Angela’s apple bundt.


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If you entertain regularly, I think it’s a smart move to master a few so-called special diet recipes out of respect for friends and family who may join you for a meal. I find it empowering to comfortably accommodate even the smallest dietary need or request. There are a few vegan recipes in my toolkit– I even made an entire vegan Thanksgiving dinner one year– and I can cook an array of dairy-free and meatless dishes confidently. Gluten-free options are no trouble when I’m making a savory meal plan, but I admit to being tripped up when considering dessert options. Panna cotta and ice cream are great, but I really wanted to learn to bake gluten-free goods beyond the flourless chocolate cake that has been my default setting. (Because it is SO delicious, with hints of cardamom and orange– no one has ever been upset when I make this cake.) It’s satisfying to set new goals in the kitchen, or anywhere, and work toward mastering them through research and experimentation.

In order to learn more about gluten-free baking, I have been seeking out recipes with gluten-free flours; I felt like this would be a good first step for me. There is so much information out there: two of my favorite sites to read have been Art of Gluten-Free Baking and Apothecarista. With so many recipes I hoped to try, I was discouraged by the expense of some non-wheat baking flours, especially those that must be used in combination with other flours or ingredients. I wanted the option to experiment without buying large amounts of specialty items I might not use often, or ever. Angela’s apple bundt is made with a pre-mixed gluten-free baking blend that can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio for the wheat flour in a recipe. There’s no need to add potato starch or xantham gum. I purchased and used the Bob’s Red Mill version and it couldn’t have been easier. (If you are more comfortable with gluten-free baking, by all means use your customary baking blend.) The blend, with a good proportion of brown and white rice flour, lends a delicate, crumbly texture to the bundt that my husband and I love. The flavor is what you might expect from an apple cake; it’s sweet from brown sugar and pieces of apple, warmly spiced with cinnamon and cloves. It is moist and light at the same time, with the sugar-crisped crust I love on baked goods. I hope I am doing it justice. My husband declared it his new favorite cake and loves the texture so much he wants me to bake everything gluten-free from now on. I am only barely exaggerating.

So who is Angela? In my recent post about savory bread pudding, I talked about the barter group I’m involved in and all the treasures I get from our monthly events. Earlier this month, we received four pieces of apple cake in exchange for a couple jars of jam and had to exercise extraordinary willpower not to sit and devour them all. Angela, the lovely lady who made the cake to barter and subsequently shared the recipe, upped the adorable factor by using a Nordic Ware honeycomb pan; she should seriously get a commission from Nordic Ware, as at least two pans were purchased within the week as a direct result of her cake. (Several more went on to wishlists, as was the case in my house.) On the list of “best barters ever”, those four pieces of cake rank solidly in the top ten. The fact that I also got a recipe was an unexpected bonus.

I purposefully did not refer to Angela’s apple bundt as a gluten-free cake in the header of this post because it can just as easily be made with wheat flour. My husband’s coworker made one last weekend with white flour and it is just as pretty and delicious as this one. The beauty is having a recipe that can be flexibly made to suit a range of tastes and needs. I guess we can thank Bob’s Red Mill for making a product like the 1:1 gluten-free flour blend that can be so easily substituted, and I also thank Angela for inspiring me to give it a try. I’d like to make other cakes and cookies with the gluten-free blend, particularly as we head toward Holiday Baking Season. I will continue to expand my repertoire of gluten-free baked goods, with promises not to forget about that lovely flourless cake. But for now, I only have eyes for Angela’s apple bundt.

Gluten-free apple bundt cake

Angela’s Apple Bundt 

  • 3 c. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 Baking Flour, or 3 c. white flour
  • 1 tsp. gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. canola oil
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed (about 1/2 c.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 medium apples, cored and diced (about 2 c.)*

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 10 c. bundt pan, going over each nook and cranny on the outside and the center several times to be safe, and set aside. Bundt cakes have a tendency to stick to the pan and you don’t want that.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, brown sugar and oil and stir until smooth. Stir in the mashed banana, then beat in the eggs. (If you see a few lumps of banana, that’s not a problem.) Fold in the flour mixture until it’s almost incorporated, then add the diced apples and fold the batter until the apples, and any remaining dry ingredients, are evenly mixed in. Stop when the last of the dry ingredients is wet. Dollop your batter evenly in the prepared bundt pan and tap the pan gently to distribute. Bake for one hour, until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 mins. before inverting the cake onto a plate. Serve Angela’s apple bundt warm or at room temperature. This cake does not last in my house, but if I cover it tightly, I could probably keep it for up to a week. (Maybe.)

*I used 2 Pink Lady apples and had about 10 cubes more than 2 c., which went right in. Don’t be worried if you have a little bit more than 2 c., though I suppose you could just eat the extra pieces. I did not peel the apples because the skin was not tough, but you can if you want.

Salted licorice caramels.


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These caramels have been a long time coming. They might be my ideal candy: salty, buttery, chewy and licorice-kissed. The best part? They are completely, realistically doable in your kitchen, right now! I am an amateur candy maker at best– I think this is the third time I have made homemade caramel anything, and one of those projects was not the most successful. These caramels were a raging success: no burns, not much of a time investment and hugely rewarding. I am over the moon happy with how they turned out.

My love affair with salted caramel and salted licorice is no secret. I’ve gushed at length about my beloved Finnish treat, salmiakki, and how I seek it out anywhere Scandinavian foods are sold. I like salt licorice ice cream from Molly Moon and will pass up every other color jelly bean to get to the black ones… which aren’t salted, but still. As for salted caramel, I know I’m not alone there, since it seems to be on every coffeehouse board/restaurant dessert menu/sweets blog in town. Works for me! My husband made me an incredible cheesecake with a salted caramel sauce for my birthday one year and a chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting another year. Why is salt such a draw in sweets? Well, scientifically speaking, it distinguishes and amplifies other flavors, waking up your taste buds and making even a small bite of something taste grand. One square of this salted licorice caramel satisfies even the most discerning sweet tooth.

It’s nice to have a few candies in your recipe box for holiday gift giving and entertaining and I am eager to share these with friends and family. I know that licorice is not at the top of everyone’s list of favorite flavors, but you have to trust me: these are so subtle and sophisticated, I think even folks who don’t think they like licorice will like these caramels. They are caramel flavored first; the salt and licorice are accents. You could dip them in chocolate for another flourish, since dark chocolate works really well with both caramel and anise. They can be wrapped in papers to give or piled high in a candy bowl, as pictured. For Halloween, consider adding black food coloring (I’ve read in two places that gel coloring is the way to go with caramels, and just a drop or two is sufficient) to up the spooky factor; that would also work if you wanted to distinguish them from plain or differently flavored caramels given or displayed at the same time. You can also increase the saltiness by sprinkling a little extra sea salt on the caramels just before wrapping or serving. I used Jacobsen Salt and highly recommend it. Lastly, a note about anise flavorings. I use anise oil I bought at a local (sadly now closed) bakers’ supply shop. You can use extract if you like but will need much more extract than oil. The basic proportions: 1 part oil = 4 parts extract. Most recipes I looked at called for 2 tsp. anise extract and I used 1/2 tsp., and then increased it to 3/4 tsp. because I wanted a stronger flavor. Be careful to use food grade products and not essential oils intended for aromatherapy. Anise oil and extract can be found in local kitchen stores and online from retailers like King Arthur Flour and Amazon.

If you’ve made fifty batches of caramels this year or zero; if you like fennel, kind of, in salads with dressing and that’s it… or you’re fighting me for that last black jelly bean; if you’re curious about adding salt to confections or carry your own Jacobsen tin in your purse– whatever the case, these are must-make caramels. You will impress your friends, and yourself! The reward of that first buttery, chewy, licorice-y, salty-sweet bite is reason enough to make a batch right now.

salted licorice caramels!

Salted Licorice Caramels (adapted from Mel’s Kitchen)

  • 1/2 c. water
  • 2 c. evaporated cane juice or white sugar
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 c. light corn syrup
  • 12 T. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp. anise oil (see notes above)
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • about 1/2 tsp. sea salt (not kosher salt or table salt)

Line an 8″ x 8″ or 9″ x 9″ square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing an inch or two to overhang at least two sides. Lightly butter the parchment and set aside.

Have all of your ingredients measured and ready to go. Into a heavy-bottomed saucepan with at least a 4-qt. capacity (bigger is better), add the water, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, corn syrup and butter. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure the tip is submerged in the ingredients but not touching the bottom of the pan, and get a heat resistant rubber or silicone spatula ready to go.

Heat the ingredients over medium-high heat while stirring constantly. Constantly. Unlike some caramel recipes, the success of this depends on keeping the ingredients in motion so they don’t scorch. (At any time, if you think the bottom of your caramels may be scorching, lower the heat slightly and continue.) The mixture will boil fairly quickly and will bubble in large, lazy bubbles which slow as you approach the desired temperature of 242-244 degrees F. You should have a golden brown, very thick caramel by 242 degrees, which is when I removed my caramels from the heat; I wanted them to be thick enough to hold shape when cut but still retain a good amount of chewiness. The cooking process took approximately 15 mins.

As soon as the caramels are off the heat, add 1/2 tsp. anise oil and vanilla and stir to combine. Take a small amount in a spoon and cool off– remember, this was just boiling!– for at least a minute before tasting. (You can place the spoon in the freezer or drop into a glass of cool water to speed the process.) If you like the flavor, you can stop there, or add the extra 1/4 tsp. anise oil if you want a more pronounced licorice flavor, as I did.

When the flavoring is to your satisfaction, pour the hot caramel into your prepared pan; sprinkle the top evenly with sea salt and cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. I left the caramels in the pan for about 3 days before removing (the parchment comes in handy for lifting the entire block from the pan) and cutting them. Use a steady cutting board and a large, sturdy knife to cut the square into long, thin strips (about 8) and then into small cubes. You can expect to get about 64 caramels from this batch. Wrap your caramels individually in wax paper or parchment squares to prevent them from sticking. If you want to enhance the saltiness, sprinkle with or dip in more sea salt just before wrapping.

Dutch apple cake.


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Did you know October is National Apple Month? It makes sense; I’m sure I’m not the only one with pictures of red-cheeked children running through orchards filling my Instagram feed, recipes for apple-studded everything– from oatmeal to pork roast to pies to cocktails– on my Facebook page. Here in Washington state, the center of apple production in the US, I learn about (and eagerly taste) a new variety of the state fruit with every trip to the farmers’ market. I’m happy to contribute to the celebration of all things apple with this Dutch apple cake. Now, I should pause. And ‘fess up. Truthfully, I don’t actually know if this cake is Dutch. It could be German, or Danish, or other. You see, I made the most wonderful Dutch apple cake about three years ago and lost the recipe. It’s okay to gasp or cover your mouth in horror– I certainly did. I’ve spent the past few autumns diligently combing through cookbooks and websites trying to find it again, and I can’t. I would recognize the recipe immediately. What I did find was a handful of recipes that were close enough for me to kind of paste them together, with the help of my memories of that epic cake, to make this cake, which is excellent if I do say so. I think I came really close. I am excited to be able to make it any time I like, and to be able to share it with you today.

Dutch apple cake is deceptive. It looks fancy, like it took you lots of time and energy to put together, but it’s incredibly simple. You probably have all the ingredients in your pantry right now, and you don’t even need a mixer. It’s better after a day or two, so you could make it ahead to take with you to a brunch, tea, bake sale, etc. You must try a slice with a steaming cup of Earl Grey or Irish breakfast tea. A scoop of vanilla ice cream transforms it into a dessert on par with the best apple pie or cobbler. These are some of the reasons I have been trying so hard to locate the recipe– it’s a great one to have handy when apples are plentiful. I think you’ll agree. If you’ve been looking for a recipe to make for National Apple Month, your search is over. And, thankfully, so is mine.

Dutch apple cake

Dutch Apple Cake 

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 c. sugar, separated
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 – 4 medium apples*, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground or grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9″ springform pan; if it’s important to you to remove the cake cleanly (to gift or present, etc.), consider lining the pan with parchment paper and lightly greasing that. No need to flour if you go the parchment route.

In a medium bowl, mix the butter with 1 c. sugar until smooth; add the eggs and stir to combine. Add the flour, baking powder and vanilla and mix until you have a thick batter. Dollop the batter into your prepared pan and spread out as evenly as you can with a spatula. The batter will be in a thin layer and that’s okay.

In another medium bowl, toss the thinly sliced apples with lemon juice, as soon as you can after cutting to discourage browning. In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1/3 c. sugar with nutmeg, ginger and salt. Add to the apples and toss until the apples are evenly coated.

Starting on the outer edge of your springform pan moving inward, place the sugared apple slices in overlapping rings on the top of your batter until the entire surface of the cake is covered. You will probably have leftover apples, which can be slotted in between other slices in the circles to fill them in, or snacked on. Sprinkle any leftover sugar from the bottle of the apple bowl over the cake. Bake for 50-60 mins. until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 mins. before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature, plain or with whipped cream or ice cream. Store tightly wrapped or covered at room temperature for a day or two, or refrigerated for up to a week.

Dutch apple cake; plate by Wild Card Pottery

Can we talk about the gorgeous plate in this picture? A birthday present from my sister, it was made by the talented Anna at Wild Card Pottery. Take a look at her Etsy store!

*Choose an apple you like to eat. Some varieties I recommend for this cake include Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Pink Lady, Bramley, Liberty and Pizzazz. A combination of different kinds is good, and a little bit of tartness is always welcome to balance the sweetness of this, or any, dessert.

Savory bread pudding with mushrooms & leeks.


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I am here to tell you that savory bread pudding may change your life. I remember the days when my cupboard was full of homemade bread crumbs and croutons made in a desperate attempt not to waste bread. They piled up and got increasingly creative (sriracha croutons, anyone?) but were never a smart answer to my problem. It can be a challenge for two people to use up a lot of bread, but sometimes you just want a slice with a bowl of soup at dinner, am I right? Flipping through a magazine one day, I found a recipe for savory bread pudding with winter squash and romano cheese; I made it soon after and it was a revelation. A great way to use up bread, heels and all, and it tasted fantastic– herby, cheesy, nutty from the squash. In the realm of casseroles, pasta bakes and quiches, savory bread pudding is comfort food done right. Endlessly adaptable, if you haven’t tried making one, you should.

My most recent bread pudding came as a result of bartered bread. As you may know, I’m part of a group called Backyard Barter; I come home from our monthly meetings laden with homegrown vegetables and fruit, eggs, soap, granola, canned goods, cookies, hard cider and so much more. At our last barter, there were three different loaves of bread I hoped to try and was lucky enough to receive in trades. One was a buttermilk & honey loaf, the second had molasses, rosemary and sesame seeds, and the third was one of the pillow-soft, fragrant sandwich loaves we love so much. That’s a lot of bread for two people, especially when acquired on a weekend full of birthday brunches and wedding dinners. We had a few slices of toast from the sandwich loaf for breakfast Monday and put the rest aside for bread pudding. I think I like them best made with an assortment of breads; whole wheat, oatmeal, sourdough, herbed loaves and even pumpernickel are good, alone or in combination. Day-old bread is even better than fresh, as it soaks up the custard without becoming completely soggy. My three bartered loaves provided an ideal mix of texture and flavor.

As for vegetables, you can add what you like. I often think of quiches I enjoy and use the ingredients of those as a flavor guide. Ham, spinach and Swiss cheese is a good combination, as is bacon, broccoli and cheddar. Because of the richness of the cheese and milk used, I usually make my bread pudding vegetarian, and the version I’m sharing today is my all-time favorite. Try playing with the combination of vegetables and cheese; as long as you stick with a melty cheese (like Gruyere, Swiss or cheddar) and the basic proportion of vegetables, you should be fine. For this recipe, I’ve used different kinds of mushrooms, replaced leeks with shallots and even substituted bok choy stems or fennel for the celery.

You can serve savory bread pudding as a comforting dinner or a side dish to go with roast chicken or a baked ham; it easily accommodates 6-8 people as an entree and many more as a side. It’s good left over and will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. My husband took some for lunch today to eat cold, just as you might eat cold quiche or pizza. If you’ve had bread pudding before, I’d love for you to comment and share your favorite combination of flavors.

savory bread pudding with mushrooms, leeks & Gruyere

Savory Bread Pudding with Mushrooms & Leeks

  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 c. sliced leeks, white and light green parts only (from 1 medium or 2 small leeks)
  • 1/2 c. chopped celery (about 1 stalk)
  • 2 c. chopped mushrooms (cremini, button, portabello or a mix)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 c. whole milk
  • 12 oz. bread, preferably day-old, cut into 1″ cubes (about 6-7 c.)
  • 1/2 c. Parmesan (or Romano) cheese, grated
  • 1 c. Gruyere (or Swiss or cheddar) cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 9″ x 13″ glass or ceramic baking pan and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt 3 T. butter over medium heat. Add the celery and leeks to the pan and saute gently for about 8 mins. You don’t need them to brown or cook through, since they will bake for a good amount of time, but do want them to soften. Add the mushrooms to the pan and continue to cook for another 5 mins.; again, you’re looking to soften them more than gain any kind of color. Add the oregano to the vegetables and season well with salt and pepper; remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Add the cubed bread and press down until as much of the bread as possible is submerged. Allow this mixture to sit for at least 5 mins. and up to 15 mins. so the bread soaks up the custard.

To assemble the bread pudding, add the vegetable mixture and Parmesan cheese to the bread mixture and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly; make sure to get any unabsorbed milk and egg into the dish, too. Sprinkle the shredded Gruyere cheese over the top. Bake for 45-50 mins., until the top is golden brown and the bread pudding is moist but not gooey. Serve immediately. To store, cool on a wire rack for at least 30 mins. and then wrap well and refrigerate.

Oatmeal cake.


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There are a handful of cookbooks on my shelf I like to sit down and reread every once in a while, just for fun. It’s nice to revisit an old friend and be inspired, reminded of the reasons it came to rest on that shelf. Arabesque is picked up most often; Jerusalem and Tender have a good number of well-worn pages, too. When I have a sweet tooth, I always reach for one (or more) of the three Baked cookbooks (Baked, Baked Explorations and Baked Elements), to drool and dream and plot. When I did so most recently, I was shocked to find a recipe I had somehow glossed over previously: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Whoa! What is oatmeal cake? How did I miss this one? Complicated techniques (translation: more steps than I feel like doing) and exotic ingredients are the only reasons I hesitate to try a Baked recipe– those I have made or tasted tend to be outstanding– but the recipe looked straight-forward and the ingredients are typically in my pantry. There was nothing standing between me and a good recipe test.

My husband had requested granola bars or cookies to take with his lunches, so I decided to make the cake without the frosting called for in the book, figuring it would be closer to a bar cookie in portability and more snack-like. (I have nothing against snacking on frosted cake and would serve this as a dessert any day of the week.) I also found myself a little short of the required quantity of chocolate chips. I considered leaving them out altogether, but chose instead to use half chocolate chips and half butterscotch chips. I adore butterscotch with oatmeal in baked goods. Plus, I was leaving off the frosting… But mostly it’s because chocolate + butterscotch + oatmeal is wonderful.

My only complaint about this oatmeal cake is that I dirtied a lot of dishes to make it. That’s it, and that’s a stretch. You must make this cake. It is moist and dense, reminding me of carrot cake or gingerbread in that sense, and toothsome from the oatmeal in a way I didn’t know I craved until I had my first bite. The cinnamon is perfect, the bourbon is just right, and we’ve already talked about the chocolate. (And butterscotch.) If you like oatmeal cookies, make this cake. If you like Congo Bars or similar bar cookies, make this cake. If you have tried other Baked recipes and know that the authors always get things just right, try this recipe next. It’s a cake I will make over and over again for years to come. Now I am even *more* eager to see what magic will be between the covers of the forthcoming Baked Occasions.

oatmeal cake with chocolate & butterscotch chips

Oatmeal Cake (adapted from Baked Explorations)

  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 tsp. bourbon
  • 1 1/2 c. plus 2 T. flour
  • 1 c. old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
  • 1 1/4 c. boiling water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the chocolate and butterscotch chips. Sprinkle with bourbon and 2 T. flour and toss gently to coat. Set aside.

To a medium bowl, add the oatmeal and cubed butter. Pour the boiling water over the top and wait 30 seconds before stirring to combine. Set the oatmeal mixture aside for 30 mins.

In a large bowl, combine the lightly beaten eggs with both sugars, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Mix in the oatmeal (after 30 mins.), then fold in the remaining 1 1/2 c. flour. Fold in the boozy chips and pour the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 40 mins., until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This cake is really good with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, equally good plain, an absolute treat dunked in coffee. Covered tightly, oatmeal cake keeps several days at room temperature and about a week in the refrigerator.

Rhubarb jam with rose geranium & cardamom.


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A rhubarb recipe in late September? From a lady who is always talking about local produce, buying from the market, cooking seasonally? I’ll tell you, I even questioned myself, but this is a jam that must be shared. I’ve seen enough late-in-the-year rhubarb harvests to justify one more post about our rosy friend in 2014, and my rose geranium plant continues to thrive, so here you are: Rhubarb Jam with Rose Geranium & Cardamom. This is a sultry, special preserve. It smells positively intoxicating, warm from cardamom and floral from the rose geranium, and tastes sophisticated, pleasantly tart and rosy. If it’s too late for fresh rhubarb where you are, an equal amount of frozen will work just as nicely; if you don’t have any of that, either, flag this post to revisit next spring.

If you haven’t cooked with rose geranium before, get ready to start thinking obsessively about all the ways you might use it. That’s what I have been doing. I planted one tiny plant in late May which promptly dominated my little herb garden with its fuzzy leaves and light pink blooms. I’ve been using the leaves to infuse jams (another favorite was red raspberry with rose geranium), sugar for baking and vodka for an extract of sorts I haven’t yet used. The plant continues to go and go, though it hasn’t bloomed in some time, and I’ll dry the rest of the leaves. Just a few leaves impart a potent rose flavor to this jam; if you don’t have access to rose geranium, 2-3 tablespoons of rosewater would give you a similar result.

This recipe is for a rather small batch, so don’t be afraid to double it. I will be when I make it again. Delicious swirled into Greek yogurt, layered in a yellow cake topped with buttercream frosting, or sandwiched between shortbread cookies, this elegant jam is one you’ll want to have on hand.

rhubarb jam with rose geranium & cardamom

Rhubarb Jam with Rose Geranium & Cardamom (makes 3 half-pints)

  • 4 1/2 c. rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into small pieces
  • 2 c. sugar, preferably organic evaporated cane juice
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a 3-4″ sprig of rose geranium, left whole
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom (ground fresh if you can)
  • pinch of kosher salt

If you like, you can start the process several hours (up to two days) before you plan to cook your jam by mixing the rhubarb and sugar in a large bowl to macerate. This mixture can be covered loosely and left on the counter for a few hours, or refrigerated for up to 2 days. I generally recommend taking the time to macerate your fruit with sugar before proceeding with a jam, but this recipe can be done with or without maceration.

When you’re ready to cook your jam, start a water bath and sterilize your jars and lids. Add all ingredients to a jam pan, Dutch oven or equivalent, making sure to scrape out any extra juice and sugar from the container if you macerated the rhubarb. Stir to combine and bring to a rolling boil over high heat; continue stirring frequently to prevent scorching as the preserves boil down. When the jam looks glossy and has thickened enough to fall in sheets from the side of a spoon, it’s ready. You can also tell the jam is a good consistency when you run your spoon in a line over the bottom of the pan and the “hole” you create fills in slowly. Rhubarb jams tend to gel nicely and I do not add pectin when making them.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully remove the rose geranium sprig. It’s okay if some of the leaves are left in the jam, but you don’t want the stem. Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized jars; wipe the rims of each jar carefully and affix the lids. Process the jars in a water bath for 10 mins.; remove to a clear, towel-lined counter and allow to sit untouched overnight. Check that each jar is sealed; refrigerate unsealed jars immediately. Properly sealed jars will keep in a cool, dark cupboard for up to a year. 

Fig jam with rosemary & preserved lemon.


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Figs are my favorite fruit to use in savory preparations, especially jam– fig preserves are simply elegant with many different kinds of cheese, charcuterie, rustic breads and crisp crackers. A twist on the balsamic fig jam I’ve been making for years, this is almost purely intended to be part of a cheese plate, roasted turkey sandwich, decadent grilled cheese or something similar, though it wouldn’t ruin a good piece of toast. The rosemary is subtle but the preserved lemon is bright and strong, balancing the sweet, sweet figs nicely with saltiness and acidity. Here is the link for my method of making preserved lemons, and you can often buy them in the deli of a larger grocery store (the Whole Foods in my area has them) or in a specialty grocery with a good selection of ingredients for Middle Eastern or Northern African cuisine.

This recipe makes a very small batch, yielding just a little more than a pint. Though I will include instructions for water bath canning, when I make it again I will refrigerate and plan to use it up quickly, skipping the canning steps. In September, figs are still lovely in my neck of the woods and you can use any variety for this jam– grab a few pints of figs at the market this weekend and set yourself up for some posh snacking in the near future. You’ll want to grab some Brie, maybe Gruyere or Humboldt Fog, and a bit of prosciutto or pate, too– so you’re ready.

fig jam with rosemary & preserved lemon

Fig Jam with Rosemary & Preserved Lemon

  • 4 c. figs, washed, stemmed and diced
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 generous sprig of fresh rosemary
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 3 T. red wine vinegar
  • 3 T. minced preserved lemon (rind only)

If you like, you can start the process several hours (up to two days) before you want to cook your jam by mixing the figs and sugar in a large bowl to macerate. This mixture can be covered loosely and left on the counter for a few hours, or refrigerated for up to 2 days. I generally recommend taking the time to macerate your fruit with sugar before proceeding with a jam, but this recipe can be done with or without maceration.

When you’re ready to cook your jam, if you plan to can for shelf stability, start a water bath and sterilize your jars and lids. (I would use half-pint (8 oz.) or quarter-pint (4 oz.) jars.) Add all ingredients to a jam pan, Dutch oven or equivalent, making sure to scrape out any extra juice and sugar from the container if you macerated the figs. Stir to combine and bring to a rolling boil over high heat; continue stirring frequently to prevent scorching as the preserves boil down. When the jam has thickened enough to fall in sheets from the side of a spoon, it’s ready. You can also tell the jam is a good consistency when you run your spoon in a line over the bottom of the pan and the “hole” you create fills in slowly. 

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully remove the rosemary sprig. It’s okay if some of the needles are left in the jam, but you don’t want the woody stem. If you’re canning, ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized jars; wipe the rims of each jar carefully and affix the lids. Process the jars in a water bath for 10 mins.; remove to a clear, towel-lined counter and allow to sit untouched overnight. Check that each jar is sealed; refrigerate unsealed jars immediately. Properly sealed jars will keep in a cool, dark cupboard for up to a year. 

If you choose not to can, ladle hot jam into a clean container and allow to cool slightly at room temperature before refrigerating. Tightly-covered, it should keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. Warm to room temperature before serving if you can.

Hatch chile corn chowder.


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I was joking Tuesday morning on a-social-media-site-not-to-be-named about the figurative switch that’s flipped on Labor Day: suddenly, food blogs and recipe sites go from tomatoes, zucchini, peaches and corn to pumpkin, cinnamon and apples. Though it was chillier Tuesday morning, my market and your garden didn’t mirror such a drastic shift. I love pumpkin and apples, too, but I haven’t had my fill of fresh, sweet local corn yet! And the Hatch chiles have only been around for a few weeks, at least where I am. And so, in an effort to gracefully embrace the last few weeks of summer, cool evenings and all, I created this “shoulder season” chowder, with elements of a classic corn chowder and surprising heat from roasted chiles and chili powder. It’s wonderful. The balance of sweet corn, spicy chiles, smoky chili powder and cooling cream is addictive. Though I usually suggest substituting whole milk for some or all of the cream in soup recipes, here I would say to go with cream. Indulge. I was tempted to dollop some sour cream on my bowl just to take the creaminess to another level. As you curl your hands around a steaming bowl of this fragrant chowder, think about all the pumpkin-y, apple-y goodness that’s right around the corner, but enjoy the last weeks of this gorgeous summer.

Hatch chile corn chowder

Hatch Chile Corn Chowder (serves 4)

  • 2 fresh Hatch chiles*, or 1/4 c. pre-roasted Hatch chiles
  • 1 T. canola oil
  • 1 lb. red potatoes, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 4 ears of corn, cut off the cob
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • black pepper
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 4 c. stock: chicken, vegetable or corn
  • 2/3 c. cream
  • kosher salt

Start by roasting the chiles if they’re fresh. Here’s the way I do it: heat your oven to 400 degrees and place the washed chiles right on the oven rack, or on a piece of tin foil, or a clean cookie sheet. Cook, turning every 10 mins. or so, until the skin has blistered and is visibly separating from the pepper. This takes 25-40 mins. depending on the size of the chiles. (You can grill chiles, too, or cook them under a broiler, or buy them pre-roasted. Roasted chiles freeze well; consider making/buying extra for future pots of chowder.) Remove the blistered chiles to a clean paper bag and roll the top to close, or put them in a glass or ceramic bowl covered by a plate. Allow the chiles to steam and cool for 15-20 mins. and then, when they’re cool enough to handle, carefully remove the skin, which should almost fall off on it’s own. Remove the stem, and seeds if you wish, and chop the chiles roughly. Set aside.

In a stockpot or similar large pot, heat the canola oil. Add the potato pieces (no need to peel unless you want to) and cook for 3-5 mins. Don’t stir too often; you want the potatoes to sear/brown slightly, though they won’t get much color. Add the corn, stir to combine and cook for another 3 mins. Sprinkle with chili powder and a few generous cracks of black pepper and stir to coat the potatoes and corn evenly. Add the garlic and 1 c. stock (estimated) to the pot and bring to a slow boil, stirring gently to release any bits of potato or corn that may be stuck to the bottom. Add another cup and do the same, repeating until all four cups of broth are in the pot. Add the reserved roasted chiles and reduce the heat to low; just barely simmer the chowder for at least 30 mins. and up to an hour. The longer you cook, the more the broth will be infused with chile flavors. Cooking for longer than an hour may begin to break down the potatoes, so keep an eye on the pot.

At this point, you can pause the cooking process and refrigerate the chowder base for up to two days. (One of the best things I learned from my Mom: package the chowder base and deliver it to a friend with a pint of cream, some bread or biscuits and a jar of pickles as a housewarming or welcome baby gift, or just as a nice thing to do.) When you are ready to finish the chowder, reheat it gently if it has been in the fridge, add the cream to the warm base and stir to combine. Add salt to taste. Serve immediately; I always accompany chowder with homemade bread & butter or mustard pickles and biscuits.

*Hatch chiles are from New Mexico and not actually a variety; rather, the term encompasses several types of chiles ranging in heat from mild to very hot. I use a mix of medium and hot in my kitchen. If you are unsure which kind of Hatch chiles are in your market and nervous about an overly spicy chowder, you can substitute poblanos, Anaheims or even jalapenos to approximate the flavor. Make sure not to take all the spice out; the dish won’t be the same.

Chicken with roasted tomatillo sauce & avocado-corn relish.


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Tomatillos in late summer, with their sweet-sour flavor, are perfectly matched with chiles, lime, cream, garlic and any combination thereof. After a day of dreamily searching through recipes, I took elements of some of the best I saw, including an avocado and roasted tomatillo soup and braised chicken in tomatillo sauce, and came up with this winner of a chicken dinner. It’s very similar to dishes I’ve made in the past; the tomatillo sauce is just a few ingredients short of the salsa verde I can each fall, and the corn-avocado salsa is pretty much the way I make guacamole, plus corn. (But it didn’t seem like guacamole… hence the name.) I like tomatillo/verde sauces pretty spicy, so the recipe is written as a solid medium, edging toward hot, on the heat spectrum. (You can modify by substituting Anaheim chiles or seeding your Hatch chiles or jalapenos.) The relish is sweet and creamy, with a nice crunchy bite from the corn, the perfect cooling element to balance the spice of your sauce. Don’t want rice? Shred the cooked chicken with two forks and try this as a taco filling instead. As usual with the dishes I lean toward, it’s flexible, straightforward and absolutely delicious. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

chicken thighs with roasted tomatillo sauce and avocado-corn salsa

Chicken with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce & Avocado-Corn Relish (serves 4)

  • 12 oz. fresh tomatillos, husked, washed and halved
  • 2 Hatch chiles or jalapenos, halved
  • canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 T. fresh oregano, minced
  • 1 ear of corn
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced
  • 1 T. fresh lime juice
  • 1 lb. skinless boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • steamed rice
  • sour cream (optional)
  • cilantro (optional)

Start by roasting the vegetables for the tomatillo sauce. (Look ahead in the recipe– you can do the corn now, too.) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a glass or ceramic dish (I used a glass 9″ x 13″ baking dish), coat the halved tomatillos and chiles with a splash of canola oil. Season with salt and roast for 20-30 mins., without stirring, until everything is softened. The tomatillos should be oozing juice and blistering slightly; nice charred spots are desirable. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside to cool for about 15-20 mins. Add the slightly-cooled tomatillos and chiles, all the juices and scraped up browned bits that may be in your roasting pan, and the crushed garlic to a blender or food processor and pulse until you have a thick sauce. Taste and add more salt, maybe even a little more garlic, to suit your tastes. Set aside.

For the relish, cook your corn by boiling, grilling or roasting it, oiled and wrapped in foil, for 15 mins. while the tomatillos and chiles roast. Cool until you can handle it comfortably and remove the kernels from the ear into a medium bowl. Add the diced avocado, lime juice and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Stir gently to combine; taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.

Cut your chicken into generous pieces, not bite-sized, but strips or chunks that will cook evenly. (From 1 lb. chicken thighs, I had 8 pieces of chicken.) Season with salt & pepper. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat 1 T. canola oil and brown the chicken, about 5 mins. per side. Don’t worry about it being cooked through at this point, but you don’t want to see any pink spots. Add the reserved tomatillo sauce and oregano to the skillet and turn the chicken pieces so they’re coated in sauce. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for about 10-15 mins., until the sauce is bubbling and the chicken is cooked through.

Spoon steamed rice into a bowl and top with a few chicken pieces and some extra sauce. Dollop a generous amount of avocado-corn relish on top– you’ll want enough to get some with each bite of chicken. Garnish with sour cream and/or fresh cilantro and serve immediately. Store leftovers separately in tightly-covered containers so you can reheat the chicken when you’re ready to enjoy leftovers.


Arugula salad with peaches, bacon & goat cheese.


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For my husband’s birthday in July, we had dinner with his mom at Restaurant Roux in Fremont. Owned by the creator of R’s favorite food truck, Where Ya At, Matt?, Roux was somewhere we had been meaning to go for months; when my husband decided fried oysters were a must for his birthday dinner, it was time to finally check it out. We weren’t disappointed. In addition to the oysters, we had deviled eggs, hush puppies, grilled octopus, boudin blanc, cheesy grits and gnocchi with rabbit and fresh vegetables. Each dish was unique, expertly thought out, well-executed and delicious. My hands-down favorite plate was a salad of peaches with bacon lardons, goat cheese and pea tendrils. I haven’t stopped thinking of that salad for two months, and now that local peaches are ripe and good, it was time for me to make my own version.

Roux version: peaches, bacon lardons, goat cheese & pea tendrils

It’s hard to give a recipe for a salad like this, since I measure with my eyes and not a cup. It’s forgiving of an extra handful of arugula, more or less bacon, more or less peaches… What I’m trying to say is, don’t fret if you have a little more or a little less than what I list. Don’t worry if your infused vinegar has garlic, or tarragon, or red pepper flakes instead of thyme– I bet it will still be marvelous. Just as my salad is an homage to the wondrous dish we had at Roux, let your version be just a little different than mine. Life is too short to worry about measuring salad! That said, I’ve done my best to give you realistic, soundly-estimated ingredient amounts. If you can’t get to Roux, I want you to be able to make and experience this combination of flavors and textures for yourself. (If you can get there, I think it’s still on the menu and I highly recommend ordering one– but then you can make my version when you start craving it like I did.) Sweet peaches, crisp and bitter arugula, tangy herbed vinaigrette, salty bacon, creamy chevre: it’s the perfect late summer meal.

arugula salad with peaches, bacon & goat cheese

Arugula Salad with Peaches, Bacon & Goat Cheese

  • 3 oz. (about 4 loosely-packed c.) arugula
  • 6 oz. bacon ends*, cooked and diced or 4-6 strips thick-cut bacon, cooked and diced
  • 1 ripe, fragrant peach, pitted and sliced (I like donut peaches in this salad)
  • 1 oz. soft goat cheese (chevre), crumbled
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. grainy mustard
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 T. thyme-infused white wine vinegar or 2 T. white wine vinegar + 1 tsp. fresh minced thyme leaves
  • 6 T. good-quality extra-virgin olive oil

Add the arugula to a large bowl with enough room to add other ingredients. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until the fat has rendered and it’s brown and fragrant. Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack or towel-lined plate; as soon as it’s cool enough to handle, chop the bacon into small pieces and add to the arugula. Ideally, it will still be warm and will slightly wilt the greens. Slice the peach and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and honey with a pinch of salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Add the vinegar (and thyme if it’s fresh) and whisk until you have an even consistency without clumped honey or mustard. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking until your dressing is thickened and emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Just before serving, dress the greens and bacon with your vinaigrette and toss to combine. Add the peaches and toss again, very gently, or serve the greens and top with sliced peaches. Garnish with crumbled chevre and serve immediately.

*I often buy bacon ends at the market, which are meatier, less salty and less greasy than strip bacon, though not as uniformly tender. They taste a little like Canadian bacon. If you can find them, I recommend using them here. If not, use strip bacon, cubed ham or Canadian bacon. Prosciutto wouldn’t be bad, either.


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