Dapple Dandy Hibiscus Jam

End of summer spread on toast tastes like Dapple Dandy Jam.

In one single question, we can self-select into unspoken groups. Would you order the chocolate dessert or fruit dessert? This over-simplifies things, sure, but it also underscores the idea that for some of us we’ve never been fruit-forward dessert eaters. Then, you have the folks who all they want for dessert is an actual piece of fruit. Or, the additions of clarifiers like paleo, gluten-free, low-carb, refined sugar-free, vegan. Some might see pitfalls in pulling together a dinner party now with all of the various eating styles, but I see opportunity.

Sweet and sour, dapple dandy jam gets spiced with cardamom and ginger for a warm bite.

We’re getting away from the point though, aren’t we? I never understood the allure of plums. The number one food poem (which could be contested) reads like an apology that actually tries to convince the reader that the theft couldn’t be circumvented. Stealing cold plums out of the icebox never struck me as the fodder of food poems, but I think I finally get it.

Dapple Dandy Hibiscus Jam is bright pink and great stirred into yogurt.

My obsession with Dapple Dandy plums (or pluots, I suppose, technically) started from a purely linguistic appreciation. Dapple evokes, in my mind at least, a grey mare with white freckles, or the kind of light and shadow-play of late afternoon sun, where tree limbs cast their impression on the ground in greys, blacks and whites. A dandy will always be the best dressed person in the room. And the combination of these two words (not to mention whatever inspired the creator of the name to conceive of the two of them together) prompted me to pluck a few Dapple Dandy pluots earlier this summer from a pile at the farmer’s market. One slice and I was smitten. Inside, their painterly flesh shimmers as if with an otherworldly light from the center out. Their color might be the envy of lipstick-makers. One taste of sweet-sour pucker, and sold.

Making dapple dandy jam might be the ultimate theft. You’re trying to steal time from the skin that’s a little too taut, one nudge tipping it toward juice. So, instead we cook down the fruit with warming spices of cardamom and piquant ginger- minced fresh for just the right bite. You’ve still got time for this jam this year. Your toast, yogurt bowl (chia pudding / chicken / pork / chocolate cake…)  will be the better for it.

Paired with yogurt or toast, dapple dandy jam adds just enough sweetness.

Dapple Dandy Hibiscus Jam

Course Dessert
Keyword Pluot Jam
Servings 1 cup


  • 2 cups diced Dapple Dandy pluots, pitted (about 1 pound)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons finely shredded dried hibiscus flowers
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom


  1. Stir all ingredients with a wooden spoon together in a large skillet until combined set over medium heat.

  2. Stir occasionally. Cook for 15 minutes—during those last 5 minutes, stir constantly to monitor the setting of the jam. You should be able to swipe the spoon through the jam and leave a clear path for a few seconds (or dip the spoon in the jam and it should ever so slowly creep across the surface) as it thickens up.

  3. Cool to room temperature before spooning into a jar, sealing and chilling it.

Recipe Notes

Look for culinary grade hibiscus in a Latin market or good spice shop like Oaktown Spice Shop. If using whole flowers, kitchen shears are the easiest way to snip them to smithereens.


Obsessions: Ginger Juice

ginger juice - anneliesz

Talking about food is almost as good as actually eating it. Obsessions can start innocuously. Trolling the farmers’ market and tasting the sweetness of the season’s first albion strawberries. Tasting beets as if for the first time in Santa Monica. Once an obsession is in its full throes, it makes a person practically quicken creatively in the kitchen.  

It started with golden milk. But, more on that later. Instead, I’ve been on a bit of a tear, trying to find as many ways as I can to get this one ingredient into as many dishes as possible. No, it’s not tea. It’s ginger. I’ve always appreciated the bit of zing it brings to chai but before now, I hadn’t played outside of fresh or ground. Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook’s cookbook Zahav included a tahini sauce that’s been a mainstay in our refrigerator ever since we first tried it. You toss in unpeeled cloves of garlic into the blender, blend, and strain. On a lark, I turned my attention to ginger and wondered how our high speed blender might make mincemeat of its golden fibrous chunks. Color me obsessed. This flaxen hued liquid made its way into one dish after another. I wanted to figure out how to use the entirety of the glass jar in as many ways as possible not letting a drop go to waste.

What’s not to love about ginger? It’s helped in a pinch of digestive distress brewed hot as a tea and offers other health benefits.  When pickled, a slender slice makes cucumber avocado rolls perfect. Candied, it’s the niblets inside chewy ginger cookies like tiny crystalline treasures to discover in baked batter. This Ginger Juice is a concentrated flavor bomb. It adds an extra layer of heat, where a little goes a long way. I’ve got a bevy of recipes headed your way in coming weeks to feature my latest obsession and to fuel your own. 

Ginger Juice

Use fresh ginger root that’s firm and unwrinkled. Don’t worry about peeling the ginger root, just chop it into chunks and lob them into the blender–you will be straining out the fibrous bits and peel leaving a smooth, silky liquid behind. 

YIELD: 2 cups ginger juice

2 cups water
8 ounces fresh ginger, chopped into 2-inch chunks

Pour the water into the receptacle of a blender. Toss in the chunks of ginger. Puree until smooth. Pour the ginger juice through a fine gauge strainer set over a large bowl. Stir the ginger juice with the fibrous pulp in the strainer until the pulp is dry and all the liquid has been extracted. Store in a quart-sized mason jar in the refrigerator. 


Pineapple Guava Curd

Pineapple Guava Curd

A pineapple guava sits on the counter
huddled as if in conversation with green-backed
friends. Its unseen skill paints the splotched
cream walls of our kitchen into dappled light
nudging through long leafy fronds of palm trees.
I want to bottle the aroma, all mai tai and lapping
waves of an ocean too turquoise to be real.
In the winter morning, when the fog horn
croons outside and a finger could swipe
a smiley face on the frosted windows,
we need a little bit of paradise come down
that it might remind us to remember
ourselves even as the cold and darkness
come too soon and we turn into bears,
clawing our way toward blanketed slumber.

Pineapple Guava Recipes: Pineapple Guava Curd


YIELD: 4 jam jars



6 medium-sized pineapple guavas

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup organic sugar

6 egg yolks

1 stick (7 tablespoons) unsalted organic butter, at room temperature



Run a microplane against the soft backs of three guavas, capturing two tablespoons of zest.
Cut the guavas in half, placing them belly-side up and scoop out the flesh, 1/2 cup, into a bowl.
Mash in the zest and lemon juice with the tines of a fork until it resembles mashed banana.

Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with water and set over medium heat until bubbles begin to break
against the sides. Turn heat down to medium low so the water continues to simmer.

Pour sugar into a large stainless steel bowl with a deep well.  Along its edge, crack the eggs, one by one, cradling the yolk in the shell, or if you’re quite adept, in your hand, letting the whites cascade into a waiting bowl or glass, reserved for some other purpose.

Whisk yolk with sugar to make a goldenrod paste and place the bowl over the pot of simmering water. Whisk in the mashed pineapple guava into the yolk and sugar. Feel the length of your arm conspiring with your recollection of a smear of curd on toast as you keep whisking. Whisk with passion. Whisk and let your mind wander about whether Mr. Darcy was a prat to Elizabeth Bennett or if she might have just been too proud to see through his veneer. Whisk as if you can stave off the Christmas season soon coming to a close. Whisk until the curd thickens up like a good redeye gravy, about five minutes. Gently plop pats of butter into the bowl and (need I say it), keep whisking.

Once it all comes together like the sunny buttery light of an easy Sunday morning, spoon it into small jam jars and bring them to room temperature before refrigerating.

Food Poetry

Carrot Top Pesto

Carrot Top Pesto | The Food Poet

Carrot Top Pesto

YIELD: 1 cup



2 cups of frilly green carrot tops, rinsed & patted dry

3 garlic cloves, skins and clove end removed

¼ cup pine nuts

pinch of salt

4 tablespoons of good olive oil


Amass ingredients on top of one another
on a cutting mat: salt 
sprinkled on garlic
on pine nuts on frilly leaves of carrot tops.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather.

Chop and gather until minced.

Pour and stir in olive oil.



Good Morning Muesli

Good Morning Muesli The Food Poet_3571

Coming home after a work trip, it’s hard to get back into the regular routines. I find myself gravitating toward wanting to continue the cycle of eating out and having someone else clean up after me. One thing I never miss when traveling is the traveler’s breakfast. The goal when traveling for work is to nourish thyself and then get going to whatever meeting, event, conference or meet-up has brought me to that fine city. Working warrior breakfasts are all about efficiency and not really about lingering. Save that kind of breakfast to leisurely loll about at a destination brunch restaurant on a personal trip.

Breakfast on the go while working can be particularly dicey. Have you ever tried a “complimentary breakfast” at a hotel? I can help you out here. You will find the usual suspects of cereal flakes slick and shiny from sweetener peeking out from clear plastic tubes from which they slide so easily into bowls. Next up, the toaster and his consortium of friends: sliced white bread, bagels and the ever-present danish or pastry that never saw anything close to Danish relations. Near them, you will find small packets of peanut butter, cream cheese, butter and jelly which don’t taste like anything found in nature. If you’re lucky, there might be a big bowl of fruit like cubed pineapple and honeydew with strawberries, grapes and watermelon hovering in a liquid colored the sum of its parts. In winter.

“Hey now,” you say, “surely there is yogurt available.” Why yes, small tubs of “raspberry” and “peach” yogurts jut out from their icy hovels mocking me with possibly the same amount of sugar as the pastry. And I can’t forget the receptacles of waffle batter posted right next to the piping hot waffle irons. None of this really works for me. I would rather indulge in a swirl of frozen yogurt or a few squares of chocolate later in the day to entice my sweet tooth finding sugar where expected. The chump of all chumps though, in that continental breakfast- the one that makes me want to wag my finger in defiance is none other than the cartons of quick oats. You know the ones- tubby little containers filled with rolled oats, freeze-dried fruit bits and sugar. They get me riled up as they put on airs about being healthy when I would posit that a hard boiled egg could run circles around these impostors.

A girl can dream… of a breakfast bar loaded with carafes of chilled kefir, bowls of plain yogurt and preserved fruit next to a mise en place of toasted walnuts and dried fruit. A pot full of steel-cut oats would be nearby with a toothsome quality and near small bowls of flax seed, chia and hemp for added texture and crunch. For the crunchy cereal lovers, fresh batches of granola would be cooked up and there might even be homemade scones for those that want to indulge, except the scones would be made of whole grain flour and studded with ginger. In my hotel breakfast bar, there would be egg options always available and cold-pressed juices with specific recipes tackling specific intent. If we’re going to reach for the stars, the hotel buffet would also boast a good tea selection, not just English Breakfast and Chamomile. Coming back to earth now, I fully understand that this ideal would be cost-prohibitive with costs being turned over to guests making it a hotel I wouldn’t be able to afford.

So, what is a girl to do? Pack her own Good Morning in the guise of Muesli. I mulled over this recipe having returned from a recent tradeshow where I did the unthinkable the first two mornings and unintentionally skipped breakfast after surveying the breakfast bar. The third morning I assailed the breakfast bar with the ferocity of two mornings and all the grazing that followed. I knew better but found myself disheartened by the options. One morning I even had hummus for breakfast with pretzels- not a breakfast of champions. Fresh on the heels of returning from the show, I decided to take matters into my own hands, and mixed up my own Muesli. As I considered ingredients, I wanted it to be hearty and oats stay with you. I sought to fruit-sweeten it with fiber-full dried fruits and reached for my cherished figs. Then, because I know I usually crave protein in the morning, knew it needed some walnuts and sunflower seeds. Lastly, the cinnamon and ginger would highlight the rest of the ingredients playing up the sweetness of the sultanas and currants. I had jarred a winner.

Continental breakfasts say nothing about the continents to me or for that matter continence. Instead, they seem like a cheap response to marking a hotel room up because there appears to be added benefit. So, next time you are booking your travel arrangements, don’t fall for the free breakfast promotion- opt to bring your own and waggle for free WiFi.

Good Morning Muesli



If you are planning to eat the Muesli at work, you are in luck. The large wide mouth variety of Mason jars holds about a work week’s worth of muesli inside. Take it with you on a Monday and you should be set for homemade breakfast through Friday. Then again, if traveling, pack several servings of it in a small mason jar to tuck into your carry-on. It won’t take up that much room, plus it will be a welcome reminder of home and the goodness of homemade food. When serving the muesli, I like to use around 1/2 cup of milk- cow’s, almond or hemp. If you prefer sweeter muesli, add a drizzle of maple syrup. 

YIELD: 5-6 1/2 cup servings


  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 1/4 cup dried sultanas (golden raisins)
  • 1/4 cup dried figs
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger


1. Pour rolled oats into a large bowl. Then toss in the dried currants, sultanas, and sunflower seeds. Set aside.

2. Quarter the walnuts. Lop off the stems from the dried figs and cut the figs into halves. Toss the chopped walnuts and figs into the big bowl. Add the cinnamon and ginger. Stir all ingredients until coated and well combined.

3. Scoop your muesli into a large wide mouthed mason jar.




Blackberry Chile Lime Fruit Leather Roll-Ups




A few weeks ago, an evening walk took us down a familiar path. Jutting out from the sides of the paved walkway, brambles of blackberry bushes began showing their bright green clusters of ripening fruit. Among them, occasionally, we espied cordovan berries nearing their prime. When I caught sight of a berry, deep in color as the bay on a moonless night, I quickly would begin my pursuit to grasp the fruit with hungry fingers and yet found thorns blocking my furtive attempts.

In a city as bustling as San Francisco, green space is sacred. We breathe it in as our food and drink, too little nourishing our spirits and the pangs for solitude. Sometimes it’s easy to become entrenched in the busyness of living.  What becomes of a weekend but a solid checklist of chores and errands? Two days of rest get filled quickly with trips to the Laundromat and the folding of socks into one another. It is too easy to let details slip by as day after day fold into the other.



One day bleeds into another. A week passes. Then, another slips by quietly until somehow summer pulls her skirts up to make her grand exit. The surprise of September comes stealthily. I am not ready to let go of August just yet. I shouldn’t be surprised and yet am, again. These words came to me when the hastening of September was upon us. A difficulty exists in times of transition when one season fuses into another.

September marks my calendar as a month-long reminder of dissolution from one phase of life into another. Here, the leaves begin to reveal diffused colors until at last what once was pliable and chlorophyll-rich is now dry and broken up underfoot.  The sky darkens earlier, ushering us into our hovels and selves. Why does September feel like a month set aside to mark loss?

I wait in September for the 11th to come and go. The anxiety of considering the power we wield over one another for good or evil can be draining. I wait for peace among men and find myself wanting. I wait for the end of the month to slowly march forward with its own personal anniversary of a birthday turned anniversary. Still the metronome keeps time. 65. 66. 67. I turn the counter each year for you, and try to imagine what you would have been like if you had continued onto old age.

A Friday not so long ago, I pulled my rental car into a parking space lodged in front of a familiar bakery. As I exited the building and returned to the car, I looked up. Across from me, seated alone in the dining area of the bakery, an old man looked on me as I looked on him. His grey tufts of hair gathered like wool around the tops of his ears. Even sitting, he bore a jolly belly and bulbous nose. Sitting there, alone, what I actually saw was a phantom imprint of you at an older age. And it left me with such pangs of melancholy, I almost couldn’t tear myself from the parking lot.



On a Saturday morning, we stretched and pulled ourselves awake early to make the familiar drive down to Pescadero. Our car sped along the sliver of highway that cuts along the craggy coastline as if it knew we would be embarking on an adventure and wanted to be complicit. Before long, we turned into our desired turn-off, parked the car and set off on foot to tackle the mission at hand. Some of the best things require the whole of a person and this certainly pertains to berry picking.

Beck carried a cardboard flat and I noted our mission to fill it with three pounds of plump olallieberries. What started as taking the trail less traveled to the backside of the bushes resulted in discovering berries as big as the whorl on Beck’s thumb. Like children discovering a delicious game, we pulled the berries from their vines. Some of them would give to the gentlest touch and others ceded their position gingerly. Before long, we meandered down the path and up a few rows back, finding the berries, here, to be smaller and longer in size.

We picked them in silence.

Here, where the only sound entering this plot of land burgeoning with berry bushes, a bird call might mark the silence or the impression of wind whickering in the branches overhead. As we continued our game of hide and seek, we marred the silence with brief outbursts of our own discovery.

“Look at this one. It’s almost jam already!”

“Check out this cluster!”

And back into silence we would fall, perfectly content and dwelling in the moment. All that mattered was the scanning of the bush in front of us, lifting leaves to uncover that the darkest, plumpest berries grew in obscurity and shade. Too soon, our flat began to shift from the weight of all the berries gathered therein. We knew that this, like all good things, must come to an end soon and yet we kept curtailing its closure.

“Just one more berry.”

“We really should go. Wait, maybe one more cluster.”

Our steps took us closer to the car, but lingered as long as they could near the bushes and the task at hand.  The meditation of looking and plucking, led to an acknowledgment of looking past what is for what might be just behind the surface. For the morning, it was our spell and our enchantment. Tasked with such simplicity of purpose, everything else fell away. The usual din of urban sounds, of the internet, of distraction to keep us from being completely present, was gone. Here, one leaf blurred into another as berries broke up the green brocade that eventually receded from our fingers.



Making homemade fruit leather requires time but does not ask for great skill. Hand-picked berries do present a dilemma of wanting to decide with great care how to use them after all the time involved in picking them. In making blackberry fruit leather fresh berries are cooked down into a new form where they might not be recognizable, save for the taste and color. This metamorphosis can be perplexing. Was the time well spent to come to this end? Is there a way I could have used them better? We brush the questions aside and grate lime skin into a small bowl of sugar, taking care to stir the sour in with the sweet. Into the receptacle of a blender we puree the blackberries, lime sugar, chile and salt that they might become one mixture. We pour the mixture into a pan where soon the bubbling purple liquid will cook down the flavors into one another. If you think of it, all of us are cooked with the flavors of what surround us. With the flat of a wooden spoon, we slide the mixture onto a parchment papered roasting pan, taking care to work the surface flat where empty spaces yet remain. Into the preheated oven the pan goes and now, we wait. And wait. I wait for your memory to be nothing but sweet. I wait for the sour to continue cooking down until I can swallow it whole. Yet, the work of drying must proceed. And I am convinced these dried eyes, this heavy heart indicate you have not fully left me. And I, like the blackberries, I too can be changed.




Adapted from

This recipe takes about 5 to 7 hours of cooking time, so it’s a project best kept for that Sunday afternoon where house tasks have set a full plate for you. If you don’t have a Silpat mat, you can use parchment paper to line your pan. I kept the seeds in the leather as a reminder of the origins, that this indeed is fruit in roll-up form. Take heed. This fruit leather is a bit of a blackberry margarita in roll-up form and summons up memories for me of childhood summers spent in Mexico, squeezing tamarind candy with chile and lime into my mouth with great abandon.

YIELD: 14 roll-ups
COOKING TIME: 5-7 hours
1 1/2 pounds of blackberries

1/2 teaspoon ground pasilla pepper powder

zest of 2 limes

1/3 cup of sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 170. Line a roasting pan with a Silpat mat.

2. Stir your lime zest into the sugar. Let sit.

3. Puree the blackberries, lime sugar, pasilla powder and salt. Pour puree into large saucepan and cook on medium heat until it bubbles. Turn on low to cook and thicken for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

4. Draw a blackberry rectangle by pouring the thickened blackberry mixture onto the mat, starting from the center  and work your way out to about 1 inch from the edges of the mat. With the flat of your spoon, edge the mixture out and work it into empty spaces. Aim for shallow depth, as the deeper it is, the longer you will have to cook it to become leather-like.

5. Cook time can range from 5-7 hours. As you check on the mixture at the 5 hour mark, you will know the leather is ready if it is a little sticky but does not leave an impression on your finger. Remove from the oven once cooked through and let cool completely on a wire rack.

6. Once cooled, transfer the fruit leather to a long sheet of parchment paper and cut into long narrow strips through the parchment and leather. Each strip will become one long strip of blackberry chile lime fruit leather to roll up.

NOTE: Keep stored in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.







It’s hard to remember the first time you tasted a peach. Perhaps, for you, that difficulty of recollection pertains to tomatoes or something as basic as bread. But labneh, labneh is a different story altogether.

Years ago at a different company, we would build a booth to exhibit our wares at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco for the Winter Fancy Food show. I had been actively involved in the design of the booth from inception and had worked it out to a science of time and manpower, finding that no matter how long we toiled or how well oiled our machine might be, set-up always took five hours. Of the food industry shows, I had lovingly dubbed Fancy Food as the chocolate, cheese and caffeine show. That moniker pretty much summed up the specialty aspect of the kinds of foods to be sampled. Time had let me learn the unsettling truth that if working the show and expecting to be nourished for lunch by booth samples, I would leave with a sugar high and tummy ache.

Several years ago when I transitioned to my current job, that move took me out of the specialty food segment and planted me into the natural, organic category. This meant that instead of spending a Saturday locked in the football length of Moscone building a booth to exhibit at Fancy Food, I walked the show as an attendee on a Monday during office hours. What a different experience.

Arriving early, I took my time scouring the booths for that brilliant combination of flavor and compelling design. I walked alone, taking my time to assess the booths row by row, letting my curiosity be piqued and stop me. After a while of working food shows, the need or belief of trying every morsel as an imperative gets quashed. Instead, the process of measuring stomach share to the need to nibble required the combination of listening to my eyes and stomach at the same time.

I noshed on dried Black Mission figs at Valley Figs and snapped a chile chocolate square sample with my tongue at Poco Dolce. Getting to be on this side of the table provided me the freedom of taking the show in, in all of its enormity, at my own pace. Over the course of several aisles walked, I began picking up themes of product introductions, making mental notes of trends (hello artisan pickles!) curious to see how they might play out into the natural foods show in Anaheim a few months later.

My boss, a fellow foodie, texted me with his key finds and I would text him with mine. At one point, we met up to walk several of the aisles together.

“You have to try labneh,” he remarked. His eyes glittered with excitement. “I think you will like it a lot.”

I looked at him quizzically, but trusted his recommendation. We began winding our way toward a small table deposited into the side of an island sized company display. On the table, several samples of crackers lay neatly in rows. Each cracker boasted a smear of a glossy white cream with some topped by thin cucumber slices and others, a dollop of jam. The demo specialist guided us through a tasting, encouraging us to try the savory sample first and then the sweet.

I selected a cucumber and labneh loaded cracker, bringing it to my mouth. My tongue swept across the labneh and found a consistency of crème fraiche, yet rich and slightly tart. I looked up at my boss, and caught him smiling at me as a wide smile stretched across my face. Who would have thought in a football stadium full of foods so rich and decadent that the very thought of them might give me a toothache, I would find something to satiate that desire for rich, creamy flavor with the benefits of probiotics? Labneh certainly stood out as one of my favorite discoveries from Fancy Food.

After the show, I began prowling local natural food stores and Whole Foods stores. Looking for the familiar blue and white tub in the refrigerated dairy section resulted in several thwarted attempts. My search for labneh might be the search for the Holy Grail. And then, one day, I found those cheerful tubs tucked in the fridge at a Vietnamese market. Success!

Months passed. Perhaps a whole year and my new love was a distant memory. And yet, that pervasive trait to many recipes making their way out of my kitchen claimed the better part of my memory by posing the simple question that usually clinches my attention of “I wonder…”

My affinity for kefir caused me to ask that fickle question and let my curiosity consider the consequences of playing the question out to its inevitable end.

“I wonder if I can make housemade labneh from the kefir I drink daily,” I mused. And like that, I set off to make a discovery in my kitchen, no tradeshow badge required.




Labneh, kefir cheese, is often served along with pita bread triangles as a dip in Middle Eastern countries. Sidle a small plate of labneh the next time you plan on having hummus and baba ghanoush as appetizers. Just add a drizzle of olive oil, a dash of salt and paprika sprinkled atop. In Palestine and Jordan, they incorporate labneh into breakfast. And it makes a fine stand-in when dolloped in place of sour cream. I find labneh makes a delicious flourish and has a multitude of applications. Take a plate of toasted crostini. Add a smear of labneh on them with a spoonful of fig tapenade atop and you’ve got an easy unique appetizer. Or spoon some onto a simple Green Bean Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Chervil. Recipe is forthcoming. 

Making homemade labneh is very easy and requires the shared skills of patience and negligence. You want to check in on your kefir daily to see how it’s doing. I find inserting a toothpick or the tip of a spoon helps ascertain how thick the mixture is, but really you just want to leave it alone and not jostle the bowl. An important note about labneh is to make sure to keep it from heat as that will kill any probiotics in the kefir cheese, if that’s your reason for eating it. Also, keep the liquid whey leftover and separated from the labneh. Use it to soak grains, to make lacto-fermented pickles or a dozen other uses and ways to keep the discovery process going.

YIELD: 1 cup
TIME: Active Time- 5 minutes; Passive Time- 7 days

1 16oz. bottle of plain goat’s milk kefir (or cow’s milk kefir)

Place a colander in a large bowl. Line the colander with cheesecloth. Pour the kefir into the cheesecloth and transfer bowl-colander-cheesecloth-kefir carefully to the refrigerator. Let set for 5-7 days. The longer you let it set, the thicker it will become.




Olallieberry Shrub


When you find something so good it makes your heart beat faster, makes your foot press down more firmly on the gas, it’s meant to be shared.

Love is like that. Back in graduate school, every so often, I would be woken up by a squeal of elation coming from down the corridor as quiet hours were thrown aside. Without opening my eyes, and perhaps turning to the other side of the bed, I would know someone had gotten engaged. That early morning squeal equated with engagement. Something interesting happens after you get married. Similar to that unspoken assumption of mine in graduate school, words like “big news” or “surprise” evoke the next expected rite of passage.

Things I did not realize about marriage before diving into it include the fact that just as each person is so infinitely different so is each couple. Our happiness is different from the couple across the hall’s happiness. Ours includes an hour of uninterrupted writing time when we get home from work. So what happens when one of you is writing daily and diligently, while the other is stymied?


Writer’s block can be debilitating. For the writer, it feels a bit like showing up at a restaurant across town with a hankering for one of their juicy steaks and finding it closed with the hours of operations removed. It’s hard to find your footing when writer’s block hits. I find this is the best time to crack open the books you keep in close proximity to your writing space, to rediscover the writers who have lit your fire, to abandon the writing… for a moment and instead…


Take a walk. Settle your body into downward dog. Listen to Mumford and Sons. Call a friend and catch up. Be quiet and listen to the birds squawking overhead. Get out of your rut by getting out. You know that sentiment of looking for something and not finding it only to later discover it was in front of you all along? Sometimes, we look too hard. We fixate with such intensity and fervor. There is much to be said about looking outward. In the looking out, you might just find what you were looking for.


A few weeks ago, we ventured to our favorite U-Pick farm in the outskirts of Pescadero. This farm, these olallieberries were too good to not share with Erika and her little one. Thus, a few hours before her flight was supposed to shuttle out of the Bay Area, we made the trek. Little hands ripped berries from their branches. Tall adult figures bent down to reach under leaves and find plump juicy ollalies. We left with a pound of precious berries. They sat there, on my counter, in that long cardboard flat looking positively joyous with possibility. I could make jam. I could make syrup. I could make a compote to spoon over yogurt. I could make hand pies. I could make rustic tarts. You get the picture. I was overwhelmed with possibility!

As the evening climbed closer to morning, I put a plea out to the cosmos, disclosing my olallieberry block and my desire for a second me to find time and can them. Luckily, Marisa, the queen of all things preserving, responded as my olallieberry guardian angel with a simple directive: “Put sugar on them and stick them in the fridge. Then when you have time, make jam.”

Macerating in the fridge, I bought time and continued to consider the options.  I left the berries in that bright red bowl in the fridge, checking in on them with the attentive concern of a mother hen looking in on her chicks. My brow continued to furrow with concern of time passing, of losing my window and ultimately losing berries hand-picked by my cousin Erika, her little one, Beck and I. That shared act of love necessitated that they not be taken for granted. It’s an odd idea perhaps, to take food for granted, but I would surmise that food that’s easy to pick up at a store carries little personal investment outside of the monetary. What I had here, was the remnants of our last afternoon with a cousin I see too infrequently and time with her son who will continue sprouting up and deeper into the throes of childhood.

I decided to follow my usual path of creeping out of writer’s block to work my way out of ollalieberry block, and wouldn’t you know, Marisa’s recipe that Friday held the kernel of inspiration I needed to part with some of the berries. And so, friends, I give you a recipe for an Olallieberry Shrub.

Hear me, those of you not prone to sour foods or drinks, a shrub is not for the faint of heart. It should make your mouth pucker and the sweetness should make the tip of your tongue tingle in delight. If you drink Kombucha, then you will be in fine company, drinking a shrub. If you want a clean drink without any pulp, by all means, strain the mashed berries from the liquid. As for me, I chew those berries and remember a sweet afternoon in Pescadero, enrobed in sunlight and spent with people I love deeply. There’s nothing sour about that.



Inspired by Marisa and adapted from Food in Jars

A lovely way to enjoy your homemade shrub is with sparkling water, just make sure to pour to taste. If you want to kick it up a notch, how about including it in a cocktail? You can also use it as the acid in a salad dressing or as a marinade. Your choice. Not feeling like making your own shrub? I can vouch for the smooth, tart and sweet flavor of the Wild Elderberry Shrub from the folks at Wineforest Wild Foods in Sonoma. They gave me a bottle at a blogging conference a while back, along with delightful conversation about the joys of foraged food. The ratio for this recipe is 1-1-1-easy.

1 cup sugar

1 cup raw apple cider vinegar

1 cup olallieberries

1. Rinse your berries in a colander. Then pour the berries into a quart jar.

2. Over them, pour your sugar and vinegar. Now, mash the berries with the help of a muddler or some contraption that fits into your jar and a blunt end to make quick work of berry-mashing.

3. Place the quart jar in the fridge and leave it for a few days, to let the ingredients combine. You want to make sure the sugar has completely integrated is integrated in and no longer granulated.





Kale Chips

When kale is at its most plentiful in the fall, this leafy green packs a powerful nutrient punch. We like it in a savory Village Pie, Kale Caesar Salad or in a Massaged Kale Salad. But when you get an urge for something crispety crunchy, you might find that kale makes a slightly addictive snack in kale chips. Of all the variations I’ve tried, CG’s Kale Chips recipe is the best. Lemony bright and tangy with a dairy-free cheese flavor, man, these hit the spot! She shows how to make them in a dehydrator but to bake them, turn on your oven to 300 degrees and bake for 20 minutes or until crisp but not burned.



Set your oven to 300 degrees

ingredients needed for kale chips

squeeze fresh lemon juice

prime ripe lemon and squeeze out 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

add 5 teaspoons olive oil to kale

add 1 tsp kosher salt

add 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast to kale leaves

lay out kale pieces on pan and try to keep from overlapping

bake for 20 minutes or until crispy. Take care to watch them if baking longer than 20 min.






Homemade Cinnamon Ricotta with Candied Kumquats and Hazelnuts

DIY RECIPES- Homemade Cinnamon Ricotta with Candied Kumquats

Ah, love.

Like most things in its infancy, time is marked off in months. As it matures and deepens, years replace months, then become double digit numbers worth exulting.

how to candy kumquats

Among the myriad understandings learned in the last year is the importance of celebration of the moments. This whole notion appeals to the poet in me, the photographer, both seeking to capture and describe a moment in suspension. To capture it is to lose it, to watch it develop into something else entirely.

how to candy kumquats

Several weeks ago, Nathan and I reached our six months married mark. Like any good wife, I wanted to give him something to commemorate the occasion. Like any good friend, I wanted to give him something that would bring him joy and elation.


homemade ricotta

His family originally hails from Wisconsin. In my mind I’ve developed a Willy Wonka type environs, except instead of all things sweet and replacing the chocolate river would be cheese. A parmesan cheese spray would burst forth from the silos where deep inside kneading of cheese and storage of cheese would take place. Bubbling up from that river of cheese- more cheese. And perhaps this might be a cheddar beer river because what goes better with cheese than beer. This can be attributed to my overactive imagination and a friend in college who would diligently wear a cheese hat during Packer games. That and Nathan’s story of a t-shirt that used to be worn in the family “Beer, cheese and a couple of weirdos.” If only I could find such a shirt as this…

He has taught me the art of picking a good wedge of extra sharp cheddar and I like to surprise him every now and then with some esoteric waxen wedge from Whole Foods. It’s how he had his first run-in with the now much loved Brillat Savarin.

Six months into marriage and all is well.

My dad once told me, “Annelies, what you need is a strong man. What any strong woman needs is a stronger man.” This said from my dad felt like a blessing- instead of recriminating my strong Latin American personality and disposition, he was ratifying it.

His dad being the wise guy that he is once told us, “in marriage, there are three of you: the husband, the wife and the marriage. Sometimes, as you’re making decisions, you need to consider what’s good for the marriage.”

And this gift of cheese is definitely good for the marriage.

homemade ricotta

That morning, I had ventured out to the farmer’s market. I had already begun concocting a plan to make homemade ricotta upon initially chatting with Jennifer Perillo on twitter a few weeks back. She had described how easy homemade ricotta is to make and I would not disagree with her. Her recipe is easy to follow and makes the silkiest ricotta you’ve ever tried. It kind of makes me want to give her a huge hug because Nathan sure did enjoy it! This particular trip to the farmer’s market had me venturing into Sur la Table for cheesecloth. I left feeling victorious in my conquest.

Nathan had stayed home that morning working on several songs. I walked upstairs and heard the loud strum of guitar inside. My market bag boasted some of my morning’s finds. As we began talking about dinner later in the day, I casually suggested several options and slipped in, “I think we should make cheese.”

making homemade ricotta

His eyes began glittering- that easy grin of his lit up his face as he declared, “really?” rather incredulously. “Oh, yeah,” I uttered with a hearty bit of swagger. “We’re going to make cheese.”

This might stand out as an example of us: Milk and cream and buttermilk coming to a gentle boil: Him keeping temperature and me setting the cheesecloth over the colander: the dance and the song.

We ate our homemade ricotta that night with crusty bread and a lush squash garnish, a favorite pairing since friend Chris first introduced me to it at SPQR. The next day our dessert consisted of ricotta served in small baking prep bowls with sliced strawberries, cacao nibs and a lengthy chat about the future.

As lovely as the ricotta tasted both times, may I suggest a tertiary possibility? Homemade cinnamon ricotta with candied kumquats and hazelnuts. This might be a dark horse in the running dessert for those teaser nights in San Francisco where it’s starting to heat up.

how to candy kumquats

My first candied kumquat stands out as a vivid memory. Olga and I visited the Greek island of Corfu a few years ago. For an afternoon, we meandered its streets and perused its shops. One shop possessed all sorts of fruits candied and shellacked in a large glass case and as we stood in line, the order could have been unanimous. Candied kumquats. This sweet and tart citrus you pop whole in your mouth became decadent and downright delicious. Ever since, I’ve been a fan of candying them. If I close my eyes, they take me back to sleepy Corfu, making me crave a Greek iced coffee.

The cinnamon infused into the ricotta was subtle, and a bit of an experiment. If I was to describe my method of cooking in my kitchen, it would be experimentation. I threw in the hazelnuts as a nutty counterpoint to the somewhat smoky citrus notes sweet and yet melding with the creamy ricotta easily, like a good harmony laying over a solid melody.

Like marriage. The give and take. The sweet and the tart. The better if together.

Homemade Cinnamon Ricotta with Candied Kumquats & Hazelnuts


Homemade Cinnamon Ricotta with Candied Kumquats and Hazelnuts

  • ½ cup homemade cinnamon ricotta (recipe below)
  • 30 candied kumquat slices (recipe below)
  • 25 hazelnuts

Dish up the ricotta and sprinkle the candied kumquats and hazelnuts on top. Serve this dessert in ramekins or other small bowls. Perfect for early summer or even as a mid-afternoon snack if you’re feeling the need for a luscious pick-me-up. If you want it a bit sweeter, you could always drizzle a dash of the kumquat simple syrup on top.

YIELD: Serves 6
how to candy kumquats

  • 8 kumquats, rinsed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup water

Slice kumquats.

how to candy kumquats

Place kumquats into a pot of boiling water for one minute. As you let them boil, in a different pot, combine 1 cup sugar with 1/2 cup water and let simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

how to make simple syrup

how to make simple syrup

Pour kumquats into colander and strain out the water.

how to candy kumquats

Place kumquats into a new pot of boiling water for another minute. Then pour the kumquats back into the colander. Put them in the simple syrup for 15 minutes and turn off heat.

how to candy kumquats

Place a vegetable steamer over a large glass measuring cup and carefully drain the simple syrup and kumquats into the strainer.

how to make flavored simple syrup

Let the kumquats dry. Reserve the kumquat simple syrup. Store kumquats for several days in the fridge.

drying kumquats

*Note: That remaining kumquat simple syrup is like liquid gold. Pour it from the measuring cup into a jar or bottle and place in the refrigerator. Use as a base to salad dressings, as a splash to brighten up sparkling water or a smidge to sweeten the ricotta on its own. Let your imagination have its way!

how to make kumquat simple syrup

~Makes ½ cup candied kumquats

homemade ricotta
adapted from Jennifer Perillo of In Jennie’s Kitchen
~ makes about 2 cups plus a few spoonfuls for taste testing

NOTE: As mentioned above, for the Homemade Cinnamon Ricotta with Candied Kumquats and Hazelnuts, I added cinnamon to the ricotta-making process as an experiment wanting to see how the spice might affect the cheese. It’s quite subtle but works well for this specific recipe. Jennifer Perillo’s recipe does not include the cinnamon so omit it if looking for a simpler ricotta.

Keep in mind the ricotta will thicken in the fridge, so don’t drain it too much, or it’ll end up dry and cakey. I also like to let it come to room temperature before serving.

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Add ingredients to a 4-quart pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.

how to make cinnamon ricotta

Meanwhile, line a sieve or fine mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a deep bowl or pot.

how to make cinnamon ricotta

how to make cinnamon ricotta

Once curds begin to separate from the whey (liquid temperature will be between 175º and 200º), remove from heat. Gently spoon or ladle the curds into the cheesecloth-lined strainer.

how to make cinnamon ricotta

how to make cinnamon ricotta

how to make cinnamon ricotta

how to make cinnamon ricotta

You may need to gently gather the cheesecloth at the top to help the curds drain.

how to make cinnamon ricotta

Let curds sit in cheesecloth to drain liquid 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how creamy you’d like your ricotta. Store in refrigerator up to two days.

*NOTE: Perillo says the ricotta will thicken in the fridge. The first time we made this we drained too much liquid and the ricotta was very thick. The second time, we drained less liquid and found the consistency more to our liking. I think over time you get a deft eye for what is “right” to you.




Homemade Tortilla Chips- Baked & Fried Variations

Who doesn’t like tortilla chips? Okay, maybe people who are allergic to corn or just avoiding it. In our household pantry, they are a staple. In our refrigerator, you can always find tortillas. Recently, Nathan stocked up on some from Chavez in the East Bay. The tortilla chip is humble and yet crunches and crackles its way into many a party.

Making them is a snap and really there might not be anything better than making them fresh when you want them, and deciding if you want to go the healthy Baked Tortilla Chip route or the more indulgent Fried Tortilla Chip route. Both methods are too easy to not pass along. Making them from scratch inevitably also saves money as the bagged tortillas in your grocery Latin food aisle usually come stacked high and priced low.

I’m trying something different here that I’ve been mulling since following a trussed chicken recipe by photo. Inspired by Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s roasted chicken recipe and more recently, friend Irvin Lin’s chocolate magic shell recipe, I give you the Homemade Tortilla Chip Recipe by Photo: done 2 ways.

Stay tuned this week for recipes that make these baked and fried bad boys shine beyond the nacho plate or dip platter.



Baked Homemade Tortilla Chips

Fried Homemade Tortilla Chips


homemade corn tortilla chips

DIY RECIPES- Making Tortilla Chips From Scratch