Friday, August 27, 2010

the sated palate chop salad

My dad and I have a difference of opinion regarding the makings of a chop salad.  I hold firmly to the belief that it is a type of salad with specific components.  Dad insists that any salad with chopped ingredients is essentially a chop.  In my book, it’s a chop if it has some semblance of salami, aged Italian cheese, basil, garbanzo beans, tomato and chicken or turkey.  Dad is adamant that he’s been making this salad for years, minus the basil and garbanzos, throw in some bacon and bleu cheese.  Sounds like a Cobb to me, Dad.

It was love at first bite when I tasted the chop salad at Palomino, shortly after moving to Seattle in the late 90’s.  Their take on the veritable chop was a mainstay of my diet when I lived and worked downtown.  With an artful blend of julienned basil and romaine, it defied the iceberg stigma, which at the time was sadly prevalent.  Crisp greens were tossed with diced aged provolone, zingy wine salami, pert garbanzos, finely chopped tomato and smoky bits of turkey, finished with a splash of vinaigrette and freshly ground pepper. It provided four of the five food groups and a welcome departure from the humdrum sandwich routine.

A few years ago, I happened upon another chop salad:  The Park Chop, at Volunteer Park Cafe.  Their rendition had virtually identical components but was different… better.  A chop salad for the 21st century, you might say.  Local, organic greens were studded with strips of crispy salami, halved juicy grape tomatoes, tiny chunks of sharp asiago, plump garbanzo beans, ribbons of fragrant basil and flecks of sweet red pepper, all dressed to perfection in balsamic vinaigrette.  I am fairly certain it came with roast chicken breast but I’m not entirely sure.  What I do know is how I instantly fell in love with that salad.

So what did they go and do?  They took it off the menu.  What did I do?  What could I do?  Rather than relinquish the salad as nothing but a distant memory, I made up my mind to recreate it.  I simply could not live without it.  The park chop took on a new life in my kitchen and from the get-go, it has been on a steady rotation.  In fact, dad even requests it by name.  

Accompanied by hunks of dense, chewy bread and a red blend such as Meditrina  from Dundee, OR, the chop is a meal unto itself.  It is also quite stellar alongside homemade pizza. 


the sated palate chop salad

serves 8


1 pound free range boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 pint organic cherry or grape tomatoes, red or tri-color
4 ounces dry salami, sliced in 1/4 inch strips
1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans (I prefer Eden or Westbrae)
4 roasted red or piquillo peppers, rinsed and finely diced
4 ounces diced asiago cheese (preferably imported)
1 large bunch basil, cut in 1/8” ribbons
10 ounces spring mix or mixed greens, rinsed well
4 teaspoons light olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt such as maldon

balsamic vinaigrette
2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic, optional 
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar 
1/2 teaspoon Maldon or other coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


There are two ways to prepare this salad.  One way is to toss everything together in a single bowl.  The other method involves arranging all the ingredients on a platter and serving the greens naked so that each person selects their individual toppings.  The latter works especially well for children.

In a large skillet, on medium-high, toss strips of salami, until brown and slightly crispy around the edges.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.  Set aside pan with drippings. 

Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry.  Trim any excess fat, or connective tissue.  Slice meat on the diagonal, in slightly larger than bite-sized pieces.  Drizzle evenly with 2 teaspoons light olive and toss to coat.  Sprinkle sea salt over chicken, rubbing salt into the meat.  In the skillet used for salami, heat drippings on medium-high with remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil.  Once hot, add chicken in a single layer or cook in two batches.  Brown for 3 minutes on one side or until golden brown.  Flip and turn heat to medium low, cooking for 2-3 additional minutes, until meat is cooked through.  Cut into the thickest piece to be sure the center is no longer pink.  When cut, juices should run clear.  Transfer to plate and set aside.

For a crowd, it works best to combine all ingredients in a large bowl just before serving.  Dress with balsamic vinaigrette, to lightly coat but not saturate greens and toss to combine.  Transfer to a serving bowl.  For the gussied up version, artfully arrange the ingredients on a platter.  Serve with mixed greens and a small carafe of vinaigrette.

balsamic vinaigrette
Beat balsamic vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper, until sugar and salt are dissolved.  Add olive oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.  Taste and adjust as desired. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

under the apple tree

It was largely decided by an overgrown apple tree.   One warm spring day, I encountered said tree behind a 1920’s craftsman whose four walls and shingled roof would become our first home.  Brimming with period details, the charming house could not surpass the allure of gossamer petals fluttering on a soft, sweet breeze.  Dappled light cast pointillist impressions as sun filtered through snowy white blossoms.  As I stood beneath the tree, the dreamy scene and promise of fruit beckoned me, my bright eyed optimism failing to conceal the sense of homecoming I felt.

No longer was I standing behind a quaint old house with loads of potential.  I was lost in a reverie of bygone days, replete with visions of Anne Shirley and Matthew Cuthbert atop horse drawn carriage, meandering along a winding dirt lane lined with blossoming apple trees, delicate blooms forming a canopy overhead.  Anne disagrees when Matthew describes the stretch of road as ‘The Avenue’, fervently proclaiming that she “shall always call it the White Way of Delight’.”  In other words, I was a goner.

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s ‘Anne of Green Gables’ imparted an indelible impression on my youth, so taken was I with descriptions of landscape and flora vastly unlike those found on my tiny Alaskan island.  Anne’s story unfolds on Prince Edward Island, in Nova Scotia, a world apart from my childhood home in Sitka, Alaska, on the opposite coast of North America

When elusive sunlight directed its rays upon the oft gray skies of my island home, the whole family would sometimes hop in the car for a scenic drive about town.  Dad did his best to venture down the road less traveled; not an easy task on an island spanning 14 miles of paved road from one end to the other.  On one such drive, we happened upon a winding lane leading to a quaint old house with an apple tree gracing the front yard.  This was a remarkable discovery for,  as far as we knew, it was the only apple tree in town.  Mom said, “Park the car!  I want to get out and look at the tree.”  We stretched our legs, said ‘hello’ to the owners of the house and gazed in wonder at that solitary tree. 

Two decades later, I stood under another apple tree behind the old house that would become our new home.  The tree produced a substantial showing of fruit that year; but to our dismay, most of the apples were located in far off branches and would sail down with a thump on the roof of our house before tumbling to the ground, unfit for consumption.  Furthermore, resident squirrels took to the tree, nibbling away without bothering to pluck the fruit from the branch.  This resulted in a host of inedible, half eaten apples, much like the ones I brought home the year I was eight and won the apple bobbing competition at a Halloween party.  Thirteen red delicious apples went into the crisper, each bearing bite-sized evidence of my victory.

When the apples in our tree commence their annual descent, our backyard resembles a fruit-strewn battlefield, littered with the bruised and battered remains of a harvest that never was.  As the apples grow, so does the threat of being clocked by one as it comes plummeting to the ground.  My daughter, Annabelle, has devised the perfect solution.  Rather than being barred from the backyard for the duration of apple season, she proudly dons her bicycle helmet as protection.IMG_2023
After four years surrendering our harvest to a handful of hungry squirrels, it was time for an intervention.  My good and decent husband took to our ladder like Jack to a beanstalk, gathering as many unscathed apples as he could find.  When he could spot no more, he would shake the branch, sending a shower of apples to the grass below.  Annabelle, waiting in the wings with her helmet securely fastened, would then scamper across the lawn to retrieve the newly fallen fruit. 

The remainder of the day was a blur of culinary activity; first, homemade applesauce and apple pie and later, oven dried apples and whole grain apple scones.  A familiar scent of warm apples wafted from the kitchen stove, filling every room of our house with their sweet fragrance.

The following four recipes work well with most apples. Our tree produces tart apples whose flavor and texture are a cross between Granny Smith and Pink Lady.   Farmer’s markets are a wonderful place to find the more obscure varieties. 

bourbon apple pie

if all the world were apple pie…


Prone to embellishing my pies with fanciful leaves and cutouts, I opted for the rustic look with this one.  The crust, based on a recipe from the ‘Tartine’ cookbook, has an overall texture and flakiness reminiscent of puff pastry.  It would work equally well as the base for a tart or fruit galette.  Brown sugar caramelizes with the bourbon, lending a butterscotchy quality, while crystallized ginger perfumes the apples with delicate spiciness.   

bourbon apple pie

yields 8 servings


1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup very cold water
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
10 tablespoons butter


2 - 3 pounds tart apples such as granny smith, peeled, cut in 1/2” pieces
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice 
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons bourbon (I prefer Maker’s Mark)
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into small pieces



Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, combine water and salt, to dissolve.  Place bowl in refrigerator until needed. 
Place flour in mixing bowl.  Cut butter into 1 inch pieces and scatter over the flour.  Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pea-sized pieces.  Drizzle in chilled salt water, gently tossing with a fork until a shaggy dough begins to form.  Mix gently until dough comes together but is not entirely smooth.  Bits of butter should be visible throughout the dough.
On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a 1 inch disk.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or overnight.
Divide chilled dough in two and place half the dough on a floured surface.  Rewrap the other half and return to refrigerator until ready to use.  Roll dough to 1/8 inch thick, occasionally lifting as you go to prevent sticking.  Use additional flour, as needed.  Carefully transfer the round to a 9-inch pie dish.  Using kitchen shears, remove excess dough leaving a 2 inch overhang.  Cover in plastic wrap and chill while readying the filling.

Place filling ingredients, excluding butter, in a bowl and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon as needed.  Set aside.

Roll out the second half of the dough on a lightly floured surface, to 1/8” thickness.  Pour filling into the crust.  Dot with butter.  Make a hole or ‘x’ in the center of the top crust and carefully place dough over the apples.  Using kitchen shears, remove excess dough, leaving a two inch overhang.  Crimp or flute edges according to preference.  Use dough scraps to decorate the crust or keep it rustic, as I did.

Place pie on a rimmed, foil-lined baking sheet.  Brush crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for about one hour, until golden brown and bubbly.  Tent with foil if crust browns too quickly.  Pie must set for approximately 1 hour.  Serve warm with good quality vanilla ice cream.

Crust adapted from the recipe for ‘flaky tart dough’ in the ‘Tartine’ cookbook by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson.

homemade applesauce

when life hands you apples…


Applesauce is a food which, for many of us, loses its appeal once we cut our first molars.  Most grocery store offerings are bland and unpalatable.  Even as a baby, my daughter Annabelle turned up her nose when a spoonful of the stuff headed in her direction. 

My mom makes an annual batch of applesauce which she freezes and enjoys throughout the winter months.  Unlike the store bought variety, hers is truly delicious.  When mom brought out the good stuff, I tried to warn her that Annabelle didn’t care for it, wouldn’t eat it… but grandmas are masters of finagling results in ways we parents are too tired or too politically correct to subscribe to.  After dinner, she spooned dainty portions into delicate pink dishes with scalloped edges.  Annabelle readily succumbed to the triple threat:  Pretty. Pink. Dessert.  Needless to say, she was converted.  Presentation motivated the first bite.  Grammy’s applesauce was responsible for the rest. 

The following recipe is a snap to make.  The apples are mashed rather than pureed, lending a rustic texture.  A touch of brown sugar rounds out the tart apples while crystallized ginger imparts a nuance of spicy warmth.

Store bought applesauce?  Yucky!  Homemade applesauce?  Yummy! 


homemade applesauce

yields approximately three cups


3 lbs apples, peeled, cored and cut in 3/4” chunks
1 cup water
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped


In a heavy bottomed pot, on medium heat, combine all ingredients.  Stir occasionally until the mixture begins to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the apples are quite tender.  Mash to preferred consistency with a potato masher or fork.  Continue simmering until most of the liquid evaporates.  Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes.  Serve cool or at room temperature.

Keeps for up to three days, refrigerated.  Freezes well.

oven dried apples


When I beseeched my husband to scale our tallest ladder in pursuit of the forbidden fruit, it was with no notion of what his valiant efforts would yield.  It is one solitary tree, after all.  Ten pounds of apples later, I had my answer. 

It may not sound like much but ten pounds is a lot of apples.  All of a sudden, I was thrust into apple mode, peeling, coring and slicing away.  It seemed as though I would never reach the bottom of the bowl… 

Slowly but surely, the mountain of apples began to shrink but now I was faced with a new problem:  What could I possibly do with all those apples?!

Apple sauce was a no brainer; as was apple pie.  That took care of more than half which meant there were still a fair amount of apples to contend with.  I’d been meaning to try out a whole grain scone recipe that called for dried apples.  That gave me an idea.  Dried apples were the perfect solution.  A little online research revealed I could dry them in my oven, no dehydrator required. 

The oven method was a success.  They turned out just as dried apples should- tart, sweet and slightly chewy.  They were perfect in the scones and my daughter went gaga for them. 

The consensus: Oven dried apples are good to eat, simple to make and worth the effort. 

oven dried apples

yields approximately 2 cups


4-5 lbs apples
2 lemons or 1/2 cup lemon juice


Preheat oven to 140 - 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wash apples, making sure to remove any stickers.  Remove bruised spots from apples.  Peel skin or leave it on, according to preference.  Core the apples and slice them about 1/4 inch thick.  Try to keep the slices similar in thickness to insure even drying time. 

To diminish browning, soak apples for 10 minutes in bowl of cold water and lemon juice. 
Place two cooling racks in two large rimmed cookie sheets.  Arrange apple slices on racks.  It is possible to dry apples without the racks but it will be necessary to occasionally turn the apples to expose the other side. Transfer apples to oven, on two shelves.  Leave oven door slightly ajar to prevent condensation which slows the drying time. 

Apples should dry in approximately 10 hours, possibly longer.  They will be flexible, not brittle, with the consistency of a raisin.  If they feel sticky or if the center is still watery, they need more time.  For crispier apples, leave them in a little longer.
Cool apples to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before storing.  When stored properly, dried apples will keep for six to nine months.

For more information, visit

whole grain scones with oats and apples


These wholesome scones are heavenly straight from the oven with a smear of sweet butter.  Their delicate crumb makes them best suited for same day consumption.  Interestingly, the recipe calls for dried apples rather than fresh ones resulting in a sweeter, more concentrated apple flavor.  Perfect for breakfast or any time.

whole grain scones with oats and apples

yields 12 scones


1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup oat flour (substitute whole wheat pastry flour, if needed)
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
3/4 cup chilled, unsalted butter, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup dried apples, cut in 1/4 inch pieces 
3/4 cup chilled buttermilk plus additional for glaze
1 large egg



Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl, whisking to blend.  With a pastry blender or the back of a fork, cut cold butter into the dry mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Gently stir in the dried apples.

Whisk buttermilk and egg in small bowl.  Add buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients in a slow, steady stream, tossing with a fork until the wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated and a dough has formed.  Do not over mix.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface.  Knead the dough gently, two or three times.  Divide the dough in half.  With floured hands, pat each half into a 6-inch round, about 3/4 inch thick.  Cut the rounds into 6 wedges.

Place the scones 1 inch apart on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment.  Brush each wedge with buttermilk*.  Bake the scones for 20 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. 

Serve warm.


*These scones freeze exceptionally well.  After glazing, place unbaked scones in a pan or baking dish with sides and cover well with plastic wrap.  Once frozen, scones can be transferred to an airtight container and frozen for up to one month.  Increase baking time by 5 – 10 minutes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

much ado about burrata

In recent months, a number of food publications have put the spotlight on Burrata, an artisanal Italian cheese handmade in the style of buffalo mozzarella.  Burrata, which translates to ‘buttery’ in Italian, differs from traditional buffalo mozzarella in that the center is filled with bits of mozzarella and cream just before the ball is sealed. 

After reading a handful of articles touting its virtues, I decided to find out what all the fuss was about.  Fortunately, the trend had already made its debut at DeLaurenti, an Italian import store in the Pike Place Market with an extensive selection of imported and domestic cheese.    Their Burrata came prepackaged in a powder blue tub with ‘Angelo & Franco’ imprinted on the lid.  I left with the newly acquired cheese in my market tote and headed around the corner to Frank’s Produce where I selected a posy of fragrant basil and a good-sized Brandywine heirloom tomato, so ripe its flesh was nearly bursting through the skin.

At home, I removed one ball of Burrata from the container and gave it a gentle poke to get a sense of how much liquid was inside.  It quivered slightly but still had some give.  Before cutting it open, I sliced the tomato and prepared a balsamic reduction by cooking down balsamic vinegar until it reduced to a sweet, musky syrup.  Once I took a knife to the cheese, I was relieved to find it soft but not the puddle of cream I had anticipated.  Bits of mozzarella mixed in with the cream kept the insides relatively intact. 

For serving, I gingerly placed unkempt slices of Burrata atop each round of deep red tomato, added basil confetti and finished with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and a sprinkle of flaky Maldon sea salt.  The tomatoes were served as an appetizer, accompanied by slices of crusty baguette.  We ate with our hands, tomato juices dripping from our chins and fingers, every mouthful singing of summer.

Sun-kissed tomatoes, fresh creamy mozzarella, vibrant basil, heady vinegar and crunchy flakes of sea salt united in an intoxicating symphony of flavor and texture.

Messy?  Guaranteed.  Picture perfect?  Not particularly.  Worth trying?  Absolutely.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

midsummer romp at the queen anne farmers market

blue sunglasses.  blue dress.  blueberries.

One warm summer’s evening, my daughter Annabelle and I visited the Queen Anne Farmers Market,  nestled just off Queen Anne Avenue, on West Crockett Street.  Held on Thursdays, from May through October, this quaint market features a wealth of local, organic produce, a handful of bakeries and a number of niche food vendors.  

We perused rows of stalls spilling over with luscious berries, ripe juicy stone fruit, crisp vibrant greens, and a smattering of cheese purveyors and local bakeries offering crusty loaves of bread and buttery baked goods.  The backdrop was decidedly immaculate with nary a stray napkin or wilted leaf of arugula to be found.  In its entirety, the market graces one block and an adjacent lot where temptation runs deep amongst a myriad of prepared foods ranging from clay oven pizza to do-it-yourself bicycle powered smoothies.  

After divvying up a pint of sweet, plump, local blueberries, we indulged in yeasty soft pretzel knots and deep chocolate whisky cake  from Columbia City Bakery, sampled surprisingly tasty gluten-free caprese pizza at a cooking demonstration and caught the tail end of a live Spilled Milk podcast featuring local authors, Matthew Amster-Burton and Molly Wizenberg. 
Round about six, the street was buzzing with a hungry dinner crowd, comprised primarily of families and empty nesters.  Due to prior dinner plans, we could only scope out the scene in anticipation of future visits. We paused to gawk at a quirky food truck, artfully disguised as a larger than life aluminum pig, with massive snout protruding from the grate and two giant ears pointing skyward.  Emblazoned on one side were the words,  ‘Maximus Minimus’, a reference to their housemade hot and mild barbeque sauces.  A chalkboard menu boasted all-natural pulled pork sandwiches, slaws and slices of a sweet treat dubbed sugar high pie. 

Annabelle set her sights on Parfait, a tres chic ice cream truck with a tempting array of flavors featuring locally sourced, organic ingredients.  If the steady line of ice cream hopefuls was any indication, Parfait is indeed very, very good.  With their shop on wheels making its rounds throughout the city, it won’t be long before our opinion is an educated one.

For us, the trek to Queen Anne proved a tad ambitious, particularly on a weekday afternoon.   Neighborhood farmers markets are best suited to those living nearby.  Traffic aside, it was worth the effort to witness another glowing example of our city’s growing appreciation for local, organic food and farming.

While Queen Anne may not be on your radar, most cities have one or more markets to chose from…  Shopping your local farmers market is a rewarding way to put your money where your mouth is.

Monday, August 2, 2010

fresh peas please

One fine summer day, I turned to my six year old and asked, “Annabelle, how would you like to help prepare dinner, tonight?  We can chose the menu together, shop for ingredients in the (Pike Place) market, say ‘hello’ to our friends at Frank’s (Produce), then head home and cook.”

“I would love to,” she said earnestly, “but Mommy, you decide what we’re having.”  My daughter knows me so well. 

Rather than wing it entirely, I sought inspiration from one of my favorite cookbooks, ‘Jamie at Home – Cook Your Way to the Good Life’ by Jamie Oliver.  The book’s emphasis on eating in season makes perfect sense and recipes are organized accordingly.  Thumbing through the summer section, I landed squarely in the pea section.  A mouthwatering photo showcased fresh English peas and fava beans mashed together with mint and pecorino cheese, served on toast, bruschetta-style.  This gave me an idea.  I could create an entire menu with fresh peas as the recurring theme.  “How about fresh peas for dinner?” I asked Annabelle.

Okay.” she answered, her enthusiasm waning, “There’s just one problem: I don’t like peas.” 

“Yes you do...  You love peas.  The fresh ones are sweet and crunchy and pop in your mouth.  They come in the pod and you can shell them for me.  Would you like to be my pea sheller?”


It was settled.  We would kick off our pea extravaganza with fresh pea and fava bruschetta followed by a salad of arugula, chevre and fresh peas, and conclude with pasta and meatballs tossed with tomato basil sauce and finished with a generous sprinkling of sweet, fresh peas. 

On the subject of peas, it goes without saying, the petite, green legumes tend to get a bad rap.  Morons are ‘pea-brained’, fog is ‘pea soup’, and bad 70’s decor is oft described as ‘pea green’; not to mention the cultural stigma-  ‘Eat your peas’ was the commonly uttered mother rant long before broccoli came into fashion.  For most of us, peas originate in the freezer section of local supermarkets.  Remnants of 1950’s cuisine, they are the rogue veggie in tuna casserole, the likely sidekick alongside roast beef and mashed potatoes, the last man standing on the dinner plates of our youth. 

My twin uncles were masters of pea avoidance.  As kids, they devised a method of discreetly stockpiling their designated portions in the far recesses of their cheeks, somehow allowing the rest of the meal to pass on through.  After dinner, they casually excused themselves to the bathroom where they would spew a cache of peas into the toilet, machine gun style.   This legendary talent was revered by my brother and I, much to the chagrin of our well-meaning, pea pushing parents.

Despite her admonition to the contrary, Annabelle truly loves peas.  She eats them alongside paneer in Indian curry, slurps them in split pea soup laced with bits of ham and carrot and, given the opportunity, would endlessly devour sweet, fresh peas until, much like the girl turned blueberry in Charlie and the Chocolate factory, I fear I would have a pea for a daughter.  

In the market, Annabelle eagerly assisted Jose, at Frank’s Produce, filling one sack with peas and another with fava beans. Next, we added three bulbs of spring garlic with soft purple streaks, two sunny lemons and one bunch each of piney scented marjoram, fragrant sweet basil, invigorating mint and peppery local arugula. 

Produce in hand, we made our way to DeLaurenti where we filled our basket with a chewy ciabatta-style baguette from Macrina Bakery, mild Italian sausages from Uli’s and four cheeses, including lemony pecorino and fresh buffalo mozzarella for bruschetta, tangy chevre for the salad and a robust parmesan reggiano for finishing the pasta.

At home, Annabelle settled on the back stoop with a colander full of fresh peas and two empty bowls; one for shelled peas, the other for shells.  The evening air was deliciously warm as sun filtered through the leaves of our apple tree, creating dancing shadows on the green grass below.  Annabelle glanced over her shoulder to where I stood in the kitchen. “Mommy,” she said,  “this could be a scene from an old movie.”  She was right.  The notion of shelling peas rarely enters the vernacular of our busy lives, yet it is surprisingly pleasurable work with the promise of fresh, sweet peas as reward.

The meal was summer defined.  Fava beans and English peas were beautifully balanced with fresh mint and pecorino cheese.  Spread atop bruschetta with buffalo mozzarella and mint leaves, it was a visual treat as well as an edible one.  Arugula leaves dotted with crumbled chevre and fresh peas were a juxtaposition of texture and color.  A nest of pasta hosted simple red sauce, savory meatballs, shaved parmesan and pops of green from last minute additions of basil and sweet, fresh peas.  Best of all, each and every pea and fava bean was shelled by the lovely and talented Annabelle Claire.

When food-adoring friends came for dinner, I reprised the fresh pea theme to rave reviews.  The second time around, taking the local organic route with most ingredients gathered at the Ballard Farmers Market.  In addition, I formulated my own meatball recipe rather than using meat from good quality sausages, as the original recipe suggests.  Either works but the homemade version is worth the additional effort. 

Each of the following three recipes stand alone and do not hinge on the success of the others.  All three are meant to highlight summer’s produce and are best when made in season.

smashed fresh pea and fava bean bruschetta


yields 4 – 6 servings


1 pound English peas in the pods
1-1/2 pounds fava beans in the pods
1 small bunch fresh mint, leaves picked
Maldon sea salt and fresh ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces fresh pecorino, such as Toscano Stagianato
12 – 1/2” slices good quality, chewy baguette
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled, cut in half
1 large ball buffalo mozzarella
1 handful pea shoots, if available



Shell peas and fava beans into separate bowls.  In a small saucepan with a steamer basket, blanch fava beans for about three minutes.  Rinse in cold water.  Pinch one end to remove the bright green bean from its pale outer shell.  Set aside.  Finely grate pecorino cheese.  Tear mozzarella ball into 12 semi-flat ‘slices’ as opposed to chunks.  Set cheeses aside.

Using a good size mortar and pestle or a shallow baking dish and a potato masher, bash the peas with half the mint leaves and a pinch of sea salt.  Add the fava beans a few at a time and crush to a thick green paste.

Add a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for a lovely consistency and to really bring it all together.  Mix in grated pecorino and two thirds of the lemon juice.  At this point, taste the mixture.  You want to balance the richness of the pecorino and olive oil with the freshness of the peas, beans and mint. Season with more salt and pepper, as needed.

Place the 12 baguette slices on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment or aluminum foil.  Broil on low, 2-3 minutes on each side.  While still hot, rub each slice with a cut half of the garlic clove. 

Cover each slice of baguette with a thick layer of paste, not too evenly, to keep the presentation a bit rustic.  Top the pea mixture with a piece of buffalo mozzarella.  Mound a few pea shoots and some mint leaves atop each bruschetta.  Place on serving platter and drizzle with a mixture of remaining 1/3 lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Best served immediately with a glass of prosecco or pinot grigio.  Do not make more than an hour in advance. 

This mixture would work well tossed with pasta, pesto-style, or try adding a dollop atop grilled or broiled white fish.

Recipe adapted from ‘Jamie at Home – Cook Your Way to the Good Life’ by Jamie Oliver.

arugula salad with chevre, fresh peas and lemon


yields 4 servings


8 oz. arugula, baby or regular
1/2 pound fresh English peas in pods
Juice of 1/2 lemon or about 1 tablespoon
3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. crumbled chevre, such as Laura Chenel
sea salt and fresh ground pepper



Wash arugula carefully to remove any dirt or sand.  Gently pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.  Discard any wilted leaves.  Place in a bowl.  Shell peas.  Taste a pea or two.  If the peas are too starchy or not particularly sweet, blanch in a pot of boiling water and rinse with cold water.  Add half of the peas to the arugula.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  Pour dressing over arugula and peas, tossing lightly, to combine.  Place salad on four small plates and sprinkle each with crumbled chevre and remaining peas.  Finish with a touch of fresh ground pepper.

Lovely with a crisp white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc.

spaghetti with simple tomato basil sauce, meatballs and fresh peas


yields 4 servings


olive oil 
sea salt
2/3 pound fresh peas in pods
1 pound spaghetti (such as barilla plus)
a block of parmesan reggiano, for serving


1/2 bunch marjoram, leaves picked, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
3/4 cup good quality fine bread crumbs*
1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan reggiano
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound ground sausage
1/2 pound ground beef

tomato basil sauce

olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small bunch fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
1 – 28 oz. can good quality plum tomatoes
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
good quality balsamic vinegar



Shell peas and set aside.

*For bread crumbs, tear half a crusty baguette (preferably day old) into small pieces and pulse until fine in a food processor.  Place in oven on low broil for 2 – 5 minutes, stirring as needed, until evenly browned.  Voila.  Instant bread crumbs.

Combine first seven ingredients until well mixed.  With your hands, add ground beef and sausage to the mixture, breaking the meat into smaller chunks.  Claw at the meat rather than kneading it, being careful not to over mix as meat will easily become tough. 

Have a bowl of cold water nearby.  Dip hands in water before pinching off enough meat to gently form 1-1/2 inch balls.  Place meatballs on plate and set aside.

Place each meatball in the ‘cup’ of a cupcake tin, greased with olive oil.  Bake in the oven at 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until firm but not solid.  Cut into one meatball to be certain it is fully cooked.  This low-maintenance method eliminates the mess of cooking in the skillet and yields perfect meatballs with uniform color and shape.  For stovetop method, cook in two batches in a a large skillet with two glugs of olive oil, turning to brown evenly.  Once finished, transfer meatballs to a paper towel lined plate. 

At this point, place the spaghetti in a large pot of  boiling water and cook according to package directions, until al dente.

tomato sauce

Heat a medium saucepan and pour in a glug or two of olive oil.  Add sliced garlic and chopped basil stalks, stirring now and then until garlic begins to color.  Sprinkle 2/3 of the basil in the pan.  Add the tomatoes, sauce and all.  Bring to a simmer, breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.  Season to taste.  Add a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Stir and turn heat to medium-low to keep warm.

Warm meatballs in a large skillet over medium heat.  Divide pasta and meatballs between four plates or bowls.  Spoon over tomato sauce.  Sprinkle remaining basil and a handful of peas over each dish.  Finish with shaved parmesan.

Pairs well with a slightly sweet, fruit forward wine such as prosecco, rose or pinot grigio.

Recipe adapted from ‘Jamie at Home- Cook Your Way to the Good Life’ by Jamie Oliver.