Spicy lamb, cherry, smoked mozzarella flatbread

A memory of a spiced lamb flatbread in a Turkish restaurant in North Carolina inspired this version. I didn’t have enough tomatoes on hand for the lamb mixture, so I used cherries and cherry tomatoes. A winning combination.

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I’ve already posted recipes for pizza crust here, so feel free to make your favorite kind. I’ll focus on the lamb topping here.

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ras el hanout spice mix
  • 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted, quartered
  • 1/2 cup smoked mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Brown the lamb, onion and garlic in a little olive oil over medium high heat. Add salt, ras el hanout and cherries and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Roll out your dough to the size of a large cookie sheet and place on parchment paper on a sheet pan. Pack on the lamb topping so that it adheres in one layer. Distribute the cheese evenly and place in a 500 F oven for 15-20 minutes or until the bottom of the crust is crispy and golden. It should sound hollow when tapped.

Scatter the tomatoes over the top, slice and serve.

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Magic quiche (crustless egg pie)

My mom used to make a betty crocker recipe called something like “impossible hamburger pie,” that consisted of bisquick, eggs, and some kind of filling and cheese. I had the idea to try the same recipe structure, using gluten-free biscuit mix instead. It is fantastic, and easy, and can be made with nearly any ingredients. Perfect go-to weeknight meal (plus leftovers were delish for lunch).

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Magic Quiche

  • 1/2 cup gluten free biscuit mix (or regular mix)
  • 1 cup milk (regular or dairy free)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb meat or meatless filling (I used garlic pork sausage. You could use mushrooms, veggie meat product, ground beef or lamb, etc)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, washed and chopped
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar or your favorite cheese

Whisk the biscuit mix, milk and egg together. Set aside.

Brown the meat or meatless filling in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and stir to cook until transparent. Remove to a greased pie pan. Cook the kale in the same pan with a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of salt until wilted. Add to pie pan. I sprinkled in some chopped basil, just because I had some growing at the time. Green onions and other fresh herbs would be great as well.

Pour the egg mixture evenly over the fillings in the pie pan. Top with the shredded cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes in a 400 F oven or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. As with most gluten free baking, the cook time can be a bit longer. If you are using regular biscuit mix, cut the time by 5 minutes.

Arepas with eggs, salsa, and cilantro-jalapeño crema

Fresh arepas are closer at hand than you might think, and an impressive addition to the classic brunch combo of eggs and salsa.

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  • 1 lb masa harina (fine corn flour), about 4 cups
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fat (can be coconut oil, butter, lard, vegetable shortening)
  • 4 cups warm water

Mix masa, salt and fat together until combined, and then add the water, stirring to mix evenly. Let the dough rest, covered, for about 10 minutes. This allows the masa to hydrate, soaking up the water.

Portion the dough into about 8 equal balls and flatten to about 1/2 inch in thickness. Cook each arepa in a hot, oiled pan for 2 minutes on each side. This “seals” the arepa and ensures a crispy crust. Then put the arepas into the oven at 350 F for 10-15 minutes to finish cooking through. They are done when they sound hollow when tapped and are crispy on the outside.

You can slice these open to stuff with fillings, or top with eggs, salsa and crema, as I did. I’ll let y’all cook your eggs how you like and pick your favorite salsa recipe, but here is a simple recipe for the crema.

Cilantro jalapeño crema

  • 1 cup cilantro, washed and dried (can use leaves and stems too)
  • 1 jalapeño, stem removed
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix in blender until smooth and season to taste. This is great as a salad dressing or dip as well.

Pesto-caesar with kale, christmas beans and toasted pepitas

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Dark green dino kale (the flat, oval shaped kind), heavily massaged and coated in a pesto-caesar style dressing and toasted pepitas with pretty, speckled christmas beans and cornbread on the side. The christmas beans are also called chestnut beans, and are in the lima family. They have a nutty-sweet, smooth interior, and are just lovely. Unlike most beans, they keep their pretty pattern even after cooking.

Pesto-ceasar dressing

  • 2 cups basil, washed, stemmed
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan, romano or other hard Italian cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 anchovies, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • white wine vinegar or lemon juice to taste, start with 2-3 tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 bunches Tuscan kale
  • 1/4 cup toasted pepitas

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and let whir until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. I will admit that I actually add an entire tin of anchovies, but I don’t recommend that unless you really love that fishy, umami, which I do! You can also leave them out completely to make this a vegetarian dressing.

Wash and de-stem the kale, tearing into small pieces. Massage the kale with a few tablespoons of dressing for at least 5 minutes. This will improve the texture immensely. Add more dressing to taste and sprinkle with toasted pepitas.

Toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

  • 2 cups raw, shelled pumpkin seeds
  • 1 egg white, beaten to loosen
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac

Mix all of the ingredients together and spread out on a greased or lined cookie sheet in one layer. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until turning golden and starting to puff out in the middle. The pepitas will change shape from flat to more football shaped as they toast. In case you are wondering, the egg white helps the spices to stick and creates an extra crispy coating. You can leave it out if you prefer, and use a drizzle of olive oil and water instead.

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Mu shu pork with homemade pancakes

Mu shu (fill in your preferred protein here: chicken, pork, tofu, etc) has always been a favorite go-to Chinese take-out fave for me. I find that even in restaurants where quality is meh, the mu shu is a safe bet. Like many restaurant dishes, if I like it, I figure out how to make it. Mu shu can be super easy by substituting in flour tortillas for the pancakes, but making the pancakes from scratch isn’t too much work if you have some extra time (and don’t mind flour all over the kitchen…and you)

  • 8oz white flour (you could probably use whole wheat, but might need a bit more water)
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup boiling water

Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl and add in the boiling water. Stir to combine and then knead with your hands for 5 minutes or so. Cover in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Roll dough into a long snake and cut into 12 pieces. Traditionally, and in order to get a really thin pancake, you then dip one piece of dough into toasted sesame oil and press against another piece of dough. By rolling and cooking these paired pancakes together, you can peel them apart at the end to get 2 super thin pancakes. Depending on your mastery of this, it can be a more or less successful technique. You may also want to just roll each piece on its own using a well floured rolling pin and counter.

Either way, cook the pancakes in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute. Flip and cook for another 30 seconds. If you’ve rolled and cooked them as pairs, be sure to peel them apart (gently) while still hot. Cover with a dish towel to keep warm while you cook the rest.

The filling often has sliced napa cabbage, wood ear mushrooms, omelette strips, scallions and some kind of protein. I survey the fridge and make it with whatever I have on hand, and it seems to work. This time I had green cabbage, mustard greens, carrots, and shitake mushrooms hanging around. I also had some fresh bamboo shoot from our CSA that was really fun to play with. (tip: you have to boil it for about an hour before you can peel, slice and use it) The basic idea is to stir-fry your veggies, starting with the ones that take longer to cook, with garlic, ginger, soy and sesame.

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I like to cook the veggies in batches, moving the cooked ones to a large bowl. It allows me to get the pan screaming hot for each new type of veggie, which gives me that little bit of char that tastes so good. I made omelette strips by whisking 2 eggs with a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil, salt and some chive blossoms. Cook in a non-stick skillet until firm and cut into strips.

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To serve, each person takes a pancake and smears on some hoisin sauce (also called plum sauce, which can be found in most grocery stores, or you can try making your own!). I also like to add some chili paste for heat. Add some filling, roll up and enjoy!

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Rhubarb, apple, strawberry crumble

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Our CSA share came with rhubarb this week, and I couldn’t resist making a crumble. With my family visiting (including a loved one who can’t eat milk but can have yogurt), I also whipped up some easy frozen yogurt to go with it for a special treat.

There were only 4 stalks of rhubarb in the share, so I bulked up the crumble with strawberries and apples. The apples didn’t cook down as much as the other fruit (not surprising), so they had more of a bite to them. Not a bad thing, but I might cook them a bit on their own before adding to the crumble next time. I always make a double batch of topping, because everyone loves extra topping. I don’t use a recipe anymore, so if you want precision, I am not the place. I think if you have the general ratios, you’ll be fine. Just taste it before you bake it to make sure it has enough sugar, spice, salt, etc.

  • 4 stalks rhubarb, leaves trimmed away (they’re poisonous) and diced (bright red is best)
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, diced
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled, quartered if large
  • juice and grated zest of 1/2 lime or lemon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch

Mix all above ingredients together in a large bowl to blend. Place them into a buttered pie or tart pan. I like to use a wide, shallow dish to allow for the extra topping to get crispy.

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  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (can use gluten free flour)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (be sure they are gluten free if you making this gluten free, not all oats are)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Place flour, sugar, oats, salt and cinnamon into a food processor and mix to combine. Pulse in the diced butter until mixture looks like coarse pebbles. Add the walnuts and vanilla and pulse to combine. Take handful of the mixture and squeeze together, crumbling over the fruit filling. Cover fruit evenly with topping.

Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 40-45 minutes until golden brown, crispy and bubbling around the edges. Let cool slightly before serving. This is also yummy room temp or cold.

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I served mine with some strawberry-raspberry fro yo. Take your favorite full-fat fruit yogurt and sweeten a little bit more. I used maple syrup. Sweetness is dulled by the cold temperature of fro yo or ice cream, so you want the starting mixture to be slightly sweeter than what the final product will taste like. I also added some lime zest and a dash of salt. Process in your ice cream maker and serve right away for soft-serve style or freeze until hard for scoop-able fro yo.

Nachos on the roof deck

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Always in search of the perfect nacho, I most often find them at home. My partner has a patented “one layer” method that involves laying corn chips side by side (never overlapping) on a cookie sheet and topping each carefully with cheese. The other toppings are added later, as seen in this photo: pinto beans, sour cream, lime-cabbage slaw, pico, and guacamole. Eaten on a roof deck at sunset, doesn’t get much more perfect.

Missing but desired: pickled jalapeños, black olives (I know, not for everyone), maybe some carnitas?

Savory strawberry ricotta dip

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Besides being gorgeous and delicious, this strawberry ricotta dip comes together in less than 5 minutes. The creaminess of the cheese, matched with the sweet tartness of the strawberries is perfect. The vinegar, herbs and salt keep it from feeling like dessert. Variations abound, and you can easily customize to your tastes. A vegan version could also be made with macadamia nut ricotta or a strained vegan yogurt.

I like to choose a pretty serving plate to maximize the artsy vibe of this dish. Any fresh herbs could be used here, and edible flowers are lovely as well. I used tarragon, mint, baby arugula, thyme, and chive blossoms.

  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta (fresh chevre, whipped with whole milk to loosen, or mascarpone would also be good, see note above about vegan options)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4-5 thinly sliced, hulled strawberries (sliced blueberries, cherry tomatoes, plums or peaches would also be lovely)
  • a drizzle of olive oil (the best you have)
  • a drizzle of balsamic vinegar (another fruity vinegar would work, but I like the dark color of balsamic)
  • small handful of herb leaves, baby leaves if possible, or torn into smaller pieces if needed

Spread the ricotta onto a serving plate (1/2-1 inch thick layer), making dips and swirls with the back of your spoon. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Arrange the strawberry slices across the cheese, leaving white space between, and then drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic. Scatter the herbs over, arranging so that each portion of the dip will have some strawberry and some herbs. Serve with crackers, apple slices or toasts. Alternatively, you could top small toasts for some fancy bruschetta to pass at a party.

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Backstage dinner party: grilled asparagus elote style

I had the pleasure of hosting dinner for the band members of DC’s Humble Fire (I might know the drummer) last week. The bounty at the farmer’s market made cooking easy and fun. I’ve made this particular recipe for grilled asparagus elote-style (Mexican street-style corn) many times now, and I suggest you do too.

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Serves 5-6 as a starter or side

  • 2 bundles asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1/3 cup crema or sour cream (mayo is also used, could use soy or coconut yogurt to make vegan)
  • 1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta (could use vegan cheese)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • pinch of cayenne or smoked hot paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle the asparagus with oil and grill over high heat for 1-2 minutes until crisp tender and beginning to char in spots. Ours got forgotten on the grill for about 5 minutes on this particular evening (because we are so rock and roll), and they were still delicious.

Arrange the asparagus on a large platter in a thin layer (so each spear gets some toppings). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle the crema over the spears and then sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Squeeze the lime over and then dust with cayenne or paprika. I garnished with some chive flowers for fun.

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Grilled asparagus is so rock and roll.

Asparagus, marinated tomato and Irish cheddar omlette

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Simple in technique but big on flavor, I made this asparagus, marinated tomato and Irish cheddar omelette for a friend visiting from Durham, NC. In the spring, when my chive plants bloom, I love to use their soft lavender blossoms to make everything pretty. They have a light onion flavor, and they just make me happy.

As you can see from the color of the omelette, I actually like the crispy edges of egg dishes, so I let mine cook over medium high heat to get a bit of toasty-ness. I know that I’d get in big trouble if I were in French cooking class, but oh well. The marinated tomatoes really lift this dish up to something special. I highly recommend doing a quick marinade on tomatoes anytime you are adding them to a dish where they won’t really be mingling with other flavors (like in a salad or even on a sandwich). They pack a flavorful punch instead of just being a bit watery, and it’s a good trick if you don’t have peak-of-summer tomatoes on hand.

  • 1 large tomato, seeded, diced
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (wine, malt, champagne or other yummy vinegar will do
  • 6 eggs (this was for 3 people)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 5-10 asparagus stalks, trimmed and blanched for 60 seconds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Irish cheddar (any cheese will do, but I especially love sharper, well aged cheeses to provide some bite and salt)
  • handful of chopped chives or chive blossoms for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix the diced tomatoes with the vinegar and salt to taste. Let marinate for 5-10 minutes.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, coat with olive oil or butter. Whisk the eggs, milk and a dash of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Pour the eggs into the heated pan and let cook for 2-3 minutes, lifting up the edge of the omelette to let liquid egg run underneath to cook. Once the eggs are beginning to firm, sprinkle the cheese over the surface of the omelette. Let the cheese melt and the eggs get to your desired doneness. I like to have a bit of creaminess, but some folks like hard-cooked eggs.

Distribute the chopped asparagus evenly over one half of the omelette, reserving a few asparagus heads for garnishing. Distribute the tomatoes as well. I add the tomatoes last so that they don’t cook too much or water down the eggs.

Fold the omelette over on itself to create a half moon shape and move to a cutting board. Slice into three even portions. Place one portion on each of three warmed plates and garnish with chives and reserved asparagus heads.