Embracing Transition

Transitions in life are often difficult. Breaking away from the familiar, abandoning the efficiencies in our routines and starting anew requires some planning, effort, and often a period of readjustment. Yet in the food world, transitions are often a welcome period of inspiration and opportunity. And the most reliable of all transitions comes in the changing of the seasons. This is perhaps the one moment I don’t envy those living in the perma-perfect weather of Southern California, as the changing of seasons provides a comforting rhythm unto itself, a way to relish the passage of time.

The transition from winter to spring, and particularly from spring to summer, is undoubtedly the most welcome. Early spring, for all intents and purposes, is still winter. Not only is early spring still dark and – in Seattle – quite rainy, there is a limit to how many kale recipes I can, or want, to make. Yet during the past few weeks, the change from early spring to “real” spring (read: early summer) has become rather schizophrenic. Random bursts of sun and heat are quickly followed by blasts of cold, wet and windy days.

Cooking during this time can be quite varied as well. Last week I fired up the grill on a particularly warm evening, only to crave a slow-cooked stew the following cold, rainy day. Similarly, some of my favorite between-seasons recipes juxtapose the old with the new. During spring, this means the last of winter produce is accompanied by the early spring arrivals. In one of my favorite spring recipes, bright winter citrus punches up the first crop of local asparagus. In another, end of winter beets are sliced thin and layered under a fresh ricotta whipped with spring herbs. And as the days grow even longer and warmer, I’ll be certain to add some outside grilling to the mix.

Spring: I’m glad you are here. Summer: I can hardly wait.

Beet salad with whipped herbed ricotta


  • 4 large beets – I prefer using 2 golden and 2 red — scrubbed and roasted (follow basic recipe for roasted beets).
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta (you can make your own following this recipe)
  • ¼ cup minced fresh herbs – use any combination of chives, parsley, mint, dill, chervil or thyme
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon high quality balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt, divided
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cups purslane, baby mache, young arugula, or other tender spring green
  • 1/3 cup toasted pistachios or hazelnuts, roughly chopped

In a small bowl, stir together ricotta, minced herbs, lemon zest and ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside. In another small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, remaining salt and pepper. Set aside. Peel the beets under warm running water, then slice as thinly as possible into rounds. Place in a medium bowl and toss with half of the vinaigrette. On a large platter, spoon all of the ricotta into the center of the plate, then smooth out into a large circle, until you have about ½-inch of ricotta covering the plate (like spreading pizza sauce on a crust). Arrange the beets on top of the ricotta, alternating the golden with the red if you’ve used two different colors. In the bowl that the beets were in, add the baby mache or greens, and toss with the remaining vinaigrette. Pile greens in middle of platter, on top of the cheese. Sprinkle with the nuts and an additional grind of pepper. Serve using two large spoons to scoop up the cheese.

Spring Asparagus with Kumquat Vinaigrette

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 11.45.23 AMThe grassy, nutty flavor of spring asparagus is a perfect foil to tart, slightly bitter winter kumquat. Make this when the first of the season asparagus arrives in markets, and before the last of the kumquats disappear. I prefer the thick stalks of asparagus for this recipe, as those thin strands can easily become stringy and limp. 

  • 1 pound thick stalks of fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 6-8 kumquats, sliced into thin rounds (you eat the entire fruit, peel and all) then roughly diced (remove any larger seeds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
  • ¼ cup roasted chopped hazelnuts or almonds (optional)

Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes (less if you are using thinner asparagus), then plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Place on a clean kitchen towel to dry. Meanwhile, whisk together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir in kumquats. Place asparagus on a platter, pour vinaigrette over and top with nuts. You can also grill the asparagus, particularly if you already have the grill fired up, as this adds a nice smoky complexity to the dish.

More Cheese, Please!

More Cheese, Please!     IMG_3754

(Note:  I originally wrote this article for publication by Actively Northwest. My full profile and compilation of articles on Actively Northwest can be viewed here).

The Northwest boasts some of the best artisan cheese makers in the country. Yet as the do-it-yourself folks know, it’s not hard to turn out top-notch cheeses at home. The formula for making any cultured dairy product – whether yogurt, kefir, fresh cheese or aged cheese – is not rocket science. You just need a few basic pieces of equipment, a bit of patience, and you’ll be turning out rounds of artisan-quality cheeses by the dozen.

Better yet, the cheese you make at home can be much healthier than many of the artificially dyed, preservative-packed cheeses sold at a supermarket. By making cheese at home, you can source high quality ingredients, using local or organic milk from grass-fed animals, and control for sodium and artificial preservatives. Cheese itself is a great source of protein and essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, biotin, zinc and Vitamin A.


The Basics: In a nutshell, cheese making starts with heating milk, introducing a culture and coagulant, then cutting the curds and placing into cheese forms. The specific culture, coagulant and aging process you use will determine the flavor and style of your cheese. For those who are new to cheese making, starting with a fresh soft cheese like ricotta or queso fresco is a good idea. Not only is making a soft fresh cheese very simple and quick, it does not require any special ingredients or equipment. For those who are a bit more adventurous, making a firm or aged cheese is not difficult, but it does require some advanced planning to purchase the right equipment and supplies.

Stock up: To get started, you’ll need a few basic pieces of equipment. Check out Get Culture’s Cheesemaking Basics for a comprehensive list of supplies and ingredients. For some personal assistance, head to a specialty shop such as Portland’s Homestead Supply Co. or a home brewing shop, which often carry cheese making supplies. Online retailers, such as Seattle’s The Cheese Connection will also provide a one-stop-shop for everything you need.

IMG_0136 IMG_0173 IMG_0179 IMG_0178

Cheese Making Courses: For those who prefer a bit more guidance, taking a beginner’s cheese making course is a great way to go. The good news is there is no shortage of classes throughout the Northwest. Here are a few of our favorites:

Cheese Events: For those looking to eat, learn, and perhaps make a few rounds of cheese, head to the Oregon Cheese Festival on March 14, 2015 in Central Point, Oregon. Hosted by Rogue Creamery, there will be tastings, classes, wine pairings and children’s activities.

Recipe:  Rosemary, Fig and Port Jam

Whether you’re serving a fresh spring cheese (delicious with chèvre) or a sharp, aged cheese (my favorite is Ossau-Iraty), this versatile spread is an excellent addition to any cheese platter. It’s also excellent paired with a creamy blue cheese or prosciutto, or simply smeared on your morning toast with a dollop of ricotta.  

  • 2 pounds fresh figs, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon (I prefer organic, as you’re using the peel)
  • 1/3 cup port + 1/3 cup water
  • 1 6-inch rosemary sprig, leaves stripped and finely minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

In a large saucepan combine the chopped figs with the sugar and salt. Let stand, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes to let the figs macerate (release their juices). Add the port and bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, until the fruit is quite soft . Remove from heat, and stir in lemon juice and zest, rosemary, and pepper.  Transfer to sterile jars and keep refrigerated for up to a month.

Meat and Potatoes

Those who know me well might recall that I’m not a huge fan of potatoes.  I know, I know — how can someone not like potatoes (particularly someone who’s Irish!?!).  But alas, they’ve never been my favorite vegetable.  That’s not to say I haven’t had a few spuds that were, on all unbiased accounts, very well prepared.  However, knowing that potatoes are a crowd pleaser, I’ve whipped up (no pun intended) several potato recipes in the past that have been, dare I say, quite delicious.

Recently I had the opportunity to interview two incredible farmers:  Patrick Thiel from Prairie Creek and Cory Carman of Carman Ranch, for an article I wrote on behalf of Actively Northwest.  The full article can be found below (and on ANW’s site here).  And for those who are just looking for a few hearty recipes, keep on reading!

Argentine-Style Steak Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Sweet Corn, and Chimichurri

Instead of serving a large steak to each person, make a giant salad and top with sliced, grilled flank steak for a filling meal. Chimichurri sauce, a classic accompaniment for grilled steak in Argentina, is loaded with fresh herbs making a bright, flavorful addition to this fall harvest salad.

Skirt Steak Salad

Chimichurri sauce

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley (1/2 large bunch)
  • 2 tablespoons oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

In a food processor, pulse together all ingredients until coarsely ground, but not fully pureed.  Set aside to let flavors meld.  Meanwhile, grill the steak:

For the steak:

  • 1.5 pound grass-finished flank, skirt or hangar steak
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • Olive oil for grilling

Heat a grill over medium high. Brush steaks with olive oil, and sprinkle steak with salt and pepper.  Grill over medium high heat 5 minutes on first side.  Flip, and take internal temperature.  Continue grilling another 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steak, until the internal temp reaches 125 for rare, 130 for medium rare, 140 for medium well (note that the temp will continue to rise after you remove it from the grill).  Set aside, tent with foil for to rest for 10 minutes (if you slice into it immediately, all the juices will run out).  Meanwhile, make the salad:

For the salad:

  • 8 oz arugula, washed and dried
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (sungold, sweet 100s, or other local tomato)
  • 2 ears of corn, shucked and kernels cut from the cob (no need to cook, fresh raw corn is delicious!)
  • 2 Tablespoons each red wine vinegar and olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus black pepper to taste

While the steak is resting, whisk together oil, vinegar and salt.  Toss arugula with the vinaigrette in a large bowl.  Top with the tomatoes and corn, and set aside.

To serve:

Slice steak thinly across the grain (do not cut with the grain, or it will be tough).  Top salad with slices of steak, and drizzle with Chimichurri sauce.

Courtesy Cooking Light
Courtesy Cooking Light

Warm Roasted Potatoes with Mustard and Herbs

This simple, classic potato preparation is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.  Perfect served with a juicy steak, but also a great accompaniment for grilled fish or chicken.

Roasted New Potatoes Pic

Small waxy potatoes, such as fingerlings or Yukon Gold, will hold their shape during roasting.  For those in the Portland area, check out Prairie Creek Farm at the PSU farmer’s market a variety of locally grown, organic potatoes.


  • 1 lb. small waxy potatoes, such as fingerling or Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled but scrubbed well.
  • 1 Tablespoon. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus freshly ground pepper to taste


Preheat an oven to 400°F

If the potatoes are larger than 1 1/2 inches in diameter, slice them in half. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with the herbs. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, garlic and mustard. Drizzle the mixture evenly over the potatoes, then season generously with salt and pepper. Toss to coat the potatoes evenly, then spread them out in a single layer.

Roast the potatoes, tossing them 2 or 3 times, until the skins are golden and the flesh is tender when pierced with a fork, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to a warmed serving dish and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Mini Meatloaves with Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans

roasted-potatoes-green-beans-ck-l Meatloaves

Meatloaf is delicious, but unfortunately many renditions are greasy, heavy and bland.  This meatloaf is made with grass finished beef, which has a more pronounced “beefiness” and is lower in saturated fat than the meat from corn-finished cattle.  A secret ingredient to keep the meatloaf moist:  grated carrots.  Pick up some organic carrots from Prairie Creek’s farmstand, or your own local market to add a bit of sweetness and fiber to these quick meatloaves.

The best part of this meal is that everything can be roasted on sheet pans in the oven, making cooking a snap.


  • 1 pound Yukon Gold or red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt + pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds grass-finished beef
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 carrots, grated
  • 1/2 yellow onion, grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon worcestershire
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (look for one made without corn syrup)

Heat oven to 425-degrees.

Combine potatoes, beans, garlic, and thyme on a jelly-roll pan.  Drizzle with oil sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Set aside while making meatloaves.

Combine beef, milk, breadcrumbs, carrot, onion, egg, 2 tablespoons ketchup, Worcestershire and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Form the mixture into 8 small loaves about 2 by 4 inches each and place on a greased baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining ketchup.

Roast the vegetables on the upper rack and the meatloaves on the lower rack until potatoes are tender, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meatloaves registers 165°F, approximately 30 minutes.

Prairie Creek and Carman Ranch

Originally posted for a series “Behind the Farmer’s Market” on Actively Northwest 

Name: Patrick Thiel and Cory Carman

Farm: Prairie Creek Farm and Carman Ranch

 Find Prairie Creek and Carman Ranch at the Portland Farmers Market

There is nothing more traditional or satisfying than a meat and potatoes dinner. But just because it’s hearty doesn’t mean it can’t be healthy. In fact, a meal of grass finished beef, organic potatoes and fresh vegetables will fulfill both your appetite and nutritional needs. And there’s no better place to find the makings for this feast than the Prairie Creek – Carman Ranch booth at the Portland Farmers Market, your one-stop-shop for local meat and potatoes.

The Prairie Creek and Carman Ranch Story

Both Prairie Creek and Carman Ranch have long, storied family histories of farming the Wallowa Valley in eastern Oregon. Yet one thing has remained constant through the generations: a profound appreciation, respect and devotion to the land, their product, and the communities they serve. Today, both Cory Carman and Patrick Thiel have taken charge of their respective family businesses, and through their stewardship have helped advance Oregon’s growing local food movement with a focus on sustainable, community-focused food production.

Actively Northwest had the opportunity to speak with both Cory and Patrick, and through these conversations it became apparent that these two producers share more than just a farm stand at the PSU market.

Both Cory and Patrick grew up in the farming community of eastern Oregon, and both spent time away pursuing other interests before eventually returning to the family business. Patrick’s early aspirations in aerospace led him to study manufacturing engineering in college. But his family’s farm hit hard times while he was away, prompting his return to Oregon. “As an artisan farmer my Dad couldn’t manage it all, but together the two of us made it work. I stayed farming with him because it was his lifeblood, and while it’s difficult at times, I’m much happier in this lifestyle.”  

Patrick’s father, Gene Thiel, was not only a dedicated farmer, he was one of the early champions of the organic food movement in Oregon. Under Gene and Patrick’s careful nurturing of the soil and crops, Prairie Creek’s potatoes gained wide acclaim, and their vegetables frequently appear on the menus of Portland’s top restaurants.

So what makes Prairie Creek’s produce so special? “It’s the land,” Patrick explained. “Our climate and our soil is very healthy, and as a result there is a unique flavor that is noticeable in our product. The cooler climate brings out the sugars, and the glacial silt is high in minerals, imparting a special taste and a nutritional value that you can’t get out of the clay soils in California.”

Cory Carman was also raised in the Wallowa Valley, spending her childhood riding horses and helping her parents and grandparents raise cattle. But like Patrick, she departed to pursue her own interests, earning a degree in public policy and taking a job on Capitol Hill. Yet during one summer when Cory returned to help out, she rediscovered her attachment to the land and passion for ranching. Cory and her husband, Dave Flynn, have raised their own family on the ranch, carrying the torch of the generations before her.

Like Patrick and Gene Thiel, the Carman family maintains a deep appreciation for the natural environment, which is reflected in the quality, taste and nutritional value of their beef. As Cory explained, “like fine wine, there is an actual terroir – or flavor profile — in the beef based on where the animal is grown, how they are raised, and the types of grasses they eat. (Oregon) has phenomenal grassland, and our cattle’s taste and nutritional content reflects the quality of the grass they consume.”

Not only does Carman Ranch’s beef taste delicious, it’s also much better for you than commercially raised and processed meat. “What we’re doing is different from the vast majority of other ranches that claim to be producing grass-fed beef. Most of those cattle are finished — meaning they are fattened up — on grain in a feedlot, before being slaughtered in large processing plants. Our cattle is grass finished, meaning they eat grass their entire life, and they never go on a feedlot. The beef is much higher in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, lower in saturated fat, and higher in essential vitamins and minerals.

While health benefits and taste are reason enough to seek out their market stand, the most inspiring aspect of the Carman Ranch – Prairie Creek story is the collaboration between these two operations. Realizing that staffing a market stand was unmanageable on their own, they trade off market days to help ease the burden of driving over 300 miles each way to serve the Portland community every week.

This shared effort and collaboration is not unique to these farms, but reflects the greater movement toward community-supported, sustainable, and healthy farming practices across the Northwest. “It’s a collaborative community with a swelling effect that is being mimicked across the country,” Patrick explains. “People are working hard to express their talents, and they aren’t doing it competitively; they’re doing it with courage to do what is best for the land, and for the community as a whole.” For Cory, this same community motivates her through long days on the ranch. “I love the connection with people who are committed to this more natural, healthy way of raising and growing food. We are struggling to keep up with demand, and that’s a good sign not only for our business, but for the local food movement overall.”

For those who want to support this community, or simply want to try the delicious vegetables and beef grown by these two producers, visit them at the Portland Farmers Market through the end of fall. And once you’ve stocked up, check out these hearty, healthful recipe ideas for your next meat-and-potatoes dinner.






Got (almond) milk?



Almond milk is one of my new favorite things.  I drink – literally – a gallon a week.  By myself.  I actually looked into buying stock in Blue Diamond, as they’ve seemed to gain a corned on the market (alas, it’s not a publicly traded company.  But if they ever IPO…!).

That said, I’ve long wanted to experiment with making my own almond milk at home.  The process couldn’t be easier (soak almonds, blend, strain, done), but I’d just never gotten around to it (or, more like, I’d just never planned ahead).  I was recently asked to write an article for Actively Northwest highlighting nut milk and nut butters, which provided the perfect opportunity (read: kick in the pants) to make it at home.  And wow!  Was I glad I did.  Not only was it as easy as I’d hoped, but the taste was remarkably better than what I buy at the store.  The only catch:  it doesn’t last all that long in the fridge sans preservatives, so only make what you can drink in a few days (for me, this is never a problem.  See above).

But if you’re looking to use up some of that extra milk, there are a myriad of ways to cook, bake with, or otherwise consume almond milk, and I’ve highlighted a few below.  Enjoy!

Almond Milk – Basic Recipe:

Soaking the nuts overnight – or even longer – will ensure a creamier texture. And while almond is the most popular nut, you can also make delicious, creamy milk out of cashews.

Place 1 cup raw nuts in a bowl and cover with an inch of water.  Let stand 12-24 hours, uncovered. Drain and rinse the nuts, which will be plump and soft, then place in a blender with 2 cups filtered water.  Blend at high speed for two minutes then strain in a colander lined with cheesecloth or nut cloth.  Gather the ends of the cloth and squeeze tightly to extract as much milk as possible. Voila!

Almond milk rice pudding

I love rice pudding.  And tapioca pudding.  And pumpkin pudding.  Luckily, all of these are simple to make, and all of them are equally – if not more – delicious when made with almond milk.  Enjoy!


Pic courtesy threekitcheneers
Pic courtesy threekitcheneers


  • 1 1/2 cups sushi or arborio rice, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract + ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 7 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • Toasted sliced almonds, peaches or berries, to serve


In a large saucepan, combine the rice, sugar, salt, cinnamon, extracts and 1 cup of the almond milk. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the almond milk is absorbed, 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining almond milk, 1 cup at a time, stirring and cooking until the sauce is very thick, 25 minutes (it’s like making a sweet risotto). Let cool, then stir in the remaining 1 cup of almond milk. Serve topped with almonds, berries, cinnamon, or other fruit (sliced fresh peaches are excellent)



Creamed kale with crunchy almond-herb topping

I know, I know, kale has had its day in the sun already, but this dish is actually quite delicious, and a departure from the ho-hum kale salads that seem to grace every menu in Seattle.  While creamed spinach is more traditional, I prefer this recipe made with kale, which has more integrity than spinach.

Serves 6 as a side, or 4 as  a main dish

pic courtesy kitchendaily
Pic courtesy Food & Wine



  • 2 bunches kale, washed, de-stemmed and sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram


  • Preheat the oven to 425°.
  • Bring a large saucepan of water to a low simmer. Add the kale by the handful; allow each handful to wilt before adding more. Cook for 4-5 minutes until kale is tender.  Drain and press or squeeze kale to remove as much water as possible.
  • Dry the pot, then return to heat and add butter and shallots; cook over medium heat until soft. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the almond milk and simmer until very thick, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese and kale. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into a baking dish.
  • In a separate pan, toast the panko and almonds over medium heat. Stir in the herbs and sprinkle over the creamed kale.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden.
  • Serve warm

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine




Spring Ahead!

It’s finally spring, and that means one thing to serious cooks and foodies alike: spring produce!  Arguably, spring is my favorite season for cooking.  I’m not sure if it’s due to the availability of produce other than root vegetables and kale, or my inherent liking of mild, fresh, tender spring vegetables (asparagus, baby lettuces, peas, garlic scapes…yum!), or perhaps I just prefer lighter, fresher cooking methods (grilling, salads, quick sautes), but regardless I’m excited that spring has finally sprung.

To celebrate the earliest signs of spring, here are a few recipe ideas to get you excited about the change of seasons.

Grilled Salmon, Ramps and Asparagus

courtesy lemonbasil
courtesy lemonbasil

Grilling is quite possibly the best cooking method, IMO.  Not only is it super simple and quick, it imparts incredible flavor (did I mention cleanup is a snap?  Heat grill, scrape down, done).  The other great thing about grilling is the possibilities are endless — spring onions, also known as Ramps, are one of the best discoveries on the grill.  Like scallions with larger “bulbs”, grilling brings out a sweetness and light caramelization of the bulbous root end, while the green stalks develop a slight char that is lightly smokey and crisp. Asparagus, another early arrival at Northwest farmers markets, is a perfect partner, balancing the pungency of the onion with a grassy, vegetal flavor.  Both pair well with grilled salmon, halibut or even whole roast chicken.  And if you’re feeling particularly ambitious — or serving this to guests —  a quick mustard tarragon sauce gilds the lily.


  • 1.5 pound filet (about 1-inch thick) wild Coho, Sockeye or King salmon (Pink and Keta are too lean)
  • 1 bunch ramps (spring onions), thoroughly washed to remove grit
  • 1 large bunch (1 pound) asparagus, rinsed and ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs:  chives, tarragon, parsley or a combination
  • 1 lemon


Heat grill to medium high.  Brush salmon with 1 teaspoon oil, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Once grill is hot, place salmon skin-side-down on grill racks, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, toss ramps and asparagus with remaining oil and salt.  Place on grill, cover, and continue to cook 3-4 minutes longer, until just charred but still tender.

Note: Better to err on the side of undercooking the salmon, rather than overcooking. You can always put the fish back on the grill, but once a good fillet is overcooked, there’s nothing you can do

Mustard tarragon sauce


Whisk together in a small bowl:

  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste


pic courtesy rusticgardenbistro
pic courtesy rusticgardenbistro

Author’s Note: I originally wrote this post for ActivelyNorthwest.com, and am reposting here for my NotesOnDelicious followers.

As we enter into the second half of winter, the days slowly get longer and the temperatures start to tick up.  But unfortunately, the selection of produce at local farmers markets and groceries hasn’t changed much at all.  By now, the winter recipe rotation has been cycled through several times over, and those hearty winter meals that provided comfort during the first cold days can seem a bit, well, boring. Fortunately, there is a simple trick to add new life those same winter dishes:  fresh herbs!

Yet for many, the thought of using herbs during the winter seems counterintuitive.  But there is nothing like a hit of fresh herb, used to flavor a recipe at the end of cooking, to perk up the flavors in the dish.  Fresh herbs add a layer of complexity and freshness, reminding us of the vibrancy of spring on its way.

Cold-tolerant herbs such as rosemary, thyme and parsley are available at many farmers markets during the winter.  Venture to Asian markets, and an abundance of mint, thai basil, dill and cilantro are easy finds.  And of course, most grocery stores stock a variety of herbs in those ubiquitous clamshell containers.

But for many, once that first bit of herb is used the challenge becomes:  what to do with the rest?  Here are a few tricks for using herbs in winter cooking, plus advice on how to best store herbs and preserve them for use throughout the cold months.

Using Fresh Herbs:



An excellent companion to chicken, pork and root vegetables, rosemary can be quite pungent so a little goes a long way.  Mince together with a clove of garlic and the zest of a lemon for a quick rub to season pork tenderloin before grilling, to stuff under the skin of chicken before baking, or to flavor diced squash before roasting.   Rosemary branches also make an excellent skewer for grilled vegetables, turkey meatballs or chicken tenders; simply strip most of the leaves from the stem and skewer the meat or vegetable, then grill or roast in the oven.



Much like rosemary, thyme is a natural companion to chicken, pork, and root vegetables, but also lends a nice flavor to eggs (try it in your scrambled eggs or frittata).  Strip thyme leaves from the branch and toss with wedges of onions, fennel bulb and a tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then bake in a 350-degree oven for 40 min for a fantastic side dish.  Minced fresh thyme leaves can also be added to your favorite vinaigrette as a great complement to roasted beet or pear salads.



Parsley is the secret to adding that “fresh” flavor to brighten up rich soups, stews, braises and roasts.  Add at the very end, before serving, as the tender leaves won’t hold up during long cooking.  Parsley also makes for a great “base” to other herb flavors.  Try blitzing in the food processor with some olive oil, garlic, chili flakes and add an herb of choice: fresh marjoram or oregano for an Italian “salsa verde” marinade for steak; cilantro and lime juice for a Mexican sauce for chicken and fish; or add toasted walnuts and lemon juice for a quick parsley pesto for boiled potatoes or white fish.

To store fresh herbs:   Tender herbs like parsley, mint, dill and basil are best stored in the fridge.  Either wrap loosely in paper towel and place in a zip-top bag or, if you’ve got room, they will last even longer if placed upright in a glass of water, covered loosely with a plastic baggie and stored in the refrigerator door.  Rosemary, thyme and sage will keep for several weeks if placed in a glass of water and left in a cool spot (windowsill, etc.).

To freeze herbs:  Tender herbs can also be frozen in ice cube trays.  Simply mince together and submerge in broth, water or olive oil then add to ice cube trays to freeze.  Remove from tray once frozen and store in a zip-top bag for an easy flavor boost to soups, stews and sauces.

Almond & Herb Crusted Chicken


Chicken marinade ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 pounds chicken breasts and/or thighs, skin removed (either bone-in or boneless are fine; cooking times will vary, see below)

Crust ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped thyme
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup flour


Whisk together buttermilk, mustard, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt and place in large bowl with chicken.  Toss to coat, cover, and marinate at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400-degrees

Whirl together crust ingredients in a food processor until finely ground.  Place on a large, rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5-8 minutes until just golden.  Place crumbs into a large, shallow bowl and add the flour to a second bowl and set aside.

Line the baking sheet with foil and place a cookie cooling rack on top (to create a raised “rack” above the baking sheet).  Spray rack with cooking spray.

Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and set onto a large plate, reserving the buttermilk mixture.  Piece-by-piece, toss chicken lightly in the flour, shaking off any excess, then place back into the buttermilk, turn to coat evenly, then place into the mixture of crumbs and turn to coat all sides.  Place on the prepared baking rack.  Repeat with remaining pieces.

Bake the chicken 45-55 minutes for bone-in chicken, or 25-30 minutes for split boneless chicken breasts.  They will be done when no longer pink inside, and an instant-read thermometer registers 165-degrees.

Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve with additional minced parsley, a squeeze of lemon, or honey mustard on the side.

Serves 4.

Feeding the 12th Man


It’s football time!  You can’t walk more than two blocks in Seattle without encountering some form of Seahawks pride; even the Space Needle is sporting a Seahawks flag.  But when it comes to game time, the last thing you want to do is cook.  Instead, try these healthy make-ahead recipes to keep the 12th Man full while the Hawks show their stuff.

Here’s a Seahawks game day menu that even a Niner’s fan would dig.  And a special shout out to a particular fan for the inspiration behind several of these dishes (tall, bearded, loves both kale salad and a good cheesesteak — you know who you are!)

  • Smoked Salmon Mousse with cucumber chips
  • Seahawks “Blue” Bites:  Blue cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto
  • “Emerald City” Baked Artichoke & Kale Dip
  • Chipotle-Coffee Pulled Pork Sliders with Washington Apple Slaw & Cider Vinaigrette
  • Chewy Theo Chocolate Cookies

Smoked Salmon Mousse

pic courtesy ourlifeinfood
pic courtesy ourlifeinfood

This smoked salmon spread couldn’t be easier to make, and is much healthier than the widely available mayonnaise and cream cheese-based dips.  Simply whirl together 1 cup Greek yogurt, ½ cup low-fat cream cheese, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 1 small shallot (or use 2 tablespoons minced red onion), 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs (tarragon, parsley or dill) and a hefty grind of black pepper.  Process until smooth, then add 4-oz smoked salmon, flaked into chunks, and pulse until just combined (I like chunks of salmon to remain).  Serve with sliced cucumbers as “chips.”

Seahawks “Blue” Bites

Prosciutto dates

This healthy spin on the oh-so-delicious bacon-wrapped-blue-cheese-stuffed dates is far better for you and still addictively good.  Combining reduced-fat cream cheese with blue cheese cuts fat and calories without sacrificing on flavor.  And prosciutto not only offers an excellent, low-fat stand in for bacon, it is also fully cooked, so it doesn’t have to bake for long before being ready to serve.  To make, mix together ½ cup reduced fat cream cheese with 2 oz. soft blue cheese until well combined.  Stuff 1 tsp cheese into already-pitted dried Medjool dates, then wrap each with a 1-inch wide strip of prosciutto.  Secure with a toothpick and bake for 5 minutes in a 400-degree oven until prosciutto crisps and cheese starts to melt.

Emerald City Baked Artichoke and Kale Dip

baked spinach dip

This baked dip has all the cheesy goodness of party-favorite spinach artichoke dip, but with far fewer calories and fat. Fresh kale, a readily available vegetable this time of year, adds heartiness and packs in a variety of nutrients.   Cottage cheese, when pureed, adds body and creaminess with far fewer calories than mayonnaise or cream cheese.  And the green color gives a nod to the Emerald City.


  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 bunch fresh kale (I prefer lacinato, also called “dinosaur” or “black” kale), washed, stripped off stems, and sliced across the leaf into thin ribbons
  • 2 cups thawed and roughly chopped frozen artichoke hearts
  • ½ cup shredded Gruyere
  • 1 cup low fat or nonfat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large, wide skillet, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat until onion is soft and just starting to turn golden, about 3 minutes.  Add kale and sauté another 10 minutes until kale is soft.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, puree cottage cheese until smooth.  Add kale mixture and puree 10-20 seconds until kale is well incorporated.  Add artichoke hearts and pulse a few times until artichokes are chopped into small pieces.  Add gruyere cheese and half of the parmesan cheese, and pulse to combine.  Transfer to a greased baking dish and sprinkle with remaining parmesan, then bake 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven until bubbly.  Serve with baked pita chips.

To make pita chips:

Brush 4 rounds of fresh pita bread with olive oil, then sprinkle with a teaspoon of kosher salt. You can also sprinkle with a teaspoon of paprika, cumin or a mixture of both for additional flavor.  Using kitchen scissors, snip the circles into wedges, then bake in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes.  Flip the chips over and bake another 5 minutes until just crisp.

Chipotle-Coffee Pork Sliders with Washington Apple SLaw & Cider Vinaigrette

pic courtesy blogchef
pic courtesy blogchef

Unlike traditional pulled pork, which is made with (fat-laden) pork butt or shoulder roast, these sliders are made with the lean tenderloin.  But lacking in flavor they are not!  The chipotle coffee rub – a shout-out to Seattle pride – makes for a delicious, assertive spice rub that will please your football crowd.  What’s best, the pork cooks completely unattended – either low and slow in the oven, or even easier in the crockpot — making the house smell oh-so-delicious.  You can even make it in advance and reheat it.  It’s served on small slider buns and stacked on a tray for an easy-to-make, easy-to-eat dish.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 canned chipotles in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • ½ cup brewed black coffee
  • ½ cup chicken or beef broth
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 pounds pork tenderloin, silver skin removed


In a large Dutch oven sauté onion and garlic in oil until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and place in a 250-degree oven.  Cook for 4 hours until pork is well cooked and very tender (you can also do this in a slow cooker).

Remove pork from pan and let cool.  Meanwhile, bring sauce to a low simmer on the stovetop and simmer to reduce until it reaches a ketchup-like consistency (if it is already thick, this step is unnecessary).  Shred the pork into chunks using large forks.  Return shredded pork to pan with sauce and heat through.

Washington Apple Slaw with Cider Vinaigrette

Slaw Ingredients:

  • 6 cups shredded cabbage (I like a combination of savoy and red cabbage)
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 medium apples, sliced into thin matchsticks
  • Optional:  ¼ cup minced cilantro, tarragon, or parsley

Cider Vinaigrette:

In a mason jar, combined the following and shake to emulsify:

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh apple cider or apple juice (if you don’t have this, you can substitute an extra tablespoon of honey)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Add to slaw and let marinate for at least one hour.  Serve on Pork Sliders.

Chewy Theo Chocolate Brownies

pic courtesy gourmet
pic courtesy gourmet

Low fat brownies have a bad reputation, and often deservedly so, as it’s easy to turn out dry, crumbly and bland chocolate “cakes”.  Not so for these dense, chewy brownies.  Made with local Theo chocolate they are decadent without being overly rich.  The key is using both cocoa powder and extra dark chocolate, which reduces the overall amount of sugar and butter needed to provide the right texture and flavor.  Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, so you know it’s going to turn out well!


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces extra dark (85%) chocolate, chopped fine (you can substitute a semisweet chocolate bar – not chips – chopped fine)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten


Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Line an 8-inch metal baking pan with parchment or foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk the flour and baking powder together; set aside.  In a separate bowl, whisk the cocoa, water, vanilla, espresso powder together; set aside. Microwave the butter and chocolate in a medium, microwave safe bowl on 50-percent power until just melted, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Stir to combine.  Whisk in the sugar and salt to chocolate until completely incorporated.  Whisk in the cocoa mixture, then whisk in the egg.  Stir in the flour mixture until just blended (do not over mix).  Pour into baking pan and bake 20-25 minutes until just set (do not overbake.  A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out with a few moist crumbs attached).  Cool completely on a wire rack (at least 1 hour).  Remove by lifting out parchment or foil liner, then slice into squares.