Paula Wolfert’s Mint and Egg Salad

Fresh mint, and easy-to-grow!

Fresh mint, and easy-to-grow!

     Paula Wolfert is a culinary icon, and one I admire greatly.  You’ve seen her inspired recipes from me before, as her focus has been flavors of the Mediterranean; a climate much like ours here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Paula has been a long-time resident of Sonoma County, so many of her ingredients, originally discovered during her travels in the Mediterranean, also capitalize on our bountiful, local harvests.

     This latest cookbook of Paula’s recipes, Unforgettable:  The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life by Berkeley-ite, Emily Thelin, is a compilation of Paula’s previous recipes.  Moreover, it is a heartfelt biography of Paula’s journeys in travel and life.  It is an interesting read, and generous in photos of Paula, her past travels, and the amazing recipes.

Pastured eggs from Capay Valley

     Out of so many recipes, I chose this simple egg salad.  It’s spring now, and this salad is a light, fresh bite of the season.  Fresh mint abounds in my backyard.  It is paired aptly with spring onions (scallions) and grated eggs for a sophisticated combination that’s simple to prepare.

     Please give this a try with mint, even if you haven’t thought to use this much mint with eggs.  If you must, substitute some flat-leaf parsley for some of the mint.  Or take it in a slightly new direction and use tender, spring watercress.  It will be different, still delicious.

     In addition to enjoying this recipe as a first course, you might also want to serve it up on your favorite crusty bread, or planks of sliced cucumber.

Mint & Egg Salad Plated 1

Mint and Egg Salad

Adapted from Unforgettable:  The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life

Serves 4 as a light, first course

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 to 2 cups slivered mint leaves, depending on the intensity of the mint
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons mild red pepper flakes, preferably Marash (substitute piment d’esplette)
  • Juice of 1/ 2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Boil the eggs: Put the eggs in a saucepan and cover with water to cover by one inch and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  When the water boils, turn off the heat and set a timer for 8 minutes.  After 8 minutes, drain the hot water and run cool water over the eggs to prevent further cooking.  Peel the eggs and set aside.
  1. Assemble the salad: Using the large holes of a box grater, and working over a large bowl, grate the eggs.  Add the mint, green onions and red pepper flakes; mix well.  In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice to taste; then drizzle over the egg mixture.  Toss to coat lightly and evenly.  Season with salt.
  1. Serve immediately at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Note:  It’s easy to upsize this recipe.  The number of eggs in it will provide a clear indication of portions.  Make more, you will be glad you did!

Grating eggs results in crazy-light textured salad

Grating eggs results in crazy-light textured salad

From Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert's Renegade Life

From Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life

Potato Leek and Greens Bake

The makings of a fine dish

The makings of a fine dish

     THIS dish is the star every time we sit down to our spring time, corned beef dinner.  Yes, we all appreciate the corned beef, but these potatoes, aka colcannon, are what my family love.  Homey comfort food in the spotlight.

     My version has plenty of flavor and we like the combination of both cabbage and kale.  The extra step of browning the top in a medium-high heat oven creates crispy bits that are everyone’s favorite.  If you bake it in a square pan, be prepared for the corners to be in high demand!

     I hope you will make this your own, preparing it to suit your taste buds.  It’s pretty goof-proof, so there’s leeway for additions and substitutions.  Use any proportion of cabbage and kale.  A vegan option using olive oil and vegetable stock will have plenty of punch; and it should also adapt nicely to mashed cauliflower in place of potatoes, if that’s your thing.

     And, by all means, prepare it year-round too.  It’s a wonderful accompaniment for a variety of meals.

Colcannon Baked Q60

Potato Leek and Greens Bake

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-1/ 2 pounds russet potatoes, about 6-7 medium
  • 1/ 2 medium head of green cabbage, yielding about 1-1/2 cups steamed
  • 1/ 2 bunch kale, yielding about 1-1/ 2 cups steamed
  • 1 cup leeks, white and pale green parts only; halved lengthwise then sliced crosswise in 1/ 4-inch pieces
  • 1/ 2 cup half-and-half (whole milk is OK), plus additional if needed
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cut the cabbage into two wedges through the core. Cut away the core, then cut each wedge crosswise into 1/ 2-inch slices.
  1. Remove the tough center stem from the kale leaves. If the leaves are very wide, cut into about 2-inch widths; then cut into 1/ 2 –inch slices.
  1. Steam or sauté the cabbage and kale until just tender. Set aside.
  1. In a small saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the leeks and cook until softened, stirring frequently to ensure even cooking.  Add 1/ 2 cup of half-half, remove from heat and set aside.
  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into 2-inch chunks. Place in a pot large enough to cover the potatoes with water, with at least 1-inch of room left to the top of the pot to avoid the water boiling over.  Boil with medium heat until tender enough to pierce through with a fork using only slight pressure, about 10 – 15 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and coarsely mash, with a potato masher.  It is preferred if bits remain.
  1. Transfer the mashed potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Add the leek-half-half mixture and stir until incorporated.  Stir in the cooked cabbage and kale, making sure to achieve even distribution throughout the potatoes.  The result should be the consistency of chunky mashed potatoes.  Add additional milk, sparingly, if needed to create the consistency you prefer.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  1. Transfer this entire mixture to a shallow 2-quart baking dish that has been well buttered. Dot with the 1 tablespoon of butter.  Bake in a preheated 400*F oven, set at “Convection” for about 10-15 minutes to brown the top as desired.

Notes:  IF you happen to have leftovers, my best tip for reheating is to form the potatoes into about 4-inch patties and cook in a lightly buttered skillet until heated through and a bit of brown-crispiness is achieved.  These are so good you may find yourself doubling the recipe just for the leftovers!

A bonus to this recipe — Save the potato peels for making these crisps.

Roasted Potato Skins 200Pixels Q50

Crispy Potato Skins! Peels, olive oil, salt, pepper and 400*F at convection setting until crispy. Stir after about 10 minutes for even crisping or about another 5 minutes. Watch them carefully — they are thin so go from crisp to burnt quickly!

Chocolate-Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Pretty Much Always on Hand

Pretty Much Always on Hand

     Cookies are the favorite dessert in my house.  No question.  Hands down.  My family certainly enjoy other desserts; but when asked, they want a big plate of cookies set at the center of the table.  And dishes of ice cream for good measure.

     I am a longtime fan of David Lebovitz.  I enjoyed his desserts when he was pastry chef at Chez Panisse; and now his cookbooks and blog bring his recipes straight into my kitchen.  When it comes to chocolate, he’s masterful.  You can bet on rich, deep chocolate flavor.

     These cookies are very chocolate-y, soft and have a burst of brightness from the dried tart cherries.  They come together very quickly, with typical staples you may have on hand.  You will be rewarded within an hour of commencing the recipe with these endearing cookie bites.

A few advance tips:

  • Use quality chocolate. That’s the predominate flavor here.  I use Guittard, conveniently packaged in baking wafers for easy melting.  And easier snacking—that’s a clue by the way, the chocolate must taste good to you on its own!
  • Do not over bake these cookies. They may seem under-baked when you pull them from the oven, but they will firm up as they cool.  You are aiming for soft, fudgy cookies.
  • By all means experiment with other dried fruits; and add some chopped nuts if they’re your thing.
  • I halved the original recipe here, so it will double perfectly if you’re in need of greater quantities.

Chocolate Cherry Cookies Cooling Close

Chocolate-Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Adapted from David Lebovitz, Ready for Dessert

Makes about 30, 2-inch cookies

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or baking wafers
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/ 4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/ 4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/ 8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 7/ 8 cup (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/ 4 cup dried, tart cherries, cut into pieces about the size of the chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Combine the bittersweet chocolate and butter in a large, heat-proof bowl.  Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth.  Remove the bowl from the heat.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.  Using a hand mixer (or stand mixer with the whisk attachment), beat at high speed until the mixture forms a well-defined ribbon when the beaters are lifted, about 5 minutes.  Adjust the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate-butter mixture until thoroughly incorporated.  Use a spatula to stir in the flour mixture, followed by the chocolate chips and dried cherries.
  4. Cover and refrigerate the dough until it is firm enough to handle, about 15 minutes.
  5. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  6. Drop the dough in generous tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, spacing them evenly, about 2-inches apart.  Gently flatten the dough to an even thickness.
  7. Bake for about 9 to 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway through baking, until the cookies feel just slightly firm at the edges.  Baking time will vary slightly based upon the thickness of the cookies.
  8. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until firm enough to handle, then use a thin spatula to transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Note:  The dough can be refrigerated for 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month.  You will have to bring the dough back to room-temperature to scoop the cookies.

Flatten the cookie dough for quick, even baking

Flatten the cookie dough for quick, even baking

Baked cookies do not spread much

Baked cookies do not spread much

Broccoli Apricot Salad

four-salad-ingredients     In the deep of winter, this broccoli salad will surely brighten your plate and palate both.  By now I’m hard pressed to face yet another serving of winter greens with much enthusiasm.  This salad is a spark to brightness and crunch – and it’s been seeing a lot of “plate time” at our house.

     The genesis of this recipe was a plan to both simplify and lighten up traditional broccoli salad, using ingredients that are my son’s favorites.  Broccoli, check.  Apricots, check.  Marinated red onion, check.  Balsamic vinaigrette, check.  Yes, even as a young boy, my son’s favorite vegetable was broccoli!

     Too often broccoli salads involve a long list of ingredients and are laden with a heavy, mayonnaise-based dressing.  I was after a version that would be more refreshing and an antidote to the heavy foods of winter.  And wanted to incorporate the apricot flavors of warmer days!salad-ingredients-sliced

     This is salad, not science.  I encourage you to fiddle with it and make it your own winner.  But by all means use this as a proven starting point – even if your adaptation is into a kale salad!

A few advance notes:

  1. I used a specialty white balsamic vinegar infused with Blenheim apricots.  Naturally this amplifies the apricot-i-ness of the salad.  I get it at Amphora Nueva, in their original shop in Berkeley.  If you are in the Bay Area, they have expanded into San Anselmo in Marin County and Lafayette, Contra Costa County, too.  You can find them online and order. (I’m a huge fan and I hope you’ll check them out!)
  2. Substituting in plain white balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar will also produce delicious results.
  3. I prefer slicing the broccoli by hand to control the size of the broccoli florets. You want them small, bite-sized, but still recognizable and not a mass of mush-buds.
  4. Using the broccoli stalk provides important crunchy texture, and their sweetness helps to offset the potential bitterness of the florets. And they are good for you!  Be sure to use a vegetable peeler to remove any tough outer layer of the stalk.
  5. Select an extra virgin olive oil that tastes “fruity”; and avoid ones that are too “peppery” or “grassy”.
  6. Plan in advance to serve this salad. It requires several hours of marinating to bring out the best flavor.  So prepare in the morning for dinner, or even the night before.  It’s all good.

broccoli-apricot-salad

Broccoli-Apricot Salad

INGREDIENTS

Salad

  • 4 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces, about 3/ 4”-ish
  • Approximately 1 cup of tender broccoli stalk, sliced into 1/ 8” x 3/ 4” strips
  • 1/ 2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/ 2 cup dried apricots, cut into about 1/ 2” pieces
  • 1/ 2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons Blenheim apricot-infused white balsamic vinegar, or see advance notes
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, a “fruitier” one, not a “peppery” one. (I use less as I like more acidity for this salad.)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare the salad dressing.  Combine the vinegar, lemon juice and mustard in a large bowl.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until well-incorporated and hopefully slightly holding together (emulsified).  Add salt and pepper and taste.  You will want this dressing to be acidic to spark up the broccoli.
  2. Add the diced red onions and broccoli to the dressing and stir to combine.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for several hours minimum.
  3. When ready to serve, toss in the dried apricot pieces and toasted almonds.

Note:  The easiest way to toast sliced almonds is on the stove top, over medium heat, in a small , shallow pan.  It will only take about 4 to 5 minutes.  Begin stirring constantly once the almonds begin to brown; and toast until most are a nice golden hue.  Reduce the heat to low if they are browning too quickly or unevenly; and stir more frequently.  Do not step away from the pan during this toasting process.