From the Market


PartridgesPart of the thrill of living in another country is never knowing what you might find at the local market.  There is no way of predicting what people in the countryside are cultivating or catching, and often, when you see something interesting, it is a one-time opportunity.  If you don’t grab it, it will be gone.

As Allan and I were leaving with our food purchases last Sunday, we spotted this breeding pair of Barbary partridges in a small homemade cage.  We loved them instantly.  They are beautiful,  but also, there is something about their personalities, calm and a little shy.  We’ve got them all set up on our terrace, now, right outside the kitchen, where we can watch them, while they watch the garden, and enjoy their gentle chucking.

That same morning, we had grabbed about a kg of these hand-harvested mini chanterelles.

MushroomsI had been planning to make a risotto anyway, so these quickly became the focal point.  I won’t go into the recipe for risotto; the process is fairly standard, and you can easily search it.  I included the mushrooms, leeks, some homemade chicken stock, and a good amount of grated parmesan, so it was loaded with umami.

Risotto 2Now, remember last spring when I was in Sicily and going on about the best arancini in the town of Taormina?  I then vowed to get into the arancini-making business, but hadn’t made a single one, yet.  As my friend, Peggy, advised me at the time, you must use leftover risotto.  The gluten in the rice transforms, so they form up perfectly a day or two later.  She was exactly right, and it was a quick process to scoop and press the balls, rolling them in a sequence of flour, beaten egg, and seasoned bread crumbs.  We then pan-fried them, in olive oil,  over very low heat until they were golden.  These freeze well.  Reheat them, right from the freezer, in a 350 degree oven.



Slicing Thinly

Dried VeggiesIf people ask me what I did this weekend it was this:  I sat and sliced vegetables, very thinly.  I am convinced that micro-slicing vegetables gives them entirely different characteristics.  I love to then put them into salads or dehydrate them, like I did this time, to sprinkle on salads and other dishes.  These feather-light bits melt on your tongue and give dishes the slightest crispy texture and rooty flavor.  Shown here are carrots, beets, and a few turnips.

I also listened to the audiobook All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, mesmerizing and beautiful.  The paperthin slicing and the deep listening were a restorative meditation after the holidays spent in very close quarters with loved ones, making all decisions in a block.  It was wonderful, but this was nice, too.

With some super-thin eggplant slices, I made up an eggplant lasagna.  This has meat, but no pasta.  You could easily add or subtract either one.

Eggplant Lasagna

Adapted from Utterly Delicious Simple Food, by Belinda Jeffery

Meat Sauce

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped tablespoon sun-dried tomato pesto (or 3 large sun dried tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 cups tomato passata or crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 heaped tablespoons thinly sliced oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

Warm the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes or until they are translucent and pale golden.  Stir in the tomato pesto and let it cook for a minute or so to release its flavor.  Increase the heat a little and add the ground beef.  Cook it for a couple of minutes until it changes color, breaking it up with a spoon.  Mix in the tomato passata, red wine, and nutmeg.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Adjust the heat so the sauce bubbles gently, and let it cook for about 10 minutes until it is thick but moist.  Stir in the oregano, then leave the sauce to cool a little.

For the Lasagne

  • 1 lb. fresh ricotta*
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6-8 small to medium Japanese eggplants or zucchini, cut lengthwise on a mandoline
  • 1/2 lb. mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 lb. freshly grated parmesan
  • Olive oil, for brushing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly butter a medium-large, deep ovenproof dish.  Set aside.  In a medium-size bowl, mix the ricotta, eggs, salt and pepper, and nutmeg.  Set aside. Cover the base of the baking dish with a thin layer of the meat sauce, then lay down a layer of eggplant (about 1/3 of it) with the slices slightly overlapping.   Spoon half of the ricotta mixture over the eggplant and spread it as well as you can.  Top this with half the mozzarella slices and sprinkle with half of the parmesan.  Spread half of the meat sauce over the cheeses and spread evenly.  Repeat the layering with half the remaining eggplant (save your most uniform slices for last), the rest of the ricotta mixture, the remaining mozzarella, and most of the parmesan, reserving about 2 tablespoons.  Spoon the remaining meat sauce evenly over the top.  Finish with an arrangement of the reserved eggplant slices, brushed lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with the reserved parmesan.

Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes or until the contents are bubbling and the top is browned.  Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes, once removed from the oven, to settle and cool.

Serves 6

*Beer brewers:  A recycled grain bag left over from brewing makes an excellent strainer for making homemade ricotta, saving the cost of expensive cheese cloth.

Eggplant Lasagna

One Pot Pasta

One Pot PastaI can’t live in denial much longer; school is starting soon.  I don’t mind starting my work, but I had such a luxuriously,  long summer that it was almost like I got an extra season in there.  I even got to go the the NW Washington Fair, which I haven’t been to in approximately 20 years.  It hasn’t changed much, but that is a good thing.

School start up always has a particular tension about it.  Gone are the leisurely days when one can see how the day reveals itself before deciding what to cook.  You now have to have a plan.  To keep eating well on work nights,  you have to have already cooked the food ahead of time, or you need a meal idea that is a quick prep without creating a bunch of dishes.

This Martha Stewart recipe is going around the food websites and it works; it really works.  I like it for August, especially, when we will be having multi-colored tomatoes, warm from the garden, and fresh basil, more than we know what to do with.  This cooking method also stands up well to whole wheat pasta, building in additional fiber and nutrition.  Sure, it’s not the most complex pasta dish we’ve ever eaten.  I immediately started thinking about roasting the vegetables first, which you could easily do ahead of time, to bring up some additional complexity.  But don’t bother.  Make this as is.  Feel happy that you’ve had a healthy, low-fat dinner, using garden produce.  Pack the leftovers for your work lunch the next day.  Wash up the one pot.  Then, have a few minutes to enjoy some more of a waning summer evening.

One Pot Pasta


  • 12 ounces linguine or other long pasta (whole wheat works well)
  • 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large onion, thinly slices (about 2 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Course salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


Step 1

Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.

Step 2

Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil.  Serve with oil and Parmesan.

Substitutions Encouraged

I am on a “use it up” theme these days, but honestly, this way of cooking is what makes me the most satisfied, in general.  I really get a thrill out of surveying what I have in the freezer, pantry, and refrigerator and then putting together something, hopefully, wonderful without making a run to the store or market.

Today is Tunisian Labor Day so I’ve got a little time at home, mid-week.  I am pulling long-horded foods out to the kitchen island so they are in my working notice.  I’ve still got several artistic pastas from two trips to Italy in the past 5 months, and I’ve got this vaccuum-packed wild, smoked salmon filet that was backpack transported by my sons, at Christmas.


Thinking of a preparation, I could mentally taste a light white sauce.  I didn’t want something as heavy as true bechamel sauce and nothing overly cheesy.  I think this combination could turn into tuna noodle casserole if I’m not careful.  My go-to Italian cookbook, Made in Italy Food and Stories, by Georgio Locatelli has a white sauce for fish and pasta.  It is made with warm milk, not cream, and thickened with pureed potatoes instead of roux.

Riced Potatoes

At the end, you drop in cubes of a premade and chilled greens/butter.  He is recommending basil, but you can vary the greens depending on the meat or main vegetable you choose to use.  How about mustard butter with beef or swiss chard butter with chicken?  This is the beauty of this dish:  any pasta + any main meat or vegetable + any greens/butter will = a great, light(ish) pasta dish.

Chipped Herbs

Cubed Butter w:Herbs

Herb Butter


  • 2 large bunches of basil or any combination of greens
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large or 3 medium  potatoes, peeled
  • 500 ml milk
  • 200g meat or main vegetable
  • 500g pasta
  • Salt and pepper

Put the greens in a food processor and chip them, then add the butter and process to a bright green paste.  Spoon into a container and leave in the fridge until you need it.

Put the whole peeled potatoes in a pan of cold salted water.  Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook until soft.

When the potatoes are nearly cooked, warm up the milk in a pan.  Don’t let it boil; just heat it through, so that it won’t bring down the temperature of the potatoes when you add it to them.

When potatoes are cool enough to handle, but while still hot, put through a fine sieve.  Add the milk and season.  Keep in a warm place.

Meanwhile, cook the main meat or vegetable using your preferred method.  You could pan fry, grill, bake or saute.

Cook the pasta until al dente.

Put the potato puree back on the heat and whisk in the greens butter by spoonsful.  Finally,  season with salt and pepper.

Toss the pasta into the sauce to coat.

Serve the pasta, topped with the meat or main vegetable.  Finely grate parmigiano reggiano to taste.

For Northwesterners, the wood-smokey salmon, combined with the potato-cream sauce, was reminiscent of salmon chowder, but more refined.  It was a nice touch of home for a rainy day off in Tunis.



Chanterelle Risotto

Oh, these chanterelles.  What a surprise they were at the market yesterday.  When we lived in Bellingham, we used to go into the woods on Mt. Baker and forage for them in the fall, but we never got a batch this bounteous.  I’m estimating they cost about $4.00 per pound here, but I might not find them again this year.  That’s how it goes here: Grab them when you see them.
As we were drooling over them as they lay drying on their kitchen towel, our friend Shelly asked what we were going to do with them and actually, we hadn’t decided yet.  She suggested risotto, which was a great idea because we already had everything to make it so we could pull it off on a Monday night.
I adapted a recipe by Tyler Florence for Porcini and Chanterelle Risotto, but used a decadent whole pound of straight chanterelles.

Chanterelle Risotto

1/4 cupextra-virgin olive oil 
1/4 cup unsalted butter 
2 shallots, minced 
1 pound fresh chanterelle mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only 
1 fresh bay leaf 
2 cups white wine 
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
2 cups arborio rice 
6 cups chicken stock 
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced 
1/2 cupParmesan

Warm a wide large heavy-bottomed pan over a medium-low flame. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter and melt together. Add shallots and cook for 2 minutes, or until translucent, and then toss the mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf into the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their moisture and begin to turn golden brown.
Pour 1 cup of the wine into the pan, and bring the liquid to a simmer, allowing the wine to evaporate. Continue cooking until the mushrooms are dry, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Discard the bay leaf.
Reduce the flame to low, and add the remaining butter and oil to the pan and melt. Stir in the rice and coat with the oil until the kernels are shiny, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the remaining 1 cup of white wine and let evaporate.
Add the chicken broth, 1 ladle at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid. Do not add too quickly so as to prevent the kernels from exploding. Stir over a gentle flame until each ladle of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until most of the broth is incorporated and the risotto rice is al dente, about 25 minutes.
Fold the mushrooms back into the rice and season with salt, pepper and parsley.  Stir in the Parmesan and serve immediately. 

To make a completely honest disclosure, I’ve gotta tell you that my husband is the primary risotto maker in our family.  It’s one of his specialties and I was mostly his sous chef.