Category Archives: Food

Baking Food

Paleo Gluten-free Orange Cranberry Muffins

Since December, I’ve been spending a disproportionate amount of time in sweatpants. Factors driving this behavior:

  1. They are the symbol of freedom.
  2. Nothing beats an elastic waistband when you’re eating. NOTHING.
  3. This is the year of the cute sweatpant (or, jogger, as it’s been rebranded). There are the printed type, which I like in concept but which always look like pajamas on me (probably because I refuse to wear heels with them, which I feel defeat the purpose of achieving ultimate comfort), and the solid type; these from Athleta are my all-time favorites (I got them for Christmas — thanks San-do-ra!).
  4. I left my executive job and am now consulting, mostly from home. I was just finding that even when I was at home, I was never mentally available to my family…I have a real problem compartmentalizing work (plus there were the weird hours and challenges of working in an international business). It’s been a lot easier now that I’m in full control of my work and time…and plus I can wear sweatpants.

There are, of course downsides to the exclusive wearing of elastic waistbands. The other night I went out to dinner for a friend’s birthday, and, as it was at a restaurant, I thought the occasion warranted pants (and not the elastic waistband kind that is made to mimic pants, which I have — but the real kind with a zipper and button and everything). Turns out if you move into real pants after weeks of wearing joggers, you have to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes from the extra pressure. Also, you may find yourself thinking things like, “Why should I have a separate wardrobe for sleeping?” Still, a small price to pay for the otherwise boundless joy.

While I was sitting around in my sweatpants over the holidays, we had visitors. My brother and his family came to visit. The girls had so much fun with their little cousin, who is a big fan of hats.

My brother has a gluten intolerance, and since I also had a friend visiting that week with celiac disease, I thought I’d try to make some gluten-free muffins (which also happen to be naturally sweetened) from paleo blogger Detoxinista. I added shredded coconut and chia seeds for some extra crunch and texture. I had pretty low expectations since most gluten-free baked goods I’ve seen looked kind of flat and generally unappetizing, but these orange cranberry guys puffed up nicely:

And, they were nice and moist. I’ve tried this recipe with a number of variations, and you can pretty much add in any combination of flavors and arrive at a nice paleo muffin.

My favorite part about the recipe — it’s a one-bowl wonder. Just throw everything into a bowl, mix it up, pour into muffin tins and bake! Leave me a comment if you try a different variation — I’d love to know about any winners!

adapted from Detoxinista


  • ¾ cup coconut flour
  • 6 eggs
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • Zest of one orange (about 2 teaspoons)
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup or raw honey, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a standard muffin tin with 12 baking cups.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut flour, eggs, orange juice, zest, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, baking soda, chia seeds and salt. Use a whisk to mix well, breaking up any clumps, then fold in the fresh cranberries and the shredded coconut.
  3. Divide the batter among the 12 cups, then bake at 350F for 23-25 minutes, until the edges are golden the centers of the muffins feel firm to a light touch. Allow the muffins to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.
  4. Since these muffins are very moist, leftovers should be stored in the fridge for best shelf life, but bring them to room temperature again before serving for best flavor and texture.

Makes 12 muffins.

Food Gardening Travel

O’Henry Peaches from Frog Hollow Farm

I am going to publish a scientific paper about how time goes more quickly in the summer and when you’re shopping on eBay.

If you follow me on Facebook you know that I just got back a couple of weeks ago from another trip to England. I spent the first week in London for work, but weekends with the rest of the  family in the country. If you’re a garden lover and a runner like me, the English countryside in the summer is pretty much as good as it gets. Except, if you’re like me, you have to stop every few feet to snap photos of the gardens.

I know, it’s really bad.

I just.can’t.stop.


I even checked out the Queen’s gardens this time around. They weren’t too shabby either.

Aside from English gardens, summer is also really great for peaches. I can turn just about any fruit into a dessert, but sometimes, you’re best off leaving it the way it was made.

Such is the way with organic O’Henry peaches from Frog Hollow Farm. Frog Hollow is in Brentwood, California, and produces the most breathtaking fruit, lovingly packed and shipped.

I got to try this fruit because, as luck would have it, my colleague The Fruit Maven generously brought a box into the office. This is generous because, had I received this box, I would have eaten it by myself in front of the shipping container within three minutes of receipt.

My pictures, sadly, do not do these peaches justice, since they were taken with my iPhone under the romantic glow of fluorescent lights. Even so, note the beautiful read marbling on the peach slice, cut from the peach that was soft enough to be cut by a plastic knife found in the break room. The texture was soft but had the perfect amount of body, and the taste was sweet and, well, peachy…possibly the peachiest peach I’ve ever eaten. Sweet and peachy — all you could ever want in a peach.

Frog Hollow Farms ships too — you can order a box of peaches from this link. And while you’re eating your peach, I’ll tell you about the rest of my trip.

The second week was spent in the countryside.

My mother-in-law got the kids raincoats and wellies, so it promptly stopped raining.

Which meant that they could go on a ropes course.

I got to catch up with my neighbor Helen, who moved back to the UK two weeks earlier:

My sister-in-law took me shopping, where I fell in love with a dress that looked really sad on me:

Nevermind, though, because we hit Cath Kidston next where I got a tiered cake platter and a set of flowery napkins that my husband doesn’t like (but I love!).

We had a dinner celebration for my brother-in-law’s 40th:

and then headed over to spend a few days with our friends Simon and Laura.

And some time miming I guess.

The kids had a great time with their daughter, swimming:

hanging out:

and visiting her school:

Now I’m back at home, waiting for my flowers to be plentiful enough to place by my bedside table. Til then, this memory will have to do.


Cooking Food

Apricots with Mascarpone Cream

I am currently in that circle of hell reserved for people who blog about food but cannot eat it. I’ve had some kind of stomach virus (I think. Or it could be worms. That is exactly what I need. Worms.) since last weekend and though I hadn’t been hungry all week, I am very hungry now but the stomach is not accepting donations.

I’ve generally been feeling weird lately, and part of it I attribute to aging. I can’t remember anything anymore. I recently went away on a girls’ weekend (which, sadly, ended at some point) and the whole weekend was full of conversations like:

“So I have a friend that lives in…African country! Abject poverty! Blood diamonds!”

“The Congo?”

“Right! This is just like that game…shouting out clues! Have to guess the word! Board game!”

My friends and I, we are losin’ it. But the good news is that soon we won’t remember to care.

The other good news is that it’s apricot season. Apricots just look so…peachy to me — like a teenaged girl with good skin (I would never know what that’s like). I got a box of apricots from my CSA and made this dessert which I promise may be the best thing I’ve ever tasted (it’s  large category, that.). Seriously though it is incredibly awesome, like as awesome as if your tongue were a skating rink and Olympic skaters were winning the gold medal on it.

Some incredibly gifted person named Miki posted this on Allrecipes but I modified it a bit to add a bit of citrus and floral aromas, substituting lemon curd for apricot nectar, marmalade for apricot preserves and using a violet flavored balsamic vinegar .



  • 3 TBSP sugar
  • 4 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 2 TBSP lemon curd
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch ground cardamom
  • 3 TBSP marmalade
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar (I used violet flavored vinegar)
  • 8 fresh apricots, pitted and halved


  1. Beat the cream in a chilled bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar and set aside. In another bowl, whip the mascarpone cheese with an electric mixer until very soft; beat in the lemon curd, vanilla extract, and cardamom. Gently fold the mascarpone mixture into the whipped cream.
  2. Place the marmalade and honey into a microwave-safe bowl and heat in microwave oven until warm but not hot, about 30 seconds. Mix well and stir the balsamic vinegar into the honey mixture.
  3. Stuff each apricot half with a dollop of the mascarpone cream and place the filled apricot halves on a serving dish. Drizzle the fruit and plate with balsamic sauce and serve.

Serves 8 (or 1, if it’s me).

Cooking Food Popular

The MasterChef in My Kitchen

Have you ever watched MasterChef Junior? It’s like The Hunger Games and The Food Network put together minus the killing. Anyway, I can’t get through a MasterChef Junior episode without weeping — I just get so sad when those kids cry! Which is why I was glad that we moved on to MasterChef Season 4. And why my kids talk like Gordon Ramsay at dinner every night. I think we watched the whole season within a couple of weeks.

Several of the contestants on Season 4 were from San Diego. One day, when I was driving on the highway, I could have sworn I saw Lynn — one of the top 10 contenders — in his car. When I got home I told the kids and they squealed like little girls (ok, they are little girls) and peppered me with questions about the encounter (which, I remind you, was just me thinking I saw someone who was maybe potentially him on the highway, for which “encounter” is a strong word).

My older girl’s birthday was coming up, and I didn’t have any good ideas on what to do. She’s always been really easy and low-maintenance, and I wanted to do something special for her. So I had an idea…if she was so excited about me maybe possibly seeing Lynn on the highway, what if he showed up at our door? He always seemed super nice and level-headed on the show, and also, I wanted to eat his plates.

Leveraging the internet as the superb stalking tool it is meant to be, I found his contact information and emailed him my unusual request. I didn’t hear from him for a couple of weeks and figured he put me in the Scary folder of his Inbox, but one day he did respond — and he said he would do it! I emailed him pictures of the girls and we arranged for him to show up at our house for my daughter’s birthday to teach her and her sister to cook a few dishes.

A few weeks later, while we were on our spring break staycation, we went to D Bar in Hillcrest for dessert.

I had this Poco Coco Loco, which was a panna cotta topped with a layer of tapioca, with a passion fruit compote, a passion fruit cloud and a macaroon. I might have shed a joyful tear in between bites.

Now, I knew from my online (let’s call them “research”) skills that Lynn had taken some of the photos on the D Bar website, and since he was due to show up to our house in a few weeks and since it had been some time since we had finished watching Season 4, I wanted to be sure the girls remembered him when he came over. So I asked, “Do you know who took the photos for the D Bar website?…Lynn! From MasterChef!”

The girls started whispering and giggling and then my younger one said, “And he’s right over there!!!”

And he was.

Which made me look like a total stalker.

After a few false starts my older daughter finally got up the guts to go talk to him, and he recognized her from the photos and said, “Oh hiiiiii….”. He turned to me and said, “Sandi, right?” at which point I could only wave like a girl on a parade float awkwardly trying to figure out how to keep this all a surprise for a few weeks later.

“Mom, do you know him?!?” daughter #2 asked, at which point I said, “No! Of course not!”

“Oooooh, I get it,” she said, “He recognizes you from the car!”

Ri-i-i-i-i-ght, I said, from the car! Because how could you not remember me if I maybe possibly saw you on the highway, right?

As it turns out, Lynn was with Shaun, another MasterChef contestant, who also happens to be a magician (and was in town for a magic convention)! So I guess you could say it was quite a magical evening as we were regaled with wizardry and sleight of hand. Lynn was delightful and answered all our incessant questions about his MasterChef experience and gave us tips on how to make macaroons.

The next day, of course, was spent watching MasterChef Season 4 episodes all over again.

Fast forward a few weeks to the birthday weekend. 2 PM, the doorbell rings, and we ask the birthday girl to open the door.

Lynn was perfectly charming with the kids and brought some amazing ingredients from Specialty Produce, like these beautiful basil flowers:

He got them started on prepping parsnips and taught them some proper knife skills.

They made a vinaigrette:

and learned the best way to juice a lemon to prevent the seeds from falling in:

They tasted as they went along:

and plated:

Here’s what they cooked up: first, a lovely heirloom tomato salad with red onion, basil and basil flower:

A side of roasted cauliflower:

And a rack of lamb, which was seared…

…then baked and served atop a parsnip puree, garnished with chive flower, alongside the colorful cauliflower and purple carrot medley:

And let me tell you, that lamb. I would fight you for that lamb.

Dessert was a mascarpone sorbet with raspberry coulis and coconut flakes:

I’m sorry it’s not totally in focus. I was concentrating on not eating it long enough to take the picture. Can you say so creamy that you want to die (in a good way)?

And as I licked the sorbet bowl clean while nobody was looking, Lynn packed up his knives and was off to his next gig…something involving sous-vide and a beer pairing for 50 people. Like a short rib-bearing Santa Claus. Thanks Lynn!


Gluten-free Chocolate Quinoa Cake

The world is awash today with images of hearts and chocolate. Happy Valentine’s Day, friends. I know what you’re thinking. Chocolate, hearts, berries…but what’s Valentine’s Day without quinoa? I hear you, ye tired, hungry and gluten-free. Because having quinoa in your cake is like having dinner together with dessert. It’s just more efficient.

I happened upon this recipe at the Week of Menus blog. She must cook during the day because she has way better lighting than I do, and is reflecting on how to be a better mother while I am just thinking about my hair and thinking about how I can make dinner into a dessert. (I cut my hair. After a couple of weeks of awkward silences and people averting my gaze trying not to comment on it while I was figuring out how to work with it, I have finally found a way to make it look effortlessly tousled which requires way more time than if I tried to make it look like I made a concerted effort. But such is the price of beachy.)

Week of Menus has done a good job laying out the recipe, so I’ll just link to it below, but the basic gist is that you mix the quinoa in a blender with a bunch of stuff and end up with a batter that looks like this:

Bake it like she tells you to. I’m sorry, but making my hair look effortlessly tousled has drained me of my will to share detail. You’ll end up with a cake.

Then you can cut a heart out of wax paper, snowflake-style:

Place it over the cake and dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar:

End up with this:

So follow the recipe. Eat it. Enjoy.

Cooking Food Popular

Vegan Coconut Chana Saag

I’m about as vegan as Fox News is liberal (I recently purchased a vegan leather jacket, because, how often do you find a jacket made of vegans?), but when I was killing time one day while my kids were at their riding lesson when I started reading a vegan cookbook. And it was fascinating. It was like cooking within a completely different universe. The fundamentals were different. It was like learning another language. Switching from PC to Mac. Learning to write with your navel. I’ll come up with the right analogy eventually.

And you know what? The dishes are beautiful. And flavorful. And most surprisingly (I always envisioned vegans as starving), filling.

This is the first recipe I tried. It was really quick, easy, and so flavorful. My carnivorous family loved it.

All you do is brown some onions in coconut oil:

And then add in everything else (spices, tomatoes and chickpeas). Cook it for about 10 minutes.

Stir in the kale and cook for another 5 minutes, and squeeze in some lime juice. Let it sit for 10 minutes and make sure you serve it with something like rice or flatbread to mop up all the vegan deliciousness of the sauce. Enjoy!

COCONUT CHANA SAAG from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Isa Does It


  • 2 TBSP refined coconut oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TBSP minced fresh ginger
  • 2 TBSP mild curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp anise seeds or crushed fennel seeds)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 24 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 2 15 oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 8 oz kale, chopped
  • 1 14 oz can regular or lite coconut milk
  • 2 TBSP fresh lime juice


Preheat a 4 qt pot over medium heat and add the coconut oil. Saute the onion in teh oil for 5-7 minutes, until lightly browned.

Add the garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the curry powder, salt, pepper, anise seeds, garam masala, cumin, and cayenne and toss to coat the onions, letting the spices toast a bit (for a minute or so).

Add the tomato juice from the can, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze, simply hold the tomatoes and let the juice strain through your fingers. Now add the tomatoes from the can, squishing them with your fingers as you put them in the pot, to mash them up. Add the chickpeas and mix well.

Cover the pan and bring the heat up a bit. Let simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the kale and stir until wilted, then let simmer for 5 more minutes, uncovered, to cook it down even further.

Add the coconut milk adn heat through. Add the lime juice, then taste for seasoning. It tastes best if you let it sit for 10 minutes or so.

Serve over basmati rice with a little mango chutney and cilantro on top.

Cooking Food

Duck with Lavender Honey

It’s a (relatively) chilly December day, bright and sunny with just a bit of bite in the air — the So-Cal way of announcing winter. Though I don’t miss the long, cold winters in the east and midwest, in a place that gets nearly year-round summer, chill is a a bit of a novelty. It’s also the perfect weather for duck.

Crispy-skinned, savory and fatty, o how I love thee duck. What do I make for Thanksgiving? Duck. Christmas? Duck. Easter? You guessed it. Duck is the new black, people!

What I love about this recipe is that it requires very little hands-on time, which leaves more time for fun things like tabletop decor.

Don’t judge my wrinkled tablecloth. It’s too big and unwieldy to iron properly. I just dim the lights and serve wine which seems to take care of most of the wrinkles. And most other things in life, come to think of it.

I’ve been making this duck for about 13 years and I never tire of it. Hope you’ll love it as much as I do!

DUCK WITH LAVENDER HONEY adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Savoring France


  • 4 tsp fresh lavender blossoms or 2 tsp dried blossoms
  • 4 tsp herbes de provence
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 duck, about 5.5 lb
  • 4 TBSP lavender, acacia or other strong-flavored honey
  • 3 TBSP red wine

The day before:  Mix the spices and herbs together in a small bowl. Remove the giblets from the duck cavity, rinse the duck and pat it dry. Using a sharp knife, cut crisscrosses through the fat — but not into the meat — of the breast. Rub the duck inside and out with the herb mixture. Discard the neck. Let marinate overnight, or at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roast for 2 hours. Remove form the oven and pour off all but 1 TBSP of the collected fat from the pan (I reserve the fat and make french fries with it, but that is admittedly over the top!). Spread the duck breast with 2 TBSP of honey and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Baste with pan juices, and roast another 10 minutes. Remove duck again and spread with the remaining 2 TBSP honey, and sprinkle with half the lavender blossoms. Roast for 10 minutes longer, then baste again with pan juices. Cook for another 5 minutes and remove form the oven.

Move the duck to a platter, cover the it loosely with aluminum foil, and let stand for 10 minutes while you prepare the sauce.

Put the roasting pan over medium heat and add the remaining lavender blossoms and the red wine. Deglaze the pan, stirring with a wodden spoon to remove any browned bits from the pan bottom. Cook until well blended and slightly reduced, 3-4 minutes. Keep warm.

Carve the duck, place on a platter, drizzle with sauce and serve immediately.

Serves 2-4.





Cooking Food Travel

Whole Trout en Papillote

It’s finally the end of the week and I’m feeling like the fish above. He’s all, “Girl, my terrariums are all dessicated and don’t even talk to me about my hair, so I’m just going to lie down in a bed of butter and lemons now.” Am I projecting?

I got back from another business trip to London a couple of weeks ago. Every morning I ran in the mist like a gorilla, which is my favorite weather and method to run in.

Across the bridge:

along the River Thames:

past Big Ben:

and on the first day, accidentally across a finish line amidst a cheering crowd in #theonlyraceilleverwin. Not to worry, the glory didn’t last long because the very next day some piece of cobblestone tripped me into some major Crouching Tiger-style flying and rolling on the ground resulting in this (and yes, as a friend so generously pointed out, I managed to land on the tops of my knees. And don’t judge my skin.):

It wasn’t like I was very noticeable wearing hot pink running shoes, a purple running skirt and a fuschia jacket or anything. I always said that exercise was dangerous.

Later, I did manage to make it to a pop-up restaurant in SoHo called The Full English, and felt much better after stuffing myself with bacon, eggs, tomatoes and beans. Check it out if you’re in London.

So that was London. Now on to fish.

Trout is one of my favorite fish, and what  I love about fish (aside from the brain health benefits that I so desperately need) is the speed with which you can prepare it. I’m not terribly experienced with cooking whole fish, so I used this Whole Trout en Papilotte recipe from the Food Network. Place some chopped onion on a piece of parchment paper, lay the fish on top and cut slits into it. Season it inside and out with salt and pepper.

Stuff the fish with herbs, coat the top with shallot butter (see instructions below) and cover it with a layer of lemons.

I wrapped it in the parchment, grilled it for 20 minutes, and it was done! Moist, tender, and makes you smarter!



  • 2 whole trout, dressed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup sliced sweet yellow onion
  • 2 handfuls fresh herbs (thyme, parsley and rosemary)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon-shallot butter, recipe follows
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Parchment paper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees (I used a grill — either will work!). Cut 2 sheets of parchment paper large enough to completely cover the fish when folded. Wash and dry the trout. Using a knife, score the fish on 1 side by cutting slits into the flesh just until you feel the bone. Season the trout generously, inside and out with salt and pepper. Spread 1/4 cup of the onions on each sheet of parchment. Place fish on top, scored side up. Stuff the inside of the fish with herbs. (It’s ok if they stick out a bit). Top each fish with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the shallot butter. Cover with the lemon slices. Drizzle 1 tablespoon white wine and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over each fish. Fold the parchment over the fish. Starting at 1 end, fold the paper on itself, making sure to completely seal it. At the end, fold it underneath itself. Repeat. Place fish on large baking sheet and cook for about 12 to 15 minutes. To serve, place trout en papillote on a platter. Cut the parchment at the table to ensure that all the aromas stay inside the package.

Lemon Shallot Butter


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 lemon, zest finely minced
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • Salt and pepper


In a food processor, combine all ingredients until mixed. Place whipped butter mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a log. Freeze until ready to use. Butter will keep in the freezer for at least a month.

Cooking Food Travel

The Last of Summer Tomato Salad

Et tu, summer?

After my last post about being still, I have to confess that I have been anything but. I woke up one day found myself in London:

I was there for business, but I did manage to fit in dinner with some friends, a few runs in Green Park, a peek at the Prime Meridian in Greenwich:

a meal and a chocolatey porter at the Mean Time brewery:

and a glorious hour at Fortnum & Mason, where I had an internal debate on whether my life would be incomplete without a $700 tea pot:

You know, because I have so many tea parties.

But then I realized that this decision was headed for the same outcome as a purchase I made 10 years ago of pleather pants, so I made a quick jaunt over to Carnaby Street where I bought overpriced scented erasers as souvenirs for the kids.

It was a hectic but productive trip, and as soon as I got home I promptly fell ill. And then got on a plane again soon thereafter.

All this rushing around argues for a bit of simplicity.

One of my favorite things about summer is tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes, to be exact. Colorful, flavorful, deliciously simple. We still have time for that.

I made this salad as part of an dinner we had with friends outdoors on a warm summer night. Because when you are a friend just arriving from Germany, with another on her way to Europe and a third who is Canadian, it would only be logical to stop in for a meal prepared by a Chinese American married to a Brit.

It’s a simple one really — just some slicing and a vinaigrette. But perfectly colorful, tasty, and quick enough to allow you time to enjoy some pause amidst the busyness of everyday life.



  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 varied, fresh heirloom tomatoes
  • 3-4 leaves of basil


Slice the tomatoes into slices 1/4 inch thick. Place them in a single layer on a serving dish, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

Mix the balsamic vinegar and salt together, until the salt dissolves. Add in olive oil and stir until combined. Grind in some fresh black pepper to taste. Pour over the tomatoes.

Julienne 3-4 leaves of basil and sprinkle over the salad.

Serves 4-6.



Cooking Food

Salmon Gravlax

Summer is officially here, and to me, summer is about garden parties, and more specifically, buying dresses and creating garden party situations so that you can wear them.

I’ve developed a maxi dress problem.

After shunning them for a few seasons, arguing that I’m not tall enough to pull it off and that my legs are some of the more reasonable parts of my body, I’ve taken to them like Usain Bolt to a track.

I recently bought this dress. Because I liked how she was walking through the fields. And I was sure I could find a field somewhere that I could walk through and look that young and skinny in.

Photo credit: Anthropologie

I haven’t found it yet. Also, I only recently realized that a shawl someone gave me years ago is actually a table runner.

But no matter, I have been to a garden party. This party was in my friend Marjie’s huge and beautiful garden, which was recently featured in a local garden walk. I met Marjie through my mother-in-law, who met her when she was living in Tokyo. Marjie is retired and designs jewelry, crafting, gardens and travels the world. She’s living the dream.

My kids love going to her house to pick fruit.  This time, it was kumquat season.

Marjie’s also a fantastic cook, and she whipped up a summery feast for us to enjoy outside.

Looking suspicious…

…where I did not wear said field dress.

Why yes, my hair is two different colors, thanks to my trip to Tokyo and lack of maintenance thereof.

One of the delicious dishes on the table was the gravlax. Flavorful, tender and placed atop a bagel it was delightful.

Here’s the recipe she used, which can be found on Epicurious:

GRAVLAX (Scandinavian Cured Salmon) from Epicurious:


3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons white peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon whole allspice or coriander, crushed
1 large bunch dill (about 3 ounces)
Two 1/2-pound center-cut salmon fillets, in 2 equal pieces
1 tablespoon cognac or vodka or aquavit (optional)
Black bread


In a small bowl, mix together the salt, sugar, peppercorns, and allspice. Chop the stems and leaves of the dill. Lay a piece of the salmon, skin side down, on a piece of plastic wrap large enough to wrap both fillets. Sprinkle the fillet with half the spice mix, moisten with half of the cognac, if using, and cover with all the chopped dill. Cover the second fillet with the spice mix and cognac. Sandwich the 2 fillets together and tightly wrap in the plastic wrap. Make sure the fillets are held tightly closed with a good seal.

Place the wrapped salmon on a plate and weigh it down with a 1-pound can or weight. Place in the refrigerator. Every 12 hours or so, open the package and baste the fish with the liquid that has formed around it. Let the salmon cure for at least 24 or up to 36 hours.

When the salmon is ready, scrape the dill mixture off with a spoon and refrigerate the fish until ready to serve. To serve the gravlax; slice thin pieces at a 45-degree angle with a long, sharp narrow knife. Lay the gravlax out on a platter and serve it with black bread and a bit of mustard. The gravlax will stay fresh for a week wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator.

Serves 8.