I learned to properly pronounce gratin (thats grah-tahn, folks) at the Greens Restaurant in San Francisco a few years back. Greens is a lovely vegetarian restaurant where vegetarian chef superhero Deborah Madison cut her teeth. I found this recipe in my favorite of her books, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. 

This gratin is rich and satisfying – without being weighed down by too much butter and cheese. We enjoyed it with a salad of  roasted beets and greens, and a delicious Paso Robles syrah. This is my adaptation of the dish… an approximation of my process in the kitchen Monday afternoon.

  • 1 medium butternut squash, seeded, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh sage
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated fontina
  • 3/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. add sage and thyme and cook until lightly caramelized. season with salt and pepper.
  3. lightly oil the bottom of a gratin or casserole dish. create abase layer of caramelized onions.
  4. toss squash cubes in flour and brown in a skillet. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper. Layer over onions in casserole dish.
  5. Warm vegetable stock and pour over layers – cover with 1/4 cup grated cheese.
  6. Cover and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and top with breadcrumbs and remaining cheese. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
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self.comThis was really tasty and I’ve been meaning to post about it since I made it for dinner two weeks ago! Its a long story, but somehow I got stuck with a two year subscription to Self. No offense to Self or anything – but I have a list of magazines I’d rather have delivered to me for two years. Note to self (me, not magazine): be more careful with “three free issues!” offers. especially when debit card numbers are involved. However, last months issue came complete with a tasty dinner plan! Salmon Florentine with Quinoa Pilaf! Delicious. I’ve linked to their recipe, since you’re already reading this, I’ll tell you how I made it too.

  • Four salmon fillets (budget friendly trick – you can get frozen wild salmon at trader joe’s for a decent price, and since you’re putting the tasty florentine mix on top before you bake it, I really don’t think fresh salmon would make a huge difference)
  • One bunch spinach, chopped (Self calls for frozen spinach, which I find to be absurdly expensive. Fresh is where its at.)
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 sun dried tomatoes, chopped (these are pricy if you buy a whole jar of them – I live near a co-op and bought 6 from the bulk bin for less than a dollar! Soak them in hot water for 30 minutes before chopping and you’re good to go!)
  • 1/4 t crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup part skim ricotta
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

If you’re using frozen salmon, allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight. Rinse and place in baking dish. Heat oven to 350. Saute spinach until wilted. Transfer to a colander and allow to drain. With olive oil, saute shallots and garlic. Add crushed red pepper, sun dried tomatoes, salt and pepper. Add drained spinach, and ricotta. Divide mixture and place on top of salmon fillets. Bake 15-20 minutes (until fish is cooked through).

While your salmon is cooking, prepare your quinoa pilaf! You’ll need:

  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry skillet
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • olive oil

Bring broth and quinoa to a boil. Turn heat to low, and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Saute onion in olive oil. Transfer quinoa to a bowl and toss with onions, parsley, and toasted pine nuts.

Impress your mister with your fish baking skills! Enjoy!

snow lakeMade the most of my three day weekend and headed out to Snow Lake friday to enjoy the crisp Autumn day.

The huckleberries and vine maples were a vibrant red against the hillside. If you’re in the area and haven’t done this hike, you should. Your heart likes the 1300 foot elevation gain, and its worth it to get over the hill and down the other side to sit by the lake and take it all in.

The hike only took us 4 hours round trip, including about a 30 minute rest for lunch, but once you reach the lake you feel so much farther from the insanity of the city. I am very much an urban girl, but I do like  to abscond into the wilderness from time to time.

A and I strolled through the farmers market after brunch on Sunday to find the tables piled high with the abundance of fall. The towers of peppers, winter squash, kale and chard were inspiration for meals to come. I’ve been especially aching for some dark leafy greens – sometimes salad greens just don’t cut it. Luckily, I stumbled upon this delicious recipe on Whitney’s blog inspired by Bon Appetit. I had picked up some quinoa spaghetti and was anxious to try it. I quickly made a note of the things I needed to pick up on my way home: lemon, kale, garlic and parmesan. How delightfully simple. Added bonus: I ran into my siiiiiiister in line at the grocery store! Its so fun living in the same neighborhood as your siblings! Post workout, we invited our friend L to stay for dinner, and the three of us chatted while I threw this together. I thought this was excellent (A and L liked it too!) and only found myself wishing there had been more delicious greens to balance out the pasta. Next time, I would double the kale.

  • 1 medium onion, diced (I had a half a large onion in the fridge, and used that instead)
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti (quinoa spaghetti for gluten free!)
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped (more if  you fancy. I just noticed the bon appetit recipe calls for 8 – but I was making this on the fly)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 bunch kale (washed, drained, stems and ribs removed, cut crosswise)

In a large pot. Bring water to a boil. Add pasta. In a large skillet, saute onion until translucent. Add garlic, cook over low for 2 minutes. Add kale, cover and stir occasionally. I like my kale a little on the firm side, so I only allowed it to cook for about 7 minutes and then removed it from the heat. Check on pasta. This was my first time cooking with quinoa pasta, so I spent quite a bit of time testing it. When pasta is finally done, drain and return to pan with a little olive oil. Add kale and parmesan and toss well. Finish with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Enjoy!

Picture 15Vegan? Gluten free? This book will change your life. If your name happens to be Erin, as mine is, you will be totally stoked because this vegan and gluten free baking genius is also named Erin. I feel like its a good baker omen or something.

I first tested out the book over at my parents house a couple of months ago. My mother and I occasionally like to pull a quick vegan switch on my dad to see if he notices. Its an interesting experiment – try it out on a loved one sometime. We made him the carrot cake cupcakes which are ammmmmmazing. He loved them of course – thinking they were filled with eggs, butter and delicious gluten. I’ve been trying trying to cut out wheat and dairy for allergen reasons for awhile now, and flour substitutes have been tough, often giving a gritty residue to textures that have no business being gritty. Babycakes had me at the first bite.

I promptly *borrowed* the book from my mother so I might try out the vegan, gluten free cornbread. Last fall I tried my own substitutions on a favorite cornbread recipe and failed miserably – producing a rubbery, polenta-like substance. There was nothing bread-like about it. Since I’ve declared this month Wheat Free October, I tested out the Babycakes cornbread this weekend. It was so delicious, I burnt my mouth sneaking a slice (or three) before it had cooled. This cornbread has a lovely crumb people! My only qualm is that I find it a little sweet — so I may try to experiment a little to see what sort of savory cornbread I end up with!

IMG_2541Portland is so great. 

I’ve just returned from a long weekend with my siblings at our beach cabin on the Oregon coast. They are not trying to save their vacation hours to fly around the country for post-phone interviews, and thus, are still hanging out at the cabin. Those lucky bitches. My mister wasn’t able to come with me because of work, and I didn’t want to make the 7 hour trek home alone, so I brought my friend E, who had a great time and meshed well with my family members. The beach was divine and we had just as much fun coming home to Seattle, when we took a four hour detour in Portland for some great food with friends, and tax free shopping! (Mostly for her – but a liiiiiiiiittle for me)

Awhile back I read a review of Portland street food  in one of my mothers issues of Sunset magazine. The chickpea sandwich from Garden State piqued my interest, and I remembered just as we were approaching the city with grumbling tummies. Lucky for us, E is armed with an iphone, and we were able to look up the article to remember the name, the address, and then navigate our way! We arrived at 3:45 to find the shop owner in front of the cart tidying up. 

Owner: I’m sorry… we closed at 3:30.

Me: Oh, no. Really?

Owner: Yes.

E: …but we came all the way from Seeeeeeattle!

Owner: Really? Well, what would you like? 

How awesome is that? Everyone should go to the Garden State truck in Portland and order the chickpea sandwich. It is amazing with a chickpea patty, delicata squash, carrot slaw, lemon aioli and lettuce on a delicious roll. All this deliciousness for six freaking dollars. Amazing.

A and I took a roadtrip this weekend to Sisters, Oregon to attend the Sisters Folk Festival. The town is named after the Three Sisters mountains and is cute and quaint. We camped on the edge of town and walked around to the various venues scattered around town. 

I’ve been to Folklife in Seattle — but I will consider this to be my first real folk festival. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into, but was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the music! Some of my favorites were Peter Rowan, the Quebe Sisters Band, Blind Pilot, Antje Duvekot and Todd Snider, who puts on a hilarious show. I can’t help but think this is a sign of getting old — but if getting old is camping, drinking beer, and laying in the grass listening to beautiful music — I’ll take it! 

Initially we tried to volunteer to work the festival, since a 3-day pass goes fora steep $85 — but we were too late and all the volunteer positions had been taken. When we were in line for our tickets, A suggested that I see if they had any last minute volunteer positions available — there had just been a cancellation and I took it! Hooray! $85 saved. Miraculously… I took out $100 on my way down to the festival and came home with some of it still in my wallet. We brought a lot of food with us, so most of our money disappeared at the bar… as it tends to.

My dear friend M is visiting from New York this week, and in honor of her visit, I’ve made her vegan chocolate cupcakes with (her favorite) lavender icing.

Now, I’ve had cupcakes with lavender icing, but I’ve never actually set out to make my very own before. I searched the web and found a couple of recipes, but nothing truly inspirational. It seemed to be more about the color than the flavor, and I prefer to skip the food coloring.

I decided to experiment.

Dried lavender in hand, I removed the buds and added them to a saucepan with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar. I brought this mixture to a boil, and allowed it to simmer for about 20 minutes. Ta-da! Lavender simple syrup!

On to the cake.

I’ve tested some pretty excellent vegan cake recipes in my day, my favorite thus far being one which uses both coconut milk and coconut oil.

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the wet ingredients. Mix the dry. Mix the wet into the dry. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a fork comes out clean!

Now that my lavender simple syrup has sufficiently cooled, I’m ready to make the frosting. Since I’m not really vegan, and neither is M, I’m going to use real butter and make a version of my mom’s amazing buttercream. If you are vegan, you can easily substitute margarine.

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 box powdered sugar
  • lavender simple syrup

At a low speed, mix butter and powdered sugar. Slowly add lavender simple syrup until your frosting reaches the desired consistency. The lavender came across stronger than I had anticipated, so I added a squeeze of lemon to brighten the flavors. Frost cupcakes with love, and enjoy!

The boniato tacos at Agua Verde in Seattle are amazing. Topped with cojita and a green creamy salsa, they are divine.

I picked up an enormous yam on my way home from work for $2.21. Talk about budget shopping! That is a screaming deal for a taco filler. I already had corn tortillas that were desperately waiting to be used, onions,

cilantro, cabbage and an awesome avocado.

Picture 16

Trying to recreate the deliciousness that boniato… I first sauteed generous pieces of sweet onion in butter. While the onions were cooking, I peeled and diced the monstrous yam and added it to the pan. There are very few things I make without using cumin, and I added a generous teaspoon to the yams and onions, and about a half a teaspoon of cayenne. Wishing for a little more texture on the cubes of delicious yams, after they had softened a bit (about 10 minutes) I moved them onto a baking sheet and roasted them at 500 F for another 10 minutes to caramelize them a bit.

Too assemble: warm corn tortillas in skillet, layer shredded cabbage, roasted yams, a generous slice of avocado, chopped cilantro and salsa if you have it.

The result? Totally tasty. Now if only I can figure out what their creamy green salsa is made from…

People. 

Uninspired cubicle worker? Check! Aspiring food blogger? Check! Okay, maybe I’m not quite as inspired to be such a dedicated blogger, but I am really excited to see this movie. It looks adorable. My sister and I saw the preview at 500 Days of Summer and she was like “Omg, E! Its about you!”