What I'm up to
  • Oxo Good Grips Small Wooden Spoon
    Oxo Good Grips Small Wooden Spoon

    everyone needs these, many of them.

  • Mauviel Cuprinox Style 8-inch Round Frying Pan
    Mauviel Cuprinox Style 8-inch Round Frying Pan

    Scarily, I can say I have enough copper. Not many people can utter those words.

  • Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven, Red
    Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven, Red
    Le Creuset

    The same thing could be said for Le Creuset, but still. Great for braising and soup making.

  • The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century
    The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century
    by Amanda Hesser
  • Nordic Ware Bakers Half Sheet, 13 X 18 X 1
    Nordic Ware Bakers Half Sheet, 13 X 18 X 1
    Nordic Ware

    What did I do before I started using this half sheet? Cry.

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Entries in summer (8)


Brain Food - Mexican Chocolate Polenta brownies 

one bowl brownies. Really.

I have been super busy with travel, dog anxiety and classes. I meant to post a recipe right after my certificate program ended. Instead, I got distracted and enchanted with a trip to the dairy barns of Wisconsin, planning a trip to Italy and then school starting all over again. E's ruptured disc did not help things.  I have challenged myself to start writing again, here, there and over there... We'll see how well I do.

My certificate capstone project had certain aspects that were challenging - juggling five individual schedules, a client who was out of town alot, and some unclear objectives. In the end it all turned out pretty well and the client was happy.  I cooked/baked a lot during the last few weeks of the quarter, mostly for stress relief.  The last time I was in grad school, I did much the same thing, baking and cleaning for study avoidance. 

TH requested that I make chocolate polenta brownies. These were something I made in grad school that she loved very much. I don't know why I stopped making them 13 years ago, but I just did. I make all sorts of different brownies, so it isn't like I don't like making brownies or can't. They just were filed along with my large scale construction drawings somewhere in a deep recess of my brain. 

Polenta in brownies? What? Well, the polenta adds a crunchiness and a heft that isn't as caloric, but is nice nonetheless as well as great if you are avoiding nuts.  I love combining the flavors of Mexican chocolate - cinnamon, some orange and a little kick of pepper if you desire.  These are a riff on the Baker's classic one bowl brownie, very simple and most people who have dried unicorn horns in their pantry will have most of the ingredients on hand. For the rest of you, just work with me.

Note: I have become a lazy cook. Instead of slaving over a hot double boiler to melt the chocolate and the butter, I bung the chocolate and butter in a 150 deg F. oven for 30 minutes until melted. I remove the bowl and add the polenta. I let the mixture sit for another hour to soften the polenta up a bit a bit. You don't have to be me (trust me, you don't want to be) and actually follow the directions.  At the end, you should have a nice pan of brownies that remind you of grad school - that last paper, simpler times and maybe a trip you took somewhere sunny and festive to forget your troubles.

orange polenta brownies
Mexican Chocolate Polenta Brownies
Makes one 9" pan that yields between 24-36 brownies depending on your cutting skills.

Pan Prep - For ease of clean up , line pan with parchment paper cut to come up the sides of pan (don't want brownie mix to stick to side of pan).

Preheat oven to 350 F.

4 oz of 70%  or 60% bittersweet chocolate cut into chunks or chips
3/4 c (6 oz) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour or gluten free all purpose mix  (Bob's Red Mill) + 1/2 t xanthan gum
1/2 cup quick cook polenta or cornmeal
3 eggs, beaten
1 t vanilla
1 t orange extract or 1/2 orange zested
1 1/2  t cinnamon
1/8-1/4 t cayenne pepper (optional - I don't care for it)
1/2 c chocolate chips (60% or semi-sweet), optional but a nice addition

Conventional way - Over a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter together. Remove from heat and add polenta and stir polenta into the chocolate/butter mixture.  Let sit for one hour if possible to soften.  Add sugar, beaten eggs, vanilla, orange extract, orange zest, cinnamon and optional pepper and mix well.  Add flour or flour mix and optional chocolate chips. Stir until blended, but do not over mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan and use spatula to smooth out batter. Have assistant lick bowl and spatula.

Bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on oven's temperament) or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a baking rack until cool. Wait at least an hour before cutting into squares.


Carrot and Cardamom salad 


Carrot salads of my youth featured too much mayonnaise and raisins and not enough oomph, they were sweet, pale and overly dressed. I was not impressed and stuck to the not seen in nature colored potato salads.  Later in my life, I would buy bags of "baby carrots" which were sort of slimy out of the bag with a strange plastic odor.  However, these babies got me through grad school, when diet coke, coffee and baby carrots were staples of my diet.  To this day, I cannot walk by a display of baby carrots without thinking of my large scale construction class.

When I started growing my own food, I fell in love with the home grown carrot - not perfect, slightly sweet and tasting of the earth. I know gardeners who believe that carrots left in the ground after the last frost are the sweetest. I have never had any left to test this hypothesis.

In Persian cooking, carrots are used for savory and sweet dishes.  They turn up in savory stews, rice dishes and in desserts.  They are a multipurpose vegetable that lends itself to all sorts of uses.  My TH makes an amazingly simple soup of carrots, a bit of sauteed onion and chicken stock.

I never think to use carrots as the focal point of a salad.  They are the curlicue garnishes and sometimes the disks that end up at the bottom of the bowl.  Most of the time they are relegated to the vegetable tray, where they may or may not be consumed and then end up sitting out on the conference table until someone finally throws them out, three days later.

I have had a few good carrot salads in my time, PCC markets used to make a Morrocan carrot salad that features slightly cooked carrot rounds, lots of cumin and paprika.  I'm not sure they make it now. My friend M makes another salad that has the cumin, but not the paprika and uses shredded carrots. At cookbook club, @kairuy made two salads out of Falling Cloudberries, both were good, but the carrot salad made me swoon.

When was the last time a carrot made you swoon?

Like with many of the recipes in the book, the quantity of the ingredients is questionable and the procedure a mystery, but the premise of adding the sweet scent of cardamom and ginger to carrots got to me.

This salad is delicious as soon as you dress it, but like the chickpea/cilantro salad, it improves with an overnight stay in the fridge, if you can stand waiting that long.

Carrot and Cardamon salad (adapted from Tessa Kiros' "Falling Cloudberries")

serves six as a side dish, or one of me with some leftovers

eight medium carrots, 3/4" in diameter, 10" long (ca. 1 1/2 lbs)

one half a red onion, chopped finely

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1/2 t cardamom

1 1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated (didn't have this, used 1/2 t ground)

1 t sugar (optional, but I think you should try a little if your carrots are not at their tip top sweetness)

1/2 t salt (the original recipe called for 2t, that is a bit excessive unless you plan to draw the water out of the carrots, which you don't)

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup olive oil (I used half of this)

10 mint leaves, chopped or torn

pepper to taste


Grate carrots using a box grater, a Cuisinart with the shredding disk, or cheat and buy them pre-shredded at Trader Joes. Place in a large mixing bowl. Add diced onion and parsley and mix to combine. In another small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, salt, sugar, cardamom and ginger together. Pour the dressing over the salad. Mix thoroughly until dressing coats all the carrots, you may have some dressing at the bottom of the bowl. Season to taste with pepper or more salt if you wish and garnish with chopped or torn mint leaves.

Refrigerated until served, which could be five seconds depending on your guests, but it does get better with a little marination.


Chickpea, cilantro and feta salad 


My mom called me on Sunday to tell me she had made a tabouli salad and kindly saved some for me.  If I hadn't been completely stuffed to the gills from Cookbook Club and the recipes from Falling Cloudberries, I would have picked up the keys and driven over because I love my mom's tabouli.  However, this post is not about tabouli, it is about the fact that soon it will be outdoor potluck weather and soon we'll be wishing we had opted to make a salad instead of a casserole.

Let me tell you something else about tabouli - everyone loves tabouli, and thinks that they will be exotic and daring and make it for a potluck.  Last year, I attended a summer solstice event at my parent's community garden where four tabouli salads turned up to feed  twenty people.  The same could be said for insalata caprese, its innocuous and frankly, not that exciting.

This week I made three different cold salads, ones that require minimal stovetop use and like most marinated things - tastes better the following day. While the weather has been unseasonably cool, you might as well plan ahead and try and tweak these recipes to your liking.   Here is the first. I love this salad and have made it three times for different events. It is hearty and packed with protein. The parsely and cilantro give it a nice springy taste and the jalepeno, a bit of a kick. I have varied the types of feta cheese in this recipe. If you have picky eaters on your guest list, go for the milder varieties of feta.

Chickepea, Cilantro and Feta salad - adapted from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros

1 14 oz can of chickpeas, drained

1 small red onion, chopped finely

1/2 jalepeno pepper, cut in a fine mince, remove seeds if you want

2 cloves of garlic (the original recipe calls for five, this was plenty)

1/2 cup olive oil (yes, I said 1/2 cup, and that is an adjustment down from the 1 cup specified)

1 1/4 cup chopped parsely

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 to 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I used both light and the real stuff - both worked fine)

2 green onions chopped (white and light green parts)

1 lemon, juiced (I will admit to adding more than that, I like things tangy)


Saute onion in 2 T olive oil until soft (7 minutes for me), add garlic and chopped jalepeno and cook until you can just start smelling the garlic (ca. 2 minutes), remove from heat and let mixture come to room temperature (Note: you could do this ahead of time if you were more prepared than me).

Assemble the rest of the salad while the onion mixture is cooling.

Place chickpeas, parsely, cilantro, green onions in a bowl. Add cooled onion mixture and mix to combine.  Next add crumbled feta cheese to mixture and again, mix to combine.  Lastly add remaining olive oil and lemon juice mixture until it is well distributed.

Season to taste - add more lemon if you want, add salt and pepper, but the feta is a salty cheese and you many not need to add any.  Garnish with remaining parsely.

Refrigerate until served. This salad is delicious right out of the bowl or a few hours or days later. 

Props to Maggim for allowing me to use her lovely picture. I could not do this salad justice.


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