Sara Bir’s Italian Plum Cake

Do yourself a favor and go snatch up a pound of plums to make Sara Bir’s Italian plum cake before summer ends. Then, see if you can hold off on cutting into it until it’s set, but still warm. If you don’t have a favorite summer dessert yet, you’re about to taste it. Those are bold words, especially since I prefer chocolate always and fruit out of hand. But this cake! The olive oil and dash of balsamic vinegar really take it over the top. I bet it would be amazing with mission figs too.

Sara Bir's Italian Plum Cake

Once cooled, all you need is a dollop of Greek yogurt and dig in. I tucked  Dapple Dandy Pluots into this Italian plum cake, but Bir suggests you can swap in cherries, strawberries, nectarines, blackberries, or raspberries.

Sara Bir's Italian Plum Cake is fairly easy to mix together.

This recipe comes from her new cookbook, The Fruit Forager’s Companion. I made a few small tweaks to the recipe such as omitting the turbinado sugar (though I can imagine the delightful crunch it would give to the crumb of the cake) and instead of halving or quartering, I sliced the pluots wanting them to infuse a bit more juice into each bite.

When making Sara Bir's Italian Plum Cake, lay the sliced plums in a single layer on the batter in the pan.

Sara Bir's Italian Plum Cake

This recipe is from Sara Bir’s book The Fruit Forager’s Companion: Ferments, Desserts, Main Dishes, and More from Your Neighborhood and Beyond (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2018) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher.

Course Dessert
Keyword Plum Cake


  • 3/4 cup (100 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I used kosher)
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pound (455 grams) plums, pitted and halved or quartered (I used Dapple Dandy pluots, thinly sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C), and position a rack in the center. Line the bottom of a 10-inch (25 cm) spring-form pan with baking parchment. Grease the sides and bottom well with baking spray or butter. Set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest,  and cinnamon. Set aside.

  3. With an electric mixer, beat the egg and the sugar on high speed until the mixture is creamy, pale yellow, and lighter in volume, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low, add the olive oil, then the milk and balsamic vinegar. Fold in the flour mixture with a rubber spatula just until it makes a smooth batter.

  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. It will look really skimpy once it's in the pan, but don't worry. Arrange the plums in a single layer across the batter, and sprinkle the cake with the sugar.

  5. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on top, a little puffed, and set in the center (a toothpick should come out free of batter but may have a few crumbs clinging to it). Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove the sides and cool until just barely warm. You can serve it either that way, or at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

Vanilla ice cream, whipped creme fraiche, or good plain whole-milk yogurt are all very nice accompaniments to this.

Sara Bir Italian Plum Cake_credit anneliesz_-0363sm

Cookery Bookshelf Recipes

Roasted White Chocolate Brownies with Strawberry Balsamic Swirl

Roasted White Chocolate Brownies have an extra dimension of flavor.

I should start by telling you anything I could possibly write about Irvin Lin’s first cookbook would be biased. I hung the equivalent of a save-the-date postcard for cookbooks of Irvin Lin’s Marbled, Swirled, and Layered in the coveted spot on the front of my fridge months before his book had even reached his hands hardbound. I bought the book. Attended a book signing. Asked at least one inquisitive question during Q&A. So, as my full disclosure to you, I can give you more than you might ask for in a cookbook review. I can go behind the scenes.

Marbled Swirled and Layered Book Review

You need to know that when I worked on my cookbook proposal for Steeped, I wrestled with images to include in it, having a very specific aesthetic I was looking to accomplish (and that my fellow lover of words and images, Stephanie Shih realized wonderfully in the printed book). Irvin and I had been friends for years at this point and recently had teamed up at a food photography workshop that proved to be quite productive. When I asked if he would shoot the photos for my proposal, he didn’t hesitate and we spent an afternoon under the overcast skies making pictures.

Have you ever tried roasting white chocolate? One key is low heat and then checking for color.

I say this because to understand what Irvin’s trying to accomplish in his cookbook comes from a place of generosity. It’s not often you see the front matter in a cookbook really seek to instruct instead of just providing a basis for why a baker uses certain equipment and ingredients. In Irvin’s hands, you’ll find six paragraphs dedicated to eggs with handy tips (freeze egg whites in a dedicated ice cube tray; freeze egg yolks with a pinch of salt or sugar to help with clumping when defrosting). A giddiness echoes in the way he shares these nuggets, much like a friend pulling you into earshot to spread news that’s too good not to share. For as long as I’ve known Irvin, he has always wanted to write a baking cookbook and notably one with suggestions on how to tweak recipes for gluten-free sensibilities. Early on in our friendship, we shared this sensitivity for friends who have Celiac disease or an intolerance that showed me we were kindred spirits. You’ll find a gluten-free conversions section before the recipes arrive where he shares his whole-grain gluten-free flour blend and chocolate gluten-free flour blend (p. 29).

The color of roasted white chocolate, according to Irvin Lin, should resemble "dark peanut butter."

The recipes in Marbled, Swirled, and Layered evoke Irvin’s unique sensibility for baking. His recipes are never one note. I described them recently, when I brought the Roasted White Chocolate Brownies with Strawberry Balsamic Swirl (p. 99, recipe below) to music practice as being emblematic of how he dresses. It’s not unusual to find him wearing a mix of several kinds of stripes in candy-colors where instead of them clashing they make him look dapper and one-of-a-kind. His baking is like this and it’s one reason I’m glad that the title includes the word layered. It’s never enough to just create a riff on linzer cookies with hazelnuts and cocoa, but the jam includes blackberries and mint (p. 59) citing in the headnote how blackberries and hazelnuts both come from Oregon and pair well together especially with “an extra layer of flavor (fresh mint.)”

Keep an eye on the white chocolate as it's roasting to determine if the chocolate is done, as it can quickly burn.

He’s chatty in real life and you can hear it in his headnotes where his stories set up the recipe below. If you read his blog, eat the love you’ll know stories of his life make up a big part of the recipes he shares. It was a fun surprise to find that a cake he and I had eaten inspired the Carrot and Parsnip Layer Cake with Honey-Cream Cheese Frosting (p. 139). I remember when he won the pie contest he describes as a lead-into Lemon-Blackberry Chess Pie (p. 197). The baking and raw ice cream pop-up he notes with the Jumbo Arnold Palmer Cookies (p. 33) did sell out quickly of said cookies, and I was happy to get there to snag one of the cookies before they were gone. I’ve hosted yearly cookie swaps during the holidays and am pretty sure the Cinnamon-Honey Bun Cookies (p. 36) and the Chocolate-Vanilla Checkerboard Cookies (p. 45) both have made appearances here. Along with Anita and Shauna, for several years, we co-hosted a Food Bloggers Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry on a Saturday in the Spring where we would set up shop over by Omnivore Books. His bake sale contributions always had the best branded packaging showing his skill at graphic design with bakeshop quality cookies inside.

Cook down the Strawberry Balsamic Jam after making the Roasted White Chocolate Brownie batter.

On more than one occasion, I subtly (and not so subtly) nudged him that he needed to open a cookie shop because his cookies surpassed what was available in my opinion at neighborhood bake shops. So I suppose it’s not surprising that’s where I focused the bulk of my interest when reading Marbled, Swirled, and Layered—you too can see why if you try baking his Malted Chocolate Chip and Reverse Chip Cookies (p. 81)—his textures are everything I want in a cookie: chewy in the middles, deep flavors, crispy edges, and usually at least one esoteric ingredient. I have every intention of making the Pumpkin S’mores with Maple-Brown Sugar Marshmallows and Dark Chocolate (p. 77) when tomato / apple season ends and pumpkin season officially begins. Wink, wink. The cakes, pies, muffins, and a little bit more sections all have something to offer, (believe me, he’s a master in those categories and bakes for DAYS prior to hosting a dessert party that’s been a can’t miss event in my calendar in past years) but some part of me gravitates back to cookies and bars… especially his Roasted White Chocolate Brownies with Strawberry Balsamic Glaze.

Drop clumps of jam on the brownie and then with a fork, scrape and swirl!

Back when I worked at the cereal company several years ago, we had agreed to meet for lunch. He brought the dessert, a recipe he was working on for his cookbook. I, a self-declared lover of the darker-the-better chocolate became smitten with roasted. white. chocolate. A strawberry balsamic jam swirled the crispy tops providing a counter-note of tangy fruit to the toothsome bar. He left me several of these brownies and I squirreled them away as treats for teatime during the week. Once I’d exhausted my stash I couldn’t stop thinking about them! White chocolate had never held this kind of spell over me before or since and I bided my time until I could make them at home. Roasting the white chocolate gives the usually cloyingly sweet chocolate a burnished edge to layer in unexpected flavor. It’s kind of like Irvin himself. He adds a bit of his unmistakable charm and flavor wherever he goes, his inquisitive passion for baking so beautifully captured in a book to enliven the kitchens of intrepid home bakers.

Once the brownies appear golden on the outside and cooked through, cool them thoroughly. Resist the temptation to cut into them before it's time!


Roasted White Chocolate Brownies with Strawberry-Balsamic Swirl excerpted from MARBLED, SWIRLED, AND LAYERED© 2017 by Irvin Lin. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

When you’re picking up the ingredients to make these brownies, Irvin says, “make sure the white chocolate you purchase has cocoa butter listed in the ingredients. Bypass white chocolate chips or cheap white chocolate (which uses vegetable oil in place of the cocoa butter) as he notes those don’t melt or caramelize well.”

 MAKES 24 small brownies


1 2⁄3 cups (10 ounces or 285 g) chopped

white chocolate (in about 1⁄4-inch chunks)

3⁄4 cup (170 g or 1 1⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3⁄4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar

3⁄4 cup (165 g) packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs

1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 1⁄4 cups (315 g) all-purpose flour



1 cup (5 1⁄2 ounces or 160 g) chopped

strawberries (in about 1⁄2-inch chunks)

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon cold water

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar



Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spread the white chocolate on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir with a clean spatula until the browned chocolate at the edges is evenly mixed with the uncooked white chocolate in the center. Once completely stirred, the white chocolate should be the color of dark peanut butter. If it isn’t, continue to bake in 5-minute increments to darken it. Watch the white chocolate closely once it starts to brown, as it can burn pretty fast. Let cool on the baking sheet while you make the brownie batter.


Lightly coat a 9 x 13-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray and then line it with parchment paper, with 2 inches of the paper overhanging the edges of the pan. Increase the oven temperature to 350°F.

Place the butter and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat together on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt and beat to incorporate. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg to incorporate completely and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl before adding the next one. Add the oil and beat to incorporate. Scrape the roasted white chocolate into the bowl (it may have hardened and gotten a little grainy, but don’t worry about that) and mix it in. Add the flour and mix on low speed until absorbed. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.


Place the strawberries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon and smashing the berries, until the strawberries release their juice and fall apart, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir the cornstarch into the water and then drizzle it into the strawberries, continuing to stir and cook for a minute or two until the mixture has thickened into a jam. Continue cooking for about 2 more minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat. Stir in the balsamic vinegar. Drop generous tablespoons of the strawberry swirl over the brownie batter and then use a butter knife or chopstick to swirl them together. Don’t overmix; just gently pull the strawberry swirl here and there and pull some brownie batter over the strawberry swirl as well.

Bake until the brownie is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, then remove the brownies by grabbing the sides of the parchment paper and pulling directly up. Transfer the entire slab of brownies to a cutting board. Cut and serve.

Roasted White Chocolate Brownies with Strawberry Balsamic Swirl are a great teatime treat and pair well with Darjeeling tea.

alternative to strawberry balsamic swirl


Make the brownie batter. Omit the strawberry-balsamic swirl. Make the chocolate-hazelnut swirl by placing 1 cup (130 g) hazelnuts, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 1⁄4 cup (30 g) natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-process), and 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt in a food processor. Turn the processor on and slowly drizzle in 3 tablespoons olive oil while the processor is running. Blend until a paste forms. Add up to 3 teaspoons more olive oil, 1 teaspoon at a time, if the paste is too thick (you want a peanut butter–like consistency). Swirl into the brownie batter in a decorative pattern. Assemble and bake as directed. Or cheat and use 3⁄4 cup Nutella to swirl into the brownie!

Roasted White Chocolate Brownies might turn you from the dark side.



Sunday Roast Cauliflower

Sunday Roast Cauliflower

Is it possible that we have recreated the Tower of Babel by emoji? With the right string of icons, anyone can now communicate by smiley face or thumbs up. And, new smart phones feature them as one might find an alphabet or keyboard of letters. It’s easier than ever before to connect and communicate. Or, is it? Deep down, I wonder.

Years ago, I used to take walks with a friend who also worked as a community manager, managing the online community  for her company through social media. We wondered out loud about how to give the right content to our community, flooding their feed regularly with mouth-watering snapshots of food that they had signed up for. It sometimes gave us pause to scratch underneath the surface of what it is exactly that they had signed up for. And, more importantly, how could we create and curate content that would get to that deeper impulse underneath appreciation for a branded product in the grocery cart, transferred to the pantry and then to Facebook. We would hike around the edges of Lands End in San Francisco and mull what our customers didn’t see about the food industry–the things that can be maddening like free-fills in retail stores (providing free stock to a store to sell through but the company not reaping any profit on those items) or how sometimes people visit company web pages with the sole aim of discord. I lived for those walks. And in hindsight, I can see that part of what made them invaluable was the companionship of someone who understood the inner workings of the business side of the social platforms that for some are time sucks for most people, as time for personal fun.

Moving to a new town, not so far away, and yet not close enough to tie on my walking shoes and drive or take two forms of public transportation to traipse through the quiet hills on the edge of Lands End evenings after work, I’ve had to change my rhythm. And, this has included walks with food writer friends to talk about cookbooks, blogging, and the inner workings of living life digitally and by recipe. I have stepped into a leadership role with IACP. This new rhythm also included joining a local meet-up for Food Content Creators. Around a table with mugs of hot tea, several of us meet regularly as part of a writing group I cherish. How we form community in our everyday lives as we get older and especially in the transient world of big cities can nudge you out. I was reminded recently how sometimes the places we think we might find community can make us feel marginalized and unexpectedly more alone in a group of people than we were by ourselves at home. 

This brings me to the idea of a Sunday roast. It strikes me as subject matter for Norman Rockwell, where all eyes around the table watch as the carving fork stabbed the meat and the slender knife trimmed juicy slices. Growing up, this tidbit of Americana cuisine passed over our house. Instead, on a good Sunday, my mom and I might venture out to Luby’s where I awaited crispy fish and mashed potatoes with a pool of tartar sauce. Maybe the point of the Sunday roast was to start cooking something that would be finished and ready to eat when you returned home after church. I don’t honestly know. Instead, there is a mystique to that meal and the idea that Sundays meant gathering around the table for this traditional repast. So, what kind of food do you eat on Sundays? At one point, Olga and I had the intention of making Sunday supper a place to invite friends regularly to the table. We wanted it to be a given that dinner would be served and friends would be welcome. It never came to pass, ultimately falling into the bin where good ideas go to fester.

So, where do you congregate with your community? Does it happen on a specific day each week or does it instead only happen at holidays and celebrations? In the age of the emoji, communicating might be simpler than ever before, but community is more complex. The table itself has become sometimes the symbol of dissonance where one person’s avoidance stems from a political perspective or allergies impact menu planning. But, it doesn’t have to be difficult. The simple Sunday roast might not make the cut anymore. So, instead, I offer the suggestion of a Sunday Roast Cauliflower where the crown of the platter comes cruciferous with crispy edges. It’s plentiful enough to carve into to serve your community, wherever you find it.

Sunday Roast Cauliflower  

Sunday Roast Cauliflower

If you’ve never roasted a whole cauliflower before, it leaves quite an impression upon all who partake of it. Imagine spearing it like you might a steak and pulling out your most trusty sharp chef’s knife to hack a section of the head to serve. And, who doesn’t like turning the idea of a Sunday roast on its head (of cauliflower). I like to make this dish during the week when my workdays run long and I need more time tying up that day’s details. It fills the house with the aroma of onions as a reminder that while I’m working, so is dinner. We serve this with steamed jasmine rice and spoon the Tea Umami sauce on it from Steeped or Carrot Top Pesto. Comfort food comes to the table roasted during fall and winter.

Serves 4

5 carrots, peeled and chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 cup celeriac, peeled and chopped into 2-inch chunks
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 red onion, peeled and quartered
1 head cauliflower, cored with the leaves removed
1 tablespoon plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 375. Place the carrots, celeriac, garlic and onion in a bowl. Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil over them and toss to coat. Distribute them evenly in a Dutch oven. Crown the vegetables with the head of cauliflower. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the cauliflower. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the cauliflower and vegetables. Cook for 1 hour. Crank up the oven to 415 and cook for an additional 15 to 18 minutes to brown the top of the cauliflower a bit more.

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.



Chopped Carrot Basil Salad

This past weekend my cousin Erika flew up to the city by the Bay for a visit with her son, who we will call the Wedding Cake Bandit. We call him that because a very clever wedding photographer caught a somewhat clever ring-bearer right before he deposited his index finger in our wedding cake on our big day. This remains one of my favorite wedding memories and can only endear me more to this little one so full of mischief and spirit like someone else I know. Ahem.


You love someone deeply not just because they are family, but because in some ways they tell your story back to you when you forget it. You don’t think anything could make your love grow for them and then you meet their progeny. Something about the child that they bear and raise makes you ridiculously invested and protective of their innocence and life.

You are not their mother. Yet, you mother. The mother and the child.


The mother, the child, Beck and I set out for a grand tour of San Francisco, which is to say, this time, included one visit to see Claude, the albino alligator, an adventure filled with baskets of ollalieberries, and an early morning trek for some Early Girls.


As Erika and I shared stories from childhood, we, in turn, were making memories that her little one will remember and if he doesn’t, then we will be the mirrors in which he can populate the stories for when he grows up. I made sure to sneak in daily visits to the park for us, sometimes including feeding the ducks and trying to avoid the pigeon gaggle descending from on high. We also made sure to work in several visits to the giant slide and once made our way through the dog run to see my favorite Frenchie I call “the boss” chase after his dingy well-loved tennis ball.


Three birthday celebrations later and the end of the weekend snuck up on us. After a Mexican feast capped off with Gluten Free Carrot Cupcakes, a Puerto Rican themed party with a piñata and smorgasbord of farmer’s market finds, we found ourselves tuckered out from all of our excursions and celebrating. Isn’t that what the summer, even a summer in San Francisco is all about? Granted, borrowed sweaters are peeled off at the midday burning off of fog.


After splurging on treats and waiting in the abysmally long line for one swell Blue Bottle latte, at the end of all the celebrating and at the beginning of returning to life as usual, a call for summer simplicity is in order. After dirtying every plate, platter and serving bowl in your cupboard, in the end, you might find something that requires one serving bowl sufficient. Here’s where this summer salad comes in. It flirts with your taste buds and is a snap to put together. In the lazy summer evenings where the sunlight pokes through the fog well past 7 p.m., something unfussy, you can pull together is as good as the memories you created all weekend long.

SALAD RECIPES- Chopped Carrot Basil Salad




Something about the sweetness of carrots and basil is a revelation. It takes a lot of strength of will to not just slice up the Early Girl tomato and eat it as is, but this combination is so mellow and life-giving. From the creaminess of the avocado, the bright tang of the tomato, a fruity splash of good olive oil and the sweetness emanating from carrots and basil, I think you might find yourself and guests polishing off this colorful salad easily.

YIELD: 4 servings

  • 1 bunch of Carrots
  • ½ avocado, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 Early Girl tomato, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Arbequina or other fruity olive oil
  • dash of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  1. Set a pot of water to boil. In the meantime, wash your carrots. Peel them and roughly chop. Once the water is boiling, set the carrots gently in the water and turn down the heat to a gentle rolling boil and cook for 5 minutes. Place carrots in a colander and let them drain when cooked through.
  2. Place basil leaves inside one another and roll them to then thinly chop in a chiffonade.
  3. Next, chop your tomato.
  4. Slice your avocado.
  5. Place carrots, basil, tomato chunks and avocado slices in a serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a few cracks of black pepper.



Creamy Black Beans with Melted Onions


It might seem like a given that a non-traditional person may not crave ritual.

I counter the presupposition happily. Each weekend, Saturday evenings to be precise, I pad into the kitchen, already clothed in pajamas to measure our black turtle beans and pour them into a big red bowl. They cascade into the bowl like dominoes clicking against one another when tipped over. The swish of water navigates between the beans until they are covered. I tackle this weekly soak as a ritual reserved right before bed.

This small act readies me for the coming week when the cooked beans will be our sustenance after a long Monday working and later in the week when we are looking for something healthy to eat that’s fast. They provide a continuity that sets us on a steadier path of making good choices. When paired with rice, we join the throngs of people around the world for whom rice and beans constitute a major part of their regular repast. These powerful ingredients work well together in forming a complete protein. Some people also turn to  beans for their low cost. Beans have a way of connecting the poor and the rich- their humility belying their strong health benefits.

making a pot of creamy black beans

Every two weeks, I know that quart sized jar will be running low and I subsequently plan a visit to the bulk bins. There’s something satisfying about watching an almost empty jar become full again. In its way, that emptying and refilling of the jar is reminiscent of life. In its way, it comprises the most basic ritual of all.

You may be vegetarian or vegan. Maybe you’re gluten intolerant or a real food purist. Perhaps you’re just looking to make healthier changes to your everyday choices. Can I suggest making beans a regular part of your routine? They are food of the soul of this non-traditional person who delights in the morning ritual of finding those hard black buttons hydrated and plumped overnight. They serve as signposts for what counts.

Creamy Black Beans Recipe



I use beef broth in this recipe. If you are vegetarian or vegan, feel free to substitute in vegetable broth. I’ve tried it that way and it’s still tasty though you may need to add a touch of salt as needed. Some pots of beans are kind of soupy with a lot of liquid. I like to cook these low and slow so that the liquid gets reduced down into a creamy consistency and the onions take on a melted quality. The beef broth adds a bit of an umami flavor note and an ever so slight smokiness.

YIELD: 6 side servings
TIME: overnight plus 2 hours

2 cups dry black turtle beans

4 cups organic beef broth (I use Pacific Foods)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin

4 sprigs of fresh cilantro


1. Allow your beans to soak overnight by covering the dried beans with water, making sure there is an extra inch of water above the beans, as you will find them plumped up the next morning.

2. Drain the soaking water the next day and discard it. Place beans in a heavy pot with beef broth, onion, cumin, olive oil and cilantro. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat and cover the pot partway with the lid, letting the ingredients simmer.

3. Low and slow is the name of the game here. Check and stir the beans occasionally. The beans will be done when they are soft and edible but not mushy with the liquid reduced to an almost gravy-like consistency, around an hour and a half to two hours.

4. Remove the cilantro sprigs and discard. Serve.


These are my go-to beans as they are versatile, so I like to keep them pretty true to form as stated above. I’ve noted a few ways to consider serving them below. Make them your own and adapt away (and if you do, leave a comment – I’d love to hear how your creativity runs wild).

– Serve with polenta or steamed rice with sautéed greens for an easy meal.

– Add extra broth as you heat up leftover beans and make an easy black bean soup. Serve with a dollop of plain’s goat milk yogurt and chopped raw red peppers.

– If you’re feeling particularly frisky in the kitchen, use an immersion blender and puree until smooth for a healthier take on refried beans.

– Stir in a spoonful of Oaxacan mole for a bit of chocolatey complexity and with fresh corn tortillas.




Lentil Sunchoke Salad

SALAD RECIPES- Lentil Sunchoke Salad

This salad came together quickly after a trip to the Farmer’s Market and a desire to make something that evoked the earth. The flavors are deep and get better with time from the complexity of the Padrons to the meatiness of the lentils or the nuanced flavors of the sunchokes and woody herbs with toasted almonds. I packed leftovers of the salad for a flight this past weekend, bringing a little bit of earth up to 30,000 miles above it.



Lentil Sunchoke Salad

A tip when cooking sunchokes is to add some cream of tartar to the water as they boil so they won’t go grey later.

YIELD: 4 servings

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 6 small sunchokes
  • 2 cups cooked lentils (from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 9 Padron peppers

1. Wash sunchokes thoroughly and then chop. Pour 4 cups water into small pot and once boiling, add the chopped sunchokes. Cook until fork tender.

2. While sunchokes are cooking, toast almonds for about 2 minutes in toaster oven or on low heat in saute pan until lightly brown.

3. Wash and chop the Padron peppers. Then add olive oil to a small saute pan with sea salt over high heat. Once the oil easily moves around the pan, add the chopped peppers. Once the skin starts blistering with a slight char, you’re done. With Padrons, a quick sear is all that’s needed.

4. Drain sunchokes. Add lentils into a medium sized bowl. Mix in all ingredients including the olive oil used to sear the Padrons. Toss and serve.





Asparagus Artichoke Basil Rosettes

VEGETARIAN RECIPES- Asparagus Artichoke Basil Rosettes



Asparagus Artichoke Basil Rosettes

YIELD: 7 servings (2 per person based on 14 rosettes)

When it comes to food for celebrations, we want to pull out all the stops. Initially, thinking about making these rosettes had me sweating bullets, but I conquered my fear and these were worth it! The variations and ideas for sauces is pretty limitless. For the filling, I used artichoke bottoms from a can because that’s what I had on-hand, but feel free to try these with steamed artichoke hearts instead.

1 pound asparagus

2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped

¼ teaspoon olive oil

2 small cloves garlic, crushed

¼ cup whole milk

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

Dash of freshly cracked black pepper


1 package curly edged lasagna noodles


½ cup (5) Cento brand artichoke bottoms

½ cup fresh homemade ricotta

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Dash of freshly cracked black pepper


1. Set water to boil in a large soup pot. While it’s heating up, chop off the ends of asparagus near bottom of green part and before the pale ends (which can be hard to chew and stringy). Place asparagus in steamer basket in boiling water for about 3-4 minutes until asparagus turns bright green.

2. Meanwhile, drizzle olive oil into small sauté pan and add chopped basil leaves. Simmer until toasted. Remove from heat.

3. Drain asparagus and move spears to food processor receptacle. Add in crushed garlic cloves, basil leaves (and oil from pan), egg, salt, pepper and pour in milk. Puree until almost smooth (a little bit of chunkiness lends something rustic to this dish).

4. Wash out soup pot and then fill with 4-6 quarts of water. Set over high heat and cover until boiling. Add in lasagna noodles and turn heat down to medium. Let lasagna noodle sheets cook until al dente about 8-9 minutes based on package instructions. Stir occasionally and gently, taking care not to break noodle sheets.

5. While noodles are cooking, pour your asparagus sauce into a small serving bowl and then clean out the food processor receptacle. Once clean, transfer the artichoke bottoms and fresh homemade ricotta to the food processor receptacle along with cracked black pepper and kosher salt to taste. Puree until smooth.

6. Transfer artichoke ricotta filling to a small serving bowl.

7. Drain the lasagna sheets in a colander, taking care to rinse them with cold water, to help prevent sticking and also to make them easier to handle.

how to make lasagna rosettes

8. Take 1 lasagna sheet and set on a clean countertop. Take a tablespoon from your cutlery drawer and fill with artichoke ricotta (about 1 T filling per lasagna sheet). Set the tip of your spoon down in the middle of the lasagna noodle and drag it in a straight line, taking care to ensure even distribution. Then pinch the two corners together, like you would folding a sheet or blanket and begin to roll inward like a pinwheel.

rolling asparagus artichoke basil rosettes

making lasagna rosettes

You want to make sure they are tight both as you roll them and tight in the casserole dish. (I used a measuring cup to keep the rosettes from moving in the casserole dish and to keep them tight until enough of them were in the dish.)

tips on making lasagna rosettes

tightly packed in casserole dish

9. Keep rolling until you’ve used up your supplies. (In my case, I found a few of the lasagna sheets were mangled or falling apart so I only used the ones that were perfect which resulted in 14 rosettes. With this recipe, you can easily make 18, but that again is contingent on the shape of the noodles).

10. Once the casserole dish is full, carefully pour the asparagus basil sauce over the rosettes evenly so as to ensure even distribution over all rosettes. Refrigerate overnight.

11. On the evening you’re planning to serve the rosettes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once the oven is heated up, cook for 15 minutes.





Lentil Croquettes & Spinach Salad with Dill Mustard Sauce

SALAD RECIPES- Lentil Croquette Spinach Salad

I don’t know about you, but in our household we sure love a quick and easy, tasty and healthy dinner for Monday nights. Did that descriptor leave you a bit winded too?

how to make vegetarian burgers with no grains

Well, that’s about how it feels to race home after racing all day at work catching up on weekend communications. Monday is the day to just barrel through, chin up, smile fixed.  Monday nights are meant for quick and easy.

vegetarian burger how to

Did you know there is also a whole movement of people who participate in “Meatless Mondays“? It’s kind of fabulous really. Our household is meat-friendly, but incorporating more vegetables and legumes into our everyday eating is something we take into account.

how to make vegetarian burgers

I give you these lentil croquettes. Take note, these croquettes are not meant to be sandwiched between bread slices or a bun. Fork tender and served on a bed of spinach leaves with grilled onions, they make the salad! In fact, I really was playing against the idea of having breadcrumbs or grains as a binder. They are chock full of veggies and protein. I bet they would be delicious served atop couscous or steamed barley for a whole grain option.

how to make lentil croquettes

We found that our quick and easy dinner option became the ideal grab and go leftover the next day too…

how to make lentil croquettes


Lentil Croquettes & Spinach Salad with Dill Mustard Sauce

YIELD: 6 lentil croquettes

  • 1 carrot, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 zucchini, minced
  • 3 sweet peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 package cooked lentils from Trader Joe’s
  • 1 large egg
  • cayenne, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound organic spinach leaves, rinsed
Mash lentils with hands or you could use a food processor. Add spices and taste. Addegg to the lentil mixture and then fold in the minced vegetables. Mix.

Heat a medium sized saute pan for croquettes over medium high heat and add oil. Once the pan is hot, add two croquettes and saute for 2 minutes. Then flip and saute on the other side for 2 minutes. They should have a nice slightly charred crust on each side after being cooked.

Place fully cooked lentil croquettes on a paper towel covered plate, to help sop up some of the oil and dab the top with paper towel.

photo of onion


  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 T Braggs apple cider vinegar

Heat saute pan for onions, over medium high heat. Add oil. Then add onion slices and garlic.

caramelizing onions

Saute low and slow until the onions are almost translucent, about 4 minutes. Then add the apple cider vinegar to finish off the onions.

caramelizing onions

Saute for 2 more minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.


dill mustard finishing sauce


  • 3 oz. plain sheep’s milk yogurt
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. whole grain mustard
  • 1/8 kosher salt
  • 2 T freshly chopped dill

sauce for vegetarian burgers

Whisk together sauce ingredients and set aside. Once lentil croquettes are ready, place croquette over bed of spinach, add caramelized onions and drizzle sauce.





Sweet Pepper Tilapia

FISH RECIPES- confetti-tilapia


Sweet Pepper Tilapia

This would be great served with brown rice or another whole grain. It’s light and cool for these hot summer days. I served it with zucchini ribbons, but that’s a recipe for another day.

YIELD: 2 servings

  • 2 tilapia filets
  • 4 sweet peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • Kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Meanwhile slice your peppers and onion.

3. Lightly grease pan with olive oil. Place fish in pan. (We used frozen tilapia so no need to defrost).

4. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and then sprinkle the sliced onion, peppers and capers over the fish. Dust with the spices and pinch of kosher salt.

5. Cook for 25 minutes. You can serve with a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the fish. Lemon seems to always be a great complement to fish.