Kitchen Siblings

There was a time when cooking with Caleb and Sadie was, simply put, delicious. Caleb would climb up on the chair I had placed by the stove and assist me by stirring something good to eat. I would kiss him on the head and commend him, in exchange for a sweet look of contentment and satisfaction. After entertaining us with a pots n’ pans drum solo, Sadie would run up to my legs – sometimes dressed, sometimes not – asking what she could do to help. What the hell happened!?

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It’s been quite some time since we’ve taken on a Cooking with Caleb (and Sadie!) worthy project, conducting a Jackson Pollock-esque food experiment in our kitchen. Batter splattered walls, tables, face, and hair. My definition of fun on a foggy day.

Missing these shared adventures, I made a cooking date with the kiddos on Monday. I presented them with two recipes which were well received: Cherry Clafoutis and Chicken Pot Pie. I then set the stage for a fairly seamless cooking adventure, anticipating delicious bonding over time together in the kitchen. Insert record scratch [here]. Before long, bad attitudes came out to play (including my own), battles over equity erupted, time-outs were being assigned, and my patience was tested to its limits. After a few temperament re-sets (including my own), we finally hit our stride about half-way through the project and our experience went uphill from there.

I can’t pretend that this was an idyllic experiment. Caleb and Sadie were playing out their sibling rivalry, afternoon blood-sugar dips, and various other issues on the kitchen stage. How could I expect otherwise? Fortunately, we came away unscathed with two boast-worthy dishes, which we enjoyed peacefully together around the family table.

Gone are the days of All-Clad drum solos, little hands pulling on my apron strings, and pint-sized assistant chefs, but we continue on a journey of discovery together in new and changing forms, just as Caleb and Sadie are growing and changing. Comfort me with comfort food and two amazing children. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Recipes:

Cherry Clafoutis (Epicurious)

Chicken Pot Pie | Cooks Illustrated

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

Pie Dough

  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1/4 pound), chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled

Chicken Pot Pie

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 can low-sodium chicken broth, with water added to equal 2 cups (or use 2 cups homemade chicken broth)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 small ribs celery, cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry
  • ¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Instructions

For Pie Dough:

  1. Mix flour and salt in work bowl of food processor fitted with the steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat butter with a little of the flour. Cut butter into flour with five one-second pulses. Add shortening; continue cutting in until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, keeping some butter bits the size of small peas, about four more one-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice-cold water over the mixture. Using rubber spatula, fold water into flour mixture. Then press down on dough mixture with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more cold water if dough will not come together. Shape dough into ball, then flatten into 4-inch-wide disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes while preparing pie filling.

For Pie Filling:

  1. Adjust oven rack to low-center position; heat oven to 400 degrees. Put chicken and broth in small Dutch oven or soup kettle over medium heat. Cover, bring to simmer; simmer until chicken is just done, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer meat to large bowl, reserving broth in measuring cup.
  2. Increase heat to medium-high; heat oil in now-empty pan. Add onions, carrots, and celery; sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. While vegetables are sautéing, shred meat into bite-sized pieces. Transfer cooked vegetables to bowl with chicken; set aside.
  3. Heat butter over medium heat in again-empty skillet. When foaming subsides, add flour; cook about 1 minute. Whisk in chicken broth, milk, any accumulated chicken juices, and thyme. Bring to simmer, then continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper; stir in sherry.
  4. Pour sauce over chicken mixture; stir to combine. Stir in peas and parsley. Adjust seasonings. (Can be covered and refrigerated overnight; reheat before topping with pastry.)

To Assemble:

  1. Roll dough on floured surface to approximate 15-by-11-inch rectangle, about 1/8-inch thick. If making individual pies, roll dough 1/8-inch thick and cut 6 dough rounds about 1 inch larger than pan circumference.
  2. Pour chicken mixture into 13-by-9-inch pan or any shallow baking dish of similar size. Lay dough over pot pie filling, trimming dough to 1/2 inch of pan lip. Tuck overhanging dough back under itself so folded edge is flush with lip. Flute edges all around. Or don’t trim dough and simply tuck overhanging dough into pan side. Cut at least four 1-inch vent holes in large pot pie or one 1-inch vent hole in smaller pies.
  3. Bake until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly, 30 minutes for large pies and 20 to 25 minutes for smaller pies. Serve hot.
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Meatballs and Chocolate to Tame the Wild Things

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Recently, I picked up soup and sandwiches from Rustic Bakery in Larkspur and delivered them to a friend in need. The soup I arrived with – spring minestrone with meatballs – wasn’t actually what I had ordered, but was unlike anything I’d had before. It tasted of spring and was nourishing, and full of flavor. I was inspired to make something similar at home.

Today, we had a break in the gorgeous weather and it actually felt like early spring with some light showers and slightly brisk temperatures — the perfect day for cooking with the kids.

Our trip to Monterey Market took its toll on me. Sadie and Caleb had been replaced by unruly wild things and it’s surprising we made it out alive with the ingredients for our meatball soup and triple chocolate cookies, not to mention good cheese, bread, and salad fixings.

By mid-afternoon, my children had returned on their boat from far across the world and in and out of a day. Caleb and I took on the triple chocolate cookie recipe together. He was so eager to help just had a great attitude with any task I threw at him. Could this have had anything to do with the fact that he was in close proximity to chocolate and plenty of utensils to lick? Most definitely.

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Later in the afternoon, I prepared the meatballs, then Sadie helped me to brown them in the pan. The soup came together rather quickly and before too long, we were sitting down to a gorgeous spring meal. The soup (which, of course, was still hot) was outstanding and we all fell quiet as we devoured it. The chocolate cookies were not too sweet, and were perfectly chewy and rich with flavor.

It felt good to be in the kitchen with my kiddos after a lengthy hiatus. We’ve just been too busy, and this was the perfect opportunity to slow our gears down a bit and bond over good things to eat.

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Spring Minestrone with Meatballs

ingredients

  • 6 ounces ground turkey (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided, plus more for garnish
  • 4 garlic cloves, 2 minced, 2 thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 large egg, whisked to blend
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
  • 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup Israel couscous
  • 1 cup peeled and small diced carrots
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach or other greens
  • Chopped fresh herbs
  • Fresh Parmesan

preparation

Mix ground turkey, breadcrumbs, 3 tablespoons Parmesan, 2 minced garlic cloves, chives, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Form into 1/2″-diameter meatballs (makes about 28).

Heat oil in a small pot over medium heat. Cook meatballs until golden all over, about 3 minutes (they will finish cooking in soup). Transfer to a plate; set aside.

Add leek to pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Stir in Israeli couscous and carrots; simmer until pasta is almost al dente, about 8 minutes. Add meatballs; simmer until pasta is al dente, carrots are tender, and meatballs are cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add spinach, kale, or favorite green and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan; stir until greens are wilted and Parmesan is melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with herbs of choice and Parmesan.


Triple Chocolate Cookies

ingredients

  • 10 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips

preparation

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Stir chopped chocolate in top of double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth; remove from over water. Cool melted chocolate 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in another medium bowl until crumbly. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue to beat until mixture is light, pale, and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add lukewarm melted chocolate and vanilla and beat just until blended. Fold in dry ingredients, then chocolate chips.

Drop chocolate cookie batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, 1 baking sheet at a time, until tops are evenly cracked but cookies are not yet firm to touch, about 12 minutes.

Girly Girl Gorgonzola Fig Tart

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Sadie and I are home having a girly girl weekend, while ‘the guys’ are on their annual pilgrimage in Monterey. Staring out at our prolific fig tree this morning, while sitting with Sadie at the table, I suddenly felt bitten with inspiration by a Dash and Bella recipe I had recently salivated over for a fig and blue cheese tart.

I tucked my thoughts away for a while as Sadie entertained me during breakfast. I was reminded of how fun and tender she is. At one point, she picked up a photo of the two of us to show me and said with confidence “this is love!” At that exact moment, my heart turned to mush over a bowl of cottage cheese. Sadie went on to explain that our hearts are glued together. Indeed they are.

After breakfast, we prepared an easy tart dough recipe. She was clearly in her comfort zone, spending special time with me in the kitchen; not having to take back-seat to her big brother’s occasional bossiness.

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After returning from a lovely walk to the local farmer’s market with our friends, we headed back into the kitchen. We rolled out our now chilled dough, and then spread out the figs I had picked this morning, onto the  onto the rolled out pastry. I then sprinkled crumbled gorgonzola, shreds of prosciutto, and a light drizzle of honey and balsamic vinegar. When the tart looked like an art-piece, it was time for the oven.

While it baked, Sadie further entertained me with a “birthday song” she had made up on the piano (for no one in particular’s birthday). She commanded me to dance around in circles while she performed. I complied. When she finished, she handed me an imaginary piece of birthday cake, which I quickly gobbled up. I asked her if it was chocolate and she responded “yes, but with a little poop in it!” It was delicious…who knew poop was the new it ingredient!?

Once out of the oven, I wanted to throw myself at our fig tart – it looked and smelled divine. I eagerly sliced myself a corner and devoured it, appreciating the perfect marriage of sweet, salty, and savory. I love how the figs caramelized under the melted gorgonzola, and how good they tasted with salty prosciutto. What a great use of our figs, as well as our time together. Don’t tell Sadie, but it was a cut above chocolate cake with poop.

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A Midsummer Night’s Buckle

Occasionally, with a sudden surplus of extra energy which magically appears out of the ether, I’ve been known to whip up a mid-week home baked dessert with Caleb and Sadie. On Monday night, after taking the day for myself, I had some of that hard-to-come-by reserve and with it we made blueberry and nectarine buckle.

This dessert is quintessentially summertime. Served warm out of the oven with vanilla bean ice cream à la mode, it’s that old-fashioned, this is what your grandma used to bake anecdote to the mid-week rut we all get stuck in. The buckle was also easy to assemble as most of the ingredients were already in my pantry.

The results are summery and sublime, warm and nurturing, and extremely gratifying. Caleb and Sadie literally licked their bowls clean and we had enough leftovers to supply us with warm dessert for three more evenings. If my assistant pastry chefs could help me get this in the oven just as we were starting our dinner preparations, then you can do it too.

DSC_0017Blueberry & Nectarine Buckle

Gourmet Cookbook

For the topping:

  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For the batter:

  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups blueberries, picked over and rinsed (we added raspberries)
  • 2 nectarines, pitted and cut into 1-inch wedges (you can substitute peaches)
  • whipped cream or ice cream as an accompaniment

Preparation

Make the topping: In a small bowl blend together the butter, the sugar, the flour, the cinnamon, and the nutmeg until the mixture resembles coarse meal and chill the topping while making the batter.

Make the batter: In a small bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and the sugar and beat in the vanilla. In a small bowl stir together the baking powder, the flour, and the salt, beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and fold in the blueberries and the nectarines.

Spread the batter in a well-buttered 10-by 2-inch round cake pan or 2-quart baking pan, sprinkle the topping evenly over it and bake the buckle in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean and the topping is crisp and golden. Serve the buckle with whipped cream.

New Kids on the Block (Farm)

Saturday was gorgeous. Warm, sunny, blue skies – the perfect day for a food adventure! We woke up in the morning with a ‘let’s hit the road’ attitude and off we went down the coast to Harley Farms in Pescadero to meet baby goats (kids) and taste some gorgeous fresh chevre.

I was so excited to take Mateo and the kiddos to this goat cheese dairy, after having been there once before on a cheese tour. My only disappointment yesterday was that we were too late to take part in the tour, which gives you access to the goats, the milking parlor, and the cheese kitchen. Instead, we walked around, pet goats through the fences, and took in the rustic, old farm feel of this wonderful dairy. I was still able to introduce Caleb and Sadie to the cheese making process, albeit from afar.

Our favorite part was tasting the fresh goat cheese samples in the store. We could barely pull the kiddos out of there. At least by buying a tub of goat fromage blanc, I was able to entice Caleb to move on to our next adventure – lunch!

We drove back to the town of Pescadero, which feels set back in time and attracts lots of city folk on the weekend in search of a small town experience. We had heard about the artichoke, garlic, herb bread at Arcangeli’s Bakery in town and my foodie curiosity was piqued. While Mateo found a picnic table in close proximity to a live band playing classic rock tunes, I ran into the bakery and purchased a still-hot loaf. I then ran back to the table with the bread and a few other picnic ingredients, including our fromage blanc. We dove into a lunch time frenzy.

This may have been some of the best bread I’ve ever devoured. Still hot from the oven, the loaf was filled with large chunks of marinated artichokes, diced garlic, and fresh herbs. We excitedly shmeared the goat cheese on the warm pieces of pulled bread, then devoured three-quarters of our huge loaf. We ended the meal with an It’s-It ice cream sandwich, which the kids had never tried. The perfect Pescadero feast.

After a most satisfying meal, we headed back up the coast to a beach near Half Moon Bay, where we made a noble attempt at building sand castles. We then drove into San Francisco where our eating adventure continued. You find that shocking do you?

This American Pie

Life has been moving at lightning speed, leaving me feeling overwhelmed and breathless at times. What was my burrito-sized newborn, swaddled in flannel, is now my sprouting seven year-old with two missing front teeth, a sharp increase in emotional-intelligence (Me: “Caleb, I’m feeling frustrated with you right now.” Caleb: “I’m listening to your feelings, Momma.”), and large quantities of energy I wish I could harness and sell for profit.

Caleb’s play dates, which used to involve little sweet, energetic, runny-nosed boys named Jordan and Miles, are morphing into dates with bright, attractive, and opinionated girls named Judith and Eva.

Judith (envision tall, blonde, supermodel / Ph.D. candidate in the making), Caleb’s desk mate in first grade, came over today for their inaugural play date. With an abundance of fall fruit rolling around the breakfast table and an ice cream maker suffering from abandonment issues, I declared this a pie and ice cream play-date! A perfect activity for a crisp, sunny day in early November.

This morning, when Caleb popped out of bed before the sun, we cuddled on the couch and discussed the upcoming activity. He asked if I knew how to make a “checkerboard pie,” which I understood to mean pie with a lattice crust. I was inclined to say no as I didn’t know how much attention span I would be working with that afternoon, but instead, I said yes. What the heck…we’d give it a shot.

With several of the ingredients prepped in advance, my little pastry chefs quickly fell into step following my instructions and no recipe in particular. With the sun streaming through the kitchen window and music playing in the background, we filled the room with laughter and plenty of goofball energy. Before too long, a simple vanilla ice cream recipe was prepared and congealing in the freezer and an honorable attempt at a lattice-top apple pie was made.

While Caleb, Judith, and Sadie played throughout the house, the aroma of baked apples and cinnamon followed them from room to room. Once out of the oven, we could not stop ourselves from hovering, taking in big inhalations of sweet, spiced apple pie, redolent of this season.

Before their play date came to a close, the kiddos sat around our dining table with generous portions of warm apple pie à la mode. They were practically bouncing off the walls with wild energy. I think we were all feeling proud, accomplished, and ravenous. Looking up, we saw it was pie o’ clock – and we began eating! We next fell into an apple pie induced happy trance. Caleb clearly loved the apple pie but was not as enamored with the ice cream. Judith’s experience was the opposite. Sadie enjoyed it all.

For someone who grew up in a family proud of being unconventional, I am inexplicably drawn to the All-American apple pie experience. I find it grounding – truly gratifying. It is also a practical use for our extra apples.

Tart Therapy

This weekend, my husband and kiddos went away on a camping trip. I opted for some rare me-time, and stayed home with the cat, a quiet kitchen, and some excellent ingredients.

I thoroughly enjoy reading the blog Dash and Bella, produced by a local writer, mom, and talented pastry chef, Phyllis Grant. Her vulnerably honest writing style, gorgeous food photography, and drool-inducing recipes (she has a potty mouth too, which makes her all the more endearing), draw me in post after post. Inspired by her latest, which intertwined the tale of sending her youngest off to kindergarten with the construction of a rustic looking Early Girl tomato and cheese tart, I became determined to make one of my own.

After gathering all of the ingredients, with the exception of the kefir yoghurt cheese (I substituted goat cheese); I embarked on a solitary tart-making expedition. First, I made a basic tart dough, then put the disk of dough in the fridge to cool, while I prepared the other ingredients. When the oven was ready, I assembled the tart, carefully inserting an anchovy in the center of each early girl tomato, and then artfully placing them on the tart dough topped with cheese filling. I couldn’t wait to see the finished tart and my patience paid off. I have to channel Phyllis on this one, and say that the tart looked fucking amazing!

It goes without saying how much I love parenting Caleb and Sadie, but combined with working full-time and leading a pretty busy existence, I feel tired to the point of tears at times. During the baking process; however, I could feel my shoulders dropping, my taste-buds awakening, and my smile returning. This weekend alone couldn’t have come at a better time, and carving out some time to prepare an artful tart to share with my family (plans for dinner in S.F. with the All Family), was exactly the relaxation therapy I was in need of.

When I took that first sweet, salty bite of roasted tomato stuffed with anchovy, I was transported to Corsica for some reason. Never been, but it felt like food one should be eating in Corsica, so I went with it.

Thank you to Dash and Bella for inspiring me with such a f’ing delicious tart recipe and thanks too for helping me channel my inner-truck driver…it’s liberating!

I hope you get a chance to make this tart at home before Early Girl tomatoes leave our local markets. For the recipe, just click here.

Baking in an 80’s Timewarp

Alone at home today, enjoying a solitary baking session. My time traveling machine (Pandora) has transported me back to the mid-eighties, except I don’t have short, shaved hair, dyed primary colors this go-around.

Listening to Yaz on my 80’s station…Alison Moyet is belting out Situation. Just completed baking pineapple upside-down cake, which is cooling off on the stove-top. My house is filled with the fragrance of freshly baked cake…vanilla, spices, pineapple, brown sugar. I can barely hold back my excitement. I can’t wait to see what it looks like when I flip it over.

Now, the chocolate macadamia nut pie is baking and the scent of chocolate is filling the air. Thompson Twins are singing Lies, Lies, Lies and I’m feeling very content and fully in my comfort zone. Tears for Fears’ comes on, Head Over Heels plays, and the chocolate scent is intoxicating.

The time to flip the upside-down cake onto the serving dish has arrived, and I almost gasp as the finished product presents itself. Caramelized pineapple perfectly arranged. Melted brown sugar dripping down the sides of the golden brown cake. Morrisey is whining in the background, depressed as ever.

Talk Talk singing their eponymous song now and I am completely transported back in time. I pull the pie out of the oven and behold its dark hued beauty. I can’t wait to taste the combination of some of my favorite flavors…chocolate, salt, and roasted nuts. “Talk talk talk talk, all you do to me is talk talk!”

My family is bringing these baked goodies to a foodie potluck tomorrow in San Francisco. The theme is ‘luau’ and I thought to take full advantage of two of Hawaii’s most exported ingredients, pineapple and macadamia nuts. I can’t wait to see what the others bring. I’ll report more on that soon. New Order beats now; my body moves along to the Casio drumbeat.

Alas, it’s time to program my time-machine to transport me back to my present day, forty-something body. A much-enjoyed sojourn back to a decade that left an indelible mark on me. Now, back to work…lunch break is over.

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Note: I added about 4oz of melted semi-sweet chocolate to the pie recipe and omitted a little sugar.