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.

Herb Pie


Herb PieThis recipe is a play on familiar spanakopita, made with spinach Whenever I have made spanakopita in the past, I made it from a recipe-driven point of view, buying special ingredients from the grocery store and assembling them in specific amounts.  Chock that up to my inexperience, but it never really occurred to me, until now, to make that pie in a free-form way.  As Yotam Ottolenghi describes in his book Jerusalem, this isn’t a recipe to be made from buying little packets of herbs from the store.  This is what you make when you’ve come from a true farmer’s market with unruly heads and bundles of fresh greens and herbs, or, even better, you are growing them yourself and you have so much you need ways to melt them down into savory dishes.  This is additionally a good way to use up bits of delicious cheese.  You pretty much can’t go wrong with the filling proportions and because the filo pastry looks all the better with rustic flourishes and scrunches, that part is worry-free, as well.

In addition to being a delicious way to use an abundance of produce, this is an extremely versatile dish to have on hand this time of year, particularly if you have company.  It is a splendid side dish to any kind of meat you have cooking.  It also makes a comforting breakfast as well as a classy lunch with salad.  It keeps nicely in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  Rewarm portions in a 350 degree oven.

Herb Pie

Adapted from Jerusalem

Serves 6

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing the pastry
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 lbs (about 8 cups) hearty greens (Swiss chard, bok choy, spinach, kale etc…) thick stems separated from leaves, each roughly chopped
  • 1 large bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup mixed fresh herbs and tender greens (parsley, mint, dill, arugula etc…) chopped
  • 4 oz ricotta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4 oz other cheese, grated (sharp cheddar, goat cheese etc…)
  • Grated zest of l lemon
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 1/3 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 9 oz filo pastry

Pour olive oil into a large, deep frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute for 8 minutes, without browning.  Add the green stems and continue cooking for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the green leaves, increase the hat to medium-high, and stir as you cook for 4 minutes, until leaves wilt.  Add the green onions, tender greens, and herbs and cook for 2 minutes more.  Remove from the heat and spread the vegetables into a 9′ x 12′ baking pan. Put it into the freezer for about 10 minutes to cool.

Once the mixture is cool, squeeze out a much liquid as you can and transfer to a mixing bowl.  Add the cheeses, lemon zest, eggs, salt, pepper, and sugar and mix well.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lay out a 9′ x 12′ baking dish.  Divide 1/2 packet of filo pastry into two roughly equal portions.  Freeze remainder for another use.  Place a damp dish towel over the sheets.  Pour about 3 tablespoons olive oil into a small bowl.  Dampen your hands with olive oil and pick up a sheet of filo.  Brush your hands over the sheet and then place it into the bottom of the baking dish.  Continue in this way, placing some of the sheets so they overlap the sides of the dish, until 1/2 of the filo packet is used.  Place the filling on top of the pastry and bring sides around it.  Then, continue placing the rest of the filo packet, in the same way as before, on top.  Finally, tuck the filo sheets down around the sides of the pie.

Brush the top generously with olive oil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the center is bubbling and the top is crisped and golden.  Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.


Winter Bounty


Winter is the most vibrant growing season in Tunisia.  Think San Diego to get a bearing of a comparable US climate zone.  We’ve got cool weather, but never (pretty much) freezing.  I think we had ice on our car windows once or twice in the morning in my 3 1/2 years here.

I’m getting back involved in the social life of our community.  Friends have been over to the house for meals and brewing and everyone seems to bring me a bunch of something from their garden.  But they have a bumper crop if they’ve got any, so  I’ve gotten huge sacks full of lemons and arugula, spinach transplants to go into pots, a pot of thyme,  and a bundle of just-cut roses.  It’s all wonderful, and I get to indulge in cooking, using mass quantities of these wonderful ingredients.

I’ve made preserved lemons before, and they are nice, though I can buy preserved lemons in local shops any time I want them.  Saveur magazine presented a similar but different idea which I tried this time: lemon olive oil.  Here are their very loose directions for making it up.

Lemon Olive Oil

“Throw a lemon- rind, pith, seeds, the whole shebang- into a blender with olive oil, blitz the heck out of it, and what do you get?  A bright and bracing emulsion that’s terrific in everything:  tossed with roasted potatoes, added to marinades, even mixed into pancake batter for some zip.  Refrigerated, it can keep for three weeks.”

I quartered a medium-large lemon, picking out all of the seeds I could see,  and trimmed any blemishes from the peel.  Then, I pureed it with about 2 cups of extra-virgin olive oil.  The emulsion holds perfectly.

Lemon Olive Oil

And now, here is the recipe,  from the header photo, which is perfect for using large quantities of the freshly-shelled peas, fennel, and other greens that are thriving in our cool winter sun. This is a vintage recipe from Saveur, April 1996,  but it was recommended by The Canal House as one from Saveur’s 20-year past that influenced them.  I know that anything The Canal House adopts as a touchstone recipe is one I need to make my own.  (Oh, watch the video on that link.  It will make you desperate to run outside, collect fresh food, cook it simply, but brilliantly, and share it with some lovely friends.)

Cooked and Raw Winter Salad

Serves 8-10

  • 6 slices bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 16oz. package frozen lima beans
  • 1 16oz. package frozen peas
  • 1 cup roughly chopped mint
  • 1 cup roughly chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • 7 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch watercress, roughly chopped
  • 1 head bibb lettuce, cored and torn into small pieces
  • 1 medium bulb fennel, finely chopped, plus 1/4 cup roughly chopped fronds
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

1.  Heat bacon in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat; cook until crisp, about 6 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain; set aside.  Add 2 tbsp. oil to pan;  return to medium-high heat.  Add pine nuts, shallots, salt, and pepper;  cook until shallots are soft, 2-4 minutes.  Transfer mixture to a bowl;  set aside.

2.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook lima beans and peas until bright green, about 1 minute.  Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water.  Drain and spread on paper towels to dry;  transfer to bowl with pine nuts and shallots.  Add reserved bacon, remaining oil, mint, parsley, half the parmesan, the scallions, watercress, lettuce, fennel and half the fronds, lemon juice, salt, and pepper;  toss.  Garnish with remaining parmesan and fennel fronds.

My modifications:

I prefer to use pancetta in place of regular bacon.  The flavor is lighter and saltier, and I think it goes so well with fennel.  We can get freshly-shelled peas easily now, so I used all fresh peas and blanched them quickly to bring up their color.  In place of watercress, I used a combination of mache and arugula.  I also used my new Lemon Olive Oil  in place of the oil and lemon in the recipe, minus the amount for sauteing.  Taste to see if you need any more lemon at the end to brighten the flavor.  Canal House encourages making any substitutions that work for you.  Bonus:  This salad is brilliant lightly sauteed and tossed with pasta and extra parmesan on Day 2.

A pile of peas at the Sunday market.

Half and Half

Here I sit at my house on Lummi Island, exactly one week post-op.  Last week was a bit of a blur, the edges filtered through narcotics.  It hurt, yes ma’m.  I think the uterus fairies had a prior booking that day and all that were available were Thing 1 and Thing 2.  They banged around and generally bruised everything, but the job was done, in the end.  For a few days following, there was no keeping ahead of the pain.  It showed up every three hours on the dot and demanded a handful of pills as ransom.  I complied and then watched life happen around me in dreamy snippets, half in and half out.  Standout images were of Gabe rustling up a massive Thanksgiving dinner:  20something lb. turkey, two dressings, two kinds of potatoes, gravy,  and cranberries.  Anton playing his bass.  The boys taking Giest in and out for little diversion adventures:  fake hunting in the field, swimming and fetching practice in the strait.  We also became obsessed with this Mansonish hippy band/cult and watched everything they had on the internet.  Yes, our interests range in odd directions.

Then, some Jehovah’s Witnesses actually knocked on my door on Saturday morning.  They were dressed in professional clothing, including panty hose, and I truly admired their dedication to canvas the island on a rain-spitting Saturday morning.  This, and the Pilgrims, and Edward Sharpe tumbled around in my mind and reminded me of myself at one of my most zealous times of life.  I was raised in a small, country,  evangelical community, which if you define cult as “of forming its own culture”, then it was a cult for sure, with its own practices and expectations within a closed membership.  When I was of high school age, I didn’t want to abandon my Christian beliefs, but I became interested in the allowable counter-culture expressions, largely derived from the Jesus Movement.  I was fascinated with communal living and if I had had the connections, would possibly have spent some time doing industrial amounts of cooking and becoming disillusioned in a Christian commune.  These were my first two cookbooks, aside from the Betty Crocker cookbook that was the only one I knew my mom to own.  These books fueled my imagination about the processes behind ingredient driven, formula-based cooking that still interest me today.



My favorite little cafe in Durango, at that time, was called The Warm Flow.  They served food on hand-thrown pottery dishes and had daily postings of their bread, salad, soup, and quiche.  The first thing I cooked from the Tassajara cookbook was a cauliflower and swiss cheese quiche with whole wheat crust.  Proudly presenting this to my family for dinner, it was about as close as I got to seeing my dad cry.  It wasn’t that he was proud of my accomplishment, it was that he couldn’t bear thinking that this was what he had to eat for dinner.

Today is the last day to use up our Thanksgiving turkey and I think I’ll borrow a recipe from my old Tassajara Cooking, making their Half and Half Pie Crust in a pot pie that I think even my dad would love.

Half and Half Pie Crust

Adapted from The Complete Tassajara Cookbook

The half and half title comes from using half white, half whole wheat flour, and half butter, half oil for the fat.

Makes two medium-sized or one large pie crust

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup oil (I used olive)
  • 5 Tbsp. ice water

Mix together the flours and salt.  Cut in the chilled butter, leaving pea-sized chunks.  Mix in the oil and enough ice water to bind.  Form into one or two disks and chill or freeze until ready to use.  When ready, bake in preheated 400 degree oven until browned.

DSC_4829 - Version 2

Farmers’ Market/Thanksgiving Turkey Pot Pie

This was a delicious use for not only the rest of our shredded turkey, but also the Farmers’ Market vegetables I had optimistically stocked up on two days before my surgery.  They were gracious enough to wait for me in the crisper of the refrigerator until I could come back around.

Cut all vegetables to a similar size.

  • 1 large onion
  • 3 stalks celery and some of the leaves
  • 3 peeled carrots, preferable multi-colored
  • 3 small potatoes, peeled
  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 1 small bunch of kale

4 cups shredded meat (preferably turkey)

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup flour

4 cups poultry stock (preferably freshly made turkey stock)

Sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and good quality paprika to taste

In a large,  heavy-bottom pan, saute vegetables in olive oil until beginning to soften, then pour water over them, covering the pot to let them sweat for 5 minutes more.  Add shredded meat.  Sprinkle flour and stir to coat ingredients.  Cook the floured mixture for 2-3 minutes more.  Add poultry stock.  Allow the sauce to thicken a little.  Adjust seasonings.

Pour filling into a deep baking dish.  Roll out pastry and lay over the top.  Place in 400 degree, preheated oven, with a baking sheet underneath to catch drips from boiling over.  Bake until pastry is browned and filling is bubbling.  Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes to cool and allow sauce to thicken.

A Polish Country Dinner

RoosterGoogle Images

I was listening to The Splendid Table about a month ago when Lynn was interviewing Anne Applebaum who has authored a new cookbook: From a Polish Country House Kitchen:  90 Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food.  Visit this link to hear the podcast for yourself.    This was late January and we were up to our necks in root vegetables here in Tunis so I knew I would be able to identify with the book.

In 1988, Anne and her Polish husband, along with her inlaws, bought a broken down manor-house in Northwest Poland.  Over a decade, they renovated the house, along with the grounds and gardens, part of which was a large greenhouse.  Deer, wild boar, and geese can be hunted on the property and many types of fish are caught or farmed locally.  They preserve what they grow in the harvest season, in the traditional ways, and use what they have in the lean months in masterful ways.

I have been inspired and a little haunted by this Polish way of eating.  I was in Poland last winter and I still carry an unshakable sadness for one of the most tragic places I’ve ever been right next to a curiosity to more deeply know one of the quaintest and most beautiful places.

I was cooking this afternoon.  I needed four onions, but I only had two.  Rifling through the refrigerator, I found a bundle of leeks that had been stored for a couple of weeks.  They hadn’t yet been cleaned so they were still dirt caked and were also beginning to yellow on the outer layers.  A more finicky me would not have bothered with them and would have composted the entire bunch.  The compost can be a great rationalization sometimes when you just don’t want to bother with produce that will take a little work.  But, I needed the onions, now.  The produce shops were already closed for their afternoon siesta and I needed my dish to simmer in the meantime.  This is where the country cook comes through.  I washed and trimmed the leeks, finding plenty of good onion left to use and then slow-cooked them in a braise that was delicious.  I think that many of these old country recipes began from meats, vegetables, and fruit preserved using methods that were possible given the climate and technology of the time to provide foods of interest and variety in the bleak months, but since then, generations of cooks have refined the techniques until they have become exquisite dishes in their own rights.  They have evolved from necessity to art.

I became a little obsessed with the idea of cooking a Polish feast and I thought about it and planned it for weeks.  The atmosphere of the meal was simple with lots of candlelight, rough linens, and pottery,  and the menu was entirely Polish.  Here is what we had:

Blini with Smoked Salmon and Caviar
Barszcz or Borscht (the Russian name)
     Potato and Ricotta, with Fresh Peas, and Bacon
     Sauerkraut and Wild Mushroom
Braised Pork Shoulder with Sour Cherries
Brown Sugar Pavlova with Fresh Strawberries and Creme Fraiche
Mint Tea

Here are a few photos.

shutter speed: LO, F:16, ISO: 1600
shutter speed: LO, F: 16, ISO: 1600
shutter speed: LO, F: 16, ISO: 1600
shutter speed: LO, F: 16, ISO: 1600
shutter speed: LO, F: 16, ISO: 1600

Cooking a disciplined dinner like this is really a massive laboratory exercise, especially when you are cooking recipes that are all new to you.  I learned many things.

1.  Even when you have stuffed the borscht stockpot, the massive one made for industrial kitchens, with beef on the bone, many, many onions, leeks, celery, beets, carrots, porcini mushrooms, and garlic,  simmered and simmered, and then reduced the final consume, it can still be a bit thin on body.  It wasn’t all that I expected, in the end, and I will keep trying to find “my recipe” that makes the borscht I am tasting in my head.

2.  After two complete pre-party pierogi run-through batches, I still prefer the peirogi dough recipe I referenced last summer when we were making crab peirogis.  The addition of sour cream or creme fraiche to the dough not only gives it a tender bite, but also makes the dough taste like more than flour.  Following is the abbreviated version.

Dough: 3 eggs, 8 ounces sour cream or creme fraiche, 3 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1 tablespoon baking powder

Blend all ingredients and 1 cup flour in mixer with a dough hook.  Gradually add remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until dough pulls away from the bowl and is not too sticky to work with.  Beat dough a few minutes more, then let rest for 5 minutes before beginning to roll.

3.  If you find, like some Polish country cooks do, that moths have hatched an entire colony in your precious stash of dried sour cherries, cranberries work just as well.

4.  Not many people could tell you what Polish food is, but when they taste it, they love it.

Getting off Auto


I want to take photos.  I am so weary and mortified by the silly representations of things and life I have posted on the internet.  I have gotten by with some close up trickery, but I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.  I took the plunge last summer and bought a true DSLR with a couple of lenses.  Having not had lenses before, I read research and then bought what I thought would be great for me:  an 85mm macro lens and a wide-angle zoom, something I have wanted for years for taking shots of my carpets and room interiors.  It turns out that I have lenses for two extremes now:  super close and super wide.  My son says it’s like I am trying to dig a hole and I have a teaspoon and a backhoe.  Surely, my next camera purchase will be a mid-range telephoto lens.

But lenses aren’t my biggest challenge.  Using the settings on my camera is.  I had an introduction to settings last fall through a technology class I was taking and now, some colleagues at school have formed a little club.  We meet once a month, bringing a photo to share along a certain theme or technique.  The first meeting in January, I brought a photo I had taken in Vienna in November.  It was nice and showed a good use of the “proportion of thirds”.  But at the end of the meeting, a fellow photographer tossed down the gauntlet, “Let’s always post our camera setting when we show our photos.”  I was outed.  I was still just shooting my new fancy camera on Auto.

Second meeting, the theme was “love”.  I figured out how to adjust my shutter speed and aperture and I did spend a couple of hours one Sunday afternoon photographing a still life of Tunisian food products I had gleaned from the countryside and the markets that weekend:  things I love.  I tried every aperture setting and a few different shutter speeds and in the end, I just had a picture of some food sitting on my kitchen counter.  I complained to my son, “I did all of this adjusting and I still didn’t get an amazing photo.”

He challenged, “Well, what were you trying to use the settings to do?”

I didn’t exactly know, and there was the problem.  It was getting late and I needed to email my photo to the organizer so she could make a slide show for the next day.  I said, “I just won’t go to the meeting.  I’ll wait until I know what I’m doing and can take a better photo.”

Again, my son, who has been a vocal performance major for the past three years said, “Yep, that’s what singers think, too.  They think they will just continue working on their own in a practice room and only come out when they are good enough.  It’s intimidating to go in front of your peers when you know you’re not very good, but you grow a lot by showing what you can do and also by studying their work.”

So I went to the meeting and I cringed when my photo came up, but I made a new vow to work at this.  It’s not just going to come easily to me, but I want the skill.  I am mortified, at the moment, because I can clearly see the difference between what I want and what I take, but hopefully, that vision will help take me toward a better photo.

This made me think about teaching children.  Sometimes I get frustrated with kids who won’t put aside trying to cover up their reading and writing deficiencies.  It looks obvious to me that a learner must just jump in and start practicing the skills at whatever level he or she is at.  That is the way to make progress.  But kids don’t automatically know that or believe you when you tell them that.  And as I relived this week, it is embarrassing to put your deficiencies out in front of peers.  It is good to have re-experienced this.  I hope I can keep that empathy with my struggling learners.

I am going to post photos here, frequently.  And I am going to post my settings as an act of accountability, until I find it so pretentious that I can’t do it anymore.  (All of these pictures were at a shutter speed of about 200 and aperture of 2.5-2.8).

I have been brining this week and when I think of brining, I picture a 20 lb. turkey in a 5-gallon bucket set out in a cold garage a few days before Thanksgiving.  It was a small revelation to me that I could brine a smaller cut of meat, such as a lamb shoulder, in a pot that can nicely fit in my refrigerator.  It took nothing to mix some salt and sugar with water, plop in my piece of meat, and leave it for a couple of days.

Simple Brine

1/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup kosher or course sea salt to 10 cups water



This is the second of the fantastical broccoli found at the market this week.  Now and then, we get this purple-tinged variety and I try to find a use worthy of its beauty.


Here is how I used both the brined lamb shoulder and the broccoli.  Bon Appetit did an article, in the February issue,  on the Saltimporten Canteen in Malmo, Sweden.  The intent of this sliding-metal-door-fronted restaurant is to bring up the simple qualities of excellent ingredients, without much culinary trickery.  That is something I need reminding of in both food and photographs.  I would love to enjoy this Lamb and Broccoli Stew on a cold Saturday, sitting outdoors at long wooden tables with fun people.

Beetroot Pesto

We just finished three weeks of high entertaining.  There has been a succession of new staff for next year coming to visit us in Tunis, along with some side friends we wanted to spend time with.  We knew it was coming, saw it all booked out on the calendar, and then we geared up for day, after day, after day of eating events.  And it was wonderful.  It about killed us; I won’t deny it, but as a whole, I am happy for all of the faces that have been around our table and happy for the cooking experiences that were involved.

And I didn’t blog about any of it.  I didn’t even take pictures.  You just have to take my word that any of these events happened because there is almost no evidence.  This even surprised me.  There were a number of interesting dishes I prepared.  Several were new to me and would have been perfect to write about, but  I was just simply too busy cooking and entertaining to write about cooking and entertaining and I didn’t feel the need to.  It was what we call in education a performance-based assessment.

That made me think about the place of this blog in my life.  What purpose does it serve?  Why do I want to return to it so often and continue trying to express an experience I’ve had with food?  A friend of mine mentioned my blog last week and said, “Cooking grounds you, doesn’t it?”  That sounds like a really simple comment, but it resonated with me all week.  If cooking grounds me, then that explains why I sometimes can’t get on with other pressing responsibilities, like posting an assignment for my online course, until I’ve written a blog post about something I’ve cooked.  That comment actually made me feel less obsessed about blogging, which I didn’t feel was the source of my motivation anyway, and gave me permission to have a need to take time to place some creative thinking  in a certain place and then go on with other life activities.  That seems more normal to me.

All of this actual entertaining took the place of  writing about it so I was satisfied and didn’t miss the blog documentation.  But I miss it, now.  Passing through a particular season always opens the opportunity to enter a new one.  I am still so thrilled to squeeze the life out of this season’s produce.  This is a classic expat sort of recipe as I had to gather up the ingredients from more than one country.  We have beetroot and are starting to get some nice basil harvests, but I didn’t have fresh mozzarella until I went to Italy three weeks ago.  I also don’t know where I can buy macadamia nuts in Tunis, but my teaching partner went on a safari to Kenya over Spring Break and brought me back a package of them so I had the exact amount needed for this recipe.  I thought that this was an almost cosmic alignment of ingredients and so this recipe was meant to be.

It feels good to be back in this space with some fresh motivation to tell and show my cooking experiences.  Thanks for being my guest.

Beetroot Pesto

Adapted from Bennetts Café in Mangawhai, NZ

  • ½ lb. beetroot
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup walnuts or macadamia nuts, toasted
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped basil, mint or both

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the beetroot in a roasting dish then cook for 1 hour until tender.  Set aside to cool completely.  Using your fingertips, rub off the skins.  Cut the beetroot into chunks.

Place the beetroot, garlic, oil, nuts, Parmesan, lemon juice, and herbs in a food processor.  Process until smooth.

Serve the pesto with blanched green beans and pasta.  Serve alongside smoked fish, or serve on bruschetta with mozzarella, arugula, basil, and tomatoes.

Extravagance with Artichokes

I want to do wildly extravagant things with artichokes.  They are so cheap and plentiful that this is my time, if ever, to try all of those artichoke recipes I’ve always dismissed as being for people who live in California.  One little hurdle in my mind can be getting past the separation of leaves and stem.  First, it is physically challenging to peel and de-choke an artichoke.  It’s not impossible, but I wish I had a better technique.  Second, if I don’t use the whole artichoke, I feel like I’m wasting the meat on those leaves.  I am currently steaming them off separately and Allan and I will either just sit and have a big artichoke leaf fest or I will try scraping the meat off of each individual leaf to add a layer of artichoke paste to a lasagna.  That’s my current plan.

Concurrently, I have been saving nutrient rich greens from the cutting room floor all week.  The vegetable sellers here are very quick to cut the greens from the bulbs of carrots and fennel, and on to beets and turnips, which we know are delicious.  I bought a bunch of beets a few days ago and had my back turned when the owner chopped off the greens and tossed them in a bundle on the shop floor.  When I asked for the greens, he put the decapitated heads of two other customers’ bunches in my bag, too, so now I have plenty of beet greens.  Plenty.

I bought a beautiful cookbook last summer, Turquoise, by Greg and Lucy Malouf that I am long overdue to start learning from.  The subtitle is A chef’s travels in Turkey.  Greg is an experienced Australian chef, Lucy is an evocative writer and they also had a fantastic photographer along because every page makes you want to crawl right inside.  They try everything they can, but then Greg puts a little Australian spin on the dish so it’s just a tiny bit fusionized for Western cooks.  This is my first recipe to actually cook from the book and it’s perfect for what’s available to me at the moment.  Rather than chicory and chard, I used beet and turnip greens.

Bitter greens, artichokes, and shallots with poppy seeds

Adapted from Turquoise, by Greg and Lucy Malouf


  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 fresh artichoke hearts, cut into quarter and kept in acidulated water
  • 12 small shallots, peeled and halved
  • 1 leek, white part only, cut lengthwise into thin strips and washed
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds, lightly crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon hot paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Ground sumac
  • 1 1/3 pounds chicory, roots trimmed
  • 5 ounces Swiss chard, shredded lengthwise
  • 5 ounces chicken stock
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter


 Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan and add the drained artichokes, shallots and leek.  Saute over a low heat for a few minutes, then add the poppy seeds, paprika, pepper and 1 teaspoon sumac and cook for a further couple of minutes.  Add the chicory, Swiss chard and stock.  Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes until the artichokes and onions are tender.

Remove the pan from the heat, then stir in the lemon juice and butter well and put into a warmed serving bowl.  Sprinkle with a little more sumac and serve.

Serves 6

I prepared this using two separate pans to keep the beets from turning everything pink.  If you use chicory, kale, or endive, you can just use one pan.  I had never sauteed raw artichokes before and I love this method.  I will do this more often this winter.

Back on the Juice

My husband has been gone to the US for a week.  He got back last night, on Valentine’s Day.  It was alright having some time all to myself.  I’m working on some big projects and it was fun to have some endless days, especially on the weekend, to work and think and only stop to put a few bites of leftovers in my mouth.  But I very much missed Allan’s juicing routine.  I think I made it clear in Two Ways with Turnips that produce, all produce, is really inexpensive and organic in Tunisia.

We had a handy citrus juicing attachment for our food processor last winter and started the habit of making citrus juice everyday.  This year, we made the investment in an extraction juicer so we could take advantage of the beets, carrots, ginger, pears, and apples we have available all winter, in addition to citrus.

Allan has taken this practice on almost like a form of meditation.  We have a great produce shop just a block from our house and every few days we stop by, often after school.  When we get home, Allan heads to the kitchen and while I work on dinner and we listen to news, he washes produce and then starts juicing.  He used to make it every morning, but it involved quite a bit of clean up so he has taken to filling two or three Nalgene bottles and putting them in the fridge and then we have enough for two or three days.  This juice is so electric and vitamin packed I almost worry sometimes what it can do to a body to consume the equivalence of an entire bunch of beets in one glass, but I’m taking my chances and so far, we are both super healthy.

I think Allan is almost as proud of the bucket for the compost as he is of the juice.

My blood orange aperatif.  Notice the frothy crema on the top.

Spring Onion Pesto

Are these scallions? scapes? ramps?  I didn’t clearly recognize the bulby bundle in the market, but I remember buying them last year and chopping them into salads, raw, and they were delicious.  Some internet search later and I now know that these are true spring onions.  I think I have interchanged the terms scallion, green onion, and spring onion in the past, but there is a distinction.  Scallions have a white head that is no wider than the green stem.  Green onions have a narrow, straight head and spring onions are developing into bulb shapes, though are still not very mature.  They will have the most pungent flavor of the three and will be the most suitable to take the place of garlic in a pesto.

I never wavered in my decision that the nut must be walnuts.  I could taste that flavor combination in my mind’s taste buds and it was good.  After grinding 1 cup of nuts and about two cups of washed and trimmed onions in the food processor, I added enough of our local cold-pressed olive oil to make a desirable paste and finished it with fleur de sel so it would have flaky bits of salt mixed throughout.  Just to bring up the brightness and color a little, I added about 1/2 cup of basil pesto I had prepared in the freezer.  I tossed the pesto with hot penne pasta and topped it with a tomato salad, dressed in lemon juice, olive oil, fleur de sel, and pepper.

The flavor is not so biting as pesto made with garlic.  It is warmer and more buttery, but still very potent.  Puree this pesto with white beans for a fantastic dip or a spread for bruschetta.

PS:  I’m going to have to tell you that my friend, Claire Bear, did not like this pesto.  She found it unpleasantly pungent and I value her outspokediness.  Out of loyalty to my readership, which might just be Claire, I need to disclose this.  I recommend the following:  If you aren’t going to puree this pesto with white beans or even if you are, blend in some grated Parmesan cheese until you find the right mellowing balance.  Under no circumstances add lemon juice to make it less pungent.