In a Pickle

Had you told me a few years ago that I would be making pickles, I would have laughed.  I didn't used to like pickles.  I would hate opening up the wrapper of a sandwich I bought at a deli only to find a rubbery pickle snuggling up to my delicious lunch.  Figuring I would never escape pickles, I decided I would try and like them.  It took a while but I finally turned hate into appreciation.  I've seen all sorts of pickled vegetables at local farmers markets and wanted to give it a try.

I was already canning jam and tomatoes, why not green beans and jalapeno slices too?!


Dilly Beans!

(makes about 5 pint jars)

4 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)

3 tablespoons pure kosher salt

5 sprigs fresh dill

5 cloves of garlic

5 or 10 dried hot red chiles

2 1/2 to 5 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (options depending on how spicy you want it to be)

2 pounds crisp green beans, ends trimmed, 4 1/2 inches long



By now you know the drill:

Prepare your water bath for canning. (see my peach jam post for reference)

In your preserving pot, combine the vinegar, 4 cups of water, and the salt.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt.

Ladle boiling water for the canning pot into the bowl with the lids.  Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel.  Drain the water off the jar lids.


Working quickly, put a sprig of dill, a clove of garlic, 1 or 2 dried chiles, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, in each hot jar. Pack the beans in the jars, standing them upright.  (This is trickier than you think it would be.  I was trying not to touch the sterilized jar with my fingers while making sure the beans were staying upright.  Hard.)  Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top.  Use a chopstick to remove any air bubbles that might have gotten trapped in the jars.  Put the jar lids on, then tighten the rings. Return the jars to the water and let them simmer for 10 minutes to process.  Remove the jars to a towel and let them rest for 12 hours. Like the jam, and tomatoes, they should start to pop, telling you the seal worked. You've got some dilly beans!!!  They're so pretty in the jars!  Nice fall colors. I plan on tasting them for the first time at Thanksgiving (*cough*, Elisabeth and Jennifer you should show up *cough*).


Did you think this post was over? I have a spicy finish to this one.

Pickled Jalapeno Slices

makes about 4 pint jars

2/1 pounds jalapeno chiles

4 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)

2 tablespoons sugar or honey

4 cloves garlic

Sanitize your jars, prepare your lids, get your towels ready guys, this is about to be a hot and spicy mess.  At least it was for me.  I thought my jalapenos were relatively mild, so I went against all basic chile rules and sliced them without gloves on.  I won't know this is a mistake until about an hour later.

IMG_2072.JPGCut your jalapenos into 1/8 inch thick rounds and rinse them in a colander under cold running water, shaking it to remove loose seeds.  Pick out and throw out any very dark colored seeds.  Drain well. In a non-reactive pot, combine the vinegar, 1 cup water, the sugar, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.

Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids, like we've done in the past, to sanitize them.  Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on the folded towel.  Just like the green beans, while the jars are hot, put a peeled garlic clove in each and pack with the chiles, leaving one inch of headspace.  (This is where I started to cough violently.  Apparently the combination of the hot vinegar steam and the chile slices was too much to handle.  Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Use a chopstick to remove any air bubbles that might have gotten caught and then place the lids and rings on the jars after cleaning off the rims with a paper towel.  Return the jars to the water bath for 10 minutes to process.  Remove them with your jar lifter and place them on a clean towel for 12 hours.

Considering I've only eaten these slices with nachos at the movies (junk food guilty!) I'm not really sure what I'll do with all these pickled jalapenos but I'm sure I'll figure it out.  I got only three pints out of what I had but I didn't weigh the jalapenos all that carefully when I bought them.



Fast foward to an hour after the jars have been finished...my fingers start to viciously burn.  At first I thought boiling water had splashed up on them but I didn't remember that happening  My nail beds, and between my fingers burned from the jalapenos for a good three hours after I was all done and cleaned up in the kitchen.  Word to the wise, no matter how mild you think the jalapenos are, wear gloves. You'll thank me.  Really.

Next up... Cherry Jam!








Tomato, TomAHto


- "I'm thinking of canning tomatoes"

- "To do what?"

- " Well for sauce and stews this winter.  Fun right?"

- "You can't use the same tomatoes for sauce and stews. What kind of tomatoes were you planning to use?"

- "Well, um, I was planning on just finding heirloom ones at the farmers' market"

- "San Marzano tomatoes are the best for sauce, but you can't find them at the market in DC.  You can try Roma tomatoes instead I guess.  How are you going to do it?"

- "I've been reading books.  They say to skin the tomatoes and..."

- "Why would you skin them??? The way my mother does it is....."

And there I stood, in the back kitchen of the restaurant I work in, listening to a Neapolitan explain the correct way to jar tomatoes. Forget cookbooks, forget what I think I read, there was only one way to do it.  Or so he thought.

To jar my tomatoes I decided to incorporate the timeless Neapolitan advice with my newly trusted jarring book's recipe and see what happened.

Crushed Tomatoes  (makes about 7 pint jars)

7 pounds ripe tomatoes

Citric Acid (1/4 teaspoon per pint jar or 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (optional)

7 fresh basil leaves (optional)

The ingredients in this recipe are why I wanted to jar tomatoes for the winter.  When you buy tomatoes in a can or tomato sauce you are never really sure what else they have used to keep the flavor and color.  When you make it yourself you know.  Tomatoes, lemon juice, salt and basil leaves.  Simple.


Ignoring generations of Italian recipes, I decided to peel my tomatoes.  I don't want tomato peels in my tomato sauce, mi spiace. Set your kitchen up the same way you did for the peach jam. (2) clean towels, jars boiling away to sanitize them, jar lids in a separate bowl.  This time you are adding a small pot of boiling water, a medium bowl with water and ice for a post tomato boil ice bath, and a bowl for the seeds and peels.

* Bring the smaller pot of water to a boil. Gently slide your tomatoes, a small group at a time, into the boiling water for 30 seconds, long enough to loosen the skin.  Scoop the tomatoes out with a slotted spoon and immediately place in the ice bath cool them off.  Wait a minute and then take them out, remove the skins and seed them.  Keep the seeds and skin for later!  Repeat this process until all the tomatoes are peeled and seeded and in your preserving pot.


I got a fair amount of tomato juice out of the seeds and skins. (See the measuring cup next to the preserving pot). I strained the whole thing and used it as tomato sauce that night for dinner. No waste!

* Set the pan with the tomatoes over medium high heat and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.

* Ladles the boiling water from the canning pot onto the lids, just like the peach jam, to sanitize them.  Remove the jars from the boiling water and place on a clean towel.  Put the salt and lemon juice into each jar.  Carefully ladle the hot tomatoes, one by one, into your jars.  Fill the remaining space in the jars with the juices from the pot, up to 1/2 inch from the rim.  Add a basil leaf or two into each jar.  Stick a chopstick into the jars to release any air bubbles that might have been caught along the sides.  Wipe away any tomato that could have gotten on the rims and place the lids on the jars and tighten the rings.

* Return the jars to the boiling water and boil for 35 minutes to process.  This is a lot longer than the jam.

* Remove the jars from the water and place on a towel to rest for 12 hours. Just like the jam, your jars should start to pop, telling you the seal has worked.  The recipe said I would get 7 pint jars out of this. I got 4.  It was hard to know exactly how many tomatoes I needed.  This actually happened for each recipe I tried. Both jams made less than expected.  I still have more jam than I know what to do with so it's fine with me.




This was definitely the easiest of all the recipes.  Peel, cook, jar, process, let cool.  I'll have to do this again next summer.

Up next: Pickling! Dilly beans and jalapeno slices.




Can it!

We're going to go ahead and ignore the fact that I haven't posted in over a year.  I have no good excuses, but here are some bad ones. Maybe it was laziness, maybe it was lack of inspiration, maybe it was that I had too many other things going on in my life. Work has been busy, as usual. I signed up, more like my sister and father convinced me to sign up for, the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October.  Marathons as it turns out, take a lot more training and time commitment than half marathons do. I've also been redecorating my apartment, slowly.   Now that it's a bit cooler, and darker a LOT earlier, I have a feeling I'll be at home cooking more.  I'm back at it!

I took a mini staycation this summer, to get away from work and my routine.  The first half of the week belonged to me and what I wanted to do.  The second half of the week belonged to Puerto Rico- a tropical recharge if you will.  I've read countless books about eating locally, eating off the land, only eating what is in season, and canning.  While I shop at my local farmer's market as much as I can, and just signed up for winter CSA box from Smucker's Farms, I've never tried to can/jar seasonal items for winter eating and cooking.  My mini staycation was the perfect opportunity to get hot and steamy in the kitchen with some fruits and vegetables.


I may have been a little ambitious but this was my plan: peach jam, cherry jam, dilly beans, picked jalapeno slices, and crushed tomatoes. Ready?

Go can it!

Day 1:

Figure out what exactly I just got myself into.

Work out the kinks (overflowing boiling water onto the stove sent me into a panic)

Dive into it... peach jam, crushed tomatoes and jalapeno slices.

Every book on canning and jarring has a chapter on the proper sanitization of your canning jars, and rightfully so.  No one wants to experience what the books say will happen to you should you get a bad batch due to bacteria growing in your jars.  It's kind of like driver's ed and the crash videos, or sex ed and the STD class.  "Can at your own risk". I probably over boiled every jar I used but better safe than sorry! Wear your seatbelt! While I gathered inspiration from several books, I mainly used Canning for a new Generation. My aunt gave it to me and it had by far the best selection of recipes and tips. I also used Put 'Em Up! for inspiration.

When planning for this, I thought I wanted to try different combination of flavors for the jams.  It being my first try, simple ended up being the way to go.  Once I master the technique I can play around with the flavors.


Classic Peach Jam

12 ounces of Granny Smith apples (about 2 large)

4 pounds of peaches, peeled, pitted and diced

2 cups of sugar

3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice

Prep your kitchen counter:

(1) clean cloth to place the sterilized jars on when they come out of the water bath

(1) clean cloth to put the finished and VERY hot jam jars on to sit for a while

Line up your canning utensils:


Jar lifter (to handle hot jars)

lid lifter (with a magnet)



Prepare the water-bath for canning:

While you will have to do this step each and every time you start a new recipe, I like that the book reminded you to start the process at the beginning.  Repetition repetition, repetition. It's good for beginners.

Sterilize the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot, put a small plate in the freezer and put the flat lids in a heat proof bowl.

*Cut the apples into quarters and core them.  The recipe calls for putting the seeds and cores into a cheesecloth bag. I didn't have one so I used little teabags that my sister gave me from a tea store at Pike's Place market.  ( I also used these little bags to infuse simple syrup for my Early Grey Pound Cake).  You're supposed to put loose tea in them but they can play double duty in this case.


SO FAR: Apples are cut up, seeds and cores are in cheesecloth, jars are boiling away and bacteria is dying.

* Put the peaches and sugar into a 6-8 quart preserving pan (I wasn't about to go out and buy a lot of equipment to do this, other than the necessary stuff, so I used a big cast iron pot as my preserving pot).  Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, and cook until the juices cover the peaches.


Pour the cooked peaches into a colander, collecting the peach juice in a bowl. Stir the peaches gently to release all the juices. Pour collected juices back in the preserving pot and add the apples and apple core cheesecloth- bring to a boil over high heat.  (From what I gathered, the apples bring the pectin that will "jellify" (yes that's a technical term) the jam in the end.  You can omit the apples and use 'pectin in a pouch' but I thought going all natural was the best way.) Boil, stirring occasionally, until the juice thickens and reduces.  About 15 minutes.

Return the peaches and any accumulated juices back into the preserving pot, add the lemon juice, and bring to a simmer.  Stir frequently until the peaches are very tender and falling apart.  The recipe says is it done when you put a small dab of the jam on the plate that was in the freezer and it becomes firm after a minute of being put back in the freezer.  I forgot to do this.  Rookie mistake.  It ended up fine.


Remove from the heat and stir for a few minutes to distribute the fruit in the liquid.  Remove the cheesecloth and the apples.  While I was able to find and remove the apple skins, there were no apples to be found.  They had all disintegrated into the jam.  I think it's fine but I wonder why the recipe thought I would still be able to find them.

SO FAR: Jam is basically finished, your jars have been sterilized and are happily bubbling away in your steaming stockpot full of water. Your lids are still not sterile.

*Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a clean folded towel. Drain the water off the lids.  Make sure the lids aren't stacked on top of each other or the boiling water won't be able to sterilize the entire area of each lid.  ALSO, don't dunk the lids in the boiling water pot because it's not good for the rubber on them.  Just pour a little bit (I poured the hot water from one of my half pints on top of them) of boiling water on them and let it sit for a bit.

Your jars are clean and drying on the clean cloth.  Carefully ladle the hot jam, through a funnel, into the jars leaving a 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Using a damp paper towel, clean off any jam that might have gotten onto the rim of the jar.  Take your lid lifter (the one with the magnet) and put the lid on, then tighten the ring on. I burnt my fingers here a few times.  Return the jars to the water and boil for 5 minutes to process.


Remove from the water.

Those jars will be h-o-t!  With a jar lifter, move the jars from the cloth they are on to another clean cloth where the jars can stay, for 12 hours, undisturbed.

Soon you should hear the jars "pop!".  This means there is a seal and your jars can be kept unrefrigerated.  After an hour, push down on the top of all your jars to make sure there is a seal.  If it there isn't and you can push down on them, put the jar in the refrigerator.


Success! You have peach jam.  I haven't tried the finish product only because I haven't stopped admiring them. I'm going to wait a while I think.


To be continued.....

Next up: Canned tomatoes.





A belated 4th


Happy belated 4th of July!

I meant to post this recipe last weekend, but I decided to take a mini "staycation" at my family's home in suburbs for the weekend and didn't have my laptop with me.  Like every 4th of July, it's tradition in our family to make a patriotic dessert.  It's usually a flag cake, but this year I decided to try something a little different.  I was looking through recipes and found one for red white and blue layered jello.  While you can't really go wrong with jello I thought I would make my dessert a bit more interesting, if not refined, and try a patriotic panna cotta instead. I initially wanted these ready to take to my friend Beth's bbq but as usual, I underestimated the amount of time it would take me to execute my great plan.  I served them for dessert the next day at home.  Sorry Beth.

A few things I learned while making this recipe:

Raspberry seeds are difficult to take out of the tiny holes of a strainer.

Pureed blueberries do not make a blue puree.  In fact, they make a lavendar colored one.  Thanks to food coloring this is not a problem.

Gelatin layers don't always solidify in the fridge at the same speed.  Patience should be a required ingredient in this recipe.

Imperfect layers of panna cotta taste just as good as perfectly poured ones.  phew.

When trying a new recipe I should always leave myself a few extra hours, just in case it turns out to be more complicated than expected.  I never remember to do this.  I think a timeline would serve me well in the future.  Write out, step by step, what I need to do and how long I think it will take me.  This recipe was a sort of exception because I did not have an actual set of instructions, I just had a list of ingredients.  I normally use a recipe I've found on a blog or in a cookbook.  This time I used a recipe I got from the pastry chef at work.  I went to her asking for a recipe for panna cotta.  Who better to ask than an Italian pastry chef I thought.

Me - "This is my plan [insert explanation of tri-color panna cotta here] for this weekend. Do you have a recipe I could use?"

Pastry chef - "OK! Yes!" She takes a piece of paper and proceeds to write down a list of ingredients and hands it to me.

Me- "Umm. Thanks, but this is just a list of ingredients, not an actual recipe.  What do I do with these?"

Pastry chef - " Ah! Ok!" [ insert explanation of what to do with said ingredients].

After I repeated these instructions back to her a few times to make sure nothing was lost in translation, I left the pastry station, gelatin sheets and foil cups in hand, full of inspiration and with high hopes for my dessert.

Patriotic Panna Cotta

Ingredient for basic panna cotta:

(makes about 20 foil cups -  restaurant quantities!)

1 quart of heavy cream

160 g sugar

6 sheets of gelatin


Make your fruit purees for the colored layers:

I used 2 little plastic boxes of raspberries and one slightly larger one of blueberries. Not very precise, I realize that.  I think it ends up being a pint of both berries.  You can use strawberries for the red too if you want.  Puree the fruit in a small food processor and set aside.  I did the extra step of straining out the seeds of the raspberries and most of the skin from the blueberries to make the panna cotta smoother.  I don't think it's required but it definitely makes for a smoother, silkier dessert.


To make the panna cotta base:

Pour the heavy cream into a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the sugar.  How much you ask?  160g please.  I meant to measure it out and then convert it into cups for those who don't have a scale but forgot. My apologies.  Not only does the chef work, apparently, purely from memory when it comes to recipes, but she also works in grams.  Ah Europe.  Thankfully my mother gave me an old scale she had.









Heat the cream until the sugar dissolves and reaches a simmer.  While it is heating up, "dissolve" the gelatin sheets, one by one, in a bowl of cold water and add them to the hot cream mixture.  I was instructed, several times, to put the gelatin sheets in the bowl of water one by one.  I didn't ask what would happen if I put them all in at once but it sounded like a bad idea, so I would recommend against it.  I assume the worse that could happen is you end up with one giant ball of gelatin.  While it doesn't sound too ominous we'll steer away from it just to be safe.


A few dry gelatin sheets. They almost look like stain glass windows.


What happens to the gelatin sheet after a couple minutes in a bowl of water.

This is where the recipe gets a little more complicated.  You now have the sweetened cream with dissolved gelatin sheets, hot, on your stove.  I added a little vanilla, about a teaspoon, to add extra flavor.  You now want to divide the mixture into 3 bowls so that  you can add your fruit puree to two of the bowls to create the different colors.  Pour the fruit purees into their respective bowls, leaving one plain for the white layer.  I added a little bit of red food coloring to the raspberry cream mixture to make it more red than pink and a fair amount of blue food coloring to the blueberry cream mixture.  I kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn't turn people's tongues blue.

Interesting note: You'll need to add an extra gelatin sheet to each bowl that has fruit puree.  You are, in fact, adding more "liquid" to the bowl and therefore diluting the amount of gelatin to cream mixture.  You want to keep the consistency of the layers the same so you need to add gelatin.  I added an extra sheet to the raspberry and blueberry bowls.  Depending on how much puree you use, this could change.

Put your foil cups on a baking sheet so you can easily put them in and take them out of the refrigerator.  Pour in your first color about a third of the way up the little foil cup.  For my patriotic theme it happens to be the raspberry aka red.

IMG_1211.jpgRefrigerate the first layer until it solidifies enough that you can pour the second layer on top without it mixing.  This took longer than the 20 or so minutes I thought it would.  Some of my panna cottas were a little marbleized.  (Apparently these colors do run.)  Repeat this step until you have the red, white, and blue cream mixtures layered in the foil cups.

I usually take pictures for almost every step of the recipe.  This time I didn't for a good reason.  My kitchen was a mess.  This recipe pretty much turned my little kitchen into a red white and blue picasso painting, or was it more like a Miro?  I'm not sure.  There was raspberry and blueberry puree pretty much everywhere.  Not very photogenic. Needless to say I couldn't manage keeping the panna cotta, that had taken on a life of it's own, in check and take pictures of the steps at the same time.  I'm sorry!

Based on the feedback from those who tasted it, it was a success!  The raspberry was my favorite layer.  It was incredibly flavorful.  I might make a mango and raspberry one next. I have a feeling the two flavors would work really well together.  Was this time consuming, like most of my recipes tend to be?  Yes.  Was it worth it? Absolutely.  I think I've graduated from making a flag cake out of a box and have discovered a new way to celebrate our independence!  This is not to say that there won't be more flag cakes in my future, but they might have a little company next Fourth of July.

Bon appetit!


Even though this one had a "tie-dyed" look, it was pretty tasty.























Frustrations and Tea Cakes

I really wanted to call this post frustrations and fruitcakes because it sounded better,
but it would have been false advertising, plus fruitcake are both unpopular and out of season.
While reading my friend's blog this morning I realized that bad days are universal.  No matter what you do for a living, you are bound to have one of those days that just levels you.  You get to work ready to take on whatever you are supposed to face that day and then you are steered into one too many wrong directions and you realize that you would have been better off sleeping through till the next day.  Monday was one of those days for me.  One aggravating situation after another turned the day into my own personal version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. By 6:00 PM I was out the door, looking forward to a run to blow off some steam.  I was exhausted but figured that my day would probably benefit more from a run than an evening on my couch with my TV and Campari and soda, so off I went.  The weather was perfect and my run took me on a short tour around the monuments.
I am lucky live in a city where a short run means being able to take see such fabulous views.
As I turned onto P street I slowed down and did something I swore I would never do.  I walked into Whole Foods covered in a post run sweat.  I can't tell you how many times I've been waiting in line at Whole Foods and someone has stood behind me to check out smelling like the workout they just had.  This is probably because there is an absurd number of yoga studios and gyms within a 2 block radius of the store, but still.  Do you really not have time to shower before you shop for your dinner?  Embarrassed that I used to judge the person I had just become, I walked into the store to find something to cook.
A friend who tasted my mango sorbet suggested I try to make a pina colada version.  I picked up some pineapple and coconut milk and decided to give it a try.  After looking up a few recipes I decided to combine one from Holy Cannoli and one from a random Google search.  While the recipe mash up wasn't a great success, the work frustration that the run didn't get rid of was quickly squashed by chopping and pureeing an entire pineapple.  While the mixture that was to become a sorbet failure was chilling in the refrigerator, I decided to bake a cake.
Like I said, I had a really bad day and had to work it off.
A while ago I had the idea of making a poundcake and infusing it with Earl Grey tea scented simple syrup.  What better time than that night to try it?
Early Grey Pound Cake
Adapted from a recipe found on Piece of Cake
3 cups cake flour, spooned and leveled ( I used regular flour)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 cup sour cream (I used 2% milk because that's all I had in the fridge)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.  In a mixer blend the butter and sugar until completely incorporated.  Slowly add the eggs, one at a time.  Add the milk and vanilla to the mixer until completely blended.  Add half the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until well mixed in, and then add the other half. Pour into 2 buttered and floured loaf pans and bake for about 90 minutes.
It's a pretty standard pound cake recipe. What makes this cake a little different and a lot tastier is the early grey simple syrup.
I love tea.  I drink a lot of it during the winter.  Less so once it warms up.  My sister introduced me to a tea shop in Pike Place Market in Seattle where she lives and I bought a few different kinds just to try.  My friend gave me some pretty intense Earl Grey tea not long ago so I used it for this recipe.  Along with tea, I also bought little bags at Market Spice to make my own tea bags.  They are perfect if you have loose tea and just want to make a little bit of tea.
1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tbs of earl grey tea leaves.
Put the sugar and water in a sauce pan and stir over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Place the earl grey teabag in the syrup and let it steep over low heat for as long as you feel necessary.
I left mine in for a good half hour because I wanted it to be as flavorful as possible.  I ended up adding a little water because the syrup became too thick.
It should turn brown, like tea does.
This is where experimenting doesn't always work.  I poured my early grey syrup onto the two cakes right after they were removed from the oven.
I poked a few holes in the cakes and then poured it right on.  Looking back I would have waited about 20 minutes for the cakes to cool, removed them from the pans and then poured the syrup on them.  The syrup make the cakes stick to the bottom and the sides a bit which made it harder to remove them from the pans.  Live and learn.  If you aren't too concerned about esthetics, the cakes were great.
The syrup seeped into the cake and livened up the otherwise banal pound cake with the unmistakable floral tones of Earl Grey tea.  The sweet glaze finish wasn't bad either.



De Retour with Mango Sorbet


Where did the last five months go? I can't believe the last time I sat down to write was back in January when I was in Seattle visiting my sister, brother in law and new baby niece!  She is now five months old and winter has turned into summer (almost).  I feel as if years of events and experiences have been squeezed into these past few months.  Distractions have kept me from doing what I like doing the most - cooking.  Maybe it was the stress of long days at work, or personal distractions that ended up being just that, nothing but distractions.  My desire to cook had all but disappeared for a while.  I used to cook to relieve stress.  I used to put aside the things that were bothering me that day and concentrate on chopping, stirring, grating, and reducing.  For some reason none of those things appealed to me for a while.  I'm not completely sure why I took a break from the kitchen, but I'm glad I'm back.

I don't know a lot about tropical fruit and when they are in season as you can find most of them year round in the grocery store.  I was craving mango salsa and shrimp for dinner this week (post to come about that soon) so I walked to Whole Foods and found small little yellow mangos that were so ripe to the touch they were impossible to resist.  These champagne mangos are much smaller than the ones with the red-ish yellow skin you are used to seeing.  After a successful mango and shrimp feast I was hooked on my new super sweet mango discovery and I went back for more this weekend.  But what to do with 6 small mangos?  Make sorbet!


I've tried to make sorbet before and have been disappointed with the outcome.  I've made some pretty tasty icecream but I have yet to make sorbet I am proud of.  The black currant sorbet I made was a bit grainy and the prosecco sorbet I made didn't freeze correctly (too much prosecco... can you blame me?)  A while back I was "tasting" the lemon sorbet we were serving for one of my events at work and chatting with the pastry chef. I asked her what made this sorbet so much creamier than what I have made in the past.  It almost tasted like sherbet.  She assured me there was no dairy in it, just egg whites!  Raw egg whites in fact.  While the fruit puree is freezing in the ice cream maker, you add the whites of one egg.  This gives the sorbet a much smoother, creamier consistency.  Who knew?  Once you get over your fears of salmonella, it makes sense.  I decided to put the tip to the test.

If you look online for a sorbet recipe you will find a variation of the same recipe over and over again.  Take fruit, puree it, add water, sugar and a little bit of alcohol (so it doesn't freeze into a fruit brick when you put it in the freezer) and that's you're done.  I decided to go with a David Lebovitz recipe and put my own twist on it.  His recipes are pretty fail proof.

Mango Sorbet

adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz

2 large, ripe mangos (I used 6 champagne mangos) 2/3 cup sugar ( I used a 1/4 cup agave syrup instead) 2/3 cup water 4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice ( I used a half a lime) 1 tablespoon dark rum, plus more to taste (I used homemade limoncello I made a few years ago) pinch of salt ( I forgot this.  Oops! It tasted just fine though)

1 egg white


Take the meat off the mangos by slicing down each side, following the pit with your knife.  Squeeze the rest of the meat off the pit with your fingers to make sure not to waste anything.  Puree the fruit in a blender along with the water, sugar/agave syrup, lime juice and limoncello.  I used limoncello just because I thought the citrus would go well with the mango and I'm not a huge fan of rum.  I completely forgot about the pinch of salt.  I'm sure it gives that final sweet/salty balance that all cooking/baking needs.  I think the sorbet tastes just fine without it but I will include it next time.

Once all your ingredients are pureed together, chill it for about an hour (I chilled mine overnight) and then freeze it in your ice cream maker for about 20 minutes or until it looks like a slushy.  Add the whites of one egg at the very end of the freezing process.  It gives the puree a silky taste and a pretty sheen.  A great addition to the recipe!

Don't you love my old food processor?  It makes about as much noise as a margarita machine.  My neighbors must have thought I was having one heck of a party yesterday.





After it is finished freezing in the machine, put the mixture in a container and let it finish freezing in the freezer.  I had to steal a taste before it was finished.


Delicious, creamy, fruity and cold.  I wouldn't call it perfection but it's pretty good!  I had some leftover papaya so I tried the same process with it too. Instead of limoncello I used some of my homemade lemon verbena vodka.  The papaya had less flavor than the mango did but the lemon verbena vodka added a delicious herbal dimension to the cool treat.



Having been back in the kitchen and experienced what I used to enjoy so much, I know I will be back again soon.

A bientot.







A twist on the classic oatmeal chocolate chip cookie

- " Where is the monkfish lady?" the fishmonger yelled out into the crowd.  I braved the over the top personalities of the guys who sell fish at the Pike Place Market, held up my hand so they could see me, and went up to get my fish.


A mandatory part of my visits to Seattle is a trip to the Market. My sister and I usually just walk around and people watch but this time I actually needed to make a few purchases.  I get a little intimidated by the larger than life personalities of the men in orange suits and flying fish but I needed fish for a provencal stew recipe I wanted to make so I went up and asked them if they had any.  Success!


For me, trips to Seattle always reinforce the idea of "you are what you eat".  There is a prominent culture of eating locally, organically and wisely in this northwest state.  From restaurants that boast about the farms that supply their vegetables to the local cheese shop, I've found that Seattlites are very proud of what they eat.  On this recent trip to I went to a lecture by Michael Pollan.  Ever since I read The Omnivore's Dilemma about 6 years ago I have been his number one fan (along with all the others, I assume, who were as inspired and motivated by the book as me).  This time, he spoke about the importance of remembering to eat food, as opposed to eating " edible food like substances".  One should eat balanced, real, unprocessed food.  Once you have abandoned the packed and processed food look alikes, stop obsessing about the fat content of the individually packaged yogurt you just bought.  Eat the whole fat one!  That "light and fluffy" yogurt isn't as good for you as you might think. Trying to remove potentially harmful items (fat) and replacing them with equally unhealthy products (sugar) seems silly.

On that note, adding something healthy to a food can never hurt. The other day, I saw my brother in law go to the kitchen and start to take out flour and other ingredients.  I never knew he baked so I went over to check out what he was making.  Cookies!  Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies actually.  I looked at the recipe and it was a little more complex than I expected.  These had flaxseed meal and brewer's yeast in them.  Curious, I googled both ingredients. While I'm still a bit unsure what the brewer's yeast does, the flaxseed meal is a great nutritious addition to the standby recipe.  Flaxseeds are  high in B vitamins, magnesium, and manganese and very rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.  I knew some of this, but what I did not know is that flaxseeds need to be ground down to a powder in order for these nutrients to be absorbed.  If you eat the seeds whole, the nutrients leave your body the same way the seeds do!  The cookies came out of the oven proved that healthy is... tasty!  They tasted like great oatmeal chocolate cookies with slightly more depth of flavor.   If I can eat an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie and help fight against cancer, inflammation and diabetes then OK!  I am not sure where he found the recipe so I will call them Andy's healthier oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

Andy's Healthier Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Source unknown. Try finding it on epicurious.com


1 cup of butter (unsalted and at room temperature)


1 cup of brown sugar - packed

1 cup of sugar

2 tbs of flaxseed meal

4 tbs of water

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups of flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 cups thick cut oats

1 cup chocolate chips ( I was later told by my bother in law and his cousin that one should always double the amount of chocolate chips in a recipe.  Clearly)

2 Tbs Brewers Yeast



Preheat your coven to 375.  Mix the flaxseed meal and the water and let it stand for a 3-5 minutes.  The meal will become almost gelatinous when all the water has soaked in. Cream the butter and sugar and then add the eggs.


Stir the flaxseed meal into the butter mixture and add the vanilla.  Beat until well blended.  Sift the dry ingredients together, except the oats and chocolate chips.  


The recipe calls for adding the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  This goes against everything I've been taught about baking, so I added the dry ingredients to the wet ones.  Stir in the oats and then the chocolate chips.  Cover the cookie sheet with parchment paper and drop dough about the size of a tablespoon onto the paper. Bake for about 8-12 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  These cookies were great when my brother in law made them, and were yummy when I made them.  Twice in a row can't be wrong!  Give them a try!  You'll feel less guilty about eating a cookie now that you know they are good for you.




(Extra points for the person who can tell me what these cookies are actually good for.  They have a "special" side effect )