Baking Ups and Downs: Apple Marzipan Galette

Though I only bake cakes, tarts and pies a handful of times in any given year, the perfectionist in me inevitably takes over the minute the oven is warming up. So each Thanksgiving, never quite satisfied with the previous year’s results, I up the ante and vow to try something new.

From a culinary standpoint, the best thing to emerge from my Thanksgiving efforts this year is knowing how to make graham crackers from scratch. This is a fun trick to add to the repertoire. Turns out, homemade graham crackers are remarkably easy and taste far better from scratch then store-bought. But the reason for the graham cracker experiment in the first place? I’ve had problems the past few years with homemade pie crusts. Despite following strict directions provided by reliable sources like Smitten Kitchen and David Lebovitz, I seem to have no luck with the the hand-blended, all-butter crusts they favor, which leave melty, buttery oven messes and crunchy, crackly pastry. Far from perfection.

Luckily, a few days after the holiday, I decided to make this apple marzipan galette (which I haven’t been able to get out of my head since eating it at a friend’s house over a year ago) using a slightly adapted version of Ina Garten’s pastry crust. Remember that saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Well, that couldn’t be more apt in this case. I used this pastry crust recipe for years with great success but the combo of shortening and food processor seemed passe and a bit fussy compared to the all-butter version. The galette turned out gorgeous and delicious, with a wonderfully flaky crust. I will never stray again! Even if I will have more tools to clean up.

Incidentally, pumpkin pie might just be out next year, in favor of this incredibly easy version of apple “pie.” Unless one of you has a favorite recipe you might be willing to send my way?

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!

Bi-Rite’s Eat Good Food: Chicken Soup with Fennel, Chickpeas and Kale

San Francisco’s Bi-Rite Market, opened in its current incarnation in 1997, is one of the most thoughtful and enjoyable grocery stores in the Bay Area, and my hands-down favorite for shopping and browsing. Bi-Rite’s new book, Eat Good Food, is an accessible, concise and beautifully photographed primer for the home cook. It provides well-curated and informative recommendations on how to create a sustainable, healthy kitchen, with recipes to inspire. It is a perfect extension of Bi-Rite’s foundational philosophy: creating community through food.

This is a grocery store that prides itself on operating like a restaurant, made evident by its attention to detail when it comes to food and service. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the emphasis throughout this book is on how quality and simplicity of ingredients make for better home cooking. But the book, and the market, take things a step further, piecing together stories that illustrate the importance of how food is produced, and how to prioritize practices and farmers that create a healthier food system.

Focusing on themes like “How to Use,”How to Store,” and “How to Buy,”  the book’s chapters are organized much like any market you would encounter: the deli case, the produce department, dry goods. I imagine this book serving as my go-to for remembering which type of flour works best for what purpose, the difference between salt-packed and oil-packed anchovies (remember how much I love anchovies?) and how to make informed food choices in any grocery store. The recipes, interspersed throughout the chapters, are inviting, diverse, seasonally inspired, and for the most part, simple enough for any home chef to tackle.

I selected one of the Winter recipes to try because it is a creative version of a family staple: chicken soup. It also reminded me to step out of our usual routine and try something new. My plan was to start with a familiar food, a sure thing, and take it up a notch by adding unexpected ingredients. Worst case, I assumed they would pull out the additions and stick with the basics. But it turned out to be a best case sort of evening: this soup was a total hit!


Adapted from Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food

Prep time: 10-15 minutes

Total time: 35-45 minutes

  • 1/2 bunch of kale (or chard, spinach, escarole, etc), ends removed and thinly sliced into ribbons
  • 1 medium head of fennel, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken or as desired
  • 1/2 – 1 cup diced carrots (and/or celery)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2-3 teaspoons fresh herbs if on hand: parsley or marjoram are great options
  • 1 lemon
  • Optional: Several handfuls of croutons, 1 -2 cups cooked brown rice, etc.

Note: The vegetable amounts listed here are meant to be recommendations. Feel free to adjust proportions based on what you have on hand and personal preference.

Using a 4-5 quart Dutch oven or similar pot, heat 1-2 tbsp. olive oil and saute fennel for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, then washed and thinly sliced kale. Cover and cook the kale-fennel mixture, stirring occasionally, until the kale softens, about 5 minutes. Add diced carrots, bay leaf, herbs and broth, adjust heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil. Once at a boil, turn down the heat to allow the soup to simmer for 25-30 minutes until the kale is tender and wilted. A few minutes before the soup is done, add in the cooked chicken and garbanzo beans to warm up. Remove from heat, then add in a squeeze of lemon juice if desired, along with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve as is or throw in some croutons, rice or pasta for a heartier version. Don’t forget to save some leftovers for lunch!

Roasted Cauliflower with Capers and Anchovies

Yes, that says anchovies. Don’t stop reading! They are the “secret ingredient” in this dish, one that elevates something very simple to another level. But more on that in a minute.

Cold weather began in earnest about a week ago, and my trusty oven has been operating in full force ever since. Roasting is my cooking process of choice this time of year, especially on rushed weekday evenings. Part of the attraction is that its relatively passive, leaving hands and minds free for dealing with stovetop cooking, squeaky kids, and other urgent matters. The other great benefit of roasting is that it can transform even the most humble vegetable – cauliflower a perfect case in point – into something sweeter, more flavorful, and tender.

This recipe is one of our family’s favorite cauliflower preparations. The girls love olives and capers (anything pickled actually) so I always overload one or the other into the roasting pan. The anchovies completely disappear in the roasting process, leaving behind tons of tangy flavor, nothing fishy. Throw in garlic too if you like. My goal is to also integrate dried chilies in the future, but I’m not sure how Talia will feel about that. This also makes for an excellent and easy Thanksgiving side dish.

Now if only I could rig a way to remotely preheat the oven so its ready exactly when I need it….


Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 40-50 minutes, depending on oven

Serves 4-6

Preheat oven to 425°.

Starting with two medium-sized cauliflower heads (preferably a mix of white, orange and/or purple), wash and cut the florets into bite-sized pieces. Spin or toss to dry a bit, then place into a roasting pan of choice. One hint here: in my oven, it will certainly take longer to cook this dish in a ceramic pan, as opposed to a baking sheet with parchment paper. So opt for the latter if you are in a rush.

Toss cauliflower pieces with a generous amount of olive oil, 1-3 tbsp. rinsed capers (amount based on personal preference), a head of garlic with the cloves separated (optional), a small handful of crumpled, dried chilies (optional), and 4-6 anchovy fillets torn into small bits.

Season generously with pepper before putting it in the oven but hold off on the salt until the vegetables are done. The anchovies inherently add a lot of salt.

Roast for 30-40 minutes, until caramelized and tender to the bite.

Ready for roasting!

Done, at last!

If you're feeling purple...

Note: If you prefer faster cooking time in exchange for a little more clean up, steam the cauliflower florets until they are just tender. This will cut the roasting time by at least 10 minutes if not longer (oven dependent).

Healthy, Delicious Banana Bread: Look No Further

I don’t know about your fruit bowl, but ours is regularly and inevitably graced with several overripe bananas at any given time. We are a household of picky banana eaters. Once they are past perfect, they are summarily ignored.

Lucky for us, Jonah has taken up the cause by perfecting this fantastic banana bread recipe over the last few years. Chock full of healthy ingredients, low in sugar, absolutely moist and delicious, it is always a treat and perfect for an afternoon snack. Try it out – it never lasts long around our house!

Of course what I appreciate most is how quick and easy this recipe is. In no time, these:

mixed with a few ingredients, including:


You combine with:

And end up with this!


Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes


  • 3/4 sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter OR 1/4 cup butter plus 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup mashed bananas ( 2 ripe bananas)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole yogurt
  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour (or split between whole wheat and white flour)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 walnuts (optional)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Optional: 1/4 cup flax seeds, 1/2-1 cup diced apples

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and salt) into a medium-sized bowl, sifting if desired. Using a mixer, cream butter, applesauce (if using) and sugar until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla and bananas. Add dry ingredients and yogurt in batches, about 1/3 of each at a time. Be careful not to overmix! Now throw in whatever combination of “mix-ins” you like – this is where the chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, flax seeds, etc., come in. Mix gently and transfer into buttered bread pan.

Bake for about 1 hour, with a serious caveat: check using a toothpick at the 50 minute mark, as it is often done early. The bread is ready if the toothpick comes out very slightly moist, but it shouldn’t have any batter sticking to it. Be sure not to over-bake, it will dry out the banana bread and compromise the result.