Spain part 3: Southern France + Rosemary Cornmeal Pancakes with Red Wine Figs

It was never our plan to go to France. It actually never even crossed our minds until we got to Zarautz. Our plan was to explore as much of Spain as we could in three short weeks without feeling rushed. Crossing a border was not something we had even considered. But in Zaratuz we found ourselves at a crossroad. We could drive 8 hours south to Granada (our original plan) to experience southern Spain’s frenzied Easter celebrations or we could… we weren’t sure, but we knew that spending a whole day in the car driving from north coast to south coast wasn’t very appealing. It just didn’t feel right. But what to do? After going back and forth for hours, we eventually asked our airbnb host what she would do for a week before needing to be back in Barcelona for a flight out. Hands down, she said go back through Southern France. So that’s what we did.

Once we entered France, the mood and atmosphere changed immensely. The north coast of Spain is very laid back, open, and easy going. The villages are painted in light tones like beige, terra cotta, and white and people are always out and about. Southern France - the part that borders the Pyrenees - is dark and almost sinister in a beautiful way. The tiny cluster of houses that make up the villages are roofed with a dark, glossy shale and have an eerie abandoned feel to them, almost like they haven’t been touched since medieval times. 

Our first night in France was spent in Ore. Not because Ore is a popular destination town or because somebody suggested that we should go there, but because Ore was where I found an airbnb within driving distance from the border. We really had no idea where to go or what to do in France nor do either of us speak French. We were kind of like fish out of water, but that’s how we tend to travel, for better or worse. One day at a time. Ore turned out to be great, though, albeit a bit deserted. We spent the early evening exploring the narrow stone streets that were devoid of human life (where was everyone?) and were captivated by a gothic graveyard that looked like it came straight out of a Tim Burton movie. Definitely eerie, but beautiful in an haunting sort of way 

The real highlight for us in France, though, was a total unexpected gem. After Ore, we continued east along the north side of the Pyrenees passing through small village after small village until we came to Galey, home of L’Ancienne Bergerie Bed & Breakfast hosted by Becks and Kevin. The B&B is actually a converted barn that has been beautifully and meticulously restored inside and out. It sits on a ridge overlooking the cloud-encased Pyrenees and dark shale roofs of Augirein below. The surrounding area is a honeycomb of miles and miles of great hiking trails that we explored and got lost in. We only spent one night at the B&B, but I could have stayed a week. Becks - an unofficial chef - prepared a five-course dinner for Noah and I and a Spanish couple visiting from Barcelona (their third time there). We drank Kevin’s homemade herbal wine for an aperitif then sat down for the feast. The first course was toast with local foie gras followed by braised rabbit, local camembert goat cheese from a fromagerie we stumbled across on one of our walks (baby goats galore!), wine poached pears, and lots of red wine. It was decadent! Not staying another night at L’Ancienne Bergerie might be our only regret of the trip…

Our last three days in France were a little rushed, mainly because it was Easter and we didn’t have any airbnb’s booked. We ended up spending one night in Sete during the height of a tall ships festival, which was fun, but the small city was insanely packed with people. For our last night in France we continued south along the coast to Collioure, a whitewashed coastal town recommended to us by the Spanish couple at the B&B. We really liked Collioure for its lazy atmosphere, good food, and artistic current - we definitely could have spent more time here as well. Our last French meal was at the outdoor patio of La Cuisine Comptoir who’s red wine poached figs were the inspiration of this posts recipe. They were so simple, but so delicious and a perfect ending for our Spain/France sojourn.

// Rosemary Cornmeal Pancakes with Red Wine Figs // - makes about 10-12 pancakes
This recipe was inspired by a dessert we had in Collioure, France. The dessert was just red wine poached figs, fresh cinnamon whipped cream, and candied walnuts, but it was one of our favorite dishes we had on the trip. So simple, but so delicious! While this recipe isn't quite the same rendering, it's no less satisfying. Perfect for a weekend breakfast or brunch. The figs can be made a couple of days in advance and kept in the fridge for 1-2 weeks

For the red wine figs:
1 pint fresh figs, about 8 whole
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

For the pancakes:
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 cup spelt flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon flaxseed, ground
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Butter or oil for cooking

For the walnut-honey syrup:
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 inch piece rosemary

Plain yogurt or creme fraiche to serve

1. Cut the figs in half lengthwise and place cut-side down in a deep glass or ceramic baking dish. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the red wine, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt. Pour red wine mixture over figs and let soak for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake figs for 20-25 minutes, then flip so cut-side is facing up and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove figs from oven and let cool slightly. With a slotted spoon transfer figs to a bowl. Pour remaining red wine sauce into a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until thick and syrupy, about 10-20 minutes. Let cool then pour sauce over figs and set aside

2) For the pancakes, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and rosemary in a large bowl and mix well. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, yogurt, flaxseed, melted butter, and maple syrup. Slowly fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Melt 2 teaspoons of butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup cupfuls of batter onto skillet and cook until bubbles form on top and edges turn golden brown. Flip and cook until browned on the other side and cooked through. Keep pancakes warm in oven set at lowest temperature

3) To make the honey-walnut syrup, combine the walnuts, honey, water, vanilla, and rosemary piece in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until honey dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble ferociously. Cook 1 minute more then remove from heat

4) To serve, top pancakes with yogurt or creme fraiche, fig halves, and honey-walnut syrup

Spain part 2: Basque Country + A Spanish Tortilla

Welcome to Spain part 2! After exploring Barcelona by foot and bike for a few days, we rented a car and headed west toward wine and Basque Country. Our first stop was Logrono where we got our first taste of real Spanish (or Basque) tapas called pintxos. We sampled them according to tradition - hopping from bar to bar (each bar is known for its special pintxos) and with copious amounts of red wine. If you aren't familiar with pintxos, they're basically little bites of food skewered on top of crusty baguette slices with a toothpick. Bars display plates loaded with a wide variety of colorful pintxos on their countertops and patrons choose the ones that they want. You pay for the toothpicks later. The great thing about pintxos is that wine is basically free. Seriously! Single pintxos cost anywhere between 2-6 euros and you usually get a half glass of wine with that :) Truthfully, though, Noah and I were a bit disappointed with our pintxos experience in Logrono. There were only a few amazing standouts - freshly grilled fish and turkey and buttery mushrooms with a tiny shrimp on top. The rest of the pintxos were ok, but that was probably because they sat out on countertops for hours to accommodate the tourists who eat between 5-7pm and the locals who eat any time after 9pm. Definitely go for the pintxos that are grilled or sautéed to order! Another pintxo peculiarity that dismayed us was that after ordering, the pintxos get zapped in a microwave. We'd point to a tasty looking one that had beautiful ribbons of Iberico ham on top and before we could say "no microwave" into the microwave it went for 60 long seconds. The ham (or whatever else was on top) would come out sad looking and defeated. Sigh. Again, go for the pintxos that are fresh. 

After Logrono, we made a pit stop in the medieval defense-turned-wine town of Laguardia. No cars are allowed in the walled area, so we spent the rainy, chilly afternoon walking the narrow stone streets and ducking into little bodegas for snacks and wine. A bodega is basically a wine cellar that serves pintxos and local - often made-in-house - wine. Underneath Laguardia is a honeycomb of wine cellars and we decided to visit the caves of Carlos San Pedro Perez de Vinaspre for a wine tour. Unfortunately, the next tour wasn't in English, but it was really cool to see the musty, moldy old cellar where their wine is made and aged. Coming from a country where almost everything food-related is sterile and stainless steel, it was striking to see the balls of mold on the walls and bottles caked in grime. These people know the benefits of good bacteria! 

After leaving Laguardia, we headed north to the heart of beautiful Basque country. We passed epic landscapes of vibrant green hills, abandoned stone villages, and densely wooded forests. Basque country is easily one of the prettiest places I've visited yet and that's just from seeing it during early spring. We'd love to go back in summer! Our stop for the next three nights was in a tiny, tiny town called Elortza. We had booked an airbnb there mainly because the host has two donkeys and I have a huge soft spot the furry beasts. This stop turned out to be one of our favorite highlights from the trip. Phil - our host - took us on a day hike with the donkeys (Momo and Django) into the surrounding hills and we explored the depths of a crystal-studded limestone cave. Amazing! Hiking with donkeys is not a rushed affair, so we took our time and enjoyed the fresh air and Basque countryside. The recipe inspired by this leg of our trip is a Spanish tortilla that Momo made every effort to eat when we stopped for lunch atop a steep bluff overlooking the valley. Who knew donkeys liked eggs and potatoes?! 

The last leg of our journey through Basque country was along the northern Bay of Biscay coast from Elantxobe - a tiny fishing town built into steep coastal hills that slide into the ocean - to Zarautz, one of our favorite towns that we visited in Spain. The road between the two towns is rugged and beautiful, dotted with small villages with names like Ea and Lekeitio. Zarautz is a mid-size town right on the coast with a great, laid back feel and a gigantic sandy beach. We didn't spend much time in the popular San Sebastion, but I got the feeling that Zarautz was sort of like its lesser known cousin with amazing boutique shops and great restaurants. Our airbnb host sent us on a great walk from the town center of Zarautz along backroads to the neighboring town of Getaria. We passed an abandoned and graffitied coliseum that definitely looked out of place amid the vineyards and sheep pastures, but would be a perfect venue for a music or skateboarding video. I practiced my handstands. In Getaria, we spent a few hours walking around, had a fantastic lunch, then walked back along the coastal footpath to Zarautz, taking some time to sit on the rocks and watch the ocean splash at our feet 

Next up: Southern France and a decadent breakfast

// Spanish Tortilla // serves 6-8
A Spanish tortilla isn't what you normally think of when you hear 'tortilla'. Most people think of Latin American tortillas made out of flour or corn and food like quesadillas, tacos, fajitas, etc... But a Spanish tortilla has neither flour or corn - it's made almost entirely of potatoes, eggs, onion, and olive oil. It's kind of like a frittata, but better. A note about the olive oil: this recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of olive oil. Don't freak out, you don't actually consume all that oil, it's just used to fry the potatoes and onions and the rest is saved for another use (like salad dressings). I added kale to this recipe because I'm a greens fanatic, but feel free to leave it out for a more traditional version. Oh, and watch out for donkeys - they like Spanish tortillas.

1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, about 1 1/2 cups sliced
2 pounds yukon gold or russet potatoes
2 1/4 teaspoons salt (2 teaspoons if you're sensitive to salt)
8 eggs
1/2 cup packed parsley, chopped
6 large lacinato kale leaves, roughly chopped (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Gently heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed deep frying pan or skillet. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion slices and cook for 8-10 minutes or until they're translucent, but not super soft. Stir often

2. While the onions are cooking, peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/4" thick rounds. Add the potatoes and salt to the onions and oil. Try to submerge the potatoes as best you can under the oil for even cooking. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes over low heat, checking on the potatoes every so often to make sure they're all cooking evenly (i.e. stir and flip as needed). The potatoes are done when they can be easily pierced with a  fork or knife. With a slotted spoon, transfer onions and potatoes into a colander placed over a bowl to catch the extra oil. Pour out remaining oil from pan and save for another use

3. Crack eggs into a large bowl and whisk until well combined. Whisk in most of the parsley and all of the kale if using (reserve some parsley for garnish). Add 3 tablespoons of oil back into the frying pan and turn heat on low. Layer onions and potatoes in the skillet, flattening them out as best you can. Pour eggs over onions and potatoes and cook for about 15 minutes over medium-low heat. Gently pull away the sides of the tortilla from the pan with a spatula to allow eggs to run over the side and cook. When eggs are mostly done, place tortilla in oven to finish cooking for 3-5 minutes. Turn oven on to broil and broil top for 1-2 minutes. Remove tortilla from oven, let cool 5 minutes then either flip tortilla upside down onto a plate or slide it out of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature 

Spain part 1: Barcelona + Artichoke, Sausage and Pine nut Sauté

This post is long overdo. Last time we posted on Traveling Fork was over two months ago and we said the next time you'd hear from us we'd be in Spain. Well Spain has come and gone and now it's the middle of June. Where does time go! It seems like our trip was just yesterday but also a lifetime ago. Not sure how that works... But we're back and excited to get started on posting recipes and travel stories again. We have lots of exciting ideas in the works! First, though, let's talk about Spain (and then France)...

We started our trip in Barcelona. After traveling for 16 hours from Seattle, we arrived at the city center at about 9am, wondering what we were going to do - jet-lagged and toting our bags - until 2pm when we could check into our airbnb. We found a little cafe that sat beneath a gigantic medieval stone church (one of the many in Barcelona) and sipped on small coffees that we would later learn to order as cortados. After caffeinating, we decided to jump onto a double decker hop-on-hop-off sight-seeing tour bus that whisked us to the different neighborhoods of Barcelona. We're not typically keen on doing these types of tours, but the bus was perfect for our jet-lagged situation. We didn't actually get off the bus (expect to switch to the second line) because we were too exhausted to even think about figuring out a plan. 

Neither Noah or I are big city people (yet we live in a big city...) so our plan was to spend a couple of nights in the gothic quarter, explore the sights, then book it west toward Basque country. The following days were filled with delicious tapas, €2 glasses of wine, lots of walking and exploring, window shopping, and of course, siestas. Despite not loving big cities, Noah and I found Barcelona to be extremely charming and livable. The pace of life was laid back, everyone was super friendly, and there were no mega box stores; everyone had their own little cute boutique shop .We both agreed that we could spend several months blending into the city. Maybe that's just the €2 glasses of wine and siestas talking, though... 

Highlights of Barcelona:
- Renting bikes and cruising through the narrow alleyways of the Gothic and Born neighborhoods then down the waterfront esplanade. This is probably our favorite memory of Barcelona
- The markets! I loved wandering through the stalls and crowded aisles of Santa Catarina market and La Boqueria. So many amazing smells, textures, colors, tastes, and varieties of cheeses, sausages, and olives. Try the yayas - they're amazing!   
- Cafe Bar Centric restaurant. We ate here twice because it's that good. The artichoke and sausage sauté recipe in this post is inspired by a dish we had there
- Parc Guell. The park was ok - we're not really into tourist attractions like this. My favorite part of that experience was listening to a busker play guitar under a stone colonnade while waiting out a downpour
- Our epic walk up to Parc del Laberint d'Horta, a beautiful and lightly visited park north of the city. From there we came back through north Barcelona and climbed up Parc del Carmel (behind Parc Guell) to get a widespread view of the city
- Sit-down coffee in tiny glass cups. Seriously. We loved taking 10 minutes in the morning to sit down in a small coffee shop to enjoy our cortados and watch the city move around us. This is one habit we've tried to maintain back home: no to-go cups and 10 minutes to just enjoy the coffee
- Quiche at The Pan's Club (strange name, but the quiche's are amazing!)
- Dumplings at Mosquito in the Gothic Quarter. Not exactly Spanish cuisine, but some of the best dumplings we've ever had

Market in Spain

// Artichoke, Sausage + Pine Nut Saute // serves 4-6
The inspiration for this recipe came from a dish that we had at Cafe Bar Centric in the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona. Their dish was just artichoke hearts, sausage, and lots of olive oil. It was so good that we ordered it twice! I found that I needed to add more variety and flavors to make this recipe work, though. Use the highest quality sausage you can get your hands on. It's worth it! 

6 small artichokes
1 lemon, halved and juiced
4 chorizo sausages, about 6" in length  
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup parmesan, finely grated
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
black pepper to taste
Lemon slice to serve

1. Fill a large bowl with cool water and add lemon juice and lemon halves. Cut the stems off the artichokes and remove the outer 2-3 layers of tough leaves. Discard leaves and stems. Continue to remove the outer leaves of the artichokes, placing the leaves in the lemon water as you go, until you get to the tender inner leaves. The tender part will be mostly yellow or bright green. Once all the outer leaves are removed, cut off the pointy, sharp tips of the inner artichokes and discard tips. You need to cut off more than you think, about 1/2 inch, or else they'll be too tough to chew. Working quickly to prevent browning, quarter artichoke hearts, roughly scoop our fuzz if there is any, and place in lemon water

2. Prepare a large bowl filled with ice water to blanch artichokes. Bring a big pot of water to boil and salt heavily. Add artichoke leaves and hearts and boil for 3-4 minutes. Add sausage links and boil for another 4 minutes. Drain and immediately add artichokes to ice water. Set sausages aside and slice into rounds when cool

3. Gently heat olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot or frying pan. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add artichoke hearts and leaves, white wine, and salt. Saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently then add sausages. Cover and cook for another 5-7 minutes. When artichokes are soft and sausages are cooked all the way through, turn off heat and add pines nuts, parmesan, most of the parsley (reserve some for garnish), and black pepper to taste. Serve immediately with lemon slices

Smoky Sweet Potato Hummus

Hummus is a staple in our house. We eat it mainly with carrots and mushrooms and bell peppers, but it's also a great spread for a quick open-faced sandwich or as a dip on a mediterranean platter (one of our favorite meals). I always try to have a fresh batch in the fridge, which helps keeps us away from the less healthy snacks. Sometimes, not always. Currently I'm addicted to those little crunchy Asian puffed rice snacks. It's bad! But then again, we don't have any hummus in the fridge, so there you go... 

As good as plain, traditional hummus is (just chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and maybe tahini), I like to mix things up a bit every now and then. This version has the awesome combo of sweet potatoes and smoked paprika. Yum! I hope you give it a try :)

And next time you hear from us we'll be in SPAIN! 

// Smoky Sweet Potato Hummus // makes about 3 cups
I like to make my hummus from dried chickpeas, but canned would work well here too. I have two tricks for making really smooth hummus from dried beans: 1. Use chickpeas just after cooking them. When the chickpeas are hot,  they blend up into a creamier hummus 2. Use some of the cooking liquid to thin out the hummus. This adds more flavor than plain water

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked until tender (about 15 minutes) - save the cooking liquid!
1 pound sweet potatoes, baked at 350° for 1 hour or until easily pierced with a knife
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup cooking water from chickpeas or plain water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
pinch cayenne

1.   Place all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender and blend until very smooth, about 5-7 minutes. Scrape down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference. Let cool, then store in fridge in an airtight container

Mozzarella + Pomegranate Salad

Is it just me, or is anyone else ready for spring? I feel like we're getting teased here in Seattle with a handful of beautiful sunny, warm days followed by a week of blustery, rainy  ones that leave me feeling antsy. Cabin fever! Noah and I did brave the shifty weather this past weekend by going on an overnight bike ride to Woodinville. It's about a 25 mile ride one-way on a rails-to-trails path. We rented a really cute Airbnb and did some wine tasting once we got out there. It was  a great quick break from the normal routine. This year Noah and I have both decided that we want to do more traveling and go on more adventures. It's scary how easily you can fall into a routine and not noticed how fast the weeks and months go by! 

Speaking of travel, we'll be getting on a plane in a few weeks and heading overseas to Spain. I can't wait! We're planning on posting lots of photos and adventure stories and maybe even some recipes if we ever getting around to cooking amidst all the delicious food we are sure to encounter. I'm so excited for tapas :) This week, while housesitting for friends, we want to sit down and plan out some fun things to do over there. Anybody have any suggestions or ideas?  Our only itinerary right now is spending a few days in Barcelona before renting a car and heading north toward the coast. We'll have three weeks to go where we want and do as we please :)

Now on to the recipe. I came up with this mozzarella and pomegranate salad this winter because I cannot get enough of pomegranates when they're in season. I love the meditative task of taking out the seeds, I love their bright red color, I love their tart-sweet juiciness, and I love the burst of  flavor as you bite into them. (Ok, I don't love the stain they leave on the cutting board and my fingers, but I'm willing to overlook that because their season is so short). I was also ready for some spring flavors, so I threw in some chopped up mint, basil, and fresh lemon to liven things up.  The soft, sweet mozzarella balls are a nice contrast to the firm, tangy pomegranate seeds. I'm hoping someday that I'll be able to master making these at home, but that has not happened yet... 

// Mozzarella + Pomegranate Salad // serves 4-6
This salad comes together super quick and is a great  easy lunch or light appetizer. Pomegranates are only in season during the winter months  (October - February), but substitutions could be make for a refreshing summer salad.  I'd probably swap out the pomegranates for strawberries or raspberries. Melon balls might be interesting to try as well. Use full-fat mozzarella for best results

 16 oz small mozzarella balls (2 oz containers)
1 small bunch of lacinato kale, about 2 cups packed and cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup packed basil, chiffonaded
Scant 1/4 cup mint, chiffonaded
1 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds, about 1 medium-large pomegranate
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

1. Drain mozzarella balls in a colendar and set aside

2. In a medium bowl, combine the kale and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Gently massage kale with fingers until kale turns dark green, about 1-2 minutes

3. Add basil, mint, pomegranate seeds, red onion, olive oil, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss in mozzarella balls. Taste and season with more salt if needed and black pepper

Lemony Quinoa Dolmas

I looove dolmas. They're my go-to snack when I'm out grocery-shopping or running errands and need a snack stat. I get hangry pretty quick.... They're also great on mediterranean platters, which Noah and I have at least once a month - olives, sliced bell peppers, hummus, cucumbers, crackers, cheese, dolmas, etc... In fact, we ate our last dolmas on a plate such as this while watching the Super Bowl this past Sunday. Definitely not your typical Super Bowl fare! 

I've made dolmas from scratch a couple of times before, and while they're a bit time consuming, the pay off is huge. The store bought kind are good, but can be somewhat mushy on the inside, you know what I mean? Homemade dolmas retain their texture and flavor and are much cheaper than buying them pre-made. Plus, they store really well in the fridge so big batches go a long way. 

I made these dolmas with somewhat unconventional ingredients. Traditional dolmas are basically rice, onion, garlic, lemon, and maybe dried fruit or even meat. I used quinoa (rice could be substituted), lots of parsley, mint, lemon, and almonds. The insides are totally adjustable to your liking, but the outside grape leaf is what really makes the dolma. I made the mistake of not reading the instructions on the grape leaf jar (rookie move) and just used them straight from their soaking juices. Apparently you're supposed to rinse them first and them steam the leaves to make them more tender... Next time :)  

// Lemony Quinoa Dolmas // Makes a lot... Maybe about  5-6 dozen?
These dolmas are time consuming, so only attempt them if you have a few hours to spare. But, once they're made you have a  delicious, healthy snack ready to go. I used quinoa here, but you can also use brown rice or other whole grain if you prefer. Also adjust the seasonings and flavors to your liking. I think next time I'd add chopped raisins or currents for a touch of sweetness or maybe some crumbled feta

1 cup quinoa, uncooked
2 cups water

2 lemons, zested
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup packed parsley, chopped
1/4 cup packed mint, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoons salt
Pinch of cayenne
1 jar of grape leaves
Olive oil for storing in fridge
Sea salt

1. Place the quinoa and water in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil, then turn heat down to low. Cover and let cook for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool

2. In a large bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, mint, almonds, olive oil, garlic, salt, and cayenne. Stir well then add cooled quinoa. Toss to combine and adjust seasonings as needed

3. Remove grape leaves from jar and rinse under cool water, separate each leaf as much as possible. Place leaves in a steamer and steam for 3-5 minutes. Depending on how many leaves you have, you may need to do this in batches to make sure all leaves get steamed evenly. Remove leaves from steamer and let cool on a clean towel

4. To make the dolmas, lay out a few grape leaves on a clean, flat surface. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon into the middle of each leaf. Fold in the sides of the leaf over the filling, then roll them up from bottom to top. This is probably going take practice, so don't get discouraged when your first few don't turn out ;) 

5. Place finished dolmas in a glass baking dish or storage container. When all dolmas are made, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt to help them soften and marinade. Store in fridge

2016-0126 - Dolmas_0267.jpg

Tempeh-Wakame Salad

We've been kind of quiet around here lately, enjoying some much needed downtime after our busy holiday travels. I haven't been doing much cooking (!), instead relying on easy things like beans and grains and roasted whole chicken (we've vowed never to buy chicken breasts again - whole chickens are so much better). It's also been rainy and grey, which doesn't help with motivation or inspiration...

During my traveling days I remember seeing women steaming big blocks of temeph in banana leaves in Indonesia. It was an eye-opening moment because while I had eaten tempeh numerous times before, I always assumed it originated from Japan or China or Korea (it is soybeans after all). But nope, it's from Indonesia. And it's delicious. This salad is a perfect combination of tempeh, wakame seaweed, sunflower seeds, and veggies. I hope you try it!

// Tempeh-Wakame Salad // Serves 4-6
Like tofu, tempeh needs to be marinated to take on the flavors on the dish. I would recommend at least 30 minutes, but  a few hours is the best. Also,  2 tablespoons of wakame may not seem like a lot, but it expands quite extensively!

For the marinade:
2 8-oz packages of tempeh
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

For the dressing:
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup mayo
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon mellow miso
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons wakame
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced, ~3/4 cup
5 stalks celery, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
3 tablespoons roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds

1. Cut the tempeh into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a shallow oven-safe dish. The tempeh should fit snugly. In a small bowl whisk together the rest of the marinade ingredients (soy sauce through ginger). Pour marinade over tempeh, making sure all sides of tempeh are coated. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, up to two hours, flipping tempeh occasionally to make sure all sides get marinated

2. Preheat over to 350 °. Bake tempeh for 15 minutes. Flip tempeh then bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool

3. In a bowl or measuring cup whisk together the dressing ingredients (lemon juice through salt). Set aside

4. Place wakame in a medium bowl and steep in 2 cups of hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside

5. In a large bowl combine the tempeh, wakame, onion, celery, carrot, sesame seed, and sunflower seeds. Toss well. Pour the dressing over the tempeh and stir until everything is well coated. Season with salt as needed

Wintery Kale Salad

The holidays were a bit hectic for us this year. We meant to post this salad pre-Christmas (doesn't it look Christmas-y?) but somehow that never happened. Now it's almost the second week of January and I'm just now finding time to sit down and write up a post. How does the time slip by so fast!?

For Christmas, Noah and I flew down to Bishop, California where my brother and his fiancee (!) recently moved and my parents joined us from Vermont. Fun things we did there: a sunset hike to the Druid Stones, a soak in a natural hot spring with nothing but the mountains and big sky surrounding us, scrambling around the ButtermilksStar Wars up in Mammoth, a walk around Mono Lake, and many, many moments playing with the cats. There were also some good laughs during Cards Against Humanity and lots of wine and good food. And Noah got to go snowboarding. Fun times. 

After Bishop (and a terrible pair of flights) we arrived back in Seattle for a night before heading out for second Christmas at Noah's parents place in Sequim. Noah treated us to his awesome homemade sourdough pizza and I succeeded in making some delicious sourdough cinnamon rolls which I will most definitely be making again. There was also a road trip to Port Townshend, cider tasting at Finn River, lots of puzzle time, and pre-bed soaks in the hot tub under the stars.

Overall it was a great few weeks, but I'm definitely glad to be home :)

// Wintery Kale Salad // serves 4-6
This winter salad would be a great addition to a Christmas dinner or for a New Year's celebration. Pomegranates are in season during the winter months and they're one of my favorite fruits. A bit of a pain to get all the seeds out, but definitely worth the effort. If pomegranates don't work for you, then mandarin oranges would be really tasty or even sliced up persimmons. 

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup quinoa (uncooked)
1 cup water or broth
2 bunches lacinato kale, washed, dried, and de-stemmed
1 pomegranate, seeds removed
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
4-8 oz goat cheese
salt to taste

1. Whisk together the dressing ingredients (lemon juice through black pepper)

2. Add quinoa and water/broth to a small sauce pot. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to simmer, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes

3. Tear the kale into bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Add a splash of the dressing and massage the kale with your hands until its starts to turn deep green and becomes tender

4. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and add to the kale. Add rest of dressing and mix well. Season with salt as needed

4. At this point you can either add the pomegranate seeds and almonds to the bowl or you can dish up the kale into bowls/plates and sprinkle the seeds and almonds on top. Top with crumbled goat cheese

Salmon Cakes with Creme Fraiche Tartar Sauce

We've been meaning to post this recipe for over a week now, but it's been super busy around here. I've been busy with my new job and Noah has been busy with work. In between we've put up a Christmas tree, decorated our front porch with lights, crafted some Christmas presents, and attended a Christmas party where we chatted for 4 hours with the hosts about our upcoming trip to Spain. We would have gone to a holiday cookie party too, but Noah decided to go snowboarding instead. Still kind of bitter about that.... Especially since we just got our stand mixer delivered to our door! Don't worry, cookies are still happening. 

The first batch of these salmon cakes happened a long time ago. Like beginning-of-my-first-recipe-log-book-that-is-now-full long time ago. But they were so good that I actually remembered to make them again for a photo shoot. We have a (dwindling) supply of fresh-frozen salmon thanks to Noah's dad who is a fisherman up in Alaska, but unfortunately some of our filets  got freezer burn in our chest freezer, so I decided to turn them into salmon cakes. It was an excellent idea! They they are so good! I'm about 75% confident that canned salmon would work well here too if you can't get your hands on fresh or frozen salmon. 

// Salmon Cakes with Dill Creme Fraiche // makes 6-8 cakes
As I mentioned above, you could probably get away with using canned salmon in this recipe. 1 1/2 lbs of fresh salmon is 24 ounces of canned.  Given the option, though, I always go with the freshest possible. These make a great small meal or are perfect as an appetizer. 

1 1/2 lbs fresh or frozen (thawed) salmon, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup panko + more for crusting (about 1 cup)
1 egg
1/2 cup grated parmesan or sheep's milk cheese
1/4 cup red onion, finely minced
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper

5 oz creme fraiche or 1/2 cup plain yogurt (not greek)
1/2 cup seeded cucumber, finely diced
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)

~4 tablespoons oil for frying (I use sunflower or safflower)

1. In a large bowl combine the salmon through black pepper (using 1 cup of panko). Mix well

2. Place about 1 cup of panko on a large plate. Form the salmon mixture into 6-8 patties, depending on what size you want them. One at a time crust the salmon cakes on both sides with the panko and place on a clean plate. 

3. Gently heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. When the oil is hot add 3-4 patties and cook for 4-6 minutes or until the undersides are golden. Flip and cook another 4-6 minutes. Remove from pan and place patties on a paper towel-covered plate. Add another 2 tablespoons of oil to pan and repeat with remaining salmon cakes.

4. To make the tarter sauce, combine the creme fraiche or yogurt, cucumber, dill, red onion, and salt in pepper in a small bowl. Mix well and add more seasonings if needed.

5. Serve salmon cakes hot with a small spoonful of tater sauce.  

Pumpkin Pie Spice Ice Cream

Pumpkin season is not over yet! I do realize that we posted pumpkin pie, then stuffed squash (kind of like pumpkin), and now pumpkin ice cream all in a row. But... I really like pumpkin and pumpkin pie flavored things. Especially ice cream. And lattes. Have you ever had pumpkin pie spice ice cream? I highly recommend it! This recipe doesn't actually have pumpkin in it (although I'm sure that would be delicious) but it has everything else a pumpkin pie filling needs: cream, eggs, milk, lots of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger... All freshly ground and steeped for at least 20 minutes. It's like eating a frozen pumpkin spice chai latte. Two of my favorite things! 

We made this ice cream on our trip to Sequim last month. But after we froze it we realized that we couldn't bring it home because it's a two hour trip back to Seattle including the ferry ride. So... we ate the whole batch in two days. Just kidding, we didn't really. But we made a pretty good dent in it! Next time we're in Sequim - hopefully around New Year's - we have dessert ready for us :)  ' 

// Pumpkin Pie Spice Ice Cream // makes about 2 pints
We made this ice cream with freshly ground spices and I highly recommend you do that too because they are so much better and more fragrant than pre-ground spices. It makes your whole kitchen smell like fall :) If you don't have a grinder your can use some elbow grease and pound the spices in a mortar and pestle until coarse. If that still doesn't sound like your thing you could use ground spices instead and reduce the amounts by half. I would still put them in some cheesecloth though. 

2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 nutmeg, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons loose black tea

2 large egg yolks
1 pint heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 inch knob ginger, sliced thin

1. In a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder, grind the cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and peppercorns until coarse. Spoon the spices plus the black tea into small cloth spice bags or tie up in fine mesh cheesecloth

2. In the top bowl of a double boiler, whisk the egg yolks until they are smooth. Heat the yolks over medium heat, whisking frequently, until they start to thicken and turn a deeper yellow - about 5 minutes. This can happen really quickly, so be watchful! Slowly add the heavy cream and milk and whisk until the yolks are fully incorporated. Add the sugars and continue to cook until sugar is completely melted. Stir in vanilla, ginger, and spice bags. Remove ice cream base from double boiler and let stand for 20 minutes.

3. After 30 minutes, remove ginger and spice bags (or strain in fine mesh strainer) and transfer ice cream base to fridge.  Let cool completely

4. Pour base into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions