Coconut rosemary carrots, lamb chops… and a quiet day

A strange afternoon. A few quiet hours. The house is silent, and yet loud by what it’s missing: the hustle-bustle of the playing toddler, playing and busying elsewhere. I am left with my thoughts. With myself.

Yesterday, I longed for it. Today, I’m not sure what to make of it. My mind swirls, unproductively. Doubt, insecurity, idleness, questioning. And planning, listing, comparing, anticipating. It’s quiet on the outside, but I feel unsettled on the inside. I can’t see my North. Like standing in the middle of a large deserted intersection, not knowing where to go. Feeling like I should. I should know.

That “should” is a bad word.

So I decide to sit in the middle of that intersection. Ground myself. And see what happens.

A strange afternoon. A few quiet hours. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. So why not improvise an apple tart, thought I.

A botched attempt. Flavorful, but unsatisfactory. Crust too crumbly. Falling apart within my hands. Just not coming together. A lot like this day.

So I try it again tomorrow. What else can one do? Learn. Try again. That was my Thursday.

That, and a simple dinner, in the haven of the garden. Some spring carrots. And lamb. And rosemary too.

Rosemary carrots in coconut milk baked in a parcel & lamb chops

Serves 2-3

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 20 + 7-15 min for the meat

Age for babies: You could make this into a baby puree steaming together a bit of lamb with carrots, mixing to desired consistency with milk or coconut milk (which you steep the rosemary in before adding.) You can give from 8 months on. If you give the carrots alone, cook them as described below, they make an easy finger food, also from 8 months old on. (I used ground lamb for Pablo’s baby purees mixed with vegetables starting at 6-7 months).

Note: I am a big fan of cooking in parcels as I’ve blogged about before. It’s easy, it’s very healthy, it keeps the nutrients and flavors in. No downside really.


1 bunch of new carrots
2 sprigs of rosemary
3/4 cup coconut milk
salt & pepper
2 cloves of garlic
Lamb chops (however many per person you would like. I recommend the thicker pieces with two chops, unless you like your meat well done, in that case, you could get a thinner piece.)
Olive oil

Peel the carrots, and cut them up.

Preheat the oven at 425°F

In a pan over medium heat, bring the coconut milk to a simmer for 2 minutes. Take the rosemary leaves off the stem, wash them, mince them (I cut them up with kitchen scissors) and put them in the coconut milk. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for a few minutes.

Place one sheet of unbleached parchment paper on a baking dish. Place the carrots in the center. Spoon the rosemary coconut milk over them.

Fold up the parchment paper over the carrots to make a parcel. You can use string, or I just fold and crumple up each side.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Open the parcel when ready to serve (it will keep hot if closed).

Meanwhile, brush the lamb chops with some olive oil (rosemary olive oil if you have some, or put some rosemary in the olive oil for a few minutes before brushing). Rub the chops with the garlic cloves.

Cook the lamb chops as you prefer. For convenience, we often just pan-fry them (we like them rare, so it usually takes about 7 minutes total over high heat, turning them on each side. About 11-12 minutes for medium rare).
Of course, you can also cook them in the broiler (turning them over half-way through), or on the grill.

On trust, & a banana goat cheese cassolette

So I have been stuck. Pulled in too many directions. Vaguely
anxious about an uncertain future. Overworked and exhausted. And away from this
space these past 10 days. Partly because time is sadly a-lacking. We are moving
in the coming month, so I apologize in advance if things are a little slower than usual around here in the next few weeks, as I juggle through this big transition. 

While I hope this daunting task will be cleansing, a
new beginning, it’s gotten me feeling all over the place, inside and out. And when I feel too overwhelmed, deregulated, I get stuck.

I have much to learn from my 27 months old son in this area.

Pablo has been into Legos recently. With incredible patience
and focus, he piles the pieces as high as he can, experimenting with balance. The
tower falls apart, he starts over, unfazed.

But yesterday, he was grumpy. He didn’t nap long enough. And he
started playing with his Legos. Except every single time something would fall
apart (every few seconds), he would get so frustrated, cry and scream. So I sat
next to him, acknowledged his feelings and commented on his struggle, as I always try to do (much more on that here). He was so upset, I started to suggest he maybe change activity,
that perhaps he was too tired and cranky for it at the moment. But then, it hit
me: he keeps going. Yes, he feels frustrated and annoyed, he cries and screams.
And he picks up the pieces and starts over again, without a hint of hesitation. He
doesn’t show any inkling of wanting to stop. He can deal. He is able to feel
his feelings and keep going. He doesn’t get stuck.

I have been trying to follow his example. Feel what I feel. And
keep going. It’s hard.

I guess it’s also where trust comes in. To keep going,
one must trust. Oneself, and life itself. And the process too. I have learned
much about trust in raising Pablo. I have learned to trust him so he can trust
himself (more on that also here). I trust him to know what his body needs, what his brain needs. I trust his abilities, to learn, to struggle, to be. And the thing
about trust, is that it is so often self-fulfilling (as is fear).

So I’ve been trying to swivel my brain, from fear to trust, via acknowledging
the present moment.

The other morning, up at dawn to work out at the park, I felt exhausted
and feared I would not make it through this workout. I noticed how discouraged
I felt, that daunting feeling of what’s ahead. Then I made myself trust that
somehow I would get through it.

I thought of the blog, the photos and recipes I needed to
work on. I felt behind and feared not to be able to find the time. Then, I
looked at the incredible diffused light through the cloud cover over the park. I
noticed that perfect, enveloping veil of light and imagined photographing a beautiful plate of food, right there. Then
I made myself trust that I would find the time for a new recipe when I would be ready.

I saw two old ladies walking side by side and chatting, two
old friends. It reminded me of the friend who is no longer among us, the one I
used to walk with, the one I had imagined myself walking and chatting with at
80. I felt sadness and remembered. I knew she would have trusted me to pull
through these tumultuous times. I must do that for myself now.

The thing is… the things that have felt the best, the most
successful, the most right, in my
life, were the things I did with fundamental trust and yet no specific expectations.  Like giving birth. Like cooking for my son,
and raising him. Like writing this blog. Conversely, things I did
with high expectations and much hidden doubt, have often been epic failures. 

Live
and learn.

So speaking of having trust and no expectations, how about uniting banana
with goat cheese?

For this new installment of my Summer Goat Cheese Series in
collaboration with Vermont Creamery and the Kids & Kids Campaign, I decided
to give this unlikely combination a try, and I didn’t regret it. Vermont’s Cremont cheese, a mix of goat and cow’s milk, has the perfect texture for this. This dish could be an
appetizer, or a light lunch along with a salad, or served as a cheese/dessert
course. It’s sweet, and savory, and melts in your mouth, and makes you
want to lick the bowl 🙂 Pablo certainly did!

 If you’ve been following the Summer Goat Cheese Series, have you tried any of the goat cheese recipes with your children and family? How did they like it? Would love to hear your feedback!

And by the way, if you’re looking for more goat cheese inspiration, you should check out all the great blogger recipes here.

Wishing you a lovely, peaceful and flavorful weekend.

Banana Goat Cheese Cassolette

For 2 cassolettes

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 25 min

Age for babies: 8-10 months (this is very soft consistency, perfect for finger food)

2 bananas

2 thin slices of pancetta

1 shallot

2 sprigs of fresh tarragon (I think dill would work great too)

1-2 tbsp heavy cream

Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven at 400°F.

Slice the goat cheese cross-wise to obtain 2 thick slices. Mince the shallot. Take the leaves of tarragon off the stems and cisel it. Cut the bananas lengthwise, then into bite size pieces.

Take two oven safe ramekins or cassolettes. In each, sprinkle half the shallot, add the banana pieces, then a slice pancetta, then the slice of goat cheese on top. Add the fresh tarragon, drizzle the heavy cream on top, and add a dash of salt and fresh ground pepper.

Cook in the oven for about 25 minutes. 

Serve while hot.  Enjoy! (So Pablo could have his own individual serving, I transferred from the hot cassolette to a cold ramekin for him.)

Asparagus, arugula, avocado soup recipe

Last weekend, I went foraging, for the first time in my
life. And I think I fell in love. There I was, with a new group of people, in the woods, learning about a completely new topic. I felt so alive.

This was the
perfect symbiosis of nature and cooking. And you probably have gathered by now
how much I love cooking. Perhaps I can share a little bit here about my love of nature.

Not to be overly dramatic, but the love of nature might have
saved my life, many years ago. 

When I was 16, I had what you might call a crisis of faith.
Faith in life. In its value. I was a cerebral kid, who spent a big amount of
time in my own head. My head was my space, for better or for worse. And so not
so surprisingly, at 16, I reached the very cerebral conclusion that one should
live only as a deliberate act, provided one could find something worth living
for. Something that could justify going on living when everything around seemed
hopeless and dark.

And I had come up with nothing. Everything that might make
life worth living seemed either inaccessible or inauthentic. And so I was
coming close to the inevitable conclusion: I had no business going on living.

Then, there was a trip to the United States. A backpacking trip
with a group of other teens, traveling across the country.

And there was the Grand Canyon.
The day I flew over the Grand Canyon,
the overwhelming beauty and immensity of it, I thought for the first time: this is worth living for. Seeing this.

So this land, this
beautiful land, now my land, gave me
a reason to live when I needed one.

As I spent more and more time in the United States (I ended up actually working at
the Grand Canyon for a few summers before
moving here), my love of nature became less cerebral and more real. It got me
out of my head and grounded me. Ever since, it has made me feel like I belong
on earth. I love to seek it out as much as I can, whether it’s hiking through Yellowstone, or going camping, or simply eating outside.

And now, there’s foraging.
I mean, what’s not to love: you go hike in the woods, learn about wild
edible plants, learn how to cook them or how to use them in your cooking.  (And it will be so great to take Pablo
foraging when he’s a bit more of a functional hiker :-))

I am so thankful to my good friend Linda for introducing me
to Pascal Baudar and Mia Wasilevich this weekend, the lovely and talented couple who guided our
foraging experience. (If you are in the LA area, definitely check these guys out.)
Pascal Baudar, a Belgian man who has lived in the US for many years and a forager for
the past 13 years (he forages for chefs too!), had black fingers, from
harvesting thousands of black walnuts, he explained. How I love hands who tell a
story.

He guided us down a trail and talked (among many things) about green, red and
black currants, elderflowers and berries, wild peaches, wild fig leaves, mugwort,
thistle and chickweed. I munched on wild mustard flowers that taste like broccoli,
smelled white sage and sage brush.

What better way to commune with nature than to actually eat it? Its flavors open up every one of your tastebuds at once. Nature as a tastebud opener. I like that. Next time, I can’t wait to forage wild spinach,
wild radishes and watercress.

After our walk, Mia, a very talented wild food chef (more
about her right here) had prepared some treats for us: roasted potatoes with her foothill spice blend made with local wild aromatic
plants. Wild spinach empanadas. Nectarines roasted inside a wild fig leaf. And a wild watercress gazpacho with wild watercress flowers (picture below), that tasted like a cool running creek at dawn. And there was Pascal’s fermented white sage lemonade and wild mugwort beer too…      

I plan on experimenting first with fermented sage lemonade
and elderflower syrup, recipes I will be sharing with you here soon (should they be
successful, that is ;-))  

I have so much
to learn it makes me feel young.

So if culinary hiking sounds like something you would enjoy,
I highly recommend you give foraging a try! And if you have gone foraging,
please tell me all about it! What have you made? What have you found?

It’s such an appropriate metaphor for life too. Let us spend
less time in our heads and more time in the real world. Let’s forage the good
stuff out of life, for it is so flavorful…

In the meantime, I leave you with this lovely & seasonal asparagus wild arugula soup, nicely
complemented by some wild mustard flowers foraged by yours truly. 

Asparagus, wild arugula & avocado soup with wild mustard flowers

Barely adapted from Small Plates and Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga

Serves about 4 generous bowls

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Age for babies: Without the crabmeat (just the soup), 6-8 months.

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 shallot

2 cloves of garlic

1 bunch of green asparagus

3/4 tsp salt

3 cups vegetable stock

2 cups (about 2 oz) wild arugula

1 avocado

4 oz crabmeat (optional)

2 tbsp sheep’s milk yogurt

Foraged wild mustard flowers (optional)

Mince the shallot and garlic. Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus, and dice them. Peel, pit and dice the avocado.

Heat the coconut oil in a large pot of medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and asparagus with 1/4 tsp salt, stir, and cook for about 3 minutes (do not brown).

Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes, until the asparagus are tender.

Add the arugula and cook for another minute. Remove pot from heat. 

Pour mixture in the blender, add the avocado and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Blend thoroughly, until very smooth. 

You can serve hot or chilled, topped with some crab meat, a swirl of yogurt, and a few wild mustard flowers on top. 

Marveling at rituals… and the artichoke

Even though artichoke bottoms (different from the artichoke hearts) are very good for baby purees at a young age, I must admit this is one vegetable I have been avoiding… It’s so much work! You have to boil it, peel all the leaves, then take out the “furry” part, to be then left with the small bottom, that saucer looking part. People compare the complexity of human character to peeling an onion, but I for one think we should switch that analogy to artichokes!

Only as an adult can you recognize all the trouble your parents went to in order to please you. As a kid, I only remember artichokes were fun because of the fork-under-the-plate ritual… The French commonly eat artichokes by dipping the leaves into vinaigrette. To facilitate this, you put your fork underneath the plate so the plate is tilted. The vinaigrette pools in the lower part, and the leaves to be eaten stay on the top part, without soaking in the dressing. Of course you pick up the leaves with your fingers, dip them in the vinaigrette, and rake the “meat” with your front teeth. And as one of those ingrained back-to-childhood links, as soon as I look at an artichoke, I picture that plate sitting on the fork.

Introducing Pablo to the artichoke and its ritual was a lot of fun. He certainly took to it, biting the leaves was perfect since he only has his front teeth. The bottom of the artichoke, diced, makes an excellent finger food. Or can be otherwise made into a puree.



In the process of documenting this photographically, I
realized just how beautiful and intricate an artichoke is! Every time you peel
one part, another color, or texture appears. How does nature come up with this
stuff?

Artichoke with vinaigrette

Age: Artichoke puree can be given at 6 months; as a finger food, around 8 months.

Health benefits: High in antioxidants and fiber, good for the liver and digestion, contains potassium, vitamin C and folic acid.

2 artichokes
Olive oil
Juice of a lemon

Cut off the foot of the artichoke, and put it in boiling water, covered, for about 30 minutes. Let it cool.

Peel off the leaves to be eaten dipped in vinaigrette.

Take out the furry part, and you are left with the bottom, to be diced or pureed.

Baby vinaigrette: Simply mix 2 tbsp of olive oil with the juice of half a lemon, add a bit of salt and pepper (optional).

Option 1: Cut it up to serve to baby as finger food (with or without vinaigrette)

Option 2: Make a puree. Steam ½ potato, mix it together with 2 artichoke bottoms. Should make about 2x 2 oz portions.

Other puree possibilities:

Artichoke-green beans puree (6 months and up): Steam a handful of green beans for about 10 minutes. Mix with one cooked artichoke bottom, and some milk to desired consistency.

Artichoke, peas & tomato puree (12 months and up): Steam ½ cup of frozen peas for about 15 minutes. Put 1 medium tomato in boiling water for 4 minutes. Peel the tomato. Mix together the steamed peas, tomato and artichoke bottom, add some milk to desired consistency.

Herb pairing for purees: Italian parsley, basil.

An artichoke custard… and hard simple wants

On an exhausted late evening, I browse through Pinterest,
and look at streamlined, minimalistic interiors, unencumbered kitchens. I pin.
I look around me at the piles of things to deal with on my desk. Piles of
things to deal with in my head.

I fantasize about life on a farm. Going back to nature. Back
to a simpler life.

Simpler, meaning what? More real. More beautiful and joyful. Less busy, more focused. All that and more. A tall, but worthy order.

Why is it so difficult to achieve simplicity?

It occurs to me that there’s nothing easy about it. It’s a different
kind of hard. Rather, it is our convoluted lives that seem very easy to slip into. But
they create so much waste, don’t they? Details, fears, attempts to control, to
predict, to please.

So what does the desire for simplicity mean to me, exactly? I know
I have been attracted to the idea of going back to the basics. Back to real
& simple things, foods, emotions, relationships. We want to go back. So did we start out this way? Have
our convoluted lives led us astray from what really matters?

What is

it that I
want, when I tell myself I want simplicity? Here’s what I came up with so far.

I want clarity. About what matters in life, what life
is really about, about my needs, wants, how to fulfill them. My regrets, sorrows, how
to process them.

I want

essential things to be in the forefront of my
life
. It is very frustrating to feel like we know what is essential in our
life, and yet not be able to devote it enough time, while other menial,
unessential things take up most of our time.

I want to favor the experiential over the material. I
would rather tour the world than own a house. I would rather do than have. I’ll
take a great meal over a pair of shoes any day.

I want to be grounded. Or rather find balance, of mind and
body. Of self and the world. Of head and ground. I breathe, therefore I
think. 

I want to let go of a lot of things I can’t control, of
unanswered questions. Lay them to rest. For now. The power to unburden myself.

I want to be a fusion, of past, present and future.

Wow. Now that I think, and write of it, I guess simplicity is
pretty freakin’ complex.

It takes some qualities I sometimes lack.

Patience and
trust
. With and in ourselves, our processes.

Courage. To go outside of our
comfort zone, to let go of easy for the sake of beauty, to face Pandora’s
Box which sorting through and simplifying may unleash.

Inner strength. To keep
standing free.

I’m getting better at all that, mostly. I guess these qualities need
to be practiced, honed.

It’s a great conundrum. The simultaneous realization of the equally crucial
need to achieve simplicity and to grasp human complexity, as two sides of one coin. The
key to living a life that I may look back on with a warm heart, when I’m an old
woman. To living a day that I may look back on with a warm heart, the following day.

Maybe that’s it.

To live each day so I
may look back on it with a warm heart the following day.
That’s simple enough. I can do that.

So I wanted to tell you about that day with the crème
d’artichaud
.
The artichoke custard. A simple dish, of artichoke and eggs. Yet so delightful.

The artichoke is actually a nice metaphor for that day. It’s
beautiful. Simple and complex. You boil it. You peel all its leaves, some of
them prickly, some of them soft. You get to the bottom, and its furry cocoon. You
get past that, and you have it. The essence of artichoke that makes it all worth
it.

This was a morning where I could forget my office and
enjoy the kitchen. Our friend D was coming for the day; she’s my favorite
recipe guinea pig. She quite enjoys the job too. Our days with her are sun-kissed,
full of play, laughter, silliness, dance, dog play and mud play, cooking and
eating, expensive cheese and cheap wine.

There was beauty in that day, of
souls, of carefree joy, of meaningful connection between generations and beings.
Later, I got weighed down by worries, a bit impatient, a bit irritated. I
acknowledged it, it helped a little. I took some comfort in the help and
support of loved ones, in feeling sad when I needed to. Sadness is grounding. It’s
experiencing loss in the moment.

In the end, simple togetherness was the bottom
of that artichoke of a day.

So food metaphors aside, simplicity is hard. It’s
a work in progress. My desk and counters are still cluttered. It often feels
like my life is too. And I’m not too fond of sorting through. But no matter.
Because that day, I look back on with a warm heart.

And I wish you many of those
days, with or sans artic

Artichoke custards

Adapted from Petit Larousse des Recettes aux Légumes du Potager, by Valérie Lhomme

Makes 4-5 individual ramekins

Prep time: 20 mn
Cook time: 50 mn

Age for babies: 10-12 months because of whole milk and whole egg.

*Vegetable custards are a GREAT way to introduce new vegetable and herb flavors to children, they’re easy to eat and creamy. Check out my savory herb custard here.

4 large artichokes
1 3/4 cup whole milk
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
Pinch of salt
Pinch of piment d’Espelette (optional)
Pinch of nutmeg

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Wash the artichokes under cool running water, cut the stem at the edge of the leaves. Put them in boiling water and let simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

Drain the artichokes and let them cool enough to be able to take out all the leaves and the fur, and be left with the 4 bottoms.

(Keep the leaves as a great appetizer, dipped in a shallot vinaigrette, as described here.)

Preheat the oven at 350°F. Place a deep baking pan (large enough to contain the ramekins, use two if needed) filled with hot water (this is the water bath).

Over medium heat, bring the milk to a near boil. Place the artichoke bottoms and hot milk in a blender and puree until smooth (it will be very liquidy). Pour in a large bowl (with a spout if you have one).

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the whole egg, adding a pinch of salt, of piment d’Espelette and nutmeg.

Add the egg mixture to the artichoke/milk mixture and whisk together. Taste and add salt to taste.

Pour the custard into each ramekin, and place the ramekins in the water bath in the oven. (The water level should be halfway up the ramekin or a bit more).

Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Great served at room temperature or slightly warm.

We served with a pea shoot & mâche salad with an orange juice dressing (1 tbsp OJ, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tsp mustard, 5 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp walnut oil, salt and pepper).