sent to the corner by a bunch of pastry chefs, but I always use salted butter when making this pie dough and I have never once felt sad about it. I also increase the sugar from 1/2 T. to 1 T. because for some reason on the day that I made the blueberry tart pictured above, it just seemed like the right thing to do. So cheers! I am fairly confident this is the best all butter pie dough you will ever stumble across. Haha. I have been trying to stay disciplined and write shorter blog posts getting to the recipe faster. I guess just like my little grumpy garden, there’s always next time <3.

And if you’d like to watch the master, Hoosier Mama’s own Paula Haney walk you through a step by step pie dough session, you can find that here.

Ingredients

1 3/4 (196 grams) sticks unsalted butter, divided
1 T. (12 grams) sherry, apple cider, white wine or red wine vinegar 
1/2 cup (118 grams) cold water
2 1/4 cups (333 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (12 grams) kosher salt
1 Tablespoon (12 grams) granulated sugar

 

Method

  1. Cut butter into small cubes and put in freezer.
  2. In a cup mix the cold water and vinegar and set aside.(to keep the water cold sometimes I throw in an ice cube if my kitchen is hot)
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, salt and sugar.
  4. At this point the butter should be super cold but not frozen. Remove butter from the freezer and add to your flour mixture.
  5. Using your fingers (or a food processor if you have one as this produces the best pea size butter pieces) squeeze the butter pieces into the flour until the butter is blended into the flour and resembles small peas.*
  6. Add 6 T. of the vinegar and water mixture. Stir with your hands or a wooden spoon. At this point the dough will probably be crumbly. Continue adding and stirring in 1 T. of vinegar-water at a time until dough comes together into a ball.
  7. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and cut in two pieces if you’re making a pie or just leave whole if you’re making a big rustic tart.
  8. Wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper and cool in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days. If you want to keep longer, freeze and thaw the day before you want to use it.

Component in Action

-make big rustic tart with your favorite fruit filling
-make a two crust pie
-bake little tart shells and fill with whipped cream and fresh fruit
-make little pie pockets with circles of dough that you fill, fold over and then crimp with a fork before baking.

Summer Fritatta

July 21, 2017

My cooking has changed since becoming a mom. It’s become less about me expressing myself as a chef and more about the needs of my family. I have grown to love this and I love and am surprised that this small shift has made me a better cook.  I actually spend less time cooking, I think more about nourishment and health and I have been forced to get creative in new ways to meet the needs of my opinionated crew of eaters.

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, cooking for a toddler can be more challenging than a packed restaurant on a Saturday night. Sure every child is different, I just happen to have one who, for example, upon catching the slightest whiff of a beef stew I have spent the afternoon making, proceeded to tear up and then projectile vomit across the kitchen table just because “it smelled like meat”. Real fun as a mom who wants nothing more than to cook food for my family and have them love it.

So I guess I’m sharing this because I’m as much on this journey as any mom out there despite having cooked in kitchens across the country. And my goal, despite the obstacles of a picky toddler with a killer gag reflex, is to cook my family food that will nourish and bring them joy.

My four year old still doesn’t eat eggs. One day after reading a book about all the different ways kids like to eat eggs, he was excited to try them out and I was more than happy to oblige. We made eggs scrambled, sunny side up and hard boiled.  He couldn’t bring himself to try the scrambled or sunny side up even though he was glad I made them because they looked “pretty” (so I have that going for me), but he did try the hard boiled egg white and then the yolk with a tiny bit of salt sprinkled on top before the gag reflex kicked in.

I still have hope that someday he’ll eat this fritatta with us. In the meantime I love the fact that I can make this on a Sunday night and my husband and I can throw a couple of pieces in the oven throughout the week for a super fast breakfast that doesn’t taste fast at all. You can even eat this for lunch or dinner and pairs beautifully with a simple salad of greens with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

You can sub out ingredients if you want. This just happens to be my favorite fritatta combo at the moment. You can also double this recipe if you have a big pan or even a baking dish.

The most important thing to keep in mind when making your own fritatta is to cook most ingredients in advance, especially those that you want to caramelize (like bacon or onions) or that have a high water content like tomatoes and bell peppers.

Ingredients
2 pieces of bacon (diced) (optional)
1 T. butter
½  onion
1 Red bell pepper
½ c. halved cherry tomatoes
½ c. basil leaves (finely sliced aka chiffonade)
1 T. thyme leaves (finely chopped)
1 c. fresh spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
6 eggs
¼ c. whole milk yogurt
Salt and pepper
½  c. cheddar cheese (diced)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°f.
  2. Butter a (approx. 8”) cast iron pan or baking dish.
  3. In another pan over medium heat cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp.
  4. Add the butter, onion, red bell pepper and cherry tomatoes. Cook until they soften, about five minutes.
  5. Add basil, thyme, spinach, salt and pepper to taste and cook for another minutes until greens are wilted. Take mixture off heat.
  6. In a bowl whisk eggs, yogurt and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour into buttered pan.
  7. Spoon bacon-veggie mix evenly over eggs.
  8. Sprinkle cheese evenly over eggs
  9. Bake for around 30 minutes or until the eggs are set when you jiggle the pan.
  10. Let cool before slicing and serving.
  11. Enjoy cold or warm.

Component In Action
-enjoy for breakfast, snack, lunch or dinner
-Enjoy cold or warm
-don’t be afraid to switch the ingredients up..
-in spring try pancetta, fresh peas, green onion and lavender
-in summer try mozzarella, basil and tomatoes
-in fall try maplewood smoked bacon, mushrooms and gruyere cheese
-in winter try spinach, goat cheese and caramelized onions

Italian Salsa Verde

June 29, 2017

Italian salsa verde is one of the simplest classic sauces in Italy, not to be confused with the equally delicious but entirely different south of the border version made with tomatillo and jalapeno. This sauce is all about olive oil and parsley. The ingredients are so basic you can kind of whip this up fast and on the fly if you need a last minute dip, sauce or spread.

You can chop it by hand or pulse it a few times briefly in a food processor. Here’s the thing and it just might be my favorite thing, there is no right or wrong way here. What matters is that it makes a weekend night dinner not only delicious but fast. You are not cutting corners or compromising because something in a jar is easier. I guarantee you can make this faster than it takes to heat up a jar of pasta sauce.

I like basil so I use half parsley and half basil. It’s up to you. You could use all parsley or even add mint. Classically this is made with capers. But if I have a tub of olives or cornichons in the fridge I’m gonna use them instead. The last time I made this I didn’t have capers but I did have some gorgeous little red pickled peppers, so I used them and the end results was a zesty and herby treat for our grilled flank steaks a couple weeks ago.

Ingredients
1 c. flat leaf parsley (clean, leaves and thin stems)
1 c. basil leaves
1 lemon (zest only)
1 garlic clove (peeled)
1 T. dijon mustard
1 anchovy rinsed and drained (optional)
¼ c. capers, olives, cornichons or pickled peppers (make sure to pit the olives)
½ c. olive oil
Salt + pepper to taste

Method

  1. If you make using a food processor, add everything to the processor and pulse a few times. Check seasoning to see if you need to add any additional salt and pepper and BOOM you’re done!!
  2. If you want to chop by hand, chop garlic and lemon zest until finely chopped. Put in bowl.
  3. Roughly chop parsley and basil and add to bowl.
  4. Chop anchovy and add to bowl.
  5. Chop capers and add to bowl.
  6. Stir in dijon, olive oil, salt and pepper. Check seasoning.

Component in Action
-a dip for crudite (aka raw veggies)
-a sauce for grilled fish and meats
-add lemon juice and make into a zesty salad vinaigrette
-a drizzle for roasted or grilled veggies
-a spread for croustinis (aka toasted bread slices)
-a delicious pasta sauce

Hummus

June 16, 2017

If summer was a team in the basketball finals, I’d name hummus MVP. You can dip, drizzle, spread and smear on burgers, raw veggies, in dressings, on pretty much anything grilled.

There are two ways to make hummus. You can used dried chickpeas which take a bit more time to soak and cook, but result in a richer, more flavorful puree. Or you can used canned chickpeas and will be done from start to finish in less than ten minutes. I make both versions, depending on what I have the time for. Don’t waste a second feeling bad if you use canned chickpeas, just know there are two options to choose from depending on what’s working for you at any given time.  This week I’m going right to the source, sharing a recipe adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks that came out on Ten Speed Press by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi entitled Jerusalem (2013).

You can make it thicker to dip and thinner to drizzle (less water/more water).  You can add other ingredients like jalapenos, cooked beets, extra garlic or fresh herbs like basil or chives to spice things up.

After a few times making it, you’ll probably have the recipe memorized which is pretty sweet when you need to whip up something fast. It not only plays well with others, but when you take hummus off the bench it’s consistently a slam dunk. It doesn’t get much better than this when your putting together your summer line up of essential recipes. Cheers all around for summer and hummus<3.

Ingredients
1 c. dried chickpeas or 1 can (15 oz.) cooked chickpeas
1 t. baking soda (only if you are using dried chickpeas)
1 c. tahini (sesame paste)
4 T. fresh lemon juice
4 cloves garlic
6 T. cold water
salt, to taste
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling on top (optional)

Method
1.) The night before: If you are using canned chickpeas, put your feet up with a glass of wine and see you tomorrow. If you are using dried chickpeas, put them in a large bowl and cover them with enough water to double in volume. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Ok, now put your feet up with a glass of wine:) Easy peasy.
2.) If you soaked dried chickpeas over night, drain them and put them in a big pot with the baking soda. Stir and cook them for about three minutes.
3.) Add about six cups of cold water and bring to a boil, skimming off foam and skins as they come to the surface. The chickpeas will take anywhere from 40 minutes to a couple hours to fully cook depending on how fresh they are and how long they soaked. You want them to be break easily when pressed between your fingers. Drain. If you used canned chickpeas, drain and rinse.*
4.) Put them in a food processor or high powered blender (I use my nutri-bullet for hummus and it works beautifully. Blend for a few seconds until they break apart.
5.) Add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and a pinch of salt.
6.) Process, blend or pulse until smooth, adding water a Tablespoon at a time until the hummus is silky smooth. Check seasoning and add more salt as needed.
7.) Cover and refrigerate for a half hour or so before serving. Drizzle with high quality olive oil before serving.

*Its important to mention that at this point you could peel the chickpeas. It will make your hummus extra smooth and velvety. It will also take you about ten minutes to gently squeeze the chickpeas between your fingers and the skins will pop right off. Totally optional.

Component in Action
-use as a dip for raw or cooked veggies, toasted pita or even apples
-drizzle over salads, grilled steak or chicken, even fish
-add a spoonful to lemon vinaigrette for creamy salad dressing
-spread on crackers, cucumber slices, toasted bread or even sandwiches

Rhubarb Coulis – The sauce of early summer

June 2, 2017

There is no question, rhubarb is my favorite fruit of early summer.  It begins raw and inedible, streaky red and green stalks that are usually in need of a good scrub when I lug them home, sticking this way and that out of the bag, already tart and sassy before I even get them home. All that’s needed is care and a bit of time, to coax out their bright flavor and luscious texture. With a bit of sugar to balance out their natural acidity, this humble fruit transcends to its full potential and is always the highlight of the season.

A few weeks ago my husband was making his famous Swedish pancakes for brunch. At the store I was looking for a jar of lingonberry jam (if only we lived near Ikea!) and couldn’t find any, so instead I picked up a few stalks of rhubarb. I ended up making this coulis and to everyone’s surprise, even the Swede in the group, it was a perfect match for the light and airy pancakes. The next day I served the left over coulis with some soft cheese and that awesome. The next morning, we drizzled it on plain greek yogurt for a delightful breakfast treat. I’m only sad we used it all up before I could spoon it on ice cream, but hey, I still have a little time before the rhubarb harvest is over.

A coulis is a French sauce, thick and velvety smooth, made with vegetables or fruit. I could have just cooked the rhubarb and not blended the mixture. This would have been called a compote. Enough cooking vocab, let’s get to the sauce of the season<3.

Ingredients
1.5# rhubarb (washed, trimmed and sliced)
1 c. sugar (granulated or raw)
2-4″ strip of orange peel (or lemon..or both<3)
1 c. water

Method
1.) Bring everything to a boil.
2.) Simmer for 20 minutes.
3.) Turn off the heat and let the fruit steep (just sit around like you’re making a cup of tea) for 30 minutes.
4.) Blend until smooth.
5.) Taste. If is tastes too sweet, add some fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Component in Action
-drizzle over pancakes, french toast, crepes
-spoon over ice cream
-serve with goat and soft cheeses
-use to flavor your own yogurt
-use as a jam substitute (think toast & biscuits)
-make with other fruits too! blueberries, strawberries, cherries, plums, peaches…

Hollandaise Sauce

May 25, 2017

For week #2 in our summer session I couldn’t resist. I mean, come on! Asparagus is popping up everywhere and is just begging to be the main attraction on the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.

The pesky bugger of the brunch world is pesky no more. That’s right. Send out those brunch invitations because you are about to master hollandaise sauce in five minutes!

There is a beauty to the classical way of making this French sauce from Normandy. Thanks to my cooking school days, I still love to make things by hand like whipped cream. I use my biggest whisk and am always sweating by the time the cream has reached stiff peaks. I know I could use a mixer and have it done in a minute, but I like watching the cream slowly absorb the air and changing texture right before my eyes.

If you have the time, I don’t think a traditional method of making hollandaise is anything to be afraid of. It’s just one of those sauces that takes attention and a bit of elbow grease to make, two noble activities that almost always result in a satisfying and sometimes audible “yes!”

Lately I feel like I’ve been cooking while legos are flying over my head or transformers are sliding across the kitchen island so I’m all for a fool proof hollandaise I can make fast. The idea behind the sauce is simple: a luscious emulsification of egg yolks, butter (sometimes clarified), lemon (or vinegar). The most classical version includes a spiced vinegar reduction, a close sibling of Bearnaise sauce which includes peppercorn and tarragon, and is out of this world with a well cooked steak.

For this version I stick with lemon, straight up melted butter (as opposed to clarified) and a blender. Instead of being one of those recipes that “I’d love to make when I have the time”, this is a recipe you can whip up before your coffee is done brewing. Beautiful on eggs, vegetables or fish…and of course spooned over your favorite brunch Benedict.

Ingredients
2 egg yolks
2 T. (15 ml)  warm water
2 T. (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
pinch of ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 c. (113 g.) butter (melted + hot)
salt to taste

Method
1.) Put egg yolks, water, lemon juice and cayenne in a blender. Blend for around five seconds.
2.) If your blender has top with a vent, turn the blender on a medium speed and slowly drizzle in the melted butter into the egg mixture while the blender is running. You can also do this with an immersion blender.
3.) If your blender is an inverted bullet style blender, add the melted butter all at once and blend for 15-20 seconds until the sauce comes together and emulsifies.
4.) Pour sauce into a heat proof vessel like a pot or bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a lid and keep somewhere warm. My favorite warm spot is a back stove burner that is not on, but picks up residual heat from the oven. OR, pre-heat a wide-mouthed, heat friendly thermos with (very) hot water for five minutes. Pour out the water and pour in the hollandaise. This will keep it perfectly warm until you’re ready to serve if you are using it within a couple of hours.

Component in Action
-pour over poached eggs
-once finished, add fresh herbs like tarragon, basil or chives and serve along side steak, chicken or fish
-drizzle over veggies like steamed asparagus or grilled tomatoes

Quick Pickled Onions

February 6, 2017

My very first cooking job out of culinary school was at a lovely Italian restaurant in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Chef was thoughtful and straightforward with his interpretation of Italian classics and lucky for me, gentle with his cooks. I was ready to absorb everything I could, and as all young cooks do, I showed up on my first day with a small blank notebook ready to start collecting as many recipes as I could. Assigned to the cold appetizer station, those were the days I filled my notebook with recipes of flatbread dough, gremolata, vinaigrettes, poaching liquids, aiolis, curing ratios for fish, etc. Many recipes had just a handful of ingredients.

I don’t remember exactly when I first learned about this quick pickle technique, but this is a perfect example of one of those components that once learned will stay with you for a lifetime, adding brightness to a variety of dishes. You can swap out the red wine vinegar for a different vinegar like sherry, champagne, or apple cider, change up the spices and even the sugar. I recently added these pickled onions to a salad of broccoli, raisins, blue cheese, and crunchy butter croutons. The possibilities for variations and use are endless.

Ingredients

1 Red Onion (sliced)
1 c. Red Wine Vinegar
½ c. Water
½ c. Brown sugar
1 t. Salt
1 t. Smoked paprika

Method

1.) Put sliced onions in a glass jar (or other non-reactive container)
2.) In a medium saucepan, bring vinegar, water, sugar, salt and paprika to a boil.
3.) Pour over onions.
4.) Use a spoon to submerge the onions in the pickling liquid.
5.) Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight for at least three hours.

Component in Action

  • Add to salads
  • Use as a condiment on burgers and sandwiches
  • Serve with cheese and charcuterie
  • Topping for Veggies and Fish Tacos

Maple Cashew Cream

January 21, 2017

I first made a version of this for a dinner I catered for good friends who were celebrating their health and wellness coaching company. At first when tasked with coming up with five dairy and gluten free courses I was just the tiniest bit apprehensive. Of course I could do it, but would it be less fun of a meal? Would I be able to pull off a menu that stayed within the no dairy/no gluten perimeters, but didn’t taste like sawdust?  I wanted all forty guests to feel as though the entire evening was a treat. As I thought about all these things, the more it started to feel like a big, beautiful challenge.

A trip to meet the farm we partnered with added another layer of limitations, because I wanted to create the menu based on what they were harvesting that last week of July. And that’s kind of where the magic happened. The “dragon’s tongue” flat beans were gorgeous cream beans with bright purple stripes. Every time I see this bean, I think of Jack and the beanstalk and hope Jack’s beans were as stunning as these. They had just picked dark green bunches of kale, pink, purple and white Easter egg radishes, amaranth greens and mint. There were ripe heirloom tomatoes, bursting with a delicate juice just begging to be made into a basil infused consomme. I quickly scribbled on a piece of paper the vegetables, herbs and legumes I would have to work with, and as the wheels started turning, the pieces started to come together:

passed canape
cucumber, roasted garlic hummus, radish tartare

amuse
tomato consomme shooter

vegetable 1
arugula, easter egg radish, pickled yellow beans, farm egg salad

vegetable 2
massaged kale, dragon’s tongue snap beans, savory lentils, amaranth greens, mint pesto

main
braised hawks hill elk, quinoa, coconut milk curry, fat blossom farm vegetables

Savory always comes to me first when planning a menu, and I end up wrangling together a dessert, sticking close to the fruits of the season or a sure winner like the decadent flourless chocolate torte. So here I was, boxed into a corner with nowhere to look but up and outside my habitual go-to’s.  It really is a gift of circumstance, to be forced to get creative, especially with food.  It might not feel great at the start, but rarely disappoints in the end. Time and time again that’s how some of my most creative moments have come about in the kitchen. With odds and ends from the pantry and fridge, and a half hour to make dinner. Or in this case, a dessert with dietary restrictions and a creamy little vegan delight I had heard of called Cashew Cream.

I got to experimenting and soaking, adding vanilla bean and maple syrup, and before long had put together a dessert so simple I almost felt guilty, but it was a home run at the dinner so any guilty feelings dissipated pretty quickly once I saw a room of delighted faces:

dessert
stewed cherries, cashew cream, toasted coconut, dark chocolate

I filled a cocktail glass with cashew cream, added a spoon of stewed Michigan cherries that had been steeped with black peppercorn and rose petals, and sprinkled each glass with toasted coconut and dark chocolate shavings. I opted for a texture right in the middle, with the mouthfeel (almost) of whipped cream. You could also add more liquid to end up with a saucy texture like creme anglaise, or add less for a custard feel. If you are feeling feisty you can freeze it which results in a rich cheesecake-esque, ice-creamy goodness which I also highly recommend with some blueberries swirled in.

Ingredients

2 c. raw cashews
1 c. coconut milk (or water)
4 T. real maple syrup
1 vanilla bean (scraped) or 1 t. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Method

1.) Soak raw cashews in cold water overnight in the fridge or in hot water for 1 hour.
2.) Strain and discard water.
3.) Add soaked cashews, 1 c. water, maple syrup, vanilla and salt to a blender. Blend until smooth.
4.) Refrigerate until ready to use.

Component in Action

-Freeze for an ice cream treat
-Add more liquid to use as sauce
-Add less liquid to enjoy as a “custard”
-spoon cashew cream between layers of berries and dark chocolate
-a thicker version on pancakes or toast
-drizzle a thin version on spiced baked apples