On the Patio

It seems like Spring has just sprung and now here we are firmly headed toward Summer. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy once again living in a place that has 4 distinct seasons? With balmy breezes, clear blue skies, and the sound of crashing waves in the distance, we find ourselves spending more time on the patio.

This recipe is my new favorite "Come on over and share a glass of wine with me" snack.

They are just great with an icy cold Rosé, and some Pecorino cheese or olives. Sharing them with great friends is a given.

Chipotle and Rosemary Spiced Nuts
Adapted from Ina Garten
3 cups whole unsalted cashews
2 cups whole walnut halves
2 cups whole pecan halves
1 cups whole almonds
Vegetable oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
4 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves chopped
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl combine all the nuts with the vegetable oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, and chipotle powder. Stir well to coat the nuts evenly. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of rosemary and stir again.
Spread the nuts in one layer on the sheet pan and roast for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and glazed. Check the nuts every 7 minutes and toss with a spatula to help them brown evenly.
Remove the nuts from the oven and toss with 2 more teaspoons of kosher salt and the remaining rosemary. Toss well to combine. Let the nuts cool to room temperature, stirring frequently so they do not stick and clump together.
Check for seasoning and serve warm or at room temperature.

Or, How About This.....

Another way to use those biscuits. Split and top them with shredded chicken that has been liberally doused with a sweet and spicy sauce. This is best eaten on a sunny weekend evening, sitting in the backyard with beer and great friends.

BBQ Chicken Shortcakes
6 large biscuits
4 chicken boneless skinless chicken breasts
Canola oil
1 medium onion chopped fine
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons molasses
6 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
salt and pepper to taste

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Once the water boils, add 2 teaspoons of salt and the chicken breasts. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken from the water to a plate, cover and let cool. One the chicken has cooled enough to handle shred it into fine strips. I do this by hand, just pull it apart. This is a great job for kids.

To make the BBQ sauce, heat some canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute an additional 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar, molasses, and maple syrup.  Cook until the brown sugar dissolves and the mixture bubbles. Add the tomato paste, water,Worcestershire sauce, and cumin. Stir well to combine. If the sauce seems a little too thick add more water. Allow this to simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If you find that the sauce tastes very acidic, add the baking soda, this will balance out the sauce. Taste again and adjust any seasonings.

To serve, mix the chicken with the sauce and warm through. Warm and then split the biscuits, Divide the chicken mixture evenly on the bottom biscuit half. Top with the remaining biscuit half and serve. You can serve these with chopped onion, and cheese if you wish. We like them as is.


I love biscuits. Morning, noon, or night. Plain, or fancy. Leavened only with baking powder or with a little yeast thrown in. Oh yes, biscuits make me swoon. These are flaky and tender, helped along with a large dose of cheddar cheese and made slightly extravagant by the use of heavy cream as the liquid. They are great on their own but they are wonderful as a side to, well, just about anything. They are best eaten the day they are made but if you have a couple left over, split and toast them, then top them with scrambled eggs, a little more cheese, and if you're feeling it, some bacon.

You can thank me later.

Cheddar and Black Pepper Biscuits
4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
10 tablespoons chilled butter cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Additional heavy cream, sea salt, cracked black pepper, and paprika

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, baking powder, and cayenne pepper. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the heavy cream and cheddar cheese and toss with 2 forks until the dough clumps and comes together. If it seems too dry add more cream a tablespoon at a time until the dough is soft but not too sticky.
Gather the dough together and knead it very briefly on a floured surface, just to make a smooth, cohesive dough.  Roll the dough out into a 12x12 square about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the dough into 12 square biscuits, brush with heavy cream and sprinkle each biscuit with some sea salt, pepper and paprika. Place on baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Cake for Six

My house is filled with teenage girls. Six of them. Since last evening there has been hysterical laughter, hushed whispers, an obscene amount of snacks consumed, a great quantity of pizza consumed, hair curled, prom dresses tried on, movies watched, and music playing.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

I made them this snack cake. It is moist, rich, and relies greatly on really good peanut butter. Use one that is just peanuts and very little else. You really want the peanut taste to shine through.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Streusel Cake
Adapted from Epicurious
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter cut into small pieces
1 cup peanut butter
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9X13 inch baking pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor place pulse together the flours, sugar, butter and peanut butter.  Remove 1 slightly heaping cup of this mixture and set aside. This will become your streusel topping.

To the remaining mixture add the eggs, milk, extract, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Pulse to combine into a smooth batter. Using a rubber spatula gently stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate.  Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth evenly.

To the reserved flour mixture add the chopped peanuts, cinnamon and remaining 1 cup of chocolate. Mix together well and sprinkle over the top of the cake.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cooks note:
*You can make this without the food processor, just have your butter slightly cooler than room temperature and proceed as you like.
*Today when I made this cake I had to cook it for more like 45 minutes. My oven is very wonky so your cooking times may vary.

Al Fresco

The weather has been glorious lately. I really can't remember the last time I saw a cloud in the sky. With weather like this there is no excuse to not eat every meal out of doors. Tonight I made a quick salad and we sat outside and laughed and talked until the mosquitoes made things a little uncomfortable.

White Bean and Tuna Salad with Preserved Lemon and Mint
4, 15ounce cans of white beans rinsed and drained well
2 large shallots minced
1 preserved lemon or the zest of one large lemon
1 cup flat leaf parsley chopped fine
1 cup mint leaves chopped fine
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2, 8ounce cans of solid-pack tuna in olive oil, drained

If using the preserved lemon rinse it well under running water, scoop out and discard the lemon flesh, then chop the lemon rind finely.
Combine the beans, shallot, preserved lemon (or zest), and herbs in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Pour the dressing over the beans and let sit for 20 minutes.
Before serving break up the tuna and stir it through the salad.


I'm feeling better. I'm not sure if it was the crystal blue cloudless skies, laughing with friends, or the knowledge that we've hit the homestretch. Just a month now until we go home.

Or, maybe it's the butter. Butter that has been browned until it smells all nutty and makes your nearly grown children come into the kitchen to wonder what in the world you are making.

That was some butter I tell you. I splurged and bought some French butter. It was serious butter, not butter you would buy everyday, unless of course you lived in France and could buy it everyday. This was luxury butter. It must have taken some very happy cows to make butter that good. After browning it I slipped in a split vanilla bean while I waited for it to cool. That was pretty genius on my part. The warm butter infused with the vanilla. Sigh. It smelled great.

I used the browned butter to make my favorite type of cake, a simple bundt cake, but one with a little cha cha from the browned butter and vanilla beans. I served the cake with the first of the season raspberries and some sweetened and whipped creme fraiche.

Feeling even better now.

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake
Adapted from Miss in the Kitchen
1 cup unsalted butter, browned, and cooled until set (see cooks note)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs
1 vanilla bean split and scraped
4 cups all purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Vanilla Glaze
2 cups icing sugar
1 vanilla bean split and scraped

Preheat the oven to 350, grease and flour a 12 cup bundt pan, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the scraped vanilla bean, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Blend on low speed until combined.
To the flour mixture add the browned butter, sour cream, milk, vanilla extract, and eggs. Beat on low speed to combine. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes or until fluffy.
Pour cake batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the cake springs bake when touched and a testet inserted comes out clean.
Cool the cake completely.
For the glaze, in a bowl mix together the icing sugar and enough milk to make the glaze the consistency you like. Add the scraped vanilla bean and mix well.  Pour over cooled cake.

Cooks Notes:
*How to Brown Butter.
Heat a medium sized heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Slice 1 cup of butter into tablespoon sized pieces and add them to the pan. Stir the butter frequently until melted.
You will notice that once the butter has melted it will begin to foam. Soon the foam will subside and lightly browned bits will begin to form on the bottom of the pan. Watch the butter carefully as it can quickly turn from nutty brown to acrid black in the blink of an eye.
Once the butter begins to smell nutty and the milk solids have browned on the bottom of the pan remove the pan from the heat and pour into a heat resistant container to cool.
*At this stage I slipped a split vanilla bean into the brown butter to infuse it, you don't need to do this but the house smelled fantastic!
*I made the brown butter the evening before I made the cake so that it could cool completely and set up. I left it at covered at room temperature as my kitchen is fairly cool, but you can certainly put it in the refrigerator, allow the butter to come to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.


I have a small case of the blahs.
I hope you understand, there's nothing to worry about.
Nothing is terribly wrong.
I'm just...blah.

So to snap out of it I've been trying a few things. New music for starters, Jack Johnson Best of Kokua Festival  will lift the grumpiest of spirits. Try it! And for some reason, I have been listening to a bit of KC and the Sunshine Band and the Bee Gees. My daughters are more than a little horrified by that last confession. Last week while humming away to Boogie Shoes I looked up to find my youngest standing at the kitchen door with her mouth agape.  She then uttered, "Good God" and called for her sister. I'm sensing an itunes intervention soon.

But the sun is out, God is good, and we'll be home in 42 days. That last part is probably the source of my "Meh" state. But 42 days is not long at all! Gee things are looking up already.

These flowers hanging over the edge of our fence do a lot to cheer up our mornings.

If you have been reading this blog you know that on Saturdays my friend Lauren and I head to our local market to pick up the weeks fruit and vegetables. Everything is locally grown in Tunisia, very little of our food supply is imported. It has been a great joy to cook with the seasons, celebrate what is in season and anticipate what is to come. The market stalls are really a beautiful sight, and ever inspiring. Just this week the giant bunches of mint were begging to be made into a mint chutney or the occasional afternoon mint julep. Stone fruits are starting to make an appearance, the tomatoes are gorgeous and bursting, and there were even a few punnets of raspberries.

My weeks haul. The scent of the melon perfumes my kitchen. It's intoxicating.

After seeing what was available at the market, I had a craving for a big garden salad with crispy homemade croutons and a Ranch style salad dressing. Now Ranch dressing isn't something that we can buy here so when the cravings hit, it's good to have a greens grocer that has a steady supply of fresh herbs. Chives, flat leaf parsley, and dill, added to a little creme fraiche and a few other ingredients and I'm well on my way to chasing away the blahs.

Now, if you'll excuse me, KC and I have a date in the kitchen.

Creme Fraiche and Green Herb Dressing

1/2 cup of creme fraiche or sour cream
1/2 cup of mayonaise
1 large garlic clove minced
4 tablespoons of minced chives
4 tablespoons of minced flat leaf parsley
4 tablespoons of minced dill
Juice of half a lemon
sea salt and black pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl combine all the ingredients except the milk and salt and pepper. Use the milk to thin the dressing to the consistency you like and then season with salt and pepper. Add more herbs, garlic, whatever you like to make this yours.
It's great with baked potatoes, on top of salads, and as a dip for chicken.