Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A TASTE OF WHAT'S TO COME {the book + a video + a recipe}

Guess what arrived on our doorstep? My book.

I'm staggered with gratitude.

It's still another month until the book hits stores, but I need to share some of it with you. I really can't wait any longer!

Over the coming weeks, I thought it would be fun to share little tidbits from the book - a taste of what's to come. Each post, I'll excerpt a recipe from the book, and this time I also wanted to share a little cookbook trailer, made by my friend Mark Kohr. Emit Bloch was kind enough to do the music. Thank you Mark and Emit for your generosity!

Late Saturday night, we got home from Greece, one of our family's favorite spots on earth. The trip didn't disappoint. The Aegean was as vibrant blue as ever, our rocky little beach was still covered with stones of every color, the people were beyond welcoming, and our little island, Folegandros was as sleepy, charming and restorative as it's every been.

succulent lamb chops nestled in fresh fig leaves 
+ lemon cucumber tzatziki

This recipe is inspired as much by smell as by taste. Within minutes of placing the lamb in the hot oven, your kitchen will be filled with the earthy aroma of baking fig leaves. This scent instantly transports me to the Greek islands, where arid hills are dotted with fig trees warmed by the blazing Mediterranean sun. Maybe it’s my Greek heritage, but the wild perfume of roasting fig leaves is magic to me.

Fresh fig leaves may not be the easiest things to find outside of California, but rest assured that this recipe is totally delectable without them. Follow all directions below, and when it comes to finishing the chops in the oven, just place the lamb directly in a baking dish or ovenproof skillet. You may miss out on the scent of baking fig leaves, but you’ll still be rewarded with the taste of succulent chops.

My kids claim that they don’t even like lamb, yet they devour chops prepared this way!

Marinate your lamb, and make your tzatziki, a few hours before you want to cook.

Marinade + Lamb:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds double-thick rib lamb chops (2 ribs per chop)
  • 1⁄2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1⁄2 cup peeled, seeded, and finely chopped cucumber
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
  • 1–2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • A dozen fresh mint leaves or dill fronds, chopped
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For cooking and serving:
  • 4–6 fresh fig leaves (optional)
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges
At least 2 hours before serving, assemble your marinade by combining the olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, and garlic. Place the lamb in a glass container and coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate. One hour before cooking, remove lamb from the fridge to allow meat to return to room temp.

Also try to make the tzatziki ahead of time: In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, chopped herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce chill in your fridge. Tzatziki only gets better as the flavors mingle.

When you’re ready to cook your lamb, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place a large cast-iron skillet on the stove top over medium-high heat. When the pan is nice and hot but not quite smoking, brown all sides of the chops, 4 to 5 minutes per side. (I don’t find it necessary to add any additional oil to the pan for browning, as some oil from the marinade will still be clinging to the chops.) To ensure a good sear, take care not to crowd the meat during this phase; brown the chops in batches if necessary.

Line a shallow baking dish with fig leaves, if you have them. Nestle the seared chops in the leaves. Place the baking dish in the hot oven to finish cooking the lamb. In minutes, your kitchen will be filled with the aroma of roasting fig leaves. Depending on the thickness of your chops, they may be
done after only a few minutes in the oven, and shouldn’t need more than 15 minutes. I have come to rely on touch testing my meat for doneness. There is that feeling of just the right give when meat is medium-rare. If you trust your fingers, go for it. Also feel free to use a meat thermometer: The chops will be juicy medium-rare when the internal temp reads 130° to 135°F. Let the chops rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Season the chops with flaky sea salt and generous grinds from the pepper mill. Serve the lamb in the baking dish with the fig leaves still underneath. Toss some lemon wedges into the dish so that everyone can squeeze the juice over the chops. Pass tzatziki around the table, and feel free to scoop it right onto the chops if you wish.

serves 3 or 4

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


When Vibrant Food arrived in my mailbox a few weeks back I did a little jig. San Francisco writer and photographer Kimberley Hasselbrink has become a buddy of mine over the past couple of years - we've both been writing and shooting our first cookbooks, riding that roller coaster at the same time, and now here she is with her book in print. For real.

Kimberley's book is gorgeous. It's packed with stunning photographs and recipes with great flavor combos all organized by season, just the kind of food I like to cook. I got my copy of Vibrant Food right before we left for Greece. (Yes, I'm back in Greece with P, the kids, and my mom soaking up sun and family time before my own book hits stores August 19th.) I didn't have nearly enough time before we left to really dive in, play, and cook from Kimberley's book the way I wanted to, but I did get a chance to make her poached apricots a couple of times before we hit the road.

If you're an apricot fan, you like that tangy-sweet thing these beauties have going for them. Surprisingly, I've found that the tartness only intensifies when the fruit is cooked, so I like pairing the poached apricots with vanilla ice cream. The creamy sweetness of the ice cream mixes with the silky tartness of the apricot (flavored with just a hint of rose water, cardamom, and honey) in a really nice way. One of my favorite things about this recipe is the way the texture of apricot really changes during poaching... the fruit becomes tender and velvety.

Happy Summer everyone!

INGREDIENTS slightly adapted from Kimberley Hasselbrink's Vibrant Food
printable recipe
  • 8 ripe, but firm, apricots
  • 2 cups tap water
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon rose water (if you're not a fan of rose water you can leave it out)
  • optional: vanilla ice cream
Slice apricots in half and discard the pits. Set aside.

Bring water and honey to a boil in a medium saucepan (large enough to hold the apricots). Whisk occasionally to integrate the honey as it melts. When the liquid comes to a boil, add cardamom and rosewater. Whisk again to blend all ingredients, then add apricots to the poaching liquid. Simmer the fruit for 3-6 minutes, keeping in mind that a riper apricot will need less poaching time.

Use a slotted spoon to remove apricots from the pan. Set aside and simmer the poaching liquid until it reduces by half into a lovely syrup.

Serve apricots with vanilla ice cream with a drizzling of syrup. Easy and delish!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Just in time for summer, my friend Dana gave me a copy of Sunset's: The Great Outdoors Cookbook and I have to tell you, I now have a serious jonzing to go camping, sleep under the stars, cook by the campfire... The book is packed with tasty recipes for campfire grilling, wood fire ovens, beach cookouts, and even a Caja China. So much inspiration! I'm buying a bunch of copies of this book to give to my grill-lovin' friends.

A camping trip isn't on our near horizon, but when I saw the recipe for Tamal Chicken Wings, I couldn't wait try it. The lemongrass, turmeric, garlic, cilantro rub called to me, and luckily the chicken was super easy to cook on our backyard grill (and I think this chicken would be great to feed a crowd). My whole family scarfed down the flavorful, juicy wings with smiles on their faces.

Have you cooked with turmeric before? It wasn't until we lived in Bali that I introduced this aromatic root into my kitchen. Turmeric, with its electric yellow hue, is a powerful anti-inflammatory as well as a delicious seasoning. Beware that turmeric stains like crazy: be careful of your cutting boards, food processor, anything that can quickly soak up the natural dye. Clean up turmeric immediately or you'll find a strong yellow tint is left in its wake.

INGREDIENTS lightly adapted from Sunset's The Great Outdoors Cookbook
printable recipe
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass (available at many Asian grocers); or 3 strips lemon zest chopped
  • 3/4 cup cilantro sprigs ( I strongly suggest using the stems as well as the leaves)
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 chicken wings

Make your rub at least a hour before cooking, if not the night before, so that the chicken has time to really soak up the flavors.

Trim lemongrass and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Place lemongrass in a food processor along with the cilantro, garlic, salt, turmeric, a few generous grinds of black pepper and olive oil. Blitz until the ingredients are integrated and chopped into a coarse blend. Rub mixture onto the chicken wings. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. (Remember to immediately clean turmeric from your cutting boards and food processor to avoid stains.)

When you're ready to cook, prep a medium heat grill (350-450 degrees). Using paper towels, rub the grates with cooking oil. Grill the chicken covered for 14-16 minutes flipping occasionally until the meat is no longer pink at the bone.

Eat right away!

serves 2-4 as a main, 8 as an appetizer

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