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Low-Sugar Apricot Jam: Taking PB+J To Another Level

I caught the canning bug a few years ago and have completely fallen in love with homemade jam. Sure, artisanal options abound these days, but they are quite pricey for such small jars. Its so worth making your own, if for no other reason than to have complete control over fruit, flavor, and sugar content (I am a big fan of low-sugar jams). Your kids will appreciate how especially delicious their peanut butter sandwiches will taste, and that morning toast ritual will be worth lingering over for a few extra minutes. Canning also gives you another great reason to go to the farmers’ market and get to know your local producers. Quality fruit is always more affordable in bulk, so buy a flat or two, save some for the fruit bowl and can the rest.

Stash those jam jars in the cupboard and you’ll have the pleasure of tasting a bit of summer in the dead of winter. Use jam in obvious ways but also explore. Who knew jam and blue cheese worked so well together? Of course, these also make great (holiday) gifts.

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Me, Jacques and Kale Caesar Salad

I haven’t been myself in the kitchen lately. Or with food in general, really. No inspiration for cooking, no new ideas to spark our weekly routines, not even an appetite for eating. This is a sad state of affairs for a food lover like me to be in. Especially as the bounty of spring and summer approaches.

That all changed this week. Thankfully. During the past four days, I had the pleasure of spending an evening cooking and learning from the wonderful Tamar Adler, (whose new book is keeping me up at night, in a good way) AND attending a talk by my all-time culinary hero Jacques Pepin, whose KQED TV programs taught me so much about how to cook with precision, economy and love during my college years. A few new cookbooks that just arrived didn’t hurt either.

Me and Jacques, Saying Hello

I see the cook and eater in me re-emerging from the cocoon. This makes me very happy. And now, for a quick recipe to inspire your weekend cooking…. Continue reading

What are you making for Thanksgiving this year?

The countdown to Thanksgiving is in full effect at our house, with both girls looking forward to what has become perhaps their favorite holiday of the year. Perhaps it is the ritual, the expectation of certain foods, the mellow family vibe, or the vacation from school. All of the above is most likely.

We do a potluck Thanksgiving with Jonah’s family, which means we’re off the hook for the turkey but deeply involved in all matters related to dessert, stuffing and cranberry sauce. We like to stick with the standards but this year, I’m taking things a new direction.

Instead of apple pie, I’m making David Lebovitz’s heavenly apple marzipan galette.

Pumpkin pie will likely become a tart this year, with this homemade graham cracker crust. I’m also be tempted to substitute creme fraiche for a part of the heavy cream that typically goes into the custard.

This stuffing is drawing my attention as a great base, with  handfuls of wild mushrooms, mushroom stock and fresh herbs as additions.

For cranberry sauce, I never stray too far from this classic Saveur recipe. Jalapeños have traditionally been excluded but who knows how I’ll feel next week?

Share your ideas and favorites!

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Balsamic-Roasted Figs with Fresh Goat Cheese

Fruit is simply stunning this time of year, and in Northern California we are particularly blessed in this regard. But the fleeting and dramatic appearance of figs always captures my attention. This year, it was Talia who happened to spot the baskets of of dark purple mission figs at the market and requested a sample. One bite and she was sold. An unexpected and quite pleasant surprise.

On the way home, I had the brilliant idea of resurrecting our old dinner party favorite that lost its status around the time we became parents and stopped throwing adult dinner parties. Fast forward eight years, and it turns out that balsamic vinegar and goat cheese are still beloved in our house. I thought the girls would enjoy trying both on top of roasted figs, which make for an excellent appetizer, compliment to meat, or dessert.

Turns out, the challenge with figs is that like most fruit, their texture transforms upon baking. The softer, melty version was not appealing. The girls preferred raw. Oh, well. In my infinite maturity, I say is was worth a try – plus, that leaves more for me!

Preparation

One basket of figs serves about 3-4. Extras are always appreciated since they disappear quickly.

Preheat oven (or toaster oven if an option) to 425°.

Wash and dry a basket or two of mission figs. Remove stems and slice the fruit in half, lengthwise. Line fog halves on a  baking sheet. Place teaspoon-sized dollops of fresh goat cheese (chevre) on top of fig halves, then generously drizzle with balsamic vinegar.


Bake for about 15 minutes, or until balsamic becomes syrup. Transfer to plates and serve. Or perhaps you’ll eat them right off the pan!