Tag Archives: family

Let it be

I’m trying something new. Savoring the present. Not pushing too hard. I’m a goal-oriented person and for the past several months I’ve been throwing myself into my work. Or rather the future of my work. Stressing out over what’s next. Manuscripts, grants, job applications. And I’ve been hitting a wall. Then stressing out about stressing out. Around and around with absolutely no progress.

Summer is over. What exactly happened? The entire thing just passed me by. Likely because I’ve been so preoccupied with figuring out “What next?” that I didn’t hardly take any time to just be. So that’s my new goal.

I made this red pepper and walnut dip while I was visiting my family at the end of August. A gathering with my father’s side of the family. I was enamored with the idea of this recipe, excited while making it and then I tasted it and my reaction was something akin to “eh” (complete with a shoulder shrug). So I fussed; adding salt, tasting, adding some cayenne, tasting again, adding some garlic powder, tasting again … until finally just deciding to let it be. I wasn’t completely happy with it, but fearful that I would start making worse rather than better. I went on to finish the rest of dinner.

A couple of hours later, the family descended upon the house amidst a magnificent sunset. A lovely gathering of people who are not only related to each other, but genuinely care for one another. Yet another reason I miss home so dearly. And you know what? The red pepper and walnut dip easily garnered the greatest reviews. Something magical happened when it was allowed to sit, assimilating all of the flavors that I had assembled. All it needed was for me to give it a little time, to back off and let it come together naturally.

I’m taking my lesson from this dip. Giving myself some time. To be where I am at.

Perhaps something magical will happen.

Red Pepper and Walnut Dip
slightly fussed with from Food and Wine
juice from one lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 slices day-old bread, cubed
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
5 tablespoons olive oil
5 red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup water
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 small dried red chile
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 
pita chips

In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice and vinegar. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat. Set aside and let the bread soak up the liquid.

Toast the walnuts in a 350º oven for about 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the bell peppers, water, garlic cloves and dried chiles. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook over high heat until 3/4 of the liquid has evaporated. Discard the dried chiles.

Transfer the peppers to a food processor and let cool until warm. Add the soaked bread and pulse to a thick, coarse paste. Add the walnuts until coarsely ground. Season with remaining salt, cayenne pepper and garlic powder.

Let sit, at room temperature, for at least a couple of hours. Serve with pita chips.




Less than a week from now I will be homeward-bound. I cannot imagine a time in my life when I don’t consider the great Pacific Northwest home. It’s been nearly a decade since I resided there, but it will always be where my family is, where my breath catches and heart stops with its sheer beauty.

Without fail, when I think of the Pacific Northwest during the summer I think of wild blackberries. Of of early mornings in my childhood traipsing through the logging clearcuts, braving the the thorny vines on the search for the small treasures, eating more than I collected. Small, dark as night, and mouth-puckering tart. My platonic ideal of what a blackberry should be. I’ve yet to encounter blackberries elsewhere that even compare.

At some point before my summer became insane with work (in a good way), even before I went out to visit home at the start of June, I spent a day playing with blackberries in my kitchen. It’s one of my very favorite things to do, playing in my kitchen. Taking recipes and mashing them together, tweaking them ever so slightly to incorporate the flavor combinations I’ve come to decide must live together. And when the colors just happen to be two of my very favorites in conjunction with a tasty profile – the stars start singing.

Here’s what we have:

Blackberry Curd Tartlettes with Lime Hazelnut Shortbread Crust and Honey Lime Whipped Cream.

Disclaimer: If all you want is a blackberry pie, please just make a blackberry pie. It will be quicker, easier and way fewer dishes. If you want to spend a day in the kitchen (as I am want to do from time to time), take a stab at these cute little desserts. Or at least make the blackberry curd and eat it on toast, blueberry pancakes (my favorite) or saltines (my mom’s favorite). I’ve also tried making this as a large 11-inch tart, but I prefer the little tartlettes – the ratio of curd to shortbread crust works much better in the smaller version.

Blackberry Curd Tartlettes with Lime Hazelnut Shortbread Crust and Honey Lime Whipped Cream
makes six, 4 1/2-inch tartlettes
Blackberry Curd
(makes ~2 cups)
2 pints (~3 cups) blackberries
1/2 + 2/3 cups sugar (divided)
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
3 egg yolks
Hazelnut Lime Shortbread Crust
1/2 cup roasted whole hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups (180 g) flour
1/3 cup (80 g) sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
zest from one lime
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Honey Lime Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
zest from 1 lime
3 teaspoons honey

For Blackberry Curd:

Combine blackberries, 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons lime juice in a medium pan and bring to a boil over medium-heat. Reduce heat and bring to a simmer, cook for about 6 minutes or until berries are soft and beginning to fall apart. Transfer to a small bowl (or blender) and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Strain puree to remove blackberry seeds. Set aside.

In a double boiler (but not over heat yet) whisk together sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add egg yolks and blackberry puree and set atop a pot of boiling water. Cook for 10-15 minutes, continually whisking, until color lightens and is thick. Transfer to a blender and allow to cool for 10 minutes. With blender on, blend in 3 tablespoons butter, one tablespoon at a time. Refrigerate in an airtight jar.

For Hazelnut-Lime Shortbread Crust:

Place hazelnuts in food processor and process until finely ground. Add flour, sugar, salt and lime zest and pulse a couple of times to combine. Add butter and using quick pulses, process until dough is in pea-sized pieces. Add lime juice and process until dough comes together in a ball.

Divide dough among (6) 4 1/2-inch tart pans. Press dough into the sides and bottom until evenly distributed. Prick dough several times with a fork. Freeze for 15 minutes. Bake tart crusts at 425º until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Fill crusts with ~1/3 cup blackberry curd. Reduce oven temperature to 350º and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, just until the curd starts to set.

For the Honey-Lime Whipped Cream:

Heat heavy cream in small saucepan just until steam starts to rise. Remove from heat, add lime zest, cover and let steep 30 minutes. Chill thoroughly. Whip until soft form.

Top tartlettes with a dollop of whipped cream.


At some point, every summer, I make a pilgrimage back to the Pacific Northwest.


I struggle to find the words to describe what this place means to me. There is some sort of fantastic synergy of family and landscape that makes this the most special place in the world to me. It’s enough to make me believe in fairy tales. The way I feel when I am in this place is, for lack of a better word, enchanted. The clouds wrap themselves around me, the sea salt air fills my lungs, the infinite shades of green permeates all that I gaze upon and the siren’s songs of the mountains all lure me in and entrap my heart. It’s a spell that I never want to have broken.

And is it any wonder … this place is stunning.

I may not have the words … but as always, the themes revolve around the following:



The scenery

I’ll be back. I can never stay away for long.

Honey Lavender Browned Butter Rhubarb Crisp

I’m not taking the day off for Memorial Day. I have no barbeques or picnics to attend. I’m headed off to the lab to play with my yeasties so that I can take off next weekend. I am going to be spending a few days in Washington, in the company of my family. So I’m okay with not taking the holiday today.

But let’s say I was going to go to a barbeque … I would bring rhubarb crisp. Rhubarb crisp sweetened with honey and flavored with lavender. Topped with an oatmeal-brown sugar topping made altogether more decadent by not just melting the butter, but browning it. With a handful of slivered toasted almonds for a little crunch. Oh boy.

Let’s be honest here. I making this dessert regardless of going to a barbeque or not. I’m just making enough to fill a 6 x 6 inch dish and not a 9 x 13 inch dish. Three generous servings that I am happy not to have to share. One for breakfast this morning, one for dessert later and one for breakfast tomorrow. And because this is a crisp, easy enough to scale up if you’d like. Fill a dish with fruit. Add something to sweeten to your taste (I like my rhubarb, well any fruit really, on the face-puckering side of things). Top with equal parts flour, oats, brown sugar and enough melted butter to bring the dough together. Bake. Eat. Enjoy.

I’ll say it again: I’m okay with not taking the holiday today. I might, however spend the morning working from home first – drinking my coffee and eating a proper breakfast.

Honey Lavender Browned Butter Rhubarb Crisp
serves 2
2 cups rhubarb, cut in 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon lavender6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Toss together rhubarb and honey in a small (I used 0.75 quart, ~6 x 6 inch) baking dish. Crush the lavender with your hands and sprinkle over rhubarb. Set aside. In a small saucepan, heat butter until browned, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl combine flour, oats, brown sugar, slivered almonds. Stir in browned butter until a dough forms. Sprinkle over rhubarb. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until crust is brown and fruit is bubbling.

Putting reality on hold…

My lab bench is clean.

So is my desk.

My bags are packed.

I am meeting up with some special ladies for a week filled with sun, sand and silliness.

If you can’t join me, than at least eat this glorious breakfast.

No recipe required, just an assembly of pink grapefruit, avocado, roasted salted marcona almonds and crystallized ginger. My new favorite. Until something else is.

Now I have a vacation to go on…