Roasted Tomato and Pumpkin Seed Salsa

by Caroline

Really, this is Tony’s post, as he is the only one in our family who will enjoy something in a restaurant and then try to recreate it at home. He’s done it with Eos’ shitake mushroom dumplings, Jackson Filmore’s gnocchi with chard in lemon broth, and now taqueria Papalote’s delicious salsa. His is a simplified version of this recipe, and it was such a hit at our recent dinner party that I don’t have a picture!

Tony writes, “I use canned, fire-roasted tomatoes, because it’s so much faster and the difference is hard to notice. It also means I can make the salsa year-round. I also forgo the dried chiles, and just use two different kinds of chile powder. Simpler and faster. You could certainly substitute different kinds of chile powder to good effect. I also added the onion and garlic to give it a little more sweetness and overall richness. I’m definitely not trying to copy Papalote at this point… I’d just call it an homage!”

1 15 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes (Muir Glen and Trader Joes both make them)
[Or you can simply halve some roma tomatoes and put them
under the broiler for 7-8 minutes until slightly blackened.] 1 small onion
4-5 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried ancho chile powder
1 tsp dried pasilla chile powder
4 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup cilantro
2 tbsp white vinegar
1/4 cup water

Coarsely chop the onion into big chunks. Leave the garlic cloves unpeeled. Pan roast the onions and garlic with no oil for 7-8 minutes until they are slightly blackened. (You could also do this under a broiler or on the grill) … you’re just trying to get a little color and roasted/charred flavor.

Peel the garlic and transfer onions and garlic to a saucepan with the tomatoes, dried chile powders, sugar, salt, and water. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. If it feels too thick feel free to add a little more water.

Add the vinegar and cook for one minute more.

Let cool a bit. (Or not, if you’re impatient like me!)

Transfer tomato mixture to a blender. Add the pumpkin seeds and cilantro. Blend until smooth.

Bison Jerky

by Caroline

(click on the image to enlarge)

Yes, it’s true: the vegetarian food blogger is offering you a recipe for bison jerky, courtesy of her even-more-stringently vegetarian nine year-old son.

I am trapped in a head cold that makes me uninterested in much besides tea and toast.

My son, however, is embarked on a multi-week westward migration game in his third grade classroom. The kids have divided into families, been assigned jobs, built covered wagons, bought supplies, and, just this week, started heading to California from Missouri. This week’s homework has involved some research projects: cholera; snake bite remedies; and, tonight, jerky. My husband tried to suggest that Ben, who has frustrated his classroom family a little bit by refusing to imaginary-hunt or eat meat on the journey, come up with a recipe for tofu jerky, but he demurred. He was interested to hear that his late grandfather had once built a backyard smoker, and of course a herd of bison grazes in Golden Gate Park, just a few blocks from our house, but thankfully those bison and that smoker have never met. He wasn’t interested in the recipe I found in my copy of Sarah Hale’s The Good Housekeeper (first published in 1841). She doesn’t offer jerky, exactly, but has a variety of recipes for smoked, pickled, and salted meats, and even one for a meat preserved in snow: “the meat remains as fresh and juicy when it is taken out to be cooked, as when it was first killed.” Mmm. Instead, he adapted a recipe from our current bedtime book, Little House in the Big Woods. Let me know if you try it!

Sugar on Snow, Literally

by Caroline

I am a big fan of letting the kids experiment in the kitchen to discover what tastes good to them. Ben, for example, went through a period of snacking on sun-dried tomatoes and graham crackers — a snack I never would have thought to offer the child but kept him happy for countless afternoons. At home, my boys have a pretty well-stocked pantry to explore, with a nice variety of nuts and dried fruit, as well as a good supply of fresh fruit, yogurt, and other snacking ingredients, and it’s always interesting for me to see what they come up with.

When we are traveling, though, our supplies are necessarily more limited. So it was the other afternoon in Lake Tahoe, where we spent some of the boys’ winter break. Eli was snacky and also, after a full morning in a ski lesson, a little tired. He needed something mellow and fun to do as much as he needed something to eat. So, I looked out on the balcony at the quickly-accumulating snow and asked him if he wanted to eat some of that. “Really, Mama? I can eat the snow?” “Sure,” I reminded him; “We can make sugar on snow like we do at Granddad’s, we just don’t have syrup.”

So, I thought about Lisa’s Hawaiian shave ice treats and we improvised with the ingredients at hand.

First, snow sprinkled with cocoa mix:

Surprisingly, not a huge hit.

Then we tried snow with raspberry jam heated into a syrup:

I liked it, but Eli didn’t.

Finally, the winner: snow drizzled with honey!

It’s not, of course, the most power-packed nutritional snack; ultimately the activity was more important here than the appetite. It was fun and easy and the boy was in charge: a winner in my book.


by Caroline

There is something so 1950s about this recipe that I almost feel like I should wait until Mad Men starts airing again before posting it. But this time of year, with winter dragging on and spring not quite here, I need something new and fun (and yes, always quick) to get out of these cold weather doldrums. So I present to you:

Here’s what I love about puffs:
they’re versatile: the puffs can be round or oblong, big or small, sweet or savory
they’re easy to make ahead and keep until you want them
they’re fun to make
they require no special ingredients

Technically, these are pâte à choux, or choux pastry, but don’t let the French put you off. If you can boil water, you can make these.

Once they are baked and cooled, you can fill them with sweetened ricotta cheese, whipped cream, or jam; you can slice them in half and make ice cream sandwiches; you can dip them in chocolate syrup; spread them with Nutella; or sprinkle them with chopped, toasted nuts.

You can also make them a savory snack or appetizer by adding half a cup of grated cheese (Gruyere is traditional) to the batter, and/or a bit of lemon zest or chopped fresh herbs. Brush the unbaked puffs with egg wash and sprinkle them with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, grated Parmesan and/or ground pepper. Fill the baked, cooled puffs with herbed cream or goat cheese, or slice and spread them with a bit of cheese, a dab of roasted red pepper, smoked salmon… the possibilities are really endless.
Obviously the guests at your next cocktail party would be delighted to see these, but (and let’s be honest about where the bulk of our cooking energy is directed) so would your kids when they get home from school. Puffs can be fancy or familiar, depending simply on your imagination and presentation.

The recipe couldn’t be simpler:

½ cup butter
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 and line a couple baking sheets with parchment.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter in the water. Add salt and flour, and stir until the batter starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into a piping bag fitted with a large tip, or into a large ziploc from which you then snip open one corner. Pipe the pastry onto the baking sheets into whatever shape you like: small puffs, big puffs, or oblongs. If you like, smooth the tops with a fingertip dipped in cold water. Bake for 20-25 minutes (smaller puffs will bake more quickly), until golden brown, crisp and dry. Let cool before filling.

To fill, slice in half and spread with filling, or put the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large tip (or a ziploc bag with its corner cut), poke a small hole into the bottom of the puff, and simply squirt in the filling.

If you want to keep some for later, let cool and then freeze (unfilled) in a ziploc bag; they’ll thaw and reheat quickly in a hot oven.


by Lisa

One of the great things about eating locally and seasonally is that every few months or so, a “new” food comes into rotation, giving everyone, but especially the kids, a much needed change. When a food comes into season–like cherries or pomegranates or persimmons–it’s almost like a holiday. The kids reminisce about their favorite foods in off-season and look forward to what’s coming next.

One doesn’t often think of nuts as a seasonal product, but they are, and we are lucky enough to have a farmer at our market who brings fresh nuts year round to market.  He brings, from Winters, CA, amazing value-added products like tamari or wasabi or cinnamon, or orange honey almonds; barbecue, lemon-chili, garlic and italian herb pistachios; some nuts are shelled, some unshelled, some are raw, some are roasted, some are salted, some are not.  We’ve yet to meet a nut we don’t like around here, and very often the kids take them for snack to school.

But one of the very best things at this stand are the fresh, unshelled walnuts.  They are markedly different-fresher, more flavorful–than store bought, pre-shelled walnuts. When the new crop comes in, in late winter, I can buy a very large bag of thin-shelled walnuts for just a few dollars. At home, I pour the bag into the bowl that in other seasons holds cherries or plums–and leave out the nutcracker and an empty bowl for shells and let the kids snack on them whenever they want. Ella, especially, cannot get enough. She eats them for snack, for appetizer, for dessert.   And I don’t mind one bit.