The Little Book of Fika

Great news! My latest book The Little Book of Fika is now available. No time is better than now for a little comfort and simplicity, and the Swedes have your back on this matter with their tradition of Fika.

Swedish Fika - The Little Book of Fika

“Fika” is the Swedish tradition of taking a break in the day, at least once, with a cup of coffee and a sweet treat. Sounds simple, right? Well, that’s the point. Fika is a moment to stop and take a breath, connect with friends and co-workers, or simply be with yourself in the moment – accompanied by a steaming cup of coffee, and a little bite of something sweet or even savory. Splendidly egalitarian and understated (as Swedes do so well), everyone can do it. The key is, well, doing it, and this little book will help you do just that. Filled with inspirational tips, a little history, and 20 sweet and savory recipes to accompany a refreshing beverage, this book is designed to bring a little happiness into your day, Swedish-style.  So go ahead and fika – you deserve it.

Strawberry Cake and TasteFood News

strawberry cake tastefoodIt’s almost summer, and we deserve cake.

I am so excited to share with you 2 pieces of good news about TasteFood. It’s been a little quiet here on the blog lately, in large part due to 3 book projects I’ve been busy working on. I am happy to announce that the first book The Little Pink Book of Rosé, is now available for pre-order! It’s a light and sparkly little gift book, filled with quips, quotes and fun facts about rosé (my favorite summer wine), as well as 20 sweet, savory, and drinkable rosé recipes which I developed.

Now for the second piece of big news: As of June 8, TasteFood will be a syndicated weekly column coming to a newspaper near you! This means that you will be able to read TasteFood in many of your local papers throughout the U.S. each week. Once the dust settles, I’ll be developing a newsletter that will tie in news about my cookbooks, blog, and column. Finally and most importantly, I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment, ask questions, let me know about recipes, cuisines, or cooking topics you would like to read about, either here on the blog or the email address provided in my column – your feedback is highly valued!

So, now it’s time for cake…

Strawberry Cake

While nothing beats fresh sun-sweetened strawberries, au natural or swiped through a dollop of whipped cream, put aside a pint or two to make this simple cake. It’s light and simple, gently sweetened and generously studded with as many strawberries you can fit. I halved the jumbo-sized strawberries in the pictured cake, but recommend quartering them if very large, so they’ll begin to break down while baking, making a luscious juicy mess. Serves 6 to 8.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, divided
1 pound strawberries, halved – or quartered if very large

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180C). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) pie or gratin dish.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Combine the butter and the 3/4 cup sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, buttermilk, vanilla and almond extracts, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Add the flour and mix to thoroughly combine without over-mixing. 4. Pour  the batter into the prepared dish and spread evenly. Arrange the strawberries, cut-sides down, on top of the batter, gently pressing to partially submerge. Squeeze in as many strawberries as possible – it’s ok to be greedy – and reserve the rest for serving. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Bake the cake until the top is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Cool slightly and serve lukewarm or at room temperature with whipped cream and extra strawberries (if you haven’t already eaten them!)

Red Cooked Pork Belly Recipe plus a Cookbook and Stir Fry Pan Giveaway!

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Leave a comment below through October 9, 2016 to be entered into the GIVEAWAY for a free copy of  the award winning cookbook “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking” AND a free Anolon Nouvelle Copper/Stainless Steel Covered Stir-Fry pan.

Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important celebration after Chinese New Year in the Chinese holiday calendar. Family members gather for a feast and enjoy the harvest moon. This year the holiday falls on September 15, and in partnership with publisher Clarkson Potter and Anolon Cookware, I am giving away a copy of Chef Kian Lam Kho’s award winning cookbook “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking.” It’s a perfect book for you to learn how to properly cook authentic Chinese food.

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I had the pleasure of tasting Chef Kian’s wonderful cooking at a private event sponsored by Cook’nScribble earlier this year. Not only is Kian a food writer, cooking teacher and food consultant in Chinese cuisine, he is the creator of the the Chinese home cooking blog Red Cook. His first cookbook, Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees, was the recipient of the Julia Child First Book Award from IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals). Among the dishes Kian prepared at the event I attended was Red Cooked Chicken, a traditional method of slow cooking chicken in a concoction of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and aromatics. For this giveaway I decided to make his family recipe for Red Cooked Pork, which I discovered has the unique (and very appealing) additional step of caramelizing the sugar first, then browning unctuous chunks of pork belly in the caramel before braising. Say no more.

Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless Steel 12-Inch Covered Stir Fry with Helper Handle

In addition to winning a copy of Kian’s book, the lucky winner will ALSO receive a new Anolon Copper and Stainless 12.5-inch Covered Stir Fry pan, which is the perfect vessel for preparing the recipe below for Red Cooked Pork. Its deep shape is ideal for stir frying, with a sturdy handle for moving between cooktops and oven, and its copper, aluminum and magnetized stainless steel base delivers optimum heat control and performance on all cooktops, including induction.

Let the celebrations begin!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Jennifer Anne Keefer, who is the winner of the drawing and giveaway!

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Red-Cooked Pork – Home Style

Reprinted with permission from “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking” by author Kian Lam Kho and Photographer Jody Horton; Published by Clarkson Potter, Sept 2015.

Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main course

1 1/2 pounds pork belly
2 tablespoons sugar
3 garlic cloves
2 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 whole star anise
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup Shoaxing cooking wine
1 1/2 cups pork stock, the liquid from parboiling, or water, plus more as needed.

Put the entire pork belly in a stockpot and add enough water to cover the meat completely. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium. Parboil the pork belly, uncovered, for 20 minutes, continuously skimming off the scum that forms on the surface. Drain, and let the pork belly cool. Then cut it into pieces about 1 1/2 inches square.

Combine the sugar with 3 tablespoons water in a wok over medium heat. Continue heating until the sugar syrup just begins to turn yellow. Add the cubed pork belly to the wok and brown it with the caramelized sugar, stirring the meat regularly to prevent burning. If you like, cover the wok with a splatter guard to prevent the fat from splattering.

Add the garlic, scallions, star anise, both soy sauces, wine, and stock to the wok. Bring the liquid to a boil, then transfer the contents to a clay pot or Dutch oven. (Alternatively, this dish can be cooked in a slow cooker.) Simmer, covered, over low heat, stirring the meat every 15 minutes to prevent scorching the pork on the bottom, for 1 hour or until the meat is tender when pierced with a knife.

Remove the meat and put it in a bowl. Reduce the sauce over medium-high heat until it reaches the desired consistency. Return the meat to the pot and reheat before serving.

To be entered into the giveaway for a free copy of “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking” AND a free Analon Nouvelle Copper/Stainless Steel Covered Stir-Fry pan, please leave a comment below with a valid email link through October 9, 2016 (your email address will not be visible on the website). One lucky winner will be chosen via random drawing and contacted via email drawing on October 10, 2016 to receive both prizes. So sorry, but only readers with U.S. addresses are eligible for the giveaway.

Disclosure: The cookbooks for the giveaway are sponsored by Clarkson Potter. The stir fry pan used in the post and provided for the giveaway is sponsored by Anolon.

Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry and a recipe for Rugelach

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Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry

I met Cathy Barrow for the first time this weekend, but I’ve know her for many years. That’s the funny thing about virtual communities. We were early members of Food52 contributing recipes and competing together since its inception. When she launched Charcutepalooza with Kim Foster, a year long meat curing blog event in 2011, I gladly rolled up my sleeves, and participated in a year’s worth of charcuterie-making projects. As Cathy’s career segued into writing with a focus on preserving, I followed her articles in the New York Times and Washington Post. It came as no surprise to me that she would then tackle the topic of preserving food in a cookbook. And knowing her track record, it was also completely natural that she would approach it in an epic, vastly knowledgeable and entirely approachable format, with plenty of appealing recipes to boot. This weekend, Cathy was in San Francisco promoting her book, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry. It was hard to believe we were meeting for the first time; she felt like an old friend.

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A rustic interpretation of Cathy’s rugelach

No matter where you stand in the canning and preserving spectrum of experience (I call myself a vicarious sideliner), this is a bible worth owning. Whether you are a preserver at heart with a vast pantry stocked to the gills, or a minimalist who simply wants to extend the ample farmers market bounty in a few jars, this book has something for novices, experts and dabblers alike. It provides clear instruction, helpful tips, and easy to master techniques for preserving fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish, canning beans and soups and making cheese. All of this is provided in a a beautifully compiled tome illustrated with 150 stunning photographs by  Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton (of Canal House fame).

As Cathy says, her goal was to provide a vision of what to do with all of your jars of homemade goodness: She didn’t want to simply think about what goes inside of the jar, she wants to inspire us to put the contents of that jar to use. She entices the reader with myriad Bonus Recipes that incorporate all of the great pantry food you create with her book. Examples include a Kale and Potato Galette with Duck Fat Crust, made from home cured duck confit; Grilled Cheese with homemade Fig Marmalade; Beet Salad with Orange and Candied Pecans with home-canned beets. Or how about Hula Skirt Steak with homemade Carmen Miranda Tropical Fruit? I love it when people think outside of the jar.

Raspberry Almond Rugelach
Reprinted with permission from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry

Dough:
4 ounces homemade or store bought cream cheese
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling:
1/4 cup toasted nuts (I used almonds), finely chopped
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons soft fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup preserves (I used raspberry)

1 egg yolk, beaten

1. To make the dough, cut the butter and cream cheese into 1-inch cubes. Place the butter, cream cheese, flour, and salt in a metal bowl and freeze for 30 minutes.
2. Transfer the chilled ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the dough forms a shaggy ball, about 20 pulses. Alternatively, cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour with a pastry cutter or two table knives to combine. Scrape the moist, sticky dough onto a floured countertop and form into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a small bowl mix together the nuts, sugar, and bread crumbs.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the jam across the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle the nut mixture over the jam.
5. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the disk into 16 wedges. Starting from the wide end of the long triangle, roll each segment up and press on the pointy end to seal. Place seam side down on the baking sheet and place the pan in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
6. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the egg yolk gently on the tops of the cookies. Place another baking sheet under the cookie-filled sheet (this will keep the rugelach from burning on the bottom). Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. The nuts and jam will have squished out a little and be a little messy; that’s okay. The bottoms of the rugelach should be caramelized, not burned. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
7. Store between layers of wax paper in a tightly covered container for up to 3 weeks.

The Cowgirls’ Guide to Cheese and Potato Gratin

Cowgirls gratin

Posted by Lynda Balslev 

I am not going to lie. I am a cheese fanatic. Those of you who know me already know this. I adore cheese, and relish serving it on pretty boards, tumbled into salads and cooked with gratins, pastas, eggs, you name it. I even call it dessert when given the choice. I think I know a little about cheese, gleaning knowledge from my international life, tasting, favoriting and cooking with locally produced cheese from the various countries I’ve called home and traveled to. People ask me about cheese, seek recommendations, and even pay me to create lavish baskets and wooden boards covered with blocks, rounds, wedges, and slabs of mild, creamy, floral, moldy cheese. And then I met this book: Cowgirl Creamery Cooks and realized that while I know about cheese, the gals at Cowgirl live it. And I envy them.

cowgirl book

Sue Conley and Peggy Smith are the Cowgirls behind the Marin creamery, located in Point Reyes, California. They met in college, and have both worked as chefs in Berkeley restaurants before launching Tomales Bay foods, which promoted West Marin’s farms and dairies to Bay area chefs. From there it was a quick leap to producing their own cheese from locally produced milk from Strauss Family Creamery. Nearly 20 years later, the Cowgirls are known throughout the Bay area and beyond, garnering numerous awards, including the induction into the Guilde des Fromagers.

This book is a great read for cheese lovers and organic food aficionados. Not only is it Conley and Smith’s personal story, it’s a how-to on all things cheese – including tasting, buying, storing, and pairing with 75 recipes and photographs by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton. It will entertain and enlighten, and most importantly, leave you very hungry. Here is a taster.

Red Hawk Potato Gratin

Red Hawk is a rich triple-crème washed-rind cheese with a strong aroma and mellow flavor. Camembert may be substituted. Serves 6 to 8.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Cowgirl Creamery Cooks

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, julienned
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup heavy cream
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
10 ounces Red Hawk cheese, cut into 16 wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat a cast iron skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil to the pan. When the butter has melted, add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the cream and half of the Parmesan.

2.Transfer half of the onion-cream mixture to a glass 13 by 9-inch baking dish or casserole. Arrange half the potatoes in an overlapping layer on top of the mixture, and then top with 8 of the Red Hawk wedges. Add the remaining potatoes in an even layer, the remaining half of the Red Hawk, and the remaining onion-cream mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

3. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let the casserole cool for 10 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Cowgirl Creamery Cooks. All opinions are my own. 

A New Year and a New Book: Almonds – Recipes, History, Culture

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My new book: Almonds – Recipes, History, Culture
with Barbara Bryant, Betsy Fentress and photographs by Robert Holmes

I am very excited to share with you the upcoming release of a new cookbook, “Almonds – Recipes, History, Culture” for which I created and developed the recipes. And what perfect timing: With the start of a new year bright with possibilities and resolutions for good luck, good health, and prosperity, there is no better symbol than the almond. Ancient and worldly, almonds have appeared throughout civilization from antiquity to modern times, celebrated as a symbol of good luck, fertility and love. Almonds are also a precious ingredient in myriad cuisines, viewed as a staple and a delicacy and touted as a superfood for their nutritional and health benefits.

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This book was a collaboration, born from the inspiration of Barbara Bryant and Betsy Fentress to showcase the timeless almond. My delicious role was the creation of all 60 recipes, taking inspiration from the world’s kitchens including cuisines as far flung as China, India, Lebanon, France, Italy and Mexico and adapting them to the modern kitchen. The book was brought to life under the direction and creative vision of Jennifer Barry and captured by the impeccable photography of Robert Holmes. It takes a village.

06jAlmondMilkGranita_DSC7509modAlmond Granita with Raspberry Syrup

Almonds – Recipes, History, Culture is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, and will be available as of March 1st. Happy reading, happy eating, and happy new year!

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All photos by Robert Holmes

Food52 – The Cookbook

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Last weekend I was delighted to host a book launch party for Amanda Hesser, Merrill Stubbs and 20 Bay area members of the recipe site Food52.  Amanda and Merrill, the co-founders Food52, were in the Bay area promoting the newly released Food52 Cookbook –  a compilation of a year’s worth of winning recipes. Food52 “grew out of an insight that many of the best recipes come from home cooks.” Each week a contest is announced and entries submitted from the F52 community. Amanda, Merrill and the F52 editors whittle the entries down to 2 selections which are then voted on by the entire community. The winning recipe earns a spot in the cookbook. I am more than honored that 4 of my recipes are in the first cookbook.

Aside from publishing recipes, Food52 has evolved into an active and thriving online and offline community, sharing recipes, news, tips and advice while creating long lasting friendships bound together by a love for food and cooking. So, when Amanda and Merrill arrived in San Francisco on their book tour, it was natural that we would gather the Bay area F52 community and enjoy a lunch together. Potluck, of course.


Homemade charcuterie garnished with lots of cheese

Here’s a riddle:
What happens when you gather 20 passionate foodies for a potluck party?
Answer: You are treated to an amazing array of food.

Chicken Pesto Skewers
by Becky (KitchenSolo) – photo by Andrew Gaber

Sausage and Kale Tart – winning recipe by Karen (My Pantry Shelf)
Prepared by Tiffany (Ms. T) – Photo by Andrew Gaber

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The only downside to hosting a party like this is I was so busy I didn’t have a moment to take any pictures. Andrew Baber kindly shared this photo of Amanda and Merrill chatting with Shelly Peppel (Food52 News) and Beverly Best. Thanks, Andrew!