Monday, December 21, 2009

Twitter and Facebook

The time has come … to join the modern world, otherwise known as Twitter and Facebook fan pages. The reason: my new food book, Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam, is due out in April, and my To Asia With Love guidebook series just added the fourth volume, Japan, to the already available To Asia With Love, To Vietnam With Love, and To Myanmar With Love. I will only be posting information about the books,, ThingsAsian Press, Vietnamese food, and Asian travel … I promise, no personal blah blah blah. I just want to get the word out about these books and a part of the world that means so much to me.

Communion has been my most special project so far—a culinary love song to Vietnam. You can read a little about it on the home page of my website, as well as find one of the recipes and some photos from the book. As for the guidebook series, it is just as much for armchair travelers as it is for those of you visiting the countries the volumes cover. Their stories are unique (a Wild West dude ranch in Japan) and personal (playing air guitar with monks in Myanmar), and at the same time practical—while not comprehensive (you’ll still need a Lonely Planet or Frommer’s), the books include thoughtful tips on planning your trip.

So … follow me, become a fan, and even better, order one of the books:

Click here to follow me on Twitter
Click here to become a fan of Communion on Facebook
Click here to become a fan of To Asia With Love on Facebook

You can pre-order Communion at Amazon or one of my favorite independent bookstores:
Elliott Bay Book Company
Skylight Books
Traveler’s Bookcase

Click here for information about To Vietnam With Love

Click here for information about To Myanmar With Love

Click here for information about To Japan With Love


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Cheesy Chicken and Mushroom Lasagna

L.A. can’t seem to make up its mind—iced tea season or soup and lasagna season, hotcoldhotcold often on the same day—but a few weeks ago we had perfect lasagna weather. An authentic October chill in the air. A reason (finally!) to wear a sweater. So I did the only thing to be done: try a new lasagna recipe. It’s becoming an annual autumn tradition, with my favorite so far being Roasted Portobello Mushroom and Prosciutto Lasagna. Last year’s Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagna comes in third (although it gets extra points for originality), and this year’s yummy offering, with its rich wine-and-cheese sauce, takes second place.

While this chicken lasagna was so good that my niece had three helpings (no leftovers this time around) and my mom immediately asked for the recipe, I include it here with great heaviness in my heart, as it is from Gourmet, which is shutting down this month. I still have the last two issues set aside. I haven’t read them yet and won’t until I’m in dire need of a Gourmet fix. In the meantime, I’ll cook from the stash of recipes I’ve been cutting out over the years and hope that I have complied enough to see me into old age.

Cheesy Chicken and Mushroom Lasagna
Gourmet, March 2009


- 1 (10-ounce) package cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 roast chicken, skin discarded, meat shredded (about 2 1/4 cups)
- 3 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons thyme leaves
- 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 12 no-boil egg lasagne noodles (less than a 9-ounce package)
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère (3 ounces)

Equipment: an 8-inch square baking pan


  1. Preheat oven to 425° with rack in middle.

  2. Cook mushrooms, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are softened, about 3 minutes.

  3. Add wine and simmer briskly 2 minutes.

  4. Transfer mushroom mixture to a large bowl and stir in chicken. (Set aside saucepan.)

  5. Bring milk to a bare simmer in a medium saucepan.

  6. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat.

  7. Add flour and cook roux, whisking constantly, 3 minutes.

  8. Add hot milk in a slow stream, whisking constantly.

  9. Add thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 5 to 6 minutes.

  10. Remove from heat and reserve 1 cup sauce.

  11. Stir parmesan into sauce remaining in pan, then stir into mushroom filling.

  12. Pour half of reserved plain sauce into baking pan, spreading evenly to coat bottom.

  13. Add 3 lasagne sheets, overlapping slightly, and one third of mushroom filling, spreading evenly, then sprinkle one fourth of Gruyère over top.

  14. Repeat 2 times.

  15. Top with remaining 3 lasagne sheets and remaining plain sauce, spreading evenly.

  16. Sprinkle with remaining Gruyère.

To Cook:
Cover with foil, tenting slightly to prevent foil from touching top of lasagne but sealing all around edge, and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until cheese is golden, about 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw

Summer came late to L.A. this year. After a gloomy August, which ended with the fires that sat on the edge of the city like the end of the world, September was unseasonably hot. It was the kind of weather that called for cool dishes. In the original recipe, these tacos are fried, but I skipped this step, making them one of the easiest, most refreshing dishes in my small collection. I like it, too, because I just put all the ingredients in the fridge, and I could whip up a taco in less than sixty seconds any time I liked. This is also a good dish for vegetarian friends.

Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw
adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2009

- 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 2 cups coleslaw mix
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Corn tortillas
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Bottled chipotle hot sauce or other hot sauce

1) Place beans and cumin in small bowl; partially mash.
2) Mix 2 teaspoons olive oil and lime juice in medium bowl; add coleslaw, green onions, and cilantro and toss to coat. Season slaw to taste with salt and pepper.
3) Scoop bean mixture, slaw mixture, and feta into a tortilla and drizzle with hot sauce.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mediterranean Salad with Prosciutto and Pomegranate

It’s not that I haven’t been cooking much this summer. It’s just that I haven’t been cooking anything creative. It’s hot, I’m busy, and I’ve been relying on chicken and grilled vegetables, my handy Trader Joe’s canned food for all sorts of cold pasta salads, and lots of fresh fruit—plums for 49¢ a pound just make me happy. But the other Sunday I was invited to a barbecue by my friends Vickie and Carlos, and I realized that I missed playing around in the kitchen.

I pulled out the salad recipes that had been piling up in my kitchen notebook, and I chose two. Of them, the “wow” recipe of the pair seems as if it would have been the watermelon and arugula salad with caramelized macadamia nuts, gorgonzola, and a raspberry vinaigrette. Instead, it was the underdog (chosen because I love prosciutto and had just seen pomegranate seeds at the grocery store), which turned out to be one of the best salads I’ve ever had. I snuck the leftovers home with me and ate them every day for three days until there was nothing but a few dribbles of dressing left in the Tupperware container.

Mediterranean Salad with Prosciutto and Pomegranate
from Bon Appetit, November 2008

Serves 4-6 (perfect for a light lunch or dinner with soup or bread)


- 2 cups very thinly sliced fennel bulb
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 6 cups arugula (about 4 ounces)
- 1 cup thinly sliced green onions
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 3-ounce packages thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into strips
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds


1) Toss fennel and 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

2) Combine arugula, green onions, mint, vinegar, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in large bowl; toss. Season with salt and pepper.

3) Divide greens among plates. Top with fennel, then drape with prosciutto. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over the top.

Note on amounts and mixing:

- I was pretty loose on measuring ingredients, and it just didn’t matter, as long as you don’t go overboard on anything.

- I just mixed everything all together in a big bowl. No need to take the time to divide ingredients on separate plates unless you feel like being arty.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fun with Peas

So here I am at 11 at night, jet-lagged after nearly a month in Asia, and sleepless because my sis is going into the hospital at 5 am tomorrow so her doctor can induce labor. By this time tomorrow night, I will be an aunt!! As for now, I'm wide awake, and don't have the concentration to work or even watch the second half of Mildred Pearce. So I'll post a recipe that has been my staple ever since I discovered it a few months ago. Officially, it's a pea dip, but the name just doesn't quite sound right, so I'm calling it Fun with Peas ... as opposed to Peacamole, the name given to it by its creator on her blog, "Chocolate & Zucchini."

"Chocolate & Zucchini" is one of my favorite blogs, and I hadn't visited it for awhile. Then one day while doing a cleanse, when all I could think about was food, I decided to take a peek and see what I was missing. But the first recipe I encountered turned out to be ideal for my two weeks of no wheat, no dairy, no sugar. It was also the tastiest dip I'd had in ages. With brown rice crackers, it has become my daily go-to snack, along with carrots and hummus. It has also attended two parties with me, with great social success.

The following recipe is modified from the original on "Chocolate & Zucchini."

Fun with Peas


- 1 bag frozen peas (1 lb.)
- 1 small bunch fresh cilantro
- 2 Tbsp. whole almond butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 dash Tabasco sauce or pinch of cayenne pepper (I use a lot more to give it a kick)
- Salt & black pepper to taste


1) Steam the peas until tender. Let them cool.

2) In a food processor, combine peas, almond butter, cilantro, garlic, Tobasco or cayenne, and salt and pepper. Process until smooth.

3) Spread on brown rice crackers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Moroccan Feast for Eight

It started so innocently. My sis, Jules, is on bedrest until her due date at the end of May, so her house has become the social hub for family and friends. Last week, we realized that we were going to have a full house on Sunday, so I decided to make dinner. Something easy. Chicken is easy. We started thumbing through Jules' cookbooks, but didn't find anything we liked by Jamie Oliver or Donna Hay. Then Jules found a recipe in a Moroccan cookbook for classic Moroccan chicken. "This one sounds good," she said. It sounded so-so to me, but I didn't say so. When a pregnant lady on bedrest finds something appetizing, you make it for her!

Back at my apartment, I got out my copy of Claudia Roden's Arabesque to see if I could find any good side dishes. First thing I found was that same chicken recipe. This seemed like a good sign. Then I stuck Post-it notes on more than a dozen delicious sounding recipes and narrowed it down to two: Orange, Olive and Onion Salad and Roast Pepper, Tomato and Apple Salad. I was starting to get excited. It had been a while since I'd made a big meal, and ages since I'd tried anything new and really different.

Sunday morning came around, and I hit the city for ingredients. The most unusual on my list was preserved lemon---lemon that has been preserved in salt. First I went to Jon's, a low-budget chain that I'd heard had a good ethnic section. Indeed, they had an entire aisle labeled "international." There I found pomegranate syrup and orange blossom water, but no preserved lemons. I bought the syrup and water because they had both showed up in recipes I wanted to try at a later date, and then headed for the Farmer's Market at Third and Fairfax, where I bought my veggies, popped into Cost Plus for some spices, and tried the little French specialty shop for the elusive lemon. There I found a jar of preserved lemon in olive oil. It just looked too oily, but the nice clerk suggested I try Whole Foods across the street. Lo and behold, there in the olive bar was a little bin of preserved whole lemons, not to mention the olives. It was one of those lucky days where I found every single ingredient that I needed.

A few hours later my friend Jenny picked me up and we headed over to Jules and Clive's, where we spent a pleasant afternoon cooking. Jenny took on the Roast Pepper, Tomato and Apple Salad, as well as a phyllo dessert she found on good ole reliable Epicurious. Because Jules can't even sit up at the table right now, we ate around the living room, plates propped on knees, along with our friend Sarah, my cousin Jeanne, and her son Connor.

The meal was gasp-worthy. My brother-in-law even mentioned it in an email to me ... Sunday's meal was the best you have ever done and is the best meal I can remember. I take that as high praise (though I am well aware that kudos also go to Claudia Roden, as well as my partner-in-cooking crime, Jenny). The chicken was tender and vibrant with the lemon, olives, and spices. The orange salad was astounding. I have never tasted anything like it, and plan to make it over and over all summer long. And the peppers with apple (such a subtle combination) were the perfect straight man for the other two more flavorful dishes. As for dessert, it was stickily sweet and cool and refreshing all at the same time.

Another great thing about this meal is that I made it right in the middle of doing a cleanse: no sugar, no wheat, no dairy, no alcohol, no nothing! And other than the dessert, I could eat all three dishes. In fact, altogether they have only 9 tablespoons of olive oil, and the rest is all chicken, veggies, herbs, and spices.

To keep this post from being overly long, I have put each recipe in its own post, with the link below.

Moroccan Feast for 8:

Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives

Orange, Olive and Onion Salad

Roast Pepper, Tomato and Apple Salad

Date and Walnut Phyllo Rolls with Greek Yogurt and Honey

Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives

Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives
adapted from Arabesque, by Claudia Roden


- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 tsp. crushed saffron threads or saffron powder
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 8 boneless chicken breasts
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
- 2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cinnamon stick
- peel of 1 large or 2 small preserved lemons, peel only, cut into slices
- 12-16 green or violet olives, without pits


1) In a wide casserole or heavy-bottomed pan that will fit the chicken pieces in one layer, heat the oil and add the onions. Sauté, stirring over a low heat, until softened, then stir in the garlic, saffron, cinnamon stick, and ginger.

2) Add the chicken pieces and pour in 1-1/4 cup water. Simmer, covered, turning the pieces over a few times and adding a little more water if it becomes too dry.

3) After 15 minutes, add lemon juice, cilantro, parsley, preserved lemon peel, olives

4) Continue cooking for 10-15 more minutes. Chicken. When it is almost done, remove from the pan and let the sauce continue to simmer until it thickens.

5) Once the sauce has thickened, return the chicken to pan and finish cooking. My chicken was perfectly done at 35 minutes.

6) Serve with the olives and lemon peel on top of the meat.

Note on salt:
Because the lemon and olives are salty, I do not add any extra salt.

For recipes for a full Moroccan meal, click here.

Orange, Olive and Onion Salad

Orange, Olive and Onion Salad
from Arabesque, by Claudia Roden


- 4 oranges
- 16 black olives
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- pinch of ground chile pepper (cayenne is okay)
- 2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley


1) Peel the oranges, removing the pith. Cut them into thick slices and then into quarters. Put in a bowl.

2) Mix in chopped onion and olives.

3) Make a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, cumin, paprika, chili pepper and chopped parsley, and mix into the salad.

Serve at room temperature.

For recipes for a full Moroccan meal, click here.


Roast Pepper, Tomato and Apple Salad

Roast Pepper, Tomato and Apple Salad
from Arabesque, by Claudia Roden


- 3 fleshy red bell peppers
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 3-4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 lb. tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 or 2 chili peppers, left whole
- salt and pepper
- 2 sweet apples (such as Golden Delicious)


1) Place the peppers on a sheet of foil on an oven tray under a preheated broiler, 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches from the broiler. Turn them until their skins are black and blistered all over. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them and remove and discard the stems and seeds. Now cut the peppers lengthwise into ribbons.

2) In a wide pan, fry the onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium heat, stirring until they are lightly colored. Add the garlic and stir until it just begins to color, then add the tomatoes and chili peppers. Season with salt and pepper and cook gently for about 15-20 minutes.

3) Leaving the peel on, quarter and core the apples. (Our apples were big, so we cut them into eighths.) Stir the red pepper ribbons into the onion mixture. Then put in the apple quarters, cut side down. Cook gently until the apples are tender, adding a little water if the pan becomes too dry. Turn the apples skin side down toward the end.

Serve cold, drizzled with the remaining olive oil.

For recipes for a full Moroccan meal, click here.


Date and Walnut Phyllo Rolls with Greek Yogurt and Honey

(My camera battery died before Jenny finished making dessert,
so here is Jenny working on our Moroccan meal, instead)

Date and Walnut Phyllo Rolls with Greek Yogurt and Honey
from Bon Appetit (Epicurious)


- 14 ounces Medjool dates (about 1 1/2 cups), pitted
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
- 3 Tbsp. plus 1/4 cup Greek honey or other honey
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 8 17 1/2x12 1/2-inch or sixteen 13 1/2x8 1/2-inch sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup Greek whole-milk yogurt


1) Combine dates, walnuts, 3 tablespoons honey, orange peel, and cardamom in food processor. Blend until paste forms.

2) Preheat oven to 375°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. If using 17 1/2x12 1/2-inch phyllo sheets, place stack of 8 phyllo sheets on work surface. Halve stack crosswise, forming 16 sheets, each 12 1/2x8 3/4 inches; arrange in 1 stack. Or if using 13 1/2x8 1/2-inch phyllo sheets, stack 16 sheets on work surface. Cover phyllo stack with plastic wrap, then damp kitchen towel.

3) Remove 1 phyllo sheet from stack and place on work surface; brush with melted butter. Top with second sheet; brush with butter.

4) Starting 1 inch from edge at short end of phyllo, spoon 3 tablespoons date mixture in dollops in row parallel to edge. Mold date mixture into log, leaving 1/2-inch border at edges of phyllo.

5) Roll up date log in phyllo, enclosing filling and forming roll (filling will be exposed at ends). Transfer to baking sheet; brush with butter.

6) Repeat with remaining phyllo, butter, and date mixture.

7) Bake until golden, about 23 minutes. Cool on baking sheet.

8) Spoon yogurt into small bowl (or 8 individual bowls); drizzle remaining 1/4 cup honey over yogurt. Place 1 phyllo roll on each of 8 plates. Serve with honey-yogurt for dipping.

Note on rolling:
Basically, you roll the date mixture into a log shape and then roll the phyllo around it like a cigar. Makes 8.

For recipes for a full Moroccan meal, click here.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Rainy Nights & Turkey Soup

I always keep a couple packages of ground turkey in my freezer. It’s one of my go-to foods. But there are times when I just can’t take another meatloaf or crock pot full of meatballs. So there I was the other night staring at some just-thawed turkey when my sweet little Le Creuset French oven beckoned me … yet again!

It was raining. I needed a break from too much work. I needed sustenance. So I foraged through my cupboards and discovered that mustard and balsamic vinegar are keys to an ambrosial broth. I savored the smell of soup simmering for a few hours, then ate a bowl while watching “Elevator to the Gallows,” which I had rented because its improv Miles Davis soundtrack is my favorite CD of all times ... and who doesn't love a brooding Louis Malle film on a brooding stormy night?

Turkey Soup with Mustard and Balsamic Vinegar


- 4 stalks celery, diced
- 1/2 yellow pepper, diced
- 6 shitake mushrooms, diced
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 32 oz. vegetable broth
- 1 soup spoon whole grain Dijon mustard
- A few splashes of sherry
- A few big splashes of balsamic vinegar
- 1 can S&W white beans
- Garlic powder
- Herbs de Provence


1) In the French oven (soup pot), heat vegetable broth, mustard, sherry, and vinegar

2) Saute celery, pepper, and mushrooms in olive oil. Add to broth.

3) Saute ground turkey in olive oil, keeping it in big chunks. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Add to broth.

4) Add white beans to broth.

5) Add Herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper to taste.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

2008 Holiday Recipes

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Smoked Cheddar

From Thanksgiving until Christmas, any evening that wasn’t spent out at a holiday party was spent cooking for a holiday party, the holidays themselves, or gifts. I made a few old favorites: Red Onion Marmalade and Pear with Jasmine Mandarin Tea Jam. I also tried a lot of new recipes this year, and only one was a disappointment---the most unsavory smelling asparagus tapenade. Otherwise, every recipe was a winner … I consider something a winner when more than one person asks for the recipe. Because there were so many, I don’t want to clutter up a single blog post, so I’ve given each one its own post, and included a link to the posts below. Enjoy some of these while the weather is still chilly. Save others for gift baskets next year.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Smoked Cheddar

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

Zucchini Latkes & Rosemary and Brown Butter Applesauce

White Onion Marmalade

Smoked Paprika, Chive and Walnut Cheesy Dip

Pear and Raspberry Jam

Brown Butter Applesauce

Top photo by Julie Fay Ashborn

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Smoked Cheddar

This soup was perfect for a light, Christmas day lunch. It’s beautiful with its combination of apples and smoked cheddar. I made the base soup (excluding the sautéed apples, cheddar, and chives) a couple days ahead of time, giving the flavor a chance to develop. This recipe made four good-sized servings. I was also quite generous with the smoked cheddar, doubling the amount in the recipe.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Smoked Cheddar
adapted from Food & Wine


- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup apple cider
- A 1 3/4-pound butternut squash—peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice (5 cups)
- 4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 McIntosh apples, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/3 cup coarsely shredded smoked cheddar cheese (2 ounces)
- Chopped chives or thinly sliced sage leaves, for garnish


1) In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes.

2) Add the apple cider and cook until syrupy, about 3 minutes.

3) Add 1 of the chopped apples, the butternut squash, and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the squash is very tender, about 40 minutes.

4) In a blender, puree the soup in batches. Return the soup to the saucepan and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm. (At this point, you can put the soup in the fridge for a couple days).

5) Heat a medium skillet. Add the butter and 1 diced apple and cook over high heat until the apple is tender and golden around the edges, about 2 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper, for taste (I didn’t).

6) Ladle the soup into warmed bowls.

7) Garnish with the smoked cheddar, sautéed apples and chives.

Photo by Julie Fay Ashborn

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

The first time I tried this recipe, I overcooked it. It was dry and didn’t have the flavor I was hoping for. But there was just something about it that made me try it again. I bumped up the spices, cut way back on the sugar, and made sure there were plenty of walnuts. The second loaf had the perfect spicy, not-too-sweet holiday flavor I was hoping for. I’ve doubled the recipe, so I don’t have to waste half a can of pumpkin puree. This recipe makes two loaves. Eat one now. Freeze one for later.

Pumpkin Walnut Bread
adapted from Bon Appetit (which got the recipe from Cindy Mushet’s The Art and Soul of Baking)


- 4 cups unbleached flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 large eggs, at room temp
- 2/3 cup water
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 can (16 oz) canned pumpkin puree
- 1 cup neutral flavored vegetable oil (canola)
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 generous cups chopped toasted walnuts


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position oven rack in the center.

2. Lightly coat a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with melted butter or high heat canola oil spray and line it with a piece of parchment paper that extends 1 inch beyond the edge of both sides of the pan (I didn’t do the parchment paper, but I’ll throw it out there for anyone who wants to).

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and salt until thoroughly blended.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and water. Add the sugar and blend well. Add the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Mix well.

5. Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.

6. Add the walnuts and stir until they are evenly distributed.

7. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into prepared loaf pan and level the top.

8. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

9. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Zucchini Latkes & Rosemary and Brown Butter Applesauce

When I was invited to my friend Ann Le’s Hanukkah/holiday party, I decided to make zucchini latkes. Having never made any kind of latke before, this wasn’t the brightest thing to do. I couldn’t keep a little zucchini patty together if my life depended on it. My kitchen looked as if a zucchini had thrown up in it by the time I was through, and I’d invented three new swear words, none of them pretty. But … from the few blobby, unattractive zucchini latkes that came out of the venture, I can definitely say that they taste good. So I’m putting this recipe up, for anyone who’d like to try it and give me some advice.

Along with it I’m including the Rosemary and Brown Butter Applesauce I made for the party, as well. Even though the zucchini latkes should be served with sour cream (my sis spiked ours with dill), this applesauce recipe deserves exposure. The rosemary gives it a distinctive freshness, and the brown butter pushes it over the edge into the decadent category. I took one bowl to the party and canned the rest for my parents’ Christmas basket. I plan to can a great deal more before this winter is through. The original Bon Appetit recipe was a little complicated, involving a food mill. I dumbed it down, and it came out just fine.

Rosemary and Brown Butter Applesauce
adapted from Bon Appetit


- 3 cups unsweetened apple juice
- 3 4-inch fresh rosemary sprigs
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 1/2 pounds (7 to 8 medium) Braeburn apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 12 cups)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter


1) Combine apple juice, rosemary, and cinnamon, plus a large pinch of salt, it a large pot. (Hmm, I forgot to add the salt).

2) Boil until juice is reduced by half, about 8 minutes.

3) Mix in apples. Cover; cook over medium heat until apples are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Uncover and, if necessary, cook until liquid evaporates. Discard rosemary and cinnamon. (Basically, I cooked this until it turned into applesauce!)

4) Melt butter in small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until butter browns, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.

5) Mix brown butter into applesauce.

6) Can immediately (use proper canning methods) or cool and put in the fridge.

7) Bring to room temperature or re-warm before serving.

Zucchini Latkes
from Gourmet


- 3 pounds zucchini
- 1 1/3 cups plain fine dry bread crumbs
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 tsp dried marjoram (I used thyme)
- About 1 cup vegetable oil for frying


1. Grate zucchini using medium shredding disk of a food processor. Transfer to a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons salt. Let stand 30 minutes.

2. Squeeze zucchini in batches in a kitchen towel to remove as much liquid as possible.

3. Transfer zucchini to a large bowl and stir in bread crumbs, eggs, marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

4. Preheat oven to 200°F.

5. Heat 1/3 cup oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers.

6. Scoop 2 tablespoon mixture per latke into skillet (6 to 8 per batch).

7. Flatten with a fork to form 2 1/2-to 3-inch pancakes.

8. Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side (adding more oil as necessary).

9. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in oven.

White Onion Marmalade

This marmalade is wonderful with an aged Gouda or sharp cheddar on crackers. It is sweeter than my red onion marmalade, which has some kick to it because of the pepper flakes and ginger. The marmalades make a great pairing on an appetizer table, or in a basket of Christmas presents.

White Onion Marmalade
adapted from Gourmet, Food & Wine, or Bon Appetit (I cut the recipe out years ago and can’t remember the source)


- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice or quarter slivers (about 8 cups)
- 6 medium shallots, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 heaping Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 2/3 cup honey
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper


1) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

2) Add onions, shallots, sugar and bay leaves; cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

3) Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low.

4) Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is dark golden and syrupy, about 20 minutes.

5) Immediately transfer to jars using proper canning methods; or cool and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Smoked Paprika, Chive and Walnut Cheesy Dip

This recipe began as a Vegetarian Times recipes for “cheese” bites, meaning it was made with tofu and rolled into little balls for appetizer nibbles. I used cream cheese, instead, and when I served it, I found that people just smashed the balls onto crackers, so it seemed much easier to simply make it as a dip/spread. The smoked paprika really makes this appetizer, so don’t substitute plain paprika. And also make sure to toast the walnuts, as that’s key, too. Make it a couple days ahead of time; serve with crackers, and it’s the perfect low maintenance party dish.

Smoked Paprika, Chive and Walnut Cheesy Dip
adapted from Vegetarian Times


- 1 1/2 cups walnuts
- 16 oz. cream cheese
- 1 cup finely chopped chives
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika (I added more, to taste)


1) Preheat the oven to 350.

2) Spread walnuts on a baking sheet, and bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Cool, and grind finely in a food processor.

3) Mix walnuts and remaining ingredients until smooth.

Pear and Raspberry Jam

When I came across raspberries at the Third & Fairfax Farmer’s Market just before Christmas, I was overcome with a craving for raspberry jam. Don’t know why, but I decided to add pears to the jam. The result is everything I love about raspberries—that tangy-sweet taste of summer—with the comforting winter flavor of pears. Use it on your morning toast, a PBJ, pancakes, waffles … whatever you’re in the mood for.


- 1 cup pears. Approximately 2 pears. I used Bartlett.
- 1 cup raspberries
- ½ cup sugar
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 tsp calcium water (see note below)
- 1 tsp pectin (see note below)


Day One:

1. Peel the pears, remove their stems, cut them in two, core them, and cut them into small dice.

2. In a preserving pan (I used a regular saucepan), combine the pears, raspberries, sugar, calcium water, and lemon juice.

3. Bring to a simmer and then pour into a bowl.

4. Cover with a piece of parchment paper and refrigerate overnight.

Day Two:

1. Bring the mixture to a boil in a preserving pan. Skim, if necessary.

2. Add pectin and continue cooking on high heat for about ten minutes, stirring gently. Skim carefully, if necessary.

3. Check the set. I did this by putting a plate in the fridge. I dribbled a little of the mixture on the cold plate. When it quickly gelled, it was ready.

4. Put jam into jars immediately and seal.

This recipe yielded 2 (and a bit) 8 oz. jars.

Note on Pectin & Calcium Water:

I used Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which allows you to use less sugar—I don’t have a sweet tooth, and I try to avoid sugar when possible. I made the calcium water according to the directions that come with the packet. Pomona’s Universal Pectin can be bought at Whole Foods.

Note on Canning:

For complete canning & safety information, go to Home Canning or the National Center for Home Food Preservation.