Hummus with Jalapeño Pesto and Marinated Olive And Feta Salad

Almost like clockwork, every spring, I forget we ever had winter at all and decide with unrelenting enthusiasm that the only things I want to eat are fresh vegetables and berries, preferably grown in my own garden or picked up at the farmer’s market during one of our leisurely Sunday strolls. I look forward to the farmer’s market (and my favorite fruit stand) opening all year long. In the 13 years I’ve called Yakima home, it’s been a regular weekend tradition and somehow signifies to my brain ‘summer is just around the bend.’

This idea, of course, is ridiculously preposterous for multiple reasons, the main one being my garden is hit and miss on its very best year, not to mention not too much is harvest-worthy in May and June. But never mind that. My point is that my adoration for our wonderful agriculturally rich Valley goes into overdrive and only ramps up each month as the sun stays out a little longer, growing and ripening all my favorite things that grow in the dirt.

And while I wait for lovely produce to become readily available, I’ll make batch after batch of easy and delicious hummus. This hummus is smooth and hearty all on its own, perfect for dipping vegetables or pita. Typically made with garbanzo beans, hummus is a versatile Middle Eastern dip and a wonderful canvas to add additional flavors. The cilantro jalapeno pesto I’ve included here is bright and flavorful without being overly spicy. You can add as little or as much of the pesto to the hummus and save the rest for another time. Paired with the smokey, salty and rich olive and feta salad, these dishes can be served together as a hearty appetizer or separately.

One of my favorite ways to serve hummus is to spread it evenly in a shallow dish. I pile toppings high and make sure to have lots of bread for dipping. Last year I was on a cucumber and tomato salad kick but this year my go-to is this olive and feta salad.

Sometimes I’ll toss salad greens like peppery arugula and spinach with a little olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice. I garnish the entire dish with the salad greens and call it dinner. With a bottle of crisp buttery chardonnay and a loaf of crusty bread, this dinner is the perfect late spring, eat on the patio, watch the sun set behind Mt. Adams meal I can think of.

Hummus

• 2 (15-ounce) cans garbanzo beans

• ½ cup fresh lemon juice

• ½ cup tahini

• 1/3 cup olive oil

• 3 cloves garlic

• Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper

Drain the garbanzo beans, reserving half a cup of the liquid. In a food processor, combine the garbanzo beans, reserved liquid, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix for a minimum of 2-3 minutes. Add an extra splash of water or lemon juice if the hummus is too thick. When the mixture is very smooth, turn the food processor off and scoop hummus into a bowl. Taste and add an additional pinch of salt if needed.

Cilantro Jalapeno Pesto

• 1 bunch cilantro

• ½ bunch parsley

• 2 green onions, trimmed into 1-inch pieces

• 1 jalapeno chili, stem and seeds removed

• 1/3 cup olive oil

• 2 cloves garlic

• Juice of 1 lime

• Salt

Combine the cilantro, parsley, green onions, jalapeno, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to break the herbs and vegetables down. With the processor running, pour in the olive oil and lime juice. When the mixture is well-combined, using a rubber spatula, transfer to a small bowl. Taste and add additional salt if needed.

To serve the hummus and pesto, make an indentation in the center of the hummus. Spoon the pesto into the indentation and swirl gently. Serve with toasted baguette, pita bread or tortilla chips.

Marinated Olive and Feta Salad

• 1 tablespoon cumin seeds

• 2 teaspoons fennel seeds

• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

• 3 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 teaspoons lemon zest

• 1 ½ cups olive oil

• 2 cups mixed Greek olives (drained and pitted)

• 8 ounces feta cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes

• 1/3 cup minced parsley, basil and cilantro (you can use any fresh herbs you prefer)

Place the cumin seeds, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes in a small skillet. Heat gently over medium heat for a minute or two, stirring once until the seeds are fragrant and lightly toasted. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Add the garlic, lemon zest and olive oil. Stir to combine. Add the olives and feta to the bowl and gently stir. Add the fresh herbs and gently stir one more time. Cover with plastic wrap and store up to three days in the refrigerator.

A Darn Good Veggie Sandwich

I know a vegetable sandwich doesn’t exactly scream exciting, but hang in here with me for a moment.  The secret to this sandwich is the absolutely delicious and slightly decadent herbed goat cheese spread you make. Excellent on this sandwich, you can find many other ways to use it. Case in point: the day I put this recipe together, we had steak for dinner. Guess what was out of this world delicious as a dollop on our steaks? Herbed goat cheese spread. It was great on our baked potatoes and my kids used it as a dip for their cucumbers too. I’m telling you, if you don’t want to make the sandwich, no problem, but don’t skip the spread. You’ll find lots of uses for it.

But back to the recipe, personally, I love a good sandwich. And this one checks all the boxes: crunchy, creamy, full of flavor and good for you.  Toasted sourdough bread is liberally spread with herbed goat cheese spread. From there, layers of thinly sliced red bell pepper, shredded carrot, sliced English cucumber, tomato, radish and spinach leaves get piled high. A generous sprinkle of black pepper and the sandwich is complete. Of course, you could swap out vegetables for what you have on hand or are in the mood for. Just slice your vegetables thinly so they are easy to layer. And if you need a little turkey or chicken thrown in to make those vegetables a little more appetizing, by all means, do it.

I signed up with Pacific Northwest Fresh a few weeks ago. Locally owned here in Yakima, each week Pacific Northwest Fresh delivers a box of produce right to your doorstep. During the warmer seasons all the produce featured in the weekly boxes comes from family-owned farms from the Yakima Valley. With the flexibility to sign up week to week as well as choose from three different sized boxes, I look forward to Thursday’s when I know my box will be delivered.

These weekly deliveries are accomplishing two important things for me: the first is that I’m eating more local fruit and vegetables and the second is I’m forced (slightly) out of my comfort zone by having ingredients on hand that I wouldn’t necessarily choose at the grocery store. (Anybody have a good collard greens recipe??) It’s just the nudge I need to experiment with new flavors.

Darn Good Veggie Sandwich

  • 2 slices sourdough or multi-grain bread
  • Spinach
  • English cucumber
  • Carrot
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Radish
  • Tomato
  • 4 ounces plain goat cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon basil leaves, minced
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

In a medium bowl combine goat cheese, heavy cream, parsley, basil, and lemon zest. Use a spatula to stir ingredients until they are well-incorporated. Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Taste to make sure you like the flavor and add more salt or herbs if desired.

To make the sandwich, start by thinly slicing the vegetables so they are roughly the same thickness. Consider shredding the carrot with a box grater.

Toast the bread. Spread the herbed goat cheese liberally on both sides of the bread. Layer the vegetables on one piece of bread. Sprinkle with black pepper and top with the other slice of bread, goat cheese side down. Press gently down on the sandwich to help combine the ingredients and using a sharp knife, slice the sandwich in half.

Store the remaining goat cheese spread in an air-tight container in the refrigerator to up to 3 days. This recipe will make up to six sandwiches or ingredients can be stored in the refrigerator to make one sandwich at a time.

Strawberry Shortcake

When it comes to dessert I will always always choose something with berries or citrus. Apple pie? Berry Crumble? Lemon bars? Sorbet? Yes, please. I can guarantee, left to my own devices, dessert will always be of the fruit variety.

Unfortunately, I stand alone in my preferences when it comes to my family. I live with four other people who will always always choose something decadently chocolate. Preferably with peanut butter, if possible.

As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, I thought it only fitting to offer a treat for all the mothers out there who regularly give up their preferred treats in the name of love. If you, like me, love all things fruit, then this dessert is for you. Lightly sweetened shortcakes with a hint of lemon are a cross between a biscuit and a sugar cookie. Light and fluffy with a crisp top, you could make these decadent shortcakes and call dessert finished. But topped with juicy berries and a dollop of whipped cream and the dessert goes from great to amazing.

When I was a kid, growing up in Spokane, we would regularly trek to Greenbluff, an agricultural community north of town full of u-pick farms and fruit stands to pick strawberries and raspberries. We ate strawberry shortcake for dinner during those glorious few early summer weeks when strawberries were in harvest and our kitchen counter overflowed with berries. My mom would mix up Bisquick biscuits and make homemade whipped cream and we would sit on our deck with big bowls in front of us. Maybe that’s why I love fruit desserts so much.

As an ode to all the mothers out there and because summer is just around the corner, stop in at the Farmer’s Market starting up this Sunday downtown and pick up a few pints of strawberries if you can find any. (It might be a little early). Make this strawberry shortcake for the mom in your life and if you can, serve it up in a big bowl and eat it outside, enjoying every moment of this glorious weather our Valley gets. Happy Mother’s Day!

Strawberry Shortcake

For the Shortcake:

• 3 cups all-purpose flour

• Zest of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)

• 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

• 1 ½ tablespoons baking powder

• 1 teaspoon kosher salt

• ¾ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

• 1 ½ cups heavy cream

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the fruit:

• 1 pound strawberries and blueberries (or any combination of berries)

• 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Whipped Cream:

• 2 cups heavy cream

• ½ cup powdered sugar

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wash and cut up the fruit. In a large bowl toss the fruit in the 2 tablespoons of sugar and set aside. To make the whipping cream, combine the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in a stand mixer and whip until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the shortcakes, combine the flour, sugar, lemon zest, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mix well. Add the butter to the bowl and using a pastry knife, two forks or clean hands, gently mix the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is pea-size chunks. You want to be able to see the butter still. Create a small well in the center of the bowl and pour in the heavy cream and vanilla. Gently stir to combine and form a dough. When the dough has just barely come together, turn it out onto a floured surface and shape into a square about ¾ inch thick. Cut into 9 generous squares.

Transfer the shortcakes to a lined baking sheet and chill for 20 minutes in the refrigerator. While the shortcakes chill, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake the shortcakes until they are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool.

To assemble, slice the shortcakes in half. Place the bottom of each shortcake on a plate. Top with a generous scoop of fruit and a dollop of whipped cream and put the top half the shortcake back on. Serve immediately.

Pineapple Cucumber Salsa

This time of year, I crave fresh bright flavors. Sweet pineapple and cool crunchy cucumber combine to make the most delicious salsa. I like to make a big batch and store in my refrigerator all week for snacking as well as an easy topping for grilled chicken or fish. One of my favorite and easy dinners is simply marinating wild Alaskan salmon in store-bought teriyaki sauce. Grill on the barbecue for about 10 minutes until just barely cooked through and easily flaked with a fork. Top the salmon with a generous scoop of the pineapple cucumber salsa and serve over rice. Last week I made barbecued pulled pork in my instant pot. The kids ate theirs on a bun but Aaron and I piled our pork with the pineapple cucumber salsa and a few pickled jalapenos. It was so good!

As with just about every recipe I offer, this is one you can tweak and change to meet your preferences. When I first started making this salsa, I used mango, which is yummy and wonderful, and I highly recommend. I often use frozen pineapple in place of fresh, just leaving the frozen fruit out on my counter to thaw. If you don’t have an English cucumber, just use a regular one. Cut the vegetable in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Dice up as called for and you’ll never know the difference. Add more or less jalapeno, depending on how spicy you like your salsa but don’t skip the cilantro and lime zest, that’s what brings all the flavors together

Pineapple Cucumber Salsa

·         2 cups fresh pineapple, diced into ½ inch pieces

·         2 cups English cucumber, diced into ½ inch pieces

·         1 cup red or yellow bell pepper, diced into ½ inch pieces

·         1 large shallot, minced

·         1 jalapeno, seeds removed, minced

·         1 bunch cilantro, minced

·         2 limes, zest and juice

·         Salt and pepper

In a large bowl combine the pineapple, cucumber, bell pepper, shallot and jalapeno. Stir gently. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the zest and juice of both limes as well as the cilantro. Stir gently again and garnish with coarse sea salt.

Store leftover salsa in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Serves 6-8 people.

Pork Ragu with Pasta and Arugula

The irony of posting this recipe and these words is I need this reminder the most these days. A new Yakima Magazine is out on newsstands around town. The issue is all about home and this is my ode to life at home and around the table.

One of my favorite quotes from my favorite cookbook Bread and Wine is: ‘life at the table is life at its best.’ When I think about my life, my friends and family, the community I’m part of; so much of it revolves around the table. It might be the kitchen table or an outdoor table on the back patio. It might be bar stools pulled up to the kitchen island and for many years it was a smattering of high chairs and booster seats, plastic dishware and what felt like an endless number of spills and cleanups. The table, the décor, the set-up and how clean the house is doesn’t matter a bit. It’s the sitting down together; the pause in busy and chaotic days, to recharge, connect, eat, and hopefully laugh a little.

I think it goes without saying I love to cook. I find immense pleasure in the rhythm of mixing and chopping. I love the creativity of it as well as the physicality of working with my hands. But when I get down to the heart of why I cook, it’s to bring people together. I love the sounds and smells, I love the chatter at the table and the inevitable silence when chewing starts. My tangible gift to the people at my table is the meal but my hope is that it feeds so much more than their bellies.

I’ve been gathering people to the table for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I insisted on baking cookies for friends. In college, I made pots of spaghetti for my roommates and made a Thanksgiving turkey for 20 friends in the very small cramped rental house I lived in. Any excuse to cook and eat with the people I love are my best moments, my favorite memories.

We can all relate to the busyness and chaos of daily life. Entertaining can feel stressful and overwhelming. Maybe cooking isn’t your thing. Maybe due to your family’s work and activity schedule, weeknight dinners seem impossible. And I’m here nodding in agreement to all of it. It is all those things.

But I think we should keep trying. And I think what helps is to have a few ‘go-to’ recipes in your back pocket. Pork Ragu is one of those timeless, eat any time of year, incredibly forgiving recipes you can go back to over and over again. I’ve adapted this recipe from a cookbook called Dinner: A Love Story and I don’t think there could be a more appropriate title or sentiment for what I’m trying to achieve. Pork is cooked in the oven (or crockpot) for hours in wine and herbs until it literally falls apart making a savory flavorful sauce. Ladled over pasta and topped with peppery arugula and a sprinkle of salty parmesan cheese, this dish is delicious enough for a fancy dinner party and easy enough to throw together on a Tuesday morning before work and eat quickly between soccer and piano practices.

 

Pork Ragu with Pasta and Arugula

  • 1 boneless pork shoulder OR pork butt (about 2 ½ to 3 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup red wine, plus more as needed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce (this is completely optional, adds a smokiness to the dish)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 6 ounces arugula
  • Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Add oil and butter to a large oven-safe pot and heat over medium heat until the butter melts. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and liberally salt and pepper both sides. Add the roast to the pot, browning it on all sides, turning occasionally so the meat is seared evenly, 5-8 minutes.

Add the onion and garlic to the pot, stirring for a minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, hot sauce, thyme, oregano, fennel seeds and bay leaf and stir until the mixture begins to boil. Cover and put the pot in the oven. Every hour or so, remove the lid and turn the pork over in the liquids. No matter what size pork you use, make sure the liquid covers at least a third of the meat. Add more wine if needed.

The meat is done when it starts falling apart probably around 4 hours. If you pierce the meat with a fork and it starts to fall apart, remove the pot from the oven. Remove the pork to a cutting board and shred it with two forks. Stir the shredded meat back into the pot.

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta when the noodles are still a little bit firm. The sauce will finish softening the pasta without the noodles becoming overcooked and too soft.

To serve, ladle pasta onto a plate. Top with pork ragu sauce. Place a small handful of arugula on each plate and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. The arugula will slightly wilt from the heat of the sauce adds a wonderful fresh flavor to the dish. Serves 8.

*To make this dish in a crockpot, sear the pork in a pan on the stove over medium heat. Once the meat is seared, add all ingredients and the pork to the crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours. Shred the meat and return to the crockpot. Turn the heat off. Serve immediately.

Sesame Noodle Bowl

Well it’s been a hot minute hasn’t it?

Right on cue I hit that every three-month or so slump of losing my creativity. I couldn’t think of anything to cook. I had no words to write. Post-vacation blues probably had something to do with it. The never-ending cycle of dishes from feeding five people three times a day might have a little something to do with it too.

I did however get the Faux Martha’s new cookbook, The Minimalist Kitchen and What’s Gaby Cooking. I’ve thumbed through both cookbooks, marking recipes. I think they’re just the shot of new energy and inspiration I’m needing.

In the meantime there’s always this sesame noodle bowl. Which is SO easy and delicious and the perfect canvas for tons of veggies and any kind of protein you like. I cooked a whole chicken in my instant pot and shredded it for this recipe but seared salmon, flank steak or crispy tofu would all be delicious.

Will you judge me if I admit I’ve made this recipe three times now? I’ve used different noodles each time and added different combinations of toppings. I think it’s my new stand-by. I can’t get enough.

Sesame Noodle Bowl (recipe adapted from the cookbook Chloe Flavor)

  • 10 ounces noodles (you can use phad thai rice noodles, udon, soba or spaghetti)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha (use as little or as much as you like, this gives the sauce a kick)
  • 4-6 ounces cooked chicken, diced (about 2 medium chicken breasts)
  • Green onion, slivered
  • Chopped cilantro (optional)

Cook noodles to package instructions. When cooked, drain water and set aside. In a blender or food processor combine sesame oil, vinegar, peanut butter, brown sugar, garlic and sriracha. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute.

In a medium bowl combine noodles with cooked chicken. Pour the sauce over everything and gently mix until the sauce is well-incorporated. Garnish with slivered green onion and chopped cilantro.

This dish can be served warm or cold. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

*The top photo shows this recipe made with rice noodles and chicken. The bottom photo shows the same recipe with udon noodles, carrots, broccoli and snap peas.

Orange Cardamom Bundt Cake

I’ve got the perfect cake to make for Easter brunch. This cake is full of bright orange flavor and a hint of almond. It’s sweet without being overly sweet and the dollop of whipped cream and handful of tart berries on top are not only a pretty garnish but delicious with the orange and almond flavors of the cake.

Cardamom, often used in Indian cooking, is available at your local grocery store and gives a wonderful subtle warm spicy flavor to the cake. Cardamom has a bit of a citrus flavor too, and is often paired with orange and apple flavors.

As for our family, I’ll be wrestling my children into clothes with collars and buttons and hopefully some cute little sandals all the while throwing down coats and fleeces into the car for the inevitable Pacific Northwest weather you can almost always count on this early in spring. We will go to church and have an Easter egg hunt. My kids will eat way too much candy and shed their ‘fancy’ clothes and eventually we’ll sit down together for a late brunch.

I like to balance whatever sweet dish I make with something savory. I’m thinking a frittata because it’s ridiculously easy and quick to throw together. Sauté chopped asparagus, a shallot and spinach in olive oil over medium heat for a couple minutes. Turn the heat to low and pour 12 whisked eggs into the pan. Salt and pepper liberally and allow the eggs to set. Put the whole pan in the oven under broil for a couple minutes until the dish is cooked through and golden brown on top. Sprinkle with whatever cheese you like (maybe Beechers?) and brunch is ready.

You can also search the breakfast tab for a bunch of different egg dishes.

Whatever you’re up to this weekend, I hope it includes a dose of sunshine, some fresh air and good food. Spring is finally here and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.

Orange Cardamom Bundt Cake

• 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

• 2 teaspoons baking soda

• ½ teaspoon baking powder

• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1 tablespoon cardamom

• ½ teaspoon kosher salt

• 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

• 2 cups sugar

• 4 large eggs, at room temperature

• 1 teaspoon almond extract

• 1 cup sour cream

• Zest of 2 medium oranges (about 2 tablespoons)

• Powdered sugar

• Whipped cream*

• Raspberries, blackberries and strawberries for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan or two loaf pans and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Add the almond extract, sour cream and orange zest and mix for one more minute until well-combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three parts, mixing until just combined, scraping down the sides to make sure everything is incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes. Turn the cake onto a platter and dust with powdered sugar.

To serve, slice pieces and top with a dollop of whipped cream and berries.

*To make homemade whipped cream, pour one-pint heavy whipping cream into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Turn the mixer to medium and mix until soft peaks form. Store extras in the refrigerator for up to three days.