Spring Bean and Radish Salad

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We skipped winter this year, and now are officially into spring. No more hope for fuzzy sweaters or warm fireplace dinners. But, I'm not so glum, outdoor dinning season is here. And this means trips to the nursery, yogurt soup, herby salads and berries. If this sounds a lot like summer, well, it is. Those two season tend to blend here as well.

I am recycling this salad recipe from last year. It was fresh and crunchy, I just never got around to posting about it. It is also extremely pretty, and made for a delicious work lunch the next day. Enjoy.
Planting sunflowers.
Kumquats from the garden.
One morning I actually got up and made blueberry ricotta pancakes with grapefruit zest. They were the best.
Yogurt soup on the patio.

Bean and Radish Salad
Serves 4-6

2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 large red onion, sliced
large handful of radishes, sliced
chopped parsley and tarragon to taste

olive oil
champagne vinegar, or whatever kind you have handy
juice of half a lemon, or more to taste
salt and pepper

1) Combine the beans, onions, radishes and herbs.
2) Prepare dressing, I solely rely on my taste buds for this.  Most folks do the 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar. You can't go wrong if you taste as you go.
3) Dress your salad, chill for an hour or so, and enjoy.


Weekend in Ojai

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The little town of Ojai is just close and far enough for a quick weekend escape. This was the first time we stayed in town. Thanks to Airbnb, we found a quiet Spanish villa, with an amazing host, and relaxing courtyard.

We spent a couple of days tasting local olive oil and vinegar, hiking trails that led nowhere, and eating delicious food. The shops in town are filled with interesting things, mostly for old people. I bought myself an old-school sleeping jacket, which the sales lady tried to talk me out of, "Do you really NEED a sleeping jacket," she asked. Um, who doesn't?

Lounging before the husband dragged me on a hike.
The main drag. 
At Meditation Mount.


Pasta with Yogurt and Peas

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I love peas and don't use them as often as I'd like. This recipe calls for a whole pound, and that made me extremely happy.

I've been enjoying the Jerusalem cookbook and this is another satisfying recipe. Although I wouldn't make this weekly, like my friend does (I need more variety), I would eat it monthly. It's so simple and light, it makes for a super quick weeknight meal and great lunch leftovers for the next day.
Pasta with Yogurt and Peas
via Jerusalem

2 1/2 cups of Greek yogurt
2/3 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1 lb peas, fresh or thawed
1 lb of pasta, conchiglie or whatever else you'd like
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 tsp chile flakes
1 2/3 cups basil leaves, coarsely torn
8 oz feta, broken into chunks
salt and pepper

1) Combine yogurt, 6 tbsp olive oil, the garlic and 2/3 cup of the peas in a food processor. I used an immersion blender and pulsed until smooth.

2) Cook pasta al dente. While pasta is cooking, heat the remaining oil, and add pine nuts and chile flakes, and fry for 4 minutes.

3) Heat the remaining peas in boiling water and drain.

4) Drain your cooked pasta and add it gradually to the yogurt sauce. Add peas, basil, feta and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently and serve, topping with pine nuts and their oil.


Tartine's Lemon Cream Tart

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I do not bake. Too much measuring and lots of directions. When the husband first got his Tartine desserts book, I glanced at it, and the pages upon pages of instructions on a single recipe, and I said NO THANKS and moved on. Who has time? Who has the motivation? Not me. But, I got suckered into assisting here with the good 'ole "I'll probably screw this up if you don't help" line.

We visited Tartine Bakery on New Year's Day before heading home from Pt. Reyes. And everything in their display cases looked amazing, glistening with butter. You leave the place feeling really greasy. This visit inspired the husband to pull out the Tartine cookbook and give this lemon cream tart a try.

Nothing about this recipe is difficult, except the whisking of the cream for 20 minutes straight (which for some reason I did while being supervised), but everything takes time, and lots of waiting in between. Prep. Chill. Bake. Chill. Cream. Chill. The most fun was assembling the tart and making it pretty.
This tart was the very first time we used the Meyer lemons from our garden. Three years later, and we had our first harvest, about 10 lemons.
 And here I am whisking. This happened for a long time.
There's a lot of butter in this recipe, as you will see below. We decided for future lemon cream, we'll add about half as much. We tasted the cream before any butter, and it was already really delicious.
This tart travels well. We took it to a dinner party where we whipped up some cream, and sprinkled dark chocolate on top.
Tart Shell
(makes 4 – 9 inch shells)

1 cup + 2 Tbsp Unsalted butter (room temp)
1 cup Sugar
¼ tsp Salt
3½ cups All-purpose flour
Optional *for egg wash to create a golden tart you need 1 egg and a pinch of salt, lightly beat egg with salt to prepare the egg-wash*

1) Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, and salt and mix on medium speed until smooth. Mix in 1 egg.  Add the remaining egg and mix until smooth.
2) Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add flour all at once and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
3) On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 4 equal balls and shape each ball into a disk ½ inch thick.
4) Wrap will in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours
5) Place dough disk on a lightly floured surface and roll out approx ⅛ ” thick
6) Create or cut out circles 2″ larger than the pan. Do not stretch dough or it will shrink during baking.
7) Place the pastry shell in the refrigerator for about 15 mins
8) Pre heat oven to 325F
9) Using a fork, make tiny holes in the bottom of the tart shell. Place in the oven for 5-7 mins for tartlet shells and 7-10 mins for single tart shells.
10) If using an egg wash, remove from oven after first phase of baking and brush entire shell with egg wash. Return to oven until tart shell is golden (approx 5 mins-7 mins)
11) Let cool completely on wire racks.

Lemon Cream
Makes about 2 1/2 cups (for 1 – 9 inch shell)

½ cup + 2 tablespoons lemon juice (Meyer or regular)
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
¾ cups sugar
1 pinch salt
1 cup unsalted butter

1) Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer.
2) Combine the lemon juice, whole eggs, yolk, sugar, and salt in a stainless steel bowl that will rest securely in the rim of a saucepan over, not touching, the water. (Never let the egg yolks and sugar sit together for more than a moment without stirring; the sugar will cook the yolks and turn them granular.) Place the bowl over the saucepan and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180° F on a thermometer. This will take 10 to 12 minutes. If you don't have or trust your thermometer, don't worry. It should thicken to the point that your whisk leaves a trail through the curd.
3) Remove the bowl from over the water and let cool to 140° F, stirring from time to time to release the heat.
4) Meanwhile, cut butter into 1-tablespoon (15-ml) pieces. When the cream is ready, leave it in the bowl if using an immersion blender, or pour it into a counter top blender. With the blender running, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, blending after each addition until incorporated before adding the next piece. The cream will be pale yellow and opaque and quite thick.

5) You can use the cream immediately, or pour it into a storage container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 5 days. To use after refrigeration, if necessary, gently heat in a stainless steel bowl set over simmering water until it has softened, whisking constantly.


Pickled Cucumbers and Carrots

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I received the Jerusalem cookbook as a Christmas gift, and have been immensely enjoying its colorful photos and delicious recipes. I know I'm late to the game, but this is quickly becoming my favorite book. After spotting fat, little cucumbers at the Armenian store, I decided to give one of the book's pickling recipes a try.

Generally, I am a vinegar pickle girl. In the past, the husband has experimented with salt (no vinegar) brine, and well, those quickly got the nickname "scumsicles". So, I wasn't sure how I'd like this salt only version. But, only after three days and zero scum in my jar, I realized this recipe was super quick and scum-free. I'm not sure what the husband did to his cucumbers, but I'm glad no one died as a result of his scumsicles.

Pickled Cucumbers (and Carrots) with Dill
adapted from Jerusalem

4 1/2 cups of water
4 1/2 tbsp sea salt (I used kosher)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
10 allspice berries (I used juniper)
1 tsp fennel seeds
10 black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
1 tsp celery seeds
1 small dried chile
1 large bunch dill
7 garlic cloves, unpeeled, lightly crushed
6 bay leaves
10-13 small cucumbers (I also used a couple of carrots because I had room)

1) Bring water and salt to a boil. Once salt is dissolved, remove from heat.
2) Place all the spices, chile, half the dill and garlic in the bottom of a sterilized jar (1.5L). Pack in your cucumbers vertically.
3) Fill jar with hot brine, making sure everything is completely covered. Place the rest of the dill on top and cover the jar loosely with the lid (this allows gas to escape).
4) Store in a cool, dark place for 3 days. Then taste a pickle. If you like the flavor, refrigerate your jar. If you want a sharper taste, leave jar out for up to 3 more days.

It says you can store the pickles in the fridge for 2 weeks, but once in the fridge, they will last longer. Although, it's hard not to snack on these all the time!


Lemony Pork Chops

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There has been a lot of lemon love in my kitchen. I finally broke into my preserved lemon jar from a while back, and have a couple of more almost ready to go. So, everything is getting a hint of lemons -- salad dressings, grains, chicken and also these wonderful pork chops.

I made these for Armenian Christmas, our final dinner by the tree, before it was chopped up for firewood and compost.
 I used my butter-basting method.
Roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes on the side.
Lemony Pork Chops

2 thick-cut pork chops, if you can get some bone-in even better
1/2 of a preserved lemon, chopped and a few teaspoons of juices
2-3 sprigs of rosemary, half chopped finely
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1-2 tbsp of butter
salt and pepper
3-4 garlic cloves
olive oil

1) Combine lemons, chopped rosemary, sugar, salt and pepper and a little bit of olive oil to make a paste and spread on your chops. Marinate for at least 15 minutes to a couple of hours. Go easy on the salt or skip it, since your lemons will be salty.

2) Heat a cast iron pan, add butter, a dash of oil, garlic and the remaining rosemary sprigs. Add your chops, and cook about 5-8 minutes per side, basting often with butter. The time will really depend on the thickness of your chops. I like to sear my chops, then reduce the heat to cook through.


Galupsi or Dolma (Depending on How Russian You Are Feeling)

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I do not often tackle the food of my childhood or eat Armenian/Russian food outside of my parents house. Simply because the parents have their dishes down. They are always good, they are always almost too salty, and I find there's absolutely no need to mess with recreating them.

But the other day, I was on the obligatory phone call with my mom, and she started talking about making her stuffed cabbage rolls, which she calls galupsi (like a good Russian, the Armenians just call it dolma, and she's adamant what she makes is not dolma), with savoy cabbage instead of regular cabbage, and I got a craving and decided it was time to roll up my sleeves and cabbage as well.

What I like about my mom's cabbage rolls versus the many others I have tried (some regrettably) is that they are spiced well. My parents do not fear the salt shaker. They also are a bit fanatic about grinding their own meat. My dad has a general distrust of ground meat from the store, and as long as I remember, they have always had an electric meat grinder so they don't have to rely on the suspicious ground meats from the market. My mom grinds her onions into the meat as well, which she says makes the meat mixture extra juicy.

I liked the idea of using savoy cabbage as well, which my mom found a little easier to work with. I did not grind my own meat. What I should have done is mixed in some pork for additional fat and flavor. Instead I bought ground beef from the store. The rest I ball parked. It was a learning experience. My galupsi were good, but not at my mom's level. I needed fattier meat, and to salt my broth a lot more. A decent first effort.
We served a few other Russian/Armenian favorites -- cold bean salad, sujuk, pickled herring, sour cream -- and we had our friends over for a little taste of the USSR. A highlight was the husband's delicious rye bread.

1.5 - 2 lbs of ground beef (the fattier the better)
1/2 cup or less of white rice (my mom uses short grain, I used long grain since I didn't care to make a trip to the market), rinsed
1 onion, chopped fine (I also added a shallot)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
dill and parsley, chopped
dried basil
salt and pepper
head of savoy cabbage, blanched (I had some meat leftover, so I also stuffed a couple of peppers and zucchini)
1, 8 oz can of tomato sauce
chicken broth and water

1) Combine meat, onion, garlic and rice. Add herbs to taste, half the can of tomato sauce and season your meat. Mix all the ingredients together with your hands.
2) Prepare your cabbage leaves for rolling, removing the core and cutting leaves in half if necessary. Place a spoonful of meat on each leaf and roll. There are great YouTube videos if you've never done this. You basically want these tight, but leaving some room for the rice to expand.
3) Pack rolls into a dutch oven. Cover with a combo of broth, water and the remaining tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
4) Bring to boil, then simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes, until rice is cooked. You can always do a taste test. Husbands are great for this.