Graduation Feast

Graduation FeastMy sons are graduating from eighth grade this week and the whole concept is blowing my mind. I am not prepared, nor do I feel old enough, for two kids in high school. It feels like I was just holding them on my shoulder while they drooled and then I blinked and they were 14…

With all of the chaos that is the last week of school (never mind the graduation-specific stuff), it is safe to say that I haven’t been doing much cooking. So, in honor of two of my most favorite people, I have put together a list of their favorite dishes. These are the recipes that, if I had 10 more hours in the day and I could clone myself, I would serve to celebrate their accomplishments. These are also the recipes that I usually have to double if I want to actually get to taste them myself…unless they have friends over, then I’m out of luck.

To all of you who might have kids or relatives graduating from middle school, high school or college, I offer you a hearty congratulations not only to the graduates for their hard work and dedication to get to this milestone—but to the families that worked equally as hard to get them there!

Cherry Cola Ribs
You’ve gotta try these. They’re the bomb! They are also extremely addictive.

Feast or Famine Mac ‘n Cheese
I offer you two of my top recipes for a comfort food favorite, Mac & Cheese. True, the desperate can go the blue-box, plastic cheese route. But the real deal is easy to prepare, and you can make extra for the freezer.  Read more…

Peach Scones

Peach Scones Recipe

Peachy Keen
For the past few weeks, I have been getting rather dire predictions from my produce manager about the state of this year’s stone fruit crop. The short version is this: small crop, big prices. (Thank you Mother Nature). I look forward to stone fruit season every year. Even my kids have been asking if it is time for nectarines yet but the outlook hasn’t been great.

Imagine my surprise when, the other day, I was walking through our produce department and saw a lovely stack of peaches from California. It made me stop in my tracks and stare for a while because if anything is a beacon of Summer and warmer weather, it is the arrival of the peaches.

I have to admit I have been losing hope of there ever being summer weather. Last Saturday I sat in the bleachers at a baseball tournament freezing to death. (It was Cinco de Mayo! It should be warm enough already to melt your margarita not cold enough for Kahlua and coffee!) This weekend looks to be a bit better and Sunday is Mother’s Day—the perfect opportunity to make something I want…‘cause it’s all about me!

So I‘m gonna make these Peach Scones. They are a perfect tasty treat for Mother’s Day brunch, or just because. And, the peaches are there to remind you that summer is not too far away. One thing to be aware of, early peaches aren’t necessarily sweet peaches, You might need to toss ‘em in some sugar before you use them…or go with frozen.

Peach Scones Recipe
Yields 12 scones
The simplest way to make these scones is to drop the batter by the 1/4-cupful onto a baking sheet. If you want to get fancier, you can form the dough into a disc that is about 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick, and slice it (like a pizza) into 12 sections—first, cut cross-wise at right angles, and then divide those four sections into three wedges each. Either way, make certain there is enough space on the baking sheet for the scones to rise while in the oven. Read more…

Gravlax

GravlaxHomeland
Not too long ago I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown that was filmed in Copenhagen and I found myself glued to the seat fascinated by what I was watching on the screen. My mother’s side of the family is Danish — and I don’t mean mostly Danish with a little bit of “other” thrown in. I mean, “one hundred percent my ancestors wore breastplates and rode in boats to raid your shores” Danish.

Copenhagen, and Denmark in general, have always been on my bucket list of places to visit, mainly because I want to know more about where my family is from. It never occurred to me to go because of the food. But, as I sat there watching this show, it was a revelation. Because, more often than not, when I think of Scandinavian food I am transported back to the nights my grandmother would make red cabbage. (The smell when we entered the house was horrendous. But, Gam and Mom loved it.) Other times it makes me think of the herring in cream sauce we sell here at the store. Apparently, it’s delicious. I…just…can’t…even. I’ll sell it but I don’t have to eat it.

What I was seeing on the tv screen, however, was something completely different. And, it made me hungry. To be fair, Smørrebrød is not new and, in fact, it makes a perfect lunch. But, watching the chef create classic Scandinavian dishes in a way that made the old ways new again was energizing. His emphasis on ingredients that could be grown and used sustainably was icing on the cake. Now, he did use moss that he gathered off the trees in his backyard.(Foraging is big in Denmark.) Not sure I’m ready to go there yet. But, it did get me fired up about my garden again.

If you look really closely, on the menus of the nicer restaurants around us you will notice more and more chefs creating dishes with Scandinavian influences. (Akvavit comes to mind.) I started noticing it before my virtual trip to Copenhagen and even more so since. If those sixty minutes have done anything they have made me seek those places and recipes out.

In the meantime, as I thumb through some recent cookbook purchases, I am content to make myself a little bit of Smørrebrød for snacking. And, if it includes a little homemade Gravlax, so much the better….

Gravlax
Adapted from The Spruce
Gravlax is salmon that has been cold-cured with sugar, salt, and fresh dill. Modern gravlax has a fresh, delicate flavor and is delicious served either as an elegant appetizer or as a topping for smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches). Read more…

Apricot Hamantaschen

Apricot HamantaschenHamantaschen Noshin’
I don’t think it’s any great revelation to say that food often plays a starring role in holidays. This is especially true when one is referring to the Jewish holiday of Purim, which starts today.

Purim has a number of customs and one of them is handing out gifts of triangle-shaped filled cookies called Hamantaschen. I did not grow up in a Jewish household but my husband did. And, I can honestly say that any custom that encourages the sharing of cookies is good with me.

The only constant with Hamantaschen is their shape. Even the spelling varies. The filling is as wide-ranging as the people who make them. Traditional filling is made with prunes and walnuts. But, you can also find poppy seed, apricot (my favorite), honey pecan, chocolate chip, cherry…even Nutella. Whatever you dream up to fill the cookies works.

Same goes for the dough. You can use a yeast dough, rugalach dough, or (my personal preference) a butter cookie dough. As long as you get that triangle shape you’re good to go.

Of course, if you don’t want the hassle of making them yourself, we’ve got a number of varieties available from Grand Bakery ready for you to get your Hamantaschen Nosh on…

This recipe for Apricot Hamantaschen is a combination of a one I found on King Arthur’s website and others I have pulled from some of my favorite Jewish cooking books. Feel free to play with it a bit—or use your own butter cookie dough recipe. You can also use apricot preserves instead of the filling below for faster oven to mouth time…

Apricot Hamantaschen
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Read more…

Baked Rhubarb with Earl Grey Tea, Cardamom, and Orange Zest

Baked Rhubarb with Earl Grey Tea, Cardamom, and Orange Zest

Tea with ‘barb
About two weeks ago, I was walking through our produce department and noticed that the first bright red stalks of rhubarb were piled on the shelf. Naturally, I had to buy some—though I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I got it home. This type of thing happens a lot, usually when I am driving through the valley and see a farm stand. I am a visual shopper.

Like most people, when I think rhubarb I think pie. But, I don’t always have the time, or energy, to make a pie crust. Then I go the easy route and make it into a crisp ‘cause I always have oatmeal. And, let’s face it, you could put that topping on anything and make it taste good. It should come as no surprise that I ended up doing just that…and it was fantastic.

At least the few bites I got were fantastic. My family of vultures ate it all before I had a chance to get my fill.

Because of this, I have been on the lookout for something different to do with the rhubarb we have downstairs in the shop. When I came across this recipe for Baked Rhubarb, I was fascinated. Earl Grey is my tea of choice. I drink it all day, every day. So, I am very familiar with its citrusy flavor. And, I get why this recipe would work, rhubarb and citrus complement each other nicely.

So this experiment will be happening this week and I will be hiding my own stash in the fridge. I am looking forward to finding out what it will taste like when it is mixed in with some yogurt…when no one is looking!

Baked Rhubarb with Earl Grey Tea, Cardamom, and Orange Zest
Adapted from Food 52 Read more…