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Lavash Rolls

29 Jun

This might be weird, but I do not like buns on my hotdogs nor on my hamburgers.  I dislike them intensely. I hate the doughy white bread that gets soggy and sodden under the good stuff, and I hate the processed, too-sweet taste of everything sold in the supermarkets. So, I just skip the bun. I have been doing this long  before Atkins was popular, and I still do it even though that fad seems to have faded.

My husband, however, is a fan of the bun. Not because he thinks it tastes great, but because he likes everything to be held together without any mess or fuss.  He will eat it with a knife and fork on occasion, but I know he is secretly longing for the bun.  So what to do?  My way of finding middle ground: lavash bread.

Lavash is great because it is thin and doesn’t get in the way of the other great food flavors. I use them for sausages, as pictured, rolling them with homemade stone-ground mustard, chopped onions and sauerkraut.  Heating them just a minute or so on each side in a skillet gives them a just a little crisp on the outside.  I also prefer lavash to tortillas for making roll-ups of any kind, because it is really pliable and doesn’t easily break on you.  I like to smear them with hummus and chopped veggies, or with goat cheese, caramelized onions and fresh herbs from the garden.

Lavash Rolls
From LaFemmeCooks

1 sausage
1/2 sheet lavash bread
1-2 tbs tbs dijon mustard
1-2 tbs chopped white onion
1/2 cup sauerkraut (or more/less, depending on your taste)

Split sausage in half and grill or fry on stovetop. Warm a large skillet on the stove and cut your sheet of lavash in half (one full sheet will serve 2).  Place the lavash into the skillet to warm it, and flip it over after about a minute.  Add mustard and spread over entire sheet. Add sausage halves, one right next to the other.  Scatter the chopped onion and sauerkraut over the sausage and mustard.  Starting at sausage end, roll tightly.  You can add a toothpick to the center to keep it in place if needed.  Serve.

Pan Bagnat

22 Jun

One of my favorite things about visiting Nice is the street food.  I tried so many things there, like socca and pissaladiere, and have great memories of hanging out in the sunshine while eating some new thing or another.  We were planning a road trip recently, and the thought of packing a picnic and enjoying a pan bagnat in the sunshine reminded me a lot of our time in southern France.

If you have ever had a salad Nicoise then you are already familiar with the ingredients that make up a pan bagnat, which is essentially a salad Nicoise eaten as a sandwich.   The best part is that the sandwich gets weighted down overnight and is a dense, hearty meal the next day.

The perfect summer sandwich

Feel free to play with the ingredients and add/subtract things as you wish.  Veganomicon has a great recipe for a vegan version of this sandwich with roasted eggplant if you prefer to have yours without the tuna and eggs. I left the eggs off mine, and I added red bell pepper and shredded carrots for a little color and crunch.  I added some homemade pesto that I had on hand, and an olive tapenade from Trader Joe’s that I like.  Traditionally it is served on a round loaf, but a baguette would work just fine here too. Below is my own version, made to my taste preferences, but nothing is written in stone for this recipe.

Pan Bagnat
From LaFemmeCooks

1 round loaf of bread (I used the Rosemary and Sea Salt version from Essential Bakery here in Seattle)
1 cup spinach, lightly tossed in olive oil and vinegar of any kind
1 can tuna, drained
1/2 can marinated artichoke hearts
1/3 cup pepperocinis
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 sliced red bell pepper
olive tapenade or chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup pesto

Slice bread in half through the middle. Scoop out much of the bread from the halves, but leave enough to support the sandwich toppings. Spread pesto on the top half and olive tapenade on the bottom half. If you don’t have either of these things add a good dijon mustard instead.  Add the spinach first, then top with remaining ingredients, being careful to spread everything out evenly. When all toppings are added, put the “lid” back on the sandwich and wrap the sandwich in wax paper. Place it in the fridge overnight with a good heavy weight on top. If you don’t have overnight to wait, a few hours will do. Remove the weight when ready to serve, and cut into wedges. Serves 4, depending on the size of the bread.

Nice harbor, from our trip April 2009


Ginger Scones with Meyer Lemon

8 Feb

I love the time of year when Meyer lemons are in season.  I try to add them to everything I can think of, and I preserve them like mad for later in the year.  They are a bright, sunny spot in the short, gray days of a Seattle winter. This recipe is the first time I have used them in scones, and the result was fantastic.  I used soy milk instead of cream (because I am allergic to dairy), and the scones turned out well.  These are easy to make, perfect with tea or coffee, and let’s just say they didn’t last long in our house.

Ginger Scones with Meyer Lemon
From La Brea Bakery

2 1/4 cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
4 1/2 ounces candied ginger, finely chopped into 1/4-inch pieces to equal 2/3 cup
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing the tops of the scones

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder, and pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the lemon zest and butter, and pulse on and off, or mix on low, untl the mixture is pale yellow and the consistency of fine meal.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the ginger. Make a well in the center and pour in the cream. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead a few times to gather it into a ball. Roll or pat the dough into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Cut out the circles, cutting as closely together as possible and keeping the trimmings intact.

Gather the scraps, pat and press the pieces back together, and cut out the remaining dough. Place the scones 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush the tops with the remaining cream.

Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, until the surface cracks and they are slightly browned.

All gone!


(Baked) Cake Doughnuts

28 Sep

Last May, I wrote about a lovely visit with my nieces.  We had a great time cooking together, and I wanted them to get a sense of how easy (and rewarding) it is to make things from scratch.  When 9-year-old Camryn looked up at me with her big round eyes and asked if I could make doughnuts (her favorite treat) from scratch,  I said yes.  It was a little white lie–  I had never actually done it before, but of course I knew it could easily be done at home and I was hoping to have it mastered by the next time I saw her.

My nieces Camryn and Codie

So when I returned home,  I ordered a book by  local food writer and photographer Lara Ferroni that looked perfect for learning how to make doughnuts at home.  I was excited to see recipes for a vegan dough, a gluten-free recipe, and also multiple recipes for baked donuts instead of fried.  Baked doughnuts  seemed like a simpler, less messy way to make my first batch.  Later this year, you can be sure I will tackle the Brandied Eggnog variation, and also the Banana Bread and Chai variations.  I will be sure to let you know how those turn out!  And best of all, next time I see my girls we can make these together.

Baked Cake Doughnuts
Doughnuts by Lara Ferroni

1/3 cup plus 1 tbs all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs unsalted butter or shortening
1/4 cup whole milk, scalded
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten

Note: to get the proper shape when baking cake doughnuts, you will need a doughnut pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift the flours and baking powder together in a large bowl of bowl of your mixer.  Whisk in the sugar, nutmeg and salt.  Add the butter and use your fingers to rub in the dry ingredients as you would in making pastry crust, until evenly distributed.  Add the milk, yogurt, egg and vanilla and stir just until combined.  Do not over mix or your donuts may be rubbery.

Use a piping bag or a spoon to fill each doughnut cup about 3/4 full, making sure the center post is clear.  Bake until the doughnuts are a light golden brown and spring back when touched, 6-10 minutes.  Let cool slightly before removing from pan.  Glaze as desired.

Herbed Olive Oil Crackers

6 Jul

My New Year’s Resolution this year was to make everything we eat from scratch, and I must say that I have done very well the last seven months. It wasn’t like we ate much processed or packaged food before, but I really just wanted to try to make everything by hand that I could, in order to see if it really was an impossible task. I kept thinking back to my grandmother and great-grandmother and all that they did every single day, and felt like a slacker in comparison. Feeding ourselves is the most basic and most important human endeavor, and I really wanted to take responsibility for every morsel entering my body, and also for every dollar spent in the pursuit of food.


In the first few months of the new year I made homemade cinnamon rolls, baked fresh bread (which I had never done before), fermented sauerkraut, and made my own ricotta from goat’s milk. I made ice cream and pasta from scratch, and was having a ball. I saw Michael Pollan discussing his book, Food Rules, and it just. made. perfect. sense.  And I am happy to report that I have not looked back.

Cooking for friends is something I absolutely love to do.  Cooking is how I show people I care about them, and making a glorious meal for friends and family is pretty much the best way for me to spend a day, topped only by sharing said meal with said friends.  And wine.

Rolled dough with herbs

My friends Cheryl and Bryan, who also like to cook, came for dinner recently and I couldn’t wait to put together a menu.  For appetizers I knew I wanted to serve this amazing local chevre with Herbes de Provence (from Port Madison Goat Farm and Dairy), and needed something spectacular to serve with the cheese.  Voila!  The trusty Herbfarm Cook Book had just the recipe I was looking for: herbed olive oil crackers.

The crackers turned out amazingly well, and were super easy to make.  In fact, once you have homemade crackers it is pretty hard to go back to the cardboard taste of most anything that comes preserved forever in a box.  The recipe calls for rye flour which you can find in bulk at your local grocery store, and any herbs you have on hand would be lovely. Unlike bread, you don’t have to wait for these to rise, so they are super simple and quick to make.

Fresh out of the oven

Herbed Olive Oil Crackers
From The Herbfarm Cook Book

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup medium rye flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
5 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup cold water, plus more if needed
1/4 cup thinly sliced sage leaves
1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt

Dough: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Stir the flours, 3/4 tsp salt, and rosemary together in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in 3 tbs of the olive oil, then rub the mixture between your fingers to break up any lumps and work the crumbs into the texture of cornmeal.  Stir in the milk (I used plain soy milk because I am allergic to cow milk) and water to form a medium stiff dough.  (I did this all in my Kitchenaid.)  If it is too dry to easily come together into a dough, add more water 1 tbs at a time.

Rolling: Line a large cookie sheet or the back of a baking sheet (about 16 x 12 inches) with parchment paper.  Roll the dough into a rectangle the same size as the pan.  Roll it up on the rolling pin and unroll it onto the parchment.  With a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, cut the dough into a 6 x 4 grid for 24 crackers.  (They don’t have to be uniform.)  Brush the tops of the crackers with the remaining 1 tbs olive oil and sprinkle them with sage leaves and kosher salt.

Baking: Bake the crackers until they are browned around the edges and in spots throughout, 16 to 18 minutes.  Slide the crackers into a wire rack to cool.  If the crackers that were baked in the middle of the pan seem softer and less done, return them to the oven for 3 to 5 minutes.  Cool the crackers for at least 30 minutes before serving to give them a chance to crisp.  Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Black and White Banana Bread

2 Jul

Oddly enough, growing up I was never a big fan of banana bread.  It might have been that I was the victim of dry bread once or twice, which in my mind is a death sentence, and I was also not a fan of nuts in sweet things.  But oh how my mind (and palate) has changed!  Now I adore banana bread, and I like to add all kinds of things to it, depending on what I have in the cupboard.

Banana bread is a great staple because we always have bananas in various stages of decay.  My husband likes to eat one every day, but for some reason they are still always perishing on our countertop.  I used to compost them, but within the last year I have developed a liking for my old nemesis banana bread, and so have been busy experimenting with different concoctions.

I always have different kinds of nuts in the pantry because I use them a lot in cooking and baking, and there are always two or three kinds of chocolate at least.  You can experiment with your favorites in this recipe, as any kind of nut would be good (walnuts, of course, but even pecans or cashews would be good).  Try adding some white chocolate chips if you like them.

Lastly, the best ambassador for my banana bread is our cat, Seamus.  He is the. pickiest. eater.,  but for some reason adores my banana bread.  He doesn’t even get this excited when we cook up bacon.

Black and White Banana Bread
La Femme Original

1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2-cup mashed ripe banana
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup hazelnuts chopped

Preaheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter standard-sized loaf pan.  Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in mashed bananas and vanilla.  Combine flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder and gradually add to mixture.  Add chocolate chips and walnuts and stir to combine.  Add 1/2 of the batter to your prepared loaf pan.  Add cocoa powder to remaining batter and stir well.  Add chocolate batter on top of white batter in pan, and take a knife to swirl top into bottom, if you like.  Alternatively, you can keep the layers separate.  Either way looks nice when baked.  Bake about one hour, testing the center for doneness.


2 Jun

Many years ago, I received the first Herbfarm Cookbook as a gift from my friend Keita.  We were in our early 20s,  novice cooks, and had dreams of dinner parties artfully executed, (friends swooning and complimenting, of course), swirling through our heads.  We cracked open the book and read it almost cover to cover.  This would be our bible, then, and we would teach ourselves these recipes that were sure to impress our friends, family and even ourselves.

Dough for Herbed Focaccia

Over the next year or so, we made most recipes from the book.  The first meal we attempted was chicken breasts in tarragon cream, and delicata squash with rosemary, sage and cider glaze.  As our guests’ stomachs rumbled and protested, we quickly realized we would need to get more efficient with our prep time and organization in order to pull off food like this.  But organize we did, and soon we were making bite-size gougeres with gruyere and thyme, halibut baked with leeks, apple and lovage, and chanterelle and corn chowder with basil.

I adored this cookbook for many reasons.  The recipes were so perfectly detailed that even new cooks like us could follow them precisely and the dishes would turn out.  We instituted a cardinal rule which was this: We must follow the directions explicitly, even if we were sure this couldn’t/wouldn’t turn out right (and sure enough, Jerry’s instructions were always right).

We also started growing many of our own herbs, and to this day my garden swells with rosemary, lavender, verbena, sage, thyme, basil, mint, chervil, marjoram, tarragon and more.  I think it is difficult to be a great cook if you don’t grow fresh herbs of your own, and it is certainly more expensive to buy them from the store.  Plus the bees adore fresh herbs, and who doesn’t want more bees in their garden?

Focaccia dough with fresh herbs

This book also introduced me to many things I had never seen nor heard of before, such as the ricer that makes mashed potatoes perfectly creamy every time (guests never fail to ask me what my secret is.  Sometimes I tell, sometimes I don’t!).  I had never encountered lemon verbena (now my fave herb), nor sorrel, lovage, chervil or many of the other herbs used in this book.  I learned combinations of herbs and of herbs and food that are divinely inspired (roasted corn with fresh marjoram comes to mind), and the truth is that now I never cook anything without fresh herbs: simple scrambled eggs get a sprinkling of tarragon or chives, cherry pie benefits from fresh lavender, and all fresh pasta needs is lemon, thyme and a flurry of Pecorino Romano.  Herbs elevate food, it is as simple and as lovely as that.

I can’t imagine being the cook I am today or loving food the way I do if I hadn’t started with the Herbfarm Cookbook.  It gave me the confidence to know that I could make delicious, inspiring food and to not be afraid of recipes that seem challenging.  In fact, the first bread I ever baked was from this book.  The directions were so clear and simple that it seemed I couldn’t fail, and I didn’t.  This bread bakes up big and beautiful, and is a real show-stopper if brought straight to the table to serve guests there.  It makes great sandwich bread the next day, and is wonderful when turned into croutons for homemade soup.  If you have never made bread before, this is the place to start.

Herbed focaccia fresh out of the oven

Herbed Focaccia
From The Herbfarm Cookbook

2 cups lukewarm water
1 package active dry yeast (2.5 tsp)
2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
2 tbs chopped fresh sage
1 tbs chopped fresh thyme, winter savory or oregano
1.5 tsp salt
4.5 cups unbleached bread flour (spoon and level; 20 ounces), plus additional flour as needed
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

Dough and first rise. Pour the water into bowl (of electric mixer if using).  Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let sit for several minutes to dissolve.  Stir the herbs together in a small bowl.  Add half the herb mixture to the yeasted water. Cover the remaining herbs and refrigerate.  Stir the salt and flour into the yeast mixture to form a soft dough.  Knead for 8 minutes with the dough hook or paddle at medium speed, or knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured surface until it is elastic and satiny, 8-10 minutes.  The dough should be very soft and will stick to the bottom of the electric mixer bowl as it is kneaded, but if it is too sticky to pull away from the sides of the bowl after 5 minutes of kneading, add another 1/4 cup of flour.  If you are kneading by hand, add only as much flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.  Put the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and then a clean towel, and let it rise until doubled in bilk, 1.5-2 hours.

Second rise. In another large mixing bowl, stir the olive oil and reserved herbs together and spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the bowl.  Punch down the dough and scoop it into the second bowl on top of the herb mixture.  Let the dough rise again until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Forming a loaf. Place a baking stone on the center rack of your oven and preheat the oven to 400. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet.  This will serve as the peel that you will use to transfer the bread to the baking stone.  Without punching down the dough, turn the dough out onto the paper, letting it fall out with the herbs on top.  Use your fingertips to poke the dough while at the same time gently pulling it into an oval about 12 inches long.  The dough will deflate somewhat, but keep as much rise in it as you can.  Use a paper towel to blot any oil that runs down the sides.  Let the dough rise again for 10-15 minutes to restore its puffiness.

Baking. With a pair of scissors, trim the excess parchment paper extending beyond the edges of the dough so that the paper doesn’t burn in the oven.  Set the edge of your peel on the edge of the oven rack in front of the baking stone.  Carefully grab one edge of parchment and slide it with the loaf onto the stone.  Bake the bread until golden brown on top and well browned on the bottom, about 25 minutes.  It will puff a little more in the oven.  Remove the loaf from the oven with a large spatula and let it cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.  Slice it into rectangles with a serrated bread knife and serve warm.

Breaking bread


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