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Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Perfect Grass-Fed Steak with Sauce Maison


This “house sauce” sounds fancy in French but it’s just a simple pan sauce that takes only 3 ingredients I usually have on hand: garlic, blue cheese, and cognac.

If you're planning a special dinner for New Year's Eve, this elegant dish would make a delicious main course. Start the meal with a seasonal soup, follow the steak with a big green salad, and finish it with a stunning dessert.

To make the perfect steak, start with good quality grass-fed meat. Season it with sea salt and freshly ground pepper 24 to 48 hours in advance and bring it to room temperature before you cook it. Tender cuts of meat like steak are best cooked quickly over high heat until rare or medium rare. (Avoid cooking meats at high temperatures for longer than necessary. Well done meats have been linked to several kinds of cancer.)

You’ll need a saturated fat for high-temperature cooking. I used rendered duck fat but you could use another rendered fat (leftover from a roast, for example) or ghee. You could also use butter, but take care not to burn the milk solids. Avoid using oils that are liquid at room temperature (like olive oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil) because high temperatures quickly damage fragile unsaturated fatty acids.

1 grass-fed strip loin steak, or other steak, about a pound, pre-seasoned and at room temperature
Sea salt
Ground peppercorn
Duck fat, lard, or butter
¼ cup cognac
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
1 clove garlic, grated

Add the fat to a stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium- high heat. Once the fat is melted and the skillet is hot, add the steak. Cook it on one side for 3 to 4 minutes, until browned and aromatic.

Turn it over and cook it until done, 3 to 4 minutes more for medium rare (depending on the thickness). Once it's cooked to perfection, remove the steak from the skillet, cover it loosely, and set it aside in a warm place.

Away from the stove, add the cognac to the skillet, then return it to the stove. Warm it over medium-low heat and use a whisk to incorporate any brown bits on the bottom of the pan into the sauce. Simmer until it has reduced by about half.

Add the blue cheese and grate in the garlic. Stir to combine everything thoroughly and cook for a few minutes more. Taste and make any necessary adjustments.

Slice the steak once it has rested for at least 10 minutes. Pour the sauce over the top or serve it on the side.

Serves 2.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dark Chocolate Clusters with Cranberries


These dark chocolate clusters are a special holiday treat. Full of cranberries and coconut, they add a festive touch to any occasion. You can make them in advance with just four ingredients, so they'll be ready whenever you want to serve them.

I finished them with a sprinkle of merlot sea salt, a gift from my good friend Dr. Patti Kim. You can substitute another salt, like Blood Orange Sea Salt or even plain coarse sea salt. Or add a pinch of salt to the melted chocolate when you mix them up and don't worry about garnishing them later. Or leave them unsalted.

If you're not a fan of coconut or have trouble finding it unsweetened, you can substitute raw walnuts, pecans, or cashews instead.

6 oz dark chocolate, 72 to 85% dark
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
Pinch merlot sea salt or other salt

Warm the chocolate in a glass or stainless steel bowl over a gently simmering water bath until just melted. Stir in the coconut and cranberries.

Divide the mixture among 12 mini-cups in a silicone mold.

Garnish them with sea salt and place them in the fridge for an hour.

Once the chocolate clusters have set, serve them or transfer them to an airtight glass container. Store the clusters in the fridge but take them out at least 20 minutes before serving to soften.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Black Bean Chili With Grass-Fed Ground Beef


Home-made chili is a nutritious and inexpensive dish. It's full of antioxidant-rich ingredients like tomatoes, black beans, and peppers, and my version also has cocoa powder and turmeric.

Turmeric isn't a traditional chili ingredient but because has so many healthy benefits, I add it to dishes whenever I can. In this recipe I use unsweetened cocoa powder as a spice, not a sweetener, because it adds a subtle richness and a bittersweet flavor that makes this chili pleasingly complex.

Grass-fed ground beef is a good source of protein and a healthy source of fat. As far as grass-fed meats go, ground versions are less expensive and more widely available than other cuts. Find grass-fed ground beef at your local farmer's market or Trader Joe's.

I season this dish with warm spices like cinnamon and smoked paprika, and I add some heat with fresh chili pepper and dried chipotle pepper. You can use any peppers you wish or omit them if you don't want the heat. (Most of the heat in fresh chili peppers lives in the seeds and membranes, so if you want a less spicy dish, just remove and discard them.) This recipe calls for several spices and if you're missing one or more, don't let that discourage you from making this dish. Use whatever you have.

Home-made chili is slow food. Remember to soak the beans the day before (24 hours in advance is ideal) and plan enough time to cook this stew for a couple of hours and then set it aside for a couple of hours before you serve it.

2 tbsp duck fat, organic butter, or cold-pressed olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 fresh chili pepper, minced
1 pound grass-fed ground beef at room temperature
1 dried chipotle pepper
1½ tsp ground cumin
1½ tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp ground coriander seed
½ tsp lime sea salt, or regular sea salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
24 ounces tomato purée (I buy it in glass jars)
1 cup dried black beans, pre-soaked for 24 hours
2 heaping tbsp unsweetened, unprocessed cocoa powder
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and stems chopped
Whole milk Greek yogurt to garnish

Soak the beans 24 hours in advance.

Warm the fat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Once it has melted, add the onions and fresh peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables become soft and start to pick up some brown color.

Crumble in the ground beef and continue cooking, breaking it up into small pieces, until the meat is fully cooked. Add the whole chipotle (you'll fish it out later), cumin, turmeric, paprika, ground pepper, oregano, coriander, sea salt and cinnamon. Stir to coat the meat and vegetables in spices and reduce the heat to low. Continue cooking until the meat starts to brown, about 5 more minutes.

Add a splash of tomato purée and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan and incorporate them into the sauce. Then stir in the rest of the tomatoes, the pre-soaked beans, and enough filtered water to cover everything generously.

Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently for 2 hours or more, until the beans are fully cooked and the meat is very tender. Taste the chili periodically while it cooks and make any necessary adjustments with the spices. If you're afraid it will get too spicy, pull out the chipotle whenever you wish. If you need more liquid during cooking, add boiling water.  If you have too much liquid, simmer it uncovered until it reduces to your desired consistency.

Once the chili is fully cooked, turn off the heat. Stir in the cocoa powder and garlic. Cover the chili and set it aside for at least 2 hours or until you're ready to eat.

To serve the chili, remove the chipotle if you haven't already, then re-heat it over low heat until hot. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Stir in half of the chopped cilantro, then ladle the chili into bowls. Top the chili with a dollop of yogurt if you wish, or serve it on the side, then garnish with the remaining cilantro.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wild Rice Soup with Chicken and Peppers


Warm and bright, delicious and nutritious, wild rice soup is the perfect dish for cold weather and rainy or snowy days. Pair it with a green salad and clementines or an ounce or two of dark chocolate for dessert. You'll forget about the weather in no time.

My version of creamy wild rice soup contains the usual suspects: onion, celery, carrots, wild rice, chicken broth, and cream. But it also contains red pepper, which adds color, vitamins, and antioxidants, and red pepper flakes, which contribute heat and anti-inflammatory effects. (You can use as much or as little as you like.)

I omited thickeners like flour and other starches, so it's light and creamy instead of thick and sticky, a refreshing change. Because I used bone broth, this soup is full of healthy fat, minerals in their most digestible form, and other nutrients that help our bodies maintain healthy bones, joints, and connective tissues. I used chicken stock and shredded chicken but feel free to substitute turkey broth and leftover turkey.

This recipe calls for dried Herbes de Provence during cooking and fresh parsley to garnish, but you can substitute any herbs you like. Try dried rosemary or sage, or fresh basil or thyme. If you can, soak the rice several hours before you cook it.

For a dairy-free version, add more broth in place of cream.

1 cup wild rice, pre-soaked
Sea salt
2 tbsp rendered duck fat (or substitute organic butter or extra virgin olive oil)
1 large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
1 large red pepper, chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes
Freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp Herbes de Provence or other dried herbs 
8 cups bone broth
3 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 cup  heavy cream (grass-fed or organic)
Several cups of shredded slow-roasted chicken (recipe follows)

Drain the wild rice and transfer it to a large sauce pan. Cover the rice with plenty of filtered water and add a generous pinch of salt.  Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer it until tender, about 45 minutes or more. The grains are fully cooked when they are tender and partially puffed open. They should not be fully open, mushy, or overcooked. Drain the rice and set it aside.

Melt the duck fat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot (cast iron or stainless steel) over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, red pepper, red pepper flakes, ground pepper, and dried herbs. Stir and cook until the vegetables have softened and started to brown. Add the broth and a generous pinch of sea salt. Stir the mixture and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer it until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes more.

Once the vegetables are tender, add the garlic, cream, and drained, cooked wild rice. Stir and continue cooking just until the mixture is hot. Do not boil the soup once you have added the cream. Taste it for seasoning and make any necessary adjustments.

There are three options for serving:

#1  Ladle the soup into bowls and top it with pulled slow-roasted chicken. Garnish the soup with fresh parsley and serve it immediately.

#2  Place the pulled chicken in the bottom of soup bowls and ladle the soup on top. Garnish the soup with fresh parsley and serve it immediately.

#3  Chop the chicken, stir it into the soup, then ladle it into bowls. Garnish the soup with fresh parsley and serve it immediately.


Slow-Roasted Chicken

This roasted chicken recipe couldn't be easier. You just need salt, pepper, and some sort of fat, plus a good quality pasture-raised chicken. (Unlike "free range chickens" you find in grocery stores, chickens that were raised on pasture contain fat that is good for you. Find them at your local farmers market.)

Like all roasted meats, whole chickens should be cooked low and slow. This prevents them from drying out (as long as you don't cook them too long) and prevents cancer-causing compounds from forming. (Heterocyclic amines or HCAs are formed when amino acids in meat are exposed to temperatures above 300 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Cancer Institute.)

I don't bother to truss my chicken, although you certainly could. Instead I make some slits in the skin and tuck the legs and wings inside to keep them close to the body, which ensures even cooking. This simple recipe doesn't call for stuffing the bird, but you could if you want, with onion, garlic, fresh herbs, and/or organic citrus fruit. 

1 pasture-raised chicken at room temperature
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Rendered duck fat, grass-fed butter, or extra virgin olive oil

Take your chicken out of the fridge up to two hours before you cook it to allow it to come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Smear a small amount of fat in the bottom of a baking pan and set it aside.

Dry the chicken, inside and out. Place the chicken on its back (breast-side up).  Locate the flaps of skin on the bottom of the bird and make a small slit in each one where the opposite leg makes contact. Push the end of right leg through the slit on the left, and the end of the left leg through the slit on the right.

Extend one wing and pull it down between the body and the thigh. Make a small slit in the skin there and push the end of the wing through to secure it.

Repeat on the other side.

Season the bird generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper on the front, back, and sides. Place it in the baking dish, breast-side up.

Transfer the chicken to the oven and reduce the temperature to 300F. Bake it until the skin is golden brown, the joints fall apart easily when prodded, and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads at least 180F. A 5-pound bird takes about two and a half hours.

Pull the chicken apart. Reserve the pan juices, bones, skin, and cartilage for bone broth.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Turkey Salad with Pomegranate and Pear


This colorful and healthy salad makes good use of leftover turkey. Serve small portions as an appetizer or larger portions as a main course.

I use my mandolin to make quick work of the pear (with a julienne blade), bell pepper and onion (with a thin slicing blade). You can use a sharp knife if you don't have a mandolin.

To the vinaigrette I added some of my dad's Choke Cherry Jelly, made in small batches using hand-picked Minnesota choke cherries. Since I don't eat a lot of bread, I use the jelly in sauces and vinaigrettes, like this one. You can use any all-fruit jelly or jam instead, made with cherries or another dark red fruit like blackberries.

1 to 2 cups chopped cooked turkey
1 pomegranate, arils removed
1 Asian pear, cut into julienne
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup parsley leaves plus more to garnish
Choke Cherry Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Toss together the turkey, pomegranate arils, pear, bell pepper, onion, and parsley leaves.

Stir in just enough Choke Cherry Vinaigrette to coat the ingredients lightly but thoroughly. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl or plate and garnish it with parsley leaves.

Choke Cherry Vinaigrette

I make this dressing with my dad's Choke Cherry Jelly, made in small batches using hand-picked Minnesota choke cherries. You can use any all-fruit jelly or jam instead, made with cherries or another dark red fruit like blackberries.

This recipe makes more than enough for a large bowl of salad. Double or triple the ingredients to make more if you want to keep some in the fridge for future use.

1 tbsp Deed's Choke Cherry Jelly (or other all-fruit jelly or jam)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon Mustard 
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth.
(An immersion blender works great for making bigger batches.)
Serve it immediately or store it in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid in the fridge for future use.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pumpkin Custard with Dark Chocolate Ganache


This sweet and savory seasonal custard is like pumpkin pie without the crust. It's healthier than pumpkin pie because it doesn't contain flour or sugar (just a small amount of honey).

It's not only gluten-free, but it's dairy-free too because I used coconut milk instead of cow's milk. The coconut milk and pasture-raised eggs add healthy fat and protein. Pumpkin adds fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, trace minerals like copper and manganese that are essential for healthy bones, and disease-fighting nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium. Warm spices like cinnamon and fresh ginger have medicinal effects too, like reducing inflammation in the body.

This custard can be served warm or at room temperature the day you make it, but I like to bake it ahead and chill it thoroughly. The combination of cool custard with warm dark chocolate ganache is really a winner.

If you prefer a more traditional garnish and don't need a dairy-free dessert, pecans and freshly whipped unsweetened cream work well too.

2 cups or 15 ounces unsweetened pumpkin purée
1 cup coconut milk (full fat)
2 eggs
¼ cup honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated ginger

¼ tsp cloves
Pinch nutmeg

Pinch cardamom
¼ tsp sea salt

2 ounces 72 to 85% dark chocolate
2 tbsp organic heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare enough boiling water to make a water bath.

In a mixing bowl combine the pumpkin, coconut milk, eggs, honey, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt. Mix untiil smooth.  Pour the mixture into 5 half-cup ramekins.

Place the ramekins in a baking dish and add enough hot water to come at least half way up the sides. Take care to not splash any water into the custard. Place them in the oven and bake them for one hour.

Remove the custards from the oven but don't remove them from the water bath. Allow them to cool inside the water bath and remove them once they come to room temperature.

Serve the pumpkin custards within two hours of taking them out of the oven or cover them and place them in the fridge.

Just before serving, make the ganache: Warm the chocolate in a double boiler until just melted, then stir in the heavy cream until fully blended. Spoon the ganache over the custards and serve immediately.

Alternative topping: Arrange raw pecans on top of each custard and add a dollop of freshly whipped unsweetened organic cream.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Home-Made Cranberry Chipotle Mustard


Making your own mustard is easy. There are only three basic ingredients: mustard seeds, vinegar, and salt. I always add turmeric for color and also because it contains potent antioxidant and anti-cancer compounds. And then I flavor it how ever I like.

This time I added dried cranberries and freshly ground chipotle (smoked jalapeno) pepper, making this mustard spicy, smokey, and just slightly sweet.

It's better to use unsweetened cranberries and a touch of honey, so you can control the sweetness, but if you can only find sweetened cranberries, omit the honey. If you like your mustard more warm than spicy, use freshly grated ginger or ground cinnamon instead of chipotle pepper.

You can serve this seasonal mustard with your Thanksgiving turkey, or on other occasions with chicken, duck, or pork. Vegetarians can serve it with grilled portabello mushroom caps, sautéed tempeh or tofu triangles.

1 cup red wine vinegar
½ cup dried mustard seeds, pre-soaked in the vinegar
½ cup dried unsweetened cranberries
1 tsp honey
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp blood orange sea salt or regular sea salt
⅛ tsp ground chipotle pepper

Add the vinegar and dry mustard seeds to an air-tight glass container 2 cups or larger (because the mustard seeds will swell as they absorb the vinegar). Set it aside for 24 to 48 hours.

Once the mustard seeds have fully re-hydrated, transfer them with the vinegar to a food processor. Add the cranberries and pulse until the cranberries are roughly chopped.

Add the honey, turmeric, salt, and chipotle. Pulse to incorporate the spices thoroughly, then set it aside for half an hour to allow the cranberries and spices to re-hydrate as well.

Process the mixture until smooth. Serve the cranberry mustard immediately or transfer it to an air-tight glass jar and store it in the fridge, labeled it with the contents and date. It will last for several weeks.

Yield: 1½ cups mustard

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pomegranate Pear Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette


Full of the fall harvest, this seasonal salad is a stunning dish. It's so simple to make that you could eat it every day, but it's also elegant enough to serve with Thanksgiving dinner. Either way, it's a colorful and healthy addition to any meal.

Pears give this dish a crisp and juicy texture while walnuts give it a creaminess. Antioxidant-rich pomegranate adds bright color and a sweet-tart flavor.

To give it some protein and healthy fat, I topped it with slices of raw milk cheddar ($5.49/lb at Trader Joe's).

You can substitute crumbled blue or goat cheese, or omit the cheese completely for a dairy-free vegan dish. You can also substitute any any pear in season for the Asian pear.

I used a mandolin to thinly slice the pear and red onion, but you could use a knife instead. Cut up the pear however you wish.

This recipe serves one or two people as a main course, or three to four people as a starter or side salad (pair it with soup or roasted chicken). You can stretch it by adding more salad greens, but you may need more vinaigrette.

Several cups of salad greens
1 Asian pear or other pear, thinly sliced, core removed
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 small pomegranate, arils removed
1/2 cup raw walnuts
4 thin slices of cheddar cheese
Apple Cider Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Arrange the salad greens on a plate (or plates). Arrange the pear slices on top of the greens. Scatter the red onion, walnuts, and pomegranate arils on top of the pears. Arrange the cheese slices on top of everything. Drizzle Apple Cider Vinaigrette over the top of the salad or serve it on the side.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
Sea salt
Freshly ground peppercorn

Whisk all of the ingredients together until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (vinegar, salt, pepper). Serve it immediately or store it in the fridge for future use.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Walnut Butter Cups


Looking for a healthy Halloween treat?

These Walnut Butter Cups are a healthy alternative to store-bought peanut butter cups. I used dates instead of sugar to add a little sweetness. The filling, made with walnuts, almond butter, and coconut, is is full of healthy fats. And instead of milk chocolate I used pure dark chocolate, an excellent source of antioxidants, so these walnut butter cups are low in sugar and dairy-free.

This recipe makes about 12 cups. If you want more, double or triple the recipe.

  • 6 oz dark chocolate, 72% to 85%
  • ¼ cup pitted and roughly chopped dates
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup raw walnut pieces
  • 1 to 2 tbsp raw almond butter


  1. Fill a medium saucepan with an inch or two of water and warm it over low heat. Place the dark chocolate inside a glass or stainless steel bowl. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan, cover, and heat until just melted. Do not overcook the chocolate.
  2. Add the dates, coconut, and walnuts to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Incorporate just enough almond butter for the mixture to stick together and form a ball. If this doesn't happen, add a little more almond butter, just enough to pull it together. Transfer the nut mixture to a bowl and set it aside.
  3. Once the chocolate has just melted, use a spoon to drip about a teaspoon of melted chocolate into the bottom of each cup. Shake the mold around gently to make sure that the bottom of each cup is completely coated with melted chocolate. Place it in the fridge to harden.
  4. Once the chocolate has hardened inside the mold, remove it from the fridge. Use a rounded teaspoon or mini-scoop to portion out a ball of the nut mixture. Roll it gently between your palms and form it into a ball. Place it inside one of the cups and gently press down to flatten it, filling up most of the cup yet leaving a gap around all edges for the chocolate. 
  5. Leave enough room for chocolate and don't over-fill the cups. If your nut ball is too big or too small, make any necessary adjustments. Repeat until you have filled all 12 cups.
  6. Spoon some melted chocolate over each cup, enough to cover the nut mixture and fill in the gap around the edges.
  7. Transfer the cups to the fridge to set for 2 hours or more. Take them out 20 minutes before you plan to serve them so they have time to soften a bit. Because chocolate melts at body temperature, handle them as little as possible to avoid leaving fingerprints behind.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mussels with Coconut Cilantro Sauce


This meal of mussels makes a simple, healthy, and inexpensive dinner. It takes just a few ingredients and cooks quickly, so you can throw it together for a busy weeknight dinner if you pick up fresh mussels on your way home.

I love cilantro with coconut milk, so that's the herb I chose to star in this dish. If you don't have cilantro of prefer another herb, feel free to substitute. Fresh basil is a very good alternative. If you don't have fresh lemongrass, you can skip it. This dish will still be a winner without it.

To steam the mussels, I used a French Bordeaux blanc (Les Caves Joseph, 2010, $4.99 at Trader Joe's) but you can use any white wine you like, as long as it's dry. If you don't have wine or prefer not to use it, you can substitute vegetable broth or seafood stock.

This dish serves 4 to 6 people as a starter or 2 to 3 as a main course.

1 bag of fresh mussels, about 2.5 pounds
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
1 small shallot, finely chopped,
1 green chili pepper, minced, to taste
1 thumb-size piece of ginger, grated or minced
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 3-inch sections and halved lengthwise
3 cloves garlic, grated or smashed and minced
Freshly ground peppercorn to taste
1 cup white wine
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and stems, plus more for garnish
14 ounces coconut milk
1 tbsp fermented fish sauce

Scrub the mussels and remove any beards. Firmly tap any mussels that are open and if they do not close, discard them.

Warm the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other lidded pot 4 quarts or larger. Add the shallot, some green chili pepper, and the ginger. Sauté until soft, then stir in the garlic. Grind in some peppercorn and cook until you can smell the garlic (less than a minute). Stir in the wine.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then add the mussels and cover. Once the liquid has returned to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Continue to cook, covered, until the mussels have opened, about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of your mussels. Turn off the heat as soon as  most or all of the mussels have opened. Do not overcook the mussels or they will be tough instead of tender.

While the mussels cook, add the cilantro, coconut milk, fish sauce, and some green chili pepper to a blender. Purée until smooth, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, and set aside.

As soon as the mussels have finished cooking, add the coconut milk mixture to the pot and turn up the heat to medium. Stir to coat the mussels in the sauce, then transfer them to serving bowls with a slotted spoon. Continue cooking until the sauce is hot, just another minute or two.

Once the sauce is hot, pour it over the mussels. Garnish them with the reserved cilantro and serve them immediately, along with an empty bowl to collect the shells.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chicken with Pumpkin Seed Pan Sauce


This is simple, flavorful pan sauce was inspired by my friend Juliah, who made me a pumpkin seed salad dressing that was inspired by a recipe in Ruth Reichl's book, Garlic and Sapphires.

Reichl's recipe calls for lemon juice and Juliah added fish sauce (which made it savory but not fishy). I didn't use fish sauce and instead of lemon juice I used apple cider vinegar. It's a more seasonal source of acidity, which is needed to balance the healthy fats in this sauce.

Because I opted to serve this dish as a room temperature salad, I used a chicken breast that I could easily slice. When I serve it as a main dish instead of a salad, I use skin-on, bone-in, pasture-raised whole chicken legs (browned on the stove top then slow-roasted in the oven) or a whole roasted chicken.

Whenever I make duck, I save the rendered fat for cooking. I added some here but if you don't have any, you can substitute cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. Likewise, if you don't have whole cumin seeds, substitute the same amount of ground cumin but skip the toasting step.

Whipping up a pan sauce after cooking meat is a good way to use the flavorful juices and, because it incorporates into the sauce any brown bits stuck to the pan, it makes clean-up a snap. If you're making this sauce ahead, you can substitute water for the pan juices.

Sea salt
Freshly ground peppercorn
2 chicken breasts or other chicken pieces at room temperature
1 tbsp rendered duck fat or cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds or ground cumin
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
6 tbsp cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

In a cast iron or stainless steel skillet, warm the duck fat over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Once the skillet is hot, add the chicken and cook until browned on one side, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over, reduce the heat to low, cover, and continue cooking until done throughout, about 10 more minutes.

While the chicken cooks, toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Remove the pumpkin seeds and transfer them to small glass jar that will accommodate an immersion blender. Add the cumin seeds to the dry skillet and toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer the cumin seeds to the glass jar as well. Add the olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper.

Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked, turn off the heat, remove the chicken from the pan, and set it aside. Add the vinegar to the skillet and stir, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the pan juices to the glass jar with a tablespoon of filtered water.

Use an immersion blender to purée the ingredients into a smooth sauce, adding more water if needed to achieve your desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Slice the chicken if you prefer and arrange it over a bed of salad greens. Top it with the pumpkin seed pan sauce and serve it immediately.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tarragon Wine Vinegar


Herbal vinegars allow you to enjoy warm-weather herbs all winter long. Use them as a condiment or add them to marinades, dressings, sauces, soups, and stews.

There are two methods for making herbal vinegars. The long method calls for adding dried herbs to vinegar and setting the mixture aside in a warm, dark place for 2 to 4 weeks and shaking it occasionally, until the desired strength and flavor have fully developed.

The short method involves adding fresh or dried herbs to vinegar and using heat to accelerate the process, reduce the moisture content, and concentrate the flavor.

I had fresh herbs so I used the short method and steeped fresh tarragon and red shallot in white wine vinegar.

Fresh tarragon

I love this combination because I can use it as a base for Béarnaise sauce, my favorite home-made steak sauce. (It's also great with fish.)

In this recipe, you can substitute other herbs and aromatics if you like to create your own herbal vinegar. Instead of tarragon, try rosemary, oregano, or thyme. Use chives or red onion instead of shallot. Or red wine vinegar instead of white wine vinegar. Add garlic if you like. Or chili pepper. You get the idea.

1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or substitute more vinegar
1 cup fresh tarragon leaves, packed
1 cup finely chopped red shallot
5 peppercorns, smashed

Add all of the ingredients to a medium sauce pan. Warm it over medium heat and once it starts to boil, turn the heat down to low and simmer very slowly until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool to room temperature or for several hours.

Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean and DRY glass bottle. Discard the solids. Label the bottle and store it in the fridge for several months.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Walnut-Crusted Cod with Lemon and Herbs


This flavorful fish dish is full of healthy fats. Instead of a flour-based crust, I made a paste made of raw walnuts, garlic, lemon zest, and fresh herbs. It's easy and fast to prepare.

I used wild Alaskan cod, but wild Alaskan halibut would also be good. Or you can use this topping with baked or broiled clams. Vegetarians can crumble it over portabella mushroom caps before they broil them.

I picked walnuts because they are highest in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats but you could substitute another raw nut, like almonds or pine nuts. I used fresh herbs from my window garden, a combination of oregano, rosemary, and thyme, but you can use any herbs you like.

The nut mixture can be made in advance for fast and easy meal preparation. If you want, make extra topping and store it tightly wrapped in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for several months.

  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 organic lemon, zested
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs, not tightly packed but not loosely either
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp cold butter, cut into cubes
  • Extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1 pound wild Alaskan cod fillets at room temperature

  1. In a food processor or with a mortar and pestle, grind together until smooth the walnuts, lemon zest, herbs, and a pinch each of sea salt and ground pepper. Add the butter and mix again until the ingredients stick together.
  2. Place a small amount of olive oil on the bottom of a baking pan. Season the skin side of the fish fillets with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and place them skin-side down inside the pan. Distribute the nut mixture evenly over the top of the fish fillets, smoothing with a rubber scraper if you wish.
  3. Broil the walnut-crusted cod until the tops are browned, about 5 minutes, then turn off the broiler. Allow the fish to rest inside for five minutes or more, allowing them to finish cooking with residual heat so they don't become tough and over-cooked.
  4. Serve immediately with a colorful salad.