Loving All Things Lavender


I’ve discovered lavender is good for so much more than sachet bags and scented candles. It has oodles of untapped culinary uses! To my surprise, cooking with lavender is no new trend. The Romans were doing it centuries ago. Did you know that it was actually the Romans who brought lavender to Provence? It wasn’t until WWI that France became the lavender capitol. It was cultivated to keep the French from fleeing the land. Funny enough, lavender is not a part of traditional French cooking though.  And my love for all things Italian/Roman meant I needed to try this culinary gem.. and the verdict: lavender is luscious!
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Peach Pie Thyme

There has been a whole lot of living, and not a lot of blogging going on these past months, which may have something to do with the fact that I’m graduated and free time is a new concept. But don’t worry, I’m adapting well! 🙂 Grant and I have been spending much needed time catching up with friends and family. Other than being cold and wet its been a nice summer.

I am always looking for a good excuse to bake, and when we were invited to a picnic this weekend I squealed at the opportunity to bring dessert. After all, peach pie season is the happiest time of year–and I certainly don’t do enough baking just for myself. Playing with my new camera made the food photography fun. Warning, you may have a very, very intense craving for peach pie by the time you scroll to the bottom of this page. Enjoy..
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Berry Cobbler

What is it about the Fourth of July that makes me want to run through sprinklers and do cartwheels in the yard? I do love hot summer weather, a good firework show, and being poolside, but I think perhaps its the food. That thing that intangibly brings families together–barbeque, potato salad, corn on the cob, and ice cold beer.. oh and dessert, what would a holiday be without homemade sweetness?

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Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa

The true star of this post is the mango. I love mango, and these past couple months I have made it my mission to fit mango into my diet every day. Mango and cream oatmeal? Done. Mango soybean salad? You betcha. Mango salsa? I swear it goes with everything. And the fish–ahi tuna of course–seared fresh. None of that battered and deep fried nonsense. 😉
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Mushroom Ravioli in a Madera Reduction

I would not be me if I didn’t love pasta. Just posting about pasta makes me giddy. Oh ravioli, how I love to roll, stuff, and photograph your edible splendor. And since today was about food for the soul, a pure and shameless indulgence, please excuse the large dollop of butter. It was Grant’s idea. 🙂

We spent another afternoon in the kitchen when our cooking styles. . . how should I say, clashed? He is totally intuitive in the kitchen,  no recipe. Where as I, on the other hand, like to have a plan. I rarely following a recipe verbatim, but its nice to have some form of reference. So after we decided on mushroom ravioli, I went and googled ‘mushroom ravioli’ for ideas. Grant just jumped right in there and free-styled. How it works, I don’t know, but he’s a fabulous cook. The recipe to follow is my guess-timation of what went down between the skillet and the apron. . .

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Gnocchi with Spring Peas & Proscutto

I love Sunday afternoons. And I especially love cooking for two. With spring showers still looming in the northwest, it seems the best place for Grant and I to enjoy our Sabbath is in the kitchen. One apron, two glasses of wine, and a little Miles Davis makes one favoloso time, so much that I wish every day were Sunday. He wanted gnocchi. I wanted spring. Peas please!!

After our usual field trip to Whole Foods–oogling all the edible goodness–we came home with a bottle of Sauv Blanc, spring peas, potatoes, Parmesan, and got right to work. Me being a pasta lover, I was sooo excited for gnocchi. Not to mention, making fresh pasta is so much fun. Who can resist those little pillows of love?

Gnocchi with Spring Peas & Proscutto
gnocchi (pasta recipe here)
1/2 cup peas
1 shallot
3 slices proscutto
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 T butter
1 T olive oil

The prep work kept us busy while the potatoes cooked. First we blanched the peas, and set them aside. Chopped and sauteed the shallot in olive oil until soft, added proscutto, shaved Parmesan and butter. As the little pasta pillows finished they were added to the skillet with 1/2 cup pasta water, the peas, and a final sprinkling of cheese. Mmm.. perfetto!

Gnocchi could also be found prepackaged, in which case this meal would easy-peasy, but why rush a good thing? Stormy weather and nowhere to be–cooking is the perfect way to enjoy a Sunday afternoon. And if you’ve never had fresh pasta.. let me tell you, its worth the extra effort. I hope you enjoyed a relaxing weekend and plenty of good food. Anything noteworthy? Do share…

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Saffron Shrimp Risotto

You know when you’ve tasted something so incredible that just the thought of it sends your senses into total ecstasy? Something you know that you could eat every day for the rest of your life and be perfectly content? For me, that taste was saffron shrimp risotto in Alberobello. For a thousand reasons I love Italy.. and 999 of them are culinary related.

I soo wanted this dish to bring back that experience. Maybe its not the same in Seattle, but trying to reconstruct a recipe of Apulian Italian fare  is like trying to recreate a Picasso. There are no cookbooks. There are no recipes. Still, very much old-world, your bests bet is to hover and take notes wildly while observing the preparation. You’ll likely end up with something like–a handful of this, a drizzle of that, two more handfuls of this, a sprinkle, a dollup, and then stir. Buon appetito. Meals are prepared by memory, passed from mother to daughter and varying from household to household. So charming, yet frustrating if you ever want to bring your favorite meals back to The States.

Longing for this risotto in my own Seattle kitchen, I wrote down the ingredients I knew–risotto, saffron, fava beans, shrimp, olive oil and cheese. Then I attempted to write a recipe, referencing several risottos on the web. The result was delicious, but not quite as euphoric as that day in Puglia. Maybe it was the whole experience that left such an impression. Maybe it was the Prosecco. Or maybe its my subconscious’ way of telling me I need to go back.

Saffron & Shrimp Risotto
4 cups shrimp stock
1 tsp Spanish saffron
1/4 cup sweet onion
2 T olive oil
2 tsp butter
3/4 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup rough chopped shitaake mushrooms
1/2 pound shrimp, cleaned
2 T Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup dry fava beans
1 cup water
1 T flour
salt and pepper
fresh parsley

Start with the fava beans, as they will take 2 hours to slow cook (so worth the creamy result). Add beans to salted water–boil and reduce to simmer. After one hour add flour. After two hours remove from heat and puree in food processor. While beans are cooking, bring the shrimp stock to a rolling boil in a saucepan, then reduce to low heat and add saffron. Simmer for 5 minutes. In a skillet, melt the butter in olive oil. Sauté onion for two minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for another two minutes, add shrimp and cook two more minutes. Next stir in the risotto and slowly begin to add the broth, allowing rice to absorb it as you go (the rice should take about 20 minutes). Once risotto is al dente, pour in rich and creamy fava bean puree. Top with Pecorino and parsley.

Fava Fun Facts: Oh-so-nutritious!! There are 10g fiber and protein in just 1/4 cup (dry)!! Make a note–any time you have something starchy like risotto, its good to balance the meal with something high fiber to stabilize blood sugar. Aside from fiber, these beans are loaded with folate and manganese– ahem, healthy bones, efficient metabolism, and beneficial to blood pressure. Yes, please! Might I suggest squeeeezing these beans into your monthly meal plan? The trick is tracking them down. I finally found fava beans at Whole Foods (naturally). And from Bob’s Red Mill (of course). So what else can you dooooo with fava beans? Not to worry. I will be sharing more recipes, as they will certainly be gracing my table more often. 🙂

Have a favoloso Sunday!!

Questions:
The most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?
The last ingredient you really had to hunt down?

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Lamb Chops with Olive & Pomegranate Tapenade

Delicious! Enough said. I’ve been wanting to make some version of this tapenade ever since seeing it used in an episode of Worst Cook in America. I discovered the show over the holidays and was instantly hooked. It’s totally amusing and surprisingly educational, eeeeeven for the novis homecook. In this particular episode I remember the contendants separating lamb chops from a full rack, having to slice each one exactly the same so that they would cook evenly. What pressure. I decided to skip this part. Instead, I used my fancy-shmancy new chef vocab and asked my Whole Foods butcher to split a rack (which always has 8 ribs) into double ribs with frenched ends. It worked like a charm. He didn’t  even look at me cross-eyed, and I felt super cool placing my order. 🙂

So this tapenade, it calls for pomegranate seeds, and I know better than to search for a pom in March, so when I found  frozen pomegranate seeds at Trader Joe’s I was uber-excited and suddenly reminded of this recipe. The added perk was no dealing with citrus splatter. Yippy!! Unfortunately, when I thawed the pom seeds they looked and tasted thawed. This called for improvisation. Before I had a chance to consider my options the boy had his shoes, keys and was out the door to find me a pomegranate (I think my heart just skipped a beat). But with no luck, he returned with Pom, 100% pomegranate juice. Brilliant. Even better than pomegranate seeds.. straight up pom syrup! Recipe as follows. Please, do enjoy.

Lamb with Olive & Pomegranate Tapenade
1 cup Greek olives
3/4 cup walnuts
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2/3 cup pomegranate juice
1 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 T extra virgin olive oil
dash of salt

1 rack of lamb
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper

Start t with a rough chop  of the olives. Add the walnuts (first chopped and dry toasted over medium heat for 4 minutes). Add garlic, cilantro, lemon juice, and olive oil. In a skillet, heat the pomegranate juice and allow it to reduce to half the liquid, pour over tapenade.

Rub chops with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let them rest at room temp for an hour before cooking. Then, in a hot cast iron skillet brown on each side for 3 minutes. Move to the oven and cook for 5 minutes at 375 (for medium rare). Plate and enjoy.

This was a fun Sunday afternoon lunch. And although I forewent pasta (my first love) I did not abandon my love for Mediterranean cuisine. This has the Med written all over it.. lamb, olives, nuts, citrus.. delish! Also fun, was shooting with my new Nikon D3100. Love. It. One of my favorite ways to spend a lazy evening is ogling food photography. Now I can work on making my own photos ogle-worthy! *one can hope*  I do adore photos by Jessica at How Sweet It Is and Olga and Mango and Tomato among other food blogs. Well, have a fabulous, fabulous day, and tell me, what are you cooking up this weekend?

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Tequilla Lime Chicken Fettuccine

Inspiration alas. After 6 weeks away from WordPress I felt like I didn’t know where to start. The post-graduation self-pampering, indulging, spoiling, lounging, and other frivolous ways I’ve found to waste time has been quite nice.. but then suddenly I was ready to get back to being me.

For those who don’t know, I’m excited to say that I’m working with Jackie Newgent RD on her upcoming cookbook. And although I am sworn to secrecy regarding any decadent details.. I would love to share this Tequilla Lime Chicken Fettuccine recipe from her previous book, The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.. which by the way is fabulous even if you don’t have diabetes.

Since me and pasta go together like peanut butter & jelly, this recipe had my name written all over it. I’d like to think that marinara sauce isn’t the only way to enjoy noodles, and this spicy Mexican twist on an Italian classic was brilliant. Not to mention simple. I had dinner prepped, cooked, and (photographed) in 30 minutes.

Tequilla Lime Chicken Fettuccine
8 oz whole wheat fettuccine
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion
1 jalapeno
1/3 cup chicken broth
2 limes
1/4 cup Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Okay, so there’s not actually tequilla in my recipe. I cheated. Chicken broth with a little extra lime was Jackie’s suggestion for a substitution. Great if you don’t want to buy a whole bottle of tequilla for for 1/4 cup. Now if it were wine..

Saute the chicken, onion and jalapeno in the olive oil for 10 minutes. Add juice of one lime and the chicken broth. Cook until the chicken absorbs all the liquid. Add cooked pasta, cheese, milk, and juice from second lime. Cook until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat and top with cilantro. Eat, savor and enjoy.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy pasta?

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Celebrate. Cake Batter Truffles.

Starbucks calls them “cake pops”. I call them cake batter truffles. Who doesn’t love cake batter? And truffles? Case in point. I got the idea from Bakerella before ever seeing these amazing little morsels at Starbucks. And since dessert is my favorite meal of the day.. They pretty much changed my life. What was the occasion?? Well forget that my birthday just passed. I finally graduated!!! So. Excited. After three years of total nutrition immersion, I’m finally rejoining the world, and as a nutrition profession. Aahh, not quite the same ring as “RD” but I’m working on it.

For friends and family who are wondering where I’m scampering off too.. nowhere! I’m committed to staying in Seattle at least until applying for my dietetic internship next fall. I got an apartment. Decorated. Furnished it. And now I can cook, sing, eat, drink, and be merry all the days of my life. 🙂 I hope its as nice as it sounds. Wait, it will be. There will be no more lymphoma case studies, vitamin D research papers, or class presentations to prepare for. Its me time. How satisfying.

And an update on how my first week of “me time” went..

  • Spent all last weekend with my grandparents. No homework. Guilt-free.
  • Monday night cooked dinner with my sweetie
  • Tuesday night I caught up on my cooking magazines and finally cracked my latest cookbook: My Calabria. I’ve been dying to curl up with a blanket, glass of wine, and this book. It takes me back to Italy (and I assure you I had sweet dreams after falling asleep with it)
  • Wednesday I took a bubble bath, gave myself a pedicure and watched an entire season of Jamie Oliver
  • And last night I rolled out pasta. I wasn’t hungry. Didn’t eat. Just felt like kneading, singing, and making pretty shapes. 🙂

I am so excited to to rejoin the bloggy network! Oh how I’ve missed reading and writing about kitchen adventures, mishaps, and ingenious moments. Today I’m off to island explore. Praying for sunshine. I’ll report back soon. Have a fabulous weekend everyone!!!  🙂

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