Garlic Salt, Fennel Salt, whatever…..

We all buy these. Sometimes, at great expense (see Truffle Salt.) This is all easy as fuck to make at home. Got some salt? A flavor you want to mix with salt? A way to dry it all out? Ok, you are in business. Do this:

Take your (peeled) garlic, your (greenest parts) celery or fennel or super-fine chopped herb like rosemary or dill and pulverize it into nothingness in your food processor. Then mix in a bowl with kosher salt, blending with your hands or a spoon until it looks like it is about half salt and about half herbs. It’ll be chunky-wet and unmistakeably green.

Spread out 1/4″ thick onto trays in your dehydrator or cookie sheets on the lowest heat (160F) in the oven until dry, 4-8 hours. Break up with hands every 2 hours. Grind again in food processor after dry if chunks are too big. You are welcome.

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Florentine Cookies


2 cups slivered almonds

3/4 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar

1/4 cup orange marmalade

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine


1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Process almonds in food processor until they resemble coarse sand, about 30 seconds.

2. Bring cream, butter, and sugar to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture begins to thicken, 5 to 6 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to brown at edges and is thick enough to leave trail that doesn’t immediately fill in when spatula is scraped along pan bottom, 1 to 2 minutes longer (it’s OK if some darker speckles appear in mixture). Remove pan from heat and stir in almonds, marmalade, flour, vanilla, orange zest, and salt until combined.

3. Drop 6 level tablespoons dough at least 3½ inches apart on each prepared sheet. When cool enough to handle, use damp fingers to press each portion into 2 1/2-inch circle.

4. Bake until deep brown from edge to edge, 15 to 17 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Transfer cookies, still on parchment, to wire racks and let cool. Let baking sheets cool for 10 minutes, line with fresh parchment, and repeat portioning and baking remaining dough.

5. Microwave 3 ounces chocolate in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring frequently, until about two-thirds melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bowl from microwave, add remaining 1 ounce chocolate, and stir until melted, returning to microwave for no more than 5 seconds at a time to complete melting if necessary. Transfer chocolate to small zipper-lock bag and snip off corner, making hole no larger than 1/16 inch.

6. Transfer cooled cookies directly to wire racks. Pipe zigzag of chocolate over each cookie, distributing chocolate evenly among all cookies. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes, before serving. (Cookies can be stored at cool room temperature for up to 4 days.)

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Tomato Butter, what the what?

This crackadelic add-in is just the recipe you need for that last partial box of real, end-of-season (ie non hydro-effing-flavorless-PONIC) cherry tomatoes that are getting mushy in your fridge. It just takes a few minutes and a couple of ingredients to make. The end result is about as soft as pudding, with a sweet/salty/acidic richness that’ll make damn near anything taste utterly sublime. I mixed in with plain white boiled rice last night and it was noms, to say the very least. I could have mainlined the rest of it with a spoon.

tomato butter


Here we go. As usual, amounts are merely guidelines.

half a box of cherry tomatoes (I used yellow ones, but it doesn’t matter)

1 stick of butter, softened

Salt (preferably homemade garlic salt, but whatever)

Wash tomatoes and pop the stems off. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a Silpat. Roasting stuff on a Silpat gums it up pretty quickly, so I’m about to invest in a second one so I have one that still really works right, and one just for stuff like this. Stick the pan in a hot (450ish) oven til the tomatoes start to blacken up. Let cool a bit, then toss in a food processor, scraping up blackness and tomato liquor. You want that stuff for the flavah! For a single batch, your Mini-prep’s up to the job, or even a stick blender. Give it a twirl, then add the butter and pulse again, and then season with your (garlic) salt. If using salted butter, salt may not be needed, but for unsalted, you’ll need it. You should cook with unsalted butter exclusively for a number of reasons, but important one is this: you control the amount and type of salt in your cooking.

Use on, in, and with everything. And yes, you’re welcome.

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Chilled Red Lentil Ginger Lime Soup


From chef Robin Leventhal, Wine Country Culinary Institute and

2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil

1/2 cup shallots, minced

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

2 cups water

2 cups coconut milk

2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed, sorted and soaked for 15 minutes in water (Leventhal uses Sunrise red lentils from PNW Co-op)

1 cup chopped tomatillos

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus sprigs for garnish

2 slivers Serrano chili, plus garnish

1 teaspoon lime zest

1/8 cup lime juice

Scallions, slivered for garnish

Cucumber, slivered for garnish

In a 2-quart saucepan on medium heat, saute oil, shallots and salt until fragrant. Add ginger and toast until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add water, coconut milk and lentils. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add chopped tomatillos, cilantro and slivered chilies. Cook 10 minutes more, until lentils are tender. Puree with a stick blender and add lime zest and juice, adjusting salt as needed. Serve chilled, garnished with cilantro sprigs, sliced cucumber, serrano, lime and a drizzle of coconut milk.

Variations: Add poached prawns or crushed peanuts. Garnish with bean or lentil sprouts or slivered apple, especially a tart varietal like Granny Smith. Serve with cold bean thread noodles for a more substantial meal.

Yield: 1.5 quarts

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Avocado Vinaigrette

This falls into the “who knew how much I would love this” category. The creaminess of the avocado balances the acid components beautifully. Try this on vegetables or pork, or on plain old green salad.

avo vini

This is how I made it. Nothing’s set in stone.

1 small avocado

juice of 1/2 lemon

about 1/3 cup white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar

about 1/2 cup olive oil

garlic salt or salt

Mash avocado with a fork until smooth. Add lemon juice and some vinegar. Then add oil until the balance of acid to fat tastes right, then salt until the flavors pop. You’re very welcome.

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Salsa rice


This classic almost-from-scratch dish is a great side for a Mexican meal.

1/2 c chopped white onion

1 cup white rice

1- 7 oz. can of salsa of your choice



Preheat oven to 350F

Sweat onions in oil over medium heat in an ovenproof saucepan. Add rice and cook until it turns a milky white color. Dump in salsa and stir for a moment while it sears.  Fill salsa can with water and add that, plus a bit of salt. Bring to the boil, and scrape down any remaining grains of rice. Cover pan tightly and bake for about 25 minutes, tasting for doneness. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

(adapted from Rick Bayless’s Classic Red Tomato Rice recipe)

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Smoked Paprika Chermoula

I recently had lunch at Lola,  James Beard award-winning  chef Tom Douglas’s Mediterranean –inspired restaurant. My simple marinated beef sirloin kababs were paired with a smoked paprika sauce that blew my mind. I replicated the kababs quite easily, and with a little fine-tuning, was able to make a convincing version of what he calls a ‘chermoula,’ though I think of them as being slightly chunky. It pretty much goes with anything.

Yield is about a cup. It’s potent enough to use in small doses

1/2 preserved lemon, meat removed (use just the rind and the pith)

1 bunch parsley, including stems (see below, this is optional)

2T smoked paprika

4 cloves garlic

dash of cayenne

pinch of saffron

pinch of coriander

salt to taste

olive oil

Blend everything except the oil in a mini-prep. Add olive oil in a stream until you have a good consistency, like a chunky sauce. Run sauce through a sieve to remove the parsley. Adjust seasonings, and serve. It keeps at least a week.

Note: The parsley could probably be omitted. I included it because chermoulas typically contain it. It didn’t grind up fine enough, and the sauce had a woody texture. I sieved it and it came out perfect. I think it would be safe to omit that step, but I haven’t tried making it without yet.

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