Washington State may well remember 2017 for the abundance of its sweet cherries from the Yakima Valley. The record crop came in late but the fruit has continued for nearly two months, with unusually low prices and delicious, plump fruit. For those of us who nearly turn into myna birds during cherry season, it has been cause for celebration.
There’s nothing quite so frustrating as coming home from work tired and hungry, gazing into the refrigerator, then retreating because there’s nothing that says “make this” in there. We’ve all been there. I admit that packaged tomato soup and scrambled eggs have gotten me through several moves and writing deadlines. However, award winning cookbook author, Barbara Kafka, has helpful solutions for all kinds of daily culinary dilemmas and her 15 minute pasta solution is brilliant. Made with ingredients you are likely to have around (though I doubt everyone has heavy cream waiting for just the right moment), this pasta recipe is delicious, filling, and with a few additional ingredients, scores as healthy too.
Spring farmers’ markets and produce stores are so wonderful to peruse and fill our bags and baskets with their deliciousness. Finally, choices other than kale, cabbage and iceberg lettuce! Everything just pops and begs to be eaten — lettuces, baby spinach, leeks, garlic shoots, baby carrots, English peas, snap peas, asparagus, fava beans, even little zucchinis and squash blossoms. Woo-hoo! Sadly, some things are harder to find, specifically artichokes. This is a big blow for people like me who adore them. The problem? A lack of bio-diversity.
Risotto, when it’s good, is right up there on my comfort food list. I never had risotto, polenta or gnocchi until I was an adult as pasta was the signature Italian dish where I was growing up. For all I knew, pizza, spaghetti, meatballs, and lasagne were what Italians ate every night.
In the mid-1980s I wrote the Artichoke Cookbook. It was quite successful and so the Brussels sprouts growers on California’s Central Coast asked me to write a cookbook for them. My then husband said he would leave me if I did; he hated them that much. I didn’t write the book though we did part ways a few years later and, after he left, I brought Brussels sprouts, among other things, back into my life.
Summer has arrived, which translates to grilling, barbecue and outdoor parties and activities. In other words, keep the food part quick and simple. That’s precisely what this salad is: Simple, crunchy, absolutely delicious.
Celery has a number of major health benefits, it’s low calorie, and combined with toasted walnuts, red onion or shallots and an oil and lemon vinaigrette with just a drop or two of vanilla, it’s an easy, light salad.
Are you crazy for stuffed eggs too? Really, I can’t imagine spring and summer picnics – inside or out – without these silky smooth, delicious gems.
What’s interesting is there are so many variations, both regional and individual. Years ago I had a boyfriend who always referred to them as Russian eggs. I actually prefer that name over “deviled” or “stuffed” but I was curious if Russian eggs contained specific or unique ingredients.
If you are fortunate enough to live where you can get the small artichokes, here’s a delicious recipe for you. And if you can’t get baby artichokes, check your market for frozen artichoke hearts. You can substitute two packages of frozen artichokes for the fresh ones. They won’t be quite the same, but they’ll most certainly be tasty.
Most traditional comfort foods were born from necessity, are steeped in tradition and evoke such strong memories of childhood that no matter how simple, (and sometimes boring,) we tend not to stray far from the original recipe. Colcannon, the traditional Irish skillet dish of boiled cabbage and mashed potatoes, literally meaning white headed cabbage, is one of those dishes.
Cranberry Sauce is an essential side for any holiday meal. The addition of vanilla cuts the acidity of the cranberries, softening the tangy bite and enhancing the fruity flavors of this winter favorite.
The summer tomatoes are in – the small, intensely flavored dry-farmed ones, heirlooms of all sizes, colors and stripes and the tiny little cherry tomatoes— all soooo delicious! It’s hard to beat a combination of really ripe tomatoes, fresh, soft mozzarella, lots of basil and maybe a bed of crispy Romaine or tender butter lettuces to soak up the juices. Simple and delicious.
I think you’ll agree that pancakes are a tempting comfort food that we’d secretly love to have almost daily but don’t because we usually eat them smothered in butter and syrup or jam whether they’re thin like crepes or thick and hardy.
Adapted from a Recipe by Sara Moulton
Like other sweet veggies, corn and vanilla are a great match. You don’t need much, but the amount you add is the special ingredient that makes either fresh or frozen corn come alive. The pureed corn takes the place of cream and keeps the flavor bright and fresh.
As fresh asparagus and English peas are only available for a month or so, if you enjoy them, eat them as often as possible. Here’s one delicious way to do just that. Feel free, however, to substitute fava beans, baby artichokes or any other favorite early vegetables to this fresh pasta dish. Peas are frozen as soon as they’re harvested and hold their flavor well so don’t worry if you can’t find fresh ones. Finally, baby arugula isn’t bitter like its more mature counterparts, but if you can’t find it or don’t like it, substitute baby spinach leaves or a different vegetable.
This is a delicious way to use an abundant supply of peaches (and your vanilla beans, for that matter). You can process the peaches, following instructions found in canning books or the Internet, give the jars of fresh peaches as hostess gifts, or enjoy the peaches with ice cream, crème fraiche or with Greek yogurt. The peaches will keep in the jars for about a month if kept refrigerated.
The skin of rutabagas is thick and tough, so use a sharp, strong chef’s knife to remove it entirely and cut the rutabaga. Maple syrup caramelizes quickly so keep a close eye on the vegetables during the last part of the roasting.
At the risk of being stoned to death for blasphemy, I admit that I have never liked bread stuffing! From the time I was very young, I always helped my mother tear the pieces of stale bread into a big bowl (without the crusts, of course) and mix the bread, onions, celery and herbs as she blended in the butter. I wasn’t crazy about the sage, but mostly I didn’t like the mushy texture or how it made me feel after eating it. In fact, I’ve been allergic to wheat my entire life though we didn’t know this when I was a child.
This is really good! Although it isn’t sweet, except for the dates, it’s like a savory dessert. That said, it goes very well with meats, poultry, fish or vegetarian entrees and is especially nice with Southeast Asian and Pacific Islands foods. Kids who aren’t put off by dates would really enjoy it. You could substitute raisins if you prefer.