SMOKED SALMON FAIT MAISON

I love this French expression that makes “home-made” sound a lot more special…  In Paris, they often print it in restaurant menus to indicate that some item – say,  their country paté – is “fait maison.”  In other words, unique. Special. Cannot get anywhere else. And that’s pretty much how I feel about smoked salmon made in our very own electric smoker. If you like the stuff available at the grocery store, you will flip for this. It is so much better, it doesn’t even seem like the same food item. I go as far as saying that buying an electric smoker is worth it just for smoking salmon. And steelhead trout.

SMOKED SALMON WITH BUTTERMILK DRESSING
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

1 salmon fillet (about 4 pounds)
½ cup seafood dry rub
1 lemon, sliced
½ cup buttermilk dressing

for dry rub (makes more than you need):
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon  paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt

for buttermilk dressing:
½ cup buttermilk
1/4 cup full-fat yogurt
Juice of half lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill

Make the dry rub:  In a small sauté pan over medium heat, toast the coriander seeds, black peppercorns and cloves for 1 to 2 minutes.  Let the mixture cool slightly, then process it thoroughly in a spice grinder and transfer it to a small bowl. Add the paprika, oregano, red pepper flakes, sugar, and salt. Mix thoroughly.  Keep leftovers in a dark, dry place.

Soak 2 cups of wood chips in water for 15 to 30 minutes.  Heat the smoker to 200F.

Pat the salmon dry and let it come to room temperature.  Coat the salmon thoroughly in the dry rub and place it skin-side down on the grates. Scatter the lemon slices over the flesh. Smoke for about 1 hour, or until the flesh flakes easily with a fork.  While the salmon smokes, prepare the buttermilk dressing.

Whisk together the yogurt, buttermilk, lemon juice, salt, and dill. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. 

Serve the salmon with the buttermilk on the side, or drizzled all over. It’s your call…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Since we acquired the smoker back in December last year, we’ve made this recipe (with or without the buttermilk dressing) countless times.  We simply do not get tired of it. Often we will smoke two pieces, one we remove after 1 hour, and enjoy for dinner. The second piece we allow to smoke for one additional hour or even a little longer. That will be perfect to have over crackers with a bit of sour cream or cream cheese and capers. Or to make salmon rillettes. Or a smoked salmon quiche. Certain dogs love it too…

What makes the smoked salmon ‘fait maison’ so amazing is the texture. Simply cannot beat the texture. It melts in the mouth, and the smoky flavor is just perfect. Subtle. Delicious.

If you do not have a smoker, the closest approximation to this would be a method used by Jacques Pepin, in which you place the salmon on the dish it will be served and stick it in a very low-oven, 200F. You can check it out here. I would then make the same dry rub, but use smoked paprika instead.


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FLANK STEAK CARNITAS

FELIZ CINCO DE MAYO!

Carnitas are a favorite in our home…  All you need is to place some over a tortilla, add a few toppings and call it a day. Those who prefer a low-carb path can grab a hearty leaf of Romaine lettuce instead of tortilla, and enjoy it while apologizing to the Taco Gods that will certainly frown upon such heresy. In this preparation, we put the pressure cooker to play, giving the flank steak a very pleasant texture. I’ve made it three times already, after seeing the original post from Kalyn. My recipe is a slight modification of hers, with a little additional step at the end.

PRESSURE COOKER FLANK STEAK CARNITAS
(slightly modified from Kalyn’s recipe)

1 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 flank steak, about 1.5 pounds
1  cup salsa verde (like Herdez)
1/2 cup tomato salsa (like La Victoria)

Heat the oil in the pressure cooker, add the minced shallot and cook 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add  the ground cumin and chili powder and cook about a minute more.

Cut the steak lengthwise and then again crosswise.  Add the steak pieces to the pressure cooker with the red and green salsa, lock the lid in place,  and cook at high pressure for 45 minutes. Shut down the burner and let the pan cool for 15 minutes, then do a quick release of steam under the kitchen faucet, and open the pan.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the meat, leaving the sauce in the pressure cooker.  Let the meat cool for a few minutes on the cutting board, then use two forks to shred the meat apart. Right before serving,  place it on a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add small amounts of the sauce left behind in the pressure cooker. You can add as much liquid as you feel like it, but allow the pieces of meat to get a bit browned in the pan first.

Use it to top tortillas with all your favorite additions, guacamole, shredded cheese, shredded avocado. Or enjoy it with white rice and beans.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: We are not big on cooking with ready-made sauces but make an exception to bottled salsas, because there are so many great brands out there. We love La Victoria, although it is not the easiest one to find. Leftovers go in mini-muffin pans straight to the freezer, and then inside a plastic bag. They do get a bit watery in the freezing-thawing process, but we mainly use them as addition to guacamole or stir-fries, so that’s not too serious a problem.  Sometimes I defrost them over a small sieve, so that the excess water drips away. 

This is one example of a recipe I would never try if it did not come from Kalyn’s site. I can see myself twisting the  nose at something made opening two different bottled products… but she raved about it, and I totally trust her. Indeed, it is a big winner. I don’t know what happens in the mixture of the green and red salsa, but you definitely end up with something that is more than the sum of its parts. In a very good way…

You can make the flank steak in the pressure cooker, in the instant-pot, or in a slow-cooker. Stop by Kalyn’s site to get specific instructions for each method. It is a great way to tame the fibrous texture of this meat, and give it a lot of spice without making it overly hot. I suppose you could go for a very hot salsa if you so desire… I’ve been in a more mellow phase lately. Such is life.

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MAPLE GRILLED PORK TENDERLOIN OVER LEMONY ZUCCHINI

After the caloric content of my previous post, it’s time to get back to our regular routine. Pork tenderloin is a favorite of ours, we like the texture, the subtle flavor, and the fact that it’s quite lean, which obviously poses problems for the cook.  This recipe is super simple, if you have time to marinade the meat hours in advance do it, but if not, offer it a 30 minute marinade-party, and move on. Or rather, grill on. You could go all fancy and put the meat on skewers, but this time I just laid every little morsel of goodness on the grill grates. I like the way those grill marks work on the flat surface of the meat. And, contrary to what most chefs recommend, we like our pork cooked past medium-rare.  Adjust your cooking time according to your personal preference.

MAPLE GRILLED PORK TENDERLOIN OVER LEMONY ZUCCHINI
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the pork:
1 pound pork tenderloin, cut in 1/2 inch slices and lightly pounded
3 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sal
1/2 tsp black pepper

for the zucchini:
4 small zucchini, shredded on a food processor
1 tablespoon ghee (or olive oil)
1/4 cup slivered almonds
salt and pepper
juice and zest of one lemon

Make the marinade by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Add the pieces of pork to a plastic bag or small dish, and pour the marinade all over. Leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes to overnight.

Heat the grill.  Remove the pork from the bag, letting the marinade drip off. Lightly pat the pieces with a piece of paper to avoid excessive moisture to stay on the meat.  Grill the pieces to your preference, we like about 5 to 6 minutes per side on a very hot grill.

Prepare the zucchini.  Heat the ghee or olive oil on a large skillet. When very hot, add the shredded zucchini, season with salt and pepper. Leave undisturbed for a couple of minutes so that the layer in contact with the skillet will get brown. Move it around gently, keeping the heat high at all times. When the zucchini is almost done, make a small opening in the center of the skillet, add the almonds, let them saute for a couple of minutes, then mix them with the zucchini.  Squirt some lemon juice, add the zest, incorporate and serve immediately, with more lemon slices on the side.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you are looking for a low-carb meal that satisfies, this is a good option.  Zucchini – either shredded, simply sautéed, or the more elaborate spiralized version – is a perfect match for pork tenderloin. Especially if you add a lemony touch to it, and a few nuts for a bit of texture. I was patting myself on the back after this dinner. Simple, quick to prepare, and mighty tasty. I hope you give it a try.

 

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ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH WALNUTS AND TAHINI SAUCE

I never imagined I would call a butternut squash dish “festive”, but it’s the word that came to my mind as I savored it. I blame it on the addition of pomegranate seeds. They turn any dish into a celebration, little jewels of the gastronomic world. Plus their slightly sharp taste complements sweets, complements veggies, meats, hard to imagine something that cannot be paired with these red beauties. Remember Fesenjan? Anyway, in this preparation, I roasted butternut squash as I’ve done many times, in coconut oil with paprika. To me, it’s a trio made in heaven. And no, I do not use smoked paprika for this anymore, I now prefer a milder flavor with the squash. Of course, do as your taste buds instruct you to.

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH WALNUTS AND TAHINI SAUCE
(inspired by several sources)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut in large cubes
1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
walnut halves or large pieces
1/4 cup tahini
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
pepper to taste
water if needed to thin sauce
fresh pomegranate seeds
light drizzle of pomegranate molasses for serving (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 F.

Place the pieces of butternut squash in a large bowl, drizzle with the coconut oil, mixing it very quickly because it solidifies fast. Season with paprika, salt, and a little pepper. Transfer the squash to a baking dish that holds the pieces in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes, then add walnuts, mixing gently with the squash. Roast for about 10 minutes more, until the squash is golden, with edges turning slightly brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the tahini sauce mixing tahini, lemon juice pepper and pepper. If it seems too thick, add water until you reach a nice fluid consistency.

When the squash and walnuts are roasted, transfer to a serving dish, drizzle the tahini sauce all over, and top with fresh pomegranate seeds. If you have pomegranate molasses, consider drizzling a little bit on top, a nice additional contrast of color and flavor.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This could be a great side dish for Thanksgiving, for those trying to move away from the classics, or perhaps in need to increase the variety of vegetarian-friendly sides. Of course, it’s odd to mention Thanksgiving in December, but the color-scheme of this dish makes it hard not to. Come to think of it, roasted sweet potatoes would work wonders too replacing the squash. And dried cranberries could play the role of pomegranate. The tahini dressing is perfect to tie the whole thing together in a very luscious way. We enjoyed this hearty side dish with store-bought roast chicken. Admittedly, this could be considered a sin in the home of a food blogger, but we love the convenience of it, and our store does a pretty decent job preparing it. So, we make our life easy and often bring one home for our dinner.

Plan ahead and reserve some tahini sauce (as well as extra pomegranate seeds) in case you want to call it lunch next day… I did, and it was absolutely delicious, love the contrast of a cool sauce with the warm squash.

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MINI-FRITTATAS WITH BROCCOLI AND CHEESE

Another great recipe from Kalyn, who knows her way around a low-carb way of life. If you feel like taking a step back from the excesses of Thanksgiving, this is a very nice option for breakfast, brunch, or a light lunch.  I used my beloved tart pan, but  you can  make it in muffin tins, or even go for a single, larger pie type pan, increasing baking time a little bit.

MINI-FRITTATAS WITH BROCCOLI AND CHEESE
(slightly modified from Kalyn’s Kitchen)

2 1/2 cups broccoli flowerets (cut into small, bite-sized pieces)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
6 T coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
8 eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

 Heat oven to 375F/190C.   Spray tart pan or muffin cups with non-stick spray.
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Place the broccoli pieces into a bowl, cover with cling wrap, and microwave on high for about 1-2 minutes, or until broccoli just starts to cook. Divide broccoli among the tart wells. Put a generous pinch of cheddar cheese on top of the broccoli, then add coarsely grated Parmesan on top of the cheddar.
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Put the cottage cheese into a fine-mesh colander, rinse with cold water, and let drain. Break eggs into a glass measuring cup with a pour spout, and beat with a fork until egg yolks and whites are combined. Add drained cottage cheese, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour egg mixture over broccoli and cheese, dividing the eggs evenly among the tart wells.  Stir gently with the fork so ingredients are evenly distributed.
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Bake for about 30 minutes, or until eggs are firm and frittatas are starting to get slightly browned on top. Frittatas can be kept in the fridge for several days and microwaved to reheat.  Don’t microwave for more than about a minute or the eggs will get rubbery.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

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Comments: I absolutely love this type of recipe that I can  make in the weekend and then enjoy for lunch the following week. I prefer to warm them up in my little electric oven, because it gives much better texture than the microwave, but if you follow Kalyn’s advice and keep the microwave time short, it will still prevent the dreadful rubbery-egg-syndrome.
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Cottage cheese was – for me – an acquired taste. When I first moved to the US, I did not like it at all.  But for one reason or another I kept trying it and started to enjoy its unique texture and mild taste. Nowadays I can even eat it straight from a spoon, as long as it is crowned with a little shower of salt and coarsely ground black pepper. A little za’atar would not hurt either.  In this preparation, it offers a perfect creamy texture to the frittata.
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I love to pair these babies with some juicy tomatoes, but the time for that is unfortunately over…. Must wait for Spring, which obviously cannot come quickly enough for me (sigh).
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WHOLE-LEMON MARINADE: LONG OVERDUE

For years, and I mean many years, I’ve been trying to find a recipe from Mario Batali, one that I am sure I watched him prepare on live TV probably mid 90’s. Google searches, cookbook searches, nothing ever gave me the recipe I remember. At some point I started to doubt myself. Did I really see him make it? Maybe I dreamed the whole lemon (literally) thing.  Tired of this inner battle, I decided to come with a recipe myself. And I am here to tell you, it worked like a charm! I’ve made this marinade three times over a period of two weeks. Love it. If you are into citric flavors, consider this my gift to you…

GRILLED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH WHOLE-LEMON MARINADE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 whole lemons, washed, cut in four pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (or to taste)
2 teaspoons honey (or agave nectar, or maple syrup)
salt and pepper to taste
pork tenderloin, butterflied

Place all ingredients (except pork, obviously) in a food processor or blender. Blend until reasonably smooth. You will have the lemon pieces still pretty evident.  Don’t worry about it.

Add the meat into a bag, cover with the marinade and leave it for a few hours in the fridge or for one hour at room temperature.

Scrape most of the marinade off, season the meat lightly with a bit more salt and grill until cooked the way you prefer. We like our pork beyond medium-rare, so we go for a total of 16 minutes on a super hot grill.

Allow the meat to rest, cut in thin slices and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

A peek inside the blender

Comments: This is a hit of lemon like no other. I’ve used both food processor and blender to make it, not sure which one I prefer. They both worked well, I think the blender is easier to clean, but make sure yours can handle the job of dealing with a whole lemon. Our Vitamix doesn’t even blink. Not that a blender has eyes, but oh, well. Figuratively speaking. On the third time making this marinade, I used one lemon and one lime. You can see the specks of lime green in the photo above. It brightens up the flavor even more, but I advise you to start with lemons alone and see how you like it. As if you are cooking Mexican food, go for the Serrano first, to see if you can handle the  Habanero… 😉

I also used the exact same marinade on chicken thighs. The method is my default. Skin down on a roasting pan covered with aluminum foil for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 300 F, then flip the pieces over, remove the foil and increase the temperature to 400 F until the skin is all brown.  A final encounter with the broiler if you are so inclined.

We really love the intensity of the lemon flavor in this preparation. Quite evident, particularly in the pork tenderloin.  I know this will be in our constant rotation, as both types of protein (pork tenderloin and chicken thighs) are favorites, I make each once per week, almost without fail.  For the pork, I can make the marinade at lunch time, leave the meat in the fridge and have dinner ready in less than 30 minutes. Chicken thighs are usually a weekend thing, but come to think of it, if I adapt it for sous-vide, that too can be at our table on a weeknight. Stay tuned!

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😉

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CHEESY LOW-CARB ZUCCHINI TARTS

After a week of fun and over-indulging a bit in Colorado, it was time to get back into a more attentive approach to cooking for a few days. For my body, nothing works better than controlling carbs. I respond quite well to it, and don’t find it that hard to do. Whenever I feel like reducing carbs, I think of Kalyn’s blog, her site is a great source of wonderful recipes. I had this one saved in my Pinterest board for a while, and  even got the exact same pan she used. It was too cute to resist. And I must tell you, it works great, very sturdy, I can see it will be around my kitchen for many many years, and maybe it will find its way into Greenlee’s home one day. If you don’t know, Greenlee is my 2 and a half-year old grand-daughter. Yeap, that’s how sturdy this pan seems. But back to the recipe. If you like omelettes and frittatas, this one is for you. And, of course, you don’t need to splurge and get the pan, use a large muffin tin, or you might even pour it into a pie dish, I suspect you can fill two regular size pans, although not too deeply. You might have to adjust the baking time a little. It is easy to judge when it’s done – just a little jiggly in the center, and getting a nice golden brown look on the surface.

CRUSTLESS LOW-CARB ZUCCHINI TARTS
(slightly modified from Kalyn’s Kitchen)

4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled and softened
3 small zucchini, julienned or cut with spiral cutter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tsp. Herbes de Provence
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes)
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup coconut milk (or heavy cream)
8 eggs, well beaten
6 T coarsely grated sharp white cheddar
1/4 cup sliced green onions, plus more for garnish if desired

Heat the oven to 375F/190C. Crumble 4 oz. of feta cheese into a large glass measuring cup or a bowl and let it come to room temperature.  Heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan, add the zucchini, sprinkle with Herbes de Provence, Aleppo pepper, a little salt and black pepper to taste.  Cook the zucchini a few minutes over medium-high heat, just until it’s barely starting to soften.

Spray the tart pan with olive oil  and divide the cooked zucchini among the tart wells. Top with a generous tablespoon of coarsely grated sharp cheddar and a pinch of green onions. Then use a fork to stir the now-softened goat cheese and add the coconut milk (or heavy cream) and whisk well.  Beat eggs in another bowl and add to the goat cheese/milk mixture a little at a time, stirring until fully blended.

Fill each tart well with the feta-cheese and egg mixture, being careful not to fill too full.  Bake about 30 minutes, or until tarts are firm and lightly browned. Serve hot.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am quite fond of frittatas and omelettes, but sometimes they can taste too eggy. I know, what kind of a statement is that?  But, there is such a thing as “too eggy,” at least for my taste buds. I find that using coconut milk mellows down quite nicely that flavor, making it more subtle, and the texture quite creamy. Heavy whipping cream does a similar job, but in my personal experience, coconut milk is the winner. The recipe makes six tarts, which means after Phil and I enjoyed two on a Sunday lunch, I still had four left. I kept them in the fridge for four days, wrapped individually in Saran wrap, and they were still excellent on the last day, warmed up for 60 seconds – exactly – in the microwave. I bet they freeze well too.

It is so nice to be able to have lunch at home, these tarts go well with just about anything.  Kalyn conceived them as breakfast items, but since I don’t normally have breakfast, they turn into a perfect lunch item.  Of course, the possibilities are endless as far as what other goodies to add… sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, maybe some prosciutto or diced ham. Just add whatever you like to the sautéed zucchini and proceed with the recipe.

Kalyn, thanks so much for your constant inspiration, and for “twisting my arm” (virtually at least) to get this great tart pan. Very nice addition to the Bewitching Kitchen

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